Category Archives: The Squeeze

Thank you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s Thanksgiving Eve, eve! Tomorrow morning, I’m hopping on a flight to get my travel on for the holiday break, and just perhaps, I’ll get my dose of freezing cold weather for a few days.

I don’t want to get too cheesy here, but the approaching Thanksgiving holiday definitely makes me think about what I’m thankful for, and this year, my list is a mile long.

I am so thankful for my mom, my friends, everyone I dance with, my kitty Blanche, and well, everyone who has a part in creating “The Daily Show” (this year just wouldn’t have been possible without that).

I am also just generally thankful for my health, my health insurance, and doctors, everywhere. I’m really thankful for my job, for all of my freelance clients, for all of the students who’ve taken my blog class, and for everyone who’s shopped in my Etsy shop – all of these jobs and projects have allowed me to clean up my financial mess, pay off a credit card, invest in hobbies I love, and even do some traveling.

It’s not quite the time to reflect on the entire year (we still have another month to go!), but this year, I’ve lost a lot of people. Some literally, some figuratively, some have cut me out, some I’ve cut out – but I know it’s all part of a bigger plan for each of us. If you’re in my life, it’s because I want you to be, and I’m really appreciative of you.

Of course, thank you for reading my blog. I have been in a weird space with blogging these past few months, partially because of time, and partially because I feel like sometimes this blog does more harm to myself than good.

I have started journaling as a way to get my thoughts out in an unbiased, totally unedited way, and it’s helping me in a way I didn’t expect. I don’t know if those words will ever see the light of day, maybe so, or maybe not. I just know that right now, there’s people watching my every word, and I’m not willing to provide food for their fights.

Regardless, this blog is here to stay. And hey, I am, too.

In the past, I’ve put so much energy into maintaining traditions when it comes to holidays, but I’m finally feeling like I’m coming into my own. I don’t have to do the same thing every year for the holidays – in fact, I can do whatever I want!

I’m not chained to locations, menus, houseguests, or expectant family members. I do what I want – it’s not the life I dreamed of, but perhaps that’s just because I didn’t know the option existed.

So yeah, tomorrow I’m bundling up (with the new John Green book in-tow), and I’m heading out for a few days to indulge, and upon my return to Texas, I’m SO happy to have some time off of work to decorate my apartment for the holidays, catch up on some TV, and work on my Etsy shop.

I hope you all have a fabulous Thanksgiving – I’ll be posting this week’s Book Club read tomorrow, and I’ve got a special surprise for Black Friday.

Cheers!

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Dining at Uchiko!

The fantastic Uchiko!

Ugh, I’m mad at myself for not posting this earlier, but a few weeks ago, I was able to cross off yet ANOTHER experience from my Austin Bucket List: dining at Uchiko!

I discovered Uchiko, after seeing the original “Uchi” on an episode of “Food Porn” right when I moved to Austin and I hoped that one day, I’d get the chance to devour some of their top-notch sushi. Austin is home to Uchi and Uchiko.

Well, fate was on my side because… you may recall a few months ago when my friend Corey and I WON a “Saved By The Bell” trivia contest. Part of our prize was a giftcard to… *drumroll* …Uchiko!

It was meant to be!

Uchiko is a farmhouse restaurant, and they focus on using fresh ingredients – flying in seafood everyday from Eukuoka and Tsukiji markets in Japan.

Naturally, I was too busy enjoying the food to recall everything we ate, but here’s some of the things we had:

  • Yokai Berry: Scottish salmon, dinosaur kale, Asian kale, yuzu
  • Coffee Bacon: peach, apricot, onion
  • Ham & Eggs: katsu pork belly, yolk custard, espelette
  • Brussels Sprouts: fish caramel, lemon, chili
  • Kokumostu: toasted and fried milk, cereal, chocolate mousse
  • Seasonal Ice Cream: I believe we had cinnamon… it was so yummy!

We had at least three other items… but I probably had too many glasses of wine to recall their names. I DO know that everything was fresh, delicious, and impeccably presented. It was really a fantastic experience!

Tyson Cole is a partner and the chef of both Uchi and Uchiko – here’s his story from the Uchiko website:

Best Chef Southwest, James Beard Foundation 2011
One of the few American sushi masters, James Beard Award-winning Chef and Owner Tyson Cole is a passionate student of the Japanese tradition. Having trained for more than 10 years in Tokyo, New York, and Austin under two different sushi masters, he continues his path of study and experimentation each day at the restaurants in the Hai Hospitality family. Employing classical cooking techniques with a Pacific Rim perspective, Cole marries global ingredients with traditional Japanese flavors, resulting in inspired combinations of flavor, texture, color, technique, and style.

Cole became fascinated with sushi in his early twenties while working at an Austin Japanese restaurant and quickly dedicated himself to learning every aspect of the cuisine. Working his way up from dishwasher to head sushi chef, his dexterity with the knife led him to Austin’s top sushi restaurant Musashino. During an intensive traditional apprenticeship under owner Takehiko Fuse, Cole traveled to Japan to experience the cuisine firsthand while gaining technical skill.

Challenged by Fuse to learn the Japanese language, Cole moved on to train at Bond Street, one of the busiest sushi restaurants in New York City. In his last year at Musashino, Cole ran the restaurant in Fuse’s absence and began experimenting with new flavor ideas, influences, and ingredients. Opening Uchi in 2003 as executive chef and co-owner, Cole quickly garnered national attention, most notably a coveted spot on Food and Wine Magazine’s Best New Chefs of 2005 list; a James Beard Foundation Award for “Best Chef: Southwest” in 2011; and a James Beard Foundation semifinalist spot for “Outstanding Chef” in 2016 among many other accolades.

Citing the newly easy accessibility of ingredients and flavors from across the globe, Cole continues to push the envelope with every bite, stating, “The cuisine I create is playfully multi-cultural, mixing the Japanese tradition with tastes that inspire me.”

Impressive, right?

The even COOLER part is – Corey and I still have two more giftcard to burn as part of our prize. Doesn’t get better than that!

Thriving at ‘The Aftermath’.

We killed it!

Over the weekend, I performed in my 4th showcase that Dance Austin Studio hosts. After each performance, I’ve written about how I’ve felt and I realize what an important place dance has in my life.

This time was no different, in fact, I realized just how much I need dance and those I dance with to fulfill my life.

I started dancing in 6th grade, taking a jazz class at a small gym with one of my friends. We performed a few times, and I still recall flopping when we had to pull red boas from our partners’ leotards. It was cringe-worthy!

A year later, I tried out for the dance squad at my middle school – I didn’t make it, but made it the following year after practicing my smile and wearing lots of body glitter. I continued dancing throughout high school, I served as captain of a team, competed across the state of Indiana, and even choreographed a piece for my senior project.

And then I stopped dancing. I used writing as my form of expression, and while obviously I still am (and will always be) a writer, I started dancing again when I moved to Austin two years ago.

I feel like I’m really lucky that I ended up at THE best studio in the city – or maybe that’s all the proof I need that fate is real. Dance Austin Studio has challenged me physically and emotionally, and I’ve done things I never thought I would get to do: audition, perform on stage, and most importantly, learn from some of the best dancers in the industry on a regular basis.

Over the last two months, my life has suffered a whirlwind of changes. Many of my readers know that among the general hectic nature of my life, I recently went through a family emergency that flipped my world completely. There were days I was barely going through the motions of life, and I forced myself to dance.

I may not remember a single thing I thing I learned during those classes, but I know my classmates were there for me – even if they didn’t know it.

That’s the other thing about Dance Austin; it has truly become my family. While I had acquaintances at the studio last year, some of the ladies have really embraced me, invited me into their homes, and even included me in dance pieces of their own. I don’t know what kind of shape I’d be in without these people, these experiences.

For this showcase, “The Aftermath”, I performed in a Broadway Jazz piece. I have always had a secret wish that one day, I’d wake up and my life would be a musical – very much like the blue bird scene from “500 Days of Summer”. Taking broadway jazz was pretty much that dream, realized, and then I got to be a KILLER stepford wife on stage.

It didn’t happen without hours of practice in and outside of the studio; many nights I practiced in my living room wearing slippers while my cat watched with wide eyes.

I was also asked to perform in a contemporary piece with a message of women’s empowerment. It was very powerful and a true honor to get to dance in it!

This was my first time doing jazz in (obviously) several years; first time doing any “dressography”, and my first time performing two routines, plus in both shows! Whew!

But as we probably all know, the more challenges thrown at you, the more you conquer, and the more you ultimately learn about yourself. This weekend, I can say I learned that I CAN DO IT. I can learn something completely new amidst chaos, and smile through it.

So I owe a big thank you to all the ladies that danced with me, a thank you to Chi Chi – the owner of Dance Austin Studio, a thank you to Caitlyn – my instructor and insanely talented choreographer who put up with me being zombified for six weeks, and a thank you to the Ultraviolets for inviting me to share the stage with you as part of such an incredible piece.

February showcase, I’m coming for you!

My first two months on Etsy.

Always craftin’.

At the end of August, I opened up my Etsy shop: The Bitter Lemon Shop. I have always thought about opening up an Etsy store, not because I have an abundance of things to sell, but because there are times when I really enjoy creating things and I always get really excited when they turn out as I’d planned.

For years, I’ve kept a Pinterest board with DIY projects that I hoped to get to “someday”, and in August, I finally had a window of time and started making earrings. They turned out cute, so I decided to put them on Etsy and see what happened.

Like most people starting an online adventure, it seems like when you publish your first blog or post that fist item to sell, the world is going to shift. And then… there’s silence.

I’d heard about this happening with lots of Etsy sellers – that you work so hard to create an inventory of products and take pictures, write thoughtful descriptions… and then you never make a sale.

But it didn’t take long before I made a few sales, mostly from people I knew. But hey, a sale is a sale, and it was good practice on simply using Etsy to see how things work.

Before I knew it, I had several orders, and then I had a slight frenzy when shoppers caught sight of one item: my Holly Golightly sleep mask – a popular Halloween costume accessory, especially now thanks to “Big Little Lies”.

I sold 30+ of the handmade sleep masks, staying up very late (one night i stayed up until 4 am) to hand-sew each item.

I’m proud to say I’ve made it through my first “Holiday rush”, and I didn’t even mess up any of the shipments, which is a MIRACLE.

So, I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned about Etsy so far – I’m sure this won’t be the last post about this side hustle, business-venture of mine.

Use the Etsy app. The app is easy to use, but most importantly, I get an alert on my phone when someone makes a purchase (it sounds like a cash register), and when someone messages me. This is super important and I know I won’t go online and check my store every day.

Respond to customers. Quickly. A few weeks after I opened my shop, I heard a radio host talking about how she once had an Etsy shop and she hated it because she didn’t make any money and it was more about customer service. Hmm… well, yeah, most businesses – especially small businesses – ARE all about customer service.

We are at the mercy of our customers, because if it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t have a reason for a shop. As for not making money, I would venture to say she didn’t have a good enough product, because my revenue has surpassed $500. It’s nothing to quit my day job over, but it sure isn’t “nothing”, especially for a side gig.

Most of the time, customers don’t message me. If they do, they just have a question about the product or arrival. 9/10 times, they are really nice and DO want to make a purchase – so I do try and respond within the hour. You never know what other products they are looking at in order to make their decision.

I’ve found that this is what helps me make sales and get 5-star reviews. I’ve had customers tell me how grateful they are that I simply replied and did so with kindness. What’s up Etsy sellers? Respond to your customers!

I do have a professional background in marketing and I know how the average person shops – they do a lot of research, and making contact is one of the last things people do before pulling out their credit card. So reply!

Price it right. A lot of items on Etsy are expensive. Which is okay – if you’re using fine materials. I disagree with adding in a bunch of labor costs to your item. I figure out my prices by looking at materials and shipping costs (I offer free domestic shipping), and also how much I would pay for a similar item. I ask around, too, or look in stores to see what they are charging for similar items. I’m not going to charge someone double just because it takes me a day to make it – people will move right on over to Amazon. Now, don’t make things cheap – price them at what they’re worth; a price you feel comfortable with. You don’t want to give things away, but don’t rob the customer either.

Be honest with yourself. I have a 3-day window from the time a customer places the order until I have to ship it. I make items to order – I do not have a shop or a place to store ready-made items. So, be honest – don’t put 1-day turnaround if it really takes 4. People will understand, and they don’t want to be tricked.

Create a system for shipping. I don’t have a room, or really even much space, to dedicate to shipping. But, I do have a method to how I create labels and pack my items so nothing gets mixed up. It probably isn’t an issue when you have one or two orders, but trying packing 14 boxes for shipment – it’s a process!

Give customers a reason to come back. I know customers do NOT have to shop on Etsy – in fact, it’s been years since I’ve purchased anything on Etsy. But I know I need to get sales – not for money, but because Etsy displays the number of sales you’ve made – and if it’s a low number, people aren’t going to have confidence in your shop. So, I’ve been giving each customer a coupon for a percentage off their next order. I want them to come back – whether to shop, or to see what new items I’ve got in the store.

There you have it! Etsy has additional resources for succeeding in your shop – a message board, tools, and even a podcast, but I have yet to tap into any of these resources. I’m going to try a few new things over the holidays and will also continue to post new items and sales on my Instagram account (@Orangejulius7), but so far I’ve found that sticking to traditional business and marketing tactics has worked quite well!

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!

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.

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”!

Two more sleeps ’till fall, y’all.

Fall is nearly here!

Fall officially starts FRIDAY. Let’s be real – it won’t be the least bit chilly in Austin until November 30th if we’re lucky. Instead, we’ll just crank the AC and walk around inside wearing all our fall clothes while burning fall candles, right?

Loving fall is so basic, but you can’t help what you like! It’s sort of funny that liking a season has become so much of a thing, so commercialized, and so… pumpkin-spicey. It’s all become a guilty pleasure that none of us should really feel guilty about!

But, I can’t just let the season pass – I, too, love it and there’s no shame here! I wanted to share some of my favorite fall things, and I’d love to hear some of yours, too.

The calendar

After the lazy days of summer (I mean not really, but for the sake of dramatics), everything seems to pick back up in the fall. My blog class at UT starts a new semester TODAY, dance rehearsals for our next showcase start this week, and I’m heading to Word Camp (more on this later) next weekend. The fall is just bustling, and it gives me LIFE.

The fashion

No, I didn’t go to NYFW, but fall clothes are just the best. The colors, the cuts – it’s cozy and flattering, and frankly, that’s basically all that’s in my closet. As you may know, I’ve been cleaning out my closet and this means I’m cherishing my favorite items more than ever. This season, that means I’m living in plaids, huge cardigans, booties, and I’m even embracing athleisure like never before.

The food

I’m vegan (or plant-based) for the first time in fall, but I’m taking my favorite dishes and… veganizing them! I’ve already made vegan chili and enchiladas – both delish. On my list to make: pumpkin pie pudding, s’mores granola bars, pumpkin pancakes, and butternut squash salad (all vegan). If you need ideas, follow me on Pinterest.

The scents

I’m not obsessed with pumpkin or apple scents; instead, I love woody scents, anything that smells like a log cabin or strong cologne. It was my love for these things that drove me into the Bath & Body Works outlet a few weeks ago, and I was BOMBARDED, nearly attacked by employees shoving scented three-wicks into my face and offering up sherpa blankets for just $20. I nearly had an anxiety attack, but left with a “Flannel” scented candle that is a piece of heaven. I also got some of the aromatherapy body wash and bubble bath and am so looking forward to cracking them open.

The TV

I mean we ALL know fall TV is where it’s at. The crisp air means it’s totally okay to spend more time inside, and I took it upon myself to wash all of my fabrics – my curtains, comforters, blankets, because I know I’ll be rolled up in all of them come November while I’m binging on season two of “Vice Principals”…I know.

The return of “Will & Grace” is upon us (starting a week from tomorrow), and for Housewives fans, “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” returns in October, with Danielle Staub making her firey comeback after several seasons away. I just cannot contain my excitement!

I’d love to know what you’re looking forward to this season; or perhaps the goals you’re setting for yourself. We’re nearly three months out from 2018 – how will you finish 2017?

Turns out, I’m healthy.

Getting my health on.

It’s been awhile since I’ve offered an update on my health. In May and June of this year, I started the rounds on doctors’ appointments. I had checkups, exams, and even got my blood tested. At the time I wrote my last update, I was awaiting my test results.

I got them back awhile ago and for some reason, never reported back. But I’m here to say, all was positive. Actually, it was way better than I ever expected. I was scared something was wrong with my thyroid, or that I would have high cholesterol (it runs in my family), but NO – my good cholesterol was even high!

I was so happy, and I felt like all of my years of eating healthy and exercising regularly has paid off – in a big way.

I also went to the eye doctor, and after a weird exam, got a new prescription, along with new contacts and a new pair of glasses.

I still have one more place to go though: the dentist. My teeth have always had a rough time, and I had lots of dental work done a few years ago. I changed how I take care of my teeth, but I have missed my last two cleanings – it sounds so gross saying it! I just hate the dentist.

But, I know I need to go, and whatever happens is just something I need to take care of. Plus, I want to see if I’m a candidate for Invisalign or the like – I have some teeth I want to straighten out.

It’s definitely getting done within the next month, because I don’t want to keep putting it off.

Since my regular doctor’s visit, I’ve gone from a mostly-vegetarian lifestyle to a mostly vegan one. So far, so good. I feel light and not weighed down, and it feels great. I also find I don’t really miss anything from my previous diet.

I’ve also continued my regular dance regimen and added a weekly yoga class. On average, I take 6 classes a week.

It feels good to be on top of my health (for the most part).

Honestly, it feels good to be on top of…my life. I know I said this in yesterday’s post, but I think I’m finally ready to close some chapters and move forward (although I’ve yet to figure out how to do this).

One thing I’ve noticed lately, is how much I just want to DO things. I don’t want to let life pass me by, and I’ve known too many people who just let things happen. No. I want to be proactive in my life!

So yeah, I’m going to that dentist!

…definitely laughing while typing.

Selling my baggage on eBay.

I’m getting rid of baggage.

One of my goals for 2017 was to clean out my apartment. Not clean up, no, actually go through every little nook and box and get rid of things, and also do a better job of the things that I brought into the apartment.

My tiny place is 650 square feet, including my patio, and I hate feeling like it’s cluttered. I’ve already gotten rid of lots of clothes (H&M gives you 15% off coupons when you donate clothing/fabric), tossed old papers, and sold books and DVDs to Half Price.

I even started a little pile of things to sell on eBay.

I wasn’t entirely certain people still used eBay, but I had a few items that were too nice to simply give away. Over the past few months, the pile has grown, under the assumption I’d eventually take pictures of all of these items, resurrect my eBay account (which I got in high school), and actually list these things for sale.

I wasn’t sure that day would actually come, until I stopped talking to a guy I liked, and got the boot from one of my best friends. All of the sudden, I had LOADS of time. How do you think I read all of these books for Blanche’s Book Club?

Over the years, I’ve become a bit of a master at compartmentalizing my problems with men. Sure, it still hurts (I am not a robot), but I know I’m still a catch, and my life is good. I’m good.

But, losing a friend? That is something that cuts even deeper. That flat out hurts – and I realized it’s not something that’s easy to talk about.

In July, the Lenny Newsletter published an article from author Janelle Brown called “Why I’m Saying Goodbye to Toxic Friendships“. She captured perfectly how I’ve been feeling:

It’s shocking when a friendship dies that way: It feels impossible that you can experience total platonic love and devotion for another woman — BFFL all but tattooed on your heart — and then, abruptly, realize that you didn’t know that person at all. That your friendship was not what you thought it was; that it was just a way-stop for the other person on their path to bigger, better things. 

I’m an only child and I come from a small family. I have always dreamed of being a part of a big family someday, and even being in a sorority in college gave me some of that comfort I craved. I used to hope I could marry into a big family, but those dreams have since faded. When the relationships with my own family have also nearly dissolved, I have come to rely on my friends more than ever.

But as much as we’ve romanticized forever friendships and sisterhood – not every friendship is going to be that way. Of course, I’m always thankful for the time we had.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself over the past two years, it’s that not only do I hang on to the past, but I also don’t let shit go. And that’s not good, admittedly.

It’s time for me to start letting things go.

So, I turned to my eBay pile and started listing the items (after recovering my password and realizing that yes, people DO still very much use eBay).

Quickly, bids started coming in.

Today, I’ve sold and shipped four items from my pile and am $200 richer. Money aside, I realized that I shipped off my baggage – some of it is in California and Vegas now.

And it feels good. Clothes, jewelry, mementoes of my past are no longer within my reach.

When I did the Dating Detox a few weeks ago, one of the steps was to get rid of any items like these. But, I didn’t have any. You see, this isn’t the first time I’ve taken to eBay to sell my baggage (someone now has a Mignon Faget knot ring from my college boyfriend).

But none of what I’m getting rid of today has any romantic connection. I’m clearing out the finished friendships and the family ties. No more boxes of hurt feelings.

Of course, I can’t get rid of memories – the good or the bad. But at least I’ve cleared out what I could, and I know I’m making room for the happy stuff.

I still have several more items to list on eBay. And I look forward to shipping them off to new homes – and let myself feel a little bit lighter inside and out.

Tell me I can keep the door cracked open, to let light through
For all my running, I can understand
I’m one text away from being back again
But I’m moving on and I’m getting over

-John Mayer, Moving On and Getting Over

On keeping it real (honest).

A good soak in the tub.

It’s 9:30 pm, and I’m writing this on my phone as I soak in the tub. I just had a mini-meltdown in my car and am grasping for all of my self care necessities at once: Blanche, bubble bath, John Mayer, and a clay mask. 

Since Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, I’ve been stressed. I’ve been doing several things to help those in need (and am looking forward to doing more), but it takes a toll. 

I feel really lucky that Austin wasn’t affected as much as predicted and I still have my house, my kitty, my car…but events like these either bring out the best in people, or the worst. 

I couldn’t help but notice just how many people did not contact me to see how I weathered the storm. In fact, the 3 people who did contact me, are people I haven’t seen in at least a year. 

Maybe it’s not a big deal to most, but no matter what’s going on between me and you when shit hits the fan, I’m going to reach out and see how you’re doing. That’s what we do. Right? 

I know many people probably just don’t feel a need to check in because it’s much easier to just look online and see the last time they posted on social media. 

But what if that wasn’t an option?

In the last week, I read a book (“What Made Maddy Run?”) and saw a movie (“Ingrid Goes West”) that both talked about the cultural change we’ve experienced because of social media and the effect it has on our mental health. No spoilers, but the result is not a good one. 

I know I’m guilty of scrolling through Instagram and being jealous of someone’s outfit, their vacation, or really just…their entire life. Of course, I’m only seeing the highlight reel. And that’s where things get dicey. 

I always think I’m putting the real me out there, but you’ve never seen a picture of my face after I’ve been crying. 

If you wanted to, you could read a lot of my issues right here on this blog. And there’s plenty of dirt on my Twitter feed. But I’m going to put some realness out there, right now. 

In the last year, I’ve spoken to only four members of my family. Including my mom. In the last two years, I’ve had other family members tell me I need Jesus, threaten to sue me, and tell me I’m a piece of trash. 

I spent last Thanksgiving and Christmas with my cat. And it was awful. 

There are days when I feel lonely, times I feel there’s no one I could call, times I feel like a burden to this world. 

I work in politics. Liberal politics. And things are dark right now. Obviously. 

I suffer from financial stress. The money I make at my day job barely covers my bills, and I’m constantly doing extra work to keep up, to save for fun things, or to just pay off a credit card or taxes. I worry about bills, and trying to save. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever feel financially free. 

I’ve done some shit I shouldn’t have. Mathematically, I feel like I shouldn’t still actually be alive but I’m here and I get very stressed about making my time here count. 

I know I’m critical of myself. And of others, too. At times I wonder if I’m right in the way I feel, and I recall years of therapy where I learned it’s ok to feel anything you feel. 

I’ve spent many years searching for what I think is happiness, and I’ve found that generally it’s my weekly trip to the library, cooking, or driving by these two palm trees at the bend on my street. 

So there. Now you see it, my dirty laundry. I know we have a long way to go before posts like these are accepted just as any other. It’s less of a pity party and more of a display so you know that if you’ve ever felt any of these things, you’re not alone. 

I’d like to think that’s a small reason I’ve created this blog for myself – it’s my place to go when the seas get rough, when I feel like there’s no one to call. 

There’s another (literal) storm out there. If you know someone that’s going to be affected by it, at all, shoot them a message. We need each other – the real each other, not the Instagram stuff. 

I’m not apologizing for my crazy today. It’s real, just like any of my blog posts – this one’s just a little less pretty. 

She’s perfect, so flawless, oh so they say…she thinks I can’t see the smile that she’s faking, posing for pictures that are being taken. I loved you, gray sweatpants, no makeup, so perfect. 

Sent from my iPhone

Detox Your Dating: Day 7.

The FINAL day!

Whew! It’s the final day of this Dating Detox. Technically, I know it took me longer than 7 days to get through it, but I’m a busy gal, and let’s face it, this was tough.

Day 7 Challenge: Check Yourself!

Today is all about taking a look within. Am I ready for a serious relationship? Can I attract the right man with the way my life is currently?
Here’s what Denise has to say: Relationship-minded men seek women of VALUE. These are the women that men want to marry when they are ready.
Below are just a few of the traits that we all need to strive to possess:
  • She doesn’t need a man, but she wants one.
  • She recognizes that men should be the “head of the household but she is the neck”.
  • She has boundaries, and she sets them in a firm, but in kind way.
  • She will ask very good, often pointed, qualifying questions to men she meets and dates.
  • High Value women don’t let their emotions control their actions when it comes to men. They make decisions based on logic and the man’s actions not intentions or words.
  • She values her body and will not offer sex until the man proves his worth through his actions.
  • She values her body and strives to be healthy and fit. Her body is a temple and she chooses to make educated choices about what she puts into it and what it needs to thrive in life.
  • She knows how to make a man feel special and worthy, like he is the only one.

Well, right off the bat, item #1 I don’t have. Ha! This is what I knew going in to the detox. I’m not really ready for a guy, but more so, I don’t want one.

I think what I’ve learned most through this detox is that I like my life how it is. My days are full with the things I want to do. I don’t have to compromise or share. I don’t have to plan or think about anyone other than myself (and sometimes Blanche).

Sure, I can be strong and please a man and wait for his actions and yadda yadda, but for what? I think I’m good. Maybe I’ll feel differently in a month or a year or five years, but today, I’m good. And oh yeah, I deleted my dating app.

Right now, I’m focused on improving myself for me, not for a man. I’m continuing to work on my dance skill, working on my hobby of making jewelry, reading several books a week, and gearing up to volunteer at the Film Festival. My life is full.

So, yeah – the cleanse worked, because I’m basically free from wanting a man!

Anyway, I’ve also added THREE new styles to my Etsy Shop this week:

I still have lots of items I want to add, but this week, I’ve been cleaning out an area in my apartment to dedicate to my jewelry making. Right now I’ve been just making everything while sitting on the couch, which is fine, but then my living room is a mess. Check out my Instagram Stories @OrangeJulius7 for updates on the craft area organization progress!

On queso + avocado hurricanes.

Hurricane Harvey approaches Texas in the shape of GIANT avocado.

Greetings from Texas – the epicenter of, well, WATER right now. Before I dive into my weekend recap and hurricane schtuff, I want to give a big THANK YOU and lots of love to everyone who texted/called/messaged me this weekend to make sure me and kitty Blanche were doing okay. Seriously, it means a lot to me, and we are both dry and doing well.

As I’m sure many of you have seen, Hurricane Harvey unleashed its wrath upon Texas, making landfall at a category 4 late Friday night and, although it has been downgraded to a tropical storm, it’s just sitting above the state churning out buckets of water.

On Friday, it was sort of unclear how this storm was going to play out. It definitely looked like the coastal areas were going to get hit badly, but even inland, we knew we were going to get lots of water, which = flash flooding.

You may recall that also on Friday I was waiting for confirmation about the Quesoff competition. Well, late Friday afternoon, many events in Austin announced they would be postponed. I still hadn’t heard anything about the Quesoff, so I just made the decision of my own not to go. I was not about to drive South in hurricane rain and haul crockpots of melted cheese, and then serve it for 3 hours!

My boss let us leave work early to go to the store and get ready for the storm, so I hauled ass to the laundromat and while I waited for my clothes to dry, I checked Twitter. Shockingly, I saw a slew of Tweets from The Mohawk (where the Quesoff was being held) saying they didn’t believe the meteorologists and there was a 100% chance of Quesoff. WHAT?

I Tweeted back saying it was pretty messed up that they were asking 35 vendors to do this in the storm, not to mention attendees. The Quesoff is an event benefitting the Central Texas Food Bank, which usually brings in 2,000 guests who either donate $2 each, or bring canned goods. With the storm, not many people were likely to show up at this event, which meant less money for the food bank.

In response, the Quesoff organizer wrote me an email, and in total frat-boy fashion, was all, “We understand your concern but we’ve got tents up. Last year it rained and it was fun!”

Uh rain is not the same as a HURRICANE, dumbass.

Whatever. I was all of the sudden a little bit glad I backed out of the event – The Mohawk is an asshole for continuing to push and push, and frankly, this is the kind of thing that gets people hurt. Don’t be on the roads when you don’t have to be. Don’t encourage folks to travel during a storm for cheese.

The rain started in Austin Friday night, and I got up Saturday to find things fairly mild. I went to dance class, but when I left, it was very windy, and the governor issued a statement saying not to be on the roads unless it was absolutely necessary.

So, I tucked myself into bed and watched an embarrassing amount of TV. The Quesoff was cancelled less than an hour before it was supposed to start, so most vendors had gone ahead and made their 10 pounds of cheese. So ridiculous.

Instead of making cheese, I dumped all of the ingredients for chili into my crockpot Friday night, just in case I lost power, I figured it would stay warm for awhile. If there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout the hurricanes and tropical storms I’ve been in, it’s that you’re going to want a hot meal. I also made some cornbread, and when the temperature dropped 30 degrees, that meal sure was yummy!

And yes, I did have leftover queso from my test batch, so I’ll share my recipe here. I used this recipe, and then I made pork carnitas separately (pork shoulder seasoned with cumin, salt, pepper, and 1 lager beer, cooked low and slow), then cut all the fat out and shredded it, and added it into the queso. The queso is fine without the meat, but I’d entered the “meaty” category so that was my addition. It was yummy and filling.

At first, I was feeling really sad that I didn’t fulfill my goal of doing this competition. But, I suppose that wasn’t even really the point. I worked to make something I’ve never made before, and I figured out how to make a giant-ass batch of it. Plus, the year isn’t over! I can always enter some other cooking competition.

As far as the storm, I did lose power for a few hours Saturday night, but had plenty to keep me busy. In that short time though, I was reminded that I’m really lucky to have dodged any serious storms over these 14 years of living near the gulf, and I know many others haven’t been so lucky.

This morning, I’m sure many of you are seeing the total devastation in Houston and it’s surrounding areas. That just a few hours from here, and it’s one of the biggest cities in the country. So, how to help?

The Foot Above Foundation

My friend and sorority sister, Sarah Joy Hayes, was incredible at organizing funds, efforts, and materials when Baton Rouge flooded last year. She started a foundation to help, and now she’s using that same foundation to work with Houston. This is a trusted source and she works directly with folks who need the help and reports back on what the money was used for. Donate & get more info here.

Central Texas Food Bank

They didn’t get the massive check from the Quesoff and now they’re helping victims of Hurricane Harvey. Get info and donate here.

Austin Pets Alive

This awesome animal shelter is bringing in animals affected by Hurricane Harvey. They could really use donations (money or physical items) and help fostering these sweet pets! Get more info and donate here.

American Red Cross

This organization offers relief at any sign of disaster, so you know your money is going toward a good cause. They are on the front lines of this storm. Get more info and donate here.

#LoveUp

One of my FAVORITE radio shows is donating all proceeds from LoveUp shirts today (Monday, 8/28) to the American Red Cross for Hurricane Harvey Relief. Purchase shirts here.

…If there is anyone reading this that could use some help, please let me know. Comment, message me, whatever, and I’ll see what I can do! I hope you all are safe and hopeful, and if you can donate anything, please do.

Detox Your Dating: Day 6.

Day 6 got me twisted.

Ok – day 6! Today is all about the “Top ingredients for a high-quality man”. This is exactly what I need to see. Denise has a list of just SOME of the ingredients of a high-quality man, and they are:

  1. His actions will always speak louder than his words. High Quality mens’ words and actions are congruent.
  2. High Quality men will want to connect with you in the most personal way. Texting is the lowest form of communication.
  3. He has had at least one long-term relationship.
  4. He doesn’t trash talk his exes and takes responsibility with what his part was for the break-up.
  5. Attitude that they can make things happen in their lives…not that life just happens to him.
  6. Consistency is key. He does what he says he’s going to do.
  7. Has a steady job and a string of logical choices and progression in his career.
  8. Willing to delay having sex without getting angry or making you feel guilty (it doesn’t mean they don’t try to have sex…).
  9. They are able to control their emotions–they don’t exhibit extreme bouts of anger, jealousy, and depression.
  10. They don’t profess their undying love to you right away. High quality men know they are a catch and are looking to see if you add value to their life.

…Yep, pretty much never dated a man that fit any of these things.

Day 5 Challenge: Top ingredients of a High Quality Man

Denise shares the Five F’s Formula (which I’ve never heard of). Here it is:

Friends: You want a man that can be your best friend, right? Does he have friends? Is he a bridge burner or relationships keeper? How does he treat them? Are his friends kind and respectful towards you?

Family: Pay attention to his relationship with his family. Consider it a red flag if he doesn’t have one at all. While there are extenuating circumstances, you want to see that your future husband knows how to resolve conflict and repair relationships when conflict.

Finance: Finance is a leading cause of divorce. It doesn’t matter if you’re poor or rich; it’s how he handles his money that matters. Is he responsible? What does his spending and saving habits look like?

Future: Pay attention to his ambitions and vision for his future. Does he have a clear plan for his future? Does he has a history of several career changes and is still searching for what makes him happy? Men often rely on their career for confidence and you want a confident man. It’s not about how much he makes but that he is strong and confident in what he does.

Faith: Do you share the same faith and beliefs? At the end of the day, the last thing you want to argue about is what you consider to be the source and foundational principles of life.

Homework: Share an example of a man you dated and tell us how which one of the Five F’s you wish you had explored or made more important. Do you seem to be dating men who have most of the Five F’s, but have a pattern of lacking one of the above? If so, which one?

I definitely don’t look at finance, future, or faith enough. I’ve dated men before that seem to be on top of their money, but it has always made me nervous in the past because I don’t want to be married to someone that is strict about what I spend my money on. But obviously, I can see both sides of this – my last relationship was with a man who had terrible finance issues and was stealing money from his job. 

Future… this is one that makes me really nervous. I almost feel like I CAN’T have an opinion about this because I don’t have a clear future. Do I have goals? Yes. Ambition? Yes. But I don’t have a clear plan. 

Rarely have I ever cared if I’m with someone where we share the same faith and beliefs. It sounds crazy writing it out, but it’s true! I recently had an experience where I realized the importance of this when I got into an emotional argument with someone over politics. I know politics aren’t faith, but these are at the core of my beliefs. 

…Day 6… I have work to do.

Detox Your Dating: Day 5.

Oh man, Day 5 is a toughie!

SRSLY, everyone is just freaking out about this solar eclipse – is it really that big of a deal? My office doesn’t even have windows, so I’m 100% sure I will not notice when Texas gets 65% coverage. Le sigh.

Anyway, onto Day 5, and this one is a tough one for me.

Day 5 Challenge: Time to go Shopping for a High-Quality Man!

Denise is instructing us detoxers to think about the last two serious relationships we’ve had (oh, boy). She asks, what were the initial traits and qualities each man had that attracted you?

We’ll start with my most recent serious relationship (deep breath in)…

We met at a high-brow dinner party, and our first date was a private dinner prepared just for us by the chef. I really liked that he was a man who appreciated fine dining, interesting food, good wine, and was willing to splurge for our date.

On our first date, I felt like we had a lot to talk about, and he was funny and made me laugh.

The relationship before that… we met at work and I really was attracted to his drive, focus on work, and I felt like he was a family man – I always got lost imagining us as a big family.

…God, this is just embarrassing.

Now, Denise says, write why the relationship ended. What traits or things about his character led to the breakup?

Guy 1: We broke up as a result of his alcoholism. Turns out, his love for good wine was also a love for alchohol, period. He was arrested for drinking and driving multiple times and got into an accident while under the influence. Our relationship changed big time when I picked him up from jail. He was a really great liar, and was cheating on me for the entirety of our relationship.

Guy 2: We broke up after he moved out of town for work. He was obsessed with work – and worked multiple jobs. He was cheating on me, and was quickly married after we broke up. I have talked to him briefly since then, and when I asked him about his family (he has a wife and two kids), he simply said he was married to his job.

…So basically the things that attracted me to these men were the same things that made it end.

Do these men share anything in common, in retrospect?

They were both unavailable to me for different reasons (minus the cheating).

Homework: Name 1 example of a trait you must have and an example of an action your date will do that will demonstrate the trait you’re looking for.

…This is a problem. Honestly, I’ve had such issues in dating that I don’t even know what I want or what to look for. I want to say I need honesty in a man, but I don’t know what he could do to demonstrate that trait. I suppose, given my past, I need a man that is willing to make time for a woman (like me) in his life. So, he would need to tell me about his life, how he spends his time, and what he’s looking for in a partner. That sounds heavy, yes? He could make a sincere effort to make plans with me in advance.

😦