Inspiration From the Past: What I Am Working On Now

I started working on my second novel, probably last spring (2018) and something unusual happened; I had an entire outline within a few weeks of writing just a couple of chapters.  I’ve never outlined a creative writing project in my entire life.  Heck, I don’t even generally like outlining more formal writing and have always to a certain extent, envied my friends who seem to know exactly what their stories are about and how they will end.  In fact, my biggest fear of writing my first novel was that I would never find my ending!

I don’t write linearly at all.  Never have. It is little wonder then that I couldn’t bring myself to sit down day after day and get excited about writing the chapters of that outlined novel. I didn’t experience the insomnia I usually suffer when ideas wake me at the wee hours of the morning as I work out a scene/chapter or solve a plot issue. I reasoned that there was no rush to write because I wasn’t facing the possibility of losing my momentum, I mean after all, I had the entire thing plotted out.

It was a solid story, in fact.  Three perfectly flawed romantic attachments for my heroine.  An estranged parent-daughter relationship.  Lots of buried, dark, family secrets.  Ghosts.  Dead people who were in fact not dead after all. It’s actually all quite good.  But I just didn’t feel like writing that story. As my writing mentor would have said, “There’s no sense of urgency” and if there’s no sense of urgency then there really isn’t a story that needs to be told then, is there? At least not yet.

In December, I finally decided to purchase myself an ancestry membership and really delve into my Irish/Scottish ancestry. Within days I had gone back several generations and confirmed family members my mother had remembered from her childhood but couldn’t recall in detail.  I discovered that my great-grandmother (Sadie) worked in a fine china factory in Brooklyn while she was a teenager.  That my Scottish great-great grandfather worked in saloon or a brothel (as my husband keeps telling me). Guys my great-great granddad was probably a bad-ass!  That further along the branch, my great-great-grand-parents (Irish-side) died the same year with two of their young children (unconfirmed but details point to this).  While I have little to go by, I believe it likely they died from Yellow Fever which was an epidemic in Brooklyn in 1860, the year they all perished.  That my direct descendant was orphaned when he was just ten. That he watched his parents and siblings die of a swift moving fever. Of course, records have yet to confirm what happened to him. Did his older siblings who were barely teenagers at the time take care of him?  Another relative?  He did survive.  He married and through the bloodline, I exist.

I searched for photos, including one of the Brooklyn Bridge being built from the view of the address of my great-grandfather when he was a child.  I am incredibly interested in their occupations, their relationships, their children, their day-to-day lives. I want to know the more intimate details too.  How did they meet?  Did they marry for love?  Why did they leave Ireland? Scotland?  Dear Reader, I have lots of questions.

And my imagination slowly started to build stories.

History has always been interesting to me. I was that kid who enjoyed spending their summer vacations touring old houses/mansions.  Reading historic novels, from Laura Ingalls-Wilder to Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters to modern historic writers like Tracey Chevalier and Susanna Kearsley — these have always been my favorite reads.  In fact, I have always wanted to write a historic novel. But let’s be honest, you need to be a really good writer to pull that off. Also, you need to do lots of research. But then again, hadn’t I been doing this kind of research my entire life? Wasn’t I doing it in my search for my own history?

I spent quite some time fighting against a nagging desire to write a historic work while still finding reasons not to write the outlined novel, and you can’t very well be a writer if you don’t actually write — so this was problematic. I couldn’t focus on any of my projects.  I couldn’t get back to my second novel with all this noise in my head and not just noise, but actual characters, characters from the past (with accents).  They chattered along in my head constantly.  Clearly my fault for having spent an entire summer reading British novels: Scottish Highlanders, British Queens, and turn of the 18th century Heiresses (plus rereading Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice and Outlander and Poldark… well you can check my reading list).

To shut down the noise, I wrote a chapter.  ONE. CHAPTER. Then back to my real book. A book that could potentially get published along with my first novel because as I am told — two-novel contracts are all the rage!

…This is how in a few short weeks I ended up with 50k words and a dozen books for research (and hours upon hours of listening to as many British and Scottish accents as possible to make sure I get the dialogue as accurate) and also my 8 yo following me around the kitchen talking funny and telling me he is “speaking British.”

*fun note — my son’s version of British is in fact talking like David Rose from Schitt’s Creek — so I don’t really know what to do with that.

Sae Ah main forewarn ye, hen Reader ‘at mah future blogs will likely be foo ay musings oan th’ rewards an’ challenges ay writin’ a historic novel.

(So I must forewarn you, Dear Reader that my future blogs will likely be full of musings on the rewards and challenges of writing a historic novel). 

— and knowing how to cut back on the dialect so that readers will understand the dialogue and not throw my book out a window.

 

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The Life of a Food Writer

Over the past couple of years, I’ve had readers contact me about getting involved in food writing and how I started out.  Let me be clear:  I kind of accidentally fell into food writing.  I mean, I love food and writing so getting an opportunity to write for a legit food site was a very happy accident.  I’ve sort of been on an ongoing adventure of eating clean, buying and eating local when I can, and this opportunity kind of happened around the same time.

Sometimes they say when you ask the Universe a question or more precisely, put your intentions out there, that sometimes It answers.  That was the case with me.  I had my newly minted MFA (and pending student loan payments) and I knew I wanted to do a bit of free-lance writing.  I just had no idea how to get started.  You know how you ask people in certain industries, how they got a job and they say with extreme smugness; it’s all about networking?  Right. Well I accidentally networked it seems, because a friend who I originally met at a conference and again later as a classmate contacted me and  and said she needed writers and thought of me since she was familiar with my writing. It kind of literally fell in my lap (but I would never tell anyone to sit back and wait for something, so really once again, my advice is useless when it comes to my own life).

Also, how hard could this be?  I ate food everyday, watched cooking shows ALL the time and I even have photos posing in front of a vintage AGA cooker (stove) we came across in a cheese store in VT.  We’ve even been known to plan vacations around our favorites eateries — so again, how hard could this be? Just write about food, right?  Easy.

I had pitched a short article (it was my probation if you will) about a local eatery I had just discovered.  I was nervous talking to the owner, because he was kind of serious and I felt like I didn’t really have any credentials that legitimized me as a writer (you know, except the eight years I had spent earning my writing degree).  I was also nervous because I’m an introvert and meeting new people brings a bit of anxiety for me as well.  I carried a pen and a notebook, dressed professionally (that’s right, I wore a smart blazer like those lovely ladies on the Great British Baking Show) and my phone, thinking I would more than likely just record our conversation and thresh out the article as I played it back.

That would have been brilliant, only he refused to allow me to record us and seemed a bit suspicious that I would even have the audacity to ask to record him.   It felt like we were starting off on the wrong foot. In my trying-not-to-panic mode I had a very important epiphany; I was interviewing someone who was passionate about their work — the way I was passionate about my writing.  Also, this wasn’t just a fun hobby, but their actual livelihood depended on it.  They had figured out a way to earn a living off what they loved doing just as I was searching for a way to make writing my career.  Once I made that connection, I realized I wasn’t interviewing someone, I was having a conversation about creativity and following  dreams.  Once I recognized that I found that I really enjoyed interviewing the owners or chefs of these establishments.  I only ever brought a few written questions, because I often discovered that the more we spoke, the more that I was engaged and asking questions not because it was necessary for the article, but because I was curious and having fun.

Also, food writing isn’t just about the food – and really there is only so many ways to describe taste. It’s about the people, the culture, the atmosphere, the history.  Every doughnut, latte, and souffle has a story.  Think of it from a writing perspective; every chapter of a novel has a reason for existing; it builds the story.  The menu is the baker/owner/chef’s novel and each offering listed is a chapter that tells a piece of a story.

I also have a few self-imposed rules.  First, I always eat in a place first as a customer and then if I am moved, I pitch the story to my editor and then set up an interview. It is important to me that I experience a place as a patron first because for obvious reasons, it is the fairest way to approach an article.

Second, when I do my interviews, I always make sure to buy something and be firm about the fact that I am indeed planning to pay.  It makes it less awkward, but also these are small businesses and I want to support them (and I’m getting paid to write about it). In very rare instances where I have to bring my son along, I order first, pay and then ask to meet with the owner so that there will be no obligations for them to feel like they owe me.

Third, I never write bad reviews.  My writing mentor once passed this advice on to me when I was working on book reviews.  She said we didn’t need to tear each other down.  If  something wasn’t good, people would figure that out on their own.  Besides, this is what Yelp and other review sites are for (I will post a future article on how Yelp can get is in trouble).  I can recall about three articles I scrapped, because I was disappointed by the food (but more usually the service or the owner).  In the end, these places will suffer because they lack something (probably passion) and I really don’t need to be part of that.

Fourth,  I never write about what I don’t know and this includes beer, wine, and sushi (duh).  I pass up those stories because I know I’m not the writer to do it justice (and remember these stories effect people’s livelihoods so I owe it to them to write honestly). I could easily cover any latte story in multiple states, but I don’t like beer.  Yes, I know.  it’s sad and yes, it was  a pain in college too.  The closest I came to covering it was when I sampled a chai brewed with beer hops. You just have to accept your strengths and while that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expand your expertise, it does mean that you need to understand your own limits. It’s okay to say no.

I’ve taken a break from freelancing this past year for many reasons (spoilers!  I’ll disclose them in other posts), but I will say that writing these articles never felt like work.  It was the closest I’ve been to earning money off of something that was FUN and something that almost seemed ridiculous to me to even get paid for (because again, did I mention how much I enjoyed writing them?!). I’m open to exploring other writing platforms, including hopefully securing agent for my novel and maybe trying to keep up with some regular blog posts.  This is probably the least focused blog site out there, it’s, but I genuinely appreciate that you’re reading it, contacting me with messages, and hopefully enjoying it.

Cheers, to new writing adventures!

*Food writing actually requires a great deal of research.  My experience has included learning different cuts of meats, ingredients, styles of cooking, roasts of coffee, types of alternate milks.  It’s endless and fascinating!

Sorry About 2017…

blank bloom blossom business

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Dear Reader,

I haven’t posted anything in ages. It seems that I kind of bailed on 2017 which if we’re all being honest, many of us did.  It was a strange year personally however, I did manage to get some major stuff done in the world of my writing.

I finished my novel which took three years of writing (lunch breaks, late nights, vacations, weekends — sometimes sitting in my car or the train).  Then it was almost a year of heavy edits — leaving it for months sometimes so I could look on it with fresh eyes.  I had intended to finish it 6 months earlier — but then I almost died* and that delayed it a few months more.  But then I didn’t die so alas, it’s done!

*Note: I know that they say when you are close to death your life flashes before you like a pretty little slideshow. That was not the case.  My first thought was, I’ll be sad to leave my husband and son (my poor son orphaned so young! — yes, I know he wouldn’t have been  a true orphan, but still my thought).  My second was — Fricken figures that I will die before I finish that damn novel and either no one will read it or a good meaning friend will finish it as a tribute and I will spend eternity thinking, “that’s not how it goes at all!”  

I joined a local writer’s group born out of mostly alum from my MFA program. It took a great deal of persuasion for me to join as it’s really a commitment, but this was a small group (five in total) and I finally relented to my friend’s insistence.  It was truly a great move.  I was slightly worried since the other members were all YA writers whom I had never met before, but I soon adjusted and found the meetings to be something I really looked forward to.  My advice is that if you are a writer, seek out other like-minded writers who give you honest, critical, and insightful feedback.  I was struggling with my ending and after one night of genuinely solid feedback, I realized that the real end of the novel happened three chapters from the end.  The final two chapters were merely tying up loose ends that weren’t necessary and didn’t add to the overall story. I cut them and it made all the difference.  You have to assume your reader is intelligent enough to come to the conclusion you’ve hinted at.  Or not.  That’s the experience of reading a novel, after all.

Although, I have since temporarily stepped away from Write Club (as we fondly call it), I still regularly reach out to these friends and ask them advice when I hit a wall (and while I query agents — which is a time when moral support is most needed).  I’m hopeful that I will return to full membership as soon as this second novel takes shape.  While writing is a solitary art, you must have your own little tribe of trusted advice givers who you can meet up with for a coffee and (OMG – Jason’s incredible brownies from a box) and discuss writing — even if it is just gossip over the latest literary twitter wars.

I also spent the better part of the year writing articles of the local chapter of a national food magazine.  It was a lot of fun and you can read most of my articles here. It was nice to meet other creative people who were living out their passions and taking some major chances in the pursuit of their dreams.  It was truly inspiring, and it really fed my creative energy, but unfortunately that kind of writing (the paid kind with deadlines) also pulled me away from working on my next novel and of course, blogging.  Still, it felt pretty legit, when my accountant listed “Writer” (and self-employed) on my taxes.

I’ve also returned to reading — as in devouring books – both physical and audible.  It’s a difficult balance to read and whittle out time to write, but absolutely necessary.  I try not to think of my time as either reading or writing, but rather reading feeds my writing.  If life experience is fuel then reading is like oil for your creative engine.

writer

One last thing — my seven year old had his first Writer’s Workshop.  I am a super proud mum!  I asked him if he liked writing and he said, “It’s really hard work and it takes a long time!”  Welcome to my life, kid. I hope he also finds it equally rewarding. This particular story was part mystery and part thriller.  There was even a car explosion on page 3 of this 6 page story.

The End.

How to Be An Introvert For The Holidays

“Ah! there is nothing like staying at home, for real comfort.
Nobody can be more devoted to home than I am.”

– Jane Austen

The first week of November is over.  The clocks have changed and darkness comes earlier now.  It’s that time of year where comfort food, hot lattes, and a crazy schedule consumes  me.  While the world expects me to be more social, really I just want to hibernate. These are the months that I want to curl up near the wood stove and write and read and sip seasonal tea and write and read and… well you get it.

It’s also THE HOLIDAYS — no longer divided by Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Now it’s all one.  It’s parties and family and friends and gifts and decorating and eating and preparing and rushing and…and… my anxiety is in overdrive.

Do I host the holiday dinners?  Who do I invite?  How many people can we fit in the house? Do I bake pies or order them?  Make my own turkey or cater?  Why isn’t anybody on time?  The food is ready and n0 one is here! Did we really get into a political debate?  When the hell are these people leaving?  I want to put on my yoga pants grab a bottle of bourbon and hit the bed!

Ahhhh.  The holidays.

This year, I came up with what I hope is the perfect solution*. I’m not hosting ANY of the holiday gatherings.  I’m also not accepting any invites.  This year, Thanksgiving is going to be a casual meal.  Maybe a late lunch and an evening of leftovers and grazing.

*Technically I wanted to rent a cabin in the middle of nowhere and spend a week, but that is logistically harder to do than you’d think, and it stressed me out. A lot.

Christmas Eve has always been a night of tradition in my house.  Growing up, it was either hosted by my parents or their friends.  Lots of people.  Lots of food.  Going home stuffed with food and excited to host/attend the dinner all over again the next day.  As a child, it was truly the most exciting time of year (not to mention people kept giving me stuff!).

As an adult it’s meant a mixture of cooking and catering having family or friends or both.  A week of baking the specialties I wait all year to make like sticky toffee pudding and Irish chocolate fudge cake and 800 dozen cookies. Mostly, it’s me (and my husband) in the kitchen preparing the many courses of our dinner (and cooking too much).  In the past few years, we’ve made it an informal buffet rather than a formal dinner.  But still, I rarely get to sit and enjoy the time with my friends or my family.  And there’s nothing quite so awful as waking up on Christmas morning with a stack of dirty dishes on the counters.

This year — that ain’t gonna happen!  I’m making reservations at an upscale restaurant that I’ve wanted my husband to take me to for years.  My friends have an open invitation to join us.  Memories and craic can still happen. We can still meet up, eat good food and be together.

Afterwards, we’re going home and putting on our matching Christmas pj’s and playing board games around the tree and watching movies. Just the three of us — and Finn (our dog). And we’re going to eat cookies, and cake, and whatever – from the couch or the floor or wherever the hell we end up.

Christmas day, we will open gifts and have a brunch.  Then we will stay in our pajamas all day and eat and play, and nap,and read and snuggle (we are really good snugglers).

It’s not that we don’t love our friends and family, but the three of us (plus Finn) never really get to just stay home and do nothing.  There’s always something — soccer, gymnastics, yardwork, snow to shovel, groceries to buy, cars to service, blah blah blah.  We never get to just be...still. We always say we will do it, but then we get invited and think — ahhhh we should go!  But this year I am consciously going to refuse all invitations. Not because we don’t appreciate it, but because we just need some family time. In our pj’s. While stuffing our faces.

And this year, I am actually really looking forward to the holidays.

The Bird Realtor

This last week has been difficult.  Humanity has been disappointing — at least the humanity we  see in the media.  If we are to believe it, people are full of hate and bitterness.  The differences between us are so much greater than the similarities.  But if I can be honest, I call BULLSHIT to that.  Humanity is just as flawed and beautiful as it’s ever been, it’s just that with media and social media, it’s much easier and more entertaining to focus on the differences — to let the actions of a few represent the all. To sum it up “Good things whisper while bad things shout” (that’s a lyric from a Matt Nathanson song.  If you don’t know who he is, you should find out). We focus on the bad things because they are louder.

Don’t worry, this won’t be a political post.  I’ve kept myself from commenting on the presidential election and tried to keeping my opinions removed from my social media pages, b/c I still believe in humanity and democracy, and I still hope that people can see how important it is that the candidate who represents us, does not also represent hate but is someone who can see the similarities of all people and move us forward.

It hit me particularly hard this week when after refraining from posting political thoughts on FB or Twitter, I finally gave in and wrote these words:

“Dear World,

All lives matter.”

I had no idea that writing something as simple as a statement in which I believe ALL life is precious would offend anyone.  I had no idea that there was a war happening on twitter and that these sentiments were being called out as racist.  It came from a place in which I believed ALL life is precious.  That saying one person’s life was valued more than another’s was simply wrong — in itself, that is a form of racism.  It came from feminist theory.  Equality for all. A united front.

I read lots of nasty stuff on social media (not necessarily aimed at me since my friends and I are pretty good at respecting each other) but out there in Twitterland where there are no rules of engagement and where strangers can be assholes.  It overloaded me.

 
I went offline for the weekend. I’ve been doing this more and more when tragedies happen, but in general, it’s my conscious effort to live in my bubble and re-energize. You can’t change people’s minds on social media.  They are very convinced that their opinion is more important — or right.  At times social media is much more focused on being heard than listening.  It takes away from me.  It zaps my energy.  It’s not healthy.

I spent a better part of the weekend outdoors helping my husband remove a holly bush that ran the length of our driveway.  We’d come across several bird nests that were empty and we were both thankful that we had waited long enough to remove the bush until the babies were all gone. But then my husband took a big chunk of bush down and soon realized we had a live nest with fledglings.  Poor Mom and Dad Sparrow were devastated.

My husband came in looking upset.  “I think they’re all dead,” he said.  To be fair we’d never really paid attention to birds until three years ago when we moved into our house and the previous owners left their bird feeders.  I had always has cats and we’d never dream of having bird feeders (or cat feeders as they’d have been known). At first, we were kind of lazy about even refilling it, but we remembered to buy a bag at one of our numerous trips to the hardware store.  The feeder sits  a few feet from our sliding glass doors.  That’s when we started to notice the cardinals and the mourning doves.  There’s a woodpecker, who I hear echoing in the trees when he’s not at our feeder,  and  the blue jays that chase away the sparrows and the wrens.  We somehow became people who watched birds eating outside their windows.  We’ve taken pictures of the cardinals in the snow and even go out in snowstorms to make sure that the birds will be okay all winter.  We seriously, became weird bird people.

So I could tell my husband was pretty upset.  But then he came back in and said he’d found one or two in the underbrush of the holly.  We didn’t know what to do.  It was getting dark and we weren’t sure whether the parents would continue to take care of them – we simply didn’t know the rules of the birds.

I went to bed that night still thinking about those birds and how distressed the parents were — because if nothing else in life, maybe all parents loved their offspring (well — except the ones who eat their offspring). I remembered that earlier in the day I had saved an empty nest we’d found because it was too pretty to toss (and frankly I had no idea what the hell I was going to do with it as a little voice in my head said this is how hoarding starts).

In the morning, we took that nest and a vacant bird house from the back garden and sandwiched it inside the house. With rubber gloves, we went out to scavenge the birds and I supervised and cut through the thickets of holly while my husband grabbed the fledglings.  It was a total Search and Rescue mission.  We managed to find two.  My husband dropped them into their new purple bird house and we tied it up to the fence post so Mom and Dad could see them.

Now if you’re thinking — big deal, let me just be clear.  Mister Softee (ice cream truck) drove past our house while we were combing leaves and debris looking for tiny little feathered creatures.  A second ice cream truck came by.  We never get two ice cream trucks on the same day and we are never literally standing in our driveway when they come.  The Universe was definitely testing our commitment to the Search and Rescue. Neighbors were watching us crawling around in the dirt in the midst of the search phase of our mission.  We spent HOURS trying to rescue BIRDS.  We kept pointing out that we were nut jobs and that they’d probably die anyway.

So two out of three was something, we agreed.  Then we waited until the parents were in view and we relocated the house to a shadier part of the yard.  The biggest question was, would Mom and Dad accept the new nest/location?  Within minutes of being secured at their new location, Mom came by with dinner for her two babies.  It was reassuring.

The thing is, it was a lot of trouble to save two little sparrows.  They might not even live (but they sure as hell were feisty!).  Mom and Dad might shit on our cars for years to come as payback for destroying their homes and possibly killing their babies (we are still hoping to recover baby #3), but we TRIED.  We tried to help them because I still believe that all life is precious.  That even little birds deserve a chance at surviving.

And seriously, I really love my husband for a) feeling so bad that he knocked down the nest and b) not once thinking my rescue plan was ridiculous.

Also, finding a new home for a family of sparrows was also a much better use of my time and energy than social media.

Lightning Strikes Twice

Okay… so we left off with my Fitbit in the toilet (and ultimately a landfill).

When one’s Fitbit dislodges off their bra, wiggles through two layers of shirts and lands in the toilet, there’s really only two conclusions to come to; 1) the Universe doesn’t think you need to exercise at all or 2) The Universe is pointing out that you DON’T actually exercise.

Considering that I gained three pounds this weekend through dieting, lets just rule out conclusion #1 and go straight to the Universe reminding me that my Fitbit simply served as a daily reminder that I sit at my desk for 8 1/2 hrs a day, plus the hour-long round-trip commute to my office, plus when I go home and eventually fall on to the couch or my writing chair — well you get the picture…

Losing my device meant I had two options.  I could simply take this as a sign that I really don’t need a device to remind me of how stationary I am, or I could get a new device (cheaper this go around) and get back in the business of exercising more.

I decided to go without buying a new device (since I am on a budget and most articles I read state that you shouldn’t buy something just cause you want it).  But this is what happened…

When I took the 7 flights of stairs down to stretch my legs a bit, no one knew it but me.  And when I circled the grocery store four times grabbing everything I’d forgotten on the first go around, I couldn’t tell if I’d reached my mid day goal of 5,000 steps or not.  When I took the dog for a walk and we had to cut home midway (because he isn’t use to walking after the winter) I was paralyzed with the fact that I had no idea whether we’d even reached a mile or whether just a block longer would have hit me to my daily goal of 10,000 steps or not.

It bothered me. A lot.

So I did a little research and found a device at 1/3 of the price.  It was water-resistant so with the summer coming, I could even use it swimming.  It was a Misfit Flash.  I found a coupon that would save me money if I ordered two, but I  couldn’t think of a reason for needing two, even when my husband suggested a back-up — so I paid regular price. It came with a clip and a wrist band. It is less fancy than the Fitbit, but it does the simple things I need (sleep tracker, pedometer, calorie counter, water resistant).  It came within 3 days.

When I received my new tracker, I felt committed to getting active again.  I’ve been having discussions with friends about a cycle of going home and feeling so tired that I don’t get to exercise. Exercising gives us more energy, but what precisely can we do when don’t have enough in us to get there? The jury is still out on this.

I motivated myself to go back to yoga (future post coming soon) and work out as more (if only to prove that I do in fact need a gadget to record my productivity).

I wore my Misfit on my wrist for three days.  It was nice to know my precise movements again.

On the fourth day, I decided to use the clip and secure it so that if it were to fall off, it would fall into my pocket. I’d seriously learned my lesson on being careful. I missed it being on my wrist, but it wasn’t  a huge deal.

On that same day, I showed my coworker the new tracker. We discussed how cool it was and then I excused myself to the ladies’ room…

Yes, I said the ladies’ room. See, as a writer, I just foreshadowed something there.  Can you guess what is?

It’s part of my filing system called “Shit You Can’t Make Up.” My life is primarily made up of such events — the stranger than fiction elements that keep things interesting.

Writers know that details are important to stories — even the mundane which marks the familiar for the reader;  such as how I unbuttoned my jeans and the clarity of which I understood the teal flash of a disc in my peripheral was in fact the Misfit dislodging itself in a beautiful flight that was no longer unique to me.  This time, my tracker skipped liked a beautiful glass stone to the bottom of the bowl and when I peered in thinking “This isn’t happening…again” the toilet answered with an automatic flush that violently swooshed my Misfit away.

I was dumbfounded.

This time, I knew that it was the mischief of an angry god who perhaps had once inhabited a volcano and maybe f*cked up, so a higher up god was like “Dude, I’m sorry but we are demoting you to the sewers. Only after you swallow 8 million fitness trackers, will you be restored to your former position.”  And so this vengeful god seeks to claim all fitness trackers within the New York state sewer systems.
So you see — in the end it wasn’t about me at all.

However, we like our happy endings, do we not Dear Reader?  On my coworker’s recommendation, I wrote to the good people at Misfit and briefly explained how the clip should have been able to deter the “Toilet god” (only I didn’t mention my demoted god theory so much as just mentioned that my Flash ended up getting flushed) and that I was disappointed it had not worked and had in fact only remained fastened to my pocket for roughly 2 hours.

To my relief and surprise, they offered me a replacement — which will be here in roughly three days (when all that I do in my life can be quantified once more).

If this happens a third time… well I’m probably just not telling anyone about it.

***Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned.

 

How My Fitbit Landed in The Toilet…

I stare at the toilet bowl watching my Fitbit sink to the bottom resulting in a loud “plop.”  The noise is shocking because my brain is still watching it flip off my bra and do a slow-motion cirque du soleil summersault through the air.  It’s mesmerizing, actually. It’s an instance of pure clarification, because I know where it is going to land.  I could try and reach for it, but I stand there, dumbfounded and in awe of the graceful flight of my Fitbit — that is until the splash wakes me from this trance.

And there it is, sinking like a stone…

What puzzles me is how on earth I am responsible for landing  my Fitbit in the bottom of the toilet.  I mean, I have a five-year-old.  How did I land it there? My five-year-old comes in immediately to point out that my Fitbit is at the bottom of the bowl.

“Look what you did!”  He points out loudly.  He makes an uh-oh whooping noise — the kind he makes when he thinks I might be mad at him — only we instead look at each other puzzled wondering who is going to be mad at me? He seems convinced that someone is going to be super mad.  I believe him.

I have that momentary reminder of what being in trouble felt like as a child and my immediate instinct is to flush it.  Flush the evidence and when it all backs up, plead ignorance. And I may in fact even reach my hand towards the handle, but then in a sobering moment, I realize two things: 1) we only have one bathroom — dammit!  and 2) I will have to pay for this both monetarily and again when my husband asks me why the hell I flushed.

So I text my husband:
“Hypothetically, if my Fitbit landed in the toilet — is it flushable?”

Response:
“DO NOT FLUSH!!!!!!!”

Okay then.

“Hey Mama?”  My son tugs at my arm.  “I need to pee and ewwwwwwwwwwwwww you dropped that in there.”  He points to the Fitbit.  “I really gotta go Mama.” Pee dance follows.

I look at the toilet and consider whether I would ever wear it again.  The answer is no.  So I give my son the go ahead and watch as he giggles and aims for it, moving it around the basin with a stream of urine.

Can we back up?  Can I tell you how we got here?

My husband was working late. I picked my son up from school directly following work but traffic was terrible.  I even had to turn around mid-route to back track to another road and avoid the standstill. This alternate route entailed road construction.  I picked up my son and he begged me for a kids meal.  We let him have it once a week.  He pleaded and frankly the idea of not having to cook for him was the convincing factor.  The line at the drive-thru was CRAZY.

So when I walked in the door and let the dog out to relieve himself, I went running into our bathroom because I drink tea all day and somehow in the hurry of  removing my coat, my Fitbit flew off.

And now we are caught up.

I would await for my husband to come home and fish it out.  I was fairly certain that this fell under husbandly duties.  I distinctly remember a similar scenario laid out in our wedding vows (he was in charge of bugs and toilets). That. Was. The. Plan. Just wait…

…until my son said,”Mama, now I gotta poo.”

It was then that I realized, I had to remove the damn Fitbit.  It’d be better now than later. Rubber gloves and a plastic spoon and let me tell you, it was quite slippery, but I was able to do it and let my son use the toilet.  As I tossed it into the trash bin it flashed me a greeting “Hey, Sexy”  (yes, okay, that is the greeting I programmed it to say, okay?).

Now, I only mentioned it to a handful of friends but their reactions were unexpected.  Unanimously, they all said, “No!  You threw it out?”

Ummm.*throat clearing*. Yes, I threw it out. It.Was. In. A. TOILET.  Did you guys not hear that part?

“You could have cleaned it.”

Maybe if I had a surgical tool sanitizer but I DON’T…

I chalked this up to my friends being a unique herd of beautiful weirdos — who I adore and actually respect greatly for knowing that had I kept my peed-on-toilet-swimming-activity-tracker, I’d be in the “judgment-free zone” with these awesome peeps (it made me feel a little warm inside and equally concerned me).

So fast-forward to today where I explained my ordeal on Facebook and asked for advice for a replacement.  Any good suggestions, from anyone?  Any preference in brand, anyone?

Instead, I got the same heated debate of “WHY DID YOU THROW IT OUT?”

While this debate plays out, I had to try and figure out what meaning this all had.  What was the *Universe* trying to tell me by literally tossing my activity tracker in the toilet.

 

I had a notion of what it all meant. But I am tired and going to bed, so you’ll have to wait until tomorrow (or whenever I actually decide to write the next post).

To Be Continued…

 

 

 

How Buying a Car Is Like Dating… Maybe

You can sell me anything. It’s true.  If it comes in plaid, I’ll take one.

A few weeks ago, I tried to convince my husband that we should install an electric lift in the garage attic, so we could optimize storage. He didn’t even respond to that text…

I have spent the past few weeks configuring a personal/household budget, curbed my shopping, and lowered several bills, yet I STILL almost signed up for a bouquet delivery service b/c some pretty (really pretty) pictures of flowers showed up in my news feed in Facebook.  That’s right.  Even with the voice in my heading saying, “You don’t need $75 bouquets of flowers showing up randomly at your door,” — I still clicked–  just to take a peek.

No, I didn’t buy them.

This is why I was so nervous when I went shopping for a car this weekend.  Let’s recap. I don’t need a car right this minute, but my eleven-year-old car is getting — well older, AND since I am trying to figure out whether I can actually afford to go part-time or not, I need to consider future expenses — like said car.

I knew what might happen.  I might fall in love with a new car.  I’ve had mine for over a decade.  I expected to be dazzled by all the new features.  I’ve been planning on this purchase for several years.  I was ready to regret being talked into purchasing a new car. I was ready to be SOLD! I was ready to hand over my loyal car and move on to something new.

That didn’t happen.  Instead, I met with a sleepy salesman who kept yawning and saying he was just so tired.  He stood on one side of the showroom vehicle and talked to me through the open windows, mumbling details  — in a bored delivery.  I frequently had to ask him to repeat himself.  I even had to initiate a test-drive — he seemed ready for me to buy without a test run.  Driving made our discussions even more difficult.  I had to again, keep asking him to repeat himself — this time without the ability of seeing his lips move. He didn’t sell me at all.  He was really more interested in what I did for a living.  It was Sunday.  I don’t feel like talking about work on a non-workday.  This wasn’t a date.  This was a sale. Perhaps, feeling my indifference to his lack of sales game, he instead tried to convince me what a piece of shit my current vehicle was.

“So, we’re going with that tactic, aye?”

He ridiculed the fact that my company (Suzuki) had left the U.S. market during the economic downfall to which I informed him that if they hadn’t stopped selling vehicles, I’d be at a Suzuki dealership buying a new version of the vehicle I currently drive.  He scoffed at the fact that it had 130k miles on it.  Yes, it does, but that’s because I have had it for over ELEVEN years (which doesn’t seem bad at all) and that I have not had any repairs beyond the usual maintenance.  I figure I could probably go up to 200k but am not really comfortable testing that theory out. This is like dating someone new and having them bad mouth your ex (or the father of your children).  We don’t know each other well enough to bash exes on our first date.

I found myself defensive of my current spouse car — or more specifically defending myself on owning my car — the car that had saved me during a rear-ending where the vehicle behind me simply never stopped for the red light.  It’s the vehicle that I brought my son home from the hospital in.  We’ve gone through three different versions of car-seats as he has grown.  All 130+lbs of Finn, fits in the cargo area.  I can tell you what caused every scratch on that car (from the drunk man who opened his car door into the rear passenger door to the rogue shopping cart that slammed down the driver’s side on a particularly stormy and wind driven day while I listened to the metal squeak as I sat inside helpless to stop it). Two (different) old ladies backed into my car in two separate parking lots, and the right side of the bumper has a scuff from when I had the flu and accidentally backed my car into the gutter of the garage before climbing into bed and falling unconscious for three days.

I felt like that test-drive had been some sort of insult to my beloved Suzuki (or ex/spouse).

When I got back in my SUV, I appreciated the location of my cup holders.  The pretty faux wood-grain interior (the new car was all plastic and lacked the decency to even disguise it).  The steering wheel was wide and my hands fit just right.  The new car lacked sophistication.

My husband asked me if I liked the test-drive — and all I could think to say was. “It was kind of like driving this car — only that one would come with a car payment.”

What I think I meant was this, the newer car was:
A) comparable to what I currently drive and
B) didn’t have ANY of the bells and whistles of a newer car — AT ALL.  It didn’t even try to woo me. There was no passion. It had heated seats standard which was pretty neat, but I didn’t turn it on during the test drive — so I hadn’t even thought about the temperature of my butt. It had a moon roof, which kind of annoyed me, honestly — also standard.  I asked if I could get a car without the moon roof and he scoffed and said, no.

What I really wanted was some luxury (court me dammit!! — read me poetry and subscribe me to a flower delivery service in which I will never know that you signed up for automated deliveries rather than taken the time to send me flowers each month — love is a game anyway and more points to you for efficiency!) along with a remote starter – mine died a few years back and I never fixed it b/c I was figuring on getting a new car.  I also want the lane change warning thingy that probably has  fancy name.   Also a  GPS system b/c I hate having stupid devices/wires everywhere (and the salesman was kind of *condescending about why I was insistent on getting GPS anyway). These things meant I’d have to upgrade to the next model — leather seats and blah, blah, blah. The sleepy salesman pointed out the touchscreen console while I was driving which was A) distracting and B) would be useful for the “GPS system you’re telling me I don’t need to get.”

It was also annoying that whenever I asked about lease vs. purchase, he tried to remind me that “No one leases these b/c they love them so much they only want to buy them.” To which my inner voice replied,”If you make me puke with this nonsense, I swear I’ll do it in the back of that expensive hatchback hybrid over there.”

I left feeling wildly unsatisfied by the experience and all the more driven to cling to my current car.  It felt like trying to have an affair only to realize that your spouse is what suits you best.  More accurately, it was like trying to have an affair with someone who was just really into — themselves.

…Actually, it was even worse.  The lack of a sales-pitch was like showing up to our first date in sweat pants (the kind with elastic around the ankles) and a sweaty tee-shirt that’s a size too small.

For those of you keeping track, this is a good thing for someone trying to save money — I think.  Unless of course, my car dies (I do recall the mechanic mentioning rust developing underneath and other bad stuff I tuned out).  In which case, I might end up buying a new car in the not so distant future.

I did at least earn a $50 giftcard for test driving a vehicle that I was planning to purchase which feels equivalent to at least getting a good dinner even if the date was awful.

*Note — don’t be condescending to me — especially if you want me to shell out hundreds of dollars a month.  

Home-made Detergent,The Cable Factor & My Fake Housemate

Your first thought is probably, that’s a really long title. Yeah, well remember Fiona Apple’s album (When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts He Thinks Like a King What He Knows Throws the Blows When He Goes to the Fight and He’ll Win the Whole Thing ‘fore He Enters the Ring There’s No Body to Batter When Your Mind Is Your Might so When You Go Solo, You Hold Your Own Hand and Remember That Depth Is the Greatest of Heights and If You Know Where You Stand, Then You Know Where to Land and If You Fall It Won’t Matter, Cuz You’ll Know That You’re Right). Right. So my title is still shorter than that.

Your second, is likely — what the heck is she talking about?

First the detergent factor as I have now coined it.  The home-made detergent factor, actually. In the countless article I have read on ways to minimize your expenses, the writer (in almost EVERY case) will tell us (the reader), that we can save tons of money by making our own detergent.  In fact, this is cited so often, that I am led to believe that the only real reason that I am not rich, is that I buy laundry detergent.  This is the main part I have to wrap my head around… how much laundry are these people doing, anyway? 

Brace yourselves — I’m about to do some math.

I buy my natural, lavender-scented detergent at a whole-sale club for roughly $14 a container (umm large container 64 oz.) which tends to last 3 months (occasionally it goes on sale for $11).  I run my laundry multiple times – daily.  I have a kid. We have a front loaders so I am sure that helps reduce the amount we use.  But still. $14 x 4= $56 a year on detergent.  Let’s throw an extra in there, just to be safe. $70. A. Year. Hmmmmm.  One site claimed that you could wash 312 loads for $7 (spending $14 a year on detergent)and another claimed that you would be spending only $5 per 32 oz “bottle” (spending about $50 a year if you use the amount I use).  So by using a cheese grater, boiling stuff, using a blender etc… this might save me a whopping $10 a year… (has anyone calculated the time and cost of electricity?!?!).  It seems like  a lot of work for minimal savings.

I’m not criticizing people who make their own detergent — it’s just that I don’t think it realistically solves most money issues — at least in my case — and the frequency in which it is posted on money saving sites is —  baffling. *I note too, that not everyone can afford to belong to a whole-sale club (I got my membership on discount) and not everyone can afford to buy bulk items – although again in the case of my detergent as a bulk item —  it’s cheaper that the non-bulk detergents in grocery stores.

I guess you need to decide what savings are worth the effort.

Which brings me to CABLE. I can tell you my husband is rolling his eyes as he reads this very post which will be delivered to his inbox when I hit “publish.” The way others think buying detergent is throwing away money is how I feel about cable.  Just to clarify — I watch TV.  I was the woman who said her children would NEVER watch TV, and then when my son was old enough to make sense of colors and sight, I bought the entire collection of Baby Einstein DVD’s and stuck him on a blanket nearby so I could pee or wash the dishes or anything that was impossible with a screaming little one.  Mea culpa. In my defense he really loves music now — so maybe that wasn’t so bad?

I have my guilty pleasures and I often DVR then binge-watch with the best of them.  I use cable, okay?  My issue is the cost of cable and internet. At the moment our bill is $199.  It’s pretty basic with the exception of the DVR fees and the special channels (ummmm Game of Thrones). However, on most days, when I finally get to watch TV, nothing is ever on.  500 channels and the only six I watch are void of anything I’m interested in. I mostly end up watching Netflix or Amazon Prime (additional fees – also discounted).  My internet is not great either.  I often get kicked off streaming — and our internet service which is included in that $200 is not a middle of the road selection.

So month after month — when the TV selection sucks, or the internet goes out in the middle of one of my BBC Netflix selections – usually while I am on my treadmill, my husband knows that I am going to raise the question, “Do we really need cable?”

“I like to watch sports,” he’ll say.
Yeah, but can’t you do that on your phone?  You always seem to watch on your phone.

“What about Game of Thrones?” (or if he really wants to hit me where it hurts) “You won’t be able to watch Outlander if we go basic.”
Yeah, but we could switch to satelite.

“Everyone says they suck.  My parent’s never get reception when It’s cloudy.  My buddy had a dish and he couldn’t wait to cancel.  He said they — -sucked.”
BUT $200 a month for cable is $2,400 a year of just throwing money away.

“(silence — then crickets…)”
Okay, you know how my birthday is coming up?  If you really loved me and wanted to get the best gift for me EVER — YOU WOULD CANCEL CABLE…

“(eyes roll)”

This is kind of an exact transcription of our monthly cable arguments.  I have become obsessed with it.  I feel like — well probably how those detergent making people feel about paying to wash clothes — I feel ripped off.

And since I love my husband very much and I don’t want to have the crazy cable arguments anymore, I finally took action.

I called my local cable company (whom by the way I’ve called every three months in an effort to lower my bills over the past 2 years — just like those home-made detergent loving folks suggested and NOT once did they even attempt to offer me a discount), so I called them and created an elaborate story (b/c I am a writer you know) and I told them that my housemate was moving out.  I asked if I could take over the account as  anew customer and they said, “No.”

… BUT what I could do was open  my OWN account and get the new customer bundle rate (phone/internet/cable — with GoT’s) for $149 (including fees) and I could cancel the extra movies channels when not in use  — saving me another $15 a month! I had already used my maiden name as an attempt to clearly convey that my fake housemate and I were not related (but we are b/c he is my husband).

Now, while I am not sure the customer service rep. really cared at all about my story (and just how talented I was to keep up my roommate moving out ruse) I couldn’t help myself.  I explained that “he” had been a crappy roommate anyway and proceeded to ask if I he needed to return the equipment by a certain date.  I’m a fan of character development. The rep. said that wasn’t necessary and the new tech could take it away for us (saving is the trip and hassle of going to the physical store AND guaranteeing that our internet and cable service would not be disrupted). Brilliant.

Nice, right? All this costs me is an extra $60 for the set-up.  In return, I will save $1,200 over two years (and it lowers our yearly rate from $2,400 to $1,800).

I’ve done some other money-saving groundwork as well — which Dear Reader, I will share with you in a future post (I know — you seriously can’t wait — but you’ll have to).

Don’t Drink and Diet

Remember that time you got drunk off of ONE drink?  One very, very strong martini?

No?  Well, I am not saying that happened to me either, I’m just saying that it’s possible to lose your tolerance for alcohol and be confronted with the fact that you aren’t in your twenties anymore… and that the college days of drinking on a Thursday night (“thirsty Thursdays”) aren’t really very compatible with being a working adult.

Imagine if you will, a woman in her mid-thirties on a date with her husband for his birthday.  Imagine being in a fine restaurant and wondering if you’re four-year old will behave so you can enjoy the $50 meals you are going to order.  For the sake of telling a good story, this woman will take on the first person narrative (but I’m still not saying it’s actually me).

“Would you like any drinks,” asked our sweet and efficient waitress.

“Yes,” I said before I realized it was my own voice, “Can I see a drink menu?” (Wait who said that?).

I ordered a chocolate-coffee-espresso-baileys-kahlua-vodka something or other. I had no choice.  I’d made the sweet waitress bring me a drink menu.  She looked at me expectantly.  I don’t like to disappoint.

The martini that appeared was — tiny. It did not even taste like coffee or chocolate.                                                                                                                                      –It kind of tasted like gasoline.

It burned.
It touched my tongue and scorched me.
And that sensation was addicting.

And I was also pretty hungry.  I’m on a 1500 calorie diet.  I knew we’d be going out that evening and I didn’t want to feel guilty, so I’d saved some of those calories for Caesar dressing or butter on my bread (none of which is really allowed).  But then again, if I was going to indulge, why not a little alcohol?  It was my husband’s birthday, and my son was quietly playing on his Leapfrog, and it was just one drink.

I feel like it’s important to mention I was wearing Spanx too.  My background is not in science, but I theorize that the little food I was eating was caught somewhere in my sternum while the alcohol, in its liquid state was able to trickle down past the food, into my stomach (the hollow empty stomach).

I should probably also  mention that I don’t really drink.  *No, really. Ask my friends. I rarely drink.

Why you ask?  Because I’m always on a diet and who wants to waste calories on alcohol? And alcohol seems like a weird waste of money which would be better spent on dessert! (*which might be why I’m always on a diet).

Half way through, my husband seemed as though he was sitting further away from me.   Everything I said made me giggle (because well let’s face it I’m pretty  funny).  At one point, I couldn’t get the fish I ordered to stay on my fork.  It fell off the second I lifted it to where I thought my mouth should be. It just kept falling — which made me laugh – a lot.

But I drank on because I’m not wasting a $15 drink.  Nope. I’m a trooper.

I quickly passed the mark of the relaxation that usually settles in my legs with one alcoholic beverage.  I found myself eating my julienne veggies in a swirl of dizzy — one hand holding on to the table, the other trying to use a fork to pick up slivers of zucchini.

“Are you drunk?”

“What? No.  Look how small my drink is,” I said pointing to my empty glass.

I excused myself to use the ladies room – -and it felt like I swam there.  Like wading through waist deep water.  In the absolute silence of the bathroom stall, I could hear the blood pumping through me like the bass of a tripped out Honda with an eighteen-year old pimple-faced, bad-ass behind the wheel.  Nothing good can come from that.

And the next day…

It was bad.  I was dehydrated.  I couldn’t drink enough water.  Which made me queasy. I had a headache and I was dizzy.  Fatigue? Yes. Irritable? Absolutely. But I went to work anyway, because if nothing else, I’m a responsible drunkard.

Einstein said that, “The only source of knowledge is experience.”

What had I knowledge(d) from this experience?
1). I’d never really been hung over (ever) and now at 35, I was.
2). I’m getting old. I know this b/c I googled drinking effects and age. The internet said I was old.
3). I only had one drink! WTF?????
4). Drinking is bad for dieting and dieting is bad for drinking.