The Oscars: 2015

Tonight is the 2015 Academy Awards. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but Drew is crazy for the Oscars. He can usually predict pretty closely which movie is going to win which category. Like, ALL the categories.

I, unfortunately, have kind of bad taste in movies. I like romantic comedies. I like to rewatch favorites from when I was a teenager. So it’s nice to have this milestone every year where people who know good movies make a list of the “best” movies, and then I can check them off a list as I watch them.

There are eight Best Picture nominees this year, and while I wished that Gone Girl would be on the list, it wasn’t. (Also, we watched Foxcatcher before the noms came out, assuming it would be one of them, and it wasn’t, so I would like that 129 minutes of my life back please.) But this weekend we finally watched the last of the eight movies – just in time.

And so, here is my (completely definitive) ranking of the 2015 Best Picture nominees:

  1. Boyhood
  2. Whiplash  
  3. Birdman
  4. The Grand Budapest Hotel
  5. The Imitation Game
  6. American Sniper
  7. Selma
  8. The Theory of Everything

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Here We Lent Again

Happy Ash Wednesday! It’s time to frantically figure out what to give up for Lent this year!

I actually started thinking about this a couple weeks ago, when I noticed at work that someone had brought in some Mardi Gras-themed pastries from a board meeting. But it’s nowhere near Mardi Gras! I thought. Then I looked at a calendar. But it’s not quite — well there’s still a little time — I mean, who even likes King Cake? Well, the colors ARE nice.

In the past I’ve given up Facebook, and arguing with Drew. Last year I gave up chocolate, and although that was an appropriately difficult thing for me to give up, I didn’t want to just repeat something from last year. So, after some hurried thought (and finishing some Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Toffee Bar Crunch last night), I think I’m going to give up ice cream.

What are you giving up this year? (Or, as I know some people do, are you taking on something additional during Lent?)

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Filed under Beginnings, Food, Holidays, Humor, Nonfiction, Religion

For Another Ten

Drew and I recently celebrated 10 years of dating. It was a couple weeks ago, so I’m a little behind here, but 10 years is significant enough that I’m giving myself a pass.

Here are some fun facts about when we got together back in 2005:

We were about to start rehearsals for Into the Woods, but we cast the show before Christmas break. So just for the record, I didn’t cast him because he was my boyfriend. I cast him because he was awesome.

Erin actually knew that we both liked each other at least a week before we admitted it to each other. She chose not to say anything because we had both told her in confidence. That’s some crazy loyalty there.

We were at a party where we discovered our mutual interest. This party took place in the house that we later moved into for my final year of school.

Incidentally, I wasn’t originally planning on going to that party. I only went because my friend Josh stood me up. It turned out he had an emergency appendectomy that night. Thanks, Josh’s burst appendix!

Even if I hadn’t gone to THAT party, I still think our dating was inevitable. We had been inching toward it for weeks. It was going to happen.

For instance, a few weeks earlier, we’d gone to the movies together to see The Phantom of the Opera. But I don’t think either of us knew whether or not it was a date. I mean, I was running late, which I would have tried not to do, obviously, if I knew it was a date. And I presume if it was a date, he would have picked me up, and maybe we wouldn’t have gone to a matinee.

We accidentally introduced our parents to each other after just a couple weeks. They just both happened to have come to this show we were both working on, on the same night. Oops!

The Last 5 Years came a little later, so it doesn’t really fit into my theme here, but I’m still inspired by the fact that the movie version is coming out today. It’s bringing back a lot of memories and feelings from those early years.

I have never in my life been more sure about any choice I’ve ever made. Then, now…always.

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tbt: Ashes North

My new term at school started this week, and I’ve been trying to figure out how to juggle two classes at once. Also, this week at work we revealed our upcoming season to the public, so there was a lot of planning to be done for that party and the (good) aftermath. The good news is, I think I got my feet back under me. The even better news is that the Fiction Writing class is exactly what I wanted: some readings, then write a short story. Critique others. Every week. I am so excited.

I have been focusing on the other class (Literary Theory), so I don’t have anything to show yet for Fiction. But I thought I would hearken back to my first Fiction class at UC Davis, which I believe was 2005. I don’t remember what the prompt for this was. But it’s clearly loosely based on Lakeport (which, for the record, I adore – and which, in the last 10 years, finally got a Starbucks).

==

Ashes North

There is a magical thing happening to the town of Ashes South, Minnesota. Children and adults are gathered in the streets, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the bulldozer that will destroy the building that was their church in the seventies and early eighties, to raze the land and build afresh on top of it. Teenagers pretend not to care but in their diaries and when they’re drunk they confess to each other how excited they are about the changes that are coming about in Ashes South. There is little more to talk about between classes at the local high school, and the students – 207 in all – shiver in the cold February air, rubbing their arms through their jackets and talking about how the town will change. Daydreaming about the exciting lives that will soon be theirs, they pass around stolen cigarettes behind the weight room during the lunch period, then munch tic tacs on their walk back to the classrooms when the bell rings. But the entire time, they are talking about the news they’ve been seeing in the local paper, watching on the local news, discussing in their economics/government class, and hearing about from their parents over dinner.

South Ashes is the last town in Minnesota to get a stoplight. It is the last town without a public pool: the closest is 30 miles away. There are three families in the town with pools and they have pretty much accepted coming home in the afternoons to pools full of high schoolers, looking sheepish but unapologetic. In South Ashes, everything is closed by 6 pm, sometimes 5 pm on Sundays, except for the Safeway which was built 2 years ago: it’s open until 11 pm on the weekends. If teenagers are hanging out at midnight and get hungry, they’d better have stored up supplies earlier in the day, or they’ll be waiting until the morning. The Ashes South High School has a drama department, but it’s one 45-minute class per day, and their productions are sadly low-budget. Sometimes a parent volunteers to direct the spring musical, but usually it’s directed by the drama teacher, who is also the freshman English teacher, and also coaches boys’ basketball in the right season.

The people of Ashes South feel unexcited. They feel thin, and uninteresting. They flip through travel magazines but don’t go on vacations because they don’t want to embarrass themselves by accidentally exclaiming, “Look at how tall that building is!” or something similar. The tallest building in Ashes South is the courthouse, at three stories, and truth be told, the adults of Ashes South are a little afraid of the big world.

Today something is changing. The mayor of Ashes South is making an announcement about which everyone has already heard: rumors travel fast when there are less than 4000 people in a town. Still, everyone is excited about it becoming official. They gather in the town square, in front of the old library, down by the lake, and they murmur to each other while they are waiting for the mayor to make his announcement. Finally he arrives, and the cheer that goes up surprises even the people of Ashes South: they weren’t quite aware that they were capable of making such a noise.

The mayor is a man who never grins. But he is grinning. He knows the good news he has to impart on the people of his town, and he and his advisors have been working all month to perfect the plans. When he announces the arrival of a Starbucks in town, the citizens of Ashes South cheer: they have seen such things on television, they have read about them in books from the local library. Some of them have traveled, and they have tasted the wonders of the Starbucks. They have told others about this good thing. The mayor has just announced that one will be opening in Ashes South, and he steps that up by telling them the hours. “It will be open until…” He pauses for dramatic effect, even though it’s unnecessary. The people are absolutely hanging on his words; even the teenagers have forgotten to pretend that they are not interested. “…ten o’clock on the weeknights, and eleven o’clock on the weekends!”

The citizens are stunned. In the silence that follows, the mayor announces his slightly less unsettling news. “Because of this new addition to our economy, and the direction in which our city will now continue, we will no longer be known as Ashes South, Minnesota,” he says. “We are now the people of Ashes North, Minnesota!”

A cheer goes up, the mayor and the man who will become the new manager of the Starbucks drink a toast to the future success of the city, and the people of Ashes North leave the town square, talking about how their city will grow: how there will be freeways running everywhere and how even at 3 am, it will be so bright from lights that it will seem like daytime. There is excitement in their footsteps.

Ashes North closes down for the night, at 6 pm just like scheduled, and people continue to discuss the Starbucks over dinner, bowls of ice cream, and the nightly news. The old church is razed to the ground by the end of the week and the field sits, looking empty and ready for change.

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My love affair with Ira Levin

One of the other things keeping me busy lately has been a writing class I’m taking – the first course of an online master program in creative writing. It happened kind of out of the blue. A friend of mine mentioned how she was finally going to bite the bullet and get her masters, because her husband had found this program that was entirely online and fully accredited. I looked it up and it looked good, so now she and I are both students at Southern New Hampshire University.

Go Penmen!

So I just finished my first class today. I submitted my final paper this afternoon (before crashing and taking a 3-hour nap…yikes). This class was the basic intro class on Rhetorical Grammar – so lots of talk about voice, rhythm, diction, cohesion, adverbials/adjectivals, punctuation, nominals, and other exciting concepts. I actually really enjoyed the class, and I think that was due in part to a cool, accessible professor.

It was probably also partly because we were able to choose the author we would be focusing on throughout the term. So while some people were applying voice/rhythm/diction/etc to HP Lovecraft or Shakespeare, I went and picked Ira Levin, one of my all-time favorite writers.

A major upside to writing about Levin is that his books are generally pretty short, so it was relatively easy to read through Rosemary’s Baby and The Stepford Wives about 3 times each over the last couple months, as well as reading Veronica’s Room and the endings of Sliver and Son of Rosemary. (I still can’t believe this is scholarly.)

If you’re going to write a 16-page paper with 12 different sources, this isn’t a bad stack of books to be working with.

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I get a week off before the next term starts, and I’ll be taking a literary theory class (which terrifies me) and a creative writing class (which thrills me). I plan on using this week to watch all the Best Picture nominations we have left, to read something besides Ira Levin, and to sleep as much as possible.

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Tahoe Winter 2015

There have been a handful of things keeping me super busy lately. One of them is that last weekend, Drew and I took B to Tahoe for a winter extravaganza. We rented a house with the Jameses and Molly, and spent 3 nights there hanging out.

We got there first, and while we were unloading the car, an 18-year-old kid pulled up in an SUV and said, “Hey, you guys moving in?” “Yes,” we said. “Okay, good to know. I’m going to make a phone call.” Then he got back into his car, talked on the phone for a minute, and then drove away. We were a little baffled – and concerned – but before I could call the rentals manager, she pulled up behind our car. She was kind of freaking out, and said that the cleaners thought we were coming the next day so they hadn’t finished. So she ran inside and cleaned the bathroom sinks and the stovetop. So that was kind of weird.

It’s not very snowy in Tahoe right now, but we did have an ice patch of our very own in a shady spot of the yard.

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Actually, it was probably good that the roads were basically clear so the drive was quick and safe, and the boys could run around outside in every free 15 minutes to keep them from going crazy.

The first day we went into Tahoe City where there was a playground near the beach. We went to the water’s edge, where there was about 6 feet of ice, and taught the boys to throw rocks (um…not our brightest moment) to break the ice. B brought a rock home with him, which I keep forgetting about, but I’m pretty sure is still in the diaper bag.

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IMG_9040The second day, we went up to Mount Rose to find some snow – it was still pretty icy, but Drew could pull B around on the sled we brought him. We also saw one stupid teenage boy after another sled down a hill and very nearly go face-first into a hill. Literally. Also, a woman went down another hill on an inner tube, jumped a little hill, and was 2 seconds away from shooting out into the road – if her inner tube hadn’t suddenly popped. She was laughing. We were all worried that we were about to see someone – tree guys or inner tube girl – get really hurt.

Luckily no one did. And we slipped and slid around on the ice until it started to get too dark.

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On our drive back to the house, we realized that Mount Rose is in Nevada – B’s first trip out of state!

The only downside to the trip was a slight fever that the boys seemed to be passing back and forth. Neither was down for long, but we were dosing them both with Tylenol all weekend. On our third night, B was up literally every 45 minutes, actually crying. Not just whimpering. I’m pretty sure neither Drew nor I slept more than 2 hours altogether. It was one of the worst nights of my life, especially since we weren’t sure what the problem was. He wasn’t feverish all night – just upset.

Finally at 5am, after many times of being up, of shhhhing him, of asking what was wrong, Drew brought him into our bed and we both sat there going, “What’s wrong? What do you need?” He finally croaked out “Wawar!” Water?? I felt like such an idiot. Was he just dehydrated all night? Could we have solved this 8 hours ago?

I think we were all suffering from the altitude a little bit. My skin and my lips were so chapped – and I think we were all dehydrated. Luckily a couple days back at sea level and we’re all back to normal.

It was a classic case of “I had so much fun! And I’m SO GLAD to be home!”

(And fun fact: I just found out we’re getting our whole security deposit back – so that’s nice! I’m always a little nervous about that.)

 

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Filed under Awesome, Beauty, Children, Drew, Friends, Nature, Travel

I Got Layers

I got a haircut today, perhaps the first one in a year. And I was thinking about how it’s basically my fantasy to have a hairdresser standing behind me in the mirror, looking thoughtful, and then they say, “Would you trust me to try something different here?” I would be like, “YES!” But what happens instead is they ask what I want, and I stammer out some haircut terms I’ve heard on TV, and then I either walk out looking much the same, or maybe with shorter hair.

Today, I look much the same. But in a good way. I like my new layers, and I enjoyed the “treat yo’self” feelings of someone else washing my hair. But it still makes me think of this blog post I wrote in 2008 about getting my hair cut in New York, the first time (since the age of 6) I got bangs.

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Hairdressers, and the Women They Laugh At

America’s Next Top Model.  Project Runway.  Tabatha’s Salon Takeover.  What Not To Wear.

These are just a few of the shows on TV now that take ordinary people who look like me or only slightly better, sit them down, and employ a professional to tell those ordinary people exactly what is going to happen to them.  Be it color, cut, makeup, or wardrobe, those people can rest assured that they are not being judged or made fun of, but that said professionals are there to help them look beautiful.  Is it really hard to believe that while watching the stylist of ANTM hack off Samantha’s long blonde hair, or give Elina a curly red weave, both of which come out looking amazing, that I can only say wistfully to anyone who will listen, “I wish Tyra Banks and her stylists would show up here and make me over!”

Alas, walking into a salon is not a screen test to get on one of these shows, and after today, I think I have nearly as high a level of Salon Anxiety as I do of White Coat Syndrome.  (White Coat Syndrome being, of course, that uncontrollable anxiety around doctors, even when they are doing the most unobtrusive of check-ups.)  For weeks – possibly months – I have been talking to myself about getting bangs.  Studying other’s people’s bangs, trying to fold my hair across my forehead looking into a mirror, and going through magazines and online articles about Best Bangs For You.  Finally I made an appointment at Nola’s in our neighborhood (it’s Salon backwards, how clever is that?) and I went down there this afternoon.

They are all legitimately Irish, which is charming as all get-out, and they’re very nice people, but I do not speak the salon language.  I had, however, spent days prepping my explanation of what I wanted, so that when she said, “What are we doing today?” (in an Irish accent), I replied without hesitation, “I would like to keep most of the length, but do some shorter layers for body, and also I think I would like…bangs.”  (Note: I had promised Liz I would say “fringe” but I was too nervous.)

She sat me down and started combing and everything was great, until she held a up a piece from the back and looked at me in the mirror and said, “How long would you like your layers?”  And I couldn’t even respond, I had no answer.  I pretty much said, “I don’t know.”  I don’t know!  Long enough to keep with the length – short enough so they are layers?  Why can I not go into a salon and say, “Make me pretty”?  I think she might have laughed at me a little bit when I said I didn’t know – I think this was the same girl I had last time, months ago, and we had a similar run in: When it was time for the blow-drying, she said, “How would you like it dried?”  And I said, “So it’s…dry?  And pretty?”  And she said, “Would you like it straight, or flips…?”  And I said, “Flips?”  And she said, “Flips?”  And I said, “Yes, let’s do flips,” which ended up being curls at the end, which looked lovely, but she did laugh at me a little bit then too.

So today she had to tell me how long she would do the layers, and I said that was great, and she continued cutting.  When she got to the bangs part, she combed them out and then said, “You’re sure?” in the way that you would confirm the first cut of any big operation, and I said, “Yes,” and then watched my blonder front hair fall into my lap.  She blew them out and sort of curled them under after she had finished everything else.

I love the layers, partly because they are all flippy at the ends (see? flips).  The bangs I am not so sure on.  To my still a little shellshocked eyes, I look like a cross between Peg from Lady and the Tramp, and a 12 year old at a school dance in 1998.  Drew, who says he would tell me the truth but who I don’t completely trust in for the whole truth, says it looks like Anne Hathaway’s hair in The Devil Wears Prada.  He just knows I think she’s beautiful though.  So I am still unsure about them, although I sort of wish I had gone with my hesitant instinct and not done the bangs – I can always start pinning them back and let them grow out.  C’est la vie.

Also, why is it that no matter how much makeup I put on, I get in the chair with nothing to look at but my face and my wet clumpy hair hanging all over or clipped on top of my head – and I am always ashamed with how I look.  It must be the wet clumpy hair, but I can never prepare myself for that.

In short, please, TV (Bravo in particular), stop lying to me and making me think that hairdressers want to tell me exactly what they are going to do to make me beautiful.  Also, if there is anyone out there who is a hairdresser, I will pay you good money to be a Tyra Banks to my Lauren.  Doesn’t that sound like a good deal?  Also, Liz, I hope your wedding is themed “Full House children” because then I will fit right in.

[The best part is, I then included a picture of myself with my new bangs, which I remember thinking was so weird-looking, but it really just looks like me now, except like seven years younger. Oh, and these are the bangs that ended up growing out and disappearing. This new iteration of bangs that I have now started in 2010.]

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Filed under Beauty, Being a girl, Humor, Memoir, Nonfiction, TV