February 8, 2022

Movies About Love & Relationships that Got It Right

Love. Everyone has an opinion about love, which tends to be a culmination of personal experiences, the romantic relationships that were modeled for us as children and then, of course, cinema. There's really nothing quite like February 14th, Valentine's Day, that allows for the people around you offer up these opinions most freely, which is actually my favorite thing about this lovely little Hallmark holiday.

The films about love that I latched onto in my youth did not do me any favors with their perfectly delivered declarations of love, and neatly packaged happily ever afters. So, you won't find a list of feel-good romantic comedies here today. Instead, what you see below is an eclectic list of my favorite notable depictions of love in film and TV, most of these I have only discovered over the past 10 years. Disclaimer: Some of these may actually fall into the Rom Com genre, but I make the rules here!

1. Definitely, Maybe begins on a day when Will Hayes (Ryan Reynolds), almost to the close of his amicable divorce, decides to tell his 10 year old daughter, the story of the three most profound relationships of his life, up to that point, while she has a go at guessing which one is her mother. It is witty, light at times, and gutting at others. The beauty in this story, for me, is Will's evolution. The more life experiences he has, his needs and desires change and eventually solidify. Each of these relationships leave scars, lessons, and ultimately leads him towards a clearer understanding of himself. Timing is everything.

2. La La Land is the story of Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Sebastian). Mia moved to Hollywood to become a film actress, and Sebastian is a struggling Jazz pianist. When they meet, they are both fighting to make a career out of their respective passions. They meet, quickly fall in love, laugh, have scintillating and thought provoking conversations, introduce each other to new places, ideas, and possibilities. Together, they give each other the support needed to discover their dreams, which ultimately leads them down deviating paths in life. This is a story about possibilities and timing and the decision of your dreams vs. love. It's also one of my favorite movie musicals.

3. Like Crazy is the kind of movie that has you rooting for the love story, you feeling like you know these characters. You can see all of the obstacles stacked high in front of them, but you hold out hope regardless. You can see how naive the characters are, but only because you've been there before, and you are an objective observer here. Like Crazy was written as an outline where the actors improvised almost all of the actual dialogue in the film. 

Jacob and Anna meet in college, Anna is from the UK, in Los Angeles on a student visa. After their relationship begins, she overstays her visa and must return to the UK. The two continue their relationship long distance for some time, their love grows initially, but they are living separate lives and the relationship leads them to a standstill in many other areas of life. They break up, see other people but are unable to abandon their feelings for each other. Finally, they are reunited in the US, but the magic is gone. Was it a superficial connection? Does each relationship we enter into have a shelf life? In the last scene of the film, we flash back to more innocent times. They are different people now. The ending is open to interpretation but - as they hold each other, we are looking into Jacob's eyes, and it's over for him. The tragedy here is that they are both now, in this moment, exactly where they wanted to be all of those months ago, and what they were fighting for all along no longer exists.

4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind can be described as a psychological drama, with elements of science fiction while exploring very realistic romantic love and memories. These people feel real. They are flawed. Their relationship ends and they elect to have their memories of the other completely eradicated bas the downfall of the relationship was very painful for both of them. They meet again, and have the same strong connection. Their lost memories are shared with them. The memories are shocking but they decide to try again., knowing what their past relationship held. Memories and love are fragile, our memories and our interpretation around them changes as we experience life.

5. Stuck in Love is a year in the life of a critically acclaimed writer, his ex wife and their two teenage children. The film explores the parent/child dynamic, apathy about love, the detrimental impact of romanticizing another person, expectations that are not based in reality, building walls to avoid heartbreak, infidelity, and the idea of holding onto hope that "the one that got away" will come back.

6. 500 Days of Summer. Zooey Deschanel's character, Summer, is the ultimate manic pixie dream girl. Tom (Joseph Gordon Levitt) meets Summer and his life is changed, he knows this is his person. She likes his music, she is eclectic, she's special. She is the one that can make him happy. He romanticizes her, ignores her talk of not wanting to be in a relationship. She very clearly tells him that she doesn't believe in love but he ignores this state and all of the subsequent cues that support this. He compromises what he wants from a relationship with her, and accepts what she is willing to offer, due to his attachment to the idea of who he believes her to be, based on what his idea of his perfect match is. This is one of those thought provoking movies that I always come back to. The more life that I experience, my understanding of these characters deepens. Watch it!

7. Closer is not for the faint of heart. The characters are all intertwined in this film, wounding each other in all of the ways that people can when they become attached and their defense mechanisms and survival techniques kick in. This is not a film that I revisit often but each time I do, I pull some new understanding out of it. 

8. Love Life: Season 2 (HBO) was the trailer that would play each time I selected a movie or show to watch on HBO Max for a few months. I hadn't read anything about this show but the trailer clearly did it's job. Love Life is a romantic comedy anthology series, which means that each season follows the life (love life) of a different character over a series of time in their story. I blew through the first season over the summer and started season 2 right when it came out. The first season was good enough to get it a second season but it was really the protagonist of season two that made an impression me. Marcus Watkins (William Jackson Harper) is married when he's introduced to us. He is also married when he meets Mia Hines in the first episode. The title of each episode is a different impactful relationship that Marcus has throughout the 10 episode run. Like all humans, Marcus is not all good or all bad. He makes some very good and very bad decisions. We follow him through life as he wades through the  repercussions of his bad decisions and celebrate with him when he evolves into a better version of himself, though his progress isn't always an upward trajectory. 

The episode immediately preceding the epilogue is called "Marcus Watkins", which is when he has a breakthrough and learns some incredibly difficult and detrimental truths about the way he does life.

In case anyone was wondering precisely how much my taste in movies about love has evolved over the past 10 years - I pulled this graphic I created from my old blog circa 2013: XD

December 2, 2021

Cold Weather Hiking Essentials

Some of the best hiking memories that I have are from the adventures I've embarked on with friends and solo (but with pup included) in the dead of winter in the Adirondacks. There's nothing quite like breaking trail after a fresh snow. Taking in sweeping views of a powder dusted valley while the sun reflects (often blindingly) off the snow, creating a kaleidoscope of color. The thought that came to mind the first time I experienced a quiet, wintery summit after a fresh snow, trees bowing from the weight of the heavy drifts, was C.S Lewis' Narnia. Just pure, untouched magic - nature is miraculous. While the frigid, icy air is enough to make me want to hop back in the car first thing in the morning, knowing what awaits me is always well worth braving the cold.

During my first year of hiking, I made a lot of (what may appear to be obvious) mistakes. I am not too proud (when it comes to hiking) to admit that there were times when I wasn't sure I was going to make it out of the woods alive, or at least on my own legs. Today, I can tell you that I don't actually regret any of these mistakes because not only did they teach me pivotal lessons in resilience, positivity, perseverance, and determination, but have also brought depth to my friendships through those shared experiences.

I won't pretend that I'm an expert at winter hiking, and I will not be braving Mt. Everest anytime soon, but I'm going to share some helpful tips for winter hiking that i've learned along the way as well as some of my favorite winter (really all season) hiking gear.

First things first, the most important thing to remember is to pack and wear MANY layers. None of these layers should be cotton. It will be cold but you still need to be sure to stay hydrated. I like to start out quick and not stop until I feel dizzy but learn from my mistakes and stop moving to remove layers when you start to get warm, BEFORE you start sweating. The goal is to stay dry. If you stay dry, you will stay warm (and warm is happy, happy is warm!). 

This brings me to the point where I'd like to share some of my favorite winter hiking layers and gear. When it comes to hiking gear I may be considered a little bit of a nerd. I've learned that when you pay a little extra for gear that is made well, it will stand the test of time, hold up against the elements for years and simply just tends to be better quality. I'm that dork that sits in front of her glowing screen reading reviews on outdoorgearlab.com - comparing prices, pros & cons for hours at a time, to make the most informed decision when upgrading or replacing items. If i'm going to spend my heard earned money on gear, I want it to hold up outside and also be outrageously comfortable, haha.

Here is my wearing and packing list for winter day hikes and links to my personal gear picks:

To Wear: Avoid cotton
Some final notes - in my experience:

- Leave space in your pack because you will most assuredly be stuffing layers into it once you begin gaining elevation and your heart rate picks up. You will also be pulling them swiftly back out to pile back on once you decide to stop for a snack. I tend to stop to pee or snack and within a few minutes i'm shivering.

- So you checked the weather forecast for your hike every day for 3 days leading up to this hike? It's going to be chilly, a little windy, maybe a picturesque flurry here and there, but nothing you can't handle, right? WRONG. ALWAYS anticipate that the weather is going to misbehave or at the very least be 50% more brutal at the top of the mountain. Plan/pack/dress for the worst. I cannot stress this enough.. bring 3-4 pairs of socks. Wet feet are the very last thing you want to be stuck out in the woods with or trekking up and down a mountain on.

Cold weather hiking can be incredibly rewarding, especially when it means revisiting hikes that you've taken in during the warmer months. It truly makes for an awe inspiring mosquito-free experience! Happy cold weather hiking!

November 2, 2020

Laser Tattoo Removal - My Experience

Tattoo removal can be an anxiety inducing google search for those of us who have been left with unwanted tattoos. That first late night Google search is the beginning of admitting that we are not happy with what was meant to be a permanent piece of one-of-a-kind art in the name of self expression. This is embarrassing to admit but I had started to feel like a stranger when I would catch myself in the mirror with a full arm of brightly colored YA novel tattoos. I will ALWAYS love the subject matter, I fell in love with reading when I disappeared into the world of Harry Potter as a stubborn 3rd grader, hell bent on never enjoying a single book. I no longer want it all over the skin of my right arm.

I am that person who always worries that I'm going to be unhappy with my tattoos. Some of my tattoos I absolutely love and wouldn't dream of having them removed, to be clear, I have nothing against tattoos.

I was admiring the fruit of my removal sessions the other day and thinking about how scary it once felt to admit that I didn't like these tattoos, and even more so, the sadness and frustration that comes with not feeling at home in my own skin. I can tell you that based on my experience and research that the “You’re stuck with it” days are a thing of the past. 

I am currently 6 sessions in to a removal on my left forearm and 1 session into the almost full sleeve on my right arm. My first few sessions were completed by a nurse in a plastic surgeons office. I went maybe twice a year and the progress was mind numbingly slow.... and then I discovered Invisible Ink, which is now Removery. Removery instantly caught my eye. The office that is local to me is not in a clinical setting, they have an active social media presence and to be blunt, they just seemed really cool. They were able to easily quote me a cost for a full removal. No - they won't be able to tell you exactly how many sessions it will take, because they didn't do the original tattoo, they don't know how heavy handed the artist was, what kind of ink was used, or how deep the scarring is, but they do offer some great benefits to offset any uneasiness you may have regarding the journey you're about to embark on.

1. It's budget friendly! You can pay via a monthly (interest free!!) payment plan which makes the process very affordable long term.

2. If you end up needing more sessions than quoted to achieve your level of desired fading/removal, than you will receive a certain number of free sessions to complete the project or get you closer to your desired outcome.

3. Their website is chock full of information if you're like me and you want to know the science behind what is happening to your skin during and after your sessions.

You won't see me sugarcoating the process. In my own experience, it is about 10x more painful that getting a tattoo but takes about 50x less time. My pain tolerance is high but the surface area being covered is immense. It's worth it, but it is not by any means comfortable or fun. I have incredibly sensitive skin to begin with so the treated area always blows up like a fluid filled balloon for about 4 days at which point it begins to go down. All in all, my recovery time between sessions is about 5 days, After 5 days I can wear form fitting shirts again. I have been going back about every month. A 3 week recovery time in between is recommended for the ink to work its way through your system.

Now let's talk before/after - the real reason you're still reading, am I right?!

My first removal session on this tattoo was in 2016. I loved the dot work in the beginning but it very quickly began to fade and blend together so I decided to have this piece removed. I have had 6 sessions so far, only 4 with Removery:

All of this to say, I have dozens of photos in my phone of this particular piece over the past 4 years, the change/fade doesn't happen right away but being able to see the progress and see that there is an end in sight is half the reason I'm writing this post.

Keep an eye on my blog for more before/after goodies on my Potter arm. I'm already seeing the changes after just one session but I want to wait until it's more dramatic to share.

If you have any questions about the process in general or my experience with it please do not hesitate to reach out!