Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Not what I had planned

The past few days have been wasted due to a wretched cold. I haven' t had the energy to do morning pages, edit the novel, plan the screenplay, work in the garden, experiment with gluten-free pastry, walk Puppy....nothing. It's driving me crazy, this enforced inactivity. Yesterday I managed to change the sheets, do the dishes and haul the trash and recycling to the curb. I had to rest between each task. Today I managed to take my books back to the library and walk around the backyard looking for signs of spring. Then it was back to the couch. I feel better than yesterday, but still nowhere near normal.
While I was outside, I noticed that the landscaping squirrels have struck again. There's a hyacinth coming up under the giant cauldron. This photo is from last summer.

The job I interviewed for at Z Cuisine has been posted on Craigslist, so I suppose that means I'm not what they wanted. Whole Foods went with someone else, but is keeping my resume for some jobs that might open up soon. The catering company wants someone with a full culinary skill set, but will keep me in mind for any pastry things that come up. I was not among 'the best qualified applicants' for a federal payroll assistant job. But at least they let me know. When I start feeling dejected, I think about the people in the WIA orientation that have been out of work for months and haven't gotten even one interview. At least I know I have a part-time job starting sometime in April, probably towards the end of the month. So, as Anjelica Houston says in her role as the Evil Stepmother in Ever After : "No matter how bad things are, we must never feel sorry for ourselves. Because things can always get so much worse".

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Pride & Petulance

I've entered the petulant phase of learning to live gluten-free. If I can't eat pastry, I don't want to make any. So there.
Unfortunately, I've already paid for a cake decorating class. But it's fun, and education is never a waste. Here is my little fondant covered cake. For some reason my camera objects to all shades of purple, so the ribbon looks more blue. It also looks a bit dried out, because 1) fondant mixed with gumpaste dries out very quickly even when tightly wrapped in plastic, and 2) I made the mixture on Tuesday and just got around to finishing the thing this morning. But you get the idea. The Wilton fondant is on the inexpensive end of the spectrum, and it tastes like sugary play-doh. There are better tasting fondants, but really, fondant is just an artistic medium. If it's flavor you want, go for the buttercream. By which I mean Italian, French or Swiss; not that nasty shortening based crap that Americans seem to prefer. Blechk!

After my ongoing struggles with the evil buttercream roses, this gumpaste fondant technique was a relief. Sure, it's time consuming, but the flowers are so much prettier. Delicate, fragile and most of all, flowerlike.

The next class is all royal icing flowers, which I quite like. Yes, it involves piping flowers, but royal icing is easier to work with than shortening buttercream. Tragically, that shortening based buttercream is the industry standard. I had an interview at University of Denver this week. (Do NOT want that job!) The pastry chef told me that she tried using Italian buttercream but the students won't eat it. I try not to be a food snob, but really. Preferring crisco and powdered sugar to meringue and real butter? That's just sad.

But that's not the reason I don't want them to offer me that job. The volume in that kitchen is insane, and the position is subject to seasonal layoffs. Meaning that every time the students are on break, most of the kitchen staff is too. No thanks.

Looking for a job is hard work, much harder than actually working. Several jobs I applied for but never heard from have been reposted. This hurts my pride. It reminds me of waiting to be chosen for teams in gym class or waiting to be asked to the homecoming dance. (I went to high school in the very early 80's. If it wasn't Sadie Hawkins Day, girls didn't do the asking).

I decided to take advantage of all the programs Jefferson County offers the unemployed. Which is how on Thursday afternoon I found myself sitting in what I've dubbed the 'therapy cave'. It's a small room with no windows to the outside, is dimly lit, has soft music with ocean sounds playing and has a very comfy loveseat for the client. And a candy dish full of chocolate. But most importantly, there's a wonderful therapist. I'm looking forward to the next nine weeks of working with her.

I've had to revise my opinion of government agencies over the last few weeks. Every person I've spoken with has been kind and helpful. Especially the people at the mental health service. While I didn't qualify for the free therapy (I'm not a danger to myself or others) I did qualify for a program that provides ten sessions at $5 dollars a visit. I can pay for the entire series with what's in my change jar. And did I mention that the therapist's office in in walking distance? Sweet. Next week I'll be checking into all the vocational services. Maybe I'll take advantage of the Pell Grants and go back to school. If I think of something worth going to school for....

That's the thing. I still don't know what I want to do with the rest of my life. Or even if I want a master plan for my life. I haven't had one so far, and things seem to be going okay. Not by society's standards maybe, but those standards don't fit me.

The bonfire of the novel seems to have had the desired effect; I'm back into editing, however slowly it might be going. I'm making notes for Script Frenzy and am getting the software figured out. It's really pretty cool. I may be wrong, but I think 100 pages of script is going to be much easier to do than 50,000 words. Script Frenzy starts on April Fool's Day. There may be a reason....

Friday, March 12, 2010

At this moment

At this moment, I am pondering the absurdity of my situation. I have a part-time job starting in April. A job that will pay me less than I'm currently getting from unemployment. I could file every two weeks to get the difference, but I'm starting to ask myself "Why?" If working pays less than looking for work, why should I work? This is not my normal attitude.

Today I got to go to Free Writing Friday for the first time in about three years. Out of 11 people in the group, four of us recently lost our jobs. The three people who weren't me were pretty "Yippee! This is the best thing that could have happened!" about it. I'm not quite that enthused. It's taken me all this time to get to a place where I can see that it's ultimately a good thing, and that if I don't spend my energy panicking this could be a huge opportunity for creative growth.

It feels like the job search has been going on for a long time. Not really. My first interview was in the middle of February. It's only been about 4 weeks.

I'm 46 years old. I don't know what I want to be when I grow up. I seem to spend my life finding out what I don't want. I used to think I wanted my own pastry shop. I've learned that I don't. So all you people who keep telling me to start my own business - stop it. It's not going to happen. While I would go insane spending my day in a cubicle, I'm tired of being on my feet all day, hunching over a worktable, a counter, or a sink full of dishes. It may be selfish and petty, but now that I've accepted that gluten-free is the healthier option for me, I've lost interest in pastry. At least for now. And while I'd like to improve my cooking skills, I don't want to go to culinary school or work in a restaurant. See - more stuff I know I don't want.

Lost, confused, no idea where I'm going....what's a creative soul to do? Sign up for Script Frenzy, that's what. 100 pages of script in 30 days. This time, I'm taking notes as I go along (thanks for the tip, Jenn). Like NaNoWriMo, it's free to participate, but donations are greatly appreciated. In November, I was employed, and made a donation. This time....well, that's where you come in. Support my lunacy by making a donation in my name. Any amount will go a long way toward adding even more pressure to complete my 100 pages on time. Imagine my sense of shame if I failed to finish after your blatant show of support. When my inspiration and my OCD falter, the guilt will be there to bolster me up and keep me typing. You don't have to decide now. Donations are accepted through May 1st.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Gluten, Spring & Folly

My soon-to-be employer (Better Than Mamma's Catering) asked me to research tasty gluten-free baked goods for the gluten-free meal plan. I got a few books from the library (a strong contender for happiest place on earth) and starting reading. I noticed that I have many of the symptoms of gluten intolerance. So I decided to take a break from gluten and see what happened.
I had cravings more intense than any I've ever had for chocolate. I was cranky and weepy. (Yes, there's the whole job search, financial anxiety and I-suck-as-a-novelist things going on, but it really escalated). It's been 7 days now, I feel lighter. 10 pounds lighter. My joint pain is considerably better. I have more energy. And my mood is much better. Huh.
A pastry chef who can't eat wheat. Alrighty then.

Spring is starting to appear. The robins are back, and the blue heron has returned to the park. The tulips and crocuses (crocii?) are poking up out of the ground. So are the weeds. Tenacious critters.
I want to start planting,but planting is another 6 weeks or so away. It may feel like spring, but there's another snowstorm or two lurking in the wings.

What I liked best about the Oscars this year was the people who spoke about the importance of creativity, how it is never a waste of time. That it doesn't matter what tools you use to tell the story, what matters is how you tell the tale and that you tell the tale. It inspires me to get back to my novel, and to try the Script Frenzy challenge. It starts, appropriately enough, on April 1st.
Anyone else want to step off the cliff into the unknown?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Big pink houses

Friday I got an invitation to go along on a culinary walking tour of South Pearl Street. I parked in front of this house. It's for sale. Only $925,000. The first floor is a commercial space with a kitchen, the upstairs is residence. I've been inside, years ago. It used to be a metaphysical shop.
It's the kind of building that fuels my fantasy of having my own business, or a shared business. Imagine looking through that window and seeing pastries and chocolates, friends catching up over coffee and cake while waiting for their tarot reading. Sweet Disposition Cafe & Miss Najah's Hoodoo Emporium. Or something like that. Victorian charm, lots of foot traffic,
great little neighborhood. Great, extremely expensive little neighborhood. It's a good thing I don't really want my own business.
The tour took us to four places, three of which I really liked. Pajama Baking Company, Kaos Pizzeria, and The Village Cork - all three venues treated us really well. Pajama Baking Company and The Village Cork do lots of local sourcing for ingredients. Kaos imports many of their ingredients, including the flour, from Italy. Kaos and Pajama Baking Company have lovely shiny equipment; giant mixers, steam injecting ovens, massive walk-in, ice cream maker, blast freezer and the awesomely huge imported pizza oven. Over at The Village Cork, Chef Samir makes do with a small convection oven and a few tabletop burners. His kitchen isn't just open, it's surrounded on two sides by bar seating. Fortunately,he's outgoing and very passionate and enthusiastic about his work; he's on stage all night long.
He gets chicken from a freerange farm up in Boulder. He was describing how the chickens are slaughtered one by one, so that they don't know what's coming, and that classical music is playing during the process. All I could think of was the end of Soylent Green, when the old man goes to the assisted suicide center and watches a film of forests and deer and meadows while listening to Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Grieg. And that episode of South Park in which Timmy's beloved turkey Gobbles escapes death. I might have missed a bit of what Chef Samir was saying right about then. Sometimes my mind wanders.
All three people were so passionate about their craft; I miss being passionate. I've lost all my passion; my novel, pastry, life in general...I have minimal to no enthusiasm for any of it. I've been here before. I know it won't last. But while it's going on I have to force myself to keep moving. Puppy really helps with this; she's quite pleased with my joblessness. She gets to go to the park everyday. Small achievements help: walking puppy, doing laundry, meeting the jobsearch quota, practing piping techniques. Any small, tangible thing that gives a sense, however delusional, of productivity and control.
I got the notice of tradename renewal in the mail. I registered Sweet Disposition a few years ago, just in case. I'm not sure I want to renew it; I'm not sure I'll ever use it. I might just let it go. I'm not sure. I'll just add that to the expanding pile of things I'm not sure about. That pile just keeps getting bigger.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Saved by the Ringtone

In a perfect world, the very last day of a much-loved job wouldn't coincide with the full moon. My normal stoicism has disintegrated into a rather weepy mess. But it's a bright sunny day, so Puppy and I will be going for a walk later. Let the endorphin production begin!

I was going through craigslist last night and saw an ad from my chiropractor. He needs an office manager. I was thinking about applying. I even adapted my resume to include relevant experience. The hours are good, no weekends, profit sharing, probably free adjustments, Dr. Kerry is a lovely man and would probably be a good boss. There's no reason not to apply. Except that he's asking for a two year commitment. And while the rational part of my brain thinks a change would do me good, the rest of my brain is screaming with boredom at the very idea of paperwork and office routines and wearing scrubs.

I was debating whether or not to get myself together to go drop off my resume when my phone rang. It was Oana, who'd interviewed me for a catering company a couple of weeks ago. The person who'd singled me out of hundreds of resumes because I was the only pastry person to apply. (Thanks for recommending audacity, Will!). She was calling to let me know that they are on track to open around the first of April, that she's looking forward to working with me, that she can be very flexible with my hours (20 a week to start), that she hopes to have me full-time very shortly, and would I be willing to research gluten-free baking for her gluten-free meal plan.
Sure. No problem. Thank you, Oana. And thank you Universe, for an outstanding display of timely intervention. I feel quite encouraged.