Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Do these skis make my ass look fast?


Sorry for the month-long blogging hiatus. Life has been crazy, not in an I-use-Crayola-markers-for-makeup kind of way, but crazy nonetheless. Thankfully however, I’m blessed with great friends who know exactly when to stage an intervention. Enter this year’s ski trip; but, as always, before I can tell you that part of the story, I have to tell you this part first.

Growing up, I was lucky enough to spend my summers in Virginia horse country at my Aunt and Uncle’s house. And, while it’s true that I never learned to ride, I did learn that my grandmother raised her daughters who raised their daughters the right way: Never rely on a husband or a trust fund, because you never know when either one might run out. Don’t get me wrong, I wish I could have been a trophy wife with a drinking problem. It just wasn’t in the cards. I love doughnuts, I hate doctors, and I’m a complete misanthrope. Other than that, I’d have fucking nailed it.

In any case, the point is that, like everyone in that part of the world, my cousins had horses and rode competitively. They did dressage, but some of their friends did cross-country and show jumping, and some of them did all three, which is also known as eventing. If you’ve never seen it, you should. It’s basically the equestrian world’s equivalent of a triathlon. Personally, I can’t figure out how they do it. I can barely master a horse that eats quarters instead of hay and goes in circles… electronically. But I love the idea of riding, especially three-day eventing because they actually say things like, “my comfort zone is crotch height.” Yes, really. It allows them to use their bodies as human tape measures when gauging a jump.

Now, just to make sure we’re on the same page, God help all of us if I ever decide to take up that sport; because, at forty-two, I’m pretty sure boob height is rapidly approaching crotch height, and no one wants to have that conversation with me, especially at a competition sponsored by Rolex. Seriously. You should simply trust me when I tell you that would be out of everyone’s comfort zone, particularly since I’m not above using hand gestures if I feel like there’s ambiguity and my safety is on the line.

Anyway, I also love that eventers will tell you they do it, “three ways in three days.” Otherwise stated, they do one event each day: dressage, cross-country and show jumping. So what does all of that have to do with this post? Well, nothing and everything, so stay with me. We’re almost there.

You see, every year I take a ski trip out west; and this time, since it was just TB and me, we decided to get multi-mountain passes for Keystone, Arapahoe Basin and Breckenridge. The idea was to hit Keystone’s Outback and do some tree skiing on day one, head over to A Basin on day two for Pallavicini, one of Colorado’s steepest runs, and then wrap up with a day of moguls off the South Side of Peak 10 at Breck. Three days. Three ways: Trees, pitch and bumps.

Honestly though, for two women in their forties, I would tell you that we held our own… OK, that's a lie. TB held her own because she stills run marathons. Given that I only run my mouth and errands, on the last day, my legs were simply shot. But, because I'm an idiot, I agreed to head over to Peak 9, which has extremely tight ungroomed mogul runs, and it was a mistake.

So, there we are... on a run called Devil’s Crotch… and I’m looking more like something from Rosemary’s Baby than Warren Miller… when I hear TB say, “Stop fighting the mountain and start working with it.” Which, in her defense, is very Zen; but, in my defense, may not be altogether accurate… because I feel like I’d be a biter and a hair-puller in a fight (I have no empirical evidence to support this theory, but I’m pretty sure I’m right)... and I decide, “You know what, I’ll do it.” So I sit into it… and I’m hauling… and it feels really good… until I hit the biggest mogul of my life… and it hits me right back.

I *might* have peed myself, but I’m not really sure, since I don’t actually know how long I laid there, but I can tell you this: When you come to, and your ass is near your armpit, you’re not only out of your comfort zone in any sport, you’re out of your league. On the up-note, when I got home and called my mother to tell her about the trip, she said, “At least the only thing that died was your dignity.”

Talk to you later.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

You’ve Got Mail


Have you ever said to yourself, “Self, where am I going and why am I in this handbasket?” Well, I have. In fact, I had that very moment today. You see, of late, life has been insane. I’m crazy-swamped at work all day, busy querying agents each night, and–in between–I’m trying to schedule a ski-trip out West. In other words, at the risk of putting my balls in your face, it’s a lot to juggle. Seriously.

Be that as it may, let me say this: I’m not complaining. I love my job and I love my boss; and, in this market, not everyone can say that. Furthermore, although trying to get published has only produced more evidence that God clearly hates me, at least the manuscript is finished. As for heading to Colorado to ski, I understand that’s a first world problem. It’s like bitching because you only got one packet of barbeque sauce for your twenty piece McNuggets. I get it. I do. However, disclaimer disclaimed, I have something to say to Yahoo Mail, which I’ve been using to contact said agents, and here it is, "Dear Ymail - Given that I’d like to become a real writer one day, I’ll try to provide grammatically correct feedback about your Conversation “feature.” Ready? Off is the general direction in which I would like it to fuck. Not kidding. Sincerely - mkromd"

But, before I can tell you why Yahoo so justifiably deserves my wrath, I have to tell you this part of the story first . . .  Since the holidays, I’ve spent easily a hundred hours researching literary agents who handle humorous memoirs/narrative nonfiction work (specifically geared towards women) and are willing to take on new writers. I even found a select handful who specialize in female bloggers looking for book deals. If you don’t believe how long all of that took me, just ask the NSA. They can totally verify my digital whereabouts. Note: Dear National Security Agency, thank you for backing me up. Also, while you may have read thousands upon thousands of texts between my sister and me, I’m not whiny or needy. She likes hearing every minute detail of my life. It makes her feel important (she’s welcome). And though her replies say things like, “Did you HAVE to send me a disgusting pic of your toe? It’s a spider bite. You’re not going to die, so stop freaking out.” When I saw her face-to-face, she hugged me and said, “I’m glad you reached out for help. As a woman with a degree in Biology and a mother of all boys, I was the most logical person to contact. Besides, I wanted to be there for you. Even mom was worried it would spread and you could lose your whole leg.”

Anyway, I digress. The point is that, using the criteria above, I created a list of ten agents and worked with an editor to craft the query letter and mini-proposal. Then I began submitting my work, and it was a mistake. Today I found out that Yahoo decided to “tag” every email with a similar Subject line (e.g. Query for your review), assume it was one conversation (regardless of the recipient), and combine them into one threaded discussion, so every agent can see exactly who I’ve contacted and what I said. Yes, really. It’s like Gossip Girl, the Mid-Life Crisis episode, with a splash of American Horror Story thrown in to mix things up a bit.

In any case, on the off-chance that a snowball landed in hell and one of those agents is visiting my blog (despite her better judgment), I sincerely apologize for the chaos and deeply appreciate your interest. I realize you may feel like you weren’t special, but I assure you that’s not the case. Hours upon hours went into finding you; and, like Herman Cain once said, “It’s true there were a lot of other women, but think of how many I didn’t bother.” Given that I just quoted him to help my case, perhaps hell really did just freeze over. That’s OK, I’ll ski that, too. Speaking of, I’m off to plan our trip out West. I mean really, how bad could it be?

Talk to you later.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Every day I write the book . . .

Happy 2014. With that, I have two things to share. First of all, I’m pleased to report that mkromd raised sixty dollars for Nathan Bransford’s annual Hooray for Heifer drive. Many thanks to those of you who posted comments (once or several times), joined my blog (you know who you are) or simply visited my karma ran over my dogma (the more the merrier). It was genuinely most appreciated.

Also, as always, we donated bees; because, let’s face it, the world needs them. If their job were left to people like me, everything on this planet would die. I’m not kidding. One could argue that I’m (literally) the Grim Reaper of gardening. Personally, however, I like to think of myself as a horticultural hospice worker, easing the transition, so plants can go to God without fear. They’re welcome.

Secondly, the manuscript is done, as in stick-a-fork-in-it-DONE. Since I’ve been asked to write a guest post about the experience, I won’t share too much here, only that I simply had no idea how hard it would be. All jokes aside, at each point, I thought the next phase would be easier and it never was. It was like Sisyphus, minus the cardio. Seriously, first you have to decide what to write. Then you have to write it. Then you have to muster the courage to submit it to an editor for style, flow, voice and grammar. If that doesn’t sound intimidating, keep in mind these are people who have absolutely no problem whatsoever letting you know the difference between, “you’re shit and your shit.” And the worst part is this: that’s their professional opinion, so it’s accurate. 

In any case, if you can survive making those edits and still have a sense of humor, you move into the next stage: the query letter and mini-proposal. Or, as I like to refer to this process, “shock and awe.” Not because of how fabulous it is, but because your writing takes ANOTHER pounding. You basically have to disregard everything you’ve learned from your writing coach, peer reviewers and editor. Then create a business proposal so agents and publishers are willing to look at the first fifty pages of your book, which have to be good enough to make them want to read the rest of it. It’s like a dysfunctional game of Chutes and Ladders with a pinch of Monopoly thrown in, “Your book didn’t get picked, go back to Start and do not collect $200 or a bottle of tequila on your way there.”

Anyway, as promised, when the guest post is released, I’ll share a link to it. In the meantime, thank you again for supporting Heifer. Talk to you later.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

I wonder as I wander


I apologize for dropping the blogging ball lately. However, at the risk of blaming the victim, I swear I have a good reason. I’m still working on the Editor’s changes to my manuscript. And, while it’s true I got the edits in July, I had absolutely no idea how hard this process would be. But that’s the bad news. The good news is this: She likes it. In other words, if the journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step, I have my shoes on and tied, so wish me luck.

That being said, this post isn’t about my book. It’s about Nathan Bransford’s Hooray for Heifer drive. mkromd has participated every year, and this year is no exception. If you've never done it, here’s how it works . . . Every year, http://blog.nathanbransford.com sends this ripple of kindness across the blogosphere and challenges each of us to raise money for a wonderful cause, Heifer International. It goes something like this, if I link to his site and this cause, he will redirect people to my site to keep it going. So we should totally do this! For each comment that you post below (until the first week of January 2014), I'll donate 25 cents on your behalf, and for each person who “joins” my karma ran over my dogma, I'll donate one dollar (up to $50 total). This is the fourth year we've done it, and I'd like to keep this tradition going, including sharing the post below. As dysfunctional as it is, it's become the mkromd equivalent to, "Twas the Night before Christmas." Yes. Really.

*********

Just when I thought no one was paying attention to my blog, someone sent me a note about Nathan Bransford, who is raising money for a wonderful cause, Heifer International. Now, if you aren’t familiar with this organization, they use donations (like this) to purchase sustainable items for indigenous people around the world, many of whom I’ve personally offended at one point in time or another and need to apologize to en masse. Hopefully this will help me make amends (and improve my karma); and, for those of you who regularly read my blog, you know I need all the help I can get. You even already know that years ago, in college, when I studied in Sardinia, I was attacked by a passive-aggressive hair stylist who shaved my head. But, what you don't know is that, as tragic as that event may have been, it was far from the worst thing that's ever happened to me abroad.

That probably happened in India, after I graduated from college.

You see, every year my large co-dependent family vacations together in a place we've never been before. It's true, we pick some unfortunate destination and descend en-masse, and one year we decided to go to Asia. At any rate, there we were, visiting a mosque in India, when someone suggested that we see the, “lesser known Poor Man’s Taj Mahal.” If you've never heard of it, don't be alarmed. It’s more like a roadside attraction than it is a mosque, but the rules still apply: men can go inside, women cannot, and everyone has to take off their shoes regardless.

So there I was . . . walking around . . . outside . . . in India . . . without shoes on . . . when I stepped in bird poop.

If you know nothing about me, please know this - I’m a complete germ-a-phobe; however, luckily for me, there was a big pool of water right there. And, as a recently-graduated, culturally-sensitive Anthropologist, I hopped over to it and stuck my bird poop covered foot right in. No kidding, about twenty-five men immediately ripped their hands out of there the second I'd touched it. Being the polite idiot that I am, I was loudly apologizing/explaining and showing them my foot while saying, “Sorry, I stepped in crap and I need to get it off.”

Now, if you know anything about Islam, then you probably know the following:
1. That’s holy water and it’s used for men to clean themselves before they pray. Women don’t use it . . . ever.
2. In most Asian cultures, showing someone the bottom of your feet is like giving them the finger.
3. Either one of these things is offensive.
4. Both of these things together can be life-threatening.

I now know that too.

That said, as I’m writing this, it dawns on me that the poop "incident" wasn't actually the worst one. The worst was definitely when I was living and working in London because of an international assignment. I tried to warn my boss this was a bad idea, but it wasn’t until I lost my knickers on High Street that he agreed.

However, before I can tell you that part of the story, I have to tell you this part first.

You see, one morning, I’d gotten up and headed into the office to prep for a big meeting with my manager and his peers, all of whom are men. However, because God hates me, I didn't get to work early at all. In fact, I got there late because of traffic on the M25. Already tardy and frustrated, I quickly grabbed my stuff from the car and accidentally slammed the door on myself, which naturally resulted in a massive tear in my nylons. As I looked at my watch, I realized that I could pull it off (no pun intended) and literally jaunted (in heels) to Woolworths on High Street for a new pair.

Though I was able to successfully repress most of what happened next, I still remember running into the store, grabbing a pair of pantyhose off the rack, looking at the back of the package, and realizing that this wasn’t going to end well for me. You see, the problem with buying clothes in England is that the height and weight charts are metric.

Do you know how many stones you weigh or how many meters tall you are? Wow, me neither!

But I grabbed a pair anyway and hauled back to the office where I went into the bathroom, pulled off my nylons, pitched the torn ones into the garbage and opened the new pack. Clearly God hates me, because when I opened them, they were thigh-highs . . . for an Amazon. I’m five foot two, and in no parallel universe would those have worked, even if I'd had a garter-belt, which I didn't.

So there I was, eyeballing the torn ones in the trash and running the numbers in my head, when I realized that it would require a lifetime of therapy if I went dumpster diving for my own used clothes. Instead, I tried to make my B Plan work.

I literally PULLED MY NYLONS THROUGH THE TOP OF MY UNDERWEAR AND TIED THEM TOGETHER IN THE BACK.

After fifteen minutes of sheer hell (no pun intended), I walked over to my boss’s office, shut his door and said, “We have a problem.” It was (quite literally) five minutes before one of the biggest presentations of my life, so he was clearly upset by this declaration and asked why. That's when I stamped my right foot three times, and my thigh-high fell to the floor . . . engulfing my shoe. As we stood there, staring at each other, not sure what to say, the left thigh-high fell to the floor, too. And no, I hadn’t shaved. That’s when my boss said, “Take the damn things off and tell them you’re French. Let’s go.”

To think I was scared of what could happen on our last family vacation to Peru. No kidding, I was genuinely terrified that I’d hear a blow dart and wake up days later in some South American jungle hut without a kidney. Since that didn’t happen, I clearly still have amends to make before my karma can improve, so PLEASE help me out. Give to Heifer International. Or, post a comment and I will make a donation on your behalf (up to $50 total from mkromd).

Have a great holiday! Talk to you next week.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Let it roll, baby roll


Can we please have a moment of silence for my dignity? It died this week at work… on a toilet seat… much like Elvis did. Only there were no drugs involved. In fact, there was no toilet paper involved either, and that’s exactly where this week’s story begins. 

You see, when I’m at home, I accept that there’s never toilet paper when I need it. Though I buy it once a week and restock each bathroom in our house every weekend, for some reason there is never a square to spare when I'm in the loo. The roll is either as barren as Carthage or has a single, tattered remnant of hope still glued to the cardboard. 

But that’s not the point. The point is that you don’t expect that to happen at work. You don’t grab a roll on your way to the bathroom, “just in case.” Nor do you do a little recon before you “drop trou.” You assume that everyone has done their part. In other words, both you and the toilet paper roll are completely covered. Worse than that, at home, at least you have options: Kleenex… paper towels… packing tissue. I’m not proud, but I am honest, and there are days that the cocktail napkins in the kitchen drawer should be grateful they dodged a bullet.  At work, your only option is to twerk like Miley Cyrus to elevator music and hope you can actually drip dry with some modicum of success… which is precisely what I did.

However, before I can tell you that part of the story, I have to tell you this part first. 

At the risk of blaming the victim, I should say that there was, indeed, some toilet paper on the roll when I walked into the stall. Not enough to line the seat, per se, about twenty to thirty squares, but definitely enough to take care of business. So there I was… jeans around my Dr. Martens… peeing… when I reached for the toilet paper… and accidentally pulled the entire roll with its holder off the wall. Yes. Really. The toilet tissue literally flew across my lap, landed on the floor, and proceeded to unravel as it rolled all the way to the restroom sink… while I helplessly watched in abject disbelief and horror.  

It’s times like these I wish I had more middle fingers so the universe knew exactly how deeply I wanted it to fuck off. Anyway, in the spirit of full disclosure, I’m not sure what happened next. I like to think that by repressing it, I actually found some dignity. Note: If no one claims it within twenty-four hours, I’m keeping it.

Talk to you later.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Please, please, please wait a minute Mr. Postman


Today’s tale takes “going postal” to a whole new level. However, before I can tell you that part of the story, I have to tell you this part first. You see… a couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine’s dad suddenly and somewhat unexpectedly passed away in Florida. In less than a ten day period of time, my friend got the phone call, hopped a flight, drove to the hospital, and lived in a waiting room or by his father’s side until the decision was made to end life support. 

Having lost my own dad, I know how awful the whole experience can be. That's why, when my friend returned home to the Mid-West, we went to lunch so I could see how he was doing. As expected, we spent as much of the conversation laughing as we did crying; then, after an hour or two, we hugged our good-byes and he said, “Wish me luck. I’m off to the Post Office to get my dad.” Yes. Really.

Now, please believe me when I tell you that Mark Twain was right, “Reality is stranger than fiction because, unlike the truth, fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities.” And since there’s NO delicate way to say this, and my friend gave me the OK to share it on mkromd, I’ll simply be candid. His father’s ashes were sent to his neighbor’s house by accident. For one minute, imagine that you’re the guy who lives next door, and the mailman asks you to sign for a package… from a crematorium… that CANNOT be returned to sender… since that would be God.  

Because I don’t have a filter, when he told me that, I literally burst out laughing (which, thankfully, made him do the same). I mean, really… when a child loses a parent, it’s a tragedy; but, when the United States Postal Service does it, it’s just careless. That said, he told me everyone was GREAT about it. Maybe since all’s well that ends well, on the drive home, I found myself saying, “Self, if that’s going to happen to ANYONE, it’s going to happen to you. You’re going to die, and instead of DB getting your ashes and you meeting your Maker, you’re going to spend eternity in a Post Office. Seriously, if you thought mailing a package at Christmas was Hell, you haven’t seen anything yet.”

And that would be the BEST case scenario. What if they mail me First Class, with adequate postage (though I’m sure I wouldn’t weigh as much as they think I do), and I get delivered to some freak’s house who keeps me in a jar in his bathroom. You don’t know. Strange shit happens in suburbia. It does. And then, imagine if THAT person dies and bequeaths me to HIS kids, and so on and so forth until my remains become like the Elephant Man’s. I’ll be trapped in limbo screaming, “I am not an animal!”

At said moment, I realized that perhaps I’m the suburban freak people talk about, because I ACTUALLY wondered… what if I chose to have myself anonymously shipped to someone instead. What if I paid extra, and the crematorium put me in a pretty box, gift wrapped me, held me until the holidays, then mailed me like the ghost of Christmas present. That’s right, she who laughs last laughs hardest.   

And, just because it’s important to plan the work and work the plan, I logged onto FedEx’s and UPS’s websites. Neither will allow you to ship human remains. Only the United States Postal Service can do it. In other words, neither rain, nor sleet, nor hail will stop them from delivering you… to the wrong house. And to my friend who is reading this, I sincerely hope you laughed, if only for a little. To everyone else, talk to you later.