May 2018 Playlist

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Everyone goes through things and everyone has their own personal demons. Some people have to conquer their own every day. Some people go through long stretches of time where they realize, “Hey, I haven’t even thought about doing that in a long time,” when it was something they struggled with minute by minute at another point in their life. Those moments make you feel proud of yourself. Hey, I did it! I overcame! Look at me!

So when you backslide, it’s frustrating. On top of your demons that feel like they’re winning at the moment, now you have this overwhelming guilt that you let them. That you’ve been laying in bed for five hours in the middle of the day, unable to get yourself to pick up a book or a pen or even put on a movie on Netflix. That you let your mind go to all the ugly places it’s comfortable going. And that your stubborn ass can’t pick up the phone and just text someone and say, “Hey, can you pray for me? I’m not doing so great tonight.” You just want to be fine. Normal.

Yesterday, I was reading an essay by Karen Mahoney from the book Life Inside My Mind: 31 Authors Share Their Personal Struggles (which is amazing btw) and at the end, she says, “So rock your weirdness. Fly your freak flag. Be yourself, no matter what your flavor of mental illness. Who cares about normal?” I literally said out loud, “Yeah, right. I’d give fucking anything to be normal.” But I’m not and I need to learn to be okay with that again. But I also not need to be okay with the dark places my mind goes either.

So this month’s playlist was all about music that made me feel. That’s not to say that it’s all happy music, because it’s not. It’s music that’s moved me somehow, old favorites that are comfortable and familiar, total jams that I rediscovered, tunes that make my pen fly across the page with I write, and, yes, made me put my face in hands and cry as my heart broke. It’s random. It’s erratic. It’s nerdy and sad and confusing. It’s a lot of things that don’t really make sense.

It’s me.

  1. “Wasted Time” Overstreet
  2. “Love Is Madness” Thirty Seconds to Mars feat. Halsey
  3. “Opening” Howard McGillin, Vanessa Hudgens & Gigi New Broadway Cast Ensemble
  4. “Perfect” Ed Sheeran
  5. “Only The Good Die Young” Billy Joel
  6. “Comes And Goes (In Waves)” Greg Laswell
  7. “Every Breath You Take” Police
  8. “One Last Hope” Danny DeVito
  9. “Down in Flames” Ella Vos
  10. “Too Late” M83
  11. “You Are The Best Thing” Ray LaMontagne
  12. “Fast Car” Tracy Chapman
  13. “Tiny Dancer” Elton John
  14. “Maybe It’s Because I Love You Too Much” Keira Knightley
  15. “Dancing on My Own” Calum Scott
  16. “What Makes You Beautiful” Luke Friend
  17. “Girl Crush” Harry Styles
  18. “Wild World” Mike Bailey, Nicholas Hoult, Malcolm Titley and Joe Dempsie
  19. “And I Love Her” The Beatles
  20. “Fever Dog” Stillwater
  21. “Video Games” John Mayer
  22. “Turn Back Time” Aqua
  23. “Stand By Me” Ben E. King
  24. “I Want You To Want Me (Live) ” Cheap Trick
  25. “A Different Kind of Pain” Cold
  26. “Johnny B. Goode” Chuck Berry
  27. “I’m Like A Lawyer With The Way I’m Always Trying To Get You Off (Me & You)” Fall Out Boy
  28. “Barracuda” Heart
  29. “Lips of an Angel” Hinder
  30. “Please Be Mine” Jonas Brothers
  31. “Just the Way You Are” Billy Joel
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Kiki 🌸 003

To read chapter one, go here. To read my intro about Kiki, go here.

After a few belted out hits from the Backstreet Boys’ Millennium album, they arrived at school.

“If anyone asks,” Busta said, opening Kiki’s door for her, “I did not partake in that singalong.”

Kiki grinned. “Aw, but you do such a great job. It’s not just anyone that can do the Howie and the Kevin part.”

That seemed to give him pause. “You do make a valid point. I just–Brent!”

Even if Busta hadn’t shouted the name and enthusiastically pointed, Kiki would have known that Brent Rosco was entering the student parking lot by the sound of the revving motorcycle. The bike pulled into a parking space near the Lexus and its rider killed the engine. Brent pulled off the helmet, revealing spiked black hair, narrow ice blue eyes, and his ever-present scowl.

“God, he’s cool,” Busta marveled.

Taylor came up next to him. “Do I have to worry about you running off with everybody today?”

Brent got off the bike and pulled out a skater cap to put over his hair/

Amber practically skipped over to him, all her stress from that morning about her family and school seeming to disappear. “Good morning.”

A smile for Brent was rare, but Kiki saw a hint of a one on the nineteen-year-old as he put his arm out to bring Amber in close. “Morning,” he said back. They gave each other a quick peck of a kiss before joining the rest of the group making their way inside.

“So, Brent,” Busta said. “Remember  how you promised to teach me to ride?”

“Not on my drunkest day would I ever promise that to you,” Brent said without missing a beat.

“Right. But I think that’s a subject we should visit.”

“No,” Brent said.

“So what you’re saying is you’ll think about it.”

“No.”

“We’ll do lunch.”

“Ladies and weirdos!” called a thick Boston accent from across the parking lot. “You are about to see something amazing?”

As the group drew nearer to the blond young man in the Red Sox cap, Brent rolled his eyes. “I’ve seen you in the locker room. It’s not that amazing.”

“First of all, bullshit,” A.J. Campbell said, pointing at his friend. “Second of all, that’s not what I meant. Look.” He grinned widely, showing off straight, white teeth.

“You got your braces off!” Kiki enthused.

“I did indeed! To celebrate, I bought every pack of gum 7-11 carried.”

“Good,” Taylor smiled. “Now you can rot out the teeth you just straightened.”

A.J. paused. “I didn’t think of that. Dammit.” He glanced around the lot. “My girlfriend here yet?”

“Well,” Taylor went on, “it’s not the middle of first period, so no.”

“And that is why I no longer carpool with my cousin,” Brent said.

“I thought it was because you no longer wanted to be seen in the backseat of her car,” Amber said.

“That too.” Brent’s scowled deepened, no doubt picturing the baby blue VW beetle in his mind.

Kiki hated that her friend was always late, mostly because it meant who she carpooled with was late too.

🌸

Sure enough, right in the middle of Kiki’s first period English class, Brandy Ryan burst through the door, all blonde pigtails and dramatic hand gestures. “I know, right?” she said by way of greeting. “I am so late. But you will not believe the drama that was my house this morning. First, my little sister was wearing my pink sweater and I was like, ‘Rose, that doesn’t even fit,’ and my grandmother was like, ‘Brandy, share with your sister, and then my other sister starts singing this ‘Sharing is Caring’ song and my brother told her to be quiet, which was, like, so mean because she’s only six, you know? so we’re finally ready to go and my other brother, Tobias, is outside flirting with three girls. Like, first of all, ew, and B, rude. Like, what were they even doing outside my house? Does anyone care about school anymore? I mean, now I missed seeing my boyfriend’s new teeth. Well, they’re not new, but he got his braces off and I really wanted to see. Do they look amazing, Kiki?”

“Miss, Ryan,” their teacher said, finally able to speak now that Brandy had taken a breath as she sat at her desk. “Detention.”

Brandy frowned. “Um, manners, anyone? I just told you about my hectic morning. Do I give you detention when you tell me about your day?”

The English teacher parted his lips but then just closed his eyes and shook his head before continuing to speak about the Robert Frost poem written on the board.

Brandy pulled her heart-framed sunglasses off her head and put them in her teddy-bear backpack. “So do they?” she whispered to Kiki.

Kiki glanced at the teacher to make sure he wasn’t looking their way before whispering, “What?”

“A.J.’s teeth. Do they look good?”

“Yeah,” Kiki said. “I thought you were going with him yesterday to get them off.”

“I was, but Rave was having a buy one, get one free on clearance annual sale. Like, how often does that happen?” Brandy was no longer whispering.

“Miss, Ryan,” their teacher warned.

“Sorry!” Brandy whispered loudly. “I’ll be quieter.”

“Try silent, Miss Ryan.”

Brandy huffed and pulled out a sparkly notebook and feather pen from her bag so she could “take notes” the rest of class. By the time the bell rang, she had a paper full of smiley faces, hearts, flowers, butterflies, stars, diamonds, mushrooms, aliens, her signature, and “I ❤ AJC.”

Kiki gathered up her things and walked with her best friend out in the hall. They headed outside to their lockers on their “open air campus.”

Brandy was going into great detail about all the clothing she had bought, but admittedly, Kiki was distracted as she looked around the campus. Her eyes scanned the crowd, looking for the broad shouldered quarterback with the warm brown eyes and the side-parted brunette hair that he always made sure was perfect.

Even as Amber and Taylor joined them and Brandy relaunched her saga of that morning and went through her shopping trip inventory, Kiki wasn’t bothered, still searching.

And then there he was.

People said hello to him as he passed through and he said it back, flashing that heart-melting grin that made you feel important. Because this was the captain of the football team, the most popular guy in school since kindergarten who wasn’t just good-looking and a natural leader, but a genuinely nice guy that helped people pick up their books and literally once saved a cat from a tree. But as he came nearer, his eyes were only on Kiki and it made her heart swell.

Jake West.

Her boyfriend.

MeowBox Unboxing: May 2018

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I love subscription boxes. If I were a rich bitch, I’d be subscribed to one for every area of my life. As it is, I’ve limited myself to two, and one of them isn’t even really for me. MeowBox is a subscription service for, you guessed it, cats. They send it out every month for $22.95 (that includes shipping) and it has about four cat toys and a cat treat (if your cat is on a special diet, you can opt to get an extra toy instead of kitty snacks). I thought I’d do an unboxing/review of this month’s just to show you what sort of thing you can expect.

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Elena (back) and Damon

We have two little hellions in our house, Elena (who belongs to my roommate) and Damon (my cat). While Damon could eat his weight in cat food if I let him, he’s not big on cat treats, but he loves the toys. We keep all their toys in a basket and he dives his head in and pulls out a couple one by one and then decides which one he wants to play with and leaves them around the house (mostly outside my bedroom door while I’m working). Elena, on the other hand is obsessed with snacks, both the human and kitty variety, so it’s nice to give them both something new every month, especially since they’re still so young. Younger cats act out more when they’re bored and, just like human children, they can get bored their their toys.

img_1432.jpgWhat’s nice about every box is they hand write the cat’s (or cats’ in our case) name inside the box, which just makes it feel a little more personal and less corporate. I also, swear that they spray the box with some sort of cat nip something-or-other, because the cats always seem to know that this box is for them. Well, Elena does anyway. Damon’s not the brightest cat I’ve never come across.

Every box has a different theme that month and this month, it was called “Compliments to the Chef,” which was, yes, cooking themed.

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In addition to the goodies, every box comes with an adorable little postcard (that ends up on our fridge) and has a little poem on the back.

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Go Getti Spaghetti

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All right, so this was a cute idea in theory. Your basic wand toy where the wand is a fork, the string is spaggettii and the toy at the end is a meatball, which says it has catnip inside it. However, Elena gave this one tug and the spaggetti came right off the fork. This is the only toy I’ve had from them that broke, so I wasn’t too irritated. But yeah. Not the best one in the box.

Kitty Oven Mitt

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Please note Damon in the background, wondering why the hell I’m not dropping all these things on the ground. This teeny oven mitt is stuffed with catnip and crinkles, which always captures the cat’s attention.

Whiskers’ Whisk

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This is definitely one I find around the house a lot and have to keep putting in their basket. Catnip in the handle on this one. I don’t know why they’re trying to drug my cats . . .

Baguette Mini Kicker

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First of all, how cute in the little bread paper! Second, this one is by far Damon’s favorite. Maybe it was the catnip, but he was immediately drawn to it and barely looked at the other toys as I laid them out.

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Vital Essentials Duck Liver Treats

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Pure duck liver that’s freeze dried. Yum. Damon doesn’t much care for this, but again, he’s not big on snacks. Elena actually didn’t take to this at first either. I think freeze dried snack throw her off a little, but the last few times I’ve given her one, she’s been eating them.

If you’re interested in subscribing to the box, let me know and I can send you a referral email that will get you $5 off the first box!

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Black and Red Ombré Lip

So this is SO EASY to do. I’m sure there’s better techniques and more complicated ways to achieve the red and black ombré lip, but this is the way I do it. I AM OBVIOUSLY NOT A PROFESSIONAL. I didn’t grow up doing makeup (I actually wasn’t allowed until I was 18) so I got a very late start and my techniques are not top shelf. Obviously you can customize it with your own products and shades of red but this is how Cailin does it.

Trace the bottom lip with black lipstick. I use one by Hard Candy called “Black Diamond” that I got at WalMart. You can use a lip liner if you want, but just make sure it will smudge a little. You want it to be able to blend and bleed with the red. I actually used a thicker line than the one pictured. It’s up to you how much black you want.

Go over the entire lip with red. Dealer’s choice on this. You can use a lip liner and a lipstick, just a lipstick, just a lip liner. But again, something that is smudgeable. For mine I used a NARS matte liner called “Mysterious Red” over the whole lip, including over the black. Going over the black with the lip pencil automatically makes the colors bleed into each other. (Note: This is also where I added a thicker line of black as the original line was too thin to really see that gradient effect. Just be sure to go over it with more red if you do this

That’s it! Literally.

Now, I still haven’t figured out a way to get it to stay this perfect throughout the day. Tips welcome . . .

Kiki 🌸 002

To read chapter one, go here. To read my intro about Kiki, go here.

Kiki spun around in front of her full length mirror, making sure her jeans fit the way she wanted them to and her navy and white baseball tee didn’t have any stains she wasn’t aware of lurking on the fabric.

Satisfied, she made a kissy-face at the mirror with her red painted lips and turned to grab her brown leather messenger bag off the bed.

Just in time too because Kiki heard a distinct honk outside in the street and knew it belonged to the white Lexus convertible parked outside her house. She bounded down the stairs and called out, “Bye, Mama!” as she headed out the front door.

At the same time, the front door of the house across the street opened and a girl came out, sporting a baggy pair of jeans and a tight, camo print top.

“Amber!” a voice called behind her and soon a woman in a clean business pantsuit marched out, blue cardigan in her clenched hand. “I think you forgot something.”

Even from where she was, Kiki could see Amber try not to roll her eyes as she took the sweater. “Thanks, Mom.”

“Morning, Mrs. Lepowski!” Kiki called as she got closer, trying to distract the woman from starting any lectures about appropriate school attire she was thinking about laying out on Kiki’s friend.

Mrs. Lepowski smiled. “Good morning, Kiki. How’s your mother?”

“She’s good,” Kiki assured her.

She nodded. “I should really invite her over sometime. It’s been awhile.”

Amber warily eyed her mother.

Kiki tried not to laugh. “I’m sure she’d like that.”

Mrs. Lepowski nodded and sighed as she looked at Kiki’s house. She was a college professor and was usually very concerned about Kiki’s mother. She was convinced that Mama’s life couldn’t possibly be fulfilling as a stay at home mom and seemed to think it her mission on occasion to save her from the oppression of cooking and cleaning and taking care of her children. She’d have Mama over on weekends for coffee and have less than subtle conversation about professional goals or send her home with brochures on night classes. Amber was always humiliated and apologized to Kiki, but Kiki (and her mom) were heavily amused by the whole thing.

“Well, anyway,” Mrs. Lepowski went on. “Have a good day at school, ladies.”

Kiki and Amber said goodbye and got into the backseat of the Lexus, which currently has the top up, giving Amber enough privacy to mumble, “Sorry about that.”

“Sorry about what?” said the driver, turning in her seat, her long, red hair falling over her shoulder and spilling down the front of her Gucci dress.

Amber turned her hazel eyes to Taylor Johansen. “My mother continuing her quest to better the lives of the minority.”

Kiki finally let herself laugh. “Amber, it’s fine. All she said was that she and my mom should get together.”

“Ooh!” enthused the young man in the passenger seat. Simon Peterson—or “Busta” as he was known to everyone, including his teachers—bounced as he turned around to face the two girls. His shaggy black hair was streaked purple today and fell into his brown eyes. “If she can’t make it, I’ll get together with Mrs. Littles! That drink she made for us last time . . .” He smacked his lips, then pretended to wipe some drool off his chin with the collar of his Foo Fighters T-shirt. “Delicious. What was it again?”

“Hot chocolate,” Kiki said.

“Yeah, but say it in Spanish.”

Before she could, Taylor lowered her Saint Laurent sunglasses and peered at Busta with her turquoise-colored eyes. “I’m not sure if I should be jealous right now.”

“You should be. It’s no use standing in our way anymore, Tay. This is bigger than all of us.”

Kiki wrinkled her nose. “I’m not sure if you’re talking about my mom or the champurrado. Either way, please stop.”

“Ooh, champurrado,” Busta repeated with heavy-lidded eyes. “Say it again . . .”

“Oh my gosh,” Taylor mumbled, putting the car in gear.

Busta grinned widely before leaning over to plant a series of loud, smacking kisses on Taylor’s cheek.

His girlfriend giggled, finally.

“Enough,” Amber mumbled, never particularly comfortable with anyone’s PDA.

Kiki honestly didn’t mind. She and Taylor had been friends for as long as she could remember. Her last relationship (which had also been her first) had ended badly and Kiki had worried it would make her cynical of anything in the future. But before it could, Busta had moved to their hometown of Mt. Blue, California from Chicago. Kiki loved his offbeat and goofy personality and had fallen in love with the fact that he and Taylor had fallen in love.

Busta settled back in his seat and pointed out the window. “Onward ho!” He patted the roof as he brought his hand back in. “You should put the roof up, though. It’s so nice out.”

“It’s Southern California. It’s always nice out,” Taylor said. “Besides, it will mess up my hair.”

“That’s never stopped me before,” Busta said with a grin.

Taylor tried to hide a smile. She reached over and tried to push his hair out of his eyes with her manicured nails. “Well, maybe that’s a decision you should rethink from time to time.”

“Taylor,” Amber interrupted, clearly ignoring any conversation that had been going on. “How late were you up last night studying for the calculus test?”

“Oh,” said Taylor, who shared all her AP classes with Amber. “That’s today, huh?” She shrugged. “I guess I forgot.”

Kiki watched Amber’s eyes bulge. “You forgot?” She ran an anxious hand through her copper-colored hair. “How? I was up so late cramming for it.”

“To be fair,” Busta pointed out, “you’re up so late every night cramming for tests. And you always ace them.”

Taylor smiled. “Funny. It’s almost like those two things are connected somehow.”

Busta put his feet on the dashboard, though not for very long as Taylor waved them off. “Oh, come on,” he said. “You never study, Taylor, and you always get perfect grades.” He had turned in his seat and was hanging his legs out the window instead.

Taylor glanced in the rearview mirror, but Kiki knew she wasn’t checking traffic. She was looking at her. “All right, let’s stop talking about school. We’re about to go and spend six hours there. Amber, don’t sweat the test. At this point, the rest of the year is just busywork. We already got our college acceptance letters. Let’s just enjoy the rest of our senior year. Now, Busta, go through my iPod and put on some music, preferably something in the boy band genre.”

As Busta groaned and fiddled with the device, Kiki couldn’t help but mentally correct Taylor. Not all of them had gotten college acceptance letters.

Kiki 🌸 : 001

To read my intro to Kiki go here.

“YEAH! YEAH! YEAH!” “LET’S GO!”

Kiki Littles was shoved from a rather pleasant dream involving a seven floor mall and a limitless credit card she would never have to pay the bill for, by the sound of her clock radio blaring the latest from Usher and Lil Jon.

She blew a thick lock of black hair out of her brown eyes and reached out to slap the alarm off.

She groaned and dropped her face back onto her pillow. School. Wasn’t it enough that it was boring and long and hard? Did it they have to add to the torture by making it so early?

There was a series of light knocks without rhythm on her bedroom door before opening.

“Time for school!” Giovanna announced, all smiles and corduroy and pigtails.

Kiki groaned again, not lifting her head as she waved to her little sister. “Thanks, Gi.” She knew the four year old had been up for hours and Kiki wished she had her energy.

“Mama said don’t let you sleep or breakfast will be cold and ruined.”

“Okay,” was all Kiki could manage.

“It’s arroz con huevos.”

“Yum,” Kiki mumbled, drifting off.

“Are you gonna get up?”

“Mm . . .”

Giovanna sighed and walked out.

And instead, her 12 year old brother walked in.

With an air horn.

The loud noise jolted Kiki from her covers with a shriek. “Miguel!”

He grinned and smugly pushed a hand through his collar length black hair. “Hey, you had a chance to wake up the nice way with Giovanna.”

She growled in frustration, but before she could respond, she heard her mother calling up in rapid-fire Spanish, the gist of it being that Miguel was in trouble for having that air horn, Kiki was in trouble for not getting out of bed, and she didn’t make this breakfast for no one to eat it.

Kiki groaned a final time and got out of bed, waving her siblings out of the room along with her.

In the hall, she paused by a long mirror on the wall and tried to finger comb her black hair so it resembled something passable. Two summers ago, she had chopped all of her long hair off to her chin. She had loved swishing her hand through it, how much lighter and cooler it felt, how the blunt cut made her look a mix of chic, sassy, and adorable.

Two months later, she was sick of it.

However, it had taken her and additional three months to admit that, hanging onto the look, dutifully going to the salon every couple of weeks to keep it clipped in shape. And then one day, she just canceled her appointment.

Now it was exactly where she wanted it, a few inches past her shoulders with a bit of layer to give it some dimension.

Of course, her current bedhead gave it a little too much dimension and her fingers weren’t doing much to help. She blew out through her lips as she gave up and traveled downstairs to find the delicious smelling breakfast.

“There you are,” her mother huffed as soon as Kiki entered the kitchen. She began herding her toward the table, already laid out with her breakfast. “Eat and then get ready for school.”

Miguel nodded, waving his fork in his mother’s direction. “Very insightful plan, Mama. Well thought out. It’s like Kiki’s been doing it since kindergarten or something.”

Mama scowled. “Silencio, hijo.” She shook her head, causing her short, raven ponytail to quiver. “Always so much trouble . . .”

Kiki smirked, already spearing at an egg with her fork. “We should send him back to the pack of wild dogs you and Dad adopted him from.”

Giovanna giggled around a mouthful of rice.

“Kikita,” Mama scolded before going on how such lies were bad example for her sister. But Kiki could see her trying not to smile.

Miguel scowled. “Just for that . . .” He pushed his plate away. “I’m having Lucky Charms instead.”

Kiki’s eyebrows raised. Giovanna froze, spoon halfway to her mouth. Kiki chanced a look at her mother, whose eyes had gone ablaze.

“Here it comes,” Kiki sang under her breath.

And boy, did it. Quick, angry Spanish filled the kitchen, mostly about how she never heard anything so ridiculous and who would pass up a hot and delicious breakfast for over sweetened cardboard bits and Styrofoam and Miguel was so ungrateful because when she was a little girl in Juarez, she didn’t have it so good and fine, what did she care what he ate because she just wouldn’t bother anymore.

Kiki tuned her out somewhere in there. Her mother prided herself on her cooking and carefully planned and prepared all the Littles’ family meals. She made a lot of traditional dishes from Mexico, where she was born and lived until she had married Kiki’s father, but she enjoyed cooking anything, from Italian pasta to American burgers, Chinese noodles to French cuisine Kiki couldn’t even pronounce. And all of it tasted delicious.

As her mother well knew and being passed over for processed, packaged food would not be tolerated and was the best way to rile her up.

Which Miguel knew. There was the faintest bit of accomplishment on his face.

Finally, her mother’s tirade paused. There was only a beat before Giovanna asked, “Can I have his eggs?”

“Sorry, babydoll,” a new voice chimed in as it entered the kitchen. Dad straightened his tie, his black hair still damp from his morning shower. “Miguel’s going to eat the wonderful breakfast his mother made for him. Everyone’s going to finish up and go to school. And Mama’s going to calm down and know her silly son was just joking.” He drew Mama’s face toward his and kissed her cheek.

Kiki’s mother did visibly calm down, but Kiki also knew she wasn’t ready to admit that Dad’s relaxed demeanor always did the trick. Instead, she headed toward the sink. Muttering to herself.

Kiki wondered sometimes if that’s what drew her parents together. She knew the story of how her American-born father was visiting his extended family in Mexico and how his cousins took him to a party and that’s where he had met her mother and they spent the rest of the night dancing, even though he wasn’t very good. But she wondered if her mother felt the residual peace her dad seemed to always carry with him, or her dad thought her mother’s take charge attitude and excitable spirit was a fun change of pace from his chilled out vibe. Or were these traits they discovered about the other further on down the road? She wondered when they had really known they were in love.

Because she had known right away.

Met Gala 2018: My Picks

So the theme of the night was Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination (not sure what the hell that subtitle is supposed to mean. No pun intended). Some people nailed the theme. Some people took it to the extreme. Some made me think that they missed the memo. But anyway, here are my favorites of the night.

Best Group Look: Jared Leto, Lana Del Rey and Alessandro Michele in Gucci

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I love the clear cohesiveness of this ensemble look. The blues, the whites, the embroidery, just yes. Also, I love Jared Leto. I love Lana Del Rey. I know they’re not a couple, but I’d be totally fine if they were, please.

Best Hair: Jasmine Sanders by Renda Attia

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I’m generally not a fan of braids, but come on. This is just amazing. And those are real roses! Sleeping Beauty anyone?

Best Headpeice: Nicki Minaj and Priyanka Chopra

A tie. I don’t know who for sure designed these pieces. I know Nicki was wearing Oscar de la Renta and Priyanka was in Ralph Lauren, but I don’t know if that necessarily means they designed the headpeices. BUT LOOK HOW PRETTY. I couldn’t decide. On the one hand, Nicki’s is more my style (hello black and red) and I would have no problem wearing that any day of the week. However, I wasn’t crazy about her dress (despite the epic tulle train) whereas Priyanka’s overall look was just awesome (sidebar: She was my favorite last year).

Best Male: Chadwick Boseman in Atelier Versace

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Most of the guys were pretty tame, if not downright boring. Not Mr. Boseman! On theme and just enough over the top without being plain silly. Also, there was gold glitter in his hair. Enough said.

Honorable Mentions: Ariana Grande in Vera Wang and Gigi Hadid in Versace

I like the soft, classic painting-come-to-life feel of Ariana’s look (yes, even with the “giant baby bow” as my roommate called it). And usually I think the single sleeve is awkward looking, but this Versace dress on Gigi has such a perfect balance. I love the design and the shape and everything about it.

Best Overall: Blake Lively in Versace

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YES. YES. YES. JUST EVERYTHING YES ABOUT THIS WHOLE THING. I love the color, I love the detail, I love the jewels, I love the train, I love the hair, I love the nails, I love her! I thought I would be biased because Blake Lively is always on my girl crush list, but COME ON.

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Like, what.

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SO MUCH PRETTY.

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Hi, yes, somebody do my nails like this please.

Who the hell is Kiki Littles?

It all started with a floating head named Chuck . . .

History of the Mt. Blue Universe

It was a regular fifth grade recess when my friend, Lara (follow her blog The Picky Gourmet!) came up to me and said, “Look what I drew in class.” She produced a penciled drawing of a cartoon face sporting a backward hat, buck teeth, freckles, and crossed eyes. “His name is Chuck. Isn’t he awesome?” He was our mascot for the rest of recess.

I decided I wanted to make one of these cartoon faces too. This one was a girl with black hair, crossed eyes, and a big bow. I carefully wrote the character’s name at the top if the notebook paper.

 Kiki.

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This is actually the second drawing I ever did of Kiki. Sometimes it pays to be a pack rat.

At a chorus concert put on by our younger brothers’ class, I showed my creation to my friend, Charissa (my current roommate). I told her about Chuck and how, by this point, Lara had drawn a few more characters, including a brunette with a side ponytail named Amber, Chuck’s girlfriend. Charissa loved the idea and declared she wanted to make a character of her own. She created a full-bodied cartoon teenager with blonde pigtails and a more realistic look (no cross eyes) and named her Brandy.

Lara and I jumped on the bandwagon of turning our female characters full-bodied and realistic. We also began signing their names with little symbols – Kiki with a flower and Amber with a star.

Along with their new look was the creation of boyfriends. Chuck was discarded and instead Lara created a Leonardo DiCaprio look-a-like named Tobias (after her favorite Animorph character). Charissa pulled from real life and used Taylor Hanson, her celebrity crush (though he’s referred to now as Jordan, Taylor Hanson’s first name). I created a preppy football player with an earring.

Jake.

It was around this time that I began writing a journal for Kiki, detailing a drama-filled summer full of break-ups, friend fights, and a meeting with the Spice Girls (can you tell what decade it was yet?). In the midst of the ongoing project, Lara decided to scrap Amber and start over, creating a redhead with a little alien sticking out his tongue as her symbol named Taylor. The alien went to a mushroom and that wasn’t the only change to the group. Our friend, Devon (whom I’ve been friends with since kindergarten and was actually my foster sister for awhile), became inspired to make her own character, Amber. She had no idea Lara had an old character of the same name. Stranger still, her symbol was also a star. Devon followed suit and created a boyfriend for Amber named Jack. But he wouldn’t last long.

Charissa wanted to make another male character, but not necessarily a new boyfriend for Brandy (even though she had grown out of her Hanson phase). She created a black-haired skateboarder with a rough home life named Brent. At first, he was just Brandy’s cousin, but Devon was intrigued with the idea of Amber, who was academically driven and generally well-behaved, falling for a bad boy. They were made into a couple and Jack was briefly transferred over as Brandy’s boyfriend.

Not long after, Lara made a few changes. She changed Taylor’s symbol to a butterfly and grew tired of Tobias, who was now called Kit, since Charissa gave Brandy’s brother the same name. Instead, she created someone unique for Taylor – a sweet goofball with changing colored streaks in a mop of black hair that covered his eyes named Busta.

But Charissa had one final character to make. On the back of her shop homework (which she still has!), she drew a blond boy with a mouth full of braces and a Red Sox hat. He would become Brandy’s final boyfriend, A.J.

All these changes took place from sixth grade through our freshman year of high school. Throughout, we continued to draw our characters on everything from book covers to party invitations to posterboard and even painted them on the cafeteria wall for our junior high mural. Multiple journals and stories were written about the group from the fictional town of Mt. Blue, California, and as time went on, each character developed more of a history and a distinct personality.

By sophomore year, the four of us went their separate ways and not much was done with the characters for the remains of high school. We did have a mini reunion during our senior year where we drew and wrote about our characters, but that’s as far as it went. College separated us even more (well, college for them. I never went) and it wasn’t until our twenties that we got together for dinner and reignited our friendships.

In the spring of 2012, Charissa and I came up with the idea of writing a new story involving all the characters. It would focus on the gang graduating high school and separating, only to come back for their five year reunion. Charissa and I primarily wrote the story, posting chapters on Insanejournal for Lara and Devon to read. After a month, the entries stopped, but the characters and the story remained in our minds and our friendship stayed intact.

 Four years later, I finally posted a new chapter. The resurgence of the story not only sparked interest in that project, but multiple others. New drawings, new journals, and music videos – a new medium using footage of actors we felt represented our characters. Plus, Lara once again changed Taylor’s symbol to a diamond (some things never change!). We became more serious about establishing each person’s history and started combing through old notebooks to set a definite timeline.

Kiki Littles

So now that you know the history of how these characters came about, I want to talk about the evolution of my particular character, Kiki. As I said, she started off just a goofy cartoon. I don’t remember when I gave her the last name Littles. I do remember it was fifth grade that I started drawing her more “realistically” (read: without crossed eyes) and drawing her in clothes that I thought were cool.

I know it was also fifth grade that I created Jake and I think he always had the last name West. Nothing about him has ever changed. He has always had brown eyes and side parted brown hair. He’s always been dressed like a poster boy for American Eagle and he always was obsessed with football. So back to Kiki.

Even though Kiki is the oldest character in the “Mt. Blue crew,” as we call them, I feel like she’s gone through a lot of changes. She started off with long hair and bangs, but I quickly changed that to a straight, chin length bob to match Victoria from the Spice Girls (Yeah, I liked the one that never smiled and always wore black. Shocker). We used to draw different outfits for our characters (from normal things like prom and cheer-leading to more obscure occasions like babysitting and cat-walking), but my default outfit for Kiki was baggy jeans and a crop top. At some point, I started drawing her with a medium-length layered cut and a baseball tee. When I got together with my friends our senior year, I actually draw Kiki with a more goth look, reflecting my own clothing choices and what I liked.

I scrapped that idea pretty quick though. That wasn’t who she was. At that point, Kiki had become her own character. In the beginning, she was a reflection of the sort of girl I wanted to be, someone that could wear what she wanted, had a hot boyfriend, etc. But now she was someone different than me in so many ways and remains to be.

I actually gave her traits that I personally couldn’t relate to on a personal level, but were traits I didn’t see represented in the TV shows I watched or the books I read. When she was first created, she was Caucasian, hence the bland last name Littles. I don’t remember when I decided to make her Mexican. I remember I was learning Spanish (which I can’t remember any of now -_-) and I thought it would be fun to incorporate that into her. I thought I made this decision later on, but looking back at some of the oldest stories, she had a little brother named Miguel and she talks about visiting her family in Mexico over the summer, so I think I made the decision earlier than I thought.

I also wanted her to not be very good in school. Again, I don’t know where this came from because I was pretty good in school (until eighth/ninth grade when I suffered from severe depression and my grades suffered along with it). I knew Kiki wasn’t “stupid” or even had a learning disability. Back then as a teenager, I just explained it as “school just isn’t her thing.” She worked hard at it and was smart in a practical sense, but she still brought home D’s.

Again, I didn’t see this represented much in the characters I read about or watched back then (this was 90s and 00s). Now, decisions to make characters that are POC or in an interracial relationship or representing that not everybody learns the same way is intentional. For me and Kiki it just happened. It’s just who she was and who Jake was. Maybe it was “progressive” back then, but I didn’t think much about it.

 

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New Story

As I said, I’m going to be posting chapters for a new story based on Kiki in my blog. I don’t have a definite plot set out, but I know I wanted to get back to the root of when my friends and I wrote our characters, when it was the six core characters together and coupled off and having the “ideal” high school experience (whatever the hell that means). But I also wanted to touch on those themes of race and school, particularly how Kiki sort of struggled with these things on her own.

It’s a bit scary. For one thing, putting your fiction out there for anyone to read is a little intimidating in and of itself. On an honest note, there’s a fear of putting Kiki out there in the world. She’s so personal to me and I have such a deep history with this character. Writing and drawing her has always been like breathing for me. I know her like I know me. But we also live in an era where people are easily offended. While I’ve never made Kiki an offensive stereotype (and I don’t fear that I will), there’s more the nerves that people will roll their eyes and think that I need to check my “white privilege” before I write a story about a Mexican-American. I mean, I’m 50% Irish, 50% Italian, single, and my parents were born in bred in New England. What the hell do I know about being Latinx with an immigrant parent and being in an interracial relationship?

But it goes back to why I gave Kiki those traits to begin with. I wanted her to be different than what I saw out there back in ye olden days of Dawson’s Creek. Sure, she and I had different heritages, but we both liked shopping and cute boys and music and had annoying little brothers (Sorry, Spencer). I think representation is important (that might be the most millennial sentence I’ve ever typed) and I don’t think writers should hold back from creating characters that are different from themselves because of the fear that they’ll “get it wrong.”

So why me?

Why not me?

So here she is, ladies and gentlemen. Kiki Littles, eyes uncrossed and the realest she’s ever been.

Nails and Stories

One complaint and one announcement. So the complaint is that I wasn’t able to get all the colors in the Vanessa Hudgens Festival collection from Sinful Colors. By the time I got to Ulta, they had already taken down the display (even though one of the colors never came in, in stores or online) and three of the colors were sold out within a week of going online. I will say I’m loving the colors I did get (currently wearing “Hand’s Up). Inexpensive but great quality!

Now the announcement. I’m going to be starting a new story about my oldest character, Kiki Littles, who I created when I was 11. I’m going to do a whole blog post about her in the near future. But for now, hope everyone’s having a great weekend!

 

🌧 Rainy day coziness. 🌧

Do you prefer the traditional book or an audiobook? I’m a real book girl all the way, however if an actor I like of doing an audiobook, I’ll definitely give it a listen. These are my newest books (like I needed more) and the ones I’m curling up with on this super rainy day.

The first is Life Inside My Mind, which is a collection of essays about mental health from different writers, including my favorite, Francesca Lia Block. The audiobook is The Fates Divide by Veronica Roth, the sequel to Carve the Mark. Carve The Mark was narrated by my favorite actor Austin Butler, whose voice is just pure butter (or if you don’t like butter, substitute it with something else delicious and wonderful. The point is, he could read the dictionary and it would do things to me). When I saw there was a sequel I crossed my fingers it too would feature that wonderful voice and Haaaalelujah! It does!

No coziness is complete without tea and candles and cats in my opinion. For tea, I’m drinking Yogi Tea’s Healthy Skin (which sounds very tree hugger of me, but I just like the taste) in my trusty Little Mermaid mug, which I got from The Disney Store. The candle is from the Zoella Lifestyle collection and it aptly names Lazy Days. As for cats, Damon is one of a kind and you can’t have him. Sorry.