The Belated Obligatory New Year’s Post

We call them “revolutions,” not “resolutions.”

This year I’m thinking of doing two things that make me very anxious: first, opening up my Facebook page to “friends of friends” instead of just “friends.”

That might not sound like a big deal to you, but my brother is one of my “friends,” and he is one of those people who never ignores a friend request – he has over 1,300 friends on Facebook.

That’s a lot of aging hippies who love to argue about politics to contend with.

(Oh, alright already, “with which to contend.” Happy now, internal grammar bitch?)

Oy.

But my brother has 1300 friends because he courageously pursued his creative life from the tender age of 17, leaving college in the face of extreme maternal angst (but with paternal support, if not approval. And it was emotional support, not financial, as far as I know) and made quite a success of it. I’ve always admired him for that. Not sure I ever told him. I’ll do that today.

Which brings me to the other thing that scares me: posting the url for my blog on LinkedIn, and going all in on being the speaker, writer, blogger and singer (oh, and “aspiring professional party guest)” I want to be.

Oh, that’ll go over well among all those articles about how to improve teamwork and productivity and deliver deliverables, whatever the hell those are.

I’m supposed to be looking for a job. LinkedIn is one of the places I look. For a job job. You know, a day job. A real job. Something that might pay the health insurance and have a little left over for cat food.

But instead I’ve spent the last week designing products for an online store I intend to open to support my blogging habit, and emailing queries to literary agents who represent authors who are so, way, light years out of my league that I have a daily panic attack that goes something like this:

“Well, Annie, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? Trading fear for flow, remember? Yeah, but look who she represents! I loved that book! I could never be that good! My God they turned that one into a movie! Who am I to be writing a memoir anyway? I didn’t grow up in a family of zealous religious survivalists (Educated) or dirt poor (The Glass Castle). The only group I might represent (see the interview with Stephanie Land, of Maid, who got an agent because she wrote an article that went viral – why didn’t you think of that, Annie, you dumbass? not that I could write anything that would go viral) is other widows in the US and there are about 11.75 million of them and 3.23 million widowers (oh, there’s some great odds for a date with a man who understands) and they’re all different from each other so no one person could be “representative” of them all and they’ll probably hate my story anyway because they are being good widow/widowers who don’t tell the world about the dark aspects of their marriages like I do in my book even though it is funny but also really sad and who wants to read that anyway? If I send it out there will be rooms full of snarky New York literary agents at conference tables laughing at me!”

Back here in reality, the second response I got, within two weeks of sending the query, was a request for the full manuscript. Rejected very politely after the read, but I got that far, anyway.  I’ve received two other polite rejections, one that even took the time to say “sorry for your loss,” and one that was probably canned (auto-reject), but it was a response, not a pocket veto.

Responses from four out of nine agents I’ve queried so far, in less than a month, and the other five are pending, still within the 6-8 week window.

So while I wait, I’m here blathering on about how I’m going to boldly pursue the creative life, when I should be putting all my effort into getting a job. Or at least getting something published.  Even if I do that, I’ll still need to get a job.

At my age, any job I’m able to land will likely involve a name tag, enforced cheerfulness and toilet cleaning. And still won’t pay the bills.

In the meantime I’m trying to work up the courage to do those things on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Facebook, maybe. I can handle aging hippies.

But LinkedIn? That’s my professional public face.

I’ll get another whole post out of that panic attack.

Losing my nerve, I remain,

Your shaky, anxious, fretful, stymied, what-the-hell-am-I-thinking?

Ridiculouswoman

Mrs. Maisel Took My Job. Sort of.

“Professional Party Guest” has long been on my list of career aspirations.

I’m not kidding. I just ordered new Ridiculouswoman business cards, and they say, “Writer, blogger, speaker, singer” on them, but I’m thinking of getting some new ones with “professional party guest” added.

Or maybe, “aspiring professional party guest.”

I ordered the new cards the day before I binge-watched the entire first season of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” which was great.

But there was Midge, doing my party-guest act. (“Everybody does it,” right? – if you’ve watched the show, you know that Midge doesn’t.)

She was trying to work out her routine, and began accepting nightly party invitations where she’d end up entertaining the room – trying out material, improvising with another guy who was trying to make it in showbiz, and generally making a spectacle of herself, to the delight of the other guests (and the disgust of Susie, her manager).

Hey, Midge, dammit, that was my idea!

Except I intend to get paid for it. In money, not just free drinks.

Like the entire adult population of Chicago, I’m a trained improvisor, so why shouldn’t I make myself available to enhance your party? If you’re worried that some of the guests won’t get along, or be too boring, or won’t have anything to talk about, hire me! I can pretend to be mysterious, outrageous, elegant, charming….or just funny. Whatever floats your boat and adds a little pizzazz to the proceedings.

In ancient times (the ’50s and ’60’s) hostesses (back then, the party planning was done almost exclusively by women) worried about making sure they had the right combination of people at a party, especially a dinner party. If there was to be an extra woman (a widow, a spinster sister or aunt, or other pity invite) throwing off the seating arrangements, an “extra man” must be found. And vice versa.

That picture of me up there was taken on Thanksgiving, 2017 – our second one without Mike. I tried to make it as festive as I could for our daughter, following all the traditions we used to follow when he was with us. (Note Sophie the cat, in background in the Bulgarian-built kitchen, gazing appreciatively. Or more likely, wondering where her dinner was).

That year, it worked out great. This year, not so much. Lost my touch, when my rhythm was thrown off by our going to another house for the meal on the day itself. So I tried to do it all the next day. Disaster.

But I digress. I used the photo to indicate that under the proper circumstances, I can be amusing, fun, exuberant, charming, etc. You can’t see it, but I’m wearing one of those fit-and-flare ’50s style dresses with a crinoline underneath, and feeling pretty perky.

So that’s the woman I’d be as a professional party guest – dressed (ok – overdressed), smiling, laughing, the life of it.

I’m not as smart-alecky or quick with a comeback as Mrs. Maisel, so I need other people to play off of. Your guests should expect some prying or impertinent questions, or some barging in on their conversations (unless you want mysterious me, in which case I’ll be lurking alone in corners looking fabulously bored, searching your bookshelves. You do have bookshelves, don’t you?)

Here’s the Christmas version of ab-fab me:

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If you look closely you can see the glass is chipped.

As part of last year’s New Year’s Revolutions, I threw it out. It was the last of our wedding stemware, which we never had very much of anyway.

I haven’t written the obligatory New Year’s post yet. It seems to be the done thing to create some sort of “best of” retrospective of the previous year, or share some new determination to get better, at something.

So, in 2019, I resolve to get hired as a Professional Party Guest.

No? But I have a purple dress for spring, just like the red one for Christmas! I have a demure black one with a white Peter Pan collar if you want me to look…I don’t know, “widowy” and demure!

And in another 10 pounds I’ll be back into that skin-tight blue one I wore to my high school reunion, or the same dress in red that I wore to the ballet, if you want me to look – well, like a woman of a certain age who probably shouldn’t be wearing skin-tight dresses.

I’ll be happy to entertain (converse with, get your mind out of the gutter, again) your “extra man.”

Seriously, think about it. Willing to make a spectacle of myself for a reasonable rate (and a coupla free drinks).

And a good time will be had by all.

Awaiting your invitation (and your check – half now, half when I leave the party, with everyone having a blast) I remain,

Your inappropriately-but-really-cutely-overdressed,

Ridiculouswoman

Snow

“Smells like snow.”

If you live in, or visit, the Northeast or Midwest or mountain states of the US in winter, you might hear someone say this.

If you have the misfortune (or luck, depending on your perspective) to live in a place where there is never any snow, and you have never visited a place where there is, you will not have had the sensory experience of what the air is like before snow.

The scent usually is most noticeable before the first snow of the season, or if it hasn’t snowed for a while, and there is no snow on the ground at the time. That’s when you notice something’s coming.

It’s clean. It’s crisp, and there is a decided sort of clarity to it, as if it has gotten…thinner, somehow. In a good way. As if you were at a higher altitude. All the junk in the air seems to have stepped aside for a moment, to make way for the snow to come.

And then it starts.

You check the outdoor temperature, so you’ll know whether this is going to be the light, fluffy stuff that shovels aside like a feather, or the heavy, heart attack stuff that could kill you: everyone who lives in a snowy place will know, or know of, someone who died of a heart attack trying to move the stuff. And that includes trying to move it with a snowblower, because you still have to move the snowblower.

If the temperature is near freezing, you know two things: the driving will be especially treacherous, because the snow will be covering ice beneath it, moisture that froze as the temperature dropped, and that you better get your ass outside every two hours to shovel so you never have to shovel more than two inches of it at a time (and risk dying of a heart attack).

We had a snowstorm several years ago that everyone came to refer to as “snowmaggedon.” Sixty mile-an-hour winds that ripped part of our roof off (“hon, what’s that flapping sound?” “no idea – but we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to find out.”)

But the winds didn’t stop Mike from going outside every two hours, all night long, in the raging gale, to shovel the driveway.

The next day, we had to shovel our way out of the house. Couldn’t get out of the garage or the kitchen door without a shovel. But the driveway was easier because the drifts were a foot lower, due to Mike’s determination with the shovel.

The snow by the doors was three feet deep. Not exactly Buffalo or Watertown, New York, but still.

The morning after was bright and beautiful, and we worked together to clear the driveway and the walk, taking breaks to warm up, change gloves or defrost toes.

I will never forget the winter when, the morning after my Dad finally got home from the city, I stood in the garage at the moment the door was first opened.

And the snowdrift on the other side of it was as tall as I was.

In those days, a “snowsuit” was a sort of winterized pair of overalls, with suspenders with metal clips. Just getting dressed to go outside was a half-an-hour ordeal – tights or long johns, turtleneck, sweater, snowsuit, heavy wool socks, parka (for girls like me, with a border of fake wool or fur around the hood), scarf (which for some weird reason we tied around the outside of the parka, where the hood met the jacket, under the chin), mittens (sometimes two pairs, one within the other) and rubber boots or “galoshes,” which weren’t warm enough, but wool socks, two layers, right?

We did things then that are the stuff of parental nightmares, now.  I’ll just say they involved sledding. I can’t describe them here because it makes me too anxious, now that I’m a grown up and parent, remembering. I’ll just say it makes me wonder how the hell we survived our childhoods.

But somehow we did survive, and grew into cautious adults who respect the power of a big snowstorm enough to bundle up and get out there and shovel, every two hours or two inches, whichever comes first, slowly and carefully, hoping to avoid the heart attack.

There’s a big storm just starting here, now, and it will affect a huge part of the midwest and northeast this weekend. The kind of storm where you check to be sure you have enough food in the house to get through the weekend, because you ain’t going anywhere til it is over, plowed and salted. And blankets, too – because this one is going to be followed by arctic cold.

There was no snow-smell before it here this time, but when it starts, the air clears, and you hunker down: flashlight checked, phone charged, firewood brought around, iron pot ready for cooking in the fireplace if the power goes out, ice-dam preventing salt pucks on the part of the roof that will leak if I turn the heat up beyond 64 (first time trying those), hat, scarf and gloves ready on the drying rack, shovel and boots ready by the front door.

Wishing you a cleared, heart-attack-free driveway and no dangerous snow-related antics by your progeny,

I remain,

Your yes-I-pay-someone-now-to-do-the-driveway-but-dammit-that-walkway-is-MINE-snow-shoveling, environmentally-friendly-ice-melt-scattering,

Ridiculouswoman