Amanda Cade

Worth It! (Things to try, read, watch, hear, and discuss)

Happy Father’s Day! Last month, I shared some of the most important things I learned from my mother’s example. My father has also been incredibly influential, and for today’s post I decided to focus on one of the most significant years of my childhood, when my father prepared me for adulthood in ways I could never have expected, and showed how the most ordinary things can teach the best lessons.

A Tale of Two Objectives

BudgetWhen my parents bought their house, the only thing they didn’t love was that the basement wasn’t finished, so they decided that they would correct that as soon as possible. It ended up taking them close to twelve years to save enough money, because hey-kids are expensive, and their first priority was always, always “our girls” (it still is). When I was nine, they were finally ready to call in the contractors. At the same time, however, their girls were old enough to desperately want a “real” family vacation (specifically, we wanted to go to Disney World). And they wanted to take us.

Mom and Dad decided that the basement could wait a little longer, because they knew that there would only be so many years for family vacations. However, Dad wasn’t convinced that they couldn’t have both. He already had some pretty solid carpentry skills, he had a good friend who was an electrician, and there were lots of books out there about plumbing and other topics. Worst case scenario, he thought, we would take the trip the next year, no matter what, and the basement might be a multi-year project. His goal, though, was to reach both objectives within a year, and he made it. Within twelve months, the basement had been transformed from a giant concrete room to a family room, laundry room, sewing room, workshop, home office, and second bathroom.

And then we went to Disney World.

Dad taught us a lot of important things that year, including:

Learn how to do things.

In my mental montage of my Dad, several images always recur:

  • book-pile.jpegDad sitting at the kitchen table with a notebook and a manual, teaching himself how to install a sink or lay carpet.
  • Dad in the basement, consulting his notes and hand drawn plans while he cuts drywall and paneling.
  • Dad back at the kitchen table, with a road atlas and another notebook, mapping out our drive to Florida, estimating gas costs, calling motels, and so on.
  • And most importantly, Dad teaching all of us as much as he could about what he was doing. We all spent time in the basement working with him, and it was the start of a lifelong pattern of Dad showing us new skills at every opportunity.

One of Dad’s favorite expressions when we were growing up was, “My girls are going to know how to…” and there were lots of ways he finished this sentence. We all know how to build a bookshelf, fix a leak, paint a room, and hang a door. We also know how to change a tire and change our oil. And all of that’s just for starters.

plan and toolsDo we always do all of those things for ourselves? No. We have our own answers to the time versus money question, and that doesn’t bother Dad. He never tells us that we’re wasting money when we pay for something that we could do on our own. What’s important to Dad, and to us, is that we can do it, if we choose to.

But even that isn’t the most critical takeaway. What Dad really taught us is that we can learn. Even in the days before the internet, if you wanted to learn a new skill, the information was available if you went looking for it. Dad’s example turned us into people who do just that. A few weeks ago, my sister Audrey’s husband mentioned that our family motto should be: “We can definitely figure that out”. It fits.

Make a plan.

Dad didn’t just involve us in the remodeling; he also made us a part of budgeting and planning for the basement and the vacation. We were all invested in both projects, as Dad’s vision for the basement was contagious, and Disney World was, well, Disney World. Over the course of the year, he taught us to think logically about a long term project, break it into steps, anticipate problems, and change direction if needed. When I was in grad school, studying organizational leadership, I was amazed at how many of the principles I was learning reminded me of Dad’s lessons during our “team meetings” (and yes, he did call them that).

CoinsMaybe the most important skill we developed was resource management and making tough decisions. Dad was completely transparent with the budget for both objectives, and when a decision had to be made, he discussed it with all of us, in ways we could understand. A nicer hotel would mean less expensive restaurants, so which was more important? Did we want to go to Sea World, or did we want more souvenir money? Did we immediately want to buy new furniture for our new basement, or wait six months to a year so we could spend more money on our trip?

Not only did that get us all voluntarily practicing our math skills (well played, Dad), but we were soon evaluating the importance of every way the family was spending money. Could movie night still be fun without pizza? What if sometimes we stayed home and played Monopoly instead of going out and playing miniature golf? How much would we save if we only had donuts every other Sunday instead of every Sunday?

That’s right, people-I voluntarily gave up donuts.

We learned to budget, to save, to delay gratification, to think long term, and to think qualitatively. In the long run, our experiences that year would help us choose colleges, jobs, homes, and much, much more. It’s the reason I was able to afford going back to school, taking the trip of a lifetime, and completely redoing the landscaping at my house. (That last one was also helped immensely by the fact that Mom, Dad, and I did 99% of the work ourselves. See the first lesson.)

Solve the problem, then tell the story.

pipesIf you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I’m much more likely to share my mistakes and ridiculousness than try to hide them. That’s completely because of my Dad. Even when he swears he’s going to keep an embarrassing moment to himself, he’ll be telling everyone about it within a day. The only thing he likes more than stories that make him look silly are stories that make us look good. I don’t want to give you the impression that finishing the basement went off without a hitch. Despite his extensive research, there were a lot of things he was doing for the first time, and mistakes were bound to happen. The most significant was when he flooded half the basement while working on the new bathroom. I can’t remember exactly why it happened, but I definitely remember the mess. Mom wasn’t home at the time, and we actually managed to clean everything up before she got back. Dad, of course, said that there was no reason to tell her about it…and then, of course, treated her to a hilarious account of the incident as soon as she got home. He showed us not to take ourselves too seriously, and that a good laugh is more than worth a little embarrassment.

Dad has also always been open about serious mistakes and things he isn’t proud of, and because of that, we’ve rarely had trouble telling him when we really screw up. We know that he understands, and that his focus will be on solutions, not judgments. Because of him, I’ve learned to be open with friends, family, and coworkers to try and create the same level of trust and comfort.

CastleWe finished the basement a few weeks before the big trip, and all of our hard work was about to pay off. However, life was about to throw us a curve. On day one of our two day drive, we were in a car accident. Luckily, no one was hurt, but the station wagon wasn’t going anywhere soon. I remember huddling in a Denny’s in a strange town five hours from home, trying not to cry while I waited for Dad to come back from the mechanic’s and tell us the vacation was over. I knew that we’d have another chance, and was determined to “be a big girl” and go back to the savings plan to get ready for next year.

Instead, Dad pulled up in a rental car and announced, “Sometimes you just have to use the credit card. Let’s go to Florida.” Then he kissed Mom and the cheek and added, “Is this going to be a great story or what?” I can’t imagine how stressed he must have been about the additional expense, but he focused on the experience, the story, and what was really important.

Our basement family room is still a place where we gather, and the framed picture of all of us in Mickey Mouse ears reminds us of everything we learned from Dad.

Dad

What were some of the most important lessons you learned as a child?

Today, you are receiving a diploma, degree, license, or certificate that represents not only your accomplishments, but also a part of your life that has forever impacted the person you are. Soon, you will be going on to the next step in your education, career, or service, and that will forever impact the person you will become. In a lifetime of turning points, today will always be one of the easiest to look back on and say, “and then my life changed”.

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The things I want to say to you are only based on the dubious qualifications of having been where you are now, and having the benefit of being able to look back, rather than ahead, on what followed for me. Ultimately, you will blaze your own path, but as you do, I hope you will consider just a few pieces of advice:

Be careful in your reinvention.

road-sky-clouds-cloudyYou might be thinking that a new stage of your life is the perfect time to become a new person. I’m certainly not going to tell you that you’re wrong. However, don’t be in a rush to change your style, your interests, or your personality. Here’s a secret: the person you are today is going to change whether or not you set out to make it happen. So take your time in trying new things and in letting go of old ones. Be equally willing to expand your horizons and to decide that you’re ok with what you already have.

Don’t buy into the idea that pain and poor decisions are the only way to be interesting. You will get hurt. You will make mistakes. Then, you will find the strength to work through them and become stronger. Life will give you those experiences; you don’t need to seek them out.

Make sure the person you’re becoming is a person you’re going to like.

Protect your circle.

Friends on a BenchLook at the people who surround you right now, and understand that not everyone is going to be a part of your life forever. Some people are ok to let go. Some people you need to let go. Others will come along to take their place. But the best people, the ones who shine the brightest, are the ones you should fight to keep, even through the challenges of time and distance and changes. If you aren’t careful, they will slip away while you aren’t paying attention, and it might be too late to get them back.

Some of the new people you’re about to meet are going to be worth letting into your heart. Others will never appreciate or deserve all the wonderful things you have to offer. Move slowly until you know which one you’re dealing with. The people you love most today spent a long time showing you that they are worthy of your trust and affection. There’s nothing wrong with expecting your new acquaintances to do the same.

Remember that there are two sides to growing up.

HorizonYou are about to face an explosion of new choices and new freedoms. Maybe you’re going to live away from your parents for the very first time. Maybe you’re going to discover that there are classes where no one takes attendance. Maybe your new job will have the kind of paycheck you’ve only dreamed about. Where you go, what you do, who you see, how late you stay out and how late you stay up, how you spend your money…all these and more are about to be more in your control than they ever have before. Enjoy it. Celebrate it. Live it.

But be smart about it. It’s easy to forget that being in control of your decisions also means that you are in control of their consequences. Slow down. Think carefully. Remember that responsibility is another part of becoming an adult. Make today amazing, but don’t forget that tomorrow is coming, and so is next week, next year, and the rest of your life.

Prove to the world, and yourself, that you were ready for this.

Don’t worry about how things are “supposed to be”.

forest mirrorYou have a picture of your future, and that picture is guaranteed to be wrong. Maybe it’s just a little bit wrong, or maybe it’s worlds away from what the future really has in store for you. Don’t stress about that. Dreams and goals are wonderful things, but don’t let your imagination cheapen your reality.

Even if you have your dream job, it isn’t going to be like you dreamed, and you aren’t going to love every minute. Your first college party probably won’t be a magical evening where you look perfect, are the center of attention, and meet your one true love. Living on your own costs way more than even your most realistic budget plan.

If you get caught up in how things aren’t living up to your imagination, you’re setting yourself up for frustration, disappointment, and disillusionment at levels that you shouldn’t have to endure. Your dreams should be motivators, not measuring sticks.

The experiences of your parents, siblings, friends, and so on are not a blueprint for what you need to do in order to be happy and successful. Your expectations will play a major role in determining your success and your happiness, so keep them realistic, and keep them yours. Never, everevaluate your life based on Hollywood. The world on the screen is so far from reality that it might as well be in another dimension.

Do not try to live someone else’s story. Your own is incredible enough.

love Amanda

I was inspired to write this post by a conversation I had at a recent graduation party, when the graduate made a point of asking for (and listening to) thoughts and advice from the guests. Please feel free to pass it on or reblog, and to add to the discussion in the comments. 

Episode One: Back to Reality

bitmoji-20190313054208After the Important Annual Event and the attack of the PIMOs (see April in Review), the first full week of May was pretty normal. So the first episode of the month would include:

  • Me being totally surprised when the Important Annual Event team presents me with a card and a gift at our post event meeting. It was totally unnecessary, but so appreciated.
  • Me being unable to find my dining room or living room scissors (featuring a flashback to December’s gift wrapping adventure).
  • Me acting like a four year old going to the circus for the first time as my friend Mike and I head off to see Endgame (my spoiler-free review can be found here).

Roll credits.

Episode Two: Mother’s Day

Phone shockThe entire first half of this episode would be scenes showing multiple conversations about what we’re getting Mom for Mother’s Day, who’s ordering it, how much we each have to kick in, etc. For example:

Me: Wait, I already bought a gift. I thought we were all on our own this year.

Audrey: No, we’re doing an experience gift this year.

Me: I have no memory of this. What’s the experience?

Audrey: We haven’t decided yet.

Me: I swear you’re making this up.

And later…

Audrey: We took Mom to that musical five years ago. She’s seen it at least twice. Are you sure she’ll want to see it again?

Me: It’s one of her favorites.

Audrey: It’s one of your favorites.

Me: And Mom’s! Please don’t tell me you’re suggesting that I would hijack Mom’s present.

Audrey: Of course not. I just want to be sure that you’re sure.

Me: Who is the musical expert in this family?!

Audrey: Um…you. Definitely you. I am in awe of your obsessive love of musicals and your incredible ability to remember what everyone has seen and what they liked.

Me: I’m ignoring your sarcasm and focusing on the fact that you just admitted I’m right. Did you clear the date with Amy?

Audrey: You said you would do that.

Me: Yes…I did…so that would be a “no” on you doing it?

Audrey: Call Amy.

Me: Yes, Ma’am.

Still later…

Amy: I already bought a gift.

Me: Audrey said we agreed on an experience.

Amy: I think she’s making that up.

Later still, via group text…

uh huh yup textAudrey: Ok, I see the problem…none of us actually said we would take care of ordering the tickets. That’s why no one remembers who was responsible.

Me: I ordered them while we were arguing about who screwed up.

Audrey: Ok. By the way, I bought her another present just in case.

Amy: So I should still give her the present I bought her originally?

Me: I think we both should.

Audrey: Wow, Mom’s getting a lot presents this year.

At this point the camera cuts to me rolling my eyes at the phone.

The rest of the episode would be a wonderful Mother’s Day lunch with lots of extra presents for the woman who’s taught me so much (see this post for some of Mom’s best wisdom).

Roll credits.

Episode Three: Never Tempt Fate

This episode begins on a Sunday evening, with one of those split screen phone call shots showing me on one side and Mom on the other. We pick up mid-conversation:

Mom: Big deadline Friday, right?

Me: Yes, but I’m in great shape. I’ve finished almost everything else, so I’ll be able to mostly concentrate on putting everything together as things come in. I actually think this week’s going to be pretty easy.

Mom: Who are you working with on this one?

Me: Jen.

Mom: Oh, that’s great. Nothing to worry about, then.

Me: Nope.

Mom: How is Jen? When’s she due?

Me: Three weeks. So the timing is good, because after Friday she’ll be ready to start easing back and transitioning for her maternity leave.

Mom: Tell her hi for me, and I’m glad the project’s in good shape.

Me: Will do, and me, too. This week’s going to be smooth sailing all the way.

Our voices fade out at this point, replaced by an ominous narrator voice.

Ominous Narrator: And thus, Amanda unwisely tempts fate by forgetting that one should never, ever, say such things aloud.

Good MorningCut to: a close up of the clock, showing 2:00 am. Next to the clock, my phone starts buzzing. A hand enters the frame, fumbling around before finally grabbing the phone. The camera pans to me, sitting up and blinking at the phone, then gives a close up of the email on the screen:

To: Amanda

From: Jen

Subject: I’m in labor

So we’re on our way to the hospital…

The rest of the email assures me that everything is fine, there are no concerns about the early delivery, and Jen’s really excited. Then she summarizes her status on our project (which, again, has to be finished on Friday) and gives me some passwords to access her files.

Still looking only half awake, I smile, say, “Yay, baby!” and then roll over and pull the covers over my head.

For about five seconds, nothing happens. Then the covers go flying as I sit up and cry, “Oh-my-god-I-have-to-take-over-for-Jen-now!!!”

By 2:30 I’m halfway through my first cup of coffee and digging into Jen’s files, trying to figure out exactly where she, and the people she was working with, had left off. By 4:00 I’ve sent over a dozen emails, including one to my boss telling him I needed to see him first thing, and one to Jen telling her to STOP EMAILING ME AND FOCUS ON HAVING THE BABY. (I should mention that one of the reasons Jen and I work well together, and have become friends, is that we’re both really, really invested in our jobs.)

Next scene: The words “6:00 am” appear on the screen. I’m at my desk, attacking my emergency bag of Hostess Donettes and waiting for my boss to get in. “This is doable,” I say out loud, “I can do this. I can do anything. I have a plan. I have coffee. I have donuts. I will not eat the entire bag of donuts this morning.”

If you’re a regular reader, you’ve already figured out that this is the context for last week’s post about what to remember when there’s too much to do. That post has a little more about the rest of the week, and here are a few more highlights of the episode:

  • Nervous SweatingMe politely informing multiple coworkers that I will send an email as soon as I hear from Jen, and in the meantime I really need to work.
  • Jen getting in touch and letting me know that she had a successful delivery and everyone is fine. YAY!!!
  • Hitting the bottom of my emergency donuts Tuesday morning.
  • A massive work montage, including multiple conversations, emails, being glued to my computer at work, being glued to my computer at home, a lot of running from one place to another to check in with Jen’s people, and a fair amount of assuring everyone (including Jen, who got in touch at least once a day even though I kept telling her to stop worrying) that I have everything under control (these snippets will mostly be followed by a cut to me looking into the camera and saying “I’m not actually sure about that”).
  • Me breaking my vow to never have donuts delivered, and then in the course of one evening eating…let’s just say more than I should. (The original donut dilemma was covered in my March in Review post.) This, incidentally, would not be the last donut scene.
  • Worth mentioning again: Screaming “I’m amazing!” in my boss’s office Friday afternoon, and then going out to dinner.

The episode would end on Saturday morning, when I’m having breakfast with Mom. The scene begins as I’m reaching the end of the story.

Mom: And how many donuts did you eat this week.

Me: Um…

(A censor beep prevents the audience from hearing my answer, and Mom bursts out laughing while also looking completely stunned.)

Mom: Honey, if you do that again I’m staging an intervention.

Roll credits.

Episode Four: Let’s Get Together!

let's do lunchThe last week of May was totally smooth sailing, so I focused on recovering from the craziness by spending extra time with important people. The first half of this episode would consist of restaurant scenes:

  • Lunch with my best friend Katie, which is filled with funny stories about our coworkers and the latest on her baby boy, who’s going to turn one this summer and oh-my-gosh-how-did-that-get-so close-so-fast?!
  • Lunch with Dad and another friend, who provides a great audience for some of Dad’s best stories. We all laugh so hard that there are at least four instances of people trying to inhale their beverages.
  • Breakfast with Mom and Dad.

bestiesThe second half of the episode would be last night, when Katie and I had a rare “just us” dinner out. Heading downtown, we argue about which one of us is more directionally challenged (in all honesty, it’s probably too close to call-we’re both constantly getting lost) and express our love of GPS. Of course, we do misunderstand the GPS almost immediately and go the entirely wrong direction on the highway, but that only takes about five minutes to correct.

Next scene: We discuss whether it was a good idea to go downtown when there’s a Cardinals/Cubs game (serious baseball rivalry there), and a freaking Stanley Cup game, and a severe thunderstorm warning. (Answer: No. Definitely no.)

Next scene: We express way too much confidence in our memory of where we’re going when we disagree with the GPS, and therefore end up in a completely unfamiliar area. The thunderstorm warning is now predicting quarter sized hail.

Next scene: We decide to get the heck out of downtown and go to dinner at an Italian place we love…that happens to be five minutes from my house. In fact, we had passed it earlier. We cheerfully congratulate ourselves on having a driving adventure.

Final scene: We settle in at the restaurant, laugh at ourselves, and realize that we’d honestly rather be eating here anyway. It’s a totally successful girls’ night.

Roll credits.

Baby

My friend Jen is officially a MOM!!! What’s the most exciting thing that happened in your world last month?

Screenshot 2019-05-26 at 7.18.05 AM Well, I thought that January was crazy, and the end of April was exhausting, but it turns out that I hadn’t seen anything yet. This past week, circumstances created a workload the likes of which I haven’t seen in a very long time, and I quite literally did almost nothing but work, sleep, and work. I’ll share more details in my upcoming month in review post, but today I’m thinking about those times in our lives when our to do lists become Herculean.

The next time you’re feeling completely overwhelmed, here are some things to keep in mind:

Set realistic expectations

Screenshot 2019-05-26 at 8.24.23 AMUnless you have superpowers (and if you do, I’m jealous), you’re always going to be constrained by the time you have. When everything comes crashing down, it’s time to really focus on acceptable outcomes (see this post for more on that). This past week I was doing the work of two people, and while I wanted to apply my usual high standards to all of it, that simply wasn’t possible.

Communicate with others

First thing Monday morning, I told my boss what I could do, what I couldn’t do, and what I now needed other people to do. Some deadlines had to be pushed back, some of my work had to be delegated to others, and someone else definitely had to lead a few training sessions I had scheduled for Friday.

When you have too much to do, you need to make the situation clear to everyone around you. Give a heads up to those who are affected, so they know the situation and are prepared for you to be stressed, or unavailable, or asking for their help and support.

Take care of yourself

Sleep. Eat. Drink water. Take a break. No matter how busy you are, you have time to see your needs. If you don’t, you won’t be very effective anyway. This Wednesday, for example, I called it quits by 6:00 and slept for ten hours. I had two insanely busy days behind me and two more ahead, so I didn’t feel the least bit guilty about saying, “I’ll figure it out tomorrow”.

Celebrate your accomplishments

celebrateAt the end of the day on Friday, I walked into my boss’s office, threw my arms in the air, and shouted, “I’m amazing!” I also texted a friend and asked if we could have dinner because I was on a total achievement high and wanted a metaphorical gold star. Was I bragging? Yep. Did I feel ashamed of that? Nope. Often, if we wait for other people to notice and congratulate us, we’ll end up waiting a long time. No, I’m not suggesting that we go around constantly talking about how awesome we are, but there’s nothing wrong with occasionally drawing attention to yourself. I wanted my boss to acknowledge what I had put myself through over the past five days, so I made sure he did. I wanted a reward, so I arranged my own celebratory dinner. At a bare minimum, when you achieve something you should look at yourself in the mirror and tell that amazing person they did great.

Throttle back

When things start to slow down, let them. It can be hard to change gears, but continuously running in overdrive is a very, very bad idea. Once you’ve handled the craziness, it’s time to sleep in. Watch a movie. Read a book. Give yourself some time before dealing with anything else that’s piled up. Write a shorter blog post because you’re still tired on Sunday.

Trust me, you’ve earned it.

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How do you handle being overwhelmed?

So everybody’s talking about Game of Thrones, which will air its final episode tonight. Everyone except me, that is, because I stopped watching it during season three (for reasons that would take an entirely separate post to explain). I am aware of most of the highlights from blog reviews and conversations at work, but I won’t be among the millions of people tuning in tonight.

Instead, I’ve been thinking about two other television shows, one that just ended a few days ago, and the other that will take its final bow before the end of the summer. I’m going to miss them both, but luckily there are other shows to ease the pain. What’s been taking up the TV portion of my brain? Well…

The Big Bang Theory

Screenshot 2019-05-19 at 6.55.10 AM

Why I’ll Miss It

I’ve always been a fan of a good sitcom (so much so that sitcom style has become part of my inner monologue), and I especially enjoy shows focused on groups of friends, since my friend groups have been a central feature of my entire adult life. Other personal favorite shows include Friends and How I Met Your Mother (except for the ending, which I try to forget).

The Big Bang Theory had everything I liked in other shows, and more. Although I’m not a science person, I always have been proud to be a geek, and so a lot of the conversations and humor among the show’s characters really resonated. I could relate to the difficulties in navigating social waters, the fun of regular gatherings for takeout in someone’s living room, and the excitement of the weekly trip to the comic book store.

Over twelve years, the characters grew and changed, and the cast expanded. Since the show runners never decided to just coast on the formula, there were always newer developments to keep me interested. Since I’m around the same age as the characters, a lot of people in my life were going through the same kinds of changes that were addressed in the show: marriage, children, home ownership, career changes, maturing in specific ways, etc.

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Over the years, the show has been something I’ve looked forward to watching, and frequently discussed with friends and coworkers. This week’s finale was a perfect way to say goodbye…even though I didn’t want to.

Why It’s Going to Be Ok

At least I still have Young Sheldon. I was a little dubious before this show premiered, afraid it would just be the same kinds of humor and situations with a slightly different premise. It turned out to be something very different, and in some ways something that is actually better. I know quite a few people who weren’t huge fans of The Big Bang Theory, but have fallen in love with the prequel series.

Screenshot 2019-05-19 at 6.59.12 AM

As an adult, Sheldon Cooper was always portrayed as brash, demanding, and stubbornly insistent that the world needs to change to suit him. Instead of putting all of that into a younger character, Young Sheldon instead gives us a child who is trying to learn to navigate the world, who struggles with the fact that his intellect is so far ahead of his age and understanding. The humor is more subtle and the gags are interspersed with a lot more character development and some deeper issues. Add a really strong cast, and you have a great show that I’m really glad is continuing.

iZombie

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Why I’ll Miss It

I love zombie stories. Movies, books, comic books…it’s a genre I’ve been into for a very long time (see this post where I broke down why I’d be an asset in the zombie apocalypse). I read the DC Vertigo series during its original run (2010-2012), and really enjoyed both the idea of a zombie protagonist and the execution of the storyline. When I heard about the possibility of a TV series (this was in 2013, I think), I was cautiously excited. When I heard that Rob Thomas (best known, of course, for Veronica Mars, but also the mind behind several other short-lived but very good series and a few books that deserved more attention than they received), I got really excited.

The show took the basic premise of the comics and turned it into something new, and I was hooked from the first episode. If you haven’t seen the show, it began as a police procedural, pairing a homicide detective with a zombie medical examiner (who is able to see some of murder victims’ memories after eating their brains). Right from the start, the show was fun, clever, and engrossing, combining a case of the week style with an overarching metaplot related to larger zombie issues.

This is another show that didn’t just stick to the formula. With each season, circumstances changed, the stakes got higher, the world expanded, and the show evolved. While the focus has always remained on the core characters, there’s been a consistent introduction of new themes and issues that help keep the viewers invested. With the final season currently underway, I’m just as excited for each new episode as I was for the premiere, and I’m already dreading the final credits.

(By the way, if you’ve missed out on iZombie, you can catch up on Netflix and watch the current season through the CW.)

Why It’s Going to Be Ok

First of all, Rob Thomas has been very clear that the reason the show is ending after five seasons is because that will be the end of the story he wanted to tell. I totally respect that. We’ve all experienced TV shows, books, and movie franchises that keep going because they’re popular, not because there’s a quality story that still needs telling. I hate to see something I enjoy go downhill because it goes on too long, and as much as I wish there was more to the story, I’m glad it’s getting the right ending.

Second, the end of iZombie left Thomas free to return to Veronica Mars, where he does have more of a story to tell.

Screenshot 2019-05-19 at 7.06.59 AM

Season one was fifteen years ago…but the story isn’t over.

I loved the original show (2004-2007), and was crushed when it was cancelled. I love that Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell kept the faith and brought us a movie in 2014. I love that Thomas continued the story in two novels. Clearly, I’m a fan…and I’m thrilled that Thomas has more to tell us, and that this summer Veronica’s back.

TV_Stay Tuned

Are you a fan of any of these shows? What are your “must sees” (past or present)? Let’s discuss!

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Years ago, in a job interview, I was asked to name a personal hero. Without hesitation, I said, “My parents. If someday I can be half the people they are, I’ll be satisfied with myself.” Mom and Dad have lived quiet, relatively ordinary lives, but they are extraordinary people.

In honor of Mother’s Day, I’d like to share with you some of the most important things I’ve learned from one of the greatest people I know.

Be genuinely interested in people.

Conversation.jpgI’m sure that at some point in her life my mother has met someone who didn’t like her. That’s just the way life works. However, I’ve never seen it in person. She’s one of those people that others gravitate to, want to talk to, respect, and remember. I’ve seen her, more than once, meet people I’ve known for years and have them more engaged and comfortable in a hour than I’ve ever seen them before. My friends have always loved her. My coworkers adore her. When she sits down next to a stranger, she ends up making a new friend.

When I was growing up, social skills didn’t come easy to me, and I spent a lot of time trying to figure out her secret. When I finally asked, she simply shrugged and said, “I don’t have a secret. I just like people.”

Why have my friends always liked her? Because she kept their favorite soft drink flavors in the fridge, asked about school, remembered their interests, and cheered for their accomplishments. My coworkers? Well, for starters, she enjoys visiting my job and is thrilled to meet them for the first time and catch up with them the next time she sees them. She remembers what I’ve told her about them, and what they’ve talked about before. When she meets someone new, she wants to know about them, and is honestly interested in who they are and what they have to say.

Mom taught me to slow down, pay attention to people, and listen. Maybe she doesn’t see it as a “secret”, but I see it as life-changing.

Give help when you’re able.

So I’ve been going through a sort of “memory montage” for the past couple of minutes, and it includes:

  • FlowerMom, volunteering at school events for our entire educational career (and even some after we graduated).
  • Mom, making cakes and casseroles for people going through difficult times.
  • Mom, driving people to doctor’s appointments and running errands for everyone.
  • Mom, sitting up with us when we pulled all-nighters in college.
  • Mom, just a few weeks ago, strolling into my work event with a box of supplies I had totally forgotten to buy.

I really feel the need to emphasize that last one: when I, a professional adult, realized I had missed an important step for a very important event, I called my mother, who dropped everything to run to the store and then deliver the things I needed. How awesome is that?

Whether it’s family, friends, or even strangers, if Mom has the ability to make someone’s life easier, she does. Period. She makes the world a better place because of this, and doing it makes her happier. It’s a win-win attitude that I strive to emulate.

Ask for help when you need it.

StageI will never forget the first time my mother asked me for help with something big. She had been asked to present an award to a coworker in front of a large group of people, and she confessed that she was borderline terrified at the thought of writing a speech and then talking in front of a crowd. I was in high school, acting in school plays and competing on my school’s debate team, so in retrospect it makes perfect since that she would ask me. At the time, however, I was floored that my capable, confident, grown-up mother was coming to me with a problem. What she understood, though, was that there was no shame in admitting that she, like everyone, wasn’t good at everything and couldn’t do everything on her own.

Sometimes, when I’m afraid of losing face or appearing weak in some way, I remember that if Mom could look at her teenage daughter and say, “You’re good at this, and I’m not, so can you help me?”, there’s no reason for me to try and pretend to be the ultimate everything.

Focus on how you feel, not how you look.

mirror.jpegMom and I both were effortlessly thin until our early twenties, when it started becoming difficult to avoid weight gain. It isn’t just about diet and exercise for either of us (although that does come into play sometimes); we both have medical factors that make it hard to regulate our weight. Over the years, we’ve both bounced around the range between size 8 and size 14. I know I would have gotten hung up about it, except that she had been through it and gave me some perspective early on. “Here’s what I’ve always done,” she told me. “If I’m unhealthy, I feel bad physically, or I can’t put on stylish clothes in my size and feel good about the way I look, then I make changes to get back to where I need to be. Otherwise, I don’t worry about it.” She got out the photo album and walked me through her various sizes over the years, and that reminded me that Mom has always been beautiful (and that isn’t just me talking-everyone says so), even at her heaviest.

That’s just one of the many ways that she’s helped me avoid a lot of the insecurity that I see in so many people. Another thing she said that I’ll never forget is, “When you look at someone else, don’t think, ‘I wonder if I look as good as she does’. Think, ‘I hope she feels as good as I do’.” Definitely words to live by.

Share meals with others.

mealIn my parents’ house, everyone was at the dinner table at five-thirty, unless there was a special circumstance that warranted permission to be absent. Guests were always welcome. As an adult, I meet my parents for lunch, dinner, or brunch an average of once a week. The entire family gets together at least once a month. There’s something especially significant about sitting down together over a meal that deepens emotional ties between people. Recently, one of my friends joked that I must be obsessed with food because I’m always either cooking for everyone or herding them into a restaurant. I do like food, but what I really love is the sense of connection that develops when a group of people sit around a table and share the experience. Mom has always understood that, and because she did, we’re all blessed by knowing it, too.

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What has your mother (or any influential person) helped you learn about life?

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After the misunderstanding that prevented me from seeing Endgame last weekend (as explained in last Sunday’s post about how to deal with disappointment), and surviving the Important Annual Event at work (see April in Review), I was beyond excited to see Endgame on Friday. This is actually really difficult to review without spoilers, which is part of the reason I’m posting later than I normally do, because it took a while to get it right. This is also going to be a shorter post than usual. I’m considering coming back to this topic in a few months after more people have had a chance to see the movie, and talking about a few things in more depth then. In the meantime, here are my spoiler-free thoughts.

Tone

When I left the theater after Infinity War last year, I was a little unsettled. The end of the movie was just so bleakOf course we all knew going in that it was essentially a two part film, and I expected the midpoint resolution to be really bad for the heroes (especially since I have, of course, read the Infinity War comic books multiple times), but it was even darker than I expected. I was thinking there would at least be a nod to the future, when one of the characters dramatically said something about fighting on, or “it’s not over”…but nope.

Screenshot 2019-05-05 at 12.54.48 PMEndgame picks up just as dark, so if you haven’t seen it, be forewarned. The good news is that the grim hopelessness lasts just long enough to make you want it to stop, and then it does, leaving the viewer with an emotional resonance that makes the introduction of hope welcome and impactful.

The rest of the film is more balanced, blending seriousness, humor, setbacks and achievements carefully and effectively. Be prepared for a lot of ups and downs, and several emotional gut punches.

The End of an Era

Infinity War and Endgame have been a long time coming, and had a big job to do. The MCU is the highest-grossing film franchise of all time, with more than twenty movies spanning over a decade. What began with Iron Man back in 2008 continuously expanded in terms of characters, metaplot, and fictional world development, and then narrowed with laser focus to two movies that had to bring it all to a resolution. And after all that time, all that buildup, and a fanbase that is as huge as it is demanding, that resolution had to be epic.

And it was.

Again, I don’t do spoilers, so I’m going to keep it vague, but here’s generally what you can expect:

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  • The resolution of several major interpersonal and intrapersonal conflicts that have underscored multiple films. Hatchets get buried. Personal demons are laid to rest. People find what they’ve been looking for (sometimes within themselves). The characters grow, and change, and yes, by the end some do exit center stage while others have been developed enough to take a prominent role in the next era.
  • Some revisiting of some of the most iconic moments of the MCU, creating nostalgia while still moving the Endgame  plot forward.
  • Seriously cool fight scenes, especially in the third act.

Also, you will most likely totally fall in love with Nebula. I know I did.

 

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Let’s discuss the MCU, but please keep it spoiler-free.