Saturday, August 27, 2016

8 minute list of happiness

8 minute memoir writing prompt

Little Things:

I'm always saying this and I know it sounds so cliche but it really is the little things that make us happy.  Several years ago I went through a rough patch and it was hard to feel really happy.  I think I did a pretty good job of focusing on the things that would move me forward.  But there were definitely days when I just didn't feel like doing that at all.  And sometimes the smallest things would help pull me out of that.  I began keeping a list of little things that cheered me up on a bad day.  Here's a partial list:

Sea glass I found on a beach

The film Amelie

A poem

Teenager who smiled at me

Fresh cut grass

Fortune cookies

Smell of Coconut

Smell of Cinnamon


A warm breeze


My dogs

Quiet afternoons

French pop music

Swimming pool

Mason jar full of water and ice

campfire sparks

Deep indigo skies before a rain storm

Desert plants

Big white fluffy clouds

bright red lipstick

worn out black converse

Andy Warhol

Documentary about Anna Wintour


Tuna Fish

Diet Coke


Practicing French

Driving with the windows down

Fat Babies

Short Cuts

Mad Men

Charlie Hunnam


Kate McKinnon


That's my 8 minute list.  One thing I learned in keeping track of the little things that made me happy in a given day was that there are so many things that do make me happy.  Even on days when everything is terrible.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Jade Dragons, Ghosts, Fecund Earth and Mummy Mountain

8 minute memoir writing prompt: Adventures


Let me tell you about a few adventures I have had in my life and they all happened in my Prius.   I love my Prius because when you drive you can't hear anything at all.  I feel very stealthy. 

I drove to San Francisco by myself with two of my kids.  I parallel parked in China Town.  I wandered around City Lights bookstore and then I ran up the street to my car again when the meter threatened, past the ducks hanging in the windows, past the little green jade dragons, and past the smells of gingered food.  I fed my meter and walked back down and looked around that bookstore until I found the perfect book.  We drove up down and all around that town.  I found a parking spot right in front of Ben & Jerry's at the intersection of Haight and Ashbury and I parallel parked there like a champ too.

I drove to Tucson and attended a conference and in my off time I drove around the desert roads and found The Mission San Xavier Del Bac.  I was there all alone.  I hiked up to the little hill and sat on a stone and breathed in a wonderful amount of creosote.  Creosote so delicious is almost smelled the tiniest bit like coconut mixed with creosote.  It was heavenly.  Then I started wondering if that was a ghost.  I really did.  Sometimes I smell weird things that shouldn't be there and think about things like that.

My little Prius carried me and my kids all the way to Idaho on familiar roads and byways.   I rolled down the window when I got into the upper valley and it was almost midnight.  I could smell soil.  Rich, earthy, wet dirt, and it did smell just like home.  The air hung with the scent of well watered fields and dank growth and it felt kind of magical.  Summer nights in Idaho are full of stars you can actually see, earth you can smell, and quiet.

Sometimes when I can't go anywhere far my Prius carries me around the back side of Mummy Mountain.  My daughter and I drive up and down the little drives with the windows rolled down and our favorite Spotify lists on repeat.  We sneak up on Javelinas. We dodge cotton tail bunnies. We wonder how people make their multi-million dollars.  We chose the house we would buy if we had a billionaires budget.  We also choose the smaller houses.  The little haciendas.  The house that was built in the 60s.  The house with the lovely brick and stone paths.  The ones probably no one would pick.   We love it when it starts to Monsoon and you can feel the electricity in the air.  My Prius climbs up the side of Camelback Mountain and we feel like we're on top the world.  Or at least on top of this world.

Monday, August 22, 2016


8 minute writing prompt: Billboards


The Arizona freeways have very few billboards.  I like that. When I travel through Utah I see a lot of billboards for plastic surgery for some reason.  When I travel through Las Vegas I see a lot of women who have already had plastic surgery in very small outfits trying to advertise the casinos and shows.  Women's bodies, when I come to think of it, occupy a lot of space in advertising.

I  have such mixed and complicated feelings about how much space women's bodies should occupy in our collective economy, space, and conversation.  Although I think it has become more complicated to be a male recently, I still think those expectations pale in comparison to being a woman.  Women think about their bodies, food, clothing sizes, desirability, beauty products, and ways they can control all of these things to an astonishing degree.  Wraps, eye creams, Botox, vitamins, vaginoplasty, waxes, steams, tucks, tattoo makeup, and implants.  Weight watchers, Jenny Craig, Nutri-System, Diet Center, LA Weightloss, Curves, Modified Starving Fast, and fricking Slim Fast.  Think about all the ways we keep women occupied.  And broke.

I have dieted, lasered, surgically altered, starved, and binged.  I have purchased expensive creams meant to make me immortal.  I bought the spanx, drank the lemon with cayenne, and did more than one water aerobics class into the night.

And you know what? I still occupy way too much space.  And I still don't occupy the right proportion of space to ever be one of the women on the Billboard.

Sometimes I think maybe that's something to be grateful for.

And sometimes I re-read my copy of intuitive eating again and just try to get it right. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Packing Babies Away In Cotton

8 minute writing prompt (in case you missed the prior post I'm doing this thing) ~

I don't remember:

I don't remember every day of each one of my children's childhoods.  I sure wish that I did.  I wish there was a way to lock up every memory of every day.  I would have packed them up in little boxes like the ones from Tiffany's.   I would have packed each of those memories in tight with lots of cotton and tissue so that nothing could escape. I'd have closets full of them.  Just so that I could now unpack them and experience each one of them anytime I liked.  

I wish I could go back for a 24 hour period and revisit my children as babies and toddlers.  I would hold them all day long.  I would smell their sweet little baby heads and I would rock them and snuggle and I wouldn't talk to anyone else all day long except them.  I would stare into their eyes and I would know who they were going to be and it would be so gratifying and perfect.  Because in that moment there would be no worries, and no fears.  I would quit being hard on myself for not being a good enough mom, I would believe that everything I was going to do, even though it would be chock full of mistakes and glaring errors, would still be pretty darn good.  For one perfect 24 hour period everything would be bliss.

I suppose I want to do this because so much of what I remember about their babyhoods and childhoods ends up with me thinking about the low level of insecurity I had at the time about not doing it quite as well as I would like.  I wanted to be the mom who baked cakes from scratch, read to them every day, limited tv (or eliminated it altogether), played at the park, and always answered every question with love and thoughtfulness. 

Instead more than likely I was making frozen chicken nuggets, running out of ketchup again, scrubbing magic marker off the baby's belly, and rushing everyone off on a last minute errand and no one can find shoes because I am not organized enough to always know where the dang shoes are at all times.  Probably they are outside underneath the slowly deteriorating trampoline which some people probably think is dangerous for my children to play on because it doesn't even have proper bumper pads anymore and the springs are looking pretty sketchy. 

But now from my present position, I look back on that momma with a lot of compassion, and in fact, admiration for a job well done.  I wish my memories were more of all the things I might have done right.  But more than anything I would just love to remember every little thing about every day all over again.  

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

And then I quit writing but I thought maybe I'd fix that now.

So about the time graduate school happened my blog became a sort of thing of the past.  And I very much have missed writing. So I created goals for myself to write more, read more, social media less and a bunch of other ways I'm trying to balance out my life.  Then I happened upon a writing challenge wherein there is a prompt and then you set your timer for 8 minutes and just write.  And so this is my first attempt. 

I remember: 

I remember when I was 17 years old and there was a specific moment in time when while taking a bath in my white porcelain tub and staring down at my thighs and feet popping out of the water.  I remember thinking that this moment was a moment I should remember.  I was on the cusp of graduating and still a kid but almost an adult.  I had spent the majority of my junior and senior year of high school in a kind of funk and depression about life.  I remember thinking for the first time, in a very long time, that maybe I could get past the depression.
 I can barely remember now what all the reasons for the depression were.  I think they had to do with fitting in, with being enough, and believing I wasn’t enough of any of the right things and too many of the wrong things.  In that moment in the bathtub I had some moment of clarity. I remember feeling the depression sort of lifting away from my body and melting into the tub with the bubbles and the water and eventually circling the drain as I got out.  Even though I don’t remember or even any longer understand all the reasons why I was depressed, I remember that it felt very overwhelming at the time.  The tenor and magnitude of the depression is still a vivid memory for me.  It felt like a secret burden I carried around with me all the time, like an invisible backpack no one else could see. The moment in the bathtub was also a moment when I saw a vision of what the future could be.  I began to believe just the tiniest bit in an adult version of myself, and I began in the smallest way to suspect that maybe after all, I really was enough. 
My body suddenly seemed a little better than it had an hour before.  My mind felt clear.  For the first time I began to envision a future for myself.  It was the beginning of adulthood and the ending of childhood and I had the good fortune to feel and experience the transition. 


Friday, January 01, 2016

Films I loved in 2015

I always enjoy rounding up my recommendations for films for the current year.  I keep track of movies as I see them during the year and I jot down a few thoughts and give them a star rating out of 5.  These are all movies that received a 5 star from me.  As usual, these are the best of the films I saw - I am sure there are other great movies out there but I might not have seen them.  In no particular order

1.  Mommy By Xavier Dolan 

This film was about the intensity of the love between a mother and her son.  What I loved was two-fold.  First off I loved the telling of the intensity of this relationship because the son is very challenging and obviously has some mental health challenges that make parenting particularly taxing.  At the same time you have the sense that mom hasn't always known how to be the best mom either.  Though explosive at times, the underlying emotion here is devotion between the two of them.  I also loved how this was shot on a square format.  There were some camera techniques that were very unique and I thought really added to the overall feeling of the movie.  

French w/ subtitles, this one got a 90% rating on rotten tomatoes. 

2.  While We're Young by Noah Baumbauch

If you're over the age of about 39 you know someone who is desperately trying to stay young.  And failing.  Because if you're trying too hard to stay young, I guarantee it's not working. If you know that person (and maybe even if you are that person) this movie is just the thing to both confirm how ridiculous it is to try to stay youthful and relevant, while at the same time perhaps reminding you youth is really mind over matter anyway.  The young all just want to be established and successful and the old just want to be young again.  It's a silly existential dance we do when we try to circumvent the natural progression of life and stay transfixed in time we no longer belong to.  But don't let the seriousness of that description I just penned dissuade you - this is actually really funny.  There are some hilarious comparisons between the newer generation of hipster and the aging gen x adults who grapple to understand why a VCR would be somehow trendier than digital and trying to remember why we gave up vinyl music albums in the first place if they were so dang cool.  This hit home for me too because there is a scene where the desperate to be cool Ben Stiller and Noami Watts decide to try Ayahuasca in hopes the hallucinogen will bring them to some deep and profound point that will erase the angst of aging and renew their youthful outlook while giving them buckets of meaning.  If you know anything about Ayahuasca you know it usually brings buckets of puke along with it's insight.  This hit home for me because I recently had a long conversation with a 40 something who bought a trip to South America specifically to go try Ayahuasca in the hopes of finding her purpose in life.  I really think she's just having a mid life crisis and I wanted to prescribe she go watch this film instead.  I think you'll enjoy this no matter your age and no matter how cool you're trying to be (or not).  

Rotten Tomatoes - 86%

3. Dior and I by Frederic Tcheng 

This film is an absolute dream.  Later, I had to buy this on digital so I can watch it whenever I want.  Seeing the inspiring creative process of Dior's Raf Simons (who sadly, just left Dior a few weeks ago) is nothing short of miraculous. Watching the process of creating the couture gowns and all the hand stitching was just incredible.  The amount of work that goes into a collection and a show is just astounding.  I can't really recommend this enough.  

This one is in french a fair amount of time  but not always - partially english. Rotten Tomatoes 81% 

4.  Kurt Cobain - Montage of Heck by Brett Morgen 

Okay look pretty much everyone who knows me knows that I love Kurt Cobain so maybe I'm a little biased on this movie.  But I think even if you don't like Cobain this is still entertaining, informative, and an enjoyable ride.  The documentary takes an intimate look at Cobain using footage never before seen and augmenting the movie with his artwork in ways that are both provocative and give context and meaning to who Cobain was.  For me it was poignant, profound and heartrending.  

97% on Rotten Tomatoes

[if you want to really go down a Cobain rabbit hole, follow this up with the way more non-mainstream view of the Kurt and Courtney story on Netflix and watch "Soaked in Bleach"]

5.  Diary of a Teenage Girl - by Marielle Heller 

This film, in spite of being a somewhat disturbing subject matter on it's face, really hit a an interesting balance between tackling a difficult topic and keeping it non-exploitative.  To simplify a complex topic the movie is about a coming of age for our teenage protagonist Minnie.  But that coming of age is fraught with the difficulties of a mother who parties too much and pays little to no attention to what is going on with her daughter.  That daughter's first real boyfriend is also her mother's boyfriend.  You sort of want to hate Alexander Skarsgard for taking advantage of a teenage girl and you feel compelled to consider him a predator or a pedophile, but you also realize it's more complicated than that for Minnie.  There are no simple emotions or situations here and the film is set in the midst of San Francisco during the post free love age that pretty much confused everything for everyone.  High moral ground you won't really find here.  But what you will find is a portrayal of everything that is both awesome and horrible about being a teenage girl.  The setting of the 70s was so spot on where some films get it wrong, this is really what the 70s looked like.  

Rotten Tomatoes 94%

6.  Far From the Madding Crowd -  Thomas Vinterberg

Based on Thomas Hardy's original book - the melodrama of some of these old stories is both kind of funny and refreshing.  This movie is as romantic as it gets.  I loved Carry Mulligan and Matthias Schoenaerts chemistry in this movie.  What can I say?  This movie is about star-crossed love at it's best, improbable and perfect.   Enjoy it for what it is.  

Rotten Tomatoes 86%

7. Crimson Peak  - Guillermo Del Toro

Sometimes you just want a good old fashioned gothic style ghost story and this one really worked for me.  Del Toro is a dude with a huge imagination and I thought this film really captured all the elements of a perfect ghost story.  The film is also beautiful and the attention to detail with the sets and costumes is excellent.  

Rotten Tomatoes 69%

By the Sea - Angelina Jolie 

Okay hear me out on this one.  Do not go if you don't like slow movies, movies with very little plot, subtle subtext, or long shots that linger on stylistic elements.  DO see this if you like any of those things, and additionally love little sea villages, gorgeous clothes, beautiful rooms, languid shots, subdued plot, pretty people, and general moodiness.  This is right up my alley, but I'm fully aware I am in the minority about these sorts of things.  There's also some kinda deep stuff about voyeurism and obsession with other people's lives which feels particularly interesting coming from Angelina.  Whatever else can be said about this I think there is no doubt Angelina meant to make a film that felt more like something created in the mid to early 70s.  A beautiful film that gets all the right shots and that is totally accomplished here.  

32% Rotten Tomatoes (see, no one liked it except me)

The Intern - Nancy Myers

First off, Nancy Myers is my feel good guru.  This movie was just sweet as all get-out.  How rare is it that a movie explores a friendship between a man and a woman and it REALLY is just about friendship. Sometimes I like to just sit on the couch and escape from the world with a good Nancy Myers movie and this is one I'll probably buy for that purpose.  There's also, as usual with Nancy, some scrummy interiors to drool over and the main action of the movie is a JCREW-like office in New York that is also visually lovely (and a dream work place environment).

Rotten Tomatoes - 61%

The Second Mother - Anna Muylaert

This is as foreign film that explores the complexities of a classist society.  Set in Brazil, the film is about the relationship between a maid and the household family members she has been employed with for a long time.  Her relationship with the son of the household is more like that of mother and son rather than an employee.  There are other complications with relationships between family members as well including difficulties with her own daughter.  It sounds overly dramatic and there is some drama, but it is also very funny at times, and heartfelt.  I really liked the overall message of the film and I thought it was very well made.  

Portuguese with English subtitles - Rotten Tomatoes LOVED this with 96%

Love & Mercy - Bill Pohlad 

This was super excellent and not just because I think my boyfriend John Cusack did a great job of portraying Brian Wilson.  Probably one of the best biographical movies I've ever seen it really helps give context to all of the weird Beach Boys/Brian Wilson drama we've heard about over the years.  It also shows what a genius Wilson is and really helps him get his own story out there when for many years other people tried to control his story and give their own versions that were inaccurate. It's a sweet love story to boot and will make you fall in love with Beach Boys music all over again.  Both Cusack and Paul Dano do an excellent acting job here. 

Rotten Tomatoes totally loved this with a 90% approval rating

Iris - Albert Maysles

LOVED this.  Iris Apfel is a national treasure.  If you don't know who she is or why she's pretty much the most awesome senior fashionista in existence, run out and rent this right away.  You'll fall in love with her immediately.  I can only HOPE to be 1/10th as cool as this lady is when I'm old.  

Rotten Tomatoes agrees she's super awesome with 98% really you can't get a higher rating than that!

 Animals - Colin Schiffli

This is one probably not that many people saw.  If you're interested in a story about the toll of addiction, this is a really good one.  Realistically providing insight into how addiction both humanizes and dehumanizes a person at the same time.  The movie is both empathetic towards their heroin addiction, and yet ultimately not overly sympathetic.  Which is a difficult and nice balance to strike.  A lot of times movies about addiction sort of feel like they get it wrong, but I felt like this one really got it right.  Beautifully filmed as well.  If you're not into a movie about two drug addicts and their struggle to survive, I understand.  But if its a topic you find remotely interesting and you like good filmmaking, this one is good.  

Rotten Tomatoes -  84% 

Lastly here are honorable mentions - movies I really liked this year but didn't make my cut for top 10-15.  All are movies i enjoyed and you might like as well - some are more mainstream and therefore didn't make my cut to review them because it's likely you already heard PLENTY about them (Inside Out, I'm looking at you)

Inside Out 
Straight Out of Compton
The Gift
Me, Earl & The Dying Girl
The Overnight
I'll See You In My Dreams
The Big Short
An Irrational Man

AND as a bonus - I asked all of my girlfriends what movies they enjoyed most this year and I got these which I neglected list myself: 

The Martian
Still Alice
Infinitely Polar Bear 
Bridge of Spies
Big Hero 6

Anything you loved that I didn't mention? Checking out the list above should keep you busy for a while.  

Friday, December 11, 2015

A love note to Harkins Camelview

Will I be able to make you understand why I love this place so much and why I will miss it so much? 


 I do not remember the first time I went to this theatre* (*blogger wants to tell me this is spelled wrong, but its Harkins Theatres and I'm sticking to that.)  I just know that since I moved to Phoenix in 1995 I have been in love with this place. I love that it shows all independent and foreign films. I love that it's an older building and the screens are kinda old school, the seats aren't stadium and they aren't fancy, the clientele is a weird mixture of middle aged people and college students, and the experience feels very intimate. The whole place is cozy as hell. Even the bathrooms are likable. The murals are cool and the walls are slightly dingy and nothing about it is really slick or what I've come to experience at the nicer newer theatres and I totally dig that. And those mushroom shade structures out front? It hurts my heart they are going away.

But what I think I probably love the most about this place is that it helped me heal from my divorce. It helped me get to know myself better and to be a happier person. I am being totally honest when I say I don't think I would be doing as well as I am emotionally without this place.

Let me back up for a minute.

When I was in high school I got into this thing where I felt like I needed to be out doing something every Friday night. I mean maybe sometimes that would be hanging out at a friends house, but a lot of times it was going to the movies, going to a football game, going to a dance, or being silly with my friends driving around Rexburg Idaho. I went out on Saturdays sometimes too but it felt like I pretty much ALWAYS went out on Friday.

In college it was similar. When I was in college I had another experience that contributed to why I love Camelview so much - and really movies in general. The summer between my Sophomore and Junior year of college was little rough (an understatement) - for lots of reasons I was pretty depressed. I had recently moved to Provo and while I love Provo that first summer was a little bit of a difficult adjustment. I remember one day I was in my room which was part of the attic of an old house in downtown Provo. It was hot. No air conditioning! I was sweltering and in a very bad mood. I remember there was no one at home to do anything with and I really needed to get out of the house. I remember having this vague idea about the movies and air conditioning. I got dressed up in this summer dress, put on full make-up, did my hair, and then walked to the movie theatre in downtown Provo. The movie was "The Secret of My Success" with Michael J. Fox. I went to that movie alone. I was so much happier afterwards. Not only was it so much cooler getting out of that stifling old attic but it just felt good to go and do something. From then on I used going to the movies by myself from time to time as a way to regroup.


There's something so magical about movies for me. That summer in Provo I learned there was a Foreign Cinema on campus in the Kimball Building. I quickly fell in love with Foreign films. Pretty soon I was traveling to Salt Lake with my friend Nan to see movies we couldn't see in Provo. Movies like "Manon of the Spring" and "My Life as A Dog". These are still old favorites. I don't know why exactly I grew to love films of a quirkier and more exotic quality. I loved the pacing of foreign films. I loved that a lot of the time they are just more of a contemplation on life than an action packed sequence of events. They are often more quiet and I need that sometimes. I like the feeling of watching something in a foreign language and then having that language kind of wash over me. I delude myself often into feeling I can speak Portuguese for an hour or two. I enjoy American movies that are independent usually much more than mainstream films for the same reason.

For many years when I was married we went out on Friday nights. Sometimes just to dinner, or maybe to the art gallery, or First Friday, or some event - maybe dinner with friends. I always enjoyed going out on Friday. It felt like a great way to kick off the weekend and my fall back "go-to" activity was a movie and dinner. In retrospect I am not sure if my husband really enjoyed that as much as I did.

To me there was nothing better than driving around in the convertible with the top down on a warm Arizona evening, smelling all the goodness of the desert, anticipating a perfectly cooked steak and a movie. When my marriage ended my husband and I had 50/50 custody and we split the time the children were at his home and mine. I had them slightly more often than he did and one of the things we agreed on was that they would go to his house on Friday nights and stay until sometime on Saturday. I was okay with that and at first I would try to fill my Friday night schedule with meeting friends for dinner or something similar. But often I felt like I was just trying to fill up the time so I didn't have to think too much about being alone. It is weird when you have a bunch of friends who are in couples and suddenly it really doesn't work to hang out with any of them anymore. I totally understand why that happens, but it doesn't make it suck any less. Eventually I started to plan ahead that I would always go to a movie by myself if I didn't have anything else to do. And often (usually) I preferred that to anything else. It was the perfect way to spend my Friday.


I would drive, up Lincoln Drive to Scottsdale Road with the windows rolled down, smelling the desert and glad I had somewhere to go and something to look forward to. When you're overcoming something difficult spending time alone can be very soothing.  There's no one to answer to and if you want to feel sad or cry - you can go right ahead.  I healed one Friday night at a time. Camelview was a huge part of that and for that reason I will always love it. In the movies, in the dark, you have epiphanies about things. You learn a lot of important things about yourself. You see things you never saw before. You hear things in a new way. You become a student of human nature and it teaches you. You cry. You laugh. When you leave - whatever was wrong when you came is all better.

I know losing one movie theatre isn't going to totally ruin my little ritual. There are other theatres. And there will always be great movies. And the new movie theatre that is replacing Camelview will be awesome with it's stadium seats and dining options and blah blah blah. Very slick and beautiful and I'm sure lovely in it's own way. But it definitely will not be the same. I hate that we throw things away because they are old. I hate that people always want newer things and shinier things. They are hardly ever better. People usually figure that out when it's way to late. My last movie there was last weekend watching Amelie. Which is one of my favorite movies and I saw it there when it first came out. It was a fitting note to end things on. Anyway. This is my love note to Harkins Camelview. Thank you.


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