Monday, March 30, 2009

Tell me about you!

March officially marks the highest traffic month of Sally's Circle, so I wanted to take a moment to thank you for being so supportive and encouraging during the past 31 days. From the birth of a new mommy to making big decisions to my (finally!) completed book proposal, it's been a long but productive month. I couldn't have done it without you.

I especially want to thank the majority of you who breeze in and out of the blog in ghost-like fashion, with no trace of ever having been here. You might be silent, but your mere presence means the world to me.

To celebrate this month's success, I want to play a little game. I always blab so much about my life -- now I want to know a little about yours. Please leave a comment (you can choose "Anonymous" if you'd like to remain private) and tell me one thing about yourself. It could be anything: how you're feeling today, the name of a loved one you've lost or miss or are praying for, why you come to Sally's Circle, etc. I'm excited to get to know you better.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Family Rules: Dinner with Chef Jordan

My brother, Jordan, invited me, Mark, and our friends Udi and Hila over for dinner last night at the NYC apartment he moved into 6 months ago. It was one of his first times hosting. When I asked what he was going to cook, he said, "I don't know, but I only have one pot and one pan." I knew we were in for a memorable night. Here are the highlights:
  • Toilet Trouble. The first thing I did when I got there was clog the toilet. (No, not on purpose, and I swear all I did was pee!) Water gushed and piled a few inches high on the bathroom floor. Jordan had to wash a load of towels he used to stop the flooding. And our pitbull Sadie (that's her in the pic!) tried to maul the maintence man, who came armed with a plunger and a mop.

  • Top Chef. Jordan "cooked" dinner. This meant he watched water boil for pasta while ordering me to arrange the appetizers, slice cherry tomatoes, cut fresh mozarella cheese, set the table, pour the wine, and wash the dishes. I even used a salad spinner -- who uses those anymore?

  • Pasta Puddle. While draining the pasta in a colander in the sink (Jordan's only task of the night), one wrong flip of the wrist cannonballed half the penne into the dirty sink. We washed it off. As Udi and Mark agreed, worse things happen at restaurants!

Picture all this happening while Sadie barks at every noise, Jordan and I get super-distracted by preparing supper, and Udi and Hila grill Mark about projects they're working on together. I was smart to get two bottles of wine, although a third wouldn't have been a bad idea!

All kidding aside, on the cab ride home (which my brother insisted on slipping me a $20 for, like the sweetly protective older bro he's always been), Mark and I talked about what a nice time we had. "You worship your brother, you know that?" Mark said, eyebrows raised. I tried to deny it, but it's true. Older siblings have a special place in a younger sibling's heart. In my eyes, Jordan's always been my idol. I'd slice cherry tomatoes all day for him -- and I know, in a bind, OK, a really, really big bind -- he'd do the same for me.

Are you close with your siblings, or as opposite as night and day?

Monday, March 23, 2009

From a Special Guest Blogger: "I miss the President of my advisory committee!"

Hi everyone -- remember my friend Michelle who wrote a beautiful post in December about missing buying holiday presents for her mom? She's back again to share her thoughts about how to make big decisions without her mom -- something I can definitely relate to. Take it away, Michelle!

HEADLINE: Without the President of her advisory committee, Michelle finds change and making important decisions difficult.

That headline has so far only appeared in my head – but if someone were to interview me about the challenges you face after losing your mom, this would be near the top.

My mom Barbara died from pancreatic cancer in 2006. She was a great mom, my best friend and, yes, the President of my advisory committee.

Change is never easy for anyone, but change after loss has its own set of issues. The problem is how do I make big decisions and changes in my life when my mom – who was always there for advice, validation, and a sounding board – is not here anymore?

I am more comfortable in the space where life used to be. The past. Before mom died. Before everything changed. The past is an easier place to be…for awhile…because you don't have to deal with the present or future. But as time goes on, you want to have your full slice of life. It requires acknowledging loss and trying to find a way to move forward without forgetting the past. It is a balancing act that I continue to tweak. So, I am living in the present, longing for the past, and unsure of the future. No wonder my head is spinning!

I’ve got a big change coming up in my life – a move to another state. Even though I am an adult who is able to accomplish things all the time, I feel that I will somehow be incapable of accomplishing this task without my mom. I know that it's not really true, but that is how it feels. The truth is that it just won't be as fun or as easy without her – but it is what it is.

So, where do I go from here?

You’ll notice I used the term "advisory committee" above. That means that there are other people in my life who I can look to for advice and encouragement. I am lucky to have my dad, my sister Marci, and good friends all of whom I can (and do) go to for support. I can also look inside for the answers. Inside is where all of the years that I had with my mom are kept. I can access her from there: what she instilled in me, the history she left for me. In this instance, she would tell me to think of the big picture, realize that the positives outweigh the negatives, and have fun, enjoy, why not!

So, I am going to listen to my mom’s voice and go for it – with a positive attitude! And, since she is still weighing in on the matter, I can blame her if things don't go well…just for old time’s sake!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A quick Sunday night update

Hi there. I hope you had a nice weekend! I got to spend lots of time with my best friend Laura. My favorite part was taking a 10-mile bike ride on the boardwalk, overlooking the beach. What a view! And, of course, great chatting along the way.

I've been feeling a bit guilty because I told you all about my BIG MEETING for my book, and then I never gave you an update on how it went! Well, it went really well. The woman I met with was very supportive about my book idea, and she suggested a few other people I should talk to within the publishing company. So, as of last Wednesday, my 62-page book proposal is in the hands of three people -- and I'm waiting to hear back from them.

As I've said before, and as Tom Petty said in a song way before me, "the waiting is the hardest part. " To help my nerves, I've been trying to amp up my exercise routine. I ran 2 1/2 miles today (a big milestone for me, since I usually only run 2 miles and I'm really trying to break that plateau). Maybe I'll even try that "Boot Camp" class again at my gym this week; after all, nothing's more distracting than painful lunges!

I'll let you know as soon as I hear anything about the book. 'Til then, I'll keep ya updated on all the other stuff going on.


P.S. Were you as devastated as I was about Natasha Richardson's sudden death? My heart goes out to her two teenage sons. I hope they find support through this sadness.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sally and I believe in signs -- do you?

Here are the signs I've seen in the past few days...

1. My TV stopped working. The clunky box that distracts me nightly with Top Chef, CNN, and Will and Grace reruns made a funny sound for a few days, and now it makes no sound at all. (Yes, I've tried raising the volume, and no it's not on mute thankyouverymuch). First I was frustrated (OK, I'm still a little frustrated), but then I saw it as a sign... I wasn't meant to have any distractions the past few days. I was meant to work on and complete by book proposal. Luckily, my iPod provided me with Elliott Smith, Neutral Milk Hotel, Cat Power, and Mirah to keep my writing batteries charged.

2. My pin fell off. I wear a Kimya Dawson pin on my jacket that says her album title, "Remember That I Love You." After taking a lovely, sunny walk around the neighborhood to celebrate my book proposal, I spun through my office's revolving door and heard a clink on the sidewalk. I looked down and there was my pin. I'm sure as sure can be that it was Sally smiling and saying, "Remember that I love you."

3. It's St. Proposal Day. My walk outside was filled with celebration. Men wore plastic green top hats. Girls wore 4-leaf clovers tacked to their shirts. Laughter and ruckus echoed from Irish pubs into the midtown streets. They all think it's St. Patty's Day; only I know it's St. Proposal Day.

Do you believe in signs? What signs have you seen throughout your life?

Book Update: I finally finished my book proposal!

Well, you can't see it, but I'm smiling a tired and satisfied smile. It's 1:19AM on St. Patty's Day, and I just finished my book proposal. Big sigh of relief.

It's 62 pages long. Of course, two-thirds of that is sample chapters, but still. It's by far the longest Word doc I've ever been required to create. All my college papers were 1-20 pages long, and the majority were 1-3. After all, I was being trained to write magazine articles, not novels. That used to be a joke, but now it's serious. I'm writing a novel. Sometimes I still need to take a step back and say "Whoa."

But don't worry. There's motivation behind my madness. Remember that "big important meeting" that got canceled two weeks ago? It's rescheduled for Wednesday -- as in tomorrow. This could be a big step in finding a publisher... or it could be a total flop. Only Wednesday will tell.

Wish me luck -- not for the actual meeting, but cross your fingers for me that it doesn't get canceled again! At this point I'm done with nerves. I'm so ready to get this baby started!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

In Awe of Motherhood: A new mommy is born

I have terrific news: My dear friends Melissa and Matthew had a baby boy named Jude! They're my first friends to have a baby, and Friday was the first time I visited a hospital maternity ward and held a 2-day-old baby in my arms. In a word: wow.

But what overwhelmed me most was seeing Melissa transform into a mommy. She's such a motherly, warm person to begin with, so actual motherhood comes naturally to her. Whether swaddling her baby "like a burrito," rocking him back and forth to soothe his cries, or quietly explaining to him why breast milk makes him gassy, she just felt like the epitome of a mom. And not just any mom -- a good mom.

Witnessing such a moment made me think of Sally. I imagined what she looked like in the hospital room after giving birth to me. I heard the sweet nothings she coo'ed into my newborn ears. I felt her soft gaze upon me. I sensed her loving spirit.

In that room with Melissa and Matthew and baby Jude, a new family whose love made even the mustard hospital walls glow, I felt all the love in the world.

Friday, March 13, 2009

My blog was on yesterday!

Guess what???

Sally's Circle was featured on's "Life with Cancer" blog yesterday! The blog is written by a wonderful woman named Erin Zammett Ruddy, a leukemia patient who has been documenting her life with cancer since she was diagnosed at age 23. She's a wonderful writer, a mom of a cutie-pie toddler boy, one of the bravest people I know, and super-nice to boot. How could you not instantly love her? It's impossible!

Click here to read the post I wrote yesterday!
Click here to read a post I wrote on my mom's books
Click here to read my very first post for

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Grief Relief: Giving yourself a well-earned break!

Hi everyone!

Thanks for being so supportive in my last blog post. I never thought I'd be able to find so much love from this blog--both from friends and total strangers (who now feel like best friends). You're all really valuable to me, and I hope you know that!

I haven't "spoken" to my mom yet, but I do feel stronger, so I know she is looking out for me. Last night I gave myself a well-earned break from the grieving process. I left work at 6PM on the dot (that's considered early in the magazine world!), took a class called "Boot Camp" at my gym (please never ask me to do lunges ever again), and cooked a new recipe (Lentil & Sausage Soup, totally to die for). In between, I jumped and danced around my apartment. After feeling sad for a few days, feeling happy felt AMAZING! Do you know that feeling?

Tonight I'm giving myself another break and heading to a bar that has Trivia Night Tuesdays. I better go study so I know some answers and don't seem like a total dunce!

A therapist once told me that grief comes in waves. Boy was she right. The good news is that waves roll in and they roll out. Luckily, this wave has sailed for now, and I'm more than happy to be back on shore with my feet planted in the sand. It's scary during high tide, but no matter what the issue -- grief, stress, a broken heart -- you'll make it through, too.

What do you do to give yourself a break? I won't judge you if your answer is chick flicks.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Speaking Up: How to talk to lost loved ones

I admit it. I'm being totally stubborn.

I'm facing a big decision, and I really need my mother's words of wisdom. But instead of talking to her, I'm stuck in a cycle of feeling angry, frustrated, and mopey. The smallest thing will send me into a fit (just ask my poor boyfriend, who gets the brunt of it!).

This happened to me once before, over the summer. I invited all my relatives to my new apartment and cooked a big feast. But all morning and all that day, I couldn't shake the disappointment that my mom wouldn't be there. It was only later, when I talked to her in my head, that I realized she was there--just in a different way.

Now I need to find the strength to let go of the anger and talk to her again.

How do you let go of frustration? What helps? Running? Yoga? Religion? Therapy? I'm open to trying anything at this point!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Parentless Parents: Take a survey from an amazing author!

Hi there.

In working on my book, I've actually started to make a few "author friends." One woman I've had the privilege of meeting is Allison Gilbert. She's an amazing writer on parent loss, having had the misfortune of losing her own parents at a young age. I especially love her book Always Too Soon, a compilation of firsthand essays written by celebrities who lost both parents. Did you know this happened to Rosanne Cash and even Ice T? Their honest accounts bring them down from celeb status and make them so human.

I had breakfast with Allison about a month ago, and our similar experiences (losing a parent) and professions (writing) made it feel like we were instant friends. She was so warm, and the experience really motivated me to keep working on my book (it was at a time when my confidence was shaky). She advised me to take weekend days to write and then plan something social that night like dinner with friends, that way I get a break from the grieving and writing process. It's totally worked! I'm so grateful for her words of wisdom. She was there for me at a time when all I really needed a mother's voice saying, "You can do it!"

Allison's working on a new book called Parentless Parents, which is about how to raise your own kids when your parents have passed away. This is a book I will definitely buy when the time comes -- I'll need it for sure! As part of the book research, Allison needs "parentless parents" to take a survey. If you would be kind enough to pass this survey to anyone who fits the description, Allison and I would be so appreciative!

Take the survey here!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The butterflies are... postponed

Hi all!

Thanks for your sweet wishes on my last blog post. Here's the update.

1- Writing group. My meeting went really well. The three girls in my group had minimal changes to my book proposal, so as soon as I make the few edits, it will be officially ready to "shop around" to literary agents and publishers. It's all starting to feel very real.

2. Big meeting. Well, unfortunately, she had to postpone our meeting. A bit of a bummer, but also a relief. I felt SO NERVOUS about the meeting -- like, not normal nerves. Crazy nerves. So now I'm glad I have another week to regroup and go into the meeting feeling 100% fantastic.

Have you ever worked on a project so much bigger than you that it scared the daylights out of you? Share your tips for how to calm down. I need them!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

I have (book) butterflies in my stomach

Ladies and gents, Monday and Tuesday are bound to be big days for my book.

MONDAY: I have a meeting with my writing group. I meet with three other writers (two of them wrote "The Hookup Handbook"!) and we review each other's work. Tomorrow they'll give me feedback on my book proposal -- a 62-page document that details everything about my book: an overview, marketing plan, chapter outline, and sample chapters. The proposal is what I'll eventually send to literary agents and publishers, so I'm really curious to hear what they say.

TUESDAY - I have a meeting with a super-smart woman who says my book might be a fit for a certain book publishing company -- and she has the pull to forward it on to the right person. I'd say more but I'm afraid of jinxing it.

Please cross everything for me this week: fingers, toes, whatever it takes. I need it!