Saturday, June 30, 2012

Movie Review: Brave

I love me a good Girl Power Flick. Seriously. If a girl is kicking ass and taking names, I'm all over it. One of my favorite movies of all time is about women in a "Man's" world (A League of Their Own, 1992). When Pixar began advertising this movie, and how it's their first film about a girl, I knew I wanted to see it (Although, seriously Pixar. HOW many movies did it take? Sheesh!).

Based off the trailers I saw, I figured she'd ask for a spell to change her fate (which, I have to say. HOW many times can you say "Fate" in a movie? You could turn it into a Scotch-drinking game!), and end up in some alternate reality, a la Buffy the Vampire Slayer Episode 3.09 "The Wish." Not entirely the case, and I'm not really sure how I feel about it.

I can't really say too much without giving away the plot of the movie, but I do have to say this. No one ever really goes to great lengths to discuss the mother-daughter dynamic unless you're Susan Sarandon. Examples:

But, I digress. For Pixar, nay, almost ANY animation company, this is the first time they've ever covered the dynamic between mothers and daughters. In case you've forgotten, in Disney, if you're a mother, you only have a son, or you're dead. Unless you're Mrs. Fa from Mulan, but that story wasn't about their relationship.

Merida, our heroine, voiced by the co-star of Showtime's Boardwalk Empire, Kelly MacDonald, and her mother, Elinor, voiced by the wonderfully versatile, Emma Thompson, are constantly butting heads over Merida's future. Being circa-Braveheart Scotland, women were really only good for two things. We won't really get into those because it's a family movie (despite all the nudity! True story!), but that was what Elinor was preparing Merida for. As a child, Merida follows little blue will-o-wisps until they lead her back to her parents. Her mother tells her at a young age that to follow the wisps would be to follow her fate. Anyone else get advice like that from their parents that they keep well into adulthood (which, for Merida is about thirteen)? Mine was "You can be whatever you want to be." It still stands, but while I'm waiting for "Whatever I want to be" to kick in, I have to actually "work." *shrugs* All in a day.

Anyhoozlebees, after a huge fight with Elinor, where Merida, taking a lawyer's view of the law ("First born get the chance to fight for the Princess's hand in marriage,"), Merida, shooting for her own hand, plants a bullseye in each target of her so-called suitors, and embarrasses not only her mother, but the visiting Lords. Arguing ensues, and they both say things they don't mean. Merida flees to the woods where she comes across...those pesky Wisps. They lead her straight to the Wood Shop of a Whittler/Witch (Julie Walters), who is a bit daffy in her age, but aren't all witches? Despite her artisty, of course. I need to get in contact with her before Christmas if she "ships within a fortnight," like she said.

She gets her spell, but it doesn't change her fate the way she expects it will (because, these things never work out like that). I have to stop talking here before I give away the plot, but suffice it to say, Merida learns to appreciate her mother, her family and her place, and Elinor learns a thing or ten about her headstrong, ginger-curled daughter.

I got to see this movie with my own mother and I realized how thankful I am that she and I see eye to eye on most everything in life. We've always had a great relationship, and if I don't tell her something, it gnaws on me. That bit's a little annoying, but the rest of our relationship is great.

All in all, I enjoyed most aspects of this movie. The animation was on par with Avatar (which, if nothing else, Avatar's scenery and effects were stunning), and the music is gorgeous. Billy Connolly (playing Merida's father, the king, Fergus) and Emma Thompson both sing songs on a score by Patrick Doyle.

Now that I've seen this movie, there's only one thing I need to do: Watch it again and figure out who "Gordon" was. Voiced by Pixar Alum, John Ratzenberger, who has had a part in every single Pixar film, to date.

Oh, and this movie also makes me want to start up the sister singing duo with my sis, Kiri, called Sidhe (Shee). Gaelic music does that to me.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Movie Review: "Double Indemnity"

I'm a complete and total movie buff. It's a big surprise to me that I hadn't seen Double Indemnity before tonight. I've seen the beginning when I was studying Film Noir in college (Minor in Film Studies), but I'd never sat down to watch it.

Now, I'm normally a Fred MacMurray fan. He's happy and kind and has a face you can trust. Why do you think he did so many Disney movies?
I'd believe this man to be an Insurance Agent I could trust
But in one of only two films that MacMurray said he actually had to act, I did not like him at all.  MacMurray's Walter Neff might have started off a mild-mannered insurance salesman, but did he do a 180 when Barbara Stanwyck batted her heavy eyelashes and said his name in her husky voice.

The plotline from IMDB for those who aren't familiar: "An insurance rep lets himself be talked into a murder/insurance fraud scheme that arouses an insurance investigator's suspicions." [source]

And the Trailer:

Now, this isn't to say I have to like him in absolutely everything I see him in. This just means he's a fantastic actor who really surprised me. Every time he called Barbara Stanwyck "Baby," I wanted to slap his misogynistic face (Seriously. Watch and tell me he doesn't sound misogynistic). He was the villain. He came up with the plan to kill Stanwyck's dull husband.

Or did he?

I honestly couldn't say if I've ever seen Barbara Stanwyck in anything (I know. I call myself a film buff. Trust me. The list of movies I've seen is probably longer than the ones I haven't), but she blew me away. She could attempt innocent and evil in the exact same scene (The face where she and MacMurray are killing her husband is chilling). She had me going through most of the movie. Definitely going to have to look her up and see more later. She and Fred did three other movies together. Time to look them up!

What I found interesting is how much Stanwyck reminded me of Kate Winslet. In voice, in how she carried herself. Even in looks. In The Holiday [2006], she even mentions how fabulous Barbara Stanwyck is to her adorable screenwriter neighbor/surrogate grandpa. Coincidence? Maybe.

Uncanny, isn't it?
All in all, I really liked it. I don't know that I'd watch it a lot (Noir films are kind of hard to watch just because they're so dark. Literally. Almost completely blacked out in scenes), but it was a good film. Just need to add Fred MacMurray to the list of men that I prefer in nice guy roles (also included is Bill Pullman, who was so chilling in Torchwood: Miracle Day, I'm still trying to recover. After MULTIPLE viewings of his RomComs).

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

God's Timing vs. My Timing

Anyone keeping track of the Colorado Fires this week? My Aunt, Uncle, Grandpa and Cousins all live out there in the Colorado Springs area and my aunt has been posting pictures pretty regularly. It's pretty scary.

Since last November (probably longer), I've been planning my move to Colorado. I wanted to be there at the beginning of this month. I think about stuff like this and it makes me wonder if God is actually protecting me from something. Specifically fires right now.

A couple years ago, when I was living in a bad situation, my dog had just died, and I was really upset with no support system anywhere near me. I'm convinced that God orchestrated my plans to be able to move back to Iowa the very next day. Otherwise, I probably would have killed someone.

We can't see the big picture. It's really hard to know what the Plan is for our lives, but I believe that we'll get there eventually. I'm following the fires on the news and through facebook, and it's honestly starting to freak me out. The flames look close, and remind me of a disaster movie.

Check these out

View from my Aunt's house

Another view. Getting worse.

Most Recent
Reposted by my cousin, Brooke

The closest I've ever been to a fire is when varnish combusted when we were finishing our basement when I was thirteen. Scary, but God protected us. I just pray this madness ends soon.

As much as I hate watching this on the news, I do feel a sense of relief that God is keeping me safe. I just pray He keeps my family, friends, and all of the citizens of the area safe.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Work Hard. Play Hard.

I owe you guys a humongous apology. I've been Sally Whiney-Pants lately. No excuses. I was in a negative place, but I'm hoping I'm through it. It could be because I had a good day today, or it could just be because I've been hearing a quote several times lately. At least once a week since May, but it really hit me today at my company's Annual Summit Meeting (Off the headset, FTW!).

While listening to her speak about, the CEO of my company was talking about how hard we have to work to become the best in the business, and she went on to talk about how only select people can do hard things, and that's what makes it worth it. She then, inadvertently, quoted Tom Hanks in the fantastic, legendary sports chick flick, A League of Their Own. Watch the clip below.

I adore this movie. And I always thought Jimmy had a bit of a crush on Dottie, but being the loutish, drunken gentleman he was, he'd disguise it as wanting his best player to stay and win the World Series for him.

But, it's so true. The things in life that are the most worthwhile are also the hardest. I've been feeling so overwhelmed lately, and my book hasn't been coming, and regular work has been getting harder. I was getting ready to throw in the towel. Two things happened today, though.

One: my mother finished reading my original draft of my book today. I can finally move ahead with ALL edits and get it to my aunt for the second round of edits. It's one thing off my mind because I feel that I can move forward with it. Oh, and she liked it! She really liked it! She thinks it could be really great with just a few tweaks. Lu's been telling me that for awhile, too, and I feel like a year's worth of work is finally starting to pay off.

Secondly, at that meeting today (and I knew this was coming), I got a Circle of Excellence Award for being in the top thirteen analysts in my company. Check the Award

Company Logo hidden to protect the identity of my Employer. This blog isn't about my work there.

All week, I have been going through the motions, not seeing the point behind my work, actions, etc. It has been driving me batty, and things have been changing so rapidly that I was having a hard time seeing the bigger picture. Now, the award ISN'T the Be All, End All of what I do. It did tell me, though, that my hard work hasn't gone unnoticed. The information they shared with us today told me that our clients not only appreciate us, but they wouldn't be where they are without us.

I used to go to a monthly meeting that explained what the point of our work was. We haven't had one in a long time, and I lost sight of why we do it. Liza*, our CEO, quoted Tom Hanks to us today. She reiterated how choosy they are in picking out Analysts. When I worked at this company with my sister, we went to my first Summit meeting in January, and while watching the awards given out, I thought, for sure, she would get this award at our next Summit. I still believe she would have if she hadn't moved away. When I got the email stating that I'd won, I almost fell off my chair.

So, again, if you feel you're working hard, remember that not everyone can. If they could, everyone would have your job. They wouldn't have to be so picky. Not everyone can be a writer. Not everyone writes like I do. It is hard. It is mind-numbing and causes me to break down into tears if I can't figure something out right when I want it, but the pay off after such a daunting task is over is immense. When I got an A on my senior project, that was one of the biggest payoffs of my life.

So, just remember,

  •  What tasks have you found to be almost too daunting?
    • Did you move past it and succeed?
*Not her real name

Sunday, June 10, 2012

God is amazing.

So, I'm gonna start this blog off by clearing something up (though, it's not a huge secret, if you've been keeping up). I am a Christian. I'm not ashamed, and I love the little surprises that God throws my way. Even the little things.

This past week, my grandfather came to visit us. He lives out in Colorado near my aunt Julie (his daughter, my dad's baby sis), uncle Jim, and their kids and families. After my grandmother passed away before Christmas 2004, he decided to go to Florida to spend time with my other aunt, Nancy, and her husband and daughter, who is married with two adorable little boys now. After a few years (maybe it was just one? Can't remember), he decided to move to Colorado and he's been there ever since.

Grandpa and I at the top of Pike's Peak, August 2010

He brought his dog, a sixteen year old West Highland Terrier named Bobby. Poor thing is deaf and blind with Cataracts. :'-( I'm glad he brought Bobby with him. I think this is the last time I had to see the cutie pie.
 Isn't he adorable? Poor ol' guy.

After Grandpa left yesterday morning, we all just kind of hung out. Mom and I went to Walmart (which we don't normally do), to pick up stuff. I'd been searching all over town, looking for a shade for my car (my AC doesn't work, and I just need $100 to pay the deductible. Have I mentioned I'm poor?), so the black leather seats (yep.) don't get so blessed hot. I found the cutest shade in the world, only to get it home and there was a huge rip at the top of it. Heartbreaking. I really didn't want to go back to Walmart.

When I went, though, I went today, after Church, and had lunch with the parents and my aunt Pat and uncle Jim at a BBW place (Pulled Port FTW!), I made the trek to Walmart. I was in and out in ten minutes. I love when that happens. For seriously. And now, Cara, my Kia, has some shades for the summer.

Is that not the cutest shade you've ever seen? Puppies in Chucks? Yes, please!

Now, the real reason for this blog. A few months back, I was asked to sing at the Women's Day to Grow at my church. I was super psyched, I was ready to sing for them. I was going to sing "Beautiful Beautiful" by Francesca Battistelli, but as luck would have it, I got the WORST cold of the year (at least it wasn't like last year's strep throat. Yech!). I had no voice whatsoever. I was bummed, so I stepped down and wished them luck for the day. According to mom, it was fun.

So, a couple weeks ago, our worship leader, John, emailed me and asked me to do the special during offering today. I figured, I'll sing that song now. I'm better now, and it's something I haven't been able to share. 

The gist of the song (in case you don't know it, or you didn't watch the video) is that we are insignificant, but God has found favor in us all, and His love and His grace is what makes our lives Beautiful (Beautiful). When I sat down to listen to the sermon, guess what Pastor John's service was about? Finding Significance as Christians. I couldn't have planned that better if I'd actually tried. Also, I love hearing from people that the songs I sing have an impact. It's very moving to me. My mom was speaking to someone during Sunday School whose mother is ill, and she'd been putting together a photo montage of her mother's life, but couldn't find a song. Guess what song she is putting to it? 

Seriously, God never ceases to surprise me. When I was going through a really hard time (crappy living situation on top of the VERY recent demise of my poor puppy, Charmie), I didn't know how much more I could take, and the day after Charm died, I got a text from my roommate that our landlords had found us a subletter, and we could get out of our lease. I literally sobbed with relief as I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. 

That is God. We make the choices, but He's the one who directs our paths, if we let Him. I've been trying to be more open to letting Him guide my path. To Colorado. :-)

I also met a new guy this weekend. He's not my type. He's too childish and his face is too big for his head.
I'll totally take cuddles when I go to her house to visit, though.

 He also reminds me of a young Henry (My own cat, who prefers my dad). Sam can have him.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


I hate having "The Talk." Seriously. It annoys me to the point of being a teenager again. Sadly, meeting up with old (albeit, older) friends, people you haven't seen in awhile who are of a certain age, etc, usually involves having "The Talk."

I should probably explain myself. Which "Talk" I'm referring to. This kind of stems back to my previous post about what I wanted to be as a grown up. When I tell people that I am a writer and completing my first novel, the first question is always, "How are you going to live off that?" Followed shortly thereafter by "How are you handling your student loans?"

Talking about this, honestly, makes me anxious. My professional life choices and my finances are deeply personal (money! Hello!). I don't like talking about it. Especially to people who don't understand. When I tell them that I'm working hard to get through it, but writing is my passion, I usually get "The Look" that goes along with "The Talk." Said "Look" is usually a mixture of 'OMGSERIOUSLY?!' and disdain. I then get asked how old I am. You can see why this upsets me. First, I'm making the 'wrong' life choices, followed by the realization that I'm not making them on some preconceived BS timeline that doesn't actually exist.

I hate explaining myself. It's why I almost failed geometry and chemistry. Why couldn't the answer just add up? Why did I have to explain my findings?

When I explain myself, I'm putting myself out there for people to judge ME. My person. My opinions and ideologies. If these people had their way, I'd be married with no student loans (don't get me wrong. Sounds peachy to me too, BUT). I chose to go to an expensive school. Occasionally I regret it, but then I remember the wonderful (and yes, not so wonderful) experiences and people I met there. It honestly opened me up to a whole new world, cheesy as that sounds. I'm now having to handle the ramifications of my choices, and that is fine with me. But it isn't fine with other people. It's like a buttinsky culture of having to know every little detail of someone's life.

I had to explain my reasons for wanting to move to Colorado. Apparently, the beautiful weather, athletic opportunities and family and best friends being there aren't reason enough to move. It's a nice place to visit, but this is where I was born, and this is where I should stay. This has seriously been grating on my nerves since Sunday.

I love Colorado. I got my first really good experience there in 2006 when I went out there for Spring Break with my friend, Kristen. Four years later, I went back to visit my best friend, Lauren, and take a road trip to Santa Fe. The following year, I returned for a weekend visit and it really cemented how much I loved it and how much I wanted to live there.

I'm not saying that I won't have my share of heart ache there, but I've been feeling God's pull for me to move there for over a year, now. I'm waiting on His timing, and I know that completing the book is the first step in a line of things that needs to be done before I can go. I have so much faith in this book and series. I believe that they are good stories and enjoyable characters. Could I be wrong? Absolutely. But I don't take nearly enough risk in my life.

I don't like to give reasons, but those are my reasons for wanting to be a writer and for wanting to move. Take them. Leave them. Take me. Leave me. It's not up to me.

Monday, June 4, 2012

"Bad" Habit

I have this bad habit. Everyone has them. Nothing really to be ashamed of. I'm actually a little proud of my bad habit. If someone tells me I won't do something, I have a strong desire to actually do it.

Strangely, I get some kind of weird rush by proving people wrong. It's never a stupid, lame dare. It's something I intended to do before someone told me no. I have a strong urge to prove to them that I CAN do it. 

It all started around my senior year of high school. My sis had recently gotten a tattoo, and I'd been considering getting one, myself. I went, picked out what I wanted, and then I just had to wait until my eighteenth birthday. My best friend, Sam, God love her, kept telling me I'd never go through with it. My tattoo was actually my sister's birthday present to me that year, and she'd already paid the deposit. You don't get that back! I went through with it, proved my best friend wrong, and have never regretted it.

Last night, I had a recital for my voice teacher's studio. It was fun (and you can see my video here!), and afterward, my dad and I went to have pie with friends and family that joined us. One person that joined us was my former piano teacher. I hadn't seen her in awhile, so while we chatted, I explained my future plans, which, right now, involve publishing my Spy book series and moving to Colorado to be near my best friend and writing partner, Lauren.

Conniption fit would be an understatement. She got so upset so quickly, it seemed, to hear me say I was moving. She asked me about my plans, accused me of not appreciating my work-sponsored health insurance (I never get sick, and I've been uninsured before. I survived.) and told me that Colorado is "a nice place to visit," but just because you like some place doesn't mean it's a good place to live. I believe the Gallup polls as of March 2011, beg to differ. Colorado as the 5th happiest place to live? So it would seem.

Where does Iowa rank? Not even in the top ten.

Don't get me wrong. I have enjoyed living here. Most of my family live here. I grew up here. And there really is nothing like coming back to a place the helped mold you. I promise. There isn't. And I'm not saying that moving to Colorado will make me happier. I hope it will. But, at this point in my life, nothing is keeping me here. No children, no husband. The last couple times I was in Colorado, I fell in love with it. I've been wanting and dreaming and praying about returning for good.

Habits are hard to break. And as much as I love my former teacher and value her opinion, I'm going to have to prove her wrong. I know she's just concerned about me, because she cares. I'm going to move out there, live as a professional author. God has never let me down. He will provide. I feel He is leading me out there. Romans 8:28 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

Any "bad" habits you just can't break? Any opinions you have a hard time getting people to shake? (And no, those were not supposed to come out sounding like a country song).