riding bitch

The life of a writer and survivor of loss.


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13 Steps to a Writing Milestone

As some of you might have recently read, the essay I wrote for Narrative.ly published last week. This was only the second time my work has been published somewhere other than on the blog, so it was a really big deal for me both personally and professionally. It also turned out in a way I never anticipated. Here’s what happened:

1 – The (blind) pitch

I’m new to freelancing, so pitching is still a new and scary process (does that ever change?). I pitched the idea for the essay at the suggestion of a friend. Usually pitches are sent as emails directly to editors. This one was an online form, which added to the “shot in the dark” feeling. When I didn’t hear back for a few weeks, I figured that was it. Then I received an email from the editor saying otherwise. My first thought was:

2 – Pitch accepted?! Holy shit.

Within the span of a few minutes I went from elation to panic and back, until I was somewhere in the middle. Of course I wanted to write the essay, but actually writing it was a different story. I reached out to my writer friends saying “yikes!” They replied with so much encouragement, I finally started to calm down. I had asked for this, and I got it. Now it was time to deliver.

3 – Procrastination Preparation

For several days I did nothing. Well, not exactly nothing. I was thinking… and reading other essays on the site… and thinking. Once I had a sense of how I wanted it to go, I started writing.

4 – Procrastination Scheduling

I tend to thrive under pressure, but there was no way I was going to self-sabotage by writing the essay the night before the deadline. I set a few preliminary deadlines so I would have time to write a bad draft, time to make it better, time to send it out for feedback, time for folks to actually read it, and time to edit.

5 – Mind Games 

The only way I could write freely, not obsess over every single word, and not chicken out was to pretend like no one would read it but me. Ever.

6 – Mind Games, cont’d

On the other hand, I was on a deadline and had certain parameters, so I couldn’t write with total abandon. A part of my brain had to remain objective. So, I took turns between wearing my writer vs. my editor hat. First I wrote to my heart’s content; then I read it as if I didn’t know the story or the writer.

7 – Feedback

I’m not at the stage where I can send something to an editor without having some other eyeballs read it (and not sure I ever will be). I sent the first draft to my writer friends, all of them award-winning, trusted colleagues. We have a joke that we’re the Shitty First Draft Club. In all seriousness, I cannot stress enough how important it is – and how fortunate I am – to have a safe place to send the first shitty draft.

8 – Editing

After receiving some feedback, I did another few passes, double and triple-checked everything, then sent it to the editor. We call this moment “thumb slam!”

9 – The Waiting Game

I admit, waiting is not my favorite thing to do, especially when it’s something important. To ward off the swirling in my head, I forced myself to stay busy with other things and told myself that even if the editor hated it, I wouldn’t get discouraged because I’m still learning.

10 – Response!

When the editor said he loved it, my heart started beating really fast. “Oh my g-d, this might actually get published.” He had a few minor changes and gave me a gentle nudge to go deeper with the essay (which I needed).

11 – More Editing, Thumb Slam #2, More Waiting

I sent the final pass, then again waited to hear back. At any point, the editor could have said, “Sorry, this isn’t going to work.” Instead, I received word the essay was a “go.”

12 – Anticipation 

The days leading up to this very personal essay going out to thousands of people, I was filled with terror nervous excitement. One non-writer friend said I shouldn’t share the essay on Facebook. Another friend told me “but that’s what Facebook is for.” I decided to only post the essay on professional pages and see what happens.

Within hours of the essay going live on Friday morning, people (who don’t know me) started tweeting me, sharing it on Facebook, and leaving the most beautiful, heartfelt comments. By noon, I decided to post the essay on my personal page. Then I sort of held my breath as… one by one, friends and colleagues shared the essay and showered my page with supportive comments, all of which totally blew me away.

13 – Conclusion

On Monday, an author friend of mine who had read and loved the essay made an email-introduction to her book agent in NYC. On Tuesday, the agent and I spoke on the phone — by the time we hung up, she was my agent.

So, there you go. From blind pitch to book agent. It was a crazy, emotional, awesome and truly humbling ride.

Now there’s a ton of work to do, and I can’t wait to get started. As The Alchemist says: “It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”

One week to freedom!

 

 


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A Big Decision – Not Forever, But For Now

I don’t know how to say this in a non-shocking way, so I’m just going to say it. I’ve given notice at my job. Those of you who’ve been following the blog for a while, or know me in ‘real’ life, shouldn’t be completely surprised. I have wanted to do this – been talking and writing about doing this – for years. It was only a question of when. Now, that question is answered. My last day at work will be July 3. (Yes, I timed it to coincide with Independence Day.)

Los Angeles

Los Angeles

Remember when I wrote about my rural fantasy? Well, I’m finally doing it. After I leave the job, I’ll spend a few weeks preparing to leave Los Angeles, then driving across country with Ruby to upstate New York (Northern Catskills). I plan to arrive in late August.

Catskills

Catskills

This move is not forever, but for now. There’s a good chance I could wind up back in California. I just don’t know right now. In fact, there are a lot of unknowns.

For one, I’ve never actually been to the Catskills. I’ve heard it described and seen pictures of the area and apartment I’m going to be renting. I know it’s rural, beautiful and conservative. I could go and check it out first, but I don’t want to spend the money, time and energy. I’d rather just go.

I also don’t know anyone in the Catskills except for the woman who’s renting me the apartment (she’s a friend of the family). When I moved to Los Angeles, I didn’t know anyone and had never been here before either. I drove out here from Philadelphia alone with a 10-day old license because I had just learned how to drive. Granted, I was heading to film school, but I didn’t know a single person or street when I arrived exactly 19 years ago.

 Can you imagine trying to navigate all of this without GPS?

Los Angeles

Los Angeles

One of the bigger unknowns is how I’m going to make money. I can’t rely on finding work locally, so will have to  work from home, or in nearby cities like Albany or Hudson. I do have some savings and a rough plan for work, but nothing set in stone yet (more about this in another post).

Lastly, the closest I’ve come to the kind of rural environment and brutal winters they have in the Catskills is the month I spent in Vermont last year. I suspect that where I’m going to be is even more rural and more brutally cold, so this is another obstacle to overcome. The good news is I’ll have wi-fi, my car and my dog. Also, if/when I get completely stir crazy, NYC is three hours away.

Catskills

Catskills

I know that a few people are scared for me, and I understand. It IS scary, and I’m not going to say I have all the answers right now because I don’t. All I can say is that I’m following an instinct I’ve had for a long time. My heart has been yearning for a change and, for better or worse, I’ve decided to give my heart what it wants. I’m doing it now because life is short, and there is no perfect time. I also don’t want to move in the winter, nor do I want to wait another year.

A friend recently told me, “Being compulsive is one of your best and worst traits.” Yes, and once I put my mind to something, come Hell or high water, I get it done. Of course, now I have a million and one things to get done. But I’m ready. To coin one of my favorite phrases, it’s “balls to the wall” time. 🙂

I look forward to sharing the journey with you.

Pelicans in flight (photo by Niva)

Pelicans in flight (photo by Niva)


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A Life Worth Living (Daily Prompt)

Yesterday, I ran into a colleague and fellow writer in the hallway at work. “I gotta get outta here,” he said, shaking his head, “THIS year.” “Me too,” I responded and raised my right hand. We high-fived each other and parted in opposite directions back to our assistant desks. 

When I interviewed for this job, my late husband Kaz had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and we had just become engaged. We had no idea how long he would live, let alone work. We needed another steady income, support network, all the benefits and stability that come from a regular 9-5 gig.  

The following year, as life became a swirling storm of stress, unknowns, and emotional highs and lows, my boring assistant job became an oasis. A place where things were normal, where my responsibilities were easy and banal, even pleasantly (at the time) mind-numbing, and where the stakes weren’t life or death. I was so grateful, I started baking things and bringing them to work. Even Kaz was surprised by that. I worked full-time throughout his illness until he went on hospice. Then I took several weeks of personal leave. I returned to work three weeks after he passed away. May 2014 will be my four year anniversary, the longest I’ve been at any job.

I had wanted to quit immediately. After seeing his young, vibrant life end so short and so quickly, my soul screamed for a more purposeful existence. The banal, mind-numbing routine that I once appreciated now seemed like a dead-end, and I suddenly realized everyone I worked with was miserable. But I could no more leave my job than I could lift a car. Grief was like a choke-hold, making me physically weak and mentally delirious. Depression lead to a complete lack of motivation. Even after the depression lifted, I still felt utterly confused as to what do do with my life.

I can’t say any of those reasons are why I’m still here now. Now, I’m basically biding my time, building up my arsenal and stockpiling my supplies for the day I eventually leave. Ever since the Vermont residency, I’ve been slowly but consistently making progress towards my career goals. In the past six months alone, I have accomplished the following:

Made an exploratory trip to Georgia and new contacts, completed a new director’s reel (you can see it here), took a television pilot writing class and a seminar on how to write a film business plan, continued writing memoir and received valuable notes from a trusted/respected colleague, wrote a new bio, continued developing feature film screenplay and received notes on that too, joined several professional organizations and started networking again, applied to two fellowship programs, did my taxes (early!), started Tweeting (@nivaladiva), accrued almost 2,000 followers to this blog, and almost 1,000 followers on Instagram (@nivaandruby).

Life has been hectic lately, and it’s about to get more so. I recently blogged about dating, but honestly, that’s not a priority right now. What matters most to me, other than my health, family and friends, is my career. Call me crazy, but I don’t want to work merely to pay the bills (which this job barely does anyway). I want to enjoy and be mentally and creatively challenged by my work. I want to work with people who inspire and push me to be a better artist. I also want to make significantly more money than I do now.

My finger has been on the “quit” button for some time now and pretty soon, I’m gonna pull the trigger. It’s scary as hell to think about what will happen after that. I literally wake up nights thinking: “I know how I plan to make money, but will that plan actually work? Can I make enough money?” The optimist in me says “Yes! Just stick to the plan.” The doubter in me is tied up and gagged until further notice.

In response to today’s Daily Prompt: If You Leave


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Daily Prompt: An Unlikely Friendship

A while back I blogged about my mother-in-law. Today’s post is about my father-in-law, Ray. He is my late husband’s father, and like Kaz and my own father, is African American. Unlike Kaz, my father and me, he is also deeply religious. I mention this only to underscore that, despite our different views on many topics, Ray and I have become good friends. We’ve never met in person, but we’ve talked on the phone every 2-3 weeks since Kaz passed away two years ago.

Ray lives in Florida, about 1.5 hours away from Sanford. The other night, while discussing recent events in that city and how we wish people could relate to each other in a more humane way, Ray said: “Did I ever tell you about my friend in the KKK?”

Me: “Uh, no.”

Ray: “It started in the late 70’s. I was living in Tuson, Arizona at the time and had just joined this club for racing radio controlled power boats on the lake there. After a while, I noticed this one White guy wasn’t talking to me. In fact, he just ignored me altogether. I asked some of the other members, ‘What’s with that guy?’ They said, ‘Oh, don’t bother with him, he’s KKK.’

Well, I wasn’t gonna let something like that stop me from talking to him. One day I noticed that his boat wasn’t doing too well. So I went over to him and asked if he’d considered using a different propeller. He just looked at me strange. I told him, ‘If you use the __ propeller, you might get a better result.’ Then I walked away.

The next time I saw him, he said, ‘Hey, I changed my propeller. You were right.’ And we started talking. His name was Pat and his wife had recently left him for the preacher who lived next door.

After a few weeks of friendly banter, I said, ‘Pat, can I ask you something?’ He said, ‘Sure.’ I said, ‘Are you in the KKK?’ He said he was. I said, ‘Can you tell me why you don’t like Black people?’ He said that it says in the Bible that G-d cursed man by making him Black. I asked him to show me where in the Bible it says that.

For the next few weeks, he tried to find the passage, but of course, he couldn’t. Finally he came back to me and said, ‘I couldn’t find it.’ I said, ‘Cause it’s not in there, Pat.’ He said ever since he was a boy he was taught that Blacks were inferior. I said, ‘Do you think I’m inferior?’ ‘No,’ he said. I said, ‘Do you dislike me?’ ‘No, not now,’ he said.

After that, we became better friends. He left the KKK. The night he invited me over his house for dinner, my wife still stayed up all night worrying about me. We didn’t have cell phones back then. I told her I’d be fine, but you know, she couldn’t help it. When I finally came home, she was so relieved. I told her, ‘All we did was play pool.’

A few years later, we decided to leave Tuscon and move to Florida. When I told Pat, he started crying. ‘You’re my best friend,’ he said. We were both crying. It was sad. But you know what? To this day, Pat and I speak on the phone once a month. He’s still my best friend. I would do anything for him, and him for me.”

I thanked Ray for sharing this story, and all night kept thinking about it. The next day I called him again to ask if I could blog about it. “Sure,” he said with a laugh.

Ray, this one’s for you.

[In response to today’s Daily Prompt: A friend in need]


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The Philosophy of Kaizen

Kaizen

According to WikepediaKaizen (改善) (pronounced “Ky-zen”), is Japanese for “improvement”, or “change for the better” and refers to philosophy or practices that focus upon continuous improvement of processes in manufacturing, engineering, and business management. It’s a phrase that’s also used in psychology to refer to the practice of making small changes/improvements in one’s life while working towards larger goals. (There is quite a bit of research on the meaning, origins and uses of Kaizen, as well as books like this one about the psychological aspect, and this one, more business-oriented.)

The first time I heard of it was in spring of 2011 during the caregiver’s support group I used to attend. I had just shared with the group that Kaz was deeply depressed due to his declining health, and I was at my wits end trying to figure out how to help him. I felt like the depression was making him deteriorate faster. One of the group members suggested that I encourage him to make little changes that might improve his outlook gradually. She said this was the Japanese philosphy of “Kaizen.” I discussed it with Kaz and he thought it was an interesting concept that made sense. He also felt like he was past the point of “small improvements” doing much good. It was a tough situation.

The other day the word popped into my head again when I was thinking of the small changes I’ve made recently and how they’re making me feel. It hasn’t even been that long (this is the second week), but I already have more energy and feel more upbeat than before. I’ve had moments of sadness but not the sluggish, hopeless feelings of depression. Even my attitude at work has improved, all because of these simple changes:

  1. Waking up earlier (with the help of four alarms) and showing up to work on time
  2. Walking, jogging or hiking every other day for at least 20 minutes 
  3. Cooking my own food 
  4. Drinking more water 
  5. Drinking less alcohol
  6. Eating less sugar
  7. Going to bed at a reasonable hour

 

Certainly not grand gestures, but I think that’s the point – little gestures, small improvements, which add up over the course of time. The challenge, of course, is to not lose patience or expect big results overnight. This has always been my downfall in the past, not seeing results fast enough and getting discouraged. I’m trying to avoid that by taking it one day at a time and not thinking too far down the line. I found this challenging to do when Kaz was sick because the ‘end of the line’ felt like approaching Niagra Falls and knowing only one of us would survive the fall. Things are different now.

Can you relate to the idea of changing things a little at a time? Do you have the patience?


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Fear Is The Mind-Killer

Do you ever wonder what would happen if your dreams came true? I don’t mean your dreams of winning the lottery. I mean the dreams that you’re pursuing at this very moment, or the dreams that you would be pursuing if you had the time. For me, the dream is to write and make movies for a living. I don’t necessarily desire to be filthy rich, but I wouldn’t mind owning a house with a few acres of land so my dog can run around. Mostly though, I want to be working at what I love to do, creating work that affects people in a meaningful way.

To achieve my dream I am currently writing a memoir, a screenplay and two television pilots, all in my spare time. I’m taking a gamble on myself, investing hours upon hours of time and energy on projects which might, or might not, see the light of day. Sometimes I think what’s the point, why keep going, what are the chances of making it now at 42, almost 43 years old? Then I think, what if I do make it? What if I become a successful writer/filmmaker, one who has to navigate the business, talk to the press, give interviews, promote my work, promote myself, manage people and so on?

My therapist once pointed out that I have this habit of not finishing projects, or rather not following through on them enough. I get them to a good place, but I don’t do what’s necessary to take them to GREAT place, or to get them produced. It’s like I run out of steam at some point. Another way of looking at it is I actually have a fear of success. I want to be successful, but I also don’t want to be successful because I don’t want to be judged, held accountable or  scrutinized. I don’t look forward to the added attention that comes with success.

Some people crave attention and are masters of composure in the spotlight. Not me. I can be very social and fun, but also very shy and guarded. People have often said that when they first met me, I came across as aloof and standoffish. I used to be shocked to hear this, but now I sort of understand. I am not the type to be your best friend, or spill my guts, upon meeting you.  I’m more of a sit back and observe type of person until I feel comfortable enough to share my goofy self. Sometimes I am painfully inarticulate. I find it difficult to think clearly when under pressure (except when I’m on set or in a crisis). I am 100% more articulate and open on this blog than I am in real life. Okay, maybe not 100% but at least 75%.

Maybe I’ll never have to face my fears because I won’t be successful. If the opposite is true, maybe it won’t be so bad. One can be trained for public speaking and coached for interviews and so on. As Kaz would say, “That would be one of them good problems.”

This is one of my favorite quotes about fear from the book DUNE by Frank Herbert:

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
 
Can you relate to the fear of success? Or is the fear of failure scarier?
 
 


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When it Rains it Pours

A few minutes before the end of the work day, a colleague of my boss handed me two 3-ring binders, each 4 inches thick, about 1000 pages. “I’m so sorry, but we need 5 copies of these binders.” My boss shows up behind the colleague and frowns. “Sorry…” After they apologized some more, they finally left me alone with the binders, at which I stared for a solid five minutes, speechless. Then I logged off my computer and left. (They don’t expect them tonight.)

On the way home after picking up Ruby from daycare my phone rings. My manager, calling me at 7:15pm.

“I just pulled a Hail Mary,” she tells me.

Remember the pilot I sent her a few weeks ago? It was meant as a writing sample for a TV show that’s looking to hire a new writer. But the pilot wasn’t ready. I thought we’d have to wait until next year to submit something. Unbeknownst to me, my manager (G-d bless her) sent them a couple of older scripts.

“And now they want to meet with you.”
“You’re a miracle worker!” I tell her.
“On Monday afternoon,” she continues.
“Fuck me.”
“Yeah. So, drop everything you’re doing and prepare.”

The Good News I have a meeting on Monday for a potential gig which could change my life if land it.

The Bad News is I have to spend the next however-long-it-takes making these fucking gargantuan binders. And the rest of the time watching 4 seasons of a television show (48 hours), reading up on the executives, and figuring out what I’m going to wear on Monday. Luckily, tomorrow I get my new bridge from the dentist, the final chapter of the loose tooth saga, so at the very least I’ll have a brand new smile.

I’m afraid the only way to get everything done is to take a blogging break for a few days (no Industry Friday either). I hate to do this, especially since there are so many new readers but hopefully you understand. I’ll be back on Monday to let you know how the meeting went, or before then to let you know it was cancelled (happens all the time).

Until then, think of me either sweating over a xerox machine, getting paper cuts or training my eyeballs on the computer/TV screen watching ____ . Oh, and Saturday afternoon is the table read for the play with the Two Actors.

Have a good rest of the week!


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Coming Out as a Blogger (via Freshly Pressed)

I just found out this blog is going to be Freshly Pressed. Today. Possibly in a few hours. The email letting me know was sent roughly 19 hours ago and I just noticed it (sorry, WordPress). First of all, I’m honored and flattered. Second of all… holy shit! Wasn’t I just talking about being shy about the blog!?! I guess those days are over.

Will this change how I blog? Will this be a curse like some say winning an Academy Award is the beginning of the end? (I would happily begin the end that way.) Or is this what Kaz would describe as “one of them good problems?”

Time will tell but I don’t think it will change anything. In fact, it might be the kick in the ass I need to get over this stupid shyness. After all, how will I ever be a professional writer if I’m shy about my writing? I’ve written a memoir for goodness sake. If you think I’m shy about the blog, imagine how shy I am about that. And yet, it’s something I’d still like to share with people… one day, in some fashion. Maybe the lesson here is I just gotta do my thing.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the entire experience of loving and losing Kaz, it’s that I cannot control a goddamn thing in this world… EXCEPT my writing. I can hardly control myself half the time but I definitely cannot control what happens in life (oh, how I’ve tried). I cannot control who reads what I write. I cannot control who likes what I write. I cannot control anything except the words on the page. And since I’m a control freak, you better believe I’m going to keep writing.

Which brings me to a phrase once mentioned in the caregiver’s support group I used to go to: Caregiver cajones. I think I just grew my blogging equivalent.

Thanks, WordPress!


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A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Stage 21 (star wars)

Once upon a time, before I became a widow, before Kaz got sick, before we even met, I used to be a director. Not a famous one, but one with a decent track record and some minor but not insignificant accolades. I had several projects in the works. Kaz used to help me with them, reading my scripts, giving me notes, connecting me with his contacts. I was highly productive during our first two years together. I wrote one feature screenplay, directed two plays, directed and produced three music videos. The day he was diagnosed was the day after I completed and delivered the last music video. I haven’t directed anything since.

empty stage

During the year he was sick it was simply impossible. After he died, I lost all motivation. The only thing I could do was to write, and I wrote the entire time.

Writing suited me. It was solitary. I could do it in my pajamas. I could laugh, cry, scream or talk to myself all day long, in private.

old golf carts

Directing is a whole other beast. Directing requires communicating with people other than yourself. It is part vision-making, part juggling act, part performance. It requires listening, collaborating, convincing, defending, explaining, and answering question after question.

It requires hustle, especially if you don’t have a lot of money to work with. You have to somehow get professionals to help you for little to nothing, vendors to give you great deals, and actors more experienced and more famous than you to actually do what you tell them.

the lot

It requires a lot of professional fronting. “50% of directing is acting,” a famous director once told me. You have to act like you know what you’re doing even if you have no idea. You also need to be humble and gracious so that the crew doesn’t think you’re an asshole and walk off the set. Like my post about being an Alpha Bitch, it requires being a leader, which is to say, it requires an enormous amount of energy and people skills.

The other day I wrote that I can’t stand my job. The truth is I work at one of the biggest studios in town, but not in the capacity I want to be working in. It’s a double-edged sword. I am surrounded by the very thing I want to be doing. Yet I have not reached the point of being able to do it professionally.

Stage 8

Recently, there’s been a paradigm shift. Since returning from Vermont I have been quietly stocking my arsenal with projects that will hopefully get my career back on track. I’ll be talking more about them in the weeks and months to come. They’re going to take time so I need to be mentally prepared for the long haul. I have a ton of things to do, dozens of people to reconnect with, and probably 100 movies to catch up on. I’m not necessarily starting from scratch, but definitely starting over.

The time has come. One of my blogging friends just posted about wanting to be more than just one thing. I relate to this so much, it’s like she wrote what was in my head. I want to be more than just a widow, motorcycle rider and puppy-owner.

I am more than just a widow, motorcycle rider and puppy-owner. I am more than just a writer or blogger too. I am a director and producer. And sooner than later, I will be coming to this studio for meetings, shooting in these stages, and sitting in the director’s chair yelling, “ACTION!”

As they say in the Middle East, “Insha’Allah.” G-d willing.

high chair


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25 Stitches

Every day I interact with my puppy, an 8 month old pitbull with large, beautifully white, razor-sharp teeth, I am reminded of an experience from my childhood.

I was 8 years old. My sister, 10 years older, had invited a friend from high school over and the girl brought her dog, an Irish Setter. The girls were kind enough to let me hang out with them in my sister’s room. At some point, they left the room and me alone with the dog. I put my arm around his shoulders the way one does when about to have a conversation, and turned my face to say something to him. And in a split-second, he bit me.

I screamed. The dog ran out of the room.

I screamed again. The girls came into the room. My sister called for my mother, who was in her studio, and rushed me to the bathroom. In the mirror I could see my right cheek hanging off my face. Blood everywhere. My mother held a towel to my face and remained calm, despite the fact that my face was a bloody mess and I was crying hysterically.

We drove to the emergency room. It took 25 stitches to sew my cheek back on. The doctors told my mother I would need plastic surgery one day to repair the scar. I went to school a day later with a patch on my face, and for the next few months had a terrible-looking wound in plain sight of the other children, who were fascinated with the morphing scar tissue and discoloration.

The bite spanned from half an inch below my right eye to the right bottom of my nose. Early on, my mother had told the doctors I would be fine. No plastic surgery would be necessary. By that point, I was familiar with her stubborn positivity. When we had moved from Israel to America mid-way through my last year of kindergarten, my U.S. teachers wanted to keep me for another year. My mother told them “No way.” I would be just fine.

She ended up being right in both cases.

I was fine in the first grade. And though the scar took a long time to heal, it did heal. To the point of being almost imperceptible.

We owned two dogs after that, consecutively not at the same time. Judah was a German Shepherd and Lenny was a mix of German Shepherd and Saint Bernard. I always felt a special connection with Lenny, whom we adopted when he was two years old and I was 12. I walked him every day after school. I told him all my problems and made up stories and entire conversations. I took him sledding with me and my friends. I would watch TV with my head on his stomach. If I looked at him from across the room his tail would start wagging.

Sometimes I wonder how did I not develop a fear of dogs. Besides being exposed to them, I think on some instinctual level I knew that there was something wrong with that particular dog, not all dogs in general. Which is not to say I don’t get a little nervous when I see children put their faces into a dog’s face. But I do it all the time with my own dog. She has grown accustomed to me hugging and doting on her. We are often nose to nose, looking into each other eyes, her paws pushed into my neck.

Unfortunately, she does bark at small children. I think they scare her. She looks at them with confusion, as if unable to comprehend how humans can be small and unpredictable like that. She’s still too young to feel more mature than them, or perhaps safe from them. But I have faith that she will overcome this and be just fine.