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‘Mariah’s World: For Love of the Tour’.

Welcome to 'Mariah's World'!

Welcome to ‘Mariah’s World’!

Hellllooo! How was your weekend? Mine was… eventful in an unexpected way. I spent a majority of my Saturday running errands – mostly for Christmas presents – which was hectic, and to top things off, it was cold and rainy. I came home around 6, got things put away, and settled into bed to watch “Orange is the New Black”. I was about 5 minutes in when Blanche comes running into my room, chasing a mouse.

Yep, a real mouse. With a tail.

Longtime readers may recall this exact thing happened to me last holiday season – you can read about that incident right here.

Last year, after screaming bloody murder and finding refuge standing on the back of my couch, I coaxed myself into my car, drove to the nearest Walgreens, and bought all the traps they had. I set them that night, and then locked myself, and the cat, into my bedroom, in hopes the traps would solve the issue.

I never saw the mouse, or any mouse, again until Saturday night, when one ran through my bedroom, heading toward my Christmas tree, which is in the living room. I said nothing, grabbed my keys, went to Walgreens, set the traps, and locked us back into the bedroom.

Apparently, we’ve got a new holiday tradition. Holly, Blanche, and the Christmas Mouse. Look for it in Barnes & Noble, nationwide November 2017.

Despite being terrified the mouse was going to jump out at me, much like the squirrel in “Christmas Vacation”, I spent Sunday cleaning, wrapping gifts, and watching Christmas movies.

And of course, I was counting down the hours until the premier of “Mariah’s World”! Sooooo who else watched it? Let’s get into this recap.

 The show started off with what I assume was a preview of what’s to come on this 8-part “event”… and in this 3-minute series of clips, I had no freaking clue what was happening. There were so many different people, lots of arguing, and lots of audio from “Fantasy” on repeat.

Right off the bat, we’re taken to Italy, where Mariah is vacationing on her yacht, which is across the water from her then-fiance’s yacht. I noticed immediately how vocal Mariah is about material things. It’s not enough that she’s on a lavish yacht, wearing diamonds, as she’s about to jump in the ocean, but she has to say it outloud that she’s wearing a dress and diamonds and is about to jump into the ocean.

I don’t know why this surprises me, but it certainly does, and it’s kind of annoying. She acts like she’s new money, when sure, she came from nothing, but that was many, many years ago (not a knock to her age, but rather a nod to how long she’s dominated the industry).

The residency in Las Vegas has just wrapped, and for some reason, Mariah’s assistant Stella, is scheduling a 27-stop European tour, that’s going to start in just two weeks – around the same time as her wedding.

So there’s lots of scrambling, lots of yelling on the phone, even a bridal fitting (super awkward), and eventually, Stella hires a person named Molly, who seems to have no experience as an assitant, yet she’s going to work on this European tour.

Seriously, HOW DOES THIS SHIT HAPPEN?

But nonetheless, that’s not the high point of the episode. Instead, it’s the first side of Bryan Tanaka – one of Mariah’s dancers, but also her now boyfriend.

Bask in the shady palm trees, my friends.

Like, let’s lay this out, because in the show, she’s PLANNING a wedding with James Packer. But during these dance rehearsals, she is ALL about some Tanaka.

Here’s my other odd observation. Why are the dance rehearsals held in her home? Better yet, why doesn’t she have a rehearsal space in her home? She’s literally practicing beside a pool table, and then when they go to rehearsal, there’s no real equipment – she’s using a water bottle as a mic, and they’ve set up gymnastic mats and plywood as a makeshift staircase.

Did anyone get the memo that it’s a Mariah CAREY reheasal?? That just seems odd to me. She doesn’t strike me as the kind of person to cut corners, but shit.

By the end of the episode, Mariah has pushed back the wedding, strictly in the name of the tour, and she’s a whopping 3-hours late to rehearsal.

This… should be an interesting 8 weeks, folks.

BBC: ‘Modern Romance’.

I know I say this every Friday, but seriously, this time I mean it: I’m SO glad I’ve made it to Friday! Between my blog class, the film festival, prepping for the dance showcase next weekend, and general business at the office, it has been a CRAZY month that has not allowed much time for rest. Whew!

Although I do have a few things to accomplish this weekend (hair cut and color, scheduling a spray tan, dance rehearsal, and general errands), I am planning on setting aside some quality chunks of time to lay in bed – and watch some “House of Cards” and catch up on some HBO goodies.

But anyway, we’re here to talk about books! I am so excited to share with you the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club, because it’s by funny guy Aziz Ansari, his book, “Modern Romance“. I had this book on reserve at the library for several weeks and I was ecstatic when I got the text saying it was ready for pickup. Here’s the scoop:

At some point, every one of us embarks on a journey to find love. We meet people, date, get into and out of relationships, all with the hope of finding someone with whom we share a deep connection. This seems standard now, but it’s wildly different from what people did even just decades ago. Single people today have more romantic options than at any point in human history. With technology, our abilities to connect with and sort through these options are staggering. So why are so many people frustrated?

Some of our problems are unique to our time. “Why did this guy just text me an emoji of a pizza?” “Should I go out with this girl even though she listed Combos as one of her favorite snack foods? Combos?!” “My girlfriend just got a message from some dude named Nathan. Who’s Nathan? Did he just send her a photo of his penis? Should I check just to be sure?” 

But the transformation of our romantic lives can’t be explained by technology alone. In a short period of time, the whole culture of finding love has changed dramatically. A few decades ago, people would find a decent person who lived in their neighborhood. Their families would meet and, after deciding neither party seemed like a murderer, they would get married and soon have a kid, all by the time they were twenty-four. Today, people marry later than ever and spend years of their lives on a quest to find the perfect person, a soul mate.

For years, Aziz Ansari has been aiming his comic insight at modern romance, but for Modern Romance, the book, he decided he needed to take things to another level. He teamed up with NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg and designed a massive research project, including hundreds of interviews and focus groups conducted everywhere from Tokyo to Buenos Aires to Wichita. They analyzed behavioral data and surveys and created their own online research forum on Reddit, which drew thousands of messages. They enlisted the world’s leading social scientists, including Andrew Cherlin, Eli Finkel, Helen Fisher, Sheena Iyengar, Barry Schwartz, Sherry Turkle, and Robb Willer. The result is unlike any social science or humor book we’ve seen before.

In Modern Romance, Ansari combines his irreverent humor with cutting-edge social science to give us an unforgettable tour of our new romantic world.

I know it’s long, but I wanted you to have all the details. This book is pretty genius in that it combines Ansari’s humorous tone, with actual facts and experiences. And while reading the book doesn’t change the current dating landscape for us singletons, it does explain WHY we go through what we do, and more importantly, that we’re not alone in this.

While I loved reading this whole book, there were two takeaways I found really interesting. The first was the research done about how dating was before technology came along. The book provides charts and graphs to show just how many people dated and married those within their neighborhood – and most people did.

Why? Well, because marriage was seen as a way out. People, especially women, weren’t moving out of their parents’ homes just because – they moved out once they were married. And, many times, women weren’t pursuing educations or careers – so it was marriage and then creating a family.

Once people started going to school and focusing on their careers, marriage started happening later and later in life, and it placed people further apart, physically, which is why less people marry within their hometowns.

FASCINATING.

Interesting takeaway two: Straightwhiteboystexting.org

Thank you, Aziz, for sharing this with me, as I didn’t know it existed prior. And it is a gift from the universe, in the same way that @Textsfromyourex on Instagram is. It is glorious.

Straight White Boys Texting is a submission-based website that captures and publishes the agony that is being a woman having to deal with dudes in today’s dating world. We get gems like:

emisonislifeok

…And there’s many more where that came from on the site.

Modern romance at its finest! You’ve got to read this book if you’re dating today, or if you’ve been dating within the last ten years. It’ll all start to make a little more sense (and keep us all inside for eternity).

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Adnan’s Story: The Search for Truth and Justice After Serial” by Rabia Chaudry. We’d love for you to read it with us! Simply start reading and reach out for discussion at your leisure – after all, it’s the non-committal book club.

Have a fantastic weekend everyone!

Celebrating crazy cat ladies!

Is Taylor Swift a cat lady?!

Is Taylor Swift a cat lady?!

I was sporting my #CatLady trucker hat (for sale in the merch store) last month, and a guy asked me if I really was a “cat lady”. Yes, I said. “Well, how many cats do you have?” he asked, half disgusted, half intrigued. “Just one,” I said. “It’s a lifestyle.”

It was then I realized that I’ve never really explained my personal campaign to celebrate cat ladies, everywhere. Let me spill my story.

Let’s start with where this all came from. So, here’s the Wikipedia definition of a cat lady:

A cat lady is a single woman who dotes upon her pet cat or cats. The term is usually considered pejorative, though it is sometimes embraced. A cat lady may also be an animal hoarder who keeps large numbers of cats without having the ability to properly house or care for them. They may be ignorant about their situation.

So, there’s that. In general, to call someone a “cat lady” is an insult. Why? Well, way, way back – there were Egyptian goddesses who had cats, and even religious symbols who had cats, but eventually cats came to be synonymous will the devil. So…yeah.

And then came the movie “Clockwork Orange”… *rolls eyes* – the movie that all pretentious English majors obsess over. This is when the more modern-day crazy cat lady appeared in pop culture. And then, Eleanor Abernathy was born as a character on “The Simpsons” – and she is a true cat hoarder.

When you think about it, the cat lady stereotype goes beyond just a single woman with a lot of cats. She’s often insane, out-of-sorts, and generally dirty. She’s cranky, and no one wants to be around her. How terrible, right?

And so, I’ve embraced this stereotype in the opposite way via my merchandise, and the use of #CatLady. Being a #CatLady has nothing to do with the number of animals you own, or cats, at all. It’s about celebrating who you are and not being ashamed of any aspect of your being.

A true #CatLady is confident in herself, in her life, and she’s more interested in doing what she wants than worrying about what others think, or following societal norms. Maybe she is married, maybe not. Maybe she has kids, maybe not. A #CatLady has no age, no holds, and basically gives zero fucks. #CatLady – celebrate it!

Because when you think about it, this whole “Crazy cat lady” stereotype is just another way to degrade single women. It’s an easy way to dismiss emotions, a simple way to label someone we don’t know, and a socially acceptable way to insult someone that isn’t “typical” in terms of American culture.

And I’m over it. There’s no male equivalent, because single males are accepted and rewarded in our culture. As women, there’s so much expected of us, and at times, we give so much just to be treated equal from others, and we still aren’t satisfied.

So, I’m sticking with my #CatLady ways – yes, I do have a cat, and yes I am single, and I live alone. Am I crazy? No. Am I a spinster? No. Do people piss me off? Sometimes. But I have a successful career, great friends, know how to laugh, and I’ve got a few kitchen skills up my apron. So, yeah, I’m a #CatLady – for life.

Missing the boat, in dating.

Have I 'Missed the boat' in dating?

Have I ‘Missed the boat’ in dating?

A few weeks ago, I was telling a guy friend about a semi-talking-dating-ish thing that was happening to me, and that I just wasn’t feeling it, but I wasn’t sure why other than just sheer mental exhaustion due to the fact that it’s constantly a game of hot and cold with the guy in question.

“Yeah,” my friend said. “He missed the boat.”

 Is that a thing? I suppose it’s just another factor of timing, and if you don’t strike when the iron is hot, then that’s just the way the chips fall (let’s just make this post full of cliches, shall we). But, typically the term “Missed the boat” refers to the fact that it’s OVER, completely. Dead.

So, then I got to thinking, wait… have I missed the boat?

Typically, missing the boat is associated with age – people have that number in their heads of when things are supposed to happen. I definitely thought I was going to be married by 25. That was six whole years ago, and I can’t even fathom the thought of going on a date, period.

If you’ve been ’round these parts for a minute, you’ve probably noticed that the tone of this blog has made a clear shift from dating and guy drama to food, book reviews, and lots of TV. That shift in content is due to a major shift in my life: I’m no longer interested in finding a partner, as I’m much more interested in enriching my life in other ways; filling it with the things I love, i.e. cooking and baking, reading piles of books on my patio, watching hours of TV as I study up on screenwriting, and exploring the city I’ve spent the past year in – Austin!

The guy friend I mentioned above, said something to me about my “shift” in attitude: “You’ve changed,” he said.

And yes, he knew me years before, when I was desperate for a man’s attention, nearly always had a boyfriend or at least a person of interest, and probably had very little of an original personality. I wanted so badly to be in a serious relationship that would lead to marriage, and a family. And while there’s nothing wrong with that, I did nothing for myself, and instead, I did a lot of desperate things in hopes of finding true love.

In return, I spent a lot of time crying. My dating history is full of complete failures that left me trying to find myself, and figure out why these things happened to me. After years of weekly therapy, I found answers: I had no self-confidence, and no self-worth, and because of this, I attracted men that wanted to take advantage of me. And they did; in the form of verbal and sexual abuse, and manipulation.

Years have passed since I’ve been in a relationship, and sure, there are times I’ve felt I’m ready to date someone, and then times I’m okay being single. I’ve met guys who seem cool; they seem different from those of my past, but it ends up being the same scenario in a different costume, and that’s just not the game I’m willing to play anymore – I know I deserve more.

A few months ago, a guy I really liked when I lived in Baton Rouge sent me a few messages on SnapChat. He’s very handsome, and always has a way of making me laugh. We chatted some, and I found out he’s finishing law school in Boston before moving back to Austin, where he’s originally from. Wow, I thought, timing sure is everything – maybe there’s something here.

He was planning a trip to the city in just a few weeks, and wanted to see me. I envisioned us going to a baseball game or hitting up one of the many delicious BBQ joints Austin has to offer. But he told me he had other plans, which involved coming to my apartment and something physical happening between us.

“Are you planning on breaking in?” I asked him. “Because I never invited you to my apartment.”

When I made it clear I had no intentions, or even desires to sleep with him, he stopped talking to me, and even came to town without so much as a “hello”.

Sure, I was frustrated, and even a little offended that all he wanted was sex from me – I know there have been many times where that’s all I am to a man. But this time, like many times over the past three years, I was able to spot it before anything happened, and before I got as hurt I would if I let him into my apartment, my body, or my life.

I don’t think every guy is like that (at least I hope not); but I’m not going to be dating until I find someone who truly is interested in me; my life, my stacks of books, my cat lady tendencies, and my crockpot creations. Sure, maybe it’ll be a little rusty, but I’m worth the wait.

And for the sake of myself, and anyone out there who’s feeling like they’ve “missed the boat” on dating or on dreams or whatever it may be, I’m gonna go ahead and say that’s bullshit. There’s no proper age when love happens for everyone. We all have different stories, and if we’re sticking with the boat metaphors, we can’t all hit the deck at once.

One of my favorite advice columnists, Polly from NY Mag’s “The Cut”, had the same views when a reader wrote in asking if she’d missed the boat on dating at 36 years old, despite having a very full life (read the entire article here). Here’s her (partial) response:

But don’t give up hope. Why wouldn’t you feel optimistic? You’re already pretty happy. You’re going to rock this out and have the life you want no matter what. So be your dangerously girly self, without apology. Be her forever and everywhere. Shout to the sky, “I AM GIRLY. I LOVE KIDS. I LOVE BUILDING FIRES. I LOVE BAKING CAKES. I HAVE FEELINGS. I AM NOT COOL. I WILL NEVER BE COOL. I AM MADE OF MAGIC.”

You haven’t missed the boat. There are boats everywhere. Maybe you’ll like one of them and maybe you won’t. I think you will. But in the meantime, savor this moment. Be exactly who you are, and savor it. Even true love doesn’t come close to feeling as good as that. 

Me, personally? I’m holding out for the captain’s suite, the surf ‘n turf formal dinner, and the sun deck with coconuts for cups. Until then, I’ll be on the beach writing boat puns and singing Drake songs to Blanche, like Controlllaaaaaaa. Controlla.

Fall is official: Day 1!

Walk in the Park.

Walk in the Park.

At approximately 10:21 am today, the fall season will officially be upon us. So, you can all stop saying it’s too early for pumpkin-spice everything, and Halloween decor. Because it’s not, fall is HERE! In my house, the arrival of fall signifies a fresh start, and it also means turning off the AC and dragging out the crockpot. Who doesn’t love that? Here’s a few more things I’m looking forward to this season:

The food. As much as I love the light and fresh flavors of summer, there’s something to be said about the savory flavors of fall – just think about all of the colors that will be at the farmer’s market! There are certain recipes I cook up each fall, including turkey and bean chili, pumpkin mac n’ cheese, sweet potato soup, and hearty Mexican dishes fit for a football game (last year, I made enchiladas for the first time and fell in love). I also love making apple cider – right in the crockpot – as it smells delicious and tastes amazing.

The entertainment. Of course, I love fall television, and fall reading. But there’s also fall sports – football is back, and hockey season is upon us! Yes! There’s also some fantastic movies coming our way. Me, personally? I’m looking forward to the film adaptation of “The Girl on the Train”, along with four Hallmark Movies to be released during the month of October. And who doesn’t get a little excited for the Macy’s Day Parade come Thanksgiving??

The fashion. Even though it’s been a whopping 112 degrees in Austin this summer, my office has been around 60, so I’m well-past the stage of wearing scarves and flannel. But now I can do it without looking like an asshole. Flannel, boots and booties, scarves, jackets, faux fur, vests, and beanies, I’m on it.

The indoors. Okay, so maybe a little bit of outdoors, too. Afterall, now that it’s finally not hot as hell outside, a good hike would be nice, and I have yet to see the bats in Austin this year before it’s too late. But I also don’t mind the thought of closing the sliding glass door, lighting a few pumpkin candles, and cozying up on the couch and getting in some much-needed relaxing, while wearing my favorite slippers.

The holidays. Yes, I know the fall season is not officially the holiday season, but there’s Halloween (which I basically hate), and then we’re rolling right into Thanksgiving, Christmas, and so forth. This means time off from work, a reason to host parties and decorate the house, and you know, all the yummy food and drinks. Cheers!

What are you looking forward to this fall?

Hand-Picked: Fashionable holidays.

Baton Rouge's first Fashion Week!

Baton Rouge’s first Fashion Week!

Happy Friday, everyone! It’s time for the week’s final installment of “Hand-Picked” – it probably won’t be the last time ever for it, because, well I only went through maybe 1/4 of all the little mementos I have stuffed in boxes in my tiny apartments. But nonetheless, I do hope you’ve enjoyed all of my memories this week! I’ll be back to my regular posting next week, and this gave me a few days to unwind (very much needed) and think about the next direction for the blog.

Okay, first picture (above) is a few pieces I kept from Baton Rouge’s first Fashion Week, hosted by the one, the only Ryan Auld! Ryan was a contestant on Project Runway, and while he didn’t win during the standard season, he was later a contestant on Project Runway All Stars, where he completely knocked the socks off everyone and WON!

One cool thing about Ryan is that he’s from Louisiana! I actually met him while he was still in college, studying fashion at LSU. He was winning fashion competitions then, which is how I met him, because I wrote a story on him, and he got to study in Paris due to his winnings. I later ran into him again – as we unknowingly lived in the same apartment complex. He told me then that big things were happening for him, but he couldn’t tell me what. It was Project Runway.

The other cool thing about Ryan is that he is a two-time cancer survivor. Plus, he makes amazing clothes, and now he has a store in San Antonio. I have had a great time following his career, and cannot wait to see all the cool things he does in the future.

A merry Christmas party!

A merry Christmas party!

There are many cool perks to being a bartender, and one of them was the annual Christmas party. This particular party was always dressy, and included bottomless drinks, of course. That particular year, I loved the dress I bought – white and black color-blocked satin, with leopard-print heels. I even got my makeup done; and had asked my date by rewriting the words to “‘Twas The Night Before Christmas” and leaving it in a Santa hat outside his apartment. We had a blast!

Just a few...

Just a few…

This is about 1/4 of the tickets I’ve got from John Mayer concerts – this is the downfall of digital tickets; that there’s nothing cool to show for it unless you print it. But, as John Mayer would say, we’ll remember it by seeing it with our own eyes.

Did it.

Did it.

In 2012, a few attorneys I respected started a team for Race for the Cure. This was prior to my sheer hatred of anything benefitting the Komen Foundation, but giant, pink margaritas were at the finish line, so I was in. My best friend had come to Baton Rouge to visit, and we did the race together. I’d never done anything like that, and it was fun!

Murder Mystery party!

Murder Mystery party!

Many years ago, I was party of a Mardi Gras Krewe for a short period of time. One of the cool things they did each year was a Murder Mystery Christmas party – I’ve never gone to one of those, but I’d always wanted to after that Murder Mystery weekend episode of “Saved By The Bell” – no, seriously. My character was Sandy, and I was a lifeguard. I wore a whistle, and lots of bronzer, and was carrying sunscreen. I was NOT the murderer.

Hoorah for writing contests!

Hoorah for writing contests!

When I was in college, The New York Times hosted a writing contest for college students, which asked contestants to write about an aspect of their college experience. I entered, and although I did not win, my piece was featured on The New York Times website, which was a very proud moment for me. I have entered many-a-writing contest, and probably will continue to do so (I’m actually working on another entry this weekend), and they are always an interesting challenge.

So sweet!

So sweet!

My best friend’s sister gave me this note – and I thought it was too sweet not to post! And yes, she IS a good friend and sister!

Cheers to the weekend, guys! I’ll see you right back here on Monday!

Hand-Picked: Better late than never…

I wish this would have scanned better!

I wish this would have scanned better!

Whew! I’m so sorry I’m just getting around to posting this, and it’s almost Friday, when a new post will be up, but yesterday was a crazy day and I barely even made it home before midnight. So, yes, I know this picture above is hardly legible.

But, when I found this note, it’s the whole reason I thought about doing this series in the first place. It’s a letter from a guy I went to high school with, Evan, and I had a crush on him for what seems like FOREVER! I’m actually just now sort of getting over him, which probably seems crazy, but hey.

So I found this note in my filing cabinet; it was handwritten by him, but it has no date on it. I’m pretty sure it’s from college, but I’m not 100% sure. Anyway, it says that he hopes all is well with my boyfriend (so I was obviously dating someone at the time), and that if my boyfriend isn’t treating me right, to let him know.

He also says, “Thanks for taking this shirt” – so I was obviously bringing a shirt to someone? I also don’t know why I don’t remember this better! I blame it on the alcohol.

Notebook cover.

Notebook cover.

This is another one of my “notebooks” I kept with a friend, obviously in 1999, which was the latter-half of my 8th grade year. I do love the glitter on the cover, but I don’t understand Ben Affleck.

A sweet thank you!

A sweet thank you!

After I started my class, “Blogging for Beginners” at LSU, I was asked by many different groups to speak on blogging best practices. It has become one of my favorite things – teaching and speaking to others about my passion for blogging – and now my course is offered at the University of Texas at Austin, as well as online.

So pretty!

So pretty!

When I was in college, one of my best friends and her husband moved to San Diego. I’d never been, but flew there for Thanksgiving and we had a BLAST! For starters, San Diego is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen. We also went to Balboa Park, ate a delicious dinner (complete with caramel apple martinis), and even got to see “The Grinch” as a play. In Balboa Park, they do not play when it comes to this annual production – they turned the entire theatre area into Whoville, and it even snowed inside the theatre! I bought a little Grinch doll while I was there, and place it inside my Christmas tree each year. It is one of my favorite memories.

Old loves.

Old loves.

Yep, I still have my od iPod (the original) and my Blackberry. My iPod definitely doesn’t even turn on anymore, and it was loaded with 10K songs that were lost on a computer during a hurricane. I was able to listen to it for a little while afterward, but it was eventually just too old. If anyone knows how to get it to work again, I’d owe you FOR LIFE.

Ah, I will be an advocate for Blackberries until I die. I only recently switched to an iPhone (within the last two years), when it became necessary to have apps and be able to blog better from my phone. But my heart is still with the Blackberry, and I’m not ashamed!

I’ll have the final batch of “Hand-Picked” goodies for you, right here, tomorrow!

See ya, summer!

Love that sky.

Love that sky.

They say that summer is a state of mind, and if you want to, it can be summer all year long. I suppose that’s why beach towns and tropical islands seem to have a different way of life – things seem a little more laid back.

I certainly loved summer as a kid; and through my teens – summer meant freedom and fun. Early mornings were for fishing or making it to the lake for a good spot to layout. Nights were for country drives and cool swims.

This was my first summer in Texas, and I can say with experience, that it was mighty hot. My fantasy of laying out at the pool each weekend quickly melted when the temperature was an easy 106, with a heat index of 112. No, thanks.

And truthfully, it was anything but easy. Work was busier than ever – here I thought these were going to be the lazy days, and it was more work than I’ve ever experienced. I also worked a lot on the weekends, paying literally thousands of dollars to the government, in the form of tax money and money for registration and all my Texas paperwork.

It’s all nearing an end, very soon, and I’m not sad about it. I can easily say I’m ready for a cool breeze; ready to shut off my AC.

Sure, summer is fun, but I easily love fall. I know many of us will be spending this weekend saying goodbye to summer, and I’ve got a few thoughts in mind over it.

I can say I unfortunately spent a majority of these warmer months upset over a guy, and working on my self-confidence. But I had a few things happen over the last few weeks that are moving things along quite a big faster.

It started with a dream I had about the guy in question. We were together in person, just talking. I asked him why he never responded to the message I sent him, and he told me that at first, he wanted to write me back. But, then he just realized that he hated me.

And while no one wants to be hated, and I have no basis of this being true, I know he won’t talk to me again, and the dream gave me this great sense of closure. There is nothing left for us.

So, last Friday night I was watching “Million Dollar Matchmaker” and Patti’s guest was Ashley (known for her endless tears on “Bachelor in Paradise). Ashley was still hung up on a guy from the show; a guy who put her in the friend zone and barely talked to her.

Patti explained to her that the worry over this friend zone guy was taking up room for the real Mr. Right. “You’re crying over some guy that won’t even talk to you!” Patti said to her, and I felt like she was talking to me. It is so true, and all I needed to hear – weird, I know. But, we can’t worry about those that don’t like us; only the ones that do.

So for me, saying farewell to summer is also about letting go of that guy, and all the guilt and frustration that came with him. Fall is coming; I’m going to enjoy this last official weekend of summer – even though it will no doubt be hot in Austin for at least another month or so.

Watermelon mojito popsicles!

Watermelon mojito popsicles!

How will I celebrate? For starters, I’m whipping up some “Adult Popsicles” – technically, I’m making them for a beach trip next weekend, but I’ll have to at least taste them, right? In one of my email newsletters, Fresche Squeezed, I talked about making upscale jello shots, but I keep seeing frozen cocktails turned into popsicles, so why not? I found this article from Huffington Post that links to 20 boozy popsicle recipes, including peach sangria and a dark and stormy! Yum!

I’m going to make the Costa Rican Watermelon Mojito popsicles – which seem so easy; a simple blend of fresh watermelon, lemon juice, simple syrup, white rum, and fresh spearmint leaves. You can use a standard popsicle mold, or make these pops portable with these zip-top heavy-duty bags (just like the Freeze Pops you remember as a kid, only with BOOZE).

What else will I do this weekend? If it’s sunny, but bearable, I’ll hit the pool with a book – and don’t worry, Blanche’s Book Club will still be in full swing come fall. There is also a free day of yoga not too far from my apartment, so maybe I will get my butt out of bed and check that out!

Lately, I’ve been slightly obsessed with food blogger Gaby, from “What’s Gaby Cooking?” – I stumbled upon her on SnapChat, and she does a weekly “Snapisode” where she shows you how to cook something fabulous. Last Friday, she made a peach and tomato panzanella with burrata, and she was saying how peaches and nectarines are going out of season, so she wanted to use them up from the farmer’s market.

This salad she made looked DELISH, and very easy! A panzanella is an Italian summer salad, usually made with tomatoes, day-old bread, and a simple vinaigrette; everything else is pretty much up to you! Gaby used peaches and nectarines (she said any stone fruit is good), heirloom and cherry tomatoes, burrata from Trader Joes, plus orange champagne vinaigrette (also from TJ’s), chunks of bread (go for a really sturdy bread), olive oil and basil leaves.

Simply toss the cubed bread in olive oil and toast it, wedge the fruit and tomatoes (halve any baby tomatoes), tear the basil leaves and the burrata, and simply plate it! It looks so good and I bet it tastes just like summer – it is just the excuse I need to go to one of these fantastic Austin farmer’s markets!

Who knows what else I’ll get into, but I’m down to have this one last weekend of summer, and then make the switch to fall; something new.

Fall wedding guest looks (I don’t need).

Love the mustard skirt.

Love the mustard skirt.

A few months ago, I was invited to be a +1 at a fall wedding. I quickly said yes, as it was a guy I really liked, and I also realized that I’ve never been asked to be a serious +1. Sure, I’ve gone with girlfriends and guy friends, but never as a real date.

Given that was wedding is in the fall, and in Indiana, I quickly started looking up ideas on what to wear. Sure, it would be chilly out, but not quite cold enough to constitute tights, so I needed something chic (the bride is super gorgeous and sure to have quality taste) and of course, sexy.

The guy and I have since stopped talking, so I have no need for these looks anymore. However, some of them were so adorable, I had to share. If you’re going to a fall wedding in the coming months, maybe you can snag one of these looks and tell me how it goes!

Of course, the look you choose depends a lot on the time of day of the wedding – day or night wedding – and the location, an outdoor look will be different than an indoor one. But I’m all about finding a fabulous coat!

So, I saw a lot of these looks (above) with the flowy, tule skirts and a more fitted top. I know these are more fun and whimsical than sexy, but I love them! I especially love the gray and taupe on the far left; I would never dare to wear white to a wedding, but if you know the bride well enough, I saw do YOU.

I’m also glad to see some cute pumps here – love the beige, and of course, the metallic ones, too. Of course, I found some great clutches, too – check out these detailed ones.

Love this!

Love this!

Given that I will find any excuse to wear sequins or sparkles, this look (left) was my top choice. I am definitely a fan of choosing what you want to show vs. what to keep hidden, and this look balances that perfectly – shows off the legs, accentuates curves, but hides the arms.

I probably would have gone for more of a beige shoe, to keep the focus on the dress. Here’s a cute gold dress I found, that has back detail and shows off the arm – if you’re into that (I’m self-conscious about my upper arm). I also found a cute black dress that is long-sleeved, but just has sequin detailing, instead of solid sequins.

Too afraid to go all out with the sequins? Understandable. You could still wear a sparkly pencil skirt, or any skirt, and then pair it with a simple, plain top, and/or a jacket that will tone things down a bit. Here’s a longer pencil skirt that comes in silver or dark green sequins, and I also found a floor-length gold sparkly skirt that would be SUPER chic!

Structured & chic.

Structured & chic.

I stumbled across these next two looks (right), which are both more structure, but look incredibly cool, and I think you could wear either one at a day or a night wedding, depending on how you did hair and accessories.

Given that we’re all voting for Hillary this November, why not give a nod to her pantsuit look with this chic little number? The pants hit the floor, so simple shoes would work, and I love the way the hair is styled in this picture. You could also go for a colored blazer if it’s an outdoor wedding.

The dress? I really just love the blazer-like neckline and sleeves, and the gold belt. It looks really put together, minus the massive bag she has. Always go for the clutch – the giant bag looks more like an office look, and weddings are not for work.

So, there you have it – some fall wedding looks for guests. Maybe I’ll still get a sequined dress for myself and hop on over to a martini bar with a friend. It’s been a minute since I’ve been to a wedding – it seems as though everyone is already married. But, I’m a fan of weddings, mainly because there’s cake and champagne involved. So, cheers to fall weddings!

Why I stopped following you online.

Social media, I cannot.

Social media, I cannot.

I’ve written a lot about social media and the effect it has on us, and it’s been on my mind a lot lately. I’ll preface this by saying that, in general, I am a fan of social media – a lot of the professional work I’ve done in the last decade revolves around the stuff, and I think it’s done wonders for entrepreneurs and creating jobs. In short, it’s changed the way we live.

But it’s also done a number on our brains, and it affects the way we conduct our relationships with friends, family, and romantic partners.

And no, this isn’t me saying that I’m jealous when my online friends post pictures of their every lavish vacation (from the packing to the plane to the washcloth animals!), or when there are birth announcements and wedding anniversary love notes.

In fact, those things make me pretty happy. There are full on albums of pictures from places I will probably never get to see, and life milestones being celebrated that I may never get to experience for myself. And I’m truly happy for my friends when their lives lend themselves to the lucky light of the world and good things happen.

But it’s the other side of it all that gets me down – if there was no Facebook, no Instagram, no Twitter, I’d probably never pay much attention to these luxe lifestyles; or these milestone celebrations, unless of course, we all actually met up for drinks and dusted off photo albums like we once did.

So, is social media making us feel inadequate? I’m not the only one with this on the brain – I read an article on the Zoe Report that was a firsthand account of what it was like to “quit” social media, and she brings up a great point about why social feeds (particularly Instagram) can bring us down:

What’s worse, before social media, you knew people who, for example, drove a car that was better than yours, but you also knew people who drove cars that were worse than yours. This gave you perspective. Now, everyone edits their lives so that it looks as though every single person you know is having better experiences than you are, in one way or another. You may understand, rationally, that this isn’t true, but you still respond emotionally to the deceptive information you’re receiving via your Instagram feed.

She said since she quit Instagram, she hasn’t gone back, and is much happier, and finds herself actually reaching out to her friends more.

In all honesty, I don’t spend much time on Instagram. This fact alone is probably why it took me six months to realize that the last guy I slept with actually went back and UNLIKED all of my photos that he had, at one point when we were talking, liked.

And while my self-worth does not weigh itself in “likes” on Instagram, it sure stung when I realized (at 4:30 am on a Sunday) that not only did he go back and unlike all my posts, he was also the first person to like any and every picture that any and every single girl from our same high school posted, which I can see in my feed.

It was then and there that I decided I can’t play this game anymore. The first thing I did was send Instagram a big, fat middle finger, because, I have this guy blocked, along with other losers from my past, and yet I can still see whenever he likes said pics from single girls. Pic of glow bracelets? LIKE. Pic of dog? LIKE. Pic of nephew? LIKE.

Please. Blocking someone on Instagram barely does me any favors, and so, I started unfollowing people. It may not be personal, but it’s time I take control of the FOMO here. And I’m not going to subject myself to memories of an asshole or imagining him with other women just to pretend to save-face, or for the chance to see that one filtered pic of your summer night on the lake. #SorryNotSorry

In the days since, I’ve cleaned out my Facebook, too. If you’re not contributing to the happiness of the world, you’re adding to the sadness, and trust me, I’ve got sadness up to my ears. Again, nothing personal, but we’ve got to reign this digital hot mess in.

And don’t think I’m just being random and petty trying to avoid exes; I’ve got half my family, most of my coworkers, and anyone from the past that has sent me sexual or abusive messages, left inappropriate comments on my page, attempted stalking, and played the whole “Oh I was cleaning out my friends list and accidentally deleted you”-game; nope, block, and goodbye.

I have always enjoyed Twitter more, and lately SnapChat, and I think it’s because (on Twitter) I can interact with people in my industry that I may never meet in-person, but we can still relate on similar issues. I also like SnapChat because, for the most part, it’s fun and unfiltered, and it’s less about complaining and more about laughing at life.

Yes, I realize I may sound like a crazed, cut-throat lunatic right now, but if we know there’s something sucking the life out of us, why are we so slow to cut it out?

Kelly Evans, news anchor for NBC, recently deactivated all of her social accounts after realizing she needed to spend less time on the artificial relationships online, and more time on the friends, family, and work relationships right in front of her.

In the article from NBC.com, she says it worked, and she actually went back to reading a printed newspaper to get informed each morning (!). Here’s what else:

But what I have turned “off” — hopefully for good — is the need to keep up with the Instagram Joneses. Am I “missing out” on stuff now as a result? Sure! And I can’t wait to hear all about it when I catch up with everybody directly.

So, will I be deleting my accounts? Not quite yet. I have, however, deleted several apps, making the mindless scrolling less of an option. And I’ve unfollowed people that I don’t care to see updates for. If we really need to catch up, email me, call me, and let’s meet – in the unfiltered, real-time, no phones kinda way.

Call me crazy, call me old school, call me out of touch – hell, call me maybe – but I’m ready to get a little more real in a way that makes me smile #NoFilter.

Making friends…as an adult.

Creating lasting friendships as an adult? The struggle is real.

Creating lasting friendships as an adult? The struggle is real.

I was having lunch with a few coworkers last week (read: we were gathered around a rotting picnic table eating from our packed lunches), and we got to talking about how difficult it is to make friends as an adult, particularly once you’ve graduated from college.

My coworkers explained they did have people they called; people they liked to meet up for drinks with, but it was almost impossible to get anyone to agree to nail down a plan – everyone seems to be in search of the Bigger, Better Deal. The BBD.

As I attend more and more dance classes, I meet more people that would make great company. And I’ve thought to myself, “Okay, once I get out of my spending freeze, I should invite that person to brunch,” and then I think, well screw the spending freeze, I could still invite that person over for a pool day or to have wine at my apartment, right? But how do you even approach someone in a way that isn’t completely awkward?

An article in the Wall Street Journal, “The Science of Making Friends” says we are constantly shedding friendships, and the older we get, the less time we feel we have for friendships. The article also suggests to treat new friendships like dating; with intention, but also with caution. Interesting.

One idea I liked from the articles was to be a friend when someone needs one. Perhaps an acquaintance is going through a difficult time; bring them a coffee or simply tell them you’re there if they need someone to talk to. I think these small gestures can go a long way.

An article from Bustle, “7 Ways to Make New Friends as an Adult” suggests using MeetUp – a large networking group that allows people in the same city to create their own “MeetUps” or join one someone else has created. Sounds cool, though there is a monthly fee. Meh. There’s also a similar site for women called “Girlfriend Circles” that looks kind of cool.

Another suggestion was to volunteer. This idea makes me excited, because I DID sign up to volunteer at the Austin Film Festival this year! I primarily signed up because I heard it’s a great way to meet people in the industry… and since I’m working on a script, I’ve got to start somewhere. But now that the event is getting closer, there are events (the first one is Friday) left and right, and I’m excited to start meeting some of the other volunteers. Sure, we’re not saving the world, but at least we have two things in common: film and Austin.

The good thing I discovered in reading all of these articles is that a lot of people feel the way I feel – making friendships past 25 is a challenge, just as anything else can be. And when looking for new friends, it feels really vulnerable putting yourself out there, but it’s comforting to know that scientifically, we can bond with just about anyone.

So, go ahead, and put yourself out there. Invite someone to do something! I know I am going to try… what’s the worst that could happen?

Don’t answer that.

Ditching disappointment.

Always under a rain cloud.

Always under a rain cloud.

I’ve been thinking a lot about disappointment lately. I mean, do you ever get to that point where you’re just not even feeling mad, more just let down?

Disappointment can come from anywhere. Speaking from experience, I’d say recently I felt disappointment when I couldn’t make it to Indianapolis to see the Dave Matthews concert; or when a guy I liked admitted he was only interested in hooking up; or when I discovered a TYPO in my cover letter, or when a wedding date stopped talking to me; or when the last person I slept with actually UNLIKED every single picture of mine on Instagram, as if he wished the memories would disappear.

I mean… come on.

Disappoint happens when your expectations exceed reality. And that is not a good feeling. The best way I can really describe it, is that scene in “500 Days of Summer”…

These are all moments where I just felt like throwing my hands up and doing a lil, “Whatever”. So, how can we handle disappointment in any remotely positive way? Well, I found some great advice on the Tiny Buddha website:

For starters, you’ve got to let yourself feel the emotions. I’ve had so many conversations with friends where they want to do everything they can in order to make the bad feelings go away; and trust me, I’ve been there. But sometimes, you’ve got to just feel all the feels in order to get it out of the way.

Once you give yourself some time to let it all out, it will be easier to look at the situation with more clarity, and you’ll be able to gain some perspective on it. But know that this will ONLY happen if you give yourself that time.

Next, you’ve got to remind yourself who you really are. Don’t let this disappointment take over your personality, or your life. This will help you cope with situations that don’t align with who you are.

And finally, find acceptance. Know that disappointment is a part of life, and you will experience ups as well as downs. And sometimes… guys are just assholes.

But seriously, I was reading another article that said to start by keeping your expectations in check, because then you won’t be as let down. And I get that – how many times have we heard that if we go in with no expectations, then we won’t have anything to lose. But sometimes it’s just too easy to get excited!

And as always, it’s important to learn from your defeats. Maybe the person disappointing you has made it a pattern and it’s something that needs to be resolved further. Or perhaps its a personal issue. Whatever it is, if we continue to learn from our ups and downs, maybe we’ll experience less of the “downs” in the future.

But can we talk about something that has NOT been disappointing lately? Drake lyrics. I mean, I was really loving me some “Hotline Bling,” and I also love “One Dance”, but how about some “Too Good”? I am loving this song!

Years go by too fast, I can’t keep track. How long did we last? I feel bad for asking; it can’t end like this. We gotta take time with this…

‘The Hills’ is baaaaack… for just 1 day!

That's right, she's back for tonight only!

That’s right, she’s back for tonight only!

You’ve probably already heard the news: Lauren Conrad is coming back for the 10th Anniversary of “The Hills” and it airs on MTV TO-NIGHT!! If you’re just now learning this news, then I’m welcoming you to the world of the countdown for this thing to start. I really cannot freaking wait!

I’m not ashamed to say “The Hills” was one of my favorite TV shows, ever. It was the young-adult continuation of “Laguna Beach“, the semi-real life version of “The OC”, and it gave us all a look into life in Hollywood.

Sure, the show lacked real substance, and perhaps that’s exactly what Lauren’s about to tell us tonight; about how the producers set up scenarios for them and texted them what to say, but all of that aside, it was still a fantastic show, and quite genius.

And so, let’s take a look back. I’d like to share with you, in no particular order, my favorite moments from “The Hills”:

The Fight With Jen Bunney

In season 2, Lauren and Brody are kind of… “talking”, and in swoops Jen Bunney like a little skank and hooks up with Brody, which obvi pisses Lauren off. Their fight on Lauren’s couch was quite amazing, but the clip wasn’t on YouTube, so here’s this reenactment, which is pretty close to the real thing.

Ste-Phen Comes to LA

Aw, Stephen.

Aw, Stephen.

In Season 3, Lauren’s old love interest, Stephen, comes back for one episode – a backyard party when Lauren moves into her new house, and another few scenes when he takes her out to dinner. In a way, this episode made me really sad, because it seems like Lauren always liked him so much, but he never really let her in, and I know that feeling all too well.

But, it was almost an episode too good to be true, because it brought part of “Laguna Beach” back, and who doesn’t love that? You can watch the full episode here.

Heidi’s Plastic Surgery

At the start of season 6, Heidi revealed to the world the results of her 10 plastic surgeries, including a breast enhancement, butt lift, nose job, lipo, and back-shaping. She looked like a completely different person, and it made for an interesting few episodes. This was also the season where I’m pretty sure Spencer was playing us all, and was super into crystals (according to his SnapChat, he still is).

When Lauren Chooses Jason… Over Paris

During the season 1 finale, Lauren was tasked with a difficult decision: go to Paris for free with Teen Vogue, or go to a beach house in Malibu with stupid Jason. And MTV really fooled us all, as Lauren was packing her suitcase and driving down the highway looking fashionable, and then she rolls up to the beach house, while Whitney goes to the airport for Paris. As we found out during the season two premier, it wasn’t Lauren’s smartest decision, as the two had a very public-tabloid-filled fight and breakup, in which we saw the aftermath.

Justin Bobby’s ‘Truth and Time’

“The Hills” brought us the gloriousness of Justin Bobby, and truth be told, as disgusting as he was, the joke was on us, because the dude was living it up, hooking up with Audrina, and making money, while we all cringed at his every burp. But who else could deliver his stellar one-liners, a-la, “Truth and time tells all”?

Heidi & Spencer Get Hitched… Again

It seems like Heidi and Spencer’s relationship was on a constant loop; they had a few engagements, plus a few weddings, but finally, they had the big wedding where Lauren came and so did Kristin, and it was the official handoff, when Lauren left the show and Kristin started.

The Series Finale, Original Ending

The final episode of “The Hills” wrapped up everyone’s story, and had us all believing that K-Cav was heading out of the country to find herself, all because it didn’t work out with her and Brody. She goes out to get in her car, and Brody pulls up to say goodbye, and as she drives away, the Hollywood backdrop rolls away to reveal a set, leaving us all to wonder how much of the show was fake.

I loved and hated this ending all at once, but it really encapsulated the genius behind the show, because we still don’t know what was fake or real. The show constantly received ridicule for its high-production value; making it one of the first reality-shows to appear glossy and produced, right down to its near-infamous glares, stares, and one-liners. Unlike other shows, “The Hills” never crossed the 4th wall, and there was the fact that cameras, paparazzi or fans, was not a part of the show at all. Absolutely phenomenal.

And maybe that’s what Lauren is going to reveal tonight?! We’ll see, but I can’t wait. The chances are likely that I’ll be watching clips and videos all day, and probably listening to Natasha Beddingfield with my windows down, pretending I’m in the cast.

‘Famously Single’: Aubrey and Pauly…?

Are you falling in love with me?

Are you falling in love with me?

Ohhh snap! I’ll admit, I skipped watching “Famously Single” last night because I was watching the DNC – but I’m here this morning, eating my blue-frosted Pop-Tart, sitting with Blanche, and we are READY!

The episode starts with Jessica doing a card reading for Aubrey and Pauly. Somehow, the cards say that Aubrey wants to have sex with Pauly, and Jessica asks him if he’s been thinking about another girl. He denies it, and Aubrey gets a little pissy – shocker.

Pauly says, in his confessional, that he cannot handle another jealous woman, because that’s all he ever dates. But the it’s in the cards, and he says it’s a red flag.

Dr. Darcy sits with Aubrey one-on-one to talk about the argument she had with Pauly. She says the fight with Pauly made her fearful, and that the argument was full of red flags – HMMMM.

Dr. Darcy reminds Aubrey that she’s dealing with someone who has no relationship experience. Aubrey sees his jokes as a safe place, because he knows she needs more than what he’s used to.

Dr. Darcy asks Aubrey why she likes him, and Aubrey says he is sincere, and true to his core, which Darcy agrees with (Darcy! NO!).

After the break, Jessica says Willis asked her on a date, but she’s weary about it after what happened with Maya. Maya says that if she wants to go out with him, then she should.

Meanwhile, she tells Willis she thought about him when she masturbated. What?! What is happening in this house right now!?

Dr. Darcy sets the group down, and says that the goal was to match the group with people outside the house, buuuut everyone in the house is hooking up.

The housemates agree it’s an interesting situation, and they are still learning, despite dating within the house.

Darcy mentions another connection in the house… Maya and Jessica. Maya tells the group about their evening, and Willis is pretty much DYING.

Callum and Brandi get ready to take a hike, and Jessica wants to read their cards. She says he is thinking about separation, but also wants to sleep with her. But Jessica says part of that is because he wasn’t there when she read them.

Brandi admits in her confessional that she knows he’s not right for her, but she does like him, so there’s that. At the end of the hike, Callum had set up a picnic for them (aw!). She is honest with him about what she needs in a relationship, and Callum says he believes he can give that to her.

Back at the house, Aubrey is still trying to understand her relationship with Pauly. She doesn’t feel like he’s treating her like “a queen”, and Willis tells her she needs to give it time. However, Aubrey says she doesn’t have time to coddle someone. Yeessh.

Pauly says he feels a lot of pressure to go faster than he wants to go; and he knows if they have sex he will think about the relationship differently. Dr. Darcy brings him in for a one-on-one, and he says he’s feeling the pressure, and he sees it going faster.

Darcy tells him that he’s got to communicate that to her – that there’s a good reason why he wants to move slow.

The house goes out that night and Callum tells Brandi she is his number one (rolls eyes). Aubrey and Pauly are talking, and Aubrey tells Pauly he’s never going to find love if he keeps shutting down. But instead of taking Darcy’s advice, he is silent.

Willis is openly upset about Jessica hooking up with Maya, but she assures him they’re not together. This still doesn’t seem to settle his feelings.

Dr. Darcy pulls Aubrey and Pauley in to talk. Aubrey says she wants a plan, because that’s how she is, but Pauly says he isn’t like that. When Darcy asks them if they’re exclusive, Pauly says that it’s too fast for him.

Aubrey is, of course, pissed. She admits she wants to be saved, and maybe Pauly isn’t the one to do it. Pauly says he wants to do right by Aubrey, and that even saving takes time.

Pauly takes Aubrey on a date to go go-karting – cute! Pauly admits it’s his first date in a long time – also cute! Pauly tells her he feels a major connection with Aubrey, and that he is used to going from 0-100, and he doesn’t want this to happen between them.

Aubrey finally sees his point and appreciates his willingness to “build the foundation”.

And… next week is the season finale! Whaaaat! But don’t worry, the episode preview still looks to be full of drama – especially between Callum and Brandi. Whoop!

Simple ways I’m tackling life.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that I’ve been in the midst of tough times; because, well, that’s the kind of thing that happens as the years pass. We have good times and bad, and getting through the bad times is often when we learn the most about ourselves and the people around us.

I’ve written a lot over the years about happiness – ways to shift your mood and feel happy now, or finding happiness from within (which inevitably fills my inbox with emails about finding Jesus) – but what do you do when the going really gets tough, when you can’t turn to your wallet, or possibly your friends or family, or job, or any of the usual crutches to perk things up?

Several years ago, I read “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin – the first of her several books on how to make, and live, a better life. The book was highly criticized because Rubin is pretty privileged, but that really doesn’t get annoying until book two. I actually really enjoyed “The Happiness Project” and have turned to it in the recent weeks as I tackle life like a 12-step plan, one day at a time.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve really done some searching in my life to discover the small things that make life a little better, and I’m sharing them with you in hopes they help you, too.

Getting up earlier. As nerdy as it sounds, I’ve spent the better part of the last year getting up at least an hour earlier than I need to. Why? Well, truthfully, I really like being able to get things done before I have to go to work. I don’t usually leave important tasks for the mornings – some days I get up to write for an hour, or watch TV, or perhaps I just want to take my time getting ready.

When my life started to turn dark, I noticed right away that I started hitting the snooze button a lot more, to the point that I barely had time to brush my teeth and run out of the door each day. And it took me awhile to realize that it just wasn’t working. So, I got right back into my early morning habit, and it’s amazing how much it helps. I can spend time on my patio drinking coffee with Blanche, or tidy up my living room so it’s clean when I come home, or even just eat breakfast at my counter instead of at my office. I can also do my hair and get my makeup right so I go about my day with confidence. This one little move makes it feel like I have more hours in the day, and that they’re not all taken up by work.

Getting more sleep. This probably sounds quite contradictory to the previous tip, but I realized that I’d been staying up too late, and really for no reason other than to avoid the next day approaching. It was time I invest in myself and the first step toward that was getting a good night’s sleep every night.

Many, many people struggle with getting sleep, and it’s an issue I’ve had for several years. Everyone probably has their own approach to getting a solid night of sleep, and even Rubin covers this topic in her book. She goes about it the traditional way, skipping out on work, television, or anything stimulating an hour before sleep.

That doesn’t really work for me – instead, I told myself that I wanted to be asleep at 11 pm on work nights. So, around 10, I started winding things down, washing my face, turning on my essential oil diffuser (with lavender), and sometimes taking melatonin. I also stopped drinking during the week. I still watch TV in bed, or sometimes read, but it usually doesn’t take long before I’m asleep. And if I want to stay up late to watch a certain show (such as a political convention) or read a book or work on a meaningful project, then so be it, just as long as it’s not a daily habit.

Accepting the challenges. When things hit the fan, whether they be a growing pile of bills, burnout from workout, or a broken heart, everyone has two options: 1. starting a diet of NyQuil and sleeping in hopes things get better, or accepting it and figuring out how to kick its ass. I chose the latter, and I can say that while accepting reality does suck at first, it makes me feel more in control of my life, and at the very least, I can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Many of my current issues are financial, down to my last dime. So, a challenge for me was creating a budget and then slashing it to live off as little as possible. Once I accepted this challenge, I’ve discovered that I can live on a lot less than I did before, and I’ve made new discoveries, such as how many meals you can get from a single rotisserie chicken, and how to fix a ceiling fan in order to use less air conditioning.

Evaluating. Once unhappiness starts to settle in, it’s time to take a good, hard look at your life. For me, this meant looking at my finances and getting control of them. What kinds of monthly bills could I get rid of, or lower? What was I spending my money on and could it be taken out?

A few things, I found, could be eliminated. Some things I miss, but others were expenses I was paying simply because I was too lazy to cancel an account. Some things I couldn’t part with – such as my dance studio membership. Not only is dance my main form of exercise, it’s also a social activity for me, plus it’s creative, and a stress reliever. So, while I didn’t cancel my membership, I decided I’d make the most of it and attend more classes since my membership is unlimited.

I also looked at expenses I couldn’t change, like my rent. What would make me hate paying my rent less? One thing was that if I just got serious about keeping the place clean and tidy, and perhaps got rid of a few things. Turns out, cleaning felt productive, and I even have a box of things I can sell at a local bookstore. Part of my rent expense is a $30/month trash valet fee that is non-negotiable. I’ve never been able to use the service because of its strict time limits, so I talked to my leasing office to make sure I had all of the right information.

Turns out, they’re a little more lenient than I thought, so I was able to use the trash valet service twice last week – I just put my designated trashcan outside between a certain chunk of time and my trash is taken away for me. Now, I feel better that I’m not just wasting the monthly fee, and it saves me dreaded trips to the dumpster, which keeps my apartment even cleaner.

But evaluation doesn’t necessarily mean monetary things; for me, it also meant people. I started to recognize people in my life that were bringing me down – I cut them out. If they were only planning on being with me during the good times, it was time to let them go.

Reading & writing. Whether you’re a creative or not, I think it’s healthy to have some form of escape plan, even if it’s fictional. One of the first things I did when I realized I needed to penny pinch was get a library card. I have always loved going to the library, and there’s nothing bad about tackling a reading list. Now, I go to the library at least once a week, and I enjoy the tiny adventure of searching for books on my reading list, looking for any good DVDs to check out, and adding any of the library’s free activities to my calendar.

I have yet to master the art of journaling, as most things that come into my brain end up on this blog, but I know for some, writing privately is a great way to cope. When I lost my job almost two years ago, one of the first purchases I treated myself to was a thick notebook that had an inspirational quote on the front. As simple as it sounds, I used the notebook to hold my life together – lists of jobs I applied to each week, upcoming interviews, and my weekly work schedule as I juggled three retail jobs. I have since used the entire notebook, but have kept it since it was so helpful to me.

Making the most out of everything. I have always appreciated the small things in life, but now, I pretty much realized they’re all I’ve got. So, when a song I love comes on the radio (“One Dance” by Drake is my recent favorite; along with Justin Bieber’s new one), I turn it up and dance in my car. When I wakeup before my alarm, I get up and take a few moments to enjoy the sunrise.

When I was evaluating my expenses, I considered eliminating my Tuesday night latte ($4.28) from my life. But, I decided against it, as it’s a small expense, but more importantly, it’s an hour I spend each week reading between work and dance class, and it’s a treat to myself; a chance to just breathe. Instead of just grabbing your latte each morning, consider actually enjoying it, and the people around you. The coffee shop I go to is a game house; they host weekly war game tournaments, and Tuesday nights are very popular. And while I have no clue what these games entail, I enjoy seeing all of these people gathering for something they’re passionate about.

Take a break. This could mean a lot of different things for different people. For me, this literally meant taking a break. Before allowing myself said breaks, I’d taken less than three lunch breaks in the last year. I was overworked and burned out. So, I vowed to stop skipping my lunch breaks. Even on days when things felt crazy, I’ve taken a break; gone outside, taken a walk, sat on a bench and read a book. And, it’s pretty amazing how much good it does for the brain. It makes the work day seem so much shorter, and I look forward to it each day.

I also vowed to stop taking my work laptop home. I often took it home even when I had no looming deadlines, and at the very least, I would check my email before bed, or find a 30-minute task to complete. Not anymore. If I had too much work to complete within 9-5, then I was just going to have to tell someone that it couldn’t happen. And so far, I’ve been more efficient at work – probably due to my sleep schedule – and I’ve been way less stressed. Home is for being at home, not for work.

Creating new goals and working toward them. I am a dreamer, so I’m always thinking ahead. What do I want my life to be like in 3, 5, or 10 years? I honestly don’t know. But I know I’m going to keep writing and I am always working to continue my craft. Recently, I’ve discovered a great interest in teleplays and screenwriting, so I’ve set a goal for myself to write a script. I even bought myself a how-to book with a gift card I got for my birthday. Will my script see the light of day? Who knows! But I will work to find out. And who knows what will happen along the way.

 I’d love to know what kinds of things keep you going throughout the week! Maybe it’s your daily food journal, taking the scenic route home from work, or a weekly sewing class – share it in the comments!