Lisa writes: Mary Dell and I have read Becky Blades’ beautiful volume, Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone, and we love it. We don’t just love it because we have high school (and college!) graduates this year. We love it because it is the perfect gift of wit and wisdom for any girl/young woman, age 15-25, and because of the messages of empowerment, understanding and optimism Becky conveys. It is a little manual for life, and who doesn’t need that?
But Becky’s book is even better with some of the back story. Her slender and beautifully illustrated volume is very much a “mom story” that so many of us can relate to, and we had the pleasure of interviewing her to hear firsthand.
Interview With Author Becky Blades
Lisa: You say in the book that you wrote this as a reminder to oldest daughter before she headed off to Harvard? Why did she need reminding and why didn’t you just tell her what you had to say?
Becky: My firstborn, Taylor Kay, was a driven child, and busy, busy, busy. Every minute seemed so intense – with few of those hang-around-and-chat moments where topics just come up. When we WERE in the same room, I shared her attention with the crowd of people who were texting or Facebooking on her phone. Since she was working so hard, and I didn’t want every conversation to be an argument, I gave her a pass on that, and other things – like doing her laundry.
The morning she started her senior year, I looked into her room – which looked like a promo shot for TV’s Hoarders – and it hit me. “Someone will have to share a room with her.” Does she realize this is not okay? Who will want to live with her? Who will hire her? Who will marry her? I raised a smart woman who does not wear matching socks.
In my journaling that morning, I resolved to get better at my job, to very deliberately impart to Taylor and her 15-year-old sister, Tess, all the things they needed to know that school would not teach them.
For the next several days, I looked for teachable moments and crammed life lessons into every nook and cranny. And, I held a harder line on keeping their rooms clean and laundry done.
Can you imagine how that went over? Even the dog was avoiding me.
After a few days of journaling about my progress, I had my epiphany. I was grieving. Anticipating my daughter leaving made me cling to whatever control I thought I had left. And then came the irony: In trying to ward off the inevitable loss, I was losing the joy of my last year with her.
So I decided to zip it. I decided I would write about all the things that bothered me as they came up, and then, if the time ever was right, I would send her my ramblings in a letter.
Lisa: When you gave your daughter the advice you had saved up, she returned the favor? What did she say and what happened?
Becky: She wrote me back. And she gave me some advice.
She said, “Mom, you are always telling people to let their books out of them. (#67) This letter should be a book. You should use your art, and you should publish it before Tess graduates from high school.”
She then wrote a long e-mail that would make any mother sob – sloppy, snotty, let-me-use-your-sleeve sobs. Her letter was personal and private, but it began with this introduction:
“And, here is my book to you. A performance review, if you will, for your completion of a checkpoint of the most difficult job on the face of the earth. It’s also a thank you note. Because you told me that I should send those.”
So uhmm. Be right back. I need another tissue.
Lisa: Your daughter left for college three years ago. Have you found the kind of growing up that you hoped when you wrote your book?
Becky: Yes, I’ve grown up a lot.
Lisa: Your book is very, very funny. Is there a line that made you laugh out loud even as you wrote it?
Becky: Gee, thank you for the compliment on my humor. I am, by far, the least funny person in my house.
When I wrote “A bad attitude makes your butt look big,” I had to chuckle. But not because it’s so true, (which is probably scientifically provable). It’s funny because the idea came from a painting I did of my girls when they were little: Tess, age 4, holds a crown to her head and asks her big sister who is wearing a cone-shaped Renaissance hat “Does this tiara make my butt look big?”
Here’s a secret: every one of the 270 entries has a back story, an inside family joke or reason they came up. So they all make me laugh for all kinds of reasons. But most of them make me cry – even the ‘thank you’ page where I say my husband is “the best dad two girls and a Bichon could have.” Not sad, you say? Until you know that our Bichon dog died last year and my husband still isn’t over it. In these empty nesting years of watching our kids grow up and away, every loss is excruciating.
The Art of Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone
Lisa: One of the things that make your book so captivating is your humor, the other is your art. Tell us a little about your background as an artist and why you have illustrated the book the way you have using “mixed media”? And when will the posters be coming out?
Becky: I get to talk about art?! Are you really doing this?
After I sold my first business, a public relations firm, I was burnt out. I needed to reconnect with my inner artist and my inner French girl. So I began collecting French ephemera and making mixed media art. The humor crept in with the ephemera. (Look at a vintage French postcard and try to keep a straight face.) I have a blast writing fictional narratives as the images unfold. When my work sells in galleries, I always post the story as part of the description.
Most of the art in the book is from large art works long since sold. I have published two collections of greeting cards, but no posters yet. Which spreads do you think would make the best posters?
Lisa: Your biography says that you have “started 2,865 projects and finished 127.” Will your next book address procrastination?
Becky: My motto is “start more than you can finish.” So that quote is my shameless bragging.
Actually, this book addresses procrastination, but I don’t use that word in front of the children. I feel we shouldn’t be talking about what NOT to do, rather what we CAN do: start.
Entry #71 speaks to starting: “Don’t put off starting something because you aren’t sure you can finish it. If you get the urge to begin something – an article, a social movement, a letter to your mom – go ahead and start it. The creative energy is strongest at the inception of the idea; and when you get momentum going, you might just find the time and resources to take it all the way. Only one thing is sure to keep you from finishing: NOT STARTING.”
And interestingly, yes. My next book will be titled Startistry.
Lisa: If you had to sum your book up, what is the underlying message you are trying to give to your daughters and daughters everywhere?
Becky: As with art, I hope this book whispers a unique message to every person who sees it. And as a gift, its meaning will be enriched by the relationship between the giver and receiver.
My message to MY girls is “Here. Now I’ll be quiet.”
Lisa: Who do you see as the readers of your book?
Becky: I intended the book for young women, but as I sit with my contemporaries and jabber for hours about the topics, I think it may have a wider audience than I thought.
My 76-year-old mother tells me she thinks women her age should all read it. That makes me happy.
Where to Find Becky and Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone
Lisa: Lastly, where can our readers find you and your book?
Becky: The book releases April 1, 2014 nationwide. Requesting the book at bookstores will help make sure it gets stocked early.
In the meantime, invite your readers to LaundryorDie.com to leave some of their favorite advice. They can flip through some pages of the book and find links to pre-order.
Photo credit: 8183 Studio