Listing and Learning

For many in the poker world, July and August is tantamount to New Year’s. We set goals, we feel like we’re starting anew, and, in the brief reprieve from the onslaught of tournaments, many of us set our sights on self-betterment.

I am always setting goals this time of year, but this year I realized the internet has taken my presumably undiagnosed case of OCD and let the super ego dictate every facet of my life. You see, there are endless web sites that allow you to track, list, and follow your own progress about everything from your weight to your movie acumen to what books you’re reading.

I’m a sucker for all of them. I spent three hours the other day doing nothing but indexing everything I have read on GoodReads. There is something cathartic to me about lists. Part of it is I am always striving to be a better person. This goal is rather vague and difficult to quantify, but with apps and sites like Goodreads, I can create a definitive representation of exactly how well read I am and put it on display for the world to see.

You would think this love of lists would make me a Pinterest-holic, but I don’t really enjoy lists which are purely aspirational. I like tracking progress, feeling like I am getting more out of reading a book than the pleasure that comes with reading because I get to check it off a “To Do” list when I am done.

Most importantly, as someone who takes a tremendous amount of pride from her ability to refer restaurants, books, movies, TV, and music based on someone’s personal preference, I like to have sites that indicate my opinion on a wide array of just those things.

If you’re obsessed with list making, here are some sites I am fond of and where to find me should you want to track my progress too:

Letterboxd

This movie-centric social network is fantastic because not only can you log and review movies you’ve seen, you can make and follow lists from other users, which is great when I decide to binge and address my gaps in the canon. Really though, my favorite part is how they tile the movies you’ve seen with posters, creating a beautiful visual of all the movies you’ve seen.

Goodreads

This is my latest obsession, as I have been very actively trying to return to my bookworm nature of my childhood and adolescence. There was a time in my life where the new Harry Potter was a six-hour read, as I can fly through a novel when I am reading at peak. Since Mom passed, I find it difficult to concentrate on only a book, which means the benchmark of what I am willing to spend time reading is higher than usual, but as you can see from my lists, there are still plenty of books to be read.

Amazon Wish List

I’ve kept items on this for years and, about a year ago, my decade-od list was somehow erased, taking the very first item, a fancy KitchenAid mixer, along with it. I’ve been building it up again since then mostly because my family never has a clue what to buy me for Christmas and birthdays, and because the Amazon algorithm of things I might want is so good and I spend countless hours mindlessly revising it to keep the recommendations as ideal as possible.

My Fitness Pal

I am certainly not on a strict diet and, as someone who still refuses to eat vegetables, so I am obviously not concerned with my health, but I do track my progress and meals on here just to keep up a sense of accountability. I have always thought if I gain five pounds, I’ll notice and do something about it if I track regularly, whereas if I don’t, I will potentially gain 15 pounds, not notice, and have to work really hard to get back down to the weight I want again.

What other list apps should I try? Is Salt worth its weight in…salt (ew)? Is there a good TV tracking site? Anything for stage shows or music you enjoy? Tell me about it or tell me if you have a Goodreads or Letterboxd account so I can follow and get some more suggestions!

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Three Cheers for WiPHOF

Photo courtesy of Kara Scott

Photo courtesy of Kara Scott

The Rio is noisy this summer. And cold. But mostly noisy. Every day I am asked if I saw someone’s Tweet or if I’ve heard a story or what the gossip of the day is. It is cliche to say I am tired of the gossip, and let’s be real, I am Southern, I am not above gossip. But this year the incessant buzz on social media has worn on me, so much so that issues I have opinions on I find I stay silent simply because I don’t want to perpetuate any more Twitter discussions, as basically no one comes out of them looking good.

Today though, I had a nice reminder of how a positive approach to an important issue can make an impact. This is the third time I have had the privilege to be a part of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Each time I attend, I look around and take in how diverse, eclectic, interesting, and inspiring the women of the poker world can be. We’ve spent the summer laser-focused on a group of women who, don’t get me wrong, are amazing, but it is fair to say their poker experiences aren’t exactly indicative of that of most women in the poker world.

I say this not to be an agist (so no op-eds, mmkay people?), but the simple truth of the matter is that I was one of the younger people in the room at this luncheon. Part of this is to be expected. When you are honoring women who have made a lasting impact in poker, they are inevitably not going to be in their 20s. But I think it is important to note women in poker often are a little older. They are retired or independent business women or mothers. There are numerous successful young ladies in poker too, but we don’t pay enough attention to the over-40 crowd. Like any field, we are focused on the new, young things, but that can’t be at the expensive of these women like Linda Johnson and Jan Fisher or this year’s inductees Victoria Coren and Debbie Burkhead. These women blow my mind with their humor, their grace, and their talent and, just because they aren’t crushing $5/$10 NLHE or playing every $10K doesn’t mean they aren’t the foundation on which the female poker community rests.

And being able to celebrate these women and know that even though I may not agree with everything everyone in that room had to say, but we could all agree these women deserved celebrating was such a welcome reprieve from the rest of the summer. Even my lovely date Kara Scott and I don’t see eye to eye on everything, but what I love and cherish about our friendship is that we can talk through it in a way I learn so much from. When we take opportunities like this to remind ourselves we are striving for a common goal, it can help all of us from being so myopic about a singular 140-character Tweet and focus on how to colelctively make the community better.

I don’t know Victoria Coren well, but listening to her video speech today, I was so enamored with this incredibly bright, funny person who manages to balance being a nurturing mother to her daughter and being an absolute force to be reckoned with at the tables. As Barny Boatman so greatly put, Coren is the only person on the planet with two EPTs, but at least the men can all still hope they are the first man to do the same. I look forward to writing a blog about that feat!

I look forward to the microcosm of the summer simmering down. I look forward to people not bickering daily. And I look forward to spending less time criticizing and more time celebrating. The criticism is important, it is often valid and necessary, but lost in this summer of criticism are these moments of celebration like today. So, continue to speak your mind and fight your battles, but come 2018, if you get a chance, take the time to come to the luncheon, to celebrate something wholly positive, and to take a breath and realize that even though women still have plenty of ground to make up, women like Coren and Burkhead continue to break ground and be first. For that, I will always be grateful and I will also always be grateful that these women pay it forward to us “young’uns” with compliments and motivation and support. Unlike me, who sees the drama and clams up, they reach their arms out, be it to push barriers aside for the rest of us or to offer a hug. It is something to aspire to and something I will readily celebrate as long as I am invited to do so.

An Open Thank You Note to Lin-Manuel Miranda

Cast members perform musical selections from the Broadway musical "Hamilton" in the East Room of the White House, March 14, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

Cast members perform musical selections from the Broadway musical “Hamilton” in the East Room of the White House, March 14, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)/Courtesy of Wikipedia Photo Commons

Dear Mr. Miranda,

Let me start by explaining something about my childhood. I was unusually old for a kid when it really sunk in that life wasn’t fair. The Welman daughters were always scorekeepers. “Debbie had the front seat last time,” I’d whine. Debbie pitched a fit when I was allowed to get a Game Boy when I was 10 or 11 and she had to wait until she was 13 before she was allowed to play video games. “It’s not fair,” she complained to our mom. Perhaps our parents simply wanted to do their best to manage two girls, four years apart in age, who simply could not get along, so they let us keep score. They let us believe that fairness prevailed and everyone deserves a turn.

Now, as an adult, when I drift into bouts of sadness, I often realize the heart of why I am upset is because I feel life is being unfair. The looming notion that, no matter what I do, incredibly horrible crap could keep happening was too much to take in my younger years. An alternative which made much more sense is that I deserved what happened to me in my own life. So now I am a walking cliche, that scene in Good Will Hunting where I have to be told it’s not my fault.

And here I am 32, and my life looks a lot more like it did when I was 23 than when I was 30. At 30 I had a great corporate job, I was on top of my game, my personal relationships were great, and I let out a sigh of relief. It took me a little longer than some people, but my life had gotten to where it was supposed to be in my head. I was on the path to what I wanted.

My mom dying isn’t the only reason why now I am a freelance writer on the hunt for work, unsure where I will live and what I will do after my six-week gig at the World Series of Poker ends. I put a lot of things on hold to be with Mom near the end, which meant I was kinda homeless and underemployed a while. But before that, with my old job and its frequent travel, I still hadn’t quite found a way to “have m own little family.” Plus, now I have to fill the giant void previously filled by the woman who raised me, who I talked to every day, who was the best friend I could ever ask for. Every day I have to remind myself, “You don’t have parents. You have to fend for yourself.”

In other words, I have a lot of shit to figure out.

When I finally stopped traveling and helping my sister and her kids and moved my stuff out of storage into a new place, I was confronted with all of these things at once, and, for a day or two, I curled in a ball in my barely unpacked apartment completely at a loss of what comes next. A job I was desperate to get didn’t pan out, I saw the web content market shrinking, and while I was delighted to roll on the floor with all my friends’ adorable babies and hang out with their wonderful families, a piece of me kept drifting to that place where I asked myself why I felt so far behind them, wondering what decisions I could have made or things I could’ve done differently to have what they have. I tried to figure out what I had done, since the blame had to reside with me.

My mother had infinite patience. Perhaps my greatest flaw is my patience comes in short supply. I felt stuck, and not being able to claw out of this hole ASAP wore on me to the point where I wasn’t sure how I would survive the summer, let alone the rest of my life.

You’ve probably stopped reading or are really wondering what the heck any of this has to do with you, but this is the part where you enter stage left.

It was then I finally picked up the Hamilton soundtrack. I don’t know why I waited so long to listen to it. Perhaps I heard too much about how great it was, so the closeted hipster in me didn’t want to just hop on your bandwagon like a sheep. But given I love musicals and US History, it serves as no surprise I am more obsessed with this cast album than I was with New Kids on the Block as a kid (Don’t worry, Jordan, I’ll always love you). I’m sorry I waited so long.

On first listen, I was immediately drawn to the titular character. He was a writer, impatient, brash, opinionated, and an orphan, all things you can use to describe me. I identified with him instantaneously, much like you did when you wrote this masterpiece.

I ignored Burr because, as the show observes and my history classes reiterated, he was a snake, the enemy, the bad guy. There is a song in the middle of the show though where you understand why Burr hedged his bets and kept his opinions and stances to himself. He was an orphan too. He had to learn to survive and instead of bulldozing his way to what he needed like Hamilton, he kept a poker face like my mom did. Mom never let on the depths of her grief after losing her husband or learning she was terminally ill. Silence was her coping mechanism.

While my temperament is pure Hamilton, my emotions are all Burr, especially when he sings Wait for It. On about the third listen of this song, which I kind of glossed through at first, I felt my eyes start to well up as Burr discussed his long-gone father and mother, observing, “Death doesn’t discriminate between the sinners and the saints. It takes and it takes and it takes.”

My parents were better people than I can ever dream of being, yet they’re both gone at the hands of cancer. It isn’t fair, it won’t ever be. I could have stayed in my little ball on the couch, but Burr (you) called me to action, reminding me, “I am the one thing in life I can control.” Dwelling on the past or trying to rationalize the unfairness life heaves upon us all wasn’t going to fix anything. And yes, I can’t quickly remedy my situation or plow through my grieving to get to the light at the tunnel. For, “if there is a reason I’m still alive when everyone who loves me has died, I’m willing to wait for it.”

Now, each morning I listen to Wait for It. It is my anthem, my reminder I have a legacy of two wonderful people to protect and, while I haven’t reached the heights of my life I want just yet, there is still a reason I’m here. Every time I feel stuck, I cue it up to enforce in my head I’m not standing still, I am just waiting for the right opportunity instead of the first one. And it would be wrong of me to not point out Leslie Odom Jr.’s incredible performance, particularly where he sounds on the very precipice of tears as he wonders how Hamilton seems to get the things Burr wants in life, which makes this song all the more powerful.

So, as a good Southern girl, I had to pen you this letter because my mother always taught me to write a thank you note when someone does something nice for me. You did more than that. You gave me the will to keep going. Your music reminds me it is okay, my life is going to be okay. Your music helps to fill that void  that is still so fresh in my life, even three months later. You give me the advice my mother would’ve given: Wait for It.

Thank you.

Most Gratefully,
Jessica Welman

P.S. – If you’re not Lin-Manuel Miranda and reading this, I am guessing these song posts on YT aren’t in compliance with copyright law. If you do listen and like them, please purchase the song or album, don’t rely on YT. Miranda and everyone involved in the production deserved to be compensated for this incredible contribution to American culture.

102 Reasons to Celebrate This Mother’s Day

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Part of the process when someone dies is you have to go through their personal belongings. You come across things you fondly remember, things you didn’t want to see, and you come across your fair share of things you didn’t know existed or you just plug forgot existed.

Such was the case when I stumbled upon a Ziploc baggie filled with tiny squares of construction paper. I assumed it belonged to my youngest nephew, but once I saw the handwriting, I knew who created it: me.

Each piece was numbered on one side and on the other side I had written a reason why I loved my mom. I couldn’t tell you if I made it for a birthday, Mother’s Day, Christmas, her anniversary, or just because. I can’t even pinpoint when I wrote it, but based on some of the specific events referenced, my best guess is freshman year of high school.

So, rather than mope this Mother’s Day, I decided to celebrate too with the 102 (“Why 102?” Grown Me asks Young Me) reasons why I loved Dolores when I was 13, even though I could give you 2,001 more.

1. Because you are you!!
2. Because you love me.
3. Because you tolerate me.
4. Because you tuck me in every night.
5. Because you make great lasagna.
6. Because you curl your hair when it doesn’t need curled.
7. Because you put up with my temper
8. Because you love flowers so much.
9. Because you drive me places often.
10. Because you drive my friends places often.
11. Because you’re not perfect.
12. Because you are my mom.
13. Because you understand I’m not perfect.
14. Because you wake me up every morning (almost).
15. Because you take care of me when I’m sick.
16. Because you came to see the plays I did tech on.
17. Because you try to raise me as a good Catholic.
18. Because you took me to that commercial acting seminar.
19. Because you adopted me.
20. Because you take me to those touring Broadway shows.
21. Because you paid my tuition to private school.
22. Because you took me to IMTA.
23. Because you always tell me to clean out my ears.
24. Because you understand when I forget stuff.
25. Because you let me stay up late.
26. Because you listen to me when I cry.
27. Because you understand me when I make mistakes (written on a note with a scribble on it—clearly a mistake)
28. Because you don’t expect me to be perfect.
29. Because you let me stay extra-long in Memphis.
30. Because you are an inside crier.
31. Because you read to me when I was a kid.
32. Because you always put my school stuff in an envelope.
33. Because you don’t care if my clothes clash.
34. Because you’re a great movie critic.
35. Because of all those little things.
36. Because you trust me.
37. Because you think I’m a good writer.
38. Because you don’t make me shop at the GAP.
39. Because you take care of my bird.
40. Because you are a pack rat.
41. Because you are emotionally strong.
42. Because you come to see the plays I am in.
43. Because you came to my dance recitals.
44. Because you took me to my dance competitions.
45. Because you come to all of my piano recitals.
46. Because you think I’m a good actress.
47. Because you let me see a lot of rated-R movies.
48. Because you understand me.
49. Because you cancelled your trip this weekend (no recollection what this trip was)
50. Because you are so darn-tootin’ nice.
51. Because you let me listen to my radio station sometimes.
52. Because you give me good advice.
53. Because you are up front with me.
54. Because you like Elvis so much.
55. Because you are left-handed.
56. Because you let me have my own phone lin.
57. Because you have funny handwriting (she did).
58. Because you make fun of my handwriting (she did).
59. Because you are like a best friend to me.
60. Because you survived Debbie (who was a rebellious teen).
61. Because you would be a great detective.
62. Because you don’t have a country accent even though you lived in the country.
63. Because you flew me back for Picnic with the Pops (long story).
64. Because you understand that I get homesick.
65. Because you dislike Mandeep (my sister’s best friend) as much as I do.
66. Because you’re always there for me.
67. Because you don’t care if I get you a gift for a special occasion or not.
68. Because you are the best mom on Earth.
69. Because you have cool vintage stuff.
70. Because you always forgive me.
71. Because you have a great sense of smell.
72. Because you have great hearing.
73. Because you don’t keep secrets from me.
74. Because you are so smart.
75. Because you aren’t the greatest speller.
76. Because you don’t mind my bad habits.
77. Because you make me feel loved.
78. Because you make fun of me when I say “like.”
79. Because you shop with me.
80. Because you are a mom and a dad and a friend to me.
81. Because you got me a subscription to Entertainment Weekly.
82. Because you’re a good person to discuss movies with.
83. Because you take me out to eat.
84. Because you help me work on my lines.
85. Because you are a night owl like me.
86. Because you play Scrabble with me.
87. Because you let me go to friends’ houses.
88. Because you let friends come to my house.
89. Because you can make me smile when I’m sad.
90. Because you always tell me to floss.
91. Because you come to my speech team meets.
92. Because you don’t blab the secrets I tell you.
93. Because you don’t care that I’m weird.
94. Because you gave me that heart on my Reconciliation.
95. Because you love Debbie (my sister).
96. Because you still love Daddy.
97. Because you listen to me tell you about my dreams.
98. Because you tell me about your dreams.
99. Because you always hug me at night.
100. Because you always look for the cheese that’s not $1.49.
101. Because you let me cook lasagna with you.
102. JUST BECAUSE!

The Sandwich Hottie

800px-Sandwich

I have had one perfect relationship with a guy in my life. He has a name, but I rarely use it because our relationship transcends humans and was on this heavenly, God-like level, so I exclusively refer to him as “The Sandwich Hottie.”

This guy and I never dated. But he was perfect. Let me explain.

During college, I spent my summers working at Blockbuster because I was totally that film school kid. Our store was in a shopping center and we had a deal with the Blimpie sandwich shop a few doors down. Our store manager agreed to let the Blimpie owner get free movies and, in exchange, those of us who worked the opening shift got a free lunch.

One of the guys who worked there was totally cute. Floppy hair, adorable blue eyes vaguely artistic–exactly the type of dude college me was all about. My boss was fully aware I had a full blown crush on him. And he would frequently prod me to make a move or ask him out. I would balk every time both because I really just feel like if I am making 75 cents to your dollar and menstruating, you should make the first move fellas. If you’d like to trade, we can. But until that happens I really detest asking guys out. It is an anxiety-ridden potentially panic attack-inducing process that I try to avoid. But in the instance of The Sandwich Hottie, I never planned on asking.

The boss kept pushing and finally I had to break it down for him:

“Listen. I am so completely satisfied with my interaction with this dude. Once a day, I get to take a break from alphabetizing and putting away plastic DVD cases. For around five minutes I get to look at something very pretty, I might get a little banter in, and at the end of the interaction, he hands me a free sandwich. Why on Earth would I mess with this? I’m 19. You think I’m gonna ask this sandwich employee out and we’re gonna have some meaningful relationship while I am out in California going to school? Probably not. Or he says no and then things are awkward. Or I find out this idea of The Sandwich Hottie is ten levels above what this actual person is like. So what incentive do I have to mess with something that is perfect? I get a break, I get eye candy, I get free sandwiches, and I get the joy that comes with imagining how wonderful Sandwich Hottie is and what he does when he isn’t making sandwiches, which was probably getting high behind Blimpie and not reading books or rock climbing or whatever my imagination is coming up with.”

My boss paused. He said nothing for a minute. Then he said, “You know, women are generally not a group I think of as a very logical bunch. It kind of scares me when you present such a reasonable argument, but I see your point and I concede.”

Then there is another pause and he adds:

“Seriously, you’re the only logically-minded female I’ve ever met. It’s really creepy.”

So yeah, that might explain why the Sandwich Hottie is the best relationship I have ever had, but c’mon, who wouldn’t be happy with this scenario? To paraphrase Joey Tribiani “Pretty? Good! Sandwich? Good! Situation? Goooood!”

Mommy, Where Do Care Bears Come From?

In order to understand this far too in-depth discussion of the Care Bears and Cousins and gender I started a week or so ago, first you have to understand the origin story of the brood, particularly how incredibly gay (not derogatory gay, like actually, actively pro-gay) it is.

This is also a little tricky, but the Care Bears and how they came to be is actually explained in Care Bears II: A New Generation. If you’re curious how on planet Earth they came to be, they were originally part of a line of greeting cards published by American Greetings. Then they became stuffed animals, each of which had a designated gender, which we will talk about later, as it causes some issues later on.

Back to the discussion at hand though. The creation of the Care Bears is legit biblical. The second movie begins with a bear, a horse, and an ark full of baby Care Bears and Cousins fleeing from the enemy known as Dark Heart. Before we keep going, I need to pause for a minute to talk about this “horse” name Noble Heart.

horse.

This is not a horse. This is a Care Bear who has been to too many Flock of Seagulls concerts. First off, it has no hooves. It has feet with toes. It also has opposable thumbs. It is the kind of appendage that, once you notice it, you can’t stop thinking about it, kinda like how the Swedish Chef on The Muppets has human hands.

Anyways, Dark Heart is a shape shifter and takes on the all too Adam and Eve-ish shape of water serpent before the clouds part, a rainbow spills from the sky, and the boat is lifted to safety.

deuxexrainbow

So, let me just state this plainly right now. There are rainbows saving the day all over this movie. If you’re not aware, the rainbow became a symbol for the LGBT community in 1978, eight years before this movie was released. It is safe to say the people making this movie knew rainbows = LGBT. I am even more confident in this statement after what happens next, which is the ark basically gets turned into a Gay Pride Parade float.

deuxexhomo

Once they reach the happy space above the clouds, a God-like being that I will call Starlord just to piss off GoG fans informs the bear and horse they, “have found the two creatures whose love and kindness for others is so great that it sets them apart from the rest of the world.”

So the benevolent Starlord allows True Heart Bear and Noble Heart horse to get their all-important tummy tattoos and grants them entry into the Kingdom of Caring.

starlord

Kingdom of Caring looks an awful lot like the Care Bears permanent home, Care-a-Lot, but it isn’t. These are just temporary digs where these cute little furballs can grow up and introduce themselves to the world via a song entitled “Flying My Colors.”

I’ll take you through some of the more obvious images in this song, but first, just read the lyrics of the chorus and tell me this isn’t a gay anthem:

Flying my colors for everyone to see
Isn’t this the perfect way to introduce me?
They say that I’m different, I’m special it’s true
Let the magic of my color put its power on you.

But first, can we just take a second and admire how effing cute baby Care Bears are? Whoever came up with the idea of making them babies at Nelvana is a genius. My boy/girl Swifty the bunny is just too much.

socute

So they disembark the boat on a rainbow Noble Heart shoots out of the symbol on his chest (for those not in the Care Bear know, these tummy symbols have the ability to manifest things, create rays of happy emotions via the Care Bear Stare and Care Bear Cousins Call, and give you an idea of each critter’s personality).

rainbowslide

Note that Noble Heart is realizing the idea of letting infants slide down a rainbow onto a bed of clouds may not have been the best idea in hindsight. Considering the car seat laws in most states, pretty sure this qualifies as unfit parenting.

And yet, when the infants want to explore their new digs, the adults oblige and commission a fleet of rainbows to fly them wherever they want. I’m not exaggerating when I say “fleet.” See for yourself:

somanyrainbows

Once several individual babies introduce themselves, they reconvene with the parents and…I don’t want to use the word ejaculate here, so understand that when I say True Heart sprays her kids with literal love, this is what I mean.

heartjaculation

It is worth noting the baby Care Bears then take these hearts and eat them. Why? I have no idea. Apparently tummy-produced hearts are just really tasty.

It ends with a tummy-produced fireworks show and everyone feeling great about their identity after an afternoon spent flying around on rainbows. Again, I don’t think I am stretching when I say this is very much a not coded at all anthem about how great it is to be gay and out.

While True Heart (a girl) and Noble Heart (a boy) are archetypical heterosexual parents, that is pretty much the only straight thing about the opening ten minutes of the movie, which very clearly establishes *this* is where Care Bears from. They come from a strange anthropomorphic star god who saves these little animals and their ark from the original sin serpent of evil with rainbows, clouds, and a whole lot of love that is delivered with sparkles, shimmers, and a whole heap of panache.

Granted, this origin story recontextualizes the first Care Bear movie where the Cousins live in the Forest of Feelings sans tummy symbols unaware the Care Bears exist. The sequel/prequel explains the Bears and Cousins were split up to keep them all from being destroyed at once, but no one really explained when the Cousins lost their memories and had their tummy emblems removed which, if we are following the timeline happened *during* the action of the second movie, which takes place over the course of one season of summer camp on Earth.

This means:

  1. Care Bears go from infants to adults in the span of, like, two weeks.
  2. During this fight with Dark Heart, the Care Bear family were separated, brainwashed, reunited, and fought against the evil in the original Care Bears movie.
  3. Care Bears either have a life span of maybe five human years or they are just babies for a very short span of an otherwise long life.

Okay, I’ve veered into nitpicking, but I do so only to draw attention to the point that, yes, it is possible this ode to rainbows and identity is accidentally a gay anthem, as numerous other elements of the cartoon lack consistency, but seriously, watch this entire song and tell me it wasn’t on purpose:

Care a Lot…About the Care Bears

In my defense, all "Baby" stuffed Care Bears came with frilly bonnets

In my defense, all “Baby” stuffed Care Bears came with frilly bonnets

I am not ashamed to admit my best friend as a child was a stuffed toy. His name was Baby Swift Heart Rabbit, and he and I went everywhere together, including our Thelma and Louise-esque attempt to climb over the rails of Cumberland Falls and jump in before my mom grabbed us and screamed at me (us) with a mix of fear, anger, and concern for a good 20 minutes.

I am a little ashamed to admit as an adult I have recently been re-watching some of the cartoons my best friend was featured in during the mid-80s, as one can try and explain why a seemingly stable adult in their  30s with no children of their own is watching Care Bears on YouTube, but is there really anything I can say that isn’t going to sound weird?

So, let’s just set pretense aside and explain for whatever reason I was editing some copy and had the third feature-length Care Bears film, Care Bears in Wonderland, playing in the background. The title tells you pretty much exactly what the concept was. Instead of coming up with new characters, plots, and mythology, why not just take your popular characters and insert them into a popular story that just so happens to be in the public domain so it doesn’t cost you anything to license it?

How did the Nelvana production company manage to come up with a reason the Care Bears needed to go to Wonderland, you ask? Well, it starts with the March Hare showing up in the home of the Care Bears and Care Bear Cousins (aka the non-bear Care Bears like the lion, monkey, rabbit, etc.) and asking to see his niece, Swift Heart Rabbit.

Woah. WOAH. Woah. Woah woah woah.

Niece?

I played it again to make sure I heard it correctly because I was absolutely floored to discover that, for basically a quarter of a century, I apparently did not know the correct gender of what I considered to be my best friend.

The inner monologue kicked in. “I mean you were little, but even in the 80s you knew that just because something was blue doesn’t necessarily mean it is a boy…You could have asked, but, you know, s/he was a stuffed animal, so that wouldn’t have helped much.”

But still, as a kid, I lived Care Bears. I had at least a dozen of the full-sized grown up CBs and a couple of the “Baby” versions from the second Care Bears movie, which was essentially a prequel before prequels were even cool, and featured all of the Bears and Cousins as infants. I watched the movies to the point where even today, I can probably (definitely) sing some of the songs them without missing a word.

Which gets me to the heart (ugh, what a dreadful pun) of the matter: How did I miss that Swift Heart was a girl?

Hours of time wasted down the Wikipedia rabbit hole, my world was as upside down as Alice’s. Turns out that, thanks to some plot inconsistencies, carelessness (again, the inadvertent puns, I really can’t help myself), and attempts to try and remedy some of the “pink = girl, blue = boy” mentality which was so prevalent in the early 80s, this cartoon managed to be just about the most gender-progressive animated series of the decade. Caitlyn Jenner could travel back in time and create a cartoon about herself and it *still* wouldn’t be as advanced in its presentation of gender as the Care Bears, who were totally doing gender reassignments long before any Olympians were.

The more I read, the more I realized there is just too much to suss out in a single blog post. Plus, some of you (ahem, Jan Fisher) have informed me my blogs can often be a little tl;dr. So, now that my life stuff is settling back into a category we’ll call noraml-ish, get ready for a series looking at how this crop of adorable fluffballs accidentally(?) set up Society of the Serpent-ers and Snake People to be more open to concepts like gender fluidity, transgender people, and gaping plot holes in nostalgia-filled movies because hey, if there are cute animals, catchy songs, and a multi-million dollar merchandising opportunity, we all should learn to be a little more open-hearted (okay, this last one was on purpose).

Get ready to care a lot…about the Care Bears and gender.

One More Dolores Story for the Road

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Growing up, the Welmans were that family. You know, the family that was always late to everything. In our extended family, we frequently arrived at my grandparents’ farm house in the bootheel of Missouri with approximately 40 faces staring at us with hunger in their eyes, as the meal had been held off until our arrival.

I was once late to my own birthday party. During the height of my gymnastics obsession, I opted for a lock-in of sorts at the gym where my friends and I could bounce on trampolines, jump in foam pits, and pretend to be Kim Zmeskal. Instead of flipping on bars or creeping across balance beams though, my friends were waiting in the parking lot for my mom and me, who showed up 30 minutes late.

Many associate tardiness with disrespect of other people’s time, but for us, Mom in particular, we were just incredibly bad at assessing how much time it took to do things, in particular drive in a car from Point A to Point B. Over time, my sister and I took measures in our adulthood to be more punctual. I am now typically oddly early to things and just always have a book on me. My sister changed the clock in her car to be ten minutes fast so she always felt like she had less time than she did to get places.

We also pulled tricks on poor Dolores to ensure we made it to family gatherings on time. The two of us would band together and claim we needed to leave easily 90 minutes earlier than necessary and insist we aim for that because we knew our mom would then be able to arrive on time. Even for a simple day trip to the farm, she would somehow manage to pack four bags of stuff, prepared for a tornado, messy meal, car breakdown, or act of God.

We also were always those people who tried to do everything. We had dance classes, piano classes, gymnastic classes, soccer, theater rehearsals, church and Sunday school, and my mom spent the majority of her life as a single mom functioning as Hoke to our Miss Daisy. When you spend that much time shuffling from one place to another, you tend to be late. When your youngest, spunky redhead of a child also chronically loses things, it inevitably tacks time on when you get out the door. This is why I keep three sets of car and house keys in my car/purse/house and have another four sets spread out amongst friends in Vegas. It sounds crazy, but like Dolores and her chronic tardiness, I knew I was never going to learn how not to lose things, so my solution is to just buy two of everything. Mom, on the other hand, just accepted timeliness wasn’t her thing, as one thing she always hated to do was hurry.

It wasn’t so much that Mom dawdled. She simply took longer than anyone I have ever met to do just about even the most basic of tasks. This is the woman who could take a dine-in meal at Long John Silvers and stretch it out to 45 minutes (yes, in the past year I have dined-in at the ole LJS multiple times). She would also do things like curl her hair with her beloved hot rollers before going to get a haircut because she could not bear not looking okay in the brief walk from the parking lot to the second floor salon of our local department store, McCalpins. Even at her sickest, she still insisted on “getting dressed” to go to her oncology appointments. Somehow, she found a pair of stretch pants that resembled khakis, which she would pair with an L.L. Bean blouse, her “going out of the house sneakers”, and even a little make-up.

My mom was the one who instilled in me that having spares of everything from your favorite jeans to your laptop is a good idea. Like a Boy Scout, she wanted to be prepared. That is a lesson I did manage to learn from her, but this habit of taking your time and not rushing is something I probably should make more of an effort to do now that she is gone. Granted, I don’t intend to do it at an establishment where I order at the counter and ask for “extra crispies”, but I’ve lived my entire life in a hurry and that should probably change. Waiting makes me uncomfortable, but I need to live in the present a little more. My last weeks with my mom, there were some days I wish could last forever, so I think I might just be making progress on this front already.

And Dolores really hammered this point home in the most Dolores way possible–she was late to her own funeral.

People use that line as a joke, but our mom actually managed to pull it off. We did a visitation and funeral mass in Memphis, but mom was buried in Lexington, Kentucky next to our father in the most beautiful cemetery in the United States. While her family and Lexington friends waited around in a torrential downpour of rain, we were informed that the vehicle transporting her was stuck in traffic.

At first I was angry that the weather was awful and we were all just sitting in our cars mulling over what a long, sad three days it had been. I felt like the burial didn’t do my mom justice. I left sad that, while everything else seemed to celebrate her life so well in the funeral process, this day sucked.

Two days later, I was supposed to meet a middle school friend for dinner. I had misplaced my car key, which set me back enough to text her I’d be five minutes late. Then I overestimated my memory of Lexington back roads and got lost. As I profusely apologized to my friend, I realized I was seriously late for the first time in a while. Then I thought to myself, maybe Lexington is what makes me late. Or perhaps I had spent too much time with Mom and she was rubbing off on me. Then I burst out laughing, prompting funny stares from other cars at the traffic light at the crazy lady cracking up alone in her car. But that crappy day at the cemetery wasn’t crappy. It was actually about the most perfect way Dolores Welman could leave the world–thirty minutes late.

Dolores Welman, “Standing Man”

The evening my mother passed away I watched the Oscars. What may sound strange was both a pleasant distraction and a reminder that some things will continue to go on even though my mom will not be there to pretend to care about who won, as she often pretended to care about the numerous things which seemed so important to me but were completely foreign to her.

If you watched the Oscars too, you know there was a bit of an upset in the Best Supporting Actor category. Most people thought Sylvester Stallone would win for his latest portrayal of Rocky Balboa in “Creed,” a boxer who was always willing to take up a fight, even when the opponent seemed impossible to beat.

Instead though, a relatively unknown actor named Mark Rylance won for playing a quiet, timid Russian spy in “Bridge of Spies,” a quiet movie from another era. I was thrilled, and my family was thrilled to see me so happy. I always cared about movies more than they did, so I tried to explain why it matterred so much that this man won.

I told them about a scene in the movie where Rylance reminisces about a man his father told him was truly remarkable. Day after day, Rylance saw nothing impressive about the stoic man, until the day military police showed up at his house and started beating his parents and this man. Every time they hit him, the quiet man stood back up. They hit him again, he silently rose. After so many beatings and so many climbs back to his feet, the police finally relented, granting him peace.

I grew emotional because I saw something you don’t get to see very often—someone getting recognized not because they are willing to take on a fight or because they will go toe to toe with an unbeatable adversary, but for their admirable ability to rise, forgive, and rather than retaliate, regroup and move on.

I didn’t want Rocky the boxer to win because I hate boxing movies and, more importantly, I have grown tired of metaphors about cancer survivors being fighters. People say that those who beat cancer are tough and fought hard, implying that those who do not survive cancer simply didn’t want it enough. But if beating cancer was about toughness, neither of our parents would have ever gotten sick.

And my mother was so much more than Rocky. She was a person who wanted many things in life and they never arrived quite the way she expected. She and her husband wanted children more than anything, but biology and a long list at the adoption agency tested their patience. As they did everything they could to just get a baby to call their own, my mother didn’t scream or yell. She didn’t crumble, collapse, and give up. Instead, she simply took each blow, then got back up, readying herself for the next hurdle life put in her way.

My mother lost her husband at just 41 years old and never cried in front of us about his passing. She never complained to us about how difficult we could be with no one else to turn to for help. Instead, she managed to make our lives feel as normal as possible as long as she could, bearing financial strain and emotional pain with the enduring patience of a saint, always putting aside her own self-interests for her children.

She later had grandsons, whom she heaped adoration on at every opportunity because she was so happy to have someone else to throw her unconditional love and support behind, keeping herself out of the limelight so others, like those boys, could bask in it.

When our mother got sick, she was shocked and saddened, but in many ways I think Mom had the most difficult time accepting everything was suddenly about her. We wanted to take care of her. Family frequently visited and helped with appointments and finances and food. While Mom always expressed her gratitude, we could always tell she wanted to be the one helping, not the one being helped.

As her illness progressed, she fought for every shred of independence she could. She even took something that should’ve been entirely about her, and made it about us—her own funeral. She planned it in advance. She picked out pictures. She had the outfit and shoes together to go and told us ten time not to use anything but her own lipstick. The closest she got to angry was threatening to haunt us from the beyond if we played Amazing Grace because, while our mom was always more happy to be in the background instead of the foreground, she didn’t think anyone deserved to be called a wretch.

While sick, those around her often cried or prayed for miracles. She was the shoulder to cry on, even though it was her shoulders we felt had to carry too much of a burden throughout her life. But that was our mother. She did not get angry, and she did not punch her way to what she wanted. Instead, she was the quiet man who just kept getting back up. Our mother was not motivated by spite or revenge, but by love. The kind of love Corinthians described as patient and kind. The kind of love that does not boast and is not proud. The kind that Matthew refers to when he says:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[a]39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Dolores Welman was and is eternally giving. Eternally selfless. Life did beat her down sometimes and she always got up again, knowing there were more hard knocks to come, but she was prepared–filled with love, resolve, and faith that everything would work itself out in the end. So today, while I am tempted to wonder why God chose this path for her or to blame somebody or be angry, I remind myself that the best way to honor this inimitable woman, whose true toughness and beauty shone through when she didn’t know you were watching, is to look towards tomorrow and remember that each day is an opportunity to forgive, to hope things get better, and if you do get knocked down, to have faith you will always be strong enough to get back up again.

2016 Oscar Predictions

The 85th Academy Awards® will air live on Oscar® Sunday, February 24, 2013.

The 88th Academy Awards® will air live on Oscar® Sunday, February 28, 2016.

 

Well, the big day is just one day away. The Academy Awards air Sunday and, while I still haven’t seen Best Picture nominees The Big Short and Brooklyn. I can tell you my best guesses about who will take home the tiny little gold guys based on what has happened at various awards and a couple of gut feelings. This is a crazy Oscar year with every awards event and guild honoring a different movie. I am probably going to fare worse than most years because I am going out on a limb here, but as someone who really wants to believe the Academy realizes The Revenant isn’t a very good movie and Alejandro Inneritu does not need to be in the company of greats John Ford and Joseph Mankiewicz as a back-to-back Best Director winner, I am being wildly optimistic and highly unrealistic in some choices.

With that, here goes:

BEST PICTURE

The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Brooklyn
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Room
Spotlight

Who will win: Spotlight

The Revenant is the favorite here, but not by much. People consider it a fairly open three-horse race between it, The Big Short, and Spotlight. Many think with The Big Short taking the Producer’s Guild Award, it is in a great position, but I am going to disagree. While PGA tends to be the best predictor for this category because of its similar voting system, I am not sure it is so reliable because the list of nominees varied too much. So, I am going with Spotlight, who took the SAG award, a honor The Revenant wasn’t even nominated for. Plus, without a screenplay nomination, The Revenant is facing a big uphill battle because of it, so I am going with the one the actors, who represent the bulk of the Academy, prefer.

BEST DIRECTING

The Big Short
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Room
Spotlight

Who Will Win: George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road

Again, I realize it is wishful thinking to believe The Revenant doesn’t get both of these awards, but I really do believe there is a backlash forming around it, which leaves me thinking this is a good opportunity for the Academy to honor Miller, who created both the Mad Max and Babe franchises, for being an incredible world builder. While I am not a fan of Mad Max, the universe he built over the course of four movies seems like a perfect alternate option to giving Innaritu a second Oscar for a film no one will claim is anywhere close to as good as Birdman.

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Matt Damon, The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

Who Will Win: Leonardo DiCaprio

Ths is the weakest Best Actor field in a decade and this is a pretty stone cold lock for the “now is our chance to honor a guy who deserves one” nominee.

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Who Will Win: Brie Larson

So, I thought this was just a gimmick movie and Larson benefited from being at the center of the gimmick, but having seen it, I can tell you this is actually a really good movie and she is amazing in it. This is a tough category compared to its male counterpart, but she still stands out among the bunch.

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Christian Bale, The Big Short
Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Who Will Win: Sylvester Stallone

I cannot overemphasize how stupid it is we are honoring one of the African-American-centric movies that managed to get a nod at the Oscars by telling a guy who has played the person he is playing for the seventh time good job. The Oscars love nostalgia though. That being said, Mark Rylance has a little bit of steam and, should Spotlight pull the Best Picture win, it may mean success for Ruffalo so the film manages to pull off more wins than Screenplay and Picture.

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara, Carol
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Who Will Win: Alicia Vikander

This category is the only one of the acting ones primed for an upset, so don’t be shocked if Kate Winslet pulls out a win here so we can see pictures of Kate and Leo standing together with their Oscars, but this is a category where the Academy loves to honor the latest young ingenue and Vikander fits the bill with good performances in both The Danish Girl and Ex Machina.

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)

Bridge of Spies
Ex Machina
Inside Out
Spotlight
Straight Outta Compton

Who Will Win: Spotlight

This is pretty locked up too, as the screenplay is the backbone of this streamlined production with incredible dialogue, story, and characters upon which everything else is built upon.

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)

The Big Short
Brooklyn
Carol
The Martian
Room

Who Will Win: The Big Short

Of its five nominations, this category is the only one where it stands that much of a chance.

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

Anomalisa
Boy and the World
Inside Out
Shaun the Sheep Movie
When Marnie Was There

Who Will Win: Inside Out

It is kind of surprising this tear-jerking, wonderfully-executed Pixar flick didn’t get a Best Picture nod, so at the very least it is taking this category down.

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Carol
The Hateful Eight
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Sicario

Who Will Win: The Revenant

Emmanuel Lubezki is going to win this category for the third year in a row and deservedly so. This movie is too long and kinda boring, but there is never a moment where it isn’t beautiful.

COSTUME DESIGN

Carol
Cinderella
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant

Who Will Win: Cinderella

The same woman who did Carol also did Cinderella, so the strength of two Oscar-nominated movies should prevail over Mad Max.

DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE)

Amy
Cartel Land
The Look of Silence
What Happened, Miss Simone?
Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

Who Will Win: Amy

This movie is a critical darling, a popular success, and done entirely with found footage and no talking heads chiming in about her importance.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Embrace of the Serpent
Mustang
Son of Saul
Theeb
A War

Who Will Win: Son of Saul

Holocaust movie, heartbreaking story. Let’s lock this one up.

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
Mad Max: Fury Road
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out
the Window and Disappeared
The Revenant

Who Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Another design award for a movie that built a whole world unlike anything else we’ve seen this year.

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)

Bridge of Spies
Carol
The Hateful Eight
Sicario
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Who Will Win: The Hateful Eight

Ennio Morrricone will win mostly because of name recognition and the fact this is his first high profile project in a while.

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)

“Earned It,” Fifty Shades of Grey
“Manta Ray,” Racing Extinction
“Simple Song #3,” Youth
“Til It Happens To You,” The Hunting Ground
“Writing’s On The Wall,” Spectre

Who Will Win “Til It Happens to You”

Given its serious subject matter (rape and sexual assault), top pop name (Lady Gaga), and Oscar pedigree (songwriter Diane Warren), this seems like an easy pick.

SOUND EDITING
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Sicario
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Who Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road

I am just giving most of the technical awards  to Mad Max since it is a genre-defining action film and the Academy will want to reward it as much as it can.

SOUND MIXING
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Who Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road

See above.

FILM EDITING
The Big Short
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Spotlight
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Who Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road

This is one of those things you’ll just have to trust me on, but what the editing team did to maintain continuity is really impressive, however, if Spotlight is going to take Best Picture, it is possible you can see an upset in this category.

VISUAL EFFECTS
Ex Machina
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Who Will Win: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Since the Star Wars juggernaut probably deserves some recognition and so much of Mad Max were practical (real) effects versus CGI and digital, I see Star Wars managing to take home this single statue.

PRODUCTION DESIGN

Bridge of Spies
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant

Who Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road

I keep looking for a technical category where The Revenant can upset Mad Max and I am just not seeing it. Piling fur pelts on guys vs. creating a series of characters and sects of people in Mad Max are just entirely different projects with the latter being much more impressive than the former.

DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT)

Body Team 12
Chau, beyond the Lines
Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah
A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness
Last Day of Freedom

Who Will Win: Body Team 12

Haven’t seen any of these, but this is the one being listed by pundits on sites like Gold Derby so I say sounds good to me.

SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)

Bear Story
Prologue
Sanjay’s Super Team
We Can’t Live without Cosmos
World of Tomorrow

Who Will Win: Sanjay’s Super Team

In a pat on the back of making #OscarsNotSoWhite, look for this Pixar short to take the trophy.

SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)
Ave Maria
Day One
Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut)
Shok
Stutterer

Who Will Win: Ave Maria

Sounds like an important enough title to me. That is all I’ve got.