Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Christmas of Seven Christmases

Christmas was exhausting. It went a little like this: Jones Family Christmas Eve >> EARLY morning Christmas at my house >> Christmas breakfast at Taso's house >> Christmas presents/early dinner at my mom's house (in Mesquite) >> Christmas normal time dinner back at Taso's house (in Coppell) >> Christmas party times at Justin's house in Fort Worth >> Day after Christmas presents and dinner with Taso's whole family. I am stuffed and required two early nights of recovery sleep.

Here are some of my favorite photos from all of our Christmases.
Taso's cat, Mr. Snuggles (who defies his name at every opportunity), replacing the mini Christmas tree.
My Nonnykins wearing a mini version of the scarf I made for June. (Which I still haven't sent yet, sorry June!)
Sweet victory/typical girl poses.
The calm before the storm.
B reading his letter from Santa, Taso being sleepy and blurry faced at 6:45am.
B looking in all the wrong places for his big Santa present... Possibly because I forgot how the hot/cold game works.
But he eventually found it.
And made out like a little messy-haired bandit this year.
Sticky buns with orange flavored icing (not pictured) that I made because it's Christmas and... whatever.
At least they were vegan.
This is the adult person that I am marrying.
I had to cuddle with my cat a lot because I felt like she was a little left out of the Christmas celebrations. This is the adult person that he is marrying.
Christmas at my mom's house, wishing I had a better camera.
My Evgeni Malkin doll from Taso. I am working on my Russian accent so I can make him talk.
My dear friends. All together. Being happy.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Radvent Day 25: Becoming

This is my last Radvent. 

I think I did okay. I started a demanding temp job (no, really) halfway through the month, which slowed down my posting a little bit. I wasn't able to get to my computer until late at night, and at that point was so tired that sometimes the thoughts came slowly. Often I would start the post that night and then edit, find pictures and publish it later. But I tried to not get too far behind and now I've made it to my final day. This has been a great personal experience for me, documenting my thoughts right now at the end of 2011.

I've been sorting through my experiences trying to think of one that "changed my trajectory forever." There's having B of course, the car accident he and I miraculously survived, the first time I watched Vagabond and the first time I went to a show at Trees as a young teenager, and saw the stage that Kurt Cobain made famous. If we're talking about events that literally uprooted me from my current path and set me off on a new one, those all fit. More recently, there's that Halloween that I met my best friends, The Darjeeling Limited first date, moving to New York, a summer in Hawaii, going to the TCM Film Festival with Swinny and that time at the MoMA archives when I saw a piece of a 1905 Biograph film print. There are lots of other little moments in between that pushed me toward and away from certain people, places, choices and interests, but the thing that strikes me is that all of these experiences were a little like falling in love (sometimes, but often not, literally). These are the things I should be focused on, the things that I love and am passionate about. If I got nothing else out of these posts, I hope I've gained a greater sense of focus on the things that drive me, that set me on the path I'm on and that make me excited to wake up every day.

My goals for the coming year are:

1. Work on more creative and professional projects with my friends.
2. Start the theater restoration process.
3. Get married.
4. Meet Agnes Varda.
5. Get settled in a little house and plant a garden.
6. Host a projection training workshop.
7. Start a book club.
8. Be financially independent.
9. Find a way to go to TCMFF '12.
10. Give B the best birthday party of his life.

With any luck, by next year I'll be able to say I crossed these off and I'll have new goals and a fresh perspective on where I am, where I'm going and what I have to offer the world.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Radvent Day 24: Magic

Happy Christmas Eve! 

When I was little, it wasn't Santa Claus that I obsessed over every Christmas. It was snow. I dreamed with all my little heart about having a white Christmas and every year I would close my eyes on Christmas Eve and pray that I would wake up to a blanket of white outside my window. To me, that seemed magical. Of course it never happened. I live in Texas. Often it was 70 degrees on Christmas morning. But that didn't stop me from wishing. In my mind, the picture-perfect Christmas is snowy and filled with family, friends, music, food and activities. The best memories are made when you're doing more than just opening presents and sitting around. I love making Christmas special, and I hope I get better at it as I get older. Taso and I were talking about how New York in November feels more Christmasy than Christmas day in Texas, and I've been thinking about what I can do to bring the Christmas spirit down here next year. Just once I would like to have that perfect cinematic, holiday card-esque, white Christmas.

This Christmas didn't bring snow, but it did bring a little magic by way of putting so many of my favorite people in one place. Christmas Eve was spent, as it is every year, with the Jones family and all of my old friends who meet at their house every December 24th. Taso got to meet the people I've been friends with since I was a kid, and experience our loud, competitive game playing. There were fewer people than normal, as this has been a rough year for the Jones family, and Mr. and Mrs. are both coping with health problems, but they still opened up their home (and their kitchen) to us. I brought my traditional Christmas Even tamales and B was on his best behavior. The ladies by far dominated at game playing, as evidenced by our celebrating:
Kelsey, Sabrina, Emily and Laura. Emily and I were friends since about age four, the other three were always the "little sisters" of our group of friends, their older siblings being closer to us in age, but not by much. Now we're grown up women with degrees who have lived in China and been married, but who still act like children when we're all together.

There was another magical moment when an old friend of ours from high school stopped by and recognized Taso. They were neighbors and friends when he was little, before he moved to Greece! It was crazy putting together the puzzle pieces of our connections to each other, and realizing what a small, interconnected world it is.

After a long night of fun, B was out before we had a chance to leave cookies for Santa. Not that my skeptical child has really ever believed in Santa. The older he gets, the more I realize how like me he really is. But that doesn't mean I can't make a little magic for him. This year Santa left HIM cookies and a note, and meticulously trimmed the tree with presents and a new guitar before passing out herself.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Radvent Day 23: Presence

One of my greatest talents -- maybe my greatest -- is my ability to remain composed through chaos. That's not to say I never lose my chiz. I definitely do. But when the situation calls for me to be "On" -- when someone is in danger, or I'm working a busy film festival or I'm in the middle of a meeting that's falling apart quickly -- I have a knack for pulling it together and getting stuff done. The downside of this is that I am not focused all the time. I can pull it together brilliantly in chaotic situations that demand a leader, but in my daily life I'm actually pretty attention deficit and don't always trust my leadership skills.

Right now I'm really working on this and trying hard to be "On" more often. Taso's mom is really good at this. She has a very successful, demanding career and is also an amazing homemaker and great mom. She's friendly and thoughtful and smart. She learned Greek as an adult, which, I can attest, is not easy. It's not that I want to be just like her. There are lots of ways in which we're different, and our goals are different, but I do look up to her. I would like to learn to present myself the way she does. 

I feel like I covered all of the things I want to say already in the Wrapping post, which makes me realize... I suppose I try to hide my flaws behind the characteristics I want to have. This image I'm creating of who I am isn't a facade, it's who I'm becoming, how I want people to see me and how I want to be remembered. It's vain, but it's either that or not understand myself and lose the power to control what becomes of my life and my impact.

This photo is totally unrelated to these thoughts, as is becoming a theme in the last few posts, but I want to share what I did today. I went to see Les Miserables at the beautiful Winspear Opera House in the new Dallas Arts District. The production was absolutely breathtaking. I haven't seen set design like that anywhere other than the Metropolitan Opera in New York. The story is obviously one of the saddest ever, so of course I cried throughout, along with my mom, the lady next to me and probably everyone else in attendance. I've never seen a professional level production of Les Mis live. I've seen recorded Broadway performances (and the Liam Neeson movie) and know the songs, but seeing it live was far more moving and heartbreaking than I could have imagined. I was pretty spent for the rest of the day.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Radvent Day 22: Promises


I love what Megan (Princess Lasertron) said:

"Promises kept are one of the truest expressions of love because keeping a promise is a responsibility. It takes unfailing devotion and commitment. “I love you” is a promise. “I won’t give up” is a promise."

When I decided to keep and raise B, I learned what a promise is, what it means to keep your word and that being true, faithful, dependable -- whatever you want to call being someone who doesn't break promises -- is one of the most crucial, rewarding characteristics (or habits) that we can develop. Our road has been long and difficult, but we're close and we're making it. Sometimes he's angry about his life, about what we don't have or what I'm not able to give him, and I feel terrible. Sometimes I entertain the idea of regrets, but I never really have them. I remind myself that I have to keep perspective. Everyone has their challenges to overcome, and it's my responsibility to give him the best I can with what I have. That and to love him unconditionally. That's what I promised him, and continue to promise him every day.

I can't wait to make vows to Taso. I feel like it will solidify the promises I've already made, and it will give me an opportunity to make new promises to B. And for Taso to make promises to both of us. There's nothing more beautiful that I can think of. I've been really emotional for the last few days, since Taso got back from New York, I guess. It was always going to be hard for me to come back and settle here. I knew that, and Taso coming back really closed the door on New York for us. At the same time, having the three of us together has been a long time coming, and it's overwhelmingly happy. The reality of what we're doing and the life we're going to have it sinking in and my cup runs over. My personal inner conflict seems silly and fades to the background of my consciousness. There are promises to keep and trust to rebuild. I am nothing if not grateful for the chance to make them and receive them.

I just wanted to share this picture. My dude got glasses and hates them. Poor child, cursed with his mother's eyesight. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Radvent Day 21: Wrapping

I've always thought I was most myself around the Joneses, a family of six kids and two awesome parents that I grew up with. They loved me and took me in like one of their own. They were always very warm and very close, there was never any pretense. Things were always a little messy and there was always tons of music and tons of laughter. I felt really comfortable letting my not very cool side out, being goofy. I never cared how I looked and it was impossible to embarrass myself in front of them. Being friends with them did a lot for my confidence and for helping me grow into someone who isn't very phased by people's opinons of her. I always had the feeling that they valued me for who I am inside (that somehow they could see that, or cared to see that, when most people didn't) and that who I am inside is good and interesting. I still feel that way around them, and since then have sought out relationships that make me feel like that.

Of course there are things that I hide. I almost always hide my religious or spiritual thoughts and feelings. I am actually terrified of talking to anyone at all about them. There's no one that I feel comfortable relating to about this stuff, so I keep it to myself... I guess until I understand it better. I'm not really talking about dogma, but I am talking about some basic system of belief, ritual and sacrifice or giving back. I have lots of thoughts and feelings on this that I keep 100% to myself. 

Other things I try to hide:

anxiety
an eating disorder
a propensity to take on too much and not finish projects
insecurity in the work i do
irrational, outlandish, funny thoughts
exhaustion

I guess I try to hide the things that make me look like I'm not capable, or that I don't have it all together.

This idea of caring what people think is funny... I like impressing people. I truly love making people feel good, like someone cares enough about them to put in a little extra effort to make something -- an assignment at work, a birthday party, a present, a lunch date, a favor -- special, or better. But, I ask myself all the time, am I really trying to do something good for this person so they'll be happy, or so I'll be the one making them happy? That question haunts me, but it also helps me keep myself in check. For the most part I think it's a little of both. I don't need designer clothes or perfect makeup or a beautiful blog, but I do have a certain package that I like to wrap myself up in to hide my flaws from the world, and minimize them to myself. 

I like to wear dresses and I keep my hair in a style that I know works on me. I like to use good manners and keep my speech innocuous in settings that aren't intimate. When I'm not sure what to say, or how to talk to someone, I'll often keep quiet rather than risk saying the wrong thing. In more casual settings I try to be approachable, friendly and fun without drinking or drawing negative attention. I approach most things in life emotionally, but I can become defensive and quick to hide emotion when I feel that it's being judged or criticized. I like to do great work and when I can't (like in the case of writer's block or not understanding how to do something that's asked of me) I clam up and panic, often to the point of not being able to do anything. Even though I know it's not a good idea, I always cover this up by not communicating and acting cool about the whole thing. It's bad, but it's a defense mechanism that I haven't been able to change yet. I like to pick really special presents and wrap them perfectly. I love to throw parties. I like to put extra care into my cooking and to make sure that my son looks and acts presentable. (Have you ever met a 9-year-old boy? If you have, you know how frequently I succeed at this.) It always bothers me when parents let their children leave the house in pajamas and messy hair, or when well-dressed moms walk around with kids whose jeans don't fit and shoes are untied. I know that's judge-y and awful, but part of my "wrapping" (so to speak) is this need to do present cleanliness, order and love/care outwardly. I feel like how I present myself reflects who I am. When it doesn't -- like right now, when I am carrying around a few extra pounds and don't have a job that I'm proud of -- I feel off balance and incomplete. 

At the same time, the people I can really be myself around are the people who don't care at all about these things, who aren't impressed with my outfit at the holiday party or my career or the tie I made my kid wear, who just appreciate the Christmas card because they appreciate my friendship. There are certain people that I never have to get defensive around, that love me when I'm being a sucky friend as much as they do when I'm on top of my game. So I guess, at the end of the day, all of the hiding, and wrapping and impressing is really just for me.
This is a Christmas card I sent out this year, adorning my friend Sneve's tree. I love sending out personalized Christmas cards, but I'm so bad about getting them done in time and getting them to all the people I need to. I'm still beating myself up about leaving people off my list. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Radvent Day 20: Mentoring

Okay, I'm back in the game. This one is great! (Side note: I love not finding out what the topic is until the day it goes up. I makes me think on my feet and write something relevant to what's going on right now. It's also funny how they sometimes correlate with what I'm thinking or doing that day.)

I like this as a follow up to the last one. During transitional phases in my life, I find that it's far more productive (though much harder) to think about who I want to be than about figuring out my identity right now.

At one time I really wanted to be a cinematographer, so I asked a working Director of Photography and Professor of Cinematography to share his knowledge with me. It never hurts to ask, right? He accepted because I was interested in shooting on film, something he tried to instill in his digital-photography-minded students to no avail. He taught me how to use a camera, pull focus, load a magazine and work in a darkroom. In a short period of time I got to assist on everything from corporate videos for the Nurses Union to full-length feature films. I got to work with an Arriflex, shooting 35mm. Within three years of that experience, that camera is already something of a relic. I abandoned the desire for a full-fledged career in film production, but the things he taught me (free of charge, out of the kindness of his heart and passion for film) have been endlessly useful to me in my other pursuits, and were the foundation for the things I'm interested in now.

I HAVE to write him a thank you card right now.

Who do I want to learn from now?

Entrepreneurs/Non-profit gurus: Princess Laserton, Melina McKinnon

Filmmaker: James M. Johnston

Theater operators: crew of the Belcourt and crew of the State 

I'm always watching. Following tweets, reading blog posts, listening intently at lunch dates, asking questions when I get the chance to meet someone new, checking out programming, studying marketing material and business plans, watching and dissecting films. I love to learn. My problem lies in taking the next step. The second I send off the work I've done to ask for feedback my heart sinks. Suddenly I am acutely aware of how lacking my work is. I need to get braver about asking questions of people I admire and seeking guidance. I think people enjoy mentoring rather than finding it a bother. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Radvent Day 19: Identity

Hmm.

I think I am just realizing that what I'm having may actually be an identity crisis. At the same time that I am becoming more mature, aware and settled in parts of who I am, I am trying to redefine other parts. I often say, "I don't know what I'm doing..." and I mean it. Do I want to go anywhere/do anything for a job in my field that pays a living wage, or do I want to tough out the emotionally draining life I'm in right now for the chance to (maybe?) pursue something I'm truly passionate about? Is it really to my benefit to work on so many projects, on top of being a mom, that I never see my friends or go to shows? What was the last film I saw? What was the last band I watched live? It hit me about 10 minutes ago (as I was pondering my Music post) that I haven't really listened to music in so long. I mean, had so much mentally-free time that I could lay around and hear a new album, take it in and feel it. I just listened to a new St. Vincent song a minute ago and thought... I don't know, maybe it's time to put on eyeliner and meet my city (and my friends) again. Maybe it's just time to dust off my headphones. 

I don't know if I'm an archivist. Technically, right now, I'm a legal assistant. What. I don't know if I'm a person, or if I'm a mom and a girlfriend and another driver on the interstate. I don't know where I fit. 

Do I have to know that to understand my identity? 

Who are you?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Radvent Day 18: Style

My top all-time style icons:

Cyd Charisse - grace, confidence, legs

Kim Gordon - the hair, the dresses, X-girl - coolest human ever

Diane Keaton - probably the biggest influence on the way I actually dress

Norma Shearer - cuuuuurls, perfection

Miriam Hopkins - eyes, and what she does with them

Claire Danes - as Angela Chase, in Shopgirl, in Calvin Klein (and obviously as Juliet, not pictured)

Freddie Mercury - obviously

Anna Karina - effortless, enchanting

The 1940s everyday lady - truly, the 1940s sewing patterns that my mom insanely collects have had more influence on my style than any actress or model from the 1940s

Well, I am an old person. Every day I wear blouses, blazers, comfortable-but-flirty dresses, tights and shoes that fall somewhere between heel and flat (big fan of the wedge). Then I put on a scarf or two and a brooch. Winter time is my favorite time because I can just keep putting on layers. And I do. The only jeans I wear are Levis. I hate slacks. I don't wear makeup (though I should) and I sometimes forget to brush my hair. Style is 97% about confidence and comfort. That doesn't mean wearing sweatpants and being proud of it, that means bringing who you are to the surface so you can walk around all day feeling like yourself.

I hope you've enjoyed looking at all these pretty people. If I could smoosh them all together into one person and become that person, I think I would be fully realized.