Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Tiffany Mash-Up

I wanted to call this post, "Google+ is Ruining My Life," but I was afraid you'd take me seriously and I'd get 25 helpful comments telling me how to turn off that damned auto-sharing thing. I've figured out how to do that, but the problem runs deeper: I knew I was in trouble the minute Google Authorship became a thing.

See, I have a lot going on.

On some level, I suspect that most people who interact with me are aware of that. But, that doesn't mean they're (you're?) interested in all of it.

For example, do my law school admissions consulting clients know that I also do marketing? Possibly. And they probably don't care. But, do the attorneys I do marketing for know (or want to know) that I also write romance novels, and I used to write erotica? Do any of you want to see pictures of my Hot Wheels? Read my dog blog post about killing fleas with oatmeal? Do the readers of my relationship blog want to hear tips on writing a more effective law school admissions essay? Check out the watercolors for my children's-book-in-progress?

Probably, if you're following me on Google+, it's because you're a lawyer, a marketer or a writer. Quite possibly, you have no interest in the crazy questions that I pull out of my search stats and answer on one blog, or the pictures of my family that I often post here...and I'd bet money that most of you would have been happier never knowing that I'm stalking Richard Grieco (professionally, of course).

But, there it all is. Google has decided to pull together my bylines and to auto-share everything that I post on any of my 13 blogs, and I've decided not to fight it any more.

I won't be offended if you unfollow me.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Fast Forward

It's been nearly a year.  Time is a funny thing, in that you can't catch it up. Last October I was in a cottage on Cape Cod, the two most important people in my life close at hand.

Tori and I took our coffee out to a small playground on the grounds and worked on a book together.

I saw the ocean every day.

I worked, when I needed to, in a sunny kitchen with ever-present traces of sand on the floor.

We went to Salem.

I have no idea what's going on here.

We visited three of my oldest friends, in three different states, and stopped to breath in the mist of Niagara Falls.

Then, in November, our lives collapsed. During those long months of illness and uncertainty, I often couldn't work at all. When I did, it was in tiny bites, on the most superficial of projects. Christmas came and went with little observation; it was only acknowledged at all because my beautiful daughter went into the storage under the stairs and decorated, inside and out, while I slept.

Then, springtime came and went. No long walks and badminton games in the yard this time around. We didn't ride our bikes to the park in the next town as we had last year. Jake loves spring, but those days slipped by with very little outdoor playtime.

In June, seven months in, I started to feel better. Not good, but well enough to function. But, by then, we were in deep.  Seven months without income took a serious toll, despite the generous support of some of our closest friends.  Tori had done her best to keep the house running smoothly, but it was new territory in a time of stress. I re-emerged at half-power, into a world of past-due bills, medical bills that seemed to continue to grow, a messy house and a broken down car.

And so, summer passed, too, in an endless cycle of pushing to catch up and then collapsing to recover. My only goal was to avoid falling further behind.

At long last, I'm starting to feel in control. Far from the top of the hole that kept getting deeper all year, but I can see that there's sunlight up there somewhere. But I can't help thinking about that time gone by. I can make up the money; I can catch up the projects; I can get to the bottom of that big bag of non-essential laundry that's collected. In time, all of those areas will return to normal, without a trace.

But I missed most of the year I was 46.  More importantly, I missed most of the year my daughter turned seventeen, and I missed ALL of the year my grandson was four.

I'm not usually inclined to think in terms of things lost. It's always a new day, and living in it means not living in the past--whether it's a past you cherish or one you regret. But the season turning back to fall is really driving home the way that chunks of our life can just disappear, and that the world shifts while we're away.

I don't have a lesson learned or a victory at the end of the path for this one. I'm grateful to be alive. I'm grateful to be working again. And I'm grateful that my daughter and I are both the kind of people who still found reasons to laugh and little moments to take pleasure in during this year. But we still missed what should have been my grandchildren's last extended visit before two of them started school. We still haven't been able to travel as the first feature film she appeared in makes the festival circuit. We still missed the last summer road trip before she crossed the line into adulthood. As the days get brighter and we regain our foundations, I'm sure I'll think about that less and less. Eventually, not at all. But it will never change.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

This, Too, Shall Pass

This lovely summer Saturday morning, I stood in my yard watching small planes come and go from our tiny local airport and thought about how everything fades.

In the summer of 1981, I watched my father and another man carry two people out of a burning twin-engine Cessna.  That sounds cool and heroic and like something to be proud of, and it was.  It was also like this:

We're driving down the road on a hot summer evening, 16-ounce glass bottles of Coca-Cola and Dad's Root Beer clanking in the orange and white cooler on the floor by my feet, heading to the drive-in to see The Fox and the Hound.  My mother sees the plane, flying low, and makes a comment about it and then a moment later a ball of fire rises into the air up ahead.

One moment, the music is playing and the night breeze is soft in my hair and the next my mother is reaching hysterically for my father's arm, saying something about the plane that doesn't make sense to me, and he's hitting the gas.  I can still see her forearm, pale freckles against a sea-green sleeve, reaching across to him.  I can see the way the fire rolled upward, like the mushroom clouds we'd seen in films at school.

My father got out of the car and my mother said, "Don't go in there!"  In a voice that was oddly calm, my father said, "I'm not going in there.  No one could be alive in there."  And then someone started to scream, and he was gone.

My mother hovered around the edges; I stayed in the car with my little sister, seven years old and repeating over and over again, "Let it be a dream. Please let it be a dream," as she cried.  But it wasn't a dream, and the smell that filled the air--a smell I won't describe for you--made it obvious that not everyone had escaped.

The pilot and his son died.  A young woman was thrown clear and my father and a passing truck driver carried a 16-year-old girl and her mother out of the burning wreckage.  They recovered; there were ceremonies and medals.  And for at least a decade, I watched small planes suspiciously, wary of any tilt that seemed too extreme, waiting for them to fall from the sky.

And then, this morning, I smiled at a small plane in the sky and realized that I didn't know when I'd stopped holding my breath.  I didn't know when I'd started seeing those little planes the way everyone else did, or whether the fear had faded away over time or abruptly been gone one morning.  Perhaps it was this morning.    But suddenly, I knew that sooner or later, everything fades.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

I'm About to Be Famous

Except for the part where I'm not, at all.  A little over a year ago, I wrote about how I kept getting recruited off the sidelines to be an extra in various films my daughter had dragged me to.

One of those movies--the one that inspired that post, actually--was a little bigger scale than the others, in that it starred Dennis Quaid, Zac Efron and Heather Graham and was directed by some guy apparently famous for shooting a plastic bag blowing in the wind or something like that.

I did not meet any of them or even see Quaid or Graham, but I did stand across the street from Zac Efron for a couple of hours while he filmed a scene over and over again. Between takes, he rode a borrowed bicycle around in the street, which was kind of cute.  Up close-ish, he still looks like a skinny teenager and I kind of suspect that photoshop or something similar is behind all those ab shots the magazines were showing us a couple of years ago.

It's called At Any Price. Here's the trailer.

If you go see this movie, you may or may not catch a glimpse of me standing on the street in front of a restaurant with Luke from the Post Office while Zac Efron jumps into a car and screeches off down the street about 15 times.  Oh, wait...probably that will only happen once in the movie.  If you do spot me, I'll look like hell, standing out in the cold wind in a sweater that makes me look huge and flat shoes that don't match my clothes--the nice heels that go with that outfit are in my car a mile or so away.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Things that Keep Me Up at Night

Probably you know that I've been having some semi-serious medical problems.  And that I have had almost no income during the past 3+ months while I've been dealing with that.  And that I've naturally been having problems with the insurance company. And that my car went from crappy to altogether dead and I've had no transportation for over a month.

But really, I can deal with all that.  This is what's been keeping me up at night:

Sure, when you have no way to get to the store, you think about running out of things like food and medications.  But really?  In an absolute emergency, you can live for days without food.  Toilet paper?  Not so much.

Fortunately, there's a gas station with a convenience store not far from my house and we've been able to pick up a lot of basics there--paper products, canned food, milk, etc.  The thing is, it's not a high-volume store and they don't restock all that often, so the other day, during our ten-inch snowfall, I bought their last roll of toilet paper.

And then I felt greedy.

See, we still had a couple of rolls at home.  AND I have a local friend who could take me to the store in a real pinch.  We don't have cabs or buses here, but if I were really desperate I could pay $20 for a car service to take me to the store and pick me up.  So my worry wasn't that I'd bought the last roll of toilet paper and what would we do, it was WHAT IF SOMEONE ELSE NEEDED THAT?

I really, really wish I were exaggerating for humor's sake, but I actually did find myself lying in bed that night thinking about the depth of the snow and worrying that someone else in the neighborhood might trek out to the gas station in desperation and find that they had no toilet paper.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Letters to Barb

As I write this, my dear friend Barb Cooper is in yoga teacher training for ten days.  I’m very excited about this for a number of reasons and it’s exactly where she should be right now.


Oh, don’t worry.  I have absolutely no reservations about what she’s doing.  My “but” is purely selfish.

See, other than a brief bad period a couple of years ago which I mention here only because I’m compulsively honest, Barb has been at the other end of my keyboard for more than a decade. 

She was there when my 17-year-old started school and when I made the difficult decision to rescue her from the school system four years ago.  She was there when I started out on my own for the first time after ten years with my husband, and when my mother had a triple bypass and when I got my first full-time job in a dozen years and when I lost it. 

And now, while I’ve never been a needy or constant-contact kind of person and I know she’s still there in spirit, STUFF IS HAPPENING.

Would I have written that ill-advised email to a man from my past yesterday afternoon if Barb had been around to screen it?

And the night before last, I was up half the night because my teenage daughter shared a letter she’d written about her middle school experience—an experience from beyond the depths of hell that Barb lived with me from the other side of the country.

And today…well, today it occurred to me for the first time that the “less/fewer” rule DOESN’T SEEM TO APPLY TO “MORE”.  That was very disconcerting for me, especially since (if true) it suggests that “more” and “less” can’t be precise opposites.  I need to dig into this further.  And really…who else isn’t going to think that needing to know is a sign of some kind of neurosis?  You’re thinking it now, aren’t you?

However it may seem, the point of this story isn’t actually to complain about Barb’s absence.  The truth is, I’ve been pretty busy the past few days with a new client (after three months of medically-induced downtime!) and finishing up a project that got put on hold when I got sick.  The point of this story is that so often I see people online talking about how you don’t really have a relationship with someone until you’ve met in person and that sort of thing.

I know where those statements come from; in emails and forums relating to my relationship blog, I’m forever seeing people who are “in love” with people they’ve never met—usually people they’ve been corresponding with for one to three weeks.  And it’s true that it’s easier to mislead people or only show them a particular side of you online.

But it’s also worth noting how much a person on the other side of the country can become a part of your everyday life.  I just took a quick look at my gmail account—which I’ve only had for about half the time I’ve known Barb—and it’s showing about 7,000 THREADS between us.  Some of those only contain a few emails, but others contain dozens.  All told, I suspect that we’re over the 100,000 mark at this point.

Somehow, I find it hard to believe that I’d magically know her better (or vice versa) if we’d sat down for coffee or shuttled our kids to the same dance class.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Life in Bedford Falls

I've long said that I live in Bedford Falls.  It's the Christmas parade where you see someone you know every ten feet, the waitress at the diner who was your daughter's pre-school classroom aid fifteen years ago and remembers her name, the five-minute chats with the clerk at the gas station (and the way no one behind you gets annoyed--they may even join in), the way the children's librarian smiles when you come in with the grandkids and remembers when their mom graduated to young adult novels and a thousand other personal interactions.  It's the look of the place, too--the bright red wheel barrow in front of the hardware store downtown and the tiny post office and the storefronts run by people who live and work and shop and play in town.

But recently, when I started having some serious medical problems, I learned that my Bedford Falls was quite a bit wider than I'd realized.  (If you're thinking, "started?!  What do you mean started?", that's a fair question, but trust me on this--it's a lot more serious right now.)  Not being able to work for several weeks just at the time when I most need income has been rough. But it's also been a lesson in the beauty of humanity.

First, my high school best friend canceled a trip out of state so he could, basically, be close enough to drive me to the hospital if need be. So, instead of taking a vacation before he started a new job this week, he spent the week between Christmas and New Year's picking up my prescriptions and driving me to the grocery store and even bringing me toilet paper.

Then, some friends from the suburbs started talking behind my back, coordinating how they could help me out. And yes, that made me a little edgy, but also reminded me how fortunate I am to have such amazing people in my life.  One of them sent me a check that he insisted was a gift--when I objected, he said that if I insisted, I could send it back "when I got tired of it." And then these wonderful foods started appearing on my doorstep in decorative baskets, courtesy of a friend on the other end of the country.

I was already a little overwhelmed when an undauntable young friend on the other coast decided that it was time I "let the universe take care of me for a while" and started a fundraiser for me (and look at the nice things she said about me!)  And when she did, several of my past co-workers immediately chipped in to help.

My older daughter, already overwhelmed with three children, a full-time job and a husband going through medical issues himself, offered to come (225 miles) and pick up her sister if I had to go into the hospital.  I've received messages of support, prayers and offers of help from friends all over the country, some of whom I haven't seen in years. And today, a couple of college friends I've seen once in the past decade messaged to ask whether they could come and take me to lunch on Saturday.

I'm just saying "yes".  I've always been a big believer in mutual support and community only as long as I'm on the giving end; it's a bit uncomfortable when the tables are turned.  Perhaps everyone feels that way.  My wise teenager (who decorated the inside and outside of the house for Christmas by herself while I slept one day, after I mentioned that it made me kind of sad that I hadn't been able to do it) told me it doesn't work that way, that I'm on board with the idea or I'm not.  And I guess it's time to try out that view, since I really can't do a damned thing for myself at the moment regardless of my philosophy.  It's come as something of a surprise, though, how nice it is to have all this care and concern washing over me.