Blog Archives

Indiana: A story of what could be?

The road to Indiana.

Howdy! I had every intention of posting yesterday, but life took over – okay, more like work took over, and I was up until the wee hours this morning finishing things, and packing for my trip to Indiana tomorrow.

I planned this trip months ago, so I could participate in my second “Take Steps for Crohn’s”, which I am still looking forward to, but the trip has also transformed into something else.

It may come as no surprise that I have some pretty strong feelings for a guy in Indiana. It’s not someone new, in fact, he’s been a part of my life for years – but we’ve really been on a roller coaster.

Without going too much into it, I will say that we’ve managed to be there for each other through some very tough times, especially as of late. I’ve had a tiny crush on him since I was 15, and have been fairly honest about my feelings over the years – him, too, even though he hasn’t always felt the same way.

Recently, he quietly admitted he had feelings, too – something I never, ever thought I’d hear him say. And that’s just it: it’s the first time I’ve liked someone so much, I’d accept it if he didn’t like me. I’d rather have his friendship than nothing, and I want him to be happy, even if it’s not with me.

Strong words, I know.

And that’s the other part of this entire thing: I’m in uncharted territory. I’ve never liked someone who was quite so nice to me; never been able to actually talk to someone on the phone (especially about nerdy stuff, like politics and food); never had any sort of relationship that didn’t involve around sex, talking about sex, or planning for sex. It’s refreshing.

But, it’s also scary AF. What exactly is going on here? I can’t answer that right now. And I don’t know if I’ll be able to answer it after this trip, either.

Because if you’ve been here before, you and I both know how this ends (read this, this, this, this, and this, and this, for examples). I’ve done this. Of course, this is someone different – biologically, and in many different ways. But it has ended poorly for me before. I’m bracing myself to get on that plane next week with a broken heart, and no need for a phone.

A long time ago, I concluded I like Indiana boys because they are familiar, and because, well, I live 19 hours away and don’t really have to subject myself to the intimacy that would happen in a real, face-to-face relationship.

But what if the distance was eliminated? I always say I have stayed in the South to benefit my career. I’ve banked on the story I’ve told myself that I will always be single. But what if I put something, or someone, else first this time? What would my life be like?

There is a huge part of me that already knows the answer. My life would probably be filled with a lot more love, and a little less stress. I might actually get the thing I’ve always wanted: love. A partner.

All of that just scares me. I don’t know if I’m ready, but on the other hand, how can I NOT be ready?

I don’t want to bank everything on this trip, but I am hoping it will show me a little taste of what my story could have been; what it could be, if I choose that path, instead of the one I’m on now.

We’ll see!

PS. The blog will be sparse next week as I’ll be vacationing and mind-questing 🙂 Promise I’ll be back.

‘Southern Charm’: A Tribe Called Key West.

Kathryn is… NOT… stirring up trouble?

Hey, hey! I feel like the episodes of “Southern Charm” just keep getting better and better, and after seeing the previews for this week’s episode, I was reallllly looking forward to things completely blowing up in Key West for Cameron’s birthday.

So, here we go!

At the opening of the episode, Craig has enlisted his cat Gizmo to help him make baby clothes for Cameron’s birthday, after the psychic told her she was going to have a child within the year.

At Chelsea’s house, Shep comes over – again- uninvited. He apologizes for basically attacking her in the bar, and making her feel cheap. He tries to explain that he acts withdrawn because he likes her, which is obviously ridiculous.

Later, Kathryn comes over to Cameron’s house to talk about the upcoming trip. Cameron admits she sees this trip as a “last hurrah” because she is considering having a child. After a quick heart-to-heart, Kathryn tells Cameron about the trip we’d all heard about on the last reunion – when Thomas took Landon on the 3-day trip he’d planned for Kathryn.

Hmm!

At Craig’s, Naomi admits she doesn’t really want to go on the trip because of how bad of a place she’s in with Craig. She even says if they both go on the trip, she might not be with him when they get back.

Landon is questioning whether or not she should go, because of Kathryn. Lord. Thomas is encouraging her to go, basically saying, she’s my baby-mama and she’s not going anywhere, so get used to it.

Later, Austen and Chelsea are heading over to Austen’s parents’ house for dinner (awwww). But after she met with Shep, she’s acting like things are cool with Shep and that things didn’t exaaaactly happen the way she mentioned.

And basically mid-conversation, they pull up to the family home, and have to plaster on some smiles before going inside for dinner. Naturally, Chelsea is winning the parents over, which has Austen fretting since now he doesn’t know where they stand.

The gang heads to Key West – even Kathryn, along with Naomi AND Craig, and Chelsea and Austen get separate rooms. Shit.

Finally, it’s the scene they keep playing on the previews where it’s Landon against Chelsea and Cameron – as they defend Kathryn and question Landon about the trip she took with Thomas. She still denies that anything happened, says she had her “own wing” of the house, and that Kathryn made the whole thing up.

Please, girl.

At dinner, Landon is sure to sit very far away from Thomas, and Kathryn orders a margarita, which I find strange considering she is in drug recovery??

Oddly though, everyone is getting along great, and Kathryn even apologizes to Whitney and he returns the favor. At Whitney’s suggestion, Landon tells Kathryn she wants to move on from the past and just let it go. W O W.

It’s actually so good, that it’s shady. Landon is hugging her and being all, “As women we’re all each other has…” and even Thomas is left questioning her motives. He suggests her apology to Kathryn was self-serving, in order to advance her agenda.

…And next week is the SEASON FINALE.

Road Trip: Baton Rouge edition.

Louisiana oak trees.

I took a road trip to Baton Rouge this weekend. Yes, it’s a route I’ve traveled many times before – however, I haven’t done it in a whole year. Truthfully, because I kept having to make that trip before (because of CASA volunteer obligations), I’m sure I turned myself off of it.

But when a friend announced he was making a big move (13+ hours away), I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to hop in the car and go for a drive.

I needed a place to stay for one night, so I slapped in on Facebook, and within one minute I had an offer from a sorority sister whom I haven’t seen in several years. I took her up on her offer, and spent Friday night doing a little baking, packing road trip snacks (fruit, cheese, trail mix, of course), and packing my clothes.

I’d also given my car a little love with an extensive oil and three-filter change, plus a tire repair, and even a tire replacement. I was ready!

I hit the road at 8am on Saturday, which would put me in Baton Rouge around 3pm provided there wasn’t much traffic or bad weather. I’ve made this trip so many times to know it rarely takes the 6.5 hours Google Maps says.

But, I was in no hurry. I didn’t have to be anywhere specific until 9pm, so whatever. I used the car time to catch up on my favorite Radio Andy shows: Reality Checked, Jim Parsons is Too Stupid for Politics, and Dan Rather’s America.

I also listened to some Dispatch I got from the library (I’m seeing them in concert next week), and made it about halfway through an audio book.

The drive from Austin to Baton Rouge is mostly farm land – especially during the Texas half of the trip. Lots of cows, steers, and neatly rolled hay. I am a sucker for these types of views.

I made it to Baton Rouge a little before 3:30, and was so happy to see my hostess, Sarah, along with her son – both of whom had just survived his birthday party. We spent the afternoon visiting, and were treated to pork chops from Iverstine Farms, along with some fancy rose Sarah discovered on Instagram. It was a perfect Saturday evening.

Already buzzed, I headed to the goodbye gathering at a nearby bar, where I took advantage of the cheap, local beer. I do miss Abita!

It was fantastic to visit with my friend and see some familiar faces, I didn’t realize just how much I needed that feeling of comfort – that feeling of home.

The fact is, I wasn’t born and raised in Louisiana. I’m from Indiana, where I’m traveling at the end of this week. And while I have spent years calling Indiana home, I don’t know if that word is the right one.

Yes, I spent 18 years there. But I spent 12 in Louisiana. And you know… I grew up, big time, in Louisiana. I survived a culture shock, had my first serious heartbreak (on top of many others), endured multiple hurricanes, got my first apartment, my first job out of college… it’s easy to say that a lot of things about me where shaped in Louisiana.

So many of my friends there are like family, and when 95% of my family doesn’t talk to me – friends are all I’ve got.

I don’t regret leaving Baton Rouge – it needed to happen, for the sake of my career, my creativity, and still for my sanity. And I know the chances of living in Louisiana again are slim-to-none. But it’s always going to hold a really special place in my heart.

I left Baton Rouge at 10am on Sunday – and was met with some pretty heavy traffic and construction on the drive back. Pair that with a decent headache from my Saturday festivities (when in Baton Rouge…), and it made for a less than stellar trip, but I made it safe, and I even got a Diet Cherry Coke – so we’re putting that down as a WIN in my book.

It was a quick and fun weekend – a much-needed, heart-fulfilling trip. I’ve got another one coming up this week, and well, I’ve been sort of harboring the story around that for awhile. I’ll spill it here later (this week), but I’ve still got to find the words to explain it.

So, cheers to tired Mondays – as long as the soul is full.

BBC: ‘Head for the Edge, Keep Walking’.

Happy Friday! It has been a busy week on my end, and I’m sort of in a race to the finish – the finish being my flight to Indianapolis a week from today. Before then, I’ve got a lot on my plate and I feel like I’m running on some serious adrenaline, but hey, it’s all good!

I still had some time to read this week, and finished my book sale find ($1) “Head for the Edge, Keep Walking” by Kate Tough. Here’s the description from Amazon.com:

Jill Beech’s nine-year relationship is over. She covers the sadness with madness, going dancing with her off-beat friends and attempting a series of hilariously bad internet dates. Then life is flipped on its head again by some shocking news. Adrift in her mid-thirties, no-one does lost quite like Jill. Wry, witty, resilient but bewildered, she is left asking, what does it take to stay sane in this life? And why does it look easier for everyone else? While her friends are preoccupied with pregnancy, Jill looks elsewhere for meaning. Will she find happiness with a kitten called Cyril? A job she can finally believe in? Or a charming ex-snowboard champion who wants to settle down? Events force Jill to head for the edge—will she fall headlong or turn things around and keep walking?

When I read the back of the book, I felt like “Omigosh, this sounds exactly like me” – minus that whole 9-year relationship thing. But when I read the book, her problems weren’t exactly as the book jacket described.

Yes, she was trying to find her life again, trying to find little bits of joy in her job, and see some sort of meaning in the endless cycle of going out each night. But she was also faced with some semi-serious health issues, on top of attempting to date and find love.

It was a good read – just a little bit different than I expected, and I’ll admit, I often don’t understand British humor.

The next book I’ll be reading is “The Night We Said Yes” by Lauren Gibaldi.

I hope you all have a great weekend – I’ll be doing some baking tonight, so if you want to see it you can catch it on SnapChat @OrangeJulius7. Tomorrow, I’m road-tripping it to Louisiana, and I’ve got a Dispatch album in my console, along with an audio book!

See y’all on Monday!

A sunless, summer glow.

I’m getting bronzed, without the sun!

That’s right, I’ve been trying SO many different kinds of sunless tanners and bronzers ever since I got home from Vegas. I’ll be honest, I have always loved laying out in the sun. Even in high school, I’d lay out in my backyard (no pool present), complete with Sun-In in my hair (which looked really terrible) just to get that summer glow.

I’m not going to sit here and act like I’ve all of the sudden become super sun-conscious… Maybe a little but my recent obsession with a sunless glow is more about getting a good, even color (with no tan lines), and about time – it takes soooooo long to get a nice color and even though it’s fun to relax by the pool, sometimes there’s other things I’d rather be doing.

I used two sunless tanners during the winter months around the time I had dance performances, one was a gradual self-tanning lotion with added bronzer, which I liked but didn’t find I got much color from it, and I also used a foam – this gave great color but had a very strong tanning smell, and was hard not to get streaks, even using a tanning mitt.

Self-tanning Tan Towel.

So, the ones I’ve listed below are what I’ve used recently – some are self-tanners, some are just bronzers (the color washes off), and some have added firming because… cellulite.

Tan Towel – I’ve used this product before, but it had been awhile (I actually got a sample in my Birchbox a year ago), until I saw a pack of five in a clearance bin for $4!

If you’ve never used these, they are basically like a Wet Nap, but obviously have self-tanning agents.

The cool thing about these is there’s no need for a tanning mitt, and one towel is enough for face and your entire body. There is a slight scent, but it’s light and pleasant.

The tanner applies clear (which means you have to remember where you’ve already applied), but the color begins to appear with just a few hours. The color has always been streak-free for me, and looks natural. These are a win & especially great for travel.

Organic sunless tanner.

NKD SKN Gradual Glow – I’ve seen this product on Birchbox.com and at Ulta, but was able to get a sample size on clearance (are you noticing a trend here?).

My first attraction to this product was that it’s organic, and even at full-price, it’s affordable.

Once I started using it, I realized it’s got quality ingredients – including aloe vera and vitamins – it makes for a really nice moisturizer and my skin felt healthy after using it just a few times. You can use this product on your face and body which is a bonus.

The color goes on clear (it’s a white lotion), and has little-to-no scent. I will say I didn’t notice a huge color difference when I used this, and I got about three applications from the sample.

On one hand, this is good because you don’t have to worry as much about messing up. On the other hand, it’s not good if you’re looking for deep color overnight. Perhaps continual use of this product would get richer after several back-to-back application.

However, this same brand has other sunless products, including tinted tanner and mousse, so those may be worth trying.

Tanning + firming.

Jergen’s Natural Glow – After I used up my clearance rack finds, I needed to keep up my tan, so I picked this one up during my weekly grocery run.

It was $8 for a pretty big bottle, and it says it helps to firm  skin and reduce the appearance of cellulite (I’m always looking for these types of things).

I got the “Medium to Tan” color in hopes of getting dark (or I guess as dark as you can get with sunless tanner). The scent is very light and pleasant.

The directions on the bottle suggest using this instead of a daily body lotion, because it is a gradual sunless tan. I haven’t been using it every day, but I put it on at least four times a week.

After two weeks, I can say I look pretty tan! The consistency of this lotion is pretty thick, which makes me feel like I’m doing wonders for my skin. I use this all over, and have tried it with and without a tanning mitt (doesn’t make much of a difference either way). A few times I got a little much around my ankles and toes, but a quick scrub and it was evened out.

“foundation” for your entire body.

Miracle Body Transformer Tinted Beauty Balm – I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I have always been insecure about my legs. Below the knee never tans well, so it looks weird with tan thighs (large ones, I should add) and white shins and feet.

As a makeup junkie, I have always dreamed of basically “foundation” for my entire body so I could just look glowy and hide all of my weird skin issues. So you can image how difficult it was for me not to jump up and down in TJ-Maxx when I saw this product on the clearance shelf (I know)! This “Beauty Balm” has so much going on, you just have to see the official product description:

A high performance treatment body enhancer with SPF20. Transform the appearance of arms, legs and decollate – you’ll see a difference instantly. Skin looks smoother, feels firmer, and is totally flawless. Powerful moisture magnets such as jojoba oil, soy amino and hyaluronic acids relieve dry skin keeping it hydrated and radiant. Marine extracts optimize skin rejuvenation for smoother, suppler, more radiant looking skin. MIRACLE SKIN TRANSFORMER SPF20 BODY contains the M3 Complex; designed to improve the look and feel of skin – all over: Hydrate – Dry, rough skin on legs, arms, and decollate feels incredibly softer, smoother and hydrated. Enhance – Leaves skin looking younger, brighter and totally luminous.

That’s right – it’s a bronzer/illuminator (it does have a shimmer), with an SPF, moisturizer, AND a firming lotion! The only thing that would make this product better is a sunless tanning agent. However, this is nice to slap on over your sunless tanner for an instant glow. And when you shower, it comes off.

The particular color I got was pretty dark, so I mixed it with some regular body lotion to thin it out a little. I was worried the color would rub off on my clothes, so I only wear it on my arms or legs when they’re going to be “out”, i.e. with a tank top or a skirt. I really love the way it makes my skin look!

Tinted, firming spray.

Hide & Glow Sleek – I have been a huge fan of Bliss Spa products, especially their “Fat Girl Slim” line, where this product can be found.

I’ll admit, I bought this product thinking it was a sunless tanner, but upon reading the directions before I sprayed it on, I found it’s a bronzer/illuminator, but it also offers firming qualities.

Nonetheless, I sprayed it on my legs before wearing a skirt to work one day and I loved it. It’s very light in texture, not sticky, and offers a subtle glow.

I think this would be great for travel or even for an event wear you just need a quick hit of bronze (because I do!).

It’s a little pricy, but it’s a product you can’t really screw up, plus it is clinically proven to firm skin! The scent is very light, as is the shimmer. There are two color options, so you may really be able to get some rich glow from it.

I’d love to know what sunless tanning products you’ve tried and loved (or hated)! Bring it on, summer!

Life in the ‘Soap Opera’.

Grab your powdered soap!

On Sunday, I went to the laundromat, and I realized something – the laundromat has been a staple in my life for much longer than I realized.

I remember going to the laundromat as a kid; I also remember not liking it, even though it involved absolutely no work on my end. The place was sort of old, and the TVs only had news channels playing.

As I grew older, my parents moved into homes with washers and dryers (although we did have a clothesline in at least one of my backyards). I learned, and did, my own laundry in middle school.

Once I got to college, the dorms had a laundry room, but it only had two washers and two dryers – I quickly learned that going off campus was probably my best bet. I also heard way too many horror stories about cute guys in the laundry room seeing co-ed underwear or whatever. I wasn’t having it.

There was a place just a few blocks off-campus called “The Soap Opera”, and to this day, that still has to be the best name for a laundromat, ever. It was on the edge of campus, near an area that was a tad rough.

But whatever, I showed up with my quarters, powdered soap, and one of those collapsable hampers full of my dirty clothes. I followed the directions printed on the washing machine: add clothes, add soap, add coins, start.

Nothing happened.

I waved over the attendant; an older, thin woman with graying hair.

“I don’t know what happened,” I said. “The water just isn’t coming out.”

She opened the lid, looked inside, and let the lid drop with a loud “thud.” Then she slammed her fist onto the lid, and with that, the water started.

“Sometimes you just have to give it that extra somethin’,” she said.

It was a moment I’ll never forget, and I continued washing my clothes there until I found a washer and dryer elsewhere – usually at a sorority sister’s house who was willing to share.

Once I got my own apartment, I enjoyed the luxury of having my own washer and dryer, but when I was looking for apartments, I decided that a washer and dryer was something I’d be willing to give up (on top of other things) in trade for a lower rent payment.

Currently, my apartment has a big closet housing a washer and dryer hookup, but I use it for storage (a filing cabinet, Christmas decor, and a crafting table). I told myself I would simply go to the laundromat for as long as I could stand it, and if I really started to hate it – I could look into renting the appliances or be watchful for a sale.

But, here I am almost two years later, and I still am okay with going to my laundromat, “The Washatopia” (leave it to laundromats for the clever names). The place is clean, it takes a little card so I don’t have to worry about quarters, plus there’s free wifi – and there’s lots of TVs. And yes, they show the news, which is enjoyable 25 years later.

Going to the laundromat makes laundry a task that I simply just DO and it takes around two hours from loading my car, driving there, washing, driving, hanging, and heading home. When I’ve had a washer and dryer at home, it seemed to take foreverrrrrr – and I also don’t have to worry about the appliances racking up my water or electric bills, or anything breaking down.

Plus, there’s always a lot of great people watching to be had at the laundromat. It’s really a win-win, so don’t be shocked if my next novel has a plot at a place like “The Soap Opera”.

‘Southern Charm’: Boys Gone Wild.

Austen!

Episodes of “Southern Charm” and “Southern Charm Savannah” sure do perk up my Mondays! Especially after last week’s episode of Shep’s epic downfall, I was ready for last night (I also made vegan tacos, and those were pretty good, too).

The episode kicks off with Cameron seeing what Chelsea is up to, and it turns out, she’s helping Kathryn pick out outfits for a photo shoot and asks Cam to come along – this should be interesting.

Later, JD meets up with Thomas for a drink, and they have a little chat about Kathryn and the kids. Thomas admits she is a “difficult woman to resist”, but then tells JD about his walk with Landon. JD admits that Kathryn may not be too excited about this matchup – understatement of the year!

Over at Landon’s, her dad comes to pick her up and take her to see a property. During the car ride, he looks like he would rather be ANYWHERE else in the world, with just about ANYONE. Once they get to the property, her father says he needs someone to be on the property every day and if she does it, she’d make up to $200,000. But she basically says no, because she wants to work on her website. Lord.

Cameron heads over to Shep’s and she’s a little frightened by the fact that it’s noon, he’s dressed, and his house is clean. They have a conversation about Chelsea, and Cameron tries to convince him that she’s NOT seeing Austen (lies). Shep says he’s not scared of getting hurt, but he’s scared of hurting someone else.

Chelsea and Kathryn start shopping for outfits – Kathryn says she needs to market herself as a “JCrew Bitch”, which she is not – Uh, yeah, no shit! When Cameron shows up, Kathryn could give a flying fuck. While Kathryn is trying things on, Cameron says her birthday is coming up and she would like everyone to come on a trip to Key West, including Thomas – which Kathryn says she’s fine with (buut will she be fine with Landon kissing all on Thomas).

Later, Austen comes to visit Chelsea at work and she tells him that Shep tried to kiss her multiple times the night before, and also said that her and Austen are a “joke”. Needless to say, Austen is pissed, and already made plans to go have drinks with Shep that night. Hmm…. here. we. goo….

Austen meets up with Craig first and tells him what happened between Shep and Chelsea. Then, Whitney comes in… and later, Shep arrives. Immediately, Shep goes in for the digs against Austen. Austen reminds Shep of what he did, and Shep thinks he’s done nothing wrong. Shep also says Austen must not be dating Chelsea because neither of them will “admit it.” Then Shep just blames the entire thing on Cameron.

The next day, Kathryn is scheduled for her photo shoot, and Chelsea is helping her with her hair. Thomas brings the kids by, and it’s actually really sweet. But when it’s time for Thomas to take the kids home, Kensie has an absolute fit… it’s bad.

Later, Naomi and Craig are back in therapy… and it doesn’t appear things are getting any better. He even starts yelling to the point the therapist has to tell him to stop.

…And next week’s episode looks even more firey, y’all!

2017 Goals: A progress report, II.

We’re halfway through the year – how are your goals shaping up?

It’s June, and that means we’re halfway through 2017 ALREADY! When I set my goals for the year I was thinking about how so many people simply set goals on New Year’s Eve and basically never revisit them, and before they know it, the year has passed.

I don’t want that to be me this year. So, I’m going to hold myself accountable and do some progress reports on the blog. I already think this miiiiight be a little embarrassing, but maybe it will light a fire under my booty to get things moving.

I wrote a list of goals at the end of 2016, which I published here, and today I’m going to revisit this same list and tell you if I’ve made any progress on it.

Here goes:

GOAL: Start With Kindness. As you can tell by the name of this blog, I’ve spend a chunk of my life feeling sour about things that have happened to me, and choices I’ve made. But in general, I wouldn’t classify myself as bitter – I’m actually pretty kind and very giving.

In the last year, I’ve thought a lot about a kindness campaign started by my favorite radio show hosts, Johnjay & Rich. Their campaign, #LoveUp, encourages everyone to do something kind for someone else – whether big or small, and whether they need it or not. I’ve already started my own #LoveUp acts of kindness, and they’ll definitely be making appearances in 2017. 

PROGRESS: The last time I wrote this progress report, I hadn’t really done much for this goal. But this time, I’m happy to report I have. Not only have I tried to remain calm in frustrating situations, but I also ran into a fellow dancer who was short a few cents while trying to buy a protein bar. I happily put a dollar on the counter for him.

GOAL: Be a Practicing Writer. In my previous job, much of my day was spent writing. Whether or not it was stuff I actually wanted to write was not the issue, but I wrote a ton during those years. I blogged, I wrote freelance articles, I wrote books, poetry… and I really haven’t immersed myself in my craft since.

This year, I used birthday money to buy books on screenwriting, and I volunteered nearly 20 hours of my time toward the Austin Screenwriting Festival, listened to many podcasts on the craft, and have researched courses to take to learn on it – but haven’t actually DUG in there and started typing! So, I’ve got to do it – whether or not its work anyone sees, its time.

PROGRESS: I’ve totally sucked on this for ALL of 2017, and I’ll be honest, I’ve barely been able to keep up with this blog. I’m sorry!

GOAL: Just Go For It. I spend a lot of time analyzing situations and decisions, trying to figure out if I should do it or how or when or why, and frankly, it’s exhausting!

When I moved to Austin in 2015, I had basically no money, was living in an extended-stay hotel, and I spent my evenings going on “adventures” – where I’d basically just drive to a place that sounded cool and check it out, so at least I’d learn my way around the city and pick places I wanted to visit later. It was simple, fun, and it really helped shaped the way I look at the city. I’m definitely aiming for more adventures in Austin, and elsewhere, in 2017.

PROGRESS: I’m kicking this one’s ass. I’ve already booked my second vacation of the year, and I’ve even “just gone for it” in terms of medical tests that I 100% would have backed out on before. On my vacation to Vegas, I totally just went for it when my friend suggested a rollercoaster ride. It was worth it, but if I had thought about it any longer, I would have talked myself out of it.

GOAL: Act, Believe, & Receive. I’ve spent the last several years really trying to focus on myself. After years of abuse from various places, I lost myself and I was letting other people create my course. It took therapy, time, and lots of self-reflection for me to even begin to build myself up and allow me to just be me, and I’m finally starting to feel like myself again.

In these last few weeks of 2016, I’ve felt it, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. So, in 2017, I’m going to act more confident, believe in myself, and receive the treatment that I deserve.

PROGRESS: This is slowly coming, although if you have ideas or tips on how to achieve this goal, I’m all for it.

GOAL: Be Intentional. As of yesterday, I started listening to “The Minimalists” podcast, and although I’m just four episodes in, I am hooked and craving for more learning on this lifestyle choice. The Minimalists are particularly two men who left corporate America (and six-figure salaries) to live simply in terms of having less things, but to also live with intention and do everything on purpose – down to drinking one perfect cup of well-made coffee instead of just guzzling another K-cup.

PROGRESS: I’m 90% of the way through cleaning my closet, and I have lots of things to giveaway. However, I have replaced many of the items to give away. I wanted to look forward to getting dressed each morning before work. Now, I am excited to see the clothes in my closet and make a choice on what to wear, based on my mood.

GOAL: Live High. Initially, I was thinking of a fantastically mellow Jason Mraz song titled as such, but then I thought of that moment at the Democratic Convention this year when Michelle Obama talked about her approach to bullies: “When they go low, we go high.” Essentially, I want to give myself permission to do things just for me. I do a pretty good job already of having no shame for watching hours of TV each week (hell, each night), but I want to do a better job of encorporating happy and healthy habits into my life, and not apologizing for them.

PROGRESS: Eh, this one still needs work. However, I have been trying to make time for me in the form of a weekly soak in the tub, making time for a nice facial mask several times a week, and had a nice manicure and pedicure about a month ago. It felt wonderful!

GOAL: Choose (& Plan for) Your Destiny! This started as kind of a joke between me, and well, myself, because someone told me earlier this year: “Everything that happens to you is because you let it. You choose your destiny.” In the way it was delivered to me, it seemed more of a way to avoid blame, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt it in all areas of my life.

Spent my Saturday working? Well that was obviously the destiny that I chose. No more being a victim; no more going along for the ride. We choose our destinies! 

PROGRESS: Yes – I’m still living by this motto, but it’s a constant effort, and I’m sure I’ll be reminding myself of this rule a time or two.

…So, it’s safe to say I’ve got my work cut out for me, but I’m also doing okay. What are your goals for 2017 and how are they coming along? It’s certainly not too late to jump on them and cross some big items off your to-do list before the year is over!

BBC: ‘Hillbilly Elegy’.

Ugh, I know I said I was reading “Head for the Edge, Keep Walking” by Kate Tough… and I definitely started reading it, when I realized I had to take another book back to the library within just a few days!

Just to note, I have had my Austin library card for exactly 1 year now, and I haven’t ever had an overdue book or a late fee, and I plan to keep it that way. So, I had to switch things up and read my library book, “HillBilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance, first.

I heard about this book on Instagram (I am always keeping my eyes open for books to add to my reading list), and I added to my library reserve list immediately. After months of waiting, I got it – and then of course had to read it within just a few days – which was actually not an issue because it was so good. Here’s the description from Amazon.com:

From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a powerful account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class

Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.

The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love,” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually their grandchild (the author) would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving generational upward mobility.

But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that this is only the short, superficial version. Vance’s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother, struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, and were never able to fully escape the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. Vance piercingly shows how he himself still carries around the demons of their chaotic family history.

A deeply moving memoir with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country.

While this book was published before the 2016 election, there are many, many clues within this book as to why Trump eventually won (despite what we now know about Russian involvement). Right after I finished reading this book, I started looking up reviews for it online and saw a mix – many people loved it, while lots of people said it didn’t represent the people it claims to.

But the author, Vance, says he’s not trying to make assumptions about large groups of people – merely stating what he knows about his family, and those he grew up with.

And if what he’s saying is true, I can 100% understand why Trump is our president now. It doesn’t make it any less sad, or difficult to deal with, but at least now I know. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in the culture of various people, and/or politics.

Now, for real, the next book I’ll be reading is “Head for the Edge, Keep Walking” by Kate Tough. I swear!

I can see clearly (in two weeks).

Another doctor appointment.

As I continue on my journey to hit up all the appropriate doctors on my mission to feel healthy and on top of my life, I went to the eye doctor yesterday to have an exam. It’s probably been about three years since my last eye exam (I know, bad), and I could feel that my eyes have been straining lately.

Let me set the record straight here and say that I got my first pair of glasses when I was in second grade. They had thick, round purple frames, with green on the sides. In 8th grade, I started wearing contacts. Every time I’ve gone to the eye doctor, my prescription indicates my eyes are worsening – despite multiple doctors saying “At some point this will level off”, and “you’re nowhere near being legally blind” – both statements completely untrue.

So, I went to the doctor yesterday knowing I needed a stronger prescription. I opted to get a prescription for both contacts and glasses, knowing I’d buy my glasses online (I love EyeBuyDirect).

The exam began, with the prescription exam, the eye puff, and some pictures of my eye. When I saw the doctor, she made a comment about how my prescription was “low”. Uhh, no? She then proceeded to ask me to read the letters on the wall, which I could generally see just fine.

Because I still had my contacts in! No one had asked me to remove them. “Why do you wear contacts?” she asked, implying my eyesight was near-perfect. Yeah, I said, because my contacts are still in.

Sooooo I had to do the entire exam again after taking out my contacts. Then she realized just how bad my eyes were, and I even felt like she was getting frustrated with just how poor my eyesight was. “You’re getting really high up there,” she said, as she was going through the switches – 1 or 2? 2 or 3?

But I can’t help it – it’s important I get the right prescription, obviously. Once we got the prescription nailed down, she took a look at the pictures of my eye and concluded I needed them dilated due to the nature of my high prescription.

Honestly, I’ve never had my eyes dilated, so I was asking a lot of questions about the procedure, and trying to decide whether or not I could/should drive after because I needed to get back to work. She said it would be fine, so I agreed (after all, my motto for 2017 is to “just do it”).

After she put the drops in, she instructed me to walk into the lobby to sit and wait for my eyes to fully dilate. What may be difficult to understand here is just how poor my eyesight is. Without my glasses or contacts, I can’t see much at all.

So, asking me to walk anywhere without said eyewear + dilation drops is an issue. But I hobbled in and felt my way to a chair. I was sitting there, quietly, probably staring off into space, when a woman at the front desk was all, “Ma’am, ma’am??”

“Are you talking to me?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I cannot see you.”

…Like are you serious? I could barely see my own body, let alone another person standing 25 feet away.

“Oh, are you dilating?” she asked.

I nodded. Luckily it wasn’t long before I was called back into the doctor’s office for the last part of the exam. She concluded my eyes were okay – although at high-risk for retinal detachment (common for people with high prescriptions).

Naturally, they didn’t have my contacts in stock, so I have to wait for them to come in and have them fitted, which hopefully will be in the next few weeks. In the meantime, I’m going to order a new pair of glasses – I’ve narrowed it down to a few choices, and am hoping to get these:

I’ve got my eye on these.

…And in just a few weeks I’ll be seeing clearly… that is, until my next eye exam!

Today, I just wanted to… write.

I neeeeed a typewriter.

Howdy! I’m sitting in my bed (my usual blogging spot), I’ve had two glasses of wine, and I’ve got a mud mask on… and it’s about time I just wrote something.

You may recall that last week, I finished up another semester of teaching Blogging for Beginners at UT – and while it’s a time-consuming additional to my full-time gig, it never fails to teach me SO much about the craft of writing (and blogging).

I have realized lately that my life is so full of words and content – perhaps more full than it has ever been. I’m creating content 40+ hours a week for my job. I have to fill Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, and a blog, with fresh content all week – and sometimes every single day (I post around 12 tweets a day for work).

I also have this blog, plus I read, and watch TV, aaaand I’ve been doing freelance editing sometimes on the weekend. That = a TON of words! Which, is not a bad thing, don’t get me wrong, but I realized I haven’t had a chance to get away from the noise to actually think for myself.

One thing creatives can do to keep their juices flowing is to make time for activities that don’t involve words; such as listening to music (without words), taking nature walks, or simply relaxing in the tub without distractions. It’s times like these when our brain actually gets to wander to the places it wants to go – it’s why we often come up with great ideas in the shower or during the night.

But I’ve been a bad creative and haven’t made time for activities like these. Currently, I have no blog strategy, have barely Tweeted on my personal account in weeks, and well, my SnapChat game? It’s suffering.

Truth be told, I worry that I’m coming down with content-overload. Did I turn a fun hobby into something I can only see as WORK by taking a job in social media? It’s certainly possible.

It’s easy for me to say that 2017 has already just been full of surprises! I kicked off the year with a new career, but also with a newfound fatigue – actual physical exhaustion. While I am awaiting confirmation that it’s nothing physical, I have always been able to rely on my creative mind.

But now… now what? I am still trying to get my butt to bed at a decent hour so I’m not dragging the following day, and I’ve found myself without many ideas to jot into my little notebook – I feel… I feel boring!

Pair that with a picture of me in bed on a heating pad this weekend after three hours of dance, and it may start to click: maybe this is just 32? My birthday is in a month, after all.

I know, I know, this probably all sounds so dramatic. But the feeling is real.

And so, I’m not sure how many writers how there read this, but if so, I’d love to know what you do when you’ve reached true writer’s block? Is there an activity or routine that brings light into your mind? I’d love to hear about it!

I know this is a feeling that will pass – I probably just need to take a good walk, or throw myself into an experience that brings out my inner thoughts. It’ll come – but until then, stick with my posts about TV shows, books, and food.

Hey, it’s all part of the journey.

‘Southern Charm’: The Hangover.

Finally, The Scene!

After the way we left last week’s episode, I was really looking forward to last night’s chapter! Naturally, things kick off with Saint’s birthday party, where Kathryn does decide to go. Everyone is pretty happy to see her there, and she actually gets along with Thomas.

However, Patricia still has her sights set on Thomas and Landon getting together. So, she tells Thomas he should go to Landon’s house one evening and take her on a walk – because that is what they did in the days of courtship, and it worked.

So… drumroll… we finally get to see THE SCENE they showed us in episode one! Thomas goes over to Landon’s house – she’s actually in the midst of figuring out her website/magazine naming crisis – and he brings her a rose (to which she merely says, “For future reference, Orchids are my favorite” – ugh), and asks if she would like to take a walk. She does, and so does her little dog, Charlotte.

Even though I don’t like Landon, I will admit, this is pretty cute. Remember, in last week’s episode, when she said all she wanted was for someone to take her and Charlotte on a walk? Well, ask and you shall receive!

So, they walk to a nearby lake, and this is when Thomas says something along the lines of, I know you have a lot at stake, but why not just give it a shot? And then we see what we didn’t see before – Landon admits she DOES have a good time when she’s with him, and at some point, she’s going to have to stop punishing him for Kathryn. And so, they agree and skip off to get a bottle of wine.

Later, Shep stops by Chelsea’s house unannounced, and he really seems to be having a puty party for himself. They have a few beers, and he’s audibly asking her, “What was I thinking, giving you up?” He’s realizing just how chill she is, and that he needs to change his lifestyle and maybe become a one-woman guy.

She’s not buying it, but he tells her he has an appointment with Cam in the morning to make an offer on a beach house. Apparently, his current downtown home is the cause of all the partying… right.

But, in the morning, he never shows for his appointment. He also doesn’t answer any of Cameron’s texts or calls, so she drives over to his house to find his front door unlocked, and his house a complete wreck (think: frathouse the day after a home football game). And there Shep is, fully dressed in khakis and a polo, still asleep at 1:30pm.

He says he’s okay, and that this is the reason he needs to move… but the whole scene is pretty grim. As Craig points out, Shep doesn’t have any accomplishments, no girlfriend… all he has is money.

Yeesshh. Next week looks like another serving of Naomi vs. Craig – not to mention a little bit of a blow up between Shep and Austen. Whoop!

A rare opportunity…

Bad ass choreographer, dancer Nika Kljun!

Each year, some of the best choreographers, dancers, and studio owners get together for a weekend benefit that raises money in hopes of finding a cure for Cystic Fibrosis. The event – Dance to Breathe – is pretty unique, but I probably wouldn’t have known about it had I not been involved with my studio.

Last year when the event came around, I was excited to see what it was all about and see my fellow classmates perform in the final show. It was at that show that, not only did I learn much more about CF, I also realized how lucky I am to be a part of my studio – not to brag, but I’m learning from some of the BEST in this city (if not the country).

As part of this benefit, there is usually a celebrity choreographer that comes to town to teach a master class. Last year, I was scraping by all of my spare dollars and sending them to the IRS, so I couldn’t attend the master class. This year however, I’ve already paid my taxes, so I was anxiously awaiting the reveal of the guest choreographer.

It was none other than Nika Kljun – here’s her resume from her website:

She has worked on major projects such as Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, Ne-yo, Pitbull, T-Pain, One Direction, Cher Lloyd, the Britney Spears tribute on MTV Video Music Awards, Jessica Sanchez, Donna Summer, Kaya Jones, Gina Katon, Matt Pokora, Herb Alpred, Macy’s Glamorama fashion tour, Monsters of hip hop, Billboard Music Awards, Young Hollywood Awards, NRJ music awards, X-Factor USA, UK & France, America’s Got Talent, The Voice, Move Live on Tour and was just recently, for the year of 2015, a part of Justin Bieber’s dancing team.

As a choreographer or assistant she worked on projects such as So You Think You Can Dance in the USA, Ukraine & Portugal, Move Live on Tour with Derek & Julianne Hough, Dancing with the Stars, Kellogg’s summer campaign, Kaya Jones, Lena Katina, Blake McGrath, Victoria Bech and Monsters of Hip Hop show to name a few. You can catch Nika at Tremaine Dance Conventions, Monster of Hip Hop or Monsters A-list conventions around North America. 

…Like… are you kidding me? She’s an insanely talented dancer – and highly trained in traditional forms of dance, which makes her hip hop game solid. I’ll admit, though, that I was a little bit nervous to buy a ticket for her master class. I know that I’m late in my dance game.

I started taking jazz classes in middle school – and that is where my technical training ends. I danced on a competitive dance team for five years – being captain for two of those years. We were scrappy, and I recall very late nights at the studio, or in hallways, recounting and modifying movements to look sharp.

But I took a solid 10+ year break from dance. In that time, my body has changed, and parts of it have taken quite a beating between boxing training for four years, full-time retail and restaurant service work, and generally just getting older.

I know I struggle to pick up choreography quickly (although I am getting better), and I feel heavy on my feet. I have been to auditions and am learning to accept that even if I don’t make it (and I never have), it’s a free opportunity to learn from someone new, and at least try.

Sometimes, even if I can just get 1 8-count in a set of 7, I am really proud of myself, because the difficulty level is so far beyond me. Trying counts for something.

Many of my fellow dancers said they were taking Nika’s class, even if it meant standing in the back. Yeah, I thought, I’m going, too.

“You’ll walk away learning something,” one instructor told me. And he was right.

So, I bought my ticket. I woke up the day before the class with a classic flare-up of my pinched nerve. Because of course! But, I took my normal Saturday class, laid on a heating pad for three hours, popped a pain-killer, and headed downtown to meet Nika.

Right off the bat, I was pleasantly shocked at how nice she was – how much she simply wanted to help us learn and have fun. She taught us a combination from Jennifer Lopez’s tour, which was just cool to see.

I have never, ever tried any of the classic ballroom dancing, and she showed us the cha-cha, and salsa, and simply said, “Now you can watch ‘Dancing With the Stars’ and really know what they are doing!”

It was tough, and I struggled, and I stayed in the back. But, I gave it all I had and I pushed myself. Yes, a lot of people in the class were KILLING it. But many of them were also 16 – ah, to be young and thin and energetic!

Nonetheless, it was a humbling experience, and it makes me respect the hustle for choreographers and dancers. This is a physical industry – there’s no half-assing it if you’re on tour with Justin Bieber.

When the class was over, I was tired and sweaty, and snapped a picture with Nika, giving her a big thanks. I felt twice her size, but it’s whatever. I went home and had a solid night’s sleep – I suppose that’s what happens when you dance your ass off for almost three hours, pretending you’re JLo!

BBC: ‘Born a Crime’.

Hey yoooo! I have been on a waiting list at the library for MONTHS for my latest read. I guess everyone wanted to get their paws on Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood”.

I will admit I wasn’t jumping for joy at first about this book, but I do watch “The Daily Show” religiously, so I was looking forward to learning more about this daily host. Here’s the scoop on the book from Amazon.com:

Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

The stories collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.

…Now I will say, I wouldn’t describe this book as “hilarious”, but it did include some funny stories. Was it gripping and unable to put down? No. But I will also admit I’m not really a fan of short stories.

If you’re interested in South African history, or the tales of Trevor Noah, add this book to your list!

The book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading next is “Head for the Edge, Keep Walking” by Kate Tough.

And I know said I loved three-day weekends, but this four-day week sure did kick my ass! Maybe it was all of the adventures I had last weekend? I feel a whole lotta loungin’ coming on… see you all on Monday!

The power of words(?).

Should we censor ourselves for the sake of others?

A little more than a month ago, I was teaching my blogging class at UT. It was the first class of the semester, and it was going just as planned. After class, I sent the students a copy of the Power Point presentation I used.

Less than an hour later, one of my students replied the message, saying they thought I was great and definitely qualified for the class, but that if my “profanity” was going to continue to be a part of the class experience, then she wanted to withdraw and get a refund.

Immediately, I felt TERRIBLE. Of course I don’t consider profanity to be an integral part of my course. I thought back to my class and tried to remember what I’d said that was so offensive to this student.

I replied to the student apologizing, and said that it was not a part of my course, and I would keep things clean for the remainder of the semester. I thanked her for letting me know, and tried to sleep.

But that was nearly impossible. I couldn’t remember exactly what I’d said in class – was I that big of a piece of trash that I couldn’t remember what cuss words I said just a few hours before?

I spent the next 24 hours really thinking about cuss words, and how they fit into my life. I know it sounds a little silly, but once I started thinking about it, I realized that I’ve been allowed to say whatever I want for most of my life.

I cuss around my friends, parents, coworkers, and have honestly really never had a job that’s said anything to me about the words I choose. And that’s just it – I think words have the meaning we assign to them, and I’ve definitely had people say things to me that were offensive and hurtful but didn’t contain any curse words.

The morning after I replied to the student, she wrote me back and said thank you and that she would see me in the next class. I felt relieved, but I also knew I had to do my best not to say anything bad, and it may sound easy but I’ve really never censored myself.

I tossed the scenario around some of my friends and family, and they thought it was all silly. The class is all adults, and you never know what you’re going to sign up for, and as long as you’re not calling anyone a bitch, then what’s the deal?

Well yes, I agreed, but I also know that cussing can come across as unprofessional, and I didn’t want anyone to complain to UT and have me lose my job because of it. I wondered if I should apologize to the entire class, because if one student felt this way, possibly more did? NO, everyone told me to just keep things clean and move on.

A few days later, I was taking a dance class, when the instructor told us that she considers it her personal policy to not play songs that have cuss words in them during her classes. What?

Don’t get me wrong, I understand where she is coming from, but I also don’t believe in editing art, and not every song has an edited version – so that means there are songs out there that we’ll just NEVER get to dance to, provided we keep taking her class.

I wanted to laugh at how crazy the timing was on this, but I wondered if it wasn’t just another case of the “summer of the shark” – that I was paying more attention to these types of things since The Incident with my student.

The following week, at class, the student I’d been emailing with arrived a few minutes late, and only stayed for about five minutes before leaving for the remainder of class. I still kept it clean, and I actually didn’t cuss at all for the rest of the semester.

The student? She still dropped out after emailing me asking what time class started, and then emailing me the following week to tell me she was dropping out.

The rest of the semester with my remaining students was great. And I get it, everyone is offended by their own things. But I also think it’s important to pick your battles. I know I’m not a very good public speaker, but it’s also not my job to be one. I’m an informal course teacher – which means I’ve never been trained on how to teach, I just have a passion for something that I want to share with others. If I drop a few bombs during it, then sure, I’ll apologize, but I can’t apologize for just being me.