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
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.
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
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.
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…
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.
“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…
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?
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?
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.