Miss Representation: A Review

Miss Representation, a documentary film by Jennifer Siebel Newsom

(note –there is a cool-ass Austin event at the end of this posting. check it out!)

Summary: Women’s portrayal in the media generally, um, sucks. OK, so it’s not a very literary word, but that sums it up so nicely. It stinks on several fronts: crazy as this sounds, we women INTERNALIZE this crap and end up not liking ourselves for it, and it pits us against one another (which the media would have us believe is just our nature). It’s also not good because women who are in roles of power  (e.g. Hilary Clinton et al), get dogged in the media,  so that women leader role-models become fewer and further between. And, finally, it is cruddy for all because it drains us as a culture – it hurts boys and men too when one-half of a productive society is objectified and not represented in that same society.

I should start out by saying that this ‘women’s portrayal in the media’ has been a hot button of mine for quite some time. Pretty much since college when I discovered my feminist voice through the Women’s Studies program at my liberal university, where I took lots of my electives outside of the business school (I have since decided that if one takes all electives outside of the school in which your major resides, perhaps you should be looking at that. Although, what would I have done with a Women’s Studies major? Perhaps I would have gone on to have babies, write a blog from home and do reviews on documentaries covering feminist issues?). Anyway, I saw the movie a few months back on OWN (Oprah’s Network), and my head has been spinning a bit since, but let me make some sense of things. Before I begin perhaps I should declare some of my credentials that make me qualified to write a review on this film: ummmmm, hmmmm, let’s see… I am a woman. I am a feminist.  I have a daughter. My aforementioned Womens Studies classes? I am 40 now so I’m very wise. I love movies. I love to write. In the end, I guess my credentials for writing this review are pretty much the same as the woman who created the film: primarily, that I care. And I am deeply bothered by the issues that the film outlines. I want to be part of the solution. One of the biggest parts of the solution, that I see, is just to TALK about it. Among  women. Among men. With our DAUGHTERS and SONS. Before we can talk about it, however, we need to be made aware. 

The film was created by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, and her credentials, despite what I wrote above, are plenty. During her MBA program at Stanford, she worked overseas working with a global environmental organization, where her primary focus was providing micro-enterprise opportunities to women. After business school she moved to Los Angeles where she performed in numerous films and TV shows, so she knows a bit about “the media” as she was a part of it. She went on to found Girls Club Entertainment to develop and produce independent films that empower women. She opens the film with any mother’s story – about having a baby. She had a baby girl, just like I did. She worried about the state of our world and the implications it had for her daughter. Yep, me too. But she, unlike myself, made an award-winning documentary film to raise awareness and to start a big conversation. She is the Founder and CEO of MissRepresentation.org – a call-to-action campaign centered on the themes the film. I simply took the pledge – it was the least I could do. And I’m organizing a screening here in Austin (details at the end of this post). 

First, allow me the grand conjecture that I believe the film to be well done – it tells a good story. It is chillingly convincing. Some of the statistics seem a  bit over-blown – the number of hours teenagers watch TV, read magazines, on the internet, etc, for example, added up to a staggering 10.5 hours of media exposure a day. Really? Don’t they go to school or something? These statistics all clearly come from other sources and the film maker simply reports them, so this isn’t really a diss on the film. I chalk this up to the statistics amp factor – all statistics are a little over-blown for one big reason: our world is crowded with messages, and every organization out there has to make their issue seem like the most pressing one so they can earn grants and attract donations. Everyone’s stats get a bit amped, within justifiable reason, of course, because most of the statistics are estimates to some degree. Who am I to say the stats are inaccurate, I’m just saying, if you are like me, you might have a skeptical moment around some of them in the film. And that’s fine, as long as you watch on because… 

This movie is really important. It’s important to women, it’s important to girls, but it’s equally important to men and boys who are as damaged by women’s portrayal in the media. There is a cost to society when half of it is not empowered, one way or another. There is also a very direct cost to the male’s psyche that a) also ends up trying to live up to some media-make-believe ideal and b) never quite finds satisfaction in relationships that do not involve a supermodel, or to be even more accurate, an air-brushed, computer image of a super model. 

In terms of watching the film- it’s pretty riveting. I found it a little frustrating at times when a big  statistic was shown (some involving rape, for example) and as my brain was trying to grasp that number, the film moved on to it’s next equally shocking statistic. I was left a little like I had been in a boxing match: here’s a  right and then a left… and now we are on to Gavin Newsom (California’s Lieutenant Governor, ex-Mayor of San Francisco AND he’s married to the film-maker, in case this felt a little random),one of several male voices in the film.

This was the other part of the movie that I had a little trouble following. It’s more a challenge with watching this type of film (lots of interviewees) than a commentary on this particular one, but there are a lot of very intelligent, very articulate people making GREAT points, but my friend and I found ourselves asking each other a lot, “wait, who is that again?” The film introduces them, of course, but there are a LOT of great participants in the film – from all kinds of industries, including academics who study the effect that this crap actually has on our own self-worth to people who come from the media. Many are highly recognizable – Katie Couric and Condoleezza Rice (and I MUST shamefully admit here I have always dismissed her due to her close affiliation with a certain G.W. Bush, whom I’ve never cared for, but I pretty much love her now – more articulate, powerful women like her please!) to name just two. One of my favorite moments was just after some negative clips about Nancy Polosi, then who should show up, but Nancy Polosi herself. It was with nice effect. And though I’ve left them for last to mention, they really are the best for last – the movie features some really articulate, AMAZING high school girls who see a light and are speaking out for girls of their and every generation. Like Rosie O’Donell said in the discussion after the film, it’s these girls that give the rest of us hope.

I’m not going to say that the issues this film raises are easy and this film allows you to walk away feeling like there are all kinds of solutions under way. Quite the opposite. The issues raised are complicated and in some ways, it seems like there are no solutions. This film will set your mind thinking, and it may not stop, so there, you’ve been warned. Part of me was sad about the making of this film because, like I said, this has been a hot button for me for nearly 20 years and after this long, of course there is some, “Really? We are still talking about this?” and some “Really? It’s even worse now?” But after the film, during the Rosie O’Donnel hosted panel-discussion, where one of the panelists was Gloria Steinem (I just did a prostration), this lovely, lovely woman who has been working through this STUFF her entire adult life, was the beacon of positive reminders on how far women HAVE come since the 50’s, the 60’s, the 70’s…to now. Rosie raised a question early on, “WHY is it so bad right now?” This was one of the questions that I was left with after the film. Gloria (we are on a first name basis now) gracefully answered with a “because we have been successful. With change in one direction, there is always back-lash.” Ahhhh. That actually really calmed the ulcer I had brewing by the end of the 90 minute film. Either from the subject-matter or the 2 pieces of chocolate cake I indulged in while watching. 

One point that the film makes and is a beautiful reminder of is that media is not a portrayal of real life, although it likes to present itself as such. It is actually a sensationalized, un-real world created for our entertainment. But we are so bombarded by it – our children are so bombarded by it (and they may not have the facilities to constantly make this distinction) that we all end up forgetting that IT’S NOT REAL. The images are real and I think they do real damage. But where this gives me an enormous amount of hope is that it’s not about changing the behemoth we call “media” (which, by the way, this film and OWN, the network that was showing this film are part of “media”, so there’s the glimmer of hope right there, which Gloria also mentions), but just reminding ourselves and educating our children what “media” is and what it’s not. These images are created to get attention, and often, to sell products. It’s our CHOICE to pay attention or to buy the products. You’ve heard it before and it shows up in this movie too: Be the change you want to see. Or in the case, that you don’t want to see.

So there you have it. And now you (for those local you’s) can SEE it too AND, just because you are you, we are throwing in a kick-ass panel discussion afterwards that will focus on kids, the effect this stuff can have on them, and how to best parent through it. Come one. Come ALL. I can’t wait to see you there.



MissRepresentation Screening

ACE Academy
3901 Shoal Creek Blvd., Austin, TX 78756 
(Congregation Beth Israel)

Buy Tickets here. Scroll down to 2nd event.

March 1st. 6:30 p.m.

Followed by panel discussion 8:30-9:30

Panelists

Lisa Wellons Rothfus, LCSW, MSW, BeD. 
Licensed Psychotherapist with 23 years of experience working with individuals, families, groups, and schools. About KidKonnect: the only program in Austin that combines the disciplines of neuroscience, psychology, biology, and gender difference research to help parents and educators more effectively connect with and teach kids.

Julia Cuba, Executive Director of GENAustin (Girls Empowerment Network) A career of working in not-for-profit programs with women and at-risk girls, including Girls Scouts of Central TX. GENAustin works with girls to teach critical thinking, assisting girls to think independent of peers and the media.

Mark White, LCSW, LMFT 
Mark White is a social worker and licensed psychotherapist in private practice, specializing in children, adolescents, parent consultation, families, and group therapy.

Audience

Parents and high school age children (but anyone welcome at parents own discretion). The film is not rated, but this is what Common Sense Media has to say.

Net proceeds to benefit ACE Academy

Sponsored by ThreeDefined
Call Carmen Sutherland, 415.531.6765 with questions

 

I couldn’t have said it better, part 2

Ok, Ok, so I’m doing it again. I’m cheating, but here is another essay I just have to share…and I haven’t quite gotten my sh*t together enough to start writing again. But it’s coming. Cool things are coming. Promise. In the mean time, I love this essay on parenting. I actually want to send the link to my last post to this woman and say, ‘hey – you were present enough. It WAS hard. No regrets’. Then again, I think she has things figured out pretty well for herself. This essay makes me cry at least 15 times every time. If it’s too lengthy for what you have time for now, here’s a few lines from one of my favorite parts:

When they were very small, I suppose I thought someday they would become who they were because of what I’d done. Now I suspect they simply grew into their true selves because they demanded in a thousand ways that I back off and let them be.

I look at the date of this post and I realize that the lessons on parenting, the real lessons, and not ‘what the experts are currently saying’ lessons,  they are timeless. 

Smartie Pie

A few weeks ago, my daughter (3) was sitting on the counter. She and dada were having a bonding moment and he gave her three big smooches in a row on her head. She giggled and inquired, “Dada, why are you giving me so many kisses?” He replied with, “Because you are sooooo cute!” 

Part of me cringed inside. I didn’t want to cringe – it was a beautiful moment. He was saying what he felt. She loved the attention. I didn’t say anything then, deciding I would just let it be. But it swirled around my head for a couple weeks and I knew it had to come out. I brought it up (you know how husbands love this – when you bring up some moment, like, “remember 2 weeks ago when you said xxxx?”) and explained to him that it accentuated the importance of being cute in winning her fathers love. “You could have said, ‘Because I love you.’” He, perhaps rightfully so (?), looked at me like I was a little crazy. “You don’t get it, do you?” I asked, but didn’t need to. “It’s just that I don’t want her growing up thinking that being cute is the most important thing,” I continued, “but maybe I’m just being a bit overly sensitive.” “Yes, I think you are” he stated. It is not the first time I’ve been told I’m “too sensitive”, I “think too much” or I am “too feminist.” 

I can’t help it. I am sensitive. I think a lot about the things happening around me (thus, this blog). I am a feminist. And my family can benefit from all of these things. Or be driven crazy by them. Or both. 

I dropped the topic with my husband. I call it “planting a seed.” It will not be the last time we talk about it, but truth be told, I also didn’t push it because I am really trying to figure this one out for myself: the role of beauty in my children’s self confidence. Both of my children are beautiful and they have both garnered a lot of attention from passer byers for their looks, especially Eliana, who is so petit. She is a miniature version of miniature and her fine little features, coupled with her big brown eyes are remarkable – she is “beautiful”, “cute” and “gorgeous.” I, myself get overwhelmed by her beauty, but then, I am her mother. They are both blessed to be so beautiful – being attractive provides for a lot of advantages in our world. I want them to know they are beautiful and I want them to feel beautiful and I want them to own beautiful – something I have struggled with (clearly). 

When we are 3, or even 5, knowing and believing we are beautiful is easy. It gets harder. So, in particular, I want my daughter to also own smart and funny and feisty and fill in the blank with whatever she wants to own. Max too, but society is better set up for allowing him those things. For her, I just don’t want ‘pretty’ to top her list of priorities. I, of course, tell her all of these other things, along with being beautiful, but there just seems to be something very important about that father-daughter relationship, if you want to believe anything about psychology over the last 50+ years. So I guess I just want Hubbie to say the right things. I want him to do the right things and to promote the right things. I guess I want to….um…..control things. I know, I know…I can’t. And I shouldn’t But I can absolutely educate, which is how I see my role in this. I’ll present my case to him, he can interpret and do what fits for him. After all, he married a feminist, so he kind of knew what he was getting himself into. I think. 

Then in the middle of all of this thinking about beauty and self-confidence, this film popped into my space: Miss Representation. Part of me is sad because I feel like this movie could have been made 20 years ago when I was in college, and it’s still, if not more relevant today. I do, however, think there have been some positive strides and attention for women too, just not enough. I also think that a very big part of being a parent is allowing my children appropriate doses of media for their ages and when I can’t control it anymore (because that time will come quickly), helping them understand the media and all of it’s images and personalities. To help them understand what it is and what it isn’t.  But I also think there is something to the responsibility of those producing the images in our media. I think the messages we send out in our world affect a collective consciousness which, in turn, affects how we see and treat people. And how we see or treat ourselves. 

So, I’ll go to the movie. I’ll blog some more. I’ll make a difference however I can. The biggest difference I can probably make is for the two little beings in my house, who provide even more inspiration for me to change the world we live in. Even if it’s one kitchen-counter conversation at a time.

Death by Steve Jobs

I’ve alluded to this before, but I think a lot about death. I sometimes attribute this to being Buddhist, but really, I’ve always thought a lot about death. About my own, about losing those that I love, about how lucky I’ve been to be sheltered from it because I also often reflect on the heartbreak and tragedy it brings. I’ve written very long blog posts about death, never to publish them because death is… messy. It is so simple and yet, so complicated. One of the most interesting things about death, I think, is that we call the ones who are left behind the “survivors” when, in fact, I am certain that these are the victims. Dying is easy* – dealing with death is hard.

It seems appropriate, however, today, of all days, to write about death – the day that the world lost an incredible one of us. I also find it interesting that when people are great in life, their death seems to have as much, if not more of an impact as their life. I say more because death is the one thing that truly humbles every one of us. In this humility, we are acutely aware of own humanity. It forces us to reflect on our own lives, on the lives of others. “We” lost a public figure – a man who did think differently and whose ideas changed our material world, whose character may have changed our emotional one. But a few lost a father, one lost a husband. Their grief is the same grief shared by every person who has ever lost a father or a husband. Or a wife or a sibling or a child. So then “we” empathize with those most affected by the loss of an individual, and we can look at the ones we love through the lens that lets us all see what’s important. That we are alive. It’s the tougher of the two options, but wow, isn’t that great?

Perhaps reflecting on the loss of a man such as Mr. Jobs, whose life has impacted our world so greatly inspires us to be better,  but I think that what better means is that it actually inspires us to be us, more human, more connected. Death is happening all around us, every day, but when it happens to someone like Steve Jobs it reminds us that life, no matter how big and boldly it is lived, is fragile. It is said that the reason the Buddha chose to die was to teach impermanence – that no matter how enlightened one is, they are not free from the cycle of life. Steve Jobs was a great man – but really, his life was no more precious or valuable than our own. The same potential resides in us all. Thanks, Mr. Jobs, for reminding us of that. He did change our lives and how we use technology, but perhaps his greatest gift is right now, our collective nod to one another and our appreciation for life.

*clarification: I don’t think the process of dying, of leaving this physical world, is easy at all, I think it’s very very hard. What I meant here was more the after-math of death.

The chicken and the egg

I have a group of women that I get to meet with every month – all like minded mothers looking inward, sharing ourselves with one another…all with the goal of becoming better people, better mothers and also, with no goal at all. I wish this kind of group for every woman on the planet. After our last session, one of the ladies was inspired and wrote this. I was moved and am posting it here (with her permission, of course – thanks Shannon!). Enjoy….

 

The chicken and the egg

Small hands extricate the spider and her delicate sack

from the bicycle pedal.  The sack, as large and as bulging

on her tiny frame as Santa’s, is admired, her progress tracked

across the path, speculation raining down how many babies

are transported to safety thus, tiny

as angels.

 

Watching her girls’ industry, she considers the chicken

and the egg,  the theory it is the egg that comes first after all, genetic

transformation unfurling on the  zygotic level. One being emerging

from another because of some small rearrangement of code,

some unforeseen shift. A mystery emerging in the center

of mysteries.

 

The spider and her babies are abandoned for the joys

of riding downhill.  The silken thread of this logic snaps and floats

away from her.  There are cars to watch for and helmets to adjust.

She cradles the shell of their day, the unbearable beauty

of their still delicate skulls as they push and pedal

home, dimly aware of a constant

evolution.

– Shannon Baley                                                                                                           © June 2011

It’s Real. And Organic.

There are a few things that I really love in this world…

  • My family
  • Friends
  • Whole Foods
  • Dancing. But not just dancing, like, getting my groove on, shak’n my bootie, freak’n.

And then there’s someone who crawls into my head and pulls out parts of me and molds them into One. Creative. Masterpiece. http://www.fogandsmog.com/whole-foods-parking-lot/

OK, so my family and friends do not appear in the video, but you get the idea. While I watched this the first time, I felt like it was me, in video-format. Like if I had any musical talent, any lyric-writing ability, any creative bones in my body, I might have wanted to come up with it. But I don’t have any of these things, so I rely on the creativity of others, and sometimes, people create shit that is like, my shit. Like, it’s made for me. It makes me feel one with the world. Thanks, homies. Gotta go and shake it…..

Drummer Boy

The other day I was sent this little life-changing morsel: http://www.hedyyumi.com/about-us/ted-talk/. Ok, so if you didn’t want to sit through 20 minutes of life-changing talk (though I encourage you to take the time later), I’ll summarize for you because that’s just how nice I am. She speaks about the 3 invisible connectors between people: The Space, The Bridge, and The Encounter. The Space is where the relationship lives between two people – the sacred space. The Encounter is the resonance that physically occurs between 2 brains that has been proven to actually calm our central nervous systems.  How we get to the Encounter is to cross The Bridge. The Bridge connects the space of two individuals and you cross it by taking a deep breath, being present, leaving your “stuff” on your own side of the bridge, and crossing over to meet someone in THEIR world. While I feel I am doing a rather inadequate job of explaining a really beautiful concept (watch the video – I’m telling you, it has transformed my week), this will suffice for the back-drop of my lovely encounter with my 5-year old, Max.

Max has been in music since he was a baby – first in Music Together classes where we sang songs, used lots of hand gestures, “played” lots of instruments and generally danced and were silly (although, evidently all of this has been highly studied and while we jump around like bunnies and swoosh colorful scarves we are actually teaching our children a plethora of complex musical concepts). Well, let’s use “we” lightly here. I did all of these things while Max sat comfortably in my lap or perched on my arm. While other children danced and swayed, Max observed and occasionally smiled. I persisted because, well, a) I love that darn class – I LOVE to sing, if any of you have forgotten this point, even if I don’t do it well, so any chance to go sing and be silly was right up my alley (I noticed the looks from the other moms, who were less enthusiastic about singing “John the Rabbit” while hopping across the room, but I didn’t care), and b) while Max didn’t “participate” in class, I noticed him doing these things later at home, sort of a closet-participant if you will. Also, music is linked to math skills in children AND Mark and I agreed that music was something we wanted them exposed to and brought up with, so voila…me and Austin Lyric Opera became very good friends.

When he became too old for Music Together, I had another child so I could keep going, and I promptly put him into Music for Mozarts, a small group class to learn the piano. He put up with it for a year and a half but lately has insisted that he hates it and never wants to play again. I take partial blame for this because I have been CRAP at setting up any structured time for this little thing called, ahem, practice. Yes – that one little key ingredient to learning anything new, let alone something as complex as learning the piano! So, as it got harder, he has grown to hate it more. Totally my bad. So now, after deciding music would be something we would value in our household I realized that I had burnt my son out at the early age of 5 and he was insisting that he hated it. Not the result I was looking for while we shook our egg-shakers and sang sweet songs in Music Together classes a short time ago.

Yesterday, Max and I got to talking about music. He was sitting at the kitchen table, across from me, like I was hanging out with a friend, having coffee. Already, it seemed like a rare and special moment. I suddenly thought about the video. I put my feet on the floor, I took a deep breath, I looked him in the eyes, and I ventured across that bridge. Before I took my first step, however (wondering if I was going to do it right), I dropped a couple things off at the toll booth on my side. I dropped my desire for him to love music. I dropped off my secret fantasy for, if not a musical prodigy, at least a child who took naturally to music and got as much out of it as I …..um, as I think my mom wanted ME to as a child. I really appreciate that I learned it (piano and saxophone) growing up, but I didn’t even start music until elementary age and honestly, it was never really my “thing”. So I dropped off even the notion that it was a NECESSARY skill or that not learning it would hinder his development as a well-rounded human being. I actually opened myself to the idea that we would quit music indefinitely, until HE raised the interest again. Tiger-mom would not approve.

After my deep breath, and feeling like I had ventured over, lighter from dropping off some baggage, I said, “Max, here’s the thing. I sign you up for music and other things because I want you to be exposed and to have fun. That’s it. If you really hate it we can re-think it” (honestly, I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I’m improvising and we’ll all get the gist).

He stared back into my eyes, “But I hate it. It’s boring.”

Hearing him and letting him know I heard him I replied, “I know. You don’t like piano. I get that.” And then the following came to me. That we were using Music and Piano interchangeably, so I added, “but music is a big thing. Music could mean whatever you want it to be. It could be the violin… it could be the trumpet (I was trying to go random on purpose to get him thinking)… it could be ANY instrument in the world!”

A grin grew as I saw the wheels turning, and he spoke slowly, “Well, I would like to learn….the drums.” On the word drums, his smile (and he has one of the best smiles on this planet) exploded. My face automatically reflected his.

“Yes!” I replied, perhaps too enthusiastically, as my desire for him to like music snuck back in. “Drums! We can do drums!” I thought of my friend/parent & life coach (one day I’ll figure out a succinct way to describe her), who had SENT me the video AND who also happens to play the drums! It suddenly struck me as odd that I had never thought of the drums for Max on my own.

And that was how it worked. I consciously decided to connect, to honor the space of our relationship. I took a few steps to get there and like that, we had an encounter. No expectations or disappointment. A simple conversation where I got to learn something else about Max – that he wanted to learn how to play the drums! Isn’t that why we have kids, anyway, to experience the world through their eyes? Well, it’s a reason I had children, so I’m so grateful to have been sent the video that reminded me – if I want that, then sometimes I have to have the courage to close my own and let them show me the way.

OK, now go watch the video:).

Once Upon a Time

Sometimes when I least expect it, magical moments abound. Our front lawn project was finished today and I’m kind of in love with it. Sometimes, in the middle of these types of projects, I second guess myself in spending money on this kind of thing – certainly not a necessity in life. It feels a little indulgent to spend lots just to be more inspired, even if my mantra in life these days is to seek out all that inspires me. But now that it’s done, there are no qualms. I was actually excited about driving up to our house today. Every time I pulled in to our driveway, magic was there.

Then after my run in 100 degree heat (yes, I am insane), though I do think it might have dropped to 98 by the time I actually left, I drove over to one of my favorite stores on this planet – because it inspires me in many ways – Whole Foods. It is Austin’s gargantuan mecca of all things healthy and bright, including a community spirit that reflects these same qualities. I got up to the register and realized I didn’t have my wallet. Aside from panicking that I had left it at the sno-cone trailer earlier today (yet another Austin institution, which is not very healthy but indeed bright), I desparately did not want to go home without dinner. Not to worry – my dinner was free. Yes, I am an extremely loyal customer who spends thousands there, but the lady at the counter didn’t know that. My heart was officially warmed and my tummy officially satisfied.

Then as I was finishing up my dinner and diving into my book, I noticed that my foot had involuntarily started tapping. I came out of the depths of the Dominican Republican’s political disarray to realize that a fabulous little band had started a little impromptu show not 10 feet in front of me. Then they gave me free music. Enjoy the magic. This is the song they were playing, and not the free one. Fork in the Road 

My evening ended with me realizing that my wallet had not been carried off by the bees at the sno-cone trailer, but was sitting on my counter at home, safe and sound. Perhaps not magical, but a lovely end to my tale. And I live happily ever after. (and btw, i’ve got two magical munchkins asleep in their beds.)

I Chose to Ski

I wrote this as a follow-up to my first post about skiing (To Ski or Not to Ski) while I was still on the trip. Travel and logistics got in the way of posting it so here it is now… 

Now that skiing and I are getting along better, I can say that I actually like it. Like the end of an after-school special, when the bully and the bullied run off hand in hand after clearing up all of their misconceptions about one another, this is me (the bullied) and skiing (the bully).

After taking a day off (bad weather = good excuse to visit the children’s museum), and with some new ski gear (ok, ok, I have to admit that part of my negativity toward the sport MAY have come from a lack of appropriate apparel. I do heart clothes, so wearing my husband’s old (circa 1995) ill-fitting ski jacket only made me feel worse about the whole thing), I have a new outlook on skiing. I have started a list of things that I appreciate and things I, um, don’t, about the sport. I am hoping skiers and non-skiers alike might appreciate the list. In Buddhism one strives to live “in equanimity, free from attachment and aversion”. Well, at this stage, here are my attachments and aversions – I have a new like for the sport, but I am still striving for equanimity.

Me No Like (this is Eliana speak):

Winter. I think anything below 60 degrees is cold, 70 and below is chilly and 85 is my sweet spot. Somewhere between ~30 degrees and 85 degrees lies my problem with skiing. I wasn’t built for cold weather. Like a beacon of distress, my body sends out a flaming red distress signal called, my nose, to let everyone know that I am too damn cold. It also incessantly drips to remind ME that I am too damn cold.

The clothes. More specifically, snow caps. I do not look good in them. I see so many cute, rosy-cheeked, braid-wearing Suzy chap-sticks that look adorable in their ski garb from their caps and goggles down to their awkward boots (more about these later). I, on the other hand, have tried on a good 1,000 ski caps and I look like a Q-tip in every one. Combined with my fire-engine red nose above, it’s just not attractive.

Ski boots, Getting them on, getting them off, walking in them, carrying them, dare I say I h-a-t-e these things. With as much as skiing technology has evolved (or so I hear), I have a hard time believing more could not be done about the boots.

Adrenaline. I don’t get “adrenaline rushes”. I only see my life pass before my eyes.

Speed. See above.

Me Like:

The lift ride. Alone. Meditation time anyone?? Floating over the tree tops in a chair all my own, one just naturally meditates. Like a wait for the rollercoaster, the lift takes much longer (at this mountain anyway) than the descent. Unlike the rollercoaster, however, for me, is that I enjoy the wait as much, if not more.

Hot chocolate. Winter’s antidotal confection, what’s not to love? Add to it enjoying a cup from a mountain chalet? Positively dreamy.

The people. These folk who are “one with the mountain” seem to understand that everyone on the mountain is one, no matter their skiing ability or how ridiculous they look in a snow cap. The people who work at the ski hills seem to be some of the nicest on the planet, as far as I can tell.

Skiing. OK, this is a big one for me. It’s the first time in my life (see part 1) that this has migrated from the ‘no likey’ to the ‘likey’ category for me. I finally feel enough control that I can a) stop in a reasonable amount of time, if needed, and b) control my speed for the most part, with some exception of course. None of it is very pretty but I am fine with pure function for now.

Apres-ski. In addition to just liking the French referenced name, after a day (or a half-day, which is enough for me), one’s body buzzing from the cold mountain air, the after-burn from the quads and a deep hunger, wherever one goes (in our case, our cozy cabin), some lounging, some snacking, some thawing, and some sharing of stories from the day – it’s a Norman Rockwell painting come to life.

The focus. This may be an advantage of being a beginner, but talk about being in the moment. If I look too far down the hill, I panic. If I let my thoughts wander, the next thing I know one ski is meandering in another direction. After getting off the lift in my meditative state, it’s nice to balance this with going into a single force concentration and the mental discipline needed not to freak out. This should definitely be part of Jedi training, if it’s not already.

My therapist-parent coach has a habit, at the end of our sessions, in reference to parenting, to say “You are doing it.” It always makes me feel good. No matter what I am struggling with at the time, and how badly I SEEM to be at it, she’s right about one thing, I am doing it. At one point on this trip my heart swelled with a little pride when my father-in-law (my skiing coach) saw me coming down the hill and he yelled to me, “You are doing it!”

He could not have known that that was the the perfect thing to say. I’ll add him to my “like” section too.:)

Performer Girl

When I was young, I was ‘the performer child’. I sang, I danced, I choreographed, I made up skits. I would even play-role news caster and read directly from my Weekly Readers while looking at my ‘audience’ as if I was looking into a camera. I subjected my family and neighbors alike to sitting through all of these types of performances. I remember one, in particular, where my family stood watching me whirl, twirl, dance, tumble and otherwise express my most inward feelings in the form of untrained dance (I was not trained in any of these things – dance or otherwise – formally – but was taught by my friends that were). When I was done with that particular performance, my family had tears in their eyes and I honestly, at the time, thought they had been moved, emotionally, to these tears. It occurred to me only many years later, as I recalled that moment, that I am sure it was suppressed laughter that had them tearing up. They were always incredibly supportive of all of my performances – the reason it occurred to me at the time that they might have been moved by the performance. My brother and sister were 7 and 9 years older than me, respectively, so they never let on that my shows were ridiculous. There were times where my brother didn’t want to watch, but after a little pleading, he would almost always give in – very generous, really, when you consider that he was a teenage boy. But since my tap-dancing days in 5th grade – a formal class I finally had the opportunity to enroll in – performing has not been part of my life.

I have declared this year, 2010, my year of creativity. Since last year when I launched this blog and wrote my novel in November, I realized how fulfilled I feel when I make writing a mainstay in my life. So it occurred to me that exploring all of the arts would get all kinds of creative juices flowing and, ultimately, enhance my writing. I have signed up for singing classes (a life-long dream to be able to carry a tune) and a drawing class and I have other art classes in mind for later in the year. Upon considering all of these creative endeavors, part of me has wondered, where did that little performer girl go? I am not making an argument for pursuing all childhood endeavors – but I am advocating that in a balanced whole, I might have been missing out. Other than writing, which I really only picked back up in the last year, I have not had any creative outlets in my life since high school band. That seems, now, a little sad.

To be fair, if I am going to use childhood activities for a litmus test for their dream-fulfilling qualities, I have to give myself some credit because I also played a lot of ‘office’ scenarios. One of my favorites was to play bank teller – we had a square ‘window’ of sorts in our house that was cut out between the hallway that lead to my parent’s bedroom and our dining room. It was where the phone sat so that it could easily be accessed from either side – I guess it was installed before it was popular to have multiple phone jacks. This ‘hole’ made for a perfect drive up window where my friends could come and perform basic transactions, all the while I stamped out digits importantly on my mother’s adding machine and handed out receipts with authority. I would say that my interest in business-type activities played out perfectly and I remember the feeling on the first day of my first job as an accountant at Arthur Anderson, but more importantly being located on the 9th floor of a 35 floor building in the middle of an urban downtown (Houston), – it was the scene I had pictured for myself since childhood, well, after I moved on from the dream to live on a ranch and adopt all abandoned puppies in the world,  and it felt like a dream come true – until I actually had to be an accountant. The performer girl did eek out eventually when I realized how much I enjoyed public speaking, and I ended up doing presentations in offices around the world. Yes, on accounting matters, ho-hum. But one takes what one can get.

It is not at all that I feel I pursued the wrong dreams – I have had a great working experience first in accounting, then later in business school and then getting a dream-job after business school when I worked for Gap Inc.. A dream job for me because I love branding, I love clothes, and I loved my roles there (mostly). With hindsight, I can also see that I loved working there because the fashion industry is full of creative people, and I learned that I work well with them. I am still not advocating that I should have gone to Julliard (I dropped out of band my junior year – the director was not devastated) or The High School for Performing Arts or that I had the talent to BE a performer, but I am simply stating that there is a side to me – a part of my whole that may have been a little too buried for a little too long, and this year I am looking to get it back. You all can tell me if my writing improves. My son will likely let me know if my drawing improves  - “mom, what is that?” – and as for my singing – perhaps if it all goes well, I’ll move the singing from the shower into my backyard and invite a few neighbors.