On My Screen

On My Screen: Me and You and Everyone We Know

My friend Valerie recommended this movie to me while I was asking the internet for some Netflix movies to add to my queue. I recalled seeing the box cover of the film on several occasions and how I had even contemplated watching it a few times, but the right time just never came. Since I’ll be home much more from now on (hello, unemployment! …a post about that later), I thought I’d dust off my movie review skills and start Ebert-ing it up a bit.

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Me and You and Everyone We Know is the first film by writer/director/actress Miranda July, in which she plays an eccentric performance artist by the name of Christine Jepsen, who moonlights as a cab driver for elderly folk. But the movie, like the title, is not just about her. She’s just the “Me” (or maybe we’re the “Me”) and there’s an entire slew of oddball characters that are introduced during the first half of the film. There’s also Richard Swersey (played by John Hawkes), a husband and father who’s new separation seems to be taking an interesting effect on his behavior. Or maybe it’s his behavior that prompted his wife to leave him. There really isn’t much in the way of back story, and for the sake of the film, it’s not really important anyway. He’s got two kids who live with him most of the time, it seems. His relationship with them seems strained at best.

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Christine and Richard meet while Christine is taking on of her ElderCab clients, Michael (Hector Elias) , to buy some new shoes. Richard’s a shoe salesman and ends up convincing Christine to buy a pair of pink flats she didn’t really want or need. That’s where the end of their typical interactions end, and from then on out, every time this pair is on the screen, they both seem to speak to each other in character, improvising realities as they go along, trying to show some sort of interest in each other at times, and at other times being almost cruel in denying the interactions ever happened.

But then we meet more people. Christine attempts to drop off one of her VHS taped performance pieces to a Ms. Nancy Herrington (Tracy Wright) who works for a local contemporary art museum, but Nancy seems less than thrilled to accept work handed to her by a total stranger and evident nobody. We also meet Richard’s neighbors, a little girl named Sylvie who later befriends one of Richard’s sons, Sylvie’s mother, and Richard’s coworker Andrew, who hits on a couple of neighborhood teen girls to the point of inappropriateness. Interesting side plots go on throughout the film, and it’s entertaining enough to keep you watching through to the end.

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Now, the two kids (played by Miles Thompson and Brandon Ratcliff) are by far the most amusing characters out of this entire movie. The shenanigans they each get into (especially little Robby) are very distinct and also believable, not to mention bordering on dangerous…but mostly, hilarious. If you’ve seen the film, the image below describes my favorite scene of all.

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I have to admit that I never really feel any connection to Christine or Richard in this whole film, although they are obviously the main characters. It’s everyone else they interact with that really keeps me wondering what’s going to happen next. Maybe it’s because they aren’t very likeable characters, but instead just full of awkwardness. And while I empathize with this, it’s not enough for me to want to invest emotionally into them. Still, the movie overall has a light tone and makes for excellent afternoon viewing. Not bad for Ms. July’s first feature, although I’ll have to watch her other movies to see what direction she heads in next.

3.5/5 Stars

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On Getting Organized and Breaking The Procrasti-cycle

This morning, JB introduced me to Inbox Zero. For those who’ve never heard of this concept, it’s pretty simple. You know how you most likely check your e-mail habitually, often when you don’t really need to, and how the e-mails pile on and on until you’ve got well over 100 or 1,000 (or if you’re like me, in some now well-abandoned accounts, 10,000) e-mails, just kind of floating in the gmail or yahoo or hotmail space? And it just gets to become too overwhelming to try and minimize the number and things just start to get…well…lost? The concept of inbox zero is to maintain an empty inbox, either by instantly replying or delegating the e-mails you’ve received, or deleting and/or archiving the rest. When was the last time you deleted an e-mail? When I watched the video for this talk, it made me realize I rarely if ever delete any e-mails. It’s a habit I lost after the days of AOL, really.

But why not delete them? It only takes a second. And then it might be easier to manage everything else. Sure, this talk was about e-mail, and it was helpful for that. But what about everything else in your life that might need organizing?

In short, it made me realize my life is a mess right now. It’s not a mess in a bad way, just…in a messy way. Both JB and I are notorious procrastinators. And sloppy, to boot. If we don’t have specific places for things (wastebaskets for trash, hampers and dressers for clothes, etc), we dump everything on the floor. And if we don’t have time to wash dishes, we end up with an overwhelming pile of dirty plates and glasses and utensils in the sink no one wants to look at. I’m not proud of this, but it’s the truth. I’m pressed for time quite often and exhausted even more so. If I was messy pre-pregnancy, being pregnant has certainly given way to a new form of sloth.

This isn’t good, though. I don’t want to be this way, and I especially don’t want to be this messy and disorganized once the baby arrives. He deserves better.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about self-improvement and this concept really began to put the gears in motion in my head. Why DO I procrastinate so much? Why NOT do things that I’ve been meaning to (and wanting to) do today?

And then, in the afternoon, while eating way too many fried food items I’m ashamed about, I happened upon this movie:

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I remember when it first came out, I was afraid it would be too much like Liar Liar to really enjoy. But good ol’ Jim Carrey really does a great job, and the movie is just a lot of fun, with a great lesson thrown in. If you haven’t seen it, the basic premise is Jim goes to a seminar where he’s taught that saying YES to everything can open a lot of doors for you. Basically, you have to be open to new opportunities at every chance. He takes this the extra mile and decides he’s going to say yes to everything. Hilarity obviously ensues, but his life also changes, usually for the better, sometimes for the worse, but in the end it’s a real eye-opening experience for him. He also meets a lovely, free-spirited lady played by none other than Zooey Deschanel.

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She runs a jogging group for photographers, plays in a band, paints, volunteers her time, etc. She’s not afraid to live and take chances. She’s everything Jim’s character wasn’t in the beginning but wants to be. And it kind of hit me how much I used to live life fearlessly, and how much I’ve cowered into myself these past few months. When JB and I first met, I was anything but shy. My job, though low paying, involved me doing everything from sales and giving tours to customer service and organizing and setting up events. I was a people person, and I loved it. I had tons of energy. After work, I always wanted to go out. I had an active social life. Yes, there were some time wasting activities involved (too much drinking at times), but I was still doing much more than I do now. These days, asides from being extra disorganized, I’m rarely if ever social. I don’t do much. It’s hard for me to get out there, and not just because I’m pregnant. After losing my Maggie, I just haven’t been the same person.

And that’s okay, really. It’s not that I need to be who I used to be. What I need, instead, is to evolve into an even better version of who I used to be and who I am now, with all my experiences.

Bear with me here, it all ties in together. The point is, Inbox Zero is just the starting point to getting to where I need to be. There are still so many things I want to/need to accomplish (finish a novel and publish it, become an active contributor to various sites/magazines/etc, become a better photographer, raise an awesome son, start my own business, learn how to wear make-up properly-hah) and they won’t happen unless I make them happen.

Right before writing this, I randomly happened upon this blog post by Alexandra Franzen and it had some good tips on how to be organized. This particular blogger doesn’t use Facebook (something I am on WAY TOO OFTEN), she minimizes her distractions by keeping her phone silent, and one thing that really caught my attention was this:

Every day, I try to do three things:

Something that generates money.
Something that generates positivity.
Something that’s purely generous.

Such simple ideas, but they could definitely make a difference in my life (and the lives of others).

Tomorrow, I’ve got a full work day ahead of me, including a meeting with my boss to discuss minimizing hours or working from home (doc’s orders to stay healthy for the baby). I don’t have too many daunting work-related tasks, so I think I’m going to plan out my need for organization, write my to-do list and cross it all off, and plan for the future.

Because if not now, when?

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Ants go marching…

I came to bed tonight to get ready at a reasonable time (10 p.m.) and blog a little when I found an insane amount of ants on my window sill. No food was actually ON the window sill, but they must have sensed the crumbs I spilled on the floor near my bed 2 days ago (I could’ve sworn I cleaned it all up!) or maybe they could smell the leftover yogurt residue in my Stoneyfield cup on the dresser from last night. Whatever the case, I should probably stop eating in my bedroom because this invasion was completely unwelcome.

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They weren’t nearly as pleasant as these cartoon characters…

I really hate killing ants. Killing anything, really. I was never one of those evil children burning bugs with my magnifying lens (actually, I never even had a magnifying lens, but that’s besides the point…). Death has always just been a sad event I don’t like taking part in. I’m still not sure if ants can feel pain, but what I do know is I don’t want them crawling all over me in my sleep, and since they were right by my bed (some of them even swan diving into my sheets), I made an executive decision to become executioner for dozens of ants. But not without trying to repel them in some kind of natural way. The internet led me to the “discovery” that ants dislike black pepper. So I ran downstairs, grabbed my spices and set to work. Sure, they ran away a little and scattered a bit as I poured it over the area, but they certainly didn’t retreat back to where they came from. It only seemed to aggravate them, really.

Lacking any vinegar or lemon juice or borax (the other “natural” recommendations), I took matters into my own hands and began a-squashin’. At first I felt awful about it, and then it just kind of became a motion. Follow ant along window sill, squash with finger, find next ant, and so on and so forth. I noticed some of them were coming in through small cracks between the wall and sill, so I poured water into the edge where they meet to see if I could figure out where they were coming in through exactly. I found about 3 large cracks through which the water would run down and into my walls, god knows how far deep since we’re on the second floor. It seemed alright for a while until all of a sudden panicked ants began shooting out of these cracks. So bam, bam, bam went my tissue-covered fingers, ending the lives of these unwelcome invaders. Whenever I kill ants, I wonder if that’s how a god would feel about killing us. No real deep thought or emotion, just going through the motions of having to do something they deemed necessary for the greater good. If there is a god, I’m pretty sure they’re closer to that than the gods we’ve created in the past few centuries.

After a while, the killing got old. Their numbers got smaller in size, but whenever they did send out a troop of reconnaissance ants, they’d always get squashed flat by me. I went to pull JB away from the Oakland game to find me some real repellant, which he happened to be keeping in the living room. Looks like it’s working, ’cause I haven’t seen a damn ant since. Then again I am sitting on the far end of the bed only half-glancing at the window. Whatever the case, hope that’s the end of them.

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Vodka, Jager, Whiskey…Oh My!

An old friend of mine used to always joke around about how I was his favorite alcoholic. Sometimes it was funny. Other times, it would ring too close to home.

I’m pretty sure I’ve had more hangovers in my late teens and twenties than most people should have in a lifetime. But the painful mornings, the splitting headaches, the incessant nausea, the shakes…they never stopped me from going back to what has often felt like my greatest companion. Booze was just always there. Always available. Never questioning my motives.

I started drinking a little when I was maybe 15 years old. By 16, I was sneaking miscellaneous ounces of booze from my father’s various bottles. He was a light drinker, only on Christmas, New Years, and maybe his birthday, but his work buddies would always get him a new bottle so he had a decent collection going. I’d sneak a little from each bottle and pour it into a plastic water bottle with either orange juice or soda. Never mind that scotch, rum, tequila, vodka, gin and Sunny Delight didn’t belong together. I wasn’t in it for the taste back then. I was in it to relax in the back of the classroom, sipping away to feel cool somehow. It got me some attention, but it also got me into trouble. Like the time I got piss drunk by lunch time and started yelling at my friend “G” for leading me on while he still had a girlfriend. And how my other friend intervened and told me to call home so I wouldn’t get into any more trouble. Or the time I overdid it on the party punch at a birthday getty only to have my mother find me and take me home and wash all the puke I later spewed onto my bed. And yet she forgave me.

But that was only the beginning.

Booze and I, we’ve had some good times. Some great times. If it weren’t for booze, I would’ve never had the courage to do a lot of things. Namely talk to strangers and go on “adventures”, which may or may not have wound up in someone’s bed. It probably sounds worse than it is.

I wouldn’t say I’m a full-fledged addict. I’ve quit twice in the past two years, both times due to pregnancy. After my first pregnancy though, drinking hasn’t been as fun. I tried to drink a little, but now my body seems to reject it for the most part. It makes me feel ill fairly quick. And it also brings out my temper. That’s been going on for years, though. Like the time I went to that guy Eddie’s party. It’s one of those epic nights that will forever live in infamy. Where I saw all sorts of things happen, and participated in others, and wound up vomiting for hours on a front lawn in front of everyone, only to have my friend (the one that’s called me an alcoholic) take me home despite my protests to continue partying. He’s always been a good friend. Even when I fucked him over on his birthday due to another drunk situation. Yeah, maybe I am an alcoholic.

But these days, I’m pregnant, and I’m not the kind of person who would risk her child’s safety for the sake of a buzz. I couldn’t give less of a shit about booze right now. I suppose time and again I miss having a nice, frosty beer with lunch. Or some post-work cocktails. Or a nice glass of Merlot to go with a pasta dinner. And yes, I get a little sad having to refuse the cheap wine samples at the grocery store. But I know it’s for a good cause.

I believe I must have been some form of addict for the past decade, but my body has been through so much that I don’t think I’ll ever be capable of being much more than a “light weight” ever again. And that’s perfectly fine, because no one wants a total lush for a mom or a wife or a friend after a while. I’ll still enjoy my craft brews and maybe I’ll even take a sommelier course sometime for the hell of it. I just don’t feel the need to drink my face off anymore. I’ll just write about it instead.

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Daily Prompt: Can’t Get Enough http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/daily-prompt-addicting/

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the ghost of Your Former Self

Before the pregnancy

before the arguments

before the loss of my daughter

before the short wedding with only you and I

before the pregnancy that started all of that

before we ever met

And before the man before that

who drew and drew and left no sketch behind

and the one before that

and the drunk before that

and the drinks before them

And before I ever came back to this place

when I learned to stand on my own two feet

amongst strangers and with their help I did find my way around

and there were adventures had

And before I ever left my home

and before the assault that rendered me fearful

and pushed me to be fearless

And because I realized the mistakes that led to that

and how I would’ve been better off had I realized them before

despite there being no excuses

And before I fucked it all up

and before it was fucked up

There was a girl that would smile

and her friends had big hearts and so did she

and her family cared for her but knew she had wings

and the world understood she couldn’t stay put

not in one place, not with anyone or for anything

Before this was your life

and sometimes you visit the ghosts

of your former self

and wonder what it would be like if they suddenly came back

to claim what is theirs

until you feel the kicks that bring you back to earth

and you put those thoughts aside

and get some sleep

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Personal Style and the Parker Posey Influence

Louie Season 3 is finally on Netflix and I couldn’t be happier. Considering that my favorite current show is finally done (Goodbye, Breaking Bad), it’s nice to have something, especially something light, to fall back on. Louie’s a show that I can always rely on to be good and to get my mind off my troubles and to make me laugh. Watched the first few episodes today, some of which I’d already seen (“Who told the gorilla he couldn’t go to the ballet?”), and others which are brand new (Miami, and Louie on Date). The Miami one was great, if only because that’s where we live and it’s where I’ve always been from and I could just relate full well to Louie’s disorientation on South Beach. But the date one was even better in a way (well, they were, rather, since it was a two-parter). Parker Posey’s the girl Louie asks out and truth be told, it may have been the first time I absolutely loved her.

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Parker Posey always plays such strong characters, and I don’t mean she lifts weights or leads movements. She’s just always kind of loud and brash. Abrasive. She played another strong character in this one as well, but I have to say I was totally in love with her style. Dangle-y earrings, cute and mismatched rings, flower print tops, bangs and her hair in a pulled up braid. She’s funky, kind of vintage, and fun. I’m not much of a stylish person myself, but sometimes I’ll see someone and wonder, “Damn, how’d they get that to work and how can I get that to work on me?”

I just don’t have the patience for fashion, even if it’s an unfashionable sort. I tend to lose all my jewelery (which is why I rarely have any). My weight has been fluctuating the past few years (I blame the last year and a half’s fluctuations on pregnancy, of course). And I’m usually broke, so I can’t usually afford the things I’d like to buy anyway, so I usually buy plain, “sensible” items. Maybe someday that won’t be the case.

If I ever get all my laundry clean at once, I’d really like to figure out how many “looks” I can put together with the little bit of clothing I’ve got to work with. I’m almost 30 and I told myself that this final year in my 20s is the time to reinvent myself and finally become the person I’ve always wanted to be. I’ve been putting it off and saying, “Next time” and “Next year” and slowly but surely I’m realizing if I don’t make it happen now, it never will.

I just need to take it one step at a time. Think I’ll take a few bucks to the thrift this weekend if my body’s feeling up to it. Or maybe I’ll peruse Etsy for some funky jewelry. I deserve a little something now and again, and I need to stop feeling guilty for rewarding myself. A little style can go a long way.

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To Margaret Hope, on her first birthday…

Dear Maggie,

This isn’t how I expected your first birthday to be. When you were still with me, I thought about how we would have a simple birthday party for you. Just the family and a small cake with a single candle for you to blow out (with mommy’s help). I thought by now I would have gotten to know you better. Learned all about the things you liked and disliked (maybe you preferred being burped a certain way, or smiled when certain songs were played, or had a fondness for certain animals or colors or shapes). I hoped that by now, JB and I would be looking for a new place to live. We would still be in Sanford. He would be working, I would be home watching and caring for you. It would have been an adjustment. I’ve never cared for an infant. I was so happy to finally learn from you, but this isn’t how it happened at all.

Sadly, this time last year, I was lying on a hospital bed with my feet elevated at Mount Sinai, praying to everything and anything that you would somehow stay put for longer. That the funneling didn’t matter because you would be the miracle that would change everything. People would write about you for years, wondering how you came to be, so young at only 22 weeks gestation. JB was right besides me always. My family taking turns inside that awful room. My body being poked and prodded with various needles. Fluids. Demerol. Steroids for your tiny, little lungs. A catheter which I would later see hurt your tiny face while you were still inside me. My water might have broken around this time, and that was when I knew it wouldn’t be long before I met you.

I don’t know where I found the strength to give birth to you, my love. I grabbed hold of JB’s hand so tightly, and did everything  could to give you life, if only for a brief time. The moment I saw you was the happiest, scariest, most surreal moment of my entire life. I did not see your face, only your tiny hands and feet up in the air, reaching out for something, maybe for me, maybe for warmth. The lights were probably too bright, but you couldn’t even open your eyes yet. You never saw daddy or me, but we saw you. Your skin was colored like fall leaves, brown and beige and orange and red from the blood, and I feel like I saw purple in there as well. But I can’t be certain of anything because of the drugs I was on. The drugs I never wanted to take but had to because you came so soon. I had pictured this beautiful, intervention-free birth, with music, maybe in a bath tub, and that I would bring you right up to my chest, skin-to-skin, and hold you close to me for the first time. This was not how it happened.

They put you in a plastic box and the doctors and nurses all crowded around you. I could not see you though I was desperate to. My job wasn’t done. There was still the placenta. And I was in no shape to stand or walk or be anywhere near you, though I feel like maybe I should have somehow.

I only saw you once more while you lived. I went later in the evening, walked over to the NICU to see you. My world was shattered when I saw you with all those tubes, lying so helpless and alone in that box. I wanted to rescue you. To bring you back into the warmth of my womb where you’d spent so many weeks. Just a week prior to your birth, JB and I watched The Little Mermaid and I sang along and you kicked inside me the whole time, enjoying our muffled voices and joy. It’s one of the few memories we shared.

Maggie, I wish you were still with me, and not just your ashes in a box by my bed. I miss you every day. You’re going to have a little brother. He’s still little. Smaller than you were when you were born, and I can only hope and stay positive that he will stay with me longer than you were able to. But you will always be my first, my darling little girl. Nothing will ever replace that. Your brother will know that you existed, that he has an older sister out in the universe, out among the stars someplace.

What I wouldn’t give to have gotten to hold you while you still breathed. The doctors did everything they could, but it was too late. You were so small. Why the impatience to get out here so soon? I know it wasn’t your fault. I hope that you never felt pain. We love you so much and still do and hope to honor you in every way we can. I tell others about you so that they know you existed. I know part of you is still with me, in my heart. You are what gives me the strength to go on.

I love you so much, Maggie.

Happy first birthday, my love. Forever frozen in time.

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