Feelin' 32

grown up hottsauce funny blog

Hello, friends. I have some big news to share. I have become a woman!

No, I didn’t just start my period - that happened when I was in fourth grade, years before all the other girls, and I still have the emotional scars to prove it. Nor did I just lose my virginity - that happened well into my twenties, years after all the other girls, and I did have the emotional scars to prove it until I learned that Tina Fey also kept her v card until a late age so now I’m an out and proud member of the Old Virgins Club.

It turns out that, contrary to every Judy Blume novel ever written, womanhood is not one (likely v bloody) milestone that you can check off in your diary, but something unexpected and innate that sneaks up on you from behind whether you’re ready or not.

In every way I am an adult. I am thirty-two years old, by which I mean I’m very much “in my thirties,” woof. I’m married. I have a robust 401K and an assistant and a bad hip and multiple blazers and yet I still feel like a perpetual tween. I do in some ways think that city living may be a bit to blame. Unlike the town where I grew up, people here generally marry later, have kids later, live in tiny rental apartments with roommates into their 30’s, 40’s and beyond. The traditional trappings of adulthood, as embodied by the suburban parents of my childhood, don’t seem to apply to me or to any of my NYC friends, so I’ve been able to hold onto a sort of eternal Peter Pan feeling. We’re all growing older, but are any of us growing up? When I see my peers doing these adulty things like procreating or buying four bedroom houses on cul-de-sacs it feels utterly foreign and somehow wrong, like they’re play acting at real life. Those things are for adults and we can’t possibly be adults yet.  I mean, I certainly am not! Or... am I?

Some of this, surely, is because I’m such a horrid snob about non-urban living - the word “cul-de-sac” is basically moist to my ears (shudder, shudder) - but in other ways it still just takes me by surprise every day that I’m allowed to do things like take money out of the bank or rent a car without a note from my mom.

I’d say it’s a mix of this snobbishness, a little jealousy, a whole bunch of fear, and no small pinch of denial that’s had me feeling pretty OK about this eternal tween scene. Who even needs adulthood?? SEEMS BORING.

And then, when I least expected it, it found me.

Last week I was hanging out with two young co-workers, both 22, fresh outta college, just like me! Err...me circa a literal decade ago. I have always known I’m like, older than these gals, but we’re all still peers, right? Hashtag millennials! Snapchat! The Chainsmokers, probably!?!?

The two of them were regaling the group with funny stories about their apartment situations - all the post-college classics like bad roommates and plenty of mice, navigating subleases and guarantors, pulling together just enough cash for a security deposit, crashing on couches, full of optimism and enviable naivete As they talked I became filled with these unexpected feelings. I was worried for them. I wanted to nurture them. I could sympathize with what they were going through, having been there myself before, but I could not currently relate. Instead of being like, “OMG girls, life is so crazy, should we do some shots?!”, I just...nodded, a supportive yet moderately concerned look on my face. I gave them advice on dealing with landlords and reminded them never to meet a person from Craigslist without a buddy. I blithely uttered the phrase, “when I was your age,” with no irony whatsoever and all at once it hit me: holy shit, me, you are a grown-up. 

Apparently to achieve adulthood you need not purchase a townhouse or a minivan or even just one of those medium sized SUVs all the hot soccer moms are driving these days, you simply need to close your eyes and think “dear god, you could not pay me to be 22 again” and whoosh, there you are, in adulthood. It’s like Dorothy clicking her ruby slippers to get home again except instead of leaving Oz behind, it’s your youth that’s fading from technicolor behind you.

Ain't life something? 

So there you have it, world, I am an adult now. I am not a girl, not yet ... nope... 100% a woman. And I don’t know how I feel about it, so if anyone’s looking for me you’ll find me at the nearest Chico’s indulging in a little retail therapy while I sort it all out.


Whatever the mature version of xoxoxox is, 

HoBag 

 

Another Awkward Week: Still Waters Run Deep

OH HI! Does your brain hurt from all the Beyonce/Adele Grammys think pieces you devoured today ...despite not actually watching the Grammys last night?

No?? Um, me either, I worked very hard all day!!

But just in case you do need a bit of a brain break, here is a quick story for your Monday night.

Anyone who spends time with me IRL quickly becomes aware that they are a lucky bitch because I am amazing. 

Ha, just kidding, that's not what I was going to saaay.

Anyone who spends time with me IRL quickly becomes aware that I am obsessed with hydration, to a level bordering on unhinged. I have three glasses of water before I leave the house and usually 8-10 more 16oz bottles by EOD. Every time I pee I check out the scene to monitor the situation and if my urine is not crystal clear by noon I get stressed and slam a few cups of H20 to speed up the process. Once, a year or two ago, I had a UTI, because being a human woman is an EVIL TRAP, and I went to the clinic and peed in the lil cup and the doctor came back and pulled up the test results on the computer and said "I can tell by looking at your results that you are very hydrated," and I blushed and beamed and replied "thank you so much for noticing!" As if she was commenting on my liquid eyeliner application or clean baseboards. 

When I said "bordering on unhinged" I may have meant like, very far beyond unhinged... 

So it should be an obvious no duh by this point that I literally never leave the house without a water bottle. Ever. This means I always have to lug some kind of big bag with me, even if I'm going to like, a club (lol as if) or trendy restaurant (slightly more likely). I would so rather risk a fashion don't than be caught out there dehydrated whilst daintily holding my evening clutch.

A true nightmare scenario.

Why am I telling you all of this TMI about my inner neurosis / urine color? Stay with me. This is alllll helpful background information to have in mind as we *finally* find ourselves at the beginning of my tale.

'Twas a week ago today, around eleven in the AM and I was returning to my office from a doctor's appointment. I was carrying the large leather tote pictured below:

bag of water humor blog I am so bad at naming photos

(Urban Outfitters, under eye circles + empty boxes sold separately).

In said bag, I had packed 3/4 full Nalgene style water bottle branded with my imprint's logo (always be selling!), a hardcover copy of The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, and my bullet journal + pack of colored markers (just in case I needed to make an urgent to-do list in the waiting room? IDK guys),  along with some assorted nonsense which shall be discussed later. 

I swiped my card through the turnstile, moseyed (obviously sprinted) to a suitable spot on the platform and stood patiently waiting for my train. I was a little thirsty from all the moseying (sprinting), not to mention that I consider any amount of downtime to be a primo opportunity to re-up on the hydraysh, so I reached into my purse and pulled out my water bottle only to discover it was now...empty. 

I plunged my hand back into my purse and like a kid digging a hole to China via the Jersey Shore, I hit water. I must not have screwed on the lit tightly last time I took a public chug! In a panic I began to pull out my important belongings. My wallet...soaked. My book...soaked. My #bujo...miraculously only a tiny bit damp, praise be to you Beyonce, who so should have won Best Album, everyone knows Lemonade was the greatest album of the year / decade, even people who forgot to watch the Grammys! 

And then, my train came.

I had two options. Option one was to pull out all of my stuff, dump the water onto the tracks, cry about my misfortune, and cause a big ol' scene right there in the 23rd Street 1 Train Station. Or I could choose option two, which was to board the train, hold my sopping books in my arms, and ride the four stops back to my office with two inches of water sloshing around my handbag. And then, you know, pull out all my stuff, dump the water into the sink, cry about my misfortune...and cause a big ol' scene right there in the middle of my office.

I chose option two.

Y'all I boarded the train and I carried the water all the way home.

(That  kind of sounds like a gospel song! Carry the water, children. I carry the water, Oh Lord.)

(Pretty sure those are just the lyrics to Wade in the Water but with a lil remix.)

(Enough parenthetical asides, Liz.)

When I got back to the office I carried my water over to the communal kitchen sink, tipped the bag over, and out poured half a liter of water, as though from a lovely pitcher. I assessed the damage. In addition to the above mentioned book and journal, I pulled out 3 half-full travel sized packs of tissues (all obviously ruined), several handfuls of change (unscathed!), one running sock that had been in there since who even knows when (soaked but salvageable), miscellaneous receipts (destroyed),and the real kicker: two very important referral papers handed to me by the doctor I'd visited just before my ill-fated subway purse drowning situation. One of these papers contains notes from my doctor to a physical therapist who I am to see next Monday for the first time. I need to present this piece of paper to the physical therapist so she knows what my issues are. 

My physical issues, that is. No one needs a paper note to see my mental issues, which will be fully apparent when I hand her a crumpled script that is ripped at one corner and bears the texture of an elementary school homemade paper making project gone awry, having once been soaked and then left to dry on the back of my desk chair. I should just call the original doctor and tell them I need a replacement prescription but I don't want them to think I'm irresponsible. For some reason that seems more embarrassing to me than waltzing into the physical therapists office with a ruined piece of garbage.

Where did I say I was on the unhinged scale again? Maybe we should double it.

Anyway, all's well that ends well, I suppose. My most beloved of possessions, the journal, snuck through generally unscathed with just a few bits of runny ink towards the top of some pages, and after a few days to dry out, my copy of The Warmth of Other Suns now looks rather chic. My assistant saw it sitting on my desk all yellowed, sans dustcover (a tragic casualty, RIP dustcover, I hope you had a great life), and exclaimed "wow, what a cool antique book!" I didn't have the heart to tell her it is not, in fact, an antique, but a relatively new book I ruined. She'll find out I'm a hot mess soon enough, but until that day I'll let her - and the world! - think I'm some kind of intellectual savant whose handbag is overflowing with antique literary works, instead of spilled water, wet socks, and garbage.

The joke is definitely on them! 

And by them, I mean me.

Have a grand week, m'dears. Don't forget to hydrate, hydrate, HYDRATE and also always check your water bottle lids. 

Peace, Love, and Clear Pee -

Liz Hott 

HOTTREADS: 2017 Nonfiction Reading Challenge

After reflecting on my reading habits (so many thrillers, so little time) and the current affairs of the world (ahem), I decided to challenge myself to reading one work of nonfiction with a social justice theme for each month of 2017. Below is an ongoing list, including planned titles and eventually links to monthly reviews.

I'd love to hear any recommendations or suggestions you have, or for you to join me in this challenge! Comment here or email me anytime: lizhottsauce@gmail.com and we'll book club it up.

JANUARY 2017 NONFICTION READING CHALLENGE

JANUARY:

FEBRUARY:

MARCH

APRIL

MAY-DECEMBER...Still to come! 

HOTTREADS: Volume Ten

Goooood morning and happy Monday! Ok the most moronic of oxymorons but I am nothing if not an eternal Pollyanna so let's try to start this week off on the right foot, shall we?

Did y'all watch The Big Game last night? What a sporting event! I thought I was just going to binge on dip and then go to bed early, but found myself totally sucked into the game. That upset! I wanted the Falcons to win, mostly because Tom Brady seems like a giant douche and I really love Donald Glover, and his TV show Atlanta, so I guess I'm like, sort of sad in this moment, but I guarantee you I will forget this game ever happened by Wednesday afternoon at the very latest.

So don't cry for me, Argentina, I'll be fine. 

But I'm getting distracted. I didn't come here to talk about sports, I came to talk about books, duh. We're on month into 2017 and thus, one month into my grand Nonfiction Reading Challenge. And what a MONTH! I am so excited to share my first book pick with you - a truly unforgettable, brilliant read - along with a few other recent faves to help you stock up for those six more weeks of winter that Ol' Punxutawney Phil has bestowed upon us.

Also, I dragged my colleague away from her desk on Friday afternoon and made her me my personal pan Annie Liebovitz in an attempt to get a super cute photo of me with my books andddd this is the best I could muster:

hottreads, hottsauce, january reading challenge, book blogger

Karlie Kloss, you're on notice.

Ok, let's gooo! 

evicted matthew desmond hottread book blog

 

EVICTED: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

I'll ramble endlessly in just a mo, but if you don't have the time for that, here's the takeaway: this book is outstanding, urgent, harrowing, illuminating, compelling, insert more positive adjectives here, and I urge everyone to read it. 

Evicted falls into a genre officially called ethnography, but I like to call it "documentary nonfiction." You know when you're watching a phenomenal documentary and it's so good, you forget it's real life? I guess the simpler way to express this would be to say the book reads like a novel, but that feels like it negates the writing, somehow, so I spice it up.

Just get to the point, Liz!

To write Evicted, MacArthur Genius and Harvard sociologist Matthew Desmond embedded himself in two of Milwaukee's poorest neighborhoods for two years, in 2008-09, at the peak of the financial crisis to study first-hand the rising eviction rates incurred by the renting poor. He divvied his time between the predominantly black, "inner-city" North Side and a predomimnantly white trailer park community on the city's South Side. 

His story follows an array of tenants - a single mom, a former nurse consumed by a debilitating heroin addiction, a man with no legs trying to keep his two sons (and the rest of the neighborhood boys) out of trouble, a family of eight crammed into a tiny one bedroom apartment - and two landlords, Sharenna, a self-made inner-city entrepreneur and Tobin, who manages the mobile park.  Though wildly diverse in their personal struggles, all of the tenants share the same debilitating poverty, hanging on by a thread. Across America, rents are arbitrarily decided upon by private landlords and are not priced proportionally to income, so the renting poor, many unemployed or at most, underemployed, are forced to pay 60-80% of their wages to rent, leaving very little for things like clothes, food, even basic utilities. Falling behind on rent can lead to eviction, pulling apart families, sending families into a cycle of homelessness and instability that is difficult to break.

Desmond argues that housing insecurity is the linchpin of this cycle. When a person does not have stable housing, everything else is affected - their ability to hold down a job, to send their kids to a good school, to feed themselves, to build self worth. Desmond does offer some ideas on how we might address this issue via housing vouchers, income-based rents, and other initiatives, but admits it is not an easy solve and he doesn't have all the answers. Instead, he hopes these stories will  bring this issue out of the shadows and encourage everyone to make housing stability a national priority.

It feels funny to say that I enjoyed reading this book - can one really enjoy reading true stories of other people struggling so viscerally - and yet, I loved this book. Desmond's writing is brilliant, portraying these people with such nuance in all of their flawed, broken, striving, beautiful truth. Their stories lingered with me each time I closed the pages, it was one of those books I'd read while walking down the sidewalk, immediately upon walking in the door, late into the evening. I still can't get it out of my head. I've begun to study NYC rental and eviction regulations (it's all so over MY head, and I have a college education and endless free time, and access to the internet and other resources to get help, I can't even imagine how confusing it must be for people who don't have the same privileges I've been so luckily granted in life) and am going to begin volunteering with a local organization here in Brooklyn that helps with eviction prevention, alongside a number of other really outstanding initiatives. 

And this is only book one of (at least) twelve in my 2017 social justice nonfiction challenge! If I keep up at this rate, I'll be like, Mother Teresa by December. Again, it sounds kind of funny to say, but I am so excited to keep going in this challenge, I feel like I've already learned so much. 

Recommended for: Everyone. I truly can't recommend this book strongly enough.

~~

Editor's Note: For bookkeeping purposes (like, literally and organizationally), I've started a landing page under the HottReads tab for the 2017 Reading Challenge here, where I'll be building my list and updating with reviews each month. I'd LOVE for you to join me in any / all of the books! 

Next up: The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. I'd initially had The New Jim Crow planned for February, but decided I wanted to swap in this one, which looks at the great migration of Black Americans from the south to northern cities in the early to mid-20th century. I thought this would give an enlightening historical context to some of the other titles on my list - including Evicted and New Jim Crow - so figured I'd move it up on the list. 

~~

Now movin' it and shakin' it to a few other favorite recent reads. 

I let you go clare mackintosh book blog hottread

 

I LET YOU GO by Clare Mackintosh

YOU GUYS. As we all know, I read basically every buzzy psychological thriller that enters the marketplace and though I usually enjoy the reading experience, when it comes to the thrills and chills, I'm often let down. Especially when the marketing materials (ugh, publishing people, am I right, folks?) promise a big twist. "You will be shocked!" blares a cover blurb. "A twist of epic proportions!"

I gotta say, I'm rarely shocked. I'm often kind of surprised, like "huh, I didn't suspect him to be the bad guy" or creeped out or maybe breathlessly racing to find out what's what, so I'm not saying I don't enjoy these other reads, because clearly I do, but it is a raaaare book that has me gasping in disbelief. I think the last one was probably Gone Girl and if my math is correct I've read close to 760 thrillers since then, give or take. Well Clare Mackintosh ya done gone and did it, girl. I was instantly pulled into to this story which follows several lives unraveled after a young boy is killed in a hit and run and true to the press materials, there was an actual twist so shocking I yelled "OH MY GOD!" and Brian came running from the other room to see what was the matter. 

I don't want to spoil anything so I'm going to zip it here, if you are a thriller fan, grab this one posthaste and email me the second you're done so we can talk about it - lizhottsauce@gmail.com. KEWL. 

Recommended for: Fans of twisty thrillers like Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, Woman in Cabin 10, thriller aficionados who swear they can not be tricked, anyone looking for a fun and absorbing read to devour over a weekend or travel. 

Under the Harrow, flynn barry, book blog, hottreads

UNDER THE HARROW by Flynn Barry

Oh look, another thriller by a British lady writer! What a fresh idea. I feel confident recommending both of these to you in the same post, as I feel equally enthusiastic and they're just different enough. Where I Let You Go is twisty and shocking, Under the Harrow is spare, tense, unnerving in its brilliant portrayal of a woman on the edge.  

Nora travels from London to a small country town a few hours north, to visit her sister, Rachel, and instead finds her brutally murdered in her home. In shock, Nora is unable to return to her old life and finds herself haunting the small town Rachel lived in, slowly unraveling as she obsessively tries to solve the crime, all the while haunted herself by a violent crime that happened to Rachel years in the past. What she uncovers reveals she may not have known her sister as well as she thought - or that we might not know Nora as much as initially let on. As she falls deeper into the investigation, her motives become blurred, her sanity hazy. This again falls into that broad unreliable narrator genre but to me is one of the smartest and darkest I've read in a while. Nora's descent into obsession is chilling, I found myself at once fearing for her and just fearing her. 

Bonus: this book is a slim one, at just 24 pages. The story is suspenseful enough to keep you moving no matter what, but amid piles of door stoppers it can be a real treat to read a book that tells just what it needs to and not a page more. 

Recommended for: fans of smart literary suspense who are as intrigued by the inner workings of the human psyche as they are about solving a whodunit, people with sisters or close best friends who think they know everything their is to know about that other person, readers with excellent nightlights because you will not be able to put this one down. 

when breath becomes air, paul kalanithi, hottreads

WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR by Paul Kalanithi

So when I first sat down to draft this I put little one sentence descriptors of each book and the one for When Breath Becomes Air = "Dis Book So Sad."

I mean, that baaaaiscally sums it up!

But, of course, it's so much more.

Dr. Paul Kalanithi was a rising neurosurgical star in his 30's when he was diagnosed with a rare, terminal cancer. Facing the inevitable end of his young life, he began to write, telling a story that is as much a memoir of a brilliant medical life cut short, as it is a literary, lyrical meditation on mortality and morality. Paul lost his battle to cancer before finishing the book, so his widow Lucy wraps it up with a heartbreaking and intimate epilogue, reflecting on the life of her partner, and sharing the deep, raw grief she now experiences.

I had read a lot about this book when it came out last January, including this stunning essay by Lucy in the New York Times, but finding myself unable to read so much as a review without sobbing, I knew I needed to save to read until I was ready. Finally, cozied up over the holidays, I pulled from the shelf, grabbed my tissues, and dug in. And I'm so glad I did. 

I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone, even if you don't consider yourself a fan of medical writing or spiritual meditations. Neither of those genres are my usual jam, but perhaps they should be, this pushed me beyond my comfort zone, both in considering ideological concepts of mortality, belief, and ambition, and in grappling with the devastating reality that his story could happen to any of us. It was hard not to think of Brian when reading Lucy's reflections on Paul.

Recommended for: uh, see above, anyone! Just be sure you have a hanky or twelve nearby. 

And that'll be that, folks. What are you reading lately? Wishing you a beautiful week to come and happy reading! 

xoxo Liz Hott 

Women Be Marchin'

Hello! Unless you've been living under a rock for the last 12 years and just now crawled out and somehow got yourself to a public library or internet cafe and taught yourself how to log onto the internet and started to type "how do I use this thing?" into your browser but instead only got as far as "h-o" and were miraculously re-routed to Hottsauceblog.com, and this is literally the first piece of world news or information you've read in over a decade, you're well aware that on Friday, January 20, 2017, Donald Trump became the President of the United States of America. And that the following day, Saturday, January 21, 2017, millions of women and men gathered all around the world to express their hopes and fears over the new administration.

If you have, in fact, been living under a rock welcome and hello and OMG I must hear your story, what a wild adventure, and also yep, yep, and yes, Donald Trump is now the President of the United States of America. Uh huh, this guy. I know! Times are weird, huh? Wait, where are you going?? Oh, back under your rock? Eh...makes sense. Thanks for stopping by! 

But yes, for the rest of you, you know the drill. You've seen the CNN coverage. You've read the backlash and the backlash to the backlash, and the frontlash, and the eyelash and now you have whiplash. But you haven't yet read MY thrilling account of the day so bust out your reading glasses and buckle up...because here it is.

womens rights are human rights

I made the trip from NYC to DC with two of my besties, Maureen and Kathleen. We traveled by MegaBus Friday evening, a trip that was to take 5-6 hours and came in closer to 8, finally dragging into Union Station close to midnight. The bus was stuffy and bumpy and as we stopped and started down the Jersey Turnpike, it became warmer and warmer until finally, unable to bear the heat, one woman approached the driver to inquire about adjusting the heat, which he revealed to be a crisp 83 degrees. Oof. But from this discomfort emerged a warm camaraderie which would set the tone for the rest of the weekend. Nearly all of the other passengers were also headed down to the march, everyone with homemade signs and comfortable sneakers. When we finally did arrive in DC and emerge, blinking, from our brick oven of a bus, we saw dozens of other buses unloading fellow protesters, everyone buzzing with energy. I realized our bus parked right next to a bus marked with the emblem of the Chickasaw Nation, which had likely traveled in from Oklahoma, and I was awestruck -for the first, but not even close to last - time at the scope of the event in which we were about to participate.

Early Saturday morning we hit the streets, bundled in layers of heattech and spirited layered  t-shirts - Kathleen had a homemade shirt with the slogan "Women's Rights = Human Rights" across the chest, and I wore my Unapologetic shirt, natch, the same shirt I wore to vote for Hillary Clinton and awkwardly interrogate the manager of the jewelry-thieving boutique in my neighborhood. Two equally momentous moments in women's history!!! After obsessively reading up on rules for the march, I had purchased a hideous clear backpack  the only regulation bag allowed by the NPS, and filled it up with water bottles, because if I am one thing, it's a rule follower and if I'm two things, it's a rule follower who is obsessed with hydration. 

But not quite as much as this guy, who is my new role model:

not all heroes wear capes

Not all heroes wear capes! 

As we walked out the door we were greeted by a sea of women in the now ubiquitous pink pussy hats streaming through the streets. A man caught our eyes as we walked past, gave a grin, and said "give 'em hell, ladies."

And I'd like to think we did. 

war on women

We arrived at the National Mall around 9:30 AM and finally dragged our addled bodies home as dusk began to fall. In between, we wandered from street to street, trying to take everything in. The march was a bit disorganized, I must admit, likely accounting to the massive swell of visitors. The day began with a rally featuring incredible speakers like Angela Davis, Gloria Steinem, Cecile Richards, America Ferrara, and Michael Moore, and musical performances from Solange (omg), Katy Perry, and obvzzzz the Indigo Girls. Cell service came in and out throughout the day, but I managed to catch some just enough for my brother to text that Indigo Girls performing at a Women's Rally is the center square in Feminist Bingo.

El. Oh. El. Too true.

I am disappointed we didn't get to catch much of the rally, I really would have liked to see or hear more, but it was fun just to soak in the energy. As many people have remarked, the vibe was so, so, positive and polite. Everyone was elbow to elbow, constantly bumping into one another, and each time, the women would turn to each other and apologize. Kathleen, Mo, and I cracked up each time, referencing this classic Amy Schumer sketch, only to find ourselves blurting out "omg sorry!" the next time we turned around. People were sharing snacks, helping one another cross streets, high fiving cops, at one point a group was trying to cut through a large mass of people standing in the street...and they walked ON THE CROSSWALK! It was adorable. Anne Helen Petersen, one of my favorite writers, penned a really thoughtful piece about how the symbols of this particular march - homemade hats, signs, regulation backpacks - represented how inherently feminine this march was. Worth a read

march march march

Finally around 4 PM, after having been out and on our feet for coming on eight hours, we decided to call it a day. We'd been so ensconced in our little cluster of folks right around the National Mall that we thought we were it. But as we elbowed our way out of the crowd, we realized we were just one of many mini-marches streaming all over the city. As we headed out, groups were pouring into the main area, blasting music, chanting, dancing. For several blocks in all directions the streets were blocked off, bars and restaurants open to the street, women in pink hats as far as the eye could see. It was truly incredible to be part of. 

And then we went back to our hotel and were rewarded by a beautiful cable TV lineup consisting of a Lindsay Lohan marathon (Mean Girls and The Parent Trap) followed by Frozen. There is a god and she is good! 

But more on the march! Among the protesters, we met a group of young women from Hanover College in Indiana, Mike Pence's alma-mater, who traveled 12 hours by overnight bus, doing their homework on their laps, to protest against the ideologies of their now famous (or shall I say infamous) vice presidential alum. We met women who'd traveled in from California, Georgia, Maine, Boston, Oregon. We chanted alongside the funniest young girl named Saja, who led the crowd in enthusiastic rounds of "not my president," hilariously throwing her whole body into the cheer.

The crowd was heavily skewed towards female, but a lot of men joined too. There were older women relying on walkers who still stood up and marched. Parents with babies strapped to their backs or in strollers. We marched next to a middle aged man in a wheelchair who wore a tshirt with "Donald eres una pendejo" emblazoned across the front. Feel free to Google Translate that ish! 

mother daughter duo womens march blog

I could have spent the entire day just reading people's clever protest signs. A large amount were focused on reproductive health, including several VERY anatomically correct reproductions of female genitalia and two gigantic papier-mache bloody tampons. But not all were quite so, um, graphic, with many bearing general female empowerment slogans, funny memes, or focusing on the enormous list of issues women fear will be threatened under the new administration: climate change, Black Lives Matter, gun violence, immigration, LGBTQ rights, equal pay, protection against domestic violence and sexual abuse.

womens march resist
womens march signs

One criticism the march received was a lack of a central theme - what are these angry women protesting, anyway?? And it's possible to look at this wide range of protest signs and say, you know, "pick one thing and stick to it!," but to me, it's an impressive, visual reminder that women's issues are WORLD ISSUES. And to downplay them as just, well, bitches bitchin' is a risk to our communal well being. 

voldemort
Putin

There were a fair number of others which poked fun at our new president, including one featuring ACTUAL CHEETOS, which I failed to photograph, many making digs at his close relationship with Russia, and this one which of course spoke very deeply to me:

donald trump is illiterate

FOR REAL THO.

And though the day did carry an air of Anti-Trumpsim, with the crowds erupting into hilarious chants like "He's orange, he's gross, he lost the popular vote" and, my favorite, "We need a leader, not a creepy Tweeter," it wasn't just about him. There really was an overwhelming sense of communal forward energy, of women (and men, but mostly women) who have been quiet for too long finally speaking up. 

One of the other of the main criticisms (oh, and there have been many) (some likely valid, I'm sure!), lobbed at the march in the past few days has been on this theme: "Where have you been before this?? Why are you just getting mad now??" This question comes from two distinctly different groups. First, from people who generally seem annoyed by the march and consider protesters "crybabies," who I would politely ask to mediate on the cliche "the straw that broke the camel's back" and also email me (lizhottsauce@gmail.com) if they'd like to discuss in depth in a civil way. But the second group is one I want to really take to heart, and this comes from groups of women who have been fighting on the front lines of justice for women, primarily non-white, non-straight women who have had to wage daily battles for their rights which I just haven't had to go through. Here, here, and here are a few pieces I've been meditating on, if you think this might be something for you to consider, too. 

from here http://www.theroot.com/woman-in-viral-photo-from-women-s-march-to-white-female-1791524613

from here http://www.theroot.com/woman-in-viral-photo-from-women-s-march-to-white-female-1791524613

from here http://fusion.net/story/382776/amir-talai-viral-photo-womens-march-nice-white-ladies-black-lives-matter/

from here http://fusion.net/story/382776/amir-talai-viral-photo-womens-march-nice-white-ladies-black-lives-matter/

These two photos were making the rounds on social media following the march and have been lingering heavy in my mind as I map out my action plans for the coming days. I have not been as active or as vocal as I could have been. There's that saying "put your money where your mouth is," but the problem is, I kind of need to put my mouth where my money is. I've happily given as much as I can financially to causes I believe in. But I have yet to march in a Black Lives Matter rally. I just voted in a mid-term election for the first time this past fall and mostly only so I could show off about it on Instagram. I do call my senator every time there was a mass shooting (so like, once a week), but I never really follow up, I just kind of check it off the list and move on. In high school and college I used to be so active in community engagement and then when I moved to New York I just kind of stopped. I'll do some outreach here and there but I've never made it a cornerstone of my life the way I used to and I'm ashamed of that. 

I suppose I have Donald Trump - and Mike Pence, and Paul Ryan, and Betsy "Dolores Umbridge" Devos, and the whole motley, racist, misogynist, homophobic crew - to thank for ultimately being the straw that broke my back, for lighting the fire that's been simmering inside of me, untended, for all of these years. I'm fired the fuck up. And should I have been protesting years ago? PROBABLY. Could I have been better about being engaged with the community? FOR SHEEZY. But is it too late to get started now? Is it too late to make a change? is it too late to apologize? No, Justin Bieber, it's never too late. Don't tell me what I can't do! 

And I'm saying this both because it's like, a rah-rah, inspiring end to this blog post, but also, mostly because of accountability. Studies show that if you tell a people you'll do something - go on a diet, quit smoking, whatever - you may be more likely to actually go through with it. And anecdotal data has shown that I, personally, am very motivated by a fear of letting people down or being considered a failure. And also by attention, ha. So I figured if I told all of the millions of people who read this blog (hey mom!) that I was going to try to become a better citizen, well, maybe I would. 

We'll see! 

Now tell me - did you march? Where? How was it for you? How are YOU taking action and accountability in the coming days? I'm all ears for suggestions! Conversely, do you have totally different viewpoints that me and want to have a respectful discussion? I'm working hard to be a better listener, so I'd really love to hear from you.

Fired Up, Ready to Go -

Liz  

 

It's The End of the World as We Know It (and I Need a Nap)

Writing this blog post at the Thursday White House, my office, about twelve seconds ago. ENJOY! 

Writing this blog post at the Thursday White House, my office, about twelve seconds ago. ENJOY! 

Fun Fact! Donald Trump is going to become the President of the United States tomorrow! Tomorrow. Tomorrow, I hate you, tomorrow, you're only a day away.  I was just listening to NPR and the host teed up the news by saying "in less than 24 hours, Donald Trump will be sworn in..." and y'all, I nearly spontaneously combusted. IN LESS THAN 24 HOURS THIS IS HAPPENING. I mean, like, obviously I knew this day would someday come but I still thought we had more time. We just need more time!  

And do you ever, even for just a moment, forget? Every now and then in the days since November 9th, I've found myself slipping into a blissful state of mindlessness, completely checked-out from the reality swirling around me before one thing or another pulls me back down to earth. And yes, the shock of remembering jolts me every single time, but oh man, those sweet little moments - usually right when I first wake up in the wee hours of the morning, between refreshing the snooze button, or when I hit my stride on a great run - are pure gold. 

Exceptttt lately life has been conspiring to steal my precious moments (of time, not the religious figurines I received for my First Holy Communion) and things are not going well.

First of all, snooze button? What even is that? I've been absolutely swamped at work since the beginning of the year and I feel like I'm climbing a ladder and every day I get so close to the top only to fall off but then catch a middle rung with one hand and mustering all the upper body and core strength I have, pull myself back up. And then repeat. (Aka "two steps forward, one step back" but less cliche and far more dramatic.)  I've been waking at the crack of dawn to get to my desk as early as I can, working late, and tossing and turning due to the stress of it all. 

I need a nap. Badly. How badly? Let me share just one anecdote to illustrate. 

This afternoon one of my authors was in the office doing a few phone interviews from our in-house studio. I went to meet him to walk to another appointment and when I arrived, he was still on the phone, so I quietly found a seat in the adjoining conference room. As I sat down I saw, out of the corner of my eye, a person sitting on another chair next to me and I was a little startled, I'd thought I was alone, so I quickly and politely gave a little nod and said "hello" and at the same time the other person quickly and politely gave a little nod and said "hello" and oh wait...

FullSizeRender (1).jpg

It wasn't another person, it was a mirror. I was waving and chatting to my own reflection. The whole time. 

So yes, I need a nap. Badly.

And I'd really like to clear my head with a good stretch of the legs and a lap or two around Prospect Park, exceptttt, I'm hobbled, and unable to run. My usually tricky right hip has been just dandy lately, but in a fun twist, my left hip is busted.  I think I may have thrown something into whack over the holidays, because for the past few weeks I've had near constant discomfort in my hip, glute, and IT band, having trouble walking, running, and sitting.So basically just living, really. 

The discomfort became too much to bear (and I really, really miss running!) so I decided to be brave and try acupuncture again (ps I finally learned how to spell that word, only one c!) even though It was one of the more harrowing experiences of my life because I am unable to avoid the lure of a magical holistic cure and/or a good story to tell. 

I was feeling all proud of myself for uterising up and taking care of myself instead of laying on the couch, self-diagnosing via WebMD, and complaining about my life, which is my usual M.O., but hit my first road block when I went to get dressed. I could not for the life of me remember what the protocol vis a vis undergarments was the last time I'd gone in. I remembered a blanket. And taking my pants off. But was I wearing underpants? Or were we full monty down there? Because the primary issue is centered in the piriformis and gluteus medius muscles, aka da butt, I was worried about having too much fabric in the way but also didn't want to show up just like, vag out, you know? 

And then I remembered, thongs! They're a thing! An underwear specific for times when you need your bits covered but your cheeks out, i.e. butt acupuncture and literally that's it because thongs are terrible and life is painful enough already without a string up your b. So I duggggg into the fun drawer where I keep all of my special occasion (read: laundry day) underwear and unearthed a thongity-thong, suited up, and confidently marched out the door.

The whole time I walked over, sat in the waiting room, and then chatted with the acupuncturist in the exam room, I repeated a silent mantra in my head: "don't make it weird, don't make it weird, don't make it weird," and then, as I lay face down, in my lingerie, as a stranger, basically, stuck pins into my butt cheeks it occurred to me that it probably could not get any weirder, no matter what I did and at last, I was able to relax.

And I think my hip's starting to feel better afterwards, too! Now that I'm a mature acupuncture goddess (no), maybe I should get her to 'puncture away my sleeplessness and life would be all better again. I mean, except for the Trump thing.

DO YOU THINK there's a way we could acupuncture ourselves back in time, or maybe acupuncture Trump out of office?? I MEAN! People swear acupuncture is a cure for everything??????

Anywaaay, enough. I'm not 100% sure what either of these stories actually have to do with a) one another or b) tomorrow's Doomsday Situation, but one of my 2017 resolutions was "blog once a week...even if it's not that great" and they were medium funny and I can't focus on work on account of the exhaustion and the butt pain and the dawning apocalypse sooooo here we are. 

And how are you doing? 

The Year in Reading: 2016

2016 was a year for the books. Both in the sense of the popular idiom, roughly translating to "holy sh*t, did that just happen?" (I trust I needn't elaborate, you lived through it too) and in the sense of actual books. You know, literature! I used to be quite good about keeping detailed reading lists, but fell out of the habit sometime along the way. I picked it back up at the start of this past year (recording in my 5 Year Journal, about which I ought to elaborate another time) and now as we kickstart 2017, I'm looking back on my year in reading.

In 2016 I completed 55 books. More than one per week on average, bah-booh-yah! 12 of these were books I "had" to read for work, which sounds like a lot until you realize we publish 30+ titles a year. In 2017, I will do better. Of the books I read for funsies, 4 were by men and the remaining 39 by women. I realize midway through the year that I was inadvertently favoring the  ladies, and decided to lean into the trend. Only three were non-fiction and all of them in the memoir/personal essay genre. A whopping 12 were psychological thrillers, the rest a pretty even mix of historical and "literary" fiction, with a handful of short story collections sprinkled on top. 14 of the overall total were written by non-white authors, which leaves the balance of 41 books by white writers, eek. Looking at my list, it appears that many of the books by nonwhite authors I read were published by my imprint, which makes me proud to work for a publisher that values diverse voices, but does encourage me to look deeper when considering  the writers I'm consuming in my free time. Thinking about it now, white women (esp British) women seem to be dominating the psychological thriller genre. I wonder what's up with that?!  

2016 was also a year of unfinished books. I used to be of the philosophy that you should never quit on a book, no matter what, but ride it through to the end. A year or two I abandoned that ideology and in the process, many novels that just weren’t quite for me for whatever reason. I still can't help but feel frustrated by time "lost" reading a book, only to not make it to the end, but I guess them's the breaks. I carted Zadie Smith’s newest in my bag for weeks before conceding defeat (beautiful writing, but we all know I need a fast-paced plot!),  and seem to have come down with the only case of curable Ferrante Fever. The flame burned hot through all of book two, The Story of a New Name, but cooled reading the third, which I finally tossed aside ¾ through. Am I the only Ferrante Failure?? I’ve also taken to the habit of keeping inspirational or self-help type books by my nightstand, tucking into a few chapters before bed, but never really finishing any. I’ve been working through Pema Chodron’s Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times for the past few weeks (since November 9 obv) and savoring essays from Mary Oliver’s Upstream, too.

As people say about their pets or children, and I often say about sandwiches, it is hard to pick one favorite. But a few did stand out, like the bulging Italian hoagie from Faicco’s in the West Village or the gooey, savory breakfast sandwich at Deli Board in San Francisco.

Mmm. Cheesy.

Oh wait, right, this is the Year in Reading, not the Year in Eating. A few books did stand out, too! A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara remains a singular reading experience, impossible to fit into simplistic like or dislike columns. It was the very first book I read in 2016 and still it haunts me. As I recently wrote, Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad blew me away, easily living up to the great hype. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Stephanie Danler’s Sweetbitter, Commonwealth by Ann Patchett felt familiar and comforting, and Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi made me weep and weep and weep. American Housewife by Helen Ellis also made me weep, but with laughter. This slim little collection of stories still stands out as one of my most enjoyable reading experiences of 2016 and I’ve re-read many of the stories over and again throughout the year. My two favorite thrillers were actually the last two books I read this December, I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh and Under the Harrow by Flynn Barry. Full reports to come on both!

But possibly my favorite book of 2016, were I to have to pick just one, is not a new release at all, but an old, yet eerily prescient novel, The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood. Working in publishing there seem to be these classics that everyone has read and this one is pretty much the bible for literary feminists. I’d never read it and was feeling quite shameful about that fact. Finally visiting Bookshop Santa Cruz on vacation I scooped up a paperback copy and devoured it, dog earing page after page, propelled by the suspenseful plot, horrified by the connections between Atwood’s fictional dystopia and the events unfolding around me in real life.  I realized that perhaps I’d yet to read it because I needed it now, this story came to me at just the perfect moment in time. If you’ve not yet read it oh, do it. And also after confessing to a few literary friends, who revealed that they too hadn't read it yet, I now know for a fact that many of you probably haven’t either and that’s totally OK! We really ought not to feel so shameful about books we have yet to read - so many books, so little time, etc. Another goal for next year! Not to read more old books, but you know, to stop assigning pass/fail grades to every decision I make. In literature as in all life!

And in 2016 I read the internet. More than any year before, I felt like a rabid consumer of all the web had to offer, highbrow and oh so low. If there was an article “How Hillary Lost” or “What The Fuck Do We Do Now?” oh, you know I read it. I read on Bernie Bros, on Standing Rock,  anything with bylines by Alexandra Petri or Anne Helen Petersen. I read on super foods, core strength, Aleppo, Lemonade, fertility, cropped jeans, Drake, Flint, gut microbes, Kimye, Zika, gun control, Black Lives Matter, bullet journaling, empathy, apathy, sinusitus, manicure trends, national parks, immunity, “silent majorities,” hair volumizers, succulent gardens, Brangelina. At times my mind felt overstuffed with random knowledge, unsure of how to process, prioritize, understand.

And I read countless, endless, mostly pointless Facebook status updates and Instagram captions, scrolling, scrolling, aimlessly scrolling, often while also eating, watching TV, or yes, even on the john, seemingly unable to just allow my brain to do one thing at a time, to take a single second from endless stimuli. This is one of my main “reading” goals for the year ahead. Less mindless scrolling, more intentional consumption. I realized I may have reached a breaking point when several times in a row Brian came upon me face pressed to phone and asked “whatcha looking at?”, and my response was “Oh, some random person on Instagram.” Unnecessary! The internet can be a big and beautiful space and falling into a Kinfolk prairie mama Instagram k-hole can be a fun way to pass a few idle minutes but so can ripping tequila shots and maybe both activities ought to be limited to special occasions only.

So that’s Year in Reading: 2016...what do I hope 2017 will bring? Why don’t we make a list!

  1. Less aimless, pointless scrolling.

  2. More non-white authors + intentional focus on other areas of diversity - gender, sexuality, physical ability, etc. Essentially, who is being overlooked in publishing and how can I do a better job of acknowledging that imbalance? 

  3. Read more books for work. I have a habit of only reading the books I’m immediately assigned to, plus any fun and sexy fiction we publish, ignoring a lot of the really interesting nonfiction we put out (...more on this in a second). Even if I don’t read every word, I want to at least dip into every book on our 2017 list and better support my colleagues and the authors we represent.

  4. NONFICTION! This is my biggie. I realized that I essentially never, ever read nonfiction, and when I do, it’s probably a funny feminist memoir. And there’s nothing wrong with that, per se, but it’s an area that gives me room for growth. I do think there is a lot to learn about the world from fiction, but as I enter a  period of political uncertainty, with a personal goal towards becoming a better global citizen, it might be time to break out the big guns. There’s so much incredible, investigative nonfiction work that may help me to reframe how I see the world and my place in it. In 2017 I plan to read one work of nonfiction on a social justice or sociology subject each month. Let’s make a list within this list!!!

    1. January is Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond, a book my very brilliant friend Katie has been telling me to read for a literal year.

    2. In February I’ll tackle The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, another one of those seminal works of woke literature that I’ve been pretending to read but oops, never have.

    3. March - December: HELP A SISTER OUT?! I have a list going here, but would loooove to hear suggestions from y’all.

I also just purchased The Fire Next Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race, edited by Jesmyn Ward with essays by a lot of other exceptional black writers, and plan to make this my in-between book, dipping into essays on subway rides, or whenever I’m in between books and can’t seem to commit to starting anything big and new. It’s usually in this window that I reach for thrillers or lighter fare and that’s all well and good and you KNOW I’m going to still go all in on those genres, but it wouldn’t hurt to push beyond that too.

2016 a year in reading

I picked up these three books at Barnes & Noble yesterday (I was too hungover to walk the four extra blocks to the local indie, so sue me) (crushing 2017 so far!!), the guy behind the counter rang me up, gave the books a once-over, and said “well that’s a fiery start to the new year!”

Oh, indeed.

What will you be reading in 2017??? Aside from Hottsauce Blog Dot Com, obviously. And what was your fave in 2016? My TBR is ever growing and I'm all ears (err...eyes?) for your suggestions! 

Wishing you a HOTT and spicy 2017, my friends!  

xo Liz

HOTT READS: Volume Nine

Ho Ho Ho and Rabbit, Rabbit. It's December 1! Winter is coming! And I don't mean like in Westeros, where it seems like winter has allegedly been coming for six to eight years now, and winter mainly means zombies and murder, I mean winter the season is literally bearing down on us and will be imminently upon us with in weeks, days or even hours. Brace yourselves!

I'm not that fond of winter as a whole. It's cold and it gets dark at like 2 PM and my skin is so dry and the radiator makes so much flipping noise while I'm trying to sleep and all of my tights leave weird marks around my tummy and I'm just not here for it. 

But I will concede that all this chilly darkness does set a pretty good scene for cozying up with a blanket, a cup of tea, and ohh yes, a good book. Nerd hibernation! Hibernerdation? 

Shut it down.

Upon drafting this little ditty I realized that the titles I'd selected fell neatly into categories of sorts, essentially representing my three top genres. NEAT. So for funsies sake, and perhaps easier browsing sake, if you're more into one genre than you are the other, I've paired them up as such.  

I also took this overly styled photograph, because I am nothing if not a brilliant artistic talent. 

hottreads winter good stuff

I know, I know. I should quit my day job and become a photographer. You're far too kind.

Enough rambling, let's get to the books. Read on, readers! 

LITERARY POWERHOUSES

underground railroad commonwealth blog review

AKA: The big books by the big authors, read by all the literati in the know. 

Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The best book of 2016 according to all the key cultural players: Oprah, The National Book Foundation, Amazon, and Ol' Hobag.

Honestly, I can't write anything better than what's already been written about this bestselling, heartbreaking, mind-bending masterwork which reimagines the allegorical underground railroad as an actual set of secret subterranean tracks shuttling runaway slaves to freedom, or at least the hope thereof, so I won't even try.

But trust me me when I say: it's worth the hype. 

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

It's no secret than I'm an Ann P superfan ... remember how I geeked when I met her in Nashville last year? Whelp, my fandom has only continued to grow. This fall I had a chance to see Ann in action while on tour for her new book and it was an absolute treat. The icing on the cake: after waiting on line to have my first edition signed like a regular old reader, rather than trying to pull my industry strings to sneak to the front, she remembered me (!) and wrote a hilarious inscription in my book. Then, a few weeks later, she did something very kind for one of my authors who was in Nashville on her own book tour, and this kindness involved her emailing me personally (ok, on my work email) which led to a days long back and forth convo and basically we are friends now. Well not like, real life friends but at least work friends. Cordial professional acquaintances. 

It's a risk to meet your heroes - what if they turn out to be terrible in person? But oh, what a joy when they turn out to live up to the admiration!  

ANWYWAY, enough about me (just kidding, never enough about me!), let's talk about this book. It's great! Commonwealth follows a sprawling blended family over the course of several decades, from California to Virginia to New York and beyond, through divorce, marriage, re-marriage, re-divorce, death of a child, death of a parent, betrayal, lies, secrets, the works. This all sounds like a lot to put into one novel but if anything, I could have read on for 400 more pages. Ann Patchett is always wonderful at telling just what needs to be told and not a word more, filling out lives and stories with the sparest details, almost creating set pieces within the framework of a novel. 

If you've read any of her non-fiction (and if you haven't, I can't recommend it highly enough, race out right this moment and snag a copy of her essay collection This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage), you'll recognize many beats from Patchett's own life reflected in this novel. It's deeply intimate and personal, which for me made it all the richer to read. And yet, this intimacy does not make it inaccessible, instead allowing a sense of recognition for any of us who has ever balanced a complex family situation.

And I mean, who among us hasn't? 

ESSAY COLLECTIONS BY HILARIOUS LADIES MIXING EMBARRASSING PERSONAL ANECDOTES WITH WISE REFLECTIONS ON THE STRUGGLE THAT IS LIFE AS A HUMAN WOMAN

IMG_1959.JPG

AKA: The kind of book I'd write if I ever got my ish together. 

You'll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein

Have you ever found yourself sitting around with your girlfriends just chatting about life and love and feminism and wedding dresses and bikini waxing and therapy and ex-boyfriends and current boyfriends and work stress and ambition and pregnancy and Bar Method and shopping and GOOP and thought "this conversation is SO MUCH FUN I wish I could write it all down and put it in a book and put the book in my purse and revisit it whenever I want"? 

Whelp, Jessi Klein went ahead and did that for ya. 

Reading this book I constantly felt like I was sitting across from a wise and funny friend over a glass of wine (or 12), nodding along with her stories like "yes, girl, I feel that way too!" Jessi also brings with her a slight wisdom advantage in that she's about ten years older than me, so has a few more years experience in the shitstorm that is Grown Ass Womanhood. She writes about serious personal issues like career, marriage, infertility, and eventually motherhood with such a perfect mix of humor and pathos, a mix I always strive to reach in my writing and in my life. Something about reading this both made me feel like I was doing an OK job at being a lady and has served as an inspiration to me in my own writing, while also just making me actually LOL. I know, that sounds like A LOT of Personal Growth to be gleaned from what is essentially a book of comic essays but the heart wants what the heart wants and mine just wants to read and write funny essays about vaginas. So sue me. 

You Can't Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson

You may recognize Phoebe Robinson as host of the podcasts 2 Dope Queens (with Jessica Williams) and Sooo Many White Guys, both which many people love and I have tried to love, but I am physically incapable of listening to an entire podcast, ever, without getting distracted and walking away. I recognize that what I am hearing is interesting and engaging and potentially even educational but my brain physically can not just sit there and listen to words, no matter what they are, without some kind of visual component.  I don't think I'm an auditory learner? Lucky for me I'm aces at reading and Pheebs' wit and wisdom is as easy on the eyes as it is on the ears.

That made NO sense. Just go with it. 

In You Can't Touch My Hair, Robinson seamlessly melds awkward childhood stories, sexual fantasies about Michael Fassbender, and pointed commentary on life as a Black woman in America, bringing you from "LMAO" to "huh, I never thought of it that way" and back again without missing a beat. I was straight up weeping with laughter on the subway highlighting particularly brilliant turns of phrase like I was cramming for a How To Write Funny Quiz.

Also, something you may not have noticed about me is that I am - spoiler alert - white. Surprise! Earlier this year I made a plan to read only books by women (allowing a loophole for non-white men, solely so I could read Underground Railroad) but realized halfway through the year that I was primarily reading books by straight, white women. So was I really achieving anything by sticking so closely to my own worldview? I pride myself on being a pretty passionate feminist but have had to grapple recently with my own shortcomings, and ask if my feminism really encompasses all women, not just ones who look like me. In the past few months I've made a conscientious effort to seek out writers who bring a different perspective than my own. I'm not saying that reading a book of comic essays by a black woman instead of a book of comic essays by a white woman is exactly undoing years of institutional racism and solving all the problems in the world or anything but I do believe that literature offers a powerful, accessible window into other worlds and a path towards empathy. In these particularly divisive times it feels extra important to broaden our reading lists. For all of us who are thinking, you know, "how did we get here and how can we do better?", reading books by people who don't look or love or pray quite like us is a pretty simple way to push out of our own bubbles. 

I still have a lot of work to do in this arena, and am in the process of putting together a fun reading challenge for myself for 2017, I'll be sure to share - maybe you'll join me! 

And yes, once again that's A LOT of Personal Growth to glean from a book of comic essay but the heart wants what the heart wants and mine just wants funny women to rule the world. 

PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLERS WITH EERILY SIMILAR TITLES

next door

AKA: The Gone Girl on the Train Next Door

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

Anne and Marco seem like a perfect couple - young, attractive, owners of a beautiful old row home and parents to a cute 6 month old baby girl. One night they attend a dinner party next door and leave the baby sleeping in her own crib. They bring the monitor and check on her every 30 minutes but when they return at the end of the night, she is gone. 

NIGHTMARE.

The ensuing investigation stirs up all sorts of secrets and lies hidden beneath the surface of their seemingly tranquil lives and the plot takes more twists and turns than the roads they drive in Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. I am usually pretty good at figuring out thriller twists but this one kept me guessing right up until the (deeply satisfying!) end. The prose isn't the fanciest and the dialogue leaves much to be desired but if you're looking for an engrossing, fast-paced thriller, this'll do juuust fine. I couldn't put it down - it's a perfect book for holiday travel or a low key wintery weekend. 

The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood

I've had Alex Marwood on my radar for a few years now, after seeing the thriller master himself, Stephen King, recommending her books on twitter. My mother-in-law happened to snag a copy of this one at a library sale and when she asked if I wanted to read it, I basically ripped it from her hands, ran from the room, and buried my face in the pages. 

The Killer Next Door follows a motley crew of flatmates living in a dilapidated old house in a gentrifying neighborhood in London. Everyone in the house has something to hide, be it financial ruin, a criminal past, or a penchant for murdering beautiful women and embalming their corpses. 

You know, average stuff. 

Though the discovery of the titular (hehe, tit) killer next door is the central mystery of the story, I found myself far more engrossed in following the lives of the various roommates, uncovering their little secrets, and watching as they form a tentative bond with one another. This isn't a novel for the faint of heart. Some of the plot twists are quite dark and some scenes are visceral in their brutality (I will never look at a shower drain the same way again) but if you can stomach a little gore, you'll dig this creepy read. 

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And that's that! Bring it on, winter. The temperatures may be getting colder but the reads are as HOTT as always! 

xoxo Liz Ho 

 

 

Some Expert Advice on Singin' the Blues

I don't know about y'all but this past week has just been a straight bummer. It's felt like a cloud hanging over the world. Some of the sorrow is collective, what with the whole electing a toxic bag of hot air as President of the United States (not to mention his appointment of a white supremacist as his Chief Strategist, which doesn't do much in the way of tickling the old funny bone), while others have been more personal. I have a friend whose grandmother passed away, and another who got dumped. A pal's baby girl got her first serious illness and here on the homefront, I lost a scarf I really, really loved.

I know this isn't the tragedy Olympics, everyone's fighting their own battles, but that scarf was like, super cute guys. 

 In light of this general aura of sadness, I thought I might offer up a few tipz on how I get myself out of the dark when I'm feeling blue.

Believe you me pal, when it comes to Having All The Feels, I'm an expert in the field. 

the world can be total crap!

1) Go Outside!

I can not state this strongly enough, if you are feeling like emotional garbage, drag your rear off the couch, put on some shoes and GO OUTSIDE. Take a walk, go for a hike, go to the park and lay on a blanket under a tree and watch the leaves rustle above you, breathe in the air and breathe out the air and look at the clouds and the blades of grass and the birds, feel the sun on your face. This won't actually fix anything, your troubles will for sure be home when you return, but there's just something magical about fresh air, shaking the dust out of your joints that makes hard stuff a little easier to face.

2) Cook Your Feelings. 

When my life feels out of control, I head for the the kitchen. (Which is convenient because that's where a woman belongs, according to the new top leaders of our country!) (Sadness and snark are first cousins in my own personal emotional realm.) There is something meditative to me in the act of chopping, stirring, bringing a meal to life, in providing something nurturing and delicious for myself and for the people I love. I know many friends who feel similarly - one takes comfort in complex, meals like braised meats or intricate Ottolenghi stews while another goes hard on the baked goods. I tend to go for comforting, savory, heavy foods - last Wednesday I poured all of my energy into a chicken pot pie, often I'll whip up some kind of cheesy pasta creation or coconutty, spicy curry dishes. 

3) Eat Your Feelings.

This can be as noble as a home made chicken pot pie or as lowly as a whole sleeve of ritz crackers or Nutella with a spoon. I wholeheartedly recommend going IN on a box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese (original, get out of here with those fancy shapes), nottt like I would know from personal experience or anything... 

4) Go To Your Fictional Happy Place.

From Hogwarts to Narnia to Stars Hollow, who among us doesn't have a fictional happy place they slip to when times are tough? Probably sane people with their two feet firmly planted in reality but pssh, those are not my people. Whenever Hugh Grant gets gloomy about the state of the world, he thinks about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. And whenever *I* get gloomy about the state of the world, I sneak away to Pawnee, Indiana - first in friendship, fourth in obesity! A few hours with my pals in the Parks Department and my spirits are revived. Specifically, I tune into Season Three, Episode Nine: Andy and April's Fancy Party which I have watched, no joke, at least 30 times, and I still cry every. single. time. Find your own personal Pawnee and go there. 

5) Exercise.

To steal some wisdom from National Treasure Elle Woods: "Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. And happy people don't [shoot their husbands, become internet trolls, scream at their children for leaving their stuff everywhere, lay in a heap on the floor bemoaning the great existential sorrows of humanity.]" 

6) Take a Shower.

Baths are pretty popularly regarded as a stress relief remedy and I'm all about that bath life but sometimes they're just so much work, you know? You gotta get the water just the right temperature and then stand and wait for the tub to fill and you need bubbles and oils and candles and it kind of hurts your tailbone to sit for a while and you always end up getting water everywhere and it's just a whole thing. But a shower is low maintenance goodness!! Just hop in there, turn the heat waaaaay up and steam out those feelings. One time my mom came to visit and we got into a big argument about something (it was addressing wedding invitations if you must know) and in the middle of our argument I just got up, marched ito the bathroom and stood in a steaming hot shower for 15 minutes and emerged calmer and ready to talk. Bernie was like WHAT is wrong with you and how did I raise this nutjob? And yeah, I don't really know the answer to that question she's a pretty rad mom and I'm bonks but trust me, showers are the jimmy jam when you're feeling off. 

7) Play With a Pet??

IDK, it's been pretty well documented that I'm a monster who doesn't really get that whole animal scene, but I've heard from social scientists and anecdotally from trusted friends that animals bring comfort and joy. Can't really say I see what that's all about but I know I'm in the clear minority here so I dunno, next time you're sad just go pet a dog or let a cat yawn in your face or whatever. Sure to calm your troubles, probably!

8) Cry.

Crying gets such a bad rap. When boys cry they're sissies, when girls cry they're too emotional. I'm here to say that all of those things are untrue and crying is GREAT. Sometimes it is the only thing that helps. You just gotta get in your comfy clothes and lay in a ball and just really fucking weep until your eyeballs feel like sandpaper and your body feels like you've been sent through the spin cycle and you have absolutely no more tears left to give. And then get up and face that world like a  tear-stained, wrung-out, hot mess, baddd motherfucker. 

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And there you have it! Just a few tips from my enormous Mary Poppins Bag o' Emotional Tricks. Mix them, match them, do them ALL. Not forever, of course, I don't think your arteries would be too stoked about #3 and you'll surely run of of hot water if you spend too much time indulging in #6 but you know, an hour, an afternoon, a day or two. Whatever you need. I'm not promising you'll feel good as new right away - I'm not a magician, just a professional basket case - but hopefully you'll at least feel a little better equipped to face whatever crap the world deigns to throw at you.*

Now tell me - what are YOUR tricks?? Tell me, tell me, tell me!

Please.

xoxoxo 

Liz 

* Disclaimer that if you are truly feeling in the crux of clinical depression, try as best you can to talk to a trusted friend and seek professional help. It's tough stuff, but there's no shame in admitting you need some help. And disclaimer two: these are just my tips and also me trying to be kind of cute in a time of much emotional upheaval, I don't mean in any way to belittle the genuine fear or pain that someone might be feeling in this moment - be it political or otherwise. I know a shower isn't going to put an end to institutional racism or revive a loved one, but perhaps they can bring one tiny bit of comfort. 

On Empathy, On Optimism, On Olive Branches

                                                My reason to hope for a better future. 

                                                My reason to hope for a better future. 

I know we're all up to our eyeballs in election commentary at the moment and perhaps you're hoping this is just a jokey post to help you get your mind off things. I wish I could say it was. I really do just want to write about books and farting and how I have pho broth all over my shirt right now because I don't actually know how to use chopsticks but I just can't. My mind is in too much of a fog to access that literary brilliance. Soon we'll be back to the good stuff, but first, I need to get a few things off my chest. 

I am feeling very, very sad. For a number of reasons. I'm sad because my candidate lost, of course, but it's deeper than that. I don't think I even realized how important it was to me to see a woman president until we came so close. It is crushing to see a woman lose out on a job to a man who is infinitely less qualified than her and impossible for me not view it as a slap in the face to my gender. I feel the stinging crush of having high hopes dashed so brutally. I worry deeply about the rights and safety of my non-white, non-Christian, non-able bodied, and queer friends. I can't think of sweet, smart, wild little Lucy, that eager beautiful girl up there, and all of my friends' kids and my future kids, without without feeling like I failed them. I want so much better for all of them. 

I'm not just sad, I am angry. And I'm sad that I'm angry. I have always prided myself on being a relentless optimist who saw the good in everyone, a person capable of deep empathy, compassion, and understanding.  I consider this to be something great and true that I value in my flawed self. And yet this week I feel that spark has been diminished. I am not proud to admit this, but I find myself struggling to empathize with anyone who chose to vote for Donald Trump. There are so many people in my own life who I know to be kind and decent, who work hard, who love their families, and who still somehow found it in themselves to pull the lever for a man who spews vitriol for anyone who does not fall within his tiny, angry scope of what humanity should look like. And I can't wrap my head around that dichotomy. 

How do you cast a vote for a man who openly mocks a disabled reporter, who calls women fat pigs, and then try to teach your kids not to be bullies? That is not a rhetorical question. Tell me exactly what you would say? 

There's a lot of talk going around the internet about how Trump's victory is not about race, or gender, or religion, a lot of folks trying to absolve their own consiences by quickly declaring that a vote for Trump does not make one a racist, a sexist, a bigot, a mean, spiteful person like the one they voted for. It's just his tax plans, you see. A desire for a "shakeup in Washington," perhaps. And all of those motivations are well and good and valid but they alone are not the platform on which this man ran and on which he plans to govern this country. 

Here's the thing, y'all: when voting for public office, you don't get to pick just one or two items and ignore the rest. This isn't a Wawa automated sandwich menu, although I wish it was because I'd vote a turkey club into office any day of the week over Donald J. Trump. I have never seen a chicken salad hoagie try to justify sexual assault, that's for damn sure. 

 

You can tell yourself that you voted for him for his supreme court slots or because you just didn't like the other candidate either, whatever it is that helps you sleep at night, but in choosing those as your priroties, you also gave your support to his language of hate. You may not personally brag about grabbing women by the pussies or denigrate the Muslim faith or send photographs of your hands to Graydon Carter (look it up! A real, mature thing that the man about to have our nuclear codes does!) but by choosing to cast your vote for him, you you voted for those things, too. That's just how this works. 

I grew up in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, a beautiful piece of the country home to delicious corn and a vibrant, growing community of artists, and many people who I love and admire. 57% of the county voted for Donald Trump. On Wednesday at York County Technical High School, one county over, 25 minutes from the little town where I was raised, a group of students marched the halls carrying a Trump poster and chanting "White Power." This is true and here's a video. I'd encourage everyone to watch it and to meditate on it for a good, long while. I can not imagine the good people who I know looking young Kiana Alves - who had to leave the school in fear - in the eyes and telling her that they value her safety less than a spicy little government shakeup and yet, by casting a vote in favor of someone who does encourage this kind of violent, bigoted language, for whatever their own reasons, they are implict in allowing this kind of behavior.

To borrow a phrase from an essay a friend shared with me: "I’m not sure what is worse: to be the person who sets a house on fire, or to be the one who handed that person the match."

Before anyone can say "But her emails! Benghazi!", guys, I know. I never said anyone was flawless here. I actively and wholeheartedly chose Hillary despite some real concerns. She's hawkish, prone to secrecy, and basically refused to even acknowlage the No Dakota Access Pipeline Movement right up to the very minute I enthusiastically circled the bubble next to her name on my ballot. I cast my vote for the full package - for the progressive community activist and for the woman who coined the term "superpredator" - and I was prepared to reckon with my decision. 

And if you voted for Donald Trump, you need to reckon with yours. 

In the coming days I am going to work as hard as I can to reactivate that best part of myself, to present an open mind and a malleable heart, to actively listen to the concerns of those with differing viewpoints from my own, to extend an olive branch to those who I would ask to do the same for me. But an olive branch is not an absolution. 

If you voted for Donald Trump because you agree with his words of hate, I guess rock on with your bad self and I'm truly sorry you feel that way. But if you voted for him while claiming to disagree with his language, you need to put your money where your mouth is. One way I've seen folks jusifying his words is to argue that they are just that, words. That actions speak louder. By that logic, your words are just words too. You can shout "I'M NOT A RACIST!" from the roof of every building, share all the "let's just get along" memes the internet can dream up, but unless you are taking positive action to back up that claim, to work to heal the divide, your words remain just words. I implore everyone to take a stand aginst divisive language. To speak up if you see discrimination in your community. To hold our new president accountable for both his words and his actions. 

And while you do that work, I am going to put my energy into being sure that my own words of sorrow and disappointment are not hollow ones either. I have been encouraged to see that many of my fellow progressives are responding to this defeat with powerful, positive action. We are banding together to raise funds for causes we believe in, to hold our governement to a higher standard of humanity, to be, as that old chestnut goes, the change we wish to see in the world. At the end of this post, I'm sharing a few resources I've found helpful on this front, if you'd like to join me. 

I remain fearful and saddened but I am ready be proven wrong. 

With hope,

Liz 

#StrongerTogether Resources:

Donate Your Hillary Vote

Ten Causes That Need Our Help Right Now

Sacred Stone Legal Defense Fund & 10 Ways You Can Help the Standing Rock Sioux

.... AND MORE! I'd love to hear suggestions! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nancy Drew and the Missing Necklace

Any devoted reader of this here blog knows I love a good tale of mystery and suspense. I always have. I can recall being 8 or so on a family trip to Florida. My parents took us to a spring training baseball game and I spent the entire 9 (or is it 900?) innings laying on the bleachers, my face deep in the pages of a Nancy Drew novel. Next came Encyclopedia Brown, The Westing Game and soon I was ransacking the public library for any Mary Higgins Clark book I could get my freakishly long, bony mitts upon. To this day I can't scroll past a "13 Novels to Read if You Loved Gone Girl!" listicle without clicking through and buying at least one of the titles suggested, if not the full baker's dozen.

So it fills me with much glee to find myself in the middle of my very own crime caper! 

It all began this summer when I found a skeleton bured beneath the floorboards.  

Just kidding. That would be legitimately terrifying. And also probably more exciting than my actual mystery but you can't pick your hauntings, they pick YOU. 

It actually all began this summer when I decided to jazz up my wardrobe a bit vis a vis some cute artisan jewelery from the online retailer Etsy.com, specifically from a little shop out of Canada (eh!) called Vintage Acorn. My favorite in the bunch was a necklace with a wooden chevron on a long chain, a versatile piece that compliments everything, be it a professional dress at the office or jorts and a tank top at a music festival, as you can see pictured here in exhibit A: 

exhibit A

Photo shared as evidence that a) I owend and wore the necklace in question and b) after years of doubt, it turns off I can totally pull off a summer hat! 

I had this necklace on heavy rotation, sporting it a few days a week until one morning I went to toss it on and found the hook where it usually hangs was bare. I searched all of the usual spots - every single handbag, my gym bag, the pockets of all of my jeans. Nothing. I overturned the couch cushions, crawled under the kitchen table, pulled the dresser from the wall, turned my hamper upsidedown and vigourously shook it and nada! Well, I found dozens of pens, hundreds of bobby pins and enough loose change to put a down payment on a single family home in the suburbs but not the one thing I was looking for: my necklace. 

I was confounded! Where could it be? Our apartment is not that large, there was nowhere else to look. I swore the last place I'd worn it was to a Mets game (where once again, I watched zero seconds of the actual game, oh, how I've grown since childhood), and worried it must have broken on the commute home, lost forever, fated to become construction material for a new rat motel deep in the depths of the NYC subway system. 

A few days later I was meandering down my street when something caught my eye in a little clothes boutique across the way. Curious, I crossed over. And there I saw it, draped around the neck of a headless mannequin in the window: MY FLIMFLAMMIN' NECKLACE!!!

exhibit b

I couldn't believe my own eyes! It looked 100% exactly like my necklace, right down to the gold chain which I sometimes worried was too shiny, but HOW did it end up in that store? Did they break into our house and only walk away with one $15 artisan small batch Etsy necklace? SEEMS DUBIOUS. And yet...

Suddenly memories rushed back to me, like I was that guy in Memento getting over his amensia or whatever. IDK I've never actually seen that movie. I had completely forgotten that after the baseball game, in a low self-esteem frenzy, I had frantically swept through a few stores, on a hunt to find a new dress for a wedding the following weekend. I was going to be seeing a bunch of folks I hadn't seen in years, and thus decided I needed to fully reinvent myself sartiorially and otherwise by spending a lot of money on a new dress I didn't need. (Spoiler alert it did not work and I just wore a dress I already owned and was my usual wine-soaked, weird self, but also now with a $140 Anthropologie dress that I don't even like burning a hole in my bank account. Someone plz remind me to return that before the month is up!)

And then it all made sense. I must have taken off the necklace while in the dressing room and forgotten to put it back on when leaving. It could even have gotten tangled with one of the dresses I'd tried and been mistaken for merchandise. I'm not accusing this store of stealing, per se, but I'd swear on a dogeared copy of Moonlight Becomes Her that was my necklace.  

I sprinted home armed with cold, hard, grainy iPhone photo evidence that the greatest heist of all time was happening right under my very nose. And I was going to crack the case.

The next day I dressed myself in my cofidence outfit - jorts (natch) and a grey t-shirt (double natch) with the word "unapolagetic" emblazoned across the front in black script. The tee is made my a designer and blogger I admire, Jolie Ankrom, a mantra and a reminder to stop apologizing, to be more fearless. 

I took a deep breath and marched into the store and...immediately apolozied. 

"I'm SO sorry, I know this is going to sound crazy, but I can't find my necklace anywhere and I think it's here, in this store? Like, for sale? Over there? SORRY FOR BOTHERING YOU."

I yammered, I stammered. I finally got to my point. She politely (perhaps too politely, covering up her obvious criminal guilt???) opened the cash register to reveal a drawer full of lost jewelery. Was any of it mine?

NO but also all of it was ugly so of course you would hide it an not try to re-sell it. You think you're a criminal master mind? 

I'M ON TO YOU.

Finally I got her to take me over to the manequin and show me the necklace. It did not have a price tag (!) or anything identifying the designer (!!) but she assured me it was store stock - from a shipment that had arrived "Tuesday or Wednesday, I think?"

TUESDAY OR WEDNESAY! That is some pretttty conveninet timing, considering I'd been in on Sunday. 

Nothing was adding up but, what was I to do? I realized I had one card left to play, to demand to see their invoices, proving they'd actually purchased the necklace. Nancy Drew so would've done it, and probably uncovered some document forging in the process. But I folded.  Maybe if it was my wedding ring or some priceless family heirloom I would have pushed for it, but I decided that a $15 Etsy necklace, cute as it may be, was perhaps not worth launching a full-on slander attack and criminal investigation of a lovely local botique.

I apologized, again, for taking up her time and slunk out of the store, defeated. It was then that I realized my "confidence shirt," the one with the bold UNAPOLOGETIC slogan had been inside outthe whole time. GOOD GRIEF. I mean, what would you do if a deranged woman marched into your store with her clothes on the wrong way and started stuttering about stolen jewelry? I'm lucky she didn't call the cops on ME! 

When I got home, I did a little more searching and convinced myself that my life as a crimefighter was over, I'd just lost my necklace myself, case closed. 

BUT! The next day I couldn't help crossing by on that side of the street, just out of curiosity and when I came to the window, the necklace was gone! They still had the same outfit on display but they'd changed out the necklace. Every single other manequin was dressed exactly the same, accessories and all, the one and only thing amiss was a new necklace, in place of the one I suspected to be mine.

COINCIDENCE? Ok, probably yes. 

ORRRRR, I was right the whole time! They are running a largescale crime ring, re-selling the jewels left behind by flaky neighborhood ladies making frenzied shopping sprees after consuming a few too many gigantic beers at Mets Stadium. It's genius! Right under our noses like that, who would suspect a thing?? 

They were getting away with it but I got too close. They saw me sniffing around and knew the product was hot and they needed to get rid of the evidence, and fast. 

But I'll get the last laugh. If I've learned anything from a lifetime of consuming mysteries it is that no crime can stay buried forever. I can wait. I live right across the street and have no hobbies and plenty of time on my hands and soon enough they'll slip up and oh, the case will be finally closed. 

In the meantime, I'll be keeping my detective skillz polished by hiring out my investigative services. Any takers? If interested, email me anytime, no case is too big, too small,  or too clearly imaginary for me! 

Sincerely Yours,

Liz HottSauce, P.I.