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Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Apartment-Hunting Blues: A Gratitude List

--for friends, Facebook and otherwise, who let me rant and rave and piss and moan about the whole dispiriting process;

--for daily doses of 1,000 mg Vitamin C Emergen-Cs;

--for yelp, for getting the lowdown on apartment management companies without leaving home;

--for daily doses of almond biscotti from Tony’s;

--for online maps of Chicago neighborhoods available for download;

--for excellent September weather for biking and walking those neighborhoods;

--for Facebook friends who shared information about their particular neighborhoods;

--for my “visiting scholar” gig at Lutheran School of Theology in Hyde Park. It kept me focused and grounded throughout these past several weeks;

--for my private clients who let me re-schedule our meetings when necessary;

--for having a journal writing practice. It has delivered all the benefits of personal writing during times of transition: expressing thoughts and feelings; problem solving/figuring things out; making decisions; keeping a record; and, of course, telling the story;

--for accepting sooner rather than later that I wasn’t going to get what I was looking for: a nice apartment at a rent I could afford near a north side Red or Brown line stop;

--for then realizing that there was a lot I’d miss about where I currently live—a bus ride away from the Western Brown line—especially the diversity of this neighborhood, a major reason I even want to live in Chicago. Not only is West Rogers Park ethnically and religiously diverse, but people of all ages and incomes live here.

Or as urban guru Jane Jacobs said: “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”

--Finally, I am grateful for everyone in my life who appreciates—whether through experience or imagination—the challenges of a single, non-car-owning woman of modest means seeking suitable housing (i.e., well maintained, responsive management) in this very financially troubled city, this place I’ve called home for nearly 50 years.

On the plus side, however, my often-failed attempts to find such housing during the most recent of those years—starting with the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression— only strengthens my resolve to make affordable “aging in place” an important part of my second book.
Because my experience is surely not unique, as Chicago’s own Theaster Gates predicts:

"If we are not careful, profit will trump humanity and the only people who will be able to experience the beautiful local will be the very rich or the extremely poor."

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Avoiding a Full-Blown Pity Party

It took me way too long to learn that the best response to being stressed out—which can too often lead to a full-blown pity party—is to be grateful. Yes, we can acknowledge how crappy we feel, how much anxiety we’re carting around—but we just can’t take up residence there.

At least for too long.

And so, instead, we turn our attention from what’s not working in our lives to what is. That for me is the definition of being grateful. When I can do that, I realize that the more I practice being grateful, the more I actually feel grateful.

Which is a much more comfortable—and calm—place to live.  Psych 101 stuff: you can’t be anxious and calm at the same time.

In these past few weeks of apartment hunting, I’ve managed to accumulate much stress and anxiety. I’ve seen so many truly crappy places at such mind-boggling rents. And some—the two-room studios in Lincoln Square for $1,000/month—I couldn’t even bring myself to look at. Because why??

But back to the gratitude. 

Check this weekend for that nice long list, which, I hope, will include a detailed description of my lovely new apartment.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Value of Many Life Reviews

“Writing a ‘Last Letter’ When You’re Healthy,” by Dr. V.J. Periyakoil (New York Times, 9.7.16), put me in mind of an annual writing exercise I do every New Year’s Day (or thereabouts). It’s a year-end review of the major experiences and events in my life from the past year, especially those related to work, hobbies, friends, family, health, travel, and so on.

To create my review, I go through my journals and calendar from the past year, then type up what I think is worth saving. Entries from recent years have included doing a presentation at the International Urban Wildlife Conference at the Lincoln Park Zoo in 2015; touring the “1968” exhibit at the Chicago History Museum with my long-time friend, Judy in 2014; and going solo to London, to celebrate my November birthday in 2013.

In Dr. Periyakoil’s article, the “Last Letter” refers to the Stanford Friends and Family Letter Project, which provides a template for doing a specific kind of life review.

As she writes, “[w]ith guidance from seriously ill patients and families from various racial and ethnic groups, we developed a free template for a letter that can help people complete seven life review tasks: acknowledging important people in our lives; remembering treasured moments; apologizing to those we may have hurt; forgiving those who have hurt us; and saying “thank you,” “I love you” and “goodbye.”

And what interests me most—and reminds me of my own less focused yearly review—is that people can use two different versions of the template: an illness letter and a healthy letter. Dr. Periyakoil says that people not confronting serious illness can “use the letter as a living legacy document and update it over time.”

Now “over time” doesn’t have to mean yearly as I do it, but it could. Or it could mean every six months or five years. Whatever the schedule, I think it's the regularity that matters most, the piling up of the reviews, rather than waiting to do one "final life review."

For starters, it might make that final one much shorter—especially the regrets, forgiveness, and apology sections.

To read the entire article:

And here’s a direct link to the template:

Monday, September 5, 2016

A-Laboring I Have Been on Labor Day

OK, just a teensy bit, time spent searching for and finding the section on “Work Stories” in my first book, Finding Your Voice, Telling Your Stories (Marion Street Press, 2008).

Slightly edited, below is the introduction to the three exercises on telling work stories, plus the first of those exercises. While some people may march in parades on Labor Day and/or have backyard barbecues, telling those work stories that have special significance for you might be another way to mark this holiday.

I hope that the following helps you to do that.

Work Stories
            I was raised by a man who graduated from high school in 1929, the year of the infamous and devastating Crash. When I learned this about my father, suddenly everything fell into place, explaining his near hysteria every time I casually quit one job and sailed easily into another. He’d taken a job right out of high school with a company he stayed with for 40 years. I, on the other hand, raced like some prairie wildfire through an endless succession of jobs and careers: mailroom clerk, secretary, waitress, social worker, college instructor, office temp, and academic counselor.
            I worked for a shower curtain company, three universities, a political campaign, a beauty supply company, two hospitals, a half-way house for the mentally ill, a camera store, and an upscale restaurant before finally settling down as a writer and a teacher.
            Not surprisingly I’ve acquired some pretty good work stories along the way, not only about the getting, losing, and quitting of jobs, but also of bully bosses, psychotic colleagues, and office romances gone (real) bad.

Following are 3 exercises to help you tell some of your work stories:
For the first, make a list of specific jobs you’ve held since becoming an adult, no matter how long they lasted or how insignificant they were. Pick one on your list and describe where and when you performed this job, and who your colleagues and bosses were. Then describe yourself doing the job, as if someone had a camera trained on you while you were working. See what stories that leads to.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Book Marketing Redux

In anticipation of marketing my next book--a memoir and a guide on aging in place--I've been re-reading old blog posts from when my first was published, in July 2008.

At that time, my publisher sent me several hundred colorful postcards with all the book details on it, which I then mailed to anyone and everyone whose address I could find.

I also found other uses for the card, which I wrote about on my blog, including this post from February 18, 2009. (Note: the Stories book publisher now sends me bookmarks--also colorful, also with all the book deets on it. I use them just as I used those postcards.)

Turning the Tables on Junk Mail
This is not a secret: I will seize any opportunity to promote my book. And I’m not—nor should I be—alone. As writer Brad Meltzer was quoted in a recent NYT Book Review, “Today, you can’t be a successful writer without having a little Barnum in your bones.” Amen I say to that, especially for all of us first-time authors.

Since the Stories book was launched last July, a mere seven months ago, my particular version of Barnum has been in overdrive, seeing marketing opportunities everywhere: on coffeehouse and grocery store bulletin boards; at book and literary events (my own and others’); at holiday and networking parties; and pretty much during any interaction that continues beyond “Hello.”

And just this past week, I discovered another marketing tool, one that by happy coincidence aids in the recycling process, both in paper and postage. I speak of the junk mail that appears regularly in my mailbox, and, more specifically, of the prepaid envelopes that accompany it.

Truth is, this should have occurred to me earlier. I should have seen the possibilities in using these envelopes to market the Stories book, but alas was too focused on the more stealth-like, Bondian strategies, like facing out my books at local bookstores or enlisting recruits to pin up book postcards all around the country. (Thanks, Lynn, for the Tucson strike!)

But no use crying over spilt postage. I’m on it now, which is to say, I’m stuffing these prepaid envelopes with the ever-dexterous Stories postcards, then mailing them back from whence they came—to all the junk mail perps that daily yank my chain.

Last week I mailed off postcards to the United Omaha Life Insurance Co. and The Art Institute of Chicago’s Membership Department. I’ve an “Urgent! Process Immediately” postage paid envelope sitting on my desk from one of my many credit card companies. That’ll go out today, postcard secured snugly within.

I’ve considered responding to junk mail that arrives sans prepaid envelope, like the recent one from a State Farm agent who operates in my neighborhood. But then I think, why waste my own stamps? Besides just mailing the postcard is not the same as sending it back with the perp’s own envelope.

Now, with this latest marketing strategy in full swing, I find myself in the peculiar position of actually looking forward to junk mail, disappointed when it doesn’t materialize in my mailbox.

But perhaps I can turn these occasional droughts to my own advantage. I mean, what about all that junk e-mail that litters my inbox? Surely I can figure out some profitable use for that.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

A B&B Brief: The Boomers & Millennials Marketing Bridge

Here’s a follow-up to Tuesday's post—and with a slight twist. Instead of millennials (and others) marketing to boomers, some ad agencies are targeting both generations in the same ads.

Here’s one example described in the article, part of the “Made to Move” ad campaign for Osteo Bi-Flex, a joint health supplement:

But my favorite part of this piece,"Ads for Old and Young," by Braden Phillips, comes at the end, in this quote from Brian Nguyen, of the New York-based ad agency, Droga5:

“Here at Droga5, we’ve already begun to take a more age-agnostic approach,” he said, “by building campaigns on truths and insights rather than arbitrary assumptions based on generational stereotypes.”

Amen to that, brother, including the use of that nicely alliterative phrase.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Boomers and Millennials and the Longevity Market

If you google “boomers and millennials,” you’ll find an awful lot of people weighing in on how these two generations—each with close to 70 million members—are or are not alike; do or do not along; and especially do or do not get along in the workplace.

I suspect this conversation will be going on for a while, covering the many ways that each generation has, and will have, a demonstrable influence on our lives, from the cultural to the professional to the financial. And even to the political, it turns out. Here’s an excerpt from a May 16 article on the Pew Research Center’s website:

“As of April 2016, an estimated 69.2 million Millennials (adults ages 18-35 in 2016) were voting-age U.S. citizens – a number almost equal to the 69.7 million Baby Boomers (ages 52-70) in the nation’s electorate, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. Both generations comprise roughly 31% of the voting-eligible population.”

And here’s yet another Boomer-Millennial connection, in an article about the “longevity market”—a Boomer Buzzword new to me—and how it’s attracting all kinds of innovative goods and services. The piece opens with a Millennial entrepreneur noticing something new about his Boomer parents:

Boris Mordkovich, a 30-year-old serial entrepreneur, had never considered developing products for the aging baby boomer market. One day, however, he saw that his parents had started using an electric bike that his brother Yevgeniy had modified for his wife and himself.

“Electric bikes are an equalizer,” said Mr. Mordkovich, who has also owned a software company and a small-business magazine. “They let the rider decide how much or how little they will pedal.”

This year, he said, Evelo, the electric bike company that he founded with his brother, will double its revenue to $4 million, and it is profitable. “There’s no shortage of potential customers,” he added.

Read on here: