I Don’t Know Someone, Who Knows Someone

I’ve been thinking a lot lately. Mostly about working and making a living at what you’re good at. When I decided to finally get serious about this writing thing, being the compulsive researcher I am, I delved into finding out what it takes to make it in the literary community. I found a wealth of knowledge. Workshops to improve writing skills, techniques to improve discipline (still trying that), and how to choose the right agent. Most articles gave all this great advice but typically surmised it all with something like “Many writers get rejected 300 times. Don’t expect to have your pitch or manuscript even be considered unless you have loads of experience all ready (I do not) or you know someone who knows the business well but GOOD LUCK! :-)”. I imagined the smiley face but it wasn’t actually there. It’s my attempt to soften a definite blow. The blow that is all boiled down to a single hard pluck in my forehead. You have to know somebody, who knows somebody, who can make your dreams come true. All the studying and preparation in the world cannot replace the value of a well-placed friend in a position of influence.

My eagerly inflated balloon popped and whizzed around the room before landing squarely on my head (where I’d just been plucked). I was deflated. I was defeated. I don’t know someone, who knows someone. This was going to be a task.

Almost in direct response to my defeat, the universe, as it continually does, began to show me little nuggets of positivity to guide my way. My husband and I share an insane love of all things music. We’ve been glued to the television all year watching all of the awards shows for new sounds and talent. In true groupie fashion we were front and center (in our bedroom) for the Grammy’s this past Sunday. As usual there is always one artist or group that cleans up at the Grammy’s and walks home with a mob of tiny gramophones. This year one of those groups are an independent duo by the name Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. They are currently shutting things down in a huge way and changing the music industry in the process. They won four Grammy’s off of their independently released studio album “The Heist”. Yes, INDEPENDENTLY released. No major record label backing whatsoever. Intrigued? So was I.

Everything always comes back to writing for me so instantly my brain perked up. What about writers? Are they doing it for themselves? Of course! Google couldn’t get me the information fast enough. Big name authors that have become household names started out via the self-publishing route. E.L. James, author of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy first launched her novel from a self-published platform. John Grisham, acclaimed author of “A Time to Kill” and “The Firm” also self-published and later rose to success (understatement of the decade). I could feel my fingertips tingling as I scrolled through story, after story. I was inspired. Maybe I don’t have to know someone, who knows someone, after all.

The idea of networking is not foreign to me. I know that socializing and making connections is just as tantamount to a career as education and raw skill. BUT I always thought, rather naively, that the job would always ultimately go to the person/people best suited for the position. Oh how the stark realities of adulthood have reared their ugly head! I’m realizing that, in reality nepotism is a four letter word, and the CEO’s nephew who got three DUI’s last year could possibly be signing my checks for the rest of my life. In the words of TV personality, Nene Leaks (RHOA), “Chile, bye!”

When did we stop self-endorsing? I get, on a quintessential level, the need to have a body of work recognized by one’s peers. I think it’s become more than that. It’s not just about recognition, it’s become about validation and that’s a dangerous game that I’d rather not play. All artists should feel validated by what they create. The sheer effort it took to sit down and commit to completing something that comes from the soul. Completed with a concerted effort to make a statement, or bring joy, or change society, or just make a ripple that may cause a tsunami sized shift in humanity holds within itself an instant validation.

I want to get back to artists simply creating and sharing. Allowing the masses to dictate what it wants instead of a few choice executives in those few top publishing firms…or record labels…or museums…studios. That’s why I’m completely in love with this social networking and advanced technological age. I get to go on blogs and get passion from its source. Not watered down or truncated but real, and raw and I can tell those artists that they are amazing and they can REPLY directly to me! What a gift. This, what’s being created in this generation, is the birth of a movement that I’m proud to be a part of. In this generation, this new wave, I guess I do know someone, who knows someone, who can give me my dream. Me.

 If it’s been a white boys club for 70 years, that’s a lot of white boys hiring one another. And I don’t believe that happens out of any specific racism or sexism or prejudice. People hire their friends. They hire who they know. It’s comfortable. You want to be successful, you don’t want to take any chances, you don’t want to rock the boat by hiring people of color because, well, look at us. Both Betsy and I like the world that we work in to look like the world that we live in. Different voices make for different visions. Different visions make for something original. Original is what the public is starving for. – Shonda Rhimes (Writer & Producer, Scandal)

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“I Do”… Now What?

My house was a complete wreck. Clothes strewn across the floor. Take-out boxes piled haphazardly on one another. Every closet door in the house was thrown open and I couldn’t see the bottom of my kitchen sink. Ahhhh, just the way we left it. Home sweet home. My new husband and I looked at the mess, cleared out a space on the bed, and laid down. We were home.

A week long honeymoon in Cancun seemed like it wasn’t enough but just enough at the same time. It left us with beautiful memories and we vowed to make it back soon.

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(Us, sad to be leaving Cancun)

But for now we were back home and ready to get back into the swing of things. Needless to say the mess stayed on site for a few more days before I had the strength to tackle it all. I started in the bedroom. I picked up debris and stuffed it into a trash bag. I made my way lazily through the room for a while before I came across a pile of stuff from my bachelorette party. A frilly pink boa, a huge plastic ring in the shape of a diamond, a heart shaped button that had been strapped to my chest almost two weeks earlier while I twirled and danced my heart away in a foggy ladies club. I instantly laughed at that night. Me and my best girls out on the town to celebrate my last night as a bachelorette. I spotted a picture of all us from that night. Me, seated with my pink boa, all of us surrounded by yummy men oiled up and shirts missing. It was a fantastic night.

I also came across a left over invitation from our wedding. I sat down at the desk looking at all these items. Memories created. An event that changed my life. Before I knew it I had tears streaming down my face. Real tears. I was freaking myself out. What the hell was I crying for?

My husband came into the bedroom to see me, his brand new wife, head bowed crying over a picture of half-naked men. Needless to say, he was confused. He consoled me and asked what was wrong. I’d never been embarrassed around my husband. We’d always spoken about everything. Shared crazy thoughts and ideas. Did silly dances in front of one another. But I found it hard to spit these words out. I thought I’d sound ludicrous, childish, spoiled, and shallow and I didn’t want to say the words. He asked me again what was wrong and I fessed up. I said it.

“I miss the wedding.”

I was afraid to say it because I didn’t want him to think that I was only in our relationship for a wedding. I was in it for him. In it for the way we completed one another so perfectly. In it for how secure and normal he made me feel in a world of chaos. I was definitely in it for him. But I’d said it. I missed the wedding. The realization hit me hard. I said it so many times, “Athena, you are NOT one of this girls.” One of those girls who dreams about the Barbie wedding. All sparkles and frilly crap and prince charming in a tailor made suit at the end of the aisle. I’d never thought of my wedding as a little girl, didn’t dream about it growing up either. I wanted a marriage. A marriage like the one my parents had. Thirty years of solid arguments and love, good behavior and bad manners, honesty and white lies. I wanted that. So, why the hell was I sitting here crying over a pink boa?

First off, to fess up…I missed being the center of attention. My family and friends are the cream of the crop. They dropped everything and made sure to do whatever was needed to make sure our wedding was wonderful. They supported us monetarily, emotionally, physically (I couldn’t squeeze my ass into that dress without at least 4 people), and spiritually. It was beautiful to feel the love that I always knew was there so abundantly out in full force and on steroids. Everyone checked in constantly to see how we were doing. I could be a hypersensitive and super emotional and everyone would say “Oh, I know dear. The stress of it all. I’ll help you with whatever you need.” That wasn’t really life though. It was the life I’d lived for the past year of planning the wedding but it was not even close to real life.

Secondly, what was I supposed to do now? Let’s talk about that year of wedding planning. I slept, ate, and breathed every detail of my wedding. I memorized swatch colors, whizzed around New York City meeting vendors, telling them what I wanted and making them promise they would make it happen “or else”. I picked out complete looks from head to toe for everyone. I booked flights, hotels, make-up, and steam cleanings. I worked at my job from 9AM-5PM and came home and started my second job of Wedding Coordinator from 5PM-2AM (or whenever my butt started to hurt from sitting at my computer for too long). My little six-year-old son became a full blown wedding critic having had to sit with me for hours watching wedding show, after wedding show, after wedding show (he thinks ball gowns are prettier than A-line dresses, who’s he kidding?). It was all consuming and all-encompassing and in a matter of hours it was entirely, completely, and strikingly… over.

I blurted all this out through tears, drops staining the pecks of one naked man in the photo. My husband listening attentively to the whole thing. I was ready for him to call me out. Expose me as the narcissistic fake that I was and question what I was in this for. Him or some damn wedding? He nodded and looked me.

“I kind of miss it too.” He laughed and made his signature “I’m Caught” face. To say I fell deeper in love with him would be an understatement. I laughed and wiped my tears. He helped me throw all that stuff into an old sneaker box and shove it into the top of our closet. And now when I glance up at it on the rare occasions that I’m cleaning, I don’t feel sad anymore. I remember what the whole wedding was all for. It was for someone I could sit in my bedroom with, tear stained and surrounded by adult memorabilia, and laugh with about missing our stupid wedding.

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Am I Raising One of Those Adults?

He waits until he gets to the counter at Starbucks to look at the menu. The twenty people in line behind him groan in unison.

She leaves her cart in the center aisle while grocery shopping. Everyone must maneuver their grocery laden carts around it like a produce glacier.

I fear these people daily. I have a reservoir of bottled up rage from years –decades even– of meeting up with these people as I go through the mundane but necessary tasks of life. I come home to my 700 sq. ft. slice of the pie, downtrodden and beat up by the idiocy of it all. I slump down onto my couch.

“Hi Mom!” Justin, my six-year-old son, launches the greeting over his shoulder as he flies around the room. I watch my little boy. So happy and carefree. He’s uninhibited and completely –and do mean totally– oblivious to the fact that he dropped a huge glob of peanut butter on the floor during lunchtime and is now smearing it all over the floor while in the midst of his most recent Spider-Man induced psychotic break (he’s shooting non-existent webs out of his wrists. imaginative play or psychosis? You decide.) I groan and the thought flutters in on the wings of worry. Oh my God. Am I raising one of those adults?

I worry about my son constantly. Is he happy? Is he healthy? Does he know he’s loved? Does he know that, seriously, Starbucks lines are long and you can optimize your wait time by browsing the menu and deciding on a selection before you get to the counter so you don’t hold up the line? These are just a few of many worries that burrow into my motherhood for residence.

Nature vs nurture always rears its ugly head eventually. I wonder if I have any control at all in determining who he becomes or does he have a biological disposition to being Starbucks dude? Of course, it’s a combination of countless factors such as culture, socio-economic status, heredity, and so on and so forth. In a nutshell, it’s pretty much unpredictable. But let’s not let that stop us from worrying, huh? Yea!

I was surprised they allowed me to take my son out of the hospital after his birth. A short stint of two days after an emergency cesarean and BAM! I’m driving through the streets of Brooklyn with a hostage. No formal training necessary. No pop quiz before the discharge papers are signed. My god, they even let me call him whatever the heck I wanted. This seemed irresponsible on their part and thus my worrying began.

I worried about diapers, onesies, new teeth, old teeth (a fairy does what exactly?), kindergarten, high school, college, and careers before my precious little boy even made his first tar-like poop.  He was the most beautiful thing and I didn’t want to screw him up. Could I screw him up? Could I make him a lifelong Venti-Mocha-Frap-with-skim-blocker?

As most wisdom does, my first nugget of knowledge on parenting came from my mother. She watched me patiently from the kitchen table as I tried to get my son to eat his first spoonful of solid food. As soon as I’d get that little rubber spoon lined up for the landing he’d purse his tiny lips shut and turn his head away. I’d read books and articles and more books that said he should be eating solid food by now. I dropped the spoon into the bowl and along with it went my last resolve. I dissolved into a frustrated teary mess on my mother’s couch.

“He’s NEVER going to eat!” I always had a flair for the dramatic.

My mom calmly shook her head.

“No, that’s not true. He’ll eat when HE wants to eat. Just give him what you have until then.” She was referring to the bottle of formula but her words went past that bottle and hit something deeper inside me. I could actually hear the ding and see the light bulb illuminate in my head.

My son was his own person. Even at six months old.

His natural disposition told him he wasn’t ready for the food and that was okay.  As his mother I felt I knew what was best for him and that was okay too. So, should I force the solid food issue until his little tummy rumbled? No. I had to give him what I had. What he would accept. I had to nurture him with the tools that best suited him.

I may know what’s best for him and I will always worry when he takes an alternate route but I rest assured that he knows what’s right for him. He’s teaching me this constantly. A few days after the solid food debacle of ’07 he ate his first spoonful of solid food and he’s been a proud picky eater ever since.

So, if a baby could help teach me such a fundamental lesson, maybe–just perhaps–Starbucks dude and produce glacier lady are here to teach me things as well. Like patience and sharp maneuvering techniques. Maybe they skipped the lesson on proper coffee line etiquette but took second helpings on taking as much time (and blocking as many paths) as you need to make the right decision. If that’s the case, then I’ll be happy to raise that kind of adult.

photo (5)(Justin with his go-to snack)

I’ve Been Writing a Book for Six Years

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I’ve been writing a book for six years. You may think you know how long six years is but you don’t. It’s not just 72 months, or 2,190 days, or even 52,560 hours. It’s my sons first birthday. An undergrad degree that’s a measly year away from being achieved. Adventures into online dating. A wedding that consumed my every thought. My mom’s cancer scare. And now I’m here. Writing about writing this book for six years.

Just finish the damn book already! I hear your screams of annoyance. Maybe those are mine actually (sorry). The truth is…sometimes I just don’t feel like writing it. Sometimes there are other stories in my bones. Nonfiction stories that I like to call life. These stories have sometimes gotten in the way. They are oh so entertaining, heartfelt, and real that sometimes my main character has to wait to find out the big secret because I can’t get around to putting that sordid scene down on paper. So, in an effort to discipline myself where my writing is concerned, I’m reading several articles about building discipline as a writer instead of actually writing.

Did I mention I’ve been writing this book for six years?

When the distractions of everyday life are not throwing pebbles at the window of my writing study, I haggle with more internal conflicts. Some professionals say that you can’t rush the artistic process. This is true, but, you can stifle it with worry and doubt. You can sadden it by being underwhelmed by your unique story; even though it’s all you have. I worry that I don’t know enough to contribute anything of substance to the literary community. I haven’t traveled the world. I don’t have a refined palate (Burger King anyone?). I’m not exceptionally good at science or finance (overdraft fees can be avoided? Stop kidding!). I’m not even close to being in shape and my baby carriage came way before the marriage. But, I am good at a lot of things and great at a select few.

I’m great at conveying human emotion through written word. I’m great at it because I find joy and peace in it. I’m a great writer because I worry if my contribution is enough. That’s fantastic. It means that I respect the art of story-telling, chronicling real life in real-time for future generations, and the innovative and passionate desire to entertain the masses. I’ve loved the sound of a ball point pen on crisp paper since I was a child. That hasn’t changed. And it is because of this one constant — this vein that just keeps on streaming passion in– that I’ve been writing my book for six years. I refuse to stop until I have a finished product that I can present to the world. Until I have perfectly bound copies of my thoughts and my imagination floating bi-coastal on iPad’s, smartphones, stuffed into purses, and carried in back packs I will not be fulfilled. Which is why…I’ve been writing this book for six years.

I’ve started the book from the top again. I’m going to share it with you; it in all its glory BUT I’m also going to share the detours. Those wonderful detours of a wife, mother, sister, daughter, and friend and I’m going to have fun doing it. The beauty is in the balance and even though this can’t be the right way to go about it, it’s the only way I know how. Lord have mercy on my writing soul.