Sunday, September 30, 2007

Better Living Through Chemistry, and a question

My weekend was made possible by the fine people at Robitussin, Benedryl, and Mucinex. Special thanks also to Kleenex for all 320 tissues in the box I just polished off, and to Brita for filtering the 19 gallons of water I've chugged down today. Sniff. Gulp. Sigh.

Aside from the cold, life is pretty good here in Trishville. I notice how good it is because of how un-good it used to be. I woke up this morning thinking of a conversation I had not too long ago that still cracks me up and brings me back to earth (with a thud) anytime I'm tempted to get too full of myself:

I was thirty-three, divorced, virtually unemployed, and living in a tenement-quality apartment with big holes in the walls. I'd just joined a group of people who were exploring questions about faith, where I made some cool friends and felt like my life might be on an upswing ("upswing" being defined as "I have someone to go to the movies with on Saturday afternoon") Kind of pitiful, but there you have it.

One day, one of the girls in the group who had graduated from college about a year earlier came up to me and asked, with great earnest, if she could talk to me. "I need some advice," she said, "I really think you're the person I need to talk to!'

"Sure," I said, puffing up a bit. It had been a rather long time since anyone had thought I might have anything useful to offer about making life decisions. "How can I help?" I asked.

"Tell me," she said eagerly, "What should I do so I don't end up like you?"

"Like me?" I asked, certain she couldn't mean that the way it sounded.

"Yeah," she clarified. "You know--divorced, alone, no real career or plan in life. Meeting you made me realize how wrong things can go if I'm not careful!" In her eyes, I was like one of those car wrecks they put out on the front lawn of the High School before prom night to warn what can happen if you drive drunk. (I've always wanted to be an inspiration to future generations; I guess I should consider this a starting point of sorts.)

The most frustrating part of this memory, though, is that I can't remember how I responded. This is quite possibly the funniest interaction I've ever had with another person, and I can't remember how the story ends?!?

(I DO know that she moved 3,462 miles away about two months later, which I cling to as proof that God hears and answers our prayers)

What would you have said???

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Hangin' with the stars down in SoHo

I'm home! The trip was amazing, and I'm still processing everything I learned to try and make it into a coherent post. I picked up a head cold somewhere along the way which is has me pretty foggy, but I hope to have something up by the weekend.

To tide you over, though, two fun things: Over dinner Tuesday night (at a restaurant devoted to CHEESE...more on that happiness later) I learned how Julia Child separated egg yolks (with her hands...eww), and heard an impassioned plea for a mandatory national recycling policy that involves goats eating our garbage. I'm still not sure how this will work in the city, but I guess if they can make counter tops out of old beer bottles, it's not too much of a stretch to envision a mountain goat living on our back stairs, munching on my discarded boxes from

And (to explain the title of this post before I dive back into the NyQuill): I went to SoHo for the first time, because the lovely Alison Pace told me that McNally Robinson Books is a great place to do a book signing. (And, well, because "I went down to SoHo this morning" is just plain fun to say). As I was wandering through the stacks, I heard a deep, familiar voice. It was not (as those of you who have peeked at my manuscript might suspect) the voice of God, but rather the voice of John Elder Robison, author of Look Me In The Eye, brother of Augusten Burroughs, and one of the most generous blogging-about-the-publishing-business authors ever.

I'm a dork, so I introduced myself. Not only were he and his wife extremely gracious, but when I mentioned that I was in town to meet with my publisher and (among other folks) their lawyer (memoirs are vetted pretty carefully to avoid litigation), John spent the next twenty minutes or so offering thoughts and advice on being a first-time author and how to avoid legal issues. Amazing.

I had no real camera, just the phone. But here's a picture:

And...John will be in Boston tonight! If you're in the neighborhood, come on out to Brookline Booksmith at 7pm. His NYC reading received the first standing ovation of the year at that store, so it should be pretty good :)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Live, From New York City...

I'm here! It's fun and fabulous and loud and exciting. The bad news is (for those of you who like your photos unfuzzy) is that I forgot to bring my camera. But I have my camera-phone, which enabled me to take the picture you see here, of my first moment of unexpected delight on this trip to the Big Apple.

Let me explain... You see, I'm not a light packer. Not at all. As I was bringing (okay, attempting to bring) my suitcase down the three flights of stairs to the car yesterday, I could barely lift it. There's a chance--slim, but possible--that I'd packed a few things I wouldn't need in my three days here. So, against my better judgment, I opened my giant green closet-on-wheels, and took out a sweater, a pair of jeans, a giant bottle of shampoo, and my flip flops. Then I heaved the suitcase down the stairs and into the trunk and was on my merry way.

I really missed the flip flops. From the first moment I arrived in my (lovely) room, I longed to slip my toes out of real shoes and into something cozy. THEN, a miracle happened. The lady came with turn-down service and handed me two chocolates...and a pair of flip flops! I was so excited, I had to take a picture :)

Now, early this morning, I actually broke my flip flop, which would have been sad if I hadn't been singing Jimmy Buffet's "Margaritaville" all morning:

I blew out my flip flop...stepped on a pop top...

A friend and I had an ongoing battle about this lyric my senior year of college--I swore Jimmy said, "stepped on a Pop-Tart." I was wrong. Josh, if you're out there and reading this, I stand corrected :)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Gonna let it shine

We went to a wedding on Saturday--a friend Steve grew up with and the girl he's been with for over six years. The whole thing was beautiful, but the most memorable, fun part was the priest who said the wedding mass. Now I was raised in the Catholic church, and I'm not sure I've ever used the words "mass" and "fun" in the same sentence. But there's no other way to describe the service this guy led.

Father Joe prayed for the bride & groom, and for all the people who in the world who are still waiting to find their soul mate. He suggested that we smile more as an act of community service. And then, in the most unusual part of all, he led us in several impromptu verses of "This Little Light of Mine, I'm Gonna Let It Shine!" It was fabulous. Nice job, Father Joe.

I'm headed off to NYC this morning, and that's the song that will be in my head as I board the train :)

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Color of Love...The Color of My Hair

I went to the hairdresser yesterday. Nothing too dramatic--the usual highlights, a chance to catch up with one of my favorite people (if you live in Greater Boston and need hair help, Andrea is the best hairdresser/cool friend combo I've ever found--love her!) I'd been baking in tinfoil under the lights for about thirty minutes when Andrea came over to check on me. We were chatting about whether the fact that neither one of us owns a scale is a sign of self-esteem or deep denial when all of a sudden she paused and said, "Wow--that's pink..."

I didn't believe her. "Hahaha. That's funny," I replied.

"No, I'm not kidding," she said, looking perplexed. "Check this out." She unwrapped the foils from a few strands of hair, and sure enough, some of them were decidedly pink. (I discovered this morning that pink has it's own Wikipedia page, so if you want to know what shade of pink my hair was, click here. My highlights were somewhere between "Web Color Pink" and "Nadeshiko Pink," making this the closest I've ever come to being culturally diverse).

Andrea remained surprisingly calm through all of this. I, on the other hand, was consumed with a fit of the giggles. It just seemed too funny that on the eve of what might be the biggest trip of my professional life (have I mentioned that I'm going to NYC on Monday to meet all the awesome people involved with publishing/promoting/marketing my book?) I have Web Color Pink/Nadeshiko Pink highlights. I started mentally rearranging my wardrobe choices to account for this new addition to my fall color scheme.

Andrea attacked the pink with some combination from the other side of the color wheel (I tried not to worry as she mentioned blue and green--two other shades I couldn't see working for me on a long-term basis) while I prayed silently for a chemical miracle. I earned D's in two of my four semesters of high school chemistry, so I wasn't at all certain I had any prayer leverage in the Science Wing of heaven, but I thought they might recognize me in the Bad Hair Day Division, so I lobbed my prayers upwards, hoping they'd land in the right place.

We washed my hair. We dried it. It looked fine to me. "Um, no," Andrea said, easing me back into the chair as I started to stand up. "It's still pink."

I called Steve to tell him I'd be home a little later than expected.

One hour, two chemical processes, and a whole bunch of fervent, giggly prayer later, my hair was restored to it's usual shade of girl-next-door brown with blond highlights. And if you see me on the streets of NY next probably won't even notice, because I'll look like everybody else :)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Wild Hope

In my frenzy of lip gloss happiness, I forgot to mention the OTHER exciting thing that happened last weekend...I saw Mandy Moore in concert :)

Her new album, Wild Hope, is just incredible--totally different than anything she's done before; much more Indigo Girls meets Joni Mitchell than Britney meets Christina. Love it, love it, love it.

When I bought the tickets a month ago, my dear husband--in a gesture of overwhelming chivalry--said that of course, he'd love to accompany me to this celebration of girly-ness. Mandy Moore + Paula doesn't get much more angsty and anti-boy than that, but he wanted to make me happy. Good guy, that Steve.

But as the date approached, I realized with horror that the concert directly coincided with the Biggest Sports Night In New England This Year. No exaggeration. It wasn't just that the Red Sox were playing the Yankees, but Curt Schilling was pitching against Roger Clements. It wasn't just that the Patriots were playing the Chargers, but that the Patriots coach was just fined a cool half-mil for cheating, and this was the team's first chance to prove that those Superbowl victories were not tainted. Big stuff, here in Beantown. And my husband--the consummate sports fan--was going to be at the Mandy Moore concert through the whole thing.


Now I'll give it to hubby--he manned up and said, "Don't worry, Honey. The concert will be fun. Not a problem..." But when I told him my friend Kristina could come with me, he actually gasped in happiness. "Really?" He asked, eyes wide with hope, not sure he could believe this turn of fortune. "You'd be okay with that???"

Kristina and I entered the super small (I think "intimate" is the word they use for venues with no seating?) club where Mandy's show was moved after Paula Cole bailed at 7pm; Mandy took the stage at 10:00. All I can say is THANK GOD Steve wasn't stuck there in the middle of this small sea of Mandy Moore fans for three hours--I'd have been walking the dog every night for the rest of my life, trying to repay him :) Instead, Kristina and I had hours of fun girl talk, and I have no doubt that the world is now a slightly better place.

And after all that waiting, the concert was great. I think Miss Mandy may have been a little buzzed up there on stage (she kept gulping from a giant travel mug) but I think I'd have needed to be a lot buzzed if I was singing in a place so small that the audience was right up to the lip of the stage, almost underneath me. She can really belt, and her band was great, too. Good stuff.

The Red Sox lost. The Patriots won decisively. Hubby walked the dog :)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Holy Customer Service, Batman!

Remember how, a few Fridays back, I was singing the praises of Tim Gunn's new show and lamenting the loss of my favorite Trish McEvoy lip gloss (the one that fell in that nasty puddle years ago, never to be replaced)?

GUESS WHO sent me an email a few days later??? Trish McEvoy! The other Trish (or T-McE as I'll be calling her now) sent ME an email, offering to send me my favorite lip gloss if I could remember the color! I was, to put it mildly, flabbergasted (as you can see by my extravagant use of italics in this post).

And then (as if I wasn't wowed enough) the Fed Ex guy showed up on Saturday morning with a priority package for me. (This touch seemed even more remarkable in light of the fact that I ordered books from two weeks ago, and they haven't even put them on a truck headed in my direction...not that I'm frustrated by this or anything...)

But wait. It gets better: When I opened this wonderful package, I found not just the compact and gloss I'd lost in the puddle, but also the matching lip liner with the little brush on the end that you use to apply the gloss! Yippee! You don't have to know me long to know that a core part of my definition of happiness includes having the right lip gloss. Not many people mention this, but in my experience, it's essential for any sort of life success.

Not wanting to be outdone, I have a secret plan to thank T-McE and her awesome staff. You see...I recently saw the specs for my book cover (hee!) and while I can't give too much away until everything is finalized, the cover does feature a pair of glossy lips that (must) match one of the T-McE colors perfectly. I'm sure there's a fun tie-in to be made somewhere, and I'm gonna tie it in.

Wouldn't you buy a new book if there was a lip gloss included in the deal somehow? I can envision my book signings now...I'll read for three minutes, and then we'll all play with makeup! By the time I'm done, there will be an army of us nationwide, all decked out in Trish McEvoy lip gloss, ready for our close-up :)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Ethical question

If you accidentally grab the wrong scent of fabric softener in Target, use it on one (smallish) load of laundry, and discover that the scent so overwhelms your entire house in musky waves of unrelenting awfulness that you're compelled to poke around under the porch in some pitiful hope of disturbing the neighborhood skunk for a better scent to clear the air....

Do you think it's okay to return the rest of the bottle to Target?

(Late breaking addition: I should have been clearer...I would definitely tell Target I'd used the fabric softener; I was trying to gauge the odds of them letting me exchange the scent as a gesture of goodwill and customer service. And the skunk showed up last night around 9pm and sprayed down the whole neighborhood. So today's plan is to be careful what I joke about...)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A philosophy of stuff

One of the malls near where I live opened up a whole new wing of stores last week. Naturally, I had to check it out (because, well...I might write something about it it's part of my job! You know, research. Right...) This new wing includes a Mac store, which made me happy, along with a whole host of super-upscale stores not formerly found outside the city: There's a Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Gucci, Ferragamo, Kate Spade, and a bunch of others. (Now, by way of full disclosure, I was at the mall to exchange a blouse at Ann Taylor, but that doesn't mean I can't appreciate having a higher level of window shopping to peruse than the usual Aldo and Claire's Boutique options). The new parking garage was open, well-lit, and filled with soothing music. There was a guy playing piano. You get the picture. All elegant, all lovely.

The only problem was the people. Without exception, every single person I passed in that section of the mall looked miserable. (I haven't seen that many pinched faces gathered in one place was since I was a lawyer.) It was bizarre. I saw three generations of this unhappiness in Nordstroms, as two parents and a grandmother hovered anxiously around a bored teenage girl trying to decide between two gorgeous designer handbags. What's up with her? I wondered. Why isn't she squealing with glee? I met three women on the elevator, probably in their mid 40s, talking about the outfits they'd just purchased. Again, none of them seemed excited or happy. It was like one more day at the office.

That's when it dawned on me: shopping is really only fun if what you buy fills a real gap in your life. If your sneakers are worn out or covered in paint, you'll enjoy having a new pair. If you don't have a suitable outfit for a party your friend is throwing, it's fun to find just the right thing (and some cute earrings to match). Your new stuff may cost $20 at Target, or $2,000 at Gucci, but if you get the chance to use it, that's what brings the squealing-with-glee part to complete the shopping experience.

I guess I'm just making the connection that owning things isn't fun. Using the things we own is what makes them fun. Maybe this is why I've always balked at mugs and bumper stickers encouraging me that I should be grateful just to be alive. Not that I undervalue life, but living, in and of itself, can be rather a mixed bag. It's using the life we have that makes it fun. Otherwise, it's just one more afternoon on the couch.

(I should probably have mentioned at the beginning of this post that I've been thinking about this whole rich misery thing ever since I saw The Nanny Diaries a few weeks back. Steve and I talked all the way home about what AWFUL PEOPLE those Upper East Side mothers were, and then realized, "Wait a minute...if those characters hadn't been wealthy, we'd have said that they were hurting people, struggling to figure out their lives. But because they have money they don't get compassion?" Jesus said that it's easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to get to heaven. Those seem like pretty long odds. Nothing in the Bible indicates that wealth is bad, but there does seem to be a way in which it can distort our attitude, and if we're not really careful it will suck the enjoyment out of both buying the stuff we need and using it. It has me thinking that perhaps I should be praying for the family I saw in Nordstroms, rather than judging them???)

And if this is all to serious for you on this lovely sunny day, let me just add that THAT DOG pooped squarely on her leash this morning. It won't come clean. So I anticipate that the new leash I buy at Target will bring me great squeals of glee...

Monday, September 10, 2007

Able to leap small dogs in a single bound...

Behold, my "back-to-school" sneakers! Can you see the gold glitter ribbon on the sides???

I wore them yesterday for the first time. I had to make coffee for 1,000+ people, so I knew I'd need special skills (running fast, jumping high). My new sparkly sneaks did not disappoint. And they emerged unscathed from the big, wet pile of coffee grounds I accidentally dumped on them. (For those of you who are new to the blog, here's a quick primer in the economics of my fashion world: Fun new sneakers? $40. Stain-resistance? Priceless.)

Brown. It's the new black. And white and pink and cerulean blue....

Are you treating yourself to new sneakers for fall? Keep in mind what you spill most when selecting colors. (Should I send this suggestion into Tim Gunn for his show, or do you think he already knows this?)

Friday, September 07, 2007

Bravo for Tim!

I know Swishy beat me to it, but I have to chime in and share my utter adoration for Tim Gunn's new style show on Bravo. I made me cry. He is like an updated (male) version of Cinderella's fairy godmother.

I'm not certain about all of the advice, though. I mean, I believe everything Tim says...when he stared into the camera and declared, "Every woman should be properly fitted for undergarments!" I knew he meant: "That means you, Trish Ryan!" But then the lady in the lingerie store said that the bottom of your bra should start at the crook of your elbow??? I don't know if my arms are unnaturally long, or the rest of me unnaturally short, but the crook of my elbow is only a tiny bit higher than my belly button...that's means I'd need a corset, rather than a bra...

(I should also say that the whole segment where they made her clean out her underwear drawer took on a special significance, given that when I went out this morning to walk THAT DOG, we saw that one of our neighbors had cleaned out her drawer overnight...and thrown her discard pile out into the middle of our street. Not sure what that's about, although I'm sure Tim would be pleased to see that there was both a thong and what appear to be full-coverage briefs lying there on the pavement. Variety is important)


I'm not at all sure about the "Life Stylist" dude. Is that a real job? And even if it is, I'm not sure I'd trust this guy... He looks like somebody's unemployed little brother.

The jury is still out on Veronica Webb. She must have been mean to some of the behind the scenes people--the person in charge of wardrobe, the hair stylist--because they made her look really severe and frightening.

And Trish McEvoy is just gorgeous. My favorite lip gloss ever--the perfect shade of slight-sparkle plum--was from her line. I loved it like a best friend until it flipped out of my purse one day and landed and in an oil-slicked puddle in Montreal. I still haven't found it's equal. Trish, if you're reading this, can you help me???

My favorite take away point from this first episode? When shopping, start with the shoes. This is great advice! How many times have I searched for shoes AFTER the outfit, only to end up with a great dress that isn't nearly as cute as I'd hoped because the shoes aren't quite right, or pants that would be the right length,if only my heels were 1/2 inch higher or lower? Wise words ladies. Shoes first!

Now I'm off to my closet to see if I have "ten items which make up the core of my wardrobe." I'll pretend Tim is there with me, giving me strength to throw away the shoulder-pad infused paisley blazer that seemed like such a great idea ten years ago. But I'm not going to show him my favorite faded jeans and Red Sox might not be the done thing in NYC, but here in Greater Boston, there's not really anyplace I can't wear that :)

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The hills might be alive, but the graveyard shouldn't be

I live right on the border between two towns, neither of which is particularly hospitable to a newbie runner. (Especially a runner whose primary motivation isn't improved fitness, but rather an article I read in Glamour magazine about the creeping scourge of muffin top.)

If I don't want to log time on a treadmill, though, the choices for scenic running here are a bit daunting. If I run in one direction (as I did for the first time on Tuesday), I have lots of time to contemplate the fact that "Belmont" means "beautiful hill." Now if you'd asked me to describe the topography of Belmont on, say, Monday, I would have said that it's rather flat. Oh, how very deceptive. I can now say with some hard-earned authority that the entire town is one long, slow, upgrade. It's could be a place in a Harry Potter story: "the Land of All-Uphill." The chances of me completing the Swishy 5K Challenge in this town are slim-to-none.

If I run in the other direction, though, my most likely destination is a cemetery. America's first garden cemetery, as the web-site will tell you..."An active burial place and a vibrant cultural institution." (It was even listed as a "neighborhood feature" when we bought our condo.) People meet to walk and run there all the time. Am I the only one who finds this slightly horrifying? I mean, Steve has family members who, well...own property in there, so I guess I have as much right as anyone to make use of the grounds. I could look at it like being a guest at his great uncle's tennis club, right?

Well, no. I can't run in a graveyard. I don't care how vibrant said graveyard might be. (I'm pretty sure a graveyard shouldn't be vibrant, but that's another post...) I'm no stickler for etiquette, but I'm pretty sure Emily Post would say, "It's just not the done thing."

So I guess I'll head for the hills. If you're nearby, I'll be the one gasping for air and clutching my iPod, muttering, "cute in jeans, cute in jeans" over and over again.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Highs and skateboarding, kinda...

Thanks all, for your wonderful reassurances about my niceness. You guys rock :)

It was a bit of the agony and the ecstasy for me this Labor Day weekend, as we head into what is my favorite, favorite, undeniably most favoritest time of year. I love September--the idea of a fresh new start, dreaming of what might be possible once I get down to working hard after a summer of relaxation, shopping for cute back-to-school clothes (who says you can't look good while applying your nose to the grindstone?) New England is, in my humble opinion, the best place in the world to be, come September. And yet the weekend, for all it's greatness, left me with one big question as I head into the fall.

First, the ecstasy: I ran 2.5 miles on real ground (not a treadmill) without hurling into the bushes. The nice checkout lady at Ann Taylor used a 15% off coupon on my purchases that I didn't know existed. The US Open is on. (Tennis is the game I would have played, had I not made that wise decision to pursue baton twirling as my primary sport back in the forth grade. ) Next year on this awesome weekend, Steve and I are hoping/praying that we will be at the US Open, buzzing around to check out the action live on a grounds pass.

But then there is the agony: THAT DOG has allergies (???) and has been hopped up on Benedryl (per her vet's instructions) all weekend. I got food poisoning at a famous chef's restaurant downtown. And worst of all, I've been utterly busted by a book called TO BUSY NOT TO PRAY. It sounds like a nice book, doesn't it? I was reading along happily until the author asked: "Do you believe that God answers prayer?" Yes, I thought. Of course I do. That's where he got me: "Do you regularly and diligently, every single day, bring God your worries and hopes and dreams--all the places you need help--trusting that He will intervene in you situation?" Um. Hmmm. No.

Yikes. What a realization. I mean, I'm in the middle of publicity strategy for a book about, among other things, how God came through and answered my audacious prayers for a husband. My face is up on posters all over Boston--on taxi-cabs and in subway stations--in an ad for my church's fall kickoff, with a link to a video about how praying changed my life from totally disappointing to (in the words of our church motto) Impossibly Great. For this week at least, I am literally the poster child for how God answers prayer, and I'm not asking Him for the things I need!?! ARGH. Unbelievable.

Well, at least I know what goes on the top of my "To-do" list for tomorrow :)

How about you? Do you believe God answers prayer? If yes, are you asking God for everything you want and need, trusting that he will intervene in your situation?

(Sorry for the deep know I get philosophical when I have a few days off!)