Hey, hey! It finally got chilly in Austin last week (yes, it even snowed!), and I’ve been SO paranoid that this would be year #3 of having the Christmas Mouse come for a visit. Blanche started meowing at my coat closet door on Wednesday, and ever since then I’ve been so paranoid (not to mention I had a nightmare about a mouse flying out of the closet, and then woke up convinced there was a mouse on the kitchen floor – it was a dust bunny).
I proactively set mouse traps, and spent a good part of 2017 scouring my place for any holes that would allow unwanted guests – and filling said holes. I was confident, but it’s starting to slip. I would be lying to you if I said I wasn’t sleeping with my hallway light on tonight.
I need sleep. And this weekend was set not up to not be forgiving in that area… wah! But, ’tis the season, right? I know everyone is busy as heck this time of year.
So, let’s slow things down a bit and talk about this week’s book from Blanche’s Book Club! It’s “Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital” by Sheri Fink. Here’s the description from Amazon:
Pulitzer Prize winner Sheri Fink’s landmark investigation of patient deaths at a New Orleans hospital ravaged by Hurricane Katrina – and her suspenseful portrayal of the quest for truth and justice.
In the tradition of the best investigative journalism, physician and reporter Sheri Fink reconstructs 5 days at Memorial Medical Center and draws the reader into the lives of those who struggled mightily to survive and maintain life amid chaos.
After Katrina struck and the floodwaters rose, the power failed, and the heat climbed, exhausted caregivers chose to designate certain patients last for rescue. Months later, several of those caregivers faced criminal allegations that they deliberately injected numerous patients with drugs to hasten their deaths.
Five Days at Memorial, the culmination of six years of reporting, unspools the mystery of what happened in those days, bringing the reader into a hospital fighting for its life and into a conversation about the most terrifying form of health care rationing.
In a voice at once involving and fair, masterful and intimate, Fink exposes the hidden dilemmas of end-of-life care and reveals just how ill-prepared we are for the impact of large-scale disasters—and how we can do better. A remarkable book, engrossing from start to finish, Five Days at Memorial radically transforms your understanding of human nature in crisis.
I heard about this book on a podcast and I was sold when I heard: true story + Hurricane Katrina. This book uses sold investigative journalism to look into the days leading up to a criminal investigation in one of New Orleans’ most historic institutions.
It’s a glimpse into public health and the issues any hospital would face as a storm approaches – Do they stay or go? What about the patients? How could they logistically get everyone out safely and in time? What if the weather alert is really nothing to worry about?
The questions get deeper when you start to consider patients on life support. Will the generators hold up? How long might we be without power?
But the real question the doctors inside Memorial hospital faced in those five days were moral questions of life, death, and ethics.
This story is a chilling one, but it’s fantastically written. I’m recommending this to my true crime lovers, any students of public health, and all who love the great city of New Orleans.
The next book we’ll be reading is “Watch Me Disappear” by Janelle Brown.
I stayed up late last night baking cookies and finally watching “Home Alone” for the first time of the season. I was able to bake everything I wanted… minus the meringues. This is my second attempt ever making them and I can never seem to get the texture right. Anyone got any advice? I miiiight try it one more time before i just give up – they just look so pretty in the pictures!
Anyway, I’ve got another packed week ahead, but I’m going to try and squeeze in some more holiday movies before the holiday season flies by!
Last week, I took a trip home to Indiana to visit some old friends and family. It had been 18 months since I’ve been back, and I was really looking forward to it.
I had three big things on my to-do list during my six-day trip: 1. Honor my friend Cheryl by participating in a Crohn’s Walk with my mom, 2. Get answers for a romantic relationship in-question, and 3. Visit my friend and her son.
Item #1 happened basically as planned, although there seems to always be secrecy and planning that happens behind my back and then – SURPRISE! – I arrive and it’s not what I thought it would be. Whatever.
Item #2 is a toughie. You see, I have had a little bit of a crush on this person for, well, half of my life. I am really lucky to call him my friend, first, but I know things were starting to inch toward the gray area and I needed to know where we were headed.
Long-distance relationships are difficult, and I have no intentions of getting involved in one unless there was a clear means to an end. One thing I wanted to know was if he planned on staying in Indiana forever.
If so, that would be something I’d have to seriously consider: would I move back to give this thing a chance? I’m happy to report we talked about this right away. I’m not-so-happy to report that his answer was yes, he’ll be staying in Indiana foreevvverrrrrr. Ouch.
Now let me say this, I’m definitely not married to the idea of staying in Austin, Texas forever. In fact, I’m already considering my next move. But I know I’m not equipped to move back to Indiana. I haven’t done all I need to do!
There were other wrenches thrown into the mix as the week progressed – things that showed me, clearly, a romantic future is just not in the cards for me and this guy. I don’t want to say much more than that; I do hope he’ll still be my friend for years to come.
It’s sad, in fact I’m still pretty bummed out about it, but I’m glad I saw things for myself and got the answers I needed before we traveled too far down the rabbit hole.
If you’ve been reading around these parts for awhile, you know that I’m kinda (ok, really) bad at dating. I have a history of ignoring red flags and getting myself stuck in some sticky situations. So, even though this didn’t end in love this time, I have to say I’m really proud of myself for standing up and not just “going with it” when I know something doesn’t align with my values. I know what I want for myself, and I’d much rather be single than try and force something that isn’t right.
So, it’s a bittersweet win.
Now, item #3 just plain didn’t happen for reasons I’m not really sure of.
I’ll say that as much as it pains me to admit it, sometimes people just grow apart, no matter how long or deep a history they have. And maybe that has happened here.
Regardless, my heart is still hurt, and I have been on the mend (read: sleeping way too much) since my return. Loss, of any sort, isn’t easy.
Aside from those things, I spent some quality time with another friend – we got some good laughs, drank delicious wine, and we endured some interesting challenges along the way.
We joined up with some old friends from high school and I laughed until my cheeks hurt over inside jokes that possibly only we think are funny. We went to see Guster and Dispatch in concert, and there were literally fireflies dancing above us, and it was the Indiana I’ve romanticized since my departure 14 summers ago.
As I always say, Indiana will always (!) hold a special place in my heart – I went through a lot of things growing up there. But when I boarded my plan to Texas last Thursday morning, every ounce of me knew that things just weren’t quite the same. Even if Texas isn’t my forever home, I know Indiana isn’t.
I spent 12 years in Louisiana, and although it didn’t necessarily feel like “home”, I accomplished so much there, and it really shaped who I’ve become. Texas, well, hard work got me here, and it gave me a fresh start. It’s an opportunity that I still sort of can’t believe I have.
So, cheers to old friends, but also, to looking ahead, wherever that may be.
I took a road trip to Baton Rouge this weekend. Yes, it’s a route I’ve traveled many times before – however, I haven’t done it in a whole year. Truthfully, because I kept having to make that trip before (because of CASA volunteer obligations), I’m sure I turned myself off of it.
But when a friend announced he was making a big move (13+ hours away), I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to hop in the car and go for a drive.
I needed a place to stay for one night, so I slapped in on Facebook, and within one minute I had an offer from a sorority sister whom I haven’t seen in several years. I took her up on her offer, and spent Friday night doing a little baking, packing road trip snacks (fruit, cheese, trail mix, of course), and packing my clothes.
I’d also given my car a little love with an extensive oil and three-filter change, plus a tire repair, and even a tire replacement. I was ready!
I hit the road at 8am on Saturday, which would put me in Baton Rouge around 3pm provided there wasn’t much traffic or bad weather. I’ve made this trip so many times to know it rarely takes the 6.5 hours Google Maps says.
But, I was in no hurry. I didn’t have to be anywhere specific until 9pm, so whatever. I used the car time to catch up on my favorite Radio Andy shows: Reality Checked, Jim Parsons is Too Stupid for Politics, and Dan Rather’s America.
I also listened to some Dispatch I got from the library (I’m seeing them in concert next week), and made it about halfway through an audio book.
The drive from Austin to Baton Rouge is mostly farm land – especially during the Texas half of the trip. Lots of cows, steers, and neatly rolled hay. I am a sucker for these types of views.
I made it to Baton Rouge a little before 3:30, and was so happy to see my hostess, Sarah, along with her son – both of whom had just survived his birthday party. We spent the afternoon visiting, and were treated to pork chops from Iverstine Farms, along with some fancy rose Sarah discovered on Instagram. It was a perfect Saturday evening.
Already buzzed, I headed to the goodbye gathering at a nearby bar, where I took advantage of the cheap, local beer. I do miss Abita!
It was fantastic to visit with my friend and see some familiar faces, I didn’t realize just how much I needed that feeling of comfort – that feeling of home.
The fact is, I wasn’t born and raised in Louisiana. I’m from Indiana, where I’m traveling at the end of this week. And while I have spent years calling Indiana home, I don’t know if that word is the right one.
Yes, I spent 18 years there. But I spent 12 in Louisiana. And you know… I grew up, big time, in Louisiana. I survived a culture shock, had my first serious heartbreak (on top of many others), endured multiple hurricanes, got my first apartment, my first job out of college… it’s easy to say that a lot of things about me where shaped in Louisiana.
So many of my friends there are like family, and when 95% of my family doesn’t talk to me – friends are all I’ve got.
I don’t regret leaving Baton Rouge – it needed to happen, for the sake of my career, my creativity, and still for my sanity. And I know the chances of living in Louisiana again are slim-to-none. But it’s always going to hold a really special place in my heart.
I left Baton Rouge at 10am on Sunday – and was met with some pretty heavy traffic and construction on the drive back. Pair that with a decent headache from my Saturday festivities (when in Baton Rouge…), and it made for a less than stellar trip, but I made it safe, and I even got a Diet Cherry Coke – so we’re putting that down as a WIN in my book.
It was a quick and fun weekend – a much-needed, heart-fulfilling trip. I’ve got another one coming up this week, and well, I’ve been sort of harboring the story around that for awhile. I’ll spill it here later (this week), but I’ve still got to find the words to explain it.
So, cheers to tired Mondays – as long as the soul is full.
The first time Baton Rouge felt like home was around 3 a.m. in January 2004, after making the 15-hour drive from Indianapolis to the Dalrymple exit near my dorm. The Louisiana State University football team had just won the National Championship, and there was a giant sign welcoming students back to campus after a long Christmas break.
I won’t lie, my first semester was hard. I felt like I didn’t fit in, that maybe I moved too far away from home, that maybe college just wasn’t for me, and I didn’t know if I even wanted to go back. But, as I would come to find, I’m a person who gives second chances. And I’m so glad I gave Baton Rouge that chance.
I left Baton Rouge nearly 1 year ago to-date, and as many tough things I went through there, it remains home to many memories I hold dear. There is a house on Olive Street, just West of campus, where I fell in love one chilly October; a sorority house on Lakeshore Drive where I met some of my best friends; a massive football stadium where I spent some of my best Saturday nights; a basement newsroom on campus where I retreated between classes, typing away to meet deadlines; a bar near the overpass where I learned how to make a proper martini; a complex off Corporate where I had my first apartment all by myself; a clothing boutique where I read my first poem for a crowd…among so many others.
And as I write this, many of those landmarks are drowning.
And I know, it isn’t about me, for many in Louisiana it’s about their life, their homes, their childhood, their families. And for that, my heart breaks.
Last week, southern Louisiana was hit with incredible downpours adding up to more than 30 inches of water, overflowing storm drains and various bodies of water in the surrounding areas. The overflowing water has since forced more than 10,000 people out of their homes and into emergency shelters, into the homes of friends and family, or even homeless. As of yesterday morning, more than 70,000 Louisiana residents have applied for federal aid, with more than 40,000 homes reported as having damage.
Even though the rain has paused, forecasters remind the public that all of the water that is currently upstream, must come down, and the water will continue to rise. The American Red Cross has stated this as the worst natural disaster to hit the United States since Superstorm Sandy, despite receiving very little news coverage.
On Sunday morning, I laid in my bed, scrolling through Facebook, reading the status updates from my friends and colleagues in Baton Rouge, many of whom have been displaced. Some of them reported having to evacuate their homes, only to seek refuge at a friend or family’s home, and then evacuate again. Some of them were seeking boats or phone numbers for rescuers to save their elder family members. A former roommate of mine said her parents left her childhood home with nothing but the clothes on their backs, even leaving the family pets behind and only hoping for the best.
By Sunday evening, I was in tears. I think about my friends who are hurting; I think about how much a home means to us as humans; how tough it must feel to leave it all behind. I think about all of the families in a shelter, sitting in someone else’s clothes, sleeping on a cot, or in a sleeping bag, and all the small children not knowing what’s happening.
In all honesty, I’ve escaped any sort of real tragedy my entire life. My childhood home caught fire just a few months after we moved out. The house I lived in during high school flooded after I moved to Louisiana – I visited my hometown and that house shortly after the flood, and it looked terrible.
In Baton Rouge, I skirted Hurricane Katrina by mere miles; the sorority house I lived in at the time served as shelter for those displaced. For Hurricane Gustav, the fence surrounding my apartment complex disappeared in the wind, and many of the apartments below mine were flooded. Sure, I lost power and was stir-crazy, but I suffered no damage.
Even driving to work days after the storm was very emotional – I hated seeing my city in such disarray. Even one of my favorite bars burned to the ground; and with it went my initials I’d carved into the wooden banister during a first date with a boy from work.
But now, I’m 7 hours away from the sinking city I once called home. And I know right now all I can do is help financially, and possibly emotionally, and I can spread the word. If you live far away and have any inkling to help, I want to tell you how.
How to Help Baton Rouge & #LaFlood Victims
For starters, my dear friend and sorority sister, Sarah, is living in Baton Rouge, and has donated hours and hours of her time to helping those in need. She has set up a very helpful Amazon Wishlist for specific items that are needed – many shelters are turning away items that are not on their lists. If you choose to ship to the gift address, they will be delivered straight to Baton Rouge. Sarah has been using her home as a receiving dock for these items and is delivering them to the shelters in need.
Sarah has also set up a GoFundMe account strictly for helping flood victims and volunteers. This is where my awesome mom has made a donation, and we have been receiving multiple updates daily from Sarah telling us where our money is being spent – including receipts – and I can assure you, she is purchasing the exact items that are being requested at the shelters, and from those in need. I say this because I know people, including myself, are weary to throw money at a problem without knowing how it’s being spent. Trust me on this one.
I’m also noting the Baton Rouge Food Bank, as I trusted it with my annual donation when I lived in Baton Rouge. As of yesterday, it was reported the Food Bank had four feet of water in their facility; and they are badly in need of help. For more information on the Food Bank, click here, and to make a monetary donation to the Food Bank, click here.
If you cannot help monetarily, I know they could always use volunteers if you live in the area. Don’t live close? Share this information; spread the word. I don’t think many people realize just how awful this disaster really is. And the thing is, just because the rain has stopped, and even once the water recedes, there are STILL going to be people in need.
As I’ve mentioned all week, if there is anything else I can do to help, please let me know. My home is your home; I cook a delish chili, and I’ve got pillows and blankets for days. If you’re down to bunk with Blanche, we would love to have you.
If there is one thing I know about Louisiana, it is the spirit to continue to rise, no matter what. May this disaster only be proof of that.
You may or may not know this, but usually my Wednesday blog posts are a replicate of the column that is published in a weekly magazine, “Dig”, which is distributed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
I’ve worked as a contributing writer for Dig since it was born, a little more than five years ago. The column, also called “The Bitter Lemon” has been around for a little more than two years. And I have loved being able to share the “wisdom” from this blog, to print readers in Baton Rouge for this time.
I know this probably sounds like a goodbye letter, but it’s not! Actually, I’m so excited to say that instead of being printed weekly, on newspaper texture, Dig is now becoming a monthly publication on flossy, glossy paper! And, The Bitter Lemon gets to stay!
You can check out letters from the editor and publisher to get the full scoop here. When I got the email from my editor explaining this, I was worried that this was it, maybe The Bitter Lemon had run its course…but nope, we get to stay!
So, there is no column this week. Instead, the first monthly, glossy issue will be on stands (and online, of course), June 1st. In the meantime, you can STILL get your fix of The Bitter Lemon… I’ve put all 90 columns (yes, 90) in one spot, right here, for your reading pleasure.
If you’re new here, that should last you a bit. If you’ve already read them all, perhaps you could take a walk down memory lane – I know I did looking back at nearly 100 pieces!
It’s crazy how looking back I can tell exactly what was going on in my life just by looking at the first few sentences of each column.
Some of my favorites are:
Lose Control in Dating… And Love It (January 27, 2016)
People often say, “When you’re not looking, that’s when it’ll happen.” These people are usually in a relationship.
I get it – just when you’re busy getting your life together instead of obsessing over dating, Mr. or Mrs. Right could be eyeing you from afar.
It makes sense, but the most difficult thing for me to wrap my brain around when it comes to dating is that it’s one of the only things in our lives that’s completely out of our control.
Think about it: in general, when you work hard, you know at some point, you’ll get a promotion. When you put extra time and effort into a hobby, the chances are likely you’ll get better at it. Read more…
Discovering that dating is ultimately out of my control was one of the most freeing experiences I’ve ever had. It really took the pressure off, and it helped me to stop analyzing every single thing that happened to me – because ultimately, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what I wear, or if a guy calls me after one day or one year; whatever happens is going to happen and there’s nothing I can do about it. As James Bay says, “Leave it to the breeze.”
Searching for Unicorns (November 4, 2015)
At least a year ago, a guy named Daniel invented the “Universal Hot Crazy Matrix,” and presented his findings on YouTube. It went viral, because guys love to call women crazy.
According to the matrix, all women start off at being “at least a four” on the “crazy scale.” If you’re between a 5-8 on the scale, under the crazy line, that’s what Daniel calls the “Fun Zone.”
If you’re an eight hot, and below crazy, that’s the “Wife Zone.” Anything above an eight hot and still below crazy is considered a unicorn and does not exist.
While I know this matrix was created by a 46-year-old white guy with a cell phone clip on his belt, it gets on my nerves. Read more…
This is a column I’d been wanting to write for a very long time. Men calling women crazy really drives me… insane. Not only is it rude and dismissive, but it’s hurtful, and I’m saying that as a woman who’s been called crazy a lot, despite the fact that I’m not, in fact, crazy, nor am I on mind-altering pills. The guy I mentioned in the column, my then-crush, was obsessed with this Crazy-Hot matrix, and now that I no longer talk to him, it’s no wonder he takes his dating advice from a guy on YouTube wearing a cell phone clip.
I’m Single, Stop Asking Why (March 4, 2016)
“So, have you found anyone yet?”
It was a question from my coworker whom I’d just met.
“What does that mean?” I asked her.
She found it difficult to believe I was still single. I told her to believe it, because I am very, very single.
“That’s good,” she said. “Wait until you’re like, almost 30 and then settle down.”
Aside from the fact that I’ll be 30 in four months, I don’t understand why coupled people think that being single is a life decision. Read more…
Writers have this ability to turn really small moments into metaphors and symbols and make it seem meaningful to life as a whole. That’s what happened before I wrote this column – it was a simple, rainy day conversation between two coworkers that really got my gears grinding. Single people are, and probably will always be, the outcasts of society given that we didn’t follow that Biblical path everyone seems to follow. Because, why not? But I’m not in a position to follow that path, and I may never be, but it’s not up for judgment.
…And with that, I hope you enjoy looking back at some of the older columns! Don’t worry, I’ll still be blogging five days a week, sometimes it’ll be on dating stuff (or my lack of), and sometimes it’ll be about TV or my devil-cat Blanche, or cooking. Who knows – I’m giving up planning right now.
And thank you, as always for reading! See y’all tomorrow!
Instead of it being a “Woman You Should Know”, today it’s more about a Women’s Brand You Should Know, because I sat down with Ashley Stewart, just one of the founders behind The Patent Pump, an all-female powerhouse for branding (located in Baton Rouge, LA) that just reached its two-year anniversary. Very cool. So, here’s the scoop:
1. How did you get the idea to start The Patent Pump?
The idea for The Patent Pump is a manifestation of the saying “Do What You Love”. Krystal (my good girlfriend and business partner) and I both were in situations where we weren’t exactly exercising our creativity or using our superpowers in a lane that we felt fiery about. After dissolving a blog we both authored for, the idea sort of came naturally to put our strengths together. Her strength is digital marketing & strategy, while mine is visual communication & creative direction.
2. What makes it different from other branding businesses?
There are a couple of obvious reasons The Patent Pump is different from other branding services. Firstly it’s an all female powerhouse, each member of our team is a woman. That in itself is out-of-this-world. Secondly, The Patent Pump marries brand consultative services with creative services in order to produce tangible and intangible results. We’re able to not only develop strategies but also creatively execute them in-house.
3. What is the best part about working for yourself? The worst part?
The best part of working for yourself is the freedom. To truly be free – in that other aspects of life don’t enslave you – you have to go through a lot of self development. The journey to realizing and really knowing yourself is beautiful and unmatched.
The worst part? Is rightfully, that same journey of self development. Most days you experience a range of emotions, because stability is a fleeting concept when you first begin to work for yourself. As you grow and the more wisdom you acquire the more encouraged to manifest the vision.
4. How has Baton Rouge shaped your business?
Baton Rouge has been a fan to the flame. In a small town where tradition is a pillar, it challenges The Patent Pump to really shake things up, to think in and out of the box.
5. How do you stay creative?
I stay creative by communicating and consuming. I’m a big talker, I love to listen to stories, and I will be spend hours scrolling the internet just for general purposes. Krystal is pretty much the same. She’s a music-lover and she loves to talk! She is also a daily news consumer; so her list of daily online visits is just as diverse as her musical taste.
6. What’s next for The Patent Pump?
The Patent Pump turned 2 on Feb 14th! As we head into our toddler years, the need to be tenacious but tedious presents itself. Our goal is to really push to accomplish our mission, which is to rid the world of “superficiality without cleverness”. We understand the importance of face-value but we also present the challenge to be more than skin-deep and live with purpose.
Over the weekend, I drove back to Baton Rouge to get a ton of things done. It was one of my best friend’s birthday weekends, plus I needed to see my CASA boys, get my hair done (very important), and I needed to get any remaining things out of my apartment, clean the place, and turn in my keys.
It was a lot to cram into a 28-hour visit.
So, I got up Saturday morning at 1:30 and hit the road to Louisiana at 2am. Shockingly, it wasn’t terrible. There was no traffic, so I was able to whiz right on through and get into town at 9 — just in time for my hair appt at 9:30.
After that, my mission was to get to the birthday party/LSU-football-watching party (more on this adventure tomorrow), and later, I took my CASA boys to dinner.
The real chore was packing up the remaining crap at my apartment. It wasn’t much, but it was that annoying, little stuff that probably sometimes gets left behind. I checked all of my cabinets and wiped them down as I went. I also had to clean out my fridge and freezer (a task that took way longer than I expected).
Around 9 Saturday night, I was taking my fridge trash to the chute, and started chucking bags of frozen fruit down it, when I thought I heard a voice. I stopped. Heard nothing. Kept tossing.
Then I got to tossing frozen containers of soup. One clanked its way down the chute when I hear:
“Yo, you trying to kill us or something?”
It was obviously someone at the dumpster — and they didn’t appreciate what I was throwing.
I stood still.
“Yo, FUCK you,” said another voice.
So, onto another chore, I quickly decided. Somehow, cleaning my entire apartment took way longer than I’d hoped. Around midnight, I still wasn’t done, but I was exhausted, and pumped up an air mattress to sleep on.
This also took forever, but I happily crashed once it was done.
Sleeping in my empty apartment will classify as a LOW point in my life. It looked completely different without all my stuff in it, and while I loved that apartment, all I could think about were all the bad things that happened in it.
And when I woke up to my alarm 5 hours later, I was laying on the ground. My air mattress had failed me — so it took a sail down the chute as well.
Sunday morning, I finished cleaning, and someone came to pick up my last piece of furniture: my dining room table and chairs. When I did my final walk through, and took a long look out my living room window, I cried.
It really was a beautiful apartment. One that I probably could never afford, but I budgeted my ass off in order to live there. I will miss seeing the palm trees and the brick buildings out of my windows every day (my view in Austin is less-than stellar).
I felt really safe in that apartment. It was really difficult to get into the building, and once you did, it was very much like a hotel. My door didn’t open to the “real world” and I loved that.
Of course, there are things I love about my new apartment. But locking the door for the final time in Baton Rouge was tough. I know I left for the best reason there is: to take that opportunity of a lifetime.
But as I drove yesterday, I couldn’t help but think about how many awesome people I was leaving. There were times when I felt so alone in Louisiana; I felt like I never fit in. But, there were also a lot of cool people who befriended me, or who took me in for no other reason than to just be kind.
It’s not like I won’t see them again, that’s for certain. But I think this month in Austin has been a HUGE reality check. I definitely DID move 7 hours from pretty much everything I know. Sure, I moved from Indiana to Louisiana for college, but then, at least it’s pretty much laid out for you: where you’ll live and eat. And, there are lots of other people in the area who are in the same boat.
My month in Austin has been exciting! I love my new job, my coworkers are great, and I do love my apartment. But, it’s also a little lonely. I know THREE people who live here, and I know my way to and from work. Other than that, I need Siri (even though she took me to the wrong place three times last weekend).
I know, these things will change over time, and I’ll meet people and build a life here. But Louisiana, and everything in it, will always have a place in my heart.
When I was a senior in high school, all I did was dream about my life that would-be in Louisiana. It was pretty much nothing like I imagined, but it was something special. And I’ve also dreamt about my life here, in Austin, and I know there’s great things waiting for me (like trips to the wine outlet).
So there, I did it. I said my goodbyes. But it sure as hell wasn’t easy.
I spent last week in Austin, and made the trek back to Baton Rouge late Friday night. I wanted to visit my kitty, get some packing done, and I had one final shift to work at my retail job. My friend Derek had been telling me for weeks he was going to come over Saturday night for a “packing party.”
So, Saturday night around 7, he knocks on my door with a few bottles of wine (standard practice in my household). We’re chatting and I’m well-aware that he looks dapper and I was in my pajamas having not showered for two days.
And then, there’s another knock on the door. No one ever knocks on my door, so that was weird. Upon opening said door, there were two of my friends — Liz and Ashley — SURPRISE! They had balloons and alcohol and smiles on their faces! It was amazing!
I was so freaking surprised, I can’t even put it into words really. Part of my wished I looked cuter and that my apartment wasn’t a wreck with boxes, but here were my friends, who really don’t care what I look like or the condition of my home. They understood, and it was really one of the nicest things anyone has done for me.
Instead of packing, we ordered takeout and sat and drank and shot the shit. It was a fantastic Saturday night.
I don’t mean this to sound the wrong way, but I was feeling a little weird about my departure from Louisiana. I definitely have mixed feelings about it — I’ve lived in Baton Rouge for 12 years! There are certainly things I will always love about Baton Rouge: the oaks, the drive down Stanford Avenue (bonus points if you can catch the sunset), and the culture. There really is no place like it.
But, I’m excited for what’s to come. Sunday morning, Liz pretty much summed it up: “Are you excited about Austin? Not that many people get to start a life somewhere new…”
And she’s right. Not a lot of people do. And even already, I’ve questioned how I got so lucky for this opportunity that seems to be so perfect, that at times it feels like this moment was formed exactly for me.
Sunday night, I joined my friends for dinner — my “farewell dinner” — and as we were seated, I realized I was face-to-face with the woman who told me my services were “no longer needed” exactly 10 months ago. Things have really come full circle.
My official moving day is Saturday, and I still have so many ties in Baton Rouge that it won’t be my last time in town, of course. But being surrounded by so much love over the weekend made me feel happy and sad all at once.
It made me realize that I’ve been through a TON during my years in Louisiana, and I’m really lucky to have met some amazing people along the way.
The last time I had a boyfriend, I introduced him to my mom over pizza. Homemade pizza. I actually made three different kinds that day, because… pizza. And Martha Stewart’s Sausage, Arugula and Parsley pizza was one of them and it was supremely delish!
- 6 ounces of sweet Italian sausage (or spicy, if you’re up for it)
- 1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil
- 3/4 pound of store-bought pizza dough (don’t be afraid of the Pilsbury wheat)
- 3 whole peeled canned tomatoes, crushed
- 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- Coarse salt
- 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (or two, or three)
- 4 ounces of fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
- Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Remove the sausage from casings, saute over high heat, until just cooked through: 3-4 minutes. Break into bite-sized pieces.
- Brush a 12-inch cast iron skillet with 1 teaspoon of the oil. Press dough into the skillet, so it’s flat and reaches to all of the edges. If you don’t have a cast-iron skillet, prepare a baking sheet and follow baking instructions on the dough package once the toppings are on the pizza.
- Combine tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic, 1 tablespoon of oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and red pepper. Spread over the dough.
- Cook (in the skillet) over medium-high heat until bottom is golden brown, 3-4 minutes, before transferring to the oven to bake for 3 minutes. Scatter the mozzarella and sausage on top; continue baking until edge of crust is golden brown, about 8 minutes. Garnish with parsley, arugula, and Parmesan.
As I was leaving for work Friday afternoon, a letter fell out of my door. I knew exactly what it was before I opened it: a letter from my leasing office that would define the new terms of my apartment lease, if I decided to renew.
Having lived in my apartment for nearly four years now, it was something I expected. Usually though, the letter came in June or early July, and listed some sort of monetary incentive for renewing the lease early. Each year, I took the incentive and renewed for 12 months without question, because I do love living here and I never had any intentions of moving.
But, as you probably know by now, my situation changed drastically when I lost my job in November of last year. All of the sudden, I was locked into a life that was built around a certain kind of salary, and well, the salary part was taken away.
For these last 9 months, I’ve worked (endlessly, it seems) simply to pay for this life I built, but without being able to enjoy a drop of it. I don’t want to complain, because I know I’ve been very fortunate to even get work that pays enough to cover my bills.
But, for the first time in my life, there’s been months when I’ve had no clue how the rent will be paid. Will my next check cover my car payment? Will I be able to make due without using my credit card? I’ve never really had to go to the grocery with a calculator, or question whether or not I could purchase even a food item I craved.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t starting to resent my apartment at times. It’s beautiful, but it comes at a cost… which usually amounts to 60-hour work weeks. Because of this, of course, I’d been anticipating that lease renewal to arrive at my door. And I knew I just couldn’t afford to lock myself into this life for another year.
But when the letter arrived, I was surprised to see two things: 1. no monetary incentive to renew, and 2. if I was planning to leave at the end of my lease, I was required to provide a 60-day notice, which was in 24 hours of the time I received the letter.
Yikes! Talk about pressure!
But I just went for it, and the next day, I turned in my intent to vacate. When I said it out loud, to my leasing agent, “I won’t be renewing my lease,” it sounded really strange coming out of my mouth, even though I’ve been thinking about it for months.
But now that it’s settled in, I feel really good. I have NO — absolutely none — idea about where I’ll be moving to next, but at least I know I’m moving by the end of September, and that’s one of many questions to be answered.
I have a lot of pieces of furniture and random items that I’ll be getting rid of in the coming weeks, and I will be accepting bottles of wine instead of money (no, seriously), so please stay tuned if you’re in need of any furniture. Please note, most of these items aren’t fantastic unless you’re good at fixing things up. Off the top of my head, I know I’ll be getting rid of my dining set, several lamps, a small TV, lots of clothes, and plates.
Tomorrow, I’m taking a road trip that could possibly answer even more of my questions. Follow me on SnapChat @OrangeJulius7 to find out the details and follow me on my very long drive!
The first guy I fell in love with lived in Indiana. I lived here, in Baton Rouge. It was a 14-hour car ride between us, or two connecting flights.
We fell in love one summer, when I was home in Indiana. When the summer was drawing to a close, for me, there was no question whether or not we would stay together despite the distance.
Sure, I knew it was going to be difficult not seeing each other on a regular basis (this was pre-Skype), but I also knew that we were both focused on school (him more than me) and work (me more than him), and maintaining a social life.
I went back to Baton Rouge in August, and had already booked a flight to see him in October. We just had to make it two months. But in that short time, there were lots of things we missed out on together: concerts, dinners, parties… hell, I started to just wish I could go to Target with him on a Tuesday night.
His family, and I would also assume his friends, weren’t too keen on the idea of him being in a long distance relationship. And I suppose, why would they? There were girls everywhere — we were in college.
When I flew back to see him, my first flight was delayed, and I missed my connection. I cried to the airport employees: I HAD to see my boyfriend THAT day!!
There were no flights to Indiana that night. So, I hopped on a plane to Ohio, where my mom picked me up, and my boyfriend met us halfway. My luggage was still on the other flight, so I was stuck for the night with my makeup bag (I had to apply it right before we landed to ensure I looked fresh).
While our visit was pleasant and fun; I didn’t know his roommates, or many of his friends. Sure, I’d heard about them, but they didn’t know me either. And the entire time, we both just kept thinking of the inevitable: my flight back.
The morning I had to leave, was so quiet. We barely talked. And, if you’ve read this blog since its birth, you probably know that it was the last time I ever saw him. When my plane landed in Baton Rouge, he wouldn’t answer my calls.
Truth be told, I’ve always found a little bit of excitement in the idea of a long distance relationship. Think about it: you get to visit a new (or old) city while seeing your significant other; it’s like a vacation every time you see each other… you don’t get any spontaneous visits when you haven’t shaved and/or cleaned your place…
And I suppose that’s where the perks end. Because let’s be honest: traveling is expensive and timely. Anyone with a career and a life is probably not hoping to travel every weekend and essentially dating someone two days out of the week.
While it sounds glamorous if you’re Katy Perry (buuuut even she couldn’t make it work, i.e. Russell Brand), let’s consider the fact that a nice chuck of the relationship is just getting through normal life, the good (date nights, adventures, meeting the family) and the bad (chores, hardships, work stress).
Of course, there are situations that just call for long distance: probably most of these involve a career. But at some point, if the relationship is serious at least, one person in the pair is going to have to move for the other. Because… seeing people is important. And Skype, nor Facetime isn’t cutting it.
I’ve attempted many, many long distance relationships since the aforementioned — Dallas, Houston, New York, Indianapolis, Colorado… it’s a habit I’m trying to break. Perhaps there are certain types of people who are wired for the distance and I’m just not one of them.
Hours pass and she still counts the minutes that I am not there,
I swear I didn’t mean for it to feel like this, but every inch of me is bruised.
—Jack’s Mannequin, Bruised
A 10-minute drive gets me to work for my part-time job at the mall. I take the same route, park in the same area of the lot, and I walk the same path to the shoe store where I work 4-5 times each week.
On my way into work, I walk by one of those kiosks that sell gold jewelry. Nearly every single time, the guy working the kiosk says hello to me.
Well, it’s more like, “Hey…’sup?”
At first, I didn’t register that it was a regular occurrence until recently. Some days, I’m hustling in, walking as quickly as possible in order to clock in on time.
Other days, I’m taking a leisurely stroll, carrying my pink owl lunchbox, because I’m just a little childish.
No matter what, the guy — let’s call him Goldman — says hi to me.
It was a rainy day when I started looking at Goldman a little differently. I didn’t feel like being sociable and the last thing I wanted to do was go to work. I shuffled my usual path and made an effort to avoid Goldman’s gaze.
But he’d gotten out of his chair and into my path, to deliver his greeting.
According to my estimate, Goldman stands about average height. He’s mastered the art of the scruff, and he’s usually wearing a hat, a white tee, and jeans.
But he’s got that swag. He seems effortlessly cool.
Enter: the stranger crush.
According to Urban Dictionary, a stranger crush is, “a crush on someone you see all the time, but do not actually know personally. Their name may be known, but they are usually referred to by some sort of nickname.”
There’s no way I’d notice Goldman if he didn’t force his kindness upon me nearly every day. Not because there’s nothing to notice about him, probably just because I’m usually stuck in my own world, with earbuds in.
When you think about it, stranger crushes happen quite often; it’s what makes waiters and bartenders attractive for an hour (I’ve been both, so don’t take offense to it).
I’d argue to say there’s plenty of stranger crushes happening in college classrooms, apartment complex hallways, and vacation spots, worldwide.
Yesterday, as I approached Goldman’s kiosk, I told myself that I should just stop and ask him what his name is. At least then I could address him properly.
But I opted out of it.
That’s the whole allure of the stranger crush: there’s so much unknown.
I don’t even know his name, how old he is, or any part of his story. Right now, in my mind, he’s perfect. Knowing any fact about him could shatter that fantasy, and it’d make going to work that much shittier.
Perhaps Goldman has a stranger crush on me, too. He doesn’t know my name or where I work, although I’m sure he’s narrowed it down to our wing of the mall.
On the other hand, maybe he’s a complete psycho who’s playing the numbers game to get laid by passersby in the mall. That’s the thing about stranger crushes — you just never know.
A coworker of mine stopped by Goldman’s kiosk to buy some studs for her boyfriend. I told her about my nano-attraction to him.
“He seems really nice,” she said. “I mean, he gave me a $30 pair of earrings for, like, $10.”
I spent all of last week with my mom, as she was in town to visit. I hadn’t seen my mom in an entire year! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to ask off work, so I still had to put in 40 hours while she was here, and a lot of our visiting time was early in the morning or late at night.
But nonetheless, it’s still fun to have your mom around. She cleaned my apartment, really getting my bathroom in tip-top shape, and she cleaned my bedroom carpet, and dusted nearly the whole place. I am really thankful for it, because it’s something I feel like I never have time to do.
We also got to eat some yummy local food (gator tacos, boiled crawfish), did some shopping, got our nails done, and just caught up (even though we talk every day).
For Mother’s Day, I gave my mom a few gifts, one of which was a bracelet from Little Words Project. I’ve become obsessed with them after following them on Instagram @Littlewordsproject. Basically, they make and sell bracelets that have words on them, words of encouragement. You give someone a word you think they need, and when they’ve gotten all they need from their word, they pass it along to someone else who may need it.
In April, someone gave me a “Courage” bracelet, which I’ve been wearing ever since. When I went home to Indiana, I gave my friend one that said “Imagine” and then I gave my mom this “Laugh” bracelet.
I love wearing it, and although it’s kind of silly to think, seeing that word (courage) really does give me strength throughout my day! I hope you all had a fantastic weekend with your moms and families.