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Sunday, July 1, 2012

Shawshank...All Over Again

Interesting design begins with interesting problems. That's my motto for a new redesign for an old apartment in NYC. Problem number one, the apartment complex management says you can "do nothing" to the apartment...interesting considering the apartment has been the same since...guessing here...1960-1970. Those dates remind me of a tombstone and it should, since everything original to the apartment is dead and in a state of decay. So what does nothing mean? No explanation from the staff... just "you can't do anything". So funny when I am sure that not many are living in such disarray, I could be wrong and maybe they are. Might make it a quest to see how many of the apartments I can view in Stuyversant Town, NYC.

Per management "No new appliances, no new cabinets or counter tops, nothing in the bath and no, you can not redo the floor". Well, that's about everything original that just plain paint won't fix. Finding the balance between beauty and bedlam, that's going to be the trick. How will I oust the old without them knowing? I have had visions of taking the kitchen cabinets out and breaking them into small pieces and getting rid of them in somewhat the same manner as Andy Dufresne did with his cell wall in Shawshank Redemption. As I considered this, the entire redo might be much like the movie itself.

Andy dropping his cell wall from a hole in his pocket.

Just like Red said during his narration of what he thought of Andy when he first laid eyes on him, It was the same thought I had of this kitchen, "I must admit, I didn't think much of the kitchen first time I laid eyes on it. Looked like a stiff breeze would blow it over." The next day as I was speaking to the management about what can be done, after just a minute into the conversation, I'm thinking to myself,  "How could you be so obtuse?"

Red also says, and I quote "I'm telling you, these walls are funny. First you hate them. Then you get used to them. Enough time passes, it gets so you depend on them. That's institutionalized". Institutionalized is exactly how this apartment is so fitting. But just as Andy felt, this apartment dweller wants freedom. Freedom to finally live outside of the Stuyversant institution. 

So, how do you go about getting around the prison walls of Stuy Town? It won't be as Brooks said in the movie: Easy peezy Japanisey. Nope, I'm thinking the same way Andy did it. Crawl to freedom through 960 sq feet of shit-smelling foulness I can't even imagine. I am sure this is what management would like to drag you through. But...even with all the confinement, I find I'm so excited I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. The start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I guess it comes down to a simple choice. Get busy living or get busy dying. I am going to redo this apartment so this apartment dweller is living and loves to come home to his freedom each day. I hope he has no memory of this apartment from the before. That's where I want him to live the rest of his life. A warm place with no memory of before (or during) this redo.

I am thinking blue, as in the Pacific as the dominant color for this redo and I hope it is as beautiful as it has been in my dreams.

Jo Ann

Thursday, June 14, 2012

ribbon or P.I.G.S. ?

ribbon or P.I.G.S. ?

Dreams come in all sizes and this one is only 400 square feet. I dream about this little spot everyday. I have had my eye on it and hope I get it! Just in the negotiations and getting the owner to love me. I want to open a new boutique all based on the number 3. I will be selling 3 things. Great dresses, beautifully designed accessories, and the perfect shoes to make one well pulled together, smart look that makes a girl feel like a  trillion dollars, (with inflation, a million dollars just isn't enough any more). Steve Jobs said that if you dream about it and  can't get it out of your head, DO IT. It's a risk I know, but one I am willing to take.

I would like 3 designers each season, promote them and the shop. I'm looking for ready to wear that is designed as art, not just another standard piece of clothing. I also want 3 jewelry designers that are perfect for these looks, with a little bit of edge. Then as the base to this, 3 great pairs of shoes that keeps it simple yet the perfect platform that sets this look on a pedestal. 

I am debating between 2 names but first let me tell you the location. East Village, NY NY.
9th street between Ave A and 1st Ave, the heart of my favorite area in the city. The first name I'm thinking of is "ribbon", soft and simplistic and yes I did look this up in the Urban Dictionary, that definition might offend some, but did not offend me, I get it. Here is the logo I'm thinking for this name.

The second name is P.I.G.S. (Pretty Important Girl Stuff). I have one of my paintings that I would like to use as the face of the branding for the boutique. This painting has always brought a smile to my face and has always been one of my favorites so why shouldn't I put it to work for me? I would put a great frame on it and hang it on the back wall. That is one happy pig.

I best be deciding... as I was writing this, they have approved my terms for the location! Please, If you read this, give me your vote!

Jo Ann

Friday, May 25, 2012

Design and Friendships

This mix of soft and industrial blending with nature and a wild side makes me smile.
My design style is very eclectic and so are my friendships. I love a great mix of cultures and styles and the way they enhance and offset each others colors and best features. Give me the hard industrial and soft traditional, mix in some wild ones, a touch of simple beauty with a bit of retro and antique and I am feeling right at home. I like what each does for the other and how they lean on one another and stand together as one grand scheme. I like the ease of adding to a grouping that is not so particular, and if I love it... then it can freely join the coterie of amazing friends and pieces that I have already collected. 

I will admit, it is the same, whether adding to my home or adding to my group of friends...I've made some mistakes. I have added to both in order to ameliorate a space I thought needed improvement and dang...the effect just wasn't what I was hoping for. Thinking at the time of purchase (or meeting) that this would  put the finishing touch on, but when set in the current commixture, it just doesn't rectify or enhance my current accommodations. You try to justify it and say to yourself  "it's working, isn't it?", but after a while you just know that it will never settle in and be just what you hoped for. 

Here comes the hard part, what do you do with it now? I usually put it away for awhile, not looking at it nor pay any attention to it until I have forgotten about it. I'll find it at a later date, after things have changed a bit and take it out and see if I found a brand new treasure or if it just didn't hold up during the incubation period. If it still offends and doesn't blend, it's got to go. Beautiful as it may have seemed at first, ya got to part ways with it. It hurts sometimes knowing the investment that went into it, but if you can't live with it, well don't keep pushing the issue. Keep the ones that make you smile each day. Ya know, the ones that seem to immerse right in with the things you lovingly collected, restored and were given to you from the heart with love and respect. I have found that this makes a most peaceful home and life. When these two things blend seamlessly, and I can smile at each and all with no prodding, I don't think things could be better if I won the lotto.

Jo Ann

And PS: I would certainly be remiss if I didn't add another part to all this. And that is the pieces and persons that you love, and will always love no matter what, that you no longer have due to age, accidents, simple changes or that you just didn't fit in their mix.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Home Sweet Home

So I have been in my new home about 4 months now. No, I have not found a full time job yet. Everything I read says they hire who they know. One of the articles I stumbled upon states that 90% of people hired, know someone at the company. So I decided not to fight it, stop complaining about it and get a move on. I started my own business and I am off and running. Last week I had a job in Chicago, a full week of work. It felt so good to be working long hours and I didn't much mind the 27 flights of stairs I had to  descend each evening. You wouldn't think that for someone who walks 4-6 miles each day and plays tennis would have a problem with this, but by the third day...I thought I might have to jump out the window instead of using the legs hurt that much. But the thrill of working an entire week was bigger than the pain in my legs, I was so happy!

Friday morning, when I woke up and started packing my luggage, I could not wait to get home. I missed home, my new home. When I landed at 11:50 pm Friday evening, I knew I had made the right decision. I was elated to see JFK airport, it was comforting to see the city on my ride home. I dropped off my luggage, and went back out to take a walk with my dog, smiles all around that my neighborhood was such a comfort. For all that is said about NYC, how crowded, loud, all the hustle and bustle...I found that it wraps itself around you and it feels cozy. All the things that some seem to complain about here, have become my solace. It finally hit me, I live here and this is home. I had missed my new friends and our get togethers at the corner pub. I missed their smiles and all the stories that they tell. I couldn't wait to see them again.

I have been documenting my move and experiences with my IPhone camera, nice pictures but I wanted more. This week, I finally bought the camera of my dreams...I had been wanting one for a long, long time, but more so since I've moved here. This city inspires, creativity at every corner as this shot proves. 

The first day I had it, I walked all day, documenting the city and all the things that make it home, getting to know my new camera and meeting new people and places along the way. 

What I was most drawn to capturing were the dogs that live here. Just as friendly as the city, and as different as each neighborhood I explored. Each one I met had a personality all their own, but all of them tolerant and easygoing (sure lady, take my picture if you will pet me for just a bit), letting me indulge my passion for capturing their adorable faces. I could see in each one, why they were so loved by their owners. 

This guy I met in the West Village...never looked away from the camera, stared right into the lens, and kept on staring when I walked away. Soft, sweet and mellow.

This one a resident of SOHO, right in the middle of all the media at a crime scene of a famous missing persons case. All the frenzy and the milieu caused by the police, FBI evidence response team, NYC crime scene investigators and detectives. All the TV stations and the public, trying to get a shot of the mayhem when the best shot was sitting right at their feet. I could not get enough of this one. Seemed as though he just wanted to take his shoes for a walk, now stuck sitting here waiting to go on his way, nothing here of interest to him.

And "Ginger Snap" lives in the East Village and was sitting outside Starbucks, patiently waiting to hit Thompksins Park. I can see my silhouette in her eyes, and hope that we get to have our picture taken together again sometime soon.

Jo Ann

Monday, March 26, 2012

Peace in Afganistan and the Middle East

Post Traumatic Distress Disorder

I don't know how anybody takes on this job. I myself could never do it. No amount of brainwashing, training, desensitizing could ever make it possible for me to do this. It takes all kinds to make this world go around and I am thankful for all of them. Here is what I don't understand.

I believe that this soldier had hit his limit. I can't understand it, but I believe that Sgt. Robert Bales cracked, he had been pushed and experienced too much war. Killing, death, wounded, friends killed, so called enemy killed, young children and women. This must be where the brainwashing comes in because I can not imagine this. I live in NYC and won't even go to ground zero and walk on the area where so much death occurred. I love seeing the new buildings rise from above all the surrounding buildings as I walk to the Wall Street area to take in the history of the city.

The Army admits that PTSD is a problem with soldiers admitting that 76,176 have been diagnosed so far since 2000. Some are treated and returned, others go home and cannot live with what they have experienced. I think it is a risk to play with an individuals psych, mind control, or whatever it is that is used to build a good soldier. I don't believe that it is treatable as some say. I think you live with it all your life and you hope to forget and never to revisit it as long as you can hold it off.

With all that said, why is it we continue to fight this type of war with people that have lived since birth with this kind of fighting, war, death and have been desensitized to suffering and the value of human life? We seem to call it PTSD when it is one of ours but we call the other side the enemy. I have to believe that these people have lived and experienced so much war that they are also suffering with PTSD and they do not receive treatment. What Robert Bales did is react in the exact same way that these people suffering from PTSD have been pushed, brainwashed and trained their entire life to do. I believe he became one of the extremest that we are fighting. What he did, should show us exactly who we are fighting and that we will become them if we continue to fight in this way. The more these people see family, children, women, friends suffering and death, the more they are desensitized to it all, and then they fight for a cause they feel is real, want retribution and think it will ease the pain of losing one of their own. 

I want us to get out and not fight a war that can not be won with guns. I don't want to add to the suffering of these people in these war torn, devastated regions. I think we need to fight it in another way. Not guns and death but deal with them as you do a child. When you can show us respect and that your government shows your own people respect, then we will talk to you. We will give you all the time and respect you need if you do the same. Otherwise, we cut off all communications and protect our own boarders from here. We show them that we are the peace keepers and do not and will not add to the suffering. With the money that we would save from not fighting the old war, we use it to build wind farms and solar energy. We get on the fast track with safe energy and making our cities, transportation more energy efficient. I believe that the Taliban extremist knows and takes credit for much of the financial problems of our country. They made that clear on 9/11. The more we throw money into this war, the farther this country goes into debt. The baby boomers are moving into retirement and the workforce is making less and we have less of them. We have no way out but to raise taxes. If you would like to raise my taxes to rebuild and make this country new with renewable energy, more efficient energy, cars, homes, electric, wind farms, better public transportation in all cities, you go for it. I say we make ourselves, this country, the place to look up to. We show by example that life can be rich and peaceful if you will finally address the suffering and problems within our own boarders. If you want to raise taxes to fight people and countries that can never see it our way and maybe never should, as long as we keep returning and shooting, I am not on board. I want these countries to want to be us, that is what their new generations should see. Not our country shooting at them. 

We are raising the most tech savvy generations that are the future of this country. If you really want to create jobs, get out of this war and use the money to hire these tech savvy, smart, peaceful generations and build a better place for us and all those that would like to join us then go ahead and raise my taxes. Make this country the standout and maybe we can stop creating more generations of children in these war regions that feel they need to fight to get back. A country that will help in a peaceful manner any suffering in other countries that can not get the help needed. I understand that they will fight each other, but sooner or later there will be a generation of these people that we have not shot at, they are going to see a country that all religions, races, and its people work together to make life and living the most prized asset. Let's start here with our education, resources, good old american know how and build a country that is living and building a grand future.  

This is possible if this county comes together, if we stop our fighting (don't even get me started on the bickering in this election). Republicans and Democrats both have great ideas, we have become a government of all or nothing. We need to practice what we preach and come together and stop with the bickering and petty bull@#^& and do what is right for this country and for world peace. Lets lead by example with peace.

Jo Ann

Friday, March 16, 2012

Selling What?

I have an idea for a little coffee shop that I think is really great. Me, I would frequent often. But how do you know if the masses will come? The saying goes, "Build it and they will come." How do you know that will happen? Peter Drucker wrote, "The customer rarely buys what the company thinks it sells them." He said that over 50 years ago but it still rings true today. When you think of it his way, you start thinking more about the end user and what is most important to them. How do you satisfy and make them want to come back?

I look around every time I enter a Starbucks. It is usually full of people and not a seat to be had. Each have a cup of something in front of them. The line is long, and I dislike lines, but half the time I will stand in it and wait for a mediocre cup of coffee, latte or chi tea. After the wait in the line, and I have my drink in hand, sometimes not even really hot and just a simply a cup of coffee or latte but nothing really special, but I paid 2 - 4 dollars for it, I look for a place to rest and hope I find one. What is the draw of this place? My analysis is... people are buying a seat. It is a place to sit and check the email, catch up, meet a friend, or just a place to take a rest after a long day of being on your feet. Maybe a place to kill time before going to work or a meeting. Sit and prepare for the meeting or finish off some work that you can't get done with all the interruptions in the office. So I'm thinking Starbucks sells a spot to pull it all together before you continue on, Starbucks really isn't selling coffee.  It has to be that...the coffee just isn't so superb that you would stand in line, get a luke warm latte, and drink it anyway, service is ok but not great in most I have been in. That Peter is so smart! Starbucks sells coffee but what the customer wants is a spot to take the load off. That is the success of the place. Do I see people walking out with a Venti in hand? I do, but these people are in a hurry, or couldn't find a seat. I think what they are buying is a legal stimulant. The excepted drug of our day. I have long said that coffee is no longer a beverage to me, it is just a drug, my fix at 2:00 in the afternoon when I need a pick me up to get me through the rest of the day. If this person is like me, it doesn't have to be Starbucks, if a Redbull is closer, well that will work too. Starbucks in NYC is like Chase Bank. Every couple of blocks, you'll find one. Easy to make a habit out of it.

Easy Living
So, back to my great idea. Coffee, tea, bakery and botanic. Air plant designer, artist, baker, cultivator of creativity and a delicious cup of coffee. Select bakery items each day, but in the morning... fabulous french toast. The old fashioned kind made with french baguette bread and soaked over night in the egg and cream. This can be enjoyed at the table or you can take them away as a "to go" item in small little wax paper bags, and enjoy on your walk to work. 

I have it in my mind that I must include air plants (tillandsia). These plants speak to me. Growing in the most unlikely places, not only surviving but thriving. The spanish moss that blows lazily on the trees of the south... I love how it looks on its chosen perch, looks easy and like it just put its feet up and landed in this spot for a rest. You may see another tillandsia growing from a crack in an old building, for no apparent reason, it loves and thrives in this spot just landed and planted itself. I'm impressed at the success of these plants and that they need so little. They are little sculptures of nature and you can dress them up or keep them just all natural, and all they ask is for light and a bit of water now and then. These I will also sell, either designed as a group, in a vessel or just one for your desk at work.

They say that every business plan for a new venture should start with just a couple sentences that explains exactly what your business is. It should be clear to your investors or banker exactly what you are selling and what your investment will be just by reading the first paragraph. My business plan will be one of these special little plants and it should be easy to see that I will be selling the lifestyle of this plant in your visit to my shop. Just drop in, plant yourself and shoot the breeze, get yourself all in check with a perfectly brewed hot cup of coffee in an atmosphere that is relaxing as being under your favorite shade tree.

Jo Ann

Friday, March 9, 2012

Positive Vibe

If these signs said, "I am looking for an opportunity to change your life and I have the ability to do just that" I think things would have turned out different on that day.

I have had some true life altering experiences. Some that I am so grateful that I was given the opportunity to be a part of. These are the memories that hold that special spot and you remember how happy you were and you tell yourself "how lucky am I".  I cherish each one of these. Then there are the times when all seems lost. Sitting in a situation that you never dreamed you would experience. These are also special and I have found, very beneficial to building stronger character if you have a positive vibe. Both of these types of  life's lessons are what makes me who I am. It's not what happens, but how I maneuver and pilot through each one.

Well, I am here to tell you, that a positive vibe will get you much farther than the defeated attitude. In times of distress and new challenges, you will receive exactly the vibe you put out. That has been my experience and I am continually reminded of it each day. I did lose my job and had never been out of work my entire life, not a single day. This was new territory for me, exactly what do you do when you get up each morning? How do you navigate the waters of unemployment? It's your choice, so do you stand on the side and skim rocks on the surface or do you build yourself one bad ass recovery boat? You can try to swim it, but it can be a long crossing and your instinct is going to be to keep looking backwards, and stress about how far out you are, then turn ahead and panic that you see no land in sight. Plus, you are going to find that their is no lifeguard on duty. 

I decided to build a recovery boat, one big bad boat that could handle a category 5 storm if I needed it to. It wasn't going to happen overnight, but I would be floating in no time. I immediately started my own full time business. This was going to keep my head above water and I have found that this fits my situation. And it is true, it is much more fun to be a pirate than join the Navy. I have learned to discipline myself and get up each morning and do all I can do. Take the time to teach myself new and exciting things. I need to keep sharp so I started this blog to work on my writing skills and hope that they improve. I have built a website for my business and if you would have asked me six months ago if I had that capability, I would have told you no, I do not. What I see now is land ahead, and that staying in one position too long keeps you from really exploring and challenging yourself, and that when you think you know all there is to know about something, you should move on. 

From the minute I walked out of my old office, I was determined not to look back, this is an opportunity to grow, to better myself and see just what I am made of.  It has been 8 months since that day. I now realize that I was never really unemployed, I kept on working and continued building upon what I had started 3 years ago with my home design business. I have a freelance stylist business that I love and am grateful for the work that I have received and I am charmed to have more on my calendar. I cherish the people that I work with and each new job is an opportunity to progress my skills. I had forgotten how much fun and rewarding it was to be challenged each day and given the opportunity to explore and experience new facets of life. I feel better about myself, taking the helm and traveling at 100 nautical miles an hour on a boat I built myself. I get up each morning and apply for the dream job but I am not going to jump on any old ship that passes by. I love my life as I have steered it and the positive vibe keeps me going at speeds I did not know I could reach. I pinch myself each day just to make sure that it's all real.  I am looking forward...and I see only paradise just a few nautical miles ahead.

This song gets me going each morning and reminds me of how best to navigate my daily journey.

Jo Ann

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Should I Follow the Big Dream?

Made all out of savaged materials
The Big Dream. Do I have the fire in the belly and undying enthusiasm for my dream business, one I can call  my own?  I am sure I have the creativity and I believe in my vision. I have the confidence and the can do attitude, even the fearlessness now that I am freelancing and not a full time employee work horse. It is starting to become an obsession. I can see the entire picture in my head and I'm saving every article, idea and recipe. I've been researching the costs of the products I would need and want, and how do I get them wholesale and how do I make it unique and better than the rest. Where do I need to go to register my business and how can I work out all the financials? Would I qualify for a grant?  I keep going back to it, so much so that I can even smell what it would smell like. An aroma of all the things I love. Flowers, coffee, garden and bakery. I want a great little place that I can live and work, that I can open the french doors on to a patio that is trellis covered, beautiful climbing roses on each side and overhead as you sip that first morning cup of coffee. The perfect landscape with beautiful salvaged garden gates, statuary, planters. I already have the antique bike that I would have right out front. I want to plant beautiful flowers cascading down the basket and the bike sitting on a bed of succulents. I bake from my kitchen the best muffins, handheld pies, cookies and small cakes. I make the best french toast and I can see that as the morning staple. I research coffee companies and have even started purchasing to see what would be the best signature taste for my place. Maybe Stumptown from NYC or Blue Bottle coffee from San Francisco. I am on the edge of my seat, just wanting to jump at it. 

Made out of salvaged windows and doors

I need the right location with an 8 or 9 plant zone. I want a greenhouse that also has tables and chairs that can be enjoyed by customers and they feel cozy on a cool morning. Plants hanging above and walls lined with new seedlings. 
I also have my eye on a great little 1960's airstream. I would love to redo it and have it on its own lot, all hooked up to water and electricity and rent it out as a single B&B. Breakfast on me with 3 or more nights booked. 

I think that when I retire I sell it and go on my merry way. I wonder how many people have had these same kinds of dreams and just didn't take the leap. Why did they decide not to do it? I think if I am going to work my arse I get all the rewards for it and as my father use to say, If you're feeling froggy just jump! 

So, I'm going to take a trip to Santa Barbara California, I ran into a little spot their once while on vacation. Just a small coffee house, comfortable and quaint. Right next door was a small florist and greenhouse. I'm going to see if I get that same magic feeling that I did the first time. If I close my eyes and see it all come together as one place and all mine, and if I do... well froggy's going courting and I'm going to leap!
All made from salvaged windows

Monday, February 27, 2012

Jet Airliner

Big ol' Jet Airliner. This song keeps up with the ear worm. Ya know that song that just won't leave your thoughts. Keep singing it and hearing it in your head all day long? I'm not even a Steve Miller Band fan but the friging thing won't stop! "But my love light seems so far away And I feel like it's all been done Somebody's tryin' to make me stay You know I've got to be movin' on". Makes me wonder about beginnings and endings, where I started and where will the finish line be? 

Humble beginnings, born and raised in Des Moines Iowa. Middle class family with one sister and two brothers. My father worked really hard to raise the family, traveled on the Big ol' Jet Airliner. In his younger days, hopped the train to get to the job. Many times he would drive, he could save the money it cost to fly and sometimes he would camp instead of spending the jack for a hotel (His name was Jack...I get some kind of kick out of that, Jack brings home the jack). All to give us a beautiful home, picket fence, all the things kids want. We didn't want for much because we had it all. Maybe we didn't know that as kids but we had it better than most. I think about my fathers journeys and wonder what he was thinking while out every week away from his family, working to bring home the jack. That song again, Big ol' jet airliner Don't carry me too far away Oh oh, big ol' jet airliner 'Cause it's here that I've got to stay". 

I have to hand it to my father. He instilled the work ethic in me that keeps me going and gives me the passion to carry on. He was never easy on me either. Just said it like it was. I can remember his look when telling me something after I might have complained about work. He would get up in the morning, settle into his favorite chair, sit with his legs crossed, glasses on the tip of his nose and reading the morning edition of the Des Moines Register.  I would get up with some complaint about work and he wouldn't even look up when he said it..."Jo Ann, if it were easy they could have anybody do it". Yep, that would shut me up and I would go off thinking I needed to work really hard and be better than everybody else. I remember a time when I was working 80 hour weeks and sometime 24 hours straight. I got into my complaining and true to fatherly form..."Jo Ann, they don't call it work for nothing." 

I understand now why he was so straight forward, no sugar coating anything. He appreciated being home for the weekend. Getting the chance to sit in his favorite chair, reading, smoked an occasional cigar when he thought we weren't around. We always smelled it and I love the smell of a good cigar to this day just because of where it takes me. Sunday night or Monday morning he had to go back at it..."Touchin' down in New England town Feeling the heat comin' down I've got to keep on keepin' on You know the big wheel keeps us spinnin' around". Jumpin' Jack Flash is the song that should come to mind when thinking of him. He was always on the go. Never took time for granted. For the short 36-48 hours that he would be home, he would mow the yard, fix that pretty fence, and spend time with us kids. Always had to "keep on keeping' on". 

That is what he was trying to tell me, prepare me for the long haul. Appreciate the job you have and work really hard and enjoy it while you are there. Then when you get home, well...Oh oh, big ol' jet airliner Carry me to my home Oh oh, big ol' jet airliner 'Cause it's there that I belong". When you work really hard and give all you can give, it makes you appreciate what you have all the more. The harder you work the more you have to love and the more you will appreciate it, kinda like "Ridin' high, I got tears in my eyes You know you got to go through hell before you get to heaven".

Well, here I am, going through hell to get to heaven, looking up at him and thanking him for showing me the way. "I got to go out and make my way I might get rich you know I might get busted".

Thanks Dad, this one is for you!

Jo Ann

Thursday, February 23, 2012

It's Madness I Say

A college degree. A giant gateway to employment. In today's day and age, it is a must to even be considered. College can give you the access to a wide array of subjects and the experience gained on a college campus can be transformative. I for one, made sure my daughter had a degree. Worked and paid as she attended each semester. Made sure she did not have college debt and also succeeded in myself being debt free when she walked the stage and received her degree. I know the importance of having a BA on a resume and that it is necessary to what ever career she might choose, and to give her a better standard of living.

Saying all that, here is the question. Are those without a college degree necessarily less driven, talented or intelligent than those with degrees? It has been argued that the skills of entrepreneurs are not learned by splaying across that extra long twin size bed studying for a multiple-choice exam.

When talent, competence and character are equated by credentials, I believe you will overlook a plethora of superstars who are desperately needed in this country today. Some of the best and brightest of our day do not have this important college credential on their resume. Just to name a few, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Anna Wintour of Vouge, John Mackey of Whole Foods, Ralph Lauren and the list goes on. Maya Angelou has received many honorary doctorates but has never attended college and is in good company with Mark Twain, Robert Frost, and Harper Lee and many more. The drive and stamina of Oprah Winfrey, Ellen De Generes, Jimmy Kimmel along with George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks proves a point. I think they are all an important part of who this country is today. It tells me that this kind of self motivation and creativity is a bold part of each and every working environment.

I wonder about what the mix will look like across each company if we decide that only those with a BA or higher degree can be part of our culture. I'm a believer of the degree but I am not a believer in that being the only criteria to hire. We need the self starters, innovative thinkers that come with doing it on their own. The experience of self taught and banging it out is a lesson that can't be taught in a multiple-choice exam. I will argue that the drive and simple fact of loving what you do, is the best combination. The names that I have mentioned are proof in the pudding.

I hired an employee once that I didn't know was a high school drop out. I had worked with him at a prior employer and he was always my go-to person when I needed the extra attention to detail. Fast forward to my newest job and responsibilities...I needed a person who did what he does. I went after him and begged him to come to work with me. He would be the person who made it all work. He finally agreed to leave his employer and come to work with me. He saved thousands of dollars and was the key to the workflow success that allowed us to  reduce costs and streamline the process. He loved what he did! Lived and breathed it and he was the passion that stirred the rest and lead the drive to our department being better and doing what we were told we could not do. I think about him often now and wonder where are more like him? Why are they not in the pool of potential hires?

Steve Jobs said the secret to success is having the courage to follow your heart and intuition. And that he did his entire career and that passion according to him, made all the difference. He explained that "Passions are those ideas that don't leave you alone. They are hopes, dreams and possibilities that consume your thoughts. Follow them despite the skeptics and the naysayers who do not have the courage to follow their own dreams".

I now think often about where I myself would be without Steve Jobs. I'm writing this on a Mac, which is set up with Cloud so that all my pictures, emails and such are all set as one between my IPhone, IPad, Apple TV and my Mac. I have it down to a science. I can start my day on my IPad at the breakfast bar, go to my living room and finish watching on my TV. I can record video from my IPhone and load to my TV and share with the crowd. I thank my lucky stars for the Steve Jobs of this world.

Perseverance has become my first name. I apply, network, rewrite resumes, cold call and work into all conversations that I would love to be part of a team. First question they ask..."Where did you go to school?" Not, "How long have you been doing what you do" or "Tell me about some of your experiences". I would like them to ask me what I'm all about and how the heck have you succeeded to where you are today". Yes, I am unemployed due to the down-turn in the magazine and advertising business. I was not in the first round of layoffs, nor second or third, but I knew it would come. I had worked my way up and through each and every new tech change and evolvement of the process.  I bought the 3000 sqft. home and furnished and decorated it to the nines. I could afford to take my family on a grand vacation each year and I sent my daughter to college and paid as I went, saved for a rainy day and kept myself debt free just in case the rug would be pulled out from under me. How did I do it? I love photography, computers, a good story and the arts. I can tell the difference between offset printing and gravure just by the smell of it. I live and breath a good idea and a grand story. I have the knowledge and  experience to tell you the best way to proceed and save money while doing it. I can style a photo and know exactly what the camera will see and love the process all the way through to print. I just need one special person to open the door and let me in.

Jo Ann

Friday, February 17, 2012

Antique or Brand New

This chair reminds me of myself

NYC, crowded and full of life. I am amazed at how well people immix in this city. I had not to date met a single person who was not friendly, personable and eager to be helpful.  When I first arrived and searching for an apartment, I was standing on the street corner, looking lost, then down at my iPhone GPS,  back up at the signs, I was approached and asked if they could help me find something.  How nice is that! I'm waiting for the right of way at a light when two women smiled and told me how great I look in what I was wearing. This made me smile and put a little skip in my step that day. With each meeting and greeting, the people make me love this city more and more. I'm beginning to see how it all works. With so many people, places, pets and posts, this is a city that is yes, fashion forward, street smart and in a hurry but always willing to give a hand, a smile, help a neighbor or just a stranger on the corner. That's how they do it and make it all work.

Until last night... I was out with friends for dinner and a drink. We decided on a chic little pub  with a nifty atmosphere in the meatpacking district. Great music, friendly bartender, good food and it was cozy. Catching up with a girlfriend that just moved here from London and a really great friend from my hometown. So happy to see both and having a splendid time...until I was nearly knocked off my pub stool. Like that wasn't enough, she continued to elbow and dance about as if I didn't exist (just for the record, the music really did make you want to dance). I finally asked if she could please be considerate of my space. And I was nearly knocked off my stool again by her retort. 

"Is that an antique statement because you are an antique?" 

I accept that I am not "by the numbers" young anymore. I don't think about my age and it doesn't come to mind to ask others. I have been told I am forever the 18 year old. I keep current with news, trends and technology. I stay fit, dress like I feel, not by how many birthdays I've celebrated and I can party like a rock star! 

This was the first time I had thrown a rude remark since I can't remember when. Her remark stung and I replied out of hurt and a bit of peevishness...and I was sad afterwords, that it had came to this...

 "Are you really that ugly or are you just pretending?"

I am not a rude person, I should not have said it and I was even shocked that this came out of my mouth. I was shocked after all the kindness that I have been shown, that this really existed here. I had thought it must be somewhere, I just believed I could stay above it. She did redeem herself and calmed my fear that this might happen more than once, and I will give her big kudos for doing it. About 10 minutes later, she came back over and said she was sorry, that she was out of line and would I accept her apology. You bet, my name is Jo Ann and it's so nice to meet you. Bought her a drink and smiled at her and said that I was sorry when I left.

Then it hit me, this is the person I am in hopes hires me for my next job. She thinks I'm an antique! Holy crap, I'm in bigger trouble than I thought. How am I going to prove that I can do the job and my age does not matter. That my skills are as current and marketable as any other person that may apply. I am unique and built from remarkable stock. I have more talent, curves and detail than the newly graduated and keep current and refresh my skills on a daily basis. 

I thought about my design style and my favorite parcels that I have used in some of my room compositions. They are always the clients favorite. Take an older piece with great character  that has been built by a craftsman, the materials are of the best quality, then redesign and renew so that it becomes a one of a kind. You won't go into your neighbors house and see a anything like it. It is not an off the shelf, from a machine manufactured lot that will not stand the test of time. It is sturdy, made by hand and each detail carved with care. The revamped chair, table, ottoman (I have renewed them all)... they are always the big statement piece in the room. They are what complements the newly manufactured selections. This piece makes the others in the space shine. More than they may have if they were standing alone. My clients always tell me that these are the ones that they get the most complements on. Although the chair may have started out a long time ago, it now has the ability to hold the room together in a unique and powerful way. It is the most comfortable, and the best part about these works of art, you can acquire them at a bargain price and get more use out of them than all the other pieces put together. 

So please, go ahead and make me an offer! I am in hopes that one employer will see this in me, and will hire me as the sturdy, unique, one of a kind piece of their well composed environment.

Jo Ann

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Unconventional vs Creative

Not the best tool for the job.

Unconventional: Not based on or conforming to what is generally done or believed.
Creative: n. One who displays productive originality

These two words in my opinion are sometimes used one for the other. Creative has a positive vibe and unconventional less so. One is used in replacement of the other due to interpretations. For example, one person may say, "She came about this in a very unconventional way, that's usually not how we do it."
Another may say, "This is a very creative solution for the problem we've been facing." All depends on who you are and how you see it.

I see myself as a creative thinker. Others say I am unconventional. Lets just take the bowl for example. Every time we reach for our favorite box of cereal, and I still love Cheerios, we pull out a bowl and load it up. I did as I was taught and used a bowl while living with the family and then decided that I didn't like all that chasing around for the last few O's, and it didn't really gel with me to drink the last of the milk out of a bowl. Go ahead and admit it, we all have done it, tip the bowl, misjudge the size of the rim (because we usually don't drink out of a bowl) and we spill. A quick catch later, tip the bowl with better insight of the size of the rim and the velocity of the pour and finish off that sweet, cereal flavored milk. I for one just can't stand to waste it, so I like to drink it.

Once I was on my own, living in my first grown up apartment, (I was 17 years old but that's another blog), I decided that it made much more sense to use a glass for this morning ritual. I don't have to chase so far for the last remnants of cereal and when those are gone, I drink the milk more civilized without ever spilling down my chin. Seems to me that it is much more efficient to use a glass for this task. Takes up less room in the dishwasher and less waste because I consume every last Cheerio, then tip my glass and drink every drop of milk. Easier to carry around if you tend not to eat at the table and sits perfect without the spoon ever falling out when I set it down.

I get it every time. Someone sees me pouring the cereal in a glass and they ask, "What are you doing, you eat your cereal out of a glass? And for those that worry that it may not be proper, I do know when this  might cause a scene. When eating out, I just don't order cereal. And others, they won't drink out of the bowl because that just wouldn't be considered best etiquette. Which is unconventional and which is creative? That would all depend on the interpreter. In my interpretation, I would say drinking from a bowl is unconventional. Eating my cereal out of a glass is creative thinking.

That all brings me back to my job search here in NYC. I have not figured out a way to get a face to face interview. I have 20+ years of creative thinking and experience. But I am judged by what is conventional. The process of... here is the question, pick one of these answers... just does not fit who I am. I can just see it each time, the computer spits out my application like sour milk. I'm guessing the resume never gets a read due to this process. So, if someone can tell me a creative way to get around this conventional process, I am all ears!

Thanks for your help,

Jo Ann

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Sofa

It all began on this sofa

Just because it's Valentines Day, don't be looking for a sappy love story, you're not going to get one. It's not that kind of love story. Although I will admit, lots of great endings may have started on a sofa.  This particular sofa has now been made famous. Right now... it's the most famous pieces of furniture in NBA history. I'm guessing that is quite a feat if you consider all the sofas of all the NBA stars and the goings on for each and every one of them (mind slipped a bit to the gutter here I'll admit).

This is the sofa where the Knicks phenomenon, Jeremy Lin slept the night before his breakout game. Lin had been sleeping on his brothers sofa but there was a partayyy that night and Jeremy found himself homeless, and without a sofa to sleep on. He shacked up with his teammate, Landry Fields and crashed on his sofa. I wonder what he was dreaming that night, before all the Lin-sanity as they call it here in NY. Did this sofa bring him a wondrous nights sleep that allowed him to perform so well? And a performance it was, twenty five points, five rebounds and seven assists. It's all just seems to have come together and fit just right. 

Jeremy, at a mere 6-foot-3 (the average height of an NBA player is about 6-foot-7) was able to fit comfortably on this sofa. He stated that it was "decent" but not huge. It fit the bill, and he thanked Landry for hosting him and said "I just might move in". 

Everybody loves when the underdog gets his day and Jeremy, after a fitful nights sleep got that chance.  The Nicks are on a 5 game winning streak with the assistance of this underdog. Players love his attitude and he is no ball hog. He plays as a part of , and understands that there is no "I" in team. Humble and thankful for the day to finally come when he can show what he can do if given the chance. Here he is being interviewed after the 38 point game against the LA Lakers. He mentions his team first and foremost and more than once when all the limelight is pointed directly on him.

This is why his teammates love him, NY loves him, and all the NBA fans love him. There is your love story! You can't miss the smile on his face in this interview. It is priceless and defines exactly what he is feeling. I for one, am smiling with him. 

And all that brings me to this morning. I fell asleep on my sofa last night, slept pretty well as a matter of fact. I got up and thought of Jeremy Lin and this sofa. Then I went back at the search today, just knowing that great things happen to those that wait and when it comes, how thankful I will be of the team that helped me succeed.

Jo Ann

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Microwave

Remember these?

Remember when the first microwave ovens came out for domestic use, and it was called the Radarange? We all thought they were sooooo cool. Nice compact little oven that sat on our counters. They were quick to cook dinner. Just turn the dial, push the button....Ding, dinner was done! Snazzy new design for the time and easy to clean after each use. It was all the rage and everybody wanted one.

It didn't take us discerning cooks long though, to figure out that if we wanted our food cooked to perfection, flavored throughout, juicy (so we could make gravy) and golden brown, we had to go back to our conventional oven.  We tried and tested to get it to work. Thought maybe we were doing something wrong. is a microwave, it's not made the same as our ovens. It won't  slow cook at the perfect temperature and give us the time to baste to keep it juicy or remove the cover to start the browning process. 

The old microwave is what I am reminded of every time I finish applying for a job on my computer.  I hit "apply" and  start filling  out all the employers questions, upload cover letter, upload resume and then hit "submit". Thirty seconds later, ding, I get an email saying I have applied and they are reviewing my qualification.

No opening the door to check how things are cooking. No conversations in the kitchen. I like the part where we all shoot the breeze around the oven, get a laugh in and see what everybody is up to and what new additions to our family and friends are and all about. The anticipation of that meal when it is finished, you knew what you were going to get just by the aroma of all those flavors basting in the oven for hours.

The microwave did not come about as a result of someone trying to find a better, faster way to cook. During World War ll, two scientists invented the magnetron, a vacuum tube that produces microwaves. They installed the magnetrons in Britain's radar system. The microwaves were able to spot Nazi warplanes on their way to bomb the British Isles. As the story goes, one of the engineer's who worked for the Raytheon Corporation, was working on the magnetrons. He had a candy bar is his pocket and found that it had melted. He realized that the microwaves would cook food quickly (and that he should never keep food in his pocket while testing the magnetrons).

Nope, the microwave was not invented to cook food, but I do think that the old original purpose is still the premise for picking applicants. No getting to know them, just load 'em all into the tube and we'll be able to see from the radar the ones that fit. Shot down before you even get a chance to speak and tell them... that you would love to be the one hired at their company and you are seasoned to perfection and bring all the extras to the table including enough to make the gravy!

Well, I think of what we use our microwaves for now, they are smaller than ever and they are cheap, you can get one for fifty bucks. They revolutionized the popcorn industry...although many connoisseurs prefer the crisper texture of popcorn cooked in hot oil, they melt butter and chocolate (things haven't changed much) and warm up our leftovers. Limited capabilities in my book and our expectations of what it can do... are just not that high these days. I wonder though, how many companies find the side effects in their pockets after hiring with this online process.

Jo Ann

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Saying it like it is, NYC

This got me thinking

I love NYC. The city just says it like it is. No hiding, just put it out there. Every time I get out and about, it lets me know exactly what it's thinking. Like this flag, I'm out wandering on my daily stroll through Gotham, taking it all in. I look over across the street and this flag is waving at me. I smile at it, and get my camera out. Thanks for bringing THAT to my attention! I love the mental stimulation that this city brings on. Besides the cultural attractions, just a mere walk on the streets and this city gets you thinking. And this flag did just that for me. Now idea. 

But do we always need to know, planning each and every day? Which brings me to the Robert Burns poem and how we think about that.

But Mousie, thou are no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men,
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!

The shattered dream, the grief and the pain instead of the promised plan. I'll admit it, I did as the mouse did. "Wee, sleekit, cow'rin', tim'rous beastie, O what a panic's in thy breast!"  I did this for just the couple hours it took me to clear out my office. Once I was home, I took a look around, all this house for little 'ol me? Who knew the housing market would turn tail and not just head for the hills, but right into the oceans... "That wee bit heap o' leaves an' stibble, Has cost thee mony a weary nibble!" No truer words were ever spoken, another plan sat bashed and broken.

I thought about all that planning and what it was all about and who it was for. I realize now I had not included much for myself in that plan. I was like the road construction crew. Setting up the "work zone" to get everybody to go in another direction and to stay clear of where I was working. Setting up right-of ways, installing traffic barricades, clearing everything away so I could lay that road.

I look back at that old life and say, what the heck was I thinking? One little kick in the seat of the pants and I am now living the dream and not laying the plan. I have succeeded beyond what I ever thought I would. The break in the plan was just a fork in the road. I'm doing what I have always wanted to do, living where I've always wanted to live. The thing I love most to date about NYC, my new home... nobody heeds any mind to the lanes in the roads so carefully planned and layed out by this great cites department of transportation.