Category Archives: The Squeeze
Ah, here we are, the final stage: Acceptance. This stage can come across as a giant sigh of relief, but the truth of the matter is, acceptance does not equal joy or mean that life goes back to the way it was.
Instead, it simply means that we are accepting life without our person; and we’re figuring out a way to create a new normal. This may mean that different people fill different roles, or that a daily routine looks a little different.
As I mentioned yesterday, my dad wasn’t a part of my daily life so not much changes in that regard. But I certainly feel different.
When I went to Tennessee for his memorial, a majority of my family was there, and it certainly felt so weird without my dad there. He was always keeping in touch with everyone and it would be strange to have all of us in a room without him. When my friend drove me back to Indiana the next day, things just felt a little colder, a little more empty.
I am still trying to learn a lot about my dad and the life he lived. Of the things I’ve heard, I’m starting to realize just how full of a life he did have, and how many obstacles he overcame in such a short time and did so without hesitation.
My dad wasn’t a man looking for fame or fortune – ultimately, I think he was just trying to find a little bit of happiness, perhaps even a touch of adventure in each day. He loved stories, loved meeting people, and even in the confines of what appears to be a reclusive last few years, he found joy in hobbies: fixing fountain pens, attending garage sales, reading, and playing chess competitively.
I am never going to be okay with my dad being gone. But I know my dad would be okay knowing that we are all going to try and find a way to go on without him here, physically. I hope this brings my family together – they’re pretty cool – and I know he’d like seeing us lean on each other.
My dad was cremated, and I flew my portion (1/7th) of his ashes from Indiana to Texas. Right now, they sit on my bookshelf while I wait to decide what I actually want to do with them. I know I’m scattering some of them, and am lightly planning that now. I know my other family members have their own ideas for how to honor my dad, too.
I have no idea how long a journey like this lasts. In college, a close friend unexpectedly passed away and I felt like my heart was ripped to shreds. I remember pulling over and calling my dad when I got the news.
That was almost 10 years ago, and sometimes I still get choked up about that loss. But I am someone who believes in spirits and signs, and I have a connection to radio waves (I know, it’s super weird but I hear meaningful songs nearly everywhere I go), and I’ve already seen a few signs from my dad.
Even just last night, I went to a dance class and we danced to Demi Lovato and DJ Khalid’s “I Believe”, and the lyrics almost brought me to tears: “Tough times don’t last, but tough people do, As long as you’ve got hope, you’ll find your way.”
I know we’re all going to come out of this on the other side, and I have always believed that we aren’t given anything we can’t handle.
Don’t look back at this time as a time of heartbreak and distress, remember me.
…I don’t want you to cry and weep, I want you to go on, living your life.
-Hanson, “With You In Your Dreams”
Thank you so much for reading my grief series – I know it was not a cheerful read. There will be more on this, I’m sure, as I continue on.
If you knew my dad, and have anything you’d like to share with me, please do not hesitate to email me at: Holly@thebitterlemon.com – I would love to hear from you.
Stage four isn’t that shocking – it’s depression. Why wouldn’t someone going through grief suffer from depression? I have been slogging through the darkness of depression and sadness since my dad’s surgery in late September.
Although depression can come in many forms for different people, for me, there was one telltale sign: things that normally made me happy, no longer did. That is why my blogging fell to the side, my Etsy shop (I stopped making jewelry), I stopped cooking and relied on meal delivery, and my sleep suffered.
Things are slowly getting better – and I know that it’s okay if I have a bad day – now is the time to go easy on myself.
Expectations when it comes to grief are really weird. I got cards in the mail from so many people, which was great, and I’m so thankful – I hung them all in my living room. But on the other hand, some people just expect me to go on and be normal, like nothing ever happened… And well, that’s just not how it’s going to be.
People respond differently to people who are grieving. They reach out. But depression is so very isolating. It’s hard to explain to anyone who has never been depressed how isolating it is. Grief comes and goes, but depression is unremitting.
-Key Redfield Johnson
Some days DO feel normal. After all, I didn’t talk to my dad on a regular basis. Before his surgery, I hadn’t talked to him in almost four years. But nothing can explain the finite feeling that is death. He is gone, and I can’t talk to him like I did before, no matter what I do.
Other days, I feel like I keep freaking seeing CANCER… BRAIN CANCER, everywhere. It’s in the books I read, it’s on TV, it’s online… and I just never want to see it again.
Right now, there are two 50-pound boxes of his things in my closet. I have dug out a few of the items – a wooden chess board and pieces that I’ve set up on my dresser, an antique fountain pen that’s on my home desk, a glass paperweight that’s on my desk at work, an LSU sweatshirt, an Atlanta baseball hat, and a half-used journal.
Some days, I wear the hat or sweatshirt – the last few nights, I’ve slept with the journal at the foot of my bed. Other days, I don’t want to even think about opening up the boxes to see what else is in there. I’m just not ready.
I’ve found that reading is a good escape – I’ve read three books in the last week. I’ve even cooked a few meals and am starting to gather materials to make a few pieces of jewelry for my Etsy shop.
I am someone who likes to DO things; I like to be productive. But even with the greatest intentions, sometimes I still end up laying in bed for long chunks of time. It is a slow process. Writing about my feelings – even at a surface level – has helped me this week. Planning for the future also helps, and gets me excited about things coming up this year.
I’m taking it day by day, as cliche as it sounds.
Tomorrow, I’ll be talking about the fifth and final stage of grief: Acceptance.
Stage three of grief is an interesting one. Bargaining refers to promises that may have been made before the person passed away. For example, praying and asking God to please spare your loved one; or perhaps making a promise that you’ll never do anything bad again if only this person can live longer.
These types of promises, or bargaining, may also occur after the person has passed, only now, they are imaginary. We may start to think back and wonder what if I’d done this, would the person have lived longer?
I’ll be honest, this really has not been a part of my grieving process, at least not yet. I know that there’s nothing I could have done to change the course of my dad’s life. I think many of us are probably in a position to think, well if we only took charge of our health or if we only exercised more, etc… but the truth is, our death is already planned. And it may not have anything to do with health or food or exercise.
I also know that my dad was given the best care possible once he entered Erlanger hospital, and I know he was grateful for all of his surgeons, doctors, and nurses along the way.
The thing is… guilt is also a part of stage three. And I cannot say I’ll walk away from this without feeling guilt. I wanted so badly to repair the relationship I had with my dad so that we could enjoy his final days, months, years laughing as we once did.
It’s a hard thing to imagine how somebody copes with grief and at the same time has to build a new life.
But despite everything I did, there was still a barrier. And the truth is, I will die not knowing what really happened there. There is one thing I did that I feel wrecked with guilt for, and I obviously can’t take it back.
Because of the nature of my dad’s death, I was blessed to have the opportunity to say goodbye. He was not capable of responding to me, but he was breathing, and I said – albeit through hysterical tears – everything I could think to say. And I apologized.
And that’s all I could do; and I just have to know that he heard me, and that he died knowing I was sorry, and that we were at peace with our past.
At this point, and as I continue coping, I know that I’m going to have to forgive myself, and the only real thing I can change, is how I act in the future.
Tomorrow, I’ll discuss Stage Four: Depression.
Already, anger has played a pretty big part in my grieving process. Actually, anger has had a role in the relationship I’ve had with my dad for many years.
As described by the experts, this stage of grief can be met with general feelings of anger, along with structured feelings of being angry at a specific person – maybe a doctor, or someone who wasn’t there during the time of loss.
I have had moments of being angry at a specific person, but I also do not want those feelings of anger over that person to overshadow my general sadness over my loss, if that makes any sense. I do not want my dad’s memory to be tarnished by one person is the best way I can put it.
I have also had incredible anger at the situation surrounding my dad, anger at work, and anger at the world for just not being an easy place for me right now. I’ve even gotten angry at Blanche!
At my dad’s memorial service, my great uncle said that memory is not something death can take from us. And for that I am so grateful. But, when it came time to share stories about my dad, many of the stories I have are of him being mad at me.
Of course, many of them are moments I can laugh about now; moments where he was just raising me, being tough on me, but they aren’t necessarily moments that describe him as a person. Or are they? My dad had a short fuse, and we butted heads countless times.
May love be what you remember most.
My feelings of anger are countered by my faith in destiny. I believe there are moments in our life that are planned – such as when and how we will die – but I also believe we choose our destinies. And my dad made choices that resulted in a situation that angered our family.
His death does not change those choices, and he was an adult, actively making those choices. To be completely angry is to deny that he made those choices.
My anger is also countered by the support I feel from my family and my friends – I have heard from so many of you, received so many hugs, and have shared tears with you. For that I am so grateful.
But yes, anger is still going to be there. Studies show that as a culture, we’re taught to suppress anger, even though it’s a very necessary, common feeling. Although I don’t consider myself an angry person, I’ve found anger to be a powerful part of this grief.
My anger has forced me to acknowledge a lot of things in my life that have otherwise floated by, and it’s given me the confidence to confront the people that are pissing me off! In a way it’s good, but of course, no one likes to get yelled at.
As I’ll continue to say, I’m coping. And it’s not really a pretty thing, but I’m just rolling with it.
Tomorrow, I’ll talk about stage three: bargaining.
My dad was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer in October of 2017. I know that typically, the five stages of grief are part of the healing process after loss; after death. But I have been coping with symptoms of grief since I heard the news about a mass in his brain.
I quickly learned that this blog was not a place for me to air my grievances – it was only adding to my stress as I received horrible messages from outsiders. No matter how many supportive messages I got, it only takes one dig to stick with us.
So, I quit.
I barely made an appearance here – a place I thought was mine. But that is sometimes what happens when you put yourself out there, in any form. There are always going to be haters.
For the most part, I have stuck to my journal and have let most of my other creative outlets fall to the side – including my Etsy shop (I am slowly starting to get back to it). But in general, I have been merely just trying to get by; just trying to get out of bed, look half-decent to get to work on time; do my tasks; and get some sleep at night.
At that, is stage one: Denial.
My dad passed away on February 3. It was not a surprise, and at first, I took a giant sigh of relief when I heard the news. And then I apologized for feeling relief. But I wanted so badly for my dad to be at peace, and to know that he would no longer be in pain.
After that sigh, I’ve felt a multitude of things, and each day – hell, each moment – feels different. So, I’m using this week to explore the healing process as I’ve come to know it. I’m still working on a larger project that will further detail my dad’s life and our relationship; so parts of this may be vague, as I’m still not ready to open those parts of my memory just yet.
Before starting this blog series, I thought that denial was literally denying that a person was sick or had died. And I certainly have never felt that way. I took my dad’s condition very seriously.
In 1969, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and her co-author, a grief expert, David Kessler, identified the five stages of grief that we’ve come to understand as a necessary part of the healing process.
Instead, denial is us just trying to get through each day. We may question why we should go on or HOW we should go on, and I have been feeling this SO hard. During this stage, life may seem meaningless, or things that once seemed like a big deal just don’t matter as much.
The latter explains my feelings about work. I hate admitting that, but ever since my dad’s surgery, getting stressed over trivial things at work seemed beneath me. And they still do.
But grief is a walk alone.
Others can be there, and listen. But you will walk alone down your own path, at your own pace, with your sheared-off pain, your raw wounds, your denial, anger, and bitter loss. You’ll come to your own peace, hopefully… But it will be on your own, in your own time.
My dad’s memorial service was a week after his passing, but I knew that upon getting back into town, I had to refocus quickly and jump into dance rehearsals. I was in the middle of prepping for the showcase and I had two weeks to learn two routines and get my costumes together. It was a much-needed distraction.
But the day after the showcase, I felt so lost. I didn’t really know what to do with myself even though between work and dance and just general life, my days are pretty much laid out for me.
Since then, it’s gotten a little better – I know I must go on, and I know I have to continue to live the life I’ve dreamt of, especially now. None of us know just how much time we have, and I don’t want to ever be in my final days wishing I’d done more.
As you probably know, the stages of grief are not linear. They can come and go at any time – sometimes they last a minute, sometimes they may last months. Everyone deals differently.
Tomorrow, I’ll discuss stage two: Anger.
This album was the last one in my pile I gathered at the library last month. I was searching for new tunes to keep me distracted enough from crying every time I got into my Jeep to go somewhere.
If you’ve listened to Chris Stapleton’s debut album, “Traveller”, you probably know how and why it ended up on the bottom of my pile. I was driven to check it out from the library after seeing a news feature about Stapleton on “Sunday Today” (my favorite news program).
The feature aired the morning of the Grammy’s, as Stapleton was nominated. It also covered the entirety of his career, a major highlight being his performance of “Tennessee Whiskey” with Justin Timberlake at the 2015 Country Music Awards.
I will admit it was a moment that caught my ear and put Stapleton on my radar – his sound was bluesey, and that’s something I love.
But Stapleton has shared his story about his very popular debut; a piece of work he created after his father died in 2013. He took a road trip across the country with his wife, stretching across the West in an old Jeep.
Today marks one month since my dad passed away, and listening to this album over these last few weeks has been half-difficult and half-cathartic. Above all, I admire Stapleton for putting such raw emotions into a beautiful piece of art that will be enjoyed by many for years to come.
That’s the thing about being a creator – some of the best stuff comes from the darkest of places, and can be so helpful and rewarding to others.
The title track is one of my favorites, and honestly makes me think of every road trip I’ve ever taken – it’s upbeat, nostalgic, and it just gives me this image of driving with the windows down, overlooking a vast desert. I love it.
My heartbeat’s rhythm is a lonesome sound
Just like the rubber turning on the ground
Always lost and nowhere bound
I’m just a traveler on this earth
There’s a lot of talk of whiskey on this album; from “Tennessee Whiskey”, “Whiskey and You” and “Parachute”, it seems dark, but is probably honest.
My other favorite track has to be “Sometimes I Cry” – it basically sums up my life lately, and it was so bare and raw I can’t help but love it.
The entire Stapleton sound reminded me so much of Marc Broussard, an artist I’ve admired for many years. I don’t know who came first, but they have fantastic similarities.
I’m looking forward to checking out more of Stapleton’s music – I know there’s a few more albums to listen to for me to catch up. Blues music can bring out those deep cuts – it’s not pop music. Sometimes it’s difficult to hear, but there are times for that, too.
This month has been so hard, this week probably being one of the worst. When all of life’s distractions fall to the side, I’m sort of left with a feeling of what to do next. For now, I’m going through the motions, going easy on myself, and I’m starting to get a few things in an order I can appreciate.
On Thursday, I was half-listening to a webinar, when I heard a few things that caught my attention: “Your best work comes from a place of elegant excellence.”
Hmm… perhaps there’s some truth to that.
I’ve had so many memories and thoughts swirling around in my head, I’m due for a journaling session. I’ve got a few ideas brewing and I know I’m on the brink of something big – something that may help heal, too.
There are days that I can walk around like I’m alright
And I pretend to wear a smile on my face
And I could keep the pain from comin’ out of my eyes
But sometimes, sometimes,Sometimes I cry-Chris Stapleton
Last night, I put performances in my 5th showcase with Dance Austin Studio to bed. After our showcase in November, I said I was coming for you, Love Hangover, and that’s exactly what happened.
In the fall, my life took a turn when my dad was diagnosed with brain cancer. When I found out, we were in the thick of rehearsals and I remember just how difficult it was to retain choreography. But with lots of practice and support from fellow dancers, I did it.
This time around was similar. My dad passed away on February 3rd, and although it’s still very difficult for me to talk about publicly, I will say that my dance family has been incredibly supportive this month.
So many of my fellow dancers and instructors, and even the owner of the studio, reached out to me to offer their condolences and support. I got so many hugs before rehearsals, and even last night, dancers I don’t see often made sure I was okay to go on stage. I am so, so thankful for that.
Before my dad passed, I signed up to perform in two pieces at the showcase: broadway jazz and lyrical hip hop. The two pieces were some of the more difficult routines I’ve ever learned – continuing with my goal to keep pushing myself each time the opportunity arises.
I had to miss one rehearsal to attend my dad’s memorial, and even though I got total support and love from my choreographer/instructor, I returned ready to NAIL. THIS. I needed the distraction and I knew more than ever that it’s simply my time to live my life.
I’ve felt like my mind, heart, and all of myself had been taken over by my dad’s disease and all of the trappings that accompany a heartbroken family. Sure, I am grieving, and will continue to do so. But after six months of finding very little that brought me out of my funk, I was ready to just DO this, and do it with all I had.
So, I did. I spent hours reviewing videos from class, dancing in my kitchen, listening to the music in my car, getting help from other dancers, and scouring multiple Goodwills for the perfect costumes.
There were times I wondered if I’d made a giant mistake; if I’d picked pieces that were too difficult for me. But that’s the thing about growth – it’s not easy, sometimes it hurts, but you come out a better person because of it.
And you know what? I got to dance beside people that I’ve looked up to since showcase #1. I’m talking to you, Kim and Charlene. I will NEVER forget when I saw Kim perform a unique routine to a Backstreet Boys’ song – I immediately wondered, “Who is that girl?!” I wanted to know her, and I’m so glad I got to rehearse with her and perform on stage beside her.
Charlene is a beautiful dancer in class, on stage, wherever, and she has this amazing ability to put everything on stage no matter what she may be feeling on the inside. I know I am not alone when I say that my eyes are often drawn to her no matter how many people are performing.
There’s also Chase and Mendy – I saw you guys freaking ROCK the last lyrical hip hop performance, and I thought, “That’s it, I’m taking that class.” And I did – and then we were all in rehearsal together and I remain so inspired by both of you – you have a performance quality that is so amazing.
Naturally, what would our performance be without our choreographer and instructor, Caitlin? I’m so lucky to be able to take her classes and learn from her – technique, style, performance WOW – she’s got it all and she’s so approachable and funny to boot.
I have been thinking so much lately about dance, and how many times I’ve prepped for shows, performances, and competitions in my life. Over the last six months, various memories have bubbled to the surface and I remembered specific instances from being on my high school dance squad.
The summer before my junior year, we went to a UDA Dance Camp for the first time. It was at a state college, we got to stay in the dorms (so cool), and we were going to learn all sorts of new routines that we could perform during basketball season.
Little did we know that UDA Dance Camp was, like, a THING, and other squads were incredibly serious, technically great, and focused. All of the other teams showed up in matching workout gear for each day of camp, including hair bows and the like, and we… well we brought sleep boxers and loose t-shirts.
Our assistant coach, who accompanied us to camp, did not back down. She encouraged us to go, go do our best, we deserved the ribbons and routines just as much as anyone else. She recorded us in our various practices and when we went back to the dorms each night, she helped us drill the routines until we had them.
And we got first place ribbons – mismatched outfits and all. Because dance is universal – it doesn’t matter how much money you have, what you’re wearing, where you come from – it’s about a willingness to try.
That same year, our head coach unexpectedly passed away mid-season. To this day, I still can’t believe it happened, and I can’t really calculate how we got through it, other than to say that we had each other and we had dance. I still remember performing a dedication to her on that basketball court. It felt like our whole city was mourning with us.
At the end of last night’s show, Chi Chi – the owner of Dance Austin Studio – said she’d experienced loss in the last week, and it’s often in those times we realize how importance it is to just move the mental road block and live our lives, no matter what that means to you. Dance is healing.
That’s the truth! I’m so thankful I have a place to help me heal, a place to go when times are good, and when they’re bad. It wouldn’t be that way without the people there, and know that you all mean so much to me.
That’s right, I’m more than halfway done with my journey to straight teeth! Right now, I’m 50% done with my 8th tray (I have 14 trays total), so I’ve been at it for approximately 17 weeks. And I can tell a big difference in the way my teeth look – plus, it’s getting easier and easier to floss since my teeth are no longer as crowded.
Upon getting my Invisalign, I was worried about 2 things: the initial pain that comes with each new set of trays (I get a new set about every two weeks), and the fact that I would be drinking less coffee since you can’t drink coffee with Invisalign in.
I’m happy to report that the pain with new trays is tolerable – I often don’t take any pain medicine, and it usually goes away in one day. Remember, the teeth are only moving about 1 millimeter for each tray.
And yes, I have been drinking less coffee. On some days, I drink more, and that just means I’ll need to make up the time and wear my Invisalign longer.
The holidays were tough – having to navigate how to take the trays in and out at parties (I often took them out in the bathroom of course, and then would wait to put them back in when I returned home), and because of the “buttons” on my teeth (these were applied by my orthodontist to ensure the teeth would move correctly and quickly), I’m often worried about things sticking to my teeth.
At the beginning of this journey, talking made me uncomfortable (it does give me a little bit of a lisp), and I stopped showing my teeth when I smile. It just looked too weird with the buttons and the trays – even though it’s clear, you can tell there’s something happening. But, I’m getting used to it – honestly, my teeth are looking very straight and I’m pleasantly surprised each time I look at them (often while flossing).
Outside of cosmetic reasons, I wanted to make it easier on myself in my efforts to keep my teeth clean and stain-free. My bottom teeth were so crowded, they stained easily (again with the coffee). Also, I was hoping Invisalign would improve my overbite – it’s not terrible, but it was starting to negatively affect my gum health.
The good news is, Invisalign’s technology predicted that it would improve my overbite by reducing it by 2 millimeters. As of my last checkup, my overbite has been reduced by 4 millimeters!
Once I’m done with my trays, I’ll be wearing a bottom retainer 24/7 for 6 months and then I’ll switch to just wearing it at night. I’ll also have some shaving/filing done to my two front teeth to make them even with my other teeth.
The only thing I don’t like about Invisalign is how often I have to brush my teeth – mainly because it means a lot of teeth-brushing in public restrooms, which ultimately grosses me out. I could also go without the monthly payments, but both of these things are temporary and very worth it. I’m really excited to see how my second-half of the journey goes!
I’ve been wanting to try meditation for years, but I always assumed it was something I just couldn’t do. But I knew when I set my goals for 2018, I had to do something to practice regular meditation – I’m 100% sure my sanity depended on it.
Truth be told, I could have gone without the second-half of 2017. I had a few major blows in my personal life and it’s taken a toll like I’ve never experienced. I’ve spent the last 14 years of my life analyzing the romantic relationships I’ve dabbled in, and then turned around and hoped that I could offer some kernel of advice to you all.
Over those years, I’ve come to learn that heartbreak completely sucks. It’s all-consuming and hurts to the core. But I’ve also learned that just about any distraction [including, but not limited to, drinking excessively, picking up new hobbies, getting a revenge body, getting a pet, killing it at work, meeting new people, etc.] can mend the wounds of a bad relationship.
But the dish I’ve been served? It may as well be poison. It’s got nothing to do with romance and everything to do with seeing the true colors, even after 32 years.
This hurts like hell.
All of my usual cures just don’t work. Tears take over on my drive to, well, just about anywhere. My drive to work on my Etsy shop has subsided; my desire to blog has all but died. Yesterday, I went to the grocery store for the first time in a month (I’ve been living off ingredient delivery services).
And that’s just not me – it’s not even close.
It’s safe to say that stress, anxiety, and depression have finally taken their toll on my mind and body. That fact was driven home when I suffered a panic attack right before the holidays. I knew I had to do something in 2018 to find the other end of this funk.
I consulted my online networks, and even asked around at work, for advice on any meditation apps. I knew I was going to need guidance and something to hold me accountable. Here’s the advice I got in return:
- Headspace, Calm, Bhuddify, Simple Habit, & Insight Timer
A few days into the new year, I downloaded the Calm app and the Headspace app around 4am one morning during a bout of insomnia. I’ve been using the Calm app ever since!
So far, I’m really enjoying it. I am still trying out all of the free content on the app, which includes several different guided meditations, a meditation timer, a breathe bubble, various music, and bedtime stories. I have tried all of these, and I’m considering doing the paid subscription soon.
Now, I’ll preface the rest of this post by saying that I do not think I’ll be “cured” with meditation alone. I am currently looking (and financially preparing) to see a therapist regularly to help me work through some of what’s happening in my life.
But I also know that it’s good for me to take a few moments to myself each day, get some good breathing in, clear my mind as best I can, and gain some perspective.
I want to make it clear that I’ve never really tried to meditate before I opened this app. I didn’t even know much about it. So, the first few attempts at it were…interesting. Even keeping my eyes closed for the entire 10-minute session was a struggle.
But I quickly learned that meditation is not about perfection; it’s a practice just like yoga (and I’ve been working each week to better my yoga). It’s not necessary to get mad at myself if I can’t keep my eyes closed or if my mind starts to wander – that’s what it’s done for 32 years and old habits DIE HARD.
There are some days I feel really good and into the meditation, and some days, all I have time for is a few minutes of regulated breathing and I’m onto my next thing. But it all helps!
Meditation started from several different religions around the globe, with some of them on a mission to clear the mind in order to make way for communication with God. Other religions seek meditation as part of the path to Enlightenment.
Even just 21 days in, I am starting to understand and adopt the ideas of mindfulness that can help reduce stress in my everyday life. It’s so easy for us to get caught up in accomplishing so much in one day – we see stress as normal, when it’s not healthy or normal.
What’s resonated with me the most is the observation that I let what happens to me completely take over my emotions and determine my happiness, or my sadness. On the flip side, things can change in an instant, and you just never know what direction your luck will take you. In other words, “This too shall pass.”
I’d say, so far, so good. I’m really proud of myself for including this new practice into my every day life – and I hope what they say about 21 days (that it becomes a habit) is true, because I know this is a habit that won’t hurt me.
Aside from meditation, another goal of mine was to cut back on social media. I’ve basically cut out Facebook and stopped looking at and posting Instagram stories. I’ve also cut back on mindlessly scrolling through Instagram and Twitter, and it’s led to a lot less social comparison (which is basically me wondering how everyone is ALWAYS on vacation) and a lot more time to read and actually meet a goal (I’m in the middle of my first screenwriting class).
I set lots of goals for myself this year, but those two really dealt with my mental health. It’s going to be slow-growing, but I’m looking forward to seeing what’s around the corner.
Okay, so not quite yet but it’s almost here – and man, I feel like it creeped up on me this year even despite the early arrival of Thanksgiving. Oh well!
Tomorrow is my LAST day of work in 2017 and I could not be more ready. Y’all, I’m exhausted. I am looking forward to some much-needed sleep and relaxation and self care for the remainder of the year.
A few weeks ago, I was editing a book for someone and she wrote in said book that traditions are often things people don’t want to do, but it’s an easy way to force people to partake. Like, well… it’s tradition.
I suppose so, but I like all of my traditions. They are small, such as, waiting until Christmas morning to open all gifts (always starting with the stockings first). There are always nuts and an orange in our stockings (a tradition my mom’s family has always practiced), aside from small gifts. It has slowly become a tradition for my mom and I to make a stew on Christmas Day, too.
I’ve spent the last two Christmases in Austin and I’m looking forward to a third! I’ve got all sorts of things planned: Mozart’s, the American Girl pop-up shop (!), the state history museum, Miracle on 5th @ Eleanor’s, the gingerbread village @ The Four Seasons, pedicures, and of course, lots and lots of Christmas movie watching! I even got supplies to make apple cinnamon rolls, from scratch (send prayers)!
Once Christmas is over though… it’s me and the couch for a solid six days. I’m not going to get into it here, but I need a break. Some real rest.
Not to mention my AT&T U-Verse receiver is half-working and AT&T said I have 10 days to watch all 100 hours of precious recordings and toss it (they sent me a new one), so it’s absolutely necessary for me to be glued to my TV until 2018.
I hope you all have a fabulous holiday! I’ll be posting a few more times before the year is over, but just in case you don’t stop by beforehand – Merry Christmas (ya filthy animal)… and a Happy New Year!
I don’t know if you know this about me but I LOVE beauty products – skin care, makeup (!), self-tanners, cellulite creams, hair treatments… you name it, I probably have 4 bottles of it in my cabinet. It’s a bad addiction, but it’s a fun one.
I’ve been trying to find a way to share more of my favorite products (or even the things that are NOT my favorite) without it being a giant sales-pitch (I am not sponsored by anyone). The thing is, I’m always trying new things. Even if I like a product, I’m still open to trying other brands just to see what’s out there.
But, when I started writing about all of the cosmetic primers I’ve tried, a reader wanted to know about other products I’ve tried. It’s taken me awhile, but this is my START. I’m very critical – so right now I’ve got five products that I love and have even bought multiple times… as in, I’m sold, I’m not trying other brands. Done. So here they are!
- Impress Manicure – When I agreed to get my Invisalign, I knew it would be an extra monthly expense for a little bit (I’m paying for it myself). To help, I vowed to give up professional manicures. Instead, I started buying press-on nails to keep my nails looking nice without the cost. After trying several brands, the Impress Manicure continues to WIN – big time. These nails are a natural, short length and they require no glue. One set lasts about 10 days, and it costs around $5-$8! I’ve found them at Walgreens, and the grocery store, but you can also get them online. I swear by these!
- Essence Forbidden Volume False Lash Mascara Top Coat – This is a top coat you can add on top of any mascara and it has the little fibers that extend each lash. This stuff makes for a pop! I add it to all of my mascaras and I love it – plus, it’s $4. I got mine at Ulta, but I’m sure you can find it other places where Essence makeup is sold.
- Glamglow Thirstymud Hydrating Treatment – I love finding bargains and cheaper solutions when necessary, but I also have come to realize that sometimes, it’s just worth it to shell out the cash for seriously AWESOME products. So far, all of the Glamglow products I’ve tried have blown my mind and I’ve even gotten comments on how fresh my skin looks – given my sleep regimen, this is a miracle! The Thirstymud treatment is a like a thick moisturizer, it smells like coconut, and you basically put it on before bed and wakeup to smooth skin. After trying a sample of it in my Birchbox, I bought the entire kit: the face wash, a blackhead mask, and the full size jar of Thirstymud. Complete GAME CHANGER.
- Bath & Body Works Aromatherapy Body Wash & Foam Bath – I hadn’t been inside a Bath & Body works in at least 6 years when I randomly wandered into the one at the outlet mall a few months ago. They were having a “Buy 2, Get 1 Free” sale, plus an additional 25% off, so I caved and bought three bottles of this stuff (in three different scents: Happiness, Stress Relief, & Sleep) and all of them smell so good. But what I love most about them is how much they foam up! I use them as bubble bath and on my loofah during a shower. It’s fantastic and now I’m always watching for the next big sale to restock.
- Sei Bella 3-in-1 Eyebrow Pencil by Melaleuca – Melaleuca products are made of only the good stuff, which means no parabens, no chemicals, no carcinogens… all of my household cleaners are from Melaleuca and I try their beauty products all the time. So far, my favorite product is their eyebrow pencil – it has a brush, a pencil, and a blender all in the same place! It goes on so easy, it self-sharpens, and it’s affordable at $15 (for members).
And there you have it! What products are you swearing by lately? As I get more “favorites”, I’ll report back!
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.
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.”
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!
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!