Big Time

How do you define success? Is it the amount of moolah in your savings account? How about the value of your stock portfolio? The German car that’s parked in your garage? How about the casa to which that garage is attached? All of those things are nice (some of them are REALLY nice), but does having them equal success? What does success mean to you?

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There’s a lot of work to be done when it comes to feeling personally successful. Since the very definition of success is different for each of us, this battle is so intensely personal. For example, the family structure that the Wee One and I have is by no means conventional, but it works for us. Some people may look at the fact that she moves between our home, her father’s house, and my parents on a regular basis as problematic, however it has provided her with a really good foundation. She is a lovely, well-mannered, sweet little thing…and she seems to be very happy. Her smiles and kindness towards those around her are great indications of my success to me – she’s turning out pretty well so far. Let’s cross the fingers that we emerge from the teenaged years relatively unscathed!! ;-)

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Other folks define their success solely by their careers…which I think is narrow, but to each their own. I get asked from time to time what my ambitions are. Generally, I think people are trying to ascertain my desired career trajectory (which is cool that they care)….although I don’t really have a good answer for them. I have all sorts of ideas of jobs that I think would be groovy, but I love my current school so much that I never want to leave. Instead, I tell them that I want to spend my life being the kind of person that people will have good things to say about. Being kind and treating people well matters more to me than just about anything. The thought of me being an asshole is just not something that I can accept. Now, don’t think that I’m some sweet Pollyanna who is a doormat and a wallflower rolled into one ball of insipid fun. I can – and do! – definitely stand up for myself, but I try to do it as politely as possible. I believe that regardless of what I achieve in this lifetime, the most important things are being a good person, and raising an even better one. Everything else is just gravy. :-)

Some people care a whole whole lot about owning stuff….it’s kind of that old strange mentality of he with the most toys wins. Do you agree? While I think it would be super- nice to own all the finest things that I could ever possibly want, I know that thinking is highly impractical. Nice things are nice to have, don’t get me wrong….but they don’t matter nearly as much as people. I think that remembering the things that are important in life –  your family, your friends, your Boo, your spirituality, your home life – are the things that make you successful. :-)

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I don’t define success by having a busy and productive life, either…if I did, then I would be San Antonio’s version of Bill Gates or some other Titan of industry. I’m aware that I’m a bit more of a go getter than the average bear…but I don’t think I’m too terribly unusual. Are you a super-busy person? Do you like being that way? Or, do you prefer having very little going on in your life?  I am a super-busy bee, which is pretty much how I roll, but locating like-minded people can be TOUGH, friends! Do you know how bloody many people are kinda lazy? Content to just sit there, see how it goes, let life happen to them? Way too many, friends….trust me, I seem to find all of them. What ever happened to ambition? Motivation? Getting shit done so that you can make your dreams come true? I just don’t get it. Life will go on, friends, whether you want it to or not. Rather than being a passive passenger, wouldn’t you prefer instead to be an active actinger? ( so not a word, but it bloody well should be) I find this to be such a huge issue, and I’m not sure why. I am not in charge of somebody else’s destiny, any more than they are responsible for mine. I need to do me – and let them do them. It just bugs me. Apparently I need a hobby. Perhaps I should take up knitting? ;-)

I think that when it comes to contemplating success, it may be time to reshape our thinking. There’s been articles recently on the optimum salary for happiness…have you heard about this? It’s not $500,000 or even $250,000 (nice though that would be!)- it’s $75,000. A nice chunk of change, yes? But not as high as I’d have thought. You? Researchers have found that anything above that amount provides negligible happiness, and often more headaches. You can read that study here…I’m fascinated by it. :-). 

All of these things can lead to success, depending on how you look at it. I think they real key is determining what matters to you, figuring out the things that you need to feel happy and successful, and then planning and working like a mo’fo to make sure you achieve them. Good luck – I know you can do it! :-)

Xxx

Working Man’s Cafe

I saw the movie “The Hundred-Foot Journey” recently, and pretty much loved it to pieces. Have you seen it? It’s probably not for everybody, but if you, like me, love France, French culture, food,  Bollywood, and korma sauce – then you’re going to totally dig this movie! :-)

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The reviews for this one have been largely mixed, with most everyone criticizing the simplistic nature of the story, and hammering the director for taking the easy route with the tale. While I agree that it wasn’t the most thought-provoking movie I’ve ever seen, it was visually stunning and completely sweet and pleasant….and, considering the amount of things that I have going on these days, sometimes sweet and pleasant is precisely what the doctor ordered. The movie is about an Indian family that moves to Europe for a fresh start following a fire that destroys their beloved family restaurant, and kills the family’s matriarch. They end up in a beautiful French village, and decide to open an Indian restaurant across the street from a Michelin star, Classic French restaurant run by Helen Mirren. Much hilarity ensues as Mirren tries her hand at sabotaging the competition, the father of the Indian family fires back with his own bag of tricks…plus, there’s lots of really yummy looking food. I found the movie to be visually stunning, and thought that the performances were all solid as well.  Helen Mirren is always wonderful, and the rest of the cast rose to the occasion as well. The village they shot in reminds me so much of some of my favorite places in France, and I was left feeling wistful for the dog days of summers past spent sitting in a cafe on the town square, drinking wine and coffee, watching the world pass me by. Did I mention the food? ;-)

 

I fancy the hell out of a chicken korma, naan bread, and mango chutney right now!! :-)

xxx

On An Island

I bought this dress in April:

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Pretty, eh? It’s from Peter Som’s DesigNation collaboration with Kohl’s – I actually bought a few frocks when that collection was released, but this was by far my favorite. Sadly, I don’t look like the beautiful model in that picture up there, but….there’s something kind of magical about that dress. Whenever I put it on (I wear mine with a belt cinching the waist), I seem to somehow feel better about myself – which, in turn, leads to an absolute ton of compliments. I don’t know that the dress is particularly flattering on me (I have eyes, I know what I’m working with), but apparently I feel like a sexed-up glamour puss when I put this on, because I work it like nobody’s business and I hear so much positive feedback on how great I look. I’m not talking just catcalls from horn dogs, but real compliments from people…it’s interesting. I guess it just goes to show that when you feel good, you look good. When I put this dress on, it’s insanely comfortable (like jammies comfortable), yet it does a fab job of showcasing my boobs, emphasizes the waist, and flows nicely due to the super-high slit in the front. I find that when I wear it, I imagine that I’m back on a Greek island, making my way through the winding streets of Crete or Mykonos again, smelling the salty air and taking in the blazing sun. When I’m wearing this dress, the slightest breeze will pick up the edges and blow it around delicately, yet somehow I don’t seem to suffer as many wind-dress-ass situations as I usually do. It’s magic, I’m telling you!! :-)

The really important takeaway from my strange little story about my dress is the importance of doing what makes you feel good…and how that feeling good will transfer  into other areas of your life. When I feel good about myself, I think I look better, and I approach the world with an open heart and mind. I’m kinder, more patient, and more accepting of those around me. I feel like I’m more fun to be around when I’m feeling good about myself, and I feel decidedly more confident and capable in my job. There’s really no limit to what we can accomplish when we are feeling good about ourselves, so….why is it so bloody hard to sustain? Why do I (and a zillion other people) spend so damn much time beating ourselves up and being such haters about ourselves when we should be our own biggest cheerleaders? It’s baffling to me, yet I’m one of the biggest offenders of this particular sin around. The other day, I was speaking with someone and in typical me fashion, I was insulting myself. I’ve done this my whole life, thinking it makes me cute and quirky and in possession of the most charming self-deprecating sense of humor. It does not. What it does is make me sound like a real arsehole who is fishing for compliments like it was my bloody job!! Pathetic!! Grr!! I must have been in rare form that day because as I was pulling in the driveway at home, I received this text message: You know what? You need to stop having your opinion of yourself and start using mine: awesome.  Nice, eh? I know…I am really lucky to know so many good people. :-) But it’s true…I do need to learn to change my attitude, to be more positive about me and the space I take up in this world. I need to be my own biggest fan.

 

And I need to wear that dress more often. :-)

 

xxx

Shiny Happy People

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I’m all about happiness – I’ve generally been described as being a very happy person, and I value optimism, positivity, and happy in people so much. I have a hard time with people with a raging case of grumpass for no reason whatsoever…I just don’t get the point. Isn’t it so much easier, more fun, and just so much more AMAZING to greet the world with a smile on your face and in your heart? I think so. :-)

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I read the coolest thing online the other day – the Pope released a list of 10 tips for becoming a happier person…how friggin AWESOME is that? So. Great. Here’s the list:
1. Live and let live
2. Be giving of yourself to others
3. Proceed calmly in life
4. A healthy sense of leisure
5. Sundays should be holidays
6. Find innovative ways to create dignified jobs for young people
7. Respect and take care of nature
8. Stop being negative
9. Don’t proselytize; respect others’ beliefs.
10. Work for peace

Great stuff, eh? I am so on board with this list it’s not even funny. Wouldn’t the whole world be better if we just lived and let live? If we kept our big noses out of each other’s business and really adopted the philosophy of ‘you do you, I’ll do me’? I think so. I don’t particularly enjoy when people try to get into my goings on, and I frankly lack the time or interest to interfere in the dealings of other people so…we all just need to mind ourselves, and we will be so much better off. As well, it does the soul a lot of good to remember the adage ‘what other people think of me is none of my business’. Wise words, those.

Another one that speaks (hollers) to me is #8 – stop being negative. I love this, and you should, too. There is entirely too much negativity in this world, and way too many bad attitudes. Turn on the news these days and you will be inundated with negativity, people doing crappy things to each other, and just general depression. There is far too little optimism around us, and I truly pity the children of our world today…what kind of bleak future is waiting for them? It makes me sad. My little peanut at home is such a sweet pea, and it hurts my bloody heart to think of how the world will try to kick her around. Hate that. :-( If only we could find a way to somehow flip a switch and make the world more optimistic….it’d be great, yes?

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To me, being happy doesn’t seem to be rocket science, and ought to be something that most of us can achieve with relative ease. However, I came across a great article entitled “10 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Incredibly Happy”….perhaps it kind of is rocket science??? ;-) Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Here are 10 science-based ways to be happier from Belle Beth Cooper, Content Crafter at Buffer, the social media management tool that lets you schedule, automate, and analyze social media updates. http://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/10-scientifically-proven-ways-to-be-incredibly-happy-wed.html

1. Exercise: 7 Minutes Could Be Enough

2. Sleep More: You’ll Be Less Sensitive to Negative Emotions

3. Spend More Time With Friends/Family: Money Can’t Buy You Happiness

4. Get Outside More: Happiness is Maximized at 57°

5. Help Others: 100 Hours a Year is the Magic Number

6. Practice Smiling: Reduce Pain, Improve Mood, Think Better

Smiling can make us feel better, but it’s more effective when we back it up with positive thoughts, according to this study:

7. Plan a Trip: It Helps Even if You Don’t Actually Take One

8. Meditate: Rewire Your Brain for Happiness

9. Move Closer to Work: A Short Commute is Worth More Than a Big House

10. Practice Gratitude: Increase Happiness and Satisfaction

Quick Final Fact: Getting Older Will Actually Make You Happier

Don’t you just loooove this? Me too!!! I am particularly loving #2, 3, 5, 6, 7, and 10. I’ve had major insomnia issues for years, and I know that not sleeping makes me feel tired, grumpy, and mildly homicidal. Sleep = Awesome. :-) #3 is my favorite, because nothing compares to time with my Muppet. Nothing. I value every moment we have together, and there just aren’t anywhere near enough of them. Being with her centers me, and reminds me of what really matters in my life – her and our life together. I got in to Education because of #5…helping others makes me happy. I think that part of this comes from my small town upbringing where things didn’t happen without volunteers – I wish I had more time to help others. If I could, I’d go to hospitals and hug and cuddle new babies every day. Wouldn’t that be just the very best? :-)

I smile a lot – last year, a member of my staff referred to me as creepily cheerful. I only smile when I mean it, and I’ve never been fake – but smiling does indeed make me happier. :-) I do a lot of #7 – I plan pretend trips all the time (I could find out that I was leaving for Bali this evening and be totes ready to go as I’ve planned that trip so many, many times. Hopefully one of these days! ) I feel so happy when I do this…it’s fun to dream and imagine, yes? :-)

Finally, practicing gratitude….I have always believed in the importance of embracing an attitude of gratitude. Think of how lucky we are to be alive today, with all of the conveniences and amazing opportunities around us. Yes, we have challenges now that previous generations have never had to go through…but we also have so many more opportunities than any other time in history. It’s a bloody great time to be alive, don’t you think? We need to act like it. I know that there are at least a million things that go on every day that we could complain about, but….what’s the point? Isn’t it easier to focus on the positives, accentuate all that goes well around us…and let go of the crap. It’s as simple as that – Just. Let. Go. Of. The. Crap.

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Soooo…..how happy do you generally feel? What makes you happy? I can’t wait to hear from you!! :-)

Xxx

 

 

Thinking Out Loud

This is how people should feel about each other when they are in love:

Click video to hear this song performed live

When your legs don’t work like they used to before
And I can’t sweep you off of your feet
Will your mouth still remember the taste of my love?
Will your eyes still smile from your cheeks?

And, darling, I will be loving you ’til we’re 70
And, baby, my heart could still fall as hard at 23
And I’m thinking ’bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways
Maybe just the touch of a hand
Well, me—I fall in love with you every single day
And I just wanna tell you I am

So honey now
Take me into your loving arms
Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars
Place your head on my beating heart
I’m thinking out loud
That maybe we found love right where we are

When my hair’s all but gone and my memory fades
And the crowds don’t remember my name
When my hands don’t play the strings the same way
I know you will still love me the same

‘Cause honey your soul could never grow old, it’s evergreen
And, baby, your smile’s forever in my mind and memory
I’m thinking ’bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways
Maybe it’s all part of a plan
Well, I’ll just keep on making the same mistakes
Hoping that you’ll understand

But, baby, now
Take me into your loving arms
Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars
Place your head on my beating heart
Thinking out loud
That maybe we found love right where we are

So, baby, now
Take me into your loving arms
Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars
Oh, darling, place your head on my beating heart
I’m thinking out loud
That maybe we found love right where we are
Oh, baby, we found love right where we are
And we found love right where we are 

 

 

Don’t you just love this song? Me, too…”kiss me under the light of a thousand stars / place your head on my beating heart”? Come on…that’s magic, that is. Love. :-)

I hope you’re finding love right where you are. :-)

 

xxx

How Sweet It Is

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My Mom challenged me to one of those Gratitude Challenge things that’s been all over Facebook…and, while I really don’t like Facebook and rarely go on it, I can’t let a challenge pass me by, so….I did it. I was charged with the task of posting three things I was grateful for every day for three days. This turned out to be surprisingly easy, as I have so many wonderful things and people in my life that it really wasn’t too hard to find stuff to acknowledge. So, without any further ado, here’s my Gratitude Challenge:

Day One:

1) My Wee Muppet – she completes me, and life began when she arrived on the scene. I LOVE my girl to bits – she’s awesome! :-)

2) The rest of my loved ones near and far, family and friends flung all over the globe. They know the real me, yet somehow love me anyway. :-)

3) My job – most days I love it a whole lot…and even on the crap days, there’s still nowhere I’d rather be. Thank goodness for my parents for all they do to help with the Wee One, allowing me to work. :-)

 

Day Two:

1) I am grateful that I’ve inherited my father’s sense of humor – if you knew my Dad, you’d know he loved a good laugh, and his humor was definitely unique!! If I couldn’t laugh at some of the stupid things that happen in my life, I’d cry, so….thanks Daddy. :-)

2) I’m very grateful for all of the traveling that I’ve done. The best way to learn about the world is to get out and see it, and I think my experiences have made me a more tolerant, enlightened person. Every one you meet has their own story…and how beautiful it is to have the chance to hear those tales.

3) I’m grateful for the home that the Wee One and I live in, be it ever-so-humble. At the moment, it looks like a disaster zone as I’ve been painting and prepping for new flooring, but it’s ours, and it’s going to be great! The Wee One picked the wall color for the kitchen, and the accent stuff for the living room – so it’s a team effort. Yaa!! (I will post pictures when we’re done)

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Day Three:

1) I’m grateful that I grew up in a small town, and I’m massively grateful that the small town was Lundar. I was truly raised by a village, from the lovely and patient Lil Johnson serving me gummi candies at the bakery, to Lloyd McLeod lovingly tying my skates for me at the rink. The entire town kept an eye on me, and helped form who I am today. Yes, it was sometimes annoying when the gossip about the stuff I did made it home from the bar to my mom before I did, but there’s nothing better than the AMAZING people of the community of Lundar. I’ve never seen community spirit and volunteerism like I did growing up, and there is so much of that town within me and the way I see the world…thank goodness for that! :-)

2) I’m grateful for my Grandpa, and his passionate belief in the value of an education. He told me when I was small that I needed to learn French, because it would ensure that I always had a job. He was right, as pretty much every job I’ve had since has been related in one way or another to French. He taught me to respect and value teachers – he and I used to visit his childhood teacher in the Care Home…and education has been my passion ever since. He made me believe that I could be whoever and whatever I wanted – what more beautiful gift to give a child? :-)

3) Finally, I’m grateful to every student I’ve ever had…and there are a bloody ton of you! Some of you had to suffer through me early in my career, when I didn’t have a hot clue what I was doing, and I was barely older than you. Others got me later, when I’d found my groove and figured out my way around the job. I can tell you with 100% certainty that I learned far more from each and every one of you than you ever learned from me. You inspired me to try harder, to be a better person, and to truly learn the meaning of patience and compassion. I have never forgotten a single one of you, and I never will. I love seeing you, hearing from you, and sharing in the joys and successes of your lives. I’m so very proud of all that you’ve become. :-) Very few things have been as rewarding in life as teaching you has been – you’ve made me feel like a superhero. All I need now is a damn cool cape! :-)

 

So…that’s it! Three things I’m grateful for for three days!! This was super-fun (thanks Mom)…I don’t want to challenge anyone in particular; instead, how about you all do me a favor and look around yourself, take stock of the great things you’ve got going on in your life, and count your blessings? I hope you’ll need a calculator. :-)

 

xxx

Back to School Again

Our students return to school tomorrow, and I am SO excited! Back to school time is overflowing with energy, with excitement, with possibility…opportunities are lurking behind every door, and how fantastic that we get to take them!  For our teachers, it’s a time to embrace the idea that you really are the superheroes of the world….all that’s missing is your cape. Not many people get to go to work every day and change lives – how very lucky you are. :-) For. Real.

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Last week, our superintendent shared the following with us, and I couldn’t wait to pass it on to you – it’s beautiful. :-) It’s a letter from a teacher to their students – courtesy of C. Mielke – here goes:

 

First, you need to know right now that I care about you. In fact, I care about you more than you may care about yourself. And I care not just about your grades or your test scores, but about you as a person. And, because I care, I need to be honest with you. Do I have permission to be honest with you — both in what I say and how I say it?

Here’s the thing: I lose sleep because of you. Every week.

Before I tell you why, you should understand the truth about school. You see, the main event of school is not academic learning. It never has been. It never will be. And, if you find someone who is passionate in claiming that it is about academics, that person is lying to himself or herself and may genuinely believe that lie. Yes, algebra, essay writing, Spanish, the judicial process — all are important and worth knowing. But they are not the MAIN event.

The main event is learning how to deal with the harshness of life when it gets difficult — how to overcome problems as simple as a forgotten locker combination, to obnoxious peers, to gossip, to people doubting you, to asking for help in the face of self-doubt, to pushing yourself to concentrate when a million other thoughts and temptations are fingertips away.

It is your resilience in conquering the main event — adversity — that truly prepares you for life after school. Because, mark my words, school is not the most challenging time you will have in life. You will face far greater challenges than these. Sure, you will have times more amazing than you can imagine, but you will also confront incomparable tragedy, frustration, and fear in the years to come.

But, you shouldn’t be worried about the fact that you will face great adversities. You should be worried because you’re setting yourself up to fail at overcoming them. Here’s the real reason I lose hours of sleep worrying about you: You are failing the main event of school. You are quitting. You may not think you are quitting, but you are because quitting wears many masks.

For some, you quit by throwing the day away and not even trying to write a sentence or a fraction because you think it doesn’t matter or you can’t or there’s no point. But it does. What you write is not the main event. The fact that you do take charge of your own fear and doubt in order to write when you are challenged — THAT is the main event.

Some of you quit by skipping class on your free education. Being punctual to fit the mold of the classroom is not the main event of showing up. The main event is delaying your temptation and investing in your own intelligence — understanding that sometimes short-term pain creates long-term gain and that great people make sacrifices for a greater good.

For others, you quit by being rude and disrespectful to adults in the hallway who ask you to come to class. Bowing to authority is not the main event. The main event is learning how to problem solve maturely, not letting your judgement be tainted by the stains of emotion.

I see some of you quit by choosing not to take opportunities to work harder and pass a class, no matter how far down you are. The main event is not getting a number to tell you you are worthy. The main event is pulling your crap together and making hard choices and sacrifices when things seem impossible. It is finding hope in the hopeless, courage in the chasm, guts in the grave.

What you need to see is that every time you take the easy way out, you are building a habit of quitting. And it will destroy your future and it will annihilate your happiness if you let it. Our society cares nothing for quitters. Life will let you die alone, depressed, and poor if you can’t man or woman up enough to deal with hardship. You are either the muscle or the dirt. You either take resistance and grow stronger or blow in the wind and erode.

As long as you are in my life, I am not going to let quitting be easy for you. I am going to challenge you, confront you, push you, and coach you. You can whine. You can throw a tantrum. You can shout and swear and stomp and cry. And the next day, guess what? I will be here waiting — smiling and patient — to give you a fresh start. Because you are worth it.

So, do yourself a favor: Step up. No more excuses. No more justifications. No blaming. No quitting. Just pick your head up. Rip the cords out of your ears. Grab the frickin’ pencil and let’s do this.

 

Bloody brilliant, yes? I know. :-) It’s the perfect thing to think about on the eve of a new school year, but it’s also a pretty good philosophy about life in general – when you’re feeling overwhelmed and incapable and small….just grab the frickin’ pencil and let’s do this. Love. :-)

Now let’s have a great year! :-)

xxx

Let’s Hear It For The Boy

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I saw Richard Linklater’s masterpiece “Boyhood” last weekend, and find my mind forever altered by the artistry of it…I’ve never seen aging and growth portrayed onscreen like that before, and I thought it was gorgeous. Here’s a review of the movie from Roger Ebert’s website (pay attention to this review – beautifully written):

 

The second shot of “Boyhood” doubles as the movie’s poster image: a young child named Mason, Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) lying on his back in green grass, staring at the sky. He does not speak and there is no voice-over narration, so we cannot know what’s in his head. But the movie is contemplating, among other things, the fleeting nature of existence—the way that time, to quote “Life Itself,” slips through your fingers like a long silk scarf.

“Boyhood” became the instant subject of media buzz last year when Linklater revealed that he’d been working on the project for 12 years, following the same actors (including Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke as the hero’s parents, Olivia and Mason, Sr., and the director’s daughter Lorelei Linklater as his sister Samantha) through the early part of the 21st century. We watch the children grow up and the adults thicken and grey. We see Olivia and Mason, Sr. in various relationships. Olivia is looking to replace her ex-husband and make her “broken” family intact again, and this search leads her into a series of arrangements that are wrong for her, sometimes horribly so. Mason, Sr., goes the other way, acting the role of bohemian free-spirit even as he works a series of rather typical jobs. The kids get taller and become interested in particular subjects, and in sex, and after a while they start to think about college and what they want to do with their lives.

It’s all a blur. The blur is indescribably moving. We’ve seen people age in movies and on TV programs—the kids in the “Harry Potter” and “Up” series, for instance, and little Ronny Howard on “The Andy Griffith Show,” and Kiernan Shipka on “Mad Men”—but we’ve never seen it happen in such a compact span of screen time. That’s what makes “Boyhood” singular. There is no other work to which one can directly compare it without distorting pop culture history. This movie is truly its own thing, as eccentrically unique as Linklater’s breakthrough “Slacker,” another Austin-set feature to which “Boyhood” feels (curiously) like a companion piece, or perhaps a bookend.

Mason is a child of divorce. He and his mother and his sister move around a lot, all over Texas, a U.S. state as big as France. Mason’s dad does not have custody, so has to accommodate his wife’s shifts in geography over the years, sometimes driving hundreds of miles to see his children. Even though Olivia and Mason, Jr. love their kids, there are moments when they resent them, because once they had them they were locked into a particular track and had to put their kids first, always. The trick, though—and this is where Linklater the writer shows how generous and kind he is—lies in realizing that sometimes when parents think they’re putting their kids first they’re really responding to conditioning, or doing what their society or their gender or their parents told them was the correct thing to do.

The movie’s about social conditioning as well as time. It asks basic, deep questions. What makes us “normal”? Is there such a thing as “normal”? What makes us identify as men, as women, as children? Is the traditional domestic arrangement—a wife, a husband and kids living in the same house—really desirable for every person, and genuinely good for society, or does it inflict distress on those whose personalities and desires cannot function within it? Two important men in Olivia’s life have drinking problems; alcoholism is a disease, but it’s also a means of forgetting, of numbing pain, of denial. Do we really change over time? Can we decide to change ourselves? Or is free will an illusion? Do we seize moments or do moments seize us? (“You are responsible for your own actions,” warns a sign hanging in the hero’s elementary school.)

Olivia seems, like many single moms, dispirited by the the responsibilities she bears. Early on we hear her arguing with her boyfriend, a single man who resents that she can’t just come and go as she pleases, as he does. (“I was somebody’s daughter, and then I was somebody’s fucking mother,” she says.) She’s chasing an idea of normalcy that may not be right for her. In an intense scene that occurs in a car outside of a school, not long after a period of domestic strife, Olivia asks for understanding because she’s trying to build “a family” with a new boyfriend, and Mason exclaims, “We already have a family!”—and he’s right. Olivia is a college professor and a liberal feminist, but she’s still bought into the husband-and-wife-and-two-kids-equals-a-real-family thing. She studies “unconditioned response” in one of her grad school courses but it takes a few years for her to figure out, in practical terms, what the phrase means.

There are points near the end of “Boyhood” when Olivia might remind you of George Bailey, the hero of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Of the movie’s two parents, she is nearly always the responsible one—the “boring” one. Even her worst decisions were made for noble reasons, but the constraints that motherhood placed on her freedom always gnawed at her. Over time, though, she grows by leaps and bounds, finishing grad school and becoming a teacher and then a person of considerable influence in her community. We start to see the profound, lasting impact that her moral rectitude has had on the world. She evolves, as surely as her ex-husband and children evolve, but the process is subtler. It’s not right out there, like her ex-husband’s delayed maturation.

The film’s title and choice of protagonist have been criticized (gently but firmly) for unthinkingly confirming that heterosexual men are at the center of the universe. But this reading ignores the movie’s constant (if empathetic) critique of American manhood, or what passes for American manhood: an entitled mental state that is really just boyhood with money and a driver’s license. Mason, Sr., for all the love that he shows his kids, is an example of this. He’s a great natural playmate for his son and daughter, joining them on the floor as they futz with toys and taking them on camping trips and trying to purchase their love with gifts as if every visitation were a miniature Christmas. But he doesn’t express much real wisdom until his kids edge toward adolescence and become tight-lipped and undemonstrative, and he pulls the car over during a family trip to demand that they have real conversations (amusingly, Samantha makes the same request of him).

He has to learn to give in as well as to give—and that giving in doesn’t always have to mean giving up. Even when Mason, Sr. is 30 or 40 he still lives like a 19-year old who just got his first place. He resents his ex-wife as a killjoy, and clings to his GTO the way little boys cling to their loveys. And yet he matures onscreen along with his kids, mellowing over the years and becoming less strident and arrogant and more generous, learning that it’s possible to be a person of integrity even if you aren’t insisting that every single thing go your way at every single moment (a pattern of behavior that only narcissists mistake for freedom). We get the sense that in some ways Mason the elder is un-learning what he learned during the first part of his life—an experience that his kids are now going through, with different details. It’s rough, this process. It’s emotional boot camp, with versions of hazing. And I love how “Boyhood” admits that, in certain ways, growing up stinks. Every character has a least one moment in which they have to heed the advice of Corinthians and put away childish things. None of them like it.

image

The adults in Mason, Jr.’s orbit (including his mother and father and various teachers and authority figures) all want to parent or mentor him by turning him into reflections or extensions of themselves. In high school, a photography teacher tells the budding shutterbug hero that he needs to move away from arty compositions and learn to shoot sports so that he can make a living, advice which assumes that Mason, Jr. wants to earn a living with photography rather than treating it as an avocation, or as the visual version of a diary. The manager of a restaurant where Mason, Jr. works as a dishwasher wants to groom him as a fry cook. The man’s eyes light up as he describes this arc, as if he’s moved by his own generosity.

At various points during the boy’s life he’s pushed toward bad decisions by other boys who warn him that failure to act a certain way makes him a “fag” or a “pussy.” You sense the kid pushing back against these pressures. You realize that, for all their faults, and despite the geographical and emotional obstacles that they were up against, his parents did a good job raising him. Or maybe he absorbed their better qualities as if by osmosis. (Did he seize their better qualities, or did their better qualities seize him?) Linklater doesn’t explain any of this—the storytelling and filmmaking are intuitive; things that look like pointers or labels aren’t—and yet it’s all there in the movie. You can feel it. Perhaps without meaning to, the film exemplifies the best piece of advice that anyone gives the hero: “We’re all just winging it.”

“Boyhood” is broken into discrete dramatic chunks—this is really an anthology of short movies with a recurring cast—and there are no timestamps telling us that we’ve passed from 2002 into 2003 or from 2009 into 2010. We realize where we are on the timeline when we hear somebody talking about the Iraq war, or hear a song on the soundtrack that was big during a certain year, or realize that the boy has changed his haircut or gotten a little bit taller. The simultaneously nourishing and corrosive effects of time make the film quietly moving and humble-seeming, despite its three-hour length and conceptual audacity. Time is what makes the film cohere even when particular scenes, images or performances seem clunky or undernourished. Fixating on imperfections while discussing “Boyhood” would be as petty as criticizing the sculpting of individual stones in a cathedral. The totality matters. Even more important is our recognition that the totality is as fleeting as life.

Time, and our interaction with time, and the way in which we are all ultimately overmatched and worn down by time, and the notion of cinema as a means of sculpting with time: these and other aspects of temporality are at the heart of “Boyhood.” Time is the core around which all of this movie’s musings on childhood and parenthood are woven. It’s the river down which the scenes and characters travel without consciously realizing that they are on individual journeys that all have the same ending. If life is “about” anything, it’s about realizing and accepting that fact: that everything is fleeting. Time gives birth and nourishes and then obliterates as it moves ahead, like the family which, in an early scene, prepares to move out of a house by covering murals and hand-lettered height charts with white paint. The film ends and the credits come up and you ask the same question that you ask at the end of an evening spent with old, dear friends: where did the time go?

 

Lovely, eh? The movie gave me so much to think about and marvel at….and I cannot recommend it enough. Go check it out!! See what you think – be sure to let me know! :-) I’ll be waiting to hear from you! :-)

 

xxx

Seven Spanish Angels

I decided to try a recipe for Sugar-Free Granola this morning – how disgustingly healthy of me, eh? I know! It’s not ready yet, but I will share the recipe and details once I know that it’s turned out decently enough to share with you – hopefully it’ll be gooooood! :-) After mixing my chia seeds and assorted other healthy ingredients, I thought I had better do something “ME”-style to counteract all the healthy Martha Stewart-esque juju vibes that were in here – so I made sangria. :-)

I cheated a bit by using a bottle of sangria that I’d bought at the store yesterday, but I doctored it up with a TON of fresh fruit: apples, oranges, peaches, and strawberries. Yummy!! :-) Here’s how it turned out:

I layered the fruit in my favorite Maggiano's decanter (which was a gift - I swear I didn't swipe this one!!!) - apples, strawberries, peaches, and oranges on the top!

I layered the fruit in my favorite Maggiano’s decanter (which was a gift – I swear I didn’t swipe this one!!!) – apples, strawberries, peaches, and oranges on the top!

Ready-to-go sangria! :-)

Ready-to-go sangria! :-)

Yuuuummmmyyyy!!!! :-)

Yuuuummmmyyyy!!!! :-)

Ta-dah!!!!! :-)

Ta-dah!!!!! :-)

 

It’s five o’clock somewhere….time to dig in!!! :-) It’s going to be a great day!!!! :-)

 

xxx

All About That Bass

This. This is everything that’s right:

Click on the picture! :-)

Click on the picture! :-)

 

 

Feel free to sing along:

Because you know
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass, no treble
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass, no treble
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass, no treble
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass

Yeah, it’s pretty clear, I ain’t no size two
But I can shake it, shake it
Like I’m supposed to do
Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase
And all the right junk in all the right places

I see the magazines workin’ that Photoshop
We know that shit ain’t real
C’mon now, make it stop
If you got beauty beauty, just raise ‘em up
Cause every inch of you is perfect
From the bottom to the top

Yeah, my mama she told me don’t worry about your size
She says boys like a little more booty to hold at night
You know I won’t be no stick figure silicone Barbie doll
So if that’s what you’re into then go ahead and move along

Because you know I’m
All about that bass
‘Bout that bass, no treble
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass, no treble
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass, no treble
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass
Hey!

I’m bringing booty back
Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that
No I’m just playing I know you think you’re fat
But I’m here to tell ya
Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top

Yeah my mama she told me don’t worry about your size
She said boys like a little more booty to hold at night
You know I won’t be no stick figure silicone Barbie doll
So if that’s what you’re into then go ahead and move along

Because you know I’m
All about that bass
‘Bout that bass, no treble
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass, no treble
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass, no treble
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass

Because you know I’m
All about that bass
‘Bout that bass, no treble
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass, no treble
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass, no treble
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass

Because you know I’m
All about that bass
‘Bout that bass, no treble
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass, no treble
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass, no treble
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass
‘Bout that bass, ’bout that bass
Hey, hey, ooh
You know you like this bass

 

Great, right? I know. I could not love the message that this incredibly catchy song preaches more…it’s all that’s right about body positivity and self acceptance. I love that…and hope to someday do a better job of embodying these ideas….it’s a daily struggle. I hope that somewhere out there are people who don’t care about the width of your arse, who think that curves and junk in all the right places are desirable, not something to be tolerated. And I hope that these people come around my neighborhood…it’d be nice to see them and have some fun. :-)

 

if you’re looking for me, I will be shaking my arse to this song…because, dear friends, I am all about that bass. :-)

 

xxx