When I was a little girl my sister and I would fill up the boring hours of the day creating our own little newspapers. These would include all parts of … Continue reading My Life in Film Criticism: Why I Love It
Category: growing up
Today I Bought Dandelion Crayons
Last week if you had asked me what a dandelion crayon was I might have looked at you like you were nuts. Yet today I bought two 24 packs of Crayola crayons for dandelion crayons. Why this sudden attachment? Well, Crayola announced a few days ago they are discontinuing the dandelion crayon. This actually makes a lot of sense for them since they already have yellow, apricot, white and red orange, which would all work for coloring dandelions. I mean how often do you really need a mustard yellow crayon? So, why did this news make me a little sad and send me out to buy crayon boxes? I’m honestly not exactly sure.
I think part of it is a resistance to change. Sometimes it feels like everything is changing all around me. Of course, we have important stuff happening in politics but then stupid stuff like Batman killing in movies and Superman getting murdered. Why does everything have to change? I just saw Beauty and the Beast remade and changed and a million other remakes are coming. Now they are taking away the dandelion crayon.
I suppose there was a side of me that wanted to hold on to something that is still the way it was when I was little. The 24 pack had dandelion crayons when I was drawing as a little girl and now it wouldn’t. When I was 8 or 9 there was a special photograph you could have taken by these big giant crayons. I wanted my picture by them so badly! There I am smiling and happy and what am I next to? Why it’s a dandelion crayon.
In a few weeks that will be gone. I’m getting more towards 40 every day but I suppose sometimes I miss that smiling girl who didn’t have to worry about all these hard things. I just wanted to get my photo taken by a dandelion crayon.
So yes today I bought dandelion crayons and some coloring books. I plan on coloring to my little hearts content and using as much dandelion as I can.
You Are What You Media Tag
Hey friends! Today I posted a fun tag over on my channel. I was tagged by my friend Matthew Aronhalt who is doing a top 300 movies list over on his channel.
The tag asks you to list 3 things that influenced you or made you who you are. I tried to pick stuff that influenced me when I was a little.
- To Kill a Mockingbird
- Little Women
- Anne of Green Gables
- Les Miserables
- The Beach Boys
- The Simpsons
- Fairy Tale Theater
- Boy Meets World
- Little Mermaid
- Home Alone
- Roger Ebert
- Rob Cesternino
- Car Talk
If any of you would like to do the tag please do! It’s really interesting to think about the media that influenced you.
Here’s Matthew’s tag video
The Most Memorable Year of My Life 2001
I was watching dancing with the stars and the theme for tonight was ‘the most memorable year of your life’. It made me think about my life. What is the most memorable year in my life? It’s very tough to answer, but 2 years came to mind first: 2001 and 2007.
Now this isn’t the best years that would be different because both 2001 and 2007 were rough. I’ve talked a lot about 2007 on this blog so let me tell you a little bit about 2001. It was quite the ride.
When 2001 started I was flying high.
I had just finished a dream trip with my Grandma and my dear cousin Lisa to New York City. We had enjoyed the Rockettes, museums and lots of Broadway shows. We were scolded by my Grandma for ordering too much pizza and we told her we’d eat it later but it smelled so we put it outside and the maids took it. Knowing she would ask about it we spent the night coming up with outlandish stories about what happened to the pizza and laughing. I saw my first New York at Christmas and saw the Rockefeller tree and the lights. It was magic.
I would never have been prepared for what would happen.
Here I am in 2001 with my roommate:
I made sure I signed up for 30 course hours a year while going to school, usually more and I had taken a lighter load in the fall so winter term I was taking 18 credits! They were also junior level rigorous courses. It was challenging but I pushed on through until the end of March.
Then I got the call and found out my beloved Grandpa had passed away. It still makes me cry to write it. In many ways it was a good thing but I still miss him so much. He’s my hero and I would visit him every Sunday and he would tell me how beautiful I looked. It meant a lot to me. And then he was gone and there isn’t a day 13 years later that I don’t wish I could talk to him and wonder what he’s thinking about my life. I hope he’s happy with me.
Then just 2 weeks later, my Dad gave me a call and he was crying. “Rachel” he said haltingly into the phone “Lisa passed away”. I was stunned. The bright spirit I’d been joking with over pizza months before and wizzing around New York was gone.
I can’t remember when it occurred during the week but I had a few days before the flight to California for the funeral. I was devastated and felt guilty spending any time on my 18 credits of classes but finals were coming up and I knew Lisa and Grandpa would want me to study. But my head was hanging low, just getting through the day.
At this same time there was a girl named Emily who was in my ward that I had met, and had met my sister in Nauvoo study abroad. She was an acquaintance but I knew she had been missing from church for a month or so.
As I walked up to campus the weight of my problems heavy on my shoulders Emily saw me and she stopped and said ‘are you ok?’. I’ll never forget that.
It will doubt be no surprise if you are a frequent blog reader to hear I immediately burst into tears and told her my sad story (I’m a bit of an open book…). I would learn she was grieving from her own deep loss of her father which is why she had been gone for so many weeks. (what a great example of looking to help others when you are the one hurting the most).
We talked and she helped me pack for the funeral. I quickly learned she was not living with kind people and so out of the blue I said
“I know. Why don’t you come live with Megan and me?”
I called Megan and she was like “Ok. Why not” probably a little caught off guard but she then added “Why don’t we ask Julia?” Julia is our cousin and Lisa’s sister who had come home from her mission to the funeral. Julia agreed and after the funeral I found an apartment for the 4 of us and it was all settled.
When I got home from the funeral I prayed Heavenly Father would help me with finals. That I would find a way to not suffer from the weeks of absences both emotional and physical. I tried my best and you know what I got my best grades of all of college. All As and Bs despite all that happened and taking the most credits. Miracles do happen.
That year Julia met her Matthew and I would start my senior year.I remember staying inside a lot and just spending time the 4 of us. It was a time of healing and love.
In June 2001 I retook Poli Sci 201 because I had gotten a lazy C as a sophmore because the teacher bored me but for some reason I knew I needed to be a TA for that class. I was lucky to have Dr. Matthew Holland as my teacher in his first class of students as a BYU Professor.
At the end of the course I called him for about 2 weeks leaving messages, begging to be his TA. Finally he answered and said “so I hear you want to be one of my TA’s”. My best buddy Raelene was also a TA and we had such a wonderful experience . He had such faith in me and never changed a grade I gave. That did so much for my confidence.
This is Raelene and I in 2009 but we basically look the same…
In September my family received another shock with the passing of my cousin Riley. He had made mistakes and had challenges with addiction so we weren’t super close but it was still very tragic.
And then the whole world had tragedy with 9-11. I’ll never forget driving up to campus and seeing everyone on their phones (which at the time seemed strange). The whole aura was nervous, sad and unsure.
I’ll never forget later that day President Bateman gave a speech and said:
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
Brothers and sisters, that is our message this morning. Fortunately this is only the second act of a three-act play. Even when death comes to those we love, we know what lies ahead. We know they are fine. It is those of us who are left behind who are sad. We know we will see them again, and we know we will be with them. When death comes to someone who has the peace of the Holy Ghost inside, it can be sweet, not bitter.
Do you understand why you young people hold the power of peace for the world in your hands? The world depends on you.
Many of you have just returned from missions; many of you will go next year. The world’s peace is on your shoulders because you have the only message that gives hope for eternal peace”
Here’s the whole talk if you want to listen to it:
I took his admonition seriously. I was finishing up school and after the year I had it was all to clear ‘this is the second act in a three-act play’. I knew I would be responsible for making the world better. For bringing peace in my own little circle, and I’ve striven to do that. Even with anxiety, depression, frustration and disappointment I have tried my best to never forget the Lord and His goodness, to share His peace.
Because it is on our shoulders in 2001 and 2014. I’m certainly glad not all my years are 2001’s (my family couldn’t take it!) but it made me the person I am today. It was a refining time and a time for decisions on the type of person I was going to be.
And it certainly was memorable…
A Working from Home Legacy
Feel like you are at war in the office? I have! Be like me and work from home.
Just a joke below…
Growing up I basically had 2 stay at home parents. My Mother was and is a homemaker (my family is 35, 33, 30, 23, 17, 14 so my Mom has always been an active mother of a variety of ages). She is also someone who made running her home a career. Her hobbies usually involved bettering family or home in some way. Countless dresses she sewed for us until her tailoring skills were good enough to make costume after costume for my sisters plays. She did a Midsummer’s Nights Dream set in the 20s I believe and the gowns and suits were stunning.
So my Mom has always worked from home. If there was part of home life she wanted to master it. Her gardens are always the best in the neighborhood, especially in our home in Utah there were flowers that wondered all around the front and back yard with a large patch of lily of the valley that I will never forget.
I could go on and on about my Mom but suffice it to say where some women see housekeeping as a necessary evil, my Mom see’s it as her calling and what she wasn’t good at, she became good at.
Then there is my Dad. My Dad has been an entrepreneur for his career. He is perhaps the only person on the planet that could go to law school, not finish 2 papers, and then 25 years later find out he had actually graduated. That’s just the kind of person he is. He pursues something 100%, gleans all the good he can out of it and then moves on to the next idea or spot he is needed with no regrets.
In my life he has been in paid employment as a photographer, framing store owner, computer program designer/manager, ESL computer lab installer, board member, various roles at JWA, Grabber, Impact, Grabber Construction, Kobayashi and Poler to name a few.
Probably the most influential time of my life was when he founded a company called Linguatronics. He had spent the years in the late 80s, early 90s working on a program to help Japanese people learn English. That’s what brought our family from Utah to Maryland. Being in the DC area meant we were close to so many other metropolitan cities and he could promote his new product, as well as other products.
Eventually this morphed into installing computer labs in colleges to help with ESL and other language courses (Linguatronics). There was a software that helped teachers to communicate with students while learning. They could take over the students screen, talk to them and help them in other ways. I’m not sure how many labs were installed but by the time we moved to California in 1998 (7 years) he had exhausted his leads and was needed to help with the family businesses. Things transitioned and changed once again.
But I was basically grown up by then so my greatest memories are the Linguatronics era. My Dad had co-opted the dining room into his office. This meant the french doors of the dining room had glass and we could see in and watch him work. I remember him being constantly frustrated when we would take his office supplies- particularly his scissors.
‘Where did you girls put my scissors?” he would ask in exasperation. We had no idea.
When we moved to Maryland I started middle school and my sister Anna was a year old, so we had 1, 9,11 and 13 year old. My Dad has always had different sleep needs than most people so we didn’t see him a lot when it was late and we were home from activities or in the morning (now he is a great early riser but not back then). I think back to looking through the glass and always being able to see my Dad. What a blessing that was. He was working 70+ hours a week to make that business work and they had a small toddler to deal with (although Anna was the dream sleeper. She will moan and groan about sleeping in the laundry room but I think that noise made her sleep like a rock to this day!).
When my Mother got pregnant she had to go on full bedrest meaning my father would become Mom and Dad for the entire pregnancy. My roommate just asked me if my Mom got up for church or other small things and the answer is no. I remember one time when my brothers mice turned out to be pregnant and he woke everyone up in the middle of the night that she got up. She was up for my sister Megan’s baptism and to go to the doctor but I don’t recall any other times.
When I was 15 my mother got pregnant again and so my freshman year was spent, family-wise, on survival mode. I was probably not as helpful as I should have been because I found the whole situation to be incredibly stressful and worrying.
If I felt that way imagine how my Dad must have felt. Here he has 4 children including a 5 year old in kindergarten, 3 teenagers at different spiritual and emotional levels and working 70+ hours as a self-employed businessman. The amount of pressure must have been enormous. (And he was young men’s president during this whole time!)
I remember as soon as we found out my Mom was expecting we would transition to paper plates and all of the kids would be assigned days to cook and chores. My Dad at one point had a complicated chart he called ‘The New Order’ which was just overcomplicated and a little crazy to actually work for a while. Then he tried a ‘New Order 2’ which was less effective… 😉
My Dad also was determined to not let the massive garden my parents had worked on go to pot with my Mother on bedrest. One day he saw a farm stand and was convinced it would be a great idea for his kids to sell tomatoes on the side of the road. Remind you- I was 15 and somewhat surly. There was no way I was going to be selling tomatoes to all my friends unless we were starving.
My father was undeterred and proceeded to plant 36 tomato plants. From what I read 1 tomato plant can produce as many as 25 tomatoes so we had nearly 1000 tomatoes at the end of the summer! And of course, we never did the tomato stand, but we did learn how to can tomatoes from Sister Saunders at the ward, and my sister Megan sat Anna in the red wagon loaded with tomatoes and went door-to-door giving them to our neighbors.
I wasn’t going to share that story but I think it displays well how intimately my father has always been involved in our family. This is not the aloof businessman that some of my friends had. I can’t think of a single time in my life when my mother said ‘wait till your father comes home’ because he already was home. And despite being insanely busy we never felt like my father was busy. In fact, if you had asked us at the time we would have said he did very little (shows how much kids know!)
He has always had the ability to merge life and work and friends and anything else in his life pretty seamlessly. Just today he was writing an email, helping someone at the house and hear about my upcoming date on the phone.
That has been a great example to me as I have chosen to work from home for my career. I guess that was very natural given the example of my Dad. I would never have thought it but 3 years in corporate America was enough to convince me the dreams of my youth were really nightmares. I think of working in a cubicle and having some horrible boss and I feel ill. I wonder if my Dad felt that way too?
He has an office now but it is very close to my folks home and it is next door to the kids school (now they are all in high school or beyond).
My Dad used to take us on business trips (Boston, New York, even Europe) and we had great experiences on a small budget. I went to see The King and I with my Dad and went to the Statue of Liberty and Plymouth Rock. I also took my first and only trip to Germany, Czech Republic and a little bit of France when I was 14.
But the work trip I remember most was in Maryland. I had helped him at a school in Montgomery County (next county over) and he asked me if I wanted to drive home. Being a kid with unmatched confidence I said sure. I am not a great driver even now and then-yikes! The belt loop is a massive freeway in DC with about 6 lanes (I’m guessing!). I was terrified and I remember weaving in and out of traffic and at one point my Dad said ‘keep your hands on the wheel…’. It was pretty funny.
Another story I wasn’t planning on telling. Basically my Dad has a way of working without making his children feel like he is burdened or worried. I have worked with him since 2005 on an almost daily basis and have rarely seen him come unglued or ‘stress out’. I’ve done plenty of it but he is just a strong guy and a true multi-tasker.
I guess I’ve been thinking about my Dad these last few weeks as I’ve had a career change. I remember all the one’s he had and looking through that glass door his eyes focused on the computer, and nearly always on a phone call with someone who inevitably became a friend, and we would see at dinner eventually.
My Dad is the type of person who went to Czech Republic and invited a total stranger to come live with us, and when that didn’t pan out said his cousin could come. He’s just a great guy that believes in people and I think that makes him a great man of business even if every enterprise has not been ‘successful’ it was to him.
People ask me how I can work from home. Don’t I get distracted? Well, sometimes I can but I saw my Dad do it every day of my life and he had much more to distract him, but the distraction was and is his happiness. That’s his light and the work is just trappings for helping people. So, yes I get distracted on occasion, but I know how to use that energy to get my work done and be my best self.
They say that those who telecommute actually get more work done than their corporate counterparts and that is probably because we are always working. You can be called or emailed at anytime, which can be a drag but again I have the example of my Dad to help me come close to balancing it all out.
I wasn’t even planning on talking about my Dad that much in this post but he is such a great example to me on how to work, and how to work from home. He is an example to anyone on how to keep a balanced life. He’s certainly had his tough periods but in general he is a happy, hopeful person. When I get in my funks it is almost always because I become obsessed with one part of my life over another.
Luckily I have my Dad to tap me on the shoulder and help me figure it all out. I really do love him and my Mom.
What lessons about work have you learned from your parents or mentors? How has that helped you in your career? Or perhaps you learned what not to do?
Boy Meets World
I’ve told you about a lot of entertainment over the years. Well, let me tell you about another show that I know isn’t exactly great entertainment but I have a nostalgia and affection for. I kind of grew up with ABC’s family friendly TGIF lineup and the great Disney Afternoon. In particular there was a little show called Boy Meets World.
I’m not going to try and defend this show as original or groundbreaking. In fact, I will say out front it is predictable, sentimental and syrupy but it also has real heart and actors with charisma and chemistry together.
The characters on the show were the same age as me. They started high school when I did, they graduated from high school when I did, went to college when I did etc. I guess you could say I grew up with these characters as friends of mine along with Lisa and Bart from the Simpsons.
So, the show centers around Cory Mathews a kid in Philadelphia, his brother Eric, best friend Shawn and crush Topanga. Cory is played by the brother to Wonder Years star Fred Savage, Ben Savage. Shawn, Cory, Topanga are all taught by their hard nosed but dedicated teacher Mr Feeny played by William Daniels (who’s participation takes the show up a huge level in acting and storytelling)
Mr Feeny manages to follow the boys from middle, high and even to college in a series of convoluted reasons but it doesn’t really matter. You can poke plot holes a mile wide in this show but it isn’t really about that. It is a show about growing up, learning and loving. I’ll say it again. It had real heart.
It also had the courage to tackle a lot of tough topics such as drug use, biracial dating, alcoholism, divorce and rejection. I love when entertainment takes children seriously and doesn’t assume they are stupid. This has all the trappings of a silly show like Saved by the Bell but it had a lot more guts and the performers had great chemistry.
Some of my favorite episodes are:
I love this episode where young Cory switch places with Mr Feeny and does all can to convince the kids that Anne Frank is worth reading:
Sorry, it just makes me tear up every time…
Cory is taken with the free spirited Topanga and in season 2 he starts to notice her as more than a friend:
Like it or not Topanga’s definition of relationships is basically true these days. Things seem to always be about the great love and not the building friendship we get with Cory and Topanga.
In season 3 Cory is forced to admit he is in love with Topanga. Tell me this isn’t as good of writing as any rom com:
Shawn is also a key figure in the show, which was a true ensemble piece. Unlike Cory who comes from loving and kind traditional family Shawn is forgotten by his father and abandoned by his mother.
Shawn and Cory come into conflict some times because of their differing backgrounds
Eventually a teacher introduced in season 2 named Mr Turner becomes Shawn’s guardian.
Shawn meets his brother Jack in season 4 and has a reconciling with his father that is all too brief
Topanga eventually asks Shawn to give the graduation address and it is oddly perfect:
I’m afraid I’m making it sound too serious because the majority of the show is funny. Eric, Cory’s brother, provides a lot of the goofball moments.
This still makes me laugh
Shawn also starts dating a black girl named Angela in season 4 and what I love is the race wasn’t really played up as an issue that much. They were kind of treated just like Cory and Topanga which may not be realistic but a good lesson for kids that a biracial couple can be just like any other with the same problems as anyone else.
Spoiler I guess but Cory and Topanga get married in season 6
It also had one of the best finales ever
Now that my friends is how you end a show.
I know that’s a lot of clips but I hope it gives you a feel for the heart in this little show. I really love it and all it’s wholesomeness and cheese.
Next week a spin off is coming out called Girl Meets World about Cory and Topanga’s little girl. I’m cautiously optimistic. The pilot looked pretty good and they have certainly spent a lot of time in development which usually means it’s not a total nostalgia cash grab. I will let you know what I think.
What about you guys? Do you like Boy Meets World? If not, what show do you have nostalgia for? Maybe you know it isn’t the greatest writing or acting or stories but you grew up with it and have an affection for it? I know some people feel this way about the Brady Bunch of the Waltons. What about you?
Nora Ephron: I Feel Bad About My Neck
Any friend of the blog knows I love Nora Ephron. If I could write like anyone it would be her. She had a way of finding humor in the everyday female experience. Something as little as getting coffee, watching a movie or baking a cake could be witty and full of heart.
She unfortunately passed away in 2012 but in addition to her many movies (directing and writing) she wrote several delightful books of essays including the 2006 I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman. This is not an important book but I kind of love it and it was our choice for book club this month.
Unfortunately nobody that had read the book was able to attend so I am going to share with all you what I would have shared with all of them. Let me set the scene to start (I always try to make everything pretty but tried especially to honor the uber-classy Miss Ephron.
To make the Russian Cream you simply mix 2 cups sugar with 2 packets unflavored gelatin. 4 cups cream. Heat till hot but not boiling. Cool down and mix in 4 cups sour cream. Put in molds. Let set in fridge overnight. Unmold and serve with fruit. It’s an easy recipe but it looks beautiful.
So now you feel like you are at book club. Let me tell you about it.
One of my favorite essays Nora says:
“What I Wish I’d Known”
People have only one way to be.
Buy, don’t rent.
Never marry a man you wouldn’t want to be divorced from.
Don’t cover a couch with anything that isn’t more or less beige.
Don’t buy anything that is 100% wool even if it seems to be very soft and not particularly itchy when you try it on in the store.
You can’t be friends with people who call after 11 p.m.
Block everyone on your instant mail.
The world’s greatest babysitter burns out after two and a half years.
You never know.
The last four years of psychoanalysis are a waste of money.
The plane is not going to crash.
Anything you think is wrong with your body at the age of thirty-five you will be nostalgic for at the age of forty- five.
Write everything down.
Keep a journal.
Take more pictures.
The empty nest is underrated….
Here was my version of
What I Wish I Had Known by Rachel Wagner
Travel more when you are young
People will not be real with you a lot of the time
Privacy is overrated
A $100 couch is just as comfortable as a $1000 couch.
Do not select the appliance package when you buy your house
Leaving singles ward sucks. Be ready.
A plate of spaghetti will change your life
The dream job is coming
DVR is a game changer
Date more in college
Panic attacks are the scariest moments of your life
Mr Sunshine is still hiding at 33.
Can never own too many maxi dresses
Aside from the basics most of what you learn in school you will never use
Good choice not going into debt
Look up open water swimming in 2001 not 2011
Paying dues will take you ten years
You are a leader. Stop resenting it and embrace it.
Nora and Cooking
Another essay I love is called Serial Monogamy: A Memoir. It is actually all about her relationship with cooking and food. Throughout her life and marriages Nora had adventures in food. At 16 her mother gave her The Gourmet Cookbook, then the Flavor of France, Julia Child, Michael Fields, Craig Claiborne, Lee Lun’s Chinese recipes, Marcella Hazan, Martha Stewart and Nigella Lawson. Cooking took her through changes in career, 3 marriages and her children. She even has internal dialogues with the chefs. It reminds me of the rat in Ratatouiee that has conversations with Chef Gusteau
She ends the section in a very sweet way “I especially like making her roast beef dinner, which is very much like my mother’s except for the yorkshire pudding. My mother didn’t serve yorkshire pudding, although there is recipe for it in The Gourmet Cookbook. My mother served potato pancakes instead. I serve yorkshire pudding and potato pancakes. Why not? You only live once”
I love that. You only live once so make two starches at dinner. It’s a lovely little essay.
Nora on Parenting
My favorite essay is on parenting. Even though I am not a parent I am a child of parents and I find it very moving. She starts out saying “I gave birth to my children, which was not that long ago, when there was almost no such thing as parenting as we know it today”
“Back in the day where there were merely parents, as opposed to people engaged in parenting, being a parent was fairly straight forward. You didn’t need a book and if you owned one it was by Dr. Spock, a pediatrician and you rarely looked at i unless your child a had a fever…back in those days no one believed that you could turn your child into a different human being from the one he started out being…”
“All this changed around the time I had children. You can blame the women’s movement for it-one of the bedrock tentes fo the women’s movement was that because so many women were entering the workforce men and women should share in the raising of children; thus the gender neutral word parenting and the necessity of elevating child rearing to something more than the endless hours of quantity time it actually consists of.
Conversely, you can blame the backlash against the women’s movement- lost of women didn’t feel like entering the workforce or even sharing the raising of children with their husbands, but they felt guilty about this, so they were compelled to elevate full time parenthood to a sacrament”
She goes on to talk about the pressure people feel molding their children into these ivy league perfect people and then they grow up. I LOVE the ending and I hope my parents feel a little bit of this when we are all back with all our idiosyncrasies and choices:
“Meanwhile, every so often, your children come to visit. They are, amazingly, completely charming people. You can’t believe you’re lucky enough to know them. They make you laugh. They make you proud. You love them madly. They survived you. You survived them. It crosses your mind that on some level, you spent hours and days and months and years without laying a glove on them, but don’t dwell. There’s no point. It’s over.
Except for the worrying.
The worrying is forever”
I tear up whenever I read that. The worrying is forever. I can picture my parents worrying about me and it makes me feel loved and I’m grateful for that love.
Some of the essays are quite humorous. There is one about her scandalous non-affair with President Kennedy and another about her life in an epic apartment in New York. They aren’t all equally great but I love them.
It is the perfect summer book. Light, heart felt and beautiful. I don’t want to oversell it but I love it.
I’d love to hear your thoughts if any of you have read it since I didn’t get to talk much about it this morning.
Calvin and Hobbes
I’ve talked about a lot of great literature on this blog but it occurred to me I have neglected one of my favorites- Calvin and Hobbes. I can picture you my reader smiling at my mention of the name Calvin and Hobbes.
It is perhaps easy to discount comic strips as real art or literature but that is unfair to the thought and brilliance of the medium. I love Peanuts and Dilbert but also Calvin and Hobbes.
Calvin and Hobbes is a strip written by Bill Watterson from 1985-1995. They focused on the protagonist Calvin who is a rebellious but thoughtful kid who wants to explore and have adventures and hates school.
Calvin is at one point like Lisa Simpson in his thoughtfulness and grown up sensibilities but also like Bart Simpson in his mischievousness and rebelliousness from the rules.
He is accompanied by his best friend Hobbes who is sometimes a stuffed tiger and sometimes anthropomorphized. Hobbes is both the sidekick and the teacher for Calvin.
A few years ago I went to a reading symposium and a woman spoke that was a high school teacher. She mentioned 10 or 11 books in her lecture and the main qualification seemed to be they were ‘short’ and despite being somewhat dimwitted ‘at least the kids are reading’. That really made me mad then and it still does today (I will add that I am in the minority opinion on that lecture but I don’t care!). http://smilingldsgirl.com/2012/01/18/writing-and-reading-for-children-and-teens/
Calvin and Hobbes shows you can be entertaining to all age groups while being challenging and thought provoking. At least the kids are reading is a such a cop-out.
Calvin has a great imagination and the adventures he goes on are always full of laughs.
It’s good for kids to see that parents don’t always know what is the best way.
I love any art form that takes kids seriously. That doesn’t assume just because it is children it has to be stupid. Calvin and Hobbes shows great respect for a child’s intellect and does not shy away from long words or tough topics of religion, philosophy or the meaning of life.
I hate it when adults have a ‘good enough’ attitude about kids. This book is ‘good enough’. This movie is ‘good enough’. No way. We as adults have an obligation to encourage the best in our kids and to let them rise to a higher standard than their natural man might appeal too.
Calvin and Hobbes is proof that with a little effort we can find enlightening and enriching material that appeals to a childs demographic. I refuse to accept a ‘at least he’s reading’ attitude. We can do better than that. Calvin and Hobbes does better than that.
I sincerely wish all teachers when they have an unruly little boy would give said boy Calvin and Hobbes. Maybe it would help them know they are ok and that there is a purpose to their type of sensibilities. Maybe they would learn to channel that energy into art or nature or even philosophy.
This is one of my favorites. It’s funny and it really will make anyone, kid or not, think.
That is brilliant writing I tell you!
Calvin and Hobbes is also full of a sense of play and adventure. Even knowing the characters takes effort. There are no movies, saturday afternoon cartoons, plush toys or video games.
It’s like Watterson knew what was coming for kids entertainment and instead of embracing it he held off so that hopefully kids would have one thing in their lives they loved that wasn’t spoon fed for them. When you think of the amount of money he could have made merchandizing it is pretty remarkable; and yet the comics continue to be read by kids and adults alike despite little to no promotion. They are just that good.
These three are just brilliant.
This is the last comic strip Watterson did for Calvin and Hobbes. It’s a magical world…let’s go exploring!I have a file of my favorite comic strips on my computer and facebook and I turn to it quite frequently. Whether it’s Dilbert in his office, Charlie Brown questioning the world or Calvin and Hobbes on an adventure they always make me smile. (I need to do posts on Peanuts and Dilbert too)
Do you like Calvin and Hobbes? Why do you think they have remained so popular? What do you like about them? Any above that stand out for you?
3 Sisters and 2 Brothers
I look at this blog as a form of ministry. As a chance to share my story with the world and hopefully help people going through their own struggles and appreciating our victories together. As such, I have tried very hard to talk about my life and let other people tell their own stories however they see fit. I very rarely speak of friends or family except in the most flattering way and even then it is unusual.
Today I want to depart slightly from that philosophy as my sister Anna is moving out of Utah tomorrow and then will end up in Japan for 1-2 years as a teacher. She’s been here studying for 5 years and I will really miss her.
So let me tell you a little bit about my family. My parents are still together after 36 years of marriage. They are kind of a ying-yang, balancing each other well. My Dad is energetic, passionate and full of ideas. My Mom is calming, nurturing and peaceful.
They were young and excited to start a family and my brother and I were born quickly. He is 35 and I’m 33. Then my sister Megan came 3 years later but she was a month early and my Mom had complications.
But the dream of a big family never went away and 8 years later they announced my sister Anna was coming. This was a challenge because my Mom had full bedrest and my Dad was working a lot in Japan at the time. We all worked together and a baby came.
My parents wanted to have more kids but then it took 5 years for another baby to come. I was 15 when this happened and Sammy was born the beginning of my sophomore year in high school. Once again my Mom had to go on bedrest and I internalized a lot of fear and worry about her situation. Whether it was bedrest, recovery or caring for an infant, a new baby kind of monopolized my homelife in high school.
Then we moved to California and the winter before I went away to college my Mom announced she was pregnant again. At the time I was young, selfish and very upset. I was acutely aware of how hard this was going to be and I worried it would pull me away from my dream of BYU. In a way I was right because I felt really guilty at abandoning my Mother at such a hard time.
In August we came home and my Mom had the baby and I went back to school. My sister Madeline and I have never lived together as siblings. The longest time was probably after I returned from my mission in 2005 and lived with my folks for about 3 weeks.
So that is the dynamic of my family. It was unique to have 3 teenagers and 3 babies. It taught me a lot. It forced me to be selfless when I really didn’t want to be and it hopefully gave me some real-life experience if I ever have to be a parent (or co-parent).
I love all of my siblings and as the younger one’s get older I am less the step-Mom and more the sister which is nice. Madeline and I have turned out to have the most in common as far as religion, energy and personalities. Sammy has proven to be a great listener and have a calming spirit about him. He is a great person to talk to when you have a problem because he is very empathetic and encouraging. As a little boy he would get so emotionally involved in your worries it was very touching and he still has that.
Anna and I have a lot of similar tastes in music, theater, movies etc, which has been fun. I’ve enjoyed having her close by and will miss my event buddy. Anna has a bright, cheerful countenance and I will miss that too. Sigh…
My sister Megan and I were the best of friends growing up. She is a great mother and very nurturing and kind. She also has been a great influence in reading and writing. Growing up I was not a great reader and she always had her nose in a book. She is currently trying to achieve her dream of writing a novel and has made strides with an agent.
My brother Ben and I are the most different. I guess it is a classic oldest and next kid dynamic. I thought left, he thought right. That has been an interesting tool to have in my life. To see that someone so fundamentally different can still make good choices and lead a good life has been helpful.
Life in any family can be both a joy and challenge. I know I still feel radically different than my siblings but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It forced me to be happy with my own life choices and to not lean on anyone else. We could support each other, and love one another but that didn’t mean we needed to be the same.
One time when I was in high school I yelled out to my family ‘I’m the normal one. You are the weird one’s and yet in my family I’m the weird one’. That was a ridiculous thing to say but it was kind of true. Megan, Ben and my Mom were more homebodies and happy with a few good friends. I was an active social butterfly.
Neither way is right or wrong but I think I learned to lean a lot on my friends who seemed to process things the way I did. Because of this, I have always been a very friend-reliant person to this day. I guess that’s why loyalty and friendship is the most important topic to me.
So that’s my family. They’ve all taught me something different and I’m glad they are all a part of my life. What about all of you? What have you learned from your siblings? What is the age dynamic in your family and how has that affected you?
Friendship at 10, 20, 30
I was going to wait and post about my party tomorrow but yesterday’s post was such a downer that I didn’t want to leave that as the heading on the blog for long. Friendship has always been a highly important part of my life. Next to faith there is nothing more valuable to me than a loyal friend. I was reminiscing with my roommate about groups of friends we’ve had, parties thrown etc, and I had a minor epiphany about friendships. Friendship is essential to at least my function but it manifests itself differently in different times of life. Hanging on to the old manifestation can lead you to miss out on the current phase.
Let me explain…
When you are a child and especially a teen your friendships are chosen by you but fellow-shipped by others. For example, I may have chosen Meredith as my best friend in high school but it was our parents, teachers and other activities that facilitated that friendship and made it happen. At the very least people were driving us places, teaching us lessons and coaching us in choir/sports. We became friends through participating in these activities and even when we tested out our leadership skills it was under a controlled, monitored environment.
It is this structure in friendships that causes some teens to party and rebel- trying to make their own choices when really still relying on others to make those poor choices. Fortunately I had good friends who were supportive of my beliefs and I never steered too off course (I was also incredibly strong willed).
Your teen years are also the time when your friends center your life, which is why we worry about teens having or cultivating good friends. No other time in life will who your friends are (for most of us at least) be more influential.
Then your 20’s start and a new degree of independence is given to most people. You are free to go your own way, make decisions and make friends dictated less by others and more by common interests and personalities. Aside from classes and maybe an errant roommate nobody is really forced to be friends with someone in the 20’s the way they may be in your teens. However, you still have a lot of the structure of your teens facilitating activities and the meeting of new people (even dating).
Whether it be through a church group or college setting most people I know met their college friends through some type of organization, fraternity or class. The interesting thing is in college the friendships are often made in such activities but forged in something much more casual. This is partly due to lack of time a college student has but also a lack of funds. Most people I knew in those years didn’t have a ton of money to spend on friend experiences so you spent time together watching movies, TV, sports events and cooking/eating food together.
I have such warm memories of that time in my life. It really helped me become the person I am and was a very happy, simple time. Because things were so casual you do end up wasting a lot of time seeing bad movies, eating junk, and for lack of a better word hanging out but there’s a certain freedom in that. How do you know what movies you like if you don’t see a couple of turkeys? All part of the learning experience.
After my college experience I had my mission which was so separated from normal life I will skip over it for this entry. Then you get into my later 20s (I got home from my mission when I was 24 1/2). This was actually one of the most social times in my life but interestingly enough it mixed the casualness of my college life with a little bit more structure. At this point my friends and roommates had jobs which gave us a little bit more money but less free time. We would still see the occasional bad movie but most activities were researched and thought out.
There was also a lot of routine socialization that happened at that time. For a long time I had a daily dinner group (which I still think was brilliant) where a bunch of us singles were assigned a day of the week to make dinner for the group, so you got a social experience and only had to cook once every 12 days. So great. I also had groups that met regularly to watch a lot of tv shows like American Idol and The Office. For a while in my apartment in American Fork we had 3 or 4 nights a week that had some kind of TV viewing together. I watched Lost every night for 2 years with friends and then I moved and never watched it again. That certainly tells you the influence of friends!
This was actually a hard time in my life personally and it’s amazing I fit so much socializing in when I was working 60 hours, serving at the temple, had 2 other callings and going to grad school. I wouldn’t have done much of it if it wasn’t presented at my door with little to no effort. The house in American Fork was especially good for socializing because we were the only one’s with our own apartment in the ward. Everyone else lived at home so our place became something of an escape for our friends. It’s funny that time in my life is probably where I maintained the fewest of my friends. People got married, moved, and the friendships are mostly through facebook or gone and that’s ok, just interesting.
During my later 20’s is also the only time in my life where I through big parties with lots of people. Or I should say my roommate and I did. We had great Halloween and New Years parties, planned outings and group dates together, concerts (went to more concerts then than ever again), and seemed to find excuses to wear costumes on a number of occasions. Despite it being a challenging age, I have many warm memories. I often drive by the house in American Fork and feel a wave of nostalgia for the good times had just watching TV together with my friends.
Then my 30’s came and things started to change (really more at 28 but close enough). Seemingly overnight the big group TV sessions and parties stopped and everything became more one-on-one, highly planned, intimate interactions with friends. This may not seem like a big deal but I remember feeling so sad that I had no one to watch American Idol with any more or celebrate Halloween (our last ‘big’ party was 2009).
While still loving to entertain it takes a lot more effort now than it used to. No just casual ‘let’s go to the apartment and watch The Office every week’ kind of thing. It takes work but that work can be a joy. It took me a long time to realize that I really enjoyed gathering my friends together and coming up with fun activities. I did swimfests, book clubs, baby showers and dinner parties and loved every one of them. Occasionally I could still pull off the big party like last year for my open house (or tomorrow to celebrate 40 book club books!) but it’s just different.
In 2009 I wrote a post on this very blog about a book club I threw where nobody came and how discouraged I was. http://smilingldsgirl.com/2009/06/10/thoroughly-uncool/ I remember feeling so sad that nobody had come to my party: “I am merely puzzled by my recent inability to attract new friends. It isn’t just with Enrichment but the few times I have had parties the turnout is low. I used to be able to always attract a crowd. Weird, hah?”
The problem I was truly dealing with was looking at a new era of friend-shipping through old eyes. Like I said, sometimes I still feel nostalgic and a little sad for those times. It can feel like I make so much effort and in a selfish mood it can seem underappreciated when it really isn’t. People love it and it means a lot to them but it just takes a lot of work to make friendships in this era of my life function.
Truth is those friendships are better because I’ve had to work hard for them. Unlike the fun time in my late 20s where most of the people have come in and out of my life I have a feeling the friends I have made in the last 5 years will always be a part of my life. That’s what work tends to do. Plus, in a way it is kind of a circle of friendship. When I was a teen others allowed me to make friends, now I am facilitating that experience for others. That is a great gift not a burden.
Anyway, I don’t know if this will mean much to any of you out there but even my friends online (twitter, facebook, this blog) take work but I’ve learned so much from that process. I’ve learned to cook, decorate and entertain. Plus, I’ve learned to actually appreciate and discuss the arts, movies, theater, etc. It’s not casual like those days in my 20s but it’s very rewarding and great.
In the end, enjoy the season you have now. Look fondly on the past, remember the smiles and moments and then try to learn and serve as much as you can in the present.
It’s a good life and I’m grateful for my friends! To a fun day tomorrow!