Month: December 2014

2014 Year in Review

2014 was honestly one of the best years of my life.  Yep, it’s true.  It really has been a great one and it feels so long I’m kind of left wondering what even happened at the beginning of the year?

Well, the highlight of those early months was Christmas 2013 I decided to focus my energy on making my youtube channel as great as it could be.  I made a background and got off the webcam and learned how to edit.  (Poor few who suffered through my previous videos thank you!).

2015 my channel should get even better and I am so excited.  I’ve learned so much, made new friends and had a blast.  If you aren’t subscribed please do.  It really helps me out and I think you will enjoy either the box or movie reviews I post. https://www.youtube.com/user/smilingldsgirl

channel art3When I started to work on my channel I thought I was just doing it as a hobby but all that I learned proved to be extremely helpful in a surprise opportunity that came around March.  My Dad told me about a job opportunity he had heard about at Kobayashi which is the company that bought Grabber where I used to work.  It was in the marketing department, particularly digital content.

It was a part time job but anxious for a chance to break out of accounting I jumped at the chance and applied.  It’s one of those tender mercies because if I hadn’t decided to work on my channel months before I wouldn’t have had a chance of getting that job.  But after about a month and a half of applications, interviews and waiting I got the job! It was so exciting!

It was one of the best days of my life when I started the new job and it has been a great experience ever since.  I’m grateful for all those years in accounting but to be able to do something new and creative, putting all my social media and blogging experience to use,  is really a dream come true.  Plus, still get to work from home and telecommute.  I am so blessed.

rachelAnd yes, the dream job really is a dream!

In March we had the 40th book celebration for my book club.  It’s kind of sad now because I’ve taken a bit of a break .  With an injury it became too much wrangling people and planning everything, but I’m sure eventually I’ll feel inspired to start it up again.  Regardless, it was a fun party to throw.

My friends from book club.  Love these girls
My friends from book club. Love these girls
book fabric from scizzors etsy store.
book fabric from scizzors etsy store.

Before I started the new job I had the chance to travel and took a risk to visit an old friend from high school Kim Durkin I hadn’t seen in 15 years.  We had kept in touch through facebook and I was a little nervous we wouldn’t have much in common but we had a wonderful time together.  She was an amazing host and I loved going to the beach every day.  It was gorgeous and I really had the time of my life.  Plus, I was in between jobs so it was the first vacation in years where I didn’t think about work at all and just enjoyed myself.

beach12beach18  beach8Just after Tampa I was able to swim in the Great Salt Lake Marathon Swim 1 mile race and despite cramping at the start I got a great time, nearly 20 minutes faster than the previous year.

DSCF5638 DSCF5630In July I got the chance to visit my folks in California and had  a good time seeing my nieces.

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Unfortunately the trip would end by a slip in the shower and a torn MCL that would dominate the rest of the year.  I’m still going to physical therapy for the darn injury.

knee2My injury meant that I couldn’t swim at my usual Deer Creek race, which I was feeling pretty depressed about.  Well, in an attempt to turn a negative into a positive I decided to watch the entire Disney canon something I’ve always wanted to do.  It took me from August to November but I started a new blog and had a blast watching all the Disney films.

blogI had so much fun with it and enjoyed conversing with other movie lovers that I kept up the blog even when the project was ever and did Scrooge Month in December where I reviewed 30 different versions of Christmas Carol.  If you haven’t looked at the reviews please do and add your comments.  I am very proud of the quality of the writing and I learned a lot from each review I did.  Plus, I had so much fun watching all these movies.  (2014 was also a great movie at the theaters too).

http://54disneyreviews.wordpress.com/

I worked more movie reviews into my channel and started a whole series called the ABC’s of my blu-ray collection.  It hasn’t gotten a ton of hits but I’ve enjoyed making the videos which is what matters.  I just posted the letter’s I and J.

I also continued my box reviews and set up a facebook page to promote the channel and have giveaways.  If you aren’t a follower to both please check them out.

Got to https://www.facebook.com/smilingldsgirlreviews for the facebook page.

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I had the chance to do a collaboration with the Lawn Gnome which was really fun on our Top Forgotten Animated Films.

I’m just really proud of myself for taking a sucky situation and finding the positives.  I took on a whole new adventure and had a great time when it was very painful and difficult. I hope that is something I will have in my pocket for the future when life gets tough.  Thank you to anyone who read any of my reviews or watched any of my videos.  It means so much to me and really helped me get through a sad and painful experience.

The Fall flew by.  Two of my best friends moved this year, which was very hard for me.  I miss both Emily and Tania so much.

emily and I

Tania and me.
Tania and me.

In November I spent the month working on my Nanowrimo novel which I finished!   Winner!

1508173_10152619833772239_8048249337604887857_nThe elections also made me very happy in November!  Wahoo!

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The rest of the fall was about work and trying to help my knee to heal.  I watched a lot of  movies, blogged a lot, made a lot of videos and spent a lot of time with friends and family.  It was a very happy time if frustrating with the injury.

old firends So with a new job, blog and channel I couldn’t have asked for better for 2014.  Yes I wish I hadn’t been injured but I wouldn’t have been inspired to write and try something new, so it all worked out.  I’m grateful for my life and the good people I have cheering me on and worrying about me.  I am so blessed by the Lord.

christmas cardMost importantly I’ve felt Jesus guide me all year and help me to forgive others and remain positive even when in pain.  He is the source of all happiness in my life and I know He loves me and is aware of my needs.

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May 2015 be as great as 2014 for you and me and everyone! Sure love ya all!

Rachel

The Christmas Without any Presents

“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents”

That my friends is the opening line to one of my favorite novels and the first big book I remember reading- Little Women.  In the story the March sisters have been told by their Mother they should forgo Christmas presents because “it is going to be a hard winter for everyone; and she thinks we ought not to spend money for pleasure, when our men are suffering so in the army. We can’t do much, but we can make our little sacrifices”

little women2 As the story continues they decide to spend the dollar they have on themselves but unselfish Beth convinces them to instead buy a present for their Mother.  The girls get as much pleasure selecting gifts for their Marmee (Mother) as if it had been for themselves. They even end up giving their Christmas breakfast to a family in need rather than enjoy it alone.

littlewomen1While I am eventually getting the desire of my heart for Christmas, and the March girls went without, I found myself thinking about this classic scene today as I kind of had a Christmas without any presents.

I’m not complaining at all as I had a great day but it was an interesting experience to have a Christmas with one present to open (an awesome book from my sister! Thanks Meg).

le creusetSadly even the gift to myself was a bust as my Le Creuset pot had a giant crack down the side (both sides).  I can return it of course but that was a bit of a letdown.

My siblings and I didn’t exchange gifts this year and my parents are bringing me my gift on Monday (so again don’t feel sorry for me by any means).

I’m not going to lie to you and say my experience was perfect and I didn’t miss opening presents on Christmas.  Of course I did.  That’s part of the fun of Christmas is opening presents and seeing what people have thought to get you.

But on the other hand it did force me to focus on the day in a new way.  I know this will sound cheesy but I found myself as excited to see the reactions of the presents I had sent as I would normally be for my own presents.

Particularly my gifts for my nieces were a big hit.  I had found a lady on facebook who made bow and arrow sets for kids and sent one to all 5 of my nieces and they loved them!

archery archery2I was also excited to see what my Mother thought about the knitting book I got her or my Dad the Beethoven set he had requested.

I also looked at my life for the many gifts I have and tried to focus on those.  I got invited to my friends The Porters for Christmas day breakfast this morning and what a lovely way to start off the day.  I’m so blessed by good friends in my life.  I got to see the sister missionaries and think about the gift my mission was. I’m so grateful my favorite mission comp Julia Graves is coming to visit on Tuesday.

I woke up to snow on Christmas when we had none up to the 24th.  I don’t know if I have ever had a true White Christmas out of nowhere like that before.  It was really fun.

snowI put together a version of our German Christmas Eve meal and thanked my Heavenly Father for the food I have and the bounty in my life.

christmas dinnerI looked at my tree and felt grateful for each of the memories captured on my Memory Tree. The travels, smiling faces and love that abounds in my heart.

I thought about the joy art, music, theater and film give my life.  Yesterday I went to see It’s a Wonderful Life on the big screen and had a tremendous experience (probably causing me to be extra sentimental today).

http://54disneyreviews.wordpress.com/2014/12/25/bonus-holiday-review-its-a-wonderful-life/

Aside from the breakfast, I have basically spent Christmas day alone.  I know people who would find that idea incredibly depressing, almost unimaginable.  And yet today I felt gratitude for the overwhelming blessings of my life.

Mostly I felt grateful for the gift of Christ’s birth and atonement in my life. For my knowledge of His goodness and love and that when I am alone he is always there to buoy me up and I mean ALWAYS.

for unto usSo yes Jo, I can confidently say ‘Christmas is still Christmas without any presents’.  It is what you make of it and in the end we all have many presents just being an America and living a life with a witness of Jesus Christ in our hearts.  That is what this Christmas taught me.  While I missed opening presents (I’m not a saint!) I realized its a tertiary joy of Christmas not the primary reason to celebrate. Sounds cheesy but it’s true.

And as Clarence told George Bailey- ‘no man is a failure who has friends’. Thanks to all of you for being my friends this holiday season.

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Christmas Card 2014

If you missed getting my Christmas Card earlier in the month here it is again. Merry Christmas!! Thanks for all your support of this blog and of my life in general. I am so grateful for all the love in my life.

Smilingldsgirl's Weblog

I’ve developed a fun tradition with my friend Joan at Bitsy Creations who is a talented graphic designer to make a custom Christmas card.  Here’s a little slideshow of my previous year’s cards.

Here is this years card.  Merry Christmas!! Thank you for every blog you’ve read and support you’ve given me.  It means more than you will know.  I hope you enjoy Scrooge Month and have a very wonderful holiday season.

christmas card

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I’ll have An Ordinary Christmas

I hope you are all having a wonderful day and Christmas week. I’m having a lovely week.  I love my trees this year.  I had a great time with the cookie swap and holiday baking.

swap

I had a great time with Scrooge Month and things have been going great at work.

So no complaints from this department!

But on the same breath there is something about this Christmas that just feels a little weird. To begin with I basically did no shopping.  I got my presents for my nieces from a listing I saw online. Look how freaking adorable they are.

presentsThen my presents for my parents were purchased online so the only shopping I did was on black Friday for my roommate and then to Kohls to get a gift for my sister in Japan.

I did a lot of other fun stuff this season.  Went to see the lights, tree of lifeI got to see old friends and make new friends.

old firends new friendsTomorrow I am going to see It’s a Wonderful Life at the theater which should be great and then will get our traditional German meal at a local deli.

So it’s all good things and I’m happy but it also feels kind of ordinary.  I’m not sure why.  I did a lot of really fun things but Christmas when you are a kid is so exciting and it is never quite the same as an adult (at least for me).  It’s more of a fun ordinary day.

Perhaps part of it is we still have to do laundry and go to work. It’s not like kids where they get the excitement of Christmas break and all those presents.  This year I have 1 present to open on Christmas Day.  I’m not complaining because I’m getting what I really want from my parents when they come to town on 29th but it just feels different.

treesI don’t want to make it sound like I’m sad because I’m not.  It’s simply more of a really fun ordinary day like 4th of July or Valentines Day when Christmas used to be so much more exciting than those holidays.  I’m not sure what I could have done to make it feel more special.  I think it is just part of becoming a grown up.

Either way I’m having a great week and can’t wait till New Years when my friend Julia (Sister Graves from my mission!) is coming to visit.  Now that seems special! So excited.

What do you guys think? Have you noticed the holidays feeling more ordinary despite being pleasant and fun? I probably sound like a Grinch but I’m not. I promise!

Merry Christmas!

fa ra ra raAlso the weather has been strange which I think has added to the odd Christmas vibes.  Just lots of rain. ‘I’m dreaming of a rainy Christmas’…

Blu-ray G and H, Best and Worst Youtube Videos

This post has my best and worst videos of the year. Thought you might enjoy them.

Reviewing All 56 Disney Animated Films And More!

I thought I would share with you some of my latest youtube videos.  I had a lot of fun making them and not everything I talk about has been on this blog.  I think most of you will especially enjoy my Worst of Video and my Maleficent rant.  Feels good to get it all out in the open. 😉

As I always say it’s just my opinion so if you feel differently that’s great! I am sincerely glad that art speaks to different people in different ways.  I would love if you gave any or all of the videos a watch and even left a comment or two.  Thanks so much for all your support.

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The Wicked Stepmother

Missy

As you all know I’m a big Survivor fan and part of the reason I love the show is while it is fabricated and packaged as entertainment, it is also an interesting window into human nature.  We see the way people behave when eating 100 calories a day, pushed to extremes and how they interact when forced to make choices that service themselves and the group.  That is fascinating to me.  The power structures, social customs, group theory and patterns that develop are interesting and the fact that every winner has been different is a testament to the show.  There is no one way to guarantee a win because what is effective in a game amongst one group may not be in another.

For me season 29 was a disappointment.  This is partly because I loved the previous season 28 so much.  We had so many dynamic personalities in Cagayan that made it fascinating (and hilarious) to watch.  This season San Juan Del Sur I never bonded with anyone (or hated anyone).

But it had its appeal and curiosity factor as every season does.  And one of the interesting threads was a mother daughter pair named Missy and Baylor.  Missy was announced on the show in her introduction that she had been married and divorced 3 times.  I’m not sure why this was such a big deal?  Surely there have been Survivor men who have been married that many times and it was never brought up?

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From the beginning it seemed like the show was disdainful of Missy for her marriages even though I didn’t really see her doing much worthy of that disdain.  Certainly in the world of Survivor villains she was very thin gruel (and if they had the footage we would have seen it!).  She did protect her daughter (who I also didn’t ever see proof that she was that bad) but I didn’t think much more than any other person protected their loved one in the game.

She may have been a real jerk but this was not proven in the footage I saw, even the extended footage outside of the show.  There was really only one spat Missy had with Reed where he called Baylor a brat and there was a brief exchange. But again in the world of Survivor it was nothing. I could probably think of about 100 players who have been more obnoxious and villainous in their seasons.

The reason I bring all this up is in the finale Reed, a Broadway actor, got up in his jury speech and obliterated Missy as not only a bad mother but ‘a wicked stepmother’.  Here’s the speech:

So he defines the wicked stepmother as ‘the eccentric woman who comes in and makes demands on everyone for the things to which she feels so entitled”.  Again, that may have been Missy but it was not shown in the edit of the show and I believe if it entitled behavior was there it would have been shown.

Missy was the one who made the rice and they had to barter to get more (a Survivor first) but Reed was a beneficiary of more rice so you think he would be grateful for that?  So she didn’t like her daughter being called a brat on national tv?  That makes her a wicked stepmother.  Again, in the world of Survivor villains she was so not wicked.  For instance, Kass from Cagayan was way more critical, entitled, condescending and judgmental.

It really bothered me to see a woman criticized for playing the exact same game that many men have played, especially after she refused to give up after an ankle injury.  You think the show would have treated her as a hero (they don’t have control over jury speeches but still the tone the last 3 episodes was very Missy critical and yet I never was convinced she was doing anything that bad).

The reason why I mention all of this (because I know most of you don’t watch the show) is because I think it is emblematic of our societies strange view of maternal instinct, motherhood, femininity and womanhood.

survivor-caramoan-dawn-meehanThis is not the first time a Survivor Mom has been raked over the coals.  The worst time was Dawn Mehan in Survivor Carmoan who was forced to take out her dental implants and apologize to a fellow contestant (something men who have backstabbed people have never been asked to do).  People were very tough on Dawn because they felt she had betrayed them.  She was the Mother on the island and then had used that relationship to manipulate her own spot in the game.

Again if a Father figure had done the same thing like a Bob Crowley or Tom Westman it would be seen as great game play but not for a mother. We just expect mothers and ‘mother figures’ to behave in a particular way, which is decidedly unfair as all women are not the same and not all maternal instinct manifests itself in the same way.

Dawn was also very emotional which did not help her game but I kind of get that too.I would probably also be very emotional if I was hungry, tired and away from loved ones. I think her emotional state only made people hate her more.  Missy showed that even if Dawn had not been a cry baby she would still have been looked at as a bad mother for simply playing the game as the ‘mother figure’. Dawn received incredible backlash after the season including death threats and the most vile of insults forcing her to take down her social media all together. Other people have played the game poorly and not received such backlash but other people were not a mother of 6 children. It’s just a different playing field.

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Over at Entertainment Weekly Melissa Maerz has a great article called ‘Survivor’: Why that ‘wicked stepmother’ speech enraged me’. 

She says:

” I have no beef with mothers defining themselves as mothers. I’m a mother, too, and proud of it. It’s the question of who is branding women that way, and why, that makes me uneasy”

And then she says

“the term is “rife with contradictions”: “On TV and in movies and in modern fiction, mothers are frequently portrayed as protective yet focused on the trivial, wise yet neurotic, sexy yet sexless, monumentally important but deeply silly,” she writes. Worse yet, we villainize mothers for failing to live up to the standards set by the latter-day Donna Reeds we see on screen, even though those contradictions make those standards impossible.

Mothers can be anything, we’re told, as long as they’re both that thing and its opposite, and as long they’re not any one thing too much

Going back to the broader sociological discussion (again why I like Survivor) do we put Mothers and motherhood on too high a pedestal?  Do we expect women to be perfect and to never be self-serving or make mistakes? I kind of think we might. Most of us would have a much harder time forgiving an insult from a mother than a father.  Why? I guess because our fathers typically don’t raise us and teach us what is right and wrong (even in extreme patriarchal societies Mothers do most of the teaching and caring of children).

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Perhaps because Mothers are our consolation and sanctuary from the world they are put on the pedestal, almost more a saintly role intervening in our behalf against the evils that surround us than a real person?  I guess in some ways that is a good thing but it seems part of growing up is seeing your parents as flawed creatures who did their best but made mistakes too.  I think that’s why Reed’s speech felt so off-putting and immature to some of us. She was doing the best she could under tough circumstances but clearly she was not the motherly figure he expected her to be.

It was interesting in exit interviews yesterday Baylor said she felt her Mom was bullied. She said normally she was the one going to her Mom for comfort from the meanness of the world but this time it was her Mother receiving it and her doing the comforting.  In that respect perhaps it was a healthy experience for her. Again helping her see her Mom as a real person and not just her role as a mother.

I guess I get annoyed when anyone tries to put me in a mold and I feel that is what happened here.  Missy did not fit the mold of what Reed and others see as a ‘mother’ so that made her wicked despite showing little to no actual villainous behavior.

If I have children or participate in child rearing activities I do not want to be pressured to behave in some socially acceptable way.  I want to be me and the best mother I can be for me. Luckily I do not have people voting on my mothering like Missy did but it makes me sad we are so closeminded in 2014 in what behaviors are befitting a woman and womanhood.

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Wasn’t the whole point of feminism to allow women to be themselves, to be whatever they wanted to be? Why does that not include a wide spectrum of mothering styles and personalities? Why must we have one way and if you are different you are wicked and wrong? I guess that’s what bothered me the most about Reed’s speech it said to me ‘there is only one way for a mother to behave and you did not act as you should’.

Melissa Maerz ends her article with a challenge to Survivor and to all of us to throw off the Motherly stereotypes and see people for who they are not an idealized vision of who the perfect mother should be:

“Maybe it’s not Survivor‘s fault that Reed has such a twisted view of motherhood. Even so, it’s time for the show to stop devoting so much airtime—including a big chunk of the reunion—to rehashing unfair stereotypes. And it’s time for Survivor‘s host, Jeff Probst, to stop defending them…

Just because she has a daughter doesn’t mean that Missy has to be a great role model in the game—though, in my mind, she is one.”

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I couldn’t agree more. In a boring season she was a fighter and certainly deserved better than to be attacked and lambasted as a villain for her best efforts to win a game.  It just shows how much more work we have to do to break down gender stereotypes and accept people as people not classifications. It will never go away completely but we can do better.  We must do better.

(At least it is good to see many in the cast come to Missy’s defense.  Reed was trying to perform to the TV audience and was probably purposefully dramatic and over-the-top but it certainly didn’t win him any points in my book but I am not a reality tv producer looking for drama…)

Best and Worst of 2014

Check out my best and worst movies of 2014 post. I think you will really enjoy it. I’d love to hear your favorites and one’s you didn’t care for. It’s all in fun so share your thoughts!

Reviewing All 56 Disney Animated Films And More!

Overall 2014 has been a great year for movies.  I haven’t seen every movie by a long shot but I have seen my fair share.  I am still planning on seeing Annie, Into the Woods and Interstellar but I figured I’d go ahead with this post anyway.  I will do posts on those movies and add an addendum to this post in the notes.

Remember this is just my opinion.  If you liked movies I didn’t than that is awesome.  I want people to enjoy their time at the movies, so if you saw value in something that I didn’t I think that is great. If I liked something you didn’t I hope you can respect my opinion.

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Live Action

10.  Noah

9. God’s Not Dead

8. Chef

7.  100 Foot Journey

6. Captain America: Winter Soldier

5.  Xmen Days of Future Past

4. Edge of Tomorrow

3. Guardians of…

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