I don’t get GIFs

I don’t get GIFs.

I don’t mean that I don’t get why they’re used or funny (like the way I don’t get the usefulness of mason jars).

I mean that I don’t get how they exist. Aren’t they straight out of Harry Potter?

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Where do they come from? How are they made? I can’t be the only one with these questions.

“You’re not!” screams Jill. Jill is going to figure out how to make them, and I expect a lesson. *riding her coattails of knowledge*

Katie is excellent at using GIFs for comedic measure. I asked her how they exist, and she said, “When a mommy GIF loves a daddy GIF…”

That’s not an explanation, Katie. Nice try. Mom beat you to the punch there. I don’t quite get that either.

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But that’s an entirely different direction. We will not go there.

GIFs though. So many questions.

Is it GIF, as in Guh-if? Is it GIF, as in choosey Moms choose GIF (Jif)?

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I was using the GIF (Jif) pronunciation (which could have something to do with my love of peanut butter), but some super cool people say GIF (Guh-if). I just don’t know!

When I ask people they say they don’t know either, but in that way that makes me think they really do know (and they’re just not telling me).

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Also, writing “Guh-if” makes me think of Guh-Linda, which makes me start singing, “No wizard that there is or was is ever gonna bring me down. Ahhahahahaaaaa.”

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How does a GIF act like an image? If I search for GIFs (which I almost never do because I’m afraid of them), I look in the “images” section of Google. This doesn’t make sense; they’re like miniature videos. There should be a “magic image” section of Google for GIFs.

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I don’t get it! How? How? How? Seriously, the only conclusion I can come up with here is that wizards are real.

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libraries: a love-hate relationship

When I was in junior high, I would sometimes walk to the public library after school. I was terribly productive there, and I could avoid the bus by waiting for my mom to finish work. Yes, the bus was that bad, like playing-Nickelback-the-whole-ride-home bad.

The library was a discovery of resources. A whole building full of books?! Why haven’t we been coming here every day? I often think this each time I step into a library.

But the Millers are what you might call… forgetful, and this doesn’t mix well with things like “due dates” and “late fees.”

They pass. We forget. We stay away from the library, avoiding large fees and the librarian’s stink eye. We let time go by. The librarian retires. We go back. We realize (again) how cool libraries are. We check-out. We think we can do it this time.

(Maybe I’m being too harsh with the use of “we” here. I’m sure someone in our family is capable of returning things on time, but I am not that someone.)

Our “this time” fails. It’s a brutal, ugly cycle. In fact, a certain brother can’t even go back to that library anymore. (Something about a $30 fee that’s gaining interest.)

But back on track. In middle school, I was (again) in the discovery stage, and the public library was (again) a magical place.

In this glorious building, I fell in love with a boy: Jehu. He had a scar on his cheek and never apologized for being himself. He was a sailor with tanned skin and blue eyes.

Okay, okay, Jehu is from a book, but not just any book. Jehu is from Jennifer L. Holm’s Boston Jane.

Boston Jane isn’t really about Jehu.

Guess who it’s about? Yes, Jane.

Guess where Jane is from? Yes, Philadelphia. Wait…

Boston Jane is great. Trust me. Here’s why:

e.e. cummings said, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” That’s what Boston Jane is about: finding that courage to be true to yourself.

Convinced? No?

How about this quote that’s actually from Boston Jane: The Claim (last in the trilogy): “This, I thought, was true love. Someone who made you happy without saying a word.”

Awwww. Just read it, okay? Good.

Now, if twitter had existed in middle school, I would have been showing off this Jennifer Holm re-tweet like nobody’s business. But since I’m older, I’ll just SHOW OFF THIS JENNIFER HOLM RE-TWEET LIKE NOBODY’S BUSINESS (in capital letters).

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happy birthday, mom

It turns out that writing a post about your mom is nerve-wracking.

I’ve tried to write this five different times. A blog post. Five times.

So let’s just say that this will not be life-altering nor will it convey all of the wonderful, good things I can or want to say about my mom. Okay? Okay.

Now, then, let’s start with a movie because that’s usually a good place.

The Help. That’s right. I’m going there. I really love that movie. My mom and I dragged my dad to go see it, and it was probably one of the best movie-going experiences I’ve ever had. I think our theater was full of fans of the book; they were all cheering and laughing and crying (yes, really) through the entire thing. The Miller family enjoyed it, but I’m sorry(?) to report that we weren’t howling like the rest of the audience.

Actually, the biggest impression the movie had on us was a single line.

No, not the “eat my…” one. Although, that was pretty great.

I mean the classic. “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”

Now, at first my mom and I sort of repeated these words back and forth to each other because it was just one of those funny-sounding quotes, like so many in our repertoire.

“I don’t KNOW, Margo!”

“I like you very much. Just as you are.”

“He’s had 152 moles removed, so now he has 152 pockmarks on his face.

The number of people who think he looks like Clark Gable.

The number of people who think he looks like a Clark Bar.”

“Boooon-TT cake.”

“Her shriveled little legs.”

Did I give enough quotes? Oh, good.

The Help line became another in the rotation. Mom would (will) end an email or a card with it, and it’s funny and sweet. I mean, those are lovely words to read. What I realized recently, though, is that this isn’t new.

My mom has been telling me a version of those words my entire life.

Every time she tells me I’m beautiful because of my heart, that I can be anything I want because of my brain, and that she will always love me no matter what, she gives me what Aibileen gives Mae Mobley.

How many people don’t get to hear that? How many people grow up thinking they’re stupid and ignored and unloved? Too many.

My mom is a spectacular mom. It’s not because she’s a brilliant, incredible, intelligent, beautiful woman (although, she is). She’s spectacular because she builds others up. She is the most caring person I have ever met in my life, and I’m so in awe that God made me her daughter. Not everyone gets the best mom in the world; not everyone gets a mom who lets them know how capable they are.

Every little girl, every child of every age, deserves those words, and I’m so thankful that I get to hear them from the woman I admire most.

In case you haven’t heard it today: “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”

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being brave

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My favorite moment in A Wrinkle In Time is right before Meg Murry leaves to face the nefarious IT and rescue her little brother. Meg, the protagonist, basically spends the entire book being pulled into these massively scary and complicated situations that she doesn’t understand because unlike her five year old brother, Meg isn’t a genius. After finally finding her father, Meg just wants to return to being a child, but she can’t. She is the only one who can rescue her brother, so instead, she has to say goodbye:

“At last she turned to her father. ‘I’m-I’m sorry, Father.’

He took both of her hands in his… ‘Sorry for what, Megatron?’

Tears almost came to her eyes at the gentle use of the old nickname. ‘I wanted you to do it all for me. I wanted everything to be all easy and simple… So I tried to pretend that it was all your fault… because I was scared, and I didn’t want to have to do anything myself-‘

‘But I wanted to do it for you,’ Mr. Murry said. ‘That’s what every parent wants… I won’t let you go, Meg. I am going.’

‘No.’ Mrs. Whatsit’s voice was sterner than Meg had ever heard it. ‘You are going to allow Meg the privilege of accepting this danger. You are a wise man, Mr. Murry. You are going to let her go.’

Mr. Murry sighed. He drew Meg close to him. ‘Little Megaparsec. Don’t be afraid to be afraid. We will try to have courage for you. That is all we can do…'”

We can’t really go back to being kids, and it’s not easy growing up. Meg can’t go back, as much as she wants her dad to take care of her and make it all better.

As much as her dad wants that, too: “That’s what every parent wants.” And it’s the scariest thing I can imagine to allow this kid you hope you didn’t mess up to go out into the world, to send them to stand up against the very real IT. But it’s a privilege to let them leave, to let them be brave.

There are lots of days when I am not brave, and I want to go home.

Sometimes, I want to go to my physical house. Most times, though, I want to go to a home in a different time. I want to go to the very back seat of a white suburban, where my mom can barely hear me over the three siblings laughing beside and in front of me. I want to be forced to sit through Heather’s orchestra concert, and I want to fake being asleep on the way home so my dad will carry me up the stairs. I want Thad to grumble that I’m not rowing hard enough in the canoe. I want Rhett to ban me from his room. I want Mom to pack my lunch and put my drawings on the fridge. I want it to be easy and comfortable. I want it to be exactly as it always was.

But that’s not being brave.

Being brave isn’t something I usually attribute to myself. I don’t claim it, and yet, I can be brave. Moving to California to live by myself was certainly pretty brave. Choosing not to go to law school was brave (I think- we’ll see). Deciding that I was really going to be a writer- that was brave, too.

There’s part of me that will always long to be ten years old again, but I won’t ever be. And I’m excited about being older, about growing up. But I’m nervous, too.

I’m scared about losing people, even myself, to that big IT that never relents.

I’m scared about failing, but I’m not afraid to be afraid any more. I choose to be brave. I choose to face the danger like Meg.

Do you know how she rescues Charles Wallace and defeats IT?

Love. Love makes you brave. Love makes me brave.

searching for john green

So I haven’t met John Green.

Despite being from Indianapolis.

Despite looking for him every time I’m at the Indy airport.

Despite showing his picture to my family just in case they see him in Indianapolis and can tell him who I am (because then he’d remember it forever).

In fact, my family is completely unhelpful. Rhett even said, “He looks like any other man I’ve ever seen in Indianapolis.” Excuse me, Rhett? Do you have eyes? Do you even care about this at all? “No,” he’d say.

Despite all of this, I have imagined meeting John Green for some time now…

I walk around the Indy airport, about to leave to go back to California. Maybe it’s summertime. Maybe it’s not.

Mom & Dad dropped me off early, so I’m walking along looking at the work by Hoosier artists displayed in glass cases because that’s what I do at the airport. (I do not utilize as much of the free WiFi as possible. No.)

In the reflection of the glass I see a puff of hair. A big hair puff. And under this hair is the leader of Nerdfighters: Mr. John Green.

I turn.

Me: You’re John Green.

JG: Hi. How’s it going?

Me: Really great! How are you? How’s it- how you?

JG: I’m well.

Me: I’m not a crazy one. The people who hyperventilate because they’re so excited to see you. I mean, they aren’t crazy because they’re just super excited to meet you because you’ve made a huge impact on them and that’s cool I just mean that I’m not like that I mean, yes, I’m a fan, and- and- and- and- and- Oh gosh.

JG: Thank you.

John Green starts to walk away. This is worse than Ralphie seeing Santa. I have to think fast.

Me: DFTBA!

John Green turns back and smiles a little.

Me: I love the vlogbrothers and what they stand for. I participate in Esther Day. That’s one of the coolest initiatives, and you’re you’re you’re a great writer as well.

John Green nods.

JG (telepathically): Yes. Yes, I am.

Me: I could maybe babysit your kids sometime, or go to lunch with your wife.

JG: No.

John Green walks away.

And that would be it.

Even in my imagination, this interaction does not go well, but I will continue to imagine. I will still look around at the airport. I will still show my family his picture.

I will still pretend to think that if we met, we would be friends because… aren’t we already?

Isn’t that what happens when you are pulled into a world that someone creates? You read and watch, and suddenly you know who they are. And they know exactly who you are because what they’re saying verbalizes all of the feelings you have and even the ones you didn’t know you have. That’s what’s so cool about telling stories and sharing them. The stories and storytellers become almost as dear of confidants as the people who are actually around us. Reading and watching is as comforting as a hug from a good friend.

So even if a real meeting with John Green would go as spectacularly terrible as the one I’ve imagined (and most likely it would), it’s okay because we’re friends already (he just doesn’t know it yet).

obsessed

One could see my life as a series of obsessions: times (varying from a week to several years) when a subject, movie, book, or show consumes me. One could also stop using “one” as a pronoun. One could try.

There’s a fun read by Polly Shulman titled Enthusiasm that speaks to this sort of crazy, following a character as she discovers Jane Austen.

I had a Jane Austen phase, too.

I don’t know if “phase” is the right word. Phase implies an end. Once I’m obsessed with something it never really goes away. The pain is just lessened. The intense heartache I feel in the middle of an obsession is eventually replaced with a dull twang.

Back to Jane Austen. Back to writing letters that began: “To My Future Mr. Darcy.” Back when my children’s names were planned to be “Fitzwilliam” and “Georgiana.” Mom doubts this is not still currently my plan. (Maybe I do, too.)

There have been other author enthusiasms and other book obsessions.

Boston Jane. A little series that made me like cherry pie, and I HATED cherries.

Ella Enchanted. Ella and I both “frell” for Char.

Harry Potter.

John Green could fall into this category as well, but it really all began with the vlogbrothers and not with his books. The land of Nerdfighteria is deep and fathomless, and I’m still a little in there.

There have been movie enthusiasms.

Mom says my very first obsession was with Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken (or as I call it, “Diving Girl”), a movie about a girl who rides a horse into a pool. It inspired me to befriend my imaginary horse named “Wilburt with a ‘T.'” Obviously, this obsession ran over into the period of Anne of Green Gables enthusiasm.

There’s my killer whale stage, aided and instigated by Free Willy. I had a blow up Keiko -Willy’s real name, people- for the pool. I aspired to be a marine biologist. I considered the ways in which I could fill the lake outside our house with saltwater to properly accommodate a whale. Certain recent tragedies of SeaWorld have all but crushed my image of riding an orca (but now that you mention it, said whale would obviously be my best friend and have a super clever name like “Free Hilly.”)

There was the Age of Star Wars, one of my longest obsessions, strongest from ages 8 to 14. Highlights of this obsession include: attendance at Star Wars Celebration, a Queen Amidala Halloween (or maybe two or three), and several Tatooine-themed sleepovers (with only myself).

Does watching Mutliplicity at least once a day for several months count as an obsession? Add Multiplicity then. I’m not proud.

For television there was 7th Heaven, a show I recorded on VHS tape for my sister when she went to medical school. I thought she was probably going crazy without watching. (She wasn’t.)

There was the three months of watching every I Love Lucy episode multiple times. I read both Lucy and Desi’s autobiographies, watched several documentaries and miniseries about them, imagined living at Desilu Ranch, and cried several times over the couple’s failed marriage (and not over the fact that they are both deceased). I was 20.

The Young and The Restless. I blame Mimi (my grandmother) for starting this, and I blame the Nick/Sharon breakup for ending it.

There were the more odd obsessions.

Presidential trivia. In my memory, it was a blast to utilize on family road trips (but I have a sneaky suspicion that I am the only one who remembers it that way).

Crock pot recipes. I won’t go into detail, but let’s just say it involves a “crock pot pancake.”

Crocheting. Two Christmases ago I made everyone in my family a scarf. I haven’t crocheted since.

Kristen Wiig’s Target Lady, which just consisted of me using that voice and severely embarrassing myself at actual target check-out counters (because the cashiers didn’t watch SNL?).

When I get into something so heavily, I often get hurt. Please see my fourth grade reading of A Bridge To Terabithia for evidence. **I devoured that book. Ate it up. Then I cried so hysterically that I literally made myself ill.**

Fortunately, I’ve learned to simmer down my tendencies to go bat-crap crazy over something. I do things to protect myself. While reading Divergent over Thanksgiving break, I got pulled in hard, so I looked up the ending when I was halfway through the second book. I know, I know. It was sacrilege, but knowing the end meant I didn’t have to go all in.

Going whole hog insane over something is a very selective process at this point in my life. There are farther stretches between obsessions, and when I do go there, I try to be very intentional about the amount of time I spend thinking about things like roast beef sandwiches. Because when one falls in love, one wants to really mean it (especially in the sandwich arena).

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fandango depression

Fandango is depressing.

I’m not talking about the Kevin Costner movie. Did you know there’s a Kevin Costner movie titled Fandango?

I’m talking about the movie tickets website. I visit Fandango on the regular, but lately, Fandango is depressing. Is “on the regular” a saying?

Perhaps I’m being a bit dramatic. There are, in fact, several things in the western world that are more depressing: that Sarah McLachlan commercial, long TSA lines, divorce, etc.

However, every time I look at Fandango I get a pit in my stomach, a melancholy ache, because every time I search for showtimes, the locator is never where I am. When I’m in Indiana, it looks up times in Malibu. Malibu! I love the ocean. When I’m in California, I see the Mooresville Movie Theater as the number one result. My home! There are probably people I know seeing that movie at 2:35. Even when the locator is close to where I’m at (i.e. the same state), it’s usually super far away. Those are the nice theaters! I can’t even enjoy this movie now because I know that 50 miles away is a superior theater.

Fandango is just the worst.

But it’s not. Not really.

It just makes me homesick for places I’ve been, places I love, and places I know people are having fun at. Living apart from people you love is like going to sleep early. You hear you’re family laughing in the living room, and you feel like you’re missing out.

I guess that’s not wholly Fandango’s fault.

But it is. It really kind of is.

For the love of dark chocolate -I do love dark chocolate- I need to figure out how to take the zip code preset off of Fandango before I destroy it (which would probably result in just destroying my computer a la Ron Swanson.)

snow day

I don’t think I’m supposed to get a snow day in grad school.

I don’t think I’m supposed to get a snow day in grad school in Malibu.

I don’t think I’m supposed to get two snow days in grad school in Malibu.

But… guess what I got?

Just so we’re clear, it’s not snowing in Malibu. In Indiana, though, in Indy it’s really snowing.

Snowing to the point of flight cancellations and power outages (none that lasted more than a minute at my house) and completely breathtaking scenery.

Snow days used to be filled with sledding and drinking hot chocolate and watching loads of movies, and guess what? They still are. Shouldn’t every day be full of those things? Some would say that they shouldn’t; no one would ever get anything done. I agree (I accomplished very little today), but I do think there’s something magical about a snow day and a cup of hot chocolate. It’s something that we should try to recreate and recognize when it comes without the flakey fanfare.

I wish you a snow day, not necessarily one 12 inches deep, but one that’s full of laughing and play and magic. That’s the kind of snow day we’re all supposed to get.

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my 2013 in numbers

This post is not very creative. Please see Jill’s post for confirmation of this unoriginality. Okay, 2013, here we go:

8 plane trips slept through or cried through

3 flat tires

1 popular webseries participated in as associate producer, co-star, and -let’s not forget- intern

380 phone calls to Mom

1 half marathon

45 blog posts

1 new close friend (not sure if I should be worried by or proud of this number)

38 years of marriage forgotten for half a day

25 “sorry’s” said for forgetting Mom & Dad’s anniversary

3 people who decided to rid me of my “sorry’s”

99 Parks and Rec episodes

0 new nicknames (I’m okay with that)

30 instances when answering the phone was followed by Thad saying, “What up, gurrrrrl?”

4 Universal Studios trips

1 Disneyland trip

1 Disney World trip

1 hysterical cry at Disney World shared with 2 siblings

10 new crock-pot recipes

6 new crock-pot recipes I will make again

10 uncontrollable giggle fits (approx.)

1 novel poorly written, but written nonetheless

4 scripts written

1 wedding attended (appalling low)

2 trips outside the U.S.

0 passport stamps

1 coffee addiction formed

2 instances when I told Rhett, “It’s like I’m Michael Scott talking to Michael Scott.”

4 trips to The Griddle Cafe

1 writers’ group founded

4 times I was determined to grow my hair out

3 haircuts

2 million times I’ve been thankful for my friends

3 billion times I’ve been thankful for my family

1 really good year