Whiplash/Julie and Julia

download (1) (1)images (1) (1)images (2) I rented two movies lately from the old New York Public Library . Whiplash, the story about a music student (drummer) and his perfectionist, psychotic, brilliant teacher (played by a bald guy who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor last year). Julie and Julia has Meryl Streep playing Julia Child. In both cases, the genius portrayed submits themselves to ruthless amounts of repetitive, tedious practice. The Whiplash guy drums til his fingers bleed, Meryl Streep has one scene with a giant pile of onions she diced for practice. When I first saw these back to back, I was like, is that what it takes? Being nut-so? But Meryl Streep is so full of brio, joy with her portrayal of Julia where you sense Julia enjoys herself, much as Meryl Streep enjoys herself.

Joe Biden/Jimmy Carter/Sad Stories About Old White Men

download (3)download In case you have not heard, Jimmy Carter announced he had cancer and needed to cut back on his schedule. He stated his words in such humble and matter-of-fact manner, it reminded me of my dad. And Joe Biden lost his son Beau Biden to brain cancer. I do not know how Joe Biden is standing. When he was young DC muckity muck, he lost his wife and daughter in a car accident. In that same accident, his sons Beau and Hunter were dangerously hurt. Here is some of the commencement speech at Yale that he delivered while his son was battling cancer. Here he is on Steve Colbert talking about, I don’t know, stuff in general when his son comes up. (Colbert also survived some BS in his life; his dad and brother were killed in a plane crash when he was a kid). People go through so much crap, a.k.a. suffering and I have no idea how they do it. I am very inspired by these two old white dudes and the way they just live it and are honest about. Let’s hope I have that kind of grace when it’s my turn.

Sarah Ruhl’s “The Oldest Boy”

theoldestboydownload (2) We saw Sarah Ruhl’s “The Oldest Boy” at Lincoln Center in December. I can’t recall which December – 2013? 2014? But because it had been so long since we had been in the theater and because of the play itself, Husband and I took turns weeping in the audience of stoned-faced elderly white people (the majority of theater goers in NYC. Not a slam. I don’t mind them one fig. They remind me of lizards moving slowly on top of a rock to catch some sun).

The story revolves around a couple whose kid is the reincarnated spirit of a lama, and the story touches on reincarnation, death, loss, parenting, how to let go of your kid for their own good, and a little somethin’ on the precious bond between teachers and students – at least, those are the bits in the play that I responded to. She wrote a collection of personal essays that mention Shakespeare had twins, as did she, which just made me like her more, as a fellow twin, uh, survivor.

The actors playing monks somehow captured that beatific smile and emanated that same joy that’s always on the Dalai Lama’s face. The monk outfit (what’s it called? Robes? Uniform?) is one-shouldered, so you can show off one buff shoulder and bicep set. I commented to Husband how that was nice because then you only have to work out one arm. He shot me a look.

I was interested in the play because of faux-interest in faux-Buddhism, with its helpful nuggets on coping with and making sense of loss, but I did not expect that show would also be such a valentine to the teacher-student relationship, because the it turns out the threatened loss of her son touches off old wounds for the protagonist mourning the loss of her lit professor.

All of this actually reminded me of how fortunate I was to have Mrs. Garvin, my junior high school teacher, in my life at such a crucial time. We had stopped talking because we stopped clicking and I didn’t want to ruin my fantastic memories with negative ones. I found as I got older, her company actually got on my nerves. I’m not sure if it was because I was outgrowing her, rebelling, or what. . I had met her when I was so young that I always figured I’d find another mentor and I took her for granted. I did not realize she was a one of a kind and this kind of relationship would never happen again.

After watching that play, I thought so what, she spent so many hours listening and talking to me when I was growing up. I mean, if you think talking to me now can sometimes be annoying because I repeat myself and tell jokes that only I think are funny, how odd was my company at age thirteen? So I reached out after many years of silence to thank her.

She was old even back then, so I was scared I may have missed the boat. An old classmate who still talks to her every week told me to skip letter writing and go directly to dialing the phone. (Eeeek!) I swallowed any nerves and called, and I’m so happy I did! She was so positive and loving and encouraging on the phone, it was just like an amazing wave washing over me. We made plans for me to come visit with the kids, but I don’t think it will actually happen. She’s busy with doctor appointments and family, and she was a much loved teacher, so many students trek out to see her. I don’t think I will get on her calendar before she goes, but it’s okay. I’m grateful I got to talk to her and tell her how much she means to me, how much I love her, and how much she changed my life.

I love her, I love her, I love her.

F.U., Lilo and Stitch, F.U.

download (6)download (7) I’m not always an honorable parent, but having already survived Toddler Survivor the night before, I put on the Disney movie “Lilo and Stitch” as soon as I got home so that I could make dinner. I had never seen “Lilo and Stitch,” but I know other families who have watched and the illustrated characters look warm and cuddly. I was expecting a story of like a little girl and her rascally pet getting into crazy adventures like mixing up honey with peanut butter by accident.

Um, do you know what actually happens in the movie? Aliens from another planet shoot guns at escapee Stitch and orphan Lilo, whose big sister is trying to adopt her after their parents died in a devastating car accident. There is a great deal of violence from the aliens — punching and hitting (thanks), anxiety over families being split apart (thanks), and Lilo’s house being annihilated due to alien enemy fire power (thanks). I had to explain what “Child Protective Services” was at one point, where the orphan’s parents were, etc., etc. I repeatedly reassured the kids this was only a story. My kids, innocent screen watchers who flip out during a challenging episode of “Curious George,” scream-cried throughout the movie. I looked at First Son who was screaming “Nooooooo!” with tears streaming down his face. [Face palm.]

Of course, I did think about turning it off. I paused the movie in the middle for a little belly breathing, which Wonder Twin Daughter said was really helpful, but they wanted to keep watching, and I figured, the happy ending could act as a healing salve after all the cinematic suffering they witnessed concluded.

I sat and held them, hid them from the action. Dinner ended up being was a random mix of noodles, fruit, whatever leftovers I could pull from the fridge in the rare moments Wonder Twin Son let go of my legs. Hooray! Parenting win! Winning!