Throwback Thursday Blog – I Choose Happiness!

I’ve been crazy busy and unfortunately, did not have time to write a blog post this week. (In all honesty, I am so inspired by my fourth novel right now that I didn’t make the time to write a blog post this week.) So, I decided to re-post a blog I wrote several years ago for Throwback Thursday. When I wrote this post, I made a decision to be happy and the message I deliver in this blog is still relevant to me today. So are my feelings about dating, although I’ve had a few relationships since this post was originally published and at least one of them was good. And it’s very interesting to read my thoughts as an unpublished author writing my very first novel when I am now writing my fourth novel after publishing three. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this blog post. I’m pretty proud of my younger self 🙂

I treat myself to a hump-day coffee at Dunkin Donuts every, well, every hump-day. My law firm provides free coffee of which I take full advantage on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays but since it’s not that good and I love, love, love Dunkin Donuts coffee, I treat myself on Wednesdays. It’s not that I can’t afford to buy myself a coffee every weekday but doing it only on Wednesdays makes it kind of special and I actually look forward to Wednesday mornings because of it.

Pursuant to recent laws in New York, places like Dunkin Donuts, Subway, Starbucks, etc. are required to provide the calorie content for all items available on their menus. I used to eat a muffin at Dunkin Donuts every Saturday afternoon for brunch. My favorites were chocolate chip and blueberry. Well, thanks to this new law, I am now aware that a chocolate chip muffin at Dunkin Donuts is over 600 calories and a blueberry muffin is well over 500. (Even the low fat muffins are 425!). Needless to say, I have not eaten a muffin since that law took effect. (It’s not that I don’t over-indulge sometimes, but I usually burn between 600 and 800 calories at the gym and just don’t want to waste it all on a friggin muffin. A great burger or slice of pizza – abso-friggin-lutely, but a muffin?) So, imagine my surprise when I get to the counter at Dunkin Donuts to order my medium coconut coffee, extra light with half and half and three Equals to notice a 100 calorie Angel Food Cake muffin on the shelf. 100 calories seemed awfully low in comparison to the other muffins and so I was a bit skeptical. I asked the woman behind the counter if they were any good. She said “yes. try one for yourself.” Then she handed me my coffee and a free Angel Food Cake muffin. In response to a simple question about the delicious-ness of the muffin, she gave me one – for free!

I am a member of book-club. We meet one Wednesday night a month and discuss a different chick-lit book. After we discuss the book, we inevitably discuss men and it’s so much fun swapping stories and dating nightmares with other women in their 20s and 30s. Since some of the women are happily married or involved with someone, hearing their stories also restores my faith in relationships. Anyway, since I am writing a chick-lit book myself, I (of course) shared this information with my fellow book clubbers who are anxious to read it.

One of the girls in my book club works for an agent and, although the agent does not represent books of the chick-lit genre, she has offered to let me pick her brain when I am ready to begin my agent search. In addition, she has already told me about helpful websites for finding an agent like http://www.agentquery.com. Finally, since she herself has published a book, we stood outside after our last meeting and talked for a good 15 minutes about the process. Another girl in the club works for a publishing company. She sent me an email last week that she attended a conference and picked up business cards from various editors and agents to give to me. I didn’t ask for her help – she simply gave it to me.

The muffin was kind of gross and, despite assistance from others, getting my book published is a lofty aspiration. My point in sharing the above is simply to remind myself that there are some really nice people out there and perhaps rather than feel an ache in my gut because someone I cared about has shown himself to be not so nice after all, I should instead feel warmth in my heart as a result of random acts of kindness bestowed onto me by strangers and new friends. Focusing on the people who have let me down or made me feel bad about myself does not make me happy. Being on both the giving and receiving ends of a random act of kindness, and even simply observing one, however, makes me very happy. And you know what? I like being happy. You might be thinking “Duh! Of course she likes being happy” but while I give a lot of credence to those times when I feel sad, disappointed or just plain hopeless, I tend to take those moments when all seems right in the world for granted. Rather than bitch about the guy who didn’t bother to keep the door open for me when I was behind him leaving the gym, I’ll think about the person who smiled and thanked me for holding the door for her at Dunkin Donuts since her hands were full. Rather than whine about the friend who won’t talk to me anymore because I missed her party to go to S. Carolina, I’ll remember the impromptu invitation I received from another friend to go out at midnight on Saturday night. (I took her up on it, stayed out late, had a blast, kissed a boy and spent the night HAPPY). I want to start embracing every moment of sheer happiness, however fleeting, because it is those moments that make life worth living. It is those moments that not only give me hope for the future but often make me forget about the future and concentrate on the here and now.

I want to do what makes me happy and right now that includes spending time with my friends and writing, writing and more writing. It currently does not include going on dates with strangers I’ve met online and so I’m not going to do that right now. What’s great about that decision is that I can change my mind at anytime and, at such time the thought of online dating makes me happy again, I’ll do it. I’m not removing my profile and if I hear from a guy who really captures my interest, I’ll go out with him because THAT would make me happy. But, for now, I either want to be excited about someone or nothing at all – none of this lukewarm nonsense for me – it does not make me happy. Quite the contrary, it stresses me out. I’ve been reading lots of posts from girls/women really excited about the guys they are dating and that’s what I want. And until someone excites me again, I’d rather not bother. And to be honest, I do think a romantic interest is more likely to find me when my priorities are elsewhere. I would much rather spend my evenings curled on my couch with a glass of cabernet, or at a bookclub meeting, or in a coffee shop writing on my laptop or at a bar/restaurant with my friends than on a date with a guy whose online profile seems “decent”. I’ve just had enough of the online thing and the thought of forcing myself to give out my phone number and chat with some guy I don’t know just because he looks sort of good in his pictures, is somewhat age appropriate and also likes baseball does not currently make me happy. Maybe that’s because I’ve been disappointed lately and am disheartened at the entire process but the reason is irrelevant. If it doesn’t make me happy and will not improve the lives of those close to me or anyone else for that matter, I’m just not interested.

There are so many things in life that leave us without a choice in the matter – for everything else, I choose happiness!

Hope to have a fresh blog for you all next week! In the meantime, what made YOU happy today?

St. Patrick’s Day Post and Excerpt

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Almost every year since my freshmen year in college, I have adopted an “Irish for One Day” existence. I have celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with gusto—from “Kegs and Eggs” parties with the boys from Tau Kappa Epsilon in college, to post-college and way post-college afternoons spent drinking pints of Guinness and doing shots of Jamesons Whiskey in pubs in New York City, Hoboken, Pearl River and Belmar. I’ve hit the parade circuit with my Irish friends, waited in very long lines at early morning hours to get into crowded bars, kissed my share of strangers (yeah, it happens) and I even got a ticket for open container drinking in the street. On March 17th, and often the weekends before and after, I’m the most Irish Jew you’ll ever meet.

Yes, I was a blonde once. Don't ask!!

Yes, I was a blonde once. Don’t ask!!

As I get older, I must confess that it’s getting harder to keep up. My colleagues poke fun that I still take the day off from work every year and it’s getting more and more annoying to have to explain to the drunk and flirtatious young men that I’m almost old enough to be their mother. I considered skipping it this year until one of my favorite Irish friends (one of my favorite friends period, actually) twisted my arm. She didn’t have to twist that hard, especially since several of my other girlfriends were game as well. So, I am about to enter dangerous territory and I’m certain that I will smell like a distillery when I get home, but this might just be my St. Patty’s swan song. Possibly I will share the events on my next blog but then again, what happens on St. Patrick’s Day stays on St. Patrick’s Day.

In this excerpt from my novel, A State of Jane, Jane finds herself in Hoboken, New Jersey in line to get into a bar on St. Patrick’s Day. Jane gets into a bit of a jam that was inspired by true events. Enjoy 🙂

Shivering, I hugged myself to keep warm. “My God! How early do you have to get here to beat the line?”

Anne pulled her green ski hat over her ears and said, “Bars open at eleven, but the locals know to get in line early.”

I looked at my watch in disbelief. “It’s only eleven-thirty! What time do people get in line?”

Applying lip balm, Bethany said, “Nine, maybe?”

“Nine last night?” I was only half joking.

“Ha ha.” Bethany handing me her lip balm. “Want some?”

As I reached for it, I heard a guy say, “Good. Keep those red lips soft and moist for kissing me later.”

I turned around and rolled my eyes at Beauty Mark Guy. He gave me a devilish grin and walked over to us. He was carrying a brown paper bag.

Trying to peek inside, Bethany said, “Whatcha got in there?”

Winking, he said, “Milk. I’m a growing boy.”

“Yeah right,” Anne said. “Got some for us?”

He looked at all three of us. “‘Cuz I’m such a nice guy…” Gesturing toward me, he said, “and you girls are so friendly, OK. But be slick.”

After Bethany and Anne each took a can of beer, he said, “If you see any sign of a cop, put the beer down on the ground and play dumb.” He looked at me and said, “You can have one too.”

Shivering, I spotted the Dunkin Donuts across the street and wished Beauty Mark Guy was offering me a thermos of white hot chocolate instead. “No thanks. I don’t drink beer.”

He shook his head and chuckled. “Why am I not surprised? Loosen up, Rainbow Brite.”

In quick defense, I said, “I am loose!” When he sneered at me, I looked down and corrected myself, muttering, “I mean, I don’t need beer to loosen up.”

Jumping to my rescue, Bethany put her arm around me and said, “Hey, be nice to my friend Jane here!” But then she gave me a serious look. “Jane, maybe you should have a beer. I’m not even sure they’ll have a full bar today. Might as well get used to beer.”

Piping in, Anne said, “After the first few, you won’t taste it anyway.”

I reluctantly reached into the bag and grabbed a cold can, but only to prove I wasn’t uptight. Not that I care what Beauty Mark Guy thinks.

He grinned and tousled my hair. “There you go, Strawberry Shortcake!” He moved closer to me and said, “We should all huddle close to hide our beers.”

“Nice try!” I said.

Moving in to make our little circle even smaller, Bethany said, “He’s right, actually.”

I pulled the tab off of my beer, praying it wouldn’t spray all over my jacket and took my first small sip. I held my hand over my mouth so no one would see me snarl involuntarily from the sour taste.

“See?” Anne said. “It’s not so bad.”

I held my breath and took another sip, this one bigger. “Not bad at all.” How many do I have to drink before I won’t taste it anymore?

About a half hour later, the line had moved about ten feet and Beauty Mark Guy, whose name was actually William, was telling us how he ran into Paula Abdul in McDonald’s the previous weekend.

“She was drunk off her ass! But I guess she was craving Mickey Dees,” he said as his friends, who had finally joined us, nodded in agreement.

“She was high on more than booze,” one of them said.

I brought my almost empty can of beer to my mouth and looked up at William.

He whispered, “Put your beer down.”

I decided he was not so bad after all. “Huh?” I glanced over at Bethany as she slipped her can of beer into the arm of her bulky wool sweater. Then, I felt a tap on my shoulder. In a slight daze, I turned around to face a blonde haired, blue-eyed guy, probably in his early thirties, in a police officer’s uniform. “Can you come over here a second?”

I looked over at the others who were watching me with concerned interest. I shrugged my shoulders, “Uh, OK.”

He stepped aside and I followed him, nervously biting my lip.

Ignoring the kids in line who had halted their own conversations to eavesdrop, he looked at the can of beer still in my hands and said, “You know an open container is prohibited outside, right?” His eyes bored into mine.

I looked down at the ground and watched my knees wobble. “Yes, officer. I’m… I’m sorry. I’ve never done this before, I promise.” I looked up into his eyes again, afraid he was going to arrest me.

my trip to Seattle Part Two

Welcome to part two of my trip to Seattle. In part one, I blogged about the professional aspect of my trip—attending the AWP Writers Conference and Bookfair, and meeting other members of my publishing family. Today, I am blogging about the pleasure portion of my trip. Two of my favorite people reside in Seattle and all time not spent at the conference was spent with one of them.

Megan is a graduate of culinary school and she and her boyfriend moved to Seattle last year with plans to advance their careers and eventually open their own restaurant. Megan has recently been promoted to Sous Chef at Altstadt, a restaurant in Pioneer Square. (Congrats, Chef Meg!) Although I didn’t make it to her restaurant, Megan and her boyfriend were responsible for some serious fine dining on my part this weekend. On Friday, I met the two of them for lunch. I thought we would go someplace casual for a sandwich or something but, considering the company I was keeping, I should have known better since eating is never casual with them. We wound up at Lola —a Tom Douglas restaurant. For those of you who are not familiar, Tom Douglas is one of the top chefs in the Northwest and owns numerous restaurants in the Seattle area. I had brunch with Jason at Lola while we were dating, but this was the first time I was there for lunch. I had no idea it was even a Mediterranean restaurant since the brunch menu has all the basics. One of the best parts about dining with Megan and her boyfriend Julio is that they are both chefs and take their eating experiences very seriously. They like to try a lot of different things and so we usually share . I also tend to go out of my comfort zone and try things I probably wouldn’t have ordered with my other friends. For lunch, we shared three different kebabs – lamb, squid, and haloumi cheese. I never would have chosen the squid and it wound up being my favorite. Well, in a three-way tie for first place 🙂 Unfortunately, I didn’t think at the time to take pictures, but trust me, it was delish.

photo 4 (2)On Friday night, I had dinner with Jason and of course I got to choose where we went since I am the visitor to his city. I fully intended to pick the place that has always been my favorite, The Crab Pot. For one, it is by the waterfront which I love, and secondly, patrons are expected to wear bibs. Since I should probably don a bib whenever I eat, I love going there. It’s incredibly laidback, messy, and, of course, tasty. But, at Jason’s suggestion, we ended up going a bit more up-scale to Sitka & Spruce, a New American restaurant in Capitol Hill. The ambiance was really cool—wide open with high ceilings and mostly communal tables with only a few individual tables and bar-like seating lining the periphery. We sat at an individual table and after looking at the menu decided to share a bunch of small plates. Appealing to both of us immediately was a bread dish described as being accompanied with “soft butter.” I’m definitely a fan of bread, especially loaded with easily spread creamy butter. Among the other platters we shared were fried chickpea fitters, some sort of grilled leek dish a potato dish and clams with a bacon sauce.

photo 1 (3)photo 2 (1)Paired with red wine, it was a great dining experience.

 

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Saturday night, Megan and I went to the restaurant where Julio works, Spur. Spur is a gastropub in Belltown. Julio was working that night and informed them that his girlfriend would be there. This was not the first time I joined Megan at one of Julio’s restaurant and I have never left disappointed or hungry. A great thing about eating at one of Julio’s restaurants is that I don’t need to order a single thing because random dishes are continuously sent from the kitchen to our table. The food was outstanding! From the first dish, a salmon crostini, to the last, a dessert plate consisting of pear sorbet, sponge cake and meringue, it was a culinary experience I will never forget.

Salmon crostini - yum!

Salmon crostini – yum!

Duck Pate - so rich and so good!

Duck Pate – so rich and so good!

AMAZING.

AMAZING.

The only dish that did not thrill me was sweet breads and I think the psychological aspect of eating pancreas was to blame rather than the food itself. I highly recommend this restaurant in terms of food, service, and ambiance.

For my final meal in Seattle, Jason took me to Chinatown. We ate dim sum at The Purple Dot. Although I’ve eaten dim sum before, I’ve never been to a dim sum restaurant and always wanted to. A waitress circles the restaurant with a cart filled with various dishes and you choose what you’d like to eat. It was fun! We ordered four different things. I enjoyed the dishes with varying degrees —some a lot and some not-so-much but I would definitely do that again.

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Finally, I can’t leave the Emerald City without my farewell Vanilla Latte. Yum!

nobody does vanilla latte like Seattle does Vanilla latte.

nobody does vanilla latte like Seattle does Vanilla latte.

As you can see, my healthy appetite and palate for good food was not disappointed by my long weekend in Seattle. Now it’s time to put on those running shoes and burn off those extra calories!

My trip to Seattle Part One

Happy March! The feet-numbing cold has made it clear that I’ve left Seattle and returned to my hometown of New York City. My weekend in Seattle might be over, but the memories remain. I had a fabulous time!

I almost didn’t get there as I was flying standby with a buddy pass thanks to the flight attendant friend of my pal, Megan. Megan (who moved to Seattle with her boyfriend last fall) sent me a text on Wednesday evening letting me know the Thursday evening flight I hoped to take was overbooked and it was unlikely I would get on. I have never flown standby and am not the adventurous type when it comes to traveling. I like to have my seats confirmed and I typically arrive at the airport seriously early in case of long security lines. That’s the kind of person I am—which clashes with flying standby, but I was trying to save money. I freaked out—anxiety-related tears streaming down my face—especially after seeing that the cost of a regular flight with so little notice was way more expensive than I could afford. I even contemplated cancelling my trip. And then my hero swooped in—my friend (and ex-boyfriend) Jason used miles to purchase me a one-way ticket on Jet Blue. I even got an “even  more room” seat. I decided to wing the return trip standby (which thankfully worked out). Crisis averted! Thank you, Jason. And thank you to Megan for getting me the standby tickets in the first place. You both saved me a lot of money!

Combining my attendance at the 2014 Annual AWP Writers Conference and Bookfair held at the Washington State Convention Center with plans with the aforementioned Jason and Megan allowed me to enjoy business mixed with pleasure to the perfect percentage.   

The conference was massive – in addition to several gigantic rooms filled with booths and tables hosted by various publishers of all types of literary works, educational programs, and other writing-related companies, participants could attend hundreds of available lectures on all sorts of writing-related topics, like the relationship between editor and author, how social media has changed the way authors engage with readers, and how to write a good book review.

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My main incentive of attending was to meet other members of my Booktrope family. I was most excited to meet my book manager, Beth Bacon. With Beth on my team, I am able to devote my time to the aspects of writing and marketing that I enjoy the most (the actual writing and engaging with readers) and she helps me with all of the behind-the-scenes aspects of promotion and branding. It was a thrill to meet her face-to-face after so many telephone calls, emails and Google Hangouts. And I was also pleasantly surprised by the appearance of Loretta Matson, the talent behind all four of my book covers and even my website. Since I didn’t know Loretta would be there, I was beyond thrilled when she walked over to the Booktrope table right before my scheduled book signing. Both Beth and Loretta are integral members of my publishing team and I am so grateful for both of them. I also had the pleasure of meeting the two founders of Booktrope and several other book managers and authors.

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Everyone at Booktrope is so supportive and as I walked through the exhibit hall and spoke to other publishers, it felt so great to be exactly where I want to be. Of course, I’d like to sell about a million more books and have my books optioned for television or the big screen but I feel very blessed and content with the status of my writing career this very moment.

My scheduled book signing was very exciting as it was the first time I ever did a signing by myself, however I went into it with very low expectations. The conference really was not the right venue for selling books as almost all of the attendees were writers or aspiring writers and most were more focused on nurturing their own careers. Most of the authors who did signings before me sold very few, if any books. I had one person very interested in buying Blogger Girl, but we didn’t take credit cards and she had no cash. She promised to buy it on Kindle instead. While I only sold one paperback, I had a pretty good turnout at my table and several people took my bookmarks and said they would download copies on Amazon. Despite leaving with almost as many books as I had when I arrived, it was thrilling to interact with those who stopped by the table and proudly announce that I was the author of the three pretty pink, yellow and blue books on display.

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The entire business portion of the weekend was incredibly special and I had to pinch myself to be sure this was my life. I’m still at the beginning of my career and have a long way to go and a lot to learn, but I get to write —something I love more than anything else in the world—and I actually make money doing it. Not enough to quit my day job but that’s the goal I’m working towards. In the meantime, my wonderful colleagues at my day job (especially my boss/best friend Alan) make the wait a mostly pleasant one.

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Stay tuned for part two of this series where I will tell you all about how much food I ate during the “pleasure” portion of my trip. If you are from the Seattle area, I have recommendations for some great restaurants you need to try. And pictures too.