Romantic Life Lessons, Shameless Promotion, Whining

Post-COVID Vegan Not-Success

It seemed to happen all at once. Sam said, “I don’t feel right” one Sunday night. We took tests, did another dance with the COVID fairy, and reset ourselves after a week of isolation. When you’ve recovered, the first thing you want to do is delve into the joy of wellness.

We watched The Game Changer* the next Sunday night, learning things we obviously knew before (eating plants = healthier) but this time it felt different because athletes modeled supreme health while chowing down on legumes. Sam and I are intense athletes ourselves so we thought, why not?

Sam was particularly affected by the doc’s showing meat-based-diet plasma compared to vegan plasma. Having survived e.coli and norovirus, he’s hyper-aware of his insides. I, too, am aware of my insides since cultivating a duodenal ulcer in my teens and 20s and, of course, the stomach flu of 2007. There’s also that I like to do drastic things and relish the self-loathing once I fail. Going vegan was perfect for us.

Our habits changed at once! I culled memories of the unintentional veganism of my 20s, mostly due to fear and paranoia. One can’t control traumatic events, but one can control what one eats. I only trusted things like potatoes, bread, cigarettes, and Sprite–from the beige, tar, and transparent food groups. These were trustworthy foods, and I didn’t feel bad at all. Surely I could avoid animal products thirty years later.

Sam and I discussed how veganism would support our cat, even though he himself is not vegan. Clearing out the fridge was a gradual chore. Wasting half and half is worse than drinking it. Somehow, I choked down unsweetened oat milk, which I would still drink if on a deserted island. But what would I do if the plants were poison and a rotting boar was the only thing to keep me alive? Would my stomach acid be strong enough to break down the boar so that I could survive? At the very least, I could clutch my new fake pearl necklace from J-Crew.

My week of veganism wound up being a topsy turvy voyage of feeling great, thrilled by my moral high ground, then a rapid plunge into despair. Even though I could skip a few meals, the idea of hunger reminded me of a darker time when I did not eat because I was afraid of what it would do to me. I’d been coping with the immediate aftermath of trauma and a lot of this involved learning to eat, sleep, be out in the world again. Going vegan wasn’t about giving up ice cream but putting hyperfocus on an issue that pushes my buttons.

There is a happy ending, one I know I can carry to the end of my days. As my vegan adventure ended, I started watching The Kardashians on Hulu–a never-say-never event. So maybe I could go vegan a few times a week, nudging me into healthier habits as I trudge toward the coffin. In the meantime, I can watch a matriarchal family do their thing and remember that I’ve spent my some of my 30s, 40s, and 50s watching them without suffering for it. It is a blessing to choose more vegan options and to find something that whisks me out of circular thinking — and COVID.

*An amazing documentary on Netflix

Romantic Life Lessons, Writing Tips

25 Things I’d Tell Myself If I Joined Publishing Today–The COVID Edition

Four years ago, I ambitiously worked up 50 things. Even 25 things is a massive undertaking and pandemic attention span says no way can I do this. Just resist the lists, people. Or say yes to an amber liquid on the rocks first.

Because of pandemic(s), there are things you won’t tolerate anymore. Honor the new truths that blossomed out of way too much tragedy. Knowing your boundaries will help you navigate any industry that tries to suck your well dry.

Balance the boundaries with an amazing show of skills–consistently. It will freak everyone out.

It’s easy–and temporarily satisfying–to get angry on social media at the many injustices in publishing, especially when you are doing more for less. Like Charmins toilet paper, you are nine rolls smushed into a four-roll package for thirty cents less. That’s publishing–and most corporations. Social media is one of the few places where you can let it rip. Do that–and take concrete action to further yourself: job search, join a group that does active things and speaks truth to power.

One of the best ways to succeed is to figure out every nook and cranny of your job and your boss’s. Anticipate the needs of your manager and conquer what they don’t even realize they need. A lot of knowledge is power, not to mention swagger.

It’s okay to edit late at night while heavily medicated or intoxicated. Just go over it again in the morning. Don’t tell anyone.

Reward yourself RICHLY for every accomplishment. Also, as I said in Fifty Things, write it down immediately. Not only do you have a living document of your achievements, but you can also relive how great you are at times when you really need it. There’s no greater pleasure than whipping out your Scroll of Excellence for The Aboves. Even though they won’t read it, message received.

Make friends/be friendly with anyone in Managing Editorial/Production departments. They are the best.

In life and at work, there is always someone you can’t stop loving even though they’re unvaccinated. But you shouldn’t have to work in the same office with them.

Avoid assholery of any kind, even though it’s tempting to engage because real life can be damned boring. This is not the 1950s or the 1980s or even 2020 anymore. Mad Men is just so…gross. You absolutely don’t need to bear the degradation of anyone’s bad behavior. Keep careful notes and visit HR as often as you need.

The best way to get through a remote workday is to break down the day by half hours (like Hugh Grant does in About a Boy) and take many window-shopping breaks. Bonus points for suggesting makeup tutorials to me since that is my heroin.

Always wait at least a day before answering a pissy email from a “professional,” especially the kind who doesn’t give two shits if you’re wheezing with COVID.

It doesn’t matter what you wear to work anymore, but it kind of does.

Email triage is a sick, twisted game corporations dreamed up to raise your cortisol levels, especially as we remote. Don’t fall for the flimsy communication with the human types we miss. As noted by work gurus, hyper-email-vigilance negates productivity.

Stay in touch with your work buddies who are resigning. It doesn’t have to be a daily email. Over a long career, you will see each other again and why not have more friends?

When applying for a job or sending a submission, write a charming and targeted cover letter. Even if they don’t ask for one. They are more fun to read than a resume.

Everyone’s social skills have deteriorated. Maybe there’s one person who hasn’t been affected by this whole mess, but let’s believe they are crying softly in a dark corner the way I was last week.

Many things can be accomplished by turning off all electronics and jotting down ideas on paper. It’s so simple it’s crazy.

You don’t have to explain why you listened to every second of the Johnny Depp v Amber Heard trial. As an editor, you need to know everything. Plus, you’re kind of a lawyer.

Always have a question in your pocket, but use it wisely and not just as the meeting is ending. Exception if your meeting is with one person, who is likely desperate to prolong human contact so please keep talking with the more questions.

Never ingest things from communal fruit plates, bins, urns, refrigerators unless you know exactly where the grub has been, who touched it, and in what century.

Get back to reading for pleasure. This can be one of the first things to go, but very easy to pick up again.

Do keep track of whether or not Kim Kardashian finishes law school. Your laser focus on this is everything.

Don’t beat yourself up for keeping twelve different notebooks tracking different versions of the same thing. I see you.

If you can envision working in a field other than publishing, investigate further. That quiet jotting-down-ideas thing works really well for this. Sometimes you don’t know another path even exists.

But if you love books and editing, you might be stuck with this complicated soulmate. Publishing is going through things right now–though it’s always been like a mission to Mars via roller coaster. Take a hard look at the years ahead. Do you believe in the work you are doing? Will you ever make a livable wage? This is where you pull out the self-awareness and determine what you want, what you can bear, and what you can do for books.

Now excuse me while I go back to The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.

Romantic Life Lessons

Birthday Endorsements

Yesterday we celebrated my 54th with isolation due to a short visit from the COVID fairy. It was a beautiful day with three pieces of cake, a big cookie, sparkling rose, endless murder shows, a puzzle, books, ironing clothes (because I love that), and the unintentional comedy stylings of my adorable husband.

I want to start out year 55 with endorsements to people/entities/things that have given me reassurance and pleasure this birthday week:

Shout out to those who work at the facility where my father-in-law and his cradle-robbing girlfriend reside. They are friendly, always there, and know exactly how to make my in-laws feel safe.

Even though it’s unpopular to praise an airline, I endorse Delta airlines for managing our uneventful flights to/from Florida last week. This is probably how the COVID fairy followed us home, but for me, old shaky-legs-on-a-plane, smooth flying is happy crying experience.

Writers always deserve heaps of applause and this past week, I must thank Jennifer Steil (Oberlin College classmate!!!) for The Woman Who Fell From the Sky and Candice Millard for The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey. These stories thoroughly distracted me and I learned a bit about Yemen and Teddy Roosevelt respectively. I’m grateful.

It’s a good idea to have more than black garments in your wardrobe. In New York City, I’m under penalty of imprisonment if more than 5% of my clothes are non-funereal. For kicks, I’m a fan of getting a dress in that color you’re afraid to wear. For me, it’s a bold red! Here I am, feeling strangely great in red…and wearing heels for the first time in years. My motto: Get it.

I endorse not giving up when you’ve reach a certain age. It’s taken me a few years to believe this, but now I am ready, thanks in part to a kick in the butt from my mother, Empress of Never Giving Up, who is still working at her dream because she loves it. Thanks, Mom!

For those reading, don’t give up, okay? Bonnie Gene says so.

Writing Tips

Fleshing Out Yossi’s Journey

There are numerous places where editing and writing intersect. One of these is when a manuscript reads as if it’s been written in a rush. Action, action, line of dialogue, action. The scene might call for fast-paced movement, but weaving in a little description or POV won’t necessarily slow down the pacing. On the contrary, it can save your reader’s wandering eye.

When I edit, I read the jumpy, too rushed text “out loud” in my head. If the writer’s voice is consistent, shows command of the unfolding scene, I make mental smiley faces. But if the narrative feels vacant or confusing–with characters moving like robots–I wonder how the writer has skipped a few steps to get to the end and omitted adequate description. Sometimes writers (and editors) just want to finish their quotas for the day. I feel that pain myself and then suffer for it later when I have to go back and do the job right.

A few times, I’ve been given the task to flesh out stories (mine or someone else’s) where the need to rush to the end is strong. It feels fine when you’re getting down all those words. But then, it’s flat. Diagnosing the problem is easy, but sitting down to fill out empty spaces can be daunting yet thoroughly exciting. One suddenly has lots of room to play. Why not play?

As an example:

First of all, who is Yossi and why does he need to leave? He must be Alexander the Great since he needs to conquer. But also, he fears the elevator. How interesting that there’s only one adjective. Basically, the reader can only gauge so much. This is where you roll up your sleeves and go to town.

Don’t glossy moth carcasses sound awesome? You have to wonder if Yossi is about to engage in some kind of mating ritual. I don’t want to see what comes next. Or maybe I do? It’s not like I ever look away.

Maybe we need a sentence or two about why he needs to leave. Is it just because of the Bichon Frise or is it something else? What’s driving him–aside from what we could assume to be dog sex?

You never know where a story’s going to go, do you? This one definitely isn’t finished.

The moral of the story is to fill in those cracks even if you think your story is fine. In the end, Yossi may have a simple journey from Point A to Point B and we don’t need all this crap. That’s why the delete button is there for your pleasure. Part of the joy of writing is discovery. So what you feel is filler could be the darling touch that the reader will remember forever.

Glossy moth carcasses.

Romantic Life Lessons, Whining

My Mother Says to Write Something Outrageous

I have a Satan voice, which first revealed itself when I had to recite French poetry in first grade (as one does). At family gatherings, I get requests for Satan and my audience still wonders where it comes from. I’ll never tell.

What neutralizes this blasphemy is that my husband Sam, who is Jewish, can speak in tongues. It’s pretty amazing. You ask for it, and it’s like the divine is speaking through him. We’re trying to find a way to monetize this.

Here are some other outrageous things I want to say on this July 4, which is not really about independence but the lack thereof:

I don’t understand people who put just a splash of milk in their coffee. Do you think one splash will significantly alter the taste or color? It doesn’t! I’ve tried it so that I can see where you weirdos are coming from.

George Clooney and Brad Pitt–just barely handsome. Never have they been hot.

The Highline is just a walkway above the ground. That’s it!

Gross: hot chocolate, beets, 90% of soups (people who love tomato soup, I don’t even know you), acorn squash, melted ice cream, untoasted whole wheat bread, and whatever tilapia is.

There’s this orange/peach color that clothing stores try to get rid of. It looks like stomach contents. Don’t convince yourself that it’s peach–it’s just barf.

Can we stop ugly-shaming Mitch McConnell? Do we need to keep talking about how hideous he is both inside and out? It’s so cliche, but let me check one more time if it’s actually true.

The worst day in New York City is SantaCon, but since we’ve moved further uptown, we don’t encounter the staggering young Santas yelling and vomiting in front of our building.

Hemingway and Laurence Olivier–overrated!

I used to have some respect for the Republican Party. My grandparents were proud Reagan voters, and I could at least understand why they loved him (though I didn’t). The GOP has changed so much in the last ten years I don’t even recognize it as anything but a fear-filled, power-hungry mass of old guys and Patrick Bateman youth. The Democrats get angry and have some brilliant minds to convey outrage, though they need an action-hero to pull it all together and make change happen. I keep waiting for that moment when the good guys to win, but they seem to go home at night and tweet.

I hated Bill Maher in my 20s and 30s. By my 40s, I started enjoying him as a pissy truth-teller–even if he’s not everyone’s truth. I agree with him 80% of the time and like that he brings educators onto his show. Most shows invite big dum dums to say the exact same things. Hey, Bill, my mom is always available, but if you talk over her, she’ll cut you.

If I had to work on Below Deck, I’d want to be third stew doing laundry the entire time because I hate boats yet adore all things related to laundry. While working for Captain Lee, Sandy, or Glenn, I would iron their clothes with unabashed giddiness.

COVID has ruined so many things, the least of which is the award show format. It was hanging by a thread before COVID due to the blinding whiteness and nostalgia for Billy Crystal. We still love movies and TV, but it is overshadowed by understandable social awkwardness and general thirst for celebrities behaving badly.

Non-cartoon talking animals in commercials and movies, not cool. Scary, in fact.

When you’re talking about pubic hair on a soda can or sexual assault at a Supreme Court justice hearing, it’s time to set the bar a little higher.

There are angels in our midst. A few weeks after my friend and I were robbed and raped at gunpoint, we started taking self-defense classes. This giant red-haired dude drove us every week and went at a snail’s pace through scary neighborhoods–scary because I was petrified to be outside at all. During our ride, he reminded us that even though this happened to us, the monsters didn’t take our souls.

You can take away women’s freedoms, money, dignity, rightful places, power, but it’ll never be enough. Enjoy your July 4th with hotdogs, parades, and waving flags. It won’t cover up the atrocities this country has inflicted upon women, people of color (which includes women), other countries, and just about anyone who comes to this country seeking a better home.

I don’t buy this holiday, but thanks for the day off!

Uncategorized

Melancholy +

It’s not often I find openly melancholy kindred spirits, but I happened upon one while listening to Susan Cain on the “We Can Do Hard Things” podcast. Cain talked about her new book, Bittersweet, which seems to celebrate–or at least honor–those sad sack moments where you are filled with intense woe (downbeat whoa) and love it. My paraphrasing doesn’t do this state of being justice, which is a different kind of sad. Let it be known here that I feel right at home with sadness and depressing things*.

Before I sink into an upsetting vibe, something I do well, especially as I mourn the lack of purple gel pens near my desk, I’ll share how much I liked that Cain spoke about posting art on her Instagram, just as a way to commune with others in a beautiful way. My favorite melancholy artist, Caspar David Friedrich, came to mind (I’m sounding like Frasier a little). When I look at this painting, I feel deep sadness and a connection to the universe. Plus, two dudes with cool hats, a freaky tree, and sliver of moon.

Friends, in Googling this piece of art, I just discovered that it exists just a short walk from my residence. See ya!

*Knowing that I don’t have anything that should cause me sadness. My privilege is pretty sickening.

Uncategorized

March 12

Dear Friends,

I write this having just braved the bomb cyclone side-blowing snow-sleet “event” outside our door. Nothing like what’s happening overseas but subtle encouragement to stay inside and reflect…and watch the $4.99 movies I bought from iTunes. Keanu Reeves in Siberia could be the uplift we need. Maybe today I teach myself the dance moves to Beyonce’s “All the Single Ladies” or Tom Holland’s “Umbrella” from the lip-sync battle.

Today should be like any other pandemic day but it’s also forever my last day in the office before we went remote two years ago. I’ll admit I was EXCITED to stay home during what I thought would be a no big deal flu. Sort of like no school days during an Upstate New York blizzard. But my husband and I got over that excitement fast and one month turned into centuries.

Exactly one year ago, I walked into the doctor’s office, feeling “not quite right” and was diagnosed with COVID. It took a lot of time to get through it, but I did. Life gives you those jolts for no good reason. But you can find coping strategies that turn into cozy blankets. During the pandemic, I’ve delved into makeup and more books and clothes and puzzles. They take the place of a morning commute and the sense that rushing around is the best thing one can do.

This March 12, I’m hoping to finish these fine books:

And test out Gwen Stefani’s Original Recipe lipstick, hopefully not scaring my husband. The eyeshadow palette is dreamy.

Here’s hoping you’re enjoying today. And if you’re fighting your way through “events,” may you find as many cozy blankets as possible.

Celebrities

And Just Like That…The Equal Justice Reunion!

Note to Sam: You’re sitting a few inches away from me but I don’t have the energy to say, “You will hate this post” because it involves bringing up that you don’t like SATC and couldn’t get through five minutes of Season 1, Episode 1. Even though you love Fritz and The Closer, go read Proust. I love you.

On to today’s topic. Omicron is this winter’s weighted blanket, but not the good kind. A nice cure for the COVID-19 blues, at least for me, has been And Just Like That…which, in my opinion, sparks more joy than its little sister, Sex and the City. Diversity is the main jolt to AJLT, grounding it in the realm of New York City’s actual population. My one quibble is lack of diversity in terms of $$$, but this is supposed to be fantasy, right? Not really how to live sanely in a studio or one-bedroom apartment. In any case, I love Nya, Che, Seema, and Lisa so much that I forgot to protest Samantha’s absence (her own show would be fabulous). Each character’s life bubbles over with real angst, the adult kind that rips you to pieces or sends you into that slow, agonizing downward middle age spiral.

But let’s talk about my young adulthood crush: Jon Tenney! Yes, Fritz from The Closer and Major Crimes. The supposed villain in Fools Rush In. The husband in You Can Count on Me and the list goes on and on! He is in today’s AJLT as one of Carrie’s suitors. It’s a full circle moment for me, kids. If you read my memoir, there’s a chapter where I’m braving an urban Ohio winter and looking for any port in the storm because Cleveland really sucked in the early 90s. My port was Marlboro Lights, anything smokable the show Equal Justice, starring SJP who worked with “Peter” aka Jon Tenney. Every week, I got out the popcorn, cartons of cigarettes, and wine to eat, puff, and drink my way through every sparkling second of the show.

Back then, a small world moment occurred when I discovered that Jon Tenney happened to be MY BROTHER’S GOOD FRIEND. Patrick didn’t take seriously the idea of me instantly marrying his friend. The notion nauseated him because I was an embarrassing stage-five clinger once kicked him in the shins with wooden shoes. Time helps girls like me hike up those moderation levels. Also, I married someone more amazing than my wildest dreams.

But since we’re on the topic, since the brutal Cleveland winter of 90-91, I had the pleasure of meeting Jon Tenney a couple times. While I couldn’t eat for three days, I did converse with my brother’s CELEBRITY friend and he’s just as nice as you would imagine.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – OCTOBER 20: Jon Tenney and Sarah Jessica Parker are seen on the set of “And Just Like That…”on October 20, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Jackson Lee/GC Images)

On today’s episode of AJLT, SJP and Jon Tenney reunite. Will it last longer than the show Equal Justice? Is The Substance of Fire* still between them? Last point on this, reader, is that Jon Tenney read my memoir and I didn’t even ask him to. Not that I ever would have asked.

Hope you are enjoying And Just Like That… as much as I am or that you have another show that brings on the endorphins during this super shitty challenging time. 🙂

*They co-starred in this play together in the 90s. Not that I keep track of anyone’s career.

Shameless Promotion, Writing Tips

2022 Is Up to You

I usually make resolutions on New Year’s Eve, put them in an envelope, and seal it until years later when I’m feeling nostalgic. This time I bailed. I kept thinking I should continue this tradition, but just put it off. As an ardent fan of resolutions and lists in general, I wondered if something was wrong (pandemic, Betty White).

Maybe this year should be different. I don’t know. What do I know? With questions like this, I typically pick up a book or watch a show. It’s an easy save. Taking in someone else’s creativity helps me figure out what to do next. Today, though, I have no such desire. It’s time for a little introspection sans outside noise.

Often, when I need guidance or inspiration I have this trusty exercise. The best part is that it’s free and entirely up to me. No astrology, Fitbit, Noom, or pulse oximeter to show me the way.

It involves asking myself one question:

What do I need to know today?

I find a blank piece of paper and pick up my crappiest pen (à la Natalie Goldberg). The question hands in my head and I wait. Then, my hand just moves along, creating words, sentences, paragraphs, and pages. I’m never quite sure what will emerge but when I reach an end, I go back and read. What I find always shocks me. Asking this question usually unleashes powerful feelings, benevolent ones. There is a message from somewhere that turns out to be exactly what I need to know today.

Writing reveals so many mysteries about who you are.

A secondary advantage to this exercise is loosening up the creative muscles, which don’t get a lot of use during Below Deck: Mediterranean marathons. I remember that I have my own stories. They need to get out somehow, so a little guided scribbling can be the right brain’s perfect Drano.

So what do you need to know today?

Uncategorized

What a Year!

And guess what? It’s not over yet (Damn you, Omicron). My favorite part of December is reviewing the last 11 months. I don’t know about you but 2021 knocked me on my ass, slightly more than 2020. This year had moments of clearing away the garbage, then different shock waves to leave one hugging a wall. I’m a deeply fortunate person, though I do battle demons now and then. This leaves me grateful for my time on earth. Here is what made 2021 noteworthy for me:

The utter joy to have a different president and VP. No president can heal the damage of the previous administration, but this one is better and makes the news boring again.

Because of above, I’ve stopped watching the news 24/7, which means lower ratings and better mental health. I realize cable news needs me, and when disaster strikes, I do return. The breaking news flashes have created a pavlovian response in me.

By March, COVID numbers got better, so perfect timing for me to house a wet sponge in my lungs. Friends, I am delighted to be alive, even though I ate too many cashews just now. What a joy to be vaccinated x 3 and not feel as if I need to get my affairs in order (although they are because you never know). For my buddy who refuses to get jabbed because of wanting to “rely on their immune system”–I too thought I was too strong to get COVID, but in March I was sucking air and not envisioning walking a block without passing out. In pandemics, you have to pull together and do right by your neighbor. When you’re helping kill off millions, you really belong on a mission to Mars.

In June, I went on a “family vacation” to the Jersey Shore! I deemed myself Snooki and spent the time filming my toes in the ocean, watching Lupin and Miranda, and going to Target. That’s what happens when you’re no longer 20 (or 30 or 40). Yes, the beach was amazing! Did I swim in the ocean? No, because Jaws and I overconfidently ordered a bikini that I didn’t actually want to wear. Also, sharks, baby sharks, jellyfish, moving things.

After finishing a novel, I took a radical and strategic step toward its progress. That’s very cryptic, I know. It made the 2021 list so it must be important to me.

July: First flight since February 2020! Did this Delta flight to Miami resurrect my painful fear of flying? Absolutely not! Even masked, how awesome to glide over the Atlantic and, after 5 episodes of Friends, swoop down into southern Florida! I got to see my adorable father-in-law and celebrate his 95th birthday.

August: Sam got a cold. CRISIS! Testing. More testing. I get the cold, too. OMG, our first colds in 18 months.

September: A deeply loved relative passed away. We are heartbroken over his loss. It still doesn’t seem real. The only happy part was how it has brought our giant family together.

In November, I participated in Nanowrimo and wrote *another* novel. Is it about my Latin teacher? Prep school? Hitchhiking? Summer camp? Vespasian? Fertility issues? Forgiveness? I have no idea, except it’s fiction and not a book of essays.

December now. I’m allegedly on vacation and now thinking it’s strange how one text can spark an idea, then get you off the couch. A few months ago, Sam and I were firm in our beliefs in how we would live. Then we received a text and might be on a new adventure. Details to come on this but here’s a hint.

This wasn’t an easy year by any means. What helped me through some difficult days (weeks) was acknowledging that “I am in hell” and “It’s bad right now.” It makes better times that much sweeter and easier to recognize, like today when I have the right number of clips to hold up my hair, I’ve just discovered Below Deck, and Sam is cooking dinner. I’m good and I hope you are, too.

Happy Holidays and may 2022 be a cake walk for us all. Oops, I said cake.