Season 5 Queer Eye: Exploring Self Love in the City of Brotherly Love

Season 5 of Queer Eye takes place (mostly) in Philadelphia. A brief overview for the uninitiated: the Fab Five, a team of queer folk, help “heroes” nominated by family or friends to transform their lives by addressing various areas of self-care. In the past, the team has assisted the clueless, the overworked, and the unconfident, as well as at least one LGBTQ+ “hero” who needs help with establishing their identity. The show is worth watching if only for the transformation every hero undergoes. Season 5 has an especially progressive flavor, and also showcases the team’s evolution. A word of advice: you should not watch this show without tissues, or if you need to engage in public speaking immediately after.  You  WILL get feels. 

First, the episodes. The season kicks off with several stories that provide the primary lesson we have come to expect from Queer Eye: everyone deserves love. The heart of the series builds on this idea, but focuses on heroes notable for their connection to prominent cultural issues. Among others, we see a Greta Thunberg-vibes activist, an immigrant entrepreneur, and a doctor struggling between professional and family life. These stories question common stereotypes about the social consciousness of younger generations, the contributions of newcomers to the country, and the family lives of professional women.  The season finale handles a particularly salient issue: myths of masculinity. A trainer believes his best years are behind him, and is racked by guilt that he has not accomplished more at his age. The episode compassionately challenges the harmful gender norms that every man is alone, and that to ask for help is a weakness undermining any achievement. 

Now, the Fab Five. Bobby, the home makeover specialist, has often been lamented as the unsung hero of the show. He enjoys more attention in Season 5, and gets a nice personal plug for his line of home goods. His remodels are his best yet.  Tan, the fashion guru, stresses the French tuck far less. Johnathan, the grooming coach, previously fell back on regularly advising everyone to wear SPF (admittedly great advice), but now focuses on empowering local stylists. Antoni, the culinary coach, deserves a most improved award. Formerly, he taught everyone to make guacamole, but his dishes now run the gamut, from braised pork ribs to pizza. He strikes me as the most introverted team member, but he has pushed himself to ask more questions and give more encouragement. He can still translate as a bit stiff, but as a fellow introvert, I applaud his efforts. 

The only team member I felt was underutilized was Karamo, the cultural specialist. Don’t get me wrong, he is unquestionably an expert at emotional work, which should never be undervalued.  For instance, he mediated a hard talk between a hero and a boyfriend who cheated on her.  However, some of the exercises he did with the heroes felt unnecessary. I mean… Comparing a park path to a metaphorical path? Emotional weights to physical weights? A bit on the nose, no? Plus, some tasks that I expected to fall under his purview were completed by other team members. One hero needed help with financial literacy, which seemed like an ideal task for Karamo, but instead, Bobby addressed that need.

Overall, I respect this season’s sense of mission, and the important work it does by giving a voice to groups who might not otherwise find representation. Queer Eye encourages us to have compassion for those we might judge, to acknowledge the power of nurturing, and to find the ways we can be our best selves. 

 

Sky Meadows: Virginia’s Own Kingdom in the Clouds

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If you’re anything like me, you probably got sick of walking in circles around your neighborhood a couple months ago and need new places to explore.  If so, Sky Meadows State Park can fit the needs of outdoor enthusiasts from beginner to experienced. Although there are closer parks to DC proper, Sky Meadows, located in Delaplane, VA, is less crowded, beautifully maintained, clearly marked, and feels like a more authentic natural getaway.  Plus, the park offers children’s activities, camping, history, and a wide variety of hiking trails.  As an added bonus, you could easily combine your trip with a visit to one of many local wineries.  It would take multiple visits to explore the myriad possible trail combinations, but here is a quick and dirty run-down of my personal favorites.

Easy/Family Hikes

For a more leisurely stroll, perhaps accompanied by young children, Hadow Trail is a great choice.  It will take you along a positively bucolic babbling brook that borders tall, grassy fields before intersecting the Corporal Morgan Trail to form a short loop specifically designated for children.   The loop also passes by the Children’s Discovery Area, where younger lovers of the outdoors can explore play stations.  The children’s loop and play area can most easily be accessed by parking near the picnic area.

Moderate Hikes

If you are visiting Sky Meadows for the first time, I urge you to prioritize its must-sees: the Piedmont Overlook and the meadows that give the park its namesake.  According to the trail guide, all the trails that lead to these areas are rated at least moderately difficult.  However, don’t let the difficulty rating discourage you. Lots of people make the trek, with their babies and pets in tow, no less, so it can be done.  If your goal is simply to see the views without hiking too long or too rigorously, you should park near the Visitor Center, then take the Piedmont Overlook Trail directly to the view. It’s an uphill climb that will burn, but on the bright side, it’s short. For a greater challenge, I also enjoy the South Ridge Trail.  It loops around to the same area with the added perk of taking you past the ruins of Snowden Manor, which once stood on what is now park land.

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Difficult Hikes

In my opinion, the North Ridge Trail is the hardest one in the park. It is 2 miles of straight uphill climb, and it will give even the most experienced hiker a run for their money. I personally love it, though, for the soothing stream crossing at the bottom of the hill, not to mention the sense of accomplishment when I reach the top. It also connects to the Appalachian Trail, and although I myself have never through-hiked, it’s inspiring to walk the trail that is such a famous destination for hikers all over the world. 

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If you are seeking solitude on your hike, it is best to visit on a weekday, or between 9am and 10am on a weekend.  I always bring water and snacks, wear SPF, and stretch before and after. I recommend wearing an insect (and also ideally tick) repellant, since there are lots of tall grasses along the paths. Appropriate footwear is a must. Boots are ideal, but running shoes will do. There is a parking fee, but I have never minded contributing a few dollars to help maintain this special place.  Sky Meadows has offered me solace in the time of quarantine, and I hope it will help you, too, to experience a sense of magic and wonder.

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Insecure Writer’s Support Group July 1 Blog Hop

July 1 question- There have been many industry changes in the last decade, so what are some changes you would like to see happen in the next decade?

I’m new to the industry, so a lot of my previous experience with it is on the receiving end, as a consumer of literature and content.  In that capacity, one thing that strikes me most is the multitude of platforms writers can use now to publish their content, to the point that the term “writer” even may be too narrow to describe them.  Blogs, of course, immediately come to mind, but the fact that you could publish an entire book of your own original writing on one is pretty astounding.  I’m also amazed by the continual explosion of YouTube, TikTok, Snap Chat, and other social media platforms, and the way they are used for storytelling.  For instance, I once came across an entire story told through screen shots of a text message conversation.

On one hand, as a lover of classical literature, a little elitist part of me finds these types of storytelling pedestrian, maybe even gimmicky.  On the other hand, as an aspiring writer, I feel thankful that being a writer could mean so many different things, and that there are so many entry points to the field now.  As a teacher, I also appreciate that many of these forms could be very appealing and relevant to many of my students, and make reading far more democratic and accessible.  Nearly everything these days circles back to my thoughts on where I will fall in this landscape, but I hope to keep an open mind about the way I engage in writing and storytelling, and I hope that we will see more young people drawn to the field through these technological advances as well.

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Perfume Review: Calyx by Clinique

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To me, Calyx is a tropical cousin to the “gin and tonic” genre of fragrances. All you have to do is replace the herbs with fresh-cut grass and throw in tropical fruits with the citrus, and what you have is Calyx. I immediately smell papaya, guava, and freshly snapped stems and leaves most distinctly. I also detect mild floral overtones; the type of flower is not obvious, but it could be an interpretation of the gentle and soothing freesia. The spirit of fruity floral greenery is the core of this fragrance, but deeper into the drydown, Calyx can begin to remind me of a chypre as a cool, delicate oakmoss emerges. For me, Calyx is a summer splash fragrance that I wear if I am not overly concerned with sillage or longevity. The performance is more subtle, so if you are looking for a beast-mode fragrance, you won’t find it here. However, I do not believe Calyx is intended to function that way. Clinique describes it as an “exhilarating” fragrance, which to me implies that it is meant to be more of an olfactive pick-me-up, in a similar vein as Clarins Eau Dynamisante. While I personally treat it as more of an “active wear” scent, it would just as easily smell at home in a more sophisticated or professional setting. I will admit that it is perhaps not my ultimate favorite of all my summer fragrances, but I do enjoy wearing it, and lovers of green fragrances would surely find it worthwhile to try.

Top notes: grapefruit, mandarin, passion fruit, mango, guava, green leaves, papaya
Heart notes: lily of the valley, freesia, neroli, lily, rose, marigold, jasmine
Base notes: oakmoss, sandalwood, orris, vetiver

Perfume Review: Quelques Notes d’Amour by Yves Rocher

 

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Despite its modest exterior, Quelques Notes d’Amour has become a surprise hit in my wardrobe since I bought it a couple of years ago. What you smell in the opening is more or less what you smell through the life of the fragrance: a charming, dreamy candied rose with faintly vanillic, woody undertones. I personally do not find the rose to be overly realistic, nor is it overly fresh. It’s not dark, either; I don’t detect much guaiac wood, if any, or any dirty, aggressive patchouli. It’s a sweet, easygoing rose jam that is very easy to wear; in fact, it’s probably the closest thing I have to a “dumb reach.” If you truly despise rose in all its forms, then you may not like this, but I suspect that the sugary, fruity aspects of Quelques Notes d’Amour could charm many a rose-hating heart. I love this fragrance in nearly every type of weather, except for maybe high summer heat. It lasts all day on me with moderate projection. I would highly recommend it to anyone in search of a versatile fragrance that lends a touch of romance to the everyday.

Notes: Bergamot, red pepper, Damascus rose, guaiac wood, patchouli, cedar, amyris wood, benzoin

Insecure Writer’s Support Group June 3 Blog Hop

June 3 question – Writers have secrets! What are one or two of yours, something readers would never know from your work?

I haven’t accumulated a significant amount of work to show yet, but I have been very inspired to write lately by my love for perfume.  I’ve been amassing a small horde for the last few years, and I feel that describing the scents and writing reviews helps me produce some of my most creative imagery.  I hope to draw on the same descriptive process in other pieces as well.  The haiku I wrote in my previous post was actually one of my submissions to a short poetry contest held by Parfums Dusita, a niche perfume house.  Haikus are difficult to write, by the way!  Here is another:

Rays of hopeful sun
Brush the tops of heady blooms
It seems just for us

I’ve also felt inspired to write by none other than…  My cat.  I suppose I pay so much attention to her quirky little personality that it also comes naturally to write fluidly about her antics.  I could probably fill quite a few pages just writing about perfume and cats.  Would anyone read a book like that?  Let me know.  As a teacher, I’ve heard before that a student’s reading level is likely to be much higher when they are reading preferred content.  As an aspiring writer, I’m beginning to believe that the same is true for writing.

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Insecure Writers Support Group May 6 Blog Hop

May 6 question – Do you have any rituals that you use when you need help getting into the ZONE? Care to share?

This is my first time participating in the Insecure Writers Support Group, so…  Hello to anyone who comes across my blog!

At this point, I wish I had more to share, but I’ve only been playing at creative writing for about a month.  I’m also a sixth grade math teacher trying to handle distance learning for my students, and it’s been a challenge to find the time and energy to practice writing daily.  When I do manage to get “in the zone,” here are some of the things that have helped me:

  1.  Having a writing prompt.  It’s much easier to write without also having to do the mental lift of thinking up a subject.
  2. Setting a timer.  Knowing that I have a time limit helps me to just start writing, rather than agonizing about whether whatever comes out will be perfect.
  3. Starting this blog!  Even if no one views my posts, I feel at least a little more accountable knowing that, in theory, someone *could.*
  4. Reading excellent writing.  I’m the most inspired to develop my voice as a writer when I read beautiful work that makes me want to produce my own.  Currently, I’m reading The Magus by John Fowles.

I hope to have other routines to share at some point!  Thanks for reading for now!

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Something Lost

The mist creeps through the darkened streets
Asleep, asleep, they’re all asleep
Twining round the lampposts
Through the open window, ever so slightly ajar
Muffling, lulling, on velvet feet
Shushing and smoothing, asleep, asleep
In gray twilight robes on thousands of feet
Past the yellow dog at the foot of the stairs
Spiraling up through the dream-filled air
A phantom of indeterminate intent
Touching everything, touching nothing

In the shrouded chamber, midnight hangs
In indigo curtains, gently breathing
The air expanding in waxing and waning
Hoping and chasing, alternating
Into this cocoon, inhaling, exhaling
On velvet feet touching everything and nothing
Winding around her with seductive tendrils
Insistent and invisible, pervasive, imaginary
Trailing through dreams with immaterial fingers
Leaving no trace on the silk pillow case
Warmed by sleeping breath

Inside dreams, the subtle plucking of a harp
Notes like golden droplets rippling
Concentric circles of a single silent splash
Caressing the mind with a perfect, light touch
Waves that crest in crystalline brilliance
Lapping against the interior of her slumbering skull

It is hard to say what could rouse any soul
In a silence so plush and complete
Perhaps a stray barely discordant note
Just the frequency to reach the ear of one yellow dog
And then it is done
Awake, awake, raise the cry
Ringing and shouting we get to our feet
Alert!  All over town, all the dogs rise as one
In chaos and joy and panic
And just as quick, they fall silent again
Barking at phantoms on thousands of feet

The mistress awake in her velvet cocoon
Golden light lapping against the night
A great silent chasm where something once stood
Dizzily looking down, down, down
Wondering what now can never return
Silence so deep it emits a dark hum
That circles the heart on thousands of feet