Blog Archives

BBC: ‘The Sun is Also a Star’.

TGIF! This week has been so WEIRD – Texas is in its special legislation session (basically meaning they didn’t get the work done the first time), so a lot of my work has been at the Capitol. I’m always up for a change of scenery during the week, but it definitely throws me off.

Not to mention, my Jeep is back in the shop (agaaaaain), and they had no rental cars, so I’ve already taken four Lyft rides and I’ll have some interesting stories to report back. I should be getting an update today on how long they’ll need my car – I’m hoping not too long, since day one = $60 in ride shares (even using the line).

But anyway, I’ve still been reading a ton! The latest read from Blanche’s Book Club is “The Sun is Also a Star” by Nicola Yoon. Here’s the description from Amazon:

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true? 

“The Sun is Also a Star” is a YA novel about Natasha and Daniel – two different people at very different points in their lives, and they cross paths one day. Most of their story takes place in that single day, and it’s pretty awesome.

It’s funny how Natasha and Daniel have opposing views of life, and how the world works, yet they meet and instantly have a connection. Is it fate? And because of their situations, will they cross paths again?

I read this book in two sittings – it was so good! I wrote down a few of my favorite lines:

  • Even if we can’t see it, the light is still there.
  • But time and distance are love’s natural enemies.

I would definitely recommend this book to those of you who love YA novels, or to anyone just looking for a fun summer romance read.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Arrangement” by Sarah Dunn. Let me know if you’re reading it, or have already checked it out!

This weekend, I have tickets to a concert Saturday night (featuring drag queens), and am going to see “Legally Blonde” at the Drafthouse for brunch (creme brulee French toast + mimosas = YES!), so I’m looking forward to that!

It took me awhile to figure out what show I wanted to review next, and I think I’m gonna go for it: “Siesta Key”, which premiers on MTV Monday night. I know, it’s like, for high schoolers, but I just cannot wait. It’s said to be the next “The Hills”, so obviously I’m already hooked. We’ll see!

Have a great weekend everyone!

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BBC: ‘Hungry Heart’.

Hey, hey! It’s been a bit of a rocky week at the office (ugh, I hate saying that), and I’ve taken a lot of enjoyment in having a good book to turn to during my lunch hour and between dance classes. The latest read in Blanche’s Book Club is “Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love, and Writing” by Jennifer Weiner.

Here’s the book’s description from Amazon.com: Jennifer Weiner is many things: a bestselling author, a Twitter phenomenon, and an “unlikely feminist enforcer” (The New Yorker). She’s also a mom, a daughter, and a sister, a clumsy yogini, and a reality-TV devotee. In this “unflinching look at her own experiences” (Entertainment Weekly), Jennifer fashions tales of modern-day womanhood as uproariously funny and moving as the best of Nora Ephron and Tina Fey.

No subject is off-limits in these intimate and honest essays: sex, weight, envy, money, her mother’s coming out of the closet, her estranged father’s death. From lonely adolescence to hearing her six-year-old daughter say the F word—fat—for the first time, Jen dives into the heart of female experience, with the wit and candor that have endeared her to readers all over the world.

I was really excited to get this book from the library (I was on a waiting list for a month or so), because I have read a few of Weiner’s books and have really enjoyed them! I always love hearing the story behind the stories; how/where other writers get their inspiration; and how much of the fiction writing comes from a true place.

In this book, Weiner talks a lot about how she was raised, and it is telling about her fiction writing (particularly the relationship she has with her father). She is also very open about her own relationships (two marriages), her children, and how she came to be a popular, published writer. I really like how she addresses the categorization women’s fiction has received over the years, because it’s something I’ve noticed myself. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

  • “It took time before I could take all that pain and use it; transform all that loneliness and isolation and shame into stories.”
  • “Maybe I was lucky after all. Maybe the damaged ones, the broken ones, the outcasts and the outsiders end up survivors, and successful, with empathy as their superpower, an extra-sensitivity to other people’s pain, and the ability to spin their own sorrow into something useful.”
  • “I would tell myself that I wasn’t lonely, and wouldn’t even think of the shame that was underneath the loneliness and how I felt like a failure and a fraud.”

Weiner also admitted to being an obsessive Tweeter – especially when it comes to episodes of “The Bachelor”.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book. If you’re a fan of Weiner’s books, I would definitely recommend this book to you!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Sun is Also a Star” by Nicola Yoon. You should read it with us! I hope you all have a fantastic weekend – stay cool, and I’ll see you here on Monday!

Birthday goodies!

Happy birthday girl.

That’s right, I celebrated a birthday earlier this month. While I don’t like to make a big scene about my birthday, I was really excited to be surrounded by cakes, balloons, and I even got sung to, twice! Lucky, lucky girl right here.

I usually spend my birthday with reflection heavy on the brain, but this year, I lounged by the pool and sipped on a peach + wine slushee (get the recipe here). And honestly, I got some pretty cool gifts! I know, I know, that’s not what birthdays are about, but I thought I’d share some of my favorites in case you’re looking to shop for someone on your list.

Laura Geller Summer Goddess Collection – I have gotten a few Laura Geller samples in my monthly Birchbox and continue to be impressed with the quality of this makeup. So, I was pretty amped to get this four-piece collection of full-size products! It comes with Spackle Tinted Make-Up Primer in Champagne (sheer soft gold), Baked Body Frosting Face & Body Glow in Tahitian Glow (mélange of swirled tan, cream and pearly pink), Dramalash Maximum Volumizing Mascara in Black, and Fifty Kisses Lip Locking Liquid Color in Beige Bite (rich nude).

So far, I’ve used the bronzer and the lip color – both I love. The bronzer is the perfect mix of color and highlighter, and even helps to cover redness. The lip color is good for every day, and stays on ALL day with a matte finish. I love it! You can purchase this collection at Ulta.

Q&A a Day 5-Year Journal – This was such a surprise gift, and kind of just what I needed without really knowing it! I’ve always had trouble keeping up with a diary, or a journal, but I’ve read so much recently about the benefits of doing so. This journal is good for five years, and provides a simple question for you to answer each day. This means you can keep a record of your years, but with less of a hassle – I love it! I started writing in it a week ago, and I’m excited to keep it going and then look back at my entries. You can get this journal on Amazon.

Rhinestone Trinket Box – Earlier this year, I met my mom and best friend in Vegas. For my birthday, my mom surprised me with a small, sparkly trinket box in the shape of a fortune cookie, which she bought in Vegas (this isn’t the exact one, but it’s really close). It’s gold, which goes with pretty much everything I own, not to mention that I love keeping my fortunes – especially if they have my lucky numbers on them.

Girl and Dragon Malbec – As a wine lover, any occasion for gifts brings an opportunity for wine. I will always drink wine, and if you’re ever in questions as to what to get me, it’s wine. I will never get enough and I’m always look to taste something new. So, I was pumped when I got a bottle of Girl and Dragon Malbec, which had a cool label (because of course), and later, I found out they’ve won loads of awards. I drank it with homemade vegetarian lo mein and it was scrumptious. You can purchase a bottle on their website.

“The Year of Voting Dangerously” by Maureen Dowd – I don’t often ask for books or buy books because I borrow so many from the library. But this book in particular, has been on my list, and isn’t available at the library. Here’s the description from AmazonTrapped between two candidates with the highest recorded unfavorables, Americans are plunged into The Year of Voting Dangerously. In this perilous and shocking campaign season, The New York Times columnist traces the psychologies and pathologies in one of the nastiest and most significant battles of the sexes ever. Dowd has covered Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton since the ’90s. She was with the real estate mogul when he shyly approached his first Presidential rope line in 1999, and she won a Pulitzer prize that same year for her penetrating columns on the Clinton impeachment follies. Like her bestsellers, Bushworld and Are Men Necessary?, THE YEAR OF VOTING DANGEROUSLY will feature Dowd’s trademark cocktail of wry humor and acerbic analysis in dispatches from the political madhouse. If America is on the escalator to hell, then THE YEAR OF VOTING DANGEROUSLY is the perfect guide for this surreal, insane ride. …And now I can officially add it to my reading list!

Miss Spa facial masks – Much like wine, face masks are another thing I can’t get enough of. If you’re ever wondering what I’m up to, the chances are very likely that I’m sitting in my bed, watching trashy TV, with some sort of clay, sheet, or bee venom mask on my face in hopes I’ll wakeup with radiant skin. Don’t stop believin’! When I was gifted a STACK of Miss Spa facial masks of different varieties, I was excited to add them to my stash. You can get them on Amazon.

Perhaps these awesome gifts I got can serve up some ideas for someone in your life, or heck, maybe you just need to treat yoself. Cheers!

The power of words(?).

Should we censor ourselves for the sake of others?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#FAIL: ‘Beauty & the Beast’.

The Beast and Belle step onto the dance floor.

Although I was ready to see the remake of “Beauty and the Beast” during its premier weekend, I somehow stuck things out and saw it last night at the Drafthouse.

I’ll just get this out of the way now: it’s not worth rushing to see. That’s right, it’s mediocre, at best. Honestly, where do I even start?

I’ll start with the fact that Disney needed to decide whether or not this was a movie for children. Originally, this fairy tale (created long before Disney) is probably not safe for children. After all, we’re talking about a woman falling in love with a BEAST.

But the cartoon version Disney created made it much easier for us to suspend reality and possible even look at the Beast with gentle eyes. Not in the remake. He’s a hairy, matted beast, with a nasty attitude. But don’t worry, because Disney tossed in a fuck ton of slapstick humor (think: the Beast in makeup), for the kids.

And I get it, many real-life movies ask us to suspend reality before the movie even begins. Heck, that’s why we love going to the movies so much! But in order for a true escape to happen, all of the details must be in order. I’ll come back to this in a second.

The cartoon version of this flick is a musical, so I guess the formula was to keep the same song and dance numbers in this version – I mean you have to have “Be Our Guest” – but none of it was good. The singing was weak (sorry, Emma Watson), and there was no dancing. Even “Be Our Guest” had a more serious tone to it.

In general, this film lacked magic. Despite all of the special effects Disney has their grubby paws on, they didn’t use much of it for this film – minus one scene where gold is sprinkled onto Belle’s dress (probably an ode to Donald Trump, for the Republicans in the audience). It’s weak – especially in the age of “Fantastic Beasts”, which had my jaw on the floor the entire time.

Finally, I’ll mention wardrobe. All of Belle’s outfits were disappointing (that yellow prom dress from 1999 deserves a Joan Rivers’ rip on “Fashion Police”), while the Beast showed out in his winter coat and his ballroom blue – but that doesn’t make up for the fact that he was wearing a shredded afghan for half the film.

Riddle me this… so Disney wanted to update the cartoon version, but they actually didn’t update it. They just made it with actual people, who lack stage presence. Yes, they added a few different scenes, but they added nothing to the point or entertainment of the movie.

Disney made the ultimate mistakes of amateur writers: they give us no reason to like the Beast (he was a dick before turning into a beast and he’s still a dick AS the beast), and they didn’t keep up with consistency in details (such as, why is Belle complaining about her provincial life when she isn’t living one?).

The two things I liked about this movie? Lumiere’s shoes, and the storyline among the “objects” – they were much more aware of their lifespan as the rose petals fell, than what we saw in the cartoon. It made for an interesting twist.

I am also really happy I saw this at the Drafthouse because they had a themed milkshake called “Pudding en Flambe”, which was vanilla ice cream, chocolate pudding, and flambeed strawberries, and it was DELICIOUS. So good. It was worth the $12 I paid for the ticket and the $10 for the shake and tip. Hey, be our guest!

I know so many people who loved this movie, and I know that I’m critical when it comes to films and writing, and even song and dance. I was sad to be disappointed by this one, but I can’t ignore mediocrity, especially when it’s a film that’s going to make a ton of cash.

Even Roger Ebert’s site agrees with me and says the additions did little for the story, and that it lacks performance. But, they still awarded it 3 stars because no one wants to be on Disney’s bad side.

Meh, I’ll be the first. And I’ll bring my “Pudding en Flambe” shake with me when they banish me to the Beast’s dungeon.

BBC: ‘Scrappy Little Nobody’.

Howdy! Is anyone else still having trouble adjusting back to life post-holidays? I’m not sure what my deal is, but I’m still finding I can’t quite get things together – it’s a slow process, and it just might be February before I’m fully ready to tackle 2017.

But, I am having a pretty good time getting back into the groove of reading, and I think you’ll really enjoy the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club: “Scrappy Little Nobody” by Anna Kendrick. Here’s the description from Amazon.com:

Even before she made a name for herself on the silver screen starring in films like PitchPerfect, Up in the Air, Twilight, and Into the Woods, Anna Kendrick was unusually small, weird, and “10 percent defiant.”

At the ripe age of thirteen, she had already resolved to “keep the crazy inside my head where it belonged. Forever. But here’s the thing about crazy: It. Wants. Out.” In Scrappy Little Nobody, she invites readers inside her brain, sharing extraordinary and charmingly ordinary stories with candor and winningly wry observations.

With her razor-sharp wit, Anna recounts the absurdities she’s experienced on her way to and from the heart of pop culture as only she can—from her unusual path to the performing arts (Vanilla Ice and baggy neon pants may have played a role) to her double life as a middle-school student who also starred on Broadway to her initial “dating experiments” (including only liking boys who didn’t like her back) to reviewing a binder full of butt doubles to her struggle to live like an adult woman instead of a perpetual “man-child.”

Enter Anna’s world and follow her rise from “scrappy little nobody” to somebody who dazzles on the stage, the screen, and now the page—with an electric, singular voice, at once familiar and surprising, sharp and sweet, funny and serious (well, not that serious).

Sounds good, right? I know there are people out there who are OBSESSED with Anna Kendrick. I’ve never really understood this, until I read this book.

She’s pretty, funny, talented, and seems pretty damn real and humble. She’s just like us!! Her on-screen humor is definitely read on the page, as well. The book is essentially a collection of short stories from her life, all strung together in an organized way.

I’ll admit, I completely forgot she was in “Up in the Air” with George Clooney, and had absolutely no clue that she got started on Broadway, let alone at 12 years old! Damn, girl!

I’m basically obsessed with her take on men and dating, presented in the “Boys” chapter: “If a guy can convince me he has the answers or a better plan than me, I will follow him anywhere.”

Hells yes! Totally adding her to my list of spiritual leaders (Lin-Manuel Miranda, Trevor Noah, Anderson Cooper…).

I think my favorite part of the book (although there were many to choose from) was when Kendrick admitted to not really enjoying award shows, but relishing in getting home afterward, keeping her borrowed diamonds on, while sitting in her sweatpants and eating mac n’ cheese. Sounds pretty awesome!

So yes, definitely add this book to your list if you’re even the slightest bit of an Anna Kendrick fan – or really just interested in the stories behind successful actresses.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarty, in preparation for the HBO limited series based on the book! The series premiers on February 19, and looks pretty awesome. Here’s the trailer:

I’m on the road today, heading to the Rio Grande Valley for the weekend, and I packed the book for (hopefully) some relaxing down time. You can follow me on SnapChat @OrangeJulius7 to see all the adventures I come across.

I hope you all have a great weekend, whatever you end up doing! See you right back here on Monday!

The art of letter-writing.

 

From The Jane Austen Letter Writing Society.

From The Jane Austen Letter Writing Society.

I recently asked a friend to be my pen pal. She lives several states away, and in a sense, a majority of our friendship has been based on writing to each other, although mostly via email, and sometimes through text messages. But, I have been wanting to handwrite letters.

A few years ago, a colleague put out a call on Facebook to see if anyone was interested in writing letters back-and-forth. She wanted a reason to utilize her stationary, and take up letter-writing. I jumped at the chance, but unfortunately, her health didn’t allow us to continue this hobby long (she’s doing well, now).

When I wrote my first letter to her, I realized just how difficult writing a letter can be. Essentially, you’ve got to craft your storyline before you begin – there’s no copy and paste, or deleting. So, how will the letter open, what paragraph will go where and what will follow it.

The other part to consider is the page layout. I know it sounds silly, but most stationary doesn’t have lines on it, so writing in a nice, straight line is one challaenge, while also considering how maybe paragraphs you can fit on one or two pages, with or without using the back of the page.

And of course, there’s the handwriting. I can always start out nice and neat, and by the end, my hand is cramping and it looks closer to chicken scratch.

Just a few days ago, novelist John McGregor wrote a piece for The Guardian (read it here) talking about his love for writing letters; how he grew up basically collecting pen pals, and in those letters they wrote in the margins, using arrows to instruct the reader where it should have gone. And often, letters were stuffed with Post-It notes and mementos – pressed flowers or a lock of hair.

My letters haven’t quite reached that level yet – I’m using some stationary I ordered years ago off Etsy, but have recently purchased a few blank cards for the holidays and am working on my handwriting.

I have recently taken an interest in learning calligraphy, and my mom surprised me my mailing me two beginning calligraphy sets over the Thanksgiving holiday. With the extra time off work, I had hours to spare and wrote a few handmade gift tags and a Christmas card. It took me awhile, but it was well worth it – it looked so cool!

The kits have instructions and examples, along with practice paper and tracing paper, pencials, erasers, watercolor markers and pens with inkwells. Pretty cool.

Of course, there are tons of instructional videos on YouTube, which are much more fun to learn from instead of trying to decipher from a book.

If you’re interested in writing letters, let me know and maybe we can be penpals! I’d love to give myself another excuse to actually sit down with a pen and paper, and of course, practice more calligraphy.

BBC: ‘The Girl’s Guide to Moving On’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Land a job from LinkedIn.

Yes, you can get a job on LinkedIn!

Yes, you can get a job on LinkedIn!

It’s a new year, a new you… could a new job be in store? Or, perhaps you’re considering an entire career change. If you’re new to The Bitter Lemon (Welcome!), let me fill you in: I unexpectedly lost my job at the end of 2014, spent most of 2015 hunting down my dream job, before finding it, moving 7 hours west, and am now living the LIFE.

First day on the job. Password: FINALLY

First day on the job. Password: FINALLY

And yes, they keep beer in the fridge for employees at my job (no, I’m dead serious) and there’s unlimited vacation.

Someone pinch me.

How did this happen to me? I got my job from LinkedIn. Again, I’m dead serious.

The better question here is, how can YOU do this?

Because here, at TBL, I’m all about spreading joy and happiness, and most importantly, figuring out ways to make every situation yours for the taking.

So, I’ve got 6 tips for improving your LinkedIn profile and landing that job you’ve been fantasizing about:

Let people know you’re looking

  • Whether you post on LinkedIn that you’re currently exploring career opportunities or you cleverly update your resume to reflect your job status, put it out there that you’re serious about a job search. Many hiring officers won’t take you seriously if you aren’t either – they think it’s a waste of time.

Actually fill out your profile

  • One of the BEST things about using LinkedIn to find a job is that many companies will let you apply for the job using your profile, which takes about two clicks. Trust me, it’s waaayyy better than having to upload and parse your resume, and then rewrite the whole thing again via answering a million questions. So, put everything on your profile you’d want a potential employer to know.
  • Recently, LinkedIn added a ton of new sections you can fill out and add to your profile. I’m not saying you’ve got to go nuts on these, but if you’ve got things to add, do it – if they’re going to make you look better, anyway.
  • When you fill out your profile, don’t be shy. You don’t have to worry about fitting all the information on one page, so go ape shit. Fill out all of the things you’ve accomplished in your previous jobs, highlight special courses or trainings you’ve attended, and don’t forget about areas you’ve excelled in. Sure, it’ll take time, but you only have to do it once.

Use a professional (looking) profile picture

  • I know not everyone has a professional headshot, but at least try to use a decent-looking photo. Do not use a selfie or any photo that features you, intoxicated, or looking sloppy. Come on! If you don’t have a photo, rig your iPhone to a steady area, sit in front of a plain wall with some natural lighting, set the timer, and smile like you mean it!
  • No matter what, don’t leave the photo empty. That just looks sad.

Network!

  • I’m not a big fan of networking, but networking on LinkedIn is pretty easy since you can do it while laying on your couch wearing sweats. So, find people you know, and connect with them – I’ve heard hiring officers only look at profiles with at least 100 connections. Find me (Holly A. Phillips) and let’s link up; 99 more to go!
  • Follow thought leaders in your field, or in the field you’re hoping to get into. Also, look for groups that talk about your passions, and join them.

Search for the right job

  • One thing is certain: LinkedIn is a GIANT search engine. But, in order for that to work in your favor, you’ve got to use the right words to find the jobs you’re looking for. This may take some brain storming. Think about the job you want, or the career field you’re interested in. Make a list of words and/or phrases that could describe it, and use these to narrow (or widen) your search.
  • For example, I knew I wanted a job that had something to do with Web/Internet and also writing and/or editing. I searched for all of those things, but also, web marketing, search engine marketing, social media strategy, online marketing, etc. I was able to find hundreds of jobs to apply to!

Don’t forget (or abandon) traditional job hunting skills

  • Yes, I work in the tech industry and I applied through LinkedIn, but societal norms still apply when it comes to job hunting. You still need to craft a well-written email/message/cover letter, and reply within a timely manner if you get a message or a call. The interview is still just like any other interview, and after every interview I had, even phone interviews, I mailed hand-written thank you cards.

So, there you have it! Got any other tips that have worked for you? Feel free to share them in the comments. Best of luck in your job search, and I hope to see you on LinkedIn!

Who Would Jesus Date?

Just some light reading.

Just some light reading.

A few weeks ago, I got a Facebook message from my uncle, my dad’s brother, saying he read my post about my nonexistent relationship with my father.

He told me it was obvious that I was leading an unfulfilling life and the only way I would ever be satisfied, is if I consulted Jesus.

This is the same Uncle who called me a bitch years ago, because I’m a liberal.

What would Jesus do?

Nonetheless, his message got me thinking about religion. I’ve never really been religious, as I feel I don’t know enough about different religions to pick one that suits me — although Buddhism sounds appealing.

According to Google (the highest power there is), a religion is an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence.

So really, that could be anything.

A few weeks ago, a coworker was telling me that she got married just three months after dating her now-husband because there were no “questions.”

They are Mormons, so they don’t smoke or drink. To her, she said that made it easy.

“I didn’t have to wonder how he would be if he got drunk, because we don’t drink,” she said.

Having dated an alcoholic, this did sound rather appealing.

But it’s impossible to say that any religion is just going to make a relationship perfect.

After all, I’ve had an affair with a man who had very large religious tattoos. Supposedly, he was a strict Catholic. Still a cheater, though.

I recently joined “Coffee Meets Bagel,” a dating app that looks through your Facebook friends and tries to set you up through mutual people.

On my profile, it asked about religion. I put the usual: Not religious, but spiritual.

What does that even mean?

I do believe in an afterlife, a higher power, reincarnation, and karma.

Most of the men I’ve dated have been Catholic, but I’ve never been with someone really serious about it.

In college, I dated a guy who would say he felt guilty after we had sex. He would say, “Ugh, I regret that,” right after we finished.

It did wonders on my self-esteem.

I suppose that since I’m questioning where I stand on the religious front, it’s directly related to the types of men I date.

I don’t think I could date someone who was really strict into any religion, since I wouldn’t understand it.

I like brunch on Sundays; not church.

But if a person is really devout in their faith, I’d hope they’d be with someone who was just as devout.

After all, religion affects lots of factors in life, in marriage, and it often dictates where and how you can get married.

I’m not against religion at all. But I’ve never met someone that was really true in their faith.

Any religious person I’ve met is filled with just as much hate as the next person.

Call me a hippie, but I’m a firm believer in love and kindness.

I may skip out on Sunday service, but I’m a volunteer and a donor. I smile at strangers, and when I can, I pay it forward, Starbucks’ style.

I want to date someone who’s equally kind, and won’t lie to me.

I appreciate my uncle looking out for me on the religious front, but I’m pretty sure he cheated on his wife, so there’s that.

He can keep Jesus, and I’ll just go with love.

The Goldfinch.

I see you, Goldfinch.

I see you, Goldfinch.

Let’s throw a party, because I FINALLY finished Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch.” I don’t mean it to sound bad — it was a good book, but it was also very long — and I’ll tell you this: I may have a fantasy about being able to curl up in bed with a good book, but lately? I read two pages and am out like a light.

Blame it on the old age.

Anywho, The Goldfinch. Wow. What a detailed story filled with emotion; it’s very intense! I can’t imagine the research and the time it took Tartt to create such a piece; and I wonder how much of it was just drummed up in her imagination.

I won’t give away any spoilers, but I’ll tell you that The Goldfinch is the story of Theo. He attends an art museum with his mother in New York City, when a terrorist attacks the museum, via bomb. Theo’s mom, doesn’t make it out alive, but her favorite painting — that of a famous goldfinch — does, tucked under Theo’s arm.

The entire book is the remainder of Theo’s story, as a motherless child, and as a theft. It is a tale with many, many twists and turns.

Some of my favorite excerpts:

  • I started off loving the bird, the way you’d love a pet or something, and ended up loving the way he was painted.
  • Despite what I’d seen — what I knew — somehow I’d still managed to nurture a childish hope that he’d pull through, miraculously, like a murder victim on TV who after the commercial break turns out to be alive and recovering quietly in the hospital.
  • Light climbed and burst through the wild desert clouds—never-ending sky, acid blue, like a computer game or a test pilot’s hallucination.
  • But when I think of you, it’s as if you’ve gone away to sea on a ship—out in a foreign brightness where there are no paths, only stars and sky.
  • A great sorrow, and one that I am only beginning to understand: we don’t get to choose our own hearts. We can’t make ourselves want what’s good for us or what’s good for other people. We don’t get to choose the people we are.

There were so many good lines in this book (many more than what I put here). I’ve been reading this book for so long, it felt a little weird when I finished it around midnight earlier this week. But, there’s a massive list of books I’ve been dying to read, so I’m ready to dive into something fresh.

To find out more on The Goldfinch or its author, Donna Tartt, check out my previous blog post here

Singletons do Baby Showers.

I'm done with baby showers. #SorryNotSorry

I’m done with baby showers. #SorryNotSorry

Last weekend, I drove the 800 miles to my home state of Indiana. I was invited to a baby shower for one of my best friends; a girl I’ve known since 6th grade.

In December, I offered to host a shower for her, but she told me it would be easier for her other friends to host it.

Her other friends owned homes and were married. I felt like all of the sudden, I wasn’t welcome; my lifestyle was seen as a failure, even by someone who’s known me most of my life.

I felt weird that I couldn’t help my friend celebrate one of the biggest moments of her life, but I also didn’t want to stick my nose where it wasn’t welcome.

I RSVP’d to the shower, and drove the 12 hours to get there. I arrived with another friend and my mom. At the shower, there were the two hostesses, my friend having the baby, and her mom.

I kept waiting for more guests to arrive, but no one ever did. We ate, played games, opened gifts, and reminisced on the old days.

While it was great to see my friend, I started wondering where our friendship was headed. We had tons of great memories together, but when would we really start being friends who celebrate our adult lives together?

I sat there, grinning through conversation I know nothing about: bottle nipples, breathable bedding, and baby baths. I felt like my friend had moved on, and I was left behind.

I was hurt; I felt like I was losing a friend, when it would really just take a little extra work to keep our friendship going.

I had to go to a second baby shower that afternoon, so I’m sure I looked like a giant jerk when I left the shower early. But I also felt confused as to why I was one of three guests at a shower that I wasn’t allowed to host.

I would have rather taken my friend to dinner, given her my gifts, and had a real conversation about her son on the way.

But my friend and I had no other plans to visit each other while I was in town, and I’m not sure when we’ll see each other again. The shower felt awkward, and I cried as soon as I walked out of the door. It felt like a big goodbye.

I know I’m pretty clueless when it comes to kids, and I really hate it when they cry. And yes, I’m single with no guy in sight. But does that mean I can’t have mom friends? It’s becoming a clear reality.

A friend of mine suggested that maybe there’s just a crossroads in life when we move on from our childhood friends and have the friends we’ve made as adults.

As sad as it is for me to admit, maybe she’s right. I have no idea what it’s like to be a mom, and perhaps I never will.

It’s the Great Divide of adulthood: parents vs. non-parents.

The day after the shower, I celebrated the freedom I have of not being a mom, with eggs benedict and bloody Marys.

It seems like every time I go “home,” something big has changed. But I know life is moving however it’s supposed to, and of course, I’m happy for my friend and her growing family.

I don’t know if I’ll go in that direction, but I’m enjoying my time as a singleton, nonetheless.

If you don’t see me around any baby showers for awhile, please don’t take it personal. Chances are, I’m just accepting the fact that I’m in a different club — and I don’t want to get in trouble for my potty mouth.

Still at it: online dating.

Are the times changing, even with online dating?

Are the times changing, even with online dating?

I’m SURE you heard all the hooplah in the last few weeks: Hilary Duff joined Tinder.

I suppose the real craziness over The Duff joining Tinder — I swear I heard this news at least a dozen times — is that she is actually taking it seriously, and is actively going on dates.

I have incredibly mixed feelings about this, and I know I’m probably just going to come across as a crazy person, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take. For starters, it makes me really sad to wrap my head around the fact that a gorgeous, talented, celebrity such as Hilary Duff is having to stoop to Tinder to meet people/get laid/get a date, etc.

On the other hand, I’m sure she’s just doing it to have fun and I kind of hate it when we all freak out over celebrities doing “normal” things like sitting at home swiping away right before a new episode of Intervention.

Anyway, I only bring this up because I realize I’ve been talking a lot about online dating lately. And because of that, I’ve been hearing a lot from YOU guys about your experiences in the online dating world — I love hearing your stories!

But what your stories have shown me is that even a world that was once thought of as so modern and unconventional, like online dating, even has it’s changes, but it also is rooted in our antiquated ways, as humans.

Think about it. We’ve heard it before — all of this technology isn’t making us any better at communication, and we could assume this theory is equally true for the dating world. If a person can’t communicate via voice, they probably can’t communicate by email, text, or social media.

When it comes to “typical” dating, we have a lot of questions: when is it okay to call the person? How often should I text? When should the relationship progress physically? Blah, blah, blah…

The thing is, there are just as many (if not more) questions in the online dating world. Just because we’ve figured out the technology, doesn’t mean we’ve figured out the actual dating part.

Since my date about a month ago with a guy from Ok Cupid, I’ve checked my messages a whopping ONE time. I stopped logging into Glimpse altogether.

While I’m not giving up on it, it’s safe to say I’m taking a small break, partly because other areas of my life have taken over, and partly due to the fact that when you think about it, there’s just too many questions.

Pic of the Week.

Sunday night, I posted on Instagram saying I’ve been living off a diet of John Mayer songs (yum!) lately. And while that’s been true for a majority of the last 14 years, my relationship with music ebbs and flows just like any other.

At times, I’m so happy I want to sing and dance to any song. And there are other times, when I need songs that reach far into my soul, that it’s like the singer/songwriter lived the moments of my life, and took the words straight from my brain before I even understood a word that would even fit the way I felt.

I know that soul searching is a life-long journey, but I sure as hell feel like I’ve done a bunch of it over the last six months. I’m finally realizing just how creative a space I’m in right now… and it’s pretty cool. In this headspace, sometimes I feel like the only people I can relate to are the ones in my playlist. So, pretty much everywhere I go, I’ve got music on — in my car, in my apartment, and anywhere in between (I’m addicted to my headphones).

I wish you places that still so still, where people never ever change and never ever will.”

—Marc Broussard, Gavin’s Song

Many years ago, Daniel Levitin (a prominent psychologist who studies the neuroscience of music at McGill University in Montreal), wrote a book, “This Is Your Brain on Music,” which has been on my reading list for years. But seriously, what DOES happen to our brains when we hear a song?

Don’t worry, I found an article on CNN.com that has some cool facts. One, listening to music lowers anxiety (YAS!). It also mentioned a study that proves how music has the power to unite all sorts of different people.

The kind of music I listen to definitely depends on how I’m feeling or what I’m going through at any given time. In general, I love all sorts of different music.

I love listening to John Mayer, well for several reasons, but for one, I feel his sound and his lyrics have matured at the same rate as my life. His music was pop-heavy when I was in high school, and over the years, the music has developed into blues, and even grazing western sounds, and his lyrics have covered self-discovery, love, marriage, family, and life expectations. He sings my soul, y’all.

Music combines my two loves: dancing and words. I love to dance (even though I’m not good at it like I once was) and I love words, and words that go together in a way that make sense to the masses.

What kinds of music have you been listening to lately? What songs, no matter how old or new, really make you feel some type of way?

“So scared of getting older, I’m only good at being young.”

—John Mayer, Stop This Train

 

WYSK: Alexandra Penney.

Author, photographer Alexandra Penney.

Author, photographer Alexandra Penney.

A few years ago, I read a book called “The Bag Lady Papers,” by Alexandra Penney. Penney, a visual artist, lost her entire fortune in Bernie Madoff’s infamous Ponzi scheme in 2008.

The book begins when Penney hears the news of Madoff’s confession. She rifles through all of her paper statements, sent monthly by Madoff’s staff. The story continues in the months after her financial loss, as she sells her properties and looks for work.

I read the book years ago because I was fascinated how Madoff could pull off such an elaborate stunt. But I thought of it the other day, as I can relate (on a small level) to how Penney felt.

Penney was no doubt luckier than most would be in a situation like that. She was formerly the editor-in-chief of Self magazine, so she got a job right away blogging about her Madoff experience for The Daily Beast (which, I’ll admit was probably chump change compared to what she had invested with Madoff).

Because of this, her blog wasn’t loved as perhaps you’d think — readers couldn’t relate to the fact that she’d never ridden a subway, or eaten fast food, and she never gave up certain luxuries, such as her maid.

But I’ve been thinking a lot about this type of thing over the last few months. And you know what? Loss is loss. Sure, someone like Penney is better off than half the world, but she’d built a life for herself that she’d grown accustomed to.

It was a life that she’d worked all her life for. She even talked in the book about how she’d purchased her fine china one piece at a time over years and years, because it’s the only way she could afford it. But then, her money was taken from her by someone greedy, for no reason.

The best part about the book? The way Penney forged on. The day following the bad news, she got up early, and marched down to his office. And then? She looked for jobs. She put her homes up for sale.

Over the course of these six months (can you believe it’s been six months since my career change), many of the people I knew (even friends) put me in that box of “the girl who lost her job.” When in reality, that’s never who I’ve been, nor is it who I’ve become.

Every day since then, I have worked. Even on Christmas Day, I worked. I have gone days without sleep. But I’ve never missed a bill. I’ve never been late on a payment. I still go out to eat. I still live the same lifestyle. I’m still planning beach trips (!).

The truth is, if you’re quick to put someone in a box, that’s where they’ll stay. And the real loss of that belongs to the one who judges.

Today, Penney is still a successful photographer and a writer for The Daily Beast. Go girl!