Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Life is a Hard Boiled Egg

Remember the "cake" 1 credit college class that turned out to be a lot more work and a lot more difficult than a 3 credit class?

Why is it that sometimes things that should be easy aren't?

Take boiling eggs. My neighbor decided to make a Nicoise salad. She covered two brown eggs with water, then boiled them for 7 minutes, but the yolks weren't quite cooked and her fresh eggs were a challenge to peel...chunks of the white disappeared with the shell. I too decided to make a Nicoise salad. I boiled 4 white extra large eggs (not exactly fresh, past their sell by date) for 10 minutes. The middles of the yolks weren't cooked and the eggs were hard to peel even though a couple of the shells were already cracked. The last time I'd tried to boil eggs, I'd used a "recipe" from the Chicago Tribune. That didn't produce perfect, firm yolks with or without that telltale subtle gray rim either. Like Goldilocks's efforts to eat porridge in The Three Bears, my eggs and my friend's eggs were edible but none were "just right."

A Yahoo! search of "how to boil eggs" retrieves 96,300 hits! Can there really be that many ways to, so to speak, screw in a light bulb? The first listings recommend boiling for 10-15 mins depending on how hard you want the yolk; boiling for 17 minutes; turning off the heat as soon as the water reaches a boil, covering and letting them sit for 30 minutes; and after the water boils removing them from the heat to let them sit for about 15-20 minutes.

The perfect boiled egg can take a lot of research, effort and trial and error...a metaphor for everyday life.

Despite our best efforts to plan ahead and anticipate contingencies, sometimes things just don't turn out the way we want. We can't control how boiling water impacts a yolk any more than we can control other people and make them do what we want: give us the job, a raise or a contract. On the other hand, sometimes the synergy of our preparation, positive thoughts and the universe yields results even better than we expected.

In life as with hard boiled eggs, we won't know which until it's too late.

When we're dissatisfied with eggs that don't turn out quite right, are we setting our standards too high? Shouldn't we be grateful for the eggs we have? Do we keep aiming for perfection by cutting out the cooked edges of the yolks or microwaving them until done (Hmmm. Wish I'd thought of that when staring at the mushy yolks)? Or do we refill our well of hope and put another pot of water on to boil?

In any case, we should know better than to put all of our eggs in one baskett.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Crying Bride

This week I was hired to be part of The Go Game , a team building corporate scavenger hunt held on Chicago's Magnificent Mile. Hundreds of players on more than 100 teams had to earn points by completing missions received on cell phones. The longer they took, the fewer points earned.

My role this time was The Crying Bride. I dare not reveal too many details about my mission, but... Garbed in white satin, veil, and Sketchers with rhinestones, I waited on the steps of Holy Name Cathedral for teams to arrive and find out why I was crying. I knew two passwords, to be revealed only when team members complied with mission requirements to my satisfaction. Then a team member had to text each password in order receive the next step in the assignment.

The sight of a "bride" seated on church stairs prompted many reactions from passersby. Many smiled and asked if I was getting married today, kids and bus tours waved, a few people took my picture. Two people actually stopped to ask if I needed help, and they were serious: a very nice post office employee in her truck, and a construction worker in a hard hat who said he'd been picked among his co-workers to talk to me. It was heartwarming to know that some people really do care about others.

My improv training and experience came in very handy because every team approached the situation differently. Some jumped right in and offered solutions to my "problem" of being abandoned by my fiance. Others, it seemed, would have let me go on wailing all day, losing precious points but appreciating my antics. I really enjoyed finding ways to make each team laugh. But in case you, dear reader, end up playing the game some day and make your way to my post, I will let you wonder what those ways might be.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Formal Wear Frustration

I need a formal dress/evening gown because I'm going to be handing out the awards at a black tie ceremony with around 2,000 people in attendance. And like those stunning, tall models at the Oscars/Tonys who distribute statuettes, I'll step back for the acceptance speeches and gracefully guide the winners and presenters offstage. But not like them, because I'm only 5'1" tall.

I feel like my quest has taken me to almost every store in Chicagoland and every fashion Web site. I have devoted far more hours to this cause than anticipated, with less than satisfactory results. In my closet hangs a boring navy gown, the only one that fit. Even extensive alterations couldn't have saved some that I tried on, according to an Evening Wear Specialist at Neiman Marcus. The saleswoman at Saks almost laughed out loud when she saw me in an size 4 ensemble that made me look like a little girl trying on her mom's clothes.

Thanks to Bloomingdales and Nordstrom for carrying petite formalwear. Bloomies wins on largest instore selection of small sizes. Conversely, Bloomies online has fewer petite offerings than Nordstrom's. But who wants to/is able to rack up credit card charges by ordering multiple dresses to see if one of them looks good, even with free shipping TO you (some sites have charges for returns)?

Thanks to Neiman Marcus for having by far the best selection, and surprisingly good sale prices. Thanks to (and, believe it or not,!!) for carrying some petite formalwear, if not as many offerings on sale. Kudos to and for their wide selection of dresses, if not in petites.

But no thanks to evening wear designers and stores who have decided that petite women:
--only need a couple of styles to choose from while those of normal size get dozens
--are all in their 20's, and only want baby doll/really short cocktail dresses, or are ancient or have no fashion sense, so conservative or Mother of the Bride-y gowns are de rigeur
--would prefer boring Navy over the lovely Lipstick the dress came in for nomral sizes (though I did find one hot pink gown online)
--are flat chested, so strapless, halter, and spaghetti strap gowns don't have enough fabric on top to contain a real petite woman's feminine bounty
--do not like wearing sparkles/sequins/beading as much as their tall friends
--appreciate that dress sizes seem to have been downsized, so a 0 is what used to be a 2, and a 2 what was a 4.

I wish I had enough entrepreneurial spirit/wherewithal to create my own line of stylish petite clothing. Any takers?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Holidays: Bah, Humbug

When I had a full time job, I used to look forward to holidays. How nice to go to a movie, read a book, and hang out with friends/family while work was paying you to take the day off and have a good time.

Living the Gainfully Unemployed life has led to a 180. Now, holidays make me kind of cranky. I turn into a Grinchy Scrooge who no longer views holidays as opportunities for fun. They're just days when no one will call for an audition, no one will book me for a job. There won't be any contact with agents/editors. Rehearsals and classes I enjoy and learn from will be canceled. Not only will I not make money, I'll probably spend it. At least some products will be on sale.

The sad part: while I realize and believe that everyone benefits from down time and relaxation to reduce stress and refill the creative well, I don't believe I deserve a day off. Why?

1. I haven't written nearly enough new pages so far this year, partly because I'm not really invested in a new project. Instead of keeping to my 25 new pages a week goal, I've been dabbling. Revisiting this idea, starting that one. I need to come up with an exciting idea ASAP so I can keep to my goal of completing a new book a year.

2. Then there's selling the manuscripts I've already written. Though I have a bunch of submissions out, I should continue to work on TGAH, The Great Agent Hunt. I recently bought an opportunity to submit to a major non-fiction agent from an online charity auction to motivate me to finish a proposal I've been working on for over a year, but still haven't.

3. I need to improve my audio recording and background music composing skills. I've downloaded Acid Express and Acid Music Studio free trials, but haven't been able to figure out a lot of the stuff they can do.

4. Maybe if I'd spent more time on self-marketing, I'd have more bookings. I could contact producers I've worked with before, update my agents on the most recent gigs I've gotten, find new places to submit to. Let more people know about the improv show I'm in.

So you see, I don't deserve a day off because the freelancer's job is never done.

While almost everyone else is celebrating at barbeques and parties and watching fireworks (and sweating and getting sunburned and mosquito bitten and ingesting far more calories than they probably need), I can't seem to help thinking about accomplishing something and being productive. Even if I don't work on any of the aformentioned projects, I could at least clean out my storage closet. Or tackle any of the other items on my To Do list. At least then I could put a big, satisfying checkmark through a task or two I'd been meaning to get around to.

My holiday would be worthwhile.