#TheUmbrellaAcademy

You had a toxic parent, too?

I’ve been watching a lot of Netflix this summer. I was especially pumped up for the newest season of “The Umbrella Academy” and gobbled down all ten episodes in one sitting the Friday it came out. The show is about a group of children who are born with super powers. They’re adopted by this billionaire who exploits the children and forces them to become vigilantes. The children grow up and have complex and complicated relationships with each other and their toxic adoptive father.

I can relate, being adopted by a toxic parent. It’s trauma that I’ve been unpacking for the last several months with the watchful guide of my therapist. My biological mother wasn’t fit to take care of me. She most likely drank while she was pregnant. I never knew my biological father. My adoptive mother didn’t want children but my adoptive father insisted that I stay in our family (my adoptive mother is my biological aunt). More trauma when my parents got divorced. It was really nasty, especially when it came to custody. I went to live with my mom when I was in high school and didn’t see my dad often. At that time, my mom get remarried to an abusive man. I can still remember them fighting. One night, I was watching television in the living room when my mom stormed out her bedroom, with her husband screaming her. She hopped in her car and drove away, leaving me. I ran down the block after her, sobbing. She eventually came back and apologized.

I want to say that I love my parents. I really do adore my family and am grateful for them. I know they did the best they could even though I was troubling. I was a difficult baby. I spent the first two years of my life in foster care before I was legally adopted. My parents don’t know exactly what happened during those two years but I was developmentally delayed in some areas (like sleeping. I shook a lot in my sleep, waking myself every couple hours. I continued to do so throughout my childhood and my teenage years and still occasionally do it now. I never can get a good full night’s rest). I had a speech disorder and refused to talk until I was about five years old (I still lisp every now and then). I couldn’t be alone when I was a toddler. I was mean to animals. Miraculously, though, I did well academically. I loved school. I felt my first sting of depression when I was eight years old. I slept a lot. I couldn’t keep friends. I kept to myself. I was awkward (still am). I lied a lot. I had severe abandonment issues due to my adoption (with my bio mom leaving me) and my parents’ divorce. I went puberty at a young age and was body shamed frequently. I started starving myself in middle school. Binging soon followed. I also begin self-mutilating then and had my first suicide attempt in my preteens. Despite all this, my parents continued to love me and support as best as they could.

I now know that a lot of trauma in my life has been either a direct action or inaction by my parents, biological and adoptive. I wasn’t held enough as an infant so I developed bonding and empathy issues. My body issues were caused by my mother’s shaming, which she received from her own mother. I know that some of my self-esteem issues come from my parents not saying that they believed in me enough. I rarely felt- and still don’t feel- enough in my family which has affected all of my romantic relationships and my professional life.

It’s taken a lot of time to get to the root of my issues and I’m so, so grateful for my therapist (the key to healing is finding the right kind of help!). It’s been a lot work, a lot of tears. I don’t blame my parents for everything wrong with me and my life- I certainly have made a lot of bad choices, choices today that I’m still trying to mend. Even today, I will make the choice of dealing with a toxic parent even though my siblings don’t. My mom can still be pretty narcissistic. But I remember that my mom is human and has been through a lot of trauma herself. I’ve forgiven her and do so every day. I remember to put up boundaries with her- I tell myself, this is my life now and this is the way that I’m living it.

I ask myself if I have children of my own day, will I be a good mother? I know that all parents screw up their kids in a way, some more than others. But still… Will I raise my children to be confident and kind, strong and successful? I like to think so. I hope to take the mistakes that my parents made with raising me and my sisters and give my children not only a happy childhood but a strong sense of self-worth. I want to show my kids that there is actually someone in the world who cares, cares deeply, and can provide for them all of their emotional and physical needs.

Have you grown up with a toxic parent, dear reader?

#EndOfSentence

Just go with the flow…

I’m on my period. There. I said it.

I’ve experienced the “crimson tide” for the last two decades. I’ve hidden pads and tampons in purses, socks, pockets and up sweater sleeves. I feel stupid shoving things up my sleeves but I like to change my tampon often and I won’t want a nasty infections like Toxic Shock Syndrome . When I first got my period, I tried to hide it form my family, especially my dad. I thought it was shameful and gross but the older I’ve become, the more open I’ve become with talking about my body and all of its wonders. Including my period. I hoped that when I got older, I would be able to talk about it more. Half of the world’s population experiences menstruation but we’re still pretty hush-hush about it.

Well, I want to talk about it.
Question: why are women so ashamed to talk about their periods? Why are we so ashamed about our bodies in general? I often ask myself, especially when I watch TV and movies: why the American public is so accepting of seeing bloody murder and death on their screens rather than nudity and sex? As a woman who wants to be a mother one day. I also think about breastfeeding my future children but I also think about the people who will make a big deal about an exposed boob. Why does American society sexualize the body the way it does?

The logic here is baffling. The human body is beautiful, functional and something to be celebrated. We’re shamed about our bodies due to the the Protestant Reformation. That movement (among other things) advocated a modest life. But this isn’t the 1700s anymore. Why are we still covered up? For an entertainment purpose? To sell more clothes and underwear?

Women’s bodies began to seem less and less functional and more like objects of desire. Straight men’s sexual desires drive how we consume and accept images of women’s bodies- and it’s become how women value their beauty and worth. Breasts (even though, yes, they’re fun to play with sexually) are intended to feed babies. With all our progress on feminist issues, how can such a simple biological imperative remain so stigmatized?

I just want to say, no way.

I want to be able to talk about these things to my coworkers and on a date; hear about them on television, in normal conversations with people other than my mom and my doctor. When I ask, how are you doing, I want to hear about period cramps. YOUR period cramps. I want to see babies getting fed by the boob whenever possible. I want to start breaking down the taboo and breaking down the stereotype because everyone’s body regardless of the shape, size and color is miraculous- bleeding and all.

What other bodily functions should we destigmatize, dear reader? (And if you’re like me and on your period, get some rest and eat some dark chocolate. You’ll feel better soon.)

#TheBestOf2018

Oh, 2018. You made my eyes and ears explode. So much happened in the world of entertainment this year that kept me glued to various screens- my computer, my phone, my television and the local cinema’s. This year may have been a how one for some but in 2018, the world of a pop culture soared. Below are my favorites and recommendations of this passing year.

The cast of “Eighth Grade”

Movies (please note that I have not seen absolutely everything that came out this year but I did come close… kind of):

  • Ibiza” (Netflix) It’s a cheesy rom-com but sometimes we need a little extra queso in our life. The music is fun and the lead, Richard Madden, is eye and ear candy (he’s Scottish).
  • Eighth Grade.” (Out on DVDV now.) This movie is for eighth grade me AND the present day me. It nails being awkward and uncomfortable- or as I like to describe myself- confidently unconfident.
  • Black Panther.” (Netflix) I am not a Marvel fan but man, this movie was great (I saw it in the cinema thrice). It made me wish that Wakanda was an actual place and that I could visit it.
  • Ocean’s 8.” (Out on DVDV now.)  Just watch the movie for the clothes (the coats! the footwear!). That reminds me- in 2019, I need to start dressing better, more sophisticated.
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story.” (Out on DVDV now.) I may be the only person who likes “Solo” but come on! It has Darth Maul in it (spoiler alert).
  • A Star Is Born.” (In theaters) The movie left a profound impact on me. I left the movie theaters in tears but feeling inspired to sing (I beelined straight for the karaoke bar next door and tried to do my best Lady Gaga).

Music and podcasts:

“This is America” by Childish Gambino

  • Ariana Grande’s “no tears felt to cry.” 2018 was Ariana’s year. She came out with so many bangers but this one is my favorite (also, check out Miley Cyrus’ cover. It’s stripped down and so pretty).
  • Lake Street Dive’s “Good Kisser.” Rachel Price’s voice is perfection. God, I wish I could sing like her (despite my all my efforts). I was having a terrible day at work and found this tune while browsing Spotify. It immediately made me feel better (and who hasn’t been in that position? Damn exes who talk garbage about you after terrible breakups.)
  • These Days.” Speaking of exes, this song… But it’s so good and speaks many truths. Too often, we think about our ex and their life without us in it (or maybe that might just be me). I like to think my ex wrote this about me, for me, especially when I moved to Austin.
  • Nice For What.” Attention women of planet earth! Please listen to this song and make it your anthem! Thank you, Drake!
  • Bazzi’s “Mine.” What a cute, short love song. I would sing this to my cat- I’d hold her in my arms and tell her how happy I was that she belonged to me (Plus, I love this video. It’s weird and trippy and fun to watch).
  • The entire “Black Panther” soundtrack. It’s golden.
  • “This is America.” Donald Glover (Childish Gambino) is a genius. The song is good but when it’s paired with its music video, it catches fire. Add Glover’s SNL performance and your mind will explode. This songs started conversations and forced people to face some uncomfortable truths.
  • Armchair Expert” featuring Dax Shepard and other special guests. It is a surprisingly thoughtful podcast mixed in with silly humor from Dax (I particularly loved the episode Ashton Kutcher episode).

Television (it’s the same as with movies- there is way too much to watch and I’m still trying to catch up):

“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

  • Who Is America?” (Showtime)There are so many things to say about this show. It’s crazy. It’s shocking. It’s hilarious. And you learn a lot about the people in our country (and just how stupid and misinformed they are). Sacha Baron Coehn is brilliant and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
  • The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” (Amazon Prime) The new season premiered a couple of weeks ago and I binged through all ten episodes in three days. I love the costumes, the dialogue, the humor. This charming show is a ten.
  • The new season of “A Handmaid’s Tale.” (Amazon Prime) The season frustrated me soon. I loved it, thought it was visually stunning but that season finale… Nope. I screamed at my TV and threw my shoe, hoping somehow to would hit the character, June, in the face. I understand her motivites but the season finale was incredibly frustating.
  • Beyonce’s Coachella performance. (YouTube) Okay, it technically wasn’t a television program but I was glued to YouTube watching Queen Bae do her thing. I love her. I will always worship her.

Remembering

  • Kate Spade. You made beautiful and affordable accessories. I felt like a million bucks when I donned your goodies. You are deeply missed.
  • Stephen Hillenburg. Thanks for creating SpongeBob, the best cartoon on the planet.  You are deeply missed.
  • Stan Lee. Your idea of connecting people with superpowers and social justice issues was beyond clever. Thank you for making us feel less alone. You are deeply missed.
  • Dolores O’Riordan. I’m just going to play this gem of a song in your honor (thanks for writing it and so many others).
  • Aretha Franklin. Forever cool. Forever badass. Forever Queen. You are deeply missed.
  • Anthony Bourdain.  If Arthea was cool, you were ice cold. Every beer I drink, every whiskey I sip- I dedicated them to you. Every time I think about traveling (especially as I plan my birthday trip to Central America), I think about you. Thank you for igniting that speaks in me. You are deeply missed.

What were your favorite pieces of entertainment this year, dear reader?

#TheBestOf2017

Oh, 2017. You made my eyes and ears explode. So much happened in the world of entertainment this year that kept me glued to various screens- my computer, my phone, my television and the local cinema. This year may have been a rough one for some but in 2017, the world of pop culture dominated (hello, #MeToo movement). Listed below are my favorites and recommendations of this passing year.

Hello gentlemen…

MOVIES   Please note that I haven’t seen “Get Out” (I know, know…), “The Big Sick,” “Lady Bird,” “Call Me By Your Name,” “The Florida Project,” “The Shape of Water” and so many other future (hopefully) Oscar nominated films. And can we reminiscence about one of my favorite moments of the year- the Oscar fiasco (Go”Moonlight!”)?

Trainspotting 2:” Hands down, my favorite movie of the year (and not just because I’ve had a massive crush on Ewan McGregor for most of my life). Sequels usually don’t hold but man, this movie… “T2” wraps up loose ends in a neat, plaid bow and has a lot of fun doing so. Also, THE SOUNDTRACK  (take a gander at “Silk” by Wolf Alice). Also, SCOTLAND (take me back to the U.K….).

Dunkirk:” The sound. “Dunkirk” must win Best Sound Editing at the Oscars next year. It is deafening (in the best way, of course). Christopher Nolan knows how to make a movie- TEACH ME YOUR WAYS! The stakes are high and he plays with the timeline of war in an interesting way. (My only compliant is there wasn’t enough of Tom Hardy’s lips.)

Girls Trip:” Sometimes you need something stupid to watch and this is it (okay, stupid is the wrong word). The female friendship woven throughout the movie is heartwarming and feels real. I first saw “Girls Trip” at the theater when I was having an off day- I left with a cramp in my side from laughing so much. Tiffany Haddish absolutely kills in this movie and the other actresses play well off of each other so well.

Wonder Woman:” Finally. Finally, finally, finally. We HAVE “WONDER WOMAN!” Gal Gadot is bad ass yet adorable. Patty Jenkins is a bad ass and a genius. This movie was sweet. It was fun. It was funny. And there wasn’t any cheap shot of certain female anatomy (that is important! Take note, male filmmakers!). This movie inspired me to start writing screenplays again and got me seriously thinking about creating something magical- 2018, you better watch out for ME!

TELEVISION  Please note that there was simply too much good television made this year- “Big Little Lies,” “The Deuce,” “GLOW,”  “The Crown,” “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend…”  But I’m finally watching “Game of Thrones” and am finally caught up with “The Great British Bakeoff!”

Master of None:” Give it up for brown people. In the middle of the new season of “Master of None“, there is this beautiful love letter to New York City and its residents. It’s refreshing to see stories about the little guy- the elevator operator, the girl who works at the corner bodega, your taxi driver. The entire season is fantastic (the Thanksgiving episode!) but this episode proves to the world that there’s no one like New Yorkers. (Netflix)

The Handmaid’s Tale:” I love this show even though it hurts to watch. The United States no longer exists. The majority of the world’s women can no longer get pregnant. Those who can are raped and force to to bare children to term. With everything politically that happened this year, I watch this show and wondering if the premise of “The Handmaid’s Tale” could eventually become our reality.  Nevertheless, the show is compelling and leaves you wanting more. I can’t go enough of this show and am I so excited for the next season. (Hulu)

Stranger Things:” I waited all year for the new season of “Stranger Things” and binged it within two days. With the exception of the seventh episode (you know which one I’m talking about, this season was perfect. Give me anything with Samwise Gamgee and cute guys named Steve. Bitchin’. (Netflix)

This Is Us:” The feels. Ugly cry. This show. It’s so, so good. (NBC)

James Corden also killed with his “Carpool Karaoke” segments this year. They are always so much fun to watch. (CBS and iTunes)

MUSIC Yes, yes… I still need to listen to DAMN.

(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano” by Sampha:  It was a cold day in the beginning of February when I first heard this song. I was drinking coffee in my favorite coffee shop when the barista played this song over and over again on the loudspeaker. I was hooked. Sampha wrote this beautiful tribute to his mother and their East London home  right after she passed away from cancer. You can feel the emotion seeping from his pores as he sings about childhood memories. This is my favorite song of the year.

Praying” by Kesha: I have to admit something awful. Despite my fondness for glitter, for the longest time I hated Kesha’s music. I was never a massive EDM fan and the bass in her songs would give me headaches. Flash forward to this summer. I intensely followed her legal battles against Dr. Luke and was curious to about her new album, especially when she still had ties to him. The first time I heard “Praying,” I cried. It has real power. Raw power. It is intense with filled with grace.  There is a kindness in it that I don’t think I could ever give anyone if I was in Kesha’s shoes. This song has taught me about forgiveness and finding the strength in yourself.

Sign of the Times” by Harry Styles: My friends know me as a die hard One Direction fan (I wouldn’t sing anything else at karaoke). OD went on a hiatus this year and each member branched out, moving and shaking with their solo careers. While his bandmates followed the pop route, Harry Styles took another direction (haha… puns) and made a record that, when I first listened to it, thought was a David Bowie album. “Sign of the Times” has this gorgeous sweeping chorus, with beautiful vocals and drums. I want to live in this song and in its music video.

Despacito” by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee. How can you not love this song?! Okay, it took me a while to fall in love with it but after hearing it for the millionth time, the song stole my heart (and makes me want to live on a Puerto Rican beach in a teeny bikini). Props for being the most YouTube video of all time and helping to raise Puerto Rican’s tourist interest.

One More Light” by Linkin Park. 2017 was a sad year for rock and roll. The suicide of Chris Cornell was tough to process but Chester Bennington’s death felt like a repeated punch to the stomach. Linkin Park was a staple in my music rotation during my formative years, a band that I literally grew up with. Reading about Bennington’s suicide this July brought up some unsettling memories. The band released the video for “One More Light” a few months after Bennington’s death in memoriam. It’s with footage of a smiling Bennington interacting with fans- both the video and song just hauntingly gorgeous.

Rest in peace, Chester

WRITING  One of my resolutions for 2017 was to read more books. Despite my weekly visit to the local library, I would spend more time on Buzzfeed rather than flipping tangible pages. Quite frankly, I can’t remember the majority of things I read this year but I do remember this piece of journalism. The photos alone tell a heartbreaking story but dive deeper into the text and learn how the Syrian people  continue on despite the war around them. The music flows over the ruins of Aleppo and through the crevices of our hearts.

What are your favorites of 2017, dear reader?