November 2017 archive

Showing Up

I spent 5 days in Las Vegas last week, breaking my own “no more than three days in Vegas” rule. I made that rule in my 20s, and now in my 30s, it’s a lot harder to get into trouble, so five days was totally doable.
When Bear and I grabbed a taxi from the airport to the hotel, my first question to our very cool cab driver was, “How’s Vegas? Where were you when it happened?”
He told me the story of being only a block away from Mandalay Bay that night, wondering what kind of sound he was hearing. He said it was too much, too fast to be gun shots. And when he realized it was, in fact, gun shots, he didn’t know what to do but get in his cab and drive around.
Eventually, he drove close enough to the chaos that he was able to use his cab to shuttle people away from the scene of the crime as Las Vegas went on lockdown. Instead of driving away from it all, he drove right into the mess and tried to help clean it up. He said the city was quiet, eerie, strange for a few days after that. But once the smoke cleared, he remarked on how resilient the city is. “We don’t back down. Vegas is our life and we weren’t going to sit down and wait for it to be safe again. We went back to work.”

If there’s one thing that my divorce and second marriage (creating a blended family) has taught me, it’s that you can’t run away if you want to grow. This past week, I ironically encountered a lot of people running away from discomfort. People saying their feelings were hurt, that they didn’t feel safe, they were offended…they ran in the other direction instead of running towards the discomfort like our taxi cab driver in Vegas did. And I realized that the brave ones are the ones who actually show up to sit in all the muck and messy life that is friendship and relationships and parenthood. They sit down and stay there until some of it gets cleaned up, and at least some of the rest of it gets acknowledged. It’s never a perfect story and it rarely ends in a crisp, clean happy ending. But showing up to the mess is probably the only way I’ve ever found to avoid running into that same mess again somewhere else. Cleaning it up feels like death, until it’s over and you realized you survived. Then it feels like victory.

Showing up sometimes looks like knowing when to say when. Sometimes it’s a white flag. Sometimes it’s a physical fight. Sometimes it’s a loud voice and curse words. Sometimes it’s . taxi cab driving towards gunshots in Vegas. There’s no formula, no single one way to show up in the face of discomfort. Not everyone is a hero and not everyone knows how to apologize, which is why we all get the opportunity over and over and over again to show up and learn all the different ways to run towards the chaos. Because the chaos gets a little less chaotic each time you do it. Sitting in the mess feels less…messy after a while.

I thought about it for hours after our cab ride: Would I drive my cab TOWARDS the gun shots? The answer, still, is a resounding no. Maybe in a year or two I’d be brave enough to consider it (if he even considered it before he did it). I tip my hat to Vegas (I don’t wear hats but you know what I mean) for being a city that ran towards the chaos and then went back to work. The metaphor in all that tragedy wasn’t lost on me.

 

A Deep Tuesday Blog

My husband told me the other day that we become completely different people every 5 years; meaning that if you look back at who you were 5 years ago, it’s almost not even recognizable as your life.
He’s totally right.
I got to thinking about who I was 5 years ago…

Blissfully ignorant.
People pleasing.
Kind of self-righteous.
Feeling a rumble of dissatisfaction and ignoring it.
Scrappy.
Confused.
Yearning.
Restless.

…to name a few.

We pride ourselves on being reliable and loyal without really being honest about what has to CHANGE in order to remain reliable and loyal. I desperately sought people who would remain loyal to me five years ago, assuming that once I’d “nabbed” them, they’d stay.
Hardly anyone stayed.
We love to be able to say, “This is who I am, take it or leave it.” Except that who we are inevitably gets different. We don’t mean to be different. I used to be proud to be me until I started realizing how often “me” changed, and then I got very nervous being me.
I even held “me” in place to try and maintain the illusion of sameness.
We love to stand for things and have opinions. I don’t know about you, but in the last 5 years my opinions about a LOT of things have changed. I mean, I COMPLETELY understand why don’t want to just let your child stay up late “just this once” now. The more I see, the more I understand the sheer number of facets that make up any one human being (and that I don’t have to like all of them to be their friend).
My opinions are more wishy-washy than every before. And I’m a lot more forgiving.
Like 1000% more.

I’m stronger, physically.
I’m stronger, emotionally.
I listen (a little bit) more.
I have a harder time relaxing.
I’m a way better mom.

I’m not going to sit here and say that I like everything about my 5-years-ago self because “she brought me to who I am today” and blah blah blah. There’s a lot about that woman that I am glad is gone. I never want to rely that heavily on other people for my own happiness again. I don’t allow people to use me or to tell me what’s right and wrong for me anymore, either. And I won’t give up so easily anymore, either. She ran and hid when things got hard and I’m not going to do that anymore.
I do miss some stuff about her. That blissful ignorance stuff was nice. And her skin was so much tighter around the jawline…

I like most of my differences. I’m not a fan of getting older and I don’t love how some of what I now know leaves me jaded. But I’m definitely growing in a better direction and with more clearly defined goals.

Think about you 5 years ago, the week before Thanksgiving. What were you doing? Were you happy? Happier than you are now? Were you living in pain or in fear?
What’s different? And are you happy about the differences?

That’s a deep Tuesday blog for ya…

No More Excuses

If you didn’t read last night’s blog, might I suggest you click here and read it…

I didn’t look over the email from Trina. I avoided it like the plague. Publishing my book now was too much, too fast. Unfortunately, though, I forgot to program Trina’s number into my phone, so when she called again a few days later, I accidentally picked up…

“Erin? Hey, It’s Trina! Did you get a chance to go over that email?”
“Yeah, hey Trina! I did!”

I hadn’t. I lied.

“Great! Are you ready to do this?”
“Welp, here’s the thing, Trina…” Somewhere between my fear and being completely uninformed (because I hadn’t read the email), I decided it would be a good idea to get really bitchy. “I understand you say you ‘want my book’, but I also understand you want me to pay to publish it. The whole point of the authors’ workshop was the opportunity to be given an advance and be PAID to write and publish my book. It’s feeling very sinister the fact that I paid all this money to go to a workshop and now you’re calling me and asking me for more money.”
It was quiet for almost 5 minutes, or possibly 7 seconds, before Trina replied…
“Listen, Erin. I’m from New York. You want me to shoot straight? I’ll shoot straight. If you send your book proposal to a publisher, it’ll get thrown away. If an agent sends your book to a publisher, you’ve got a 1 in 3,000 shot of getting published and a 1 in 1,000 of even landing that agent in the first place….
The writers’ workshop participants have the option to participate in a contest to get published without an agent. There were 300 people in the workshop. A third of them will actually finish their book proposals. So that’s a 1 in 100 shot next April, after which it will take 2 years before your book is even available and you have no creative control of any of it.
Publishing your own book through Hay House means we’ll edit and design your book the way you envisioned it. It means you own the rights forever and it means you get to decide when to publish. And, as you read in my email, I’m offering you a huge discount because I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I know a Hay House book when I see one.”

Oh. Super-should have read that email.

“The book isn’t ready yet, Trina,” I said.
“That’s fine. But I’m not offering you this discount forever. If you wait until the contest in April and you aren’t chosen, I’m not offering you a discount to publish then. I’m offering it now. And if you win the contest in April? Then that’s just a cherry on top. You can still go that route because you still own your book.”

For those of you who don’t know, I used to work in the publishing world. I used to TELL people those stats and figures. I used to explain to them why it’s so important they own the rights to their books and how publishing on your own doesn’t mean selling your books out of your car. The irony is that I already knew everything Trina told me. Maybe I forgot. Maybe I didn’t want to know it. Maybe I was terrified that it’s finally time to apply everything I know.

Trina interrupted my train of thought. “Erin, I’m going to get your book into every book retailer in the world. I’m going to have press releases sent to over 70 outlets when your book is ready. I’m going to get you on radio shows and TV shows and while I can’t guarantee any of this will make a difference in your life, it sure could. Why don’t you take the weekend to think about it and I’ll call you on Monday?”
“Ok, Trina. Thanks.”

I hung up the phone feeling really stupid.

I’ve prayed to finish my book, get it published, and speak on the topics therein. I’ve prayed for years that my writing would finally be my job. The chance for all that to happen was just on the phone and I couldn’t possibly believe that it was really meant for me.

The weekend came and went really quickly and my anxiety chilled out quite a bit, especially once I finally read Trina’s email. She was offering me a really huge opportunity…she wasn’t lying. Bear, of course, said do it. “Do it!” he said. “Let’s do this! You were born for this!” Isn’t it funny how we can pray and pray for something, and when the path eventually reveals itself, we don’t immediately jump on it and run?! We’ve lived in the “it’ll never happen” for so long that it’s hard to believe it when it actually does.

That Monday morning, I called Trina before she could call me. In her fact-based tone, with a twinkle of a smile, she asked, “Erin? You ready to do this?”
“Yeah, Trina. I’m ready.”

On Tuesday I signed the contract. And on Wednesday I started writing my book again. A book I hope to have completed by the end of the year. I am officially an author with a publishing contract and a book about to be born. I’m pregnant, kinda.

I’ve been writing this blog for almost 10 years under various domain names. I’ve been writing since I was 15. I absolutely love nothing more than to sit down with a pen and paper or a laptop and write. I want it to be my work. I want it to be my career. And I want it to change my life the way I know it can.

I think it might be starting right now…

 

Excuses. And a phone call.

A little over a year ago, I got really tired of my own excuses. I decided to move. Literally.
I signed up for a HIIT gym membership and started attending 3-5 days per week. And within about 6 months, I felt great. BUT, my leg (the one I broke in 2014) started giving me trouble. So I told my trainers, “My leg is really bothering me.”
I posted on FB about it.
I went to see numerous doctors.
It was almost 3 months before I realized that my leg was the perfect opportunity for me to pick up my habit of excuse-making.

And it is a habit.

Once I started making excuses for my leg, other things got their very own excuses, too.
I can’t write a blog today because XYZ.
I can’t go out Saturday night because XYZ.
I can’t work on my book because XYZ.
They’re infectious little suckers…

So I stopped again. It’s not like my leg suddenly didn’t hurt anymore and I could do box jumps all day. It’s that I stopped speaking my excuses. If I couldn’t do a movement, I modified or I tried to do something else. My leg still hurts. It’s just not a conversation piece in my head as much anymore. No more excuses.

***

I was offered the opportunity to go to a Hay House Writers Conference (Hay House is a publisher) at the beginning of the summer, 2017. The conference was $450, which to me is a big chunk of change. My excuse habit came back in full force. $450 was too much money and I couldn’t afford it.
That’s when I was reminded I have a husband who busts excuses for a living, it seems.
“You’re going,” Bear said.

Oh. Ok.

I put the conference on my credit card and paid it off before the day even arrived (because the money was never really an excuse). And when the day did arrive, it was magical. I was reminded of how strongly I felt about finishing the book I started writing in 2012. It lit a fire.

I’m going to publish my book.

A traditional publishing contract was up for grabs to all 300 writers who attended the conference and all I had to do was write a book proposal (the worst book report in the world) to enter. And I was going to enter. And I was going to WIN!
I got home from the conference and started getting my ducks in a row to enter the contest…when I got a phone call.
From Hay House publishing.


I didn’t know it was from Hay House publishing, though, and so I didn’t answer it. When I checked the message, the woman on the other end said, “Hey Erin! This is Trina from Hay House! I know you were at the Writers Conference and I know you’ve already got a book written. I want to hear a little bit about it and talk to you about your options.”
I didn’t call her back. Because excuses.
I don’t have the book COMPLETELY finished.
She’s probably calling everyone, I’m not special.
I’m definitely not ready to talk about “options.”
But the next day, the Nag Monster in my head wouldn’t leave me alone. I finally called her back. She didn’t answer…
I left a message:
“Hey Trina, it’s Erin Salem. I just wanted to call you back and tell you thank you for calling. I am very excited to enter the contest for a traditional Hay House publishing contract and I think I’m going to win it, so the next time we speak I will be on my way! Thanks again, Erin.”
Who says any of that?

About 5 minutes later, my phone rang again…
What is she calling to thank me for thanking her?!

“Hey Erin, it’s Trina!!”
Trina and I went on to talk for about 10 minutes. I shared my book topic with her and…she liked it. Like, really liked it. She told me she thought I would be a great fit for Hay House. I agreed but I couldn’t really understand what she was getting at.
“Listen, Erin, I work with the authors who publish their own books through Hay House. These are the people who already have a voice and want creative control over their work. Do you know most traditionally published Hay House authors started off by publishing their own books?”
“No, I didn’t know that…”
“Yeah! And you would be shocked what we can do for our self-published authors. I just got off the phone with a guy whose book is being turned into a screenplay!”
“Ok, but, I don’t have a platform or an audience. It’s just me.”
“That’s why you publish THROUGH us, Erin. We send you out all over the world with the Hay House name! We want you to do this. We think this makes more sense for you and we want your book. I’m going to send you some options and I want you to seriously consider taking the steps to publish now instead of waiting to find out if you win a contract next year.”
“Wait. Why? Why me, Trina? I don’t get it. I don’t understand why you’re calling me.”
“Because you’re ready, sweetie. You have the book, you have the voice, you have the ability, and you’ve got a story that we want to sell.”

I told Trina I felt like she was trying to sell me something. I told her I didn’t feel ready and I didn’t know why she felt like I was ready. I told Trina this wasn’t the path for me.
Trina is very smart and told me to just think about it, look over the email she was sending to me, and that she’d call me later in the week.

My excuses were as follows:
They didn’t choose me, they just think I can make them money.
I have no audience so this will never work.
My book isn’t even finished.
I’m not ready to finish it.
I don’t know how to finish it.
I’m too busy for this right now.

I didn’t look over the email from Trina. I avoided it like the plague. Publishing my book now was too much, too fast. Unfortunately, though, I forgot to program Trina’s number into my phone, so when she called again a few days later, I accidentally picked up…

Portion Control

Something happened when I turned 35.
The 5 pounds that could come and go as they pleased…came. And stayed.
The tricks I used like lowering my calories for a few days and drinking tons of water made no difference. Suddenly, I was stuck with the extra 5 pounds. And beyond diet pills (which I am NOT willing to try), I had no idea what to do toget rid of the poundage.

I joined a HIIT gym last year and started working out 4 or 5 days a week. I did begin to lose some weight and change my body shape, which was AWESOME, but there were parts of me that wouldn’t budge. (PARTS THAT ALWAYS BUDGED BEFORE.) So after I turned 36, my girlfriend suggested I pay closer attention to my diet.
I’d almost prefer be fat or take diet pills than pay closer attention to my diet.
I hate turning down cake or a martini, or a cake martini. I hate saying no to potato chips; it feels rude. I hate walking past the halloween candy over and over and over again like it’s NOT EVEN THERE. But I agreed that instead of my typical, “I’ll cut out carbs,” or “I’ll cut out fat,” or, “I’ll cut out eating,” diet plans, I would begin to spread my meals out over the course of the day and be more focused on portion control.

God I wince just TYPING “portion control.” It’s like the saddest two words in the universe when you put them together.

I started yesterday morning with an eating schedule and a list of foods that fit into the portions I planned to eat – a protein, a vegetable, a carb, and a fat. Breakfast was at 8:30 with oatmeal, almond milk, a small side of spinach, and a scoop of protein powder. (BTW, did you know that you can order protein powder in a 5lb container? You can. It is the size of my coffee pot. I will be Hee Man by the end of the week. And if you don’t get that joke, then you don’t yet understand what I’m talking about when I say I turned 35 and things changed because you think I should just do a “cleanse.”)
Being an effective woman, I decided to put the protein powder into my oatmeal. It’s flavorless protein powder. What could possibly go wrong?
Glue. Glue is what could go wrong. My oatmeal turned to glue and was completely inedible. I tried covering it in Abe’s applesauce just so I could get it down, but no. It was awful. I went to the gym after breakfast with only about half my required calories for breakfast.

After the gym came my Shakeology shake, which I drink religiously and with fervor. It was the only part of my day that went right.

Lunch. I had to eat another meal, similar to breakfast. I opted for leftover steak, broccoli, and a little bit of macaroni. It’s cute to say you love broccoli and all that. Look, broc is great with butter and salt or cheese or hollandaise sauce. But straight broccoli is not your first choice and you know it. So I went ahead and added some salt.
Except that I added ALL of the salt.

All the salt.

My girlfriend told me portion control is not always like this.

I was starving by the time dinner rolled around, so I dove into an episode of Lazy Recipes Live and then scarfed down my food, Halloween candy just staring me in the face. Dinner? More leftover steak, butternut squash, rice, and salad.

Today is day 2 of portion control. This morning was much better with eggs and oatmeal instead of glue. But then when I got home from the gym in time to make my protein smoothie, I suddenly remembered why it was so imperative I go to the grocery store YESTERDAY – I’m out of spinach. Not such a big deal? Except that it meant I had to add raw broccoli slaw to my smoothie for the vegetable serving which, as you might guess, is not as easy to hide in a smoothie as spinach is.
Don’t do it. It’s awful.

If this portion control thing doesn’t work, I’m writing a very long blog about how this portion control thing doesn’t work.

 

Dance Like Someone is Definitely Watching

I am not one thing.
I shop at Whole Foods for some of my groceries. But I also drink pints of beer and eat hamburgers.
I love a good party with lots of food and alcohol. I also want to be left alone on the weekends in sweat pants on the couch.
I can’t stand going to the movies. I love live plays.
I sit down and talk to my kids about how they’re feeling and why they’re acting the way they’re acting. And I also bite their heads off when they leave their shoes in the kitchen.
I remember to take out the garbage every Wednesday night. And I also forget to drag the cans from the curb back to the house until early Saturday.
Some days I make to-do lists. Some days it’s all in my head.
I’m a careful, slow driver. But if my fave new jam comes on the radio, suddenly I’m speed racer.

“Dance like no one is watching?” You’ve heard that old cliche, right?

In the last 5 years, everyone is watching.
Everything.
If they’re not watching live, they’re watching a recording, a hidden camera, a camera phone. You can’t do anything without someone knowing about it…and judging it.
Hell, they’ll judge it before they even ask any questions about it.
Employers now Google potential employee’s names before they take an interview. I was warned at my writers’ conference to Google my own name before I attempt to get published, just in case! Which got me thinking…
I’ve done some crappy shit in my life. Stuff that would surprise you. Stuff that you would say, “No! Not sweet sweet Erin!” (Ok maybe not that last one.) But that’s because I’m not any one thing. And I’ll tell ya, I’d hate to be judged solely by some of those crappy choices.

Think about the worst thing you’ve done. The thing you wouldn’t ever tell ANYBODY except for MAYBE your best friend. And then think about it being documented and available for everyone who Googled to read…

As much as I want to tell my kids to dance like no one is watching, I feel like I should actually tell them to dance like EVERYONE is watching: their parents, grand parents, teachers, future children… Because you will very quickly be posted to SnapChat/Facebook/Instagram/Etc. Even though you shop at Whole Foods and take your kids to weekly music classes for their cognitive development, you’ll be judged on that one clip by a majority of people as being “who you are.”
And you’re not one thing, either.
Nobody is.

We’re all these multidimensional people who get held to one single aspect, one dimension, and we’re expected to stay there! When we change or grow or show a different side, what do people say? “Oh, she’s changed.” Damn right, she changed! Good thing, too. Staying one thing all the time sucks.

So while you read a headline or watch a clip and make a judgement, think about a headline of the worst thing YOU’VE ever done, or even the second worst. Think about what strangers might think of you. And then consider whether or not you want to go on with your opinionated rants.
Yes. Some people are just shitty people. Consistently shitty. But most people have good parts and bad parts, including me, and I’d like to know that the people who matter are focused on my good parts and helping with my bad parts. And if they don’t matter, then the opinions don’t matter.

 

Those Neighbors

If you followed along with me on FB, you know I was lucky enough to buy a beautiful home in 2015 AND to meet our incredible neighbors up and down our cul-de-sac street within days of moving in.
You also know that our next door neighbors are…Those Neighbors. Everyone has those neighbors. The ones who do weird stuff like leave desks on the front lawn for weeks at a time or never mow their lawns in lieu of leaving desks on the front lawn for weeks at a time…
These particular Those Neighbors failed to removed a giant, 60′ oak tree prior to the hurricane season here in Florida and when Hurricane Irma came barreling through, she took out the tree and all the power lines as well. Those Neighbors did NOTHING to help the entire neighborhood cut apart and remove the tree (which we did over the course of 3 hours the day after Irma hit) except take pictures. THEY TOOK PICTURES. The massive, gnarly tree stump with shards of tree still attached remains angrily perched in the ground to this day, just as it did over a month ago. Because they’ve done nothing to remove it.

Anyway. Bear was out of town for a job Monday night. He’s out of town a lot, so I did my normal evening routine of locking doors and windows and pushing chairs in front of doors and leaving legos on the floors in front of the windows. (You do this too, right?)
Now, I don’t like to brag, but I typically go to bed at 9:30. While many people function on 6 hours of sleep, I typically function best at 10 hours of sleep, though I usually end up getting around 9 hours.
So at 9:30 I got into bed and turned on a podcast and began to drift off into dreamland, both dogs on the bed with me in the surrogate-husband position. Suddenly I heard…

BOOM.

It sounded as if someone had slammed one of the house doors shut REALLY HARD and the entire house shook.
Charlie, my big old Boxer, barked. Bella, my little old Boxer, whined.

And I turned into a single man Swat Team without ANY of the gear.

I jumped out of bed and immediately begin flipping all the lights on, one room at a time. I check the motion-sensor lights outside on my way to Abe’s room; none of them were on. Abe was asleep and safe. I moved more chairs and legos in front of his window before moving on to the other rooms and doors.
I checked every room, door, and window. I didn’t see anything unusual, but at this point my blood pressure was dangerously high so I double-checked everything. Our house was glowing like it was full of radiation. I searched the house twice more and look out every window 100 times. I even honked my car alarm a few times from the key fob just to let the murderer know I can hear him/her.

I walked back into my room to find that both “guard dogs” were snoring. I texted Bear and told him what was going on. He stayed vigil, reminding me to check the outdoor motion detector lights to see if they’d been tripped (little did he know, I’d checked them 74 times already). I kept my phone right next to me just in case I needed to text him that I was actively being attacked in our bedroom while our dogs slept…
I got out a book and left all the lights in the house on and settled in to never sleep again.

About 5 minutes later…

BOOM.

I fly out of bed and stand in the middle of the room, frozen, arms out, in the “if I suspend all of my other senses I will be able to figure out where this sound is coming from” position.

Boom. The house shakes again.

The dogs looked up at me as if to ask me to stop shaking the house while they try to sleep.

Boom. The house shakes again.

I finally decided to peer our the window one last time to make sure it wasn’t The Hulk, and what do I see glimmering in the moonlight?

AN AXE.

At 10:30 at night, Those Neighbors decided it would be a good time to begin chopping away at what was left of the fallen tree with a full-size axe. With every chop, another giant chunk of the tree fell to the ground and rattled the house.

Mystery solved. I texted Bear and fell asleep within 5 minutes.