Book Five of 94: Bossypants by Tina Fey

Book 5 of 94:  Bossypants by Tina Fey

I have read a handful of books recently and “forgot” to review them, so I am tragically behind.  The problem with this is that I forgot some of the really great things that I liked about the additional books I’ve read, I’ve even forgotten some of the books themselves.  The problem with this book in particular is that it was on loan to me, so I was under strict instruction to NOT highlight any of it.  Have you ever?!  So please do not take this half-hearted review as an in depth review of this book.

Summary:  This is a collection of stories that are exactly as delightful and witty as you would hope them to be coming from Tina Fey.  If you enjoy anything that Fey has ever done, just do yourself a favor and read this book.

My Three Takeaways from Bossypants

Number 1:  What I really loved about this book and Amy Poehler’s book, Yes Please!, is that both Poehler and Fey are honest about what it took for them to get where they are today.  Fey does not pretend for a second that she was “discovered” or that she simply woke up one day and was famous.  She was in the trenches doing the work that it took to get her to where she is.  I respect people who are honest about their success and don’t pretend that it was easier or harder than it actually was.  I think, as women, there is sometimes an expectation that we are supposed to make everything look effortless.  We’re supposed to keep all of the magic behind the current and act like everything just naturally falls in to place.  I enjoyed the fact that Fey was willing to say that she has worked damn hard to get where she is and that she is deserving of her success.  We need more women in this world who aren’t going to apologize for creating the life that they wanted for themselves.

Number 2:  I know that it is not fair to compare Poehler and Fey as they are two entirely different people.  However, I would be willing to bet that if you like one, you probably like the other as well.  That being said, after reading both authors’ books I can see why they would be friends with each other.  Their personalities seem like they would complement each other well.  While they are both incredibly funny and talented, Fey seems to have more of an edge to her sense of humor.  Fey has a layer of darkness to the cut of her jib that is both uncomfortable and enjoyable.

Number 3:  Even rich people have to deal with well water from time to time.  Fey talks about visiting her husband’s family in Ohio where the family home uses well water.  My parent’s home uses well water as well, so I am familiar with the trials and tribulations.  I laughed out loud when Fey described the smell as, “if you boiled ten thousand eggs in a prostitute’s bathwater”.  While my parents are pretty religious about adding salt pellets and water softener to the pump, there are still times when I can’t even brush my teeth with the water because the smell is overpowering.  Fey did go on to say that the water leaves her hair in excellent condition.  That, too, is something I have always noticed.  I put up with the occasional smell because my hair is always soft, shiny, and full after I wash with well water.

Who should read this book?

  • Anyone who enjoyed the comedy of 30 Rock.
  • Anyone who is interested in how famous people become famous.
  • Anyone who enjoys laughter.

Who should not read this book?

  • Anyone who finds laughter annoying.
  • Anyone who thought that 30 Rock was stupid (mainly because they probably weren’t intelligent enough to understand most of the jokes).
  • Anyone who can’t stand a strong woman.

Fey, T. (2011). Bossypants. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

If You’re a Cat and You’ve Used up Eight of Your Lives, Please Don’t Hang Around My Yard

There are some people in my life who are of the mindset that I ask far too many crying people what is wrong. They have said that this habit of interacting with strangers involving strange circumstances will be my eventual downfall and that I will never learn my lesson. (However, I think the “sex trafficking incident” in Toledo may have scared me straight.) Tonight, I successfully proved all of those people wrong. The problem with the story I’m about to tell you is that it is sad, disturbing, and I’m not really sure which details to share first. I guess I will just start with what most of you already know, which is that I have a lot of random cats who like to hang out in my yard. These cats always seem to come from the house behind me. I have never seen the owners of this house, but I constantly hear an electric saw and hammering coming from their side of the fence, even though I have NEVER seen anything being built or repaired in the three years that I have lived here.

Back to the point. Today I took some trash to the curb and literally gasped when I saw a very dead cat lying just on the other side of the curb.  He had the same markings as my Ducky and it took my brain a few seconds to realize that I had just walked past my Ducky on the way out of my house to take out the trash, so this poor soul obviously wasn’t my Ducky.  Once I accepted that it was not my Ducky I was still left with a few problems to resolve.  One, I had a feeling (though no actual knowledge) that this cat may belong to the people behind me. Two, if it was their cat shouldn’t “someone” tell them that their cat had died? Three, if people let their cats out during the day, do they expect to know if something happens to said cats? Four, it was 85 degrees here today and a dead cat in the street is bad news for everybody. Five, how do you tell a complete stranger that a cat, which may or may not belong to them, is dead?

I used my “phone a friend” option to call my sister, L., and ask her opinion.  She thought it was best to just dispose of the cat and move on with my life.  I was about to, and then I got in my car and drove around the block.  I pulled up in front of the house behind me and immediately thought, “Yeah, I’m probably not getting out of my car.” There were four totally beat up vehicles parked in the driveway.  There was an enclosed front porch which is awkward because, would I knock on the door to the front porch, or walk in and knock on the actual front door?  That question became irrelevant when I realized that every square inch of the porch, from floor to ceiling, was completely covered with random crap.  So! Much! Stuff!  I am not exaggerating when I say that you will likely see this house one day…. on an episode of Hoarders. I decided that, if I did knock on either door, I would probably never be heard from again and the dead cat would have just been a ploy to kidnap me.

I returned home and waited for the sun to set before I went about the business of disposing of the poor departed feline.  When I finally went outside I took an empty pizza box, a garbage bag, and some rubber yard gloves with me.  I was pleased to see that the street was empty of onlookers and the passers-by in cars wouldn’t pay me much attention. ****The following details may be disturbing to some readers, so feel free to stop reading now.**** My idea was to shimmy the cat on to the pizza box and just put it all in the trash bag. That was my idea.  That is not what actually happened.  I started to shimmy the box under the cat and promptly went into a gagging fit.  I had not accounted for the fact that rigor mortis had set in and that this was, apparently, the best fed street cat and weighed in close to 15 pounds.  My one pizza box coupled with my gagging was not going to get the job done.  So I went back inside and found another piece of heavier cardboard to use.   I returned to the task at hand with the previous gastrointestinal threat of vomiting still looming close on the horizon and slung a string of expletives in to the night air. “I’m sorry.  I’m really sorry that this happened to you, but please just get in the fucking bag!” *Huet, huet!!* “Holy hell!  Why are you so heavy??!! Please just work with me here!”  *More gagging sounds*  At this point I stood upright and realized that a neighbor a few doors down was taking out his trash and had become interested in whatever it was that I was doing. Instead of going back inside, he actually sat down on his stoop to watch the rest of the show.

I re positioned myself so that I could wiggle the cardboard from both sides, like they do with the spatula things at a hibachi grill when they are moving your food from the grill to your plate. As I was completely engrossed in what I was doing, I did not hear the shirtless gentleman who was running down the sidewalk until he was directly behind me.  As soon as I noticed him, I let out an unintentional yelp, suspiciously dropped the bag I was holding that now had a dead cat halfway inside it, and spun around. He appeared to be just as startled as I was and apologized for frightening me.  I laughed it off and told him that it was no problem and secretly hoped that he didn’t know what I was attempting to do. I quickly finished with this ridiculous endeavor, tied the bag as quickly as I could, ignored the fact that part of his tail was coming out of the top of the bag, and ran inside to forget that any of this ever happened.

If I had any doubts before about being the “Crazy Neighborhood Cat Lady”, all of those doubts dissolved after this experience. Anyone who was watching had to have though that I was a total nut job. Tonight I will say a prayer for the kitty and hope that I don’t get ticketed or arrested for disposing of a dead animal in my trash.

Book 1 of 94: Yes Please by Amy Poehler

In the interest of full disclosure, I finished this book a week or so ago.  However, just as Cleveland was starting to see signs of a coming Spring (i.e. hope), we were knocked down by a vicious stomach bug, the details of which I will spare you.  By the time the bug reached me, I was in the midst of hosting six family members visiting from Michigan.  At times it felt like I was experiencing gentrification first hand as my house was quickly rearranged to make it “kid friendly”.  This basically means that all of my breakable treasures were placed on high surfaces and gates were erected that forced me to reconsider yoga each time I attempted to summit one.  So once my family departed and my stomach stopped raging war on me, I decided that it was time to sit down and review my first book.

In short, I loved this book!  In short, I love Amy Poehler!  I figure that I should probably elaborate just a tad though if I intend to recommend this book to any of you.  I also figure that I should have some sort of format if I am going to review a total of 94 books.  I have decided to have a list of “takeaways”.  As I mentioned in my first post on this topic, I tend to highlight or take notes on every book I read.  Sometimes I will highlight a phrase that I think is wonderfully written, a sentiment that resonates with me, or a new bit of information that I intend to research further.    After reading each book I will attempt to narrow all of these things down into the THREE main takeaways which I will then present to you along with a brief summary of the book itself.   Here we go!

Summary:

This book isn’t so much a linear autobiography as it is a collection of reflective essays on Poehler’s life (think David Sedaris style).  In Yes Please, Poehler describes her rise to fame, which was hard fought and well earned.  She tells stories of her adventures and tales of her friends.  In fact, I truly enjoyed the times she spoke of her friends (the famous ones that I am familiar with like Seth Meyers, Nick Offerman, and Tina Fey) because she describes them exactly as I hoped they would all be in “real life”.

Poehler reminds us that very few people, if any, are “discovered” and that people achieve success because they work for it every single day and they refuse to give up on their dreams.  She reminds us that famous people still experience the same heartaches and tribulations that those of us who are only famous in our own dreams experience.  She is someone with whom I would like to be friends because I think she is intelligent, funny, and empowering.  Amy Poehler is MY definition of a feminist, someone who believes in and supports the power and strength that women have to create their own happy endings and not the traditional definition of a feminist who supports women’s rights to have a happy ending that is merely equal to the happy ending of a man.

My Three Main Takeaways from Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Number 1:

I didn’t really know who I was, but improv had taught me that I could be anyone.  I didn’t have to wait to be cast – I could give myself the part. (Poehler, 2014)

As people, but especially women, we tend to wait for permission to do things.  We know which roles we play and we act accordingly.  However, if there is ever something that we want in life that exceeds our roles, we tend to wait for someone to give us the permission to pursue those things.  I do this… a lot.  I’m okay with being “good”, but it’s like I’m waiting around for someone to tell me that it is okay to be great.  Amy swopped in like a sparkling little fairy godmother and granted me the permission (that I didn’t need but I still sought) to cast myself in any role that I want.  We all need people in our lives who remind us that while God is still the Producer, by granting us free will, He gave us the role of Director in our own lives.  This is the encouragement I needed to start writing my own script.

Number 2:

I learned that I was getting way too good at a job that was not my life’s passion. (Poehler, 2014)

I have been blessed to work for a great company for the last ten years.  I have learned a tremendous amount, both personally and professionally, and I have grown in ways that I never could have imagined when I first took the job all those years ago.  But the truth is, while I enjoy my job and I am exceptionally good at it, it is not my life’s passion.  In fact, last year I caught the eye and the praise of one of our regional managers and he encouraged me to increase my role within the company.  At the time, I was so flattered by what he saw in me that I believed that moving up in my company was what I actually wanted.  Through a series of events I did not receive a promotion, and while I was devastated at the time, I know now that the Producer stepped in and canceled that production for my own good.

This isn’t all to say that I am going to up and quit tomorrow, far from it.  I have a vested interest in staying where I am for the time being; however, I am spending more time contemplating what I am passionate about.  I have taken steps to align myself with the things that matter to me and I am slowly working those things into my life on a daily basis.  I’m realizing that I can have both, financial stability and rewarding work.  For the time being those things may not come from the same place, but I’m convinced that I will find a way to have financial stability while pursuing my life’s passion when the time is right.

Number 3:

My ideal night out is a dinner party in my backyard with a group of like-minded friends whom I boss around in a gentle and loving way. (Poehler, 2014)

A huge part of being an adult is not just recognizing and accepting who you are, it is also about owning it.  I am bossy.  I like to be social, but on my terms.  I’m not interested in going to clubs or trendy bars; I don’t care for all that noise and, frankly, I don’t really like being that close to strangers.  Any conversation is going to lack some depth when one must yell to be heard.   Instead, I have found that I’ve settled in nicely to enjoying the company of a handful of people at a time.  I force my adult friends into “arts and crafts” hour when I invite them over for a Valentine’s Day party.  They might moan for a moment or two, but eventually they relent and end up having a good time.  This is who I am, and I like who I am.

Who should read this book?

  • People with a sense of humor who enjoy playful sarcasm.
  • People who want to feel empowered about chasing their dreams.
  • People who are friendly and believe that the world could use a touch of friendliness.

Who should not read this book?

  • People who don’t know how to take a joke.
  • People who think that they shouldn’t have to work to make their dreams come true.
  • People who cut in line.

One book down, 93 to go!

Poehler, A. (2014). Yes Please. New York: HarperCollins.

Thankful For People Who See More Than a Hat

Okay, I feel that it is important to start this post off with a definition.

Goal:  noun. the result or achievement toward which effort is directed.

That being said, I didn’t say that I WAS going to write everyday.  I said that my GOAL was to write everyday.  So, yes, I missed two days.  However, I feel like we are focusing on the negative instead of the fact that I nailed it on six days!  Let’s all just accept that and move on, shall we?  Fantastic!

Today, on this Thankful Thursday, I am thankful for the friends and family who still let me pretend.  As a child in elementary school I was kind of a loner.  I was the baby of the family and never quite felt like I fit in with my siblings and their friends.  So, I would spend hours at a time just playing by myself in one of the many story lines that I created.  I must have lived 100 lives before I ever turned 12.  There was no job that was off-limits, no land that went unexplored, and I was always adored by the man of my dreams.  Indeed, life in my own little world was perfect and I was in complete control.

As I got older though I came out of my shell and by middle school there was no hope of ever stuffing me back in my shell.  I loved being the center of attention and I always had a story to tell if I had a willing audience.  I started to realize though that “playing pretend” wasn’t cool anymore and, worse than that, it was unacceptable.  People wanted me to “grow-up”, “act my age”, “stop daydreaming”.  So I did, around them anyway.  The real truth is that I’ve never stopped playing pretend.  Even now, when I bake cupcakes I am the owner of the finest pastry shop in Paris.  When I cook I am a gourmet chef with my own cooking show.  When I drive to work I am escaping from a madman as I race to the town square to defuse a bomb that is set to explode in twenty minutes.  All of this is my release.

Life is far too serious sometimes.  People get so wrapped up in things that they fail to see the humor in life.  We are focused on things that we think are all “matters of consequence”, but we are wrong.  There are very few situations that we will find ourselves in that are truly a matter of life or death.  Many situations that we stress over aren’t even a matter of having a job or losing a job.

But we are adults!  We are adults and everything we do must be significantly important!  People depend on us, damn it!  People expect us to be in control, in charge, and on top of everything!  We simply have no time for “playing pretend”!  Or do we?  What if “playing pretend” is one of the most important things that we can make time for?  What if “playing pretend” is what would make the rest of it more bearable?  Think about it…. next time your boss is yelling at you just imagine that their head is a giant kitten head and they’re only angry because they want a saucer of milk.  Are they still going to be mad at you when they have a kitten head?  Of course, you messed up, deal with it.  But maybe if they have a kitten head you won’t get so bent out of shape about the situation.  Maybe you will simply fix whatever it is that they want you to fix and move on with you day.  Maybe, maybe not, but you won’t know until you try.

You can go right on being an adult who only sees a hat, but I refuse to.  I promise that I will always see a boa constrictor swallowing an elephant.  And if you can’t understand that, well, you understand even less about me.

Saint-Exupéry, Antoine De. The Little Prince. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1943. Print.

Even a Potato Chip Can Hurt You

Below is an actual letter that I sent to Frito Lay and their subsequent response:

Dear Frito-Lay,

For many years I have been on a quest, a quest to find a potato chip whose flavor is true to its name. For many years now, I have been severely disappointed. However, today as I was shopping at my local Giant Eagle, I was careless as I allowed my hopes to soar to a new height. There in the potato chip aisle before my eyes was a bag of Molten Hot Wings Flavored Ruffles! I clutched the bag in my hands as I thought, ‘This might be it! This might be the bag of chips I have been searching for!’ I threw the chips into my cart and raced for the checkout counter. I still had other items to purchase but my heart was beating with such vigorous excitement that I simply had to fulfill its desire.

As I thrust open the door to my house, I flung the groceries on the table and reached for what, I had hoped was, the Holy Grail of the potato chip world. I opened the bag with a tenderness which I have not shown in years. I allowed the aroma of the chips to waft over me. As the smell penetrated my nose I began to feel like Pavlov’s Dog. Every gland in my mouth began to salivate with the expectations of a dream come true. As I raised the delicacy to my mouth, I began to picture C.E. Doolin and Herman W. Lay (the founders of Frito Lay) standing over my shoulder looking on approvingly. This was their vision. This was the dream of two entrepreneurs.

I found your chips to be, quite possibly, the largest disappointment in my life.  The description on the bag and the description in my mouth were at direct odds with one another.  Molten Hot?  Not even close.  I would say lukewarm, at best.  You encouraged me to imagine “Wings, dripping with sauce and ready to wash down with your favorite beverage.”  The taste of your chip encouraged me to imagine wings that wouldn’t know hot sauce if they took a bath in it.

I tried to improve the situation by placing the chips on a plate with celery and carrot sticks.  All this did was cause me to feel an even deeper disappointment than I already felt. Now, not only did the chips pale in comparison to the real thing, but my heart also paled in comparison to the hopeful heart which I had felt only moments before.

Please do not be so careless in the future to encourage your customers to “Dream big” when you know that their hopes will be severely dashed.  As a corporation in these fine United States of America, you have a moral obligation to be honest to the American consumer.

Please consider revising either your recipe or your packaging before your web of deceit takes you, and your company, the way of Enron.

Sincerely,

Erin Elise

I mailed this letter to the CEO of the company a few months back and received no reply, how upsetting. Last week I decided to send it again, via the “Comment” section of their website.  Within two days I received the following reply:

Hi Erin,

Thank you for contacting Frito-Lay with your feedback about Ruffles Molten Hot Wings.

We’re sorry this snack was not what you expected–and your comments will be shared with our Marketing and Product Development teams. We’re also sending a coupon to you that should arrive in about a week.

Your satisfaction is the key to our success and we thank you for choosing a Frito-Lay snack.

We hope all of your future purchases are completely satisfying and great-tasting.

Best regards,
Natalia Frito-Lay Consumer Relations

To be fair, I don’t know Natalia.  This may be me profiling but I picture her as a tall, unimaginably sexy Russian woman whose wardrobe consists entirely of all black clothes that appear to make love to her body as she wears them.  I imagine her reading my email and thinking, ‘Ha!  Stoopid little pudgy American girl.  She is upset because her after school snack is not tasty treat she hoped for.  In Russia, ve get bread and ve get vodka and ve are happy for it!  I vill send her coupon for more potato chips to make her even more pudgy and less attractive to Russian men!”

I mean, it’s not like I expected a hand written apology letter.  It would have been nice though if Natalia had invested even a fraction of the time in her response that I put into my complaint.  I understand though.  She is probably too busy being sexy and smacking a riding crop against her palm to intimidate the middle aged men in her office.  So I will simply accept my coupon graciously and begin planning a Potato Chip Party, sponsored by Frito Lay.