My Week in Movies: November 26 - December 2

by lauren atkinson

A new thing that I am starting is to watch as many movies as possible in a week. I've been focusing my attention on de-stressing and taking time for myself throughout the week. Part of this is breaking up routine with things that I enjoy. The best break for me is watching movies.

In the coming weeks, I will re-watch old classics, see new horror and experience recent releases. The goal is to not watch only new movies but to also watch films I haven't seen in a while.

I will post brief impressions and reviews here... if you hate spoilers, better to not read (although I will keep them to a minimum)

This week:

What We Become
A Danish zombie movie. Slowly everyone in a smalltown becomes quarantined and it is unclear who is infected and who is clean. 
This sticks to every zombie method: bleak apocalypse. 
Spoiler alert: this doesn't end as happy as most zombie movies. That's the calling card, in my opinion. 
The effects (makeup, practical, digital) were all solid -- but I do wish there were more of them. 
2.5 stars. Although I really enjoyed the plot and the visuals, this lacked anything special. 

A Dark Song
A grieving mother consults an occultist in an attempt for vengeance. The occultist takes this woman through rituals in order to see her son. 
This is cinematically... pretty. The sound is fantastically eerie and the dialogue is solid. The part where this one lost me is with some of the visuals of the alternate realms and explanation of the rites. At points, it was unclear which part of the ritual the two were partaking in and it left me questioning that instead of paying attention to the plot unfolding on the screen. This was both distracting and made the pacing feel to loose. 
2 stars. The plot was original and although visually stunning, the ending felt rushed and lackluster. 

The Babysitter
Comedic gore gold.
Parents go away for the weekend quite a bit and leave their preteen son with a hot, feisty, yet super sweet babysitter. She's seemingly attentive except...The Babysitter has a dark secret: she's the leader of a pack of satanists. 

I love this Babysitter: she's relatably nerdy and a babe, yet makes deals with the devill. Lots of references to cult classics: red bikini-clad babe in the family pool à la Fast Times at Ridgemont High. A sequence of the babysitter and preteen acting out western shoot-out scenes from Billy Jack. Arguments about Star Trek. A preteen boy watching his babysitter play a round of spin the bottle. Human sacrifice...

I adore this one. 4 stars. It's original, smart, and fun. Highly recommend if you're into comedic horror. 

The Imitation Game
I am behind the "game" with this one, but here we are. 

This movie is pretty... standard. It's somewhat predictable and simple except for Benedict Cumberbatch's Alan who is exceptionally played. Alan's story is more important and compelling to me than the main plot thread. 

My love of horror films

by lauren atkinson

I un-ironically, unapologetically, love horror films. And not just the good stuff: in fact, I love the cult classics and dumb stuff almost as much as the "intelligent" films. I have a lot of fun memories around watching movies with friends and family. But horror movies, I remember vividly. 

There is an adrenaline rush that makes watching a movie not only mentally engaging but also a physical entertainment. 

As someone with anxiety, this might seem a bit contradictory to what you'd expect. An unexpected physical reaction to something can be emotionally triggering to some. In many ways, the feeling that I get from watching a horror movie is somewhat therapeutic: it's like I am taking all of the anxiety that normally results in a migraine or muscle pain and channeling it into something that is temporary and even, rational. 

it's ok to be afraid and nervous about someone lurking in the corner and it's also ok to freak out over a client meeting or presentation of a big project. But I don't want either to eat me alive.

Horror movies give me the ability to engage with something nerve-racking and come out on the other side unscathed. That's what appeals to me. I come out knowing that everything is ok -- at least for me. 

I can remember the first time I saw a single scene of a horror film: it was Child's Play, the scene where Chucky strangles Mike as he's driving. There was a made-for-tv edit that was playing one Saturday evening. I remember my mom was at a bible study and my dad was channel surfing. He kept it on, thinking I wasn't watching, then when he realized I actually was, he quickly flipped the channel and said "Sorry, thought you were in the other room." Let's be honest, that really didn't leave a mark.

The first full movie I saw was Poltergeist, followed by Children of the Corn in my friend's basement when I was 11. The whole time that I was watching, I felt like an outsider as I was focused on the humor of both movies. To this day, I can still quote most of Poltergeist and take every opportunity to watch it once a year. 

One of my high school boyfriends and I had a movie marathon one year on halloween weekend: Freddy v. Jason, Jason X, Friday the 13th VI. I remember walking home from his house and making a mental note to revisit my favorite killer, jason voorhees, soon. 

Luckily, I visit him often now. 




One night, my best friend and I sat down and watched The Ring and the original Texas Chainsaw in the basement of my parent's house. She spent the hours after huddled under the covers as I attempted to convince her that there were more movies I wanted to watch. I was on a roll and my heart was racing for more.  That ended up proving futile and I allowed her to pick another movie instead, ending the evening on a rom-com. 

The first time I watched Saw was at my crush's house. His family had one of those impressive theater rooms in their basement. (for context of our evening: this was not a date. I was definitely the cool girl he watched movies with: After Saw, we also put on Irreversible and Mulholland Drive. Far from date night movies.) After our movie marathon, he lended me his copy of Saw on VHS and I drove home, proceeding to watch it three more times that weekend. 

I accidentally watched Skeleton Key in theaters in 2005, when I had gone into the theater to see a comedy (I want to say it was 40 Year Old Virgin, could be wrong) and walked into the wrong movie screen. I started watching and kept watching, knowing it was the wrong movie. (Although, I now regret my choices -- should've left for the intended film)

Prom night, I didn't party. Instead, my group watched Seven in the living room of my good friend's (a Belgian exchange student) host house while eating mini donuts and pizza.

Each week, I am searching for the next movie to be an outlet for my pent up anxiety. Do you have any horror favorites? 

Vibrant Hair Care

by lauren atkinson


If you've been here longer than five minutes, you'll know that I change my hair color a lot. I've achieved these colors both in salon and at-home and I've learned a lot along the way. In a "do as I say, not as I do" manner, I wouldn't ever recommend someone color their hair at home. There are a number of reasons, main ones being that if you screw up, it could result in permanent damage to your hair cuticles and really, that's not something anyone wants.

This post is not about how-to dye your hair. This is about maintenance -- ways that I keep my color-treated hair healthy and vibrant. I'm going to give a typical disclaimer: I am not a licensed professional but I am going to give what I personally do because I get asked questions every day on how I manage my hair. I've had just about every color of the rainbow at this point. 

Leave the lightening to the professionals
Vibrant colors require light hair. If you do not have a nice base for the color, consult a professional. Lightening your hair at home can have really terrifying results if done incorrectly. It's also incredibly harsh. Let's put it this way: you are working with chemicals. Are you a chemist? No? Well, your hairstylist pretty much is. Your hair isn't the place for science experiments so don't do it! 

Color depositing conditioners
It is important that when you wash your hair, you condition it as well. Shampoo opens the cuticles of the hair, conditioners seal them -- which keeps your hair healthy. If you like science, I would highly recommend this article. We all know that colorsafe hair treatments exist and have for a long time, but what some do not know is that there are now products that deposit color safely without using dye. This is less work for you -- you don't have to dye your hair every week to keep it vibrant.

I personally use Overtone. Overtone deposits color back into your hair while conditioning it. And the biggest benefit: no longer do you as a vibrant-haired person have to rinse in cool water! That's right, overtone allows you to keep your vibrant locks while washing and conditioning with warm water. 

Wash your hair -- but don't overwash it. 
Really, going 3ish days without washing your hair is one of the best thing that you can do for your color. And use a shampoo that is gentle on color: I like Unite Moisturizing Shampoo as it's both color safe and vegan :)

Use a silk or satin  (or similar alternative fabric) pillowcase
They come with a high price but not only do these pillowcases prevent breakage, they also aid in taming bedhead between washes. Two of my favorite options are Slip (which is silk, so non-vegan) and Savvy (which is satin and vegan!)


Happy World Vegetarian Day!

by lauren atkinson

I have been abandoning my food friends that normally visit: Sorry friends! I promise that it wasn't without reason...

I am working on some recipes that will be coming soon. As a sneak peek, here are pictures of some of the things that I have been cooking lately:

These pictures (and more) can be found on my Instagram, so be sure to follow me there! 

I am really excited to get back into the swing of posting more regular recipes and hopefully, this time around, the image quality and content is even better. But enough of the excuses, let's get to the real post...

I get questions a lot about my vegetarian diet. The why, what, how. So I figured that in honor of World Vegetarian Day, I would answer a few of those.

"When did you start eating a vegetarian diet?"
The first time I started eating vegetarian was 2004. From 2004 to late 2006, I was eating strictly a vegetarian diet.
From 2006 to 2008 I would eat meat occasionally and didn't have a definition for my diet -- I didn't cut out anything from my diet or restrict foods. During that time, I realized that not only had I gained an unhealthy amount of weight, but the foods I was eating made me feel sick. I was also battling my iron deficiencies the most that I had in a long time, believe it or not. In fall of 2008, my husband and I decided we needed to make some drastic changes to help our health. It started with a plant-based, whole foods diet that was restrictive and we added things back in as we wanted. 
I am very clear to say that I am EATING VEGETARIAN and not living a VEGETARIAN lifestyle. In my mind, those are two very different things.

"So what exactly is your diet?"
My diet is mostly plant-based. I try to avoid processed foods, dairy, eggs, and meat substitutions where possible. However, I love cheese and right now, that is not something that I've restricted from my eating habits. But at home, you will find me cooking mostly dairy-free and egg-free. 

"Why vegetarianism?"
I'd like to say that it is strictly an ethical and political decision, but it's not. Yes, there are plenty of ethical and economical benefits of being a vegetarian and eating a plant-based diet, but that's not the main reason that I am a vegetarian, in all honesty. 
I'm a vegetarian because it's what works for my body and what makes me feel good.
You will likely not find me pushing my eating behaviors on others, although I would love to see people eating more plant-based diets due to the positive impacts that it could have environmentally. 

"But do you even eat enough?"
I can confidently say that I am getting enough nutrition through a plant-based diet. Someday soon I hope to get into the specifics of how I manage and track this, but the short answer is this: Yes, I get enough protein. Yes, I sometimes need to supplement. And yes, my doctor is aware of my eating habits and lifestyle.

But now I'd love to hear from the vegetarians out there: why are you a vegetarian and what are the best things that have come from vegetarianism? 

Look forward to more in-depth posts coming soon about all of the above topics! 


The Demons That Aren't There

by lauren atkinson

As a child, there are usually one or two places that you're afraid of going -- often times out of some irrational fear. 

For me, one such place was the hallway between my grandparents' kitchen and the backdoor. There's nothing there that's scary nor did anything happen that should make me afraid of it. In fact, looking back, that should have been a place that I frequented -- my grandparents' cat would hide herself there under the floor shelving that held the laundry detergent and cleaning supplies. But anytime I needed to go out the backdoor into the yard, I'd find myself flipping on the light (even in the daytime) then before even stepping into the hallway, contemplating how quickly I can open the doorknob and be outside.

Another place is confidently with reason. It had demons that weren't actually there. 

Growing up, my family attended a small church in suburban metro Detroit. The attending population of the church was about 50-75, depending on the drama going on -- who slighted whom by not inviting the other to their son's birthday, what person talked about the other behind their backs, and more burning: what teen was sleeping with an adult. It was the type of place that due to its size was more of a dysfunctional family than anything else. 

Growing up in the church, you spend a lot of time in the physical building. You take naps between services, under the sanctuary pews. You associate the smell of Foldger's coffee with worship songs and you know which churchlady will give you candy if you're quiet during service. You also hear things and people tell you stories -- but instead of ghosts or urban legends, you get demons and tales of their defeat.

One of my friends growing up was a pastor's son. And one time, he told me that he saw a demon in the basement of the church. We were 7 years old. Even as an adult, it was per that story, I was afraid of the church basement. I spent some time interning there and just like my grandparents' hallway, I'd flip on the lights before stepping down the last stair, and contemplate how quickly I can get to the other side of the basement to the safety of the office. 

But nothing ever happened in that basement aside from memories. Some haunting, some that cause a smile. But none that caused harm. The demons that stuck with me from that basement were not phantoms, they were the gossip of peers and lies. Many things happened there: love affairs between teens and their youth leaders, gossip about divorce, and lies about pastors abusing their wives (never happened, but caused a fuss) Then the torment of growing up a kid in the church, hoping that the teasing and bullying that happened in the schoolyard wouldn't be met at the feet of Christ, only to find that bullying is worse when God is watching.

Looking back and having distance from both places -- from the stories and irrationality -- there is some perspective: 

There are "demons" most places, but they aren't the ones that creep in basements or spook you in the hallway, they're the ones that live inside of people. People do terrible things not phantoms. 

Experiencing Something New

by lauren atkinson

(Cross-posted from Medium. Expect posts to be here going forward.)

I get distracted when I am working from home. My diningroom table (where I spend most times working) faces the neighboring building’s roof, with a view of the alleyway and a good portion of the neighborhood below. My mind gets stuck on memories sometimes when I look out of that window, with the breeze pouring in (even on warmer days) — The smell of sunshine beating off of rooftop tar and the occurrence of the mind to wander when it’s trigger by the scent of something familiar.

When I was 11 my father decided to re-shingle the roof. Not to hire someone, no. This would be a family project, of course. My father is the type to always opt to do things on your own, whether to make it an opportunity for the family to bond or to teach my brothers and I new skills.

Thinking back to the humidity on the roof and the smell of tar. I remember having a strange fascination with poking at the tar as it was settling and rolling shingling nails down the roof until they hit the gutter. But somewhere in the moments of childhood distraction, I’d watch my uncle and father as they went about pulling shingles then replacing them with utmost ease and prior knowledge. Like they had been doing this as a job for many years. I asked my uncle how many roofs he had “done” and his response:“You do one, you’ve done them all.”

Then I see my father later working through a complex mathematical problem like he’s done this before. This is practice. Approaching the challenge similarly as you’ve done in the past but recognizing the new context.

I’d like to approach life in that way with some things. “Done one, done them all.” Not in the sense of the mundane, routine but that all anxiety and pressure to perfect becomes lax. The confidence in knowing that whatever it is, you can accomplish it because you’ve done similar or just the same. That all experience lends itself to how you approach new challenges.

Just like the brain triggered by the sense of smell, so can new experiences be inspired by the ones you’ve had before.

A Sappy Anniversary Post

by lauren atkinson

Five years ago, I committed myself to having the time of my life, for my whole life, with the best human that I have ever met. At least, that is my interpretation of our marriage vows. Little did I know, life doesn't always need to be a goddamned adventure to be absolutely wonderful. The below post is not meant to be an advice column, but more a brag on what I've learned in doing life alongside and sometimes with my husband.

Marriage is both practical and romantic. Some relationships consider only one part of that.

Marriage life for us is equal parts romance, fun, and practical. Just as you can be romantic with someone and have there be nothing practical about it or be married for practical reasons but feel no romance.. I'm lucky that I can have the romantic feelings of truly loving and caring deeply for someone but also having a practical partnership.

There have been times in our marriage that we've been lucky enough to not worry about material needs (money, food, housing) because we both have secure jobs. Then there have been really hard times where one of us is working and the other is not -- although those times weren't met with poverty, they were still tighter than we are used to. One thing I know about both of us, is that if one of us were alone and unemployed, we'd hustle to make sure we are ok. That's why when we are together and one of us is not making income -- it doesn't feel pressured. We can take care of ourselves financially, each of us, independently. 

But it's practical to have shared finances, in case something scary happens. It's also practical having two people's names owning something. 

Marriage is not about one person being the "better-half" You should both be whole people prior to getting married. The other person isn't there to "fix" you.

There is a common misconception that with a well-functioning marriage, it is required that one individual "fills gaps" or "completes missing pieces" of the other. That somehow, when you marry your partner, insecurities felt in your romantic past lives with other partners will somehow disappear. That your spouse "makes you feel beautiful" and that is incredibly important.

I'd like to propose something else. In a high-functioning marriage, individuals are strongly independent, can stand on their own but don't want to. They want to learn and continue to grow themselves in all skills, emotional maturities, all life experiences. There is nothing lacking in either person that the other needs to fill the gap to. There's no defined roles or assumptions. It's not someone's set responsibility to provide financially for the unit. Jesse doesn't need me, but he wants to do life alongside me. (I mean, I guess I can assume if we made it this long.)

Jesse and I make mistakes sometimes. (that should go without saying. EVERYONE makes mistakes.) But one thing I am quite proud of is that we've always been able to resolve any mishaps together, even if we could probably do it on our own. There have been plenty of times that I am confident given time and study, I can do something on my own. But if I work together with Jesse on whatever it is -- we accomplish the challenge faster together. Not due to me needing him, but we function well together. 

There's a quote that I heard in church sermons about marriage that would always make me angry. It's from the famous christian pastor James Dobson (Focus on the Family, etc.) "Don't marry the person you think you can live with; marry only the individual that you think you can't live without." On the surface, this sounds fairytale and romantic, but in reality you are assuming that either the individual you intend to marry is 1) a possession that you own or 2) you are a dysfunctional human that needs others to validate you. 

I understand that this probably wasn't the intent of Dr. Dobson, but I want to say:

Marry the person that you can do life with in full but also independently when necessary. That encourages you to grow as a person while you are growing together in experiences. Don't settle for someone that needs part of you and uses you as a crutch. Nor settle for someone that fills a part that you can't fill on your own. Learn to be a whole person on your own and look for someone that does the same. 

Or, marry as you think is best. I'm just saying that this marriage I am in: it's pretty great. And I think we've got something going on. Anyway, Happy Anniversary to the best.