Monday, September 13, 2010

13 Things from the Past Year that Totally Lived Up to the Hype

I like to think I’m cooler than I actually am, so I purposefully scoff at things other people like to make myself feel good.  Twilight?  Psh.  Titanic?  Pleh.  Dancing with the Stars?  Blah.  Ke$ha?  You’ve got to be kidding me.
I’m not judging the people who like these things--we’re all entitled to our guilty pleasures (I totally watch Big Brother).  I just hate it when people lose their minds over something, building up my expectations, only to have my heart plummet into my stomach because I just wasted time on something worthless or mediocre.
So, here are some things that totally lived up to the hype (much to my cynical heart’s pleasure).  Feel free to disagree.


Anyone who has known me longer than five minutes knows that I adore Braum’s ice cream and frozen yogurt.  There was a two-month period in college when I drank a chocolate milkshake every morning for breakfast made from chocolate pecan frozen yogurt and 2% milk.  As far as I’m concerned, this is still a better choice (Vitamin D, protein) than sugary cereals, pancakes, or waffles, which most people view as acceptable breakfast items.  My heart breaks every sunny day because good weather=ice cream, and the best thing about Braum’s is that no matter where you go in OKC, you can find a Braum’s on the corner.  The closest “good” ice cream in Charleston is at Wholly Cow, which is not close to our house at all.  No late night runs.  No swinging by on our way home from school.  It’s miserable.
There is, however, an Italian ice place called Rita’s just minutes from our house.  I had sadly settled for Italian ice (which is just a churched up snocone) because at least it was something cold.  Every time we went to Rita’s I would see people order this suspicious substance called “custard” out of a machine behind the counter.  Custard looks like the frozen yogurt you get out of the machines at Chinese buffets.  Several friends who frequent Rita’s as often as we do would rave about how wonderful this custard was.  (I kept thinking something flavorless with a pudding consistency).  But there was a lot of hype.
So, just as I often encourage my children to do, I tried something new.  And it was delicious.  Chocolaty, creamy, yumminess in a waffle cone.  Nothing will ever live up to my first true love, but until we move somewhere closer to center, I’m going to love the one I’m with.

Crazy Heart

Anyone with any sense who graduated from high school between approximately 1996 and 1999 fell in cinematic love with Jeff Bridges in his role as The Dude in The Big Lebowski.  (I personally fell in love with him in The Fisher King, but I was ahead of the times as a 5th grader.)  When I saw the trailers for this film, I assumed it would be great--Jeff Bridges was created (like called by God) to play a washed up country star.  When I found out Maggie Gyllenhaal was playing Bridges’ supporting actress, I decided to hold off on seeing it.  Previous experience with the divine Ms. Gyllenhaal told me that if she’s in it (even in a tiny role), I’ll need time to recover, (obviously exclude Mona Lisa Smile--which would have benefited greatly had the plot revolved more around Maggie’s character, Gisele), so I wanted to be in the right mindset to see it.
Of course, life with two children forces me to be “choosy” about which films I see in theaters, and by “choosy,” I mean, I hardly ever get to see movies in theaters, so by the time I actually got around to seeing Crazy Heart, Jeff Bridges had walked away with an Oscar.  What’s that smell?  Oh, the smallest hint of hype.  (Titanic, one of the greatest commercial successes of all time, took home 11 Oscars and 76 other awards that season, but was for me 194 minutes of wanting to slit my wrists.  Sorry, James Cameron, but I’ll make up for this later, I promise.)
So, my too-cool-for-school self put Jeff Bridges and his Oscar on notice when I sat down to watch Crazy Heart.  I spent the movie heartbroken for and humored by Bad Blake (and also wondering if he was related to me somehow...scarily similar to some of my MO relatives).  I loved every minute of the uncomfortable, drunken love story.  Added bonuses: a few minutes of Colin Farrell hawtness, and the soundtrack is so phenomenal, I could have watched it with my eyes closed.

Modern Family

I grew up watching The Cosby Show and Cheers and wouldn’t have made it through high school and college without Friends.  The exaggerated, slightly to very unrealistic plot lines of situational comedies are the yarn that ties off the American pop culture quilt.  For several years, American network TV has been disappointing to say the least with most of the best shows coming from cable.  Anything creative or fresh (i.e.: Sons and Daughters, Arrested Development, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Pushing Daisies) has died a quick, painful death at the hands of the ratings gods.  In the meantime, shows like Two and a Half Men have been on air for a decade.  
I know I’m not saying anything someone else hasn’t already said, but this whole debacle left me distraught (picture me crying crocodile tears, barely holding on to the remote).  However, ABC’s Modern Family has restored my faith in American TV.  Steven Levitan (sitcom royalty) has FINALLY brought us something worth watching.  The beauty of Modern Family is that it appeals to a general audience (re: gets good ratings) but is still smart enough to make people who dig subtle humor keep watching.  Nominated for 14 Emmys and taking home 6 including Outstanding Comedy Series, Modern Family is the Titanic  of TV except it’s actually good.

My earliest memories include lying in bed talking to God.  (I also always pictured him looking like Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top.)  Our conversations were so much a part of my life into adulthood that it wasn’t until I was in a small group Bible study in college that I realized our arrangement was special.  One girl in the group was asking how to know you’re hearing the voice of God, and I literally had never thought about this.  I had just always been confident that I was hearing God’s voice--sometimes in the quiet of my own heart, sometimes out of the mouths of people, sometimes through a good song.  I had never had any kind of block in communication.  When it was God, I knew it was God.  When it was not, I knew it was not.
I’m not trying to say I’m some sort of kooky self-appointed prophet.  I just believed that God was interested in my life, so if I presented my concerns along with my gratefulness, God would find a way to let me know the best way to go about living the life I was blessed with (one that for the most part has been nothing short of charmed).
BUT, the last three months have been really rough for me, and I can write about it now because I’ve come to some kind of resolution.  I have just never felt more distant from myself.  I’ve been jokingly calling it my 1/3 life crisis, but it was really a culmination of a lot of things--dealing with health issues, facing the knowledge that I’m finished having children, looking at our future in relation to my husband’s “career path,” which includes a look at the future in relation to my “career path,” and staring at 30 (which isn’t a bad thing, but holds very real cultural significance).  
All of these life stressors were made more dramatic by unexpected and unfamiliar hormonal shifts, a trip home to OK which included a lot of ghosts from my past life, and a ridiculously long trip for Scott during which we had very little communication.  Most of my conversations with God involved me screaming at the top of my lungs, punching a wall, and then stomping away before I heard anything he had to say.  And stupidly, I kept getting angry because I felt like God was distancing himself from me in a way I’d never experienced.
Finally, the other day after having a come-to-Jesus with the Mister, which cleared up a lot of the issues going on in my head, I realized exactly what was happening.  As a mother, I have to discern the proper course of action when one of my children is having a temper tantrum.  Sometimes it’s best to let them scream it out.  It might involve yelling and flailing, but it’s something they’ve got to work out on their own before I can bring any kind of discipline to the table.  Other times, they become so out of control that I have to take control back, wrap them in my arms, pull them into my lap, and rock them back and forth, saying, “It’s okay.  It’s okay.  It’s okay.  It’s okay.  It’s okay.  It’s okay.  It’s okay.  It’s okay.  It’s okay.  It’s all going to be okay.”
God and I have reached a new level in our relationship in that he’s reteaching me to be his child instead of trying to do too much on my own.  God is my mommy, and we all know that mommies are totally above the hype.  


Okay, James Cameron, I stand by my Titanic comments, but for all the hate I have for that disaster, I have a proportionate amount of love for Avatar.  Dystopic sci-fi mixed with a hippie-dippy planet-loving subtext?  Sign me up.  
The writing was obviously subpar, and the acting was exactly what I expected it to be, but JC came through on his promise to make it a revolutionary piece of art, which is good because that would have been a lot of effing money to spend on hype.
That said, the real reason I loved this movie so much is because I got to take Will to see it in IMAX 3D.  He sat through the entire two hours and forty minutes (pretty awesome feat for a four-year-old) without moving.  His eyes, behind the giant glasses, were GLUED to the screen.  Earlier in the day, my teenage cousins had taken him to see Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel.  When Avatar ended, he stood up and said, “I want to see Alvin and the Chipmunks in IMAX 3D!”  He pretty much thinks all other movies suck now.

Sigh No More by Mumford and Sons

I first met Mumford and Sons in a Rolling Stone article claiming that they are the best “Folk Import of 2010.”  Skeptical of all British bands for whom critics automatically sing praises (everybody wants to be the next Beatles), I was interested but not sold.
Now, we’re all annoyed at Jimmy Fallon’s ridiculous laughing at himself routines, but no one can deny that he has pretty rockin’ taste in music.  (The Roots are his freaking house band, dude.)  When I accidentally (or serendipitously, depending on how you look at it) caught an episode during which Jimmy Fallon giggled all over himself about how great M&S was, followed by an INCROYABLE performance of their title track, “Sigh No More,” I fell head over heels in love.  I literally paused the DVR mid-song and bought the album on Itunes.  (They had made their network debut on Letterman a couple of nights before, a video that I have watched over and over and over again since our first time together, during which Marcus Mumford sends a message just for me by winking.)
Sigh No More is one of those albums that makes me physically ill at the want and desire in some of the songs and brings me to tears in its happier moments. 
I can’t help but be self-conscious of my adolescent infatuation with this band.  M&S makes me want to fill a sheet of notebook paper with “Leia Mumford” in my prettiest script and then have a three-hour phone conversation in the middle of the night that gets me grounded from the phone.  My prayer is that our budding relationship lasts, but even if they fade away because they meet some other girl at another high school, I will always have a special place in my heart for M&S because first love, no matter how fleeting, is absolutely true love.

This is the saddest first day of school picture ever.


My first day of school was in kindergarten.  No Mother’s Day Out.  No preschool.  And since my mom is the best mom who ever walked the face of the earth, I just assumed I would keep my kids home until kindergarten and they would turn out perfect just like me.  (I’ll even admit that I thought moms who didn’t work were a little bit selfish and weak for putting their kids in childcare.)
The summer before Will turned three, I stared at my swollen belly and became a teensy bit panicked.  Several of my friends had their kids going to a Mother’s Morning Out program at a church not far from our house one or two days a week.  It was the first time I had even toyed with the idea.  I pushed it out of my mind when that built-in mom’s guilt instinct kicked in (I don’t have a REAL job.  Why would my child need childcare?  The best place for him is with me, right?  Right?)
As the school year approached, I went back and forth.  It would give me more time with the new baby.  Do I really want to spend the money?  Will could probably benefit from some structured instruction from another adult.  How would I get him there on time during the nights with no sleep?
On impulse one day, I decided I would call the director and if they had a spot, he would go.  If not, it was a sign.  (I don’t know who the woman is who was making this decision--Leia Johnson doesn’t even believe in fate.)  Fifteen minutes later, Will was signed up to be in the Turtles Class with Miss Stephanie and Miss Carol.
That was two years ago, and he has now completed 3K and started 4K.  I might add--that’s ALL-DAY 4K.  And even though it hurts my pride a little to say it, I LOVE preschool!  Ben and I have embarked on a new journey together as we have an abundance of one-on-one time to do all the things that Will and I did when Will was this age.  Will is absolutely thriving in his program (his favorite part of school, he says, is rest time???), and when I pick him up at 2:20 every day, it’s like a lovers reunited montage as we run toward each other, and I swoop him in my arms for smooches.
Preschool has been one of the most unexpected blessings in my life and a lesson that (gulp!) I’m not always right all the time.

First day of MMO--he peed in his boot that day.
First day of 3K--after Mommy had an unfortunate turn at shaving his head.
First day of 4K--with a uniform and all.

Girls Night Out

Growing up, I was always surrounded by a good group of girls--from church, from school, from my dance studio--always plenty of good slumber parties and boy talk.  As I got older and switched from Casady to Edmond, my pool of girlfriends was a lot smaller.  In college, I found fewer and fewer people that I considered close friends, mainly because most of the girls I knew fell into two categories: 1) Holier than thou, or 2) Get drunk and sleep with anything with a pulse.  (This might seem harsh, but it was my perceived reality.)  I didn’t really fit into either of those categories.  By the time we got to Charleston five years ago, I had basically forgotten what it was like to have women in my life that I depended on on a daily basis.
The stress and demands of the military wife’s life bring many women together, but my natural reaction was to deal with it mostly on my own.  On any given night, I would have chosen to hang out by myself rather than with other people.  Luckily for me, there were several girls who refused to let me be a hermit, and even though I didn’t know it at the time, they became my life source.  When those girls all started moving on to their next stations, I suddenly realized how much I was going to miss them.  For the first time in a long time, I’d gotten used to having girlfriends, and then they all left me.
Luckily, as fast as people leave, more people arrive, and it wasn’t long before I started finding new friends again.  When someone suggested a Girls Night Out, I was hesitant because I’m much more comfortable hanging out in my jammies than dressed up downtown, but everyone was so excited about a night out...
BEST NIGHT EVER.  And that’s saying a lot, considering half the night was spent at the hospital with one girl’s pregnancy issues.  After that minor hitch, we went out for Thai food, got hit on by a homeless (or at least severely intoxicated) man, shared a round of Red-Headed Sluts (how girly!), and went home to make passes at our own husbands.  Much better than any night out in college.

Brothers by The Black Keys

Two words: multiple eargasms.  
I will listen to just about any kind of music--country, R&B, pop!, hip hop, rap, bluegrass--whatever.  But in my heart of hearts, I am a rock and roll girl all the way.  I was raised on the Beatles and Pink Floyd.  My middle school years helped me hone in on Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, and The Doors (thank you, Lizzie Lisle), while simultaneously falling in love with Nirvana and Pearl Jam.  High school and college opened my eyes to jam bands and Indie rock.
I don’t cry in movies when animals die or even when people die, for that matter, but I have several memories of listening to albums for the first time and bawling my eyes out.  Sometimes, I’m moved by the misery or beauty of lyrics, but most of the time, it’s the music, the thumping base that mimics my heartbeat, the drums penetrating the rhythm of my brain, the guitar crying out for someone to try to understand her pain, that makes me lose it.
The Black Keys have brought me to my knees and continue to do so every single time my ipod shuffles one of their songs.  There’s nothing new under the sun when it comes to music, but it’s refreshing to hear a band that blends their wide-range of influences so cohesively for a sound that is the epitome of rock and roll.  The mainstream is starting to create a lot of hype around The Black Keys’ most recent album, Brothers, but I think they’re smart (and dorky) enough to avoid selling out.  Fingers crossed.


So I’ve already established that I rarely get to see movies in the theater.  But the buzz around Inception could not be avoided.  It just so happened to premiere while we were home for a visit, so with babysitters abounding, we were able to catch a matinee.  
My second favorite movie of all time and the one I’ve probably seen the most is Blade Runner.  As far as I’m concerned, all sci-fi to follow has Blade Runner  to thank for paving the road for these geeked-out weirdfests to cross over to mainstream.  Even though I LOVE science fiction (in book or movie form), Blade Runner is the only sci-fi movie to make it into my top ten because most sci-fi movies are copycat, hokey crap.
Inception is the first movie to sneak into the top ten in years.  It has all the elements of not only a great movie, but a great sci-fi movie.  Smart hero, pseudo-romance, suspense, and a really effing scary villain.  (I’d love to see Marie Cotillard and Rutger Hauer box it out.)
Okay, superdork moment over.

Working Out

I danced and played soccer and softball growing up.  I was a decent athlete, mostly in good shape, but I never LOVED “working out.”  The last time I lost weight on purpose was when I returned from Africa in the spring of 2003, having gained 23 pounds during my time there.  I’d had my initial fitting for my wedding dress before I left, so it was an absolute necessity that I lose weight if I wanted to get married in that dress.
At the beginning of this summer, I looked like a sack of potatoes in all of my swimsuits, so I decided it was time to get some work done.  I set a goal of being in the 120s by the time I turn 30 (at 5’ 2”, that’s a REALLY reasonable goal), and cutting back on snacks was not going to get the job done.
I HATE running (my knees go out on me and my limbs go numb every time), so that could not be my primary course of action.  I knew I was going to have to hit the gym.  I looked for classes but couldn’t find any that worked with my schedule.  I tried going to the kid-friendly section at the base gym but spent the entire time trying to get Ben to stop screaming with his face pushed up against the plexiglass.  It became abundantly clear that I was going to have to work out at home.  A few months earlier, some of my friends had told me that the Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred was legit.  I figured for $9 at Walmart, even if it ended up being a flop, it was worth a try.
Scott started out making fun of me for doing "aerobics," but I got him to join me at Level 2, and he ate his words.  The best part?  It’s only 20 minutes long, so I can easily work it into my day.  Coupled with going to ballet twice a week, I’ve lost 15 pounds so far, and I have two to go to be in the 120s by my birthday this week.  Totally doable.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually LIKE working out, too.  Jillian and I have had a good run (pun intended), but I think I’m even ready to move on to something a bit longer.  Crossfit?  P90X?  I’m hesitant, though, because those workouts come with a lot of hype.  I’ll let you know.

I wish I'd thought ahead to take before and after pictures, but I didn't, so here's the best I could do of a before.

Again, I don't have any good pictures of me head to toe, but I think you can get the idea.   Believe me, I look and feel a lot better now that I don't look like a sack of potatoes.

The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay

I got to the end of this list and realized there weren’t any books on the list.  This is not a reflection on the number of books I’ve read in the last year because I certainly haven’t slowed down any.  However, I have spent a lot of time over the past year revisiting some of my favorites (Kurt Vonnegut, Lewis Carroll, Madeline L’Engle, Norton Juster, William Faulkner).  I tried to read several books based on recommendations from other people, but sadly most of them drained slowly into the great black hole of hype.
There is something I like to refer to as the Harry Potter phenomenon, and that is when the media gets ahold of a Young Adult series and automatically hails it as “the next Harry Potter.”  As a loyal Harry Pothead, I am offended by the very idea of this comparison in most cases and bristle when anyone says, “If you liked Harry Potter, you’ll like this.”  The WORST of this phenomenon came with the Twilight SagaTwilight  is what it is, but the two series are only alike in two ways: 1) they were written by women, and 2) they are series.  Beyond that, I have no idea why anyone would put them in the same category.  A similar thing happened with the Percy Jackson  books.  I enjoyed them enough for their own merits, but I would never put it in the same category as HP.
Suzanne Collins put out The Hunger Games in September 2008, the first book in a three-part series, and I refused to read it because some idiots told me (you got it!), “Oh, if you like Harry Potter, you’ll LOVE The Hunger Games!”
Luckily, I started seeing posts about Mockingjay pop up on Facebook a couple of weeks ago from some of my favorite people, and I was reminded of the series.  Based on the fact that people I trust had stuck with it to the end and were still excited, I picked the first one up and headed to bed with it.  Eight days later, I was finished with all three.  (I would have read them faster, but I had to do stupid stuff like shower and take my kid to school.)
Not only is it superb Young Adult writing, but the main character, Katniss Everdeen, is the best female hero to come along since Princess Leia.  Hype conquered!  And I should probably submit an official apology to Mrs. Collins for not giving her a chance from the beginning.  I really am sorry that it took me so long to experience this greatness.


  1. I am really glad you started blogging. Entertainment for me! Thanks!

  2. I'm glad I started blogging, too. Entertainment for me! You're welcome!

  3. TOTALLY agree about Modern Family (miss Arrested Development so much *sniff*), Hunger Games Trilogy, Preschool, & GNO. Most of the rest, I don't know anything about, so I'll have to check them out. The section on God made me teary - it's so very true. And way to go on the weight loss!!! WOOHOO for YOU!!