Musings over Coffee: People Like Us

I just got back from having breakfast with my older brother and cousin at Porto’s Bakery and all I have to show for it is this yummy collage of desserts that they’re known for. I was good, though. All I had was a large cup of cafe mocha and a chorizo and egg omelet on Cuban toast. The conversation was fun and long overdue.

Today we ended up talking about everything from food to friends to social media from a customer’s point of view and that of mine as an author.

Since Facebook and Instagram consider me a business, my brother and cousin have slightly different timelines from mine. Their posts don’t have the “Promote” button like mine do, an option for me to consider if I want more people to see my posts or gain more followers so Instagram can give me an avenue to actually sell a product (I need 10k followers to have that “Swipe Up” for the link option). It made me yearn for the days when I didn’t know about the Promote button myself, when reach was more organic instead of paid for.

But that’s the landscape of social media right now. It’s pay to play everywhere if you want to be seen.

Then we got to talking about Porto’s Bakery. My cousin and I learned about Porto’s through my brother who discovered them when they were just a small bakery in Los Angeles. Now they have about four other locations. My brother said that sure, they make delicious quality food but they also have an amazing staff, very attentive and professional, in every location. They don’t rush you and they make sure they get your orders right every time. If they don’t, they do their best to correct any oversight. These are the qualities of the bakery that keep him coming back whenever he comes into town (that and In ‘n Out Burger).

It made me think of Seth Godin’s book This is Marketing (yes, I’m going to come back to this book a lot in the coming year, I think), and how he stresses that you need to focus on your smallest viable audience—the people who get you and will miss you if you don’t post anything for a time—to build a business. People like me who drive ten or fifteen miles, wait in long lines to order what we want and wait another twenty minutes to pick up our perfectly boxed pastries or food “get” Portos. We’ll even spread the word about them to anyone we think is one of us who’ll like something like Porto’s pastries and Cuban food, something that’s of good quality.

That’s when it hit me—my brother, cousin and I make up Porto’s “smallest viable audience,” and we will spread the news about Porto’s because just like Godin says, “people like us do things like this.”

Hope you’re having a wonderful Sunday!

The Unthinkable

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Yesterday, the unthinkable happened.

The Lil Dude and I were on our way to see his new case manager and three blocks from the house, I looked at him from the rear view mirror and said, “oh no, Mommy forgot her phone!”

To which Lil Dude said, “oh no! We need to go back home and get it!”

But I said, “Ah, we’ll survive without it. So here’s the plan: we’ll go to the meeting, then to the store to buy you a new pair of shoes and then head straight home because we don’t have a phone.”

He agreed.

At the meeting, all my information was on my phone, of course, and I couldn’t even remember who I was meeting with. But we got that sorted out and I did have his IEP with me so that was sorted out, too. When she said something about an insurance denial letter not on file, I told her that yes, I did bring it in to the previous case manager but couldn’t tell her the date because that was on my phone. She asked if I brought a photograph of the Lil Dude and of course, there was no picture because that was on my phone, too.

One thing I also learned: Having a kid spinning around in an office chair at the periphery of your vision can still leave me feeling seasick until evening.

So then we had a late lunch because I just about passed out at the meeting from hunger (I totally need a visual schedule now, too) and while we’re eating, the Lil Dude enjoying his pancake with whipped cream topping and scrambled eggs and me with my Three Cheese Chicken Quesadilla, I realized that there was nothing to distract me from just being with the kid. No text notifications, no Messenger PMs… nothing. It was just him and me.

Then we headed to the store to shop for his shoes for school, which we did, and he also found a backpack “with bonuses!” he declared because what he picked out came with a lunch pail and a water bottle. Then it was home where I found all the notifications waiting for me on my phone.

None of them were important enough to take my attention from time spent with Lil Dude. And it made me realize just how much time is stolen by our addiction to our phones and social media. What is so important that we’d rather check our phone while we’re eating at the table or sitting next to them? But we do. I know I did, and yesterday, it hit me that there have been so many things I missed about my not-so-little-boy.

And for what?

To check on my day’s sales? To answer a PM? To check and see what latest gossip there is on the Chris Watts murder case? (Yes, unfortunately, I’m hooked on that case and have told myself to wait until November when he appears in court again instead of reading every conspiracy theory out there.)

Thing is, those things will still be there later. But those little moments—like my son licking the top of the pancake (where the whipped cream topping used to be) when he thought I wasn’t looking or how proud he felt for finding a “bargain” with his backpacks plus bonuses or how well-behaved he was while standing in the checkout line?

Like that commercial says, priceless.

Focus, Dax. Look Up. (An Excerpt)

One of my favorite scenes in Everything She Ever Wanted is the Anaya family dinner where Dax has to face Harlow after their not-so-friendly first meeting three days earlier. And with the holiday season in full swing, it’s one of the scenes that always brings a smile to my face.

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“You forgot, didn’t you?” Sarah calls out from the dinner table the moment I step through the door before turning to look at our grandmother. “I told you he forgot. He was probably playing video games with the Villier brothers again.”

“So what if I was? I’m on vacation,” I mumble as I take the only available seat between Nana and my sister’s on-and-off-again boyfriend, Benny Turner, and father of their eight-year-old son, Dyami. Benny works for the Bureau of Indian Affairs as an environmental protection specialist on climate change as it affects the tribes in the region.

After a round of hi’s and hello’s, Nana finally introduces me to our guest, who’s sitting right in front of me, flanked between Sarah and Dyami.

“Hello, Dax,” Harlow says as I mutter something that sounds like Hi. “Nice to see you again.”

She’s wearing a pink top that plays up her key assets—her flawless skin, pert nose, and big beautiful brown eyes. And then there are her full lips that she just now licks, and as my eyes drift lower, my gaze lands on her perfect tits.  Focus, Dax.  Look up.

“Oh, so you’ve both met?” Benny asks as I tear my gaze from Harlow’s tits to her face and meet her big brown eyes.  God, she’s beautiful.

“Yes, we have,” Harlow says. “Dax came by two days ago to say hello.”

“He did? That was sweet of him,” Sarah says, smiling as she ignores my scowl and I know she’s going to torment me all throughout dinner, and there’s nothing I can do about it.  Not in front of a guest. “I never realized he took the time to say hello to any of his renters.”

“Stop it, Sarah,” Nana says. “Why don’t we say grace and eat before Dyami sneaks another piece of fry bread when he thinks no one is looking.”

“You guys didn’t have to wait for me,” I say sheepishly as soon as Nana finishes saying grace and begins to dish out the stew in bowls, handing each one to Sarah to pass around the table.

“And since when do you turn off your phone, mijo?” she asks, handing me a bowl of stew. “We’ve been trying to reach you for the past hour to remind you to be here before our guest arrived.”

I pull out my phone from my back pocket and place it on the table. “Turn off my phone? Why would I turn off my…” I pause, noticing that it’s dead. “Oh, shit–”

“No cussing at the table, and you know my rule about phones during dinner. All of them, off,” Nana says as I return the phone into my back pocket, as does Benny who makes a guilty face.

“So, were you working at the Pearl?” Benny asks as Harlow takes a warm tortilla from the serving plate in front of her. “Want a beer?”

“Sure,” I reply as he twists one open and hands it to me. “Nah, it’s currently rented, in case you didn’t know.”

Benny shakes his head. “Nope, guess I didn’t know that. I always thought you stayed at the Pearl whenever you’re in town.”

“Not right now,” Sarah says in a sing-song voice as she grins at Harlow, ignoring the glare I’m shooting her way.

“Unfortunately, I’m renting it right now,” Harlow finally speaks, and I pray she doesn’t mention anything about my little visit. I continue eating my stew, biting into the tortillas that Nana makes from scratch. I can’t wait to have some fresh fry bread for dessert. “I didn’t realize that Dax uses it for work. If I’d known–”

“—you’d still stay according to your original plans,” Nana says before glaring at me. “And don’t you dare let my grandson bully you into leaving early.”

“Dax? Bully you into leaving? Say it ain’t true?” Sarah teases, watching me squirm before she turns to look at Harlow. “Is it true?”

I stuff a tortilla in my mouth and pretend I don’t hear a word they’re saying. Sarah is eight years older than I am and has always loved teasing me since we were kids. She knows how much I hate it, and so she does it every time we see each other. If I glare at her, she’ll only keep doing it, but I’m not about to let her bully me into silence either, even if my mouth is full.

“I id not bully a-wone in-o leaving.”

“Don’t speak with your mouth full, mijo,” Nana says as Benny chuckles.

“Yeah, don’t talk with your mouth full, Uncle Dax,” Dyami chimes in just as Benny raises an eyebrow at his son.

“And you, too, young man.”

“Look, I’m sorry,” I blurt out as everyone at the table suddenly becomes quiet. I know they’re watching me as I take a deep breath and look at Harlow. I’m sure it’s no accident why Nana has me sitting right across from her. “I’m sorry I came over that day, Dr. James, but I swear, I was not trying to get you to leave early.”

“Call me Harlow,” she says, smiling before she pins her gaze on me. “So why did you come over?”

I open my mouth to speak but stop myself. Mentioning the suicide note and the gun would only tell her that I was there that night, and that’s the last thing I want anyone to know. “Does it matter now? I got my weeks wrong, that’s all, and that’s why I’m apologizing right now. And I don’t care if you forgive me or not, but I’m sorry.”

“Don’t you have your stuff over there?” Sarah asks. “Why don’t you just get them and do your work here?”

I shrug.  “That’s alright. I figure I’ll head back to Flagstaff tomorrow and come back in two weeks. That should make everyone happy.”

“YOU’RE LEAVING?!”

It’s a chorus of voices that catches me by surprise, just as I see the hurt expression that crosses Nana’s face.  I see her glance at me and then at Harlow just as I look away.

“But you can’t leave! You just got here, Uncle Dax!” Dyami exclaims. “Please stay!  I still need to beat you in Minecraft.”

I actually had no plans of leaving but for the first time, the crowd around the table is getting the best of me, and I hate it.  But it’s not their fault.  Sure, I may look like my sister’s easy target but she’s just Sarah, the hospice nurse who sees so much death that she has to balance all that sadness out with something or she’ll go crazy.  It’s one of the other reasons I look forward to coming home because when there are no guests around, I dish it back to her just as good.

No, it’s not them.  But the woman sitting across from me is making me nervous. She even makes the butterflies in my belly flutter, and right now, I’m not happy about that. She’s a beautiful woman, and so out of my league, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about her since I first saw her on my bed that night. It’s not even about the damn gun and the damn note anymore for she’s apparently changed her mind about killing herself, and now here she is enjoying my grandmother’s cooking.

No, this is about me and my damn knight in shining armor act, wanting to save every fucking damsel in distress. Only this time, it’s different, and I can feel it in my bones.

With Harlow James and her damn tits, I’ll be the one who’ll need the saving.

ESEW-knitting2


Photo of woman laughing by Lesly Juarez (Unsplash) and was one of two main inspiration photos for Harlow James

Holiday Musings: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Personal)

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Union Station in Los Angeles where we actually had fun exploring and the little guy got to talk to a very nice man named William who shared a brief history of the station.

So I’m pretty much done with holiday gatherings this year. This weekend, I drove about 250 miles from one end of Los Angeles all the way to San Diego, through traffic, getting lost around DTLA while picking up the oldest son, and then the next day, missing the pay kiosk on the toll road.

Me: It says 1 more mile before the Pay Station. I need to stay in the right lane and exit.

Hubby: Just keep going. You’ll see it up ahead.

[2 miles later.]

Me: Great. I missed it. It’s wide open from here to the next 10 miles.

Hubby: Oh. Guess you did miss it. They’ll probably send me the bill in the mail.

Me: Yup. And you pay for it, not me. That’s what you get for always expecting me to do the long-ass drives while being the backseat driver…

I actually used to love driving but mostly while I’m alone. I like being able to listen to my music or audiobooks or record myself plot my stories. But with other people in the car, especially those who love being backseat drivers, it’s not fun at all. But I’m also a terrible passenger so that’s why I end up driving… even if it’s all of seven hours.

One thing I noticed with talk that crops up about my writing with family is that I usually get things like, “I have a lot of stories inside my head…” to which I now reply by default, “get a ghostwriter.” I think the longer one writes, the less one wants to talk about writing… And then there’s always the classic question, “So, do really make money from your books?”

And the bad news…

While it was nice to see old friends and family (second degree and beyond) this weekend, it wasn’t nice to discover footage on my phone that my son took (he wanted to film his time with distant cousins he’d just met that day) of his cousins bullying him, knocking him to the ground and pouring water all over him after the girl his age took his hand and led him to where the other two boys were waiting.

Hubby had thought that the kid had simply played too much and it was perspiration (yeah, that it soaks right through), and because I’d been talking with my cousins (the kids’ parents) during that time, I didn’t know it happened until I was viewing the footage he’d shot on my phone hoping to see the world from his point of view.

And it sure wasn’t pretty. Newflash: there’s nothing cute about bullying.

I ended up bowing out of the steamy office box set even when I knew I’d say goodbye to the buy-in. I don’t care. I’m done with box sets and playing nice. I’m just going back to writing where I feel the safest and where I can process the “ugly” much better.

My mantra for 2018 will be this: Success is the best revenge and best to make it sweet af.

It’s long overdue.

 

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Saw this on Unsplash.com today and love it. Guess I found the face of my latest character…

 

Falling for Jordan #TeaserTuesday

The sidewalks aren’t crowded at this time of the morning and I like it. Piper probably thinks it’s one of our leisurely walks, although this time, there’s no elevator ride up to the High Line where I walk all the way to the end of the line and back. Sometimes I find an empty bench and read a book while she naps in her stroller or peruse the art at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

“It’s a beautiful day,” Jordan says, breaking the silence between us after we emerge from the subway, coming up the stairs with me carrying the baby carrier and him, the stroller.

“Yep, a beautiful day for a DNA test.” The words come out before I can stop them and he rewards me with an annoyed glare. I don’t know why I’m being snarky other than I’m nervous. “I’m sorry. This is all so new to me.”

“And you think that it isn’t for me?” His frown is replaced with a smile when Piper gurgles at him after I set the carrier back in the stroller.

“I’m sorry.”

“That’s alright. I understand we’re both stressed right now,” he says. “How long before we find out?”

“Three days. And from there, based on the results, either your life will change or it won’t.”

“Addy, my life changed when you told me that Piper’s mine. And honestly, I believe you,” he says. “I do have to tell my family.”

My heart skips a beat. I knew it! He has a family. A girlfriend and maybe kids. Just because he said he wasn’t married or isn’t wearing a ring didn’t mean he didn’t have kids.

AMAZON US AMAZON UK AMAZON CA

When Distractions Are Worth It

We live in a world connected through apps.

With hurricane coverage on Periscope to pictures via Viber from my brothers and my mom who are touring Europe, and then checking on my cousins living in the path of Hurricane Irma on Zello, it’s difficult to focus on finishing my novel in time for its rescheduled release. But even with a looming deadline, I look anyway even if it’s someone I don’t know personally. Jeff is a storm chaser, and while I sometimes wonder why he’s out there when he could be inside, I’ve learned so much about hurricanes from his updates more than I have in school.

I currently have my phone in front of me between my laptop and my keyboard, and my two monitors show the book I’m working on and Facebook. Sometimes one screen dings to let me know my brother has uploaded another photo of their tour of Rome while my aunts discuss what my mother is wearing in the pictures (must be tailored from the Phillippines where labor is really cheap, they discuss among themselves because Mom is pretty quiet) until my mother finally chimes in to correct them by saying her blouses are by Michael Kors. After all, she planned this three week tour with enough clothes so she won’t wear anything twice (for the photos).

She’d asked me to come along with them but with the kid entering second grade and a required weekly class I need to take to qualify for services for my son, there was no way I could manage it. Sure, I could, as long as I dropped everything and hubby has to take three weeks off. Not gonna happen, so pictures will have to do.

And then my Zello app squawks as my cousin who lives in Tampa, Florida, says she and her husband have to get on the road to check on her mother-in-law. Cousins as far as the Philippines check in to make sure everything is alright with them. Has the eye of the huricane passed? What about the storm surge? Do they have a second floor? You’d think we who live far away can actually do anything to help, but still…

Two weeks ago, though I didn’t have Zello then, I was connected via Facebook and text messages to check on my brothers who live in Houston. While my older brother got out of the city on Saturday to fly out of Denver to meet my mother in New York (the roads got flooded on Sunday), my younger brother and his wife stayed to keep an eye on the house. The storm surge, thankfully, didn’t get into the house although it was close.

Is it any wonder I can’t complete the 2K word goal I’ve set for myself? But if it means I remain connected to the ones I love, it’s all worth it. It even gave me inspiration for the next book featuring two beloved characters.