Hey there! It’s about 11 on Tuesday night, and while I normally would be tucked in bed by now, I’ll admit I’ve got some nerves keeping me awake. In the morning, I’m heading to a dermatologist to have my skin examined for signs of cancer.
Right before I went on vacation, I was putting on my daily dose of lip liner when I noticed a tiny, dark brown freckle. I’ve got other freckles along my lip line, but I think this one is new and it looks darker than others. So, I made an appointment.
While a huge part of me thinks it’s nothing, I can’t ignore it. I’m almost embarrassed to say this appointment will be my first time getting a full “body scan” for any questionable signs. I figured this was as good a time as any to get a baseline, and maybe even a little education on what to look for. No one in my family has ever had skin cancer – in fact, my dad was the first person to have any kind of cancer – but I know that even those statistics can’t keep everyone safe.
Whatever happens, I’ll report back!
On that same note, Blanche’s Book Club read “The Bucket List” by Georgia Clark! Here’s the official description from Amazon:
Twenty-five-old Lacey Whitman is blindsided when she’s diagnosed with the BRCA1 gene mutation: the “breast cancer” gene. Her high hereditary risk forces a decision: increased surveillance or the more radical step of a preventative double mastectomy. Lacey doesn’t want to lose her breasts. For one, she’s juggling two career paths; her work with the prestigious New York trend forecaster Hoffman House, and her role on the founding team of a sustainable fashion app with friend/mentor, Vivian Chang. Secondly, small-town Lacey’s not so in touch with her sexuality: she doesn’t want to sacrifice her breasts before she’s had the chance to give them their hey-day. To help her make her choice, she (and her friends) creates a “boob bucket list”: everything she wants do with and for her boobs before a possible surgery.
This kicks off a year of sensual exploration and sexual entertainment for the quick-witted Lacey Whitman. The Bucket List cleverly and compassionately explores Lacey’s relationship to her body and her future. Both are things Lacey thought she could control through hard work and sacrifice. But the future, it turns out, is more complicated than she could ever imagine.
I read Georgia Clark’s “The Regulars” and I loved it, so I was really excited for this one. I will admit that part of me was super paranoid while reading this book – I kept wondering if I had the BRCA1 gene mutation.
But the other part of me just couldn’t help but get lost in Lacey’s world – there was high fashion, designers, hot guys, (dare I say it) saucy sex scenes, and some genuine romance sprinkled in. There was also friendship and some bits of – what felt like real life – it was a great balance. There was so much detail, I feel like this would make a great movie, and it could even be a series of books!
I’m recommending this book to anyone who wants to live life to the fullest, and to anyone who enjoys reading about life-changing events, although I would say that if you’re sensitive about breast cancer, this book may contain triggers.
The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Ghosted” by Rosie Walsh. Wish me luck!
Truthfully, the story of my dad’s death isn’t unlike many others – he was blessed to be surrounded by family as he took his last breath, and every single one of us got the chance to tell him goodbye. And that is something I will be forever grateful for.
There was also a lot of emotional, family drama – and that is what makes this loss so tough for me – on top of it being my dad.
My dad wasn’t someone who ever wanted a big show, so we paid our respects to him at a small chapel in Ringgold, Georgia, a week after he died. There were friends and family there to share stories and pictures of him, and even during that short time, I learned a lot about the person my dad was and the time he spent on earth.
Even though it was a special day and I’m grateful to have been able to be there with my family, I knew I wanted to honor my dad in my own way when I felt the time was right. I wanted to honor him by doing something he loves: fishing.
So, this morning, my lifelong best friend and I rose before the sun and met Pensacola’s best fisherman, Captain Kenny Way at the marina. With beer and a go get ’em attitude, we set sail.
Or, Captain Kenny started the boat and we were OFF!
We caught bait first, then moved on to snapper (red and black). We caught around 15 snapper. And then we used one of the snapper as bait to catch a 7-foot bull shark! You can see the video on my Instagram stories @Orangejulius7
I’d informed the Captain ahead of time that I wanted to take a few moments to toast to my dad, and it was my honor to write something that I felt captured my dad’s spirit, but also offered some closure to myself, and hopefully to my friend, and maybe even Captain Kenny.
I brought along a few coins to toss into the ocean, and some fresh flower petals to sprinkle on the water – a signal to other boaters that we’d honored a life well-lived. Here’s what I wrote:
My dad was very much a skilled fisherman, and we went fishing many times – I have him to thank for catching the most fish nearly every time I venture out, even if I’m the only female in sight. But there’s two fishing trips that stick out in my mind:
The first was a very early morning trip. Early mornings are a necessarily evil when fishing, and my dad took that very seriously. On this particular morning, we had a bit of a drive – heading from our family home in Columbus, Indiana to a lake near Camp Atterbury. My dad had already planned our stops – because that’s the kind of man he was, a planner (sometimes to a fault) and he liked the journey just as much as the destination – donuts and coffee for breakfast, then a later stop on the side of the road to pick up live bait: worms that came packed in black dirt.
Once we got to the lake, the sun was barely rising. I was sleepy, still, and too young for coffee. But it may as well been noon for my dad – we unpacked on the sandy bank, and he threaded my first worm, and reminded me how to properly cast my line – the Mickey bobber flying through the air, landing with a splash on top of the water.
“Now, when Mickey goes under, reel it in fast,” he said.
So, I stood still and quiet, wondering if any blue gill were seeing the bait, while my dad doctored his line. There we stood, side by side, waiting for something big. The air was crisp and the water was so still, it looked like clean glass. I didn’t know it then, but it was likely the first time of many that I’d get swept away in an Indiana sunrise. It was all so peaceful.
So peaceful in fact, that my eyes glazed over, and then next thing I knew, Mickey was going under and my dad was shouting – “Reel it in, Holly! You’ve got one!” I tried to pull and get my line back in, but it was too late, and I felt so awful that I hadn’t been paying attention.
But thinking back on this moment now, it’s a perfect picture of my dad and I – he, focused and driven, no matter the circumstances, and me – willing to participate, but distracted by the scenery.
When I was in college, my dad invited me to celebrate the holidays in a cabin nestled in the mountains on the Tennessee/Georgia border. It was a small mountain town – one that seemed like it was made for locals, but was likely all tourists. The cabin had a large porch that overlooked a small creek, and a few fishing poles we could borrow.
My dad was determined to fish in this creek, so he bought a can of corn for bait – trout often mistake them for salmon eggs. We baited our hooks and my dad instructed me to cast upstream, so the line would move downstream with the current. I did as I was told, and we quickly discovered a major problem – trees really close to the riverbank.
If I remember correctly, we didn’t even come close to catching a single fish, simply because our lines kept getting caught in the winter barren trees. My dad untagled every line I cast – yet another thing about my dad – he cleaned up a lot of messes for me. He’s stood up for me numerous times – when no one else would – and he introduced to me to the cureall of every breakup: watching “Swingers”.
Since my dad’s passing, I’ve spent countless hours thinking about his life and legacy; what his life meant, what his death means, and how I’ll ever find closure in the numerous questions I have about our relationship. Through memories shared with me, those of my own, and personal items willed to me, I’ve gathered a few new tidbits about the man that he was and the life he lived.
Despite all of my questions though, I know that my dad believed that every person has a story. He believed this to be so true, in fact, that he worked as a reporter (focusing on sports) for many, many years in order to share those stories. It was a job not many would do, in a time when there was no internet, interviews happened face-to-face, and tape recorders were rare. My dad wrote his pieces on a typewriter, after taking notes on a yellow legal pad. He was a beautiful writer, spicy, willing to tell the ugly truth (even at a conservative paper), and he did it for very little pay.
My dad was a fan of the underdog – he was critical of the star players, overrated coaches, and wanted to get the real story from the bench warmers. He loved making people laugh, and perhaps his ability to converse with just about anyone, made it easier for him to share stories – whether in print or with locals at The Olympia.
He was fascinated with the unknown – he had a curiosity for just about anything, and would obsessively throw himself into his latest interest. He was brave, sharp, and he did things his way (and only his way).
I have absolutely no doubt that witnessing all of this has very much shaped the person I am today – and will forever be. But I also know that I have to continue to craft my story, too. During these last six months, I’ve realized a lot about myself, including the fact that the unknown can be… terrifying. But it can also be rather exciting, once you embrace it.
Today, I want us to take something familiar – physically speaking, these Presidential coins willed to me – and toss them into the unknown – the depths of the gulf. Consider it a way to throw your comforts, your faith, your purpose, into the great unknown: the future. Send with it a wish for yourself, a wish to keep crafting your story – whether to share, to keep, no matter if the result is picturesque or candid, planned or impromptu. Some stories are well-planned, but some simply happen…
It’s impossible for us to immerse ourselves into the unknown without love. My dad loved many things – fishing trips to Bull Shoals Arkansas with his dad and brothers, small towns, Red Vines, chess, Natalie Merchant, rescue cats, and reciting movie lines, among many other things. He loved people, too, and I feel really lucky that “I love you” was one of the last things he said to me, and I to him.
I’m offering these petals as a symbol of love and peace.
Finally, let’s toast: To family, friends, and finding comfort in the unknown. May the ones we’ve lost watch over us from their heaven – for my dad, I hope its on a lake, filled with delicious bass.
As we head into the holiday weekend, I wanted to write a bit on John McCain. I will admit, if you asked me even a year ago my thoughts on Senator McCain, I would have rolled my eyes.
I probably don’t have to say it, but I’m a die-hard liberal. I don’t agree with McCain’s politics, and even members of his family make me cringe. But in the last week, I’ve heard, read, and watched several things that have made me think differently about the late senator.
And my short conclusion is: he’s a fucking badass.
Let me explain. Yes, I knew McCain was a prisoner of war before he entered service as a senator. But even just learning more about that experience makes me wonder just how he even survived in time in prison!
I witnessed the back-and-forth between McCain and Trump, and naturally, I was disgusted, and curious as to how someone could hear such awful things about themselves and not fire back with every word in the book.
But McCain is getting the last word – even in death.
On Tuesday, I watched the HBO documentary, “John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls”.
If you haven’t watched it – you must! It beautifully discusses his life through interviews with him, his family, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and former Presidents Barak Obama and George W. Bush, among many others.
You can see firsthand his life on the campaign trail – both as he ran to be the republican nominee against Bush in 2000, and as the nominee running against Obama in 2008. Both are very telling of his character.
It’s funny… the 2008 campaign was the first one that I really was into – it wasn’t my first time voting, but it was my first time watching all of the debates and news coverage surrounding it.
At the time, I was dating a fratastic republican, and we constantly got into (mild) arguments over the campaign – he loved McCain and Governor Sarah Palin. I was, obviously, not a fan.
But after knowing what I know now about McCain, he probably would have made a great President. The timing just wasn’t right.
When the McCain family announced that John would no longer be receiving treatment for his brain cancer, I was sad. But I also know that quality of life is important, and I felt a bit of happiness for him that he was able to live a full year from his diagnosis, and he used that time to not only stand up for the people of Arizona, but to also focus on the end of his life, and say his goodbyes to the ones he loved most.
As many of you know, my dad was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer late last year. It wasn’t the same kind McCain had, but he also had surgery to remove a mass behind his eye.
I was with my dad the day after his surgery, and although he was recovering well – I fully admire McCain and his ability to fly to D.C. and cast his vote against Trump’s healthcare plan just a day after his surgery.
I am fully in awe of anyone that gets to die on their own terms. From what I’ve learned of McCain, he lived on his own terms, too. And that is something I admire with my entire heart. He wasn’t afraid to go against the grain, as long as he felt it was right. He was honest, even during a time when many politicians are not.
Sadly, McCain passed away just a few days after he stopped treatment, and shortly after, his family released his final letter to America.
I’ve had experiences, adventures, friendships, enough for 10 satisfying lives, and I am so thankful.
– John McCain
The letter took a slight jab at Trump, encouraging the American people to forge on, even though we aren’t getting what we deserve right now (there is a similar jab in the documentary).
A few days ago, I saw this headline: “McCain’s Choice of Russian Dissent as Pallbearer is Final Dig at Putin, Trump.”
Wow! Even in death, this guy is sticking it to Trump, and keeping it classy.
And then yesterday, I saw this: “Sarah Palin isn’t Invited to John McCain’s Memorial Services” – I’m speechless.
I didn’t know this, but the article says that earlier this year, McCain said that choosing Palin as his running mate was one of the mistakes he made.
Since Wednesday, I have been watching McCain’s services, and although they are sad to see, I have great respect for everything he’s done for our country, and I’m inspired by the full life that he lived.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve added several of McCain’s books to my reading list. If you’re interested, here are all of them:
- The Restless Wave: Good Times, Just Causes, Great Fights, and Other Appreciations
- Faith of my Fathers: A Family Memoir
- Why Courage Matters: The Way to a Braver Life
- Character is Destiny: Inspiring Stories we Should All Remember
- Worth Fighting For: The Education of an American Maverick, and the Heroes Who Inspired Him
- Hard Call: The Art of Difficult Decisions
- Thirteen Soldiers: A Personal History of Americans at War
With that, I’ve learned so much about McCain this week – better late than never, right? – but I’m confident that his legacy will live on and continue to inspire others.
“In the end, it matters less that you can fight. What you fight for is the real test.”
– John McCain
Hey there! I am going to jump right into the subject matter today because I waited SO long to get this book in my grubby little paws. Today, I’m talking about “Leah on the Offbeat” by Becky Albertalli. As soon as I read “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda“, I put myself on the library waiting list for the sequel, and well, here we are.
Here is the book’s official description from Amazon:
In this sequel to the acclaimed Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—now a major motion picture, Love, Simon—we follow Simon’s BFF Leah as she grapples with changing friendships, first love, and senior year angst.
When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic.
She’s an anomaly in her friend group: the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.
So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high.
It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.
So… you might have already guessed it, but this book isn’t really about drumming. It’s about high school and all of the twists and turns it brings – especially when you toss love in there.
The characters in this book are in high school, but they are preparing to head to college, so it definitely brought me back to that time in my life. I still remember very vividly my first college visit, and also attending my first frat party while still in high school (complete with lemonade + raspberry vodka – yuuuuck).
Anyway, although the characters in this book are familiar (from reading “Simon), getting to know Leah’s character was fun – she had a different train of thought that is refreshingly funny.
I also really admire Albertalli’s ability to bring to light the experiences of characters who aren’t heterosexual. I don’t know if this was her mission in writing these books, but it’s a nice change, and I’m sure high school students appreciate reading about someone who has experiences more similar to theirs.
I’m recommending this book to anyone who’s read (and liked) “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda”, and also to fans of YA novels, and/or to anyone looking to relive (temporarily) the high school experience.
The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The President is Missing” by James Patterson and Bill Clinton.
Hey there! I had a fun little Saturday yesterday – I got my hair done (a slightly new cut and a bold red color), went on my weekly “Food Adventure”, where I try a new restaurant (I went to Modern Market for a Blueberry Pesto sandwich), and did some shopping at Trader Joe’s (picked up some cold brew coffee concentrate)!
Today, I’ve been working on some freelance projects while catching up on “Pose” (I think I have three episodes left). I am going to yoga later and am still debating if I should make a trip to Michael’s today – I have a coupon that I might not be able to pass up!
But the real reason I’m writing today is to share with you the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club! It’s “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear” by Elizabeth Gilbert. Before I dive in, here is the official book description from Amazon:
“A must read for anyone hoping to live a creative life… I dare you not to be inspired to be brave, to be free, and to be curious.” —PopSugar
From the worldwide bestselling author of Eat Pray Love: the path to the vibrant, fulfilling life you’ve dreamed of.
Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration and empowerment from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Now this beloved author digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration.
She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us.
Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work, embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.
If you know me, even if only through this blog, you probably can already guess that I LOVED this book! It felt like it was written from the things swirling around in my brain. I have always valued creativity, and I talk extensively about it in my blog class – that we must nurture our brains to be creative, and act upon it when it happens.
I wrote down SO many lines from this book that spoke to me and I’ll share them with you here:
- Without bravery…they would never be able to realize the vaulting scope of their own capacities. Without bravery, they would never know the world as richly as it longs to be known. Without bravery, their lives would remain small – far smaller than they probably wanted their lives to be.
- Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?
- The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.
- The courage to go on that hunt in the first place – that’s what separates a mundane existence from a more enchanted one.
- I am talking about living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.
- …When courage dies, creativity dies with it.
- Keep your eyes open. Listen. Follow your curiosity. Ask questions. Sniff around. Remain open. Trust in the miraculous truth that new ideas are looking for human collaborators every single day.
- Let inspiration lead you wherever it wants to lead you.
- I don’t want to be afraid of bright colors or new sounds, or big love, or risky decisions, or strange experiences, or weird endeavors, or sudden changes, or even failure.
- Your own reasons to create are reason enough.
- I have dedicated my entire life to the pursuit of creativity, and I spend a lot of time encouraging other people to do the same, because I think a creative life is the most marvelous life there is.
- You don’t just get to leap from bright moment to bright moment. How you manage yourself between those bright moments, when things aren’t going so great, is a measure of how devoted you are to your vocation, and how equipped you are for the weird demands of creative living.
- I have watched so many other people murder their creativity by demanding that their art pay the bills.
- Perfectionism stops people from completing their work, yes – but even worse, it often stops people from beginning their work.
- Perhaps creativity’s greatest mercy is this: By completely absorbing our attention for a short and magical spell, it can relieve us temporarily from the dreadful burden of being who we are.
- Following the scavenger hunt of curiosity can lead you to amazing, unexpected places.
That about sums up the book, right? I feel so lame that I haven’t read any of Gilbert’s any other books – but I’ll be adding them to my list! I’m recommending this book to anyone looking for a push to live their dreams, whether that be making a career change or picking up a new hobby or even taking a trip off the beaten path.
The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Leah on the Offbeat” by Becky Albertalli. I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend!
Last night was yet another showcase for my Dance Austin Studio family. This was the Summer Meltdown, Take 2, which was a music video series. It was, of course, different from other showcases Dance Austin has hosted in the past – it was a four-week series followed by a video shoot, instead of a live performance.
The kicker was that no one (except maybe the choreographers) had seen the videos before last night’s premier – I think all of us dancers were a little anxious to see how all of our hard work turned out.
Naturally, all of the videos were awesome! Each of them had a funny twist, and it was cool to see the different personalities come out in each video.
I know that after each dance showcase I perform in, I write up all the feels from the day in what’s become my traditional showcase wrap-up. But, there wasn’t quite that same batch of feelings after last night.
Yes, it was really weird to show up at The North Door and not have to race to the “backstage” area and get ready for tech rehearsal, or find a spot with decent lighting to put on all of my show makeup. Instead, it was a little more leisurely, and there was a black carpet with a step and repeat #fancy
But I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t have enough emotions swirling around in my mind not to write some sort of something about the state of my life lately.
The truth is that, as I’ve alluded to some in recent weeks, I am struggling pretty hard in the mental health department. I’m chalking it up to grief, and although I’m still not entirely ready to put all of my chips on the table, I’ll offer up what I can thus far.
I’ve experienced loss several times in my life. I lost family members when I was a kid, and when I was in high school, it felt like I went to way too many funerals – those of my peers. It was surreal, and I started to form very small bits of dealing with grief and even just the taste of how short life can be.
In college, though, I suffered a loss that I still cannot talk about without tearing up. He was also my peer, the first person I met when I went to college orientation, we were each other’s dates to Greek functions… I felt a closeness to him unlike any other.
And he was killed while crossing the street.
A good friend told me the news as I was driving, and I pulled off the road to compose myself. I called my dad, and he talked me through it.
Several years later, I had natal reading where a professional looked over the stars during the time of my birth and during the years of my life.
“How does death fit in to your life?” she asked me.
I explained to her that I’d suffered several losses; one particularly difficult. We talked about the photo I have of him and I – framed on my desk at home with a candle beside it. She told me he was my soul mate, and it was likely that we’d met in a previous life, and that he was protecting me from the other side. I could keep his energy alive by lighting the candle and honoring his memory.
But little did I know that even a loss as tough as that one seems like a drop in the bucket compared to losing my dad.
I’ve talked enough on this blog about the relationship my dad and I had to get me in a shit-ton of trouble with most of my family. And even though my dad isn’t around to reprimand me or control the ship, I’ve kept quiet on the home front.
There’s something unsettling about all of it.
As horrible as it sounds, I felt some sort of relief in that my every day, physical life wouldn’t change after my dad died. After all, I hadn’t talked to him in years. We didn’t exchange texts, or cards, nothing.
But it’s been almost six months since his death, and I can tell you that I don’t even remember what it’s like to go a single day without crying; or thinking about it; or feeling guilty.
There have been times I’ve wondered why he had to be the one to go instead of someone else – and then I feel horrible because I know that no one deserves to go through what he did.
So many people have said to me, “Your dad must have been so proud of you.”
And while that’s an incredibly nice thing to say, I don’t know how true it is. My dad was TOUGH. He was quick to tell me all of the things I did wrong, and I can’t recall him ever saying he was proud of me.
At the beginning of this month, I felt so alone, so in the dark about how I was really supposed to get back to how things were – even just inside myself. I feel like I can’t pull myself out of this funk. I realized that my normal cures for bad days weren’t working.
Because this isn’t just a bad day. This isn’t a breakup. This isn’t a fight with a friend.
This is grappling with a major loss. It’s contemplating the meaning of life. Religion. Family.
It’s the realization that hindsight is a cruel bitch.
On the other side of this darkness, though, I’m also experiencing incredible success in my career. Not necessarily in my day job, but in my work as a blogger, editor, and digital strategist. I’ve had work literally fall into my lap almost every single day. I lived in Louisiana for 12 years and barely felt like I’d made a name for myself; been in Texas for less than three and I feel like so many people have reached out for my writing expertise, and I cannot explain how much that means to me. The fruits of my recent labor are allowing me to do things I’ve never thought I could do.
Part of me wonders if my dad is helping me from the other side – but then I feel guilty for even thinking that way. It’s a confusing place to be.
I decided to seek help from a professional (which is a chore in itself). So, I got a referral, and my mom helped me find a few options… and now it’s up to me to make the appointment. I’ve done therapy a few times before (for years), but this time, I’m considering medication.
But with medication comes all sorts of questions and worries. What will it be like? Will it change my personality? Will it make me less creative?
I’m still thinking on it.
In the meantime, I decided to focus on what I was putting into my body and how I was treating it. So, I stopped drinking entirely and am focusing on a plant-based diet. The no-drinking thing is a little more of a chore than I anticipated – I’ve been drinking lots of organic lemonade after realizing that non-alcoholic wine was not really a thing I’m going to do (ha!).
I’m doing more yoga (even if it makes me cry) and trying to get better sleep at night. And I’m still dancing.
Which brings me back to last night’s video premier. Our video shoot was 3.5 hours – beginning at 6:30 am, outside, in the Texas summer sun. And the resulting video was less than three minutes.
It was clever, and looked great, and it was funny to watch. But I couldn’t help but notice that we sure did put allllll of that time into just a few minutes – a highlight reel.
I’m sure you know where I’m going with this. But it’s a lot like life – you spend your whole life living it, no matter how long or short of a time you’ve got – and perhaps it takes you the entirety to realize one thing, or do that ONE thing.
And it all boils down to that highlight reel.
The same could be said for relationships or weddings or vacations. It’s those few moments that stand out.
Last night, one of my fellow dancers said, “You’ve been doing some road-tripping, right?”
I nodded, and explained to her that ever since my dad died, I am going for it, and I’m doing it without much of a second thought. I’m going to the places I’ve never been, eating new foods, facing my fears, and I’m doing it whether anyone is coming along or not.
I’ve already got two more trips planned this year, and I’m eyeing another one.
I don’t know what you dream of when your mind starts to wander, whether it’s dancing on a stage or being in a music video; maybe it’s seeing a Broadway play or getting published in a magazine.
Whatever it is – DO THAT.
At the end of our time here, you’re going to want certain things in that reel, and the time to accomplish them is now.
If I’ve learned anything about myself in the past six months, it’s that we are often our own blockade. So toss the fears aside. Just go for it.
To my dance family, thank you for providing such a supportive environment for me to even think these things. Some days, I struggle to show up to class. Other days, it’s all I want to do. But you’re there, and I hope I can return that favor to you whenever you need it.
You might recall a popular TV series in the mid-90’s, “Living Single”, that followed six black singletons living in Brooklyn. They were in their twenties.
Because that’s when most people are single, right?
I haven’t written about my (lack of) dating life in a while – in fact, when I searched through the archives of this blog, it’s been at least a year. Why? Well, until possibly yesterday, I didn’t have much to say on it.
I used to look at being single as sad, and then it became a badge of honor. Now it’s just nothing – or at least, nothing that defines who I am or what I do each day.
I know I’ve got some new readers here – Welcome! – and it’s likely that you never thought this was once a place where ALL I talked about was dating. Why?
Because I did a lot of it in my twenties. I dated, I wrote columns about my experiences, I bartended and met more people to date, and then I published books about it, and spoke about it at open-mic nights… and now I just live it.
I had some fun experiences, some really bad ones, I fell in love a few times, and I also strung myself through abusive relationships.
And then I decided to be single.
Not the single where you have crushes, and “talk” via text, and meet new people on Tindr, and have casual sex. The kind of single where I just get to know myself.
That was at least five years ago, and I’m still in that space.
I definitely never planned on being single at 33, but I also never planned on living in Texas, eating mostly vegan food, or contemplating what life at 55 looks like for a singleton like myself.
At times, being single is scary. I have Miranda’s fear of dying in my apartment, alone, with my cat, and wondering how that ends. And some nights, settling into the covers of my big bed is just a weird reminder of how long it’s been since I fell asleep next to someone I really cared for.
Most of the time, though, I’m happy with my life. Many days, I can’t even remember what it was like to be in a relationship, or to even have a crush on someone. I can do nearly anything I want, and for the most part I do. That was always my saving grace at the end of a relationship – I was free.
If that doesn’t tell you anything about the kinds of relationships I’ve experienced, I don’t know what will.
My jump into being single likely got off to a bitter beginning; I was single because I’d been burned. And there are still remnants of that – it’s embarrassing to admit that I’ve never had a relationship that I’d classify as good or healthy.
But even between relationships, I would quickly meet someone new and move to the next person; one rebound after another.
So being single was a much-needed blow to the cycle. For awhile, I found it difficult to even look at a man, whether at a restaurant or when checking out at a store. I was convinced all men were the same, and I wanted no part of their game.
Don’t worry, I have softened a little since then, and although I don’t meet many people whose relationships I envy, I do follow a few bloggers that give me hope in dating, relationships, and possibly even marriage.
When I graduated from college (10+ years ago), it seemed like everyone was getting married, and many of those same people got divorced, and/or had children. But really, a study came out last year saying the number of marriages in the US, and around the globe, have been declining since the late 90s.
A report from the Urban Institute also stated that many millennials won’t get married until age 40. In the past (say, in 1960), people married for many reasons – to have children, for financial gain (taxes, military, etc.); there was also less pressure on education and careers, for women at least.
Today, being single can mean a plethora of things, and it can look many different ways. That’s the catch 22: there’s almost too many options on how I can spend my years. Do I adopt? Travel? Move elsewhere? Get more hobbies?
I suppose I’ve got time to decide.
In these five years, I’ve gone on a few dates, and unfortunately they’ve been really bad reminders of what I don’t miss about dating – ghosting patterns, mixed messages, messy homes, boring conversations, and selfish sex.
It’s unlikely I’ll go on a date before 2020 rolls around, but when it does, I have a better idea of what I’m after – someone who has it together; a good, fun sense of humor, an appreciation for life, and a kind heart.
Until then, I’ll be obsessively reading library books, cooking new recipes, and planning my next vacation.
This week, fans of “Sex and the City” have been celebrating its 20th anniversary – can you believe it?
HBO’s iconic series debuted in 1998, when I was in 8th grade. We didn’t have HBO at my house growing up, so I didn’t come across the series until I was a junior in high school, when I went on a college visit to Miami of Ohio.
It was 2001, and I saw an episode on DVD – I’m pretty sure I fell asleep before the episode was over. To be honest, I didn’t know a whole lot about dating when I was 17, and I certainly knew nothing about sex.
But by the time I went to college, I’d scrounged up all of the available seasons on DVDs and brought them to Louisiana. The episodes made me laugh, and I started to see why so many people loved the show so much – they spoke so honestly about dating, and in college, I really needed that.
My DVDs also came in handy when I applied to get a new roommate during my second semester of freshman year. The only open bed available was with someone who’d scored a room alone – she was probably REALLY disappointed when I showed up with my boxes of crap on a random weeknight.
Until I showed her my SATC collection and told her she was welcome to watch them anytime. We watched loads of episodes together.
It’s difficult to believe now, but SATC changed the dialogue about sex and dating, and it was one of the first shows (aside from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”) that put single, career-driven women at the forefront.
It also carved a larger path for sex columnists, given that SATC’s main character has a weekly column titled, “Sex and the City”. I quickly became a fan of Natalie Krisnky’s writing, who was the sex columnist for Yale’s campus newspaper until 2004.
I also wrote the relationship column for the LSU paper, and while that was not the start of my publishing career, it gave me a place to vent about my dating troubles, and gave me confidence to start this blog, and eventually publish multiple books on the topic of love, sex, and relationships.
Based on the best-selling novel by Candace Bushnell, SATC gave us four women that were relatable, yet far enough out-of-reach that we could drool over their fashion, apartments, and exclusive access to New York City.
In the span of six seasons (from 1998-2004), Carrie, Miranda, Samantha, and Charlotte became our best friends, even if only digitally, we related to their love, loss, fun, and fights.
The best part? The writing is timeless. Over the years, SATC episodes covered first dates, baby showers, breakups, and marriage, and even dipped into more serious issues such as cancer, abortion, miscarriage, infidelity, interracial dating, and sexual identity.
No matter the topic, the tone of the show was always hopeful – that we can get through just about anything with the support of our friends and the relationship we ultimately have with ourself, and that’s a lesson that never comes too late.
As part of a week-long celebration, the E! Network has been playing all of the SATC episodes, and although I have the entire series on DVD (I was gifted an entirely new set after wearing out the first set), it’s fun to just turn on the TV and see all of the episodes I’ve watched countless times – I could probably recite most of them.
For this post, I was trying so hard to think of my all-time favorite episode, but it changes depending on what I’m going through at the time.
Right now, I can definitely relate to “A Woman’s Right to Shoes” (season 6, episode 9) when Carrie attends a baby shower and is asked to remove her Manolos – they get stolen, and she gets “shoe shamed” when she asks for a new pair from the hostess.
I have also always loved “Hot Child in the City” (season 3, episode 15) where all of the women face something from their childhood – whether it’s scooters and sunbathing or getting braces.
Just a few episodes later, in “Cock a Doodle Do”, Samantha goes to WAR with transsexuals on her block – it involves eggs and lots of yelling, but eventually they makeup and throw a rooftop party.
I never really did like any of Carrie’s boyfriends, not Berger or The Russian – I only like Mr. Big. One of my favorite episodes with him is “I Heart N.Y.” (Season 4, episode 18) when he’s getting ready to move to Napa. There’s pizza in an empty apartment, and several references to “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and it’s perfect.
SATC also gave us some epic one-liners, including:
- When real people fall down in life, they get right back up and keep on walking.
- Being single used to mean that nobody wanted you. Now it means that you’re pretty sexy and you’re taking your time deciding how you want your life to be and who you want to spend it with.
- They say nothing lasts forever; dreams change, trends come and go, but friendships never go out of style.
- I am someone who is looking for love. Real love. Ridiculous, inconvenient, consuming, can’t-live-without-each-other love.
- Maybe the best any of us can do is not to quit, play the hand we’ve been given, and accessorize the outfit we’ve got.
I will probably spend a large chunk of my weekend watching SATC without regret. But I’d love to know, what were some of your favorite moments of the show? Or, did it change your life in some way? Give you confidence for a career move? Help you meet new friends?
Let me know in the comments! Have a great weekend everyone!
Hello! It’s Friday and I’m just rolling right on through my reading list. Usually, I use my library reserve list to choose the order in which I read books (when it comes time to pick up, that’s the book I read next), but given my recent loss, I saw this book was on the shelf and decided to go ahead and read it.
I’m talking about “The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Love, and Loss” by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt.
Last year, when the accompanying documentary came out (“Nothing Left Unsaid“), I watched it immediately – I also wrote a review on it. I have always admired Anderson Cooper, have watched him for years on CNN, and saw him in-person with Andy Cohen last year.
Before I go any further, here is the official description of the book from Amazon.com:
A touching and intimate correspondence between Anderson Cooper and his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, offering timeless wisdom and a revealing glimpse into their lives
Though Anderson Cooper has always considered himself close to his mother, his intensely busy career as a journalist for CNN and CBS affords him little time to spend with her. After she suffers a brief but serious illness at the age of ninety-one, they resolve to change their relationship by beginning a year-long conversation unlike any they had ever had before. The result is a correspondence of surprising honesty and depth in which they discuss their lives, the things that matter to them, and what they still want to learn about each other.
Both a son’s love letter to his mother and an unconventional mom’s life lessons for her grown son, The Rainbow Comes and Goes offers a rare window into their close relationship and fascinating life stories, including their tragedies and triumphs. In these often humorous and moving exchanges, they share their most private thoughts and the hard-earned truths they’ve learned along the way. In their words their distinctive personalities shine through—Anderson’s journalistic outlook on the world is a sharp contrast to his mother’s idealism and unwavering optimism.
An appealing memoir with inspirational advice, The Rainbow Comes and Goes is a beautiful and affectionate celebration of the universal bond between a parent and a child, and a thoughtful reflection on life, reminding us of the precious insight that remains to be shared, no matter our age.
The documentary and the book are obviously based on the same collection of information, but the book is the collection of emails between Cooper and Vanderbilt, which was really interesting.
It’s funny to me how much we don’t know about our families, or even our parents – or maybe it’s just me. But even someone as famous as Gloria Vanderbilt had a bit of a mysterious past to her son. Here are some quotes I took note of during my reading:
- “I know now that it’s never too late to change the relationship you have with someone important in your life… all it takes is a willingness to be honest and to shed your old skin, to let go of the long-standing assumptions and slights you still cling to.”
- “I’ve often thought of loss as a kind of language. Once learned, it’s never forgotten.”
- “I no longer imagine a diamond at my secret core. Instead, I see shimmering flashes of moonlight on the calm of a midnight sea.”
One topic they didn’t discuss in-depth was the suicide of Anderson’s brother, which Vanderbilt was witness to. It’s talked about extensively in the documentary.
All in all, it was a great read, and inspiring – get to know people you care about! I’d recommend this book to anyone who loves memoirs, and of course, fans of Anderson Cooper and/or Gloria Vanderbilt.
The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Into The Wild” by Jon Krakauer.
I hope you all have a great weekend – I have another batch of blogs planned for next week! I think it’s safe to say, I am slowly getting my creativity back. Talk soon!
Ah, here we are, the final stage: Acceptance. This stage can come across as a giant sigh of relief, but the truth of the matter is, acceptance does not equal joy or mean that life goes back to the way it was.
Instead, it simply means that we are accepting life without our person; and we’re figuring out a way to create a new normal. This may mean that different people fill different roles, or that a daily routine looks a little different.
As I mentioned yesterday, my dad wasn’t a part of my daily life so not much changes in that regard. But I certainly feel different.
When I went to Tennessee for his memorial, a majority of my family was there, and it certainly felt so weird without my dad there. He was always keeping in touch with everyone and it would be strange to have all of us in a room without him. When my friend drove me back to Indiana the next day, things just felt a little colder, a little more empty.
I am still trying to learn a lot about my dad and the life he lived. Of the things I’ve heard, I’m starting to realize just how full of a life he did have, and how many obstacles he overcame in such a short time and did so without hesitation.
My dad wasn’t a man looking for fame or fortune – ultimately, I think he was just trying to find a little bit of happiness, perhaps even a touch of adventure in each day. He loved stories, loved meeting people, and even in the confines of what appears to be a reclusive last few years, he found joy in hobbies: fixing fountain pens, attending garage sales, reading, and playing chess competitively.
I am never going to be okay with my dad being gone. But I know my dad would be okay knowing that we are all going to try and find a way to go on without him here, physically. I hope this brings my family together – they’re pretty cool – and I know he’d like seeing us lean on each other.
My dad was cremated, and I flew my portion (1/7th) of his ashes from Indiana to Texas. Right now, they sit on my bookshelf while I wait to decide what I actually want to do with them. I know I’m scattering some of them, and am lightly planning that now. I know my other family members have their own ideas for how to honor my dad, too.
I have no idea how long a journey like this lasts. In college, a close friend unexpectedly passed away and I felt like my heart was ripped to shreds. I remember pulling over and calling my dad when I got the news.
That was almost 10 years ago, and sometimes I still get choked up about that loss. But I am someone who believes in spirits and signs, and I have a connection to radio waves (I know, it’s super weird but I hear meaningful songs nearly everywhere I go), and I’ve already seen a few signs from my dad.
Even just last night, I went to a dance class and we danced to Demi Lovato and DJ Khalid’s “I Believe”, and the lyrics almost brought me to tears: “Tough times don’t last, but tough people do, As long as you’ve got hope, you’ll find your way.”
I know we’re all going to come out of this on the other side, and I have always believed that we aren’t given anything we can’t handle.
Don’t look back at this time as a time of heartbreak and distress, remember me.
…I don’t want you to cry and weep, I want you to go on, living your life.
-Hanson, “With You In Your Dreams”
Thank you so much for reading my grief series – I know it was not a cheerful read. There will be more on this, I’m sure, as I continue on.
If you knew my dad, and have anything you’d like to share with me, please do not hesitate to email me at: Holly@thebitterlemon.com – I would love to hear from you.
Stage four isn’t that shocking – it’s depression. Why wouldn’t someone going through grief suffer from depression? I have been slogging through the darkness of depression and sadness since my dad’s surgery in late September.
Although depression can come in many forms for different people, for me, there was one telltale sign: things that normally made me happy, no longer did. That is why my blogging fell to the side, my Etsy shop (I stopped making jewelry), I stopped cooking and relied on meal delivery, and my sleep suffered.
Things are slowly getting better – and I know that it’s okay if I have a bad day – now is the time to go easy on myself.
Expectations when it comes to grief are really weird. I got cards in the mail from so many people, which was great, and I’m so thankful – I hung them all in my living room. But on the other hand, some people just expect me to go on and be normal, like nothing ever happened… And well, that’s just not how it’s going to be.
People respond differently to people who are grieving. They reach out. But depression is so very isolating. It’s hard to explain to anyone who has never been depressed how isolating it is. Grief comes and goes, but depression is unremitting.
-Key Redfield Johnson
Some days DO feel normal. After all, I didn’t talk to my dad on a regular basis. Before his surgery, I hadn’t talked to him in almost four years. But nothing can explain the finite feeling that is death. He is gone, and I can’t talk to him like I did before, no matter what I do.
Other days, I feel like I keep freaking seeing CANCER… BRAIN CANCER, everywhere. It’s in the books I read, it’s on TV, it’s online… and I just never want to see it again.
Right now, there are two 50-pound boxes of his things in my closet. I have dug out a few of the items – a wooden chess board and pieces that I’ve set up on my dresser, an antique fountain pen that’s on my home desk, a glass paperweight that’s on my desk at work, an LSU sweatshirt, an Atlanta baseball hat, and a half-used journal.
Some days, I wear the hat or sweatshirt – the last few nights, I’ve slept with the journal at the foot of my bed. Other days, I don’t want to even think about opening up the boxes to see what else is in there. I’m just not ready.
I’ve found that reading is a good escape – I’ve read three books in the last week. I’ve even cooked a few meals and am starting to gather materials to make a few pieces of jewelry for my Etsy shop.
I am someone who likes to DO things; I like to be productive. But even with the greatest intentions, sometimes I still end up laying in bed for long chunks of time. It is a slow process. Writing about my feelings – even at a surface level – has helped me this week. Planning for the future also helps, and gets me excited about things coming up this year.
I’m taking it day by day, as cliche as it sounds.
Tomorrow, I’ll be talking about the fifth and final stage of grief: Acceptance.
Stage three of grief is an interesting one. Bargaining refers to promises that may have been made before the person passed away. For example, praying and asking God to please spare your loved one; or perhaps making a promise that you’ll never do anything bad again if only this person can live longer.
These types of promises, or bargaining, may also occur after the person has passed, only now, they are imaginary. We may start to think back and wonder what if I’d done this, would the person have lived longer?
I’ll be honest, this really has not been a part of my grieving process, at least not yet. I know that there’s nothing I could have done to change the course of my dad’s life. I think many of us are probably in a position to think, well if we only took charge of our health or if we only exercised more, etc… but the truth is, our death is already planned. And it may not have anything to do with health or food or exercise.
I also know that my dad was given the best care possible once he entered Erlanger hospital, and I know he was grateful for all of his surgeons, doctors, and nurses along the way.
The thing is… guilt is also a part of stage three. And I cannot say I’ll walk away from this without feeling guilt. I wanted so badly to repair the relationship I had with my dad so that we could enjoy his final days, months, years laughing as we once did.
It’s a hard thing to imagine how somebody copes with grief and at the same time has to build a new life.
But despite everything I did, there was still a barrier. And the truth is, I will die not knowing what really happened there. There is one thing I did that I feel wrecked with guilt for, and I obviously can’t take it back.
Because of the nature of my dad’s death, I was blessed to have the opportunity to say goodbye. He was not capable of responding to me, but he was breathing, and I said – albeit through hysterical tears – everything I could think to say. And I apologized.
And that’s all I could do; and I just have to know that he heard me, and that he died knowing I was sorry, and that we were at peace with our past.
At this point, and as I continue coping, I know that I’m going to have to forgive myself, and the only real thing I can change, is how I act in the future.
Tomorrow, I’ll discuss Stage Four: Depression.
Already, anger has played a pretty big part in my grieving process. Actually, anger has had a role in the relationship I’ve had with my dad for many years.
As described by the experts, this stage of grief can be met with general feelings of anger, along with structured feelings of being angry at a specific person – maybe a doctor, or someone who wasn’t there during the time of loss.
I have had moments of being angry at a specific person, but I also do not want those feelings of anger over that person to overshadow my general sadness over my loss, if that makes any sense. I do not want my dad’s memory to be tarnished by one person is the best way I can put it.
I have also had incredible anger at the situation surrounding my dad, anger at work, and anger at the world for just not being an easy place for me right now. I’ve even gotten angry at Blanche!
At my dad’s memorial service, my great uncle said that memory is not something death can take from us. And for that I am so grateful. But, when it came time to share stories about my dad, many of the stories I have are of him being mad at me.
Of course, many of them are moments I can laugh about now; moments where he was just raising me, being tough on me, but they aren’t necessarily moments that describe him as a person. Or are they? My dad had a short fuse, and we butted heads countless times.
May love be what you remember most.
My feelings of anger are countered by my faith in destiny. I believe there are moments in our life that are planned – such as when and how we will die – but I also believe we choose our destinies. And my dad made choices that resulted in a situation that angered our family.
His death does not change those choices, and he was an adult, actively making those choices. To be completely angry is to deny that he made those choices.
My anger is also countered by the support I feel from my family and my friends – I have heard from so many of you, received so many hugs, and have shared tears with you. For that I am so grateful.
But yes, anger is still going to be there. Studies show that as a culture, we’re taught to suppress anger, even though it’s a very necessary, common feeling. Although I don’t consider myself an angry person, I’ve found anger to be a powerful part of this grief.
My anger has forced me to acknowledge a lot of things in my life that have otherwise floated by, and it’s given me the confidence to confront the people that are pissing me off! In a way it’s good, but of course, no one likes to get yelled at.
As I’ll continue to say, I’m coping. And it’s not really a pretty thing, but I’m just rolling with it.
Tomorrow, I’ll talk about stage three: bargaining.
My dad was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer in October of 2017. I know that typically, the five stages of grief are part of the healing process after loss; after death. But I have been coping with symptoms of grief since I heard the news about a mass in his brain.
I quickly learned that this blog was not a place for me to air my grievances – it was only adding to my stress as I received horrible messages from outsiders. No matter how many supportive messages I got, it only takes one dig to stick with us.
So, I quit.
I barely made an appearance here – a place I thought was mine. But that is sometimes what happens when you put yourself out there, in any form. There are always going to be haters.
For the most part, I have stuck to my journal and have let most of my other creative outlets fall to the side – including my Etsy shop (I am slowly starting to get back to it). But in general, I have been merely just trying to get by; just trying to get out of bed, look half-decent to get to work on time; do my tasks; and get some sleep at night.
At that, is stage one: Denial.
My dad passed away on February 3. It was not a surprise, and at first, I took a giant sigh of relief when I heard the news. And then I apologized for feeling relief. But I wanted so badly for my dad to be at peace, and to know that he would no longer be in pain.
After that sigh, I’ve felt a multitude of things, and each day – hell, each moment – feels different. So, I’m using this week to explore the healing process as I’ve come to know it. I’m still working on a larger project that will further detail my dad’s life and our relationship; so parts of this may be vague, as I’m still not ready to open those parts of my memory just yet.
Before starting this blog series, I thought that denial was literally denying that a person was sick or had died. And I certainly have never felt that way. I took my dad’s condition very seriously.
In 1969, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and her co-author, a grief expert, David Kessler, identified the five stages of grief that we’ve come to understand as a necessary part of the healing process.
Instead, denial is us just trying to get through each day. We may question why we should go on or HOW we should go on, and I have been feeling this SO hard. During this stage, life may seem meaningless, or things that once seemed like a big deal just don’t matter as much.
The latter explains my feelings about work. I hate admitting that, but ever since my dad’s surgery, getting stressed over trivial things at work seemed beneath me. And they still do.
But grief is a walk alone.
Others can be there, and listen. But you will walk alone down your own path, at your own pace, with your sheared-off pain, your raw wounds, your denial, anger, and bitter loss. You’ll come to your own peace, hopefully… But it will be on your own, in your own time.
My dad’s memorial service was a week after his passing, but I knew that upon getting back into town, I had to refocus quickly and jump into dance rehearsals. I was in the middle of prepping for the showcase and I had two weeks to learn two routines and get my costumes together. It was a much-needed distraction.
But the day after the showcase, I felt so lost. I didn’t really know what to do with myself even though between work and dance and just general life, my days are pretty much laid out for me.
Since then, it’s gotten a little better – I know I must go on, and I know I have to continue to live the life I’ve dreamt of, especially now. None of us know just how much time we have, and I don’t want to ever be in my final days wishing I’d done more.
As you probably know, the stages of grief are not linear. They can come and go at any time – sometimes they last a minute, sometimes they may last months. Everyone deals differently.
Tomorrow, I’ll discuss stage two: Anger.