How I Plan to Be Super Chill and Eat Waffles in 2018

Here we are a week into the new year and I must say my overwhelming feeling so far in 2018 is that the dumpster fire that was 2017 is far from over.

That seems mighty pessimistic, I know.

tina fey cake giphy

On a personal and professional level (and without getting too personal), last year was a bit bumpy, to put it mildly, pretty much from start to finish.

And the state of the world and society in general from a national and global level….well. I have thoughts and opinions.

You often hear people compare 2017 to a roller coaster. I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate. For one thing, some people really like roller coasters. And with a roller coaster, you can generally see the loops and dips and swoops that lie up ahead.

No, I think of 2017 as more like a pinball machine, where we’re all careening around recklessly, slapped about by seen flippers and slingshots yet also gut punched by those little knobs that pop up out of nowhere all the damn time.

LK super chill giphy

And while I can’t do much about the state of the world and society (I’ll leave that to Oprah for now), I can do something about my personal and professional spheres of being.

One thing that I subconsciously did last year was improve my interpersonal relationships. I didn’t set out to do it…I’m actually a bit of a hermit crab who wants to stay home, curled up on the sofa in my yoga pants with a cat on my lap and a glass of wine within reach, watching anything that Bravo wants to put in front of my face.

lizlemon

But when I look back on 2017, the memories that pop out the most are the ones involving family and new and old friends. Times when I made an effort. Times when I stepped out of my comfort zone and reached out to people I barely knew or talked to people I had just met or reconnected with people I hadn’t talked to in a long time.

My sister came and visited me for the first time here in D.C. and we got to spend some time together for the first time in years. Some of it was great, like when I played tour guide and dragged her all over town in the freezing January cold or showed her some of my favorite Old Town spots. Some of it was difficult and uncomfortable as we sorted through some of our vastly different memories and perspectives on shared events.

And I made a point to visit her when I went to Texas for a freelance conference later in the year. Again, some of that visit was good and some of it was awkward as we continue to hash out the perimeters of our relationship, but I think that might be what family dynamics are all about. They’re not cut and dried. They’re actually quite hard. It’s a feeling and situation I’ve tended to avoid more often than not. But at least – on that relationship – we are making inroads, I think.

tenor sisters

About that freelancing conference: it was, quite honestly, pretty much a bust (in my opinion) and I won’t be attending it again. But by just attending it, I met and learned a lot from my fellow attendees (we even joked about starting our own better-organized and useful, practical freelancer conference – maybe a goal for 2019?).

I also came back from that conference convinced that 1) I’m actually doing some things right in this old freelancing biz, 2) I have wisdom, experiences and advice that I’m happy to share with others, and 3) I shouldn’t be afraid to make friends, even with people I view as potential competitors. What I learned is that there’s honestly enough work out there for all of us.

When I got home, I doubled-down on attending networking events and reaching out to other freelancers for coffee, lunch and drinks. And I checked my motivation and expectations at the door. I made sure that my efforts were NOT for the purpose of generating job leads—which has never worked out for me at a networking event—but just to be social and have a laugh, and sometimes to commiserate and share advice. That’s something that I intend to continue throughout 2018.

That bummer of a conference also allowed me to reconnect with old Austin friends, some of whom I didn’t even think had missed me or would want to see me! I left Austin about 15 years ago and I figured we’d all just grown apart and moved on with our busy lives so it honestly didn’t occur to me that they would want to rearrange their schedules to meet up while I was in town. I just didn’t think we were “those type” of friends anymore. But they did! And I was so moved and humbled by that. It really made me reassess how I myself treat old friendships that I thought were “in the past.” I look forward to the work I need to do on improving those friendships in 2018.

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So that’s my goal for 2018 — work on the stuff that I have control over, including and especially, relationships. That, and cut back on cussing, but that’s damn losing proposition.

How to Deal with Freelancing Uncertainty Explained via Vanderpump Rules GIFs

I feel like a broken record, but hey there. I know, I know. I’ve been MIA in the blogging world.

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Well, I am contributing to blogs, but they’ve been on behalf of clients. Not this blog. This blog has been neglected, like a lonely, unwanted redheaded stepchild.

Which is part of the “problem” and a good problem to have…..I’ve got clients and they need words!

But I miss writing on this blog all the time. There’s hardly a day that passes that I don’t think of or run across something that I think would be blogworthy. Or, more likely, something that I think I’d like to remember in the future and that I don’t trust my rusty, old brain to remember.

Throughout my teens and 20s, I wrote in my journal pretty much every night. I still have a lot—although not all–of them. Mostly, I have the ones from my late 20s. And they are hilarious and cringeworthy and poetic and wonderful—all at the same time. It’s a regular, low-rent, pre-social media version of Vanderpump Rules in there. I can usually only read a couple of entries before I become exasperated or embarrassed by the whole, ultra-meta exercise, but nevertheless, I’m so glad I have them and can refer back to them. And there are actually some really beautiful and moving bits in there that I’m really proud of, although those are the least likely items to ever be shared.

Anyway, now to the present. Or, actually, to thoughts of year end. As 2017 closes, I’ve been thinking a lot about how the past year has gone, especially professionally. It has been a bit of a rollercoaster career-wise, to say the least.

getting real

I guess if I had to sum up 2017, I would sum it up this way: How comfortable am I with uncertainty? And also, because I’m not in this alone: How comfortable is my partner with my work uncertainty?

The first two years of my freelance career were pretty dang awesome. I had a lot of former colleagues sign up as clients right away and I am so, so grateful for that. I was also smart enough to take my own freelancer financial advice: cut way back on the spending and kick up the saving, so I was able to put aside a good chunk of rainy day funds.

2.-James-Kennedy-

So, when a client decided not to renew my contract at the beginning of the year, I didn’t stress too much about it. I figured I’d find some other clients, and while I certainly have, they definitely haven’t been the lucrative, retainer-based client that I’d lost.

Another regular client has scaled back their needs quite a bit (but is still providing some work) and a couple of others who dropped off were never really consistent anyway, so again, I didn’t sweat it. I thought I’d just kick up the networking and new clients would be lining up.

a catch

It wasn’t exactly like that. It took a while to line up new clients and there has been a lag while we got up and running on projects and another lag between when I turn an item in and when I get paid.

For the first time since I started freelancing, I felt like I was churning and churning output and not feeling financially secure. For the first time, I had to dip into my rainy day fund to pay myself, which, mentally, that’s fine, that’s what it’s there for, but is still a bit scary nonetheless. Not just for me, but for my ever-patient, ever-supportive boyfriend. There were unspoken questions that hung in the air between us during every conversation about my money and freelancing: What’s my plan? How many months would I dip into my savings? Should I start applying for a steady job?

Luckily, it hasn’t gotten to that point. Slowly but surely, things have started to pick up again. In the past six months, I’ve taken on a variety of new projects – small ones that are big lifts with low pay but satisfying in other ways, medium-sized ones that are not the most exciting in scope or topic, but pay well and are consistent, and a large-sized project that is scary and challenging and is stretching my skills as a writer.

When I talk to other people who are looking to get into freelancing, one of the first questions they have is “how do you balance your projects so you aren’t taking on too much and still making enough?” I definitely do not have the answer to that. Three years in, I’m still figuring it out.

Right now, I’m saying yes to almost every project I get offered. I know that’s not sustainable long term and some difficult decisions will have to be made at some point. But for now, I’m going full throttle. As a result, this blog will get updated when I can. In fact, I’m also trying to set a better work schedule for myself in 2018, and blocking off time for blogging is definitely one of my work schedule goals. We’ll see.

cautiously optomistic

So, back to my 2017 theme: how comfortable am I with uncertainty? Throughout this slow summer, I discovered that I am surprisingly comfortable with uncertainty. Blame it on my nomadic, gypsy childhood, or the fact that I’ve had to pull myself up by my bootstraps more than a few times in the past, but something makes me sure that I’ll figure it all out. That doesn’t mean I don’t have sleepless nights and anxiety attacks over all this uncertainty, but I just believe in myself. And so does my wonderful life partner/manpanion and boyfriend, who actually might believe in me even more than I do, and for which I am also very grateful.

mink lashes

Museum Hack and 5 Reasons DC’s National Gallery of Art is the ‘Best Museum in the Entire Country’

Assassinations, forgeries, illicit affairs–of both the straight and not-straight variety—Disney’s “Little Mermaid conspiracy theories and shark attacks. If any of these things interest you (and, let’s be honest: ALL of these should absolutely interest you), then you need to go on a Museum Hack “Un-Highlights” tour of the National Gallery of Art the next time you’re in D.C.

Museum Hack
Museum Hack’s motto

Museum Hack is a company that host hundreds of tours at museums in cities across the U.S., including New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles. But, as the name suggests, this company is out to hack the usual generic museum tour and make you fall in love with museums. The best part is that they do it in the sneakiest way: By employing a fun, irreverent, renegade group of museum lovers/tour guides to tell you all the juiciest stories behind those staid, stagnant pieces of art work.

Hannah was my excellent and entertaining guide during my two-hour tour of the National Gallery of Art, which she definitively declared (on more than one occasion) as the best museum in the entire country.

Museum Hack Hannah
Museum Hack Hannah

By the end, I think she had me and my fellow newly-initiated art lovers (Chris, Michele and teenager Ben–all from California) completely convinced and ready to argue the fact with anyone who disagreed.

Here are 5 of Hannah’s most compelling reasons.

1) Because it was built on the site of a presidential assassination

And surprisingly, not too many museums can say that! The National Gallery of Art occupies the former location of the Baltimore & Potomac Railway train station. It was here, in July 1881 that President James Garfield—seeking to escaping D.C.’s oppressive summer heat with a little lobster-roll-filled vacay in New England–was shot by an assassin on the station platform. The nation’s 20th president then lingered for 11 weeks before finally dying in a most gruesome and puss-filled fashion. Then some other stuff happened and the National Gallery of Art was built and opened in 1941.

2) “Museum sugar daddy” aka Andrew Mellon aka Hannah’s main man.

Listen, we wouldn’t even have a museum to hack if it wasn’t for ol’Mr. Mellon. Man, it is good to be rich. And if you’re going to be rich, you’ve got to find a way to spend that cash, preferably in a manner that will give you some major street cred, or a lasting legacy of beneficence. Mellon was, of course, a well-travelled man, and when he saw London’s National Gallery and realized that America didn’t really have anything equivalent to a national art collection in the United States, he said, “Let’s do this.”

3) The National Gallery holds the only painting by Leonardo Da Vinci on public view in the Americas.

Just let that sink in for a minute, because I had to when I heard it.

Da Vinci's Ginevra de'Benci

What is widely considered the finest example of a Da Vinci painting—the double-sided “Ginevra de’Benci” —was acquired by the National Gallery after a protracted MMA-style museum-fight throw down with a ton of other museums, most notably, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

At the end of the odd and protracted negotiations with the Princely House of Lichtenstein, the Alisa Mellon Bruce Foundation (yes, those art-loving Mellons came to the rescue again), paid $5 million—a record in 1967—to bring Da Vinci’s first portrait and first work done exclusively in oil to D.C. Interesting side note: the $5 million supposedly went to pay off the gambling debts of the Prince of Lichtenstein. And the Met was left without a Da Vinci, which then led them to say all kinds of mean things about the painting in the New York Times. Talk about sore losers.

4) An amazing collection of Impressionist and French art (including a fake Van Gogh)

American banker and patron of the arts Chester Dale liked to play games. His primary source of fun was to lend out pieces of his amazing collection of French paintings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries (which he referred to as his “children”) to various museums throughout the country and then recall them at a moment’s notice when he missed them. No one dared say no because they were all hoping for the big prize—an endowment of his collection when he passed on to the great bank in the sky.

The National Gallery won, becoming the recipient of over 240 paintings, including a fake Van Gogh self-portrait that Dale apparently knew was a fake, but kept on the DL, saying, “As long as I’m alive, it’s a Van Gogh.”

Fake Van Gogh
Fake Van Gogh

5) It holds the largest collection of Edgar Degas sculptures in the world (again, thanks Mellons!)

This time it was Paul Mellon who had the good sense to snap up most of the collection when it became available at a New York exhibit in 1955 for the insanely low price of $400,000. The National Gallery owns 52 of the surviving 69 sculptures Degas created in his lifetime, including the original “Little Dancer” sculpture. You’ll see bronze copies of the “Little Dancer” at museums around the world, but the National Gallery has the original beeswax and found objects sculpture which features real human hair and tulle.

Little Dancer at the National Gallery of Art

So that’s 5 reasons, but honestly, Hannah gave us a ton more. For example, we got to participate in a tableaux vivant, which is a live recreation of a work of art. Ours involved a painting of London Mayor Sir Brook Watson, who lost a leg in a shark attack and then convinced artist John Singleton Copley to paint a recreation of the whole shark fight/rescue. I don’t know what the tableaux vivants at the other Museum Hack tours involve, but ours has to rank up there as pretty badass.

Museum Hack tableaux vivant
Our Copley reenactment. I’m using my purse as shark jaws (I was the shark, in case that isn’t clear).

And I didn’t even get to the story about the lesbian Queen of Sweden who abdicated her Lutheran throne to become Catholic, thereby earning her apartments at the Vatican where she proceeded to hang the portrait of her former “bedfellow” Countess Ebba Sparre in her room at the Vatican. Tsk, tsk, you naughty minx.

Or the painting of Guiliano de’Medici who was killed during Easter mass in the Florence Cathedral in front of about 10,000 worshippers, which is recreated in the “Assassin’s Creed” video game.

Or the Van Dyck painting of Queen Henrietta and her dwarf, the very interesting and resilient Sir Jeffrey Hudson.

Or the super swaggish, Beyonce-posing Andries Stilte (and his modern day contemporaries brought to us by Kehinde Wiley).

National Gallery of Art
Making it rain (sort of) in the National Gallery’s Stuart room.

We also played games like “Find Ginevra a New Man” and “Match the Emoji to the Painting” and “Pose Like a French Statue.” Those are not official game titles, but you get the idea. Plus there was some elicit chocolate sneaking, and pictures and prizes at the end.

Seriously, I don’t know if I’ll ever look at a museum tour the same way again.

Museum Hack provided me with this tour free of charge. The opinions expressed here are my own, because, if you know me, you know I freely give my opinions. 

 

 

 

Post #987 on Why I’ve Not Been Posting More Regularly

My absolute favorite blog in the entire world is the Everywhereist. In fact, I almost don’t want to talk about it because I’m afraid you’ll wander over there and abandon my modest musings forever.

Every single post gives me the same mixture of emotions in this exact order: First, giggly amusement and head-nodding recognition. Then the real shit-storm begins: I’m overcome with intense jealousy (why didn’t I think to write that?), blinding inspiration (I’m going to write something just as good!) and finally, debilitating despair (I don’t think I’ll ever be as good a writer), all in the same millisecond.

So basically, I’m saying it’s all Geraldine’s fault that I’ve been lapse in my blogging.

Actually, she just had a post that perfectly sums up the agony of sitting in front of a blank screen every single day and trying to write for yourself or your imagined audience, or blessedly, most days, for profit. Even if writing is something you love, we all know that it is the things you love that can sometimes cause you the most angst.

And the thought of letting anybody down? Well, it’s paralyzing.

There are so, so many things I love about this post, but my favorite bit has to be this one, perhaps because it sums up the current sluggish blog-publishing situation I’ve found myself in:

 “I’ve noticed you haven’t written anything in a while.”

Really? I haven’t? Thank you for bringing that to my attention. Because it’s not as though I’ve been obsessing about that as I stare at my ceiling in the middle of the night trying to coax the words out of my head while feebly fending off crushing feelings of self-doubt. Nope. Definitely not.

Dear and incredibly-patient reader: This is very true. All of it is true. The whole damn post. I promise.

I’d love to tell you I’ll get my shit together soon and do a better job balancing the paid gigs with this little love-project, but who knows, really? More than likely, I’ll write a blog post here and there while I’m procrastinating on a paying gig on a topic that isn’t really my cup of tea. Like, today’s post, just for example.

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Introducing the New World Headquarters for Poe Communications

After a very trying five weeks full of dust, construction and contractor butt cracks, I am back in my office (sort of) and y’all….it is gorgeous. Poe Communications aka Poe Industries Building/Construction/Contracting Services and Project Management Inc. got a major upgrade (thanks to all the damage done to my office when we had to get completely new framing done on our house, but I digress).

I say “back in my office (sort of)” because just like “Brokeback Renovation,” our contractor just can’t seem to quit us. He’s got a few little details to attend to (some wall patching near a couple of outlet plugs, some sink scratches in the adjoining bathroom caused by haphazard painters and their trowels), but he keeps putting off the final bits and blobs. So I haven’t hung my artwork back up yet, and my desk is floating in the middle of the room so the workers can eventually do the patches they need to do.

But, here are a few pictures of my new office from the other morning. The lighting is crap because it was a lovely sunny morning, but I was too excited to wait for good lighting.

Office overview

Obviously, when considering what I wanted my worldwide headquarters for my multi-media infotainment empire to look like, I did what every self-respecting work-from-home writer does: I stalked Pinterest. (*I also relied very heavily on the advice of my own personal interior design guru, XFE).

From Pinterest, I immediately gleaned that my previous desk was far too modest for such an impressive endeavor as content creation and promotion. So, I immediately upgraded that bad boy to a giant frosted glass and chrome slab of sleekness (from Ikea. Sorry, Pinterest. I know everyone else had Jonathan Adler desks, but I didn’t win any lotteries this week. And I really, really like my Ikea table/desk!).

Desk

I also saw a lot of blogger offices with those twee little bar carts with cute little mint julep cups holding cute little striped straws. Yeah, that’s not me. I see you’re stupid bar cart and raise you a wine fridge. Also, note the lack of glassware. At Poe Communications, happy hour starts whenever I say and we drink from the bottle.

wine fridge

I also saw a lot of blogger offices that used a gold Moroccan poof as an additional seating option, but I knew that was not going to fly here. After considering a bean bag alternative, I finally settled on a nice, roomy velvety throne like chair for Petunia, the president of HR here at Poe Industries to sit on.

chair

Apparently, she prefers the sunny spot on the floor.

HR Petunia

But I did cave to conventional blogger dictates when it came to the lighting. I would have to get a chandelier. And, it’s probably my favorite thing in the room (besides the wine fridge. And the striped wall, which was XFE’s idea).

chandelier

Isn’t it glorious? And my second favorite thing (or is it my fourth?): XFE moved my rarely-used-but-when-needed-it-is-essential printer onto a shelf in the linen closet. H

printer

Poe Communications sure has come a long way from it’s early days at the dining room table. From this first office incarnation:

early office

To this inspiring space:

Office overview 2

Now maybe I can get back to work! (and blogging).

This Other Blog That Sometimes Lets Me Write for Them

Heading over to the gym for some more pain, but I wanted to shout from the interweb rooftops about a new blog that I’m contributing to. It’s part of Project: Time Off, an initiative to encourage people to take time off from work, which seems like such a no-brainer to someone who not only took ALL of her vacation days when she worked a 9-to-5, but usually ran a deficit at the beginning of each year.

Anyway, the new PTO website and blog was launched today an includes a post from your’s truly on getting your Jurassic World fix without getting eaten. Go and check it out, sign up for updates, share your own vacation Instagrams or time off experiences. And take some time off!

Dinosaurs on vacation, get it? By MP Davey, a fine artist I had never heard of until today.

Places I Never Thought I’d Go (or, be let into): Walt Disney World

I have tried several times now to sit down and write about our March trip to Cambodia, but I struggle with it each time.

Basically, Cambodia broke my heart.

A sign at tuol sleng prison reminding you that visiting a prison is not a laughing matter.
A sign at Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum reminding you that laughter is not appropriate when visiting a former prison/torture/execution site.

It’s not just the fact that its people are desperately poor. I’ve been to plenty of economically disadvantaged places. My personal-travel-arranger-for-life XFE pointed out that many parts of Peru were very, very poor, and yet, I had hardly mentioned it when we visited in 2013. In hindsight, I suppose I was distracted by the intestinal parasites that were slam dancing through my bowels like it was an Anthrax concert to notice or comment on anything that was going on around me.

And, it wasn’t just the fact that Cambodia and its people had gone through a horrific genocide in the late 1970s. Again, pointing to Peru, which had its own history of internal terrorism. Or Croatia, which we visited in 2013 (dang, 2013 was a good travel year!) and had its own very recent, very violent ethnic wars. Or even Bali, which we visited just last year. That peaceful oasis lost roughly five percent of the island’s population as part of a hysterical anti-Communist purge during the Indonesian killings of 1965-1966. And well, we also went to South Africa last year (again, another damn good year for travel!), and we all know about South Africa’s long and tortured history.

(I swear, we’re not thanatourists. It’s just that every country seems to have some seriously messed up period in their history.)

Anyway, Cambodia’s recent history and continuing struggle to overcome its past moved me deeply and just made me very, very sad.

So, let’s switch gears abruptly and talk about the happiest place on Earth, shall we?

If you can't tell, I'm a bit creeped out.
If you can’t tell, I’m a bit creeped out.

I’ve been working on a freelance project involving the travel industry for the last five months. Thanks to that work, I was able to attend a major industry conference in Orlando recently. It was amazing. Seriously impressive. And one of the most impressive events was a private evening for conference attendees at the Walt Disney World Resort.

Now, I had never been to any Disney properties. Not for any political reasons or anything. It’s just that when you grow up in a trailer park, trips to magical pixie theme parks in far off California or Florida aren’t really a part of your childhood reality. Sure, we visited the Alamo once and the beach in Galveston, but definitely not anywhere out of state. My experiences with amusement parks involved a couple of trips to Six Flags and El Paso’s now defunct Magic Landing, which was a lot less magical than the name might suggest (lots of maimings and accidents during its four-year run).

To be truthful, I had built up a hardened adult shell towards all things Disney. I figured it was just a big scam to fill children’s brains with fantasy and drive them so mad with consumerist desire that they make their parents crazy until they fling their hard-earned money at every colorfully-clad mermaid or cricket or talking candlestick that approached them holding a t-shirt or snow cone.

I’m still not completely convinced that that’s not the primary objective, but I gotta say, Walt Disney Resort was pretty freaking magical. A group of about 6,000 of us arrived at dusk and were greeted by rows and rows of very friendly workers who were waving and smiling. This immediately aroused my suspicions. Working late for a private party? And you’re all happy with this? I figured they must be getting paid some serious overtime.

Minnie, one of our overlords....I mean, gracious hosts. (Photo Kerry Tice)
Minnie, one of our overlords….I mean, gracious hosts. (Photo by Kerry)

Next up, hitting some rides. I was totally unfamiliar with the different lands that were open to us (Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Magic Kingdom, Boardwalk, Downtown), or their offerings. But, I had two experienced travel writers with me and they were Disney experts. They knew what rides were new and where they were, and they prioritized appropriately.

The rides were fun, nothing too scary or jarring. I was awestruck by the incredible attention to detail. When you flew over London in the Peter Pan or glided past Ursula in the Under the Sea ride, you really felt like you were there, inside the movie. But best of all, because it was a private event, there were no lines. No lines on anything, which is, I believe, unheard of.

Practically all to ourselves (Photo borrowed from Kerry Tice)
Practically all to ourselves (Photo borrowed from Kerry)

Since it was a party, there were free drinks (not even a tip jar, y’all) and some seriously great food that just kept being replenished without anyone seemingly bringing it out. I mean, I know they did and must have, but it seemed like there was just a ton of staff keeping an eye on things and making sure everything went smoothly. Again, they were all incredibly nice and patient, which then caused me to ask a few of them if Disney maybe gave them some special “happy vitamins” before their shift every day. I also urged one employee to blink three times if he was being held against his will. He just nicely asked me if I’d like some more lobster mac and cheese. (To which I obviously said, “hell yeah.”)

Photo borrowed from Kerry Tice.
Photo borrowed from Kerry. Those are some LeFeu Brew wenches in the background.

There were plenty of trash cans everywhere, but they were all painted to blend in with their surroundings and none of them were full or overflowing with discarded LeFeu Brews (a delicious nonalcoholic frozen drink that was being handed out at Gaston’s Pub.)

Photo: Kerry Tice
Photo: Kerry

It was fantastic. I used to think that these kinds of things (or, “experiences” to use travel industry parlance) were a rip off, but at Disney, you totally see where the money goes. And I’ve got to think a big part of the budget (besides the special “happy vitamins,” but I’m sure they get a discount) has got to be the fireworks. Those fireworks were amazing. I worried that it was all some trick and they were now going to burn the entire place down. They even run sprinklers on the roofs of the nearby buildings so that a random spark won’t catch on fire.

Then, when we were leaving, another parade of characters no doubt sweating in their elaborate costumes and heavy makeup. Including some of the characters from “Frozen,” who might have had it the worst of all, swathed in furs that were not at all weather appropriate for Florida.

I went in to Disney’s Magic Kingdom a skeptical adult and came out three hours later as a grinning……well, still an adult, but I did get into the spirit of things. I even put on a pair of free mouse ears to take pictures before passing off said free mouse ears to someone else who had children.

(Oh, one creepy side note about those “free” mouse ears….they lit up. And not only did they light up, they were synchronized with the rest of the 6,000 attendees free mouse ears. Which means we all lit up at the same time, in the same color and same pattern. So, yeah. Cult-like brainwashing isn’t totally off the table.)

With my two Disney experts.
With my two Disney experts.

Friday Links: The It’s Monday and Everybody Loves Will Ferrell Edition

Katy Perry/Will Ferrell mashup
Source: Paramount Pictures, Getty

That’s right, Friday’s links on a Monday. That’s because I went to a networking event on Thursday that morphed into a happy hour that turned into a very happy night so Poe Communications/Beverage Distributors Inc. was closed on Friday. Sometimes, happy hour gets in the way of running a multimedia communications empire.

Friday Links: Anti-Climatic News Edition

It’s been a busy week here at Poe Communications and Heavy Manufacturing, Inc. Getting back in the freelance grind after the extended holiday, meeting with clients on the coldest day of the year, and assembling a cat scratch post can really take a lot out of a girl. Heck, I even hurt myself at the gym yesterday. Not by over-extending myself or anything, but by just working out at all. It had been a while.

It’s supposed to still be freezing this weekend, so I predict lots of pasta eating, wine drinking and Pinteresting, although I’m sure my head el jefe, XFE is going to try to make me do the gym thing again at least once. Brrr.

Here’s a little Friday reading:

  • Discovery and a whole bunch of other news outlets covered what is probably the most anti-climatic time capsule opening ever. Honestly, why did they feel the need to open it again if they already knew what was in it from the last time they opened it? Were they expecting new items?
  • Disco clams are a thing and they lure their prey with a fantastic light show before killing them. Or, maybe, they warn their predators away with their light show. It’s still not clear. Thanks, science, for not clearing that up at all. Scientists did, however, rule out lighting-show-as-conducive-to-mating-ritual, which goes against everything I learned back in my clubbing days.
  • Pandas were at least enjoying the DC snow this week. Pile on the cuteness indeed.
  • Speaking of snow, this MentalFloss list of obscure regional terms to describe snow will come in handy. The “hinges of hell” one threw me, since I’d always thought that was describing heat. My personal favorite: “Colder than a witches’ teat,” doesn’t seem to have made the cut.
  • Poe Industries HR President Milady Petunia Potpie is worth approximately -$29.99. Yes, that would be a negative sign. Still, I don’t think I would trade her for the unimaginatively named “Blackie,” a cat worth $25 million, according to this list of the world’s six richest pets. That rooster seems nice, though.

The Emotional Healing Power of Naples (and Pizza)

My cab driver doesn’t seem to have enough hands.

I’m bumping along Naples chaotic, narrow, cobblestoned streets in the back of a cab. My cab driver is holding his phone up to his left ear, swerving in and out of the bumper-to-dented-bumper traffic. I think he’s fighting with the person on the other line. He’s yelling and using his hands to enunciate his point, which is a bit of a problem while holding the phone and driving. There’s definitely no 10 nor 2 at this point of the driving game.

He really needs another set of hands.

I feel much like my Neapolitan cab driver. I don’t have enough hands or arms to get them around all the feelings I’ve had over the past two months.

rainy street in Naples
It rained my first day in Naples, which suited my mood just fine.

I’ve been bouncing on the emotional trampoline. I’ve run the gamut – white-hot raging anger, debilitating fear and sense of rejection, plain-old-run-of-the-mill sadness, tears optional, although frequent, as it turns out in my case. The raw twin realizations of the number of people who I had misplaced my trust in, and the surprisingly small list of supporters who would reach out to me when I was no longer around. *

On a good day, a certain scabbed-over numbness would set in. Then I would wallow in a bit of a pity-party, who-cares, what’s-it-all-for mentality. All of which goes against my feisty, fighting nature.

Turns out, Naples, Italy is the perfect city to go to if you are hollowed out and disappointed by life and humanity and especially former co-workers who you thought were you’re friends.

First of all, it’s an incredibly human city, where you can watch the soap opera of life play out millions of times a day on its quaint little streets. Families fighting with each other, enjoying each other. Couples making out and pushing each other away. Strangers eyeing each other with suspicion or disinterest. It’s reassuring to see that emotions can run a gamut, not just on the negative end of the spectrum.

Neapolitan Santa

Also, Naples is dirty and has its scars. It was the most bombed Italian city during World War II, getting bombarded over 200 times by both Allied (good job there, Mussolini) and German forces after Italy switched sides. Today, plaster is falling off its buildings or they’re covered in graffiti. Trash piles up frequently due to garbage strikes and very small rubbish bins. Every car on the road bears scrapes, dents, dings. In many ways, it looks like they stopped building after the bombings.

Typical building at the Piazza del Plebiscito
Typical building at the Piazza del Plebiscito. Note plaster situation.

But Naples messiness is also achingly beautiful — that whole shrugging off unpleasantness and just getting on with life is admirable.

Naples grafitti

And it is a very, very proud city. Especially of its place in pizza history. Don’t even try to suggest the pizza was not invented in Naples.

Pizza at Brandi's in Naples
Plaque near the place where Margherita was invented.

It’s a city that has never given up, rolling with the fates, but never forgetting who it is at its fundamental core. Remember those Germans who bombed them? Yeah, eventually they also occupied Naples. But the people of Naples, they don’t put up with that kind of crap. In September 1943, the townspeople rose up and threw out their German occupiers right before the Allied forces rolled in on October 1 to “liberate” them. It’s known as the Four Days of Naples and it is pretty badass.

Naples defiance via shop window
Naples defiance via shop window. (It says “F&*%k You All!!! Best Price”)

I’ve been through some dirty stuff recently, and my psyche and ego are certainly a bit scarred. But I’ve also got an inordinate – perhaps even Neapolitan-sized — amount of pride. So, I’m glad I trampolined my way over to Naples for a quick visit and history lesson. Naples and its lessons on resilience have helped propel me to a new, more familiar emotional state – defiance.

Neapolitan cat don't care
Neapolitan cat don’t care.

(*I should also unequivocally state that there have been a handful of former ex-colleagues who have reached out and been incredibly helpful to me in so, so many ways, even if it’s just a cup of coffee and a vent session. I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge them. And, of course, always XFE, who goes through it all and who took me to Naples anyway.)