Musical Milestones: 10 Songs

May 14, 2015 § 17 Comments

Remember when I wrote about that album by Squeeze? It was for my friend Nancy’s project, Midlife Mixtape, all about the music we love as adults. Well, she’s at it again, and this time she’s requesting mixtapes on a theme of “the songs that made me” — significant music from various stages of life. OK, I’m in.

The only rule was a 10-song maximum, so here goes —

1. I’m on Fire by Bruce Springsteen

SPRINGSTEEN_BORN-IN-USA_12x12_site-500x496Look, I’m as surprised as you are. But really, when I thought about my earliest musical memories, this is where my brain landed. Specifically, this was the first tape case (yeah kids, I said tape) in which I discovered the liner notes. Remember those? The little accordion-folded papers tucked into the plastic cases? Having discovered that the lyrics to all the songs were printed right there for me to read, I pored over them while listening to the songs again and again. I vividly remember sitting on my pink carpet in fourth grade, puzzling over this: “Sometimes it’s like someone took a knife baby edgy and dull and cut a six-inch valley through the middle of my soul.” Why would someone do such a thing? Why a dull knife? Why is six inches the right depth for a soul-valley? What the hell, Bruce? I have been obsessed with song lyrics ever since.

* * *

2. Twist and Shout by the Beatles

To this day, this scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off remains one of my favorite scenes in any movie ever. In fact, I wanted to hear this song so badly after seeing the movie that I mustered all the bravado I had in my little 6th grade self and called my radio station to request it. I TALKED TO THE MAN IN THE RADIO, PEOPLE. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but to me, at 11, it was, and I remember that every time I hear it. This is the soundtrack to my getting up the nerve to ask a stranger for what I wanted.

* * *

Then for about a decade, my favorite song was “whatever’s on the radio.” Fast forward to the mid-90s:

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3. This Time of Year by Better Than Ezra

awareIn college, I discovered Aware Records, the label that produced these awesome mix CDs of new artists (we’re up to CDs now, whippersnappers). Many of the bands I saw during my young adulthood were groups I discovered on these things. This song in particular always makes me think starting back to school on campus in August. If I play it on a fall day and close my eyes, I can pretend I’m sitting on a patio drinking cheap beer with the people who are still my best friends many years later. This is a touchstone tune.

* * *

4. Hold My Hand by Hootie and the Blowfish

Speaking of college, here’s a memory for you: It was 1994. A little band from South Carolina called Hootie was playing in the gym. We’d heard they were going to be on David Letterman the very next night. Somewhere up front near the speakers, some crazed fan was waving his Solo cup in the air and hollering, “HOLD MY HAAAAAND” again and again and again. “Who is that fool?” I wondered. Ladies and gentlemen, that fool is now the father of my children.

* * *

5. Colorshow by the Avett Brothers

When Americana started gaining more mainstream popularity a few years back, a friend of mine introduced me to the Avett Brothers, and I drank up those albums like water. They’ve never put on a show that hasn’t been a blast. The Avetts were one of the very first bands I was able to enjoy along with my children, who loved this music even when they were very little. I gave my son a philosophical lecture about elementary school once with these song lyrics: Be loud. Let your colors show.

* * *

6. Awake My Soul by Mumford and Sons

True story: I was bowling with a bunch of friends one night several years ago, and in the lane next to us was this group of English dudes who looked vaguely familiar. I went up to the bar and asked, “Do you know who those guys are?” and the bartender said, “They’re in some band that’s playing in a little theater around the corner tomorrow. Mumford and Company?” and I was like, “MUMFORD AND SONS? I’M GOING TO THAT SHOW,” and he was like, “I guess” and I went back to my friends like, “YOU GUYS THAT IS MUMFORD AND SONS,” and they were like, “What?” because this was about a month before any radio stations were playing them here, and somehow I was the only fan in our whole group. I was very dissatisfied that no one shared my excitement. Anyway, I went over to the band, and I said, “um hi hello are you mumford and sons i love your music so much i really just love it and do you like bowling ok great i’m coming to your show tomorrow at that little theater and i really hope you guys get like really successful and famous and stuff ok bye sorry bye” And they did. Probably because of that pep talk. So this one actually changed their lives more than mine. You’re welcome, guys.

* * *

brandi7. The Story by Brandi Carlile

We’ve talked about Brandi before. A bunch.

* * *

8. You Are My Sunshine by The Civil Wars

Well, the Civil Wars are no more, but they left us some good music. I always liked this version of Sunshine. Also, I sing this to my daughter every night before she goes to sleep; so even though it’s a really dark song (I mean, really dark — listen to it), it makes me happy. (When skies are gray.)

* * *

IMG_06269. Follow Your Arrow by Kacey Musgraves

Here’s a great song about going with your gut. I listened to it a lot when I switched to a new city / new job / etc. last year. Also, it’s just a delightful song. If you don’t like it, I can’t explain what’s wrong with you.

* * *

10. Blow It Out by The Features

I keep thinking I’ll reach a point where I’ve played this too many times and it gets old, but that time has not yet come. We play it a lot in our kitchen these days, and it’s by a great little Nashville band, and it just very much feels like a theme song right now.

* * *

So, there are my 10. Thanks for asking, Nancy. If you want to see the other mixtapes her friends have drummed up on this theme, you can catch them here:

My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog
Butterfly Confessions
Good Day, Regular People
The Flying Chalupa
Elizabeth McGuire
Elleroy Was Here
Midlife Mixtape
Up Popped a Fox
When Did I Get Like This?

What are your musical milestones?

penguins_square_1 (1)

Obligatory book plug:
17 more days until Penguins with People Problems comes out! I’d be really glad to see you when the penguins and I hit the road to sign books. You can PRE-ORDER IT right now wherever you normally buy books (Amazon, B&N, etc.), or — if you like to support indies (yeah!) and want an autographed one — from the bookstore where I work.

Work It, Girl: Professional Dressing for the Modern Ladyperson

May 11, 2015 § 21 Comments

Sometimes being a girl is complicated.

If you’re a dude, your outfit choices pretty much come down to “which pants?” and “that shirt.” But for ladies, there’s a wiiiiiide range of options out there, which means there are a LOT of ways to go wrong, especially when you’re talking about what to wear to work, in an interview, or for a big presentation. How to do it right? I flipped through the ads in this spring’s fashion magazines to find out. Here’s what I learned.

1. Follow the 25% Rule


If you want to land your bizness plane squarely on the runway of success, you have to learn to show precisely the correct amount of skin. That amount is 25% of one breast — no more, no less.


Nailed it. The lima bean bracelet is a luxe touch, too.


Bingo. As you can see, this ensemble is meant for casual Fridays. Replicate the look yourself by pulling out your mom’s jeans and gift wrapping them with your dad’s belt.


BAM. Professional perfection. Optimal boobage and a classic pump, too.

2. Practice Restraint


Minimalism always wins when dressing for work. Don’t wear all your favorite clothes at once. In fact, as Coco Chanel once said, “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” This is a Chanel ad, so as you can see, Coco meant pants.


Or maybe she meant, “clothes.” If you decide to go full-frontal, keep it classy. DO opt for a multi-strand necklace and a practical messenger bag. DON’T sweat the haters.

3. Try Subversive Hair


This isn’t the 1960s. Think more Joan Jett, less Joan Holloway. If you’re going to rock the buttoned-up look, great — but draw the line when it comes to a sculpted hair helmet. Instead, chew off the ends of your hair to create a little contrast and suggest that maybe, just maybe, you’re a paralegal and a bounty hunter.


See? Proper outfit + broom head = balance. Tuck your prim blouse into a mid-length skirt, then whip an electric egg beater through your bun for 20 seconds to rough things up.

4. Accessorize with Care


On weekends, feel free to go overboard with baubles; but your Monday-Friday gig is another story. Pick ONE favorite accessory and use it as your theme. Seen here: starfish.


You can also do a single starfish as a brooch. See how pulled together she looks while she’s listening in on that conference call? I don’t care if you’re just an assistant now. Always dress like you’re the CFO — Chief Fabulousness Officer.


Have an accessory that looks a bit like a face? Awesome. Let your colleagues feel your quirky jive when you walk into your presentation and yell PEEKEEBOO! It’s a fun way to break the ice, and it loosens everyone up for the Q&A section later.

5. Travel Smart


Remember, you represent your employer no matter where you go. At a restaurant for dinner? DON’T get all sloppy and make a pterodactyl out of your napkin. DO project an image of power and composure at all times. Show here: take advantage of the time it takes to fuel up the rental car, and practice your rope skills. That’s right, everybody — this lady’s whipping her company into shape.

6. Dazzle Every NO into a YES


Let’s say you know you’re about to get fired. Maybe you woofed a big project or something. You’re toast, right? WRONG. Now’s the time to pull out your secret fashion weapon: distraction. Pile on every color and pattern you’ve got, walk into the office, and voilà — your boss will be too overcome by sensory input to remember why your head was on the chopping block. Now don’t blow that second chance, girl.

7. Think Whole, Not Parts


If there’s one rule that will get you through every professional situation, it’s that everything needs to work together as an ensemble. Individually, you might not think a trench, a woven bag, and a bra-less woolen vintage bathing suit would work, right? But all together, ta-da! This meeting is called to order.

In short: Run a fork through your hair, undo one more button, and get ready for your turn at the top, baby. You’re going places.

* * *

Speaking of going places… do you like to go to parties? I’ll be rocking my best quasi-professional look for the Penguins with People Problems book tour this summer, and I’d love to see you along the way. Dates and places will be updated online as plans are made!

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 2.05.37 PM

(On a penguin note: Have you seen the New York Times exclusive mini-series? It’s called “Penguins with Parent Problems,” and a total of six episodes will be running at random intervals through the beginning of June!)

(PS: One last thing… If you’re on Facebook, you may have been following the I Miss You When I Blink page and/or my official author page. I’m switching over to using just the author page, because two pages is too damn many pages. That’s good news because it means you won’t see double posts in your newsfeed. So, make sure you’re following that one? Thanks!)

My Team, My Rules

April 22, 2015 § 5 Comments

I had absolutely nothing to do with the creation of this. But I adore Amy Schumer and Josh Charles and Friday Night Lights and brilliant parodies, and I think this is a spot-on example of how to use comedy to make a point. Watch this:

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 9.35.46 AM

“What about a sexy owl?”

Oh, also: Don’t miss Amy Schumer’s fabulous speech about self confidence and being her own fairy godmother.

That’s all. Carry on.

Are You My Mother?

April 20, 2015 § 23 Comments

In a “small experiment of women’s uniqueness,” Pandora jewelry has launched a new ad showing that children presented with a lineup of white women in black leggings can identify the white women in black leggings who belong to them even WITHOUT SEEING THE WHITE WOMEN IN BLACK LEGGINGS.

#Amazing #Uniqueness

So on this Mother’s Day, make sure to give the white woman in black leggings in your life a piece of distinctive jewelry. Because even if her kids don’t go blind, they’re going to need some way to tell all the white women in black leggings apart, so it might as well be a charm bracelet.

Eating, Writing, Reading, Flying

March 25, 2015 § 6 Comments

I am kind of like this right now:



There’s a LOT going on with work, there’s a LOT going on with book stuff, and there’s a LOT going on just with life in general. It feels a little like zooming down the highway on a turbo-boosted electric scooter at 100mph with my eyelids taped open and my hair on fire, but it’s all good.

Part of what’s making this spring so busy is a string of travel dates for work/fun, which, although it’s kind of exhausting, I really enjoy. The first thing I always plan after the plane ticket is the dining, because I love trying new food and eating like locals eat. (Unless locals eat raw bird feet or celery pie, in which case, terribly sorry, but fuck that, locals.) Nothing caps off a long day like an awesome dinner. My family and I ate our way through DC last week, and now I’m eating lettuce and ice cubes until I get to Portland this weekend, at which point I’ll shift back into pasta-and-wine gear.

Speaking of which: Making dinner has long been my relaxation ritual when I’m home. Lately though, suppertime around here has been an episode of The Crazy Show. Well . . . maybe more like The Lazy Show. I told my editor at the New York Times I was thinking of trying one of those dinner-kit-in-a-box plans just to make things easier and bring back the fun, and she said, “DO IT” and also “WRITE ABOUT IT.” So I did. (I tried several, actually. Because if I’m going to eat my way through an assignment, I’m for goshdarn sure going to be thorough about it. *Hiccup*) Here’s the result of that little experiment —

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 11.40.04 AM


Anyway, thanks for clicking over to take a look, if you’re so inclined. More on the travel and the book and all manner of other inanity later. Meanwhile, please enjoy new penguins every week. (Did you see there’s finally an animated one?) Thanks!

An Interview with Press Publish

March 10, 2015 § 1 Comment

Thanks, Press Publish, for this interview — it was fun. And I’m very much looking forward to speaking in Portland in a couple of weeks. (I’m not much of a conference person, usually, but if you use WordPress for anything, you might want to look into this. It’s just a single day; the passes aren’t expensive and come with free site upgrades; and the WordPress people have crammed so many really useful sessions into the day. Plus… hey, Portland. Join us, won’t you?)

Speaker Spotlight

(Read more here.)

(Read more here.)

Get your tickets here if you want to go!

Fancy or Casual? A Ladyperson’s Guide to All Occasions

March 6, 2015 § 17 Comments

From the ad pages of your favorite magazines come these simple instructions. Just follow along, and you’ll always make the right decision.

* * *

1. BE FANCY WHEN you make an exit.


Even a simple prison break is cause for dolling up a bit. Before you run away along the drainage ditch, take a moment to plan your outfit. Pair leather with lace, and don’t forget a darling ankle boot to show off your Shawshanks.

* * *

2. BE FANCY WHEN you want a promotion.


Dress for the job you want, ladies: the job of the British taxicab driver who goes home at the end of every day and dumps a bag of cash on her bed and rolls around in it, because she’s the highest earning lass on wheels and she’s got the satin slacks to prove it.

* * *

3. BE CASUAL WHEN you need to reach group consensus.


Speaking of the workplace… You won’t get anywhere by intimidating people. When you need everyone on your side in today’s budget meeting, here’s what to do: pass up the power suit, skip the bra, and head straight to the boardroom in the clothes you wore to feed the reptiles on your luxury snake farm this morning. Lean in and chill out.

* * *

4. BE FANCY WHEN you watch a solar eclipse.


Staring into the sun isn’t for the weak — or the weakly dressed. Show everyone you’re serious about your bright future. After all, this is no mere folly for you. You’re going to start a colony in outer space one day.

* * *

5. BE FANCY when you’re dying of consumption.


First impressions make an impact, but last impressions make memories. Before you hack a final tubercular cough into your handkerchief, throw on a sassy damask frock, some knee-highs, and a bitchin’ pair of clogs. Who knows — you might attract one last suitor. Go out with a bang, girl.

* * *

6. BE CASUAL WHEN you undertake personal maintenance.


Helpless? Nuh-uh. High maintenance? I don’t think so. Don’t be one of those bimbos in the blowout chair letting someone else take charge of your wash-dry-set for the week. DIY stands for Do It Yourself and Dudes Idolizing You. Cut your own hair with the nearest pair of scissors or a steak knife, throw on a blazer, and arrange that fringed bag right over your crotch for just the right amount of mystery. That’s leadership.

* * *

7. BE FANCY WHEN you’re waiting your turn.


Patience is a virtue, but virtue can be sooooo boring. While you’re waiting for your diving instructor to finish up with the student before you, catch his eye with your Sexy Baby Bluebird getup. A smudge of waterproof eyeliner, color-coordinated heels, and a go-anywhere clutch complete the look. They say you’ve got killer instincts, and they’re right. This’ll drown ’em every time.

* * *

8. BE FANCY WHEN you dole out vengeance.


The last thing this mobster you kidnapped will see before he gets tossed off a bridge is you, so now’s not the time to phone it in. A gold stiletto, a versatile black legging, and a bold pleather halter prove you’re a hit-woman with a sense of occasion. Before you slam the trunk, hike up one leg and send that gangster off to his beautiful forever with a look at your groin. It’s a doom with a view.

* * *

9. BE FANCY WHEN you entertain for family and friends.


Make your camel’s birthday special. Because he only turns 7 once.

* * *

10. BE FANCY WHEN even when it hurts.


If you’re going to herniate a disc, do it in a way that highlights your best features: a toned shoulder, a brightly colored lip, and a magnificently rounded backside. This classic sheath says “timeless,” while the contemporary print says “I will never ever ever get old.” Age is our enemy, ladies, and we must go down fighting like the rockstar bitches we are.

* * *

11. BE CASUAL WHEN you take in a bit of culture.


Nonchalance is the name of the game when you and your homies set out to enjoy a day at the museum. If your group can go matchy-matchy with colors, even better. DON’T: Put a cocktail dress with your sneakers like Regina on the far left. (Jesus, Regina, act like you’ve been here before.) DO: Sport some Pippi braids and scowl for all you’re worth. See you on the steps after brunch, everyone but Regina.

* * *

12. BE FANCY WHEN you’re a guest.


Take note: Everyone attending this town’s lingerie bullfighting festival is nailing it. Notice the attention to detail — the corsetry, the elegant chignons, the fans that are both functional and attractive. Even the matador is pitch-perfect in his peel-down brocade onesie. Wave that pink satin cape in celebration of yourself, Señora, because you have aced Festive Events 101. A+

* * *

13. BE CASUAL WHEN you’re feeling conflicted.


You’re no simple starfish, no ma’am. You’re a sun-kissed boatload of bodacious contradictions. For example: your bottom half wants to dig for sexy sandcrabs while your top half hankers to cozy up by a fire. The solution? Go casual and mix it up a bit. A modest everyday sweater in a silk-cotton blend, paired with a slim-cut ass bungee in the same color. Swimming or snuggling? Surfing or curling up with a good book? Forget this “or” nonsense — it’s time to embrace the “AND.”

Remember: The world is your sandcastle, and you’re the queen. Rule it.

* * *

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 8.04.37 AMSpeaking of outfits:

Thanks to US Weekly for adding me to the Fashion Police force alongside my buddies Wendi Aarons and Gloria Fallon. (Look for my captions in the back of the magazine next time you’re getting a pedicure or waiting in a long grocery line.) I shall carry the badge with pride.


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