Oprah’s Lifeclass: The Tour Articles

Fair.com Review: I Got a Car, I Think, Maybe…

05.22.18

If you are trying to gauge the direction of the retail automotive market Fair.com is worth watching. They’re a lot like Maven, Canvas, and Book except the cars are used, and you work directly with the dealership, not the manufacturer.

We opted to use Fair.com because my daughter wanted a convertible and I want her to want to come home for the summer. I also wanted her to be safe and in a relatively new vehicle. I found a fun car on May 9th and put in a request. All of my emails (which in reality are just chats initiated in the app) went unanswered.

Phones are spotty with Fair as well. They say office hours are 9-6, a second voicemail says 10-7, but the reality is that the phones were answered less than half the times I’d called midday. When I did get a person on the phone on May 19th they were like, “Ummm.. yeah, that car isn’t available.”

You’ll recall from my previous post that I’d been trying to get a car from Fair.com for a full ten days at that point.

I found another car, a 2015 VW Beetle convertible. It had 15,000 miles on it and was $800 down and $420 a month, you can turn it in with 5 days notice and the term is as long or short as you please. Additionally one of their employees has been sharing a coupon code all over the web. So I used SHAANR100 as a discount code to save $100 on the drive off. Check and see if it still works.

It was simple. I signed docs online and then tried to confirm with Fair via the app (it’s email – but whatever) that I wanted to get the car that day. No one responded. I called. No one answered. I sent an SOS type chat through the app and got a phone call saying I could get the car the following day at 4.

There was no indication of who to speak to upon pickup. Communication from Fair.com is abysmal.

I risked it and had my son drive me to Thousand Oaks. He’s a damn hero for making that trek. As I wandered onto the lot, I was directed to the sales manager who had the car clean and waiting for me. He was very nice, it was one signature, he showed me the car, and I was done.

Sort of. The car’s been in an accident. The bumper has fresh paint on it, and it’s out of alignment. No, it doesn’t show on carfax. That doesn’t mean that work hasn’t been done. I’m not even concerned that it’s unsafe, I simply don’t want to get dinged for it when I return the car in August or September.

Of course, there’s been no response from Fair.com. No acknowledgment whatsoever that I sent emails and photos indicating prior damage.

But after speaking with the sales manager I understand why.

Fair.com buys the car from the dealer and leases it to me. When the term is complete the car will roll right out to auction. Fair.com isn’t in the car business. Fair.com is in the banking business. Which is fine, it just explains why they aren’t very good at cars. They’re good at meeting my fiscal needs, so that’s what made me their customer.

There’s a very limited warranty, but I’m not overly concerned as it’s a newer and low mileage vehicle.

I’d also like to add that one of Fair.com’s founders is also the founder of TrueCar.com. I’m going to assume that all pricing is… well…. neither True nor Fair. Again, it worked for me, but I’m waiting to see who comes out of the gates to challenge them because the experience thus far is lackluster at best.

Fair.com emails are a mess

Ten days after my inquiry I received a response from fair. Of course it was for the first car, not the one I’d gotten from them three days prior. It’s a mess over there.

The Summertime Car Dilemma for College Students

05.14.18

Jane is coming home from college next week, and she needs a car. Well, I need her to have a car because I don’t share well and I’m not excited about ridesharing as a full-time plan.

We got rid of Jane’s car when she decided to go to school in New York City. Naturally, she won’t be needing it for the bulk of four years. During short breaks, like winter, I can rent a car, and she can drive mine as it’s prohibitively expensive to have a driver under 25 on a rental car. But for summertime, I’ve tried to find other solutions. I’m still unclear on what we’ll do but here are the options.

Buy a beater and then sell or donate it at the end of the summer.

This was my first plan, and I found a 1983 Ford F150 that I thought would be a lot of fun to drive for the summer. In fact, it was a manual transmission, short bed, and only leaked a little oil. I was going to go and buy it for $3,500 on Tuesday but thank goodness AJ and I almost had an accident on Sunday. The freeway just came to a dead stop in front of us and had we been in an old car without power ABS brakes we’d have been in a major accident.

None of us are driving a beater. 

Rent a car for three months from one of the big companies

This still may happen. I have a luxury car reserved with Enterprise for the summer. It’s a Cadillac XTS or equivalent that comes with unlimited miles at $1,430 a month. The after-tax total for three months and 11 days is $5,760. There is no other cost involved. This car doesn’t go onto my insurance, require registration or a fee when I turn it in. If I want to save money, I can scale back on the model and drive something more modest. I’ll also get a bunch of frequent flier miles as well as double points on my credit card as it’s a travel-related expense.

Rent a car for three months from a company that’s new to the US

Sixt is a German car rental company. I’ve got a convertible beetle on hold with them for next week. It’s quite reasonably priced at $35 a day. A 92-day rental puts me at $3,661.93 with more than enough miles to get me through the summer. The problem is a complete lack of communication. I can’t get anyone on the phone so I can ask questions, and that’s too much money for me not to be able to speak to a local person.

The second problem, and this is a massive problem, is that their site is not secure. All you need is my reservation number and last name, and you land on a page that has been populated with my personal information. That this does not require a login is alarming.

How many other backdoors are there?

Sixt Car Rental Summertime Beverly hills

Sixt will give me KLM points though… so what’s a little privacy breach worth to me?

92 day car rental beverly Hills

 

These old style car rental agencies are the most convenient options. If the vehicles require any sort of maintenance I drop them off at the rental agency and grab a different one.

Drive a Ford for a few months with Canvas

The more I think about it; the more Canvas becomes an expensive option. In addition to having a very limited fleet of Ford vehicles, you can only make a reservation 14 days in advance. So the Mustang I wanted to lease for the summer that was available on May 6th is no longer available. It would also be registered in my name, I’d be responsible for maintenance, and I’d have to add it to my car insurance. Two teenage drivers make car insurance really expensive.

The reason I wanted to use Canvas was so that the car would be registered to me and the kids could drive it while I had my car, which I love. I’ve given up on Canvas though. If I want my daughter to love LA more than New York City the car’s going to have to fun and I can’t get a fun car with them.

Fair is an app that operates a lot like Canvas. If it ever works, it could be great. But it doesn’t work.

You essentially lease a lease return for a flat monthly fee and a drive off with Fair. The fees are competitive, the cars could be appealing, and it’s an open-ended lease. A buyer can walk away in two months or 20. Fair was the most attractive option for me as I could lease a car, put it in my name and the kids could drive it. Say hello to the summer of Mini Cooper!

The problem with Fair is that, much like Drive Canvas and Sixt, no one answers telephones and no one answers emails.

Proof. It’s a useless app.

fair app confirmation emailfair app doesn't respond to emails

GM has Maven Reserve. It’s a lot like Drive Canvas but only good for 28 days at a time.

Maven Reserve Los Angeles cars

Maven is still a good option for me if I want to be in a GM Vehicle. Interestingly Cadillac has a program for long-term rentals/short-term leases that also includes insurance much like a rental car. If I get stuck with Enterprise, it’s likely to be a coin toss as to whether I take my Cadillac from Book.

Since Book is Cadillac owned I’m guessing the vehicles will be a higher trim level than your standard car rental company and I will raise my expectations about the maintenance.

Book runs $1,800 a month. There’s no maintenance or insurance required beyond that basic fee. It seems to be the best managed of the bunch, of course, it’s the most expensive too. But I do love a Cadillac.

We’ll see how the summer goes and which of these companies is thriving in 2019.

 

I Only Have Three Days to Tell You About The Good Witch

04.4.18

Joanna Prisco is The Good Witch. She’s also Kai’s wife, but mostly she’s Duke’s mom. And she’s a very good sport.

She ate glittery rainbow bagels with me and my family because that was the thing that the kids needed to do, and she brought Duke so that we could all ooh and ahh over him. We haven’t stopped ooh-ing or ahh-ing. Duke is why Instagram must always exist.

But more timely, Joanna’s next baby (of sorts) will be The Good Witch.

Joanna was fired from her job after attending the Women’s March and refusing to remove photos of it from her personal social media accounts. There are different routes one can take in a situation like this and Joanna found the silver lining. She’s taken a deep breath, developed some new recipes, and launching a business that supports other women.

This is how we get to The Good Witch. 

From Joanna:

The shop will be a modern coffee bar, owned, operated by and dedicated to empowering women. Located in the Lower Hudson Valley (specifically, Westchester’s river towns), the cafe counter will serve ethically sourced, Brooklyn-roasted Parlor Coffee beans as well as a menu of housemade savories and sweets, such as spicy breakfast sandwiches, Vietnamese pandan waffles, summer rolls, fudgy bundts and miniature mochi cakes. Meanwhile, our pantry section will feature a larder of prepackaged goods created by female food artisans, such as Hot Bread Kitchen and The Jam Stand, cookbooks by local women authors (think Dinner: A Love Story) and female-driven food mags like Cherry Bombe and Gather Journal. And we plan to implement a calendar of dedicated specials with proceeds going directly toward nonprofits that benefit women, such as I Am That Girl, She Should Run, Girls Not Brides, among others.

 

In this way, we aim to create an environment that is accommodating to mothers who need a respite in between appointments (stroller accessible, loads of high chairs, charming changing stations) as well as fosters a deeper sense of sisterhood via book readings, food science workshops, panel discussions and community outreach.

I have only endorsed Kickstarters from people I know. And even then only when there has been a compelling story and a need. I’m basically using this one to pre-purchase some food and coffee in the Hudson Valley.

Also there’s a Wall of Femme. Irresistible!

Communities need shops like The Good Witch. And humankind needs to know that sometimes you’ll be fired for doing the right thing. Humankind also needs to know that sometimes being fired is the greatest thing. It allows you to stop, breathe, and pave a new road.

 

I Miss Jonathan Gold (and Anonymous Food Critics in General)

03.21.18

I ate at Park’s BBQ in Koreatown with a group of ten girlfriends recently and as much as I enjoyed it, I sat thinking of Jonathan Gold rather than the mountain of marinated meat in front of me. Not the Jonathan Gold of The City of Gold, but the Jonathan Gold of 2009 who ate at a restaurant repeatedly and anonymously and told us not just about the food and the service but the history of the food and of its ingredients. I miss the Jonathan Gold who reminded us that in fancier restaurants more people have sweated over our dishes.

I miss food critics who know how to hold a chopstick and revere the three-day process of making ramen broth.

I miss the old Jonathan Gold because the 2016 Jonathan Gold suggested we all try The Bellweather.  Had Gold showed up rumpled and anonymous he might have experienced the same dreadful service that the rest of us do, including a hostess yelling at me on my 19th anniversary for wanting a table not behind a swinging door or next to a restroom.

“Where DO you want to sit?” She yelled, gesturing at a half-empty restaurant. My husband and I were struck dumb, and in a moment of terrible judgment stayed to dine at The Bellwether.

We need a new Jonathan Gold. We need the existing Jonathan Gold to tell us stories. To tell us how spices have traveled across continents and why. We need Jonathan Gold to explain the ownership of recipes and restaurants, the customs and the superstitions. We need Jonathan Gold to reaffirm our love for Mariscos Jalisco. Because some of Los Angeles’ greatest meals come from roach coaches.

How can we make Jonathan Gold anonymous again? And how was Los Angeles lucky enough to be home to the only Pulitzer Prize-winning restaurant critic to date? Did we appreciate that enough? You bet we did.

Although Los Angeles is a city of immigrants she’s also a city of segregation. Koreatown, Little Saigon, East LA (getting gentrified but still…), Little Armenia, Chinatown, Little Ethiopia, WeHo is Russian, Encino is Israeli, and more. Dining at family-owned restaurants is one of a few means of experiencing another culture without the burden of international travel. If you’re curious about a country’s climate, try one of their salads. You’ll learn what grows there.

I loved having dinner with my girlfriends and Korean BBQ has become a de facto Los Angeles cuisine. And perhaps because Korean BBQ has so permeated the zeitgeist we didn’t explore. We lost our curiosity about the marinades. We forgot to ask why some places cook for you and others have the diner do the cooking. We neglected to ask about the bibimbap, or at least to read about its origins as a ceremonial food.

We are now finding our foodstuff on Instagram. How else would a rainbow bagel make its way in the world? The more pressing question is: Should a rainbow bagel have a place in this world? Is that cultural appropriation? We want our bagels back (I’m looking at you too Sarah Lee)!

The problem with Instagram is that I don’t really care what a 22-year-old with ombre beach wave hair likes to eat unless she’s a culinary student. I certainly am not concerned with the overstuffed sandwiches the bros love. But social media does get it right. Salt and Straw does have ice cream worth waiting in line for. Bay Cities is the only sandwich you should bring out sailing (I say Godmother). And, yes, Bottega Louie’s macaroons are stunningly Instagrammable but their cobb salad or minestrone soup is really why you want to be there.

But there is so much more to food than photos. There are manners and customs. There are spices and combinations of food to be enjoyed together. There is history. There are chopsticks and there are rules about chopsticks. Give me French food in small portions and yell at me when I request a doggy bag. I don’t care, I want the experience.

I miss food writers who buy their own meals and I miss the days of Jonathan Gold being anonymous.

The Second Space is for the Unemployable

03.14.18

Your typing teacher is unemployed and you will be too if you continue to use two spaces after a period.

Did that sound harsh? Good. It was meant to. You see, just a few days ago a friend shared a link to a humorous post on Facebook about using two spaces after a period. It got a lot of reactions and more than a few shares.

A facebook share of an article about two spaces after a full stop ie. period

And then another friend shared the same post. A friend who is a writer and ostensibly has many other writer friends. The comments around it were alarming. They love their two spaces after a full stop. They stand by their two spaces after a period. They have been mocked for their second space and they will not give it up anytime soon. They love that they’re over 40 and they assert that the double space after the full stop demonstrates wisdom.

The double space after a period demonstrates willful ignorance. Full stop.

These are the people who will not be hired. These are the people who will say they’ve experienced age discrimination. These are not people who are being discriminated against. These are people who are doing it wrong.

Let me explain.

You see, my Facebook groups are where the real information is. As a blogger, I’m on the outskirts of tech insofar as people in tech need bloggers to listen and to send their ideas to our readers. We as bloggers need the tools they curate and create. So I listen. I listen a lot, and with attention to detail. I watch for trends and I try to connect people with one another.

One of my most interesting facebook groups explores age discrimination, primarily in high tech.

Every woman over 30 in Los Angeles suspects age discrimination exists. Every woman over 40 in this town knows it does. I’m self-employed, I’m not immune to age discrimination but with my new project I’ve embraced it. I’m sure many folks skip over it. That’s okay, it’s my niche and I love it.

Back to my facebook groups. In my age discrimination facebook group, there are many articles shared both hopeful and discouraging. There are lots of discussion and job opportunities discussed as many are freelancers and most of us know and respect one another’s work. Almost everyone works in tech or an industry closely related. All of us know more than millennials when it comes to digital best practices. This is our playground. We wrote the rules. In addition to knowing that certain features exist inside of an app/website/piece of software, we remember its genesis and can explain to you why it was needed and how it was rolled out. We know the five W’s of most of what we use. We were alpha testers and know the lady who implemented the feature we love so much. Sometimes that doesn’t matter one iota, sometimes that bit of wisdom is critical. Which is a very long way of saying that we all know why you no longer double space after a full stop. Further, we all had typing teachers and we all unlearned that particular skill. That is wisdom. 

In case you didn’t know the double space after a period or full stop was no longer necessary or even useful as we stopped typing and started keyboarding. Today’s fonts have little to do with yesterday’s typebars. If you want more about this Grammar Girl has a series of posts.

Ilene Strizver, the founder of the Type Studio, says, “Forget about tolerating differences of opinion: typographically speaking, typing two spaces before the start of a new sentence is absolutely, unequivocally wrong.”

How does the double space after a period keep people from getting a job?

Pretend an editor and has to search a document for all of the double spaces only so they can be replaced with a single space. Would a harried editor hire that person a second time? If their work was otherwise stellar the answer is, probably. But with a note that all subsequent articles should be submitted with proper spacing. When this freelance writer submits that second article with double spacing after a period and says it’s a sign of wisdom, is it? Or is it a sign of rigidity at best and being obsolete at worst?

It’s quite likely submissions are never accepted in the first place because that double space in the email sent a signal that the sender is not current with technology. Logically, a person whose keyboarding skills are dated to typewriter days is a poor hire in a digital world. How long would it take to train this person to use an intranet, to submit expense reports, or to navigate digital files?

It’s wonderful to be mature. Youthful business owners need guidance from the people who built the road they intend to travel.
Smart buiness owners value wisdom. Remember though, that to be wisened means knowing how to listen and learn.

Huawei Mate 10: Headshots and the Perfect Selfie Camera

03.11.18

I was asked to participate in the Huawei Mate 10 battery challenge. After relentlessly complaining to my friends at Huawei about the pathetic battery life (among other things) of my iPhone 7 they agreed to lend me a Mate 10 to play with if I’d pick a 24 hour period of time and record my battery usage.

Here’s something you probably didn’t know about smartphone batteries:

When you get a new device it’s very important to fully charge it before the first use. When using the smartphone for the first time you’ll want to use it until the battery is completely drained without plugging it into anything. Repeating this process one more time creates a smartphone battery that’s been trained to deliver its full potential.

The Huawei Mate 10 is impressive.

Most days I switch between the Mate and the iPhone 7. Before that, I was carrying my P9 tethered to my iPhone. I’m still a little hooked into the ios ecosystem but the only device more disappointing (and expensive!) than the iPhone 7 has been my husband’s iPhone X. I’m slowly making my way to full-time Android. Until them tethering the iPhone to the Mate 10 is a great solution. Just weeks ago it was the reverse. I’ll likely always want both Android and iOS because my FOMO is extreme and because my office consists of two phones, a laptop, and a completely neglected home office space.

In any event, the folks at Huawei were making an infographic for the Mate 10 battery challenge. When Huawei sent a mock-up including my headshot it was cropped oddly. By me… oops. So they asked me for a new headshot and when I didn’t respond right away they asked about using one of my facebook photos. Which, although serviceable, was three hair colors ago. They asked for a second and I told them I’d provide a new photo over the weekend.

I set up a tripod and put the iPhone on selfie mode. Let’s face it, I’ll be 48 this month and there’s much to be said for a kind of crummy selfie camera. We don’t need to pick up every detail. Except, that it was just a selfie. The three-second delay is helpful but I couldn’t get a good photo, and with every bad photo I was crankier.

I switched to the Mate 10 and skipped the selfie mode. I put the Huawei phone on the tripod and clicked through to the smile menu. You see, you can set the Mate 10 to automatically take a photo when it sees a smile. I just sat in my room alone. It was just me, my tripod, and a cat (who was likely judging me), smiling at the camera and taking dozens of photos in about three minutes. It was painless. Even though I’m able to turn a selfie into an existenial crisis I think the photos came out pretty good.

Use the capture smiles feature on the Huawei Mate 10 for selfies

Well, most of them…. I’m really about words not selfies for a reason.

You can check social media for the hashtag #Mate10BatteryChallenge and see what people are experiencing around the world.

I found that I used the phone (funny to call it that because I hardly ever use it to actually speak) for 25 hours, received more than 400 notifications, sent or received in excess of 700 emails, streamed NPR all day long, messed around on social media, still had 27% of my battery life to play with.

 

Chopsticks, Death and Love

03.9.18

I’m in Monterey Park and after dropping a chopstick on the floor I grab a new one. Just one. As my hand hovers over a dumpling my friend practically shouts, “Don’t do that!”

Alarmed, I drop my hand and ask, “Don’t do what?”

“Never use mismatched chopsticks,” she says, “it’s bad luck.”

Not being superstitious I raise my chopsticks again and start to grab a dumpling when I am interrupted by an older woman at the table next to us, “We use chopsticks like that when someone is dead. It’s for the bones.” And she gave me a look that made it abundantly clear that this wasn’t about superstition, this was about manners.

I waited and asked a server for fresh chopsticks. But I was obsessed with learning more about the chopsticks rule. So I ran home and started reading about Chinese funerals. We’d been to dim sum, right?

I’d inadvertently learned about Japanese funeral customs while in a Chinese restaurant surrounded by mostly Chinese and Chinese-American people.

Japanese Buddhists cremate their loved ones differently than Americans typically do. I was interested to learn that, much like observant Jews, Japanese Buddhists perform their funerals within 24 hours. Also, like observant Jews, the body is never left unattended. After the funeral, the body is escorted to the crematorium where it is incinerated at a much lower temperature than we are accustomed to, and that is where the chopsticks come into the picture.

The family accompanies the body to the crematorium and witnesses as both casket and remains are placed in the cremation chamber. They are there two hours later when the remains are taken out.

The family then begins the process of placing the remaining bone fragments into an urn that will later be buried in a family plot.

The ceremony of placing these remains into an urn is quite beautiful and, I imagine, healing, as religious rites are designed to be. Special chopsticks are used to start at the feet and collect the bones to place in the urn. It’s important that the loved one is upright in their urn, and part of the ritual of picking the bones (kotsuage in Japanese) is passing them from chopstick to chopstick on the way to the urn.

Here is a striking photo of kotsuage.

Like any other religion or region, there are many steps, clearly defined, to the Japanese Buddhist funeral. Too many for this groups of words. But they’re comforting steps that serve to honor the dead while soothing the living. Funeral rites give rules to the family table, to the community, and to a nation first and the world second.

Even in good health we are planning for deaths. We keep our rituals sacred so that when the time comes for the people we cherish most the chopsticks are mismatched and the feet are at the bottom of the urn.

It’s not a Japanese thing, or a Buddhist thing, or even a chopstick thing. It’s a human thing. The way we preserve these moments, these rituals and their tools. We withold their use from daily existence so that the chopsticks that don’t match become tools for healing. What a waste it would be to use such a thing for just one dumpling.

This all got me to thinking about the ways we run from death. We keep death from our lives as though it’s a separate entitity. There’s living and there’s death. We’d like to believe they are two different states. But that’s not quite the case.

Ask any night nurse or hospice worker, ask widows and emergency responders. There are things we all do when we’re dying. Sudden deaths lend themselves to proclomations, grand and otherwise. Long illnesses or simply fading away in old age carry a predicability that leads to the moment. There’s a lack of hunger, and then of thirst, the eyes close and the breath slows, and if you’re very lucky there are no gasps before the permanent silence. If you’re even luckier someone will hold your hand and breathe slowly with you.

Then someone will sit with the body. And perhaps they will chant, perhaps they will pray, surely they will cry. Mostly though, there will be rituals, some of which make sense and others will be carried out with no understanding of why, and no desire to know. And death sort of bleeds into life as we care for those who pass before us.

With special chopsticks.

 

Agency

03.7.18

Tomorrow I’m meeting with some people from the city. We’re scheduled to discuss the prostitution problem in my neighborhood. We don’t have streetwalkers and pimps, we have massage parlors.

We have massage parlors that no one ever enters from the street. We have massage parlors that use their rear entrances with free parking. We have massage parlors where no one speaks English and the older woman at the front desk wears rainbow eyeshadow.

These massage parlors are admittedly not good for property values and I have some concerns about that, but we’re in a spot where our home values will continue to rise in value regardless of the local criminal activity. Nonetheless, I have made it a habit in the past to wander in and ask about an appointment. I’m hopelessly suburban. I look like your mom, I look like the lady who’s going to call VICE and it freaks them out. You know why I look that way?

Because I am the lady that calls VICE.

And I didn’t call VICE when I realized there were brothels popping up around my house. I called VICE when I realized that no one comes and goes. That perhaps women might be living there. I called VICE not after I recognized the fact that none of these women were American women but when I saw a teen there, not 18 or 19 either. I called VICE when I saw children being bought and sold.

And then VICE told me about all the ways they couldn’t help, but a few ways they could. So I encouraged them to please to keep visiting. And I kept visiting and flipping out the women in their 50s who wear too much rainbow eye shadow and pretend to look through empty appointment books to tell me there are no massages available for me.

And when my friends introduce me to their friends who are running for public office I ask these candidates what they’ll do about human trafficking. I watch them shrug and talk about what a terrible problem it is. One even let me know about places where it’s worse.

But I’m walking four blocks to the gym and I’m walking past a child in a brothel who is unlikely to read and write English. So I can’t turn my head and I won’t stop asking. This is ripped from the headlines human trafficking. And 30 yards from that massage parlor is a family like mine with a child the same age as the happy ending masseuse. And they’re freaking out because their daughter isn’t in the top 5% of scores for the SAT and how will she ever have a future…..

You cannot be a good person and worry about your child’s future while ignoring someone else’s daughter.

And I’m not a Pollyanna, okay, maybe I sometimes am. But I’m not opposed to legal prostitution. I’m not silly enough to think that sex isn’t a commodity and that women won’t sell something that men want to buy. I’m bothered by illegal prostitution for a million reasons that begin with disease and end with bringing crime to my neighborhood. Mostly though, I’m alarmed by women who don’t have agency selling something that they may or may not realize they own.

definition of agency sociology

So tomorrow I’m meeting with some folks at City Hall. I’m not overly concerned with having prostitutes rounded up for arrest. I am looking to have landlords held accountable. I am looking to have minors removed from this… existence. I don’t have solutions yet I’m hopeful that the people I’m meeting with will.

Overall though, I’m afraid to be hopeful. This isn’t a city that has done much to care for it’s most vulnerable citizens.

This is Privilege

02.22.18

Recently I mentioned on Facebook that I’d be visiting Pueblo, Colorado. It was met with a chorus of why’s, most with a disparaging tone.

I get it.

When people think of visiting Colorado they think Aspen or Vail, possibly Durango or Breckenridge, but people in Los Angeles don’t think, “I’ll go to Pueblo, Colorado today.” Which is all well and good but they’d be missing something because part of me really loves that little city and always will.

I went to school in Pueblo. After a false start at a swank private school, I found that West LA College was a really great place for learning. I was able to go to class distraction free (distraction = really rich boys in really fast cars) and learn a lot from teachers who didn’t have to worry about publishing or tenure or anything like that. They were just passionate. I’ll always remember the man who made me love math. I won’t remember his name but I’ll remember his crazy hair, plaid blazer, and pin that read: MATH IS NOT A SPECTATOR SPORT. I fell in love with linear algebra and I can’t remember a thing about that class except for his exuberance and it’s contagion.

After West LA I found myself in Pueblo. It’s one of those events where you sort of spin three times and there you are. It ended up being a perfect match. I knew little about myself at 19 except that I wanted to get a bachelor’s degree without writing any essays and that I needed to be in motion. A BS in Kinesiology seemed perfect and CSU Pueblo offered one.

College is more than just book learning. It’s this wonderful pause button that’s hit between childhood and adulthood. While the frontal lobe is experiencing its last bursts of growth and terrible decisions are repeatedly being made, college kids all over the country are able to make their mistakes in relative anonymity while learning how to meet deadlines, how to juggle too much work in too little time, and how to survive on not enough money. Loves are found and promptly lost. Politics are declared and then decried. Internships are miserable and wonderful and launch both careers and friendships.

College is a gift of time, of learning, of soft landings.

College was affordable for me. At the time I attended rents were low in Pueblo (still are!) and jobs were plentiful. I’d been working in restaurants for years and I just sort of knocked on doors and landed great jobs around town.

I left college with $1,500 on a credit card and I thought I’d never sleep through the night if I didn’t have it paid off. When I hear about the student debt that’s considered normal for kids now my shoulders creep up to my ears. I don’t know how or why we came to expect that kids should start their lives with mortgage payments due and no home to live in, but we do.

But that’s not what this is about.

Recently I was asked to join the board of the CSU Pueblo Foundation. The foundation exists to serve the students of CSU Pueblo. I’ve been to my first board meeting and my understanding, though incomplete, is that we will raise money for scholarships, school improvements, endowments, and grants. I could be wrong. I often am. But I do know that I sat in a room of altruists and I was inspired by their care, their caution, and their perseverance.

I have worked with many non-profits both as a consultant and as a volunteer. I have never been through financials like this before as I’ve not sat on executive committees, nor have I experienced this level of transparency. I have never witnessed anyone caring this much about someone else’s money.

So I’m basically in love with the mission and I’m going to bring you along on this journey. It’s new and it’s unfamiliar and it’s exciting. My greatest hope is that I can be part of the machine that allows someone else to leave college with a great education, a valuable degree, and a little less debt.

 

Parents Who Sustain Us

02.5.18

Over the weekend I met a lady in the baby business. We chatted a bit about her career and I was impressed, as anyone would be. She’s bright and hardworking, she’s the kind of lady you want to listen to and learn from.

Then she talked about social media and crowdsourcing photos. I smiled conspiratorially and faux whispered, “Yeah, it’s a tough trick when 90% of baby items are things no one needs.” Which, she ignored. And that’s when I knew she was brilliant.

The more she talked about social media the harder it was for me to nod and smile, until I finally blurted out that no one trusts any of those people anymore and it’s all smoke and mirrors, and my tirade may or may not have concluded with:

We built this business and then we burned it to the ground with sponsored posts, and my blog was garbage too. These new moms on Instagram are the most boring, unrelatable women I’ve ever seen.

But there were also expletives because I’m the kind of lady who says fuck, a lot. And I know it makes people tune out but when I’m passionate my mouth does my thinking so there’s no time for an internal censor to take the reigns.

When I drove home I reminisced to myself about how when my world crumbled around me I took to the internet to write anonymously. As Steven lay dying slowly, painfully, and without dignity, strangers uplifted me. They did more than just remind me that I’d survive, they gave me specific instructions about how to survive. Someone I will never meet gave me the exact verbiage to fill out social security forms. Another told me how to bluff my way through social services at the hospital. Still, another sent me a template for a last will and testament. Strangers did this freely, with a generosity of spirit I’d never known, and at a time when most of the country’s DSL lines were too slow to send an image. MMS and SMS were not how we shared documents.

So these strangers became my friends and my support system. I spent my nights in the hospital and my days mothering. I didn’t want to spend my days talking about the hospital time. I needed them to be separate. That was part of my survival.

When his pain finally ended I wanted to keep these people, these strangers, but I didn’t want to be in the land of death any longer so a blog was born. And then the internet called us Mommy Blogs. And then we were like “don’t call us Mommy”. And then the publicists were like “We have money for Mommy Bloggers” and then we said, “We are Mommy Bloggers!”

This is that space. That space that was good and interesting. That space where we talked about parenting and emailed and DM’ed and tweeted into the night when we didn’t know what to do with or for our kids. Then it was the space that was taken over by toilet wands and discount evangelists, and like all good things, it deteriorated. And that was sad. And I participated in my own business’ demise.

But along the way, there were the women like Tanis who patiently helped me be a friend to the mothers around me. She listened to me moan about how difficult things were for me and then didn’t really care and reminded me that no one else did. Tanis helped me get over myself and get into the sisterhood. Many of my friendships exist because Tanis believed I was emotionally capable of putting my feelings aside and giving to other women instead of worrying about myself. She believed in me when I didn’t know I had strength and she is the kind of woman that believes in other women. She is kind and strong and the thing you really need to know about Tanis is that she is unbelievably weird.

This kind of weird.

But make no mistake, Tanis isn’t flying solo in loving odd things. Remember when I said the Mommy Bloggers were men too? Well, don’t call CC Chapman or Curtis Silver Mommy, but you can call them leaders in the parenting community. In 2010 the four of us were in Chicago to learn about Kenmore appliances (I still love mine!) when CC taught me something very important: that a Dark and Stormy is the perfect wintertime drink.

To be fair he’s done many other things over the years, including turning me into an action figure. I’ve cherished this as much as a non-collector can and it’s remained on my desk since it arrived, unopened and admired.

CC Chapman turned me into an action figure for CMT.

And Curtis is that guy over there in Florida, who is publishing content everywhere, every day. He’s on Forbes and twitter and his couch of the day is something to behold. He’s twisted and smart and he paints to relax so when he offered to paint Tanis’ crazy Christmas gift for us all there was no reason to think he was bluffing (even though CC thought he was).

And that is the very long story of how this unnamed work of art landed on my office wall.