The 2018 Humblebrag Christmas Letter

We're so blessed to have such high-spirited children who play so well together.

Dear Family, Friends, Strangers, and Internet Stalkers,

It's that time of year again! Can you believe another year has flown by? We certainly can't! Where does the time go?

Gomer turned 14 this year. Can you believe it? Where has our baby gone? He's a typical teenager: thoughtful, generous, and loving...whenever he wants something. He's so handsome when he showers and he barely stinks anymore now that he's figured out how to use deodorant regularly.

He's gotten into gaming this year. His Call of Duty score is INsane. We're very proud of him. Jen heard about a university that is going to start offering scholarships for Esports. Fingers crossed Gomer's kill rate is high enough to qualify in case he blows the SAT.

When he's not gaming, he's playing baseball and basketball, and perfecting his Russian Gangster Pose for Instagram.

Instead of making resolutions we'll never keep, we decided to each ruminate and thoughtfully determine a word to define our goals for 2019. Gomer's word for 2019 is: Ragequit.

Adolpha is 12. Almost a teenager! Sob! She wants to be a YouTuber, but she can't decide if her channel should focus on her love of cozy onesies, squishy stuffed animals, or high-end makeup. Her smokey eye is on point and it looks incroyable with her unicorn onesies.

She's lovely, but will be absolutely stunning once we get her braces off. We could have taken two cruises for what we've spent on her mouth, but she's worth every penny. It's almost like an investment in her YouTube career. We're talking to the accountant about making orthodontia a business expense. 

She learned about male fragility this year when she joined a basketball team, and then wasn't asked back because she didn't smile at the coach enough. His feelings were terribly hurt and we're sending him thoughts and prayers for a speedy recovery. (Jen would like to assure you that you needn't worry about the coach. He's still in one piece and there's no need for a welfare check.)

When she's not snuggling her stuffed animals or perfecting her winged eyeliner, Adolpha can be found on Snapchat looking like a cute dog or a Russian Gangster's Girlfriend.

Adolpha's word for 2019 is: Haul.

The Hubs has become a tech mogul this year. Well, he's on the path to becoming a tech mogul. He's been working tirelessly on his startup and devouring business books. Jen had no idea he knew how to read! For the first 15 years of their marriage, Jen was convinced he could only read headlines and captions under photos. He's read more books this year than Jen has! His company is on an upward trajectory and he's assured Jen that in the next 10 years he'll turn a profit and Fyllan will be a verb or he'll find a "real" job. When he's not reading, he's still selling houses and growth-hacking his LinkedIn.

The Hubs's word for 2019 is: Decacorn.

Jen has put on so many bras and pairs of pants and left the house this year. She knew she was a bonafide frequent flier when Southwest sent her 3 free drink coupons and Holiday Inn gave her free wi-fi and breakfast every time she stayed there. Talk about preferential treatment! That's how the elites of the world travel.

Besides pants, she's even donned some dresses. Yeah, that's right, Jen's fallen in with a philanthropic crowd that likes to frequent galas and balls. Jen is a very entertaining plus-one, or so she's been told.

She's written a lot and even started emailing her Super Friends this year. She says it's just like having thousands of Pen Pals she can email every day and describe her lunch to. She couldn't be happier. When she's not writing, publishing, speaking, signing books, or winging her way to the far reaches of suburban America, Jen can be found napping.

Jen's word for 2019 is: A-B-C.

We wish you nothing but a peaceful, joyful, and wonder-filled holiday season and a prosperous new year!

The Mann Family

Am I the Only One Who Thinks This Christmas Song is Rapey?

How is it in the 40-plus years I've been listening to Christmas music, I've never actually listened to it?

Let me explain: It was Black Friday. My mother and I were out and about maxing out our credit cards and throwing elbows for seven dollar waffle irons. After several hours of shopping, my mom faded and dropped out to go home to bed. Wussy.

The Trouble with Ta-Tas

If you follow my personal page on Facebook, then you know I had a little trouble with my boobs last week. I know, I know. I'm always having trouble with my boobs, but this was a new, even for me. My friend Nicole invited me to a fancy gala. I'm usually in pajamas on a Saturday night, but there's something about Nicole that makes willing to put on not just pants, but a dress even, and leave my house. So I said yes when she asked me. But I needed to wear a dress. I didn't want to buy a new dress and I had a dress in my closet but it needs a special low cut bra. (Side note: when you're a woman with breasts of a certain size, you need some serious structure and a low cut bra never cuts it, so I don't buy that shit on the regular. Because of this, I didn't have the right bra in my bounty of boulder holders.) So, I trekked to the mall and tried on a trillion titty traps (haha, like there'd be a trillion to choose from. There are exactly two in my size). I got the right bra but when I put it on with the dress, it was like, "Oh shit! My eyes! So. Much. Cleavage!" Basically, my boobs were poking me in the chin. And my dress was screaming, "Mercy! Mercy! I can't take anymore!" and it was popping wide open for the world to giggle at my goodies.

I realized I just needed a little tape. How do the movie stars do it when they show just enough side boob, but not all of it? How do their nipples literally hold up a dress? I figured there must be magic tape out there! So I did a Google search and I came up with something called Hollywood Fashion Secrets Tape. Aha! I knew there was something! So I bought a tin of the tape.

Here's the thing about this tape. I'm sure it works great if you're just trying to keep a small gap in your shirt closed or if you want to keep your necklace in place or something simple and easy like that. But if you're working on an engineering project that requires a third hand, this is not the tape for you.

I was devastated. So I turned to the "real" Google, my Facebook friends. I asked them, "Is there such a thing as double-sided duck tape?"

After many suggestions that included things like "rubber glue" and "Velcro strips,"  a friend told me a secret: "I used to work in a bridal store and we gave brides rolls of double-sided carpet tape and called it 'dress tape.'"

WHAAAAAT??? That sounded like just the thing I needed, but I knew I'd need help, so I contacted my sister-in-law Ida.

Ida isn't an engineer or a fashion designer or anything like that, but Ida is the person I call when I need shit done, especially if it involves my boobs.

Wait. That didn't sound right. Maybe I should explain.

Let me take you back many, many, many years ago. Ugh, so many years ago. Remember how young we were, Ida?? It was my first time meeting Ida. In those days she was my brother's girlfriend and they were serious, but I didn't know yet she'd be my sister-in-law. I'd flown into town for a wedding and I'd tried to pack light. I thought one bra for the entire weekend would suffice. I'd forgotten that the dress I'd packed for the weekend required a special bra. The special bra would minimize (aka SQUEEEEZE) my boobs to smaller size and allow me to button the front of the dress. My normal bra was like, "Fuck that, I need my space" and would not allow the front of the dress to button.

And so I found myself locked in my brother's bathroom topless and panicking. I'd brought nothing else even remotely appropriate for a wedding. I didn't have time to run out to the nearest department store, get measured, and hope I'd find another bra that would wrangle my girls into submission. What the fuck was I going to do???

That's when I heard a gentle tap on the door. "Jen, everything okay?" Ida asked. "We need to go soon..."

"I'm coming..." I whimpered. "I just need a few minutes to, uhhh..." I looked around frantically, hoping I could MacGyver a solution. Like what? Make a bra out a bath towel and toothpaste?

"Jen?" Ida whispered. "You don't sound okay? What's going on? Can I help?"

At that moment I knew I needed help. I didn't have another solution. I couldn't ask my brother for help. (VOMIT.) I couldn't even ask the Hubs for help. He wasn't the Hubs yet. He was just some guy I was dating and I couldn't tell him all my secrets yet! Ida was my only hope.

Shamefaced, I unlocked the door and let her in.

"I can't do up my top," I cried. "I packed the wrong bra."

Ida surveyed the situation like a pro and did some quick calculations in her head. Finally, she nodded with certainty and asked, "Can I touch you? I'm going to have to touch you to help you."

"Just make sure your hands are warm," I said.

"I'll be right back." Ida went out the door and I heard her assuring the menfolk that we'd be ready soon. I heard her rummaging through cabinets and drawers.

When Ida came back she had a large roll of duck tape and a pair of scissors.

"Oh God," I whimpered.

"This will work," Ida reassured me. And then she went to work duck taping the shit out of my boobs.

You know those cartoons where people work so fast that clouds of dust puff up and you can't see what's happening and then the dirt clears and the transformation is revealed? That's how I felt that day. Ida worked fast and furious and then stepped back to admire her work. I looked in the mirror.

I'm not going to say they looked good. In fact, they were a little square and definitely off-center. BUT that dress buttoned up and that's what I needed.

We headed out. The Hubs gave my chest a funny look, but wisely did not comment.

It was close to ninety degrees that night and at one point I could feel sweat loosening the gum on the tape and I could feel tiny pings as the tape lost its grip. "Ida," I whispered. "I think I'm going to blow."

Ida shook her head. "A few layers might go, but you'll hold. And if you don't, I'm prepared." She opened her purse to show me the roll of tape and scissors tucked inside.

The tape held that night and Ida and I formed a bond that cannot be undone.

This week, almost 20 years later, she came to my rescue again, showing up at my house with double-sided carpet tape she'd found after scouring at least two hardware stores. I didn't need her hands on help this time, but it was nice to know I had her on speed dial in case I needed her to handle my hooters.

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Mom Hair Don't Care

I shared a picture on my Facebook wall to show off my new t-shirt. I was quite excited by this shirt. I thought it was a funny shirt. I thought it was the perfect shirt for me. My Facebook friends were like, "Yeah, the shirt's cute or whatever, but what is going on with your hair? It looks ah-may-zing?! What are you using? Tell us the secrets!" And then I was like, "Ohemgee, I'm a freaking rock star! That's it, I'm going to bed, because this day isn't going to get any better."

I'd already been planning to blog about my style, because when I put on pants Facebook is like, "Jen!! Over here! Over here! Who are you wearing?" and I'm like, "Vera Wang. For Kohls." 

So here we go, this is the first installment in the style guide of a 40-plus, minivan-driving mama. 

We'll start with the hair since that's trending right now. I woke up this way:

I have naturally curly hair that I used to blow dry and flat iron into submission. But a few years ago I decided to stop fighting with my hair and just embrace it and let it do what it wanted. Unfortunately, when left to its own devices it just goes frizzy instead of soft, springy curls. The good news is science has heard curly-girl cries for help and there is a crapton of good products out there now to enhance your natural curl.

Matrix Total Results Curl Please Shampoo & Conditioner. It all starts with the shampoo. I use curl enhancing shampoo and conditioner. I've tried a bunch and this is the one that works the best for my hair. I can definitely see a difference on days I don't use it. My curls don't hold up as well in the summer's humidity or the dry winter weather.

Morrocanoil Curl Defining Cream. This stuff ain't cheap, but it's magical. You don't need much. In fact, too much makes your hair "crunchy." Sometimes I just put this in and call it done. When I do that, it looks like this:

I use a little Morrocanoil Cream and then I let it airdry. If I have an early morning appointment, I wash it the night before and let it dry overnight. I don't blowdry my hair anymore. I find that helps a lot when I curl it.
Side note: I also like this Morrocanoil product. I only use the teeniest tiniest amount every so often to make my hair more manageable. I use it on Adolpha's hair too and it's a miracle worker on her thick, wavy, tangly hair. 

Once it's dry, it's time to curl it. I have fine hair, but I have a lot of it, so I divide it into sections when I curl. This was a trick I learned on the internet. I'd been trying to curl my hair without sections and it just didn't look as good. I didn't think I needed sections because I didn't have long thick hair, but sections are the key.

So, you'll need some clips.

I need two or three at a time to section my hair. I section my hair into two to four levels depending upon how much curl I want.

The curling iron is very important too. I've used curling irons in the past and been very disappointed with the results. I realized it was because I was being a cheapo. It's amazing what a quality curling iron can do for you. I use the Hot Tools Professional Ceramic and Tourmaline Extra-Long Barrel Curling Iron/Wand 1 1/4 Inch. I have a 2 inch barrel too, but I don't like the results as well. It works well for Adolpha's long hair. It makes my hair straight.

I've had my curling iron for about three years now and it still works great with no problems. It heats up fast and makes my curls smooth and shiny, no matter how frizzy my hair was when I started. My hair takes curl very fast, so I turn it fairly hot and move quickly. The other thing the internet taught me was you have to curl in BOTH directions. I curl away from my face, but some of the sides and back are curled toward my face. You can just sort of practice and play around and see what looks best for you and your hair. Also, the first time I curled my hair it took forever and looked really terrible when I was done. I didn't section it, I didn't have the iron hot enough, and I didn't do a mix of directions for my curls. It takes some practice, but I'm literally the worst at spending time getting ready and even I figured this out, so you can too. I can curl my hair in about 5 minutes now. No joke, this is the easiest hairstyle I've ever had. 

I usually finger comb through the curls and sort of fluff them together. If I want more of a wavy look, I comb through them with a wide-tooth comb. I finish with either spray wax or styling wax. For both of these I've tried many brands and my favorite is Sexy Hair. Particularly, Sexy Hair Play Dirty and Sexy Hair Control Maniac.

Hairspray doesn't really work for me, the curls fall out and my hair gets flat, so spray wax is a great in-between product. It can give me bigger hair and keep the volume if I want that. I usually use it when I'm getting all fancy. 

Whereas, the styling wax is a good everyday kind of product. It gives high shine and keeps everything in place, but it can kind of weigh down the hair. You'll have to experiment with how much is a good amount for you. I use the tiniest bit. The picture that made everyone excited was with this wax. See how shiny it makes your hair?

I hope this helps! Good luck and let me know in the comments what other products you'd recommend for curly hair. I'm always looking for something new to try!

Oh, and also, you can get the t-shirt here.

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Some of those links are affiliates. I gotta buy more wax somehow!

2018 Holiday Gift Guide!

It's my favorite time of the year: wondering what the heck my family wants for Christmas! Both of my kids have phones now and access to my Amazon account, so it's making gift-giving a lot easier this year. They've created Wish Lists for me and I simply have to pick and choose what to get them. Hopefully you can find some good stuff for everyone your list (and maybe even a little something special for yourself!)

Spikeball - Gomer's been playing this game a lot at school. It sounds like way too much work for me, but the kids really like it! The team that won were a brother-sister duo who have their own set at home. My kids think they need a set now so they can practice too and win the next tournament.

Bluetooth Beanie - It's cold in the winter and I'm always bugging Gomer to put on a hat. Maybe if his hat will play music for him, he'll wear it?

Gaming Headset - This is the year of online gaming. It has taken over Gomer's life (and bank account). It seems like every week he needs to order one more thing that will make his game better. The headset will help him communicate better with his squad and help him defeat the enemy or something like that. All I know, is if it keeps him from talking to his friends on speakerphone, I'm cool with it.

Gaming Mat - I don't even know what this is. Gomer says the mouse performance is vital to his game and this mat will make the mouse more fluid or some nonsense like that. Also it lights up, which is imperative and gets him "cool" points because light up stuff is necessary for taking your gaming to the next level, blah, blah, blah. Basically, this is a super cool mouse pad, folks.

Mechanical Keyboard - Gomer swears this is also vital to gaming domination. The mechanical keyboards are superior in all ways and such and so on. I just like them because they're "clicky". I like clicky keyboards.

Hammock - When Gomer needs some downtime to read (haha, more like stream Youtube), he would like to hang out in a hammock. I would like to hang out in this thing too. 

Workout Bar - Gomer is gonna get swole this year and this bar is gonna do it for him. 

Wireless Waterproof Speaker - Gomer cannot be without his music or his jabbering Youtube bros, so a waterproof speaker might be nice in the shower. Maybe he'll listen to the weather and know he needs to wear his Bluetooth hat too.

Apple Airpods - Gomer saved up all his money this year and bought himself an iPhone. This Christmas will probably be dubbed, "The iPhone Accessory Christmas" because he's out of dough and still needs all the stuff to go with the phone.

Evidence Bag - I'm a big fan of pouches. You can never have too many. This would be great for all of Gomer's iPhone crap.

Loud Ass Alarm Clock - Gomer has officially become a teenager and can't get his lazy butt out of bed. This will be under the tree whether he likes it or not.

Books Gomer read this year and liked:

The Outsiders

The Book Thief

Thirteen Reasons Why

Sony Earbuds - Adolpha complains that all the earbuds we own are too big for her dainty ears. I have these and they're super squishy and can fit into tiny ears, so hopefully she will be able to use them and I won't have to hear her Youtube videos anymore.

Squishmallow - Twelve is a tough age. Adolpha wants a new phone, makeup, skinny jeans, and....stuffed animals. She loves this brand especially. They're uber-soft and squishy. Just like the name suggests.

Superpower Pouch - As I said before, pouches are good and anything with a "Girl Power" theme is great too.

Makeup Organizer - Adolpha is always organized, and her makeup will be too.

Makeup Brushes - A girl can never have too many brushes, unless she's Adolpha. The girl has more makeup brushes than the pros. What is she doing with them all??

Lightbox - This is a fun little item. Adolpha envisions us each leaving messages for one another. My first message will be: CLEAN UP YOUR ROOM.

Bluetooth Speaker - When we were kids, everyone had a boom box or a stereo. We used to turn up our music and dance or sing in the mirror and those days are over. I'm getting everyone new speakers this year so we can jam together. It's going to be so embarrassing for the kids.

Adult Onesie - I think Adolpha has two or three of these now, but it's cold here in the winter and she pretty much lives in this kind of stuff. The kids bought me my first one last year and I'm addicted too. 

Nintendo Switch - We have other gaming systems in the house, but this one has been on Adolpha's list all year. She swears this one would actually get played with (unlike the other ones collecting dust in the basement).

Bike Wheel Lights - I think Adolpha is convinced these will make her bike go faster or something. 

Hair Tie Bracelet - Adolpha has hair down to the middle of her back and even though she starts out most days with it down, it almost always ends up in a ponytail before dinner time. This will be a cute way to carry a hair tie and not cut off her circulation.

Books Adolpha read this year and liked:

My Lame Life

One of Us is Lying

To All the Boys I've Ever Loved Before

Charging Station - This is more for me than the Hubs, but it goes on his list since he's the "techie" in the family. At this point we have four phones, four Kindles, two tablets, and a bunch of other stuff that needs charged. I'm tired of my kitchen counter being overurn with cables and junk. This will hopefully cut the clutter and keep everything together.

Punching Bag - The Hubs is always on me to work out with him. He wants me to find something we can do together. Well, I did it. We can punch stuff together. It seems only appropriate that we should own a punching bag!

Stuffed Burger Press - The Hubs is the cook in the family and the Master Griller. He makes great burgers and I think this can only up his game.

Roku - As you know, the Hubs is notoriously cheap. This year he had the bright idea to cut our cable. that's right. He cancelled our cable. We can't have nothing, though, so I'm getting Roku boxes for everyone, including him.

Quick Charge Car Charger - Again, we have a lot of stuff to charge. I can't tell you how many times we get in the car and one or both of the kids are out of juice. This will help us all stay powered up.

Soda Stream - Not only is the Hubs cutting my cable, he's been trying to cut our grocery bill too. He's thinking the Soda Stream can help. All I know is that I can tell the difference been Coke and anything else just by the color, the smell, and the bubbliness of it all. I'm not sure I'm going to be able to drink "Cola-Flavored Wetness" but we'll see.

Breakfast Sandwich Maker - A friend was raving about this the other day and it sounded like the perfect thing to put on the Hubs' list. He loves egg sandwiches and always complains about how expensive they are when we go out. He can have an egg sandwich every day for pennies!

Cell Phone Lenses - The Hubs is the techie, the chef, and the cheapo. He's also the resident photographer. He takes the bulk of our pictures and he really doesn't like carrying around a big camera. These will make it so much easier for him to get the pictures he wants, without the bulk.

Books the Hubs read this year and liked:

Leaders Eat Last

Tools of Titans

Rise and Grind

Mug - I like to drink hot tea or chai all day and I find that my drinks get cold too fast. I want an insulated mug that can hold a lot and keep stuff hot. 

Airfryer - I've heard good things about this thing. I believe anything tastes better fried, but as we all know, it's terrible for you. I'm hoping maybe this is the magic I'm been looking for? Because baked fries just don't cut it for me.

Packing Cubes - I've been leaving my house a lot this year and traveling around the country to speak. I bought some packing cubes when Amazon recommended them to me. I was sort of confused as to why they were so great. Well, I've figured it out. I can pack whole outfits together and things stay nice and neat in my suitcase instead of sliding all over the place. It makes packing go faster too, because I'm not playing Jenga to make everything fit in the suitcase. I'm sold.

Dashboard Pad - When I travel, I use my phone as my GPS. I'd like something small and portable that I can take with me to hold my phone and make it easier to see when I'm driving in a new city.

Wireless Charger - I got a new phone this year and it has wireless charging capabilities. I've gone through countless cords and worn out my plugger-inner part on my phone. I'd like to be able to charge my phone wirelessly.

Microphone - I started making more videos this year and I'd like a fancy new microphone because I'm pretty sure it will make me a better videographer. 

Belt Bag - OK, so when we were growing up, we called these fanny packs, but now they're "belt bags" because that sounds cooler. I've officially reached the fanny pack age. I get it now. It's versatile, it carries a bunch of stuff, it's easier on my back. They're good for when I go for walks or if I'm hanging out at the ball fields watching my kids.

Heated Mattress Pad - I've also reached the heated mattress pad age. My friend was telling me about these. I've heard of electric blankets, but not heated mattress pads. This sounds divine on those cold winter nights. And this one has dual control, so the Hubs and I won't fight over the temps.

Notebooks - I can never have too many notebooks. I like spiral ones and smallish ones to fit in my purse (or belt bag).

Pens - I'm a pen whore. These literally make me a better writer.

Magnetic Poetry - I had one of these in college and I miss it. I'm ready for a new set so my kids can leave me inappropriate poems on the fridge.

Lip Scrub - My lips are rough and dry this winter and Adolpha tells me I need a lip scrub. I have no idea what it does, but she swears my lips will soft as a baby's butt once I use this stuff.

My book club and I read a bunch of books this year. If you want to join, click here. Here were some of my favorites:

An American Marriage

The Power

Force of Nature

My books always make great gifts too. Get them all here.

Well, that's our list for this year. Here are some links to previous years' lists:





10 Things I Hate About the Holidays

1. Pumpkin-flavor everything. Pumpkin lattes start showing up in August and then it just snowballs from there. I don't even like pumpkin in a pie, but no one wants to eat a pumpkin popsicle.

2. Douchey Dads who can't take their kids trick-or-treating without pulling a wagon of beer behind them. What is the deal? This is a pretty easy job and isn't very stressful. It takes a couple of hours to walk through the neighborhood, wave to the person at the door, and yell something like, “Anything good for me? Yuk, yuk, yuk.” Why do these dads feel the need to be hammered before they take on this job?

Rules for Raising a Boy - 18 (Because 25 Was Too Hard To Come Up With) Rules for Mothers of Sons

There is a list making its way around Facebook about 25 Rules for Mothers of Sons.  Have you seen it?

It's a very pleasant, feel good, vanilla-flavored list with lots of cute little things like "teach your son to do laundry," "learn how to throw a football," "let him get dirty," and that sort of thing.  I am not going to attack this woman or her list.  (I learned my lesson last time I did that.)  I think the list is fine - for her.  It's just not my cup of tea.

Instead I decided to pay homage to her and make my own list.  Here goes:

PIWTPITT (18 Because 25 Was Too Hard To Come Up With) Rules for Mothers of Sons

1.  Teach him to be confident and kind.

The Evil Birthday Clown

Well, just when I thought only potty parties and Marie Antoinette-themed first birthday parties were some of the worst party ideas I'd ever heard of, I read about Dominic Deville, The Evil Birthday Clown.

Holy shit!  This is a clown that you pay to stalk and terrify your child.  As if clowns weren't scary enough for most people!  This guy will send threatening letters and text messages to your kid warning him that he's being watched and the scary clown is coming for him!  When your child least expects it, the scary looking clown will jump out of some dark alley and pie your kid in the face.

Happy Birthday, Champ!

Open Letter to Bra Manufacturers

Dear Bra Manufacturers,

Hi there.  I'm Jen.  I am a 40 year old mother of two.

Actually, allow me to introduce myself in a language you can understand: I'm a 38 DDD.

I have always had a ridiculous time bra shopping for these small boulders I carry around and I'm always cursing your names.  You've probably heard me yelling "Damn you, Maidenform, and your barbed underwire!" or "I hate you, Vicki!  Your secret is to just push everything to the top and hope it stays put!" from various dressing rooms around the country.

Sexy Halloween Costumes

Halloween is fast approaching and everyone is working on their costumes. Adolpha will be a dead bride this year and Gomer wants to be a banana. Uhh ... OK, kids, challenge accepted. I've designed a gray, tattered wedding dress and veil for Adolpha and you should see the bouquet of black flowers I made her! I'm only an overachiever at Halloween. The banana costume was a lot easier. I went to the store and bought it. I have no idea how to make a banana costume! My glue gun skills are limited.

We attend a few Halloween events every year and the kids really enjoy it when the Hubs and I dress up in a costume. The Hubs has a shirt that says "This is my costume" (did you really expect more?) and I always try to come up with something last minute.

This year I thought I might get a jump on the holiday and actually find a costume before the day of. I started looking online last night and I was so annoyed by what I found for women's Halloween costumes. It wasn't just the usual sexy nurse or frisky pirate or naughty witch. The costumes I found were ridiculous.

Sure, there has been a trend for a while now where girls' and women's costumes are getting sluttier and sluttier, but come on! You should see the shit I found.

Check out these doozies I found on

Together We Can Make the Future Female

***TRIGGER WARNING. I describe an assault in this post.***

It's been a rough week for women. You had to feel that obvious shift into second place, right? Whether you're conservative, liberal, or something in between you must see that our voices were diminished this week by the GOP. Is that really what we want for our daughters? Our stepdaughters? Our nieces? Our granddaughters? Ourselves? Can't we all agree that enough is enough? That we've been second class for too long? We're the majority of this country and yet, we are told to let the men handle the running of it. That's bullshit. We need to take back our power. I wonder what last week's proceedings might have looked like with more women on that Republican panel. I wonder what corporate America would look like with more women in the boardroom. Some believe power corrupts all kinds of people and women would be corrupt if we had the power, but I say, I'll take that chance. We can't fuck it up any worse than our male leaders have. I'd rather we try than sit quietly and watch our democracy be stolen by a handful of entitled men. Nothing gets done in silence. We must raise our voices. We must set aside our differences and come together on the one thing we all have in common: we've all been mistreated by a man during our lifetime and we don't want that for the young women in our lives.

I was riveted to the television for the entire live coverage of the Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh interviews. I was moved by Dr. Ford's pain in reliving her traumatic experience and her careful choice of words and emotion. On the flip side, I was appalled by Judge Kavanaugh's outrage and vitriol (and crocodile tears). I'll be honest, I already didn't like his previous rulings and I wasn't crazy about an ultra-conservative judge taking the place of a swing vote and thus upsetting the balance of the court. But I was resolved to accept that this is way things work in our democracy and the pendulum will swing again at a later date. But then once I read about the allegations against the Judge I was concerned. I wanted to know more. I wanted an FBI investigation into his past and into the allegations brought against him. I wanted to hear from Dr. Ford and I wanted to hear from him. After he spoke (if we can even call that rage word salad he spit out speaking), I was even more convinced he was unfit to be a Supreme Court Justice. Not because I believed Dr. Ford, but because I saw how Judge Kavanaugh behaves under duress. I saw how he handles stressful situations. And I was I not impressed. I heard the clearly partisan accusations and spew from him, I saw his belligerent attitude toward the female Senators who questioned him, the deflecting and the sneering were enough to make up my mind. I watched him melt into a puddle of rage tears and I didn't believe for a second he was crying because he was contrite, I believe he was crying because he finally got caught. He proved that he does not have what it takes to be a Supreme Court Justice. Ironically, he's far too emotional, which is a phrase almost always lobbied at women.

If watching him was bad, it was even worse to see the Republican Senators clutch their pearls and swoon in sorrow over the mistreatment of one of their own: a good ole boy. They put themselves in his shoes and they quaked in fear and then voted him through, with only one tiny caveat: a one week FBI investigation.


It's a crumb, and I'll take that crumb, but I don't have high hopes much will come of this investigation. There isn't enough time to really dig deep into these women's stories and the eyewitness to this event says he remembers nothing. Of course he doesn't, he's written an entire book about his drunken teenage years. Maybe he doesn't "remember" anything because he'd also implicate himself?

This whole circus surrounding Judge Kavanaugh got me thinking. I've never been raped, but since I was about 11 years old I've been manhandled, touched inappropriately, groped, and I've even been grabbed by the pussy, as our President is wont to do. I've had to force boys and men to keep their hands to themselves. I've had strange men grab my ass on public transportation and/or expose themselves to me. I've received unsolicited dick pics (really, how many of us solicit them?) as well as degrading and threatening emails and messages from men when they disagree with me or feel that I've somehow wronged them with the words I write.

What about you, ladies? Can you honestly say you've NEVER had unwanted touches from a male? NEVER?? Not once? Not one time did a boy flip your skirt or snap your bra strap? Never once did a date grab your breast after you'd asked him to stop? If you say, "Never," my first instinct is to say, "I don't believe you." But I'm not saying that anymore about my fellow women. I believe you, but you should know, you are a small minority of the female population and you should count yourself incredibly lucky, because every woman I know is nodding her head and saying, "Yep, that's happened to me too."

I've seen a lot of questions about Dr. Ford story. One, in particular, is why can't she remember important details? Well, let me tell you about my story. I can remember where it was, because it was a party at my off-campus apartment in college. However, I attended many parties in college at random houses and barns and fields. (What can I say? It was Iowa.) I caught rides with people, I had half-assed directions sometimes and rarely did I know an exact address. This incident had to occur during my my last two years of college, because those were the only years I lived off-campus. I have no idea what day or month it was. I'm guessing fall or winter, because I remember I was wearing jeans.

My roommate and I invited several friends over. At one point I needed a restroom so I made my way to the only bathroom. I could draw you a map of my apartment, there wasn't much to it. The bathroom was down the hall between the two bedrooms in a secluded hallway, away from the kitchen and living area. There was music playing. I have no idea what song. There was a TV on. I have no idea what was showing. People were talking and laughing and having fun. I couldn't hear distinct words, but conversations were happening. I went into the empty bathroom, swinging the door shut behind me. As I turned to lock it, I was surprised to hear the door lock behind me. There was a student I knew well standing between me and the door. He was someone I thought was my friend. Someone who was well-respected on campus and well-liked. He was incredibly drunk and he had a weird look on his face. My first instinct was that he was lost. That he didn't realize the bathroom was occupied. But before I could even ask what he was doing in the bathroom with me, he moved quickly and shoved his hand down the front of my jeans. 

He grabbed me by the pussy.

I was stunned. I could barely comprehend what was happening to me. I'd never been assaulted like that before and I'd never had any man touch me so intimately without consent. My mind raced. The door was locked, the party was loud. No one would hear me scream. My initial reaction was to cower and to let him get it over with. 

And then I thought, NO!!!! He's going to have to fight me at least.

"Get your hand out of my pants," I said.

He sneered at me. "Or what?"

That's when I shoved my hand down his pants. I found his testicles and I cupped them in my hand. He was surprised by my change of heart. He smiled, thinking I was there to play. "Or I'll rip off your fucking nuts," I said, twisting. 

He was livid. He let go of me and shoved me away from him. He called me a "Fat fucking dyke." He told me that he was doing me a "favor" and that I should be "grateful" for his attention.

I don't remember how I got out of that bathroom. I just know that I was prepared to do whatever it took to keep him away from me. I was ready to bite and claw my way out if I had to. I don't remember what I did, but I got out unscathed.

When I emerged from the bathroom with him behind me, I remember making eye contact with several of my male classmates who were congregated in the hall. I can't remember any names or faces today. I know I looked enraged and mortified and terrified, but not one of them asked me if I was okay. I didn't shut down the party. I didn't call the cops. I didn't do anything other than find my roommate and ask her to come to the bathroom with me, because I still had to pee. If you asked her about this night, she wouldn't remember, because this wasn't an important night to her. This was one of many parties we threw, and there would be no reason for her to remember that night.

I also didn't report this, because I'd been trained to think this wasn't a "big deal" it wasn't like he raped me. That "boys will be boys." I was a nobody. I was the snarky girl with the big mouth. He was an athlete who brought in donations to the college. I knew I'd never be believed or taken seriously. However, if I saw this now-40-something-year-old man's name on a short list to be a Supreme Court Justice, you bet your ass I'd report. Because I would want the people of the United States to know that a man applying for a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land has a problem with consumption, with aggression, with women. No, I don't have a DNA sample I took that night or photographic evidence of his hand down my pants, but my word should be enough, because most women have a very similar story. Most women recognize and see their own story in mine.

I think about the young men outside the bathroom that night. Did they know what he was doing in there? Did they see him go in after me? Did they think I wanted him to come in or did they know he was going in without my knowledge? I used to give people the benefit of the doubt. I used to think, "Surely they didn't realize what was happening to me. Surely they didn't understand what his intentions were when he followed me in or they would have intervened." But now I'm not so sure. 

That's why I'm working on raising a boy who will be the one who recognizes a woman in trouble. Who will step in and intervene and help her. It's not easy, because I feel like all I do is lecture him about consent and restraint and empathy and leadership, but I can't stop. I am responsible for sending out a good man into the world. My son is a teenager now. He's bigger than me. He's stronger than me. He's faster than me. Sometimes he holds me too tightly or won't release a hug when I feel uncomfortable and ask him to let me go. That's when I talk to him about consent. That's when I talk to him about reading verbal and nonverbal cues. That's when I talk to him about communicating and listening to others. Yes, part of me is worried about him being falsely accused someday, but frankly, I'm more worried about my daughter being raped. The statistics are against her more than they're against him. I found a really thorough and detailed thread on Twitter that goes into these facts and I highly recommend you click and read.

Here's the thing, ladies, we can make the future female. Together with our daughters and our sons, we can make the change. We can raise strong girls and boys who recognize that justice and equality are what makes America great. We can raise girls and boys who respect one another and treat one another with dignity and kindness. I'm still calling my representatives and demanding that Judge Kavanaugh not be appointed to the Supreme Court and I'll vote and campaign for my candidates in the mid-terms, but I'm only one person and I can't control these things completely. The one thing I can control is how I raise my kids. I'm teaching my daughter to be a badass, and I'm also teaching my son to be a decent human being.

There have been many calls for empowering women and I have a suggestion for you. Buy this book. I published this book because it was important to me to showcase strong, fearless female voices in a time when we're being silenced more and more. I chose poems and essays from girls as young as 12 dreaming of the future when they are our leaders as well as work from older women sharing their wisdom and hope for their children. Get this book and support these females and amplify their voices.  

Bic for Her Pens

Today I heard about the most stupid fucking pen on the planet.  The Bic for Her.  (I know, I know, I'm a little late to this party.  I've been under a rock lately and I missed this one.)

Yup, the pen maker Bic has decided that their regular pens are not good enough for a woman.  Or maybe they think they're too good.  Or too complicated.  Or too ugly.  Or too masculine.  Or something like that.  I actually don't know why they got the idea to make a pen specifically for women.  Does that mean that all other pens are made for men?  Ugh.  That is just way too deep for me to wade into and it makes my head hurt.  So instead, I'll just imagine how this meeting of the minds went:

Man 1:  Gentlemen, I'd like to call this meeting to order.  Our first agenda item is the pressing need I've seen for a pen designed specifically for women and I'm happy to report we are on track with our developments to meet that market.

Man 2:  Wait.  What?

Man 1:  Has your wife not complained?

Man 2:  I'm not married.

Everyone:  Ohhhh.  

Man 3:  Yes, well that makes sense then.  All of our wives won't stop complaining about the regular ballpoint pens we bring home.

Man 2:  What is there to complain about?

Man 1:  They're too hard to hold.

Man 3:  They're embarrassing to be seen with.

Man 4:  They're ugly colors.

Man 5:  They clash with her clothes.

Man 3:  They're bulky and masculine.

Man 2:  I see.  I don't know.  I may not be married, but I have lots of female friends and I've never heard anything like this.

Man 1:  You're joking, right?

Man 2:  No.  Not at all.

Man 3:  It's a real problem and we're the only pen company taking it on.  Women will send us thank you cards -

Man 4:  Written with a pen designed just for her needs!

Man 3:  Of course!

Man 2:  OK, so what does the new lady pen look like?

Man 1:  Uhh...we're thinking of calling it the Bic for Her.  "Lady pen" is a bit degrading, don't you think?

Man 2:  Oh, sorry. 

Man 1:  It's OK, just please be respectful of the ladies who will buy this pen.

Man 2:  Fine.  What is it like?  What makes it womanly?  Can I say that?

Man 4:  Oh, it's awesome!  It's pink - 

Man 3:  Or purple!

Man 1:  Right.  Actually, pink, purple, peach.  All colors women like.

Man 3:  It's retractable.

Man 4:  Y'know, that way she has fewer steps before writing.

Man 1:  Anything to make life easier for her is good in my book!

Man 5:  And no caps to lose.

Man 1:  My wife is always losing the caps to our pens!

Man 3:  Don't forget the best part:  the fun comfort grip.

Man 1:  Women like to have fun when they're writing.

Man 3:  And it's comfortable - bonus!

Man 2:  How much will they cost?

Man 1:  Well, now that's the thing.  It's going to be a bit more than our other pens.

Man 4:  About twice as much.

Man 2:  How come?

Man 3:  That fun comfort grip doesn't come cheap!

Man 1:  And we put a lot of money into product development.  Coming up with feminine colors and the solution to all those lost pen cost us a lot in R & D.

Man 5:  Plus, it's the first and only of it's kind.  We're trailblazers!  The ONLY pen designed just for women.  Women will pay for that!

Man 2:  What about men?  What if they want to buy it?

Man 1:  Why would he want to do that?  Is he a pussy or something?

Read the hilarious reviews about this pen here and here.

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Asian Men Who Are Not Crazy Rich Are Hot Too

Years ago if you'd asked young, single Jen about her dream guy, the list would have been something like:

  1. Intelligent.
  2. Kind.
  3. Hilarious.
  4. Cute.

“White guy” wasn't on that list, but it was implied because I was a Midwestern suburban white girl who didn't have a lot of exposure to other cultures. When I imagined my future babies, they were blond-haired and blue-eyed.

I logged onto America Online one fateful night in the early 1990s and started a random chat session with a guy in New York City named Ebeneezer.

We met in a chat room devoted to 80s movies. We sat up late into the night discussing which John Hughes film was “like, totally the voice of our generation” and which Star Wars movie was the worst.

Soon our conversations veered away from movies and into our personal lives. Before you knew it, we were commiserating about dead-end jobs and sharing our hopes and dreams.

I found myself looking forward to our chats and many nights I'd choose to stay in so I could hang out online with Ebeneezer.

We'd been chatting for a few weeks when Ebeneezer asked me: “You're white, right?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“Cool. I'm Chinese,” he replied.

I didn't respond right away, because I was embarrassed. Embarrassed by my assumptions. What is that delightful rhyme you are taught as a youngster about assuming? Yeah, I felt like that. I had assumed Ebeneezer was white too. It never occurred to me he wasn't, because I assumed that everyone was white unless they told me otherwise. Our first exchange was first names, ages, and locations. Neither of us had asked about ethnicity and we'd never seen a photo of one another. (Keep in mind, these were the 1990s, children, when Facebook was but a gleam in school-aged Mark Zuckerberg's eye and people didn't have smartphones with cameras. If you wanted a picture of yourself to show online, it was a whole thing. So instead, you chatted with strangers without knowing what they looked like. I know. Gasp!)

“Hello? Still there?” Ebeneezer asked.

I recalled conversations with friends where we discussed the hotness of boys in our class and whenever we'd get to an Asian boy someone would inevitably say, “Yeah, I'm not really into Asian guys. Like, Asian girls are pretty and I get why guys like them, but Asian boys just aren't my thing.” And we'd all nod like automatons. Ebeneezer's personality was huge and I found him interesting, entertaining, and intelligent, but I wasn't into Asian guys. Right? The blond Viking I'd imagined on the other end of the line was replaced with an image of Long Duk Dong, because that was the only vision I had. There had never been an Asian romantic lead I could conjure up. You're ridiculous, I told myself. You realize you're a chubby chick, right? I doubt “fluffy” is on Ebeneezer's must-have list and yet, here we are. If you two met at a party, you'd both think you're not into one another because of some dumb criteria you made up. Mr. Darcy can totally be Chinese, dummy!

“I'm here,” I replied.

Twenty-plus years later Ebeneezer and I have two kids together and I am very conscious of how they see themselves portrayed in pop culture. Over the years I've had several meetings about turning my People I Want to Punch in the Throat series of books into a television show. We'll get through the initial meetings where they tell me my voice is strong, unique, and different and how there's nothing else like it and then they'll drop the bomb: “The husband can't be Asian.”

“But these stories are nonfiction based on my real life,” I'll say. “My husband is Chinese American.”

At this point I'm given a few lame excuses, and once I heard, “Frankly, there are too many Asians on television. I can't sell it.”

I was furious and heartbroken. I raged, cried, and cursed.

My husband, on the other hand, sat quietly and watched me meltdown. When I was done and finally came up for breath, I wailed, “Why aren't you mad?”

He shrugged. “Because this is the way it is.”

When I stumbled upon Kevin Kwan's Crazy Rich Asians, the hilarious title immediately caught my eye. I read it in one sitting. After that, I recommended that book to anyone who asked (and even to people who didn't, because I'm annoying like that). I couldn't help myself. I'd finally found a book starring a sexy, intelligent, kind, charming Asian man at the center of a love story.

“You're just like Nick,” I told Ebeneezer. “Except he's rich.”

We are not a family who rushes out to the theater on opening day of any movie. We don't like to put on pants and leave our house and we don't like crowds, but I was ready to make an exception for Crazy Rich Asians. Unfortunately, the release date coincided with the first day of school. We had so much going on, I didn't see how we could make it work. I almost postponed when the phrase, “Representation matters” popped into my head.

I'd heard that phrase over and over again from the diverse group of writers I follow online. But what did it really mean? I see myself in almost every family sitcom or fabric softener ad. But what about my family? I went online and I found four tickets for an afternoon showing on opening day.

I texted the kids to come out of school right away and we were the first car in the pickup line.

When my two bewildered kids climbed in the car, my son asked, “Why the all caps texts?”

“We're going to see Crazy Rich Asians,” I said. “Buckle up, we have 18 minutes until show time.”

“But it's a school night,” my daughter protested.

“And I have baseball practice,” my son argued.

“We have a two and half hour break,” I said.

My son shook his head. “What is going on, Mom? Why are you acting like this?”

Ebeneezer nodded. “Yeah, why are you making such a big deal? I'm Asian and I'm not as excited as you.”

That's because my husband gave up long ago. If he wants to see an Asian leading man, he will watch action movies from Hong Kong or Korean dramas. But I refused to give in and accept that as the future for my children. “I'm making a big deal because it is a big deal. I want you three to see what it feels like to see yourselves on the big screen and not as the Kung Fu specialist in a bank heist movie.”

Ebeneezer rolled his eyes but didn't argue. (He knows better by now.)

A few hours later, as we sat in a dark theater watching a handsome Asian man sweep a beautiful Asian woman off her feet, I glanced at my family. There were tears in my husband's eyes. My stoic, unflappable Chinese husband was crying. My son, who has the attention span of a gnat, was riveted by the story. And my daughter, the adventurous one, whispered, “I want to go to Singapore!”

Was the movie great? Did it live up to the book? Honestly, I have no idea. I wasn't even watching the movie with that in mind. I was there to support my family. I was there to show them that they matter and their stories matter.

Crazy Rich Asians didn't have the same impact on my kids as it did Ebeneezer, because they're being raised in a multicultural world where books and movies feature protagonists who look like them. Of course, it's a very small portion of what's being produced and there aren't enough of them, so that's why it's so important to shine a light and celebrate them when they're made. That's why I jumped through hoops and squeezed every last minute out of our schedule that day. We all needed that. Even me. I realize there wasn't a plump white lady in Nick's arms, but I needed to see other white women in our crowded movie theater swooning over an Asian leading man. I needed them to see what I see what I already know: Asian guys are hot too.

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10 Simple Self-Care Ideas

I was recently asked what I do for self-care.

"Self-care?" I scoffed. "What's that?" My husband had been out of town for several weeks and I was doing all the jobs: mom, dad, chef, chauffeur, cleaner, bill-payer, etc. I wasn't getting enough sleep, enough vegetables, or enough alone time. (Not even at bedtime since my kids were camping out on the floor of my bedroom so we could make memories and all that good stuff.) Self-care was the very last thing on my mind.

"Yes, do you exercise? Meditate? Paint?"

The conversation was stressing me out. Who knew self-care was so stressful?? 

To me, the idea of working out didn't sound like self-care. I know I'm supposed to set a good example for my kids, though. They should see me with a running high and think, "I want that too!" Instead, they see me with a donut and they're like, "I want that too!" Hmm...I could get off the couch during commercials, though, and do some crunches or something. That would be beneficial. 

That got me thinking: The kids are back in school this week. I now have hours that I spend flitting around on the internet with no one begging for attention or a ride to the mall. I could use some of that time for self-care. I could show my kids that it's just as important to take care of myself as it is to take care of them. Because if Mama isn't happy, nobody's happy. But did I really want to make yet another list I'd probably give up on? I could take baby steps and make a list of small, easy, manageable self-care steps. 

But I had no idea where to begin. What is self-care? Besides yoga and running, what else counts as self-care? I wondered. I decided to do what I always do when I don't know the answer: I Googled that shit. I found tons of helpful lists out there and they inspired me to make my own.

Here's a list of some self-care things I'm committed to trying this year:

1. Read a book. Done and done. I decided to set the bar low at the beginning so I'd really feel like I was accomplishing something. It's like when you make a To-Do List and the first item is "Make a list" and you can cross that off right away.

2. Take a bubble bath. Ooh, I do that a lot too, I like to be clean and bubbly. Self-care is easy! I'm killing this list!

3.  Take a walk. My first thought was, "To where?" Are we walking to the park? To the store? I'm a goal-oriented person and I need a goal and I need a reward. For instance, I would totally walk a mile to the ice cream shop. I decided to walk around the neighborhood and look at the clouds (another suggestion on many lists, so now it's like having two self-care items in one). 

4. Edit your social media friends. Hmm, this could be a good one for me. I'm surrounded by a lot of online toxicity these days and it would be nice to purge a bit. I wield the ban stick pretty freely, but I still keep around a lot of people who bring me down. It wouldn't hurt to cull the list.

5. Cook a fancy meal. This is going to be really hard for me. I'm a terrible cook. I don't enjoy cooking. I wouldn't find it at all relaxing or entertaining, but maybe if I just let go of all my fears and expectations of burned food, I'll see that cooking can be fun??? I don't know. I'll keep you posted on that one.

6. Hug someone for at least 15 seconds to boost the immune system. I think I hug people a lot, but I probably don't hug for a full 15 seconds. I'm going to start paying more attention to the hugs I give. To be present and to really mean it when I hug someone.

7. Skip household chores guilt-free for an entire day. After walking, cooking, and hugging, I decided I needed another easy one and this one sounded doable. 

8. Laugh. Okay, this is one I do daily. I didn't realize it counted as self-care, so I guess I do practice self-care! Yay, me! Seriously, though, there are so many benefits to laughing. We are living in an uptight, sandy, pissed-off world and we need a release. Laughter can do that for you. My goal every day is to make people laugh and to make sure that I laugh too. We have to laugh at ourselves and we have to laugh at our circumstances or we will probably explode. It's true, that's science, folks.

9. Do a mini-declutter. The key word here is "mini." You don't have to KonMari the shit out of your closet, but you know you've got some jeans in there from 1997 that are never going to work for you again. Get rid of 10 items and call it a day.

10. Light some candles and enjoy a glass of wine. This one came up a lot on various lists I found. Wine and alcohol always seem to be a go-to for people when they're thinking about self-care. I don't disagree that a glass of wine at the end of a long day can be deeply rewarding, but I think we have to be careful of the quantity we're consuming. And for me, it wouldn't even be every day. I don't plan to do anything else on this list daily--except read--so I can't plan to unwind with wine and alcohol every day either.

I think this list is a good start. I found a lot of other simple changes I can make, too. Like just sitting for five minutes or turn off all distractions and watch nature or driving aimlessly with the radio blasting. All of these are easy re-charges for busy, over-worked, stressed out women and I encourage you to make a list that works for you. Like, if running a marathon and knitting scarves are your thing, then you do you. Just make sure that you're mindful of what you're choosing to do to care for yourself, because our kids are watching and they're learning from us. 

What do you do for self-care? Leave me a comment.

This post was sponsored by and I am part of the #Asklistenlearn blogger program. All views and opinions are my own. Thanks to for always encouraging me to find ways to talk to my kids about important topics.

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