Monday, March 30, 2015

Nothing Much to Say in Detroit.

An aptly-named vin.

I recently received 130 emails notifying me that my blog was being spammed by some spambot selling presumably fake and/or stolen Michael Kors purses. Or was it Michael Cores? Whatever the case, it brought my attention over and over again to this neglected blog. Each *ping* of an email received was another tap on the shoulder saying, "Hello. You have a blog. Why don't you write in it?"

But as is the case with most writer's block, the moment I feel as though I must post in my blog, my mind goes completely blank. Even once trivial thoughts and ideas begin to emerge, I immediately dismiss them as "not good enough" or "already posted as status updates on Facebook."


I bought these today. I'm putting them here now in order to add color.

I've been thinking I would post while I'm in Paris. I mean, if you can't come up with writing material in Paris, what the hell kind of lame excuse for a writer are you, anyway? I'll have nothing but time over the course of six days in the most wonderful city in the world. I'll bring my big camera and take real photographs. I'll post them artfully with witty quips about Parisians. It will be wonderful.


This is my cat Obi-Wan Kenobi. He used to be feral too.

But what can I post about Detroit? I've had three jobs in the past six months. After working in the same ad agency for seven years, I left. That was momentous enough. But then I left the new job after 12 weeks for a new, new job. All this newness and change has been quite exhausting. It hasn't left me with much energy or inspiration to write. Besides, I'm terrible at change. I've also been horribly homesick for agency life. It's like being in the creative department of an ad agency allows you to go completely feral and I've been trying to get domesticated at these new jobs. I want to drink beer at work and swear at my co-workers. I miss having remote controlled helicopters buzzing over my head. I miss rock bands and cappuccino machines. I miss all the beards and tattoos. My god, I even miss leggings as pants, if only to mock them with my work partner. So yes. I'm a little homesick and dealing with change and all of that leaves me creatively challenged.


These are paper cats. I made them. I'm not sure why either.

Paris. Paris is when I'll have something to write about that is interesting and beautiful. Profundity will pour out of me like a heavy cab and creativity will spread across my brain like fois gras. I'll sit where Hemingway and Fitzgerald once sat and fantasize about never coming back to the bourgeois Etats-Unis.

I'll write then. When I have those kind of thoughts. Readable thoughts. Dreamer's thoughts. Thoughts that will take you away from wherever it is you're sitting right now, reading this, wishing you were somewhere else.

Bisous.

XXOO.




Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Giving Money to Strangers.


My husband showed me this video a few weeks ago and I haven't been able to shake it off. Perhaps that's because he sent it right around the New Year and I had resolutions on my mind? Perhaps it's because I'm hormonal or an overly sensitive-type person? For whatever reason, the video confirmed something I'd suspected all along.

It's better to help than not to help.

I know we all have reasons for not helping. Too busy. Don't want to cause a ruckus. Don't like strangers. Don't know what someone is actually going to do with the money. Etc. I've had all of those thoughts go through my head when confronted with someone asking for money or donations of any kind. Every time I say no or pass them by, it nags at me.

I'm not gonna lie.

It just doesn't sit well with me.

Ever since I've watched this video, I've decided to say yes to everyone. If you've got a cup, I'm putting money in it. If you want canned food for the homeless, I'm going to buy a can. Although I've only had two opportunities to give people money and one opportunity to donate food, it feels good that I've said yes three times rather than no.

The two men I helped were both standing on the side of the road, on different days. The first man was easy to help. He was standing outside on a frigid day and I waved him over to my car. When I gave him the money he said, "Bless you."

The second gentleman was a little more out of my way, but I decided that annoying the cars behind me was more important than passing up another opportunity to help. That, in and of itself, is outside of my comfort zone.

"You're a lifesaver," he said and our eyes locked. I was caught in a moment of raw humanity. I was not staring into the eyes of a junkie. I was not staring into the eyes of a conman. I was looking into the eyes of a fellow human being who was suffering and who was grateful for my small gesture.

It almost crushed me.

To think of all the people I'd said No to because I was afraid they might be drug users, alcoholics, conmen, lazy and whatever other negative connotations I could come up with to excuse my inhumanity. But the fact remains — not giving people money always makes me feel bad.

But giving never makes me feel bad.

I feel more connected.

I feel more human.

And it just feels right.

Maybe giving to others is actually a selfish act? In trying to help others, I actually end up feeling better about myself.

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Case of the Very Strange Speech Impediment

I told my husband how a former boyfriend called me "Structure." It was his pet name for me, and yes, it was odd. That boyfriend thought I said the word "Structure" in a strange way and then he would imitate me, really enunciating the consonants in the word.

"STRUCTK-TCHURRRR!"

I thought it was just a bit of silliness. I didn't really think it was a real thing. Maybe a harmless exaggeration on what was a hardly noticeable trait.

But when I told my husband the story, he laughed.

"Yeah, you really do chew up the consonants in that word."

We both chuckled and I filed it under "Even More Charming Quirks for Mandy." I figured the way I said "Structure" was similar to the way I organized objects on restaurant tables or the way I obsessed about my appearance. Quirky. Odd. But totally not a real problem.

As the years have gone by, I've obviously admitted to myself that I do in fact have an eating disorder and I do have OCD. I thought my weird behaviors and thoughts were just that … little oddities that I could control if I really wanted to.

But now I admit that these things are well outside the realm of my control and are most definitely not "normal." And I'm fine with that. I figured "Structure" was something I did intentionally and that I could stop it if I really wanted to.

It came up again the other day and I decided to put an end to the charade. I needed to prove to myself and my husband that I could say "Structure" like a normal person. I mean, between the OCD and the eating disorder, my neuroses plate is full.

"Teach me how to say 'structure' right."

"Are you serious?" my husband started laughing immediately and closed his eyes.

"C'mon. I mean it. What am I doing wrong? STRUCK-TURE. STRUCK-TURE. What's wrong with that?"

"It sounds like your chewing the letters. You're really getting right up in those consonants. Relax your mouth a little."

"SCHTRUCKTURRRRRE." I looked at him hopefully. He started laughing again.

"You're pushing it too far to the front of your mouth or something. Just say, 'structure."

"SCHTRUCKTURRRRRRE."

"Oh my god, you really love those consonants," he started chuckling again.

"Stop it! I want to fix it! SCHTRUCKTURRRE. SCHTRUCTURRRRE."

"Stop saying it. You're just saying it the same way over and over again. Try to soften the consonants."

"schtruckturrrrre?"

"Now you're whispering it."

"SSSSSSSSSSCHTRUCKTURRRRRE?"

"Now you're making an insane face. What are you doing?"

I'm trying to change the shape of my mouth when I say it. SSSSSSSTRUCKTURRRRE."

"You look like an crazy person. Stop grimacing. Put less emphasis on the Ts and the Rs."

"ssssssschtruckturrrrre?"

"Now you're whispering and grimacing. I think you have too much of an "SCH" sound in there."

"SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSCHTRUCKTURE?"

"Now you're hissing like a snake."

"TRCKTRA?"

"Now you've dropped all the vowels."

"TRUCTRA? STRUCKTRA? SSSSTRA-TRA-TRA-SSSU-TSU-TSURRRRR?"

"Stop."

"schtruckta?"

"No. Just let it go."

"ssssss"

"It's cute. Just leave it alone."

"truckkkkk"

"Seriously."

"turrrrrrrrrrrrrrre?"

"It's not working."

At this point, our four-year-old daughter walked in the room.

"Hey Grace, say STRUCTURE!" I said.

"SCHTRUCTURRRRRRR!" she said back, joyfully.

"Oh god, no," whispered my husband.

And I felt oddly satisfied. Like I'd passed something on of myself. I will live on in the consonants of my progeny.




Thursday, January 1, 2015

Resolutions Should Be Fun and Should Not Use the Word Should. Shoot. I've Already Broken My Own Rule.

I read a Facebook post by my friend John in which he gathered together sundry posts from last year's New Year's resolutions. Though he tagged the people whom he'd quoted, he did not identify who said what. One post read, "I prefer my New Year's resolutions to be fun."

And that one rang true to me. I don't know if that was my actual post or if it's only wishful thinking. I do know that my resolution last year was to sleep naked more often. Though I started out strong in the new year, just as with other, less fun resolutions, I slacked off on this as the year went by. By year's end, I was more often in a tattered baseball jersey in bed rather than in my birthday suit.

But I stick by my premise (or whoever's premise it might have been). Resolutions should be fun. Otherwise the new year starts out on such a punitive note. Lose weight. Get more sleep. Work harder. Work out. Spend more time with your kids. Eat right. Quit smoking. Quit drinking. Read more. Watch less TV. Quit Facebook.

New Year's resolutions are for the puritans in all of us, I swear.

I'd rather resolve to spend more time with friends. To push myself outside of my comfort zone. To do something I've never done before. Go somewhere new. Shake things up a little. Activate the gray matter in my brain so it doesn't slowly slip into atrophy as the years go by.

This year I would like to spend more time with friends. Go out with my girlfriends once a month. Host more parties. Not make such a big deal out of having parties. The house doesn't have to be perfect. (It already is, let's be honest.) I don't have to cook all of the food. I don't have to buy all of the booze. (My friends come with plenty.) I think my perfectionism gets in the way of my socialism. (Yes I know it doesn't mean that.)

I'd like to resolve to be more impetuous and less perfectionist.

I'd also like to get a little more uncomfortable sometimes. I went to a Startup Grind event in December. I saw Veronika Scott speak about how she started The Empowerment Plan. Her initiative is one to help the homeless. Her company makes coats that turn into sleeping bags for the homeless. The coats are actually made by women who were formerly homeless. Therefore Scott is not only making a product that helps the homeless, her company itself is employing the homeless to make that product. It was in inspirational evening on a dark, cold night in Detroit. A night I didn't feel like going downtown. A night I just wanted to leave work and go veg at home in front of HGTV.


There are Startup Grind events each month in Detroit. And each event features a different entrepreneur from our city. I'd like to resolve to go to Startup Grind each month. Once a month I'd fling myself out of my comfort zone. Once a month I'd go out instead of going home. Once a month I'd meet new people instead of hermitting away in my own home.

That's a start.

I'd like to go to temple more often. I'd like to connect to my sangha. Every time I go to temple, I leave with a head full of good thoughts. I'm often inspired to write. Sunday mornings at Still Point Zen Temple last much longer than the hour or so of time they require. That hour feeds my mind for many hours and days afterwards.

I'd also like to be naked more in 2015 than I was in 2014. Even though I fell off the wagon last year, I want to make another effort. Humans are animals. We crave closeness. We crave intimacy. Babies can die if they don't get enough skin-to-skin contact with their mothers. Little baby monkeys prefer the comfort and warmth of a cloth-covered fake mother than the cold, hard fake wire mother with a bottle of formula. You see, comfort and warmth takes precedence over even food.

We often forget this.

Are our New Year's resolutions meant to be punitive? A strict set of rules on how to be better people? Better looking? Thinner? Healthier? Smarter? Or should our resolutions make us happier? What makes us happy? What does science say?

I've heard it time and time again, but our minds crave new experiences. Our minds crave change. Throw yourself out of your comfort zone in 2015. Do something inconvenient. Go to an event and meet new people. Wake up early on a Sunday. Get naked with your significant other even when it's cold and they're annoying.

Keep life interesting. Keep your brain guessing on what you might do next. You might be surprised by how happy getting out of your comfort zone makes you. It's counter-intuitive really.

But I find that the smartest things usually make the least sense at first.

Happy New Year to all of you. I'm making this post in all its imperfect glory. I'm uncomfortable with that, but here's me pushing myself out of my comfort zone on this first day in 2015. I challenge you to do the same.

And let me know how it goes.



XXOO,

Mandy


Friday, November 7, 2014

So You Want to Work in Advertising?

You do not want your creative director to give you this look. Ever.


I am an advertising copywriter. I write the words that appear in any kind of advertising you might see. Over the course of my career, I have written spam email, the junk mail that winds up in your garbage can, magazine and newspaper articles, catalogs, brochures, radio spots, online advertising, posters, print ads, billboards, packaging, video scripts, press releases, newsletters and a sex advice column.

A lot of people don't realize someone is paid to write all this crap. So the next time you complain about all the junk mail you've been getting, just think of my kids. You're sending them to college. (P.S. Thank you. I'm really hoping one of them goes to an Ivy League school.)

When I first started my career, I worked for a man who was notoriously difficult.* He was hostile. He was intolerant. He was addled-minded and vague. On top of all that, he didn't know what he wanted. But he was my boss and I had to please him.

Somehow.

Without any direction or supervision along the way. I was a mere flag in the winds of his ever changing mental state and cognitive abilities—which were sometimes so muddled and unreliable that he walked into glass doors like a confused bird.

I often tell the following story about him, especially when people express concern over giving me critical feedback. As a part of my job, I must submit to regular and widespread criticism. Everyone has to put their two cents in. The account people, editing department, legal department, product specialists and creative directors all make comments on what I've written—and all of that before the copy has even left the advertising agency. Then I get an entire round of client feedback. Each and every person who sees my writing will mention something to change, edit, alter, re-write or lambaste.

I take it all in stride. Unless the comment is proceeded by multiple exclamation marks or question marks. I mean, that's just rude. It's easier to write "Sentence fragment" than to write "Sentence fragment???" Am I right or am I right? And I happen to like sentence fragments. It's my way of taking creative liberties.

So there. (Go ahead and try to find a verb in that sentence. I dare you.)

Advertising copy is a process and no one really owns it. I mean, sure, the copywriter takes the public beating for the stupid headline, but everyone along the way has their hands all over it. It's not like I, alone, am responsible for the final product. By the time it hits the streets, it looks nothing like the original. It is truly a group effort.

And now you know why most advertising sucks.

Haha. I kid. I joke. But not really. My original ideas really are the best. Some day I will show everyone the sheer enormity of my creative genius and I will be vindicated for all of the multiple exclamation marks thrown my way.

*Shakes fist*

Let's go back, shall we? Back to my former boss, in the shadowy past, in the somewhat distant and fictionalized history of my mind. The difficult gentleman in question was a cigar smoker. Let's call him "Satan." Satan had a huge white office with white leather furniture. White walls. White carpet. All stained with a smoky beige tar. He would sit all of us—the entire team of fifteen people—gathered around a glass conference table in his office. The cigar was perpetually resting in the glass ashtray. It spilled smoke over our layouts and concepts, the paper absorbing the smell.

One day, he lasered his eyes at me across the table, my copy in his hands, smoke billowing over his head. I sat and returned his stare. I waited to hear what he was going to say, trying not to betray any emotion whatsoever. He made me wait while he took a long drag off that stinking cigar. He exhaled and gave me a withering gaze. I met that gaze with the enigmatic face of the Mona Lisa.

"Did you mean for this to suck when you wrote it?" he said, his eyes assessing me through the fog. All of my co-workers had gone silent. No one moved a muscle nor made direct eye contact with Satan.

"No," I said and gathered myself together. "What exactly would you like me to change?"

"I'd like you to change the fact that it sucks." He pointed his cigar at me like an accusation.

"Did you not like the headline, the body copy...," I began again, despite my co-workers urgent glances. I knew they were communicating one unified message of "SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP!" But I couldn't stop myself. I wanted clarity. I demanded it through the stink of cigar smoke.

"I SAID I WANTED IT TO NOT SUCK!" he spat out his cigar and threw the papers on the table. Everyone continued to remain motionless, staring at the table. I pursed my lips and kept quiet. Finally, one of the account girls that Satan was particularly fond of changed the subject and moved something else in front of him to review.

When the meeting was over, we all collapsed into an office together and shut the door. Had we liquor, we would have passed around a bottle. Had we a joint, we would have smoked it like soldiers in a foxhole. Seeing as we had neither, we took a two-hour lunch and considered alternate careers which none of us ever pursued.

Despite this, I am grateful for the experience. It is why I can take criticism from just about anyone. Unless of course you use three exclamation marks. That may move me to curse you very quietly, under my breath. Beware the repressed fury of the lowly copywriter, my friends. We have blogs now and memoirs to write.

*Evil laughter*




*I have changed any identifying details about the man so he is unrecognizable. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

I Was Raised by the Village


I’ve always been moved by the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Probably because I was raised by the village.

I was fortunate to grow up in a neighborhood that was filled with kind people. I spent as much time or more at my neighbor’s homes than at my own. I always knew I had a warm house to go to where the lights were turned on and dinner was on the table. I was a bit of a fixture at my closest friends’ and neighbors’ homes and I’m filled with wonder that they put up with me as much as they did.

It wasn’t always like that. I have dim-lit memories of a warm house of my own filled with a family—people, activity, food. But somewhere over the course of elementary school the people left and the house got dark. Rather than stay there alone or with a sleeping alcoholic in the upstairs bedroom, I’d run off to other people’s houses.

As an adult, when I asked a friend if her parents had realized that something was wrong at my house, she said, “No one called for you. My mom had to send you home every night at 9 o’clock. She knew something was wrong, of course.” That triggered memories of running home in the dark, winding my way across the neighbor’s lawns, through their bushes and across their patios on well-worn shortcuts. I ran past other houses with yellow windows to mine, which was dark.

I’d slip in the front door and call out, “Mom?” But no one answered. I’d flip on the kitchen light, go downstairs and start turning on lights in the family room, turn on the television for more light and sound, let the dog out who was tapping on his toes. Call for the other dog who was most likely inside the next door neighbor’s house. She too was raised by the village.

Now that I’m an adult, I wonder at their generosity. I never once heard, “We’re about to eat dinner. It’s time you went home.” Instead, it was always, “Would you like to stay?”

One of my friend’s parents, also a neighbor, even took me to Croatia one summer. I mean, it’s one thing for dinner every night and sleepovers on the weekends, but who flies some lonesome straggler off to Europe with their family?

My neighbors. That’s who.

Even in high school, I remember spending a week at a friend’s house when my mom went out of town. I awoke one Sunday morning to find an Easter basket in the guest bedroom, filled with chocolate rabbits, candy and a stuffed animal. I held the basket with the morning light streaming in through the windows and cried. I’d completely forgotten it was Easter and the basket brought back memories of the baskets I’d gotten as a child.

I had been loved.

I knew what it was to be loved.

You never forget that. I think if you had it once, you keep seeking it out. Maybe that’s why I kept showing up at the neighbor’s doorsteps? Even though my mother was no longer able to provide it, I knew that love was out there. Somewhere.

Maybe just around the corner.








This post is a part of National Blog Posting Month or NaBloPoMo. Today's post is inspired by the BlogHer's NaBloPoMo Prompt, "Tell us one time that you benefitted from the kindness of strangers." 

Click here to learn more and to participate on your own blog. If you've written a NaBloPoMo post, feel free to share it in the comments here too. 

XOXO, 

Mandy

Monday, November 3, 2014

A Moment With My Daughter



I had a moment with my daughter this weekend.

She's had a tough time lately dealing with her emotions. Earlier, when we had gone out to lunch, she was starting up a temper tantrum in the restaurant so I had to take her outside to chill for a minute. Only, she had no intention of chilling.

She raged at me. She yelled. She screamed. Told me I was a bad mama. Said this was a bad family. Said she didn't like any of us and no one liked her.

"We do like you. We love you," I replied. "I just need you to stop screaming so we can go back in the restaurant."

"NO!"

And so it went, back and forth.

"I'M COLD!" she finally screamed.

"If you stop screaming, we can go back inside," I said.

"NO!"

I didn't know how to navigate this storm with her. If I tried to wait her out, we might both freeze to death or starve to death. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating, but her will is strong. No matter how I tried to alternate between patiently waiting out her tantrum and then offering her an opportunity to go back inside, she would not relent.

When it seemed we had reached an impasse, I walked over to her, picked her up and hugged her.

She went limp in my arms.

"Do you want to go inside?"

"Yes."

"Are you all done screaming now?"

"Yes."

"Do you want pancakes?"

I felt the little head nod on my shoulder. And so we went back inside and she was perfectly lovely for the rest of the meal.

Later that day, we were playing in the house. She was laughing and adorable. All smiles, a tumble of blond hair and spindly four-year-old legs. I picked her up and held her at arm's length, both of us laughing and looking into each other's eyes.

And we held the look. Something in me connected to her in a way that almost merged us. So often people have told me that she looks like me and I haven't really seen it. But in that moment, with her head cocked to the side and her long hair spilling over her face, perhaps the angle of her chin or her smile—whatever it was—I saw myself in her. A little me. And my heart swelled with such empathy and love, for both of us. For the four-year-old little girl she is and for the four-year-old little girl I once was.

And it was good.



This post is a part of National Blog Posting Month or NaBloPoMo. Click here to learn more about it and to participate on your own blog. If you've written a NaBloPoMo post, feel free to share it in the comments here too. XOXO, Mandy