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APR
24

The California Effect


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Living in California is pretty idyllic. The weather is fantastic, and I can go to the beach literally every day. I look at the tourists renting the condos along the shoreline and think, "And I get to live here." It hardly seems fair.

The thing about California, though, is it's changed my threshold for tolerances that previously would have been no problem. Like temperature. I moved here last summer, and after several months of constantly comfy temps, I remember actually taking a picture of the temperature display in my car on the day when the temperature never left the 60s. It just seemed so cold. After all those years in Cleveland and New York, strange that temps in the 60s could seem anything but balmy. Yet, it's true. I feel cold here more often...and when I am around actual cold temps or--heaven help me--snow (like this past Christmas in the mountains of eastern Washington state or even last weekend while caught in that freak blizzard in Denver), I just can't handle it like I used to. These days, I always think it's too cold.

California has also done a number on my skin. I'm not just talking about the fact that it took me a while to get the hang of sufficient sunscreen application, but also of the random bumps and rashes that began showing up due to--according to my dermatologist--the changes in environment and humidity from what I was used to out East. Multiple medications later, my skin is improving...albeit a myriad of other skin-related side-effects of the skin medications have cropped up. Which is how I came to be the girl who wears gloves while at the beach.

My skin issues are TMI, I realize, I just think sometimes it's nice to remind everyone that living in Calfornia is not always like those commercials with all the celebrities. The ones trying to convince you that their lives are just like everyone else's, even though the point of those commercials is clearly that California living is not really reality. I confess seeing those commercials while living out East filled me with a surprisingly intense yearning to be here. And those commercials are right...living in California is pretty idyllic. Although for the sake of accuracy, they really ought to get a girl wearing gloves at the beach on one of those commercials. I'll happily volunteer.

APR
11

Fleeting

There’s something about experiences that have expiration dates. Things only available for limited windows of time. Call them fickle. Call them not to be counted on. Like the location of your favorite food truck. But that’s what ultimately propels you to take advantage. Because if you don’t, you may lose your chance. And don’t worry. This isn’t going to be a post about my egg supply or my musings over the pros and cons of a childless life. I’ve surely subjected you to enough of that already.

This post is dedicated entirely to the Carlsbad Flower Fields, a shockingly beautiful scene to behold, and only in bloom for a few weeks every year. The bloom occurs over my birthday, meaning I was lucky enough to take a few pics last week in honor of the day, all the while contemplating the arrival of another year’s worth of sage insights, opinions, and perspectives (most notably that Donald Trump is incredibly stupid, that spray sunscreen works better at the beach than the lotion kind does, and that the X-Files theme song still fills my heart with glee even after a 15-year hiatus).

With insights like those, clearly I’m only getting better with time. So, I’m sure, are the flowers. Looking forward to their return next year. Fox Mulder’s, too.

APR
04

Home Decor

I've been eyeing this project for some time, although I must give credit to my sister, as she's the one who pointed these watercolors out to me in the first place. At first it was suggested that maybe I could attempt them myself, though I doubt this option would have produced something that made sense being displayed on my living room wall. Maybe more like my fridge...if I had a young child to whom I could attribute their creation.

It took several stops to find somewhere with frames both as colorful and cheap as I was after (I was buying twelve of them, yo), and don't even get me started on the hours-long ordeal of trying to line them up straight and with equal spacing. My brother had cautioned I should not attempt it without measuring tape, a level, and a second person to help me, but I have none of those things. So I went for the always solid Trial and Error approach, and the project is now done. There are also about a billion tiny nail holes in my living room wall.

I realize that decorating your walls with gemstones is not normal. But I'm really not a normal girl. My affection for all things gem is the epitome of abnormal. But surely you know that by now. I freaking wrote a book about it. And quit my job to study it. And moved across the country to work in it. And now, thanks to this weekend's project, every night I will come home to it. Besides, what's so great about being normal, anyway? It sounds much less sparkly.

APR
02

Celebrating the Handoff

I gave my new manuscript to the editor this morning. She might hate it. She might tell me it doesn't work. In which case I'll be pretty discouraged. But that's always the risk you take when you put a piece of yourself down on paper. Particularly when that self is so very ordinary.

But no matter. Because whichever way this goes, tonight I'm celebrating that I've written a new book. It's such an accomplishment. And while as a woman--and a relatively worry-warty one at that--I've become an expert at feeling like I'm not enough, like I'm disappointing others, like I'm not living up to my potential, and like everyone in the office finds me kind of annoying (even though I threw the most amazing chili cookoff last month), tonight I am nothing but proud.

 

MAR
25

The Editor

I'm preparing to do my final read-through of this darn manuscript before handing it over to my editor next week. It really is a bummer that even as your manuscript gets tighter and better as the read-throughs continue, you start to genuinely dislike it. The repetition. The many revisions and re-revisions. The fact that you can recite so much of it for memory that you fear your eyes may simply be glossing over entire pages without really paying attention. By this point I am, as per usual, convinced no one will ever want to read this thing. Probably a good sign that it's time to hand it off to someone else.

When my editor reminded me today that it's been five years since she edited my first book, it seemed a bit hard to fathom. Five years. It's not a huge amount of time, but it is nonetheless significant. The first little chunk in roundable figures. Five years. In so many ways, I feel like I'm in a much better place now. I've cut the tie with Corporate America. I finally left a city I had outgrown. I've become a gemologist. I pursued a dream and it worked out. I got to live in my beloved Manhattan. I tried a pixie cut. I've written three books.

Of course, in a few ways, things are worse, too. I lost a love, a future I very much wanted. I've perhaps lost some amount of faith as well. Not just in the world and the goodness at its core, but also in a belief system that becomes ever harder to embrace in its entirety. And I've obviously lost some youth, creeping ever closer to the point at which I can no longer consider myself young at all. None of these losses are insignificant.

But overall I have to be happy with where things have shaken out over the five years since I picked up one of those Guide to Literary Agents books and began looking for a kindred spirit--or, at the very least, someone who thought I had talent. Given where I sit at this moment (at my writing desk, looking out at the palm trees in my front yard and enjoying the cool ocean-laced breeze coming in through the window), I have to conclude I made a good choice.

MAR
21

Rethinking Peridot

It probably stands to reason that if you royally slam peridot in your second book for being the hands-down ugliest birthstone, you will inevitably be seated at dinner next to the jewelry designer your company is hosting who just happens to be wearing one of the largest peridot pieces you've ever seen in real life. In that moment you'll have two choices: you can continue to be a peridot snob and eat your dinner the same way you eat your dinner every night. Or you can ask her to hand over the honking thing and eat your dinner while wearing more carat weight than you've ever even tried on.

I chose the latter.

And I would choose it again.

And that, peridot, is the closest to a love letter you'll ever get from me.

MAR
11

Growing out a Pixie - Part 2

I have an exciting announcement. My stylist says I'm officially in "bob" territory. You'll recall that the last time I checked in on this subject (Growing out a Pixie - Part 1), I'd had someone that very day tell me I really needed to do something about my hair. And even though my hair is to a point now where it actually looks like something a person might do on purpose, I still get comments. Within the same 24-hour period last week I had someone say "Your hair is adorable that length," and someone else say, "Are you growing your hair out?" and then cringe when my answer was yes. "Why?" they asked. Um, because I miss having hair? Of course I already feel 1000 times more ordinary, even with a bob. But whatever. Here's to changing it up.

MAR
04

To Procreate or not to Procreate?

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I read a book recently that had been written as a series of essays by writers who had each, for one reason or another, decided not to have children. Each author spent his or her essay largely explaining this decision. I find books on particular lifestyle choices interesting (a la Spinster), particularly if they are choices that I have made as well. Not that my reasons are the same as any of this book’s contributing authors. I am choosing not to have children because I don’t want to be a single parent, not because I don’t want children. Were my circumstances different (ie. if I could find the right man), I would welcome the opportunity. But that’s not really what I wanted to talk about.

What struck me while reading these essays was how many of the authors mention an unwillingness to give up their career as a contributing factor—many times a significant one—in their decision not to have children. It might seem an odd thing, since, especially in this day and age, having both a career and a family is very do-able. But keep in mind the authors of these essays are all writers—full-time writers—and that kind of career is an entirely different animal. You’re at home all day, for starters, and that in and of itself—that at home is where you need to be your most productive—can make the idea of children very off-putting. These writers told of how even just the thought of a child pulling at their arm while they sat typing or journaling was enough to 1) make them realize it would simply never be possible to do both, and 2) fill them with acute hypothetical guilt over neglecting this hypothetical child. Point 1 makes me think of something I read in Joni Mitchell’s biography. When she was still quite young, Joni had a baby girl and gave her up for adoption. The decision tore her up, but she said some decades later that had she not made that decision, her career in the music industry would have never happened. It simply wouldn’t have been possible. So I get it. I do. And I am personally quite glad for her decision, as “I could drink a case of you and still be on my feet” is one of my favorite lyrics ever penned.

Point 2 makes me think of what happens every evening and weekend when I sit down to write and my cat jumps up and tries to fight my computer for the spot on my lap. She’ll try and try, me batting her away until she finally realizes the mission is futile. Of course, when I do this, she curls up on the couch and sleeps for the next five hours and is really no worse for wear. So I realize this temporary neglect doesn’t trigger the same type of guilt I would feel if I resented my child and her frequent—no, constant—tendency to impede my writing. (She, my cat, does the same thing when I’m reading a book, constantly walking across and sitting on the pages…it’s equal parts infuriating and adorable.)

I’m not a judgey person. Or maybe I am. But surprisingly not about this topic. Because I think it’s a legitimate choice. And I reject the notion that choosing a childless life is selfish. I do think having children is certainly more selfless by comparison. It’s one of the reasons why, again, were my circumstances different, I’d have a child. Because I see this selfless quality in so many of the people I know who have children, and sacrifice and suffering in the name of love is something I could probably benefit from incorporating more of. But people know themselves. And their limits. Particularly writers, who from my own observations are more likely to 1) have the time to wax pensive over tradeoffs and preferences, 2) have TAKEN the time to wax pensive over tradeoffs and preferences, 3) to seek peace and solitude, and 4) to have experienced some sort of trauma or neglect from their own parents, consequently turning them off of the notion of procreating. Whatever their reasons, let’s respect them. Having said that, I’m going to turn off my computer now. My cat has been patiently waiting for her turn on my lap.

FEB
25

Final(ish) Touches

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A friend recently commented that I blog much less now that I’m a working girl again. This is true. So is the fact that I am way behind on getting my new manuscript to my editor, and much for the same reason. I do pine for my days in New York City, most of them employer-free once I quit my job to focus on gemology, nothing really on my to-do list other than a freelance writing gig and a magnificent city to discover. Those were the days.

It’s now been three months since announcing here (And....Done.) that I had finished the new manuscript, so I should probably tell you that what’s happened is I felt like there was something missing. I wanted to add in a more universal component to weave throughout the stories from my own life that fill the book, and so I sent out the survey I mentioned here (Survey Says), and then wrote 8,000 more words to incorporate some of the survey themes and data into the manuscript.

It’s not perfect, and I still have some work to do before I hand it off, but I like it better now. And I like that it’s something new I’m experimenting with. Don’t get me wrong…I’m still filled with that sickening sense of panic that always fills me before the release of a book (“No one will like this.”), but that will probably be there every time. All I can do is take my time, try to get it right on my end, and enjoy every bit of the process.

FEB
14

Canines and Cupids

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I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate the day of love than to volunteer at the Canines and Cupids dog adoption event this weekend here in San Diego. I feel strongly about animals, about our responsibility to care for them, and about pet adoption in general. And speaking of love, there's possibly no truer kind than what you'd get from a canine companion, so it warmed my heart to see so many dogs find forever homes yesterday.

There was one dog in particular who stole my heart, a tiny chihuahua who had recently been shot up so badly by idiots with a pellet gun that he's lost the use of his back legs. Since the paralysis left him unable to feel pain, he chewed himself so badly that he is without a male organ and now has to wear diapers to soak up the stream of urine that exits from the hole doctors were able to fashion for him. He also must move around with his back legs resting in a tiny wheeled device. It's honestly one of the saddest things I've ever seen in my life.

The moral of the story is that people who abuse animals should be in prison, but another moral to the story is that animals need our help. They need homes, even foster homes. They need care, they need kindness, and it's something I've committed to get more involved in this year. Given how many shelters participated in yesterday's adoption event (and this is just one city!), I guarantee there are shelters and organizations in your area who could use your help. Whether that's cutting a check or volunteering at an event or stopping by a shelter one evening a week to walk a few dogs, I encourage you to show some love to the furry friends who are always so willing to do the same for us.

 

 

FEB
07

The X-Files Reboot

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It's such a dirty trick, really. How TV shows get us hooked and then go off the air. I've pined after the ends of Sex and the City (luckily the two post-show movies helped me cope), Gilmore Girls, Friday Night Lights, and others, but no show have I ever missed more than The X-Files.

I was raised in a home that observed the sabbath day, such that my parents strove to have it be a day truly set apart from all others. Meaning if it was something we did during the week (like go over to friends' houses or watch TV), we didn't do it on Sunday. The TV thing was really a killer, because that's when The X-Files was on. So I would record each episode on a video cassette and watch it Monday morning before school. And considering that I had not one but TWO earlybird classes in high school (meaning I left the house by 6 AM), this meant I was waking up at 4 AM just to watch that week's episode. True, unadulterated dedication if I ever heard it, especially for a teenager.

What made it so good? You could say the conspiracy theories were interesting, the monster episodes spooky, but really it came down to Scully and Mulder. Their personalities were so different, Scully so rational and Mulder so into the paranormal. Some say their lack of romance was what kept the show so good, but all I ever wanted was for the two of them to get together. So I hung on every touch (that New Years kiss!), every line of flirty banter. That Fox has temporarily brought back the X-Files has made my 2016 such a treat so far. A decade and a half older, and it's not like they don't look it, but Scully and Mulder are still the same (so is the opening song/credits), and this reboot seems so much like the original series that I'm wondering why they ever took it away. Here's hoping we can convince Fox to make this a permanent thing...and not just because I'd like to see them get together for real.

FEB
03

Survey Says

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For anyone interested in helping me with my new book (or anyone that likes being given a reason to confess their true feelings about love or dish on a bastardly ex), I invite you to take this less-than-five-minute survey. https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/W2SWGHZ

If I use any of your quotes, I'll send you a free copy of the book once it's out. But that does mean you'd have to own up to which one is yours, since the survey is anonymous. In any case, I'm trying to get as many perspectives as possible, so the more the merrier.

Happy surveying.

p$Sch07dkL
JAN
24

Growing out a Pixie - Part 1

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Have I told you I'm growing out my pixie? This is the part where the ugliness of in-between lengths is enough to make a girl keep short hair forever, and while I suppose I could change my mind at any point and chop it again, as of right now I'm letting it grow. So if you see me at some point during the year (and trust me, this will take all year) and think I look horrible, please don't be like the hot guy in my office who told me on the day this picture was taken, and I quote, "You've got to do something about your hair." Just accept the fact that it's going to get worse before it gets better, and then move on.

 

 

JAN
16

On Powerball

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Powerball was the best thing to happen to me all week. Not because I won. (Apologies to the $8 that just shot me a look from across the room and would like me to clarify that I did, in fact, win. Something. What this $8 doesn't understand is how much more than $8 I sunk into this effort.)

Seriously though, to make myself feel better about having to continue to go to work and operate under a budget and use the Claritin coupons that accompany my pharmacy receipts, I'm focusing on the fact that when I went to buy my Powerball tickets this week, the middle-eastern cashier gave me a quizzical and slightly suspicious look.

"Are you old enough?" he asked.

"What?" (Was he freaking being serious? I'm in my thirties.)

"You're eighteen?"

"Oh yes, much older than that."

"To me you look young," he said, still possibly skeptical as he got me my change.

This could all be a ploy to sell more tickets, because I feel forever endeared to this thickly-accented man and will likely be returning to his gas station the next time there's a record jackpot.

I mean, if you can't win a billion dollars, surely the next best thing is being mistaken for a teenager.

 

 

JAN
09

Resolutions: Week 1

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This was my view as I mulled over the new year and the areas on which I wanted to focus, to improve, to accomplish, or to at least spend more time on in 2016. The beach is an incredibly inspiring place for such thoughts, and I left feeling both refreshed and energized to get started. Nevermind that on the walk back to my house a bird pooped on my head--a warm, wet glob that fell from a tree and seemed to clearly indicate that the universe was rejecting the goals I'd just set, but whatever. I'm ignoring the whole incident. Because shit happens, yo.

I won't bore you with the details (some undoubtedly very pathetic) of my New Year's resolutions, but I will say that in many areas, week 1 was a complete success. I want to volunteer more and I signed up with two local San Diego charities that will hopefully give me the opportunity to do so. I want to be more social so I've lined up some events that will get me out of the house and meeting people more often. (Clarification: There's nothing wrong with being an introvert, but I'd like to make more of an effort to go to events that typically have me rationalizing that I'd much rather go home and write and spend time with my cat. Which is pretty much what I say about every social event.) I want to cook more and made potato soup from scratch like four times this week. (San Diego is in the dearth of winter right now with temps sometimes no higher than the fifties. Look what California has done to me???) I could continue in this vein, because there is more, but hopefully you get the point. Which is that I am doing things. Which is so much more powerful than trying to do things or saying you will do things or postponing things until a more convenient time.

That time is now, for all of us. So I leave you with the challenge of action as you delve more fully into the new year. Do the thing. Do all of the things. Just maybe wear a hat if any of those things involve walking on the beach.

DEC
31

The Best Nine

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I spent a good chunk of time at the airport this morning sifting through all my 2015 photos looking for the 9 that I considered the best...the 9 that made me the happiest and also were the most representative of my year. I'd seen all the #2015bestnine stuff floating around, and not until I actually asked someone about it did I find out that people were not, as I had thought, using Pic Stitch to create homemade versions of their own self-dubbed favorite 2015 pics; that these best nine were actually auto-generated by a website and based on the 9 Instagram photos that were the most "liked" by your followers. Somewhat less charming, but still, I suppose it's a pretty good collection.

2015 was an incredible year for me. One that saw me read a record number of books, finish my own third manuscript, become a gemologist, transition my career, and move across the country. I basically crushed it. To the point where I'm struggling a bit as I sit here making goals and resolutions for 2016. It's not that I worry that no year will ever top it, it's more that so much on my life to-do list got accomplished. Particularly on the gemology front. Becoming a gemologist and then moving my career in that direction was something I aspired to for so many years, and now that it's happened, now that I've done it, I simply don't have another similarly-sized dream to replace the empty space this has left in my dream bucket.

It's a good problem to have, surely. And isn't that the whole point of dreams and goals? To achieve them? I believe that. I do. But as a person who thrives on having that next big, dreamy thing to be working toward, I am, quite frankly, feeling a little lackluster about the upcoming year. Given that I may be staying put for a while in this lovely sweet spot that my 2015 dreamy actions have put me in, I'll need to spend some time figuring out what comes next for me. Big things, small things, things I haven't even thought of yet. My hope for you, my dear friends, family, and readers, is that you are able to do the same, and that you revel in the process. Happy New Year, indeed.

DEC
27

Santa's *Other* Form of Transportation

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In case you were wondering, Santa drives a Subaru Forester.

He also smokes.

And jaywalks.

The illusion is shattered.

 

DEC
17

My Favorite Holiday Color

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Now, if coming home to find this blingitty bling bling gift on your front porch doesn't make up for you not winning the Ugly Sweater Contest at the holiday office party, then I'm not sure what will.

This Christmas just got a whole lot better.

PS - My sweater was hideous.

DEC
04

The Tree Lighting

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I had visions of Rockefeller Center dancing in my head when I heard about a tree lighting in the beach town just north of mine. Now, to be clear, I assure you I did realize there would be a difference. Like, a big one. Even as I arrived a mere twenty minutes before show time and got a spot pretty much right in front of the tree, I was excited. Even as I first took in the little tree (much smaller than I was anticipating, even for a tiny oceanside town), I was not dismayed. Because once the switch was flipped, the tree in its entirety would be transformed, set aglow by a healthy coating of spectral colors. I mean, isn’t that why we go to tree lightings? To experience that moment of contrast? To appreciate the difference?

I hate to call the holidays a distraction, because they are certainly more meaningful to me than that, but sometimes it feels as if their sole purpose is to temporarily buoy us up. From life. From reality. From depression and loneliness. From evil and despair. From your college football team not being in the playoff running this year. One of the pre-lighting speakers, some city official or other, basically asked us to—just for this moment—be happy. Just for this moment, be grateful and feel blessed. Just for this moment, celebrate. Southern California in general has been a bit gloomy and on edge this week, such that I guarantee I wasn’t the only one amongst the tree-lighting crowd who swiveled her head in between the high school show choir’s numbers, wondering if some crazy was lurking in the corner, locked and loaded. (I wish I could say I was just being dramatic, but I think for many Americans, the idea of public safety has been permanently shifted to the morbidly paranoid.)

The actual flipping of the switch (the lighting of the tree) was achingly underwhelming. Even having prepped myself for such a scaled-down version, I think I needed it to be more. More than just a faint star and one string of regular lights that you’d see on a regular house in a regular part of town. Maybe it’s that I’m struggling to feel like it’s Christmas at all, what with the temperatures being so warm and the fact that I was at the moment of lighting standing in between a palm tree and a bird of paradise plant. Maybe it’s that the holiday ornaments I bought to make a garland for my living room walls only made enough to go around three-quarters….of one wall. Or maybe it’s that I don't feel as buoyed up by the season this year. But I’ll keep trying. Because I know that for the most part, people are good. I know for the most part, I am safe. For the most part, the blessings in our lives are easy to spot and comforting to cling to. And most of all, I know that it’s Christmas. (Despite the fact that I’m going to spend the day tomorrow at the beach in 80 degree weather.)

NOV
30

I Recall Central Park in Fall

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It's almost too late in the season to still be considered fall, but I found myself in New York City over the Thanksgiving weekend and boy howdy, it sure felt like it. Fall. 65 degrees and sunny. People out in droves biking and running, all wearing shorts and tanks. I hadn't been back to NYC since moving away over the summer, so I would have reveled in the New-Yorkyness regardless, but the weather was truly spectacular. I had a long list of things I wanted to accomplish in a short time, but somehow everything else fell off the list once I stepped into Central Park. Now, isn't that always the way? Some places never really leave you.

 

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