The Road Not Taken

Every so often, I lose myself in daydreaming about the ways my life didn’t go: the classes I never took, the relationships that didn’t work out, the jobs I didn’t get. I’m not even 30 yet (not even 29!), and there are so many junctures that brought my life to where it is instead of where it could have been. And no matter how content one is with what is, I think there’s something in the human psyche that compulsively considers what would have happened if you’d turned left rather than right, had a jazzier resume, not had that stupid fight with your best friend in 10th grade that left you estranged for years. If there’s some alternate universe where you’re happy and content because you went right instead of left and ended up exactly where you belonged. I know enough to know that there isn’t, that each decision you make leads to more, harder decisions at some point, but there are some things I always find myself coming back to when I get lost in the reverie…

What if I’d never gone to law school? My senior year of college, I changed my major from political science to psychology and absolutely loved it. I wanted to keep studying it, but I’d been so sure for so long that I was going to go to law school/be a lawyer that I was scared to change my mind. I decided to let fate decide for me: I wouldn’t study for the LSAT, besides a basic once-through practice exam so I knew what it looked like. If I managed to do well on it, I would go to law school. If I bombed it, I’d start getting ready to take the GRE. I scored in the 92nd percentile on my LSAT. I went to law school. I became a lawyer. I hated being a lawyer. What if I’d had the boldness, the nerve to tell everyone who’d been hearing from me for years that I wanted to be a lawyer that I’d made a different decision? It’s easy to think that I would have loved it, that I would have gone on to a fulfilling career. But I know Ph.D. students, and getting a Ph.D. has tribulations of its own. The time it takes to get it, finding a thesis topic, actually writing a thesis…and then there’s the after part, where you have your degree and have to get a job. The pressure of “publish or perish”, the unstable home life of having to move around until you can claw your way into tenure. It’s not an easy life, and it’s all too possible that my sudden bloom of interest in psychology would have been eroded into the nub that my once-passionate feeling for the law was.

What if I’d gone to a different law school, then? I’ve made no secret of the fact that I was often completely miserable at Alabama. It was almost impossible to predict at the time; my campus visit to Alabama was lovely and I thought I would have a splendid time living there. But my final decision on law school came down to Alabama and Indiana. I chose Alabama both because of that great visit and because of scholarship considerations (I had not yet discovered what a racket the scholarship game was at Alabama). But I took a visit to Indiana and I really liked it there, too. Indiana would have been easier on me in a lot of respects: much more similar to home in every way. Maybe I would have done better there, both academically and personally. Maybe not. Maybe I would have spent more time going back and forth between school and home, because it would be easier to stay halfway in my old routines than to develop new ones. Maybe I would never have learned the lessons about dealing with disappointment and salvaging what you can, leaving the rest behind you, that I’ve found so valuable in my life. Maybe I would have settled down, but be building up to a panic at 30 where I wonder what else there is outside the Midwest. This is the one that haunts me the most, honestly. I think I would have been better off making the other choice. But life doesn’t go backwards, only forwards, and I have to take what I can from where I’ve been and move along.

Moving back to Michigan after law school was so obviously the correct choice that I never second guess it. But once I moved back, and passed the bar, I spent nine months looking for a job. There were two that I almost got before the one I did get, and I find myself wondering if I’d gotten one of those jobs, if I’d still be a lawyer in Michigan. The first was a small one-stop shop in Ypsilanti. It was run by an older lawyer who liked to work with an underling and his current one was leaving after several years. I had actually been all but granted the job (a salary had been discussed and settled and a meeting set up to finalize the next day) when he decided at the last minute to give it to the other person he was still considering, someone who had some small bits of summer experience from law school that I did not have. It still leaves a bad taste in my mouth, because I wanted it so bad and was lead to believe I had it before having it snatched away. The second was a small firm focused on representing women in divorce cases, in one of the Detroit suburbs. I breezed through the first interview and went to the second, excited to know that the applicant pool had been cut to ten and they were planning on offering two. I was told, when I got the call, that I finished third. Once again so close but still so far. Maybe in those jobs, I would have had more active mentoring, been taught how to be a lawyer instead of being thrown in the deep end and told to sink or swim, figuring out how to doggy paddle just enough to keep from going completely under but always gasping for air. Maybe I would have been an awesome lawyer. Or maybe the disillusionment would have just been slower. Maybe it would have taken me 10 years to figure out that I didn’t love it instead of a year and a half, already stuck in a real life with a family and a mortgage instead of being young and free enough to run away.

At the end of the day, my life is actually pretty happy. If I hadn’t gone to law school, far away from home and learned how to deal with living in a place that I didn’t like, I might never have had the courage to quit my job for a temporary gig 2000 miles away from home…from which, obviously, I would never have met Drew and I wouldn’t have a job that I wake up excited for every day. I wouldn’t have met the people I came to love in law school and in my lawyer job, people who make my life richer and better. I might not appreciate the job that I have so much if I’d never had the soul-crushing experience of a job I hated. I’m glad I had the experiences that I did, I mostly like the person I’ve ended up. I could still use work, obviously, but I’m pretty damn alright. I think back to who I was a decade ago, five years ago, three years ago, and I can feel how far I’ve come, how much I’ve learned. But I guess you can’t ever help yourself wondering what if.

I Cooked: Gnocchi with White Beans, Tomatoes, and Spinach

Clearly, we’ve reached the point in my recipe planning where I was referencing meg.goes.nom.nom a lot, because this is like the third recipe in the past few months that I’ve jacked from her blog. She’s great, people! Straightforward and delicious recipes for home cooking! Like this one! Pasta and beans and veggies, oh my!

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1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 package (16 ounces) potato gnocchi
1 can (15 ounces) white kidney or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14-1/2 ounces) Italian diced tomatoes, undrained (or used regular diced tomatoes and Italian seasoning, whatever)
6 ounces fresh baby spinach
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

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In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook and stir until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Add gnocchi; cook and stir 5-6 minutes or until golden brown. Stir in beans, tomatoes, spinach and pepper; heat through.

Sprinkle with cheeses; cover and remove from heat. Let stand 3-4 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serve and enjoy!

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So super easy, takes like half an hour to pull together and there’s very little prep besides mincing the garlic (thanks, garlic press!) and chopping the spinach. While it’s always good to work hard on something and have it come out great, sometimes it’s awesome to put in just a little bit of effort and get something you really enjoy eating out of it. So come on, summer’s almost over, you don’t want to work too hard, do you? Didn’t think so.

I Drank: Brickie’s Tavern

Last year, I watched the final game of March Madness down in Carson City, because it was a busy time of session. So I missed what is apparently Drew’s family tradition: entering the bracket pool at Brickie’s, and then hanging out there to watch the national championship game and partake in the steak dinner (obviously not for me, so I had several slices of garlic bread instead). Brickie’s is a little dive bar, and it’s a great place to watch the game: it’s packed, but still laid back.

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It’s a huge pool, over 500 people enter at a buy-in of $20/bracket. I often make surprisingly decent picks in my brackets, and I did better than almost anyone else I was with this year…127th out of over 500! That’s top 20% there! Not nearly good enough, but nothing to shake a stick at either.

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Like I said earlier, Brickie’s is a dive bar…it’s small and there’s nothing fancy about it. The beer is cold, the service is friendly but rushed, the menu is limited and basic. There are just not a lot of frills here. That being said, if that’s what you’re looking for, it’s great. It has a neighborhood bar atmosphere: it’s easy to tell that there are regulars, and you get the sense that if you were to start coming by frequently, you’d become a regular too.

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Brickie’s Tavern is located at 706 W 2nd St, Reno, NV. It offers typical pub fare (of typical pub quality) at reasonable prices. Parking available in a small lot, as well as street parking very close by. Recommended for the unpretentious only.

6 Things I’ve Learned from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

I was probably honestly a little young for Buffy the Vampire Slayer when I started watching it, it premiered when I was only 11. While the first season is a little lighter and campier, the second season was pretty deep for a 12 year-old. But I loved it then, and I still love it now. I own the entire series on DVD, and I’ve done a complete rewatch three times. The show left its mark on me…I still speak in a fast, quippy, pop-culture referencing way that reflects the Whedon dialogue I listened to during my formative years. And it sounds sappy, but I definitely learned life lessons from watching the show. Here are six of them:

  1. Doing the right thing is hard and is often unrewarded. Do it anyways. Buffy is the one girl in all the world chosen to fight the vampires (and witches, demons, etc), which she has to balance with her normal, daytime life. She gets precious little thanks and no remuneration for her efforts to keep Sunnydale safe. And while she chafes against the unfairness of it all sometimes, she ultimately understands that someone needs to do it and she’s by far the most qualified, so she accepts the responsibility. When you’re stuck doing something you don’t really want to do even though it needs to be done, or not feeling like you’re getting enough recognition for your hard work, it sucks. But you’re got to just buck up and handle your business.
  2. You can’t do it all by yourself. Although Buffy is the Slayer and “supposed” to handle her calling in complete secrecy, her team of friends became a vital part of her work and kept her alive much longer than she would have been if she didn’t have them to back her up. It can be tempting to hold all your problems to yourself and pretend you’re doing just fine, but when you can count on your friends to be there to support you and help (and be there in turn for the ones you love), it almost always makes things better and easier. Two (or more!) brains thinking about the same situation might catch things that would be missed with one.
  3. Love doesn’t conquer all. For all that she was a beautiful, badass super hero, Buffy wasn’t lucky in love. When she slept with Angel, her one true love, disaster ensued, and he eventually left town. When I was 13/14 years old, this seems like the worst kind of cosmic injustice. They loved each other! They should be together! At 28, though, I’ve learned the hard way that sometimes love isn’t enough. Two people can love each other very much, but that doesn’t make them right for each other. And it hurts like hell, but life goes on.
  4. You can’t run away from your problems. At the end of the second season, Buffy, overwhelmed by having to send Angel to hell, boarded a bus and left town. Not only did she leave Sunnydale without a protector, she found demons where she went anyways. When things get heavy, the temptation to just run away, to leave everything that hurts behind, can be almost overwhelming. The idea that you could just start over someplace else as someone else is seductive, but it’s just not true. Problems have to be solved, and then new ones pop up, and you have to solve those ones too. There is nowhere that you can escape from having problems. It’s the human condition.
  5. Your family is the people you choose to be bound to. Buffy’s father is an absent figure: he’s alluded to in season one, and it’s clear she wants to see him and spend time with him, but as the series goes on, he fades entirely but for the occasional off-hand mention. It’s Joyce, Buffy’s mother, who sticks with her sometimes-difficult daughter. It’s Giles, her Watcher, who chooses to love and protect her beyond the bounds of their proscribed relationship. Buffy sacrifices herself to save her sister even after she learns that Dawn isn’t “real”, because the love she has for Dawn is real. Willow and Xander are her surrogate siblings (once Xander outgrows his crush on her). What binds a family is not blood, it’s love.
  6. Being strong doesn’t mean having no weaknesses. It’s been said so many times, but Buffy is really the Platonic ideal of a “strong female character”: she physically kicks ass, sure, and she’s comfortable being in charge. But she’s not just some one-dimensional fighting robot: she’s vulnerable and wants to be liked (this storyline is especially prominent in the first three seasons, which are set in high school), and the struggle she faces trying to reconcile different parts of herself is real and relevant. Buffy doesn’t stop being a strong woman just because she’s scared, or hurt, or depressed, because she digs deep to power through it. No one is 100% badass all the time, and that’s okay.

I Baked: Snickerdoodles

I’ve definitely mentioned this before, but didn’t grow up with cooking. My mom wasn’t a good cook (sorry, Mom!)…she could make some very basic stuff: lemon pepper chicken, hamburgers, roast beef, spaghetti, that kind of thing, but anything beyond that was out of her wheelhouse. A single mother to two little girls who works full time needs simple dishes that take minimal prep and can be ready fast. Where my mom excelled was as a baker, and so I grew up baking. I was trusted to responsibly use the oven and make my own cookies by the time I was 10 or 11. So while cooking is something I’ve only picked up in the past two years, baking is something that comes naturally to me. But somehow, I didn’t have a family recipe for snickerdoodles, which are actually one of my favorite kinds of cookies. But, I’ve ordered enough Penzey’s spices to regularly get the catalogs, which are AWESOME because they have both cooking and baking recipes inside, and that’s where I found this! I tore it out months ago, so when Drew and I were invited to a backyard cookout a few weeks back and told to bring something to eat, I knew that it was finally time to make these bad boys.

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1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup butter (2 sticks, softened)
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon

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Preheat oven to 400°. This temperature is higher, for small dough balls. If you prefer a bigger cookie, bake at 375°. In a mixing bowl, cream together the sugar and butter until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until thoroughly combined. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon. Shape the dough into small balls (you can do this right away but it is easier if you chill the dough for an hour or two) and roll in the cinnamon and sugar mixture. Bake at 400° for 7-9 minutes on greased or parchment-lined cookie sheets. Makes 5 dozen.

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One of the few things that sucks about living in Reno is that we’re over 4000 feet, and cooking at altitude does weird things to baking times. I have to watch my cookies and baked goods like a hawk or risk crispy bottoms. For this recipe, I definitely needed to take them out at 7 minutes rather than 9, and ended up with a batch that was a little browner than they should have been to prove it (I saved those ones for us to eat at home and took the nicer ones for public consumption). For this (and most) cookie recipe, definitely remember to put your butter out a few hours ahead of time so it’s soft by the time you’re trying to mix it. Or, if you’re like me, you remember to take it out not quite long enough in advance and then warm it up so it’s soft on top of the pre-heating oven, keeping an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t start melting all over the place. Once you get going, this goes pretty fast and the cookies taste delicious. They were a huge hit at the party and even the “bad” ones at home vanished fast!

I Went: coffeebar

Nicole and I had a morning client meeting, so getting coffee seemed like a great way to both have the meeting and be awake when doing it. I’d heard good things about coffeebar before I ever went, and when I went to check out their menu online before I went, I saw the best thing ever: a caffe marocchino. It’s like an affogato in that it has gelato in it (!!!), but EVEN BETTER, because it has nutella in it too! I know that’s a lot of explanation points, but look at this ingredient list: nutella, espresso, gelato, whipped cream, and cocoa. That deserves all of the exclamation points.

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Besides the coffee drink that blew my mind/changed my life, coffeebar was just a great little coffee shop in general. There was enough seating (always a concern at 830 in the morning), there was good music playing at a reasonable volume, and the decor was upscale quirky. My coffee drink was amazing, and even though I didn’t have any, the breakfast pastries looked delicious.

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coffeebar is located at 682 Mt Rose St, Reno, NV. If I lived in this area, this would fast become a go-to coffee stop. Prices are affordable (my fru-fru drink was a little more expensive, but a standard flavored latte is cheaper than Starbucks), service was friendly, and the selection is great. And it’s a local place (it started in Truckee before they got a location down in Reno), which always gives me a warm fuzzy. Parking is street only, but usually available. Highly recommended.

Birchbox: July 2014

This continued a streak of Birchboxes I have enjoyed trying out the products in! Considering I had that streak of ones I hated for several months there, this seems only fair. What was kind of cool was there was a card in there for a free one-year subscription to Women’s Health, no strings attached. I don’t usually read that magazine, but for free I’ll try it out for a year. Why not?

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Whish Shave Crave Shaving Cream: This I was kind of “meh” on. I usually shave just after I wash in the shower and I don’t have any particular issues with that, so I’m not really in the market for a shaving cream. The pros were that it smelled good and seemed to help prevent the couple ingrown hairs I usually get. The negatives were that it didn’t foam the way I expect shaving creams to do and it clogged up my razor something awful.

Cynthia Rowley Beauty Creamy Lip Stain: This was neat, because Birchbox debuted a feature this month where you get some control over your sample choices. I could have picked a nail polish (which I have a million of and hardly ever wear) or this lip stain, which I thought would be fun to try. I thought that it would be more sheer because it’s billed as a “stain”, but it was actually pretty highly pigmented…I had to blot like I would with a lipstick. I liked the color once I toned it down a little though, and the product itself was nice. I’ll keep this around to use for special occasions when I want to have lip color, but won’t go out to buy it or anything.

Marcelle New·Age 8 in 1 Power Serum: I’ve actually been thinking that I needed to pick up an anti-aging product recently. I’m getting pretty close to 30, and I’m developing a wrinkle between my eyes because I knit them together when I’m concentrating. I feel like I should start getting proactive now, you know? Anyways, I may actually buy this product after using up the sample, because I liked it a lot! It doesn’t feel thick or heavy or greasy, but it does feel like my skin is firmer and more moisturized. Win!

Harvey Prince Hello Body Cream: I remember getting a sample of the Harvey Price Hello fragrance in a previous Birchbox and really liking it, so when you add that scent to a lotion, you’re doing pretty good. The underlying lotion product is solid, so when you combine it with the smell, I really liked this sample a lot. The only reason I won’t buy it is because I can spend $6 at the drugstore for a giant thing of Vaseline lotion, which works just as well, and I can’t justify the difference in price point on smell alone.

100% Pure Gingerade Shower Gel (Honey Cream Wash): This was a total disappointment, because when I opened the packet and got a whiff of the scent, I was super excited for it. It smelled so good. And then I put it on my loofah and…nothing. No lather at all. Besides the smell, I couldn’t tell if there was even any soap there at all. Bust.

I Cooked: Curried Chickpeas and Tofu

I found this recipe pretty simply…I knew I wanted to do something with chickpeas and tofu, googled it, and found this recipe from Adventures In Tralaland. I decided that it looked like it would hit the spot, and resolved to make it. There’s not really a story here, unless you want to hear about the 15 minute sulk I had when I realized that I had gone to the food co-op Wednesday to get ingredients and managed to forget to bring them home that night, and Thursday, AND Friday…so all the food I had bought to make this was just sitting in the fridge at work, with no way for me to get at it. No one really wants to hear about that.

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2 medium onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz extra firm tofu, cubed
14 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup water
14 oz can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 tsp vegetable oil
1/2 tbsp curry powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp cumin
1/2 tbsp coriander
2 tsp garam masala
salt to taste

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Place 1 cup rinsed quinoa in a saucepan with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then cover, turn down heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes or until all water is absorbed. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute until they are translucent (about 5 minutes)

When the garlic and onions are softened and translucent, add the curry powder, turmeric, cumin, coriander, and pinch of salt to the pan, stirring fairly constantly for a couple of minutes to prevent sticking.

After 2-3 minutes of stirring, add the chickpeas and tofu, and add about 1/3 cup water, enough to create a bit of sauce and keep things from sticking to the pan. Cover and bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 5-10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and garam masala, stir, and simmer for a few more minutes (or until you are ready to eat).

Combine with quinoa, serve and eat!

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I made a couple modifications, mostly cutting the spices because I don’t care for super spicy dishes. I really liked the way this came out, though. And by that I mean I loved it. I ate three bowls in a row, which meant that I felt really really full, because with chickpeas, tofu, and quinoa, this was protein packed. Drew really liked it too…he didn’t even add Sriracha! Comes together easy, tastes great…this is the kind of meal I can get behind! PS I ate three bowls worth of leftovers in one sitting the next night, too. I regret nothing.

I Saw: July 2014

This month saw Drew’s big annual conference in Indiana for his non-profit that he works for, so I had time for movie-watching galore and took down 9 this month. I’m always amazed at how much time I have and how productive I am when Drew goes out of town…we spend an awful lot of time hanging out when he’s around because I love that guy. But, anyways, you’re not here for me being shmoopy, you’re here for movies:

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Nebraska: 6/10

I liked this more before the last few minutes, which isn’t to say that I loved it before then, but I felt the last few minutes added a sentimentality to the movie that had been refreshingly omitted previously. It was kind of frustrating, actually…I felt like there was a better movie in there than actually came out. The use of black and white felt off to me, too…like it was going for a kind of epic nostalgia that it didn’t really earn. Which all sounds pretty negative, but it wasn’t like I hated it or anything. I actually really enjoyed the acting all around, it deserved the Oscar nominations it got in those categories. And the core of the story, about relationships with aging parents, is actually something I feel more and more attuned to lately as I’m becoming aware of my parents’ mortality, and it was told well. The “senior citizen searching for a sense of purpose” angle to the story feels very similar to director Alexander Payne’s previous film About Schmitt.

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Answer This!: 4/10

I watched this movie for nostalgia purposes only, and in that sense it delivered. Filmed on campus at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, it features many beloved local places (Espresso Royale! Ashley’s! The Diag!) and a beloved local person (legendary professor Ralph Williams!). In the sense of an actual film, though, it was pretty mediocre. The “love story” never took off for me, I didn’t think there was chemistry between the leads and the age gap between the characters was a little squicky (a fifth-year grad student and a college freshman). The drama around the trivia tournament also felt undersold. And this is a huge nitpick, but it drove me crazy that grad students are referred to as TAs in the movie. Anyone who went to Michigan knows that we call them GSIs (graduate student instructors). If you’re going to feature Ralph teaching his actual class, explicitly set at the U of M, you have to get these details down.

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City Slickers: 4/10

Even though I rated this pretty low, I actually enjoyed it more than I expected to. This is the kind of broad comedy that I usually hate passionately, and I actually didn’t care for the movie as a whole almost at all. But I always forget, if there’s been a long time since I’ve seen him onscreen, how great of a screen presence Billy Crystal can be. He’s funny, certainly, but more than that, he’s warm. He comes across genuine and completely likable, even in what is ultimately a pretty stupid movie. As enjoyable as the character Jack Palance played was, I cannot fathom why he won an Oscar for this role (but the one-handed push-ups on stage kind of made up for it).

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Frances Ha: 7/10

So, here’s a confession: I’ve never seen (nor have I ever really wanted to see) Girls. It’s not even that I think I would hate it or anything, it’s just that I don’t think it sounds interesting. That being said, I think this movie is probably a lot like Girls. It’s that young and broke and lost in New York City kind of thing. I’d heard great things about Greta Gerwig’s performance as the titular Frances, and I definitely see why: her character could have been deeply irritating, but instead was identifiable. I’ve never lived in New York, but I know how agonizing it can be to feel a close friendship growing apart, how hard it can be to admit that pursuing your dream isn’t really working out, how being around people who look like they have it figured out can make you feel like a big mess until you just drink the shame away and then end up being even more embarrassing. It ended up being something I really liked, but I don’t know how much it would appeal to someone who’s not in their late 20s right now.

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The Barefoot Contessa: 6/10

I’d somehow never seen an Ava Gardner movie before, and I ended comparing it with Gilda in my head. I’d never seen a Rita Hayworth movie before either and I became an instant fan, but this. Here, not so much. Gardner certainly earned her reputation for beauty, but she didn’t play Maria quite right to sell her as a woman who would be desperate enough for happiness with her Prince Charming to get herself knocked up and think that he’d be okay with it. There wasn’t nearly the amount of edge to the character that there needed to be. I did really like that they never went down the easy road of hooking up Gardner and Bogart, though.

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The Darjeeling Limited: 5/10

I never enjoy Wes Anderson’s movies as much as I want to, but I rarely hate them enough to put me off of them altogether. Which held true here, too. The stereotypical quirk and whimsy are on full display here, but the three actors playing the brothers (Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, and Jason Schwartzman, who I usually can’t stand) all play them with enough sadness to ground them in reality. It’s a Wes Anderson movie…if you’ve seen more than one before and you’ve seen the previews of this one, you should have a good idea what you’re getting into and if you’ll like it.

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The Wolf of Wall Street: 7/10

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I never really love Scorcese’s movies, and it’s because his films are about men and masculinity in a way that’s alienating to me, personally, as a woman. Women aren’t people in Scorcese’s movies, they’re props. They’re plot devices that inspire action by the male protagonists. But the movie is always telling the story of the men. That being said, this was a good movie, and I liked it well enough, but I didn’t love it. Even after seeing Dallas Buyer’s Club, I really think Leo was robbed of an Oscar here. He plays Jordan Belfort with evil glee, delighting in his own corruption. I will say that Scorcese’s editor does a fantastic job…even at a three hour runtime, this never drags.

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The Sunshine Boys: 3/10

Netflix has gotten really good at predicting my taste in movies, so when I saw that it wasn’t predicting I’d like it, I steeled myself for a few hours of annoyance. And I needed the steeling, because I did not like this movie at all. I spent most of it wishing that someone would smack Walter Matthau’s character upside the head, or better yet, stick a sock in his mouth. He wasn’t the kind of funny cantankerous you go to the movies to get a laugh from, he was the kind of real life “will you please just shut up” cantankerous that tries the last nerve.

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Waking Ned Devine: 7/10

When you hear that this is a movie about a tiny Irish village that pretends that a dead man is still alive so they can collect his lotto winnings, it sounds like a dark comedy. It’s actually a surprisingly sweet story about the bonds of community. There is a little dark humor here and there, but the overall tone of the film is light and upbeat. Not a great movie, or an especially memorable one, but it’s enjoyable while you’re watching it.

What My Clothes Say

Several months ago, while binge-streaming season 2 of House of Cards (like any good political professional), I found myself taken aback. No, not by what happened at the end of the first episode. I mean, that too…I actually gasped and covered my mouth. The scene that sticks in my head, though, is one in which Claire Underwood wears a full-skirted dress. It’s such a little thing, but it was jarring in context. Why? Because that’s not how Claire Underwood dresses. Claire Underwood dresses like this:

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Claire Underwood wears dresses like armor: always in neutrals, always closely fitted to the body she keeps lean by vigorous exercise. It’s not that she dresses in a masculine manner, she’s almost always in dresses and skirts, but when you combine the toned figure, the fitted dresses, and the short hair, it speaks a powerful message: there is no room for softness here.

Every day, when you get dressed, you send a message to the world. It’s not always conscious, but it’s always there. In the case of the jeans and t-shirt uniform I sported during my undergraduate years, that message may be as simple as: I’m a college student that doesn’t put thought into my wardrobe. Now that I’m in the workplace, I chose my clothes to say: I am a competent professional that you can trust. Although my work wardrobe is all organized around that central theme, there are still variations. For example, I’ve long since realized that with my figure, my shape is going to be apparent no matter what I wear. I can either try to dowdy myself up, or I can play to it. For work, I tend to favor dresses with a shallow V-neck or scoop neckline, a fitted waist, and a free skirt, usually in a color. So to be more specific, I chose clothes that say: I am a competent professional woman that you can trust.

There are specific dresses in my collection that get pulled out for particular occasions. There’s a bright red Calvin Klein sheath dress that makes me feel invincible that I wear when I need that extra boost of kick-ass confidence. I have several Max and Cleo sheath dresses that get deployed when I want to be seen as a little more professional than usual (my favorites of these are two in floral patterns, which preserve my favored style theme of femininity with a more structured silhouette). When want to get noticed, I wear bright colors. Especially in the political world, which could write its own very literal tome on 50 shades of gray, color says look at me! The more I want to play up my gender and/or relative youth, the more likely I am to wear a pastel or a fuller skirt. And it’s remarkable the difference that it makes. In pumps, pearls, and a full skirt, the world sees you as a lady and treats you accordingly. What we wear communicates messages to those around us…about who we are and what we think our place in the world is. It really doesn’t take any more time to dress thoughtfully and be pulled together than it does to pull on any old thing. Next time you’re getting dressed, try to think about what you would think if you saw someone wearing the same outfit, and decide if that’s really the message you want to send, because other people will notice.