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.

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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

Summer Loving

I’ve finally taken a few days totally away from work this week, and the Wee One and I got away from San Antonio for a change of scenery. We spent last weekend in Humble, a suburb of Houston, with friends from my hometown in Canada (fun fact – the friend that we visited was my childhood babysitter!)…and we had the best time! We spent a lot of time swimming in the pool (I started teaching the Wee One how to dive, which was terrific…I was SO proud of my tiny baby friend!! :-) We went to Discovery Green, a park in downtown Houston (near Minute Maid park, home of the Astros) on Saturday to see a Mad Scientist show for kids (good in theory, but the execution was pretty rough….the scientist wasn’t great), and had a nice walkabout in the beautiful park. We also went to a pool party, ate lots of good food, and had a really lovely, relaxing time. After a productive and wonderful trip to Ikea (I love Ikea with all my heart and will until I take my last breath….love!!! :-) ), we headed back to San Antonio. :-)

After two days at home, we hit the road again and spent a couple of nights at the YO Ranch Resort in Kerrville, Texas. It was nice, despite the fact that it rained a fair bit while we were there (odd for summer in South Texas, but we need it, so….it’s all good). We spent a lot of time swimming in the pool (sad bloody trombone, though….the swim up bar isn’t open during the week – noooooo!! I loooooove swim up bars!), cuddling, playing games in our room….all good stuff. We did a lot of reading, took a trip to Ingram, Texas to see a replica of Stonehenge – pretty random and awesome! We took a bunch of pictures this week, and had a good time just being together. She and I have been discussing our next Fancy Girl Trip – and while I’m certain that it’ll be incredible, these little close-to-home jaunts are pretty great, too. :-) I’m such a lucky mama. :-)

At Discovery Green in Houston! :-)

At Discovery Green in Houston! :-)

 

The flowers at Discovery Green were stunning! :-)

The flowers at Discovery Green were stunning! :-)

I LOVE water lilies! :-)

I LOVE water lilies! :-)

My friends have this sign at their house...it's a philosophy of mine. ;-)

My friends have this sign at their house…it’s a philosophy of mine. ;-)

This is Maggie, and she might be the cutest, sweetest little pup I've ever met! :-)

This is Maggie, and she might be the cutest, sweetest little pup I’ve ever met! :-)

Living the life :-)

Living the life :-)

Even Merry the Mouse had a great time! :-)

Even Merry the Mouse had a great time! :-)

In Ingram, Texas....crazy, eh? :-)

In Ingram, Texas….crazy, eh? :-)

Stonehenge! :-)

Stonehenge! :-)

Isn't this awesome? :-)

Isn’t this awesome? :-)

Pretty :-)

Pretty :-)

Cuddling in the pool! :-)

Cuddling in the pool! :-)

Happiness :-)

Happiness :-)

 

So. Much. Happiness. :-)

xxx

Tattoo

What do you think of tattoos? I generally like them a lot, as you will know if you know even a bit about me…I admire them on others, I have some, and I’ve always been really, really happy with mine. I got my first one when I was 18 – it’s a dolphin (named Alice, thanks to one of my childhood friends and a night in the hometown bar), a Van Gogh sunflower, a smiley face, and a Canadian maple leaf. Each of these tattoos was deliberately chosen to represent some important things to me – the dolphin is representative of my lifelong love and passion for water, for dolphins, and for the fact that I grew up feeling awkward every moment of the day…except when I was in water. When I swam, or dived, I was like the dolphins, and all of my awkwardness and self-loathing disappeared. The Van Gogh sunflower symbolizes beauty and passion to me, a commitment to art and self like no other. The life story of Vincent is one of he most tragic of all times, yet out of great hardship and difficulty rose beauty and passion like a phoenix from the ashes. Vincent sought success in Paris, my favorite city, and lived his life like an outcast….not unlike good ol’ me. The smiley face represented a new beginning, one where I committed myself to my own happiness. I have faltered a bit here and there, but most days since I got that one added in 2000 have been spent pursuing those things which will make me happy and leave me feeling enriched and fulfilled. :-) The maple leaf is obviously an homage to my beloved homeland, the true north strong and free. I don’t live in Canada anymore, but Canada sure lives in me. I got that one at the base of my neck/top of my back…to remind myself of where I’m from, and that my solid Canadian upbringing will always be behind me to guide me onwards. :-)

This week, I added two more to the collection! The first one is a small, cute Eiffel Tower, to commemorate my beautiful trip to Paris with the Wee One, our tremendous love of all things French, and the gorgeous memories that she and I share. This one is on my right shoulder blade, and I love it!! :-) The second new addition is a honeybee on the top of my foot. This little bee is to remind me of the importance of working hard, of buzzing along, of trying your best….so that someday sweet rewards will be yours. I had them done by a local artist that I’d met about four years ago, when I went to him to have Alice and the gang touched up. At the time, we spoke a lot about schools and education, as he had a daughter getting ready to head to high school, and he had a lot of questions for me about secondary education. He has changed shops since I last saw him, but he remembered me at once when I went in this week (partially because he was obsessed with how easy and awesome it is to tattoo my lily-white skin!). Turns out that his daughter is a student at my school now (small world or what, eh?),and he did another brilliant job on me. :-) Here’s the proof:

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Cute, eh? My mother will be unimpressed, but…c’est la vie. The ship of trying to impress her set sail a very, very long time ago. They make me happy, which is all that really matters to me…and the Wee One thinks they are fab. :-) The pursuit of happiness is something we should all aspire to, don’t you think? :-)

Xxx

Lucky Star

I visited new San Antonio eatery Starfish last Wednesday night, and I can’t wait to tell you all about  my visit! I ended up there accidentally, as my friends and I had a different dining destination in mind. However, one of the hostesses came out and spoke with us outside when she saw us stop to take a look, and as the door opened, the most gorgeous smells wafted out behind her…and I was sold!! While the service was odd (too much crossover between servers on our table, unusual timing on food delivery, and a never-ending friggin wait for bread), the experience was pretty much incredible…and since this was their fourth night of dinner service since they’d opened, I know that their lovely manager Logan will rectify the front of the house hiccups very quickly. Here are the highlights of our meal:

 

I started with Bread Salad - I've never had Bread Salad before, but this very simple dish is one of the most delicious things I've ever eaten. The ingredients were simple, but the depth of flavor was incredible. Love!!! :-)

I started with Bread Salad – I’ve never had Bread Salad before, but this very simple dish is one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten. The ingredients were simple, but the depth of flavor was incredible. Love!!! :-)

Grilled Calamari - my dindin. Mighty tasty, friends....the sauce was divine!! :-)

Grilled Calamari – my dindin. Mighty tasty, friends….the sauce was divine!! :-)

One of my friends ate shrimp and grits - this bowl had a chorizo vinaigrette in it that pushed the dish to a whole other universe. A-ma-zing!!! :-)

One of my friends ate shrimp and grits – this bowl had a chorizo vinaigrette in it that pushed the dish to a whole other universe. A-ma-zing!!! :-)

Their bouillabaisse was extraordinary...just look at it! It was served in a very cool angled bowl (I'm a sucker for good presentation),and the broth....oh,friends, the broth....insane. The very delicious bread they served was unreal dipped in that broth. Yum. :-)

Their bouillabaisse was extraordinary…just look at it! It was served in a very cool angled bowl (I’m a sucker for good presentation),and the broth….oh,friends, the broth….insane. The very delicious bread they served was unreal dipped in that broth. Yum. :-)

This pork chop was one of the most beautifully-presented dishes I've ever seen....and it reportedly tasted incredible!! Juicy and flavorful, bursts of yummy in every bite! :-)

This pork chop was one of the most beautifully-presented dishes I’ve ever seen….and it reportedly tasted incredible!! Juicy and flavorful, bursts of yummy in every bite! :-)

The kitchen action - check out the jellyfish lights!! :-)

The kitchen action – check out the jellyfish lights!! :-)

 

Dessert #1 - fruit, peanut butter, some tasty cream stuff. Good,but not worth the moolah.

Dessert #1 – fruit, peanut butter, some tasty cream stuff. Good,but not worth the moolah.

Dessert #2 - Key Lime Pie. I know,I thought this thing - pretty though it is - was unlike any key lime pie I'd ever eaten,either. But guess what? It's earth-shatteringly delicious!!!!! Woohoo!!! Plus, anything that throws a macaron on top is cool with me. :-)

Dessert #2 – Key Lime Pie. I know, I thought this thing – pretty though it is – was unlike any key lime pie I’d ever eaten, either. But guess what? It’s earth-shatteringly delicious!!!!! Woohoo!!! Plus, anything that throws a macaron on top is cool with me. :-)

Dessert #3 - the menu calls this Banana Story, which I hope they change because that's a dumb name. What's not dumb, though, is this dessert: banana bread, chocolate mousse, brûléed banana....it was freaking amazing!!! :-) Don't let the name out you off! (Perhaps they'll rename it Leanna Banana in my honor??! ;-) )

Dessert #3 – the menu calls this Banana Story, which I hope they change because that’s a dumb name. What’s not dumb, though, is this dessert: banana bread, chocolate mousse, brûléed banana….it was freaking amazing!!! :-) Don’t let the name out you off! (Perhaps they’ll rename it Leanna Banana in my honor??! ;-) )

Dessert #4 - Basil sorbet, with a mint macaron. It comforts me to think that there might be a heaven...and they might serve this there. Otherworldly, my friends....for realz. :-)

Dessert #4 – Basil sorbet, with a mint macaron. It comforts me to think that there might be a heaven…and that they might serve this there. Otherworldly, my friends….for realz. :-)

 

Starfish is located on South Alamo, my favorite neighborhood in San Antonio. Here are a few pictures of the things I saw in their neighborhood:

The Friendly Spot - my favorite watering hole :-)

The Friendly Spot – my favorite watering hole :-)

I want a letter box like this on my house SO much...and I don't even have mail delivery to my house.

I want a letter box like this on my house SO much…and I don’t even have mail delivery to my door.

Few things are more beautiful than a secret garden! :-)

Few things are more beautiful than a secret garden! :-)

 

 

I hope that things go well for Starfish, and that they are super successful. Everyone there seemed to be really great, and there is a heap of talent in that kitchen…I was humbled by the artistry that went into this meal. I hope you’ll check them out…let me know if you need a date!! ;-)

xxx

 

Brooklyn Baby

I spent Saturday evening at home with the Wee One, sprawled on my bed, reading the newest Jennifer Weiner, listening to Lana Del Rey and playing Words With Friends. It had been a day – the dog got scared by fireworks on Friday night and did a runner…and I walked the neighborhood streets from midnight to 4:15am before giving up. Thankfully he reappeared at home at around 5:30am, but by then the night was pretty much toast. I spent the day painting my front door red (see below), and watching the entire first season of the AMAZING series The Fall, from BBC Northern Ireland…if you’ve not seen this one yet, rundon’twalk to Netflix and stream it now. There’s only 5 episodes, an hour each…and it is bloody riveting. SO good. Anyway, I watched that while coats of paint were drying, I started reading the Jennifer Weiner book, and then moved on and listened to Lana’s album. Her music left me wanting to lounge around outside of some impossibly hip pub, drink in hand, contemplating life, the stars, and destiny with a hipster in horn-rimmed glasses, skinny jeans, and a cardigan. The album sounds like summer, yet had me wanting to buy shoes for school in the fall. The more I listened, the more I felt as if I was in on her secrets, that together she and I were on the outside looking in on the popular kids. Listening to that album had me feeling all the feels, which is rather odd, as I haven’t had that happen in bloody ages. Strange! What music moves you, my friends? :-)

The old door :-(

The old door :-(

Midway through the process

Midway through the process

The door!!!

The door!!!

Ta-dah!!!! :-)

Ta-dah!!!! :-)

 

Last Saturday night, the Wee One and I drove up to Austin to a graduation party for my dear friend. It had been a hellaciously long day, and I was afraid of falling asleep, so I started singing with the radio. I found out that I was kind of loud and preventing the kid from sleeping due to my volume, so I was happy when she joined in. For me, the easiest way to ensure there’s no falling asleep at the wheel is by singing – and, because I’m an equal opportunity pain in the arse, I will also sing to someone else who is driving to make sure they stay awake! I have a good friend who I know probably still has nightmares about driving home with me from Austin at 4:00am, singing along with the old country tunes on the AM band on his radio *which he’d purposely picked thinking I wouldn’t know the words to those songs – fooled him!!!* I was jet-powered by a lot of beer that night, so my singing game was really on. The things I do for those I care for!!! ;-)

I’ve heard three great albums recently – the Lana one, Sia’s album is friggin DIVINE (Google her singing Chandelier on Howard Stern…you’ll weep, I guarantee), and Sam Smith’s In The Lonely Hour is CRAZY good!!! His voice is fabulous – LOVE!!! :-) I’m so excited for great new music – it’s been awhile since I’ve been excited about something like that. Yaa!! :-)

What excites you, my pretties? :-)

Xxx

PS: If Sam Smith’s Stay With Me doesn’t rip your bloody heart out and make you want to touch someone you love as you cry into their shoulder, then you had best make your way to the nearest ER, because you’re dead or about to be. Sorry about that. :-( That song is a heartbreaker…wowza!

Baby Girl

Yaa!!! :-)

Yaa!!! :-)

My baby girl turned 8 yesterday!!! I can’t believe it!! It seems like just last week that she was a wee three-pounder wearing teddy bear clothes (for realz, the poor little tiny baby friend!!)…but look at her now! She’s so sweet, kind, smart, funny, beautiful…I could not be more proud of the girl that she’s become. :-) We spent the day together for her birthday – the weather here in San Antonio was rainy and rather miserable, so we ended up heading downtown to take in a Matisse exhibit at the San Antonio Museum of Art – it was GREAT!!! :-) Here are some pictures:

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Beautiful! :-)

Beautiful! :-)

Another Tony Danza!! :-)

Another Tony Danza!! :-)

:-)

:-)

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After the Matisse exhibit, we checked out some other collections in the museum – here are some of our favorite pieces:

 

Love these fishies!! :-)

Love these fishies!! :-)

This is a neon pink chair, and I can't even tell you how much I want it!! :-)

This is a neon pink chair, and I can’t even tell you how much I want it!! :-)

The colors in this are mesmerizing!!! :-)

The colors in this are mesmerizing!!! :-)

The birthday girl and her new baby Merry! :-)

The birthday girl and her new baby Merry! :-)

Pretty :-)

Pretty :-)

:-)

:-)

Isn't this just the best? Love! :-)

Isn’t this just the best? Love! :-)

 

The rest of our day was lovely – drink at Starbucks, playing together at home, a piano lesson, dinner with the grandparents at Kona Grill…movie night snuggled up on the couch at home, and a camp out sleepover in the living room. :-) I had the greatest day just hanging with my tiny baby friend…and I’m looking forward to more time like this with her this summer. :-)

Happy Birthday Baby Girl! :-)

xxx

 

 

Simple Stuff

My boss’s daughter got married this past weekend, and I played the piano for her wedding. Fifteen years ago this would have been a minor situation, as I played the piano all the time and was accustomed to playing for people. However, I don’t get to practice nearly as often as I’d like, and my poor left wrist has deteriorated so much that I never know from day to day what feeling – if any – I will have in my fingers. FYI – playing with numb fingers is much harder and less fun than it sounds. Anyway, I’ve been practicing, and I played for the ceremony on Saturday. Clearly, this was not an engagement I wanted to bomb (boss’s daughter and all that) – and I’m happy to report that I didn’t screw it up. Was it my best performance? Nope…but it was okay. :-) I survived….and hopefully nobody noticed my wee mess-ups. :-)

I want to talk about the wedding itself for a minute….I do think it might have been the most lovely wedding I’ve ever been to! :-) There was nothing over-the-top about it – everything was simple, tasteful, and sweet. From my spot at the piano, I could see  the groom’s face as he said his vows, and I’ve never seen such sincerity or raw emotion in my life. It was really emotional, and I ended up weepy myself. It was awesome! :-) The ceremony was performed by a pair of older gentlemen who bore more than a passing resemblance to Waldorf and Statler from The Muppets – they had the witty banter, the sweet way about them….we all giggled throughout the beautiful ceremony.

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I was really struck by the romantic simplicity of this wedding – every detail had a beautiful, sweet, homemade vibe to it, and I felt like I was being embraced by love the whole time. I know that this sounds all mighty hippie-ish, but…there was something very different about this wedding. I felt the love…and that’s not something that happens often. Here’s some pictures:

This is so cute! :-)

This is so cute! :-)

The bride and groom are artistic, creative people :-)

The bride and groom are artistic, creative people :-)

They had wedding-themed Mad Libs on the tables...Wed Libs!!! Loooooved this!!! :-)

They had wedding-themed Mad Libs on the tables…Wed Libs!!! Loooooved this!!! :-)

Pretty :-)

Pretty :-)

The piano :-)

The piano :-)

Where I played my part :-)

Where I played my part :-)

All I need is love :-)

All I need is love :-)

:-)

:-)

The father of the bride made this cake - awesome or what??! :-)

The father of the bride made this cake – awesome or what??! :-)

One of my thank you gifts for taking part in the wedding - cute, eh? :-)

One of my thank you gifts for taking part in the wedding – cute, eh? :-)

My other thank you gift - yum yum yummy!!!! :-)

My other thank you gift – yum yum yummy!!!! :-)

 

 

I loved this wedding, and I wish the happy couple so much love and happiness….may he always look at her the way he did on Saturday – and may we all be lucky enough to be loved like that.  :-)

xxx

Summertime

…and the living is easy! Well, it will be once I go on vacation time and am away from work for a bit! :-) I’m really loving our summer schedule, though, as it offers more time for a real life, and there’s not many evening events. Woohoo!!! :-) Last Friday, I took the Wee One and met some dear friends for a picnic at Boerne City Lake. I had never been there before, but I had such a gorgeous time, I can’t wait to go back!!! :-)  These sweet friends of mine were kind enough to take care of all of the details – and what glorious details they were!!! They barbecued chicken on skewers, hot dogs, had wine/beer/wine cocktails/soda/water, chips, snacks, veggies…it was AMAZING!!!! :-) They also invited another friend of ours who has a little girl close in age to the Wee One – they played in the water and had a whale of a time! :-) The girls got taken out in the boat to do a wee spot of fishing, while I lounged around on shore enjoying the day and the beautiful breeze. It really was one of the very best days I can recall having in AGES, and I love and appreciate my friends so much for planning something so lovely for all of us. :-) I am so lucky! :-)  Here are some pictures:

Paradise :-)

Paradise :-)

Adorable :-)

Adorable :-)

The best hot dog EVER!!! :-)

The best hot dog EVER!!! :-)

:-)

:-)

 

This gorgeous day reminded me so much of my childhood, and the very best times I had then. My family had a tiny little cabin on the lake near our hometown in Canada, and that place, to me, was heaven. It was by no means fancy (as evidenced by the outhouse in the yard and the lack of running water and telephone inside), but truly – those things were a big part of what made it so awesome! :-)We used to go out there and stay for weekends, or a week at a time…and I loved it so much! I would spend most of the day swimming and playing in the lake, reading in the sand, wandering around and hanging out with whichever other kids happened to be down there at the time, and playing board games. My lifelong love and obsession with Clue came out of time spent at the cabin. In the evenings, we’d have a bonfire and sit around outside with whoever…and it was awesome. I never slept so well in my life as I did there…the combination of the sun, the fresh air, all of the swimming and playing, and the magic mattress on my bottom bunk were all I needed for a great sleep. :-) My memories of the cabin are so vivid – I remember everything that I did there, especially the time I put my brother’s underpants on my head and danced around in front of him and some company that he had…which resulted in him hitting me, me falling over, smashing my head into a magazine rack, and pushing my letter L earring 3/4 of the way through my ear. The doctor was down the road at his cabin, so he came to help my parents remove it. It wasn’t pretty. :-(

As I got older, my family quit going to the cabin – once I could drive, though, I went all the time. My friends and I used to love going out there, lounging around with no one to call us or bug us for anything…it was so peaceful. :-) I was heartbroken when my parents sold the cabin when I was in university, but I was is in no position in my life to maintain it, so….I understood their decision. It has since been torn down, with a new property built on that lot – I drove by a few years ago on my way to see one of my girlfriends at her family’s place. (Fun Fact: That same sweet friend of mine was there the night of the underwear and the letter L earring – I’m sure she’s still traumatized by me, my stupidity, and my howling) While driving by, I pulled off the road for a minute, stepped out of the car, and put my feet on the ground that had been such a big part of my life for so long. I marveled at all of the beautiful changes around me, and heard the sound of children laughing and playing down by the water…it sounded like the echo of me in the distance, and I swear I could smell the wieners cooking over the bonfire, and the can of Heinz pork and beans heating on the little stove. :-)

 

xxx

 

Desire

This Georgia O'Keefe soothes my soul - it's lovely :-)

This Georgia O’Keeffe soothes my soul – it’s lovely :-)

What are the things that you desire most in this world? Wealth? Fame? Freedom? Love? I started thinking about this today while doing cafeteria duty (it’s mind-numbingly dull, leaving me with a lot of time to contemplate the universe and ponder life in general). While considering the idea of desire, I started mentally listing the things that I desire: good health for my daughter, financial security, independence, love, freedom to travel, a comfortable home, companionship, good health, professional fulfillment, happiness, great shoes…nothing too earth-shattering there, eh? However, after two more laps around the cafeteria, I worked on checking off the things that I have from my list…and that’s where shiznit got real. I’m a long way away from too many items on that list, which makes me so sad. I’m 40 years old now for goodness sakes (that’s so weird to type)…shouldn’t I have all of this stuff figured out by now and want for nothing? Yeah, right…nowhere close. Am I behind?

Life advice courtesy of Oprah and Starbucks :-)

Life advice courtesy of Oprah and Starbucks :-)

I’ve been reading a lot of the work of Gabrielle Bernstein lately – she touts the whole #SpiritJunkie movement, and making miracles all over your life. I love that so much, don’t you? I want this SO badly, but holy shit is it ever hard to try to adapt her way of thinking and make it work for this chaotic existence of mine. I just don’t know how to  work it out! Same thing with the magic of crystals – I keep reading about their mystical, magical powers so I got some. I felt kinda weird about it, but whatever…I’m so bummed about so many things these days, I’m willing to try anything. So, now I’ve got crystals, but no clue what to do with them. I put amethyst in my pillow the other night, and I can’t be certain, but I think I had a better sleep than usual. The half Ambien might have helped as well. ;-) I had a rose quartz shoved in my bra this morning (nobody ever accused me of being classy), hoping to improve the love that people send my way, but it appears to have fallen out. I will have to retrace my steps and find it, because it was a cute one.  Isn’t that just the way with me?  I’m a girl who needs tremendous heaps of help and sparkle in my life – I work hellaciously long hours, I don’t have much of a social life anymore, I’m severely sleep-deprived, I don’t get nearly enough time with my Muppet, and the things I try to help myself end up falling out of my bra…I need some assistance, whether it’s from crystals, magical miracles like Gabrielle’s got going on, or a kind person who just decides to shower me with goodness. Perhaps that’s where my problems lie, and why my list of desires is still so damn long – because I’m looking outside for assistance, rather than searching within. I think that’s what Gabrielle is all about, harnessing the magic inside and using it to make all your dreams come true. Now to figure it out for me!

My rose quartz crystal - I found it!!! :-)

My rose quartz crystal – I found it!!! :-)

I came across an article on finding your inner peace in ten simple steps – doesn’t that sound like the very best thing ever? Here are the steps: (source:

http://www.ineedmotivation.com/blog/2008/05/find-inner-peace-in-10-ways/. )


Accept what is
There is only so much we can affect. What we cannot change, what we cannot influence no matter what, should not be a concern to us. This is what I notice with so many people, in that we focus and linger on things which we have no control over. Why worry about something that all the worrying in the world will not change? Why care about what other people think of us when we’re not even sure what it is they are actually thinking? Once you open the blinds to this fact, and start accepting what is that you cannot change, you automatically relieve yourself of a mountain of stress and anxiety. It’s like a huge weight has been lifted from your shoulders. Taking this path is following a road towards peace.

Meditate
If you do not meditate yet, you are missing out on a very important activity that can change your life. Meditating for 20 minutes daily can have an enormous impact in all areas of your life. Take a look at this post I wrote 100 Benefits of Meditation. If that doesn’t convince you to start meditating, I don’t know what will! If you have a lot on your mind and you feel like your thoughts are driving you crazy, meditation can help you find peace. Simply close everything, sit back, close your eyes, and clear your mind of every single thought. Focus on the emptiness. You will be surprised what a mere 20 minutes of meditation can do to turn things around for you. If you have trouble meditating, I would suggest getting a professional guided meditation CD, which will help you get used to this level of peacefulness

Spend time in nature
We spend so much time confined in buildings of steel and concrete and bricks that we quickly forget where we come from. It is natural for us to be in nature, and this is why it feels so good and it is so peaceful when you take a walk in a park or bike on a trail in the forest. As I am typing this blog, I am looking out my window to this gigantic tree in front of my house. Watching its stillness, with the wind blowing through its branches calmly, it is a sight that not only inspires me, but that I find peace within it. I have blogged before about how I enjoy biking and one of the reasons is that it brings me closer to nature. It is something you just can’t experience in a car. If you feel overwhelmed, take a stroll outside where there are tons of trees and far from the city. Be there and just enjoy the sights, the sounds, and the peace.

Learn the power of a smile
Whenever you are laughing or smiling, something interesting happens. Not only does something happen on a chemical level to make you feel better, but it also stops all stress and negativity from entering your psyche. A simple smile can make such a difference. For example, the other day I mishandled a dish and it fell on the floor, breaking into pieces, creating a big mess. Now, I could have been angry with myself for being clumsy and thinking “here’s another reason why life sucks!”. But I did the opposite. I began to smile and kind of make fun of myself for not being able to hold on to that plate properly. As I cleaned up the mess, there was no bitterness or anger. As a matter of fact, I did it with a smile on my face…I did it with peace. So whenever you find yourself in a similar predicament, just think of the silver lining, and don’t be shy to poke fun at yourself. You will quickly realize that peace finds its way much more easily to you when you smile.

Think outwardly
What I mean by this is that most of the time, we are so consumed within our own problems that we can no longer see the forest from the trees. Therefore, it helps to remind ourselves how big the world is. Take a moment and read up about some other countries, cultures, and the likes. Be aware that the world does not revolve around your problems. I find that when I hear about a tsunami or an earthquake killing hundreds of thousands of people on the other side of the world, my problems aren’t really “problems”. Looking beyond ourselves is very important in finding peace and it leads me to my next point.

Care about others
You will never find peace by being self-consumed and only worrying about your own needs and wants. When you begin to genuinely care about other people, so much goodness comes right out. This only helps into solidifying your inner peace. It can be people close to you or pure strangers, but any act of kindness and goodwill eases your way towards peace. When I help other people, I stop focusing on my so-called problems and realize that my life isn’t so bad after all. This rids my entire being of all the stress and feelings of overwhelm. There is great peace and wisdom in thinking and caring about other people, which we are blind to when we are too deep within our own selfish ways.

Never lose hope
Hope is something you can never afford to lose. With hope you always have a path towards peace. Whenever we get too stressed out and overwhelmed within our own life, we forget that hope. We forget that the sun always shines after a rainy day, and that this is merely a bump in the road. I find immense peace in just knowing, deep within my heart, that everything will be ok. With hope, I know that whatever is seemingly terrible, is only temporary and that soon enough, things will be just fine. This lifts off all of that negativity from my entire being, and I feel better pretty much instantly.

Embrace your beliefs
I am not one to pick or favor one belief system over another, so whatever it is that you believe in, embrace it with your entire being. Be within your faith 100% and peace will find its way into your heart. Now, we may all disagree on each other’s beliefs but one thing we must all agree on is that having a solid, healthy faith is crucial in founding a proper conscience that helps into guiding us towards peace and wisdom. There is a reason why research has shown that people that are deeply devoted to their faith have a higher life expectancy and are less likely to have diseases such as cancer. This is because they experience more inner peace, which is important if you want to increase the quality of your life.

Keep learning
One thing that provides us with much stress in life is the fact that we always worry about not having all the answers. Just accepting that you do not know everything, and that you are open to always keep learning is a tremendous step to take towards achieving inner peace. I find great joy in learning all kinds of different things, and just being aware that I am growing as a person each and every day provides me with great feelings of peace. Accept that life is one big journey of never-ending learning and you will find yourself closer to experiencing true peace within yourself.

Live in the present moment
Most of the time, what we worry about is relating to something either in the past, or something that hasn’t happened. Living in the present moment erases all such thoughts. Why worry about something in the past that we cannot ever change? (see point #1, accept what is). Why worry about something that we are not even sure will happen or not? This is why in the present moment, you find true inner peace. In the present moment, there are no problems and no concerns. There is only stillness, and it is within that stillness that you can uncover peace. I used to be such a person that worried all the time, to the point where I had trouble sleeping. Once I learned to live in the present moment, I stopped thinking about the past and any potential future, and just worried about being ever-present in each and every moment. My life is definitely more peaceful since then!

 

 

These are great, eh?  I believe in the power of smiles,  and I have a serious commitment to lifelong learning. I care far too much about most others, and I am one of the most hopeful, optimistic people I have ever known. I can’t seem to figure out the whole meditation thing, but…perhaps I will give that a shot again. The hardest one for me is learning to live in the moment – I’m really improving on the whole ‘It is what it is’ thing…hard as it has been for me, I know that I’m not God, I can’t change anything…but learning to quit planning is going to be the death of me. I need to learn to just embrace the many beautiful moments that I have, and quit fretting about what is going to happen next. I need to stop trying to plan and schedule every detail of the world around me, and I need to just let it be. Let it be. I may have just found my next tattoo. :-)

 

What do you desire, friends? Whatever it is, I hope you get it – you deserve it, you’re awesome. :-)

 

xxx

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

I ended up with a last-minute trip to Vegas this weekend…I haven’t been here in ten years, and after a short time here, I’m reminded that the more things change, the more they stay the same. There are lots of different sights to see since my last visit, cool places to check out (which I’m enjoying), but the essence of Vegas is pretty much the same as it has always been. There’s something comforting, yet distressing about that. Anyway…Friday night, I did Fremont Street -and my goodness, did I see things. There were more crimes against fashion than you could throw a stick at! Yikes!! I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a better spot for people watching, though…I ended up stopping for delicious whipped flavored air at Tasti-D-Lite, and sat at a table outside, enjoying the show the pedestrians were putting on. I saw men getting yelled at by their wives and girlfriends, women clearly looking to make some cash (if you know what I’m saying), older couples trying to relive the glory days of their youth (frightening…you know, there really is something to be said for aging gracefully), groups of young douchebag guys looking to see what they can get out of the night – I saw it all. I walked down to Container Park, which was definitely the highlight of my night – such a cool place!!! I ended up having some drinks in a place that felt like home to me – The Boozery. Even though I believe that their target crowd is young, hip people they somehow let me in – and thank goodness they did!! I started with a simple (yet delish!) Pinot Grigio, but quickly moved on to the gorgeous cocktails that the lovely bartender Pinto was pouring. He made a gin and tonic that would bring you to your knees, your eyes awash with tears of joy….it was AMAZING!!! The trick seemed to be in the tonic syrup he was using…it made for one seriously crazy good drink. For reals!!! :-)

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After tearing myself away from The Boozery (such a great name eh?), I headed back over to Glitter Gulch, or perhaps more appropriately the Valley of Lost Dreams. Fremont Street was buzzing with activity, even more people had shown up…and the people watching just got better. :-) I was watching all of the couples going by, trying to get a read on the pulse of their dynamics. Some were easier to read than others, of course, while some left me pretty much scratching my head. If I live to be 100, I will never understand why people who clearly don’t even like each other stay together. What on earth is the bloody point? You only get one shot at life….shouldn’t it be a happy one? I suppose the reason why I’m so interested in these couples is because I’m fascinated by the workings of healthy, functioning relationships. I wasn’t raised around one, my track record is not the best…so I don’t know how they are meant to be. I don’t know what it is that makes people who’ve been together a long time continue to want to be there…probably because I can’t seem to find anyone who wants to spend any span of time with me!! Oh well… I saw a couple on Friday night who had probably been together 20 years…and were still so in to each other that their love kind of sparkled out of them.  I moved closer, hoping the sparkles would land on me and catch fire. :-) Here’s hoping!! :-)

 

One of the highlights for me in Vegas has been the amazing food – I have had some straight up fabulous meals!!! I went to Payard in Caesar’s Palace for breakfast – sweet Jesus was that a gorgeous meal! I ordered coffee, just regular old coffee, nothing fancy – what I got was the very best cup of coffee I’d ever had! So good!! My breakfast was ham and Swiss cheese quiche with a tiny side salad. A meal I’ve eaten countless times before – but the memory of every other quiche  in the world fell away from my mind, forever disappearing in the glow of what I ate at Payard. It was THAT good. :-) I don’t usually partake in the bread baskets on tables at restaurants, but figured I should give it a go here – I’m so glad I did! The different breads were each more delicious than the previous, the buttery crusts were outstanding….this was just a fabulous meal from start to finish. And it was only breakfast. :-)

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I went old school Vegas for dinner one night – Piero’s – what a simply gorgeous meal!! The maître d’s name was Joe, and I’m feeling confident that he was an extra in the movie ‘Goodfellas’…full of sass and personality. The service was impeccable, and the food….oh my, the food. There was a calimari starter, which was excellent despite a very crispy coating. My main course was an old standby for me – veal piccata, with mushrooms and capers…and it was simply breathtaking. SO delicious!!! :-) The ambiance in the restaurant was very old New York, and more than a number of the guests clearly hailed from the East Coast. If you ever have a chance to break bread at Piero’s, please do – you won’t be disappointed. Be sure to be nice to Joe. :-) (Important Life Update – I ate Brussels sprouts at Piero’s…and I liked them!!! Woohoo!! I can now cross that off my bucket list!!)

 

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I visited the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino for lunch – they had a most unusual drink on the menu that I just had to try. Behold the Bacon Bloody Mary:

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This bad boy is made with bacon-infused vodka, which is something I don’t see every day…and I figured it’d be bad karma to walk past something like that, so….I gave it a whirl. It was surprisingly yummy – I know, I’m shocked too. Very filling – I doubt you could drink more than one (maybe two at best) of those in a sitting without being so full you wanted to vomit. Good drink, though. I wonder who the guy was who thought to infuse vodka with bacon (you know it had to be a guy) – if you find out, send me his name…I’d like to send him a card or something.  :-)

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Another gastro highlight was Sushi Roku – located in The Forum at Caesar’s Palace, this restaurant is part of the Innovative Dining Group that includes Katana, and Boa. The food at Sushi Roku was simple, yet brilliant – the miso soup was outstanding (you’d be surprised how many places cock up miso soup), and the roll I had – the Katana roll – was unbelievably outstanding. The flavor combination was perfect in my mouth (shrimp tempura, spicy tuna, topped with yellowtail and tuna) – everything was uber fresh…delicious!! Three cheers for the amazing sauce on the side – wowza!! So good!!! :-)

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If you remember when I went to Paris last month, I took the Wee One to the top of the Eiffel Tower – I decided to do it again here. It provided an outstanding view to the spectacular fountain show at the Bellagio, as well as the beautiful lights of the strip. Here’s some pictures:

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All in all, for a quick trip to Vegas, I’ve tried to make the most of it – I’ve walked a lot (according to the pedometer on my new phone, I’m averaging 15,000+ a day! Yaa!!!) , eaten some spectacular food (you’ll notice there’s not a buffet in my sights!), and seen some really pretty things. I did a spot of shopping (hello gorgeous new Kate Spade bag and my much-loved but hard to find Chanel lipstick in color #45!!), saw some art at the Bellagio, and enjoyed the dry, desert air. Viva Las Vegas!!! :-)

 

xxx

 

PS: And I won $300!! Woohoo!!! :-)