Category Archives: Work

baltimore, april 2010 …and other political poems in the philadelphia review of books

I don’t know John Ebersole very well, but he strikes me as an intelligent, highly-creative, intense kind of guy. On Tuesday, he posted on Facebook that he wanted original “political poems of the now.” You see, John’s the poetry editor of The Philadelphia Review of Books and for most of this week, he’s been accepting political poems on the spot and publishing them immediately on Philly Books and Culture, PRB’s blog. In three days, more than 100 people have submitted poems about the Baltimore riots, school shootings, race relations, gay rights, economic inequity, Nepal, and so much more.

Such times we live in. Such talent.  These poems are so worth a few minutes of your time to read. I’m truly honored to have my words – about hearing Archbishop Desmond Tutu speak in Baltimore about justice during another april that seems a lifetime ago – among more than 100 passionate voices.

Here’s “Baltimore, April 2010” on the Philadelphia Review of Books blog, and also below. My thanks, John, for the opportunity and for providing this forum.

baltimore, april 2010

you have a noble profession

you have a calling, you have a vocation

archbishop tutu is saying these words to


and three thousand fundraisers

in baltimore

on this april night

we must inspire others to change the world and

we must be inspired to be the change in the world and

we are silent in our seats and

we are awestruck and rapt and

we feel the presence of god and

now he is paraphasing king

we must learn to live together as

brothers and sisters

or perish together forever.

Desmond Tutu - AFP

Desmond Tutu - AFP (2)

Archbishop Desmond Tutu speaking at the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) conference in Baltimore, MD. April 2010.

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Book Review: Blown Sideways Through Life: A Hilarious Tour de Resume, by Claudia Shear

Blown Sideways Through LifeBlown Sideways Through Life: A Hilarious Tour de Resume
by Claudia Shear
The Dial Press
116 pages

When I was job-hunting, one of the things that I found to be somewhat of a pain was having to complete a job application with the same exact information as on my resume. I know there are reasons for such, but it just always struck me as something that took entirely too long – and I don’t have nearly as many jobs in my history as most people.

Now, I can be thankful that I’m not Claudia Shear, who writes in her memoir-turned-one-woman-show Blown Sideways Through Life about the 64 different jobs she’s held – and quit, and been fired from, too.

“She worked as  (among other things) a pastry chef, a nude model, a waitress (a lot), a receptionist in a whorehouse, a brunch chef on Fire Island, a proofreader on Wall Street (a lot), and an Italian translator.” ~ from the book jacket

Told in essay format, on their own these stories seem to be simply a collection of “I had this crappy job, I hated it even there was this cool person or two that I worked with, but I wound up telling the owner to go fuck off, so I got fired or quit.”

Repeat. Repeat again. Sixty times.

This is billed as “a hilarious tour de resume,” which made me think that I was going to be in for a very funny read. Although there are certainly some amusing moments as Ms. Shear is sharing anecdotes about her various jobs, something about this kind of irked me and it took me awhile to figure out why. Because I can understand this “take this job and shove it” mentality once, maybe a couple times in one’s career… but not 64 times.

Finally, it dawned on me: I’m reading this in the wrong decade.

Because no way, no how does anyone, in this 2014 economy, treat 64 jobs with that kind of laissez-faire attitude. But Blown Sideways By Life wasn’t written in 2014; it was published nearly 20 years ago, when life was all kinds of different, indeed.

The takeaway is what matters, though, and it’s timeless. It’s especially relevant for this economy. It’s a reminder that every person taking your order, bagging your groceries, cleaning your hotel room, answering the phone, sweeping the floor, and getting your food is more than their job.

You got that, right? We, you, they are more than our jobs.

“You talk to the people who serve you the food the same way you talk to the people you eat the food with. You talk to the people who work for you the same way you talk to the people you work for…

“Sitting on rooftops, desktops, countertops, under counters; perched on milk crates, wine crates, paper cartons, front steps, hanging out in back alleys, deserted cafeterias, spooky hallways, we are all the same: a motley crew of artsy-fartsy types and single mothers and social misfits and immigrants who work six days, double shifts and send all the money home. We are people in recovery, people in denial, gay guys shocking the shit out of pizza guys from Queens – and vice versa. We all fit in because none of us belongs anywhere. And, boy, what you can learn: dirty words in every language and the fact that nobody is just a typist, just a dishwasher, just a cook, just a porter, just a prostitute. That everyone has a story. Everyone has at least one story that will stop your heart.” (pg. 114-115)

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Score or Fumble? The NFL Tackles Domestic Violence. (Finally.)

Purple Ribbon

It’s wrong to hurt other people. Hurting other people is a very, very bad thing.

Most of us learn this life lesson pretty well sometime during our earliest years. Then there are some people who grow up, become football players, make unfathomable amounts of money, and think there’s no difference between tackling your opponent on the field and tackling your girlfriend until she’s unconscious or dead.

This mindset has been business-as-usual in the NFL for decades. Now, if Commissioner Roger Goodell is to be believed, the new football season has ushered in a new attitude. In a letter sent to all 32 team owners, Goodell wrote:

“My disciplinary decision [in the Ray Rice incident] led the public to question our sincerity, our commitment, and whether we understood the toll that domestic violence inflicts on so many families. I take responsibility both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future
properly reflect our values. I didn’t get it right. Simply put, we have to do better. And we

You’ll forgive me for not performing a shaking my ass, pointing to the sky celebratory endzone dance for you.

I should be. But I can’t, and here’s why.

I spent five years working at Laurel House, a domestic violence agency in suburban Philadelphia, and during that time, had the opportunity to coordinate several fundraising events and domestic violence awareness projects with Coach Andy Reid and his wife Tammy during their tenure with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Reids’ commitment and compassion to helping victims of domestic violence – often in private, off-camera ways – was something genuine and that our agency saw often. I’m grateful for having had that experience and for getting to know them in the way I did. The Philadelphia Eagles also lent their support – both financial and by having players involved – to our events. And more.

What we in Philadelphia knew was something the rest of the NFL didn’t. We knew that having the strength of the Eagles brand during 14 mostly pretty damn good seasons (no matter how the Reid era ended) was some of the most powerful advertising, advocacy and awareness for domestic violence that a nonprofit could have dreamed of. It was our personal Gatorade bucket challenge.

Imagine how different the NFL would be today if each one of the 31 teams had been doing this work alongside us for the past 14 years. We always wondered how much more magnified that message of prevention and awareness could have been if it was shouted throughout every stadium.

I’d like to believe Goodell is sincere and truthful about taking a stand against domestic violence. The reality is that attitudes about domestic violence change slowly, and usually not with press releases or letters hung up in locker rooms, especially in cultures that are indoctrinated to think otherwise. The NFL has been in overtime on this issue for entirely too long.

Now there’s a mandate and an opportunity for teams to partner with the experts in their communities to educate everyone from their players to the fans to the front office staff to the guy hawking the beers in the stands on how to recognize the signs of domestic abuse and how to get help for yourself or someone in crisis. It will take staff and funding and time – all of which are in short supply at domestic violence agencies across the country – but the NFL is a well-funded machine and has the dollars to do this right if they choose to do so.

As they kickoff a new season, here are two things the NFL can do within the next 60 days to demonstrate their commitment to helping to educate people about domestic violence.

1. Remove O.J. Simpson From the Hall of Fame. 
It’s been 20 years since the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, and yet O.J Simpson, former running back for the Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers, still remains a member of the Hall of Fame.

In his letter, Goodell writes: “Among the circumstances that would merit a more severe penalty would be …violence involving a weapon, choking, repeated striking, or when the act is committed against a pregnant woman or in the presence of a child. A second offense will result in banishment from the NFL.”

If Pete Rose can be banned from baseball for gambling, then O.J. can be removed from the Hall of Fame for practically beheading his ex-wife and companion while his children slept upstairs.

2. Drop the ball on the pink. 
Hey, have you heard about this disease called breast cancer? You have? I think most of us are Very Goddamned Aware of breast cancer. Then why, pray tell, do we really need the NFL to go all Pretty In Pink every October?

Between the fuchsia ties on the NFL Gameday hosts and the shoelaces on the players, October makes me long for the days of black-and-white television. (Yeah, buddy, I’m old enough to remember that.)  I don’t mean any disrespect to any of my friends or family who have been through this battle, but everyone knows someone who either has or has had breast cancer, most people know where to get answers and help (hint: another of my former employers, the American Cancer Society is a great resource).

Did you know that October happens to also be National Domestic Violence Awareness Month? Oh, you didn’t? I’m betting the NFL didn’t know that, either. What if, in addition to wearing purple, each NFL team distributed purple ribbons at every Sunday game in October along with instructions about what to do if you think someone is in an abusive relationship?

What if they launched a national campaign?

What if a DART (Domestic Abuse Response Team) was stationed on-site at every game, for counseling?

What if the NFL created a foundation that would support direct services in local communities for education and shelter and legal assistance for domestic violence victims, and what if a significant, substantial, meaningful percentage (I’m talking almost 50%) of ticket sales from October went towards domestic violence services in each team’s local community?

I’m encouraged by Roger Goodell’s letter – and heartened that it includes some specific examples of ways that the NFL plans to change. Since January 2000, there have been 77 players involved in 85 domestic violence incidents so forgive me for feeling like this is too little, too late. The League has a history and a reputation of fumbling the ball on this issue.

Only time will tell if the NFL scores a touchdown on this one.  I’ll be watching.

And waiting to do my celebratory dance in the endzone.


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The Sunday Salon: This Post is Brought To You By the Letter “B”

The Sunday Salon

OK, so this is kind of a cool thing.

As of yesterday afternoon, I had four books going at the same time and – this is from my Goodreads profile – they all begin with B.

Check this out:

(Yes, I hear you sounding the Literary Nerd Alert Alarm. And …y’know, I don’t really care.)

It’s simply coincidental that the bookish stars aligned this way. Be Different: Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergerian is the audio book I turned to yesterday after a few DNFs that I couldn’t get into (Atonement by Ian McEwan; Tracks by Louise Erdrich, the latter of which I think is a matter of not being the right format – audio – for that novel). I have much respect and admiration for John Elder Robison, and this memoir is one of the best books about autism and Asperger’s that I’ve ever read. I’ll be recommending this to others, I’m sure.

Blown Sideways Through LifeBlown Sideways Through Life, Claudia Shear’s memoir-turned-one-woman-show about the 64 jobs she’s had (and, mostly, been fired from) was recommended to me by my friend Keith. I can understand why he thought I would like this one – which I did, somewhat, to a degree. I think there’s a timing issue with this book, though; while it’s easy to relate to someone who has worked menial jobs in his or her life, it’s more difficult in this economy to muster up sympathy for someone who casts any job aside, much less 64 of them. Now, mind you, this was written in 1995, which was a whole different world back then.

Best of the Best American Poetry: 25th Anniversary Edition is a bedtime reading book. It’s on my night table, for those evenings when I am too tired to read more than a poem.  This collection is perfect for that purpose because, frankly, most of the poems are forgettable.

Borrowed TimeBorrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir is the book that I’ll be spending the most time with this weekend. I just started it last night, and it is so well written, so gorgeous, and so very sad. Ann Patchett recommended this to me (yes, that Ann Patchett!) and … well, when Ann Patchett gives you a book recommendation, you kind of tend to listen. I’m glad I did.

(That is a whole ‘nuther post.)

Book Expo America and the BEA Bloggers Conference

So, while everything may have aligned perfectly in my reading life, that isn’t the case for two other “B” words this week – which would be Book Expo America (BEA) and, of course, the BEA Bloggers Conference. I had been quietly crunching the numbers, trying every which way to make this possible, but it wasn’t in the cards this year … again.

ArmchairBEA 2014

Design by Amber of Shelf Notes.

I’ll miss seeing all my book blogger friends, of course, but I CANNOT WAIT to participate in Armchair BEA again.  If you haven’t signed up, this is shaping up to be the best year ever. I’m hoping to use part of this long weekend to prep my posts for this week.

To be honest, I’m trying to stay somewhat unplugged during this long weekend, with the exception of writing/scheduling some posts and catching up on blogs. I’ve been overwhelmed and overextended. I have over-promised and under-delivered, not so much on the work front (I don’t think) but in other areas.

My remedy is to spend as much time on the deck (where I am, currently, in the warm sun, writing this) with words, both my own and those of other people’s. I went to church this morning for the first time in months. I need to take a walk or two. A friend from out of town will be in the city, and tomorrow we may visit the art museum (there’s a new photography exhibit).

So, yes, there are many words beginning with “B” this weekend. Books. Blogging. Armchair BEA. (OK, close enough.)

And at least one more, that has nothing to do with any of those.


In memory and in honor of all who served, thank you doesn’t seem like enough.

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The Sunday Salon: Randomness N’at


The Sunday SalonWeatherwise, this is a perfect rainy day for sitting on the couch and doing next to nothing. And that’s exactly how the day has gone. I’ve putzed around on Facebook, read the first section of the newspaper, gotten a shower, reheated pizza for lunch, and written this post. That’s it.

I am the epitome of lazy today.

I am listening to: the Eagles-Redskins game on The Husband’s iPhone. Actually, the Husband is listening to it – I just happen to be in the same room.

We are watching: the Steelers-Lions game on TV (or, should we say, the Killer Bees vs. the Lions. Those throwback uniforms of our Steelers! OMG, they are atrocious.)

I am reading: a few books at once. Sorta.

Andrew CarnegieAlas, I haven’t made much more progess with David Nasaw’s Andrew Carnegie since my last Salon post. The audiobook was due back to the library before I finished it and I’ve had a hard time picking up the book itself. At almost 900 pages, it’s not exactly one you curl up in bed with or toss in your purse. I’m on hold for the e-book and the audio again at the library, so perhaps I just may need to wait until one of those comes in before resuming this again.

The Reason I JumpI keep getting distracted by new books. (I work in a library.) The latest, which I picked up on Friday and started reading during my lunch hour, is The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida. This is relatively short, only 135 pages.

The Devil in the White CityMy current audiobook is: The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair That Changed America, by Erik Larson. This has been sitting on my TBR shelves forever. So far, at page 113, my verdict is that it’s one of those books that I thought I would like better than I actually am. I mean, I do like it (the foreshadowing is great) but the narrative has a lot more details about the architecture and the planning of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago than I expected. It does seem that this is necessary for the reader to understand the actual murder plot (that’s not a spoiler).

And, oh –  the fact that H.H. Holmes has Philadelphia ties! He worked at what is now Norristown State! A fun little tidbit.

My new favorite song: It’s a tie between “New” by Paul McCartney and “The Perfect Life,” by Moby (featuring Pittsburgh native Wayne Coyne). 

On the Blog: Obviously, not much lately. I’m averaging a post a week at this point, which … I gotta be honest, feels weird. I don’t like it. This working full-time again thing is still a bit of an adjustment in some ways, and I’ve accepted that fewer posts are probably going to be one of them, at least for awhile. Still, I’d be happier if that was more like 3 times a week or maybe 4. Strangely, my hits and blog traffic is off the freakin’ charts, which I cannot figure out AT ALL.

Around the Book Blogosphere: I have absolutely no idea what’s going on with anyone. Hoping to catch up a bit today. I did see today that Thankfully Reading Weekend is scheduled again for next weekend, so I’ll be participating in that. I have to work Black Friday, but that’s fine.

I Am Thinking: about one of The Husband’s bosses who passed away 9 years ago today. Our lives would be so very different if it wasn’t for this man. Since he passed, there have been a lot of ways – some very uncanny and eerie – that our paths have become even more similar. I know that he would have continued to be a mentor and support system to The Husband. He’s missed … so very much.

I am grateful for: mentors like The Husband’s former boss. And many of mine. And for second chances.

Around the house: We had some major electrical work done on Friday. There was some almost-drama. (Everything and everyone is fine.) That may be a blog post in and of itself.

High of the Week: Having dinner as a family last night at Eat’n Park.

Low of the Week: Two inches of snow on Tuesday. Really, I could have done without that crap.

Family Matters: My in-laws are coming out for Thanksgiving. Yesterday I ordered our entire meal from Whole Foods because there’s no way I’m spending the one day I have off cooking (see: Thankfully Reading Weekend). I truly believe if I factored out the time spent planning, shopping, preparing/cooking, and cleaning up, multiplied by the various food sensitivity/preference factors of six people, that would more than exceed the cost of ordering the dinner. All I will need to do is heat everything up.

The coming week: The kids turn 12 on Friday, so that’s causing much excitement in the house.

I’m keeping an eye on the weather to our west. We’re in an isolated tornado watch because of the storms in Indiana and elsewhere, so if you’re in the path of the storm too, stay safe.


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getting into a new flow


Life got a little interesting around here this week – in a good way.

A very, very good way.

It kind of explains my silence on the blog for the past few days. I’ve been working on my Podcamp Pittsburgh presentation for tomorrow morning, the edits to Melissa Luznicky Garrett’s upcoming novel Blood Draw, and a book review for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

And, well … accepting a full-time job.

I’m not quite at liberty to talk about that – and chances are I won’t be doing so much on the blog, just as I have in the past – but it means some changes.

Not so much with the blog itself, I don’t think, but with a few other things.

I spent part of this afternoon corresponding with two professional contacts – one to say that I would no longer be writing a monthly column and another to say that I wouldn’t be able to teach a class starting the same week that my new job starts. Both were completely understanding about the respective decisions that impacted them.

There was a time when I would have wanted to hold tightly to both projects, possibly agonizing about letting them go, feeling like I’d disappointed the people connected to them. I would have rationalized that both were good opportunities, that I worked hard for them.

But here’s the thing.

Instead of feeling that way, I felt relieved. It took me a long, long time to realize we simply can’t do it all and how good it feels to let some things go. Sometimes we need to shift and adjust in order to … well, adjust to a new set of opportunities waiting for us, to get into a new kind of flow.


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anyone up for a blood draw?

Right off the bat, here’s what you need to know about today’s blog post:

I have a fiduciary interest in the outcome.

If that makes you queasy and you need to hit delete, that’s fine. We all have bills to pay. But there’s my disclaimer nonetheless.

Young adult author Melissa Luznicky Garrett is a client of mine. I edited her most recent novel The Prophecy and I am delighted that she has asked me to edit her upcoming book, Blood Draw. As freelance editing and literary publicity marks a new venture for me, I am very grateful to Melissa for trusting me with her words. It’s fun working with her.

I’m excited to announce that Melissa is currently taking pre-orders for her upcoming novel, Blood Draw.  This is a deal: when available, Blood Draw will sell for $2.99, but by pre-ordering now, you’re able to reserve your copy at just $1.99.

Blood Type

Blood Drais the sequel to Blood Type, a young adult (YA) novel about Blake Ehlert – the popular cheerleader and Homecoming Queen. She’s also just broken up with her gorgeous boyfriend because of her undeniable attraction to John. Soon, Blake has some life-or-death decisions to make as she learns that John is actually a vampire and that his interest in her may be darker and more dangerous than Blake could have ever imagined.

Blood Type is available now on Amazon, as are all of Melissa’s other books. 

More details on how you can pre-order your copy of Blood Draw are here.

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