Barry Manilow

Sarah Dessen's 5 Do's and a Do-Over

In case you haven't noticed, May has been a HUGE month for great books. (Which is appropriate considering it's also International Chick Lit Month-head on over to that site if you haven't already for tons of giveaways!)  So it's understandable that we are crushin' on a TON of writers right now! One of them is the wonderfully fantastic NYT bestselling author Sarah Dessen-her latest novel What Happened to Goodbye(her first in two years!) just came out and we have a feeling it's going to shoot up the bestseller list faster than Lindsay Lohan's next stint in jail.  We LOVED it and have a feeling that y'all will too.  It's the kind of YA that us old people(ie people over 18) like too!  And the fact that she's a fellow Fanilow and reality TV addict?  Totally. Awesome.

In What Happened to Goodbye, Dessen tells the story of Mclean, a high school senior who has taken up the practice of assuming a new identity in each of the four towns she's lived in since her parents' bitter divorce. Living with her Dad and estranged from her mother and her mother's new family, McLean has followed her dad in leaving the unhappy past behind. And each new place gives her a chance to try out a new persona: from cheerleader to drama diva. But now, for the first time, McLean discovers a desire to stay in one place and just be herself, whoever that is. Perhaps Dave, the guy next door, can help her find out.

Want to win a copy for yourself? Then just leave a comment and be entered to win!  So freakin' easy, right?  We'll choose the winners on Monday May 16th after 6pm PST.  Good luck!


"When I first got this assignment, I immediately went all neurotic. (This isn’t hard for me, as my default setting is partially neurotic.) Five Dos and One do-over sounds simple, but I am more full of things I wish I hadn’t done than those that I have. Maybe this is because I am so neurotic?

Anyway. Despite my issues, I love a challenge. So here we go…" - Sarah Dessen



1.  DO trust your gut. While I often waffle with indecisiveness about everything from what to eat for breakfast to which shoes to wear, when it comes to the Big Stuff I’ve learned to listen hard to that one, true inner voice. When I was eighteen, I was a hot mess in so many ways. High school was not a good time for me, which is probably why I’m still writing about it. All I wanted was to get out of my hometown as fast as possible, so I accepted the first college admission I received and headed off to a state school forty-five minutes away, where I promptly decided to be an advertising major. Within a week or two, I knew I’d made a mistake. I was miserable, hated my classes, and yet I knew that leaving would signal the biggest failure of my life. (It’s bad enough to drop out of college, worse when your parents are academics. The shame! I can still taste it.) In the end, though, I decided that admitting I’d made the wrong choice was better than wasting a year of my life, so I returned home. There, my parents insisted I sign up for a class at the local university. I’d always liked to write, so I picked creative writing. From the moment I sat down in that class, that first day, and looked at my professor, Doris Betts, I knew I was in the right place. Finally. It just took a detour---and being quiet---to realize it.

2. If you really want something and fail the first time getting it, DO try again, even if it scares you. This is a huge one for me. A few years ago, after much thought, my husband and I decided to try for a baby. Like most people who had spent a bulk of their lives worrying about preventing pregnancy, I figured this would require very little effort on my part. I was wrong. A year later, we’d had no luck, and I started making the rounds of specialists. Eventually, I got a little help from a fertility drug and got the little plus sign on the stick. Success! I was so happy, I immediately told all my friends and family and began making preparations. At eight weeks, I went for my first ultrasound. I peered at the screen, so excited but there was…nothing. The pregnancy hadn’t progressed past the first couple of weeks. I was devastated. It seemed so unfair to try to hard for something and finally get it, only to immediately have it slip away. It was almost embarrassing, although I know that doesn’t make sense. Anyway, I swore I wasn’t going to try again, that I didn’t have the strength for another disappointment. But then, as the weeks passed, I couldn’t shake this image of me with a baby in my arms. I wanted it so much, enough to---just barely, sometimes---outweigh the fear. Two months later I got pregnant again. And while it often felt like I was holding my breath the entire nine months, the day my daughter was born was hands-down my happiest. I cannot imagine my life without her, and I’m grateful every day that I faced down everything that scared me to get her here.

3.  DO have boundaries. Although my parents are from New York and Baltimore, respectively, I was raised in the South. Somehow---although clearly not genetically---I ended up with the Disease to Please that is very common around these parts. You know the symptoms, even if you are from the Arctic Circle: you have trouble saying no, want everyone to like you, and thus often resemble a doormat. This wasn’t a huge problem for me until my late twenties, when I began teaching undergraduates at my alma mater. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my students. But I needed to be an authority figure, not a friend, something I figured out too late once they started interrupting me in class, handing in everything late, and sobbing on my office couch about their boyfriend problems. When it comes to teaching, you can come in hard and then soften up, but if you start soft, you never recover. It look me a few semesters---and a few verbal smack downs---to realize this, but once I did, I think we were all better off. I will admit, though, that even at age forty (gulp!) this is one I still struggle with. It is one thing to draw a clear line between myself and a class full of students, another to do it with friends, family and work colleagues. Each time I waffle, however, I think of the chaos of my classroom that first semester and know the alternative is much, much worse.

4.  DO take pride in the things you love. I’ve spent a lot of my life---or maybe it just seems that way---feeling like I have to justify my various guilty pleasures. One example: television. I love it. I have a weakness not only for really good shows, like Friday Night Lights, Modern Family and 30 Rock, but also for morning TV (I’m a Good Morning America junkie) and just about every franchise of the Real Housewives on Bravo. And don’t even get me started on America’s Next Top Model and Jersey Shore. (Really: I could go on for DAYS.) For a long time, I felt like I had to keep all of this quiet, since Real Writers and Serious People only watch PBS, if they even have a TV at all. They are certainly not on the treadmill, talking back to some woman in Orange County who is all blinged out, driving her Range Rover. But what I have learned, over time, is that life is short. If something makes you happy, don’t question it: just be glad it’s there and soak it up. This same thinking allowed me to finally expose my iTunes music library, which I had always hidden from my music hipster friends when they came over. “Is that Barry Manilow?” they say, and while I used to die a little inside, now I proudly nod and crank up “I Write the Songs” even louder. We can’t all like the same things. How boring would that be? So give me my Housewives and Barry, and you can have Masterpiece Theatre and Bright Eyes. Everyone wins!

5.  DO embrace your flaws. For years now, I’ve been embarrassed about my teeth, which are slightly crooked. They’re not awful, but not perfect like most of my friends who, unlike me, had braces. For years, I was so self conscious that I never showed my teeth when I smiled, opting instead for a close-mouthed look that always made me look both smirky and like the Hamburgler. It was worse than my crooked teeth, not that I was willing to admit this. In fact, it took my officemate at UNC, Phyllis, a straight-shooter from West Virginia, to set me straight. After a photographer came to take my picture for a campus magazine, she shook her finger at me. “Smile!” she said. “Really smile! You look so much better when you do!” I did not want to believe her, but she insisted, even taking some shots of her own when I wasn’t posing to try and prove her point. My insecurity about my teeth persisted, though, to the point that I even went for consultations about getting adult braces. But when they pushed the paperwork at me, all I could think of was Phyllis, who by then had passed from breast cancer. The last time I’d seen her, she pointed at me with that same finger and said, “You keep smiling.” So I do. With my mouth open, crooked teeth out there for the world to see. Do I love them? No. But they are part of me, and will stay just as they are.


Whew! Okay, that wasn’t so hard. Now for the Do-over. I have a lot to choose from, but top of my list is this: I wish I’d traveled more. I’ve always been a homebody---I still live in my hometown---and for years I was afraid to fly, which limited where I could go even when I did get up the nerve or money to leave. But I wish, WISH I had done study abroad when I was in college, backpacked across Europe, or drove across the country with my girlfriends. I wasted so much time being afraid of anything other than what I knew! It makes me crazy.

I know, I know. I can still do all of that, and most likely I will, when my daughter is older. But I’m a mom now, I have a career, a mortgage, responsibilities. I missed that window when all I needed was a passport, a duffle bag and courage. If I could go back, I’d shake my finger at myself just like Phyllis, insisting I go to Italy, Rome, Greece, see all the places I’ve only visited in movies and books. Maybe I’m able to say that because I am older, and have forty years behind me now. But I believe that given the chance, I’d take that other path, the one that led over an ocean to somewhere far, far away. At least, I like to think so.

Want to read more about Sarah?  Then head on over to her website or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks Sarah! xoxo, L&L

Top Five Reasons to Embrace Your Inner Cougar By Liz & Lisa

1140winking-cougar-postersThe coug gets a bad rap. So what if she's 40-ish (40 is sooo the new 21), bleached blonde and doing all she can to fight dear 'ol mother nature!  Who gives a flying botox needle if she prefers to prey on young, hot men with stamina for days? Last time we checked, doing the naughty with someone at the height of his sexual peak was a damn good thing. We're 35 and a year over 35 respectively (36 just sounds so, well, over 35) and although not technically ready to admit we're officially cougar card carrying members, we definitely have the #1 symptom of cougarism. Our eyes have started narrowing in on the *cough* younger men out there--many of whom could be our sons. (Well, in biblical times anyway.)

So, if you're on the fence, hopefully we can persuade you that "going young" really is the new black. Here are what we consider five excellent reasons to embrace your cougar within.

#5- The Bachelorette Ladies! This is like the cougar's version of the Animal Planet. From the comfort of your own couch, you can sit back with a bowl of Pirates Booty and watch them in captivity. Forget Jillian, it's all about her prospective suitors... the young pieces of man candy who, lucky for us, LOVE to run around shirtless and drunk (such a glorious combination!) Well for most of them anyway... We're ecstatic she finally dumped Tanner P., a.k.a. the tattle tailing, foot fetish, mango toe nail polish loving freak who's older than we like anyway (30!)  So, if you haven't already, hurry up and add this guilty pleasure to your Monday night Tivo line up! (Only 5 men left and two are under 27!)  ROAR! (PS: Be on the look out this Fall for Courtney Cox's new show, Cougar Town, which will hopefully offer some yummy cougar candy!)

#4-Gossip Girl- Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick), Nate Archibald (Chace Crawford) & Dan Humphrey (Penn Badgley) Don't think about the fact these three guys are playing high school boys because, in real life, they're all over 18! (But if it makes you feel any better, their characters all just graduated and are off to college! Woo hoo!)

Chuck Bass is the resident bad boy. But even better, he's the resident rich bad boy (those hundred dollar bills just seem to make him even cuter). He's definitely the one mom warned you not to go out with which makes it all the more fun to cougar crush on him now.

Nate Archibald is the boy next door and just so damn cute. But if GG just isn't your thing (as if!) or you don't have time to add it into your television line up (more likely!), this week, you can check out Chace Crawford on the cover of People Magazine's  Summer's Hottest Bachelor issue (can we say hot in black polo much?) And soon, you can see him starring in the Footloose remake! (He replaced Zac Efron who dropped out. Lisa's not at all sad about that because she plays for Team Chace. It's Liz who crushes on Zac. See #2.) Now, we hate to point out that Chace wasn't even born when the original Footloose was released. But before you get your Hanky Pankys all in a bunch, we'd like to assure you that he's now a very respectable cougar prey age of 22. So, we feel it will be completely acceptable to lust after him as he cuts loose in an abandoned warehouse.

Dan Humphrey is the perfect blend of Chuck and Nate (if you don't count the fact that he's Gossip Girl poor). He's a little bit o' bad (had an affair with a teacher!) and a whole lot o' good (looks out for his little sister, gets good grades, blah, blah) all rolled up into one very cute (although not so tall) package.  GG is in re-runs now, so it's a perfect time for you to get caught up on all the Upper East Side drama and decide which of the three guys is your favorite. Or if you're lookin' for new bait, there's a hottie comin' on board in season three!

#3- American Idol-Kris Allen We have to admit, it took awhile before we sniffed out this cougar bait.  At first we were distracted by Adam Lambert's guyliner and Danny Gokey's sweet ballads and sad back story.  But when Kris took the stage and belted out Kanye West's "Heartless", we melted like butter on a baked potato.  And we weren't the only ones who felt that way....we'd bet our Jimmy Choos that his surprising victory was due to a cougar population explosion!  Don't ever come between a coug and her speed dial people.

#2- Zac Efron There's a reason that Liz has seen HSM 2 more times than she'd like to admit.  And it has nothing to do with her four-year old's penchant for Sharpay's pink golf cart and everything to do with her coug crush on Zac Efron. She's had a thing for him since the minute she saw him take the floor in his Wildcats uniform and wasn't at all bothered by the fact that he barely even gave Gabriella more than a peck on the cheek the entire movie! (She likes to tell herself that he was just playing hard to get.) And maybe we shouldn't even mention the fact that the soundtrack has somehow landed in her iPod's top 25 playlist?  She's always had a thing for guys who could carry a tune...even if they played for the other team! *cough* Barry Manilow!

#1- Justin Timberlake (Honorary Cougar Prey) We were almost sad to discover that he's a bit, er, older than we thought. (When did he turn 28?!) But to us, he's still an 'N Sync'er with that curly hair (although the clippers were a very good call). So, he makes our cougar cut anyway, because, well, he's freakin' JT! Who knew back when he was singing "Bye, Bye, Bye" and dating Brit Brit that he'd  break out of the boy band box and into to the d**k in a box? We definitely want to be his Motherlover!

A couple of years ago, we had a live JT cougar sighting. There he was, in the lobby of Mandalay Bay! He was wearing jorts, but it didn't matter. He can wear, or even better, NOT wear, whatever he wants. After following him (for just a few, ok, 5 minutes), our eyes wide and our tongues hanging out of our mouths, we dragged our "of age" (and just as handsome- wink, wink) men to the ticket counter to see if we could score tickets to his concert that night. Fortunately for our guys, but unfortunately for us, only the cheap seats were left. So we opted to savor our in-person sighting because there aint nothin' cheap about our JT.

So, ladies, we say, reach within and unleash the coug! Let out your inner ROAR.  Or in our case, a DOUBLE ROAR!

xoxo Liz & Lisa