Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Best Films of 2016

2016 was a great year for films.  Usually I am able to narrow things down to a top 10 or at most a top 15.  This year I have a top 27 because I saw that many genuinely great movies this year.  There's also a movie on this list technically released in 2015 and that's because I didn't see it until early 2016 so it didn't make last years list and I think it deserves a mention.

Movies have become an important aspect of my life - they are a way for me to process feelings, learn and understand more about other people, become educated on topics unfamiliar to my every day lived experience, and they help me manage and recognize difficult emotions.


The Revenant - Director Alejandro González Iñárritu

I found this to be breathtakingly beautiful.  I could almost feel the cold air filling up my lungs.  Brutal and intense, Leonardo DiCaprio does an excellent job here, as is often the case with Mr. DiCaprio.  The story follows frontiersman Hugh Glass is a roughly based on some actual events.  The soundtrack and cinematography are excellent.  It's an intense film and I saw it more than once because I found the experience to be that worthy.  It's a story about grief, anger, tenacity, and the harsh realities of mother nature.  The experience in all can be rather transcendent. 


The Witch - Director Robert Eggers

Visually Compelling and spare in details, the film is set in puritanical New England cica 1630.   It utilizes a sort of nerve wracking tension that builds horrifically throughout the film.  The screen itself is quite dark and the tension never really lets up.  Every once in a while I really enjoy being scared on the level of a sort of abject terror.  Embedded within this terror is interesting exploration of religious fervor and suspicions that exists within a small community.  Family loyalties are also explored and tested.  If you don't like scary movies, you'll hate this, but otherwise I highly recommend it. 


Creative Control - Benjamin Dickinson

It's pretty likely you didn't hear about this one.  Creative Control is hard to describe, but delves into the ability to create our own virtual worlds.  To a certain extent we already live in this world.  My twitter feed is not your twitter feed, my google ad suggestions are not your google ad suggestions.  My facebook feed reflects only to a certain extent the thoughts and status of my friends, but more often reveals my interests in the way of the news, the ads, the content and the suggestions that more closely align with a reflection of myself.  Creative control takes this a step further when it looks at the ability to create a virtual reality peopled with people who live IRL (In real life) but who may appear differently in our virtual world.  I enjoyed that this was black and white with some occasional color for emphasis.  I like movies that explore new ideas.    

4.   Demolition - Jean-Marc Vallée

The main message here is that there is some beauty and maybe even redemption in a total breakdown.  I feel like this film really did not get the credit it deserves.  Gyllenhaal is a great as ever and the movie is smartly done and I thought had a really great message.  Following the death of his wife Gyllenhaal has to figure out what matters and in order to do so he has to kind of destroy everything and start from scratch.  I found it very refreshing, often funny, and touching.

5.  The Invitation -  Karyn Kusama

So I really liked this - it is more of a thriller and I enjoy a well made thriller.  This movie started my crush on my new boyfriend Logan Marshall Green who I think makes a cuter and more cali version of Tom Hardy (who I first noticed last year in Madame Bovary).  The premise is the main character and his girlfriend are invited to dinner party being held by his ex wife and her new partner.  The invitation is accepted but perhaps suspicious though we aren't really sure initially what is going on and maybe Logan Marshall Green is just being paranoid.  That's all I'm going to say so that I don't spoil it.  This was another movie that flew under the radar because it was independent and didn't get wide distribution (thank goodness for living in the Phoenix area that we are large enough to get some of these more obscure titles in the theatres).  Check it out I think you'll dig it if you like an interesting premise and a sort of edge of your seat experience.  (also again, Logan Marshall Green, he's adorable and you'll thank me later for making you aware of his cuteness.) 

6.   The First Monday in May - Andrew Rossi 

You guys this was stunning.  Every year the Metropolitan Museum of Art does the Met Gala and this is both a fundraiser and an exhibition that goes along with it which is themed - the year that this was filmed the theme was "China: Through the Looking Glass".  It is gorgeous feast for the eyes of the exploration of Chines influence on art and fashion through the ages.  I've seen this 3 times now and I actually purchased the movie on my Apple Itunes because it's that good.  I can't say enough good things about this.  This is why fashion should be considered an art form - I really believe for anyone who has ever questioned that premise, this movie should put that to rest.  

7.  A Bigger Splash - Luca Guadagnino

One day I was randomly looking for a french movie I saw a long time ago and perusing netflix to see if I could find it and some old french film popped up and I actually watched it and it was kind of weird but also kind of great.  Then this year I went to this movie and part way through I was like "oh hey wait a minute, I've seen this before" - which was because the old French movie I saw was "La Piscine" (1969) and it is the older version of this movie.  If you don't like meandering foreign films where you aren't quite sure what the point is going to be - then this probably isn't meant for you.  But if you DO dig those sorts of things, this is great.   Basically a character study in what happens when you place 4 people together in on a sun drenched island and sort of watch what kind of chemical reaction you can create out of it.  This also made me absolutely fall in love with the island of Pantelleria.  I'm so keen on visiting either the Italian or Spanish islands which I think have this great sort of volcanic beauty.  The movie is a bit of a meandering journey but I really liked the ride.  

8.  Sing Street - John Carney 

An adorable throw back to the 80s movie that reminds me of everything we loved about 80s romance like Pretty in Pink.  That's really all you need to know.  Trust me you'll love it.  Boy meets girl, boy has big dreams, girl has big dreams, hopeful and cute with heart.  

9.  King Jack - Felix Thompson 

This was quite a great little movie.  A coming of age story about a kid who lives in less than ideal circumstances, who is being bullied, but who himself is probably headed for a stint in juvie if he doesn't make some changes.  A story about what a kids world looks like when money is tight and parental supervision is lacking.  There's a lot of heart here and a lot of honesty.  The lead actor is great and it all seems totally authentic.  Ultimately hopeful, it sort of hit me in the feels and lingered.  

10.  Holy Hell - Will Allen 

This is a very thorough documentary because one of the members of the cult it is about began filming while being a participant in the movement beginning in 1985.  The movement was called Buddhafield.  It was a spiritual movement and it still exists in some form today.  The fascinating thing about this was to try to understand the hold the movement had on its participants which was quite strong.  In the beginning everything seemed like rainbows and unicorns but later, it seemed to take a darker turn.  Its hard to describe, you sort of have to watch it to really get a feel for what is going on here.  My daughter and I have discussed this movie several times and it is genuinely one of the more fascinating documentaries I saw this year.

11.  Keanu - Peter Atencio

This was the funniest movie I saw this year.  These guys were hilarious.  I loved the whole silly premise which was too nice dudes who stumble into pretending to be gangsters just to get their cat Keanu back who happens to have been taken by said a local gang.  It's a ridiculous premise and it worked wonderfully well at making everything that happens in this movie seem totally plausible in the least plausible way which gives you permission to laugh at everything.  

12.  Hell or High Water -  David Mackenzie  

Besides the fact that Chris Pine is a thing of beauty, this movie has a lot to offer.  This is a well paced tale of two men on the wrong side of the law for what appear to perhaps be the right reasons, although we aren't exactly sure.  You find yourself not being certain if we are rooting for the good guys or the bad guys or both.  Jeff Bridges superbly portrays an older sheriff here but all the acting is great all the way around. 

13.  Other People -  Chris Kelly

Molly Shannon does such a great job here as a woman dying of cancer.  The whole premise of this movie - a woman dying of cancer, makes it sound like something you'd rather avoid because who wants to be all depressed about that right?  But I loved how this movie explored what it means to really live and then die the right way, and how we can make sure we are living a life that is honest.  It's a tear jerker for sure, but in a way that stuck with me and made me feel better for having watched it.  There are some great humorous moments in this too that reminded me a lot of the ways in which families are complex things and sometimes the source of our greatest happiness and are greatest pains. 

14.  Miss Stevens - Julia Hart

Miss Stevens is about a group of high school students who go on a weekend trip with their teacher for a drama competition (similar to speech competitions for those familiar).  And even though the movie is sort of about that, what the movie is really about is a teacher who is only a biscuit older than her students and how anyone who spends some significant time around teens realizes we never really grow so old that we don't fundamentally relate to being a teenager still.  And teens aren't really so young that they can't understand what it means to be a grown up.  And there's a lot of fuzzy territory there in between.  This one was quiet and I really enjoyed the fact that I never totally knew where the plot was going and it had layers and layers of meaning and goodness that I just completely absorbed like a dose of the best medicine money could buy.

15.  City of Gold - Laura Gabbert

This is a documentary about a man's love affair with food.  It is beautiful.  And it is a delicious portrayal of everything that is awesome about the Los Angeles melting pot of neighborhoods and the culinary surprises that result.  I should buy this movie so that I can watch it again before I go to Los Angeles next time because it is chock full of wonderful information on where to get all the best LA has to offer.  My kids and I watched this together and fully enjoyed and savored every morsel of this film.  :)

16.  American Honey - Andrea Arnold

These kids who sell magazine subscriptions show up my door time and time again and I have never believed their B.S. and have often called them out on it.  This movie will do nothing to change the way I react to them when they show up - I'm still not going to buy their magazine subscriptions, however, it will make me remember their humanity a little bit more.  I know these kids.  These kids are kids who sit in my counseling office from time to time.  These kids are the forgotten kids.  The kids who dropped out of school because no one cared.  Who slipped through all the cracks all the way down to the very bottom and still no one really notices or cares.  And they will mostly continue to survive because at the end of the day, you almost can't really break these kids, that's how much resilience that have.  Sad but poetic.  I loved so many things about this very raw movie.  I saw the previews for this film with some friends and one of my friends remarked "that looks horribly depressing" but I had been sitting there watching the same preview thinking "man, I really have to see that movie".  It did not disappoint.  It was brilliant.  Cinematic and acting wise this film was one of the very best I saw all year.

17.  Blue Jay -  Alexandre Lehmann

The acting here is so good.  This movie is this quiet little story of two old high school sweethearts who run into each other in the grocery store in their hometown.  They haven't seen each other in years and we aren't really sure what to expect.  The movie unfolds in this slow dance between the two of them and gradually reveals bits of important information that helps explain why they broke up and why the feelings between the two of them appear to be so strong.  I really enjoyed this but it did make me SOB at some points.  So if you really hate crying, skip this.  But I'm glad I didn't skip it because I thought it was absolutely beautiful. 

18.  Moonlight - Barry Jenkins 

This was hands down my favorite movie this year.  It was just so beautiful.  The story is told in three parts like a symphony or a play, the film itself is gorgeous, and the story touches on themes of race, poverty, sexuality, and isolation.  The story is a very unique one and to some extent defies simple description.  The director uses a lot of metaphor and symbolism and it gave the movie a depth that allowed me to see it twice while still wishing to watch it again.  A movie like this proves what potential movies have to give us insight and meaning.  Truly a piece if art. 

19.  The Handmaid - Chan-wook Park 

This movie was just flat out gorgeous.  The story was interesting with tricky plot twists and kept me totally engaged, but even if the story had been awful, the images on the screen and set direction would still have been worth watching.  

20.  Noctural Animals - Tom Ford 

So the last movie Tom Ford directed was "A Single Man" and it was a beautiful and sad experience to watch, but in a good way.  This story and the tone is a little different, but I enjoyed it very much.  A Single Man felt more quiet and contemplative whereas this movie is more in the vein of a thriller.   As always, Tom Ford dazzles with interesting imagery and an eye for incredible detail.  

21.  Arrival - Dennis Villeneuve

Two Amy Adams movies in a row here.  What I loved about this is I don't even particularly like alien type movies and I found this one so unique and great.  The message of this movie above all else was very heartening and uplifting.  Amy Adams does a great job and this movie has a beauty that I really enjoyed as well.  Even if you're normally not much interested in an "alien" film, I recommend you give this a shot.  

22.  The Lobster - Yorgos Lanthimos 

You guys this was weird and good.  I saw it more than once because I really wanted to totally understand all aspects of this and I felt I missed some things the first time.  The premise of this movie is that being single is totally unacceptable.  You MUST have a partner. If not, you probably shouldn't live as a human and should be an animal instead.  The total weirdness of this is just too difficult to explain but it makes some very funny criticism of the culture of dating/marriage and placing such a high premium on being with someone.  It seems to equally criticize those who think being in a relationship is a waste of time or anathema to having a fulfilling and important life.  I guarantee this movie won't bore you.  

23. Jackie - Pablo Larrain

This was such a powerful film.  First of all, Natalie Portman does an amazing portrayal of Jackie Kennedy.  Secondly, the focus on the timing between the assassination of President Kennedy and the funeral and Jackie's hyper focus on the optics of it all is a fascinating way to approach this topic.  This movie helped to contextualize so much about the Kennedy legacy and to really put myself in Jackie's shoes.  I thought it was amazing.  

24.  La La Land - Damien Chazelle 

This was crazy good.  I loved everything about it.  Ryan Gosling continues to be the best boyfriend anyone could ever have.  I loved the chemistry between him and Emma Stone.  The songs from this movie have been stuck in my head every since I saw it.  No one really makes musicals like this anymore and the director figured out a way to do it and pay homage to musicals of old while still keeping it fresh.  That's tricky but it worked out wonderfully well.

25.  Manchester by the Sea - Kenneth Longergan

You guys this is really sad.  But SO good.  Casey Affleck does an amazing job.  It's heartwarming and not totally depressing in every single way - but fair warning, it is FAIRLY depressing.  One of the people I attended this with was pretty much clinically upset afterwards.  Still one of the best movies of the year.

26.  Elle - Paul Verhoeven

This is the same director  did Basic Instinct - and this film has a similar darkness.  This was a completely new take on a sort of old idea - the idea of how sexual assault may impact a powerful woman.  Some aspects of this I never saw coming and I found it fascinating how the director played around with this theme.  I love a good french film.  Isabelle Huppert is a great actress and really makes this film work.

27.  Lion - Garth Davis

This was a gorgeous movie with so much heart.  Based on a true story of a boy in India who became lost and eventually finds his family many years later.  That premise sounded like a thin one to create an entire feature film around but believe me, this is a movie that will engage you from beginning to end.

I know! 27 movies!  That I gave 5 stars each to this year.  It's a crazy amount.  Also that seems like a lot of movies to see!  But I do love movies you guys.  There's almost nothing I would rather do on the weekend than see a movie if I can.  I also lucked out this year with many gifted movie tickets and that made my movie watching a lot more doable.

There are a few movies that I wanted to see in 2016 that I wasn't able to see too so I am hoping to catch up on some of those soon.  20th Century Women doesn't start here for a couple more weeks and I think it looks excellent based on the trailers.  Here's to more great films in 2017.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Playing it as it Lays

8 minute memoir


One time I was such an emotional mess I stayed in bed and cried for days on end.  I got up to run my kids to school and back and that was it.  That's all I could do.

One time I was such an emotional mess I would drive through Culvers for dinner almost every night and get a tuna fish sandwich because that was all I could think of to eat.

One time I was such an emotional mess I felt the skin on my arms burning from within.  It felt like wearing my nerves on the outside of my skin.  Anything touching me felt painful.

One time I was such an emotional mess I would wake up from dreams where people put guns to my head and pulled the trigger.   I would wake up when I died.

One time I was such an emotional mess that almost any song on the radio could make me cry.

One time I was such an emotional mess and it felt like it would never get any better.

I would drive and drive all over the city and I felt like Maria Wyeth in Play it As It Lays.  I was staring in my own Joan Didion novel.

“I know what "nothing" means, and keep on playing.” 
― Joan DidionPlay It as It Lays

So I just kept on.

There's a lot of wisdom in a Joan Didion novel.  Sometimes you have to just keep going.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Exactly why I'm with "Her"

Twice in the past couple of months friends of mine who are conservative have asked an honest question about if I am supporting Hillary Clinton and why.  In both cases I didn't really want to get into a long conversation about it because I really don't like to disagree over politics with family and friends.  That may sound surprising to some people because I certainly have been known to have strong feelings about politics and I certainly have at times gotten into a heated discussion about them.

This blog post is an attempt to answer those questions more fully for anyone who might be interested.

First off, I think I have to make it clear that my vote for Hillary is not just a vote against Donald Trump.  Yes, it is also that - I can't imagine having Donald Trump as our President. I don't think I need to go into all of the reasons why.  Donald Trump is a well-documented huckster and prone to saying things a reasonable person can only conclude are sexist, racist and xenophobic.  Enough said about that guy.  That's a whole other discussion.

I am voting for Hillary for the following reasons:

Because Meryl Streep likes her and Meryl Streep is my favorite.  

Kidding!  This is not why! 

These are the real reasons why: 

1.  Hillary Clinton is incredibly qualified.  I highly recommend the PBS Frontline Documentary on both candidates if you haven't watched it yet.  It goes into very great detail on her early years and all of her achievements, etc. (it covers Trumps as well).  She was raised in a conservative household.  After she graduated from high school Hillary Clinton attended Wellesley.  While there she was part of the young republicans for time.  I relate to this because I started out in college believing I was a republican but the more I studied politics the more I realized my heart could never reconcile some conservative belief with my more liberal tendencies.  Hillary has said the Vietnam War and Civil Rights Movement changed her political views.   She's always been a hard worker and been involved in politics both as a republican and as a democrat since she was very young.  She attended Yale Law School after graduating from Wellesley with honors.  She took an early interest in child abuse cases and the problems of migrant workers.  She worked for the Children's Defense Fund.  She later became a partner at a law firm and the first lady of Arkansas.  She was a law professor at the University of Arkansas.  She became the first lady of the United States, a senator in New York and then the Secretary of State.  I honestly don't think anyone can top these qualifications.  

2.  She has supported causes I believe are important.  As mentioned above the defense of vulnerable children has always been something she has cared about.  She's been a big supporter of the 9/11 first responders.  She cares about health care and has advocated for reform.  She's credited with launching the Children's Health Care Insurance Program.  She's advocated for human rights across the world and has promoted diplomacy.  She advocated for the Lilly Ledbetter Pay Equality act and helped get it pushed into law.  She's advocated for women.  She's advocated for paternity leave for men. 

3.  Her policy plans are things I mostly agree with.  I believe it's unrealistic to look for a candidate you're going to agree with 100% of the time.  My views line up with hers about 95% of the time and that makes me feel pretty comfortable.  

And now to address familiar concerns raised by others: 

1.  Bengazi.  There have been $7 million dollars spent on Benghazi investigations.  There are 1,982 pages of published reports on Benghazi. There have been 10 hearings.  There has been no evidence of Clinton or her administration doing anything wrong.  There was no "stand down" call.  It has never been found to be true.  The family of Chris Stevens who was killed in the siege on Benghazi have asked people to quit blaming Clinton.
Additionally I have never understood the obsession over this when there were 13 attacks on US embassies under the Bush administration and 60 people were killed. 

2.  The emails.  Again with the emails.  Look.  I think her having the emails on a private server was probably dumb.   BUT the way the government was handling emails on both sides of the aisle was equally dumb.  Colin Powell did something incredibly similar. General David Patraeus, while he was the director of the CIA gave his mistress a series of black books that contained actual classified information.  Patraeus admits this.  And yet at the time the Republicans (like John McCain) said "everyone makes mistakes sometimes".  And they called the scrutiny "silly".  Even though Patraeus first lied about it before coming clean.   With the emails Clinton sent that were suppose to be Classified you need to understand emails may be classified as such at 'inception' but they can retroactively be categorized that way - many of the Clinton emails that were brought up as "classified" were only later to be considered as such.   Please read this article if you really want a good purview of why the scandal really shouldn't be - it explains it a lot better than I'm going to be able to.
There are 16 volumes of information on how administrative functions should occur in regards to Clinton's office as Secretary of State and minutia like how emails should be handled.  Yes, maybe someone should have been charged with making sure everything was being done correctly.  But my reading of the situation is that it was a cluster fugazy to try to figure out what was allowed and what wasn't.  Honestly please, if this issue really bothers you, please go read the article I linked from Newsweek.  By the way - have you read any of the emails?  I have.  They made me like her so much more!  In her emails she comes across as someone caring, who takes time to writes nice notes to people, to tell people congrats, to ask funny questions, she's a tough negotiator, she worries about people.  These are qualities I want in a leader of our country!  She's also inadverntently funny at times in some of those emails which reminded me a little of Selena Meyers on "The Veep".  That also makes me like her.  

3.  Everyone loves to call her a liar.  Look, I think it's pretty unrealistic to believe anyone in politics is able to be 100% honest all the time.  I don't care who we are talking about.  I published this chart on my fb page and some conservatives thought it was a crazy chart.


People really questioned this and so let me clarify in case you saw this and wondered how valid it could be.  The data came from an open source - it wasn't manipulated.  Politifact did the fact checking and they are non-partisan.  Donald Trump had a total of 202 statements who Politifact had rated.  These were all statements made during his campaign.  Hillary Clinton had 225 rated - hers were rated beginning 2007 and covers her time as a previous candidate for president and this go-round.  These statements can also been checked by The Washington Post and which both also check validity of statements made.  Trump loves to call Hillary a liar but this does not actually make her a liar.  Jill Abramson said she has launched multiple investigations into Hillary, her business dealings and her fundraising as well as her foundation.  Abramson has been a bur in the side of the Clinton's at times because she has investigated them so much and yet, she has said "Hillary Clinton is fundamentally honest and trustworthy".   Hillary Clinton has been hated by the right since the time that her husband ran for President.  The idea has been floated that she is a "liar" since before the internet was even really a thing.   It feels like a witch hunt that is never going to end.  It feels incredibly unfair to me.  The more I've investigated myself into old scandals like Whitewater and looked at old articles the more I've come to believe this is an accusation waged against her forever with no actual evidence to back it up that amounts to anything that would sway my vote.

Did you know that Republicans once spent 140 hours investigating the White House Christmas Card List when the Clintons were in the white house?  There has been an exhaustive constant search for "scandals".  

4.  Money and her speeches.  The speeches pretty well got released yesterday.  Did you read through them?  I did.  Nothing to see here folks.  Honestly again, I thought they were mostly well said and balanced views that align pretty well with what is probably a realistic approach to government, politics and the private sector and how they have to dovetail.  But let's talk about the money.  The talking fees.  She has earned about $200,000 or more for a single speech.  That seems crazy to a lot of people.  Okay but that is a well established and long standing way for people in the public eye to make money.  Paris Hilton has been paid $750,000 to show up for a party.  Even lower level celebrities get paid small fees for showing up at events and openings.  Other people who get paid just as much as Hillary?  Guy Fieri (right - the food network guy), "Larry the Cable Guy", and Michael Phelps.  Speaking Engagements as a job is a thing and it has been a thing for a long time.  Many former presidents and first ladies have made a tidy sum in retirement on the speaking circuit.  Jeb Bush has made millions of dollars in paid speeches.  Corporations pay for speakers all the time.  Donald Trump has been paid 1.5 million before for public engagements.  Why is she being held to a different standard that literally anyone else?  

Is Hillary Clinton perfect?  No of course not.  But I believe is by far and by a wide margin the best possible candidate.  Which is why...

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Love Notes to myself on my Birthday

8 minute memoir - Birthdays

Birthdays always feel like a complicated affair for me.  It's really nice to have a day that other people acknowledge as a special day you were born and yet somehow that's always a little uncomfortable for me too.  Birthdays have often been this weird let down kind of feeling for me - even when I was much younger, and I've never been able to explain where that comes from really.  I've gotten into fights with friends on my birthday.  I've cried after leaving a birthday celebration.  I really related to Betheny Frankel when she spent her birthday crying in the bathroom at an extravagent party.  It's never been the fault of anyone - but it's always just felt like a very strangely disappointing day. 

This year on my work calendar I noticed on July 27th it said "take off this day if you still work here".  I made that little note on the calendar a year earlier.  I remember that birthday, when I turned 48 was a particularly trying day for me.  It was a day filled with stress, both personal stress and stress at work.  And I remember when I finally got around to going to dinner with 2 of my kids that evening I just felt like that birthday was more stressful than most and hence, the next day I made this nice little mental note and calendar note to take off my birthday next time it came around.

As July approached I didn't delete the note to myself but I also did not plan to take off that day.  It seemed silly and wasteful to use one of my vacation days on a day when actually, I probably didn't have much to do to celebrate anyway.  Besides, who celebrates 49?

But every day in July when I logged into my calendar and scanned my appointments, there that little reminder sat blinking away at me.  It sort of taunted me.  I thought about deleting it, but I couldn't quite make it go away.  It felt like if I deleted it 48 year old me from 2015 was going to be pretty irritated with 2016 me.

Finally, the week before I turned 49 I arranged to have the day off.

It was the best decision of my life.  Okay, that's a little hyberbolic, it was a good decision.  The best decision of my life was deciding to have kids.  My kids have always made my birthdays really great.  I think it's just me that's always overthinking on my birthday.  Having the day off this year helped me to not overthink it.  I went with the flow.  Jordan and I got crêpes.  I did a little shopping.  I got a pedicure.  I went to dinner with my kids and had a delicious burger.

Here's the thing. I actually think I do know the reasons my birthdays are complicated affairs for me.  And it's more than I want to divulge in an 8 minute memoir.  Maybe you have complicated feelings about your birthdays too.  Lots of people do.

What I know for sure is when July 27, 2017 rolls around I will be taking that day off too.  I already made a note.  I'll be floating in my pool, having lunch with someone I love, or eating a Sprinkles cupcake.  Whether I'm alone or with other people the secret is this - just be nice to yourself that day.  I'm the one who has been screwing up my birthdays this whole time.  I'm guessing that's why birthdays feel great when you're 1 - you're too young to get in your own way of having a great time. 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Tag and other Torture

8 minute memoir

I'm way behind on these but what else is new?

Being 8 years old.

eight.  I barely remember it and yet I remember it all.  I remember eight was maybe the first time I felt truly bullied at school.  It's not a fun memory but it happened a lot that year.  It caused me to get in a fight, to slap a girl across the face and to be sent to the principals office.  The principal was actually on my side in the whole thing so I really didn't get in too much trouble.  She gave the other girl a lecture about pushing people too far.  In that scenario I was people.  She had a big ol beehive.  It was 1975 and that was probably kind of out of style by then, but not in my little small town.

My school was a super small country school so our principal was also my teacher that year.  Mrs. McCullough. I thought she was pretty keen.  But one day she made me stay in at recess because I couldn't count the little stack of coins she gave us and get the right answer.  I kept counting the nickels and dimes wrong because I thought the bigger coins should be worth more than the tiny ones.  So I guess that was also my first experience of being dead wrong and someone calling me out on it.  She sat at her desk grading papers.  I felt a slow panic about missing out on lunch.  Missing out on lunch meant I'd probably get left out when I finally got there and probably left out at lunch recess too. The panic did nothing to improve my counting skills.  She kept saying "you'll get it, try again". She seemed to know I really wanted her to just rescue me from the torture and I was being pretty dramatic about the whole thing and she wasn't having it.  I finally got the right answer but it was probably the beginning of a long and worrying relationship with math.

I wore a lot of polyester back then and spandex like material.  Our school had bats in the attic that would occasionally make their way down in the hallways.   We had delicious lunches with fluffy rolls and yummy mashed potatoes and gravy and peanut butter bars that were to die for.  I had a best friend I fought with all the time.  I feel unsettled when I think about most of my elementary school years.  I don't know exactly why.  I just felt a low level of anxiety a lot.  I hated sports and I was terrible at the types of things they're always encouraging 8 year olds to do.  Playing kickball or tag is not very fun when you are a slow runner.  You're always letting down your team or "it" during tag, which gets real old.  That year someone made fun of how I ran and that pretty much put me off running for the rest of my life too.  I mean, not really, but yeah, kinda.  I blamed it on the fact that I was always wearing fancy little black patent leather shoes most of the time.  Then the same kid made fun of me all year for saying that it was because of my shoes.  I was always trying to not get messed up and stay pristine.  I was prissy in the sort of annoying way when kids don't like getting their clothes messed up.  I was more the kind of kid you'd find sitting under a tree reading Little House on the Prairie or Trixie Belden.  That doesn't usually count for much when you're 8.  Other eight year olds don't exactly admire that as a

I wanted to be a writer when I grew up and I sent away to one of those things in the back of a magazine that tells you if you have promise or not.  They sent back and said I showed a lot of promise and I should sign up for classes.  I'd imagine they were pricey correspondence courses.  I was just pretty thrilled they liked my stuff.  I had written a story about a little girl and Christmas called "Lydia's Christmas". I didn't know anyone named Lydia so I was pretty impressed with my creativity. Imagine my surprise when my mom wasn't too keen on that plan.  WHAT? But they said I had talent mom.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Cakes are done, people are finished.

8 minute memoir 


Would you like to know the definition of deep existential angst?  It is having 433 books on my "to read list".  It is having 140 movies currently on my "movies to see" list.  It is knowing I would like to see Greece, Versailles, Ibiza, and Bali before I die.  And that's just for starters.  It is knowing there are states inside the United States I haven't been to yet.  It is knowing I have secret deep desire to stay in the Chateau Marmont  someday when the minimum of $500 a night isn't going to make my little debit card cry.  I mean, sometimes I stare at Pinterest and just pin and pin and pin places I'd like to go, outfits I would wear if I were thinner, jewelry I would buy if money were no object, couches I would just die to own, and I just create longer and longer lists of things I'll probably never finish.

Will I really make my own lavender vanilla sugar scrub?  Will I really paint pumpkins and arrange flowers inside of them?  Will I ever actually make the peach cobbler in the crock pot?  Would I paint my front door hot pink?

The thing is, I never really can say for sure.

Here is what I do know.  I finished my bachelor's degree at 45 years old.  I've repainted my front door from white to green to black to red. I finished my Master's degree at 48 years old.  I painted some walls in my house black even though there were a lot of naysayers (they were wrong.)  Who knows what I will do?  My unfinished list of books is 433 long but my finished list is 722 and that probably isn't every book I ever read.  I finished all the seasons of Mad Men like I was in a fever dream one summer.  One never knows what one can accomplish when we decide to do it, even if that "it" is finally watching all the Audrey Hepburn movies you missed.  I am kind of likely to take up yoga.  I may take up running (I mean, probably not, but the point is you never know for sure.)

There are lots of things I'll probably never finish.  Things you will probably never finish.  But there are lots and lots of things that you should at least consider finishing, because otherwise, what is the point really?

My Senior English teacher Mrs. Barton used to say all the time "Cakes are done, people are finished." I am neither done, nor finished, just yet.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Magical Thinking Games

8 minute memoir


It is possible there is no group more predisposed to magical thinking than teenage girls. 

When you hear the song on the radio - you know the one - the special one that makes you think about that cute boy you like - you know the one - the one with the slow smile and the tan muscular arms - or the one who always wears his football jersey and seems kind of shy - or the one with the flashy car and and the deep hazel eyes - or the one who made you laugh that time in science class. 

When the song comes on you have to start driving as fast as you can.  Or as fast as you dare without getting a ticket while you are driving your moms Thunderbird, or your moms Chevrolet.  You start driving as fast as you can to the street where they live, to the house you know so well, you practically know how many bricks tall it is, you know the petunias are slightly wilting in the late summer heat, you know the dad might be out front with his hose and you hope - you really really hope he won't be there because if he is you'll have to drive by so fast that you won't be able to really check out the house, to see if his car might be in the driveway, to see if the window that you are pretty sure is his is possibly offering a glimpse or even just a shadow that might be him. 

The game is this - if you can get to his house before the song ends, if you can drive by his house while it is still playing, it is the best of Omens.  It is the omen that says all those times you stared at his arms during class, all those times you listened for his name on the radio while the game was broadcast, all those times you melted when he smiled at you, all those times you thought for sure you were going to be the future Mrs. Football, the future Mrs. Deep Hazel Eyes, the future Mrs. Electric Guitar Player, the future Mrs. Science Partner, the future Mrs. Yellow Convertible - all those times are destined to come true.  

This was our attempt at a version of punk rock band called "hot rash"
In our more usual state as nice mormon girls

when your parents say you are too young to date so you all go to the 9th grade dance together

when you decide to all be in the "future homemakers of America" club


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