Office life: a lot like school?

Check out that cordless phone.

Check out that cordless phone.

Over these last few months, I’ve been thinking a lot about the different jobs I’ve had. I got my first job at 16, working as a hostess for Outback Steakhouse. At the time, I didn’t think I made much money, but looking back, the gig wasn’t so bad (restaurant minimum wage plus tip share).

My main job at Outback was to seat customers evenly among the waitstaff. I worked pretty hard to memorize the table map and keep on the good side of the staff — the ones that would put up with me. Other than that, I rolled silverware. And I did eat a ton of the Outback bread with honey butter. Don’t get me started on that high school metabolism!

While the money was good, of course, the hours sucked, and it was my first taste of restaurant life; one that isn’t necessarily fun or easy, but it’s a slippery slope. I also worked the front desk at a gym (which I was TERRIBLE at), worked at a scrapbook supply shop, served as a carhop at a Sonic-like place, and slung frozen custard at Ritter’s.

I have said it for years and I’ll say it again: if I could make a living selling glaciers and Boilermakers (two scoops vanilla frozen custard, pump of caramel, pump of hot fudge, whipped cream), I would do it TODAY.

While I am passionate about fine desserts, I loved working at Ritter’s because the people were so pleasant. Not only the employees (I worked at two different locations), but the customers were all so happy. No one is pissed off when they’re about to indulge in one of the finest treats on the planet.

But with Ritter’s, I felt it wasn’t just the product or the employees. It was about the entire franchise; that even though each location is owned and operated by someone else, it was developed with the mission of serving people something that was delicious and high-quality — something each and every employee could be proud of when they handed it out the window.

Sure, maybe I’m getting a little too serious about frozen custard right now, but when you really think about it, isn’t that the only joy we can hope for when we go to work each and every day? In my recent employment adventures, I’ve learned that there really ARE companies out there built upon principles that simply revolve around integrity, and in general, not being an asshole.

I’ve never thought of myself as a person who wanted, or really needed, to be liked. But I’ve also spent a lot of time being “okay” with that left out feeling; given the alienation slapped on my forehead as a creative in the world of cardboard boxes. There’s no denying it, I was really disliked at my old job. And whether that was because of my case of resting bitch face; my choice of clothing; or the giant Justin Bieber poster in my office, it probably had some effect on the way things ended.

As I embark on my new employment opportunity, I feel very lucky to find myself in an environment where integrity is a part of the company’s core values. There is no time for gossip, wallowing, or pettiness. Employees are not clocking in and clocking out — they are living and breathing the values each and every day in all they do. In general, they’re just not assholes. And they all happen to be passionate about similar things.

When this happens, you actually get a work environment that’s pleasant. What??? I was reading an article in Real Simple, “Why Your Office is A Lot Like Kindergarten,” that explains a few simple rules to make things work in the office. The main rule: don’t be an asshole. Honey attracts more flies than vinegar.

Sometimes, that’s easier said than done. I think it has to be built into the office culture — a culture of kindness, if you will. It’s not something you can force on people, and it’s definitely something that should be a part of the hiring process, because if you hire someone who’s a dick, it’s never going to change.

I general, I am a kind person. Sure, I can be a smart ass at times, but no one bitches about that. Perhaps, in my previous jobs, it was more about being not being accepted that gave me more of the vinegar effect. Just in case, I’ve decided to keep my Bieber poster at home.

Don’t hold it against me, Biebs.

Do I need a ‘work husband’?

Do I need a "work husband" to advance?

Do I need a “work husband” to advance?

Hey there! If you stopped by the blog yesterday and were disappointed to see the password-protected post, feel free to shoot me an email at holly@thebitterlemon.com (prove you’re not trying to spy on me or sue me) to request it. I wish there was a way to at least let followers read the blog, but WordPress isn’t THAT awesome yet. And hey, feel free to shoot me emails at anytime; I love to read.

Anyway, what I really wanted to talk about today is this: a recent article published by Fortune magazine, “The secret to getting ahead at work? Get a work spouse,” lists several reasons why I should probably get a work spouse.

According to the article, a work spouse can balance the duties of the job; allowing each team member to shine in her/her own way, while getting a TON of work done. It’s apparently a win-win.

I’m all for a winning situation at the office, but that phrase “work husband” or “work spouse” just bothers me. Something sounds so… Ashley Madison about it. Am I alone here? Take this, from the article, for example:

In many situations in our office marriage we have applied the life lessons learned over decades in our actual marriages, such as patience and commitment. The things we have in common – similar values, the joy we take in engaging with clients and developing relationships, and our devotion to community – have helped see us through.

I feel like the person who wrote that was a little more into it than anyone should be. An article published on AdWeek approaches the subject a little better, admitting there are pros and cons to having a work spouse.

  • Pro: the bond is second-to-none. Con: there’s a gray area between personal and professional.
  • Pro: greater productivity. Con: less productivity.
  • Pro: less stress for you. Con: animosity among others.

Not sure if your work friend qualifies as your work spouse? Have no fear, CNN is here with seven signs you have a work spouse:

1. You depend on a particular co-worker for office supplies, snacks and aspirin.

2. There are inside jokes that you and a specific co-worker share.

3. You can be bluntly honest with this person about his or her appearance, hygiene or hair (and vice versa). You’re comfortable enough to point out that the other’s hair is sticking up — or that someone’s fly is down.

4. When something eventful happens at work, this co-worker is the first person you seek out for a de-briefing.

5. At breakfast, lunch and coffee breaks, your closest co-worker knows what to order for you and how you like your coffee (and vice versa).

6. You and your co-worker can finish each other’s sentences.

7. Someone in your office knows almost as much about your personal life as your best friend or real-life spouse does.

…So, do you have a work spouse? If so, I’d love to hear about it! I don’t think I’ve had quite this serious of a “work” relationship, though I’ve definitely had something close. What these articles don’t address is the size of the office or the office culture where these types of relationships exist.

In smaller offices, focused on team work, I’m leaning toward the feeling that there’s not really a need for an exclusive “marriage” relationship. Thoughts?

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Celebrating the lady boss.

Act like a lady, think like a boss.

Act like a lady, think like a boss.

Hola on this beautiful Monday! We are completely celebrating work and jobs on the blog this week, but of course we’re doing it in a fun way, per usual. Why? Is it because I got called into the office of my retail job and was told gossip is more important than fact? Or is it because Labor Day is upon us? Neither, really. You’ll find out tomorrow.

But today it’s all about the girl boss, because a new study suggests that female bosses threaten guys’ manhood. What? A study led by Ekaterina Netchaeva of Bocconi University in Milan that looked at male employees and their female bosses found that male subordinates felt threatened by their female bosses.

This high level of implicit threat appears to cause men to demand higher salaries during negotiations with female managers and to keep a greater portion of a bonus when asked to split it with a female superior.

The study found that, when negotiating with women, men attempted to get $6,500 added to their salaries. HMM.

In late 2014, a Gallup poll showed that men and women preferred male bosses — though there is an improvement over the years of people having “no preference.”

I find all of this a little disheartening. During my job hunt, I’ve been lucky enough to come across a few women CEOs, and it makes me really excited for my field. Of course, I want to see women in positions of power in all jobs, but seeing them in technology jobs is way cool.

It’s difficult to believe that even in 2015, we still aren’t at that place where a female boss is considered “normal.”

In May of last year, founder of Nasty Gal Sophia Amoruso released a memoir, “#GirlBoss” that offers advice on being a woman in charge.

A Girl Boss is someone who has big dreams and is willing to work hard for them. So being a Girl Boss is really about being the boss of your own life.

Perhaps Amoruso, and those similar to her, will pave the way for the world to feel a little more comfortable with a women in charge. What do you think?

Fiction Friday: Valerie, part II.

Impressive record collection.

Impressive record collection.

The following is an original piece, written by Holly A. Phillips in 2007. The characters and storyline is based off the song “Valerie,” sung by the great Amy Winehouse. Read part one here

   *     *     *

Kyle laughed. “Damn. It makes me want to address the crowd back at Killian’s. Remember that song we used to sing?”

“Valerie?” Mark asked. “Yeah… ‘stop makin’ a fool outta meeee, why don’t ‘tcha come on over, Valerie.”

Kyle laughed and strung along. “How ironic, right?”

“Well I guess, but I didn’t know any Valeries back then. I’d change the name to some drunk girl in the crowd, remember?” …’Since I’ve come home, well my body’s been a mess, and I miss your ginger hair and the way you like to dress…'”

Hours later, Mark and Kyle had finished a few beers. They’d sung in the garage and jammed for an invisible crowd until the cold air had frozen.

“Kim saw Val at the grocery the other day, said what happened…” Kyle said. “Do you miss her? You haven’t said anything about her.”

“Of course I do. She was here for years, but I guess we just saw things differently.”

“Don’t you want a family? Children are so great, really, you should see Kim with ours.”

“It isn’t that, man. I wanted things to happen in its own time, you know?” Mark said. “Val would just act like everything was cool until I’d step out of line once, then all of the sudden we’d be fighting about marriage.”

Kyle shrugged.

“I better get home,” he said. “Maybe we’ll do this again.”

Mark said goodbye. It was quiet. He furrowed his brow and began to shuffle his sock feet through the house. He went through the living room, where she’d screamed at him nights prior. He walked into the kitchen where he’d left a pile of dishes — Valerie always did those.

He opened the fridge, aiming to kill time. He shuffled down the hall where she’d torn their pictures off the wall on her way out. He passed shelves packed with books he’d only read half of. He climbed into bed, hoping he wouldn’t smell her perfume in the bed. He closed his eyes and tried to fall asleep, but his mind was buzzing.

Mark didn’t have serious girlfriends in college. He had several flings, but was often concentrated on music or schoolwork. Mark could see himself marrying Val, but he wanted her to calm down so he could ask on his own time. He didn’t want to force such an important decision. He loved Val and liked the way he felt when he was with her — the old Val, anyway. He didn’t know if those feelings would come back.

When Val left, it was a shock for Mark. He was emotional, but he generally just wanted her to be happy. So, he thought, if that’s what she wanted then so be it. Her calls were puzzling. Mark figured she was just remembering the past and acting on impulse. After all, they couldn’t build a marriage off a fond memory.

The next morning, Mark was uncovering more instruments in the garage and dusting off record collections. Someone knocked on his front door. He crept to the large door, got on his tip-toes and peered through the rectangle window. There she was, in her usual white coat. Her dark hair was pulled back, her eyes were squinting from the sun, and her red lips were pursed.

He walked through the garage to the foyer, opened the door, and stood.

“Hi,” Valerie said. “I heard loud music coming from the garage when I walked up.”

“Yeah, I was just playing some…” Mark paused. “You okay? Or… did you forget something?”

“Oh, well no, at least I don’t think so,” she said. “Can we talk?”

Mark didn’t know what to say.

She drew her hands across her chest. “It’s cold. Can I come in?”

Mark motioned toward the living room. Valerie stepped inside moving toward the couch. Mark stood in the doorway.

“Right here is fine,” Mark said.

“Okay, well, I’ve really missed you. I know we have different ways of showing how we care.”

Mark was silent.

“I mean maybe I can wait longer, I am only 32, you know?”

Mark smirked.

“Aren’t you going to say anything?” Val asked, getting annoyed. “Or maybe you could even sing something since that’s what you’ve been doing since I left.”

Mark chuckled.

“Wow, yeah, okay let me sing you something Val. I don’t think you should wait any longer,” he said. “If you want to get married and have children, then I think you should go do it.”

“What?” she asked.

“Yeah, you told me I can’t commit to anything and maybe you’re right. So I can’t finish a book or a television series, but if it’s something I care about, I do commit, but you don’t see it that way.”

Valerie stormed to the door, throwing her polished red nails in the air. Mark followed her and closed the door. He moved back to his record collection singing the cover song.

“Stop makin’ a fool outta me… Valerie…”

How to Cope: One Direction.

Is 1D splitting?

Is 1D splitting?

The following is a guest piece by my bestie Sheena Hall, who is also madly in love with Harry Styles. She is currently mourning the One Direction split, but wiped away the tears to share the message below. 

  *     *     *

The news of the One Direction “break” came to us early Monday morning via the tabloids, or rags as they call them in England. The specifics varied depending on the source, but they all basically said the same thing: the members of One Direction are taking an extended break of at least one year, possibly longer, to work on solo projects. Within hours it was just like the time Harry Styles threw up on the side of an LA freeway after a night of partying; shrines were built, friendships were ruined, crimes were committed, the World was just in complete pandemonium.

For a lot of Directioners this news really didn’t come as a shock.  After their discovery almost exactly 5 years ago on The X Factor, One Direction has released 4 albums (the 5th to be released in November), gone on 4 World tours, and filmed one movie.  I think it’s clear to everyone that they must be exhausted and deserve a break (FYI, that doesn’t mean we’re okay with it.)  After Zayn announced he would not be returning to the band after a 2 month hiatus in the spring due to “stress” or “his fiancé caught him cheating and pulled a Yoko” in American terms, fans expected that the rest of the members of the band would follow his departure after the conclusion of their current World tour, On the Road Again.  Expecting a split and having it actually happen are two totally different realities. Even though this is just a “break” I think everyone with a pulse knows that taking a “break” is really saying “we’re breaking up” in a nice way.  Speaking from my own personal experience with this split, it feels like you’re inside out and the World will never be right again.  One Direction isn’t just breaking up, they are breaking up with us. Luckily, I have put together a list of ways we can all try and cope with this tragedy.

  1. Purchase a 4 disc CD player. Then play all 4 One Direction albums on a loop in said CD player while lying in bed ugly girl crying with the lights off and blinds drawn. Bonus points for eating ice cream and carb loading while you do it. Food is your only friend right now.
  2. Reach out to your fellow Directioners, misery loves company after all.  It will help to reminisce together about all the times Harry has tripped over nothing on stage.
  3. Console each other as you cry about how you’ll never get to see Harry trip over nothing on stage again.
  4. Obsessively think about the concert you went to where you definitely made eye contact with Harry and had a moment. Then realize that will never happen again and cry some more.
  5. Take it to Twitter. Sometimes you just need to get the rage out publicly.  Blame Zayn because he did start this whole thing and blaming someone else always helps.
  6. Be in total denial. Believe that everything they are saying is true and that this really is only for one year and they will come back and be better (and more tattooed) than ever.
  7. Convince your friend that currently has access to their hotel rooms in Chicago to steal their clothes so you can put them on pillows to cuddle with have a piece of them forever.
  8. Purchase all of the BOP and Tiger Beat magazines you can get your hands on, then wall paper your bedroom in One Direction posters to feel closer to them.
  9. Realize that if they are broken up people will forget about them and you’ll have a better chance of meeting and eventually marrying one of them.
  10. Get real. Accept that none of these things are actually going to help cope with this horrifying reality and you will never ever get over this because it is literally the end of the World.

Editor’s note:

Ghosts of Exes’ Past.

Ew. Running into an ex...

Ew. Running into an ex…

Every time I leave my apartment wearing sweats and/or my #CatLady hat, I’m aware of the risks. By risks, I obviously mean the increased chance that I’ll either A. run into a hot guy, or B. see an ex boyfriend.

Because… life.

Last week, a coworker and I were chatting about various exes we had. She asked me about my very first love and if I’d seen him since we broke up.

We broke up 10 years ago, and I’m lucky enough that he lives in Chicago and is married with a child.

The chances of me running into him — or anyone that knows him — are slim to none. Thank God.

My coworker wasn’t as lucky, and said she ran into her ex/first love at a bar shortly after they broke up.

If it were me, I probably would’ve bolted, but she’s way cooler and more brave, so she stuck it out and just avoided him the whole night.

It’s been a solid while since I’ve bumped into an ex (knock on wood); the last time was about a year ago at the Albertson’s on College Drive. I was buying frozen dinners and cat food, of course.

He was walking into the store as I was leaving. My heart jumped, but I put my head down and kept walking. And that was that.

When I was actually dating that guy though, I had a bad run-in with an ex.

I was so into this new guy and I really wanted my friends to meet him. So we all agreed to have drinks at Ruffino’s.

On the drive there, we passed a car on fire — isn’t that a bad omen?

When we got to Ruffino’s, my ex was at the bar. I hadn’t seen him in years; basically since we broke up.

I kept it cool and walked right past him, even though he waved and attempted to flag me down.

But later, he came over to the group and asked to “please” talk to me.

I let him talk, but when the conversation didn’t appear to be moving in the direction I felt I deserved (i.e. an apology), I cut it short and told him I had to get back to my boyfriend and friends.

I found out months later that he was actually engaged and conveniently failed to mention it to me.

Of course, I know that it really shouldn’t matter what you look like, how you’re dressed, or what you say when you run into an ex. The relationship is over, and probably for good reason, so what does it matter?

It’s just that satisfaction of knowing you looked good or you were feeling great when someone that hurt you randomly sees you. It’s the coveted slap in the face.

Now, there is a difference between randomly running into your ex and hanging out at their favorite places in hopes of seeing them. That is just crazy.

As cheesy as it sounds, I really do think that things happen for some sort of reason, even if it doesn’t make much sense at the time.

My fear of running into an ex doesn’t keep me indoors, and it certainly doesn’t keep me from my public displays of loungewear and dry shampoo.

Perhaps it’s more about how you react to things that happen. Do you flip out, scream, and overreact or go for the easy-breezy approach?

Me? I’m more of a dance-party in the car type-a-gal. Keep it movin’.

Pic of the Week.

T-shirts full of memories...

T-shirts full of memories…

Helloooo out there, from the world of boxes, packing, and all things moving-related! I’ve been packing and organizing and cleaning whenever I get the chance in order to wrap things up as fast as possible. It’s no secret that moving is a huge task, but it’s one of those necessary evils in life.

As I’m packing, I’m getting rid of a TON of stuff! It’s a good feeling to let go of physical baggage or just that stuff that’s not useful anymore. For the longest time, I’ve had a stack (okay three stacks) of t-shirts on my closet shelf that really just collect dust.

For the longest time, I’ve been saying I’ll go through them, I’ll do something cool with them, blah blah blah. But I really did it! I sorted through my shirts and found around 25 shirts that I don’t wear, but have such great memories attached to them.

So, I paid to have them made into a quilt! I am so, SO excited about this! I cannot think of a better way to make use of my old shirts, then to preserve them, blanket-style, for me to enjoy while I’m binge-watching House of Cards in my new apartment. AMIRIGHT?

I chose Project Repat to make my quilt. Not only do their T-shirt quilts look fantastic (and contain a fleece-backing), but Project Repat is working to bring textile jobs back to the United States. Not to mention the fleece they use is made from recycled plastic bottles. Perfection!

All I did was choose the size of the panels/quilt squares I wanted, the size of the blanket (I got a Full size/5’x6′), and the color of the fleece (gray). Then, I chose my shirts, and just have to send them off! My custom quilt will arrive in 2-3 weeks.

So, what shirts did I choose for my quilt? Here’s a quick description of my shirts in the above picture; from left to right, typewriter style.

  1. Phi Delt Homecoming @ LSU (Phi Delt is my favorite frat!)
  2. Abercrombie & Fitch shirt to commemorate my years of work there and my everlasting love for it
  3. Back of a high school newspaper staff shirt (2003)
  4. High school dance team t-shirt from ’03
  5. First LSU shirt I ever bought; before I was even a student
  6. LSU shirt from my job there
  7. Dance team t-shirt from ’02
  8. Chasing Daylight shirt from Red Dress Run
  9. Various LSU tee
  10. Uncorked BR — the best event in town
  11. Back of dance team tee ’02
  12. A dedication to my love for the sexiest skateboarder alive: Ryan Sheckler
  13. Back of Phi Delt tee: the IMMORTAL six pack
  14. Newspaper staff tee ’02
  15. Custom tee to represent my single life forever ;)
  16. “Kiss my class” journalism tee ’03
  17. LSU Campaign that I worked on
  18. John Mayer tee
  19. Berkelee tee. Because… John Mayer.
  20. Back of dance team tee ’03
  21. Race for the Cure 2012 (there were pink margaritas)
  22. Back of single life tee
  23. Tailgate team tee
  24. Custom Meriwether tee
  25. Bridesmaid shirt. Always a bridesmaid… ;)
  26. Various LSU tee
  27. Love Purple Live Gold campaign tee
  28. Front of custom Meriwether tee
  29. LSU/UCLA Final Four tee ’06
  30. LSU Fall Fest tee

It IS LSU heavy, but hey, when in Baton Rouge… I’m actually happy with the range of colors and graphics for my quilt, and I’m thrilled at all of the fun memories it will bring when I curl up in it. And just in case you’re not sure who Meriwether is:

College crash course.

Look who goes to college!

Look who goes to college!

Today is the first day of college for many students – this is something most people probably don’t pay much attention to, but when you live in a college town, it’s all anyone talks about. It probably doesn’t help that I work with mostly college students.

But, hearing my coworkers’ stories often reminds me of college, even though it’s been 12 years since I started and a whopping 8 since I graduated! However, working at LSU for almost 7 years… sometimes it feels like I never left (until I actually did).

For the longest time, I never even considered going to college. Neither of my parents went, and I figured their lives were pretty good. But the older I got, the more my friends talked about college as if it wasn’t even a question: of COURSE they were going.

When I presented an interest in higher ed, my parents graciously offered to send me wherever I desired. They also offered a piece of advice that ended up being invaluable to me: get out of state.

My parents knew that I had dreams of leaving Indiana, and that if I didn’t leave for college, I would probably never leave. And so, long story short, I ended up in Baton Rouge to attend Louisiana State University.

I won’t lie, it was scary as hell the day we had to pack up and leave the house I grew up in. Even after an entire semester down South, I was homesick. It was a huge culture shock. But of course, I wouldn’t trade it for any other experience.

I learned a lot in those years — in and out of the classroom. I look back at it, and sure, there are moments when I wish I could have worked less, partied more, perhaps studied more, or been more social. But I am who I am, and a lot of that had to do with my college years.

I saw an article on Huffington Post offering advice to incoming college freshman. A lot of it was pretty worthless, so I’ll offer the only three pieces of advice I think you’ll need:

  1. Get out. If you can’t go far away to college, at least make new friends — no one wants to relive high school. It also helps to explore the city you’re in; get off campus and see what’s out there.
  2. Do the extracurriculars. Sure, the whole experience of college is overwhelming, but you’ve got to join a club, or something! It should come as no surprise that I was a complete media rat and worked for 4/5 media groups on campus. Not only did I make a little money, but I made some life-long friends. I also met upperclassmen that gave me invaluable advice about classes and graduating. And honestly? I learned more in my media work than I did in any class I took, ever. It looked great on my resume and it packed my portfolio.
  3. Follow through. Go to class. It’s so easy to skip, but if you actually go, it’s really easy to make good grades. I learned it the hard way! If you go to class, pay attention and take notes, studying is much easier, and the tests are a breeze. And by all means, just graduate. College can be overwhelming, and there are times when I was tempted to quit. But not having a degree is going to make your entire life that much more difficult. Take it from me: the job hunt is literally a HUNT. Get that degree!

I won’t say that college is the best time of your life; because if that’s the case, then what’s the point of living after college? I will say, though, that it’s a unique time in your life and it’s certainly a great opportunity to learn about yourself — the person you’ll be post-graduation.

Fiction Friday: Valerie, part I.

What will happen to Mark and Valerie?

What will happen to Mark and Valerie?

The following piece is an original written by Holly A. Phillips in 2007. It was based on the song “Valerie,” sung by the one, the only Amy Winehouse. 

    *     *     *

He unfolded a black chair and put the acoustic on his knee; he closed his eyes and ran his fingers across the strings. It was severely out of tune, warped from the weather. He tightened the strings and worked them back to life, the sound becoming sweet.

It was 9pm on a frigid Thursday in November. The cold garage floor awakened him. Old boxes of music he’d just uncovered surrounded Mark.

“Can’t you commit to anything?” she asked four nights ago.

“Val, three years is a commitment,” he pleaded. “I am committed to you.”

“Make it official,” she said. “We are in our thirties, Mark. I want children, let’s get this show on the road.”

But now, it was too late. Valerie was gone, took her show on the road, but left Mark behind. Mark had, and still did love her. He never noticed any real problems between the two of them, until Valerie would explode over a late night dinner or during a sports program. She always said the same thing:

“Hello, don’t you see I’m here, too?” or “Mark, I worked on this dinner all afternoon, can’t you at least be on time or call me?”

Mark didn’t understand trivial matters, like calling. After all, they lived together.

In the garage, he moved onto the sky blue Fender and plugged in the amp; reveling in its static start. Mark moved about the garage, laughing at the chords he remembered and the songs his fingers had memorized. It was college again, only this time, he was alone in his garage wearing boxers, which were bigger — to compensate the beer he drank in those days.

Valerie was never a music lover like Mark. He’d grown up in a house, always listening to jazz and the blues. He moved through stages of interest, but played some rock in college with three of his buddies. They mainly did open-mic nights and frat parties, but it was some of the most fun Mark had.

The phone rang. Mark listened through the garage door that led into the kitchen to hear the answering machine.

“You’ve reached Mark and Val, leave us a message and we’ll get back to you.”

“Hey… it’s me, again… Mark, if you’re there please answer. I know it was me who left, but please, I really want to talk to you.” Valerie sighed and then hung up.

Mark met Val in college; they had a few classes together. They were never close until after graduation; they kept running into each other at coffee shops. Then, Val was bubbly and spontaneous. She was a dream. She’d show up unannounced with a homemade casserole and a bottle of wine, which they always enjoyed over a game of Scrabble. They fit together. When Mark was out with Valerie, he felt he could take over the city.

The relationship moved quickly, but it was natural, until they moved in together. Valerie was so buttoned-up all the time. She never wanted to relax and was always bringing up lunch conversations she had with her married friends. Those talks ended in Val muttering something about “free milk” and thing she would shake her ring finger in his face. Mark had never lived with a girlfriend before.

Mark got back to his music. He cleared out boxes, finding different pedals he once used. Each one warped the sound in its own way. Occasionally, he would stand up and sing.

There was a knock on the garage door.

“Great,” Mark said to himself. “Someone’s pissed about the noise.”

Mark pulled up on the large door to see his friend and neighbor, Kyle, standing in the driveway, equipped with his black, triangular electric in his hand.

“Hey man! Wow… been awhile,” Mark said.

“I know,” Kyle said. “But it’s alright. I heard some familiar music coming from out here, so I thought I’d join…”

Mark motioned Kyle into the garage and pulled the door down behind him.

“Great, man. I ran into a little extra time on my hands and been digging up our old stuff,” Mark said.

“Yeah,” Kyle said. “I haven’t played this thing since ’95. Kim was a little agitated when she saw me leave the house with it.”

Mark laughed as he walked into the kitchen.

“I bet,” he said. “Women worry, you know. But you don’t have to stay late — although it feels good to hear it all again.”

Mark cracked a few beers and moved back into the garage.

“Man, you kept all our old stuff. I don’t even remember half of it,” Kyle said.

“I know, but once you hear it, it really comes back,” Mark said, smiling. “It’s great.”

Mark plugged his guitar into an amp and started tuning. Mark worked the Fender, plugged in a pedal, and went to it.

Check out “Valerie”, part II, right here, next Friday, August 28. 

Things I’ve learned from CSI.

The original CSI crew.

The original CSI crew.

I LOVE watching CSI. And of course, I’m talking about the original CSI, as in CSI Las Vegas with Grissom only. I refuse to watch any other city/version/cast.

I started watching the show with my dad, when it premiered in 2000. Although I hate everything scary, and some of the show does involve grisly murder and other crimes, I liked seeing the crimes get solved. Soon after the show begun, we had the option of taking a forensic science class at school. I signed up, and we watched a ton of CSI. However, we also got to solve fake crime scenes and we learned a lot about blood spatter (!).

But leave it to me to turn TV into something educational, right? I figure, if I’m going to spend a lot of time doing it, I may as well learn a few lessons:

  • One liners are still a hit. At the beginning of every episode, Grissom always has a clever one-liner that sends the show right into its theme song. The lines are kind of corny, yet genius all at once. For example: You can be wrong, I can be wrong but the evidence is just the evidence. #Boom
  • Justin Bieber loves CSI, too. In 2010, the Biebs made an appearance on CSI as a CRIMINAL. We always knew he was a bad boy.

  • People who get away with stuff must be super smart. I know in real life not every case gets the attention it does on CSI. But still, when a team of scientists is after you and you still get away? You must have done some serious plotting.
  • Evidence is basically everywhere. This is kind of what I just said, but it amazes me when they grab so much evidence from a single strand of hair, fingerprints on a steering wheel, or tire marks on a street. I’m innocent, but maybe I should be more careful…
  • Even nerds can be hot. This is basically something I already knew, but Nick Stokes (played by George Eads) is fine as hell. Take a look for yourself:
Innocent until proven guilty.

Innocent until proven guilty.

And that is that. FX plays CSI on the regular, sometimes they have marathons on Fridays, and if you’re anything like me, catch a CSI marathon Friday on a day off, and you have yourself one very, very fine day.

Love on LinkedIn?

I'll take him on LinkedIn any day.

I’ll take him on LinkedIn any day.

Years ago, I joined LinkedIn. Back then, it was a new service and all of the cool kinds were joining.

If you’re not sure, LinkedIn (according to its website) is a place for professionals to connect and be successful. Basically, it’s the social network for nerds.

Honestly, I didn’t see much use for it as I already had a job and there really wasn’t much else you could do on it.

But I wasn’t bothered by the professional social network until my most recent ex kept trying to “link” with me, even after I declined his offers several times.

I didn’t understand why he wanted to connect via LinkedIn; I’d already blocked him from Facebook and there’s basically no “creeping” you can do on LinkedIn — unless you’re really into professional headshots.

After he kept sending me invitations to connect, I decided I didn’t need LinkedIn that bad. After all, those spam emails were really annoying and seeing his name repeatedly was more stress than the network was worth.

So I deleted my account (which still doesn’t completely rid your chances of getting spam email).

About six months ago, I decided to resurrect my account, as I figured it would help my job search. A fellow professional in the industry told me I had to have a profile on LinkedIn.

Desperate times really do call for desperate measures.

Within weeks, my very same ex tried to connect again. And again, I deleted his invitation.

Bye, Felicia.

But I saw something even more disturbing in my LinkedIn inbox: a message from a former hookup.

“I don’t want to be rude but is there a reason you’re adding me? You’re not very friendly to me when I see you around town.”

Is this really happening over LinkedIn?

This was a guy who I strictly hooked up with in college. Weeks before, I used LinkedIn’s invitation feature, which allows users to connect with all of their Facebook friends who are also on LinkedIn.

He got my invite by default.

For starters, I didn’t realize getting added to someone’s LinkedIn profile was so exclusive.

Secondly, there’s the part about seeing each other around town. I’ve seen him one time, and he was with his wife, at Zapp’s Beer Fest. I was already drunk, and I did say hello, with what I thought was a smile.

What’s a girl to do? Did he want a red carpet welcome complete with America’s Best Dance Crew?

An article from Inc5000 last year suggested that LinkedIn was a great place to meet potential dates due to its large database, along with its available information including where the person went to school and their current occupation.

Like many dating websites, LinkedIn also shows users who viewed their profiles (and even what day).

Dating, or even flirting or contacting exes, on LinkedIn just seems completely wrong. It’s mixing business with pleasure, and Monica Lewinsky has taught us all many lessons about how that scenario ends (ahem, with a dry cleaning bill).

Further investigation led to my discovery of LinkedUp, which is a Tinder-ish app that taps into users’ LinkedIn accounts.

I digress.

So far, LinkedIn has tremendously helped my job hunt, so I’ll give it that. But as for dating, I think I’ll keep my apps separate.

Pic of the Week.

It’s no surprise that I’m moving, since my lease is up at the end of September. So, over the weekend, I faced reality and starting getting things done — packing, cleaning, organizing, and getting rid of things (lots of things).

While the physical act of moving completely sucks, there’s something to be said about having the opportunity to evaluate all of your crap, decide if it’s worth keeping, and what kind of vibe you want at the new place. It’s a chance to restart, completely.

At the end of my lease, it’ll have been four years that I’ve lived in this apartment. The day I moved in, I was leaving an apartment where I’d also lived for four years. I’m starting to think I’ve got commitment issues.

When I left my old apartment, I was really looking for a fresh start. My apartment had seen too many failed relationships; and ordinary things — like the sound of a slamming door, the view out my living room window — felt like baggage to me. When I got to my new place (where I currently live), I felt great comfort in knowing that no ex knew where I lived. It was an undeniable sense of freedom.

But soon enough, I opened my new door to relationships that would hurt me all the same. These walls have seen the highs and the extreme lows; and while I know that technically, you can make a home anywhere, I’m really, really looking forward to that new beginning once again.

The place I’m moving to is really nothing fancy. In fact, I’m trading in many of the luxuries I’ve gotten used to, in order to have different ones, and even save a little money on rent. My new apartment has a balcony (which I currently don’t have), a pool (don’t have), a gym (don’t have), and tons of closets — including a walk-in (!!!), and it even has a garden tub.

I’m already super pumped to have my coffee right outside; and Miss Blanche will get to enjoy the fresh air for the first time in her life. I’m planning on changing up my decor a little at the new place, too. It’s time for something different.

One of my bigger moving tasks was cleaning out my closet. As you may know, this is something I’ve been working on for months. I have a lot of clothes, and I wanted to make sure I tried every single thing on and really be choosey about what I kept. So, that’s what I did, and Friday night, I finished the task, with two trash bags of clothes to giveaway and one basket-full of things to take to Plato’s to try and sell.

After 3 hours of waiting at Plato’s, they told me they could take TWO of my items, a pair of shoes and a bracelet. I got $7. I didn’t care about the money; but I couldn’t believe they passed up some of my boutique dresses (don’t worry, I’m trying Style Encore next)! Regardless, I’m pumped it’s all out of my closet. Now I’m just down to the stuff I really love to wear.

Part of cleaning out my closet involved changing up the hangers. I switched from glossy wooden hangers to thin, velvet ones, purely because I need more room. But I am selling the wooden hangers on eBay (see the listing here). If you really want some, and are a loyal reader, shoot me a message and I’ll send you some. Seriously, I need to get rid of these things.

If you’re free these next few weeks and want to join me for a packing party, come on over. I’ve got bottles of liquor that I refuse to pack and they’re definitely not going to waste. Cheers, y’all!

Why you should probably elope.

Runaway bride.

Runaway bride.

Is it just me, or does it seem like ever since Facebook happened, everything surrounding weddings has to be big, bigger, biggest, and frankly, better than yours? Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to keep up with so many people and their happy life moments — those that I would definitely know nothing about if it weren’t for social media — but there are times when it seems disingenuous.

What happened to the art of eloping? The destination weddings? The backyard BBQ nuptials? Or even the Carrie Bradshaw-esque, courthouse “I do”? Dare I say it, but I think we’re missing the big picture. In fact, we’re thinking of pictures — Instagram posts and Facebook albums — instead of just that one other person.

Which is why I say, we should all elope.

An article from Marissa Higging on Huffington Post listed five reasons to elope: 1. Only consulting one other person when it comes to making decisions, 2. Saving money, 3. Leaving out unreliable factors; i.e. other people, 4. Avoiding family feedback, and 5. Having the intimacy of a small wedding.

An article in The New York Times (2012) suggests that while many think of eloping as running off to Vegas, there is always an option of making it extravagant and personal, just without guests. Many people are choosing these types of wedding mainly to avoid 12 months of planning and stress.

The answer: arrange an elopement with all the production values of a fairy-tale wedding. The couple hired a wedding planner, Andrea Eppolito, who booked them a corner suite of the Cosmopolitan hotel, with a wraparound balcony overlooking the Bellagio Fountains. She found the location, a private garden located on a nearby lake, hired Your Beauty Call — a company that provides hairstyling and makeup for celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton — to style Ms. Tombalakian. And she reserved them a window table at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant, which served a miniature three-layer cake for two.

I’m not suggesting to ditch your dreams if you want to be Heidi Montag in a fru-fru cupckae gown and waltz down the aisle in front of 400 guests and a slew of cameras. It’s your wedding you can waltz if you want to!

But don’t get sucked into the machine. Sure, weddings are about making memories. But they’re also a crap-ton of money, and frankly, whether you’ve got it or not, wouldn’t you rather slap that on a house or a bomb-ass vacation? I know I would.

Because I’m not the only person thinking this way, many hotels and resorts are now offering wedding or eloping packages for couples looking to tie the knot in style. So, where should you elope? Here’s a few ideas:

  • Have a reception-style party once the wedding is over
  • Pick a destination that means something to both of you
  • Plan to marry in a place that’s the vacation of your dreams
  • Get married in a hot air balloon
  • Customize the vows

It all sounds cool, I kind of wish I had a boyfriend (or hell, even a crush on someone aside from John Mayer) to fantasize with. But that’ll come one day. Until then, I hope to see more small weddings, less showing-off on my home feed. Yep, went there.

Fiction Friday: Oil & Ink, part III.

Get inked.

Get inked.

This is the final installment of Holly’s original short story, “Oil & Ink.” Read part one here and part two here, as you wish. 

  *     *     *

“I need to talk to someone about financing a building.”

The clerk looked Charlie up and down; from his miniature blond mohawk to his worn Chuck Taylors. It was the look Charlie always got; because he was just a kid in South Dakota.

“What’s your name?” she asked.

“Charlie Hoffe.”

“Hoffe?” she asked, eyebrows raised. “Any relation to the painter?”

“Yeah,” Charlie sighed. “He’s my father.”

“Must be proud,” she said. “He’s nearly painted this whole town.”

Charlie nodded.

She pointed to the waiting area outside the glass offices.

“Wait there,” she said.

Charlie sat down and hoped there was no one at the shop who wanted a tattoo. When his name was called, he walked into the office and sat next to the candy dish. He told the woman what he was hoping to do and she scowled at his left arm; the one covered in psychedelic designs.

She gave him a few building options, but listed even more problems. All of the buildings had to be brand new or completely renovated to agree with local tattooing laws. “New” meant money and “makeovers” meant even more money. She suggested he stay put for a few more months to save money. Charlie asked if she wanted a tattoo.

She refused.

Three months later, Charlie walked briskly into Tucker’s with a grin on his face. Sara was there; she didn’t look up from filing her nails.

“Today’s my last day,” he said.

“What? Why?”

“I got my own place. No more Tucker’s; no more sharing a sign.”

“Why leave now — you’ve done pretty well here,” she asked.

“I know, but I’ve always wanted my shop, my address, my sign.”

Sara shrugged and got back to her nails. Charlie waited in his corner and spent free time packing his things. He tattooed a semi driver who wanted a nude Elvira figure on his shoulder.

“Good work, kid,” the man told him.

Charlie loaded the Corolla with boxes and supplies and drove home. He opened the door to the other half of his house and setup his tools. It wasn’t a shop on The Strip or near South Beach, but it was his. He opened a box of neon tubing and hung the square in his front window. He plugged in its cord and rolled the switch. “TATTOO” lit up the entire room; a blue and orange glow.

He hadn’t talked to his dad in a good week. His heart was beginning to cool from even trying. But he couldn’t think about that now, his work was cut out for him. The new location brought a new batch of tattoo virgins. He hoped they’d get addicted like he was and return over and over again. He’d done a wolf for the lady next door and a cross for her boyfriend. He’d started a “Starry Night” rendition on the arm of the garage band singer on the corner. He was still eating noodles, but he thought less about it.

He called his dad mid-week.

“Dad, you know I don’t work at Tucker’s anymore.”

“Oh, so you called for money?”

“Nope. Actually, I was calling to tell you to stop by my shop soon.”

“Your shop? Since When?”

“Since…well, since awhile. I’ve been building clients and doin’ okay.”

“That isn’t really what I meant when I said you should look beyond Tucker’s.”

“But this is what I wanted… you should think about stopping by.”

Charlie knew his dad was disgruntled, but he tried not to think much about it. Only Charlie knew what was best for him and he was just glad he really didn’t need the money from his dad. He knew his shop wasn’t up to his father’s standards; it probably never would be.

Later, Charlie was in the middle of a sketch — a thorny rose for the woman bartender in the city — when a truck pulled up. Charlie kept working. It was Charlie’s father. He approached the screen door and stood.

“You okay?” Charlie asked.

“Sure, son. Why wouldn’t I be?”

Charlie opened the door to the shop. His father stepped inside with caution as if the floor would fall in. He slowly gazed at the posters on the walls and looked the bartender up and down.

“Well, this is it,” Charlie said, gesturing around the room.

“Okay, well do you have time to give me a tattoo?”

Charlie’s eyes grew wide.

“Sure,” he said. “You got somethin’ in mind?”

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