Me: [mee] - pronoun

native Seattle girl . 34 years old . blissfully married . city girl . wanderluster . interior designer . travel writer . cockeyed optimist . coloratura soprano . theatre enthusiast . proud police wife . zumba addict . architecture fiend . hopeless Anglophile . committed Christian . politically moderate . history nut . Starbucks addict . bookworm . wordsmith . filmophile . music geek . museum rat . not-so-closet shopaholic . student of drawing, dance, cooking, photography and languages . value life experience far above financial worth . appreciative of living healthy, but not at the expense of chocolate . never want to stop learning, laughing and seeing the beauty in all that is around me.

For more on that aforementioned wanderlust problem, click here.

31 March 2014

HIMYM, a follow up (SO MANY SPOILERS!)

Well, then...

Since I waxed poetic about How I Met Your Mother less than a week ago, I feel obligated to review that finale.

Here is the thing: I actually understand having Ted and Robin come full circle in the finale. After all, Ross and Rachel did it, didn't they? Rachel got off the plane. And if this grand, romantic Ted/Robin ending had happened at the end of season three or four, I probably would've loved it. Like mushy gushy, raved-about-it loved it. However, where the Friends writers crafted a poetic ending with threads throughout the show's entire decade-long span, the HIMYM writers disregarded a storyline that had matured way past their originally conceived ending. As a result, it just didn't work.

I mentioned it in my tribute: investing in Robin only to learn she isn't Mother felt almost like a betrayal at the end of the second season. We as viewers had to forgive the show for that move and learn to accept completely different dynamics. It took awhile to be okay with Robin and Barney, but they writers were insistent. They kept writing an incredible romance for these two, so that by the time of their magical proposal, we were hooked. Both characters had gone on their own journeys of growth and development. Their relationship was one of the most romantic on TV. We'd become so loyal to them that Ted's occasional revisits to maybe-I-still-love-Robin seemed awkward and inconsistent. As Barney and Robin finally took their emotional vows last week, we were Robin + Barney and Ted + Mother all the way, and we'd gone through a lot to get there.

And yet, within ten minutes of the series finale, Robin and Barney were divorced. DIVORCED. A wedding we'd known about for three long years unraveled in literally moments. It was out of character, and it made no sense at all. A man who went through The Robin to get the girl wouldn't just give up because of career scheduling conflicts. Furthermore, after the divorce, Barney's character proceeded to regress so far back, it was farcical, as if the past nine years had never happened. It was painfully negating and terribly aggravating as a viewer. I honestly think Barney's regression is what pissed me off the most. NPH has had some Emmy Award-winning performances throughout the entire show that showcased Barney's capability for depth and vulnerablility. His character had come the farthest in their nine-year journey. Watching the writers invalidate those beautiful moments killed me. It still kills me. We've been betrayed yet again, only this time, there is no more storyline to help us come to terms with it.

But the writers didn't stop there. Within several more minutes, they had made newly single Jackass Barney a father. Again, I get the essential meaning behind the move: nothing will transform a misogynist like a daughter. It's meant to be restorative. But it wasn't. I was still trying to wrap my mind around Barney being satisfied with a return to one-night stands after his life-transforming relationship with Robin. We've had entire episodes dedicated to Barney's realization that his playboy lifestyle was to cope with past hurts. His character had grown past that behavior; this is a different Barney than in the first seasons. It doesn't work anymore. Sure, NPH delivered the night's best performance in that scene with the precious little girl (case in point, BTW), but after having ripped away his previous moments of character development, how can they expect us to subscribe to this one? The baby's mother was referred to as Number 31, for goodness sake. I just didn't even care anymore.

Okay, let's talk Mother, whom we now know is named Tracy. Yes, she dies. I think. Frankly, that could've been such a beautifully tragic plot device, giving Ted a whole new depth of character development. After all, the scene earlier in the season that merely suggested the loss ripped our hearts out with very few words. A goodbye scene could've been incredibly memorable. Instead, the writers swept it completely under the rug. They didn't show it; they didn't even confirm it actually happened. They just summed up her life in a series of cheesy snapshots with bad CGI. As a viewer, I couldn't have been less invested if I had tried.

Finally, those last few minutes. Of course it's dramatic to have Ted standing on the sidewalk with the blue French horn, reflective of the romantic pilot. And like I said, it would've worked if this was years earlier or the triumph of Ted and Robin had been a consistent theme of the entire show. But it wasn't. We were literally and repeatedly forced us to let go of Ted and Robin. At this point, the move doesn't just fail to live up to its potential, it actually tarnishes the even longer journey of Robin's relationship with Barney in preceding seasons. Asking us to switch gears again, not to mention this quickly, is simply asking too much.

This huge circular journey might have worked if we'd been given time to process it. If Ted had met Tracy several seasons ago and we'd seen their relationship blossom, if we'd followed Robin and Barney's marital journey through to a mature split that made sense, if we'd been given a chance to know, celebrate, and mourn the great character that was Tracy. Instead, after making us sit through 20 episodes for a single weekend of poker games and binge drinking, they attempted to cram 20 years of major life-changing developments into 40 minutes. Chances are the concept worked in the minds of the writers, because they've known the final play since the beginning. They knew even as they wrote The Robin that this marriage wouldn't work out. But we as viewers did not. We were led to invest our emotions only to be denied our own cathartic processing when the investment turned out to be all for naught.

Fans of the finale are citing that it is true to life, unpredictable and heartbreaking. Not only do I not agree with that opinion, it is completely missing the point. Those of us disappointed and confused by this finale aren't upset that it wasn't sugar-coated; HIMYM has always been bittersweet. I was fully prepared for and would've been satisfied with a heartbreaking yet meaningful death. Instead, all we were given was inconsistancy and lack of depth that unravels so much of the fabric of our favorite characters and their long-term stories.

(Furthermore, as a personal soapbox moment, the "true to life" argument has always bugged me, because this isn't life, this is entertainment. Even reality shows nowadays aren't true to life. We're not talking about realism; we're talking about a TV show. One with cockamouses, licking the Liberty Bell, and a man who never takes a bad photo. We're deliberately connecting to stories that lie outside the realm of normalcy as a way to cope with the struggles of our actual lives. We are engaging the psychological importance of imagination and empathy to foster our beliefs in possibility and hope. If you want true to life, you can always go do the dishes.)

27 March 2014

Farewell, HIMYM

How I Met Your Mother ends on Monday. I hate when my favorite TV shows end. I really hate it.

If I was forced to choose a favorite sitcom (under duress, of course), it would be Friends. Those six feel like my own friends, people I actually grew up with. HIMYM, however, is a close second. This particular TV show, however, is funny for me. In all honesty, I find a lot of the running gags asinine. I've long been in the camp of people who think this show probably should've ended a couple years ago. In that vein, I've found myself frequently wondering what on earth the writers have been thinking during this final season. So many gags; too many stupid moments. An entire season for, what, one weekend? It's not even shot on our ole favorite sets.

But here is the thing about HIMYM. Just when you think you can't possibly endure one more story about slap bets or Robin Sparkles or sandwiches or any more ridiculous tomfoolery, they slip in a scene or monologue or touching moment that makes you fall in love with the show all over again. Overall, there has never been a single 30-minute comedic sitcom in history that has brought me such warm fuzzies or made me cry like this one. Not even Friends. It is the king of hopeless romantic sitcoms, and in that vein, this final season has been a doozy. This show won me over the minute Ted ripped the blue french horn off the restaurant wall for Robin, and it has continued to win my over on a regular basis.

The two-minute date
Lily telling Marshall his dad died
When Barney tried to take his dad's basketball hoop
Ted's "You picked the wrong guy" monologue
Barney's face when Robin didn't leave Kevin
The Robin
Ted selflessness in the car immediately before The Robin
Ted's Christmas lights after Robin learned she couldn't have children
Ted's monologue to Mother 45 days early
Robin and Barney's rehearsal dinner
Ted listening to Mother playing "La Vie en Rose" on her balcony
...and these are just the ones I can immediately recall.

It's also a cleverly written show. Sometimes it's the setup of single episodes, like The Rehearsal Dinner. Sometimes it's the set up of a sequence of episodes, like The Robin. Even the entire story arc is clever. Traditionally, it never should've worked, betraying viewers in the first season by revealing the namesake romance isn't the original love story that hooked us, only to land her with the show's quintessential bachelor. And yet, Robin and Barney have ended up with one of the best romances on TV:

"I love everything about her, and I'm not a guy who says that lightly.
I am a guy who has faked love his entire life.
I thought love was just something idiots thought they felt,
but this woman has a hold on my heart that I could not break if I wanted to.
And there have been times that I wanted to.
It has been overwhelming and humbling and even painful, at times.
But I could not stop loving her any more than I could stop breathing.
I am hopelessly, irretrievably in love with her,
more than she knows."

Ted Mosby will long be one of my all-time favorite characters ever. I relate to him a lot, from his staunch clinging to hopeless romance right down to his geeky love of words and architecture, even the fact that he's mocked for those very things. He is a beautiful soul, and he has some of the most poignant lines in the show.

"I say to you, from the heart, 'Get the hell out of this car.'"
"You picked the wrong guy."
"I would've stolen you a whole orchestra."

Furthermore, HIMYM is one of the few shows of which multiple references have established themselves permanently in our household:

The possimpible!
General knowledge. Corporal punishment. Colonal in my teeth.
Haaaaave you met Ted?
Legen, wait for it...
"This isn't gonna be one of those times when we're like, 'Hey, remember that time when...." NO."

I love that Marshall and Lily represented us passionate, committed married couples.
I love that Barney, the lone wolf, ended up in a truly beautiful love story.
I love that Robin was fulfilled despite infertility.
I love Mother's spunk and tenacity.
And I love that Ted is going to win in the end.

Yes, I'm almost relieved that I never see another Slapsgiving for the rest of my life, but I will most certainly be crying on Monday night like a big ole baby.  Farewell, How I Met Your Mother. And thank you.

25 March 2014

Princesses and my problem with Frozen

The world has absolutely flocked to this latest Disney movie. I’ll admit: it’s cute, and yes, there are some good messages tucked away in there. I adore the songs For the First Time in Forever, Do You Want to Build a Snowman?, and Heimr Àrnadalr. I'm frequently caught singing In Summer and Reindeer are Better Than People. Olaf is probably one of my favorite animated characters, and I think it’s incredibly sweet that the true love points to the sisters. But something about the movie didn’t sit right with me as I left the theatre. It’s taken several months and watching a whole lot of hero worship to figure it out.

My biggest beef is with Let It Go. I don’t mind it as a story-telling device; my issue is with everyone adopting this song as a personal anthem. Are they really listening to it? What is this song? It’s Elsa’s coping mechanism for an enormous sense of personal confusion, judgment, and loss. She has run away from her home, her sister whom she loves dearly, and her responsibility as future queen out of fear of what others think. Sure, she is learning to accept herself, essentially a positive message, but she isn’t choosing a healthy method of doing so. Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them in. You’ll never see me cry. It never bothered me anyway. This is classic avoidance, coping, and denial, not behavior to be adopted or excused simply because Idina Menzel belts really well and Elsa builds a nifty ice castle on the screen.

The writers' satire is much more obvious in songs like Love Is An Open Door, but what about the song Fixer Upper? Lyrics include The way to fix up this fixer upper is to fix him up with you! Or Get a fiancé out of the way, and the whole thing will be fixed. Even the bridge, explaining that people don't really change, finishes with Throw a little love their way, and true love brings out their best. This is where I stare, confused, at modern parents and die-hard feminists, searching for an explanation as to why it’s okay to encourage - even subconsciously - probably the most common, cliché, negative female relationship trait in society today. Is it really okay to overlook this unhealthy message in exchange for a girl-power ending?

If this was just another Disney movie, I would probably just roll my eyes and walk away. But it’s not. Everyone is celebrating this movie as being modern and positive simply because Anna's hair isn't perfect and she doesn’t need the guy to save her. She is an enlightened and realistic princess, they say. And herein lies the other bone I have to pick with this movie, or more accurately, the current trend of society, in general: princess is not a four-letter word.

Lately, I’ve noticed much of the internet vilifying the concept of princesses in regards to children. While I understand the motivation – namely an aim at gender neutrality and non-entitlement - I can’t even begin to tell you how much this narrow-minded generalization bothers me. (But of course, I’m going to try.)

I am someone who naturally gravitated toward princesses as a child. I loved castles, knights, kings, queens, jousting, archery, all of it. When we played, I wanted to be Maid Marian, Buttercup, or Guinevere. This eventually became an interest in medieval history. I sought out films and books on the subject. I spent summers at Renaissance faires. I studied Western European history and culture in college. I learned languages associated with the period. I discovered a passion for Shakespeare. I eventually traveled to the legendary castles and landmarks of all those stories and experienced history firsthand. I was inspired by real, brave, and amazing women, some of whom had been real princesses. This led to discovering even more historic periods that fascinated me. I visited museums on the Inquisition, the Holocaust, the Roman persecution of Christianity, African slavery, the Australian orphan scandal, the list goes on. I am slowly connecting with the people and history of the entire globe in a way I never thought possible, which is opening my mind to other perspectives and a sense of personal responsibility in a way nothing else ever did. And it all started with playing princess in my room as a kid.

This is why I believe refusing to cultivate a natural sense of imagination and daydreaming in a child is a completely different issue than teaching your child responsibility, accountability, and gender equality. Raising kids without gender prejudices does not equate to denying a little girl an afternoon of playing princess or forbidding her to pick up novels filled with castles and knights. Our job is to teach personal accountability while offering them an array of varying opportunities. After that, if the traditionalism and femininity of their answers threaten us, that is our prejudice, not theirs.

The key to gender equality is balance. Every girl must be allowed to indulge in being a princess or a mom just as much as a mechanic or a firefighter. We as women should be celebrating our femininity instead of shaming it. Furthermore, unless we’re allowing the same rights and freedoms for boys, we’re only further perpetuating what it is we claim to be fighting against. I cannot state this loud enough: men and/or boys are not automatically the enemy simply because they are male. That, my friends, is a discrimination in and of itself. Yes, I support raising strong, smart women, but only if it means they are healthy, balanced human beings. Otherwise, it’s almost as if we as society have become Elsa singing Let It Go, swinging the pendulum too far into the other extreme out of fear.

05 February 2014

An awkward update

I'm in a really odd life place. Firstly, I've made peace with not ever having kids. I've moved on. It is what it is. I'm tired of dwelling. My life is blessed in other ways, and I have a very strange yet tangible peace about it. My struggle now is my own personal self image. In America, we identify ourselves so primarily through our careers. It's okay not to have a career if you're a mom, but what if you're not?

The truth is there is a lot that I love my life right now. I feel like I didn't really get to know and/or learn to love myself until I was no longer under the strains of a traditional nine-to-five. I really have come to terms with who I am in the last two years. It's a wonderful feeling to know yourself, to be able to realize and admit your strengths and weaknesses, and to be okay with where you are.

One of those strengths is a personality that can thrive left on my own. I flourish making my own schedules and keeping myself busy, and stay busy I do. I consider myself the CEO of our household, and I run it that way. I have schedules and budgets, and yes, they're printed on carefully formulated spreadsheets. I balance all financial accounts, I make menus and cook all meals, I organize home repairs with the landlord, I do all errands and chores. My husband works; I oversee everything else. That is my "job", and it is actually a balance that works for us.

But out there in the world, there really isn't a term for that. Stay-at-Home Wife sounds indulgent and unmotivated. And that connotation stays with me, in the back of my mind, bristling against my Type A personality that feels driven to achieve.

As a result, despite being the more content, settled, and satisfied than I've ever been before, I still feel like I'm breaking some kind of rule. If I'm not going to be a mom, I shouldn't stay home. I'm obligated to rejoin the grind. If I don't, I'm just being lazy and taking advantage of my husband. Everyone else has to; why not me? I watch my friends struggling with their jobs just like I used to struggle with mine. I hear this voice in my head: "That's real life, Lisa. What you're doing now is playing. You're spoiled. Stop being lazy."And I feel like that is how the entire world sees me, too.

However, I know going back to work wouldn't just mean less of the fun stuff. It would change the responsible stuff as well. I'd also have to give up cooking all our meals from scratch, which has improved both our overall health. I would go back to being permanently sleep-deprived. I couldn't exercise regularly any more. Stress would return en masse. This is just the way life is when you work full-time, right?

Talking to my husband about this doesn't really help. While he wants me to be happy and doesn't treat me as if I must contribute to the GNP, he is around for the days when I occasionally feel very inconsequential to the rest of the world. He sees the moments I do get a little bored and senses the tiny second thoughts I sometimes have. The moments when I crave some kind of responsibility or a large project. The times I realize I do have a lot to offer; why am I hiding it in here? Furthermore, he is in the Love Bubble and sees me as Superwoman who can accomplish anything. He questions whether or not dishes and laundry would sincerely fulfill me long term. And I must acknowledge that he does have a point.

I've tried looking for a job. Several listings in, and overwhelming anxiety engulfs me every time. I hated that version of myself. I can't become that again.

This subsequently makes me wonder how much of this anxiety is actually me and how much comes down to my New Normal. You see, when you're able to live your life at your own pace, you take full advantage of the fact that your days no longer have to be manic. As an INFJ, the pace I set may be very structured, but it leaves a lot of room for deep breathing. I never hurry anywhere any more. The problem with that is I've grown accustomed to this totally different speed. I get overwhelmed by more than four or five appointments or social obligations in a single week. When I think back to how much I used to cram in a single day, let alone a week, I laugh at my current self. Yet, at the same time, the Lisa that used to squeeze four errands into each lunch hour was significantly less healthy and a lot more frustrated.

So which one is the real me? Which one is the more valid reason?

I have a feeling the answer, as usual, is somewhere in the middle. For example, working from home. I was good at travel writing, and it was good back to me. I'm excellent at supervising myself and making my own schedules. I thrive when given creative freedom. If I can find a way to get paid doing that, I'm golden. But that is asking A LOT. The truth is right now, published writers with masters degrees are trying to get jobs. I have four measly years at a tiny online magazine and no writing degree. I'm a grossly underqualified writer in a grossly oversaturated field.

In the meantime, I'm dealing with feelings of sloth and guilt by over-volunteering to do things I don't actually want to do in the first place, mostly at the arts association with which I sing. I'm committed to three groups in three vastly different performances. I've volunteered to head up the small woman's ensemble. I'm now a section leader in the main choir. I've been made auction coordinator for the entire association. Just now, I volunteered to set up tea service before rehearsals. I'm overcommitting myself to the point of resentment to cope with feeling guilty for having the freedom to sleep in every morning. This is, not surprisingly, backfiring big time. I simply can't keep this up.

So what do I do?  I have literally no idea whatsoever. I peek at job listings every so often. I am currently dipping my toe into the world of book reviews, but my hopes aren't high. In the meantime, I make meals. I do laundry. I pay bills. I coordinate auctions. I help friends with what I can, when I can. I act as PR agent for my LEO husband. I keep doing what I'm doing.

You've now been brought up to speed.