May 1, 2023Liked by M Tamara Cutler

"Oh, you sweet, little bundle of hard work," I cooed to the baby being held by her mother. We were waiting in the checkout line of the infants' section of a mall department store. I was buying a baby shower gift for one of my young colleagues at school. With my child-raising finish line in sight, I had a sense of what was ahead for the baby's mother: the chasing infant and toddler years, grade school carpooling, teenager angst. Perhaps God timed female menopause to coincide with their children's adolescence, so mothers could physically, emotionally, honestly, and happily say, "I'd done." Now, twenty years later, I think about those labor-intensive years with a bit of nostalgia. But when I look at my kindergarten-age granddaughter, I say to myself, "Oh, you sweet, little bundle of hard work."

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I grew up in an idyllic postcard of a New England town filled with stay-at-home moms.

Rather than meeting me with milk and cookies in the afternoons, my mother was often preparing for her evening or weekend work. Here is just a partial list of the volunteer positions she held during my childhood:

President of the League of Women Voters. Board member of the League of NH Craftsmen. Brownie Troop Leader. Skating Club President. Reading tutor. School District Treasurer. Board member of the Shaker Museum. Board Member of the local cooperative art gallery. Church rummage sale volunteer and organizer.

She drove people to cast their ballots. She hosted a New York City kid at our house every summer for years. She and her friends ran that town. They were such enthusiastic volunteers, with seemingly endless energy for taking on new work.

So much labor, given so freely. I am so grateful, and so impressed.

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May 2, 2023Liked by M Tamara Cutler

She took 24 hours to be born. It should have been a beautiful occasion with wafting incense, esoteric music, and a compassionate midwife. But after 12 hours of labor, my body was giving up; I was falling asleep. The midwife drove me and my partner in her old car to the hospital, luckily only 10 minutes away.

The contrast couldn’t have been greater: instead of the cozy ground-level birthing house decked out in warm wood and natural fabrics in a classic 19th-century building, here was a towering monument to Brutalism from the 1960s with sickly green walls, ugly neon lighting, and cold, sanitary metal.

But the hospital did have one good thing: an epidural bringing relief from the overwhelming pain. I rested, the pain returned, and it was time to try again.

Different midwives came and went; the doctor popped in for the painkiller and the final push.

But the elation was brief; the placenta was stuck. Time for acupuncture. At the sight of the tiny needles leaning in all directions on my wobbly belly, I giggled hysterically, pushing out the placenta in the process.

A new (phase of) life was ushered in with pain – eclipsed by joy and laughter.

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I loitered around just long enough to get the job. At 18, I was only into the second week of my first backpacking trip to Europe but already feeling at home. The gentle nudge by the hand of fate had led me to the Bauhaus International Youth Hostel in Bruges, Belgium. The owners were hiring workers to smash walls and carry rubble as part of an expansion to their successful business next door. I jumped at the chance to join the crew.

Our wages were paid in bar food, Belgian beer, and a clean bed in a dirty staff “room”, an open loft split by hanging bedsheets allowing a modicum of privacy for the ever-changing hires. It was an eclectic group of backpackers from all over the world who had found a tribe on Langestraat.

Over the next 18 months, I received a crash course in the ways of the wanderer by veteran travelers who had been places and experienced events my teenage years hadn’t had the time for yet. The Bauhaus fed my curiosity and led me to the life I have today. Now, 26 years later, I’m busy inviting these old friends to our wedding that will overlook the olive-dotted hills of Granada, Spain.

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May 2, 2023Liked by M Tamara Cutler

I've worked jobs for the sake of jobs - flipping burgers, retail books. I've worked a job I thought I'd love but that exhausted me - teaching. I've worked a job that exhausted me that I learned to love to the point that it eventually gave me life - a nonprofit executive. I've left work I loved due to a health issue. I've worked at taking care of myself, learning how to manage pain without it ruining my life. I've benefited from medical advances so that I can finally dream of doing (working) something I love. And now I'm able to work again. All of it, all of it was labor. All of it was worthwhile, all of it contributed to who I am today, whether or not someone was paying me. I am grateful.

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May 3, 2023Liked by M Tamara Cutler

I worked at Dunkin Donuts when I was 15. I was making 3.15/hour. My father used to drive me to work at 6am so I wouldn't have to take the bus. I didn't realize until I was in my twenties what a real sacrifice that was. I don't know what it would take for me to drive anyone, anywhere, at 6am.

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My first job wasn't a job at all actually. It was at a small, new pizza parlor across the street from our house when I was 12. I began by hanging out there ALL my free time, pestering the men that worked there and playing the Jukebox constantly. "Love Is A Drug" by Roxy Music still makes me think of that place. I started by infiltrating myself into the daily life of the shop, asking if I could refill ketchup bottles, then working my way up to folding pizza boxes after school. I basically forced myself into a job that didn't exist, because I WANTED to be a part of this new place. I WANTED to be useful. Plus they paid me in pizza once a week. My family loved it!

And so, I started my career in foodservice at a young age.

From there I went onto a short stint licking envelopes at a Dinner Theater for summer cash.

At fifteen I started at another pizza joint where I was hired for food prep, which somehow led to the firing of all the employees except me. This forced me to become a server, work the grill, do the dishes and then make pizzas. All this while the two owners , a couple from Italy and Mexico, would sometimes leave me alone to run the shop while they went home to have mid-day sex and drink. After they split town with my last paycheck and locked the store for good, never to be seen again, I went back to the Dinner Theater and got a job as a proper food prep. I worked my way through the ranks over 4 years from food prep to pastry to Sous chef by the time I left four years later.

To work hard must have been instilled from a very young age by my parents. So much so, that I became a workaholic chef in my older life. Well, that and the fear of being on the streets in poverty...that has been another big driver, but that might story might be for another time.

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May 5, 2023·edited May 5, 2023Liked by M Tamara Cutler

When I was younger I used to tell my mom that I wanted to be a call girl. She thought I was glamorizing “Pretty Woman,” and maybe I was, but it did and still does sound great to go on dates and have sex for money. Unless the date was a flop on the bed and blow me so I can get it up dude and I had to go along with it because he was paying me. Or worse, if he was angry and violent, and felt justified taking it out on me because he was paying me. Definitely wouldn’t want to put myself in a dangerous situation; but I’ve been hit twice at an office job and once at an after school job that also came with unwanted touching on my teenage legs and butt. And have broken up with boyfriends who weren’t paying me but still felt justified asking all of me, and taking it all out on me, while they offered nothing back.

One of my acting teachers said actors are whores, and I am a very good actor.

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I lucked out with my first job, the summer before my senior year in high school, given the reason I wanted to work was to feel like a grown-up. I don't remember how I got the job but it was working in the little tourist booth on Route 1 as the road enters the Maine town I grew up in. Me working there was a family joke as I had absolutely no sense of direction, but people mostly didn't stop for directions per se. The most common question was 'where can we get lobsters' and after that, complaints about not being able to see the ocean from the highway. The first time I heard this complaint I thought it was odd, as if they expected I might reroute the road for them. But then I heard it so many times that it must not have been odd. People must have felt cheated, driving all this way to Maine to see ocean and not seeing the ocean. It was the 70s and someone offered me pot, which also seemed odd to me through my naive childhood lens. Mostly I was in heaven in that job. I was in my own little wooden 'hut', passing out flyers and tourist wisdom now and then, but primarily reading. I read The Confessions of Nat Turner that summer, sitting in my peaceful, airy booth, transported to a hard harsh world.

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May 14, 2023Liked by M Tamara Cutler

It was time for me to look for a job once again after 3 months sabbatical in Spain. By chance I found one at the local sign company. They were looking for someone with drawing skills. The company designed and installed billboards, made neon signs and aluminum facades for old buildings. The men working there saw themselves as laborers, just getting on with the work.

Now this was Tuscaloosa, Alabama in the 60’s. Many of the men were members of the KKK and racist to the core. Enter Barbara, the artsy sprite from the “north” drawing designs for them to execute and watching what they were doing and talking about their process and soon they grew comfortable with me around. I discussed making neon designs for art projects, inviting a sculptor friend to explore it as a medium to include in her work. Slowly I made the crew aware of the artistry of their labor and their work and the workplace became more interesting. The presence of a creative person can transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.

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