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.

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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 –

New Year, New York…

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone!

What an absolutely fun, exciting and beautiful past few days I’ve had! Even coming back to my office on Wednesday morning to return to my usual weekday grind has been enjoyable- thanks in part to a new scheduling system I’ve been utilizing to better manage my time/tasks. I have to say that starting my 2019 *not* being inundated with cases and loose ends is a nice change of pace.

Of course, I have to talk about my New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day- which was spent between New York City, Western Massachusetts and finally- home sweet home.

I had wanted a cozy, laid-back New Year’s Eve- particularly since the past few celebrations over recent years have involved expensive, extravagant parties, bar-hopping, and/or spending entirely too much time in bitterly frigid New England cold. To see out 2018 and welcome in 2019- I just wanted to be warm, comfortable, have some decent food and a drink- and be somewhere a little different than Massachusetts so I could have a new experience to start the New Year off on the right foot.

And so, I turned to NYC- and entrusted my evening to the fine folks at the Hotel Indigo on the Lower East Side. I’m a frequent guest at their San Diego/Gaslamp Quarter location whenever I travel to the West Coast- so their incredible service, a spacious room with a view, and kick-ass amenities were not surprising. What was surprising was their lobby (with a wrap-around panoramic view of the city via floor to ceiling windows) being located on the 14th floor as opposed to on the ground level. I was a big fan of that twist.

I settled right in, ordered a fantastic cheeseburger from their Mr. Purple restaurant (and some cheesecake! I had to go big and gluttonous for the last night of the year!), grabbed a drink at a dive bar down the street while dodging the rain as much as possible- and then retreated to my room where I texted/video chatted with friends back home and abroad while we waited for the countdown to midnight via various news outlets. I opted to watch Anderson Cooper take shots of tequila and look like he was ready to throw up- and it was worth every minute. Truly.

After midnight, it didn’t take long for my body to give into the cheeseburger, champagne, and a day of train travel to arrive in New York- and I managed to successfully get a full night of peaceful, uninterrupted sleep. I awoke on New Year’s Day feeling refreshed, energized- and pleasantly optimistic! Even better? Monday night’s rainstorms and freezing cold had disappeared- and Tuesday saw plenty of sun and temperatures that reached the high fifties/low sixties for most of the day!

To kick off 2019, I wanted to honor a family tradition *and* do something different and daring. When I was a kid, my mother thought lighting a candle and saying a prayer to whatever higher power we believed in to wish our loved ones a blessed new year and express hope for our own happiness/prosperity for the months ahead. After grabbing breakfast- I had navigated my way to Rockefeller Center- and popped by St. Patrick’s Cathedral across the street to honor my mom’s tradition (I called her to let her know afterwards- and she was delighted!) and take in the beautiful architecture.

The city was still very much decked out for Christmas during my brief stay- and it was such a thrill to have a chance to catch a glimpse of some of the over-the-top decor before it gets taken down again. Below are a couple of photos I snapped with my phone. You can click them to enlarge ’em and see!

And, for my “different and daring” to-do for the day- I opted to face my fear of heights and ride an elevator 70 stories up Rockefeller Center to take in the views of New York from atop of the world at the ‘Top of The Rock’ Observation Deck. While the wind made things a little intimidating at first and it took a few minutes for my heart to stop racing- it was such an exhilarating and memorable experience.

The sun made catching photos of the Empire State Building (and snapping the perfect selfie) a little difficult- but I managed to get a few pics I was content with- and would definitely go back and do it again if given the opportunity.

After coming back down to Earth- and knowing I had plans with my friend Troy later on in the evening out in Northampton, Massachusetts- I managed to catch an early afternoon train home before the crowds and traffic got too bad with everyone trying to get out of the city all at once.

Once I was back in my home state a couple of hours later, I closed out New Year’s Day with a cozy night in watching movies and snacking on whatever was in Troy’s kitchen before I headed back to my own place to get another good night’s sleep and prepare for my return to work on Wednesday morning.

And now, only a couple of days later during this short work-week- and I’m ready for the weekend! I have a few things planned- including some local travel/hiking and a recipe post to put together for next week- but before I start all of that- I’m heading over to Allston today to catch a set by The Sheila Divine at Great Scott for Indie617!

If you’re in the area, come say hello! It’s going to be a lot of fun and a great way to kick off live music in Boston for 2019.

I’m off to get some work done before I take off for the rest of the day. I’ll be back on Monday, when my posting schedule returns to normal now that the holidays are done!

Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

xx

– Ashley –

2018: In a Nutshell

Good Morning, Happy Monday- and Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone!

I’m completely stunned that we’ve reached this point again- the day/night when we bid adieu to another year in the books and prepare to welcome in a brand new year (with champagne and confetti, I’m sure!) filled with endless possibilities, new hopes, dreams and goals- maybe a little anxiety at the idea of any uncertainties that lay ahead, too- but hopefully a whole lot of optimism!

That’s right, my dear friends and readers- 2018 is just hours away from being over, and 2019 is ready to glide into our lives and sweep us off our feet! Can you believe it? Time flies by so quickly.

I’ve always enjoyed New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day- not only because I’m fortunate enough to spend it in typically beautiful, picturesque or just plain wild locations, either surrounded by friends or- sometimes- on my own with some much-needed peace and quiet- but also because I like the idea of a clean slate. How, after just a brief countdown to midnight- you can begin to forge a pathway to a future you want and take those first steps to reaching goals for the coming weeks/months ahead.

New Year’s Eve is a celebration of who you were during the previous twelve months leading up to now- while New Year’s Day feels like a whole new beginning and a chance to become the person you want to be. It’s refreshing, isn’t it?

I fully intend to share my plans for the evening and my deeply reflected-upon resolutions for 2019 momentarily- but I absolutely have to look back on and pay my respects to 2018, first. It was a bizarre year- filled with plenty of ups and downs and some memorable headlines, pop culture events and good ol’ memes (which I’ll also get to shortly.)

Now in my early thirties, 2018 was the year I became *painfully* aware of myself as a person- my strengths and weaknesses. My good qualities and my flaws. My past mistakes- some repeated without my even realizing it until recently- and the type of woman I want to be and what I want for myself while moving forward in this more “grown up”, somewhat more stable (but still semi-unpredictable at times), very fun and sometimes treacherous decade I’m clumsily working my way through with the best of my ability.

Professionally, I took on more responsibilities at my full-time job and rose to the challenges that came with those responsibilities- as exhausting as it could be sometimes. I put in plenty of time and effort over the year- and my dedication and careful eye to details were rewarded sporadically and, at times- when I most needed the pick-me-up to stay motivated. My work ethic and positive, professional attitude didn’t just stay within my office, however- but also trickled into my blogging side hustle as I partnered with different brands and fellow bloggers for promotions and products- and even landed me a soon-to-be-part-time-gig at my favorite local independent radio station in Boston. I’m going to have more info on that moving forward!

My personal life and love life, however- took a bit of a hit in 2018 and I suffered emotional and psychological setbacks that really put a lot of things into perspective for me. One of those things, specifically- is that I need to stop being *so* forgiving to people (particularly men) who do me wrong or hurt me. Almost everyone deserves a second chance- depending on the infraction, of course- but I found myself giving second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth chances to some fair-weather friends or men I’d dated for repeated terrible behavior because they had either manipulated/twisted the situation and me into thinking everything was my fault, I didn’t want to come across as a heartless or callous monster- or because I was too afraid of being alone to put my foot down and demand respect and to be treated better.

As someone who preaches self-love, not taking bullshit from anyone and never being afraid of your own independence to everyone and anyone- catching myself being reduced into a quiet, demure, overly apologetic and timid little doormat over the course of the Summer and Fall of 2018 was horrifying and, frankly- disgusting. I am not that woman. I never want to be that woman again.

It wasn’t until these recent holidays where I mustered up the courage to not only tell myself but actually *believe* that I deserved the world and I wasn’t going to stop or back down until I got it- and to hell with anyone who disagreed or tried to tell me otherwise. It’s a frame of mind, an attitude and a mood I intend to carry with me into 2019.

Apart from dating/self-esteem setbacks- 2018 was filled with travel and time spent with good friends and family. I spent my birthday in San Diego, the Super Bowl in Vegas, multiple Spring weekends away in NYC, Memorial Day in Washington D.C.- and an extended vacation driving through the desert during the Summer.

I survived a tornado (and a car accident), caught plenty of incredible shows/festivals (and a couple of weddings!)– and explored parts of New England I didn’t even know existed. I also continued to change my hair color, experiment in the kitchen, watched loads of bad movies (and loved them, of course!) and even found time to read a couple of great books, too!

And for all those reasons- good and bad- that’s why 2018 was a year of personal growth and reflection- while simultaneously having a lot of impulsive, lovely and very fun moments to keep me on my toes and balance out the serious stuff with joy and happiness, as well. I’m humbled and grateful for this past year. Truly.

But, before I get into my list of resolutions and a final farewell prior to taking off for the evening and returning a little later on this week to recap my New Year’s Eve/Day- it’s time to look back on some of the absolutely insane, awe-inspiring headlines, pop culture sensations and social media/internet memes that took the world by storm this year.

Ladies and Gentlemen- This is 2018: In a Nutshell.

(Image via ABC)

Robert Mueller handed out indictments like Oprah used to hand out cars: As we drearily move forward through Trump’s tenure as President, heads typically in our hands on a daily basis in disbelief at his stupidity, recklessness, hypocrisy, narcissism or compulsive lying (I could go on, really…), Special Counsel Robert Mueller had himself quite a year as he continued his investigation into the Trump Administration and the Russian government’s interference with our 2016 Presidential election.

Late 2017 and throughout 2018 saw indictments being passed around left and right to former campaign heads and aides to Trump, including former campaign chair Paul Manafort, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen and so on. As the year progressed, some were sentenced to prison while others have struck plea deals.

Court documents released earlier this month from both Mueller’s office and prosecutors for the Southern District of New York have now implicated Trump in at least one federal crime- and as the world waits to see what will happen next- it’s no surprise that many of us are hoping Mueller will wrap things up in this coming year and finally put an end to this nightmare of ignorance and corruption running (and ruining) our country.

(Image via The Today Show)

The Stoneman Douglas High School students showed us that you can do more than offer “thoughts and prayers” in the wake of gun violence: Following a Valentine’s Day shooting at their high school in Parkland, Florida that left 17 dead and many more injured- the survivors at Stoneman Douglas High School turned into some of the most efficient and eloquent gun control activists many had ever seen.

Tired of simply being swept away as another senseless statistic after the initial influx of “thoughts and prayers” ran their usual course until the next mass shooting took place- and not wanting their concerns to be dismissed simply because the topic was uncomfortable or inconvenient for officials to tackle head-on- many students rallied, petitioned, utilized social media and eventually took on politicians and the NRA in televised debates that showed the world they knew what they were talking about and weren’t going to be bullied or bought into silence.

The march, it’s purpose being to raise awareness and push for common sense gun laws and a change in political climate- took place globally on March 24th and included speeches from survivors of gun violence and celebrities who stood in solidarity. While some policies have changed as a result- there’s still a lot to be done- but the march got people to pay attention for what felt like the first time in a very, very long time.

(Image via CBS)

Thousands of children were separated from their families, and all eyes were on the U.S.-Mexico border: Under Trump’s “Zero-Tolerance” immigration policy, which looks to criminally prosecute any person(s) attempting to enter the country illegally- it came to light in the late Spring/early Summer that thousands of children, many whose first language is not English- had been separated from their parents by Border Patrol over the course of a six-week span and were residing in detention centers- or, in some cases- “tent cities.”

Outrage was amplified when reports of neglect/child abuse in the detention centers began to surface- and a call for reunification and an outpouring of support/donations to assist families seeking asylum (which is *not* illegal) followed shortly thereafter.

While some children have been fortunate enough to be reunited with their families- many are still in need of help. Back in June I shared some links to organizations that have been working round-the-clock to assist these children and their parents with the immigration process- and there’s still time to donate time/money!

(Image via CBS)

This man-child loves beer- and throwing temper tantrums: When Judge Brett Kavanaugh was nominated by Trump for the Supreme Court in July- accusations of sexual misconduct and sexual assault were not far behind. At the center of the scandal was Christine Blasey Ford, a Professor at Palo Alto University who alleged that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her at a house party in the early 1980s with writer Mark Judge present.

Following an initial investigation which included the review of therapist notes where Ford had discussed the assault as early as 2012, her passing a polygraph test and the emergence of two other victims who shared their own experiences with Kavanaugh throughout high school and college- both he and Ford testified in front of the The Senate Judiciary Committee in September in order to determine if he was fit for the lifetime position he had been nominated for.

Ford- calm and collected during her televised testimony- answered questions and faced interruptions and outright misogynistic commentary from fossilized white men with grace. Kavanaugh, on the other hand- had a meltdown- going off the rails about his love of beer and getting confrontational with questioning. Despite all this, Kavanaugh’s nomination was confirmed by a vote of 50–48 in early October and Ford was continually harassed, threatened, and insulted by Trump & Associates, conservative news pundits- and MAGA-bots on social media.

And for survivors of sexual assault (myself included)– nothing made us realize the #MeToo movement still has more work to do than watching this unfold.

(Image via VOX)

The ‘War on Journalists’ was a very real, very violent one: On October 2nd, Saudi Arabian journalist and author Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents for his marriage- and never came out. Khashoggi, who had been highly critical of the crowned King and Prince of Saudi Arabia and was subsequently censored as a result- had been living in a self-imposed exile before reporting to the consulate.

When reports began to emerge that Khashoggi had been killed and dismembered within the building- the Saudi Arabian government did their best to shift the blame and deny the allegations being made. Following a CIA investigation, it was reported that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had ordered the killing- presumably due to Khashoggi’s vocal opposition to both the Prince and the King, Salman of Saudi Arabia.

In the aftermath, Trump- notorious for his hatred of the press and journalists- refused to condemn the assassination, resulting in even more backlash against him. Time Magazine, on the other hand- opting to defend a free press- made Khashoggi and other journalists who faced recent violence or imprisonment for their reporting their 2018 ‘Person of the Year’.

(Images via MSNBC and ABC)

Mother Nature made sure to cover all the bases- including a 4-month long volcanic eruption: No year passes without at least a few natural disasters or weather phenomenons- and 2018 was no exception to that rule. Apart from the aforementioned tornado that struck my hometown over the Summer (while I was visiting, mind you. THAT was fun)– this past year saw powerful earthquakes in Alaska, intense and deadly wildfires in Southern California, and a four-month long volcanic eruption in Hawaii that injured dozens and caused over $800 million in damage.

Most recently, the eruption of Mount Anak Krakatau last weekend triggered a nighttime tsunami that caught Indonesia off guard. Hundreds have been killed, many are injured, and search/recovery and cleanup efforts are still underway. CNN compiled a list of non-profit organizations that are assisting the affected areas- and you can review their efforts and make contributions/donations by CLICKING HERE.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed and wishing us all a tamer, safer 2019 when it comes to the weather and climate change.

(Image via Vanity Fair)

It wasn’t all bad news this year. We got another Royal Wedding!: I love a good fairy tale love story as much as the next person- especially when at least one (if not both) of the people are real and relatable. Such was the case when everyone’s favorite ginger Prince married down-to-Earth American actress Meghan Markle in a lovely (and televised) ceremony in the Spring.

Meghan- stylish, beautiful, charitable and outspoken- particularly when it comes to gender equality- was a breath of fresh air from the usual Royal Family headlines (i.e.- Kate Middleton is expecting quintuplets and Princess Diana has been spotted alive and well n Barbados, apparently.)

Although the tabloids were pretty much ready to pounce on her from the get-go- and more than one bitter old racist attempted to take shots at Meghan’s multi-race heritage and a prior divorce- the Duchess of Sussex continued to look flawless and happy throughout the remainder of 2018- and announced her pregnancy this past Fall. The baby (seventh in line to the throne) is due in the Spring of 2019.

(Image via ABC)

And some people were held accountable for terrible and predatory behavior: 2018 was the year that rapists, racists/bigots and brainless internet celebrities finally saw some comeuppance for problematic and downright vile behavior- some of it long overdue after years of abusing their power and celebrity status.

One of the biggest stories was Bill Cosby, after years of evading justice for drugging and sexually assaulting multiple women over the span of his career- was found guilty of three counts of aggravated and indecent assault in April, stemming from a 2004 incident that was still within the statute of limitations. He was sentenced to three to ten years in state prison this past September.

In May, comedian Roseanne Barr, no stranger to controversy and poor taste- tweeted a racist remark to Valerie Jarrett, an adviser to former President Barack Obama- a comment she later blamed on using/abusing Ambien. A vocal Trump supporter, many of the President’s die hard followers came to her defense (many of them the same people who called for the public execution of Kathy Griffin after her equally awful “beheading” video, by the way)– but their efforts were of no use. Barr was kicked off of her own ‘Roseanne’ reboot, later re-named ‘The Conners’- and publicly shunned.

While technology, social media and the internet have opened doors and changed the way in which we consume and deliver content forever- some of the unfortunate risks that come with the ease and speed of communication is that really awful, insufferable people can develop a following and go on to do some really stupid things. Such was the case with “YouTube/Vlogging” star Logan Paul (I’ll let you take a minute to look him up and cringe accordingly)– who faced backlash after a video uploaded on New Year’s Day depicted himself and friends coming across a dead body in Japan’s Aokigahara Forest.

Paul’s amused reaction to the scene resulted in advertisers cutting ties and his projects being put on hold. It also sparked a conversation about the type of content and role models younger teens/children were consuming and looking up to.

“Be Better 2019” is a motto I’m hoping more people embrace this coming year.

(Image via ABC)

We also witnessed a miracle in Thailand: While exploring a cave with their coach during a post-practice outing and birthday celebration for one of their team members in June of 2018, twelve youth soccer players from the local ‘Wild Boars’ team in Thailand found themselves trapped within the labyrinth-like caverns after heavy rainfall caused substantial flooding in the area and rising waters blocked their way out.

After a comprehensive search and rescue mission was developed, a team of skilled divers went into the waters in July to extract the boys (and their coach) one by one- each mission lasting approximately three hours as the children were fitted with wetsuits, oxygen masks and sedated to prevent panic- and maneuvered through narrow corridors with low visibility from checkpoint to checkpoint until they reached the exit to the cave and were transported to local hospitals for evaluations and recovery. The extraction of the team took approximately two days total.

Leading up to the execution of the rescue mission, a 37 year old rescue diver died after losing consciousness underwater while delivering oxygen tanks to one of the proposed checkpoints in preparation for the boys’ extraction.

On the brighter side- all of the children and their coach ended up being just fine. They have since gone on to make appearances on Ellen and were invited to the opening ceremony of the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires- and there’s rumors of a possible movie deal is in the works.

(Images compiled via multiple news sources.)

Unfortunately, we did lose our fair share of beloved and influential familiar faces this year: Just like wild and unpredictable weather- no year passes without the loss of cherished actors/actresses, musicians, public figures and influential icons- and in 2018 we said goodbye to some of the best.

Some deaths, like Stan Lee, Aretha Franklin and Stephen Hawking- came from natural causes or succumbing to longtime illnesses- while others, including a string of suicides by Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, and Frightened Rabbits’ singer Scott Hutchison- shocked and devastated the world and brought discussions of better mental health awareness and support systems to the forefront.

May their work and their legacies carry on into 2019 and beyond.

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Of course, there’s so much more that happened this year- but those were the headlines and the highlights from 2018 that really stuck out to me and made a lasting impression when I first began putting this post together a few weeks ago!

But for some of the pop culture phenomenons, memes, and funnier moments from this past year that still make me grin- I created another HONORABLE MENTIONS section- much like I did in 2017!

– Wakanda Forever: Following the February release of Marvel’s ‘Black Panther’- the movie quickly became one of the most successful and acclaimed comic-book movies to date- and the ninth highest-grossing movie of all time. While there were plenty of memes to follow, the film’s “Wakanda Forever” quote and salute were inescapable- with everyone from athletes, schoolchildren and news pundits jumping on board. At one point, Michael B. Jordan- who plays Killmonger in the film- urged people to stop asking his co-star Chadwick Boseman to do the salute.  That’s how popular it was.

– Gritty was the hero we needed and deserved: When the Philadelphia Flyers revealed their new mascot- Gritty- in September 2018, it was met with mixed reactions. The tall, furry orange… thing- which looks like a googly eyed muppet- was initially mocked until crowds began to warm up to his appearances at games, antics at events, and how savvy his official social media account was being run. It didn’t take long for Gritty to become an unexpected socialist and antifa icon- with his likeness appearing on multiple signs/banners at protests against racism and bigotry around Philadelphia. More Gritty 2019, please!

– We were briefly entranced by a boy yodeling in Walmart: “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes,” Andy Warhol once said- and I think 2018 showed how true a statement that was when Mason Ramsey, a young boy from Illinois- was filmed yodeling Hank Williams Sr.’s “Lovesick Blues” while donning a bow tie and boots in the middle of a Walmart. Once the video went viral- Mason was everywhere- from Ellen to Coachella. He recently released a Christmas music video, and was on tour (yes, really…)

– Toys-R-Us joined Blockbuster Video as a relic of the past: Although Toys-R-Us announced their intentions to close all of their retail stores back in March of this year after filing for bankruptcy in 2017- it wasn’t until the actual completion of the process and the closing of the final store on August 5th where the nostalgia really hit home for many people (myself included) who remembered buying our toys there in a pre-Amazon era. As more and more chain and/or department stores start to become outdated with the convenience of online shopping- I’m left wondering who will be next on the chopping block.

– ‘Queer Eye’ is back and better than ever: I was late to the ‘Queer Eye’ revival party since I’m currently binge-watching so many shows and trying to catch up on multiple seasons when I’m able- but I’m so glad I finally got around to watching ‘Queer Eye’ because the new cast and the heartwarming tone of the show is seriously a much-needed break from the insanity going on in the world these days. I’m already doing the “grabby hands” motion while I wait for new episodes in the coming new year. Yassss!

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And there you have it, everyone! 2018 in a nutshell!

Now, to say a fond farewell to this past year and welcome 2019 in style- I’ll be heading to NYC a little later on this afternoon. No, I’m not going to be freezing in Times Square with thousands of other people, thank you very much- but I *am* going to be watching the ball drop from my TV in a penthouse suite I booked in the Lower East Side that boasts an incredible view of the New York City skyline!

It’s going to be thermal pajamas, room service, and champagne being sipped in a California King bed for me tonight- and then tomorrow, before I head back to frigid Massachusetts once again- I’m going to be doing a bit of sight-seeing and shopping around the city.

Treat Yo’Self 2018 might trickle into 2019, I think.

Of course, I have resolutions- since I actually like to set both short and long-term goals for myself and enjoy the process of working towards them, tracking my progress, and seeing my results- but while my resolutions for 2018 were mostly about getting organized and budgeting/improving my financial planning a bit more (both of which I accomplished!)– 2019 is all about self-care.

Here’s what I got:

Get Healthier/Get Into Better Shape – Let’s just get this resolution we’ve all got in our minds and on our lists out of the way first since it’s pretty much mandatory at this point. The holidays are, as always- brutal- when it comes to sticking to diets and fitness regimens. After Thanksgiving, I pretty much said “screw it” and started eating whatever I wanted, sleeping all sorts of odd hours, and tried to convince myself that getting up to get the remote control counted as a form of cardio.

In 2019, it’s back to the grind- eating better, actually exercising the correct way(s), sleeping like a normal adult, drinking more water- and even taking multivitamins regularly. I’ve downloaded helpful apps to keep me on track, have nutritional (and delicious) recipes on deck to hold my interests- and have enlisted friends and family who also want to get into better shape as motivational partners during our respective journeys.

I’m really excited to see how different I feel (and look) by the end of next year compared to now!

Stop Putting Up With Bullshit – And Command Respect: I had mentioned earlier that by the end of 2018, I noticed I was being overtly forgiving to fair-weather friends and men I dated who were routinely flaky or downright awful towards me and disrespectful to whatever relationship/bond we had. Whether it was lowered self-esteem, my just trying to be polite and show kindness/understanding, or fear of coming across as heartless for simply “cutting people out”- all that changes in 2019.

I’ve already started the phase of distancing myself from people who have been detrimental to me, my mental health, and my growth as a person- and so far it’s been pretty great and really refreshing not to have negativity clouding my life or to feel as though I’m giving everything I have, stretching myself too thin- and not getting any sort of emotional support or respect in return.

2019 is the year I finally start loving/respecting myself again- and not wasting time on people who can’t appreciate me or the good I bring into this world.

Hit Up Some of The Places on My Bucket List: Nashville, New Orleans, Joshua Tree- all places I’ve longed to visit and explore- but up until now have never really had the opportunity to do so. While I still budget responsibly and make sure all my bills are paid on time- it’d be nice to scratch some of these locations off of my bucket list in 2019.

Even if it’s not all of them- one or two would be great! And now, with my recent accumulation of travel points from past vacations/excursions- getting to/from these places is looking like it might be a lot easier than before- and much less expensive, too!

The question is- where do I go first?

Get Back Into the Arts: You all probably know I love taking pictures and photography in general- but did you know I also love to paint? And dance? And design? All passions of mine that unfortunately fell to the wayside as I started to focus more on my legal career over the past few years- but with my recent work with the radio and with the theater in Pioneer Valley- I think 2019 will be the year there is a resurgence of my creativity and more opportunities to do the things I love and am passionate about while simultaneously helping others.

I’m so very, very excited to get started with everything! It’s been so long and I have so many ideas swirling around in my head!

And with all that being said- I think that does it for me! I’ve got to pack a bag and get ready to catch my train to New York. I’ll be taking the next few days off before I’m back on Friday morning with a full re-cap of my NYC/NYE adventure- but you can also follow along over at MY INSTAGRAM.

Before I get going, I just wanted to thank you- all of you- who have been reading/subscribing to Blondie Birdie this past year. I try my best to put out content that showcases or highlights my interests/talents and that will entertain or inspire like-minded individuals. It’s been an absolute pleasure reading your e-mails, comments, social media posts, etc. and I’m thankful that this little hobby of mine has connected me with people from all over.

I look forward to posting more in 2019 and I hope that you’ll all continue reading and corresponding with me along the way as we traverse the coming months ahead!

Here’s wishing you all a fun, safe and wonderful New Year! See you all in 2019!

xx

– Ashley –

Hello, 2018…

Good Morning, everyone! It’s great to be back- in a brand new year, no less- and I hope you all had a wonderful weekend welcoming 2018 in a fun, memorable way!

I spent New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day in New Hampshire with my best friend Sean. The whole thing was planned at the last possible minute, really- but we’ve been fortunate in past travels/adventures where just winging it and rolling with the punches has worked out in our favor- and this most recent weekend was (thankfully) no exception.

We hung our hats at The Silver Fountain Inn in Dover- which is about 15 minutes away from Portsmouth. The property is both an inn and a tea parlor that hosts private parties and murder mystery dinners- among other events. Sean and I went halves on an already reasonably priced rate to get ourselves the Boudoir Room for a night- and it might have been one of the nicest rooms I’ve ever stayed in- ever. If you’ve ever visited any of the mansions in Newport, Rhode Island- then you’ll understand me when I say that this room gave me that vibe. I felt like royalty in here!

We were free to explore the rest of the inn- including the rooms that weren’t occupied- at our leisure, and the entire house looked just as gorgeous as our room was. From an amazing dining room with still-festive decor, a spacious sitting room, and a spiraling grand staircase that worked it’s way up three floors- there was a lot to take in!

Below are some of my favorite shots I snapped while we were stretching our legs and grabbing some complimentary tea from the dining area.

I could live there forever- no questions asked!

Of course, we had to briefly leave the comforts of our palace-for-a-night and head out into the bitter, brutal Northeastern cold (seriously- it was actually painful being outdoors for more than a few minutes at a time) to grab dinner and count down to midnight.

After pausing to VERY quickly appreciate some celebratory ice sculptures in downtown Portsmouth- Sean and I headed over to Fat Belly’s Bar & Grille to grab our annual “end of the year, face-stuffing cheat meal” where we just ingest the greasiest/most fattening/carb-loaded dishes, desserts and snacks we can before it’s back to square one on January 1st. I enjoyed a bacon cheeseburger with fries, while Sean had some over-the-top BLT. Fat Belly’s can always be counted on to deliver the goods (hence their name.)

Following dinner, and with a couple of hours to spare- Sean and I did a bit of bar-hopping until we found one that we felt comfortable in, and that wasn’t charging a ridiculously overpriced cover to scam people who were simply looking to come in out of the cold. We popped into The Portsmouth Brewery and ended up staying there for the remainder of our night out on the town- counting down to midnight with a room full of fun, enthusiastic people in their downstairs lounge area.

After milling about for another hour or so, saying our goodnights and best wishes for the New Year to everyone around us- Sean and I bundled up once again to brave the Arctic Tundra temperatures to get back to my car and from there- back to Dover so we could get some much-needed rest and relaxation in our room. I fell asleep almost immediately- the bed was so comfortable.

The next morning, bright and early and feeling rejuvenated- Sean and I enjoyed a breakfast prepared by the innkeeper, Pam. We had initially been a bit indecisive on what we wanted- so Pam made us a little of everything: a Mexican scramble, a buttermilk & strawberry pancake, bacon and English Toffee coffee. It was delicious- and when other guests who had stayed the night eventually came in to join us- we spent the better part of our meal getting to know one another and laughing about our favorite suspenseful TV shows over the years.

It was a really great environment and energy throughout the house- like we were catching up with old friends instead of strangers- and I was admittedly pretty sad when it came time to check out and head back to Massachusetts later on that morning. I’d really love to travel North and stay at the inn again- but definitely for more than just one night next time.

To get back to Melrose, Sean and I opted to drive down the coast as far as it would take us before heading inland to get home. We made a stop at Hampton Beach to enjoy just a couple of minutes of salty, freezing air- and marveled at the braver people who were getting closer and closer to the tide.

I heard every January 1st there’s a “Polar Plunge” (where people jump into the freezing water as a means to ring in the New Year) in Hampton- but I am 100% all set without doing that. I’ll just stick to my heated car and watch from the shore, thank you.

We also made one other stop at the Heart and Soul Cafe in Ipswich for lunch (avocado toast all day, every day!) before we eventually made it home to binge-watch some TV and play some video games before it was time to get my meals and wardrobe in order for the work-week ahead, pencil time into my schedule to hit the gym every day, unpack my bag- and try to get a good night’s sleep.

Overall, I had such an extraordinary and magical experience in New Hampshire for New Year’s- even if it was much colder than I’d expected or hoped for. Everyone remained in good spirits and seemed intent on helping each other out in terms of offering warm places to sit/stay. It was a very pleasant, peaceful way to begin 2018 and I’m very grateful it all worked out on such short notice!

Later on this week, I’m going to be sharing my tips/tricks to overcoming any gym anxiety for those who are looking to get back into the workout game and stick to your resolutions. I’m really excited to be partnering with the creators of a particularly helpful app for that very purpose- and I can’t wait to share the details with you all!

Until then, though- I’ve got to get to work!

Enjoy the rest of your day, everyone!

Ipswich, MA. 1/1/18

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.

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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.

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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 –