Not that kind of Girl // Lena’s memoir & my thoughts

If you were to ask me, ‘what got you through Cuba?’ I’d answer ‘Andrew and Lena Dunham’s memoir.’ To me, Not that kind of Girl was the perfect beach read (especially while I was sick).

My perspective is a little more forgiving than Meagan’s, and it’s definitely okay to disagree overall. That’s what our book club for two discussions are for! To discuss.

Sidenote: I’m a huge fan of GIRLS too, and this may make me biased.

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I think that overall Lena was really brave throughout each chapter. She talks about her vagina, being raped, her sexcapades, OCD and anxiety problems. I admired her as she exposed herself in an honest way for the majority of the book, and was able to laugh at herself while reflecting.

There were a lot of things that I couldn’t relate too. It was strange to me, though, being born in the 80s like Lena – you’d think I would catch on to her social, cultural and entertainment references, but I just didn’t get it sometimes.

Without giving anything away, the beginning was the most funny. Somehow it got less funny as I continued to read. Lena’s sarcasm was appreciated though, and her truthful remarks did open my eyes to some life lessons I might have missed during my early 20’s.

Lena is a voice of our (female) generation, and being a big fan of GIRLS I found it hard to separate my suspended disbelief from the TV series and the book. Her protagonist Hannah sounds a lot like her in the novel. Scenes that stood out in GIRLS would mix with my interpretation of Lena’s real-life experiences and exaggerated life events in Not that kind of Girl.

I wasn’t necessarily shocked about Lena looking into her sister’s vagina when she was young. Maybe I’m desensitized from GIRLS, but it seemed like a natural and harmless exploration. Here, Lena found rocks and her mom came to remove them from her sister’s private area. Apparently, this was a controversial scene?

The timing of when I read this memoir counts for something too. I was suffering from a lot of anxiety on our trip (Varadero, Cuba) because I had gotten severely ill from something I ate or the drinking water. Knowing that someone else suffers from anxiety and panic attacks really helped me stay calm and live day by day. Reading on the beach is also something I love to do, and I was glad this memoir suit my needs.

I know Meagan referred to herself as NOT marking up her book and highlighting quotes, but I did. I’m going to leave you with a little something,

“But I am a girl with a keen interest in having it all, and what follows are hopeful dispatches from the frontlines of that struggle.”

– Lena Dunham

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Guest Post: Here’s the thing, I didn’t enjoy reading Lena Dunham’s memoir Not That Kind of Girl.

By: Meagan Laroque

So if you’re madly in love with the woman and not open to critically discussing elements of this book, I highly suggest you stop reading this post. Maybe just click on Daniela’s link instead. It’s okay, we can bond over something else later, like baby elephants, chai tea, travel adventures, or this –>

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You know those people who mark off favourite quotes as they read? Daniela and I both do that. I have a solid collection of memorable quotes from some of the best novels I have read. But with Lena’s book, I found myself marking off quotes or pages that instead of inspiring me or provoking belly laughs, made me want to use the book in a D.I.Y. craft project that involves transforming the book to a point where it’s illegible.

imagejpeg_2Overall, I felt the novel was a series of arbitrary rambles targeted towards spoiled, upper-class twentysomethings. I found myself thinking ‘wait, what?’ far too often. Here’s an example: There’s a section called ‘Friendship’, where friendship is never actually discussed. It’s literally an entire section dedicated to Lena’s “bi-curious” nature and her falling for other girls. I’m all for gay rights; I even have a T-Shirt that says so! But that’s not friendship. Friendship is unconditional love without sexual desire.

How can you write a memoir that dedicates more than half the book to relationships, and not once reflect on friendship?

The section ‘Love and Sex’ is a documentation of Lena’s past relationships. After reading that section, all I could think about was how important it was to her self-worth, and how much weight she put on being in a relationship. There was nothing empowering about this message. It was as though she was condemning the unattached and single, letting us know we aren’t truly valuable and worthy until we’re loved by another person.

Sorry Lena, but Sahaj Kohli said it best: “The fact that someone else loves you doesn’t rescue you from the project of loving yourself.”

Don’t get me wrong – I still have some respect for Lena. She really put it all out there (right down to the nipple hair), free of secrets with no hesitation. I sincerely enjoyed her section about therapy and becoming secret bffs with her therapists’ daughter. There are parts of the novel that made me laugh, gasp, or even stop and relate to my own personal experiences. But those moments were rare.

Which is why I give this book one half thumbs down!

The (hilarious and sometimes witty) illustrations throughout the book, on the other hand, get an A++.

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Family Day // Well Spent

DSC00287Though I’ve been deathly sick all weekend long with a vicious cough that won’t quit – you know, the kind that’s deep in your chest? – I have spent a lot of quality time with family this weekend. For Valentine’s Day, Andrew and I decided to forego the romantics this year and embrace Family Day at the cottage instead.

DSC00277Andrew and I (with my littlest cousin Emily) managed to head up to our family cottage located in Orillia with 2 (out of 4) of my cousins. Here we participated in an evening full of Monopoly Empire – the board game.

The worst part about regular Monopoly is how long it takes for someone to win. Monopoly Empire caps the time limit of  at around 20 to 30 minutes per game. The object of the game is to own the most brands – for example Coca Cola, Xbox, Nestle, etc. – and build your empire.

The next day our snowboarding plans were deterred by the severe cold warning alert. In Orillia, Ontario it was around - 37. Yup, that’s minus thirty-seven degrees celsius during the warmest part of the day. So, what did we do? Bundled up and went for a walk out on the Lake. Yes, this is a tad dangerous, but with minus 40 conditions and snow mobile tracks, we figured it was okay.

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To be honest. It was freezing and we definitely could have gotten frost bite if we stayed out longer than the 15 to 20 minutes that we did. That afternoon – cozy and enjoying the warmth of the cottage – we indulged in Cards Against Humanity.  Of course the youngest one there, Emily, is the dirtiest. She won, again.

All in all it was great spending the weekend with my cousins. We always have a good laugh, sing-a-long and dance party all in one – with way too much delicious food. We headed home late on Sunday afternoon instead of staying until Monday. Though we are true Canadians, and ones that brave the cold, sometimes you just need to get away from the brisk, chill of the lake.

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Being home today has given me a chance to rest and drink a lot of warm tea. It has also allowed me to fully embrace my soon-to-be sister-in-law and brother moving back in to our house (with Toffee too) while their condo gets painted. And believe me, Toffee is too cute to not stay home with.

Happy Family Day to everyone in Ontario and happy Monday.

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Wednesday // the worst

Wednesday is simply the worst day of the week. Warning – working full time is a slight contributor to this theory, but nonetheless it’s awful.

With two weekdays down (Monday and of course Tuesday), next in line is hump day plus two more WHOLE days. And trust me, the hump is always difficult to get up and over.

On Wednesday morning there are a total of three days left. You aren’t halfway through the week quite yet. It seems full of despair and aggravation before anything has really happened.

I’m not sure if it’s just the universe playing into my theory, but things always seem to go wrong on Wednesdays. The world seems to stop and present problem after problem – all simultaneously – until you get a grip and begin resolving them one by one.

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Thursday, though, “the third day” (as Joey Tribbiani from Friends would say) is the best day. It leads straight into Friday and is pretty enjoyable all around.

But Wednesday, oh boy, you have to watch out for it. Each week it creeps up on you like your hair knotting on a windy day. Knots are impossible to get out without a comb.

Oftentimes, it feels like it should already be the weekend at this point.

In order to turn this day around, I’ve decided to treat myself each Wednesday morning to a tall – lactose free, vanilla latte from Starbucks. It’s been working so far, except, at $5 dollars a cup I’m not sure I can keep up the weekly tradition.

It definitely shouldn’t be called “the case of the Mondays,” but “a case of the humps” instead. Too much?

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Barcelo Solymar Beach Resort // Varadero, Cuba

P1050239Varadero, Cuba wasn’t quite my dream vacation. As I’ve told many people since we got back – the first five days were beautiful and amazing! Too bad we had 5 more days remaining on our trip, and that’s when I got sick.

In the moment, I knew how bad it was. My body was giving me ALL of the signs. I threw up one night and had chills – to the point where my body wouldn’t stop shaking and it was hard to fall asleep. To make matters worse, I threw up the night before our day trip to Havana (or Habana as the Cubans and Spanish people call it). Looking back, I think it was even worse than I had thought.

P1050236Let’s start from the beginning though. At first glance, Barcelo Solymar Beach Resort was breathe taking. There were 4 stories of rooms and green, luscious plants hanging from the top – down. Checking in was a breeze and our room was HUGE. The weather was sunny, hot (but not too hot) and bright. Our beach was white sands and the ocean was many, many shades of blue. The food wasn’t bad. It’s what you’d expect in Cuba.

Andrew and I had a lot of fun hanging out on the beach, lazying around, tanning and playing in the water (ocean and pool-side). But then, it hit me. Vomiting, severe nausea, diarrhea too! As I said, we were going to Havana. Initially, I felt better that morning. We got everything ready. At breakfast, I looked at Andrew’s plate of food and wanted to throw up.

P1050259This led to an attempt to reschedule our day trip, but alas, we would have to pay a cancellation fee and repay the total amount of the same trip on a different date. I decided to suck it up.

Havana is spectacular. It was the main reason we chose to stay in Varadero. Little did we know that it was a 2hr drive away, but all in all the day was great. We visited Hemingway’s hangouts and hotel in the city – where he wrote a lot of his classic stories. The architecture, culture and people were amazing to see. We were lucky enough to visit a local food supply store where locals purchase their monthly rations. What an experience. Even Revolutionary Square was something I had seen in pictures but was more magnificent than I had thought.

P1050298Having gotten back to the hotel so late (after 9pm at night) there were no doctors at the hotel. The next day I seemed to feel better, but with diarrhea still present, I knew I had to contact my parents. With an internet card (only 5 convertible pesos for 15 minutes!) I emailed our travel agent – to see if we could leave sooner – and my parents.

With my mom insisting to see the doctor – that’s what I did. She gave me a shot in my butt of gravel, an electrolyte liquid and something I still don’t know. The combination immediately helped my nausea and pooping problem. Some type of bacteria had gotten in my digestive track, which required antibiotics as well and lots of juice boxes. I was also prescribed coconut electrolyte powders to pour into water and drink once every two hours until finished. It tasted like sunscreen.

P1050321All the medication cost me about $99 convertible pesos (about $120 Canadian). Thank God for travel/medical insurance. As the days passed, I started to feel better, but the food was still turning me off. The doctor had to give me a hand written letter to show the buffet chef so that he would make me grilled chicken and chicken noodle soup. She even went out of her way to tell him herself that I’d be coming.

I’m not sure how I knew, but I stayed out of the sun while on antibiotics. So much for tanning. Andrew and I lounged on the beach in the shade for the last three days of our trip. At least I had the weather and a magnificent view on my side.

P1050259Being sick while away from home was more than traumatizing. All I wanted to do was leave early. However, to change your flight would cost us $400 each. We would have had to pay our flight again since it wasn’t an emergency (though it was – I lost 8 to 10 pounds pretty quickly having only ate white rice, bread and chicken for four days).

I love Cuban people. I used to love Cuba, but being sick there has exposed Andrew and I to some flaws in their country’s travel industry and currency. Sunwing was helpful, but I much prefer Air Transat overall. The hotel though lovely, was a party hotel, and it was hard to make friends. The majority of people were from Montreal (weren’t interested in talking to English-speaking Canadians) and young.

P1050229Somehow I managed to come back with a bit of a tan, but going to an all-inclusive for 10 days was a huge mistake on my part. This is why people only go to these places for 7 days MAX. If you get really sick like I did, you aren’t stuck there.

Lesson learned. Havana was all I had dreamed it would be, the beaches even more wonderful, but I won’t be making a visit back to Cuba anytime soon. Not without my mom.

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Guest Post: Our Rent-a-Kitten Hobbes // About Cats

What do you do when you have the opportunity to have a kitten for as short or as long of a period as you want? There are a couple of things to take into consideration when this happens… actually, no there aren’t. You say yes, especially when said kitten looks like this little furball:

Hobbes as a kitten

Hobbes as a kitten.

This is how Hobbes, who my boyfriend and I fondly refer to as our “rent-a-kitten,” came into our lives via a friend from work.

I have to admit, I didn’t know that much about cats when I took him in. I’d heard all the typical stereotypes, that they can be little monsters, that they are fiercely independent, and that they sleep a lot. During our time with Hobbes, I learned that yes, cats can be all of those things, but our little guy was so much more!

Here are five things I learned about cats while caring for Hobbes:

1. You can buy them toys, but it will be pointless

"This rubber band is mine."

“This rubber band is mine.”

I joke about accepting Hobbes without any thought because he was so cute, but anybody who knows me knows this is a lie. I’ve been nicknamed ‘Cautious Christina’ for a reason, I over-prepare for everything and do not take my responsibilities lightly.

As a result, it was very important to me that Hobbes be happy with us. I diligently cleaned his litter box twice a day, got up extra early in the morning to play with him on days when I’d be away at work, and bought various pet items and toys to make him comfortable.

The toys and accessories went mostly unused. The pet bed? He preferred to lie on my chest. Or above my head on my pillow. Or on the back of the couch, or basically anywhere else. His favourite toys? Not always the ones I bought (although he conveniently was a big fan of the balls with bells in them during the middle of the night). However, an old shoelace, empty toilet paper roll, or scrunched up ball of paper? Best toys ever.

One of his favourite toys to this day is the seal from a juice container. ‘Nuff said.

Hobbes

Practicing sitting on command. His patience was wearing thin as I attempted to document our progress, haha.

2. You can train a cat!

People talk about how independent and aloof cats are and act like you can’t train them, but I’d have to disagree! You know those Whiskas Temptations commercials where the cats come from far and wide when you shake the bag of treats? I suspect they’re not that far from the truth.

When Hobbes was a kitten, my boyfriend trained him to stand on top of his scratching post for a treat (he eventually got too big to continue doing this). I even managed to teach him to sit! I won’t lie, I was pretty proud. Snapchat evidence was sent to friends.

3. They create trouble in ways you never would have expected

They say that cats are curious creatures and Hobbes is no exception. We tried many, many times to discourage him from jumping up on surfaces in the kitchen but he is nothing if not persistent. One day, despite our best efforts, he jumped up on the stove and singed one of the pads on his paws. What ensued was a trip to the vet where he returned with a wrapped up paw and a “cone of shame”. He was not pleased but managed to avoid the stove for at least a few days after the incident.

Hobbes tolerating his bandage.

Hobbes tolerating his bandage.

4. They are highly entertaining

Hobbes after an accidental dip in the toilet.

One day, Hobbes’ water investigation resulted in an accidental dip in the toilet bowl.

People talk about how cats just sleep all day. It may be because Hobbes is young, but he is definitely active and the stuff that he gets into is a never-ending source of amusement. For example, Hobbes has a strange obsession with water sources. He never shows any interest in drinking water from anywhere other than his water dish, it seems he just likes to monitor areas where water comes from. He could easily stare into the toilet for several minutes. Any and all water sources must be investigated, including sinks and bathtubs. Not sure where he is? Just flush the toilet, he’ll come.

He’s also a big fan of bags, boxes, staring out the window, and alternating between destroying and wearing my slippers.

5. There’s nothing like a good cat cuddle

Cuddle time in the early days.

Cuddle time in the early days.

While Hobbes was a kitten, I tried to create a routine with him so he would know what to expect. One of these things was morning playtime, which was an attempt to burn off some of his energy and keep him active since I would be away at work during the day. Except that I myself am not that active in the morning, and eventually it got to a point where instead of playing he would climb on top of me and purr and purr and purr.

The new routine became “morning cuddle time”, and he’s kept with it to this day, meowing in the morning to let you know that it’s time. Some might think it’s annoying to wake up to a cat meowing for attention, and while on occasion I’ve found that I do need more sleep and morning cuddle time needs to be delayed, I have to say that there’s nothing like having a bundle of fur purr next to you in pure satisfaction.

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Hobbes has since returned to live with my friend where he has other animals to play with and additional water sources to investigate, but we look forward to his occasional visits and morning cuddle time (which, during his most recent stay, I learned can easily turn into morning, noon and evening cuddle time). I learned that, like his namesake from the comic series Calvin & Hobbes, he is mischievous and a little bit of a troublemaker, but at the end of the day is a big bundle of love who just wants to be your best friend.

Hobbes and I ringing in the New Year.

Hobbes and I ringing in the New Year, as captured by Dee.

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Guest Post: Hey, Watch This! // Television in 2015

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Dee’s little cousin Isabella. I like long walks on the beach, dogs and hanging out in my onesie. Wait, this isn’t my Okcupid page? WOOPS.

Anyway, with Daniela out of town (lucky her), my plan to take over her blog can come to fruition.  She always asks me to write, and I always put it off—mostly due to my laziness and partially due to my incapability of figuring out how WordPress works. However, with 2015 AT OUR FINGER TIPS I’ve decided to write about some really amazing TV that I truly loved in 2014 and recommend in the upcoming year. I watch an EMBARRASSING amount of TV and I struggled with narrowing this list down. But HERE WE GO, in no particular order.

  1. BROAD CITY

Broad City is for fans of HBO GIRLS who are tired of HBO GIRLS. Lena Dunham’s GIRLS is funny and introspective but often so incredibly stressful and exhausting to watch. Broad City follows a similar premise to GIRLS— starring two best friends Abbi and Ilana living their odd life in New York City. Unlike Girls, there isn’t really a cohesive storyline to the entire season of Broad City. Think of each episode as an individual sketch—focusing on one event in the girls’ lives. This makes sense because this is what creators Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer are GREAT AT, especially since they studied at Upright Citizens Brigade (Amy Poehler’s comedy club/training centre in Chelsea, NY). For example, the first episode revolves around the girls trying to make enough money to go see Lil Wayne in concert. So basic, so fun. HANNAH, MARNIE, SHOSH and JESSA WOULD NEVER cover a premise so simplistic!! Second season begins January 14 and the fast pace of the show will make it a breeze to finish the first in NO TIME AT ALL. When you’re finished first season, check out the web series on Youtube that the show originally started up as before Amy Poehler decided to produce and take the concept to Comedy Central.

2. HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER

While not an actual instructional guide, How to Get Away With Murder is easily one of my favourite new shows. It stars Viola Davis. That’s all you really have to know. The show could easily just be Viola Davis staring at a wall and still be great and award winnin680.16x9g because it’s Viola Davis. But I GUESS if you’re into plot, there’s a murder shown first episode (not even a spoiler it’s basically in the title). Using flashbacks and flash forwards, the following episodes begin to piece together who did it and why. There’s quite a large cast, but the show does an amazing job at making sure the audience is invested in all the right (and sometimes wrong) characters. There’s murder. There’s sex. There’s the actress that played Paris in Gilmore Girls. You will not be disappointed.

3. INSIDE AMY SCHUMER

Starring stand up comic of the same name, Inside Amy Schumer infuses stand up, sketch comedy and on the street interviews to create one BRILLIANT and hilarious show. Many of the sketches are on Youtube if you want to test the waters first. I recommend “Sex Prep”, “The Gab”, “Herpes Scare” and “I’m So Bad”. Some are raunchy, some have a deeper underlying meaning (see “A Very Realistic Military Game”) and some are just plain silly. What’s appealing about this show is that Amy Schumer is able to carve a very large space for women in comedy and it is amazing to watch. After seeing her do an hour set live at comedy festival JFL42 in Toronto, Amy has become someone I greatly admire—not just as a comic but as a writer and creator. Check out this show if you’re into sketch comedy and if you’re into watching girls kick some major ass in an industry they’re not always welcome in. There are 2 seasons already out and available, with a 3rd just announced last summer. Also search for some of her stand up and watch out for a movie she wrote called Trainwreck coming out this summer that is absolutely STACKED with comic geniuses.

4. BROADCHURCH

For someone who watches as much TV as I do, I’m embarrassed to admit I finally just got Netflix. This show was actually recommended by my mother as she watches the American adaptation called Grace Point. However because I generally like British people more (and because it’s also the original), Broadchurch has been my new addiction. Meaning, I just started watching it 2 days ago. This drama is ALSO about a murder (yikes, this pattern is concerning) of a young boy in a tiny town. I don’t even like crime shows but there is something so appealing about watching it and being absolutely stumped about who did it. The focus is not on the murder itself, rather the effects of it in a small tight-knit community…which raises the audience’s suspicion even more. It’s PACKED tight with emotional drama, so bring your kleenexes upon viewing. With 8 episodes in the first season, this show wastes NO TIME at getting right at it. Starring David Tennant (in both the British and American versions…weird!), I’m surprised this show isn’t talked about more!

5. BROOKLYN NINE-NINE

While a show about cops isn’t exactly a new idea, this sitcom does an old (and perhaps overdone?) concept RIGHT. Starring Andy Samberg as an immature but dedicated police officer in Brooklyn, there’s a reason why this show won 2 Golden Globes during it’s first season. The ensemble cast works amazing together and the writing is quick, smart and ridiculous. Watch out for comedian Chelsea Peretti who plays the office administrator Gina. Her one-liners constantly highlight an already well rounded show. If you’re looking for a new sitcom to watch after repetitively being pelted with shows like Big Bang Theory or Modern Family for the past few years (NO SHADE, JUST LIKE…WE GET IT GUYS, WE GET IT), Brooklyn 99 is incredibly refreshing. The second half of the second season just began this week, so there’s not too much to catch up on! If you become obsessed with Gina like I did, also watch Chelsea Peretti’s stand up special called “One of the Greats”. A bold title, but she’s not wrong!

And that’s all guys! If I should be watching something LET ME KNOW. Comment & tweet me at @iiisabellaaa. I’m currently belly button deep in a Gilmore Girls re-watch (thank you Netflix for this gift), but I will make time for any suggestions! Have a Happy New Year and I hope you have many onesie-wearing, comfy nights in doing some marathon TV watching!

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