Sometimes I do better than I think I do.

I had an interview a few weeks ago, which I felt went okay until it was time for me to ask questions. They were all about certain privileges of the job, and I got pretty much the same answer for all of them: the privilege would not be available due to the nature of the role being temporary. I felt my questions left a bad impression. I felt one may presume I am haughty or entitled in my concerns over telework, union units, or benefits packages. Of course, I never meant to imply those things are paramount to my employment. I’d worked for this company as a temporary contractor through a staffing firm, and I’d just wondered if there would be any difference between that and working as a temporary employee directly through the company, as this role was.

Anyway, I got an email back today. While I didn’t get the job, I did get feedback that I gave the most detailed responses and answered everything in full. I am so glad I still left a positive impression despite my embarrassment. As someone with NVLD it’s hard for me sometimes to meta-cognitively read how people read me, and I’m so happy when folks directly tell me their thoughts in a gentle way.

Why have children?

Okay, job searching isn’t all bad, and I guess I have some experiences that are attractive to prospective employers. Interview or test requests trickle in, not always popping out at once. Life is worthy, even though I am often enamored with ones outside my concrete one.

In Stardew Valley, I caught a mutant carp, which is a legendary fish that can only be caught once. I will put it in a fish tank soon, once I’ve made room for it. A couple of days ago, I gave birth to a son, Orwell. I named him such because his father, Elliott, seems to be an Orwell fan. If the player tells Elliott their favorite genre is science fiction earlier in the game,his debut novel will be Rise of the Planet Yazzo, which gave me Orwellian vibes (only excerpts of the book are in the game when he reads it at the launch party). I’m actually not too familiar with Orwell, but the fact that the name also means “the branch of the river” and Elliott happens to be a nautical devotee also clinched it for me. Orwell’s older sister is Elowyn, after a character in a play I wrote in college (and it also happens to have the same first syllable as her dad’s; there’s some etymology significance too but I took the class a while ago).

As much as I love the game, having children in Stardew is rather dull. They walk or crawl around and look at you. Your spouse will sometimes say they are pregnant, or that you are pregnant, or the adoption paperwork was filled out if you are a same-sex couple, but nothing else changes. I’d thought my character was just a couple pixels bigger when I was pregnant, but I’m probably wrong or it’s too subtle to really make a difference. Well, one thing that’s nice in the latest update of the game is that your children can now attend town festivals once they can walk. They still don’t have dialogue, interests, or actions, but hey, now Leah the sculptor and Gus the bartender know we have kids instead of having them be cooped up in the farmhouse all year long…with only the dog and livestock as babysitters..

Back to the grind

Hello everyone. I’m often unsure what to post here, but sometimes simple diary entries can reinvigorate creative muscles. Anyway, I am job searching again, and I’d forgotten how arduous it is. In addition to regular roles, I sometimes look for calls to pitch, writing contests, or freelance opportunities. Sometimes these calls are vague, which is frustrating. Maybe they are vague because I am out of practice. I can’t really synthesize an idea when an editor just wants a pitch about “feminism” or something. There’s so many angles I could take. You’re often encouraged to look at a publication’s back log of work to craft a better approach, but some just have such bountiful back log, and every publication morphs over time, so often it’s hard to pinpoint an angle.

I guess since losing my job I’ve been going through a lot of languishing. I lack direction sometimes, and I often question my own ideas. It was easier when I’d be assigned essays so I couldn’t back out of them. I’d need a grade, or just crave a presence among these established collectives in extracurricular writing. I pray I can achieve the fortitude to follow through more. I was very blessed to have a contract job for the last ten months, and while it ended prematurely, I’m still very grateful to have been there and leave in the good graces of my superiors and colleagues, with their support to assist me in my continued career.

I see myself a lot in the characters of the game Stardew Valley, a very popular independent game which I’d begun playing in 2018. For the unaware, it’s primarily a farming simulation with social focus towards its non-playable characters. Many of these characters face setbacks in their creative ambitions. Sebastian is a computer programmer, his sister Maru is a nurse whose aspiration is inventing, Emily is a barmaid whose aspiration is fashion, her sister Haley is a photographer, Sam is a janitor whose aspiration is music, Leah is an artist with an ex-girlfriend who holds her back, Penny is a teacher who must create lesson plans with limited resources, and then there’s Elliott.

Elliott is a novelist. He lives by the beach in a small cabin. He mentions how neighbors in his hometown discouraged his dream. Pride and notoriety from his work are his motivations, wealth less so. He’s content living in a former bait and tackle shed he rents from the local fisherman, Willy. Penny and Elliott seem to have ambitions that most mirror mine, and thus, I’ve married them in separate game files. Lately though, I seem to prefer Elliott. I like to educate in my work, I’ve been a tutor like Penny, but sometimes the school year, children’s ages, or simple resources can be limiting. In your mind’s eye of the literary world, the utilities are boundless.

I guess I’m trying to let some of these characters’ stories inspire me. Especially Elliott’s book launch party, held in the same library where Penny conducts her lessons. He has the player pick the genre of book he will write, and dedicates it to you. His success is moderate, but he’s flattered nonetheless. I need to be more like that, grateful for the small wins.

The responsibility of editors as public health validators

Many know me as a writer. However, most of my work is voluntary or academic. As such, I seek to broaden my professionalism through email newsletters, who often alert me of calls to pitch, contests, fellowships, or grants.

One of my subscriptions is to Freedom with Writing. I enjoy this letter and have gotten a lot of inspiration and use of it. However, there was a very troubling curation in a recent blog post, seen here: https://www.freedomwithwriting.com/freedom/uncategorized/30-calls-for-pitches-directly-from-editors-4/

My problem lies deep into the post, in this entry:

CafeMom is a website for mothers and mothers-to-be. Their managing editor has tweeted, “Look for a writer who is pro-vaccine in general, but is hesitant or flat-out not getting their kid the Covid shot, to do an essay for CafeMom. It is small, 500 words-ish or under, $75 op-ed essay.” If interested, email lauren.gordon@wildskymedia.com. Read their managing editor’s Tweet here and contact them here.

Yes, this editor *wants* to read stories about parents who refuse to vaccinate their own children. Granted, there may be very slim occasions where children truly cannot be vaccinated, but those are incredibly rare. While I’m not a parent, my stand is still valid. Children are a part of my society and they do not exist in a vacuum. Additionally, I’m an older sister, former tutor and former contact tracer. Thus, I’m still very concerned for the health of people who are still in their formative years.

I’m disappointed in Freedom with Writing in that they would enable writers who espouse such ridiculous views to share and disseminate misleading narratives like the one Ms. Gordon proposes. I do thank Freedom with Writing, however, for sharing CafeMom’s contact page, to which I made an editorial complaint:

I am very perturbed that one of your editors is soliciting essays which enable parents to make poor decisions for their children.  I’m referring to Lauren Gordon, who tweeted this: https://twitter.com/laurengordon88/status/1458091714212777996. Children are people, not possessions. I believe in the protection of people. While there may be very slim cases where a child cannot get the Covid vaccination, multiple trials have seen that the vaccination is safe for the vast majority. Please stop stoking unneeded fear into parents’ hearts.  As a former contact tracer, I’ve seen too many situations where a child’s infection creates more infection, not to mention poverty, confusion, and hunger. The virus has mutated and pediatric infections are no longer vastly mild. Additionally, many underlying conditions are at its most severe in the pediatric stages, such as asthma and diabetes, and their interference makes vaccinations even more important. If you are faithful as I am, please see this to know the equivalency of what’s at stake: https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/persuading-anti-vaxxers I sincerely persuade you to reevaluate Ms. Gordon’s role at CafeMom and Wild Sky Media, and consider what factors led such a ridiculous prompt to be greenlit by her superiors.

To my fellow freelance writers, please never forgo your morals to get published.

News media: please stop telling people to start Christmas shopping now.

We don’t need the reminder. Who cares about the supply chain backlog? We can make do with what *does* arrive, as faithful, moral people ought to do.

During the final quarter of the year last year, the narrative was support local businesses. While I recognize even local businesses are having supply chain issues, maybe consider finding retailers that are even more local. Wood, metals, plastics, foods, and all materials made within a 100-mile radius of your residence. Sold from a warehouse or storefront around the same.

The big brands are not necessarily the best brands. Nor are big brands who pretend to be small to fake authenticity. Big box stores and department stores, I curse you for issuing Black Friday previews now. Market demand is good, but not when your workforce is a skeleton crew of the mealiest variety. Especially when you represent a brand that used to stand for the common people. People who stand for practicality and quality. You’ve inherited an intense brand loyalty that cannot be sated because you’ve put your own storefronts up for sale and will make bank whether the retailer lives or dies. You are both the jury and executioner.

Circulating new goods just forebodes more climate disaster. Just thrift or hand-me-down.

In all, please stop harnessing a sense of urgency in something so small as materials. Climate, disease, and labor ethics…That’s what’s urgent.

That time SpongeBob threw a dig at a competing network, only not really

So I have a longer post about SpongeBob in the pipeline, but that’s still in development. Anyway, I just remembered this scene my siblings and I always thought was a fourth wall break or metacognitive brag.

Season 3, Episode 53a, titled “New Student Starfish,” follows SpongeBob and Patrick at a day in boating school. Initially, Patrick was eager to go jellyfishing, but SpongeBob had to attend class. Patrick is upset, so SpongeBob decides to allow Patrick to shadow him for the day at school. Mrs. Puff greets Patrick when they arrive and encourages him to introduce himself to the class, Nervously, he blurts “twenty-four!” The class laughs, but the lesson quickly resumes. SpongeBob, meanwhile, is still amused, and retorts to Patrick in a mock-whisper. “Hey, Patrick. I just thought of something even funnier than twenty-four…. Twenty-five!” Patrick, who’d already been snickering at his pride for his funny remark, then laughs harder, and SpongeBob follows.

I’m sure everyone is familiar with the scene, but I wanted to explain why I thought there was another layer to this joke. Twenty-four is pretty random for Patrick (although in a deleted scene this isn’t quite so, his eyes wandered around the class when he saw the page in the daily calendar was turned to 24). The other students laugh for their own reasons. Probably as background characters, they don’t give much thought of how they fit into this narrative. SpongeBob, however, does. He’s the titular character and wants to ascertain his dominance. In some metacognitive, denting-the-fourth-wall kind of way, I felt he knew 24 was the number combo used to select Disney Channel on our television remote. Of course, he too, still laughed at 24, because some Disney Channels shows are decent. He is a friendly competitor. However, he had to literally one-up this. He had to bring in a number that was better, funnier, and had more program selection. Thus, 25. But what is 25? Why, it’s the number combo used to select Nickelodeon on our TV remote!

I thought this joke was a shot at Disney Channel, how it’s comfortable and gives sizable amusement, but Nickelodeon outlasts this.

But as I got older, I realized the writing crew would never really do this purposely. When the episode was released, and increasingly more so today, the TV channel numbers vary widely. Disney Channel and Nick might have been 24 and 25, respectively, in my household, but they could have been 39 and 42 at my friend’s house only a few blocks away. They are programming details; writers don’t give them much mind. I don’t even know how vast my particular channel numbers spanned, but I know it wasn’t very much. I don’t think this joke was written specifically for viewers in this tiny suburb just south of Boston. Not to mention in this suburb with our particular cable package, providers, wiring, brand, or whatever other variables.

Still, at the same time, I like to think the hidden meaning was written just for us. This little coincidence made me think we were acknowledged.

Tribute to a beloved local business owner, John Magraw

In fall 2017, I was taking a course on journalism/new media and assigned to do a profile on a local business or attraction. Focus was especially given to places that had just opened, celebrated an anniversary, or preparing to close. I chose Unchained Pizza, a local takeout restaurant in my city that had reopened after shuttering for two years after severe snowfall collapsed their roof. I was fortunate enough to speak with John T. Magraw, the owner and general manager of the store. He was very kind and friendly to my family as well. I really appreciate people like him who are willing to speak with student journalists, despite the fact that many of these pieces we write are for the eyes of our professors, their teaching assistants, or classmates. Thus, articles like these are for very selective audiences and do not generate as much press (and therefore, consumers) as an interview with a big publication. Nonetheless, John treated this interview with much of the same respect as seasoned reporters from The Patriot Ledger or Boston Globe. Sadly, John passed away suddenly a few weeks ago, and I’m sharing this assignment in tribute to him. His establishment has remained closed since its owner’s demise, and its continuance is still in negotiation and undetermined. I hope John’s dream can be continued with the same panache and charm as what he brought to it. But more importantly, I pray for the solace of John Magraw’s family, friends, and colleagues. My words now or those from four years ago cannot change any outcomes, but I hope they show the world how he’d molded my own aspirations as well as his own. ~SD

Unchained Pizza Profile: Interview w/ John T. Magraw. October 4, 2017

Though the final days of summer loomed, the communities of West Quincy, Wollaston, East Milton and surrounding areas nonetheless found something triumphant as daylight hours dwindled—Unchained Pizza, a neighborhood cornerstone since 2010, had finally reopened.

The restaurant, located at 550 Adams Street in the West Quincy strip mall Adams Plaza, had been shuttered for two years after a top-heavy snow pile on the roof left the location unsafe for business in February 2015. The collapse additionally affected other businesses in the plaza, such as Dunkin’ Donuts, next door to Unchained to its left, and the UPS Store, adjacent on its right. The section was ultimately demolished and rebuilt, however, the section containing the plaza’s two other tenants, In Sync Center of the Arts and Walgreen’s, was saved with little need for renovations.

In the meantime, Walgreen’s customers were encouraged to visit their location on 418 Quincy Avenue in South Quincy. Those who desired a trip to Dunkin’ Donuts were directed towards the 545 Adams Street location in East Milton Square. Though it was not the only vendor who directed its patrons towards such area—the East Milton Post Office at 499 Adams Street provided UPS service to those who usually would have gotten it at Adams Plaza.

Though a majority of damage was composed toward the UPS location, Unchained was the last of the tenants to reopen after the snowfall. Walgreen’s and the In-Sync Center of the Arts reopened within a few months, with Dunkin’ Donuts returning shortly thereafter, coupled with the UPS store. John Magraw, owner of Unchained Pizza, suspects that notoriety of his neighbors provided swifter accommodations.

 “I feel a place like Dunkin’ Donuts, as a large chain, has a bit more pull and sway to reopen as opposed to a local pizza shop,” he said in a recent phone interview. He additionally noted that construction was done on an individual, store-by-store basis. He further cites insurance claims as an obstacle.

Eventually, progress prevailed after a year and a half. While Unchained still remained unable to utilize its Adams Street location, Magraw applied for a permit to open an alternate site on Morrissey Boulevard in Dorchester. The alternate location opened up in September 2016.

Additionally, frequenters were encouraged to sign up for the restaurant’s email newsletter. Once done, they were invited to VIP grand opening party at the new restaurant.

Though the approximate six-mile drive seemed burdensome for Quincy locals who are situated a few blocks away from Adams Plaza, “any port in the storm” seems an appropriate attitude for a community on the bay.

“People were going the Dorchester location until the Quincy one opened,” Magraw recalled. Indeed, community loyalty remains extraordinarily pronounced. The crowded dinner rush is noted, even as early as 5pm on a weekday.

Though pizza is the restaurant’s titular dish, other fare is quite prominent. Aidan DeBonis, a 16-year-old junior at Quincy High School, is especially keen on the macaroni and cheese bites.

“They’re so crispy, cheesy, and good,” he said.

Aidan’s father, Paul, works as a customer service agent at the MBTA. When he is positioned at any of the Quincy stations, he occasionally visits Unchained for lunch.

“I really like the salads there,” Paul said. “The chicken taco one especially. The chipotle ranch dressing is a nice touch.”

His daughters, Nora, 20, and Sheila, 21, are enthusiastic about trying every specialty pizza at its introduction. One of their favorites is the baja chicken, complete with chicken, bacon, and onions, garnished with a drizzle of barbeque sauce and chipotle dressing.

Their mother, Eileen Lawlor, is more simplistic. “I think a pizza should taste like a pizza,” she said. By this, she means the marinara and cheese should not be overpowered by other things.If given a choice between any specialty, she opts for the Margharita. Otherwise, single-topping is much more desired, with mushroom being her favorite.

Additionally, due to the success the restaurant had achieved during the five years prior to its hiatus, the definition of community became increasingly broad. Testimonials accumulated far and wide.

“We miss our favorite pizza place even though you don’t deliver to Hough’s Neck,” wrote Shirley B., a customer who resides in the southeast peninsula of the city, during the restaurant’s prolonged closure. “It’s worth the car trip for pick up. Hurry back.”

Though their customer base does not only span within the opposite ends of the city. The user locations of Yelp reviews alone provide some insight. A few hail from Boston, Brookline, Elmwood, Medford, Hingham, and Bridgewater. Though this list does not consider the reviews coming from out of state, such as Rochester, NY; Pasadena, CA; Medford, OR; or Pawtucket, RI. One visitor was even from Canada.

The owner notes a warm embrace from his usual customers despite the obstacles. One would never suspect the restaurant had been out of commission for so long.

“My biggest takeaway from all of this is that business has picked up again really quickly with little to no marketing,” Magraw said. After a brief of pause to consider, he reveals an admission. “Well, I suppose social media and word-of-mouth contributed, but that’s really it.”

Though business has restarted thus far with little official commemoration, there will eventually be a ribbon cutting, planned with assistance by the Quincy Chamber of Commerce. Further, the restaurant requires one last grill installation, which is currently in process.

“As of now, we’re really trying to master what we’ve got going on and focus on the necessities,” Magraw asserted.

Unchained Pizza is located along the Furnace Brook, at the corner of Adams Street and Alrick Road. For further information, visit unchainedpizza.com.

You are never too fortunate to ask for emotional help.

I dedicate this to anyone who thinks their wealth, health, or success negates them from seeking counsel or psychotherapy.

Maybe you live or originate in developing land. Many areas are stricken with poverty or conflict. You, however, are wealthy. You come from wealthy elders, and are able to travel, maybe even outside your origins. You are educated, and see beyond dated tradition. You may still be faithful, but added nuances like procreation, diets, lifestyle, or appearance aren’t imperative to being such. Likewise, you are still aware of the strife that surrounds you, and while you haven’t experienced it, your friends and neighbors may have had to deal with it. You are sorry for them, and do sometimes worry about this. Maybe you even had a brush of misfortune. The family business almost had to be sold, you almost had to go into foster care, you were nearly hit by an explosive, you had a pregnancy scare, you were betrothed to a wealthy, untoward acquaintance, but you were lucky and got out of it.

Still, even though it didn’t happen to you, or even though it happened to someone else near you, it still hurts. You still deserve counselling, empathy, and solace. Please don’t think you’re too rich, too wealthy, too successful, too able, or too non-marginalized for therapy. You still deserve contentedness and love.

Hi

I miss you. Still do. Always will. Would be easier if I didn’t, and we both know it. But here we are.

I still wish you the best, and I hope you do the same for me. Hope we can reconnect one day. Whenever that day may be. But work on yourself. I won’t be in your way now.

Don’t be afraid of how we left things. I was hurt by you, but I hold no grudge for it. I did apologize for what I’ve done several times. I know you accepted, but my actions still haunt and upset you. But don’t let that cloud your perception of me and all the good memories we shared.

I still love you and I support you.

Interviewing employees from struggling, bankrupt, or defunct retail companies

As I may have written about here, I worked in a struggling department store within the last two years, and when applying for other jobs, prospective employers would often get distracted by my company’s name and the recent turmoil it had endured.

I’m working on an article that will be featured on Medium about what I wish employers knew when interacting with employees of our background and connections, and how they can make us more comfortable opening up about our skills. In short, using my perspective, I want to help people be better bosses, leaders, and recruiters instead of overwhelming us with complaints or perspectives we’ll all heard before.

Does anyone have any advice about stuff I should mention? Also, please get in touch if you’d like to be interviewed. I am also going to tag some companies which I will have in mind as I write this.