Thursday, October 2, 2014

Keep Your Chin Up...

Over this past winter, in February -- at one of the longest, darkest times in my life-- I had absolutely no work at all. NONE.  I learned a few valuable things at that time: how to buy groceries for a week for Jenny and me (for $50), and that diesel oil can be used in a pinch in an oil burning furnace to heat your home. I am so lucky that both Jenny and I have wonderful families to call upon if we ever need to, but dealing with the intricacies of day to day life, we often feel like we MUST figure it out on our own. So essentially, although things have been down and out, we have always had a safety net to fall back on if we truly need it. In any case, we spent a lot of time praying and brainstorming and telling the universe exactly what it is that we wanted.  Sometimes clarity takes time, sometimes it doesn't come at all.  In our case, in the midst of February, a friend and agent of sorts reached out to me unexpectedly.

 The week hadn't started off great at all. We had returned from NYC with a failed bid for a social media campaign for a major east coast decorator. I was taking Oscar, our 9 lb Yorkie, out under my arm on a snowy, icy day. On the last step I totally lost my footing and found the dog and I both in mid-air and uncoupled. I hit the ground with my forearm smashing into the bottom step. Oscar hit the snow and bounced a bit and rolled. I was bewildered, like stars flying around the top of my head - very similar to that of a Looney Tunes character. Luckily, Oscar was fine. I, however, had a rapidly swelling forearm - very black and blue.  Also, I had feared over the weekend that we were running out of fuel oil and the delivery wouldn't come until Wednesday. I picked up five gallons of diesel fuel, just to be safe over the weekend.  After gaining my composure from the fall (and icing my arm), I had to meet with a friend who was offering me advice on how to reinvent myself. Afternoon turned to evening, and Jenny and I returned home to find the oil burner out of fuel, the tank now needing the diesel and the pump needing to be primed and burner reset.

I trudged through the deep snow to fill the tank. Meanwhile, Jenny Googled  "how to on get a furnace going."

I was skeptical, as it was now late at night and we have always used a heating specialist in the past to help us with these mechanical intricacies. Now, smelling like fuel in a cold, dark and poorly lit basement, we proceeded to bleed the line and fill a recycled Talenti gelato container with a dark oily substance that looked like molasses. All whilst our Ipad played a step-by-step video on how to get the burner going. 

 Talenti gelato contains more than just dessert...
GOOD GRIEF!   What had we gotten ourselves into?!  Suddenly, out of nowhere, a click, a surge and the circulator for the furnace began to hum. Jenny and I looked at each other in triumph only to hear a deafening silence two seconds later. At the same time, the gelato container began to overflow. I mopped up with a rag and we pressed the button again to hear the comforting purr of the burner. Two more times it cut out. And two more times we got it going, until on the fourth try it maintained itself. 

 Back upstairs and smelling like a mechanic, I was soon able to shed my winter coat. I checked my emails and found out that a good friend has a possible job opportunity  for me. She had gone to college with a guy whose family owns a major American food home delivery company. They have been on a year-long search for a photographer to reshoot over 200 of their food products. They are near the end of their search after reviewing hundreds of portfolios and are looking for one last effort to narrow it all down. I'm asked to pull together a very specific portfolio of work to show the next day. I have to go through hundreds of images to do it so I decided to stay up until the wee hours to pull it all together. You can't imagine the mantras in my head, the prayers, the pleas to the universe to get me this job. I send my portfolio, have a phone meeting with the creative director, sit on the edge of my seat and nothing seems certain until...
 Three things you might not know about me: 

I love to collect vintage pieces in sets of three. We joke that I like to have a "back up" and then a back up for the back up.

 My largest collection is of cake stands. I guess I like them because a  cake usually means a celebration and therefore these pieces have a lot of good chi around them.
 I met Martha Stewart back in the 1990s at her home in East Hampton when she agreed to meet me and give me career advice. Nothing came of it but it is a great multi-stage story you can find here, here, here, and here.

 Shooting food has become a love of mine and one that led to something that sustained us for a time: 



  1. Totally enjoy your holiday magazine,Instagram, and Facebook posts. You do have WONDERFUL, supportive parents whom I have the pleasure of knowing. Sad to hear you had such a tough winter past. Louisa Foley

  2. Hope you got the job! Love your work!
    Debbie @refreshrestyle

  3. I love everything about you, Matthew... especially your down-to-earth honesty. Thank you for sharing.

  4. My Mother always provided such encouragement with "Keep your chin up and a fuzzy brow!" I think when we hit tough patches in life, they only hone our skills for something better. Wishing you love and smoother times ahead.

  5. This business has been all over the place. Your talent, passion, and hard work will see you both through. I was thrilled you were able to participate in our conference a few years back and I'm more than happy to pitch your photography to our group at this year's conference in Lowell on the 16th. I wish you and Jenny all the best. Good things are coming your way!

  6. Oh my ...reading these posts is something I now look so forward to Matthew...and I loved this and Jenny have such courage and stick together no matter what...this is a beautiful thing. How I would love to have you both over for dinner...wish you lived closer...but who knows...maybe you will be in Houston someday...just call first so I can set out 2 extra plates...for 2 of my favorite people.

    xxxxxx Victoria Silva

  7. What? You are just leaving us right here?? Soooo not fair. I will be back for the rest of the story. :) I hate hate hate that you had such a terribly rough winter. Like Victoria in the comment above, I would be thrilled to have you and Jenny (and your dog:) ) over for dinner....but it would be quite a commute for you to get to Georgia.

  8. We too have a fuel oil furnace and were in the EXACT same scenario this past February! I "googled" how to restart the furnace and held the flashlight and my phone as Aj primed the line (for what seemed like forever) in our 1850 farmhouse mud floor basement! Crazy!
    We'll be set up in Franklin next week and would be beyond honored if you took a moment to stop by our booth!
    ~The Vintage Songbird


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