The Check Fairy

Recently, I got paid. For most people this is a regular occurrence. Every two weeks or on the 1st and 15th of each month, they get paid for the work that they do. And here’s the kicker, it comes whether they do their jobs or not.

That is not the case for me. As a freelance writer, I do the work and then, depending on the contract, I get paid once the work is accepted or published. The reality of it is that I might see a check 30 days after a submission, or 120 days after a submission, or as in one case, a year and counting after a submission. I know this, I plan for it, I have accepted it. So when the postman does deliver a check, I deem him or her the check fairy.

You see, the check fairy is a lot like the tooth fairy. Both are imaginary but have real people doing their work. Both leave monetary surprises for work done. [Making teeth is a harder than we might think, just ask my son.] And, finally, their visits are happy occurrences. In the case of the check fairy, bills can be paid, money can be saved and presents—whether for yourself or others—can be purchased.

Getting paid the old-fashioned way, while nice, wouldn’t nearly be as interesting. Thank you check fairy. I hope you visit more in the coming months.

The Check Fairy

The Pits

When I was a teenager, my dad used to go down to Bolsa Chica state beach—about a mile from his home in Huntington Beach, California—at 6 AM to claim a fire pit. This was a tradition when I was in town with my friends. We would join him later (about noon) and in the afternoon, he would return to the house to get the food for that night’s bonfire. Girlfriends from high school remember the police coming to make sure that we weren’t drinking; an old boyfriend remembers watching the Queen Mary fireworks from one of those fire pits. The whole thing is a very Southern California summer picture.

So you can imagine my disappointment at the news that the city of Huntington Beach will possibly remove nearly half of the 165 fire pits on the beach. Unfortunately the state of the economy is having its way with these memory makers. And the city council will vote on the fire pits’ fate next month. I hope that for the residents there, they remain untouched.

Photo: cc sflovestory

The Pits

Santa’s Lap: A dose of reality

CC Photo by JamesH. is now Near Earth's photostream

Earlier this week, I came across this story in the Wall Street Journal. It’s basically about the requests that mall Santas are recieving this holiday season. It mentions how children are asking these men to give their parents jobs so they don’t lose their house, or glasses so they can see the chalkboard in class, or necessities like socks. In many cases, these Santas are heart-broken after a shift and honestly, my heart was breaking just reading the article.

That night I told M. about it and then we discussed whether these children will grow up with an appreciation of money and hard work that seems to be lacking in the generation before them. (Sorry, I have been asked to mentor too many students who want to start at the top without doing the work to get there and who value stuff a bit too much.) I wondered what kind of impact it will have on our society if materialism was subdued from the levels we’ve seen in the recent past. And here’s what I know.

I know that we don’t save enough in this country and that at one point we were told to be good Americans we should buy, buy, buy. And while that gave our neighbors jobs it also set us up for the fall that we are taking now. I am not sure how much innovation and discovery we were doing while we were trying to keep up with the Joneses. But now that times are tough, I notice that people are becoming creative—whether it is how to earn or stretch or save a dollar. That is what once made the United States a global leader economically. I notice that others are realizing that it isn’t stuff that makes the holidays and I notice people are more friendly because goodwill means (and is needed) more than ever. If these are the things that this generation is growing up with, then this nation could be great again. Because it’s citizens are looking outward again and are not consumed by consuming.

I hate that young children have to feel the burden their parents carry, especially during what should be a joyous time of year. But because of this, they may carry with them traditions and memories that last longer than the short-lived happiness a sought-after toy would have given.

Santa’s Lap: A dose of reality

A Monday of Possiblities

It is eerily quiet. There’s parking. I’m in Westwood, right? I walk across Wilshire Boulevard and I’m the only person in the crosswalk. It’s Monday, isn’t it?

I turn down Broxton and begin walking to my Starbucks—the one that knows my drink and Baby A’s name—and hear the buzz of restlessness.

There are thousands in the village awaiting the premier of the latest Twilight film, New Moon. Some started camping out on Thursday, others joined them on Friday, by Saturday the line of tents covered a couple of blocks, and last night, Westwood’s sidewalks surrounding the Bruin theater looked like a tent city. Personally, I don’t understand this fanaticism.

As I stood in line for my coffee, I  overheard the group of people behind me discuss whether they’ll be waiting 6 or 7 hours for the stars to appear on the red carpet (Yes, this line was to look at the parade of stars on the red carpet. Not even to SEE the movie.) and whether they should have In N’ Out Burger for lunch or go straight to Diddy Reese for dessert. All of this sounded good to me and it isn’t because cheeseburgers and cookies are my thing (They’re not). The influx of star-gazing women brings money (hopefully) to my neighborhood—one that despite its close proximity to UCLA has struggled in the past.

So, welcome Twilight followers. Please drink lots of coffee (you can take your pick from Starbucks, Coffee Bean, Perfectto, Peets), and eat lots of donuts (Stan’s), cookies (Diddy Reese), sandwiches (Sandbags) and the plethora of other food offerings in the village. You have lots of time to kill, might as well enjoy all that Westwood Village has to offer.

A Monday of Possiblities

An Economic Virus?

I haven’t been feeling well. Mostly I’m fatigued that surfaces as malaise which in turn makes me feel like a blob. Something must be going around.

Last month (on my birthday no less) M went to the ER for symptoms that could have been those of a heart attack—dizziness, light-head, nausea, extreme fatigue. It wasn’t one, thank goodness. But the trip was enough to scare him into re-evaluating his non-stop working habits and eating.

So we cleaned up our diet, started taking vitamins again and tried to relax. You’d think I would feel great. (He does.) No. I’m craving sweets like an obsessed seven-year-old (haven’t done that since I was pregnant); my pee is the color of a 1980’s fluorescent yellow t-shirt I used to own and my sleep isn’t so restful. What’s up?

Like many people, the economy has got me down. Moving twice in a year didn’t help our financial picture and add that most of my checks didn’t find their way to my Arizona mailbox, money has been tight.

Today I am thankful that my mailbox dance was fruitful. I received one of many reissued checks. It’s nice to work for money. Doing so has made me feel a bit better—even though I’m sure the clean eating hasn’t hurt. And I still think there’s a bug going around.

An Economic Virus?

The New Work Week

Last Friday I planned my whole day around going to the DMV. Silly me! It and many other state and city agencies are closed on Fridays because of budget concerns. And it isn’t only the state and the City of Los Angeles who are doing this. Friends that I used to work with took a 10 percent cut in their salaries and as a result, the company instituted work-at-home half-day Fridays. Cutting the work week down makes me wonder: Could this recession make us finally slow down?

Before becoming a freelance writer, I used to work early mornings, late nights, and weekends. I wanted to get ahead. When I was laid off, my workaholic tendencies didn’t wane—I had a business to grow. But then, my writing business was where I wanted it and I started listening to the natural flows of my creativity. The result was: I only worked half days on Wednesdays and eventually I stopped going to the computer on weekends. In essence, I had a three-day weekend.

I think many of us dream of such a weekend, now it’s happening. While the economic toll is sad, it may just do wonders for our collective mental state. Imagine having more time to develop relationships, interests or hobbies. Imagine having time to get through the never ending to-do lists and finish with time to enjoy the weekend. Imagine resting and perfecting the act of doing nothing. Sounds like a great new work week to me.

The New Work Week

Office Attire

Dana, Diane and Donna once inspired me to get dressed in the morning. Walking through Bloomingdale’s, I found myself in their houses—admiring the texture of sweaters, the cut of dresses and the movement of skirts—and daydreaming of wearing their clothes.

Raised in the world of retail, I learned clothing was an extension of personality and my mom was my teacher. Always the trendy fashionista, she never could figure out where I got my conservative ways. During the ‘80s, she sought Norma Kamali’s mod-punk designs while I fell in love with Ralph Lauren’s Polo ponies. Laid-back, retired style reined in my hometown of Palm Springs and dressing up meant wearing your best pair of jeans and a nice shirt. I was introduced to more fashion-forward ways when I attended college in Los Angeles. During these years, I learned that your appearance formulate people’s opinion of you. Quickly I adopted the philosophy that if you wanted to be somewhere in life, you had to dress the part during your journey there. As an intern at a fitness magazine, I was lucky enough to get hand-me-downs from my mother — her Dana Buchman suits. Dana was the first to teach me what well-made clothes and high-quality fabrics felt like. So as I climbed up the corporate ladder, I craved more and that is when I met Diane von Furstenberg and Donna Karan. These women provided the staples to make my executive style effortless: wrap dresses, beautifully-tailored pants, soft sweaters and richly-colored suits. And I shopped like a costumer or a stylist buying for a particular character whether it was the student, the athlete, the dancer, or the star—the executive.

Now the roles have been stripped away from me and I need to dress me—just Carey. What started as a professional adventure turned into a year-long journey to search for who I am and how that translated to my closet. When I decided that instead of reporting to the office each day I would report to my home office to write, little did I realize I was separating myself from one of my most favorite closets—the executive one. Each night as I tried to fall asleep, its contents would reveal itself in my mind so I could plan the next day’s outfit. I couldn’t fall asleep until my ensemble had been determined. With my new venture, this sequence didn’t work. Imagining T-shirts and jeans wasn’t as fun as arranging outfits for leading a staff meeting, flirting with the cute boy in the office or lunching, although rarely, with the CEO.

Instead of designer duds, my office attire morphed into pajamas and sweats. I was uninspired and my work habits reflected it. The frumpiness had to end and somehow my executive character needed to re-emerge only in another form. For a person once defined by clothing, I didn’t know who I was. I’d go to the mall to seek the answers. Wandering its halls, my soul craved the clean lines and beautiful fabrics of Theory, as well as the fun whimsical illustrations of Custo Barcelona. Instead I picked up the T-shirts of my boyfriends: Michael Stars, James Perse and Vince.

After months of wearing jeans, T-shirts and flip flops, I felt like everyone else. Getting dressed no longer was a creative endeavor. It was time to find my style.
So I fled. Normally, when dealing with a bad situation, I flee the scene to gain insight and in this case the farther the better. This Angeleno left the laid-back style of the left coast to seek refuge in the style capital she only dreamt and read about—New York City. Decked out in cargos and cross-trainers, I explored Fifth Avenue. It was within Henri Bendel that I found a style labyrinth—a great circular staircase that weaved through floors of clothing and accessories.

With each step and every floor, I studied the clothes. I gravitated towards T-shirts and tanks, but also to pants with interesting design elements and skirts with fluid styling. But I found myself asking, “Where would I wear this?” I was dejected. All of the clothing I loved would be wasted in my home office. I left New York with four pairs of shoes, two messenger bags, a T21 skirt, a Kenneth Cole T-shirt and feeling no closer to creating a clothing identity. One thing did occur: I remained true to my unrelenting shoe fetish that began as a young girl.

After my east coast adventure, shopping depressed me. Even looking at shoes became uninspiring after awhile. I started wearing bracelets collected during my travels. And as I tired of them I started to seek more. To me, jewelry is wearable art and each piece has its own personality—whether designed in Jamaica or Santa Monica. I started to realize that just putting on a bracelet, transformed my white tank and jeans uniform.

During one of my mother’s visits, we went on her ritual Nordstrom pilgrimage. While looking through a rack of T-shirts, I found a chocolate brown one, the perfect Hershey color, and exactly what my closet needed. It was the last one and it was my size. While I lamented about how I couldn’t but another T-shirt, my mother stopped me and said: “Your style is T-shirts and jeans. You need to realize how you wear them is your signature.”

It took her to vocalize what was right in front of me to realize that I had been styling the character of Carey all along. I had been trying to cast myself as the fictional, trendsetting writer Carrie Bradshaw when my personality didn’t fit that role. That day standing in the TBD department of Nordstrom, I came to terms with my white tank top and jeans way while my shoe obsession and jewelry collection served as my mark.

Today, my closet is full of white tanks, jeans, shoes and jewelry. I can accept that my style is straightforward and that the occasional appearance of a Custo Barcelona turtleneck is not wasted in my home office because it inspires me. I accepted my relationship with Michael, James and Vince and even made a new friend, Classic Girl, who fits me to a tee.

Office Attire