yay! reading!

I read 143 books in 2017.


I read some books that I loved (Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo, A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher, and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, to name a few). I read some books that I didn’t love so much (I’ll leave those alone, because talking about things you don’t like is boring). I read some books that had been on my list for years (I lugged Les Miserables around in my purse for two weeks, but I finished it, dammit!). But of those 143 books, 124 of them were written by white people.

So this year, I’m making a conscious effort to expand my reading repertoire. I’m committing to reading books written by people OTHER THAN straight, white dudes. For a lot of reasons.

I think it’s easy for people, particularly white people, to feel like striving for diversity is little more than “pandering,” or “unfair” or “reverse racism.” (Here’s where you imagine me using sarcastic air quotes and aggressively rolling my eyes, because that’s just crap.) Equality is not a zero-sum game. Elevating one voice doesn’t diminish another. At least, not in civilized conversation. It just adds different perspectives to the mix. I always tell my kids that my favorite thing about literature is how all thirty of them could read the same book, and there could be thirty different, equally valid reactions to it. Good stories elicit good conversation, and good conversation always involves different points of view. (Exhibit A: when I called my brother (with whom I frequently get into heated movie-related debates) to discuss the most recent Star Wars film, we realized after a few minutes we agreed on almost everything, and he finally said, “Well, I thought this conversation was gonna be a lot more exciting than it was.” It was still a good chat, but not as much fun as our regular verbal sparring matches. My family’s weird like that.)

Am I doing this because I think it will revolutionize the publishing industry, or that I will single-handedly shed light on more diverse voices? Of course not. I’m doing this for me. I’m doing this because I think that I, like a lot of other people, am exposed to a predominantly white, male perspective, and I want to change that. I want to be challenged and educated by people who have had different experiences than me. Another thing I frequently tell my kids is that great byproduct of reading widely is a deeper sense of empathy for the journeys upon which our fellow Earthlings are embarking, and if there’s anything the world needs more of right now, it’s empathy.

So here we go. Let me know if you have any suggestions, because I’m always looking to add to my list!


to my kiddos, part deux: 12 more things I wish I knew in high school

Last year, I wrote a post in which I outlined a bunch of things that I wanted my kids to know/wished I’d known in high school. With another year under my belt, I thought of a few more things that I want to share with them/me.


  1. Watch Friday Night Lights. You’ll be a better person for it.
  2. Learn to eat healthy now. This is the highest your metabolism will EVER be, and if you can get into some sort of healthy eating habits now, it’ll save you a lot of grief in the future. I’m speaking from firsthand experience.
  3. At some point over the next four years, learn how to write a good cover letter when applying for a job. It’s a super-easy way to set yourself apart from the hordes of other people whose resumes look just like yours.
  4. Listen more than you talk.
  5. I once read a Pinterest quote that said “Do it with passion or not at all.” Like so many things on Pinterest, it seems appealing, but it’s bullshit. I have to do plenty of things I’m not passionate about. It’s called being a responsible person. So I would amend it to say “Do it with passion when you can, and do your best either way.”
  6. You are a very, very small part of a very, very big world, and many people have it way worse than you. Remember that when your parents won’t let you go to the Shawn Mendes concert (is Shawn Mendes still cool? I can’t keep up anymore).
  7. That being said, treat yourself with respect. A lot of people will look down on you (or overlook you completely) because of your age, and that’s not cool. Take care of yourself.
  8. Talk to your teachers. They’re not all scary mountain trolls (well, maybe one or two of them), and they’ll remember you staying after class for two minutes to talk to them, even if it was a simple “How was your weekend?”
  9. Do the reading. Always do the reading. Even if you hate it, do the reading. In fact, I would love it if you hated the reading. It’s much more impressive when a student says, “This book/poem/passage sucked and here’s why” than when they just stare at me like a recently concussed football player.
  10. Practice. Use scratch paper. Make outlines. Write rough drafts. Show your work. The first time you do ANYTHING, it’s probably going to suck. But you’ll get there eventually.
  11. Learn how to be bored. Alternatively, bring a book with you everywhere.
  12. There will be days when it seems like the future is rushing in to meet you like a tidal wave, but that’s an illusion. At the end of The Outsiders, Johnny tells our friend Ponyboy (who, like you, is 14 and is Going Through Some Shit), “You still have a lot of time to make yourself be what you want.” I know I quoted that last time but I’m saying it again because it’s that important. Life somehow manages to be both short AND long, so take your time.

things that I want for Teacher Appreciation Week

rehost201691332bf1e80-6dee-4eb5-9490-7e7c346dcdd6Alright, y’all. Teacher Appreciation Week is HERE, which means that I’ll be a) treating myself like I’m Donna Meagle and Tom Haverford on the best day of the year, and b) I’ll be receiving a handful of Starbucks gift cards and usually a random plant or some cookies or something. Not that I’m not grateful — I never say no to cookies — but it came up at lunch one day last week, and we started brainstorming things that we would REALLY love to get. Here’s my list:

  1. Getting to wear pajamas to work all week – If my kids are allowed to come to school wearing elastic-waist flannel pants and a blanket, then so should I, dammit!
  2. Thirty minutes of quiet time in every class, devoted either to napping or reading – I’m not picky. I just need some silence every once in a while.
  3. Someone to make my lunch every day next week – This is my most hated chore in the whole world, y’all. I don’t mind making my lunch on the weekends/during the summer, when I can do it at my leisure, but having to do it at 6:30 in the morning is disgusto barfo.
  4. Alternatively, a catered lunch every day next week – My kids can win XBOXes and TVs and Busch Gardens passes for scoring well on their SOLs, so all I’m saying is that maybe some of that money could be diverted to getting the Boka truck or the Gelati Celesti truck to come on down to good ol’ TMS.
  5. Staff movie day in the library, while admin watches our classes – Movie choices include: Ferris Bueller’s Day OffDie Hard, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, or a select few episodes of The Office.IMG_1064
  6. An adults-only moonbounce stationed outside the school – For some much-needed stress relief
  7. Student vs. faculty dodgeball game – See above.
  8. A handwritten thank-you note – In all seriousness, this is my FAVORITE gift to get. No gift cards, no food. Just a short and sweet thank you.
  9. Getting to bring my dog to school – How do you say no to that face?

places i need/want to go

  1. The library – I’m in a reading rut and nothing has been super-appealing lately. I was there less than a week ago and I’m already over everything I checked out.
  2. CapitolMac – My nine-year-old (!) computer finally went into the light, and I, like the dummy I am, haven’t backed up in probably years. It’s so old that the Genius Bar guy practically laughed me out of the store, so I’m hoping CapitolMac can save the day. Really, the only thing I really care about saving is my music collection, but like 90% of my tunes is stuff I’ve downloaded illegally, so. Karma.
  3. The gym – I played in the student-teacher basketball game today and got my ass handed to me. I have zero cardiovascular endurance.
  4. Starbucks, or similar – I’ve been writing a LOT lately (yay!), but, like my aforementioned reading rut, I’m in a bit of a dry spell (boo!). I’m hoping a good writing sesh in a busy-but-not-too-loud coffeeshop will cure that.
  5.  London – In the words of Bill Nighy’s character in Love Actually whose name is escaping me, “I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes.” Spring break is nigh, y’all.  Seven days and a flight across the Atlantic are all that stand between me and the Harry Potter Museum.
  6. Universal Studios – It’s just a constant state of being at this point.

January favorites


  1. JMU winning the national championship!!!!!!!! – My Dukes came through in the clutch and blew Youngstown State out of the water for their first FCS Championship since 2004. Beautiful.c1b_thlweaatp-n-1
  2. Harry Potter World (again) – Yep. For the second time in five months, Adam and I made the trek down to Orlando to spend three glorious days at Universal Studios.
  3. Snow! – I love snow anyway, but this particular snow was great because a) it was the first time we got to take our doggie out in it, and b) school was closed for three days and then promptly left for Orlando right afterward, so I got a whole week off of work!
  4. Six of Crows/Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo – In all honesty, my husband and my coworkers are probably sick to death of hearing me talk about these two books, but I just can’t help myself. They’re that good. Game of Thrones meets Ocean’s Eleven with a little bit of The Outsiders. I’m a sucker for any story  that has a) is a rag-tag groups of misfits, b) really good suspense, and c) well-written bait-and-switch stories, and this duology delivered that beautifully.
  5. Aaron Tveit concert – I’ve posted about my boo Aaron before, and last week I finally had the opportunity to see him live when he came through D.C. He sang mostly Broadway stuff (a lot of which I hadn’t heard), but he also did a lovely medley/sing-along from Les Miserables, and a  Disney medley (which included a healthy dose of Beauty and the Beast music) which made me go all twirly and fluttery.

hurt, confused, a little dirty: an open letter to Amy Sherman-Palladino

Dear Amy,

Look. We’ve known each other a long time. Twelve years. That’s longer than I’ve known my husband, most of my best friends, or what I wanted to be when I grew up. I would like d4840c7a-f88b-445f-95cc-42a1b05f0b0eto think we can be honest with each other. So here we go.

What a disappointment. I tried to talk myself out of feeling like this (several times, in fact), because I waited 3,482 days for this reboot, and I didn’t want it to be in vain. But here I am. The story felt drawn out in some places, and rushed in others; this was due, I think, mostly to large chunks of time being taken up by insignificant subplots. Some of the jokes were a little too “wink wink nudge nudge” to the audience, and there were a LOT of Parenthood cameos (you might as well have looked straight into the camera and said “LOOK AT ALL OF LAUREN’S COSTARS WE WORKED IN!”).

I was disheartened to see the overall lack of a substantial plot. You had nine years to kick around new ideas and the best you could do was Luke and Lorelai lying to each other and Rory struggling to hold down a job? Ames (may I call you Ames?), these are stories that could just as easily have been told nine years ago. I wanted something new and fresh. How have our girls grown in the near-decade since we last saw them? The only thing driving new stories in this reboot seemed to be Richard’s death. Emily’s story was by far the most compelling, but we saw relatively little of it in the middle episodes. Why?

To be fair, I liked parts of it. There were many good moments. But the stuff that I didn’t like, I hated to the point that it outweighed any warm, fuzzy feelings I had about the good stuff. Here’s a breakdown:

The good: 
Richard – Honestly, I wasn’t ever worried about this. You’ve always written the dramatic
moments exceptionally well, and it was always obvious how much you respected and loved both Richard and Ed. It was touching without ever being schmaltzy, and funny at just the right moments. Like I said, there were moments where we relied on this plot a little too
heavily to advance the overall story, but out of respect for Ed, I’ll overlook that.
the Emily/Lorelai dynamic – Again, not a big concern for me going in. The relationship between these two has been a strength of the show since its inception. From the fight in the kitchen to the phone call from the mountain, it was pitch perfect.
the secret bar – the most Stars Hollow thing I’d ever heard, and I loved it. Good on ya.
Jess – My guy!!!! Even though he only showed up for a grand total of ten minutes, he was great. He saved Rory (for at least the second time) by getting her out of her rut and giving her the book idea, which was, of course, perfect (because he knows her better than anyone). He’s also gone to counseling and/or the gym because he seems much less angry/much more jacked. I’m just sad that he’s hung up on a ding-dong like Rory (more on that later).
Luke’s speech – I love ranting Luke. I love ranting Luke ranting about how right he and Lorelai are for each other. “There is no one who will be more here for you than me.” WE KNOW, LUCAS.
• Sookie – While I’m sad we didn’t get more of her, I’m grateful we got her at all. We missed you, Sook.
Rory writing in Richard’s study – Look. I was already heated when Logan offered to put Rory up in his family’s house to write (WE GET IT. YOU HAVE MONEY.), so I was cheering when she turned him down because a) she! doesn’t! need! him! and b) what a perfect place for her to write the story of her family. I lost it when she opened the door and we had that split-second view of Richard sitting at his desk, and then again when she sits down at said desk, only to look up and see the portrait of herself hanging off to the side. Well done.

The bad and/or boring: 
Stars Hollow: The Musical – We get it. You saw Hamilton. I love Sutton Foster as much as the next theater fan, but that was ten minutes that could’ve been much better spent elsewhere in this story. I get having the musical as a plot device for Lorelai’s epiphany at the end of the episode, but damn. In the words of my friend and Gilmore Girls Yelling Partner™, Molly, “YA AIN’T SLICK, AMY.”
Rachael Ray – The girl talks with her hands too much. It was annoying.
Luke and Lorelai lying to each other – They’ve been together for nine years, and they’re lying to each other about tiny baby stuff like this? Either a) lay the groundwork for this earlier on so it doesn’t seem so out of the blue, or b) give me the happy, couple-y Luke/Lorelai to balance out this unstable, should-have-been-past-this-nine-years-ago Luke/Lorelai.
Logan – Why so much Logan? Why, Amy? Why? He served no larger purpose, other than, I’m assuming, to bankroll Rory’s near-constant cross-Atlantic flights. What kind of dumbo proposes to a girl, gets shot down, and then a decade later, is engaged to a French heiress, but still sleeping with the ex-girlfriend on the side? It just made me hate Logan AND Rory more.
the Life and Death Brigade – I adored Finn and Colin in the original run (though that might’ve just been because of Finn’s accent), but that whole Baz Luhrmann, Across the Universe, took-too-much-Nyquil-and-fell-into-a-steampunk-fever-dream BULLSHIT was over the top (especially for a group in their mid-30s), and, again, a waste of my time.
the wedding – This is painful for me to say, because part of me LOVED it. A lot. But after seeing the blowouts that this town throws, I wanted to see them show out for their (and our) favorite couple. Because they’ve been waiting for this as long as we have, and they deserve it, dammit. Also, just for the record, Emily and Jess not being there? Emily not walking Lorelai down the aisle? Luke and Lorelai not getting married under the chuppah? Unforgivable (and so easily fixed!).

The ugly:
• Rory’s characterization in its entirety – Amy. Ames. Amothy. What in the ever-loving f*ck happened? Who was this girl on my television screen? I didn’t recognize her. Or at least, I didn’t recognize this version of her. Rory Gilmore, who slept with a married man once before and saw the direct effect it had on him AND his family AND herself, who broke up with Logan Huntzberger because he CHEATED ON HER, and then broke up with him AGAIN rather than get married to him, who graduated from Yale journalism school with a job in the Obama press corp, who, yes, made some questionable decisions but still managed to maintain some sort of moral compass….. is now a lying, cheating, homewrecking, jobless, Wookie-humping, moral compass-lacking DING-DONG who “forgets” to break up with Pete/Paul/Pat/Piss-Poor Plot Device for almost a year? Make all the cute Kerouac and “thirty-something gang” jokes you want, but this isn’t the Rory we knew and (mostly) loved from the original run. I don’t know this girl.
• the last four words – I hate to do this, but this felt like the series finale sucker-punch of How I Met Your Mother, condensed into about fifteen seconds. I get that this was where you wanted to go from the beginning, but guess what, Ames? Life isn’t perfect. We had a nine-year hiatus that no one saw coming, and things change. You’ve gotta adjust. I could understand 22-year-old Rory, fresh out of college, busy figuring out her life, and surprise! Life throws her a curveball in the form of an unplanned pregnancy and she deals with it like her mom did. But now? As a 32-year-old vagabond with her belongings scattered across two continents? It’s not nearly as charming; it’s just sad. Where’s this kid gonna live? How will Rory support him/her? PLUS, Lorelai and Rory are VERY different. I get wanting to bring it full circle, but when Lorelai got pregnant at 16, she sucked it up, left her life of privilege, and got a crappy job. She did what she had to do, even though it wasn’t comfortable or easy. But Rory “I’m gonna drop out of Yale because of one bad performance review” Gilmore? I’m not so sure. She can’t do it by herself. She’s not independent in the way Lorelai is. The only way it would work is if she can find a partner who brings out her inner decisiveness and resilience (see also: mid-season three (when she’s with Jess), and mid-season 6 (after Jess reads her the riot act about dropping out)). She made it pretty clear in her converseation with Christopher that she was thinking about raising this kid alone, but some major life changes are gonna need to happen before that becomes a viable option for our girl Rory.

So, Amy, there are my thoughts. I still care about you very much, and hopefully we can work through this tough time in our relationship, because we really did have something special for awhile. Call me if you ever want to hear my ideas for a reboot reboot. I’ve got lots of ’em.



my happy list

A few weeks ago, Entertainment Weekly published what they called their “Happy Issue,” which was kind of dumb, but as part of it, they included a compilation of fifty pop culture things that made them happy. Various staff members contributed, and included everything from The Carol Burnett Show to Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams winning “Best Kiss” at the 2005 MTV Movie Awards (which I HIGHLY recommend watching). And I liked reading their list so much that I decided to make one of my own. I had initially planned on making a list of just fifty things that make me happy (I still might), but I decided to focus mine on pop culture items as well. Here goes!

  1. Julie Andrews
  2. Han, Leia, and Luke hugging after Luke gets back from destroying the Death Star
    A moment of pure, unadulterated joy. These three are all stupid in love with each other and I just love it.
  3. In the Heightstumblr_my3ehxuy1m1rt7dy9o1_500
  4. Parks and Recreation – season 3, episode 13 “The Fight”
    While I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s my favorite episode (because that’s basically a Sophie’s Choice), the scene in the Snakehole Lounge when everyone gets plastered on Snake Juice is a sublime moment in television comedy.
  5. Dead Poets Society
  6. Anthony Ramos, Jr. in 21 Chump Street
  7. “I Gave You a UTI” in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
    Musicals and TV are two of my favorite things, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend combines the two beautifully. This number was a particular favorite.
  8. The Molly Morello Memo
  9. Sam Rockwell as Owen in The Way Way Back
  10. The opening scene of Mary Poppins
    Bert’s little “winds in the east” aside to the camera always gives me goosebumps.
  11. Eric Matthews constantly mixing up “niece” and “niche”
  12. “Carryin’ the Banner” from Newsies
  13. How I Met Your Mother—season 2, episode 9 “Slap Bet”
    This episode gave us the Slap Bet, but it also gave us Robin Sparkles, and for that, I am eternally grateful. And I don’t care who it is, someone getting slapped in the face is always funny.
  14. This passage from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  15. Friday Night Lights – season 1, episode 2 “Eyes Wide Open”
    This is mostly for the scene where Coach Taylor comes to Human Equivalent of a Baby Horse Matt Saracen’s house. Coach drags Saracen to the football field in the dead of night and makes him run plays over and over until he finally owns his new position as QB1.
  16. the last dance of the season in Dirty Dancing
    You know the one.
  17. Ezra Miller as Patrick in Perks of Being a Wallflower
  18. Buffy Summers winning “Class Protector” at her prom
  19. Clark Griswold’s rant at the end of Christmas Vacation
  20. “I like you. Very much. Just as you are.”
    My favorite movie declaration of love. Simple and lovely.
  21. The High School Musical trilogy
  22. The Salt and Pepper Diner by John Mulaney
  23. the last scene in Princess Diaries when they’re all dancing to “Miracles Happen”
  24. FRIENDS – season 4, episode 12 “The One With the Embryos”
    One of my most-watched episodes. Monica’s scream when she finds out they lost the game is one of the best moments of the whole show.
  25. Sixteen Candles
  26. The music video for One Direction’s “One Thing”
  27. Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood by Anne Brashares
    This is one of those books I just read at the right time in my life, and has stuck with me ever since. This book is in my DNA. It’s in my bones.
  28. Heath Ledger singing “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” in 10 Things I Hate About You
  29. the parade scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off


    *oven ding*

  30. That moment in Captain America where the machine opens up and newly-jacked Chris Evans pops out of the oven like a fresh batch of cookies.
  31. Away We Go
  32. The Office—season 3, episode 23 “Beach Games”
    This episode is hilarious, but it also has a big character development moment for Pam, and it’s very sweet and also very important to me.
  33. Marisa Tomei as Mona Lisa Vito in My Cousin Vinny
  34. “You BLITZ. ALL. NIGHT.”
  35. Amy Poehler as Kaitlin on Saturday Night Live
  36. the handholding scene in Pride and Prejudice
    I still can’t talk about it coherently. I’m sweating just thinking about it.
  37. Terry Crews as Terry Jeffords on Brooklyn Nine-Nine
  38. Gilmore Girls—season 3, episode 22
    This episode is a smorgasbord of good moments. My favorite? Rory’s speech reducing Luke (and me) to tears.
  39. The Douchebag Jar in New Girl
  40. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries
    A modern retelling of one of my favorite books told via vlog, the LBD was what kept me going the year after I graduated college. I lived for these four-minute videos every week. They’re that good.
  41. “Tale as Old as Time”
  42. Harold Perrineau as Mercutio in Romeo + JulietA-Charlie-Brown-Christmas-image
  43. The Holiday soundtrack by Hans Zimmer
  44. A Charlie Brown Christmas
    Basically if you don’t like this movie, you’re probably a robot or zombie or something else with no soul
  45. Luke shoving Jess into the lake
  46. Olivia Munn as Sloan Sabbith on The Newsroom
  47. Emma Thompson’s Golden Globes acceptance speech for Sense and Sensibility
    She gives the speech AS Jane Austen, y’all. If there’s any justice in this world, I will be as classy and witty and hilarious as Emma Thompson when I grow up.
  48. She’s the Man
  49. “This is What Dreams Are Made Of” by Lizzie McGuire and Italian pop sensation Isabella Parigi
  50. John Cryer as Ducky in Pretty in Pink