Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday Pop Culture Check In

Dear Loyal Reader,

Now that I have some time to actually pause and think about stuff I've been doing this thing called "enjoying myself" again. It's a new concept I know. I hear the French invented it and then the Italians perfected it. Either way, if its European its a win for me.

I know you're dying to know what I'm talking about so I'll review by medium -

Book wise -

I'm currently reading "Speaker for the Dead" at the little brother's invitation. Apparently these Ender Orson Scott Card books have been very influential on him and he wants to share. I'm enjoying it a lot more than I was originally and am looking forward to finishing. I also read "Ender's Game" for the same reason and I liked it - eventually. These are the book version of "Star Wars" to him in terms of sacredness so a good sister should maybe know what he's talking about. I'll let you know how it turns out.

I've also thoroughly been enjoying the King Killer Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss. He's a newbie novelist out of Wisconsin but has written some of the most lyrically beautiful stories that I've read in a while. "The Name of the Wind" came out a few years back and my oldest brother gave a copy of it to my Dad for Christmas. The book made the family rounds and I really liked it as I mentioned before. The second book of the series came out in early March "A Wise Man's Fear" and I read it with much the same vigor. I think I literally lost a whole Saturday to it and then some. Time well spent.

Movie Wise -

I've been a bit light on the movie side of things because, well, they cost money, but I did, like any self respecting bookie babe, make time for the new Jane Eyre

It was good. I recommend it. It's not a train wreck but it's not the strongest telling either. It was deliciously true to the Gothic aspects of the novel though which I appreciated. Movie makers get a bit distracted by the love story and ignore that the fact that it's set against these dark Gothic edges. I think that canvass makes it that much more of a beautiful story and it's almost always left out but they got it this time around. They didn't cut out St. John either. He's a common causality to the editors but he survived too.

In Future Cinema News Peter Jackson released one of, I hope, many short behind the scene videos about the making of "The Hobbit". There are not words for my how much I'm looking forward to this but I will try HOWZA! MAMMM WHHHE KKKKK! LOOOKK! ITSSSAAAAAA! IttzzaahRichardArmitage iookkk kwkkwoo woww waaaaaa PeterJacksonkjfweo nndsojf onklnlkenknewljrenlkn ;nivnIloveNewZealandakjdfjkdhhHH HAHAHAAAAKKKK ohmagahgagagaghgahgah.

Music wise -

I've been informed that I have tickets to see these gargeous bright stars called "The Civil Wars" in the near future and, like always, I'm very excited. They're a group I've had a hard time not listening to. They're amazing. I wholly endorse them. Yay for some real musicianship and for genre blends. They're always the best. Much like mixed babies.

Also, GREAT NEWS! The Beastie Boys are putting out a 25th anniversary album on May 3rd and have released this new track that I have been listening to practically on loop and cannot get out of my head. They put together this hilarious promo featuring nearly every funny person alive. I might have watched 7 or 8 (teen) times. LizPAA warning - there are two "F" words for the tender-eared

TV wise -

I've been sucked into the very funny world of BBC's "Top Gear". It's a car show hosted by three middle aged perma-adolescents. It's been on the air for about 10 years and most of the series is available on Netflix's Instant Play. I love cars. I love British humor and I love informative playful approaches to things and that is what I love about this show

They go on hilarious adventures like driving to the North Pole and they periodically have Formula 1 drivers on and WOWZAH - some of these boys are quite handsome. I've picked out Jenson Button (UK)

and Mark Webber (AUS) as my favorites.

Why has Formula 1 been keeping these darling boys to themselves?! It's just not fair.

This show has also reinforced my want (read: lust) for some WAY too expensive cars. The show is great though. I have heartily laughed during every episode I've seen. Which is many. Don't ask.

Blog wise -

Hot Guys Reading Books

Enchanted Serenity of Period Films

and Best Week Ever remain places for constant giggles and happiness.

Win Blog deserves an honorable mention as well.

So yay for enjoying myself again and yay for having so much good stuff to enjoy! I hope your weekend is made up of some of the best stuff possible!

your Liz

Thursday, April 14, 2011

High School is Never Over

So I've been thinking lately and it's led me down a few anxious roads.

It's wedding season and some of my favorite people are getting married and/or coupling up. This, as the selfish person that I am, has me feeling like a baboon with the exposed Red Bottom of Singlehood like a single thing.

I was mentally reviewing all the wedding dates, planning outfits, gift shopping trips, traveling schedules etc and it occurred to me that there was a wedding that I really don't want to go to because everyone I've ever known will be there.

Let me explain-

As some of you may know, I grew up in Pasadena. I love this fact about me. I consider it one of the best gifts my parents gave me. It is an amazing cultural center of a small city with serious history all within spitting distance LA's wonderfulness. It also provided one of the finest social educations a girl could ask for part of which being how harsh and enduring Elitism is.

See - there is A LOT of money in Pasadena. Like old money. Old, established, fox hunting kind of money. We grew up in a pretty nice part of town but in the super run-down house built in 1910 that still had the original wiring that hadn't been cared for. I loved it to pieces but we were a living "One Of These Things is Not Like The Other" segment from Sesame Street. My neighbor behind us owned horses that she kept in a stable along side their free-standing spa in their back yard and I loved those too. The people I went to church with regularly hosted large Stake Youth activities at their houses, because, well, we fit and they had a nicer lawn than the stake center.

Church, for the most part, in all doctrinal aspects was superb. I was surrounded by some of the most gracious excellent people a girl could hope for. I loved my bishop. He was one of the kindest and best of men. He knew who I was. He always came and said hello. He always had time for me. He even came to Girls Camp for the whole week without permission because he wanted to care for and be with his kids as he called us. However, there were a few bits of Elitism that managed to sneak in the cracks of my very good life.

One of them was not my bishop, but the rest of his family. His wife was the high voiced, tightly coiffed blond "BYU Princess" as my mother put it even though she went somewhere else for college. She was an avid crafter - the "I'm better than you crafter", kept a LARGE and perfectly wood plaqued, polished, dusted, and vacuumed home and was the mother of a few boys. She loved this fact. A lot.

A few of these boys were close in age with me. They were roosters of the worst kind. Privileged and educated boys that, from where I observed, were not really reigned at all. When I first learned about the historic Medici family I perfectly understood because of my interactions with my hometown Medicis. My older brother acquired his first playboy magazine at the hands of one of these boys and I received my first lesson in Elitism from the other.

We were sparse on LDS dating prospects in Pasadena. There were only 7 members of the church in my high school and I was the only one in my high school class. The other 20 kids in mutual were about all we had. So it was the Medici and a few others and that was my young impressionable view of the world of dating.

There was one awkward summer during an awkward roadshow where one of the Medici boys made a pass at me. Nothing big, just a wink and a head-jerk invitation to one of the classrooms off stage. Killer romantic, I know. But seriously - who could blame him? I was flatterd but more confused because just the other week I had heard his mother talking in the hallway to someone else after Relief Society saying "Well Liz is sweet but she wouldn't do for any of my boys. I think I like (fill in boring but skinny Anglo socialite girl's name who was the same age, grade, and hair color as me but who came from a much wealthier background and went to an expensive private school here) much better."

I don't know if she was aware I was 3 people away from her waiting for my younger brothers to get out of Primary and wanted me to know that she didn't approve of me or if she thought she was speaking in confidence but there you go. That's how she felt and the things you learn in hallways at 15 stay with you.

So fast forward to random pick up during roadshow practice and my utter confusion. I did what any normal 15 year old would do that's read one too many fairy tales - I completely froze. This was interpreted by him as a refusal, which I suppose it was. I wasn't going to brave Mama Medici's wrath. I'd bring my whole world down on me. He reacted very differently than I thought. He got very hurt, butt hurt, flouncy even for the rest of the bloody show and summer (the words "man up" still come to mind). We were never friends or had a real conversation after that summer. Can't say I'm too broken up about it but now I'm doubly vilified by Mama Medici because I've HURT her boy along with not being good enough for him. This was made known through another set of passive aggressive wonders and painfully measured looks.

I'll concede, I did have kind eyes for this one Medici boy and we did go to the same school but, like always, moved in very different circles. I had hoped that maybe, perhaps, things would line up for us but I was so blindsided by all of this I didn't know what to do with it. I was 15! I was in love with Morissey and Kurdt Cobain and being different in the good way. I had NO idea how to navigate something like this and I was already aware that Mama Medici and my mom didn't get on so well (big surprise there) so I just never mentioned it. To anyone. Ever. I didn't want to cause any more trouble. I was already buckling under the knowledge that there were people I was supposed to love and trust in the world that aggressivly criticized and disapproved of me and if I was ever to be approved of I had to have the checklist of boring-but-skinny-Anglo-socialite-girl-with-money-who-went-to-the-fancy-school and I spent hours on the floor of my room crying about that because there wasn't anything I could do about it.

Needless to say - I'm still of a split mind on the Medici family. I love love love my bishop and he still remains one of the best people I've ever known but I find the rest of the family a challenge.

Because the universe likes to watch me squirm I learned that this family moved from Pasadena shortly after we did to a very similar area to where we did and are still in my semi-immediate circle of influence. Their youngest son is getting married soon and it's his wedding I'm dreading.

One - because his brothers will be there with their perfectly coiffed wives and litters of, no doubt, beautiful kids and grad degrees and measure looks

Two - because everyone else in that ward that I grew up with in Pasadena still lives there and knows this family very well. These people are very real parental figures to me, are my proverbial village and who I love, idolize, and want with everything in my heart to impress and approve of me. They will be there and I feel terrifyingly lacking. I feel like I've let them down by not being a published author, mother of 4 married to a Nobel candidate/part-time stunt man and am working on a home business line of Homemaker Fitness videos w dietary supplements because I'm an avid triathlete that volunteers with my local Search and Rescue and am putting the finishing touches on my dissertation on C.S. Lewis.

Three - obviously - because I'm still single. I don't mind being overweight and seeing everyone.They all know I was never the ballerina type. That doesn't feel as large of a failing to me as being single. I think I would honestly prefer to walk in there with a known criminal record than walk in alone.

This fact has me of a split mind as well. Half of me, the vocal Feminist/XenaLiz is appalled that I would let myself determine my value based on my marital status. She tells me that it doesn't matter, that these people are just people and can only affect me if I let them. She's flummoxed that I haven't bucked the 30 years of social programming telling me that the best person I can be is who I would be in a marriage and I am still semi-developed and thereby semi-valued without it.

The other half, the tattered half, the one that's holding the pieces of my excitable heart together with both hands, a few toes and some string is very tired. Too tired to speak in anything that she doesn't know to be true because that takes the least amount of effort. She says that it is a fact that I'm not married and there's little chance of that changing in the next few weeks. She also points out that I haven't even received an invitation yet so all this fretting might be for naught.

I've done pretty good with my discount shoes, second hand books and public education and lets be real, frankly I need to forgive all mentioned parties. It's just hard when these harsh ideas, memories of measured and disapproving looks, critical conversations, and unwanted lables are all embedded in the cement of my subconscious with their spiky ends sticking out.

I don't know why this is surfacing now and I don't know what other issues may have played into Mama Medici's behavior besides her utter disregard for me and my family. I don't know why my love for my friend and his marital happiness is being superseded by my anxiousness about being judged and letting people down that I love but I do know one thing - there is no way in hell I'm going to that wedding.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Today is the Day

So to make the most of my time off I've recently volunteered as a Literacy Tutor through the Pomona Public Library.

I've gone through a bit of training and I'll be honest, I was way more confident before training than after. The training had all these different methods and things not to say or not to do to keep from offending our students. I understand that working in adult literacy can be a bit touch -and-go but some of the stories used in training were terrifying.

I also get that our students are people that have struggled and been judged their whole lives and are putting themselves in a vulnerable place asking for help but it was all so much and so charged I became afraid if I wasn't perfectly practiced and ready to go then I would permanently scar these people in need. Mind you, my training consisted of about 4.5 hours of videotape (yes - that's right. I said videotape) instruction and despite the fights with the tracking after multiple rewinds to fully absorb what I thought I missed, I apparently competed with success. Typically they have 3 Saturday training courses for their tutors but I was anxious to get started and the next series didn't start for another 3 months so I got to learn via video instead.

Needless to say, when I got my tutor assignment I was pretty terrified.

I received my student's file and read through everything and my heart broke into quite a few bits. My student's penmanship was somewhere between Arabic and Doctor. He had an assessed 3rd grade reading level, was middle-aged, out of work, and had asked for a female tutor. How had someone gotten to middle-age equipped with what he had? How had this happened? Helping out someone in this much in need is a LARGE task, one I haven't had before, one that had high stakes and so my thoughts began to swirl and prey.

What if all I do is make it worse and frustrate him?

What if I offend him?

What if I'm terrible one-on-one? I'm so much more used to classroom settings.

What if I can't see and assess his needs properly and get him working on the whole wrong trajectory?

What if he's really mean? These are one-on-one tutor sessions - that can be dangerous with the wrong person!

What if this blows up and I find that I'm not really a good educator and I've just been diluting myself since forever and all I'm cut out to do is be a dish washer?

And so on and so forth.

So I put off making an appointment with my assigned tutoree, we'll call him Pip, for a few days but I finally did and we met today and let me tell you - I feel better but more broken hearted.

He is a sweet and totally sincere married guy that, when asked what his literacy goals were responded "I want to be able to read the Bible. I want to pick up a newspaper and know what it means. I want to be able to pick up a users manual for something and make sense of it. That's all"

My heart broke in the good way, in the I-will-do-everything-you-let-me-to-make-that-happen kind of way. "I want to be able to read the Bible" is something that will echo in me for a long time. I think it touched every missionary fiber that I still have. Because that's what it's all about isn't it? Literacy brings about a more meaningful life, a more driven life, a more independent life, a life more connected to God and those around you. 8 year olds at church regularly read outloud from the Bible, confidently even, and that sweet and sincere desire has been pressing on this man his whole life.

Because he had glasses and a bad back growing up in the 60s he got put in to Special Education and "graduated" high school but with an elementary school reading level. He's been told his whole life that he was dumb and he couldn't do anything. Not OK America! Not OK!

He's scrapped by doing auto repair and driving a forklift. He is really good with his hands - carpentry - the works. He wanted to be a massage therapist but you know what? He couldn't read the forms that he had to fill out for the office. He couldn't make sense of the charts of the muscles of the body. He was lost so he had to give it up. He was married for about 5 years before he told his wife that he couldn't read.

After getting to know him a bit and realizing that he's a kinesthetic and spacial learner (mechanics, carpentry, warehouse work) a whole game plan started forming in my head. I gave him a piece of paper and had him start writing things down. Firstly I told him he needs to find a simple notebook and start writing every day. Even if it's just copying what's in the newspaper. I told him that he has to start training his muscles in his had to do what his brain tell them. Just like being a mechanic, just smaller muscles. Next I told him to get a little pocket notebook (I call them detective notebooks) to write down words he doesn't recognize for us to go over with our regular vocabulary. I found some letter blocks and magnets that we're going to use for spelling and recall. Next I told him that we're going to read a book. I read "The Phantom Tollbooth" in 3rd grade and I figured that's a great place to start. His eyes got really big but I told him that it'll be fine and that we'll read it together, no matter how long it takes.

Then we went through a newspaper article. Slowly. Word by sounded out word. It took 45 minutes but, dab gum it, he read that whole newspaper article. He had the most satisfied look on his face when we were done. It was somewhere between a smile and a smirk. Like when you're choking down a yelp for joy. I congratulated him and you know what he said? He said he'd never done that before. He had never read a whole newspaper article. Until today. Today's was his day.

I sat with him as he filled out his library card application. It took 30 minutes. He had never had a library card. Until today. Today was his day.

I showed him how to find a library book. He had no idea. I showed him how to find "The Phantom Tollbooth" and then checked it out. He's never checked out a book before. Until today! Today is the day!

He's never read a whole book before either but that will change. He will read, he will understand and he will know that he is NOT a screw up and doesn't need to head-down barrel through life anymore. He knows more than he thinks he does. It's just a matter of practice and some boosted confidence. I have 50 years of criticism and negative self-talk to undo but it's possible and as he sees himself do things he never thought he could, like read a newspaper article, like read a book, like remember words, he will progress and he will be able to read his Bible.

In other words, he is exactly what I need as much as I am what he needs. His story and our lesson has grounded me more in this one morning session than anything else these last couple of weeks.

I feel so silly for any bit of self-pity I may have indulged in over the last few weeks. Here I am, equipped with everything I need to do anything I want. I have a supportive family, my youth, the most amazing friends in the world, an enduring Faith, a great education, a computer even. I have a good life and it's time that I'm properly grateful.

There are so many people who seriously need help. I feel so selfish that I've taken this long to give back, even the little that I am.

Today Pip has a book in his hand. Today Pip got a win he's wanted his whole life in conquering a newspaper article. Today a library administrator has one less thing to worry about and one more student paired up. Today I relearned what gratitude is and what it needs to be. It needs to be time. It needs to be patience. Today needs to be everyday.