Swiss Army Man: A Giant Middle Finger to the Indie Movie Industry

 Last week, I saw the buzzed about and completely unprecedented Swiss Army Man, a film starring Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe, by the directing duo known as The Daniels. (Which consists of Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert.) If you haven't heard about this movie already, it caused quite a stir at its Sundance premier this winter, when a few critics actually walked out of the theater. To understand why, I guess I should tell you the premise. Swiss Army Man is about a young man (Paul Dano) who is trapped on a deserted island and is quite literally at the end of his rope (he is about to commit suicide) when a waterlogged corpse named Manny (Daniel Radcliffe) washes up on shore, and begins farting. If you can believe it, the film only gets weirder, cruder, and crazier from there. 

 The whole time, you’re just kind of sitting there thinking: what the hell does this mean? But by the end, almost reluctantly, you realize: It means nothing. And that’s the point. In my opinion, this film is a giant (admittedly playful) “F*** YOU” to the indie movie genre as a whole. In fact, if you compare it to the other hit indie movies of late, (for instance, Colin Farrel's The Lobster), it is absolutely a satire of it. This genre is known for doing weird things but making it mean something. I’m talking about Her, The Lobster, etc. Weird premises are the norm in this realm, but this one takes the cake. This movie does a lot of weird things, but in the end all of that means nothing. And by meaning nothing, it means something. The meaninglessness of this film, and audience's collective outrage in reaction to it, speaks to our need for every film to have greater meaning, rather than just being an enjoyable ride. 

 Everything has to be cultural commentary nowadays, and even though I personally find that great, it was definitely refreshing to watch a film that was strange and traumatic and crude, and just know that that’s all it was. It was like the 21 Jump Street of indie movies. Weird, hilarious, refreshing, entertaining, and you didn’t have to think too hard about it. Usually at the end of indie movies you’re sitting there with your hypercritical hipster glasses on, drinking your specialty coffee and talking about how ironically great it was. But at the end of this movie, a guy in our theater (which was nearly empty…I counted 7 people, including myself and my boyfriend), burst out laughing and said, “HOLY SH*T.” And that’s it. Swiss Army Man is a "holy sh*t" kind of movie. It makes absolutely no sense, it’s disgusting, it’s hilarious, it’s a little bit weirdly heartfelt, and more than a little bit creepy. And that’s really all you can possibly hope for from Daniel Radcliffe’s most recent foray into this cinematic genre.

All in all, if you're looking for a darkly funny movie that is beautifully shot and features more fart jokes than your uncle at a family gathering, go see Swiss Army Man.


A Pep Talk

 As you may have noticed, I didn't have a blog post for you at the beginning of this week. That's because things have been really difficult lately, and I haven't known what to say about it. I sometimes struggle with the pressure of remaining honest and authentic on this platform, while also not making myself too vulnerable. All you need to know is: these past two weeks have been strained. I felt it, Eli and I felt it. The distance between us continuously left its mark, and resulted in tension. The distance between us mirrored distance that hasn’t happened in other places, (i.e. my having never left home) and that too is causing a strain. 

 So what do you do when you have a ton of strain and a lot of sour things being handed your way? There’s really only one option. You channel Beyoncé and you make lemonade. Literally. We did that. But listen, I'm going to be real with you-- the lemonade was good, but I don't feel like my problems are solved in the slightest. I still have an incredible amount of tension and anxiety swirling around in this body of mine, and I think only time will solve it. 

 But instead of dwelling on these things that only overwhelm me, I'm going to share with you a little pep talk I just wrote myself. At the beginning of every month in my monthly calendar, there is a space dedicated to "Monthly Notes." I use this space to write myself a little motivational speech each month. So, here, for your pepping pleasure, is the pep talk I wrote for myself for the month of July.

 "Work. Make great art. Spend every second you have taking every opportunity that comes your way. Don't let anyone shame you for how hard you work. You aren't running from anything. That's bullshit. You're running toward your dreams, because you've waited long enough for them, and you're going after them. Make your life what you want it to be, because it belongs to you. As long as you're not addicted to drugs or living on the street, you aren't doing it wrong. As long as you have love in your life, you're on the right path."


Bob's Burgers: A Review By Someone Who Hates Animated TV Shows For Adults

 My love affair with Bob’s Burgers started out slow. First, I would just watch an episode here, two episodes there with my boyfriend while he was binge-watching it. Completely out of order (for me). And then, he finished, and I found myself starting it from the beginning, on my own. I have long proclaimed that I hate animated TV shows. (For adults. I have nothing against Phineas and Ferb and the like. Who doesn't love Phineas and Ferb?!) I don't like the Simpsons, Family Guy, or South Park. For some reason they're all too crude, grating, and just plain ridiculous for me, and I am someone who thrives on crudeness. But Bob's Burgers is different. What I love about this show is that sure, it's silly, but the reason it's different (for me anyways) is that they're actually a really great family. They may be a little bit weird or stupid sometimes, but instead of making fun of each other, they just love and support each other. This show brings me so much joy because it features quintessential family values integrated with my particular brand of sarcastic, awkward humor. 

 Bob Belcher, for example, is a really great father who loves his kids and is passionate about his job even if it doesn't pay the best. (Or much of anything, really.) He doesn't have unrealistic expectations for his kids, doesn't put pressure on them to be what they're not, and teaches them through his actions that it's more important to be happy than to be rich.

 Linda Belcher is a wonderful mother who encourages and loves her children no matter what. She's also a woman who feels the impending doom of aging, and yet she's never a stereotype. In an episode where it’s Linda’s birthday and she’s feeling the weight of getting older, in the end the message is— I’m getting older, but I’m getting better. I’m strong, and not getting weaker with age. I can still kick a tough day in the butt. And I think that's a pretty inspiring message to include in an animated television show.

 Louise Belcher, the youngest of the Belcher kids, is a horrible, witty, sarcastic, biting person, that most 19 year olds I know can relate to more than any other character on television. She's also a nine year old girl who never takes off her pink bunny hat. Yet her sarcasm is only reserved for people who deserve it, and though we can always hear her tone of voice and assume she is being mean, when it is addressed at Tina, Gene, or any other member of her family, she is never serious. They don't get her bite. In a show with inferior writing, Louise would be incapable of love. (Because of course someone who is as sarcastic and witty as she wouldn't love their family.) But Louise is complex, and ultimately human. She loves her family and accepts them as they are, quirky flaws and all, because they in turn accept her abrasive tone and love her not in spite of it, but for it.

 Gene Belcher both is and is not a normal 11 year old boy. He's obsessed with his fart keyboard, pranks, and puns (in much the same way as his dad is). Although there is pressure from society, though never from his family, to be more masculine and stereotypically male than he is, he never gives in. Tina Belcher, who is probably the most infamous and recognizable Bob's Burgers character, is a wonderfully hormonal thirteen year old girl who defies gender norms. She's boy crazy in a way that I believe is a step towards normalizing female sexuality, loves horses, and has an indifferent, deep, groaning tone of voice that makes it sound like everything she is asked to do it the most inconvenient thing in the world. She is essentially a modern day, female Eeyore, and she's also an overachiever. She gives a more realistic voice to the kid I (and many of my friends) were in high school. Tina raises her hand first but doesn't have the high pitched, spirited voice that her stereotypical counterparts have. But that doesn't mean she's not passionate. She's real.

 The best thing about the Belcher kids is just that-- they're kids. They aren’t idiotic nine, eleven, and thirteen year olds. They are complex. The creators of Bob's Burgers have done children everywhere a service by showing them as they are, and as they might be one day, all in one. Specifically in Louise's case they show that kids can be little assholes, but also be more than capable of love, empathy, selflessness and heart. There are so many positive messages in this show, along with so many fantastic puns. It’s the Parks & Recreation of animated TV shows, and I don’t say that lightly.



 So...OVERDUE (my YouTube web series that has been premiering since August 2015) is over. The final episode went live on Friday night, March 25th, and I'm still not sure how I feel about it. My emotions are a mixture of happy and sad, to be sure.

I mean, this project has taken up the last year of my life. And while there was a sadness that overtook me when we finished filming, the sadness I feel now is much more subtle, and yet greater. That sadness was palpable. This one is vague, rippling under the surface, overwhelming me in unexpected moments of vulnerability.

You all know that one of my favorite pastimes (because I am a nostalgic piece of garbage), is looking back. Seeing where I was then compared to where I sit now.

In August, I was terrified. I was afraid of people leaving and my life changing and new challenges and what all of these chances I was taking would mean for my future.

In March, I am still terrified, but more confident. I'm more sure of everything I'm doing. I'm surer with every passing day that what I'm doing is right for me.

In August, I had a little get-together at my house on the night the first episode was released. My good friends Sam and Kelsey were there with plenty of good food, as was Eli, the guy who made the theme song, who I didn't really know at that point. I sat next to him on the couch, unsure, uncomfortable, but wanting to be closer.

In March, that same group of four watched the final episode on my laptop in Sam & Kelsey's coffee shop. Then Sam, Kelsey, and Eli took me to dinner to celebrate. I sat close to Eli, knowing there wasn't a limit to how close I could get anymore.

 So much has changed, and so much has happened as a result of this show. This chance I took that I was scared every single day of ruining, of mucking up, has brought so much love and light and life into my world. And I think the fact that I'm so sad to see it go is an indicator of how right I was to take this chance, and a message to my future self to take more.

We're all overdue for something.
Maybe I was overdue for taking a few chances.


P.S.- The playlist with all the episodes, minisodes, and trailers is right here, if you're interested in watching!


 In the last six months...

People moved away. People started a business. People quit their jobs. Two people started a relationship...and not only kept it going, but kept it growing

I know in relationship terms six months is barely anything. But for someone who has never been in one before (make that two someone's), it's everything. It can be summed up in the words he said to me on Monday: "Cause we've been dating for six months, and that's a big deal. And I don't want every six months to be a big deal, but years and years."

The fact is I've loved every second we've been together. Even the hard ones where one or both of us were in pain and we had to coax it out from where it was hiding and festering and see it, feel it, and even though it hurt, try to heal it. 

This has been a happy, painful, joyful, healing six months. So much has happened. And while I know I could do it all without him by my side, (I'm an independent woman after all: I lived 19 years without him, and I know I'm capable of more) I don't want to. We're right for each other. I can't wait for the coming moments, but I love the ones we're in. 

Yesterday we spent the day in Rochester, where it kind of all began for us six months ago. We went to three coffee shops in a row, and even though I don't drink coffee, I loved it. I love the coffee shop atmosphere, (as well as really good waffles and next-level tea) and I loved exploring new places with a person I love. Then we hit up this little crystal shop, where I went a little crazy but at the same time maybe I didn't go crazy enough. Last, but certainly not least, was Lush. I bought gifts for my sister for her birthday and "Treat Yo Self" gifts for me, which explains why the number on the receipt was so high. 

I finished the day by doing something that scared the life out of every cell in my body. I was a guest on a local YouTube show, The Life of Reilley, promoting OVERDUE

At the end of it, when I was feeling the adrenaline drain from my body and starting to slump over from exhaustion, I recalled what our dear friend Lottie told us to do as she left for California. To take care of ourselves and keep following our dreams. Yesterday I did both, and I'm just so glad I have this group of people to hold my hand while I do it. 

Eli, thanks for dating me. I love you and I like you more every day. 

Sam and Kelsey and Lottie and John, thanks for being my friend. You're the support system that my body wasn't built with, but needs nonetheless. 

I think it's important, whether you're in a relationship or not, to take a step back every few months and evaluate where you are now in comparison to where you were then. Because it's so easy to forget how far we've come, and downplay our achievements. But they're there, because we've made them happen. 



 Yesterday, at approximately 8:45 am, I said goodbye to two of my favorite people. They got in the car and got on the road to their new life in California. I still don't quite have the words to describe how I feel about the whole experience. But I'm going to give it a try anyway.

 Over the past few months, no, since about May of 2015, I've gotten closer and closer to these people until it felt like we were this tight-knit group. My whole life, I've kind of been looking for this group. I've been a part of friend groups and have great friends who I love and will always love, but I think I've been looking for this particular creative, passionate group of do-ers for a while. In 2015, I found it. Or more accurately, we built it. We built our friendship on one fundamental commonality: our dreams. Even though our passions and goals are in a variety of different categories and genres, they all have one thing in common: creativity. We are all actively pursuing creative careers, creative dreams. We know how scary and unsound that is, but we're doing it anyway. So even though one of us wants to be a graphic designer and another a musician and another a writer and another a filmmaker and two others coffee shop owners, we all have in common the passionate pursual of those creative dreams.

 In October two members of our group, Sam and Kelsey, made their dream a reality. Peaks Coffee Company opened it's doors on October 3rd, 2015. Right around then, Lottie and John got word that they might have the opportunity to move to California for the type of job John had always dreamed of. Yesterday they departed on that journey. I feel like Eli and I are still working on making ours happen. Being an artist is weird, because it's so intangible. Every little victory feels enormous at the time, but you look back on it and feel that it wasn't that big of a deal. But it's important to remember that every little victory is a brick in the road building to a bigger one. So I think we're on our way. 

 Yesterday Lottie made us promise that we'd take care of ourselves and keep following our dreams. I didn't have any huge New Year's resolutions for 2016, but I think I just found the one I will be actively pursuing this year. For Lottie, and for the people in my life who are constantly striving to make theirs better. To keep growing. To keep learning. To keep saying yes. That's what this admittedly difficult change has taught me. Lottie & John just said HECK YES to the biggest, scariest change imaginable. They packed up their baby dog and their hopes and fears and dreams in one little car and went for it. And for that I find them endlessly inspiring. 

 Before yesterday, I've never had the experience of crying after a friend has left. I always thought that was because I'm a loner, or emotionless, or something. But after they pulled out of the Peaks parking lot and hit the road, Kelsey and I had a moment not unlike the end of The Holiday. We were both Jude Law, crying helplessly in the back room. While right now I'm mourning the physical departure of two people who understood me in ways I never thought possible, I am also rejoicing in their success at the same time, and feeling grateful for the fact that I still have 4/6ths of our little squad here by my side. 

 Friendship is a really weird, ambiguous thing that I don't think I'll ever understand. But I'm excited to keep learning and growing with these people, whether that's from opposite coasts or fifteen minutes down the road.


The Truth is Out There: The X-Files Revival Review

 I am embarrassed to admit just how long it took me to figure out what to write about this morning. I sat at the kitchen table for a few minutes thinking, I have nothing to talk about! And then it hit me. The X-Files just started up again! *face palm*

 If you've been reading this blog for ANY amount of time you'll know that I love The X-Files. I started watching it in the late winter of 2015, and was finished by September. (Most people call this time "spring," but since that doesn't exist in CNY I won't call it that.) This show about aliens and government conspiracy was my best friend and closest companion all summer. Over the summer I liked to joke that I didn't need a boyfriend because I was in a committed relationship with The X-Files. Funnily enough, half the reason my boyfriend and I started dating is because I told him to watch The X-Files, he did, and he loved it as much as I do. The rest is history.

 So Sunday night, on the fateful day this glorious show was set to return, I was ready. I didn't appreciate the fact that the football game ran over and into my allotted X-Files time, which is easily my worst nightmare... but the show was worth the wait. I had a friend who saw the premier episode at New York City Comic Con a few months back, who assured me that it was amazing, but I couldn't know that until I saw it for myself.

 I can sum up my feelings in four simple words: It felt the same. It felt like the good old X-Files we all know and love, but shinier and new. For that reason, it was almost better. It felt so current, so now, so rooted in current events. Watching the old episodes is like this lovely nostalgic little game, where you laugh at the bad graphics but keep coming back for the consistently interesting plot and sexual tension. This was a whole new ball game (please laugh at this pun) because while the plot and writing were still as great as ever, the graphics, lighting, camera work were all better. This is probably due to new technology, and a higher budget. Regardless, it was just incredible to see The X-Files get the treatment it deserves.

 Now for the details. If you don't want to know anything (none of this would be spoilers anyway but still) then don't read on.

 The fun stuff.
 1. I loved seeing Scully, Mulder and even Skinner deal with modern technology. It was adorable and hilarious, especially considering that the last time we saw them iPhones or iPads weren't really as everywhere as they are today.
 2. The intro is back! And I don't mean the intro from season 9, because that doesn't count. (Let's be real, season 9 doesn't count.) I'm talking about the original intro from season 1, with the bad stills where Scully and Mulder both have fluffy hair and pink cheeks. I'm talking about the intro with the dramatic zoom on a low quality image of a UFO. This is what makes The X-Files what it is. It's a little campy, a little silly, but 100% the love of my life, and I was so happy to see it return.
 3. Mulder's Dad jokes. Yeah, they're back. And I'm still crying about it.
 4. They're back in Mulder's tiny office, with a few updates. (But never fear, the poster remains.)

 The characters.
 Right from the get-go, it is obvious that something has happened between Mulder and Scully. We don't know what it is yet, but they're older, and they've definitely both changed. While I will admit that I miss their sexually charged banter a little bit, I'm glad for it, because it means that Chris Carter has stopped doing what he loved to do so much in the past seasons-- brush past huge moments and events like they never happened. They're acknowledging that Scully and Mulder are older and wiser adults who have been through things together and have been changed by it. (Case in point: THEY BROUGHT UP WILLIAM! IN DEPTH! WOW!) I'm interested to see them struggle with their pasts while they handle the events of the present. At the end of the day, though, our original OTP remains the same at their core. Scully is a skeptic, while Mulder is closer than he's ever been before.

 The plot.
 The conspiracy is back, guys. OH, the conspiracy! I love that this is a show about aliens but we see them so infrequently that when they finally do show one you are gripping your boyfriend's hand and shrieking with glee. (Or is that just me?) The (current) horror genre could learn so much from this show. You don't need constant gore and violence to be scary or thrilling. The X-Files has done it with bad lighting and laughable CGI for years. But I love that, in the end, this is a show about aliens that contests that aliens aren't the problem here. It's people. More specifically, it's the US government. I can't wait to see it unfold, especially if the *spoiler alert* cigarette smoking man is involved.

 In short, the revival is nostalgic. It gives credit where credit is due, makes the long-time viewers cry at the easter eggs, but wastes no time moving forward with big and important plot. It was beautiful and just as exciting as the original, but with new twists and progression that we've been waiting for. It seems that Chris Carter is finally getting his shit together and is going to tell us what he means for once. The revival uses technological advances and better budget to it's advantage, while maintaining the X-Files vibe, pace, and wit we all know and love. It's the best of both worlds, but most importantly, this doesn't feel like a one off. I think Chris Carter knew he had one shot at this, and he's aiming for more than just a single tiny miniseries. Judging from the enormity of these first two episodes, I think they want to return, in a big way.

 I, for one, can't wait.

The truth is out there.


New Year, New Vibes

 There are few things I love more than the good energy that is gained through organization and mindfulness. When the clock turned 2016, it wasn't like I had time, or even a second, to pause and take a breath. I had things to do and accomplish right away, and a limited amount of time in which to get them done. So, I had to jump right in to 2016, and make sure I was adequately organized in order to keep myself together. With that in mind, these are some of the practices and products that have been keeping me on track going into the new year, and tricking me into feeling like I have my life together.

1. A Weekly Calendar-- I picked up this monthly and weekly calendar book by Sugar Paper from Target on January 2nd, when I realized that my old one was (literally) outdated. It has a place for your Monthly work goals, financial goals, personal goals, and important dates. In the weekly section, it has spaces for your top three most important things to accomplish, a list of calls you need to make, a to do list, a to email list, a to buy list, a don't forget category, and a "this week's goal" space. This might seem excessive, but in the three weeks I've been using it I've found that just writing things out helps to make it seem so much more manageable. Even the fullest of weeks, the ones with so many things you feel like you might as well not even try, are manageable.This is helping me to not only keep my plans and meetings straight, but keep on task with my greater goals in life.

2. Meditation and Yoga-- I've been doing each a few times a week, and I can't tell you how much it's been helping. It's so easy to say, "no, I don't have time for yoga today, I have way too much to do!" But it doesn't really help. I've realized that those are just lies we tell ourselves. We always have time. And if we don't spend those fifteen minutes doing yoga, chances are we'll find another way to spend those minutes on something much less productive somewhere throughout the course of the day. So you might as well just bite the bullet and make the time for it. I do yoga in the morning on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and meditate a few nights a week right before I fall asleep. I feel so much better and more centered on the days I choose to begin with a simple fifteen minute yoga video.

3. Himalayan Salt Lamp-- I know it's very new age hipster of me, but I recently caved and bought one. (And not for $40 from Urban Outfitters either. If you're thinking of buying one, I'd recommend checking out Home Depot or The Christmas Tree Shops, because I got mine for $19.99.) I'm sure you've heard all about how the negative ions make things better for both your body and the energy around you. But I can attest to the fact that it actually works. I feel more energized when I'm around it, I'm sleeping better, and the air feels purer and cleaner. Anyway, if the scientifically proven health benefits aren't tempting enough, it's guaranteed to look really nice in any room.

 I hope you found this blog post as enlightening as I have found these practices and products lately. (Pun definitely intended.) I'm loving my bedroom space especially, and even though Mercury is Retrograde, I feel on top of things. I'm feeling balanced and ready for the new year and new challenges ahead. I'm not quite sure if that's all the negative ions talking, or the fact that I actually have time to make myself a cup of tea and enjoy it these days, but I'm happy about it nonetheless.

And who knows, maybe trying a few of these things will help you feel that even though it's a new year, it doesn't have to be the same old, same old.

Namaste, I suppose.


N e w // Y e a r

2 0 1 6

 Tonight my life felt like the end of The Holiday, which is all I've ever really dreamed for my life to be. My entire life, well, my entire adolescence really, I've dreamed for my life to feel, be, and look like a movie. And it was only recently that I realized that life isn't like that. It's messy. It's hard. People get hurt, things don't turn out the way you expect them to, accidents happen and stuff just sucks. But you choose to forgive, you choose to get back up, you choose to keep going, and one day, you realize that you left all of the bad stuff in the past.

 2015 was a year of moving on. Moving forward, taking no prisoners, and working my butt off until I got what I wanted. No one gave it to me...I worked for it. And so did the people I surrounded myself with. I'm lucky that in 2015, I found people who dream as big as I do, and are willing to work just as hard to get it. We are all on the same path-- this path to greatness, this path to dreams coming true and our lives turning out like the movies we see in our heads. And I think finding these people who dream just as big and work just as hard has helped me on my path. Because now I don't feel so alone anymore. I used to think that I was "on my own path." And I thought that meant my life was going to be a lonely one, a solitary journey if you will. But this year I learned that not only does that not have to be the case, if things keep going the way they have most certainly won't be.

 Last night I stumbled upon this word: synchronicity. It is, according to the ever-trustworthy internet: the simultaneous occurrence of events that appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection.  

 It is essentially saying that we assign meaning where there is none. But sometimes, there is meaning. I think the word synchronicity is cynical. (Say that five times fast.) Maybe I'm just nostalgic and overtired, but I think it's beautiful, the vulnerability of allowing yourself to feel. Over the course of 2015 I kept a jar of memories. Anytime something significant, fun, or particularly noteworthy happened, I wrote it down on a little slip of paper, remembering to include the date. This morning, on the first day of the New Year, I read through them all for the first time since I wrote each of them, some from January 1st, some from December 25th. There was no order, so I frequently pulled slips from random months. One from January, one from August. One from April, one from September. May, August. October, February. Seeing an entire year of my life compiled into such a small space and juxtaposed with no chronology made me realize how much really happened in the last 12 months. So many significant events, non-events, moments, friendships, relationships, mishaps, and joy. It was overwhelming to read a slip of paper from January in which I talk about finishing my first short film, and then in the next read about how I had just pitched Overdue to the library board and it had been unanimously approved. The hopeful ones made me the most emotional. It was like reading a beloved book when you already know the ending. It's not boring, but happy. You know what's going to happen, but you keep reading anyway, because it's so sweetly satisfying. It's weird to say that I felt that about my own life today. Weird, but cool. So maybe this is synchronicity in action, and I'm a silly, sappy, hopeless romantic who is bound to be disappointed by the random and uncaring nature of the universe. 

If that's the case, I may be hopeless, but I'm still hopeful. 

Happy 2016. 


This Week [#4: Coming Together]

 Though not technically the fourth week in this series, it's my fourth week of making this style of blog post. Sometimes the weeks get away from you, which is why I'm trying to make the effort to work on this each day of the week, which ensures the mindfulness I'm after.

 Monday: Treating yourself to a self-love day. Starting the day with a bath, writing some essays, and taking a long walk that takes you both to where you've been and where you are. It's a weird, metaphorical day.

 Tuesday: The day when you breathe a sigh of relief at all of the "FINALLY"'s coming your way. FINALLY finding the perfect Christmas presents for the people in your life who deserve it so much. FINALLY painting again, even if it's something small, after close to a year of not picking up a brush. FINALLY seeing the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them trailer, after two years of eagerly anticipating the Eddie Redmayne led return to the Wizarding World you've loved your whole life. FINALLY working on that essay you said you'd start all day.  Finally, finally, finally.

 Wednesday: Tackling huge problems that feel like the end of the world, and realizing the people that validate and support you most aren't necessarily the people you'd expect.

 Thursday: Crushing it. Accomplishing all of the things you put off, then having a miniature Star Wars re-watch and deciding you love Han Solo (among others).

 Friday: To grandmother's house we go. Nearly freezing to death taking pictures by a lake you've loved your whole life, with someone who you've just begun to love. Realizing that it doesn't take much to make certain people happy, but what matters is that you choose to do it.

 Saturday: Finally feeling useful and watching your friends' business grow and thrive in front of your eyes. Then watching the person you love geek the hell out over Star Wars, and loving it because of how much you love him.

  Sunday: Having hard conversations, watching an iconic Diane Keaton movie, and correctly guessing the writer of said movie. (Nancy Meyers for the win.)

 It's fascinating to me how easily stressful things can become fun and beautiful when you're with the right people. I used to dread trips to see extended family. But Friday I had the best time I've ever had at my grandparent's house. Maybe it's that I've grown up, and maybe it's because of who I was with, and maybe it's both. Ordinarily, I would be horrified by a movie theater packed with overly excited nerds. Saturday, it wasn't at all scary. It was beautiful and fun and light and full of giddy happiness. This week I realized something I've suspected for a while: people are the difference.


This Week [#3: Family]

This holiday week/weekend was a time of figuring out what "family" means, and what it means to me. It really feels like that's what this week was about, because from beginning to end, that's the message that kept cropping up.

 Mondays: Watching great shows and having adult realizations that make you want to lay on the floor, give up, and die.

 Tuesdays: Watching The Mindy Project while you bake, which you feel like Mindy would definitely approve of.

Wednesdays: Reading great graphic novels, reuniting with friends, and going to impromptu Friendsgiving gatherings with the great best friend love of your life and getting Panera at 10 pm because you're cool like that.

Thursdays: When your favorite holiday always falls on your favorite day of the week and you have a kind of crappy day but you eat pie and hang out with a two year old who loves you despite the fact that you're imperfect and it makes it all better.

Fridays: Watching a movie about emotions with your family, crying your eyes out, and then going to bed early.

Saturdays: Telling your friends you're in aisle 20B when you're actually sitting at a table waiting for them and you didn't think they'd actually go there but they did. And then playing a card game you've been playing with your family for years and feeling like this small group of weirdos just might be your new family.

Sundays: Watching TV and napping. Eating. 
(Rinse and repeat until it's 10 pm and you're too tired to do it anymore.) Question: If it's a Sunday and you're actually a productive member of society, was it really a Sunday?

 It's weird when you get to an age where "family" is no longer the extended family you were born into, but the extended family you choose. I think how our culture defines family is arbitrary. I think we make our own families, and I think it's pointless to love people just because you're supposed to. It means a lot more when you choose them yourself, when you choose to love people despite how hard it might be sometimes. My family has become much more than my parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles. It now consists of: Starbucks employees, coffee shop owners, musicians, writers, artists and generally beautiful people (inside and out). It's people who call you on their break when you're having your third existential crisis of the week, it's people who you'd drive an hour and a half just to see for two hours, it's people who sit down and help force you to write because they get that you're having trouble doing it on your own, it's people who play cards with you in an emptying Wegmans on a Saturday night because there's nowhere else to go. These people are my family. 


This Week [#2: A Little Out of Focus]

Welcome to my week. It was a little out of focus.

  Mondays: When you get boring, mundane things done and it makes you feel like the king of the world... Like finishing a book you've been reading for a month, finishing season 2 of 30 Rock, cleaning your car, and doing laundry.

 Tuesdays: The great thing about going out to breakfast is that it's one less thing you have to do before you leave when you inevitably get up too late because you were having a dream about Evan Peters.

 Wednesdays: When you surprise yourself by writing essays and then the world gets very exhausting.

Thursdays: When you do yoga, draft essays and then FaceTime a two year old.

 Fridays: When you get a check in the mail that you weren't expecting, which feels like a sign from the universe that you're on the right track, so you decide to go home the long way round and experience some truly gorgeous views.

 Saturdays: When you find yourself scream-singing the new Adele album, both with your best friend in her coffee shop at too early of an hour, and alone in your car at a much later one.

Sundays: When you go to "breakfast" that ends up being both breakfast and lunch, (but not brunch) and then buy too many cozy winter items at Target, and then feel the sweet relief of knowing that your favorite character is okay.

This week, I felt a little out of focus. A little all over the place. I got things done without planning to, and other things cropped up that I didn't plan either. Basically, it was a week of the unexpected, the unplanned, but not unpleasantly so. I felt out of focus, off kilter, but life was still beautiful. I'm excited for the coming week of holidays and being reunited with people I love. Thinking about that as I go into this week. I like this blog format, because it's a place to catch my thoughts as they come. It's usually formal and polished, but it's also natural.


This Week [#1: This Life]

 Since I've been doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month in the month of November-- in which brave writers across the world attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in a month), and have been daily vlogging the experience, I haven't been doing my Weekly Vlogs on my YouTube channel. And while I know I will get back to doing them in December, I miss the experience. I miss the routine of capturing the little, beautiful, happy moments throughout my week, and choosing how to put them together at the end of the week. I miss telling stories with those few images. So in an attempt to continue to do this during NaNoWriMo, I've been taking snapshots everyday. Just quick pictures of what my day consisted of, in lieu of taking footage every day.

 Mondays are for binge-watching whole seasons of awesome, inspiring TV shows on your boyfriend's Netflix.

 Tuesdays are for falling asleep in your bed at 4:30 watching How To Get Away With Murder because it was rainy and windy and your lights and the Medicare commercials lulled you to sleep.

 Wednesdays are for getting up too early, accomplishing nothing, and then giving up at 2:30 pm and taking a Lush bath.

 Thursdays are for accomplishing all of the things you didn't do Wednesday, like writing 1,000 words in your favorite coffee shop, listening to music, Pinterest-ing and eating too much chocolate.

 Fridays are for running about like a crazy person, scrambling to get web series minisodes ready for upload, and cupping coffees that taste like teas.

 Saturdays are for stressful but ultimately lovely meetings of parents, and impromptu road trips to middle of nowhere places, where all there is is a sign and a general feeling.

Finally, Sunday is the day on which you feel the luckiest-- where you get to spend the day taking photos in the woods for your best friend's coffee shop, then eating Sunday dinner with those same friends and watching The Walking Dead with them. Sunday is the day to spend with family. And this week, I got to do that.

I hope you guys enjoyed this collective look at my week. It was really fun and grounding to make this blog post, as it forced me to keep track of the moments that would otherwise slip away from me. As we get closer to the holiday season, it is so easy to fall into that mindset of "just getting things done." But when we do that, we get to the end of the week and can't see anything but the productivity (or lack thereof). The beautiful, lovely, fun moments get lost in the shuffle, and we forget them. We forget to be grateful for them. I don't want to forget them. I want to stay present, mindful, and grateful for the life I get to live. And I think this blog post format is a way for me to do that. So what I guess I'm saying is-- get used to this. Because I'm going to be doing it every week from now on.


On Observing

 Lately I’ve been trying to observe. I feel like I’ve been “doing” less, but that’s because I’m trying to observe the life happening around me. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I’m a human being, not a human doing, and it’s enough for me to simply appreciate my life for the wholly un-whole mess it is right now. It really is a beautiful mess. Full of complete and incomplete moments. It’s the best it’s ever been, and all it’s ever been. But I’m constantly afraid that it’s on the verge of coming undone. Unraveling. Unwinding. 

 But that can’t be because for once I’m not, my life isn’t, wound too tightly. It’s loose, hanging in the balance, because there is finally a balance to hang from. There’s finally something to rely on. I’ve finally found something I’d be afraid to lose. Something worth losing. But that’s great, because at least that’s something. Something worth losing was the best thing I ever had.

 The something worth losing is the fireplace warmth on the cold fall nights with the people I love who all love each other. Playing silly games and eating decadent but simple things together. I can hear it. I can feel it. The warmth, the happiness, the laughter spilling over from one person to the next. It’s catching. This season of generosity and warmth-- I’m going to keep saying warmth because that’s what it feels like. It’s so cold out but the interactions between people, between these people, we people, are so warm and friendly and growing and catching and lively and heated and energetic. There is this nervous, fervent, bubbling energy. And I'm beginning to understand, in my twentieth year, that that's what lasting friendship consists of.


Keeping Up Appearances

 I started this blog in January of this year, and I must say: I'm really proud of and happy with how I've kept up with it. I was just going through my list of blog posts and noted how I have posted three per month. That's roughly one per week. And that's something I'm really proud of, because life is insane. It moves so fast, and so much is happening constantly, so I'm really proud of the fact that I've made a commitment, once a week, to write something here. Seeing that progress put down in numbers over the past ten months has made me realize that this is something I can see myself doing for the rest of my life. Not just writing for this blog, but writing in general.

 I'm also just amazed at how quickly this year has passed. I know it's only October, and yet-- IT'S ALREADY OCTOBER. It feels like a millisecond ago it was January and I was in a very different coffee shop with my friends making a short film. And now, I'm in my best friend's coffee shop making vlogs and talking about the web series we made together.

 I'm doing things for me now. I'm doing what I want and living my life for me, and not spending every second of every day focusing on other people. I'm no longer paralyzed by fear of what others will think of me. I'm no longer doing things simply for the sake of keeping up appearances. I'm no longer pretending to be the person I think other people need me to be. I'm being myself. And that's not to say that I don't still care what people think. Of course I do. But I'm not allowing their thoughts to change me: what I do or who I am. I think that's allowing me to be more giving of myself. And that fact has reminded me of something I don't think enough people take to heart: you can't help others until you help yourself first. 


About the Author

My name is Fran (short for Francesca) and I am a passionate, creative, 20 year old dreamer on the road to many destinations. I want to be a writer of books, movies, name it. I have a tendency to document my life more than live it, so this blog is a calculated effort to do more of both. To capitalize on my documenting tendencies while encouraging myself to get out of my comfort zone and experience more. I love fandom, creativity, and anything that inspires me. (Namely, Pinterest.) I am passionate about Ron Swanson and really great writing. One of my favorite quotes is, “Be the Leslie Knope of whatever you do.” I try to embody that as much as possible in my day-to-day life.

Treat. Yo. Self.

This weekend was a little slice of heaven. If the past three days are any indication of what my adult life will be, I'm in. Sign me up. Saturday morning I drove into the sunrise to spend the morning at Peaks Coffee Company with my closest friends. I listened to the most amazing song, and felt grateful because the life unfolding before my eyes looked like it had been taken directly from some awesome indie movie with amazing cinematography. At 9 am, (a time at which I am usually barely breathing) I left to go to my typical every-other-Saturday-shift at the library from 10-3.

 Sunday I woke up late and went apple picking with my family, an annual Colombus Day weekend event. I thought a lot about how this time last year (do I sound like a broken record yet?) I tried so hard to convince myself that I was happy. But I wasn't. This time, however, on the long, traffic-laden drive to the orchard, I couldn't stop smiling. It felt so amazing to just breathe in the moments, and not feel like I had to force them to be moments. When I got home, I lit some autumnal candles and watched the scariest thing my delicate sensibilities can handle-- American Horror Story: Hotel. I ended the day by going to my friend Kelsey's house for some quality Walking Dead bro time. There was monkey bread, popcorn, and a cat sat on my lap. (I know that sounds like a children's story, but it really happened and I was thrilled about it.)

 But Monday was the best day by far. I started the day off right-- with waffles topped with ice cream at my favorite local waffle place. My friend had a spiritual waffle experience, as this was his first time there. Then we got on the road to Rochester, NY for the second time this fall. We spent the day just hanging around Rochester with Kelsey, Sam, and Sam's sister. Kelsey and I finally got to go to Lush together, which was everything I'd ever dreamed of and more. In hindsight I probably spent too much money there, but then I remembered that today is "Treat Yo Self Day" (it's from Parks & Recreation, guys...) and I felt less guilty. After that, we spent the rest of the afternoon sitting in Pour Coffee Parlor with two other friends who now live in Rochester, which is as beautiful and aesthetic as it sounds. I enjoyed a chocolate overload with a chocolate cupcake and hot chocolate, and I have no regrets.

 Some people might not have enjoyed the day I had yesterday. I mean, who makes a lengthy drive to Rochester just to hit up a glorified vegan Bath & Body Works and then sit in a coffee shop for three hours? I love these people I've surrounded myself by because they are the kind of people who don't mind taking a day trip just to enjoy the day. They don't have to make a huge ordeal out of something to enjoy it. There is a quiet simplicity in these friendships that I value more than anything else in the world.

 I love the generosity of autumn. I think there's something about the cold air and turning leaves that brings out geniality and for lack of a better term...the best in people. Unlike the Christmas season, which has just become a breeding ground for commercialism and unnecessary stress and anxiety, autumn is to me the most giving time of year. It's harder to do things with the people you love, with school and sports having started up again, but that just means it's that much more worthwhile when plans come together.

That's why this weekend was so great. I was busy, and maybe a little tired, but I was happy. I worked, I got inspired, and I loved. And I'm starting to realize that's all I can ever really ask for in this life.

Happy "Treat Yo Self Day" everyone. I hope you make the most of it!


This Time Next Year

 So this time last year, I was discontented with my life. And on the last day of my family vacation, I made  this list of what I wanted to be doing, and what I wanted my life to be. 

Here's what I wanted:
1. To be writing constantly
2. To have a mentor/someone to guide me
3. To be making things that I wanted to make (large scale projects)
4. To have a group of creative friends who were passionate about the same things as I
5. To be getting a degree? 
6. To have my friends all be happy as well

 And just yesterday I realized something: I have everything I wanted on that list and MORE:
1. I'm writing constantly: whether that's for this blog, for OVERDUE, for Peaks, for my novels, or for other projects.
2. I finally got that mentor-- literally. When I enrolled in Empire State College, I got paired with a "mentor" who is essentially a guidance counselor, educator, best friend, and creative champion all in one. It's only been a month, but she's already guided me through so many unknowns, that I know this was a good decision.
3. I'm making things constantly.
4. I've found that group of people, and I love them more than anything. They can intelligently dissect movies for hours but at the drop of a hat burst out in a Macklemore dance party. 
5. I just found out yesterday that I am well on my way to getting a degree. The degree I had accepted was probably never going to happen. 
6. Yesterday I sat in my best friend's coffee shop and drank hot chocolate in a room entirely lit by fairy lights. I think it's safe to say #6 is nearly there. 

 Realizing all of these things reminded me of a Raymond Carver quote I was pretty obsessed with last year. “Nights without beginning that had no end. Talking about a past as if it'd really happened. Telling themselves that this time next year, this time next year, things were going to be different.” I didn't believe that quote when I read it last year. But now I see the undeniable truth in it. And I'm only wondering how I could possibly visualize anything better than what I have now. But I have an active imagination. I'm sure I'll think of something.


The Intern: The Anne Hathaway / Robert DeNiro Movie I Didn't Know I Wanted

 This has been a pretty great year for feminism in film. In May we had Mad Max: Fury Road, which featured a diverse cast of women with more prominent speaking roles than the men. In July we had Trainwreck, Amy Schumer's hilarious but poignant feminist romantic comedy. 

 And in September we had...The Intern? If you had asked me two months ago if I thought The Intern would be a movie I would be legitimately excited over, I would have told you to leave me alone, because two months ago I was probably knee deep in a 72 hour X-Files binge. But last night I saw The Intern, at the urging of some friends whose opinions on movies (and life) I trust inherently. 

 I don't want to spoil anything: but this was a near perfect film. Taking a different tone of voice and spotlighting other aspects of inequality than Schumer's Trainwreck, The Intern highlights the struggle of the working woman in today's society. But before I get into the reasons why this movie was so wonderfully feminist, I have to remark on Anne Hathaway and Robert DeNiro's dynamic. To put it simply, they were pure magic together. Their relationship was based on mutual respect, and their interactions both within and without the workplace emphasized that with a little patience and a lot of respect, it is possible for older and younger generations to work together to make the world a better place.

 There were moments when I found myself trying not to sob, and then found myself thinking, "What the HELL? In a romantic comedy?! With ROBERT DENIRO?!" Hathaway's Jules Ostin is a complex, imperfect, and wonderful feminist role model. She has a tortured relationship with her mother, a passionate relationship with her work, and a good but not always easy relationship with her family-- her daughter and her husband. She's not always confident, she makes mistakes, but (and this is the "but" that had tears rolling down my face) she knows her worth. I really do not want to spoil anything, because this movie was so full of delicious and unexpected surprises, but there was a moment when I was unsure if I liked where the rhetoric of this film was headed. And then, with a single line, Nancy Meyers completely turned it around. This movie was complex, funny, sad, and real. It dealt with meaty topics in a careful but thorough way, while also being extraordinarily entertaining. I don't want to overhype this or anything, but I think this film is proof that a movie can be a fun, girly "date movie" while also having substance and making you feel like the film industry isn't doomed after all. 

Basically, go see The Intern


Happy Accidents

 September 24th, 2013.

Two years ago today, I got in a really bad car accident. And for a long time I thought it ruined my life. If you've known me for any amount of time, you'll know that I'm a planner. I’m organized. I’ve always had a path laid out for myself. If people were Parks & Recreation characters, I’d be Leslie Knope. (Or Ben Wyatt. I haven’t decided yet.)

 But looking back on it now, I realize that that car accident didn’t ruin my life. It just took me off a path I was wrong to think I should be on, and down another, more suitable one. I can’t even begin to tell you how significant that is. Even though it’s been two years, I can still remember sitting on the couch with my mom right after it happened, and her saying, “One day you’ll understand why this happened.” I remember that like it was yesterday, and I also remember feeling like there was no way in hell that would ever be true. But she was right. I understand it now. I wasn’t where I was supposed to be.

 I don't believe that everything happens for a reason. I believe that everything just happens. And you can either choose to be strong about it or you can think the universe is out to get you. But it's not. The universe doesn't care. The universe is fucking indifferent. But you know who isn’t indifferent? People. These are the people who got me through. I love you. Whether you gave me a pep talk, drove me to Starbucks, sat with me while I cried, got me to drive again, or helped me make a web series, I love you. 

 And if your life is such right now that you’re faced with an uncertain path, something you really aren’t sure of…go with your gut. Do the right thing for you, even if it’s the hard thing. Because at the end of the day, you have to live with the choices you’ve made, not anyone else. And you get to make those choices. Those choices that will either lead to immense happiness or overwhelming sadness. And that’s a privilege. So don’t you dare let anyone else make your choices for you and say you had none. Because you always have a choice. Two years ago, I wanted to give up. I wanted to die and I wanted to not try and I wanted to stay inside and never do anything again except watch Friends and cry. But I fought. I fucking fought. I wrote through it and I walked through it and I talked through it until I got through it. And then I kept going. I didn’t just stop and smile once I saw that I was "through it." I kept walking, so as to put it as far behind me as possible.

 And now I’m here and yesterday I drove to Rochester for a concert and I tried sushi for the first time and visited cool coffee shops with friends and ate waffles. And that isn’t to say it doesn’t still haunt me. I worry every day about that dark, hopeless feeling sneaking up on me and grabbing me from behind again. But the thing is…I’ve got protection now. I have people who have been through it too, so it almost feels like we’re all standing in a giant circle back to back, protecting each other. (Avengers style) That’s an awesome feeling, and something I’m really proud to be a part of. I’m honored to protect you guys. 

 So…I’m not trying to say I’m happy the accident happened. I'm definitely not. But I accept that it did and I accept that I am here as a result and that here doesn’t suck. It doesn’t suck at all.