Romantic Life Lessons

The Blooms: Amateur Starspotters

Most of my loved ones know how obsessed I am with celebrities, and yet you won’t see me interrupting their lives* or asking for a selfie. That’s where my husband comes in. We are a team.

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I’m the one who spots the celebrities, and I gauge whether it’s too dangerous to point him/her out to Sam. Once I mention it, Sam will tap the star on the shoulder and burst into a song of love.

Call me the one who hides in the bushes while he makes his approach, say to an unsuspecting Will Arnett. Yeah, I did that. Sam acted as if they were old rugby friends until the jig was up and the man rushed away. My husband managed to get in an “I love your work.” And he really does.

More recently, I hid in the cheese section of West Side Market, wondering if Sam would wind up in jail. Instead, he got a selfie with CNN host Richard Quest.

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Sam is a delight, though you have to admit, my restraint is admirable, especially when you consider that my mother lives on the same floor as two megastars. Do I knock on their doors? Never. It’s a very Remains of the Day relationship where I am Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson is Star 1 and Star 2–except they don’t know I exist. My mother refuses to do the neighborly thing and invite them over to meet her daughter.

I can forgive her because every month Sam and I have a new celebrity adventure. In November, we went to see the Broadway version of Network, starring Bryan Cranston, Tony Goldwyn, and Tatiana Maslany, among many others. We had tickets on the stage, which meant we were very close to the celebrities. It was a thrill, and not just because Bryan Cranston is The God of Acting. Sam and Tony Goldwyn had a moment (Sam always gets his moment).

Last week, Chris Meloni “liked” my tweet, headline news that I promptly texted to my brother. Soon after, at an office lunch in Tribeca, I noticed John Heilemann, the MSNBC commentator and co-creator of The Circus, at a nearby table. Sam would have gotten a selfie, but I am not an interrupter. Plus, my boss was sitting next to me. It was tough enough to keep from tweeting about it. Eventually, I couldn’t resist.

Hopefully, in the new year, more stars will cross our path. They will be lucky to encounter Sam. Just ask Sonja Morgan, from The Real Housewives of New York. My husband accidentally called her “Nyla” but he got a good pic.

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*I did approach “Nyla” because she was standing alone at a party, looking around. Who am I kidding? I had to say hello to her.

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Romantic Life Lessons

Crash Course from July to December

I didn’t expect to go so long without posting. Either work/life kept me offline or my mundane activities (too much time on Twitter, dammit) were too uninteresting. Not that there’s anything wrong with this. As I look back, I’m still kind of amazed at how much I packed into five months.

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In July, I turned 50! My husband threw me an amazing surprise party. Friends and family showed up to celebrate a milestone that is, so far, strange for me. Like,  where did my brain go? And those extra pounds just won’t go away. I thought I was an insomniac before–this is another level and with dreams…of me eating large rats. I cope by visiting Sephora, Barneys, and Old Navy often.

August brought the death of my uncle, whom I didn’t know that well, but who gave me some sweet memories: spending time with me as I dealt with my grandfather dying, tolerating my crabby barbs, and then surprising everyone by coming to my wedding and being Mr. Charm. Uncle Bill, I hope you are playing tennis in Heaven with Arthur Ashe.

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In September, I learned again how to be ready for an emergency. 9/11 was a big, tragic lesson in running away or facing whatever you’re running toward. In love, you run toward your loved one. One night in September, I woke up to my husband in pain. I made the decision to call 9-1-1 and rode in an ambulance with him. I was terrified that something serious was wrong with him but pushed away those thoughts until I could break down. In the end, he had had a nasty case of e.Coli and the norovirus at the same time. I don’t want to go through anything like this again, but I do know for sure that if he’s ailing, I am a good Florence Nightingale. Just another chapter of happily ever after!

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The month ended with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who brought back for many of us how it feels when you think you are going to die during a sexual assault. Her pain was heartbreaking. The end result should have been easy, but predictably, congress chose to push this not-even-good nominee to the Supreme Court. Anyway, Dr. Ford is my hero forever more.

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*photo credit Jeanne Dickson

In October, I realized this one thing: More travel is inevitable. You think you have couch time. Nope! I have made peace with the discomfort of moving from my couch and now can enjoy looking out the window of the plane (while I pray that it doesn’t crash). I attended two conferences–always a treat–then went to babysit my stepfather, which involves making sure we both eat and watching a lot of Madam Secretary.
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November taught me the valuable lesson that some doctors are a-holes. In 50 years, I have been blessed by the medicine gods. Then my Darling Doctors move away! My new one was glaringly insensitive and careless in his “care,” which shocked me. Because I’m 50, I am so into the idea of NEXT!

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Through all this time, I’ve been writing and researching for a new book. I won’t go into detail except it’s now a claw imbedded in my brain. I can’t go anywhere and leave it behind. I’m sure you know how that feels when a story takes hold of you. I’m excited to see where it goes…

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Vacation in Paris

It seemed indulgent to leave in the middle of U.S. chaos, but a vacation was on the books. As I boarded my plane to Paris, news of separation of children from parents at the border was gaining steam. My television had been on for months (okay, three years). I didn’t want to unplug from the coverage, but I had to.

Somehow, I managed to leave this heavenly being. A gifted care-giver named Edgar took over Yossi Care.

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Here is what I did…

I landed in France, where there was a sane president, great pastries, and for me, a six-day escape.

On the other side of the pond (the freaking gigantic Atlantic), a train strike was discombobulating Paris routine. They have strikes every year. You can almost set your calendar by them: mail and train strike. Deals are struck. Everyone goes back to work.

Because of the strike I took a taxi. My driver spoke only French and he wanted to chat, so we gabbed away for two hours. Why so long? Everyone took their cars into Paris since train schedules were off. Just so you know, “Patrick” waved away my concerns about the U.S. and said that, eventually, the Orange Slob would be gone.

The second I reached our hotel room, I slept…for six hours. I kept trying to sleep throughout my stay. Jet lag is a thing, by the way. I only slept four hours at a stretch. My mistake was that first nap.

But we did have a pretty view outside our room…

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I read an engrossing book by Sarah Dunn.

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And I got to see this guy who was teaching a French class…

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We dined in awesome restaurants because it’s France. Here he is finishing my bowl of soup so that we don’t insult the chef. I was saving room for Green Tea Tiramisu (interesting).

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I ate delicious pastries…and lost six pounds. Don’t get too excited because I gained it back within a day of being home (and eating salads).

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I love to pore over makeup and other beauty supplies, so I went to Monoprix every day. Superficiality is relaxing and underrated–and deep, if you think about it.

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If I needed an American news fix, I turned on European CNN and saw the delightfully theatrical Richard Quest…whom I see often in New York.

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I walked all over and said Hey to pretty places.

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Then, boom, it was over.

Right at this moment last week, I was on a giant A380 airbus with my husband, coming home. Sam sat next to an Unpleasant Passenger. Because Sam has a knack for pacifying difficult people, he spent much of the ride cramped and chatting up UP, cajoling him when the flight attendants didn’t give him exactly what he wanted (extra Camembert cheese).

Midway through the flight, a man had collapsed and was lying down in the small passageway between the bathrooms. His feet were up and several people tended to him. Normally, passenger distress would send me into a panic (What if he dies? What if we all die? What should I do? Is this Executive Decision?). Not this time. He was getting help, seemed on the mend.

I thought of the sickness I’d seen and felt the last few years. Living with another person puts you up close and personal to how another human being manages from day to day. Plus, I had been around collapsing people and hospitals. The best thing I could do was sit in my seat and wish him well, letting trained people do their work. Oh, and vacation had officially ended.

We are back in the middle of our normal (not normal) days and I’m tuned in again. I’m grateful for the break, all while knowing that so many don’t get that precious time away from real life.

Here’s hoping you all get to unplug this summer.

 

 

 

 

 

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There Is No Shame in Asking for Help

Kate Spade’s suicide hit many of us hard on Tuesday, not only because it’s tragic that she left behind a family, but also because she had to have been in a very dark place. We don’t know what was going on in her life. Sadly, this news was eclipsed by our political crises. Pass me some ice cream!

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Kate Spade’s death tells me yet again* that there’s no shame in asking for help. For some, help doesn’t help. It’s become a cliché that creative people (who isn’t creative, btw) are prone to mental health issues and over-medicating. If you look at sheer numbers, no one is immune, which is why we need to reach out even more. Kindness should be a priority, along with asking if everything is okay, meaning it, and showing up when things fall apart.

As each day seems to deliver a new disaster, we can’t let those dark places take over. At the very least we can make peace with what is most frightening and try to move ahead little by little. In a couple days or a week, I may stop thinking of Kate Spade’s creativity cut short, what she must have suffered. There will be outrageous things in the news, small victories perhaps, then the next shocking death that didn’t have to happen.

There is no shame in asking for help. In the words of Hugh Grant in Love Actually, “Love is actually all around.”

Forgive the above platitudes about what is a very serious and complicated issue. I blame it on being face first in a pint of strawberry ice cream, new age-related heat sensitivity, and real sadness over the loss. And what else to say except: I’m heartbroken that this bubbly genius left us.

*RIP, Robin Williams, Avicii, Lee Thompson Young, Alexander McQueen, LWren Scott, David Foster Wallace, Chris Cornell, Gia Allemand, and a special friend from decades ago.

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Random Thursday Thoughts

32222522_2017084141884371_140361330824577024_nWondering if normal to need a 48-hour recovery period after working out with trainer?

The new Keanu Reeves/Winona Ryder rom com looks really good, though must prepare by rewatching them together in Dracula.

My mother is a new texter but somehow is genius with emojis.

Husband is grading exams next to me. The TV is off, which is miraculous. Resent his ability to focus. I may have to turn TV on…

…except he refuses to watch Maddow or Southern Charm.

The cat has drag queen claws.

Someone left a sock in the hall today at work. WHY?

Countless of us walked by and didn’t pick it up.

Wondering if I should finish the awesome story I’m reading, The Idea of You, by Robinne Lee, but don’t want to know the end yet. Have a feeling it’s tragic.

800 steps left for my Fitbit goal. Do I do them and reach my goal or defy tracking device?

How do I do 800 steps with husband grading right in front of me? In NY apartment, there is no place to go.

An ice cream parlor down the street….

 

 

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Fifty Things I’d Tell My 22-year-old Self If I Went into Publishing Today…

There is a lot that I don’t know about my profession and roles I haven’t had. BUT never underestimate a good observer. If I had to do it over, I would likely do everything the same way–with a few revisions.

So you’ve chosen publishing. Applaud yourself for this excellent decision (It’s way less depressing than academia. Sorry, Mom).

Resign yourself to being financially destitute but in a profession where you can read, which enriches the soul.

Most people in publishing love books, so you will find kindred spirits on every floor.

You will find wretched humans, too. They are either wounded or giddy about being wretched. They are not worth tears (definitely alcohol).

Wear a suit (or close) during an interview. Even though publishing houses can be casual, save it for Friday. There’s always the chance you’ll be called in for an interview at the last minute and you’re wearing your favorite jeans (I was so embarrassed).

Watch the parade of engagements, marriages, pregnancies. Maybe it’ll be you someday or maybe not. Either way, never miss free cake and champagne.

Twitter! Instagram! Okay, I’m not sure what to say about it. The boundaries are not clear. Just be smart in your usage. Not every picture should be of you in a bar, holding mega-drinks.

Oh, and if you feel the urge to cryptically diss your boss/company/author on social media, don’t do it. Your followers will want more information, it might get back to the wrong person, and once the wine wears off, you will regret it.

No matter how comfortable you feel communicating, keep a degree of formality in your emails to people, especially those you don’t know well and especially those above you in the org chart. Use Dear So-and-So or even (ugh) Hi, So-and-So, etc… Sign off using your name.

The longer the email, the more likely people won’t read it. Be succinct, but not too succinct.

And if the person is in the office and it’s a quick question, go over and interact with them, unless that colleague is a total misanthrope (that exists).

Figure out early on if you like to house-hop or stay in one (or two) places. Ambition comes in various forms.

Within the publishing realm, consider what you love most: editing itself, marketing, writing, working with authors and agents, networking across all landscapes. Specialize or generalize. The world is yours.

You may have a passion that isn’t your exact job in publishing. That’s okay. If your job abuts your passion (now there’s a book title), it can work out pretty well. The key is not showing that your Big Dream is a real priority–unless you have an imminent exit strategy. In life, you can excel at more than one thing. You can dream big and still be happy in your job (and do well in it). Human beings are complex!

Everything changes. Your office won’t be the same in five years or five years after that — just like high school.

You have special talents, but you can be replaced before the body is cold.

That doesn’t mean you need to be paranoid. But if you’re like me, you worry. Work with the paranoia and do an honest assessment of your skills, what else is out there, and how you will land on your feet.

Communicate with those at your level. It is useful to know how work is divvied up, how other managers operate, and discuss your career trajectory. A support network will be a source of strength.

There is true joy to helping a writer through her story.

Say yes to everything your manager asks (obviously, not theft or murder). It’s very simple. Managers need a lot of stuff done. Do stuff. Better yet, develop psychic powers to know what your manager will need next.

“Be yourself” isn’t always helpful as a motto. If you work for someone whose personality doesn’t mesh with yourself, learn to co-exist (where you appease your boss, who may not be your boss after five years). It will help you get along with anyone.

A positive attitude–to me–is more valuable than intellect, especially if consistent.

Pulling an all-nighter to present your 100-page mostly opinion-based report is just silly. Having facts and doing careful research will ensure a good night’s sleep.

Work hard to get over any fear of public speaking, even if you pride yourself on being The Quiet One. Practice really helps. If you learn to excel at this, your company will rely on you more and this will result in exciting opportunities.

Gossip is a guilty pleasure but it can also be a label that you never shed in the office.

If you can take the occasional work-at-home day, do it! Burnout is real.

Know when to leave the your boss’s office. Lingering to tell that funny story may be annoying (or funny, it depends). It’s difficult to strike the balance between avoiding your boss and overstaying. Somewhere in the middle is good.

You can work very hard all the time, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you will go far. Sometimes, the opposite is true. Working on five books at once means that you’re the girl who works on five books at once (and tells everyone about working on five books at once). The person next to you might be working on six along with networking like a fiend. Finding a new project or getting involved in another way can be more impressive than volume. That said, busting your butt is essential for this job.

Not everyone will like you and that’s a statistical fact. Often, it’s not personal. If it is, don’t sweat it. You have work to do.

Read everything.

There are ways to read everything without reading everything. Discover your ideal reading speeds, such as: Speed 1–author’s book, you should pay attention Speed 2–synopsis because you can always read it later. Speed 3–slush–if good, will automatically slow to Speed 1. Speed 4–that book everyone is talking about and you have to discuss it in a meeting. First three chapters, middle and last chapter okay. Enough so that you have a couple of good points.

Resentment of someone else’s success is a waste of time. Even if physically painful, congratulate that person. You’ll have to contort yourself into many unnatural states to praise others or their concepts. You’ll have your own moments of triumph.

Only apologize once per screw-up. Try not to screw up, but trying too hard might make you screw up. Failure is inevitable. Just stay in your workspace and read as this is Ground Zero for earning your boss’s love.

Your notes to authors should have an even, professional tone (though with praise, writers often appreciate hearts, smiley faces, and exclamation points)

Avoid starting sentences with “I think,” especially with revision letters or reader reports to your manager. We already know that this whole game is subjective.

Don’t casually drop S or F bombs in meetings until you’ve been with the company at least ten years or your role is Queen of Publishing. There are exceptions, like when you spill coffee on yourself or if the subject matter involves profanity. Then curse to your heart’s content.

Authors can see through criticism sandwiched between compliments. Consider letting both stand alone. You can be critical and diplomatic at the same time.

This is terribly ageist but some writers may resent a younger editor (even if you’re very, very qualified and not much younger). Find a way to win her over.

If you feel depressed about the career you have chosen, hang in there. Joy comes and goes in phases–if you’re lucky. Something exciting will come along and recharge your batteries. But if you feel hopeless about your future, find creative ways to grow within your job. Or change jobs.

Observe but don’t get involved in Twitter wars unless you know all the facts for both sides and understand the risk of engagement.

Being the first one in and the last one out might be expected. Sometimes, you’ll have a boss who wants you to have normal working hours but still get all the work done. Either way, flexibility is awesome.

Plan ahead for technical difficulties with your PowerPoint presentation. Old school works just as well–or even better if you can be charming.

The printer and/or copy machine will break down. Learn to tear both machines apart.

Read submissions within a reasonable amount of time. Publishing houses are busy, but writers support them and they have lives, too. If someone asks you the status of a manuscript after a few months, get to it ASAP. Don’t be the black hole where submissions go to die.

During meetings, if you’re one to fidget, sit next to the most intimidating person in the room. You’ll stop fidgeting because you’re too scared to move.

We all have our sketchy attendance periods, but reliability is a gift from the gods. Just show up.

Don’t hesitate to ask about opportunities for promotion during your performance review. It shows you want a promotion. Not everyone does.

Knowing some basic number crunching is advised.

Stay in touch with the friends who leave the company. You will run into them again.

Keep an ongoing list of your accomplishments. You will be amazed by how much you do, and it’s a handy list to give your manager.

When everything is falling apart (landmarks, governments, personal life, the flu), working on a book is excellent therapy.

Romantic Life Lessons

A Cat At Last

We are no longer cat-less. My blog silence on this topic was to protect Yossi’s privacy. No, he doesn’t care. The truth is that it’s hard to upload pictures stuck on my phone. I have to send it to my regular computer and then go through all the hoops to bring it onto the blog. A young whippersnapper would simply write this post on her phone. But I’d have to find my password, which means rifling through papers somewhere. I am turning 50 this year (my new excuse). My slow pace up and down the subway steps? Laziness over technology issues? 50.

Back to Yossi’s origin story with The Blooms. I went to the ASPCA on Friday, December 22, 2017, in search of a kitten. My brother and his husband Carlos–cat lovers–came with me on my mission. The volunteers were super-friendly, conducting an interview on the spot. They did not try to persuade me to adopt an older cat or to take two kittens (I had my reasons to refuse ready). I love them.

There were several adorable kittens I could have taken home until Carlos pointed out this unassuming grey jewel in the bottom row. He was “found” at 5 weeks and originally named “Midori.” I took the little guy out and we bonded instantly. Where do I sign?

My husband didn’t think his getting a robot litter box meant we would actually get a cat, so when I called him at work to let him know I’d found our Yossi, he seemed surprised, wondering how I was bringing “it” home.

Back at the manse, I opened the carrier to cat-human felicity. It didn’t take long for him to start licking Sam’s beard, for them to have Fetch Mouse morning exercises, and chase each other around the apartment.

Three months later, if he’s not within arm’s reach, we go in search of him. I have sacrificed my ergonomic desk chair for his sleeping comfort. He waits at the door for us, tries to climb up our legs. Yossi is friendly to strangers and will sleep on your lap for hours.

I wonder what would add to his happiness. Another mouse toy? More string? Maybe promising never to dress him in little outfits.