Author Archives: thebitterlemon
That’s right, I have NEVER watched a single episode of “The OC” – until now. Of course, I’d heard it was a good show, but it premiered in 2003, when I was strictly watching “Laguna Beach”.
After discovering that my library has NO copies of “The OC” on DVD, I asked for season 1 for Christmas, got it (thanks, mom!), and starting watching it pretty much immediately. Before I dive into my thoughts, here’s the official description from Amazon.com:
When Ryan Atwood, a tough, guarded, fiercely intelligent 16-year-old plunges headlong into the wealthy, privileged community of Newport Beach, he soon discovers that the ruling families of Orange County are every bit as territorial as the tough crowd with which he ran on the streets of Chino. For Sandy Cohen, the idealistic public defender who takes Ryan in; his wife Kirsten, the linchpin of O.C. society; their awkward adolescent son, Seth; and the beautiful troubled girl next door, Marissa Copper – Ryan’s presence will forever change their lives.
Ok, let’s get into this! And yes, there’s about to be loads of spoilers, because I’m assuming I’m the only person who hadn’t seen this show (I’m always late to the game). The season starts with us meeting Ryan in an interesting way – he’s attempting to steal a car with his brother, they mess it up and end up with the cops.
I was shocked – this is what all the hooplah was about? Some loser trying to steal cars? Ugh. But of course, Sandy Cohen, that public defender with a heart of gold, comes to Ryan’s rescue and offers to take him in (duh, there’s room in the pool house) temporarily.
Of course, a kid like Ryan isn’t immediately going to straighten up at the sight of Spanish-tiled roofs and granite countertops, so his presence in the neighborhood does not go unnoticed. He’s new, rough-around-the-edges, and he can’t seem to go anywhere without punching someone.
But alas, he catches the eyes of the girl next door, Marissa (Mischa Barton), and we’re given the romantic side of all the drama. Of course, Marissa’s not without her problems – cut to her drinking an endless bottle of room-temperature vodka.
As the season goes on (there are 27 episodes in season one), drama unfolds with all of the characters, including Marissa and her family, and the Cohens’ extended family members. Each episode ends on a cliffhanger, which explains why I watched a majority of it within a week, and then kept putting off the final three episodes because I wasn’t ready for it to be over.
Honestly, I didn’t grow up watching shows like this. I wasn’t allowed to watch “90210”, and have only seen a few episodes of “Dawson’s Creek”. “The OC” falls in-line with shows like this, the teen-soap type.
It’s good; not too cheesy, and I like the characters. The one that really won me over was Seth (Adam Brody), who is Sandy’s son, and he quickly befriends Ryan upon arrival. Seth is a nerd and despite his family’s name, he hasn’t been able to make many friends or get a girlfriend, well, ever. But once Ryan shows up and throws Seth into the cool scene, Seth is getting all the attention and I got a big kick watching his personality unfold.
For the record, I wanted so badly for Seth to end up with Anna, and was sad to see her go back to Philly. Summer is funny, but her character got stale for me.
Before I forget, let’s discuss Teresa, Ryan’s ex from Chino. I am not a big fan of her, and when she wound up pregnant in the second-to-last episode of the season I was about to scream! She toys with the idea of getting an abortion, but says she just HAS to have this baby (No, girl, you don’t! Your body, your choice!) because, cable TV.
So, the season ends with us not knowing exactly WHO the father is (cue Maury) and Ryan heading back with her to Chino to help her out. NNAAAAOOOOOO! Obviously, I haven’t watched season two yet (please, no spoilers), but I do not think she will end up having the baby and getting a paternity test. I am mostly thinking she will have a miscarriage and/or her and Ryan will get into a fight, sending him back to Orange County at the start of season two. We’ll see.
Probably my favorite two things about this show are 1. the nostalgia, and 2. the theme song. “The OC” is packed with things of my teenage life – silver flip phones, all things Hollister, and the stereotypical California lifestyle. Having said that, the show seemed rather low-budget to me now, but I’m sure if I’d have watched it in 2003, I would have thought it was very glamorous.
And then there’s the theme song, which is highly important (the theme to “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” is another favorite) and I would be lying if I said I didn’t belt out “CALI-FOR-NNIIIAAAAAAA” every single episode I watched. The soundtrack was also key, and brought me back to lots of bands I listened to in college.
So, there you have it! I haven’t started season two yet, but I promise you, I will! I’d love to hear if you watched this show, and why you liked it, or didn’t like it. In the meantime… “Californiiiiaaaaaaa, here we cooommme!”
Happy Monday! No, really, I am actually feeling good about this week. Last week, I felt so unmotivated and exhausted; I refuse to blame it on Daylight Savings, but something was definitely off.
But now I’ve had a good weekend, got some rest, had some fun, and I have been reading a TON, so I’ve got so many books from Blanche’s Book Club to review! I have also been thinking a lot about this book club. I know a few of you who are following along and/or using the club as a way to keep up with book recommendations (which is awesome, thank you), but it’s a non-committal club, so I haven’t been offering much else.
Should I? I have always wondered if I should offer book club questions or in-depth reader’s guides, or even recipes that go with the books? If there’s a desire for it, I’ll be happy to beef things up. If there was a sign up + email newsletter, would that be of interest? Just feeling things out here – so if you’re a fan of Blanche’s Book Club, let me know what you’d like to see here.
Anywho, let’s get to my latest read: “There’s Someone Inside Your House” by Stephanie Perkins. Here’s the description from Amazon.com:
It’s been almost a year since Makani Young came to live with her grandmother in landlocked Nebraska, and she’s still adjusting to her new life. And still haunted by her past in Hawaii.
Then, one by one, the students of her small town high school begin to die in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer, Makani will be forced to confront her own dark secrets.
Stephanie Perkins, bestselling author of Anna and the French Kiss, returns with a fresh take on the classic teen slasher story that’s fun, quick-witted, and completely impossible to put down.
Before I get too deep into this, I’ll say that I’m not one for scary stuff. It’s not entirely logical because I do like crime… I loved “CSI”, “Dexter”, and “Killing Fields”, and I devoured the coroner’s reports on Derrick Todd Lee.
But I don’t do scary movies. At all. I can’t even watch the previews on TV. When I was in high school, I loved them. That was during the time of “Scream” and “I Know What You Did Last Summer”, and I saw them all.
Once I moved out on my own, however, things were different. Scary movies weren’t so funny and I realized hey, actually some of this maybe could happen. And now I have timers on my lamps and never leave home without pepper spray.
All of that to say… I’m not entirely sure how this book ended up on my list, but I figured if I’m looking for a distraction, it may as well be murder. And this book DELIVERED.
To my delight, this book was very 90’s horror, and it’s high school setting had me feeling vibes from “The Faculty” SO HARD. Very “We don’t need no education…” – even though this book has absolutely nothing to do with the teachers being alien hosts.
I read this book quickly, but it stuck with me for days. The description of the killer was haunting, enough so to make me a tad frightened any time I entered my apartment at the end of the day. This is a goodie, y’all.
I’m recommending this to horror movie lovers, and anyone who loves a thrill and misses the 90’s. If you’re a seasonal reader, this would be a good one to read in the fall, around Halloween.
The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is, “The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Love, and Loss” by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt.
Ah, here we are, the final stage: Acceptance. This stage can come across as a giant sigh of relief, but the truth of the matter is, acceptance does not equal joy or mean that life goes back to the way it was.
Instead, it simply means that we are accepting life without our person; and we’re figuring out a way to create a new normal. This may mean that different people fill different roles, or that a daily routine looks a little different.
As I mentioned yesterday, my dad wasn’t a part of my daily life so not much changes in that regard. But I certainly feel different.
When I went to Tennessee for his memorial, a majority of my family was there, and it certainly felt so weird without my dad there. He was always keeping in touch with everyone and it would be strange to have all of us in a room without him. When my friend drove me back to Indiana the next day, things just felt a little colder, a little more empty.
I am still trying to learn a lot about my dad and the life he lived. Of the things I’ve heard, I’m starting to realize just how full of a life he did have, and how many obstacles he overcame in such a short time and did so without hesitation.
My dad wasn’t a man looking for fame or fortune – ultimately, I think he was just trying to find a little bit of happiness, perhaps even a touch of adventure in each day. He loved stories, loved meeting people, and even in the confines of what appears to be a reclusive last few years, he found joy in hobbies: fixing fountain pens, attending garage sales, reading, and playing chess competitively.
I am never going to be okay with my dad being gone. But I know my dad would be okay knowing that we are all going to try and find a way to go on without him here, physically. I hope this brings my family together – they’re pretty cool – and I know he’d like seeing us lean on each other.
My dad was cremated, and I flew my portion (1/7th) of his ashes from Indiana to Texas. Right now, they sit on my bookshelf while I wait to decide what I actually want to do with them. I know I’m scattering some of them, and am lightly planning that now. I know my other family members have their own ideas for how to honor my dad, too.
I have no idea how long a journey like this lasts. In college, a close friend unexpectedly passed away and I felt like my heart was ripped to shreds. I remember pulling over and calling my dad when I got the news.
That was almost 10 years ago, and sometimes I still get choked up about that loss. But I am someone who believes in spirits and signs, and I have a connection to radio waves (I know, it’s super weird but I hear meaningful songs nearly everywhere I go), and I’ve already seen a few signs from my dad.
Even just last night, I went to a dance class and we danced to Demi Lovato and DJ Khalid’s “I Believe”, and the lyrics almost brought me to tears: “Tough times don’t last, but tough people do, As long as you’ve got hope, you’ll find your way.”
I know we’re all going to come out of this on the other side, and I have always believed that we aren’t given anything we can’t handle.
Don’t look back at this time as a time of heartbreak and distress, remember me.
…I don’t want you to cry and weep, I want you to go on, living your life.
-Hanson, “With You In Your Dreams”
Thank you so much for reading my grief series – I know it was not a cheerful read. There will be more on this, I’m sure, as I continue on.
If you knew my dad, and have anything you’d like to share with me, please do not hesitate to email me at: Holly@thebitterlemon.com – I would love to hear from you.
Stage four isn’t that shocking – it’s depression. Why wouldn’t someone going through grief suffer from depression? I have been slogging through the darkness of depression and sadness since my dad’s surgery in late September.
Although depression can come in many forms for different people, for me, there was one telltale sign: things that normally made me happy, no longer did. That is why my blogging fell to the side, my Etsy shop (I stopped making jewelry), I stopped cooking and relied on meal delivery, and my sleep suffered.
Things are slowly getting better – and I know that it’s okay if I have a bad day – now is the time to go easy on myself.
Expectations when it comes to grief are really weird. I got cards in the mail from so many people, which was great, and I’m so thankful – I hung them all in my living room. But on the other hand, some people just expect me to go on and be normal, like nothing ever happened… And well, that’s just not how it’s going to be.
People respond differently to people who are grieving. They reach out. But depression is so very isolating. It’s hard to explain to anyone who has never been depressed how isolating it is. Grief comes and goes, but depression is unremitting.
-Key Redfield Johnson
Some days DO feel normal. After all, I didn’t talk to my dad on a regular basis. Before his surgery, I hadn’t talked to him in almost four years. But nothing can explain the finite feeling that is death. He is gone, and I can’t talk to him like I did before, no matter what I do.
Other days, I feel like I keep freaking seeing CANCER… BRAIN CANCER, everywhere. It’s in the books I read, it’s on TV, it’s online… and I just never want to see it again.
Right now, there are two 50-pound boxes of his things in my closet. I have dug out a few of the items – a wooden chess board and pieces that I’ve set up on my dresser, an antique fountain pen that’s on my home desk, a glass paperweight that’s on my desk at work, an LSU sweatshirt, an Atlanta baseball hat, and a half-used journal.
Some days, I wear the hat or sweatshirt – the last few nights, I’ve slept with the journal at the foot of my bed. Other days, I don’t want to even think about opening up the boxes to see what else is in there. I’m just not ready.
I’ve found that reading is a good escape – I’ve read three books in the last week. I’ve even cooked a few meals and am starting to gather materials to make a few pieces of jewelry for my Etsy shop.
I am someone who likes to DO things; I like to be productive. But even with the greatest intentions, sometimes I still end up laying in bed for long chunks of time. It is a slow process. Writing about my feelings – even at a surface level – has helped me this week. Planning for the future also helps, and gets me excited about things coming up this year.
I’m taking it day by day, as cliche as it sounds.
Tomorrow, I’ll be talking about the fifth and final stage of grief: Acceptance.
Stage three of grief is an interesting one. Bargaining refers to promises that may have been made before the person passed away. For example, praying and asking God to please spare your loved one; or perhaps making a promise that you’ll never do anything bad again if only this person can live longer.
These types of promises, or bargaining, may also occur after the person has passed, only now, they are imaginary. We may start to think back and wonder what if I’d done this, would the person have lived longer?
I’ll be honest, this really has not been a part of my grieving process, at least not yet. I know that there’s nothing I could have done to change the course of my dad’s life. I think many of us are probably in a position to think, well if we only took charge of our health or if we only exercised more, etc… but the truth is, our death is already planned. And it may not have anything to do with health or food or exercise.
I also know that my dad was given the best care possible once he entered Erlanger hospital, and I know he was grateful for all of his surgeons, doctors, and nurses along the way.
The thing is… guilt is also a part of stage three. And I cannot say I’ll walk away from this without feeling guilt. I wanted so badly to repair the relationship I had with my dad so that we could enjoy his final days, months, years laughing as we once did.
It’s a hard thing to imagine how somebody copes with grief and at the same time has to build a new life.
But despite everything I did, there was still a barrier. And the truth is, I will die not knowing what really happened there. There is one thing I did that I feel wrecked with guilt for, and I obviously can’t take it back.
Because of the nature of my dad’s death, I was blessed to have the opportunity to say goodbye. He was not capable of responding to me, but he was breathing, and I said – albeit through hysterical tears – everything I could think to say. And I apologized.
And that’s all I could do; and I just have to know that he heard me, and that he died knowing I was sorry, and that we were at peace with our past.
At this point, and as I continue coping, I know that I’m going to have to forgive myself, and the only real thing I can change, is how I act in the future.
Tomorrow, I’ll discuss Stage Four: Depression.
Already, anger has played a pretty big part in my grieving process. Actually, anger has had a role in the relationship I’ve had with my dad for many years.
As described by the experts, this stage of grief can be met with general feelings of anger, along with structured feelings of being angry at a specific person – maybe a doctor, or someone who wasn’t there during the time of loss.
I have had moments of being angry at a specific person, but I also do not want those feelings of anger over that person to overshadow my general sadness over my loss, if that makes any sense. I do not want my dad’s memory to be tarnished by one person is the best way I can put it.
I have also had incredible anger at the situation surrounding my dad, anger at work, and anger at the world for just not being an easy place for me right now. I’ve even gotten angry at Blanche!
At my dad’s memorial service, my great uncle said that memory is not something death can take from us. And for that I am so grateful. But, when it came time to share stories about my dad, many of the stories I have are of him being mad at me.
Of course, many of them are moments I can laugh about now; moments where he was just raising me, being tough on me, but they aren’t necessarily moments that describe him as a person. Or are they? My dad had a short fuse, and we butted heads countless times.
May love be what you remember most.
My feelings of anger are countered by my faith in destiny. I believe there are moments in our life that are planned – such as when and how we will die – but I also believe we choose our destinies. And my dad made choices that resulted in a situation that angered our family.
His death does not change those choices, and he was an adult, actively making those choices. To be completely angry is to deny that he made those choices.
My anger is also countered by the support I feel from my family and my friends – I have heard from so many of you, received so many hugs, and have shared tears with you. For that I am so grateful.
But yes, anger is still going to be there. Studies show that as a culture, we’re taught to suppress anger, even though it’s a very necessary, common feeling. Although I don’t consider myself an angry person, I’ve found anger to be a powerful part of this grief.
My anger has forced me to acknowledge a lot of things in my life that have otherwise floated by, and it’s given me the confidence to confront the people that are pissing me off! In a way it’s good, but of course, no one likes to get yelled at.
As I’ll continue to say, I’m coping. And it’s not really a pretty thing, but I’m just rolling with it.
Tomorrow, I’ll talk about stage three: bargaining.
My dad was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer in October of 2017. I know that typically, the five stages of grief are part of the healing process after loss; after death. But I have been coping with symptoms of grief since I heard the news about a mass in his brain.
I quickly learned that this blog was not a place for me to air my grievances – it was only adding to my stress as I received horrible messages from outsiders. No matter how many supportive messages I got, it only takes one dig to stick with us.
So, I quit.
I barely made an appearance here – a place I thought was mine. But that is sometimes what happens when you put yourself out there, in any form. There are always going to be haters.
For the most part, I have stuck to my journal and have let most of my other creative outlets fall to the side – including my Etsy shop (I am slowly starting to get back to it). But in general, I have been merely just trying to get by; just trying to get out of bed, look half-decent to get to work on time; do my tasks; and get some sleep at night.
At that, is stage one: Denial.
My dad passed away on February 3. It was not a surprise, and at first, I took a giant sigh of relief when I heard the news. And then I apologized for feeling relief. But I wanted so badly for my dad to be at peace, and to know that he would no longer be in pain.
After that sigh, I’ve felt a multitude of things, and each day – hell, each moment – feels different. So, I’m using this week to explore the healing process as I’ve come to know it. I’m still working on a larger project that will further detail my dad’s life and our relationship; so parts of this may be vague, as I’m still not ready to open those parts of my memory just yet.
Before starting this blog series, I thought that denial was literally denying that a person was sick or had died. And I certainly have never felt that way. I took my dad’s condition very seriously.
In 1969, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and her co-author, a grief expert, David Kessler, identified the five stages of grief that we’ve come to understand as a necessary part of the healing process.
Instead, denial is us just trying to get through each day. We may question why we should go on or HOW we should go on, and I have been feeling this SO hard. During this stage, life may seem meaningless, or things that once seemed like a big deal just don’t matter as much.
The latter explains my feelings about work. I hate admitting that, but ever since my dad’s surgery, getting stressed over trivial things at work seemed beneath me. And they still do.
But grief is a walk alone.
Others can be there, and listen. But you will walk alone down your own path, at your own pace, with your sheared-off pain, your raw wounds, your denial, anger, and bitter loss. You’ll come to your own peace, hopefully… But it will be on your own, in your own time.
My dad’s memorial service was a week after his passing, but I knew that upon getting back into town, I had to refocus quickly and jump into dance rehearsals. I was in the middle of prepping for the showcase and I had two weeks to learn two routines and get my costumes together. It was a much-needed distraction.
But the day after the showcase, I felt so lost. I didn’t really know what to do with myself even though between work and dance and just general life, my days are pretty much laid out for me.
Since then, it’s gotten a little better – I know I must go on, and I know I have to continue to live the life I’ve dreamt of, especially now. None of us know just how much time we have, and I don’t want to ever be in my final days wishing I’d done more.
As you probably know, the stages of grief are not linear. They can come and go at any time – sometimes they last a minute, sometimes they may last months. Everyone deals differently.
Tomorrow, I’ll discuss stage two: Anger.
I almost didn’t want to post anything today – I know you all are probably sick of reading my book reviews, but I have been reading so much lately! I think I’m using books as a bit of an escape from life, stress, grieving, etc… so I’m just going to go with it.
The latest read from Blanche’s Book Club is “Hate List” by Jennifer Brown. Before I get into this ANY further, here is the official description from Amazon.com:
Five months ago, Valerie Leftman’s boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saved the life of a classmate, but was implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. A list of people and things she and Nick hated. The list he used to pick his targets.
Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year. Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, former friends and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with the tragedy that took place and her role in it, in order to make amends and move on with her life.
I was reading this book thinking, “Wow, this is so timely…” and then I saw it was published in 2010 and realized probably any book written about a mass shooting has been considered “timely” since Columbine.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to get into politics here, but it did break my heart just a little to realize that, yes, school shootings are so common now that they’re becoming topics in YA novels. Amirite?
I took note of some of my favorite lines from the book:
- “Bruter’s name was the first of hundreds on the now infamous ‘Hate List’, a red spiral notebook confiscated from Nick Levil’s home just hours after the shooting.”
- “And then there was the noise. It wasn’t so much a noise in my ears as it was in my brain. It sounded like the whole world was shutting down on me.”
- “I wanted her to smile, and I wondered if she smiled when she got home and held her kids or if she just came home and sat back in her recliner with a vodka and drank until she couldn’t hear gunshots.”
- “After your classmates get blown away pretty much everything else in the world – even your father bailing on your family – seems pretty trivial.”
This book did a good job of showing the other side of mass shootings – what happens to the people that knew and loved the person with the gun? It’s not something that is usually covered in the media, but is addressed locally; a funeral often has to be held for the accused as well.
The book also addresses mental health and how we (as humans) digest the things people say to us, such as, were those actual signs? Jokes? Could I have done something to prevent this from happening?
And finally, this story seemed so real; the characters, the school, the high school struggle – I couldn’t help but be completely submerged into this world. A truly fantastic read.
I’m recommending this one to YA novel lovers, and to anyone who enjoys human interest stories.
The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “There’s Someone Inside Your House” by Stephanie Perkins.
In other news, I DO have other ideas for blog posts in my mind, but like I said, I’ve simply been trying to just take it easy on myself and do anything that doesn’t feel awful. I had tickets to go to a hockey game last night, but when it came time to get into my car and go, I couldn’t do it. I was worried it would remind me too much of my dad and I’d just end up sitting there crying.
I have started going through some of the things willed to me by my dad and am documenting it on my Instagram account @OrangeJulius7 if you’d like to follow along – it’s part of a bigger project I will eventually reveal.
Howdy! Did anyone else stay up watching The Oscars last night? I did, and I’m not entirely sure why – I never am good at keeping up with the movies that are nominated. I did enjoy when the celebs visited the moviegoers across the street, though.
I also took a much-needed 3-hour nap yesterday, so when midnight rolled around, I still wasn’t really that tired. This all results in me not wanting to be at work today (shocker), wearing the first thing I could find in my closet, and no makeup. Wamp!
I can’t really explain why, but I’ve been reading SO much lately. It might be offering me a bit of an escape, so I’m just going to take it for now. The latest read from Blanche’s Book Club is a murder mystery: “The Other Side of Everything” by Lauren Doyle Owens.
This book is pretty new (published January 23, 2018) – I always get excited for new books, because I get most of mine from the library (this one included). It is also Owens’ debut novel. Here’s the description of the book from Amazon.com:
Laura Lippman meets Megan Abbott in this suspenseful literary debut about three generations of neighbors whose lives intersect in the aftermath of a crime.
Bernard White is a curmudgeonly widower who has lived in Seven Springs, Florida for decades and has kept to himself since his wife passed. When his neighbor is murdered, he emerges from his solitude to reconnect with his fellow octogenarians. These connections become a literal lifeline as a second, and then a third, elderly woman is murdered, and “the originals” as they call themselves, realize that they are being targeted.
Amy Unger is an artist and cancer survivor whose emotional recovery has not been as successful as her physical one. After the woman next door is murdered, she begins to paint imagined scenes from the murder in an effort to cope with her own loss. But when her paintings prove to be too realistic, her neighbors grow suspicious, and she soon finds herself in the crosshairs of the police.
And then there’s Maddie Lowe, a teenage waitress whose mother recently abandoned the family. As Maddie struggles to keep her family together and maintain the appearance of normal teenage life, she finds herself drawn to the man the police say is the killer.
As they navigate their increasingly dangerous and tumultuous worlds, Bernard, Amy, and Maddie begin to uncover the connections between them, and the past and present, in a novel that ultimately proves the power of tragedy to spark renewal.
Although a majority of this book focuses on older characters, there’s one teenage character and I loved reading the chapters that focused on her. The entire book was creepy, very descriptive (which I love), and it felt very much like a true story. There were even a few political digs that made me think this was written in its entirely within the past few years.
I’m recommending this book to true crime lovers and mystery readers! The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Hate List” by Jennifer Brown.
This album was the last one in my pile I gathered at the library last month. I was searching for new tunes to keep me distracted enough from crying every time I got into my Jeep to go somewhere.
If you’ve listened to Chris Stapleton’s debut album, “Traveller”, you probably know how and why it ended up on the bottom of my pile. I was driven to check it out from the library after seeing a news feature about Stapleton on “Sunday Today” (my favorite news program).
The feature aired the morning of the Grammy’s, as Stapleton was nominated. It also covered the entirety of his career, a major highlight being his performance of “Tennessee Whiskey” with Justin Timberlake at the 2015 Country Music Awards.
I will admit it was a moment that caught my ear and put Stapleton on my radar – his sound was bluesey, and that’s something I love.
But Stapleton has shared his story about his very popular debut; a piece of work he created after his father died in 2013. He took a road trip across the country with his wife, stretching across the West in an old Jeep.
Today marks one month since my dad passed away, and listening to this album over these last few weeks has been half-difficult and half-cathartic. Above all, I admire Stapleton for putting such raw emotions into a beautiful piece of art that will be enjoyed by many for years to come.
That’s the thing about being a creator – some of the best stuff comes from the darkest of places, and can be so helpful and rewarding to others.
The title track is one of my favorites, and honestly makes me think of every road trip I’ve ever taken – it’s upbeat, nostalgic, and it just gives me this image of driving with the windows down, overlooking a vast desert. I love it.
My heartbeat’s rhythm is a lonesome sound
Just like the rubber turning on the ground
Always lost and nowhere bound
I’m just a traveler on this earth
There’s a lot of talk of whiskey on this album; from “Tennessee Whiskey”, “Whiskey and You” and “Parachute”, it seems dark, but is probably honest.
My other favorite track has to be “Sometimes I Cry” – it basically sums up my life lately, and it was so bare and raw I can’t help but love it.
The entire Stapleton sound reminded me so much of Marc Broussard, an artist I’ve admired for many years. I don’t know who came first, but they have fantastic similarities.
I’m looking forward to checking out more of Stapleton’s music – I know there’s a few more albums to listen to for me to catch up. Blues music can bring out those deep cuts – it’s not pop music. Sometimes it’s difficult to hear, but there are times for that, too.
This month has been so hard, this week probably being one of the worst. When all of life’s distractions fall to the side, I’m sort of left with a feeling of what to do next. For now, I’m going through the motions, going easy on myself, and I’m starting to get a few things in an order I can appreciate.
On Thursday, I was half-listening to a webinar, when I heard a few things that caught my attention: “Your best work comes from a place of elegant excellence.”
Hmm… perhaps there’s some truth to that.
I’ve had so many memories and thoughts swirling around in my head, I’m due for a journaling session. I’ve got a few ideas brewing and I know I’m on the brink of something big – something that may help heal, too.
There are days that I can walk around like I’m alright
And I pretend to wear a smile on my face
And I could keep the pain from comin’ out of my eyes
But sometimes, sometimes,Sometimes I cry-Chris Stapleton
Last night, I put performances in my 5th showcase with Dance Austin Studio to bed. After our showcase in November, I said I was coming for you, Love Hangover, and that’s exactly what happened.
In the fall, my life took a turn when my dad was diagnosed with brain cancer. When I found out, we were in the thick of rehearsals and I remember just how difficult it was to retain choreography. But with lots of practice and support from fellow dancers, I did it.
This time around was similar. My dad passed away on February 3rd, and although it’s still very difficult for me to talk about publicly, I will say that my dance family has been incredibly supportive this month.
So many of my fellow dancers and instructors, and even the owner of the studio, reached out to me to offer their condolences and support. I got so many hugs before rehearsals, and even last night, dancers I don’t see often made sure I was okay to go on stage. I am so, so thankful for that.
Before my dad passed, I signed up to perform in two pieces at the showcase: broadway jazz and lyrical hip hop. The two pieces were some of the more difficult routines I’ve ever learned – continuing with my goal to keep pushing myself each time the opportunity arises.
I had to miss one rehearsal to attend my dad’s memorial, and even though I got total support and love from my choreographer/instructor, I returned ready to NAIL. THIS. I needed the distraction and I knew more than ever that it’s simply my time to live my life.
I’ve felt like my mind, heart, and all of myself had been taken over by my dad’s disease and all of the trappings that accompany a heartbroken family. Sure, I am grieving, and will continue to do so. But after six months of finding very little that brought me out of my funk, I was ready to just DO this, and do it with all I had.
So, I did. I spent hours reviewing videos from class, dancing in my kitchen, listening to the music in my car, getting help from other dancers, and scouring multiple Goodwills for the perfect costumes.
There were times I wondered if I’d made a giant mistake; if I’d picked pieces that were too difficult for me. But that’s the thing about growth – it’s not easy, sometimes it hurts, but you come out a better person because of it.
And you know what? I got to dance beside people that I’ve looked up to since showcase #1. I’m talking to you, Kim and Charlene. I will NEVER forget when I saw Kim perform a unique routine to a Backstreet Boys’ song – I immediately wondered, “Who is that girl?!” I wanted to know her, and I’m so glad I got to rehearse with her and perform on stage beside her.
Charlene is a beautiful dancer in class, on stage, wherever, and she has this amazing ability to put everything on stage no matter what she may be feeling on the inside. I know I am not alone when I say that my eyes are often drawn to her no matter how many people are performing.
There’s also Chase and Mendy – I saw you guys freaking ROCK the last lyrical hip hop performance, and I thought, “That’s it, I’m taking that class.” And I did – and then we were all in rehearsal together and I remain so inspired by both of you – you have a performance quality that is so amazing.
Naturally, what would our performance be without our choreographer and instructor, Caitlin? I’m so lucky to be able to take her classes and learn from her – technique, style, performance WOW – she’s got it all and she’s so approachable and funny to boot.
I have been thinking so much lately about dance, and how many times I’ve prepped for shows, performances, and competitions in my life. Over the last six months, various memories have bubbled to the surface and I remembered specific instances from being on my high school dance squad.
The summer before my junior year, we went to a UDA Dance Camp for the first time. It was at a state college, we got to stay in the dorms (so cool), and we were going to learn all sorts of new routines that we could perform during basketball season.
Little did we know that UDA Dance Camp was, like, a THING, and other squads were incredibly serious, technically great, and focused. All of the other teams showed up in matching workout gear for each day of camp, including hair bows and the like, and we… well we brought sleep boxers and loose t-shirts.
Our assistant coach, who accompanied us to camp, did not back down. She encouraged us to go, go do our best, we deserved the ribbons and routines just as much as anyone else. She recorded us in our various practices and when we went back to the dorms each night, she helped us drill the routines until we had them.
And we got first place ribbons – mismatched outfits and all. Because dance is universal – it doesn’t matter how much money you have, what you’re wearing, where you come from – it’s about a willingness to try.
That same year, our head coach unexpectedly passed away mid-season. To this day, I still can’t believe it happened, and I can’t really calculate how we got through it, other than to say that we had each other and we had dance. I still remember performing a dedication to her on that basketball court. It felt like our whole city was mourning with us.
At the end of last night’s show, Chi Chi – the owner of Dance Austin Studio – said she’d experienced loss in the last week, and it’s often in those times we realize how importance it is to just move the mental road block and live our lives, no matter what that means to you. Dance is healing.
That’s the truth! I’m so thankful I have a place to help me heal, a place to go when times are good, and when they’re bad. It wouldn’t be that way without the people there, and know that you all mean so much to me.
Hello! I know I’ve sort of been keeping the blog strictly to book and music reviews lately – I am just not quite ready to blog about things much deeper, yet. I am also very happy to have had some time to read said books and listen to some new (new to me, anyway) music that I can share with you if you’re looking for recommendations. I promise the day will come when there will be more of a variety of things here, like there once was!
But, let’s get into it! I actually didn’t “read” this latest book, but rather, I listened to it during a road trip about a week ago. It still counts, right? I think I’d been putting off reading this book, because it’s the last of the Andy Cohen books – I’ve now read them all!
So yes, the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club is “Most Talkative: Stories from the Front Lines of Pop Culture” by Andy Cohen. Here’s the description from Amazon:
The man behind the Real Housewives writes about his lifelong love affair with pop culture that brought him from the suburbs of St. Louis to his own television show
From a young age, Andy Cohen knew one thing: He loved television. Not in the way that most kids do, but in an irrepressible, all-consuming, I-want-to-climb-inside-the-tube kind of way. And climb inside he did. Now presiding over Bravo’s reality TV empire, he started out as an overly talkative pop culture obsessive, devoted to Charlie’s Angels and All My Children and to his mother, who received daily letters from Andy at summer camp, usually reminding her to tape the soaps. In retrospect, it’s hard to believe that everyone didn’t know that Andy was gay; still, he remained in the closet until college. Finally out, he embarked on making a career out of his passion for television.
The journey begins with Andy interviewing his all-time idol Susan Lucci for his college newspaper and ends with him in a job where he has a hand in creating today’s celebrity icons. In the witty, no-holds-barred style of his show Watch What Happens Live, Andy tells tales of absurd mishaps during his ten years at CBS News, hilarious encounters with the heroes and heroines of his youth, and the real stories behind The Real Housewives. Dishy, funny, and full of heart, the New York Times bestseller, Most Talkative, provides a one-of-a-kind glimpse into the world of television, from a fan who grew up watching the screen and is now inside it, both making shows and hosting his own.
…And in case you’re wondering, the audio version is read by the author, which is fantastic! I cannot explain just how much I love Andy Cohen, and I’ve enjoyed reading all three of his books, and loved being able to see him live with Anderson Cooper.
I have always admired Andy because of his humble beginnings – he grew up like most of us did, and he climbed the ranks old school, and made it big in his 40s. In “Most Talkative”, he explains how TV shaped his life (preach it) and it’s easy to see how his obsession with daytime soaps paved the way for one of his most successful endeavors: The Real Housewives franchise.
The book is also filled with laugh-out-loud moments, from pranks he played on his family to his all-too-real run-ins with celebrities. He even shares his coming out story.
I’m recommending this book to Andy Cohen fans, of course, but also to reality TV fans, and aspiring journalists everywhere.
The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Ramona Blue” by Julie Murphy.
Continuing on my journey of listening to country albums form 2014… I’ve been jamming out to Little Big Town’s “Pain Killer” the past few weeks.
This was the first album from Little Big Town that I’ve listened to, and really the only song from them I’d paid much attention to was “Girl Crush”, which is track 5 on the album.
Although I like “Girl Crush”, I ended up liking a few songs even more! My favorite song on this album is “Stay All Night” and I could see it being my summer anthem for… well, the rest of my life.
Oh, wish this drink would never end
Hell, I just caught my second wind
Why don’t the good stuff ever last
It comes and goes and it goes so fast
They’re shuttin’ it down and turn on the lights, yeah
Wish we could stay all night
I also really enjoyed “Day Drinking” – “Don’t want to wait til the sun’s sinking, We could be feeling all right, I know you know what I’m thinking, Why don’t we do a little day drinking.” This song reminds me of game days, and also anytime I’ve been on a boat. It’s a fun track.
“Good People” is another lighthearted one, and it was fun to sing along to. And finally, I love “Live Forever”, even though it made me tear up a few times – it’s a beautiful song and I found it got stuck in my head a lot.
One cool thing about Little Big Town is that the group is comprised of so many different voices, each track has a little bit of a different sound. Of course, that doesn’t work out well if you’re not a fan of everyone in the group, but I liked it.
The tracks were fun, but they were also soulful at times, and I heard a few hints of Bonnie Raitt in there that I really enjoyed.
Little did I know that “Pain Killer” is the groups’ 6th album, so it looks like I’ve got some catching up to do – I’ll have to check and see what the library has in stock!
I certainly have much more on my mind than my latest read, but for now, I’m sticking to my journal until I’m ready to talk about the bigger things swirling around. Besides, I’m trying to post my book reviews ASAP and keep up with my reading list this year!
So, let’s get to it! The latest read from Blanche’s Book Club is “The Dinner” by Herman Koch. The Amazon description of the book was very garbled, so I found one from NPR:
Food doesn’t matter much in novels. Years will pass in a person’s life without a single description of a snack. Not a moment between adverbs for a taco. No wonder so many characters in contemporary fiction are glum: They’re not hopeless; they’re hungry.
In his new book, The Dinner, Dutch author Herman Koch structures his entire plot around a five-course meal, going from aperitif to digestif. The novel was originally published in the Netherlands in 2009 and went on to become an international best-seller. It’s the story of two couples meeting for dinner in a sophisticated Amsterdam restaurant, the type of place where every item on the menu practically comes with a birth certificate, and in very small portions. As Koch writes, “The first thing that struck you about Claire’s plate was the vast emptiness. Of course I’m well aware that, in the better restaurants, quality takes precedence over quantity, but you have voids and then you have voids. The void here, that part of the plate on which no food at all was present, had clearly been raised to a matter of principle.”
But all the eating is cover for nasty events. The four people at the table, two brothers and their wives, have come together for an uncomfortable conversation. One of the brothers is a famous politician. The other is a retired teacher. They don’t get along, but their sons do, and it turns out the boys have done something awful. Something so upsetting it has shocked the entire nation after footage of their crime turned up on the nightly news. However, the video did not show the boys’ faces, leaving them anonymous for the moment, and now their parents must decide what to do next.
The food-as-a-cover was an interesting and unique approach, however, I felt the book didn’t get to the point (the talk of the boys and their possible involvement in a crime) until the main course, which was more than halfway through the book!
While it was certainly interesting, I was feeling very impatient while reading this book – and I wanted more details upfront. For the first time, in at least awhile, I’m not going to recommend this book to anyone. If you’ve read it, and liked it, I’d love to hear your thoughts! I’d been waiting on this book to come up on my reserve list for awhile, so I’m disappointed that I didn’t enjoy it more.
The next book Blanche’s Book Club is reading is, “Most Talkative” by Andy Cohen.