Tuesday, November 1, 2011

"You Picked a Good One."

I know it's been ages since I've blogged, though there was a good reason: I practically picked up another full-time job. Since September 1, I have freelanced 199 hours' worth of work, which amounts to about 25 hours a week. Considering three weekends of October were taken up with being sick/a trip to Ohio, our first anniversary (!!), and my in-laws visiting, I pretty much did all of that work on weeknights. Crazy, I know.

This past week was by far the roughest. I had two jobs due, and not a lot of time to do them. I went to bed after dodgeball on Tuesday night at 11, only because I was so exhausted and couldn't fathom staying up any later. But on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights, I went to bed no sooner than 2:30 a.m. (and on two nights, 3:30 a.m.). Sure, this would be easy to handle . . . if I didn't have to wake up at 7:30 to go to an actual 9-5 job.

My parents knew I was having a rough, busy, sleepless week, so when the inevitable happened on Monday, they chose not to tell me until this past Sunday that they put Bailey down. And while I totally understand their reasoning (really, Mom and Dad, I do), I feel like I didn't have a chance to say good-bye. Which is kind of silly because I've said good-bye to Bailey more times than I thought I'd get the chance to. I saw her in April, right after we got her diagnosis, and again in July, and then just three weeks ago. She had definitely deteriorated since April, so when I left the house, I was sad and thought, This could be it, but I also thought, Thanksgiving is just a few more weeks away, maybe I'll see her again.

Since I wasn't able to say good-bye to her one final time, I thought I'd write a blog post in the form of a letter . . . isn't that what grief counselors always make people do? (On TV at least?)

1.24.98: The day we got you.
(It's a shame dogs don't go through
awkward years. . . .)

Dear Bailey,

 
For a dog that was so routine, it's hard to think of a routine without you. I know I didn't live with you anymore, but you were still very much a part of daily conversations I had with Mom and Dad, and you were often in the room when I Skyped with them. It's weird to think that conversations won't consist of "How's the Wu?" or "Where's Bailey?" anymore.

Watching you go through your illness the past five months was really hard. You had been in such great health all your life and we never really saw you suffer. But it was clear that these past few weeks you were beginning to, and Mom and Dad said you were no longer following your routinesyou didn't even want to go up the stairs to sleep in Mom and Dad's bedroom. And for you not to want to be near us was definitely a sign that the end was coming.
 

    
Growing up, you never just slept in any ol' room. You'd start the night on the second-floor balcony, so you could watch Mom and Dad's bedroom (before the addition was made), as well as the street out front; then you'd move to Nicole's room, where you could lie on the floor and rest your head on the windowsill, again keeping an eye on the street; and then you'd move to my bedroom, where you had the luxury of sleeping on the bed, while resting your head on a windowsill to watch the street (you liked to watch the street a lot). It could be 30 degrees out, and we all kept our windows slightly cracked and our blinds up six inches so you could get some fresh air and see what was going on (this would be troublesome on nights when you'd bark over nothing, but great when you scared away the kids teepeeing our house). When Mom and Dad woke up first, you'd go downstairs to get your pill, and would then lay somewhere where you could watch upstairs for me and Nicole (on weekends, when we could sleep in for hours, you'd often come back up). You knew you had rights to at least one pillow when sleeping with one of your sisters. Generally you'd take two, and at least half of the bed while you were at it. 

Cozy in my bed.

 
Dad's favorite child.

But I guess as Nicole and my lives were changing, yours did, too. When we were both off to college, you started sleeping in Mom and Dad's room each night. At first on the bed, but then Mom had to break you of that habit when she started having back problems. So then you moved on to your Mickey Mouse blanket next to Dad's side of the bed, where he would end each night by giving you three pats and saying, "Good night, Wu." But even though Mom broke you of the habit while they were in the bed, you figured out no one could stop you from getting up there while they were away. There were a few times Mom or Dad came home and couldn't find you, and he or she would freak out because you weren't coming when called . . . because you were knocked out, on their bed, using their pillows as if you owned the place (which, let's face it, you did).

  
Mom's partner in crime.

Like your Dad, you were very particular about when things should be done (though you had an internal clock, whereas Dad has to write everything down). When you would start barking in the evening, we'd look outside to see if you were barking at a FedEx truck. And when there wasn't one, we'd look at the clock and realize you were just letting us know it was precisely 6:00 and you were ready for dinner.

And so much for the thought that dogs can't have table food. You were probably one of the best-fed dogs out there, and until cancer took you at the ripe age of (almost) fourteen, you were incredibly healthy. You loved pretty much anything, except onions and lettuce. You rarely chewed what you were given (except carrots and, when someone held the core, apples). It became a joke after we'd give you something for us to ask you if you even tasted anything. You were the doggie vacuum when Mom and Dad cooked, especially on migas days. You spent just about every dinner underneath the table, yes, a big part of it had to do with the end of mealtime because you knew each of us would slip you something, but I also think you realized that dinnertime was important to us, and as a family member, you wanted to be there, too.


You loved to swim. You didn't get to do it that often, but when we were over at Eileen's, you loved to jump in her pool. You even went so far as to climb up some of the rocks us kids used to jump off of. I'll never forget watching you jump from that rock like you had discovered the greatest thing in the world. In North Carolina, Mom took you to the beach, but when one wave wiped you out, I think you became a little more wary of water.


You loved to people watch. You loved people in general. You were perfectly content being pet all day longand often (playfully) growled when one of us stopped doing so. When you were on the floor and we were on the couch (the one place you weren't allowed on), you loved to stretch your leg out with your paw in the air, just so we could hold it while you slept.



When Bobo came to visit, you
liked to help him do household chores.

You were so smart. And you remembered everything. Even though Mimi and Bobo visited only two to three times a year, you knew that when Bobo was finished with his apple fritter and coffee, he'd take you for a walk. When you came to my softball games, you knew when I was the one going up to bat, because you'd stand up and shift your weight between your paws as you watched. You knew that when I came out of the dugout, it was to give you some of my water. When you were in the car, you knew when Mom was just slowing down and when she was actually slowing down to exit for a rest stop. It's like you could read the blue rest stop signs. You knew that when Daddy put on his pink Marriott shirt and jean shorts it was time to go out in the yard. How you knew this, since dogs are colorblind, is beyond us, but you knew that shirt, without a doubt. A friend once told me that she thought my family was like watching an "episode" of The Truman Show because she knew that every Saturday when she passed our house, Dad would be wearing his pink shirt and jean shorts while mowing, Mom would be wearing a bathing suit, shorts, and a hat while weeding/planting, and you'd be sitting in the yard watching everything and everyone.

 
We knew that you loved car rides more than anything else, and we'd often take you with us if we were making short trips. We had fun quietly jingling our keys to see how long it would take for you to come running (on the other hand, we hated when you'd come running all excitedly even though we tried to quietly sneak out). In Texas, you knew the TCBY drive-through (your flavor preference was peanut butter, obviously, but you took whatever). In Ohio, you knew the Chase drive-through, where a teller would return Dad's receipt with a cookie for you.


You were always protecting us
(here with Nicole).
And Mom and Dad knew that when Nicole and I had boys over, there was no way anything was going to happen with you around. The four of us couldn't even hug one another without your getting in a tizzy because you were not involved in the action.


I have so many fond memories of you. It seems like every time I think of you I remember a new one: The time you realized the lid to your cookie jar was open and you kept sneaking into the pantry to help yourself. The time you got out of the backyard and went for a stroll without our knowing, and then showed up at our back gate when you were finished (thank God nothing happened to you). The time Mom and Dad surprised me in College Station by coming to one of my softball games, I saw you proudly prancing down the path before I realized it was Mom and Dad holding your leash. The time you were a puppy and we and your brother Hogan's family took you guys on a walk around the neighborhood, without leashesyou were so small we had to pick you up near the storm drains for fear of your falling in. The time you sat outside the bathroom when I had a stomach bug, and then got up on the bed with me, which you weren't allowed to do because we were at Mimi and Bobo'sbut you knew I needed it. The time you swallowed Nicole's scrunchie and we were so scared that it wouldn't come out the other end (it did). The time when you were still being trained and I stubbed my toe, yelling "shit!" and you sat obediently while staring at me, looking for recognition on a job well doneit was hard not to laugh at that one.

I loved coming home to you. At our house in Texas, our back gate had an imperfectionone piece of wood was shorter than the others. I don't think we even noticed it until you came around. In fact, I think it was there just for you. As a puppy, you used to be able to stick your nose, eyes, and a little bit of a paw through the slab to see what was going on. So as we came up the walkway, we could see you getting excited for us to open the gate. As you got older, only your nose would fit, and that was pretty darn cute, too.

You slept through storms. You sat in the cul-de-sac as the neighborhood watched fireworks on the Fourth of July. You loved going for walks. You loved when we'd ride our bikes and you could run alongside us. You were a Texas dog but you shocked us all when you showed us you liked the snow, too. You were fearless. You were happy.


You and Hogan.
But don't get me wrong, you weren't perfect. You barked a lot. You hated other dogs (except for Hogan). You didn't particularly like children, though you were never mean about it. But those are really our faults. When it came to barking, we (okay, everyone but Mom) didn't discipline you enough. And we never really had you around other dogs for you to realize you, in fact, weren't the only dog in the worldyou were very much an alpha dog. Later on in life, when someone with a dog would come up to you, we'd always warn them that you didn't like dogs. If the person wanted to come up, fine, but with the dog, not so much. It was stressful when you came for Christmas and Nicole and Bobby had Dapper. But it was also really funny the one time you guys got along and started chasing each other around the houseDapper realized you couldn't get under the bed, much to your chagrinwhich was hilarious for us to watch.

You used to be able to fit under the bed.
Bailey, we each loved you in our own way, and you certainly had your own bonds with each of us. But it's hard to deny the special bond I felt with you. I picked you out of that truck. You sat on my lap on the car ride home. We stuck it out together that first night. I cried miserably at school when Mom thought we might have to give you back because you had chow chow in you and she was worried about your temperament (turns out, as one of your vets told us, labs and chows are great mixes because they generally pick up the personality of labs and the smartness of chows). I felt like you were mine first, but I eventually learned to share, and you became not just the family dog but also a part of the family. Over fourteen years, we definitely grew up together.


  
  

  


You were there on my
first day of high school and
Nicole's first day of middle school.


When Mom and Dad told me you were gone, Mom said, "You picked a good one." She's wrong. I picked a great one. I know Mike and I will get a dog or two of our own, and I hope he or she has even half of the great qualities you had. You will be hard to top, if it's even possible. All I know is any dog from here on out has big paws to fill. And to take Mom's joke, hopefully he or she won't have psychological issues with always being compared to you.


I know it's a cliché when people say you're in a better place, but I also know it's true. I hope wherever you are, you're happy and you're telling all the other dogs (if other dogs are even allowed in your happy place) how awesome you had it and how much you were loved while you were here.


And even though you're not physically with us anymore, there's no doubt that we will always love you. Thank you for fourteen years.





Such a short lives our pets have to spend with us,
and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day.
It is amazing how much love and laughter they bring into our lives,
and even how much closer we become with each other because of them.
—John Grogan, Marley & Me

I wish there was a better option, but this is the
only picture we have with all five of us.




Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Learning to Love Reading Again

I know, what a silly thing for someone in publishing to say. But it's true, despite the fact that my job revolves around reading, I found that I wasn't loving it as much as I used to. And unless I was reading for work (either at work or at home for freelance), I wasn't reading at all.

Growing up, I read a lot. It started with the Nancy Drew and Baby-sitters Club series, and moved on to R. L. Stine and Christopher Pike before getting to school assignments . . . that I really didn't read. It's true. I remember reading only a handful of school-assigned books from beginning to end: Romeo and Juliet; To Kill a Mockingbird; The Color Purple; The Scarlet Letter; Alas, Babylon; Othello; and maybe Lord of the Flies. That's it. Oh, and that includes college.

I'll let the record screech for a second.

It wasn't that I didn't love to read, I did. I read a lot in the summer and when my family traveled throughout the year. I just hated being told how to read and when to read. I hated writing papers on how I interpreted the book, only to be told how I misinterpreted something. (I'm talking to you, TA from my sophomore English class at A&M, the only person to give me a C on an English paper, ever. And yes, I did read the whole thing, though the "whole thing" refers to a short story that I read from beginning to end.) I became a fabulous BSer as I navigated eight years of writing papers on things I had skimmed or read partially. It was a skill, a skill I was both proud and ashamed of because I knew I was missing out on some great literature.

So when I graduated college, before I even thought about getting into publishing, I sought to rectify this. Now I could read at my pace. I could interpret the book the way I wanted to. I bought many of the books I should have read by then: Catch-22, Fahrenheit 451, The Catcher in the Rye, The Grapes of Wrath, The Great Gatsby, 1984, Slaughterhouse Five, etc. And when I decided to move to New York, I packed all these books, plus others I owned and wanted to read or re-read, in a box that my parents would bring up in a couple of months.

When my parents and my books arrived, I decided first up would be Pride and Prejudice, which I had tried reading at least three times, and just couldn't get into. I think I made it the farthest this last attempt, but still nowhere close to finishing it. (I actually think this is the book that prompted the whole not-reading thing in high school, because it's the first one I can remember not enjoying at all as we read and discussed it in class.) Anyway, tried that, and then got distracted with other things, for instance, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out, so I felt the need to reread the first six books for the umpteenth time before reading the conclusion to the series. I can reread this series a million times and never tire of it.

And when I moved out of my grandparents' place, it was decided that I didn't have the space to take my new library with me. So, for "safe keeping," my grandfather moved the box to his basement, which is much like the Island of Misfit Toys—what goes down there rarely returns.

Two years into my job, I started freelancing quite a bit. I love freelancing. A lot. It allows me to read books in a variety of genres, some good, some bad. But it also creates some issues when it comes to time management (balancing a full-time job, a social life, and a side gig is hard enough, without trying to find time for more reading). When I tried to read a book for fun, I'd:
  • get interrupted by a new freelancing job, thus having to put down the book I was reading for pleasure for at least two weeks, if not more (freelancing always comes in waves, I usually have two jobs at a time or none at all).
  • have a hard time remembering I was reading for pleasure and would therefore look for things that I'd mark up as if it was a freelancing job.
  • find that after reading at work, then freelancing for a couple of weeks straight, I didn't really want to read something as much as I wanted to watch TV.

Enter The Book Thief, which I started reading on the plane coming back from California. It was a long flight so I got through more than half of the book, a point in books that I wasn't getting to before without being interrupted. It took a chapter or two to get into it but once I did, I really liked it, and I knew at that point I might as well finish, so I slugged through it, even with freelance going on.

Then I started Before I Go to Sleep on my way to Mississippi. Again, enjoying it and getting to a substantial point before getting back to the daily grind of work and freelance. So I finished that one too.

And then I changed jobs and my commute doubled. Before, it took me thirty minutes to get to work, and most of that was on foot. Now it takes me an hour, most of which is on public transportation. With enough time to do some damage, I started reading Hunger Games. And if you've read Hunger Games, and liked it, I'm sure you know how quickly you can gobble that one up. (Ha, just realized I used a pun unintentionally, so now I'm going to leave it in.) While waiting for the second and third books to arrive, I read Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, which I didn't love, but didn't hate either. Parts were really good and interesting, and other parts felt like filler, but nonetheless, I didn't put it down like I had done with other books. Then came Catching Fire, which I promised myself I would not start until I had finished the freelance project I had. Oops. I wanted to read just two chapters, and ended up spending all night Saturday (the weekend of Irene), reading and finishing the book. Back to freelance, and then for the commute on Monday, I started Mockingjay.

It appears I have not only found my love of reading again, I've found a balance as well. I am now reading Stephen King's The Stand, which is going to take me the next month, at least, to finish (it's more than 1,100 pages and I have two freelancing jobs at home, so I'm reading on the commute only). And that's okay. I don't have to be a fast reader, I just have to keep all the stories/author's stytles separate in my head. I started this one because it's one of Mike's favorite books, and I figured after he read Harry Potter for me, I should read something of his—and I'm not quite ready to jump into the Dark Tower or Game of Thrones series. I haven't been able to completely bench my freelancer's cap, though I try not to intentionally look for the errors. (Once I spotted a typo four pages in, it was hard not to notice some other errors in The Stand.)

I feel like the long-ago version of me. The one that went straight from one book to the next without thinking twice or taking a break. I'm happy that I'm reading for fun, that I really do find pleasure in it again, even after spending all day, and most of the times all night, reading and editing. I'm happy that I can finally participate in goodreads.com and not feel like a failure, or suggest new books to people when I'm asked. Or, you know, not feel like the black sheep of the publishing industry, hiding a deep, dark shameful secret.

I'm excited to go back to my original goal of reading all the books on my years' long list. So . . . does anyone want to go on a treasure hunt with me in my grandparents' basement?

Friday, September 9, 2011

"Where Were You on 9/11?"

No need for a creative title this week, I think the fact that it's been ten years since the 9/11 attacks is on everyone's minds.

This week already feels strange. Mike and I haven't really been sleeping, and on Wednesday morning we were both up at 5 a.m.—too awake to fall back asleep, but too tired to get up and do anything productive. So we found ourselves on the couch watching television. Except the only things on our DVR were the interviews with Rudy Giuliani and George W. Bush on the National Geographic Channel. So we watched them—no, it's not a particularly great way to start your day (and the fact that we had no hot water two hours later didn't help either). But it's not like we can avoid the anniversary, it's all over the city, in the papers, on the news and radio, in passing conversations, and in storefront windows:



As if this week couldn't feel more strange, last night there was an announcement of a "credible though unconfirmed" terrorist threat. Not that this came as a surprise with the ten-year anniversary of 9/11 approaching. And on the way to work this morning, as the trains slowed, coming to stops in between stations, I could see people looking up from their books, e-readers, and iPods to see what was going on, to see if anyone thought this stop was any different than a routine "We are delayed due to traffic, we will be moving momentarily." Turns out it was different, and there was a police investigation at 34th street and all trains would be by bypassing this station. I haven't heard what the investigation was for, so obviously it has since turned out to be nothing serious.

I can remember that ten years ago, my high school newspaper column following 9/11 started/contained something like this: Our grandparents remember where they were during Pearl Harbor. Our parents remember where they were when JFK was assassinated. And now, our generation will remember where we were on 9/11. (Obviously there's a bit more overlap with grandparents and parents remembering 9/11 too, but my high school self didn't address that.)

And this week has brought back that proverbial question: "Where were you on 9/11?"

I was in high school, a senior, and I kept my books in the newspaper room instead of my locker. After first period, I swung by to pick up my World History text, only to walk in on my teacher, Mrs. Hall, watching something on the TV. She was the one to break the news to me, she was the one I was with when I saw the towers smoking.

I walked to my second period class in a daze, trying to process what I had seen on TV. No announcements had been made yet and not many of my fellow classmates knew.

When the bell rang for second period to begin, the principal came on to make an announcement about what was happening in New York. We were told to go about our day and more announcements would be made. I then made an announcement of my own: I would not be taking the test my teacher was preparing to pass out. I was told life would go on and that I would take the test. I explained to her that I was from New York, that I had family who worked down in the Financial District (thankfully not in the WTC), and that I couldn't possibly think about a world history test when world history was changing right now. This is one of the only times I can remember talking back to a teacher.

I don't remember taking the test. I might have. I might have stared at it and written down nothing. I do remember the bell ringing for the class to end and I went straight to my sister's third period classroom (she was a freshman that year). It was our routine, I had to pass by her classroom to get to mine, so I would wait for her to show up so I could say hello, give her a hug, wish her luck on a test, etc. This day felt so much different.

I remember we were both scared as we hugged. I promised her I would get a hold of Mom to see if our family was okay, and I assured her that I thought they'd be fine. I told her I would call Dad to see if he was okay too. (There were all sorts of rumors as to what cities were also going to be hit. Houston, with its oil companies, was one of the rumored cities. . . . Where this rumor originated, I couldn't tell you, but it made me uneasy nonetheless to know that my dad wasn't working from home that day.)

I had two periods of newspaper, which meant I had two hours of watching the news, not that I enjoyed what I was seeing. It was scary as shit, I think we can all admit that. I cried a lot. I watched a city I loved, a city I identified with, change so drastically—the lives, the skyline, the attitude. I was able to use the phone in the newspaper room to call my mom, who had heard from my grandparents and aunts and uncles about the rest of the family. All were okay. We couldn't get a hold of my dad, since phone lines were so clogged up, but by that point we had realized that all the other cities rumored to be hit, were just that, rumors. I was thankful, though I mourned for those who were not so fortunate.

After school, I went to work at the photo lab at Eckerd's. I ran film from a disposable camera through the developer, and then I nearly fell off my chair when I put the photos through the printer. There was a panoramic photo of the New York skyline with the Statue of Liberty in the foreground. I cried some more. When the gentleman who had taken the photo came in, he looked at his photos and stopped at that one. "I was just there last week," he told me. I explained to him that my family was from New York, and asked if he would mind if I made a copy of his photo for myself. He said that was fine. So I did, and I still have it.

I went home and hugged my parents and sister. I called the families of my new friends at NYU since I couldn't get a hold of either of them on their cell phones and I wanted to make sure they were okay. They were. And then we watched the news, and sat in horror as we saw all the images from the day.

Now it's 2011, ten years later. I find it ironic that on 9/11, I was a production editor at my school's newspaper. As I remember telling Mrs. Hall, I thought she had made up the position when she made one of my friends the editor in chief and the other the copy editor but didn't want to leave me behind without an editor's position. She did make it up, there hadn't been a production editor before, but I've obviously come to realize over the last four years that a production editor is, in fact, a real role in life . . . obviously. Back then, I thought I'd end up back in New York (which is silly because I originally went to school for marine biology, so had I continued on that path, why would I have been in New York? I guess my subconscious knew I was never going to do marine biology.) Now I am working in a building that was part of the blocked-off area during the days following the attacks, a building that had views of what was happening down at World Trade Center.

When people up here ask me, "Where were you on 9/11?" I just reply, "High school." Because I'm no longer in far-away Houston, I'm at the epicenter. I live somewhere where a lot of people didn't have the day I had, they didn't consider themselves fortunate. Where I had only possible brushes with personal tragedy, people around me now lost family, friends, and coworkers that day.

It's already been a weird week. And I wonder what Sunday will be like. I get chills thinking about the hush that could fall over the neighborhoods during the moment of silence. And then I wonder if NYC is capable of actually being silent. Metaphorically, NYC and its residents are as loud as ever. It mourned, it's rebuilding, and on Sunday, we'll remember.

Texas A&M's Red, White, and Blue-out in 2001. I wish I could have been there.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wake Me Up When September Ends

It's hard to believe the summer has come and gone, and yet I feel like I'm already wishing away September, and the month after that, and the month after that. . . .

August has been rough and I haven't really been in the blog-writing mood. Generally my mind is always thinking, always writing, but not these last thirty-one days. Since my announcement about the new job, I've come up with only one idea for a blog post, and I couldn't even summon the energy to put it together. And then today it was like everything cleared up and I had two ideas, one of which I am writing now, and maybe I'll get to the other two if I get another bout of writer's block.

It's been a summer of "what's next?" With all of our wedding-related trips, Mike and I were constantly in a state of "what's coming up?" We came back from Denver and I didn't even bother to unpack my suitcase (though this really isn't something out of the ordinary), because I knew in four days I was going to be repacking it to go to Dallas. And then I came back from Dallas and I was hit with reality: there were no more "what's next" moments and I had to face the present. And I wasn't particularly ready to do that after spending the previous two work weeks in over my head, working in the office till 9:00 or even 10:00.

So what did I do instead? I thought about what's next anyway, even though there's nothing really planned: where Mike and I could go for our first anniversary (how quickly time flies). I thought about trips Mike and I would like to take next year. I dreamed about being at my grandparent's house in Spain, relaxing on the beach with the family. There was a lot of thinking and picturing and hoping and daydreaming . . . but there wasn't a whole lot of living in the present.

And these past two days I got a healthy dose of the present that made me not so healthy. I realized I am now a month into the new job and I will be expected to start really picking up new responsibilities and understanding how everything works here. I wouldn't say I have a big ego (as Mike accidentally called it last night), but professionally, I do have pretty high self-esteem, and I felt that plummeting this week as I was repeatedly told I was doing things wrong. I have to admit, I'm not really used to hearing those words. At least not as often as I have been. I'm not used to redoing things a second, third, and maybe even a fourth time because of my errors.

The thing is, I wasn't ever told how to do it right, a lot of this has been trial and error. And my new colleagues have been very patient with helping me out so that I can grasp everything and transition between the two publishing houses. While working on the books is the same, there are a lot of details that aren't and that part's been super stressful.

Realizing that I'm starting from the beginning in some areas, and I don't know everything, I became incredibly anxious, probably more anxious than I've ever been. I was worried I was doing everything wrong. That even when I redid something a second or third time, it still wasn't right. I was worried about people thinking I was dumb, about my boss regretting the decision to hire me, about whether I made the right decision to leave Harper.

I spent the last two nights walking down Bleeker Street while crying on the phone with my mom.

I got home and didn't want to talk at all. I picked up some sushi (food therapy, anyone?), watched the Yankees game, and did freelance. I was mentally exhausted. My wonderful husband came home with flowers and gave me a back rub, and he let me cry some more.

And then I woke up this morning and said, "enough."

Both my mom and Mike told me I needed to meet with my boss, that I was possibly stressing out, and making myself anxious, over nothing. The last two days were spent redoing things and getting behind in my own schedule, but today I saw a light at the end of the tunnel and I didn't feel like I was in over my head. I met with my boss to better discuss what was going on and where she wanted me to be. Before I even got to the point of how anxious I had been, she told me I was doing a fantastic job and that she was glad I was here. (So yes, Mike and Mom, you were right, I was getting worked up over nothing.)

It's hard being your own worst critic. And it's hard being a perfectionist. I was so worried about what people were thinking about me, how they felt about my work, that I forgot to trust myself. I know what I'm doing. Maybe not every detail, maybe not every system, but I didn't know them at Harper when I first started, either. I just have to keep reminding myself of that. Reminding myself to ask for help and that's okay.

I'm not saying I'm going to stop dreaming about what's next, but I won't use it as an excuse to deal with what's now. I'm going to need that escape every now and again because I don't think this will be the end of the insecurities. I'm just going to handle them better. Less crying. Less anxiety. Less doubting.

For now, I'm going to get through these next two days, take the long weekend to regroup, and hopefully, come next Tuesday, I can start the work week with a fresh outlook. I'm mentally and physically exhausted, so it's off to bed for now. Where I can dream about all the beaches I want, and that's okay.

Wake me up when September begins.




Thursday, August 4, 2011

When It Rains, It Pours

Whew, it's been a while. I knew the month of July was going to be crazy, but I wasn't expecting it to be this crazy. I thought I'd surely get in a blog post or two along the way, but before I knew it, July was over and August was here, shepherding in a whole new month of  fun and commitments . . . and not a post in sight.

It seemed like every weekend in July contained something, and when Mike and I would sit down to discuss what we had going on during the week, we'd realize every night was filled with something: kickball, softball, birthdays, happy hours, etc. Sure, these were all fun things, but those fun things add up to wanting a weekend  to catch up . . . but that certainly wasn't in our cards with weddings, showers, and barbecues. We knew going into the month that there wouldn't be much downtime, we just didn't realize that I also would be throwing a major wrench into our routine.

Remember two months ago when I announced Mike found a new job? You know, that post where I tricked you all into thinking I was pregnant? Yeah, well, the job fairy has struck us again. . . . I'm now a senior production editor at Penguin.

Let me just say that I was not looking for a new job; I was happy and comfortable at Harper—with my job and my friends. But sometimes when you're the most comfortable in life, you're thrown a curveball to see if you can hit it. I saw a job posting for my now-current postition at Penguin and debated whether I wanted to apply. It was a step up from my role at Harper, and I'd be working more consistently on hardcover books (I worked on a few at Harper, but they were always design related). But my commute would be twice as long. I would be the last-in, and in a wavering industry you worry on being the first-out. And Mike and I wouldn't be able to meet up for lunches now that our offices were so close.

I weighed the pros and cons and then started updating my résumé . . . it couldn't hurt to apply, right?

I applied the Thursday before July 4th weekend. I had a call from HR on Friday with an interview set up for the following Wednesday. OK, I had the long weekend to think about it.

Mike and I spent that weekend hanging around the city, enjoying what would be our (first and) last free weekend of the month by trying some new restaurants, visiting the Harry Potter exhibit, and seeing Super 8.

I interviewed with HR on Wednesday and was called on Thursday to set up an interview with my would-be hiring manager for the next morning. Everything was moving quicker than I expected.

Friday I met with the hiring manager, and I got a good vibe. I knew over the weekend I'd have to really consider my options should Penguin extend an offer—it didn't feel like I'd have a lot of time to think about it if everything was moving this fast. And there really wasn't a lot of time that weekend, either: Friday night was Kunal and Smiksha's Sangeet in Jersey. Saturday was my cousins Ali and Zoey's graduation party in Westchester, and Sunday was Kunal and Smiksha's all-day wedding ceremony and reception back in Jersey.

Me and Mike at Kunal and Smiksha's Wedding

 Then came Monday. And an offer. An offer which I obviously decided to take. Tuesday was the dreadfull tell-the-boss day. Wednesday was fairly rough as I started figuring out what I needed to tie up before I left in two weeks. Thank goodness Ginna swung by the office around 7:30 to pick me up or I would have been there even later. Then Thursday I was off to Mississippi for Hilary and Nick's wedding.

My sister, me, Josephine, and Ginna at Hilary's wedding
(Unfortunately, my photos with Hilary are still on my camera.)

I had a fantastic time in Mississippi. I get to see Hilary so rarely that I cherish every moment with her. Since I got there on Thursday, I was able to spend some extra time with just her, Nick, and her family, which was really nice. Josephine and Hai arrived from Houston late Thursday night/early Friday morning, and though I was exhausted, Joey and I stayed up till 3:30 a.m. catching up (I would learn later that this is nothing compared to Hai's normal hours). Friday was Hilary's bachelorette party. On Saturday, Nicole, Bobby, and Mike arrived, and we had the rehearsal and BBQ. And then on Sunday we had the wedding! Monday was a traveling day I would rather soon forget, so we'll just skip right over that. . . .

Back in the city, on Tuesday we saw Harry Potter and the Deatly Hallows Part 2, Wednesday was Ginna's birthday, my sister was in town so we saw How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying on Thursday, on Friday my parents took the family out to dinner to celebrate my upcoming birthday, Saturday was a barbecue in Tarrytown (and then another Harry Potter viewing in 3D Imax with Dad), and Sunday was my cousin Jennifer's baby shower.

Tired yet?

On Monday I had a going-away happy hour; Tuesday was softball; Wednesday was my final day at Harper and then Mike took me out for an early birthday dinner at Benihana's; Thursday was my birthday—but I ended up going back to Harper because there was a surprise bridal shower for Amanda, followed by drinks and 16 Handles to celebrate my birthday; and on Friday, Mike and I went to the Yankees game (I am no longer allowed at Yankee home games when the Orioles are in town, I am 0-3, and it's usually the only game the Yanks lose in the series). We were supposed to be heading to Cape Cod for the weekend with Andrea and Brad, but with my new job starting on Monday, it was too stressful to figure out the timing of getting there and back. So Saturday we (finally) relaxed before heading to Jim and Ethan's barbecue, and then on Sunday we went to the outlets so I could get some new clothes for the new job.

Which leads me to this week!

Monday was my first day at Penguin and so far it is going well. It's comforting to realize that not much changes from house to house—at least in regards to working on the actual books. There are definitely some style differences, and there are going to be system differnces, both of which I'm trying to pick up as quickly as possible. But essentially, what I loved doing at Harper, I'll be doing here. My boss and department members seem great, and I look forward to meeting more people around the floor, because I really don't know how to function at a 9-5 job without having friends nearby. Every now and then you just need the coffee break, you know?

Time will tell whether this was the right decision, though I think it was a good move. I got out right as the Rupert Murdoch stuff started and as the publisher of the Harper imprints I worked on resigned. Surely there are going to be some changes there that I'll be missing. I'm no longer at the same job where people knew me as a fresh-faced kid right out of college and it's nice that people at Penguin will know me only by one name here (as opposed to Harper where I was still working under maiden and married last names). I already miss my old work friends, but they assure me that my leaving means we'll see each other more outside of work because we can't be lazy and just say, "See you tomorrow."

There's also a little bit of irony involved in my job switch. For years I wanted to be a marine biologist, even going to Sea World camp two years in a row during high school. (Laugh all you want at my nerdiness, it was awesome.) There are still days that I wonder "what if" and miss the idea of working with animals. But organic chemistry was the death of that dream, and eventually I found my way back to English—as most of my family expected I would. Now I find myself working at a company called Penguin (an animal I got to work and swim with at camp), and my new subway stop has marine mammal murals:






This weekend Mike and I will be in Denver for Jay and Holly's wedding, flying back on a red-eye Sunday night/Monday morning (something I booked long before I ever thought I'd be starting my second week of work at a new job). Then Thursday I leave for Dallas for Natalie and Landon's wedding. And after that things should slow down a bit as summer winds down . . .

. . . that is, if I can get out of jury duty at the end of the month. ;)

When it rains it pours, right?!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Waking Up the Monster

That monster is me, by the way.

I am not a morning person, and that's the polite way of saying I'm NOT a morning person. Plain and simple. I've never been one: I'd rather stay up late than wake up early; I'd rather spend another ten minutes sleeping than take ten minutes to actually do my hair; I'd rather frantically look for clean clothes in the morning than wake up all of those two minutes earlier to plan out what to wear a bit better (this is a little easier in the summer when I live in dresses and sandals).

When I was a senior in high school, my sister was in her freshman year. This meant she could wake up earlier, take her shower, and wake me up when she was finished. . . . I had a reason to sleep in more because she was in the bathroom. Regardless of the fact that we had two other showers in the house. This does not mean that when it was time to wake me up I listened, it usually took a few (sometimes loud) requests to get me up. And at 6:45 she would be at the back door waiting for me: backpack on, my keys in her hand, her foot tapping, and her face suggesting I get a move on it. She clearly got the morning-person genes in the family.

In college I always signed up for the later classes if possible, but let's be honest, there's really nothing unique with this statement. This is just the college way of life.

And now every morning, when Mike leaves for work, he kisses a half-stunned, barely awake wife before he walks out the door. He says he can tell which days I'll get up on time and which days I won't based on my reaction, my body position in bed (Am I sprawled out and using all of the surface area? Am I still on my stomach? Am I half-buried in pillows?), whether my eyes are really open or not when I say "Good-bye" and "I love you," and how wide open my mouth is since I'm, sadly, a mouth breather. (There you have it, blog friends, I just admitted to you that I am one of the ugliest/least graceful sleepers out there, but then again, some of my college friends already knew this as they have said Sid from Ice Age reminds them of me . . . awesome.) I was notorious for going back to sleep after Mike said good-bye to me even though I should just get up then and there (I have been much better at getting up when he leaves, now that Mike has switched jobs and leaves the apartment a little later than he used to). But sometimes I'll still lie there for a few extra minutes because it's just so nice to have that extra time to myself without hearing him getting ready, and I can have all the space and pillows I want.

So you can imagine why Mike laughed at me two nights ago for a good solid minute when I told him Ginna and I were going to a spin class . . . before work . . . at 6:30 a.m. the next morning. I think it was the pure determination to prove him wrong (and the idea that Ginna would be ringing our buzzer to wake up my lazy tush if I wasn't downstairs) that got me out of bed yesterday morning.

I think I like spinning. I think I may even like the whole working-out-before-work thing (Ginna, read "may"). The class was less full, the machines available. I got a great sweat and then went home and showered, made coffee, ate breakfast, made the bed, AND did my hair.

Does this mean I'm a morning convert? Nope. Let's not get crazy here, folks, it's only happened once so far, and it's very hard to break a twenty-six-year-old habit. But then again, I'm making the bed every day. And I had a just-as-long habit of not doing that consistently. Not to mention, I've only bought my breakfast three times this month (and that's only because we were out of milk). So that means I'm taking the five to ten extra minutes each morning to at least eat breakfast, if not make it (cereal seems to be the easiest option, obviously, but I also love making oatmeal from scratch)--and this was another hard habit to break because it was so easy to pick up breakfast on the way to work and eat it at my desk.

I wanted to work out this morning, and had planned on it, but when Ginna had to bail for a legitimate excuse, I decided to sleep for another hour instead (not a legitimate excuse). The last two nights I was so worried about not waking up on time that I woke up every hour thinking it had to be time to get up already, which caused a very disruptive sleeping pattern. And while I had a lot more energy yesterday than I thought I would (I thought I'd hit a wall around 2 or 3, but it didn't happen), that energy was still around at 11:00 when I wanted to be asleep so I had enough sleep before waking up the next morning. Hopefully tonight won't be as bad, as Ginna and I are taking a beginner's yoga class tomorrow morning.

I know that this will be a good thing. I won't have to worry about working out after work, which I always hate doing because I don't want to eat dinner at nine. And of course, even when I think I'm going to have a slow week, my nights always seem to fill up (like this week: seeing Company with Andrea last night, Brad's birthday tonight, kickball tomorrow, and softball on Thursday), not to mention the fact that I have a freelance job due on Friday and one due next Wednesday, so all the hours I am not doing other stuff need to be spent on freelance work (probably should be the other way around, but hey, I need a life, too!).

The only bad thing I can see is my morning good-bye kiss. This may sound cheesy (okay, it does sound cheesy), but I love when Mike kisses me good-bye in the morning, even though it sometimes means waking me up to do so. There's just something so comforting about it and it's a part of our routine. It felt weird being the one to kiss him good-bye yesterday morning . . . though I'm sure he's not complaining about it. He got to experience that extra time in bed that I so enjoy--now he'll be the one sprawling out and using all the pillows--at least a few days a week.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Daddy's Little Girl

With Father’s Day approaching this Sunday, I have decided to once again pull from the memory vault (aka the external hard drive) to honor my daddy. (That’s right, I'm nearly twenty-seven and yes, I still do call him Daddy. Or Pops. Or Popadoodle. Like I’ve said, we’re a family of multiple names/nicknames.)

This is a biographical story I had to write for one of my English classes. Some of you may recall the second paragraph (my father used it during his Father of the Bride speech).

Enjoy! And happy Father’s Day to my friends and family with kids, and especially to my dad! Love you, Daddy. Oh, and get out the tissues. Because let’s face it, despite the fact that you’ve read this story many, many times, you'll still cry. . . . We have that in common too, after all.


I can remember the way the new rosin bag smelled as I tossed it gently into the air. The white dust billowed in my right hand and the chalky smell permeated my nostrils. I can remember turning my back to the plate and taking a deep breath, trying to compose myself. My heart continued to beat faster and faster, despite my mind telling it I wasn’t nervous. I can remember the weatherbeautifully sunny with just the right amount of heat. A few sweat beads rolled down my cheekwere they from the heat of the sun or the heat of the moment?

I can remember why I was there and how everything was riding on me. I can remember. . . .

I was a tomboy. Really, what girl wasn’t at some point in her life? My hair fell to the middle of my back, and yet I tied it into a ponytail every day. If I didn’t have to go to school, I’d throw on my Yankee cap . . . maybe even backwards. I guess you could say I was the son my father would never haveand I was proud of it. After all, I’m an identical replica of my father, all the way from our blue eyes to the way our toes naturally curl. The only thing I’m missing is the Y-chromosome.

My father and I have always shared a common bond: our love of baseball. He had me in Yankee uniforms before I had hair or the ability to speak. There was a glove and a ball in my hand as soon as I could walk. But he never forced baseball on meI loved every minute of it from the very beginning.

When I was five, I started playing softball. You know the kind—coach-pitch with all the little girls on the field using their fathers’ first gloves (which are way too big for their petite hands). They all wear those trucker hats with the brim flat as a board and their stirrup pants to their belly buttons. Yup, I was one of those girls.

I played coach-pitch softball in New York for three years and then my family moved to Virginia. The first thing my father and I did (after unpacking, of course), was to find out about softball leagues. Fourth grade was the first year after coach-pitch, and in Virginia, girls didn’t play fast-pitch until high school. So my father signed us up—me as a player and himself as a coach.

When our team was assembled, my father realized he had twelve girls but no pitcher and no one who wanted to try since the plate was only forty-five feet away from the mound. I would be lying if I said I didn’t think about getting hit by a line drive that close to the plate (and trust me, it did happen more than once). But my dad needed a pitcher, so I learned how to pitch.

My dad brags that, to this day, I’m the best slow-pitch pitcher he’s ever seen—a natural. I think he just has to say that because he’s my dad. Regardless, I cannot deny that I was a natural and that I loved pitching! Every play started with the ball in my hand and every play ended with the ball being tossed back to me. . . . You could say I had a hand in every play.

While I was on a recreational team a year later, a scout asked whether I would be interested in a select softball tournament league. Double the softball in one season? I was in heaven. And it didn’t hurt that I had a scout watching me—I could hear the Yankees calling for their first female player.

I tried out for the select team the Lady Renegades as a pitcher. However, the coach, Robin, didn’t see a need for another pitcher since we already had one. That was okay with me, because as much as I loved pitching, I loved playing the game even more. I was just thankful that my father had conditioned me to play each position so I wouldn’t be a bench warmer.

Before each game (and we would usually play two to four a weekend), I would warm up by pitching with my dad, just in case they needed me. And every game, when the line-up was called, I found myself in a position other than pitcher, usually center field. My dad used to tell me that center field was like the pitcher of the outfield, you have to back up everyone and you get to call off the other players for fly balls. I could deal with that until Robin needed me to pitch.

Robin did need me eventually. During one of our games, our pitcher gave up a grand slam to the most gargantuan ten-year-old girl I had ever seen. When I ran into the dugout, Robin pulled me aside and asked if I was ready to pitch this game. I bravely told her that I had been ready to pitch all season, keeping the butterflies in my stomach hidden. This was my chance to prove myself as a pitcher, and if I screwed it up, I might not get another chance. In my determined ten-year-old mind, this was a life-or-death situation.

Two innings later, Robin finally pulled the other pitcher and I walked to the mound, ready to go with a rosin bag in my hand and determination written on my face. I stepped on the mound, kicked it like I had seen the big leaguers do, flipped the ball a few times in my glove, and then turned around to see the batter I was facing. The monstrous girl who had hit the grand slam was wearing the same look of determination. She was cocky. She slammed the plate a few times with her bat and gave me a sneer worthy of any major league player. I swear she was considering pointing to left field.

I can’t remember if the first pitch was a ball or a strike. But it doesn’t matter; I sent her back to the dugout with that stupid look wiped straight off her face. I had struck out my first batter and their biggest hitter. I tried not to let it go to my head, but I couldn’t help but smile when I saw her getting a warning from the umpire for stomping back to the dugout and throwing her bat. It felt good to be in control—I couldn’t have been happier. I can remember looking to my right at my father in the dugout—I don’t think he could have been any happier either.

I thought I had solidified my fate as a starting pitcher that day. And yet, the next weekend I found myself back in center field. Maybe I was just a clutch pitcher, used to get the team out of sticky situations.

That sticky situation occurred when our team headed to the state championship at the end of the summer. My father and I woke up at 5:30 a.m. and drove to Hampton, Virginia, for the ten-and-under state tournament. I had two new rosin bags in my batting bag, two packs of cotton candy Bubble Yum, and a few frozen water bottles—we were ready for the long haul. Dad, being the great guy that he is, let me sleep the whole way so that I was rested for the tournament.

For the first game, it was no surprise when I started in center field, as usual. But in the very first inning, our pitcher had already allowed two runs to score and the bases were loaded with one out. Robin walked out to the mound and waved me in from center field. She placed the ball in my hand and told me to get out of this situation. My heart was pounding as I warmed up with a few pitches. All the possible situations ran through my head: I could strike her out, I could walk her, I could lose the tournament for my team . . . the thoughts just wouldn’t stop. I looked over at my dad in the dugout, his arm raised above him, gripping the fence. Don’t disappoint him, I thought. I threw the first pitch, a strike! I looked back at my dad, who just winked and nodded back toward the game. Okay, here we go. We got out of that inning and ended up coming back to win the game, moving onto the next round.

I finally became a starting pitcher for the second game of the tournament. When our team won and moved on to the final round, Robin pulled me aside and asked if I had one more game in me. I could have pitched five more games I was so pumped! And so, with the state championship on the line, I walked back out to the mound.

It’s amazing what you can remember after many years. I can remember the defining moments in my “career.” Who I warmed up with, which batter I faced, the emotions I felt walking to the mound, and the way the dirt and the rosin bag smelled are all distinct episodes that I can remember. I can remember the championship game like it was yesterday, feeling the seams of the softball underneath my fingers as I turned around to look at my team. The girls were cheering me on, holding up two fingers to signal the amount of outs. I can remember that final out, how I fielded a short grounder and threw it to first base to end the game. I can remember my team running toward me as the Lady Renegades won the state championship.

And yet it’s amazing the things I can’t remember, like the details of the awards ceremony. I was in a tired yet euphoric state—after all, I had just pitched three games back to back to back. My coach was making some sort of speech, with a plaque in her hands. I wasn’t paying attention at all, even when my dad was pushing me toward my coach I was still oblivious to what was going on around me.

When Robin placed the award in my hands, she said something about me pitching more games in one day than I had pitched all season. I can remember that much—but I can’t remember anything more than that. I returned to my beaming dad and figured he could fill in the blanks later. I didn’t even look at the plaque until I got to the car.

***
Eleven years later, my father and I are sitting in Minute Maid Park, watching the first World Series game in the state of Texas between the Houston Astros and the Chicago White Sox. We’re talking about pitchers, how the fate of the game can ride on them. It all seems too familiar to me. I still play softball, recreationally, but I’m no longer a pitcher. I just couldn’t make the transition from slow-pitch to fast-pitch and back to slow-pitch. But when you play first base, you have a pretty good connection with the pitcher regardless . . . especially if you used to be in his or her shoes.

As we sit at the game, enjoying our common love of baseball, I think about the day my team won the state championship.

“Hey Dad, want to know something funny?”

“Always.”

“Remember when Robin was giving out awards at the state tournament?”

“Yeah.” (My dad’s always been a man of little words.)

“I was completely tuned out throughout it. I can’t remember her speech and I had no idea what the hell M.V.P stood for until you told me in the car on the way home.”

“Are you kidding me?”

“No! You try pitching three games in a state tournament and tell me if you think straight!” (Another thing my dad and I share is our sarcasm—my mom says that’s not one of our attributes.)

“Well that’s why I was never a pitcher.”

“Valid. Is it sad that that is the highlight of my life so far?”

I look at my dad, it’s about 1:30 a.m., the game is going into the thirteenth inning, but for this moment, it is just the two of us. I’m looking at my dad’s blue eyes, the same ones I inherited, as he smiles back at me.

“Erica, I’m fifty and it’s one of the highlights of mine.”


July-August 2009: Dad and I went on a nine-days, nine-games,
seven-cities baseball tour—starting in Chicago for the Astros at Cubs
(and ending at Yankee Stadium for a Red Sox-Yankees game).


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Denise Richards, California Dreamin', and Spider-Man . . . oh my!

Well, my blog friends, it has been a very eventful couple of weeks. I'm beginning to realize blogging is quite the slippery slope . . . you get caught up in life, and before you know it, you're trying to catch up on weeks (and weeks) of blogging. And now I'm trying to write this post as I catch up on So You Think You Can Dance episodes (which is really hard to do since you actually have to watch the show). Something tells me that two weeks' worth of blogging is going to take me two weeks to write (it's already been a week since I initially started) . . . so let's just jump into it, shall we?

Denise Richards
Why on earth is Denise Richards a part of my blog? Well . . . I received a freelance job the weekend before our big California trip, a rush job that was due in just a couple of days, and it just so happened to be Denise Richards's memoir. For a freelancer, getting your first celebrity memoir is huge (or at least it is for me). It means the production editor trusts you with something that is going to, most likely, do well on the bestseller lists. Because, let's face it, there's a reason why so many celebrities write juicy memoirs: they sell. Especially if an ex-spouse is making headlines for something (or for being) crazy and ridiculous.

There was a lot of inner turmoil as I was offered this job. I had just finished a project (that was very long and tiresome) and I swore that was my last before the trip. And this new one might come in on Friday . . . but it may not come in until Monday. In which case I was looking at some editing on the plane and FedExing the job back once we landed in L.A. Not to mention, even if it did come in on Friday, I would have to work around the Texas A&M/UT Chili Cookoff. What to do, what to do? Socially and personally, my mind was saying, "Don't do it. Don't take it. Take a break. You have plenty of other things you can be, and need to be, doing." But professionally? My mind couldn't imagine saying no. I don't think Mike or my mom had any doubt, as I weighed the pros and cons out loud to them, as to whether I'd take the job. They know I like to stretch myself thin, and, I guess (reluctantly), I know this about myself, as well.

Thankfully, the job did come in very late Friday afternoon. I worked all night. I woke up the next morning, ate chili and drank some beer (only some though, since I knew I needed a clear mind), while hanging out with some friends on top of a building looking out at the Empire State Building (I know, tough gig, right?). I came home, worked some more. I woke up Sunday, worked some more, and did my laundry so I'd have clothes to pack, if I ever got to packing. I went to work on Monday, came home and packed (the night before and not the morning of my departure? I am becoming a grown-up!), met Asad and Nada at Shake Shack for dinner before they went on their month-long traveling adventure, and came home and worked some more.

The hours passed. The Dr Peppers flowed. The Tootsie Roll Pops were demolished. Before I knew it, it was 6:30 a.m. and I was finally finishing up the book. Which, by the way, was pretty good. There's some Charlie Sheen discussing, of course, but there are also some fun stories about Denise's upbringing and her career decisions, as well as some tough emotional chapters as she experienced and mourned her mother's passing (Mike was worried when he saw me crying at one point, but I just couldn't help it).

So, if you buy the book, don't tell me if you find a typo. I pray you don't because I sure as heck pored over it. Though, when you work in publishing, you know, inevitably, something will always slip through. And yes, as a perfectionist, this is very hard to come to terms with.

I'm glad I took the book. It was a good read, and definitely needed after the project I had before it, which went very slowly. It's great for my résumé. And since it was a rush job, I got a better rate. And the contact person was someone new who I haven't worked with yet. Here's hoping he likes my work and will use me again/pass my name along to other production editors.

Now it's time for the next freelance project (seriously, I got one today, so I definitely need to write this post before I get caught up in that job). . . .

California Dreamin'

(A little note: I've been trying to add more photos, but they're coming in sideways--like this one--even though the originals aren't saved that way, and Blogger keeps freezing when I try to fix it . . . so you'll have to rely on Facebook. And now that my mom's back on Facebook, most of you who read this probably already saw the photos there, anyway.)

Now for the big chunk of this blog! Mike and I just spent a week in California as a nice kickoff to the summer. My friend Brittany was getting married up near San Jose over Memorial Day weekend and we decided we could do one of two things: fly to California for only Memorial Day weekend and pay for the more expensive tickets . . . or, fly a few days before, stay a few days after, and see a bit of California for around the same price(ish). Since Mike's never been to California, and I haven't been in years, we decided to do the latter and make a vacation of the trip.

After my all-nighter, Mike and I headed to JFK, where we were delighted to have a flight leave on time, something that doesn't seem to happen for the two of us often. Since I hadn't slept yet, it was pretty easy for me to do so for most of the six-hour flight. Though the times I did wake up, I was annoyed by what was happening in the row in front of us (which would be nothing compared to the flight home). I can only imagine how parents worry about entertaining their children for a long flight like that, especially when they have three of them under the age of nine (a guess). But the way to keep them entertained is not to give two an iPad and the other a portable DVD player and allow them to watch movies and play games without headphones. Side rant over.

We arrived in L.A. and were immediately met by palm trees, the sun, and seventy-degree weather. Hello, California! We picked up the rental car, drove to Mike's friend Tad's apartment, and found a place to park. Since Tad and his wife were out looking for an apartment, Mike and I decided to just aimlessly wander around Hollywood. We walked down Sunset Boulevard, found a place to eat, and then found and walked down Hollywood Boulevard (Tad said our walking to all of these locations was very New Yorker of us . . . I guess you can take the couple out of New York, but you can't take the New York out of the couple). We saw Kodak Theatre, and were surprised to see it was really a galleria-like mall with an outdoor shopping center as well. It will be interesting to watch the Oscars next year to see how it's set up, now that we know what it looks like. We went past Grauman's Chinese Theatre and saw some of the handprints and footprints. I'm not really sure I understand what the big deal is about getting a star on the Walk of Fame, it seems like just about everyone has one. But that's just my opinion. We had dinner with Tad and his wife, Monica, and then we crashed.

The next day we drove to the Griffith Observatory to get a closer look of the Hollywood sign. There were a lot of hiking trails that we would have loved to explore, but we were doing California on speed . . . and there just wasn't enough time.  Then lunch down in Santa Monica before heading to the pier. Even Mike, whose generally not a beach lover (okay, he's not a beach lover), loved Santa Monica. As one of his friends said, it's the fool's weather that wins people over, which I could totally see. I mean, even the bums have the right idea: If circumstances lead you to that sort of life, might as well do it in the sunshine. We hung out again that night with the newly married Tad and Monica (and when I say newly married, I mean they were just back from their honeymoon for like a week or two). And the next morning we were off. . . .

We drove about four and a half hours to the Hearst Castle, which is ri.dic.u.lous. Is it a castle? A museum? So many things, and we only saw bits of it (very smartly, California Parks breaks the tours up so you can't actually see everything without paying for multiple tours). The views were beautiful. I wanted to jump into the pool; I wanted to pick the fruit from the trees (an assortment of grapefruit, lemon, lime, and orange). We left and started driving the Pacific Coast Highway, even though the signs said it was closed in thirty miles. Assuming there would be a turnaround point, we decided to drive a bit anyway. There didn't seem to be one, and we eventually had to double back, but it was well worth it because we were able to see the elephant seal beach and drive up and around a winding mountain with only a barrier separating us and the Pacific Ocean. And very unlike my type-A style, we had no idea where we were staying that night. So we just stopped at a Marriott Courtyard along the way and hoped there was vacancy. There was, and we crashed once again.

On to Friday: We drove to San Francisco, which was supposed to be just a drive-by to pick up Stephanie on our way to Livermore for Brittany's wedding the next day. Only, we underestimated the power of David's persuasiveness. Within the first minutes, David had us convinced we needed to go to Napa. But more on that in a bit.

We drank Irish coffees at its U.S. origin, the Buena Vista Cafe. We walked up many hills to get to Lombard Street. I bought chocolate at Ghiradelli Square. And then we walked the Golden Gate Bridge, all 1.7 miles one way . . . and all 1.7 miles back. Therefore working off the Irish coffees, chocolate, and the pizza we would get later . . . right? Sure.

The next morning we decided to wake up at 6:45 and leave by 8:30 to arrive at Napa as the gates opened. We only got one winery in (but if you're only going to go to one out of hundreds, good to be at the one that Seth Meyers chooses to start his day . . . right? He was arriving as we were leaving.). Then we drove to Livermore to go to Brit and Rob's wedding. Which was beautiful. Their ceremony was in an old mission church, which was awesome. And as the first wedding Mike and I had been to since our own, I was emotional (in a good way, of course). The reception was a lot of fun, Mike made me dance a lot, shocker, I know. There was ice cream cake in both of our favorite flavors (mint chocolate chip for me, cookies and cream for him) and we got to spend time with Stephanie, Regina, and Lindsey.

Phew, holy moly. You're still with me?  A few of you? Well, you're my favorites.

The day after the wedding, we got to see the lovely bride and groom at breakfast before heading out to lunch with Steph, Regina, and another bridesmaid. We dropped Steph off at the airport after that, walked around AT&T Park since the Giants were out of town, and then joined David, Kristin, and Duke at their local park. Generally I love being go-go-go on trips, but it was really nice to relax in the park . . . which just so happens to be the park in the opening of Full House (at the very end) with the Painted Ladies. We drove to Sausalito that night for a fantastic seafood dinner, which was soooo yummy. I love fresh seafood.

On Monday we went to a baseball game. But not just any baseball game. The Yankees were in town! We couldn't have planned that better (well, we thought about arriving the Friday before the wedding and staying a week later instead, driving down the coast so we could also see the Yankees in Anaheim, too, but that was pushing it). Colon threw a shutout and the game was over in less than two hours. We thought about doing the Alcatraz night tour since our night was now available, but the tour was all booked up. So we hung out at the park, went to an awesome German restaurant/bar, and watched a movie/drank wine. All in all, a great end to our vacation and we're very thankful to our friends who lent us their air mattresses. It was great seeing you guys! (And my ALOT girls, too.) :)

For our flight home, we were able to catch an earlier flight through Denver instead of Kansas City (since our flight to KC was delayed, we would have definitely missed our connection). It worked out because we actually got into New York an hour earlier than we would have on the original flight. The downside? The people on our flight screamed amateur hour. There was a row of people who were playing piss-poor music out loud on their phone (they were doing it in the terminal too, unaware to the people around them rolling their eyes, or saying things not so under their breath--such as myself). Thankfully the flight attendant came over and told them that only selfish, immature imbeciles think it's okay to blast house music on a phone, let alone on a plane. Well, maybe she said it nicer than that. The woman next to me was hammered. The people behind us felt it was necessary to scream at each other in a different language the whole time, not because they were mad, but just because that was apparently their normal level of conversation volume. But other than crazy people, our flights left on time and went without a hitch, so I guess we can't really complain. So the only downsides of traveling this go-around was finding a cab on the way to the airport, and waiting in line for one on the way home.

Spider-Man
And because our life is never boring . . . on Wednesday, our first day back to the real world, Andrea produced free tickets to Spider-Man. So Mike, Andrea, Brad, and I went. I wanted to like it, I really, really did. But it was bad. The visuals were great. But.that.was.about.it. I mean Bono and the Edge . . . how could the music not be fabulous? Because the lyrics were forced. The background music was too loud and overpowered the singers. There were a few songs that I liked, but eh, I'll buy them singularly on iTunes and forego the album. The dialogue was bad, as was the story. And this was after they redid a lot of it! There was more hype for the American Idol Top 3 in the audience. Of course, the show still sold out, and the crowd gave it a standing O, which, call me a snob, I don't think every show should get. I think it devalues the shows that really blow your mind and deserve that last bit of recognition for how awesome theater can be. But I have to admit I have been a very fortunate theatergoer, and I may have seen more than others in the audience. So maybe for them this was the type of musical that blew their mind. All I can say is, I am glad I saw it for free.

So that's that! Denise Richards, California Dreamin', and Spider-Man. There's also been some softball in there, The Hangover Part II, catching up on our DVR, eating at a Spanish restaurant with my Spanish side of the family, and a lot of walking to/from the office to work off the California trip and prepare to get into a bridesmaid's dress in one month. Not to mention 90-plus-degree weather which is setting our poor little window unit into overdrive . . . oh the days of central air.

Thanks for sticking with me. I promise the next entry will be shorter . . . I won't have to recap three weeks of my life. Promise.