Book Thoughts: End of 2019 Celebri-Reads

My Celebri-Reads Book Club has a LOT of exciting new books ahead of us now that 2020 has finally arrived. Here’s our list for the year:

If those covers are a bit hard to read, here’s the list:

  • Audition: A Memoir by Barbara Walters
  • Karamo by Karamo Brown
  • The Actor’s Life: A Survival Guide by Jenna Fischer
  • American Like Me by America Ferrera (and others)
  • From Scratch by Tembi Locke
  • Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick
  • As You Wish by Cary Elwes
  • Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl
  • Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen by Jose Antonio Vargas
  • Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelson
  • Yes Please by Amy Poehler
  • I Don’t Know What You Know Me From by Judy Greer

But before we can dive into those, here are my thoughts on the books we ended 2019 with! (If you want to read my thoughts on our July, August, and September books, click here.)

October 2019: Wildflower by Drew Barrymore

I have mixed feelings about this book. Some of the chapters I really loved. Some were very scattered and hard to follow. At times I felt like she came off as a bit defensive (as I said in our book club meeting, it felt like she was writing things she should’ve been working through with a therapist, and I was not equipped to deal with it on her behalf).

One thing this book brought up for me – and it comes up a lot when reading celebrity memoirs – is how books are often, to borrow from Jimmy Buffett, a “permanent reminder of a temporary feeling.” Much of this book is a love letter to her then-husband and his family. They divorced after it was published. I often wonder how writers of memoirs feel when that happens – when they present a slice of their life as it is in the present as they’re writing, when it ends up being drastically different years later. Do they write a “do-over”? A sequel? A clarification? Or just say to themselves (and any readers who may ask), “Hey. That’s how it was then.”

November 2019: Whiskey in a Teacup by Reese Witherspoon

This is a cookbook and decorating guide, not a memoir. I wasn’t aware of that when it ended up on our list for the book club, but there were some stories sprinkled throughout, though they lacked the depth and details a regular memoir usually provides. Some of the recipes seemed like they might be okay to try. A handful of the entertaining tips came off as reasonable or worth trying. Most of the decorating/”life” advice was presented in a way that I found incredibly off-putting, mostly because it assumed a level of wealth/privilege that – to me – made it feel unattainable and out-of-touch.

December 2019 – Bossypants by Tina Fey

I’d read this one before, but I reread it for Book Club. I absolutely loved it, but I’m a terrible judge because I love Tina Fey. When I first saw her on Weekend Update, I said “I want to be her when I grow up” and that hasn’t really changed. So, my thoughts on this book are that it’s amazing and awesome and hilarious and brilliant and everyone should read it and also don’t trust my opinion at all because I’m way too biased to give you a real review.

Now I’ve got to request Audition from the library so I can get that one read by the end of the month! I’m also reading my first book from my Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge (The Red Tent by Anita Diamant), as well as another “celebrity book,” though NOT a memoir (One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by BJ Novak).

What are you reading this month? Have you read any of these celebri-reads? What’d you think? Share your thoughts in the comments or tweet me @ThatColette.

2020 Pop Culture Challenge: MY Rory Reading List

Okay, I’ve given my challenge lists some more thought, and I’ve decided to pare down the Rory Gilmore Reading List for my personal decade (or shorter) challenge.

Here’s what I’ve pulled from the list:

  • Anything I’ve read before. Yes, in my initial blog, I said I would re-read them in the spirit of the challenge, but, like, you guys, I just can’t handle The Grapes of Wrath or Crime and Punishment again. If you love those books, congrats to you and I’m sorry, but we are different, and I can’t and won’t subject myself to it. I’m not being graded on this challenge, and a grade was the only reason I forced myself to read those before.
  • Anything that’s clearly a movie/something else reference, NOT the book reference. Neither Lorelai nor Rory read The Godfather. Every time they mention The Godfather, they’re talking about the MOVIE, not the novel. The same is true for things like Cujo or The Shining (though I’ve already read The Shining, so that was taken care of in my first bullet point). Also, they mention Wicked in a whole thing about NYC, which is a Broadway reference, not a book reference (though I might still try to read that one).
  • Anything that’s a textbook, guidebook, or clearly associated with a character who is not Rory Gilmore. Emily and Richard’s travel guides to Europe and Lane’s discographies definitely fall into this category. I might read the Milton Friedman book, though. That is a textbook (when Rory takes Richard’s Economics class), but it sounds kind of interesting. I also left Sookie’s Sue Grafton novels in there that she takes skiing with her, but I reserve the right to yank those from the list later if, as she says in the episode, S is for Silence sucks.
  • Anything I know I’m just absolutely not going to read. Look, I get that this is a challenge and there are definitely some challenging things I’ve left on the list (I see you, Anna Karenina and Beowulf and anything by James Joyce), but I’m not going to set myself up for failure by pretending I’m going to read Swan’s Way or Dead Souls or Mencken’s Chrestomathy. It’s just not happening.
  • Anything I can’t find. Now, this one I won’t really know until I try, but there are some things on here that I question whether or not they’re still in print and/or readily available. I’ll cross those bridges as I come to them.

So, applying my own personal rules to this challenge, I got the list down from 339 to 200.

200 is still a lot of damn books, y’all. Especially since I left War and Peace on there. I decided I want to be one of those people who can actually say they’ve read War and Peace and mean it. It’s a weird flex, but I’m okay with it.

I know, Lore. I know. 😉

That means if I split the list up across the decade (2020-2029), I need to read 20 books from the list each year. This year, according to my GoodReads challenge, I’ve read 43 books and I have three more I’m trying to eek out by December 31. My goal for next year (and every year from now on) is 52 books – one book per week. If I go over, great, but I don’t want to fall under that.

Now, I’m also in a book club, and we read one book per month, and sadly nothing in our 2020 schedule is on Rory’s list. So, that’s another 12.

So between book club + the Rory challenge, that’s 32 books already decided for me. But if my goal is 52 books (or more) per year, that means I still have 20 books of my own to choose. Which feels totally reasonable and leaves me a good amount of space for fun/interesting/exciting books that I really want to read. (Sorry not sorry, anything by Dostoevsky. You’re only here because Rory has a weird Russian lit fetish.).

My plan right now is to just let a random number generator pick the book order for me. Spin the wheel, get the book, read it, spin the wheel again. That seems like a good way to ensure I don’t just cherry pick all the books I want to read (or the easy books) up front and save all the hard work for 9 years from now.

And the first book picked for me using this method is…

153. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant.

So there we have it. I guess I’ll be starting that book in January 2020 (assuming I can find a copy…it looks like I need to do an inter-library loan to get it…).

Okay, so, now, here is MY 200 Book Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge List:

  1. 1984 by George Orwell
  2. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
  3. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
  4. Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
  5. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  6. The Archidamian War by Donald Kagan
  7. The Art of Fiction by Henry James
  8. The Art of War by Sun Tzu
  9. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
  10. Atonement by Ian McEwan
  11. Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy
  12. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
  13. Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women by Susan Faludi
  14. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
  15. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
  16. Beowulf: A New Verse Translation by Seamus Heaney
  17. The Bielski Brothers: The True Story of Three Men Who Defied the Nazis, Built a Village in the Forest, and Saved 1,200 Jews by Peter Duffy
  18. Bitch in Praise of Difficult Women by Elizabeth Wurtzel
  19. A Bolt from the Blue and Other Essays by Mary McCarthy
  20. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  21. Brick Lane by Monica Ali
  22. Candide by Voltaire
  23. The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
  24. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  25. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  26. The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse
  27. The Collected Stories by Eudora Welty
  28. A Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
  29. Complete Novels by Dawn Powell
  30. The Complete Poems by Anne Sexton
  31. Complete Stories by Dorothy Parker
  32. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
  33. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  34. Cousin Bette by Honore de Balzac
  35. The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber
  36. Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende
  37. David and Lisa by Dr Theodore Issac Rubin M.D
  38. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  39. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
  40. Demons by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  41. Deenie by Judy Blume
  42. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson
  43. The Divine Comedy by Dante
  44. Don Quixote by Cervantes
  45. Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  46. Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales & Poems by Edgar Allan Poe
  47. Eleanor Roosevelt by Blanche Wiesen Cook
  48. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe
  49. Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters by Mark Dunn
  50. Eloise by Kay Thompson
  51. Emily the Strange by Roger Reger
  52. Emma by Jane Austen
  53. Eva Luna by Isabel Allende
  54. Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
  55. Extravagance by Gary Krist
  56. Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World by Greg Critser
  57. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
  58. The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
  59. Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce
  60. Fletch by Gregory McDonald
  61. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  62. The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
  63. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
  64. Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut
  65. Gender Trouble by Judith Butler
  66. The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels
  67. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
  68. The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford
  69. The Group by Mary McCarthy
  70. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
  71. Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry
  72. Henry IV, part I by William Shakespeare
  73. Henry IV, part II by William Shakespeare
  74. Henry V by William Shakespeare
  75. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
  76. Holidays on Ice: Stories by David Sedaris
  77. The Holy Barbarians by Lawrence Lipton
  78. House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III
  79. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
  80. How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer
  81. How the Light Gets In by M. J. Hyland
  82. I’m With the Band by Pamela des Barres
  83. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  84. Inferno by Dante
  85. Iron Weed by William J. Kennedy
  86. It Takes a Village by Hillary Rodham Clinton
  87. Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
  88. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
  89. Just a Couple of Days by Tony Vigorito
  90. The Kitchen Boy: A Novel of the Last Tsar by Robert Alexander
  91. Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain
  92. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  93. Lady Chatterleys’ Lover by D. H. Lawrence
  94. The Last Empire: Essays 1992-2000 by Gore Vidal
  95. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
  96. Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis
  97. Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
  98. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  99. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
  100. The Little Locksmith by Katharine Butler Hathaway
  101. Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton
  102. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  103. The Lottery: And Other Stories by Shirley Jackson
  104. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
  105. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  106. The Manticore by Robertson Davies
  107. Marathon Man by William Goldman
  108. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
  109. Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter by Simone de Beauvoir
  110. Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman by William Tecumseh Sherman
  111. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
  112. The Meaning of Consuelo by Judith Ortiz Cofer
  113. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  114. Moliere: A Biography by Hobart Chatfield Taylor
  115. A Monetary History of the United States by Milton Friedman
  116. A Month Of Sundays: Searching For The Spirit And My Sister by Julie Mars
  117. Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall
  118. My Lai 4: A Report on the Massacre and It’s Aftermath by Seymour M. Hersh
  119. My Life in Orange: Growing Up with the Guru by Tim Guest
  120. The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer
  121. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
  122. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
  123. Nervous System: Or, Losing My Mind in Literature by Jan Lars Jensen
  124. New Poems of Emily Dickinson by Emily Dickinson
  125. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  126. Notes of a Dirty Old Man by Charles Bukowski
  127. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  128. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
  129. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  130. The Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life by Amy Tan
  131. Oracle Night by Paul Auster
  132. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
  133. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
  134. Out of Africa by Isac Dineson
  135. The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
  136. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
  137. The Peace of Nicias and the Sicilian Expedition by Donald Kagan
  138. Peyton Place by Grace Metalious
  139. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  140. Pigs at the Trough by Arianna Huffington
  141. The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby
  142. The Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker
  143. The Portable Nietzche by Fredrich Nietzche
  144. The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O’Neill by Ron Suskind
  145. Property by Valerie Martin
  146. Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
  147. Quattrocento by James Mckean
  148. A Quiet Storm by Rachel Howzell Hall
  149. The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham
  150. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  151. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin
  152. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
  153. R Is for Ricochet by Sue Grafton
  154. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
  155. A Room with a View by E. M. Forster
  156. Sacred Time by Ursula Hegi
  157. Sanctuary by William Faulkner
  158. Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Milford
  159. Say Goodbye to Daisy Miller by Henry James
  160. The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
  161. Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette by Judith Thurman
  162. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  163. Sexus by Henry Miller
  164. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  165. Shane by Jack Shaefer
  166. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
  167. S Is for Silence by Sue Grafton
  168. Small Island by Andrea Levy
  169. The Song of Names by Norman Lebrecht
  170. Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia de Burgos by Julia de Burgos
  171. The Song Reader by Lisa Tucker
  172. Songbook by Nick Hornby
  173. Sonnets from the Portuegese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
  174. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
  175. Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov
  176. The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
  177. Stuart Little by E. B. White
  178. Tender Is The Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  179. Time and Again by Jack Finney
  180. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  181. To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway
  182. The Tragedy of Richard III by William Shakespeare
  183. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
  184. The Trial by Franz Kafka
  185. The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters by Elisabeth Robinson
  186. Truth & Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett
  187. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
  188. Ulysses by James Joyce
  189. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  190. Unless by Carol Shields
  191. The Vanishing Newspaper by Philip Meyers
  192. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
  193. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
  194. Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
  195. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  196. What Colour is Your Parachute? 2005 by Richard Nelson Bolles
  197. When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
  198. Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson
  199. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee
  200. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

2020: Pop Culture Challenges

We’re at the dawn of a new decade**, and that always causes me to feel inspired to take on some big challenges. Usually in December I find myself setting up challenges for the next year ahead, but let’s face it — the days are long but the years are short, and maybe a ten year challenge is a more attainable course to set myself out on.

There are a handful of hobbies I intend to pick up and work on over the next ten years (beginning in or continuing with 2020). They are:

🍰 Baking
🎹 Playing Piano
🧶Knitting

But there are also three pop culture challenges I’m going to take on – two about movies, one about books. Two have already been created for me, one I have to go through and make the list myself. I might finish some of these earlier (like, maybe even within 2020 itself) and I might add more later on, but these are the three I’m aiming to complete in the next decade.

The Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge

This is the one that’s going to probably take me close to ten years, but I’m committing. Hey, maybe we’ll get another Year in the Life in the meantime and the list will get even longer. (Amy Sherman-Palladino, if you’re reading this and you’re too busy with Mrs. Maisel, I’m totally volunteering to jump in and write another four-part mini-series for you…).

There are 339 books on the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge list. Some of them I’ve already read, and will re-read in the spirit of the challenge. Some of them, like Europe through the Back Door 2003 by Rick Steves, I’m telling you right now I’m gonna skip. I haven’t decided what I’m going to do about Swan’s Way, but I am going to give Beowulf a try (and I’m already regretting that, but here we are…).

Here’s the list, if you want to play along at any point. I might follow this blog’s structure and do it season by season…

The Disney Animated Classics Challenge

This one I might get done in a year. Maybe two. But the idea is simple: start with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and watch, in order, through…well, through Frozen 2 at the very least, and anything else that might come out in the meantime before I finish the challenge.

This will include sequels. This will not include Pixar or “live” versions (even if the live versions are animated, like the new The Lion King and Lady & the Tramp.). I’m going off this list.

The How I Met Your Mother Movie Reference Challenge

Okay, this is the one I actually have to write for myself, which means I have to rewatch every episode (again), which means it’s gonna take me a bit to get it up and running.

My reasoning here is this (and I’ve explained this to my friends before) — if a movie is ubiquitous enough in popular culture to be referenced on a show like How I Met Your Mother, then it’s a movie I need to have seen (or need to watch again for the purposes of this challenge). A few that I already know off the top of my head that are mentioned (repeatedly):

  • Top Gun
  • The Karate Kid
  • Die Hard
  • Star Wars (Original Trilogy)
  • Field of Dreams
  • Ghostbusters
  • The Princess Bride

And I’m sure many more. Again, I have to compile the complete list. There’s a good pop culture thread about it on Reddit, but I want to do this one on my own. Adds to the challenge.

And yes – that’s a lot of books to read (or re-read) and a lot of movies to watch (or re-watch) over the next ten years, but I have faith I can get it all done before the 30s roll around.

How about you? What sort of fun pop culture challenges are you deciding to embark upon in this next decade? Let me know in the comments or tweet me at @ThatColette.

**We can get all pedantic and argue whether or not the new decade begins in 2020 or 2021, but here’s my reasoning: there’s no way Gatsby and his ilk would claim the Roaring 20s were from 1921-1930, so our roaring twenties won’t be from 2021-2030 either. We’re starting ’em now, thankyouverymuch.

This Year, I Rebel.

I honestly can’t remember the first time I tried NaNoWriMo. I think it was in 2004, which would make this the 15th year I make an attempt.

Now, I’ll be honest – most of those attempts have gone exactly nowhere. Some I’m pretty sure I quit on day one with less than 1,000 words. Others have net a bit more in terms of words and progress. But I’ve never won NaNoWriMo.

I’ve blogged about this before. You can read those posts here and here. And I stand by those lessons I’ve learned, and this is how they’re impacting me now that NaNoWriMo 2019 is arriving on Friday.

I’m Still Writing My Novel

That novel I started in 2018? It’s still going. I actually let my inner editor out of confinement last month and fixed up the draft. It had ballooned to almost 22,000 words and was still in a “prologue” of sorts (lol…), so I knew it needed some help if I was ever going to get it on track and actually move forward with my story.

So, I took a hatchet to it and cut 11,025 words. Half of the draft. Then I started working again. Now, it’s back up to 15,708 words and I’m in Chapter 6.

I am committed to this story and this draft, and I want to see it through to completion. But with NaNoWriMo’s siren song calling, I found myself less and less interested in working on it, and more and more drawn to other/different/”new” novel ideas.

I Was Letting the “Rules” Rule Me

See, the “rule” of NaNoWriMo is (supposedly) that you start a brand new project on November 1 and you write that project only so that by November 30, you have 50,000 words of a brand new novel.

And it’s a great rule. And it’s a great starting point for a lot of projects.

But…I already have a great starting point. I started it last November. What I need is a great rising action and climax and conclusion.

Now here’s the thing: I am a rules-follower. I always have been (except maybe when I was younger and would start to lose board games and would suddenly invent/introduce “house rules”…). But, that aside, I follow the rules. I kept telling myself if I was going to do NaNoWriMo, I was going to follow the rules.

But… I don’t want to start a new project. I want to keep writing my novel I started last November. I want to see it through to – at the very least – a finished first draft.

So, I’m Just Going to Keep Writing.

Yeah, I’ll still aim for 50K words in my novel in November. And if I actually write that much, yeah, I’m gonna consider myself a winner.

I thought doing this technically made me a NaNoWriMo Rebel, but apparently to actually be a “Rebel” you need to be writing a non-novel.

Whatever, I’m throwing all the rules out anyway. If I want to call myself a rebel, I’m calling myself a rebel!

Are You Writing This November?

You can be my buddy! Here’s my NaNoWriMo Profile.

Happy Writing, everyone!

A Very (Not So) Scary Television List

Okay, first – who am I kidding? We all know I tremble and cry and hide at scary stuff, so it’s very, very unlikely that anything on this list is actually very scary, but…well, the rhyme scheme fit with my “A Very Merry Television List” from 2015, so I decided to run with it!

Much like that first list, these are listed in no particular order. They are also not, by any means, the “absolute best” Halloween episodes. They’re my ten favorites. The ten episodes that, every October, I get excited to sit down and re-watch in order to get myself into the spirit of the season.

So without further a-BOO… (yeah, that was terrible), here are my Ten Very (Not So) Scary* Halloween-Themed TV Episodes.

*Okay, like, three of them are ACTUALLY scary. To big scaredy-cats like me.

The Office, Season 9: Here Comes Treble

If you’ve been reading this blog for a bit, you know I’m new to The Office, but even I know that it has some of the greatest Halloween episodes ever. It was really hard to narrow it down to which one, but this one has so many classic moments – Dwight’s pumpkin head, Erin’s disappointment when people think she’s a dog not a puppy, Pam’s strong female costume “Doctor Cinderella,” and – of course – Stephen Colbert (Broccoli Rob) stealing Andy’s thunder by singing his solo in “Faith.” Oh, and of course, Creed, covered in blood – “Oh, today’s Halloween? That’s lucky.”

(Creed is totally the Scranton Strangler, you guys.)

Parks & Recreation, Season Five: Halloween Surprise

Parks & Rec is another show I’m relatively new to, and another show that has amazing Halloween episodes. But Ron Swanson snapping his girlfriend’s daughter’s tiara because she broke her sister’s (“There. Now no one has one!“) is one of my absolute favorite moments of television. Plus, Leslie and Ann’s prank gone awry (poor Jerry) is one of those cringey-yet-amazing TV moments that Greg Daniels and Michael Schur write so well. And the ending of the episode, when… okay, I won’t spoil it if you haven’t seen it, but let’s just say this episode makes me happy cry every time and therefore it’s totally worth being on this list.

Home Improvement, Season Six: I Was a Teenage Taylor

Home Improvement is another show that does Halloween episodes extremely well (much like their Christmas episodes, which didn’t make it on my holiday list last time but totally could have…). I could’ve picked any of them, but this one takes it solely for the scene in this .gif.

Jonathan Taylor Thomas, as Randy Taylor, opens the door to two kids in costume. One is Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Tim Allen) and one is Simba (voiced by, that’s right, JTT himself). His full line is:

Randy: Alright, one candy bar for the spaceman, and seven for the cute little lion.

It makes me fall of the couch laughing every single time, which is why this episode makes the final cut.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 2: Halloween

Okay, pretty much any Buffy episode would be good for Halloween, and there are great Halloween episodes in later seasons as well, but I’ve got to stick with the original. The Scoobies find themselves renting costumes from a mysterious new costume shop that just happened to appear in Sunnydale right before Halloween (totally not suspicious, right?). And Buffy, in her newly forming relationship with Angel, decides to dress like the girls he would’ve been around when he was, you know, alive and stuff. Magic spells happen, chaos ensues, oh – and Spike is there, and I love Spike. Plus, this is the first time Oz sees Willow! Yes, I will pick all the episodes where something slightly (or overtly) romantic happens. It balances out the screams and the gore.

Supernatural, Season 4: It’s The Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester

Okay, look, I hate being scared. So if I can suffer my way through Supernatural, you can too. Just look at the pretty demon hunters and watch it when it’s daylight so you can watch, I dunno, Frozen or Care Bears or that Home Improvement episode I recommended before you actually go to sleep.

Anyway, much like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, every day is basically Halloween for the Winchesters. Which probably explains why, in fifteen years, there’s only been ONE Halloween-themed episode. It’s this one. It has to be on the list.

Community, Season 2: Epidemiology

See, this is Halloween I can handle. Yes, it’s scary. Yes, it’s creepy. But it’s also FUNNY, and you know everyone is going to be totally okay by the end. I almost picked a different Community episode to take this spot, but truthfully, while they always do Halloween well, they never do it quite as good as this. Besides, I quoted this episode in my Master’s Thesis. It’s clearly important.

Troy: I’m a sexy Dracula.
Abed: You mean vampire.
Troy: I don’t know which Dracula to know I’m a Dracula. Nerd.

Also, Troy and Abed quote Star Wars, George Takei narrates, and Shirley and Chang…well, again, spoilers. But it’s a great episode.

Brooklyn-99, Season 5: HalloVeen

Okay, confession: I just started watching Brooklyn-99. In fact, I started with all five “Halloween Heist” episodes before watching any other episode because everyone said they were sooooo good.

You know what? Everyone was right.

I loved the episodes even though I knew nothing about the characters and even though watching all five of them totally spoiled some major plot points (but if you know me you know I don’t mind spoilers, and also, I knew a lot of the spoilers anyway – ’cause I read entertainment blogs and magazines and tweets – I just didn’t know they came in these particular episodes).

Anyway, much like my Parks & Rec selection, this one makes me happy cry.

How I Met Your Mother, Season 1: The Slutty Pumpkin

I quote TV shows a lot. I quote specific TV shows a lot. I quote specific TV episodes a lot. I don’t quote anything as much as I quote “The Slutty Pumpkin” from Season 1 of How I Met Your Mother. If you’ve met me, I guarantee I have quoted this episode to you, and you probably just don’t realize it. Things like:

Marshall: Fifty dollar gift certificate for the bar!

Barney: Here’s the plan, and I crap you not.

Marshall: Oh, good. I don’t know why people are so cynical about Ewoks. The rebellion would’ve failed without the Ewoks.

Barney: What’s that left hand? Right hand sucks? Word. (Self-Five)

Ted: It’s not about the odds! It’s about believing!

And more. So many more. Plus, this episode is everything that is good about this show. Yes, Barney is lecherous and creepy, and also hilarious (and looks good in a flight suit). Lily and Marshall are peak cute couple goals. Robin is fiercely independent, and Ted is the ultimate hopeless romantic. And it’s Halloween! And they make hanging chad jokes! When was the last time you heard a good hanging chad joke? (Answer: the last time you watched this episode.)

Psych, Season 1: Scary Sherry – Bianca’s Toast

Psych can actually get pretty scary sometimes, and one of its best freak out episodes is its first Halloween episode – “Scary Sherry: Bianca’s Toast.” Jules is undercover working a potential murder case at a sorority house and calls on Shawn and Gus to help her out. The episode involves fake ghosts (and fake psychics) and very real, tense crime. But, like all Psych episodes, it manages to still make you laugh.

Shawn: Gus, what’s the word?
Gus: That would be ‘mum.’

Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Season 6: Murder on the Halloween Express

As expected on a show about witches, there’s a great Halloween episode every single season (except the last one), but my absolute favorite is Season 6’s “Murder on the Halloween Express.” I have no particularly good reason other than I love murder mystery parties, and this plays exactly that note.

PLUS, Douglas Sills guest stars. Yeah, that’s a Broadway deep cut for most people, but again, this is my list of my favorites, so of course I’d grab on to an episode featuring the guy who played The Scarlet Pimpernel.

And that’s my Top Ten! There are others I watch every year (like “The One with The Halloween Party” (Friends) and “The Middle Earth Paradigm” (The Big Bang Theory)) and there are new ones I consider throwing in (Veronica Mars, Lucifer), but this felt like the most representative of what I pick to put me in a pumpkin-y mood.

What are some of your favorite Halloween-themed episodes? Leave me a comment or tweet me at @ThatColette.

Happy Halloween!

Closing Patreon (For Now)

I say “for now” because while I don’t intend to go back to Patreon again, I have been known to change my mind once or twice (or thrice…).

But yes, it’s true. I’m closing my Patreon page.

I wrote a much longer note to my subscribers about it, but I know some folks here have been watching/following along even if they weren’t members, so I thought I should mention it in case you suddenly became aware of a lack of links and buttons that used to be everywhere in my writing-related posts.

Patreon the platform did nothing wrong. I think it’s a fantastic site, and a wonderful way for artists and creators to make money. I’d highly recommend people START a Patreon if they’re interested in offering content.

This was my first writer-y headshot selfie I used on my subscription site.

So, if the platform is still good, why am I leaving?

Well…to write.

Um, Colette, I thought that’s why you HAD a Patreon.

It was! But, really, it didn’t work. See, I started my Patreon as a way to force myself into the habit of writing and producing written content every month. And, yeah, it did work for that. Which is great.

But, the whole purpose of developing the habit was so that I could get more work done on my novel (my light, my love, my true reason for writing) and on other big projects.

Problem was, I was spending ALL MY TIME banging my head against the wall to create Patreon content every month, by the time I was done I was so completely spent that I didn’t want to work on my “real” projects at all. Which isn’t good.

Second writer-y headshot. I like this one better. It’s got my books.

So, I finished my September sonnet collections (the ones that won’t be published here on this blog, like these ones and these ones), wrote my subscribers a good-bye letter, and suddenly felt a weight lift off my shoulders.

I felt so light, so alive, in fact, that I sat down and started working on my novel again. I went through and slashed up the 30+ page prologue (no, I’m not kidding — man, it was such a mess), wrote a detailed chapter outline, named all my main characters, and started shaping what was left of the initial mess into a usable set of introductory chapters.

Now I’m writing Chapter 5, and I’m almost 20% done with my word count goal.

Since Monday.

So, see, closing my Patreon isn’t a bad thing for me. If anything, this week has shown me how much mental, time, and energetic space it really was taking up, and now I can give that space to my novel and other big projects instead. That feels like the absolute right choice for me right now.

So, for now — and probably forever, but also, maybe in a couple of years I’ll have different mental/energetic/time space to work with — it’s closed. Thank you for following along thus far, and I look forward to bringing you different types of content here.

The One Where I Pick My Favorites

Yesterday (September 22, 2019) was the 25th Anniversary of the day the pilot episode of Friends aired in the U.S.

I wasn’t a huge Friends fan always. In fact, I only remember watching a handful of episodes live in the later seasons, and it made decent background noise when it was in syndication and I was sitting around in the afternoons. But after the show went off the air – in fact, when they released a boxed set of all 10 seasons on DVD – that’s when I got hooked. And I’ve been hooked ever since.

This is me on the Warner Brothers Studio Tour in Los Angeles. This mini-door is set up in the gift shop. We made the t-shirt I’m wearing.

So even though I can’t say I’ve been a die-hard fan for twenty-five years, I can call myself a die-hard fan (my team did win pub trivia, after all!). And as such, in honor of this major anniversary, I’ve decided to go through and pick my personal favorite episodes from each season.

A few notes: these aren’t necessarily the “best” episodes of each season, and they aren’t even the most famous/well-known of each season. They’re just my favorites, for reasons I will explain in the descriptions of each. Some seasons (5 & 6) this was exceptionally difficult for me to narrow down from a huge list of favorites, and by the 30th Anniversary, my opinions will probably change. Other seasons (4, 9, & 10) it was exceptionally difficult for me to pick because I don’t really have a strong favorite – mostly because I think those are the weaker seasons of the show. Also, some of my favorite moments from the show aren’t featured here (PIVOT!) because while I like that scene, the episode as a whole doesn’t rank for me.

Okay, here we go…

Season 1, Episode 7: The One with the Blackout

There are so many things to love about this episode. It’s when we first hear Ross & Carol’s “Disneyland Story” (which, by the way, I think about EVERY TIME I ride the Small World ride…), we get a glimpse at Monica’s complicated relationship with her mother (“Who am I gonna meet during a blackout? Power company guys? Eligible looters?”), and we hear one of Phoebe’s best original songs (“New York City has no power and the milk is getting sour, but to me it is not scary, ’cause I stay away from dairy…”).

This episode also gives us a great glimpse into just how close Joey and Chandler are as friends and roommates. Who else but your best bestie can translate what you’re saying when you mumble through your teeth?

We also meet two very important characters in this episode. One is Paulo, who sucks and we all hate him, but he is crucial in the Ross/Rachel/Will-They-Won’t-They plot line, so his arrival is significant. We also meet Mr. Heckles for the very first time.

Mr. Heckles is, without a doubt, one of the best recurring characters on this show.

Season 2, Episode 14: The One With the Prom Video

This episode is classic Friends. Pretty much everyone, even people who haven’t seen the show, can quote this episode.

By the way, after years and years and years of watching and quoting this episode, I finally looked it up, and…lobsters don’t mate for life. Lobsters mate for about two weeks and then never see each other again. So, really, Joey is Rachel’s lobster, but we’ll get to that in about eight seasons (much to the dismay of, well, pretty much everyone.)

But aside from its most famous quote (above), “The One With the Prom Video” gives us a lot of great moments and important developments between the friends. This episode could’ve also been titled “The One With Chandler’s Bracelet.” Now that Joey’s making money, he gifts Chandler a gold bracelet. This actually ends up becoming one of the first Joey/Chandler fights we see on the show.

The episode could also be called “The One With Monica’s Interview” where she’s forced to make a salad for this guy:

That scene is short, awkward, and BRILLIANT.

The other important thing about this video, which you will see becomes a recurring theme in my list of favorites, is The Gellers. Jack and Judy Geller are the best recurring characters on this show. Yes, better than Gunther. Yes, better than Janice. Yes, better than anyone else you want to try and @ me with. Not only are they exceptional characters on their own (hi, these are two people who taped over their kids’ high school prom video in order to make a sex tape — THOSE ARE INTERESTING CHARACTERS!), but you also really get to see how much they love their kids, how they raised their kids, and how Ross and Monica’s relationship grows and changes in relation to them. More on that in a future episode on this list.

And, of course, this is when we see Ross and Rachel’s big kiss, so everyone is happy…for a while, anyway.

Season 3, Episode 2: The One Where No One’s Ready

Really, I could just leave that .gif and call it a day, but let’s dive in to some things that make this episode cool (that costuming brilliance aside).

First, it’s a bottle episode*. A bottle episode is when an entire episode of a television series is done in one single set/location. There’s a famous episode of Community that does this as well, and in their meta-Community way, they actually call it out while it’s happening.

But this episode of Friends takes the bottle episode one brilliant step further — the episode is filmed in real time*. From the time Ross arrives to the time they leave the apartment (when it was on the air, factoring in commercial breaks), it takes 26 minutes. Which is exactly how much time Ross tells them all they have upon his entrance. This is the only episode where we see the events unfold this way.

*Okay, technically, there’s a tag scene that plays during the credits that is (1) not in the apartment, and (2) not in real time, so both of these statements are the equivalent of a steroids stat in baseball, I guess… but, it’s still pretty cool!

Once again, we get a really interesting Joey/Chandler dynamic in this episode. We begin to see the cracks in Ross and Rachel’s relationship. Phoebe is pretty peak Phoebe, and Monica’s post-breakup meltdown is amazing. Courtney Cox was the first person to say “period” on television (for a commercial, not for this), and knowing that tidbit makes the outgoing message Monica records on Richard’s machine all the more entertaining to me.

Season Four, Episode 12: The One With The Embryos

Somebody call it this time…

A lot of the episodes I’ve picked for this list feature the six friends together, which really is where this show was at its best. They were an ensemble, and they worked best as an ensemble.

However, I picked this episode because while we do get great ensemble work with the quiz games and apartment switching, which is just hilarious and delightful, we also get one of the most brilliant performances from Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe on her own at the fertility clinic, and frankly, I wish this show had given Kudrow/Phoebe more time to just be brilliant like she is in this episode. The scene of her talking to the petri dish of embryos before her implantation is a perfect blend of sweetness and humor that I came to love about Phoebe across all ten seasons.

Hello little embryos…

This episode also makes the list because Giovanni Ribisi as Frank Jr. comes in second place behind The Gellers as the best recurring character for me. (Again, don’t @ me for this). He and Phoebe’s relationship is one of my favorites, and we’ll see it again in another episode on my list. Plus, we get this hilarious moment:

Followed immediately by this touching and sweet one:

For me, that’s one of the things this show did so well. The balance of comedy with touching, sweet, moving moments was really well done. It made us laugh, yes, but we really did care about these people. We root for them; we want them to get what they want, and we want them to be okay. All of that happens in this hug.

Season 5, Episode 14: The One Where Everybody Finds Out

This episode really does mark the first major shift for our beloved friends. Yes, the Ross/Rachel break-up was tough, but we’re well beyond it at this point (he’s already been married and divorced again), and now everyone knowing Monica and Chandler are in a serious relationship…the dynamic begins to shift.

In pretty much every book/article/retrospective you’ll read about Friends, they talk about the show existing in a period of life when your friends are you family. And as these characters begin to grow and change, to find serious relationships/coupling, and eventually, to have kids, we see a shift away from that. It’s not a bad thing; it’s just a marker of change. For me, this episode is where that change really begins.

Plus, it’s the first time we get to go inside Ugly Naked Guy’s apartment:

and the first time we meet Hugsy, Joey’s Bedtime Penguin Pal. And we get one of Chandler’s best responses when Ross describes how excited his colleagues got over a basket of mini-muffins:

And, of course, Monica and Chandler are in love.

Season 6, Episode 9: The One Where Ross Got High

No one does a Thanksgiving episode like Friends. No one. And of all ten Thanksgiving episodes, “The One Where Ross Got High” is absolutely the best.

We get hilarious bits from Joey and Ross who want to go hang out with hot dancers, we get a weird quirky Phoebe story about her vivid dreams, we get Rachel’s cooking disasters…

And, once again, we’re back to my favorites Jack and Judy. We get to see Ross and Monica’s competitiveness and their incessant need to please both their parents. The climax of the episode is when each character begins screaming their various secrets:

And then Christina Pickles (Judy Geller) gives this incredible response, with inserts from Elliot Gould (Jack):

Judy: That’s a lot of information to get in thirty seconds. All right. Joey, if you want to leave, just leave. Rachel, no you weren’t supposed to put beef in the trifle. It did not taste good. Phoebe, I’m sorry, but I think Jacques Cousteau is dead. Monica, why you felt you had to hide the fact that you were in an important relationship is beyond me.

Jack: And we kinda figured about the porch swing.

Judy: Ross… drugs. Divorced, again.

Jack: What happened, son?

Ross: I was tricked into all those things.

Judy: And Chandler…you’ve been Ross’s best friend for all these years, stuck by him through the drug problems! And now you’ve taken on Monica as well. What can I say? You’re a wonderful human being.

Chandler: Thank you!

Jack: No! Thank you!

I love this scene so much I just typed that entire thing from memory. Seriously. It’s probably my favorite moment in all ten seasons of the entire show. We see Ross and Monica compete, yes, but we also see them have each other’s back. We see how hard Jack and Judy were on their kids (in very different ways!), but we also see how much they really love them – and how much they love their friends. In this moment, Judy is acting as mother to the entire ensemble, but you can see how she and Jack are also seeing this shift in the dynamic — their kids are grown. They’ve got these other people forming their family, but Jack and Judy are still an important part of it.

Seriously, best of all ten Thanksgiving episodes, and quite possibly my favorite episode of the entire series.

Season 7, Episode 14: The One Where They All Turn 30

So, amusingly, I hate clip shows. I know they’re usually done as fillers/when the cast needs a break, but I don’t like them. I do love fake flashback episodes, which Friends is great at, and this one is one of the best.

While I’ve said I really like ensemble episodes (and I do!), I also do like when we get a little standout moment from each character individually. We don’t really get Chandler — we get Joey twice — but we do see how differently each character responds to the birthday milestone.

I also love when Lisa Kudrow gets to play Phoebe and Ursula:

And I love when Courtney Cox does pretty much anything “outside the norm” of Monica. It’s crazy to me she never won any awards for this show. Her humor is more subtle and contained, but damn it, she’s talented and really was the glue holding everything together:

Also, once again, we have a serious retrospective moment mixed within all the humor. Rachel really does need to consider where she sees her life going and what her goals for it are, and that leads her to breaking up with Tag. Yes, I’ll admit, I missed seeing Eddie Cahill on my screen, but I feel like by this episode that relationship had really run its course, and it was a great way to end it while still keeping good feelings about everyone involved.

Season 8, Episode 18: The One in Massapequa

Jack and Judy again, this time celebrating their 35th Wedding Anniversary. And Alec Baldwin as Phoebe’s current paramour Parker is absolutely hilarious.

This episode is weird in a lot of ways, but it makes me laugh every time. Rachel’s insane over-the-top wedding description (blind Belgian nuns? C’mon Rach…) is just hilarious, and once again, we get it balanced by Ross’s sweet proposal story. Wouldn’t we all have loved to actually see that proposal moment?

I tend to not like awkward situational humor (which is why it’s a miracle I made it through any seasons of *The Office*…) but Monica’s toast is one that I actually find amusing. Perhaps it’s because these reactions are so great:

But if I’m being totally honest, Season 8 was…really not my favorite. So among 24 “eh, these are all okay or have some good single moment” episode choices, this is the closest I could find to a WHOLE episode I really loved.

Season 9, Episode 18: The One With The Lottery

This episode is bringing us back to what we loved about Friends in its earlier seasons — six people, together, sharing one event with one another. Yes, there are other story lines happening throughout, but at its core, the A-story is about the six of them trying to win the lottery together.

I also love this episode because we’ve seen Chandler and Monica go through a lot at this point, and Chandler being offered the Junior Copywriter job is a huge win for him (and for them as a couple). I like that he’s finally getting to love his job as much as the other five do.

Season 10, Episode 2: The One Where Ross is Fine

Okay, so… no one was thrilled about Joey and Rachel. From interviews I’ve read, it turns out even the cast hated it. Which is probably why it didn’t last very long. But, we needed something to happen to (1) break that weird sexual tension that had been building between them for seasons now, and (2) push Ross and Rachel back on track towards one another. Ross being “fine” was a great direction for that.

The episode begins almost as a “to be continued” from the first episode, with Ross walking in on Joey and Rachel kissing and the two of them having to scramble to explain the situation.

Then Ross being, well, Ross, invites them over for a double date. Reminder, at this point, Ross is dating Joey’s ex-girlfriend Charlie.

Aisha Tyler was fantastic, by the way. I’m sad they didn’t really use her comedy skills even more in this show, but I’m glad we got her for as many episodes as we did.

And, once they’re all together, the insane awkwardness ensues, and we get some of the most hilarious David Schwimmer Ross moments from all ten seasons:

The episode ends, once again (see a trend in my favorite things?) with Ross coming to terms with his and Rachel’s past and her (potential, but not really) future with Joey. Sweet moment, reflection, hilarious follow-up with high-fiving his burned hand.

The B-Story of the episode with Phoebe and Frank Jr is similar.

Humor comes in Frank’s exhaustion and he and Phoebe negotiating which of the three triplets she could take (“Alice would never go for it.” “I dunno, she’s pretty tired too…”) and ends with Frank realizing his deep love for his children and Phoebe promising to be more involved in their lives and help out.

I can’t find any good .gifs of the C-Story about Monica and Chandler visiting Phoebe’s friends Bill and Colleen, but it gives us great Chandler foot-in-mouth moments, which again hearkens back to earlier seasons, and as the show is coming to a close, I appreciate those moments more.

The One Where I Really Didn’t Like it…

Not going to offer the same detail, but I did go through and make a list of my ten least favorite episodes from each season. Most of them are on here because I felt like they were too much of a character departure, made the characters go from “sassy” to just straight up mean or unlikable, and/or they were a clip show:

  • Season 1, Episode 20: The One with the Evil Orthodontist
  • Season 2, Episode 21: The One with the Bullies
  • Season 3, Episode 18: The One with the Hypnosis Tape
  • Season 4, Episode 21: The One with the Invitation
  • Season 5, Episode 6: The One with the Yeti
  • Season 6, Episode 20: The One with Mac and C.H.E.E.S.E.
  • Season 7, Episode 16: The One with the Truth About London
  • Season 8, Episode 17: The One with the Tea Leaves
  • Season 9, Episode 10: The One with Christmas in Tulsa
  • Season 10, Episode 13: The One Where Joey Speaks French

So, what do you think? Do you agree or disagree? I’d love to hear your favorite (and less favorite) episodes! Leave me a comment or tweet me @ThatColette.

September Sonnets: First Collection

As I mentioned at the start of the month, I’m doing a little #SeptemberSonnet challenge for myself and writing one sonnet per day. A few of these sonnets are being set aside for my subscribers on Patreon (now closed) for this month’s collections, but the others I’m going to be sharing here on my blog. The first two I wrote this month are in this original post; here are five more. Some are the traditional sonnet form, while others are “haiku sonnets” (four haikus + a couplet).

Half

Half of thirty-six,
Is considered an adult.
But I’m not grown up.

Perhaps it’s because
When the world shifts at eighteen
Time stops making sense. 

For some, time stopped.
For the rest, we carry on. 
And time keeps passing. 

Is there a moment
When you know childhood ends?
Is it gone for good?

Maybe this is being grown. 
Or the definition changed.

Frustrated Tears

The most delicious truth about fresh, salty tears 
Is that every type has a slightly different taste. 
It’s a fine-tuned palate you develop through your years, 
Like discerning the presence of anchovy paste. 

The tears we taste early, and often, when we’re young
Are the tears of sadness, confusion, and pain.
The tears when we’re scraped, stubbed, or stung
The droplets are salty, but also quite plain. 

Then there are happy tears, so surprising and sweet,
The droplets are smaller, but just as strong.
Frustrated tears pack bite and some heat,
And like angry tears, they don’t stay as long. 

The thing about tears is they’re never unripe.
So let them fall free, and taste each unique type.

Fire Season

Most call it Autumn. 
We call it fire season. 
It arrives with dread. 

As leaves turn colors 
On trees across the country,
Here, bark is scorched.

We turn on alerts
And watch evacuations
Wondering who’s next.

Sometimes we see flames
Or just sit and smell the smoke
Far, but still too close.

This is the world we accept
To live in California.

A Cleansing Breath

Breath is taken for granted too often 
As a necessity, an act without any thought 
But pausing and allowing focus to soften  
Shows more what breath is, than what it’s not 

While yes, breathing can happen without force, 
Attentiveness gives its purpose new life.
Sending positive energy on a deliberate course 
Focus makes possibilities rife. 

Breathe in now, for a count of four
And hold the breath in the space in your chest,
Then slowly release, longer counts than before,
Feeling your nerve endings find peace and rest.

For breath is a tool used to cleanse and renew,
By turning it into an active thing to do.

The Surprising Storm

The most troubling thing about storms is the way
They roll in out of nowhere, pushed by an unseen wind
Suddenly clouding and threatening a day 
That was previously bright, now may be singed.

And as the clouds threaten to complete consume 
The perception of where the day was going to lie
It can be a struggle to remember, and to resume,
Living with the knowledge of a persistent blue sky

For the serene sky still exists above the storm 
Even if it’s disguised amidst the darkness and rain
And it’s good to distance the clouds from the norm
To remember there’s peace, and not constant pain

So as the lightning flashes and thunder roars through 
Breathe deep, and wait for the chaos to subdue.

Book Thoughts: Recent Celebri-Reads

Back in February, I introduced a new little project of mine: Celebri-Reads, an online book club where each month we’re reading a different celebrity memoir. In July, I gave a quick update on some of the books we’d read by then. Well, it’s September now, and I haven’t done a Book Thoughts blog in a while, so here are my recent celebri-reads and my thoughts on them.

July’s Book: Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming

So, I know Alan Cumming as the MC in Cabaret on Broadway and as ‘O’ from one episode of Sex & The City (which he remembers too). Other than that, my knowledge of him was fairly tenuous. Like, he spent a lot of the book talking about being on The Good Wife, and I’ve never seen a single episode (sidebar: should I? How is that show?).

This book was not was I was anticipating. Unlike many celebrity memoirs that focus on the highlights of fame and how the author in question achieved it, this book centered on very personal, very dark family secrets. It was fascinating to read, to be sure, but it was also incredibly emotional and more intense than I anticipated. There were vivid descriptions of child abuse throughout, which was often difficult to read and process.

Still the book maintained a hopeful quality and showed Cumming well in the process of healing (and gave hints as to how/why writing this book helped in this process), so I am happy to have read it.

August’s Book: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

Will Mindy please be my best friend? Please? I share her love of Twilight and romantic comedies and writing in my PJs on my laptop in bed even though I have a very nice and well-designed office space (actually, I am writing this from said office space, but I am in my PJs.).

This book was interesting to read because it came out what seems like not that many years ago, but so much has happened since then (like, she had a baby!) that I’m really curious as to if/how she might update or change some of the things she wrote about in this book. Like, there was an Ocean’s reboot! And she was in it! And there was an all-female Ghostbusters! After she becomes my best friend, maybe she’ll tell me about her future-seeing psychic powers…

I liked the fact that the chapters were each mini-essays on a variety of topics. Her “listicles” (ugh, Buzzfeed, I hate you for making that a legitimate word in my brain) were fun and entertaining, and her stories about her career – successes and missteps – were enlightening and relateable.

I still want to know if she and Rainn Wilson are actually frenemies or if that was just played up for the book…

September Book: My Mother Was Nuts by Penny Marshall

These are very early book thoughts because I’m only about thirty pages into this book (we’re discussing it at the end of the month), but I love it so far. I makes me miss Penny Marshall and her brother Garry Marshall and even though I know I should be reading, I find myself wanting to just curl up and watch A League of Their Own over and over again…

Have you read any good celebrity memoirs lately? Comment below or tweet me at @ThatColette and let me know which ones you’ve liked, so I can add ’em to my book club’s list!

September Sonnets: A Challenge

You might remember that back in April, I participated in a Poem-A-Day challenge, led by one of the editors of Writer’s Digest, Robert Brewster. This month, I’ve decided to create my own poetry challenge – writing a sonnet per day!

I’ll of course be sticking with “Shakespeare’s fave” sonnet for most of them, but I might throw in a few Haiku Sonnets and Curtal Sonnets too.

Now, all of these sonnets won’t be posted on this blog, because a few I am saving just for my Patreon subscribers (now closed). But the ones that aren’t going in those collections, I’ll be sharing on this blog, just like I did with April’s Poem-A-Day (Posts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10).

Now, I didn’t get the idea to do this whole #SeptemberSonnet challenge until this morning, so I’m already sort of a day behind… So, I’ll post two sonnets here today! The first is a classic sonnet, the second is a haiku sonnet.

And if you’re in the mood to sonnet along, tag social media posts with #SeptemberSonnet (or #SeptemberSonnets – I’ll try to remember both!) and tag me too (I’m @ThatColette on Twitter + Instagram).

Clarity 

There’s an oracle that promises September 
Will be a month of clarity, a month where we transcend. 
Perhaps it is a month where we will remember 
A complicated beginning, or a blissful end. 

The waxing crescent moon above brings 
A promise of resilience and a moment to break free 
As our soul shakes off its shackles, and sings 
A hauntingly complicated, but assured melody

Perhaps it is an omen that the newest moon 
Arrives on the new month, and on the day of rest
It means that answers are coming, and coming soon
From a place of faith and hope inside our chest

The clarity we seek comes from within
If we have the heart and courage to begin.

Labor Day

We take the day off 
To sleep in, to clean the house,
And to enjoy rest.

How easy is it
To forget the reasons for
A three-day weekend?

We don’t think of the
Children, or unions, who were
The front line, fighting,

For eight hour days,
And better work conditions,
For everyone else.

Enjoy your day to yourself,
And remember to say “thanks.”