Personal Stories of America at Work

Monthly Archives: November 2010

A New Crop of Farmer

Organic farmer David Retsky stays down to earth and harvests success despite setbacks

"Half of farming is just getting out of bed in the morning."

“With his day-old stubble, warm eyes, and broad smile, it’s no surprise to find David’s face adorning billboards in Whole Foods markets in the San Francisco Bay Area. But David is not just another pretty face, he’s an enterprising independent grower who supplies supermarkets, restaurants, and farmers markets with organic vegetables and specialty herbs from his Petaluma, Calif., farm, County Line Harvest. David’s back-to-the-earth lifestyle is a radical departure from his comfortable upbringing in trendy Beverly Hills. This thirty-eight-year-old single dad is part of a new generation of farmers who are young, hip, and about as far away from the pitchfork-in-hand ‘American Gothic’ stereotype as you can imagine.”

-Chronicler Vicki Larson

Rejecting a surface life

I grew up in Beverly Hills, though my family was not part of the super-wealthy crowd. It wasn’t a place that offered many role models of people working their way up a career ladder, or people who seemed to feel really good about their endeavors. I felt a general lack substance and purpose there, no sense of being connected to something bigger. It was a surface life.

Read the full interview >>

laura | November 30, 2010 | Agriculture, Entrepreneurs, Small business | 2

The Book Dork

Independent bookstore owner Kathleen Caldwell writes a sequel for a small store that’s rich with relationships

"I’m never going to be rich, but I get to do amazing things and meet amazing people."

“Kathleen does not immediately strike me as an independent bookstore owner. No artsy reading glasses. No thin scholar’s physique. Instead, I get the feeling, as she gazes intently at me, that she does not suffer fools. Interviewed outside a cafe in the hillside community of Montclair, in Oakland, California, Kathleen was interrupted multiple times by passersby who asked about a book, a reading or how business had been that weekend. Kathleen is a real fixture in the neighborhood.”

- Chronicler and Managing Editor Molly Rosen

How it all started

After having spent twenty years in the book business, as a buyer, editor, publicity agent and events coordinator, I was fired for the first time in my life.

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molly | November 23, 2010 | Publishing, Small business, Women | 3

The Evolving Artist

Painter, teacher, writer, and actor Betsy Franco finds creative success while moving from one medium to the next

“I knew that in order to feel sane, I had to create somehow.”

“Betsy and I met in Bikram yoga many years ago. With her dark long hair and petite, fit frame, I thought she was in her late forties or early fifties, but she is the mother of three grown sons—all successful and creative artists. She asked that we not mention her age because she’s now acting and would rather keep herself open for younger roles. Our discussion explores her creative path and how it led to the successful work and art she creates today.”

- Chronicler Carrie Coltman

Even when I was a child, I knew what made me happy

As a child growing up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, I remember feeling delighted when I was drawing pictures, in school or on my own. Creativity was important to my parents, and they encouraged my art. I still have some of the drawings I made while we lived in Japan, when I was five and six years old and my father was an oral surgeon in the Navy. Throughout my childhood, I was drawn to art, poetry, and math, but I couldn’t have told you that then—I only see it looking back.

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molly | November 16, 2010 | Education, Publishing, Women, Working Mother | 6

The Salty Lobsterman

Lobster trapper Paul Rosen handles trawls and brawls to bring home the crustacean

"My favorite part of the job is that I am not bound by four walls."

“I associate lobster with fancy restaurants and expensive bills. Historians among us know this crustacean was originally a poor man’s meal in the early years of the colonies. But what about those peoplepredominantly menwho still fish for lobster in today’s economy and earn a living catching these little critters in their traps along the northeastern shore? Paul Rosen is one of those men. When I met with him in Provincetown, he struck me as a modern-day Popeye with burly forearms covered in tattoos and a deep voice scratchy from years of cigarettes.”

- Managing Editor and Chronicler Molly Rosen

Haulin’ my trawls

My typical day is waking up around 4:30 and grabbing my bait from the cutting house—fish skins, salmon heads, and the like. I use about 300 pounds of bait a day. Occasionally I use skate for bait if I can’t get my skins. I don’t really care for skate though, because they smell really, really bad.

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laura | November 07, 2010 | Fishing, Small business | 11

The Hopeful Job Seeker

Former claims rep Bonnie Edwards comes to terms with a job loss and strives to start over

"I was fired in August 2009. How can you target someone who’s been able to do a job for twenty-one years and suddenly say they can’t do the job?"

“As a Human Resources executive for over twenty years, I have seen my fair share of resumes. Sometimes we get so caught up in ‘key word matches’ and ‘job fit’ that we forget each and every resume represents a real person out there with hopes and desires for a happy and productive life. Bonnie’s story helped me remember this. She started in the automobile insurance industry right out of college and after twenty-two years at the same company was fired from her job. She is actively seeking new employment and, in our conversation, describes feeling grateful, at peace, and more hopeful about the future. At her request, we’ve used a pseudonym.”

- Chronicler Sherry Jordana

I’ve got the perfect job for you

I graduated from Rutgers University in 1987 with a Bachelor’s in Sociology and intended to go into social work. But I would have had to work over a year without health care benefits, and since I was just out college and really needed health benefits, I decided not to pursue social work. I ended up going to an employment agency. The agency person went through her files and told me, “I’ve got the perfect job for you!”

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molly | November 06, 2010 | Automation, Insurance, Job Search, Unemployment | 8

The Modern Manners Maven

Etiquette consultant Arden Clise teaches the finer points of conduct to boost confidence and avoid awkwardness

"Don't worry, I'm not on duty."

“I have been in business for years, but had never heard of an etiquette consultant before I met Arden. I grew up in a traditional mid-western family in which we learned at a young age which fork to use and when thank you notes were mandatory. I was intrigued with the idea that a whole industry has sprung up to teach adults traditional and modern (think social media) etiquette. Speaking from her office in Seattle, Arden explained how she helps businesspeople to be more confident, and how we can all avoid common pitfalls at our next business lunch.”

- Molly Rosen, Managing Editor and Chronicler

You still get invited to dinner parties?!

When I tell people what I do for a living, there are usually two responses: (1) they say “everyone needs that,” or (2) they stiffen and start getting tense, thinking I’m going to point out what they’re doing wrong.

I was online recently with some other etiquette consultants. One wrote that she was tired of the grief she gets when sitting down at a dinner party. Someone often says, “I don’t want to sit next to the etiquette consultant because then I’m going to have to watch my manners.”

Read the full interview >>

molly | November 05, 2010 | Entrepreneurs, Small business | 6

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