Thursday, January 28, 2016

Considering the Possibilities

A few years ago my friend Emily adopted a New Year tradition wherein she selects one word that
summarizes her goals, resolutions and ideal state of mind for the year.

Last year I joined Emily in this endeavor, and I choose the word "perspective." As in, "Let's keep things in perspective before we have a melt down, or let's consider someone else's perspective before automatically assuming they're an idiot." I wrote my word down in red ink on a small piece of paper, taped it to my computer and promptly forgot all about it. Ironically, the next time my written reminder caught my eye, I noticed that the ink had faded to the point where it was almost unreadable. I guess you could say I had lost my perspective.

Like we do every year, the kids and Rob and I celebrated this New Year's Eve with Emily, her family, and several friends. Because we're getting old and a little pathetic, by 11 p.m. there was a good deal of moaning about being tired and wanting to call it a night. In an effort to save the evening and keep us awake till the ball dropped, Emily handed us each a piece of paper and instructed us to come up with our word for the year. Rob chose "Hillary," not because he's a fan, but because he thinks this year will be all about her. He also went off on some tangent about the concept of "relevance." Obviously he didn't get the idea behind the one word challenge.

I decided on the word "possibilities." It came to me while we were in Arizona over Christmas. I found myself thinking a lot about the possibilities for my next stage of  life. With Ian heading to college next year and Abby only three years behind him, the door is wide open for Rob and me to make some exciting changes (that don't involve choosing new spouses). Like moving to Arizona! (We've already ruled that out.) Or maybe buying one of the swanky new condos they're going to build in downtown Media. Or maybe we'll move to Wilmington, NC where I can work part-time at UNC and spend the rest of my time reading books on Wrightsville Beach. So many possibilities, so much fun to think about them!

For the more immediate future, I've been considering the possibilities of what I might do with my increasing amount of free time. With the kids needing (and wanting) less of me, there are opportunities for me to do the things I couldn't do when they were little. Right now, pursuing my love of theatre is top on the list. As many of you know, I took a step toward this possibility by registering for Villanova's "Graduate Certificate in Practical Theatre." I figured it was worth $50 a course to hone any skills I might possess and see if I have what it takes to make it in the cut throat world of community theatre.

In the fall I took my first course: Principles of Acting. And I loved it. I was a nervous wreck before every class performance (and there was one practically each week), but I really did enjoy it and I came out of it with an audition piece to use if I ever get up the courage to actually try out for a play. This semester I'm taking Musical Theatre, which is the type of performing I grew up on. I'm not sure what I expected, but I think it's fair to say it's more than I bargained for.

First there was the solo performance the very first night of class, which was repeated the second night of class the following week. Then I saw the syllabus, which includes:
  • Initial Response (IR) papers for every musical we view and every related journal article we're assigned to read (basically one a week). 
  • A practitioner report with a PechaChuka presentation
  • Character, music and lyrics analysis for each solo we perform (there's at least two of them)
  • "8 Counts of 8" in which each student is required to teach the class a dance routine
Did I mention there's dancing for about an hour of each three-hour class? Have I mentioned that I can't dance to save my life? 

Did I mention that my first IR was seven pages long and took no less than 7 hours of my time between the viewing and the writing? 

And my practitioner report, in addition to the Pokemon-sounding presentation, requires an MLA or Chicago format bibliography. Do you want to guess how long it's been since I wrote a bibliography?

And did I mention I can't dance? Nor can I effectively carry a tune when I'm a nervous wreck. 

My loving husband asked a couple valid questions the night before my first class (before I even knew about the time commitment/workload). He asked, "Isn't a hobby supposed to be something you enjoy? If it stresses you out and overwhelms you, doesn't that defeat the purpose?" 

Damn. He's always got something insightful to say. I hate that. 

Part of the problem lies in my unwillingness to fail or look bad. You'd think for as often as I embarrass myself in my blog posts (can everyone say protective panties?), I would be immune to the fear of humiliation. Nope. When it comes to the things I choose to invest my time in, I'm either really good at them or I quit. That translates into my need to get an A on every paper, and deliver above-average performances in the singing and dancing categories. That translates into weekends lost to homework and fingernails lost to anxiety. I can't just do what I need to do to pass the class and move on. I'm not hardwired that way. 

After spending my snowy weekend tied to the kitchen table, viewing Showboat, reading, and writing, I asked myself more than once if this is really what I want to do. It's not that I detest the work (I actually enjoy the musicals and don't mind the written response), but do I enjoy it enough to dedicate so much of my time to it? Shouldn't I be binge-watching something on Netflix? Or playing Wordbrain? Or at least reading a book for pleasure? It's not like I'm dying to earn another master's degree or want to make a career change. In fact, this level of commitment is exactly why I dropped out of an NYU PhD program 20 years ago. I don't know how to balance the goals I set with having a life. They're probably not supposed to be separate, are they?

A couple Saturdays ago, my friend Andria from church brought together a group of women for the one-word experience. As we gathered in smaller groups to talk in detail about our word and what it might mean for us, one of the older, wiser women responded to my "possibilities" with something completely unexpected. She said something like this:
"You may have to consider the possibility that you can't do everything you want to do, or that it's not right for you, or that you might actually fail or not live up to your own expectations." 
Wow. In my mind, the possibilities are all positive and shiny with rainbows on the horizon. Are there possibilities of failure or disappointment? 

You may think my wise friend was being a Debbie Downer, but I found her comments brought me some relief. I am allowed to fail, to change my mind, to come to the realization that something just isn't for me. Maybe the possibilities for my life don't involve theatre and moving to NC, but instead call for me to be a spokesperson for Icon undies, or to travel the world as first mate on a 72 foot yacht. Who knows? 

I've really rambled through this one, haven't I? I suppose the topic was better suited for my personal journal, but part of me is looking for your advice or encouragement. To theatre or not to theatre? To move on, or establish deeper roots right where I am?

I'd also love to know if you have a word of your own. I'm finding it's helpful to have a partner or a group of supporters to keep me focused. So please share if you're interested in playing along. It's not too late to join us!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

And for Your 21st Wedding Anniversary...

This is a soiled sordid tale of excess and a lack of control.

Chapter 1:
Once upon a time, God decided to punish those of the female variety because Eve tricked an impressionable dude. He (God) figured menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause were good places to start. Then, throughout history, a number of additional--albeit, optional--female burdens were added to the mix: high heels, pantyhose, and underwire bras, just to name a few.

Chapter 2:
Pregnancy and childbirth. Talk about excellent reasons women get bent out of shape about the crap we have to deal with. For one thing, we literally are bent out of shape over this nearly yearlong process. And because no one can see what's happened to us internally, we get external stretch marks as a badge of honor. And if we decide to breastfeed, we get a little something extra: saggy boobs. Then, as the years go by, we're rudely reminded that we should have followed doctor's orders. Perhaps those Kegel exercises would have been a good idea, because it seems these days our pelvic floor muscles only show up for work when they feel like it.

And with a drip and drop our sordid soiled tale begins.

Chapter 3:
Hold that thought and picture this: We're seated at the kitchen table scrolling through Facebook. There's a tissue stuffed in our underwear because we coughed and they're damp, but not uncomfortable enough to warrant a change. Lo and behold, we come upon an ad with attractive women in their 30s or 40s, hanging out in their undies, holding beautiful babies, or outside striking yoga poses so the folks in the apartment building next door can see just how flexible they are and how great they look. Just a typical day.

These women are young, fresh and vibrant. And, it turns out they know what it's like to "Leak when you laugh. And squeeze when you sneeze."

They assure me that I can ditch the disposables and feel fresh as a rosé (I appreciate the wine reference) if I purchase Icon pee-proof undies. Not only are they fast-wicking, leak-resistant, odor-eliminating, and ultra-thin in their absorbency, but they have all the style and comfort of regular undies.

Most importantly, they hold up to 5 teaspoons of piddle.

Chapter 4:

You've made this remarkable discovery just as your husband walks by. Thinking of the tissue wadded up in your granny panties, you casually suggest he get you a pair of these Icon undies for Christmas. But Christmas comes and goes. He never was very interested in your "suggestions." You've forgotten about the undies. Until early January when they arrive in the mail, just in time for your wedding anniversary.

Because nothing says romance like pee protection panties.

Chapter 5:

My husband has a tendency to go all out when he finds something he knows (or assumes) I will like. There was the "12 rolls of film" birthday. And the "eight bottles of body lotion" Christmas. Turns out 2016 is the year of the anniversary panty. Actually, make that panties. Ten pairs to be exact.

Chapter 6:

My first outing in my Icon panties was to a birthday dinner with friends. Just us girls. And given my proclivity toward sharing that which I know other women may be dealing with (in an effort to make us all feel better about ourselves), I decided to share the exciting news about my undies. After a margarita, I even unzipped and showed a little skin. "Aren't they flattering?" I asked. Alas, there was no sneeze, cough or laughter with which to test them, but I was feeling good just knowing I was covered. So to speak.

Chapter 7:

The Amex bill arrives in the mail. I see a line for NY-Icon. $220. Did Rob hit some dance club the last time he was in the city? What the hell is Icon? I prepare the attack, and then it hits me. Icon. Undies.

"Holy shit! You mean to tell me you spent $220 on underwear for me? Is there gold woven into the absorbent crotch? What the hell were you thinking? And why in the world would you buy me 10 pairs if they were so freakin' expensive?"

He replies, "They were less expensive if you bought in bulk."

He knows I appreciate a good deal, so I can't argue with that logic.

Chapter 8:

We're at the movies and I need to go to the restroom. Or do I?

I have 30 days in which to pee in these suckers test these babies out. I can return them if they don't live up to my expectations.

I'm trying to visualize what five teaspoons looks like...

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Best Movies of 2015

The wait is over! It's time for Kim's (late) year-end lists of the best movies and books. Today we'll cover my favorite movies of 2015 (and a couple highlights from late 2014).

It seems that every year there are fewer and fewer movies I really want to see. Where are the "When Harry Met Sally"-quality romcoms? Thankfully, however, there are always a couple standouts that make it worth paying exorbitant prices for tickets and popcorn. And if you're a member of Bryn Mawr Film Institute, you get a much better deal on both. Plus, they show the movies that are actually worth seeing. But they're not paying for this promotion, so allow me to get right to our list.

2015's best movies, in order:

  1. Spotlight. About the Boston Globe team who uncovered the Catholic clergy child sexual abuse scandal in 2001. Exceptional acting and story telling. And Mark Ruffalo (love). Too bad it wasn't fictional. 
  2. The Martian. There are very few "big" movies these days that appeal to a wide audience (other than that crazy Star Wars franchise). It seems like everything is either superhero driven, dystopian-themed or involves at least one car chase. I can't imagine there are many true movie fans who wouldn't appreciate Matt Damon in The Martian. The writing and acting were top notch, and somehow it felt like a documentary rather than a self-published story by an author who never imagined anyone would read it, much less make a movie out of it.
  3. Birdman. I realize this movie released in 2014, but I didn't see it until early 2015, so it's making the list. If you want to see a film that you can discuss and debate later with your viewing companion, check out Michael Keaton's Birdman (Keaton's on a roll; he was also in Spotlight.). A fascinating commentary on fame, society and our need to be entertained.
  4. The Imitation Game. Also from 2014, The Imitation Game was an amazing/disturbing history lesson (why don't we learn this stuff in school??) and perhaps even more importantly, it starred the awesome Benedict Cumberbatch. 
  5. Inside Out. Abby did not enjoy this movie at all. Like my sister, she prefers to hide from the mere possibility of unpleasant feelings. Then there's me--happy to swim in the ocean of every emotion that comes my way! I loved Inside Out and thought it was real, honest, and beautifully done. 
  6. Trainwreck. Talk about a shift in this best-of list! I rarely connect with raunchy, over the top, often dumb humor, but this Amy Schumer / Bill Hader movie totally cracked me up. I guess I was just in the right mood. And I'm a sucker for happy endings.
  7. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2. If you read the books, I think you'll agree that the whole series was really well done. Jennifer Lawrence will play me in the movie about my life. 
  8. Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Yes, the girl who doesn't "give a rat's ass" about the Star Wars franchise has to admit that it was really good. Enjoyed the humor and the new "stars," pun intended. 
  9. Sisters. With any other actors, this Poehler / Fey movie might have been really stupid, but with those two, it worked. A great laugh. Go see it with your sister or your girlfriends. And no, I've never had a party like that. Hell, I've never even been to a party like that. 
  10. Spy. Okay, 2015 must have been the year that I opted for slightly stupid humor movies. As I've gotten older and the world has gotten shittier, I seem to be avoiding anything terribly heavy in my entertainment choices. Thankfully there are some decent comedies that don't totally insult your intelligence. I enjoyed this Melissa McCarthy flick. 
Finally, there are a handful of 2015 flicks that I haven't yet seen, but have heard great things about. These are still on my list:
  • The Danish Girl. Eddie Redmayne is more beautiful than many women.
  • Brooklyn  Like I noted above, I've been craving a good romance. I don't think I've seen a smart romcom since Crazy, Stupid Love. Brooklyn might fit the bill.
  • Carol. I don't discriminate in the romance department (it's about two women). 
  • The Big Short. Another movie based on real life. Another film to piss me off. But Ryan Gosling's in it (love).
If ever there were a post for you to respond to/comment on, this is it. Let's hear your favorites and where you disagree with my reviews!

Monday, January 4, 2016

What I Learned on My Christmas Vacation

At 9 a.m. on New Year's Eve (after a two-hour delay on our red eye), we returned from Scottsdale, Arizona. This was the first time in several years that we went away as a family, just the four of us, for a week's vacation. I think it's important to do that every once awhile, just to see whether you actually like each other. After all, if daily life is any indication, we're all pretty much certain that we live with inconsiderate jerks. I'm happy to say that we confirmed that we do in fact like each other. Sorta...

It's important to look natural in your photos.
What I Learned on My Christmas Vacation
  1. The kids get along long as they have someone else to pick on. 
  2. Mom is an excellent target for abuse.
  3. Like I did in high school, I'm going to assume the degree to which I'm being picked on directly correlates to how much I am loved.
  4. I can add hiking to the list of things--old movies, opera, modern art, camping--that I wish I liked but really don't.
  5. I probably shouldn't have tackled a double-black diamond trail on my first hiking trip in years. 
  6. If you're going to stop and cry while hiking, be sure to have tissues so you don't have to blow your nose on your shirt.
  7. I have no mental fortitude whatsoever. When the going gets tough, the tough get going I want someone to carry me back to the car. 
  8. Vacation isn't the ideal time to test just how much cheese you can eat before you get sick.
  9. As the mom, it works out in your favor to bribe your daughter to see Star Wars with the family by offering a massage and facial in exchange. Someone had to accompany her...
  10. You can get an amazing massage and facial for a very reasonable price in Scottsdale.
  11. If you use the words "history" or "museum" to describe an activity to Abby, her IQ drops 50 points and she simply shuts down like a malfunctioning computer.
  12. I'm thankful that conferences with my kids' teachers were always very positive, because Lily is an embarrassment to the family. Just ask Jessica, the dog sitter.
    If one must take a selfie, it should be artsy, like on an angel.
  13. Apparently, selfies are no longer cool, hence following a familiar technological pattern: Once parents adopt what was formerly a "kid" thing, the kids immediately abandon it and move on to whatever's next.
  14. I would consider moving to Arizona in retirement, but I think I'd miss the ocean too much. 
  15. Regardless of where I retire, I'm psyched that I'll have Rob MacPherson by my side. 
Sorry for the mushy stuff there at the end. It's our 21st anniversary on Saturday. To send gifts, message me for our mailing address. 
I like this photo that Abby took of us.
Just ignore the giant phallic symbol
Finally, coming soon (tomorrow??), my first 2015 "Best Of" list!