Sunday, July 20, 2014

What's Right in the World: Reasons to be Beautiful

This one makes me feel good.

Life on social media can be exhausting. It is a balancing act of information and connection juxtaposed against judgment and outrage on facebook. Then there's dream homes and gourmet meals (pinterest), being witty in 140 character or less (twitter), and looking absolutely fabulous (instagram). That's only the media I'm involved in, since I avoid dating sites and video sharing like vine.

With so many places for people to judge and criticize your every step, it's nice to have a small movement like the chain post making its way on facebook. It's simply a friend challenging you to post a collage of five pictures where you felt your most beautiful.

It's a nice gesture, but also a challenging one for those battling self esteem issues. When I look at pictures of myself, I see the big nose, the wild hair, the belly I can't get rid of, and an awkward facial expression designed to camouflage what I see as my freak dough face when I attempt a jovial grin.

Also known as someone who desperately needs to believe she's beautiful, somehow.

It doesn't help I'm watching Say Yes to the Dress to see bitchy, judgmental women sitting on a couch doing a number on prospective brides preparing for the day when all eyes are on her.

I guess I'm grateful to my friend Haylea for the challenge, although it's fraught with obstacles. Although I'm my own worst critic, there is a number of people out there that would like to apply for the position, under the guise of tough love. And for some, the high school mean girl never goes away, even in a backhanded compliment like, "oh, so you think you're all that?" Sigh.

I guess I'd like to stay positive and find five pics that radiate happy. And maybe this time, make it all about me instead of beautiful by extension of who I am with, avoiding "without you, I'm nothing" thoughts.

Five go me pictures. I think I can do this.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Typing Out Loud: An Update on Stuff


In May, we went on a garage sale bender, finding plenty of bargains on the cheap, but then I had that conversation with the Ugandan woman who was overwhelmed by her excessive amounts of stuff. It was then that I agreed with her and vowed to go the summer without shopping.

So how have I done so far?

I went to H&M on vacation and bought a t-shirt dress and a Union Jack t-shirt. In an effort to find a costume for skating, I did Saturday Madness this past weekend and instead got a 50s inspired floral wrap dress and a dress top for work. I've also participated in 5 sporting events, each one commemorated with a free t-shirt.

I did, however, skip all the major holiday sales on Memorial Day and 4th of July, as well as the last Tuesday of the month sales.

I did tough love and sent a box to Cara. I cleaned all the 4Ts out of Will's closet too. New dress code rules at work made it easier to eliminate a few things some items on the fence. And when Kellie informed me her co-worker lost her home and the contents, it was easy to do a hard purge, and I was amazed at how easy it was to skim 2 of those and 3 of these, resulting in 6 bags waiting to be picked up.

This problem of excess is strictly a "first world problem." It's probably even a middle-class, middle aged, Midwest problem, given the tinier living spaces on either coast. But what solution or answer am I seeking?

Less clutter. Less stuff. More of what I love and will use. By donating three (3!) tote bags to Kellie's friend, I frankly got rid of three bags I haven't used and wasn't interested in using again. Same with the three purses. Two dresses that had similar counterparts in my closet that I would choose one over the other in almost any situation. Getting rid of trendy. Giving my personal style an ever sharpening focus.

Even Will got into the purge, triggered by declaring some of his toys "for babies". This allowed me to create more room for the toys and belongings he does want.

What's next?  Attacking the crafts. I was given stuff for making clay beads and I have not touched it since it was given to me. GONE! I haven't made a scrapbook since 2006. GONE! Half created doo dads and whatnots. GONE!

I don't know why I go through cycles of acquiring and purging, but it seems like I'm letting more and more go and buying less and less. Better living through less? I keep thinking back to the Ugandan woman and the lesson learned from her. I love pretty things, but don't feel I need so much anymore.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Why Art Matters: The Virgin Suicides

Portraits of Boyhood Obsession

I've been obsessed with The Virgin Suicides, the book and the movie, since it was added to Netflix. Bothered by the mystery of "why," I was compelled to buy the book, consuming it in a matter of days.

The movie made Lux the primary focus of the story, the youngest sister as the catalyst for the story beginning, and Lux's behavior the vehicle to push it along. The book, however, gives you a lot more back story on members of the whole family, making all the sisters protagonists in their destiny.

Having lived in Michigan in the 70s, albeit in single digits, I distinctly remember the desperation of the times. I remember diseased trees as well as beef and milk poisoned with DDT. Polluted rivers and lakes. The author captured all of that, and make it part of the story more so than the film.

For the movie, director Sophia Coppola, like Quentin Tarantino, has a distinct ear for enhancing her projects using soundtrack selections. Her music put me firmly in my cousin's bedroom reading her back issues of Hit Parader and Creem. While the book provided a playlist during a critical moment in the book, it was only one passage. Sophia layered her movie with musical moments. "Strange Magic" by ELO not only captures the magic of the story, but Michigan in the 70s as well.

Coppola always played with mystery. The fact you only get a taste as to what the girls were like lent them a mystery that only can be achieved by being an unattainable teenaged girl.

Kirsten Dunst was perfectly cast as Lux.

But what is the overall appeal of The Virgin Suicides?

The youthful mystique of the Lisbon girls. If I may borrow from The Who, "I hope I die before I get old." The girls, by existing in the past, have become beautifully tragic, almost mythical creatures, worshiped memories. By staying in the past, their myth stays intact; had they lived and grown up, the myth would cease to be. In scenes with the boys on their dates to homecoming, there was every indication sisters Bonnie and Mary would have grown to be as dull as their parents.

By having to story told by the unnamed teenaged neighbors, you become one of them, calling them to play music, taking them to the dance, slipping through the sliding glass doors.

The story refuses to answer the question why the girls killed themselves or explain the complexities of mental illness. That the whole family is mentally ill is obvious; the best possible answer is you cannot explain the unexplainable, only speculate.

It is a tight, wonderfully crafted story. Not a single word is wasted.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

July Playlist: Running Rock

Do ya see me?! Brian Diemer in June.

Running playlists are a big deal to runners. There are articles out there about picking the right tempo for certain parts of your race, getting quite scientific about how many beat per minute you need to get over that suicide hill.

I just pick the stuff that gets me from point A to point B.

I'm now up to 24 different mixes, but have been listening to the same one that I created for the River Bank run the beginning of May. It's an electic mix of old and new that I don't want to listen to too much and ruin before my big race in October.

Motown Philly, Boyz II Men - There's a lot of old school that reminds me of well, school. This was a jam back in college. *sigh* even the use of "jam" dates me.

Girls in Their Summer Clothes, Bruce Springsteen - Just a lovely song that has been on numerous playlists in the past, but I never thought it would be good for running until the Diemer, when I was able to celebrate how incredibly joyful and light the track is.

Hands in the Air, Flo Rida - Oh hot damn! This is my jam!

Push It, Garbage - Remarkable how positively aggressive this song is in the home stretch.

Jump Around, House of Pain - light hearted energy.

Dance Apocalyptic, Janelle Monae - a newer song on the list, just to prove I can keep up with the kids. Janelle is proud to be "not of this planet" (her words), and this jumps.

Talk Dirty, Jason Derulo - again, what are you kids listening to? Filthy sax, as it should be.

Pretend We're Dead, L7 - Riot grrl rock.

You Got Me Floatin', PM Dawn - Jimi Hendrix remake that is beyond cool, buried on a compilation disc.

California Love, Tupac Shakur - back to '93 and while I was heavy in my grunge period, I was not blind to the grooves at the clubs.

Rump Shaker, Wreckx n Effect - ditto.

Summertime Girls, Y&T - I almost see this track as part two a companion to Bruce's song above. Just light as air fun.

Matchbox, The Beatles - after the season I had last year, there will always be a Ringo led track on my playlists.