Romantic Life Lessons, Writing Tips

Hamilton

When Hamilton first appeared on Broadway, I didn’t care. My historian parents would soon discover its existence and make us see it anyway. As a late-forty-something and new iPhone addict, I no longer had the band-width for academic things. Plus, it seemed manipulative for a play to feed me American history. Why did I want to know more…about anything?

The buzz grew. As presidential candidates began their tap dancing, I heard you, Hamilton, and your room where it happens. Obama even went to see it, blessing it as the best thing to exist in this galaxy. At the office and on Facebook, friends treated Hamilton seats like winning the golden ticket in a Willy Wonka chocolate bar. OMIGOD, you’re seeing it in eighteen months? You are so lucky! (You could die before then)

I rebelled against this peer pressure, which meant I had a budding interest. What a great time to be in theater ticket estate planning. When I croak, my nieces could inherit my Broadway tickets. Smug in my non-history-play-seeing (but still alert), I returned for my tenth viewing of Frankie Valli vowing to pay off his bandmate’s tax lien in Jersey Boys. Meanwhile the scent of 250-year-old treasury secretary wafted its way down to the West Village, at which point my mother, a famous historian, said, “Get us 6 seats, orchestra, anything in the next month.” Sure, Bonnie. I’ll do that.

For my mom, I’ll snooze my way through a history lesson with its creative rethinking of the birth of our nation. For Mom, I’ll even accept that Hamilton has a man-bun. But alas, my computer laughed me silly as I tried to purchase 6 seats together in the same year. That’s not only impossible, it’s the price of a Honda Civic circa 1991 (fact).

Mom and I said, “Whatever” to these results. We didn’t want to see it anyway. What’s this about non-Classical music in a period piece? We don’t even listen to hip hop (My iTunes purchases say differently). So, American history, hip hop, and a scarcity of tickets. No thanks!

All around me, the hype continued and I saw Lin-Manuel Miranda on shows, being happy and excited, not the least bit tired or jaded over being a sensation–again! He was in the thick of that wonderful genius bubble where you create something meaningful for the world. Damn him!

My friend from work finally went to see it and came back saying, “It’s nothing you’ve ever seen before. Another level.” Her review weighed on me. Another level means another level. I bought Ron Chernow’s book and started to read. The text was engrossing, as was LMM’s adorable book of uplifting tweets (600 pages shorter, tho). Add to this the synchronicity of my giving a Hamilton bill to my takeout delivery person multiple times per week.

But, people, my fever broke. I gave up pursuing the secret dream. Sort of like when I knew I wouldn’t be able to score a ride, shelter, and Duran Duran tickets in 1984.

When LMM did Hamilton in Puerto Rico, I saw it as a sign of renewal. Go. I even entered the contest to win a chance to fly to PR (I don’t like to fly) to see Hamilton. The realization took years to appear like a banner in my brain: I have to see Hamilton. I really have to see it. Over and over, I thought this. Tickets still too much. But I still have to go. I checked calendars. Asked my husband wouldn’t it be nice. No, he said. When the play Charlemagne opens, he’ll be there (he likes France).

Weeks went by. After a couple years of not wanting to go but secretly wanting to go. I started to think about going by myself. No follow through.

Last weekend, Sam and I were dying of boredom (it happens even when you love each other). He looked through the plays and clicked a few icons and said, “We’re seeing Hamilton tomorrow, 3 pm.”*

So.

Everyone was right. I won’t go into detail because I’m running out of ink. Just know that it’s a masterpiece. I am still thinking mostly about the labor involved in creating those three hours of joy. Hamilton is what happens when you work harder than anyone else. Great works take work. Writers who are stuck or crawling toward that agonizing finish line–answer that call to witness someone else’s talents. It might be the motivation you need at the exact right time.

The Hamilton ear worms are brutal, though.

(Okay, Mom. Now it’s your turn.)

*Yes, he’s really nice.

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Romantic Life Lessons

Happy Date-iversary! Let Me Count the Ways…

Happy First-Date-iversary to my beloved Sam. It’s been nine whole years since I went to JFK to pick him up for our first date. We hadn’t seen each other in almost three decades, since high school. Now, so many years later, it is easy to love Sam. Here are just a few reasons why…

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He loves a buffet, food spread, or five-course meal. A real foodie. The joy on his face is so worth my constant fear of food poisoning.

He is handy–and works hard to learn new tricks. Home Depot is his friend. His forays into TV installation are legendary. At first, he mounted our TV near the ceiling, then realized this wasn’t ideal.

It is fun to live with him. I’m not sure why. Is it his good nature? His non-smothering way? He’s just lovely, even in small spaces. In fact, I’m more comfortable when we’re in the same room. He makes really good coffee, too.

When he has time, he cooks and his meals are heavenly, except for the stuffed cabbage but I eat it anyway.

He is a book-worm and reads international news. A total smarty-pants.

He really loves my mother and brother (my deal breakers).

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Three times, he came with me to see Duran Duran in concert and even acted ecstatic for this picture.

When I am enraged or mean to him or having a meltdown, he takes it seriously but also isn’t freaked out by it.

Except for his camo shorts, which his nieces loathe, he dresses nicely for every occasion.

It is highly entertaining to hear Sam talk to customer service on the phone. He will go on for hours and get to the bottom of a problem–and get that $5.00 refund from a vending machine.

He is fearless. I mean, he might have anxieties, but if you want to jump out of a plane, he will do that, too. He can also tell you in minute detail how to put your butt through a glass shower door and get thirty-six stitches in your butt.

Sam has a strong moral compass. He does the right thing, helps people, and feels endless guilt if he causes harm. He just cares, even if the person is a shitbag.

Obviously, he is good-looking and charming. That’s only a fraction of why he’s so special.

In all the dating manuals, we’re encouraged to act a certain way. With Sam, the more attention he gets, the happier he is. It’s that simple, and so refreshing not to withhold the urge the text him with lots of emojis.

I love listening to him, even if he is ranting about things I don’t believe. The intellectual or emotional slant is always fascinating. Then he will change his mind a week later.

Sam is close to his brother and their daily conversations are a play in three acts with one twenty-minute intermission while Warren finishes shopping at Publix. The best theater around.

He doesn’t tell me about the near misses on his bike rides to and from work–and he wears a safety jacket and helmet. I just pray he comes home every night in one piece.

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He makes everything more fun! Travel, walking around the block, getting ice cream, dinner out, exercise, and even illness.

He will chase Yossi around the apartment, play fetch with him, and wrestle. The cat has him wrapped around his paw.

His anal retentiveness is adorable. I thought I was bad, but yeah, not even close.

Sam is one of those people who brightens up a place. He’s always good to have at a party and at home. If it’s open bar, do not have a karaoke machine.

When he walks down the street, he usually has a smile on his face, which is why people stop him to ask a question/directions.

He has his bad days, but understands how things shift. His self-awareness and overall understanding helps those who might have stormier outlooks (I’m not naming names).

I am so grateful that I get to spend every day with this special human being. Happy Nine Years, Cookie aka Love of My Life! When this picture was taken in 1984, I had no idea that you would be my husband someday….

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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.

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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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.

Romantic Life Lessons

Tough Year, Still a Crazy Lucky Wife

At the beginning of 2017, I reasoned that we should adopt a cat because it would help offset the raging depression sure to come after the inauguration. You said no. I asked if I needed to be gravely ill before we finally got a cat. Don’t be silly, you said. It was a shameful thing for me to suggest (a few times) and you didn’t fall for it.

Accepting this pet-less fate, I went along with my year, so focused on current events that I couldn’t have spared love for anyone else. You are sort of right about everything (except MSNBC is amazing, no matter what you say). Would an adorable, twitchy feline make the horror go away? Or in that never-ending trigger-fog, would I remain absent, as I’ve been most of this year? It’s one thing to be alert, and another to be obsessed with that darkness. I don’t expect to be perfect, but I am aiming for better.

Despite an ever-present Apocalypse and that distant cat dream, I have much to be thankful for. You are healthy, no matter how many “procedures” you threaten to have. And now my mother has an iPhone, which means I can text her frantic emoji-filled texts. My knitting bag is full, a hobby that prevents that disastrous trip to the deli for candy. My job of twenty years keeps me busy in a way that is comforting and absorbing. Friends and family, lovely. I am writing. Most of all, I’m grateful for you.

Exactly eight years ago, when I thought my life was plodding along quite well, I took a fun detour, meeting you for our first date after a twenty-six-year gap. From there, everything changed and I found myself on an even wider path with off-shoots, wildlife, and adventures that make me glad to be alive. Thank you, Sam, for bringing such joy to my life, even though it’s very irritating that you know me so well. As I write this you are watching football, using my stability ball as an ottoman and eating my fries–a sight that is very dear to me. And thank you for the $500 litter box you showed up with a few days ago.

I love you madly!

Romantic Life Lessons, Shameless Promotion

Weekend at Williams College

I’m a firm believer that leaving the house is a good thing. Two weeks ago, at Williams College, I sp18033806_1841392116120242_235358556887425489_noke about my employer’s global marketing program at a conference about romance. Following this, I signed my book at Water Street Books, a lovely bookstore that is too friendly to be your typical college bookstore. Where were the shotglasses and school banners? Maybe they were there, but I was too focused on the wall to wall books.

Given my new fearless status when it comes to travel, this whole trip was a labor of love: hopping on a train and getting into a car with like-minded romance-aholics. I had the pleasure of talking with stars of the genre: Eloisa James, Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches, Sonali Dev who writes Bollywood in a romance novel, Katy Regnery, Radclyffe of Bold Strokes Books, Alison Case who is a professor at Williams (and fellow Oberlin alumna!) to name a few. We had a blast, and not because of the constant Dunkin’ Donuts outside the lecture hall.

And now I’m packing for the RT conference in Atlanta. This is my first time going. Except, of course, I have three emergency edits to do. Is it me or are work and Crazy Life Events falling from the sky all at once? Well, this just means it’s time for chocolate and dessert.