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BBC: ‘The Girl’s Guide to Moving On’.

I “read” the latest book club selection, “A Girl’s Guide to Moving On“, by way of audiobook; and I’ll say that I’m pretty picky about audiobooks – I have to enjoy the voice(s) of the reader(s) and it’s got to keep my interest, and this one is a goodie!

I’d never heard of author Debbie Macomber until I watched the Hallmark television series “Cedar Cove”, which was adapted from her series of books. While the Cedar Cove series is around 12 books in bulk, she’s written dozens of books outside of that! It’s pretty impressive. Here’s what her website says about her:

Debbie Macomber is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and one of today’s most popular writers with more than 200 million copies of her books in print worldwide. In her novels, Macomber brings to life compelling relationships that embrace family and enduring friendships, uplifting her readers with stories of connection and hope. Macomber’s novels have spent over 950 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Ten of these novels hit the number one spot.

A devoted grandmother, Debbie and her husband Wayne live in Port Orchard, Washington (the town in which her Cedar Cove novels are based) and winter in Florida.

I was looking for an audiobook to keep my interest for a road trip, and I’ll admit, I liked the cover of this one, but then I read the back:

When Nichole discovers that her husband, Jake, has been unfaithful, the illusion of her perfect life is indelibly shattered. While juggling her young son, a new job, and volunteer work, Nichole meets Rocco, who is the opposite of Jake in nearly every way. Though blunt-spoken and rough around the edges, Rocco proves to be a dedicated father and thoughtful friend. But just as their relationship begins to blossom, Jake wagers everything on winning Nichole back—including their son Owen’s happiness. Somehow, Nichole must find the courage to defy her fears and follow her heart, with far-reaching consequences for them all.

Leanne has quietly ignored her husband’s cheating for decades, but is jolted into action by the echo of Nichole’s all-too-familiar crisis. While volunteering as a teacher of English as a second language, Leanne meets Nikolai, a charming, talented baker from Ukraine. Resolved to avoid the heartache and complications of romantic entanglements, Leanne nonetheless finds it difficult to resist Nikolai’s effusive overtures—until an unexpected tragedy tests the very fabric of her commitments.

An inspiring novel of friendship, reinvention, and hope, A Girl’s Guide to Moving On affirms the ability of every woman to forge a new path, believe in love, and fearlessly find happiness.

Good, right? And yes, I know it sounds a liiiiitle far fetched – two women, related by marriage, find out their husbands are unfaithful around the same time… but that is the beauty of fiction! I really liked the fact that the story was told by both perspectives – Nichole and Leanne – because they are very different in age and career, so it makes for a well-rounded story.

I don’t want to spoil it and tell you what happens, but you can probably guess… right?

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Sweetbitter” by Stephanie Danler. If you want to read it with us, we’d love to have you! Feel free to send comments via this blog, on social media (Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat) @OrangeJulius7 or email me at Holly@thebitterlemon.com.

I hope you guys have fantastic weekends lined up! I’m heading out tonight to see “The Girl on the Train” – and I am SO looking forward to this one! I’m also spending a good chunk of my weekend as a volunteer for the Austin Film Festival. I’m so excited to be a small part of this huge event, and seeing what it’s all about. I’ll definitely report back on all of my adventures. Cheers!

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Officially addicted: ‘Nurse Jackie’ season 2.

Season two - hells yes.

Season two – hells yes.

It’s official: we have made it to Friday… And, I’m addicted to “Nurse Jackie”.

And how could I not be? At the end of every episode is a cliffhanger! I watched season one in a single day, and season two was no different.

At the end of season one, it’s obvious that Jackie can’t keep on as-is, because her two lives are starting to bleed into one another. But where are things really going to start to crumble?

It seems obvious that at some point, Kevin will find out about the affair, given that Eddie has all but moved in. But at the end of season two (spoiler alert!), Kevin and Dr. Ohara surprise Jackie with an intervention.

A review from Time magazine explains the season in an interesting way: At the outset, the series presented Jackie a dedicated, righteously driven but flawed nurse whose drug use was a reaction to the physical and emotional pressures of her career and home life. Season 2, however, has been dedicated to taking that setup apart, demonstrating how easily that explanation turns into excuse-making and even—as shown by Jackie’s final, sarcastic “Blow me” at the idea of confessing that she’s a drug addict—a kind of monomania. Lix Brixius and Linda Wallem, along with Falco, have done a thorough job of presenting how Jackie uses her pressures as the ultimate answer to any demand that she change, and how—true to form for an addict—she’s mastered the art of combining her lies with enough truth, and even genuine confession, to get by.There are lots of reasons why people probably loved this show – it’s smart, funny, and very different from other medical shows of the past. Why am I loving it? I love the juxtaposition of, well, everything. The music is cheerful and chipper, much like a musical; while Jackie’s actions and body language read stiff and direct.

She’s easy to like despite doing a lot of terrible things; and this is always the type of character that’s most difficult for writers to grip. But Jackie juggles the ultimate balance that all of us face at some point – sure maybe it’s not a percocet addiction or an affair at work, but it’s the angel and devil issue.

Now, I will say I haven’t watched much medical television (I’m much more a crime and mystery fan), but I’m curious about this whole argument among doctors and nurses: are nurses the healers? It’s a theme that’s constantly being brought up in the show, so I’m just curious.

 There is no question that I’ll be watching season three – given that I spent a majority of my Saturday driving around the greater portion of Austin to find a reasonably priced DVD of it (no, I don’t have Netflix, and yes I know it’s cheap). Anyway, I found a copy for $6, so I’ll let you know how that goes.

I also wanted to sincerely apologize for posting this so late – I am currently doctoring up my at-home laptop (which is about 15 years old) and I ran into some serious difficulties when I wanted to post this – I even tried writing it on my phone and posting it from there, but it essentially got deleted, so there’s that.

Don’t worry, next week, the blog will be completely back in full swing will all kinds of goodies! I hope you all have a great weekend and we’ll see you back here on Monday!

Oops: Is ‘bro’ offensive?

U mad, bro?

U mad, bro?

Last week, I wrote two different posts mentioning a podcast I’ve been listening to. And in one of the posts, I referred to the hosts as bros.

This term, “bro” was not taken very well by said hosts, who called me out on Twitter, saying it was a “patently ridiculous” way of describing him.

Wait, is “bro” a complete dis? I definitely never thought of the word as something negative; I thought it was just a way to describe someone as a true guy; a typical dude; you know, a bro. Obviously, I like the podcast, or else I wouldn’t spend hours listening to back episodes in order to catch up.

At first, I kind of thought the host was joking with me, but he kept at it, and it was starting to get a little weird. I said I didn’t mean it as an insult, and I definitely didn’t, but he kept on with the badgering. I stopped replying and started Googling – is “bro” an insult?

From Dictionary.com, bro means, “1. short for brother, 2. Brother (used before a first name when referring in writing to a member of a religious order of men), 3. a male friend (often used as a form of address), and 4. a young man, especially one who socializes primarily with his male peers and enjoys lively, unintellectual pursuits.”

Ok, so definition number 4 isn’t so great, but obviously this guy is smart, or else he wouldn’t have his own business, which runs successfully (or so I understand).

In 2013, NPR did a little study on the term “bro” in light of Ryan Lochte’s popularity (JEAH! I love him!). What they found was that a “bro” could be several combinations of jock, dude, stoner, and prep. See, the complex venn-diagram of broism.

JEAH, a venn diagram on bros!

JEAH, a venn diagram on bros!

On one hand, sure, I hate it when people leave mean comments on my blog (I often don’t approve them), or misunderstand what I’m trying to say. As a creative, it’s frustrating, and it’s easy to pop-off via social media and set someone straight.

But on the other hand, it looks bad. All press is good press, right? So maybe I used the wrong word, but he still got two free shout outs for his podcast – again, a podcast I really like. If his business is teaching other men how to succeed at life, is that something he would recommend his clients do, hound people on Twitter?

Doubt it.

So, I didn’t mean to call him a bro in a bad way. But perhaps the truth hurt? Who knows. And I’m sure this blog post won’t clear the air any further.

To me, a word is what you make it; it’s the meaning put behind it. And most of the time, I’m lighthearted. In the end, I still think the podcast is worth listening to; but I learned my lesson about mentioning it.

Podcasts: Serial.

BEST. PODCAST. EVER.

BEST. PODCAST. EVER.

So, around a month ago I realized two things: 1. I am not really cut out for an “open office” environment. I get really, really distracted, and the sound of other people typing ignites a rage inside my blood that I cannot explain or deal with.

And 2., In order to block out all the noise (I’m the Grinch: the noise, noise noise!), I decided to stuff earbuds into my head from the moment I get to work until the moment I leave. This means I need 9 hours of things to listen to each day – 45 hours of listening content each week.

I looked into an Audible account, but it was ridiculously expensive. So, I asked YOU guys for cool podcasts I could listen to. And you delivered! Currently, here’s my list:

  • Johnjay & Rich
  • The Jillian Michael’s Show
  • What Should I Read Next?
  • Modern Love
  • Mystery Show (finished)
  • Breakdown
  • The Blog Millionaire (finished)
  • The Agents of Change
  • The Daily Boost
  • Content Warfare
  • On The Page: Screenwriting
  • Curious About Screenwriting
  • Oh Boy!
  • Monocycle
  • Serial (finished)

Obsessed much? I’ll talk more about some of these other podcasts one day, but I really wanted to talk about Serial, because I finished listening to both seasons last week, and my days are pretty empty without it.

So what the heck is Serial? From the website: Serial is a podcast from the creators of This American Life, hosted by Sarah Koenig. Serial tells one story—a true story—over the course of a season. Each season, we follow a plot and characters wherever they take us. We won’t know what happens at the end until we get there, not long before you get there with us. Each week we bring you the next chapter in the story, so it’s important to listen to the episodes in order.

Currently, there are two seasons. Don’t worry, I’ll warn you if I drop any spoilers.

Season One: The Case Against Adnan Syed

Adnan Syed

Adnan Syed

Here’s what Serial’s website says about season one:

A high-school senior named Hae Min Lee disappeared one day after school in 1999, in Baltimore County, Maryland. A month later, her body was found in a city park. She’d been strangled. Her 17-year-old ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was arrested for the crime, and within a year, he was sentenced to life in prison. The case against him was largely based on the story of one witness, Adnan’s friend Jay, who testified that he helped Adnan bury Hae’s body. But Adnan has always maintained he had nothing to do with Hae’s death. Some people believe he’s telling the truth. Many others don’t.

Sarah Koenig sorted through thousands of documents, listened to trial testimony and police interrogations, and talked to everyone she could find who remembered what happened between Adnan Syed and Hae Min Lee. She discovered that the trial covered up a far more complicated story than the jury – or the public – ever got to hear. The high school scene, the shifting statements to police, the prejudices, the sketchy alibis, the scant forensic evidence — all of it leads back to the most basic questions: How can you know a person’s character? How can you tell what they’re capable of? In Season One of Serial, she looks for answers.

This case is interesting for several reasons, but for me, one of them is the length of time that’s passed. I cannot remember shit, so if I were being asked now about what happened in high school on one certain day, there’s no way I’d be able to recall.

Also, the “evidence” in the case is super shady. Three words here: Cell Phone Data. It was 1999. You do the math. Anyway, that’s all I’m going to say. If you’ve listened to season one already and are hungry for an update, I found one here.

Season Two: The Case Against Bowe Bergdahl

Bowe Bergdahl

Bowe Bergdahl

This is my first time really seeing what Bergdahl looks like. He’s cute, no? If you pay attention to war news, the chances are likely you’ve heard of Prisoner of War, US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. It was very high-profile, even pre-Serial. Here’s what the Serial website says about season two:

In May 2014, a U.S. Special Operations team in a Black Hawk helicopter landed in the hills of Afghanistan. Waiting for them were more than a dozen Taliban fighters and a tall American, who looked pale and out of sorts: Bowe Bergdahl. Bergdahl, a U.S. soldier, had been a prisoner of the Taliban for nearly five years, and now he was going home.

President Obama announced Bergdahl’s return in the Rose Garden, with the soldier’s parents at his side. Bergdahl’s hometown of Hailey, Idaho, planned a big celebration to welcome him back. But then, within days—within hours of his rescue, in fact—public reaction to his return flipped. People started saying Bergdahl shouldn’t be celebrated. Some of the soldiers from his unit called him a deserter, a traitor. They said he had deliberately walked off their small outpost in eastern Afghanistan and into hostile territory. 

Hailey canceled its celebration. The army launched an investigation. Finally, in March, the military charged Bergdahl with two crimes, one of which carries the possibility of a life sentence. Through all of this, Bergdahl has been quiet. He hasn’t spoken to the press or done any interviews on TV. He’s been like a ghost at the center of a raucous fight.

Now, in Season Two, we get to hear what he has to say.

For this season, Sarah Koenig teams up with filmmaker Mark Boal and Page 1 to find out why one idiosyncratic guy decided to walk away, into Afghanistan, and how the consequences of that decision have spun out wider and wider. It’s a story that has played out in unexpected ways from the start. And it’s a story that’s still going on.

Nightly News Update from March 2015 (no spoilers here):

Lots of people found season two to be boring, but I found it FASCINATING, to say the least. I will admit, because of my politics, I do not listen to as much war-related news as I did years ago. But, hearing a lot of this information firsthand was very, very eye-opening.

I found a recent update on Bowe’s case from January 2016, if you’re game.

So, will there be a season 3 of Serial? YES. Recently, season 3 was announced and is set to drop this spring. Details? Serial’s host, Sarah, has revealed the season 3 topic here.

And that’s a wrap, y’all! It’s Friday, and I hope you have a fantastical weekend that goes by nice and slow. I’ll see you right back here, on Monday!

The sadness of the ‘Scope.

I just joined Periscope - let's party!

I just joined Periscope – let’s party!

Early last week, I randomly decided to join Periscope – the live video social media platform. I didn’t have much of a reason for joining other than I wanted to see what it was all about.

I’ve heard of people (mostly celebrities or well-known personalities) using the ‘scope for an interview-like setting. Why? Well, because there is a chat feature on the live video feed. So, you can not only see a live video of someone that’s across the globe, but you can also chat with them.

So, I signed up using my Twitter handle (@OrangeJulius7) – by the way, Periscope is owned by Twitter. I browsed for a bit: you can literally look at a map of the world and click on live videos that are happening. Sometimes, it’s a single person sitting there talking, and other times it’s a stream of a huge event, such as the Trump rally (which I watched for about 30 seconds).

You can ask the person questions, or chat with other users watching. You can also tap the screen if you like what you see and a little colored heart will appear on the screen, which is also visible to the videographer.

What’s cool about Periscope? It’s live and there are no filters, and there aren’t ads (yet). This is as authentic as it gets when we’re talking social media. I definitely foresee this as the future of the podcast – or perhaps I’m just thinking of The Bitter Lemon! I would love to hold a 20-minute chat about something and have the opportunity to answer live questions and chat with my readers. I’m in if you’re in!

But, there’s always a sad side when it comes to social media, right? When you really get down to it, we all just want to be liked. We post the pretty stuff on Instagram, funny crap on SnapChat, air our dirty laundry on Facebook, and talk shit on Twitter. We just want to fit in and be social, all while not moving and staring into the tiny screen before us, right?

In that aspect, Periscope is no different. Late last Thursday night, I was laying on my couch (three glasses of wine in my stomach) and I decided to log onto Periscope. I fumbled upon a live feed of a gentleman who’d just gotten home from going out. It was his birthday and he clearly was drunk – expectedly so.

He was singing himself “Happy Birthday” and was attempting to hold his phone with one hand and open a plastic container with the other. The container was from a grocery store bakery, and it had two slices of cheesecake in it. Once he got the container open, he proceeded to eat the cheesecake with his hand. No silverware.

“Y’all, it’s my birthday and I’m by myself!” he was nearly laughing at the situation.

“Take a shot!” I chatted to him. He gazed at the near-empty bottle of Patron Silver beside him, and without hesitation, poured himself a shot, which he downed shortly after.

It was a short, sad snippet of how social media is feeding us and starving us all at once. And in one full swoop, it makes me wonder what depths we’ll travel – what will we find ourselves watching next, just to get a thread of connection?

I don’t say this to sound pompous – I’m on all the social networks, and frankly, there’s something appealing about Periscope. Maybe it is the rawness of it. I’m going to stick around on it and just see what the whole thing is about, and don’t be surprised if I host some rants chats on there soon.

DGAS.

DGAS.

Speaking of rants chats, I’ve been thinking a lot about backhanded apologies lately.

Truthfully, someone sent me one via text a few weeks ago, and it’s just been laying eggs under my skin, pissing me off ever since.

Why do people DO that shit? I’ve honestly never understood why some people find it so difficult to offer a sincere apology for something they did.

Is it really that big of a deal, or do they just believe that nothing they did warrants a real apology?

So, let’s look at some backhanded apologies, just for fun:

  • I’m sorry you feel that way.
  • I’m sorry if my actions affected you.
  • I’m sorry you weren’t listening to hear what I said.
  • I’m sorry I look good.
  • I’m sorry you don’t know how to drive.

It’s a simple way of turning the blame from the guilty person onto the innocent, and it’s worded in a way that can sometimes sound sincere, until you really think about it.

Here’s the fact of the matter: if there is a situation, a relationship, a friendship, a future, that is hinging on an apology, it better damn well be a sincere one.

Just say, “I’m sorry.” I’m sorry I hurt you, I’m sorry things happened this way, I’m sorry for treating you like shit.

It’s like dealing with an addition: the first step is admitting the problem. I’m not saying apologize for everything or anything; that gets old and annoying. But, just apologize, sincerely.

And I’ll leave you with that, my friends! It’s been another fantastic week over here; I’ve got a weekend PACKED full of fun stuff and I’ll be right back here on Monday to share it with you! Until then, catch me online @OrangeJulius7

Prada’s Candy & the ‘Fuller House’ drinking game!

A sweet-smelling perfume by Prada.

A sweet-smelling perfume by Prada.

It’s FRI-DAAAAAY! If you’ve been here all week, I really hope you’ve enjoyed the blog’s fun little twist. I really had a blast writing these posts and I’m so excited for all of the fun, HONEST content that’s coming your way.

But enough business talk, and let’s get to the real shit: it’s the freakin’ weekend and this one is a biggie! I’m performing for the first time (in a really long time) with my dance studio for their semi-annual “Love Hangover” showcase.

I am performing at The North Door in downtown Austin, at 8pm. It’s 18+, and there’ll be drinks and yummy food, so come out! It’ll really be a blast. I’ve been practicing now for 6 weeks, and I’m ready to shake it!

And then there’s the long-awaited Netflix release of Fuller House, which happened today! But more on this later. Let me get to the Fresh Friday scent profile of the week: Candy by Prada. As described by Sephora:

Prada CANDY is instantly seductive—pure pleasure wrapped in impulsive charm. In an explosion of shocking pink and gold, Prada CANDY takes us on a walk on the wild side, showing us a new facet of Prada femininity where more is more and excess is everything. Magnified by white musks, noble benzoin comes together with a modern caramel accord to give the fragrance a truly unique signature. 

Notes: Caramel, Musk, Vanilla, Benzoin. 
Style: Carefree. Sophisticated. Sensual.

This scent really does smell sweet, in a good way. It’s unique and I’ve really enjoyed wearing it for the past week. It’s in the running to be my favorite, but we’ll see… I honestly just keep thinking about Mandy Moore when I wear it.

…But why is she like, so pissed off in her room? And that Sony discman… but speaking of the 90’s: Full House! Full House ran from 1987-1995 and was the totally un-realistic sitcom about a widower and his three daughters, and he gets help from his friends and family, who somehow all live under the same roof.

So, Netflix announced a few months ago they were going to air “Fuller House”, the story of one of the daughters from Full House, DJ, now a widow, and she moves back to the old house and gets help from her family and friends to raise her three kids. Aw, how sweeeeeet.

Most of the original cast is back, including Uncle Jesse, Aunt Becky, and even Kimmie Gibbler. Michelle is missing, but the preview proved that she’s not forgotten.

It looks decent, right? Well, let’s amp things up a bit with a DRINKING GAME!

fullhouserow

Drink every time:

  • There’s a Full-House-ism including, but not limited to: Cut it Out, Tanneritos, Have Mercy, How Rude, You Got it Dude, etc.
  • Someone learns a lesson/hugs it out
  • Jodi Sweetin, “Stephanie” looks old
  • Someone alludes to “Michelle”
  • Nikki & Alex look cute (sorry, had to)
  • Steve steals food
  • You find yourself singing the remixed theme song

I FULLY expect to get snaps @OrangeJulius7 from you all while this is happening! Other than that, y’all have a great weekend!

Fresh Friday: Sud Magnolia.

Pretty bottle, beautiful scent.

Pretty bottle, beautiful scent.

This week, it occurred to me that I’m only a few weeks away from having lived in Austin for six months! Can you believe it? It has really flown by. But, I can say that I am finally starting to feel like things are falling into place.

I’m learning my way around, finding my groove, and meeting some cool people. My job is still challenging, but I’m getting there, and I’m learning things every day, which is exactly what I wished for. I am excited to see what the next six months have in store.

So, what does the next six months have in store for this blog, and YOU, my dear readers? Well, lots of fun, awesome, new things! I’m starting work on my second online course. Haven’t heard of the first one? Well, in December, I published a complete online course for Beginning Bloggers (details & discount code here), and it’s been a decent success.

I want to keep building courses to support bloggers, online business owners, and fellow social medialites. So, be on the lookout for course #2 in the next few months, which will be focused on blogging best practices.

I also have a goal to write and publish another book – whew, big goal! But, it’s been done before (check out all three of my books here), and I’ve got so much info swirling in my brain for this next one. Don’t worry, I’ll keep you posted.

And of course, I’ve got all sorts of awesome advice to offer you, adventures to share (there will be some good traveling this year), and as always, stories of love, loss, and finding my way as a Singleton at 30… soon-to-be 31 year old.

I’ve been toying with the idea of offering a monthly newsletter for you guys (by subscription), which would have the same type of content you see on the blog, but exclusive to the newsletter, and probably more secretive, given that I know my boss or guy-of-interest wouldn’t be reading it. It would also contain exclusive deals and offers. That’s a big possibility – if you’ve got ideas or dreams about it, just let me know! I aim to please, folks.

But today, I’m here to offer you a new scent profile, because I’ve been spritzing on Sud Magnolia by Atelier Cologne aallll week! From Sephora.com:

A completely unexpected experience inspired by ingredients from regions where water and sky become one, Sud Magnolia is a floral and fresh fragrance with notes of magnolia from Louisiana, bitter orange from Seville, and atlas cedarwood from Morocco. The sharp tang of citrus blooms into a grand floral celebration. The woody drydown is reminiscent of antebellum elegance and nights of warm abandon.

This warm floral fragrance is exclusive to Sephora. It provides the freshness and elegance of a cologne, but is designed to provide lasting fragrance on the skin.

Notes: Bitter Sevillian Orange, Pomelo from Florida, Blackcurrant, Magnolia from Louisiana, Bulgarian Rose Absolue, Indian Saffron Flower, Atlas Cedarwood from Morocco, Sandalwood, Musk.

Style: Sophisticated. Refined. Romantic.

See? A perfect scent for my Louisiana ladies! It combines the sweet scent of magnolia with warm cedarwood, and the freshness of citrus. Kind of makes you hungry, right? I felt like every time I sprayed it on I could pick up different “angles” of the scent – and that’s why I’m really considering this to be my new favorite scent. It’s so unique!

I’m so ready for the weekend, per usual, and I’m excited to kick off a week-full of fun blogs right before the holiday we’re all dreading (or is it just me?). Don’t worry, it’s all fun and games at TBL. Until Monday, y’all be well.

Fresh Friday: My Burberry.

Who doesn't love an add with Cara Delevingne in it?

Who doesn’t love an add with Cara Delevingne in it?

It’s FRIDAY! I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather this week, so it’s been a struggle to keep up with work, dance, and well, all the other writing shenanigans I’ve got up my sleeve, but I freaking made it!

Monday night was the first OFFICIAL dance practice for my performance at the end of next month, and our group (the Video Vixens) were informed that we’re dancing to two songs, and one of the songs is a remix of Ludacris’ “Get Low”. Umm, YAS!

Despite feeling like absolute shit, I banged out a pretty good practice and am looking forward to learning another section of the dance next week. This week, I also discovered FM is replaying episodes of Dexter, so why not re-watch them all? Nothing cheers a girl up like seeing her favorite serial killer analyze blood spatter.

I cooked (and ate) all of my meals from Green Chef this week, and I’m looking forward to today’s delivery, which includes ingredients for Greek flatbread. Green Chef clearly knows the way to my heart!

And of course, there’s today’s scent profile: My Burberry! I’ve been wearing it all week; frankly, it’s my favorite kind of research, and I absolutely LOVE this one!

According to Sephora.com:

Inspired by the trench coat and its heritage of British design and craftsmanship, My Burberry captures the fragrance of a London garden after the rain. The scent is a contemporary British grand floral and features a delicate heart of rose woven with an unexpected touch of geranium leaf.

Notes: Sweet Pea, Bergamot, Geranium, Golden Quince, Freesia, Patchouli, Rain-Tipped Damask and Centifolia Roses.
Style: Effortless. Personal. Timeless.

Notice the mix of the masculine (Patchouli and Bergamot) with feminine (Freesia and Roses) – this is my favorite kind of mix, especially when it comes to fashion and style. Leave it to Burberry!

What’s everyone up to this weekend? I’m hoping to get well, while continuing my adventures at the Laundromat. I will probably go on a food truck adventure, and I’m definitely planning on crafting some of my famous homemade Valentine’s Day cards – if you want me to mail you one, PLEASE send me your address to holly@thebitterlemon.com – I already have a decent list going, but I would love to add you to it! Catch all the crafting on my SnapChat @OrangeJulius7 – see you there!

Fresh Friday: Tory Burch.

All the pretties...

All the pretties…

I am SO, SO happy today is Friday! This week at the office was a doozy, and I’d be lying if I haven’t been emotionally drained sorting out my own emotions simultaneously – you ever have weeks like that? I’m really looking forward to a weekend on the couch, only emerging for trips to the nearest food truck.

For Christmas, one of my best friends got me the Sephora Liquid Luxuries Perfume Sampler… it’s a gift she usually gets me, and it’s one I really look forward to every year. Not only do you get to sample 15 wonderful perfumes, it comes with a coupon to get the full size bottle for the perfume of your choice (provided it’s one of the samples).

I take this very, very seriously. I spend almost all year sampling the perfumes and deciding which one is going to be the right choice for the full size bottle – I just picked out my full size perfume from last Christmas, in September! It’s such a great gift and I want it to be perfect! So, yes, I’ve got a slew of new perfumes to present to you.

Starting with… Tory Burch!

According to the Tory Burch website:

The first fragrance from Tory Burch captures classic elements in unexpected ways. Feminine and tomboy. Easy and polished. Floral peony and tuberose blend with crisp citrus notes of grapefruit and neroli — anchored by earthy vetiver. A bright and complex mix in a super-chic glass bottle with a signature fretwork top.

Notes: Neroli, Grapefruit, Cassis, Bergamot, Peony, Tuberose, Jasmine Sambac, Vetiver, Sandalwood

I do like how complex this perfume is, with the combination of floral and wood. I like it a lot. The only thing I’d say is that I haven’t noticed this lasting all day. It’s not a deal breaker for me, because sometimes I like to mix it up if I’m switching from day to evening. But I know that’s a big deal for lots of people.

Maybe if you did the body wash, body lotion, AND the perfume, you’d be smelling of Tory Burch all day long… I’ve always wanted to have a whole set like that, but I just don’t have it together enough yet (#goals).

I hope you guys have a fantastic weekend – follow me on SnapChat (OrangeJulius7) to join me on my couch, and I’ll see you back here next week with posts on homemade dog treats, how you stack up according to the number of sex partners you’ve had, and organic facial products, among other genius gems. Bye y’all!

Fresh Friday: Not A Perfume.

Pretty bottle!

Pretty bottle!

Y’all… it’s FRIDAY!! The exciting thing about THIS Friday is that for most of us, next week is a short week, then we get a looooong weekend. I cannot really explain how happy this makes me.

I’ve felt so stressed this week; stressed over things that are out of my control (isn’t that the worst), and I finally just gave up, pushed the thoughts to the back of my mind as best I could… and bought a pumpkin pie and ate half of it for dinner. No, seriously. Because why not?

I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving SO much, but I’ve got lots to accomplish before Turkey Day arrives — I know many of you are in the same boat.

Today, I’ve got another new perfume for you, but it’s called “Not A Perfume” and it’s made by Juliet Has A Gun. Unique name, huh? It came in my November Birchbox, and at first, I was a little confused by the name.

But, I’ve been wearing it these last few days. According it its description, it’s made out of a single element called Cetalox, which is usually a scent that’s featured in the background of perfumes. It’s completely allergen free and has no other ingredients.

So, what’s Cetalox? To be honest, I couldn’t find a lot of information on WHAT cetalox is, but it’s said to have an amber scent, kind of woody. Which… I love!

I’ll be traveling to see my CASA boys this weekend (and sneaking in a hair appointment from my favorite stylist), so I’ll find some fun things to post on SnapChat (@OrangeJulius7).

Next week, I’ll be posting a few things about Thanksgiving and the holiday season, but I’m taking Thursday and Friday off from blogging. I’ll be entertaining my guest, and I doubt many of you will be on the computer.

Meanwhile, I am still working hard on creating my blog class! It’s taking a little longer than I expected, but only because I’m packing so many learning materials in one class. So far, there are 10 lectures, presentations, video lectures, and quizzes. I promise I’ll keep you posted (and keep your eyes peeled for an exclusive coupon)!

Alright y’all, I’m off to work — have a great weekend!

Fiction Friday: ‘Black & Blue’, Part VI.

Finally, it's game time!

Finally, it’s game time!

The following is an original piece, written by Holly A. Phillips in 2007. It’s a story based on her favorite hockey player, Sean Avery. Read previous sections of this story here, here, here, here, and here (okay, so it’s kind of long). 

Walking usually cleared my mind, but it was still buzzing when I reached the stadium. The lines into the building were the longest I’d seen. It was going to be loud in there. The locker room was noisier than usual, too.

“Black, bro, this is it,” 32 said. “Beat that ass.”

“Planning on it,” I said.

“Dude, you hook up with that chick finally?” 45 asked.

“Oh, c’mon man,” I said. “No, and if I did, now isn’t the time to bring it up.”

“So you did then?” he asked. “I saw some new bitches in your 94 tickets, what’s that about?”

“Seriously man, it’s a big game,” I said. “Pull it together.”

I needed to make my own advice. I couldn’t tell if it was because Kate was coming again or because of the Kings. The stadium was packed. I hadn’t played for a crowd this size in a long time. When I took my place on the ice, front left, the Kings paired me with a new player. Figured.

“Bring it on, Fucker,” he hissed.

I kept my mouth shut. I was the night’s target, as usual. I didn’t need to say anything. Whoever the motherfucker was, he’s been warned about me all week. He could see the bruises on my neck and the leftover black eye on my face. It was going to be a long game. We got the puck first and were gaining on the Kings from the start. One of our rookies roughed up their wingman, sending them both into the box. The Kings always went straight up the middle, so I tried to keep the puck to the side. It was working.

I got my first penalty in the top of the second period. It was minor — persisting in an altercation — but it still cost me two minutes. It was obvious the Kings had been told not to fight with me. Anything I tried to stir up, they ignored. In the box, I studied the game. It was 4-3, Kings. My lip was bleeding. I was waiting for the Kings’ goalie to pull a low blow — he’d done it before. He’d pull his mask off in the middle of the play to start the whole thing over. But we had one more period to tie it up and then win it overtime. I couldn’t get worried now.

My teammates were able to sneak a play behind them and score while I was in the box. We were tied 4-4. I spent the rest of the second period actually playing; moving the puck — but we didn’t score. At half time, I looked for Kate again, but didn’t see her. I knew she had to be there though; we were on good terms this time. In the locker room, coach warned me about penalties in the third period. He said they were probably going to gang up on me, since they hadn’t done much in the first half. He was right.

We lined up before the puck dropped and the banter began.

“Black, you still a badass? Let’s fight,” 24 said. I gritted my mouth guard.

We got the puck after the drop and tried to pass it to the goal from the side. But 12 was blocked — tripped by a stick. But now we had the advantage: Power Play. Only four of their players were on the ice.

“Why don’t you get yourself in the box, Black?” 35 said. I didn’t look at him. I was waiting by their goal, hoping to slap it in at any moment.

“Well, well, look who’s being a badass now,” he said. “Did mommy tell you to ignore the bad boys?”

Damn. These motherfuckers wouldn’t let up. I wanted to swing at him; knock him out like I usually would. But there wasn’t much time left in the period. If we scored, we’d win without having to go into OT.

Two more minutes. I skated to the middle of the rink and found myself back in front of 24.

“Fucker, you’re back?” he said. “Back for more 24…”

“More of what?” I said. “You haven’t done anything. Pussy.”

He did nothing.

I looked behind me to see 12 with the puck again. He was crossing the blue line and there was a clear shot to the goal if he passed it to me. He saw I was open, made the pass, and I skated forward to the goal. The Kings’ goalie wobbled back and forth, ready to block. I went to the side and brought my stick back, ready to shoot. But as I slapped the puck forward, I fell. Someone had pushed me. When I hit the ice, my chin caught me; I big my tongue. I heard the sirens. Goal. I opened my eyes and looked at the clock. 10 seconds. Game over, we won.

We skated past the Kings, and shook their hands, all mumbling the same thing: “Good game.” It wasn’t the way I’d pictured seeing those guys again after skating with them for nearly eight years. But it was work; people got traded and then had to compete against each other. We’d play them again and maybe they’d win. Yeah, right.

I hurried through my locker room routine and went outside to see if Kate was waiting. I searched for her, careful not to talk to anyone else. I had learned my lesson. Through all of the jerseys and foam fingers, I saw her. She was standing in her heels that made her average height, and her hair was down and thick. She was wearing a Rangers’ button.

“Hey there,” I said.

“Hey, congrats,” she said as she hugged me. She smelled good.

“Nice button,” I said. She laughed.

“I’m conforming to the masses.”

“Don’t change too much,” I told her. “I like you like this.”

“You alright?” she asked. “That last fall looked pretty painful.”

“I think I’ll be fine.”

“What now?” she asked.

Home,” I said. “You coming with me?”

“Sure,” she said. “You walking?”

“Of course,” I said. The reporters were just leaving the ice and making their way toward me. “Hurry.”

I took her hand and we walked out of the Garden fast, quick enough to escape the mob. I wasn’t going to deal with it this time. When we got back to the apartment, Kate came inside. We sat on the couch under the Chanel painting. She’d insisted I put ice on my chin; I did it just to appease her. I was drifting in and out of sleep. Soon, my sheets stopped smelling like peppermint. Instead, they smelled like Kate — and I hoped they would for awhile.

 

Fiction Friday: ‘Black & Blue’, Part V.

Somewhere, there's a naked hockey player roaming the Earth.

Somewhere, there’s a naked hockey player roaming the Earth.

The following is an original piece, written by Holly A. Phillips in 2007. It’s a story based on her favorite hockey player, Sean Avery. Read previous sections of this story here, here, here, and here (okay, so it’s kind of long). 

“You can sit down,” she said.

I took her word and sat on the couch.

“Did you have fun at the game last night?” I asked.

“Um…it was okay,” she said.

Lie.

“Well, I met your friend Amanda. She seemed to have a good time.”

Yeah,” she said. She was eyeing an outfit.

“Kate, ok,” I said. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” she said.

Another lie.

“No, seriously,” I said. “I know you’re upset. Come here.”

“Well, if you already know I’m upset, why are you asking?”

“Just come here,” I said. “Please.”

She put the camera down and sat on the other end of the couch, so she wouldn’t touch me.

“Tell me what’s up,” I said.

“I am mad at myself for being mad about it because it’s stupid,” she said. “But it just seemed wrong that you invited me to the game when it’s not really my thing. So I went and I saw all these other girls you obviously invited and I just wondered how many of those cheesecakes do you eat on a weekly basis?”

I tried to keep myself from laughing. She looked gorgeous even when she was mad. She held her hands together and sat them in her lap.

“Kate, it isn’t stupid,” I said. “She comes to all the games. I went out there looking for you.”

She was hesitant.

“I know we haven’t really talked much,” she said. “But I was excited to see you more and then I saw her and…she isn’t me and none of those girls are…”

“Don’t think about them,” I said. “Really, is isn’t like that.”

“It just took a lot for me to go there,” she said. “I don’t chase after guys.”

“So I’ve noticed,” I said. She finally smiled. “You okay?”

She nodded.

“Good,” I said. “Well, I can let you get back to work.”

“You don’t want to stay?” she asked.

Friday came and I was relieved. Practices had been running over the last few days in order to prep for the game. The Kings had us beat in the rankings; coach kept telling us over and over. It was going to be a tough game. I could easily pick apart my teammates, since I knew them. But I needed to actually be on the ice for this one. I was going to have to squeeze in a few jabs past the ref and see if I could stay in the game. Coach pulled me aside after practice. He dropped the Times’ sports section on his desk in front of me. “Black vs. Kings: The Most Anticipated Fight of the Season.”

“Nice article,” he said. “The game is sold out.”

“Oh yea?” I asked. “I hadn’t seen this yet.”

“What do you think? You’ve never played against any of those boys before.”

“Well no, but I played with them for seven seasons,” I know their moves.”

“Good,” he said. “We could use it. The new guys are nervous. Don’t get your ass in the box the entire first period.”

I nodded.

“Let the others get the penalties. Use your head. Play what you know they’ll play.”

“Got it,” I said. “Thanks.”

“Should be a good one.”

When I got back to my apartment, there was a newspaper in front of my door. A section of the story was circled with red pen. It read:

Black is quiet on the subject of women. Despite the obvious female crowd he draws in Madison Square, he said it’s just part of the game.

“As with most professional sports, there are women around,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean there’s one by my bed every night.”

Black puts women in a category with his Kings’ days, as part of his early hockey career.

“I’m not saying it wasn’t flattering,” he said. It is. What man wouldn’t want it? It’s just not as extreme as it seems. I’d like to think I could get laid without my hockey record.”

Thanks, Ed. Written below the article was, “Nice! Good Luck tonight. —K” I’d given her another set of tickets along with a promise not to fuck it up again. I was making progress. I sat on the couch and hoped to fall asleep until game time. But I had no such luck; my mind was racing. I couldn’t get too many penalties that night. I knew it was going to happen; it was a habit for me when I got on the ice.

Hours later, I put on my suit and began the walk to Madison Square.

Next Friday, I’ll post the FINAL installment of “Black & Blue” — When Wade finally meets his match against the Kings. In the meantime, help me shop for a Halloween costume on SnapChat @OrangeJulius7

Fiction Friday: ‘Black & Blue’, part III.

Will Kate finally fall for him?

Will Kate finally fall for him?

The following is an original piece of fiction written by Holly A. Phillips in 2007. The story was inspired by her favorite hockey player, Sean Avery. Catch up by reading part one and part two

We practiced in a smaller rink right outside the city. Practice began at nine and after warm-ups, drills, and weights; I was out by one and ready for food. I headed back to the apartment after I picked up lunch. I did my usual drill as I walked by Kate’s door, but I didn’t see or hear anything resembling life inside. I hung the Chanel piece over my couch and stepped back to admire it. I was still mouthing Kate’s last words, “I’ll…think…about…it.” Obviously a “no” since I’d just finished hanging the thought in question. She presented a challenge.

I didn’t think she’d ever been to a hockey game. A puck fuck would wait outside the locker room like it was a Barney’s sale. She said she’d seen the game on TV… but only because her friend was over. I doubted she was impressed with my 98 fights or whatever Sports Center said it was. She couldn’t possibly think I was abusive, could she? My curent approach wasn’t working.

That night, I showed up at Kate’s door with a cheesecake I’d gotten a few blocks over. She gave me a weird once-over when she opened the door.

“Well hello again,” she said.

“Hi there,” I replied. “I brought you something.”

“Oh no, Fed Ex really has us mixed up. Great,”she said.

“Well, no. I brought… it’s from me,” I said, pointing at the white box. I handed it to her. “Here.”

She opened its lid slowly. “An entire cheesecake?” she asked.

“I was thinking we could share it,” I said. “You know, eat some of it together.”

She laughed. “Alright. Now?”

“Sure, if you’d like,” I said.

She opened the door wider, inviting me inside. Her apartment was bright and colorful. There were clothes everywhere, but they were neatly stacked and it looked like they were organized somehow.

“Yeah, I bring my work home,” she said. “I know it looks overwhelming.”

“No, don’t worry about it,” I said. “It’s kind of cool.”

I followed her through the entry that opened up into a wide space, a living room shared with a giant dining table under an old chandelier. She put the box down and moved into the kitchen. She was quiet.

“I didn’t mean to impose on you,” I said. “I can just leave this here for you.”

“No, really, it’s fine,” she said, digging for forks.

“You sure?” I asked. “I just wanted to thank you for keeping my painting.”

“It was no problem,” she said. “Would you like something to drink?”

“Absolutely. Wine, if you’ve got it, please,” I said.

She walked back to the table carrying a bottle of sauvingnon blanc and two glasses. Relief. She was tiny; but her blond hair was rich and full looking. She had tan skin and short, dark nails like they were painted with tar.

“So what do you do all day?” I asked. “I know you told me you were a stylist, but…”

“Well, I work at YM, which is almost a very young Cosmo-type of magazine, you know?” she looked up from pouring the wine. “Anyway, I pick and style the clothes before they take pictures for the fashion spreads.”

“That’s cool,” I said. “Is it the same thing every day or what?”

“Well, it depends on what week we’re in as far as deadlines. I travel to different sets around the city and sometimes I’ll go to events or parties for the magazine. It’s alright.”

“That sounds neat,” I said. She smiled and sat down, pushing a plate toward me.

“So…hockey?” she asked.

I laughed. I hated talking about work. Then I hated myself for asking her about being a stylist. Shit.

“Yes, I play hockey,” I said. “What about it?”

“Well how’d that start?” she asked.

“I played when I was younger and through high school. I went to UCLA, kept playing, and got signed with the Kings when I was 26. I just got traded and moved to New York in September.”

“How do you like it here?” she asked. She took a tiny bite.

I shrugged. “It’s what I thought it would be. I love playing in Madison Square; really neat place. You ever been to a game in there?”

She shook her head. “I’ve been to some concerts there, but no sports.”

“Aw, that’s too bad,” I said. You should think about it. You might have a good time.”

“Maybe. I don’t know if I’d fit in with those wild fans over there,” she said.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

She shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ll think about it.”

*    *   *

I left ttwo tickets with Kate for my next home game. She acted excited when I gave them to her, but I couldn’t tell if it was real. I told her she should bring her friend and I hoped to see her there. For the first time in Madison Square, I was nervous. If Kate hadn’t already heard about my penalty box habit, she was about to see it for herself. After the progress I made with the cheesecake, I wasn’t sure how it would go over for her. I didn’t know if she would even show.

I looked for her after my first few spats on the ice that landed myself in the box, like always. Her tickets were for section 94; right behind the goal. They were the best seats in the house — better than the ones for the p-fucks. I didn’t see her, but I hoped she was watching. After the game, I showered quickly. Maybe she’d be waiting outside the locker room. I hurried to the doorway.

Read part IV of “Black & Blue” right here, next Friday, October 16. In the meantime, catch up with me on SnapChat, Instagram, and Twitter @OrangeJulius7

Fiction Friday: Valerie, part II.

Impressive record collection.

Impressive record collection.

The following is an original piece, written by Holly A. Phillips in 2007. The characters and storyline is based off the song “Valerie,” sung by the great Amy Winehouse. Read part one here

   *     *     *

Kyle laughed. “Damn. It makes me want to address the crowd back at Killian’s. Remember that song we used to sing?”

“Valerie?” Mark asked. “Yeah… ‘stop makin’ a fool outta meeee, why don’t ‘tcha come on over, Valerie.”

Kyle laughed and strung along. “How ironic, right?”

“Well I guess, but I didn’t know any Valeries back then. I’d change the name to some drunk girl in the crowd, remember?” …’Since I’ve come home, well my body’s been a mess, and I miss your ginger hair and the way you like to dress…'”

Hours later, Mark and Kyle had finished a few beers. They’d sung in the garage and jammed for an invisible crowd until the cold air had frozen.

“Kim saw Val at the grocery the other day, said what happened…” Kyle said. “Do you miss her? You haven’t said anything about her.”

“Of course I do. She was here for years, but I guess we just saw things differently.”

“Don’t you want a family? Children are so great, really, you should see Kim with ours.”

“It isn’t that, man. I wanted things to happen in its own time, you know?” Mark said. “Val would just act like everything was cool until I’d step out of line once, then all of the sudden we’d be fighting about marriage.”

Kyle shrugged.

“I better get home,” he said. “Maybe we’ll do this again.”

Mark said goodbye. It was quiet. He furrowed his brow and began to shuffle his sock feet through the house. He went through the living room, where she’d screamed at him nights prior. He walked into the kitchen where he’d left a pile of dishes — Valerie always did those.

He opened the fridge, aiming to kill time. He shuffled down the hall where she’d torn their pictures off the wall on her way out. He passed shelves packed with books he’d only read half of. He climbed into bed, hoping he wouldn’t smell her perfume in the bed. He closed his eyes and tried to fall asleep, but his mind was buzzing.

Mark didn’t have serious girlfriends in college. He had several flings, but was often concentrated on music or schoolwork. Mark could see himself marrying Val, but he wanted her to calm down so he could ask on his own time. He didn’t want to force such an important decision. He loved Val and liked the way he felt when he was with her — the old Val, anyway. He didn’t know if those feelings would come back.

When Val left, it was a shock for Mark. He was emotional, but he generally just wanted her to be happy. So, he thought, if that’s what she wanted then so be it. Her calls were puzzling. Mark figured she was just remembering the past and acting on impulse. After all, they couldn’t build a marriage off a fond memory.

The next morning, Mark was uncovering more instruments in the garage and dusting off record collections. Someone knocked on his front door. He crept to the large door, got on his tip-toes and peered through the rectangle window. There she was, in her usual white coat. Her dark hair was pulled back, her eyes were squinting from the sun, and her red lips were pursed.

He walked through the garage to the foyer, opened the door, and stood.

“Hi,” Valerie said. “I heard loud music coming from the garage when I walked up.”

“Yeah, I was just playing some…” Mark paused. “You okay? Or… did you forget something?”

“Oh, well no, at least I don’t think so,” she said. “Can we talk?”

Mark didn’t know what to say.

She drew her hands across her chest. “It’s cold. Can I come in?”

Mark motioned toward the living room. Valerie stepped inside moving toward the couch. Mark stood in the doorway.

“Right here is fine,” Mark said.

“Okay, well, I’ve really missed you. I know we have different ways of showing how we care.”

Mark was silent.

“I mean maybe I can wait longer, I am only 32, you know?”

Mark smirked.

“Aren’t you going to say anything?” Val asked, getting annoyed. “Or maybe you could even sing something since that’s what you’ve been doing since I left.”

Mark chuckled.

“Wow, yeah, okay let me sing you something Val. I don’t think you should wait any longer,” he said. “If you want to get married and have children, then I think you should go do it.”

“What?” she asked.

“Yeah, you told me I can’t commit to anything and maybe you’re right. So I can’t finish a book or a television series, but if it’s something I care about, I do commit, but you don’t see it that way.”

Valerie stormed to the door, throwing her polished red nails in the air. Mark followed her and closed the door. He moved back to his record collection singing the cover song.

“Stop makin’ a fool outta me… Valerie…”

Fiction Friday: Valerie, part I.

What will happen to Mark and Valerie?

What will happen to Mark and Valerie?

The following piece is an original written by Holly A. Phillips in 2007. It was based on the song “Valerie,” sung by the one, the only Amy Winehouse. 

    *     *     *

He unfolded a black chair and put the acoustic on his knee; he closed his eyes and ran his fingers across the strings. It was severely out of tune, warped from the weather. He tightened the strings and worked them back to life, the sound becoming sweet.

It was 9pm on a frigid Thursday in November. The cold garage floor awakened him. Old boxes of music he’d just uncovered surrounded Mark.

“Can’t you commit to anything?” she asked four nights ago.

“Val, three years is a commitment,” he pleaded. “I am committed to you.”

“Make it official,” she said. “We are in our thirties, Mark. I want children, let’s get this show on the road.”

But now, it was too late. Valerie was gone, took her show on the road, but left Mark behind. Mark had, and still did love her. He never noticed any real problems between the two of them, until Valerie would explode over a late night dinner or during a sports program. She always said the same thing:

“Hello, don’t you see I’m here, too?” or “Mark, I worked on this dinner all afternoon, can’t you at least be on time or call me?”

Mark didn’t understand trivial matters, like calling. After all, they lived together.

In the garage, he moved onto the sky blue Fender and plugged in the amp; reveling in its static start. Mark moved about the garage, laughing at the chords he remembered and the songs his fingers had memorized. It was college again, only this time, he was alone in his garage wearing boxers, which were bigger — to compensate the beer he drank in those days.

Valerie was never a music lover like Mark. He’d grown up in a house, always listening to jazz and the blues. He moved through stages of interest, but played some rock in college with three of his buddies. They mainly did open-mic nights and frat parties, but it was some of the most fun Mark had.

The phone rang. Mark listened through the garage door that led into the kitchen to hear the answering machine.

“You’ve reached Mark and Val, leave us a message and we’ll get back to you.”

“Hey… it’s me, again… Mark, if you’re there please answer. I know it was me who left, but please, I really want to talk to you.” Valerie sighed and then hung up.

Mark met Val in college; they had a few classes together. They were never close until after graduation; they kept running into each other at coffee shops. Then, Val was bubbly and spontaneous. She was a dream. She’d show up unannounced with a homemade casserole and a bottle of wine, which they always enjoyed over a game of Scrabble. They fit together. When Mark was out with Valerie, he felt he could take over the city.

The relationship moved quickly, but it was natural, until they moved in together. Valerie was so buttoned-up all the time. She never wanted to relax and was always bringing up lunch conversations she had with her married friends. Those talks ended in Val muttering something about “free milk” and thing she would shake her ring finger in his face. Mark had never lived with a girlfriend before.

Mark got back to his music. He cleared out boxes, finding different pedals he once used. Each one warped the sound in its own way. Occasionally, he would stand up and sing.

There was a knock on the garage door.

“Great,” Mark said to himself. “Someone’s pissed about the noise.”

Mark pulled up on the large door to see his friend and neighbor, Kyle, standing in the driveway, equipped with his black, triangular electric in his hand.

“Hey man! Wow… been awhile,” Mark said.

“I know,” Kyle said. “But it’s alright. I heard some familiar music coming from out here, so I thought I’d join…”

Mark motioned Kyle into the garage and pulled the door down behind him.

“Great, man. I ran into a little extra time on my hands and been digging up our old stuff,” Mark said.

“Yeah,” Kyle said. “I haven’t played this thing since ’95. Kim was a little agitated when she saw me leave the house with it.”

Mark laughed as he walked into the kitchen.

“I bet,” he said. “Women worry, you know. But you don’t have to stay late — although it feels good to hear it all again.”

Mark cracked a few beers and moved back into the garage.

“Man, you kept all our old stuff. I don’t even remember half of it,” Kyle said.

“I know, but once you hear it, it really comes back,” Mark said, smiling. “It’s great.”

Mark plugged his guitar into an amp and started tuning. Mark worked the Fender, plugged in a pedal, and went to it.

Check out “Valerie”, part II, right here, next Friday, August 28.