2019: In a Nutshell

2019: In a Nutshell

Good Morning and Happy New Year’s (Eve) everybody!

I know that it’s pretty much obligatory at this point for every single person looking back on and/or writing about this past year to say “I can’t believe how quickly time flew by!”– and I’m sure many of you are sick of that sentiment by now with all the recent recaps, revisits and reviews of 2019 that typically pop up between the day after Christmas and now as we shift gears from presents, mistletoe and ugly holiday sweater parties and prepare for 2020- but here we are and yes- I feel that this year was truly accelerated at lightning speed.

It feels like it was only a few days ago that I was standing on the observation deck of Top of The Rock in New York City on January 1st and making grandeur plans for the year ahead. I had very specific goals/resolutions in mind, and I’m happy and proud that twelve months later- I’ve accomplished and achieved nearly everything that was on my list at the end of 2018. It wasn’t easy by any means- and there were plenty of setbacks and hurdles along the way- but where 2018 was the year I became aware of myself as a person and honest about my strengths and weaknesses as a human being- 2019 was all about implementing what I had learned about myself, sharpening my skill set and redefining my goals in a way that better suited me- and then putting my plans into action to achieve what I wanted to gain.

2019 was filled with changes- big and small, personal and professional. The biggest and most significant change in my life this year was that I relocated to the Pioneer Valley in Western Massachusetts- a move that took me a couple hours away from my family, friends and career- and essentially gave me the opportunity to find new passions and projects in a new community filled with new people (and a few longtime friends that have been established out here for a while now, as well.) It’s been exciting, sometimes and admittedly a little frightening- but overall very rewarding. I love my apartment, I love my neighborhood- and I love the exciting opportunities that lay ahead.

Professionally, I managed to juggle not one, not two- but three jobs- simultaneously and successfully. And, while I had to overcome a brief period of office drama, slander and sabotage at the hands of co-workers at my full-time office job- it is my Saturday show with Indie617 that brought me the most joy and fulfillment- and I cannot wait to continue that into 2020. Additionally, a Summertime stint with a local theater company earned me some extra income and a couple of connections here in the Valley that I hope will have prosperous potential in the future.

And then, personally- and perhaps the thing I’m most proud of this year- was that I kept my promise to myself to not allow negative people to drain me of my energy and spirit and reduce me to a doormat. I put my foot down in 2019- and I severed ties with people who were either toxic or did not have my best interests at heart. In releasing myself and putting needed distance from those negative and often abusive friendships/connections- I became more honest and upfront with what I wanted without fear- and the result was forging stronger, more meaningful and healthy friendships/relationships with those around me.

This past year was also filled with travel (from new and unfamiliar locations here in New England all the way to Las Vegas and San Diego this past Spring), incredible live shows from Boston Calling and Green River Festival in the Summer to Bon Iver and Hozier in the Fall- and big changes for my friends and family- including engagements, new babies, and buying new houses!

And with all the progress and all the changes that have happened in 2019- I feel like I’m better equipped to enter 2020 with new and attainable goals. I have a new list of resolutions- which I’ll share at the end of this post- as well as some exciting blogging news in relation to the future of Blondie Birdie.

But first, as is tradition- I’d like to recap some of the headlines, trends, pop culture phenomenons, memes and everything in-between in what I call 2019: In a Nutshell.

Let’s take a look back, shall we?

(Image via Reuters)

Corruption was the talk of the town: I didn’t want to kick this off with anything related to Donald Trump. I’ve made no attempts to hide my contempt for him or his rabid followers since well before he took office- but this has been *the* news story of late 2019 and as it’s still ongoing- it’s worth the first mention.

Following the revelation via a still-anonymous whistleblower that Donald Trump had enlisted the help of the newly appointed President of the Ukraine to investigate Trump’s 2020 political opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden and Joe Biden’s son in exchange for previously approved financial and military aid that would assist the Ukraine in their fight against Russian aggression- all bets were off in late September when an impeachment inquiry was launched by House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi.

In the weeks/months that followed- a number of witnesses were called to the stand to testify. Some of the testimony remained private to the public while other testimony was televised for days on end. Witnesses included former ambassadors and officials associated with the White House- and what they saw/overhead did not look good for Trump and his associates- who had vehemently denied any wrongdoing. Trump, unable to control his temper tantrums- went as far as to participate in witness intimidation in real time while Diplomat Marie Yovanovitch took the stand.

The Republicans, desperate and grasping at anything throughout the process- ceased to ask pertinent questions and instead began to simply shout over or attempt to degrade the witnesses- often resulting in brutal hashtags and memes on social media poking fun at their expense.

And on December 18th, Trump became the third president in U.S. history to be impeached following a long and tedious vote by the House on two articles of impeachment – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

While pre-trial proceedings remain ongoing and we await the formal decision on whether or not Trump will be removed from office (hopefully forcibly-) it goes without saying that at this point it is glaringly obvious even to the most stubborn MAGA hat-wearer that Trump and everyone has has placed in his inner circle to aid and abet him are criminals.

(via CNBC)

Epstein didn’t kill himself: Jeffrey Epstein has been a known predator for a long time, particularly after a prior conviction in 2008 where he had admitted to soliciting a minor for prostitution- but that didn’t stop the wealthy financier with powerful friends (including politicians and members of the Royal Family) from getting a slap on the wrist and released from his sentence in a minimal amount of time.

Years later, with multitudes of women and young girls coming forward- and after a lengthy and extensive investigation (prompted by a detailed exposé about the crimes being committed under everyone’s noses)– Epstein was arrested again in July of 2019- this time on federal charges of sex trafficking minors in Florida and the state of New York. The arrest brought to light his affiliations with other wealthy and prominent people/institutions- and it was widely speculated that he would name those who had assisted him with his crimes of abusing underage girls as part of a potential deal.

In August, after being placed on suicide watch following a previous attempt/assault within his cell just a few days earlier- Epstein was found dead with a broken neck. The official ruling was suicide by hanging- but many people had speculations and suspicions given the timeline of events and Epstein’s elite connections. Foul play has been widely insinuated- and as recently as November- two prison guards who were responsible for monitoring Epstein have been charged with conspiracy and falsifying records detailing what had happened the night he died.

(via CNN)

The Notre-Dame Fire: In April of 2019, all eyes were on Paris when the famed Notre-Dame cathedral was reportedly engulfed in flames as a result of a structural fire. For hours, onlookers watched in horror as flames destroyed the roof and spire before finally being contained and extinguished. In the interim, security personnel and responding firefighters managed to remove priceless artifacts and artwork from within the cathedral to safety before they could be damaged by the flames or heavy smoke.

The structure of the cathedral proved to be beneficial when remnants of the roof and spire had collapsed- as it helped shield a good amount of the interior from significant destruction- and pieces that were located and found to be damaged were expected to be sent out for repair/restoration.

And perhaps the most miraculous of all was that there were no fatalities and only a couple of minor injuries reported in the aftermath.

It didn’t take long for the donations to begin pouring in from around the globe to assist with the restoration and rebuilding of the damaged sections of the cathedral- and if you happened to be on social media that day- you were no stranger to the endless barrage of Parisian vacation photos paying tribute to the location. We get it, guys- you went to Paris ten years ago. Calm down.

(via NASA)

We got our first look at a black hole: Also in April of this year, the science world and space enthusiasts everywhere got a real treat when the first image of a black hole was released. Using an Event Horizon Telescope- which I have no business trying to explain because that’s how advanced and technical it is- a group of astronomers managed to secure the above photo. NASA went on to explain in their press release:

Using the Event Horizon Telescope, scientists obtained an image of the black hole at the center of the galaxy M87. (There is a supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy — the Milky Way.)

The black hole is outlined by emission from hot gas swirling around it under the influence of strong gravity near its event horizon.

Space has always intrigued and terrified me beyond comprehension (every movie where the plot focuses on people in space has *never* ended well for anyone)– but even I thought this was a fascinating peek into what lies beyond the stars.

(via Boston Herald)

Aunt Becky is probably going to prison: Earlier this Spring, the news broke that a group of celebrities, CEOs and moguls were being charged with conspiracy, money laundering and fraud (among a whole lot of other crimes) in relation to a college admissions bribery ring. The accused- which included Lori Loughlin, Felicity Huffman, David Sidoo, Gamal Aziz and many, many more- were found to have paid exorbitant amounts of money to have their children’s testing scores and extra curricular credentials changed- if not outright fabricated- in order to essentially buy their way into prestigious universities around the country in what was deemed “Operation Varsity Blues.”

While many of the accused plead guilty over the following months- serving brief sentences and paying hefty fines as punishment for their participation- it was Lori Louglin’s nonchalant attitude towards the whole scandal that caught everyone’s attention. She has outright denied any wrongdoing despite what looks like substantial evidence against her- and faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted.

I have a feeling I’ll be revisiting this one by the end of 2020.

(via HBO)

IT’S FINALLY OVER: As confusing and often convoluted as ‘Game Of Thrones’ could be throughout it’s eight seasons- I enjoyed the show. It was filled with compelling characters, plenty of surprising twists, a LOT of sex and violence- and it’s cast have long since become familiar and household names.

By it’s final season this past year, however- things began to unravel- which was not surprising since the series did not have sturdy source material to follow as it had outpaced the published novels in which it was based on. The story became predictable and dull- and multiple gaffes throughout the season (including visible Starbucks cups and water bottles in various scenes) brought heavy criticism against the directors’ perceived “laziness”- as well as plenty of memes.

In May, the final episode of the last season aired- and the ending divided longtime fans between those who thought it was an appropriate and well-rounded finale- and others (like me!) who were left underwhelmed and disappointed.

Here’s hoping whenever “The Walking Dead” wraps up that the writers take some notes on what to do and not do in terms of setting off a social media frenzy.

(via BBC)

The Climate Crisis Crusaders: If there was still any speculation by cynical and overly harsh Baby Boomers that the world was going to be left in the hands of lazy or self-indulgent children/teenagers- they need not worry. The future generations proved that they have a lot more on their minds than social media and getting”likes” these days- particularly in 2019 when the ongoing climate crisis became the central focus of youths around the world who were/are actively working to reverse and prevent years’ worth of damages that are threatening the only home we have.

With Sweden’s Greta Thunberg at the front lines- taking the brunt of unfair criticism and mockery from adult climate change deniers (like President Trump, for example-) the 16-year old inspired countless others of all ages to reevaluate their carbon footprint, make significant changes to their lifestyles to prevent further damages to the environment while supporting/providing funding for projects looking to do the same on larger scales.

And despite attempts to detract her message or silence her- Greta’s efforts paid off- as she was named TIME Magazine’s “Person of The Year” in 2019.

Not bad at all.

(via Reuters)

The Hong Kong and Santiago Protests: Additionally, all generations took to the streets in wide scale fashion in 2019. In Hong Kong, protesters continue to fight back to show their disapproval following the introduction of the Fugitive Offenders Amendment Bill as it could have potentially lead to direct violations of citizens’ and those visiting the country’s civil liberties if it had been put into effect. The protests have resulted in multiple clashes between protesters and the police, as well as between protesters and counter-protesters- with two deaths reported to date. Thousands of injuries and arrests have also taken place.

However, the protests (that sometimes turned into riots) appeared to be effective- with the bill being withdrawn in the Fall.

Additionally, Santiago saw it’s own share of protests/rioting that began in October following increases to the city’s public transportation and overall cost of living. Citizens took to the streets to show their frustrations with perceived inequality and demanded reform in their wages, healthcare and education. These protests, however- resulted in many more deaths and injuries- mostly due to fires set around the city.

Both protests remain ongoing.

(via The Weather Channel)

Hurricane Dorian and the Australian Bushfires: Like every year before it, 2019 was no stranger to natural disasters- some more severe than others and some still happening as we speak. One of the worst and most catastrophic events took place back in September when Hurricane Dorian- a Category 5 hurricane with recorded wind speeds of 185 MPH hit the Bahamas head on- resulting in over 70 fatalities (and counting, as hundreds are still missing) and billions of dollars worth of damages.

And presently ongoing in Australia, deadly and dangerous bushfires continue to sweep through the area- worsened with dry conditions and little to no rain. As homes are destroyed and acres of land are reduced to nothing- eyes have been on the koala population- which suffered a significant hit and resulted in a rise in donations to local koala hospitals that have been working round the clock to tend to dehydrated and injured bears who have no habitat to return to.

We lost people along the way: And, like every year before it- we had to say goodbye to a few beloved names and faces in 2019, too. Some losses, while not necessarily anticipated- were easier to bear given old age or ongoing illnesses- as was the case with Doris Day or Albert Finney.

Some passings, however- were completely unexpected. Luke Perry, who died of a stroke at the age of 52 in March- comes to mind almost immediately. As does The Cars’ Ric Ocasek, who died unexpectedly following complications from surgery in September.

We also lost internet legend and the base of so many memes in May when Tardar Sauce, AKA “Grumpy Cat”- passed away following an infection. I’m still insanely sad about that one, really.

________________________________

Now, as is the tradition with all of my yearly reviews- there are a few things I wanted to include but wasn’t quite sure where to place them- and as a result they’ve ended up here in the “Honorable Mentions” section. Important moments, events, pop culture trends- but not quite as extensive, intricate and detailed as politics, global movements, scandals and scientific breakthroughs.

Nonetheless- they helped shape 2019!

– Baby Archie!!: When Meghan Markle and Prince Harry tied the knot, it was definitely a big moment and a highlight of 2018- and the birth of their first child earlier this year was certainly cause for celebration. With tabloids being unnecessarily cruel and invasive towards Markle for the duration of her pregnancy and well after she had given birth- there were concerns the new mother may crack under the pressure of the non-stop scrutiny that had plagued her mother-in-law for years leading up to her death. But the Duchess persevered with a strong showing of grace and class- and the newest addition to the Royal Family is absolutely adorable.

– Baby Yoda: The only other baby to make his way into the wrap-up with potential royal status. Everyone knew Disney+’s new series, “The Mandalorian,” was going to be great- but nobody expected that the breakout star of the show and fan favorite would be a puppet. Baby Yoda (aka, “The Child,”)– has sparked countless memes, merchandise and conversations- and for good reason. It just might be the cutest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I couldn’t even tell you what happened in the most recent episode because I spent the whole time worrying about Baby Yoda.

And I’m perfectly content with Baby Yoda continuing his reign of cuteness into 2020, honestly.

– Jussie Smollett: In January of 2019, “Empire” star Jussie Smollett made headlines after he sustained injuries in an early morning attack that was investigated as a possible hate crime given the actor’s race and sexual orientation. As preliminary details emerged- there was an outpouring of support for Smollett and a call for those responsible to be found and face justice.

Things took a turn for the strange, however- when the completed investigation revealed that Smollett himself was responsible for orchestrating the attack in an apparent attempt to increase his pay on “Empire.” After hiring two men to stage the assault- Smollett was charged with filing a false police report- a felony.

The charges were later dropped, but it’s unlikely Smollett’s reputation and career will ever recover.

– The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final: I am admittedly not too into soccer, but even I had a blast watching the Women’s World Cup Finals earlier this Summer when the United States secured a 2-0 victory over the Netherlands. It was impossible not to get swept up into the frenzy of it all- especially considering the ongoing struggle for women athletes to be paid as much as their male counterparts was still very much a hot issue that was brought up over the course of the finals as the team gave it everything they had.

With Megan Rapinoe as the standout star of the team for her efficiency on the field and both her outspokenness and philanthropy off of it- she was later named as Sports Illustrated’s 2019 Sportsperson of the Year.

– Comic Book Movies Continued Their Momentum: After years of comic/superhero juggernauts Marvel and DC reining supreme at the Box Office- 2019 was the year of the blockbuster finales and highly anticipated re-imaginings of notorious characters/stories.

Whether it was Marvel’s ambitious conclusion to their Avengers series with “Endgame” or DC’s darker, grittier and more violent interpretation of how The Joker came to be- crowds flocked to the theaters and records were once again broken over the course of the films’ respective opening weekends.

With more comic/superhero movies expected to be coming down the pipeline over the next few years- I don’t think any will compare to the cinematic showdown we saw happen in 2019.

________________________________

And there you have it- 2019: In a Nutshell!

I know there were plenty of other headlines, trends, memes, and wild/bizarre moments I more than likely missed- but those are the things that stood out to me when I began reflecting on this past year about a month or so ago. I’d like to think I did a pretty good job covering some of the prominently discussed things,

For New Year’s Eve tonight, Troy and I are venturing back to Boston for dinner and a quiet night in the Theater District with some champagne and what I’m hoping will be a spectacular view of the city to close out the decade and usher in 2020.

And I’m sure I’ll have plenty of photos from the evening.

But, before I depart to get dolled up and ready to go- I wanted to share some of my resolutions for 2020. It’s a pretty standard, typical list- the type you’d see from nearly anyone making resolutions- but I’m ambitious and eager to see if I can accomplish any of them by the time 2021 rolls around.

Get Healthier/Take Better Care of Myself: This is the one that makes the rounds on everyone’s resolutions list- but for me it’s a necessity. While I make conscious efforts to eat right, work out regularly and sleep fully and undisturbed at night- I have admittedly become a bit more lax about it since my move to the new apartment this past Spring and it shows. I don’t think I look as great as I could and I certainly don’t feel as great as I *should*– and I’m more depressed and lethargic as a result. It’s all connected and can turn into a pretty vicious cycle.

In 2020 I want to continue my efforts in the gym, be more mindful of what I’m eating (instead of “bored snacking”) and make it a point to get a full night’s rest so I’m not dragging myself to work every day. Additionally, I want to be more strict about my skincare, more mindful of the makeup I use, and treat myself to occasional small, relaxing luxuries- like facials or massages- to better improve my mood and reduce unnecessary stress and tension instead of letting it interfere with taking care of myself properly.

Budget Better: Living alone has taught me many things- most of them how to fix appliances via YouTube tutorials or the wonders of decorating more than just a bedroom or a bathroom at a time- but it’s also taught me to be more wise and considerate of my spending.

Gone are the days of frivolous shopping sprees and extravagant gift-giving- and in are the days of monitoring my accounts/credit score regularly, making wise and thought out purchases instead of impulse buys- and setting a weekly/monthly budget for myself to ensure my priority bills are taken care of and that there’s still enough left over to enjoy myself from time to time.

Travel/Experience More: The money that I save to treat myself will not be used on purchasing a brand new wardrobe or a closet full of shoes- but on experiences. I want to travel more in 2020- including to places that have been on my longtime bucket list like New Orleans or Nashville.

It’s easy to take an amazing trip without spending a fortune these days with help from things like AirBnB and the airline points I’ve racked up over the years- so my next adventure is hopefully right around the corner and one for the books!

Channel My Passions: I love, love, love working at Indie617. It’s a job that brings me genuine joy- so in 2020 I’d like to focus more on what I can do to become more involved- as well as finding other side hustles/jobs that spark my creativity and leave me feeling inspired and fulfilled.

It’s good I’m living in the Pioneer Valley- where so many artists with so many ideas flock to leave their mark on the world.

And I just may be one of them in 2020!

And that just about does it for me, everyone. I’m off to Boston and I’ll be back with big blog news bright and early on Thursday morning after I get back!

I wish you all the happiest of New Years and I hope that 2020 is better, or more peaceful, or more adventurous, or more kind and gentle- to anyone out there who needs it. I’m rooting for you!

See you all soon!

xx

– Ashley –

Hurricane Dorian: How To Help

I’ve lived through a few significant natural disasters in my lifetime- two tornadoes (one of which was a F3 and had killed a couple of people as it swept through Western Massachusetts,) record-breaking snowstorms/blizzards, an Earthquake that thankfully only made my chair at work wobble a bit for a few short seconds- and more than a handful of hurricanes of varying strength and speed.

All- with the exception of the mini earthquake- were pretty scary. I grew up inland, away from the coast- so hurricanes only ever really caused a lot of rain, a lot of wind, and the occasional inconveniencing power outage- but I’d seen how they could wash away entire coastal communities in a matter of minutes with high speed winds and flash flooding.

A couple of times a year, when Mother Nature gets herself into a frenzy and wreaks havoc- I seek out organizations with impeccable records and reputations who are doing incredible work to help survivors and rebuild the lives of those affected by natural disasters.

It’s important to do the research, since not every “go-to” charity or organization can be up-front and honest about where finances and donations really end up.

And having seen the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian after it had hovered over the Bahamas before slowly making it’s way towards the East Coast- I wanted to do anything to help- even if it was just something small. That level of destruction is unfathomable to me.

If you’re looking for ways to help, may I direct you to the following?

  • Global Giving – GG are raising funds to provide residents in the Bahamas with food, water and medicine while simultaneously undertaking the task of rebuilding the affected communities from the ground up.
  • YachtAid Global – Working with yacht owners in the area to coordinate deliveries of goods- YachtAid Global are actively working on bringing hygiene kits, tarps, mosquito nets and food to the Bahamas in preparation for establishing long-term care for residents.
  • World Central Kitchen – With a relief team recently deployed to the Bahamas- WCK is establishing kitchens around the area to feed residents and rescue workers presently cleaning up the aftermath.
  • Grand Bahama Disaster Relief – Set up by the Grand Bahama Port Authority, you have the option of donating either money to pay for supplies/rebuilding costs- or donating goods directly via drop-off points or through sites like Amazon.

If you know of an organization who is doing fantastic work with Dorian relief efforts- please feel free to leave a comment and share! It would be greatly appreciated!

I’ll be back on Monday with my usual types of posts- but until then- be good to one another.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

xx

– Ashley –

2017: In a Nutshell

Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone! We’ve made it through these past 12 months (relatively) unscathed- and here we are! Around this time of year I almost always remark that the previous 12 months flew by and I can’t believe we’re already heading into another year, but let’s be perfectly honest- and I know plenty of people who will agree with me- 2017 dragged on.

As my grandmother used to say: it moved “slower than molasses.”

Whether it was the unsteady political landscape in the United States, the shocking allegations of abuse and misconduct coming from all facets of media and the entertainment industry, natural disaster after natural disaster plaguing various areas of the world- or just everyone unconsciously and collectively slowing things down a little to take it all in and try to process it- but it felt like we had so many things happening this year that caused mass and universal freezes/stand-stills every few weeks.

It could be argued that things feeling more slow-paced is a good thing. It’s never fun to feel rushed or like time is slipping away quicker than we’d like, right? Of course not!

But, as one of my friends put it: “2017 aged us all an extra ten years. We’re all eligible for AARP benefits at this point,” so- maybe picking up the pace wouldn’t have been entirely bad for everyone.

We endured and we survived it, however- and I honestly feel like if we can make it through everything that went on throughout 2017- we can make it through anything. Provided we keep on standing up for what’s right and face adversity head-on. Together.

I’m excited to see what 2018 has in store for me, and I’m ready to tackle whatever challenges lay ahead with it.

But before I get into all the headlines/shocking moments/funny memes that came out of this past year that was or dive into my resolutions for the coming year- I have to reflect on the biggest changes and moments that I experienced in 2017.

2017 was the first real, full year I got to embrace and enjoy my “Single Girl Status” following the dissolution of what had turned into a troubled and problematic 7+ year relationship with my ex in the Summer of 2016. While I had powered through that holiday season the best I could- this past year saw my first New Year’s, birthday, Valentine’s Day, etc. flying solo- and even though I feared I’d be an awkward, fumbling dweeb when I eventually and slowly re-entered the world of dating- it didn’t go as badly as I had expected it would. I’ve met a lot of really nice people and have made a lot of new friends I enjoy spending time with. I feel like they’ve helped me come out of the shell I’d built around myself in the aftermath of my break-up- and I’m a better person for it.

And, of course- being single left a lot of room for me and my previously-hectic schedule to travel more often and spend much-needed time with my friends that live further away. I flew across the country way more than I’d done in previous years (including an infamous 24 trip to San Diego where I’d arrived on a Saturday to surprise a friend, flew home that Sunday- and was back to work that Monday morning bright and early!). I visited all corners of New England to hike, sight-see, and seek out some rest and relaxation- and, with my newfound sense of adventure and determination- I went as far as to renew my passport for more adventures abroad in 2018!

I also had more time to focus on my career without distraction, and my hard work paid off. I was promoted to a new position in the Spring (and then was promoted again this past November)– that I absolutely LOVE. The people I work with are great. The work itself is interesting, fun in some ways, challenging in others- and rewarding- and the pay and benefits that come with the position have left me feeling comfortable and confident in my title. I’ve never been able to say that until now. I’m so beyond grateful that I can wake up each morning and go to a job that I genuinely enjoy with people that I really connect with. I know so many others who aren’t as fortunate as I am.

I changed my hair color (from red to blonde!) and my blog this past year- launching ‘Blondie Birdie’ in June after closing up shop at my previous blogging endeavor, ‘Legally Redhead’. I’ve been having a blast putting together content here, as it seems more structured and “professional” (I use the term loosely, of course) than anything I’d done in the past. I cannot thank everyone enough for their support, suggestions, kind words and assistance with getting this off the ground- and of course I am always appreciative of everyone who subscribed, liked, commented or promoted my work here. You all keep me- and ‘Blondie Birdie’- going. I can’t thank you all enough and I have a lot of really great things planned in the coming year to share with everyone!

Overall, 2017 was a great year for me personally and professionally- and I hope that momentum keeps up throughout 2018. I intend to keep working hard, both at work and on myself as a person- but I’ll get to those resolutions shortly. We need to talk about the big stories, first- even though looking back at some of it might be painful at times.

This is 2017: In a Nutshell

(Image via BUSINESS INSIDER)

This absolute trainwreck: Is there enough room on WordPress to talk about what a complete and utter travesty Donald Trump’s first year as President went? With unfulfilled or flat-out abandoned campaign promises from the get-go (which should shock no one with an ounce of common sense)– Trump spent most of his year golfing, Tweeting personal attacks against his critics and/or political opponents, obsessing over the Clintons and the Obamas like Glenn Close in ‘Fatal Attraction’, giving mortifying speeches that showed his limited vocabulary, watching his staff use the revolving door presumably installed at the White House with MULTIPLE firings/resignations, Photoshopping himself onto TIME Magazine covers to hang up at his properties, dodging questions about accusations of fraud and money laundering committed by his dimwitted children, letting Mike Huckabee’s lying, fumbling daughter serve as a laughable parody of a Press Secretary, pushing us closer and closer to the brink of war and essentially being shunned and ostracized by the rest of the civilized world.

Of course, with special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into Trump and his “alleged” (he did it) collusion with Russia during the election resulting in recent indictments being handed down to former campaign head Paul Manafort, his business associate Rick Gates, former Trump staffer George Papadopoulos and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn- one can only hope that 2018 is the year we actually make America great again by impeaching this bloated, narcissistic lunatic and all the scumbags that flooded in with him once and for all.

(Image via USA TODAY)

Women fought back- and they fought back HARD: It started with the unprecedented and hugely successful International Women’s March back in January, one day following Trump’s inauguration- and from there, women standing up to their abusers, harassers, oppressors and tormentors snowballed- reaching a fever pitch this past Fall with the #MeToo movement and subsequent re-shifting of social “norms” as a result. How women are treated, spoken to and regarded by men, both in positions of power or not, was put under careful examination- and it was a long time coming.

2017 was the year women had enough of their concerns being sidelined, overlooked or undermined. They came out swinging to finally hold the perpetrators of sexism and sexual harassment and/or assault accountable- and it was a thing of beauty to behold. Not only did women support and stand side-by-side with each other worldwide to make sure voices were heard and never silenced or intimidated by those who tried to doubt or discredit them- but their efforts resulted in the dethroning of some of the most notorious and seemingly “untouchable” of offenders: Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Brett Ratner, and most recently, Roy Moore- were just some of the men whose careers and credibility were shattered in the wake of multiple accusations and damning evidence.

The movement was so strong, that TIME Magazine named “The Silence Breakers”- those who spoke up about the sexual misconduct they’d suffered and endured- as their ‘Person of the Year’ for 2017.

(Image via CNN)

North Korea became more than just a thorn in our sides: For years, North Korea has been considered the equivalent to that one younger sibling or cousin we all have that annoys the Hell out of us and exaggerates about things they’ve done/are going to do/are capable of. You know that one. They exist in every family.

I digress. In 2017 North Korea actually went from being easily swept under the rug and forgotten about to being a legitimate cause of concern with frequent missile testing, rumors of possible nuclear devices in their grasp and threats to wipe out sections of the United States with those very same devices. Petty insults were often traded between Kim Jong-un and Trump during the tense and uncertain times (both unhinged and both having unfortunate hairstyles, go figure) which left everyone on edge as an attack or going to war felt imminent.

In the Summer of 2017, American student Otto Warmbier was released from a prison sentence in North Korea after he’d allegedly attempted to steal a propaganda poster while visiting the country. The otherwise healthy 22 year old was returned to the United States in a coma after suffering an unknown neurological injury while detained- and died six days after coming home. As a result of his death, a travel ban was again put into place to block Americans from visiting North Korea- not that anyone should be going there in the first place.

(Image via CNN)

Mother Nature was BRUTAL: 2017 saw a series of the some of the worst, most damaging and destructive natural disasters in years. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria barreled the Southern states and Puerto Rico one right after the other- while a 7.1 earthquake in central Mexico killed more than 200 people in Mexico City and injured more than 6,000 others this past September.

While relief efforts were and are still underway in many areas struggling to rebuild, Southern California just faced some of the most terrifying wildfires ever documented- a few of which loomed dangerously close to parts of Los Angeles and San Diego. Amateur footage shot by those residing in zones that were undergoing evacuations looked like something straight out of a post-apocalyptic action movie. It was unreal.

Monsoons in India and Bangladesh, droughts in Brazil, and devastating landslides in China and Sierra Leone- just to name a few- also caused widespread chaos and panic throughout 2017. Climate change is definitely real and it’s definitely going to continue affecting us all.

(Image via VOX)

The resurgence of neo-Nazis, White Supremacists and the “Alt-Right”: With Trump’s Presidency underway, it emboldened the worst of his supporters- the White Nationalists or, as they now refer to themselves- the “Alt-Right”. Across the country, Neo-Nazis staged marches, protests, and embarrassing rallies (where they presented themselves in what I can only assume is the agreed upon uniform of ill-fitting polo shirts, khaki pants, and Tiki torches they purchased at Pier 1) in an attempt to garner support for their ignorant causes/beliefs- but they were typically met and outnumbered by counter-protesters who sent them fleeing back to their mothers’ basements in a panic.

One rally in particular, in Charlottesville, VA. earlier in August- made headlines when a White Supremacist plowed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters- killing 32-year old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. Heather and her mother, Susan Bro- who has shown amazing courage, poise and resilience in the face of such a heartbreaking loss- have in many ways become the faces at the forefront of counter-protesters who have been actively combating the White Nationalists at every turn.

Trump- again- showed his true colors and faced well-deserved criticism after the incident with his failure to condemn the actions of the “Alt-Right” and instead tried to justify their actions by explaining to the press that there were “good people” on both sides.

(Image via CNN)

Terror struck concert-goers: With schools, movie theaters, places of worship, night clubs, restaurants, shopping malls, office buildings and tourist attractions having all experienced some form of mass violence in recent years- it was heartbreaking to see concerts, which are perhaps one of the most powerful, poignant and intimate experiences that crowds of people can enjoy together- fall under attack, as well.

In May, following an Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena- a homemade bomb was detonated as attendees were exiting the venue- killing 23 people (including children) and injuring over 500. Ariana Grande wasted no time in visiting survivors who were recovering from their injuries and putting together a benefit concert in Manchester a month later- which raised £10 million to help the victims and their families.

Months later, in October- 58 people were killed and over 500 were injured after a lone gunman opened fire from his hotel room on concert-goers at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas- making the incident the deadliest mass shooting in the United States. The incident once again brought gun control to the forefront of National conversation- particularly regarding the sale of bump stocks- which the shooter used to make his semi-automatic weapons fire at the same rate of a fully automatic weapon.

Like Manchester, a benefit concert was also held in Vegas to raise money for the victims. Gun control, however- has been swept aside as usual.

(Images via multiple media sources)

We lost fascinating and talented people along the way: Every year has it’s share of unexpected and tragic deaths of beloved figures- and 2017 was no different. From the not-so-shocking, be it old age or battles with long-standing illnesses (Hugh Hefner, Malcolm Young and Adam West, for example)– some celebrity deaths caught us completely off guard- such as Chris Cornell’s suicide in May or Tom Petty’s sudden heart attack in October.

Each of them will be missed for sure- but these individuals live on in the extensive and impressive body of work they’ve left behind for us to enjoy- brilliant television/movies and albums to watch/listen to over and over again.

Charles Manson finally died this year, too- but I think we can all agree that was a highlight of 2017 instead of a low point. Some people just gotta’ go and be gone from this world- and he was one of them.

____________________________________

Now, I know plenty more happened this year- but those were the big things (in my opinion!) But, not wanting to leave out some of the funnier fads and trends from 2017- I’ve created this year’s HONORABLE MENTION section to re-live the laughs and lighthearted moments.

– The Solar Eclipse was pretty neat, wasn’t it?: In August, we got to witness a total solar eclipse go coast-to-coast over the United States. People everywhere stopped to look up (with the correct glasses/devices to prevent permanent damage to their eyes) to catch a glimpse of it and news outlets streamed live coverage as their cameras panned upwards to catch the phenomenon in real time. It was a fun afternoon.

– Robert Kelly’s kids interrupted his interview and stole the show: If there was ever a moment we all collectively needed to brighten our lives- the Robert Kelly BBC interview from March 10th was it. While discussing the scandal surrounding the South Korean impeachment from his home office via webcam- Kelly’s toddler and baby found their way into the room in the background and hilarity ensued. The video has since gone viral- and it’s always worth a re-watch if you’re ever feeling down. I laugh every. single. time.

– “And the winner is… La La- Moonlight!”: Awards shows spark countless trends and hashtags, but perhaps one of the most unintentionally funny moments was at the Oscars this year when Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, after being handed the wrong envelope- announced that the Best Picture winner was the musical ‘La La Land’. In actuality- it was Barry Jenkins’ ‘Moonlight’ that had taken the top honor. When the correction was made- the awkwardness was cringe-inducing- but the memes that resulted in the aftermath were gold.

– Blake Shelton was PEOPLE’s ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ for 2017 and a lot of folks had questions: With PEOPLE’s announcement that ‘The Voice’ coach had taken their annual honor of being the sexiest man alive for the next 12 months- the internet did not hold back. The responses of disbelief- and suggestions of other, worthier contenders for the title- came rolling in. Blake has said some pretty offensive stuff in the past- so I didn’t feel too bad laughing at the influx of bewildered tweets that came pouring in.

– Salt Bae and “Blinking White Guy” gave us the .gifs that keep on giving: The concepts were ridiculously simple- a Turkish chef dramatically sprinkling salt on the meat he was preparing- and a relatively unknown, normal looking guy caught on camera blinking in astonishment- but from those two documented moments- countless memes were born. I’ve used the “Blinking White Guy” .gif in response to nearly every news story that has emerged in 2017- and it never gets old.

– ‘Wonder Woman’ prevailed: An origin story about a strong, smart, beautiful female superhero who can hold her own- directed by a talented and brilliant female that shattered box office records? ‘Wonder Woman’ was the movie women and girls everywhere needed. It was action-packed, funny, and entertaining- and spawned countless girls to don the Wonder Woman costume throughout the year. I was awesome- and I can’t wait for the sequel.

____________________________________

And there it is! 2017- in a nutshell!

To ring in 2018, I’m heading up to Portsmouth, New Hampshire with my best friend for a night of indoor/outdoor activities leading up to the countdown at midnight- and relaxing at a Victorian manor-turned-bed & breakfast in Dover. I’m excited- even though I suspect it’s probably going to be cold out- because I haven’t had a low-key, laid-back New Year’s Eve celebration in a long time and I think it’s the perfect way to transition from 2017 into the new year.

And, like most people- I’ve made a list of Resolutions for myself for 2018. Attainable, feasible goals I know I can accomplish if I push myself, stay motivated, and don’t allow myself to get discouraged and/or give up!

Get Healthier/Get Into Better Shape – The obligatory resolution that I think makes everyones list year after year- but it’s always a good one to have. The holiday season (and all the desserts that come with it) made for a somewhat gluttonous end to 2017- so in 2018 I want to get back on track and eat better, exercise more, and get into bikini-bod shape so that I’m ready for the Spring and Summer of 2018 to roll around!

Nurture Myself – An update to my “Treat Yo’Self 2017” mantra. In 2018 I want to focus on getting plenty of sleep, drinking more water, taking better care of my skin and my hair and not overworking myself as I tend to do now and then. I want to put aside “me” time at least once or twice a week where I can relax, zone out, meditate, get a massage- and otherwise just recharge my batteries so I don’t get burnt out.

De-Clutter EVERYTHING – I’m a bit of a neat freak, but there are certain areas of my life and living space that need a major overhaul on organizing. My bedroom, my garage, and my office space come to mind almost immediately. I’ve already taken small steps between Black Friday and Christmas by de-cluttering my inbox of spam e-mails and promotions I never use- but now it’s time to work towards throwing out old paperwork, donating old clothes to charity, stripping and re-painting my walls, etc.

Budget Better – Near the end of 2017 I unsubscribed from a lot of paid services I was being charged for monthly- like streaming services, subscription boxes, etc. that I was no longer using as much in order to keep more money in my pocket for travel and leisure. Now, in 2018- I want to monitor my spending habits more carefully and stop any unnecessary or frivolous impulse purchases. This resolution is so that I can grow as a person and finally (and successfully) budget in the splurge on a home in Nevada.

Travel More – I know budgeting and traveling don’t exactly go hand-in-hand, but there are a lot of resources and many ways to take a trip without breaking the bank these days. You just have to know where to look. Even if it’s keeping it local and in the New England area- I still want to get out there and see it all- although I’m hoping I can make it down to New Orleans and/or Nashville at some point this year!

And I think that’s everything. This entire year that was and hopes for the upcoming year that will be packaged up into one (very lengthy) post!

I hope you all have a safe, fun, thrilling- and warm– New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. I’ll be sending you all a kiss at midnight and good vibes for the future! Here’s to seeing 2017 off in style and to 2018 being a better year for all of us!

See you all in 2018!

xx

– Ashley –

Ways To Help – Hurricane and Earthquake Relief

Good Morning, Happy Friday- and Happy First Day of Fall, everyone! While I am undoubtedly thrilled that my favorite time of year is *officially* underway and am excited for all the seasonal activities that come with it- I understand that these past couple of weeks haven’t exactly been joyous for others in different parts of the world, and wanted to offer some suggestions for those- like me, who is beyond grateful to be somewhere safe – and who may be feeling helpless during this frightening and horrifying string of non-stop global/weather-related disasters and don’t want to just sit back and do nothing.

As most of you know, Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma left parts of Texas and Florida underwater and millions of people without power in recent weeks- and in the past couple of days we saw a 7.1 magnitude earthquake strike near Mexico City and a category 5 hurricane batter Puerto Rico. While the frantic search to find survivors and restore power sources continue- I know that it can be overwhelming to want to help as much as possible- especially if you live far away from the affected areas and aren’t sure where to start.

The most predominant and well-known relief comes from The Red Cross and UNICEF, of course- and I don’t want to knock any of their hard workers who are truly trying their best to accommodate and assist so many people in such vast areas of destruction- but it’s well-documented that both of these organizations can’t always be relied upon to get the donated funds where they need to be in a timely fashion.

For that reason, should anyone be weary but don’t know where else to turn- I’ve found a handful of non-profit agencies who are working tirelessly ’round-the-clock to help out. If you’re looking for something to put some money into- these are great options.

EARTHQUAKE RELIEF:

HURRICANE RELIEF:

Those are just a few to get started- but there’s a lot more out there!

If you know of any other non-profit organizations who are helping with the ongoing disaster reliefs- please feel free to leave a comment or contact me directly to share! The more help- the better.

Hang in there, everyone- and enjoy your weekend.

xx

– Ashley –