End-of-the-Year Thank You

As an end-of-the-year thank you, I’m giving away three, signed copies of Designer You by random draw.

If you’re subscribed to my newsletter, you’re automatically entered, but if not, you can subscribe by filling out your name and email address HERE or in the form directly to the right of or below this post.

For a second chance to win a signed copy of Designer You, head on over to Facebook and “like” my author page.

For a third chance, follow my Instagram page.

For a fourth chance, follow me on Twitter.

And a fifth opportunity is to follow me on Bookbub.

Good luck, everyone!! I’ll announce the winners RIGHT HERE on http://sarahlynbruck.com on Friday, December 14, 2018. I can only ship paperbacks to U.S. winners, but will gift Kindle copies to those who reside outside of the U.S.

DESIGNER YOU: OUT NOW!

Pam Wheeler checked every box: Happy marriage? Check. Fantastic kid? Check. Booming career? Check.

So when her husband dies in a freak accident and their DIY empire goes on life support, Pam must fix the relationship with her troubled and grief-stricken daughter and save the family business.

Buy the Book Here:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Penn Book Center | Narberth Bookshop

Add To Goodreads

 

Designer You Launch Date!

DESIGNER YOU Release Date: August 31, 2018

Sarahlyn Bruck and Crooked Cat Books are thrilled to announce that her debut novel, Designer You, will be published on August 31, 2018. Stay tuned for further announcements, book cover reveal, events, giveaways, and more!

Poor Babies

I’ve complained endlessly about winter weather, which I won’t start up again despite the frigid temperatures of late. Philadelphia, by the way, is downright balmy compared to pretty much anyplace in New England and the Midwest. But our poor cockapoo isn’t making comparisons. All he knows is that it’s freezing outside, and he doesn’t want any part of it. From having to wear his ridiculous looking jacket to salted sidewalks that are painful for him to walk on, why on earth would he desire to leave his cozy bed in a heated house?

This is how Jazz looks when I know he needs to go number two and I ask him if he wants to go outside. Yeah, nope. I’m with you, buddy.

How are your pets dealing with the winter weather?

You’re Getting Warmer, Philadelphia

We’re still weeks away from the first day of spring, but with the arrival of March, I’m already in a better mood. I’m more hopeful, patient, and glad. It didn’t hurt that we broke 60 degrees today. Nevermind we’re back in the forties and windy tomorrow. Nevermind snow is predicted for Friday. March, the most schizophrenic month of the year, is a month where my expectations are at an all-time low, and the appearance of buds on a tree or a warm sun on a dry day will lure pasty Philadelphians out of the shadows of their drafty rowhomes and onto the Schuylkill River Trail or to Paine’s Skate Park or out in shamrock booty shorts and a green tank top for St. Patrick’s Month. I don’t know if it’s the vitamin D or what, but people seem more willing to hold the door open for you at after-school pick up. Starbucks baristas call your name with aplomb not seen since December.

For me, these early hints of spring suggest an emergence from a darkened cave. I know, a little hyperbolic, but bear with me. But the colder weather keeps all of us indoors, and for introverts like me, winter provides a logical excuse to close myself off in the warmth of my home and…write. And watch TV. Potluck with neighbors. Fold laundry, lots and lots of laundry. Cuddle with the family on the couch. Bake macaroni and cheese. Learn how to make tamales. Get around to finally hanging some pictures on the walls. Tackle a few of the books collecting dust on my Kindle.

The inverse of that is I have a tendency to get a little weird when I’m away from people too long. For example, I have a verbal relationship with my dog in the winter that I don’t have when the weather is more accommodating. Frankly, Jazzy wishes I’d shut the hell up and find some friends I could wax poetic about the Oxford comma or how much I hate semi-colons. I often catch him giving me a look of utter repugnance when I’m standing there in the entryway of our house clad in my running tights, weather-proof jacket, gloves, and beanie, hemming and hawing about leaving the cozy safety of our home to run a few miles in the wind and ice. It’s not that bad once you’re out there, I tell myself. Liar, I also tell myself. Spring cannot come fast enough.

Horror Movie

Here we go again with another mass shooting, this time on the campus of Umpqua Community College, where nine people were killed by a gunman, a fellow student. After that incident, going back to teach class last Tuesday at my own community college, I was fraught with anxiety. On the surface, my day was nothing special. I taught “The Essay” to my Intro to Academic Writing classes, got a flu shot at lunch, and avoided a union meeting. But after the Umpqua CC massacre, after threats to Philly-area colleges on Monday, everyone seemed on edge. Teaching for me and attending classes for my students felt like a shared but unspoken act of defiance. We were playing the odds, of course—we are far more likely to be killed in a car accident on the way to school than by an active shooter on our campus. But I felt vulnerable and uneasy all day and coming to campus as usual was anything but usual. I couldn’t stop thinking that my classroom doors don’t lock from the inside and open outward, rendering it incapable of being barricaded if the (not) unthinkable happens. It makes me crazy to think I don’t have a chance to protect my students or myself at all in the (extremely unlikely) event we have an active shooter on campus. In response to the online threat of violence to Philadelphia-area colleges and universities on Monday, the advice we were given was to “be aware of our surroundings” and “report suspicious activity.” Advice like that makes for a pretty distracted teaching and learning day.

When Josh and I went to see Trainwreck last month and had settled into our seats, we were relaxed and eager to enjoy the Amy Schumer comedy we had heard so many good things about. And we did enjoy it…eventually. But not until after the theater treated us to a video on safety, which warns patrons to be on the lookout for “suspicious characters” with “bad agendas.” Unsettled, I turned to Josh after the safety video ended and whispered, “I wasn’t nervous before we sat down, but I sure am now.” I can’t even go see a comedy in a movie theater without being forced to think about how helpless we truly are.

Being told that we need to be constantly on the lookout for suspicious characters only ramps up the anxiety and powerlessness we feel, especially in light of the fact that we can’t seem to pass laws to help prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands. Is a movie theater or college campus any less safe than a mall or a park? No. And our unease in public spaces will continue to grow until we find a better solution than just being aware of our surroundings. Because quite frankly, we’re no less safe, so I’ll continue to live my life. I will show up to class, go to the movies, enjoy a concert in the park with my family, and walk my dog in my neighborhood.

I’m looking at you September

As usual, we’re at the tail end of summer and I’m resisting the transition to fall. I’ve been successful so far at battling back black thoughts about winter and snow and the return of dark days and icy sidewalks. But, I’m a little nervous as I face coming to terms with the return of a full calendar and an externally-imposed schedule. Every year I ask myself, Am I ready?

I work all summer long, but I write, teach, and grade from home, which means I can work entirely at my own pace. By now, I’ve gotten accustomed to my long sunny days being punctuated with extended dog walks, trips to the pool, and mid-afternoon ice-cream breaks when I pick up VA from camp. I look forward to visits with extended family and weekend jaunts to the beach. I can wear shorts and flip flops every single day. All of that comes to a needle-on-the-record halt in September. September signifies the return to our actual lives, which for my family, mostly means school. And not just Virginia’s school, but mine and Josh’s as well. I actually have to show up and teach classes certain days of the week. And I can’t go in my running clothes. Virginia needs to be awake, fed, dressed, and on a bus by 7:40 every morning. In September, Virginia’s sports come back full throttle, too. That means picking up and dropping her off to gymnastics and soccer practice four nights a week. Weekends are dominated by games and meets. Once you throw in holidays and staying on top of my writing, I can safely say we are solid busy through next spring.

The thing is, as I grit my teeth and turn the page of the calendar from our lazy August to September’s starting line, I have to remember I love a schedule. I adore deadlines. When things loosen up around here in June, I go through a similar panicky transition and get nervous about letting go of all of our activities, making up a schedule for myself where I carefully compartmentalize my day into exercise, writing, grading, and shuttling VA around. By 6 o’clock, I’m ready for some lazy time. But the rigidness of my plan begins to erode in July, and after a summer of plenty of sun and fun, I’ve given myself permission to spend an entire Sunday afternoon reading on my porch. Or splashing around with VA and Josh at the pool. And you know what? That’s nice too. So am I ready? Am I ready? After a summer “de-scheduling,” I can say I’m well-rested and ready to take on what’s coming next. Bring it, September.

Shakespeare in the Park

For me, when done well, theatre conjures up all of the clichés that evoke transformative, life-affirming experiences. I laughed, I cried. I was moved. When not, theatre can be squirm-inducing, unintentionally funny, or worse, horrifically boring. As a kid, I was exposed to the classics that our community theatre at the time offered: Oliver!, Alice In Wonderland, Annie, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, A Christmas Carol. Almost every year we saw the San Jose or San Francisco version of The Nutcracker. We had a subscription to Scholar Opera (anyone remember Scholar Opera?) and saw tamed, kid-friendly versions of Carmen, La traviata, La bohème, and The Barber of Seville. I loved Scholar Opera so much because not only did they visit my school to perform a preview of the upcoming show, but after performances, the actors all stayed to shake hands with young audience members and sign our programs. I remember how special it felt to get a dazzling close-up of the actors’ costumes and make up. Heaven.

Even as an adult, theatre can still thrill me. Last Wednesday, Josh, VA, and I attended the opening night performance of The Winter’s Tale outdoors in Clark Park, which is a small, residential park located in University City. The funny thing about Clark Park is that there’s a lot going on that’s not going to stop, even when Shakespeare makes its yearly appearance. Kids swing and slide and squeal and giggle as actors emote onstage. Dogs bark at each other. I could see park goers tossing Frisbees back and forth. Just beyond the stage, there seemed to be a small group of hula hoopers gyrating off in the distance. As the sky darkened, I spied a few bats flying overhead. Surprisingly, all of these distractions totally added to my overall enjoyment of the show.

The best part about live theatre is sitting with a crowd to watch a specific performance. No matter if it’s opening night or the 500th performance, there’s something magical about that shared, finite experience. Last Wednesday, the audience crowded into the park and lounged on blankets spread out on the grass, balancing plates of dinner on our knees and drinking from plastic cups. Although in truth, we attended the play because VA had a couple of good buddies in the chorus, the production exceeded my expectations. The acting and direction made the difficult “comedy” easy to digest and enjoy. It’s easy to go with it when you can eat and watch a play at the same time. VA occasionally leaned in to ask what was going on, but she laughed at many of the jokes and loved seeing her friends up on stage. My favorite part was just watching a play on a warm summer night. I’m totally going back again next year, if the oracle allows.

Anywhere U.S.A.

I used to think I could live almost anywhere, but that field has narrowed significantly since I’ve gotten older and more rigid. When we travel someplace wonderful, I invariably gaze wistfully at the real estate listings in agents’ downtown windows on the way back to the hotel after dinner. In the car, I look up the addresses of a mansions overlooking bodies of water as we whiz by. Thank you Trulia. You feed me. I can’t help it. But it doesn’t mean I want to live there.

I’ve lived in some fantastic cities: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and now Philadelphia. Each come with their own unique set of problems. Let’s start with the city Tony Bennett left his heart in, San Francisco. I grew up in the Bay Area in the 1970s and 80s, and lived in San Francisco for a good part of the 90s. If anywhere should feel like home, it would be San Francisco. For all its inherent natural and unnatural beauty, great food, walkable streets, temperate weather, a Peet’s Coffee practically on every corner, I can’t live in San Francisco because I picked a career where I make less than seven figures per year. Yeah, San Francisco, and pretty much anywhere in the Bay Area, is completely unaffordable for this community college professor. It’s so unaffordable, I feel like it’s telling me to stay away. So you know what? You can go screw yourself, San Francisco. I’ll find somewhere else to live.

So how about it Los Angeles? You’re fun—you’ve got a great creative energy, Januarys that regularly hit 80 degrees, awesome Mexican food, Ben Affleck sightings, margaritas. What’s not to love? Uh, a lot. We can pretty much start and end with traffic, even though I complained about the horrific hot, dry, and smoggy summers for four months straight when I lived there. The traffic is everything you’ve heard of and more. When Virginia was just starting to play with her little friends, it didn’t matter if her friend lived across town or across two valleys, it took 40 minutes to drive each way. When we lived in West Hollywood and I was attending and then teaching at a college 11 miles away, traffic regularly would extend what should have been a 40 minute commute (which is already ridiculous) to as long as an hour and a half (stupid fucking ridiculous). There were days when I would spend more time in my VW Jetta than I did at home. Los Angeles? You’re a dick.  I hope you get a venereal disease. Let’s face it, you may already have one.

Chicago is awesome, but Chicago = Cold. Brrrrrrrr!!!!! Next.

We finally found asylum in Philadelphia. Philadelphia has a lot going for it. It’s steeped in U.S. history, and there’s tons to do, whether you’re a foodie, an artist, a theater fan, or sports junkie. It’s affordable. We found our dream house in an even dreamier neighborhood that’s walking distance to museums, shopping, restaurants, downtown, coffee, you name it. What’s not to love? Good grief, where do I start? Philadelphia is one of the dirtiest cities around. New York is dirtier, but Philadelphia is on a mission to close that gap. It seems filled with litter. It’s everywhere. I’ve seen people throw fast food trash—hamburger wrappers, French fry containers, empty soda cups—right out their car windows like it’s a normal thing. Like, hello? Seriously? It blows around on trash days. I think more litter ends up on the street than in the trash truck. You know what else really bugs? The public school system. It’s an underfunded hot mess and until recently, we had a governor who couldn’t have cared less. Our public schools don’t have librarians, enough counselors or nurses. Parents have to contribute pencils, pens, copy paper, Kleenex, and hand sanitizer regularly so teachers don’t have to reach into their own pockets quite as much as they already do, because the district can’t afford enough basic supplies. So when I hear of other public schools throwing a fund raiser so their kids can each have an iPad in their classes, it kind of makes me want to throw up. Refusing to adequately fund schools is shameful and immoral, but something Philadelphia parents and their kids endure year after year. It’s embarrassing. Up yours, Philadelphia. But you know what? I’m here. I may be a lifer. You don’t always have to like your family to love them. I feel the same way about Philadelphia.