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the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.
MAY
31

The Return of Business Travel

My company apparently tracks our top travelers, a rolling report looking at the past year and ranking those who've logged the most trips. I'm a person who typically does travel for work, but not at a level that would ever normally earn a spot on this list. Amusing then, that I'm currently showing as the company's #1 top traveler because the business trip I just returned from was the first one that got approved since the pandemic shut everything down. It was just a one-hour flight to Phoenix, which makes this pretty hilarious, but I suppose it's also a strange sort of badge of honor, as if I'm helping to usher in a return to business normalcy.

The business trip was to an industry event, an event that had assured the wearing of masks, the requirement of health screenings, and the presence of sneeze guards on all booth tabletops. Features that were all completely rejected by the event attendees, which, combined with the relaxation of requirements by the CDC, resulted in an event that felt downright pre-pandemic. I kept asking myself if I was comfortable not wearing a mask (since in California we are still required to wear them everywhere we go) and the answer, of course, was that I wasn't. Not so much because I felt at risk of getting COVID, but because I hadn't been prepared to go cold turkey. I had underestimated how comforted I had grown to feel in a mask. It's a layer of protection that apparently did as much for me mentally as it did physically. Yet I joined my industry associates and shook hands and gave hugs and broke bread and did business, and despite the previously mentioned discomfort (should we be doing this???), I confess it felt refreshing to step, however tentatively, back into a world where people do such things.

Other things are moving forward as well, including cover options for my new book, out later this year. I'm a bit torn between an option with a familiar style a bit reminiscent of my most recent book, or one that has a completely different look and feel. This decision, too, feels nice. The kind of decision that wreaks of normal life. Of everyday pursuits. Of questions, answers, and individuals having more influence on the futures we are shaping together.

MAY
02

Behind Door #1

I've been in the market for a few bigger-than-normal-ticket items, and experiencing a variety of salespeople and tactics has reminded me not only what drives me crazy about an overaggressive close, but also how much variety there is in the circumstances of each customer. To some extent, salespeople must be prepared for those with any number of budgets, preferences, and requirements. Yet it astounds me how often they ignore these requirements, as if the benefits of the item should trump all else...like whether the customer can actually afford to buy it.

There's a story I'll never forget from my working life, an experience I had while working a tradeshow booth with one of our company executives. It was just me and her, and she was exponentially more classy (and wealthy) than I was. These facts don't usually come into play, in that they are there and exist, but there's no need to dwell on them or have them influence your day-to-day reality. But on this particular day at the show, she asked if I had put any bids on any items at the auction booth across the aisle from us. The auction funds would benefit underprivileged children, a worthy cause if ever there was one, yet as I perused the items, there was nothing within a price range I felt comfortable paying. When I shared with the executive that the items I wanted were outside of my price range, she looked confused and almost hurt. "But, it's for the children," she said. To which I wanted to say, "That doesn't change my budget," or remind her that raising my pay could certainly help my ability to contribute to such causes. Instead I'm pretty sure I said nothing, too stunned by the logic that a worthy cause should suddenly somehow generate money that I didn't have.

That's kind of how I felt this weekend with salespeople pushing the benefits of cutting edge technology, touting the per-day cost of something that would last a person many, many years. Isn't it WORTH this much per day, they would ask, to experience such comfort and luxury? To which I will say, yes, it IS worth it. But that doesn't mean I can afford it. This is all to say that there were probably several disappointed salespeople in town this weekend. And the takeaway isn't so much a Read the Room kind of thing (although it sort of is), but more just a reminder of how many different sets of circumstances there are, how many budgets, how many different requirements or preferences exist out there. Not just between different people or families, but also even within ourselves and our families, as our individual situations improve or fall apart or shift over time. Perhaps it's a comfort to know there's something (some couch, car, piece of jewelry, electronic device, musical instrument, or antique appliance) for everyone.

APR
17

On Not Working

I recently took a week off of work to stay home and do nothing. Well, I did sneak out to check out the Carlsbad Flower Fields (where I snagged the blooms pictured above). So I didn't entirely stay home. And I did go through my new manuscript 4 times to re-work some paragraphs and transitions after getting it back from my editor. So I didn't entirely do nothing. But I honestly couldn't remember a time where I'd ever done that before...took a week off work and didn't actually go anywhere.

I highly recommend it.

The thing about not working but getting paid for it is that there is literally nothing better. I mean, who wouldn't love to not have to work? But most of us have to provide for ourselves. It's one of the complaints I bring up in this new book...the frustration around people who reference working girls as "career women," as if there is any other type of woman for us to be.

And speaking of this new book, one of the last edits I made before turning it into my editor was a revision to the section where I talk about the notion of being a workaholic. I am decidedly NOT one, even though I draw satisfaction from the work I do, so I try and limit work to 8 hours a day as much as possible. In making the point that I like working, just not all the time, there's a line in the book where I had said, "I want to work, just not for more than 8 hours a day." Yet the line didn't sit quite right. Because I wish I didn't have to work. I wish I could have more weeks like the one I just had, sitting in my house editing a manuscript with an occasional outing to appreciate the beauty of nature.

"I want to work--and by that I mean I most definitely don't want to work..." is the beginning of how I ended up amending the sentence to make it more accurate. It's sitting better with me now, having admitted that I wish I didn't have to work at all. Alas, it's our lot. So we'll have to settle for quick trips to the flower fields of life whenever we can get away. My suggestion is to take those trips whenever you can get them, to carve specific time out just for this, and to not feel guilty about a few days away from the office. It will all be there when you get back, just as you left it. The flowers, on the other hand, are fleeting. So go. See them. Then come back and make any revisions you need to.

MAR
28

Enjoying the View

Considering I've lived just a few blocks from the ocean for the past several years, it is perhaps a bit disgraceful that I've spent so little time at the beach. It's safe to say the novelty wore off relatively quickly, and equally quickly my life became full with new friends and pursuits that cut into my beach time. (I also write books. Have I mentioned that?) I can think of other reasons, too. My fair skin that burns easily, the incessant and annoying tourists that crowd this little beach town between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and, of course, COVID-19. But it's there, the ocean. And every time I see it, I have to remind myself that it's real. That I live here.

Another rather disgraceful fact about living here is that I don't leave my little beach town all that often. I'm not really talking about vacations or work trips, which are a regular part of my life. But when I'm in town, I rarely hop over to the next town, or the next after that, or to any number of the seaside communities that surround me. My life is here, my office is here, and I just don't find myself exploring very much, certainly not as much as I used to. You can blame part of this on COVID-19 as well, but you can also blame part (read: most) of it on me just being lazy. It's simply easier to stay put. (Plus, traffic. You cannot underestimate it.)

And so I've been trying to explore a bit more lately, putting a few miles on my car and seeing corners of my community that are new to me. It probably seems simple to you, but especially after a year of largely staying at home due to the pandemic, it can be a strangely powerful feeling to be driving down a road and realize that you've never been there before. (Even more strange if the road is, hypothetically, only a few miles from your house.) Last weekend I visited a city a few hours north and spent some time appreciating the same ocean, just on a different stretch of shoreline, and it filled me with a rather unique sense of happiness. One that I think stems from knowing there is so much world left for us to explore, and that most of the time we don't have to go very far to find it.

MAR
04

On Perspective

This picture was taken in Palm Springs in the middle of a windstorm that came out of nowhere, which was weird and also weirdly liberating. I had just gotten my hair cut and felt like it captured me as I don't usually see myself. Which is to say that everything about it, even the angle, seemed to offer a different perspective.

How we ultimately feel about various circumstances in our lives usually comes down to our perspectives. Perspectives are made up of our history of experiences, yes, the things we've been exposed to (or not), the things we've learned (or not), the things we've overcome (or not). But perspectives are also made up of aspects of our own personalities, those things that are baked in, so to speak, parts of our DNA, our characters, our temperaments, that are unique to us. I've been thinking about perspectives in a rather pandemic-specific light lately, particularly after my department at work had a recent team meeting where we discussed the pros and cons of working in the office and working at home and began to try and brainstorm what kind of hybrid model might work best for us once we are given the clear to come back.

What struck me about this meeting was how varied people's thoughts on the subject are. You have some (and I'm in this camp) who rather enjoy working from home, and some who say they have hated it and never want to do it again. You have some who feel they are more productive at home, and some who feel they get more done in the office. There was no single solution that seemed it would be optimal for everyone going forward, and it's largely, again, because of our own perspectives and circumstances. Those who have quiet, empty homes are in different situations than those working in closets to avoid their noisy children. Those who have long commutes are in different situations than those with short ones. Those who tend to rely more on other departments are in different situations than those who can for the most part do their work independently. And then there's the personality aspect, the fact that not everyone values the flexibility of cooking scrambled eggs during a conference call, going for a run at lunch, and not having to be showered and in makeup and high heels and a non-elastic waistband by 7:30 in the morning as much as I do. Which is to say that I value these things so much that it's almost worth things staying bad/closed. 

I hope what does come out of this is a true hybrid model that prioritizes flexibility and doesn't forget how effective we've been at working remotely for an entire year. I hope companies, especially conservative ones like mine, remember this efficacy and consider our individual perspectives, which vary, and create a scenario where everyone can thrive. And I hope my pencil skirts still fit when it's time to put away the elastic waistbands. 

FEB
10

Modern Love

Love is such a mess. Seriously. In some ways I've struggled over the years with this realization, and in other ways I've felt relief over it. See, I used to think that love should be easy. That if it weren't, then the couple shouldn't be together. I mean, you shouldn't have to work at something as blissful as love, right? Certainly not work hard. I've had my fair share (like, one) of relationships that are what I would consider blissful, in that we seemed to always be on the same page, never fight, and not find ourselves frequently rehashing similar disagreements. I think there are definitely couples out there who function at this level, a level that is (seemingly) more effortless than the rest of us. I'm happy for these people. I'm just not one of them.

Many of my relationships have involved more challenging situations, keeping in mind that when I say challenging, I'm referring only to differences, both in personality and backgrounds. I'm a person who has never been looking for the easiest option when it comes to relationships, so these differences are not automatically what I would consider to be dealbreakers. But they take work, and I don't think there's any shame in admitting that. I wish more people would talk about it. That relationships are hard. And why shouldn't they be? Spending a shit-ton of time with the same person, one who comes at things from a completely different lens, values and prioritizes differently than you, and can't read your mind? How is that not going to take work? When a friend recently posted about her milestone wedding anniversary by saying that in addition to there being no one she has more fun with, more connection to, or more love for, there is also no one who makes her more frustrated, no one she disagrees with more, and no one else she gets so mad at, I felt like it was one of the most beautiful tributes I'd ever read. That, my friends, is love.

I think what I've found refreshing is the mutual desire to persevere through these differences, to even embrace and celebrate them. Besides, at least for me (a person who FEELS things deeply and in fact rather enjoys the sometimes dramatic travails of life if for no other reason than they trigger growth and force one to acknowledge her own aliveness), I value our ability to experience emotional extremes as so incredibly human. What other species can feel and process to such extremes and in such detail, or evaluate and then make decisions from these feelings in the same complex ways that we do? It's rather quite glorious. 

I've recently read all the Modern Love books (collections of the Modern Love essays from the New York Times), and, along with the collections of Moth stories, they were just about my favorite things I've ever read. They, the stories, are almost all unbelievably messy, exploring aspects of love from the non-traditional to the tragic to the sweet to the devastating to the, yes, I'll say it, hard. Is it always worth it? Does it always work out? But does it even have to? I'm a fan regardless, of the journeys, the struggles, the work, the rewards, the reminders that we are never so fortunate than when we have love.

JAN
23

Character Development...Meaning my Own

Because my cat likes to remind me that she doesn't get nearly enough face time on this blog. And because this is literally where she positions herself every time I get out my laptop to edit. Which I'm doing a lot lately as I prep my new manuscript. I thought I pretty much had it the way I wanted it but recently decided to make some changes to the final chapters that potentially affect the overall structure of the storyline. So now I'm needing to read through the whole thing several more times to figure out if it works. Which is all to say that my cat has really been having to fight with my computer for my attention. Not that she has anything to complain about. COVID has been the best year of her life. (I'm sure your pets would agree.)

I've softened somewhat over my years as a writer. I didn't think too much in the beginning about people's feelings, or about adjusting language (or removing certain stories altogether) based on how others might feel to read about themselves or my opinions and perceptions of them. Partly because I was never out to get anyone, so nothing I said really seemed that bad, and partly because telling the story I wanted to tell and being honest about my experiences was always the most important thing. Not to say that it still isn't, but I've had a bit of a change of heart when it comes to sharing certain things. And there have been several changes I've made in my last few manuscripts that I probably wouldn't have made ten years ago. Or even five. 

It becomes quite a balancing act then, to make sure I'm still preserving the intent of a certain storyline, as well as the tone by which I mean to convey it, while also minimizing the potential for negative reactions from those being (anonymously) mentioned. Don't get me wrong...this doesn't mean this new manuscript won't still ruffle some feathers if the right people give it a read (which, for the record, almost never happens with me being such a no-name author), all I'm saying is that I think about it more now. And I am, on occasion, willing to change or edit or cut if I can't quite bring myself to say something in particular. Like I said, I've softened ever so slightly. And I think it's important, at least it has been for me as I grow and develop as a person on this planet. Of course, none of this means anything to my cat, who is at this very moment staring at me and wondering when I'll stop typing and pet her. 

JAN
03

The Things You Keep

You're looking at the activity that perhaps took the largest percentage of my childhood: tying lanyards. Or, lanyard "lacing," as I so alliteratively called it on the small slips of paper with my name and phone number that I printed en masse to hand out to my friends. I also printed order forms, with blank spaces for things like the customer's name and the agreed upon price, as well as the selected colors and styles of pattern. So much about it appealed to me, in that it was something creative, something I could make with my hands, and something I could ultimately sell. A business, if you will. Complete with beads and hooks and a whole host of colored string options, it was all housed in a red, compartment-filled tin box.

I wouldn't necessarily have been able to recall how seriously I took my craft had it not been for the chance I had over Christmas to go through all the boxes of stuff I saved from my childhood. The boxes have been sitting in my parents' garage for decades, things from elementary school all the way up to through college. These are things like school papers, yearbooks, clothes, stuffed animals, collectible frogs from the years when I had a thing for collectible frogs, college textbooks, random vintage mugs picked up at thrift stores, etc. My main objective was to purge, to go through the boxes and decide what I wanted to keep vs. throw/give away, and what struck me as I sorted through everything was how delightful it was to be reminded of all these things that had once been important to me. The things I saved, the things I collected, the things I couldn't quite bring myself to part with. It's the memories they brought, of course, but also just the reminder of other phases of life. Things I had perhaps forgotten. Like how damn obsessed I was with those lanyards.

Is it sad that I ended up throwing or giving away probably 95% of everything in the boxes, including the lanyards? I think the answer you're looking for is yes. It's sad. It feels like my whole life just gone, with no way to now remember things like what my teachers said in the letters of recommendation they wrote for my scholarship applications or the songs my sister played at her violin recital or the note my co-star wrote on my program on the closing night of our high school performance of The Music Man. There's no way to remember them now, or to remind myself of them say ten, twenty, or thirty years from now when going through all the boxes again might have provided the same kind of delight. But the other side of coin, and one that cannot be ignored, is that I hadn't needed or really thought about anything in those boxes for, in most cases, decades. So what good was it doing me to have them sitting there, taking up space and collecting dust? What advantage would they serve at some future point in my life? It's this lens I used when considering each item, making it surprisingly easy to get rid of almost everything. It reminded me of moving to New York City several years ago, how I'd had to get rid of about 90% of what I owned in order to move to a tiny studio apartment. It was a similar decision process, in that only my favorite and most-used things were kept. I had to keep that filter in play or else I would get sad over parting with so much.

And so I'm focusing on the fact that the things I donated will hopefully find second, more useful lives with other people and families. I'm focusing on the memory of having gone through the boxes. After all, when I mentioned to the BF on the way back to the airport that I always pictured going through those boxes someday and them making me happy, he responded with, "And you got that. You got it today." It's sooner than I planned I guess, but he's right. I got that, and if happiness was the goal, then the whole endeavor was a complete success.

DEC
19

December is for Cookies

It's simply a fact that National Cookie Day hits us each December, giving a perfect opportunity to celebrate one of most delicious and fun types of treats. Once for National Cookie Day, I brought in a bunch of homemade sugar cookies of various sizes along with several frosting colors and sprinkles options and set them up in the middle of the department. You know, back when we could do things like gather in groups...and go to work. It made for one of the most enchanting work days I've ever had. There does seem to be something about cookies that makes people smile, and, perhaps, think about their childhoods. The ones pictured here are Swig copycats, my choice for this year's National Cookie Day. 

Cookies also remind me of my favorite weekend of the year, also in December, when a large group of family gathers to go caroling through town while delivering plates of cookies to each house. I mean, this is way more information than you ever needed about my holiday traditions, but we each bring various cookies to contribute to the plates, and then combine them into the final offerings, usually combinations of cookies, fudge, and chocolate truffles. There's always something satisfying about it, seeing what everyone brings and arranging the plates with the variety of goodies. Then something a little bit sad about watching the plates disappear throughout the night as we visit houses, knowing the caroling will be over when we run out of cookies. The fact that this caroling weekend isn't evening happening this year because of safety precautions amidst the pandemic is more than just a little bit sad. It is actually quite devastating. Which is why I'll probably be eating cookies tonight while we sing carols together over a Zoom call, our attempt at a virtual caroling event and the only chance to see many relatives this holiday season. 

I'll try not to eat too many cookies over my Christmas vacation, a time I need to devote to the final read-throughs of my new manuscript. It's a manuscript I'm handing in come January, and one that has caused me a fair amount of stress in recent weeks over whether or not to leave in certain details. It's a decision that's mine alone to make, and I'm sure you'll agree that any decision is easier to face with cookies. Make mine a whole plate, please. Merry Christmas!!

NOV
29

Give Thanks

In the week leading up to Thanksgiving, I participated in the #givethanks challenge, the goal of which was to flood social media with a wave of gratitude. In many ways, it's harder to be grateful these days, especially now that we're into the holiday season and so many people's plans (mine included) to see family are having to be cancelled. I'm close with my family, and it's quite devastating for me to not be experiencing the traditions that have been a part of my life as far back as I can remember. Plus, this all just sucks. All the staying home and lack of travel and events and activities, all the businesses that are closed (some even permanently), all the families affected by those who have lost their lives.

That said, there are always so many more things to be grateful for than to complain about, and I really enjoyed having a week to really think about those things. Everything from toilets and washers and dryers to family and friends to the body's ability to heal itself. Or how about the opportunity this year has given us to check in with our families more often, to spend more time with our pets, to become better cooks or bakers (or runners or gardeners). For me personally, I'm grateful for my job and the opportunity to have employment during this time, for the opportunity to have become educated, for a strong support circle including friends, family, and a kind and service-minded church community. 

And even though this one isn't as significant or important in the overall scheme of things, I thought a lot during the week about how grateful I am for books. I'm grateful that there are so many to choose from, and that there are writers who have such beautiful and inspiring ways of telling the stories of their lives. I tend to stick to non-fiction, and I love hearing stories--both beautiful and tragic--of real people who are experiencing aspects of real life, whether positive or negative. I'm grateful that I'm a good reader, in that I can read fast and (mostly) comprehend everything. I know reading is a struggle for some, and others never got the chance to learn to read at all. Which makes me even more grateful that it's something I can do and enjoy on a daily basis. 

I know the Thanksgiving season is now over, but if you're looking for a way to immediately feel better about yourself or your circumstances, take the #givethanks challenge yourself and post daily for a week about things you're grateful. Or simply make a list and refer to it often. It's a fact that people who list the things they are grateful are happier, and I think we can all use more happy, this year and always.

NOV
12

When You Want Shortbread

When I went to Scotland a few years ago, I had this little shortbread shop on my list of places to go while in Edinburgh. It's certainly not what I would call a tourist destination, and in a city full of museums and castles (and Arthur's Seat, for crying out loud), it may seem strange that this was such a must-see. It would seem less strange if you knew how much I love shortbread--I just have to sort of ignore the fact that it's pretty much straight butter--but still, one might say an odd choice. I did those other things too, the museums and castles and even Arthur's Seat, but perhaps my favorite moment of the entire trip, at least the one I kept trying to re-create as I continued exploring the handful of Scottish cities I'd chosen to visit, was when I opened the door to Pinnies & Poppy Seeds Artisan Shortbread Shop and stepped inside. To this day, and for the rest of my life, I will never have smelled anything so delicious. 

I was late to the game when it comes to international travel, something I didn't start doing until later than most, but that I was able to do consistently in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019. My goal was to keep the trend going and take one big, foreign trip every year, a plan that was of course foiled by this blasted pandemic. While I want to make clear that the most tragic aspect of COVID-19 is the lives that have been lost and the grief and suffering endured by those who have felt those losses most dearly, for those of us fortunate enough to only be dealing with the side effects of quarantine and lock-down, one of the saddest things I've witnessed is a general abandonment of our various shortbreads. We all have those things and places that speak to us, that compel us to try, to visit, to see, to achieve. It's not just that the pandemic can make a person feel like these things are no longer attainable, it's that they are in many cases actually no longer attainable. Worse, it can make a person feel foolish for even thinking such a pursuit was realistic in the first place. I have listened to the tears of friends and family who worry their windows have closed, and, in some cases, don't have it in them to try again. To the world I say, is there to be no more shortbread???

My own opinion on the matter is that shortbread is not over. It may be changed or different. It will certainly be delayed. But it is not gone. On good days, you can even convince me that my quest to visit the shortbread store would have been no less noble had I arrived to find the door locked, the store closed. On bad days, such a thought breaks my little angel cake heart, but let's focus on the good days. Let's remember that things will get better and that if we had the courage and gumption to pursue a thing once, surely we can summon the courage and gumption to pursue it again. Or even again after that. And for those whose windows truly have closed with this pandemic, do not for one second think yourself foolish for trying. Trying already sets you apart from those who assumed it impossible from the start. The effort is success already, see?

This is not to say that I'm immune to the pandemic blues, because they damn near paralyze me sometimes. I found myself looking up the Pinnies & Poppy Seeds website today just to cheer myself up, only to find that they have had to close their store. A reminder if ever there was one of all the dashed dreams, ruined fortunes, and overall melancholy that has seemingly enveloped the world. I'm glad I have the memory, is something I suppose I could tell myself. The memory not just of that initial inhale inside the door, but also of selecting the flavors I wanted to buy, of watching my selections be placed in a small box and tied with string, of schlepping the box around a beautiful new country, and of curling up in a different hotel room each night with a cup of steaming tea and a piece of shortbread. Yes, I'm glad I have the memories, but if you want to know a secret, without the shortbread store, I'm fairly certain the trip would have been just as amazing. I know that's hard to believe when all you want is shortbread, but in times like these, let's do our best to re-imagine what shortbread can be. 

 

OCT
24

Life Without Schitt's Creek

This may be the first time I've finished a series and immediately considered just starting it all over again. Because it's just a little too painful to consider that there won't be any more Schitt's Creek to watch. And in a time where all the world is watching WAY MORE TV than ever before thanks to, well, a lack of other choices, I've certainly discovered some gems. Breaking Bad, The Good Place, and others have proved to be gripping, innovative, and delightfully endearing. Yet no show has moved or entertained me more than this one. In trying to pinpoint why that is (these are the types of things that writers, particularly writers in a pandemic, are wont to do), here are the top three reasons.

The Humor. One could argue it may not be EVERYONE'S kind of humor, and yet I can't imagine getting along with any person who doesn't find it funny. And it's a clever, understated humor, made even better by the lack of audience and the speed and subtlety with which it comes at you. It's a kind of humor not based on people telling jokes or saying funny things, but more about the actual situations the characters get into. And they get into a lot, considering the Rose family is thrust into this "normal" life having never before experienced anything like it. Their reactions, to pretty much everything (and David's facial expressions), are priceless. And Moira filming that winery commercial? Tears. From laughter. 

The characters are so comfortable being themselves but are also willing to change and grow. Moira herself is a bit of a freak show, but she's so unapologetic about it. David, too, beats to his own drum (those outfits!!), but it's just not a thing. It's never really talked about nor does it need acknowledging, because it just is. And the audience gets that and embraces it. I wish I saw more of that, both in myself and pretty much everyone I know, this ability to simply be ourselves. Because who else is there for us to be, anyway? All the characters from the town are equally themselves, and though a bit odd for it, they still shine bright for doing what they know and for supporting each other and the transplant Rose family. All that said, you still see so much growth from the characters as they learn things about themselves, as they push past struggles and limitations, as they find purpose. Stevie's storyline was particularly compelling to me, her quest to find out not just what she wanted to do with her life, but also her recognition of the need to push her own limits. Her Cabaret performance was one of my favorite moments in the entire series. That "Maybe This Time" number? Tears. From inspiration.

The positive family relationships. It takes some time to get there, of course, but at the end of the day, what I loved most about this show was that it was about a family coming together and growing closer. Not really because they chose to, and I get that, but a bi-product of all that time living together in the Rosebud Motel was that they rediscovered what they had in each other. One of my biggest frustrations with TV shows that depict family life is that the families are so rarely portrayed as having positive relationships. There's so much fighting and bickering, so many jokes about marriage being sucky, parents not making an effort with their kids, kids taking advantage of their parents. Not to say those things don't happen even in the best of families, but there were so many sweet storylines in this show that depicted this family--with already-grown children, I might add--genuinely enjoying and wanting the best for each other. To the point that when Alexis points out as the show comes to a close that she's really going to miss being together, being able to pop over and just see her family, it feels like an actual ache in your heart. Tears. From sadness over there being no more.

 

OCT
03

Vintage October

Somehow I managed to go the entire month of September without blogging, so I'll just catch you up by saying it included a resort getaway in 120 degree weather, an attempt at golfing, an expansion of my super amazing herb garden (pesto on the menu this week!), an almost full return to my pre-injury running distance, and, of course, about a million read-throughs of the new manuscript. And by a million I mean like 4. But still. It does become rather easy to become so fatigued with your own writing that you're pretty convinced that it's terrible.

Editing really is an interesting process. I find as I get older and write more books that it does get easier to cut things out if they don't need to be there or if they make the story worse. Certain stories I've fought for in the past, sure they were good enough to include, or maybe it's just I really wanted to tell them, whether or not they fit. Certain stories it took my editor recommending I scrap them for me to realize that them fitting is more important than how attached to them I am. Sort of like the time I moved to New York and had to get rid of almost all of my possessions, in that once you make up your mind that only the best most favorite things can be kept, it becomes relatively easy to part with everything else. If I've learned anything about life, it's how little you actually need.

And now it's October, and for the first time (thanks to my sister), I put up Halloween decorations! I've got a great costume in the works and some pumpkin spice muffins ready to roll as soon as this California heat dies down a bit and I can use my sorry excuse for an oven without fraculating the entire house. Fall does make me pine for New York, and for Cleveland before it. Fall is just the best, and sometimes it seems like it would even be worth putting up with snow again for. (I know, I sound crazy.) But really, there's nothing like fall in Ohio, if you can just get past all the Ohio State crap in people's yards. I hope that however you're celebrating fall and Halloween this month, that you take a moment to reflect on simpler times and years. This picture was a nice reminder of such a time for me. There have been and will be better times for all of us, and at the very least, there will be another of my books to read in 2021! 

AUG
30

Re-arranging

Sometimes it's hard to know whether you like something so much because you get used to it the way it is or because it's actually good. It's a quandary I find myself in after finishing a manuscript, because there's usually an initial order in which I write and organize my stories. And I do get used to them being in this order, to the point that it can be hard for me to tell if they would be better if I changed some of them up, switch their orders, etc. Or more specifically, it's hard for me to actually move them, even if I do think they would be better in a different chapter.

Most of my books I don't write in order. I simply pick a story that sounds good to me in that moment and write it. Then I pick another one. I don't really think about order or sequence until all the stories are written. This is, I believe, the first time I've ever written a book in the actual chronological order in which it will appear in the book. As such, when I laid out all the stories (with this super sophisticated process of writing their key words on pieces of cut up printer paper), I didn't find as many things to move around, because they were pretty much where I wanted them to be. I only moved two stories after laying this all out, and, if I'm being honest, I've already moved both of them back to where they were. Again, it's like, is this just because I'm used to it that way or because it really is better? 

There are two additional stories that I feel *could* potentially be moved somewhere else, but I can't find anywhere that I feel their placement would be better than where it is now. So I'm inclined to leave them where they are. Which would make this the first time that I really did just write a book from start to finish in exactly the order in which everything will read in the final version. Something about that feels...cool? Neat? Interesting? Just me? OK.

I've probably mentioned that this is a book about work, and it's also the first time that I've finished a book and then had to write an epilogue because events happened that sort of affected the ending. Then more events happened and I had to edit the epilogue. Seriously, it's been just about the weirdest couple of weeks at work that I've ever had. Talk about re-arranging! Who knows what the ending will be by the time this thing actually comes out?? Stick around and see...hopefully summer/fall of 2021.

AUG
04

When you want a Mint Julep

It wasn't just that, though. It's not that I even wanted a mint julep. I wanted a Disneyland mint julep--the super sweet, non-alcoholic beverage purchased in New Orleans Square and accompanied by a bag of warm beignets. One could argue that the mint julep really had nothing to do with it, that really I just wanted to go to Disneyland. Or, more to the point, I want a world in which we can go to Disneyland, and anytime we want. It's an escape that I count on regularly, and I know it's a first world problem, but I miss it.

I've actually attempted multiple copycat Disneyland treat recipes while in quarantine, and what they all have in common, including the mint juleps, is that they taste nothing like the real thing. This could, of course, just be a product of my kitchen skills (when the BF recently told me a meal I had cooked was in his top 5 of things that I make and I asked him what else is on the list, he couldn't think of anything), it's probably because nothing short of being there is going to taste at all like the real thing. And there are so many real things, beyond just Disneyland, that I miss terribly. 

I do feel the need to point out that all the mint used to make my mint juleps was grown from my very own herb garden, something I doubt I would have attempted outside of quarantine. And I feared my gardening skills were akin to my kitchen skills when my first attempt yielded nothing but a single tiny sprig of cilantro--a sprig that was eaten by a bird just when it had begun to look promising. My second attempt has flourished, and I'm taking a rather unusual amount of pride in harvesting my own basil to make homemade pesto (which, yes, is actually something I have now done) and snipping cilantro to put in my soups. 

I also used quarantine to start running for the first time in my life. As in I have never been a runner. Ever. It looks awful to me and always has, yet I'm such a sucker for the idea of working toward and finishing a race. As surely the only person on earth who cried at the end of Brittany Runs a Marathon, I figured it was worth a shot. (Running, that is.) And although every run confirms to me that it doesn't just look awful, it IS awful, there is satisfaction in doing something that is hard, something that is new, and something that can be improved upon over time. I was surprised in the progress I made in just 6 weeks, and even more surprised still that 6 weeks is all it took to develop a debilitating case of pes anserine tendonitis. So it may take another 6 weeks before I can so much as take a walk, but what, really, could I have done? Besides maybe learn that I am incredibly over-pronated and gotten the appropriate amount of stability before beginning a running regimen. But that's neither here nor there.

In short, I'm finding small joys in new areas, and on most days, that feels like a win. I've also been savoring the experience of finishing my new manuscript. When last I wrote, I claimed I was really going to slow down, so as to more effectively savor the writing process. Right. I totally finished it. More on that later. For now, it's time to water the herbs and ice my knee. Just another day in quarantine.

 

 

 

JUL
13

Scene Stealer...and a Book Update

This is, of course, a shot of my cat stealing the show during my reading for the San Diego Public Library website. She did it almost the whole time, turning around, stretching out, turning back around, and while I probably should have just re-shot the video, I went with it. Because this is real life people. We are at home, quarantined with our pets. I do think it was a fun idea the library had, to do these story time videos with authors reading from their own books, and if you are at all inclined to look through them, definitely do it. They are pretty easy to find once you get to the website.

In other quarantine news, I continue to write my new book at record pace. I'm 80% done if this one turns out to be the length that 3 of my first 4 books have been. I suspect it will finish a bit longer, which I guess technically means I'm less than 80% done, but the point is, most of the book is written, which is crazy. I feel like Newbie just came out. It's also a little bit sad, because the writing is my favorite part. Once that's over and I switch into editing mode, I lose the biggest part of the creative process. And then I miss it. So I think I might stretch out this last 20% of the manuscript writing and really savor every word. These days, anything that can be savored seems like just the ticket.

JUN
21

On The Road Again

It's been over twenty years since, as a high schooler, I set foot on the campus where I would eventually attend college. I was attending a summer honors program that accepted 25 high-schoolers across the country and gave them the chance to get some early college credits. I still think of this small farming town fondly, and last week I got the chance to visit. The college has since expanded into a full-fledged university, and the way this little town has grown and flourished was exciting to see. Of course, the sentimental side of me always pines for the way things used to be, and sometimes change in any form, even positive change, can seem, well, kind of sad. The dorm I lived in, for example, has been torn down and replaced by a parking lot. The pie shop where I celebrated my 19th birthday has closed. The green hillsides are covered with new apartments and condos, distracting from the purity of the view.

This visit was part of a 5-state road trip that seemed appealing after so many months of staying at home. With my co-pilot handling navigation, music, and snacks, we set out to see some different slices of earth as a way to remind ourselves of just how much there is outside of our own small corner of the world. The ultimate prize was a brief 24 hours spent in the company of some of my family, but the majority of the trip was driving, and in some ways, it's simply amazing how varied the terrain gets within just a few hours of the places where we live. Mountains, desert, and ridiculously hot weather. Each night spent somewhere new, each morning a different granola bar or piece of fruit handed over from a front-desk hotel worker. There's something peaceful about being on the road, being temporarily attached to nowhere, and despite the exhaustion of several days of driving, the less than stellar hotel beds and pillows, and the digestive distress that comes from eating foods you wouldn't normally be eating (just me?), arriving back home has felt, for lack of a better term, somewhat boring. I suppose that's the power of the open road, of not knowing what exactly you'll find just beyond that next mountain.

JUN
07

Reading Your Work

I recently did an interesting thing. I read through all my books. Since I've only recently become a Kindle user, I'd never before read them on Kindle. So I decided it might be interesting thing to see what they all look like, what the experience is like reading them electronically. There are small annoyances, like having to either click forward to see footnotes and then click back, or waiting until the end of the chapter to see them, at which point you forget what they were supposed to apply to in the first place. But, as I've previously mentioned, reading books on Kindle is, well, kinda nice. 

The oddest thing about reading your own books is that there are parts you don't remember putting in there. There are events and experiences you may have forgotten, or at least forgotten how exactly it is that they went down. And for my first book especially, granted I wrote it over ten years ago, the writing struck me as...not great. Or at the very least, it made me wish I could re-write it now. Of course, that book more than any other deals with childhood and adolescence, and the more simple writing style was to some extent what I was going for.

This is all to say that the most striking thing about reading all my books, in order and back to back, is how much better the writing gets. My editor mentioned this to me after reading the Newbie manuscript, but until reading them all myself this past week, I hadn't really understood what she meant. Part of me is a tad embarassed over this, when it comes to the older books not being as polished as perhaps they could be, but it also makes me proud to see the progress I've made as a writer. Besides, everyone has to start somewhere, right? I can only hope that I continue to improve over time. Now 60% done with manuscript #5, I'm certainly getting lots of practice!

MAY
15

Reopening: Beaches Edition

It's an interesting thing living at the beach when all the beaches are closed. Though for the best, it's part eerie and part sad to look out over the coastline and see not a single person on the beach or in the water. Of course, the headline here in California has been that the beaches have begun to reopen. Well, they opened, then closed after opening day saw crowds blatantly ignoring social distancing precautions, and now have reopened again. 

In my own corner of the coast, I confess it's nice to see people back on the beach, and so far the crowds have been light. You can't sit or gather or "hang out," you've pretty much got to keep it moving (ie. surfing, walking, and running), which I'm sure is contributing to the low turnouts thus far. We'll see how things change as summer arrives, but it's nice to have the beach back as a possibility, if only as an alternate route for my daily walk.

Other ways I pass the time include attempting copy-cat recipes for Disneyland treats (the withdrawal struggle is real, folks) and plugging away on my new manuscript, which is now more than 40% done. It's certainly not ALL bad, staying at home, but I'm definitely looking forward to more things reopening. Particularly my waxing salon (that struggle is especially real). I'd love to look out over a crowded beach and instead of worry over the potential spread of a virus simply think to myself that it's just summer. 

APR
25

The Argument for Kindle

Honestly, I never wanted one. I've never had any interest in giving up the reading of actual books. Holding them in my hands and turning the pages and hefting them with me on planes and keeping them stacked on my bedside table. I also never wanted to give up the library, and having reason to go there and select my next book. I've really never even considered getting a Kindle.

Had I not been gifted one for my recent birthday, I would have continued to stick to my guns on this, but the fact that the libraries are closed has put me in a bit of a reading pickle. In that my only option really is to use the Kindle. So I'm now in this, if a bit begrudgingly, and felt the need to just sum up how a non-Kindle user (a real book preferer) feels after having begun using a Kindle.

In short, I don't hate it. And I sort of hate that I don't hate it.

Benefits include: having immediate access to pretty much any book, how small and light and easy to transport it is, that you don't have to shine a light on it at night in order to see what you're reading.

Things I find annoying include: being limited to only seeing a couple of paragraphs at a time, having to pay money to read books as opposed to getting them for free at the library.

I still feel like my preferred method of reading is to have an actual book in my hand, and maybe I'll always feel that way. But that said, I am surprised by how much I do enjoy using the Kindle, and once libraries open back up, I can see myself still sometimes forgoing the books on my nightstand and instead choosing to swipe open the Kindle. But only sometimes.