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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).

    Thirty-Six





    When I was born, Gerald Ford was president. John Denver, James Taylor, Barry Manilow, and the Bee Gees were standards on the radio. A gallon of gas cost $.44. [Feel free to pick your jaw up off of the floor now. I can wait.] The Vietnam War officially ended. Jaws was the most popular film of the year. The VHS tape (now obsolete) was introduced and Bill Gates created Microsoft.

    Me. Today. On my 36th Birthday
    Turning thirty-six insists that I’ve officially moved into the “next age bracket”. This means that when I fill out forms, I’m no longer grouped in with the 20-somethings (see Wiki: US Census - Middle Age). I’m starting to be called Ma’am instead of Miss. The gray hairs which I’ve been sporting for the last 10 years are starting to accumulate (which, to be frank, I actually like, and am doing nothing about, so take that, Time). The “oldies” station on the radio plays 80’s music now. But I’m not complaining; I loved eighties music.
    This year was awesome. I started running. Back on April 12th, I got up off my bum, and got on the treadmill. (I only lasted about ¼ mile). I got up the next day and did it again (& the next day...). Next week, (almost exactly 6 months after starting running), I will be running a 10k event! I’m feeling healthier than I have in a long time. I’m reading much more often again. I travelled a lot this year with my family. I’m writing on my blog with greater frequency (and I think people might actually be reading it? Anyone? Anyone? Beuller…). Adam and I have gone to see real movies in the theatre recently. AND? I started back roller skating! So my 36th year was a darned good one.
    But, here’s the thing. I’ve noticed that my hollywood contemporaries are aging, and… I don’t recognize the new ones. The 20-somethings of the world look so young to me. The teenagers I see in are babies. Heck, my own children will BOTH be teenagers in less than 6 years. What…WHAT?! Jane’s Addiction is about to release a new album and I remember when their first one came out. My friend from college said about the new album, “I may have to get that for my Geriatric Lollapalooza mix”. Which… Exactly. (Sigh.) See, Kurt Cobain has been nearly 20 years gone, but when I listen to Nevermind, it sounds fresh to me! Time is passing, things are aging, but I’m still feeling young, and my memories of youth are still bright.
    I don’t have a problem with aging, really (really, really). Age really is just a number, blah-di-blah. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit the passing of time weirds me out just a little. My kids (no longer babies) have never not known a cell phone (my youngest hasn’t ever not known a smart phone), and have no idea what it’s like to carry change around for a payphone. What’s a payphone, Mom? We sold the last of our VHS tapes at a garage sale this year, and we converted our CD collection to digital six years ago. My mother’s generation? They went to the moon. My generation? They’ve discontinued NASA and downgraded Pluto from planet status. Time passes, things change, time continues on, etc., etc....
    I’ve got a lot of time left. (89 years, actually, since I plan on seeing the next century.) So I guess I’d better get used the fact that my kids are currently better on computers than I was in high school. It’s just the way it is. I embrace the passing of time as each moment shows me something new. So, hello middle age (ha!)… what can you show me?
    Posted: Oct 07 2011, 15:22 by kelly | Comments (5) RSS comment feed |
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    Inception, Reality, and Parenting





    Last year, in celebration of our 9th (and 16th) anniversary, Adam and I went to see the movie Inception. We saw it, in fact, on our anniversary, in a movie theatre. We both enjoyed that movie to the extreme; and have even watched it a second time, since. We were both so affected by the content, the message, and basic the idea of the film that after the initial viewing, I remember we could hardly drive home – distracted as we were by thinking of and talking through the meaning of this movie. Processing continued the entire night: our interpretations, how we experienced it together, and… what that really means in the larger journey of life.


    (A still from Inception - checking on reality) 

    Which is what this post about, sort of. I won’t give away the movie, in case you haven’t seen it (which, if you haven’t, what are you waiting for, seriously? Go buy it, rent it, whatever – just see it), but I will say, in general, it calls into question the idea of reality – individual and shared realities. Illusions. Dreams. Thoughts that you thought were your own. That maybe weren’t.  

     

    It asks us: how do we define our reality? Is reality what we see? Or, is it what we want to see? Or maybe, what others see or want us to see? Maybe even what we’ve been told we should be seeing?

     

    I remember in a figure art class once, I had a professor who said no one’s interpretation of the figure in front of us was wrong, because we all see it differently. Every single one of us is actually. Seeing. A different. Thing.  That even if we stood in the exact same place as that person, we’d just see it differently. Because what we see around us is based on our experiences, our memories, our current state of mind.  Perhaps a figure model may appear voluptuous to an artist who comes from a family who trends towards lean and lank; while the very same model appears far too skinny to one who is familiar with a more hearty body type.  She asked us if we thought five people could agree on how to describe the color of said model’s skin.  Heck, even two people.  It couldn’t be done.  Because… how DO you describe color? Light, tone, shade --- all subjective; all individual. Yet, all of us looked at the figure, and drew her, and she was there - recognizable to us all on our myriad canvases as a human figure.  A shared experience, and yet – each representation, each manifestation was different.

     

    So I wonder sometimes about reality.  As in – what is it? Is it really just what is happening as time passes – like a video camera? Or is it more of what I’m projecting on to my surroundings and then, how I’ve remembered those projections?  Is someone above pulling the strings? Is our life a set path we’re just walking or stumbling down? Or am I creating the path as I walk it?  And, can I create the path for someone walking it with me? Or do they see a different path, even in spite of my best intentions of making that path clear and defined?

     

    It reminds me of parenting. Each of us as parents are living through raising our children sharing experiences – pregnancy, birth, feeding, diapering, sleeping (or lack thereof), and we all try to help and support one another, understand each other, and yet… even within these shared experiences, each of us choose (or perhaps were pushed) down different paths. And at the end of these paths – well, we all have a similar destination in mind: healthy, happy children.  But our interpretations of how to get there, and what the path looks and feels like, varies so widely. What is right? What is… real? And is that really the right way? Is it what our babies are experiencing – the rightness that we feel? What ARE they experiencing? How can we tell when they can’t tell us? We try to interpret their cries – but even two parents sharing very similar parenting views can interpret a baby’s needs very differently. Because there is no standardized test for the tools and measurements we’re using to help us with our interpretations: our own experiences, our own memories of childhood, perhaps our mother’s or doctor’s or friend’s experience, all of these inputs make individualized changes and alterations to our tools. But do any of these tools really help us understand or experience what it is that our children are actually experiencing through our parenting?

     

    I think of a time I’d been driving in the car with my children – them in the back, reading, singing, talking – basically blissfully unaware of my bad mood in the front (with the music on so they can’t hear me grumbling, and my sunglasses on so they can’t see me scowling).  I asked them later about our drive and they said it was fun – of course it was, Mom.  If you’d asked me, I’d have told you I had a lousy one.  But we were all in that car together, right? I did feel lousy. They did feel good. So, which reality is real?

      


    (My kids, experiencing their own realities... as I always follow behind with the camera) 

    Have you ever had an experience that has stayed with you?  Something important – say a wedding.  Or childbirth. You remember it so vividly. Details you swear are real. Yet, have you ever spoken those details to someone who was there with you, only to have them say, oh, really? I don’t remember that part at all.  Or, even worse – no, it didn’t happen like that (it didn’t? It didn’t??).

     

    It’s not really a comforting thought – these alternate realities: Shared realities. Realities altered by the way we remember them. Because if my own reality can’t be trusted, how real is it?

    But then, I think over the going on seventeen years with Adam and the last going on seven years with our children and how I’ve experienced my reality of those years. I know I remember things the way I’ve decided to remember them. And maybe that involves changing my memories with time. Or, maybe my memories reflect the way things really happened. Really, that is, at least for me. I feel warm and comforted by those memories.

    I like to believe – since we are still together and enjoying the experience of togetherness, and our children are growing and thriving, and continuing to amaze us, and expressing joy at being with us each day both in their here & now, and their memories – that Adam’s reality of our relationship and our children’s reality of our family are all similar.  Or… at least that we’re all comfortable in our shared experiences, different as they may be. There is solace in that – our journey is a good, and happy, and peaceful one. Maybe the particular details of the paths we take – all of us humans, individuals, parents – don’t matter as much as we all like to believe.

    Posted: Jan 07 2011, 08:34 by kelly | Comments (7) RSS comment feed |
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    14 Good Movies and List Love.





    Lists.  My days are filled with them:  emails yet to read, things that need to be done, folks whose calls I’ve missed, songs that’ve played in itunes, groceries to buy, movies to watch…

    Truthfully, I love lists. Writing them, crossing them off, iPhoning them, emailing them, saving them, reading them.

     I use lists to stay motivated!  I find it exciting to be able to cross things off a list – and the yearning to see a list full of strike-thrus is just what I need sometimes to get going, or keep going. I make a white board “to-do” list with the kids almost daily.  At the beginning of this year, I blogged my New Year’s Resolution list (of course, creating a list to stay motivated doesn’t actually guarantee those things will be done).

    I create lists to remember things. How many times have I been to the grocery store, standing in the middle of an aisle, with two children buzzing around me, and myself knowing what I needed to get is… right there… on the tip of my tongue… (if only I’d made a list!)

    I start them to stay organized!  If I know my day is going to be full, I have a lot to get done, and perhaps not quite enough time (is there ever enough time?), I create a list with approximate times assigned to each task. Okay, maybe I’m a little weird, but it keeps me focused, and helps the kids know what to expect next.

    Sometimes? I make lists purely for fun.

    Like the time I challenged myself to pick 10 music albums I couldn’t live without, if I were stranded on a desert island Or, when I reached out to my Twitter followers & asked for their favorite emotional songs  Or, when I listed the tunes I most liked to sing to my babies

    These last couple of weeks, following a fun list-making challenge offered up by one of our co-workers, I spent creating a list of my Top 100 Favorite Movies.  I was excited, and challenged by this list idea! Ranking one hundred movies?  Impossible!  Yet, once I got into the process, I realized there were actually FAR more than 100 movies that I’d consider for the list, and when I got down to the nitty gritty, there were quite a few that ended up not making the cut.  I won’t bore you with the whole list (assuming that you and I may not enjoy lists to the same extent). But, I will give you the first 14.  Why 14?  Because #14 happens to be a movie about a fella who likes… making lists. So, here:

    1) Life is Beautiful (La Vita è Bella)

    2) The Princess Bride

    3) The Abyss

    4) Running on Empty

    5) Say Anything

    6) The Sound of Music

    7) Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind

    8) E.T.

    9) The Shawshank Redemption

    10) Stand by Me

    11) The Graduate

    12) Gorillas in the Mist

    13) Willow

    14) High Fidelity

    **Editing to add: I recently saw Inception.  Which means, that pretty much everyone on this list would get bumped down one (though I haven't decided whether Inception is #1 or #3). But because I mention a list of 14 so many times, I won't change everything up - for posterity.**

     

    Interestingly, as I looked over my list, I realized how many (seven) of those top 14 have a lot to do with music. Maybe all movies have a lot to do with music.  Or maybe that’s why I’m drawn to certain films. I’m not sure I see any deeper meaning ther, but... it’s just interesting.  Yet another reason I like lists – sometimes you discover things you wouldn’t have otherwise.

    Also interestingly, Adam took on this challenge around the same time as I.  We didn’t collude with one another, yet, when all was said & done, we ended up with 66 of the same movies on our lists! Wow. I guess that’s what happens when you share 16 years of your life with someone.  Add that to my list of things I love about my husband. Great taste in movies.

     

    So, do you like making lists?  Tell me about your favorite lists. Or, I’d take a list of your top 14 too.

    Posted: Jul 29 2010, 08:30 by kelly | Comments (3) RSS comment feed |
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    Rubber bands, mix tapes, and nostalgia





    Silly Bandz. Have you seen these? Rubber bands, in the shapes of animals & other objects. At a premium price. Kids collect them, trade them, choke on them, shoot them at other kids… oh wait, no. Well, probably yes. But it’s not a use officially listed on the packaging, anyway.
    Grandma brought each of my kiddos a pack of these rubber bracelets home from vacation last week. I don’t have a problem with silly bandz, really. I mean, except for the paying $5 for a pack of rubberbands part (the inventor of Silly Bandz? Laughing. All. The. Way. To. The. Bank.)
    Now, they’re a little too trendy for my taste, and the rebel in me wants to tell my kids to buck the trend. Yet, at the same time, they make me a bit nostalgic, if you want to know the truth. Before my own bucking-the-trend days, I was a passionate collector of rubber/jelly bracelets. Do you remember those?
    Only I think they were somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 – 25 cents a piece, back then. Ya know, back then being early 80’s. (Yeah, I’m old) I used to love those things. Love them like sleep with them, make them into necklaces, get them taken away by my fifth grade teacher, sneak into said teacher’s room during recess & steal them back…
    So it got me thinking about OTHER trendy or otherwise awesome things that make me reminisce on the good parts of my youth. Here’s what I came up with:
    Jellies. The shoes. Oh, I had this most awesomest pair of fluorescent orange jelly sandals when I was about 9. Those babies would GLOW in the twilight, man. I’d strap them on, and wait at the door, for just the right light, just as the sun set, when the sky is that weird grayish purplish color for about 10 minutes, and race out of the house down the driveway to dance in my day-glo orange jellies. Yesiree boss, I was cool. Um, by cool I mean, you know, uncool.
    And then there was Madonna. I’m not sure I can give words to just how much I worshipped Madonna as a pre-teen. She was amazing to me – the most beautiful voice, the most risqué lyrics (hey, I didn’t really KNOW what Papa Don’t Preach was about, but I sure as heck knew as a cruised along on my bike with my walkman on that it was SOMETHING my parents didn’t quite want me to listen to), and marvelous clothes. Speaking of clothes… the very first outfit that I purchased with my very own money – I’d say right around the ripe old age of 10, was (yes, I still remember it like it was yesterday, thank you very much) a white miniskirt that had a roll-down waist, and an orange (are you getting the picture here, orange was cool) slightly off the shoulder shirt with roll-up sleeves that, when rolled up, revealed orange MESH. Very Madonna-esque. Very cool (come on, it was the EIGHTIES). My mom wouldn’t let me get the studded belt. But, you know, you take what you can get. I probably wore that outfit every other day.
    (Okay, don’t have a photo of that outfit, so this will have to suffice. Me, circa 1989. Note asymmetrical haircut & beret. Really, the start of said bucking-the-trend days. Yet, note the Docksiders adorning my feet. Gah.)
    So back to the eighties & music: the mix tape. My first mix tapes were made using the radio. By this I mean that I used to hold my tape recorder up to my sister’s radio & wait with bated breath for the “good” songs (read: “Walking on Sunshine” and “Careless Whisper” and “People are People”) to come on the radio and rush to press play & record in precise unison, quickly press the microphone slot up against the speaker, then dash out of the room & make everyone promise not to go in until the song was done, to avoid any background noise. Of course, there always was background noise. Also, it was recorded in mono. But again, you take what you can get.
    When CDs came out, I was in heaven as far as mix tapes were concerned. No more tape player to tape player recording of tapes from my friends (and yes, I still have the Beastie’s License to Ill on a tape-to-tape dub. Yes I DO.). Now I could have my music in STEREO (and uninterrupted by a side-flip)! I still remember my first CDs. I used to save the long boxes the CDs came in (remember those?) and tape them up all over my walls. I shudder at the thought that I used to pay $17.99 for each CD. Highway robbery, I tell you.
    Eventually I burned all my disks into iTunes, and sold my CDs. And I swear I kept this one for posterity ONLY:
    But back to mix tapes. There was just something about them I’ve not quite managed to duplicate with an iTunes playlist. Maybe it’s the penciled-in song list on the tape label. Maybe it’s the song cutting off in the middle when you unexpectedly reach the end of the tape. There was something just very… tangible about mix tapes. I did keep a lot of my mix tapes, though I no longer have a way to play them. Relics. I just can’t part with them…
    So what else evokes memories of youth? I suppose there were the movies. There are a few movies that don’t ever get edged out of my top 20, no matter how many new movies I see. Classics, you know, like ET (I distinctly watching this from the FRONT ROW of the movie theatre and bawling my eyes out.), The Empire Strikes Back, Karate Kid, Yentl (I loved Barbara as a kid… not nearly as much as Madonna, but still. What ever happened to Barbara?), Neverending Story, The Princess Bride, Willow, Say Anything...
    And books! Nancy Drew, Watership Down, Charlotte's Web, The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe, Bridge to Terabithia...
    Sigh. I really lived those movies & books as a kid, not just watched or read them, ya know?
    So, back to the present. When I see my kids with silly bands lined up on their arms, I sigh a bit. Knowing they might remember them in 30 years with as much fondness as I recall mix tapes. Or maybe they’ll forget them. But for now, I’m okay with them, trendy or not. I look at them like a little sign that my kids are breaking out on their own, away from me & my ideas of what is cool or not. Which is exactly what they are supposed to do; growing up. Growing into themselves. It means we’re doing our job right.
    Posted: Jul 14 2010, 17:21 by kelly | Comments (5) RSS comment feed |
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