December 22, 2009 and Daily Om sent its regular missive. Some days, I hold onto my Daily Om, ride on its beautiful back; some days the words are what take me from dawn until I get to sleep again to see what daybreak will bring.

May this one bring you clarity. Or at least encouragement. It will lift.

Coming out of a Haze

When we feel muddled and unfocused, unsure of which way to turn, we say we are in a fog. Similar to when we are in a fog in nature, we may feel like we can’t see where we’re going or where we’ve come from, and we’re afraid if we move too quickly we might run into something hidden in the mists that seem to surround us. Being in a fog necessarily slows us down by limiting our visibility. The best choice may be to pull over and wait for the murkiness to clear. If we move at all, we must go slowly, feeling our way and keeping our eyes open for shapes emerging from the haze, perhaps relying on the taillights of someone in front of us as we make our way along the road.

By and large, most of us prefer to be able to see where we are going and move steadfastly in that direction, but there are gifts that come from being in a fog. Sometimes it takes an obstacle like fog to get us to stop and be still in the moment, doing nothing. In this moment of involuntary inactivity, we may look within and find that the source of our fogginess is inside us; it could be some emotional issue that needs tending before we can safely go full steam ahead. Being in a fog reminds us that when we cannot see outside ourselves, we can always make progress by looking within. Then again, the fog may simply be teaching us important lessons about how to continue moving forward with extreme caution, harnessing our attention, watching closely for new information, and being ready to stop on a dime.

We cannot predict when a fog will come, nor can we know for certain when it will lift, but we can center ourselves in the haze and wait for guidance. We may find it inside ourselves or in a pair of barely visible taillights just ahead. Whether we follow the lights out of the fog, wait for a gentle breeze to lift it, or allow the sun to burn it away, we can rest certain that one way or another, we will move forward with clarity once again.

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Holiday's here and a year has past. Last year, only weeks after we fell into the swirling current of our national crisis, we staged a Christmas for the record books. With all the fear of a new, upside-down life situation, we made a daily decision to keep stepping forward, to remember what was important. This time last year, that was to fulfill the annual obligation to our family and friends. Christmas, Come Hell or High Water.

And it was a great Christmas. I can still feel the relief of December 26th 2008, knowing what we accomplished working with a daily (recession) recipe of nausea and resentment. We managed through the holidays with even a bit of cheer and festivity, by inviting people around and sharing a laugh. Community helped us come face to face with the pound of flesh we were about to donate, and despite the anxiety, propelled us forward.

Oh, those days, how I wished for a crystal ball. I remember thinking that if I could just pace myself, I'd make it the weeks or months of joblessness, wondering, waiting. If I'd had a crystal ball would I have believed that another Christmas would come, replete with fear and wondering, and we'd still be breathing? Indeed, if Santa had given me that crystal ball and I'd been seen a vision of the longevity of this limbo state, I think I'd have gone down in a puff of smelling salts.

We're still here. We're facing into Christmas with the same gritted teeth as last year. Committed to making the season light for our passengers, the three who didn't sign on for a year like we've had, much less another to come. The task is, again, daunting, but since I know I've done it up to now (still breathing), I can go a bit further.

Here's what worked last year:

  • Scented Candles, always. Pomegranite or fir from K Hall
  • Cocktail gatherings - manchego cheese, fig bread, music, someone else bring the wine
  • Easy dinners - roasted chickens from the butcher, arugula, dates & parmesan
  • Good and constant playlists from Pandora: type in "holiday"
  • Setting up a team gift for the extended family with Heifer

What I'll add this year:

There's a great deal of relief knowing we've made it this far. John goes off every day to a tentative workplace, intent on making it permanent. I throw creative balls in the air and hope they don't drop - but if they do?????

There have been so much inspiration and resources gained during this year of unpredictable tides. The threads are here, now we move to tie them together.



So I think we all agree, it's not a matter of how we got here, it's what color carriage we'll ride out on.

Before we arrived in the New Now - this age of "who the hell are we?" in the face of there being no free lunch after all - we didn't think much about the way out. Delivery? From what?

And yet, even with full time and satisfying employment, folks have changed their orientation. Target and Walmart are flourishing as go-to sources for fashionistas and freestylers. Dry cleaners and tailors are reporting record numbers as we continue to shop our closets. Contractors' phones are ringing off the hook, yet design magazines are falling like dominos. Even homeowners with a budget for renovation are finding the wherewithal to do it on the inside. (An arbiter of style, a friend who has always done things just so, had her children splash Benjamin Moore on a wall-sized canvas as anchor for her new dining room - isn't beauty in the eye of the beholder?)

I'd argue that this wave of homespun creativity should have rolled in a long time ago. We'd be a nation with a lot more style and character if we were more DIY.

In the New Now, the sane option is lifting your head to hear the stories. Creativity is individual, but I have a developing theory that nothing is NEW. I have a great idea which spurs one in you. You ask for advice from an acquaintance and he discovers his gift for giving it. Creativity is a knock-on effect. You've got to be creative, and you'll come up with the color of your carriage.

The blogs out there are legion, and each of them is based on a great idea carried to fruition. I suggested a reading list in Cyber Beauty. They're all sources of inspiration, but also these blogs are just great ideas.

Read blogs! Pass blogs along! Support those who wrote them with your time and attention, and that support will come back to you in chain-letter fashion. And in them, I'll wager the bet that you'll find a calling, something that leads you forward.

Are you looking for a great idea? Do you need creative inspiration? Is it a new job, the first line of a story? Is it a subject for your next oil painting or a Partner to brainstorm with? Look up and look around, the answer is there.



There is a certain combination that in this new day - this new age - I find myself seeking in just about every medium, every day. That is the combination that makes BEAUTY.

Beauty is different in the New Now. Or I am different in the New Now, don't know which. But in this time of deep austerity, of questioning what's important and finding what matters, beauty is not just the single dimensional kind of pretty it once was. It involves the 5 senses. Now, it involves a 6th. The new 6th sense is how we bring beauty alive from our computer screen when we don't have the options we once had to go out and seek it. Not only is it possible, it is dynamic, and very real. And free.

You read my daily blog, The Daily Now. Everyday I go looking for something that inspires. It's research, beauty research. The presiding principle for The Daily Now is that beauty lives in the eye of the beholder. That may worry you, for what I find gorgeous may not even rate for you. All I ask of you is to come and visit, and see for yourself. Some days you'll look, say Hmmm (in that I-guess-I-get-it, kind of mystified, whatever sort of way) and you leave me and get on with your day. But I'll wager you go on with something different having visited. I do the research, you make your choice about how it effects you.

Roasted Radicchio with Blackberry Vinaigrette, Eating is Art

Beauty changes us, in a second. The newsstand is lined with magazines advertising the 1001 best gifts of 2009. Rarely do the gifts themselves merit such hyperbole, you may not even pick up the issue (on that "beholder of beauty" premise), but without fail, these glossy pages deliver on color and creativity, they're styled to delight.

It's that - it's the color, pattern and texture. I go even further in my beauty combination. It's music and voice. It's taste and temptation. That's beauty. Beauty itself is a performing art. Here's a list of my current 6th sense source for beauty, where the 5 real senses mingle. (Whether you buy it or not is your choice. It's free.)


The Jewels of New York

101 Cookbooks


The Errant Aesthete

Three Beautiful Things


Laura McPhee, Photographer


The Pursuit of Happiness, History and Illustrations by Maira Kalman


Emerging art every day at Artist-a-day

Art and prose at the Blue Lantern


Pret a Voyager


WFUV, Fordham University's unique radio station

and finally,


Bart Boehlert's Beautiful Things



Last year, Thanksgiving launched this blog. We were a few days into the New Now and it was sinking in, fast, as we felt like we were sinking even faster.

Our whole life has been a walk on the balance of control. Growing up was about taking control. Twenties were about being out of control. Thirties were realizing that control was hovering just outside our reach. The forties, I used to say, are the point on the trajectory when you are experienced enough to do it all and mature enough to handle it.

And then mid-way through, that crashed too. Control - no such thing!

So Thanksgiving again, we're in the same spot with the same concerns and yet, just a little less fear. We've gone one time 'round the seasons and I'll be damned if the sun hasn't kept coming up!

I'm facing into Thanksgiving having a little less control than ever. The place in me that used to contain that urge is filled with something different this year. It's this tiny temptation to just let it fly. With that, behold an image of doing just that. And Katie Couric has handled a lot more stress than I ever will.

Moliere said: “All the ills of mankind, all the tragic misfortunes that fill the history books, all the political blunders, all the failures of the great leaders have arisen merely from a lack of skill at dancing.”



If you don't ask yourself where the center is, you won't find it.

The New Now is like a stallion turned out on a windy day. He gallops, flings himself through his Universe. Then stops fast, shakes, shudders; 2,000 pounds of momentum takes flight from the beast's body and dissipates like a ghost.

Here, has the pace stopped or is it still in motion, somewhere else, outside our realm? I wager, the latter. Nothing about the New Now is rational - or rationality, like the Now itself, is in the process of redefinition.

We say with a smirk, a shrug of complicity, "it's hurry up and wait". But that is because we are desperate to measure the pace ourselves, to have a hand in every beat of it, we want to mold its passing in order to divine its outcome.

It's when the stallion stops so fast you're liable to be tossed over its hock, that's when you need to get off, go find your center. You think I'm talking about a spiritual retreat, that sutra spot -- fingers lightly touching, your eyes closed... No, that's not what I'm suggesting. I'm not that calm, are you? I can count sheep faster than they can jump. I'm talking about a physical place, your space, where you stand, where you sit. Your center.

The New Now is a time, it is a state of being, and it is a place. Build it around you and go there to wait. Stallions stop short, they absorb the air and the sound and the sense, then they start moving again. They hurry up, and wait.

I Ask You
Billy Collins, Poet Laureate

What scene would I want to be enveloped in
more than this one,
an ordinary night at the kitchen table,
floral wallpaper pressing in,
white cabinets full of glass,
the telephone silent,
a pen tilted back in my hand?

It gives me time to think
about all that is going on outside--
leaves gathering in corners,
lichen greening the high grey rocks,
while over the dunes the world sails on,
huge, ocean-going, history bubbling in its wake.

But beyond this table
there is nothing that I need,
not even a job that would allow me to row to work,
or a coffee-colored Aston Martin DB4
with cracked green leather seats.

No, it's all here,
the clear ovals of a glass of water,
a small crate of oranges, a book on Stalin,
not to mention the odd snarling fish
in a frame on the wall,
and the way these three candles--
each a different height--
are singing in perfect harmony.

So forgive me
if I lower my head now and listen
to the short bass candle as he takes a solo
while my heart
thrums under my shirt--
frog at the edge of a pond--
and my thoughts fly off to a province
made of one enormous sky
and about a million empty branches.



Feature article in today's New York Times: "Job Woes Exacting Heavy Toll on Family Life". For those who have experienced job loss, the reality of these words is like a glass of cold water in the face. Our home life is described in mirror shards of detail on the national front page. The rational iota of our brains knows that grown up stresses trickle down and reside with our young ones. But in order to survive the New Now, we want desperately to believe the running refrain from those who aren't walking in our shoes. "A blessing", they often call it. They say: Being home offers the gift of time to enjoy and tend to our loved ones.

But Michael Luo's article refutes this rather useless mantra. Quantity time does not equate to quality time. Think about your last 10-hour drive kids 3-abreast across the back seat to visit the in-laws. I don't care how good your integrated car entertainment system is...

Now overlay the worry, the fear. The disorientation of losing your "space" by being given infinite amounts of it.

The "Heavy Tolls" article is read days after being popped with the latest unemployment report: 10.2% jobless. It's a one-two punch which throws the panorama of our national family circumstance into black + white. The job loss happens to us, but the effects are suffered by others. The others I'm talking about are those who didn't do anything to deserve this. Accident of birth, shared address.

It's the truth of parenting. Once we were owner-operators. We spent money, we owned the debt. We got drunk, we felt like shit. We spewed and fought, we kissed and made up. With a spouse, a family, these consequences are divided equally regardless of culpability. You feel like you have no control? Go inside your 10-year old.

No one is exempt from the pain and anger, the frustration and helplessness. It's been said that these kinds of experiences are character building, they teach lessons about what's important, about the moral rectitude of frugality. Those benefits are like pension monies, you realize them in your sixties. That is, if you haven't paid them out to survive along the way.

Resist. Relax. None of this is a blessing. But survive it intact, we must. The pay-now is to teach our children that we have what it takes to navigate the ship. A small ship, for a long journey.

Resource for survival: Heather T. Forbes Beyond Consequences Institute. Subscribe for a daily reflection aimed at the heart of resistance as it applies to parenting.



Beating the pavement, making it happen, finding the angle. The way home from New York City today was the most vibrant pastiche of color. I'm doing what I can. I am a spouse, a partner, in the New Now.

The time is passing with each leaf as it drops. When it goes, it goes. When this time passes, it's gone.

Home, kids got here before me. Backpacks strewn and noise all around, in stereo. No school tomorrow. There's that effervescence of holiday, no rules, lots of potential.

What will they remember? That I came in from a day in the City and went upstairs to the computer? Or that I came in from a day in the City and turned on the oven, inviting sifters and stirrers to take their posts? There is no more creative place than in the kitchen.

Amy's Apple Pecan Cake
Adapted from Maida Heater's flourless apple cake

2 cups ground almonds
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
2 cups apples, peeled and chopped
1 stick butter (1/2 cup), room temperature
2 eggs
3/4 cup agave nectar - you can get this cheap at Trader Joe's, less cheap at a health food store
2 Tbsp plain yogurt

1 cup pecan pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together almond meal, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon in a large bowl.

Cream butter and agave with hand mixer until light and fluffy. Fold in apples. Add eggs one at a time, stir in yogurt. Mix butter mixture with almond mixture. Mix in some of the pecans, if using. Sprinkle some on top.

Bake for 25-30 minutes. Watch for pecans as they brown, they can burn in an instant. Pull the cake out when a toothpick comes out clean.



I have a friend who publishes daily on diverse social media sites. She paints a picture with photography, or You Tube video footage, quotes or other ephemera, and posts it for her Facebook and Twitter friends to follow. To decipher, for daily we have to figure out both where she is and where we are as a result of the experience she provided. This friend likes vintage. She is also a fiery feminist - her subjects tend to be empowered, emboldened, impassioned women.

Posted by Susie, this morning

People are losing their jobs, still, in the continuing firestorm of Recession. I heard today from yet another friend disclosing her Husband's loss, just 5 days ago. They - we all - will recover, but it takes time, and these folks are only now starting their process. I heard the weariness in her wavering phone voice. Knowing that her Husband was sitting next to her in the car, I realized her message was tactfully edited. But what I heard was all too familiar, it was the weariness of knowing what this process was going to require from her. Despite the fact that the fall was taken by him.

A woman's resume' will never reflect the job she really does. I'm not talking about the child-bearing, or child-rearing, or home-management or man-management, the jobs that defy articulation even if they were deemed resume' worthy. Job characteristics for a Partner in the New Now is inclusive of all these characteristics - and more. Now you're a crisis manager, rational thinker extraordinaire. You manage up, down and sideways, you keep the peace. And your forte' is finding and coaxing the humor back into the team. For a woman knows that without humor at home, we're sunk.

I am encouraged by how much Girl Power is coming to the fore in the New Now. Women are finding their way, doing jobs for free, all in the name of creating a ground swell. Outside of the home and even their partnership, women are collaborating, being cheerleaders for other women. I know the weariness, but like a strong cup of joe, the Will in us is rising up.

Tomorrow may be "a king-sized drag", but sister, look what kind of ground swell we got behind us. Girl power!

Posted by Susie, yesterday



There's a tremendous surge in the times these days. Those in the financial world are breathing again, bonuses are healthy and the Dow has topped 10,000. Main Street has a pulse, and though we won't break any records, folks are getting out, they're buying and selling and some are even driving new cars.

But there are still trenches, and here in the trenches, we're just hanging on. We wonder why the Financiers get to report the uptick and cash the bonus checks, when that's where all the trouble started in the first place. Shouldn't recovery start where the hurt is actually being felt?

The surge is actually happening down here in the trenches, and we're not doing it alone. In this astounding time of change and redefinition, momentum is building almost like a chain reaction. This is a time for seeking and nurturing Mentors. And for Mentors to revel in the power of their role modeling.

Creativity is not just discovering the novel in you, or uncovering your latent talent to put on sale on Etsy. You may be a painter or a poet, a soloist or a sculptor, and though as powerful an outlet as that may be, it is just a small part of building the momentum we need to survive in the New Now. Creativity is watching, listening, and invoking, in order to capitalize and build on the wave already in motion.

In my quotidian blog, The Daily Now, I grab onto an image or a message that cracks open the world of opportunity on a given day. Could be some one's face or a tune they've sung. Could be a panting pinnacled for posterity, or a line drawing spotted on a square of pavement. Nothing on the Daily Now is mine, it is borrowed, it is riding a wave already in motion.

Who is a role model? Is she such today and for always? Is she such for a moment, a second, someone with bright red lipstick and shiny gold hoops who tells you she loves what you've got going on? Is she famous, or regular? Is she prolific or a one-off? She's all those things. Collect role models.

We have a choice. We can do this in fear, we can throw balls in the air and hurl ourselves around trying to catch them. Or we can watch, listen, and learn. Your role models are going to keep you company.

Photograph of Sylvia Weinstock, "Leonardo DaVinci of Cakes", by Thayer Gowdy, 2009



I learned yesterday that an old friend lost his job with a wind energy company, he'd been setting up green across the Plain States. Wasn't GREEN going to be the great white way, the savior of jobs, the new New Deal?

Unemployment creeps toward 10%. Folks, that means 1 of every 10 human beings you see on your daily circuit will be feeling just what we're feeling. 1 of every 10 will sit before her computer wondering who to shout out to today. 1 of every 10 counts the coins from the couch pillows to pay for the coffee he'll drink as he meets with whoever'll have him at Starbucks on any given morning.

It is "all outta kilter" alright, but the Universe will correct itself. We need to be clear and focused about how we'll contribute.

The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron's incredible road map for creativity, has introduced me to the Morning Pages. She says by way of challenge that "in order to retrieve your creativity, you need to find it... (you) do this by an apparently pointless process I call the morning pages."

It is a method for clearing your head and finding your way through the New Now, for getting to your resources, for navigating the day. Morning Pages are "three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages-- they are not high art. They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind-- and they are for your eyes only."

Morning Pages are my regimen. I write them on the back of a paper towel, on the Business section when I can't take what it's saying, or in an empty Word doc I recycle daily, hitting "no" when it asks me to save changes. I have no idea what I've written in my Morning Pages, often it's just a list of curse words strung together to make a paragraph. Well-placed curse words are not gibberish, especially if they wing their way harmlessly back into the Universe that holds us in her sway.

Without the Morning Pages I'd have very little sense of humor. I'd cry when I listen to things like Grant Rogers' "When a Fellow is Out of a Job".

Try writing Morning Pages, do it without judgement or structure. It's an easy diet, it isn't detox or deprivation. The results are sure and the outcome is wealth.

Wealth is Creativity in the New Now.



The closings of three long-standing and beauty-inspiring magazines from the Conde' Nast stable yesterday reached way down in me and elicited an audible "oh NO!" Modern Bride and Elegant Bride -- I carried them across New York and London looking for colors, textiles, images and inspiration, all woven into our outlandishly complex September 21st 1996 wedding on an island in Maine. These magazines were bricks in volume, and contained streams of eagerness and excitement, as the written page rarely does.

We need nuptial inspiration only a time (or two) in our life. Gourmet, though? Gourmet encourages not just creativity, but it challenged us to take risks, in the kitchen and on the road. The passing of Gourmet may be an indicator of what's not possible anymore. Might some call it entitled, this glossy reflection of the Good Life as embodied in fancy ingredients and far away climes? Perhaps, but the dedicated Gourmet reader wasn't necessarily interested in the Joneses, they might never find a star anise nor even go looking for one. Their Gourmet was about possibility. Glossy, beautifully captured possibility.

I've wondered with frequency if we'll ever be the same after all of this. I've wondered if I'll ever get to Morocco, or if my children will see Venice before it sinks. I've wondered if we'll have another chance to say "What the hell, let's do it" - or if frugality and worry are what our Great Recession will leave, indelibly, in its wake. Somehow, the passing of Gourmet answers that query. It will never be the same.

Gourmet Magazine, May 2005

A simple horseradish cream turns broiled steak into a classic

1 (1-inch-thick) sirloin steak (1 1/2 to 2 lb)
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons drained bottled horseradish

Preheat broiler. Oil rack of a broiler pan.
Pat steak dry and sprinkle all over with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
Broil steak on rack of broiler pan 3 inches from heat 4 to 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer to a cutting board and let stand, loosely covered with foil, 5 minutes.
Stir together sour cream, horseradish, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl and serve with steak.



October 1st. No more movement than September 1st, or August 1st. Our New Now is getting old.

We put one foot in front of the other, we remind ourselves of what we have. And despite what seems like a snail's pace, we list what we have accomplished. 20 moving, productive digits. Kids and partners who laugh at stupid jokes. We have dogs and fish who have no clue what we're talking about when we throw around new paradigms, like The New Now. Challenges for dogs and fish don't change, start to finish. It's a fight for the basics. How refreshing. We have a home, we've made hard choices.

And yes, the pitfalls are many, turmoil is rife around us -- there is a colossal conflict of anger and new life raging this minute. Is this how creativity is distilled? Must we fight and spew in order to reach a good place?

In his New York Times column yesterday, "Where Did 'We' Go?", Thomas Friedman called out this anger; madness that has erupted, bizarrely, around our attempts to birth a healthcare system in this country. HEALTH CARE, which should be an overarching blanket that systematically cares for our babies. A compassionate effort by definition, how does this garner so much vitriol?

And then, on a local level. 3 drivers in the past 36 hours have lost their self control because of the way I, random 45-year old station wagon driver, shared the road with them. An elderly woman shot me the bird with a silent scream after I pulled out, admittedly hastily, before her in a parking lot. A middle aged man rolled down his side window and shrieked " YOU F&*%ing A@#&%*+&!!!!!" when I moved to the right by a sports field to let my daughter out for practice. I do not proclaim to be perfect behind the wheel or elsewhere, but I know one thing. My activity on the road, nobody's activity on the road, warrants self-righteous fury about the state of the Universe.

I tack it up to the sheer scope of change taking place around us. Change hurts, it makes us feel helpless, and we have to wait it out - practicing our own growth and creativity all the while. That often means we're forced to be creative when we do not know what we're making. We're forced to take on a new mantle when we were sure our work had been done.

Around here, creative growth and development translates to big things and small, but it is often embodied in food. I have a seven year old. She's creating and growing all day; it's a jungle, 2nd grade. What she wants at home is a plateful of nuggets. And yet we're pushing Creative, and serving up what she doesn't think she' s ready for. Tonight, on the home front:

As described in loving detail by Julia Davis at a creative summit yesterday

1.5 lbs Squid, cleaned, sliced into rings
1 1/2 tbsp onion, chopped fine
Olive oil
1 1/2 tsp garlic, chopped fine
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp chopped garlic
1 cup canned tomatoes with their juice
1/2 cup red wine
salt, black pepper, oregano
2 lbs frozen or fresh (but shelled) English peas

1 cup Polenta (quick cooking), prepared as instructed

Saute the onion in olive oil until golden, add the garlic. When garlic is lightly colored, add parsley then tomato and wine. Add the squid to the pot, a pinch of salt and a few grindings of pepper. Cover and simmer for 40 minutes or so. Remove lid and continue to simmer cooking off some of the water to concentrate flavours and thicken the sauce a bit. In another 15 minutes, check that the squid is tender-- and when it is-- add the peas and stir them. Cook just long enough to warm the peas. Correct salt and pepper and serve over whatever fits your fancy. Serve with Polenta.



Definition is subtle in the New Now.

When we determined that selling our house was our best defensive posture, we were forced into a paradigm about "home" that I never would have predicted.

Home is the place we'd come to and shut the doors behind us. Home, where friends join us and help us find the humor in it all. Home, where we're safe and warm, despite how frigid the times are outside. The determination to sell our house made us shift our notion of Home from the protective bodyguard to something entirely different. In order to survive, putting our beloved Home into the hands of the tactless and critical market, we had to see Home as the provider, whose coffers of gold would, literally, save us.

Remember when staying loose and free was the goal? Home was only a place to hang a shirt, and the more frequent the address change, the more real the adventure. Who can say when that shifted, I don't think it was linked to a milestone of age. Perhaps it was having the children.

More likely, it evolved around John's job loss, Home was the symbol of stability, missing everywhere else in our lives.

Yesterday, we took a decision - I use the English verb formation "to take a decision" with intention. We didn't "make" anything, we accepted a liability, we took a decision when - with eager buyer at the ready - we decided to "take" our house back. The definition of Home we had adopted as a desperate measure, that we should liquidate this perfect place and strip it of its value to get us through a period of time, became too awkward, painful to bear.

Home, once more redefined. It is ours again. We've committed the sales sheets and the marketing books to recycling, and the sign comes down today. Selling was a desperate measure. And we have taken the decision not to posture ourselves that way. May the Universe interpret our act as courageous, and reward us accordingly!



Searching high and low for something to make me smile. We ponied up money for the girls to play soccer this Fall. Following the gripes, resistance and small change requests from the families who aren't feeling the same sense of privilege that their kids can just play again this year, I got an email from Cassie's coach this morning with the simple words: "We smile and have fun all the time."

The news is littered with hard court battles waged by the opposing sides of our Healthcare debate. There are no more hidden agendas, this warfare is about which side is going to win. The scores of uninsured have no position on the team.

We're losing it, people, losing it!

And for those of us trying to make sense of the New Now, trying to find a job, to reassure our children that we live in constructive times; those looking simply to settle in to the year with the hope that we just might be afloat this time next year; the dearth of humor is just not funny.

The 23 year-old and unknown Patrick Kelly was featured today in "City Room", a relatively hidden, sidebar of a column you can read Thursdays in The New York Times. He too appears to be looking for some light relief. Frustrated by the lack of jobs but buoyed by the creative burst, he's started a blog called Make My Day with Patrick Kelly. His readers post New York-based challenges for Kelly, challenges he commits to fulfilling every day for a full year. For example, he'll set himself up at a busy cross street surrounded by a couple chairs with a sign offering "Free Advice". On September 8th, he headed to a bench in Central Park with his guitar and writing tablet, the challenge was to find people to help him write a song. The result is not just what they produced, but what was effected in the process.

Apparently, this incredibly rich concept is being launched for the experience, not as a money maker. The book will no doubt follow, and truth is, I'll buy it. Kelly proclaims the experiment is designed to be as fulfilling for his contributors as it is for him. They live vicariously as he takes the risks. They see their small ideas turn into a live event.

Read the blog. The kid is a kid, for sure, and his writing will assuredly not change the world. But what will stick with you is how brave he is, what little he has to lose. That's the place where creativity thrives.

My children will follow the Make My Day blog, as will I. To bring home the simple message that anything is possible. Nothing's for sure, but anything is possible.

Patrick signs off from his latest post with this salutation: "Stay classy, Planet Earth. Watch football tonight."

We've got to meet humor where we find it.



The New Now is in starkest light on September 1st. It was for us the first day of school. And my first day to lift weights after the long, languid summer (spent with head inverted in sand). Today is 10 degrees cooler than August 31st. It is the first day of the year in many quarters.

New. Yes, but it feels old for so many of us, old and hard. Perhaps still jobless, our economy (micro and macro) is still riddled with question marks. We at home are still wondering what zipcode we'll live in September 1st next year. We fight back resentment and sadness, we fight back our own fear of there being a bottom deeper than the one we've already hit. The New Now is one in which answers do not come quickly or neatly packaged. They come in loose ribbons, the answers are the ends which, once we find them, can be made into a bow.

New Now. Coming back from a long, languid summer (spent with head inverted in the sand) presents this one opportunity. A chance to breathe. Today, it's time to breathe, and figure out who we are. Who we want to be.

Julie and Julia. Julie Powell, post-911 tele-servicer, is saved by a bunch of loose ends she's given to tie in whatever bow she's creative enough to make. Out of this she defines who she wants to be. It doesn't take astounding acting, a breathtaking romance or a Queens apartment to inspire you to save yourself by such a simple act.
"Shouldn't I find SOMETHING to dewwww...?" That's Meryl Streep playing Julia Child in a way that, as JoJo said, makes you certain that she is in fact the venerable chef. Watch the clip.

Need new packaging? Need to tie your own bow? No desire to cook 50,000 French recipes?

Let's brainstorm:

Sell stuff on eBay. Start with a dress. Move to a rocking chair. It's a thrill!

Follow The Kitchen Diaries: A Year in the Kitchen with Nigel Slater. A year-long project is inspiring, and Nigel Slater, British chef who "believes that making something good to eat for your self or for others can lift the spirits in the way little else can." A gorgeous journal of a book which steers you to local and seasonal ingredients and tells you what to do with them.

Form a Resume group. Just a few trusted, like-minded people to gather around developing a creative resume. There is no right answer, but doing resumes together helps to bring out strengths and lose the dead weight.

Write. Take an online course and write. www.writingclasses.com

Comment on blogs. There is such great, fun stuff to read and think about in the blogosphere. Bloggers want to hear from readers, and the more you comment, the more there is out there from you. If you have thoughts and experfiences to share, consider tagging onto what's being said. (Start here!)

Create a cookbook, or better, a lifestyle guide. Called a "Cookbook, Remixed", Tastebook is your source, www.tastebook.com Include your experience and ideas, send it to the rest of us for a holiday present!

There are only a few moments a year when we are given a new air to breathe. This is one of them. No pressure and no worry. Not talking about changing your life, career, love or hair. It is a distraction, an opportunity, in a time otherwise fraught and daunting.

I entreat you to add to these ideas, here below, about how to tie a bow out of loose ends.



A recurring question from those outside is "How are you guys doing? Really doing?" Romantic relationships are not just strained in the New Now, they are imperiled. Just as you are going through the phases of grief, so is your relationship. Eight months in, friends, we're in the phase called "cruising". It's where we are and it's alright.

But Sunday's installment of "Modern Love", the always-unpredictable column in the Style section of The New York Times about love in its many, many, many guises, called out what I suspect may be causing anguish for many intimate partnerships these days. Combine the times with the natural progressions of a relationship (longterm monogamy + children + mid-life crisis...) and we may have some trouble on our hands.

What's to stop us from letting the challenges - no, horrors - of losing jobs, facing loss on a material scale and often having to move into plans C, D and F from ruining our love lives as well? The "Modern Love" column, entitled "Those Aren't Fighting Words, Dear" is a love-affirming story about a woman's courage not to let any of these things loosen her grip on what she knew to be true, her, love.

The author, Laura Munson, gave me the words I've been looking for. Not just to deflect lash-outs from the frustration of being identity stripped 48 years in: no work, no income, no big ideas. But they're safety-net words to keep me from falling for the irrational, words which will stand in for my own defensiveness and exasperation.

The words are: "I don't buy it".

Munson writes, "You see, I’d recently committed to a non-negotiable understanding with myself. I’d committed to “The End of Suffering.” I’d finally managed to exile the voices in my head that told me my personal happiness was only as good as my outward success, rooted in things that were often outside my control. I’d seen the insanity of that equation and decided to take responsibility for my own happiness. And I mean all of it.

My husband hadn’t yet come to this understanding with himself. He had enjoyed many years of hard work, and its rewards had supported our family of four all along. But his new endeavor hadn’t been going so well, and his ability to be the breadwinner was in rapid decline. He’d been miserable about this, felt useless, was losing himself emotionally and letting himself go physically. And now he wanted out of our marriage; to be done with our family.

But I wasn’t buying it."

Cruising is OK. I love my Husband for being able to say "it's only temporary". He's right, as hard as it is to feel unsettled and distant from one another. If you're experiencing something more angry, we all do during the darkest of these days, come back to Munson's words. It is a transcendant approach.



In my daily trawls for inspiration I came across an artist who uses fireworks as her medium. Here's what Rosemarie Fiore says about her work:

"My drawings are created by containing and controlling firework explosions. I bomb blank sheets of paper with different fireworks including color smoke bombs, jumping jacks, monster balls, rings of fire, and lasers. As I work, I create imagery by controlling the chaotic nature of the explosions in upside-down containers. When the paper becomes saturated in color, dark and burned, I take it back to my studio and collage blank paper circles onto the image to establish new planes and open up the composition. I then continue to bomb the pieces. These actions are repeated a number of times. The final works contain many layers of collaged explosions and are thick and heavy."

Creativity comes in many forms, yet Fiore's art is something you just can't make up. Where did she get the inspiration to bomb fireworks, and when she was done, bomb them again to make a pretty picture?

Our lives are lived at least a few inches below the surface of activity and obligation. So many things have to come before setting down to write, or picking up that book, or painting the image we photographed so many months ago. Yet incredible ideas come to us, and we have a choice. Seize and pursue, or wait in the hope that another one won't be far behind.

I am nourishing a very big idea, which I hope will meld creativity with profession. Indeed, this idea was inspired by The New Now, which inspired The Daily Now. My inspiration is a living room for all of us, for my ideas and your ideas, a salon to share and compare, to co-op and crystalize. More on this idea in the months to come, but let me not lose this moment as a challenge to myself and to you. To take action, steps very small, noticing the knock-on effect. We may not be pyrotechnics, but we will rise out of all this with amazing product if we take care of the ideas.



While so many of us are playing the waiting game, walking the thin line between hanging on tight and exploring that worst case scenario, others are business as usual, making the trade, bringing home the bacon. And closer to home, even as our phone sits silent, some among us are even bagging the job and settling in to a new chapter in perhaps a new place, with - finally - a sense of direction.

It's a life lesson. The hard conversations we have with our children when they whine: "but JIMMY has the hyper-multi-band-egon-thruster cell phone..." What do you say? "Is your name JIMMY????"

But it's a lesson we thought we learned ourselves, a long time ago. How funny that here we are, still wrestling with the very same (I guess, as it turns out, human) instinct. Why do good things happen to everyone but me?

I remember walking up 7th Avenue with an old friend who couldn't find a man. I remember saying to her (smugly, I fear) that finding Mr Right is one part luck and the rest a matter of being open and having learned just the right amount about yourself to be ready to share, bla bla blah. Later on, there were many an evening at our house or someone else's, talking over the hard times befalling a distant acquaintance, saying what so many have now said to us: "We all have to deal with it, no one's exempt, it's just a matter of time". Glancing side to side, we'd each retreat to our dark internal closets to count our blessings, noting with a hint of guilt that we were dodging a bullet.

We do all have to deal with it. No one is exempt. Bad things happen to good people. Successful people fail. The book by the same perfect title, "When Smart People Fail" by Linda Gottlieb and Carole Hyatt outlines the process and the road to recovery in brutal detail, delivering the reader, redemptively to the inevitable and only path forward: With our wits about us, be hopeful.

And successful people become more successful in the process. "Failure can teach you compassion and humility. It offers you a new sense of power and a different way to connect with the universe – if you let it", Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen writes in her article "The Positive Power of Failure". She quotes Linda Gottlieb in her article: "Failure is a cleaning of the house. It's an opportunity to reorient your career, to inspect it, to relabel it. You learn to keep all your options in play, be light on your feet. Surviving failure makes you bold… Failure liberates you and gives you the courage to risk in a big enough way to guarantee big success."

But we must see failure for what it is, and be open to its power. We have to practice to really receive its gift.

Perhaps the most profound aspect of the New Now is how we come together, how loose acquaintances, friends of friends, willing enablers, come together to form networks for success. In this way, I've communicated regularly with Nadia, a friend and running partner from our days in Amsterdam, about our fears and our hopes in this dark place. We've traded contacts and connections, and gotten our husbands in touch to build a support network of their own. A few weeks ago, I heard from Nadia that they had landed a great job, had even had the good fortune of choice. After 8 months in the New Now they're moving on. Despite my envy, my intense desire to be where Nadia is, her "head spinning with the details", I am deeply relieved for her, and for us, that there is a light, it does end, here is living proof.

Read Nadia's elation in this paragraph. As the network finds roots, so will we.

Charlotte, after reading your email, both Lorne and I want you and John to know that we are incredibly supportive and understand your situation very well. It is a very difficult time to find a job but John has fantastic credentials, experience and personality and will find a great job!!! Just be patient and keep positive. There is a really low point that comes at 6 months but you have to push it into the far away corner and keep going!!! Because something good will happen. What worked for us was throwing a party in our kitchen every Friday. People would bring food and wine and we laughed and cried and danced and it was great or a real great distraction! I know it sounds wacky but we will have wonderful memories. Lorne had many low points, in the last 6 months he interviewed with 9 companies and some interviews consisted 5-6 interviews per one job, including all the telephone and in-person interviews. The two offers actually came from the places he started talking to in February and March and this is how long it took but as you said, it can also take just one phone call...



As the going gets tougher and the time passes, we are increasingly aware of the workings of the network; the way that some contacts surpass the call of duty while others simply don't come through. Over a sandwich just today, John and I went through our roll call of who's been in touch, who's had good ideas, and with whom we have the most active quid pro quo - "you help me, I'll help you".

The New York Times Career Couch column (6/6/09) called "Helping the Job Seeker without Hurting Yourself" was a direct message to me about the other end of the phone. It is easy to get lost in where we are, our process, the full-time occupation which is getting a job. All the emails, the phone calls, the invitations we send out to our network is a relentless act of true determination. Yet the phone, which rings so discriminatingly in our house these days, is in the hands of someone with her own set of concerns.

Check it out: the Career Couch leads with a drawing of Corporate Joe at his desk, surrounded by water, shark fins and floundering, waving arms. Harsh reality: that's us, the ones drowning, sinking at Joe's feet. Desperation. Ugly as the drawing depicts us, the truth is this: Corporate Joe is likely as desperate as we are. S/he's the one who's still at the desk with more work, fewer colleagues, and often, lower pay. The New Now isn't just jobs taken away; it's what's left, the culture of fear. I remember consoling words from a friend last winter: "John lost his job? Well, if he's this far along and hasn't experienced this event, it's only a matter of time." Only a matter of time.

When life hits the skids like this, it's good to have friends. But what can we expect from them? It's not a fun Catch 22 to be a friend in the New Now. Career Couch says it right: "Those who are looking for work rely heavily on their networks for leads, and often believe that because you have a job, you must know of other jobs." We're at a life-changing moment. Once you've been here, I swear you'll think differently, even if you land in exactly the work scenario you left. Career Couch gives rather heartless advice to Corporate Joe, not to wear himself out counseling and coaching; not to give away too much "political capital"-- Hold it back, Joe, you never know when you'll need that nugget of a lead you're holding on to, wait for the prime candidate -- and even so, in an ever so capitalist way after all the caution, Couch says "it’s a good policy to help if you can, because you never know when the tables will turn." Still heartless, but... Karma.

Why do folks help each other, why is one contact so much richer than another? Is it really that we don't realise the power of the network? A dear friend, one of the most productive women I know, finds herself at a complete loss when friends find themselves without their employment identity. Why is it so hard to know how/when/if you should help?

If I can be a zealot about anything, it is this. We are only as good as the sum of our parts. Wrack your brain, people, what would you like to hear? How would you want to be helped? When you're in the New Now, you know for certain that it will take a many-minded-mission to regain solid ground. Indeed, it is my firm belief that the entire economy will take this kind of mission, every one of us needs to put our new headsets on and think - create - change - support - enable, in order to bring us to rights. The New York Times Career Couch may speak to you if you're Corporate Joe, but from this perspective I remind you of the mantra your Company X will never repeat - Karma... Karma... Karma.... Practice Karma.



Last week, from hitting the deer to listing the house on the floundering real estate market, was a desert. The spectrum of emotion ran from Sadness (the high) to Breakdown in the Fast Lane (low). I think all of us operate somewhere mid-range no matter what our range is. Thinking back, I wonder if I even had a pulse last week. My boy asked me at one point: "Where's the Joy, Mom?"

Friday came (amazingly), and I couldn't take the pain anymore. I made a desert decision to Offer it Up. It was so totally not selfless, new age or zen. It was a function of not being able to live the sadness any more.

We go through denial in this process, we go through anger. The sadness is a drag, and in this everlastingly dreary job market, the sadness, or "lack of hope" phase feels like it will live on forever.

BUT... we all have our digits, we have our sense and our intellect. We can brew a cup of coffee, we can scoop a bowl of ice cream. We have friends around who offer respite. Guess what people, everyone will tell you that "we have to go through the process" - but what I realised last week is this. Sadness can be a choice, not an obligation.

Here's the reality. Events will take their course regardless of whether we get sad or not. So try this along with me this week. When the sadness strikes and threatens to define your range of emotion, blow it off. Literally, blow, with your lips, blow it away. Say to yourself what's true - You Can't Take It. The miracle is that if you say it, and then you purse your lips and blow, it'll go.

Go now and read Anne Lamott's piece in The Daily Now about survival in the desert. Anne Lamott cannot help but get you through. http://the-daily-now.blogspot.com/



The thing about inspiration is that you can't predict when, or where, or even how it'll hit.

Often it takes anger and confrontation to put on a new headset. After one of the worst down-days to date in our New Now, John and I met in the ring this morning. Each of us were backed by 24 hours of soul searching - which meant we approached one another with a fresh, pointed and undeniably individual line of thinking. And we were prepared to "share it with eachother". That is, if sharing means someone wins and someone... doesn't.

Understand, we are at a turning point, that place when a decision is not arrived at, it's forced. Hence the 24 hours we each spent figuring out how we felt about where we are. I woke up clamoring "Creativity" - let's liquidate and move to where we want to be -- good luck will surely follow and we'll be more fulfilled than ever. Peace Corps, Key West, the Riviera...

John, though, had steeped through the night, in "Conserve" - let's liquidate and head for the hills, move in with Mom & Dad, hide out and spend nothing until the storm passes.

Two very different corners, where shall the twain meet?

We parted having made our arguments, indeed, argument was the process. We are in this together on no common ground.
I turned to the New York Times looking for inspiration. Here's what I found.

Two entrepreneurs from Colorado sell their copier cartridge business to some Cistercian Monks in Wisconsin who've decided they want to be in the cartridge business. You see, monks are charged with making money, supporting their order, but this group had the big idea (cartridges?) but no head for business (rather make honey and sculpt), so after the deal was made, it becomes clear that the women from Colorado were at the Monastery - to stay - to run what's become a multi-million dollar enterprise, LaserMonks.

The irony of it is what makes is so inspirational. What monk wants to be in the cartridge business? What urban woman of a certain age dreams of her small-beans computer supply company being run to support a Cistercian Monastery? I'm thrilled by how UNpredictable it all is, and it made my morning.

How can you not feel the power of this: “Good morning, LaserMonks. Greetings and peace,” Victoria Bench answers the Monastery's phones. Apparently she's a zen-like presence but the humor doesn't seem to escape her. She says that more likely than not, what she hears on the other end of the phone is “You don’t sound like a monk.”

We're in a tight place in The New Now, and we don't know where we're headed. But I'm starting to realize that we'll likely end up in a place where "we don't sound like a monk".



Today's been a tough one. I hit a deer at 7:25 on my way to take Cassie to school. I took her broadside with impact, and though she didn't live to know this, I sent her hurtling into the side of a school bus in the other lane. The experience was brutal, and what I realized in an instant was that in The New Now, we cannot afford brutality. We cannot withstand brutality! We must create, promote, what makes us feel better.

I came home, put on running shoes and headed out to come to terms with it. In about 5minutes I had a handful of images that made me feel better. Beauty (not perfection). Resonance (though not too sweet). I didn't want to lose these images, so I created a space to hold them and share them.


Go to my new blog, http://www.the-daily-now.blogspot.com I've built the site to provide a quick hit of momentum. Of beauty, maybe, of comfort. You'll see me there with something every day. And I welcome your ideas, please comment on The Daily Now to share images or thoughts that will help guide the way for so many of us still struggling in this new space we're living in.



Next recipe in the series of MAKE THIS NOW's. I'm thinking about those of you who have just gotten the bad news. I know how you feel, stomach is in your throat, how to eat? How to even cook? In The New Now, we find ways around the nausea to put dishes on the table. Small smile, go to the store and get just this, in a basket. Easy.


You'll need:

3 leeks, 4 skinless boneless chicken breasts, a can of cannelini beans, a clove of sliced garlic, a handful of fresh marjoram or oregano, a small glassful of white wine, 5 oz cream, s+p

You'll do:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Using tin foil (the wide size if you have it), make a bag by placing 2 pieces of foil on top of each other, about as big as 2 shoe boxes. Fold 3 sides in tightly, leave 4th side open and place on a cookie sheet. (Tin foil bags can be bought in the supermarket.)

Wash the leeks really well after cutting them into 1/2" disks (up to the tough green part). Boil them for 2 minutes or so to soften.

Drain the beans and rinse them. Put beans, cooked leeks and everything but the chicken in a bowl. Use your hands to mash up the beans a bit. Add the chicken breast, mix it all up, dish it into your foil bag, close up 4th edge and make sure the others are tight.

Bake 28 minutes.

Mixing baby spinach into the bag gives you an even bigger vitamin hit.

* Inspired by adorable Jamie Oliver who never develops a complicated recipe.


You wake up the next morning and confirm with yourself that yes, it's all real, we're in it. It's not a bad dream. Not a bad mood or a hormonal dip.

Don't be scared, I'm with you. People are panicking - still - even when we're told the worst is over. We may have bounced off the bottom in the Dow's plunge, but that doesn't mean we won't keep hitting the sea floor at home. Whether it's the bills which just keep on coming. Or the tax man knocking with claims of underpayment in 2 thousand bloody 6. Or the roof leaking, the plates breaking, the children growing. And we can't pay. It's limbo, scary limbo, and we don't like it.

In this mornings New York Times, an unfamiliar Op Ed contributor, Daniel Gilbert, wrote a piece you just have to read, called "What You Don't Know Makes You Nervous". Gilbert's saying that those of us who are busy predicting the fall are less able to operate these days than those who've already received the news. How many of you expect your job to go, your business to plummet, your health to tank? And aren't you TERRIFIED? But the truth is, once it happens, as Gilbert says, you weep and moan, but then you clap your hands and get on with it.

So what does that mean? That you have it all: your job, your house, your health - and you're so worried about losing it that you're miserable before you need to be?

Limbo is one Hell of a state, indeed. We are going on 2 years of limbo. Not one single day since August 2007 have we felt at home, situated, comfortable or sure that we'll be living in this house, in this zip code, in even a month's time. But a secure place will be reached again, it's guaranteed. And when that time comes we'll ask ourselves why we were so worried in the interim.

Time to create the New Now in Limbo. The collected songs and memories you'll associate with this time. Poems or articles we read when we couldn't get ourselves out of the house. It may not be all wine 'n roses, but it'll be a chapter of our book. As we see Time waft in the door and out the window, don't we want to make sure that this time is accounted for?

My Songs for the Limbo:
Ben Folds and Regina Spektor singing "You Don't Know Me"
Crosby and Nash singing "Lay Me Down"

My Writings for the Limbo:
David Sedaris' "When You are Engulfed in Flames"
Anne Lamott's "Traveling Mercies: Some Notes on Faith"

My Sustenance for the Limbo:
Trader Joe's HUGE dark chocolate bar with hazlenuts
Starbucks' Venti Caffe Misto ($2.49 compared to the latte at triple the price - note that)

My Memories for the Limbo:
Fires in the living room at 5:30 on a weeknight, mid-winter
Driving up Limekiln Road for the 4th or 5th time that day, watching Winter turn to Spring

"Even though it's hard to know just how the story ends
the road is long and it takes its time, on that you can depend..."
- C+N



Mom wrote me an email 15 minutes ago when I was typing on about who knows what - she told me of yet another loved one of a loved one who lost his job - she asked me, could I please remind her what my blog was?

First of all, I didn't know my blog was on her radar. She tried to post a comment once and couldn't figure it out - I agree, it's not easy, but all you have to do is click the highlighted "comments" below each post and write... anonymously... I invite you to write! Second of all, and here's what stopped me in my tracks. The layoffs just keep on coming. There and then, I saved what I was writing to tap this out quick. With all the people I hear about, you must be hearing of even more. Send them here, let us lick our wounds together. There's lots to learn from eachother.

Welcome to The New Now, you, who've just entered the space! It's frightfully heavy, it's not what you signed up for. And it isn't unique. The space is full.

When you read Bob Herbert's OpEd entitled "Far From Over" (New York Times, 5/9/09) saying to us: People, April's 544,000 job losses may have been better than March, but that staggering number is a flashing indicator that we are a long way from improving.

What makes it better? What you'll realize as your nausea recedes and the communication skills you've long taken for granted, specifically those between yourself and your loved ones, are put to the test and they come through for you - you realize that TIMES ARE NEW. You're here and you're hurting, even when "everyone else" seems fine. This may have happened "to you", but here you are. Embrace it, it's real and it's NOW.

Go get this week's TIME Magazine, which has a great cover: "The Future of Work". It lays it out, 10 ways your job will change, and they include flexibility, collaboration, freelance and creativity. The New Now. Start as soon as you can. Go for walks with your partner and talk it through. Be brave, this may be happening to you, but you need to work it to your advantage. Stay tuned, we're talking about REINVENTION!




State of things, of our Country, of our Ecomony. Of our homes and relationships.

"The Cyclone roller coaster became the most famous roller coaster in the world. It had steep drops and savage banked turns that offered patrons an exciting ride."

Coney Island in 1949. People were awed, thrilled. Freedom from insidious ideas abroad was just an infant. Victory in Europe was declared a mere 4 years before; only the lucky few got to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Families were rent asunder, the world was in shambles and yet, people welcomed entertainment like The Cyclone. Terrifying, nauseating and survive-able.

The Cyclone is a symbol of reinvention. A tremendous feat of architecture, defying the odds of fun and physical safety. An unthinkable idea, yet built, and beautiful.

50 years later, what will be our monuments to survivability?

I'm thinking now about reinvention.



Think we've hit bottom? The weather's better, Madoff's in jail, banks are posting gains. We seem somehow clearer.

We woke today to headlines that an Air Force One jet buzzed over Manhattan on a photo junket - we went wild, angry hens in the hen house! Fly-by airliners over Ground Zero? It is unacceptable, we all know it. We are still a terrified City, you cannot fool around with people so recently wounded. Following expressed ire from the President and a(nother) frank, mea culpa from the White House, we feel vindicated for our anxious reaction. The hens have set themselves back to roost, still clucking sideways and backwards about the unthinkable line that was crossed.

We seem clearer about our boundaries as we begin to trust that we're part of the process. We elected someone who aspires to govern by transparency and we're starting to see what that means. So many of our boundaries have been crossed, now we can re-establish them, for better. They're listening.

But with all that, it's not over. John and I are in a holding pattern, waiting for word on potential opportunities that each passing day seem more like figments of our imagination. Last week two more big jobs were lost in my loose circle of people. Upon hearing, I stood by one friend, with no real encouragement, just empathy. Just these words: "OK, so let's get started..."

I just got a call from a friend in another state, she herself in a good job, her husband as well. But in her town a thousand miles away, the continuing fallout of this thing is at a boil, just as it is around here. She called to ask me what to say, how to be empathetic as more and more people came home with pink slips. She knows from being a passenger on my ride that there are right ways to approach it and not so right. Let's take a minute to record what feels best, when we reach the gates of The New Now, how do we want to be welcomed?

  • Meet it head on. Call it what it is, it is a terrible state of being. "If you've reached this point in your career and have not suffered job loss, you're just waiting in line". There is no stigma; when you play, you pay. This is not unique.

  • Pay gigantic compliments to the one who's lost the job. John and I both appreciate the many affirmations of who he is and how good he is at what he does. Loss of identity is as big as loss of paycheck; don't let us forget we are still who we always were, but better, stronger, with "more texture".

  • Take us out. For a walk, coffee, lunch or dinner. Get us out of our skin. One unemployed friend said that his wife is so much better after she's been with friends. Let her set the pace, but don't avoid the circumstance. This is not something we can or are trying to forget, it's part of our life and we want company in the coping.

  • Offer gifts. Great music, scented candles, articles and books. Give things you'd like to receive if you were experiencing the dark of the vacuum. Take a look at The New Now post about the Sanity Salon (2/9/09) for ideas. We have to hold onto our style; liken it to the first trimester of pregnancy when you felt horrific and style has gone out the window. I used to tell my sister during her pregnancy: "Accessorize!"
  • Don't get scared. If you're willing, we will take you along for this ride, but be warned: we will proclaim our emotions. We'll say things we mean (and those things will change regularly), we'll say things to get a rise (misery loves company). Empathy for those in the eye of the storm is a great exercise in passive listening.

This is a post begging for comments. Please click below and offer your suggestions. Again, my mantra, WE ARE ONLY AS GOOD AS THE SUM OF OUR PARTS.



Back in November I wrote in my calendar on this day: Are you still breathing? I am, but I still feel pretty sick most evenings when it's time to feed my people. So in that vein, here's the next in the series of WHAT CAN I FEED THEM recipes -

This is a real crowd-pleaser, and though it sounds precious, it won't break the bank. Most of the ingredients are already under your roof, and if they aren't you'll use them up the next 3 times you make this fabulous recipe.


What you need to feed 4:

3 lbs baby-back pork ribs
1/4 Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 c sour cream
1 Tbsp prepared horseradish
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 head napa cabbage, shredded with a knife
2 Granny Smith apples cut into strips
a bunch of scallions, sliced

Heat the grill. Season the ribs with salt and pepper. Place on the grill, cover it and cook 20-25 minutes, turning often , until cooked through and tender.

In a small bowl, combine the worcestershire, mustard, brown sugar and baste the ribs during their last 5 minutes of cooking.

In a large salad bowl, whisk the sour cream, horseradish and vinegar, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Toss in cabbage, apples and scallions.

Cut the ribs apart and heap them on a serving platter. Serve horseradish with bread next to it.

* Inspired by a Real Simple recipe



This one's a tribute, off the subject or condition that one must be in crisis to be needy. Or to be fulfilled. In the New York Times Health section today, Tara Parker-Pope published an article about the overarching healing power of friendship.

I read the article this morning and, cynically, wrote it off as simplistic. Interesting anecdotes. Stories of women seeking solace in childhood friendships to cope through divorce or Cancer diagnosis; A 10-year study showing that older people with larger circles of friends were 22% less likely to die during the study period than those with fewer friends. And if there's no other justification for being friendly, Pope reported that studies show that the risk of obesity is some 60% higher among folks whose friends gain weight. Strength in numbers. The power of the Tribe....

Then, funny how this works, I heard the quiet strains of a long-forgotten song about just this power, the power of friends to heal friends, and Pope's article took on the mighty proportion it deserves. Listen to Joni Mitchell's song "Ladies of the Canyon" http://www.rhapsody.com/joni-mitchell/ladies-of-the-canyon--1970. It takes you behind an easel with Trina who "wears her wampum beads", then it sits you down with Annie who "may make some brownies today". Without you even sipping a cup of almond tea or hearing an inside story, "Ladies of the Canyon" brings you into the heart of what it is to be a woman among friends.

I was afforded this great privilege over the weekend, offered entry into a family of women who have become to one another what flesh and blood can never be. In a place just like Joni's Canyon, a place of "empty halls and beveled mirrors, sailing seas and climbing banyons". The time and place were gifts, but above all, what a privilege to be "welcomed in" (as Joni says it) to a tradition set well before I arrived.

Parker-Pope's Times article is a powerful and substantiated statement about what even those with the great fortune of a Tribe may take for granted. She writes:

"Last year, researchers studied 34 students at the University of Virginia, taking them to the base of a steep hill and fitting them with a weighted backpack. They were then asked to estimate the steepness of the hill. Some participants stood next to friends during the exercise, while others were alone.

The students who stood with friends gave lower estimates of the steepness of the hill. And the longer the friends had known each other, the less steep the hill appeared. "



Parenting moments, they're stories we need to tell. There's some kind of unspoken mechanism between us parents, in that when we tell our parenting stories we purge them, and let them go - we do this with friends and strangers alike. There's an element of forgiveness that comes when we confess. Telling my parenting stories is the closest I come to understanding the power of a Catholic's Confession of Sins.

This small post is a wide acknowledgement of the terribly misguided parenting decision I made on Tuesday, when all I was trying to do was get John's attention.

As always, I've boiled it down to two kinds of people. I do this in every situation or scenario, it's a most convenient scything of any experience. In the New Now, the first kind of person is he who falls into a minor and, we hope, short-lived depression when he loses his job. The other kind tries to maintain a constant (!) and healthy (!) flow of communication about feelings, while remaining ebullient (!) and fun loving (!). Guess who's who?

So John's been laid a little fallow in his drag of a mood, trudging through the last couple of weeks, including Spring's early moments, Easter's traditional festivities. There've been people everywhere, and that's the problem. EVERYWHERE, we've had a revolving door (see "second kind of person" above). John's and my communications, over the last week or so, have gotten more and more caveperson-like, he has headed inward and I've sought solace by creating a carnival(!*!*!*!)

The parenting moment? After attempts at getting through to my husband, in a festive (!), fun-loving (!) way, to absolutely no avail, I decided to take a Type A personality's standard route to honesty, I employed Shock and Awe and announced over lunch to my 3 young children and 2 even younger nieces - with John as a witness - that WE COULD NOT CONTINUE THIS WAY, OUR MARRIAGE JUST COULDN'T TAKE IT, HE HAD TO TAKE IT ON THE ROAD... You can plug in the rest.

Oh yes, I got John's attention. Eldest child left the house in inconsolable tears, middle one positioned himself between his sputtering parents pleading for us to "hug", youngest cried out that she loved us both. Nieces sat without appetite, eyes like saucers (I have since told their parents that I'd help with the therapy bills.)

Did I mean what I said? Not remotely! I love John and I am toally committed, just a mite annoyed at his self-indulgent moodiness. I am Type A, that's for sure, but it is high time I realized that my Type A communication strategies don't necessarily speak to the audience.

We've made up, nobody's scared about where they'll be sleeping tonight. I made absolutely NO point, I bombed. Thanks for listening, I feel forgiven.



Fancy meeting you, here in this Age of Austerity. Publications from the New York Times to Lucky Magazine are commenting about the required as well as the elected mantle of frugality. Do a search on the Times' website and you'll come up with "Consumed: Haute Frugality" and "Austere Times? Perfect!" Apparently, all articles I'll have to read. Lucky, the shopping rag, is beside itself (and the self of its advertisers) with online features such as "This Entire Site is Under $30". eBay and H&M are plastered all over it. A friend's mother, age 70 and independantly wealthy, self-identifies as "only a corner away from bag lady". This new era is playing heavily on our conscience. Even those fully employed with healthy savings are taking on the Great Depression Challenge. Seems we're all game.

I have mixed feelings about the common experience of austerity. Maybe some sense of ownership over the New Now? I know we are not unique - out of jobs and anxious about our future. But when I read about New York City apartment owners taking in boarders when they're still making great salaries, or hear the tense fear and anxiety on the other end of the phone as a friend talks about her husband not getting paid his bonus on time, I want to scream "J-O-B, people!" as I stab wildly with two thumbs at my own chest.

But remember 9-11? No matter where you lived or how you voted, you were changed by living it. Everyone has a story, a reason (fact or fiction) the attacks changed our life. Similarly, John and I will always tell our shock and terror story which began with having the door closed behind him by his boss and the HR professional who axed him. And others will have their narrative about the New Now.

OK - so maybe I am trying to own the New Now, a little. I confess - and here are two points that set me straight (for the moment). The first one, the sanity check that doesn't even require a trip to Africa or India. Last week an article was published in the Times called "Keeping It Secret as the Family Car Becomes a Home" http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/02/us/02cars.html?_r=1&scp=9&sq=homeless&st=cse. Ian Urbana writes "As with all homeless people, finding food, warmth and a place to clean up is a constant struggle. But for those who live in their cars, remaining inconspicuous is its own challenge, and though living this way is illegal in most places, experts and advocates believe it is a growing trend." I'm feeling deprived because John and I haven't been on a date since November. Larry Chaney of Erie, PA passes his time over a single cup of coffee in a local diner and plays "mindlessly" with a ring of keys to mask the fact that he has no door to unlock.

For the second slap-me point, read Judith Warner's blog "Domestic Disturbances", her post entitled "Families to Care About" http://warner.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/03/19/families-to-care-about/#more-219. Warner toggles between joining me in my desire to make this economic crisis a wake-up call for "yummy mummies" who have sadly had to cut their nanny staff. I read the post with relish, thinking Warner was leading to a conclusion that would damn the mummy while we damn her banker spouse. Instead - egg in face - Warner goes another direction, saying that "this is a classic blue collar recession. Fully half the jobs that have been lost so far have been in construction and manufacturing. Only 5.1 percent of job losses have been in finance and insurance — the kinds of careers that support the opt-out lifestyle." So it's not about the millionaire or the mummy at all. Snap out of it, sister! Those who are really in crisis are the same who have triple-jobbed while passing their spouses in the hallway. Shame on me for forgetting that I rest soundly in that white-collar 5%.

This is all about the reminder that - still - we need to create an economy that supports women and men who have never had it easy. We need flexible hours and borderless employers who see working from home as a win-win. We need childcare that will help fill our schools with richly textured kindergartners. (Maria Montessori fashioned her early childhood institutes for poor children in early 20th century Italy, not rich suburbanite tikes.) Women are contributing hugely to digging us out of this crisis (82% of those who've sought unemployment in the last 8 months are men). Time to remind ourselves what kind of quest we've been on to support them, and continue the fight.