Thursday, February 25, 2010

Goodbye to you

Dear K,

The next time he punches you, kicks you and shoves you… the next time he insults you or spits on you or punches your car window...remember, you chose this. You literally chose him over everyone else. The next time he throws a lit cigarette at you…the next time he tells you he’s going to cut you and watch you bleed… the next time he actually does cut you…remember, we spent 18 long months trying to help you.

We did everything friends are supposed to do. We offered you more support than you ever could’ve asked for. We offered you everything: a way out. Money. A place to stay. Counseling. We offered you escape. Silly us… we actually thought you knew you deserved better, because we’ve all told you hundreds of times.

You were beautiful. You never drank. You quit smoking. You worked out. You made good money. You laughed. You spent time with us. You enjoyed life. It wasn’t perfect. For some reason, you were always insecure even though you used to look like you just stepped off the runway. But it was your life. You were in charge of it, and you seemed to enjoy it.

I don’t know what went so wrong in your life that you thought this filthy, ugly, vile alcoholic scumbag with no job was the best you could do. But ever since he came along, you’re nothing like you used to be. You chain smoke. You drink like a fish. You don’t sleep, and it shows. You take pictures of yourself trying to look sexy and you look hollow, worn out… like you just want to die. You’re destroying you’re God given beauty for someone who has never done one nice thing for you. You’ve left perfectly nice men for minor infractions but you don’t bat an eye when this one treats you like a pile of garbage.

My twenties have been the best times of my life. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. How much of this precious time of learning, living and fun do you have to miss out on before you finally get it? You’ve missed two chances to go to Vegas, a chance to go to LA with me and meet your favorite soap stars, numerous Sunday brunches and girls’ nights because of him… because he made you feel like shit and you couldn’t leave your house, because you’re so wrapped up in his drama you “forgot,” and because you’re so busy paying his bills you can’t afford your own fun. Your twenties are a time of growth. You, my old friend, have only regressed.

You don’t live with this asshole. Supposedly you won’t even let your daughter be around him. You have no ties to him whatsoever and he acts like he doesn’t even want you… because he doesn’t. He doesn’t respect you. Now you don’t respect yourself. Sorry, K, but I don’t respect you anymore, either. I pitied you. I listened to you. I cried for you. And then I rallied the troops and we offered you everything. There’s a saying, “If you can’t handle me at my best, you don’t deserve me at my worst.” Well I guess I don’t deserve to be your friend, K, because I cannot handle you like this. I cannot be friends with someone who chooses such misery over their own beautiful, smart little girl who will probably grow up to repeat this sick pattern. Way to go, Mom of the Year.

The worst part is, you have never said you love him. In fact, half the time you say you hate him. Yet you won’t put him in jail even though he’s given you a million reasons. You just don’t want anyone else to have him. I don’t, either. I want him to be in a hole in the ground. I won’t be the one to put him there but I’ll smile if someone ever does. I just hope it’s before he does it to you.

You claim I don’t understand because I’m not in an abusive relationship. You’re right. I don’t understand how a woman can belittle herself so much for someone who may end up killing her. I don’t understand how a woman who can have any man she wants can lower herself to bragging about her latest bruise and crying because the son of a bitch is out sticking his STD ridden dick in any willing bar fly. I don’t understand, and you know what? I don’t want to. Not anymore.
The next time he steals and takes the pills you bought off the street to help deal with the pain he causes you… the next time he makes you run, screaming, for your car from you own apartment at 3 AM because you’re terrified of what he’ll do… the next time you pick up the phone and you realize you don’t have a friend left in the world… remember, he didn’t do this to you. You did this to yourself. You let him completely take you over. I wish I hadn’t wasted almost two years trying so hard to help someone who doesn’t actually want help.

You know we’ll all be here if you ever decide to pull your head out of your ass and be the good mother and the good friend you used to be. Maybe when you have no one to complain to, no one to show your scars, you’ll come around. In the meantime, the rest of us are going to go on living our lives and having the experiences that you should’ve been having all along. How much of your life will pass you by before you decide to reclaim it?

Sunday brunches aren’t the same without your pretty, smiling face and your sweet laugh. But Sunday brunch talk should never involve showing off bruises and bragging about your latest fight at a bar. Enjoy your life of misery. Just remember, you chose it for yourself. And when it seems like I don’t care, remember that it’s really because I cared too much.

Monday, February 22, 2010

How to FAIL As a Writer

It has been over a year since I decided to take the biggest gamble of my entire life and try to make it as a writer. In that time, some good things have happened. Obviously I’m not an insanely famous writer who never has to worry about money or even being offered more work than she can handle (yet). But I’ve learned a lot, changed a lot, grown as a writer and person and done a few things right. I’ve also made some serious colossal blunders that make me an expert in the ways NOT to make it as a famous writer. While I’m not yet an expert in what to do, I can safely say I know what NOT to do. Here are the top five things to do if you never, ever want to see your name in print:

1)Don’t send out query letters. I’ve got plenty of ideas for articles, fillers, essays and stories. Unfortunately, ideas are only the beginning. You’ve got to take the idea, work on it and make it into something that will inform or educate others. Then you’ve got to perfect it until it’s an idea that will actually sell. Then you’ve got to write a query letter and find multiple viable markets that would consider accepting it. Then comes the work of sending them, waiting, hoping… and if you’re lucky enough to get a “yes,” THEN you get to write the piece you wanted to write three months ago.
Like I said, lots of ideas make their way into my mind. Some make it into my notebook. I admit that I’ve gone through periods where very few, if any, have made it to the query letter stage. Duh! How does one expect to become a famous writer without saturating the market with her ideas? If you don’t ever want to make it, keep those ideas to yourself.

2) Don’t believe in yourself. For every person who tells you you’ve got what it takes, there are literally a million who will tell you that you won’t make it. You’ll hear tales of the poor economy, of a more competitive market than ever, of aspiring authors who spend decades trying to find a publisher for their book, of people giving up left and right. It’s easy to get weighed down by all the negativity even if you do believe in yourself. If you don’t, you’re screwed from the get go.
I’ve had plenty of “What in the hell am I doing?” moments since I started my pursuit of happiness. Who in their right mind quits all other sources of income to pursue something so unlikely? Who am I to live every day doing the things I want, the things that make me happy? I’ve had my moments of self-doubt. I can’t guarantee there won’t be more. But I have no choice but to believe I can do it… or I won’t.

3)Act unprofessionally. Being self-employed is tough. Working from home gives you the opportunity to set your own hours, which is fabulous. It also gives you the opportunity to slack off and do the dishes when you should be sending out queries or writing articles that have deadlines. I’ve been guilty of that and more.
Typically, I apply for writing gigs several times per week and check my email very frequently for signs of response. Last week, I ignored my email to focus on a big project (another must for freelancing is you’ve got to be flexible and able to multi-task). Imagine my horror when I opened my inbox this morning and discovered an email from several days ago asking me to complete a blog post by the following day. It was a well paying job on a topic I could’ve handled. As if that wasn’t bad enough, when I sent an apology email asking the guy to consider me for future jobs, I CALLED HIM BY THE WRONG NAME. Taking too long to respond: FAIL. Getting his name wrong when it was right in front of me: EPIC FAIL. If you never want to make it as a writer, do this regularly.

4)Procrastinate. As a freelance writer, some of my jobs have deadlines. Some article ideas have a timeline, such as seasonal queries or time-sensitive topics. Other projects, like my novel or the greeting card market I so desperately want to break into, can be done at any time. This doesn’t mean they SHOULD be done “whenever,” but they can be. I wish I could take back every single day I put off my goals for something that seemed so important, like cleaning the house or meeting my friends for lunch. I’d be a lot farther along than I am now. If you never want to make it as a writer, procrastinate like crazy. One of these days, tomorrow won’t come.

5)Don’t network, attend writers’ conferences or buy books on writing.
I admit that I don’t currently belong to any writing groups. I may change that in the future, but right now, it’s not something I am compelled to do. However, I make sure to read at least two books on writing per month. They’re usually so informative, I have to use them as references for when I need to know something or read them repeatedly. I go to writers’ conferences. As much as I fail at it, I always give networking my best shot. If others don’t know who you are, if agents don’t see you at those conferences trying your best to learn and promote yourself, no one will take you seriously. Then you won’t take yourself seriously. Before long, you’ll be living a life of mediocrity wondering what might have been while someone with no more talent than you goes on her third book tour. Being self-employed might be a job for one, but trust me… there is power in numbers.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Put Down the NutraSweet

The more I learn about nutrition, the more I realize I have to learn. With all the new discoveries and breakthroughs, it’s almost impossible to be truly nutritionally knowledgeable these days. This realization that I’m just smart enough to know how ignorant I am keeps me from being smug and acting like a know-it-all to the general public, for the most part. I don’t open my mouth when someone tells me that a grilled factory farmed chicken breast is healthy or that all carbs are bad because it’s not my place to “teach” everyone and I’m aware that every time I speak about food, there’s someone who knows much more than I do biting her tongue as well.

But it really, truly bothers me that there are so many people who still think aspartame is safe and that diet soda, Crystal Light, or “sugar free” anything is a better choice. I certainly don’t think these people are stupid. Hell, when I was a teenager I’d order my McDonald’s Value Meal (argh) with a diet Coke (double argh) to save calories. I had no idea I was fueling my body with a chemical cocktail because the truth is not readily available. In fact, when I first heard that aspartame was dangerous, I didn’t believe it. After all, it was approved by the FDA, so it was safe, right? Then I got curious and read more studies. I learned more than I ever wanted to know and now not only am I pissed off at the FDA, I’m pissed off that there are outright lies on the aspartame website. Allow me to give you a brief history of the poison that’s in your diet soda and sugar free lattes:

Aspartame was invented in 1965 by some dudes working for a company called GD Searle. They were working on a chemical compound they hoped would lead to an ulcer drug. James Schlatter, one of the dudes, accidentally got some powder on his hands and licked it. He noticed it tasted sweet. He decided since it was calorie free, it would make a great sweetener. He tried to get FDA approval in 1973 and was denied eight times between 1974 and 1980. Despite warnings from neuroscientists, GD Searle managed to get FDA approval to use aspartame in dry foods. Before it even made it into the food, the FDA put together a task force and discovered the “tests” run that “proved” aspartame was safe were clearly manipulated.

By the way, guess who was the CEO of GD Searle? Donald Rumsfeld. Just sayin’.

Here’s where it gets pretty interesting. In 1977, the US attorney’s office began the process of pressing charges against GD Searle for “knowingly misrepresenting findings and concealing materials and facts and making false statements in aspartame safety tests.” GD Searle offered the attorney leading the investigation a job with the law firm that represented their company. The attorney withdrew from the case, resigned as US attorney and accepted the job he was offered. GD Searle once again tried to get aspartame approved. In 1980, it was determined by the FDA that it should NOT be approved. In 1981, a shady dude named Arthur Hayes was appointed FDA Commissioner. Hayes ignored the evidence and approved aspartame for dry goods. In 1983 it was approved for beverages even though the National Soft Drink Association advised against it until further testing could be done. What happened to Hayes, you may be wondering? He left the FDA amid charges of impropriety and went to work for JD Searle’s Public Relations firm. I am not making this up. Research this! In 1996 aspartame was approved without restriction despite the fact that there were 92 known symptoms from ingesting it. Now it’s in Equal, Sweet & Low, diet drinks, yogurt… check your labels. Prepare to be pissed off.

Why do people eat and drink this? The aspartame site describes it as a great weight loss aid since it has no calories. People believe it since it’s in their food. People don’t buy into the “hype” or “crazy theories” and believe what they’re told. Sucks to be them, because aspartame actually causes weight gain. Looking back on my childhood, the heaviest women I knew were major diet soda drinkers.

What IS aspartame, anyway? Well, according to their website,, “It is made from two building blocks of protein, just like those found naturally in many everyday foods such as meat, fish, cheese, eggs and milk. Aspartame is digested by the body in exactly the same way as these other protein foods and so does not bring anything new to our diet.” Gosh, sounds as harmless as a kitten! But one can’t really trust information on the product’s own website. Here’s what an unbiased study says: aspartame is aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and…. methanol.

Wait… what? Here’s the definition of methanol according to Wikipedia: It is toxic. Drinking 10 mL can cause blindness, and as little as 100 mL can cause death. It is the simplest alcohol, and is a light, volatile, colorless, flammable, liquid with a distinctive odor that is very similar to but slightly sweeter than ethanol (drinking alcohol). At room temperature it is a polar liquid and is used as an antifreeze, solvent, fuel, and as a denaturant for ethanol.
Phenylalanine is an amino acid. Well, amino acids are good for us, right? Of course they are, but not when you separate the individual amino acid from its protein chain, and use it alone. The Aspartic acid in aspartame, is also an excitotoxin. An excitotoxin is a substance that over-stimulates nerve cells. This occurs in the brain, as well as the peripheral nerves, because aspartic acid, in free form, is an absorption accelerant & easily crosses the blood-brain barrier.
I’m no scientist but I know that that’s a bunch of shit I do NOT want to mess around with. The aspartame website claims that “people around the world have been enjoying the taste of aspartame for over 25 years.” That makes me want to cry. I drank this shit as a child because nobody knew (because they were lied to). And across the country, millions of people dump Equal into their coffee every morning blissfully ignorant of the fact that they are poisoning themselves.

I’m not saying that if you have one sugar free Redbull you’re going to die. Small amounts won’t likely do major damage. But there are aspartame support groups. So clearly, people are ingesting enough to do damage. Some of the many side effects are memory loss, migraines, Alzheimer’s, blindness and depression. Sure, legally you’re free to do that to yourself. But why would you want to?
Still not convinced? Do your own research. Just be aware that once you learn what’s really going on, you can’t go back. The aspartame site calls these “internet rumors” though, so make sure you go to the library and look it up in a book.

“Skinny Bitch” by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, pgs. 32-35
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