Blog Archives

Pic of the Week.

...and it was all yellow.

…and it was all yellow.

On Good Friday, I took advantage of the fact that I had the day off from work, and my CASA boys were off of school, picked them up after lunch, and hosted an Easter egg hunt for them.

I spent the week leading up to the egg hunt looking for and purchasing baskets (they were sports-themed), Easter grass, stickers, trinkets, plastic eggs (that looked like bumble bees, carrots, lady bugs, etc.), and bags and bags of festive candy. And then, my girlfriend and I sat and filled 54 plastic eggs.

I hid them all Friday before I picked up the boys, giving them their baskets as soon as they got into the Jeep. They had never “hunted” for Easter eggs—making me so glad that I decided to do it.

Easter morning was always such a fun time for me, as a kid. My parents, and sometimes even my grandparents, went to great lengths so I would believe in the Easter bunny, who was very good at hiding eggs. We dyed eggs, too. And there was always a beautiful basket for me, that usually had two bunnies—one stuffed and one chocolate.

I don’t want to ramble on about CASA, but I’ll at least tell you a little about it. CASA—Court Appointed Special Advocate—came into my life a few years ago, when I read A Silence of Mockingbirds by Karen Spears Zacharias. It is the true story of a young girl who was beaten to death by her mother’s boyfriend—harsh, yes, but true.

I read the book because it was Baton Rouge’s pick for their One Book One Community that summer. The book was so good, I read it in just one day, and couldn’t wait for the book event where the author would speak. At the event, there was someone from CASA there, who gave a presentation and explained a little about CASA volunteers. She said a child paired with a CASA volunteer was 60% more likely to be adopted than one without.

It didn’t take long for me to visit the Baton Rouge CASA house and get more information. I signed up to go through the training—which was 40 hours long. I completed my training and was appointed by a judge at the end of January 2013.

I was assigned my first case, which is my current case, at the end of June last year. My job as a CASA volunteer? I am the voice for my three boys (brothers), who are in the state’s custody because their original home was unsafe. I pick the boys up from their foster home at least once a month, and take them out, we not only have fun and bond, but I also get their side of the story. I keep things moving on their case, and then write a report for the judge and other case parties each time we go to court.

I don’t want to ramble on about how great of an experience this has been for me, but it really has. If you have any questions or are the LEAST bit interested in becoming a CASA volunteer in your area, feel free to email me (Wittywriter7@gmail.com) or Tweet me @OrangeJulius7 and I’d be happy to talk to you about it.

Last Easter, I spent most of my day with my then-boyfriend, D, and his family. We went to church, hid Easter eggs for the kids in the family, and had lunch together. I was so happy to be meeting his family, and I was falling in love. But what I didn’t know, was that night, D had a date with someone else (read more here).

And it was the start of him being unfaithful to me for months. Although I got a book published out of it, it was the worst relationship I’ve ever had.

I cannot explain just how much relief and gratitude I felt this Easter, doing fun things with my CASA kids, instead of being stuck next to someone who was treating me poorly.

The Fault In Our Stars.

The_Fault_in_Our_Stars

My most recent read.

Monday night, I finished reading John Green’s, “The Fault In Our Stars.”

This is a book that’s been on my reading list for months, and I had a gift card burning a hole in my pocket, so I jumped at the chance to buy it—splurging on the Collector’s Edition.

I stumbled across Green’s collection of books when I started reading things by Jonathan Tropper. I bought Green’s, “An Abundance of Katherines” and absolutely loved it! I knew I had to read “The Fault In Our Stars,” or TFIOS, as it’s now called, being a cult favorite.

Now, with the movie-version of TFIOS (coming to theatres June 6) on its way, I knew I needed to pick up the pace with my reading schedule.

But once I started reading this book, it took me about three days to get through it.

TFIOS is the story of Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters. They meet in a support group for those dealing with cancer. Hazel has, “Thyroid originally but with an impressive and long-settled satellite colony in my lungs,” cancer, while Augustus has a “Touch of osteosarcoma.”

Augustus and Hazel fall in love.

It is a unique love between two teenagers who have been through more in their years than most of us will probably ever see. But the uniqueness goes way beyond the disease. It’s in the books they read, the poems they recite to each other, the food they eat, the places they travel.

I won’t give anything away, because I think this is a book everyone should read. But, a pretty decent part of the book takes place overseas. Since Augustus and Hazel both have life-threatening illnesses, they were granted “Wishes” and they get to visit a place that is dear to…well, Hazel, but since Augustus loves Hazel, it becomes important to him, too.

This book has so many quirky things, not to mention the BULK of amazing quotes, it’s easy to understand why it’s become so popular.

So, if you have a chance to read this one, I highly recommend it—and, of course, I’ll be at the midnight premier. I may or may not be wearing a TFIOS sweatshirt.

You are so busy being you that you have no idea how unprecedented you are.

—Augustus Waters, The Fault In Our Stars

Forever My Friend.

There are lots of dates I wish my mind would erase. And by dates, I mean months paired with numbered days of the week.

Next week, one of those days is on my calendar.

When I was a sophomore in college, I was living in my sorority house, and it was the morning of our formal. I was planning to wear my prom dress from my senior year of high school.

It was coral, with layers (dozens of layers) of pink and purple tule as the poofy, floor-length skirt, and the strapless bodice was completely beaded. It was gorgeous, even if my description makes it sound otherwise.

I had planned to get my hair and makeup done at the mall, so there I was. My hair was up and curled, my makeup probably overdone, and I stopped by one of the stores to talk to a friend.

I left the mall, and headed to the sorority house. My friend, the same one from the mall, called me.

“I guessed by your happy face that you didn’t hear the news,” she said. She told me she didn’t want to ruin my makeup, but she had to tell me something.

DC died.

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Dustin Clemons, known to all as DC, was the first person I met at LSU. We met at orientation, and kept in touch the summer before our freshman year. When we both moved onto campus, I was relieved to see a familiar face.

And his face was a cute one.

He was heavily involved in…everything. And although he was probably so busy he never slept, he always made time for me, and for his other friends.

I invited him to join me at sorority functions, and we always had a blast. I felt so lucky to be in his presence, any day.

But on that day, hearing that news, I pulled my car into the nearest parking lot and cried. I had suffered loss before, loss even younger, but I just couldn’t believe it.

When I composed myself, I drove back to the house, poured myself a stiff drink, and sat on the floor of the foyer while other’s dates arrived for the dance.

I had a date—a guy I asked from an English class. He didn’t show up.

So, I got in the car with a friend, and sat alone, dateless, at dinner.

I couldn’t stop thinking about DC. I wished he would have been there. I wished everything could rewind. I wished he never would have crossed the street. I stared at our most recent text conversation, wishing something would come through, proving this all a giant mistake.

But it didn’t.

Instead, I went to his funeral. I didn’t wear black, because I didn’t think he’d want me to be sad. But there, in the pew, I sat and cried into the arms of my sorority sister and friend.

It took me months before I could think of him the way I always had—with a smile. I made a CD of his favorite songs, and played them in my car during cool night drives to clear my head.

Since the day DC died, the month of April has had a haze over it—more than just the rain. And while I knew the numbers associated with such loss, I didn’t realize that it’s been nine years.

Tuesday night, I used a ladder and a flashlight to pull down the boxes from my closet, boxes that held our photos (aside from one I keep framed), and binders that smooth newspaper articles written about him. As I held back tears, I was wearing a custom trucker hat, “I <3 DC.”

He loved trucker hats. And popped collars. And the Tar Heels.

And I miss all of those things.

The thing about losing someone, especially someone young, is that it’s difficult not to think about how much of their life they didn’t get to live.

The only thing that helps me cope with that idea is that they still lived the life they were meant to. In just a short time, DC connected so many people, more than I have, and probably more than I will.

For me, I know because of him I met dozens of people. I had nights I will never forget. And while, I still get sad sometimes wishing he were here, I know he is around in his own way—like when I hear “Mr. Jones” on the radio or in the grocery; I know he’s there with me.

I know I’m not the only one feeling this way lately, as he had a thousand friends (literally), and if it’s just a bit of comfort, know that we are in the presence of great company.

Believe in me, help me believe in anything, I want to be someone who believes.

—Mr. Jones, Counting Crows 

WYSK: Jackie Collins.

The one and only, Jackie Collins.

The one and only, Jackie Collins.

I started reading romance novels many, many summers ago, during a trip to Florida with my friend Sheena.

Stashed in the closet of our vacation rental, were stacks upon stacks of chick-lit.

We sifted through our reading options, each settling on a few, and packed them into our beach bags before soaking ourselves in the sun.

I grew up around similar collections of books—my mom and her best friend might be capable of funding the romance novel industry on their own. I can recall times when they would exchange (literal) trash bags full of books they’d read.

But it wasn’t until recently (within the last five years) that I decided to start reading romance novels by Jackie Collins—the QUEEN of chick literature.

The latest: a character's cookbook.

The latest: a character’s cookbook.

Really, she might just been the queen of writing, period. Jackie Collins has sold more than 500 million copies of her books, and had 30 New York Best Selling titles, making her one of the top-selling authors in the WORLD.

She is the author of the sensationally popular book, Hollywood Wives, which was also a miniseries on ABC, starring Anthony Hopkins and Candice Bergen.

Late last month, an article in the Wall Street Journal highlighted her home, and she said, “I have five writing desks but tend to work in two studies—one off my bedroom and the other next to my gym and sauna. I built the study off the bedroom with just one door so nobody can disturb me when I’m writing. I love the peace and quiet. It’s simply me and my characters.”

I suppose someone who has written 30 books deserves five writing desks…goals are good.

“Each of my books takes about nine months to write. I use the computer for research, but I write in longhand on white typing paper or yellow legal pads with a black felt-tip pen. I have excellent handwriting and the words flow. Writing in longhand helps me think. Then each morning, my assistant types all of my previous day’s work into the computer. After she prints out the pages, I make changes in pen. I keep all of the original handwritten manuscripts in leather-bound books in my library.”

Jackie’s novels are known for their (her) ability to capture the twisted and scandalous lives of the Hollywood elite, which is probably why they’re right up my ally. In a cool way, her novels about this group of people is what made her who she is (rich and famous), and now she’s totally in the in-crowd to get more of the scoop!

But in all seriousness, she is a classic writer, who lets her characters take on their own lives, leaving her to just write the story…resulting in a massive stack of books (and money).

Another reason why I love Jackie? She pins hot dudes on her Pinterest page, for which I can stare at when I’m bored at the office. Thank you, sweet Jackie.

I think I’m a born storyteller. Inspiration is all around me. I can read a newspaper article and come up with an idea for a book.”

—Jackie Collins

 

Beauty is in the Eye Cream.

Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’ve got HUGE bags under my eyes. Hell, there are HUGE bags above them, too. I have dabbled in a few different eye creams (Mary Kay Time Wise Firming Eye Cream, Ole Henriksen Ultimate Lift Eye Gel), but never really got into it. So, I went to someone who just might be an Eye Cream Expert: my best friend Sheena. Tomorrow is her birthday, so what better way to commemorate getting older by letting HER give you some anti-aging advice (Happy Birthday, boobie!)?  

Like SHE needs eye cream.

Like SHE needs eye cream.

At some point in college, it dawned on me that I will get old and (as if it could get any worse), look old. Back then, one of my roommates and I decided to pool our money to buy a tube of the hottest new item: L’Oreal Paris Wrinkle De-Crease Collagen Filler ($25).

Our plan was to start fighting age early, and when everyone else was looking leathery and wrinkled, we would still look 21 and would get all the guys. As it turned out, the cream gave me a rash across my forehead and instead of looking young and hot, I looked gross and diseased (and got no guys).

But that didn’t stop my hunt for the perfect product to fight age; I started looking specifically for eye creams because Cosmopolitan and Oprah told me that eyes are the most important and what gets noticed first.

So, I’ve compiled a list of some of the different creams and serums I have tried and what they actually do for the skin around your eyes. Hopefully this will save some time (and money!) for anyone else in search of the perfect product.

Avon Anew Clinical Eye Lift Pro Dual Eye System (0.66 ounce bottle, $25)

What it’s supposed to do: Lift eyes like they defy gravity!

What it did: This is by far my most favorite eye product because it actually works and is pretty inexpensive. The jar that it comes in has two separate products, one for use on the upper lid and one for under your eyes. You can feel the upper lid gel tightening as it dries, which makes me happy because you can actually see it in action. The cream for the under eye reduces the appearance of dark circles, which was pretty impressive to me because they didn’t even claim that feature in the description. What they do claim in the description is that this product has injectable grade Arginine and PVP. Yes injectable grade! I just like the way that sounds.

What it didn’t do: Last long. I don’t know how long this jar is actually supposed to last, but I used it all in a little less than a month.

Aveeno Positively Ageless Lifting & Firming Eye Cream (0.5 ounce bottle, $20)

aveeno-positively-ageless-eye-cream

Aveeno Positively Ageless

What it’s supposed to do: Fight signs of aging and sun damage by visibly lifting and firming skin around the eyes reducing the appearance of lines, wrinkles, and dark circles.

What it did: After using this product just a few times the area around my eyes seemed much brighter and dark circles were not as apparent. No more tired eyes, yay!

What it didn’t do:  I didn’t notice any line reducing or firming action happening when I used this, which was disappointing.

When I pay $20 or more for a product I want it to shrink my skin so much that my eyeballs feel like they are about to pop out of my head.

Clinique Anti-Gravity Firming Eye Lift Cream (0.5 ounce jar, $37)

What it’s supposed to do: Hydrate, lift, and firm around the eyes while helping to erase the look of lines.

What it did: Hydrates and slightly firms. When I went to Macy’s to buy this product, the consultant working at the Clinique counter told me that this product was, “…like for our Grandmothers.” I bought it anyway and gave her the [firmed] stink eye as I walked away. So maybe I’m not the ideal consumer for this product, but it did kind of work for me.  I noticed that when used every day it did firm the area around my eyes, although not as much as I would have liked but it did give great hydration like they claim. Another plus is that the tiny jar lasts a long time, the consultant told me one jar should last about 6 months.

What it didn’t do: Erase the look of lines and give a lasting firmness. The firmness that this product gives definitely goes away if you don’t use it twice a day every day.

Clinique Repairwear Laser Focus Serum (1.0 ounce bottle, $47.50)

Clinique Repairwear

Clinique Repairwear

Used with:

Clinique Repairwear Laser Focus Wrinkle Correcting Eye Cream (0.5 ounce bottle, $43.50)

Clinique Repairwear uplifting firming cream (1.7 ounce bottle, $59.50)

Note: These all came in a Christmas gift pack together from Clinique.com that was $67.50.

What it’s supposed to do (Serum): After 12 weeks of use delivers 63% of visible wrinkle improvement that you would get from a laser procedure at a dermatologist. Reverses sun damage and reduces the appearance of lines and wrinkles.

What it did:  I really really loved this product (serum) if just for the fact that it made my skin so silky and smooth after I put it on.  I don’t know if you’re supposed to use this on your eyes, but I did. I also used it with the eye cream and uplifting firming cream.  I figure my eyes probably have sun damage too, so why not? I didn’t notice much of a difference in the area around my eyes with any of the products, but it did make the skin tone in the rest of my face more even.  I also didn’t notice any difference when using the uplifting firming cream, but if nothing else it was a nice light moisturizer.

What it didn’t do: Reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles.  I don’t have many lines or wrinkles, but I didn’t notice a difference at all in the ones that I do have. Boooo!

At home remedies

Frozen metal spoons—Decreases eye swelling/puffiness. Keep metal spoons in the freezer for a quick fix for eye swelling, this usually works in about 5-10 minutes.

Greek yogurt—Minimizes redness in the skin. Apply Greek yogurt like a face mask and leave on 10-15 minutes.

Egg white face mask—Tightens skin to reduce appearance of fine lines. Apply egg whites like a face mask to a clean face and let sit for 15 minutes until completely dry.

Extra virgin olive oil/grape seed oil/almond oil—Minimizes wrinkles. Rub oil(s) on wrinkles for a few minutes daily.

Cucumbers/potatoes—Diminishes the look of wrinkles and dark circles around the eyes. Place slices on eyes for 15-20 minutes daily.

So there you have it—Sheena, the Eye Cream Expert’s take on getting rid of bags, dark circles, and wrinkles. Don’t mind me while I try all of the above. In the meantime, I think Sheena should plop her face into a birthday cake iced with egg whites (a la Mrs. Doubtfire) to fight age. Now THAT’S having your cake and eating it, too. 

When Enough is Enough.

Sometimes, you've just got to face the facts.

Sometimes, you’ve just got to face the facts.

During my final semester in college, I quit my retail job and went to work as a bartender—something that was on my bucket list. As a foodie, I wanted to learn how to craft and serve some of the best cocktails in town.

While the hours were rough and the work was difficult, it was a really fun job. I wanted to be the bartender I would like if I were on the other side of the bar: fast and correct. Friendly? I’m not concerned about it. Flirty? Don’t waste your time.

However, many of my managers in the service industry disagreed with me—they wanted me to be flirty, fun, and friendly.

But here’s the problem with that: people don’t get it. In my few attempts at being smiley toward my regular customers, they would ask for my number, ask me on dates—none of which I was comfortable with.

So now we have the oh-so-fun awkward situation. Because they still come into the bar, they still want to talk, and they want to know why you didn’t reply their 37 text messages.

Over the years, I’ve learned that being kind isn’t always the answer. In fact, it often gets me into more trouble than how I started.

I do not consider myself a public figure. However, I’ve put myself out there as a relationship columnist, a radio personality; I have a very personal yet public blog, three books, I perform personal poetry at a public venue, and I recently accepted another job that will put my words in front of a new, public audience (details next week)—most of the time, it’s easy.

But there are times when readers and/or listeners feel like they know me. And hey, I’ve been there (John Mayer, call me!). But, sometimes, enough is enough.

I’ve learned my lesson about being nice—it often reads as something different, and makes the situation worse. So, I’m learning to be upfront with people, even if it might sting. I don’t want to waste anyone’s time.

Right now, I’m really focused on my work. By work, I mean this blog, my blog class, my books, my podcast, my poetry, and my upcoming projects. The work I put out is absolutely for everyone to read and listen to, and I don’t want to send the wrong message here—I love hearing about anyone and everyone who has related to me.

But please, please don’t take advantage of me. This blog is public so that everyone can have access to my stories. And often, those stories aren’t pretty. I’m not someone that’s quite ready for love. So, don’t push me in a corner; don’t bullshit me, and I won’t bullshit you.

When I say I’m not ready, I mean I’m not fucking ready. When I tell you I’m suffocated, it means go away. When I say there is nothing to discuss, it means leave me alone, please. Enough is enough, and frankly, I’ve had enough.

“Part of being a winner is knowing when enough is enough. Sometimes you have to give up the fight and walk away, and move on to something that’s more productive.”

—Donald Trump

Pic of the Week.

My fancy new microphone.

My fancy new microphone.

Last week, my podcast co-host, Ethan, was so kind as to send me a gift: a Snowball Microphone!

Currently, Ethan and I are hosting our podcast, Learning From Strangers, for free, but we are investing our time (mostly Ethan’s) and money (again, mostly Ethan’s) into this, hoping it boosts our numbers when it comes to our writing ventures.

Both of us are bloggers, and write lots about relationships—those mysterious things we’re all trying to figure out. But our podcast brings together two viewpoints that don’t often meet: one from a married man’s brain, and the other from a single girl’s eyes.

Not to blow smoke up my ass, but I think so far, we’ve done a great job. While we do think of show topics in advance, we never have a script, or really talking points. We just start talking, and eventually come to some sort of end.

So far, we’ve talked about creepiness, cats, drinking, new year’s resolutions, fashion, the friend-zone, and virginity. And there’s lots more fun stuff to chat about!

It has to be said that Learning From Strangers is an international podcast, as I am in Louisiana and Ethan is in Berlin. So, since we record with an ocean between us, the sound was inevitably different.

And, since Ethan hosts other podcasts and is an overall geek, his side of the conversation sounded way better than mine. I was just using my built-in microphone and a set of headphones I won at Dave & Busters (no, seriously), and you could kind of tell.

Enter: my new fancy pants Blue Snowball Microphone!

I know it seems pretty dorky to get so excited over a microphone, but I’ve never really invested in cool technology aside from my blog—and even those were minor.

We’ve recorded one podcast with it (on women making the first move), and I think you’ll be able  to tell a difference in the sound quality.

I hope that this investment is a sign of good things to come!

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