Month: August 2011

The Help


I don’t normally put out two posts in one day but I just had to give a quick shout-out to the movie I saw last night- The Help.  It is without a doubt the best movie I have seen this year (I know that isn’t saying much because this has been a bad year for movies).

Naturally I have read the bestselling book by Kathryn Stockett.  In fact, I have read it three times including once for book club.  I enjoyed the book and loved the voices Stockett creates.  She is a great writer.  However, (and this may shock its die-hard fans) in some ways I actually thought the movie was better.  That almost never happens, but I really think it did in this case.  Let me explain

In the book there are 3 different narrators, white returning-college student Skeeter, near-retirement maid Aibileen, and a spunky maid named Minnie.  Each chapter is told by one of the three narrators and while all are engaging, I found myself itching for the Aibileen sections. I loved her character and found her rich and textured in a way nobody else is in the book is.

This is where the movie gets it right- it does not follow the 1/3rd formula of the book and focuses much more on Minnie and Aibileen than Skeeter.  It also helps that all of the performers (even the small parts such as Alison Janney as Skeeter’s mom) are terrific.   My favorite was the woman who played Aibileen- Viola Davis.  I had never seen her in a movie before and thought she was wonderful.

There are so many other good things about The Help.  The sets are meticulous, the story is touching and hilarious at points and the tone is appropriate.  Some of have criticized it as a soft treatment of civil rights.  My argument to that is Why does everything have to he tough and gritty? What’s wrong with learning a lesson in a nice way?  I would have a problem if no gritty films existed but they do in abundance.  I think their is room for both types of teaching.  In some ways I learn more when I’m not bowled over with horrific images that are almost too hard to absorb and take-in.  A softer feel can give me room to analyze and wonder what I might have done in such a time as the Civil Rights Era.

Another very strong part of the movie (and my other favorite character in the book) is the scenes with Celia Foote. She is played by Jessica Chastain (another actress I had never seen before but who did a great job).  Celia is a woman that is discriminated by both the blacks and whites because she is seen as promiscuous and back-woodsy. Unlike Aibileen and the other maids, Celia has no congregation to go to for acceptance, no group of similarly minded women to gab with.  This makes her a very interesting character that the audience feels for and it made me wonder who I am excluding from my life because they are “too….fill in the blank”?

The main plot of The Help revolves around Skeeter convincing the maids to write a book about their perspectives raising white babies.  Writing the book is illegal and dangerous but the construct of the book in both the novel and movie is just a vehicle for us to get to know the characters and to understand how prejudice and a lack of options in life has affected them.

Naturally there has to be a villain for this type of story to move along- Miss Hilly Holbrook- but she is the weakest part of the story.  I wish Stockett had dared to create a white racist that was less cartoonish.  This would challenge the reader/viewer even more.  If Hilly had layers then we may respond to one of those layers and then process that response for our own character enhancement.  At its current state Hilly can be discarded as a caricature unlike anyone we know. Still, somehow the character of Hilly bothered me less in the movie than in the novel.  Not sure why but there you go!

I also felt in the book and movie that the side plot and subsequent big reveal involving Skeeter’s maid Constantine is underwhelming.  However, it is laid out differently in the movie and the acting by Janney as the mother in these scenes is great.  It brings a level of emotion not felt in the book. (Although in the book Constantine’s daughter is white which is the main part of the scandal.  Not sure why they changed that?)

Those are small flaws (Did I also mention the wandering Southern accents the characters ALL have!).  On a whole the movie is immensely entertaining.  It is touching, funny and inspiring.   The acting is superb all around and the entire feel of the film is perfect.

There is a little language- mostly involving a pie made with nefarious ingredients!

Aside from the pie, it is a clean  film appropriate for most teens and young adults  (there is also a scene involving a miscarriage which is appropriately graphic).

I highly recommend seeing The Help.  It is a great movie and one of the best adaptations I’ve ever seen. Let me know what you think!

School Shopping

Today I was on the radio!  There is a local call- in talk show (not a hard core Republican show but more about local matters) called the Doug Wright Show on KSL.  I’ve always been impressed with Doug’s hosting abilities and combined with Doug Fabrizio on Radio West on KUER  (local NPR station) I think Utah has 2 of the best radio hosts in the country (both oddly named Doug!).

Anyway, today they were talking about ‘school/teacher shopping’. This is the phenomenon in education where parents ensure their children have the best teachers/schools and may even try different teachers out to see if they are a good fit for their child.

Here is my call in.  I am at 25:10.(A little under half way through)

Rachel\’s Call

It may seem strange for a single girl like myself to have passionate feelings about this topic but it all goes back to my upbringing.  When I was in the 4th and 5th grade I began to be bullied fairly roughly (is there a nice way to be bullied?).  During those years seemingly out of nowhere I gained a lot of weight.  This led to kids shoving me into water fountains, calling me ‘dog’ and asking me ‘what kind of dog food my mom fed me?’ etc (you get the idea).

Seeing the problem, my parents took action and met with the teachers.  Unfortunately these particular teachers were very inattentive and passed off our concerns with a ‘boys will be boys, kids will be kids’ type of attitude.  They actually told my parents ‘there is nothing we can do’.  Thankfully my parents pulled me out of public school and sent me to Reid School in Salt Lake City, UT.

I am so grateful to my parents for making this choice.  I know it was a sacrifice of time and money but it really did change my life.  At Reid School I felt loved and accepted. Plus, they taught me to master topics both in the short-term and long-term.  What matters at Reid School is mastery and improvement, not in a particular grade or score.  Each child is individually monitored and then learning is tailored to challenge and encourage their individual learning style and personality.

Even though I was only at Reid School for one semester it had a dramatic impact on me.  First of all, it taught me that my parents really were watching out for me.  This was during a time when my parents had a lot on their plate- my mom had just had a baby with bedrest, my Dad was working overseas in Japan a great deal, and they both had demanding callings in the ward.  To know that my parents were watching and cared enough to remove me from a bad situation meant a lot to me then and now.

this was me during the bullying time. Such a cute kid. My heart goes out to her when I see this photo

Secondly, it taught me to never look at a situation as a closed book.  To fight for your own happiness- a lesson I have had to continually relearn throughout my life.  My father is particularly good at this type of thought.  There are always new and interesting options with my Dad.  We do not need to accept the first helping that life puts out for us. Most of the time we can ask for more, we can fight for more.  This is especially important when it comes to our kids.

I know there are some who say ‘if you pull out your kid from a bad school/class than the school will never get better’.  Well, my response to them is- that’s just too bad.  If there ever was a time for me to be selfish it is with the raising of my children (if I ever have them).  If I have kids their happiness will be my top priority and I will not offer my children up on a sacrificial alter of a failing school/teacher.  I will do what’s best for them period.

Does this mean I will never put my children in public school?  No.  It means I will do exactly what this program talks about- teacher/school shop.  I will consider ALL of my options and find the solution that is best for my child.  If that is a great public school teacher than so be it.

I highly recommend watching the documentary Waiting for Superman.

Deer Creek Clinic

Yesterday was the best day of my life!  As you all know I have been working to complete my first mile open water swim.  The actual race is next Saturday but yesterday was the official clinic, and my first open water swim.  I think my facebook post says it all:

I did it! I did it! I did it! I swam in open water for a mile and held my own with people who had all done it before without a wetsuit. This is the best day of my life!

If you read my last post you know that I was very worried about not fitting into a wetsuit but it turned out my worries were ill founded.  There was no problem.  In fact, the water felt good.  The hardest part was keeping in a straight line (or they call it citing).  You have to hold your head slightly out of the water to see the spot in front of you and stay straight. This takes more energy and will take some getting used to but I think I had a pretty good start yesterday.   I was slower than everyone else but like I said in my status they all had more experience than me. For me it was just awesome to participate and finish.

Its hard to explain what swimming in this race means to me.  I don’t know if I can put it into words.  Its part dream of the last 18 months and dream of a high school swimmer who tried so hard to be good at something athletic.  I remember the day I got my lifeguarding certification in high school.  That was a big accomplishment for a fat girl.  I felt a similar serge of emotions yesterday.  I did it!  I did something really hard and I know next week will be even more amazing.  They said that each participant will get a medal and normally I think participatory medals are lame but this is one case where coming in last deserves a medal.  It is a lifetime of work, a lifetime of struggles, a lifetime of loving the water all rolled up into a mile of Deer Creek Reservoir.  I am more grateful than I can say to have found this opportunity and that I started this journey.  Wow its been tough but moments like yesterday make it all worth it. Its so worth it!

By the way, you can still register if you want to participate.  Its too late to get a t-shirt but you still can.  Go to http://www.deercreekopenwater.com/.

If you have any tips for racing- what to eat, how to train this week before, how to pace myself etc I would really appreciate it.  I need all the help I can get.

Is this not a happy face?:


The other exciting thing about yesterday is everyone was so nice.  I am very grateful to have stumbled upon this open water swim if anything for the contacts it will give me of other intense swimmers.  Everyone has been so accommodating including giving me a ride, coordinating a paddler and kayak and giving me advice for the race . Thank you so much!   I am so excited for the race.  If anybody is available I would love to have a friend at the race next week.  I found I was so tired yesterday that not having to drive was a welcome relief.  Plus, it would be nice to have someone to cheer me on.  It starts early (we have to be there by 7) so I understand if no one is interested.

Here’s a video of us swimming:

I can’t wait for next week!  It will be super hard but I know I can do it.

I HATE Athletic Wear

athletic wear- the haven for the skinny

Hello fashion world- I would just like to vent to you for 5 seconds.  In your eyes all women are exactly the same and need to look exactly the same.  (or if they’re different.  It is the same way of looking different).  Want some fashion advice? Check out this post.

I’ve seen the look of horror on your face at the  fashion shows when you meet a plus size women.  How can you possibly be expected to design for such an atrocious creature? On Project Runway the designers panic and run for the exits when given a ‘real woman’ challenge.  It makes me wonder what type of woman are they designing for- the fake woman?  They might as well be for how many women fit into their clothes.

In a great article in the Los Angeles Times Emili Vesilind calls plus size women “Fashion’s invisible woman”.   Despite 14 being the AVERAGE size for women in America most designers would rather cater to their ideal woman, deluding themselves that they are somehow encouraging those fatties to get in line. Here is a quote:

“ When Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld, who spent most of his adult life battling a serious weight problem, created a capsule collection for H&M in 2004, the newly svelte designer was incensed that the retailer manufactured the collection in larger sizes. “What I designed was fashion for slender and slim people,” he said. And in an interview in the March issue of Harper’s Bazaar, he sniffed, “The body has to be impeccable . . . if it’s not, buy small sizes and less food.”

Another ‘fashion editor’ from Australia criticized the use of plus size models because they encouraged such laziness and disgusting body-types.

“While these women might make us feel better about our bulging butts and guts, the truth is, few women over a size 14 are in a healthy weight range.
And many need encouragement to lose weight instead of being told to feel good about being overweight.
Seeing big girls might give us healthier self-esteem, but it might not encourage us to lead healthier lives.”

Did it ever cross your mind that maybe these women need both- they need to feel good about their body and be encouraged?  Why are the two mutually exclusive?  It truly makes me crazy.
Some may counter that the market speaks and plus size doesn’t sell.  I find that hard to believe when again it is the AVERAGE size of women in America.  Surely there is a market to tap into there but the fashion industry doesn’t want to pander to fatties?  How do you explain the huge success of plus size chains such as Lane Bryant and Torrid?  I think the fashion industry wants to promote a particular type of woman and those that don’t fit can be left with their mumu’s and fast food at home.
Even if you buy their idiotic views- here’s the rub- try to find athletic gear in plus sizes and you will have a tough road on your hand.  Think you can roll into Big 5, Sports Authority, Cabellas and find plus size active wear- not so much.  What about target or Lane Bryant- nope.  It is practically impossible to find active wear for plus size women.
The only way is to turn to the internet and even that, on occasion, fails me.  In order to find something as simple as a sports bra I had to dig through websites until finally I found one on Old Navy.com.  Sometimes I am forced to buy men’s active wear (not with teh sports bra, of course!) but that is usually very unsatisfying and like a cloud around my body.
After much digging I finally found a plus size active wear bathing suit on Lands End and even though it was expensive I bought it because there was no other choice.  Socks, running shirts, yoga pants, workout tanks, anything ‘gym chic’, are all nearly impossible to find in plus size.
Which leads me to my next question- how do you, fashion designer, expect us to ‘lead healthier lives’ if nobody sells clothing to help us do just that?  Are we supposed to stay in hiding until we magically come out of the cocoon of fatness?  Then you will adorn us with your precious athletic wear.  It really makes me crazy!
triathlon wetsuits are my enemy. I hate them!
What has gotten me particularly fumed about this topic is I have been working for weeks trying to swim in the 1 mile open water race at Deer Creek Reservoir.  My swim times are good, my training has been intense but you know what could stop me from swimming- clothing!  That’s right stupid clothing.  Normally beginning swimmers use a triathlon wetsuit which is slick on the outside and breaths more than a traditional wetsuit.  The water is pretty cold and having a wetsuit helps your legs from freezing up and your arms from feeling heavy.
Unfortunately the stupid wetsuit manufacturers only make a woman’s size up to 160 lbs.  160 lbs!!  I still can’t believe that is their biggest.  It will probably take me 2-3 more years before I am close to 160 lbs.  I have to admit the whole incident was very discouraging.  Its one thing to not be able to do something because you are out of shape, but I’m in shape.  I can do the stupid race!  To be stopped by something as dumb as clothing makes me nuts.  I cried and cried when I first found out.
Even the man’s size was too small (particularly for my bust, there’s a shocker!).  So, my friends I am going to attempt to swim the race without a wetsuit.  We will see how my trial run goes tomorrow.  Its going to be hard but all I can do is my best.  I can’t control the stupid wetsuit situation but I can give it my all in that cold water.
Hear is my plea- PLEASE put out some athletic wear that we can actually use to help us lose the weight you find so unsettling.  PLEASE  put out socks that fit, running shirts, sports bras that support, high performance products and even a few cute gym outfits.  I know I would buy it- what about all of you? For goodness sakes I was willing to spend over $300 for my wetsuit but no.  Nobody makes one even close to what I need.  Nobody wants my money!
Maybe if enough of us could show interest we could do some type of petition to the major athletic wear labels?  It would certainly be nice to be able to compete when we’ve actually done the training and not be thwarted due to improper clothes!  So please make a comment, send this post to friends, twitter it and let’s see if we can get something done.
I will let you know how my trial run goes tomorrow. Let’s hope I can brave the cold!
Here are 2 sites that are pretty good:

http://www.junonia.com/home.htm

http://oldnavy.gap.com/browse/category.do?cid=5647