Monday, December 3, 2018

Advice for Aspiring Writers



I haven't written in a couple of months.  I didn't know if I'd ever write again.  (I still don't.)  I was just done.  I was bored of writing about myself on here.  Done assessing the risk that writing on certain topics could have on my personal life.  Done being rejected by every agent and publisher for my novel.  Done fronting the costs both financially and emotionally for self publishing a novel I believe in, but also believe will be a bit challenging and confrontational for some.  Done believing that the risk is worth the reward.  Because I've also come to terms with the fact that I'll never break even writing.  (If you only knew the costs of my first book.)  So, I decided to switch careers and got certified to be a Grief Recovery Specialist.  (Which of course is exactly when I realized that I wrote a whole novel about grief.  Because I'm slow like that.)

This is when I get an e-mail from a local high school inviting me to come in and talk about writing.  I immediately feel like a fraud and an imposter.  Even though I wrote the books by myself and worked my ass off to publish them by myself, creating my own publishing company to do it.  I'm just a self-published author after all.   And the last thing I have to share with anyone is anything inspiring about a having career in writing.  In fact, my best advice would be to do anything else.  The writing market is flooded and journalism as we know it is dead.

Then I started to think of what I would say to high school students (if I didn't have social anxiety and an inferiority complex) if I did go to speak about my experiences after eight years of writing a blog and publishing two books.  And it would go a little something like this...

So, you want to be a successful writer?  Start networking now.  Build your social media empire.  Connect and interact constantly with strangers on the internet.  Establish your brand.  It doesn't really matter what your brand is.  Only that you have one and that you promote it.  You can do that any way that feels authentic to you.  Too much information?  Nah...people love that.  They say they don't, but they really do.  Look around and you'll see that's true.  Everyone loves a good train wreck, so go ahead, what's stopping you?  Don't worry about spending all your time in front of a screen or that you don't have a social life.  No one likes you in real life anyway because you spend all your time promoting your brand and neglecting your friends.  Oh and don't forget to write now and again.  It doesn't matter what you write.  Don't worry about content; it can be total crap.  What's most important is that you're popular.  And popularity is what sells books.

Or maybe you want to be an unsuccessful writer.  No, it's not any less work to be an unsuccessful writing if you do it right.  But first, you'll need to have another source of income because you're not going to make enough money to support yourself, never mind a family.  You'd have a better chance of winning the lottery than supporting yourself soley off your writing.  In fact, you should probably go out and buy a lottery ticket right now.  After you do that, spend your time writing things you believe in.  Have a message.  Be unique and heartfelt.  Don't set out to write the next Twilight because that's already been done.  (Even though all the agents and publishers are looking to sign the next author that copies the formula of Twilight's success.)  Remember, to just be yourself on social media and in real life.  Interact selectively and authentically, so that you can make time to do the things you love that feed your soul and in turn, fuel your writing.  Sure, you might be unsuccessful, but you're much more likely to be happy.  And who knows?  You could win the lottery.

For me, I'll choose being happy every time.  I'm just not sure if there's going to be a next time for me.  Because I still haven't decided if I'm going to keep writing.  But, I do know that I'll always have work in the grief field, because there's more than enough of that to go around.  At least I know how to cope with my grief now.  And I can help you out too if you need it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Catfished


Last week I got a message on Instagram from a follower asking me if I am on a dating site.  And not because he wanted to date me.  But, because he saw an account on a dating site that was using my photo.  Instantly, I felt both really vulnerable and really pissed that someone would pretend to be me.  If you want my life, it comes with all the laundry, bills and the stress and worry of raising four teenagers.  Not to mention all of the rejection from agents and publishers I've sent the manuscript of my novel to.  You get all of it, it's a package deal.  And it's not all as fun as it looks from the outside.

My informant sends me a link to the fake profile so I can check it out for myself.  But, while I can see that the site is Fling.com (oh, so it's a hook-up site and not a dating site; this is even worse than I thought), I can't get the link to work.  But, I'm dying to know why someone would steal my photo and which photo they stole exactly.  I mean in a sea of readily accessible photos on-line to steal....why mine?

Then, my informant sends me the stolen photo.  And I'm horrified.  Completely, utterly horrified.  It is the worst photo of me ever.  I took it about six years ago back when I took photos with an actual camera and not my phone. Blindly flipping the camera around, pointing it in the direction of my face and hoping for the best. I used the photo to accompany a funny blog post I wrote.  (First rule of blogging: have an image that accompanies your words.)  The key here is funny.  The picture was intended to be humorous.  Which is why I look like Tina Fey on drugs in the photo.  BECAUSE IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE FUNNY!  But, taken out of context, it just looks trashy.  And not even good trashy.  Who the hell would choose this to be their profile photo?  How low are your standards exactly?  And what was the catfish trying to convey by using it?  I'm the bookish sort, but I'm prone to falling asleep when I'm reading in bed?   And really?  This is why I don't try to straighten my hair anymore.  1.  I'm not good at it.  2.  It doesn't look good on me.

In order to use the link my informant has sent to me I'd need to sign up for Fling.com, which I absolutely, flat out refuse to do.  Even to create an account for the sole purpose of viewing the profile of the catfish and then immediately delete it.  So, I ask him to screen shot me the catfish's profile before he reports the user and deletes his account, which is what he went on-line to do when he saw my photo. Anyway, without further adieu, here's the fake profile.
Hotstuff?  Really?  More like room temperature left overs if you ask me.  But, funny?  My catfish thinks I'm funny!  Maybe she/he really does get me.  But seriously, if you're going to steal my photo, choose a better one.  But, better yet....DON'T steal my photos at all.    

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Fear of Commitment


I have a deep-seated fear of commitment.  Sure, I've been married for 26 years.  And I have a 30 year mortgage.  And very intentionally adopted 4 children.  Not to mention 2 rescue dogs.  But trust me,  I'm no fan of committing.

I've thought long and hard for years about getting a tattoo of a tree on my back.  But, have you ever seen a horrible tattoo?  I remember over 10 years ago being out in public somewhere and a young woman was walking toward me.  She was wearing a sun dress with what appeared to be polka dots around her knees.  And I couldn't stop staring at her knees.  Which is quite possibly the ugliest body part we all have, besides elbows.  Turned out, the polka dots were bees.  She had bees tattooed on her knees.  And while it's not the ugliest tattoo I've ever seen, it is the most memorable.  Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of stunning tattoos out there.  I've even dipped my toe in some ink in the form of a toe ring.  But, I've come to the conclusion that tattoos are a bit too permanent for someone who can't even commit to using the same brand of shampoo consistently.

Speaking of shampoo, I would never dye my hair blonde.  First of all, I don't have the personality of a blonde to pull it off, so it'd seem like a really big lie.  Even though, I know I could simply color over it if I don't like it.  But, that just fries your hair.  And then it's all damaged and you have to cut it off.  Oh, I know that hair grows back and all that and it's not really a "big deal" in the grand scheme of things.  That is unless you've ever had a really bad haircut that you've had to grow out.  And then you know it's an excruciatingly big deal because it takes forever.  On top of that, your hair is one of the first things people notice about you.  It defines you in a way.  Unless of course you have bees on your knees.  In which case, no one is looking at how atrocious your hair is because they're looking at your hideously, ugly knees.

At this point in my life, I can't even commit to watching a TV series.  I don't care how good it is.  I can't  do it.  The problem is I can't remember the story line from the previous show.  Hell, I can't remember what I ate for breakfast or where all my kids are anymore.  I can't be bothered to keep track of fictional characters.  I tend to watch shows that are self contained because I have the attention span of a gnat.  Like Portlandia.  And a couple of years ago I started watching Black Mirror.  Although it's fantastic, it was too ominous for me to watch.  I can read things that are dark, scary and sad, but I can't watch it.  So, I have to watch an episode (or two) of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee to make me happy again.  And that's just way too much of a commitment for me.

I have an easier time committing to books, but there are boundaries.  It was in my 30's when I started reading War and Peace on a trip to Russia because it seemed to befitting.  I was on that same trip when I stopped reading War and Peace.  I'd never given up on a book before that one.  I'd stay committed until the end even if I hated it or it confused me.  Seriously, how can you have that many characters who's name starts with an "L"?  How am I supposed to remember who's who?  Couldn't Tolstoy have called one of the characters Bob?  And my other problem with books?  Don't coax me into buying your #1 New York Times bestselling book (in hardback no less) with an extremely intriguing story line, with testimonials that it's "intelligent, suspenseful, provocative" only to find out that it's not any of those things.  It's horrible and I should've gone the low commitment route by getting it at the library for free.

Oh there's lots of other things I can't commit to.  Like remodeling the master bathroom where it's still 1987.  It's like a time capsule in there.  It's not that I don't want it updated, it's just that when I commit to doing that, then I'll need to redo the master closet.  And then the kids' bathroom.  Then before you know it,  I'm going to have to redo the kitchen we had re-done 10 years ago.  No thanks!

 The good things is... 
my fear of commitment is saving me both time and money. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Post Labor Day Survival Guide


Labor Day is the most depressing holiday.  After all, you're celebrating being a working adult and the end of summer.  Both of which suck.  The good part is, you won't be covered in greasy sunscreen and gritty sand anymore.  You don't have to worry about bees when you eat lunch outside to bask in the sunshine.  And your co-worker won't be complaining about how ungodly hot it is in August anymore.   Because it's going to turn cold and the days are gradually going to get shorter.   Which just means your co-worker is going to transition into her seasonal complaints about how chilly and bleak it is outside.

While you're busy bracing for the return of your seasonal depression, don't forget to stock up on some important essentials.  Like moisturizer, Chapstick and a cute woolly hat that keeps you warm while hiding your staticky hair.  Preferably one that isn't itchy that you can wear all day because once you put it on your head, you'll have to commit either wearing it all day or wearing the hat hair you'll be left with all day.  But even more importantly, you'll need to have an arsenal of Kleenex, cold medicine and hand sanitizer to prepare for cold and flu season.  Which starts exactly the day after your kids go back so school.  However, the real essentials you need to have on hand are comfort foods (mac & cheese and ramen noodles), snacks (chips and chocolate), a fully stocked bar and a Costco sized pack of batteries for the remote control.

There is an upside to life post Labor Day though.  I mean sure, you can't wear white, but come on....who can wear a white shirt or better yet pants, without staining them anyway?  It's impossible really.  So, you'll get cozy in that adorable sweater you never wear.  You know, the wool one that will shrink if you put it in the wash.  Until you remember you don't even have to wash sweaters.  It's true.  Especially because you're not going to last 20 minutes in that sweater because it's itchy as hell.  But, that's why you've kept that raggy old sweat shirt with all the stains on it that you've had since college.  Oh, you tell yourself that you won't wear it out of the house, but you'll forget about that and go to pick up some ice cream at the grocery store.  Where you will see every person you know.

Ok, so maybe that was just a continuation of the less negative downsides of post Labor Day life.  There really is an upside.  You have a lot of completely valid post Labor Day excuses for cancelling any obligatory social engagements you don't want to attend.  The weather, the flu, frozen pipes at your house that have sprung a leak, pulling a muscle scrapping the ice off your windshield.  It doesn't matter if they are true or not, they will still work.  It gets even better though.  The best part is you don't have to shave after Labor Day.  Not until the following Memorial Day.  But you may need to invest in a weed whacker come spring.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Skin Deep



I've never had good skin.  In fact, I had acne until I was 40 years old.  Now, I know beauty is only skin deep and all that.  That there are much bigger things in the world to be concerned about.  And I'm concerned about all of them and contemplating them keeps me up at night.  But apparently I'm greedy and vain so...I'd also like good skin I don't feel like I have to hide...you know, before I die.  Which, let's face it, is getting closer every day.

So, last year when I went to the dermatologist concerned about a asymmetrical brown spot above my lip, I feared the worst.  Skin cancer.  That's when she told me it was "just an age spot".   And I was horrified.  How can I be old enough to have age spots?  And then I thought about it.  My mom, who was a grandmother at my age, lamenting that her once pale, youthful skin had turned ruddy and started to sag.  Which is exactly where I'm at minus the grandmother bit.  Even so, it's weird how my mother seemed so much older than me when she was my age.

What was also horrifying is that the dermatologist suggested laser treatment.  Really, it's so bad that shooting a hot laser beam at my face is my best option?  I don't think so.  Which is why I opted for the lowest concentration of Retin-A, the least invasive treatment, instead.  Except, Retin-A is expensive.  Like $100 a tube.  And even the lowest concentration dries out your skin and makes it flaky.  Which counter intuitively, only makes your skin produce more oil.  So, then it's dry and flaky but covered in as much oil as the Exxon Valdez spill.

Last winter when I was in Mexico at a pharmacy scoring cheap drugs for the eye infection I'd contracted on vacation, I had a brilliant idea.  Why not buy the stronger concentration of Retin-A because it's only $25 in Cancun.  I mean if the low concentration isn't working (because I stopped using it altogether because of the side effects...although that seems a minor detail) why not take it up a notch?  Of course, that's exactly what I did and I started using it diligently once a week on Sunday nights.  Monday and Tuesday my blotchy, sun spotted skin looks fairly normal, but on Wednesday it starts to get really wonky.  My face turns red, flaky and goes all Exxon Valdez on me.  And it lasts until Saturday.  Then on Sunday, the whole process starts over again.  It kinda seems pointless to continue.  But, I'm no quitter, so I keep repeating the cycle hoping things will get better.  Which is really stupid.

Recently, I was at the spa buying a gift card for a friend and I was perusing through their brochure of services.  Including skin treatments.  The spa offers free consultations with a specialist on which procedure would work best for your skin.  So there's microdermabrasion, where I imagine someone takes a circular sander to face, which sounds painful.  And then there's, of course, laser treatment.  Which is sounding more appealing by the day.  Especially if it's the same laser they use for hair removal.  Like it's a two-for-one deal, and it will remove blotchy age spots and chin/moustache hairs.  In which case, I might actually consider it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Burning Question


Recently my husband asked me a burning question.  I don't know how long he'd waited before he finally did.  Just when you think you know someone, you find out you don't.  That they have secret desires they've never told you about.  Because they know that you'll be shocked and maybe even horrified at the thought of what they want you to do.  Which of course was exactly what happened.

So what did my husband ask me to do that I found so repulsive?  Did he want me to try something kinky in bed?  Get a boob job?  Want us to join a cult?  Move to Florida?  No.  None of those.  My husband asked me if I'd go to Burning Man with him.  For those of you who don't know what Burning Man is, it's an annual event celebrating art and community held in the middle of the desert in Nevada.  People travel from all over to camp out for nine days and when it's over they leave no trace that they were ever there.  Sounds kinda fun, right?  After all, I really like art and camping.  I tried to be open minded.  I did.  But, did I mention 60,000 people go to Burning Man every year?

When my husband met me he knew I was a socially anxious introvert's introvert.  He knew exactly what he was getting into.  I'm not going to miraculously change thirty years later and suddenly love being around crowds of people.  In fact, I think I've actually gotten worse in that respect.  And I'm pretty sure I'm well on my way to becoming a full on recluse.  But, I really did consider the question, because I know it's something my husband has a burning desire to do.

But, then I considered all the people that would be there.  ALL OF THEM.  And the fact that I wouldn't be able to get away from them.  Because they'll be everywhere and they'll be loud.  Blaring their music until all hours of the night.  Have I ever mentioned how much I love sleep?  On top of that it's held in August in the desert, so not only is it going to be sweltering hot, but no one's going to be showering.  But, they are going to be eating.  Which means all 60,000 people are going to be using the porta potties.  Which is precisely why I have a burning desire to stay home.

But, I have a burning question of my own...
does anyone want to go to Burning Man with my husband?

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

My Favorite Jeans


I love jeans.  And I wear them just about every day.  So when your favorite pair has little hole right by the back pocket that you know is going to turn into a huge, gaping hole when you bend down to get the cheap laundry detergent off the bottom shelf at Target, that's when you know you need to get some new ones.  And that's when you find out that they don't even make your favorite jeans anymore.

I have a whole system for buying jeans.  I buy them in a dark wash, a size too big so they shrink to just the right size with repeated washes and then I wear them until they are absolutely indecent.  The problem is, now they make most jeans with that stretchy elastane stuff in them.  So, your jeans aren't going to shrink at all, in fact, they're going to stretch.  Which means if you put your jeans on in the morning and they fit you perfectly, an hour later they're going to be hanging down to your knees.  Which means you actually have to buy jeans a size too small for you and then look indecent for an hour until they stretch to accommodate you.  (Not that I've tried this, but I assume it would work.) Then there's that weird 'thwacking' sound that stretchy jeans make when you walk.  No thank you!

I just want regular jeans.  Not high rise mom jeans.  Not ones that are pre-ripped because I'm very capable of doing that on my own.  And definitely not ones with the back pockets bedazzled.  (No one looks good in blingy jeans, by the way.  NO ONE. )   I want my favorite low cut 524 Levi's in a boot cut (because boot cut makes my short legs look longer).  Although 518s would also do the trick.  Because once you find jeans that look good on you, you don't give up on them.  And by 'look good on you', I mean that they flatter your ass.  Because that's what jeans are all about.  Everyone on the planet knows this.

So, I've looked at the Levi's website.  Because I'd even pay full price + shipping & handling for my favorite jeans.  That's how desperate I am.  And that's when I confirmed that they don't even make 524s anymore.  Everything is a stretchy mid rise or high rise skinny jean.  To which I'm just going to say, skinny jeans are the least flattering cut on basically everyone on the planet, so I don't even get why they're popular.  But, then again, I don't get why most things that are popular are popular which is probably been why I've never been popular.  Because I think trends are stupid and I like to stick to the timeless classics.  Like cotton.

In my quest to find my Levi's, I looked on Amazon, where they do list having 524s, but not in my size or the wash and cut I'm looking for.  Plus, I really hate to buy from Amazon, the overlord of the free world, even though I do it all the time because they have the stuff you can't find anywhere else.  That's when my husband suggests e-bay.  BINGO!  I find 3 pair in the correct model/size/wash and snatch them up.  At least I thought I did.  Until they arrived in my mailbox.  And I discovered that I ordered one pair with a short inseam.  So they're like capris on me.  Which kinda makes me feel like I have long legs.  Which has never happened before.  Which is precisely why I kept them.  That and my ass looks good in them.  

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