Saturday, March 29, 2014

Breaking my 6th grade notion - 13 years later

I haven't blogged in a while and there are several reasons for that.

1) I'm lazy
2) I'm busy
3) I'm not that busy, I'm just lazy
4) No one reads it
5) I'm a little bit busy

I don't really feel justified in having a blog, honestly. I'm not a chef or an expert crafter. I'm not a great writer or particularly witty. And I don't post pictures of my children or deep philosophical realizations. Mostly I talk about super inconsequential things that aren't even that interesting to me (except my last post on Austenland which is important to me, you, the economy, and national security).


Today, however, I'm writing because I need to feel accountable. I hope that it's been long enough that no one is following this blog and there will be no real risk in posting these things, but here I go anyway.

About a year ago I started a super fun (read: sarcasm) health journey. It started with some weird, uncomfortable, and painful symptoms that I will not go into detail about here (you're most welcome) and has concluded in a delightful cocktail of medications and horse-sized pills I get to force myself to swallow twice a day. Now, don't get all excited. It's nothing terminal. I don't have cancer -- the decision to cut all of my hair off was in no way related.

Before - yea, man -- That's real!
After - I'm not sure about that face but, just, roll with it.

I've been diagnosed with PCOS and endometriosis. Go ahead and wikipedia those and get ready for some truly horrifying pictures of innards on the endometriosis page (the human body is disgusting). But for those of you who aren't really that interested (and again, remember, I'm holding out hope that literally no one is reading this) I'll sum up: PCOS and endometriosis only affect women... if you catch my drift... and cause an inordinate amount of pain at least once a month as well as weight gain, acne, depression, and infertility (as the major symptoms). None of those are great things, let me tell you. These two diseases/syndromes/illnesses aren't really related, so having them both produces two unique sets of symptoms. So, you know: awesome.

Why, you may wonder, are you sharing such personal and disgusting information on the world wide web? Mostly it was so I could make that hair joke and show off how pretty my hair used to be. Coming in a close second, though, is the fact that this is something I think needs to be acknowledged: These symptoms are ruining my life and they may be ruining yours too.

Let me 'splain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up: It's not the actual symptoms but my reactions to them that are ruining my life. Most significantly the weight.

I've never been skinny. Even as a kid I was short and stout. Yes, much akin to a tea pot. I was active, though. I played a lot of sports, I danced, swam, soccer'd, softball'd, theater'd, etc. Weight was something that didn't really bother me until it was pointed out. I'm not sure who said it first, and I'm definitely not pointing fingers but between my friends, family, and snotty sales clerks at Limited Too (Two?) I realized I was fat at about 12 years old. The first time I decided to diet was when my 6th grade science teacher was handing out our school pictures and felt the need to comment on mine (in front of the whole class including my dreamy 12 year old crush) what cute chubby cheeks I had. I was mortified.

I'm the one rocking my mom's mini-me dress on the right

I then did Weight Watchers with my mom. I even went to a few meetings. I was 12. And I had what the diet industry would call success. The numbers on the scale went down and my popularity at school went up. You can call BS all you want but there is a direct correlation. And that, my friends, is where my sick understanding of body image came from. It was a simple formula: Skinny = popular; Fat = lonely. And it's only taken me thirteen years to realize the absurdity of this.

8th grade graduation - on the far left - after doing weight watchers (and I still hated that I didn't have the skinny arms my friends had) (and I'm fairly certain none of us had seen Charlie's Angels)

During high school and college, maintaining my weight literally became a full time job that I had to quit. I went home a couple summers during school and would work out 2-3 hours a day, I would weigh and measure my food, and subscribed to weight loss programs like weight watchers and nutrisystem. And, again, in the eyes of the weight loss industry I achieved success. In two months I lost over 40 pounds. I went back to school in a whole new wardrobe. But as soon as my focus shifted from obsessing over my caloric intake and reps at the gym back to those horrible distractions like getting a degree and hanging out with friends, the weight was almost instantly back.

My Halloween costume 2009: Ursula. Because I knew I was fat and the only way to socially be accepted was to use the fat as a joke I was in on, not pretend it wasn't there. 

When I was first diagnosed I did a lot of internet research which, as we all know, is totally true. My parents did a lot of research and even some of my super close friends found themselves sending me links to interesting and related topics. Some of the most common points that were addressed were:

1) Link to an increased risk of cancer (maybe my hair joke was in poor taste...)
2) Fertility treatments (SOOOO many baby stories)
3) Hopeful success stories (SOOOO many baby stories)

But overwhelmingly it was weight that was on everyone's minds, mine included. More than anything it was a "whew, now we have something to explain the weight." I was able to point at this thing and say to myself, to my family, and to my friends: "See? I can't help it. It's not my fault. It's just really crappy luck, I suppose. So you are no longer allowed to think of me as different since it's out of my control." But the thing is, the world still treats you differently. No one cares if you're fat because you're lazy, or you have a thyroid problem, or if you have PCOS. To the world, fat = Fat =lonely. And that's the mindset I've had since I was 12. So then instead of blaming my mind or my soul for being weak and gluttonous and disgusting, I could blame a physical defect inside my body.

So then I gave up.

Instead of recognizing that my soul and my mind are not holding me back, I submitted everything to the physical malfunction and stopped caring. Sure, that could be aided by the depression side effect, but I think it's because it was easier. It was easier to blame the disease and eat fast food. It was easier to hide behind PCOS while binge watching Netflix.

But what I've realized recently is that if I go back to 6th grade and break that incorrect understanding of body image, then even with PCOS I can take care of my body. If the reason I ride my bike is to enjoy the weather, save the environment, and let my body exert its power, that's great! If I ride my bike so that I lose weight so that people will like me, that's not great. If I buy organic vegetables and cook a vegan meal because it looks delicious and will help my body function more fully, fantastic! If I do it because celebrities are vegans and they're skinny, not fantastic. You see where I'm going with this?

My dad and I rode our bikes across the state of Virginia. It was NOT to lose weight, it was to do something kind of kick-ass, which it was, and we are.
Point is, I've decided that there isn't this dichotomy that I thought there was. I can have PCOS, I can be fat, I can be happy, and I can take a jazzercise class. It's not all or nothing, it's not black and white. These truths can coexist and they can coexist in me. 

So here begins not my journey to weight loss or even my journey to self-contentment. In fact, no journey starts today. What starts is a new way to look at me and my body and what I put into it and get out of it. And I'm posting this so that when I have lapses, when I'm mocked, ignored, or oppressed for looking the way I look, I can come back here and remember that at least right now, in this moment, I decided I was above that.

Monday, January 6, 2014

In Defense of Austenland

In Defense of Austenland*
Seven reasons why I’ve seen Austenland seven times

(Feel free to skip all of this and go straight to the list and pictures, I know I would...)


Yes, I have seen Jerusha Hess’s 2013 Sundance darling seven times in theaters. Before you lose your freaking minds know that most of those viewings were at a discounted theater and that there isn’t much to do in the US for a 24-year-old single girl who doesn’t drink or like dancing. And yet, I won’t try to justify my actions. I have a lucrative career, I’m a graduate student studying media, and as a free American, I am allowed to spend my time and money however I so choose (you know, legally…).
I read Shannon Hale’s novel in 2011 when looking for a light-read. It was suggested by a co-worker and I had finished it by the weekend. It was exactly what I was looking for: light, fun, easy. I will admit that I didn’t love it (I haven’t read it seven times, only once), however, my local library did make $4.20 off of me for forgetting to return it for an embarrassingly long time so I might as well have. My biggest “beef” with the novel is its attempt at believability. Unlike the film, novel-Jane is given the “Austenland experience” by a rich, aging relative. This is supposed to pacify the reader’s concern that our protagonist may be an Austen-zealot and, thus, too weird to really be relatable. The thing is, though, that she is an Austen-zealot! And that’s where the movie gets it right.
Jane, played by an always adorable Keri Russell, is an absolute weirdo. The cardboard cutout of Colin Firth prominently displayed in her living room is undeniable proof of that. Her friend, whose healthy progression in life is made obvious by a wedding ring and pregnant belly, serves as a striking contrast to Jane, who is stunted by her unrealistic expectations of love. The film doesn’t hide her oddities: the dorky costume, her excitement at the “copper-level” bedroom, and her enthusiasm for regency-era appropriateness. She realizes half way through, though, that Austenland is not what she imagined it to be. The cell phone that she has snuck in (because she’s a zealot, not a hermit) symbolizes Jane’s realization of the level of her obsession. “I can’t believe I wasted all my money.” She then admits that it’s all a bit of a sham, but unless she sees it through to the end, she’ll still live with this “what-if” thing – meaning she’d be just as bad off as before. The rest of her experience is without expectations of anything but fun. When Nobly confesses his love for her she realizes that she’s fooled herself again, but chooses to break free from the charade. “I didn’t realize this is how I’d feel at this part. I don’t want to play anymore.” Nobly asks her what she does want and she boldly declares, “I want something real.” Although she’s known from fairly early on how absurd she’s been, it isn’t until this moment that she actually believes it.
Of course, what she thinks is real turns out to be as fake as the cardboard cutout of Mr. Darcy hanging broken in her bedroom. She goes home, purges her apartment of all things “obsessed,” and is set to start over when Mr. Nobly waltzes in, declares he’s real and he actually does love her. Of course, they live happily ever after. I’ll admit, the ending does seem to contradict everything the story is attempting to say, but it doesn’t have to. Jane doesn’t believe him at first. Then she doesn’t think she deserves him, and he finally convinces her. The majority of the film may serve as a warning against a fantasized love life, but the last five minutes cater to the opposite end of the spectrum, reminding us that a little bit of romance and magic is ok: we don’t have to be total cynics. It’s a wink, a smirk, a smile. It’s Hess’s way of showing an outpouring of love after chastising us. It’s also a way of reminding us that this is a movie! This is a fictional world. We need to be responsible for our own choices.
The most common criticism I’ve read of the film is that it lacks the “Jane Austen quality.” Some critics claim it’s witless or droll, others that it doesn’t understand its own joke. My response to this is that it isn’t TRYING to be Jane Austen. In fact, quite the opposite. The idea of a role-playing Austen world is so tacky I believe Jane Austen would roll in her grave were the idea to ever see the light of day. And that, my friends, is the point. The film plays with reality and absurdity the same way all romantic comedies and novels play with expectations and experiences. It’s condemning and condoning, discouraging and encouraging. What it says is: nothing! You live your life, you read your books, you fall in love with whoever you want to and however you want to. It presents opinions but throughout, it reminds you that it’s a movie and it can’t tell you how to live your life.

So I will end with a list (since I know that a lot of people don’t read paragraphs, they really prefer lists) of 7 reasons I’ve seen Austenland seven times:

1.       The set. Filmed on location at West Wycombe Park. Anyone who is a fan of Jane Austen, History, architecture, beauty, England, or happiness would enjoy just looking at the amazing locations in which this silly story takes place. I’ll throw the costumes in there as well. Can we please go back to the empire waist look? Keri Russell was pregnant during filming and looked great the whole time. Whenever I wear empire waists people assume I’m pregnant. Not pregnant, people, just fat.

2.       JJ Feild. Seriously. The most adorable ears on earth. He stared as Henry Tinley in a film adaptation of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey and when approached about the role in Austenland was asked if he wanted to make fun of himself. He is absolutely the “resident Mr. Darcy” and he does it spectacularly. Sure the film may warn against fantasizing, but it doesn’t judge and it gives us JJ.

3.       Fun and quotable dialogue. Colonel Andrews has some of the best one-liners that are often muttered or in the background. “It appears it is my duty to gaze into your eye. I’m a military man, I never shirk my duty. Oh yes, there is something there… FIRE!”

4.       Bret McKenzie. C’mon! Flight of the Conchords! Fans of the band or of the show will be fans of the movie. It has a similar wacky, bizarre feel to it and his portrayal of Martin is the perfect combination of delightful, dorky, and douche-y.   

5.       New things. Every time I see it I laugh at a previously unheard line, or notice a piece of scenery. My current favorites are 1) when Captain East falls straight into Colonel Andrew’s crotch and Andrews says, “don’t get up too quickly, George.” It all happens at the edge of the frame and in the off-screen noise. And 2) every statue at the estate is poorly covered with leaves so as not to expose any naked body part. This just adds to how tacky the place of Austenland really is.

6.       Jennifer Coolidge. Almost everything she says is improvised which is a delightful nugget of trivia and her character is a delightful change from what she might have been. She’s rich and stupid but she’s kind and takes to Jane right away. She’s like an adorable puppy. You pity her in a way but you mostly envy her simplicity.

7.       It makes me feel good. Talk about the epitome of a feel-good movie. It’s light enough and funny enough that you find yourself smiling through the whole thing. It never tugs at your tear ducts or messes with your gag reflex. It’s the perfect combination of my two favorite things: romance and humor.

Now excuse me, there is a showing at 5 and I don’t want to be late. 

*This is in no way an exhaustive resource for all things good about this movie, nor does it address any of the imperfections that all films are bound to have, but I love this movie and I thought there should be something positive out there about it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My New Mission

WARNING: this is lengthy. It is OK to just look at pictures. Also, tenses are all over the map. Please ignore.

It has been quite some time since my last update and there is a reason for that.

Very shortly after I wrote that last bit about my wisdom teeth, I was struck with an idea that seemed to fester with such uncontrollable persistence that I finally did something about it.
That idea was to go on a mission.

The thing I did was sign up for one.

For those who are unfamiliar with the concept/process, here is a short explanation:

In my church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [Mormon]) young men and women have the opportunity to spend 18 months to 2 years giving humanitarian service, meeting new people, and most significantly introducing those people to our beliefs.

Other churches have similar programs for their members. Some key differences, however, include paying for it ourselves, only communicating with one's family through letters, avoiding media, wearing suits (skirts/dresses for me), and having no control over where you are sent.

Going on a mission is completely optional, as is accepting your assignment. Although, most people who are willing to leave their lives behind for so long are also willing to go wherever they are needed.

Some people go to crazy new places. This is my friend, Taylor, and he is currently in Ghana.

Others are sent somewhere closer to home. My good friend Maddie just got back from Tacoma, Washington!

Wherever you go, the things you do are the same: tell people about the Church.

So, the point is, I'm going on a mission! I didn't want to post anything publicly until I knew where I was going and the process takes a LONG time.

First you have to go through a lot of interviews to make sure you are mentally and spiritually prepared for such a huge change in your life.

Then there's all the paperwork, I mean REALLY! I've never had to fill out that much paperwork and I applied to 5 colleges!

There are a lot of doctor and dentist visits to make sure you are in good health, and then (if you're like me) you have to catch up on all the shots your mom was nice enough to let you skip in elementary school.

When all of that is finally finished, you have to talk to MORE people about your willingness and preparation for this enormous change.

Then, finally, you mail your stuff to the Church headquarters in Salt Lake City and then you sit and wait. And wait, and wait, and then wait some more. And then you'll think it's here but it's not so you continue to wait.

Then, one day, you'll walk past the mailbox on your way to dinner and think, "hmm, maybe I'll just look for fun" and there will be a giant, white envelope with your full name printed on the front.

You will promptly ditch your dinner plans and run back up to your apartment where you will freak out for exactly 18 seconds before ripping open the envelope and reading the first paragraph.

It is different for everyone and this is what is said in mine:

"You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the Argentina Buenos Aires South Mission. It is anticipated that you will serve for a period of 18 months. You should report to the Provo Missionary Training Center on Wednesday, February 22, 2012. You will prepare to preach the gospel in the Spanish Language."

Needless to say, I freaked out. My dad served his mission in Buenos Aires as well and I've grown up hearing amazing stories about his time there. I could not be happier about my decision to go or the assignment I received.

¡¡¡ Argentina !!!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Giving my wisdom away

(Please ignore the horrible title and allow me to complain for a second)

One week ago I had my wisdom teeth brutally taken from me. I was knocked unconscious, sliced open in four places, and four of the teeth that God gave to me were ripped from their sockets. The Oral Surgeon, or as I like to call him: Klepto McGee, tried to soften the blow by charging me money to cut open my mouth. I think he was a little confused about who was supposed to be paying who.

Then, as if to make up for his horrendous actions, he offered me a slip of paper with his permission for a pharmacy to give me certain medications. Mr. Charming didn't even offer to pay for those! Nope. So somehow this con artist has convinced ME to pay HIM to cut me open, swell up like a chipmunk, and give him five of my teeth. (yea, I said five. That's how he tricked me! Claiming another molar had to come out anyway and he'd do it all at once to save me the pain of going under twice. He's Harold Hill except with teeth!!).

Four days after the assault, shooting pain in my jaw forced me to drive back to the scene of the crime and have him stuff some form of bandage back into one of the holes he had created. After the initial pain, the demon gauze began working it's black magic and left me in a slightly loopy state that got me to agree to yet ANOTHER visit to him in a few days in which he removed the demon gauze. Which led to the accidental removal of stitches and bone graft material, which led to another visit, which was a 30 second meeting with old Klepto who told me everything was fine and then disappeared.

I've set up a meeting with him on Thursday. Unless he convinces me that he is sorry for his actions and legitimately ready to change his ways, I may need to alert the authorities. I'm not sure what joy a grown man gets from knocking out 20-somethings and stealing their teeth, but I'm sure there is a program he can enroll in.

Let this be a warning to all of you out there. This man is sick and dangerous. Guard your God-given teeth with vigor or you might just find yourself in my shoes: without wisdom teeth, but a little bit wiser nonetheless.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Move

I live in Salt Lake now. Technically it's South Salt Lake, but the mail I receive does not differentiate so neither will I.

The move was, well, awful. I have so much stuff I fear I should be on one of those hoarding shows that exposes what being a gluttonous American looks like. I like home decor! Sue me! But I finally have everything up here and my Provo apartment is full of new residents. 25% of my stuff is still in boxes, but that's a normal percentage and I'm very proud of my progress.

I have a new roommate who I found on craigslist. She hasn't killed me yet or stolen any of my belongings, so Im pretty sure she's cool. Also she went to MIT AND worked at NASA. So, by anyone's standards, she's cool.

I've started applying to grad schools. It's hard. I'm not smart enough for these applications let alone the schools themselves, but we'll see what happens in the next 6 months or so. Perhaps my dream of being a dolphin trainer will finally be realized! Oh wait, wrong dream. Perhaps my dream of being a college professor will finally be realized!

What I need is motivation. I need to start perfecting these writing samples and I can't very well do that if I keep wasting my time watching My Future Boyfriend and Spy Kids on Netflix. But then again, that could count as research. "What NOT to write to get into grad school"...

Eventually I'll be productive, I promise. But for now, there's an interesting episode of Psych that is calling my name and I need to dig through my box of DVDs to shut it up.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Home is Wherever I'm With You

On a whim I bought a plane ticket home. Turns out, they are non-refundable, expensive, and quickly taken from your bank account. Like, immediately. It ALSO turns out that my next paycheck was skipped in last week's rotation and now I have to wait a week for it. So, money issues. Yay adulthood! But I digress...

I'm going home. In September. For 18 days. Number one priority is to hang out with my mom and dad, recharge that family support thing, and remind them why I'm their favorite child. Second priority, though is graduate school. I have plans to visit at least five schools while I'm out there. VT, UVA, and ODU all have MFA programs in creative writing that I would love to be a part of (well, I dont know about loving ODU's program, but that is why I'm going to visit), and they are close to home which would be nice after five years of living in Utah.

What I'm really excited about, though, is the New England leg of the trip. I'm going to visit Boston University and Brown! Boston has one of the top MFA programs in screenwriting and Brown has this really interesting "electronic writing" emphasis to their creative writing MFA that sounds pretty enticing.

Schools that would be nice to hit but are not on the mandatory level are: Johns Hopkins, VCU, Hollins (I know what you're thinking, "A women's college, Amy? Really? That's ludicrous." Yes, but it has a screenwriting program. Also, if you'll notice, it is on the 'non-mandatory' level so quit your judging, you snobby reader, and let me be!)

While there I'd also love to visit some old friends. Namely Kelsey, Addie, Margot, Melanie, Jessica, and Ginny. So, call me!

And to be completely honest with you (although I don't know why I should because you're already judging me for looking at an all female school), I plan on making a trip in November to visit California schools. Specifically USC which has the top screenwriting program in the world. But, naturally, number one priority on that trip is Disneyland. I'm not dumb.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Harry Potter and the End of an Era

I just came from my third (yes, you read that right) time watching Harry Potter 7.2. Instead of doing a film review (A+-five stars-two thumbs up, by the way) I decided to write a letter to J.K. Rowling. I'm sure she reads my blog, so I'll just let her get to it when she has time...

Dear Ms. Rowling,

I’d like to be just one of many to thank you for Harry Potter. I, like millions with me, saw the final installment of the Warner Brother’s film adaptation last night. I, like millions with me, cried longer and harder than was decent. And I, like millions with me, am not quite sure what to do with myself now.

Comments like, “my childhood is ending” weren’t few and far between coming from those waiting in line with me. We’ve grown up right alongside Harry, Ron and Hermione. From Harry’s first Hogwarts letter to Albus Severus Potter’s concern about house placement we’ve hung on your every word. Everything the Golden Trio went through, I was going through as well (just without the magic and the constant threat of death). Harry had angst, I had angst. Harry fell in love, I fell in love. Harry defeated Voldemort and saved the entire Wizarding world, I survived high school.

Of course you had naysayers and, dare I say it, haters along the way. You knew that you would never make everyone happy with the way the stories ended or the casualties you left behind, but you trudged ahead regardless. You’ve made millions of dollars (pounds, really) with the books, movies, and new amusement park. From your humble beginnings in a cafĂ© writing on napkins to working with some of the most influential people in the world you are truly an inspiration.

Harry Potter gave me something to look forward to for the last thirteen years. Even when the books were done (and trust me, that wasn’t easy either) we still had the films to rely on. Now that it’s all over, I feel a sort of emptiness. My life doesn’t revolve around a fictional character and his fictional world, but a large part of my childhood did and I'm a little lost without it.

So, where do we go from here? I think we’ll be ok. Some will find refuge in new books, new worlds to discover. Some will move on, grow up, make lots of money. Some may stay at Hogwarts, thriving on Pottermore and the countless special editions of the films sure to come out. Whatever it is, the Harry Potter-shaped holes in our hearts will get smaller or even disappear altogether and we will go on to live perfectly wonderful lives.

What will I do? Harry Potter meant a lot to me. But it wasn’t just Harry and his friends who inspire me, you do. Out of nothing you created a story so interesting, so powerful, so relatable that millions of people from all over the world, of every age, lined up at midnight and read until they fell asleep. Instead of whining about the end of something I love so much, I’ve decided to create something new to love. You had a great idea and you made it happen. With everything I’ve learned from Harry and you, I plan on doing the same.

So thank you for the stories, the characters, the world. Thank you for the morals, the flaws, and the inspiration. I hope to read more of your work someday and I hope you read mine.


Amy Roskelley