Watching: ‘Battle of the Sexes’.

Just saw this movie!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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BBC: ‘The Language of Flowers’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hope you all have a fantastic weekend!

Healthcare, tears, and TSA

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

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

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

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

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

A Tweet for my dad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me and one of my cousins visiting my dad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The glass ceiling in the hospital cafeteria.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scored the window seat.

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

I approached slowly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Cowboy Blues burger at Gate A21.

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

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

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

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

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

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

A text exchange between me and my dads partner.

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

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

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

I asked her how I was causing chaos.

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

A wish for my dad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you to the ones who cared for my dad!

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

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

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

Truth Tweet.

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

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

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

Love you.

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

Ugh…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SECOND SEASON!!!

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

WordCamp San Antonio!

Aw, yeah!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BBC: ‘My Life in France’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Farewell, Hef.

Hugh and Barbi.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay cool, Hef.

BBC: Fall Reading Guide.

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

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

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

*Note: these are listed in no particular order.

“The Blackbird Season” by Kate Moretti

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This one’s for the thrill-lovers… official description: It’s been almost a year since Makani Young came to live with her grandmother in landlocked Nebraska, and she’s still adjusting to her new life. And still haunted by her past in Hawaii.

Then, one by one, the students of her small town high school begin to die in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer, Makani will be forced to confront her own dark secrets.

Stephanie Perkins, bestselling author of Anna and the French Kiss, returns with a fresh take on the classic teen slasher story that’s fun, quick-witted, and completely impossible to put down.

“Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng  

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

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

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

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

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

 

“Something Like Happy” by Eva Woods

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

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

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

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

“The Visitors” by Catherine Burns

This one sounds creepyyyyy…

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

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

“Lie to Me” by JT Ellison

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

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

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

“When We Were Worthy” by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

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

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

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

“The Future She Left Behind” by Marin Thomas 

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

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

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

“The Best Kind of People” by Zoe Whittal

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

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

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

“The Futures” by Anna Pitoniak

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Best Day Ever” by Kaira Rouda

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

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

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

“Surviving Cyril” by Ramsey Hootman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The Child Finder” by Rene Denfeld

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you guys tomorrow!

‘Siesta Key’: Episode 9.

All piled into Alex;s house, of course…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BOOM.

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

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

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

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

Buuurrnnn….

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

Guess we’ll just have to wait and see!

BBC: ‘Sycamore’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bitter Lemon Shop!

Beads, beads everywhere!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

‘Siesta Key’: ‘Garrett Gets a Girl’.

Garrett is SO fine!

You guys. I have been dreading and looking forward to this episode of “Siesta Key” the entire week. I do NOT want Garrett to get with Juliett!

Ugh, ok let’s get into it. At the start of the episode, Alex is helping Kelsey at work while Chloe packs her stuff to move into her own apartment. Chloe was planning to have a party and Kelsey is worried about seeing Garrett there… So Alex suggests he and Kelsey skip the party and go line dancing instead.

Later, Madisson and Kelsey are talking and Madisson says she saw her and Alex kissing. Kelsey admits it, but says she doesn’t know if she should tell Garrett or not. Madisson says she doesn’t owe him that since they’re broken up, but Kelsey knows this will be the end of her and Garrett. For good.

Back at the mansion, Pauly Paul is in the slammer. Alex asks his dad to bail him out, and his dad agrees to, but ONLY because he doesn’t have a father or a mother. And he’s waiting until morning to do it.

Brandon invites Madisson over to his studio and plays a song for her, and it’s basically about fucking hoes. She’s not really impressed… But it sounds fantastic, if I say so. She tells him people will probably enjoy the softer side…

Brandon brings up her ex, and she tells him that Grant asked her to come to New York, but she likes Brandon… So he was relieved by that.

Meanwhile, Pauly Paul gets bailed out and Alex’s dad picks him up and is like WHAT ARE YOUT HINKING?

Pauly Paul says he’s been locked up 10 times and he doesn’t have anyone over him to tell him right and wrong. Eehhhh…

Chloe is getting ready for her party with Juliett, and Chloe says she didn’t invite Alex because she’s still upset about his comments he made in Bimini. Go girl!

Chloe’s party is at the pool and Garrett rolls in with flowers like a gentleman. Garrett is talking to Juliett about how he’s moving on and ANYWAY he’s busy making his personal training website, and if Juliett wanted to be in a video, then ok. She does. And then she drops the bomb that actually Kelsey is on a date with Alex right now.

Bluhla-bluhla-bluhla!!!

At the line dancing bar, Kelsey and Garrett are laughing and dancing and seemingly having a perfect time. And then he walks off and talks to another chick.

Word eventually gets back to Kelsey that Juliett and Garrett are into each other, so that basically serves as her justification for seeing Alex. It’s a giant catch 22 because their using each other to see other people.

Juliett just keeps drilling it into Garrett’s head that yes, Kelsey and Alex hooked up WHILE they were dating, after the gala. This gets Garrett so worked up that he calls Kelsey, tells her she’s full of shit, and says they can’t even be friends anymore.

NOOOOOOO!!!

The interesting thing here is that in the last episode, Kelsey completely DENIES she and Alex hooked up after the gala. But when Garrett asks her straight out on the phone, she doesn’t give him an answer and that’s what sets him over the edge.

Ugh! In the preview for next week’s episode, it looks like Juliett and Kelsey finally have a face-off, right after Garrett and Kelsey make out in Kelsey’s company. Ouch.

Yeeeeeep! Until next week…

(Re)Watching: ‘ALF’.

Of course ALF reads the newspaper!

Hey there! I’m hoping this blog post (along with that funny picture) cheers you up on this Monday that seems to have come way too soon. I kept seeing Instagram posts yesterday about how sad everyone was that Monday was arriving soon – so do I feel this way because Instagram told me, too, or do I feel this way and then it was on Instagram? It’s the chicken or the egg theory!

I was feeling REAL lucky on Friday because my boss let me leave at 2, said thanks for kicking ass, and I ran out of there to take a nap (what I wild one I am). I got up early on Saturday to ship an Etsy order and head to a volunteer event with the Homeless Period Project of Austin. About 60 of us worked together to make 3,309 period packs for homeless women. This month, all of the packs go to help Hurricane Harvey victims, but usually the packs go to homeless shelters in Austin. I had a blast – and offered up my Jeep to haul the packs to the storage unit south of Austin.

After that, I was spent and yes, took another nap. I was a tired girl! Aside from that, I finished reading a book and started another, did some cooking (I even made vegan, all-natural “Snickers”), made a few pieces of jewelry for the shop, and watched the Emmy red carpets (I am obsessed with Kristin Cavallari).

But – today, I wanted to talk about “ALF”! About a month ago, I saw that a TV channel was showing episodes of “ALF” each night. I’m not sure how I came across this AWESOME news, but I’m pretty sure it happened because I watch “Mary Tyler Moore”, so I’m sure the commercial was during an episode.

I watched “ALF” as a kid, and even have season one on DVD, but I haven’t seen this show in so long. Just in case you’ve never seen it, here’s the scoop from Wikipedia:

ALF is an American sitcom that aired on NBC from September 22, 1986, to March 24, 1990. The title character is Gordon Shumway, a friendly extraterrestrial nicknamed ALF (an acronym for Alien Life Form), who crash lands in the garage of the suburban middle-class Tanner family. The series stars Max Wright as father Willie Tanner, Anne Schedeen as mother Kate Tanner, and Andrea Elson and Benji Gregory as their children, Lynn and Brian Tanner. ALF was performed by puppeteer Paul Fusco, who co-created the show with Tom Patchett. Produced by Alien Productions, ALF originally ran for four seasons and produced 99 episodes, including three one-hour episodes that were divided into two parts for syndication, totaling 102 episodes.

The takeaway there – no one ever calls him Gordon! Everyone calls him ALF. Anyway, I set my DVR to record each episode, and I’ve come to realize just how freaking AWESOME this show is. Yes, it was funny when I was a kid – I mean he’s a pretty cute alien, wears funny clothes, and is constantly chasing the cat around in hopes of eating it.

But watching it now, there’s so many jokes and references I wouldn’t have gotten until I was an adult. ALF is a pretty sharp, witty thing, and he’s not the kindest houseguest – despite the fact that he literally crashed into this family’s life. He nearly eats them out of house and home, is constantly having to be hidden, and is often finding himself in his own set of trouble (usually because he’s trying to make money or contact life on his planet, Melmac).

But this show is so funny and lite – it’s a perfect escape from, well, basically everything else out there right now. As far as I can tell, they’re playing the episodes in chronological order, so that’s an added bonus. I’m just saying, if you need something to watch… I believe it’s on Hulu, too.

Any good, lite shows you’re watching? This TV junkie is always looking for new (and old) things to watch!

BBC: ‘Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud’.

Hey there! Here we are on another Friday – and yep, I’m still pretty excited about a weekend full of… not much. I’m doing some volunteering tomorrow morning, but other than that, I’m planning on making a few more items for my Etsy store and shipping off a few (I had six orders this week!).

I also have some books to pick up at the library – so that’s never a bad thing. But let’s jump right into this week’s book, ’cause I got LOTS to say about it! It’s “Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman” by Anne Helen Peterson.

Here’s the official description from Amazon.com: From celebrity gossip expert and BuzzFeed culture writer Anne Helen Petersen comes an accessible, analytical look at how female celebrities are pushing boundaries of what it means to be an “acceptable” woman. 
 
You know the type: the woman who won’t shut up, who’s too brazen, too opinionated—too much. She’s the unruly woman, and she embodies one of the most provocative and powerful forms of womanhood today. In Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud, Anne Helen Petersen uses the lens of “unruliness” to explore the ascension of pop culture powerhouses like Lena Dunham, Nicki Minaj, and Kim Kardashian, exploring why the public loves to love (and hate) these controversial figures. With its brisk, incisive analysis, Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud will be a conversation-starting book on what makes and breaks celebrity today.  

The book takes a look at these celebrities: Serena Williams (too strong), Melissa McCarthy (too fat), Abbie Jacobson and Ileana Glazer (too gross), Nicki Minaj (too slutty), Madonna (too old), Kim Kardashian (too pregnant), Hillary Clinton (too shrill), Caitlyn Jenner (too queer), Jennifer Weiner (too loud), and Lena Dunham (too naked).

…And then it offers up examples and research as to how they fit their tag “too slutty, too fat” etc. This book really opened my eyes. I do consider myself someone who pays attention – I’m WOKE y’all – but this was so much more. I work in a feminist industry, so I read articles on subjects like this all the time, but this was so well put together, and unfortunately true.

Here’s a few quotes I liked from the book:

  • …it was no coincidence that as audiences watched Kardashian’s preparations for labor, Wendy Davis was filibustering against anti-choice laws in the Texas state legislature. When the body becomes public property, as the pregnant body has indubitably become, it not only liberates the populace at large to comment and cast judgment on it, but the (male-dominated)legislature to institute legal controls over it.
  • It’s Clinton’s defining character trait: her understanding of her worth is so strong that she’s refused, at every point in her life and career, to let men define her.
  • Trump’s victory signals the beginning of a backlash that has been quietly brewing for years, as unruly women of various forms have come to dominate the cultural landscape.
  • Their power and charisma invigorated the world of tennis, but the Williamses rejected the presumed posture of gratitude and humility.
  • Minaj is unapologetic about who she is and how she chooses to live – exercising a form of self-determination that has been almost entirely unavailable to black women in America.

I’m recommending this book to ALL my lovely feminasty women out there – even if it’s in secret. This one will open your eyes and have you burning your bra! Ok not quite, but you get it (Blanche was all, “Joke’s on you I don’t even wear bras!).

The next book we’re reading is “Sycamore” by Bryn Chancellor – and this one is perfect for Halloween, as it’s a novel about a missing girl…OoOoOoOo!

Have a great weekend everyone – I’ll be back here on Monday (I promise)!