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In the chapters below, we find ourselves really watching Shonda’s journey from perhaps yes being a whisper to it being a strong part of her life. It is what gets her out there, mind you on her terms, and it even does more than just makes her professional life better, but slowly it is having an effect on her personal one too. Especially the Yes moments of her past.

Chapter Summary (with Commentary)

Chapter 4: Yes to the Sun

With the Year of Yes slowly coming into full swing, so comes something Shonda rather hates: Publicity. She doesn’t get it, why anyone would want to talk to her, about her, and etc. Consider such thoughts the effect of having family who treats you as uninteresting. Yet, for ABC and Shonda’s publicist Chris Dilorio (Chris #1), they can’t wait to get her out there. Problem is, they are dealing with a woman as shy as a 12-year-old with a person they like. One who is a master, at this point, of sharing embarrassing stories to the point it is hard to tell if she tells us them so we can get to know her better, or so that she remains in this realm of seeming down to earth.

Which isn’t even necessary for between her U Penn mixer story, and then her telling us she is a stress eater, on top of her making it seem she needs to get back on her anxiety medication, she seems pretty normal to me. It is just she is someone thrust into very public situations. Which, of course, is a two-sided thing. On one hand, her life allows her to meet Oprah and presents one of the few times she can possibly impress her family members. Unfortunately, though, her anxiety pretty much has her black out anything that happens. I guess so she wouldn’t be overwhelmed to the point of legit fainting.

Yet, in her pursuit of saying yes, she finds herself with Chris presenting her greatest fear: Being live and filmed. This is scary, even with Shonda saying nothing but the best about Jimmy Kimmel and his people. So, to play on her competitiveness, and her keeping her word generally, Chris #1 decides to bring up the Year of Yes and ask if it is over? Was she just kidding? He didn’t know that was just something she was thinking about. Which of course upsets Shonda that he would pull that card, so she decides to compromise. She’ll do Kimmel, but the first time will not be live. It is something of a power move, but throughout the chapter you are left wondering why Shonda, who seems like a low-key control freak at times, would have a publicist? Well, him getting Kimmel’s people to do a taped interview is the reason why. For while Shonda is talented in many ways, some things she is just not adept at. One of those things is asking for something, which she doesn’t really want, without possibly seeming like an asshole maybe?

But rather than think of this as a power move, perhaps we should see this as her getting what she earned. She talks about Christina getting what she earned in Grey’s Anatomy and arguably, as much as the Shonda/ Jimmy thing could be seen as a power move, it really isn’t. She is a well sought after woman, one with 3 children, 2-3 shows at the time, and asking for a taped interview isn’t that much to ask. Hell, her asking for a meal with her interview isn’t much to ask. She has worked her ass off to get to where she has gotten so why not enjoy the possibilities of her status?

Chapter 5: Yes to Speaking the Whole Truth

At this point, I almost want to propose a drinking game for every time Shonda imagines something bad happening, or reminding us of an embarrassing moment in her life. I mean, you’d probably get drunk every time you read a chapter, but it could be fun right? That thought aside, 12-year-old, if not 10-year-old, Shonda appears. Reason being? It is May 29th and her speech at Dartmouth is on June 8th and she has a little hissy fit or just a plain attitude, so she makes it seem, whenever someone brings it up.

Yet, she made that commitment, she said she was going to do it, so she crafts a 20-30 minute speech. One which to her is just – inauthentic. I mean, she is an alumni, someone who was in these kids shoes 20+ years ago and now is a mother, like the parents in the audience. Which in itself is a topic she really focuses on in chapter 6, the issue of saying yes and what she calls “The Mommy Wars.” For this chapter’s summary, though, let’s focus on that speech.

First, here is the speech. Second, let’s just note this is perhaps the turning point in her Year of Yes. Roughly 6 months in she has gone from having anxiety attacks and fiending for the dust at the bottom of a Xanax bottle to speaking in front of a crowd for a graduation ceremony. No wine, no prescription meds, no dragging her to the podium. She walks up, breathes out, and uses a speech she made within the last 24 hours. Not the one which is noted as inauthentic, but the iconic one which notes dreams can suck it. Be a doer, not a dreamer. Pursue action, not hashtags and, in general, her speech is almost the anti-speech. It isn’t about optimism and talking about how you can do and have it all. It is realistic, it is frank, maybe corny at times because it is still Shonda’s words, but with stories of her having a tantrum, hypothetically pooping on stage, and yet reminding people that you can’t have it all, and to have some things you really want will require sacrifice, she brings it back around. Leaving you with a transcript that makes the video seem like a must watch.

Chapter 6: Yes to Surrending the Mommy War (Or, Jenny McCarthy Is My Everything)

As noted in the Chapter 5 summary, there is something in Shonda’s head called “The Mommy Wars.” To summarize, the mommy wars deals with the guilt which comes with being a fabulous mother, one her children certainly can look up to as a model, yet also be the mother who often times isn’t there for important moments. The mom who, especially in the year of yes, is now not around for she is enjoying the fruit of her labor. But more on that in the next chapter.

The focus of Chapter 6 is really about following up the idea that you have to make sacrifices for your success and for her it came in the form of not being able to be a Supermom. She thought she could with her first child, but trying to write a movie script (which goes unnamed) and take care of a baby? Well, even as determined as Rhimes is, she couldn’t do both. Enter Jenny McCarthy, a woman who basically is the polar opposite of the one you may have been thinking of. Rhimes paints her as ideal. Someone who is more than someone there when Shonda can’t, but someone who has a great influence on Rhimes. More is gone into that in the next chapter, but as for this one, just note she is the blessing which helps lessen Shonda’s guilt. In no way does it make up for her not coming to science fairs and missing first steps, but at least McCarthy gives Rhimes peace of mind.

However, McCarthy isn’t alone. A man named Chris, referenced as Chris #2, also is someone stable and reliant. In a way, he seems like Harper’s father figure and while this isn’t explicitly said, he minas well be. For years, since he became the young girl’s godfather, he has spent his Sunday with her. Even when he got married on a Saturday, the Sunday he was with Harper.

Possibly leading to the question, what did Shonda not see in him? They were roommates in college, and stayed in touch all this time so why was Chris #2 not an option? Well, like many things dealing with Rhimes’ romantic life, we are left in the dark. What we do know is, while she can barely stand the guilt she places on herself when it comes to the Mommy Wars, she doesn’t take it from others. In the book, Rhimes recounts a PTA meeting with this perfect PTA mom who she makes sound like a character in the making. She notes how this woman brought the hood out of Shonda. I mean, cursing in a PTA meeting hood. Which leads to her breaking down how much she hates people trying to dictate what motherhood is, especially in terms of making it seem like a job. I mean, there is a quote below which breaks it down, but it really doesn’t give you the full effect.

Chapter 7: Yes to All Play and No Work

While Chris #1 is ecstatic about his client actually listening to him, her children… not so much. This leads to her needing to shift her priorities. Work is important, but not as much as her children. On top of that, the benefits of her work are nice, but never as nice as spending, even if 15 minutes, with any of her children. Heck, spending 15 minutes by herself is fun.

Though it is her 3-year-old Emerson saying “You are still alive” which strike me the most in this chapter. That and we still aren’t sure, even after 7 chapters, what broke Shonda and made her into the person who needed a Year of Yes. Back to Emerson though. It is hard to tell whether this statement was the knife twisting, as she calls it when her kids make her feel guilty, or something with deeper meaning. I mean, Rhimes paints her kids as extroverts, which is the opposite of her, but they are still her kids nonetheless. Who is to say a 3-year-old, either accidently or on purpose, had a deep moment. One which could perhaps not be twisting the knife but noting, through all this change, she is still alive. I mean, maybe I’m giving a 3-year-old too much credit but, again, these are the children of Shonda Rhimes.


Things To Note

I must admit Shonda Rhimes’ literary idol being Toni Morrison seems slightly odd to me. Well, at least at first. For once you recount how tragic, but complex, Morrison makes her characters, you can see how her books likely influenced Rhimes. Especially in terms of sometimes having them go through brutal things, become broken, and yet somehow survive. Like Huck, from Scandal, could easily fit in a Morrison book. As could Annalise from How To Get Away With Murder. Though Rhimes doesn’t write scripts for that show.

Sometimes I legit wonder if there was a thought, even with us being halfway through the book, she still thinks we might be judging her negatively. Which I only say because with how open she is trying to be, or simply is, it is weird when she has a moment of telling us not to judge or is asking us not to. By now we know what we have gotten ourselves into. It isn’t like she hasn’t revealed what most people would only tell their best friend and closest family members.

Question(s) Left Unanswered

There are times when I’m honestly left how she feels about the business, in detail. The publicity thing she provides her insight, but what about things such as the writing 24 episodes a season? Is this just considered a challenge or a headache she doesn’t understand why she has to meet the quota of?

Collected Quote(s)

Chapter 7

[Give] yourself the permission to shift the focus of what is a priority from what’s good for you over to what makes you feel good.

— “Chapter 7: Yes to All Play and No Work.” Year of Yes
[…] what I’ve come to understand is that letting her know my full attention is available is more important than anything else.

— “Chapter 7: Yes to All Play and No Work.” Year of Yes
I am not a naturally optimistic person. I’m too in my own head to be a constant source of cheer. I have to work at happy. Dark and twisty is where my brain likes to settle. So I can use some reminders of what is good and optimistic and glass-half-full about this world.

— “Chapter 7: Yes to All Play and No Work.” Year of Yes

Chapter 6

I’m no longer looking for the enemy. So I no longer see the enemy. And so finally, in this year, I allow myself to fully lay down my weapons.

— “Chapter 6: Yes to Surrending the Mommy War (Or, Jenny McCarthy Is My Everything).” Year of Yes


Being a mother isn’t a job. It’s who someone is. It’s who I am. You can quit a job. I can’t quit being a mother. I’m a mother forever. Mothers are never off the clock, mothers are never on vacation. Being a mother redefines us, reinvents us, destroys and rebuilds us. Being a mother brings us face-to-face with ourselves as children, with our mothers as human beings, with our darkest fears of who we really are. Being a mother requires us to get it together or risk messing up another person forever. Being a mother yanks our hearts out of our bodies and attaches them to our tiny humans and sends them out into the world, forever hostages. If all of that happened at work, I’d have quit fifty times already. Because there isn’t enough money in the world. And my job does not pay me in the smell of baby head and the soft weight of snuggly sleepy toddler on my shoulder. Being a mother is incredibly important. To the naysayers, I growl, do not diminish it by calling it a job.
— “Chapter 6: Yes to Surrending the Mommy War (Or, Jenny McCarthy Is My Everything).” Year of Yes


…] doesn’t it feel like everyone else has figured it out? I don’t know about you, but it’s the idea that I’m not measuring up that gets me. I’m constantly worrying and wondering and feeling like I am failing because everywhere I look, everyone else seems to be thriving.

— “Chapter 6: Yes to Surrending the Mommy War (Or, Jenny McCarthy Is My Everything).” Year of Yes

Chapter 5

Who you are today … that’s who you are.

Be brave.

Be amazing.

Be worthy.

And every single time you get the chance?

Stand up in front of people.

Let them see you. Speak. Be heard.

Go ahead and have the dry mouth.

Let your heart beat so, so fast.

Watch everything move in slow motion.

So what. You what?

You pass out, you die, you poop?


(And this is really the only lesson you’ll ever need to know.)

You take it in.

You breathe this rare air.

You feel alive.

You are yourself.

You are truly finally always yourself.

— “Chapter 5: Yes to Speaking The Whole Truth.” Year of Yes


If I am succeeding at one, I am inevitably failing at the other. That is the trade-off.

— “Chapter 5: Yes to Speaking The Whole Truth.” Year of Yes


Tomorrow IS going to be the worst day ever for you.

But don’t be an asshole.

— “Chapter 5: Yes to Speaking The Whole Truth.” Year of Yes


[…] your entire life up until now has been about getting into a great college and then graduating from that college. And now, today, you have done it. Yay!


The moment you get out of college, you think you are going to take the world by storm. All doors will be opened to you. It’s going to be laughter and diamonds and soirees left and right.


What really happens is that, to the rest of the world, you are now the bottom of the heap. Maybe an intern. Possibly a low-paid assistant. At best. And it is awful. The real world, it sucked so badly for me. I felt like a loser all the time. And more than a loser? I felt lost.


— “Chapter 5: Yes to Speaking The Whole Truth.” Year of Yes



Maybe you know exactly what you dream of being. Or maybe you’re paralyzed because you have no idea what your passion is. The truth is, it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to know. You just have to keep moving forward. You just have to keep doing something, seizing the next opportunity, staying open to trying something new. It doesn’t have to fit your vision of the perfect job or the perfect life. Perfect is boring, and dreams are not real. Just … DO. […] Do until you can do something else.

— “Chapter 5: Yes to Speaking The Whole Truth.” Year of Yes


I think a lot of people dream. And while they are busy dreaming, the really happy people, the really successful people, the really interesting, powerful, engaged people? Are busy doing.

The dreamers. They stare at the sky and they make plans and they hope and they think and they talk about it endlessly. And they start a lot of sentences with “I want to be …” or “I wish …”



And they dream of it. The buttoned-up ones meet for cocktails and they all brag about their dreams. The hippie ones have vision boards and they meditate on their dreams. You write in your journal about your dreams. Or discuss it endlessly with your best friend or your girlfriend or your mother. And it feels really good. You’re talking about it. You’re planning it. Kind of. You are blue-skying your life. And that is what everyone says you should do. Right?




Dreams are lovely. But they are just dreams. Fleeting, ephemeral. Pretty. But dreams do not come true just because you dream them. It’s hard work that makes things happen. It’s hard work that creates change.

— “Chapter 5: Yes to Speaking The Whole Truth.” Year of Yes
I’m not revealing anything. I’m not sharing anything. There is nothing of me in here. I speak from behind a curtain. It’s like a magic trick—I open my mouth but you never actually hear me. You just hear my voice.

— “Chapter 5: Yes to Speaking the Whole Truth.” Year of Yes
[…] just by telling you it could happen, I have somehow neutralized it as an option. Like as if saying it out loud casts some kind of spell where it cannot possibly happen now.

— “Chapter 5: Yes to Speaking the Whole Truth.” Year of Yes


Chapter 4

She’d once lost herself in his orbit, revolving around him, desperately in need of his sun. She’d made herself smaller to accommodate his greatness. Now she has surpassed him. […] She has learned to not let go of the pieces of herself that she needs in order to be what someone else wants. She’s learned not to compromise. She’s learned not to settle. She’s learned, as difficult as it is, how to be her own sun.

— “Chapter 4: Yes to the Sun.” Year of Yes

The things that you can do when you are at the bottom of the ladder change as you move up. At the top of that ladder, doing many of those very same things makes you an asshole.

— “Chapter 4: Yes to the Sun.” Year of Yes

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