Tag: Nora Ephron

The Small Yet Big of Modern Life

small yet big lifeBy most reasonable standards I lead a small life.  As Nora Ephron said ‘valuable but small.  And sometimes I wonder do I do it because I like it or because I haven’t been brave?’  That question kind of hangs over me and when I’m feeling up to it I ponder its implications.

How is my life small?  Well, I’m single.  I don’t date a lot or hang out with lots of friends.  I used to but most of that has passed on to infrequent yet prized get-togethers with individuals.  Swim season is a bit different because that tends to be a group activity and I do have book club.  Still, there is something about having a marriage partner and children that stretches a person outside the circle of a single influence.

My life is also small because I have chosen to work from home and I am not currently going to school. I have had people tell me I should get a regular corporate job because I’d have a better chance of meeting someone than in my current situation.  You might as well tell me to sign up for a stint in prison because I could meet someone there.  My happiness is just too valuable to sacrifice for the small chance of widening my circle of friends/dates.

Nowhere do I feel smaller than at church.  I am part of a family-based faith.  People are friendly, even bending over backwards to include us single saints, but the difference is always there.  They are living a huge part of the gospel that I am not.  In that sense, it is a smaller life than they get to lead.

But wait…

If my life is small how come I will post a video in a few minutes and it will get viewed by friends (yes friends) in London, UAE, Germany, Florida, DC, California etc? Same is true with my blog posts.  This very post should have between 150-500 views this week alone.

I’ve been having terrible headaches lately and have received advice from people all over the world.  Isn’t that such a weird thing?

So under a certain lens my life is very big. I’ve gotten to the point on my youtube channel (over 800 subs!)  and movie blog that I post most days.  Not only is it a blast going to the movies (and other reviews) but it satisfies such a creative longing I didn’t even know I had.  Every day I write, film, edit, promote, design material for all of my content (and also for work of course).  The creative energy is really quite remarkable.

Then of course you have all the social media that helps us connect with friends and make new friends.  I am soooo grateful for this service in my life.  I can’t tell you how many days I’ve started tweeting or following a post on facebook and it has brightened my day.  Of course, there are the trolls and rude people but isn’t that the case in any group experience in real life or online?  I think so!

At this point I have been blogging for 8 years (you longtimers- can you believe it?).  I’ve been on facebook for 9. I’ve had times where I wonder- do I have anything left to say?  But then an idea will come and my fingers will fly!

So, my life is very small and big at the same time. Perhaps this is just modern life for everyone?

Do you feel that way about your life at times?  How do you deal with moments of loneliness that we all experience from time to time?

Continuing on with the Nora Ephron quote:

“So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around? I don’t really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void.

So good night, dear void…”

Nora Ephron: I Feel Bad About My Neck

noraephronus

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.

I wanted to do something really beautiful and decadent worthy of Nora so I made this russian cream
I wanted to do something really beautiful and decadent worthy of Nora so I made this russian cream

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.

We had a pretty pink spread
We had a pretty pink spread
I found these beautiful peonies and I couldn't resist
I found these beautiful peonies and I couldn’t resist

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.

In Conclusion

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.

nora-ephron-quote

 

 

Nora Ephron

I am woefully late on my tribute of Nora Ephron, one of my favorite modern authors.  While she wasn’t really  a novelist her scripts and essays had a way of commenting on life in a funny and charming way.   Some people might claim her to be a soft writer, overly nostalgic and romantic but to me this is part of her charm.  She gave us something familiar, something to smile at and taught us a lesson along the way. She passed away from leukemia on June 26th. My condolences go out to her family and friends.  I loved her work.

For example, in You’ve Got Mail she taught us the different ways human beings absorb conflict:

One character, Joe Fox says,

“Have you ever become the worst version of yourself. That a pandora’s box of all the hateful things, your spite, your arrogance, your condescension has sprung open? Someone upsets you and instead of smiling and walking away… you zing them.”

While Kathleen Kelly says,

“No, I know what you mean, and I’m completely jealous. What happens to me when I’m provoked is that I get tongue-tied and my mind goes blank. Then, then I spend all night tossing and turning trying to figure out what I should have said. What should I have said, for example, to a bottom dweller who recently belittled my existence?”

I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve related to both sentiments.  I’ve even said the lines over in my head while making an expression choice.

Another favorite from You’ve Got Mail that I have to share:

“Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life – well, valuable, but small – and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around? I don’t really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void. So good night, dear void.”

And one more I’ve turned to again and again:

“People are always saying that change is a good thing. But all they’re really saying is that something you didn’t want to happen at all… has happened.”

I like when Roger Ebert said “Ephron’s dialogue represents the way people would like to be able to talk. It’s witty and epigrammatic, and there are lots of lines to quote when you’re telling friends about the movie”.  That is so true.  I wish I could pontificate charmingly about books, romance, New York City etc. Perhaps Ephron sets the standard too high but isn’t that the job of writers to elevate the language of the masses?

Not all of Ephron’s dialogue was witty.  In fact, her description of grief in Sleepless in Seattle is one of the most touching passages I have ever read:

“Well, I’m gonna get out of bed every morning… breathe in and out all day long. Then, after a while I won’t have to remind myself to get out of bed every morning and breathe in and out… and, then after a while, I won’t have to think about how I had it great and perfect for a while”

He then goes on to describe an ideal love:

“Well, it was a million tiny little things that, when you added them all up, they meant we were supposed to be together… and I knew it. I knew it the very first time I touched her. It was like coming home… only to no home I’d ever known… I was just taking her hand to help her out of a car and I knew. It was like… magic. ”

Who doesn’t yearn for such a relationship?  Perhaps it is unrealistic but that is the type of fantasy I enjoy. More than swords or mystical lands, a fantastical view of life and romance.

When Harry Met Sally is another favorite and most of the memorable  stretches of dialogue are too long to repeat here but they are just divine. Watch it again and you’ll remember how great the conversation is. Some  feel such pithy dialogue is inauthentic but I totally bought the characters.  Sure maybe nobody really talks like that but I don’t go to the movies for realism (or total fantasy for that matter).  I go to the movies for heightened or at least exaggerated realism.

WHMS is probably Ephron’s funniest script, helped greatly I’m sure by a great deal of ad-libbing by Billy Crystal.  Of course, there is the famous scene in the diner with the classic line ‘I’ll have what she’s having’ and the long introductory debate over the plausibility of male/female friendship, but my favorite line probably goes unnoticed by many but it makes me laugh every time I hear it:

Sally: No, no, no, I drove him away. AND, I’m gonna be forty.
Harry: When?
Sally: Someday.
Harry: In eight years.
Sally: But it’s there. It’s just sitting there, like some big dead end. And it’s not the same for men. Charlie Chaplin had kids when he was 73.

It is just sitting there like a big dead end  but at least with this line Ephron made me laugh about it!

I could spend this whole post listing quote after quote.  There are so many great movies.  I love what she did with Julie and Julia turning the insufferable book into a charming story by adding the life of Julia Child.  In that movie she  adapts from the wonderful memoir My Life in France by Julia Child, the most touching depiction of marriage I have seen in a movie:

Paul Child: You are the butter to my bread, you are the breath to my life.

How beautiful is that? It’s perfect.

Paul Child is the ideal marriage partner because he sacrificed his whole life to make Julia’s dreams come true.  An artist himself, he was satisfied to work as a bureaucrat for years so that she could publish her book.  I love this speech in the movie:

“I’m not kidding you; I’m not. Someone is going to publish your book. Someone is going to read your book, and realize what you’ve done. Because YOUR BOOK is amazing. YOUR BOOK is a work of genius. YOUR BOOK is going to change the world. ”

I wish I had someone in my life who believed in me that way.  What a beautiful portrayal captured by Ephron of a beautiful marriage.

In addition to screenplays Nora Eprhon is a fabulous essayist. My favorite is her book I Feel Bad About My Neck. I bought it years ago at an airport bookstore and loved it.  Nearly every essay rings true and is funny without being over-the-top.

“Maintenance is what you have to do just so you can walk out the door knowing that if you go to the market and bump into a guy who once rejected you, you won’t have to hide behind a stack of canned food…I dont mean to be too literal about this but the point is that I still think about them every time I’m tempted to leave the house without eyeliner”

But my favorite essay by far is on parenting.  I don’t have any kids but I still think it is brilliant:

“Back in the day when there were merely parents as opposed to people who were engaged in parenting, being a parents was fairly straightforward.  You didn’t need a book…You understood that your child had a personality. His very own personality.  He was born with it.  For a certain period this child would live with you and your personality and you would do your best to survive each other.”

She goes on:

…One day there was this thing called parenting.  Parenting was serious.  Parenting was fierce.  Parenting was solemn.  Parenting was a participle, like going and doing and crusading and worrying; it was active, it was energetic.  It was unrelenting.  Parenting meant playing Mozart cds while you were pregnant, doing without the epidural…Parenting began with the assumption that your baby was a lump of clay that could be molded into a perfect person who would be admitted into the college of your choice…

and concludes with this profound thought

“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’m not even a parent but I found this to be the most touching description of parental emotion I’ve ever read.  I think it is perfect.

Well, that’s a lot of writing but what better way is there to pay tribute to a favorite author.  I’m sincerely going to miss her voice and the way she made me smile.  Thanks Nora!