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

Watch this, Not That: Liz's Guilty Pleasures Edition

When it comes to my television watching habits, I tend to have a split personality.  Because there are two versions of Couch potato Liz: The one who's drinking ice water and watching quality TV with her husband and the one who is shoving down handfuls of M&M's while watching that trashy TV we all love to hate. So on this edition of Watch this, Not that, I thought I'd come out of the closet and celebrate my Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde  TV watching self.  That I would declare my love for my ridiculous shows so I no longer have to hit the "exit" button when my husband returns unexpectedly to the family room after he swore he was going to bed.   So I don't have to hide my head in shame when my trashy TV is hogging all the memory on our TiVo, causing it to erase the kid's PBS shows.  And lastly, to give all of you other secret bad TV watchers a soft place to fall.

I'll even entice you into telling me your dirty TV watching secrets by giving away two signed copies of Jennifer Ross's delicious debut novel, The Icing on the Cupcake. It's a great story AND has an awesome recipe at the end of each chapter. Just leave a comment to be entered!


SURVIVOR While I'm sure some of you may argue if this should be considered quality TV, you have to admit that Survivor is the grandaddy of all reality TV shows, paving the way for copycats like Joe Millionaire(what ever happened to that guy, anyway?) and Big Brother.  A diehard fan since the first season, Jeff Probst's arrogant, irritating narrative during each challenge, his leading questions during tribal council and that whole The Tribe has spoken thing just never gets old for me.  And with villains like Russell, I think this season's better than ever!

CHUCK I think I've always secretly had a thing for lanky nerd types-at least when it comes to my TV watching preferences. (Why the hell else would I have ever watched The Big Bang Theory?)  And this sweet show about a computer geek who's life is turned upside down when he has a CIA computer downloaded into his brain seems to have finally hit it's stride in it's third season. The best part?  It has enough action (And a smoking hot blonde!) to entice your man to watch it but at the core is just an adorable love story about a guy who's in love with a girl who's completely out of his league.


THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF NEW JERSEY Sometimes I actually feel my IQ dropping as I take in the antics of my favorite Garden State Housewives. Announcing that watching another minute would makes his eyes bleed, my husband declared this show unwatchable early on in season one.  Typical that a man can't appreciate a good table-flipping or tell-all book!There's something about tough-talking Caroline and the clueless Teresa that makes me both LOL and feel a little nauseous at the same time.  Like I'm just holding my breath and praying that they aren't really like this.  But either way, I know I won't be able to turn the channel when season two begins May 3rd.

90210 I'm the first to admit that the only reason I gave this show a chance was because of my devotion to it's predecessor.  But unlike it's unwatchable updated cousin Melrose Place, the new 90210 had me at Hello. Okay, so maybe it was all the Kelly, Brenda and Donna cameos that got me on board.  But now, in it's second season, those beyotches are gone and I'm still secretly watching every week when I think no one's looking.  And considering the batch of new hotties they brought on last Fall, some(my husband in particular) may suggest that the cougar in me might be the reason I just can't say no to 90210.  But I stand by it's, um, strong story lines and um, impressive abs, um I meant acting.

What do YOU watch when no one's looking?

xoxo, Liz