Banana Blog

For The Love Of Snail Mail

When my grandmother died, we discovered a drawer full of letters and cards received the last few years of her life. She never mentioned she did this, so it brought a twinge to my heart knowing I have always done the exact same thing. There is just something about the hand-written mark on paper that feels special and permanent in the way a Facebook comment or email never will. Old snail mail feels like a tangible time capsule to rediscover a fleeting emotion long forgotten. Maybe I learned that from her…

What I do know is, my love for real mail originated after a summer camp that still informs my adult being. I was there during the formative years of 12 to 16 when I was an awkward, hormonal, confused as fuck tween, with an angst and energy I still chase in my dreams (and sometimes my photos). At nerd camp I learned it was OK to be smart, I wasn’t the only hormonal confused weirdo, and my current social options were purely geographical with an expiration date. I had camp to look forward to while I worked my way through the horrors of high school to graduation freedom and college somewhere else.

Needless to say, in the long-gone days before email, the mailbox became my lifeline to teenage happiness. Letters, mix tapes, handmade surveys and pieces of group writing, and doubles of film photos were like little pieces of magic from people my age who really understood me. I’d read them multiple times and spend hours with my best friend analyzing and gossiping about people she didn’t know. (I won’t even get into the notebooks and binders of notes I still have from 20 years of friendship.)

In college, my dad started a ridiculous tradition that carries on today of sending me little bits of flotsam and cartoons from the local newspaper, Polaroids of his new jean shorts and white old man sneakers, dirty joke books from the 70s he found the basement, and back dated International Male catalogs closed captioned with a flurry of post it notes (certainly a long story for another time).  And to this day my aunt carries on my Gram’s tradition of mailing a greeting card for every possible holiday.

For me, the best mail has always come from those I love the most.

Lately the mail feels kinda like an enemy containing nothing but bills, political campaign jargon, and invitations to everyone else’s happy life events. I understand that social media is more immediate and far reaching than letters but I miss the days of stickers and doodles and cheer waiting when I got home. I’m hoping the addition of the postcard option to my calendar cards reminds everyone to spread a little old-fashioned cheer to fellow depressing mailboxes. (hint hint)

PS – The bonus to this idea?  It gives my photos (a moment frozen in time) one life as a calendar and hopefully a second as one of my favorite things! I hope the calendar images inspire everyone to take a moment to drop someone they love a tiny piece of real unexpected mail in 2018.

PPS – If you don’t have anyone to write to or would like to send me your thoughts on the #tinydeskcalendars, drop your 5×5 card in the mail to:

9999 Bananas
344 Grove Street
Suite 130
Jersey City, NJ 07302

 

My letter drawer has reached max capacity!

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All About That Base

This year I have four new bases to accompany the upgraded calendar design. Since the cards were increased two inches in height to accommodate the square postcard back and a little breathing room for the dates, the bases have grown in thickness and depth of cut. I’m hopeful this deeper slit alleviates some of the natural paper bend over time. (I also upgraded to 130lb paper to give the cards a little more “umpth”)

So let me introduce these bad boys:

Regular Pine

These are simple pine bases. They are neutral in color and tend to fade into the background. They let my pictures become the focal point (and for this reason appeal to my ego). This base should be your choice if you like a clean natural aesthetic on your desk or table.

That being said, these have just a light clear spray of poly. If you are the crafty creative type, a light sand would yield a DIY block to decorate yourself. Paint, stain or bedazzle it to your liking. I’m happy that you might collaborate with my creation to make it personal to you! Be sure to tag @9999_co with any of your designs.

Live Edge Cedar

This is literally a slice of beautiful natural red cedar. The two tone color is inherent in the wood as is the petal shape. That being said, the length and width as well as outline of petal shape will vary greatly by base and look wildly different from the photos in the shop. The outer bark is also quite thin and fragile and may be slightly chipped near the slit.

All that being said, these are by far my most favorite of the base designs. The round curves pair well with the ridged squares of paper and photo. I think this looks the best with the cityscapes and natural themes like Clouds and Beaches.

Reclaimed Pine

I’ve always been a fan of reclaimed wooden feature walls, sliding barn divider doors and industrial pallet coffee tables. I knew I wanted a weathered base option and found a natural pairing with Tribeca Grain who specialize in giving old wood new life. The grey tone of the front surface varies by block, but all bark variations contrast nicely with the color rich photos in Street Conversations, Graffiti Doors and ROYGIBIV.

Ply Block

This is some kind of construction compound made from thin layers of plywood used for things like floor joists and other dude projects I admittedly don’t understand. But… my mild OCD was satisfied by the clean look of the thin stacked lines. These blocks feel chunky, masculine and industrial. The rigid orderly shape pairs well with the surprising and confusing images in the Abstract series.

There is very limited stock for the reclaimed pine and live edge cedar, so if those are your choices, don’t delay ordering. And let me know what you think of the 2018 options in the comments below.

 

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Beyond 40

I’ve had a lot of amazing birthdays in my life. There was the time all my little kid friends went to the movies and saw Annie, the infamous Mr. Days dance party covered in yellow caution tape, and my 30th when I jumped out of a plane, rented a room in a bar with DJ Rocco and Spin played a live rock show.  Those birthdays were somehow topped by the insane Russian supper club birthday with a live “show” that Bourdain once said felt like “John Waters made a Broadway musical” (This girl sums that experience up perfectly).

But as I lay here with my epic post birthday 40-year-old hangover looking at photos from last night on my phone, I’m insanely happy.   The events of this weekend came pretty damn close to perfection and this headache and dehydration are no match for the healing power of being truly chock full of love.

Leading up to this birthday, I dropped some not too subtle hints that I was feeling this milestone a bit more than usual.  Yes, there was certainly some looking in the mirror at my thinning grey hair, not so perky boobs and extra chubby stomach longing for the body of my 20’s.  But there was mostly examining the state of my life scorecard and trying to figure out where I am on the YOLO spectrum.  I’m halfway done (if I’m lucky) with my trips around the sun and I was questioning how I wanted to spend my remaining days on planet earth.

By circumstance, my 40th birthday fell close to a time of great personal upheaval.   I went from a 5-year relationship midway through an engagement to a 38-year-old single lady, hard up for money in the midst of a huge career transition that subsequently ended with getting laid off this March.  To say that it felt hard approaching a life milestone unemployed, single, and still renting an apartment over a sketchy 24-hour deli would be something of an understatement.

But I’ve come around to thinking ironically about those hurdles. Through them I’ve been strengthened, taught to look deep inside, figure out who the hell I am and adapt to change (which my mom can tell you I’ve never really been good at).  None of those events have been easy, but I wouldn’t change them for the world.  I’ve done brave crazy shit, ticked off major bucket list items, and finally arrived at a place in my career where I’m confident and getting paid for all my fucking hard work and education. Most importantly, those events have also created a perfect storm to receive more love and support than I ever imagined possible.

One such measure of support came in the form of a recent career seminar, crowd sourced by awesome people. I thought my heart couldn’t feel any fuller than the moment I was ambushed with the news on a surprise conference call.  I cried like a damn baby all the way down 1st Avenue.

At the seminar, I learned about narrative intelligence and a little light bulb went on inside. This theory holds that everyone is the starring role in the movie of their own life and as we bounce around from experience to experience we narrate from a story archetype. Some people are rulers, magicians, caregivers, and explorers.   Unsurprisingly, I’m basically tied for characters that fall squarely in the “working with others” category.   I’m equal parts Jester, Everyman and Lover which in over simplistic terms means I’m an egalitarian comic connector of people.  I’m happiest when I’ve created an environment for everyone to meet, learn, laugh and come away with new stories.

Bearing all that in mind, you can imagine a birthday party about me, full of people from all parts of my life, with an amazing view of the spot that accompanies my hardcore life thinking, gives me all the feels.

People were introduced and left to chat among themselves.  Drinks and mini grilled cheeses were consumed.  Good vibes were spread. I got presents and glasses of wine galore. The sun came out from behind the clouds that then became the dark backdrop to a brilliant sunset.  And no joke, there was a freaking rainbow followed immediately by a full moon rise!

Good friends sent a tray of 40 shots all the way from Chicago.  My aunt and uncle brought my favorite carrot cake from the Bronx. My mom and dad paid for things on the sly and chatted up all my friends!  I was given more ridiculous shots and accompanied direct to my door (after ditching my strapless bra because I give zero fucks what the crackhead after-bar crowd in my neighborhood thinks).  This morning capped all that with a tasty brunch and the gift of a private sailboat ride for me and six people of my choosing by my brother and sister in law.

Finally, and I suppose most importantly, last night answered that big lingering life question of what comes beyond 40.  And…it was surprisingly simple. From here on out I will strive to remember that so much love exists out there to receive as long as I am really ready to accept it.

So, hard as I’m trying to express here, there really just aren’t enough thankful words for ALL THAT.

My cup runneth over.

 

 

You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, well you might find, you get what you need

There are tons of studies that show social media makes people feel lonely. The constant comparison to others has a nasty way of shining a mirror on that secret doubt in all of us that thinks we’re not good enough. It amplifies that hidden feeling we are squandering the gift of time or somehow not living to our fullest potential. 

And while I admit it gets to me sometimes, the benefits and ease of communication on Facebook and Instagram far outweigh these downsides. They are the perfect programs because I value my relationships above anything else and really get a kick out of viewing the human condition in all forms. 

So while friends have come and gone in intensity based on geography and life circumstance, I’ve stayed in virtual contact with truly awesome people. I really enjoy following along with everyone’s life progress, trials, heartbreaks and watching their families bloom and grow.

And last week this very virtual network delivered an awesome surprise. To be honest, it’s been hard to process how the internet crowd sourced over $1,000 to send MY stupid ass to an intensive career counseling seminar!! 

To say I was blown away doesn’t begin to cover my astonishment that my former professor, old summer camp friends, grad school/college/high school buddies, kickball acquaintances and both  recent and old coworkers took the opportunity to tell me they believe in me. It’s hard to describe the feeling of it all and I’m still marveling that friends as far away as Peru and London contributed! While some saw this as a chance to repay me for past generosity in celebrating their own life milestones nothing beats knowing it’s also because lots of folks think I have untapped potential.

And then there was Mr. PJ — the organizer of this kooky endeavor. He is by far my most selfless friend and put this together from the goodness of his enormous heart. For as long as I have known him, PJ has always put the needs of others before himself. He was my dependable designated driver, the guy that left mix cds in my mailbox the night my grandfather died, and drove to a house party in New Jersey with an inflatable bear that has become a reoccurring inflatable character in my life. For certain I would be a very different person if I had never met him! 

So sincerely to PJ…. and Erin, Kelly, Drew and everyone else that donated to a random Facebook message, THANK YOU. You ALL turned me into a weepy pile of gooey love filled messy gratitude. 

I promise to not take this gift for granted! 

Unemployment Day 3: Deep Thoughts and Lists by A Woman With Too Much Unstructured Time On Her Hands!

40.

It feels like a lot.

Especially because it seems I’m being tested these days.

As I watch all my slightly older classmates fall like Facebook reminder dominoes, my own approaching milestone is ever present. As a result of this, and my general sentimental nostalgic nature, I’ve peeked back at the last decade of my life in my newly acquired free time…sorta like picking an old half-healed scab.

I suppose I was hoping that reverse life accounting might enlighten as to what the hell I want from this next phase of life. (For reals, I could use all help I can get in that department.)  And while I’m still tragically short on practical details, I did learn a few applicable things in my recent revelries:

Obsessively looking back only reinforces I’m that much closer to “the end”.  Seeing an entire generation (especially in early photos) fade away creates an acute awareness that time is going fast.
Given the above awareness, I need to stop taking shit for granted immediately.

Most importantly, I have to quit being so hard on myself. I seriously need to ditch this ever present notion that because I’m single, have no kids or house, let alone a serious career, I’m somehow a failure with no life accomplishments.  Because seriously, who’s judging what constitutes a successful or accomplished life anyway? Or as my dad always says, “Who died and made THEM boss?”

That last lesson only came after literally listing my major life milestones and accomplishments during one of my more OCD jaunts down memory lane. But that’s natural given I’m desperately trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up and Germans project managers only know how to think in list format.

So, with that in mind, an eye to future nostalgic archival dives, and a middle finger extended to white suburban mid-century expectations, here’s some awesome things I did in my 30’s for posterity:

  • Went sky diving.
  • Completed a 365 blog writing and taking one photo a day every day
  • Traveled from Russia to Spain via Finland, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, and France in a truck filled with art, and a few dudes with guns
  • Left Brooklyn after 8 awesome years
  • Ran a bunch of tours all over the city for friends
  • Walked Broadway end to end
  • Drove 72 hours straight cross county in a big rig with a married couple, twice.
  • Went back to school, earned a Certificate from NYU, became a certified Project Manager and managed to change careers after 10 years in the art museum world
  • Created a bucket list and got busy crossing shit off
  • Traveled to England, Mexico, Peru, a few times to Germany and so many cities in the US, I lost count
  • Started really taking photos
  • Got paid to carry objects from the Titanic in a rolling suitcase and accidentally ended up on Russian TV
  • Met a boy, fell in hard core love, moved in together, got a kitten, got engaged, bought a wedding dress and then had my heart smashed to dust when he walked out without a real explanation
  • Realized I have more strength and resolve than I ever thought possible
  • Created this little online side business
  • Learned to really love myself by following a “Give Fewer Fucks” mantra.  It’s my daily reminder to drop the burden of caring what other people expect/think and set myself free!

Unemployment Day 1

A lot of you lovelies have been inquiring after me and, even though I have no job, I’m somehow finding it hard to keep up with responses. Since I am doing a half-ass method of staying in touch…here’s the highlight reel:

1. It’s only been a week. (And I was paid 5 days vacation, so technically it doesn’t even count.)

2. After dealing with 2015, losing my job seems like an emotional cake walk. Plus, loads of you people have been laid off/fired and survived. I’ve already received a ton of good advice, job board websites, computer shopping guidance and sympathy beers. By contrast, there wasn’t a ton of practical experience or tips for “I was hit by a cab on the same day my fiancé walked out.”

3. The world is a literal HOT mess and at this point, I am just grateful for a roof over my head, a relatively safe home with clean running water, my health (and what remains of my insurance), free time to wander outside NY in spring, my education, and my family. Everything in perspective, right? Have you seen a video of Sudan or Syria lately? We are so fucking lucky.

So anyway…

A lot of your questions have been asking WHY I was laid off. The reason given was lack of new business from their largest client with unfavorable projections for the next quarter. Totally reasonable and I saw it coming. However, I also have a personal theory that this lack of work stems from that client’s risk aversion to an orange flaming pile of shit currently running our country…but that’s clearly a controversial biased unsubstantiated opinion.

The end result is I find myself 39-3/4, single, and for the first time since I was about 10, 100% unemployed. I’ve got two months of severance, one month of health insurance, NY state unemployment, some meager savings I managed to put together since I got a big girl job, my 2016 tax return and sheer hustle. Given that I live in one of the most expensive areas of the country and unemployment checks fall $500 short of even covering my rent, that affords me roughly 4 to 5 months to find a new permanent gig with health insurance before I crawl back upstate with my 40 year old tail between my legs.

Despite what I said above, this can obviously sometimes feel a little overwhelming. Tonight (after a few glasses of wine), I decided writing and sharing my thoughts was as good a therapy as any. Plus, it’s free! Hence dropping some words on this blog.

Stay tuned for updates!