Friday, January 12, 2018

Honor Your Reality

For my DIY MFA Book Club, Writing Prompt #2 is: Write about a time you had to honor your reality. So here we go.

My reality is a reality of significant student loan debt, substantial but manageable-ish credit card debt, a car payment, utilities, life insurance, car insurance, renter's insurance, and rent. This reality is the reality of almost all people. I know. I also won't make excuses. I'm lucky that I only have two mouths to feed...my own and my dog's. However, this reality means that there is one resource I need to make sure is ever flowing and reliable: cold hard cash. 

We need money to survive and I (like many people) really need my health insurance. I have an array of health problems that require daily medications (including asthma so I need inhalers to you know, breathe). Because of these needs, money and medical, I have to work a job that pays a living wage. Guess what? Being a writer is not that job. 

As a full-time marketer finding great joy and fulfillment in my freelance side hustles, I also have to expand my capacity for time management. That means, mornings and evenings are fair game and free space to complete side hustle work. That's a lot of work. I don't mind the hard work, but I can't magically cram more hours into the day. I'm willing to make sacrifices to write more, believe me I am. However, I need at least a few hours of sleep to function properly, right? Can I give up sleep too? 

So my writing reality is living a sustainable life to pay to live while trying to eek out time to do what I love...writing. If I could just get that book proposal done and build my platform empire I might be able to transfer to the life of a writer full-time. Until then!

Until next time...

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

How did I become a writer?

In my last post I shared with you a few things I'm doing every day or often this New Year. One of them is write every day. I joined DIY MFA's book club which includes being a part of a dynamic and supportive group of writers AND writing prompts! I needed a home for my prompts to live, so why not this blog? 

How did I become a writer? (That is the prompt)

Once upon a time there was an inquisitive little girl who loved a good story. She was also very obsessed with unicorns. In the second grade, she took on the task of writing her very first chapter book. Each page was a new chapter and the book was about unicorns living on another planet..of course. Her teacher noticed her dedication to her manuscript and asked the young girl, "Do you enjoy writing? It seems like you do."

The girl replied, "Well, I don't really enjoy moving the pencil back and forth but I like telling stories." 

You see, the young girl thought the teacher meant penmanship, a practice the young girl would never fully master. However the teacher meant writing. 

The young girl grew up loving her English classes, welcoming the opportunity to write themes or journal in class. She filled the intro pages of many notebooks with ideas and settings and stories. She would love storytelling so much that she decided she wanted to tell stories about real people. 

At the ripe age of 16, she wrote a story about her work at a local nursing home. She borrowed her mother's car and drove to the headquarters of the local paper. Story in hand, she walked in and asked to speak to the editor in chief. She wanted to learn, she wanted to write and she was willing to do it for free. Impressed by her gumption, the editor took her back to his office. The two talked about her goals and he offered her the opportunity to write for the paper to learn the craft of journalism. Her first assignment was a profile on one of the residents of the nursing home where she worked part-time.

The girl spent weeks working on the profile. Her subject, a woman in her 90's who didn't think anyone would want to read about herself, was a dedicated church organist who received a ride to her hometown church every Sunday. She would wear a rose colored coat while playing hymns, a pastime she really enjoyed. The young journalist, however, got caught up in high school drama, extracurricular activities and the stress of being a teenager. She was never given a firm deadline so she toyed with the story off and on.

One day, the subject of her story fell ill. She was hospitalized. This was a swift kick in the ass the young journalist needed to get the story completed. She carefully but quickly wrapped up the article and submitted it to her editor. The next day, she received devastating news. Her subject had passed away. 

It was the day before the story was set to go to print. Present tense was changed to past and the profile became a tribute piece. The young journalist learned a harsh lesson about deadlines that day. She would go on to write many stories and eventually earn a spot as the youngest paid freelance journalist for the local paper. 

As you've figured, that young journalist was me. At 30, I'm a corporate communications manager for a health system but my true love and passion rests with writing. I'm currently working on my first non-fiction humor book. I am a contributor to on-line platform, MOGUL and like an affair I can't shake...I am constantly looking for ways to be a journalist in today's less than certain financial times. 

I'm also a staff writer and writing coach for a phenomenal storytelling company called Round Table Companies. The work I do for them brings me great joy. 

So, how did I become a writer? Well, by writing about unicorns. Then about people. Journaling often and of course trying desperately to appease my insatiable appetite for reading. If I could spend the rest of my life writing stories about people, places and things, making people laugh and spreading a little bit of joy in places where it is needed most...I'd say I've fulfilled my destiny. 

Until next time...

Monday, January 8, 2018

7 Days Into a Better Life

The first week of 2018 proved to be a good one. I drank at least 64 oz of water each and every day. I faithfully completed week one of the SELF Magazine New Year's Challenge. I wrote every night. I did my nightly skin care routine. I attempted to get up early each day but that is going to be a struggle. I caught up with all of my work and even had time to watch a few movies. I was focused and determined. 

Now it is week two. Still focused, still determined and still struggling with waking up early. When my alarm blared at 6:15am this morning I was sure it was a mistake. What is that noise? I thought. I wondered if it was my on-call phone or something outside, but alas no...it was my alarm..waking me up for a chilly Monday. 

Being present and mindful all of the time is hard work. I've mentioned this before when I've embarked on such challenges and vowed to get my life in order. Drinking so much water a difficult (first world problems, I know). Making sure the workout happens no matter what. Pushing myself to do what needs to be done when I'd rather just nap. I did accomplish what needed to be done this weekend, though! My apartment is damn near immaculate. I worked tirelessly to renovate some of my spaces, adding lights or moving things around to breathe life into my apartment that I've been living in for almost three years. 

The only snag in my epic plans, was my kitchen sink decided it wanted to leak. The drain basin needs plumber's putty or something because if the sink is on, it now leaks into the cabinet below. I called my landlord about it, but I had to wash my dishes in my bathtub...a skill I learned from watching Hoarder's, actually. Hoping for a fix today because I use a lot of pots/pans/dishes with my healthy recipes. Last night I made shrimp "fried" rice, which was shrimp cauliflower rice. 

So, let's go week two! Bring it on! (Gently)

Until next time...

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

2018 Here We Go!

New Year. New Me. 

Totally kidding. There is something refreshing about a New Year. Ironically, January 1st is not the only day of the year when you can make a fresh start. You have 365 opportunities to make a fresh start or a positive life change. I guess the hype and support in early January pressures people into making changes. Of course many of those changes and good intentions fall to the wayside by mid February and early March. Gym memberships begin to go unused. Food prepping takes a back seat. The stress of everyday life takes over. 

Not. This. Time. 

I don't have any resolutions such as "lose weight" or "be a better person." But I sure as hell have some goals I'm working on. 

  • Become a morning person - I hate mornings. I'd rather sleep in until 10:30am every day. When I wake up for work, I usually get up at the next to last second, throw my clothes on, grab my dog and take him for a quick walk, come home and feed him while slapping some make-up on my face and then rush to my car while muttering obscenities. I'm trying to appreciate mornings. One morning in late 2017, I had to get up early to move my car because it was parked in a construction area and had to be relocated by 7am. I was amazed how much free time I had before work. I spent it laying in bed playing on my phone but I realized it was time I could be using to work on my goals and things. So, trying to wake up early each day and be awake before I take on the world. 
  • Drink more water - Why is drinking water so damn hard? I don't hate it. I don't mind it. I'm kind of indifferent when it comes to water. Sure, I prefer liquids with flavor like coffee or tea or sparkling water. Just plain old H20? Eh, why? However, so many studies out there have linked drinking water to a bazillion health benefits including: clearer skin, weight loss, increased mental function, increased organ function, increased immune system and increased energy. A good friend of mine got me a water bottle for Christmas. I have so many water bottles but this one is nice. It is robust and is 32 oz. I literally just have to drink TWO of those bottles a day. That is it. TWO. I can do it. So I start the day off with lemon water and then my second bottle will be plain water. 
  • Read one book a month - I love to read, but I feel I never have the time to do so. Why? Well, besides my commute averaging two hours a day (hour back and forth), I like to spend my evenings vegging out on my couch watching shows. I screw around on my phone, watch a few shows and go to bed. There is plenty of time to write, do work for my part-time job, or read a book. Instead I choose the most passive activity I can find. The best way to be a good writer (besides write a lot) is to read a lot. I've committed myself to read one book per month. 
  • Write Often - One of my most favorite things to do is write. I never want that craft to dull in shine so I've set up a notebook on my night table. I plan to write in it every day. Doesn't have to be a journal entry or a long story. I just want to write something. Last night I wrote a poem before going to bed. Off to a great start. Can't wait to read the year in review of writing come December. 
  • Get out there - Compete in more story slams, try stand-up open mic nights, visit art museums, hang out with friends on work nights, travel. I need to get out in the world more. Set up shop in a cafe and write. Hang out with a friend for a few hours even though I'm tired. Compete every damn month (or try to) in the First Person Arts Story Slam. Revamp the podcast, write more, put myself out there. 
  • Take care of thyself - One theme that was pretty consistent in 2017 is that I get sick...A Lot. I had the flu in February, some respiratory stuff in the summer. I got sick in September and that lasted a few months. Then right before Christmas I got sick again and wound up in the ER. So, let's stop that shit. In addition to drinking more water and taking vitamins, I'm really trying to keep my health up to snuff. This includes taking more vitamins, eating cleaner, adopting (already started this) a nightly skin care routine, putting make up on with purpose, moisturizing. Adulting is hard, I mean you have to drink enough water, exercise, take care of your skin, eat healthy, get plenty of sleep, be social, look pretty, take care of your kids/dog, succeed at work and do that each and every day. I'm going to do it though. 
  • Mental Health - I have anxiety (who doesn't), but recently my "time anxiety" has been kicked up a notch. I am anxious about getting to places on time. I'm anxious about having enough time to do things. I'm anxious about not having enough time in the day. I'm anxious about wasting time. I'm anxious about how much time I have on earth. I'm anxious about where my life plan is now compared to others. I'm anxious all the time. To combat that, I'm going to explore meditation. I feel like my brain is a never-ending rotating hamster wheel but I'm going to try it out and see if it helps. Also, I plan on continuing to use my bullet journal as my lifeline. 
Sounds like a lot, but I find if I really focus on each goal, I can accomplish great things. I did it in 2016. I did a lot of great things in 2017. Let's make the magic happen in 2018. This is the year. 

Until next time...

Thursday, December 28, 2017

2017: A Year in Review

It's that time of year again...

Time for my annual Year in Review. 

So at the beginning of 2017, I set out to lose weight so I could skydive for my 30th birthday. I wanted to lock down my finances and maybe make moves on buying a house. I wanted to build my social circle and travel more. I wanted to PR in the Broad Street Run. I wanted to be healthy. 

None of those things happened. I'm serious!

I did not lose the weight so I could skydive, therefore I did not skydive. I did not lock down my finances and actually had to make steps to budget better. I decided against buying a house. I did sort of beef up my social circle a little bit but I didn't travel much. I matched my PR time to the second in the Broad Street Run instead of beating it. But dammit, it was a pretty epic year. I spent NYE 2016 cleaning my apartment. I was cleaning out my closets and decluttering my living space on New Year's Eve. I wanted to enter the new year with less junk, less emotional baggage and a healthier mindset. Let's take a look at the highlight reel:

January

January I did WHOLE 30! I blogged about it here as well. I went 30 days eating only whole foods. I found out that I didn't crave sweets or booze as much as I thought I would, but in fact missed dairy and condiments the most. I'm considering doing it again this year. I lost 18 pounds in a month and felt pretty good once I figured out that digestive enzymes are your friend in the Whole 30 journey. 
February

After successfully completing Whole 30, I went on to do another streak: the RUN215 Run Challenge. You had to run/walk one mile a day for every day in Feb. I got the flu! I still did it! It was difficult but I made it. It felt good to complete another streak. I couldn't believe I got the flu even though I had the flu shot! 

March
March proved to be a very busy month. I attended my best friend's cousin-in-law's 30th birthday party, the Philadelphia Flower Show (butterflies landed on me and I got a little tipsy at the Wine & Spirits tasting) and was really dedicated to running. I visited my parents at the beginning of March for their birthdays which was nice. I rounded out the month at my old work's 30th anniversary annual gala. I thought I looked pretty good that night! We also got really good PR for the event so it was a job well done. 

April
One of my all time favorite memories of 2017 was the day I took Bronx to Sea Isle, New Jersey. Dogs are allowed on the beach during the off season. I wasn't sure how he was going to react. He doesn't like water very much. This little day trip proved to me that this dog is indeed my dog. He LOVED it. He liked digging in the sand and enjoyed running along the water's edge. He kept running into the water and back out. He's a beach dog! It made me so happy. I got a sea shell off the shore and wrote the date on it to always remember B's first beach trip. Also in April, I ran my second annual Run for Clean Air 10K. After the race, there is a very generous free beer tent. I was happily enjoying a breakfast beer when I ran into my friend Maura who I met at the breakfast beer tent the year before! We were supposed to hang out but never did. I'm really glad that happened because we DID hang out many times after that race. Breakfast beer friendship for the win! I continued to train for the Broad Street Run with my weekly Bridge Runs. It was great to see all my friends from last year's training set. 
May
There was already a lengthy post about this, but I ran the Broad Street Run for the third year in a row. I set out to PR but instead matched my time to the exact second which is a pretty rare thing to happen. I felt like I enjoyed the race a lot more this year and really stayed in the moment. I took an epic race photo dabbing and it went viral on RUN 215's social media. I loved it! In May I attended the Pennsylvania Ballet for the first time! It was a great experience. My best friend and I went. He was teasing me because after the show we went over to Wawa and I ate a hot dog. "You could only be classy for 2.5 hours, MA," he said. He was right. Around the end of May, I met up with some friends I met earlier in the year at a Drink Philly Wine and Chocolate social. I got to experience Philly Bloco for the first time, an amazing Brazilian funk band. I danced so much that night and would later win tickets to their Halloween show! 
June
June marked the first time I got a photo with the Philadelphia Beer Week Hammer of Glory. I also attended Young Professionals Night at the Barnes foundation with my friend Kailah. Afterwards we went to Skygarten and got to see the city from the rooftop sky deck! Kind of amazing. We ended out night at McGillans ale house, singing along with bar patrons and eating nachos. Around this time my kickboxing gym was closing and my favorite instructors were going off to create their own gym that I would join around July. I would soon have access to not only kickboxing but at 24 hour gym WITH a pool and roof deck!

July
July was truly epic! Everyone knows my favorite holiday is the 4th of July. My favorite Philly tradition is watching Rocky on the Art Museum steps. David and I went this year and there was a raffle. The winner would win a seat for themselves and a friend in these cushy leather armchairs at the very front of the screen. They called one ticket and a woman won. They called the second ticket and David goes, "Wait, isn't that you?" I looked down and sure enough it was. We won! I was so excited. We got to walk in front of all of those people and camp out in these nice big recliners for the duration of the movie. No numb butts this year. It was pure dumb luck but I was pretty happy about it. July was also the month when I participated in Yoga in the Outfield with Maura and her friend Sharon. We got to do yoga on the Phillies outfield. Afterward we went to Xfinity and met alumni ball players. I got John Kruck's autograph for my dad! Then in mid July, I went down to Virginia for a week long camping trip with my parents and pup. I rented a stand up paddleboard and practiced it every day. 
August
August was the absolute best month of 2017. I mean it. The absolute best. I had finished reading "You are a Badass" by Jen Sincero and that book made me realize a lot of things about my life. In an effort to stick to my passions and truth, so to speak, I registered to attend the 2017 Writer's Digest Annual Conference in New York City. August kicked off with a really fun Goo Goo Dolls concert. THEN an Atlantic City bus trip with a friend and her friends. After that, I finally crossed something off my bucket list: performing in my first First Person Arts Story Slam. I didn't win but I got to tell a story and be on stage for the first time in years. It was so fulfilling! THEN I went to the Writer's Digest Conference. It was one good thing after another. From a free breakfast brunch at the swanky Hilton ( a nice lady gave me her voucher), to meeting the incredible title sponsors, Round Table Companies (and later getting a job offer with them that led to a part-time job of my dreams) to pitching my book idea and have five agents request more information...I mean wow. It was my first time staying at an Air BnB and I had an excellent experience. I was the happiest I had been in a long time that weekend. I made so many new friends and got a new job out of the trip. Money well spent! And it started with that Badass book. 

I returned from my conference high ready to celebrate my 30th birthday in style. I did "Mary Anna's Favorite Things" on my actual birthday. I got free pancakes from Ihop, a pedicure, free Starbucks, took Bronx to Spruce Harbor Park, took B to a favorite bar and we shared some ice cream and then I got "Be Bold" (my mantra) tattooed on my wrist. Fresh ink in hand (pun intended) I went over to Penn's Landing and rode the Ferris wheel. After that I got my free birthday shot at Ray's Happy Birthday bar. Then I went to my favorite bar of all bars for dinner (Wrap Shack). I ended the evening ordering two pieces of cake from my local diner, getting three and having to pay for just one. Bronx and I ate cake together on my kitchen floor. The day after my birthday I organized an amazing party at a bar/restaurant in center city. I invited my friends, had door prizes, goody bags, an open bar and buffet dinner. It was spectacular and a great way to celebrate my 30th. Way better than skydiving. 

That's not all. A few days later I ran in the Philly 10K donning my tiara and sash. I PR'd!

September
Labor Day weekend I got sick (AGAIN). Little did I know that this illness would last nearly two months. It started with a cold and manifested into a cough that would not go away. I had a sinus infection too. It was rough. I didn't let it stop me though! I tried Ariel Yoga for the first time (very challenging). I launched my podcast: Owning Your Awkward (stay tuned for a reboot in January). I attended Xfinity's Oktoberfest and drank all the pumpkin beers. I learned that I really like Xfinity, actually. It is a glorified sports bar but they have excellent food and really fun events like silent discos and contests and things. 

October

Still sick but October turned out to be pretty damn good. I got to reunite with my Redeemer Ministry Corps cohorts for a weekend of fun and nostalgia. I attended a Black Violin concert. I ran the Fishtown River City Festival 5K with Bronx. My friend Maura (breakfast beers) and I went to New Jersey to participate in GOAT YOGA where you literally do yoga with baby goats. One peed on me. A story that will never die. David and I went to Fright Fest at Six Flags. I saw Philly Bloco perform FOR FREE. David and I went on a massive hike in New Jersey. It is called Mt. Tammany and it sits on the PA/NJ boarder. That damn mountain almost killed me. LOTS of rock climbing and a steep incline...and the same going down. It was the hardest hike of my life but the views were worth it. Bronx was part mountain goat the whole time. We rounded out October with Eastern State Penn's Terror Behind the Walls ON Halloween! 
November

November was the month of concerts. Epic. Unbelievable. Concerts. I saw Imagine Dragons at the Wells Fargo Center. In the middle of their set, they hopped off stage and traveled to a surprise acoustic stage right in front of me! They performed several songs at that stage and I got amazing photos and video. Such an energetic concert. A few weeks after that, I saw Macklemore in concert! He was so close I could almost touch him. That was another excellent concert. Also in November I ran the Rothman 8K instead of the Half Marathon. I didn't do too badly but I had trouble breathing. I went home for Thanksgiving and got to meet my friend Heather's daughter! We also did some Rodabaugh shooting in the back yard. I have a lot to be thankful for. 

December

Kicked off December with a super fun trip to New York City with my friend Maura (we really hung out a lot this year) and her mom, brother and brother's girlfriend. Running through the streets of New York during Christmas time with an Italian family is a ball. On the way home from that trip, I met a girl on the Bolt Bus. We really hit it off and just recently went out for drinks. I think I found a new friend! Yay! I need friends! 

I also attended a dear friend's final vows, Sr. Kim Kessler! My best friend and I relished all the Christmas festivities the city had to offer. We did the Christmas Village, the light shows, Kennett Square Christmas (did you know that Kennett Square is the mushroom capital of the world? I had no idea) and Longwood Gardens. Then I got sick (AGAIN). This time with a stomach bug. At least that is what I thought, until three days later when I was in extreme pain and had not eaten in several days. I checked myself into the ER. One IV bag, four medications, two tests and five hours later I was diagnosed with colitis, an inflamed colon. The meds helped and I felt better after receiving an IV bag of fluids. I slowly went on the mend as I prepared to go to Virginia for Christmas.

Miraculously I healed in time for the holiday! I had dinner with three of my four hometown BFFS and we drove to the town where the fourth one lived to get a photo with him. It was so much fun reconnecting. Then I had a great Christmas. My parents surprised me with a Food Saver for Christmas! Also, Bronx had fun helping everyone open their presents.  

So here we are. What a year. I tried a lot of new things. I experienced a lot of incredible concerts. I followed my passions as best as I could and landed my part-time job with RTC (I'm a staff writer and writing coach for this beautiful company. I applied in 2014 and was rejected but due to fate, love and following my heart, I ended up hired by them in October and work for them on the side. I love what I do!) I was sick a bit more than usual, so hoping 2018 is a healthy year. 

For 2018, I won't make a resolution that I can't keep. I will say I'll be working on health, particularly mental/physical health (skin care) and weight. I am also hopeful that this year leads to fruitful writing adventures as well as becomes the year I dip my toe into stand up comedy. I'm already committed to competing in the next Story Slam in January. Here's to new friendships and hopefully a little more travel this year. I can't wait. 

Until next time...

Monday, October 2, 2017

Sick September A Recap

After an fantastic month of August where all the stars were aligned and life seemed damn near perfect, I entered the month of September with optimism and excitement. Labor day weekend was on its way and I started to get the sniffles. The sniffles turned into a full blown cold. The cold turned into a full blown cough. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't walk up the stairs without hacking. I was cough-peeing. It was awful. 

I finally made an appointment to see the doctor and was prescribed steroids and a fancy inhaler. A week into treatment I started to improve. The coughing got a bit less frequent but my head felt like it was going to explode from the sinus pressure. I tried Sudafed. I tried Flonase. It is now October 2nd and I'm still coughing. The pressure between my ears is very prevalent. 

I just made an appointment to see my doctor again tomorrow. I think I have a sinus infection or something. My entire immune system has been shot as of late. Even hanging with Bronx gives me mini hives on my arms sometimes. (I've had my dog for almost three years. I am NOT allergic to him).

So September, in short, was kind of a let down. I gained weight. I was sick. I felt really stressed most of the month. I did manage to squeak out a miserable 10K and try out some new fitness classes.

I did manage to have a little bit of fun with Xfinity Live's Oktoberfest, a silent disco, visiting my former neighbor who is Bronx's (stepmom), taking B on some hikes...etc. I'm just hoping October is a bit more magical than September. Also, a bit more healthy, mentally and physically. Hell, emotionally too. 

Until next time...

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Holy Shit, August.

This month seems nothing short of incredibly. I mean, seriously. It may have been the best month of my life and that is no exaggeration. Let's recap:

August 6
On August 6th my best friend David and I went to see Phillip Phillips and Goo Goo Dolls in concert at Festival Pier. We got there early but a line had formed all the way to Dave and Busters. I thought for sure we'd be stuck in the back of the concert crowd but upon entering the venue I learned that only two full rows had formed (it was GA). I snagged us a spot in row 3/4 a little to the right of the stage. It was perfect. We're going to make it a point to go see them every year. Such a fun concert! 

August 12
I bought tickets months ago but didn't have any friends available for this magical weekend. It was a party bus day trip to Atlantic City. Within the first 20 minutes of the bus ride I had made some friends. I knew the hostess but that was it. Unfortunately after some imbibing I found I was way more interested in gambling than making friends. While most of the crew went to dinner, I found myself playing slots. I won $36 and $150 but lost a bit here and there too. I walked with $100. It was a ball. 

August 15
It has been my life's goal to perform in the First Person Arts Story Slam. I've always wanted to do it but never had the guts or commitment to get up and do this thing. Each month there is a different theme. You buy tickets to the show and put your name in a bucket if you want to share a story. Names are drawn at random and you have 5 minutes to tell your story. Stories are judged by the audience. I was picked LAST to perform! The guy who went before me got three perfect scores so, he won. But I was so proud to get up there and do it. All the storytellers won a prize and I got a squeaky toy for B since my story was about him. It felt good to be on stage again, something I haven't done since college. The Story Slam was like revisiting my Forensics roots from high school. 

August 17
One week before my 30th birthday, my coworkers came together and decorated my office! They blew up balloons and threw streamers around. There was cupcakes and muffins. They wanted to celebrate early because the following week many would be off. Also, I was taking off for my birthday as well. It was a great surprise to walk into since that morning I dropped Bronx off at boarding in preparation for my weekend trip (up next). He looked so sad when I left him, I couldn't get that image out of my head. So I was pretty upset about that and then walked into this. Thanks guys!

August 18-20
As a birthday present to myself and a way to stay true to my passions, I took a leap of faith and invested a significant amount of money into attending the 2017 Writer's Digest Annual Conference in New York City. Roundtrip bus was $25 and my AirBnB cost less for two nights than one night at the conference hotel. This proved to be one of the best decisions I've ever made. To reassure me I was where I was supposed to me, the morning of the conference I received a pleasant surprise. I was waiting in line to pay for an overpriced NY bagel when a woman came up behind me and asked me if I wanted breakfast. I said yes, and she handed me a coupon for a free $40 value buffet breakfast at the hotel's restaurant. 
I was sitting in a Hilton in midtown Manhattan eating Lox and sipping coffee poured by a nice man named Warren. I wasn't even a guest at the hotel! (But at that moment, yes...why yes I was). Free breakfast aside, the whole weekend was phenomenal. I learned so much about the industry. I even designed a non-fiction humor book pitch that I delivered to six agents on Saturday. I was so excited! Turns out, I have a marketable book idea! I'm working on finishing up my proposal and then I'm going to send it to the agents who requested to see it. So exciting! (I worked on my pitch in a Starbucks downtown and laughed thinking I was a true writer in a coffee shop).

I also got the chance to meet the folks of Round Table Companies, a truly amazing group of people who happened to be the title sponsor of the conference. They hosted a game called Vulnerability is Sexy and that is when six strangers became close friends. The question and answer game really brought us together. We're all Facebook friends now. I love those people. I was in awe of how this little game could bring people from all walks of life closer together. We felt like family after two hours. 

My AirBnB hostess was Russian and we had some fun culture swapping moments. I taught her the English words for fan, exhaust vent and okra. She taught me about Russian banas (steam spas), Turkish food and homebrewing Kombucha. We hugged twice before I left her place, a cozy little apartment two blocks from Time Square. She left me an amazing review, saying I was one of the best people she met in her life and hopes I always comes to stay with her. 

The connections I made, the people I met, the things I learned about writing and myself...invaluable gifts. I am so glad I went. Also, Bronx was fine! He ate all his food in boarding, took a silly picture and was knocked out tired for two days when he returned home. 

August 24
I spent my 30th birthday doing a Tour de Birthday of sorts. I started out at IHOP for free pancakes (they were delicious), then went and got a pedicure at my favorite nail salon. After that I got free Starbucks (they wrote Birthday Girl on my cup) and then went home to grab Bronx. He wore a shirt that said "Its Mommy's 30th birthday" and we went to a park and then a bar near my apartment. I got a Not Your Father's Root Beer Float and he enjoyed vanilla ice cream. Then I went to Penn's Landing to ride the temporary Ferris Wheel and play carnival games. After that I went to Ray's Happy Birthday Bar for my free birthday shot and a beer. Ended the night at my bar, the Wrap Shack eating BBQ wings and tater tots. Stopped by Melrose diner for two pieces of buttercream cake (one for me and one for B). They gave me three pieces and charged me for one!

It is amazing how many strangers go out of their way to make your birthday special. I mean, people were really really nice to me. I had such a perfect day. 

August 25
I spent the bulk of my birthday doing fun MA things because the day after my birthday I threw a HUGE party for myself and 25 of my closest friends at a bar in Center City. Buffet dinner, open bar, door prizes and goodie bags. I had a blast! So many people came out and the pictures were the best gifts a girl could ask for. I had been planning it for months and it was really great to see everything come together the way it did. There were some very special people at that party and I'm so grateful they were able to celebrate with me. 

August 27
As if I hadn't accomplished enough this month, I piled more on. This past Sunday I ran in the Philly 10K. Despite winging the whole thing I somehow managed to PR from last year! Of course I wore my birthday sash and tiara, prompting everyone to wish me Happy Birthday. Worth it. 

So, yeah...August 2017 may just have been the best month of my entire life. I'm so ready for 30. I think it is going to be epic. Cheers. 

Until next time....

Honor Your Reality

For my DIY MFA Book Club, Writing Prompt #2 is: Write about a time you had to honor your reality. So here we go. My reality is a reality...