Monday, March 16, 2015

27 Dresses, But All for the Same Wedding

I'm in a wedding this weekend for one of my very best friends. As one of three bridesmaids (plus a bridesman), I was asked to find a navy blue, cocktail-length dress so that the wedding party gives off a Destiny's Child vibe - coordinated but not quite matching (my analogy, not the bride's).

I was so excited to choose my own dress. Something that fits! Something that's flattering! Something I'll wear again! I set to work searching for my perfect bridesmaid dress.

Bridesmaid dresses can cost, like, $300, & I didn't want to go that route if I didn't have to. Instead, I started at all the standard mid-level places prone to decent dresses: Kohl's, LOFT, GAP, J. Crew, Dress Barn (stop laughing). I tried the standard Internet places: Modcloth, Shabby Apple, eShakti, ASOS. And I stepped it up a notch to department stores: Macy's, Nordstrom, Dillard's.

Alas, it seems navy blue is not one of 2015's hot colors. In fact, based on most of this year's dress inventory, you'd never know that the color navy blue exists at all. Of what I could find, certainly nothing screamed "This is perfect for a wedding!"

So I searched & searched, & I bought some backup dresses in case I got desperate. At a GAP outlet in Brooklyn, I scored an A-line dress with subtle stripes in shades of navy, probably too casual for a wedding. At the Kohl's in my hometown, I spent $20 on a chiffon-imitation polyester dress, probably a bit too short for a grown woman. At a J. Crew in Chattanooga, TN, I bought a scalloped shift in some ungodly heavy fabric, probably not matchy enough with the other bridesmaids. And from Modcloth, I found my best option: the Windy City dress, which was slightly too big but otherwise practically perfect in every way.

Exactly one week & $85+tax later, the tailored dress... does not fit. Or, rather, it fits, but it looks terrible. The tailor seems not to have taken into consideration my, uh, ample bust, thus altering the dress in such a way that the delicate pleats stretch nearly flat across my chest - but not flat enough to look, you know, good. The dress sags & bags in strange spots, giving the general feel of a plus-size woman who has no idea how to dress for her body - not exactly the image I want to project as I fly solo at my best friend's wedding.

I told the tailor, but I didn't do a very good job of it. When she rang me up, she said, "Everything is fine?" & I said, "The dress is too small," & suddenly she looked at me like she didn't speak English, & I got flustered &... paid her $85+tax & took my ill-fitting dress home.

So now, I've purchased three more. I cried on the phone to a J. Crew bridal specialist named Shekinah, who was equal parts stylist & therapist (the dress didn't fit, so I sent it back). I spent $10 on a LOFT dress from Poshmark that fits well but has the overall vibe of a blue barlap sack. And over the weekend, I bought a dress from a Macy's that fits like a dream (& makes me look skinny!) but that might not look right with the other bridesmaids.

All this to say that at this point, I have purchased 10 navy blue dresses, six of which I still own (& five of which I cannot return). All of them are fine, but none of them is quite right. I plan to take all of them with my to Philadelphia & make a last-minute decision based on which option makes me want to cry the least. When all is said & done, I had better A) end up looking damn good at this wedding, & B) thank my lucky stars that I look pretty decent in navy.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

My New Favorite Place: Grandpa's Cheesebarn

There's not much to see on the highway drive from Akron to Columbus. Both of those places are real places, I swear, but there's nottt a whole lot in between them. It's exactly as you imagine Ohio to be (though I spend much of my life convincing myself exactly the opposite about the rest of the state). It's cornfields, mostly, & farmhouses, & a big outlet mall, &... that's kind of it.

Except for Grandpa's Cheesebarn.

There are signs for Grandpa's Cheesebarn starting miles & miles before you get anywhere near Grandpa's Cheesebarn. It's sort of legendary, even amongst people who have never been there - perhaps especially amongst people who have never been there. If you mention Grandpa's Cheesebarn to anyone from the northern half of Ohio, the conversation is the same: "Oh my gosh,  I've always want to go there! I always see the signs, but I've never been."

On a recent drive back from my mom's hometown, Lima - yes, the one from Glee - we decided the time had come. When we reached Ashland, OH, we turned off the highway & down the winding road that leads to Grandpa's Cheesebarn, my excitement building in a display of fairly bizarre & totally uncharacteristic enthusiasm. And then we were there:

Don't worry, there was nobody inside that mouse. I think.

Anyway, I don't know how to begin to describe to you the glory that is Grandpa's Cheesebarn. I guess I expected it to be sort of lame, a podunk letdown after all those miles of signage. I figured it would be small & weird & disappointing.

I was so wrong.

OK, actually, at first, I was a little let down. The downstairs is surprisingly void of cheese, save for this fantastic & massive cooler full of more than a dozen varieties of vacuum-sealed cheesecurds:

But I thought to myself, "This place has 'cheesebarn' in the name. Do you mean to tell me that this is all they've got?!"

And then I realized: There are two floors.

I planned to take photos of the upstairs of Grandpa's Cheesebarn, but I got distracted by eating, well, everything. They offer samples of nearly every kind of cheese they sell, which means you can take baby steps around the entire store, pausing every half a foot to inhale cheddar & havarti & muenster & colby & Limburger & cheddar - &, like, 12 varieties of each. Any cheese you've ever imagined, Grandpa's Cheesebarn probably sells. I checked their website to try to figure out exactly how many, but it doesn't say; my guess would be well over 100.

And if cheese isn't your jam, I don't want to know you they have tons of others stuff, too: jellies & jams, homemade jerky, dried fruit, pickled vegetables, flavored popcorn, loose-leaf teas... The list goes on & on, just like my excitement. You can try those things, too. In fact, you could eat a a whole meal at Grandpa's Cheesebarn, made entirely of tiny samples. I think I did, actually.

What I'm trying to say here is that Grandpa's Cheesebarn is basically the best place in the world. It's a palace. A palace of cheese. We arrived an hour before they closed, & it was not enough time for me to take in its full glory, so I'm already planning a trip back - not a trip where I pass it on the side of the highway & think of it as an add-on destination, but a trip where it is the entire destination.

Soooo who wants to visit me in Ohio? Surely I've convinced you by now that I don't live in the sticks, right?



Whatever, I don't need friends. I've got cheese.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

When Karma Isn't a Bitch


I am prone to losing expensive and/or important items.

I've lost not one but two FitBits - one on the streets of London & another on the mean streets of good old D.C. - never to be seen again. My iPhone was either lost or stolen from a bar on New Year's Eve a few years back, also never to be seen again. I lost a sterling silver Tiffany necklace my grandparents gave me while swimming on a local lake. And I once called the police to (erroneously) insist that someone had stolen my car out of a parking deck.

But I've had good luck, too, even in the face of initial bad luck. I once lost my driver's license in the Boston airport & was surprised when it showed up at my mom's house a few weeks later in a typewriter-addressed envelope. A Days Inn employee called my place of employment when he found my wallet on a city bus & later returned it to me with $180 in cash still inside. And longtime readers of this blog may recall The Great Thanksgiving Miracle of 2011, when a kind US Airways pilot tracked me down on a holiday to return my lost iPad, which he refused to entrust to the airline's shoddy lost & found system.

I try to contribute to good karma & the circle of life & all that hippie jazz by paying it forward whenever possible, & I had the opportunity to do so last week, after I found a lost Garmin Vivo Fit at a bar in Nashville. I spotted the wristband on the dirty, beer-covered floor of a joint called Honky Tonk Central & thought it belonged to one of the girls in my party, so I snatched it up & tossed it in my purse to return to her at a soberer hour. When I learned that her fitness tracker was in fact still on her wrist, I decided to try to track down the owner of the one I'd found.

One afternoon last week, I called Garmin's customer service line, where a rep initially offered to email the owner of the band, who he'd located using the serial number I read him from the bottom of the device. He put me on hold to get things in motion, but when he returned to the line, he reneged on his offer to send its owner my contact info, telling me that Garmin's official policy on such matters is to instruct the finder of a lost device to turn it in to their local police department.

Apparently Garmin feels confident that the cops will go to the effort of returning lost wristbands to their rightful owners. Sending my contact information to the wristband's owner, the rep told me, is a breach of privacy - though I fail to understand how, since they already have her contact info, & I was asking them to share mine. Whatever; he was insistent that they could not contact the wristband's owner on my behalf, & he was actually fairly rude about it, given that I was just calling to do something nice.

Look, I trust the boys (& gals) in blue, but I don't think this is the sort of matter that's worth their time & hard-earned money. On top of that, I recently stopped my local precinct, sobbing, to report a road rage incident & was told that it was "not worth" reporting... so you'll forgive me if I had doubts that my hometown cops were going to give a damn about a lost Garmin from Tennessee. Because that is the most ridiculous policy I've ever heard.

So I hung up. I sent an angry tweet. And then I called Garmin back, hoping for a more sympathetic customer service rep.

And I got one! The second person I spoke to said she would be happy to send my contact information to the wristband's owner, which just goes to show that A) rules are breakable, B) some people don't know (or care) about the rules, & C) if at first you don't succeed, try, try another customer service rep. She thanked me for trying to return the device, then she promptly sent an email to the owner of the lost Vivo Fit to try to make the connection.

The owner emailed me almost immediately, thanking me for getting in touch & offering me a finder's fee &/or the cost of shipping (both of which I turned down because that's not how paying it forward works). She told me I had made her week, & I told her I'll drop it in the mailbox tomorrow, where it should only take a couple of days to reach her... in Cincinnati.

Remembering how grateful I was when strangers returned my difficult-to-replace items - my iPad, my wallet, my driver's license - I'm thrilled to be able to pay it forward & do the same for someone else. It's so easy to do something nice for someone - to try to make someone's day instead of ruining it. They say karma's a bitch, but when it works out, it can be pretty lovely, too.

Take that, stupid Garmin call-the-police policy.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Ten Years Later: A Story About Hot Water Heaters, Signs From Above, & Making It Through

I keep a "Dave Box" in my closet - that's it, above - & until recently, it had been years since I'd rifled through it. It's too painful, even now, full of his own thoughts written in his own handwriting - notes he passed me between classes, liner notes from mix CDs he made, letters he sent me my first year of college, & my favorite, a Post-It he slipped into my hand during a passive-aggressive discussion with my freshman-year roommate about floor lamps. There are trinkets in there, too - guitar picks, a scorecard from a double-date game of laser tag, hard copies of those CD mixes. And, written on pieces of now-faded construction paper, there is a set of clues to the scavenger hunt he put together for me on my 18th birthday.

The first clue was on the driver's seat of my car, a red 1990 Dodge Colt named Rosebud. It instructed me to follow the clues he'd created, which would lead me to various places around the city - the spot outside our high school where we met during a fire drill, the spot at a nearby park where an elderly passerby yelled at us for throwing rocks at ducks (it was bread, & we were feeding them!), & the spot in the parking lot of a local hardware store where we made up after our first big argument.

The clue for the last one asked, "I wonder if those hot water heaters are still on sale?" It was a reference to a big, hand-painted sign in the hardware store's window that read "SPECIAL TODAY: HOT WATER HEATERS" - but it had been in the window every single day for... well, forever. It became a bit of an inside joke between us, & even after we'd broken up - even after he died - seeing it always gave me a half-smile.

A few years ago, though, the hardware store got a makeover. They redid everything, including their storefront, & they took away the sign. I cried the day I drove past it & saw that it was gone, likely for good, & even now, when I drive past the store, I sometimes feel a pang of sadness at the way things inevitably change over time - that tangible element of certain memories, gone forever.

To be honest, though, I hadn't thought of the sign for awhile. It's easier not to think about the things that remind me of him, & life goes on. But in December, on his 30th birthday, I went back through my Dave Box & found those scavenger hunt clues. Remembering the hot water heater, a long-ago scene I'd all but forgotten, I half-smiled at the memory again, & then I tucked it away in my brain for some other time. It was just one small story in a box full of stories that comprise my biggest story.

After his birthday, the tenth anniversary of his death loomed near. I'd been thinking of him more than usual lately, remembering what life felt like a decade ago - for him, for me, for all of us whose lives were dramatically altered by his death. With him on my mind a few days ago, I found myself stopped at a red light next to that hardware store. "I wonder if those hot water heaters are still on sale," I mused to myself, knowing the sign was long gone but looking for it anyway, just in case.

And then I spotted it: a big box, sitting quietly on a ledge in the corner of the store's window display. Just one of them. There was no sign with it, no special or sale, but there it was just the same: "HOT WATER HEATER," the box said.

My first reaction was to cry, & I started to. But as the first tears fell, I guess I changed my mind, because I started to laugh instead. I laughed & laughed, & I cried while I was laughing, sort of a crazy-person laugh, if anyone else had heard it. It all just seemed so crazy, really, that almost 10 years to the day after the anniversary of his death, I saw this small little sign from the universe, a sign I should've missed but didn't, a sign in the form of a household appliance. A sign that reminded me of a sign.

Do I believe in signs from the universe? I don't know; not usually. But that day, I just laughed & cried & kept laughing & hit the gas when the light turned green & whispered aloud, "Well done," & knew that when today came, I would be OK.

And I am.

Dave Kozak, Dec. 2, 1984 - Feb. 10, 2005

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Time a Guy at AutoZone Made Me Cry in a Good Way

 I'm driving down route 59 in Stow, a few miles away from my house, when I remember that I've got illegal plates on my car. More accurately, it is illegal that I've not yet put plates on my car, the one I bought mid-December, & am still riding around town on dealership tags. My real plates arrived by mail while I was stranded in New York, but I haven't even tried to put them on yet because I keep forgetting. I'm bound to get pulled over soon, though, when I'll be forced to pay an actual price for my procrastination.

I'm about to grab lunch & run some errands, but all of a sudden I'm anxious as hell about these plates. I decide to make a pit stop first, pulling into an Autozone along the way. "I have an embarrassing question," I begin, & the guy behind the counter - his nametag says he's Don - looks at me like he's expecting me to be a total moron. To be fair, I feel like one.

"I just moved back here from D.C.," I explain a little nervously, like maybe Don will take pity on me if I seem like I'm totally new to suburban life. "I just bought a new car, & my plates came in this week, but I haven't put them on yet. I don't know what kind of screws I need, & I don't know where my screwdriver is, & I was just wondering... is that something you could help me with? I know this is sort of crazy."

Don seems a little confused, but he follows me out to my car & takes a look at my plates. It is approximately 20 degrees outside, & Don is wearing shorts. And no gloves. I, on the other hand, am bundled up like an Eskimo & still chattering.

"What brings you to Ohio?" Don asks, striking up small talk as he screws my back plate in. We talk a little bit about where I was & why I'm back here; he tells me about life in Montana, where he used to live, & says it was so rural that it makes our hometown seem metropolitan. Amidst the chatter, I apologize repeatedly for asking him to help me such an easy task, but he never once makes me feel like I'm stupid for it.

"I'm gonna need to sell you some screws," he says, somewhat apologetically, & I follow him back into the store, where he rings me up for a package of $2.99 screws.

"How much do I owe you for helping me put these on?" I ask.

"You don't," he says.

"Come on," I insist, but no dice. He rings me up for the screws - they cost me $3.19 with tax - & then we head back outside, where he uses my new screws to attach my new license plates.

"You're all set!" Don announces, & I thank him profusely while trying to hand him the $15 in cash that I've been clutching in my right hand.

"Will you please let me pay you for helping me with this?" I ask, borderline begging. I am possibly the most thankful person to ever be thankful.

"Not a chance," he says. "Just promise me that the next time you need something for your car, you'll stop at an AutoZone." 

Will do, Don.

I am suddenly overwhelmed by this incredibly kind interaction, one that could have been - should have been? - incredibly embarrassing & would, basically anywhere else, have cost me much more than $3.19. I am suddenly very, very thankful to be from such a good place full of so many good people.

As I thank Don a final time, I choke up a little bit, & I'm sure he can tell that my eyes are a little bit misty.

"Welcome back to Ohio," he says. And that's that.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

I Might Be the Next Great Film Critic

I moved back to Ohio so that I could start a life in Cleveland, but, uh, I'm not there yet. "Yet" is the key word, I hope, but it gets discouraging sometimes, living with my mom in my hometown at age 30. I recently realized that I don't even know that much about Cleveland - what's there, what my neighborhood options are, why I like it, if I'll like it. I've been worried lately, to be honest, that Cleveland is just a very distant "maybe someday."

I was really, really excited, then, to have an excuse for a mini-adventure in Cleveland last weekend to raise my spirits a bit. The cause for said mini-adventure? I won a giveaway from Alexa of Cleveland's A Plum: two tickets to the Cleveland International Film Festival's annual Get Shorty short film event.

At $100 a ticket, I probably never would've thought to pay for an event like this. I'm not necessarily a splurge-on-arts-&-culture kinda gal, & that would've seemed like a steep pricetag for movie-watching; after all, that's why I have Netflix, right? But this event turned out to be really, really cool, with a feel that was somehow both exclusive & informal - & it was one that I would definitely pay to repeat next year. On Thursday night, I trekked up to Cleveland & my friend Lindsey & I got a little bit dressed up & headed over to the Capitol Theater despite some seriously inclement weather. We gorged on chocolate chip cookies, enjoyed a few Dortmunders (because Cleveland), & then settled in for film-watching & VIP voting.

Get Shorty attendees had the opportunity to watch a selection of 10 short film submissions &, after watching each film, to cast our vote - a simple "highly recommended, "recommended," or "not recommended." At the end of the night, we learned how the films had ranked, & the top three were guaranteed a spot in the festival in March. Another cool element of the event: The short films that win in the categories of Best Animated Short Film Award & Best Live Action Short Film Award at the festival will qualify for consideration in the Short Films category of the annual Academy Awards. That means it's possible that I just voted on a film that could go on to win an Oscar!

Curious about how we voted? Our winning films, in order, were The Hyperglot, Sequestered, & Dad in Mum. The first two were my favorites of the bunch, & I absolutely loathed the third - but hey, man, that's democracy for ya. Trailers for the two I loved are below (only because I can't find a trailer for the third, I swear). If you have the opportunity to watch them in their entirety anywhere, definitely do so. And if you're anywhere near Cleveland in March, try to hit up the Cleveland International Film Festival. I know I'm going to try!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

We Had a (Snow)Ball Watching the Super Bowl: A Story of Life in the Wintry Suburbs

A few minutes before the Super Bowl halftime show, the satellite TV went out at my friends Annie & Derick's house. The three of us sat in silent unison for a moment, staring at the screen, hoping the problem would self-correct & let us get back to the game without having to arise from our food comas.

No such luck.

The dish was covered in snow, & we couldn't return to our TV-watching unless we could come up with a way to uncover it. Problem? The dish was on their roof, & there was about half a foot of wet, heavy snow both up there & on the ground below.

It didn't seem likely that we were going to get to see the rest of the game.

But Derick wasn't going down without a fight. "I'm going to climb up there," he insisted, despite the fact that the snow was now coming down in sheets & that he wasn't even sure whether they owned a ladder. His wife, naturally, began to panic: "This is going to end in a trip to the ER," she insisted. "Be smart."

So we brainstormed. Could we aim the spray of the hose at the snow-covered dish to clear it off? Derick tried, but he couldn't get a steady stream. Could we stick something out the second-story window beneath the dish, like a broom, to reach it without getting on the roof? But the architecture of their roof meant we couldn't reach around the lip to get at the spot directly above the window where the dish sat.

"What if we throw something at it?" Derick wondered aloud.

But what?

"Snowballs," I said.

So we did.

For 10 minutes, Annie & I created hard-packed, softball-sized snowballs, handing them off to Derick to fling skyward. Some of them missed, careening toward their neighbor's car & out into the street - but thanks to a good eye & a strong arm, many of them hit their target. When they did, they struck the satellite dish with enough force to knock off some of the snow it had collected. About 20 snowballs into our effort, I peeked my head through their back door into the living room, where I saw the pixelated screen begin to reassemble itself into Katy Perry & her dancing sharks.

We took off our boots & ate a celebratory cookie or three, settling back into the couch to marvel at Missy Elliott's hair extensions.

Throughout the course of the game, the satellite TV went out two more times. Both times, we pulled on our snowboots & trudged diligently back outside, returning to the work of snowball-making so that we could then return to the work of Super Bowl-watching. "Bet you didn't think you'd have to work for your right to watch the game," Annie joked. We were cold & wet & annoyed, but I think we all kind of enjoyed an excuse to have a snowball fight with a purpose.

And all I could think was that this was so, so different than what my life has been like for the last seven & a half years - where cities shut down at the thought of a few snowflakes, & where maintenance men cleared the snowy sidewalks & handled all my housing problems, & where I might've had to wait for the bus in the rain but certainly never had to drive my car in the sleet. My D.C. friends all think I come from the sticks, & I know a story like this one isn't going to go a long way in convincing them otherwise - but I had a great time tonight, laughing in the dark at the end of a snow-covered, dead-end street, being Midwestern MacGyvers & making the best of a bad situation. 

And when I got home, I shoveled the driveway, just to prove that I'm an Ohioan. Like anyone doubted me.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Stranded in NYC: Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?

I love New York, & I have a lot to say about it. A post has been percolating for the last eight days, forming in my mind as I walk the streets of Brooklyn & Manhattan. I look forward to writing that piece soon, but today is not that day.

Today, I am stranded.

Let's be clear: There are much, much worse places to be stranded than in what is arguably the greatest city on earth. If you're gonna get stranded in someone else's city, it's best to find yourself in one full of people you know & love. After two canceled flights, I was fortunate to have been offered a place to stay by no fewer than four friends. Currently, I'm holed up on the Upper West Side with my mom's cousin, his wife, & their two adorable boys. We're eating homemade lasagna & spying on neighbors & planning to make snow ice cream, & it's pretty lovely.

Still, if one more person tells me how lucky I am to be stranded in New York City during the supposed storm of the century, I am probably going to cry. Again. I've already done it, like, three times, out of the sheer frustration of being stuck in a place that I'd planned to leave today. And, while I appreciate the positivity, I am really maxed out on other people's silver linings: "But you're with family!" "But it's New York!" "But just surrender to the weather gods & enjoy the extra time there!"

Look, I'm an adventurer. I don't mind being a bit of a vagabond, staying wherever & with whomever & living out of a suitcase for awhile. I'm about this hobo life sometimes, & it often feels strangely comfortable to me. But man, having to reschedule your flight for two days after you meant to leave - & still doubting you'll be able to leave then - is really just not ideal. It's exhausting not to have any idea when you'll get home.

I canceled a hair appointment. I have to take my therapy appointment by phone. I will work from not-my-home tomorrow with a 3-year-old & a 6-year-old in the background (& probably often in the foreground). And if I can't get back to Ohio in time to use the tickets I won to a Cleveland International Film Festival event on Thursday night, I am definitely going to cry again. While none of these things are terrible, individually or even in the aggregate, it would be extra great to be wearing sweatpants in my bedroom, you know? I've been relying on other people's hospitality for more than a week now, & I would rather like my life back.

Also, despite the fact that I own three pairs of snowboots, all said pairs of snowboots reside in Ohio. That's why today, I stopped into a ritzy sporting good store & dropped $140 on a new pair, just so I can function in a likely-to-be-snow-covered city. Unfortunately, due to increased demand by stranded tourists like me, the store only had one pair left in my size, so I ended up buying the most hideous snowboots known to man. Except now reports that NYC is apparently only supposed to get 5-8", which hardly seems snowpocalyptic.

Thanks for a great week & for all your hospitality, NYC. I love you, but I'm feeling pretty ready to leave you.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Insecure Writer's Occasional & Vulnerable Lament

I wrote a piece last January, my first on Medium, called "How to Not Be a Writer." At the time, I had just moved from New Jersey back to Washington, D.C., with the singular goal of doing more writing. I didn't really know where to begin, & it wasn't going well.

I made some strides in 2014 on the writing front, for sure. On the first day of the year, I learned that my first submission to Thought Catalog had been published. I started writing occasionally for Hello Giggles. I kept posting to Medium whenever I had something to say that didn't seem to fit on this blog; one of my favorite pieces there, "What We Never Talked About," was featured in a collection with 12k followers.

Then, my proudest moment of the year: In July, I sat down at one of my favorite coffee shops (BakeHouse on T St., highly recommended), where I banged out a really personal, somewhat painful piece & then, on a whim, decided to submit it to xoJane. An editor responded two days later to say they'd love to run it, & that was that. They even paid me, like a real writer! And then the next month, it happened again. I was on a roll.

And then everything slowed down. Majorly. I sent four more submissions to xoJane, all pieces I really loved; every single one of them was rejected by way of silence. I continued to submit my Medium posts to Human Parts, the collection that had accepted my first piece; I was rejected all four times there, too. My well of ideas for Hello Giggles dried up. My connection at Thought Catalog fell through.

And just like that, my few months of growth & success came to a grinding, ego-crushing halt.

Look, I'm gonna level with you: I'm having a pretty hard time with it. I feel terrible about my writing. I don't trust myself. I don't trust any outlets to give a shit about what I have to say or to like the way I've said it. I have been rejected so many times that I suddenly feel too scared to send anything else out into the world, like, at all. The other day I started writing eleven different pieces & quit all of them a few paragraphs in because all I could think was, "This is never going to see the light of day, anyway."

It probably doesn't help that I'm watching from the sidelines as my friends, who are fantastic, talented writers, see the kinds of successes I've been trying for. Every time someone I love is published on a major site, I click "like" on Facebook & genuinely mean it, because you'd better believe I'm proud as hell of all these wonderful, skilled people I know. But it adds to my insecurity, too, because all the comparisons build up in my head - & the more they succeed, the more my failures stand out. I'm usually pretty good about using jealousy as a tool for personal success - don't envy it, go get it for yourself - but these days, it just feels like an anchor, an anvil, an elbow to the nose.

The worst part, maybe, is that it makes me not want to write here, either. When I get really stuck in my other failures, I start to think about everything in terms of failure. I start to think about how I've been blogging here for seven & a half years, but I've never been discovered, gone viral, seen huge readership, or done much of anything else that would qualify as a major personal success. After all these years, is this space a waste of my time? If I'm not good enough for publication, I begin to think, then maybe I should just shut up altogether.

And look, I know that's not how it works, OK? You don't have to tell me that. I know. In so many ways, for starters, I don't have a blog for "success"; I have it as an outlet, as a guaranteed place to put my words, even if no one else will run them. And I know that writing is a difficult, soul-wrenching business. I know that sometimes it's up, & sometimes it's down, & just because my last billion pieces were rejected, it doesn't mean I'm the worst writer who ever lived. I know all of that, & yet, I am still a person with feelings. And as we all know, feelings - especially those of the insecure variety - are not exactly know for being rational.

The thing is, I couldn't stop if I wanted to, anyway. Writing is the thing I'm the best at, the thing I love most, & the only thing that makes me really, really happy. And really, really proud. But that's why this is such a struggle, right? Because all this rejection feels like a threat to my happiness, to my pride. If I don't have writing, what else do I have?

The answer, I guess, is hope. I've still got that, although it's sometimes a struggle to remind myself of it after I've spent a bunch of time wallowing. But I know this is a cycle, a test, a process. I know that one of these days I'll bubble over with some sort of word vomit that I'm brave enough to submit to another outlet, rejection be damned - & then it won't be rejected, after all.

In the meantime, I am reminded that Michael Jordan got cut from his high school basketball team, that it's always darkest before the dawn, & a million other cliche-but-true reminders that success is not immediate or obvious or easy. And until my luck starts to change, you can find me listening to a lot of Kelly Clarkson & Kanye, trying to convince myself that whatever doesn't kill me makes me stronger a better writer.

Friday, January 9, 2015

How to Have a Sick Day

Seems like everyone I know got the flu over the holiday season. For my part, close calls abounded: I hung out with a friend who came down with it not 12 hours later; I went to a Christmas Eve dinner attended by my aunt & cousins while my uncle & his germs stayed at home. I felt absolutely sure I was going to get it, as is the way of the worrier.

I didn't.

And then, last night, I sneezed five times in a row, & when all the sneezing was done... I was sick. Just like that, like someone flipped a switch. Now, I don't think it's the flu - that's not how the flu works - but I do think my sinuses have finally, like, caved in on me.

I took a sick day today, which I haven't done for quite some time. Here's how it went.
  1. Slept for eight solid hours, thanks to the glory that is NyQuil gelcaps. Did not hear the dog leave my bed, the sounds of my mom getting ready for work, or any other signs of the outside world.
  1. "Woke up" circa 8am, eyelids heavier than cinderblocks, to shoot off an email written like a telegram: "Woke up really sick. [Stop] Going back to sleep. [Stop] Some social media already scheduled. [Stop]" Proceeded to fall back asleep for four & a half more hours, again dead to the world.
  1. Upon second awakening, sat up in bed to respond to exactly four work-related emails before becoming exhausted & giving up. All the while, mumbled grouchy sentiments such as, "I deserve a sick day when I'm sick!" To be clear, no one was saying any differently; I just felt that strange sense of guilt & obligation that comes with A) being sick, B) working from home, & C) being tethered to our work via technology at all times.
  1. Finally, hauled myself out of bed and trudged downstairs in grey sweatpants, a grey hoodie, & grey slippers, an outfit that closely resembled the sort I assume is assigned to patients at insane asylums. Watched half an episode of The Americans before retrieving my iPad, a book, & the latest issue of Glamour & retreating to bed.
  1. Laid in bed breathing heavily, but not in a sexy way, making stuffed-nose noises & acting truly, truly pitiful. Read a quarter of my friend's new book & wasted an hour or so on Instagram before falling back asleep.
  1. Talked to my mom on the phone; learned that on her lunch break, she bought me DayQuil - the liquid kind. Hung up the phone & launched into a full-blown solo temper tantrum about this terrible disaster because WHO TAKES LIQUID MEDICINE? I am a pill-swallowing adult who happens to hate liquid medicine more than just about anything, ever. Give me some gelcaps.  
  1. But no, seriously: had a full-blown temper tantrum about liquid DayQuil
  1. Sat on the stairs & sobbed loudly for at least 10 minutes, for no apparent reason other than the lack of DayQuil gelcaps & my inability to breathe through my nose. Added lots of other reasons to the mix, none of which were entirely relevant, but sometimes when you're mid-cry, you just really want to pile it on yourself, yanno?
  1. Braved the elements (-15°!) to travel two miles down the road to a CVS, where I purchased a small can of Pringles, two boxes of Cool Touch Kleenex (a sick-day necessity), &, of course, DayQuil gelcaps. Returned home feeling like I had just run my first marathon, minus the pride & exhilaration that I assume accompanies such an accomplishment.
  1. Returned to bed, where I continued to read, contemplated napping, & consumed two mugs full of Sleepytime Tea (another sick-day necessity) before my mom got home, took pity on me, & made me a bowl of tortellini for dinner. (Thanks, Mom.)
  1. Settled in on the couch, the hood of my hood pulled over my head, a laptop on my lap, & a miniature wheel of Brie at my side. Watched lots of embarrassingly bad TV with my mother, including Last Man Standing, Cristela, & Shark Tank, complaining all the while but sort of enjoying all three of them. 
  1. Made another mug of tea, but this time added honey, brown sugar, cinnamon... & 1.5 oz. of Jameson. Consumed entire mug of boozy brew in fewer than five minutes.
  1. Realized that, in my sickness-induced stupor, I bought myself the wrong kind of DayQuil. I didn't buy the liquid kind, obviously, but... turns out I didn't buy gelcaps, either. The irony of it all almost hurts. But not as much as my throat & my head & my pride.
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