All of the things there was to love about 2013

Happy last day of 2013! I hope all of you had a fun, inspiring, and growth-inducing year.  May you celebrate tonight with champagne toasts and spiced nuts and a glittery outfit, or whatever pleases you to start your 2014 year. Mine will include a reunion with college buddies in our old stomp ground and some illegal fireworks. I have learned from my last New Year's Eve that even if the cider looks non-alcoholic, it almost definitely has some sort of proof. I learned that sometimes when you are pursuing a New Year's kiss from an attractive gentlemen, he might think you are pursuing something that you are definitely too drunk to be doing. And I learned that bagels and coconut water can fix just about anything. Knowing this, I am prepared to enter the 2014 threshold fearlessly, and several B12 vitamins. 

I liked 2013. It was very scary and never boring. I stayed up very late. I listened to stories. I let myself fall down, a lot. It felt good.  A wise woman named Rachel Gitel told me this year, "I gotta crash and burn in order to learn." 

My favorite things included: 

1. College improv troupes and weekend trips to comedy conferences. 

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I said goodbye to my own troupe after working with them for four years. I've never been surrounded by so many people I simultaneously wanted to snuggle and murder. We may have fought desperately with one another for attention and for control over the youtube channel, but then there were always the nights of Futurama, crying on kitchen floors, and falling asleep to Bob Ross.

2.  Lorde

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This woman is clearly a badass.  And anyone who hasn't had a slow-motion pillow fight to "Royals" yet is severely missing out.

3. James Madison University 

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Maybe it was because it was my last year of college, but my school spirit absolutely soared. I loved staying up late and sneaking into the tunnels. I loved eating five pieces of pizza at d-hall. I loved jumping into the Burruss Fountain  in the middle of the night and then forcing a couple to take a photograph.   I really just love JMU, and am very proud to call it my alma mater. 

4. hellogiggles.com

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This website has so many fantastic articles written for women, by women. It celebrates quirkiness, passion for life, and opinions. I spent so much time reading the articles this year, and it provided the inspiration I needed to start using the internet for creatives motives. Hellooooooo, adorable!

5. Crappy beach houses/motels

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I went to the beach twice this summer. Once at the beginning as a post graduation treat with the fellas above. Our beach house was called "the pong house" and consisted of ten bunk beds, a terrifying shower, and two beer pong tables (hence the name.)  It was relaxing, and the eleven of us attending all created "beach week" bonds that will stretch far beyond that summer.

The second time I stayed at the Safari Motel in Ocean City, MD with a large group from the PA Renn Faire. Despite the chilliness of the beach during this time of year, we drank tequila on the balcony and watched the sunrise from lifeguard chairs. You don't need to be ritzy in order to have the time of your life.

6. The Kindle Paperwhite

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A true "When Harry Met Sally" relationship. When the Kindle first came out, I despised it. I like books. I like the weightiness, the glue-y smell of the pages, and the expedition of actually going to a bookstore.  But at 23 years old, I have over six boxes stuffed with paperbacks and hardbounds alike, and it may be time to look for something that travels a little better.  I got the Kindle for Christmas just a few days ago, and I have fallen in love. We are inseparable. I love that I can  look up a word at a moments notice, I love that I can buy a book whenever I want, and I swear it even smells a little like Elmer's.  

7. Jennifer Lawrence

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I think she be may one of those things, like Will and Grace or Cinnamon Toast Crunch, that is literally impossible to hate. 

8. Same Love

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Not just the song, but the actual idea.  Five states voted for or repealed former anti-marriage laws this year. I'm aware that there is still a l-o-n-g way to go, but improvement can (and should) be celebrated. 

9. RVs and living in cars

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I spent a lot of time this year in mobile homes, specifically during my time at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire. Some of the most fascinating people I've ever met travel in these cozy little homes, bringing with them intoxicating stories and unique talents. I learned henna from a beautiful gypsy and drank Ketel One from a mason jar. I made friends with a very tall man (whether with or without his stilts) who made fluffy homemade bread. We ate in the coziest of kitchens.  I asked my parents (half-kidding) for a teardrop trailer for Christmas, and while they entertained the idea for a bit, I think they're a little wary of the intensity of my wanderlust. Despite that, RVs, I am not done with you just yet. 

10. Kate Rozycki, Hannah Storch, and Brett Nicol

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Car trips to Myrtle Beach, Baltimore, and New York City and tears and beers and cuddles. I could not have survived this fall season without these three. 

11. International travel, and thrifty finds.

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Living social, you got me a $700 trip to Portugal. Airbnb, you got me an adorable flat in Porto for only 22 euro a night. I freaking love you both. Thank you so much for allowing a poor post-grad like me to still have international experiences.

12. Women Who Run With the Wolves

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This. Book. I've purchased ten copies for friends thus far.  Kate first introduced it to me when she was reading it during our time at the Renaissance Faire. It's a lovely examination of the natural instincts and intuition of women, comparing them to qualities similarly found within the wolf species. This book will make you want to run with scarves in your fists. It's necessary for women to read, and highly suggested for any man who wants to run with women who run with the wolves.  Read and run.  

12. The Pretty Hurts Music Video

 

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Because changing the way we look at the "beautiful" stereotype is the true definition of beautiful. 

 

 

Why "Orange is the New Black" is the new amazeballs

I am very picky about the television shows I fall victim to, and I am picky about how I watch them.  Recent obsessions include Girls, Arrested Development, and Parks and Recreation. I enjoy these programs like any good child of the 21st century, on my laptop and while multi-tasking.  Sometimes I like to pair a good episode with a cup of Yumi Green Tea and watch while I straighten my hair. These are nice times. My current and MOST recent addiction is Jenji Kohan's Orange is the New BlackI watched an episode before I wrote this blog post and I will watch another once I finish.  It's a new Netflix original series, born just six months ago in July. Several friends recommended it to me, and I can see why they love it so. I do too! It's witty, quirky, original, honest, gritty, disgusting, humorous, erotic, and real.

If you haven't see it, the story is based on the memoir of Piper Kerman (who, through Wikipedia, I just learned shares a birthday with me!) regarding her experiences in prison. For the reasons below, I think it's one of the best new shows on TV. Or, rather, the internet.

1. Strong female cast that kicks ass

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TAYLOR SCHILLING. LAURA PREPON. MICHELLE HURST. It's not a mystery or myth: women are not consistently portrayed well in the media.  I know there are exceptions, but there are not enough exceptions for us not to celebrate when a show like "Orange" comes around.  The cast consists of women who are all different shapes, faces, colors, and sizes.  It's important that audiences, male and female, receive exposure to this type of media. The women are imperfect because we are NOT perfect, and that's what makes us beautiful.   More importantly, all of these women are phenomenal actors playing expertly drawn characters. These girls of Litchfield, while physically locked up, are running free. It's exciting.  It's necessary. It makes me want to not shave my legs for a month and talk back to a security guard.

2. Friendship! Romance! Pain!!!!!!

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I believe that the first mission of a solid television program is to make you care about the characters. (This is why 'Friends' turned into the cocaine of sitcoms. I cared about Ross and Rachel more than I did my own relationships.) Once that happens, we're hooked. We get invested in the various trials and triumphs.  In "Orange," not only are the characters neatly sketched, but the plot weaves out story lines that have you pressing the "next episode" button over and over.  Romance between an inmate and prison guard, tension between Piper and her ex-girlfriend/fellow convict, and maternal friendships have all kept me a dedicated/borderline addicted audience member.

3. Social issues are real and let's acknowledge them!

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There's a lot going on in this prison. Racism and sexism up the wazoo.  Litchfield is self-segregated into "tribes," a term that was used in Piper's real-life prison experience, that consist of Latinas, blacks, whites and "other."  Male guards sexually harass the women without any consequence and the prisoners are often treated like animals. While it can be unsettling to watch, it's important to recognize. I like a show that sparks necessary questions. "Orange"does so in a simple, right way.

4. Unique and beautiful storytelling style 

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While the show is a linear narrative, the audience is occasionally taken out of Litchfield and back into the women's pre-prison lives.  These flashbacks contrast the present action nicely, and allow us to see the women in all different sorts of light. We also get little tidbits of Piper's past, specifically in regards to her relationship with her fiancé (played by pie-lover, Jason Biggs), and ex-girlfriend ('That 70s Show' Laura Prepon). The storytelling is divine. I feel like I'm four again, drinking cocoa while my mother reads "Pat the Bunny." Of course, instead of cocoa it's red wine, and instead of "Pat the Bunny" it's "Engage in Prison Sex."

5. Everyones got history 

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We, as human beings, are quick to judge. I know I am, and I'm working on it(!!!). Everyone's a victim of this universal judgement, which sucks, because we're all messed up in our own pretty ways. Everyone has a story and a history that dwells behind what's surface. "Orange" is a great example of this, painting a disturbingly beautiful landscape of each character's past. We've got an open-minded, activist nun, a transexual fireman guilty of fraud, and a Russian mob-wife who's just trying to make some Chicken Kiev.  The show looks at the female inmates under a magnifying glass; they're not criminals, they're people. And come on, who HASN'T woken up with BBQ on their boobies?  Sometimes you fall asleep eating pulled pork. It happens.

My advice? Watch Orange is the New Black. If you don't have Netflix, get it. And while you wait for season 2, go watch Arrested Development.  And then call me when you're done so we can put on our onesies, open a bottle of Red Truck, and talk about all of this.