appreciation

32 things I love about Mike Sayre

20150905_013013I cannot believe I met my husband when he was a mere 24 years old. Over the past seven years, I’ve been privy to some of the amazing traits that make him so special. On this day we celebrate his birth, I would like to share one thing I love about him for each year of his life.

  1. A few years ago Mike decided he wanted to learn how to play piano and guitar. He’s been practicing every single day since then, and there were some rough patches, but now he can play beautifully, and I find that level of determination inspiring.
  2. Mike always knows how to get where he wants to go. In the forest, he knows how to use a compass and in the concrete jungle, he remembers to get the address of the place we’re going. I would still be lost without his help.
  3. He’s so patient and loving. For five days in a row, our cat peed in our bed. We spent so much money and time at the laundromat, and I was at my wit’s end. When I got to the point where I was ready to give her away, Mike decided that she was begging for attention, so he started cuddling with her more often and giving her catnip. She hasn’t peed in the bed since.
  4. Mike is the biggest advocate of following your dreams. When he meets someone who doesn’t seem satisfied with their work, he becomes obsessed with trying to help them to find what they love to do.
  5. On that note, he’s the one who encouraged me to start the HeSo project.
  6. IMG_20141028_211839He’s an incredible musician. Not only is he a classically trained French Horn player, but he also composes music for film and television. Here’s a small sample of his music.
  7. He’s an utter goofball. There’s this one dance he does around the house that cracks him up, and once he starts he can’t stop.
  8. Mid-sentence, he’ll stop what he’s doing to write down an idea for a song.
  9. Cindy Crawford has nothing on the cute little mole Mike has on his left cheek.
  10. For the past six months, he’s been competing with me to get more twitter followers. We both can’t stand Twitter, but we realize it’s necessary for our careers, so it’s been good motivation to stay active on that platform. As you can see, I’m kicking his butt! Here’s mine and here’s his, if you want to go and even the score.
  11. He gets along with my friends, and he reminds me to reach out to my friends when I’m being an anti-social homebody.
  12. On our third date, Mike let me cut his hair, and he continues to let me experiment on his beautiful, golden waves.2014-09-12 00.26.18
  13. When it’s his turn to cook, he finds the most elaborate recipe to cook. It’s never just pasta with him.
  14. He can sing the entire soundtrack to Jesus Christ Superstar, Chess, and Les Miserables.
  15. He has great legs. When I point this out to him, he’ll pose and say “Oh these old things?”
  16. He is always pushing himself to do better. The man is seriously motivated.
  17. He gives the best feedback on my writing. If something’s not working, I can rely on him to give me his honest opinion.
  18. Mike is colorblind and sometimes has a hard time accepting that. It’s always amusing when he mixes up his colors or picks out an outfit that clashes.
  19. Whenever I rub his shoulders, he makes a sound like he’s never been massaged before in his life, and he can’t believe it feels so good.
  20. He is a chocolate chip fiend. Seriously you can’t leave him alone with those cookies.
  21. He gave me the gift of health. Last January, I told him I wished I could run again, but my knee hurt too much. He patiently coached me, and I went from running one minute at a time to running for six miles straight! I’ve never felt better, and my knee is all better. Best gift he ever gave me 🙂
  22. People seem to think that Bernie Sanders came out of nowhere, but Mike has been watching C-SPAN for years just to hear Bernie speak.
  23. For some reason, he’s crazy about stripes on clothes. Whenever I wear something with stripes on it, he says “stripies!” like a little kid.
  24. Sometimes I overhear him meowing at the cats. He’ll start laughing and then come to me and say one of the cats just said the darndest thing. I repeat, goofball.WW105
  25. He says, “nunya” (short for none of your business) when I ask him what he’s doing. Even when he’s being a child it’s kind of cute.
  26. He’s been by my side through every Writers Work Conference and keeps me going when I want to quit.
  27. If I tell him something’s important to me, he’ll try it out and be open-minded. Six years ago, he trusted me and took The Living Course, and that means the world to me.
  28. He’s always researching the best way to do everything and the best products. If he recommends a phone to buy I’m certain that it’s the best.
  29. He could live off of pita bread for days, which makes #13 even more special.
  30. He’s an incredible poet and songwriter. He has unique perspectives and a sensitive outlook on the world.
  31. He’ll wear one pair of shoes until the soles disintegrate.
  32. He’s the most loving, kind, creative, handsome, smart, funny, romantic man I know!

How bullying made me a better writer

Most kids joke that their favorite subject in school is recess or lunch. Those were the times I dreaded the most. Classmates spitting gum in my hair; getting called ugly/ fatty/ freakazoid; kids running from me, afraid they would catch ‘Tracy germs.’ I ate lunch in the bathroom whenever I could sneak by the lunch attendants who seemed more preoccupied with keeping us all in one raucous room rather than ensuring that no one was getting hurt or bullied.

While I would never wish that treatment on any young child, as an adult it’s easy to notice the bright side of the past. The truth is something positive did come from that time. I truly believe that my skills as a writer were formed during the isolation and depression of bullying.

  1. It made me more observant.
    If I wasn’t bullied, I was ignored. At these times I could watch my peers; studying their gestures, their words, and their behaviors . I thought if I studied them hard enough, I would learn how to become popular. Of course that didn’t work, but I did learn how to be quiet and absorb the information around me, and put that into my writing.
  2. It taught me the art of revision.
    As a kid, I was terrible with come backs. As soon as someone dissed me, I froze up and English became like a second language to me. This made the kids laugh even more. While trying to fall asleep I would go over the insults kids hurled at me that day and come up with all the clever responses I should have said. Writing gives you the ability to sit with a cluster of words and sculpt them as much as you want until they finally resemble your elusive thoughts.  Writing gave me the ability to use my words, an ability I didn’t have on the playground.
  3. It turned me into a reader.

    In order to become a good writer, you must read. This is the best way to absorb effective structure, beautiful prose, potent vocabulary, and great ideas. I was slow to reading, in fact I didn’t start reading until 3rd grade, but once I was able to decipher those inky pages I couldn’t get enough. I escaped into the world of books. If my reality was full of play dates and giggles, I probably wouldn’t have read so much.

  4. It taught me the complexity of humanity.
    The best authors make you sympathize with people who do bad things. In order to achieve this, the author needs to have incredible understanding as to why a person would behave that way, and, most of all, she must be able to forgive that character. It took me a long time to forgive my classmates for their treatment, but eventually I was able to understand why they did it. They were scared little kids afraid that if they didn’t pick on the scapegoat they would become the scapegoat. They had siblings or parents who bullied them and they took that out on me. They thought it was a harmless joke. When my best friend arrived at our school in fifth grade, I asked her if she knew how to talk because she was so quiet. Years later she told me how much that comment hurt her, but at the time I didn’t know any better. Whatever the reason for bullying, I don’t believe that kids are evil, they were complex.
  5. It helped me handle rejection.
    Getting a letter saying “unfortunately we cannot represent you at this time,” doesn’t feel like rejection compared to what the boys used to say on my school bus. I remember one time the kids teased a boy, saying that we were boyfriend and girlfriend, at which point he pretended to throw up. His retching was so convincing that the bus driver pulled over to see if he was okay. Kids would kick the empty seat over if they saw me coming to sit next to them, or they would beg my teacher to be partnered with someone else. That was a kind of rejection that puts all future rejection in perspective.

I spent years pitying myself as the victim, not understanding what I did to warrant that kind of treatment. The truth is it doesn’t matter. Bad things happen. If we choose to let those times teach us rather than beat us, we are stronger and better for it.

Be Audacious

Jamie Cat Callan, author of Ooh La La!:: French Women’s Secrets to Feeling Beautiful Every Day, presented at my conference yesterday and one of her pieces of advice summarized the entire event for me:

“Be audacious. Even if it seems crazy, ask for what you want!”

All I knew was that I wanted to host a conference to promote talented writers and motivate aspiring writers. I didn’t know where it should be, who should speak, and what message I was trying to share. I started with a simple question “will you join me?” and one by one I amassed a panel of eight amazing speakers.

me at conference

Yesterday I was blown away by the level of insight the speakers had. Each presentation was unique and the speakers shared their personality as well as their knowledge. Looking out at the audience, I was touched to see over 40 strangers eagerly taking notes the entire time. During the social hour, so many audience members came up to me and said they couldn’t wait to go home and write (exactly what I wanted to hear).

The audience members taking their seats.

The audience members taking their seats.

I can’t tell you how many times I told people I was hosting a writers’ conference and they gave me a look like I was crazy. After all, who am I? I don’t have the backing of a credible publishing house, I don’t have thousands of dollars from sponsors, I don’t have 100,000 followers on Twitter. Who am I? I’m audacious 🙂 and it worked!

If you have a dream, start doing whatever it takes to make it happen. It might not look like how you envisioned it, but remember you are just taking the first step and that’s what will make the next step possible. Waiting around for someone to give you permission to do something is a waste of time, and it probably won’t ever happen.

Now I know that I can do this, I’m looking to expand. I would like to host the next conference in 6 months. Here’s how you can help me:

  • If you know of potential sponsors who would like to be associated with a conference that’s inspiring and motivating, one that promotes working hard for what you want, please put me in touch with them!
  • If you know engaging, approachable and inspiring speakers who are in some way connected to the writing world (publishers, agents, writers, freelancers, or something totally crazy that I can’t come up with), please put me in touch with them!
  • Follow me on Twitter and Facebook. The more followers I have, the more credible I look and the more great content you get to keep up with ;). The hashtag for this event is #writerswork

Lots more pictures will be coming! I can’t thank Jamie Cat Callan, AnneLise Sorensen, Jen Doll, Whitney Jacoby, Gayle Squires, Melissa Baumgart, Tricia Remark, and Christina Bryza enough! Also a special thanks to Capital One 360 for the venue, and Amy Stockhaus for the photography.

You guys rock!

2014-03-23 15.56.14Thank you so much for the feedback on my new website, Brutal First Impressions. I got over 400 hits on my website in the last two days!  From the legal advice, to the copy editing, to the opinions on the layout, I really took your comments to heart and I think the website is much better thanks to my readers’ suggestions. The layout of the mobile site is still a little funky, but it’s getting better.

Now’s your chance to share it 🙂 Please tell everyone you know about Brutal First Impressions. Facebook, twitter, linkedin, email, word of mouth, any way you can share it would be awesome! You can also follow my BFI account on twitter. I can’t wait to share my success with you 🙂

A special thanks to Alice, Dale, David, Deanne, Eda, Francis, Jeff, Jerry, Mandi, Marie, Melissa, Mike, Sojo and Tricia.

Improvising a better reward system

wpid-20130603_113238.jpgLast year I wrote that if you have a long-term goal, it’s important to reward the milestones. This helps you celebrate the process and not just the outcome.

My two long-term goals are publishing a novel, and launching a career from the HeSo Project. I came up with my milestones and rewards and taped them to my desk so I can see them whenever I work.

It was really hard coming up with rewards and I found myself just listing the nicer version of everything I already own. A few months ago, I reached one of my goals (1,000 blog followers) and bought myself a pair of boots. My trip to Idaho was a reward for finishing my first draft of the novel. While I love my boots, rewarding myself with an experience that will have a long-term impact on my creativity was much more …well…rewarding.

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As I reach another goal (2,000 followers!), I decided to cross out all the materialistic rewards and replace them with fun experiences I’ve always wanted to try.

My husband took an improv class at The Pit last year and he had so much fun. I’ve always wanted to take an improv classes but I used money as an excuse not to do it, when the real reason was I was an intimidated by it. Well I already have a bunch of purses, so I crossed that off and signed up for a four week improv class!

I’m a little nervous, but I can’t wait to share with you all the amazing lessons of improv.

By the way, if you’ve never read this short little gem, Improv Wisdom: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up, I’d highly recommend it.

Mini Memoir Monday: Stealing the Essence of Roses

This week’s memoir was written by my mom, Dale Joan Young:

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Rose

Rose (Photo credit: LeahLikesLemon)

I was given free reign as very young child to explore my neighborhood.   I remembered passing a florist which I decided to visit on one of my walks.  The men who owned it were very kind and very patient.   I told them that I  wanted to buy a flower for my mother and I asked what a chrysanthemum would cost, since that’s what my mother told everyone was her favorite flower.  I had less than 50¢ in my pocket.  Instead of answering me, I was asked how much money I had.  After I told them, they went about making me a gorgeous bouquet, while I stood at the counter smelling their roses.

These men were so kind, that many weeks after I got my allowance, I found myself back in their store buying flowers for my mother.  The men loved me because they couldn’t get over a little kid spending her allowance on flowers for her mom for no occasion.  They fussed over me and told all their customers about me, and had more fun making the bouquets for me than my mother ever did when she received them.  Looking back, I now realize that I went to their store more for the acknowledgement I got from those men and the pleasure I had from smelling their roses, than my desire to please my mother.  Nothing ever seemed to satisfy her.

Although I bought her mums, I, however, preferred roses, and always looked forward to smelling them while the florists put together my mother’s bouquet.  However, I noticed that when I stayed at the counter long enough, after a few minutes, the roses seemed to lose their scent, and I was convinced that I had stolen it.  I couldn’t understand why the kind men who owned the shop, would let me stand there, in plain sight and steal the fragrance from their roses, week after week.

My mother is no longer with us.  She died May 13, 2003.  I wish I could say I miss her, but I don’t.  I get jealous reading tear filled reminiscences on Facebook of how much people miss their mothers, and I long to have had the same feelings, but I don’t.  I’m not angry about her neglect any more, and we did come to peace towards the end of her life.  I learned that it’s much sadder to have someone die and not feel devastated than it is to be completely crestfallen when someone is gone.  The grief is a testimony to the depth of a relationship that has irreparably altered.

Quite a few years have passed since I want to my friends’ florist, and now I tend to my own roses, still enjoying them and longing for their fragrances to overwhelm my senses for however long they will before their smells fade.   I know I can come back time and again, and for a few minutes each time, be completely absorbed in their ephemeral grace.

 

1,000 People Bought Me a Pair of Boots

wpid-20130603_113238.jpgA while back, I wrote a post about pinpointing milestones that lead up to a major goal, and rewarding yourself when you achieve those goals. So often we set our sights high, and don’t celebrate all the little steps it takes to reach the final destination.

On a stack of note cards, I wrote out the my short-term goals for my novel and for my blog. Under each goal I wrote the reward I would give myself for achieving that goal. Then I stuck those note cards in a place where I could see them whenever I work.

One of my goals was to have 1,000 email subscribers to my blog. This past Monday, I reached that goal! As my reward I’m buying these pretty little boots I’ve had my eye on for months. Ye haw! I’m going to think of all my awesome readers whenever I wear them 🙂

I cannot thank you enough for reading my posts. It makes my day when I get a notification that someone is following my blog. All I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you! If you happen upon a blog that you like, I suggest you follow it because you have no idea how encouraging that is for a writer.

Now the main question is: what should I reward myself with when I get 5,000 followers?!?

I need a hero

Today we got a notice that our internet service would be raised to $71 a month (just for internet). Two years ago it cost $19.99 a month.  How can the cost more than triple when the service keeps getting slower? My first instinct was to call them up and curse them out but then I remembered the best piece of advice for dealing with customer service.

Barbara Hosler, one of the instructors for The Living Course, once mentioned that when she calls up customer service she asks, “Can you be my hero today?” The questions totally catches them off guard, and amid all the yelling and cursing they hear all day, really stands out. It puts the operator in a position to be on your side rather than become defensive.

I tried this technique today even though I had a bunch of four letter words on the tip of my tongue. I could not believe how well it worked. Within minutes, the woman on the other line was telling me how terrible it was that I had to pay so much and it’s really unfair that we haven’t gotten a promotion when we’ve been such loyal customers; she basically made my argument for me.

She lowered the price to $44.99, sent us a new router and modem for free, and even directed me to a great website for checking the speed of my internet. We chatted on the phone for five minutes after we were done talking business. We shared budgeting tips and I suggested a few places for her to check out when she visits New York.

All in all, it was a really pleasant experience. I got more than I expected without raising my blood pressure or losing my voice. All it took was a new approach. Thank you Barb!

Two very important anniverseries

When Mike and I first started dating, I sent him a copy of a story I was trying to publish. I was really proud of it and I didn’t understand why I wasn’t hearing back from any publishers. Mike read it and pointed out the areas that could be stronger. I’m not going to lie, I was hurt at first, but then I was blown away. This guy had the guts to tell me the truth, the brains to offer great suggestions, and enough faith in me to know that I was capable of so much more. I decided I would never let him go.

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Couples that dance together stay together!

On Monday, we celebrated our 5 year anniversary of meeting. We met on Match.com. After emailing back and forth for a week, and then talking on the phone for hours, we met in person at a little cafe in the West Village. I was taken by his big smile, and his willingness to talk about everything you’re not supposed to talk about on a first date (politics, religion, sex, money, you name it). Before the date ended, he asked me to go with him to the Middlesex County Fair in New Jersey. We had our first kiss on top of the ferris wheel: it was the kind of date I dreamed of as a little girl.

Two years ago, Mike told me to stop procrastinating and just start a blog already. After hemming and hawing for weeks, I finally posted my first ever Heso Project entry. I cannot believe I’ve been blogging for two years now. First, I can’t believe I have so much to say, and second, I can’t believe people are reading it 🙂 I owe Mike a huge thanks for his encouragement.

Happy 2 year anniversary, The Heso Project!