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Love Day

I asked Jeff to get me a new gold chain for the pendant I always wear for Valentine’s Day. You know, because jewelry is one of those things you’re supposed to ask for on Valentine’s Day. I had lost the original gold chain long ago and had been wearing it with one that made my neck itch. I didn’t realize until I looked at my necklace in the mirror what a perfect Valentine’s gift it really was.

Valentine’s Day has never really been about romantic love for me. From an early age it was about getting chocolate and stuffed animals from my mom and sharing candy at school (side note: candy is one of my love languages). It’s about family and friendship and the many definitions of love.

So let’s break it down.

 

By the way, we literally have a friend in the jewelry business. Andrew Beesley for all things jewelry.

This necklace is engraved with my name in Arabic, the language of my ancestors on my mother’s side. I think about how much love my great-grandpa must have had and how hard he worked to bring his family to this country. I don’t know him but I am pretty sure he thought about his future family to come when he made such a big decision.

 

My parents got this necklace for me while they were living in Saudi Arabia before I was born. My mom didn’t have any ultrasounds with me. I could’ve come out any kind of way but somehow she knew I was Lauren. My parents have always loved me and known me better than I know myself. That’s love. And that’s where I learned to love.

Now, the new chain comes from my husband. My new family. The person who loves me because he chooses to, not just because we’re related. That’s a pretty amazing kind of love. Not only does he take great care of me, he takes care of our friends and our dog who are also an important part of our new family.

Now I’m not sure how “Lauren” translates to Arabic but one way or another these symbols represent me. The last few years I’ve struggled a lot with self-love. I took every mistake, failure, and every person I disappointed very hard. Those things are hard to avoid in life no matter how hard you try, so I was sad often. I started to feel worse and worse about myself.

At one point before getting married I had a breakdown. Making a forever decision felt really daunting and scary but the decision to marry Jeff seemed like a good one, so I was confused. I heard a voice in my head that said, “It’s not that you don’t love him, it’s that you don’t love yourself.”

That kind of sucked to hear. I really love people, I love a lot of things, so why can’t I love myself, the person I spend the most time with? I know how much my parents love me, I know how much my husband loves me, I know that I have friends who love me, but there are days I can’t believe anyone can, does, or ever would love me.

And it’s because I don’t (always) love myself.

Now here is where I wish I had some cure-all magical tips for loving yourself, but I don’t.

But I can tell you, you’re not alone if that helps at all. Whether you’ve got Depression with a capital D or are just suffering from some winter or Valentine’s Day blues. Know that you’re not alone. In fact, we’re making pretzels tonight if you want to come over and literally not be alone. We bought a home with more rooms than we need so we’re always ready for desks. Even if the two spare rooms are occupied we’ve got a fold-out bed and a blow-up mattress. Our door is always open–not literally, but we can give you the code.

If you feel unlovable know that I feel it too. And know that those thoughts are coming from darkness and not from your true self. Because deep down somewhere, and maybe it’s been buried very deep and covered with hurt, you know how amazing you are. You know there are things you can do that no one else can do in quite the same way. Try and take care of yourself. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t believe people who are too hard on you. There are a lot of unforgiving people out there and you can’t let them get you down.

We each have our own ways to snap out of things, some people, and I don’t understand them, actually love to exercise. They need it. Some of us exercise because we know it’ll feel good eventually. Sometimes chocolate helps, sometimes soup does. Recently I was told biting into a lemon can help change your mood–if nothing else it shocks you out of a funk. Some days you need to take off and some days you need to work harder. Take some time and get to know what helps you and then make it a priority to do those things.

Some days you have to take a long shower and just try and forget about the fishes or roommates who need it. A huge part of my problem is I feel guilty for everything. Anything nice I do for myself could go to someone else who needs it more, but you have to take time and focus on you. It’s the airplane analogy where you can’t help others until you first help yourself.

I am always plugging this book, The Body Keeps the Score, and I’ll never stop. In one section it takes about things that can help ground us such as yoga and acting. Sometimes hobbies feel like more work or like a silly indulgence but they can also really help your mental health and help you love yourself.

 

There’s a reason I wrote my last blog post about gifts you can buy someone else or yourself. Seriously, buy yourself some comfy underwear/leggings it’ll make a difference. Or a cozy robe or blanket or whatever makes you happy or some of that fancy chocolate when it goes on sale.

Today (and hopefully every day) is a day to remember all the people in your life who you love and who love you back and most importantly to love yourself because you’re not getting away from yourself whether you’re in a relationship or not.

Non-Traditional Valentine’s Gifts for Your Lover or Yourself

There are many Valentine’s Day gift cliches and while some things are popular for a reason, I’ve come up with my own take on some Valentine’s Day classics.

Flowers

Instead of flowers get your girl (or yourself) a bouquet of floral leggings. Trust me, it’s the kind of roses she really wants. Bonus: They only come in 2 sizes so you have a 50/50 chance of guessing right.

If you’re brave enough to try and make an outfit here are some ideas for tops to go with leggings.

Chocolate & Jewelry 

No fresh take on this because I believe everyone should accept chocolate in most forms. I would be lying if I tried to pretend my heart doesn’t skip a beat at the sight of box of chocolate. If you’re going to get me a heart-shaped Bordeaux from See’s Candy–or anything from See’s, really, go ahead. But thinking outside the usual heart-shaped box I have a couple suggestions.

Baci are my favorite because they are “fine dark chocolate filled with a chocolate-hazelnut cream center and a whole hazelnut.” V-day bonus: they have cute sayings about love in each one. Note: Do not get them for anyone with a nut allergy, unless you’re looking for a way out of the relationship.

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Trader Joe’s has this adorable Chocolate Passport that might make up for the fact you’re not taking your Valentine on an exotic vacation this year. You can buy them on Amazon but word on the street is it’s cheaper to buy at Trader Joe’s if you’re blessed enough to have one close by.

Whatever you do don’t fall for the “chocolate diamond” scam that jewelers come out with every year. Chocolate diamond? Really? It’s a brown diamond. Comparing it to a delicious food is not going to cover up the fact that you’re trying to sell me some dirty diamonds.

In fact, skip the diamonds all together and get moissanite jewelry, it looks as good as a diamond–or better–and it’s cheaper and there’s no mining involved. Learn more about moissanite here.

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There are lots of great companies that make jewelry that gives back in some way, whether it’s employing women who wouldn’t have jobs otherwise or by donating food for every purchase. I’ve started to compile some of those companies here (still a work in progress).

And if you’re looking for a subtle nod to love I’m, kind of, very obsessed with this ring that Amazon suggested for Valentine’s Day. It’s just too cute. xoxo.

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Stuffed Animals

No one wants a boring old teddy bear when they can have a sloth.

…Or my personal favorite, the raccoon

Throw a red bow on it and you’ve got yourself a perfect Valentine plush toy.

Lingerie

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Skip Victoria’s Secret and get yourself the most comfortable underwear in the world–seriously, I thought they were overly hyped up but they are not–MeUndies are as great as they claim to be. They’re great for everything from working out to hanging out and they come in styles for all the men and women in your life.  There are cute Valentine’s Day designs and a great return policy if it doesn’t work out–with the underwear or the person you bought them for. Use this link for 20% off your first purchase.

MeUndies are a bit pricey though so balance your underwear budget by buying yourself some “Viotario’s Secret” lace underwear (or without the lace) on the Wish app for $2. They’re also super comfortable.

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Massage

If you’re on a budget or just don’t like getting rubbed by strangers, there is a cheap and easy alternative. These head/scalp massagers will have you feeling at ease in no time and the best part is you don’t need a Valentine to give you a massage because you can use it on yourself…at least until the blood rushes out of your arm.

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I promise you will not care how ridiculous you look because it will feel so good.

Romantic Gestures

Buy some Poo~Pourri because nothing says romance like being able to use the bathroom after your loved one without a gas mask. It really works and if it doesn’t, they’ll take it back.

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Order a 23andMe kit to track down your ancestry because there is nothing more romantic than double-checking that you aren’t 3rd cousins. All you have to do is spit in the tube before you start swapping spit with your sweetheart.

Most importantly, remember on Valentine’s Day, or any day, you don’t need an excuse to Treat Yo’self.

If Pinterest is your thing I will be adding to my Valentine’s Day Gift Idea board for the next couple weeks. xoxo.

Some of the above links are affiliate links, but I have not been asked by any entity to post reviews or recommendations.

Matilda the Musical

A few days ago Matilda the Musical closed on Broadway. This is sad, but also means that it’s now touring. If you’re in my Utah crowd it already sold out in SLC except for a handful of secondhand tickets. To my hometown friends, check it out when it comes to Portland at the end of February! Buy your tickets before they sell out.

Matilda is a great story about standing up to bullies, a theme that I think is quite relevant now and always.

The musical has fun, catchy songs, including one with lyrics that blows my mind but I’m not going to give anything away. There’s a really fun energy that comes when you have a bunch of talented kids on stage giving it their all.

I like it so much that I insisted Jeff go see it with me even though our only option was two bad seats that aren’t even together.

I might be biased because it was the first musical I saw on Broadway and when you see any musical on Broadway it’s an amazing experience, but this musical is great and if you don’t believe me just watch this:

 

Shopping Hack

Despite being the daughter of an elite shopping marathoner, I am kind of a wimp in stores. My formula for shopping breaks down like this: For every 45 minutes of shopping I require one soft pretzel.

Online shopping, however, is an entirely different story. I can online shop for much longer than 45 minutes. Probably because I can wear pajamas and watch television at the same time.

Thanks to some online shopping fails I’ve learned to follow the following rule:

Only buy things with free shipping and free returns.

If you’re an Amazon Prime member this is easy.
It also includes online shopping at places that have stores nearby you can return to.

I’ve made exceptions to this for cute boutiques and startup companies that can’t afford it, but free returns saves you a lot of heartache when that shirt that looks perfect shows up in a different color (“because of screen displays colors may vary”).

A big secret I’ve learned is being real with myself. There are certain styles I know I don’t like but I still gravitate to because they’re “so cute!” Don’t do that…unless there are free returns.

You might think all this online shopping might cause you to spend more money but here’s the thing, it is so much easier to be focused when online shopping. If I am looking for a specific color and style I can type my wishes into the Amazon, or Google shopping, search bar and find the exact thing I need. And unlike a trip to Target I don’t come home with 20 other things I don’t need. Maybe one or two extra things, but a lot less than if I was in the store wandering aimlessly.

So when I had to have a burgundy top WITH POCKETS to go with a pair of leggings, I found not one but two that I love. It took me like 15 minutes as opposed to searching 15 stores. These tops are great, the second one is kind of a lie and more of a bright red, but they’re very comfortable and come in more colors, check them out by clicking on the photos.

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I did the same thing when I wanted a green dress but didn’t know what style. I bought eight and returned all but one. This will save your life when it comes to family photos, bridesmaids outfits, or any other time you need something very specific in a color that’s out of season. While looking for my own bridesmaids I found this stretchy, flattering pencil skirt that comes in almost any color.

 

My genius friend, Candy, even used Amazon to purchase several wedding dresses, try them on, and return the ones that didn’t make the cut.

Another online shopping secret is to keep something in your cart until it sells out. That’s a good way to not buy as much stuff.

I also made a Pinterest board for other tops for leggings that I like and either want to share with other people or don’t want to forget to purchase later–got to stagger the spending. If you in the market for long tops check it out here. All of them have options with free shipping and free returns. One trick with Amazon is not every color or size will be eligible for free returns so watch out for that.

My last secret (for now) to online shopping is Paribus which, if you link it to your email, will automatically contact stores on your behalf if something lowers in price within their allowed period (usually 30 days). This way you don’t have to stress about buying something only to see it go on sale two days later.

And if you still hate shopping, feel free to hire me as your personal online shopper. I enjoy it a lot more than I should.

Sad Realization of Resolutions

You guys. I just looked back on this blog and realized I resolved last year AND THE YEAR BEFORE to write more. I’m the worst. I even wrote a super compelling post about how important writing is last year. That inspiration obviously went out my brain into the keyboard never to return to my brain again. This year it has to be for real. Do you know how many ideas I have for feature films/musicals? 12. How many have I written? 3/4 of one.

Do you know how many ideas I have for blog posts? 300…probably. Maybe not. But at least 12 so far. So I’m going to blog 6 days a week this year, minus vacation time. Is it possible? Yes. Realistic? Not really. But obviously nothing else has worked to get me to write every day so now this blog is some sort of accountability. So some of these blog posts are going to be really bad but

So that’s my only year-long goal, because obviously year-long goals are useless. 365 days are too many days.

So I decided this year I’m going to do month-long goals. One goal/theme a month and then if it doesn’t work I can try again the next month or move on.

This month’s goals are Hamilton themed. Why? Because these lyrics are constantly in my head so it will be impossible to forget them like I have other resolutions. I recommend song-related resolutions for the same reason.

Confession: I was “into” Hamilton back when I heard about it on NPR and burst into work all, “You guys, this is a rapping musical about some guy who was never president” and the guys were like, “huh?” and I played it for them…and then never really listened past the first song and then I thought I might actually see it so I was paranoid about it being spoiled so I refuse to listen to the whole thing in order and refuse to learn anything else about history so it won’t be spoiled. It’s worked out great. So while I have no idea how the musical actually goes that doesn’t mean the songs aren’t constantly in my head.

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The goals need no explanation but here it is anyway.

Goal 1: TBH there’s no way I’m talking less but it’s worth a shot. Secondly, smile more because I spent a lot of last year being depressed (more on that later).

Goal 2: Write. Actually write. Like I’ve resolved and forgotten for the last two years.

Goal 3: Not really a goal but if I scream-sing, “I will never be satisfied” once or five times a day I feel a lot more motivated to accomplish other goals.

Goal 4 (unlisted): Work out or something, geez.

2016

Since we didn’t send out a Christmas Card, here’s 2016 in review.
Started the year eating Criff Dogs and tator tots in NYC and sleeping in the airport. The next morning we spent in Urgent Care because Jeff had contracted just about every -itis one can contract at the same time. We have plans to redo NYC this year to make up for that.

March we moved into an apartment where we attempted gardening in a box and grew a lot of tomatoes. 

We got to spend Easter in Ohio with the all the Roses watching chicks hatch, riding tractors, shooting guns, and eating custard. 

In April we adopted Ru from Rescue Rovers. She is an Emotional Support Animal to me and a best friend to Jeff and ultimately an essential part of the family. She works part-time at Wallaroo as a professional floor sleeper and jewelry licker. At home she is a full-time snuggler who loves food, belly rubs, and jumping up and down. She is great on road trips and loves playing with her friends whether they’re human, dog, or rabbit. She loves watching horses and sometimes barks at her own reflection in the window. She really loves the snow.

We bought a Subaru.

In May we had our first anniversary and ate at the Melting Pot. I’ve been craving it ever since. Fondue is amazing. I got LASIK for my birthday!! And we made a quick trip to Oregon and went to the coast. 

We got to spend more time with some of the Roses around the 4th of July when they came to visit Utah. 

In October we bought a house and had a grand sum of six trick-or-treaters. 

We went to Disneyland with my sister and her family and Universal Studios with some of our favorite LA friends. 

In November we had a big house-warming and birthday party for Jeff. It was great to fill our new home with friends, laughter, and nachos. 

For Veterans Day. I decided to throw a dance marathon to benefit organizations that help veterans fight PTSD. With the support of some amazing local businesses I raised $1,000.

Over the year we celebrated as some of our closest friends got married and as other friends had babies. We made new friends and got closer to old friends. And we got to spend a lot of time with family. 

We saw several plays and concerts and usually attended our favorite monthly Harvey and the Bird shows. I’ve written a handful of songs with John. I went rappelling for the first time. 

Jeff was assimilated into the world of film production and we’ve been able to work on many shoots together in lots of different roles behind and in front of the camera. Jeff is also a master at positioninb wedding dresses trains when I shoot bridals and weddings. 

Mindy Kaling favorited three of my tweets and replied to one. 

As for growing our family. Besides Ru, we increased by 2 bikes this year and will likely be adding a third in the year to come. 

What Training My Dog Taught Me About Managing People

We have been training our dog, Ru, with the trainers at Maligator Kennels for a few months now and I’ve learned a lot about working with and motivating dogs. In doing so I’ve learned many things that I think apply to working with and motivating humans.

First, I’ll talk about the most obvious one to me: If you reward people when they do good things, they will want to keep doing good things. When I’m teaching my dog to heel I am dropping treats down her throat (she’s not much for chewing when it’s good stuff) every few steps that she walks alongside me. I’m telling her in a happy voice how amazing she is the whole time. As the dog gets used to the task you don’t have to give treats as often.

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Now, if someone gave me a Starburst and a compliment every time I did something they wanted, I would be more likely to keep doing the same thing. I would also enjoy being around that person immensely. Once this person gives me a Starburst I will continue to remember that even if the Starburst don’t come every time. I recently worked as an assistant for someone who told me every time we parted ways, “thanks for all your work today.” I felt good about what I had accomplished that day and motivated to come back each day.

With my dog I will sometimes reach like I’m going for a treat and she gets excited enough to keep behaving even if I don’t actually give her something. I do not recommend that with humans, they will almost certainly turn against you.

The Maligator Code, for dog training, is:

1. Honor the hierarchy
2. Maintain order
3. Obey the rules

Honor the Hierarchy

Film sets have taught me to love hierarchy. Things work so well when everyone knows who to report to and who has the final say. This does not mean bosses should be bossy and make all the decisions all of the time. Part of the hierarchy is delegation. When teaching your dog to “heel” the idea is that they will walk on a loose leash next to you. Forcing them next to you on a tight leash only teaches them to walk close when forced into it. The goal is to train them so they will walk next to you whether there is a leash or not. You have to motivate, not force, them to follow you. With humans, part of that is trusting them to do their job without being micromanaged. If you don’t trust them, figure out why and resolve that concern. If you are a leader you have to trust that the people you work with can follow you without you dragging them along. If you aren’t the leader, you want to trust your leader is capable and that they trust you.

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Maintain Order

When Ru sees another dog she wants to play with we essentially lose all control. Her brain goes into “get candy, get candy, get candy” mode and she can’t be stopped. The only way we can compete is to be infinitely more entertaining or rewarding than the dog she wants to play with. What incentives are you giving people to stay with you? Is their job engaging? Are they being treated fairly?

Are you clear? Does everyone receive the same kind of treatment? Are some people allowed to do what every they want while others are punished for every little thing they do wrong? Are you paying people different amounts to do the same job? Is it obvious in meetings some people’s opinions are valued over other peoples?

“In those situations the employees believe they are being treated unfairly. So, they only perform the duties they are contractually obligated to perform. Teachers arrive exactly when they are required to and leave as soon as they are able. They do not engage in extracurricular activities or stay late to help struggling students. The community suffers, because the teachers have gone from treating the workplace as a neighborhood to treating it as a collection of strangers.

That is why it is so important to think about fairness. When the morale of an organization suffers, it is important for leaders to think about things they may have done that would push employees from thinking themselves as neighbors to thinking of themselves as strangers. At those times, it is important for leaders to hold out an olive branch and to do what they can to welcome disgruntled employees back into the neighborhood.” (read more here).

Dogs are known for their loyalty but they are not above leaving you for the owner across the field who has better treats. If given the choice between our bed and her bed Ru will always choose our bed. Work isn’t always a super-fun party but if you don’t give your employees a reason to stay they won’t stick around.We had to figure out what motivated Ru, was it toys? Treats? Ultimately we realized that as much as she loves food, she loves playing with other dogs more and letting her loose to play is the best reward we can give her. It’s not just being able to pay the highest salary, it’s providing opportunities to be creative or to grow and learn skills. (See also: 10 Things Employees Want More Than a Raise).

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Obey the Rules

The dogs job is obey, but they can’t obey if they don’t know the rules.

Have you ever showed up to a new (or old) job and have no idea what they expect from you or if they even like what you’re doing? Most jobs I’ve worked have been pretty autonomous and there have been times where I did my job, got paid, and never heard from a supervisor. Having the healthy ego that I do, I just assumed they were loving my work but there was no way to know and at times the lack of feedback made me very anxious.

Positive reenforcement is huge and I think it’s far more motivating to people than anything negative. However, course-correction is also important when things start getting off-track. “No” can be a good word if it helps set boundaries. Boundaries are actually really great. They keep everyone on the same page and can help people do their job better. Example: I like cuddling with my dog. I do not like cuddling with my dog when she spreads out and gets her paws all up in my face. By telling her to move or go to her own bed when she’s taking up too much space our relationship stays free of scratched faces and dogs getting unkindly shoved off of the bed. Again, I do not recommend this one on humans because telling someone who wants to cuddle with you to go away and get their own bed will probably not go over well. However, established boundaries that are clearly explained are important in any relationship.
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Everyone Has Their Limits

If it is too hot outside, Ru will find shade, lie down, and not get up again. At that point, she is done and will not be productive again until she cools off. Mike Scully, showrunner for Simpsons, Parks and Rec etc. talked about how he would send his writers home by 6 so they could be home with their families, have experiences that could inspire their writing, and come back refreshed. Many  writers rooms work for 12+ hours straight to get more work done but there becomes a point where productivity slows down. Give people breaks. When we let Ru loose to play with her best-dog-friend before class she would be better behaved, more relaxed, and ready to focus.

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Learn How to Understand Individuals

Ru was three years old when we got her from Rescue Rovers Adoptions. We knew that we don’t know everything she’s been through and it’s been a process learning about her. Example: slippery floors freak her out. We figured that one out easily enough when we first walked into our building. Everyone is unique and what comes naturally to some people doesn’t to other. It’s easy to say, “I have no problem walking through our hallway, so why does she?” But if you pay attention you can see that stepping into the hallway strikes fear in Ru’s tiny heart. Hopefully, if you’re an employer, you’re employing people with different backgrounds and experience and part of that is learning people’s strengths and weaknesses and putting them in situations where they will be able to perform well.

Every company does things a little bit differently, so even if you hire someone who is an expert in your field, you have to help them understand how things work at your company. Help them understand workflow and procedures or you’ll be continually frustrated that they aren’t doing things “the right way.” Sometimes we assume someone is bad at their job when they just don’t know what we want from them.

Part of this is also understanding that, most of the time, no one person will have everything you’re looking for.

Ru is very smart when it comes to learning new tricks and very dumb when it comes to barking at her own reflection as if it is another dog. But I don’t care that she tries to play with her reflection because she does so much for me and her weird quirks are worth it. Even the geniuses of the world struggle at something in their life. The only perfect person I know of is Jesus and he’s not applying to be your salesperson any time soon. We can’t expect people to do it all and never make mistakes. Create teams that balance out strengths and weakness and everyone will succeed.

I really believe that if we see people for what they give instead of what they don’t do or can’t do, we will be happier. We will love and respect more and the people around us will thrive under our compassion and understanding.

The Average Hero(ine)

Coveralls. Literally designed to cover all. Everything. All of you. Ghostbusters, male and female, have cast aside the notion that anyone needs to look “sexy” to be a hero. Somewhere along the way we’ve lost that. We’ve sort of created this mindset that sexy and hardcore go hand-in-hand. You’re either cute and quirky or you kick-butt in expensive-looking clothes and a perfectly toned body. James Bond. Cat Woman. Captain America. Wonder Women. These are hot people in spandex or perfectly tailored suits…or both. I would like to argue that coveralls are sexy…

Sexy is not generally used to describe someone’s natural, just-woke-up state. Maybe beautiful or cute, if you’re lucky. “Hot mess express” if you’re not. Being sexy generally involves a lipstick called something like “Vicious Trollop,” a nail polish called “Red-dy and Willing” and mascara that lengthens without clumping. High heels are also required–because one can’t deny they make your legs and butt look more toned. Some sort of effort in getting clothes that flatter your body just right or at least an outfit that all matches with accessories that sparkle in some way. Do you know how complicated finding a good bra is? And then finding another one so you have something to wear when the first one needs to be washed? This doesn’t just happen without thought and effort. Looking put-together at a Hollywood level of sexy is not an everyday occurrence…unless you have a stylist team or are some kind of makeup magician. I’m not one of those people, I cannot relate to Hollywood level sexy. But I can relate to the Ghostbusters.

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In the actual film these ladies aren’t even wearing matching boots. They’re wearing whatever rubber boots or shoes they had at home. The characters feel like real people, with real homes where they have rubber boots. Boots that they maybe bought at Target on clearance or inherited from their mom. That, for me, 27-year-old, middle-class, white-with-a-hint-of-Middle-Eastern girl, is relatable. They get to pull their hair up! There were straight-up PONY TAILS. I can tell you right now that you will never see me save the world with my hair down. Yet, somehow, most females in action movies are not afforded that luxury. Hair flips and whips are pretty. They look good on camera. They don’t look good in real life when your hair is stuck to your chapstick.

There is no point in Ghostbusters where the nerdy girl takes off her glasses, lets her hair out of the bun and is magically attractive to everyone around her. In fact, Kristen Wiig’s character casts off her heels when she joins the Ghostbusters and gets to wear a sweatshirt and sneakers. Literally. While she does a job and uses her brain, she gets to wear a sweatshirt. This is a luxury formerly only granted to actors who play Mark Zuckerburg or Steve Jobs or the “homely girl” character who eventually gets a makeover.

In Ghostbusters there are even jokes about it like, “How does it feel to walk in those heels all day?” and “Where did you find the world’s smallest bowtie.” Fashion is beautiful, but it can also be ridiculous and it should reflect something about the character and not just “look good.” Now, stepping in green goo while in heels? That’s relatable.

10 Cloverfield Lane is another pretty good example of a movie being made up of entirely “average looking people with realistic amounts of facial hair” but there was the fact that her bra was always perfectly peeking out from her tank top in a way that just doesn’t realistically happen to a person fighting for their freedom from a crazy bunker hostage situation. If you are reading this and know the secret to perfect bra peekage under stressful situations please reveal.

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I know movies, I know it’s someone’s job to make sure all the clothes stay in place and it’s another person’s job to make sure every hair stays in place. Actors can wear 6-inch heels in situations that a normal girl wouldn’t because there’s a chair just off-camera where they can sit when the take is over. Actresses can be sewn into their clothes each day because they have someone to assist them when they need to go to the bathroom. They deal with all the pain and suffering because actors are amazing and suffer for their art.

We go to the movies to see pretty people. We can see average people on the street or on television…until those television people get ripped for movies. An entire team of people spend hours planning, buying, and sewing to make sure these actors look good and they do a great job.

I also know there are brave women out there who wear heels all day everyday. I’ve heard some of them even enjoy it. Some of them can even run in heels or walk on cobblestone roads in heels. But I’m sitting her typing this as a woman who has recently converted almost exclusively to Crocs and Vans. And I can only write what I know.

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I’m not saying people should wear coveralls head to toe, cover their ankles and shoulders, and never get glammed up. There is a time and place for sexiness and sometimes in movies it is absolutely motivated by character or situation. I just want to acknowledge that there is a movie (which I have seen twice now) that I can watch, in its entirety, without ever feeling uncomfortable for any of the characters or sad about myself and my own lack of put-together-ness. I have a healthy self-esteem, but when I think about how I am not trained in martial arts, can’t walk in heels more than 1.5 inches tall, and will never be Emily Blunt, it is just too much sometimes.

Maybe I notice things too much because I’ve done wardrobe and production design before. Just today I spent 11 hours straight buying clothes for a commercial. For every minute of a commercial, hours are spent looking and thinking about clothes. Studying film has made it almost impossible to suspend my disbelief while watching a film, but I get really excited when a character has chipped nail polish. It’s so real.

Somehow, in a movie about ghosts, I was able to feel like I could relate to all of the characters.

Here’s what I’m thinking during most movies:

“Holy crap, how does she run in those heels in the snow/while stealing that diamond/running through NYC as it’s being destroyed.”
“Is she going to catch a disease by sitting in a public place in that short of a dress?”
“Can she breathe in that?”
“How much tape/butt glue is holding that together/whose job is it to watch and make sure she doesn’t expose herself on camera?”
“Why is she wearing a tank top when she should be protecting herself from explosions/the elements/road rash/the burning sun/all men around her are fully clothed?”
“Oh, here comes the part where he takes his shirt off and just happens to do pull-ups or push-ups.”
“How long in makeup to get that no-makeup makeup look?”
“How many hours in makeup to get his nose to look like that?”
“Would my eyeliner look like that while in the middle of fighting for my life? I wonder what brand that is.”
“Are his cheekbones naturally that defined?”
“I wish I looked like that. I wonder what his/her diet and exercise routine is, who am I kidding I would never do it.”
“How many hair extensions is she wearing?”
“I’m surprised his dress shoes have that much traction.”
etc.

What I thought during Ghostbusters:

“Dang, they all look so cute and comfortable. I wonder if that’s from Melissa’s own clothing line. Kate McKinnon wore a crop top and overalls and when she bends over you can see that there is like, some percentage of body fat on the side of her body.” I was actually shocked that that clip didn’t somehow get cut somewhere in the editing process because you can see bare skin that gets a crease in it when it bends. Creases are unbecoming. A woman’s options are to be perfectly toned, not ever move, or cover up. That’s just what usually happens on the big screen.

It’s brave of actors to put themselves out there. I often wonder if I would want to hide behind fabric and good angles and photoshop if I was in the spotlight. Everyone is judging your looks. It’s in magazines and on social media. I would give a standing ovation to any film that had an actor with a zit on their face, though it would be hard for continuity’s sake and I would never volunteer to be that actor. I’m actually not sure I would ever go out in public in coveralls…But these women are brave. Even when the world showed how cruel it could be to someone just because of how they look.

Other thoughts were, “All these women and Paul Feig and whoever did the wardrobe–I should look that up–are amazing.  Kristen Wiig wore an MIT sweatshirt. How cool is it that these people are saving the city with their BRAINS?”

It could’ve been that I was distracted by the humor and the ghosts but I love Batman for the same reason. He’s just a normal guy…who lives in a cave and works out a lot and has a great, old friend who knows how to make cool things. Realistic. If I lived in a cave and worked out and had a smart old friend I could be like him. I know there is some psychological reason why we’re all obsessed with super-heroes but I like regular heroes. People like me who aren’t fit have to hold on to the fact that maybe having a brain can be good enough to do some good in the world.

It’s also fun to see ladies getting to hang out together to change the world. I love my lady friends and I like the idea of hanging out together and saving the world. You know, when we’re not doing our nails, taking photos of our food, and talking about celebrities we love.

I didn’t miss the high heels. I didn’t miss the hair flips. I didn’t even notice they weren’t there until I started thinking about it. I’m not even upset that Chris Hemsworth never took his shirt off (there’s Google for that). All I noticed that some cool ladies and their unjustifiably confident secretary were saving the city they love, no thanks to the government, and they looked natural while doing it.

Confession: I did lie about never comparing myself while watching it. I did get a little jealous that I can’t pull off the hoop earrings and a necklace with my name in rhinestones like Leslie Jones can. Don’t tell anyone but she was my favorite #loveforleslieJ. I also thought, “Man, why is it so cool to wear glasses now that I got LASIK.”

The layers were amazing. The coats, the graphic tees, I wish I had screenshots so I could invite you all over for a slideshow where I present to you, with a laser-pointer in hand, all the things I loved.

So shout-out to the following people who made our heroines look effortless in Ghostbusters. I tip my metaphorical hat to you. Get it? I used a phrase with “hat” in it because you’re hair and wardrobe people. And to my readers, like when you see a film, you can go ahead and walk away from this post before you read the credits. xoxo

Costume Design By

Jeffrey Kurland (He designed Inception, Ocean’s 11 among many other films)

Costume and Wardrobe Department

Jose Bantula costumer: New York unit
Ken Busbin tailor
Penelope Cariolo costume stitcher
John Casey costume supervisor
Robin Chalfin Tailor
Keith Christensen concept artist
Jillian K. Clark costume assistant
Elizabeth Clifford key costumer
Hillary Derby costumer
Coco Dunaway costumer
April Dunlap costumer
Caroline Errington tailor
Krista Guggia costumer
Meg Gustafson costumer
Amanda Hannan set costumer
Chelsea Jenney costume production assistant: additional
Virginia Johnson wardrobe supervisor
Maili Lafayette costumer
April McCoy cutter/fitter
Joanna Murphy costume shopper
Oksana Nedavniaya costume illustrator
Clinton E. O’Dell ager
Sara O’Donnell shopper
Laura Cristina Ortiz costume assistant
Dana Pacheco costumer
Amy Pickering costumer
Kelly Porter costumer: reshoots
Lara Quinlan costumer
MacKenzie Rawcliffe costume assistant
Dianna Reardon ager/dyer
Hannah Rhein set costumer
Gina Rhodes stitcher
Sarah Hill Richmond stitcher
Erica Suzanne Scott set costumer: New York
Jennifer Starzyk assistant costume designer
Jill Thibault ager/dyer / head textile artist
Jennifer Lynn Tremblay stitcher
Cesha Ventre set costumer
Patricia Villalobos costumer
Aidan Vitti costume assistant: Los Angeles
Rose Westerman costumer: Boston
Dawn M. Williams costumer: Melissa McCarthy
Tricia Yoo set costumer: Los Angeles reshoots

Makeup Department

Dennis Bailey key hair stylist
Alan D’Angerio hair stylist: Sigourney Weaver
Tom Denier Jr. makeup effects designer
Linda D. Flowers hair stylist: Melissa McCarthy
Raul Hernandez hair stylist
Juliet Loveland makeup artist
Brenda McNally department head hair
Nichole Pleau key makeup artist
Janine Rath make-up: Melissa McCarthy
Vincent Schicchi special makeup effects designer
Trish Seeney makeup department head
Jeremy Selenfriend prosthetic lab technician
Heba Thorisdottir makeup artist: Kristen Wiig
Jennifer Traub makeup artist
Raquel Vivve key makeup artist: New York
Pamela S. Westmore makeup artist: Melissa McCarthy
L. Sher Williams makeup artist

 And also to Paul Feig. I’ll always #keepthefeigth.

Make Lemonade

I feel like I have to preface this with the fact that I’m not Beyoncé fan, I listen to her music and enjoy it but I do not think she is my queen or god so that puts me somewhere behind her regular fans. That and my dislike of pumpkin spice flavored anything basically makes me a bad American millennial but I can live with that.

I also have only listened/viewed the album once so this is first impression stuff and not a scholarly thesis but it ties into a lot of things I’ve been thinking about lately.

First. Even Beyoncé. My first thought after viewing the visual album was, I hope all the women out there that have been cheated on will realize they’re not alone. I know men and women who have been cheated on or betrayed, whether physically or emotionally, and I’ve seen the damaging effects. The light goes out in people’s eyes when they realize the one thing they trusted and depended on is no longer as sure as they thought. I’ve seen the moments where they think, how could this happen to me?

I hope people can look at this and say, “Even Beyoncé got cheated on. If someone as ‘flawless’ and ‘god-like’ as Beyoncé can get cheated on, this isn’t happening because I’m not pretty enough/successful enough/etc. etc.” Not to make everyone paranoid, but anyone can wind up in a situation and a relationship they never thought they’d be in. We’re not perfect. The people around us aren’t perfect. No amount of trying to make ourselves perfect will change a relationship. And also not everyone is living the life they lead us to believe they are living.

Second. Stop telling females what feminism is. Beyoncé used to be synonymous with feminism for everyone and now people are going around saying she’s not a feminist because of things she may or may not be doing in her marriage. This is interesting to me because I am a believer that vulnerability is what makes us strong (just go Google Brene Brown) so this album meant more to me as a female observer than her dancing with the word “FEMINISM” behind her. It seems really hard to be a feminist in today’s pop culture if you’re not physically strong, sexy, and blowing men’s heads off with a gun. I love that women have feelings. I love that humans are vulnerable. Beyoncé was brave to release this story knowing the whole world would be picking it apart. Please go read/watch/listen to some Brene Brown.

Third. You don’t even know. People do this with Taylor Swift and other songwriters all the time, we think the songs they write are exactly and literally what they’re thinking. Perhaps, sometimes they are but I can tell you this much from personal experience, and I use this example often, I once wrote a song about how you can’t count on anyone for anything and people will always let you down. I wrote that song because someone didn’t text me back when they said they would and ruined my evening plans. Had I really lost all faith in humanity? Just for long enough to jot down a page of lyrics. No one wants to hear a song that’s lukewarm. Things are heightened. So why do we act like we know what’s best for this person we only know through their songs?

And why all the sass about the last song? Not that it matters, but I don’t think Beyoncé and Jay Z will stay together forever after all this. But does that mean she shouldn’t remember the good times? Does that mean she should go on hating him forever? She can’t. He’s the father of her child. I’ve watched enough Jane the Virgin and Nashville to know you can’t get rid of a baby-daddy no matter how hard you try. She cannot just kick him out of her life so why not focus on the positive things they shared? Holding grudges only hurts the person who already has enough to hurt about. She doesn’t have to trust him again but she can’t run him over with a car or set him on fire either.

Fourth. But she’s not telling my story. Good. Write your own. Make your own. Nowadays you can literally talk into your phone and post it to YouTube so there’s no excuse not to share.

I watched Cool Hand Luke as a kid several times with my and I loved it but one part that always kind of scared me was when they bring him back after he’s escaped and he’s all beat up and they want to hear stories of the outside world. He’s all beat up laying on a table and he yells at them, “Go out there yourself. Stop feeding off me. Come on! Go out there yourself.” Why are people upset Beyoncé isn’t telling their story? How could she possibly do that?

I get answers to my life’s questions through music all the time but that doesn’t mean it’s always right. I remember in one relationship I was looking at this person and I had my mom’s advice for breaking up with someone (rip it off like a bandaid) going through my head at the exact same time as Jason Mraz’s I Won’t Give Up on Us. So guess what. Sometimes pop music tells you exactly how it should feel and other times you’ve got to go your own way. Yes, that is also from a song.

So just because Beyoncé had her experience and decided to share it her way that doesn’t make your experience the same or mean you have to live your life the way she does. Again, she’s not god. She’s just a human who has the capacity to share her story through songs that we will all listen to. If you think she’s telling the wrong story or doing the wrong thing, tell what you believe to be the right story. The more honest perspective we have in the media the better.

Even if we are given the exact same lemons there are still a billion different ways to make lemonade.

It completely undermines what it is to be human to assume that any one person can speak for an entire group of people.

I hope her songs with cathartic, empowering, and/or provided perspective for people and if they weren’t for you, well, I’d be surprised if you can’t connect with a single song or a sing lyric or a single chord or visual moment in the whole album, but that’s still your choice.

And I didn’t read that article about how Beyoncé is a bad role model but parents need to be able to sit down with their kids and talk about things that are in pop culture. There’s no escaping it because it’s everywhere and you can acknowledge that there is good and bad in everything out there.

If I had a kid I would sit down with them and say, “It’s okay to have all these feelings when someone hurts you. It’s not okay to run over all those cars with a huge truck because we don’t have that kind of money.” I would also say, “Now it’s not a hard and fast rule but maybe try not to fall in love with people with two initials for their name but one is spelled out.” We can pull important lessons out of any media.

Fifth. Why aren’t more people doing visual albums? Waiting for this to be a trend. Please?

 

If You Think You Have an Original Idea, Google it.

My new life motto and guideline for creating is: If you think you have an original idea, Google it.

I’m glad we have the internet to connect us to people and ideas but sometimes it can be disheartening to realize that your original idea, while original to you, has already been thought of…possibly several times.

John and I recently decided we wanted to explore the story of Ruth Handler, the inventor of Barbie and founder of Mattel. Her life is fascinating and inspiring and she created an icon. We were so excited, but I thought to myself, Barbie is very popular, I bet someone has thought of this before. A quick Google search and we saw that Reese Witherspoon had announced a similar film only a month prior to us thinking of it.

I believe this has caused two trends in creativity.

One is obsession with owning all your creative ideas. There has been a lot of buzz lately with Taylor Swift trademarking some of her lyrics including things like, “I’ll write your name.” The Fine Brothers trademarked “reaction videos” for their YouTube channel. It hasn’t worked out so well for them so far as they’re losing subscribers by the 100 thousands. My friend Devin recently got hit with a lawsuit for using the phrase “People are Awesome” from a YouTube channel that has used his videos without permission. This is the kind of stuff that makes me roll my eyes. I understand wanting to protect your creative ideas, especially when it is your livelihood, but what is the criteria for handing out these trademarks?

Where do we draw the line there? If we over copyright people are afraid of making new things that might be based off someone else’s ideas. If we don’t have copyrights people have no ownership over their own ideas and creating seems pointless. I try really hard not to let the fear of getting sued or having to sue to keep me from creating because it’s a taxing thought. But it’s something real, so I can’t wait until I can just hire a lawyer to worry about these thing for me. For now I just do a Google search and if nothing comes up I figure I’m good.

The second trend in creativity is not bothering to come up with an original idea. On Broadway right now are mostly revivals or musicals based on movies or books. It’s similar in Hollywood. I didn’t realize until doing a bit of research just how unique it is that John and I wrote a musical based off nothing but the brains of people who helped create it. Which is sort of cool, but also makes it a lot harder to sell, because people love what they love already and take a little more convincing to try something new.

This idea of originality is part of what’s so charming about Sundance. For good or bad most of the films are pretty original. We saw films that were original creations of the writer’s brain. Maybe based on their own life or stories of people they knew or from history, but still things that had never been seen before.

Think about Star Wars. It was original. After watching Birth of a Nation yesterday, I read this article. In it Nate Parker mentions his conversation with George Lucas.

I often mention George Lucas — when we made Red Tails together, we talked often about Star Wars and how it wasn’t a slam dunk, and so many people were in opposition to what he wanted to do. And it made him really soul search and think about what he was doing, and it made him stand firmer in his desire to make his film. And he said, “I learned something: When people tell you it can’t be done, that’s how you know you’re on the right track.”

I love movies based on books, if they are good books. I have a small stack of books I would love to adapt into films. I also love stories based off things in history. I think we need to tell these stories so we can remember where we’ve come from. We need to remember the heroes in the past and also the wrongs that were committed so we don’t make the same mistakes.

We also need original ideas and we need to protect creativity. We need to tell our personal stories because the stories of an individual become universal when they are shared. I don’t hate sequels or prequels or reboots but those of us who create need to make sure those aren’t the only stories we are telling or we’ll miss out on what could become classics.

An exception is, of course, if you’ve seen someone do something but you’re pretty sure you can do it better. 😉