Film from a Rainy Day on the UWS

Today, I took the morning to focus on learning new skills, and before I head on some trips, I wanted to learn more about analog photography and my camera. Last time I shot, there was clearly an issue with light leaks, the back door coming open accidentally, or a problem with the camera. The photography man suggested I take a cheap roll out and shoot it to see if its the seal that has an issue or something else. This is the product of the test, and I think they all turned out great regardless of the little imperfections that come with shooting analog. Enjoy!

 

Living in a World With Octobers

As the temperatures drop into the low sixties, and New Yorkers and tourists alike step out on the streets in light sweaters and zipped up jacket, I step out and feel overcome by the gratitude of living in a world where there are Octobers. And this October will be mine.

When I think back to October 2018, I see a smitten young girl trying her best to navigate toxic friendships, a new 9-5 job, a budding relationship, evening classes, and autumn activities. When the 20th rolled around, I wondered where all the days went and felt like I hadn’t spent my days loving everything that is to come with the changing of seasons.

I was struggling, at times to stay afloat in my creatively, demanding job while I was drowning under readings, research assignments, essays, and thesis pitches. It wasn’t until the second or third week in October when I even considered what I was going to be for Halloween, now that I had someone to finally have a couple’s costume with.

I felt stress more than I ever felt gratitude for my favorite time of the year, last year. So, this past week, I decided this October was going to be different. Sure my part-time job (oh yeah, I finally nailed down a job in a publishing house!) and my freelance editing gig is leaving me less financially stable compared to last year, but I am finding a way to do everything that I want to do to enjoy October.

I’ve applied my berry, matte lipstick, cooked pumpkin-rich treat, cracked out the autumnal decor, and enjoyed a few Halloween themed books, movies, and television shows–-and yes, it is only October 2nd. 

I have bought up all the seasonal beers, snacks, and treats. I have looked up all the spooky sights the City has to offer. I have lit candles to throw scents of fresh apples, spicy pumpkins, decadent desserts, and musky woods. And I have done all of this because I want to thoroughly enjoy my favorite time of the year.

I stressed most of the summer, and I don’t need to bring those feelings of self-doubt, fear, and anxiety into the autumn because I want to look forward to my events.

As of the 2nd, I am planning for road trips spent leaf-peeping, afternoons spent apple picking, evenings spent at haunted houses, and nights spent cozied under a blanket scaring my sock off during silly horror movies.

Do you have a time that makes you feel utterly at peace?

September Book Review

As you know from my previous post at the beginning of the month, First Impressions of ‘Uncommon Types,’ I have spent the month reading Tom Hanks’ debut novel of short stories. I want to start off by saying I am glad I did. Hanks did a great job cumulating a collection of short stories, where the characters repeated throughout the novel. At times, it was a comfort to see how the relationships between friends grew throughout various scenarios, but I found the stand-alone stories, the ones that didn’t follow any sort of preconceived relationship to be the most intriguing.

Among my favorites are, “Welcome to Mars,” “These Are the Meditations of My Heart” and “A Month on Greene Street.” Together they discuss heartbreak, relationships, and self-betterment. They are the stories that have me convinced I need a type-writer and need to rewatch a Hanks Rom-Com. The characters are beautifully constructed and left me questions about what happens next in their lives.

Although it isn’t my favorite book ever, it definitely is a read worth listening to and following along. What is better than hearing Tom Hanks get into character and talk about his passions, typewriters that is?

With September on its way out and October coming tomorrow, you may wonder what is next on my agenda?

The official book of October is The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert. After sitting in the audience during her panel at Book Con, I knew I’d want to pick up the book whose cover is a work of art. Summarized by “a teenager must rescue her kidnapped mother in a dark YA debut that mixes horror and fairy story,” Hazel Wood is just enough magic and spook for the haunted days of October.

I will be releasing more thriller, horror, and spooky books for this month, but in the meantime get your hand on a copy of The Hazel Wood and read it along with me in October!

Read along with me this month, and stay tuned for the 30th of October where I unravel the ends of October’s book-of-the-month, review other books I may have read over the coming weeks, and announce November’s read!

Are We Really Listening?

Earlier this week I received, the advanced reader copy of Kate Murphy’s novel, You’re Not Listening, set to release January 7, 2020, and was immediately struck by the contents of the story. The Houston, Texas-based reporter who in the past has written for The New York Times and The Economist, shows within the first few pages just how convincing and exquisite her story-telling skills are.

What fascinates me about Murphy’s book is that even during the increasingly unavoidable loneliness of today’s digital age, she’s found a way to combat isolation. In this book, Murphy addresses the epidemic through a profoundly personal style of teaching us to be better listeners and connecting with everyone around us. In a way, she urges us to stop talking and start listening.

I have been thinking a lot about this topic, and I want to motivate my readers to get their hands on the book come the new year because I think many of us can use it as a tool for our upcoming New Year resolutions in 2020. Ever since reading the first few chapters, I have changed the way I listen to the people around me. I have become conscious of my subtle cues, and have noticed times where I really am just not listening.

I say that with sadness because no one should feel ignored, and I should know better as I have been in the situation being ignored. It’s disheartening to be on the phone with a friend and hear the radio silence behind every “mhmm” and “yeah” that they mutter out as they go through the motions and “pretend to listen.” Your confidence can be crushed when you are catching up with a friend for drinks, and they keep checking their phone in the middle of your story about what you’ve been up to since you last saw them.

As a psychology student, I have always realized how widely essential listening can be for yourself and the relationships you forge in the future, and I regret to say I’ve ever fallen short when it came to listening to everything someone said. One thing Murphy pointed out is if we are actually listening, there is no need for the subtle cues that show that we are listening. We don’t need to interject with mindless mumbles, but rather when they are done with their point, we should be able to briefly summarize what the person may have said and then add our thoughts and point of view to continue the conversation.

It could be jarring at first, but after reading that chapter of her book, you come to realize just how often you nod your head and interject in addition to how often you may lose your focus on just merely listening when you are going through the motions of proving you are “listening.”

Maybe teachers have always tried to make us good listeners. Perhaps they know what they are saying when they tell us to put our hands down until they are done speaking.

It was in middle school when I heard a teacher interject, “you aren’t listening when you have your hand up, and you’ll have more questions later because of it.” Which is wildly accurate, in school and in life outside of the classroom.

Someone may have said something, and then you replay their statement over and over in your head because you have a question about what they may have said, or you might be formulating a response and all the while you never hear the rest of their story.

There is so much we can learn from just listening, and being an active listener versus a passive listener. Although my friends had always deemed me as a great listener when it came to heading their insecurities and struggles because I would typically ask thought-provoking questions in response to their statements, I know there is more I can do to prove I am a good listener. I have Kate Murphy to thank since she was the one who reminded me just how important it is to really listen to your friends.

How many of my readers have felt ignored or lonely because they feel like there is no one out there to listen to them? Has there ever been a moment where you felt like you couldn’t be your complete, authentic self because you thought, “what’s the point in wasting my breath, they aren’t even listening?” I want you to know you aren’t alone, but that there is so much we can learn by being listeners, and the more that we can do to inspire others to listen, the more we can change the way our future develops.

International Literacy Day

“International Literacy Day, celebrated annually on 8 September, is an opportunity for Governments, civil society and stakeholders to highlight improvements in world literacy rates, and reflect on the world’s remaining literacy challenges.”– UN.org

Literacy and Multilingualism is the theme of 2019 where the UN urges the peoples of the world to express solidarity with the linguistic diversity that is present in education and the development of literacy to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The reason why today is so essential is that literacy is for everyone, everywhere. My ability to read and write allows me to have this platform to express myself. I can pick up a book and get lost in another world that is unlike my own. I can pursue a career that I enjoy as well as further my future with the enrichment of my ancestors and diverse cultures.

I couldn’t imagine a world where I lack a way to communicate with the various cohorts I keep. I love my growing library and world of knowledge I have learned through the skills of literacy, but I understand how crucial maintaining diversity in our education systems is.

I keep a copy of Other-Wordly: words both strange and lovely from around the world on my coffee table to remind me how diverse languages can be and how some languages have words for feelings that the English language cannot sum up in a single phrase. I open it on occasions to familiarize myself not only with words but with emotions that I will then include in my writing.

Knowing there is a word like ‘querencia‘ which is a noun rooted in the Spanish language that means a place from which one’s strength is drawn, where one feels at home; the place where you are your most authentic self, means I not only am educating myself on new vocabulary from a language that was for a lot of my friends, their first language, but it’s reminding me about the places that I feel my most authentic self. 

I feel most at home with a blanket wrapped around my shoulder. I feel at home in the arms of my partner or with my toes dug into the warm sand. I feel most at home in Florida, London, Boulder, and New York City. I feel most at home with the crisp autumn air, crunching leaves, and an abundance of pumpkins.

The first time I truly felt like my authentic self, I couldn’t describe it. Still to this day when I recount my time in London, I say I “fell into what I wanted to be” “I changed into the person I felt like I have always was” because after feeling different for so long, it was great to feel the strength I always had at my core finally radiating a golden hue.

My native language isn’t going anywhere, but even if English is something many people know, that doesn’t mean we erase the languages that are so important to the histories of others. I’ve always appreciated that there is no national language of the United States because I never understood why others would say “you’re in America, speak English” to someone speaking a foreign language to their own. Irradicating someone’s culture isn’t necessary, but encouraging language diversity, education, and literacy are essential.

I urge my readers and followers to pick up a book today. I want you to read a page, a chapter, or the entire thing. I want to know what book you choose, what you learned from your moments reading, and how it made you feel.

I urge my readers to write something today for yourself. Write down your grocery list on paper, an encouraging quote on a Post-it note to place on your computer screen, or a letter to a loved one.

I want my readers and followers to take from the gift of literacy and do something positive with it today. Happy International Literacy Day!

 

First Impressions of ‘Uncommon Types’

While an autumnal spice blend and rich pumpkin scents are thrown throughout my small New York City apartment, I enjoy the pitter-patter of rain on my bedroom window, over-cast skies, and Tom Hank’s narration of his first collection of short stories, Uncommon Type: Some Stories.

Because my morning started off with Tom Hank’s recognizable cadence and meticulous character interactions, it must mean that September’s book-of-the-month read has begun. To commemorate my monthly book club, my best friend selected Uncommon Types: Some Stories as the book well will discuss at the end of the month. However, before I release my final thoughts, I felt that should I preface my first ever book review post with a first-glance into my initial impressions.

I’ve grown up with Hank’s and his witty sense of humor, eclectic characters, and oscar-worthy acting. I am always up for a Hank movie marathon and can be found quoting the movies of his I have seen an uncountable amount of time. Many of you may know that You’ve Got Mail is one of my mother’s and grandmother’s favorite movies. I grew up dreaming of autumns in New York and love that

Weirdly enough, I found myself living the plot of the film. To this day, I still remember the moment I FaceTimed my mother and flipped the camera to show a non-contextual aerial shot of a Starbucks from above. “Do you know what this is?” I asked. She replied, “You’ve Got Mail.”

“No,” I said, “that’s the Starbucks next door.” I grew up religiously watching the movie besides her, and she smiles whenever my life relates to the rom-com now. I found my current heartthrob online, I live in the UWS with him where I occasionally zip my credit card through the credit card machines at Zabar’s, but at the apex of it all I spent one summer working with the corporate team of the IRL Fox Books.

Up until the summer of 2018, the nostalgia watching the film focused around my childhood and my relationship with my mother more so than the growing pains surrounding what life used to be.

Ever since You’ve Got Mail, Toy Story, and The Polar Express entered my list of top watched movies, I wondered how he would turn out to be a writer. I still am curious to see how his love for story-telling and affinity for typewriters would mix when he channeled an inner author.

With the book being released in October of 2017, it is currently ranking at an average of 3.45 stars from 24,724 ratings  and 4,532 reviews on Good Reads; with some of the top reviews mentioning “these stories are aggressively competent and aggressively bland.” In total, Uncommon Types: Some Stories is “a collection of seventeen wonderful short stories showing that two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks is as talented a writer as he is an actor.”

Because at the root of it, the reason I bought this book because I knew the author because he is an actor. After just completing The Road by Cormac McCarthy, national bestseller and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, I knew this story may pale in comparison. That’s okay because there is always something to appreciate from another’s writing style.

Hank’s may never win an award for his literary feats, but from the two short stories I have read, I have enjoyed them both for a lazy day spent in bed enjoying Tom Hank’s narration as I read along.

‘’Three Exhausting Weeks”: Two best friends decide to enter in a romantic relationship, but even after the first night together, readers can feel their incompatibility. Read to discover how an authoritative, busy-body creates a regime for a laid-back, home-body.

“Christmas Eve 1953”: An incredible recount of a cold Christmas Eve that harps on joy, belief in tomorrow, and the healing wounds of a past filled with physical and psychological trauma.

Both stories stay true to the movies Tom Hank’s stars in, and the humor he uses to keep readers following along. The nostalgia of typewriters remains a theme throughout both stories, which I am happy to see since I know Tom Hank’s is a fond collector.

There are still fifteen short-stories for me to dive into, and although at times the crisp short sentences and dimmed imagery can pull away from the reader’s attention, Hank’s makes up for it with a handful of beautifully crafted paragraphs to leave the readers wanting to know more about the characters he described.

Read along with me this month, and stay tuned for the 30th of September where I unravel the ends of September’s book-of-the-month, review other books I may have read over the coming weeks, and announce October’s read!


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Last Week of Summer

Well, it is the last week of August, which mean the “-ber” months are upon us; “-ber” meaning September, October, November, otherwise known as the best time of the year. I am ready for the days where morning mist pushes up against my rosy cheeks and causes me to tighten my layered jacket around my shoulders. I am looking forward to afternoons illuminated with a soft, golden light that cascades across the yellowing leaves in Central Park. I have waited all year for this time to great us, but we still have one last week of summer.

As summers go, this one has been relatively eventful and problematic. I officially have a degree, but as of today, I am still sending off my resume to jobs, I have little interest in because I am craving a job that seems to be on pause. I have traveled the most this summer out of many summers before, but I think I have lost chances to win over potential companies because of my travels. However, I did finally cross off Wyoming, Montana, and Oregon off my 50 State Countdown list, but I didn’t get a chance to visit my family or home. The last time I was in Florida was 2018, and I miss watching the sunset fade below the horizon as I dug my pedicured toes into the warm sand.

I anticipated having a job before August was over, but it looks like I will begin autumn the way I began summer; hunting. It is strange to think I have spent the majority of summer in front of this laptop typing away at cover letters and tailoring my resume for the various jobs, a task that seems tedious and boring, however, this summer has flown by regardless of the fact that I have been stationary for a lot of it.

Maybe its because I spent over a month traveling the country, or maybe its because although it has been a trying summer, I have done everything I can to sprinkle in activities that make me happy. I take breaks from applying to read, write, and cook. I have spent afternoons dreaming up new book ideas, autumn activities, and decorating ideas for the apartment. There were happy hour dates, movies on the pier, and picnics in the park. I spent afternoons sipping lemonade with my friends and evenings drinking frozé until our brains froze and our words slurred.

I am excited that autumn has come to an end, but it has been a long time since I had a summer like this, and these memories will always stay with me. I won’t miss the sauna that our apartment transformed into or the stench of the heated trash on the sidewalks, but I’ll miss the laughs fighting over the spot next to the A/C and the neighbors enjoying the brownstone stoops while children laugh and ride their scooters. With this being the last week of summer, I have made my list for the final stretch of the season.

To-Do

  • Purge the remnants of summer’s clutter and ready the apartment for the changing of seasons.
  • Get a meal prepping schedule down, so I can continue to enhance my cooking knowledge before I fall into an “I’m too busy to cook” mentality.
  • Grab a Mister Dips from an icecream truck, and enjoy it while the sun sets over midtown while the vanilla trails down the back of my hand and sprinkles fall to the sidewalk.
  • Take my bags to the Columbus Street Farmers Market, and locally source a summer meal.
  • Enjoy a meal on the patio of a new restaurant before all “outdoor” seating is stored away for the year.
  • Fill out my travel journal, or at least compile all the memories from this summer spent on the road, so I can look forward to what is to come.
  • Make a change to the apartment; paint a wall, put up wallpaper, or just make it a cozy place for the months spent snuggling indoors.
  • Keep up the momentum on job applications and nail a career that I would be proud to grow with.
  • Burn the last remaining “summer scents” and get the pumpkin candles ready.
  • Plan for the apple picking afternoons that are to come in the next month.

Tell me, what is on your final summer to-do list? 

Starting a Book Club

As a writer and aspiring author, I have found myself buying up more books than my Ikea bookshelves can handle all while calling myself a “reader.” Which I am, but I am the type of reader who rewards myself with new books, even when I have hundreds of novels left unread on my shelves, and I wasn’t reading to keep up. For a while, I obsessively bought every recommendation and new release and added them to my fast-growing collection of “want to read next” while I neglected to read.

In May, I said enough is enough, no. more. books.

Before I get ahead of myself, I was doing this to save money. I called it my ‘book hiatus,’ which is where I set the goal for myself to read 1/3 of my books before heading out and buying new ones. My bookshelf would always be accepting of Advance Reader Copies and gifts, but I am now actively trying to read what is already in my collection.

It was around the time of my hiatus that I realized I was reading a lot in the spring, but that number started to dwindle in the summer. At one point, I was reading a book a week, which sounds like a lot, but I was a fast reader and I often get sucked into a story and have a hard time putting them down. In order to maintain my habit of buying and not reading, I revamped the goal by talking to my fellow reading friends and asking if they wanted to start a book club.

My best friend is just like me, she obsessively stalks Barnes & Noble’s inventory, rewards her seven-foot-tall bookshelves with more books, and is trying to find time to catch-up with all the books she wants to read. It was back in 2016 when we first started this idea of a book-club. We were prepping for our road trip from Florida to Colorado, and I was showing her all around my home town of Naples; which included stopping in Barnes & Noble. We both, separately, found the book Virgin by Radhika Sanghani which followed a 21-year-old on a mission to deflower herself.

We both decided to pick up a copy, read it on our own time, and discuss the book when we were done. Together we sat in my living room on matching couches and turned the pages in silence. I ended up devouring the book before bed, which pushed my best friend to read it faster, and still to this day, I loved the book, and I loved discussing it with a friend.

Since then, I have picked up duplicate copies of books for us to read, in addition to us both recommending and FaceTiming one another to show our recent book haul.  Together, we decided enough is enough. No more “let save this for a book club” instead, “lets actually read this for a book club.”

Those words made me a reader again. We planned for September 1st to be the start of our monthly book club. We planned to read one book together, starting with Uncommon Types by Tom Hanks (yes, that Tom Hanks). We habitually start multiple books at a time, so we left the final weeks in August to wrap up our books of the summer. Because I had a plan, I stuck with it. Throughout the past few weeks, I finally finished A Darker Shade of Magic and City of Ghost by V. E. Schwab, The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, and Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style by Benjamin Dryer.

I mention that I habitually read multiple books at one time because I would love to read more books with more people. I may have started a book club with close friends, but also entice to my readers to join along in the conversation! You may just be here for my mental-health blogs and tantalizing travel essays, but in actuality, I would love to interact with my followers, and I feel like reading is something you can do to improve your mental well-being and a book is portable enough to take on your journies.

So whether you are interested in reading Uncommon Types with us, or are wanting to discuss books with me, please comment below; if there are four full weeks in September, then you better believe that I am going to be up for at least starting four new books soon!

I think one will be Educated by Tara Westover. I am all for a memoir, and I have never had so many recommendations for a single book since I became a more mature reader. Have any of you read it? Let me know if you’ve been meaning to and want to read it with me!

Learning to Live Purposefully

After writing my post on Monday, I started to really reflect on the time I spent on my phone. I wanted to know how much time I was spending on social media and how that was impacting my daily life or productivity. To do this, I notice Instagram has a new function that monitors your time spent on the app and will set a reminder notification for when you reach a particular time. I set it to 30 minutes because at the time I had averaged around 40 minutes –– 30 minutes goes by very quickly. 

And that makes me sad. Because I know there is so much more I could be doing with my time, so I am just trying to figure out how I make time and kick the habit.  I still tend to pick up my phone in the morning and scroll through social media, but there is a new voice in the back of my head telling me to be more purposeful with my time.

I feed into the idea and stigma that social media has its pitfalls and lacks its benefits, but at the same time, I worked at a start-up who employed over thirty people with generous salaries that were funded entirely by social media. I understand the power that comes with it because so many of us thrive off of it. I am following influencers who are trying to show positive, real stories. I see how they will post photos of them breaking down, unedited, and raw. They understand so many people look up to them and believe their lives are perfect based on what they put on social media, so they are more open.

I appreciate that. I try and do the same, and be honest while I write my blogs because I believe it’s okay to show weakness as you work to strengthen yourself. I am not someone who assumes everyone’s lives are exactly like their feed, especially since some of my proudest accomplishments are nowhere near my feeds; yet I still can’t get rid of social altogether. In the back of my mind, I eventually want to introduce this blog to the world through my friends and followers. There are a few of you that I have confided in, Hello, and there are some that want to read my account, but I have kept the URL private.

In the future, I know I will open up more. I know I will share this more freely and use social media to reach more and more people, but until then I made a list of things I would love to do daily that could only happen when I start living my life with a purpose.

Mock Day, I want to devote my time to:

Journaling my thoughts

Reading a new book weekly

Learning new skill

Walking and exercising daily

Cooking something yummy 

Blogging as much as I can

Practicing more creative work

 

It isn’t a long list, but ideally, between the time I wake up and the time I go to sleep, I would have done everything on this list. Sometimes it may not be realistic, but I am going to try my best to reintroduce each item to my daily activities because I know that they are habits I need to form. When I lived in London, I was able to journal every day for three months, get out of the flat and explore the city, cook food for myself and my roommate, learned how to use a film camera, and blogged daily –– and I was always with friends and excelling at my studies. I know it is possible.  

At times I have done a combination of all these tasks in a day, but never all together. I partially wonder if my time scrolling inhibits all of them being done. Could my thirty minutes in the morning when I wake up go to reading a chapter or journaling? Yes. Could I wake up at 6:00am instead of 7:00am and get out and walk a loop in Central Park? I should. Are there classes online that I have signed up for, paid for even, that are news skills I would love to have? You better believe it. It will take practice, and I know that, but I don’t need to watch Netflix all night, or I could write posts, exercise, and cook while I watch the latest episode of Big Little Lies. There are little changes to be made to make a tremendous impact on my mental health, liveliness, and happiness.

There is so much I want to do, but I want to know what some activities you would do daily if time weren’t an issue? Leave a comment and let’s try and hold each other accountable!