Dwelling

I was planning to write about part two of my vacation from real life—when I returned to New York City after my trip to Barbados just in time to greet my fellow authors from faraway lands who were in town for the Book Expo America Conference. I had such a fantastic, if not exhausting, time but I don’t feel like writing about it. My friend Samantha Stroh Bailey wrote a terrific recap here if you’re interested.

I was also thinking about doing a mass giveaway of my most recent novel, How Do You Know? I think it’s my best writing so far and I want to reach a larger audience but I don’t feel like promoting today either. (Although if you want a free ecopy, send me an email as I’m in a generous mood.)

My books are lighthearted, fun reads but my heart is too heavy right now to write a light, fun blog post. I miss my boss/best friend Alan so much and I can’t shake it off. Maybe I don’t want to shake it off. Missing him keeps him alive but the pain right now is excruciating. Don’t get me wrong, not a day has gone by since he died that I haven’t missed him and thought about him a hundred times an hour. But sometimes it’s a dull pain—I know he’s gone and I hate it but I go to work, write, spend time with friends, exercise, watch television, date, and yes, enjoy being alive. Other times, more often than not in the last week, the pain is sharp and I feel the grief so deep in my bones that I can’t breathe. The silliest things set me off and I break down while doing my ab routine at home, while doing sprints in spin class, while making coffee in the pantry at work etc. For instance, I cried remembering how Alan would sometimes reply to my emails/texts with a simple “Ok” and when I would complain that he wasn’t really listening to me, he’d respond, “Ok” again just to piss me off. I couldn’t be angry with him because I was too busy laughing. Another example: I was getting ready for work one morning, listening to a concert on the Today Show, and from out of nowhere, I heard Alan’s voice saying, “O No You Dit-ten” and I felt my heart in my throat.

The man could read my moods like no one else. He would take one look at me and know when I was having a bad day without my saying a word. He’d say, “What’s wrong, Merrybeth?” and my lips would tremble and the whole story would come pouring out. The amount of time he spent trying to cheer me up when I was down could be measured in years. I think about going the rest of my life without hearing his voice or his laugh and I’m terrified. I wonder how I will navigate this crazy world without his encouragement, guidance and humor. He had such faith in me and tried tirelessly to make me see myself the way he did but he died before he succeeded. Every day, someone’s life is irrevocably changed due to the death of a loved one and somehow the world keeps turning but right now, as I hover over my tablet at the coffee shop blinking back my tears, I can’t breathe.

It’s called a grieving “process” but a process suggests that it will end and I can’t imagine a time when I won’t miss him with a fervor. I don’t publicly dwell on my grief very often and only share it with a select few in sporadic outbursts. I think I’m embarrassed. Like I should be “over it” by now and the fact that I’m not makes me weak. Maybe I’m not trying hard enough but how does one “try” to stop missing someone? Alan used to implore me not to dwell on things I couldn’t control and I’m dwelling for sure. I’m sorry, Alan.

When I first started blogging on this site, I wrote a post called Blog Vows promising, among other things, to keep it real:

I vow to keep it real.  I will not paint my life as one of perfection because we all know that no one’s life is perfect.  I will post the good, the bad and the ugly.  But the ugly will not include pictures of myself after a two hour run or after just waking up in the morning.  I vow to post about my books and my writing but also anything on my mind I think might be of interest to my followers, including but not limited to events in pop culture and humorous observations about life in New York City or anywhere else my travels take me.   

So, today I’m keeping it real by admitting that I’m having a difficult month. But it’s time to wrap this up. My plan for this afternoon was to spend an hour on my blog and two hours on my fiction but it’s almost five o’clock and I need to get home and prepare for my evening out. Stay tuned for my next post which will hopefully correspond to the humorous, light tone of my novels! Similar to a good book, I like to keep you guessing and, truth be told, I often surprise myself.

with a little help from my friends

Confession: Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been in a writing slump. I’ve always prided myself on my immunity to the dreaded “writer’s block.” Creating ideas and finding the words to express them has never been a problem until recently. I’m about half-way through writing the first draft of Novel Girl, a sequel to Blogger Girl, and while I have a concrete vision of where I want things to go, turning the images I see in my head into words on the page has been challenging over the past couple of weeks. I’ve spent numerous evenings after work, sitting at my favorite coffee shop, and after two hours, I’ve considered it a “productive” time if I managed to add a couple of paragraphs. Writing makes me happy; writer’s block makes me sad. In other words, when the writing doesn’t flow, Meri doesn’t glow.

This past weekend, I was fortunate to take part in the second annual “Beach Babes” weekend in California, near Santa Cruz, at the invitation of the lovely, generous and talented author, Eileen Goudge. Also in attendance were Samantha Stroh Bailey, Jen Tucker, Francine LaSala, and Julie Valerie. These ladies were also at the first annual “Beach Babes” weekend. This year, we added another author, Josie Brown, who fit in so well, I can practically remember her in last year’s memories too.

The mornings were cold, but I spent them drinking coffee either at the large kitchen table of the beach house, sprawled across the couch in the living room, or on the back porch with slippers on my feet, a sweatshirt over my pajamas, and a blanket across my lap. The afternoons got warm and I went for a run with the ocean breeze whipping across my face. (Once. I went running once, but it still counts.) The evenings got cool again, but I was kept warm by the wine, the advice and support of my fellow housemates, and the ever-present (and often inappropriate) humor.

Some of the women read from their works-in-progress—I was too shy as a result of my bout with writer’s block—and I was blown away by the talent in the room and how differently each of us crafted our words. I’m embarrassed to admit that while I listened to them, I was equal parts impressed, envious, and fearful that Novel Girl lacked that something something. But my writer friends who have read all of my novels coaxed me out of my inferiority complex and ultimately out of my writer’s slump. The enthusiasm these authors possessed for their books and for their fellow authors was contagious and I caught the bug. Finally. In fact, I used about two hours of the five hour flight home last night to work on Novel Girl and I’m thrilled to announce that my writing mojo is back. Even better, my talented Beach Babes have inspired me to take it to a whole new and improved level.

Sadly, we need to wait an entire year for the third annual Beach babes weekend, but I am so there. SO. THERE.

I hope you enjoy the pictures as well as some of the newsworthy events I’m sharing below:

Book signing/reading – Thursday, February 12th at the Manhasset location of Barnes and Noble. More information here: http://store-locator.barnesandnoble.com/event/4829697

Giveaway: Enter for your chance to win up to 40 books in this amazing Valentine’s Day giveaway: http://www.feelingbeachie.com/valentines-day-massive-book-giveaway-2/

 

view from the back porch

view from the back porch

view from my run

view from my run

Eileen's famous "skinny" salad. SO good.

Eileen’s famous “skinny” salad. SO good.

The Beach Babes!

The Beach Babes!

beachbabes2

 

beachpic2

 

one more blessing

I wrote a blog a couple of weeks ago counting my blessings. As most of you know, I lost someone I loved dearly to cancer this summer and finding happiness has been a challenge. I hoped outlining some of the wonderful things in my life would help with the grieving process, especially since my late friend always urged me to focus on the good. If you read the blog, you might have noticed the absence of “good health” on the list. This was not a mere oversight, but a purposeful omission as I was afraid being healthy was not something I could count among my blessings and didn’t want to jinx myself.

I had my annual mammogram in late June. Although the mammogram was normal, it was suggested I have an ultrasound because cancer is difficult to detect in a mammogram on someone with “dense” breasts like me. The ultrasound picked up a minuscule (less than .5 millimeters) spot on my right breast and although the doctor who reviewed it was not concerned and instructed me to schedule another ultrasound in six months merely as a precaution, my own doctor thought it would be prudent to see a breast specialist for a second opinion. Although my doctor assured me that consulting a breast surgeon was merely a precautionary measure due to the density of my breasts, and the likelihood of it being anything serious was very slim, I freaked out.  My best friend died of cancer only a month before. My newsfeeds lately on Facebook are littered with friends mourning the sudden and tragic death of friends who were seemingly healthy only a short time ago. How could I be so confident my friends wouldn’t be posting these things about me? My fourth novel is set to be published on December 2nd and as excited as I am to release this book, I worried I wouldn’t be around by then. What if the cures for cancer, i.e. chemotherapy, resulted in my organs shutting down like what happened to my friend? I knew I was getting WAY ahead of myself and was told as much by others, but I was seriously spooked. This is why I didn’t feel comfortable including “good health” among my blessings.

My mother offered to tag along to my doctor’s appointment as moral support, an offer I eagerly accepted. We discussed having lunch afterward and making a day of it. I also had dinner reservations with some friends that evening and had taken the following day off from work. I tried to look forward to the long Labor Day Weekend and the fun plans I had made, but it was difficult with the weight of my doctor’s appointment on my shoulders. The location of the doctor’s office inside the cancer center at Beth Israel only added to my fear. My mother tried to make conversation while I completed a questionnaire rivaling the eHarmony application in length, but tears were already forming in my eyes and all I could think about was my friend Alan and how much I missed him and hated cancer for taking him from me. I used to say I would follow him anywhere, but I meant in the physical world. As much as I miss him (terribly and constantly), I’m not ready to die. But neither was he. These were my thoughts as I waited alone in the cold examination room.  

After careful review of the ultrasound results and a thorough clinical breast examination, the breast surgeon assured me the tiny spec located on the ultrasound was nothing of concern and sent me home with instructions to simply keep the six month follow-up as originally directed. She further appeased me by saying even a six month appointment instead of the usual year was probably being overly cautious. When I returned to my mother in the waiting room, she knew I was okay by the huge smile of relief on my face. We embraced fiercely once we got outside and I told my mother I could now add “good health” to my blessings. I only wish my dear friend was as lucky. While I continue to mourn him daily—not a single day has gone by when I haven’t cried over his death—I am forever thankful that, at least for now, I can begin to truly appreciate the good things in my life and look forward to what I hope will be a long, healthy and happy one. I know it’s what he would want too.

blogging in darker times – guest blogger at Chick Lit Club

I was asked to do a guest post for Chick Lit Club, a fabulous blog with news and reviews on some of the hottest novels in chick lit and women’s fiction. With the death of my dear friend, I’ve been having trouble writing “light” posts and when I confided this to my fabulous book manager, Jennifer Gilbert, she suggested I use my grief as inspiration. This is what I came up with:

Darker Times

 

A friendship stolen

On July 8th, 2014, I lost one of my favorite people in the world to blood cancer.  I am not the only person who experienced this loss. Cancer stole Alan from a wife of over thirty years, two sons, parents, a brother, and a slew of friends, clients, and colleagues who loved him. Since this is my blog, this post focuses, not on Alan in the general sense, but on my relationship with him. It would be impossible to compress the entirety of our friendship in a single blog post, but I’ve tried to paint a picture of this wonderful man and the enormous influence he had on my life with this very long blog entry. Anyone who has spoken to me for more than one hour knows about Alan. I talked about him all of the time and he was a point of reference for almost everything—Alan said this; Alan told me that; One time me and Alan…—and so on and so on and so on. Seriously, I idolized the man. He was a rock star. But more than that, for me, he was sunshine on a rainy day; a hot fudge sundae after a breakup; a white flag after a brutal war.

photo (5)

On July 16, 1996, I started a job as a junior trademark paralegal at a law firm. Alan was my boss. I was a single teeny bopper practically right of college, Alan was almost forty and married with two children and, at the time, the age difference seemed enormous. Our conversations rarely developed beyond those that were work-related. As years went by and his associates and other paralegals left the firm, Alan began relying on me for more substantive projects and for assistance on the more administrative tasks related to his trademark department. This required us to spend more time together and, as a result, we got to know each other beyond boss/employee and became friends. Eighteen years later, I considered Alan one of my closest, most trusted friends and I loved him like family.

Alan had a sharp, witty sense of humor and perfect comic timing. Often times when I hung out with people at work, I was the quiet one. I think I was afraid to crack a joke and have it met with radio silence since the other members of my department were extremely funny. Alan would sometimes laugh at something I said and comment, “funny girl!” and it made me feel validated. Like I, too, was funny even though I was more subtle and shy than my colleagues at the time. Making Alan laugh made me comfortable about my ability to make others laugh and I slowly became more confident cracking jokes and not playing the shrinking violet. After eighteen years, I think I made Alan laugh almost as much as he made me laugh.

I remember the first time I confided something personal to Alan. It was regarding one of the many men who would come into and out of my life and who ultimately was not “the one.” Alan’s advice was logical and never sugarcoated, yet he communicated it with such understanding, humanity, sincerity, depth, and humor that I began to turn to him for “the male” perspective almost every time I got involved with someone moving forward. It started off slowly, but by the time he passed away, with the exception of more serious boyfriends whose privacy I respected, Alan could have probably recited my love history since 2003, along with all of my relationship “issues.” (But, of course, he was my trusted friend and he would never disclose such information!)

Yes, Alan was there for me in the big moments, including September 11th, the death of two grandmothers, my own cancer scare, three (unfortunate) World Series wins by the Red Sox, transitions to two different law firms, and serious family dysfunction. He even held my hand when I blocked an abusive guy on Facebook. But he also became my go-to person for the little things. I used to joke that Alan was always right because, well, Alan was always right! Because of this, I began to rely on him for even the most mundane things on the assumption that he would have the correct answer readily available to share. Some people utilized the Internet, I had Alan. Can you mix cold medicine with Excedrin? Ask Alan. What brand Netbook should I buy? Ask Alan. Do I look prettier in pink or purple? Ask Alan. I can’t reach around my neck to clasp this necklace. Alan will do it for me when I get to work. I can’t put together this desk-top calendar. Alan will do it. Should I call this guy or wait for him to call me? What does Alan think? My cable is broken. How do I fix it? Call Alan. I was such a pain in the ass, but Alan insisted he enjoyed helping me. I often apologized because I was afraid I got so much more out of our friendship than he did. (I still feel that way.) But Alan consistently argued that point. He said, “this is the balance of our friendship. I like it. It works. It is what it is.”

When Alan left our first firm, he took me with him. When Alan left the second firm, he took me with him. He negotiated my salary and benefits and told me that any firm that wouldn’t bring me along was a firm he would not be going to. I am a hardworking and talented trademark paralegal but I’m not indispensable, but Alan was incredibly loyal to me and me to him. Even after I discovered my passion for writing, and the paralegal gig became more of a way to keep up my NYC life style than a career I wished to cultivate, I enjoyed coming to work every day. I was the rare employee who hated when her boss went on vacation. Sunday nights weren’t so bad because I would have my Monday morning chat with Alan, and we would undoubtedly make each other laugh at multiple points during the day. We had lunch together almost daily and on those weeks when we (mostly him) had too many outside lunch plans, we would schedule a late afternoon “coffee date” to catch up. He’d drink hot chocolate, I’d drink cappuccino, and we’d share a piece of cake and catch up. Alan always made time for me.

Random information to give you a bit of insight into our banter. I have a thing for hats and one of them is a beret. The first time I wore it in front of Alan, he called me “Rerun” (from the television show What’s Happening for those of you born after 1990…) and continued to do so whenever I wore it. At first, I made him insist that my ass was not as big as Rerun’s. After a while, Alan started calling me Rerun whenever I wore a hat, even if it was a winter hat or a baseball cap. The first time I visited him at the hospital, I wore the beret purposely to make him smile and hopefully elicit a “Rerun” comment. A client once mistakenly referred to me as “Merrybeth” in correspondence. It could have been a spell check issue, but from that day on, Alan called me Merrybeth (when he wasn’t calling me “Rerun”)! He also called me Merry Tyler Schorr. He teased my lifetime habit of “twiddling” my hair and did a silly impression of me that left me in a giggling fit. I would often say, “Do the twiddling impression of me. Please!” And he said when I tried to wink, I looked like Popeye and he would do a mean Popeye impression that also cracked me up. If in the course of his day, he came across a really funny name, he would send me an email with just the name on it: Bernadette Scubblybutts was one of them. (If you are reading this Bernadette, I apologize for laughing at your expense and for your unfortunate last name.) Part of our job requires us to work with attorneys all over the world. We are lucky in that everyone communicates in English, but one time our German associate sent us an email with a German sentence embedded in the text. After determining that it translated in English to, “that was fast,” whenever I completed something quickly, Alan would say, “dass das so schnellging!” It seems silly, but sharing these inside jokes (and there are literally hundreds of them), with Alan was priceless to me.

The day my first novel Just Friends with Benefits was published, Alan choked up and expressed how unbelievably proud he was of me and how he thought I was underestimating the accomplishment of writing a book, much less getting it published. He would joke about me forgetting all about “my old friend Alan” once I became a famous bestselling author. It goes without saying that I will never ever forget him. If I win the Pulitzer Prize, guess who will be the first person I thank? Alan. I haven’t won the Pulitzer Prize and I’m pretty certain I never will. But I will still thank Alan for…everything. We used to talk about writing a book together. We actually started one close to a decade ago. It was a “He said/She said” type of book about the differences in the way women and men think and act in certain circumstances. Most recently, we discussed writing a trashy romance novel. I’d write the book and he’d insert the naughty bits since I don’t like writing sex scenes. Alan was an amazing writer and it was initially his compliments on my business writing that gave me the confidence to write fiction. He was a beta reader on my first three novels and a source of inspiration for all.

Alan was truly the one thing in my life I never worried about. It never occurred to me that our friendship wouldn’t continue on for decades. I never worried that Alan wouldn’t be at my wedding someday. I even imagined asking him to be my “Man of Honor” and giving me a pep talk on the big day. The one thing I dreaded was Alan retiring before I was ready to write full-time because I couldn’t imagine working for anyone else or anyone else putting up with me. Like I said, I’m a hardworking and skilled paralegal, but I can also be a brat. Sometimes I speak before I act. On many occasions over the last eighteen years, I sent Alan emails that I was overwhelmed; I couldn’t take it anymore; I needed help; I couldn’t finish whatever assignment he gave me until much later. And then ten minutes later, I’d email him the completed assignment and hope he wouldn’t mention my earlier outburst. He never did. When we’d talk about it, he’d say, “I know you Merrybeth. When you overreact, you’re just being ‘Meri.’ It’s all good.” That was my relationship with Alan. I did/said stupid things and he just shrugged and said, “That’s Meri.” If he was here, he’d remind me that I also did really good work and had a lot of goodwill in the bank. But sometimes I shake my head and think, “Why did he put up with me?” We made a deal that I would work towards writing full time when he was ready to retire. That way, I wouldn’t have to work for someone else and he wouldn’t be without his favorite paralegal and “work wife.” Sadly, he didn’t live up to his end of the bargain.

The last year was very rough. How could Alan, the strongest most solid person in my life, be sick? And why would God, if there is a God, choose to do this to him of all people—truly the best person I’ve ever known? How could anyone be so cruel? I hated that he had the power to ease my pain in so many situations—just a month before his diagnosis, he had talked me off the ledge when I had an abnormal mammogram—yet I was powerless to help him the one time he really needed it. I did what I could. I visited him at the hospital and at his home, we had Google “Hangouts,” we talked on the phone and texted daily and I made sure to tell him how much I loved him regularly. I tried really hard this year not to rely on him so much because any problems I had were frivolous compared to what he was facing. But Alan saw right through me and said, “It’s one thing to be sick. It’s another thing to be treated like I’m sick.” He said he wanted me to be “me” around him and allow him to be “him” and if that meant coming to him with what I considered silly problems, I should. And so I did. The only thing I didn’t share with him was my concern that he was never going to get better. I could not imagine the world and my life without him in it. I still can’t. I’m not going to go into details about what happened and how everyone thought he was getting better until he…didn’t. It’s too painful and I still haven’t wrapped my head or heart around it and I don’t think I ever will. But I will forever be grateful that Alan knew me so well and truly loved me unconditionally. He was so incredibly unique, special, intelligent, hilarious, knowledgeable, goofy, loyal, warmhearted, intuitive and sensitive. And he never failed to tell me that I was one of his favorite people. Me! How I won such a special place in his heart is beyond me. I always joke that I became Alan’s “work wife” by default because everyone else quit. Alan used to tell me I would meet the right man for me when all of the planets aligned. Well, Alan was not my husband or my lover, but his influence on me is probably the most significant of any other relationship I’ve had to date. The planets must have aligned just right when we met. His friendship changed me and added value to my life that cannot be measured. I am a better, more confident, gentler, wiser, funnier, more interesting person because of the time I spent with Alan. I’ve laughed harder in the last eighteen years than some people do in a lifetime. The pain I feel over his death is worse than anything I’ve ever experienced and I had no idea I was capable of such grief. Not a moment goes by when I don’t miss him. Alan hated seeing me sad and I can almost hear him telling me that my sadness causes him pain and I am so much prettier when I smile.

As overwhelmed as I am with sadness right now, I am well aware of how incredibly blessed I am to have Alan in my life for eighteen years as my boss, friend, mentor, therapist, comic relief, cheerleader. Alan was taken away from the living world way too soon, but he will always be with me. He has bestowed onto me enough advice to last a lifetime and I will always hear his voice in my head telling me I’m on the right/wrong track. In this world, I will never stop loving and missing him and I know he will continue to look after me from the afterlife. Friendship never dies.

One person in the U.S. is diagnosed with blood cancer approximately  every four minutes. For more information and to find out how you can donate towards a cure, please click here:

http://pages.lightthenight.org/nyc/Manhattn14/AlansAngels

 

 

 

ode to my friends

I was on an emotional rollercoaster today- started off the day feeling happy and confident, but something inconsequential happened that felt monumental and as a result, my great mood turned ugly. But I vented my concerns to a friend and within an hour, she replied and I felt better. Emails from this friend usually do make me feel better. This friend does not simply tell me what I want to hear but she has this amazing way of helping me see things from a different perspective and what might appear ugly is often much more attractive with different lighting. This friend always helps me see things in a different light.

What happened today reminded me of how blessed I am to have such great friends. And while I love and need all of them, each is special for different reasons. The following is an ode to my friends. Although none of these are mutually exclusive and there is certainly some overlap, you might recognize yourself in here.

The friend who calls when you are already in bed or comfy on the couch watching television and talks you into getting dressed and going out.  You will always have fun with this friend but beware, you might wake up with a nasty hangover and memories of sucking face with a 22 year old.

The friend who knew you well before puberty and can remind you of all of the fun you had when life was simple – before boys and careers and biological clocks were even on the radar. The friend who reminds you of all the times you ate spaghetti and ended up wearing it all over face and clothes. The friend who might not be up on the day to day goings-on in your life but the friend who is like a sister and who you know will be your friend when you are both wearing dentures, hopefully not for another 4 decades.

The friend that has the pleasure of  knowing your issues and insecurities inside out and remains steadfast in his reassurances even though he knows the likelihood of his wisdom sinking in permanently is slim.

The friend who consistently seeks your guidance, advice and reassurance and makes you feel wise and needed.

The friend who you know is amazing and wish she saw what you saw. This is sometimes also the friend you want to shake some sense into but know she has to find her own way.

The friend who enables you to let your bitch flag fly by participating in making petty comments about other women and man bashing. (I only do this once a month…)

The friend who sets you straight by reminding you that there will always be prettier girls and douchey guys but a) deal with it and b) deal with it.

The friends who showed you true loyalty by loving you even after you puked in the radiator freshman year of college and the suite smelled for days. At one point, these friends knew all your secrets because they lived with you. They saw you at your best and worst and couldn’t care less that at your best and at your worst, you were probably drunk. Even as the years pass, these friends will hold a special place in your heart and you will always smile thinking about the good times and hardly remember the bad times.

The friend who has always been there throughout the years and even though the degree of closeness you share fluctuates depending on a variety of factors from physical distance to having different social circles, she will be the first person you probably call to share the good news and, God forbid, the bad news.

The friend you’ve only known a couple of years who has become a constant in your life – your “go to” friend for social events, email exchanges and text messages. The friend(s) who is always up on your life and vice-versa. You might not know this friend as intimately as some of your others but you love her just as much.

The friend who always comments on your facebook status.

The friend who knows when it’s time to finish a blog.

To all of my friends, I love you and thank you for loving me – Just as I am.