What I’m Watching: December 2020

I’ve been Home Alone with George and Kramer™ (which is also the name of my upcoming memoir. Lol, only joking) for a solid 9 months now. During that time I have watched a TON of tv shows and movies. However, if you know me, you’ll know that I’m not the best about actually WATCHING whatever I’m “watching.” This used to drive my ex-boyfriend insane, and probably, rightfully so. In the last month or so, I have made a concerted effort to pay attention and I have to say, I’m really enjoying it.

Here’s what I’ve watched, in no particular order:

The Undoing

Synopsis: A psychologist’s world falls apart when her husband is accused of murder.

I wouldn’t have previously considered myself someone who likes thrillers or dramas (I’m all about a good sitcom), but this show may have been a turning point for me. It was so good. I felt like I knew who it was all along, but also wasn’t willing to see what was right in front of my face. The English nerd in me thinks that this was an allegory, but maybe I’m just reading too much into things (both are very on-brand for me). Nicole Kidman’s coats are amazing (her Botox is not). It also reminded me how much I loathe Hugh Grant (but can’t put my finger on the reason why?).

The Flight Attendant

Synopsis: A flight attendant’s life gets turned upside down after she wakes up in a hotel room with a dead man but with no memory of what happened.

HBO Max did a hell of a job promoting this show. I only ended up watching it because it was being advertised everywhere I looked. I didn’t really think I would like it. For some reason, I thought it was going to be a little cheesy but it actually ended up being extremely good. It’s very suspenseful—lots and lots of twists and turns (most that I didn’t see coming, honestly). Cassie Bowden (Kaley Cuoco) is so self-sabotaging that I had a hard time not hating her until I understood why. Now I need to read the eponymous book by Chris Bohjalian and see which one is better.

Your Honor

Synopsis: A respected judge’s son is involved in a hit-and-run that leads to a high-stakes game of lies, deceit and impossible choices.

First things first: My God, Bryan Cranston is an amazing actor. His work in Your Honor is, of course, no different. There are only three episodes out so far, but every single one elevates my blood pressure to a level that is probably not even healthy. There are so many bombs that happen, so many lies to keep track of, the whole show reduces me to a ball of anxiety but I love it so much and need to know what happens. Also, I cannot stand the son in this show? He reminds me of Jesse Eisenberg and he pisses me off. Anyone else?

Euphoria

Synopsis: An American adaptation of the Israeli show of the same name, “Euphoria” follows the troubled life of 17-year-old Rue, a drug addict fresh from rehab with no plans to stay clean. Circling in Rue’s orbit are Jules, a transgender girl searching for where she belongs; Nate, a jock whose anger issues mask sexual insecurities; Chris, a football star who finds the adjustment from high school to college harder than expected; Cassie, whose sexual history continues to dog her; and Kat, a body-conscious teen exploring her sexuality. As the classmates struggle to make sense of their futures, the series tackles the teenage landscape of substance-enhanced parties and anxiety-ridden day-to-day life with empathy and candor.

I watched the entire season in one day because this show is so good. It made me a little uncomfortable because there’s lots of nudity, sex and substance use/abuse and the show is about teenagers, but it’s an excellent show nonetheless. If you struggle with substance abuse, I would suggest sitting this one out probably as it is likely triggering.

Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown

Synopsis: Anthony Bourdain had no reservations about a move to CNN. Shortly after concluding an eight-season stint at the helm of his popular Travel Channel series, the equally popular Emmy-winning host came to the news network searching for “Parts Unknown.” In the hourlong weekend series — similar in premise to Travel’s “No Reservations” — Bourdain explores the world to, he says, “eat and drink with people without fear and prejudice … they open up to you in ways that somebody visiting who is driven by a story may not get.” Enticed by the opportunity to experience cultures rarely visited by American TV, such as in the Congo, Libya and Myanmar, the chef and best-selling author also takes viewers to Colombia, Peru, Morocco and, closer to home, Koreatown in Los Angeles.

I love Anthony Bourdain and I’m very sad about his untimely passing. He was a phenomenal storyteller and I love his dry, often very dark, sense of humor. Watching this actually inspired me to buy his first book, Kitchen Confidential. I fell asleep watching this the other night and I woke up around 4 a.m. to hear Mr. Bourdain and someone else having a spirited conversation about tentacle porn. I couldn’t tell if I was awake or having some sort of fever dream. (Actually, it reminded me of Friends when Monica think Chandler likes shark porn.) I have yet to rewatch that episode during waking hours.

Crazy, Stupid Love

Synopsis: Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) is living the American dream. He has a good job, a beautiful house, great children and a beautiful wife, named Emily (Julianne Moore). Cal’s seemingly perfect life unravels, however, when he learns that Emily has been unfaithful and wants a divorce. Over 40 and suddenly single, Cal is adrift in the fickle world of dating. Enter, Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling), a self-styled player who takes Cal under his wing and teaches him how to be a hit with the ladies.

My friend Thomas recommended this movie to me and so I rented it on Amazon Prime one night when I had nothing better to do. I don’t normally like romantic movies and had been avoiding them like the plague for the last year and a half, but I found this one really endearing. I’m not someone who loses their mind over Ryan Gosling, but he was kind of an arrogant dick in this movie which made me like him more? Mhm, yes, I’ll jot that down for a future therapy session.

Goodwill Hunting

Synopsis: Will Hunting (Matt Damon) has a genius-level IQ but chooses to work as a janitor at MIT. When he solves a difficult graduate-level math problem, his talents are discovered by Professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgard), who decides to help the misguided youth reach his potential. When Will is arrested for attacking a police officer, Professor Lambeau makes a deal to get leniency for him if he will get treatment from therapist Sean Maguire (Robin Williams).

I started watching this once with someone and ended up falling asleep. I was awake for the scene where Robin Williams and Matt Damon are sitting near the water and I never forgot it. It’s one of the most poignant scenes I’ve ever seen and makes me cry, without fail, every single time. “You don’t know anything about loss because that only occurs when you love something more than you love yourself. I doubt you’ve ever dared to love anybody that much.” Oof. I watched this movie, without being on my phone, doing anything else or being distracted in any way, and loved it. One of my favorites, for sure.

The Titanic

Synopsis: James Cameron’s “Titanic” is an epic, action-packed romance set against the ill-fated maiden voyage of the R.M.S. Titanic; the pride and joy of the White Star Line and, at the time, the largest moving object ever built. She was the most luxurious liner of her era — the “ship of dreams” — which ultimately carried over 1,500 people to their death in the ice cold waters of the North Atlantic in the early hours of April 15, 1912.

I first saw the Titanic at a sleepover in 2002 when I was in third grade. I remember it very vividly for a few reasons: 1) the movie was so long it came on two separate VHS tapes and 2) there were boobies and I think that was the first time I saw nudity on screen. (I told my therapist I saw this when I was 9 and she responded, “you watched the Titanic when you were 9? So you were always going to end up in therapy, huh?”).

Despite the fact that I wish that I wasn’t, I am a hopeless romantic. I was rooting for Rose and Jack the entire time. Cal had money and could elevate Rose (and her mother’s) social status, but Rose and Jack really loved each other. I sobbed when Rose got off the lifeboat and ran to Jack and he said “you’re so stupid!” Also, despite what everyone on the internet thinks, there was NOT enough room on the door for both of them. It wasn’t an issue of room, it was an issue of weight. Not feasible. Case closed.

Forrest Gump

Synopsis: Slow-witted Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) has never thought of himself as disadvantaged, and thanks to his supportive mother (Sally Field), he leads anything but a restricted life. Whether dominating on the gridiron as a college football star, fighting in Vietnam or captaining a shrimp boat, Forrest inspires people with his childlike optimism. But one person Forrest cares about most may be the most difficult to save — his childhood love, the sweet but troubled Jenny (Robin Wright).

I’ve seen this movie many times but for some reason it affected me differently when I re-watched it this time? It made me so, so sad. Forrest loved Jenny so much and she just shits on him all the time. Everyone he loves leaves him. I was wrecked after watching it. Despite the fact that this movie heightened my clinical depression, it is a classic and was beautifully made. The single feather in the beginning and then the birds chirping at Jenny’s grave? Again. Wrecked. I did leave me with a question that I have been fixating on: Is Jenny a bad person? I can argue both for and against that case.

21 Jump Street

Synopsis: When cops Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) join the secret Jump Street unit, they use their youthful appearances to go under cover as high-school students. They trade in their guns and badges for backpacks, and set out to shut down a dangerous drug ring. But, as time goes on, Schmidt and Jenko discover that high school is nothing like it was just a few years earlier — and, what’s more, they must again confront the teenage terror and anxiety they thought they had left behind.

I saw this movie when it came out in 2012. It’s nothing life changing but it’s funny and silly and a good way to escape reality for an hour and half. I needed a break from heavy and serious movies and this did the trick. I did leave this movie still not quite understanding why women lose their minds over Channing Tatum? He does nothing for me, although I do enjoy his acting.

Crazy, Rich Asians

Synopsis: Rachel Chu is happy to accompany her longtime boyfriend, Nick, to his best friend’s wedding in Singapore. She’s also surprised to learn that Nick’s family is extremely wealthy and he’s considered one of the country’s most eligible bachelors. Thrust into the spotlight, Rachel must now contend with jealous socialites, quirky relatives and something far, far worse — Nick’s disapproving mother.

I absolutely loved this movie. Give me more movies where white people are not the protagonists, please. This movie made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me angry (for Rachel). I will definitely be re-watching this at some point in the future.

Heavens Gate: The Cult of Cults

Synopsis: An examination of the UFO cult through the eyes of its former members and their loved ones; what starts with the disappearance of 20 people from an Oregon town, ends with the largest suicide on U.S. soil.

I am fascinated by cults. Actually, when I watched The Vow (another HBO cult doc), I realized that I am likely one very good marketing pitch away from being suckered into joining one. Heaven’s Gate blows my mind because unlike other cults like NXIVM which recruit members based on the ploy of personal and professional development this one recruits people who want to leave earth to be with other aliens? And the way to do that is to commit mass suicide. No, thanks. The movie itself was incredibly interesting, however.

TL;DR

I have watched a shameful amount of TV recently. If there is something I should watch that isn’t on here, please let me know!

Suffering from Maskne? Here’s How to Avoid & Treat It

Whether we like it or not, masks are here to stay (at least for the foreseeable future). If you, like me, are experiencing facial irritation or acne from wearing a mask, I worked with my esthetician on a list of products and tips you can use to stay safe.

WHAT IS IT?

Acne mechanica, the technical term for what is now appropriately (if not slightly cringe-inducingly) being referred to as “maskne,” is a type of acne that occurs after repetitive physical trauma to the skin. It’s the same kind of acne that athletes get from say, wearing a helmet or a tight fitting jersey. It’s pretty simple: masks trap dirt, bacteria, sweat, moisture and oil (yum!) close to our skin, which in turn results in pimples, irritation, sores, and more. 

Keep reading for tips on avoiding or getting rid of maskne. 

HOW DO I AVOID IT?

  • Consider the type of mask that you’re wearing. Jennifer recommends cotton masks because they are softer and allow your skin to breathe more. It’s important to note that they will need to be washed* often and, of course, depending on your risk and how much protection you need, you may want to opt for something different.
  • Avoid wearing makeup under your mask. Yeah, it’s true. You may have to break up with make up for a little while in order to save your skin. Or, if you really don’t want to say goodbye, consider wearing it only in places that aren’t rubbed by a mask (i.e., mascara, eyeliner, eyeshadow, etc.)
  • Wash your face. Before applying your mask, wash your face with a gentle cleanser (we’re talking real simple, Cerave, Cetaphil, etc.). 

HOW DO I TREAT IT?

  • Professional services. I’ve been getting chemical peels about once every two weeks to combat acne. After suffering from horribly painful cystic acne for years (and then investing lots of money into getting rid of the evidence) I’m not messing around when it comes to combating the dreaded “maskne.” Jennifer can create a regimen that works for you and your budget.
  • Benzoyl peroxide. If you’re not able to spend the money on professional treatments, there are plenty of OTC treatments available at your local pharmacy or drugstore to help you say goodbye to those dreaded spots. Benzoyl peroxide is a common acne treatment and is a good option. I like this option from Target or this (more expensive) option from Sephora. 
  • Face masks. I have used this Peter Thomas Roth mask for years. It’s made of sulfur (another common acne fighting ingredient) and smells like farts (a huge selling point, right?). Another good choice is the Skinbetter Science Detoxifying Scrub that doubles as a mask. Can’t go wrong with a two for one!
  • Serums. I recently added two new products into my skin care routine because I’m hell bent on getting my skin cleared up and back to the glowy, wonderful condition that it was previously. I picked up the IS Clinical Active Serum which is supposed to help with acne (and fine lines and wrinkles) and the Biologique Recharche Lotion P50 which has a cult following. It’s smelly, but it’s touted as a magic potion so it’s worth suffering through.
  • Bonus. I’ve been using a Foreo Luna 2 to wash my face for almost a month now. It’s supposed to be more hygenic than a Clarisonic and I like that the back side is intended to use to push your products deeper into your skin, making them more effective. I might be drinking the Koolaid, but I think it helps!

All in all, I don’t mind wearing a mask. Acne is annoying but it’s preferable to getting COVID-19 (and potentially passing it on to someone who would fare worse than I would.) Are you suffering from maskne or irritation? Let me know how you’re doing!

*If you’re washing your mask by hand, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using 5 tablespoons of bleach per gallon of room-temperature water. Soak the mask in the solution for five minutes before rinsing with cool or room-temperature water and drying, in direct sunlight, if possible.

Quarantine Diaries: Chapter Three

APRIL 2-APRIL 19

I’m back for my third installment of Quarantine Diaries. I am apparently very bad at updating this in any sort of timely fashion, which is weird because I have all the time in the world to do it.

The latest leg of quarantine has reminded me very much of the episode of Friends where Monica is getting married but Chandler is missing, so Rachel is trying to stall her.

 

Same, Rachel Green. Same. Here are the things I’ve been doing to occupy my time.

WATCHING

I feel like I’ve made a concerted effort to watch less TV lately? But even “less” is still a ton of TV, so take that with a grain of salt. I watched Little Fires Everywhere on Hulu, which is so good. The finale is this Wednesday, and I’m super excited to watch it. I truly have no idea how it will end. In my last blog post, I mentioned that I had binged all of Big Little Lies and, I have to say, Reese Witherspoon is a little too good at playing an entitled, problematic white woman.

I’ve been watching a ton of stand up comedy because it makes me happy. I found out that Dane Cook’s Vicious Circle is on HBO and naturally I had to watch that. If you knew me at any point circa 2006-2010(ish?) you’ll know that my friend Mariah and I were obsessed with Dane Cook. It’s been a decade since I’ve seen it and I still knew every line by heart. I rewatched Dave Chappelle’s Netflix specials (yes, all of them), as well as his Mark Twain award. I watched Chris D’elia‘s new standup, No Pain, which was very funny.  And, of course, I watched Patton Oswalt’s Annihilation standup because it is one of my favorites of all time. It’s his first stand up special after losing his wife and it is such a beautiful marriage of hilarity and vulnerability. It makes me both laugh and cry every time I watch it. If you haven’t seen it, I definitely recommend watching it.

READING

I’ve been reading a lot lately, which I think is probably better for my mood and my brain than just mindlessly scrolling through Instagram while I have a show on for background noise.

I read Educated by Tara Westover and it was amazing. I read it in a little less than 24 hours because I was so enthralled by her story. If you haven’t read it or heard of it, it’s about a girl who is raised in Idaho by a survivalist, incredibly abusive Mormon family. She is “homeschooled” but her education basically amounts to helping her dad with his scrap business and her mom make tinctures. The amount that she overcomes is so inspiring. If you haven’t read it, you should.

I also started reading Plan B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. I got this book over a year ago when I was going through some ~things~ but never actually read it. I was a little skeptical about it because, you know, it’s Sheryl Sandberg. Yes, we all go through things but I think if you’re a billionaire the resources you have available to you make going through difficult times less difficult than, let’s say, someone who is grieving and also has the emotional expenditure of worrying how they’re going to pay their bills. She actually addresses that head-on in her book, which I found very refreshing. Despite my cynicism, I guess that grief and heartbreak are probably the great equalizers for all of us. And the book is surprisingly very honest and full of really wonderful advice. If you’re grieving the loss of something or someone, I think this would make you feel at least marginally better.

I finally finished reading The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. I don’t think it’s anything incredibly profound. In fact, I have independently come to all of these realizations at some point or another, but I think it was a good reminder. I’m thinking about doing a book review on it, because I feel like as we all collectively have our lives on pause right now, these could be good lessons to take with us when we enter into our “new normal.” Thoughts?

MAKING

I haven’t really been making much of anything. I’m still doing work for some freelance clients and that has been a welcome reprieve and a creative outlet.

I did attempt to make cookies the other day but I burnt the shit out of them and they were inedible. Basically, I was sad. I decided that making cookies would improve my mood. I burnt the cookies and was left cookie-less and had to ruminate on my failure in a hazy, smoke-filled apartment. I tried again the next day with much better results, thankfully.

DOING

I’ve been doing a lot of writing. In the last week alone I’ve written around 20,000 words, but it’s all personal writing that I won’t be sharing with anyone. Writing helps me feel better. I have started and stopped journaling many, many times in my life. It’s a hard style of writing for me to get into because it’s not polished, it’s not pretty or flowery. So I find myself wanting to go back and fix spelling or grammar or the syntax of a sentence, or sometimes even edit something for AP style, but I remind myself that this is only for me. And even though it’s ugly and messy and there I jump fluidly from one thought or feeling to the next, it helps me feel better.

I also have been trying to do a cross-stitch project that I bought at least six months ago but I cannot figure out how to do it and it get so frustrated and annoyed that I have to stop. It doesn’t help that Kramer bats at the strings. That’s not what I’m bad at it, but that’s what I tell myself.

I’ve also been doing a lot of online shopping. Because the shipping times are so delayed, I forget that I’ve bought things and I’m missing out on the instant gratification that normally accompanies a purchase. I bought some AirPods this week and I am really excited to get those. I have that that delivery date marked in my calendar, actually.

I am still avoiding the news, and sometimes Twitter, depending on the day. The day of the Trump rally protest in Lansing, I had to just put my phone down entirely. I cannot believe the total lack of empathy that some people have. We are all suffering in one way or another.

CONNECTING

I have still been in touch with my friends and family a lot, actually, I would say even more so recently. I have always called my mom at least once a day, even pre-quarantine, but I’m bothering her almost hourly at this point. We FaceTime regularly and I’m able to see Max and my dad and brother, too.

I dropped off Max’s Easter gifts to my family last weekend and being able to see my family but not go near them or go into the house I grew up in was a new kind of sadness for me. I also dropped off some supplies for my grandparents and then I cried all the way back to Lansing. I know that this is for the best, but it’s really hard.

I still talk to my friends Andrea, Jess and Jennifer almost every single day. I was also able to reconnect with an old friend last week, too—which was not something I ever saw happening, to be honest, but made me really happy.

TL;DR

Being quarantined by myself has not been easy. I’ve lived alone for seven years but this is one of the first times I have ever felt lonely. I’m taking it day by day, hour by hour sometimes, and doing my best—and I know everyone else is doing the same. How are hanging in there? Let me know!

Quarantine Diaries: Chapter Two

March 21-April 2

I’ve always considered myself a homebody but, if I’m being honest, I miss going outside. I miss my family; I miss strolling through the aisles at Sephora and Ulta, swatching makeup at my own leisure; I miss going to the grocery store and being blissfully unaware of the fact that everything I touch is apparently crawling with bacteria, germs and God knows what else.

There are good days and bad days, but the past week has felt like much more of a struggle for me.  I live alone (well, just me and Kramer) and I am bored and lonely and going slightly stir crazy. My sleep schedule is incredibly messed up and, despite the fact that my therapist told me to maintain a schedule for the sake of my mental health, I never fall asleep before 4 a.m. I haven’t felt very creative or productive, no matter how hard I try. It hasn’t been all bad, though.

Here’s how I’ve been coping:

WATCHING

I have been watching an ungodly amount of TV. Because I’m feeling so emotionally volatile, rewatching some episodes of Friends was making me incredibly sad, so I decided to start something else. I watched Tiger King. To be entirely honest, I was so hauntingly intrigued by it that I watched it in one sitting. It’s like a car accident—you just can’t look away.

I also watched season one and two of Big Little Lies which was amazing. I highly recommend if you like suspenseful shows—but you should be forewarned that there are some very graphic depictions of domestic abuse so if that is upsetting or triggering to you, maybe this isn’t a show for you.

I also watched all five seasons of Schitt’s Creek on Netflix and later realized that there is another season that’s airing right now. It took me a while to get into it, but after a few episodes, I started falling in love with the show, especially David Rose. He’s my favorite.

I’ve obviously continued to watch random episodes of Friends and The Office, primarily when I’m lying in bed and can’t fall asleep (which is every night, let’s be real).

READING

I started to re-read Matt Bellasi’s book “Everything is Awful” because it felt very apropos. I love Matt’s voice and it genuinely makes me laugh out loud when I read it. Laughing at his failures and humiliating moments make mine seem less salient, LOL.

I had been reading the book “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying” by Bronnie Ware, but I had to stop because it’s a little too heavy for the current moment.

I’ve made a very concerted effort to limit the amount of news that I consume. I’m trying to stay informed as best I can, without going overboard and freaking myself out. I’m staying home and doing my part to flatten the curve, everything else is out of my control.

MAKING

I’ve been trying to channel my energy into creative pursuits by doing work for my freelance clients, brainstorming blog post ideas and practicing illustrations on my iPad. Some days I’ll have a random burst of energy and other days, I end up just staring at my computer. It is what it is!

DOING

The only good thing to come from this quarantine is the fact that I’ve been doing a lot of cleaning. On Sunday I deep cleaned my kitchen, leaving it cleaner than it has ever been before. I swept and scrubbed the floors, the baseboards, and the appliances. I also took everything out of my fridge and scrubbed all the shelves and drawers, threw out food that was expired or bad and then re-organized everything. Not only did it take up a solid portion of my day, but I felt a lot better when I was done.

Despite the fact that I haven’t left my house in weeks, my hamper is still full of dirty clothes & towels, which shows me that my failure to keep up with my laundry is less about me being busy and more just a character trait. I’m learning so much about myself!

I’ve also been journaling because that helps me process things and putting pen to paper always makes me feel better. It will also be interesting to go back and re-read some of these journal entries when this is all over. In addition to journaling, I’m doing a 10-day writing prompt, that I’ve trying to decide whether or not I want to share as a blog series.

One of my favorite things I’ve been doing this quarantine is playing Tetris, which is nerdy but I don’t care. If everyone else can play Animal Crossing, I can play Tetris. I used to play Tetris online all the time when I was in high school. My late friend Pat Spitler and I would play it during our journalism class and we would talk so much shit to each other. I would like to record to show that I always won.

CONNECTING

I try to stay in touch with my friends and family as much as possible. I talk to my mom and Max every day, either talking on the phone or Facetime. Max also sends me the most ridiculous Snapchats, which typically are the highlight of my day.

My friends Andrea and Jennifer check in on me almost every day, which is the sweetest thing ever and melts my heart. I call my grandma at least once a week to make sure that she and my grandpa are doing okay and have everything they need.

One of my favorite things is getting random memes throughout the day from my friends, which lately have either been about Tiger King or Corona, but either way, they make me laugh which also boosts my mood.

TL;DR

I’m hanging in there. The interesting part of this to me is that we’re all collectively experiencing the same thing. We’re all scared, lonely and grieving the lives we used to have. It will get better. It will take some time, but it will. How are you passing the time?