Thursday, March 27, 2014

Character Sketches

My wonderful Aunt Linda is commissioning me to illustrate a children's book that she plans to self publish and I am having so much fun drawing up these character sketches for her book!  The characters include a llama named Lucy, a goose named Sebastian, and a family of goats whose parents are named Gunther and Gertie.  It's such a sweet, adorable little book and I am tickled pink that my Aunt Linda trusts me to represent these characters through illustration.  

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Pink Coats and My Little Pony Backpacks

I took my two-year old son into JCPenny a couple months ago to buy him a winter coat. As I browsed through a rack of gray, blue, and red coats, my son grabbed a bright pink puffy coat from the girls’ section and said, “This one mommy!”

 What’s a mother to do? On the one hand, I loved the fact that my son’s preferences were uncorrupted by our gender-based society, and I wanted him to stay that way. On the other hand, I couldn’t let my son walk around in that thing! His friends at day care would say, “That’s a girl coat!” and I would get all kinds of odd looks from family, friends, and neighbors. As much as I hate the way American society shoves gender roles on people I am not willing to allow my son to be laughed at and criticized in order to make some kind of statement. It about broke my heart to refuse that innocent little boy standing there with the pink coat, but I was resolved. We went home with a perfectly normal blue and gray coat.

 I have often thought back on this decision I made at JCPenny. I never thought I would be the kind of mom that would push social norms on my kid. I majored in sociology for Pete’s sake! It’s never made sense to me that our likes and dislikes should be dictated according to our sex, and yet here I am refusing to buy my son a pink coat. I am guilty of the very thing I find so disgusting in society, regulating what is and is not okay based on gender.

The problem here is that I care too much about what other people think. Within our own home gender roles don’t matter in the slightest. Whether we're having tea parties or shooting nerf guns, pretending to be princesses or dinosaurs, watching My Little Pony or Avatar the Last Airbender, it doesn't matter.  At home we are safe from disapproving looks and pointing fingers. I am not yet ready to allow my son to publicly challenge gender roles, but thankfully there are parents who are. Bruce Grayson, a nine-year old boy, has recently made a big splash in the news and on the internet for wearing a My Little Pony backpack to school. (Their story is actually what inspired me to write this post in the first place. Visit if you’d like to find out more.) I realize that in order for a change to come about people have to take risks and make sacrifices. I am so grateful to Bruce Grayson, his parents, and other people out there who are taking risks and making waves, because they are the ones who are going to make this world a better place.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Casa Loma

408 Casa Loma, Cedar City Utah.  It’s been at least a decade since this was my home address, and I’ve lived in several homes since then, but this address is by far the easiest one for me to remember.  I used to recite it in a sing song voice.  408 Casa Loma, Cedar City Utah!  It had a nice ring to it.   Casa Loma in Spanish means “hill house” and as it so happens our house was on top of a hill with a million dollar view overlooking the small yet charming city and a mountainous backdrop stretching majestically toward the sky.  It looked like something out of a fairy tale.
The house itself wasn’t nearly as grand as the view.  My five siblings and I shared two rooms.  Girls in one room.  Boys in the other. The unfinished basement became our playroom.  We spent many afternoons down there, building wooden block castles and engaging in stuffed animal wars. Graffiti that said, “I HATE CLEANING!” was written in dark angry letters in the corner behind the door by a tiny vandal whom I shall not name.     Our family of seven shared two bathrooms, one of which held a dog door where our big black poodle, Belle, could interrupt private time on the toilet at any moment. Yes, our home was a modest one, but we were happy.

  Our neighbors to the right were called the Johnsons, a kind elderly couple with a great big fireplace made of igneous rocks where small toy animals could be found hiding in the cracks.  To the left of us was a rich family with a big fancy house.  Sometimes they paid us to watch their dogs while they were away.  Their daughter Jerika always wanted to play with me even though she was closer to my siblings’ age and I was too old and sophisticated to be bothered with her nonsense.  She even had the nerve to call me “honey” or “hon” on occasion despite the fact I was 3 years her elder! 

Across the street lived the Hershibodens who were without a doubt the most intriguing neighbors on our street.  They the non-Mormons living in our Mormon dominated community.  Mrs. Hershiboden had long blond hair worn in a ponytail hanging down past her waist.  I never saw much of Mr. Hershiboden, but I was told he flew helicopters and fought fires.  They both seemed intimidating with their sunglasses and two gigantic wolf dogs for pets, but once we got to know them they turned out to be my favorite neighbors.  They called me “Cinder Heather” because apparently my parents worked me too hard. They also knew a lot about horses. 

The Palmers, who lived directly behind us in a little blue house, always gave away cereal boxes instead of candy for Halloween.  But despite their disappointing trick or treat gifts we liked the Palmers.  They were lovely people.  Birds flocked to their bird feeder the way kids flock to the school cafeteria on pizza day.  Mr. Palmer took great pride in his garden, and made our garden look like a collection of weeds in comparison.  One unexpected day Mr. Palmer died of a heart attack. I think perhaps he was the very first person I ever knew to die.  Mrs. Palmer lived alone in that little blue house after that. 

A few Christmases ago I took my husband and father in law to see my old neighborhood.  On the exterior it looks as though nothing has changed.  The street looks the same.  The trees look the same.  Even the houses look the same.  I'm sure the same cannot be said for the interior of each house, for which I am glad I cannot see.  I don’t want to know about any changes. A lot can happen in 10 years.  The Johnsons have likely passed away.  Mrs. Palmer may have moved in with her son or perhaps even a nursing home.  Jerika is likely about to graduate from college.  The Hershibodens may still live in that house across the street, but their wolf dogs are surely dead by now.  It makes me sad to think of all these things. I just want Casa Loma to forever be as it is fixed in my memory.  A place where Mrs. Palmer hands out cereal for Halloween, the Hershiboden’s take their wolf dogs on afternoon walks, Jerika jumps on her backyard trampoline, and the Johnson’s sit cozily by their fireplace on cold winter evenings.  This is the Casa Loma from my childhood.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Movies of 2013

I certainly have my issues with the Academy Awards, nevertheless I look forward to them every single year being the huge movie buff that I am.  I make it a point to see as many movies that were nominated as possible before the awards.  Having a 2 year old son makes this difficult, but I was able to squeeze in a fair number by occasionally skipping work to see matinees and putting Redbox and Netflix to good use. 

 Below I have listed my favorite movies and performances with the very best listed at the top. Some of them were nominated and some of them weren't.  I'd be interested in hearing your favorites.  What are some of your favorites from 2013?

Best Picture

Before Midnight
12 Years a Slave
Saving Mr. Banks
American Hustle
The Place Beyond the Pines
The Great Gatsby
Captain Phillips

Best Actor

Tom Hanks - Captain Phillips
Leonardo Dicaprio - The Great Gatsby
Chiwetel Ejiofor - 12 Years a Slave
Bruce Dern - Nebraska
Christian Bale - American Hustle

Best Supporting Actor

Michael Fassbender - 12 Years a Slave
Joel Edgerton - The Great Gatsby
Barkhad Abdi - Captain Phillips
Dane DeHaan - The Place Beyond the Pines
Bradley Cooper - American Hustle

Best Actress

Cate Blanchet - Blue Jasmine
Emma Thompson - Saving Mr. Banks
Sandra Bullock - Gravity
Julie Delpy - Before Midnight
Greta Grewig - Frances Ha

Best Supporting Actress

Jennifer Lawrence - American Hustle
Lupita Nyong'o - 12 Years a Slave
Ruth Wilson - Saving Mr. Banks
Sally Hawkins - Blue Jasmine
Cary Mulligan - The Great Gatsby