Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Captain Fantastic - A Movie Review

When I watch a movie, I typically really like it or really hate it; I rarely have an in-between. I will make no effort not to reveal major plot points.

Let's discuss: was this a merely a good movie or was it a GREAT MOVIE? Is Viggo Mortenson a great man or THE BEST MAN?

I liked this flick. It wasn't perfect but it scratched a bunch of cinematic and thematic itches that I enjoy.

The opening scene introduces us to a bunch of feral kids who had the overwhelming luck to be sired by Aragorn, son of Arathorn, who is posing here as a man named Ben Cash.  (I'm so sorry, Viggo. That role is going to follow you to the grave.)  Cut quickly to their home base, which is a prepper's paradise.  These opening scenes make it obvious that someone has had long, intensive thoughts about what living off the grid would look like, down to its daily practicalities. This exposition was more than just showing how these people live. You get an insight into their values and, as you're counting heads, you keep looking for the missing person. Where's the mother? 

And therein is the plot: living off the grid has not paired well with the matriach's bipolar depression, and she's off elsewhere getting her seratonin re-adjusted. Ten minutes in to the film, we get the news: she's recently killed herself. 

Our movie then puts the family to the test. Bound by their loyalty to honor her burial wishes (and to say their last good-byes), they embark on a Great American Road Trip to where the mother's parents are holding a funeral for a daughter they lost a long, long time ago. Ben and his kids are strangers in a strange land and their presence is a foil to their bewildered family members at how American culture, consumerism, and capitalism has made us a bizarre people.

{The premise reminded me of a real-life story of a family going off the grid and trying to make it work. This Life Is In Your Hands was a great slap in the face to a younger me, and a reminder that women often bear the brunt of a move like this. There's more complexity to housewifery when you take away machines and add in growing your own foods. And, like the families in this movie and that book, when hormonal birth control is eschewed and sex is your only licit vice, you get children. If you're nutritionally imbalanced and your body chemistry is off to begin with, you get depression.}

This movie really has it all. Here's a list of things within it that will confuse you if you try to put them all together at once: graphic animal death, full frontal male nudity, Esperanto, Noam Chomsky, grave robbing, and a surfeit of precocious homeschooled children spouting ideology. 

{Ben's line -- "It's just a penis; every man has one." reminded me of this clip from Conan, with the excellent Flula Borg: "Have you not seen a man's anus before? Well, there's another one."}

The older I get, the more I can ruin a story. There were a number of things that I knew wouldn't stand up to further questioning. If the mother's will did contain language about her body after death (and it likely didn't -- wills tend not to go into that realm), then all it would have taken was a court order to halt her father from hijacking the funeral and keeping Ben from taking custody of his wife's body. Furthermore, as her husband, Ben de facto would have had rights to her body over Leslie's father. But take away that and you don't have a movie, so I guess I'll let legal details slide. And how did that family live off the grid -- in the woods, in the Pacific Northwest -- throughout winter? i did not spy a winterized yurt in those homebase shots. Was a bus really the best method of transport in and out of there? Were they squatting on land in a national forest or did they merely own thousands of acres of prime forestland? 

There were other things that annoyed me: the first and final scenes were self-indulgent. "These people live off the grid! Let's watch the eldest son kill a deer with nothing but a knife and then eat its still-warm heart!" Nope, too much. "Let's have the children sing the mother's favorite song as her body burns on the funeral pyre in front of them! And let's have the song be "Sweet Child of Mine!" Whatever takes your mind off your mother's embalmed flesh melting off her body, I guess. Stop trying so hard; we get it. They're off-kilter.

Still, I enjoyed it. A movie that tickles my senses and gives me days worth of thoughts to chew on is one I'll watch again. 

You were warned

It's easy to brush off comments about how parenthood changes you, especially when you're childless. I have a friend who bristles when it's implied that the experience would cause her to think differently.

"I can't watch anything where there's violence done to children," a friend of mine once confessed after I watched her children. We had been talking about Game of Thrones, and how she had to stop watching after the first episode, when a young boy is pushed out a window and becomes a paraplegic in the process. 

The curse of the modern world is that we can watch, in real time, as people suffer. I glance around my apartment and wonder how many refugees I could feed and shelter, and for how long. We hear of those who die and flee from war. We see the mourners bury their dead. Sometimes we see their faces, often not. There are too many faces. But we know they're there and there's a nagging in your head that you should do something about it. 

You send money and you hope that they're using it effectively. You've called your representatives and earnestly stated that we need to help. What else can you do? 

But then you see a man cradling his two babies, babies who are now nine months old forever. And you think of your own nine month old and how delicious it is to feel his heavy weight in your lap. 

Your heart seizes. You know the cost of that loss. You know the work it took to make those perfect little bodies, the hope there was in those little lives. You go to check on your own little boy and you think of how there's no difference between you and that man, only that you live here and he lives there. How there's no difference between your baby and his, except his are now gone and blessed be, yours breaths and sleeps so soundly. 

And how lucky you are for all of that, and how quickly any of it could change.

It shouldn't surprise me how much it unnerves me, how much it bothers me. It bothered me before, too but it feels different now. I was warned. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Very Stuff of Life

I haven't been writing regularly these past few years.  I used to keep a regular record of my thoughts and the goings-on of my life. I get flustered when I reread my journals from college -- I have a strong inner critic who is impatient with her former self.  In a moment of teenage disgust, I actually burned my high school journals.  I learned a lot in those four years, and surprisingly little of it had anything to do with the Spanish degree I eventually left with. There was a lot I thought I understood, much I wanted to understand, and lots of holding back.

I never quite got through Sophie's World, despite years of having the book and having half-hearted attempts each summer to dive in, but the first chapters were stirring enough on their own: the image of people living on a rabbit, getting so comfortable down in the fur of the rabbit that they never bother to burrow out and see the glorious ride they're on. College was the first time in years I felt I could be myself, without constant bombardment from family about how weird I was being and, remarkably, I had a group of friends who truly cared about me and I them. It was nice to let myself get comfortable in the fur for once, but it wasn't a great long term strategy. 

In the years that followed, I felt I was too busy living to document what was going on. 

Now I'm here and I'm feeling the need for words again. I'm especially feeling the need to connect. The allure of blogging like it's 2005 is the feedback.  I know enough by now that the more input I get on situations that are driving me nuts, the better. But then I'd have to do the work of finding some sort of community and even then the things going on around me are largely unbloggable. Extended family issues are a no-go, because they are touchy, have legal implications, and are guaranteed to end sadly. Changes are brewing in my own little family, ones that I've known are coming and are necessary, but are still hard and fear-producing and in general aren't mine to share. Blogging about my work isn't really something I'd like to do or should do, which leaves Reed and my hobbies. And, in generally, I want to let Reed be Reed and not be the basis about which I write, and instead of writing about my other hobbies I'd like to actually DO my hobbies. That leaves scant time for writing and not a lot of material. 

So what am I doing here? Goodness knows, but I'm going to keep it around and see where it goes. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Baby's First Household Plague

A litany:

Thursday: Pinkeye (baby + mama)
Friday: Fever (mama)
Saturday/Sunday: Colds (baby + mama)
Monday: Sinus infection (mama)
Wednesday-Saturday: Not-your-average sinus infection; terrible, wracking cough (mama)
Thursday-Saturday: Teething (baby)
Saturday: Antibiotics (mama)
Saturday/Sunday: Fever (dad)
Sunday: New tooth! (baby), collapse in a heap (everyone)

I understand that I'll want to record all the precious moments of my child's first year, and this one was rather memorable.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Low 30

Easter update: A strong start the first week, and then we all got sick. None of this happened.

I had a whiny, somewhat morose post brewing in my head yesterday about Lent my thoughts on God, and why I keep finding myself thinking about these things. {"These matters that with myself I too much discuss..." There, got it out of my system.} However, I was in a whiny, somewhat morose mood and decided it would be unproductive to write it out and feel bad for myself. In the very least, it seemed like too much pressure to close read and then quote the poem that is this blog's namesake, make grandiose Lenten plans only to fail at them 2 weeks in. 

I'll get to all of that later. Probably. 

Here's what I am doing for Lent. 

I am doing what I like to call a Low 30. No sugar, wheat, or dairy. The first few days go to prove what a weakling I've become in terms of discipline. All I want to do is have a coffee with cream and sugar (it's hardly worth drinking otherwise, so effectively: yes, I'm also giving up coffee) and you'd think it'd be easy enough to tell yourself no and have it be that. 

Wrong. The flesh is weak. 

My husband and I are doing this fast for non-religious reasons. It's just time for a reset and Lent is a handy mechanism. Isn't March a perfect time for asceticism? Everything sucks anyway.

Actually donating money, and making a plan for doing it month after month. Also going to try and volunteer once, with the group I used to be involved with that makes a hot meal for the homeless every Sunday.

Nothing like writing out your almsgiving goal to make you realize what an ungenerous Scrooge you've become.

If I were a good believer, I would have so many ideas. Liturgy of the hours? Lectio divina? Read the catechism? They all sound fascinating. 

Yet went I actually try to do it...

Like I said, I'll get to all of that. 

{Because I do not hope to know again
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power...}

{It really is a perfect poem.}

So here's my spiritual practice for Lent: I'm going to go to church.

I am going to go to the same church for all of Lent. 

I am going to make an honest effort to sit there and understand. 

I am not going to pretend that I am above instruction.

I am not going to pretend that this action makes me a better person. 

{Can you tell I have tried this before?}

But I'm writing it here, so now the internet knows. 

Wish me luck. 

Monday, February 27, 2017

Horticultural Time

I had the opportunity to put on make-up and get semi-dressed up for a professional development opportunity the other day. The theme was "Making Productivity Productive" and the event was geared toward women. I felt it was particularly suited to my particular brand of disorganized. I have a keen interest in methods of productivity, yet when given the chance I'm often notoriously unproductive. Pre-baby, I found with some horror that my best working time was often after 6pm. Now past 6pm is not a great option, because I'm usually making supper and cleaning up by about 7pm, and am pretty useless by 9pm. Somewhere in there I like to talk to my husband so it's more like a marriage and less like a very familiar roommate situation. Three days a week the baby is out the door by 8am and back by 1pm, and it's a miracle if I can pull off good work before 10am without 100mg of caffeine, 10 mg of Adderall, or both.

The other attendees were, on the whole, older than me. I hoped to gain some insight as to how they keep their heads in the game. During a sharing session, the woman next to me used "synergy" in earnest. I'm too much of a Millennial not to mock that term. I refrained from standing among them, shouting to the heavens, "What does your busy-ness achieve? What are you getting out of your work?!" but I know that day-to-day life is much more than what can fit into a calendar, and these women (much like me) were attempting to figure out how to keep the wage-earning part of their life separate from their actual life.  Plus, it wouldn't kill me to learn to not be an asshole, even if it's only in my head where I say those things. 

I'm in a different place than them right now and that's okay. Getting ready for labor, I read Mindful Birthing. I credit this book with giving me the tools to get through labor unmedicated.* In it, they do a good job getting new mothers into the mindset that gets you through having a newborn, then an infant, then a toddler: Horticultural Time.

Particularly in the West, the world moves by the clock. Industrial Time, the book calls it.  Lunch happens at noon, whether or not you're hungry. The bus certainly doesn't wait for you. Conference calls start at 10am, and Lord knows you don't want to be the late attendee interrupting as you buzz in. Horticultural Time is conditional. Things happen when they're ready to happen. Babies are born when they're ready. Newborns are hungry when they're hungry, even if you just fed them a half hour ago. Flowers bloom when they're ready. Give up on the clock. Don't rush it. Results are disappointing when you do.

I have loved being on Horticultural Time. I've often wondered if my ADHD is really a problem outside the modern world in which I live, where the work that helps support my family necessitates me being able to make efficient use of time. My ADHD-brain is actually well-suited towards the complexity and repetition of motherhood: my days adhere to a Rule of Life that, when followed, makes for a happy baby and mama.  Eat, play, sleep. Explore the world, sing songs. Wash up in the evening, make lots of time for being cosy together. I can make supper and watch the baby and maybe even keep the house clean all at once. I might even squeeze in a creative project that pops into my periphery. I can take a nap when Reed naps, if that's what I need. Is the weather nice? Let's take a walk! 

I know I'm lucky to have found work that lets me mostly take care of my son and from time-to-time use my graduate degree. I only have to engage in Industrial Time three days a week, four at most. When I have to work, I need to put blinders on to my mental periphery. I cannot do it on my own; I have many, many years of learning this the hard way. Thus the Adderall, which I'm back on now that Reed is eating solids. I've also given up on whether or not I need to feel bad taking the ADHD medication. I have to work; it helps me work. I wish I had it in college and grad school, when I mystified myself by staring for hours at homework or research and not getting anything done with it. 

Being productive on Horticultural Time looks different than it does with Industrial Time. My progress is measured differently. Going from Point A to Point B is great, but if I end up at Point C it's not a big deal. One day I'll probably go back into full-time work and then I'll be a little stricter about accounting for my hours. Until then, my days more sundial than clock.


* - Full disclosure: had some lovely narcotic mid-labor paired with an Ambien, because I was exhausted and they threatened to send me home because I wasn't progressing. I slept 6 blissful hours, had my water broken, and pushed out a baby four hours later. No Pitocin, no epidural, just like I wanted.  

Friday, February 10, 2017

Five for Friday - 2/10/17

1. Doing

  • Attempting the 30 Day Pilates Challenge. Again. I am Grade-A BAD at follow through, even if I like something. 
  • InCoWriMo! // Month of Letters! Which is going as well as it can given the above (re: bad at follow through). So far I've mostly caught up on my postcrossing backlog, sent valentines with pictures of Reed to great-grandma and the grandparents, and sent a package to two of my penpals who are meeting up in Rio at the end of the month. 

2. Reading

3. Listening 

What does Reed think of our music selections this week? Reed just likes it when I sing. Good point, kiddo. 

4. Making

  • Apple Sharlotka. Browsing Smitten Kitchen's Instagram is usually a good way to ensure that I "accidentally" throw together a dessert, whether or not we need it. My reasoning here was that we had apples that were starting to go bad. This was good -- the top had a nice, fortune-cookie taste and texture to it. I'm thinking I could do this with any stone fruit or berry and it'd turn similarly. 
  • Knit Baby Blocks, which I started about this time last year thinking I'd totally have them done before the baby was born. The baby is now eight months old.

5. Thinking
I should have posted this on Friday instead of backdating it on the following Tuesday. Oh well! My goal here is to remember all the little details from the week. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

A disclaimer

Sure, we’re that kombucha-brewing, yogurt-making, got-a-bag-of-table-scraps-in-the-freezer-for-broth-keeping couple you know.

Unless the matriarch is retching uncontrollably, and then it’s all packaged comfort food from here until the end of her tummy troubles. Is it a stomach bug or your garden-variety food poisoning? WHO CARES,THROW OUT EVERYTHING IN THE FRIDGE, IT LOOKS SUSPECT.

{Especially you, mostly-vegetarian root vegetable and kale barley stew. You did not taste great in reverse.}

 Oh, but we only clean with natural products, like baking soda and vinegar…

Did I not just say the mater familias of this operation has been unable to keep her head up for more than 30 minutes at a time? Lysol, baby. Hand sanitizer. Those bleachy wipes. Get them all at Target, my darling. Heaven forbid we all get whatever this is, because THIS is not messing around.

{In retrospect, it was probably the goddamn salmon, which I only ate because it had been open for a while and I hate to see things go waste.}

Oh my goodness, breastfeeding triggers nausea? You’ve got to be kidding me. Thank God there’s milk in the freezer. Give him a bottle. I’m just going continue to yak into this stock pot while I pump, because I don’t think either of us wants to clean this off the baby.


When the going gets tough, my principles fly out the window and they do so without shame, guilt, or a second thought. Perhaps this is something I ought to work on or perhaps this is just something I need to learn to accept.