15 REASONS WHY NETFLIX’S UMBRELLA ACADEMY IS THE BEST SHOW – REASON #1

REASON #1: THIS IS THE FIRST SHOW I’VE EVEN WANTED TO BINGE-WATCH IN A VERY LONG TIME

Source: IMDB.com

This is the first show I’ve wanted to do my version of “binge watching” on in a VERY LONG TIME. It’s very important to note that I am NOT a binge watcher. (I usually don’t even watch movies all at the same time, much less watch more than one episode of a show on any given day.) The last time I was watching a show where I HAD to know what happened next was probably in Season 2 of BBC Sherlock or Season 6 of Doctor Who.

But with Umbrella Academy, I just couldn’t stop watching it, especially after the second or third episode. I divided the first episode up over a few days (a normal rate for me watching a 1-hour episode of anything), but I watched an episode or more per day starting with Episode 4.

On the day I finished the series, I watched 2.5 episodes, which is a ton of watching anything for me. But it was THAT good. I HAD to know what happened next & was willing to lose a bit of sleep over staying up to finish an episode. And when I found myself in my car in a parking lot waiting for it to be time to go into a concert venue, I took the fifteen or so minutes I had & used it to watch JUST A FEW minutes more of the show. Whether or not the episode ended on a cliffhanger or with a new revelation, I really cared about the characters & NEEDED to see how this was going to end.

The plot was just so fucking good though, which made Umbrella Academy one of the best, most intriguing, most well-done series I’ve watched in a long time.

FEBRUARY: MY MONTH REVIEW

OVERVIEW: Got to meet Art Garfunkel thanks to some glorious serendipity, published two books, released two songs, put out a new comedy video, saw 4 concerts,went to the Florida State Fair for the first time, milked a cow for the first time, rode a camel for the first time, finished revamping all my online store listings,  did my first cartwheel, got to pet cows, sheep, lambs, a donkey, & a burro for the first time, & more!

CREATIVITY & BUSINESS

  • BOOKS: Published 2 books – Ashlee Craft/Assemblage, Issue 14 & Moles (Wonderful Wildlife #9)Began on a new poetry book & Fallon the Wizard, Book 2.
  • MUSIC: Released 2 songs – “There Was a Man” & “& The Night Was Over (Post Rock Remix)“.
  • Began painting on canvas paper for things I think would come out better painted on textured art paper instead of regular copy paper, the latter of which is what I usually use for most of my art. Painted my crying circus strongman & the upcoming orange-haired funky girl paintings. This was also my first time in a long time of painting actual cohesive paintings (aside from book illustrations; I’ve drawn cohesive things but hadn’t made any cohesive “paintings” for a long time). Also, this was my first time of painting people (just a few months ago, I finally realized I could DRAW people [I always had this weird belief that I couldn’t, or couldn’t do it well], which lead to my Mighty Boosh & Pee-Wee’s Playhouse themed works).
  • My Mom & I collaborated on a piece of art for the first time ever, where she came up with an idea & I drew it! The result of this was the Marching Money design.
  • FINISHED EDITING ALL MY PRODUCT LISTINGS ON SHOP ASHLEE CRAFT as part of the months-long revamping of my shop! GO CHECK IT OUT HERE →
  • Submitted the first thing I’ve ever done that’s going to be published in someone else’s magazine! SO EXCITED about this, because the magazine also happens to be one of my favorites. Announcement about this coming soon!
  • Put out a comedy video – an interview with Victoria of Victoria’s Secret! Based on a joke that did surprisingly well at the comedy club.
  • Began to “storyboard” movie scenes! What this means is, as I learned more about what goes into directing films, I realized I needed to draw a storyboard of the different shots I wanted for things I was filming. But then I realized I didn’t know what made a good shot, so I decided to draw storyboards for some of my favorite movie scenes. This is so much fun & so educational.
  • Filmed footage for a “commercial” I am making & wrote & recorded a jingle for it!
  • Applied for three acting jobs, two of which I auditioned for.
  • Published my 2018 Yearly Review article! You can read it here.
  • Wrote 8 poems, including my first two “newspaper poems” ever!
  • Made my first absurdist comedy quote image using an old vintage photo/illustration (an idea I’ve had for a while).
  • Began planning script for the one-person show that I’m developing. Played around with script & ideas. This will be something I pursue pretty soon.
  • Published an article about why I began watching movies again (after a hiatus in doing so).
  • Published an article about my goals for 2019!

CONCERTS

  • Saw Herbie Hancock at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, FL. Phenomenal.
  • Saw Fleetwood Mac in concert at Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL. It was one of those big, iconic concerts for me & I’m so so glad I got to see them.
  • Saw Art Garfunkel at Capitol Theatre in Clearwater, FL. Thanks to some MAGNIFICENT serendipity & the fact that I bought the very last “cheap seat”, which put me sitting next to the best friend of the wife of one of Art Garfunkel’s very best friends since college & still to this day, I GOT TO MEET ART GARFUNKEL & shake his hand & tell him how his music had been really important to me when I was a teen. He looked at my hair & said, “Good hair cut.” It was SO MAGICAL.
  • Saw Christopher Cross at Capitol Theatre in Clearwater, FL. So many flamingos.

FOODS

  • Went to Panera & tried their Prickly Pear Hibiscus Fresca for the first time! It’s awesome!!!
  • Drank Swiss Miss K-Cup hot chocolate for the first time!
  • Ate My/Mo Mango Mochi Ice Cream for the first time! SUPER GOOD. I’ve tried some other flavors of the My/Mo mochi ice cream but I’d never tried the mango one before.
  • Ate dinosaur gummy candy for the first time.
  • Made these banana almond flour muffins for the first time, after a very long time procrastinating on making them. They were super good.
  • One day, I had a soft-boiled egg in a cheese bed, sliced wild tomatoes with salt, & a yellow chocolate cupcake for breakfast.
  • Tried the Applewood Smoked Bacon Marinated Fresh Pork Loin Filet for the first time, & it was incredibly good! I’m usually not the BIGGEST fan of pork tenderloins, but this one had an amazing flavor & my Dad is super good at cooking meat.
  • Tried Campbell’s Chunky Jazzy Jambalaya soup for the first time!
  • Tried Mighty Sesame Vanilla Tahini bars for the first time!
  • Tried Chobani Gimmes yogurts in the birthday cake & cotton candy flavors!
  • To use up some roasted chestnuts I had, I melted blue cheese on them & they were awesome! That, plus some marshmallow hot chocolate, made for some awesome breakfasts.
  • Tried rainbow Twizzlers for the first time & they were great & so colorful & fun!
  • Bought some Walmart-brand Peach Bellini water flavoring, & I really enjoyed it.
  • Tried a veggie mixture with fresh vegetables that I bought that you microwaved to cook. It had salsa & cheese you put along with it, & it contained cauliflower, sweet potatoes, kale, & some other stuff. Really good mixture; I just can’t remember which brand it was.
  • Tried La Croix Kiwi Watermelon sparkling water for the first time!
  • Tried gummy frogs for the first time! They’re really good, & super funky.

MEDIA

  • STARTED READING: (* means a re-read; everything else is new to me) The Adventures of Robin Hood (Howard Pyle), The Anatomy of Peace (The Arbinger Institute), An Audience of One: Reclaiming Creativity for Its Own Sake (Srinivas Rao with Robin Dellabough), A Little Book of Sloth (Lucy Cooke)*, The Ugly Animals: We Can’t All Be Pandas (Simon Watt), Mindset (Carol Dweck), Steal Like an Artist (Austin Kleon)*, The Untethered Soul (Michael Singer), The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Agatha Christie)*, The Lessons of History (Will & Arial Durant), The Total Money Makeover (Dave Ramsey)
  • FINISHED READING: (* means a re-read; everything else is new to me) Letting Go (Dr. David Hawkins), Level Up Your Life (Steve Kamb), Girl, Wash Your Face (Rachel Hollis), The 4-Hour Work Week (Tim Ferris), The Anatomy of Peace (The Arbinger Institute), A Little Book of Sloth (Lucy Cooke)*, Mindset (Carol Dweck), Steal Like an Artist (Austin Kleon)*, The Untethered Soul (Michael Singer), The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Agatha Christie)*. Total: 10 (up from 7 in January)
  • WATCHED: (episodes in parenthesis for shows; all others are films. * means re-watches; all others are things I’ve never seen). Barbie Dolphin Magic, Absolutely Anything, Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later (Reunion), 555 (Acting), Cold Pursuit, In Order of Disappearance, Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy (King Tutta), The Office (Fun Run), The Umbrella Academy (We Only See Each Other at Weddings & Funerals), Red 2, Gayle (Episode 19 – Jay). Total: 11 (Exact same number of things I watched last month)
  • ALBUMS I LISTENED TO: (*First time listening to this album!). St. Vincent (St. Vincent)*, Abandoned Luncheonette (Daryl Hall/John Oates), War Babies (Daryl Hall/John Oates), A Wizard/A True Star (Todd Rundgren), Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Elton John)*, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out (Panic! At the Disco)*, Varsity (Varisty), We are So (ModPods), Escape the Gray (my own album), Our Own House (MisterWives)*, Three Dog Night – The Complete Hit Singles (Three Dog Night)*, Fleetwood Mac (Fleetwood Mac)*, Earth (Jefferson Starship), My Girl & More of the Drifters (The Drifters)*. Total: 14 (Up from 7 last month)
  • Was reminded of the amazing scene in The Dark Knight Rises (one of my favorite films EVER) where Batman is preparing to climb out of the pit & everyone is chanting “rise”. One of the best movie scenes ever & a huge inspiration to me on more occasions than I can count, so unless you’ve just watched the movie already this week, give it a watch here.

PETS

  • Looked into different dog foods & experimented with two different new types for Sparky, my Boston Terrier/Shih-Tzu/Chihuahua mix in order to find one that he likes, that’s good quality, & hopefully helps improve his skin health.
  • Bought my rabbit a better brand of rabbit food to upgrade his diet.
  • Added more organic soil to both my pet millipede enclosures to improve their environments. They had some coconut coir mixed with oak leaves & twigs in their tanks but I wanted to give them nice deep soil to burrow in now that I had organic soil. They seem to really like it!
  • Researched & switched guinea pigs over to a different brand of food that is still good quality but more cost-effective & a lot easier to find in my area.
  • My dog recognizes my car now, so he watches for me when I’m coming home & when he sees my car pull he, he gets excited & starts barking.

PERSONAL

  • Did my first cartwheel EVER! This was something I’d wanted to do for a long time.
  • Hung up all my current buntings on the ceiling in my room. It looks AMAZING & I have even more; I just haven’t found the box they’re packed in yet. But the ones I hung up made my room look so so MAGICAL.
  • Got another savings account at my bank to help me better divide up my money & save it for specific things, such as certain bigger purchases I want to make or investing. Changed the names of the savings accounts to be what I want so when I put money in them I’m not just putting it in “Savings Account 3” but “Road Trip”.
  • Sprayed a pair of shoes with shoe waterproofing for the first time!
  • Redefined “failure” for myself so that the idea of it is no longer something that can stop me. I realized that even if I “failed”, I could still craft a most excellent life, like I am already doing now. When you have nothing to lose, you have everything to gain.
  • Shattered my phone screen by dropping my phone on cement, for the first time ever. Not a highlight, but I did learn how to “fix” a phone screen with packing tape. It’s still growing strong, & I plan on keeping it for a while because it’s still usable & I prefer to fix things rather than spending money on new things when I don’t need to.
  • Unsubscribed from several email newsletters, which frankly I haven’t missed at all!
  • Cleaned up a lot more of my bedroom, which I’ve needed to do ever since I moved.
  • Ended up at a stop light next to a truck that had bee cages in the back & a sign on the tailgate that warned that it was transporting bees, & I thought this was great.
  • Worked more on painting & decorating the sand koala sculpture I’m reinventing. I got it at a thrift store years ago & it’s bland so I’m making it awesome & funky.
  • Saw a COW COMING OUT OF A FOREST & it was FANTASTIC!!!
  • Tried a new makeup look where I did colorful freckles with face paint crayons, & I LOVE IT.
  • Began to sort through my jewelry collection. Also cleaned off a lot more of my desk, which has been a complete mess for months!

THINGS I PURCHASED

  • Began using the RenPure Rose Water body wash, & it is SERIOUSLY A FAVORITE.
  • Got a new T-Rex Hot Wheels car to add to my collection of Hot Wheels.
  • ONE OF THE BEST THINGS that I purchased were two TOTALLY ADORABLE, mischievous, & colorful owl kitchen timers with the SWEETEST FACES EVER.
  • Hallmark cards were BOGO at the grocery store, so I got two that I’d had my eye on for a while – one with kittens screaming with joy, & another that says “We Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”. Both are going to be framed & hung up on my walls, which is what I like doing with cards.
  • Bought another Jack Reacher book (one that I do not own yet [I own a large number of them]) for $0.50 at the library!
  • My Mom gave a plush alligator for Valentine’s Day & it is ADORABLE <3 <3 <3 She also got me a plush stegosaurus & a TOTALLY ADORABLE huggable plush sloth. My sister got a PINK GLITTERY PLUSH HEDGEHOG!!!
  • Bought a plush triceratops, which I love because it’s primary-colored.
  • FOUND DINOSAUR-SHAPED PASTA at the grocery store, so of course I bought some.
  • Bought an awesome old book about cacti at the library for $0.50!
  • Got my Makeup Eraser sample & it’s great! Really works the way it’s supposed to.
  • Bought a wind-up dinosaur, holographic rainbow Easter egg garland to decorate my house with, a notebook for “storyboarding” movie scenes in, & a wooden painted frog.

TRAVEL & EXPERIENCES

  • Went to the Florida State Fair for the first time EVER!!!!! I absolutely ADORE fairs. I love everything about them, including all the great food stands, which give me major aesthetic & design inspiration. Saw a lot of great booths & food booths. And while I generally never play games at the fair, I still like taking inspiration from seeing the prizes you can with (think: giant pastel plush sloths & alpacas). One of my favorite booths was an inflatable lemonade stand. Ate a blue raspberry Sno Cone while I was there.
  • MILKED A COW for the first time ever at the Florida State Fair. This was the thing I most wanted to do at the fair & I wedged myself in there among all the children who were also trying to get their turn to milk the cow so I wasn’t mistaken for an uninterested parent. IT WAS AMAZING. Also I got one of their official “I milked a cow at the Florida State Fair” ribbon & sticker & posed with it while smiling smugly.
  • RODE A CAMEL. GUYS, I RODE AN EFFING CAMEL. I did this at the fair too. They are so tall & I got to ride it three laps around the ring & their humps are so fuzzy.
  • GOT TO PET SO MANY COWS. This was my first time petting adult cows (I petted a baby cow last year). My favorite was a big reddish cow with huge horns (I think it was a Scottish Highlander or something) who kept putting its horns in the walk way but was a big sweetheart. Petted so many types of cows.
  • PETTED A SHEEP AND LAMBS FOR THE FIRST TIME!!!!! Their wool is so soft & fuzzy & lambs are so effing adorable. Like, I can’t even believe how cute they are in real life. Favorite sheep was one that kept trying to be sociable because it wanted food & kept trying to take the empty feeding cups out of the bin on its stall. Petted a lot of different breeds of sheep.
  • SAW BABY GOATS THAT HAD LITERALLY JUST BEEN BORN, like, their-mom-was-still-licking-them-clean new, & they were super-microscopic, & they were effing adorable as anything.
  • Went on rides at the fair! I went on the yo-yo ride with my Mom, we both went on that really really tall ferris wheel & got to see the whole fair from a bird’s eye view, & used my last few tickets to go through a decent fire fighter-themed fun house (I love fun houses, BTW).
  • Got to pet a donkey & a burro, both for the first time!
  • At the fair, also got to pet a bunch of goats of a variety of types, which are obviously always adorable. Saw a baby water buffalo & baby pigs that were wagging their tiny little tails as they nursed, & baby chicks. Saw baby cows, including a baby cow that had only been born earlier that day. I saw them giving the mom cow an IV because she was dehydrated after giving birth. Also saw zebras, an alpaca, a llama, a kangaroo, & giraffes. Went into the rabbit & chicken show barn & saw lots of adorable breeds of both, as well as some gorgeous chickens & fluffy chickens (including some with FLUFFY FEET!!!). And some chickens with crazy hair. ALSO I got to watch a turkey make a gobbley noise in real life! It was awesome! Also saw geese up close & they were really cute.
  • Couldn’t get to the exit I needed to in time before the highway split, so I had to take a different road home. This serendipity lead to me driving past the Florida State Fair when everything was LIT UP AT NIGHT & BEAUTIFUL, on the VERY LAST NIGHT THAT IT WAS THERE, & it was so magical to be able to see.
  • Went to the grand opening of an Earth Fare store, which is the first time I’ve ever been in one! Got a free reusable shopping bag. They had three huge pink balloons flying above the building & you could see them from the road!
  • Went to a new pet store in my area that I’d never been to before to see what they had.
  • Went to the movie theater with my whole family for the first time in YEARS.
  • Found a small ringneck snake on my back porch! Tried to catch it to remove it from my deck but I got away from me & left my deck on its own accord. But this was my first time of ever seeing a ringneck snake, & if you like snake, they’re really cool looking!

MY TOP 19 GOALS FOR 2019

19 goals for an awesome year.

This isn’t a TOTALLY comprehensive list of my 2019 goals. First off, it would change too many times so I’m always changing & adding to it. Second, I like keeping some goals secrets until I’ve actually done them so then they can be surprises. And third, it would be too long 😀

Anyways, here is a list of 19 of my top goals for 2019.

  1. Write, direct, produce, & publish a feature film.

    I’ve wanted to make an ACTUAL film for a long time. I didn’t make any short films at all from mid-2015-most of 2018 but now I’m making a bunch. I have a ton of great ideas & a vision for what the film would be like, & I think as a filmmaker it’s an amazing goal to make something longer than a short film, not to mention a fun challenge!

    Free-Photos / Pixabay

  2. Build a cement roadside dinosaur.

    I AM OBSESSED WITH ROADSIDE DINOSAURS. I found this article of all the ones in Florida. I’ve seen several of them but someday I’d like to see them all. And I hope to seeing the Cabazon Dinosaurs this year in my travels. AND I’m photographing cement roadside dinosaurs for a photography book I’m making. But this year, I’d like to MAKE a roadside dinosaur so other people can enjoy a new one too.

  3. Start a circus.

    I don’t know what format it will be in or how it will be structured, but I would LOVE to start a circus full of amazing acts. Circuses (that don’t involve animals, I must note) are amazing & so seriously funky & whimsical so it would be so super cool to START A CIRCUS.

    ckirner / Pixabay

  4. Set up a funky museum.

    I want the THEME of it to be a surprise, but you can bet it’ll be funky, totally surprising, & one-of-a-kind. It will likely be small, weird, & one of those awesome attractions you’d find on Atlas Obscura. Collecting & curating a specialty collection & creating a really special place where people can gather & marvel at how weird & wacky the world is, is a big goal of mine.

    Couleur / Pixabay

  5. Buy an used ice cream truck.

    I’m not sure what I’ll use it for (I have SOME ideas though!) but it too will be amazing & funky. I just love the whimsical idea of owning one.

    Momentmal / Pixabay

  6. Write & publish 12+ books.

    In 2016 I did 10. In 2017 I did 11. In 2018 I did 12. I have so many great books in the works & I am SO EXCITED to be putting them out in 2019. Oh, & in 2019 I’ll also publish my 100th book! Woohoo! As of the publication of this article, I’ve already published already!

  7. Take a mini vacation each month.

    I live in the Grand Old State of Florida, & despite what my teenaged self believed, there are TONS of great places to visit & amazing things to do without even leaving my state. Of course, I have some plans to travel a lot further than just within my state, but making the effort to go to a new place, at least for a day trip, each month sounds awesome. I want to visit the Florida Keys & Miami again & see more stuff in northern Florida! Currently, I haven’t got to do this yet for either January or February, so I guess I’ll just have to take two vacations in two of the months!

    moorpheus / Pixabay

  8. Publish 3 Udemy courses!

    As of currently, I have FINALLY released my first course, “How to Make 3 Styles of Plush Bumblebees”. But what I’m most excited about is my super-comprehensive “101 Ways to Love Yourself” course, which should be out within the next few months, as well as a guided meditation course.

  9. Make enough income from growing my business, books, music, art etc that I get to spend 95% of each day everyday doing things I enjoy & feeling great & making an abundant living working for myself.

    rawpixel / Pixabay

  10. Live a completely outlandish, magical day like Pippi Longstocking does in my favorite childhood movie “The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking” but with me being an adult American with parents 😂

    HansLinde / Pixabay

  11. Get an acting role in a mid-to-big budget film.

    I have wanted to do this since I was a kid, because I love acting & I love films. So why not?

    skeeze / Pixabay

  12. Start living my version of the “Millionaire Lifestyle” regardless of whether I’m a millionaire (yet) or not.

    I just read Tim Ferriss’ “The 4-Hour Workweek” for the first time & it’s one of the most inspiring books I’ve read. It’s made me realize that even without having a millionaire’s income (yet!) that I can still live the lifestyle I would live as a millionaire.

    maya_7966 / Pixabay

  13. Walk a marathon.

    As of me publishing this article, this has been done! It was super challenging & took me 8 hours of walking through a local park to achieve, but it taught me so much about resilience & I’m so proud I did it.

    Free-Photos / Pixabay

  14. Go on a California road trip!

    I’ve loved the idea of California for a long time, & they’ve got so many great things out there. Los Angeles, the redwoods, ostriches, oceans, & dinosaurs are just a few things I’m looking forward to seeing.

    12019 / Pixabay

  15. PETS:

    Upgrade my 10 gallon aquarium 55 gallon aquarium. I love my freshwater aquarium, where I keep some small catfish & minnows & a snail. When I was 11 I had a 20-gallon aquarium, but I want to get a nice big aquarium so my fish have more room to swim & so I can have a more robust tank. I will be adding live plants & more fish! By the end of the year, I also would like all my pet reptiles & amphibians to be in spacious, bioactive vivariums, & I want to find my dog a food or something that isn’t steroids that helps his chronic skin problems (Malassezia pachydermatis).

    seagul / Pixabay

  16. Build, grow, & turn my own special miniature world into something that takes on a life & space of its own so others can enjoy it & nourish& nurture it too.

    harryHermione / Pixabay

  17. Read 100 books.

    Last year, I read 67 books (my goal was 75). But I hadn’t discovered the free Hoopla library of audiobooks until about halfway through the year. Or audiobooks in general. Audiobooks revolutionized reading for me. I have a lot of down time at work & driving time in general, so I can read a few books a week without spending additional time thanks to audiobooks!

    Free-Photos / Pixabay

  18. Write & perform at an actual venue a successful one-person show. 

    It will be a mix of comedy, theatre, music, puppets, & good-old-fashioned quirkiness. SO EXCITED TO BRING THIS ONE TO YOU!

    skeeze / Pixabay

  19. EXPERIENCES:

    Grouped together, because these are smaller & easier to achieve, & don’t require their own paragraphs: go snorkeling with manatees, milk a cow (done!!!), camp overnight on an island, pick blueberries, pick oranges, go on a 40+ mile bike ride, attend the Strawberry Festival in Plant City FL, go to the Florida state fair (done!), eat at at least 10 restaurants I’ve never been to before (one so far!), photograph roadside dinosaurs, buy more vinyl albums, sit in the front row of a medium sized concert & shake hands with the band members (DONE!!!), complete a rope adventure course, complete an obstacle course, go indoor skydiving, touch a sloth, touch a flamingo, tour the deep Everglades, get into parkour, go pescetarian for a month, take at least a few circus arts classes, connect more spiritually with the Universe, & more.

    suju / Pixabay

Here’s to a freaking amazing year <3

HOW I STARTED WATCHING MOVIES AGAIN

Why I got over my shit & started watching films & TV shows again.
NOTE: I wrote this blog post in October of 2018, lost it in my notes, & just found it now so pretend you’re reading it in October of 2018. “Recently” in the context of the article means “October of 2018”. [Yeah, I know if I say ‘October of 2018’ again, you’re gonna throw a pie in my general direction]
There’s going to be a new feature on this blog & I am SUPER DUPER EXCITED.
*drumroll*
MOVIE REVIEWS!
Recently, I’ve began watching a lot of movies again.

I didn’t watch many for a long time because I got into this extreme hustle mode where if something didn’t seem absolutely productive, I cut it out. Many forms of “entertainment” were reduced or eliminated. I thought that only things that were educational mattered.

Which isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be constantly learning. It’s just that after so much learning & deep intense thinking, your brain does need to play.
And movies are perfect for that.
I used to watch movies all the time, typically at night before going to bed. I’ve always been obsessed (read that as ✨✨✨OBSESSED✨✨✨) with movies. As a kid, I watched tons of movies. My sister & I would frequently wear out video tapes or scratch up our DVDs in the pursuit of watching our favorite scenes over. And over. And over. And over…
Anyways, I would endlessly emulate my favorite characters. I’d try my best to dress like them, look like them, act like them. This applied to books as well as movies. Violet from the Boxcar Children. Hermione & Luna from Harry Potter. Indiana Jones. Jack Ryan from The Hunt for Red October. And like hundreds more. SO many characters have had an impact on me throughout my life. I wanted to be like ALL of them.
As a teenager, I also watched a lot of movies. This was sometimes limited to what I could find on DailyMotion or other video sites, because I had no Netflix & I was too awkward to tell my family about movies I wanted to see. They were also judgmental about movies sometimes or movies being a “bad influence” or not appropriate for my younger sister who was almost always home. So I was on my own as far as finding movies, which lead me to watching (*cough* *cough* pirated) versions of them from video sites (the ones that were free & not “free” but requiring a credit card, obviously. Those were shady. And I didn’t have a credit card anyway). But I DID watch a lot of amazing movies from what I could piece together from YouTube, DailyMotion, & other sites.
To quote actor Jim Sturgess,
“Actually, I feel like [the film that I’ve just seen] every time I come out of the cinema. If that film’s about being a hippie, then I’m like, ‘That’s it, I’m gonna grow my own vegetables.'”
Still, through the years, I eventually lost my zeal in watching movies. “I’m too busy.” I complained. Which was sometimes true. I have had patches where my work schedule was very demanding & if I wanted to SLEEP in any given day, there was no time for movies. (Or much else, to be honest).
Then when I DID have time, I cited the lack of “educational” value in TV & films. “Bring on the personal development!” I would shout to myself. But it wasn’t like I watched documentaries. Usually I just watched nothing (& crapped around the internet instead, to be honest).
Fast forward to NOW. A few months back, during a rough patch when I was going through some stressful family problems. Not only was I trying to process my own emotions, but I had to be the rock to help others as they processed THEIRS. So I needed an easy, reliable form of stress relief & routine to start my day off right so that I wouldn’t get overwhelmed.
I began watching episodes of Arrested Development each morning. I was stuck in the second season & hadn’t watched much of anything for a while. Bob’s Burgers wasn’t on Netflix (bummer), so I went back to another of my favorite shows.


via GIPHY

It really helped. Watching something funny always has been highly restorative to me. I give that show a lot of credit for helping me get through the rough patch only mildly scathed. It was like therapy, for only the cost of Netflix each month. (On days when I didn’t have like 25 minutes to watch a whole episode before I got up, I’d watch a five minute episode of one of my favorite hilarious web series, Yacht Rock.) My objective was to start the day with something funny each day.
The rough patch ended, things got busy again, & I didn’t watch any movies for a few months.
Fast forward slightly to very recent times.
So a little more than a week ago, I felt kind of an “off” energy in my life. And I thought, “I need to watch something funny.” I decided I’d just pick something from my (long) Netflix watch list & watch like 20 minutes of it so I could still go to sleep at a reasonable time.
So I selected the 2016 movie “Masterminds.” I had no idea what it was about aside from the three-line Netflix description. But it had Owen Wilson in it, & I’ve never seen an Owen Wilson movie I didn’t like.
I watched twenty minutes of it. It was hilarious! So the next night I had a bit more time & watched like 45 minutes more. I didn’t have time the next night. But the night after that I finished it. I loved it. (I’m going to write a review about it very soon – it will be the first film I review here).
Not only did I love the film, but I loved the way watching a movie felt.
And I realized (again, because I technically had realized this before but hadn’t used this logic in a long time) that I didn’t have to wait to watch movies until I had two hours of free time. As long as 20 minutes wouldn’t impede upon my sleep (like if I got out of work late & had to come in early the next day), there was no harm in taking the time to watch a movie.


via GIPHY

In fact, doing so was valuable. I realized my idea that “watching movies was a waste of time” which would be better spent on more “austere” activities (*cough* *cough* surfing the web) was utter BULLSHIT. Of course, there are some activities which would have more value than watching movies, instead of the phone-surfing one. And of course, if I spent all my time watching movies I wouldn’t be very productive, would I?
But I thought back on this video by Allen Gannett.

“‘Aha’ moments [are subconscious only once you have] the ideas that pop into consciousness. And scientists have found that the way to have more of them is to consume more. […] What you find is that these great creators are actually mass consumers of culture because if you wanna connect the dots, you have to have the dots to actually connect.”

Consuming RELEVANT entertainment can add to your mental toolbox & help you create better things.

And I know for one, even if that wasn’t even enough of a benefit how much watching movies BENEFITED ME. (Movies, or engaging for short periods of time each day in other non-developmental activities, aka “entertainment”). Watching movies in this manner actually ADDED a lot to my life. And they actually did have developmental & educational merit as well.
Mostly because (*drumroll*) I AM an actress, director, & filmmaker. So I had a DUH moment when I realized of COURSE I should be watching movies so I can study movies, in the same way I listen to & study music because I’m a musician, look at people’s art in galleries or on Instagram because I’m an artist, or read books & articles because I’m a writer. IT IS A LOGICAL THING TO DO. Not a low-level activity like I was convinced it was.
When I watch a film, it’s more than just entertainment alone. As far as acting, I look at:
  • The character development
  • The unsaid things behind what a (good) actor is physically expressing
  • The acting & how the actors show certain emotions, or develop the mannerisms of their characters, etc. Then I can emulate their acting of a scene & learn boatloads about acting. I mean, there are some scenes in movies that have taught me more about acting than anything else (example: the suicide scenes [1, 2] in Lethal Weapon taught me how good acting is subtle but strong). Character observation is invaluable to my development as an actress & as a fiction writer.
And I observe the story as a whole.
  • How does the story unfold?
  • How does it match the “beats” described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat?
  • What makes it funny? Are there moments of comedic tension among an otherwise dark film?
  • What makes the antagonist so creepy & hate-worthy?
  • What makes you care about the protagonists? Why do you love these characters so much?
  • How does the story build in suspense?
  • What is the climax like & how did they set up the rest of the film for that? Does the climax, or any other scene, contain callbacks to earlier scenes?

Etc etc etc. This is invaluable for my work as a writer & a screenwriter.

I also consider the filmmaking process itself:

  • How was the movie filmed?
  • What cinematography elements do they use?
  • How do they build the feel of the world they’re trying to create?
  • Do they use certain lenses to make it look darker or more magical?
  • What angles do they use? What makes those angles effective? How do they switch between camera angles & why?
  • What flashbacks do they use, & what specific shots of those do they use & why?
  • Why were the stylistic choices that were made, made?
  • How did the director work with each member of the crew, especially the actors, to achieve the end result?
  • How was the film edited together? Why was it edited that way?
  • How were the stunts performed?
  • How were the sets built?
  • Where did they put the equipment so it wasn’t visible in that shot? Etc.

All of which are vital lessons in directing & filmmaking.

And films even have value for their FASHION, which is something I am totally obsessed with:
  • Side one of that is why the costume designers picked those outfits for those characters. What does each item of clothing they’re wearing & their physical appearance say about them as a character? How does a character’s clothing inform us of small details of that character that otherwise wouldn’t be spoken about? How do those clothes help the actor feel like their character?
  • And side two. If I incorporate that item of clothing they’re wearing, how will I feel? What do I want my clothes to say about me? Not to mention the boat-ton of excellent OUTFITS that I want to get or make myself because I STILL love emulating characters or copying their fashion vibes. Because as a fashion designer, those types of insights are also invaluable. And until you see how the clothes make the character & how the outfit moves on them…looking at still photos can’t do a lot of outfits justice.
So it seems like watching movies could teach me almost as much as going to acting & film school (but for so much less money! :D).

On top of ALL THOSE BENEFITS, watching movies is FUN.

And the thing I’ve learned about a lot recently (a current “experiment” I’m beginning to engage in, & will write about soon) is how vital fun is to your health & your lifestyle, & how enriching it is to your mind. And how important it is to feel good as often as you can.
So watching movies is good for my health. It teaches me almost a degree’s worth of knowledge about acting, filmmaking, directing, cinematography, character development, story writing, & fashion design & principles. It enriches my mind. It’s fun. It adds so much to my life.

It helps me level up my life.

That’s why I’m back to watching movies again.

2018 ACCOMPLISHMENTS LIST

2018 was an EFFING EXCEPTIONAL year, beyond any expectations I had of it, & beyond measure. I began the year feeling hopeful, but also really struggling with depression & anxiety. But due to me taking positive actions to improve my life, my life itself went from “barely getting by”, “surviving”, to me actively creating & shaping the kind of world I wanted to live in, & then beginning to live there. My essay MAGIC HOURS sums these feelings up best, but here is a VERY BIG & comprehensive list of all the things & actions I took & progress I made that took those feelings & made them REAL.

CREATIVITY & BUSINESS

CONCERTS

I saw a whopping 67 BANDS IN CONCERT IN 2018!!! (List in chronological order!)

  1. AJR (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  2. Al Stewart (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  3. Alan Parsons Project (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  4. Alice Merton (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  5. Andrew McMahon & The Wilderness (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  6. Ann Wilson (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  7. The Association (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  8. Bastille (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  9. The Beach Boys (With Special Guest John Stamos) (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  10. Beat Root Revival (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  11. Billy Joel (Amalie Arena – Tampa, FL)
  12. Blackfoot (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  13. Bob Dylan (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  14. Bobby Lee Rodgers Trio (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  15. Brian Wilson (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  16. Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  17. Chicago (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  18. Chuck Negron (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  19. Chvrches (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  20. The Cowsills (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  21. Daryl Hall & John Oates (Amalie Arena – Tampa, FL)
  22. Dawes (Pepsi Center – Denver, CO)
  23. Deborah Bonham (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  24. The Doobie Brothers (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  25. The Eagles (Camping World Stadium – Orlando, FL)
  26. Elle King (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  27. Firefall (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  28. Foreigner (With Rock Symphony Orchestra) (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  29. Foster the People (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  30. Gary Puckett & The Union Gap (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  31. Greg Kihn (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  32. Jeff Beck (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  33. Jeff Lynne’s ELO/Electric Light Orchestra (Pepsi Center – Denver, CO)
  34. Jimmie Vaughn Trio (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  35. Jimmy Buffet (with special guest Caroline Jones) (Camping World Stadium – Orlando, FL)
  36. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  37. John Fogerty (Coachman Park – Clearwater, FL)
  38. Julian Frampton (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  39. Kandance Springs (Amalie Arena – Tampa, FL)
  40. KC & The Sunshine Band (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  41. LANY (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  42. Lords of 52nd Street (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  43. Lynyrd Skynyrd (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  44. Mark Lindsay (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  45. Michael Tolcher (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  46. Nathanial Racliffe & The Night Sweats (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  47. Panic! At the Disco (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  48. Paul Dowers (Elfers Community Center – Elfers, FL)
  49. Paul Rodgers (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  50. Paul Simon (Amalie Arena – Tampa, FL)
  51. Queensryche (Amalie Arena – Tampa, FL)
  52. REO Speedwagon (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  53. Rick Springfield (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  54. Roy Orbison (HOLOGRAPHIC CONCERT – Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  55. Ryan Kinder (Coachman Park – Clearwater, FL)
  56. Scorpions (Amalie Arena – Tampa, FL)
  57. Steely Dan (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  58. Styx (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  59. Tesla (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  60. The Turtles (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  61. Three Dog Night (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  62. Todd Rundgren (The Capitol Theatre – Clearwater, FL)
  63. Tommy Tutone (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  64. Toto (Ruth Eckerd Hall – Clearwater, FL)
  65. Train (Amalie Arena – Tampa, FL)
  66. Young the Giant (MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre – Tampa, FL)
  67. ZZ Top (Coachman Park – Clearwater)

FOODS

  • Went the whole month of October without eating any sweets as part of my self-directed NO SWEETS OCTOBER CHALLENGE!
  • Ate five servings of veggies & fruits every day for a month, as part of a FRUITS & VEGGIES challenge I did in August.
  • Tried macarons for the FIRST TIME EVER! Got a pistachio one from a local grocery store.
  • Went to Le Macaron for the first time & tried some AMAZING rose & coffee flavored macarons.
  • DRANK BOBA TEA FOR THE FIRST TIME, at the very wonderful Buttermilk Provisions in Wesley Chapel, FL.
  • Ate my first vegan doughnut ever at the aforementioned Buttermilk Provisions.
  • Made my first smoothie bowl ever (those acai-bowl looking things) & they are AMAZING so I make them a lot now.
  • Ate fried pickles for the first time ever (from Sam’s Beach Bar in Hudson, FL!). Ate them while sitting on the beach in the middle of break from jury duty.
  • Ate a mincemeat pie for the first time (from That Little Bakery Cafe in Elfers, FL!)
  • I have a screened in back porch now, & it’s lovely to sit out there on a warm morning & drink a cup of tea.
  • Got really good frozen yogurt at Sweet Frog.
  • Amazing combo I tried: vanilla white balsamic reduction over vanilla Haagen-Daaz ice cream with organic ribbon-sliced basil (thanks to the back description on the Alessi balsamic reduction for this recommendation!)
  • Tried a cherry mash candy for the first time.
  • Ate raw snap peas for the first time. I also really like to mix them with raw wild tomatoes.
  • Tried tostones for the first time (the lime ones are AMAZING).
  • Tried szechuan for the first time!
  • One of the best products I discovered was the Fat Toad Farm caramel, which is OUT OF THIS WORLD.
  • Decided I liked sparkling water after spending like a decade hating it. Favorite brands? Perrier (obviously), any La Croix in the slim cans (especially the blackberry cucumber one), & Icelandic.

PERSONAL

  • 2018 IS THE YEAR I BEAT MY DEPRESSION. It was clinical, it was scary, I discovered the tools I needed to teach myself how to be happy, I reinvented myself, learned how to be happy, & for the first time in nearly a decade, I AM DEPRESSION FREE. You can read more about that here.
  • Was part of writer & personal development expert Benjamin Hardy’s outstanding AMP Program (originally called 52 Weeks of Momentum) for the entire year. Thanks to this course & the people in it & the things I learned from it & the books I read because of it, I was able to TOTALLY TRANSFORM my life throughout the course of 2018.
  • Although I am usually amazed by & impressed by how much progress I am able to make in a year, 2018 is one for the books when it comes to reinventing myself. I started the year as a depressed & anxious person struggling to survive, & I ended the year as a confident, happy person with so many exceptional & exciting things in the works.
  • Quit the job that was a huge source of unhappiness & stress in my life so I could do a job I enjoyed more, even if the job I enjoy more still isn’t what I ultimately want to do. This was one of the biggest ways I upgraded this year.
  • Donated a HUGE amount of stuff to Goodwill, the Veteran’s Administration, Kidney Foundation, etc, & donated a bicycle to the amazing Eileen’s Place bike shop in Hudson, FL.
  • Got my hair cut short for the first time in a decade, & I love it so much more than having long hair! That was in February, & in September I got it cut even shorter. I LOVE IT.
  • Participated in Lake Jovita’s 5k Reindeer Run with my mom (it was her first 5k!) & won third place for my age category (by default, because I was one of three people in my category)!!! You were encouraged to wear a festive costume, so I dressed as “Indiana Jones, Christmas Tree Wrangler”. Did not win any costume prizes, but EVERYONE knows I had the best costume 🙂
  • Started listening to vinyl albums! We got a record player last Christmas, & I EFFING LOVE THE SOUND OF VINYL. Bought myself a few used vinyl albums, & I have listened to a good number of albums now on vinyl. And there are a whole bunch more of my favorites I’ve never heard on vinyl that I’m super-looking-forward to hearing on vinyl in the upcoming year. It just sounds so warm & wonderful.
  • Best things I discovered this year: Edgar Wright films, Chris Fleming, Todd Rundgren’s A Wizard/A True Star, Melissa Strype, The Mighty Boosh, Noel Fielding, Shrek Retold, Mission Impossible: Fallout, the Bohemian Rhapsody movie, the new-ish Star Trek movies, & watching musicals live.
  • Began investing, more officially, in the stock market & building a portfolio that I’m proud of!
  • Began listening to audiobooks frequently thanks to Hoopla, where I can listen to books for free using my library card! I highly recommend it, & they also have movies, ebooks, & albums!
  • Moved across town to a nice new house!
  • Improved my wealth mindset.
  • Connected with so many amazing, creative, kind, & intelligent people out in the world & by networking with people online.
  • For Halloween, dressed as an owl with flamingos!
  • Bought an AMAZING polka dot jumpsuit so I can be covered head to toe in polka dots. AND I also got a rainbow feather boa, which is so funky & is pretty much the funkiest thing ever when I wear it with my polka dot jumpsuit.
  • Participated in the Hillsborough River Half Marathon, hosted by Endeavor Racing! This was the first marathon event I participated in, I walked it rather than running because I don’t like running, & I had a marvelous time!
  • Bought some more plants, including a really great parlor palm. I’m setting up a mini makeshift plant room in my bedroom!
  • Got a lot more adorable plush animals, including some Geico gecko plush, more plush owls, & a whole bunch of funky plush reptiles & dinosaurs, among other critters!
  • BOUGHT MYSELF A CHICKEN SUIT & A RUBBER CHICKEN, which I have made good use of in my comedy so far 🙂
  • Colored my hair a caramel auburn color, purplish black, dark brown, & probably some other colors I can’t think of right now.
  • FIRST TIMES:
    • Drove a moving truck for the first time! It was a 15′ U-Haul truck, which obviously isn’t big for a truck but the biggest thing I had ever driven prior to that was a Kia minivan, & I my car now is a Smart Car. My mom, who followed behind me in the moving truck (as I drove it by myself, nonetheless) said that I “drove it like I had been born in it”. The first thing I had to do as soon as I started driving it was do a u-turn on the highway, & I swung out enough not to run over the median strip AND managed to also not hit the other side of the road. I got the truck back in one piece & was very proud of myself.
    • Went to a skate park for the first time! Went down some ramps (I still couldn’t do an ollie) which freaked me out & I had a good time.
    • Used my weed eater as an edger in my yard to edge my sidewalks for the first time! I had been using one of these.
    • Got my first root canal! Not something to be proud of, but still an experience in itself. Video coming soon. The dentists all thought I did really well, especially considering I have never even had a cavity filled before.
    • Bought some wigs for the first time, which I use in my comedy videos.
    • Used a drill by myself for the first time to build a bin for my discoid roaches that I breed for my reptiles to live in!
    • Used a Hoover Floormate mop vacuum for the first time.
    • Used regular latex paint (from the paint section of Home Depot) for the first time ever! Got them to mix me up a really gorgeous shade of amethyst purple to paint my gemstone shelf/altar with.
    • Tried on a dress (one I can’t yet afford!) at Nordstorm. It was my first time doing something like this (trying on something really nice). I tried on the INCREDIBLY GORGEOUS Galvan London Clara dress, which was covered in hand-sewn gold sequins. So much fun to think big & think ahead!
    • Went to an At Home store for the first time! They have so much great stuff.
    • Changed the brake pads on my Smart Car for the first time that I’ve done it entirely by myself! (I’ve only ever done it one other time, & I did most of the work then but my dad did help direct me & this time I did it totally alone, & successfully too!)
    • Calculated my net worth for the first time.
    • Began making something I call “mind dump lists” to help organize my thoughts & keep my always-on mind working its best. Article coming soon!

PETS

  • Got my first pet reptiles ever!
  • Went to Repticon (the big reptile expo) for the first time ever!
  • Got 3 crested geckos – Toe Bean, Pinwheel Shark, & Baby Pineapple!
  • Got a pet leopard gecko – Squiggles!
  • Got a pet albino Pac-Man Frog, Frogecoin!
  • GOT A PET MILLIPEDE, which I’ve wanted since I was 10.
  • Got a pet Texas Gold Millipede & 5 pet bumblebee millipedes.
  • Got pet/feeder superworms & have been caring for them for the past 6+ months.
  • Raised a dermastid beetle larvae to an adult.
  • Bought & began raising & breeding discoid roaches to feed to my reptiles & my frog once their colony gets going.
  • Got dwarf isopods (pillbug-looking things) & other things I need for setting up bioactive vivariums.
  • Bought & began raising mealworms to feed to my reptiles.
  • Finally bought a one of those plastic poop scoops for my dog Sparky, which makes cleaning up the yard so much easier & I wonder why I didn’t get one sooner.
  • Bought my guinea pigs an EFFING ADORABLE bumblebee costume (video coming soon!)
  • Switched Moose, Olive, & Oreo (my guinea pigs) & Starlight (my/my sister’s rabbit) to Aspen shaving bedding, which is more cost effective & seems to work as well as the paper CareFresh-style bedding I had been using.
  • Upgraded my betta tank from a 1-gallon with no filter that I had been using for years to a 5-gallon with a nice filter & a heater, & again, it’s another thing that I should have gotten a lot sooner.
  • Upgraded my guinea pigs to eating Oxbow premium guinea pig food instead of the old cheaper brand they had been eating.

READING

  • Read a total of 61 books, up from 57 in 2017.

TRAVEL & EXPERIENCES

  • Traveled to Denver, CO for the first time ever!!! I specifically went there to see Jeff Lynne’s ELO in concert (like how I traveled to Houston, TX in 2017 to see Queen in concert) & had an absolute BLAST, even though I was only there for less than 20 hours in total.
  • Visited Rocky Mountain National Park & drove the entire Trail Ridge Road! This was one of the highlights of my year. The Rocky Mountains are GORGEOUS. I drove through the Arapaho National Forest as I drove from Denver to the Rockies & drove back through Estes Park. The whole area was beautiful, & at the highest point along Trail Ridge Road, I experienced an altitude of more than 11,000 feet! Jogged back to my car at this altitude & felt like I’d run a marathon (that altitude is a lot anyways, especially when you hail from Florida & had only been in Colorado for less than a day, like me!)
  • Tried rocky mountain “oysters” for the first time while I was in Denver, from the Buckhorn Exchange! They were delicious!
  • Toured Alpaca Magic, an alpaca farm & got to pet & feed alpacas for the first time ever! It was my first time seeing an alpaca in real life too. I also got to make a piece of wool out of alpaca fiber, as part of the alpaca farm tour experience & it was SO AWESOME.
  • HELD AN OWL FOR THE FIRST TIME!!! At Tampa Repticon in February of 2018. (Thanks, Friends of Largo Nature Parks!)
  • Picked blackberries for the first time at a farm with my mom (Bob’s Blueberry/Blackberry Farm in Hudson, FL)! We had such a good time & the blackberries were delicious.
  • Toured the awesome Wildlife Survival Sanctuary in Spring Hill, FL & saw tigers, lemurs, mountain lions, tortoises, leopards, & more!
  • Went to a movie theater to watch a film for the first time since I was a young teenager, so probably the first time in 7+ years or so! Went to see Bohemian Rhapsody on its opening night, & it was fantastic!
  • Went to a wind chime making class & made a funky beaded wind chime.
  • Went to Jury Duty for the first time & turned it into something awesome by TOTALLY SEIZING THE MOMENT. Will write an article about this soon!
  • Took the world’s most satisfying nap in my hammock on my screened back porch, after getting up early for an audition. The weather was PERFECT, it was warm & slightly breezy & birds were chirping but the air was quiet like a weekend afternoon.
  • Visited Citrus Mall in Citrus Park, FL for the first time. They’ve got some great shops there!

JANUARY 2019 AT A GLANCE

Highlights: Published my first Udemy course ever, walked a marathon, started learning Spanish, published 1 book, visited the Tampa Museum of Art & got to experience an exhibit by Yayoi Kusama (one of my favorite artists), began releasing 4th album & released two songs from it, released 1 short film, interviewed 1 person for my blog, sat in the front row at a concert for the first time ever thanks to some amazing serendipity, saw 4 concerts, read 7 books, set up my first biactive vivarium for my pet frog, got a new pet betta, designed a new logo for my company, & more!

CREATIVITY & BUSINESS

  • BOOKS: Published Flowers, 3 (a zine, this one of flowers I photographed at the Mercer Botanical Gardens in Humble, TX in 2017).
  • SHORT FILMS: Released “Birth of a Rock Star“, an awesome stop motion/silent animated film with a killer soundtrack by yours truly about an alien creature that crash lands in a strange world.
  • INTERVIEWS: Interviewed guitarist virtuoso Paul Bielactowicz!
  • MUSIC: Began releasing fourth album, “Down Past the Fountains“, which is a previously unreleased album I recorded when I was 16 & really into folk music & Bob Dylan. It was the predecessor to “Fields of Destiny”. I recently rediscovered the album & realized how much I liked it, so I’m putting it out there one song at a time over the span of the next few months! Released two songs from it – “You Can Try, But You’ll Never Own Me” & “Hard Road Blues” (which IMO really really sounds something Bob Dylan would have done, even down to the Dylan-esque harmonica solos). This makes me proud.
  • ART: Released two designs I’m especially proud of, “Valentine Owls” & “I AM EVERYTHING I NEED“. Made a lot of small art projects too & did a lot of things that I felt expressed my creativity in awesome ways.
  • RELEASED MY FIRST UDEMY COURSE EVER!!! “How to Make 3 Styles of Plush Bumbleebees”.
  • Designed a new logo for SHOP Ashlee Craft! It’s never really had an official logo before, & the one I designed is so fun & funky.
  • Helped my mom set up her first Etsy shop, “Amy Craft Studios“. She makes some amazing macrame, which you can check out here!
  • Researched hiring independent contractors, marketing ideas, vaudeville, & circuses, among other things.
  • Working on a really really cool short film! Downloaded the awesome 8mm Film app (for iPhone & possibly other platforms) to use for it, which is so amazing.
  • Did standup comedy at The Improv Comedy Club in Tampa, FL!
  • Made the first one I’ve made since I was a kid of an epic new product I’m launching soon! Also made some more art I will be listing in the near future!
  • Made a handmade pom-pom from scratch (aka without a pom-pom kit) for the first time since I was a kid!
  • Published the first Benjamin the Chicken video on my comedy channel!
  • Conceived & began planning a one-person show.
  • Did my first livestream ever on Instagram – a comedy livestream where I did a short standup set!

CONCERTS

  • Saw Diana Ross at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, FL.
  • Saw Gladys Knight at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, FL.
  • Saw Air Supply at the Capitol Theater in Clearwater, FL. Had a seat in the middle of the audience, but through a stroke of completely random good fortune & the kindness of a stranger, ended up sitting in the center of the SECOND ROW. Got to stand up against the stage, got to shake hands with both Russell & Graham, & got two souvenir guitar picks from the two of them. IT WAS OUTSTANDING!!! First front-row seats EVER!
  • Saw America at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, FL.

 

FOODS

  • TOP 3 FOODS: Sparkling water (especially Blackberry Cucumber La Croix in the slim cans), blue cheese (I wanna put it on almost EVERYTHING), & dark chocolate. Oh, & I’m also going through a yogurt phase.
  • Favorite invention of the month was a “brie burrito”. Recipe coming soon.
  • Ate at Panera for the first time ever! Had a good bacon tomato toasted cheese & a cappuccino 🙂
  • Used a tea pot to make tea for the first time & it tastes SO AMAZINGLY BETTER than just microwaving the water for a bit.

MEDIA

  • STARTED READING: (* means a re-read; everything else is new to me) Free Prize Inside (Seth Godin), Relentless* (Tim S. Grover), Secrets of the Millionaire Mind (T. Harv Eker), If You’re Not First, You’re Last (Grant Cardone), The 10x Rule* (Grant Cardone), Level Up Your Life (Steve Kamb), Show Your Work (Austin Kleon), Girl, Wash Your Face (Rachel Hollis), The 4-Hour Workweek (Tim Ferris).
  • FINISHED READING: (* means a re-read; everything else is new to me) The Whole30 (Melissa & Dan Hartwig), Mindfrick: Master Your Inner World & Succeed at Anything (T. Harv Eker), Free Prize Inside (Seth Godin), Relentless* (Tim S. Grover), Secrets of the Millionaire Mind (T. Harv Eker), If You’re Not First, You’re Last (Grant Cardone), The 10x Rule* (Grant Cardone). TOTAL: 7
  • WATCHED: (episodes in parenthesis for shows; all others are films; * means rewatches, all others are things I’ve never seen) Pee Wee’s Playhouse (Now You See Me, Now You Don’t), Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, The Diaper (3, 4, & 5), The Big Lebowski, Shaun of the Dead, Imaginaria*, Austin Power in Goldmember, The Mighty Boosh (Electro), & 555 (Mom). TOTAL: 11
  • ALBUMS I LISTENED TO: (*First time listening to this album!) Listened to Magical Mystery Tour (The Beatles), A Wizard/A True Star (Todd Rundgren), Pet Sounds (The Beach Boys), Highway 61 Revisited (Bob Dylan), Blonde on Blonde (Bob Dylan), Pray for the Wicked* (Panic! At the Disco, & The Hermit of Mink Hollow (Todd Rundgren). TOTAL: 7.
  • First song I listened to in 2019 was my FAVORITE (which has been my favorite for a few months now) – Todd Rundgren’s Just One Victory.
  • But the favorite music video I discovered this month is Mint Royale’s “Blue Song“, featuring one of my favorite comedians ever (Noel Fielding), plus Julian Barratt AND NICK FROST AND IT WAS DIRECTED BY EDGAR WRIGHT.
  • Also, rediscovered the songs Paper Birds by Parachutes & I Want Your Wonderwall, both of which together were a vital song combination for me when I was 18.
  • I also really love the song Feel it Still by Portugal. The Man.

PETS

  • Got a new betta (the first female one I’ve owned!) who I named Amethyst! My sister & I are sharing her. The betta we had before lived for close to three years but passed away at the end of 2018, so we were ready for another betta again.
  • Set up my first bioactive vivarium ever – for Frogecoin, my Pac-Man frog! A bioactive vivarium is a self-sustaining mini-ecosystem involving the use of isopods & other small invertebrates to keep the cage clean & they have a lot of benefits for pet reptiles & amphibians.
  • Got & began using this critter playpen so guinea pigs & rabbit can have more safe time out of their cages, even when I’m not able to supervise them.
  • Sparky, my Boston Terrier/Shih Tzu/Chihuahua mix, turned 9 years old!
  • Got a free aquarium that’s somewhere between 15 & 25 gallons I think that someone was giving away!

PERSONAL

  • WALKED A MARATHON without any training. First marathon I’ve both attempted & completed. Super proud of myself for this one, & a video & some blog posts on this topic are coming soon!
  • Began learning Spanish (again; I learned some last year but then fell off the bandwagon; this month I got back on!)
  • The first person I paid this year was myself, & the first person I worked for this year was myself.
  • I’m part of Benjamin Hardy’s AMP mastermind group this year too!
  • Began using the gamified to-do list app Habitica & it has been seriously been a productivity & organization game-changer, & it is seriously SO FUN.
  • Got rid of a good number of clothes & some knickknacks that I did not enjoy owning! Also worked more on sorting & organizing photos from my phone. Also improved (by embellishing or painting or changing in some way) several other “belongings of conflict” that it always bothered me that I owned because I thought they were bland even though they had cute, redeeming qualities about them. More on “belongings of conflict” coming soon!
  • Made my amazing dream trash can for my bedroom, which can be described as “yellow round trash can with sharks & rainbow gemstones”.
  • Painted & put adorable stickers on my new custom light switch plate cover, which I installed in my bedroom!
  • Told my mom I wanted to see Les Miserables live this year. Ended up seeing billboard for Les Miserables while out & about, just a few hours later!
  • Finally cleaned up one half of my bedroom, put stuffed animals on top shelf of closet, & decorated room more!
  • Began using a daily exfoliating facial cleanser, which I think has improved my skin!
  • Put my entire enamel pin collection up on the pin bulletin board I decorated!
  • Experimenting with taking the brain health supplement GABA to compliment the L-Theanine I’ve been taking for a long time.

THINGS I PURCHASED

  • Power-scented dog fragrance for Sparky
  • Lots of SUPER ADORABLE clearance Christmas ornaments
  • A GIANT YELLOW POM POM (like 6″ diameter)
  • A pink blown glass stegosaurus ornament
  • A winter TY Beanie Baby owl plush (one I don’t have for my collection of TY owls!), which I was prepared to pay $7 for but when it got run up it was on clearance for $1.74!
  • Mini burgers & sausages meant for dogs, for Sparky (for his 9th birthday!)
  • Bought so many effing adorable sloth/dinosaur/alligator & more themed Valentines things in that amazing cheap colorful front section at Target!
  • A FLUFFY RAINBOW ALPACA.
  • Valentines reusable bags which read “Peas be my Valentine. I carrot lot about you.” with effing adorable peas & carrots on them 🙂
  • FINALLY purchased one of artist CatRabbit’s INCREDIBLY PRECIOUS egg breakfast plate pins. Check them out here.
  • Got two more dinosaur Pez dispensers for my collection that I didn’t have yet!
  • A GIANT YELLOW POM POM PILLOW to match my other “GIANT POM POM”.

TRAVEL & EXPERIENCES

  • Went to the Tampa Museum of Art for the first time & saw the outstanding YAYOI KUSAMA (!!!!!!!!) exhibit – “Love is Calling, which is one of her famed “infinity rooms”, which was SO SO SO EFFING GREAT. I LOVE immersive art, multimedia, & hyper-realities. Yayoi Kusama has been one of my favorite artists for years, & this was the first time I’ve had the opportunity to see her work in person. Of course I wore my polka dot jumpsuit there! 😀 Also saw an exhibit from Robert Indiana & got to stand in front of one of the iconic “LOVE” sculptures.
  • Saw the play “Spamalot” at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater for the first time. I had never seen Spamalot before but I EFFING LOVE IT. It’s such a hilarious play. I love me some British comedy & Monty Python is just brilliant. There was no one on either side of me for 5+ seats & no one directly in front of me (I was in the very back row!) so I was just chillin’ & enjoying the show. My favorite scene ever is the “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” scene & I loved the “Find Your Grail” song.
  • Went to a new Goodwill store for the first time & bought an awesome electric yellow blouse.
  • Sat on the back porch with my dog & my sister on a trampoline on a breezy day & we just talked & it was great.
  • Saw a truck that said “POPCORN REMOVAL” on the side of it & I LOVE that idea.
  • Saw three cows with standing with their foreheads together in a field alongside the road, like friends.
  • Went to the Container Store for the first time! THEY HAVE SO MUCH COOL COLORFUL STUFF! Bought 20 yellow hangers, which is what I went there for because I need more hangers for my closet & I have standards so I would only accept YELLOW hangers. Yellow hangers were super hard to find & The Container Store was one of the few places with any decent price I could find them at.

MAGIC HOURS: 2018 WAS THE YEAR I DECIDED WHICH WORLD I WANT TO LIVE IN

I started out in the blackest pit, but I could still see a small patch of yellow sunlight as I lied in the bottom of the hole. I scribbled on papers around me; this time I’m going to get out this time I’m going to get out. With moist yearning eyes I raised my eyes towards the sky & hoped that some bit of warmth would make its way through to the inside.

That I would not only make it, but making SOMETHING of it. Something I could be proud of.

The roaring cacophony of quiet drowned out myself as I stood at the edge of a sea I had no knowledge of, falling into the same coping pattern I had always escaped from radical change by using.

 

Wokandapix / Pixabay

She stood at the top of the pit, spitting down onto me & shrieking with laughter. I was dragged through the dirt. They threw putrid mud down into the hole, cackling at my inability to rise up. I numbed out, tried to dissociate from my experience in any way possible. Even if the whole numbing was a temporary fix, a question, possibly dangerous. But it couldn’t be more dangerous than it would be to leave me unchecked, left to my own devices, exposed & able to do worse things. She was not my worst enemy, nor was he, nor were they. I was. So I faded back just enough that I could crawl through each day & wake up again the next. Never enough time. That was okay though, maybe better. But I could never escape enough.

Was there really anything beautiful about acting as the tragic figure I’d written myself to be, but never really wanted to become?

I had just come out of the whirlpool with the new knowledge that what I had been seeking HAD NOT BEEN THERE. I finally had the experience, but it was worth much less than the price of admission.

Rakicevic Nenad

Then the world exploded; all that I knew fell out from under me & was replaced, rebuilt, reinvented.

In the best way possible.

I woke up one day. It felt sudden, but I’d been slowly waking up for the past few weeks. And it struck me as soon as sunlight touched my skin: I was becoming sad less often. I had realized my sorrow for what it was: an illusion I had firmly believed in & lived, but one that didn’t have to be real for me any longer. It HAD been real: the pain was too fresh, the blood too vivid, the scars too deep for it to have been all in my mind. But as easily as it had planted its deadly seed deep inside the soil of my meadow, I could slowly pull the roots out from under the soil & destroy the plant before it destroyed the whole world I saw. The whole world I wanted to believe in.

And once I realized I had let the tiny yearning to feel something, the tiny yearning to understand melancholy, grow to such ugly proportions, it began to dissolve. It ceased to grow. It began to fade back into the darkness which it had come from.

jplenio / Pixabay

And then another day, I woke up & realized I wasn’t sad anymore.

I have discovered that joy is always more interesting than sorrow. Each day I bask in the pure gloriousness of living that way. I am already a success. The binary of success & failure has always been an illusion. I have cut the threads holding me to what I once was: afraid of the future & afraid of what people would think. And now I am myself again.

I have finally decided what world I want to live in.

I do not have to beat myself down & stay hidden & bleeding under the highway overpass in the darkest night. There is a whole other world on top of this one, layers of worlds, & I am the explorer discovering them all. Each one feeling better than the next, & I am the one finally letting myself feel good. The world I lived in was not tied to circumstance, but to choice. My choice.

I have seen both sides of the coin. I have lived in both dimensions. Both are equally as real, but it is always me who decides which one I will live in. And by the simple shift in perspective; flipping the switch & crawling through folds of energy until I am firmly back on the level I rebirthed myself on. The Vortex is real.

The Universe always had my back. It was always sitting there, hidden in the back row but cheering the loudest of all. It was always rooting for me even when I was afraid that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time doing the wrong thing. Just when I thought all the lights had gone out, the Universe always showed up holding candles, slipping a crumpled piece of paper into my hand which contained a clue for what I should do next.

I found myself. She sat there alone & frightened, but I brought her back into the light. Alone on that dark sacred highway at night, as I drove under the warm yellow streetlights illuminating the smooth dark highway, with the jazz playing deep & quiet & ineffable in the background. & the feeling bubbled up inside me, it frightened me because it was so strong & so sudden, the pure vibrating eternal radiance of the sincerest relieved joy. I found myself on that drive home on the pitch-dark highway as I trusted in the golden radiance & recorded the exact color of moonlight on my arm. The moon shone down around me on the sacred fields & the tiny farmhouse & the sleeping cattle, quiet & smiling & deeply nurturing in the pale blue sacred light.

It turns out, the environment I most needed to change was the environment inside me.

And there I was, slowly & quietly chipping away at the darkness which had held me back for so long. Slowly building a better foundation, brick by brick.

I was afraid to let myself be happy because I was so used to being sad & afraid that a future that felt good was also an uncertain one. At least with sorrow, I had its cold stale hand to hold, a familiarity I knew I could always return to. With sorrow, at least I knew what my future would feel like & how I would cope with it.

When I realized it had all been a sham, the walls shattered, & I found myself free in a meadow of sunlight.

What had once been a darkness I relished & lovingly extracted every ounce of pain from now became a song I’d never liked but heard play too many times on the radio. My old standby patterns weren’t beautiful & tragic – they were just boring, & didn’t allow half enough time for me to merely exist & simply be. Too much of it was shrouded in routine & in monotonous pandering to the politics touted by over-idolized figures I wanted nothing to do with.

Sometimes before I would wonder what it would be like to disappear & reappear somewhere else, my future free & with my slate cleaned.

No baggage to carry, no fight against my own glass ceiling upper limits. And in a way, I have. I have found the hidden door in the forest, concealed behind twisted wooden vines, & I have stepped firmly from the land of darkness & into the light. I have approached the door & grasped the gold handle, stepped in the fallen leaves & heard the crunch of the new moon in the starless sky. I have stood in sudden afternoon light holding that door handle, hand frozen, afraid to move forward, refusing to accept that I AM WORTHY ALREADY.

Too separated to accept that the Universe will always love me anyways.

Too devastated by the secret knowledge that all along, another world has been parading in tandem with this one, & I could have stepped into it at any moment had I been ready sooner.

And then I opened the door.

Sunlight spilled forth. I trust you, I trust you. I picked the road leading in the direction of the same breeze I’d felt on the beach & in the city, one which wordlessly murmurs of home. And I have found that home.

The whole world is fresh. The whole world has been reborn. The Phoenix has risen from the ashes, ready to believe in its own greatness again. She would be proud if she saw me, to see what she becomes. To see she becomes the person she needed when she was a kid.

I know now that I have what it takes & have the tools to do anything & become anything that I choose to. The whole world is new, & yet it’s been there all along, waiting for me. Everything looks different, everything feels different, because now I see everything through the lens of vibrant optimism instead of the mournful, violent grays of sadness. I realized I have a choice in how I feel & what world I choose to see. In whether I struggle to survive, or flourish & thrive.

I feel like I finally decided which world I want to live in.

I have found the magic again.

INTERVIEW WITH GUITARIST PAUL BIELATOWICZ

I am so thrilled that I had the opportunity to interview Paul Bielatowicz, who is one of the best guitarists I’ve had the chance to see live. I saw him play guitar as part of the Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy concert I attended in 2018 & was immediately impressed. Paul manages to combine a killer virtuoso technique with truly beautiful, evocative playing, which can be a challenging combination to find. Paul pulls it off perfectly, & I’m so grateful that I got to pick his brain about music & creativity.

1. Is creating music something you HAVE to & feel a deep & necessary compulsion to do? Has being such a creative person sometimes made your life more difficult/painful or less fun, because being very creative is often at odds with what the rest of the world wants from you? If so, how have you dealt with that? Or has this been easy overall?

I’ve not really thought about it in those terms before, but I’ve always felt a deep need to be creative. I wouldn’t be happy if I wasn’t doing something creative with my life. Thankfully I’ve never felt at odds because of it; in fact the opposite is true, being creative has brought so many great people into my life.

2. How did you end up playing as part of ‪Carl Palmer‬’s ELP Legacy? Did you have to audition? (If you did, what song(s) did you play?) Tell us that story.

Carl was looking for a guitarist and asked around for recommendations. One of his recommendations was a guitarist called Guthrie Govan – he couldn’t do it because of other commitments, so Guthrie kindly recommended me. I sent Carl a CD of demos I had recorded – he liked it, so asked me to join the band. Thankfully there was no audition, the first time I met him was the first of 3 days rehearsals before our first European tour.

3. Do you consider yourself an explorer of the world (particularly the music world) or a collector of experiences & ideas, which you then turn into sounds? What things outside of music influence you, even including random things in the everyday world?

I think everything you experience goes into and comes out of your music. My goal is always to communicate something when I play or create music, so obviously it’s very important to have something to communicate. Inspiration can come from many places, but for me I try to communicate the positive in my music, simply because that’s what I’m drawn toward. So any positive experience or emotion can be inspiration for music.

4. Do you feel that playfulness & fun are important themes in your life & your music, & are taking creative risks a form of play? Do you have fun being yourself? How can creative people integrate more playfulness & creative fun into their lives/creative work?

Absolutely. I think fun and silliness is a big part of who I am, so that’s naturally going to come out in my music. If I can make someone smile, or even laugh, when I performing then I feel like I’ve done my job. As for how people can integrate more playfulness – if you’re that way inclined then just be yourself. An audience appreciates honesty in a performer.

5. Are most of the solos you play planned out or improvised, & why?

I’ll usually improvise solos in the studio until I get a take that I like, then when I’m happy with it I’ll keep it and play it live that way pretty much all the time.

6. What have you found to be the best way to market your music?

For me playing live has been the best marketing tool. Playing with other artists has given me the opportunity to showcase my music to audiences who wouldn’t otherwise discover me.

7. When you are writing a song, how do you know what it should sound like? Can you hear, feel, or see what the parts should be like inside your mind? Do you try to use sound to “paint” a very specific feeling or aesthetic you have in mind, or something else?

There’s no fixed formula for me – the writing process happens differently every time. I just wrote a song include 132 names of my patreon patrons in the lyrics. The morning I found out my patron count had passed 100 subscribers I got in the shower and pretty much had the whole thing written by the time I got out. Then I sang it into my phone so I could remember it. Other times I’ve been commissioned by guitar magazines to write pieces in a very specific style; in those instances I usually try to find an existing piece of music to use as a model for the piece I’m writing.
In terms of the aesthetic or meaning of a piece sometimes the musical idea comes first, and that might bring to mind a feeling or narrative to mind, and the rest of the piece is then influenced by that narrative… and it can also happen the other way round. So, for me, there’s no tried and tested method for writing.

8. If you could have written or played on any album (or albums!), which would it be & why? What would you have done differently on it?

Great question! I’m thinking of all my favourite albums, but the problem is they’re perfect exactly how they are, so I wouldn’t want to change them by adding myself. Having said that, I would have loved to have been in the studio when Sgt. Pepper or Abbey Road was being recorded – that creative environment must have been been something incredible to witness.

9. Who are some of your biggest musical influences & what most appeals to you about their music? How have they inspired your approach to guitar?

Guitar-wise, I started playing guitar because of Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits. Then I discovered Hendrix & Eddie Van Halen and my life changed. With Eddie & Jimi, what really appeals is the organic sound and style of playing – they sound so “human” when they play. One thing I dislike is when a musician, particularly guitar players, sound mechanical & robot-like. Aside from guitar players, a huge influence has been piano music. My favourite pianist is a Hungarian classical musician called Georges Cziffra. Again, he had monster technique, but he also had that organic sound to his playing that I love – that combination is absolutely necessary for virtuoso technique to move and touch people, rather than merely impress them.

10. With someone as virtuosic at guitar as you are, how do you know where to take your playing next? Do you have a mentor or a teacher, people you look up to & aspire to be like, or does the “next level” of honing your skills come from intuition or trying to play what you might hear inside your mind?

I don’t have anyone such as a mentor, but I often imagine doing things that I’m not capable of yet, so I guess that pushes me. I benefit a lot from the fact that I am so influenced by pianists and other instruments – it makes me constantly reassess what is possible on the guitar, and helps me look outside the confines of accepted limits and norms of the instrument.

11. If you had to write a manifesto about your approach to life in the form of a five-item list, what would that list be?

  1. Be kind.
  2. Be original.
  3. Create.
  4. Make the most of every moment.
  5. Leave the world a better place than you found it.

12. Do you have any hobbies outside of music? Tell us about your “son” (aka your cat!).

I adopted a cat from a rescue shelter about 4 years ago. We went to the shelter wanting a cat to pick us, rather than the other way round. The shelter let us meet a few cats, but they all seemed mainly interested in getting treats… then we met one who the shelter had called Rhode Island (that’s where he was rescued from) – there was an instant bond between us. He wasn’t interested in any treats, but followed us around the room whenever we walked away from him. He acted more like a dog than a cat, so we decided to call him Darwin – we figured he was the missing evolutionary link between a cat and a dog! 6 months later we read a heart wrenching story about a cat who had been in the same shelter for a long time; she came from Rhode Island and all her siblings had been adopted months ago; we called the shelter and sure enough it was Darwin’s biological sister, so obviously we had to reunite them. We named her Emma, after Charles Darwin’s wife, Emma Darwin.

13. I love the collaborative combos you make by combining a silent film with your guitar. What is your favorite thing about that type of combination of taking something from the past & combining it with the present?Tell us about that process.

I’ve always liked the idea of working with multimedia, so when the idea of silent movies came up, it just seemed to tick all the boxes. They’re a blank canvas – no dialog or existing soundtrack to get in the way of the music I’m playing, they’re often pieces of art in the their own right (we could dedicate a whole other interview to that idea alone!) and what’s more, they’re now in the public domain so can be used freely without worrying about the treading minefield of copyright!

14. What’s the earliest memory you have of music being important to you? Were you always interested in music & becoming a musician, or was that something you developed over time (if so, when & what inspired you to come to that decision?). If you hadn’t done something with music, what might have you become or done?

I was an only child growing up on the outskirts of a small country village so when music became important to me in my teen years, it became REALLY important – I threw myself into it and it consumed my every thought. When I was at school I loved playing guitar, but never thought it was a viable career choice so didn’t dare tell anyone I wanted to be a musician in case they laughed at me! Then when it came time to chose what to study at college I had a kind of “now or never” moment – it was the closest I’d been to choosing what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, so I finally started telling people I wanted to study music. Thankfully my family were very supportive and the rest is history!

15. What is an unusual habit or absurd thing that you love?

Geocaching! Me and Simon (Fitzpatrick – the bass player in Carl Palmer’s band) take part in a worldwide treasure hunt called Geocaching. There are millions of “caches” hidden all over the world – basically small containers containing a log book for you to sign – and we always try to find as many as we can on our travels.

16. Do you ever pretend to be someone else or do you feel as though you are always entirely yourself? Do you ever pretend to be your heroes when you’re up on stage, or does it feel amazing to always be exactly who you are when you’re on stage?

Haha no, definitely always feel like I’m entirely myself. I think my approach to performing is a very personal, communication-based one. So I’m always trying to draw the audience into to the performance and communicate something to them. I don’t think I’d feel comfortable trying to pretend to be someone else as that would lose the element of communication.

17. You can commission a work of art in any medium (including music & film) by any artist, dead or alive. Who is it, & what do you have them make for you?

Beethoven – I’d get him to compose me an electric guitar concerto!

18. Did you have a “point of no return” experience in regards to pursing music, where there was no turning back & you knew you were just going to go for it? What was that decision or moment, & how did it make you feel?

Not really. The thought of doing anything else would have been horrible. There was only ever one thing I wanted to do, and that was to play music, so I’ve always been “going for it”.

19. In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit, has most improved your life?

I decided to go vegan a few years ago and I feel like I’m a better person for it. I reached a point where I felt I had to reassess my moral compass and make my own decisions about what was right and wrong. A big influence was adopting Darwin, my cat from a rescue centre – it was the first time I’d really bonded with an animal and all of a sudden the thought that I’d been eating animals really struck home. I realised I had to make that change in my life & I’ve never looked back. Going vegan is one of the most positive things I’ve ever done with my life.

20. What advice do you have for highly creative & eclectic young people pursuing their art?

Be yourself. The world doesn’t need a clone of any other artist out there. Find your own artistic voice and create.
If you’d like to keep up with what Paul is up to in the studio or on tour, they can check out www.patreon.com/paulbielatowicz for daily updates.
 
You can also find Paul on Facebook here.
All photos of Paul from his Facebook page.

PASTEL UNIVERSE :: Outfit of the Day

Green pyramid earrings / Rainbow “I Love the Universe & the Universe Loves Me & I Love Me” t-shirt (AVAILABLE IN MY SHOP!) / zigzag pink pastel shorts / chakra alignment bracelet / Doc Martens with custom colorful laces / flamingo floatie novelty socks

Also, here is a photo of me wearing fluffy yellow ear muffs from Target that I would hella buy if I didn’t live in Florida.