Giving in to Perky

J.D. introduced me to a new blog and — as I always do — I’ve been obsessing about it all week. She discovered Kandee Johnson ( and on YouTube while looking at make-up tutorials. Read the “about me” section of Kandee’s blog for more details, but the short version of her life is this: She became a celebrity make-up artist in LA but because she’s a young mom of three she has had to give up some of the Hollywood stuff and be with her kids. We can’t quite figure out if she lives in Reno or not but one article did say she’s in the Reno-Lake Tahoe area. (Surrrre, we’re all Reno Slash Lake Tahoe, aren’t we?) Anyway she started putting her make-up tutorials on YouTube and has become famous from them, doing “Glaminars” all over the country. She does amazing make-up, which of course J.D. is obsessed with, like this:

Betty Boop

And this:

Neytiri from Avatar

But the reason I’ve been thinking about her a lot this week is because of a video she made titled “How to Survive a Bad Day”.

Warning: It’s EXTREMELY cheesy. Do not attempt to watch this if you are in the least bit of a fraction of a skeptical mood. At times you expect her to start preaching the Word or promote the latest cutting-edge depression drug. And I can’t believe I’m directing my blog readers to take advice from someone who says something like “You have to speak positivity into your life” and who — without a hint of sarcasm or note of apology — spews metaphors involving anchors, diamonds and sunshine. (And I’ll save you from the last few seconds up front: “You’re more beautiful than you know, more talented than you think and more love than you imagine.”) Okay, aside from ALL THAT…you can’t help but love her within about 5 seconds and her big smile and Elle Woods-like optimism.

She says things we’ve all heard before, but I guess they’re things worth repeating to yourself over and over in life: “Don’t live a defeated life where you feel like you’re a victim of all these circumstances.” I always need to remind myself of this but even more so lately. All the things she says in the video that we shouldn’t do, I do on a consistent basis. I’m always giving up on my day practically before it’s started.

So this week, after watching her video, I decided every time I feel like I’m having a bad day and like giving in to it, I will instead think about Kandee and what she said in her video and give in to perky. And it seriously worked this week. There were times throughout the day where something would happen where I felt like giving in to being pissy. Something that was truly out of my control like when someone would take THEIR bad day out on innocent old ME. Someone at work or at the grocery store or on the phone would be snippy with me for no reason or make me feel dumb. Or I would lose something or have a hard assignment or a dozen other equally trivial things. And that’s when I would take a deep breath and think about what Kandee said and I would feel better. And I would move on. Seriously. It’s hard to do, but it is do-able. Watch the video: (No judging!)

Like Kandee says: Your future is so bright and sparkly! Go give in to the perky side of yourself!

P.S. This blog post may not be held against me by my friends and family. I want to try for more perky days but everyone needs a dose of sarcasm and a pinch of self-destructive behavior now and again.

Weekend Emotions

  • Jealousy: The cake Josh made Nae:

Who finds a husband who not only has the talent to bake like this, but who also turns his wife into a Disney Princess?

  • Shame: I learned from a source within our family that the family had a discussion behind my back about my tendency to spend a lot of money without looking at price tags or trying things on. Translation: They were talking mad shit. I feel ashamed, as what they said is true. And I plan on swallowing my pride, admitting they’re right, and taking a long, hard look at my finances.
  • Excitement: I received the best kind of e-mail on Friday:
    Dear Customer,The Urban Expressions Stella Bag is now in stock. Please feel free to contact us if you require any additional assistance. Cheers,Baghaus Customer Service

    (Yes, it’s on its way. But I checked the price! And then I clicked confirm order. Monday. Taking control of my finances starts Monday.)


  • Confidence: In Mandy. If you didn’t read my first post about her, scroll down one. I’m happy to say I got to meet her and walk as part of “Team Mandy” today at the Susan G. Komen walk. She and her family were so cute and she was so cool, so full of energy…It was good to be walking not for a cause but for a specific person. And for someone who is gonna beat her battle, hands down. I’m confident.


Everyone has something that connects them to other people, to life. For me, it is, and always has been…wait, let me back up.

If you know me, you know I have to be dragged–if not kicking and screaming, then at least majorly complaining–to any event outside of the house. No, I don’t want to meet new people. No, I don’t want to see new places. No mingling! No small chat! No sitting idly chatting after the meal is finished! Needless to say, this attitude can be a bit…inhibiting.

But there’s one way in which I can be gotten to. And every so often, I remember how that is.

Do you ever hear about something or someone repeatedly, and ignore it/them until you can’t anymore? This happens to me all the time. If you want to broach a subject or an idea successfully with me, the best way to do it is often. Tell me something once a week for weeks on end and I will procrastinate thinking about it until I’m finally ready to think about it. It’s my process. The most recent example of this starts with my sister Jennie.

For months Jennie has been talking about her high school friend Mandy, who has breast cancer. This topic is the ultimate in-one-ear-out-the-other, I don’t want to hear this, I’m not listening, la-la-la, everything’s okay kind of information. It’s easy to block this kind of conversation out. I don’t know Mandy. I’ve never met her. Don’t even know what she looks like. So I listen to Jennie’s story, nod and smile, and I can continue with my day, without truly focusing on the story and letting it affect me.

Except sometimes I think there’s somebody somewhere (up there?) who will be damned if you don’t make a connection.

A few weeks ago I started attending Moms on the Run meetings. Moms on the Run is a breast cancer run every Mother’s Day. My dad and sister are both on the Board of Directors, and I’ve been helping to get their newsletter going. At our last meeting, it was decided that we should write a story about someone battling breast cancer who Moms on the Run has helped in some way. The person we’d feature in October was decided: Jennie’s friend Mandy. I was given the task of writing a short blurb about her and her struggle with breast cancer. So tonight, after procrastinating for two weeks, I clicked on the link to her blog, where she documents her “Adventures in Chemo.”

Less than an hour later, I’d read all of her journal entries and written the short blurb for our newsletter. And there was no more “I’m not listening la-la-la” going on. There was finally connection.

Mandy is not only an amazing person, but a captivating writer. Other than the fact that I was having to read her blogs from the bottom of the page to the top so it made sense chronologically, I didn’t pause once. From her “Black Friday” in April of this year (learning she has Inflammatory Breast Cancer, which she’s nicknamed “SOB”) to her most recent post, celebrating the fact that she’s done with her chemotherapy treatment, I connected to her story:

“I’m too fly of a person to have this tagging along with me and I’m sure by now that the ‘SOB’ didn’t get the memo that my body ain’t no free ride. The ‘SOB’ has to go—it’s messing with my swagger. Since the only way the ‘SOB’ is going to leave is with Chemo and everything to follow, I’m ready to get started. Bring on the drugs!”

She gives everything nicknames, from her IV pole to people she meets in doctor’s waiting rooms (“the nasty leopard hat lady” and “the crazy chicken breast lady”, among others); calls taking one of her chemo pills “dancing with the devil” and references Twilight so many times I feel we need to be friends.

I always find it hard to tell people what kind of writer I want to be or what form I want my writing to take. But that short blurb I had to write is exactly it. It’s not only the kind of writing I want to do, but it’s the way I connect with the world. Both in the reading of her story, and the writing of mine, I remembered.


Lately I’ve been obsessively reading the wedding announcements in the SundayStyles section of the New York Times. It’s a new discovery to me. The first thing that caught my attention was whether the bride would be taking the groom’s name.

“Ms. Monaghan, 28, is keeping her name.”
“Ms. Salemme, 25, is taking her husband’s name.”
“The bride, 27, is taking her husband’s name.”

The other thing that caught my attention: How cheesy all of the pictures are. Then I found this New York Times requirement, which I realize, is probably a big contributing factor:

Couples posing for pictures should arrange themselves with their eyebrows on exactly the same level and with their heads fairly close together.

Another requirement? So THIS is why you need to do well in school; your employer probably won’t check your college creds, but wedding submissions are rewritten, fact-checked and edited according to the standards of The Times, and any old diploma won’t do:

“The couple both graduated from Bucknell, she cum laude and he summa cum laude.”

And most importantly: You’ve gotta either A. Be Somebody or B. Be the son or daughter of Somebody.

“Her father retired as the editor in chief of Time Warner. Her mother, also retired, was an architect who practiced in New York. She is on the board of the Women’s Campaign Forum Foundation in Washington.”

I wonder if they would have gotten as big a section if they’d gone by his parents:

“The bridegroom’s mother retired as the dean of the National Academy of Hairdressing in Norwalk, Conn. His father retired as a carpenter with Union Local 210 in Fairfield, Conn.”

This last one I didn’t find in the New York Times, but in a photo album downstairs. Happy 31st Anniversary Jim and Mar. If nothing else, your eyebrow placement would have made the cut.


“Have I told you the story about the time my mother was pregnant with Uncle Dan?” I look into my grandma’s blue eyes. I vary the answer every time, even though it’s always basically the same. “Yes, you just told me yesterday Grandma,” if I’m out of patience; “I think so Grandma but remind me again?” if I’m being kind. Today I simply say, “No.” And so she answers. What is so crazy about it is not how many times a day or week she’ll tell you the same thing, but how the words never change; it’s as if she’s reading from a script: “Well you know they didn’t talk about it in those days. And so when my father told me my mother was at the hospital, I asked ‘Why?’ And he said ‘You’re going to have a baby brother.’ ‘A baby brother?’ I asked. ‘But I don’t want a baby brother!’ Can you imagine, Amy? I didn’t even know she was pregnant. They just didn’t talk about it in those days.” “Wow, Grandma, that’s crazy!” I say, trying to put some emotion into it but hearing the monotone-quality of my voice. If I counted all the times I’ve heard this story, it would be in the thousands.

The thing about it is, she’s a really good story teller. My sweet grandma goes on and on about everyone else’s talents: How smart we all are, and how good we are in school and at sports–and lately she’s been saying she wasn’t ever very good at anything (besides Bridge). But what she was always good at, I realize, was telling stories. They’re rich with detail and they have all the elements of great storytelling: gossip and intrigue and surprise. And she lights up when telling them. I know I need to write down her stories rather than roll my eyes at them. How her dad owned a grocery store in West Virginia and gave people a break during the Great Depression so they could get by. How much she wanted a little girl, and how her doctor told her when she got pregnant with my mom that he was sure it would be a boy, and that he was never wrong. And not only that, but I need to ask her more questions. Where was she that day in December when Pearl Harbor was bombed? And what was it like watching my mom meet and marry my dad? How does it feel to have made this family, and to watch us grow?

I came across these photos of my grandma the other day. She’s about 4 or 5 years old in the first one, on her grandpa’s farm in West Virginia. And I love that second one; how they would all gather around and take a picture at a party–it was probably an event. She’s sitting in the center. (And not to start any rumors, but that man whose legs my grandma is sitting between? Not my grandpa.)

Piles of Paper

They are pink sticky notes and lined pages ripped from notebooks. They are scribbles on the back of receipts and one line killing a whole page of white. Sometimes neat but mostly sprawling and hurried handwriting. They are words that speak to me; ideas I want to use in some way. They come from everywhere: strangers talking on a bus, the words of my parents, advice from writers, quotes from books and movies. There are so many things I hear or read in a day that I don’t want to lose. I don’t know what to do with these random piles of paper — a kind of scattered diary — but I know they are important. I save them in folders and in a drawer and in several boxes under the bed. And for long periods of time I forget about them, and how much they mean to me. And then I take them out and go through them and something is lit within me and I’m frantic about getting back to it. But back to what? Back to looking fondly into the past and then shoving them back under the bed until I remember them again? I don’t know if they’ll ever be of any use but the compulsion to write it all down is never ending.

Sometimes they’re my words; mostly they belong to other people:

“Grief turns out to be a place none of us knows until we reach it” – on a pink sticky note; from a Joan Didion book

“Everything happens to everybody sooner or later if there is time enough.” – a type-written piece of paper filled with George Bernard Shaw quotes

“You cannot start a sentence with ‘but’ unless you have a college education.” – scribbled in a college journalism binder

“She went limp, her breathing was really shallow. I thought her airway was blocked. Can you breathe? She wouldn’t respond.” – on the back of a grocery receipt, I mindlessly wrote out a conversation I had about my grandma

and so many more:

The Skinny

I found this random rant by J.K. Rowling (the Harry Potter author) on being thin. I want to post it just so I remember to read it at least once a week. Love the message. 

For Girls Only, Probably…

Being thin. Probably not a subject that you ever expected to read about on this website, but my recent trip to London got me thinking…

It started in the car on the way to Leavesden film studios. I whiled away part of the journey reading a magazine that featured several glossy photographs of a very young woman who is either seriously ill or suffering from an eating disorder (which is, of course, the same thing); anyway, there is no other explanation for the shape of her body. She can talk about eating absolutely loads, being terribly busy and having the world’s fastest metabolism until her tongue drops off (hooray! Another couple of ounces gone!), but her concave stomach, protruding ribs and stick-like-arms tell a different story. This girl needs help, but, the world being what it is, they’re sticking her on magazine covers instead. All this passed through my mind as I read the interview, then I threw the horrible thing aside.

But blow me down if the subject of girls and thinness didn’t crop up shortly after I got out of the car. I was talking to one of the actors and, somehow or other, we got onto the subject of a girl he knows (not any of the Potter actresses – somebody from his life beyond the films) who had been dubbed ‘fat’ by certain charming classmates. (Could they possibly be jealous that she knows the boy in question? Surely not!)

‘But,’ said the actor, in honest perplexity, ‘she is really not fat.’

“Fat” is usually the first insult a girl throws at another girl when she wants to hurt her,’ I said; I could remember it happening when I was at school, and witnessing it among the teenagers I used to teach. Nevertheless, I could see that to him, a well-adjusted male, it was utterly bizarre behaviour, like yelling ‘thicko!’ at Stephen Hawking.

His bemusement at this everyday feature of female existence reminded me how strange and sick the ‘fat’ insult is. I mean, is ‘fat’ really the worst thing a human being can be? Is ‘fat’ worse than ‘vindictive’, ‘jealous’, ‘shallow’, ‘vain’, ‘boring’ or ‘cruel’? Not to me; but then, you might retort, what do I know about the pressure to be skinny? I’m not in the business of being judged on my looks, what with being a writer and earning my living by using my brain…

I went to the British Book Awards that evening. After the award ceremony I bumped into a woman I hadn’t seen for nearly three years. The first thing she said to me? ‘You’ve lost a lot of weight since the last time I saw you!’

‘Well,” I said, slightly nonplussed, ‘the last time you saw me I’d just had a baby.’

What I felt like saying was, ‘I’ve produced my third child and my sixth novel since I last saw you. Aren’t either of those things more important, more interesting, than my size?’ But no – my waist looked smaller! Forget the kid and the book: finally, something to celebrate!

So the issue of size and women was (ha, ha) weighing on my mind as I flew home to Edinburgh the next day. Once up in the air, I opened a newspaper and my eyes fell, immediately, on an article about the pop star Pink.

Her latest single, ‘Stupid Girls’, is the antidote-anthem for everything I had been thinking about women and thinness. ‘Stupid Girls’ satirises the talking toothpicks held up to girls as role models: those celebrities whose greatest achievement is un-chipped nail polish, whose only aspiration seems to be getting photographed in a different outfit nine times a day, whose only function in the world appears to be supporting the trade in overpriced handbags and rat-sized dogs.

Maybe all this seems funny, or trivial, but it’s really not. It’s about what girls want to be, what they’re told they should be, and how they feel about who they are. I’ve got two daughters who will have to make their way in this skinny-obsessed world, and it worries me, because I don’t want them to be empty-headed, self-obsessed, emaciated clones; I’d rather they were independent, interesting, idealistic, kind, opinionated, original, funny – a thousand things, before ‘thin’. And frankly, I’d rather they didn’t give a gust of stinking Chihuahua flatulence whether the woman standing next to them has fleshier knees than they do. Let my girls be Hermiones, rather than Pansy Parkinsons. Let them never be Stupid Girls. Rant over.

(Do you, beloved girls who read my blog, get this all the time? I feel like whenever I see someone–friend, foe, acquaintance, stranger–the first thing that’s looked over/commented on is weight. So frustrating!)

Jilly Bean

Excerpts from a goodbye letter to my friend:

My dear Jillian,

Jilly over the past three years I have not told you enough what I really think of you. I think you are extraordinary. You are one of the strongest, bravest and kind people I know. You are obviously beautiful. But unlike some people who are only beautiful on the outside, your beauty is doubled because it comes from inside too. You’re the kind of person who I am so proud to point to and say “That’s my friend.”

I will always remember our Seattle adventures. From the three bedroom apartment crammed with us five girls to staying friends when we made the Seattle move and then back over to the Eastside to live with you again. I will remember driving with you and the way you sing at the top of your lungs and with all your soul. I will remember the time you cried at the McGraw house over a certain boyfriend. My heart broke for you and you made the top of my “People I Can’t Stand to See Cry” list. But mostly I will remember your smile. It’s one of the most distinct things about you, because it’s so genuine and because you do it so much. Not only will I always remember you but I’ll remember the way you made me feel and the kind of friend you are. I always feel like you’re in my corner, like you genuinely care about me and want me to be happy. I always felt you walking that delicate line between telling me what I wanted to hear and letting me be my hermit self and also letting me know that I deserve more than I give myself credit for, that I should get out of the house and live life the way you so easily do.

I envy you your spirit, your stubbornness, your clarity and vision in what you want, your beauty, your smarts, and your good sense of direction (literally your sense of direction, like, which way north is).

I feel lucky to be your friend. You will always be in my thoughts and I will pray you are safe, healthy and happy like I pray for the rest of my family. Know that I’m always here, and wherever I am you are welcome, and can find yourself at home.

Your cheese is the best.

Love always,


P.S. Don’t be surprised if you’re a character in my book one day. She will have all of the qualities I attributed to you in this letter. She will be one really cool girl.

P.P.S. If Cindy doesn’t get Scoob, and if Krysten doesn’t get Scoob, and if none of your family wants Scoob, etc. etc. etc. I will take him in and treat him as my own to make you proud.

n. a standard procedure, esp one that is unvarying

What I want my summer to be:

Full of ROUTINE.

I used to fear routine. I think it’s in my nature to want to do the same things and eat the same things and be in the same places. And I always felt I had to hide that about myself. Because routine is seen as boring. However, my Seattle friend Allyson changed my opinion on the subject. Her days are fun and packed and she has a full, busy life but it is structured and scheduled down to snack time.

This is how I want the routine of my life (or at least this summer) to go:

I want to swim every morning. Write at least once every day at the same time. Read every night. Limit my Internet time. Sit outside as 

the day turns to night more often. Drink lots of water.  Most importantly I want to start/keep up traditions: Breakfast with my dad and mom every Sunday. Walks with Geeg. (She would always call me on her Buddy walks when I lived in Seattle.) Black and white movies with J.D. every week. (This week was Without Love. It wasn’t great. But it was a Spencer Tracy/Katharine Hepburn one and Katharine Hepburn is J.D.’s favorite.)

I like the idea of simple. Hanging out with my family and my couple of good friends. I want the summer to be less frazzled, hectic, fast-paced, tweeting, facebooking crazy and more calm, relaxed, lemonade-sipping, tea drinking, porch-sitting slow.

When I Googled “routine,” there wasn’t much good to be found. For example, Henry Van Dyke said “As long as habit and routine dictate the pattern of living, new dimensions of the soul will not emerge.” Meh. There’s always next summer for that whole soul thing.

I never lose sight of the fact that just being is fun.” Katharine Hepburn

G’Bye Seattle