Friday, November 29, 2013

Friday Favorite: Catching Fire from Hunger Games


Part of me dreaded watching Catching Fire. How could Peeta's character ever be redeemed?  Then I saw the movie. Even if you are a stickler for details, believe me when I tell you it is worth watching.

Just turn off the sound and watch.

butterfly dress by Alexander McQueen

Since a pin helped spark a revolution and a dress helped the fire grow, it seems fitting that the clothes in this movie are incredible. Cinna is one of my favorite characters, but I applaud the real designers who costumed these actors.  Somehow, the Capitol clothes don't seem quite as over-the-top as in the first movie. In fact, they simply seem couture. The audience's acceptance of their look as normal is a triumph--the creators have truly made us voyeuristic members of the Capitol. I love-love-love that Effie wore Alexander McQueen's butterfly dress. The victors, too, have stepped up their look and make quite the statement. As soon as Katniss appeared onscreen, I wanted to learn to knit or crochet or...okay, I wanted to buy this cowl/vest thing.
photo from capitol 
Each time the victors dressed up, I wondered how many versions will be at high school proms this year? Plus, I may pick up running if I can acquire a workout version of the shirt worn in the Quell.  I can't find it, but I did find the training gear here. Hmmm. Did the franchise possibly have marketing in mind? Buy the jewelry here, including the mocking jay pin, Finnick's necklace, and Peeta's art deco pendant (cast from the actual prop).

Even though I will forever be a Gale girl, the book convincingly argued why Katniss would be attracted to Peeta.  He was yin to her yang.  They balanced each other. She needed him as much as he needed her. Plus, it was in first person so we live the love story through the eyes of Katniss and see how she is sometimes flat-out in awe of the boy with the bread. Not so in Hunger Games movie.  Peeta was a big ol' pansy.  All of the parts where he helped them survive were tossed out to show what a badass Katniss was. And that's just annoying.

Relief filled me as Catching Fire attempted to restore Peeta's dignity a little at a time. He was intelligent.  His talent for dealing with people was reinforced. I was feeling pretty good about Catching Fire making him seem like someone she'd actually prefer to the rebellious Gale. Then, they had him pansy up again. He was stumbling, she was rescuing...Blahblahblah.

However, at least this time around, he wasn't all pathetic puppy love and weakling. Josh Hutcherson has the opportunity to win over even Gale faithfuls in the third and fourth installments. Onscreen, he has the possibility to grow and change more than any other character.

All in all, I think Catching Fire was a much better movie than the first one.  I screamed, gasped, curled up in my chair, etc.  And I've read the book three times. I've only been that crazy obsessive with one other series. Initially, Finnick wasn't quite what I'd imagined. Then I went home and read how Katniss described Finnick as "too pretty" for her tastes. Yep. The casting was right on. Now, I adore him. And I believed he'd been passed around the Capital women for almost ten years.  I absolutely loved the casting of Mags and Johanna. Perfection.

I did, however, miss characters--especially Madge. Remember the girl who gave Katniss the mockingjay pin?  The girl whose aunt died in the Quarter Quell Haymitch won?  The only girlfriend Katniss had?(What? Katniss had a friend besides Gale? Who might have even had a crush on him and been a better fit for Gale than Katniss?) No?  You must have only seen the movie.  She was cut.   By giving the pin to Katniss, Madge revealed the heart of a rebel. As the daughter of the mayor, she knew what it represented. However,  since they couldn't neuter her like Peeta they just amputated her. Peeta, Madge, Darius (what? who's he?!) were silenced as much as an Avox, preventing anyone from portraying Katniss as more of a person doing great things rather than some kind of superhero. Perhaps to cover these misdeeds, the character of President Snow's granddaughter was introduced in the movie.  Really? Really?

If you're throwing a watch party, it wouldn't be complete without this Happy Hunger Games banner.
Consider wearing this mocking jay full skirt. 

If you just can't get enough Hunger Games, check out this online magazine called Capitol Couture. See stylish pictures and insider information.  If you don't already, you'll feel just like a citizen of Panem when you peruse the pages.

Here are some other posts I've written about the Hunger Games trilogy. 

Happy Hunger Games! May the odds be ever in your favor.

So, did the movie measure up to your expectations? What did you love or loathe? How many movie watchers plan to read the book?  

Monday, November 18, 2013

Talking Turkey

My mind flew all over the place. I might have talked up this craft thing a bit much. I possess no gift for glitter and glue. In fact, it makes me a tad nervous.

But my friend Lisa had just taught a Thanksgiving song to our four enthusiastic preschoolers and toddler, and I couldn't resist the great segue.

And a mother is obliged to help her little turkeys spread their wings.

And I had a lot of toilet paper rolls ready for recycling.

The kids were all giggles and excitement. The baby loaded wiggly eyes in her mouth. The preschoolers grappled for the too-few scissors.

I panicked.

Clasping my hands, I tried to look more delighted than desperate. "Next, we're going to trace each others hands!" My knuckles were white. Might they jab each other with the giant pencils?


The big brothers traced their sisters' dimpled little hands. The little sisters traced their brothers'. They cut some paper and smeared some glue before skedaddling off to dump boxes and rummage through book shelves and wrestle.

I wanted to quit more than once, but Lisa powered through. So I did, too.

Let me introduce you to our turkey:

Yes, that's a turkey.

I got the idea on Pinterest. It was supposed to look different.

Of course.

Pinterest: the place where moms everywhere "pin" their delusions of grandeur.

According to the many photos on Pinterest, our art should look more like a bird and less like some modern statement of the cock-eyed insanity that is the holiday season.

But that's why I love it.

The messy parts make life memorable and unique. Striving for perfect Pinterest holidays or prime-time tv ideal ultimately leads to disappointment. Reality can not live up to the fantasy.

During holiday season 2013, I plan to embrace the cock-eyed individuality of the moment. This year, I hope to find beauty and happiness and thankfulness in the authentic.

How about you?  Have you ever had a fantasy holiday/event/moment turned upside down...and been happier for it? Tell me about it.

If you'd like to focus on stress-busting this holiday season, check out Dr. Lisa Marotta's series on her blog here.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Giving Thanks With Thoughtful Giving: Trigeminal Neuralgia

Meet the Mitchells. 

Jesse and I met in kindergarten. (I'll spare you the elementary school stories because Jesse is tired of hearing them.) Alecia and I met in middle school where she proved her ability to play the flute, while I learned my lips were the wrong shape for the instrument. So, in high school, they were both drum majors while I used my big mouth to cheer for our teams.
Photo snapped in between Jesse's happy smiles, but Alecia provided hers!

I still remember their wedding day in our home church: Alecia's red hair vibrant beneath her white veil.  Jesse's trademark grin larger than normal. Me realizing we were all grown up.

Even now, when I think of them, I see Alecia's red hair and Jesse's smile; I feel their joy and kindness; and I hear music.

They're the friends I may not have hung out with all the time, but when I did, I wanted to be my best self.  Still do. They're the kind of friends that before doing something questionable, I wonder what they'd think about it.  Not because they're judgmental, but because they're nice, good people and I'd hate to disappoint them.

Because Jesse and Alecia believe in the good of mankind, they often find it.

Jesse said recently, "I've been married to Alecia for 16 years (17 in December) and have had 19 surgeries in that span. I apologized once to her for all of this being my fault, that I'm sure she never thought of her life turning out like this. She just told me, 'I said I married you for BETTER or WORSE. This is just the worse part. It WILL get better.'"

Jesse has Trigeminal Neuralgia. It's often called "the suicide disease" because it is so agonizing that many prefer suicide to living in fear of pain's power. A small breeze, a baby's touch, or even a smile can provoke an unfathomable jolt of pain.

Jesse explains it best:

"I try so hard to not be discouraged, to keep trusting that He will provide. He has thus far. Man, have we ever been a part of some wonderful blessings and miracles.... It's getting easier to let go and for me to quit trying to be "the one in charge," because this life isn't mine. It's HIS. I try to remain positive and try to help others who become sick and feel the way I have.

This disease, Trigeminal Neuralgia (where a blood vessel or artery wraps around a portion of the Trigeminal Nerve, rubbing away the protective sheath surrounding the nerve, causing intense pain each time the vessel pulses or moves),  takes away so much of who the person once was.
removing stitches
I've had two brain surgeries to treat this disease. I had the first, a MicroVascular Decompression, in September 2009. Eight months after that surgery took place, it failed. I had a second brain surgery in June 2010 to sever the sensory portion of the nerve. 
You almost live in a cocoon, a sort of hermit, scared to death that another 'attack' will hit at any time. These attacks have been described as feeling like being struck in the head by a lightning bolt, stabbed by an ice pick, struck in the head by a cattle prod, or biting onto a live, active electric wire. Through research, actual case studies and surgeries that have taken place recently among those like me who have had the sensory portion of the Trigeminal Nerve severed, we now know that those sensory fibers can in fact regenerate and reconnect to each other, causing that pain to resurface.

Unfortunately, exactly that has happened, and I'll have a third brain surgery to cut the entire Motor Cortex and Sensory portion of the nerve, resulting in what looks like a stroke-type of condition on my face; whereby, I will have no ability to smile, no ability to chew or to open my mouth, but I'll take that over pain like this any day."
badge of courage

Not only does Jesse have Trigeminal Neuralgia, but he's also been plagued with horrific sinus surgeries and complications--which resulted in MRSA, numerous PICC lines, and carrying an oxygen machine with him.
Jesse posing with one of his many PICC lines
Although he is an intelligent, hard worker, his illnesses resulted in the destruction of his career. Alecia's teacher's salary couldn't pay all the bills of a growing family, so Jesse was forced to apply for disability. That, too, was a struggle, but he was eventually granted it. As a result, his children have no health insurance because the stipend pushed them over the limit for Sooner Care. His COBRA runs out this month and the medicare won't kick in until this summer.

The Mitchells are good, hard-working citizens.  When do they get a break? I've spent so much time being angry for them.

Yet, they express gratitude, focus on blessings, and inspire many.

Through his pain--in spite of his health--Jesse encourages fellow TN sufferers and families, inspires friends and strangers, uses Facebook for the power of good, supports his children in school activities, cheers fanatically for sports teams, etc.

And one must ask why. Why has this happened? Are these illnesses connected? Does Jesse have bad genetic luck or is there something more?

When will things get better?

Here's where we come in.

The Mitchell family has an opportunity to go to the Mayo Cinic in Minnesota to meet with Jesse's dream doctor.  Someone gave them plane tickets.  They feel this is their chance to get it right. To learn why he's had so many complications.  To have an answer so he--and his family--can heal.

"Though my family and I have struggled mightily all along, I've never given up HOPE. If you give up hope--h-o-p-e--then you have nothing. It's my daily goal to give at least one person a semblance of HOPE, to let them know that there is an end to what they're going through."

When I asked permission to tell their story, Alecia said that she was honored that I would share their stories and loves that their story shows the goodness of others.

See? Good people.

Another drastic surgery must be intimidating. If the world has to continue without Jesse's smile, so be it. Because their goodness will still be here. We need more of that.

I often want to help people, but don't want to give money to an organization that will spend it on postage stamps or CEO salaries.  If you prefer a direct approach as well, please donate to Jesse and Alecia's family here. During this month of giving thanks, please consider thoughtful giving.

Most of all, please keep them in your thoughts and prayers the week of November 18.

Like End Trigeminal Neuralgia on Facebook. Find more information here.

And just for funsies...

 High school sweeties:

Twenty year reunion:

*all photos courtesy of Alecia Mitchell