on the new Mrs. George Clooney

He was not the marrying type. But that was fine because there was little appeal in being married to a guy like George Clooney. The fantasy was in not being married to him. Wouldn’t that make the spontaneous trips to Lake Como more special? Oh, the thrill of the celebrity magazines wondering who I was when I appeared on his arm at the Academy Awards. Hanging out with Matt Damon. Double dating with Brad and Angie. Maybe getting a special seat at the filming of Oceans 14. I was fine not marrying George Clooney in my fantasies of our relationship.

Then he tied the knot.

In the words of Meg Ryan portraying Sally, who was spilling her heart out to Harry right before they almost ruined their friendship by sleeping together:

“All this time I’ve been saying that he didn’t want to get married. But the truth is he didn’t want to marry me.” 

Sob.

Hey, I get it. I’d marry Amal Alamuddin too. She’s gorgeous. Smart. Accomplished. I presume she speaks with a British accent, which always makes me swoon. I hope they’re happy. After all, I had my chance. I drove by the Sudanese Embassy in DC the day he got arrested there. I cursed the crowds clogging traffic, only hearing later on the radio that he had been among the protestors. If only I’d have pulled my car over and joined in the outrage. We’d have locked eyes. He’d have flashed that crooked smile at me. And after getting bailed out, he’d have whisked me away on his private jet where we’d discuss climate change policy and what he could do to help me save the world.

It’s okay. I’m moving on.

Before there was George Clooney, there was Hugh Grant, who in Four Weddings and a Funeral posed this important question:

“Let me ask you one thing. Do you think – after we’ve dried off, after we’ve spent lots more time together – you might agree not to marry me? And do you think not being married to me might maybe be something you could consider doing for the rest of your life?…Do you ?”

Oh, Hugh. I do.

retail therapy, reward, procrastination

I bought a few things this week. I declare none of my purchases entirely superfluous; with one exception, I spent on a need-to-have-basis. Let’s start with my greatest online weakness: Everlane.

I feel like Everlane was a big secret I wasn’t in on until about six months ago, so let me enlighten you. You can read about this internet retailer’s philosophy for yourself or I can summarize: they believe in transparency in production and pricing. On the webpage of each item they sell, if you scroll to the bottom, you will see delineated the true cost of the materials, production, and transportation. They add up those figures for the math challenged to attain the true cost of the item versus the Everlane price versus what the average retailer would charge. (I typically use J. Crew as a comparison.) Everlane is where I now buy all my t-shirts. $15 for a short sleeve t-shirt is $5.00 less than full price for the same at the Gap. And these shirts wear well, wash well (no pilling, my biggest pet peeve) and they are not see through. I repeat, they are not see through. (Okay, maybe see through t-shirts = biggest pet peeve.) After a closet purge this week, I ordered a black long sleeve t-shirt (my first from them) and because my favorite season is almost upon us, the Fall Seed Stitch Raglan in navy. (Justified because I essentially shrank my J. Crew version of this sweater last winter.)

Before you click over to Everlane and go crazy stocking your closet, think of the starving artist who referred you. I get a reward if you found them through me, so help a writer out and email me for an invitation if you plan to make an Everlane purchase.

While I was doing the closet purge, I put to one side all my wool pencil skirts for a couple of reasons. One, it’s still too damn hot. Two, I’m not entirely convinced they fit, but I’ve had enough rejection this week and thus wasn’t in the mood to find out. I’ve been wanting a midi-length pleated skirt, but usually find them too voluminous to be flattering on me. Try, try again, I say, and this colorblock skirt was on sale at Nordstrom so if it works and I love it, I won’t be racked with fiscal guilt. I can wear it now and later. Dress it up or down, but let’s be honest, I’m mostly going to dress it down.

Rounding out my flurry of retail activity, after a particularly grueling day of researching, writing, and sending agent query letters, I splurged on a new lipstick, this Bobbi Brown beauty in Lady Ruba. I know, I need another lipstick like I need another agent rejection, but I’m a sucker for a bright lip color, and they had me at limited edition.

Whereas the internet often encourages impulse shopping, I was thoughtful in making my purchases and now I just can’t wait for the UPS guy to come. And not just because he’s easy on the eyes. Though there is that.

the whole 30 yards

my first morning's breakfast
my first morning’s breakfast

I’m not a dieter. Denying myself the delectable leads to intense cravings for said taboo items. I have done a few juice cleanses with varying degrees of success (and by success, I don’t mean weight loss but improved complexion, better sleep patterns and more energy). Mainly, I try to eat healthily, though I do have my weaknesses, namely cheese, wine, and half and half in my coffee.

But on the morning of my dear friend Lauren’s wedding, I woke up resembling the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. My face was so puffy my sunglasses left a deep imprint after I had them on for only a few minutes. My abdomen was so distended I could barely bend over to put on my shoes. And the worst part? The bridesmaid dress that fit fine a week before? Yeah, well I was so swollen that it took the might of the three other bridesmaids to get the zipper up. Then, I exhaled. And the zipper broke. Five minutes before the ceremony.

If I’d woken up like this any other day, I’d have visited the ER. I warn you now, never WebMD “water retention” because the causes range from too much salt, alcohol, sun exposure (all which I had in spades) to kidney failure, liver disease and congestive heart failure. I was pretty convinced I was dying, but I had a wedding to stand up in. I drank my weight in water, abstained from alcohol, and MacGyver’d the dress until I could change into something else. After the reception, I returned to my room, cried a bunch, and devised a plan for a reset.

I’d just read Wardrobe Oxygen‘s post on the Whole 30, and while I’ve been dismissive of Paleo-style food plans, I was inspired by Allie’s positive experience eating only whole, one-ingredient foods. I decided to give it a shot.

As it turns out, my Whole 30 shopping cart didn’t look that different from how it usually would, with a few notable exclusions. I’m on Day 5 and so far, I don’t miss anything. It hasn’t been torturous to watch my kids devour chips and salsa. I’ve been around wine without longing. After a bit of experimenting, I discovered coconut milk in my coffee does the trick. I did almost lick the Nutella off a knife the other night after I made Jack toast, but that was more reflex than desire. The bottom line is after a few days, I’m sleeping better, and I have energy after only one cup of coffee.

I suspect there will be challenging days ahead (please don’t flaunt your pimento grilled cheese sandwich from Cheesetique) but nothing could be worse than how I felt on that morning when I could have lumbered through the town of Sonoma and caused more damage than the recent Napa earthquake.

 

travels with chelsea

There is great benefit in being friends with fashion bloggers and stylists such as Allie at Wardrobe Oxygen, Alison of DC Celine fame, Rosana at DC Style Factory and Christen, the brains and beauty behind the Alexandria Stylebook. Aside from being lovely women inside and out, they humor my angst. When I have a fashion conundrum, I can fire off a quick text or initiate a twitter conversation and get immediate advice, affirmation, sympathy.

However, there is one topic they have all opined about extensively on which I am utterly unteachable: how to efficiently pack.

I get the mechanics. Coordinate colors and pack mix and match separates. Dress in layers. Bring fabrics that easily forgive their undistinguished position in the suitcase. Assemble outfits that can survive more than one wear. Put it all in a carryon. Channel sense of ease. Voila.

But let’s get one thing straight: I like to check my bag. It’s worth $20 to not have to drag a bag through security. It’s worth $20 to not have to worry about only bringing 3-ounce toiletries or what constitutes a liquid (eyeliner? lip gloss?). It’s worth $20 to bring more pairs of shoes than I’ll probably need.

Thus, as I make my list of what to pack for my upcoming 10-day trip to California, and as I look at my standard suitcase, I realize I need to upgrade to the bigger bag. Before you roll your eyes, check out where I’m going: San Francisco, Paso Robles, Menlo Park, San Francisco, Sonoma, San Francisco. And now check out what I’m doing in those spots: wine tasting, bachelorette party activities, pool lounging, yoga, eating out with my dad and grandmother, going out in San Francisco, attending rehearsal dinner, and fulfilling bridesmaid duties. Look at the temperatures of my destinations: 50s-60s in San Francisco and 90s in Paso Robles and Sonoma (but cool at night). And have I mentioned the wedding?

Let’s just say, there’s no packing light for me on this trip, regardless of what advice my friends offer. My goal will be to not get assessed the heavy bag fee.

on writing sex scenes

When I mention I wrote a novel, it’s amazing how many people ask if it has sex scenes. It’s a fair question. Sex intrigues. Sex sells. But honestly, while there’s implied sex and the hint of sexual activity, a go for broke sex scene just didn’t fit. (Yes, I am aware of how many copies the Fifty Shades series sold.) In my pages, you won’t find ripping bodices, pulsing anything or turgidity, except a little bit in one self-love scene that may or may not make the cut as the story moves through the process.

Frankly, it’s a little intimidating to write a sex scene (unless your name is Pavarti K. Tyler, my erotica writing friend). For starters, you have to use the right vocabulary, and that’s hard to do without blushing or giggling. I recently read an article written by a poet who was trying her hand at prose. The one aspect in the conversion she found most difficult was sex. In poetry, fruit can serve as a metaphor for sex acts and body parts. But “he cupped her ripe mangos” isn’t exactly going to fly, even in chick lit.

Seriously, the synonyms for the real words are worse than the words they are meant to replace.

But it wasn’t the difficulty of writing sex scenes that kept book number one on the dirty side of chaste. I just wanted to emphasize the other ways my main characters bond.

But gird your loins for my second book. It’s going to be steamy.

 

tipping the scales

I never weigh myself. Like never never. Except once a year at the doctor’s office. And without exception, I always weigh exactly the same. My body might shift, be tighter if I’m working out more, softer if I’m not, but the reading at the annual weigh in never changes.

Or it never did. Until March.

I went in for a follow up. I was surprised I was being weighed again. “Didn’t we just do this in November?” I thought to myself. But I get it. SOP. So I stepped up on the clunky metal scale (does anyone but doctors use those old fashioned scales anymore?) and feigned indifference while the nurse kept moving the little bracket farther and farther to the right. But then she needed to change the base setting. I gulped. And she kept moving that little bracket of death. A touch more. A touch more. A touch more.

I came in 18 pounds heavier than I was in November. “The scale is wrong, right?” I asked the nurse. She blushed and made a note in my chart, probably one that said “another delusional patient who thinks she’s smaller than she is”.

I sat in the examination room in a flimsy paper robe and cried.

The doctor came in and asked what was wrong. I told her. She glanced at the chart and looked at me. “Well, I think you look great. Our scales could be a few pounds off. What does your scale at home say?”

“Yeah, I don’t own one. I only weigh myself here.”

“Well, get a scale if you are concerned, and only weigh yourself on that scale. In the meantime, I’m happy to test your thyroid if you’re worried.”

But the truth was, I knew it wasn’t my thyroid. It’s that I work from home. In front of a computer. A few days a week, I dress in semi-professional clothes, but the long winter meant fewer dresses and more stretchy pants. Big sweaters. Layers. I lived in flattering yoga pants. Clothes I could hide in. I realized it wasn’t the dry cleaner’s fault certain items wouldn’t zipper. Blame the wine. The love of cheese. And my previously held belief that as long as I worked out, I could eat whatever I wanted. I could only blame myself.

So I ordered a scale. It measured me at 4 pounds less than the doctor’s office, so I grasped onto the new number for dear life. I set some goals, but moderate. I just can’t be a crazy person. I like spin, barre and yoga, but I suck at denial and restrictions. (Hence the overflowing shoe closet.) A diet would make me crave what I couldn’t have. But I could give up wine during the week. Eat smaller portions. I now get why my mom ate just salad for dinner every night when I was growing up. You can’t control an aging metabolism. I’ve officially reached the age where I look at food and gain weight.

It’s been 8 weeks and I’ve lost 8 pounds. I feel both good and not about that. Good that I’m now zipping pants without sucking it in but bad that I still have far to go for some of my summer dresses. There is one side benefit though, serendipitously realized the other day. At least some of my added cushioning has made its way to my chest. For the first time in my life, I’m wearing a D cup.

It’s all about the silver linings.

 

finding an agent: worse than online dating

If you’ve been around me at all over the last three months, you’ve probably heard me make the joke that as a debut novelist, the process of finding an agent is worse than online dating. Except it isn’t a joke at all. Not that I’m a huge match.com expert. The one time I tried it many years ago left me permanently scarred even though I went on zero dates.

Let’s hope I have better luck on my agent search.

If you don’t have a literary agent [eligible dating material] running in your social circles, you have to make a list of whom to query [join an online dating site]. That’s hard. There are agent databases [online dating sites] which share basic information like agency [bachelor] address [age, exaggerated height, eye color] and the genres [desired age range, kid preference, hobbies] the agent [prospective suitor] is interested in representing [finding in a partner]. You also get a sampling [photos] of their authors [adventurous vacations] many whom [places] you’ve never heard of [traveled to] which makes you feel guilty because you consider yourself an avid reader [traveler].

I’ve spent weeks amassing my initial list of 20 dream agents [dates]. I could end up querying [trying to date] 50-100, depending on my success with the first tranche [few suitors].

In all seriousness, once my manuscript is ready, the next step is to cold call agents, except I can’t actually call at all because phone calls are prohibited. Some agents accept email, though no attachments. Just one long message that includes cover letter, synopsis (sometimes 2-3 pages, sometimes 10-15) and maybe an excerpt from the beginning of my story. In many cases, you’re instructed to send the cover letter, synopsis and manuscript by snail mail, unless the literary agency has noted to only send a cover letter and synopsis because they’ll reach out if they want to read more.

Each query [photo] has to be personally tailored [perfect] so that they agent’s intern [bachelor’s best friend] who does the first round of cuts doesn’t throw me in the discard pile. I can’t compare myself to any classic writers [supermodels]. I’m supposed to share why I think I’d be compatible with that agent [bachelor].

Oh, and don’t forget to include a SASE for the rejection letter. Yes, you have to pay for your own rejection. That’s worse than a breakup text.

Speaking of, you don’t get rejected on the quality of your work [personality] at all, but on how riveting [gorgeous] your cover letter [photo] is. Are you kidding me? I just wrote a 95,000-word novel [am witty, warm, charming] and I have to catch your attention with my cover letter [looks]?

My first choice agent was written up recently as a rising star. She seems like someone I’d like as a friend. I picture us drinking a bottle of wine and talking books. She happens to be looking for the next hot debut author, a definite bonus. Then I saw her picture. She was wearing great, Chelsea-like eyewear and tall black boots.

Yes, I could work with [date] her.

time of reckoning

I’m still in a bit of awe that I finished writing the first draft of my novel. It’s the most natural thing I’ve ever done but it also feels like it happened to someone else. I appreciate the warm wishes as I reached that milestone. I’m truly humbled by the positive response and support. And it’s cute when people ask, “when’s it coming out?” because you see, writing the book wasn’t the hard part. I know I can write. (I already wrote the outline and ending to my second book.) But there are many grueling steps to before you’ll find my debut novel gracing bookstore shelves.

The last you heard, I shipped my baby to a professional manuscript consultant to edit. Initially, she told me that she wouldn’t be able to get to it for a week because she was finishing up another project. That was fine with me. I needed some time away from my story and characters.  So imagine my surprise when I received her complete edits last Friday, the day she was scheduled to start reading.

“That was fast,” I wrote her via email. “I’m going to take that as a good sign.”

“It is a good sign!” she replied. “I have a problem manuscript to look at… it needs so much work…Your novel is really strong.” In fact, she couldn’t put it down.

I’ve been on cloud nine over her summary of what she loved: the writing (“it reads real”), my main character (“luminous… so alive”) and the ending (“moving”).  As for what needs work? Well, I haven’t gotten there yet.  There was no way I could read her comments last weekend given the kids’ schedule. Then I was traveling early this week. Yesterday I had my 2014 turn at Warriors. I haven’t had but an hour or maybe two in between gigs, meetings, obligations all week. I’m not avoiding the task at hand. I swear. I look forward to perfecting my manuscript. I need to set a new deadline. But really, I need the luxury of an uninterrupted day to get started.

Lucky for me, the universe is going to deliver. Snow is in the forecast tonight. Enough snow for delays and cancelations tomorrow. With any luck, I’ll be home all day with my manuscript. While everyone in the DC Metro area is rolling their eyes at winter overstaying its welcome, I relish it.

Just please let the power stay on. I have a manscript to polish.

Why the Olympics make me cry

I’m a sucker for the Olympics. The first one I recall was 1976 in Montreal when Nadia Comaneci perfected gymnastics. I was only six at the time, and she barely looked older, but I was hooked.

Fast forward to 1984. My dad lived in Los Angeles, and I got to attend the Opening Ceremonies, Track and Field events, and a baseball game. Mary Lou Retton. Carl Lewis. ZOLA BUDD. These are names I’ll never forget.

Remember when the Summer and Winter Games were held in the same year? And you had to wait FOUR ENTIRE YEARS for an Olympiad of any season? I preferred it that way, but much like I feel about interleague baseball, I accept the current reality as something I cannot change.

I don’t just love the Olympics for the sports, though I do love all the sports (especially curling and figure skating and alpine skiing and hockey and luge and bobsled). I eat up the human interest stories too. I want to be emotionally invested in the athletes. They perform these spectacularly inhuman feats, but to know that they eat, breathe, live, love, bruise and sometimes want to give up makes their moment of glory all the more, well, glorious.

I take the Olympics seriously. In August 2008, the cops came a calling at midnight because I was screaming so loud when Michael Phelps won gold by a gazillionth of a second that someone reported a domestic disturbance. I still get depressed when I think about Michelle Kwan never winning gold. And don’t even get me started on the Dan Jansen story. Athletes who come back to win gold after previously failing have a special place in my heart. And moms. Oh, the moms get me every time.

So far, the 2014 games will be marked by Bob Costas and his bout with Russian pink eye; the enthusiasm of the biathlon sports broadcasters; and most beautifully, Meryl Davis and Charlie White winning gold in ice dance. I’ve watched their gold medal performance five times and each viewing brings me to tears. Though why didn’t NBC air their medal ceremony? Oh, because the Russians changed things up so they get a flower ceremony right away and the medals later? Come on, the athletes should get their gold medals immediately upon winning their events. So they can sleep with them. Which is totally what I’d do if I ever won gold (or silver or bronze).

My friend Kate and I have a little joke where she texts me during the broadcasts to ask “are you crying yet” and the answer is always yes. So I started wondering, why am I extra sappy this time around? Why do I hold my breath for every big moment?

It didn’t take me long to figure out the answer. Like these athletes, I’m also in pursuit of a goal. In late September, I started a novel literally overnight and next week, I’m sending a completed manuscript to be edited. I have good days and bad days, but every day I write or edit or think about my story. I’ve discovered that writing is my life’s passion but if I want it to be my purpose, I have to succeed. And I’m driven to make the podium regardless of how many runs I have to take to get there.