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The Pixar List

Reactions to my Disney movie rankings surprised and delighted me. I was glad to see so much love for Pocahontas in your responses. I thought that might be an outlier, especially since it’s so historically inaccurate. But if you look at the film as a work of pure fiction and not historical fiction, it truly is one of the most beautiful animated films Disney has made—I think. I do hope, if nothing else, that my list has compelled one or two of you to give Brother Bear a chance.

I had so much fun ranking the Disney animated features, I simply couldn’t stop there. So here it is; behold the Pixar list.  I wonder if perhaps we’ll find our lists match up more closely here. There seems to be a bit more consensus on the quality of Pixar’s canon, but who knows, I think some things may surprise you.

PS, word of warning, just thinking about Toy Story 3 has caused me to start crying at my desk, so if you’re not comfortable crying at work, maybe stop now and read later. You know how Pixar gets you.

  1. Up
  2. WALL-E
  3. Toy Story 3
  4. A Bug’s Life
  5. Monsters, Inc.
  6. Inside Out
  7. Finding Nemo
  8. Toy Story
  9. The Incredibles
  10. Ratatouille
  11. Finding Dory
  12. Toy Story 2
  13. Brave
  14. Cars

I have not seen:

  • Cars 2
  • Monsters University
  • The Good Dinosaur

Pretty, with a but

So the gentleman who owns the store next to my office stopped me on the street as I was walking back from getting coffee, ostensibly to apologize for calling me Sarah as I walked into work that morning. I said, “Don’t worry about it. Everyone always calls me the wrong name. Usually Sarah or Rachel. All those Old Testament wives.” I went on my merry way but he stopped me again. He had something else to say. I think it’s important that I preface this story by saying that this guy really was not trying to hit on me, which in some ways makes it all worse. Okay, I’ll continue. Here’s what he said.

“You know, actually, I’ve been meaning to ask you. You, I think, are the perfect image of a full-figured woman. I’m just wondering what you think about that. Do you feel good about yourself?”

Now, this dude says awkward and strange things to me and my co-workers all the time. He’s a lonely divorcee who owns a suit shop that never gets any business, so Lord knows what thoughts twirl around his brain all day while he’s surrounded by all that linen and no other humans. But, this was beyond the standard unusual comment. He seemed earnest, like he wanted to learn something about body confidence. I was taken aback, and not super interested in having that conversation, so I tried to end it and leave.

“Um, yeah, I’m pretty confident in myself.”

“That’s good because, you really are perfect exactly how you are and I know a lot of men put pressure on women to lose weight and be skinny, but you really shouldn’t change. You’re like a perfect image of a full-figured woman. I know you’re married, but I hope your husband feels so too.”

Ladies, we’ve all been here, right? In one form or another? We’ve all found ourselves confronted by a man who feels entitled to comment on our bodies even when it’s inappropriate, back-handed, and unprofessional. I meant it as a compliment, they say when we call them on their behavior. And the little feminist pixie that lives inside me turns red and screams because she’s too exhausted to take the time to educate this ignorant man on why it is inappropriate to comment on the body of a person, pretty much ever, but especially when that person works next door to you. And that pixie is also frustrated because she knows that this man really does believe he’s being noble, and perhaps in a twisted way he is. He sees the pressure put on women to be skinny, lose weight, please a man, and he is making a statement to a woman who does not fit that mold to say that she is perfect the way she is and should not succumb to that societal pressure. So how can I be mad? But I am. I am mad. The pixie is mad. Because even though he meant it as a compliment, it made me feel like shit. Which then makes me feel like a failure because it feels like a test as to whether or not I truly have body confidence and when given that test I failed because on the inside I totally collapse as if I’m twelve years old all over again and just got called chubby on the playground. So I’m mad at the man, I’ve failed my inner feminist pixie, and I’ve reverted to the child I was when I was bullied. I don’t have the fortitude to make this a teachable moment. I’m too sad. Now do you see why it’s basically never a good idea to comment on someone’s body? Hot-button is a phrase that doesn’t begin to paint the picture.

Just when I start to think, hey, I think all this body confidence I’ve been working on is really paying off. I’m starting to feel like a confident woman. Not a fat woman, not a curvy woman or a skinny woman or a woman on a diet. Just a woman. Cool. It’s nice to just be a person.

And then, poof.

Along comes a well-intended old man to remind me that no, you are not just a woman. You will never be perceived as just a woman. You are a “full-figured” woman. You are pretty—for a curvy girl. You will never just be pretty. You will always be pretty with a modifier.

I feel so average sometimes that I actually feel invisible. It’s appropriate that this whole confrontation began because the man got my name wrong. It happens ALL. THE. TIME. I usually have to meet someone at least three times before they remember me—not remember my name, remember me at all—and when they finally do remember me they then get my name wrong. Sarah, Rachel, Heidi. These are names I’ve been called this week alone. Everything but Rebecca, who is invisible. I’ve tried to embrace it, my average-ness. There’s a benefit to disappearing into the wallpaper. You get to see very interesting things when people don’t really know you’re there. I also always know that when I have an instinct about something I’m probably right because I’ve learned that part of being average is having unextraordinary opinions. If I think something, chances are thousands of other people have thought it as well, so I’m not alone in my ideas and can generally trust them to have some backing. I’m not an outlier. I’m not an iconoclast. I’m not a trailblazer. I’ve embraced the benefits of being ordinary. It’s led to me being a strong administrator and a creative writer. I like being an invisible pair of hands that makes cool things happen from behind the curtain. But then conversations like this come about and make me feel like the only things that do make me visible are things that are negative. Like being “curvy” or “full-figured.” What does that even mean? The world around this issue is changing a little bit. But not really. Not really. Plus-size models are still plus-size; they’re not just models and I’m not sure they ever will be. They will always be models with a modifier.

The emotional waves settle. My head comforts my heart and I accept that perception is reality. I can’t control how people perceive me therefore I can’t control their reality. I can only control how I perceive myself, so my reality is that I’m just a woman. A woman who struggles from time to time with body image, but is mostly over it. A woman who struggles every day with eating healthy. A woman who runs marathons and loves dance parties. Who is on Weight Watchers but loves carrot cake. Who has a husband who thinks I’m pretty. Period.

I know how much privilege I walk around with as a middle-class, able-bodied, cis, straight, white woman. Crossings like this remind me that what I experience in micro-doses once in awhile, minority groups experience daily and in much more aggressive doses. It’s not right. Perhaps I’ve even been that well-intended person asking someone a question about their life experience that has the affect of making them feel small. I’m going to use this experience to remind me of that, and to remind me to always treat people like people. Not like plus-size people, or disabled people, or ethnic people, or gay people, or trans people. You breathe oxygen and are carbon-based? Cool, then you are people. No modifiers.

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Every Disney Movie . . . Ranked

In today’s edition of not finishing my novel, I’ve decided to rank every Disney movie ever made in order of my favorites. Disney fans, I’m sure you’ve pondered your favorite Disney movies—probably even assembled a top ten—but have you ever ranked all of them? It’s hard. Been wanting to do this for weeks, so here goes.

What does it mean to be a favorite? There are movies that intellectually I can understand are better than others, but I might like the “lesser” film more. Why? Not sure. Only explanation is that art is a two-way street, and half of it is what I bring to my experience of the thing. So while I acknowledge that Beauty and the Beast is a good film, it really had very little emotional impact on me, landing it way down on the list. This is why things like lists and awards are fun, and also really stupid. It takes a special snowflake to rank Brother Bear above Frozen. I am that special snowflake, and the cold never bothered me anyway.

I’m not including Pixar, Amblin, Disney Toons, or Studio Ghibli. Perhaps I’ll make separate lists of those. For now this is strictly Walt Disney Animation Studios.

So here it is—every Disney animated feature in order of my personal favorite, for any weirdos out there who are curious. My top ten might surprise you.

  1. The Little Mermaid
  2. Sleeping Beauty
  3. Lilo & Stitch
  4. Alice in Wonderland
  5. Tangled
  6. Lady and the Tramp
  7. Pocahontas
  8. Pinocchio
  9. The Lion King
  10. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  11. Peter Pan
  12. Aladdin
  13. The Sword in the Stone
  14. Bambi
  15. Brother Bear
  16. Frozen
  17. Mulan
  18. Cinderella
  19. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  20. Zootopia
  21. Moana
  22. Dumbo
  23. Robin Hood
  24. Fantasia
  25. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
  26. Beauty and the Beast
  27. Big Hero 6
  28. Oliver & Company
  29. The Jungle Book
  30. The Rescuers Down Under
  31. Fantasia 2000
  32. The Princess and the Frog
  33. The Aristocats
  34. Wreck-It Ralph
  35. One Hundred and One Dalmatians
  36. Atlantis: The Lost Empire
  37. Hercules
  38. The Rescuers
  39. Bolt
  40. The Fox and the Hound
  41. The Great Mouse Detective
  42. Tarzan
  43. The Emperor’s New Groove

I have only seen the following in snippets, so did not include in the ranking:

  • Saludos Amigos
  • The Three Caballeros
  • Make Mine Music
  • Fun and Fancy Free
  • Melody Time
  • The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (I’ve seen The Legend of Sleepy Hollow which would rank highly, but I’ve never seen Wind in the Willows and definitely haven’t seen them together in this packaged film)
  • The Black Cauldron
  • Dinosaur
  • Treasure Planet
  • Home on the Range (this is when things got real tough for the Studios)
  • Chicken Little
  • Meet the Robinsons
  • Winnie the Pooh (I know! I don’t know what’s wrong with me)

So? Are you surprised by my list? Anything you would bump out of the top ten? Would love to hear all the ways in which you think I’m crazy.

Running Home . . . Take Two

Imagine a cottage in the woods. The siding, dark walnut panels, blends with the trees, but the sienna door gives it away as a house. On the deck, rocking chairs lilt back and forth in the wind. They are old and inviting. Cats take naps there. Before you go to the sienna door, you walk along a path lined with stones and brush, to the back of the house where you discover a fire pit with logs for sitting and sticks for s’morseing. There is a back deck and a canopy for when the sun barrels down through the trees. It is cold now, no sun barreling. At the way back of the property sits a tiny shed, with nothing inside but many vases full of silk flowers, a desk, chair, and a small fireplace.

You follow the path back around to the front of the house and walk inside, feeling the crunch of cold pine needles with every step. The sun is setting, and you can see your breath. You hope there is a fire burning in the living room. You walk up the steps, onto the porch with the comfortable chairs, and grab the handle with your mittened hand. The door is unlocked and you are welcome.

Your boots thud against the hardwood floors until they find a soft area rug stitched with Navajo patterns in bright colors. You take off your boots and curl your toes. In front of you a staircase leads up to a loft, where you will sleep, but not yet. The room feels like being inside a drop of amber. Everything is warm and bright. On the walls you inspect the various accouterments of adventure. A vintage canoe re-purposed as a bookshelf hangs above a gray couch, the bookshelves filled with camping manuals and cookbooks. On a ledge that makes its way around the room sit glass lanterns and baskets, plants, and the occasional teddy bear. Rustic California whimsy—you call it.

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To your left a desk is situated against a large window where you will sit and spend your weekend writing. You run your hand against the oak, a perfectly fine surface for creativity. Outside, the sun has disappeared and a gentle snow falls against the moonlight and dusts the trees. To your left, a stone fireplace rages, sending crackles all the way through the living room and back to the kitchen, which opens up on the other side of the staircase.

In the kitchen you find your husband, or friend, or mom, or adventure partner. They have joined you for the weekend and got here early to start cooking a stew while you investigate the area and pick up extra firewood from the market in town. You give him, or her, a kiss, or a hug, and sneak a taste of the beef stew to which he has just added dijon mustard for that extra kick he knows you love. Your nose follows something sweet, and you look through the window of the oven to find a strawberry rhubarb pie bubbling in the heat. You know that means there is vanilla ice cream in the freezer, and your heart skips a beat. You sit down at the red table in front of the kitchen, and turn on the Craftsman lamp that hangs above your head. There are hummingbirds stained onto the glass, and when the light shines through you think they might fly away.

Your husband/friend/mom/adventure partner brings you a cup of coffee.

“Long drive?” he says.

“Not too bad, just an hour and half. I left Venice at 3:30.”

“Good time. Took me closer to two hours but that’s still not too bad.”

You walk back to the staircase but instead of going up it, you open a small door underneath it, where you place your bag and your boots. You look around for Harry Potter—like always—but alas, just a plain room under the stairs. You walk back through the living room and see there is a hallway behind the stairs leading to a bedroom with bunk beds that look like a tree, and a downstairs bathroom. That’s good because it was a long drive and you suddenly realize just how badly you have to pee. The cold stones of the bathroom floor send a shiver up your spine, but you like it. You try to decide between a long soak in the clawfoot tub, or a quick wash in the stone shower so you can get back to that stew—and pie. You opt for the shower. There will be time for a bath tomorrow.

After dinner, you engage in a snuggle session by the fire, reading books and talking about which hike you’ll take this weekend. Perhaps around the lake? Or up to heart rock? Once its decided, you agree to turn in early. You walk up the staircase, which is painted to look like Seussian plants and warm sunsets, and collapse onto your queen-size four-post bed. You crawl under the white sheets and handmade quilt, and lick your lips, enjoying the remnants of strawberry-rhubarb that linger there.

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For the rest of the weekend you hike through the trees, dip your toes in the freezing lake, and seek inspiration in the best possible environment—where people pepper Mother Nature, not the other way around. You hike, you eat, you shower, and then you write. You designate hours of writing time where your adventure partner knows not to disturb you, other than to bring you the occasional pot of tea and perhaps a lemon cookie. You turn off the heater and don a cable-knit sweater, because it’s better to write when the world around you is cold. In the evening you read some of what you wrote that day to your husband/cousin/neighbor/adventure partner, and they love it. Of course they do. You know they are not the best test subject but that’s alright; in this moment all you need is encouragement. Tests will come later.

Before you pack up for the weekend you look around your adventure cabin and imagine all the other worlds available to you because of it. You can make a movie. You can host a retreat. You can rent it to fellow adventure-seekers. You can offer it to friends who need to get away from the rat races and the hullabaloo. You can host Thanksgiving, or Christmas. You can name it. You’ve always wanted to name a house.

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Sounds good, right? I think we’ll take it.

Brad and I are running home. A little less than a year ago we proclaimed our tiny plans. Little did we know at that time how very unwelcome tiny homes would be to the grumps who create zoning laws. Our dreams are still tiny, but now they look more like a tiny-ish California Adventure Cabin. It’s an us thing to do, which means it’s perhaps not the normal thing to do, or the conventional, or the completely practical, but it’s right. It feels right, and so we run toward it.

Into the woods.

 

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Chrysalis: a preparatory or transitional state

I look into my tea leaves and what I choose to see is the life of a writer. A quiet house by the sea or in the country, a child playing in the living room, a husband editing in the study or rehearsing for an audition, and me in a nook with a computer diving deep into other worlds. In Maui we dove down to 120 feet at Molokini Crater—the deepest we’ve ever gone. I swam at the bottom of the sea with eagle rays and octopus, but writing feels deeper. In a marathon writing session the real world melts away and suddenly I am through the sea, on an adventure with Niguel, Iris, and Gus, trying to escape the vengeful Callum before he gets to Iris’ father, Peter Applegate.

94fac0ae1d47570c0ffb191c99cf4bc8You have no idea what I’m talking about, I know. These are characters in my book. They’ve become close friends of mine, and I know they feel neglected.

Nymphalidae_-_Danaus_plexippus_ChrysalisThe neglect is making my wings hurt. I feel them pushing hard against the chrysalis that has protected them for 32 years, and if they don’t make it out soon the bones will break. I know this to be true, so why am I making it so hard to break free?

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In writing the first draft of my novel, several challenges emerged, one of which was knowing when to finish a chapter. Often, it was clear. The chapter finished itself and I sailed on into the next. Sometimes, though, sometimes, I’d want to stay in a chapter for reasons that were perhaps unclear, but what was clear is that I knew it was going on too long. The third chapter of my novel was such a one. I kept writing and writing, knowing that nothing about the chapter was helping to move the story along. I loved the characters in the chapter. I found the action of the chapter humorous and charming (if I do say so myself), even though I knew it was irrelevant to the ultimate motor of the book. In my heart I knew I should end it, perhaps even cut out the whole thing, but I liked it too much. It was comfortable. It was clever (if I do say so myself) and it had the desired effect of distracting me from making the book truly great.

I wonder if I’m a bit stuck now, in my life, spending precious time in a chapter that is comfortable and full of clever characters. It’s hard to know when to move on.

That’s not true, I suppose. Knowing is the easy part. It’s the moving on that is hard.

1af9d0cd9c6a6ed51e786e33437282b6Growing up makes moving from chapter to chapter effortless in a sense, because the pages were turned for me. I was born. I started school. I twirled baton. I survived middle school. I went to high school. I got into college. I studied in London. I graduated from college. I moved to L.A. The outline was all there, and then—suddenly—the outline stopped. Suddenly it was up to me to structure the chapters. I’ve done pretty well so far. Chapter 10: Rebecca gets a job. Chapter 11: Rebecca joins a theatre company. Chapter 12: Rebecca gets married. Chapter 13: Rebecca works at jobs and produces plays and spends a lot of time on Facebook and watching Netflix.

Chrysalis Emerging 3In revising the third draft of my book, I got wise and removed the chapter that was gumming up the action, but I didn’t delete it. I moved it to my “Some other time” folder. I’ll bet the characters and the very humorous dialogue (if I do say so myself) will appear in a future book, but they will only find their right place and time if I let go of them for now.

My wings hurt. Soon, very soon, I need to decide how important it is for me to fly because wings can break and wilt. Of course I know how I feel. Flying is the only thing I’ve ever truly wanted to do. If there is a heaven, I know it involves flying.

monarch-in-flight-1024x576It’s time to write the next chapter. Like a mystery shape on the horizon, I’m not sure yet if it’s a ship, a whale, a lighthouse, an island? Time to grab Brad’s hand (Brad is in every chapter you see), and swim out there to find out. Time to let go of this chapter that I’m in—turn the page. Come back perhaps “Some other time.”

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Chapter 14: Rebecca, author 

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Opening My Eyes to the Good

Santa Monica recently implemented pedestrian-exclusive traffic lights throughout the downtown area. That means that both directions have red lights for vehicles, while pedestrians are given the green light to cross diagonally or otherwise, totally free from traffic. It was done with the intention of strengthening pedestrian safety and to relieve traffic congestion—the logic being that if cars turning right and left don’t have to wait for pedestrians to cross on a green light, they will move through the intersection quicker and traffic will back-up less. The logic makes sense and it works, but only if everyone participates. If just one person ignores the signs that say “Cross on WALK signal ONLY,” then the cars have to wait anyway and traffic is now actually going to be worse because they are back to waiting for pedestrians on their light and they still have to wait through the thirty-second pedestrian signal where no cars can move. It only works if we all participate.

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I don’t understand people who don’t get this. The truth is, I think they get it; the problem is they just don’t care. Their needs as an individual to get to their destination literally thirty seconds earlier, outweigh the needs of their community, which is trying to make walking safer and driving easier. Awesome. Well done, asshats. This seemingly trivial instance makes me burn with a shocking rage. Shocking. Red hot.

Since I’ve worked in Santa Monica this has enraged me daily, because it happens with regularity. Pedestrians ignore the signs, ignore the rules, and the system fails. Then one day I decided to look at things differently, mostly for my own sanity but also sort of as a test. I stood at the intersection, waiting for the pedestrian green light, watching a numbskull cross on the traffic light, making the oncoming cars wait, and instead of cursing that person, I looked around me. There was one person breaking the rule, but there were thirty people following it.

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At all four corners of the intersection of Broadway and 2nd, at least thirty to forty people did not cross on the green traffic light; they waited for the walk signal. Even when the dipstick outlier broke the law, most did not follow. They made the choice that was better for everyone. They did the right thing.

This shift in perspective—choosing how I look at a situation—brought me immeasurable relief. It is a mundane example of a larger truth. Most people are good. Most people do the right thing, and if I only focus on those who don’t then I let those jerks win. Most people care about their neighbor, their community, and the greater good. Becky, you have been so focused on the one negative individual that you failed to see the dozens who actually do care about walking more safely and helping alleviate traffic congestion for their neighbor. Or even if they don’t think about those things as much as you do, they know how to follow the frickin’ law and that’s something. There are more of us than there are selfish nutwipes halting progress.

There will always be that one clown walking into the intersection. We’ll always see that one bastard who cares more about himself no matter the cost to everyone else. Sometimes that intersection is a big one—a national stage. But there are more of us.

Open your eyes, look around, and say hello. So many good ones. Thank God.

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Day of the Cubs

Exactly one month ago, on October 2, Brad and I wandered into the Marion Davies beach house in Santa Monica. One of my favorite things about L.A. is how often one can stumble upon a historic gem without even trying; like reading a book that has those peek-a-boo windows that each reveal a surprise.

The Marion Davies beach house was built by William Randolph Hearst for his lady love, Ms. Davies, and is watched over by a team of volunteers who lure passersby in to the house for tours. As Brad and I peeked through the windows, we were greeted by a lovely retiree who offered to show us around the house and tell us about its history. Reluctantly (we like to do things on our own time), we agreed.

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But this is not a story about the Marion Davies beach house.

I can’t remember our tour guide’s name so let’s call her Cathy. Cathy, a blonde-haired woman of about 65, started out with niceties about where we were from.

“We live just up the beach in Venice, but I’m from Sacramento originally.”

“Yeah, and I’m from Chicago,” said Brad.

“Oh! I’m from Chicago too,” Cathy smiled, her eyes twinkling with that Chicago friendliness.

“Nice,” Brad returned the twinkly smile.

Then Cathy sighed.

“The Cubs . . .”

“They’re looking pretty good this year. Maybe they’ll finally go all the way,” I chimed in.

“Oh, I know.”

Cathy’s face washed over with a melancholy resolve.

“My dad passed away three months ago. He spent his entire life waiting for the Cubs to win the World Series. I know he would’ve liked to see them this year.”

“I’m so sorry for your loss,” Brad said as we walked into an art-deco bathroom on the second floor.

“Yeah, he loved the Cubs.”

We finished the tour and made our way back to our bikes outside, peddling toward Venice. I never stopped thinking about Cathy and her father this entire postseason, and hoped I would be able to write down this story with a sweet ending.

Cathy, I bet last night was bittersweet. The Cubs won the World Series, and I know you were thinking about your father, gone so close to seeing his team win. With 108 years of loss, your story is not unique. Generations of devoted Cubs fans have passed through this world, waiting to see victory for their team and the soil they called home.

November 2 is Dia de los Muertos—a day to honor the dead. Through our remembrances and devotion we bring the spirits of our loved ones back to earth for a visit. The Cubs won the World Series on Dia de los Muertos, and let this give you comfort, Cathy. Fate lends a hand. Thank you Cubbies, for bringing home victory on the day of the year when the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest. You have generations of Cubs fans, including Cathy’s father, hovering in the ether over Wrigley Field, cheering for their team.

What a ballgame.

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