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    Stranger than Fiction

    I recently watched Stranger than Fiction (Yes, it was been six years since this film came out. I like to watch movies way after they come out. Okay, it's not strictly purposeful; it just happens that way when you have kids, a job, [insert excuse for less free time here]. Although it's nice in a way, to come late to a film, as you don't have the wave of publicity distracting you from your actual impression of it. In fact, if you're like me, the distance from pop-culture means you have no idea what you're in for. Of course, I have varied from that trend when the stars align - i.e. babysitter and free time is available when desired movie is still in the theatre.). It stars Will Ferrell, Queen Latifah, Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman  (who, ohmygod is 75 years old. I am currently refusing to believe that, regardless of evidence to the contrary. He's still 20-year-old Ben in my eyes.) and Maggie Gyllenhaal. 

    On to the film:

    It was funny, light, sweet, and yet... incredibly intense, somehow, all at once. I didn't want to move from my spot during watching. 

    The writing was so funny - Will Ferrell cracked me up continually - and yet...

    so. poignant.

    --- if you haven't watched the film yet, the following will be a bit of a plot spoiler, so, consider yourself warned ---


    Plot Synopsys:  Famous serial fiction writer Karen Eiffel is suffering from writer's block. Chiefly, she can’t find the close of her story; ending the life of her main character, Harold Crick. Harold, it just so happens, is more than a character - he exists outside of her imagination and page; living his life, as narrated by her. How Harold's life unfolds - with order, routine, sameness - is predicated on how Karen writes the story - mostly. At essence; what happens to him is dictated by a greater force - and thus, he comes to believe the ending of his life may already told; destiny writ, like a puppet. Only, it isn't, and he isn't. He starts to break away from his routine, change up the sameness, tries to figure out whether his life is a comedy or a tragedy, discovers love, and who he really is, and begins to look for her (God). Upon meeting, each telling the other who he is; they find they are each, in their own way, searching for the right ending. Harold reads the ending of his story and lets her know that it's okay for her to dictate how his life will end:

    "I read it and I loved it and there's only one way it can end."

    Only... she doesn't agree.

    Because, you see, life just isn't like that.

    As Karen varies from her path of killing off her hero, she shines a light on the importance of the time we spend alive; how we shape our lives, and what we choose to do in our day-to-day - matters:

    "Sometimes when we lose ourselves in fear & despair, in routine & constancy, in hopelessness & tragedy... we can still find reassurance in a familiar hand on our skin, or a kind and loving gesture or a subtle encouragement, or a loving embrace, or an offer of comfort...

    and we must remember that all these things: the nuances, the anomalies, the subtleties which we assume only accessorize our days are in fact here for a much larger & nobler cause: they are here to save our lives."


    I took away from the film that our lives aren't already written, no matter how much it might feel that they are. Our destinies aren't sealed, and no one is pulling all the strings. If we want to effect change on our path, we can. In fact, the path our life story takes is perhaps far more important than the ending or where we might go when our story is complete.

    This film is sweet, funny, and definitely worth a watch. I loved the chemistry between the characters - all of them, interwoven and complex in their own rights. If for no other reason, you should see this so I won't be the only one who is stunned by how young Dustin Hoffman looks (gratuitous photo of Ben in The Graduate).

    Food for Thought on the Gender Binary

    Last night we were at a restaurant as a family - my husband, myself, and our two children. As we were waiting for our food, one of the servers approached our table and singled out one of my children.

    "Is this child a boy or a girl?" she said.

    We answered as we understand our child in question to be - what our child has asserted to us to be their gender. (for the purpose of this piece, the gender choice of my child has been withheld)

    The waitress appeared puzzled, and continued to linger at our table, scrutinizing our child. She got closer in - right up to our child's face, in fact.

    "Are YOU a boy or a girl?" she inquired directly of our child, obviously unhappy with our response - perhaps seeking  clarification or perhaps just confirmation of our assertion from the source - it was unclear. Her interrogation wasn't mean spirited, just, well... overtly skeptical.

    Our child shrugged, unbothered, and answered.

    Still, the waitress lingered; still looking. Bewildered.

    And then, as if in attempt to justify her incredulity to both us, AND our children,  

    "oh, well, this child has such a girl's/boy's face!"

    And with that, left our table.

    We were, in a word, flabbergasted. That is, my husband and I, anyhow. In fact we both felt unable to fully enjoy the rest of our meal.

    At issue for me, primarily, was WHY someone felt so compelled to even ASK the question she had, to override the - what I would believe to be - generally understood code of appropriate conduct when addressing "strangers": that is, basically, to be polite and NOT impertinent.

    But beyond that - giving that an assumption of appropriateness might vary from person to person - why CONTINUE to pry after the question had been answered ; to continue to meddle into an area of personal definition that is, well, PERSONAL?

    What gave someone the right to take the liberty of assumption well beyond casual observation and into interrogation?

    And then, we were plagued with trying to answer our own questions: Was it because our child was dressed as our child felt they'd like to dress - perhaps not conforming to the understood gender expectations of bright colors = girl and dark colors = boy? Was it because our child was wearing their hair in the way they choose - perhaps not conforming to the understood gender-aligned expectations of short hair = boy and long hair = girl? What makes anyone feel they NEED to classify another person into box A or B? Is our society so hung up on defining personhood by gender assignment? Was it because we didn't loudly put our foot down and insist that our child was A or B? Was it because our child is... a CHILD, and adults tend to take liberties in speaking with children that they wouldn't dream of taking with adults?

    I don't know.

    Incidentally, the interaction didn't seem to faze either of our children - not the one whose gender was being questioned, and not the one who - apparently - fit neatly into the gender binary. I wonder, perhaps, if our children's reactions - or lack thereof - mightn't be a lesson. Gender is but one piece in the very large puzzle of being. We needn't make it the primary nor the ultimate in defining who a person IS.

    Food for thought.  


    Posted: Nov 12 2012, 19:00 by kelly | Comments (5) RSS comment feed |
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    Filed under: Children | Parenting

    Tart Cranberry Apple Pear Sauce

    This time of year I LOVE being in the kitchen. Baking, cooking, and more baking. Mostly with cinnamon. And cranberries. And pumpkin. And apples.

    This recipe is an evolution of my original Apple Cranberry Sauce recipe; and much improved if I do say so myself. But you don't have to take MY word for it. (Yes, that was a reference to Reading Rainbow, for the oldsters among us.)

    2 Cups of delicious New Jersey grown Cranberries (okay, they don't HAVE to be from NJ, but, humor me here. The Pine Barrens just do SOMETHING to make cranberries amazing)

    4 Large Apples (I recommend something on the tart side like Granny Smith)

    1-2 Pears

    1/2 Tsp Lemon Zest (this means grating the rind/skin - so please use organic lemons if at all possible)

    3/4 Cup Brown Sugar

    1 Cup Water

    1/2 tsp of Cinnamon

    Dash of Nutmeg

    Peel & cut the apples & pears into bite-size pieces. Combine the berries, apples, pears, sugar, lemon zest, water, and spices in a medium pot. Bring to a boil. Stir, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for around 10 minutes or until the apples are soft (but with a bit of bite still to them). The fruit and juices will soften and meld together into a deliciously sweet and tart sauce as it cools. Serve warm or cold - both are delicious!


    You can top with a bit of vanilla sugar if it's not sweet enough for your tastes (though I prefer it tart, you can also up the brown sugar to one cup, initially). Enjoy!


    Posted: Nov 08 2012, 18:25 by kelly | Comments (1) RSS comment feed |
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    Wordless Wednesday: Intuition

    When your inner voice speaks, do you listen? It's there for a reason. It's our connection to each other and our universe. Don't be afraid.

    Trust your intuition.


    Posted: Nov 07 2012, 11:31 by kelly | Comments (2) RSS comment feed |
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    Hurricane Sandy and the Jersey Shore

    If you'd like to donate to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, click here (to jump right to the bottom of this post).

    Two weekends ago, we took the day to travel "down the shore" (that's how we say it here in New Jersey). We went to Long Beach Island because it's the closest to us - a little over an hour drive - or 35mi due West as the crow flies.

    (running along Spray Beach in LBI)

    (one of the street markers located at each opening in the dunes along LBI)

    I'd been meaning to share our trip with you here in pictures, because it was such an idyllic  weekend at the beach. But then... Hurricane Sandy (known pre-disaster by the moniker "Frankenstorm" for its proximity to Halloween) came through my state.

    For my family, the hurricane meant a bit of scrambling around in preparation - gathering supplies, the unique opportunity to witness a hurricane up-close, 24 hours of lost power, frantic working to keep our warehouse up and running, and a delayed Halloween. We were truly fortunate to have missed some of the worst weather and after effects.


    For other families, some I know personally and others I've only seen in the media reports, the hurricane brought power disruption, home destruction, and most devastatingly, loss of life. The pictures I see coming in from the shore (where we JUST. WERE.) and from the surrounding towns and cities are almost incomprehensible.

    (looking towards the ocean on LBI during the storm - source unknown)

    (car buried in sand on LBI after the storm- source unknown)

    (the dunes, no longer there - LBI after the storm - source unknown)

    (a beach marker, nearly covered in sand during post-storm cleanup efforts on LBI - source unknown)

    My heart goes out to those still struggling. It's COLD here in New Jersey right now; and there's a Nor'easter coming this week (that means a BIG snow storm for those of you not from the North East USA). Millions are still without power, thousands of homes were damaged, and there's a gas shortage in the Northern part of my state. It's hard to watch the news, to talk about it with my children, to understand what happened so close to home. But it helps to know so many people have have donated time and money to help those most in need. The generosity of the human spirit is alive and well in New Jersey; I am so thankful.

    If you'd like to donate to the Hurricane Sandy relief efforts in my state, and the surrounding areas hit hard by the storm, here are a few places you can do so. (Each of these charities are non-religiously/politically affiliated and have received a commendable rating at CharityNavigator.org)

    To donate directly to Hurricane Sandy child welfare efforts: Save the Children


    To donate directly to Hurricane Sandy hunger relief efforts at the Jersey shore: The Foodbank of Monmouth & Ocean Counties


    To donate directly to Hurricane Sandy medical supplies and equipment: Direct Relief International


    To donate directly to Hurricane Sandy companion animal rescue and care efforts: Best Friends Animal Society


    To donate directly to general Hurricane Sandy emergency relief efforts: American Red Cross


    To help find or to offer breastmilk storage to those without power: Human Milk for Human Babies - New Jersey


    Thank you for reading, for donating, for keeping those affected by Hurricane Sandy in your hearts and thoughts. Peace.

    Note: I am not affiliated with any of the above listed charities. When you click on the above links, you will leave my site, and go directly to the individual charity pages.
    Posted: Nov 03 2012, 17:10 by kelly | Comments (4) RSS comment feed |
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