Faith

BLOG-FAITHAn Alpha-fetoprotein test indicated there might be a problem with my unborn baby’s health. The good news was that this particular blood test often showed false positives.

The bad news was that the test could be right.

I thought I was the kind of person who’d need to find out if my baby was healthy. I figured I'd have an amniocentesis done and within two weeks, I'd know.

My husband and I went for genetic counseling, a requirement before amniocentesis was preformed at the time, and we learned that our chances for having a sick child were exactly equal to the chance of me having a miscarriage due to the procedure.

Five months in, my stomach the size of a soccer ball, I was already attached to my unborn baby. Wanting it, I decided at the last minute that I could live with whatever my higher power had in store for me but that I couldn’t live with a miscarriage that was my own doing.

The rabbi encouraged me to pray with all my heart as if anything could happen but believe, simultaneously, that everything was going to be okay.

I spent the next twenty weeks of my pregnancy not knowing.

Thankfully, the baby was healthy.

Looking back, I don't how I did that.

Friendship Matters

  BLOG- MAGIC 8 BALL

Once I was in a gigantic slump and my friend, Susan, came to my house to comfort me. We laugh now, looking back, that my child’s Magic 8 Ball was the only solution she could offer.

I held the ball in my hands, hopeful.

Q: Will everything work out? A: Hazy, try again later.

“Well, do it again,” Susan said. “Don’t give up.”

Q: Will this misery pass? A: Don’t count on it.

Q: No, I mean will it eventually pass? A: Very doubtful.

But Susan held strong. “Shake it up. Try again.”

Susan is not Kim. Kim is a psychotherapist, and other best friend. Kim believes in talk-therapy. She would’ve listened, less solution focused. Empathetic, she would’ve had tears in her eyes too, and begged for a turn with the 8- Ball. Susan is not Pam. Pam would’ve wanted to get my mind off things. She would’ve wanted me to stay busy. She would’ve suggested a trip into Manhattan, a couple of drinks, shopping.

I shook the ball again and prayed for a proper outcome.

Q: Will I feel better soon? A: Cannot predict now.

Susan sat next to me as I overturned the ball again and again until...

Q: Will I feel better? A: Most likely.

My friendships are dear to me. Essential. And so I was disheartened to read that friendships are fading.

In a Harvard Medical School study, researchers found that not having close friends leads to increased stress hormones and blood pressure; and it could be as detrimental to your health as smoking. Not having close friends leads to feelings of isolation, depression and emptiness.

So it is a shame that we don’t always have the time to nurture these relationships. Or we don’t make the time. (See this article from The New York Times: What My Friends Mean to Me.)

My friends tease me that when they call, I treat them like telemarketers, which of course, I think is totally untrue.

And this is because of what is true, which is that they mean the world to me.

These are friendships that go back decades and whether we are being as adventurous as Thelma and Louise or as kooky as Lucy and Ethel, we have been there for each other through all of life’s challenges: problems with our kids, marital discord, divorce, bouts of cancer, financial issues, and even losing a spouse.

These are things the Magic 8 Ball can’t fix. But a friend sitting next to you on your couch, as you cry, a Magic 8 Ball in your hands, while you make up outrageous questions to ask it—loony enough to make you laugh—even when it was the last thing you could imagine doing.

That could fix things.

Q: Will these friendships last forever? A: It is certain.

 

“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. “Pooh?” he whispered.


“Yes, Piglet?”


“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”

 -A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

BLOG- WINNIE THE POOH

Writing and Rejection

Thankfully, my novel has been getting good feedback. Really good feedback.

But I got a rejection email this week.

BLOG-REJECTION STAMP

Okay, I’m being dramatic. But that’s how it feels sometimes.

Nobody likes rejection.

And yet in the writing world, you are told, again and again, how getting rejected brings you one step closer to publication.

In On Writing, Stephen King says, “The nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and kept on writing.”

Click on this link to see a list of best sellers rejected numerous times before they made it.

It is unbelievable to think that Gone With The Wind was rejected 38 times before being accepted. The novel went on to sell 30 million copies.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling received 12 rejections in a row before being accepted. The Harry Potter series set records as the fastest-selling books in history with combined sales of 450 million.

And more recently, The Help was rejected 60 times before getting published. It has become a worldwide best-seller.

It’s always tough when a rejection letter arrives but there is something to be learned: a building of muscle, gained knowledge, a repertoire of experiences that brings you, little by little, closer to publication.

This is my favorite personal rejection story. I refer back to it when I feel discouraged.

As recently as five years ago, short stories were submitted for publication to literary journals by “snail mail”, a term referring to mail delivered by the U.S. postal service.

In my Brooklyn home, there is a mail slot in the front door and every Saturday the mail is delivered at the same time, which coincides with when my family eats lunch.

When the flap on the mail slot hits the frame, it makes a loud clang. For years, every time I heard the sound, I jumped up from my seat at the table and ran to the door to retrieve the mail, hoping I’d get an acceptance letter for any of the number of short stories I’d submitted.

More often than not, I found rejection letters, which is not uncommon in the literary world. Sometimes the rejection is standardized, and on sliver of paper no thicker than a pen, and sometimes there is a note, cordial and encouraging, but nonetheless, a rejection.

Now and then, there was an acceptance letter and that intermittent reinforcement, just like a win at the slot machine, kept me hooked. And so today, even though correspondence with literary journals happens through email, when the mail slot clangs against its frame, I have to stop myself, a Pavlovian response, from running to the door.

The craving for feedback from editors and the desire for publication is intense. And so one summer when we moved to New Jersey, and had our mail forwarded, it was quite distressing when all of it was lost, and I didn’t receive a single piece of mail for over six weeks.

I worried that my dreams of publication would go unrealized if my response letters were gone for good. All that hard work: the writing and editing of the story, targeting appropriate journals, preparing cover letters and stuffing envelopes- all of it- a waste of time.

When the mail was finally found, my husband picked it from the post office. He brought it home in a black trash bag, the mail filling the bag like fallen leaves.

I set the bag on the kitchen counter and separated the bills, newsletters and invitations from the self addressed stamped envelopes that I’d sent to editors around the country.

I opened the letters, hopeful.

Note that it was unusual to receive all these responses at once but because of the mail mishap, I got this particular view.

In response to a specific short story, I got three replies, and I lined them on the counter next to one another.

1. A standard rejection letter. 2. A note saying my short story had potential and that if I was willing to do significant revisions, I could re-submit the story. 3. An acceptance letter.

One story. Three points of view.

BLOG- Black and White Fall Down2

 

Why Are So Many Marriage Essays Going Viral?

Oprah Winfrey I want my marriage essay to go viral.

Why You’re Not Married, written by Tracey McMillan went viral.

Marriage Isn’t For You, written by Seth Adam Smith went viral. It has over 30 million views!

Both Tracey and Seth have book deals, and Tracey was on Oprah!

At the time of his post, Seth had been married for only a year and a half. Tracey’s been married 3 times.

Okay, I’m happy for them. Really I am. And I’m not suggesting they don’t have anything to share or teach; but come on, I’ve been married for 32 years!

If staying together is the goal (which I guess is questionable as far as goals go) I’ve got the credentials. I’m the one who should have a marriage essay read by millions. I should be on Oprah.

I mean really, where are the people who’ve been in long-term marriages? They’re actually not on Oprah.

Exception: Harville Hendrix, author of Getting the Love You Want. He’s great, and his book is awesome, and he’s been on Oprah a number of times; but we need more role models. Good ones.

And fast.

Because marriage is getting a bad rap.

People are choosing not to get married at all, as in NEVER. Or they talk about first marriages like it’s a bachelor degree, something they will eventually move on from in order to pursue a second marriage, their graduate degree.

There are some misconceptions I’d like to clear up:

Long-term marriage doesn’t mean 10 years. Ten years is a phase, a bleep in a life, like adolescence. Long-term means you go through all the developmental stages together: playing house, raising children, growing old, facing health issues, dying. A lifetime.

A partner is not someone who stays home changing diapers and cooking you dinner while you pursue every dream you ever had.

Respecting each other’s differences doesn’t mean you’re awesome because you don’t change the music when The Carpenters are on and you prefer Eric Clapton. (Okay, full disclosure- that’s my house.)

And monogamy is a full-time job. If you do it part-time there’s less insurance and fewer benefits.

Look, I’m not judging. My philosophy is that everyone should be happy. And what would make me really happy is to have my marriage essay, or any of my essays for that matter, go viral!

But back to my initial question: If marriage is on the decline why are essays with marriage as a keyword wildly popular?

Why was Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus on the topseller list for 121 weeks?

Why is the book, The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts a hit?

Why are we watching Dr. Phil? Broken Nose, Broken Marriage. Dr. Phil, Save My Marriage, Save My Life.

Why when I saw a friend on Facebook had taken a test that told her who she was married to in her past life, I was intrigued? I shouldn’t have cared but she got Jim Morrison. I wanted Jim.

I thought about taking the test but worried I’d get Barry Manilow.

I had to know.

I took the test.

And I got John Lennon. I couldn’t have been happier. He’s a peace-loving artist. And he’s cool.

You’d think I had better things to do with my time like write a really great marriage essay. One that would go viral. But no. I needed to know who my fantasy husband from a different life might’ve been.

Here’s what I think. Even though marriage is on the decline, for many of us, a fascination exists. There are things we want to know about relationship: how to make it last, how to make it better, how to fix what’s broken. Aha! The “in” for my marriage essay- When Your Marriage Breaks.

Maybe it’s physiological or sociological or biological or historical but there is something in us that yearns to unlock the mystery of marriage. We want to get it right.

Granted, I’ve never been on Oprah but here’s my marriage advice: Relationships have their rough spots and you have to figure out how to navigate those moments like jujutsu.

For example: when your spouse stops listening to you when you talk, (which is inevitable, even if temporary) start writing.

And pray it goes viral.

It Worked For Bruce Springsteen

Madame Marie Last week, driving in the car with two friends and feeling a bit playful I said, “Let’s go to Madame Marie’s.”

“Who’s Madame Marie?” they asked.

“Are you kidding?”

They weren’t. They didn’t know Madame Marie was a fortuneteller on the Asbury Park boardwalk; or that her clients included Ray Charles, Elton John, Diane Keaton, and The Rolling Stones. Reportedly, Madame Marie told Bruce Springsteen he’d be a huge success; and he wrote about her in his 1973 song, 4th of July, Asbury Park.

“Did you hear the cops finally busted Madame Marie for tellin’ fortunes better than they do.”

Madame Marie was an icon on the boardwalk for decades and as she aged, she trained her children and grandchildren to read tarot cards and crystal balls. I see her granddaughter, Sabrina, who for $25.00 reads my palm. I should get a kickback because every summer I visit her and bring friends. Relatives. Anyone who’ll come with me.

Two years ago I brought my cousin, Pam. I went first. Sabrina studied my palm and told me I’d live a long life. “You’ll live until you’re ninety-two,” she said.

I was thrilled.

“I’m going to live a long life,” Pam said after her reading. “Eighty-six years old,” she boasted.

“Oh, Pam,” I teased, “I’m going to miss you those last few years.”

While we laughed out loud, inside I panicked picturing myself as a 92 year-old woman; and if that wasn’t bad enough, I tried to envision a world without Pam in it. I brushed away the thought.

Part of me recognizes that Sabrina can’t possibly know this to be fact but she’s been right about so much. Yes, I had a friend who got sick and needed me. Yes, she was on the money about a specific guy a different friend was dating. And yes, there was something about an upcoming medical procedure.

***

My two friends were torn, half excited by the idea of having their fortunes told, and half skeptical.

“Come on,” I said. “You’ll see.”

It was around six pm, a time that for as many years as I can remember was dinnertime, bath time, homework time. It hadn’t been my time since I was twenty and so this felt outlandish and adventurous. It was also a perfect summer evening, the air off the ocean a gentle breeze, the temperature perfect. I took off my shoes and walked barefooted on the boardwalk.

After my reading, I smiled wide. “What did she say?” my friend asked.

Here’s the thing: you’re not supposed to share your reading.

Was that so she could scam us? Tell each of us the same thing? (There was one year she kept asking, is there a Michael in your life?)

Or was it because of the old superstition not to reveal your wish if you want it to come true? (How many times have you wished on a star or a chicken bone and not told fearful your dream wouldn’t come true?)

But there is another belief.

Say your wish out loud. Yell it to the universe and it will come true.

So here it is, the good thing Sabrina told me the other day…

She said that something positive was going to happen with my novel in September. “You hear that! All literary agents- you have until September!”

There it is. I’ve said it. My wish is free in the world. It’s up to the universe to respond. Or not.

Every day since my visit to Madame Marie’s this summer, I think about Sabrina’s words. Every day I get a bit giddy imagining she’s right. For $25.00 a world of hope and possibility opened up for me. There was something special about that evening: the spontaneity, the ocean air, the purple sky. It was girly and fun, like the world was my oyster, and that all the opportunity in the universe rested in the palm of my hand.