Things My Dad Was Right About: A List

In honor of Father's Day, I'm going to acknowledge things my dad was right about and post them here. I won't tell him to his face because that would just be too much to bear. The grin, the knowing look, the focused gaze when he gives a future piece of advice, remembering that once upon a time I admitted weakness. But my dad is freaking awesome, as anyone who knows him will say. This apparently includes the man at the convenience store in the town where we grew up, who tracked me down on Facebook just to ask me how Dad is and to say hello for him. This man has passed much knowledge to his kids (and anyone in earshot) over the past years, and I figured I'd capture some of it and share it.  

Things My Dad Was Right About 

1. Buy your car in silver or gold colors. It shows dirt much less and you won't have to get as many car washes.

2. Always be organized and clean. People will respect you more.

3. Never bet "max" on the slot machine when all the lines are empty. Nothing good will come up on the next spin.

4. Save money. It doesn't grow on trees. Don't waste it. You'll be sorry.

5. If you buy an article of clothing you love and it's a reasonable deal, purchase it in multiples and save them. When you wear the one you love so much out, you'll have a backup and by then it may be out of production.

6. Pay your credit card bill balance completely, every single time.

7. If you couldn't buy it with cash, you probably shouldn't be buying it.

8. Always carry cash.

9. The main food groups are soup, salad, coffee and ice cream. Everything else is just because you people made me eat it. Ok, that last sentence is paraphrased, but I'm 100% confident he would gladly claim it as his own.

10. Carry mints.

11. The power of the nap.

12. Get educated.

13. Don't say bad things about people.

14. There is no shortcut. The only way you can successfully trade on the stock market long term is by fully understanding and studying the companies you invest in.

15. When you buy something, ask yourself "Do I NEED this?" Ideally ask it to yourself as if your dad is standing in the aisle of Target with you, questioning you before allowing you to make the purchase.

16. McDonald's coffee is excellent.

17. Don't subscribe to more than 2 magazines. Be honest with yourself, you don't read them.

18. Weigh yourself constantly and if you see something you don't like, act immediately. (He's been the same weight or less my entire life)

19. You throw too much stuff out. Think carefully about how you can repurpose every scrap of cardboard, every container.

20. Cell phones are bad for you. You don't really need one as much as you think you do.

21. Make sure you have chemistry with the person you're with. It's important.

There's a lot more, but I guess the edge on having him as my pops means I don't have to share it all in one swoop.  Grateful for him, and grateful to mom for choosing him! I'm sure I'll write a similar post on her one of these days too. For now, signing off with Happy Father's Day wishes to any of you out there who are celebrating with your families. Thanks to all the dads raising the future generation- they give us hope!

Confessions of a Juice Detox Quitter

Before I start, and as an advisory note to my blog's drive-by haters, let me define "quitting" - it happened 2.5 days into my 3 day detox, in my defense. And, as you'll read below, it's not because I'm a wuss.

Last year, a friend of mine highly recommended the Ritual Reset cleanse by Ritual Wellness in Orange County. I filed it in the back of my mind. Juice cleanse? That was some heavy stuff, not my style. Give up food? I think not.

Fast forward a few months, and my bff asked me if I'd do a juice cleanse with her. Given that we run races together every month and have done numerous insane physical endeavors together, I figured if I was ever going to take it on, the time was here. So we signed up for Ritual's Seasonal Cleanse and got ready for - well, we didn't know what. 

Confessions of a bad pre-cleanser
The Week and Night Before
Things not to eat before you cleanse? Jack in the Box. I was on the run, and tried to get a healthy food item (a chicken pita). Ok, and fries. But after a few fries, I threw them away! In any case, that's probably not the drive thru you should be hitting 24 hours before going into juice-only mode. Learn from my mistakes. Did I mention that I met up with a visiting Jon Yang at Extraordinary Desserts? Had berries with lemon curd and decaf coffee. I'd been warned that ditching caffeine is the hardest part of detox, so I figured I'd work ahead - I started tapering down a few weeks before and thought I'd be close to ready to go.  Jon actually took a picture of me eating that night, but I'm not posting it here because I look stoned. Which is apparently how I look if I'm not powered by coffee

Detox Juice Cleanse Day #1
Our Ritual Cleanse arrives!
Ritual offers to have your juices couriered to you between 12-6am the morning of your cleanse. In my idiotic decaffeinated stupor, I had messed up the address (uh oh, it was already happening...), but Byron called J and made the delivery. When J & I returned from spin class that morning (oh yeah, we were ambitious that first day) our cooler bags of juices were there. All 18 of them plus 2 juices in case we decided to work out during the cleanse (we wouldn't).

We broke open juice 1 of the Reset Cleanse, an organic mix of kale and other green loveliness.  And I went off to work!  I was feeling good and clean and knew I was doing something great for my body.  Ready to do it!

By lunch I was feeling a little foggy/slow, which surprised me since I don't usually eat a big breakfast.  Lunch included a meeting with some 
Lunch with the guys. Guess which one's me.
business colleagues. Two men whom I had warned ahead of time I wouldn't be joining in eating.  A photo of our lunch table. Not photographed: Mikel making fun of me all through lunch and offering me bites of his veggie burger. A frequent faster, he assured me it's par for the course.

I went back home and kept back at work. I was feeling slow and the headaches were setting in, but I kept reminding myself that that's how detox works. The worst part about day 1 was the headaches and fogginess. I just felt like a space cadet, and probably would have felt crazy if I didn't have a friend to compare symptoms to. By 7pm I was completely exhausted and started feeling rough. I figured sleeping early (yes, 9pm) was the way to go. I was ready to break into the last juice of the day, #6, which is a nut milk and rather filling. I sipped it in bed while my eyes drifted to sleep. Day one, done!

Day 2
It felt great to wake up and see the line of bottles on the counter. One day done, no biggie! I had this.  I was feeling lightheaded and I definitely had a headache, but I'd be ok. Exercise was definitely not happening, so I shelved the "Shred" supplement juices I had ordered when I was my old, optimistic self.  I began sipping juice one and got on with my day. At my first meeting, I realized that I was barely coherent and found it difficult to have conversations through the veil of my headache. I explained to the lady I was meeting with what was going on (girl to girl, you can do this stuff).  I hung in there as long as I could, but couldn't wait to go home and take a nap! (Yes, working from home has its benefits!)

one day down!
After a nap and some Advil, I felt MUCH better. In fact, I started to feel splashes of that euphoria people always say they have on a cleanse. I hadn't felt it once, but I started to feel very clear. I took advantage of it and sat at the computer, cranking out my first really good work in 2 days. I even started to admit to some other friends what I was doing. I had this in the bag. If this is what detoxing is, sign me up! I can get behind this!

By 10pm I started to wind down and the headache was coming back, but I was feeling capable and at least I'd had a glimpse of what people always rave about with cleanses. Only one day to go...

Two days, down!
Day 3: The Beginning of the End

I woke up with a raging headache and realized I'd had one most of the night. Had I even really slept? I moved myself to the couch with juice #1. I was almost done! I could do this. Bad toxins, begone!  I tried to drink some water. And next thing I knew, I was... throwing up. Violently.

Photo from a deathbed
I had heard different things about detoxes - that you'd spend quality time in the bathroom (maybe with some cleanses, but this one is based in food, so no), that you pee a lot (obviously), and that you'd have headaches.  But nowhere had I read that you'd throw up so violently that you'd consider going to urgent care.  I probably wouldn't have been surprised if I'd experienced it early on, but I'd felt pretty ok, so I got worried. But I wanted to be a trooper, so I went back to the fridge for Juice 2, a tasty pineapple juice, and next thing I knew, I was vomiting again. I scared the HELL out of the housekeeper, that's for sure. I moved myself to the couch (my place of refuge) and slept. After a few hours, the headache was only getting worse. I knew that my body needed electrolytes and something it could keep down. 

Barfing and feeling like This was starting to feel like a terrible hangover without the awesome stories or debauchery.  The following conversation ensued:

Me: "Lilly, why are you pushing yourself to continue this?"
Me: "I want to do this! I want to be healthy and learn better eating habits, and rid my body of toxins!"
Me: "Do you feel healthy right now?"
Me: "Um, no."
Me: "Did you learn what you wanted to learn?"
Me: "Yes."
Me: "Do you want to land in the urgent care explaining to a doctor that you overdid it on a juice cleanse? Do you want to be THAT girl?"
Me: (hangs head in shame) "No"

It was time to break up with my cleanse.

I knew my electrolytes were suffering, so I ate a few saltines and drank Pedialyte, and I passed out. I felt better, but not great. I had more saltines, so I could down a much-needed Advil. When I awoke, I was 90% old me. I could think straight, I felt optimistic about life!

Now, I'll admit, I'm drinking #4, a cayenne lemon water, as I type this. I learned a LOT in 2.5 days of doing detox, but it wasn't worth pushing myself through another 8 hours just to say I did.  I regret that my first "real" food had to be saltines, but I wasn't about to add the price of a doctor's visit to the price of my fancypants juice.

I emailed with Ritual this evening and they responded very quickly-and compassionately. Because I felt better after having saltines, we were pretty sure it was a severe detox symptom and not anything to do with their juices. I've already recommended this particular juice fast to other friends. If you're going to do it, you should do a quality pressed juice like Ritual's. They send encouraging emails throughout the days of your cleanse plus their customer service is excellent. And, like I mentioned before, I was miraculously NEVER hungry throughout the time I did their detox. Now that I'm feeling a bit better, I may even drink the nut juice before bed. Done and done!

What Juice Detox Fasting Taught Me:
*Coffee is awesome. In moderation. When detoxing from it makes you feel hungover, cranky, and shaky, that's a hold you don't want any beverage to have over you, no matter how tasty it is. This detox really opened my eyes to how much I relied on coffee for energy, and, sadly, how much coffee is responsible for my energetic personality :(

*How much junk we pass as "food".  Compared to many people I'm a pretty darn healthy eater. But yesterday (day 2) I walked by a burger place, a place I would have normally loved, on the way to my car-and got nauseous. I was floored that it's one of my favorite foods. Remember, I was the person at Jack in the Box just two days before. I'm sure I'll eat one again, I mean I'm a realist, but it made me realize how desensitized we get to what we eat and how food like that definitely doesn't need to be part of a regular weekly rotation. 

*How sweet natural foods taste. By Day 2, J & I were talking about how sweet the pineapple juice tasted- too sweet! The amount of sugar in our daily meals (many times snuck into your food by restaurants, making it tasty) had desensitized us to real sweetness. 

*How much I eat when I probably don't need to.  Of all the symptoms I felt during the cleanse, surprisingly hunger wasn't one of them. It kills me to admit that every women's magazine ever is right, but I guess I eat when I'm thirsty... or pissed. Trust me, people annoyed me while I was on my cleanse (probably heightened by my decaf-ing), but I couldn't reach into the pantry and hush them with a snack.  It made me realize how often I do that, and how easy it is to let things slide off your shoulders when you are so foggy that you couldn't give them attention even if you wanted to.

*Take on your crazy health endeavors with a buddy. Having someone else texting you back that they really DO understand your misery makes a difference.

*Try everything once. I never thought I'd pull something like this off, definitely not for 2.5 days, and while I probably wouldn't do it again, I'm glad I did it once. As with detoxing on crappy food, same with taking caffeine out of the rotation. It just gives you a glimpse of the other side and what is/not working for you.

As a parting gift, enjoy this hilarious clip about juicing.

RIP my cleansing days 

(Persian) New Year's: Resolution Redux

(Borrowed from SF Bay Area Persians' FB page)
This time of year, I'm grateful for being bicultural (American and Iranian). While everyone else descends into the pit of self hatred and despair that naturally follows the ambitious and frankly hilarious resolutions of Jan 1, I join "my people" in ringing in Nowruz, or Persian New Year.  My people don't do resolutions, so by March (we celebrate the first day of spring), I am pleasantly reminded that any decision to do so or to keep going with mine is entirely voluntary.

First, a quick recap of what Persian New Year is (taken from my Facebook post, which people may have appreciated if only because it gave them respite from me talking about how my weather is better than yours and the merits of the Journey frontman documentary (Yes, those posts happened. Maybe more than once...)

For my American friends: Persian New Year falls on the moment it turns to spring (which is why your crazy Persian friends were all up at 4am posting at vernal equinox.) We celebrate by preparing (cleaning) the house, then gathering with loved ones to ring in the moment, standing in new clothes by a table decorated with traditional symbols of happiness, health and success. Then we eat. A lot. The world's baklava consumption spikes on this day courtesy of us. The next 2 weeks are spent visiting as many people as we can, to greet the new year with them.

This holiday is the biggie for us - it's celebrated by everyone, regardless of religion - and it's a reminder of fresh starts and all the good to come. That's worth celebrating, don't you think? Happy New Year! (Norooz)

Persian New Year this year came at, oh 4:02 am. My family was feeling highly superstitious and sensitive after the recent and unexpected passing of my aunt, and so we decided to be sure to ring it in together at all costs. The siblings, the parents, we all got together in our new pajamas and welcomed the year with bleary eyes and big hearts and hugs.  So, my second new year now squared away, it's time to revisit where I am with resolutions.  My list, from January is here:

1. Learn Italian.
Started! Am signed up for the second course, even. Go figure that I got a lovely Italian teacher who a) speaks minimal English, meaning the entire class is in Italiano. Then go figure that we haven't really learned anything linear. Remember when David Sedaris' foray into French? Yeah, like that. 
Sciopero! Il pigiama! Capelli brizzolati! Pigro! (Strike! Pajamas! Salt and pepper hair! Lazy!)

2. Keep healthy but actually tempting foods at home - at all times. 
I wouldn't say "at all times" but I'm better about it! Now if I can just work on that whole "eating while standing up" thing. 

3. Double my business. 
On track.

4. Go to New Orleans.
I'm honoring my bucket list and booked the ticket shortly after the post. Going next week. 

5. Start volunteering again.
I'm talking to some organizations and hope to join a new one here in San Diego soon. Stay tuned (by which I mean, keep bugging me, so I do this).

6. Hands Up
My nails are long, perfectly manicured talons now and if someone starts to look a little too closely, I just do jazz hands. Problem solved.

7. Write Regularly
Obviously not. I am writing very regularly, just not for myself, not in the way I meant by my resolutions. I'm writing constantly for clients. So that's good and it means I'm spending my days largely doing what I love. But I'll get there. Need a routine.

8. Do
Doing it! I'm 10 movies, 7 books in. You think I watched the Journey documentary for my health?

9. Unplug more
Not yet. Not even close, although now I want to more. It'll come.

10. Get better at wasting time
I haven't gotten great at wasting time, but courtesy of my entire college experience, I'm sure I have it in me somewhere. I have, though, gotten better at prioritizing what's important to me. And that feels somehow more important.

New Year's Resolutions 2013

Time to do the recap of 2012's resolutions and see just where I fell. Here's my post from last year, with my list of intentions for 2012. Recap below, with commentary. (Always with commentary.)

Posting my new ones because there's nothing like publicly painting yourself into a corner. So now I have to see them through.


1) Do more yoga. I wanted to learn a headstand, which I did not get to. I did, however, for half of the year, go to hot yoga religiously.  

2) Don't eat standing up. Did so-so on this one. Eating on the run is apparently a way of life for me.

3) Do
Done and done! Read my recap of 50 books read and 50 movies watched here. I had wanted to finish reading Kundera's bibliography, but I got stuck on The Joke (still am). Maybe next year.

4) Go new places.
Did this! I didn't get to Africa or the California parks like I'd hoped, but I did get to Milan, Stuttgart, Lugano, and Lucerne, among others. Not complaining.

5) Find somewhere new to volunteer.
I found it, now I need to do it ;)

6) Respond to emails within 24 hours.
If you have emailed me over the past year, you are laughing as you read this. 

7) Use the phone more. Actually connect with people.
I actually did this!

8) Entertain in the home more.
Did not do this at all, outside of Celebrity Trash Book Club. Like, not even slightly. That's it, you're all invited over.

9) Travel with a guy I am excited to travel with. 
Last year I set a goal to go on an awesome vacation in 2012 - not with my girlfriends (amazing and fun travel companions though they are). And I did it. I had distinguished, awesome male company.  But note to me, next time I need to clarify that I want to travel with a man I am romantically involved with. Because said trip, while brilliant, was with my father. Har har, universe!  

But in a most literal sense I guess I can cross this off. Plus, going to see Germany through my Dad's eyes (he went to school there) was on my Bucket List, so I appreciate it on many levels. Done and done.

10) Develop a new talent.
As-yet undiscovered.

11) Write more.
Wrote a little bit more, including a new column for Zan Magazine which is a dream come true.  This year- even more. 


1. Learn Italian.
Already signed up. Here we go!

2. Keep healthy but actually tempting foods at home - at all times. 
If someone ever memorializes me in a painting, they wouldn't be off-base to do the flourescent glow of my face peering into a mostly-empty fridge after a long day at work. I want a full fridge, all the time! And when I say "actually tempting" I mean "not rice cakes". 

3. Double my business. 

4. Go to New Orleans.
I have been putting off a trip to New Orleans for years, and it's time to go sit in a bar and listen to some jazz. The bucket list so requires.

5. Start volunteering again.
I work with Real Medicine Foundation regularly, but I miss the hands-on volunteer experience. Going to get back into it this year, and may train to be a court-appointed special advocate for foster kids (CASA).

6. Hands Up
Had the horrifying realization that age shows on hands more than face. Must address promptly. My paws are NOT giving me away.

7. Write Regularly
If I applied the consistency of my coffee breaks to my writing routine, I'd be a pro by now.

8. Do
This ( was one of my favorite resolutions last year - obviously it's the one I really stuck to.  Can't wait to do it again. Which means I should probably start, so that December isn't spent in a full-on panic again.

9. Unplug more
I'm already dreading publishing this list because I already know the people who will make a snarky comment about this when I pick up my phone to check a text. I will unplug on my terms, but I will do it - regularly. I'm sick of my tracking device, aren't you?

10. Get better at wasting time.
Done living life in a rush, multitasking, etc. This year, we     b   r   e   a   t   h   e .
Time I spend being "productive" is better spent with family and friends, honestly.
"Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time."

Resolutions that did not make the above list:
-Lose the sarcasm
-Get a 6 pack (except the beer kind. That I will always be up for)
-Drink water (implies that coffee is not water?!) 2012: DONE!


They said it couldn't be done.
They called us crazy.
In some cases they just called us losers.

Me: "Dad, are you going to join us and do!"
Dad: "NO. Unlike you guys, I have a life!!!!!!"

My started like this - Jon Yang came up with this brilliant idea to read 50 books and watch 50 movies during the year. Inspired, I got the idea that not only would I want to join him (because it sounded like a massive nerdy undertaking, and therefore, just my sort of thing), but perhaps others would too. Looking at our site now, 355 people publicly signed on, with others doing it on the wings.

And here we are, one by one, crossing the finish line.

As you can imagine, my brain is a little bit fried (particularly as I lived the month of December in a state of college finals-style panic). But here's the list! ** denotes favorites.

1) The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Agatha Christie)
2) Knowing Your Value (Mika Brzezinski) **
3) Before I Go to Sleep (SJ Watson)
4) The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight (Jennifer E Smith)
5) The Tiger's Wife (Tea Obreht)
6) Yeah, I Said It (Wanda Sykes) **
7) Food Rules (Michael Pollan)
8) Ender's Game (Orson Scott Card)
9) Before the Mortgage (ed. Christina Amini & Rachel Hutton)
10) Divergent (Veronica Roth)
11) Lions of Little Rock (Kristin Levine) ** (Loved this one. Read my review here)
12) Stories I Only Tell My Friends (Rob Lowe)
13) StoriTelling (Tori Spelling)
14) Uglies (Scott Westerfield)
15) The Little White Care
16) L'Amant (Marguerite Duras)
17) Fifty Shades of Crap Grey
18) The Story Behind the Song
19) Scar Tissue (Anthony Kiedis)
20) Trinity (Leon Uris)
21) Trinity (Leon Uris. 900 pages)
22) But Enough About Me (Jancee Dunn)
23) Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn) **
24) I Feel Bad About My Neck (Nora Ephron) **
25) Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have) - (Sarah Mylnowski)
26) The Lover's Dictionary (Devid Levithan)
27) I Remember Nothing (and Other Reflections) - (Nora Ephron)
28) Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk (David Sedaris)
29) The Game (Neil Strauss)
30) The Girl in the Flammable Skirt (Aimee Bender)
31) As Husbands Go (Susan Isaacs)
32) Code Name Verity
33) The Giver (Lois Lowry)
34) Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (Mindy Kaling)
35) Where'd You Go, Bernadette? (Maria Semple)
36) More Baths, Less Talking (Nick Hornby)
37) Soulacoaster (R Kelly)
38) The Fault In Our Stars (John Green) **
39) How to Be a Woman (Caitlin Moran) **
40) The Affair (Lee Child)
41) Dave Barry's Complete Guide to Guys
42) Tiny Beautiful Things (Cheryl Strayed) ** (Obsessed. Read my review here)
43) Seriously, I'm Kidding (Ellen Degeneres)
44) Confessions of a Video Vixen (Karrine Steffans)
45) Maus (Art Spiegelman)
46) Not Dead & Not For Sale (Scott Weiland)
47) Cool, Calm and Contentious (Merrill Markoe)
48) In the Bag (Kate Klise)
49) Smut (Alan Bennett)
50) For the Love of Letters (Samara O'Shea)

You Are a Miserable Excuse for a Hero (Bob Powers)/ Choose Your Own Adventure for adults
The Moon Daughter, Zoe Ghahremani (Pub date: 2013)

1) Timer **
2) Absurdistan
3) Muppets **
4) Gattaca
5) A Separation **
6) The Artist **
7) In Time
8) W/E ** (one of my absolute favorite films this year)
9) The Joneses
10) Iron Lady
11) Friends with Kids
12) Being Elmo
13) Hunger Games
14) I Do
15) In the Land of Blood and Honey
16) Rue Cases-Negres
17) The Best Marigold Hotel
18) The Grey
19) Rock of Ages **
20) The Dictator
21) Little Manhattan **
22) The Intouchables (I haven't shut up about this since seeing it)
23) Dark Knight Rises
24) The Descendants
25) Serious Moonlight
26) Ruby Sparks
27) From Rome with Love
28) Up
29) Magic Mike
30) The Names of Love
31) Moonrise Kingdom
32) Mirror Mirror
33) The Runaway Bride
34) Argo
35) The Sessions (The only reason I didn't walk out of this movie was
36) First Position **
37) Katy Perry: Part of Me [oh no she didn't. oh yes, she did]
38) Limitless
39) Anna Karenina **
40) Dumb and Dumber (had somehow never seen this)
41) Manon des Sources
42) Out of Sight
43) Rebound
44) Still Bill
45) No Strings Attached
46) Five Year Engagement
47) Safety Not Guaranteed
48) Les Miserables
49) Lincoln
50) Happy

Post-Game Wrapup:
In what is no surprise to anyone who knows me, it was harder for me to get around to the movies than the books. People ask if we cheat and read children's picture books, etc. to get the count up. No, although I did foray into Young Adult books on a few occasions (The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green, is one of the best books I've read in recent years, actually). And I definitely generally found myself more willing to throw a book aside (or turn off a movie) if it wasn't doing the trick. Getting stuck and bored is one of the reasons people turn away from reading, I think, so I managed to avoid that almost completely.

In general I was so eager to hit the numbers that I gobbled up whatever came my way, which made it a much more interesting year of reading, taking in recommendations from other people at a pace I've never done before. In the end, it's a complete mash of topics and quality, but it was also, without a doubt, fun as hell.

I am most definitely signing on to do this for 2013. Starting tomorrow, in fact. No rest for the wicked, I say.

Why You Should Stop Everything and Read: Tiny Beautiful Things


I can list on one hand the number of books that have left me breathless and in tears.  The most recent is Cheryl Strayed's Tiny Beautiful Things, a compilation from her Dear Sugar column.  I had seen the book around, but didn't think much of it.  From the cover I thought it might be a shallow dating column from some women's magazine that was already full of enough junk advice that I didn't need more. How mistaken I was.

I opened Tiny Beautiful Things a couple of days ago and entered a world in which people write in to confess and and try to make sense of their sins, or their deepest fears and insecurities, or their latest personal tragedy, with a complete stranger who responds each and every time with a logic, compassion, and a tapestry of words so beautiful that I found myself literally breathless.

Although she could have just doled out some smartly-written advice, the brilliance in the column is in how far she goes into the trenches with her readers.  She scrapes up the very personal memories and stories, the lessons and experiences we, as strangers, have absolutely no right to access, and lays them before us, like a most patient teacher, so that we may learn something.  She doesn't flinch as she offers up her scars, so we can run a finger along them, perhaps even recoil, before looking again. Closely. 

While I have been reading Tiny Beautiful Things I have been consumed by the themes, the plot lines of the letters, and the stories Strayed used to convey her ultimate advice. Consumed, I tell you. I hadn't even finished the book before I'd bought a few copies to fire off to friends, and as I read I kept a mental tally of the others who will find it under their Christmas trees, in their birthday gifts, slipped to them in a moment when they need it most.

I realize I'm being vague here, and it's a conscious effort not to spoil the reading experience that I hope you will have after reading this.  I understood why certain topics hit home with me, but what of the others? How was I so affected by stories of marital infidelity, of grief after the loss of a child, of dealing with middle-aged body image issues, situations that couldn't be further from my realities?

This, my friends, is the key to good writing.  We often talk about fiction being transcendent, but I don't think we talk enough about nonfiction and its ability to bring us into other people's stories and lives and make us feel their pain for the moments we share. Dear Sugar's advice is directed at the person who has written in, but in the same way that a parent will say something to a spouse fully knowing the child is listening in.  It is written to them, but entirely for our benefit.

Under the layers of jealousy or greed or regret or guilt or anger, or the hundred other emotions swept onto these pages is an underlying theme that we choose how we live. We do not choose our circumstances or the hand we're dealt - and as you read letter pile up on letter, you realize that, no matter how wildly different our lives come out, everyone has problems, everyone has difficult choices to make. Although the details of our individual lives couldn't be more different, the themes are shockingly similar. 

I'm convinced that each reader will take something different away from this book. Me? This: We do not choose some of the detours or roadblocks or  forks in the road, but we choose how we proceed. We choose how much compassion and patience we bring to the most difficult circumstances. It isn't meant to be easy, but it can be done. Most importantly, we choose how we work forgiveness - of others and of ourselves - into the narrative of our lives. 

This book may, like me, make you tear up in public - repeatedly. But it will be worth every tightening of the chest, every locked-away story or memory that comes up to visit you. Promise.