I have the best wife in the world, but she is one of the hardest people to buy gifts for. Plus, she is super competitive, and she gives the most thoughtful, romantic and unique gifts ever. For instance, the Christmas after we got married, she had a scarf made (I love scarves) with our wedding vows printed on it! It’s hard to compete with stuff like that because she does not have many things that she loves, and she is well, a dyke.

I have found myself on numerous occasions Googling “Unique Gifts for Lesbians or Dykes or Girlfriends or Wives,” only to get the disappointing results of coffee mugs or girly jewelry. Her identity means that she does not wear girly jewelry. Also, she does not drink coffee, so no mugs. She is super picky about clothes, and she loves to shop, which takes clothes out of the equation.

Also, I am on a budget! I am starting two businesses, so a lot of my funds go back into the businesses leaving me little room for extra stuff.

So, as we are going on three years of marriage, I have decided to start putting my creativity to work in gift giving. If you share my struggles, you have come to the right place!

I have found that creating a gift that is based around a theme allows me to be romantic, thoughtful, and frugal at the same time. When I pick the theme, I am being romantic and thoughtful because I’m considering what she really likes and putting that into the gift. Because it is thoughtful, I can also play around with the budget.

Basically, themed gifts also become experience gifts. As you’ll see, presenting a themed gift is more than just shoving a box at someone.

Of course, these are specific to my wife, but you can take the concept and apply it to anyone. For instance, instead of using a Christmas song, you could take the music gift and create it from your couple’s song. Maybe it’s the song that you first kissed to, or maybe it’s the song that you danced at your wedding to–whatever song you choose, you can create a gift from it. With the “Channel What She Loves” theme, this could be applied to basically anything. The key is to think about what she loves, and create a bundle instead of just one thing. So, if she loves coffee, you could get her a mug, some gourmet coffee, and inside a ticket to some place that has unique coffee experiences (not Starbucks). I love a good foodie trip: it marries my love of travel and food together nicely.

THEME 1: Music

If you want to get creative, think of her favorite song or a song that has meaning, and theme the gift around that! There are lots of ways to do this, but here’s how I did it for Christmas:

This year for Christmas, I demanded that we steer clear of generic gifts (clothes, socks, books, etc.). Basically, I said that we could not buy each other anything that we would buy for ourselves. To be fair, I thought this was a good idea because Alisa’s clothes are expensive. Then, about mid-November, I started panicking because I realized that I had to come up with something meaningful and romantic for Christmas while also planning a masquerade ball and buying for my two teenagers. I had basically pitched a two-year-old fit about not wanting generic gifts, and I couldn’t come up with anything!

One night, we were riding around, and Alisa’s favorite Christmas song came on, “Feliz Navidad,” and I realized that she gets super happy whenever it comes on. That was the key. I decided to throw her a Feliz Navidad themed Christmas gift. Yes, throw. I wanted it to be an experience that she would remember even if it didn’t cost that much. Also, I am an #eventplanner, so that’s my specialty.

Decorations and food for “Feliz Navidad” Christmas gift

She has been wanting to grow fruit trees, so I thought, why not get an avocado tree as part of this gift? It kind of goes with the Puerto Rican origin of the song. That was her big gift.

Then, I did a little research and found that Puerto Ricans wear straw hats and love music. I went and bought a straw hat and some maracas to incorporate into the second gift, which was a boudoir photo shoot. Now I know that sounds a little conceited to think that she would want pictures of me as a gift, but I’m telling you, she was super excited about them!

Straw hat wreath for “Feliz Navidad” Christmas

Finally, I decorated the house and made a Puerto Rican dinner, blasted Feliz Navidad, and met her at the door dancing when she came home from work (Christmas Eve). It was so much fun, and it was a hit because she looks at her pictures all the time and is excited for her avocado tree to bloom.

A Little Decor for the “Feliz Navidad” Themed Christmas Gift
Food for the “Feliz Navidad” Themed Christmas Gift

THEME 2: Channel What She Loves

Alisa does not have little obsessions like I do. I like all things tiny. I collect vinyl. I love cheap earrings. I like scarves. All of these can turn into meaningful gifts. She, on the other hand, like Alabama football, but she doesn’t like gifts related to Alabama football. She likes her dog, but she doesn’t like gifts related to her dog. She likes sea turtles, but I’ve exhausted that gift. I’ve even adopted her a sea turtle. It’s time to move on.

Valentine’s Day is another hard one because most of the regular gifts are very specific to men and women. We do not do roses and candy. That’s just not our style. This year, I really stepped up my game.

We love to #travel, but we’ve never left the states. As our last child is nearing adulthood, we want to go overseas and explore the world. There is one major barrier to this: WE KEEP FORGETTING TO GET OUR PASSPORTS! Well, hello cupid!

Of course, you might think that I should just take her on a trip, so let me give a little disclaimer: my wife is a hotel snob. I cannot book travel. I am too frugal. I always pick cheap hotels, which ends up in disaster. She is the one who reads reviews, researches, and determines what is best. Plus, I’ve taken her on all the short/weekend trips that I can afford on my own at the moment (like NOLA). I wanted to think bigger this year.

Of course, I’m not able to just hand her a passport. I’m actually going to get the paperwork all together with the payment and put it together with the rest of her gifts.

Remember this post is all about themes, and this one is travel (what she loves).

I got her this “Crossed Paths” bracelet, and wrote this note, “I’m so glad that you crossed my path, and I can’t wait to cross many more together!” Cheesy, yes! Romantic, yes!


I also bought a small cork board, and painted the world on it using a stencil.

These combinations have been a great hit! Alisa cares for her avocado tree daily. She started planning adventures the day after Valentine’s Day. I have to admit that I’ve never felt so good about gifts. As a matter of fact, I usually spend a lot of money on gifts and then fret over whether she’ll actually like them or not. For these, I put a little more effort into the thought, but I knew that she would love them!

I hope that you find value in this post, and I would love to hear if you use the ideas to create your own themed gifts!


Going Vegetarian (Don’t Tell the Carnivores)

Two weeks ago, after watching the movie Okja, I finally decided to call it quits on the meats. I’d already been going in that direction for a while for health and other reasons, but that film pushed me over the edge. If you are thinking that you need a change, watch the movie. No more encouragement is needed.


Here’s my plan:

  1. Don’t tell the kids and see how long it will take them to realize we haven’t had meat.
  2. Use variety.
  3. Be cheap about it.
  4. Write about it here and share the recipes that work.

Week 1 Recipes:

  1. DAY 1: Enchilada Stuffed Grilled Mushrooms found here. These were fantastic, but I used smaller mushrooms (being cheap), so I had to compromise quickly to feed my hungry teenagers. Luckily, I had a can of refried beans and had recently wanted Mexican pizza (like Taco Bell’s). So, I slapped some beans on some tortillas, layered them with cheese and jalapenos and the leftovers from the mushrooms. THEY WERE A HIT. *The kids didn’t notice the lack of meat.
  2. DAY 2: Zucchini Lasagna (my own recipe). This is one that I’ve been making for a while, but I usually add sausage and pepperonis. I made it the same just without the meat: my favorite Italian marinara, vegetables, and cheese with sliced green zucchini taking the place of noodles. It’s actually better because it only takes about 30 minutes in the oven if you saute the veggies first.
  3. DAY 3: Curry Cabbage & Cauliflower Stir Fry found here. Of course, I had to omit the coconut oil because my wife is allergic. However, everyone loved it, and the kids still hadn’t realized no meat was involved.
  4. DAY 4: Cheated. Went out. Long day. Still no meat though.
  5. DAY 5: Mushroom Stroganoff found here.

Weekend: No kids, so no cooking!!!

Long story short: I’m loving the vegetarian life because it offers variety, it’s actually less expensive, and I’VE LOST 4 POUNDS!!!!pexels-photo-533360.jpeg



Publishing Bullshit

Julie Still-Rolin (2)

This self-publishing journey has been quite a challenge, but it’s a good challenge. I feel myself growing by just doing it. It is crazy to me how often we keep ourselves from doing things just because we don’t know how or we feel we don’t have some authority. I am so glad that I’m overcoming this. What is that study that says you have to practice something for 10,000 hours before being able to do it well? If that’s the case with self-publishing, I’m two books in and have only been practicing for about 1/10 of that number.


Here are some things I’ve learned:

  1. Patience is a virtue. I am not a patient person, so this one is difficult. However, it is interesting when my personality is altered by a process. When I sit down to write, I have my stories in my brain, and I just expect them to flow perfectly and quickly onto the document. Then, I don’t want to have to edit them. And, I do not want to have to go through the grueling process of creating a cover page and marketing plan, etc. These things all take time, and if you rush through them, you will regret it.
  2. Self-publishing is hard. I have read many tips and tricks online, and they all say that you should hire an editor and a cover designer. I am too stubborn for this at this point because I feel confident in my ability to do these things and save money. We’ll see how this works out. On my first book, I had to republish three times because of mistakes. However, that book was an experiment. I wrote it in two weeks and had it published within the same two weeks. I don’t feel like it counts as much.
  3. Do what works for you. This is kind of an extension of number 2, but I have learned that I cannot do what others do. I have to find my own way and s
  4. tick with it. This is the cool thing about self-publishing: you have the freedom to do that, and your success or failure depends on you. My motto for this is, if it doesn’t work, find another way. It’s that simple. I have to follow my own style; otherwise I’d just pay someone to do it for me.

Overall, self-publishing is a journey. I do not expect overnight success. I do not really even care much about that part. What I do care about is that I am finally publishing my work. I’m finally getting my stories out there into the world. If no one wants them, fine. If just one person reads my stuff and enjoys it, I will be ecstatic.


Although my new book is fiction, it is rooted in my experience. As I write about the mother and her hatred for her daughter that stems from her hatred of homosexuals, I can’t help but wonder what happened to the pictures that my mother had of me. I wonder if she burned them.  I wonder if she threw them away. I wonder if when she takes out her photo albums to look back at times past, if there are empty spaces where I once was, or has she filled them with someone who took my place? I wonder if she left them there and pretends that I died on the day that she walked away from me. I wonder if she wonders the same thing.

I long to move forward and forget this pain, but it won’t go away. So, I write it. I write it in hopes of offering solidarity to someone who may suffer as well. I write it in hopes of saving someone from hurting their own child out of ignorance. Someone may respond to this and say, “Your mother loves you,” or something with the good intentions of comforting me. I don’t need comfort. I write to get it out, not for sympathy. Besides, I know a mother’s love. And, no fear of eternal flames could keep me from giving it. I would walk through those flames for my children no matter who they loved or what they did. They are and always will be mine.


Unsung Hero

This weekend I was awoken by the dreadful sound of a cellphone ringing at 3:30 in the morning. You know those calls…they’re never good. My heart stopped as I jumped out of bed to retrieve it. It was my stepson calling my wife. First of all, our story is complicated, as many people know. We joke about it because of the stereotypical nature of us being from the South–implicit jokes about inbreeding and such nonsense. But, the truth is that we are just two souls linked together in unusual circumstances. We are a blended family. My stepson is also my wife’s stepson, but she raised him like her real son. So, he has basically become our son. At first, he was reluctant to cross over into my dark side of culture. I was an alien with my record player blaring anything from Louis Armstrong to David Bowie and my sauteed vegetables and my refusal to fry anything. It took us both a while to adjust to each other, but now he is family. So, when he called to say he’d been in a wreck, I too jumped up, dressed, and tried to suppress my fear.

I was scared not only for his safety, but my wife’s as well. I know how deeply she cares for him. She never actually birthed any children, but she’s mothered two and is now mothering my two as well. She tells me all the time that she doesn’t have the mother thing, but she just doesn’t realize that she does. Perhaps she has the mother thing more than most birth mothers. She shows it in her unwavering commitment to her children. As much as she wants to be free from the worries, responsibilities, and headaches that come along with mothering, she can’t. The mother thing inside her won’t allow it. She loves her son as if he was her own. She pushed him through high school even though it killed her to fight with him. She just wanted what was best for his future. She bought him a truck even though she was struggling financially at the time. She wanted to teach him responsibility and pride of ownership. She is plain out rude to the girls that he brings home who don’t deserve him. She just wants to make sure he finds a good relationship. She forced him to become responsible and get his own place. She just wanted him to be independent for when she can no longer help him. I’ve watched them fight, and at times that I would have given up, I’ve watched her persevere out of love. Now, I think he is finally seeing what she has done.

When we got to him, it was a relief to see that he was okay. He would be in pain, but he would recover. His truck, not so much, but material things can be replaced. We took him home, and she was the one who helped him when he felt that he could not take the pain. She was the one who insisted he go to the hospital. It wasn’t convenient. It would have been easier to let someone else take him, but she wouldn’t have let that happen.

People like to share their opinions on lesbians having kids. They like to say that kids need a traditional family. They say that kids need a mother and a father. I’ve seen those traditional families. Sometimes they are fantastic. Sometimes, however, they are not so great. I’ve seen the mothers who become addicted to pills because their husbands are abusive. Neither of those parents are good for the kids. I’ve seen the fathers who work 40 hours a week and then complain that they are too tired to spend time with their kids. I’ve seen the mothers who do the same.

People also like to say that kids raised in a homosexual household will end up becoming homosexuals. Homosexuality is biological. Scientists and researchers have proven this time and time again. No one can make anyone gay. Our sons are great examples of this. Both of them like women. And, they have an advantage by being raised by two women: they will know how to treat women.

My wife is an unsung hero to the children that she did not birth. She is the one who makes sure they are taken care of. She is the one who will be there when others walk away. She is the one who will fight for them. She is the one who will sing happy birthday with her guitar even though she can’t play or carry a tune. She is the one who will push them to be better students and parents and lovers and friends and people. And, because they know this, she is the one they will call when they need someone.


Image result for no more bullshit

I’ve finally decided to jump in to my dream of writing and stick with it. I’ve always had a writing project in the works, but I’ve never felt so passionate about it as I do this new one. So, I’m going to share some of it with my audience in hopes of finding encouragement to keep up the momentum. I’m 20,000 words in, so I feel pretty confident about it. If you have any opinions, please share.

I’m still playing around with a title, but I like No More Bullshit: Life Lessons because it encompasses the premise of the book, which is ultimately about the changes I’ve made in my life after becoming more enlightened. The book also contains my real voice, which is a potty mouth accompanying my Southern accent and intellectualism. I want people to be aware that this is supposed to be a humorous look at the experiences that prompted me to change. It is not faith-based although I do incorporate some spirituality that has helped me, so I do not want the wrong audience to pick up the book and be offended.

So, if you have any feedback, I’d really appreciate it. Feel free to comment.