In the maturing stages of dealing in the No Job Vacuum - 6 months in - I am not modest about much. Indeed, the stigma once attached to being laid off is a laughing matter these days, when more than half of the parents in the Orthodontist's waiting room are fathers. So I'm not going to be bashful when I tell you that I am one of those shallow Americans Kurt Anderson describes in his article "The End Of Excess" in this week's issue of Time. Anderson writes that the excesses we've experienced during the Reagan-and-beyond years were so bizarrely taken for granted, that "even smart, proudly rational people engaged in magical thinking, acting as if the new power of the Internet and its New Economy would miraculously make everything copacetic... We all clapped our hands and believed in fairies."

Since the bubble burst, I've asked out loud: Did people really not question 12% annual dividends on the money they invested with Madoff, even in recessionary cycles? Did we really drive by 25,000sf homes and sigh at the beauty and grandeur? Were millions of dollars in bonus honestly the norm?

The Time cover article positions the fact that the Screeching Halt is good, healthy, positive. Though we didn't ask for it, we all - every one of us - agree. We've got to agree, we're in it, what's to fight? In a quiet moment, do we close our eyes tight and wish it would all go away? Absolutely. But here we are. We're mid-diet and haven't lost the weight. We're partway through summer camp and we want to go home. We're 2 hours into a 16 hour car ride through the Plain States. Even given our epic denial before all this went down, we Americans are American - we'll make it through, stronger, intact. We've spoken out loud our worst case scenario: we'll lose the house. We'll have to move. We'll spend every dime of our savings. But we'll be alive and together.

John and my parents teamed up to give me an experience for my Christmas present this year. John used his last airmiles to get me to Italy. My parents met me there and covered accomodations and food. I spent 6 days around Rome last week with not even a camera. I was with my parents, basked in being taken care of, the 45-year-old dependant, their child. I didn't reach for the bill, I didn't plan the itinerary. Their gift to me was the opportunity to get out of my skin.

It was heavenly. We read a paper maybe twice. The stories played like celebrity news from that distance: American grown ups getting on buses to drive by the homes of AIG executives; Obama's Press Secretary scoffing at Dick Cheney for saying our war in Afghanistan was reckless; American auto brands disappearing because there's no market for gigantic vehicles. All this, while riding around Italian villages in a dented Fiat with a stick shift. Such perspective. I didn't want to leave.

I did not want to leave. My beloved children were sending me texts, and my hard-working Husband was fighting the good fight back in Connecticut, and yet there was a small voice in my head that said "drop your Passport in the toilet and FLUSH!"

Getting out of my skin felt so incredibly good. I'd forgotten what it was like for time to fly because I was having fun. I wandered from catacomb to catacomb with no extra weight. The message is good. We must get out of our skin, we need to lose the weight. But given that, what idiot wants to go back?

When only 2 days remained of this glorious Roman holiday, I asked myself - is it worth it? If I know how hard it is to go home, so hard I feel dread, nausea, why on earth do I subject myself to the pain? Why go at all?

The answer, friends, is of course it's worth it. We cannot cope, we cannot guide, we cannot laugh even the shallow laughs without taking the break. You snicker because my break was in Rome, who'd say no? Our opportunities to peel out of this skin can be far or near. Going to the Y for a swim doesn't count. An exhibit at the Met followed by a $10 glass of wine does. Because that's the escape it's hard to go home from.

So we admit it, we were in denial during the boom time, we embraced the bons temps rouler attitude and we reaped the riches. But we can't make where we are go away. This crisis, as Kurt Anderson writes in Time, will define us. Get out of your skin, though, take back a little denial. It'll get you through.



The next recipe in a series about how to cope. Friends, when you or your Partner lose your job, nausea prevails. You can't feed yourself and you can't feed others. The grocery store is a vast tundra. This is easier than easy, all you need is a source for great white fish. Go, get it, and cook this NOW!

Prep Time: all of 15 minutes
Total Time: maybe 30 minutes

What you need:
4 thick cut bacon slices, scissored up (or chopped if you still chop)
3 shallots, sliced
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
6 garlic cloves, however you like your garlic: sliced, chopped, mushed up
1 8 oz bottle clam juice
1 14.5 oz can diced tomoatoes in juice
1/3 c dry white wine
1/2 tsp pinch saffron threads
1 15 ox cans little white beans ("navy beans"), drained
1.5 lb halibut or Chilean sea bass filets - cut into 2" chunks

Saute bacon and shallots in a large pot until bacon is crisp - 5 mins or so. Add olive oil and garlic, stir a minute. Add clam juice, tomatoes and juice, wine and saffron threads, boil - then simmer for 5 minutes. Add beans and fish. Cover and simmer until fish is cooked thru, maybe 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve with brocooli rabe, green salad, bread and cheese.

* Inspired by an old recipe from Bon Appetit. I could eat it every day and if I was served it at a restaurant I'd ask to speak with the Chef. It's that good. Great blend of saffron and garlic and fish that doesn't end up tasting like any of the above. Enjoy. Don't worry. Breath.



Times are inarguably tough. When effected by them as we are, it is natural to look for something, someone to blame. Gail Collins wrote this morning in her OpEd entitled "The Rant List" that, with the likes of former Countrywide Execs making money in the after-market of failed mortgages (the mortgages they themselves convinced so many of us to obtain) and wacko former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's book deal (what about him is compelling enough to warrant 300 pages?), we have to prioritise just who we get upset with. "Lately", Collins opines, "the unfairness bulletins have been coming so fast and furious that there isn't time to get upset about all of them."

It isn't fair! We are paying for the waste of precious resources all around us. For decisions made by other human beings, by people we pass in the grocery store! We can pin the blame on any number of individuals and groups, but what does that do? John walks along a precipice every day, of blame and anger. I was advised by a friend recently that if we do more than just acknowledge that anger, we will invite it into our lives - Anmarie cautions from experience in the No Job vacuum that it will be an invitation that gives the go-ahead to our worst case scenario.

I'll make you a different invitation. This has been a relatively silent week in our house. Nothing's tangible, but in order to get out of bed in the morning we've redefined opportunity; considering a 15-minute phone conversation not just another dead-end , but an interesting contact, maybe in time, a job lead.

So times are tough - we have to grab the Grace where we can. Here's where I've gotten it this week:

The Bird and the Bee - John, Karen and I went to a $22/ticket show on Tuesday night featuring the unabashedly optimistic Indy/Pop band The Bird and the Bee. Inara George uses clapping, smiling, laughing and amazing lyrics to entertain, she fronts 3 awesome women accompanied by a quiet electronica wizard. The women wore short monochromatic a-line dresses and flats, they all matched, and the show was like being a fly (or a bee, in this case) on the wall of a fabulous girl's night out. Download their first album aptly named "The Bird and the Bee" and their latest, "Ray Guns are not just the Future". For a quick hit of their joie de vivre, watch their recent performance on the Ellen show through their website: http://www.thebirdandthebee.com/

YourStartUpStory.com - Anmarie, the sage I quoted above, introduced me to this inspiring blogsite which provides the voice of "CAN DO" to starting a new business. The author writes about entrepreneurialism from the passenger's seat, but she is clearly an entrepreneur herself, has done lots of research and points to articles and resources that promote new business in this day and age. Low capital, low overhead. Add idea and stir.

Made with Love - On Friday, Libby took me to lunch for my birthday. An age-old friend whose husband leads the way in start-up entrepreneurialism, Libby herself embodies the spirit of "we will conquer" and always does this with style and quiet generosity. On her arm were the most unique bracelets made in Senegal out of discarded rubber. Bracelets of brilliant color: turquoise, ruby, malachite. Buying 6 of them pays for childcare in Senegal for a needy child. $20 for 20 bracelets. Order them and other cool gifts at http://madewithloveinbrazil.com/spreadthelovetoafrica.html

What are you looking for? Read the paper and you get all the negative your imagination shouldn't have to take on. Don't stop reading the paper, but make a decision and filter it, for what's positive, funny, good. Did you see that Walmart has paid dividends this month? We're going to be OK. Look for whimsy and chance. It's time to start the march toward possibility, as we define it.