The days have been growing shorter. It won’t really feel like Fall (temps in the 40s-60s versus 80s-90s Farenheit) until Halloween is here. But signs of late summer and early fall have appeared.
Partridge pea flowers are blooming. Morning glories are blooming. Sulphurs and Swallowtails have been here all summer. But tiny butterflies, stout butterflies, and harvest colored butterflies (in orange and yellow and brown), are flying all around in the late morning and well into the late afternoon.
It won’t be long until the swamp marigolds are blooming around waterways. Acorns, hickory nuts, and sweetgum balls will soon be underfoot.
As pedestrians crush the acorns, the sidewalks will be covered in saffron yellow crumbs. The acorns and other seeds that were spared pavement and hungry squirrels will nestle down in a thick blanket of old leaves until spring.
Nature is always beautiful thing. This season brings with it a mixed bag of other likes (and a few dislikes) for me.
DISLIKE: I don’t look forward to being cold. Not so much outdoors, but indoors. The only beverages most restaurants offer are cold, and they are running an odd combination of AC and heat. I ask them to hold the ice. I carry decaf tea packets in my purse, and I hope restaurants have a tea spigot on their coffee machine, or a microwave to heat up some water. Many restaurants don’t have decaf coffee on hand and I try not to drink caffeine after 4pm.
LIKE: I have a collection of crazy patterned socks to wear everyday. Wearing tights or other spandex also holds in heat without adding bulk.
DISLIKE: The cold and flu bugs that go around.
LIKE: The changing leaves are beautiful, especially when the sunlight streams through them. New England and the Blue Ridge are bracing for record traffic. But anywhere cool and at higher elevations has a brilliant show all its own.
DISLIKE: Christmas overkill arriving too early. Hearing Christmas songs in stores on November 1.
LIKE: Fall and winter are seasons offer more people opportunities to showcase their individuality and creativity.
Carved pumpkins are beautiful. Extreme Pumpkins out of Detroit always has a impressive show of last year’s carvings.
People’s costumes for Halloween. People who don’t have $30+ to throw at a store bought costume can get pretty creative.
Every year I see more Day of the Dead food, decor, etc. appearing in stores, its awesome to see this Mexican cultural phenomenon take off in the US.
There’s some really beautiful woven work at Interweave. It’s not cold enough to wear it here, but I love the slideshows.
Seeing Northern Lights online. [One day we’ll see them in person.]
New plays come out. New art comes out. A lot of Oscar hopeful films come out.
For all the likes. For all the fun, beautiful things, I’ll put up with some cold. In the meantime, I am watching for butterflies.
There’s also a companion website, WifiWorkerBees.com, and a Twitter account, @WifiWorkerBees. We’ve both been posting stories about remote work, digital nomads, co-working spaces, and remote working trends in our own Twitter feeds as well to build a community focused on remote work.
The last six months have involved brand brainstorming, doodling logos, fine-tuning said doodles in graphics software (for a final logo I am very proud of), writing courses, creating presentations, and rehearsing presentations to sound more at ease on camera, then editing those videos and posting them online. That was all a lot of work, a lot of I hadn’t done before (talking to a webcam, video editing, writing a class) and next comes the marketing!
Easily Confused Words will be making a return in the next couple days.
Thanks for reading!
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED OCTOBER 27, 2014, AT 1:34 P.M.
Recently, I got sick with a stomach virus and body aches. By day three, I feared it might be something more serious. Thankfully, I went to the doctor and got a clean bill of health. Four days in, I was back to normal. Not everyone is so lucky. If a virus attacks your nervous system, for instance, it can be crippling or even deadly.
Getting this break made me think about how I’m spending my working hours, and how is that working out? How did I get sick? How do my frustrations, my stresses affect on my immune system? What could I do to change things for the better all around?
In the wake of my illness, I made realizations and changes.
Sadly, local print journalism might have been a way to get a following in the 1980s & early 1990s, but I can affirm it most definitely isn’t now. I’m at midlife right now, I really don’t have 20 years to lose in trying to get a following in an old-fashioned medium that doesn’t have readership, or much brand awareness, in its surroundings.
When I requested interviews, I had to repeat whom I wrote for several times, I heard silence when I mentioned the name. The brand isn’t new, it’s actually been around for years. I know it exists, I wrote for it over 50 times, but yet I am talking to new business owners in my city and they don’t have any idea about that brand. It’s the state of current culture I guess. It’s a crowded marketplace, lots of things are demanding attention. And people don’t want to be featured in your paper unless it’s THE paper in town. You’re not THE paper in town if people haven’t heard of it. And THE paper in town typically gives poor reviews to restaurants outside its own zip code and the desirable address zip codes.
I think there’s some romantic delusions that come with all jobs. But I think you hear them more from jobs that don’t pay well, like journalism, teaching, and non-profits. These jobs have an odd juxtaposition: they’re white collar jobs, they expect or demand education, but they pay the same or slightly better than fast food.
One delusion is if I keep on trucking it will pay off eventually. Careers and pay are supposed to move forward and advance. Thing is, so many don’t, the people in them just get older and more experienced and get paid less every year for doing the same work. Or worse, even more of the same work.
A second delusion is, others quit or stagnated but it won’t happen to me, I’m too good. I’m too talented. I have a brand-name label education. I’m not like them. If talented older people around you quit, know they were you once.
A third delusion, I am performing a community service and the community knows, recognizes, and values my efforts. I mean too much to them, they don’t want to see me fail and won’t let me fail. They would miss me if my writing ceased.
A fourth delusion is there’s an occupation deity/angel looking out for me because I such a good-hearted person for doing what I do for a profession.
A fifth delusion, is it’s not about the money. That is a major cliché phrase these days. Everyone’s working their passion because it’s hip to say that. However, it’s easier for someone making $100,000k or 75,000k or more to say it’s not about the money than someone $20,000k or less. All jobs at their base, are about the money, whether you need the money or not.
I gave this job two years. I wanted these stories to be great samples, and on some level, I thought I was performing a community service telling residents about new business in their area, in a fresh, non-critic fashion. I wasn’t trying to talk readers out of checking out new business, rather, I was trying to introduce both parties and give the readers reason to check the new business out at least once. I probably put far too much effort in research and word choice given most locals aren’t reading what I write and the pay was minimal.
It doesn’t matter how good a journalist you are if no one’s reading the content. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, right?
Everyone is a celebrity of their own making these days. Today a person has to build his/her personal brand through a blog, through writing a book (or books), or all of the above. When he/she does write articles in someone else’s publication, it’s an advertorial for his/her brand to drive sales of the books, presentations, films, etc. The editor gets credentialed content in their publication, the author has a platform to provides examples of his/her knowledge and reaches buyers in the process. It’s a win-win.
So what will I do next? I want to produce my own books and other products that meet the needs of underserved markets. I am really interested in health, pathology, psychology, human experience, tech, and cultures of rising economies of the world. In the food arena, I’d like to focus on international foods education for better health in American culture. I want to learn more about social media via a variety of online work assignments. Editing, writing, or producing e-books and blogposts for people who know what they want and ideally, want it within a week or two. Fiction would be a fun diversion. I want to take more online classes and team up with my spouse in teaching a few about making remote work really work.
I reiterate that:
Creating a sample portfolio of published news articles with a byline was awesome.
Using my gift with words to tell a story and hopefully drive business was awesome.
Talking to people about what they do was an absolutely wonderful experience.
I am grateful to everyone I met.
I handed in my final story to the paper with my resignation last week. My story printed, there’s one more to go. I haven’t heard a peep about my resignation, but what did I expect?
Followup: I got a message a week or so after my resignation that my editor wanted me to write a story about another restaurant’s recent revamp. I had the awkward moment of saying I guess you didn’t read my message with the last story I submitted. I wrote about all the new openings I was aware of (there were four) and then handed in my resignation with the final one.
That was two years ago in summer 2014. When I pick up the paper now, it appears I was not replaced. The column space is still dedicated to restaurants, but it’s filled with a press release put out by the restaurant and it sounds as canned as you probably imagine.
You may have noticed that Easily Confused Words have been appearing more frequently here on the blog lately. That’s because I am planning an e-book of Easily Confused Words (ECWs) to come out just in time for back to school season.
The first week of June, twenty years ago, I graduated from high school. And spoiler alert, I am not going to a reunion this year.
I attended the same school system in the same town from kindergarten through 12th grade. I think that was long enough.
I was a long-haired brunette and the younger sister of another long-haired brunette. [Why the long hair? Our dad is a total Hispanophile, having fallen in love with Rota, Spain during his Navy years.]
If I was well-known, it was by default. I never felt “popular.”
For someone who lived in the same house and the same town all that time, I felt alien in a lot of ways. We were a Navy family, not a storied last name in these parts. Our last name (my maiden name) was German, but not pronounced ethnically; we had to spell it on a daily basis. We were Catholic. We all had dark hair. In the South, blonde and blue-eyed has been the beauty ideal for a long time.
My circle of friends was the ‘nerd herd’, a circle of mostly girls and one guy who would graduate in the top ten. Most of them were in gifted programs (the ones that let you skip class for another activity several days a week), but I was not. All in all, they were a good circle to be in, even if sometimes I wondered if I belonged in their company. This circle was my date to prom for two years in a row. Somehow, even with my lackluster math scores, I managed to graduate at #9.
I am in touch with a couple of these friends on Facebook. One, my best friend, I’ve been in touch with the most. In the last twenty years, it has become apparent friends like that don’t come along very often. I was fortunate they came along twice: once with her, once with my husband.
This year, the reunion is being planned by former cheerleaders and their ensemble. Predictably, they’re choosing the activity, they’re setting a date, and they’re lobbying their circle to hunt down the outer limits of the class of 1994 on Facebook. It’s $65 a head to hang out with people I had no choice about hanging out with for the bulk of my young life. People who think they know me, people who probably think they knew me.
I think I’ve seen this movie and the ending is predictable. I will regret going, and regret feeling upbeat in anticipation. No thanks. And thanks to social media, there isn’t too much about my life people couldn’t figure out from a Google search.
I won’t say it was all bad, but school was a lot of other people telling me what to do and what I was capable of. Some of my strengths, but mostly my weaknesses. Early on, I scored high on reading tests, but because I thought through my answers before speaking, I was labeled slow. It took parental intervention to put me in an appropriate class. The word “introvert” was unheard of.
I was a daydreamer prone to petite mal seizures. I was bad at math. I was not athletic. I would take walks and listen to my headphones. I spent most evenings in my room drawing, reading, or listening to the radio. I was avoiding a grumpy parent who I was nothing like personality-wise or interests-wise, and that wasn’t okay. I lived with a lot of daily anxiety because I thought every stranger saw me as this parent did and it had me shaking in my boots. I didn’t have my own car. If I had, I might have left for good.
School is full of judgement. The clothes you wear tell everyone about how much your parents make. As your teen years arrive, you can add your acne to how you are being judged. Some teachers played favorites while being pretty cold to other students. If you were a younger sibling, you learned your teacher’s relationship with your older sibling mattered a whole lot in how you were treated (you know, because you weren’t being compared enough at home.) Some Christian teachers were nicer to the souls they felt were”saved” versus those who are not. Some students or teachers with a unique religion encountered repeated scandal and controversy from parents and faculty even though they were perfectly fine people. And probably needless to say, gay kids couldn’t comfortably ‘come out’ in a small Southern town. Even if it’s something didn’t happen to me directly, seeing it happen to other kids didn’t feel good. These were all unfortunate life lessons about the petty, shallow side of human behavior. Are any of these things worth reliving, or celebrating? In my mind, they are not.
When you run into people from your past, you get reacquainted with who you used to be, whether you want to or not. It’s not always a bad thing. But I think the question is, do you want to feel like that person again, yes or no?
Well, one month down. So far one New Year goal has made strides, while another did not turn out.
SUCCESS: I have been writing for a bigger, well-known publication in my area. It’s been thrilling, and so far the feedback has been mostly good. I have interviewed several really interesting, creative people. I admire the focus and courage they had to pursue a career in arts; I had neither and tried to pursue a practical career. Hopefully in 10-20 years (hopefully much sooner, I’ll take sooner!) I will feel similar sense of success. Some of these folks are teaching classes; it would be really awesome to attend those. Sadly, I cannot afford all of them, cash-wise or time-wise.
Through writing this new series of pieces, I have noticed lots of ways to change my approach and strategy. I want to try writing and editing in “heats”. I am expecting this to make the process go faster with less over-mulling my words, and less staring at the screen re-reading a piece over and over. By learning to work faster, over time that means more can be written and finished in less time. There’s personal projects I have delayed because I took too much time on stories. I am a little mad at myself for that.
FAILURE: A few weeks ago, I attempted to lighten my own hair at home. Spoiler alert: If you don’t have a license, don’t try this at home. The ease of coloring at home versus the difficulty of removing color at home is night and day, and not in a good way. I went from having three color hair–ashy black, white, and reddish brown–to having five color hair. This was not the desired outcome. Mortified, I went to a chain for “hair rescue 911” walk-in convenience. And the hair stylist balanced my hair back to varying shades of brownish-red. And thankfully, she never gave me a guilt trip about it. Not once did she say how dumb this idea was on my part, or ‘you folks think my job is easy and then you need a bailout when you screw up’. Nope, she was strictly there to help. I will be back. Tiny flecks of silver have already started reappearing, but I am ignoring them for at least a month.
OTHER FEEL-GOOD MOMENTS: My car was overdue for having valves replaced. I am pleased to report that’s behind me. My service appointment was delayed by two surprise snow days, but it got done.
I am very glad we survived those two snow days. I had picked up water, bread, and other non-refrigerated food staples to last 2-3 days before it hit. We dripped our faucets (a must in the South). As boring and confining as it is to be cooped up inside, I do not drive on snow days. I also do not go Downtown if it’s been raining for days.
It’s not that I am afraid of snow, it’s the black ice and the bad driving habits I see on the roads every time I’m behind the wheel. These habits aren’t a good idea on dry days, never mind wet, icy ones. I am not risking getting in a wreck when I did not have to be out in the first place. In the event I do have to be out in bad weather, I leave ridiculously early, take my time and do not follow other cars too closely.
This was our first snow at our current house. It looked like giant creature spilled granulated sugar from above in random spots, like the edge of the lawn, in the bushes, on tables and outdoor furniture.
In other news, I have sinusitis. This past Saturday, I noticed my nose hurt like I had been punched in the face. Knowing I had not been punched in the face, and having no bruising to prove otherwise, I googled my diagnosis. Yep, sinusitis. Yuck.
I am cleaning up notes from a weekend interview and getting started on the next story. How are your goals coming along?
“If I rise in the morning, I’m gonna set this world on fire.” —Wanda Johnson, Blues singer from Anderson, SC (to hear her sing it live, click the link.)
At the start of a new year, I am just one of many Americans taking stock and thinking about changes they would like to make, or that must be made, in January.
I think of the lyric above when I know there’s big challenges ahead. It’s motivating. It doesn’t just have can-do attitude, but an awesome can of whoop-ass attitude.
Another year has passed, another one has just begun. Whenever a new year or a new birthday arrives, the emotions are universal:
Our time is short. What have we done with it? What are we going to do with it?Life doesn’t come with a CTRL+Z (Undo) function, or refunds for that matter.Like the muscles that make up our bodies, we need to stretch and even tear in places in order to grow. If we do not stretch, we atrophy by default.
When I count my blessings, I start with my marriage, family, and a roof over my head.
At my job, I love talking to new food business owners in town. It all starts with a rush when the assignment is made and the person I want to interview is hopefully easy to reach and mutually eager to talk to me. It’s awesome writing the story. I write for hours and don’t notice time passing. Seeing the story published is also rewarding. I always hope that as many readers as possible are informed about new neighbors and a new business. Occasionally I hear from my subjects about business being helped by the story, or they liked it, or both. It does not get better than that.
A lot of modern news dwells so damn much on the bad (crime, corporate greed, disheartening politics), it’s an honor to focus on the feel-good. Enthusiasm, listening and attention are all signs of love and interest. What’s not to love about the arrival of new neighbors that could be new friends, new places to try, and a growing economy? [Overall, the news should be more balanced about presenting reality. It’s not all bad, and it should not be presented that way.]
On with the blessings…It has also been great to virtually eliminate a daily commute by car. Paying for all that gas, avoiding the addition of wear and tear on a 10+ year old car, reducing my carbon footprint (compared to my former 15-20 mile commute to North Charleston today I do not drive much at all), and avoiding starting my day with aggravation (from fighting traffic) are all plusses in my book.
There’s a book I’ve been meaning to finish writing and photographing for 2 years now. It overlaps cooking and travel themes. If I want to look myself in the mirror and smile, it must be finished by this Spring.
On the day jobs and branding front, I would like to be writing a lot more stories and content than I have in the last two years. In all I’ve interviewed 40 businesspeople, at 600-800 words each that’s about 24-48,000 words total. In the new year, though, I’d like higher volume and higher pay. In the past two years when I joined the news orgs, I thought my tasking would diversify over time, and the exposure would be sizable. I do not know what my exposure is, and my tasking has not diversified and it probably will not.
I have to find new opportunities. I also have to widen my scope. I need to write about other things, and not just locally, but universally. I am pleased to report I have something art-related already in the works.
I will keep blogging, tweeting, and participating in social media. I recently updated my Facebook presence to match other profiles. I want to participate more on Instagram. I also want to take and incorporate my own photos and video on my three blogs.
I had been coloring my hair since my 20s but I quit last Fall. I have about 2 inches of salt and pepper now. In the next couple days, the older colored growth will be changed to look less “skunky” as some hair bloggers call it.
In this new year, I want to tell more stories, tell a wider diversity of stories, create a wider diversity of content, finish my food & travel book, and read more books, practice more volunteerism, and maybe make some friends along the way.
By 2015, if all this happens, I will have done a lot of stretching. As a result, I will feel much more accomplished than I currently do.
Tonight (January 8, 2014) I publish this post. By doing that, I am letting the universe know, with a few witnesses (hi there!), that these items encapsulate my mission this year.
I do not expect a deity or an external supernatural force to make these things happen. It’s up to me.
(This post also appeared on the BakingKookys blog)
I’ve been writing for Wiser Time Publishing for one year. That’s 26 published stories total about West Ashley and James Island food businesses. These businesses are either brand new ones to the area, or established ones that are growing, have new management or a new menu, an upcoming charity dinner, or other news.
I submitted another story just this week, I have feelers out with other businesses in the works, and I scour the internet daily for news of new openings and events. Sometimes just driving around and seeing what’s new pays off more. [Savannah Highway and Folly Road rarely disappoint with vintage automobiles, artfully hand-painted VW CamperVans, and otherwise unusual vehicles. And it’s nice to check in with the Coburg Cow and see what she’s wearing this month.]
If you did not already know, this blog has an About Me section (click the link to go there). It includes a slideshow of all the Wiser Time published pieces, the pieces as submitted are listed below that. Prior to Wiser Time, I was contributing to Eat This magazine. Prior to writing about food, I covered independent musicians live performances and recorded albums for Performer Magazine’s Southeastern edition. I have always been a music fan, but I do not play instruments or read music, nor do I sing professionally. I enjoyed learning about indie artists (deserved more attention than they get), but I found I felt limited in my commentary as just a fan. it was an awkward situation where I felt if I am not growing, I must be going. I had been a home-trained baker and cook from a very early age, so food writing was a more natural topic, and ultimately a better fit for me.
In my writing for Wiser Time, and even in creating the Sea Islands Dining Guide, I hope I have motivated residents and visitors to check out new places or discover ones that are new to them.
Traditional food critic pieces often take polarizing views. I write about food, but I am not a critic. I aim to tell readers about the people behind the business, their background in food, where they are from, what they are offering, what local businesses they used to get set up, where their produce is from if it’s local, and why you should try it at least once and make up your own mind.
You the reader know what you like or what sounds intriguing to your tastebuds.
You the reader know what your budget is any given night.
And it’s possible in reading my stories you may discover you and a chef or owner are from the same neighborhood in New Jersey, Maine, or Oklahoma, or Tokyo, for that matter. How cool is that?
I hope readers try the places out. I hope it becomes a new favorite, those readers would go back, and would even suggest it to a friend. With all the technology, media and experts that exist, word of mouth from a friend is still strongest endorsement tool any business has.
I have seen too many eateries come and go. Hanging the shingle is just the beginning, restaurants need fans, and buzz, and regulars. Ideally they would interview with every paper, mag, and blog they could because they all have different audiences and I’m not sure they all realize that. Communities need thriving businesses, employed workers, and a genuine feeling of community among their residents.
It is really awesome to see Downtown Charleston get so much national attention for its restaurant scene. That being said, I do think great places are opening up in the surrounding cities and boroughs** and they deserve some attention as well.
You do not have to go Downtown to get locally-grown food.
You do not have to be Downtown to eat well-crafted dishes from people who bring a lot of heart to what they do, whether that’s a burger, a slice of pizza or a hefty plate of Southern ‘fixins’.
You do not have to go Downtown to get craft beer.
And odds are, the parking is free, and there’s plenty of it.
I will close this post now. I need to go hunt down some future stories and do some baking.
**Mount Pleasant and James Island are towns. North Charleston is a city. West Ashley and Johns Island are part of Charleston.
Every time I go to sign my name with an ink pen, I am conscious that it will look terrible. I am out of practice; it is so rare I have to sign things in ink anymore. It’s even more rare that I have to write multiple words out in longhand.
If I have thank you notes to write, or postcards, I will write a draft out on on a sketchbook page, possibly multiple times. I want to get my words just right, and make sure they will fit the card’s dimensions in my handwriting. Then I copy the words onto the card with Zen-like concentration. The slightest distraction means leaving words out or “misscripting” the cursive–starting to draw one letter when I need another letter that probably looks nothing like the one I’ve just written. Or, giving my “n” or “m” too many humps. Forgetting that connected “r” or “i” after a “b’. Remembering what capital “Q” and “Z” are supposed look like. Needing a lower case “q” and accidentally drawing a” y” or “g” or “d”. !#$%&. That’s why they call it cursive. Thankfully, thank you cards come 8-12 to a pack.
So I was fascinated by a recent story about handwritten text messages. Designer Cristina Varenko received a calligraphy pen that had once belonged to a relative. She confides she felt chosen by this pen and it inspired her to create her own handwritten script typeface. She vowed that, for a week, she would only respond to text messages by handwriting her responses. She would write them on paper, take a photo of that paper, and upload that photo to her messaging window. The results of the experiment went viral.
Though we all receive the same instruction about how letters are formed, our script is very unique, more unique than handwritten print. As one of Varenko’s contacts responded, “It’s like you are here!” Her script had a visual “voice”–it reflected her personality, and the style and manner of how she expresses herself in person with her actual audible voice. That’s pretty remarkable.
To be fair, Varenko isn’t the only one to bring an analog style into a digital platform. Leah Dietrich‘s blog and twitter feature photos of thank you notes Dietrich writes to show gratitude for life’s great and not so great things.
Chef Alton Brown has responded to direct messages on twitter from fans, via Post-It Note and Sharpie marker, for over a year now. Brown’s voice on paper seems to be more pictures than words, but that’s really not surprising if you know his background: he was a filmmaker before he was a chef. While he can tell you, he would rather show you.
So I’m curious:
Could you handwrite & photo your text responses for a week?
Would you learn calligraphy, cursive or other hand-lettering art forms if your school curriculum didn’t require it? And by the way, many US public schools don’t cover cursive anymore.
Would you attempt analog communication styles (letters, postcards) if it was your choice, not circumstances?
Would you ever think of designing your own handwritten typeface? What would it look like? Would you design more than one?
FOLLOWUP: The day after I originally posted this, October 16, 2013 to be exact, #PSAT was trending on twitter. [It was one of those rare moments I could relate to people half my age! Haha.] Anyway, part of the test involved writing in cursive this year. Based on the comments on twitter, a lot of kids were positively stumped about how to do that. Interesting coincidence.