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

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.  


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