Friday, April 18, 2014

Julian to King's Pawn

Back in the day I did some substitute teaching and one day I came head-to-head with a kindergartener who totally schooled me at chess.  This was before I learned how to play and in my defense, and according to his friend who came up to watch, he was not playing entirely honestly, but I was none the wiser.  (Also, did ALL 5-year-olds know how to play chess?)   Well anyway, I'm realizing that Julian is coming up on his 5th and I need to get on it.  So here's a little glimpse of our progress. I don't want to brag but he's pretty much a chess genius, and also, better than your kid.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Unlikely Dream Jobs

I've been mentally making a list of these and I thought i'd better write them down before I forget.  Because you never know, one day maybe they won't be so unlikely.   Here they are:

1. Meteorologist.  Do I really want to go to weather school to become a meteorologist? No. Could I never EVER tire of talking about the weather with anyone who will listen?  Do I watch weather shows like tornado chasers and find myself intrigued by weather patterns and shifts? Yes and yes.   I love the weather. It's a part of me. It's a part of you. Weather is life.

2. Professional storyteller.  Wait a second, let me clarify. I don't tell very good stories. i leave out important details. I rush to the end. I think some parts and vocalize others. I guess I could try making them up but i don't think i'm so good at that. What i mean is, I want to read to people, as a profession.  Does this mean I like the sound of my own voice? Does this mean i should be an actor and lend my voice to audible books? I don't think so. I just like to read aloud and I like to be with the people I'm reading to.  I try really hard to say the words, read the story, the best way i can, in the way it was intended.  To not misinterpret the words or put the wrong emPHASis on the wrong sylLABle.  I'm not great at doing different voices, something I could work at and I do, sort of.  But I just love reading aloud.  What i envision is being a traveling book-reader for maybe people who can't do it for themselves.  Old people, blind people, sick people, kids. I'm thinking hospitals, assisted living centers, etc.

3. A tour guide of some kind. You take a tour and the tour guide has been doing this so many times and been surrounded by this information for perhaps a long time and they're friggin' experts. You have a question? They can answer it.  I want to be an expert on something!  You know?  Something interesting. Something historical, mostly. Yeah. Historical.  I feel like right now the closest thing I have is the Titanic. Blimey, I've never studied something so intensely.  I just watched probably my 6th or 7th documentary that pretty much blew my mind.  I have such a hard time retaining information so it's a good thing i've read and re-read every children's book ever written on the subject. Too bad I can't give tours on the Titanic, though.  I'd say that's a pretty unlikely dream job. So now what?

4. A crewmember on a starship for the Federation of Planets.  I say this is unlikely because I just can't close my heart off completely to this possibility. You just never know, alright?!  Lately I have re-fallen in love with Star Trek The Next Generation. I'll be honest, like a fool, I haven't seen it in a good long while. Far, far too long. I don't know why.  A friend and I were texting about something somewhat related, perhaps very loosely related, and I said something like "Oh man, I have been watching some NG and am LOVING IT."  She texted back, "I know, right? Who's your favorite character?"  And just as I started making my list (because of course I have one) she sent me hers, a ranking list of characters from New Girl.  Uhhhhh...  yeah.  Super nerd alert.  So i had to confess, and then offer up my list in both categories--mostly just to be amiable, because I don't really care about New Girl.  But if you want to know Next Generation:

1. Captain Picard or Data. It's a tie. Basically they're all who I really care about.
2. Worf, I guess. I feel like I could tease him relentlessly.
3. Lwaxana Troi, Deanna's mom. She's so racy! I love it.
4. Geordi? He's so cheeseball sometimes. He's super brilliant and engineering and then he's making cracks and I just don't know.
5. Ryker, i guess. He's kind of boring but nice and reliable. Sometimes he's fun, sorta.
6.Dr. Crusher?
10. Wesley. He's so annoying! I even like the old doctor, Dr. Polaski  better than him, and she's totally mean.

There are so many I could include in my ranking so I just sort of gave up.  As I said, I only have eyes for Picard and Data.   Anyway, I can't believe how much I didn't know I missed NG.  It's like I'm 13 again, discovering it for the first time. The love is so intense. I literally have Star Trek dreams, wishing so badly I could be part of their world.  I talk about it at length with Sean, and it goes far beyond silly chit-chatting. I delve. I'm so happy to know I'm still the same person I was when I became who I am, (a 13-year old).  And it's brought up a very intriguing and difficult would-you-rather:

 Would I rather join starfleet as a crewmember on the USS Enterprise -OR- live in the Shire? They're such polar opposites. But I don't know! It's so hard.  Also, what would be my job in starfleet? Ok, this reminded me of one more side story. Just one more, I swear. Probably. 

When I was in the sixth grade, our class visited a space center for learning nearby. I don't even know why this place existed, nor why I never visited it again, but it was set up like a bridge on a starship, perhaps there were other rooms too,  and we were all given jobs based on what our teacher thought our strengths were.  I think we also got to choose our top 3 preferences.  I was fast at typing so I was assigned as the ship's recorder on the bridge.  I think there was also damage control, captain, #1, and others. My job was pretty lame, but it did put me right where the action was and I didn't have to get in the middle of it, just write down everything that was happening and observe, which does suit my personality. Though secretly I thought i would make an ok captain.  But it's fine, the person who held the job was just fine.  Anyway, the whole thing-- I loved it. I remember just loving it, and trying not to let that love show too much. And this was before my introduction to Star Trek. So a little foreshadowing of things to come, i suppose.

Since the combined cold + rainy weather has all but killed all of my will, the only thing that keeps me hanging on is watching the show. I don't want Julian to watch a lot of kid shows but we'll watch some NG.  Since he's happy to watch anything if he can get it, i got this great quote from him the other day:

Jen:  Want to watch some Star Trek?
Julian, super enthusiastically:  Oo yeah! I LOVE your Star Trek! I love it even though it's boring!

The best thing about this is I think "your star trek" means NG, and his star trek would be the original. It's ok. It's what he knew first. I get it.  And of course it's ours. It's special. personal. Sean's is the original also, for example. Which one is yours?

Well, I got way off track with this list but I'm on such a high having talked about Star Trek for so long, I think I'll just end it here.  I am always making additions to this list, though, of weird, unlikely dream jobs, so perhaps this should be a series?  We shall see....

But also, do you have any unlikely dream jobs?

Monday, March 31, 2014

No, Sam. I Can't Recall the Taste of Spring

When I was a child I had a dream I was riding my bike out on the street outside of my subdivision.  This would have been a big deal and somewhat scary for me at the time.  But the scary part of this what I now deem a nightmare wasn't that I had ventured far from home, but that when I did turn down my street, everything was fine and looked the same except for one thing:  when I got to where my house was supposed to be, it wasn't. It wasn't my house.  It was a different house.  Panicked, I thought, if I try again, it will be there.  So I'd ride up and come back down and same thing-- different house. Not my house. And thus a nightmare was born and I woke with a feeling of all I knew to be true and real suddenly wasn't, and it was terrifying.

Sean told me when he lived in Colombia how awful it was when the season just never changed.  The days passed, time passed, but the weather stayed.  And he would begin tricking himself. His mind and the weather combined and played tricks on him and one day would be windy or rainy and he'd say, "oh, here it comes. It's happening,"  and he felt like he could move forward. But it would go back. The weather didn't change after all.  It would remain essentially the same and he found himself stuck in an altogether different realm of unsurety, the likes of which he had never theretofore experienced. It would make him question everything. Had time really passed after all?  Was this real life? Was this all a dream? Where was he? WHO was he? What was he.

I listened to this story in frightened hushedness and, like a horror movie you know you will regret for the rest of your days but find yourself tip toeing back to in your mind every once in a while, I sometimes picture this, and I shudder.  I've never lived in a place without seasons.  I've been tripped out visiting a place that has difference seasons at different times than I'm used to and have been pleased to visit a place with better weather than I was used to.  It's eerie and surreal,  but delightfully unnerving. And while I'm there I decide, I think I'm just going to chase this feeling, just as I do when I'm having an pleasantly unnerving dream. I chase it.

But when you're in real life, and your climate has a steady pattern, your physiology adapts, it learns. And your psyche can anticipate and it gives your whole being a sense of stability.  It's something I rely upon very heavily and I'm grateful for it. I'm grateful for the balance of the seasons and the feeling this gives me.      But what do you do when everything changes?  What do you do when the season won't stop? And it just goes on... and on... and on?  And you wake up with each new day and all of a sudden you feel as if you've been thrown into another dimension.  Suddenly you begin to question:  Am I caught in some kind of time loop?  Am I living in Groundhog Day?  Has something happened and no one's told me? Do I even know who I am anymore? Am I real? Are you real? Is real real?

The end of winter is always hard.  Consistently, everyone around here barely makes it out alive.  This is all understood. We know this to be true.  March has always been the worst because it's so spotty. It's so unpredictable.  It sees us weakened, vulnerable, and it pounces and preys on that.  I imagine it saying, in a snakelike hiss, What's that? You're sick of winter and aren't sure if you can go on? Well why not have a 60-degree day? there there. Yeeeessss.... Enjoy. And then, GONE.  It's GONE.  It harshly rips back the good day and you're back to winterlikeness.  And while I've typically hated it for this reason, at least it gave us a few warm pockets, a few 60-degree days here and there, a few reasons to hope, perhaps foolishly, that one day it would end for real.  

But that was before. That was before this winter.  This winter became something else.  This winter became alive, cognizant of its own existence as a separate, living breathing entity, capable of independent thought. And it became a monster.  But not like a monster you would expect. Like any other harsh winter in years before, we enter March crawling on our hands and knees, beaten, worn from battle, our clothes are tattered and torn. We're dazed, confused, a little bit weepy.  But we make it.  The equinox arrives and with the last bit of strength we have left, we thrust ourselves into it and collapse.

But not this March.  The equinox came and went and that's when we all tripped over a heap of dirty petrified snow and fell into the alternate universe this polar vortex created, where winter never... ever ends.  The sun will shine but it's icy cold. And there's a frosty wind that won't go away.  Day after day...after day.. after day.  And you sincerely begin to wonder, in that same hushed fear,  I know it was supposed to be here.  The spring was supposed to come. But it isn't here.  Everything else looks the same. My house, your house, your face, my face.  But it isn't here.  And the cold sunny days make you feel afraid.  And you wonder if the earth has quietly fallen off its axis, or, like an old record player, the needle becomes stuck and what once was a nice progressive tune becomes a repeated and jerking noise, cyclical and sinister.  Somebody bump the earth! you exclaim. Somebody do something.

They tell me hope has sprung but you have to look hard to find it.  We were driving in the car yesterday and I leaned my head against the window. I stared at the dead trees in the park and just as I was thinking the words, death...death... all around me is death, Sean said, "Julian and I saw some tulips today!"  Spring is trying to happen, but I have such a fog over my eyes, I can't make sense of any of it.  I can gaze upon some new growth but I don't really see it.  Spring is a fable, something from another time, some fantastical tale passed from generation to generation. Storybook lore of a place where there's spring but it's not a place I've ever been before.  I've forgotten it.  I've completely forgotten spring. I can't remember it.  I don't even know what it means.  Trees are going to have growing things on them? What does that even mean??  The touch of grass, beautiful things, the color green. Warmth.  True warmth. Going on walks. Lying on the grass in the park. The Botanic Gardens. Being outside for the joy of it. I don't remember any of it.

Anyway.  We're at the end.  I'm at the end.  The end of March. I gave winter until today and then it had to go.  March 31st and that's it. No more.  We woke up this morning to cold rain and thunder. It was so dark and gray.  A friend texted our weather forecast for today and asked me to please make sense of it which of course I couldn't:

And midway through the day, the sky was blue with a patch or two of clouds.  The sun shone, the air was still chilly.  The wind lingers with a bit of a bite but it's not as pronounced.  And tomorrow is the first of April (how CAN it be April? How can my birthday be so soon? It's not right. It doesn't feel right!) and we WILL see the change.  I'm not going to live in this crazy ANY. MORE.  It's right now 9:22pm.  You have a little under three hours to make your move, Winter.   Leave now, and never come back. LEAVE NOW AND NEVER COME BACK.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Smart Kid

There have been just a few times in my life where I was the Smart Kid in class. You know, when you know the answer when it counts.   I can think of three instances and they all have to do with birds.  This really is super weird. It must mean something, but what, I do not know.

When I was in the 6th grade my teacher was explaining something to us and paused because she was struggling to think of the correct term for something and said, "oohh, what is that word?? The name of someone who's an expert on birds."   I somewhat quietly yet confidently spoke up,

"Why, that would be an ornithologist." 

My teacher was exceedingly impressed and I never told anyone that it was because I had played Clue the night before and was studying Mrs. Peacock's card. 

One of my favorite children's books is Chickens Aren't the Only Ones. It talks about all the different kinds of animals that lay eggs with the most beautiful illustrations in a sort of free-flowing (but not too free) poetry form. Such delightful rhythm and meter.   Even as I read it as a child, I knew I was learning a lot. And I had a very poignant feeling that someway, somehow, the information in this book was going to be useful to me one day. A feeling? Or a premonition.

Well then I grew up and went to college. I took a class called Appreciation of Nature, which I loved.  My teacher asked a question and what i did was kind of embarrassing and super nerdy but I just couldn't help myself. Because I KNEW I'd use the information one day and the moment had come!  And i was ready. We were learning about different kinds of animals, possibly birds, when my teacher said "Now, there are two mammals that lay eggs..."  And faster than you can say "Hey, Hermione" my hand shot up. I may have waved it around. Like a 4th grader I may have said, "oooh, oooh! I know what they are!!"   This was my moment! My pivotal moment. It had finally come. And I declared to all the universe, trying to be cool but probably failing,

"The spiny anteater and the duck-billed platypus!!!"  

My collegiate career was satisfied in a single moment.   Now, no one really likes the smart kid.  We kind of want to punch them in the face from time to time (Hermione).  But I'm not a know-it-all.  I don't try to be. I don't even want to be. I just knew the answer to something pretty random!  I'm hoping my classmates understood that was what was happening for me then instead of wanting to give me a wedgie and knock my books out of my hands.   And let me just say, there have actually been many other instances where i recalled info from that book.  I don't know why. Usually my brain is an academic sieve, i have such a hard time with retention (sean is the opposite).  But not with this book.  I really love it. Go, buy it today and give it to your kids/nieces/nephews for Easter. Hey, that's a great idea. I think i'll take my own advice.

Then, in this same class, and it must have been close to the same time... actually, now that i think about it, this event probably preceded the last one.  Oh well. My teacher used to randomly call on people by asking if there was anyone named _______ in the room.  I was victim to this a couple of times. Obviously there was going to be more than one Jennifer in the class yet i was the one chosen. I wonder why? Maybe the other Jennifers were absent those days. What are the odds of that, though. And where were they? And why wasn't I invited?! I'm getting off track.  Anyway, one of these times, the teacher had had us write down in our nature appreciation journals (love) an organism we just hated.  I had written down "earwig."  And I was the Jennifer to explain why I'd selected mine.  We then had to write a paper on it, which was just delightful.  Love this teacher, whatever his name was.

The other time he had me come down to the board with him and he had everyone write down their guess of how many different species of birds there were in the world.  He asked me what my guess was and I said, "I'm not sure. It's either 1800 or 8,000.  I watched The Birds last night and she said it but i can't remember! It has an 8 in it though... right?"  Just a tad bemused, he said "It's 8,000." 

Also, can we all just agree that bemused should mean "bewildered and confused while also a little amused?"   Wait.  Wait just a second.  I just saw what I did there.  BEwildered + conFUSED???  = bemused!!!  Nevermind!  Nevermind.  It's already a good word. I wish i could throw in that 3rd element (amused) but i don't know if i can now, in good conscience.  It's fine the way it is. I'm sorry, words. I take it back. good one. back to the story.

So as you can imagine, these have been pretty significant moments for me.  And there's one more that stands out as a fond memory.  My dad used to teach at BYU and we would meet once a week for lunch somewhere.  It was great. Good family time (usually other sibs were there as well).  I never officially took his class but I sat in on it many times and it was very enjoyable.  One day at lunch it was just me and Dad.  Maybe i was feeling extra dumb that day and needed a pick-me-up but somehow we concocted a plan to stage me being the Smart Kid in his class.  ha ha. It sounds kind of sad and pathetic but who among us wouldn't do this, if given the opportunity? With a little forethought and planning, that one chance to be the Smart Kid. Come on.  So we did it.  He told me his lesson plan for class that day and a question he would ask with the accompanying answer, comprising of three elements.  I rehearsed it a few times, we had a good laugh, and later on in class, we were in position.  I never had any notes or textbooks out (since i was daughter-auditing. Dauditing.) and so i just sat with nothing, like I was a genius who had all the answers but without a care in the world.  The moment came, and trying not to sound terribly snotty, I answered. I actually could only think of two of the three things but i feel that added to the false authenticity of my genius.   "Oh, that would be ________, ________... and I think there's a third one but I can't remember what it is."   See? Not so hateable.  It was perfect.  Many heads turned and I casually sat in my chair and the feeling was nice.  I'm not ashamed.  The feeling was nice. 

Thus concludes this essay.  Lessons learned that I continue to believe and abide by to this day: 

1. Children's books are all you ever need in life. 
2. It pays to watch your Hitchcock.
3. You can learn a lot from games. Clue is an exceptional one.
4. It's helpful if your dad is the best.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Uterus Envy

What a great title to this post. Ahhh... I just love it. 

Well, I thought i'd write something though I wasn't sure what. It has been a while and I do have Philly pictures but a) does anyone really care? and b) do I care enough to slap them up?  Only time will tell.

But also, I've been thinking just a bit about gender roles, in part because I'm very interested in them and also in part because I'm being smacked in the face with them on a constant basis on Facebook with articles about this and blog posts about that. Geez Louise. I'll be honest, I'm pretty of tired of it. I can't read everything in the world! And I refuse to click on anything that has a bait title-- "Blah blah blah, and what made me decide to do it."  BOO.  Guess what? I'm fine with a little mystery in my life. So these days I rarely click on anything unless it's a good Buzzfeed article because c'mon.

But while I'm at it, let's talk about Julian just for a minute. I asked Sean the other day if he and Julian had good moments together. Like, bonding moments. If they had their own special thing.  Sean replied, "Well yeah. I mean, not like you.  We're pals, but not lovers."  And this is true.   And with that, I've been realizing lately that we are at the stage where he is mine. MINE.  i can do whatever I want with him.  In many ways.  But in particular, I can sculpt him and shape him and indoctrinate him in whichever way I please.  This is both scary and awesome, as power is.  I feel like He-man holding up his sword, "I...haaave...the... POWER!   Battlecat!"   If you don't know what i'm talking about, I feel sad for you because you will never understand why the 80's are the best ten years of all time.  No, here.  Go see it.  Also, because I'm talking about gender issues, here is the equally awesome She-Ra.  

The kid soaks up everything I say. He's sharp as a whip and I find myself frequently trapped in explaining to him things I 60% understand, like how volcanoes occur, evaporation, why there are earthquakes, etc.  I told Sean the other day Julian had asked me question after question about volcanoes. It went on for the longest time and I was totally talking out of my arse in my explanation. Just complete hot air (HA) about volcanoes spouting out (can't stop) words like "geothermal" and other nonsense and asked if i was at all right. I was pretty close! I had forgotten the part about the plate tectonics. But for someone who thinks about the science of volcanoes once a never, I was pretty proud of myself.  Anyway, the point is, Julian asks and when I speak, he listens. ( Another point: It's amazing what you pick up in 8th grade earth science class without even realizing. What ELSE do I know??) And like I said, I feel powerful. I could almost become giddy and maybe rub my hands together and give an evil chuckle.  It reminds me of when he was learning to speak and I was like, "I could teach him to say ANYTHING.  I could make up my own language and teach it to him. He could learn Elvish! Klingon! Or I could just totally screw him up and instead of "thank you" teach him to say "apple."   "What do you say? What do you say?"  "Apple."  ha ha.  Anyway.

In terms of gender stuff, I only have a couple of thoughts to share. They're short but I like them.

1. His pediatrician is a female and then there are female nurse practitioners. There may have been another doctor we visited who was female, but i can't remember who. Then last year we had to go see the ENT who was male and what glee I had when he exclaimed, incredulous, "What?? A BOY doctor??"  HA HA!  I replied, "I know, right? Boys can be doctors too!"  :D

2. Julian loves to learn and has a lot of questions. Over the years he's been inquisitive about body parts. This is fine. The body is fascinating! I am very frank in all my answers. We've also talked about how women carry babies in their bellies and how that happens.   I told him they have a special organ called a uterus that is amazing because it's this big normally but can stretch to THIS big--say whaaat?  Only girls have them, not boys. And since day one, he has insisted he has a uterus too.  He is determined that he have one.  The boy has uterus envy.  Which is both awesome and ridiculous because, let's be honest. But yeah, it's pretty great.  

The gender stuff is interesting because I actually feel a lot of hypothetical fear about having a girl. I see girls. I see what they do. And I'm scared.  And I am one and know what society is like.  There are legitimate worries. Now, girls are lovely, I know this. But i only have a boy. I only know a boy.  I have read articles about what kinds of lessons people want to teach their daughters and I agree, it's all very important, and I would do that too if I had a daughter.  But, you know, I would do it too because I have a son.  You and I both know that gender issues and gender equality isn't just for girls. And the more we talk about things and have open dialogues about whatever the hey, the healthier a person. Julian is the most emotionally in-tune little kid i've ever met. He can speak his feelings that can completely fly out of his control. But he knows them. He identifies them and has tools to handle them. This is just a small example but it's such a wonderful thing and it makes me think about other important things that i would want to teach my son. I want him to grow up respecting women, being knowledgeable about things others might deem inapplicable or irrelevant to them.  He definitely has "boy" things about him-- doesn't give a rat's bum about what he wears, he is major obsessed with cars and trucks, he's active and uses his body, etc.  But I just know these are the exciting moments when I can teach him everything I'd ever want, gender-related or not and he will just suck it in.  And it's pretty great.   

That's pretty much all I have to say about it. But, one last shining, proud as punch moment from the other day:

Julian was telling me about some show he saw and he said,

 "I wonder if there's a book about that that we could find?"  

me:   *head explodes with joy*

Wednesday, March 05, 2014


Once upon a time, in high school, maybe even Jr. High I went to see a French film with my French-speaking sister and classmate friend or two.  We saw THE weirdest movie whose title just now popped into my head-- La Ceremonie.  Mildly amused and highly disturbed we all went away thinking, French movies-- they be whack.  I saw a few more for school but can't remember any of them.  Wait. False.  I remember one. Ponette.  And I cried my eyes out.  I thought, this is far, FAR too emotional for the likes of me. Watching a tiny 4-year-old girl sob daily, mourning the death of her mother? Are you kidding me? UGH. (Go see it, but prepare to be gutted. This little girl's performance is and ever will be unparalleled)  At this point my view of French films was either out of control absurd with unapologetic disturbance or chokingly depressing.

Fast forward to college days and BYU where I began a beautiful relationship with the International Cinema.  First visited for classroom assignments, I soon began attending on the reg, sometimes going with friends but kind of preferred to view films solo.  The first film I saw there was Shall We Dance and I thought, well that was delightful.  I also saw a Chinese film called To Live which, again, is way too sad, leaving you just a mess of a person. I saw Red and loved it.  Then came the wildly popular Amelie whom everyone fell in love with.

During this time, I saw many films. I also took a class called French and Italian Cinema which I enjoyed but had a hard time developing a very critically fair eye because some of the movies I just hated when all I wanted to do was love them. I felt like a better collection could have been chosen, but my teacher was cool regardless.

I can't remember most of the films I saw but over time my feelings toward French films turned and I embraced them, my basis being just the few that I saw of course. Perhaps this is due to my development learning the language which I studied all through college and, at age 20, having visited the land where I came to truly love the people and the culture.  

This brings us to the present, just now in fact. I just finished watching the silliest movie ever. It's called Ricky.  Here's what it's about and my view of it:

French realism which I love. They've taken an absurd idea and put it into real life. Nothing overly fantastical or outlandish. Just one tiny impossible element thrust into a normal situation.  A woman, Katie, with a sweet and bright 7-year-old daughter, Lisa.  They share a sort of government subsidized apartment (I think) and Katie is a factory worker at a chemical plant.  Blah kind of life but she and her daughter have something special and it's sweet.  Katie meets Paco, a fellow factory worker and they "hit it off," shall we say. He moves in and Katie has a baby, Ricky.   Ricky is a normal chubby adorable baby until one day, Katie comes home from work and sees that Ricky has a red bruise on his shoulder blade. She accuses Paco of mistreatment and he leaves, for good it seems, being greatly offended for what he claims is a false accusation. Actually he doesn't claim much, doesn't put up much of a fight. But he leaves.

What happens is, soon after, Ricky develops a second bruise on his other shoulder blade and then he sprouts the most seriously disgusting chicken wing bones. These winglets grow and sprout feathers and soon the little tot is literally flying, flitting all around their apartment.  A literal cherub, but they hardly make any reference to that.

I am going to pause here and let you go view the film for yourself.  It's on Netflix.  Ricky.  Go watch it. Then come back.

The rest of the film goes on slowly and serenely which, again, is a style I have really come to love. It was amusing if a bit bizarre the whole way through and then I got to the end where I had an emotional reaction. Interested to see what others have said, I looked it up and read a review by Roger Ebert. I so disagreed with most everything he said that I will take out bits of his review and counter them with my own.  Here's the whole thing in its entirety.

Roger will be blue. I will be black.

His opening paragraph:

Parables are stories about other people that help us live our own lives. The problem with the French film “Ricky” is that the lesson of the parable is far from clear, and nobody is likely to encounter this situation in his own life. That would be pretty much impossible. The story begins in gritty realism, ends in pure fantasy and leaves out most of the alphabet as it makes its way from A to Z.

I am a dreamer. I love imagining "what if,"  but more than that, I love finding a deeper meaning where I can. I try to give something a chance for that.  The fact that Roger takes this whole movie at face value just makes me a little bit sad. (may he RIP)    And I wasn't doing this the entire film, actively trying to find a deeper meaning.  I thought it was basically all silly until the very end when I was suddenly struck with something real.  I'm not saying my interpretation is what the maker intended and yes, maybe it is unclear, but I got one at least. And I think my feelings are real. Moving on.

No, he isn't an angel. Maybe more likely the result of his parents working at the chemical factory, although the movie doesn't make that a point. It doesn't much make anything a point. Katie and Lisa are about as amazed as if the child had a lot of hair on its head. You'd think babies with wings were born every day. Later, after Paco rejoins the family, baby Ricky gets a little injury, and the family doctor seems, to me, insufficiently amazed. Surely this is an OMG case?

NO, Roger! That's what makes this so fun! It's taking something ludicrous and putting it into humdrum life.  I LOVE that the mother and daughter share a tiny OMG moment (tiny) and then continue on because guess what? That's life. "holy crap, the baby has wings. What do I do? What do I know how to do? I'm a mother. I be a mother, i guess."  So they take care of him the best they can with what they have. I love this.  Cover the crib with a blanket so he can't fly out because they learned that lesson the hard way.  She measures a chicken wing at the grocery store just to have some kind of reference. They put a helmet on him and pad everything. Awesome.  Not that I was comparing this to real life throughout the movie. I really don't do the "that could never happen in real life" approach. Why should I ever expect movies to be like real life?  I took it as it came and on many levels it just made sense to me.

I couldn't help myself. All during the film, I was distracted by questions of aeronautics. In early scenes, those wings are way too small to allow a healthy baby to fly. Even later, the ratio of wingspan to baby weight seems way off. A scene where Ricky breaks free and flies around a supermarket seems designed for comedy, but doesn't play that way. And what kind of a cockamamie idea is it to hold a press conference and let Ricky fly with only Katie holding a string around his ankle? This is worse than the hot air balloon kid, if there had been one.

I get it. It's wacky.  It's ridiculous.  It's French! At times the baby bounces around and bumps into things and you seriously cringe.  i don't have much defense other than sometimes I just like a little wacky.

The film is bewildering. I don't know what its terms are, and it doesn't match any of mine. I found myself regarding it more and more as an inexplicable curiosity. It's so curiously flat in tone that when a baby grows wings and flies (think about that!), people in the film and in the audience seem to watch with no more than mild interest. “Ricky” makes a good case for lurid melodrama.

As mentioned, I love this. I love being like, "ok, the baby has wings. what are you going to do with that?" This is movies!   In the end, here's what happens:

Paco returns, committing himself to Katie and Lisa. Katie is glad to have him back but not quite willing to fully trust him yet.  He suggests arranging a sort of press conference or whatever to make some money. Not to make money off their son (he claims) but because they're kind of desperate for it and they don't really know what else to do. Word had gotten out about the flying baby when he escaped from the grocery cart at the store and flew around the ceiling.  

Everyone watches the flying baby outside. His ankle is tied to a string which Katie is holding. When they let him go everyone smiles watching the baby soar, making you feel like this is sort of what he's meant to do. He's got these wings. He should fly.  She accidentally lets go of the string and Ricky flies off over the treetops, over a lake and becomes lost.  She's heartbroken but the family accepts the situation i guess and after days/weeks?/longer? Paco tells her it's unlikely he survived.  She gets up early one morning, unable to sleep.  Wearing nothing but a white nightshirt, she walks out to the park by the lake where the baby was last seen. She walks into the water and while there, Ricky returns and lands on the grass.  

What happens next is the grand reveal, to me, of the point of the movie. It's a few minutes of raw emotion that suddenly brings you to a feeling and you experience a little sweet heartbreak. Just a taste.  While in the water, Katie hears her baby in the sky and he lands on the grass. Overjoyed she walks up to him, but slowly and tentatively, as she doesn't want to scare him off.  Mother, wet, naked and exposed, crawls up onto the grass and whispers to her son to stay, does he remember her? does he remember his mama? She begins to weep and says to him:

My love.

How you've grown 

Your wings are so big, and you can walk!  [as any mother would, after seeing their winged child come back to them after being gone for weeks]
And then with a look of regret mixed with love she says:

Are you ok?

You won't tell me? 

You're mad at me, is that it?

I didn't want to leave you.

When I let the string go I didn't want to lose you.

But flying, you were so beautiful. So beautiful.

And he flies away, for good, it would seem. At this point I begin to blubber a bit and I watch it a few more times.  After this, Ricky up and flies away.  Katie returns home and with a look of serenity she embraces a confused Lisa and Paco and tells them she loves them and they all stand there in the embrace for a while. 

So of course my take on this is a mother letting go of a child and coming to terms with that.  It seems pretty clear to me but maybe it's not.  It was sweet, tender, very simple, and sad.  I love simple sad. I don't know if I need epic sad.  But simple, poignant sad i can do.    

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Olympic Thoughts

I've been watching a few olympics here and there (what I just said pleases me greatly).  Not all day every day. Not even all night.  But I have had a few thoughts about them that I'd be willing to share. Here they are:

Figure Skating

JEN: Gaah, this is terrible music. Why do people choose frantic music like this? Everyone has crappy music.

Fast, loud, orchestral fanfare-y music plays.

SEAN: Yeah, you're never going to be able to keep up with that. You're just going to look like you're not doing anything.

JEN:  Exactly. Exactly!!!  Where's my computer?

My worst nightmare has come true. Bob Costas is out and Matt Lauer is IN?? What's going to happen now! Everything's going to fall apart! No one will be able to make sense of anything. Everyone will just be bumbling in interviews, crying, confused.   If not everyone, then just Matt.  [I wrote this a while ago but it's still worth mentioning. An olympic first??]

Ice Dancing

The consensus on this olympic event I seem to be gathering is that people are not a fan.  They prefer figure skating.  But I've been watching it a bit here and there and I have to say, I don't see the problem. In fact, I feel like it's more suited to being on skates,  what skating ought to be. For pairs, anyway. You're on ice doing twirls and spins wearing ruffles and sequins. Of course it should be dancing! Also, as far as I know, a term/skill is used in ice dancing that isn't so much in figure skating and it's awesome and wondrous.   I think I am loving living in a world where "twizzle" is used as a technique, an important one, taken very seriously. "Nice twizzles!"  says the commentator. And I'm just beaming.

I also think I love living in a world where there's ice dancing rivalry. That's a sports rivalry I can get behind. Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir vs. USA's Meryl Davis and Charlie White.

 *loud menacing commentator voice* 

"Two rivals for a decade. WHO'S going to come out on TOP?  Both training under the SAME. COACH. Where does that coach's allegiance LIE?"

Meryl and Charlie took gold yesterday with Tessa and Scott having to settle for silver.  Both skated well but I think Meryl and Charlie pulled it out largely due to their perfect twizzles. To learn more about twizzles, watch this awesome video.

Olympic Suggestion 

Something I am noticing is there needs to be a specific order of the events, particularly when it comes to televising them all to us.  A lot of the events are very similar. Some of them seem to be separated only by a few variables. Perhaps it's snowboring---OMG, best Freudian slip EVER!! Ha HA!  Well what i was going to say was perhaps it's snowboarding with jumps instead of the halfpipe or whatever (I really am not at all sure what all the events are).  And my freudian slip brings me to my next point. I don't even think snowb-o-a-r-ding (wow, why is it so hard for me to type it the real way??) is that boring but compare it to the same event but with skis and skis are way better. The jumps are better, higher, look more complex, and just look cooler.  Sorry, snowboard.  That said, they did it right with this one. Snowboarding came first. I was impressed until i saw the same kinds of events with skis and then i was like, snowwwboorrrriiing. (i have to use that as many times as possible. not only is it a freudian slip, it's word play which I l-o-v-e.)

Here's a real example though:


Everyone loves bobsledding. Who doesn't love bobsledding? Well, when it comes after the bullet speed, death-defying luge and skeleton it's like, what is this enormous, clumsy, rickety old sled-beast? That after the skeleton on the tiny boogie board sled, looks like you're moving in a slow-mo armored car. Compared to the others, it looks a bit lackluster, like we've taken steps back. Slower, less terrifying, unnecessarily safe, boring. The point is, who's choreographing these events for the televised aspect?  What about US, at HOME, on our COUCHES, eating ICE CREAM CONES.   I think I will volunteer for the job.

Those are basically my only olympic thoughts right now (that I'm willing to share).  This weekend we're going on our winter trip to someplace super far and exotic. Stay tuned, unless I don't choose to blog about it. Then stay wondering forever and ever. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Things 'n Stuff

Hey guess what? It's February! So much happens in February!  If by so much I mean, not much.. at all. But it doesn't mean I don't have some thoughts.  Read on!

1. February 2nd came and went.  After I went on and on last year about my immense love of the movie Groundhog Day, my brilliant sister brilliantly suggested the best way to celebrate it which would be to live (read: eat) like the day is your last. Like there are no consequences. Like Phil does one day in the diner and orders every pastry and dessert and every gross/good thing.  YES!  Isn't that amazing? Too bad I didn't get this post up until after the fact. Too bad i forgot about it ON the actual holiday until it was too late. Well guess what? The really great thing about this arbitrary, meaningless great holiday is you can celebrate it anytime you want to.  So there's still time! Go ahead, go stuff your face with your favorite  gross thing and have no regrets whatsoever.

2. On that note, imagine if the Super Bowl was on Groundhog Day. What kind of cataclysmic catastrophe would THAT be like?? Oh WAIT.  It happened.  I have nothing really to say about this because I do not watch the Super Bowl in my house, or football on television of any kind.   Super Bowl parties, I will concede, can be fun. As long as I don't watch the game and if there's plenty of food.

3. Over Christmas I had an epiphany. I went snowshoeing in the mountains and it felt like the best thing I could ever do.  And I realized: Snow is beautiful! Snow doesn't exist just to make my life hard! It had been too long since I last knew that.  As everywhere else in the winter world, we've gotten some decent amount of snow.  We had a doozy of a storm and then the temp dropped to the teens which was kind of the worst? in a way?  Because it froze all the dirty slush and dirty ice residue that covered everything in town, kind of like the pink spot in Cat in the Hat.  But then it snowed a wet beautiful sticky snow and the other day I picked up Julian from preschool with the sled and then we walked over to Prospect Park for a snowy adventure, or "raventure" as the squirt says.  My, I am not sure i've seen such a beautiful sight.  And, as mentioned, normally loathe of snow, I found a way to love it, and since my soul hungers for nature, I felt very remedied indeed.

It was a blizzard day. Heavy, constant, quiet snow. 
Magical snow. 
Better go walk in the park with a sled snow.

We went that same way the next day for sledding part II.  Oh man there are so many ways to sled in Prospect Park. 

 Doesn't everyone have a sledding pic with their mom? I know I do, somewhere.

Here we are ice skating:

Here I am making a much more graceful/professional ice skating pose in my mind than in real life: 

4.  I was standing in the kitchen doing something boring. Julian, on the other hand, was playing with a cookie sheet full of flour and had his cars in it.  He turned to me and said pointedly,

"Mom, did you know my cars are my kids?"
Me, laughing: Yes, actually. I did know that. and it's adorable.

Julian, dead serious: It's NOT adorable. I'm a mommy to them.

Ha ha! Pretty cute. I mean, NOT cute.  Serious.  For real.  And frankly I'm glad he takes his job so seriously. He is an example to me.

5. A couple of weeks ago I tried dim sum for the first time in my life. SO FUN.  Dim sum was one of those things that you hear about but never really know what it is and you keep hearing about it, not fully interested, but one day you have to say, "ok, time out. What IS dim sum?"   And it was so much more than I expected.  Sitting down at a restaurant and eating immediately, no menu? YES.    Having people constantly roll carts to your table and you pick and choose what dumpling o' mystery or soup or dish you'd like? YES.  Having them cut it with scissors to share with your table? YES.   So fun!  Try it today. It's such a fun dining experience.  We went to the Golden Unicorn in Chinatown.  Mindy Kaling mentions this place on The Mindy Project but unfortunately we didn't see her there. 

6.  I went on a walk today and the air was cold and the sun was bright. I loved it. I saw some things here. One of those things was a person taking a picture of something. As I walked by I saw it was sort of two conjoined icicles separated by a smooth tube of ice on some leaves. This person was having his own winter walk moment and as I passed i wondered what was more beautiful: seeing something beautiful, or seeing someone see something beautiful?

7.  Lastly, I've recently discovered this and it's brought my heart and house a lot of joy. I hope it does the same for you:


Saturday, February 08, 2014

Let the 2014 Winter Olympic Games Blog Posts Begin!

I love the Olympics, but they seem to be getting weirder and weirder.  Like the circus.  Well, sort of. Instead of inhumane and cruel subjection of animals for sport, we watch cool athletes be awesome at things.  For the record, I liked a lot of the circus, but yeah, I don't think I can go to another one if I want a clear conscience.

Normally I kind of abhor sports worship, but I make exceptions for the Olympics which offers up a throwback "bringing the world together" kind of feeling particularly with events we never see/follow/have heard of.  To know there are people out there who work their arse off for something I've never heard of? It humbles me, in a way. Opens my eyes.  And suddenly I find myself seriously interested in learning more about curling.

Sean and I watched the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics and I suddenly remembered the importance of recording our comments (how could I forget?)  It's also funny because just a few days ago we were watching something and I said, "I wish I were more patriotic."  And then during the ceremonies, I realized I am probably at my most patriotic during the Olympics.  So thanks, Olympics, for bringing that back.

Anyway, here are the quotes:

1. Watching the various athletes from different countries walking out and waving their flags, it's always fun to see the ones with just a few athletes, or to see how many come from warm climate countries. We listened to some commentary (mistake) and how one country (British Virgin Island)'s only athlete was born there and raised in Vail, CO.

I said to Sean, "that's how to do it. How to be in the olympics!  Go have a kid in some rando-tiny country and then move somewhere and be like, "ok, now go be really good at a sport unavailable in your birth country."

Sean said, "or not even..  'you don't even have to be good at skiing, just better than someone who's never skied before.'"  

Now we're both mad at our parents for not foreseeing this possibility and making it happen. And now let me ask, was anyone born in Seychelles? but now lives in Vermont? Hurry up and learn luge!

2. There's a country called Chinese Taipei. ??? Does anyone know what the hey is going on with Taiwan and could you please solve the mystery for me once and for all??  Oh wait, I said in that post I didn't want to know. Nevermind.  Glad to meet you, "Chinese Taipei."  Since I find it highly unnerving when I come across a country I didn't know existed, I shall behave as if I've always known you and your residents otherwise known as Chinese Taipeians.

3. Since I can take or leave (LEAVE) Matt Lauer,  the TV was on mute.  When Russia's team finally came on the screen-- actually, I would do it all throughout the program in random intervals, I just couldn't help it-- I had to sing the theme song to Hunt For Red October.  Such a good theme song. Then Sean and I had a conversation about that.

"SUCH a good theme song."

"It's like one of the characters."

"It saves the scene and Sean Connery's lacking emotion."

I won't bother to tell you who said what.  Sometimes Sean and I are just of one mind.  But as I do with that song, (starting at 1:25) I couldn't stop once I started and I sang it throughout the remainder of the program and every time I'd glance up it gave it an extra ominous, menacing feel. I felt threatened in an olympic way.  

4. I decided that boring costumes are just boring.  And they shouldn't be classy because now I find that boring.  They should be crazy. Over the top.  Like Hunger Games.  Impress me.  Light people on fire for crying out loud! Dip them in liquid gold! C'mon, is it the olympics or not??   At the very least, as I mentioned, "C'mon, i'd like to see some fur.  It's the winter olympics!"   Then Team Russia came out and Sean exclaimed,

"Whoa! Santa Claus is coming to town."

Jen: Ha ha! I was asking for fur but that wasn't quite what I had in mind.

This was the best pic I could find. 

I do, however, enjoy the USA's funny sweaters.  Reminiscient of this style.

Well, that's about all I have.  I didn't watch it all because blood runs through my veins, not electricity, and, like all humans, i eventually needed sleep.  (this is my failure joke way of saying it was loooooong)

What did you like? What's your favorite event? Yesterday we went ice skating at Prospect Park at a new facility called Lakeside.  It was fun and as I skated around I realized that one of my events could seriously be... not figure skating.  Speed skating.   But then my toe caught the ice and I flailed my way to the wall.   Curse that I wasn't born in Barbados! (for many reasons)

Thursday, February 06, 2014

No Hurry

In the winter, everything is slow. Everything is dark and cold and people scratch their heads trying to find things to talk about. Or do. Or live for.  And it's difficult and we get tired of being cold and the struggling and confining routine winter puts us in.

And I hear a lot of things like when's spring? and,  hurry up and come, spring  and,  my coat can burn in hell!  

But you know, right now (and this feeling may change at any moment)  I'm in no hurry for spring.  And you know why? Because after spring comes summer, and after summer comes the fall and a new school year starts. And we all know that the fall lasts approximately one eye blink and the holidays hit us in one quick succession--blam blam blam!-- and before you know it, you're at the end of another year, another set of birthdays, thinking about the next one and what you're going to do about it. And you know what? I'm SICK OF IT.

I'm sick of time pushing me around. Prodding, shoving me along when I'm just not ready. I'm sick of seeing Julian grow another 6 inches every time I turn around.  I'm sick of feeling like I ought to constantly plan for what I'm going to do next year, in 6 months, next week, or tomorrow.  I'm going to live RIGHT NOW.  I'm going to be HERE. In this season, in this moment, whatever it is.  Because it's mine. Tomorrow will come, I know this. There's nothing i can do about it. But I say let it come when it will come.  As for me, I will turn my attention to right now, and fill this moment with things, i hope, to enrich my life.  A chat with a friend. A group text about ridiculous nonsense.  Some time on the piano or the journal or writing a letter to someone. Imagining them receiving the letter and seeing what I can do about trying to amp up the sparkle.    Time to slow down and hibernate in that special way winter affords.   Some time to eat a brownie and watch a funny show.  Time to sit and do nothing but rest my face in the sunbeams.  To put off the franticness of life and acknowledge that sometimes I have to just slough through the difficult or the mundane. To allow myself to have lame moments that aren't filled with productivity and meaning, but to at least be aware of it. Like one morning the most eventful thing to happen was when I was eating cold orange chicken and dropping some of it on the couch. And I ate it. At 9am. It happened. Relatively exciting, to be sure. But a highlight of my life? maybe not. 

Winter can be a big mean bully, but only if I let it.  And I'm kind of tired of hating it. Tomorrow will come. Spring will come. New adventures will happen. But right now is mine. I claim it as such and I am going to take it and shove it in my pocket. I will own the moment and make sure I've used it up good. I will not let winter overpower me. Just as Jennifer Connelly in Labyrinth breaks free and wins the moment she realizes that scary in a super weird hot way David Bowie has no power over her, thus it is the same with winter. Winter has its place, it is no longer my foe. I am in no hurry for spring.

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Sims Kind of Life

I have a confession, and it is this.

Well, first of all, I love computer games. This is not my confession. I don't play them but I love them. I love them and video games. Back in the day when Windows '95 arrived, I was all over that business.  Several years ago I told Sean I kind of wanted The Sims game.  This is the confession. It is pretty embarrassing but it is what it is.

What is The Sims, you ask?  It's a computer game that simulates life.  Yes, I know what you're thinking. Jen, that's a horrible idea. And you're right, it is. I acknowledge.

When you try it for the first time, you see a man, or a Sim, in his house.  You learn his needs-- eating, sleeping, entertainment, social activities, bathroom, etc. You know, like a person.  And you can control his actions or watch him putter around his house, living his life, doing what he wants or needs to do. When he changes his activity, a little action bubble pops up to inform you of his intentions. He will tell you what he needs using the same sort of speech bubble. If you are controlling him and you don't address his needs he will get angry and might grumble and Sim-swear, or be sad and weepy.  If you refuse to let him use the bathroom, he will wet himself and be humiliated.  Yes, this game has a kind of sick sadism to it.  But the goal is to keep him happy. You feel rotten and out of control if you don't. 

So, you help train him to get a job. With his job he earns money and you can buy furniture, appliances, electronics, supplies to build onto your home, or landscaping supplies.  Like real life. You can meet other Sims and cultivate relationships by calling them on the phone for a chat or inviting them over, or going to town with them.   The game is highly addictive because their life never ends.  They wake up, do what they do and go to bed and when that's done, it's a new day and you feel like you need to keep them going.  They rely on you.  There's no endpoint.  Eventually I had to shut it down for good because it got to be too much.

Every once in a while I kind of feel like I'm living a Sims kind of life.  I wake up, take care of my needs, dress myself, feed myself, etc. I go about my business. I take care of the day's tasks.  Some days are busier than others.  I shop some days, I do the things I'm expected. Some days are creatively fulfilling. Other days I am just shy of brain dead.  Some days I find myself lacking and I'm not sure why. I have to look at all the things laid out that I'm to do in order to be happy and I try to figure out what's missing.  In Sims, your happiness level is determined by several factors including a clean house, physical wellbeing (getting enough sleep, for instance), social interaction, and FUN. And this is sometimes I forget to have, in my Sim-simulated life (I just got that).

Sometimes in my busy-ness and obligations I forget to have fun. This is extremely sad for me because I am a fun-loving gal by nature.  But as adults, we are preoccupied by duty, stress, and stupid adulthoodedness that we forget to enjoy ourselves and be kids and play.  And I'm surprised.  Just like I was surprised when I used to play the game, and my character/avatar would suddenly stop what he/she was doing and stand there and cry and I was like, what? You're fed, you're dressed, you go to work.  What'sa matter? OH! you're bored. You're lonely.  I haven't let you play any games or read any books or let you have any human interaction. :(

I feel like i have to be very calculating with weighing all of the things of my life so that things don't get off kilter, that the scale isn't unbalanced.  This can feel far too constructed for my taste. Do I really need to make sure I a) eat b) sleep c) read a book d) sing a song, etc? But yes, sometimes I do.  One of my life goals is to know myself the best that I can. I do this so i can :

a) keep making lists, because I love them, and I know that I love them, and no one can make me stop making them.
b) work on stuff, like being better and progress as a human.
c) identify things within myself. Things like needs, weaknesses, tendencies, etc. Then I can address them more efficiently.  All of this has created a close friendship with myself since I spend so much time and attention with me, and as a result I live a much more deliberate life which makes everything meaningful and stuff.  To read more about me and me, click here.

In somewhat related news, this January has not been the worst.  I think I'm finally coming to an understanding of winter.  It's not that I love it. And it's not that it's getting any prettier.  What I do love is the balancing out of things it provides. The opposition, so as to enjoy the good seasons, the beautiful things.  I'm enjoying this so much that--what the hey??-- I guess I do, I almost love winter!  In a sick, self-torture kind of way.  But it does help me enjoy the good things, even during the season within the season. (that almost made sense)

For example:  Winter = bad.  Winter = ugly.  But turning onto a road facing east in the early hours and suddenly being greeted by the bright tangerine sunrise was like being kissed by a friend, the happy morning sun bringing me promises and reassurances that there is, after all, still beauty all around. It's just in spots and moments, and the contrast of Ugly Winter provides that awareness. And heightens the beauty. Do I care as much about a glorious sunrise in the summer? Do I? I'm not so sure. Then again, I probably never see the summer sunrise because i'd have to get up at 4am to see it instead of 7am nowadays, and no one's going to do that. No one should, anyway.  But I do know that I love to see a glowing tangerine sunrise in a black and grey dreary world.

(Also: I have touched on this already.)

Here is a list of things I need to be happy. If I don't do them, particularly the fun things which is easier to forget than the others, I am sad in a kind of numb, robot kind of way.

1. Eat good food. This means healthful food and also food that makes me happy. For instance, on Saturday I went out with friends for dim sum, for the first time.  I loved it so much, I'm pretty sure I said so, emotionally and with fervor, in 5 minute intervals (not annoying).

2. I spend quality time with my family. This winter has been unbelievably cold. for me as well as for others, I suspect. So this means lots of extra time indoors. And it's been fun. Crazy at times, sure. But we're starting to "Anne Frank it" and we live in a winter palace full of countless diversions. Also, I will add that I have chosen to love my child and it has made such a difference. Deliberate love is powerful. And he is a gem. We really are best friends.

3. On that note, I see friends. This one is a biggie. I NEED this. If i don't see friends, don't interact with other adult humans, and talk about interesting things, I am sad.  I sent out an invitation/plea a couple of weeks ago telling friends my brain is quickly atrophying and could they please come over with a topic to discuss. It went well and I was rejuvenated.

4. I be creative.  I need this. I haven't written much this month and it makes my heart wither like a sad balloon. My computer is located near the window and with the A/C still inside, this corner has been dubbed the Arctic Annex during this Polar Vortex of a winter (love these names) and it's just too cold to work. This needs to be rectified and I'm working on it. For example, right now there are towels shoved in the cracks. Also, today is 40 degrees and I could cry. Such a happy relief.

5. I play.  I just need to play. I need to read and think about interesting things and have meaningful discussions, but I need to PLAY.  Games, or whatever.  Last week Julian and I went to the Brooklyn Museum and saw the scariest show I've ever seen. Truly an art horror show. It was a fashion display featuring designs by Gaultier and they projected human face video onto the mannequins. So they have faces and they blink and smile from time to time.  NIGHTMARES.  Julian and I were both totally scared but tried to downplay it. Like, "hah hah...that's a little weird..." nervously.  If I ever want to open my own house of horrors, I'm using this. AAAHHH! I've found video of it! Watch at your own risk. I was, of course, tickled in a terrified way and totally glad we saw it, but again: AAAAH! Anyway, we spent the rest of the time running around the museum, seeing every possible thing you can look at (Julian is the BEST museum-goer. Love this little metro, cultured kid) and my favorite thing: experimenting with the awesome acoustics by whistling and singing every chance we got. 

6. I take winter trips. Getting out of town is so invigorating. What I like to do is find some small town close'ish by that it's drivable but not too close so that it doesn't feel like we're getting out.  It should be a mildly exciting place with at least one featured thing to do. One year we went to a hotel that had an indoor waterpark. It was so weird and kind of creepy which added to the fun.   The most important thing is that the hotel has an indoor pool (of course).   Everything else is secondary.

This blog post is hecka-long, and I apologize. But at least I'm writing.  And at least you got to see that Gaultier show. You can't unsee that, can you.  Your life is now changed forever.   And my question:

What are some things you do when you've forgotten to be happy? What must you do to stay happy during the winter? Or anytime? I'd love ideas. (And comments, but mostly ideas!) 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Thanks Be to Richard

In Julian's preschool they have a mascot. It's a monkey named Manny. They voted on him. I think Julian voted for someone else, and I think I would have too, but Manny's proven to be a worthy and beloved mascot.  At the end of each week in school, the teacher draws a name and a student gets to take Manny home and have adventures and documents them in a notebook that accompanies Manny.  This is a coveted moment and has resulted in high hopes and heavy hearts at times.   The anticipation has proven to be highly effective in providing some sweet delayed gratification because finally, after several weeks, Julian got his turn and I think I was just as excited to see him holding Manny when I arrived for pick-up as Julian was holding him.

It's also come at a perfect time because, in case anyone's forgotten, it's January, the official Worst Month of the Year (this may tie with March. I'm not sure. Anyone want to weigh in?) when I have stopped traveling out of the city, out of my neighborhood, out of my block, out of my house? This is in concordance with this important Buzzfeed article where I checked off 14 of 23 signs I've lived in the city for too long, in particular #8.

First, Julian and I hit up the doughnut shop where I consumed my blood sugar's max capacity for doughnuts with mildly sickened satisfaction. My favorites were the lemon meringue, blood orange, and plain glazed, as usual. Next was Saturday and I told Sean to choose a museum for us to visit.   He decided on some galleries in the gallery district, also known as Chelsea, on the west side.  We had a nice walk and a nice train ride, even if it was the dreaded C train which = gross, loud, slow, and stupid. Hate the C. Hate it.

**THIS JUST IN:**  HA HA!  I just googled  "worst subway train in Manhattan" to see if I could find some supportive evidence and guess what came up?!  HA! Oh, I am delighted. Go ahead, do it.  I knew my feelings were valid.

Anyway, we found our way over to the galleries and I made a comment about how I didn't know how I felt about galleries.  They're so small and it's like, what, I travel all this way just to see five pieces of art? Where's my bang for my buck? It's like high end clothing stores. They always look cleaned out and I'm meant to pay $500 for 1 of 7 options. I'm unappealed.  In this case my buck = time and energy, since the galleries were free. But still, would I not rather visit a huge museum and see all the art in the world?  I made this statement and then we visited them and I took it all back.

"Galleries are the BEST.  We pop in, pay no money, see some art, are able to actually pause and enjoy it and think about it. I don't get lost, I'm not overwhelmed, no one else is here. It doesn't take all day, and we pop out! It's a win win win win win!"

I also had to take back another statement I had made which was about Richard Serra, the featured artist.  He makes/installs/exhibits giant sculptures made of steel or sheet metal or something.  I've seen several of his shows, some solo, some in museums.  They're very enjoyable because they're so menacing and demand your attention AND respect. Sometimes fear.  Click here to view.  The statement I made was something like, "geez, Richard. Get a new trick."   And then afterward I said, "I take it back, Richard. Keep doing what you're doing and never stop."   His medium is the same but the configurations are varied and so much fun. I love participatory art. Art as an experience. Art you get to run around in.   We took Manny with us and had a great time.  See some pics:

After this selvesie, a nice guy offered to take our picture. 
Julian didn't want to be a part of it until he saw we didn't care if he was in it or not. 
Then he came running back and jumped in for the first ever 
held-still family photo he's ever been in in his life. 

Speaking of family photos, we've never had any remotely professionally taken, other than with extended fam, but I think if I do, I'm going to do it here.  Amazing backdrop, right??  I should have had the guy use his awesome professional camera to take our picture.  "Uhh, instead of my phone, could you just use your camera? Here's my email address. Just use it. how hard would it be? There's the button. push it. go ahead.. it's easy. shhh, do it. do it. push it. do it. take the pic. shhh." 

Julian took his own photos which I wish i could share with you, because he got some pretty great shots, but his phone is old and i can't email them to myself even though I thought I could. 

Handsome Sean, just being handsome

 Here I am unknowingly catching Sean taking a selfie, which is pretty great, right? I feel like I captured something special. It's just funny, Sean taking a selfie. I'm going to go ahead and call this pic "art."

And here's how it turned out, the second half of my art piece:

 I think I'll call it "Self-voyeurism."

Taking artistic photos with a monkey. Some of the guards saw us and I'm pretty sure they thought we were trying to make art of our own instead of working on a preschool project. But then i was like, they're right, that IS good art! We should be doing this.  Stuffed fuzziness + austerity = good art.

I think I'll contact Richard with my idea and see if he wants to collaborate, along with offer up my thanks for making our January Saturday special, and for invigorating my soul.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Julian's Questions & Answers

Since we're in the fun inquisitive stage, this includes wanting to know the definitions of things, which I enjoy.  I get to test my word power and have challenged myself to try to give the best, simplest answer on the first try.  As with most things in life, I've tried to make it into a little game, hopefully where I am the winner. So far I'm pretty pleased.  Here are a few examples: 

What does "regret" mean?

Regret is a feeling that you should have done something but you didn't and you're sad about it.

[This one has a funny side story. Weeks ago I had written down my statement on some envelope on the desk here so i wouldn't forget it and then when I finally sat down here to add it to the list, Sean came by and saw it and exclaimed, "so THAT'S what that was! I thought it was some quote you found and liked or something," which made me laaaugh and laugh, because if that were true, what a horrible quote!  I imagine myself finding it in some book or article and being all moved, like, "wow... what a great quote. I'd better write that down" as if it's super deep and resonating.   Ha ha ha.  Just tickles me, I don't know why. It reminds me of my teenage self, when I used to come up with philosophical self-quotes and write them in my journal. I should go find one.  Some of them are really, really good.]


What does "spit out" mean?

You push something out of your mouth that was once in it.

(Also, really? you don't know what "spit out" means? :/ )


What does "familiar" mean?

You feel like you've seen it before


What's a flood?

When there's too much water in a place.


Julian reasoned, "Sometimes I'm upset, and sometimes I'm not, and that's ok!"

I replied, "Yes but when you were upset you were also disobedient, and there are consequences to that."

"What's consequences?"

When something happens because of the choices you make. 


This next is just a funny way he asks "when."   He says:

What's when we do that?  

 What's when Christmas comes?

It's pretty great. Love rational grammatical alternatives. Who doesn't?


This one is just a funny quote.   He turned to me the other night and randomly said:

"Mom, maybe the harmonica is the worst thing after all."

a) harmonicas??
and b) the deliberation
and finally c) the conclusion

And then when I thought about it, deliberating, considering the harmonica in this context, I finally concluded that he might just be right.  Suddenly I felt pretty creeped out.

Lastly, Julian has some funny versions of things around town.  I feel like i've mentioned this but there's no way to be sure... as if there would be some kind of way to search and find a specific word within a document?? Can't be done. I wish.  But anyway, here they are:

1. Times Square = Town Square.  I love this because town square is basically the exact opposite of Times Square.  Meeting place for villagers with dirty streets and gallows vs.  what people call a town square. (heh heh. see what i did.)

2.  Central Park = Sensual Park.  Hahaha.  So funny because he's trying to say it right. He goes slowly. But he just doesn't. Just can't make the t to r transition, err a more accurate term for whatever that is.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013