Monday, September 22, 2014


We need more income but the idea of creating a resume and hunting for a job is daunting. I've been retired for almost five years and the thought of reentering a situation I was profoundly relieved to exit would take more than adjustment. Managing the inside and outside of our home, being my husbands promoter, helper, and agent, in addition to bill payer and account manager keeps me occupied with little spare time. What would I put in a resume? I've forgotten many of the dates and the names of old bosses except for the last one. In that last job my title was Retail Sales, but that was only a small part of what the job entailed. Thinking back, I realize that an ordinary resume would leave out most of the meaningful details about jobs I've had. Here is how I would like to write a resume:


This job involved creating a website, doing all the photographs for said website, dealing with any telephone or computer technical issues, or any technical issues for that matter including correspondence, cleaning and decorating the shop, dealing with sometimes difficult customers, taking inventory piece by piece every January and occasionally ushering wildlife out of the shop: this included pigeons, other small birds, bats, squirrels, prairie dogs, pan handlers and intoxicated humans.

In addition it was my job to do most of the packing and shipping. I became very good at packing extremely delicate items such as $1600 dollar kachina dolls and equally expensive storytellers by famous artists. When I first started this job I trembled at the idea of taking a $3,000 pot by some famous native potter off the shelf for a customer to examine and yet before long I gave it no thought. The pots, kachinas and storytellers became fellow employees. I often did repairs on some of these very expensive items. Oh yes, there were also various crises to deal with such as a flooded basement when the pipes froze, or a leaking roof when my employers were out of town. The worst detail was probably coping with a rotten elk skull. Some guy sold it to my boss. It looked great with a huge rack. Right after buying it my boss went on a hunting trip with his brother in law, but the brains hadn't been removed and before long a terrible stench blasted anyone who walked through the door. My bosses wife, and the other woman who worked there refused to get near it so of course it became my job to clean it up, sanitize it and then cover it with a plastic bag until the boss came back.

Later on, I also drove my boss to Albuquerque for medical appointments after he became too ill to drive. His wife and co-owner of the shop refused to drive out of town. Sometimes I drove for her when she went on buying trips to Gallup, as well. Oh yea, I just remembered that I also changed the florescent light bulbs because no one else would climb the ladder. I became very knowledgeable about Pueblo pottery, Hopi kachinas, Navajo rugs, Zuni fetishes, Navajo, Zuni and Hopi jewelry and could identify which mine a piece of turquoise came from and most other stones as well. Sorry to say, I've forgotten a lot of this knowledge in only five years. Only in the last two years did I actually make enough money to cover all my living expenses. Once in awhile I sold a painting and otherwise I had to ask for help from my folks.

I was in this job for 16 years, broken once by a few months of work in a bookstore and one summer working on commission in a gallery in the old county jail, the one used in the movie Easy Rider.

Then there was that time between jobs during my first tumultuous year in Taos when I filled in two hours a day at Red Willow Beads so the other two employees could go to lunch and run errands. I had been doing Native American beadwork in Denver before moving to Taos and this place was heaven. They had everything in every size and color and also all the special needles, threads, wax and leather for genuine Native beadwork. It's sad that this shop no longer exists. I suppose the alternative is to go online or make a trip to Santa Fe.


These activities overlapped with several conventional jobs and were also practiced between conventional jobs. I got pretty good at these skills and I practiced with a philosophy influenced by Chuang Tsu, Carl Jung, Carlos Castaneda, Arnold Mindell, Existential Psychology and various ancient masters of esoteric philosophy. This was very educational as far as learning about human nature. I met many interesting people, a few dangerous people and a few that wanted someone else to take responsibility for their lives. When I moved to Taos I put many interests on hold and pursued survival. However, I'm considering brushing up on some of these skills gone rusty if only for my own satisfaction.


Thinking back to my days at the Tattered Cover bookstore in Denver, I remember that this job also involved much more than selling books. Only occasionally did I handle a final transaction involving money. In each department there was a desk where several of us worked. Our job was basically customer service. Of course we shelved new books, books that customers had browsed, and took books off the shelves if they had been there too long. We took orders over the phone and advised people who were looking for a particular topic. We had to be aware of what was new and what was good in the categories we covered, and sometimes in the categories next to ours. On the second floor where I worked, we had history, architecture, electronics, religion, psychology, philosophy, anthropology, health, new age, nature and animals. It wasn't required but nevertheless expected that we would know something about the other departments as well. Those of us in this pod found ourselves frequently helping people do research for a dissertation, or authors research what they needed for a new book. Here again a lot of knowledge was required for a small paycheck. I didn't resent it because I too learned a lot. But after awhile, it became too routine. The parts of the job I liked the best were only incidents that happened occasionally. I loved the crisis situations, or the multitasking that came with Black Friday or a few days before Christmas. Because my coworkers knew I had an interest in psychology and spirituality, if someone was having a meltdown in one of these departments or was acting hostile and threatening they asked me to do some intervention. Also, I loved helping people find something that would make a difference, or introduce them to something they may not have been aware of. Three typical crisis situations, yes, sometimes there are crisis in a bookstore, were the time a fundamentalist Christian was outraged that the Christian books were near the New Age Books, or a very diluted Cherokee woman assembled a hostile group outside the store to protest that we put the books on native spirituality in the Native American section rather than the religious section, and the angry Muslim that demanded to know why we had a much larger Christian and Jewish section than Muslim section. In each case I had to explain that it was a bookstore rather than a library, and we placed books where people interested in a particular subject were likely to browse. In the case of the outraged Muslim, we merely asked him to give us a list of books he thought Muslim customers would be likely to buy.

Lots of characters visited this bookstore as well. Among them I remember Snake Man with snake tattoos on his arms who ordered everything he could find about snakes and kept us updated about his serpents at home. Then there was the blind lady with the wolf seeing eye dog. She said it was the third one she'd had. It was a beautiful wolf and seemed easy going, but one day she called and wanted to know what she should do because her wolf was trying to get into the hamster’s cage. People seemed to think we should know everything about everything and even replace common sense.

This job lasted five years and ended when I moved to Taos.


Craig was the friend of a friend. He wanted somebody who could do girl Friday things. He was a former covert service marine and ex-Mormon who came from a prominent pioneer Mormon family. He was fascinated with the occult and contemporary witchcraft. He was also brilliant while being both cynical and naive. He was probably the first geek I knew. He always had the latest in computer equipment and made copies of everything. His apartment was filled to the brim with recorded data and he also published several monthly metaphysical news letters. He didn't need to make a living but preferred to have at least one real job. He had a franchise with a computer chip manufacturer, but this was all pre-internet days. We had a mutual friend who was an Italian Stregga, an ancient pagan tradition dating back to pre-Roman times. His name was Joe Scott (originally Giuseppe Michanelli). He had been captured on an Italian submarine by Americans in WWII. He changed sides and became Joe Scott. He was the most truly psychic person I've ever known. Joe was nevertheless unlucky at love and had a bad heart. After his last divorce he decided he'd had enough, sold his entire library of herbal, magic and pagan philosophy to Craig and then died of a heart attack. I made a database cataloging hundreds of his books and had free access to any I wanted to read. I wonder what happened to his collection of Pavarotti tapes?


I honestly don't remember how long I worked for Craig, but I think it was possibly three years. Before that I worked briefly for an independent publisher who worked out of his basement. The job was a little bit of this and that including data entry, printing, assembling brochures, advertizing notepads for realters, and calendars. This was good experience but my boss was a stern, perfectionistic, self sacrificing born again Christian who imposed sacrifice on his entire family who were living on generic everything. After my childhood experience with that mentality my tolerance was very low. I remember driving 20 miles to work in my 66 Plymouth Valiant. The heater didn't work and it was an especially cold winter. After a two week stint of minus 10 degrees, as soon as it broke to 10 above people were walking outside in their shirt sleeves. My mom found this job pinned on a clipboard in the Baptist Seminary. I needed a job and took it against my screaming negative gut feeling. I was desperate.


After I quit ARCO I enrolled in the Boulder Institute of Trans-personal Psychology. From the computer room, after the morning smog lifted I would look out the 36th floor west toward the Boulder Flatirons and wonder why it seemed so impossible to get those forty miles from corporate Denver to a place where my kind of people lived and opposite values prevailed. The ecological, metaphysical and holistic health capital of the west was only thirty miles away and I could only touch it on weekends. After ARCO began closing its Denver office I decided to go for it. For awhile I was in heaven. I was surrounded by people who shared my dreams and were actually making a living out of those dreams. But alas I soon ran out of money and the school was overloaded with leaders who began to clash with each other. Before long we all fell from heaven.


This was my most out of character job and the only one that actually paid enough to live on, even offered health insurance and paid vacation. I no longer remember my job title. I started as a temp at the reception desk. I did my best to seem efficient and reliable and it paid off when they offered me a full time job in the office without requiring previous background history. I always felt a bit guilty because I didn't give a damn about the oil business, but this was right at the beginning of an oil boom in Denver and it was a good way to become independent. My job included many different tasks. Sorting and distributing well production reports from the various locations to people in charge of those locations was one task. Another was entering the production data for each well into the computer system. Since I had to be at work by 7:30 in the morning and I've always been a night owl, I did this task as soon as I got to work before I was fully awake. That way I could just type rapidly and semi-consciously and didn't make mistakes the way I did after I was fully conscious. This is when I learned to drink strong coffee as well. I also, did payrolls for the Denver office and tended the fax machine which was much more complicated back then. A couple times they sent me to Dallas/Plano for computer classes. This was lots of fun. I got to stay in a fancy hotel and eat at fine restaurants. Although I made some friends, I always felt like a misfit in this world. However, I walked the 16 blocks to work every day in all weather and that was my meditation time. Sometimes arriving at work with absolutely no memory of what happened between home and work. ARCO's offices were on the 36th floor of one of the first sky scrapers in Denver. During that period of time Denver was trying to become the New York of the west and they were building high rises faster than they could fill them.


Before ARCO there were various temporary and fill in jobs, many not worthy of remembering but two or three stand out.

While working at ARCO I volunteered to do a newsletter for the local chapter of the AHP (Association for Humanistic Psychology). In the process, I learned to do real cut and paste long before Microsoft Publisher. It was challenging because everything had to be scaled to exactly the same proportion so that it could be reduced to an 8-1/2 X 11 format to be folded in thirds. Math was never my thing, and practical application is the only way I've ever learned. This sideline quickly got out of hand because I ended up writing it, doing the photos and graphic design, laying it out, publishing and finally delivering the presorted bundles to the main post office downtown. A year of this was all I managed to survive.

The library at Red Rocks Community College in Golden Colorado. For a time this community college was my social world. It was the first school I attended ten years after dropping out of high school and the place I met some very memorable people. I loved the diversity: fifty year old cops, hippies, ex-miners, young people that wanted to skip the last year of high school and get college credits, divorcees looking for career training to make a living and lots of Viet Nam vets. The instructors were not ordinary either. Most of them were worth a novel. I dated one for awhile. And that's where I met my friend Gino a charismatic ex-Italian restaurant owner who looked like a mafia Don, loved to spar with me intellectually, council me when my heart was broken and generally hang out. Hei loved to shock the other students with his intellectual brilliance and radical humanistic politics, something they weren't expecting from the graying Don.
Next was Baur's Cafeteria on 17th street in Denver. Seventeenth Street is the financial district. Our customers came here for breakfast, coffee break and lunch. This is where I learned to multi-task. The most interesting part of this job was the people I met and worked with. My boss was German in the worst way. Only the Polish line server and Italian checkout clerk could deal with her effectively. The rest of us were intimidated. I quit after a year because I wasn't making enough money to rent my own apartment. I did get some furniture that I still have when Baur's closed one of their restaurants and gave employees a good deal on tables and chairs. By the way, the food was far superior to most cafeterias.

I worked with my Grandma Kate cooking for a women's sorority at the University of Denver. It was a bit strange because the girls were my age. Nevertheless it was fun because I loved to cook and the girls enjoyed it when I took my imagination beyond the school menu. By then I was an accomplished cook and experimented with confidence, alas, I lacked this confidence in other parts of my life. In the summers my Grandma and I made a little extra cash cleaning the dorms. I liked cooking better.


I know how to mix cement, apply roofing, raise a vegetable garden, prune fruit trees, grow a flower garden, make chokecherry jelly, really good chili, pies and cakes of all kinds, in fact any kind of baking. If chef schools were as available then as they are now I'm sure this whole story would be less complicated. I used to make all my own clothes, even learned to make blue jeans but decided it wasn't worth the trouble. They aren't that expensive. I began by making two authentic 1860 style dresses that involved yards and yards of fabric and decorative ribbons for my mom to wear at work during the Denver Centennial. I was only 15 and was determined to learn sewing after failing a sewing class in school. In fact I set out to prove that I could teach myself to do everything better and faster than in school.

Much later while taking ballet classes I took the challenge of creating costumes for my instructor for a professional performance. I volunteered but had no knowledge of how I was going to pull it off. After some research into period styles and requirements for dance costumes (the arms and legs have to be designed to enable a dancer to extend in all directions without making the costume move awkwardly or tear. It turned out very well, much to my relief and my instructor never knew that I was a total amateur.


I have drawn and painted since early childhood. Most of the time I had to hide it. Art was considered self indulgent trivia both at home and at school. I generally had a drawing pad inside whatever book I was supposed to be reading and composed stories in my head to go with the drawings. Mom didn't encourage my interest in art but she did tell me about primary colors and how to mix them to make all the other colors. That turned out to be the open gate to a magic world. During my time as a drop out hermit I became fascinated with tie dye. Not the hippie style but Indonesian and African patterns with multi-layered geometric designs. I love tie dye because it is partly plan and partly accident depending on the type of fabric and dye.


As a child I didn't like humans as a species although I liked certain individuals. However, I loved animals completely. We were on an equal level. I also studied animals and discovered pretty much the same motives as humans but without pretense and thus easier to live with. My earliest ambition was to raise and train horses. I read books on training, feeding and even doctoring common problems. I spent summers with my cousin in the country and we cared for and played with horses every day. But that dream faded bit by bit because I actually lived in the city. Later I educated myself about dogs, the various breeds and training. I practiced obedience training on Willy our sweet long suffering Cocker Spaniel in his elder years and later on Joker, our black Lab. After I gave up on being a dancer, I was most interested in becoming a veterinarian. However, I often dreamed of rescuing cats. They seemed to be in the same situation that I found myself. Dad didn't like them, and no one was particularly interested in what happened to them. Also they lived two lives, the one we saw and a secret one.

I need to augment income but it should be in a way that grows who I am now rather than diminishing it. Something I could do at home or anywhere else would be the right fit. This exercise was very revealing. I recognize my native astrological layout all along the way. Writing one's bio-resume is a good exercise for anyone like me who draws a blank when someone asks, “what have you done, and what can you do”.

P.S. One of my friends just reminded me that I also did websites a few years ago. I learned HTML and, CSS, and although I don't know Java Script or PHP, I knew how to imbed and customize cut and paste pre-designed scripts. Web design has become very specialized and I don't want to dedicate enough of my remaining years to it in order to become a certified geek. I think I might have time this winter to become more familiar with Wordpress and/or Joomla.

There are probably a few other things I forgot. Maybe I'll update this blog as my memory awakens.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


There are two sides to a fence, the side you are on and the other side. But, fences can define the quality of space as well. Sometimes we want to be on the other side because the grass looks greener, or we imagine being free of the place we are in, and sometimes we want protection from what might be on the other side.

I fancy the rough cut Latilla fence surrounding our yard. It is made of aspen poles now attractively pealing and graying with age. This fence is more than a definition of territorial boundaries.  It is a magic border between realities. On the other sides north, south and east are the territories of our next-door neighbors. They and we appreciate these delineations. On the open west side is a cul-de-sac and the asphalt trail out of this small neighborhood into the greater world.

George the cat is now lying under the large Chamisa bush guarding the northeast fence corner of our designated sector in this cluster of homes know by the inspired realtor name, Chamisa Mesa. Chamisa means weed in Spanish but that is a derogatory title for various hardy plant species that have the audacity to fight successfully against human takeover.  I’m no exception; I too fight against ragweed and several other common species of filler plants holding the earth in place after humans bulldoze native plants such as Chamisa and sage. Around here, developers clear land for proposed building projects and then they abandon the naked earth for another five years, or so it seems. Quick to the rescue, Ragweed and Tumbleweed are our only defenders against the eastbound dust storms that would otherwise blow much of Taos County over the mountains into Oklahoma and Texas.
Curious George under the Chamisa bush.
Since aspen Latilla fences have cat sized gaps in various places along the bottom and make an excellent highway with a view from the top, they are freedom for cats while functioning as borders for humans and dogs. Our cat friends spend most of their time close to home but just on the other side of the latia fence. 

Adventure begins through one of three gaps at the bottom of the fence. These openings remind me of the magic wardrobe in C. S. Lewis’ Narnia stories. To the east, a thick mysterious jungle of tall weeds beckons to feline instincts. Our neighbor to the north has a green shade-covered oasis, and on the south is a yard full of large barking dogs. At night, beyond the perimeters of this story, in the wild world that awakens long after the chirping prairie dogs bed down, coyotes howl, and skunks silently and odiferously wander about.  These natives transcend fences altogether.

Fences make definitions and that is their power and danger. Identity and self-concept are mental fences. When I was a child, I used fences the way the cats do. Somehow, I lost the spirit of adventure, or more accurately, decided to stay inside the more groomed side of the fence in order to make a living the way cats agree to spend the night inside for the sake of a ready made meal.  I never made a very good living and always thought I would someday get back to my instinctive life, but didn’t know how to make that happen. Too often, I’ve slipped through the hole in a fence to find myself in an even smaller uglier place and horrified to discover the hole gone when I turned to find my way out. Magic is neutral. It works on all sides.
A field of purple Asters on the Rez this morning.

Nature triumphs in the end, and it isn’t natural to fence ourselves into very small spaces. I once inherited enough money to quit my last mind-numbing job. Of course, I knew it was freedom with a short rope (I think that is an oxymoron) since it wasn’t a fortune. It was my first taste of a life free of the challenge of stretching a Taos sized income all the way across a month.  Last year, I reluctantly agreed to do some limited photography and web updates for my old employer but couldn’t force myself to finish, although that was the only part of that old job that I once enjoyed. It actually made me sick. I think my retail days have passed.

Right now, I’m very busy just managing our everyday life. It is a different scene now that PQ and I are together plus his lung disease means that I do both the outdoor and indoor work. However, the garage is ready to use as a studio. PQ already finished two paintings and I plan to start painting again soon. Doing something creative unleashes the vortices of change. I sense that instead of winning a lottery, which would keep me comfortable in the same enclosure, I’m supposed to keep my eyes sharp for previously overlooked openings in the fence. The odds are much better.