Shit I Did While Unemployed

long-term-unemployedI am no stranger to being unemployed. I’ve been fired, downsized, asked to leave, quit, resigned, and every other euphemism you can think of. When I’ve been asked to leave, it was never because I stole money or had poor performance. In fact last time I sat through a five minute speech about what a great employee I am but…

It’s always because I rock the boat. I don’t like being treated unfairly, and I won’t sit still when I see it happening. To me or anyone else. In San Francisco I was fired for standing up for a coworker. She was canned for “looking unbecoming” at work. Her mother had just died. I was HAPPY to speak up on her behalf, and I couldn’t believe that nobody else had the balls to say anything. People keep their mouths shut and fall in line in order to keep their silly job. But why? There are plenty of jobs out there. Why work for assholes? For instance: My last job paid me $12.60 and hour. That’s not a living wage here in Seattle. And that was after two years and three raises. When asked to work from home on projects I was told there wouldn’t be compensation. I was mocked asking, and for refusing to work for free. By my boss. Good riddance. 

I’ve never found anything wrong with being unemployed. Even when living overseas I was able to find work rather quickly. But this time was different. It took me a little over four months to find a job. Four months of looking at Craigslist and Indeed.com. Four months of filling out online applications and four months of first interviews. Four months of no income and the same amount of bills. Four months of wondering if I’d ever find a job. Four months of rice and noodles. It’s hard not to get bogged down in the negativity of the situation, but you can’t stop trying.

And now all of that is officially over. I found a nice job that pays way better than my last job and doesn’t ask me to work nights and weekends. But I am going to miss some parts of being unemployed. (And please, please don’t call it Fun-employment. I can’t fucking stand when people make up new words to make themselves feel superior. I mean…what an asshole! You’re out of a job. Just call it what it is. Unemployment. What you do with your time might be SUPER fun, but let’s not overstate things.) I’ll miss being able to luxuriate over my book and coffee in the morning. And I’ll miss taking walks to pet the bookstore cats. Here’s what I did on my … unemployment. Aside from looking for work everyday. There is a lot of time to fill.

  • I read about twenty four books. 
  • I learned three new songs on my ukulele. And I started a YouTube channel where folks can hear said songs. Here!  
  • I auditioned for The Voice, in L.A. You can read all about that, HERE!
  • I attended over ten interviews, and WorkSource Orientation, and over twenty phone/face-time interviews.
  • I discovered Snap Chat. It’s weird. I like it.
  • I met friends for drinks, karaoke, movies and encouragement.
  • I attended ComiCon for the first time. It was enjoyable except for all of the people.
  • I wrote three short stories, and began writing part of my um… what’s a less pretentious word for memoirs?
  • I colored in my coloring books.
  • I visited used bookstore weekly. Just for the cats.
  • I wrote letters to my pen pal in Pasadena. He wrote back.
  • I watched a shit ton of Law & Order episodes. imageI had a whole system going. One 20 sided die for which season. Then, add a 6 side – 1 to determine which episode. I was determined to prove that the entire cast of Grey’s Anatomy got their start on Law & Order. I know I could have gone straight to IMDB, but that takes the joy of discovery out of it. Anyway, I didn’t make it through all of the episodes, and I was only watching Law & Order Classic. I hadn’t even delved into Law & Order SVU. Which comes with extra rape, murder and bad child actors. Oh, and Ellen Pompeo was on L&O at least twice and both times went down for murder. I’ll write up my findings later.
  • I got lost both on foot and on the bus. A lot. It’s a good way to see the city!
  • My BFF visited for a week. I hadn’t seen him in over two years and it was overdo. He’s the one friend who is allowed to kick my ass. He got me motivated. And I had fun showing him the sights and letting him buy yummy food for me!
  • I cleaned, cooked and did a lot of chores. I look forward to splitting those duties once again.
  • I went to many parks and museums. Yay art!
  • I played games and relaxed with my boyfriend. I look forward to having a job which allows that to continue.

So, that was it. I got a little despondent there at the end, but it helped to remember that I am not my last job. Or any job. Identifying with your work is just another way for Ego to exert itself. Luckily I have never had a job where that was really an issue. I mean what kind of an asshole gets a big head over being an Admin Assistant or Program Director? Or worse yet, a Bookseller who makes under minimum wage? If I made those roles part of “who I am” then I would have taken a long run off a short cliff years ago. Even if you have a job you LOVE and you are GOOD at it… that isn’t WHO YOU ARE. Above all, you are a human being. What you like or do… or don’t do… is beside the point.

Origin Stories

 

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Halloween 1977, me 3 years old

My Dad always said that I was left on the doorstep by Gypsies. Although my older brother was also adopted, it seemed my parents had gone through proper channels in order to get him. I pictured little Baby Me sleeping quietly as the caravan pauses for an old Gypsy woman, nothing more than a shadow, to leave me on the porch. My mom opens the door to find a baby in a horrid over-sized, quilted bag. She is almost as excited about the baby as she is about the bag. (She had at least two dozen purses, bags, totes, handbags, pocketbooks, and fanny packs. She collected them. Any trip to Mervyn’s or JC Penny’s  was guaranteed to result in at least a half an hour comparing purses, checking which had the most hidden pockets.) This particular ugly bag was used to hide the popcorn she would smuggle into the movies. It had two acrylic hoops which served as handles. Pull those hoops apart and there’s enough room for a family sized bag of home popped popcorn. Or a five pound baby girl. 


It was odd to me that my brother would just accept that he was adopted. What did that mean? Didn’t he want to know how he got there? My parents never told any stories about how they got him, and he seemed content with that. He was just adopted. End of story. I was not so easily swayed. Having completely and enthusiastically believed the Gypsy Story, my mother had her work cut out for her convincing me that Dad was only teasing. Any story about an adoption agency would have been met with skepticism. It was obvious they were hiding something. They never outright told me I was adopted, so I figured there must be a better story. A story so lurid, so filled with danger and betrayal, Gypsies and strangers in dark alleys, that they could never tell me.

So I invented my own Origin Stories. They were Fairy Tales. Small, swaddled Baby Me adrift in a heavily reeded river or left in a basket with vegetables on the doorstep of an orphanage. (The influence of my forced biblical training evident in hindsight.) The story I liked best featured me as a Chinese Princess, forced to live with a strange family because my mother, The Chinese Queen, had an affair with a white man and had to give me away or face death.

The fact that I looked nothing like the rest of my family only bolstered my fantasies. My brother was tall and goofy looking. One of those kids who stands out for all the wrong reasons. I was small and dark and chubby. As a baby I was called Apple due to my physical resemblance of the fruit. My skin tone was olive. If I went in the sun for five minutes I would return like a golden chestnut. My brother, mother and father would burn. Trips to the beach took hours to prepare for because my mother needed a tarp, a hat, a shawl, and an umbrella. Just for herself. Fair skinned, lightly freckled and in desperate need of braces, my brother’s adolescence culminated in a love a country music and cowboys. His awkward phase following him into high school and intensifying when he willingly joined not only the school choir, but the cheerleading squad as well. By the time he was a senior in high school he was 6’3, a yell leader, and a stand out in the school choir, where your only job is to blend in. He was the kid who performed Stand Up at the school talent show.

We shared no common traits or interests. This was always a comfort to me. I didn’t like the things that he did, and if genetics were responsible for bad taste in music, or being stupid then I was safe. We lived in the same house, our bedrooms close enough to talk through the wall, but we had absolutely nothing in common. We were, and remain to this day, total opposites. He’s 6’3, and I’m 4’11. He’s a loud mouth Republican, and I’m a loud mouth Democrat. He doesn’t read. I’ve dedicated my life books. He still has bad taste in music, and I still don’t. He is pretty Vanilla. I’m more Neapolitan. My brother’s favorite things include large gold chains, Hawaiian shirts, alcohol, cigars, and Donald Trump. Mine don’t.

The older I got the more delighted I was to be adopted. It explained why I was nothing like my family, and It was far more glamorous. I could be whatever I wanted! I claimed every ethnic origin thrown at me. A friend’s mother convinced me I was Italian, so when I was at her house, I was Italian! I added homemade Anisette to my espressos. I understood that fresh cannoli was better to store bought. I was Italian! Another mother swore I was Jewish, so I claimed that as well and developed a taste for Manischewitz. Sometimes I fantasized that I was Liza Minnelli’s illegitimate daughter born from an illicit affair with either Peter Sellers or Andy Warhol. Celebrity Mom forced into Betty Ford right after giving birth to Secret Baby! And sometimes my parents were just a couple of teenage kids from Tujunga. Just poor white trash who had to give me away because they were just too goddamned young and stupid. Maybe Trailer Trash Mom is out there somewhere, snacking on pink coconut snack cakes, thinking of the baby girl she had to give away all those years ago. Missing me in her daydreams, and snapping out of it when her actual child screams at her from his high chair in front of the television.

Books: 10 Mid-Summer Reads

HI! Here’s a GREAT reading list for summer! Posted 2 years ago TODAY!

American Vagabond

jaws_bg_0June is called “mid-summer” even though it is technically the beginning of the season. It’s the month of weddings, graduations, and pool parties. This is my first summer in almost eight years that I am not landlocked. Austin was just hot and steamy. Prague is pretty rad, but it doesn’t have an ocean or bay. Summer just isn’t the same without open water and a book to read.

Here is a list of books for your own Mid-Summer enjoyment and relaxation. Best if enjoyed near open water! (You can get any of these books at your local library, or Independent Bookseller.)

Jaws by Peter Benchley (1974) – You’ve seen the movie. It scared you from going into the water for years. Now read the book. It is quite possibly the greatest beach read and the one that will keep you from putting even a toe into the ocean again.

Summer House…

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SUMMER BOOK BINGO!

book20and20stonesIt’s summer! And that means it’s time to get reading! If you’re like me, reading is a year round activity. You don’t need time off to devour a book. But what you DO need is a fun way to pick out a book. And those library Bingo cards are pretty generic, if you ask me. So…

I have created my very own Summer Book Bingo! Yeah, I know the one in your town probably offers prizes for completion. This doesn’t offer any prizes, but it is way cooler. And you’ll feel good about yourself for finishing so many books!

Here is a link to a printable, nicer looking version. 

Happy reading! And please send pictures if you finish! I would love to know what you all read.

Alicia’s SUMMER BOOK  BINGO! 

Collection of short stories FEMALE AUTHOR NON-FICTION GRAPHIC NOVEL Written in the 1960’s
Written in the 1980’s One Word Title Takes place in Europe SCARY! A book which features a lot of  FOOD
A CHILDHOOD FAVORITE FUNNY!       FREE! ANY BOOK COUNTS! Your Dad’s favorite book A book which features a DRAGON
Book which became a movie Written the year you were born A book with a NUMBER in the title Set where you live Choose a book based on its COVER
A book which features a CAT Takes place in the SUMMER TIME TRAVEL TALKING ANIMALS Collection of Poetry

 

An Open Letter to America About Guns

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Dear America,
In the wake of a disgustingly violent weekend, and I’m just talking about the two incidents in Florida, I have no choice but to say a few words. Ask a few questions.

First off, what’s wrong with Florida? On June 10th IN ORLANDO, a 22 year old singer named Christina Grimmie was shot in a crowd of her fans after one of her concerts. The man who killed her had TWO HANDGUNS and a KNIFE. On June 12th, IN ORLANDO, 49 people were killed and 53 injured when a man opened fire in a gay night club. THAT’S 50 PEOPLE DEAD IN TWO DAYS. BY TWO MEN. WITH 2 GUNS, EACH. IN THE SAME CITY.

If we don’t see the problem by now America, we are as blind as we pretend Justice is.

The problem is a simple one: GUNS. If you are one of those assholes American’s who claim otherwise, let me break it down for you. Your right to bear arms is NOT more important than ANY human life. Period. I don’t care if you disagree with someone about what god they choose to believe in (A CHOICE!) or who they love (NOT A CHOICE!) We are off balance. We value guns more than the life of a human being. If it was otherwise, we wouldn’t be the WORLD LEADER IN MASS KILLINGS.  It’s obvious that we don’t care about each other. If you disagree with that statement, you are either Donald Trump, my brother, or an ignorant asshole. 

But it doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t have to let any of the aforementioned assholes get us off track. We are smarter than they are! The problem isn’t a religious one. Guns have nothing to do with whatever god you decide to worship. The problem is guns. WHY doesn’t matter. I don’t give a shit WHY that asshole went to a pop concert and shot a talented, young woman to death. It won’t change the fact that he did it. With ease. Knowing why won’t help to stop the next asshole. Because he’ll have a different why. That fuckwad who killed my gay brothers and sisters during PRIDE MONTH had his own fucked up reasons for killing. Stupid, ignorant reasons. All HATE CRIMES are based in ignorance. As long as we are focused on the WHY, we won’t fix or change anything.

AS LONG AS THERE ARE GUNS, PEOPLE WILL MAKE EXCUSES TO KILL.  

GOD. SATAN. RAGE. VOICES. RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION. MY DOG TOLD ME TO DO IT. MY GOD TOLD ME TO DO IT. I WANTED TO SEE HOW IT FELT. I AM RIGHT. YOU ARE WRONG. YOU WON’T LOVE ME. I WANT WHAT YOU HAVE. IT’S MINE.

As a society… as a country we need to keep the focus where it belongs. On the problem. Which if you haven’t been paying attention is GUNS. Donald Drumph would love nothing more than to help you forget that the man who killed 49 people in a nightclub had AN ASSAULT RIFLE. He WANTS YOU to think of ISIS and Muslims. He wants you to FORGET that this was an attack on the Queer community which was COMPLETELY AVOIDABLE. Why in the fucking world are regular everyday citizens allowed to have military grade assault weapons? Why? There ARE no good reasons.There is never a good enough reason.  Only bad excuses. And those need to stop. The bullying by those in power needs to stop. The name calling and degrading needs to stop.

Our country has turned into one of callousness. We care for the moment and then return to our daily lives of selfies and Snapchats. We ignore things we don’t like, and people we don’t like. If we don’t like what we see or hear, we block it out. None of my concern. The shooter at the nightclub has an ex-wife who describes him as abusive. His colleagues said he used racial and sexual slurs. At work. His family described him as homophobic with rage problems. The FBI looked at him in 2013 for threats to a co-worker. Yet the motherfucker had TWO conceal and carry licences. How many people in this man’s life felt he was off his rocker? A LOT! And yet…

How did someone like that slip through so many cracks? It seems to me that he could have been stopped from harming people years ago if more people had spoken up. Silence is the accomplice here. Our collective silence. We Tweet. We Instagram. We publish our collective outrage to FaceBook. BUT THAT IS’NT ENOUGH.

We, as Americans need to be vocal. All the time. And I’m not talking about changing your profile picture, or wearing a ribbon. I’m talking real action. In my life, when I see someone being mistreated, I fucking say something. Sure it gets me into trouble, but at least I can feel alright at the end of the day. When you’re with your friends hanging out, and someone starts talking about building a wall, or excluding people – SAY SOMETHING. When you hear someone use a racial slur, or homophobic language – SAY SOMETHING. Don’t be scared! That’s how ignorance wins. Trump, ISIS, any of those terrorists – are just big, fat, bullies with a big fat mouths. And big fat GUNS. They scream over people, use ignorant speech, and when that doesn’t work they shoot guns. They want to drown the rest of us out. Don’t let them.

Write letters to your congress-people and Senators! They pay attention because they want to keep their jobs. And they only do that when you vote for them. Be vocal. Get involved. 

Here:

http://pushprofile.com/congress-fax-numbers/

http://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/

Thanks for listening, America.

The Girl.

On Bravery, or I Auditioned for The Voice

13321907_10153683368897496_6061350582253211207_nAmy Schumer poses in a bikini. People call her BRAVE.

Alicia Keys wears no make-up, is photographed. People call her BRAVE.

Chrissy Teigen talks about getting pregnant. People call her BRAVE.

A few weeks ago I hopped a plane to Los Angeles and I auditioned for The Voice. People called me BRAVE.

While I appreciate the sentiment, I don’t think that any of the aforementioned acts can be considered brave. Even mine. To be brave means to face pain or danger. PAIN or DANGER! Being seen in public doesn’t qualify. Make-up or not. Posting a picture of your already beautiful self, #nofilter #filterfree, definitely is not #braveDoing something that may be outside of your comfort zone is not brave. Doing something you are good at shouldn’t be thought of as brave either. It should be an obligation.

I had been putting off this audition for a few years now. I won’t list all of the excuses I had, but I promise there were plenty. I was just scared I guess. But not this time. I had nothing but time, and thanks to my friends I had enough money to make it to the audition. People actually wanted me to succeed! The rest would be easy: Just sing! Singing comes as easy to me as breathing. I love singing! And I’m good at it. Putting yourself out there and doing something you love shouldn’t take courage. It should be the easiest thing in the world.

But it isn’t. Why? Because being judged sucks. And so does rejection. But only if you let it. I should know. I’ve had a life full of rejection. A world of no. I’ve been told I’m too short. Too fat. Too old. Too opinionated. Too loud. Too MUCH. Not enough. Not willing. Not able to fit in. Unwilling to fit in. Unyielding. 

But I stopped giving a shit about what other people think a long time ago. All of those things I’ve been told by BOSSES, teachers, FRIENDS, loved ones and strangers DON’T MATTER. Not even a little. When you let go of worrying about what others think of you, life opens up. There is absolutely no danger. No harm will come to you unless you count a bruised ego. And you shouldn’t. Your ego wants you to fail so you have a story to tell. Win or lose. Those are the two choices the ego wants. It will have a good story to latch onto either way. Hero or Victim. It doesn’t matter to the ego. But just doing your best and moving on? The ego hates that. It doesn’t allow for you to tell your tale. You just are

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7:30 am, outside the Convention Center. I wouldn’t sing until 11:00

My experience at The Voice was a lot of fun. A lot of standing around and waiting, very little singing, but a lot of fun. While waiting in line I made friends with a few women, and each at different points in our endless wait asked me how I could remain so “calm”. I hadn’t given it much thought, but I was calm. I wasn’t nervous. At all. I didn’t feel like I needed courage to be there. I had enthusiasm. No matter what the outcome, I would be fine. All I needed to do was be successful in each moment. Do my best.

Well, here’s where best laid plans and intentions and all of that shit come in to play. I didn’t do my best. I kept calm, cool and collected all day only to have it unravel in a matter of minutes. Here’s the long and the short of it. The nutshell version.

After four hours of being wrangled, it was finally my turn to go up the escalators. The final step. Next up: Actually audition!

Well, of course I had to pee. I always have to pee.

Once I got upstairs I asked the guy, and he said to go for it. I got out of the bathroom and my group was gone. Disappeared. I looked at the guy, who was now a different guy. He put me in a new group and walked me down a long corridor. I could see small groups quietly sitting and waiting outside different conference rooms. “This is it,” I thought. 

We were seated and told to be quiet. No singing. I went to turn off my ipod (what I use as a phone)and realized it was sitting atop the TP dispenser in that last bathroom. FUCK. I already knew there was literally no going back since they cleverly don’t take people who have already auditioned past people waiting. I sprang up and told the guy my situation. He said I had time. So I took my little legs, and ran in my high heeled booties down the hall, looking in each bathroom. Not there. But the toilet I used was back down that FIRST hallway….

I didn’t have time to keep looking or I’d lose my spot. I ran back to my group and found the guy clipping off our wrist-things. SHIT. I was literally sweating. My heart racing when I sat down. “No luck?” asks the dude next to me. “Nope.” I tell him.  And in we go.

Of course I went first. Literally seconds after we are ushered in, my heart still racing, me thinking I’ve lost the only expensive thing I own, I hear my name called. I stumble…mumble, and sing the song I didn’t want to sing. I did a fucking GREAT job though. I killed it. My high notes soared. I belted where I wanted I felt alright. People clapped enthusiastically, not just politely. I sat back down knowing that I could have done better. Much better. But I didn’t beat myself up over it.

So that’s it. It didn’t take bravery for me to audition. I was never threatened or in danger. All it took was a few friends, and an inner determination to not mind whatever happens. And it worked. For the most part.

Oh, and I found my ipod.

Those of you wanting to know what “The Voice” audition experience is like, I’ll break it down for you real quick.

  1. It takes about four hours, start to finish. Mostly waiting in line. Bring snacks and water.
  2. You will be in small groups of about ten. You will sing ONE acapella song. Yes, you will sing in front of your group… Duh. I had one producer in the room. Nobody from my group was asked to advance.
  3. After that, you are finished. Bye!

 

Books: Sunfire Romance Addict

imagecan trace my love of Sci-fi and Fantasy back to Ray Bradbury, Roald Dahl and Madeleine L’Engle. Spaceships, scary monsters, brave kids having adventures and solving mysteries – these were my building blocks to Murakami, Atwood, Michel Faber and David Mitchell. My lifelong affair with Historical Romance, heck Romance novels in general, can be directly linked to the Sunfire Romance series I read as a kid.

While my friends were obsessed with Sweet Valley High and The Babysitters Club, I was devouring historical romance novels aimed at teen girls. And they were awesome. Each book was named for the heroine: Jessica, Veronica, Susannah, Cassandra, Roxie. She was showcased on the cover in period clothes from the time, (I particularly loved the glamorous Roxie, and the sassy suffragette Laura) and behind her would be the two hot guys she would eventually have to choose from. One part history and one part Romance. Perfection! And, unlike the aforementioned series, you didn’t have to read these “in order”. This was a “series” of stand-alone titles. LOVE!

The formula for each book was simple: A teenaged girl experiences an historical event in American history, first hand. At the same time, with very few exceptions, she is torn between two potential lovers. A bad boy, and a nice boy. And while “Romance” was a big part of it, it was not the only part. I actually learned things while reading these books. And not just how to snare a boyfriend or double-cross my twin.

imageThe Sunfire Girl was strong, smart and sassy. She wanted to learn! She wanted to travel! She wanted to work! These girls were seeking careers, looking for adventure, and choosing men who liked them not in spite of their spirit, but because of it. She often ended up the guy who valued her for her independence rather than her ability to be a good little wife and mother. Consider that this series was published in the 80’s during the rise of Conservatism, and you’ll find them to be pretty dang progressive. Sunfire Romance was diverse, feminist and inclusive long before those words became hashtags.

The challenges that the Sunfire Girl faces are big, real world problems. In Jennie, the heroine faces life or death as she struggles to survive The Johnstown Flood of 1889. And she doesn’t just “survive”. Jennie becomes a journalist and covers the horrid disaster which killed over 2,000 people. Total badass. In Laura, the title character chooses to work for Women’s Rights rather than pursue a more suitable career, like being a nurse. This decision ultimately gets her arrested, and she loses the respect of friends and family. Other Sunfire Girls faced challenges and found love during The Revolutionary War, The Salem Witch Trials, The Boston Potato Famine, Pearl Harbor, Labor Strikes, and even Pirates… the real pirate Jean Lafitte has a cameo!

As a young girl I noticed that “boy” books often had more action than “girl” books. There were no shortage of books about boys having adventures and changing history. Boys were inventors and detectives. Boys were stranded on islands. Boys fought dragons and journeyed to the far reaches of space. I never saw a series of books about twin boys who liked dating and clothes. Boys did things. Girls on the other hand were obsessive about boys and rarely had the same kind of adventures. At least not without consequence. Girls escaped from orphanages and found lost pets. Alice and Pipi, even Laura Ingalls were labeled as girls who misbehaved. Their actions often got them into trouble. And, most of these books were written for, and about little girls, not young women. Sunfire Romance set the stage for young women to star in their own adventures. Sunfire Girls didn’t care about what the world thought, they were going to have an impact on it. And get the guy along the way.

Sadly Sunfire Romance are out of print, but in their place are dozens upon dozens of YA books featuring strong, badass, FEMALE  characters. I like to think that the Sunfire Romance paved the way for The Hunger Games, and other books showcasing young women kicking ass, and taking names. Young women who did more than find the right dress for Prom. They saved the world.