Wednesday, August 16, 2017

30 Day Parks and Recreation Challenge

Damn. It's been ... like ... six months since I posted anything? And shit, I'm still behind on like two challenges? Whoops. I mean, a lot has happened over the past year, and the past six months have been absolutely insane. But that's no excuse! And to bring in the school year, I guess (???), I'm starting off with a challenge!

Via Bustle
That has got be my favorite promotional image for this show ever. Or maybe any show ever. But anyway, I absolutely adore Parks and Recreation. It's probably unhealthy, if I were to be completely honest about it, and I had a hard time handling it when the show ended. Oh, my god, did I bawl at the series finale - like a damn baby.

What drew me to this show was the earnest, kind, dedicated characters (yes, even Tom) that populated the cast and the incredibly positive message it sent out every week: things may look grim but, dammit, surround yourself with good people and push through and you'll see the light. It is in all of us, even if we live in a world that beats us down daily, but we can't just sit and hope that things will get better. We have to do things. Use that fucking light.

Ahem. Sorry. Soapbox moment.

But anyway, here's what I'll be working on in September!

Day 1: How I Was Introduced to Parks and Recreation
Day 2: Favorite Female Main Character
Day 3: Favorite Male Main Character
Day 4: Favorite Season
Day 5: Least Favorite Season
Day 6: Favorite Season One Episode
Day 7: Favorite Season Two Episode
Day 8: Favorite Season Three Episode
Day 9: Favorite Season Four Episode
Day 10: Favorite Season Five Episode
Day 11: Favorite Season Six Episode
Day 12: Favorite Season Seven Episode
Day 13: Favorite Episode
Day 14: Least Favorite Episode
Day 15: Favorite Recurring Character
Day 16: Least Favorite Recurring Character
Day 17: Something That Happened I Wish Didn't
Day 18: Something That Didn't Happen I Wish Did
Day 19: Parks and Recreation's Relevance
Day 20: Favorite Ann Moment
Day 21: Favorite Andy Moment
Day 22: Favorite April Moment
Day 23: Favorite Ben Moment
Day 24: Favorite Chris Moment
Day 25: Favorite Donna Moment
Day 26: Favorite Jerry Moment
Day 27: Favorite Leslie Moment
Day 28: Favorite Ron Moment
Day 29: Favorite Tom Moment
Day 30: How Parks and Recreation Inspires Me

Saturday, February 25, 2017

28 Day Friends Challenge, Day 23: Least Favorite Couple

I know, I know, you assumed Ross and Rachel would be the winner here, but to be honest, while they are pretty terrible, they aren't anywhere close to being the worst. This was almost a tie, because Ross and Janice was pretty terrible, but the difference between them and who my final choice ended up being, though, is that the relationship was purposefully awful, an example of how fucked up Ross was after his divorce from Emily. Thankfully, it only lasted a single episode, unlike my actual least favorite couple.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

28 Day Friends Challenge, Day 19: Favorite Season Ten Episode

You know, last challenge made me think that today's choice was gonna be hard because Season Ten was such a crap bag, but upon rewatch, I was surprised at the one episode I would have assumed would be my favorite because, well ... you'll see.

28 Day Friends Challenge, Day 18: Favorite Season Nine Episode

And now we're getting into my two least favorite seasons, so this is gonna be a bit of a tough one. It's not that there weren't quality episodes (as a matter of fact, the one I chose for this season's favorite is one of those), it's just that they were so few and far between that it's easy to forget that either Nine or Ten had any good episodes. For tomorrow's challenge, I definitely had to scrounge.

28 Day Friends Challenge, Day 17: Favorite Season Eight Episode

Remember how on Day 13, I said that I was competitive? Well, that has not changed since then, and that should make my favorite episode from Season Eight fairly obvious, so I'm not even going to hide the picture behind the cut! You are welcome!
Via Geek in Heels
While Rachel's baby shower has its humorous moments, mainly stemming from Monica forgetting to invite Rachel's mom (played wonderfully by Marlo Thomas), the best part is the men's storyline.

28 Day Friends Challenge, Day 16: Favorite Season Seven Episode

The cracks were beginning to show in Season Six, but they were definitely a major problem in Season Seven. The episodes weren't bad just yet, but they were just so mediocre that it's hard to remember them specifically. I actually had to go back and rewatch the entire season to see which one was my favorite. And I kinda just settled on one, which is kinda sad, but I needed to complete this challenge, so here we go.

28 Day Friends Challenge, Day 15: Favorite Season Six Episode

See, I am trying to catch up! My goal is to have all of these posts completely finished by the end of the month, and by gum, I'm gonna do it.

I feel like the Thanksgiving episodes of Friends were always some of the best. The first season's anti-Thanksgiving kind of set the bar high, but generally, they improved with each season. And Season Six did not disappoint even remotely; it may even be a contender for my favorite episode of the entire series. I mean, it's not, obviously. You'll have to wait for Day 20 to see what that is.

28 Day Friends Challenge, Day 14: Favorite Season Five Episode

By the time the fifth season comes around, any excuse to watch Ross humiliate himself is enough for me to sit down with a bag of freshly popped popcorn. When he sabotaged flirting with the pizza delivery woman Caitlin in "The One Where Ross Can't Flirt," I guffawed as he started babbling about the smell that's added to gas because 1) who hasn't flirted awkwardly and 2) it's Ross making an ass out of himself.

28 Day Friends Challenge, Day 13: Favorite Season Four Episode

I am a naturally competitive person. Today, actually, I got into a kind-of argument with The Boy about whether or not corn was really considered a vegetable, and while he couldn't care less if he was right, I was very passionate about my correctness*. It's a curse in more ways than one, but it keeps my life interesting.

Monday, February 20, 2017

This post was supposed to be something entirely different.

This post was supposed to be a happy message, one that I'd been keeping to myself before springing it on you guys with barely contained enthusiasm.

This was supposed to be a pregnancy announcement.

My due date was 9/20/2017, although it was probably closer to the beginning of October. Against all advice, I'd already decided on names. We told both of our families. I told my employer. My god, we were both so excited. It wasn't planned, of course, but that didn't dilute any part of our happiness. I was going to be a mother.

But this Monday, my body decided that it wasn't going to happen. After a whole night of severe bleeding and cramping, I spent nearly all day on Tuesday in the ER, barely able to walk because of the pain. The blood test verified that my hcg levels had decreased dramatically, and any hope I'd held onto that this was just a warning to take it easier was lost. The next day, I took another sick day and slept as often as I could in between the cramps and trips to the bathroom to change out bloody pads. And oh, did I cry.

I know that miscarriage is common - at least one in four pregnancies end that way - but that doesn't make it any easier. My OBGYN was empathetic and kind, letting me know that there was nothing I did wrong and there was nothing I could have done, but I had grown so attached to the little thing inside my uterus. Only four days prior, I had seen it in an ultrasound; it looked like a little deformed seahorse, and I'd cried looking at it. That was my little deformed seahorse.

I'm feeling somewhat better today, a bit closer to emotionally normal, although my doctor told me my body wouldn't be back to itself for a few months. I'm still exhausted, and every now and then, I have a mood swing. Like yesterday, I bawled because UPS sent back my package after trying to deliver my A&P I lab kit while I was at work (seriously??), and the day before, I was ridiculously confident that I could do one of my marathon walks but only made it down the block before wanting to crawl back into bed for seventeen hours. In some ways, I'm ... glad isn't the word, but it's all I can think of right now, because I'm going back to school full-time in the fall (nursing school or bust, y'all) and I took a job that does not provide insurance so the pregnancy would be considered a pre-existing condition, making it difficult to find affordable health insurance options. That doesn't change the sadness I feel right now, and I suppose only time will help with that. And maybe someday in the near future, I'll carry a baby to term, welcoming it with open arms.

But for now? I'm going to focus on me. That's all I really can do.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

28 Day Friends Challenge, Day 12: Favorite Season Three Episode

Ah, Season Three, where the writers got over freshman awkwardness and tweaked their skills into creating some of the more memorable episodes of the early seasons. They had a bigger budget (as evidenced by better sets, more expensive wardrobes, and famous guest stars, just to name a few things), and the success of the show brings more of that, getting more extravagant as it progressed. But it really is at its best when the six main characters are showcased by themselves in a familiar location.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

28 Day Friends Challenge, Day 11: Favorite Season Two Episode

Like I've said before, Season Two is when the show really figured out what it was doing. Season One was an experiment, introducing the audience to six flawed people trying to navigate the waters of adulthood. It's not the best season, by far, but I can honestly say that I can watch the whole season without skipping an episode, so that makes it solid in my book.

What I consider the best out of the bunch, though, shouldn't come as a surprise, since I'm pretty sure most people agree with me. Even though I've never really understood why Ross and Rachel ever got together - and honestly, her dumping him because of the infamous list was one of the dumbest things I've ever seen - "The One with the Prom Video" gave me kind of a reason to believe it made sense.

Friday, February 10, 2017

28 Day Friends Challenge, Day 10: Favorite Season One Episode

Yay, it's my favorite part of this challenge! Starting from the beginning (singsongy a very good place to staarrrrt), we get to meet the gang and their various issues, ranging from job woes to antagonistic relationships, and I really do feel like, at least at this point, the writers really knew how to create relatable characters. The pilot wasn't the best I've ever seen (that would have to go to Orphan Black, which kept me at the edge of my seat nearly the whole time), but it established pretty much all we had to know. Of course, we don't really get to the "classic" episodes until later, but what really hooked me on the show was "The One with George Stephanopoulos."

Thursday, February 9, 2017

28 Day Friends Challenge, Day 9: Least Favorite Season

I think this should just go without saying, but I made this challenge list, so I guess I have to answer it. Season 10 is by far the worst season, and that's saying something, especially considering the dismal nature of Season 9. Like I said yesterday, I'll describe more of why it's my least favorite season on Day 19 (my favorite episode of this season), but as a teaser, I'll just say this:

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

28 Day Friends Challenge, Day 8: Favorite Season

Of course there's a tie* on this one. I'm not going to go too in depth with this post because I'll discuss each season more when I get to my favorite episode of each, but here you go:

Season Five: I absolutely love the beginning of Monica and Chandler's relationship, and even though Ross starts to deteriorate here, he's not completely unbearable just yet.
Season Eight: I think this is probably the most character development we get for Rachel for the latter half of the series, and the show is just so consistently funny during this season.

* Honorable Mention: Season 2. I think this is where the show really hit its stride.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

28 Day Friends Challenge, Day 7: Least Favorite Guest Star

First of all, Happy 29th birthday, Mommy! You inspire me in so many ways, and I hope your day is as awesome as you are! I love you!

Now, onto the challenge.

I think that the two-parter in Season Two was pretty much universally panned because of too many guest stars, just kind of showing off that, "Hey, look how popular we are!" to everyone, and I can't necessarily disagree. It was probably one of the weaker episodes for many reasons, and while Julia Roberts' performance was a bit over-the-top, the other major guest star was just ... awful.

Monday, February 6, 2017

28 Day Friends Challenge, Day 6: Favorite Guest Star

There were some pretty amazing guest stars on Friends (and some pretty terrible ones, too), and it is difficult to narrow it down to just one. Normally, I'd make this a tie because, hey, it's my blog and therefore only my rules apply, but this time, I'm actually going to make a choice*.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

28 Day Friends Challenge, Day 5: Least Favorite Male Main Character

This was actually hard because at various points in the series, I either love or hate all three of the main dudes. Overall, though, I have to say Ross, but like with Rachel, I feel like this was the writers' faults. I already touched on this back on Day 3, but it's like suddenly, Ross, the caring father and actually pretty decent boyfriend, turned into a neurotic mess that somehow managed to keep relationships with his closest friends, despite what seemed to be him sabotaging everything around him. I guess that's the problem with comedies, unless we're talking It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, where all the characters are absolutely terrible. You're not supposed to empathize with those characters; you just enjoy how awful and self-centered they are. But for some reason, I'm supposed to feel for Ross' plight. Nope. Not gonna happen.

Like I have already said, I am going through a divorce, and yes, a lot of the emotional abuse I dealt with has clouded my perceptions. I destroyed a possible romance through my actions (although I discovered another in the process), and many of my friends nearly abandoned me because of it. I do not blame them in the least; I was irresponsible and callous and self-destructive. But I'm not Ross. I apologized, got into therapy, etc., and while my life isn't perfect, I've found new direction and love and acceptance. It can be fucking done. But I don't think the writers wanted to actually solve anything or have Ross grow as a person, which I find reprehensible. He doesn't even have to suffer the consequences! Ugh.

Okay, I have to stop now because it's late and I really don't want to go on some rant about a character I can't really stand. So good night, everybody!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

28 Day Friends Challenge, Day 4: Least Favorite Female Character

You know that episode I mentioned yesterday where Chandler was like, "Hey, you're passionate, and I love that about you?" It's that episode that I realized I really didn't like Rachel all that much.
Via Huffington Post

Friday, February 3, 2017

28 Day Friends Challenge, Day 3: Favorite Male Main Character

This one is a bit harder for me to do than with Phoebe because she was so consistently awesome, and the guys change so much through the series that it's difficult to pick the one I like the whole time. So I'm going to go ahead and pick two, splitting the series in half.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

28 Day Friends Challenge, Day 2: Favorite Female Main Character

This should not really come as a surprise to anyone who knows me, even in a very superficial sense, because it's probably always one of the first things I say to you upon meeting me: I love Phoebe Buffay.
Via Her Campus

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

28 Day Friends Challenge, Day 1: How I Was Introduced to Friends

Via The Odyssey Online
I was only 9 or 10 when Friends first came on the air, and honestly, I wasn't really allowed to watch it. Well, that I'm not 100% sure of because I never asked, but based on the fact that everyone was having lots of premarital sex, starting with the first episode, I'm fairly certain that I would have received a resounding NO from the parental units. I watched my Doug and Double Dare and Clarissa Explains It All and Legends of the Hidden Temple like any kid in the early 90s did, and nobody really talked about it at school, so it wasn't like I was missing anything. I can't say that I wish I had been introduced to the show when I was that young because, honestly, I probably would have gotten bored with it. I can just imagine myself saying, "They're just sitting around at a coffee place and talking. And there are no dragons? Or obstacle courses? What is even the point?"

Ah, youth.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

28 Day Friends Challenge

Via Youth Connect
Ohhhhh, Friends. How I love thee. It's my comfort food, my brain candy, my happy place. When I've gone through hard times, I've popped in one of the many DVDs in my collection and brought myself back to nominal. Monica recovering from her breakup with Richard was on repeat after my own breakup with my longest relationship (up until Three), followed shortly by Chandler and Monica getting together because I simply had to see someone go through a very dark emotional time, only to end up happy in the end. It's not very realistic, especially in terms of Real Life in New York City, but I am fully aware of that as I'm watching. Fantasy has been one of my favorite genres of all time, and I don't think that Friends is any less fantasy than Lord of the Rings.

Friends isn't necessarily a show I use as a lot of inspiration for my own writing, for various reasons*, but I think having something that is just mindless enough that it clears my head so I can get back on the writing horse is just as important. While Three doesn't really enjoy watching the show as much as I do, I think I've gotten him to at least appreciate the kind of release it gives me.

Anyway, here's what's going to grace your screens next month!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

I am a huge animal lover, which shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who has read any of my Life with Pets* one-act plays. I mean, come on, at one point, I lived with nine cats and a dog, so if I didn't love them, that would have been the most miserable time in my life. Instead, it was awesome. I had six kittens running for me when I got home from work, a bouncing bulldog, and three adult cats who had various levels of excitement at my presence. There was also a flea-ridden, smelly pit bull that would frequently escape her chains and come visit me because I'd give her the affection she sorely missed. Before that, I kind of adopted a sweet ginger cat that hung around my rented house, and before that, I saved an abused kitten from a guy who never really wanted a cat, anyway. My parents raised me around dogs, and I took riding lessons and fell in love with a horse who was too big for my small frame. I couldn't imagine my life without them.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

To See the Future, You Have to Deal with the Past That Scares You

Planet Earth is slowing down
Overseas, underground
Wherever you look around
Lord, take me by the hand
Lead me through these desert sands
To the shores of a promised land

Well, it is now officially 2017. I am truly looking forward to the next 365 days, even if - as I said on Facebook - I know there's a lot of fear going around due to the new presidency, among other things. There is very little that I can do for the world as a whole, but as The The says, "If you can't change the world, change yourself."

Three actually introduced me to that song, so hearing it now brings a lot of bittersweet emotions to the surface, but for me, that's what makes it so important. I can't listen to it without remembering where I've gone since I first heard it. We had been married for a few months at that point, and things were still in that honeymoon phase; it was inspirational then because it meant so much to him, because he said it represented how he viewed the world. But now, I've taken it and made it my own mantra. Well, my main one is still, "Do what you're here to do and don't be an asshole," but it's my second mantra.

You make me start
When you look into my heart
And see me for who I really am

As I said in my last post, we are getting divorced this year. That is putting a lot of the past six years into perspective. The de-evolution of my personality, my goals, my loves, is coming into sharp focus, and I realize how far I've deviated from what I'm here to do. I have a much clearer view on who and what I am: I'm a writer, an artist, an optimist, a pacifist, a pansexual, a free spirit. But I am also damaged. I used to think it was irreparable, but as time has passed, I've realized that, while my scars will never go away, they'll just be reminders. I may still doubt myself and others, but I won't let them discourage me.

I didn't care if the sun didn't shine
And the rain didn't fall from the sky
I just cared about myself
From this world to the next
And from the next back to this
By our actions, we are bound
We're running out of love
Running out of hate
Running out of space
For the human race
Planet Earth is slowing down

Part of living with a narcissist is that you become kind of narcissistic yourself, especially when you are separated from others. My experience was coupled with verbal and emotional abuse, so the narcissism is a form of protection. I would say and do things that would keep myself free from being yelled at or accused of nefarious deeds like having emotions or opinions or desires that make the other person feel bad. I spent a lot of time questioning my motives for nearly every aspect of wanting to be alive, which is a very weird place to be. It wasn't until Three had his mental breakdown in October 2015 that I finally started to realize things.

It took a while. It's like having blinders taken off; you know they're gone, but you've spent so much time with them on that it's difficult having that expanded vision. So I didn't get the idea to leave the situation until several months later in February 2016. I remembered it was a Thursday, and Three and I had just had a major explosive fight. We're talking him slamming the front door hard and storming down the road with no destination and me sobbing, curled up in a ball on the floor. When he came back, he apologized, like he always did, and we began to actually talk. However, his defenses came up again, and he uttered the words that, to this day, still ring in my ears: "Every time we've ever taken your lead, you've ruined my life."

My first reaction was to begin crying and defend myself. He began yelling again, and suddenly, something snapped. No. We had never taken my lead throughout my entire marriage. He had made decisions, and I had just followed him, like a dutiful wife. The last move we'd just made - from Louisville, where I'd begun to build a life, to Columbia, where I knew no one and had no job prospects - was one that I'd had no part in choosing. He came home from work one day and said, "Hey, we're moving to South Carolina."

So I laid it out for him: I had given him a blank slate when he revealed to me that he had been lying to me about everything for five years, and he was required to give me the same. I had made mistakes in our marriage, and I was done apologizing for them time and time again, only to have them thrown back in my face months, even years, later. I was also done paying for the way his previous partners had treated him; I wasn't Julie or Elizabeth, or even his father, so he needed to stop treating me like I was. He agreed that I did deserve at least that much, and I thought that we were on the right path.

The next day, however, he came home from work, a look on his face that made me wonder if he'd been thinking and wanted to yell at me more. I was prepared for another verbal fisticuffs, only I wasn't afraid any longer. But instead, I saw tears in his eyes, and he told me he couldn't give me the slate I needed. It wasn't that he didn't want to; it's just that his brain was wired so he wouldn't be able to, that the past would always be at the front of his memory. I told him then that I was leaving, and the next day at work, I called my district manager and asked for a transfer to Louisville.

I'm in love with the planet that I'm standing on
I can't stop
I can't stop thinking of
All the people I've ever loved
All the people I have lost
All the people I'll never know
All the feeling I've never shown

My DM let me know the following week that the transfer was in the works, and by the end of March, it was approved. Three spent a lot of his time alone, occasionally throwing shade my way, and honestly, we were looking at it as a trial separation. Divorce wasn't even my vocabulary at the time, although the truth is, I knew we were headed in that direction. Hindsight really is 20/20. I bought a car - Athena, the 2012 Chevy Cruze - and packed it full of whatever I could carry on April 27th. My friends came down with me a few months later to pick up more, and that was the last time I saw Three in person. For months, I missed him, cried myself to sleep, and didn't allow myself to accurately look at our relationship, even if all I could remember was the bad.

Eventually, I knew I wanted a divorce*, which sent me into meltdown mode, but I didn't want to look inside. It was too frightening, painful. You can only blame someone else for so long.

The world's too big
And life's too short
To be alone
To be alone

I started dating again once I'd decided that it was over. It was way too soon, and honestly, I wish I hadn't. There wasn't any way that I was ready. I had so much baggage and so many phobias and too little understanding of where they came from that all that could really come of it was hurt. But I hated being alone. I craved someone who understood me and what I went through, someone that would let me cry on their shoulder and tell me I was still worthy of love.

Ultimately, this is what led me to therapy. It's a long story, one that I may or may not tell here**, but suffice to say, I sabotaged a fledgling relationship because I felt like he was behaving like Three. He wasn't - not really - but my brain wasn't listening to anything other than former patterns. And if that doesn't sound like something you read above, you're not paying attention. I hurt my friend badly because I couldn't leave the past behind; I was making him pay for the way Three had treated me.

I texted my friend that I didn't want to be alive any longer. I called my sister and mother, bawling uncontrollably, looking for some type of solace from the deep pain that was living in my veins, and the next day, I called the suicide hotline while I was at work. I even considered checking myself into some mental hospital. Despite me living in a town where I had a great group of friends, I felt completely alone like I did when Three suffered his mental break. Maybe it's because it was my actions that had caused my own fall? Or maybe because I realized how far I'd let Three's manipulation go? Maybe I felt like I wasn't worthy of the love I sought? I still can't really explain it.

My mother drove up from Nashville to stay with me for a few days, for which I am eternally grateful, and I started to feel emotions other than total despair again. I actually laughed a few times, especially when Mom purposefully pissed me off so I'd show some emotion. My sister and friends checked on me daily, and I realized that, despite what my mind was telling me, I was cherished.

That is what started my healing process.

If you can't change the world, change yourself.
If you can't change the world, change yourself. 

I started therapy shortly afterward, and I cannot express how much that has helped. Just having someone to talk to is such an amazing thing, but when it comes in a package that doesn't judge you and doesn't let you be too hard on yourself? It's perfect. I still have a very long way to go before I'm well, and like I said above, there are scars that aren't going to fade. I've accepted that to some degree, but that just means I have more to work on. And that's a very exciting prospect.

And if you can't change yourself, change your world.

Lyrics to "Lonely Planet" by The The

* I am still very upset about what caused me to come to this conclusion, and that will definitely be the subject of a future post.
** This is probably going to be a storyline for my web series. What? Writing is how I process things.
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