Updated: Oct 5
Late at night instead of counting sheep, I counted jobs, wondering what story and history they would tell for me, and by extension, you if you made such a list. Here's my list:
Babysitting (actually done to raid refrigerators of babysittees).
Barker at the Englishtown Auction, standing on tables, yelling, “Two for $5, Ladies!” while hawking plus-sized bright orange or black-and-white-checkered polyester pants. Also sold crocheted halter tops. All done on either freezing or burning long Saturdays at what was then called “the biggest flea market in the free world” (in New Jersey of course).
Sales and mostly hanging with the owner, eating donuts, and talking about boys and what sex really is (“People do that?!”, all at Clothes Conscious (little joint in strip mall).
Stringer for Asbury Park Press for a few days and smaller NJ newspapers.
Bookstore shelf stocker in Lincroft, NJ.
Donut filling stuffer at Duncan Donuts for two weeks.
“Do you want fries with that?” at MacDonalds for a week.
Peanut Buster Parfait queen at Dairy Queen in Columbia, MO for a year or so.
Popcorn and concessions at several movie theaters in NJ and MO.
Cashier at tiny mom-and-pop shop for a few months in Columbia, MO neighborhood.
Newspaper shuffler — working graveyard shift to catch newspapers coming down the line and shuffle them to align the edges (joked that a year before, I was writing for this newspaper and now had worked myself down).
Reporter for Kansas City labor newspaper for three months before I was fired for being either Jewish, female or a hippie girl (reason never made explicit).
Intake officer for Missouri Commission on Human Right, where I went to file a complaint over being fired by the newspaper, only to be offered a job there instead. My job? Listen to homeless people tell their stories, explain there was nothing we could do for them, and secretly type poetry into my new-fangled electric typewriter while the investigators of complaints secretly watched soap operas in their offices.
Coordinator, Missouri Statewide Energy Coalition for several months before we ran out of money.
Newsletter editors and in charge of a little political campaign for the Citizens/Labor Energy Coalition (position funded by lovely woman I met in the Ozarks).
Housecleaner (but hated it).
Waitress at IHOP in Mission, KS on graveyard shift. Had trouble carrying big platters.
Counter server at old Woolworth’s in downtown Lawrence for a few weeks.
Waitress at Drake’s (old greasy spoon in Lawrence) after having guy tap on my bedroom window at 5 a.m. one day and yell out, “Grandma wants you down at the restaurant.” As it turned out, Grandma didn’t want me and soon fired me, telling someone, “That girl was on drugs.” No drugs, Grandma, just very tired and spacey at 5 friggin’ a.m. each day.
Coupon-putter in dog food factory. Two looooong weeks.
Typesetter of business cards where everyone was dazzled that I could type.
Coordinator of community services coalition: had 40-member board, all heads of social service agencies competing for same limited funds, and some prone to stand up in meetings and yell at me, “I ain’t taking no advice from some 23-year-old college girl.” Tried to take notes during meetings when people yelled, “You’re fat!” and “Well, you’re stupid!” to each other. Led studies that contributed to founding of Lawrence’s food kitchen and free clinic, but threw myself on the couch sobbing most days after work. Two very long years.
Project SEAL Darth Vader look-alike (in mask while holding caulk gun). Demonstrated energy conversation techniques for various groups.
Rust-scraper on friend’s roof for three days
Marketing associate with wonderful woman for nine months. Mainly focused on getting her clinics to pay up.
Graduate Teaching Assistant in KU English department for ten short years. Discovered I was made, in part, to teach.
Motherhood starting in 1989: no pay, unusual benefits, long hours, prone to insomnia and all manner of little viruses the little critters bring home, little reprieve from worrying; includes being other human’s social agent, crying when the marching band parades by, eating too many goldfish crackers, and swearing off family vacations each year, only to take one again the next year.
Author — wrote young adult biography on Sandra Cisneros, book for teens on writing, and first book, which was never published (due to editor in-fighting) was on the Mongols in the time of Genghis Khan (do you know to tenderize meat, they put slabs of it between the horse and saddle, and then rode all day on it?).
Professor at Haskell Indian Nations University while hauling newborn child to and from childhood with lovely Japanese woman. Eventually worked my way down to adjunct faculty without an office.
Faculty at Goddard College where I landed and found my true academic home.
Little teaching gig at Friends University, leading me to conclude that every academic institute (from my sampling of four) is crazier than all get-out.
Workshop facilitator working for, ta da!, myself. Started 19 years ago and still going strong.
Free-lance writer and editor, mainly doing gigs for KU Endowment (got to interview CEO of Starbucks) and working with lovely people.
Performing poet on my own, with Kelley Hunt and others. Way cool, especially when people recognize poets should be paid like other artists.
Poet laureate – no salary but small stipend, yet suddenly a little bit famous (like at Goodwill, someone called out, “There’s the poet laureate of Kansas!”).
Yoga teacher (just started, and so far have earned an average of $3/hour, but whatever!).
Poet & writer — started when I was 14, and still center of my work.