Author Archives: thebitterlemon

Comparing makeup finishing sprays.

I haven’t written much about it, but I’ve been experimenting more with my makeup lately. It’s a fun way to express myself, even at my desk job, and I love trying new products – and okay, I really enjoy watching makeup tutorials. It’s oddly calming!

Loved this one for everyday use.

At first, I was hesitant to spray my face in hopes of setting my makeup and helping it last longer. I mean, that just doesn’t seem right. But, lots of people say it works, and why not try it? It’s taken me months to try multiple brands and types – I like to get a complete opinion! While I tried to test different kinds, I also have to stick to what I like, but who knows, maybe you’ll find one you like or have one you can suggest to me! Here goes…

NYX Matte Finish Makeup Setting Spray

This was the first setting spray I purchased. I’ve used NYX products before, and like them, and you can’t really beat the price tag. The bottle looks small, but I usually just need one or two sprays a day and I’m good to go.

Honestly, even with nothing to compare this to, I loved this product. I have always had a problem with my makeup settling into my skin by lunch time, or even fading by the end of the day. This stuff makes my face bullet-proof. Even after a day of work and dance class, my makeup looks good!

I bought this one at Ulta and when I checked the website later, it has 4.5 stars out of 5 – sounds like a winner to me!

Setting spray with SPF.

$7.99 (NYX), for 2.2-oz bottle 

Coola Face SPF 30 Makeup Setting Spray

I got this in one of my monthly Birchbox shipment, and it made for a great setting spray while traveling. I used this anytime I was going to be outdoors, including an outdoor protest/rally, a music festival, and outdoor volunteering – all hoping to get a little extra SPF on my face.

It worked fine as a setting spray – it does have a slight “sunscreen” smell, which doesn’t bother me, but I know it’s not for everyone.

It set my makeup, but I’m not sure I would choose this for everyday use unless my job required me to spend lots of time outdoors. It doesn’t take much though, so purchasing a bottle would probably last you awhile.

$36.00 (Coola), for 1.7-oz bottle

Ulta Matte Makeup Setting Spray

Coconut scented!

I get my hair cut and colored at Ulta, and Often used the 20 minutes under a cap to shop (yes, I’m roaming the aisles in a cape, clear cap, with red dye all over the place). I came across Ulta’s makeup line and saw this matte setting spray had a special feature that sold me: coconut scented.

I know it’s small, and really, no one is getting close enough to my face to smell it, but I can smell it when I spray it on and that’s all that matters. The price was great, and it’s on-par with NYX as far as quality.

I don’t wear a ton of makeup, but I do wear enough that needs to be looking good at the end of the day. This one does well keeping my makeup in place, while keeping shine under control.

$10.00 (Ulta), for 3-oz bottle

So far, I think the NYX is my favorite, but I will probably keep trying new brands. I haven’t tried any of the aerosol setting sprays, so maybe that’s next. I do have a Smashbox primer/setting spray that I have yet to try (not sure how I feel about 2-N-1 products). But let me know what makeup setting sprays you like to use and maybe I’ll give them a try!

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Happy birthday, John Mayer!

Hellooooo!

Today is my favorite person’s 40th birthday: John Mayer! I know this date by heart, and in the past, I’ve baked cakes, worn Mayer merch, or simply blasted some of my favorite songs in celebration of the day.

Last night, Mayer took to Instagram Live to share with fans that he was on a plane with eight of his friends (including Andy Cohen) headed to Brazil, and he was wearing a completely silly outfit, eating freshly-made udon right out of the carton.

He said he was born around 4am and would still be mid-flight when he officially turned 40. He also said being on a plane often makes him emotional, plus all of the birthday emotions, and he foresaw many deep thoughts and writings upon the plane’s landing.

Earlier in the week, many news outlets picked up Mayer’s gift to himself: a diamond-encrusted pendant of The Dude. But that purchase should come as no surprise for Mayer fans – John has an extensive jewelry collection, and he admits he’s much more a lover of things, not experiences. Because let’s be honest – he has DAILY experiences, right?

I started listening to John Mayer when I was 16 – thanks to my dad letting me borrow “Room for Squares”. I quickly grew to like the album, but it wasn’t until I saw John live, actually at a street festival in Ohio, that I thought maybe he could be someone to really listen to.

I’ve not missed an album or a tour since. I’m a bit obsessed, and I’m okay with it. He’s an artist that’s grown over time, and he keeps getting better. I turn to his music when times are tough, and I know exactly where to go when I’m happy.

On the plane, John said 40 was a big milestone for him; that it felt like he’d spent all of his years leading up to building a home, and now he’s home. He joked about his analogy, but I like it – I think a lot of people, including myself, spend years thinking about the future they want.

I have moments of feeling like I’m getting there, I’m almost there. And sometimes I feel just the opposite.

I can’t wait to see what’s next for this guy. Happy birthday to the coolest 40-year old on my playlist.

BBC: ‘The Hate U Give’.

OOoOoOoOoOooooOOO – It’s Friday the 13th! I woke up this morning with my right eye crying and when I looked in the mirror, it was incredibly red. So, I threw on some clothes and went to an urgency care clinic. They basically told me it was just irritated- no pink eye or virus – so I naturally spent $100 for nothing. But hey, better safe than sorry?!

This is the first weekend in a month that I don’t have anything solid on my schedule, which is an awesome feeling and a scary one all at the same time. I foresee some crafting in my future (be on the lookout if you’re following my Etsy store), some reading, cooking, and I definitely have some dance rehearsal I need to get to. You see how these weekends of “nothing” can quickly turn into something?

Anywho, let’s talk about Blanche’s Book Club’s latest read: “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas. Here is the official description from Amazon.com:

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

I heard about this book on one of my favorite podcasts, “What Should I Read Next?” It was there I learned that yes, this book was inspired by Trayvon Martin’s death, the Black Lives Matter movement, and Tupac’s tattoo “THUG LIFE”.

This is categorized as a YA novel, but it obviously touches on some mature subjects that have since trickled into the lives of young ones.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you probably know by now that equality across cultures, systematic racism, the prison cycle, and Black Lives Matter are my political hot-button issue. I may work in abortion care, but racial injustice is what keeps me up at night.

Needless to say, I had to read this book.

This story was almost like we were getting to see Trayvon’s story from another side. While there were no eye-witnesses to his murder aside from the person who killed him, he was on a phone with a female friend. Starr, in this case, is that female friend. And just like Starr, Trayvon’s friend was put on the witness’ stand, and her words were minced and examined as if they would hold a clue as to why someone would do this to Trayvon, or in Starr’s case, Khalil.

It takes a toll on all involved, and it certainly affects a community. This book shows that from all angles, and at times, it’s gut-wrenching.

I would definitely recommend this book to ANYONE, but I know not everyone feels the way I do about this issue. However, if you have any interest in seeing it from another side, this might just be the book for you.

The next book we’ll be reading is “The Identicals” by Elin Hilderbrand.

I hope y’all have a great weekend!!

Checking off my ATX bucket list!

The Austin skyline at sunset.

As of September 1, I’ve been living in Austin for two years. I came to this city with the intention of furthering my career, and really taking it as an opportunity to start fresh, leave the past behind me, and just LIVE my life.

So, I made a bucket list specifically for Austin, and I’m proud to say I’ve tackled at least half of it (if not more). Many of the items on my list got checked off this past weekend, when my best friend came to visit! We had so much fun, I wanted to share some of the things we did.

See the bats on Congress Bridge


Each fall, the biggest bat colony IN THE WORLD assembles itself under the Congress Avenue Bridge in downtown Austin. These are Mexican free-tailed bats, and they stick around until it gets chilly and then fly off to Mexico. Everyday, they sleep in the crevices of the bridge, and fly out at dusk to find dinner. And crowds come out in hoards to see them.

So, my friend and I took a “bat cruise”, where we got way too close (pretty sure we got pissed on) to said bats, but were in complete awe when the 1.5 million of the little guys came flying out from underneath the bridge. The sound of them squeaking will possibly ALWAYS be a memory.

Hike Mount Bonnell


Okay, so this wasn’t on my bucket list, but it’s one of the most well-known hikes in the city, particularly because of its stellar views all the way around. It’s a fairly easy hike and you can see the downtown skyline, the tower and stadium at the University of Texas, and there’s a great shot of the Colorado River. Absolutely gorgeous!

Paddle board on Lady Bird Lake


This wasn’t on my list either, although I did list “Have an adventure on Lake Travis”, which I did in August when I went on a pontoon boat across the lake! However, I have never been paddle boarding! I’ve been kayaking once, on the Colorado River, so my friend and I decided to grab some paddle boards, and we were able to paddle behind one of the stages at ACL and hear some live music before paddling back to the dock. It was fantastic!

Tour Jester King Brewery


The Jester King Brewery is basically out in the middle of nowhere, but I’m ALL about these sorts of adventures, especially in Texas. So, my friend and I drove southwest, and ended up on the working ranch where the brewery lives, right next to Stanley’s Pizza, which is a glorified barn, complete with a fire oven. This place made all of my Texas dreams come true: beer and wine served in mason jars, a pasture, live chickens, fresh beer, and chandeliers hanging from beams in the barn. And that pizza was delicious!

Hit up Rainey Street


I’ve already been to 6th street several times, but Rainey Street is supposedly more of the local’s place to get rowdy. We checked out Icenhauer’s, where we both got some fancy cocktails (her’s had grilled pineapple in it), and then we went to the Parlor Room, which seemed a little more college-esque. But still, a very good time.

Go to ACL


Also not on my bucket list, but a recent wish of mine has been to go to ACL, because why not? I live 15 minutes away! So, we got 1-day passes and completely lived our best festival lives and saw Tank and the Bangas, Run the Jewels, Vance Joy, The Killers, and about three minutes of Gorillaz. We both fell in love with the Silent Disco, drank our fair share of beer, and enjoyed a local favorite: Torchy’s Tacos. The frozen sangria was also tasty.

See Graffiti Park


This was a perfect stop on the way to the airport – closing off a three-day weekend of Texas fun. The Graffiti Park at Castle Hills has art on art on art. People are tagging it every day, and there were already messages of hope sprayed on the walls for Vegas and Houston. Plus there were plenty of owls, skulls, and pop culture references. A must see!

When I visited Indiana in June, many of the things I was told we could do, we didn’t end up doing, and that bothered me. I meet lots of people who are happy living where they were born and raised, and that’s great – but these are often the people that let life pass them by. I’m a firm believer in being a tourist where you live; making the most of each situation; and just going for it!

Other things I’ve crossed off my list include: get a pedicure at Caesar’s salon, eat at the Hula Hut, and one upcoming thing will be eating sushi at Uchiko!

Watching: ‘Battle of the Sexes’.

Just saw this movie!

After seeing the previews several times, I saw “Battle of the Sexes” on opening night. While I’m not a sports’ buff, I AM an Emma Stone fan, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this movie isn’t reaallllly about sports.

The movie revolves around a real-life tennis match (that turns out to be an all-out war) between Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell).

Bobby Riggs, a tennis player, but also a well-known gambler, is determined to show a newly-formed women’s tennis league what’s up when he challenges the #1 female player to a match. The winner takes $100,000.

But for the women, it’s about more than the money. It’s about getting equal pay, especially after they stopped competing against men (who were offered more than six times what women were offered). King wanted to win to show women they could earn equal pay, and to show men that women could draw a crowd and be equal-competitors.

But in 1973, more than just equal pay was at stake for King. She was falling in love with a woman behind the scenes of her big dual.

This movie was touching, and at times sad. We’ve come so far in some ways, but in some ways we haven’t. King didn’t want to come out: she was married to a man she obviously loved, and after all, what would people think of her if she admitted her true feelings?

Emma Stone does a superb job emulating King, and I’d venture to say Sarah Silverman has a breakout role as the women’s team manager, comically getting them a cigarette sponsorship.

Definitely a movie worth seeing, even if you already know who wins the big game 🙂

In other news, I’ve added two new items to the Etsy shop and will be adding more items throughout the week! I have also been making SO many of the Holly Golightly Sleep Masks – if you’re looking for a relevant, easy costume, this might just be the accessory you need for Halloween!

BBC: ‘The Language of Flowers’.

Happy Friday! I’m extra, EXTRA excited for this weekend to begin because my best friend is on a plane as I type this – she’ll be in Austin real soon! We’ve got a fun weekend ahead basically tackling my ATX bucket list, including the bats (!), a solid hike, and Austin City Limits. Wahoooooo!

But, before the fun begins, there’s another type of fun to be had: another installment of Blanche’s Book Club! Our latest read is “The Language of Flowers” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. Here’s the description from Amazon:

The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating mistrust and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings. Now eighteen and emancipated from the system with nowhere to go, Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But an unexpected encounter with a mysterious stranger has her questioning what’s been missing in her life. And when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.

I heard about this book on a podcast I love (“What Should I Read Next”), and I immediately knew this was going to strike a chord with me. Having volunteered with CASA for three years, I learned a lot about the foster care system and what it’s like for the children in it.

The character Victoria brings some spice to the situation and she’s determined to take a different path – even more different than the one she’s been on. She creates her own way, and she’s damn good at it. There’s even a little bit of a love story in there. A great read!

The next book we’re reading is “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas.

I hope you all have a fantastic weekend!

Healthcare, tears, and TSA

There is no proper reaction to finding out your loved one needs care.

Almost two weeks ago, I got a call from my uncle letting me know my dad had been admitted to the hospital.

As I’ve mentioned here before, the relationship I have with my dad came to a halt about three and a half years ago. I haven’t heard from him since then, or really heard anything about him during that time.

This also means I haven’t really talked to anyone on my dad’s side of the family, and to be honest, I was just getting to used to the feeling of the silence. I know how that sounds, but there’s just a lot to deal with and a lot of pain there. The best thing for me to do was to cut it out.

But the other side of truth to this is that I have lived in fear of getting this call. I’m getting to that age where things happen to the people we once thought were bulletproof.

A Tweet for my dad.

Upon first glance, my dad’s situation (which I’m going to try and keep as private as possible) seemed semi-serious. But within just 24 hours, things for him sounded much darker. I was told my dad wanted to hear from me, so I called him, and did everything I could not to just burst into tears. I didn’t know if this would be the last conversation we would have.

And then I jumped on a plane to get to his hospital room. During my flights, I thought a lot about my dad’s life. He’s overcome many obstacles, and I’ve always thought of him as someone who doesn’t take the traditional route. He’s a hustler; a doer.

I get that from my dad. My dad has the rare gift of being an intellectual, while simultaneously storing lines from “Napoleon Dynamite” and “Office Space”, among many other movies and sketches. He loves to play chess competitively, and he’s good. I learned from the best.

But most of all, my dad is a beautiful writer. It’s the ultimate gift of the Phillips’ family. We have a way with words. I guess you could say this is also our downfall. I won’t speak for all of the family, but I know my dad and I are willing to say what others won’t, and we are not afraid of controversy.

You can thank my dad for this blog, and for the 1,000+ times my name has been published. But I wondered about his dreams, his goals… Did he live the life he dreamt of?

I landed in Chattanooga on Friday morning, and caught a Lyft to get to the Erlanger Health System that was about 20 minutes away. I was trying to see my dad before he was wheeled into surgery.

Me and one of my cousins visiting my dad.

Upon arrival, I saw my dad in his hospital bed. He was awake and talking, although there were so many people in his small hospital room: two of my uncles, my aunt, my grandma and grandpa, two of my cousins, my great aunt and uncle, and my dad’s partner.

I haven’t seen my dad in at least five years, and if I had to guess, it’s been 20 years since I’ve seen many of the people in that room – if not longer. The mood in the room was optimistic, which isn’t quite the message that was conveyed to me 24 hours before. But, I wanted to be upbeat for my dad.

Although the information was at least 3rd-hand, I was told there was a chance my dad may not survive the surgery. If he did, he may not remember any of us, or perhaps he wouldn’t be able to talk or walk.

Over the two hours I had in the room, we met my dad’s Doctor, who told my dad he was going to be fine, and that his main concern was a little bit of weakness on the left side of his body. However, that could be treated with physical therapy, he said. I also met the surgeon, who marked an “X” on my dad’s body where he would make the incision. He told us the surgery was expected to take around 2 hours – which was much less time than I was originally told.

As a family, we joined hands and prayed over my dad, and I kissed him goodbye before he was wheeled away.

I was terrified. I just wanted my dad to make it through the surgery. I’d packed a backpack with books, magazines, snacks, and my iPad to keep me busy while I waited at the hospital. But all I wanted to do was stare.

The glass ceiling in the hospital cafeteria.

As I tried to eat lunch, my grandma filled me in on what I’d already heard: that my dad and his partner were living in total secrecy, they won’t give anyone their address or allow any visitors, that my dad has been very sick for at least a month, and that my dad’s partner was refusing medical care that could have saved my father sooner.

I know that there are three sides to every story, and frankly, I didn’t really want to hear any of them. I told my grandma to stop, and let’s just hope that my dad would be ok.

It wasn’t long before my dad’s partner tried to explain her side of the story, and again, I told her I could see both sides, but there’s nothing we could do about it now except just hope my dad would be ok.

I know these times are tough for everyone. And I know everyone has their own way of coping. I have no intention of playing the blame-game here, as I truly do feel for all of us who care for my dad.

About an hour into surgery, we got a call saying things were going great. Everyone had left but me and my dad’s partner, so we went in search of a plug to recharge all of our devices. I haven’t ever gotten along with her, but this was seemingly going okay. I honestly felt bad for her – I know she truly cares for my dad and I can’t imagine what this has been like for her.

Around 8:30 pm, we got a call saying the surgery was over, and my dad was doing well. We just had to wait for a call to visit him in ICU (this is protocol after the type of surgery my dad had).

When we got the call, we followed the hospital maze to reach our destination. I’ve never been in the ICU. I am not a fan of hospitals, or anything medical really, and I was nervous. I’d only visited one person in the hospital before and it was not for anything too serious.

Scored the window seat.

But this particular ICU looked really nice. My dad was in the first room, right by the door. We met his night nurse, Dianne, who had this amazing southern accent that carried. “Come talk to ’em!” She said to us.

I approached slowly.

My dad opened his eyes and waved. He gave us a thumbs up when we told him they did a great job. I found myself staring – staring at his chest just to watch it rise and fall – noticing my own breaths going deeper.

The nurse showed us some of his scans – before and after surgery – so we could better understand what was happening. I felt like I’d learned more in those 48 hours about hospitals, MRIs, and surgery than I ever thought I’d learn.

Finally, Dianne told us to go home and sleep. She assured us that my dad was stable and that he would be in great care. I knew she was right. My dad’s partner gave me a ride to my hotel, which was just a few minutes away from the hospital, and I was thankful to climb into bed after being awake for nearly 24 hours.

The next day, I just planned to see my dad. His partner called me in the morning and said she got an update from the nurse that we didn’t need to rush to see him since he would still be sleeping. She offered to pick me up around lunch, and I agreed.

When she got to my hotel, she quickly told me that she would serve as the main point of contact for the hospital and she took the single allotted PIN number that would allow anyone else to get phone updates directly from the nurses about my dad.

Of course, I thought, I mean she’s his partner.

When we got to the hospital, my dad woke up quickly, and held our hands. He talked to us, and was making jokes, and of course, spouting off movie lines. His day nurse was proud to report that he was still doing well, and he was following all commands, and said to have no problems with his vision.

But as the day continued on, I grew very annoyed at the situation I was seeing. There was lots of hovering, with a near-obsessive watch over my dad (not by medical professionals). There was also a lot of questioning happening – why were the nurses doing this? Why did the doctor suggest that?

I know there are parts of healthcare that can be subjective. But I also know that I really don’t know anything about how to care for someone after surgery. I trust that these doctors know what they’re doing, and the nurses will care for my dad the best they know how.

I felt like my dad needed rest and he wasn’t going to rest if there were people standing around his bed, talking to him, and asking him questions all day. One of my uncles was on one side of the bed while my dad’s partner was on the other side of the bed and they got into a decently loud conversation regarding my dad’s symptoms before he was admitted to the hospital.

While my uncle was trying to point out that he told my dad to get help right away nearly two months prior, the partner was trying to defend herself, saying, “Well I didn’t have control of his phone and HE didn’t tell me!”

I felt it was inappropriate and unnecessary to be having this discussion, especially in front of my dad. In the four hours that I sat there, I learned a lot about myself:

  • I don’t want to be in ICU and have people arguing over my symptoms right in front of me.
  • I don’t want anyone hovering over me or touching my face (now or if I’m in the hospital)
  • I don’t want anyone doing things that don’t follow the rules (I.e. Feed me food if it has not been approved by my doctor)
  • I continue to be amazed at medical care. Period.

My dad’s partner noticed my silence and probably my clear aggravation. “Are you ok?” She asked. I told her no, I was annoyed. “Are you just wanting to be quiet?” No, I said. And then I left.

I left the ICU, I left the hospital, and I caught a Lyft back to my hotel. I didn’t think it was right for us to be keeping my dad awake all day – we’d been in the ICU for 4 hours at that point and my dad’s partner had also promised me a little time alone with my dad. But I had been warned by others: she never leaves his side.

About an hour later, she texted me asking if I was ok. Again, I told her no, I was annoyed.

Later that night, she said I could call her if I wanted to get an update on my dad. This is when I started to mentally make a list of all the ways she was going to control this situation:

1. Be the main contact/have the PIN number for the nurse
2. Only receive updates thru her

So, I called, and she was still at the hospital, right by my dad’s face, going on hour 10 of being there. I wondered if she pulled a Wendy Davis and got a catheter, going for that filibuster all night. Her update was that what the doctors/nurses were doing wasn’t enough to help my dad so she had to spend her day researching remedies.

What?

She wanted to know my schedule for the following day (red flag for control/manipulation), and I told her I didn’t know. She said to text her (control/manipulation), so I said I would but knew I wouldn’t. I wanted to see my dad alone.

She let me talk to my dad on the phone, and I apologized to him for leaving. “That’s okay…” He said, in a weak voice. “Are you going to come back tomorrow?” He asked. I told him yes, I’d be there first thing. “Okay,” he said. “Love you.”

Even writing this brings tears to my eyes. My dad has never been one to be openly affectionate. He’d told me loved me more times in the last 48 hours than he had in possibly 10 years. That’s just how our relationship worked. I just had to know that he loved me, but hearing it was an entirely different feeling.

As I went to bed that night, my mind was spinning. Over the years, I’ve learned that I have a bit of an obsessive personality. I get excited about an idea, and then it’s all I think about and do, and for one reason or another, it’ll get dropped because I’m juggling a million things at once.

I wanted to help my dad, and although I don’t know anything medical, I thought maybe I could offer to help him and his partner with their business. With my dad being out, and her helping, things were likely at a standstill. I thought about helping them there, or could I talk to my boss and help take care of my dad in Tennessee? The wheels kept turning.

But the other part of this story is the reality that my dad and his partner have built walls around themselves. None of us know where they live, and they work out of their home. I don’t know why or exactly when they moved to Tennessee.

How much can you help someone who doesn’t want help, let alone outside contact from others? I wondered if this experience would show my dad just how much we all care for him and love him. I wondered if it would allow him to let us inside the walls. But I was about to find out just how much my presence wasn’t desired.

The next morning, I woke up around 6:30 to pack my things, eat, check out of the hotel, and catch a Lyft to the hospital. There was an Ironman competition that morning, so it took nearly 20 minutes to get a ride. But I caught sight of the bike portion of the race, making a mental note of it so I could tell my dad.

I got to the ICU a little before 9am, and spoke to my dad’s day nurse. She said he was still doing well, but she knew of some things that happened on previous shifts that weren’t approved by the doctor, and she wouldn’t allow those to happen again. I thanked her.

I told her I wanted to let my dad sleep, so I sat in a chair and flipped through a magazine. Around 9:30, she said she was going to wake my dad up for a test. But when she tried to wake him up, not much happened. He was so tired, so sleepy, he wasn’t going to be able to take his test. He would also have to get a feeding tube.

The doctor arrived shortly and said my dad needed to rest, so any visitors needed to be quiet and not wake him. He told me my dad would probably be asleep for 12 hours. This meant I wouldn’t get to talk to him – wouldn’t get to say goodbye.

So, I sat. I read a book. I greeted my grandparents and my uncle. I was upset, and I was frustrated. There was nothing I could do for my dad, but simply hope that things would turn out well for him.

His partner arrived that afternoon and immediately wanted to know how I got to the hospital. I don’t think she liked that I worked independently. Later, she asked me if I was mad at her. I told her no, but that the situation the day before made me upset. I didn’t think we should be speculating things about my dad’s symptoms or questioning the doctor. She basically took that time to tell me that my opinion was nice, but it wasn’t welcomed.

We were there, in the ICU room with my dad, still asleep, and she had the audacity to shut me out. I sobbed. I had dropped everything to be by my dad’s side; to show him I love and support him, and I had hoped that with every fiber in my body, that my presence did even an ounce of good.

If I’m being honest, I don’t know if I did anything good that weekend. Still, almost two weeks later, I am completely torn inside and I’d be lying if I said a day has passed that I haven’t cried.

After his partner made me feel like shit, I grabbed my bags and left the hospital. There was nothing left to say, and seeing my dad in that hospital bed not hearing me, is a moment I can never erase.

It’s worth mentioning that my dad’s partner doesn’t have a relationship with her family. No one. At all. And I would venture to guess that she doesn’t know what it’s like to see one of her parents in this situation. It ain’t easy.

I cried for my entire Lyft ride to the airport, through security, and once I got to my gate, I found a corner and cried. I cried so hard that someone from TSA came to talk to me to see if I could calm down.

The truth is, how could I be any semblance of okay after what had just happened? In just four days, I’d received the news about my dad AND all of this drama that comes along with my dad’s side of the family had come crashing into my face.

I felt alone; I feel like I don’t have anyone rooting for me; and I was scared shitless that I’d never hear from my dad again. I knew one thing for a fact: I wouldn’t be getting updates from his partner anymore.

The Cowboy Blues burger at Gate A21.

Two things stopped me from crying for my six hours of travel home: my trusty Khalid album, and the Dallas Cowboys’ burger kiosk at gate A21 in the DFW airport. It’s the second time I’ve eaten there, both times I was upset, and both times I’ve abandoned my vegan lifestyle to get the Cowboy Blues burger and it is so worth it.

When my assumption came true in the coming days and I’d received no update, I called the hospital myself and talked to a nurse. She told me she would tell my dad I called. Once my dad was moved into a regular room, though, they wouldn’t provide updates without the PIN number.

His partner had the PIN – and I get that. But if you take the PIN, especially since she has been by his side 24/7, then you need to share that information. I didn’t travel across the south for fun – I am my dad’s daughter, and that’s going to be how it is forever. I am in this.

“So I’ll be coasting, roller-coasting through my emotion…” -Khalid, Coaster

I texted my dad on Friday, just wanting to let him know that I hoped he would text me once he was able to use his phone. He wrote back, and then I got another message from his phone that was from his partner, saying he wasn’t using his phone. .

It was confusing and hurtful – I felt like she was trying to let me know that she would be reading all of his texts (or possibly deleting some). I also got really excited when I saw a message from my dad, only to see it wasn’t really from him.

A text exchange between me and my dads partner.

So I texted her cell phone asking her to please not text me from my dad’s number, and she told me, “Stop causing chaos. It isn’t helping.”

I’ve learned a lot these last few weeks about holding your tongue. I’m not even going to say here what I wanted to reply to this message with.

In case you’re wondering, chaos is defined as “complete disorder and confusion”, which makes no sense. I was actually very clear in saying that I did not want to receive text messages from her on my dad’s phone.

I asked her how I was causing chaos.

I have yet to get a response, possibly for two reasons: 1. I was not causing chaos, and 2. Because she blocked my number (that’s what she did to my grandma).

A wish for my dad.

So, I haven’t heard from anyone in almost a week. And I’m the one that’s left confused. Because I went for two reasons: 1. To support my dad, and 2. To do what was right for me. I could not live with myself if something happened to my dad and I didn’t do everything I could to help him, even if it just means being there.

And that’s why my heart continues to hurt. I’m scared. His diagnosis was given to me via text, which I thought was inappropriate, but it also wasn’t an accurate medical description of his situation.

My cousin is nearing the end of his studies in neuromedical school, and he offered up his brain to help me understand. But I didn’t have much information to go off of, and I obviously will not have any say in the future of my dad’s care.

I want to stop for a second here and say that I’ve spent the last week questioning if I should even write this blog post, or if I should put a password on it. Because the truth is, my family is just going to hate me more once this goes live. I’m going to be called a piece of trash and they’re going to threaten to sue me, and perhaps I’m risking my dad ever talking to me again.

But I’m hoping I’m not the only one that’s been through a tough family + medical situation. I’m hoping there’s someone out there that can relate; someone to help me keep my chin up. Because this has been the most difficult time of my life.

I’ve never understood the saying “Between a rock and a hard place” until now. Because I know this isn’t just tough on me. I know my dad has been so brave and strong, and I know my entire family has really pulled together to support him.

I’ve tried to go through the motions of my life – tried to go to work, go to dance, work on my jewelry… And I know that’s a luxury that I have. I know my dad just can’t ignore this situation. But the truth is, none of my usual remedies for dealing with stress or depression have helped.

I just cry at in-opportune times and wear my LSU hat everywhere trying to hide it (which wasn’t easy after they lost their damn HOMECOMING game).

I am writing this mainly hoping to gain some semblance of inner-peace, and also to let my dad know that I care for him, and I hope to hear from him soon.

The situation is tricky; just because someone is sick doesn’t make our problems go away, but no matter what, I’m going to be there for my dad in whatever way I can be. I would do that for anyone I care about.

I’m not entirely sure what the road ahead will look like for my dad. But I know he is going to need love and support. And if I can offer that; if I can make him laugh after a doctor’s appointment, or send him some nurse-approved treats, or take him on the vacation of a lifetime, he can count on me being there.

Thank you to the ones who cared for my dad!

Since I haven’t been able to talk to my dad, I’ve been taking to Twitter many nights before bed, putting my thoughts into the universe. I know he won’t see them, but it makes me feel a tad better knowing my love is floating among some radio wave and perhaps it would reach my dad.

Some of this probably sounds insane, and I know it’s a long, long way of explaining the thoughts and feelings that have been inside of me for weeks. But the ugly truth is that there is NO correct way to act or feel when you find out someone you love needs serious medical care.

Members of my dance studio have come to my side in a way I have never, ever expected – they’ve offered wine nights, coffee talks, movies, cocktails, information, phone calls, and when I’m on the brink of tears they’ve simply said, “I support you.” And that is not something I have ever experienced. These women are phenomenal, and to be honest, I’d probably still be in bed from weeks ago if it weren’t for their encouragement. If you’re reading this: thank you.

Truth Tweet.

I have also gotten so many caring messages and phone calls from my mom’s side of the family – they have prayed for my dad and for me, and perhaps that’s how I’m still standing. Their support has been amazing.

So, the journey continues. I know that when my dad is ready, we’ll talk, and I can figure out the best way to help him. But until then, I’m just sort of floating in this sea of unknown and all I can do is hope that he continues to heal each day. I know he is tough as hell, and he knows I love him.

During one of the conversations I had with my dad in the hospital, he admitted he keeps up with this blog as a way to see what I’m doing. While I hope this post doesn’t cause any grief, I do hope that in the coming posts, my message is clear: I’m here. Hoping to hear from you.

Love you.

‘Siesta Key’: ‘Juliette’s Midsummer Dream’.

Ugh…

Clever, MTV, real clever with the Shakespeare titles… but YOU GUYS… this was the season finale! I had a hunch it might be, but when I checked the TV guide for the coming weeks, there’s not even repeat episodes on. MTV is dunzo!

Anyway, let’s get into it! The episode starts with Kelsey talking to her mom about what went down between Garrett and Juliette the night before (at Pauley Paul’s concert). Her mom acts concerned, but I know deep down, she probably gives zero shits because the entire reason Kelsey is IN Siesta Key is to help her and she really has done none of that. Just a guess…

Madisson goes to visit Alex at the boat dock and they take a ride and talk about the much-anticipated Julth 4th bash, but Alex is pretty worried about his school status. Alex also gives this weird monologue about how he respects the environment in the water and how important it is to preserve what they have… yet he was also caught shooting sharks?

Madisson asks if he’s going to invite Kelsey to his party; he says yes, but they have nothing in common. It’s a good thing she dumped Garrett for him! Madisson and Alex start going on and on about how great Siesta Key is, and Kelsey just doesn’t understand that since she wants to leave and go to New York. Le sigh.

Juliette is with some of her friends at the pool and she admits she started flirting with Garrett out of spite, but NOW she really likes him and she could see herself being with him. Literally, one of the girls just sits there and says “Exactly” about three times and she KNOWS she’s got her lines right. You go Glen Coco!

Across town, Pauley Paul stops by Chloe’s apartment to thank her for supporting his show the night before. He also offers up a seemingly genuine apology to her. He also says that every single day he looks for ways to better himself – LOLZ.

But Chloe keeps it real (she IS the Clapback Queen) and says she needs to remove toxic people from her life and unfortunately, Pauley Paul is toxic.

Alex is having a conversation with his mom in her closet. Really, she deserves a round of applause for this entire scene – her closet is impeccable, and she’s wearing this fringe cropped top while her hair is up in rollers. She asks Alex about Kelsey and she’s all, “I meant to ask you how your date went but I just hadn’t bumped into you yet.” #MansionProblems

Before the party, Juliette and Chloe are trying to figure out what swimsuits to wear. Chloe already has hers picked – a sheer one-piece that has stars over the nipples. LOVE. The gang shows up at Alex’s… but Garrett makes an entrance when he arrives late and Juliette does a “Baywatch”-style run to his side.

Garrett and Kelsey have an awkward conversation about what she’s been up to. He’s all like “My website launches this week”, and it’s super weird when she asks if the video he made with Juliette is going to be on it.

Later, Pauley Paul tells Chloe she looks like a beached whale. So she grabs her things and jumps in a car to head home.

No one knows why she left or where she went, until Amanda pipes up and makes it clear that Chloe left because of Pauley Paul’s fat jokes. Pauley Paul continues to call Chloe fat and the group tells him they’re sick of it.

On the beach, Alex makes it clear to Kelsey that he’s not interested in dating her. She agrees and is defensively like, “Uh, I’m not trying to date you either!” Hmm…

The next day, Alex and Madisson are picking up trash on the beach. “Gotta give back when you can,” Alex says. Yet another clearly fake scene set up by MTV to make Alex not seems like a horrible human. Alex asks Madisson if she ever could see them getting back together – he likes how well she gets along with his family. He literally says he wants to spend the rest of his life with her. Ha!

Later, Juliette talks to Garrett and he admits he’s still coping with baggage from Kelsey. Juliette says they need to stop “focusing on other people.” Then Brandon tells Madisson that he made a playlist of songs that remind him of her – and he busts out the Shawn Mendes like a baller. She tells him about what Alex said, and she also says she sees a better future with him (Brandon). Aww!

And THEN, Kelsey and Garrett meet… and they tell each other that they still love each other. Garrett asks if they should give it another shot…and then there’s this series of really dramatic scenes where Chloe is alone on the dock and she ignores a call from Pauley Paul, and then Juliette is alone floating in her pool, Garret is running alone, and Kelsey is walking on the beach alone… and then it says “Two months later…” with a shot of Alex completely banged up with a giant bandage on his head and then it says, “To be continued…”

SECOND SEASON!!!

But seriously, it’s been a little TOO much fun writing these recaps. I kind of ended up loving this show! I hope you enjoyed the recaps, too 🙂

WordCamp San Antonio!

Aw, yeah!

Hey there! I’m fresh off a weekend of geeking out over WordPress, so I’m pretty excited to be blogging today.

I’ve had this on my calendar for a few months now, so I was pretty excited when the weekend rolled around. I wasn’t aware of this, but WordPress hold these WordCamps each year, in different cities across the country.

Volunteers come together to make the event very affordable for attendees ($40 got me entry for two days, two free lunches, and a free shirt). It’s a weekend meant to help those of us interested in or who are currently using WordPress – the speakers offered different levels of advice depending where you’re at on your “WordPress Journey”.

I attended several sessions, including: “Start Your Podcast Now: 3 Steps to Launch”, “Marketing: Simplified”, “Get Google to Love Your WordPress Website”, and “Content Ideas for When You’re Stuck”.

I particularly enjoyed one of the keynote speakers, Kori Ashton, who heads a WordPress company in San Antonio. She spoke about how she took her side hustle of building websites to creating an entire team and a thriving business.

I’ll admit, a few of the sessions I attended discussed many things I’ve already discovered – I’ve been using WordPress for almost 10 years. But it’s always nice to get reassurance from other people in the industry that you’re doing something right – even if it doesn’t always feel like it.

I’ve had a rough couple of weeks – I promise I will write about it soon – but going through the functions of my daily life have proven to be almost too much at times. I’ve struggled to get up, to make it to work, to actually be productive – I’ve been trying to simply get by.

When Friday rolled around, not even the anticipation of WordCamp (!) could get me to San Antonio. I did however, drag my ass out of bed at 5am on Saturday morning though, so I could make it to registration on time.

And it was worth it. Despite a few annoying people who tried to scold me for bringing coffee into all of the classrooms, people were friendly and the campus was nice. Above anything technical I learned, it was a jumpstart that I needed.

I’m able to not only do social media all day for my job, but I get to TEACH WordPress for blogging, and I get to talk to all of YOU through this blog. I don’t know what I would do without it, especially in times like these.

Which reminds me… are you getting the updates on The Bitter Lemon Facebook page? I post links to new blogs and when I have password protected posts, that’s where I’ll post the password. Following me on Instagram (@OrangeJulius7) would also be smart for those reasons 🙂

I’ve still been working in the Etsy shop! I added two new items last week and am working on a few new things this week, so keep your eyes open. I’ll be right back here tomorrow with a recap on “Siesta Key”!

BBC: ‘My Life in France’.

When it rains, it sure does pour. I know I have vaguely referenced a family emergency I dealt with last week, and frankly, I’m have a really difficult time getting through each day. I’m not big on prayer, but if you are, I’d appreciate some strength and peace my way. I could use good vibes, too.

One day, I’ll get around to writing what’s on my mind, but right now, I’m still just too upset. Thank you so much.

Today, I want to talk about my latest read, “My Life in France” by Julia Child. This book has been on my list for quite awhile, and one day when I didn’t have any library reserves to pick up, I just browsed the shelves and saw that it was there!

I wasn’t sure what to expect reading this book… but the truth is, I LOVED IT! Here’s the description from Amazon:

The bestselling story of Julia’s years in France—and the basis for Julie & Julia, starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams—in her own words.

Although she would later singlehandedly create a new approach to American cuisine with her cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking and her television show The French Chef, Julia Child was not always a master chef. Indeed, when she first arrived in France in 1948 with her husband, Paul, who was to work for the USIS, she spoke no French and knew nothing about the country itself. But as she dove into French culture, buying food at local markets and taking classes at the Cordon Bleu, her life changed forever with her newfound passion for cooking and teaching. Julia’s unforgettable story—struggles with the head of the Cordon Bleu, rejections from publishers to whom she sent her now-famous cookbook, a wonderful, nearly fifty-year long marriage that took the Childs across the globe—unfolds with the spirit so key to Julia’s success as a chef and a writer, brilliantly capturing one of America’s most endearing personalities.

I thought it was so cool that Julia didn’t really find her calling until she was in her mid-to-late thirties. Once she found it, she certainly conquered it! She wrote one of the most popular cookbooks of all time, and was given a TV show before TV was even widespread!

I really loved hearing the stories about her cat, “Minuette” (I believe that’s how she spelled it) – there were pictures of the cat, too. She would get scraps from the butcher to feed it and it would growl at animal bones!

“These were the Top Secret Confidential censored pages: our revolutionary recipes for holiandaise, mayonnaise, and buerre blanc.”

Julia and her co-authors kept their recipes top secret because of all the work, research, and testing that went into them. Even though it was recipes for French cooking, they asked for help in the US to get measurements and consistencies right.

“I apologized to the neighbor, and bought little rubber caps for the legs of our chairs, stools, and tables, plus some real French house slippers so that Paul and I could shuffle about life an old bourgeouis couple.”

I simply loved the way this book was written – definitely recommending it to my foodies!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club is reading is “The Language of Flowers” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.

I’m off to San Antonio this weekend, and I’m hoping I can catch a bit of a distraction from…well, everything.

Thanks again for respecting my space to vent and write and hopefully find inner-peace.

Farewell, Hef.

Hugh and Barbi.

I woke up this morning and saw the news that Hugh Hefner passed away, at 91.

I know there are many mixed feelings about him, and about the business he conducted during his life, but I’ve always admired him as the leader of the sexual revolution, a cutting-edge publisher, and an activist for women’s rights, civil rights, and equality.

In college, I cheered when “Playboy” came to town – complete with its writers and famous photographers. I had my photo taken as part of an audition for a college issue of “Playboy”, and although I didn’t make the cut, I was interviewed and featured in the Baton Rouge newspaper, and had an op-ed on Playboy.com and in my college newspaper (shoutout to “The Reveille”!).

As I said then, I’ve always associated “Playboy” with some of the most beautiful, iconic women of our time: Anna Nicole Smith, Vanna White, and Madonna, among many others. “Playboy” celebrated sex in a way that made it socially acceptable for women to admit they enjoyed sex, and they enjoyed it before marriage.

The magazine highlighted social issues over the years and was used as a platform to highlight the AIDS crisis, support gay rights, and announced its support for abortion eight years before Roe v. Wade. Hefner funded the reward money to resolve a civil rights case and established a foundation that supports rape crisis centers and the Kinsey Institute.

In my bathroom, I’ve got a small collection of framed “Playboy” covers from the 60s and 70s, including one that features one of Hefner’s girlfriends, Barbi Benton, playing a game of chess (with bunny pieces, of course). Benton was famously featured in the magazine four times and was trusted at the center of the “Playboy” enterprise. She even founded the Playboy mansion west, it’s most famous location in California.

In 2006, I traveled to Los Angeles for the first time and was lucky enough to take a trip to Playboy Radio, where models of all sorts were interviewed for the radio show. It was just another side to the industry Hefner created.

On the way to work this morning, a radio show I like was trying to decide if Hefner was generally a thumbs up or a thumbs down for women. I’m sticking to it and saying he’s a thumbs up. Yes, I’ve heard about some of the things that happen at the playboy Mansion, but I’m chalking that up to environment and culture. People will be people.

I’m thankful for Hefner paving the way in publishing; for celebrating women’s bodies and our right to have sex like men. I’m thankful for his contributions to social justice.

Stay cool, Hef.

BBC: Fall Reading Guide.

It’s still 95 degrees in Texas, but it’s been officially fall for five days now! There’s no time like the present to round up a good stack of books for the season, and luckily for you, I’ve taken the guess-work out of that task.

I don’t have much strategy when it comes to reading books for the book club – in general, I just read the book that comes up next on my reserve list at the library. But I think the fall season calls for good mysteries, maybe even a few thrillers, and anything that’s going to offer an escape.

I’ve researched on reading lists, publishing schedules, blogs, and Instagram accounts. So, I’ve made a list of the best of the best (at least in my opinion) for your fall reading. Here goes…

*Note: these are listed in no particular order.

“The Blackbird Season” by Kate Moretti

I’ve had this title written down ever since I saw it and it’s description listed on a book blog. I’m anxiously awaiting its arrival at the library! Here’s the official description from Amazon.com:

Known for novels featuring “great pacing and true surprises” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) and “nerve-shattering suspense” (Heather Gudenkauf, New York Time bestselling author), New York Times bestselling author Kate Moretti’s latest is the story of a scandal-torn Pennsylvania town and the aftermath of a troubled girl gone missing.

“Where did they come from? Why did they fall? The question would be asked a thousand times…Until, of course, more important question arose, at which time everyone promptly forgot that a thousand birds fell on the town of Mount Oanoke at all.”

In a quiet Pennsylvania town, a thousand dead starlings fall onto a high school baseball field, unleashing a horrifying and unexpected chain of events that will rock the close-knit community.

Beloved baseball coach and teacher Nate Winters and his wife, Alecia, are well respected throughout town. That is, until one of the many reporters investigating the bizarre bird phenomenon catches Nate embracing a wayward student, Lucia Hamm, in front of a sleazy motel. Lucia soon buoys the scandal by claiming that she and Nate are engaged in an affair, throwing the town into an uproar…and leaving Alecia to wonder if her husband has a second life.

And when Lucia suddenly disappears, the police only to have one suspect: Nate. Nate’s coworker and sole supporter, Bridget Harris, Lucia’s creative writing teacher, is determined to prove his innocence. She has Lucia’s class journal, and while some of the entries appear particularly damning to Nate’s case, others just don’t add up. Bridget knows the key to Nate’s exoneration and the truth of Lucia’s disappearance lie within the walls of the school and in the pages of that journal.

Told from the alternating points of view of Alecia, Nate, Lucia, and Bridget, The Blackbird Season is a haunting, psychologically nuanced suspense, filled with Kate Moretti’s signature “chillingly satisfying” (Publishers Weekly) twists and turns.

“There’s Someone Inside Your House” by Stephanie Perkins

This one’s for the thrill-lovers… official description: 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.

“Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng  

Who knew Reese Witherspoon had a bookclub? Apparently she does and this is one of her picks, which I’m guessing means it’s going to be a movie? We’ll see. Here’s the scoop from Amazon:

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides.  Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.

 

“Something Like Happy” by Eva Woods

Another find from a book blog, and this one sounds so good (and fitting)! Here’s the description for “Something Like Happy” from Amazon.com:

Annie Hebden is stuck. Stuck in her boring job, with her irritating roommate, in a life no thirty-five-year-old would want. But deep down, Annie is still mourning the terrible loss that tore a hole through the perfect existence she’d once taken for granted—and hiding away is safer than remembering what used to be. Until she meets the eccentric Polly Leonard.

Bright, bubbly, intrusive Polly is everything Annie doesn’t want in a friend. But Polly is determined to finally wake Annie up to life. Because if recent events have taught Polly anything, it’s that your time is too short to waste a single day—which is why she wants Annie to join her on a mission…

One hundred days. One hundred new ways to be happy. Annie’s convinced it’s impossible, but so is saying no to Polly. And on an unforgettable journey that will force her to open herself to new experiences—and perhaps even new love with the unlikeliest of men—Annie will slowly begin to realize that maybe, just maybe, there’s still joy to be found in the world. But then it becomes clear that Polly’s about to need her new friend more than ever…and Annie will have to decide once and for all whether letting others in is a risk worth taking.

“The Visitors” by Catherine Burns

This one sounds creepyyyyy…

With the smart suspense of Emma Donoghue’s Room and the atmospheric claustrophobia ofGrey Gardens, Catherine Burns’s debut novel explores the complex truths we are able to keep hidden from ourselves and the twisted realities that can lurk beneath even the most serene of surfaces.

Marion Zetland lives with her domineering older brother John in a crumbling mansion on the edge of a northern seaside resort. A timid spinster in her fifties who still sleeps with teddy bears, Marion does her best to live by John’s rules, even if it means turning a blind eye to the noises she hears coming from behind the cellar door…and turning a blind eye to the women’s laundry in the hamper that isn’t hers. For years, she’s buried the signs of John’s devastating secret into the deep recesses of her mind—until the day John is crippled by a heart attack, and Marion becomes the only one whose shoulders are fit to bear his secret. Forced to go down to the cellar and face what her brother has kept hidden, Marion discovers more about herself than she ever thought possible. As the truth is slowly unraveled, we finally begin to understand: maybe John isn’t the only one with a dark side….

“Lie to Me” by JT Ellison

I’m all for a good mystery… here’s the description for “Lie to Me“.

Sutton and Ethan Montclair’s idyllic life is not as it appears. They seem made for each other, but the truth is ugly. Consumed by professional and personal betrayals and financial woes, the two both love and hate each other. As tensions mount, Sutton disappears, leaving behind a note saying not to look for her.

Ethan finds himself the target of vicious gossip as friends, family and the media speculate on what really happened to Sutton Montclair. As the police investigate, the lies the couple have been spinning for years quickly unravel. Is Ethan a killer? Is he being set up? Did Sutton hate him enough to kill the child she never wanted and then herself? The path to the answers is full of twists that will leave the reader breathless.

“When We Were Worthy” by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

Fall is for football and high school stories, right? “When We Were Worthy” sounds like the perfect combination. Here’s the scoop:

When the sound of sirens cuts through a cool fall night, the small town of Worthy, Georgia, hurtles from triumph to tragedy. Just hours before, they’d watched the Wildcats score a winning touchdown. Now, they’re faced with the deaths of three cheerleaders—their promising lives cut short in a fatal crash. And the boy in the other car—the only one to survive—is believed to be at fault. As rumors begin to fly and accusations spin, allegiances form and long-kept secrets emerge.

At the center of the whirlwind are four women, each grappling with loss, regret, shame, and lies: Marglyn, a grieving mother; Darcy, whose son had been behind the wheel; Ava, a substitute teacher with a scandalous secret; and Leah, a cheerleader who should have been in the car with her friends, but wasn’t. If the truth comes out, will it bring redemption—or will it be their downfall?

“The Future She Left Behind” by Marin Thomas 

Cheating husband + Texas? Yep, I’m in! Here’s the description for “The Future She Left Behind“.

Cast aside by her cheating husband, Katelyn Chandler is ready to pack it all in and drive home to Little Springs, Texas. She wants a chance to regroup, reconnect with her mother, and get back to her art.

But Shirley Pratt—master manipulator, elitist snob, and Katelyn’s terror of a live-in monster-in-law—has other ideas. Shirley insists on joining Katelyn’s trip after her son tries to pack her off to a retirement community. Katelyn has no choice but to play peacekeeper between the ornery old woman and the proud matrons of Little Springs. Yet the small town seems to be changing Shirley. And as Katelyn weighs the wisdom of picking up where she left off with Jackson Mendoza, the town bad boy and her high school sweetheart, she must find a way to believe in the strength of her dreams.

“The Best Kind of People” by Zoe Whittal

The Woodburys cherish life in the affluent, bucolic suburb of Avalon Hills, Connecticut. George is a beloved science teacher at the local prep school, a hero who once thwarted a gunman, and his wife, Joan, is a hardworking ER nurse. They have brought up their children in this thriving town of wooded yards and sprawling lakes.

Then one night a police car pulls up to the Woodbury home and George is charged with sexual misconduct with students from his daughter’s school. As he sits in prison awaiting trial and claiming innocence, Joan vaults between denial and rage as friends and neighbors turn cold. Their daughter, seventeen-year-old Sadie, is a popular high school senior who becomes a social outcast—and finds refuge in an unexpected place. Her brother, Andrew, a lawyer in New York, returns home to support the family, only to confront unhappy memories from his past. A writer tries to exploit their story, while an unlikely men’s rights activist group attempts to recruit Sadie for their cause.

Provocative and unforgettable, The Best Kind of People reveals the cracks along the seams of even the most perfect lives and the unraveling of an American family.

“The Futures” by Anna Pitoniak

As I said – fall is for school stories, and I have to admit, I am a sucker for Yale University. When I was in college at LSU, I admired one of the first college sex columnists, who wrote for Yale’s paper. So when I saw the description for “The Futures“, I knew this was a perfect pick! Here’s what’s up:

Julia and Evan fall in love as undergraduates at Yale. For Evan, a scholarship student from a rural Canadian town, Yale is a whole new world, and Julia–blond, beautiful, and rich–fits perfectly into the future he’s envisioned for himself. After graduation, and on the eve of the great financial meltdown of 2008, they move together to New York City, where Evan lands a job at a hedge fund. But Julia, whose privileged upbringing grants her an easy but wholly unsatisfying job with a nonprofit, feels increasingly shut out of Evan’s secretive world.

With the market crashing and banks failing, Evan becomes involved in a high-stakes deal at work–a deal that, despite the assurances of his Machiavellian boss, begins to seem more than slightly suspicious. Meanwhile, Julia reconnects with someone from her past who offers a glimpse of a different kind of live. As the economy craters, and as Evan and Julia spin into their separate orbits, they each find that they are capable of much more–good and bad–than they’d ever imagined.

Rich in suspense and insight, Anna Pitoniak’s gripping debut reveals the fragile yet enduring nature of our connections: to one another and to ourselves. THE FUTURES is a glittering story of a couple coming of age, and a searing portrait of what it’s like to be young and full of hope in New York City, a place that so often seems determined to break us down–but ultimately may be the very thing that saves us.

“The Secrets of Roscarbury Hall” by Ann O’loughlin

The sound of this book is regal, which I love – there’s villages, cafes, and SECRETS! Whoooo! Here’s the description for “The Secrets of Roscarbury Hall“:

In a crumbling mansion in a small Irish village in County Wicklow, two elderly sisters, Ella and Roberta O’Callaghan, live alone in Roscarbury Hall with their secrets, memories, and mutual hatred. Long estranged by a dark family tragedy, the two communicate only by terse notes. But when the sisters are threatened with bankruptcy, Ella defies Roberta’s wishes and takes matters into her own hands, putting her baking skills to good use and converting the mansion’s old ballroom into a café.

Much to Roberta’s displeasure, the café is a hit and the sisters are reluctantly drawn back into the village life they abandoned decades ago. But gossip has a long life, and Ella finds herself reliving painful memories when Debbie, an American woman searching for her birth mother, begins working at the café. As the local convent comes under scrutiny, the O’Callaghan sisters find themselves caught up in an adoption scandal that dates back to the 1960s and spreads all the way across the Atlantic Ocean. Only by overcoming their enmity and facing up to the past can they face the future together—but can they finally put their differences behind them? An emotionally rich story with flashes of humor, gossip, and tragedy, The Secrets of Roscarbury Hall is a moving debut novel of love both lost and found.

Skyhorse Publishing, as well as our Arcade, Yucca, and Good Books imprints, are proud to publish a broad range of books for readers interested in fiction—novels, novellas, political and medical thrillers, comedy, satire, historical fiction, romance, erotic and love stories, mystery, classic literature, folklore and mythology, literary classics including Shakespeare, Dumas, Wilde, Cather, and much more. While not every title we publish becomes a New York Timesbestseller or a national bestseller, we are committed to books on subjects that are sometimes overlooked and to authors whose work might not otherwise find a home.

“Best Day Ever” by Kaira Rouda

I saw “Best Day Ever” on the Instagram account @booksonthesubway (check it out for book recs) and it sounded so creepy! Here’s the scoop:

Paul Strom has the perfect life: a glittering career as an advertising executive, a beautiful wife, two healthy boys and a big house in a wealthy suburb. And he’s the perfect husband: breadwinner, protector, provider. That’s why he’s planned a romantic weekend for his wife, Mia, at their lake house, just the two of them. And he’s promised today will be the best day ever.

But as Paul and Mia drive out of the city and toward the countryside, a spike of tension begins to wedge itself between them and doubts start to arise. How much do they trust each other? And how perfect is their marriage, or any marriage, really?

“Surviving Cyril” by Ramsey Hootman

This is another book I saw on @booksonthesubway – it sounded so real and different, I just had to add it to the list. Here’s the scoop for “Surviving Cyril“:

When Robin Matheson’s husband is killed in Afghanistan, she finds herself suddenly alone: an outsider in a community grieving for the hometown hero it never really knew. Though the thought of spending the rest of her life without Tavis is exhausting, Robin has no choice but to pull herself together for the sake of their son. She finds some satisfaction in cutting ties with Tav’s obnoxious best friend, Cyril—a 500-pound hacker who didn’t even bother to come to the funeral.

Unfortunately, her three-year-old decides Cyril is now his best buddy, and Robin can’t bear to take anything else away from her son. A few hot dogs and video games won’t do any permanent damage… right?

Cyril doesn’t magically transform into a good person—or even a decent one—but he does prove to be a better role model than Robin expected. Gradually, she also begins to realize that Cyril may be the one person who truly understands the magnitude of her loss.

He also knows far more about her husband’s death than he’s been letting on.

“I’ll Have What She’s Having” by Erin Carlson

I saw this book on another good Instagram account for book recs, @anniebjones05 – she is an indie bookstore owner and is always reading something good. Here’s the description for “I’ll Have What She’s Having“:

In I’ll Have What She’s Having entertainment journalist Erin Carlson tells the story of the real Nora Ephron and how she reinvented the romcom through her trio of instant classics. With a cast of famous faces including Rob Reiner, Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, and Billy Crystal, Carlson takes readers on a rollicking, revelatory trip to Ephron’s New York City, where reality took a backseat to romance and Ephron–who always knew what she wanted and how she wanted it–ruled the set with an attention to detail that made her actors feel safe but sometimes exasperated crew members.

Along the way, Carlson examines how Ephron explored in the cinema answers to the questions that plagued her own romantic life and how she regained faith in love after one broken engagement and two failed marriages. Carlson also explores countless other questions Ephron’s fans have wondered about: What sparked Reiner to snap out of his bachelor blues during the making of When Harry Met Sally? Why was Ryan, a gifted comedian trapped in the body of a fairytale princess, not the first choice for the role? After she and Hanks each separatel balked at playing Mail’s Kathleen Kelly and Sleepless‘ Sam Baldwin, what changed their minds? And perhaps most importantly: What was Dave Chappelle doing … in a turtleneck? An intimate portrait of a one of America’s most iconic filmmakers and a look behind the scenes of her crowning achievements, I’ll Have What She’s Having is a vivid account of the days and nights when Ephron, along with assorted cynical collaborators, learned to show her heart on the screen.

“The Child Finder” by Rene Denfeld

Yet another pick I found on Instagram (I look everywhere for books, y’all)! Here’s the description for “The Child Finder“:

Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight-years-old now—if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator with an uncanny talent for locating the lost and missing. Known to the police and a select group of parents as “the Child Finder,” Naomi is their last hope.

Naomi’s methodical search takes her deep into the icy, mysterious forest in the Pacific Northwest, and into her own fragmented past. She understands children like Madison because once upon a time, she was a lost girl, too.

As Naomi relentlessly pursues and slowly uncovers the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce the defenses that have protected her, reminding her of a terrible loss she feels but cannot remember. If she finds Madison, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life?

Told in the alternating voices of Naomi and a deeply imaginative child, The Child Finder is a breathtaking, exquisitely rendered literary page-turner about redemption, the line between reality and memories and dreams, and the human capacity to survive.

…And there you have it! 15 awesome books to read this fall… better get to it!

PS. The premier of the new season of “Will & Grace” is tomorrow and I’m SO EXCITED! If you’re fan-girling today, check out an oldie-but-goodie post I wrote, “Will & Grace: The best of…” which talks about my favorite episode from each season.

See you guys tomorrow!

‘Siesta Key’: Episode 9.

All piled into Alex;s house, of course…

Whoop! We’re another episode into this (assumingly) fictional drama. The TV guide, and my DVR showed no title for this episode, which was really disheartening. Come on, MTV!

Anyway, let’s get into it! Right off the bat, Juliett and Kelsey are going at it since Juliett took it upon herself about Kelsey and Alex hooking up in last week”s episode. Basically, Juliett says she’s not sorry for telling him the TRUTH – but thanks for stopping by!

Pauly Paul is still recovering from his trip to jail and Alex’s dad is giving him a lecture about where his life is going – because he’s going to keep ending up in jail. However, Pauly Paul says he doesn’t really want to quit smoking weed – instead, he learned not to put it in his car. Mmmkkay.

Later, Chloe and Kelsey are working together and talking about the issue with Juliett. Chloe doesn’t back down and is all, well what do you expect? Your actions have consequences… Yikes.

The group gathers at the beach, and this is where Juliett and Garrett start to get a little closer and he asks her on a date. Nooooooo…

Meanwhile, Madisson and Brandon are getting a little closer and are just about ready to have “the talk”. But Alex is having a difficult time letting her go… He was openly flirting with her at a BBQ, right in front of Kelsey.

Alex and Pauly Paul visit Chloe at work, and she is not happy to see them. Pauly Paul invites her to come to his “Summer in Siesta Key” concert, and Chloe fires back with, “And WHY would I want to do that?” She continues to shut them down with why she is upset and also adds a little bit of, “I do have to work, I’m not a trust fund baby…”

BOOM.

Garrett and Kelsey seem to be getting along great on their date, and she asks him to go to Pauly Paul’s concert with her. He says yes, even though Kelsey is going to be there. Oh boy…

At the concert, even Chloe arrives, and everyone is wondering if Juliett and Garrett really like each other, or if both of them are just out for revenge.

Despite being told twice how the mic works, Pauly Paul didn’t listen and messed up the audio to his songs. He ended up running to his car and crying… And walking off when his friends tried to offer him comfort and assure him he still did a good job.

Chloe convinces him to come back inside and have some fun, so he does. Meanwhile, Kelsey confronts Garrett outside about him kissing Juliett right in front of her, and he’s all “Well at least I waited until after we were broken up to do anything!”

Buuurrnnn….

I have a feeling we’re nearing the end of the season, so this should be an interesting wrap up in these next few episodes (I’m not sure how many are left.

Guess we’ll just have to wait and see!

BBC: ‘Sycamore’

What? An installment of Blanche’s Book Club on a Monday? Yep! I had a family emergency that came up on Thursday, which meant I threw my life into a bag and jumped on a plane to get to Tennessee.

I wasn’t able to write on Friday, but I still have a FANTASTIC book to share with you all this week. I’m talking about “Sycamore” by Bryn Chancellor. Here’s the official description from Amazon.com:

Out for a hike one scorching afternoon in Sycamore, Arizona, a newcomer to town stumbles across what appear to be human remains embedded in the wall of a dry desert ravine. As news of the discovery makes its way around town, Sycamore’s longtime residents fear the bones may belong to Jess Winters, the teenage girl who disappeared suddenly some eighteen years earlier, an unsolved mystery that has soaked into the porous rock of the town and haunted it ever since. In the days it takes the authorities to make an identification, the residents rekindle stories, rumors, and recollections both painful and poignant as they revisit Jess’s troubled history. In resurrecting the past, the people of Sycamore will find clarity, unexpected possibility, and a way forward for their lives.

Skillfully interweaving multiple points of view, Bryn Chancellor knowingly maps the bloodlines of a community and the indelible characters at its heart—most notably Jess Winters, a thoughtful, promising adolescent poised on the threshold of adulthood. Evocative and atmospheric, Sycamore is a coming-of-age story, a mystery, and a moving exploration of the elemental forces that drive human nature—desire, loneliness, grief, love, forgiveness, and hope—as witnessed through the inhabitants of one small Arizona town. 

I saw this book on a blog I like to get book recommendations (check it out here), and was pretty excited to pick it up from the library.

While I know there are many books out there about missing persons, some fiction and some non-fiction, this one stands out for a few different reasons. For starters, the story is sort of one giant flashback, as present-day is many years after this girl has gone missing.

The story jumps forward and backward, moving along with the investigation to get answers about her disappearance.

There is resolve, and I’ll be honest, it was a little difficult to read (because of how graphic it is), but this is also the reason I loved reading this book. It’s beautifully written.

It’s very visual and detailed, which I always appreciate. There were phrases such as, “grapefruit haze of streetlights” and “planets hung back like shy children” that I just loved. It also reads like non-fiction, which I found fascinating. It was a page-turner. I wrote a few lines down from the book that I loved:

  • Though it was cold, they rode with the windows down, drinking gas-station sodas from cups as big as oil cans.
  • She hadn’t imagined the possibility others could find out, or what would happen if they did. Now she could. Vomit on dry carpet. Flying knives and an upside down pie. A car stuffed with black garbage bags. An unlit house. Everyone bloodshot and nauseous and hiding from the world. Secrecy, infidelity, betrayal, forbidden. If it was love, it was the love of Capitol T Tragedies.

I’m recommending this book to my true-crime readers, the thrill seekers, and mystery lovers. I’d love to know what you think of this book!

I’ll still do another installment of Blanche’s Book Club on Friday because I have another great book to discuss, “My Life in France” by Julia Child.

I got back to Austin last night around 11, and my week is packed. In coffee I trust! See y’all tomorrow for that oh-so-anticipated “Siesta Key” recap!

The Bitter Lemon Shop!

Beads, beads everywhere!

I know I’ve talked a little bit about my recently-opened Etsy shop: The Bitter Lemon Shop, but I wanted to dedicate a post about it. I didn’t really intend to open the shop and fill it with so much STUFF, but it happened that way – once you start creating, I guess I can’t stop!

At first, I just wanted to make some DIY earrings I’d saved on Pinterest. I have always toyed with the idea of having an Etsy shop, because I really like to make cards and have always liked to make beaded jewelry.

But when I made the earrings, they turned out so cute I thought other people might like them. So, I took pictures of them (although I don’t really know if the photos do them justice) and opened my shop. At first, it was a struggle to get 10 listings – but 31 listings later, here I am, with a ton of ideas!

Currently, the shop is mostly bracelets and earrings – I am really into tassel jewelry right now, so there’s lots of those happening. The bracelets are all beaded so far – I am having so much fun with all of the great beads out there!

One thing I think is important to note is that everything I’ve made is something I would wear (and actually have been wearing); I wouldn’t put out a product that I didn’t like myself.

I am also naming each piece after a place, or a thing that is really special to me. As I write this, I’m wearing the “Back to Black” beaded tassel necklace as a tribute to Amy Winehouse; my sisterhood bracelet (sorority vibes), my Charleston bracelet (s/o South Carolina summers), and my “Saints & Sinners” bracelet as a call to New Orleans.

There’s also a keychain and an essential oil blend roller in the shop – keep your eye out for many more of these to come! I’m thinking a sleep blend, focus blend, an immunity blend, and something for allergies. I also have ideas for costumes, clothing, and of course, more jewelry!

It’s not like I all of the sudden have so much time on my hands, but I’ve found that just sitting and watching TV (or rather, listening to it) while I make jewelry is pretty relaxing. I think it’s an easy way to escape – and I like trying to figure out how to make things or how to fix something. And then at the end, I have something cool to wear!

Blanche is also partaking in the shop, of course. I cleaned out my linen closet and set up a table with my printer, along with a little shelf. I organized my beads and put all of my shipping supplies in a handy container. I even have a few pieces of “Bitter Lemon” wall art along with a scented candle to make my craft area fun. The table is big enough for my supplies, but anytime I’m in the “craft closet”, Blanche scrambles to the table and takes a giant nap – and she takes up at least half the table. So, there I am, stringing beads using a small corner of my table.

I’ve had 11 sales so far, after being open for about three weeks, and it’s cool to think that people in other states are wearing things I made.

If you have ideas of things you’d like me to (attempt) to make, I’m always willing to try. Take a look at the shop, ask me questions, or shop awaaaaay! Visit the shop here and let me know what you think!