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.

20 August 2014

Joe Morton, ladies and gentlemen

Can we just take a moment and recognize that Joe Morton
won the Emmy for his performance on Scandal?

A lot of people recognize and love Joe Morton
for his lighter work on stuff like Eureka.

His performance on Scandal, however, is a cut above.
He commands all your attention for every moment he is on the screen.
He gives viewers goosebumps on a regular basis.
I adore hating this character.

"And to be clear, I am the hell and the high water."

(HUGE season 3 spoiler warnings below)

04 July 2014

Winter's Tale

I'll admit I fangirled when I first saw the trailer for Winter's Tale. I was so excited, I made it the plan for Valentine's Day with Hubs.  However, initial reviews were really low, mentioning a lot of unexpected oddities, making it seem this was not simply the historical romance it seemed to be.  I eventually decided I wasn't in the mood for something that might just be weird, so I skipped it.

Come to find out: that was a mistake.

Here is the thing about this story: it's not easy to describe.  If I were to tell you all the elements and quirks and characters without the proper emotional setting, it sounds bizarre and doesn't make much sense.  There are miracles and light and a flying guardian angel horse.  Heck, Will Smith plays Lucifer.  (Yep, Lucifer.)  When you look at the individual elements of this story - like I did in February - it just seems like something that would never, ever work.

And yet, cohesively, it does, and I kind of absolutely loved it.

I'd liken it to a Neil Gaiman tale: historical fiction meets fantasy meets romance meets science fiction.  Parts of this story aren't ever fully explained and require a major suspension of disbelief, and yet it's a really beautiful film that actually made me cry.  And that score...Hans Zimmer and Harry Gregson-Williams' score is simply impeccable.

To anyone who might have heard this movie is strange, I'm here to tell you it is...but it's absolutely worth it. This BTS gives a slightly more accurate vibe of the film:

12 June 2014

In defense of YA, from a 34-year old

There is a lot of debate in the literary world about the genre that is Young Adult.  I am, clearly, on the pro side.  However, my reasons haven’t yet been mentioned in anyone else’s argument, so I thought I’d throw my two cents in.

There is a pressing need for Young Adult
When I was growing up, “Young Adult” wasn’t really a thing.  Bookstores and libraries had great kid’s section that contained everything from chew-worthy board books sans words to the small handful of novels meant for the teen years.  Of course, at that point, those were limited to the likes of Little House on the Prairie and Sweet Valley High.  Not only were our choices incredibly limited, but we were forced to dig through the same section that housed Goodnight Moon, complete with solar system carpet, farm animals painted on the walls, and a toy bin in the corner.  It was that or venturing over to the land of Homer and Tolstoy; nothing in between.  And yet, that is just what young adults are: in between.  Nowadays, YA offers growing readers something we’ve long since needed: a bridge between the two worlds of Goosebumps and Dostoyevsky.

Adult readers can benefit from YA, as well
When I started realizing Judy Blume wasn’t cutting it for me anymore, I ventured over to the adult section, and, of course, I found some gems.  But I also quickly realized how much of high literature suffers from a sense of pretentious dissatisfaction, much like adulthood itself. Let’s face it: being an adult involves a great deal of acting like we know what is going on, when really, we don’t.  A large percentage of classic adult novels suffer from excessive self-righteousness and pseudo-intellectualism.  There is, of course, a time and place for this.  It is an important part of our emotional development that we can process enigmatic and existential concepts.  However, maturing into a well-rounded adult does not, by any means, translate to only reading these “mature” books for the remainder of your life.  That would be unbalanced, and frankly, depressing.

Ask just about anyone over the age of twenty how old they feel, and they frequently answer with an age that qualifies as “young adult”.  With every birthday, we can’t believe we’re another year older. We still feel like we’re in high school or college, right?  Late teens/early twenties are an incredibly defining time in each of our lives.  It’s a pivotal moment between the innocence of our childhoods and the cynicism of our adulthoods.  It is a time of raw self-identity that remains with us powerfully as we grow older.  Young adult literature reflects that critically defining period in our lives.  The topics and characters are not so young as to be ignorant, but they are not so world-weary as to be jaded.  This is why YA has become so very popular among grown readers: we’re all just young adults masquerading in older bodies.  The very same life lessons and ponderings from high literature can be found tucked neatly into the fantastic worlds of books that don’t take themselves as seriously. As a genre, Young Adult rarely limits itself to the unspoken pseudo-intellectual rule book found in adult literature.  And while these stories acknowledge that life is hard, YA is more likely to allow us to momentarily tap into that quiet belief that dreams can still come true and the good guy might still win.  Being reminded to nurture imagination and hope in the face of sometimes inexplicable adversity is just as important as maturing and growing through the symbolism of "deep" adult literature.  As CS Lewis once said, “A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest.”

"YA is too easily satisfying, failing to convey the gray areas of real life."
This statement, I fear, is solely one of ignorance.  Some of the most morally ambiguous and thought-provoking worlds I’ve ever encountered have been crafted inside YA books, while some abstruse adult novels pale in comparison to their YA counterparts. Those making this claim simply haven’t read much YA and are choosing not to acknowledge an entirely plausible counter argument.  For example, Suzanne Collins’ dystopian Mockingjay makes Ian McEwan’s acclaimed WWII novel, Atonement, look like Disneyland.

"YA characters are young, immature, and emotionally under developed."
The same could easily be said of many characters of the most highly touted adult novels; Holden Caulfield and Jay Gatsby have surprisingly stunted emotional development.  Also, many of our most revered authors - Ernest Hemingway, for example - can be positively sophomoric.  On the flipside, this argument isn’t a fair reflection of all YA characters.  Teenaged protagonist Beatrice Prior from Roth’s YA Divergent series carries a lifetime more maturity than, say, the adult protagonist Becky Bloomwood from Kinsella’s award-winning, adult Shopaholic series.

Varying levels of writing skill and maturity exist in all genres
Just like any other literary genre, some books are excellent, while others do best as door stops.  To define any genre by its lowest common denominator isn’t doing that genre justice.  Arthur Conan Doyle is on the same adult shelves as James Patterson, much the same as Patrick Ness sitting on the same YA shelves as Stephanie Meyer.

YA is a very young genre, still establishing its definition
Right now, the only thing that classifies YA is the age range of the protagonist. Therefore, many widely hailed classic novels are now shelved under Young Adult, such as Lois Lowry’s The Giver and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Some stores are even including Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice on the YA shelves, since it does, technically, fit the bill.  And the definition of YA is quickly expanding.

“I don’t care what kids are reading nowadays, so long as they’re reading.”
To play devil’s advocate for a moment, I’ll address this common pro-YA argument.  I do not stand by this statement, simply because it is weak.  I want to encourage young literacy as much as the next person, but the reasoning behind this simplistic statement flies right out the window the minute you start handing copies of Mein Kampf or Lolita to eight-year olds.

Vampires and werewolves
Normally, I’d actually be with the critics on this one, as I actively avoid the vampire/werewolf/witch craze.  But to those who claim we have YA to blame for that, I can only imagine Ann Rice and Stephen King might have quite a pointed response.

Bottom line: disgracing an entire genre only spotlights ignorance
We don’t all have to love The Fault in Our Stars.  (God knows I don’t!)  Heck, we don’t even all have to read it.  But we do have to realize we live in a world in which the Kardashian sisters have written a novel, shelved under adult fiction right alongside the great JRR Tolkien.  As readers, we must put labels and pretention aside to find the gems in every genre, including that of Young Adult.

13 May 2014

Learning to fail

Oh my goodness, you guys.  OUCH.

I'm a classically-trained vocalist.  Started at the age of 13.  That's over 20 years of practice and performance singing in one specific way.  Like everyone who studied vocal performance back in the day, I believed I was sentenced to a lifetime of the one vocal quality that came naturally to me: Bel Canto. It was not, however, the quality I wanted: Musical Theatre. Sure, I could rock an aria like nobody's business, but for theatre, I simply had "the wrong voice". So when it came to my dream of performing a Broadway belt, I eventually resigned myself to a lifetime of watching and listening. I dreamed, but other than a small handful of scene study classes, I never participated.

Two years ago, I start training with a coach who teaches and believes wholeheartedly in the Estill method, currently gaining enormous popularity in the vocal world by challenging traditional techniques. Estill believes everyone can sing every style; they just need to learn new muscle memory and sharper listening skills. As a result, I've been thrown head over heels into a world of learning and manipulating parts of my own skull I didn't even realize I had control over. It's been exceedingly difficult, both physically and psychologically. This takes hard work to learn and maintain. But I've also had several moments of full-on Broadway belt, and I can't even begin to tell you how amazing that feels. The big payoff, however, has been concert versions of two huge Broadway musicals this spring: Les Mis and Wicked.  I've dreamed of singing Les Mis on stage since I was a teenager, and it's actually happening.  For this reason, I've been extraordinarily determined to master these new methods.

As it turns out, however, muscles can be jerks. They don't really care about your time tables. And vocal cords are known divas. As a result, muscles need more exposure to stretch and strengthen than your vocal cords are willing to give them on a daily basis. It's tremendously easy to over-exert and injure your cords in an effort to hurry the process along; my eagerness has landed me on vocal rest on multiple occasions in the last year alone. Translation: to be healthy, this takes awhile. A long while. I'm on month 10 of trying to master this, and I'm only just now starting to get it without hurting myself. My instructor said it took him years to learn properly. Needless to say, I've started to become concerned about inviting all my friends and family to see this performance this weekend using techniques we haven't mastered yet. As soon as we start focusing on any other aspect of the show, we forget about our vocal qualities, and the sound goes down the toilet.

Enter choreography. Have I mentioned we're incorporating choreography? Yep, we're a show choir this time. At first, this also thrilled me. A totally off-book Les Mis with belting technique and movement? It's almost like being in the show itself; it's what I've wanted for two decades! And then, last night, tech started, and I began to understand why most dancers retire by their mid-twenties. Why theatre majors always have coffee or energy drinks. Why these people are the way they are.

Tech Week is colloquially referred to as Hell Week for a reason: it requires incredibly demanding work, even for experienced performers. But to be a brand-newly learned hobby in your mid-thirties?  This crap feels practically impossible. Every chronic injury I've ever had in my entire life flared up last night alone. I'm in a lot of pain. I'm barely clinging to what voice I have left. I'm freaking exhausted. I sweat like a pig at every rehearsal and drive home with a blinding headache.

And then, there's the memory stuff. Memorizing the notes, lyrics, and rhythm of the entire program definitely did not come as easily as it did in high school and college, and there are still moments my mind simply goes blank. Now that we're adding choreo, I'm just done. I feel like my brain is just too full; nothing else is going in. We're given 20 new steps in an hour - some we have literally never done before - and we'll recall maybe half of them. Or if we remember the steps, we forget the words or the quality we're singing in, or the emotion we're trying to convey. We have four days to become Triple Threats, and being a Triple Threat is really tough when you're not already a Triple Threat.  And we haven't even touched on the additional challenges we'll have to contend with once the nerves kick in this weekend.

I find myself torn. On one hand, it's really easy to feel like our director is asking for too much too quickly. On the other hand, I realize that this is a sandbox in which if you want to play, you learn and you learn fast. No excuses. At a professional audition, a once-through is all we would've been given. I'm also grateful for the opportunity to try to raise my own bar. But tonight, when my muscles start quivering with exhaustion, my back cramps, and my voice threatens to just give up, I'll be reminded that we're not, by any stretch of the imagination, professionals. And I don't say that in a self-effacing kind of way. It's more like an even further realized admiration for the professionals. I knew they were incredible before; now I feel it. Especially those who are in their mid-forties and can belt right after a 7-minute tap number, every single day and twice a day on weekends. (You're a freaking machine, Sutton Foster...)

I try not to get discouraged when I think how our little show might look and sound to the audience. The material is already going to draw a bigger-than-usual crowd; I just really hope we don't look and sound foolish up there. It most certainly won't seem anywhere near as complicated as it feels, and if it doesn't improve drastically within the next day or so, it's going to be shaved down and become even simpler. Yes, I want to belt like Broadway, not Burien, but growth comes slowly. We'll know how hard we've worked and how far we've come, but it's like showing someone a half-done home; if it isn't completely polished, people tend not to see the progress at all.

Good thing I'm learning it's okay to fail! Now.....where is my ice pack???

11 May 2014

We already are

In the world of infertility, you encounter two types of people. The first are the Oblivious. Those who haven't even considered it might be hard for someone to procreate. They say insensitive things, not necessarily on purpose, but they do. They simply don't get it.

The other type, God bless 'em, are the Pitiers. And after going through a third miscarriage within two weeks of Mother's Day, I've had my fill of the Pitiers lately. They're well-intentioned, I know. But sometimes, they're actually worse than the Oblivious. They say things like, "Don't worry. It'll happen someday." As if you're a cake that can't be enjoyed until you're done baking.  Every time you see them or talk to them, they get "that look" on their face. They simply MUST bring up the topic. All their words of encouragement include caveats, like, "Your turn is coming."  Countless people tell me they are praying for me to have a baby.  They have a "good feeling" about me getting pregnant.  They've had dreams in which they saw me with a son/daughter. You very much begin to feel like you are no more than Their Infertile Friend to them.  And on days like Mother's Day, they think they're supporting you by filling your page with pity and worry.  And that, it seems, is something I've become almost more passionate about than infertility awareness itself: THE PITY HAS TO STOP.

I realize these people mean well.  I mean, what DO you say?  Infertility is just one big awkward, unfair situation loaded with hormones and verbal mines every you turn.  But it's time that people as a whole realize the most widely accepted phrases to say to anyone struggling with infertility are shockingly invalidating.  They're conditional and unconsciously destructive. I don't even think the infertility community had fully realized it. But me? I'm done excusing it any longer.

Infertility has a very high depression rate, understandably. I remember very, very low days. I would manage to pull myself out of the hole and be okay until someone would "encourage" me with some kind of, "Oh, you poor thing!" statement, and a wave of pity and loss would drag me back down. They thought they were supporting me, but their insinuation of shortcoming was making it worse. It wasn't until the day I became too emotionally exhausted to look at myself through a lens of loss and failure any longer that I had an epiphany: there is a difference between grief and self pity. I started to realize there is already a lot about me to celebrate. Not eventually, but right this very moment. And furthermore, I was surrounded by enormous blessings.

I have learned, I have seen, I have loved, I have wept, I have fought, I have screwed up, I have felt, I have been, and all of it matters. In fact, the strength I've built because of this journey has only given me more to admire about myself. I am not a Nobody who will be only be validated once I procreate. I am not waiting to be worthy of celebrating. Even if I never become a mom, I'm already a crap ton of a lot of other things that fill up a life beautifully, and dang it, I'm proud of that.

This concept extends beyond infertility, too. Several of the women I'm closest to in life are single. They are constantly dealing with the "Someday, your prince will come!" mentality from everyone. And sure, someday, their prince might come, but that doesn't actually matter.  Lack most certainly isn't what I see when I look at them. They are genuinely some of the strongest, well-rounded, most admirable women I've ever known.  They are gifted, they are wise, they are incredible. Right now. Already. Not later. Not after they meet some other human.  NOW.

Simultaneously, there are some married mothers out there that, frankly, I avoid.  They may be up-to-date on their Life To Do List, but they're not people I want anything to do with, thanks. Being a good, well-rounded, admirable person is not dependent on life events you file with a government office. It's about who you are.

I will continue to post this on all Mother's Days, Father's Days, Valentine's Days, and probably lots of random other days. Because the idea that people feel belittled because of something they don't have control over shows our judgments as a society.  It's time to fix that.  All people deserve to be validated and celebrated for exactly who they are right now.  No conditions.  All that stuff inside is the good stuff: experiences, talents, hurts, dreams, things that make them laugh, things that make them cry, THEM. Right this very moment. People are already pretty stinking amazing.

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.)