Lessons From My Job Search: People Are Generous and Helpful

Outlaw Mama readers have come to expect a certain level of snark and wise-cracking when they visit these pages. For those readers, I apologize for what follows. I’m about to out-Oprah Oprah. I’m so flush with the spirit of human kindness that I’m glowing. And it’s all because of my growing understanding of how excellent people are.


Actual post-it note on my computer becuse POSITIVE

Actual post-it note on my computer because POSITIVE



I know this because of my current job search. My existing job ends in February, so I’ve been thinking about my next steps. Thinking out loud, actually, and people are hearing me and helping me. There’s not a single person who has refused to meet with me or failed to put me in touch with someone they know who is doing what I’d like to do.


Say it with me now: People are AMAZING.


I’m not just talking about people who know me and love me, though those people have been stellar supporters of this process. I’m talking also about virtual strangers. The friends of friends who’ve never laid eyes on me and who don’t yet know what a vivid conversationalist I am—those people have met me for coffee at 8:00 AM to tell me about their jobs.   I’m talking about people who pulled all-nighters getting ready for an expert deposition and still met me for lunch the next day.

Who are these big-hearted people and how did I get so lucky?


Ya’ll, I’m humbled. I’m amazed. This experience has increased my joy by at least 12%.   Now, I’m having so much fun looking for my next job that I may be sad when I get it.


These people are shining the light on the big, wide world. I like what I see.


At first, it was mostly other working mothers who were reaching out to me and for me. It gave me chills to feel so looked after and to know that all of them had my back. I tried not to embarrass them on applications and in interviews. None of my prospective employers need to know that my hobby is Willie Nelson. It sends the wrong message.


But as the process expanded, it wasn’t just working moms. It was all kinds of women– stay-home moms, single moms, grandmas. At some point, I realized, ohmyGod, men were helping me too.


I’m oozing gratitude right now. If a mosquito bit me, it would fly back home and write a gratitude list. I can hardly remember grumpy, cynical me. Where’d she go?


And to think: when a position I really wanted didn’t pan out, I was super bummed. Everyone told me that something better would come along. They were right—I know it’s true and I don’t even have my next position yet. See, had I gotten that job, I would never have learned how generous and abundant the universe is or how many people would freely give their time to help me realize my dreams.  That’s as valuable as any job I could ever get.









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Do You Want To Raise A Resilient Kid?

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I want my kids to be resilient.  I want them to bounce back after losing a competitive round of Candy Land or roll with the disappointment when their favorite popsicle flavor is not available.  When I think of all the things that they will face in their lives– acne, spelling bees, heartache, identity theft– it seems like best thing I could give them is the tools to face the great ups and downs that are inevitably coming.

But how? How do you teach your kids to dig deep and dust themselves off?  Certainly I hope I model that, but I’m still looking for other ways to reinforce to them that in the face of disappointment, the best course is to face it head-on and then keep going.

Recently, Sadie surprised me by showing me that resilience doesn’t always look like redoubling your efforts at the same task.  Sometimes, getting on with it, looks like changing course and following the bliss of another path.


Click here for my new post on Mom.Me about how Sadie abandoned jump ropes for soccer balls and taught me something I needed to know.

I’ll Take “Totally Unfair” For $500, Alex

In long distance races, runners who need to bolster their energy suck down a liquid carbohydrate called GU.  GU is an energy that comes in different flavors– chocolate, banana (vomitous), cappuccino– and go down smoothly.  The jolt of energy is immediate; legs run faster, spirits soar higher; miles melt away.

I’ma need a GU to keep going on this project.   Come day 10 of this exercise, I will need to swallow something sweet to amp me up and propel me through the next stretch of days.

But today is only Day 6.  I knew one of my days would have to involve Cancer because John Green.  Today is that day.


(PS: Tomorrow I am not posting my story because I have something else to post, but don’t think that doesn’t mean I’m not writing.  Posting and writing: Two different things.)

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Day 6:  Last Rights



Mom and I did a heroic job not fighting in the hospital. Every time a new nurse came on shift, she’d invariably comment, “It’s so nice to see a mother and daughter getting along.” The religious ones saw the hand of God in our relationship. (It was a Catholic hospital.) I guess the thinking was that God must have given my mother the strength to side by my side all those weeks. To me, I guess they thought God bestowed the strength to fight the tumors. Most of the time I was either too drugged up on morphine or too tired to care what manifestations of the spirit they projected on me.


Most of the time, I was content to doze in and out of consciousness, watching my mother read her Nora Roberts or flip through the TV stations. She hated to stop on the news because it was depressing, and she knew I needed “positivity.” The only show I remember her watching from start to finish was Jeopardy! She’d stand up and clap when she got an answer right and squeeze my hand when I whispered the right answer for final jeopardy. She always forgot to phrase her answer as a question, which bugged me for some stupid reason.


I should have known that all that peaceful time would come at a cost. We’d gone almost three weeks without so much as an eye roll (from me) or an exaggerated sigh (from her). Our antiseptic idyll was bound to crumble and be ground to dust, like the bones of my femur, patella and the right side of my face.


It was a Sunday morning and she’d been flipping around looking for anything other than the coverage of Tiger Woods’ shameful eviction from his Florida home at the hands of his golf-club-wielding wife. “That’s irony for you,” Mom said, laughing as she zoomed past CNN, MSNBC, FoxNews.


What made her settle on the televised broadcast of the evangelical preacher—the one with bigger teeth than Bobby Kennedy and boofier hair than half the retirees in West Palm Beach? If only she’d had the stomach for George Stephanopolous or Anderson Cooper, then maybe our last words to each other wouldn’t have been screamed at the top of our lungs over the protests of the head nurse and the resident (radiology) who happened to be passing by when I threw the remote control at the window.


I snapped. It’s true. The toothy preacher told a seven-minute story about young cancer patient (just like me!) who had such immense faith in God that she never once questioned Him. “She never let her cancer get her down, she never blamed God, she remained steadfast in her faith.” Punchline: God healed her. Because of her faith. Subtext: I still had my cancer because I didn’t have enough faith. Stupid me, I sometimes got pissed about being a seventeen-year old with terminal cancer.


“Turn it off, Mom.” The last thing I needed was some leader of a mega-church with stock in whitening strips telling me “if only I believed” my cancer would go away.
“Mom. Change it.” She didn’t. Tears pooled in her eyes, and she grabbed my hands. “Do you want to pray, honey?”


“No. I want you to change the channel.”


It took three hot seconds to end up where we always did when we fought—my poor decisions and her bad taste.


The radiologist turned off the TV. “Maybe you’d like to grab some coffee downstairs,” he said, as he grabbed my mom’s arm and escorted her out.


I never saw her again.


Alex, I’ll take “totally unfair” for $500, please.

Meet Margaret: She Got Hinky With Her Expense Report and the Jig Is Up


Day 5: I decided to tackle a modern problem.  Embezzlement.  I haven’t done it, but I’ve seen in play out in criminal investigations.  Now, it’s playing out here on the blog.  Enjoy!



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Day 5: I Can Explain


Margaret had never had a close call before.  Her meticulous notes and near-photographic memory ensured that she transferred funds before anyone discovered they were missing.  As the financial director of Peck & Associates, the architecture firm where she’d risen through the ranks over, she had access to all of them.  For five years straight years, she’d juggled the accounts so she’d have extra case to take an extra trip here (to Brussels to see her sister) or to buy something for her modest two-flat in Andersonville (a washer-dryer from Best Buy) or to get bunion surgery.  She wasn’t a vain woman– she never took the money for liposuction or spa treatments.  She took it to make her life a little sweeter.  The money was the dollop of cream atop a hot fudge sundae.

She always paid it back.  When all the juggling between expense reports and A/R accounts was settled, she’d returned every last copper penny.

The morning she got caught, Margaret went through her normal morning routine.  English muffin with a half-teaspoon of butter (measured), twenty minutes of stretching (sun salutations and whatnot), and a cup of Earl Gray.  On her walk to the train, she gave a dollar to the Streetwise salesman and gave up her seat to the elderly woman carrying a knitted satchel full of yarn.

Margaret was not a woman who ignored other people’s needs.

She spotted nothing amiss when she unlocked her office door and switched on the light.  It wasn’t that unusual for the founder, Edward Peck, to already be pouring over his latest design before 7:00 AM.  Even when her computer password failed, Margaret figured it was just a simple IT glitch.  She left a message for Toby, the IT specialist, who was really just a kid who knew a lot about computers.

When Edward, accompanied by his stern-faced wife, Blythe (also an architect), and their business partner Tony Ambrose, Margaret greeted them with her unflappable professionalism.

“Good morning.  What can I do for you?”  She stood up from her chair, waving them into her office with a welcoming gesture.

No one moved.  Edward cleared his throat and spoke first.  “Margaret, we need to talk about the accounts.  Over the weekend, we noticed that something was–“

“Off.  Something’s definitely off,” Bythe said, her words clipped and angry like shredded paper.  She’d come by her nickname “Ice Pick” honestly.

Margaret’s fingers worried the top button of her blouse and felt a shiver slither down her rigid spine.  “Oh dear.  What do you mean?”

“Why don’t you step down to the conference room with us,” Edward said.

“Sure,” she said, her tone still neutral, no hint of her rising panic.  She refused to believe she was headed to jail.  Or prison, heaven forbid.  It was really just some juggling of accounts.  It wasn’t like she cooked the books.


Margaret decided against grabbing the notebook filled with pages of tallies she knew looked bad.

She trailed behind Blythe down the hall to the conference room.   The pen and paper she grabbed from her desk shook in her trembling hand.

Once everyone was seated, Margaret cleared her throat, but didn’t say a word.

“Well?” said Blythe.

“I can explain,” Margaret said.

This entry was posted on August 3, 2014. 7 Comments

Day 4: No One’s Ever Going To Believe This

It’s Saturday– I’m so dedicated that I am up writing my chapter.  Actually, I can’t decide if that makes me dedicated or OCD.  Either way, I gotta get a move on because my children will soon come find me and force me to LEGO with them.

NOTE: Today’s story is pure fiction. It’s not based on any real people you may have seen on TV or at the movies.

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DAY 4: No One’s Ever Going To Believe This



I hobbled to my car wearing only one shoe just as the sun was peeking out over the smoggy horizon.  When I made it to the driver’s seat, I had to dump my purse out and stake stock.  Bra, check.  Make-up bag, check.  Other shoe, check.  My phone? Oh, God, where was my phone?  Frantic, I dug through every side pocket and frisked myself looking for it.  I finally found it inside my rolled up camisole.  Two bars of battery, thank God.  I had to call someone– my agent, my publicists, my ex.  Someone.

Who was ever going to believe me?

Half the world thinks he’s gay; the other half thinks he’s psycho.  He’s all but fallen off the radar.  But he’s still Tad Croth.  No matter how many couches he jumped during daytime TV or how many misogynist comments he made about women and postpartum depression, he’s an A-lister.  Period, full stop.

And I just slept with him.

Eighteen hours ago I’d come out of the audition knowing full well that I’d fucked  it up.  My inflections were off and my movements felt stiff.  After every line I delivered in the wooden monotone of the Bride of Frankenstein, panic surged to my throat.  That only made it harder to “act naturally.”  The show runner cut it short.  “Thanks, Brie.  We’ll be in touch.”  Right.  When Santa Monica gets hit by a blizzard that asshole will call me up and offer me a spot on the show that NBC is banking on to replace Seinfeld.

I was in my Prius crying like a total Hollywood cliché when Tad knocked on the window.  When I rolled it down, he’d said, “Can I borrow your phone?”  He was locked out of his car and his “people” were still inside.  I was stuffing tissues down the side of my seat, pretending I wasn’t crying over my pathetic life.  (I had less than $457.00 left in my bank account and zero work lined up.)  “Of course,” I’d said handing him my phone, while wishing I had a cooler case on it.  Hello Kitty didn’t seem ironic and whimsical in Tad’s hand. It seemed stupid.

“You okay?” He’d asked after he called someone named Berman to bring him keys to his Range Rover.

“Oh sure, I’m fine.  Rough day at the office, you know.”  I laughed as breezily as I could.  He leaned in.  “Do you want to grab some coffee while I wait for my rescue.”

Yes.  Yes, I did.

Day 3: Top Nails

Day 3.  I ask myself, what the hez-ell have I gotten myself into? Then I tell myself, hey, you can quit anytime.  Flush with that promise of emancipation, I face another day.

I tried my hand at YA.  If you read below, you’ll understand why I do not consider YA my go-to genre to write.

Happy Friday!


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Every morning at 8:55 the girls would gather in the backroom to draw a name tag out of a cloudy old fish bowl.  “Heather” was a favorite among the youngest technicians.  The older women preferred “Esther” or “Ruth,” even though they’d never read the Bible and had no idea about the historical significance of their favorite names.  By 8:58, they’d all have their names for the day affixed to their yellow shirts.  When An, the stooped-back owner who’d been doing nails for over three decades, flipped the OPEN sign, the girls were ready to greet the pairs of hands and feet they’d spend the next forty-five minutes scrubbing and polishing.
Qui and Co^ng always picked their names last.  They didn’t care who they were for the day.  Leslie.  Helen.  Amy.  Beth.  What did they care?  Hardly anyone ever asked them their names anyway, and if asked, they just smiled and pointed to whatever was written on the plastic square.  It wasn’t the day-time hours that mattered.
The other girls knew.  They could tell by the way Qui and Co^ng did each other nails during the down time– how they massaged the lotion in soft, circular motions.  How they took extra care to keep the excess polish off each other’s skin. They took their lunch breaks together, preferring to walk down to the circular park at the end of the road with a bag of crisps to share and a single can of Coke.  Everyone at the Top Nail shop pretended the girls were close just because of what happened back home.  Even An who was given to grumpy fits where she was likely to come up behind any of the girls and sneer in their ears just as their hands were in mid-air, polish about to drip on some customer’s fingernail.  It was good that they’d found each other here.  Everyone agreed because everyone thought they understood.
This entry was posted on August 1, 2014. 2 Comments

Thirty Opening Chapters in Thirty Days: Day 2– Inspired By Life

Y’all, Day 2.  Let’s celebrate my tenacity, my stick-to-it-ed-ness.  I made it to the second day.  Only 28 more to go. Let’s hope I don’t burn out.  Say it with me now: One day at a time.

Today’s post is set in contemporary times and features a newcomer to American pop culture: The Blogger.  This one’s male.  On a whim, he creates a fake blog where he impersonates a mother of four who has just been diagnosed with stage IV metastatic breast cancer.  Lucky for me, I’m only writing the beginning so I don’t need to get him out of his jam.  I just need to get him in.


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Jim Thorpe didn’t think of himself as a man who had particularly great ideas.  In fact, science had confirmed he did not.  Before he was hired as a world sciences teacher at the Thomas A. Edison middle school, he was given a test designed to measure his creative thinking, his analytical abilities and his problem-solving skills.  On the creative thinking metric, Jim scored in the lowest quartile.  He got the job anyway and trudged his way through his probationary period and the requisite seven years before earning tenure. 

So he can’t be faulted for not realizing it was a great idea (or for the fact he didn’t characterize the idea at all).   To Jim, he was just putzing around on his computer.  The night before his Great Idea he’d disabled his WordPress account because no one read his blog.  Not even his mother, the omni-supportive Clareen Thorpe, could bring herself to read Jim’s posts, all of them turgid, ranty odes to Johnny Lydon (popularly known as “Johnny Rotten”) and the Sex Pistols.  According to Jim’s blog, “not nearly enough has been written about the Golden Age of music, those day when the bands like the Sex Pistols weren’t afraid of original thoughts or guitar riffs.”  Apparently, he was wrong.  Plenty had been written and the theme was thoroughly ground down.

Without his little blog and its meager following to rail against, Jim found himself staring at the empty white screen with the blinking vertical line.  He heard the cursor say, “Write something, Damnit!”

“Fuck it,” he said out loud.  Then, he bent over the keyboard and wrote his first line.  “I’ve got stage IV metastatic cancer and four children under the age of eight.”  Then, his second. “This on-line journal is a love letter to my young children and my husband of fifteen years.”  His third.  “They are the loves of my life, and I want them to know before it’s too late.”

Jim wrote for over an hour.  Shamelessly, he borrowed the tragedy of his colleague, Elizabeth Gatsbell, the beloved art teacher, whose classroom was across the hall from his.  Elizabeth got her diagnosis three weeks ago, and the grim-faced bean-counter of a principal, Dr. Beau Stanton, had gathered all the teachers in the lounge for an emergency announcement.  The librarian, PE teachers, and ESL specialists all burst into tears the moment the word cancer slid from Dr. Stanton’s lips.  Jim had grabbed the box of tissues from the window sill and passed it around.

He didn’t cry at the time.  

During the meeting, he’d worried about Elizabeth’s kids, all of whom he met at the annual end-of-year picnics.  He could picture their four sets of brown eyes, crumpled with fear and grief over their mother’s health.  Such a happy family, why them? Jim wondered aloud.

He’d contributed to the fund started by the criers who hoped to defray some of the out-of-pocket expenses for the Gatsbells.  He wrote a check for a hundred bucks, no small amount for a public school teacher.

Jim respected the way Elizabeth brought her enthusiasm to the students’ yearly self-portrait projects.    Last year, she’d started a unit called “as inspired by.”  The students got to pick their artistic inspiration.  She was undaunted when half the students chose the obvious Picasso and Monet.  Jim knew she was going to tinker with the concept and try again this spring.

Jim bought the new domain, after giving the name a total of three minutes’ thought. Of course, he kept his identity anonymous.  He typed in his credit card number, then it was his.  Inspired By Life.  He leaned back in his chair and squinted at the screen.  He needed a tag line.  He stood up and walked to the kitchen.  “Tag line, tag line,” he muttered to himself.

When he sat back down, he typed it out.  “One mother’s journey to record her love in the face of a stage IV cancer diagnosis.” He’d written “before it’s too late,” but deleted it.  Too morbid.

Really, he was just goofing around.  Putzing.  He never meant for it to go anywhere.

The morning after he published the post, Jim awoke to 400 emails on the gmail account he created (insiredbylife@gmail.com).  Ellen DeGeneres retweeted the link.  It was shared on Facebook over 12,300 times.

Viral.  His first post went viral.