February 12, 2017
I have had many jobs in my life, some career worthy and others just a way to make some extra cash. Some have truly fed my soul while others ate away at my soul. Some were ordinary and others quite fascinating. Here is a list of most of my jobs.
Babysitter – a common first job for preteens – I started when I was eleven years old – when I think about that family leaving me with their toddlers – that was insane but they were expecting their third baby and they had two boys under the age of three – they probably didn’t care who watched their kids – they just needed to get out! They also knew my mom was across the street. I called her when the youngest boy peed everywhere and the older boy spilled milk all over the place
Sales clerk – I loved the discounts I got at Thalheimer’s – I was a “flyer”, this meant I worked in most of the departments, great for me to one day work in men’s cologne, another in children’s clothing and then another in housewares.
Waitress – Annabelle’s was a pub like restaurant at the Cross Creek Mall – I was terribly disorganized so it was good that I was in an Army town and I was cute – the soldiers tipped well and were not too picky
Starmount Forest Country Club – this was a different clientele and there was one cranky old man who always wrote in 10% for tips no matter who served him – the standard was to just sign the bill and the club added 15% – there were a few who wrote in 20% – it was good money to work an event like a wedding or bar mitzvah – there were always extra tips
Dorm receptionist – I got to know who was dating whom, whose parents came to visit the most and who stayed out all night
Bouncer – OK, the Fifth Season was at the Four Seasons Hotel in Greensboro and I worked the door checking IDs and making sure the guests honored the dress code. Since Daddy was a soldier I knew soldiers were not allowed to drink in public in uniform – I loved telling the soldier to go back to his room and change into street clothes and not disrespect the uniform and our country!
Fragrance model – at major department stores I would demonstrate the free gift or the latest product for beauty companies – I promise I never squirted anyone who did not want to smell of cinnamon or lemon or gardenia or whatever the latest scent was but some people looked at me and ran – one woman actually jumped back three feet in fear of me dousing her in Estee Lauder
Epilady lady – this contraption had a spinning spring system that literally ripped hair out of your body. At Bloomingdales one day I turned my back away from the Epilady stand for a moment. When I turned back to show the product line to a curious customer I saw a woman wincing as she swept the device across her chin and ripped out the chin hairs! We were trained to never use it on the face but I let that woman have a go at it as I saw her whiskers from ten feet away and I figured I would want to eliminate that extra hair growth if I had it on my chin. I moved my new customer to the teeth whitening EpiSmile!
Model – I modeled jewelry for private parties for a jewelry designer – I once wore a necklace that cost more than my parents’ lifetime income!
Receptionist – this was my first NYC job! I moved to NY, well, I stayed in NJ with my close friend’s family, I arrived on a Wednesday, bought the Village Voice on Thursday and set up interviews for Friday and accepted the job offer that started on Monday and paid the highest. My office skills were limited because I had goofed off in typing class but I could talk and be pleasant and I had college debt and a total of $174 to my name, I needed that job immediately!
Office temp – again, I was a good receptionist but that did not pay as much as people who could type fast so,
Paralegal temp – I was smart despite my inability to process words quickly on a machine, paralegal temping required decent amount of intelligence and paid better than other temp jobs. And it was amazing to hear about frolicking going on between the attorneys and the paralegals and other scandals.
Location Scout – I worked in a location scouting office, mostly representing short term rentals for photo shoots and TV commercials but I liked to be out and about so I always volunteered when an odd request came up or the need to photograph a new spot for our catalogs.
Hair stylist – OK, my location scouting office shared space with a private hair salon, the stylists were top notch but they never learned to French braid. A woman from the pub around the corner popped in because she knew there was a salon in the back and wanted a French braid for a wedding she was attending. John and Terry were at a loss. I told her to sit at my desk and wove her hair into a lovely braid.
Personal assistant – a former boss married a millionaire and needed a bit of help with little things – I was happy to shop for her, to return items after a shopping spree or buy gifts for family and friends, ride around in her town car with Carlos, her driver.
Baker – I have always found peace in creating cakes and cookies so I decided to make it a career while parenting two young children, I baked cakes and pies and cookies in my kitchen and delivered them to cafes or to birthday parties or events – I still love to bake. I was often challenged to go outside of my comfort zone and bake something unusual or important like a wedding cake!
Caterer – this was an extension of my baking business – my most popular was a menu of friend chicken, potato salad and red velvet cake!
Producer – I produced stand up comedy shows and a full-length off-off Broadway play – sometimes you gotta cast yourself to get the parts you want! We did a two-week run of Crimes of the Heart at the Producers Club on West 44th Street!
Actor and Comedian – see above and I continue to dabble a bit here and there – I recently did a show called Moms Cracking up!
Writer – I write for parenting – Bundoo.com, BreastfeedingToday.com and contribute to articles and books
Lactation consultant – this has been my longest career so far. I love helping, educating and empowering families. It is not always easy but it is important and it fills my soul to be in the presence of babies and their families. I see so many emotions bundled up and flying out. I have learned so many cultural traditions and learned to see how much people are different and how much they are the same.
Life is full of interesting adventures and the career you pick when you are eighteen or thirty-five or any age does not have to define you but it sure can inform your life and enhance your worldview!
March 29, 2014
I could start out and say I hate cigarettes because they killed my mother but that might seem melodramatic and it is not the original source of my loathing those nasty sticks.
Mama and Daddy both smoked, Mama smoked Winston’s and Daddy smoked Salem’s. I always thought that was cool because about two and half hours northwest of home was the town Winston-Salem. They smoked all the time and everywhere. I used to complain to Mama that her cigarette smoke was bothering me. The ghostly trail seemed to find me.
“Yuck,” I would say as I waved my hand and broke up the fine white lines.
“Smoke follows beauty,” was always her reply.
I have images of her steering the wheel of her Cadillac with a cigarette balanced between her long index and middle fingers. I could smell the smoke mixed with her thermos of coffee and a waft of Adorn hairspray. Mama never went anywhere without her hair just right. And there was the faint scent of Chanel No. 5. None of it was as powerful as her Winston’s.
She would occasionally send me to Little Giant, the convenience store on Hope Mills Road to buy her a pack. She would call up ahead and let the cashier know it was fine to sell her ten-year-old daughter the cellophane wrapped box. They were about fifty cents a pack. This was North Carolina in the 1970’s.
My high school had a smoking area. I hung out on the periphery. All of my friends smoked but I hated it. (Full disclosure: I puffed a few times because I wanted to blow smoke rings – I actually did! Once!)
Freshman year of college my favorite class was Acting. I loved it! It was the class I lived for. No partying the night before. One particular night, all of the theatre students gathered in a spacious apartment in one of the Victorian houses off Tate Street. Everyone was smoking and drinking. Smoking weed, smoking Camels. I inhaled and got that nicotine high and I felt good. My hair, my clothes reeked of ashtray but I fit in with the actors.
In the morning as we sat on the wooden floor in a circle wearing tights, leg warmers and sweat pants, stretching and vocalizing my chest ached deep inside. I felt black in my lungs. My breath was shallow. I was sad. That was my last cigarette.
Jump ahead three years later. I was a senior. I had a job at the Fifth Season – a nightclub at the Greensboro Four Seasons Hotel. I called myself a bouncer. My actual title was hostess. Basically I checked id’s of the people going in to make sure they were at least twenty-one and that they adhered to the dress code – no sneakers, no shabby clothes. This was North Carolina in the 80’s. There was a mix of disco, pop, country and lots of cigarettes!
I worked there three nights a week. I never went into the club but as Mama said: “Smoke follows beauty.” I developed a cough that year. I worked at the Fifth Season for nine months. I moved to New York a couple of weeks after graduating.
My cough lasted another two years and I never lived with or worked with smoke.
If I went out dancing in a club I coughed for two days after. I cannot tolerate smoke.
Mama had a love/hate relationship with those Winston’s.
Daddy used a hypnotist to quit – it took two sessions but he is still smoke-free!
Daddy used to yell at me because he said my friends were smoking in Mama’s car. They always denied it. Turns out it was Mama! Those cigarettes had a hold on her.
She would stop and start and stop and start. She loved the taste and she loved the way they made her feel.
Then she got lung cancer.
Was it the Winston’s?
There is a tea I like to sip – no coffee for me. It is vanilla rooibos. It is an herbal tea with a full body.
Before I brew it I love to smell it. It smells like tobacco – before it is rolled and smoked.
July 16, 2013
This morning I woke early after a fitful sleep. I readied myself to drive Phoebe, my firstborn baby to orientation at SUNY-New Paltz, where she will be a freshman in a few weeks. I was a bit angry with her for some immature behavior the night before and gave her a speech about it. Then we talked about what was going on at the camp where she is a counselor for the summer, we talked about her various friends and we listened to music.
This is an exciting time of life, a big transition. People ask me how do I deal with this? It is like dealing with Phoebe’s first birthday, her first day of school, her first dance. You grow into these things. They are bittersweet. Each of those events left me feeling a mix of pride and a bit of melancholy.
Today was not the day for me to be emotional. I am planning that for next month when we drive her to school to begin freshman year. When Mama and Daddy dropped me off at UNC-Greensboro in August of 1983 I sat in my half empty dorm room and cried for two hours. Mama cried all the way home from Greensboro to Fayetteville.
When Phoebe and I pulled into the parking lot she spied her friend Dylan with her mom and one of her sisters. I smiled. I was happy Phoebe had a buddy there. We parked and went to greet the family and I could barely speak. I muttered, “ I feel emotional.”
We got Phoebe settled with her orientation leader, we walked around the campus for a few minutes in the oppressive heat and we talked. I started to tear up again. Phoebe can tell. I can’t get words out. She tickled me. I think it was her way of not getting herself worked up.
It was time for me to leave as she had some orienting to get to. I got into the car and I called Rob. “All is well,” I told him, “I am going to fill the car with gas and be home in a couple of hours.”
“Can you stop at the grocery store while you have the car and get a couple of things?” he asked me. “Sure.”
I knew there was a good grocery store on the way to the Thruway. I walked into the Stop & Shop. I only needed to get some juice boxes for Finn’s camp and some salad for tonight’s dinner but I was in a very large grocery store. I pulled out a large shopping cart. I walked the aisles. I felt lost and alone and I thought about my mother. Then I thought about my grumbling belly and my small bladder. I also thought about the fact that whatever I bought I would have to carry from the garage into the house. I found a bathroom and some fresh fruit and some Glutino chocolate covered pretzels and the juice boxes and vegetables.
I drove a bit down the road and filled ‘er up with gas and merged onto the Thruway after cruising under the EZPass sign.
I had my iPhone connected to the sound system and I turned on the music. My music collection is a mix of pop and rock from the 70’s until now. If anyone knows me well they know I love to sing but I should only sing alone or with people who really love me or who are under the influence of mind-altering substances.
One of my favorite memories of college is driving in my little cream colored VW beatle, that I named Henry, between Greensboro and Fayetteville singing at the tops of my lungs. I had a cassette player and I would sing Lou Reed and Tears for Fears and Stevie Nicks for my ears only. I was so happy. And sometimes I would let an entire album loop through the two-hour drive. I remember trying to rewind to just the right spot to re-sing a song.
Things are different now. With the flick of a finger you can listen to exactly what you want, but being the old-fashioned girl that I am, I like to just listen to my songs on shuffle.
So, I am driving south on the New York Thruway earlier today and the ABBA song Chiquitita comes on and I don’t know why but I start to sing but instead I am balling my eyes out. Every time I try to sing I just cry harder and harder and then she sings: “What’s wrong? How I hate to see you like this. I can see that you are so sad and quiet.” I just sob and sob and make sure my eyes stay as clear as possible so that I can see the road.
And I think of Mama driving back and forth to see me at school. I think about being young and I think about growing older and how fleeting life is and I cry some more.
I don’t feel old. I think it is like the first day of school and I was fretting about how my Phoebe would fare. I think about how hard it was for Mama to let me go. And, I think about how much she wishes she was here. She was so mad that she was dying and was going to miss out on the party here. I think I cried because I couldn’t call her and talk about our shared experiences of letting go of our grown daughters, of mothering.
I will let you know how I do when I really have to let her go next month.
June 20, 2013
I am heading to my high school reunion this weekend. It has been thirty years. It is amazing how fast it has come. It is equally amazing to see how much has occurred in my life in this thirty years. This is me then.
I went to school for four years in Greensboro.
Then with some kind of bravery or foolishness or both I moved to New York City. I was going to try it for a year. I got hooked. I almost left after a drab summer and dark winter but I fell in love with my neighbor a week before boarding a plane to Los Angeles. I think I am more of an East Coaster anyway.
Besides, that neighbor is my husband of twenty years
and the father of our three amazing children.
It has been both wonderful and humbling to share parenting with him. We have a good life. We live in tight quarters in Manhattan but we like it this way.
In my years in New York I have performed in theatres, in stand-up comedy venues. I have worked in law firms and department stores. I have worked as a location scout. I have been a personal assistant to a wealthy woman.
When I became a mother I decided to become a La Leche League Leader, a volunteer breastfeeding support counselor. Then I went pro!
I now have a thriving Private Practice as a Lactation Consultant. That I get to empower mothers to use their bodies to nourish and grow their babies is inspiring everyday. And, from time to time I talk to the media about breastfeeding.
Going home to Fayetteville has become bittersweet. Mama died from lung cancer in 2004. I miss her but I also have her inside of me. She impacts most everything in my life.
When I do go home I get to be with my dad,
my sister and brother-in-law and my wonderful niece and three nephews.
And, I still have some solid friends at home. These friends are always there for me. Sometimes we go months or even years without talking but I know they are there.
I am excited to go to this reunion to see some old friends that maybe I have lost touch with. It will be a quick visit but it will be good to go and let my voice slow down a bit and let a drawl slide in. It will be good to sip some sweet tea.
See y’all in Fayetteville!