Advertisements

Category Archives: The Squeeze

The damage has been done.

Just focus on the work.

I’m staying true to my word in keeping you all posted on my work situation.

When I wrote about it last (you can catch up here), my coworkers and I weren’t entirely sure that our new boss was going to show up to work for her official first day.

Well ladies and gentleman, she did! And within 24 hours, she presented to us a rough draft of a marketing plan she created, and asked for our honest feedback.

This marketing plan was not only mostly copied from the internet, the parts that weren’t plagiarized were riddled with spelling and grammar mistakes, and went against the values of the company.

I work in a heavily political job, so personal beliefs and opinions are important.

My teammates and I provided our feedback, but there was all sorts of drama swirling around beyond just this marketing plan. She was telling some coworkers one thing, and telling us something different.

Our CEO reached out to my teammates to get our feedback on our new boss, and I explained that some of her new ideas went against what the company stood for, and many of them also went against my ethics as an SEO practitioner.

We didn’t hear anything back, and for days we wondered what was happening at our other headquarters (our boss works on the other side of the country) – especially since she wasn’t interested in having meetings with us, our only communication with her had been through email.

When my coworker reached out to the CEO to make sure she’d seen the new marketing plan and ask when and/or if we should start implementing some of these things… we got a very rude email back.

It basically reminded us that she’s the CEO and doesn’t have time for our problems.

Message heard.

When no one responded, we got yet another email from the CEO, saying, “I didn’t mean to close the door for communication”…

I didn’t reply to that one either, and when the CEO’s assistant reached out for a time to meet – I ignored that as well.

The CEO’s initial email sent me home in tears – I felt like, all of the sudden, I worked for a company that didn’t align with my personal or professional values.

My silence sent a clear message, and by last Friday afternoon, I got a call from our Chief of Operations and the Chief of Staff, asking me why I didn’t reply, and why I didn’t feel like the company was safe anymore.

I explained my thoughts, and they wanted to set up a time for my teammates and I to meet via video call with the entire Executive Team first thing on Monday morning.

Great.

So, we met, and we were asked to express our concerns with our new boss to her face.

It should come as no surprise that when we did this, she acted SHOCKED, and denied all of it. When I said my concerns, I got emotional (no matter how much I tried not to), and she simply laughed at me, so I said if she was going to laugh at me, then I was done with my portion of the conversation.

And honestly, that was pretty much that.

Between the email from the CEO and having to sit on a video call visibly crying and having no one (especially my new boss) say, “I hope we can start over” or “I’m so sorry this has you so upset”… nothing. The writing is on the wall for me.

I am currently open to new career opportunities, even if they are contract-based or part-time. Bring it on!

Yesterday, a day after the meeting, our boss emailed us all saying, “Thank you for being so candid and honest…I’m horrified at the miscommunication…” – But how is it considered a miscommunication when I heard it with my own ears?

For now, I’m continuing to do my work as expected, and at the very least, I’m proud of myself for being honest, and at least trying to resolve the situation.

Advertisements

‘The Aftermath’: Twerk ’til you drop!

The Twerk ‘N Burn trio with our Instructor and Choreographer, Lily!

Last night, Dance Austin Studio put on its annual “spooky” showcase, The Aftermath!

Per usual, spending an entire day with my dance family and getting the opportunity to put it all on The North Door stage brought up all sorts of feelings about my life, and memories of the past.

After a super tough year and choosing more difficult pieces to perform in for showcases in the past, I decided to choose one that would be more FUN to perform, and possibly easier to learn.

So, I signed up for Twerk ‘N Burn – and our large group quickly dwindled to just three of us, but I think it ended up being the cream of the twerking crop. It was really neat to get to know the other two ladies – Kim and Michaela – and finally dance on stage with them after many years.

Our performance combined many popular twerking songs and costumes to fit the bill: short, red yoga shorts and cropped white hoodies. It wasn’t quite the smallest costume I’ve worn on stage, but it comes in at a close second.

During our final practice, Kim said it looked like we were trying out to be NBA cheerleaders – and she was right.

It made me recall a dream I’ve had for many years and since buried – to dance for a professional sports team.

In high school, I wanted to grow up and be a famous choreographer. So, when we had to do senior projects, I choreographed a piece for a local dance team, which they performed on stage and I recorded it for my senior presentation.

A panel of teachers “judged” all of our senior presentations and followed it up with questions. I will never forget that one of the questions they asked me was if I really was going to study dance/choreography in school.

I told them no, because in my research, I discovered it was very rare to be able to make a decent living off of it, and it took such a difficult toll on the body. The panel was disappointed in my answer, but I graduated!

I went on to Louisiana State University – a college I chose based on their basketball dance squad, the Tiger Girls – but I never even auditioned. Despite having years of dance experience, I wasn’t as technically trained as those dancers.

But I have always admired them, and many other dance teams from afar. Sure, I love the moves, but ultimately, I love the performance: the outfits, the hair and makeup, the attitude, the swagger.

That is what I hoped to capture from my Twerk ‘N Burn performance.

A few of my coworkers came to watch me perform, and they were shocked – “Oh you CAN dance! You’re finally coming out of your shell!”

But… I’m still the same person I’ve always been. I’m introverted, and although it takes a lot for me to get on stage and dance in front of hundreds of people, there’s an art to putting it all together and that’s what I’ve been working on the hardest over the years – the facial expressions, adding style to the moves, connecting with the audience.

Many of my extroverted friends and coworkers dance in their everyday lives – in the office, at the bar on the weekends, or even when a song comes on the radio, no matter where they are. I dance at home sometimes – you know, with Blanche, ha! – but that’s just not me to want to be the center of attention.

I dance for different reasons.

Last night, I danced to prove something to myself. I proved that at 33 years old, I can still, most-definitely, get on stage in a crop top and not feel judged. I got to show an audience that twerking isn’t about Miley Cyrus or skin color or even sex – it’s about having fun and embracing your body as is.

I also got to put my nasty side-eye to great use – finally!

It was the perfect way to end a really rough month at the office. It reminded me that my energy can be put in much more productive things – and I don’t mean making spreadsheets or replying to emails – I mean LIVING.

I am still very much on my journey to actively live – to having a schedule full of adventures and things i love doing. I refuse to let the days, months, and years pass me by without having handfuls of experiences to remember.

Last night was another one I won’t forget.

Standing up… to HR, to karma.

I’ve become a pro at writing appropriate work emails to higher-ups.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about some issues I was having at my day job. In particular, it seemed that my infamous “Catitude” had struck again, possibly ruining a work opportunity for me.

That opportunity was a promotion – the Director of Marketing position. My boss encouraged me to apply for it, so I did. And as far as I know, there were murmurings about my attitude, “How does she expect to be able to manage people?”

But, a few days passed, the whispers stopped, and I was scheduled for a 30-minute phone screening from human resources. Where I work, this call is simply to weed out candidates who are heavily unqualified.

My phone screen went well, and I even shared some ideas I had for future marketing, including areas where we are weak and how we could fix them.

Around this same time, my boss gave her 30-day notice after working at the company for seven years. As a small company, she worked on so many different aspects of what we do – and all of us felt the same – sad for us, but happy for her.

Her notice put things into complete panic, including the hiring process for this director position. It also flagged our CEO that our team needed a check up… which quickly led to each of us getting emails saying she was coming to town and wanted 1:1 meetings with each of us.

But my email was a little different, as it flippantly mentioned I wasn’t be considered for the Director of Marketing. Shortly after, I got the automatic rejection letter, and an email to staff introducing us to our new Director of Marketing.

I was crushed.

It wasn’t about not getting the promotion. It was about not being taken seriously, and not even considered. I didn’t even know how to (or if I should) respond. I didn’t even get out of bed the following day – a Friday.

I spent the weekend thinking things over, and trying to figure out how to reply to that email.

After days of thinking and hearing advice from my friends and family, I went back to work on Monday well-rested, and with a plan. I replied to the email simply saying, “I’ll see you when you get in town.” And my plan was to continue to do my work, and start looking for a new job.

Over the following few weeks – things were complete chaos. I felt emotionally drained; some days were okay, other days there were rumors we were all losing our jobs. I went home every night completely exhausted.

As my boss’ days at the office were numbered, she spoke on my behalf in a meeting with upper management, and explained to them that they handled my application for the Director of Marketing completely wrong.

As a result, I got an email from our HR department, apologizing, but for all of the wrong things. I took a few days to think it over, and decided to put my feelings out there. I was going to tell her everything I felt, with the assumption that she would show the CEO my email.

I won’t post the exact email I sent, but here are a few highlights:

It is my belief and experience that job interviews are a two-way street. They are an opportunity for a candidate to find out more about a company and/or the job they applied for, and it also serves as a way for the company to show who they are.

Being an internal candidate, I absolutely expected to have the opportunity to be interviewed face-to-face, even if only virtually, and even if only as a professional courtesy. Although I am not an HR professional, it has always been my understanding that if someone is applying for an internal promotion, they are seeking new challenges, a monetary raise, the opportunity to learn and grow, or perhaps even practice to brush up on interview skills.

I was encouraged to apply for this promotion, and I am also seeking all of the aforementioned. None of those were addressed during this process, which leaves me to wonder how the company considers me as an employee as I approach my two-year anniversary.

It’s honestly not about the promotion, nor is it about the reasons why I may not be qualified to fulfill the needs of the Director of Marketing position. Likely, I could tell you many reasons why I wasn’t given the opportunity, and I’m excited to work with the new hire, as I hear she has many years of fantastic experience.

It’s more about the fact that my needs and goals were not addressed in any fashion. In order to grow as a professional, I need opportunities – whether it be working as a team to see what growth for my position looks like, considering an intern for me to manage, or taking a class to grow my skills – none of that was taken seriously.

It really made me question all of the work I’ve put into the company. The work on weekends, showing up to work 24 hours after my dad passed away, creating weekly, monthly, and annual strategies for all of our social channels, attending the Hackathon weekend to create a free chat bot so our patients have a new way of speaking with our staff, and taking on many additional duties to assist our nonprofit at no additional pay, among other things.

I am honored to be working for a cause I care about, but I am also a professional approaching my 12th year of work as an Editor and Digital Strategist. Growth is extremely important to me, and I hope that I can do that with the support of a company who cares about their employees.

I felt good about my response, and she replied saying that my work is valued, that this situation was handled poorly, and that I was rightly frustrated.

The following day was my meeting with the CEO. And as soon as she stepped into my office, she gave me a very sincere apology. She also told me she needed that feedback. It was really, really unexpected and we had a really candid conversation about work, marketing, and goals for the future.

That same day, they flew in our new Director to meet with us and see our Austin offices. She met with our team individually over the course of a few days, and it was the weirdest dose of unprofessional behavior I think I’ve ever seen. Upon meeting me, she told me she:

  • Wasn’t going to complete her assigned training/orientation plan
  • Hated the company name and slogan
  • Hated meetings and wasn’t planning on continuing our weekly one
  • Didn’t believe in personality tests
  • Wasn’t sure how long she’d last at the company
  • Would go against company culture to make her ideas happen

…Um, what?

I wondered if this was the universe’s weird way of showing me what it’s like to meet someone with a truly poor attitude. And while I’m not all-smiles, I do think there’s something to be said about professionalism and making a good first impression.

But walking into a job BEFORE your first day and telling your subordinates that you’re not even sure how long you’ll last? That’s messed up.

Not to mention – this was the person they chose over me, and over many, many other candidates.

I won’t go into details, but some of the things she told us were even worse – and included unethical marketing practices and blatant statements that go against our company values.

Today is my boss’ last day, and my teammates and I don’t even know if our new boss is going to show up to work on Monday.

Things sure do have a weird way of happening, don’t they? I’m sad to admit that I’ve spent so much of my energy on all of this that I didn’t make it to a single workout class this week (I do have one tonight, at least). I couldn’t even bring myself to write this blog last night – instead, I took a bath and was in bed around 9.

I’d love to know if you’ve ever had a similar experience, or an experience that really made you question your job. How did you handle it? What did you do?

At the very least, it’s Friday, and the Hallmark Channel has already started their Countdown to Christmas (meaning, 24 hours of Christmas movies)! Happy Friday, everyone!

My ‘ Catitude’ strikes again…

The Cheshire Cat from “Alice in Wonderland”!

A few months ago, I wrote about a situation at my job where a coworker called me out for having a bad attitude (you can read all about it here).

In a nutshell, I have often been called out for having a bad attitude, and as of January 2018, I decided it was really annoying and I should probably do something about it before I really started standing in my own way.

Since then, I’ve made an effort to smile when I’d rather have resting bitch face; made small talk when I’d rather listen to podcasts in the comfort of my office; and I’ve taken deep breaths instead of blurting out my initial reaction.

It sounds really small, but these are big changes in my world.

A few weeks ago, an opportunity was presented to me at work. It was an opportunity that would mean more responsibility, working with new people, being a part of strategic decisions, and making more money.

So, I threw my hat in the ring.

But I heard that not too many people were excited to see my name – how could she think she could manage people when she’s so rude?

I understood their thoughts, but I was crushed. Even after all the work – and effort – I’d been putting in, I was keeping myself from moving forward in my career.

Granted, these were opinions coming from people that have never worked with me, but still. I had an honest conversation with my boss and asked her if it was a lost cause.

And I wasn’t just talking about the recent opportunity; I was also talking about my job in general. If I’ve ruined my reputation so bad by just a few things (writing short emails, not saying thank you fast enough, etc.), then it was time for me to find a new job and start over.

She said it wasn’t a lost cause, but I still needed to do more self-reflection on my attitude.

So, I’m working on that, and I also volunteered to give extra training presentations (for which some people openly said they wouldn’t attend), I’ve sent cheery and informational emails, I’ve blindly agreed, and I’ve picked up extra tasks.

Most of these things have gone ignored; emails go unanswered, trainings will be unattended, and people will likely still think I’m rude.

Perhaps my attitude will always be my struggle.

And hey, if I never get a promotion, well, that’s another problem for another day. But in all honesty, it hurts my heart that people think I’m “fucking rude” (that’s the phrase that was said to me).

Yeah, I can be a smart ass. But fucking rude?

I certainly am not out to hurt people, and I’m always just trying to do my work as efficiently as possible, which I understand can come off as short. I also understand that perception is reality, and I have to be careful with how my coworkers perceive me.

But the people who’ve said these things about me work in another state – they didn’t see that I cooked and delivered dinner for my coworker and her family when they moved into a new home, when I helped someone in another department write a lengthy email because she couldn’t get her thoughts down, or anytime I make the morning coffee because our administrator is bogged down with phone duty.

I’m not asking to be praised for these team tasks – it’s what people do for each other, and I want people to see me as helpful, not hurtful.

I suppose time, and continuous effort, will tell.

I know that at most jobs, you can’t really be your full self – but I’ve never had to work somewhere where I have to watch every word, pay attention to my facial expressions, and my emails. Is this adulting?

‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’ Tour!

Tour image from Red Rocks.

In May, I took a Bucket List trip to Denver, Colorado to see Khalid in concert at the famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre. While I was waiting for the show to start, I saw the image above flash on a screen promoting a concert in September.

“The Miseducation of Lauren Hill 20th Anniversary Tour”, the screen said. What???

Ms. Lauryn Hill, and specifically “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill”, changed my life. In a previous blog post, I named it one of three most-influential albums of my life thus far:

The Fugees’ album “The Score” was one of my first tastes of hip-hop. I loved it, so when Lauryn Hill debuted her solo album, I was all over it. And wow. I would venture to say this album has had the most impact on me, musically, in my life thus far.

This was a popular one, selling 1 million copies in its first month (8 million copies in 4 years), and it remained in the top charts for 81 weeks. At the time, Lauren Hill was an icon, and her album was everywhere – even later being placed on several “Best Album Ever” lists.

But in 2000, Hill basically disappeared from the public eye, and stayed hidden for nearly four years. To this day, anytime I see her on TV, I’m shocked. I know that a lot of artists describe an album release as having a child, and she also had a REAL child, after her album release… and I think that album was a once-in-a-lifetime thing.

Regardless, I respect her tremendously, and frankly, I don’t know where I’d be without “Ex-Factor”.

I LOVED “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” – despite the fact that I was in 8th grade and she was singing about things I knew nothing about at the time: abusive relationships, abortion, paving the way, and maintaining your values as a woman when society pressures us otherwise.

And yes, Ms. Hill did disappear from the public eye. I didn’t know it then, but even though her album received loads of accolades and awards (including Grammy’s, Billboards, MTV, and Vh1, among others) – it was the first hip-hop album ever to win Record of the Year at the Grammy’s, but it also received harsh criticism – people saying she didn’t even write the lyrics.

These musicians sued Ms. Hill and she settled for $5 million. Rumors swirled that she was racist, and that she’d lost control, mentally. In the few interviews she did, she said she felt trapped by fame, not being able to go public places. Her level of success was rare in those years.

…Which is why I was so shocked when I saw the screen saying she was back on tour. I knew I had to go because she may never tour again. So I looked to see where she was stopping on the tour, and Sugar Land was the closet option. Done and done!

After I bought my ticket, I dug through my remaining collection of CDs – those so meaningful I couldn’t get rid of them. I still have my original disc of “Miseducation”, but when I tried to play it in my car, most of the songs skipped. So, I got a new, digital copy, that I’ve been listening to. I still love all of the same songs I did 20 years ago, and listening to “Zion” gives me chills.

A month or so ago, Ms. Hill was in the news – a jazz musician went on a popular radio show and told the host (on air) that she didn’t write the lyrics to her album, that she only played different arrangements of those songs because she didn’t have the rights to the original versions, and he also noted a time when he auditioned for her and she demanded he refer to as Ms. Hill, among many other allegations.

Ms. Hill responded to him publicly, in an essay that addressed many of the rumors that have swirled around her for years – you can read it here.

I do not hate white people. I do, however, despise a system of entitlement and oppression set up to exploit people who are different. I do loathe the promotion and preservation of said system at the expense of other people, and the racist and entitled attitudes it gives rise to. The lengthy history of unfairness and brutality towards people of color, especially Black people, has not been fully acknowledged or corrected. The expectation is for us to live with abuse, distortion, and deliberate policies, meant to outright control and contain us — like we’re not aware of our basic right to freedom. I resist and reject THESE ideas completely. Like many Black people, I work to reconcile my own generational PTSD. I do my best to Love, pursue freedom in body, Spirit and mind… and to confront.

Throughout the essay, Ms. Hill reminded readers that she is a mother of six, she paved the way for women in hip-hop and R&B (many artists, male and female, list her as one of their top inspirations), and of her groundbreaking past with The Fugees.

While I felt that she didn’t owe this explanation to anyone, it made me love and respect her so much more. This is a woman that was, and still is, before our time. I’m grateful that her art set the stage for me – for the music I listened to and to help me understand some of the things I’ve faced in my life.

So, tonight is the concert, and well, I don’t really know when the last time was that I was THIS excited. I have no idea what to expect (I’ve never seen her live before), what the crowd will be like, heck, I don’t even know what I’m going to wear yet. But I’m looking forward to living in her world for a little bit.

It’s funny how money change a situation
Miscommunication leads to complication
My emancipation don’t fit your equation
I was on the humble, you on every station
Some wan’ play young lauryn like she dumb
But remember not a game new under the sun
Everything you did has already been done
I know all the tricks from bricks to kingston
My ting done made your kingdom wan’ run
Now understand “l-boogie’s” non-violent
But if a thing test me, run for mi gun
Can’t take a threat to mi new born son
L’s been this way since creation
A groupie call, you fall from temptation
Now you want to ball over separation
Tarnish my image in your conversation
Who you gon’ scrimmage, like you the champion?
You might win some but you just lost one
– Ms. Lauryn Hill, “Lost One”

What a stuffed llama taught me about self-care.

Labor Day weekend, I went to the outlet mall to catch some highly-anticipated sales. After almost shopping ’til I dropped, I stopped by a store I’ve recently come to love: Five Below. It’s a place you have to be in the mood to look, but everything is $5 or below.

I’ve bought some pretty cool things there in the last few months including a set of 20 fine-tip markers (for journaling), a bluetooth speaker, and a felt board. Okay, and some candy.

That night, I was looking for things to take with me on the beach vacation. During my browsing, I came across a giant metal bin of small plush llamas. Some were gray and some were caramel, and they all had little blankets stitched on their backs. They were so cute, and after picking one up, I discovered it was soft, too.

Over the last year and a half, I’ve been trying really hard to declutter my apartment – donating boxes of old clothes to Goodwill and selling random junk on eBay. I’ve been making progress and it’s helping.

I went on this decluttering spree after listening to a slew of podcasts on minimalism, convinced that I don’t need things to make me happy. And while true, there’s plenty of things that I don’t need, I’ve also learned that indeed, some things DO make me happy. My apartment is full of memorabilia, whether its framed magazine covers of my favorite artists, or scrapbooks full of ticketstubs, those are things I won’t ever give away.

I’ll never be someone who only has a bed in her apartment or stops buying people gifts – I’ll make my effort to declutter, and perhaps focus more on buying consumables or experiences, but that’s probably about it.

As I stood there at the bin of llamas, I found myself in the midst of a self-care crisis. Ever since my dad passed away, I’ve made an effort to do ONLY things that served me – even if it meant it may not be the best decision.

For example, I stopped forcing myself to go to a dance class just to burn calories. Yes, sometimes I feel good after working out, but honestly, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes, I just want to go home and cuddle with kitty Blanche after work and that’s not something I’m going to deny myself.

When I went through my weird food phase – I told myself I would just eat whatever sounded good, even if it meant only eating fried cheese curds from Culver’s for dinner. During times of stress or grief, we must be kind to ourselves.

Earlier this year, I went through this same conversation when I was debating buying a cat stroller. Would people think I’m a loser? Would I look silly walking around my neighborhood with this stroller? And then I decided I didn’t care. If a simple $40 purchase made me laugh even once, and I wasn’t hurting anyone, then do it. And I did, and I’ve had many, many laughs while strolling Blanche around the neighborhood.

So, there I was, trying to talk myself out of buying this $5 llama, because I’m 33 and I shouldn’t be buying stuffed animals.

In the last year or so, stores have embraced mermaids and unicorns, and llamas, too – it is my personal belief that the world, in general, is in such turmoil, that we’ve turned to imaginative, glittery beings to distract us from all things grey and bleak.

My dad loved animals – especially farm animals – and goats and llamas made him laugh. I’ve stopped myself from buying many llama trinkets, from drink coozies, journals, t-shirts, and a phone case, there’s cute “no drama llama” stuff everywhere. Even one of my freelance clients had photos of a lama trek for me to edit, and I found myself getting a good chuckle.

And so, I decided to treat myself to a stuffed llama. Why not? No one had to know about it, and if it makes me smile, then what’s a small little toy going to hurt? I picked out a grey one, with a teal and pink blanket on its back, and magenta feet and ears. After much thought, I named her Laverne.

After a few weeks with Laverne, she’s become a good cuddle buddy. I know stuffed animals are often meant for kids, but when I thought about it, my dad brought a tiny squirrel beanie baby with him to the hospital. He liked having something to hold in his hand.

After surgery, he couldn’t have the beanie baby – everything in his ICU room had to be approved – so his girlfriend knotted a hospital washcloth for him to clutch. My dad was later admitted to a different facility, where I was told he pestered his roommate by tossing the squirrel over to his side of the room (very much something my dad would do).

Every year, my mom and I buy Christmas gifts for seniors in a nursing home who have no one to buy them presents. One of the most coveted items is a stuffed animal, and my mom and I spend countless hours trying to find animals that are just the right size for hugging and made of soft fur. I suppose a stuffed animal can provide comfort to just about anyone.

So, even though my appetite has picked up and I’m slowly getting back into my dance and yoga classes, I’m happy I bought Laverne. If that makes me a little weird, well, it wouldn’t be the only thing.

If it’s going to make you happy, and won’t cause harm, I say go for it.

For my dad.

My dad and me.

As many of you know, my dad passed away on February 3. This has been the most trying time of my life – and although I haven’t felt comfortable enough to share much about my dad, I’m really thankful I have this outlet, and people who read it and can related to the story of my life.

Truthfully, the story of my dad’s death isn’t unlike many others – he was blessed to be surrounded by family as he took his last breath, and every single one of us got the chance to tell him goodbye. And that is something I will be forever grateful for.

There was also a lot of emotional, family drama – and that is what makes this loss so tough for me – on top of it being my dad.

My dad wasn’t someone who ever wanted a big show, so we paid our respects to him at a small chapel in Ringgold, Georgia, a week after he died. There were friends and family there to share stories and pictures of him, and even during that short time, I learned a lot about the person my dad was and the time he spent on earth.

Even though it was a special day and I’m grateful to have been able to be there with my family, I knew I wanted to honor my dad in my own way when I felt the time was right. I wanted to honor him by doing something he loves: fishing.

So, this morning, my lifelong best friend and I rose before the sun and met Pensacola’s best fisherman, Captain Kenny Way at the marina. With beer and a go get ’em attitude, we set sail.

Or, Captain Kenny started the boat and we were OFF!

We caught bait first, then moved on to snapper (red and black). We caught around 15 snapper. And then we used one of the snapper as bait to catch a 7-foot bull shark! You can see the video on my Instagram stories @Orangejulius7 


I’d informed the Captain ahead of time that I wanted to take a few moments to toast to my dad, and it was my honor to write something that I felt captured my dad’s spirit, but also offered some closure to myself, and hopefully to my friend, and maybe even Captain Kenny.

I brought along a few coins to toss into the ocean, and some fresh flower petals to sprinkle on the water – a signal to other boaters that we’d honored a life well-lived. Here’s what I wrote:

When I was little, I had a blue Mickey Mouse tackle box. It came with all the appropriate tackle for a skilled fisherwoman – for which I was not. Regardless, I had the matching fishing pole, and my favorite piece, was a Mickey Mouse bobber. It was designed to look like an inner tube, with Mickey Mouse sitting in it, his big yellow shoes flopping over one side. 
 
My dad was very much a skilled fisherman, and we went fishing many times – I have him to thank for catching the most fish nearly every time I venture out, even if I’m the only female in sight. But there’s two fishing trips that stick out in my mind:
 
The first was a very early morning trip. Early mornings are a necessarily evil when fishing, and my dad took that very seriously. On this particular morning, we had a bit of a drive – heading from our family home in Columbus, Indiana to a lake near Camp Atterbury. My dad had already planned our stops – because that’s the kind of man he was, a planner (sometimes to a fault) and he liked the journey just as much as the destination – donuts and coffee for breakfast, then a later stop on the side of the road to pick up live bait: worms that came packed in black dirt. 
 
Once we got to the lake, the sun was barely rising. I was sleepy, still, and too young for coffee. But it may as well been noon for my dad – we unpacked on the sandy bank, and he threaded my first worm, and reminded me how to properly cast my line – the Mickey bobber flying through the air, landing with a splash on  top of the water. 
 
“Now, when Mickey goes under, reel it in fast,” he said. 
 
So, I stood still and quiet, wondering if any blue gill were seeing the bait, while my dad doctored his line. There we stood, side by side, waiting for something big. The air was crisp and the water was so still, it looked like clean glass. I didn’t know it then, but it was likely the first time of many that I’d get swept away in an Indiana sunrise. It was all so peaceful. 
 
So peaceful in fact, that my eyes glazed over, and then next thing I knew, Mickey was going under and my dad was shouting – “Reel it in, Holly! You’ve got one!” I tried to pull and get my line back in, but it was too late, and I felt so awful that I hadn’t been paying attention. 
 
But thinking back on this moment now, it’s a perfect picture of my dad and I – he, focused and driven, no matter the circumstances, and me – willing to participate, but distracted by the scenery. 
 
When I was in college, my dad invited me to celebrate the holidays in a cabin nestled in the mountains on the Tennessee/Georgia border. It was a small mountain town – one that seemed like it was made for locals, but was likely all tourists. The cabin had a large porch that overlooked a small creek, and a few fishing poles we could borrow. 
 
My dad was determined to fish in this creek, so he bought a can of corn for bait – trout often mistake them for salmon eggs. We baited our hooks and my dad instructed me to cast upstream, so the line would move downstream with the current. I did as I was told, and we quickly discovered a major problem – trees really close to the riverbank. 
 
If I remember correctly, we didn’t even come close to catching a single fish, simply because our lines kept getting caught in the winter barren trees. My dad untagled every line I cast – yet another thing about my dad – he cleaned up a lot of messes for me. He’s stood up for me numerous times – when no one else would – and he introduced to me to the cureall of every breakup: watching “Swingers”. 
 
Since my dad’s passing, I’ve spent countless hours thinking about his life and legacy; what his life meant, what his death means, and how I’ll ever find closure in the numerous questions I have about our relationship. Through memories shared with me, those of my own, and personal items willed to me, I’ve gathered a few new tidbits about the man that he was and the life he lived. 
 
Despite all of my questions though, I know that my dad believed that every person has a story. He believed this to be so true, in fact, that he worked as a reporter (focusing on sports) for many, many years in order to share those stories. It was a job not many would do, in a time when there was no internet, interviews happened face-to-face, and tape recorders were rare. My dad wrote his pieces on a typewriter, after taking notes on a yellow legal pad. He was a beautiful writer, spicy, willing to tell the ugly truth (even at a conservative paper), and he did it for very little pay. 
 
My dad was a fan of the underdog – he was critical of the star players, overrated coaches, and wanted to get the real story from the bench warmers. He loved making people laugh, and perhaps his ability to converse with just about anyone, made it easier for him to share stories – whether in print or with locals at The Olympia. 
 
He was fascinated with the unknown – he had a curiosity for just about anything, and would obsessively throw himself into his latest interest. He was brave, sharp, and he did things his way (and only his way).
 
I have absolutely no doubt that witnessing all of this has very much shaped the person I am today – and will forever be. But I also know that I have to continue to craft my story, too. During these last six months, I’ve realized a lot about myself, including the fact that the unknown can be… terrifying. But it can also be rather exciting, once you embrace it. 
 
Today, I want us to take something familiar – physically speaking, these Presidential coins willed to me – and toss them into the unknown – the depths of the gulf. Consider it a way to throw your comforts, your faith, your purpose, into the great unknown: the future. Send with it a wish for yourself, a wish to keep crafting your story – whether to share, to keep, no matter if the result is picturesque or candid, planned or impromptu. Some stories are well-planned, but some simply happen…
 
It’s impossible for us to immerse ourselves into the unknown without love. My dad loved many things – fishing trips to Bull Shoals Arkansas with his dad and brothers, small towns, Red Vines, chess, Natalie Merchant, rescue cats, and reciting movie lines, among many other things. He loved people, too, and I feel really lucky that “I love you” was one of the last things he said to me, and I to him. 
 
I’m offering these petals as a symbol of love and peace. 
 
Finally, let’s toast: To family, friends, and finding comfort in the unknown. May the ones we’ve lost watch over us from their heaven – for my dad, I hope its on a lake, filled with delicious bass. 

Bathing suits + body image.

Cute suit!

I remember the first boy/girl pool party I went to. I was in 8th grade, it was the summer of 1998, and I wore a navy blue two-piece from Limited Too. It was a halter top that had turquoise piping and the bottoms were little shorts.

I don’t remember being particularly nervous or worried about my appearance – I’ve always had an average body type, and have never stressed too much about what I eat (especially as a kid).

The first time I remember being aware of my looks was in high school. I was on the dance team and rumors rippled through our squad that the traditional uniform included a cropped top.

The rumors were true. It was a royal blue long-sleeved mock turtleneck leotard cropped top – fitted, with sparkles. There was a matching mini skirt, but we mostly wore black “dance pants” – the shiny black flair pant with a v-cut at the waist.

I spent many a night at home, watching TV while doing reps on an ab roller. I am certain I did likely hundreds of reps – but I was also 14 – and carving out a few abs wasn’t an issue then, especially on top of our grueling practices each week.

I didn’t gain weight until college – I lived up to the “freshman 15”, if not 20 pounds or higher. Many of my favorite clothing items no longer fit, and I felt disgusting. But I also felt low, and eating felt good.

While I got things a little under control over the years – I didn’t really understand the whole picture until after graduating from college. My first reality check was when I decided to do a “detox” – it was a 14-day plan designed to reset the body by cutting out caffeine, alcohol, processed foods, red meat, and excess salt and sugar.

I started looking at food labels and quickly realized that everything I’d been eating was terrible for me. I made my own brown rice, beans, and grilled chicken. By day 3, I was having a “healing crisis” – properly withdrawing from my daily cycle of caffeine and alcohol. It wasn’t unlike me to drink coffee from the time I woke up until lunch, then have a diet coke, and then back on the coffee until I went home, where I would drink wine.

The thought of this makes me cringe.

After the detox, I felt much better and I changed my eating habits. Soon, I joined a boxing gym, and had a strict diet – I was in the best shape of my life. Over the years, I’ve done the Paleo diet (I went strong for 3 months), low-carb, vegetarian, and vegan.

I quit the boxing gym when I moved to Austin (even though there is a franchise near my apartment) and joined a dance studio. The dancing classes aren’t as rigorous a workout as the boxing was, so I know my body has softened.

And over these last few years, I’ve developed a little bit of low self-confidence about the way my body looks. In general, I feel okay each day and I like how most of my clothes fit (it has taken me years to get rid of clothes that don’t make me feel good).

But… swimsuit shopping? Ugh. As a kid, I remember going swimsuit shopping with my mom – and she hated it – but I never understood why. Now I do.

It’s less about my body and more about what’s available to women with curves. Last summer, I realized it was official: I could no longer get by with cheap string bikinis. So, I threw all of mine away.

Last year’s suit!

And thus, the search for the perfect bathing suit began.

I quickly realized that I needed to search for suits in size large or XL, even though I am not those sizes. I’m typically a small/medium, a 4/6. But I guess if you have a C bra size, you’re a large.

I also came to see that the suits offered in “my size” were mostly just plain black and/or looked like they were for women much older than me – brandishing skirts or ruffles – I didn’t want that.

I eventually found a 1-piece at Old Navy that I liked. It had everything on my mental checklist: underwire, adjustable straps, fun pattern. It was $35 and it was the only suit I bought (and owned) last summer (here’s a similar one).

This year though, I was determined to build up my swimsuit wardrobe. I wanted at least one suit that was “luxury” – I was tired of buying cheap suits that wouldn’t last and didn’t fit that great. I also needed additional suits for my upcoming beach trip.

The Aerie Tie Back One Piece!

At first, I looked through all of the suits I liked on my favorite fashion bloggers on Instagram. Giant mistake. While their suits were cute, nearly all of them were made for women that were stick-thin, with no breasts.

These suits had no lining (what? This should not even be allowed), no cups, no underwire, and often no coverage on the butt. Great!

I ended up at American Eagle, a place where I feel like I should not be shopping, but they’ve done me well. I discovered that, not only do they not use traditional models, they also feature actual customers on their site.

This sounds simple, but it’s actually amazing when you’re shopping for a suit – I could see how the suit would look on a body similar to mine, and there were even comments that included women’s height and weight, and this was just amazing!

I ordered two suits online, one basic (a solid one in olive green that was voted as a best-seller) and one sexy, more risque one. I debated on this one, worried it might be too much skin for me, and then I thought, “No, I’m 33, and I shouldn’t be ashamed of my body, my cellulite” and just bought it. Also, and my larger-chested readers will understand, but when you have bigger breasts, nearly everything looks “sexy” – it could be a crew neck, hell, a turtle neck, and people are going to find your body distracting. Yes, that’s me rolling my eyes!

The Aerie Plunge One Piece!

Anyway… Would I go running down the beach in it? No. But it’s definitely cute and I’ll be perfectly fine wearing it while lounging in my cabana.

When the suits arrived at my apartment, I was nervous to try them on. But alas! The basic one fit perfect – it was smoothing in the front, and even though it didn’t have an underwire, it was supportive. The back is completely adjustable with a lace up, which looks neat, too. If this suit were offered in brighter colors, I would buy more.

The other suit (the Aerie Plunge One Piece) fit as I suspected – it was skimpier than my usual attire, but hey, it was cute – light pink and navy in thick stripes. I thought it would be cute with denim shorts.

With two new suits, I was feeling good. But there was still that “luxury” suit I wanted. I lucked out and got the American Eagle suits for around $30 each.

Becca Crochet Deep V One Piece

I was eyeing two suits at Nordstrom, but the universe quickly decided for me when one sold out! The other one – a mauve crochet lace one-piece by Becca that was sheer in all the appropriate places – was still pretty expensive, but if I wore it for a few summers, it would be fine. But then… it went on sale, 50% off, and I got it for $70.

I’d seen many pictures of different-sized women wearing it, and it was flattering on all shapes and sizes. I’m happy to say that it looked great on. The color would look much better with a dark bronze glow (for which I have been applying sunless tanner), but hey, all the more reason to lounge in the sun (slathered in SPF, of course).

I got myself a swimsuit coverup – this was another thing I cleaned out of my closet. I noticed that all of my “swimsuit coverups” were actually just old sundresses that I wore to tailgates in college. Cute then, not now. So, I treated myself to an ACTUAL swimsuit coverup, from Old Navy. I picked the pattern hoping it would match my beach tote and a few various sandals.

My swimsuit coverup from Old Navy!

I don’t know if I’ll ever be satisfied with the way my body looks – it’s much too easy to see other women that look different and I sometimes wish I were thinner or more toned (aren’t we all guilty of this sometimes?) – but I’m slowly learning to appreciate my body for all its done for me.

After all, a different body type doesn’t necessarily mean better – we are all made different, and our bodies react differently to all sorts of things.

I am more concentrated on eating healthy to stay alive and well, and also doing exercises that help my mind and my mental health. If my body tones in that process, great.

Regardless, I know I’ll be comfortable in my bathing suits, either by myself at the pool with a book, or surrounded by my friends at the beach who aren’t judging me or what I’m wearing.

Cheers to having fun in the sun, no matter what type of body you have and what suit you’ve got to wear!

What I’ve learned from John McCain.

AP Photo: John McCain pre-politics flying fighter planes over Vietnam.

As we head into the holiday weekend, I wanted to write a bit on John McCain. I will admit, if you asked me even a year ago my thoughts on Senator McCain, I would have rolled my eyes.

I probably don’t have to say it, but I’m a die-hard liberal. I don’t agree with McCain’s politics, and even members of his family make me cringe. But in the last week, I’ve heard, read, and watched several things that have made me think differently about the late senator.

And my short conclusion is: he’s a fucking badass.

Let me explain. Yes, I knew McCain was a prisoner of war before he entered service as a senator. But even just learning more about that experience makes me wonder just how he even survived in time in prison!

I witnessed the back-and-forth between McCain and Trump, and naturally, I was disgusted, and curious as to how someone could hear such awful things about themselves and not fire back with every word in the book.

But McCain is getting the last word – even in death.

On Tuesday, I watched the HBO documentary, “John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls”.

If you haven’t watched it – you must! It beautifully discusses his life through interviews with him, his family, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and former Presidents Barak Obama and George W. Bush, among many others.

You can see firsthand his life on the campaign trail – both as he ran to be the republican nominee against Bush in 2000, and as the nominee running against Obama in 2008. Both are very telling of his character.

It’s funny… the 2008 campaign was the first one that I really was into – it wasn’t my first time voting, but it was my first time watching all of the debates and news coverage surrounding it.

At the time, I was dating a fratastic republican, and we constantly got into (mild) arguments over the campaign – he loved McCain and Governor Sarah Palin. I was, obviously, not a fan.

But after knowing what I know now about McCain, he probably would have made a great President. The timing just wasn’t right.

Photo from The Hollywood Reporter

When the McCain family announced that John would no longer be receiving treatment for his brain cancer, I was sad. But I also know that quality of life is important, and I felt a bit of happiness for him that he was able to live a full year from his diagnosis, and he used that time to not only stand up for the people of Arizona, but to also focus on the end of his life, and say his goodbyes to the ones he loved most.

As many of you know, my dad was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer late last year. It wasn’t the same kind McCain had, but he also had surgery to remove a mass behind his eye.

I was with my dad the day after his surgery, and although he was recovering well – I fully admire McCain and his ability to fly to D.C. and cast his vote against Trump’s healthcare plan just a day after his surgery.

I am fully in awe of anyone that gets to die on their own terms. From what I’ve learned of McCain, he lived on his own terms, too. And that is something I admire with my entire heart. He wasn’t afraid to go against the grain, as long as he felt it was right. He was honest, even during a time when many politicians are not.

Sadly, McCain passed away just a few days after he stopped treatment, and shortly after, his family released his final letter to America.

I’ve had experiences, adventures, friendships, enough for 10 satisfying lives, and I am so thankful.

– John McCain

The letter took a slight jab at Trump, encouraging the American people to forge on, even though we aren’t getting what we deserve right now (there is a similar jab in the documentary).

A few days ago, I saw this headline: “McCain’s Choice of Russian Dissent as Pallbearer is Final Dig at Putin, Trump.”

Wow! Even in death, this guy is sticking it to Trump, and keeping it classy.

And then yesterday, I saw this: “Sarah Palin isn’t Invited to John McCain’s Memorial Services” – I’m speechless.

I didn’t know this, but the article says that earlier this year, McCain said that choosing Palin as his running mate was one of the mistakes he made.

Since Wednesday, I have been watching McCain’s services, and although they are sad to see, I have great respect for everything he’s done for our country, and I’m inspired by the full life that he lived.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve added several of McCain’s books to my reading list. If you’re interested, here are all of them:

With that, I’ve learned so much about McCain this week – better late than never, right? – but I’m confident that his legacy will live on and continue to inspire others.

“In the end, it matters less that you can fight. What you fight for is the real test.”

– John McCain

What am I hungry for?

I wish that looked good.

I wish I could say this post was a giant metaphor – something about me searching for my purpose in life, but no. I’m actually talking about being hungry, and food.

The past few days, I’ve been feeling a little weird. My hunger is the same, but literally NOTHING sounds good to eat. In fact, the thought of eating nearly disgusts me to the point that I’ve had to force myself to eat because I am so hungry.

At first, I thought that maybe I was sick of eating vegan food. I’ve been eating mostly vegan for more than two years now, and well, it’s a lot of beans and veggies, and sometimes it’s difficult to mix up the flavors.

But I have always been one to do what I want, and that includes eating what I want. I eat vegan because it helps me sleep, not because I particularly enjoy making difficult food choices.

My hunger wasn’t leading me in any direction – so I kept telling myself that I’d eat no matter what – whether it was fast food junk, takeout, or even just sitting in front of a giant bowl of cereal. I was desperate.

But nothing – not even spicy chicken ramen from Whole Foods – sounded good.

So, there were a few meals I skipped and just suffered through the hunger pains.

Why was this happening? I consider myself a foodie – I love to cook! I love to try new things! I’m always eating at new restaurants!

But the thought of all food was grossing me out. I tossed nearly everything in my fridge. Then, when it came time to make a grocery list, I had no idea what to write because NOTHING sounded good. I sifted through hundreds of recipes – on Pinterest, on Instagram, and in cookbooks – and everything sounded gross.

My list consisted of “salad fixins”. I ended up getting spring mix, grape tomatoes, bananas, and coffee.

I headed over to Whole Foods to see if there was anything on their salad bar that looked good. I got 4 pieces of popcorn chicken and a small spoonful of pasta, which I forced myself to eat.

My mom asked me if I’d been hypnotized to be disgusted by food – it was a theory that I had not considered, but no, at least, not that I knew of.

Although I have been feeling a little chunky lately, I’m not so concerned about my physical appearance that I would stop eating. I love food much more than other people’s opinions.

I do know that it’s hot as hell and Sunday marked the 47th consecutive day that Austin has reached at least 100 degrees out. So maybe that’s it.

Each week, I go on a “food adventure” – a dorky way of saying that I go to a restaurant I’ve never been to, simply because Austin has sooooo many places and I’m determined to eat at as many of them as possible.

I’d planned to go on my weekly adventure on Sunday, but I wasn’t sure anything would sound good. But when I woke up around 4am with my stomach hurting with hunger, something fresh sounded good.

So I went to Blenders and Bowls on Sunday morning for my first ever acai bowl – this one had bananas, local honey, raisins, and cacao nibs on top – and it was good enough to eat.

I haven’t eaten much since then – a mini dairy-free ice cream sandwich last night. I brought a banana to work today and I packed one of those “salad rolls” from Whole Foods for lunch.

It’s certainly something that’s never happened to me before, and I’m sure it’s just a phase – I’m hoping it’s a short-lived one, because I sure did look insane going up and down every single aisle of Whole Foods multiple times, looking at food and then trying not to be sick.

And just to stop this rumor before it starts, no, I am not pregnant. I’m nearly positive that involves physical contact with a man, and that’s not one of my current hobbies.

I haven’t changed up any medication, either. I’ve increased my coffee intake and that’s about it. Maybe I should just eat all my meals at Blenders and Bowls, for freshness-sake?

Embracing the ‘YOLO’ Attitude.

Make every moment count.

I’ve written a little bit (or maybe a lot) about living your dreams, reaching for your goals, and in general, living life to its fullest. I have always felt a sense of urgency in my life and, although I’m not entirely sure the reasoning for it, I have felt it even more since my dad’s passing at the beginning of this year.

When I got the news that my dad needed surgery, of course there was a chance he wouldn’t make it. I immediately started questioning if he lived the life he dreamed he would. In the six months since his death, I’m learning more about my dad’s life, the adventures he took, and the obstacles he conquered.

I’m still not ready to get into details about my dad, but I know today that we all have a life to live and a story to create. And it’s up to us to make things happen.

Last summer, I was visiting some high school friends near my hometown of Columbus, Indiana. Since I was a kid, I wanted to escape Indiana – I’ve always felt there was something bigger in the world for me.

While I will likely never move back to Indiana, I’ve come to appreciate it for what is it, and I can see why so many of my classmates have stayed. Truthfully, I don’t think it matters so much where you live, but what you do there. It’s what you make of it.

Anyway, on this visit last summer, I was having lunch with a guy who was low-key trying to school me on why I needed to come back to Indiana. It became apparent very quickly that he was never planning to leave Indiana, and actually wouldn’t be open to moving anywhere else for any reason. Since I’ve known him, he hasn’t even traveled outside of the Midwest for a vacation.

I get it, traveling isn’t everyone’s thing. But there’s a whole WORLD out there waiting to be discovered! There’s so many different cultures and lifestyles – even moving from Baton Rouge to Austin, I’ve learned so much about the way people live and how cities flow. It’s fascinating to me.

I’ve never had a full-fledged Bucket List – I knew I wanted to fly to a city I’ve never been and see a concert (which I did earlier this year, and you can read about it here). Other than that, I just hear about things or places and think, “Oh, that’d be cool…”

But lately, I have been taking action on these types of things with such force that I almost feel reckless. I’m such an OCD planner (so much so that it often gets on my nerves), that booking flights and trips without much thought is against my grain. Buuuut I’m doing it – I’ve booked a trip to New York City later this year (I’ve never been!) and have also booked a flight to London for Spring 2019 (my first time overseas).

I told my best friend about my London flight just minutes after I booked it, and she booked a similar flight that same day to meet me there. THAT IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT! It was then I realized that you don’t often meet people who are DOING things; who are willing to throw themselves into a life that’s dedicated to actually living, instead of just waiting around.

I know so many people who say, “Oh, I’d love to do that” or, “I’ve always wanted to go there,” but what are they doing to actually make it happen? Likely nothing.

While I am still learning and growing, here’s a few tips I’ve been living by to help me live every day to its fullest:

  • Be proactive

I believe in fate and destiny, but I also know that we have to take opportunities when they’re presented to us. And perhaps those “presentations” won’t be glaring or on a silver platter – you still have to go after them.

  • Create your own opportunities

After I graduated college, I struggled with understanding what my 9-5 life would look like. I got really stuck in what’s “normal” and I definitely was not creating opportunities for myself. But I quickly saw what that looks like: wasting away at a desk job. I vowed that I would never succumb to it and I haven’t. Yes, I do have a desk job, but I have 6 (currently) gigs on the side + my blogging class… plus this blog and my Etsy shop. I’ve always got things going on!

  • Set goals… and take action

You know I’m really big on setting goals – I’ve found it’s the best way to visualize and communicate what you want, and then make a fitting plan for action. What will it take to accomplish that goal?

  • Always keep learning

This is HUGE. No matter if we’re talking about your career, a hobby, or just life lessons – complacency should NOT be an option. If you don’t keep learning, things will never change.

  • Try new things

This goes hand-in-hand with “always keep learning” – try new things! It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant, maybe it’s just a new menu item at your favorite restaurant. But if you don’t try new things, how will you know what you like and don’t like?

  • Never settle

Don’t make it about what you think you should be doing, who you think you should be dating, etc. – you do what’s best for you and keep raising the bar.

  • Live in the moment/be present

I know the future sometimes bogs me down, or even thinking about the past, I am practicing more and more to be present and focus on what’s happening now. It makes things a little less hectic, and it stops me from getting in my own way (I am my own worst enemy sometimes).

When I talk about embracing the YOLO lifestyle and attitude, I’m not just talking about travel or wild adventures. It could just be trying a new restaurant down the road or taking a class you’ve always wanted to take. Here’s a few other examples:

A colleague of mine lives in Brooklyn and was featured in a popular home style publication for all of the cool art and eclectic pieces she had in her home. She told all of these stories about how she spent years searching for these pieces, sometimes schlepping them across the city! She reminded me that even if you live in an apartment or a temporary home, don’t wait to fill it with things (or memories) you love! Especially if the journey leaves you with great stories.

A friend of mine who is a mom makes a big deal about her sons’ birthdays – she throws Pinterest-worthy parties and saves the custom cake-topper from each year for her boys to remember. She even gets festive over smaller events, like Shark Week! I love how she makes every day special; she has been one to remind me that every day we live is a holiday.

Several years ago, my best friend and I met in Las Vegas for the first time. We both admitted we were strapped on cash, and, in a place that’s rather costly, we learned how to have fun on a DIME. We found the cheapest (and most filling) buffets for meals and at night, we bought Four Lokos (RIP sweet nectar) and sipped on them while walking the strip and going into all of the casinos (even dipping our toes into some of the fancy pools). We went back to Vegas last year with a little more money, and while we had fun, our first trip remains to be one of my best memories. We had fun, we got to see the city, and it opened up so many opportunities because we learned that we could go anywhere, no matter what kind of money we had.

A fashion/lifestyle blogger I follow just moved to San Fransisco, and from her Instagram Stories, it looks like her and her husband are on a mission to explore the city every weekend – I love it! They go to farmer’s markets, rent scooters, and try new restaurants. It’s simple, but it’s a great reminder that fun gems can be right around the corner!

I have made it a goal to try a new restaurant each week (I’ve been documenting them on my Instagram @Orangejulius7) and have also been taking new yoga classes as part of my YOLO adventures.

I know every day may not be wild and crazy, but it’s the small things that count, too, right? I’d love to know what things you do to make every day special – YOLO!

Searching for Sue.

Beautiful!

I’ve been practicing yoga for a long time – several years, off and on. When I say “yoga” here, I am referring to the movements you’ve probably come to know whether you’ve taken a yoga class or not.

Last month, I signed up with a yoga studio for 30 days to see how I liked the different classes they offered. My 30 days is up on Tuesday, and in just this short time, I’ve learned so much about the practice of yoga, and how much I needed it without even realizing it.

Many years ago, I did yoga poses at home from a VHS tape. Eventually, I got a few DVDs, and once I started taking regular boxing classes, I joined a yoga studio where I strictly took hot yoga classes.

It was there I really started to enjoy some of the mental clarity that comes with a yoga practice. But at the time, I wasn’t really looking for it.

This entire year has been a struggle for me, mentally, between my grief, and working a digital job, I get cloudy and feeling like I can never stop my brain from buzzing.

But between my meditation practice (thank you, Calm app), and taking yoga classes at the studio, I’ve discovered what a true delight it is to take even just 45 minutes or an hour all to yourself.

One whole hour just to breathe and let the outside world fall away.

Typically, when people think of yoga, they think of the poses. But it’s also about breathing, meditation, and a general system of well-being. It’s about awareness, and being present.

During these 30 days, I’ve taken traditional flow classes and barre – both of which I have tried before. But I tried two new classes: Yin and Restorative.

Yin yoga is slow-paced and the poses are held for up to five minutes each to work deeper into the muscles and fascia. I have LOVED taking these classes, and have also learned so much about my body and mind during them.

Restorative yoga is similar to yin in that you hold the poses for up to five minutes, but they are gentler poses meant to help you center your mind and body. This is really nice to take at the end of the day!

Since I already have a membership at a dance studio, I wasn’t really looking for cardio classes or even strength courses – I know I needed something for my mind.

In the first few classes I took, I kept finding myself on a mat next to the same woman – Sue. I don’t know much about Sue – which is one thing I enjoy about the studio: everyone pretty much keeps to themselves – she always seems to be on a mission to find COMPLETE relaxation.

She wears a thick headband that she uses to cover her eyes when our eye pillow just won’t work (when we are in a seated position, for example). She’s the first to cover up with one of the heavy blankets, and I believe Sue has mastered the ability to silently sleep mid-class.

It’s a trait I envy.

I haven’t seen Sue lately, and although we’ve only exchanged a few words over the course of the month, I’ve found myself searching for her in class. She is a great reminder that no matter what’s happening outside of class, this small bit of time is whatever we need it to be.

At the start of each class, we are invited to set an intention. I used to set my intention to just try and do my poses the best. But lately, I’ve vowed to focus on my breath, focus on being present.

With each practice comes progress, and I’m so thankful for the mental clarity I get from even trying. The studio has become a bit of a sanctuary for me, and I’ve got a feeling I’ll be hanging around for awhile.

2018 Goals: Checking in.

We’re already a week into August, and I have been thinking a lot about the goals I set for myself this year. It’s time to check-in and see what I’ve done and what I’ve got left to do, because I refuse to let another year pass without doing these things!

Raise the standard (In progress)

I wanted to generally raise the standard I hold for my LIFE. I want to do quality things, spend my time wisely, and have quality people in my life, even if that means not very many. And so far, I think I’m getting there. I’ve learned that by cutting less-quality things and people out of my life, I have more time for myself, and more time with the people who support and love me.

Get more involved in ZTA (In progress)

I was really lucky to be involved in a sorority in college, and although I made my mistakes (and there were downsides to it), I think that giving my time and my mind to these ladies could really be a great experience. In April, I took over the position of Judicial Advisor for the ZTA Theta Psi chapter, and am really looking forward to school starting in the fall so I can start attending meetings and getting more involved.

Don’t wait for tomorrow (CHECK!)

Since my dad passed away in February, I have taken this (my friend calls it my “YOLO mentality) to the next level. There are times I’ve felt completely reckless, but we are never promised tomorrow, so whatever it is, I’m doing it today!

Attend an estate sale (Needs Help)

I still haven’t done this, and I don’t even know how to find out about estate sales near me! Help! Do I Google? Pick up the newspaper? What are some tips once I attend? I need all the assistance…

Write, just to write (CHECK!)

Earlier this year, I went to a writer’s retreat for the first time. I have also been journaling almost every day, and it’s really helped me, mentally, and it’s helped me organize my thoughts so I can produce better blog content (it’s a win-win)!

Treat yoself (CHECK!)

This was less of an excuse to spend money and more of an excuse to use things I already have instead of saving them for “something special”. Case-in-point: my Jaclyn Hill eyeshadow palette. I bought it thinking I would use it for a dance showcase, but why just that? I pull it out on random weekdays and wear it to work, because I’m alive, and that’s a gift. I also finally wore a chambray jumpsuit that’s been in my closet for an entire year, never worn. This has been a fun one!

Take a road trip to Marfa, Texas (CHECK!)

I went to Marfa in June, and although the trip took an unexpected turn, I got to see what all the hype was about, and I finally got to pull off on the side of the road and SEE Prada Marfa. Not to mention loads of tumbleweeds! Read all about that trip.

Pay off two more credit cards (In progress)

I have already paid off one card, and I’m really close to paying off a second! It feels so great to finally have a little more financial freedom – in fact, life feels a lot different by making even one or two less payments each month. Suck it, interest rates!

Less time on social media + less social comparison (In progress)

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter (both @Orangejulius7), you probably know that I spend a decent chunk of my time using the stuff. But in my defense, it’s what I do by trade, and I enjoy using social media! So, while I haven’t done a stellar job cutting back on time spent on social media, I HAVE cut back on comparing my life to others. I know that we are all on our own path, and everyone’s life looks different – and it may not be actually what we see on social media.

Meditate + show up for yourself (In progress)

I started using the Calm app to guide daily meditations, and although I haven’t meditated every day, I’ve done much more than I expected to! I have also started doing more yoga, and really try to use that time to focus on breathing and spending that hour for myself and my mind.

Don’t try and please everyone – it’s going to be okay (CHECK!)

This is a big one for me, and it gets easier and easier every day. I know that my personality isn’t for everyone, and I truly believe I’ve stood up for myself more this year than I ever have. I’ve learned just how much I can do on my own, and how much I can accomplish, and I can do it in my own way. This will be a forever practice, but I think I’ve nailed it thus far.

What goals did you set for yourself this year? Have you accomplished them yet? What do you need to do in order to cross those goals off your list? We’ve only got a little more than 4 months until the end of the year – how will that list shape up?

Summer Meltdown… to realness.

Pulled out the chambray jumpsuit.

Last night was yet another showcase for my Dance Austin Studio family. This was the Summer Meltdown, Take 2, which was a music video series. It was, of course, different from other showcases Dance Austin has hosted in the past – it was a four-week series followed by a video shoot, instead of a live performance.

The kicker was that no one (except maybe the choreographers) had seen the videos before last night’s premier – I think all of us dancers were a little anxious to see how all of our hard work turned out.

Naturally, all of the videos were awesome! Each of them had a funny twist, and it was cool to see the different personalities come out in each video.

I know that after each dance showcase I perform in, I write up all the feels from the day in what’s become my traditional showcase wrap-up. But, there wasn’t quite that same batch of feelings after last night.

Yes, it was really weird to show up at The North Door and not have to race to the “backstage” area and get ready for tech rehearsal, or find a spot with decent lighting to put on all of my show makeup. Instead, it was a little more leisurely, and there was a black carpet with a step and repeat #fancy

But I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t have enough emotions swirling around in my mind not to write some sort of something about the state of my life lately.

The truth is that, as I’ve alluded to some in recent weeks, I am struggling pretty hard in the mental health department. I’m chalking it up to grief, and although I’m still not entirely ready to put all of my chips on the table, I’ll offer up what I can thus far.

I’ve experienced loss several times in my life. I lost family members when I was a kid, and when I was in high school, it felt like I went to way too many funerals – those of my peers. It was surreal, and I started to form very small bits of dealing with grief and even just the taste of how short life can be.

In college, though, I suffered a loss that I still cannot talk about without tearing up. He was also my peer, the first person I met when I went to college orientation, we were each other’s dates to Greek functions… I felt a closeness to him unlike any other.

And he was killed while crossing the street.

A good friend told me the news as I was driving, and I pulled off the road to compose myself. I called my dad, and he talked me through it.

Several years later, I had natal reading where a professional looked over the stars during the time of my birth and during the years of my life.

“How does death fit in to your life?” she asked me.

I explained to her that I’d suffered several losses; one particularly difficult. We talked about the photo I have of him and I – framed on my desk at home with a candle beside it. She told me he was my soul mate, and it was likely that we’d met in a previous life, and that he was protecting me from the other side. I could keep his energy alive by lighting the candle and honoring his memory.

But little did I know that even a loss as tough as that one seems like a drop in the bucket compared to losing my dad.

I’ve talked enough on this blog about the relationship my dad and I had to get me in a shit-ton of trouble with most of my family. And even though my dad isn’t around to reprimand me or control the ship, I’ve kept quiet on the home front.

There’s something unsettling about all of it.

As horrible as it sounds, I felt some sort of relief in that my every day, physical life wouldn’t change after my dad died. After all, I hadn’t talked to him in years. We didn’t exchange texts, or cards, nothing.

But it’s been almost six months since his death, and I can tell you that I don’t even remember what it’s like to go a single day without crying; or thinking about it; or feeling guilty.

There have been times I’ve wondered why he had to be the one to go instead of someone else – and then I feel horrible because I know that no one deserves to go through what he did.

So many people have said to me, “Your dad must have been so proud of you.”

And while that’s an incredibly nice thing to say, I don’t know how true it is. My dad was TOUGH. He was quick to tell me all of the things I did wrong, and I can’t recall him ever saying he was proud of me.

At the beginning of this month, I felt so alone, so in the dark about how I was really supposed to get back to how things were – even just inside myself. I feel like I can’t pull myself out of this funk. I realized that my normal cures for bad days weren’t working.

Because this isn’t just a bad day. This isn’t a breakup. This isn’t a fight with a friend.

This is grappling with a major loss. It’s contemplating the meaning of life. Religion. Family.

It’s the realization that hindsight is a cruel bitch.

On the other side of this darkness, though, I’m also experiencing incredible success in my career. Not necessarily in my day job, but in my work as a blogger, editor, and digital strategist. I’ve had work literally fall into my lap almost every single day. I lived in Louisiana for 12 years and barely felt like I’d made a name for myself; been in Texas for less than three and I feel like so many people have reached out for my writing expertise, and I cannot explain how much that means to me. The fruits of my recent labor are allowing me to do things I’ve never thought I could do.

Part of me wonders if my dad is helping me from the other side – but then I feel guilty for even thinking that way. It’s a confusing place to be.

I decided to seek help from a professional (which is a chore in itself). So, I got a referral, and my mom helped me find a few options… and now it’s up to me to make the appointment. I’ve done therapy a few times before (for years), but this time, I’m considering medication.

But with medication comes all sorts of questions and worries. What will it be like? Will it change my personality? Will it make me less creative?

I’m still thinking on it.

In the meantime, I decided to focus on what I was putting into my body and how I was treating it. So, I stopped drinking entirely and am focusing on a plant-based diet. The no-drinking thing is a little more of a chore than I anticipated – I’ve been drinking lots of organic lemonade after realizing that non-alcoholic wine was not really a thing I’m going to do (ha!).

I’m doing more yoga (even if it makes me cry) and trying to get better sleep at night. And I’m still dancing.

Which brings me back to last night’s video premier. Our video shoot was 3.5 hours – beginning at 6:30 am, outside, in the Texas summer sun. And the resulting video was less than three minutes.

It was clever, and looked great, and it was funny to watch. But I couldn’t help but notice that we sure did put allllll of that time into just a few minutes – a highlight reel.

I’m sure you know where I’m going with this. But it’s a lot like life – you spend your whole life living it, no matter how long or short of a time you’ve got – and perhaps it takes you the entirety to realize one thing, or do that ONE thing.

And it all boils down to that highlight reel.

The same could be said for relationships or weddings or vacations. It’s those few moments that stand out.

Last night, one of my fellow dancers said, “You’ve been doing some road-tripping, right?”

I nodded, and explained to her that ever since my dad died, I am going for it, and I’m doing it without much of a second thought. I’m going to the places I’ve never been, eating new foods, facing my fears, and I’m doing it whether anyone is coming along or not.

I’ve already got two more trips planned this year, and I’m eyeing another one.

I don’t know what you dream of when your mind starts to wander, whether it’s dancing on a stage or being in a music video; maybe it’s seeing a Broadway play or getting published in a magazine.

Whatever it is – DO THAT.

At the end of our time here, you’re going to want certain things in that reel, and the time to accomplish them is now.

If I’ve learned anything about myself in the past six months, it’s that we are often our own blockade. So toss the fears aside. Just go for it.

To my dance family, thank you for providing such a supportive environment for me to even think these things. Some days, I struggle to show up to class. Other days, it’s all I want to do. But you’re there, and I hope I can return that favor to you whenever you need it.

END SCENE.

Living single… at 33.

Taking in the view on my own.

You might recall a popular TV series in the mid-90’s, “Living Single”, that followed six black singletons living in Brooklyn. They were in their twenties.

Because that’s when most people are single, right?

I haven’t written about my (lack of) dating life in a while – in fact, when I searched through the archives of this blog, it’s been at least a year. Why? Well, until possibly yesterday, I didn’t have much to say on it.

I used to look at being single as sad, and then it became a badge of honor. Now it’s just nothing – or at least, nothing that defines who I am or what I do each day.

I know I’ve got some new readers here – Welcome! – and it’s likely that you never thought this was once a place where ALL I talked about was dating. Why?

Because I did a lot of it in my twenties. I dated, I wrote columns about my experiences, I bartended and met more people to date, and then I published books about it, and spoke about it at open-mic nights… and now I just live it.

I had some fun experiences, some really bad ones, I fell in love a few times, and I also strung myself through abusive relationships.

And then I decided to be single.

Not the single where you have crushes, and “talk” via text, and meet new people on Tindr, and have casual sex. The kind of single where I just get to know myself.

That was at least five years ago, and I’m still in that space.

I definitely never planned on being single at 33, but I also never planned on living in Texas, eating mostly vegan food, or contemplating what life at 55 looks like for a singleton like myself.

At times, being single is scary. I have Miranda’s fear of dying in my apartment, alone, with my cat, and wondering how that ends. And some nights, settling into the covers of my big bed is just a weird reminder of how long it’s been since I fell asleep next to someone I really cared for.

Most of the time, though, I’m happy with my life. Many days, I can’t even remember what it was like to be in a relationship, or to even have a crush on someone. I can do nearly anything I want, and for the most part I do. That was always my saving grace at the end of a relationship – I was free.

If that doesn’t tell you anything about the kinds of relationships I’ve experienced, I don’t know what will.

My jump into being single likely got off to a bitter beginning; I was single because I’d been burned. And there are still remnants of that – it’s embarrassing to admit that I’ve never had a relationship that I’d classify as good or healthy.

But even between relationships, I would quickly meet someone new and move to the next person; one rebound after another.

So being single was a much-needed blow to the cycle. For awhile, I found it difficult to even look at a man, whether at a restaurant or when checking out at a store. I was convinced all men were the same, and I wanted no part of their game.

Don’t worry, I have softened a little since then, and although I don’t meet many people whose relationships I envy, I do follow a few bloggers that give me hope in dating, relationships, and possibly even marriage.

When I graduated from college (10+ years ago), it seemed like everyone was getting married, and many of those same people got divorced, and/or had children. But really, a study came out last year saying the number of marriages in the US, and around the globe, have been declining since the late 90s.

A report from the Urban Institute also stated that many millennials won’t get married until age 40. In the past (say, in 1960), people married for many reasons – to have children, for financial gain (taxes, military, etc.); there was also less pressure on education and careers, for women at least.

Today, being single can mean a plethora of things, and it can look many different ways. That’s the catch 22: there’s almost too many options on how I can spend my years. Do I adopt? Travel? Move elsewhere? Get more hobbies?

I suppose I’ve got time to decide.

In these five years, I’ve gone on a few dates, and unfortunately they’ve been really bad reminders of what I don’t miss about dating – ghosting patterns, mixed messages, messy homes, boring conversations, and selfish sex.

It’s unlikely I’ll go on a date before 2020 rolls around, but when it does, I have a better idea of what I’m after – someone who has it together; a good, fun sense of humor, an appreciation for life, and a kind heart.

Until then, I’ll be obsessively reading library books, cooking new recipes, and planning my next vacation.