Annihilation: A Game Changer


A few weeks ago, I was supposed to meet my boyfriend in Los Angeles for the weekend. He visited his friends in Las Vegas and traveled on to Los Angeles to get a tattoo by Corey Divine. Corey Divine is a world-renowned tattoo artist who specializes in sacred geometry tattoos, and it was a dream come true for my sweetie to get some art done from him.

I, of course, jumped at the opportunity to go back out to Los Angeles (we went a few years ago and we loved it) and planned to meet my boyfriend for the weekend. He had hours and hours of tattoo time planned with Corey, so I had found a few things to do to entertain myself in the meantime.  One being The Last Bookstore where I could spend hours and hours exploring and reading.  We also planned to go back to Universal Studios specifically for Harry Potter World. Last time we visited Universal Studios Hollywood they were building the Harry Potter attraction, so I was BEYOND excited to go back. So excited in fact, I represented my house by getting black and yellow Hufflepuff nails and getting a lightning bolt shaved into my head (my head has been shaved for the last four or so years, so I didn’t randomly shave a lightning bolt into my head, haha – I’m not THAT dedicated). I also read Harry Potter and Philosophy (highly recommend this book for any Harry Potter fan) and rewatched ALL the Harry Potter movies.

Unfortunately, I didn’t make it out to Los Angeles. I dropped my dogs off with a friend and one of my dogs got out of his harness, and ran away! I was at the airport, a half hour from boarding the plane, and got the phone call that she couldn’t find him. I decided to go to her neighborhood and try to find him because there was no way I could enjoy myself in Los Angeles not knowing where he was. I rescued him a few years ago and he was so timid, it took me almost a year for him to let me cuddle with him. To think of him in an unknown area, lost was way too much for me to handle so I had to go back and find it.

Eventually, I was able to get to him after taking the bus back to my car and driving to my friend’s house. I yelled out his name and he instantly came running out behind my friend’s shed and got into my car – it ended up being super easy to get him home safe.

And here is where Annihilation comes into play. I was super bummed that I didn’t make it out to Los Angeles for the long-awaited trip, and I then had a weekend to myself. And I wanted to fill it with things that made me happy since I was so down. And that’s when I heard about Annihilation coming out in theaters. I LOVE going to the movies. Then I heard it was a book before a movie which intrigued me even more since reading a book and watching the movie is something else I LOVE to do!

The lights dimmed and everyone was shushing each other as the movie started. I was immediately drawn into the movie – the mystery of the biologist’s husband, the questions about the Shimmer and what lies beyond, and of course what happened to the previous expeditions.

Annihilation follows a biologist, and wife, through the Shimmer into Area X. The Shimmer is an effervescent barrier that has encased a part of the coast and since it’s appearance, has created quite the mystery of its purpose. Area X is isolated from civilization, and expeditions have been sent in to make sense of the Shimmer and why it developed, but no one ever comes back out. There have been theories about what happened to the people who went into Area X – something killed them or they went crazy and killed each other.

Throughout the movie, you get a little bit more information and things spiral out of control. You follow the twelfth expedition into Area X and surprisingly, it’s all women (something I really enjoyed about this movie). Inside Area X, it’s oddly beautiful for being such a mysterious and possibly deadly environment. The biologist finds different stands of DNA creating new and not before seen organisms, which of course makes you wonder what is going on in Area X, how this impacts the human form and mind, and what is the reason behind the Shimmer.

The beauty of Area X is visually stunning, yet there is an ominous vibe throughout the entire movie. You find out very disturbing things that happened to previous expedition members, which clashes drastically with the beautiful landscape. At any moment, things can be calm and serene, and then it all transforms into a deep darkness.

The ending was very, very interesting, and I still am not sure if I totally understand it. Once again, visually stunning and the soundtrack choices added to the entire experience. It was a movie that made you feel on a deep level, question reality and reconsider what we’ve been taught is possible. Basically – I couldn’t wait to read the book.

The next day I went to my local bookstore and picked up the book. I learned that it was book one of a three book series all about The Southern Reach – Annihilation, Authority, Acceptance. I was surprised that Annihilation was only 208 pages but also excited because I could read through it quickly!

Right from the start, there were a lot of differences in the book than the movie. Jeff VanderMeer is an amazing writer who explores the human condition and creatively connects this to environmental biology. There were a lot of deep lines of thought throughout the book and in a way that I’ve never seen before, Jeff VanderMeer connects that on a cosmic level – on a cellular level, and bends your mind – challenges everything you think you know as fact. By the end of the book (and movie) your understanding of what is real changes and you realize that anything can transform – can be annihilated – to create something new. This reminds me of the Hindu philosophy of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Brahma is the creator of the Universe, Vishnu preserves the Universe, and Shiva destroys the Universe, but only to once again restart the cycle of creation, so in reality, destroying or annihilation, can be a beautiful thing.

The book was coming to an end, and I have to admit I was dreading it. But also excited there are two more books for me to read. The book was different than the movie but I’d have to admit I totally enjoyed both of them equally simply because it was more and more of Area X. The book and the movie bring a totally new perspective to a relatively stale sci-fi genre. I’d highly suggest both if you can approach it with an open mind!

P.S. – in the book, VanderMeer states the border is invisible and in the movie it is described as the Shimmer. There are a lot of other differences that I interchanged when writing about the book and movie.

Check out this awesome article:

9 Ways Annihilation the Movie Differs from Annihilation the Book


Entertainment Galore

Books. Movies. TV Shows. I can’t help but get sucked into all three of these things. It’s even better when I can read the book and then watch the movie or tv show. I’ve recently been to the movie three times in the last month, read a few good books, and binge-watched some really awesome shows.

Reading on you will find spoilers!

A Wrinkle In Time

This book first published in 1962 by Madeleine L’Engle was ahead of its time. I didn’t hear much about it as a child and never read it until this month. I was at the movies with my sister watching the new Jumanji when we saw the preview for A Wrinkle In Time. I’ve been oddly interested in sci-fi and fantasy lately, so when I saw the preview I was incredibly excited to watch the movie. The next day, I was grocery shopping and couldn’t help check out the book section – and lo and behold, there A Wrinkle In Time was! I was surprised at how short the book was, but also excited that it could be a quick read for before the movie came out.

The book was pretty good – I think the concepts were better than the actual writing. I didn’t develop a connection to the main characters at all, but of course, wanted them to succeed in finding Meg and Charles Wallace’s father. Some parts were a little confusing and in the movie were better explained. A lot of the story in the book was told as one event after another and it was very linear. I think a lot of the books that I’ve been reading (especially anything from Stephen King) has less of a linear trajectory and more flashbacks. The writing style is more descriptive, more insightful into the history of the characters… but I loved the concepts in the book. Love, family, opening your mind, being brave, never giving up, trusting yourself and others, developing healthy priorities… it’s a solid story and I see what it has been so influential in reader’s lives. The concepts are timeless (no pun intended).

I was super excited to see the movie because I wanted to see how they made sense of the entire story. They added more detail and seeing things visually helped me understand the setting more. I knew that it would be visually stunning, and it was. It did not disappoint! Watching the movie helped me connect with the characters more, too. The Mrs. characters were more clearly represented and easily connected to as protectors and wise women than in the book. Overall, it was a great book and good movie – something I’d recommend!


I didn’t hear about this movie until it came out. It was getting good reviews and once again was sci-fi fantasy, so it intrigued me. The other weekend I was supposed to go on vacation – I was literally at the airport, and had to leave – so I ended up with a few days on my own and a lot of free time to fill. I decided to go check out this movie and was pleasantly surprised.

The initial part of the movie was very interesting to me. Things were not as they seemed and there was an ominous vibe to it. Many times you were questioning what was real and what was happening at the will of the Shimmer. You constantly questioned if the characters were going to turn on each other, or if one knew more than what they were sharing. Some parts of the movie were also very visually stunning (what is another phrase I could use to describe this?!), and even though there were very dark, questionable things happening, at times the world within the Shimmer was beautiful.

As the story unfolds, each one of the characters is at the mercy of the Shimmer based on their personality, and each meets their own fate accordingly. For example, one decides to integrate with the world willingly instead of fighting and that had been how she approached much of the mission. The big reveal of what was going on and what the Shimmer was doing was very interesting. Basically, the Shimmer was taking over and by “destroying” things it was really rebuilding for something different. The DNA of people, plants, and animals were integrated so new and interesting possibilities were created.

I really enjoyed the music in the movie, especially when the Psychologist is transformed in the center of the Shimmer. What is developed is an impressionable, alien-like being that mocks every movement of Lena, the last one to survive on the expedition. It’s a psychedelic, sensory adventure you can get sucked into for a few minutes.

Overall I was really impressed with this movie. It took a whole different approach and included everything – suspense, mystery, love story, personal struggle, cosmic and existential questions… definitely worth it. So much so, I couldn’t wait to read the book and went to buy it the next day.

I haven’t finished the book yet, but it’s already drastically different from the movie. It’s really well written and I’m looking forward to finishing it and reading the rest of the books in the Southern Reach series.

The Handmaid’s Tale

I definitely signed up for a Hulu free-trial so I could watch this. I remember seeing it preview and thinking, “Wow, I need to watch that.” I’m finally getting around to it, and wow, am I blown away.

The storytelling in the tv show is unreal. So many different parts coming in and out of the story, and they give you just a little bit at a time to keep you hooked and interested. The acting is perfect (Elisabeth Moss is ahhh-mazing), and character development is on point – something that I really enjoy in books, movies, and tv shows. I want to CONNECT with the characters and I want my boundaries tested.  For example, making you question if someone is really a bad person or is there some reason to their despicable behavior?

I was really surprised that this tv show is set in current or close to the future times, and not in the past. It’s clear that they are trying to go back to “olden” times with things, but when I saw the previews I didn’t realize this. It’s dystopian in nature vs. being set a long time ago and I LOVE DYSTOPIAN STUFF!

Much of what is portrayed in the tv show is shocking, and they do not back down or hold anything back. Everything is put right out there and at times can be incredibly uncomfortable. I’m looking forward to finishing Season 1 and reading the book.


This was a surprising find! I posted a while back any Netflix suggestions, and quite a few people said Ozark was a good show. I was instantly intrigued right from the beginning and it kept me interested through all episodes. At times things became a little redundant, but overall this was a solid show.

Jason Bateman was AWESOME as the main character, Marty. Not just in his acting, but also his character was so interesting.  He appeared meek and mild compared to his outgoing, arrogant, and annoying business partner but you soon find out he is the brains behind the operation. He can talk his way out of anything and he is incredibly fearless despite the seriousness of his situation.

Laura Linney also does an amazing job in this show as Marty’s wife, Wendy. At times she is rash and emotional, and other times she is calculated and brave. She is supportive and manipulative. The dynamics between Marty and Wendy alone can keep you hooked on the show. I’d highly suggest watching this show (and hopefully you won’t feel like laundering money after).

The Ritual

Netflix has been putting out some pretty interesting movies. This one was previewed as I was looking through the options and it instantly interested me.  My boyfriend was away at the time I watched it, so I wanted to watch it during the day, haha! The previews made it look scary, and at times it was, but the ending kind of ruined the vibe it had going at the beginning of the movie.

Right from the start, a tragic event happens and sets a group of male friends on edge. While in a liquor store, one of the friends is murdered by robbers and the other friend hides and does nothing. Jump to a few months later and they are in the woods of Sweden on a middle-aged adventure, hiking. They decide to take a shortcut through the woods instead of continuing to walk through the valleys, which ends up being a really bad decision.

I like the beginning of the show and the start of them entering the woods. It was incredibly anxiety provoking and I was ready to be spooked.  And they did not disappoint.

They find this creepy ass house and stay in it for the night. They all fall asleep in the living room but end up waking up in a startling circumstance – one is outside, one is upstairs nealing naked in front of this weird form built out of sticks, one is freaking out and yelling, and one is doing the same but pissed himself. These men clearly lost their bearings and it’s creepy as shit.

They continue hiking – and hear scary things in the woods, get confused on what direction they are going in, start to turn on each other, make irrational decisions, and eventually end up getting themselves killed. As they descend into madness, they are being hunted by an animal. It’s clearly an animal stalking them, however, what took hold of them in the house and continues to control them as they continue hiking seems to be more spiritual; more devil-like.

At the end of the movie, you see the animal. And it’s basically a huge monster, like a big moose with human features integrated into its body. Apparently, this is a monster in Norse mythology according to a friend from Denmark, but I have to say it was kind of a disappointing ending. I would have liked it to continue on the path of their own madness and insecurities causing their demise instead of this random creature that takes over the inner forest.

Harry Potter and Philosophy by William Irwin

This really was a great book. It was full of essays written in a research, academic form and suggested powerful theories to the Harry Potter story. I gained a whole new view of the Harry Potter series and had a lot of fun expanding my perspective on the original story. They took the concepts in the Harry Potter series such as love, power, and death and explored the to such depth it changed how I saw the books and movies. It was great! Definitely a good read for anyone who loves Harry Potter and enjoys breaking down scenes and motivations of characters.

The Shape of Water

I was pleasantly surprised by this movie. If I remember correctly I believe my boyfriend and I saw the preview for it at one point, and I remember thinking, “Well, that’s going to be a weird one!” I totally forgot about it until my friend posted a pic of her ticket while waiting for the movie to start. I decided to hit up the local independent movie theater to catch it, and I’m so glad I did.

Once I realized it was directed by Guillermo del Toro, I was excited because he also directed Pan’s Labyrinth which is one of my most favorite movies. I knew it was going to be weird, and I like weird.

This story had everything – sci-fi, fantasy, a love story, suspense.  There are elements of government conspiracy and people going against the ultra-conservative with their own agenda. The main character, Elisa, played by Sally Hawkins, goes through a beautiful transformation during the movie. You can’t help but cheer her on as she fights for what she wants. Everything was flawlessly done in this movie making it completely and easily accepted despite the extent of fantasy mixed in. Definitely a must see!


This morning I woke up feeling… sensitive.  You know when you feel like you’re under a microscope, everything everyone says feels like a judgment, and your self-esteem is just in the dumps? Like when your whole worth seems to depend on what others think of you, how much attention they give you, and how considerate they are of your feelings? As if you’d fall apart, cry, and never want to face the world again if someone said something even remotely insensitive to you?

Yeah. I woke up feeling that way. Oversensitive. Naked. Vulnerable. Anxious.

And that’s really what I have come to realize is what is going on when I feel like this – I feel anxious. I feel less sure of myself. Less sure of my path and feel like everything is going to fall apart right in front of me.

This is pure anxiety. And it just happens. Nothing came up that made me feel anxious or feel like my whole life was going to fall apart – I literally just woke up that way.

So I wasn’t too hard on myself. I just realized what was going on, accepted it, honored my feelings, and rode it out. Before I knew it, I was at work and distracted by other things. And then it hit me again on the way home. But now it wasn’t so much anxiety as sadness and nostalgia for past times with my parents. Sadness to the point I felt heaviness in my chest and when my partner asked me how my day was, I admitted I had been feeling anxious and vulnerable, and now was feeling sad, saying this with tears in my eyes.

There was someone in my life at one point who described this feeling of vulnerability perfectly – feeling like glass and anything coming at you could break you into a million pieces.  A complete feeling of lack of control and at the mercy of the anxiety and outside influences. And for me, this usually turns into sadness and possibly depression.

After sharing how I felt and riding it out instead of trying to ignore it or on the opposite end, catastrophizing it, I started to feel better. Tonight I’ve been able to laugh, joke, relax, and once again surrender to the bigger picture – to not feel like I need to control everything to manage my emotions.

I see so many people I care about posting their negative feelings, sadness, anxieties, depression, loss of direction in their lives… and all I want to do is help. To remind them that they are not alone. If anything of what I just wrote is something you can relate to, know that life is not hopeless. Know that you aren’t at the mercy of external happenings and the emotions you are feeling. You are worthy, and you are loved.


When you can be anything in life, choose to be kind.

This is a simple, but profound statement.

When we think back to people who have hurt and betrayed us, we might find it difficult to soften our heart once more. But when we soften our hearts and trust again, we let love into our lives. And love is the catalyst to life changing connections with others. Love is our saving grace to a beautiful, purposeful life, yet can be the most difficult thing to allow ourselves to give and receive.

It’s so easy to fall into the darkness and forget to see any light that shines through.

We all have reasons to close people out, to see the world through a negative lens, and not trust again. Try to not let the negatives outweigh the positives, and remember the good that happens in the world. It is there if we can remember to look for it.

“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.” – Kurt Vonnegut

Oh, life.

I have to admit I used to have a pretty shitty outlook on life – and sometimes I still do. When I was younger, I was just angry. I didn’t trust anyone or their intentions. I didn’t understand the point of being vulnerable and loving when you would be betrayed or abandoned and you would have to grieve the loss of something good again. Over time I realized I was becoming exactly what I didn’t want to, and opened my mind to new ways of looking at life. Overall things have been going well, and if they don’t I have a different way of perceiving these situations and moving beyond it.

However – there are some days that still test my patience. Situations that make my blood boil. People I just can’t stand no matter how I look at them and try to consider they are on their own path and they’re here to teach me something. But hey, I’m only human lol.

Recently there have been some really bad luck things happening in such a way I’ve had to stop and ask myself, “what in the fuck is going on here?!” It’s really challenged me to put what I’ve learned to good use. To remind myself to be humble and keep my mind open.

I also have thought a lot about when I write about my past experiences. This is healing to me. Like most people, I haven’t always been able to talk so freely about the things that have hurt me. I worked hard to heal, let go of my anger and resentment, and really take a look at who I was and who I wanted to become. And worked hard at letting go of control – control is an illusion – and learned to accept that life is one big learning process. There is always more to understand.

I was in therapy for years and I never told my therapist the details of my mother’s passing. It was too painful. Too triggering. But I’m at the point now, and have been for quite some time, where I can talk about and write about my experiences with loss. It’s a way for me to express myself and get my thoughts out there. I have no idea who would enjoy them but it’s really for me – selfishly. At this point in my life it brings me happiness to see such beautiful things coming out of such despair and darkness. The lotus flower blooming. The pheonix rising from the ashes.

There are times still, of course, where I travel too far into the rabbit hole of past negativities and habits. When memories turn to flashbacks and panic. Nightmares. There are of course times where I miss my parents so much that my heart aches and I close my eyes to envision them with as much detail as possible.

But mostly, my heart is at peace. I am content. Santosha. Something I never thought could be possible. And it won’t last forever, as nothing does. But I will be present and enjoy it while it lasts.

What Came Next, I’m Not Totally Sure

I rushed the back of the store, hands shaking and sweaty. Tears filled my eyes and blurred my vision; everything washing together as I tried to find my way to the staff office.

“Ashley, you have a phone call.”

“You need to get here soon. He isn’t going to make it much longer.”

My breath caught in my chest, like 500 lbs of bricks falling down on me. I closed my eyes slowly, tears overflowing and running down my cheeks.

“Honey, you go. I’m so sorry.” Her hand touched my shoulder, the first look of concern I’d see that day. I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t show her my appreciation for her love. I just nodded absentmindedly as I opened my locker and grabbed my things.

What came next, I’m not totally sure.

The next memory I have is driving on 93 North. I don’t remember walking through the store, mazing my way to the front door out into the parking lot. I don’t remember the weather. Was it sunny and warm or rainy and dreary? The only thing I remember is about ten minutes after the phone call, I was on the long stretch on 93 by the rest stop in Canterbury, and “Knockin on Heaven’s Door” by Guns N’ Roses came on.

And then I did something I’ve never told a soul…

I let off the gas. I wasn’t rushing anymore to get there. My fear of what I would see overcame me, and I couldn’t bring myself to rush there even though I might miss my last chance to say goodbye to him.

I don’t remember getting off the exit, taking a right, driving a quarter mile, and turning left into my Grandmother’s gravel driveway. I do remember speaking to someone outside – was it my Mother? – and she said it was too late. I was too late.

My hands slammed down onto the car, and it’s like my entire soul drained out of my body – like a Dementor sucking out the life of a prisoner.

In my heart, I have carried guilt for not rushing there. In my heart, I have felt as though I was keeping a huge secret from everyone. That if anyone found out I hadn’t rushed to see my Dad before he died, driving 100mph, and cutting off every motherfucker that got in my way, that I’d be looked down upon in the way I looked down upon myself for this.

Five years and two months later, I’d be faced with a similar situation. I sat in the stuffy waiting room when the social worker opened the door. “Ashley, it’s time to come in here.” I started to cry, tucked down into myself, and said, “No I can’t. I can’t go in there.”

And what came next, I’m not totally sure.

February – Squats and More Squats

The everyday challenge for February was a squat challenge. At the beginning of the month, I was working out every day and ended up doing most of the squats required each day in the workout. And if I didn’t, I would do them separately to get them done. Unfortunately, even if I was focusing on form (I used to practice Combined Kenpo and good form is everything to me lol), the squats were starting to irritate my lower back and hips. Over the last month or so I’ve been really having a hard time with my lower back and it’s getting in the way of me completing the physical monthly challenges I’m setting for myself.

One of the issues I think is causing it is my chair at work is broken and the seat is slanted. So even with stretching and taking care of myself in other ways, my back is still getting jacked up. I’m hoping to have a new chair soon maybe can redo some of these challenges later in the year!

When I was able to get the squats done I noticed a few things:

  • There are different squats for different muscles.  A sumo squat is going to work different muscles than a “ballet” squat. I liked doing different squats on different days.
  • I was surprised at how quickly my strength built up. I was able to do much more than I thought I would.
  • It’s an easy exercise you can do anywhere. It also helped stretch out my legs and glutes while strengthening.

This month my goal is to write every day. I’m not putting any guidelines on it – it can be for 5 minutes or 10; it can be about my day or something creative; it can be on here or in a notebook. Just writing whatever comes to mind 🙂