The BSC Project – Mills’s Great Idea

BSC Logo

I’ve mentioned this before, but when I was a little kid, I was totally and completely wild about The Baby-Sitters Club. I inhaled it all, from the books (heart eyes) to the short-lived TV series (gold) to the movie (trash). One of my favorite childhood Christmas memories (and Mom memories) revolves around the book series: I must have been around 9 or 10, and I’d already gotten several great Christmas presents, when my mom told me that she and Dad still had the biggest, best present to give me. I certainly wasn’t expecting to get anything else, but then my mom walked in with a GIGANTIC plastic bag full of all of the BSC (Baby-Sitters Club) books she could find, particularly the ones I didn’t have in my collection. I freaked out and generally lost my mind. As I dug around the bag excitedly, I asked, “Are these ALL Baby-Sitters Club books?” I remember her delighted smile as she said, “Yep, all the ones you don’t have yet.” She succeeded in raising a geek; I was ecstatic about getting a bag full of books. Even now I can recall that feeling of intense elation, and I’ll never forget that it was the first time I had the desire to quite literally dive into a pile of unread books and not-quite-literally gobble them up whole.

Then, at age twelve I inevitably entered that dreaded hell, the deepest torture I believed was sent solely to rip me out of childhood and dangle me in that god-awful purgatory, before thrusting me into full-fledged adulthood. I’m talking about that rite of passage known as junior high school. Those were some of the worst years I’ve ever experienced. In junior high, everyone seemed so grown up, and I was really, really not. I wasn’t one of the tallest kids in class anymore (or ever again). Nobody ushered me from class to class. People had boyfriends and girlfriends. Hell, there were pregnant girls in my 7th grade class. Everyone was so cool (aside from the pregnant girls), and here I was, clutching a baby’s book as I buffeted my way through the halls. So I did the unthinkable: I abandoned the BSC, never to visit the hallowed halls of Claudia’s bedroom again.

I had some serious issues putting those books down then, and I still have an issue with that decision now. In an effort to fit in, I let go of something that brought me true joy and comfort, and I picked up JNCO jeans, which brought nothing but utter embarrassment. Also, I don’t think I was developmentally ready to just dump those books, or that part of my childhood. But we all do dumb stuff at that age, and I was no exception. Shocked that I stopped reading my BSC books, my mom questioned the decision and tried to encourage me to pick the series back up again, but I was moody and lacked a basic understanding of my own feelings, hormones, and reasoning. I just wanted to fit in, really, but I had no way to express or even fathom why I felt I had to stop at the time.

So it’s only fitting that exactly 20 years later, as a “mature” adult who generally doesn’t care what people think, I’m choosing to pick them up again. I’ve read such a multitude of books in the intervening years, and have obviously experienced such a shift in perspective between 12 and almost-32, that I’d like to return to the series with fresh eyes. I love reading books for younger people, because I feel like there are great lessons to be learned in them, some that we forget or simply take for granted as we age.

And so, the plan is basically for me to read every Baby-Sitters Club book I can get my hands on. I’m calling this ambitious venture “The BSC Project”. Luckily, I still have all of my original books and they’re in great condition, despite having spent 20 years in a storage shed with tiny spiders weaving colonies in their pages. This is really a way to revisit an old childhood love, and also an honest attempt to relearn some of those lessons I was taught as a kid but could probably stand to hear now. And the 12-year-old in me is also itching to know what the hell happened to those steadfast, fictional friends of mine. 

BSC Bracelet
My BSC bracelet from the ’90s….

THE RULES:

  • The first and most important rule is that I don’t want to have too many hard and fast rules. That’s a surefire way for me to give up. However I will be following a few guidelines, because otherwise I will absolutely quit. I haven’t changed that much.
  • I have to read (and write about) all of the books from the original series.
  • I have to read all of the extra-long Super Specials (which were my favorites).
  • I will read all of the Friends Forever books, provided I can get my hands on them. They are the final installments in the girls’ storylines, and I’ve never read them. I’ll read the prequel too, since Ann M. Martin wrote it, albeit long after the series ended.
  • If I start feeling really ambitious, I might dig into the mysteries too. However I’m not making it a priority to read the numerous spinoffs, like the enormous Little Sister collection, because there are too many issues of them and they are boring. I might pick up The California Diaries that feature Dawn, because I’ve also never read them and they sound interesting; they’re apparently targeted to older kids and are darker than the main series.
  • MAYBE I’ll rewatch the series and the movie. Maybe. We’ll see how I feel. I love the series, but the movie is 90% garbage.

It’s hard to say exactly how many books I’m missing at this point, but I fully expect to spend hours upon hours reading, and to pay exorbitant amounts of money to complete my collection. I’ll do my best to chronicle it all and explain everything as I go along. And I imagine I’ll learn some stuff along the way. There will still be normal-person posts, though, because this is definitely a long-term project and my blog isn’t solely dedicated to this book series. It’s going to be a long ride, but a good one. I can feel it. I’m about to say hello to my (old) friends!

BSC TV Show
wikipedia.org
Advertisements

A Blog I Love – Meet Me At Mike’s

Meet Me At Mikes

I have a confession to make: though I like writing a blog, I am not great about reading other people’s blogs. It’s embarrassing, it’s probably blasphemous, and it feels selfish. But I’m not going to beat myself up about it right now, because I want to share with you one blog that I follow religiously. It’s wonderful and inspiring, and I don’t remember how or where I found it, but the Australia-based Pip Lincolne writes a blog called Meet Me at Mike’s that is definitely among my favorites.

Pip mostly focuses on crafting and visually appealing things, which I love. She so obviously takes such great joy in beauty, writing, creating, and in life in general that I always feel somewhat giddy and inspired after reading one of her posts. It’s a bit of positivity in my inbox every now and then, and adds a tiny punctuation mark to my week at a tedious office job. I don’t know Pip and she doesn’t know me, but in case you couldn’t tell, I adore her. After reading her blog, I feel more creative, I have more appreciation for my crafty side, and I look at the the things around me a little bit differently. I encourage you to take a (visual) stroll around Pip’s blog, especially if you’re a crafty-type person.

Pip does this thing once a month called “Taking Stock” where she makes a list of things that she’s currently doing, seeing, feeling, etc. It seems like a good way to slow down and take a few minutes to practice some self-awareness and to acknowledge and appreciate the things you’re thinking, feeling, and enjoying about life.

I’ve always been fascinated by time capsules and things like that, so I may start doing a Taking Stock list every now and again, if only to look back at a log of the things I’m interested in at a particular moment. I’ve created my first list below, and in the spirit of Pip, I’ll leave a little list below for you to fill in if you’d like. I’d love to know if you’ve checked out Pip’s blog, and if you decide to “take stock” too.

***

Making: A Majora’s Mask cross stitch that I got at Classic Game Fest last year. It will be amazing when I actually finish it.

Cooking: Some quinoa lately. I LOVE QUINOA.

Drinking: Lots of water. I used to have this Plant Nanny app that tracks water consumption by having you grow plants. I loved it, but they haven’t updated it in almost a year, so I grew all the plants and then begrudgingly deleted it.

Reading: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. I’m trying to read more YA, and I love Rainbow Rowell’s writing. It reminds me what I was like when I was a little younger – full of vim and vigor and imagination and tummy-butterflies and crushes.

Trawling: Other people’s blogs for similar ones I can follow.

Wanting: A newer laptop so that I can type away on my lunch breaks instead of stealing illicit moments and hoping nobody looks at my computer at work….

Looking: Out the windows at a grey sky and wishing I was at home.

Deciding: That I need to buckle down and start writing more. I love it, and I sometimes I really abuse my free time by watching YouTube and not putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).

Wishing: That my mom was here. I’ve been missing and needing her a lot lately.

Enjoying: Sitting outside on my lunch breaks and reading my book. I love the freedom of being outside and basking in the sun.

Waiting: For 5pm so I can go home and start my weekend!

Liking: These macrobiotic bars called . . . MacroBars. In “Protein Pleasure” particularly – peanut butter and chocolate chip. I’ve convinced myself that they’re a healthy breakfast even though they’re full of chocolate chips.

Wondering: If I should brave the city streets for food. I live in a festival city and work downtown, and there is a festival going on right now. Hipsters and pretentious DJs and rich girls with expensive bohemian clothes are swarming the sidewalks and roads and annoying the bejesus out of me.

Loving: My kitty Samadhi. She’s getting older and has some kidney issues, and I’m trying to lavish all the love I can on her while she’s still around, even if it means letting her crawl under the covers at night to administer sharp little love bites to my bare arms and legs, but also to spoon with me.

Pondering: What book I’m going to read once I finish this one. It’s easier than thinking about what’s going on in the world. Books are always the best thing to ponder.

Listening: To the “Feminist Friday” station on Spotify. It’s a Lilith Fair throwback this week, y’all! I LOVE that time in music. Ugh, it was the best.

Considering: Buying a Nintendo Switch. Whenever they’re available next. I must play Breath of the Wild.

Buying: Far too much makeup and makeup-related items lately. I’ve sadly realized that no matter how hard I try to find a cheap, good-quality drugstore setting spray, nothing comes close to Urban Decay’s All Nighter. Damn them. It’s so expensive.

Watching: “Chewing Gum” on Netflix. Michaela Coel has created an amazing show, and she’s a great actor! I relate to her character Tracey in so many ways; she’s such an awkward, weird creation.

Hoping: That I can stick with the promises I’ve made to myself regarding more writing and less consumption of sugar and fried foods….

Marvelling: At people’s capacity for hatred, meanness, and cruelty. I can’t relate in the least, or even understand what leads people to their heinous beliefs and behavior.

Cringing: Because I missed a beloved family member’s birthday last Sunday and only realized it this morning.

Needing: To stop clenching my teeth out of stress, but old habits die hard.

Questioning: Where I am in my life, work-wise, and why I’m doing what I’m doing.

Smelling: The perfume my dad bought me for Christmas.

Wearing: Very black pointy shoes. And nothing else. Kidding, kidding.

Following: The news. Reluctantly. But I do stay away from the news and social media on the weekends, because I would be clenching my teeth and pulling my hair out even more if I didn’t take a break.

Noticing: The new buds and leaves on trees, and how pretty and bright green they are.

Knowing: The lyrics to lots of songs from the ‘90s, apparently.

Thinking: About seeing my beau this evening.

Admiring: People who write full-time. Admiring/envying, potato/potahto.

Getting: A treat for myself today for making it through the week.

Bookmarking: Embroidery and cross stitch patterns I like on Etsy.

Disliking: The current state of the American government.

Opening: My mouth. The teeth-clenching! *eye roll*

Giggling: About some Harry Potter memes and tumblr posts and illustrations I saw yesterday. They had me laughing out loud, inappropriately.

Feeling: A little cold and headache-y from today’s chilly weather and my allergies.

Helping: A coworker with the grammar on some of his school assignments.

Hearing: People chatting in the hallway.

Celebrating: The end of the work week. And St. Patrick’s Day this evening, with my sister and a pint.

Pretending: That I don’t have work things I could be doing.

Embracing:  The fact that I’m not perfect, and that I don’t have to be. The idea that being my flawed self is okay and good and genuine.

And a blank list for your own sort-of time capsule:

Making:

Cooking:

Drinking:

Reading:

Trawling:

Wanting:

Looking:

Deciding:

Wishing:

Enjoying:

Waiting:

Liking:

Wondering:

Loving:

Pondering:

Listening:

Considering:

Buying:

Watching:

Hoping:

Marvelling:

Cringing:

Needing:

Questioning:

Smelling:

Wearing:

Following:

Noticing:

Knowing:

Thinking:

Admiring:

Getting:

Bookmarking:

Disliking:

Opening:

Giggling:

Feeling:

Helping:

Hearing:

Celebrating:

Pretending:

Embracing:

All Apologies

I don’t know if anyone cares, honestly, but I want to explain why I’ve not posted anything in a while. I am frankly embarrassed that I haven’t written anything for this blog in months, but I feel like so much has changed. When I started writing here, I promised myself I would keep up with it no matter what. But whether we like it or not, things happen.

This is going to sound weak, but I’ve been having a hard time keeping up with my writing because I have been absolutely drained by my day job. I’ve continued to read and watch YouTube and live my life, but have not kept up with my writing. Which is not good, because that behavior is not getting me anywhere, either personally or creatively. For a long time I’ve called myself “the writer who doesn’t write,” and, while funny, that’s not what I want to be. I think it’s the plight of many a working creative person to be too drained by the daily grind to work on personal projects, but maybe that’s all just an excuse. I don’t know. But that’s where I’ve been.

Work exhaustion is not the whole story, though. Like many Americans, I have also been deflated by the whole election cycle, and everything that has happened since. I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m an optimistic person, but I at least make the smallest of attempts to find a silver lining when life gets shitty. Unfortunately, like many Americans, and like many people all over the world, I’m having a rough time finding the bright side these days. I’m really having to work at it.

Funnily enough, though, the day after the election results came in, I couldn’t stop myself from writing. I typed up the following at work on November 9th, tossing professional decorum to the wind:

 

I’m sitting at work, trying to wrap my head around this election. I am in disbelief, I am in shock. The world feels upside down. I just want to go home and crawl into bed with a book, a cup of tea, a heated blanket, and a lot of French fries. I want to disappear from this world for a while. But I can’t, because I have responsibilities at work. Obligations, really. One of my bosses came in this morning, and approached me in such a casual manner that I was even more shocked. Doesn’t he know the world just flipped inside out? Maybe not for him, who is very wealthy, ostensibly white, and powerful. He is also a kind, very intelligent person, with the demeanor of a doctor. Maybe he just can’t deal with it, like the rest of us, and so refuses to do so. I hope that’s what’s happening. He has a job to do, after all. Right?

I have never been more aware of my skin color than in this election cycle. I am more aware of my gender than ever before.

 

And I stopped there, because I was at work, and because I felt too disheartened to go on. It was a lost day for me. I have since learned that at least one of my coworkers and a couple of my otherwise intelligent bosses, including the one mentioned, are Trump supporters. So that is a new reality I have to deal with every day. The daily reminder that I work with and for people who maybe see me as a token, who do not value me, whose votes have demonstrated that they have no regard for me as a woman, or for people of color, or for the fact that some uncomfortably Hitler-esque nonsense is rising to a boil in this country, or for reality and facts in general, is tough. But it’s a reality that I’m slowly learning to navigate, and I’m finding that I am a stronger, more passionate, and surprisingly more compassionate person than I thought I was. I never thought I could be so befuddled and bewildered than I have been by this turn of events, but I am also more vocal, more emotional, and more “woke” than I ever imagined I could be. I mean, this anxious introvert is actually out in swarms of people, marching for her rights, and for the rights of others to be heard.

So, for many reasons, I will write. I refuse to let my exhaustion from my day job deter me. I refuse to let my disenchantment with the world impede my progress any more. I’m trying really hard not to engage in negative self-talk, so I won’t beat myself up about it too much, but I know I have something of value to say, whether or not others agree. Now more than ever I think my voice is important. So I will write.

Read What You Want – A Mini Book Review and Rant

among-the-janeites
http://www.goodreads.com

Ever since I chanced upon it while wandering around a bookstore, Among the Janeites sounded like my kind of book. I don’t naturally tend to gravitate toward nonfiction, but at first glance, this little paperback sounded just like my cup of tea – a tome filled with personal stories of people obsessed with books.  Among the Janeites features the lives of (mostly) women whose lives were changed by Austen’s works. They relate what their day-to-day lives are like, how they prepare for the annual Jane Austen Society of North America gatherings, and exactly how their lives have been altered by their favorite Austen tales. Though not a “Janeite” myself, I am fascinated by books and documentaries about people who love basically anything enough to embrace that thing body, mind, and soul. Fandoms are so interesting to me. Dressing in the appropriate garb, speaking in the customary fashion, living life as if in another world; I find all of it to be so compelling. So, after perusing the back cover, I was excited to delve into Among the Janeites and read about one woman’s foray into the vaguely familiar world of kooky Austen fanatics in their natural habitat, the convention.

I had very romantic notions about this book before I even cracked the cover, to be honest. I think I was expecting some light confection about frilly Austen-lovers, solely informed by my love of the offbeat and woefully underrated movie Austenland, about a superfan who stays at an immersive, 1800s-themed Austen resort (yes, I know there’s a book and no, I’ve never read it). After I grabbed Among the Janeites from my library’s shelves and dove in, I was greeted with a little anecdote involving author Deborah Yaffe and a deck of Jane Austen tarot cards. Not quite as romantic as I’d pictured, but interest piqued! That anecdote was followed by a more personal story about Yaffe’s young life and how she grew up loving literature and the works of Jane Austen. Eventually, she started to make her way to the meat of the story and began discussing the people she had interviewed. She related stories about these Austen fans’ everyday lives and how they came to be obsessed with Jane Austen, and also wrote quite a bit about her unsuccessful attempts at trying to find the right corset and dress for the annual convention. While reading these first few sections of the book, I learned lots of facts, including that the term “Janeite” was coined by some British dude in the late 1800s. All intriguing enough, right? 

Well, yes, it was at first. But that’s where all the fanciful pretense ended. What followed this long and engaging introduction was continual chatter about dress shopping, alternating with strangely analytical biographies.  There was so much talk about finding the perfect gown and corset for the convention, Yaffe sounded as if she was trying to hunt down a wedding dress. She  was so distressed, moaning and lamenting her misfortune, that I actually said out loud, “UGH. I. Don’t. Care.” Perhaps she was attempting to hearken back to times when English gentlewomen had nothing more important to worry about than the gowns they would wear to each ball and the men they intended to marry. But those tropes are best left to Jane Austen, not to a modern woman lamenting the $200 corset she was simply forced to buy. Yikes. No. I could only read about it for so long. 

Yaffe’s personal quest for THE dress (eye roll) might have been tolerable if the stories breaking up her personal anecdotes were appealing. But the way in which she wrote about these everyday women who are so deeply passionate about Jane Austen lacked any, well, passion. The stories, which I’m sure were actually delightful, came off as very factual and clinical. They weren’t presented in a compelling manner, and I felt almost as if I was reading case studies in a scientific journal. To put it bluntly, I could not have been more bored. Over time, I found myself picking this book up and putting it down over and over again, my attempts to read more than a page totally fruitless. I struggled with this book for a long time, desperately wanting to like it, but just frankly not caring for it. After wrestling with myself for a couple of weeks, I finally gave in to my despair and returned it to the library.

The whole process of finally giving up on a book, while not foreign to me, has always been so disheartening. This time especially, I was really disappointed in the book, and in myself. It’s not often that I put any reading material back down after starting it, because I don’t like giving up. But for some reason, this book made me hit my breaking point. I beat myself up about it for a while, thinking that if I had only stuck with it, the story probably would’ve gotten better. However, as disappointed as I was, I got a small but substantial bit of consolation from the fact that I’d only checked the book out and hadn’t bought it. And after all was said and done and I’d started an excellent new book, that feeling of small consolation turned into a flood of relief. I ended up being pretty proud of myself for not wasting my time slogging through something I wasn’t enjoying.

Which leads me to my point/piece of advice, and it’s a simple one: Don’t read stuff you don’t want to read. I know, it’s genius. It took me a long time to get here, but I’ve finally made it. It’s very freeing, not feeling beholden to a burden of a novel. There are simply too many good books out there to waste my time trudging through the dull ones. It was tough to get to this point, because I feel such loyalty to any book I choose to read (not unusual for a book lover, I’m sure). For me, that loyalty owes itself at least in part to the amount of time it takes me to pick out a new book after I’ve finished the last one. So when I do finally make that decision, it’s like the book and I are heading into unknown territory together, and after I’ve spent my hard-earned time and money, I don’t expect to be abandoned by my partner. If that partner ditches me, then I have no choice but to curse the day I ever met him/her and give up the journey. And I have no regrets about this now, either. I know they say you can’t appreciate the good without experiencing the bad, and that is true, but I can definitely read three chapters of a mediocre book and appreciate that I’ve read better. I’m not sticking it out in the muck while my partner wanders off, prattling on about corsets.

It’s important to read what moves you. We’re not going to live forever (probably), so we should spend time doing what we love and actually, I don’t know, enjoying ourselves while doing it. Maybe you’ve been telling yourself that you must read that Proust because all well-read and intelligent people read Proust, but you’re finding it to be long and confusing and boring. Just put it down. It’s okay. Maybe Proust doesn’t speak to your soul. I mean, on my shelf sits Swann’s Way, and I like to think I’m going to read it someday. But if I’m being totally honest with myself, I know that barring some major catastrophe that leaves me with only a flashlight and that behemoth of a book, I’m probably never going to make it all the way through. When I die, I doubt anyone will be impressed or even know that I read some stuff from the Western Canon once. It doesn’t matter. And I’m okay with it. I want you to be okay with it too. What does matter is the pleasure of reading, what we learn from our books, and how we grow from that knowledge. Whether you get that readerly satisfaction from Henry James or Helen Fielding or a bunch of clinical stories about women who dress in period costumes and obsess over Mr. Darcy is inconsequential. You have the right to like whatever you want, others’ opinions be damned.* When it comes to books, we owe no loyalty to anyone, man, book, or beast, dead or alive. We only owe it to our ourselves and our precious time.

So read what you want and tell that negative inner voice to kiss your ass (effing Prudence).

 

* I do, however, reserve the right to judge you harshly if you enjoy Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey. Because I can.

On Representation – “The Mindy Project”

the-mindy-project
themindyproject.wikia.com

I recently started watching The Mindy Project on Hulu. Though I’d previously watched the pilot and thought, “Oh, this is truly funny. I should dig into this,” I never followed through. Until now. And holy crap, I don’t know what I was waiting for! Each 30 minute episode is a perfect little nugget on its own, with A and B story lines that unfold unexpectedly and round out nicely. However, as the story goes, I’ve found it hard to just watch one episode at a time. And why should I, really? This show is so well-written (duh, because Mindy Kaling is involved), has an off-beat sense of humor in the same vein as New Girl, and builds tension well. The whole series is pretty impossible not to binge-watch in a short time frame; my sister and I watched the first 38 episodes in a span of three days, so….

The story obviously revolves around Mindy, who is an accomplished OB/GYN co-running a practice with her two male counterparts. She is mega-intelligent, but she is also a major drama queen, kind of shallow, and relatively clumsy. She loves Hollywood gossip. She is rather materialistic. Her body is not the willowy Hollywood ideal, and she addresses that from time to time, whether it’s mentioning how proud she is of her big butt, or thanking someone for commenting on her flat feet, proudly stating, “I almost never fall down.” (See? Weird comic gold.) She says dumb things and makes cringe-worthy mistakes, which we all do.

And that is what is so refreshing about Mindy – she is relatable. She doesn’t always say or do the right thing, which I can definitely relate to. Also, I recently read that the average American woman is a size 16-18. And while Mindy is a size 6-8 (I only know because I read her first book), even seeing any leading female character who is above a size 4 is sadly refreshing and oddly more representative of the general public. Seeing her on the show is actually what inspired me to write these posts on representation.

I personally felt a strange kinship with Mindy from the outset because my body shape is nearly identical to hers, which is something I never, ever see in the media. Like, ever. Everyone is perfectly proportioned on TV – no one is ever smaller on top and larger on bottom, except for frumpy moms. It’s incredibly irritating. And Mindy is anything but frumpy, in style or attitude. The fashion on this show is incredible, so much, in fact, that there have been several web pages and serious retrospectives dedicated to Mindy’s many outfits. It’s cool to see someone with our proportions taken seriously, stylistically, and dressed in a flattering manner. But style aside, Mindy is a cool, informed (though with some weirdly and hilariously conservative views) 30-something who somehow manages to maintain the attitude and pep of a preteen while running a successful and time-consuming business.

Yet perhaps what is most different about The Mindy Project is that its lead character has dark skin, is a woman, and is still undeniably the star of the show. AND that star is also the show’s creator and head writer! Even in this day and age, that is all such an anomaly. Though great strides have been made in the past few years, a female minority lead character in a popular television show is unfortunately still something pretty rare to find. Add on the titles of series creator and lead writer, and you have something pretty unique. It makes me hopeful to think about young girls/women (and boys/men) of color seeing themselves in Mindy on TV, maybe thinking “Hey, I can be a doctor!” or “I can be the main character on a TV show!” or even “I can be a writer and director and TV star too!”. Mindy – the actual person – has certainly been a source of inspiration for me.

At the tail end of my first (of many) binges on this show, I just remember taking a quick break and saying, “It’s so nice to feel represented.” Superficially, seeing Mindy Kaling on my television, with my body, makes me feel not so awful about these inherited large hips, or small chest, or extra few pounds, because she is a confident, bad bitch. Not only does she own her shape and wear some killer outfits, but she doesn’t let her body alone define her. It’s kind of sad to think that at 31, I am so excited to see someone who kind of looks like me on TV that it almost brings tears to my eyes. It may seem like a small thing, or a superficial thing, but I’ve never really had that before. And sometimes it’s the little, seemingly insignificant things that hit us the hardest. Just seeing someone who resembles me in such a cursory way has made me think hard about what I’m doing and about the things I want out of my life. 

Because, more importantly than the physical representation, it is heartening seeing a female, minority writer living her dream. It’s just incredibly encouraging. Mindy worked her way into writing for The Office, penned some of the best episodes, and then took off to make something all her own. And while I realize that she has had a lot of amazing privileges and opportunities, it gives me hope that one day, if I work hard enough and stick to what I’m good at, I can also live the writing life I imagine. She helps me remember that the only limitations I have are the ones I place on myself.

I don’t know what Mindy Kaling hoped to accomplish when she created this witty, hilarious, well-written little show, but she has definitely made something significant.

On Representation – “Ghostbusters”

 

Ghostbusters
ghostbusters.com

I’ve been thinking a lot about representation in the media lately. As I get older, and as I witness the increasingly terrible things happening by the hour in our country and around the planet, I have begun to open my eyes a bit more and think more critically about what’s being presented to me in the media every day. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve just questioned things in general (“But why?” was my favorite question), but witnessing such dramatic changes in the world recently has gotten my wheels turning even more. So I’ve felt compelled to write a couple of posts about representation in popular culture, specifically in the movies and TV I’ve been watching recently.

This past Friday, I went to see the new Ghostbusters movie. I was pretty excited about seeing it, since I was really enamored with the original two films when I was little. I have adored Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy (and Paul Feig) for a long time, and was pumped to see an all-female cast reinvent a classic movie I love. And my excitement didn’t wane at all during or after the movie – it was absolutely great. My favorite character was Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), a constant source of comic relief who was given to frequent bursts of genius and bouts of odd behavior. She just spoke to the bizarre weirdo in me, and her unabashed strangeness was refreshing; it’s nice to see a character who is so comfortable with herself from beginning to end. In general, the movie was funny, had well-rounded characters, was filled with impressive special effects (which I normally don’t care about), included cameos by all of the previous cast – minus the lovely and much-missed Harold Ramis, of course – and managed to honor the original storyline while building something fun and new. Five stars out of five, would see it again, for sure.

Now, unless you’re totally disconnected from all media, you know that there has been a lot of hullabaloo about this movie. There have been a lot of misogynistic, ignorant, and frankly stupid things said and written about these Ghostbusters all being women, not to mention the barrage of hatred and racism that Leslie Jones has been dealing with, and it’s all so incredibly frustrating. So the Ghostbusters are women instead of men – boo hoo. It truly makes no difference, and I am over the whole “women aren’t funny” nonsense – it’s so early ’90s. These chicks are damn good at what they do, a lot of which is being funny. Each character is nuanced, each has her own interesting backstory. This isn’t the treatment that women have historically gotten in movies, including the original Ghostbusters, where women were largely just props or love interests. We so rarely get to see four women who are the stars of a major motion picture, let alone women who are allowed to be flawed yet unequivocally brilliant. These ladies aren’t concerned with finding the right outfit to wear, and oh my god, it’s so nice to see women who aren’t obsessed with falling in love or finding the right man. Those things are not even a fraction of what I worry about in life, nor are they the things the women around me spend their time fretting over, so it’s nice to see reality actually reflected on the screen.

And as far as Leslie Jones goes, what exactly is so wrong or different about her? There are women of color all over this country. Some have – gasp – even been in movies before! Why the attacks? What do these trolls find so threatening about her? I don’t get it. Her portrayal of Patty Tolan is fantastic – a tough, opinionated, smart woman whose intense working knowledge of the city’s layout is integral to the film. The character holds her own, supports her friends, and has great comic timing, just like her three counterparts. She did a great job. This hatefulness is upsetting, and yet another unfortunate reminder that racism is alive and well, as if we needed another reminder – but that’s a conversation for another day. I’m just flabbergasted by all of the negative nonsense I’m reading, and I’m not going to spend any more time trying to suss it out or bestow more attention on it than is deserved. There was so much hateful bile being spewed before this thing even came out, I doubt a lot of naysayers will even see far enough past their own noses to appreciate the movie for what it is. The film has been made, it is what it is, and if spending my hard-earned money to see it was a political statement, then  I’m happy to have done so.

Before I saw the movie, I came across a photo taken by a guy named Zach Heltzel in this Buzzfeed article that really spoke to me. In the picture, there are two little girls dressed as Ghostbusters (they were apparently part of a red carpet performance) who are meeting Kristen Wiig, and the adoration on their faces is palpable. They are seeing themselves in her, that they can also be the badass heroes of the story. That it isn’t about winning the boy or besting your rival, but about really smart ladies working together to kick butt and save New York on their own. It’s a touching photo. We all consume so much media these days, it’s important for kids to see adult versions of themselves sometimes, to see that they have the option to be models and movie stars but to also be scientists and bosses in control of their own lives.

Ghostbuster Girls
@zachheltzel

As a little girl, I wanted to be a Ghostbuster, despite being very afraid of ghosts. My sister and cousin and I would jump around on my cousin’s bed and listen to the soundtrack on repeat. We would beg our Granddad to play “Cleanin’ Up the Town” on the piano while we danced around and pretended to bust ghosts. We were three little girls who didn’t care that the Ghostbusters were boys, because we were fortunate enough to grow up in a family that assured us we could do and be anything we wanted, not in spite of, but because we were girls. But that mentality was not one that the general public has ever really shared, and it’s important for everyone to know that they can be ones making change for the greater good. And it still would’ve been nice to see a lady who was actually fighting the good fight with them back then, not just Annie Potts managing their calls from behind a desk or the love interest Sigourney Weaver, who was strong but also a secondary character susceptible to possession (in more than one sense). 

Watching the reboot this past Friday, it was exhilarating to see these four intelligent, tenacious, imperfect, hilarious women doing cool stuff. I felt a bit like the adorable little girl staring up at Kristen Wiig in Zach Heltzel’s picture, honestly. Because now, as an adult, I actually get to see myself in the Ghostbusters too, and it’s pretty cool.

5 Books That Changed My Life

I just got back from a little summer vacation in the tiny, sleepy, hot-as-hell, artistic town of Marfa, TX. The trip afforded me lots of free time, especially because the WiFi in the casita where my beau and I were staying was not the best (which was decidedly for the best). Almost everything in Marfa closes at around 8pm, so there was plenty of time to sit back and catch up on some books I’ve been needing to finish. I even had time to delve into a new, weird “children’s” book that I’m not totally certain is actually for children.

There was also a lot of quiet time for me to chill out and contemplate my life – specifically where mine is going at this very moment. I quit my 8 year, steady job about 8 months ago, and I’m trying to decide exactly what I want to do now. This break from steady work brings up a lot of things that I never really had time to think about when I was working my butt off every day, and I’m trying to decide in what direction I’d like my life to go. I’ve been freelancing and thinking about the things and creative pursuits I love the most, and attempting to decide how to make them into careers. In these ruminations, I’ve realized that if I know one thing, it’s that I love books. They have made an enormous impact on my life, so much that I might even venture to say that books are basically my life. So this thought pattern led me to evaluate which individual books have changed the course of my life over the years (maybe in the hopes that I’ll stumble across another one that will knock me onto the correct path).

It’s undeniable that every book I’ve ever read has changed me in one way or another, but there are really only a handful of books that I can say have truly changed the trajectory of my life. Today I thought I’d share these books as a way to sort of commemorate where I’ve been. Though I wouldn’t say that these are my all-time favorite books or anything, they have absolutely each altered my world at some point in my life.

I’ve listed these books in my own personal chronological order, from the first I discovered to the latest ones to affect me.

1) One Monster After Another by Mercer Mayer

 One Monster After AnotherThis is the first book I learned to read by myself. I was very close to my grandmother, and she was a voracious reader who passed her love of literature on to me. She spent her retirement watching me, my sister, and my two cousins while our parents were at work, and it was in this time that she taught 3- or 4-year-old me (obviously can’t remember the exact age) to read. I remember sitting on Grandmother’s lap and making her read One Monster After Another to me over and over while I turned the pages and memorized all of the words. I read this story about one letter’s fantastical, roundabout journey until I made the connection between letters and words, and could read the book on my own. As you can see, my copy of this book has been read to death, and I imagine it will only get worse if I ever have children. I don’t care. I’m keeping it forever. It jump started my life’s passion.

 

2) The Baby-Sitters Club Series by Ann M. Martin 

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-book-news/article/54772-scholastic-releases-baby-sitters-club-e-books-with-classic-covers.html
publishersweekly.com

Yes, this is a series and not an individual book. As a kid, I was absolutely OBSESSED with the Baby-Sitters Club books. It’s the first book series that I ever started collecting, and it was at this point that I distinctly remember starting to carry a book (usually more than one) with me at all times to read. Reading this series also helped me acquire the skill of being able to keep story lines separate and read more than one book at a time. But what was the most revelatory for me about this series is that it definitely shaped my views on girls and on female friendship. The main characters in these books are strong, diverse, enterprising girls who know what they want and work for it. They are cool, creative, and smart, and I wanted to be all of them (except Mallory, who I suspected was unfortunately the most similar to me). They also drove home that women and girls should support one another instead of tearing each other down, the latter of which is unfortunately what we too often see on TV, in magazines, online, and subsequently in our own relationships. These strong female role models with their ideal, yet still realistic friendships have definitely stuck with and shaped me. (Also, fun fact, I’m not really a fan of Kirsten Dunst, but I think it’s worth mentioning that she was the model for the little girl on “Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls” cover.)

 

3) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

 Pride and PrejudiceI was deep into the Baby-Sitters Club books when my sister introduced me to the wonders of Jane Austen. I was at an age when everything I did started to feel stupid and baby-ish, and felt like I needed to be reading things other than kids’ books (oh, budding adolescence). My sister had read Pride and Prejudice in one of her English classes and, promising I would like it, basically forced me to drop what I was reading one summer and pick it up. And I am so glad she ripped the BSC book out of my hands (speaking in hyperbole here), because reading Pride and Prejudice changed my world. It basically introduced me to the vast world of classic literature, and to the notion that there were a multitude of well-written, mature books in existence that I had no idea could be so readable and just so . . . good. I remember putting down the BSC books and never picking them up again (somewhat sadly, because I still think I developmentally should have continued reading them, but c’est la vie). Though Jane Austen is undeniably one of the best, the Bronte sisters speak a little more to my soul; however, I never would have had the pleasure of discovering this about myself had it not been for Jane Austen’s most acclaimed novel. I literally shudder to think of what I might be filling my head with now if I had never read Pride and Prejudice.

 

4) Quiet by Susan Cain

Quiet

This is arguably the most important book on this list to me. I am generally a pretty *quiet* person, but I absolutely love to talk to people about Quiet. I can honestly say that I am a completely different person after reading it. In 2013, at the tender age of 28, I finally stopped apologizing for who I am, and it is thanks to this book. To those who are closest to me, it’s old news that I’m shy and an introvert (the two are not synonymous), but this is usually at least a little surprising to people I’ve worked with or interacted with in social settings. I’ve gotten pretty good at hiding my true nature, mostly because I’ve spent my whole life (see: 27 years) exhausting myself, trying hard not to be shy and withdrawn in basically every school and social setting. In reading Quiet, I found out that I’m an HSP (highly sensitive person), innately shy, and an introverted introvert (there are indeed other combinations of extroversion and introversion, I’m just the furthest to the introvert side). And I no longer apologize for any of it, because I’m convinced that it’s how I was born. Though my parents thankfully never asked me to be anything other than myself, our extrovert-idealizing society did and still does demand other patterns of behavior from me. It was such a sad revelation to see that I had basically spent my life apologizing for who I am, and such a relief to accept that I didn’t need to do it anymore. I bet that almost any true introvert can relate to the feeling of shame that goes along with not wanting to go out with friends sometimes (or almost ever), or fearing working in an open office plan, or avoiding public speaking at all costs. The sort of self-acceptance I have experience is beyond measure. I’ve often said that I should be a spokesperson for this book, because it quite literally changed everything about my life. After many, many years, Quiet has helped me learn that there is nothing wrong with me, and I have finally made peace with the very core of myself

 

5) The Vegetarian by Han Kang

 VegetarianOkay, so the book itself is amazing, enough so that it inspired me to write a “professional-sounding” review that I’ve shared here on this blog. But on its own, the book would not necessarily have made this list (although it’s fantastic and probably the first piece of truly frightening literature that I’ve enjoyed as an adult). What is so personally important about The Vegetarian is that the review I wrote for it recently landed me my dream freelancing gig, which is reviewing books for a major publication. If finding out that your creative pursuits can get you work isn’t life-changing for an artist, I don’t know what is! Reading, writing, and getting paid to do both has been my dream for a very long time. My first review hasn’t been published yet, so I don’t necessarily want to say which publication I’m contributing to, but I’ll definitely share it here when I’m officially published. Needless to say, this book has changed my life and will always remain dear to me.

 

So those are my five life-changing books! I do, however, have to mention somewhere in this post . . . the Harry Potter series. Of course. I didn’t include it because I feel like EVERYONE talks about how it changed their lives, and I wanted to offer something different. For the record, though, Harry Potter is such an important series to me, for many reasons that would take far too long to list. Suffice it to say that growing up with this series has changed how I read, write, think about the world, and view others. It offers solace when I need it, and is always a joy to return to. It’s amazing that reading words on a page can make me feel like I’m going home, no matter where I am or how many times I revisit the story. What’s more life-changing than that?

 

The Antidote to Reader’s Block is YouTube

I’ve been suffering from reader’s block for about a month now. “Reader’s Block” is not a technical term, but I’ve got it. I was on a roll with reading for quite a while, finishing about a book a week. Then, all of a sudden, I just couldn’t go on. It’s not like I don’t have interesting stuff to read – I have several large, overflowing bookcases full of books, as well as three tomes scattered around my house that I keep touching and staring at forlornly. I’ve been anticipating reading those three books for months, but…. I just haven’t had the will. I’ll pick up a book, read a page or two, then put it back down. This happens to me from time to time, and it’s usually related to some deep ennui. Unfortunately, this listlessness has extended to my writing, which explains the lack of blog posting.

Not everyone experiences this kind of melancholy, but I am personally all too familiar with the sadness and guilt that comes from badly wanting to read a book but just not feeling up to it. So, as an antidote, I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube.

Judge if you must, but I am fascinated with people’s lives (which may explain my proclivity for writing). And food.  And makeup tutorials. And the UK, which I may or may not have mentioned before. What better place for all of those things than YouTube? This ennui has allowed me to spiral into YouTube oblivion, and I’ve had generally positive results. So, I want to share the top five channels I use to escape my blues.

 

1. Kaushal Beauty     

Kaushal Beauty
kaushalbeauty.com

Kaushal’s channel is the first one I ever subscribed to. I am a biracial lady with medium skin and not a lot of makeup knowledge, so I stumbled upon Kaushal while searching for eyeshadow tutorials for my skin tone. And What. A. Find. She LOVES makeup, and I love her.  An English darling with a winning smile and infectious personality, I have now plowed through approximately 98% of her videos. She is a very talented makeup artist, and seems genuinely kind and positive. I came for the makeup tutorials and stayed for the sunshine. And, honestly, for more tutorials, because she’s pretty damn good at what she does.

2. Rachel Khoo  

rachelkhoo.com
rachelkhoo.com

I started watching Rachel Khoo’s cooking shows on The Cooking Channel a couple of years ago, and I liked her instinctively. She cooks and shoots in her own, real kitchen, is not overly concerned with putting on a show or amping up her personality for the cameras, and has an appealing personal style. Her history is super inspiring (leaving fashion PR, moving to France without knowing a stitch of French, taking patisserie courses, and graduating from Le Cordon Bleu), and her food is to die for. She doesn’t update this channel much anymore, instead focusing on her fancy new website Khoollect, where there’s a lot of engaging and intelligent writing on food, beauty, fashion, travel, books, and more. I love absolutely everything she does and highly recommend signing up for her Khoollect newsletter. She’s basically just a badass boss, and watching her makes me feel like one too.

3. & 4. Samantha Maria and Samantha Maria Vlogs

Samantha Maria
samanthamariaofficial.com

I’m sort of cheating with these two channels by the same person, but you can’t really have one without the other. Samantha is a long-time YouTuber, and it’s easy to see why she’s remained so successful. A luminous spirit, she mostly films about beauty, fashion and styling on her main channel, and vlogs about her everyday life and jealousy-inducing vacations on her vlog channel. It sounds like it could get kind of boring, but definitely does not. Samantha somehow makes daily coffee runs, video editing, movie-going, and dog walks with two precious pups addicting to watch. She is also incredibly busy, constantly updating her style blog and running a small clothing line with her ruddy-cheeked fiance Jason. What I find most appealing is her genuineness, though; she’s not afraid to talk about how hard it is to make friends, how lonely freelancing sometimes is, and how crippling anxiety and depression can be – all things I can relate to. She is an everyday person turned YouTube star, and is so incredibly humble. I just like her. She doesn’t have it all figured out, but she tries to have fun and lives a life many of us dream of. Sam makes me want to be sunnier, more positive, and more grateful for my life every day.

5. Nerdy Nummies with Rosanna Pansino  

Rosanna Pansino
rosannapansino.com

I think Ro’s channel is pretty impossible not to have seen if you’re a nerd and watch YouTube. She’s bubbly, silly, a little geeky, and despite the cutesy title, actually makes some pretty legit and delicious-looking desserts. I love seeing her make treats that appeal to my personal dorky preferences, like Totoro macarons, Adventure Time tarts, Harry Potter Liquid Luck drinks (non-alcoholic and spirited), and Zelda-inspired Triforce lemon bars. She also hosts a wide range of special guests (Neil deGrasse Tyson, anyone?) and does hilarious food-related challenges with her sister and friends. I’ve taken a pass on her music videos (definitely a little much for me), but I’m down with most of her other stuff. She makes me smile and even inspires me to bake more, which I love to do. My sister even bought me Ro’s recently-released cookbook, so maybe I’ll make some of my own nerdy desserts next time I’m feeling down to pep myself up.

 

And that’s it! Those are my top gloom-reducing YouTube channels. This method of self-medicating seems to be working; I’ve been able to crack open a couple of books and legitimately start reading again. The only problem is that now I can’t stop watching these women’s newest videos,  so I get caught in the ol’ YouTube loop again and again. But there are worse things in the world. If I’m able to read and write again, what’s the harm in indulging in a little makeup tutorial or four? Right…?

Stitchin’ Bitch

It’s dark and gorgeous and rainy outside, and all I want to do is sit on my couch and cross stitch. I. Love. To. Cross. Stitch. I get such a sense of accomplishment from it. Even if I only do it for 30 minutes, seeing all the progress I’ve made forces me to heartily congratulate and high five myself. Cross stitching is great because it requires the right amount of concentration to obliterate whatever stressful thoughts are plaguing me, but leaves just enough open brain space to enjoy the audio of countless episodes of “The Office” playing in the background. (Both the U.K. and American versions, of course, because what kind of nerd would I be if I didn’t appreciate such a fantastic show in both of its incarnations?)

But seriously, if I could make a living cross stitching, I would be living a dream. I love it that much.

My very lovely and crafty grandmother, Doris, taught me how to cross stitch when I was little, and it’s something that has stuck with me ever since. Cross stitching itself is actually pretty easy – if six-year-old me was able to do it, almost anyone with functioning hands and fingers can. Keeping track of the stitches and colors can be difficult at times, but it basically just entails making little X shapes in the right fabric with a needle and thread. It doesn’t take much training, just a lot of patience. When we were kids, my sister, cousin, and I would while away whole summer afternoons cross stitching together like a group of tiny ladies in Victorian England waiting for visitors in our parlour. We obviously weren’t normal children by any means, but it was one of Grandmother’s ways to keep us quiet and captivated for hours at a time, and it worked.

One of the downsides to cross stitching is that it is nearly impossible to find a decent modern, cool cross stitch book. Most of the books out there have the cutesy kitten/ABCs/teddy bear vibe, and I’m not into that. Though I consider myself an old soul, I am not a granny. I’m not even a mom. So I don’t want any of that crap around my house. I check out patterns on Etsy pretty regularly; there are all kinds of amazing designs available there, no matter your fancy. Etsy is definitely the cross stitcher’s haven.

I am a rabid book-lover, though, and I sometimes prefer to have an actual book with patterns that I can choose from at will. My favorite cross-stitch book by far is Twisted Stitches by Phil Davison (creator of Urban Cross Stitch). This crafty Londoner has created some unique, edgy, fun, and colorful designs that anyone with a dark sense of humor can appreciate. What I like about this book is that some of the patterns are printed on the pages of the book, but there is also a pocket in the back with paper patterns of some of the more intricate designs. Portability!

Twisted Stitches Cover

I hold Twisted Stitches near and dear to my heart because it helped reignite my love for cross stitching as an adult, and it has kept me steadily stitching for a few years now. Below are a few of the Twisted designs I’ve done:

 

 

Skull Kids Pic

This pattern is called “Twisted Balloons Pretty Picture.” It’s a little wrinkly – I’ve been storing it (poorly) and am still looking for a frame to fit it – but the illusion is visible and pretty cool.

 

 

Sugar Skull Framed

This is one of the two “Day of the Dead Finger Towels” patterns. I prefer to frame my cross stitches, rather than go to the trouble of sewing them onto things, so this is obviously not on a finger towel.

 

 

Zombie Pic

 

I’m currently working on this one. It’s called “Burlesque Zombie Portrait” and is by far the largest, most detailed cross stitch I have ever done. I’ve been working on this one on and off for over two years (full-time jobs get in the way of cross stitching), but I’m FINALLY almost finished.

So scroll through Etsy, check out a cross stitch book at your local library, or order Twisted Stitches on Amazon. Whatever it takes.

Just get to stitchin’ bitches.

Suck on that, Prudence.

Okay, so full disclosure, this is my first post and I have no idea what I’m doing here. I love reading people’s blogs and watching their  YouTube channels and seeing so many creative people express themselves in so many different ways. When people share their unique experiences with the world, I get weirdly emotional and filled with hope for the future (odd for me). However, when it comes to sharing my own perspective, I feel clunky, scattered, narcissistic and self-indulgent.

It’s not just the fact that I’m an “older millennial,” whatever that is. Maybe someone who is just young enough to hop on the Snapchat train but who has to Google “social media sites” to find out how kids are connecting these days. Regardless, I’ve always been shy about sharing too much online. This partly goes back to how I was raised, but I’ve also read 1984. I’m no fool. Nobody in the world except me needs to know what I’m thinking and doing all of the time.

*Shudder*

There’s also this old-fashioned voice in my head – let’s call her Prudence – that enjoys saying mean things to me. When it came to writing this blog, Prudence was very vocal. “You have no experience with this. Nobody cares about what’s going on in your mind. We all have opinions. You’re not special. So quit being so dippy and get on with the drudgery of life like the rest of us.” Prudence is subversive, persuasive, and really, really rude. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people, women in particular, have their own versions of Prudence talking away in their heads most of the time. She doesn’t smile, has an angry, mirthless laugh, likes to ruin hopes and dreams, and wants everyone to be as miserable as she is, all under the guise of helpfulness.

The problem with that chatty old curmudgeon’s advice is that I enjoy writing, which necessarily means that I take all of the thoughts and opinions swirling around in my head and pour them out onto paper for others to read. I can’t write anything if I believe my thoughts have no value. Also, I resent the idea of getting on with the drudgery of life! Who are you, Prudence, to tell me my life has to be this awful, dull thing that I have to wade through? Why do I have to hate what I do every day to be contributing something to the world? I refuse.

So, that said, I’m starting a blog. Which is probably already passe, but whatever. I love to write, and I have things to say. Whether anyone cares or reads any of this stuff is out of my control anyway – I just have to do my part, despite the fact that I may not know exactly what I’m doing. I’ll figure it out along the way, as I generally do.

So suck on that, Prudence.