An Old Friend Named Josh

I debated writing this entry. Part of me feels like I don’t have a right, because as the title suggests, this is about an old friend, not a current one. But the more I decided not to write it, the more it wanted to burst out of me. I think part of me needs to say it all in one place, one time, so I don’t ever have to do it again. So here we are.

There’s a picture of a bunch of us watching that He Is Risen movie in Sunday School on Easter 1996. I’m sitting next to my then frenemy and current best friend, Danielle, wearing an all denim dress and my ever present RBF. Sitting a little ways behind us is a kid in a Yankees hat, a bold choice for a kid in Massachusetts. This was Josh.

The first time I ever spoke to him, I stared at him and said, “You’re in the fourth grade?”

“Yeah,” he said.

I didn’t believe it. I was in the fourth grade. No one in my class was as tall and mature looking as this kid. That was my first impression of Josh: There’s no way you and I are the same age.

It wasn’t until next year that we actually started hanging out. His parents used to host “home group” (a weekly Bible study) at their home and my parents went. I was 11 and my brother, Spencer, was nine and they weren’t entirely comfortable leaving us home alone at night when they would be about a half hour drive away, so they brought us along and sent us upstairs to hang out with Josh. At first, I was bored. Josh and Spencer would play video games or talk about other boy stuff that I could care less about and I would end up doing homework or reading my Animorphs books. But by the time next year rolled around things were different. At church, we had the same friends and we all hung out in a big group, doing whatever normal preteens did back then, plus some things they didn’t. We went to movies and got pizza or walked around town of whoever’s house we were at, but then we were also doing a lot of outreach and volunteer work through the church.

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Halloween 1997. I’m giving a peace sign. He’s giving me bunny ears.

So not only did Josh and I hang out all day Sunday, but then every Thursday night at home group and whatever extra thing was going on that week. We got very close and I considered him one of my best friends at the time, definitely my best guy friend. We talked a lot, pretty much about everything: God, girls, guys, friends, art (he was an incredible drawer), music (he was also an incredible musician), writing (yeah, he was good at that too). He always told me I was really easy to talk to and I always looked forward to being around him.

We never liked each other more than friends. I think in the very early stages of our friendship at the ripe old age of 11, he acted a little flirty with me one night, but I thought he was just trying to annoy me at the time. And then there was one night at home group we fell into an intense talk where he got me to admit that I told my friends that I thought he was cute once. To which he said, “Well . . . I think you’re kind of cute too,” and then said, “Wow. It was really easy to tell you that.” To which I didn’t respond because it was then my dad called up that home group was over and it was time to go home. But other than that admittance of cuteness, we were never interested in each other like that.

Despite our great talks and the fact that we enjoyed each other’s company, our friendship wasn’t perfect. We were both incredibly stubborn and that definitely made us butt heads on more than one occasion. He was an only child and therefore used to getting his own way. Sometimes, he would just say to one of our friends. “Come on. We need to go talk,” and they would go without argument. He was very authoritative, which really made him a natural leader and that was normally a good thing. But if he and I got into a fight, and he came at me with the, “We’re gonna go talk,” I’d scowl at him and say, “No. I don’t want to talk to you right now.” I didn’t care that the reason he wanted to talk was so that we could fix the problem. My stubborn ass was still mad at him and didn’t want him telling me what to do. He, in turn, didn’t like the fact that I was one of the few (if not only) people that told him no. Our fighting would get intense and cruel sometimes. To this day, he holds a spot in the top three of the most hurtful things anyone has ever said to me. (In his defense, it was in response to me telling his girlfriend at the time that she should break up with him).

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Even though we never went to the same school, he signed my 7th grade yearbook.

Everything changed when Josh and a friend of mine broke up the summer before eighth grade. We all know the only middle school relationship that made it to marriage is Cory and Topanga, but when you’re that age, it’s the BIGGEST DEAL EVER OMG. Of course all our parents were still besties, so there we were on a big old awkward camping trip together. And of course, Josh wanted to go “have a talk” with me. We went and sat on some big rock looking out at the lake that night. I can’t remember the exact conversation, except telling him that I was pissed about the way the break up went down, which he agreed was bad on his part. But he wanted to make sure he and I were still okay, that we would still be friends. I didn’t want to lose him in my life. I didn’t want anything to change. So we left the rock, both assured that everything would be fine between us.

It wasn’t.

We barely spoke the rest of the trip, much less hung out. And when we got home, nothing went back to normal. Spencer and I were old enough to stay home alone for awhile now, so Thursday night home groups weren’t a time for us to hang out. We stopped hanging out on Sundays too. There were new people he hung out with at church and it literally got to the point where if he spotted me and my friends coming, he’d get up and leave. That particular part caused me to pen a very angry email to him, accusing him of dropping our friendship even though he said he wouldn’t. I don’t remember what else I said, but I know he wrote back an equally angry email, telling me to lay off him, to stop judging him, that there was a lot going on I didn’t know about. I wrote back that that was the point. I didn’t know what was going on with him because he wouldn’t talk to me anymore. He didn’t respond.

I was angry at him for a long time. Through the rest of our teen years, we both went through our own private shit. We stopped talking completely, even though we were still going on these family vacations together every summer. I think every now and then, I had moments where I hoped this would be the vacation we would make up and be friends again. But mostly, I didn’t want anything to do with him anymore and I’m 99% sure he felt the same about me.

By the time we graduated in 2004, the idea of resolving our lost friendship wasn’t even on my radar anymore. We had both moved on with our lives and were at completely different places. Our parents were still extremely close, but even though they went to parties and vacations together, we were adults and we didn’t have to come along. I think the only other time I thought about him with any sort of depth was the first time I heard the song “How To Save a Life” by The Fray. I thought the lyrics were spot on with the way I felt our friendship had ended and I’ve always attached him to that song in my mind.

I did see him briefly at his uncle’s 40th birthday party. At the time, I babysat weekly for his three cousins, but that night, my friends and I were there working as waiters and various other jobs for the party to make a little extra money. I remember at one point Josh leaning down and putting his chin on my shoulder and asking me a question about where something was, which I told him. However, I didn’t dwell too long on how comfortable he was being with me. I knew he had been drinking and besides, I was way too focused on the fact that there was a guy there I had a crush on at the time.

The next time I really saw him was when I was working at his dad’s company. He spotted me in the office and his whole face lit up. “Cailin! Hey!” I said hey back as he walked into my office. “Give me hug!” he said, coming towards me. I remember being taken aback by that because, again, the last time we had really had an actual conversation, it wasn’t pretty. But evidently he forgot about it and moved on and I decided to do the same. I worked there a year and would see him around the office every now and then, but there was really only one time we talked a little more than casual hi’s and that was when I mentioned that I was moving out of my childhood home with my parents to someplace new. He sympathized, talking about how it was hard when he moved out of his childhood home too. It was a short conversation, but it was a real one, and I remember thinking that it was still so damn easy to talk to him.

I only saw him here and there over the next ten years. I saw his parents all the time, since they were still close with mine and I became his mom’s unofficial dogsitter, so I was at his parents house a lot. Sometimes Josh would come to my family’s Christmas Eve party, but even then, we didn’t say much or anything to each other.

The last time I saw him, was about two years ago. I was dogsitting for his parents while they were away. His mom texted me and told me Josh was going to come by to pick up some firewood. “I told him not to bother you though!” I think she was joking, but I’m still not sure.

Anyway, he came inside and said hey. “I’d hug you, but I’m all sweaty.”

I laughed and said that was fine. We exchanged the usual BS adult pleasantries. How are you? Where are you working now? Stuff like that you’re expected to say when you’re an adult that makes me want to bang my head against the wall because I usually just don’t care.

And then somehow we got on the subject of getting older and aging. “Yeah, the other day I found a hair coming out of the top of my nose like my dad has,” he said, cringing. “So I have that to look forward to.”

I told him him that I swore the day I turned 27, there were three new gray hairs and I just keep finding more.

We laughed for a bit and then he said he had to get going and he left. And again, I marveled about how once we got past the usual pleasantries, we were easily talking and laughing.

Again, that was two years ago. Life went on for us both with our own friends and problems and good times and bad times.

And then on Monday of this week, I got a comment from him on my latest Instagram post.

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I was totally surprised. Just the fact that he initiated contact with me out of nowhere was enough to make me double check that it was actually him that left the comment. The next thing that surprised me, was that it was an actual substantial comment. Maybe not the most well punctuated, but it’s not like he just left a thumbs up emoji or something simple. But what surprised me the most was what he actually said. He’d actually read my blog. He didn’t just see the top post and make some vague comment about it. He referenced something that I wrote well within the post, and also commented on another post I’d made more than a month before that.

I commented back and nothing more was said, but I kept thinking about the comment. I actually had the fleeting thought that maybe this was the start of something. Maybe this was a little door opening up that could maybe lead back into us talking again. Hey, it was a longshot, but the comment felt significant for some reason and this was the only reason I could think that it would be.

It was significant.

It was the last thing he ever said to me.

Tuesday night at about 12:30, I was just getting into bed when I heard a noise, music and talking. I thought maybe my cat had accidentally stepped on the remote downstairs and turned on the TV, but when I opened my door, I heard it coming from my parents room. “We’ll be there in 10 minutes,” I heard my dad say.

When he came out, fully dressed, he opened my door.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

He said they were going to the Glynns. That Mrs. Glynn had just called him, totally upset.

“Josh was killed in a car accident.”

 

 

It’s all beyond my understanding. There’s always the whys. Why him? Why now? Why did his parents have to lose their only child? I’m crushed every time I think of them, his dad who was like a second father to me and his mom who is completely generous to everyone.

And it’s a weird position to be in from my standpoint. There’s a weird part of me that feels like I don’t have a right to grieve because he and I weren’t friends anymore and there are so many people that still were, that had even closer relationships with him. It almost feels like I’ve been grieving the loss of our friendship for a long time and felt that I had come to peace with it some time ago. With him suddenly initiating contact, it feels like now I’m grieving the potential that was lost from that.

But then, the fact that I heard from him so recently, that he reached out to me the day before he died, weirdly gave me closure after the fact. It’s not a huge comment. It’s about six lines, give or take what device you’re reading it on. And maybe I’m reading way too much into it because he’s gone now and I have an overactive imagination.

But I like the fact that the last exchange we had wasn’t in the kitchen where we were (now ironically) joking about aging, where the only reason we were even talking was coincidence. I like the fact that he initiated reaching out to me. And I like that in those six lines, he somehow, though I’m sure unintentionally, managed to sum up the way we used to talk.

“I heard what you’re saying. It’s easy for me to relate. Now let’s have a laugh.”

Rest in Peace, Josh. Let’s have a talk when I get there.

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🌺 Zoella Splash Botanicals Review 🌿

I’ve been a fan of Zoella for a long time (not since she started though. I’m not that OG) and subsequently been a big fan of her beauty products. Her style is pretty much opposite to mine, but I like that the products themselves have always been good quality for not a ridiculous amount of money. The biggest downside to her ranges was how difficult it was to get them in the States, with FeelUnique being the only option for the earlier ranges. Now, pretty much everything is available at Ulta (though there are always those “exclusive” products that seem to only make it to UK stores, which is annoying) and what’s even better is, this time around, it was released the same day in the States as it was in the UK.

I do have mixed feelings about this range. My first impression before I even got anything was that this was my least favorite packaging she’s released. The palm leaves, especially with the the baby pink, remind me heavily of the 80s, and not in the fun, neon and black lace way. Honestly, my first thought was Blanche Deveraux’s bedroom in Golden Girls. But I got everything anyway because, hey, you can’t judge a book by its cover.

Let’s start with the bag. I love the size and even the type of the BEAUTIFUL writing, but again, not a fan of the botanical leaves. However, the zipper has a little silver leaf charm, which I do love. I think I’m just a sucker for a silver charm. I also have to say that the first week I had it, the fabric tore at the zipper and I had to have Ulta send me a new one. $14 at Ulta, and it’s only available online.

The first thing I tried was the Botanic’Eau fragranced body mist. While I don’t like the packaging of this range as a whole, I do think it works nicely for this glass bottle design. But. Guys. THE SMELL. This might be my favorite scent of the all the ranges she’s done. The scent is coconut and lychee (which is a fruit. I had to look it up) and it’s just a really fantastic summer scent that I’ve been spritzing over myself every single day. I’m in love for real. A+ to Zoe Sugg for choosing this scent for pretty much the whole range. $12.95 at Ulta.

Next, I used the Make a Splash moisturizing body wash. Same scent, so yes. Her body washes have never failed me. I like how the white in the packaging is ridged, but I’m not sure why she picked that lime green cap. $8.98 at Ulta.

After getting out of the shower, I used the Quench Me body sorbet. This is a new formula for Zoella Beauty. The smell is amazing, of course. It soaks right into your skin and it’s not super heavy, taking forever to rub in. I also like how she started doing her body lotions in these little tubs, rather than the squeeze tubes, like the body washes. $12 at Ulta.

Next I tried out the So Soft lip oil. I was excited for this because she’d never done a lip oil before. Unfortunately, this was the biggest disappointment and my least favorite product. First off, the scent is cherry, which is completely different from all the other scents in the range. It smells just like cough syrup which is an immediate turn off for me. She’s said in a video that it also tastes like cherries. It doesn’t. It has no taste. I put this on before bed, hoping to wake up with soft and hydrated lips. I didn’t. There was no difference. And then the packaging itself was just a bad design. The pink plastic tube feels really light and cheap. While the white label looks classic on the glass mist bottle, it looks tacky and cheap on the plastic tube. As a whole, the product itself looks like a prototype, something to sample before the final design was complete. The only thing I like about this is the applicator itself, but it’s not enough to save this product. $7 at Ulta.

I had to wait a bit to use the Drench Me bubbly bath soak since my tub was disgusting when I moved. But I could at least start off by saying I loved the packaging of this. The milk carton design is really cute and I think as far as the mostly white with the botanical lettering design, they should have done this for the whole range. But I digress. This makes a lovely bath with lots of bubbles and the scent is, again, fantastic. Also, I prefer the pour out mechanics of this, rather than, say, her Scooper Dooper bath soak where you sort of had to reach in the tub and try to grab a handful of liquid. $12 at Ulta.

Finally I tried the Lagoon Love bath milk. My first thought was, $4 for just a one time use product? No me gusta. But then considering I’ll drop $7 at Lush for a bath bomb (also a one time use product), this was a bargain. The packaging is just a little foil packet that you tear open and empty the powder underpinning water. It doesn’t advertise this, but this also makes a fair amount of bubbles so there’s a nice little bonus. The smell is great, makes for a nice soak, and just a cute little treat to add something extra to your bath.

Also, if you buy $15 worth of Zoella products at Ulta, they’ll send you this adorable little trio of mini products: the body wash, the body sorbet, and a little shower loofah. Perfect for travel!

Rocksbox Subscription

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Oh, we all know how much I love a good subscription box. And we also know how much I love my accessories. And here comes Rocksbox!

Normally, I don’t like the subscription services where you pay a monthly fee but don’t get to keep the items unless you pay more, but here me out on this one. When you sign up, you take a style profile quiz, so they can get a feel for your tastes. (For example, I prefer silver jewelry and don’t even think about sending me anything with fabric tassels on it.) They pair you with a stylist who picks out three pieces for you, either from your wish list or something they think you’ll like. You can keep the pieces for as long or as little as you want. If you get them Monday and want to ship them back Tuesday, do it! As soon as they get notified that their return label has been put in the system, they’ll immediately start curating a new set for you. Or you can keep the jewelry for months and weeks and years if you want (though I don’t recommend that one). Regardless how fast you cycle through them, you’ll still get charged the same $21 once a month, which I think is pretty cool, especially if you want to wear some nice jewelry but like to mix it up.

If there is something you want to keep, your $21 goes toward the purchase of that item. Also, the more pieces in the set you keep, the more money is taken off the total.

Okay, so enough of the logistics. Let’s get to the fun stuff: the jewelry.

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For my first box, they sent me a pair of “Lee” earrings from Kendra Scott (retail $55). I had put these dangly earrings on my wishlist because they had an antique look to them that I loved.

The next item was also from my wishlist and this was actually the first thing I put on there: a tiny silver sugar skull necklace from Sophie Harper (retail $55). Dainty little silver necklaces are so versatile because you can layer them with other pieces or go for a more delicate look by wearing it alone. What I love about this as well, is it has a nice classic look that it could be worn casually, yes, but also to something more professional or formal, and yet, you still get that edge because at the end of the day, you’re still wearing a skull necklace.

The last item wasn’t on my wishlist, but picked by my stylist. Now, if you don’t like something that the stylist chose, you can opt to have her/him choose something else, which I almost did because I wasn’t so sure about this one. But in the end, I decided to take a chance and I am so glad I did because the picture on the website didn’t do it justice. These “Willow” earrings by Ava Rose looked like some sort of pearl or opal on the website, but actually, these silver studs are druzy (retail $75). They’re SO sparkly and actual gemstones. They’re definitely statement earrings and would dress up any casual outfit or go great with something more formal.

If you want to try out Rocksbox, get your first month FREE (my favorite price) by clicking here or by using  the code CAILINBFF9. Then let me know what you got because I’m super curious!

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

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.