Thursday, December 30, 2010

Good Grief [Christmas in Disney]

Instead of "Christmas in Dixie." Get it? Ha. Haha. No? Oh well. 

Gonna mellow out and get serious here for a bit, friends. But stay with me. I have a point. 

Many of you may know that I am a freelance writer and have written articles for a magazine in my hometown for several years (since my internship there in 2003, actually... wow). I write the "Mind and Body" column, and earlier this year was assigned the task to write an article about dealing with grief during the holiday season.

Honestly, it was not something I knew much about, dealing with true grief and loss. My grandparents, my dad's parents, passed away when I was a teenager, but they lived in New Orleans. I talked to them every other week or so and saw them twice a year. Sure, I grieved, and I feel a loss in their absence, but not in my everyday adult life. I miss going to New Orleans for Thanksgiving, as was our tradition, but I am past the grieving point.

So I wrote the article, relying on the advice from grief counselors, self-help books, and information online. I tried my best to empathize as I wrote sentences about wanting to skip the holidays, and with dealing with loneliness, pain, and fatigue following the death of a loved one. I offered tons of great ideas. Make a new tradition involving remembering your loved one. Don't overdo it. Just say no. Avoid excess. Easy enough, right? Little did I know, my family would be reading my article a few months later, taking the advice to heart, as we grieve a huge loss.

My grandfather, Don Pitts, died in August. He was 78. I'm not going to write an obituary here, this is not that kind of post and, frankly, not something I'm ready to share with the Internets... but I will tell you I talked to him every single day. And he was a funny, funny man. We were very close. And I never once doubted he loved me and had my back no matter what. And I feel the pain of that loss every single day, though it's a bit easier to deal with since I live a state away. My grandmother, his wife for 60+ years, is having a rough go of it, as is my mother, an only child. This is not a sob story, though. This is normal, every day grieving and loss. It's part of life. We knew it was coming. But I am thankful to have had 28 years with him. And thankful for my family and friends throughout the ordeal.

Sister and me with Grandaddy, circa 1988

So came the holidays. Thanksgiving came and went, and yes, we were sad. Though we did change things up a bit and change locations, tweaked the menu a bit. But overall, we got through it. But as we began to plan our Christmas festivities, we looked at all the advice I had so painstakingly researched and presented in the magazine article, and said... to hell with that! We're going to Disney World!

And so, yes, my sister and I, both in our 20s, along with our 74-year-old grandmother and 58-year-old mother (Dad conveniently has to work, making this an all girls' trip), just returned from Disney World. At Christmas. As in, we enjoyed Christmas Eve dinner at Epcot's Biergarten, drinking beers, eating sausage, and watching polka dancers and Christmas Night walking the streets of the Magic Kingdom, where Christmas carols abounded, as well as an actual "snow" shower. It was truly magical. And of course my first stop wasThe Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Obviously.

Needless to say, the trip was hilarious in planning. I loved telling the travel agent, after he asked the age of the youngest child going, that she was 26. I love that I was the one embarrassing my family while dorking out at WWHP, instead of the other way around, as I'm sure it was when we were kids. And I love that I know if Grandaddy can see us from where he is, that he'd be laughing his ass off right along with us.

Here's a preview. More to come. And if anyone out there wants any tips or suggestions... I'm your gal. I just returned a backpack full of well-read tour guides to the library this afternoon.

Sister and me at Cinderella's Castle, 2010

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, and cheers to a happy 2011!

Friday, December 17, 2010

My Christmas List

Eager to have a gift under your tree for me? Isn't everyone? Here's a random want list. Do I NEED these things? Nope. But yes, do so want.

Bookworm Stationery:

 Any necklace from this Etsy Shop. Some examples:

 The first seasons of Modern Family and Community. Took me a while to jump on these trains, but so glad I did. Now I need to catch up.

(I'll take Joel McHale separately, please.)

While we're at it, I need the first disc of Season 1 of How I Met Your Mother. SOMEBODY misplaced mine. Mmmmhmmmmm you know who you are. 

(Moving on....)

Penguin Postcards. Not like the animal. As in, the publishing house. Very cool idea.

Red Rose Watch from PAXAM Records (Ryan Adams's record company). Sold out, yes. But if anyone got their hands on one and wants to sacrifice theirs or trade for a very nice Bulova watch that was my college graduation gift... let's talk.

A PUPPY (plus the time and money to care for one?).  Yes, it's cliche. But seeing as I am soon embarking on the adventure to live alone for the first time in my 28 years, I'd like a companion. I think I've decided on a Boston Terrier. I will also settle for a smush-face kitty, but only if he's a version of Winston. And if you take away all allergens so my friends can come over.

Vinyl. I'd like as much of the Avetts as possible, the Fleet Foxes, and Love Is Hell to round out my DRA collection. And lots and lots of Lionel Richie. OH and some Dolly Parton. Alvin & the Chipmunks' Christmas album. Old school Reba. Hmmmm what else.... Thriller. Kind of Blue. And some Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. That should do me for a little while.

The Perfect Apartment. I'd love it if the Craigslist Santa delivered to me, as a special Christmas miracle, a nice little 2 bedroom, 1 bath apartment/house that is in my price range, but also in a nice area. Preferably on the West Side and more specifically in Sylvan Park. Actually I don't need a whole second bedroom, just a space for my bookshelves and a pull-out couch for visitors. A big kitchen would be nice. And a porch. A front porch, preferably. With room for a swing and rocking chairs. Hardwood floors. Non-sketchy neighbors a must. Am I expecting too much? Absolutely.

LASIK surgery. Saving up for that currently, but if anyone wants to make a donation, I'll take it!

Tickets to see my Auburn Tigers play in the National Championship game.  Tickets are ranging in the $500+ area, while plane tickets out to Arizona are around $1,200 at the moment. Any Moneybags out there want to sponsor a sweet little Auburn grad so that she can cheer on her favorite team and maybe, possibly, find some redemption from that 2004 fiasco (which was also her senior year and last football season as a student)? Anyone? Bueller?

Christmas Vacation on DVD. I just realized I don't have it. I need it. Hallelujah! Holy Shit. Where's the Tylenol?

DVD Player or TV with Internet capabilities so I can stream Netflix directly. Do I need to explain why?

Portable Sewing Machine. It gets expensive to have every pair of pants and every skirt and dress hemmed. Also, I'd need some sewing lessons. That's key.

For my sister to get to meet her idol, Lady Gaga. Yes, I am talking about my 26-year-old grown-ass-woman sister. She loves the Gaga. And it would make her life to meet her. And she's playing a show here in April, so it's the perfect opportunity. And maybe then she would be sweeter to me if I could make it happen.
Sister (on the right) and her roommate dressed as The Lady for Halloween.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Big Screen Debut

I wrote about the Blue Like Jazz movie a few months ago, and I wanted to give you a (long overdue) update. For a brief recap, the movie, based on one of my favorite books by Donald Miller, lost its funding when some evangelical groups found out its characters' walk with faith weren't exactly... by the book. (Among many, many other reasons, I'm sure.) Regardless, some folks from Franklin, Tenn., generated a Kickstarter campaign in hopes of raising $125,000 to save the movie. I gave a measly $25 and hoped for the best.

Would you believe that in less than a month, they raised a little under $346,000?! Mostly from thousands of everyday people just like me who gave their measly $10 and $25 toward something they believed in. If that isn't God doing some work in the modern age, I don't know what is.

So filming began immediately, and in Nashville, no less. The second I saw a casting call, I jumped on it, even though it called for "college-aged" kids and were mostly recruiting Belmont and Nashville students. I figured that at 28, I can pull it off. Right? I mean... I'm pretty short. I don't look toooo different from when I was in college? So I signed up and was assigned a day to show up. I ventured over to the Scarritt Bennett Center on Vandy's campus on a frosty morning, wearing "grungy Seattle" clothes (meaning for most, including me... dark plaid) and carrying a  headshot (double ha), as was asked of me, and I kept my fingers crossed the person in charge wouldn't stamp a big TOO OLD sign on my forehead.

Well, they didn't, which is why I'm here to tell you that next year I will be making my big screen debut. As an extra, yes, and in a low-budget indie film... but in a film that I am over-the-top excited about, and I hope you'll watch for.

So let me tell you something about filming a movie... it's not quite as glamorous as you imagine. It's 80% sitting around while set directors, costume and prop folks, and main actors set up the scene.. then 20% actually filming. Then resetting. Reshooting.. Reset. Reshoot. Over and over. Thrilling at first for sure, but tedious after a while. Regardless, I had a blast watching and learning a bit about the process, and I had the opportunity to chat with a bunch of college kids (oh, to be young), as well as the lead actors. The actor playing Donald Miller's character is Marshall Allman, looking quite cleaned up from his TrueBlood fame.

Marshall Allman
We shot a cafeteria scene. Lots of dialogue. I was among 150 or so students filling out the tables in the lunchroom. At times, different people walk around and pick people out to be walkers, or to be in the front of shots. Mostly to disperse demographics, but also I think they just picked out the people who fit parts best, or maybe who they thought dressed the best? I can tell  you the one black dude I was talking to at first had no clue what he'd gotten himself into, as he was among the very few minorities there. He's going to be in every scene, I think.

So as the dude walked around looking all empowered as he plucked the special ones from their seats, I tried several strategies to get him to pick me. First I ignored him. I looked off and chatted with my neighbor, ever-aware of his passing by me. And pass right by me he did. The next time, I acknowledged him, gave a smile (an Oscar-worthy smile, perhaps), and then I acted like I didn't give a care. Again, he passed by. I made an attempt to silently plea "Pick me! Pick me!" with my eyes without embarrassingly causing any scenes. Nope. I tried variations of these tactics with each pass. No dice. Then I gave up on my big screen debut and didn't even notice when he walked by the next time. I happened to look up right as he said "You.. in the plaid jacket... carry a tray." YES! So I carried a tray. And I was walking right behind the main actors in the scene as I carried said tray. (Strategy, folks.) So if the scene makes it in the film, you'll see my face, and my plaid jacket, walking to my invisible seat. Carrying some fruit and maybe a cookie (let's face it... probably a cookie). And trying my damndest not to look into the camera. They also filmed another scene set in the cafeteria, but taking place on a different day, in which we excitedly welcomed the main characters back after they'd been rescued from jail and blah blah blah... just watch the movie. Trust me, I'll let you know if I'm in it.

Here I am, with my prop (the headshot). I'll explain why if the scene makes it to the big screen.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Lauren's Favorite Things!!!!

Barney gave away his favorite things on HIMYM last night.

You can read his list here. (Why is that video mirrored? Eh... not gonna worry about it.)

So what are my favorite (tangible, give-away-able) things? What would I give away if I had a limitless bank account and superficial need to give away thousands of dollars worth of things instead of feeding and clothing my fellow neighbor? Bits and pieces of the following:

You are so welcome for this Photoshop awesomeness.

  • Cheese straws and Ninja Turtle gingerbread men from Rolen's Bakery in Dothan

  • Denim jackets
  • Toms Shoes
  • Netflix subscriptions with a streaming device (I've just been reminded to add something to my own wish list)
  • Packs of multi-colored miniature rose earrings (c/o Walmart)

  • Vintage record players (is that a feasible giveaway? Probably not)
  • Gift certificates to Star Bagel and Fido 
  • Therapy Systems skin care junk
  • Eileen West granny nightgowns

  • Complete sets of Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia, and Lord of the Rings. Essential to any imaginative library with or without children users.
  • Aviator sunglasses
  • Oversized Cheez-Its with Zoe's chicken salad.
  • Cases of Left Hand Milk Stout
  • Old school Super Nintendos

  • Gift certificates to Pangea
  • 60-second Nail polish (in a dark purple...aubergine, if you will)
  • DVDs: Elizabethtown, Love Actually, Interview with a Vampire, and Little Miss Sunshine
  • Weekend getaways in Destin, Blue Ridge, and New Orleans
  • The Friends Complete Series box set
  • CDs: Heartbreaker, The Dance, O, White Ladders, and Hot Fuss
  • Loaded Question (Adult Version) games (hilarious good fun)

To name a few. But really, I'd like to think I'd feed and clothe my fellow neighbor. I don't get it. But hey - if Oprah (or Barney) want to give me some goodies, I'm probably not going to turn 'em down.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Immediate Chin Up Cheer Up {dog days are over}

I have found the absolute best cure for the grumps. Meet Embry. I know nothing about him except that the kid has the most adorable chiclet baby teeth and serious rhythm. And he makes my heart happy.

Here's the song he's jamming to, "Dog Days Are Over" by Florence and the Machine. I can't help but start shaking all around and dancing every time it gets to the "Run Fast" parts where Embry starts his crazy fool dancing. I do not advise to do this while driving. Trust me.

Also, I listened to this full album last week (I'm a bit behind, I know), and it's VERY good, front to back.