If I Were A Critic

It is no secret that I love Christmas. It should come as no surprise then, that when I began to see the recurring trailer for Last Christmas, featuring Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding, that I would do everything I could to watch it in theaters.

You know the one. It begins with Wham’s hit (do you even know how many times I googled who the other half of Wham was and still do not remember?! Ridic), sung slowly by Emilia who is forever the Mother of Dragons in my heart. You see her ice skating with Henry who is my second fave because Crazy Rich Asians (#duh). In four seconds it was the trifecta to convince me to throw money its way. It centering around some Christmas theme was extra. Literally neither here nor there. I was always going to want to see it.

I dressed up for the movie, by which I mean I donned my Christmas dress that sparked a movement (if you’re wondering what movement I mean, here it is: Christmas Dress Shenans), complete with accessories and my gingerbread house purse. It was the most justice I could do for this feature film. I was giddy excited and hardly noticed that our fellow attendees had an average age of 65 at the cinema. That is just what you get when you choose a Sunday morning matinee time. I have to add that it made for some interesting chuckles during some exciting trailers, but that’s for another day.

As the movie began, it occurred to me that I really had no idea what it was about. My best guess at the time is that it was a typical holiday RomCom that just happened to go straight to the big screen because of its clear A list of actors. Well, buckle up and let me add that no, there will be no major spoilers here. Just me listing out all the reasons why you need to go see it, even if you hate Christmas.

Here you go, without further adieu:

Last Christmas

Ready to watch some magic!

Within five minutes of the movie starting, you realize that Catarina (played by Emilia) is a hot mess. She works at a Christmas Wonderland, which is actually now a dream for me, perpetually wearing a green elf dress. Her accessories are now legitimate wants of mine. The boot cover-ups to make them elf shoes are the best thing ever. I need a pair like I need oxygen! She is an adorable wreck. You love her instantly, even when you are cringing as she makes continuous bad choices.

She sings. This is no spoiler, as we heard that in the trailer and when she meets Tom Webster (played by Henry), he begins to help her overcome some challenges she has in nailing auditions. And, ya know, being a better human. Suffice to say that she doesn’t want to work for Santa (she is played by Michelle Yeoh, better known as the mean, unrelenting mom on Crazy Rich Asians) (and also YAY FOR WORK REUNIONS BECAUSE I LOVE THEM even though she’s a total beezy in that film) forever, either. I mean, I personally would, but to each their own.

You see, Catarina (or Cate, as she desperately wants to be called) cannot figure out how to turn her life around or who she even really is. She is a continual screw-up. Her sister is the shining star. They can’t stand each other because they both think the other gets more attention (sounds about right, right?). She has a fledgling relationship with her mother. They are a family of immigrants. I can relate with so much of it. Well, minus the singing. I mean, I do it anyway but I don’t sound angelic like she does. Maybe I should move my eyebrows more. I digress.

Tom slowly helps her regain some confidence, reminds her how to see people (but like, really see them), and to stop taking your village for granted. He refuses to be a slave to his cell phone. He asks her to eat better. He volunteers at a homeless shelter and takes her there to see it on their “second” date. There are mental health struggles, poverty, racism, lack of accountability, struggling relationships. Even when it is being cute, the film stays pretty true to a real world out there.

As Catarina begins to find her gumption and her drive, she starts to make some selfless acts. She stops being selfish and in that process, begins to find healing, both in her, and around her. She doesn’t need someone to save her or love her. She needs to do both of those things for herself, because you are the only person you can rely on one hundred percent for those things. Tom teaches her that, too.

Is there romance in this movie? Yes.

Is there comedy? Yes.

Is there almost every single George Michaels song in it? ABSOLUTELY. Get ready to sing along.

You also walk away from it with a renewed hope. Not just on Christmas, when we are most likely to reach out and help people but, in people, in general. This movie reiterates that with kindness we can break down walls, because we never really know what people are going through. We all have battles we are fighting. And the best love story is when you begin to love yourself.

And if you have a beating heart, you will love this film.

I just know it.

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I don’t own the rights to this photo.

What I wish I could say

Not too long ago I was perusing social media, reading everyone’s different posts quickly. One stuck out to me, where an acquaintance of mine had shared a photo of them with their ex. The caption said something about parents needing to be mature and put their differences aside for the good of the children. I could feel myself react, not because I felt it was directed at me but in a sense, the shoe sure as hell fits.

A few days later I see an article pop up on my feed on scarymommy.com. It was an almost love-letter penned by a mom to a step-mom thanking her for being her ally and maybe even her best friend. I’m going to be honest here, as I usually am. I skimmed it loosely. Not because the author’s words had no meaning to me, but because the letter didn’t apply to me. Yes, there are Bruce Willis’ and Demi Moore’s out there who can remain friends and co-parent successfully. They can do blended family dinners and respectfully shuttle the involved children back and forth like angels. I think that is beautiful and un-normal and amazing. For them.

That doesn’t work for me.

I refuse to allow people to make me feel bad for not harboring feelings of goodwill and grace for my ex-husband. Whether they do or say something that alludes to this in one way, shape, or form, I defend myself. Perhaps aggressively, perhaps coyly, but undoubtedly. In the past seven years since I left that abusive marriage, I have learned how important it is to set boundaries, remain steadfast in what I know is best for me and then best for the children (because I have to put my own oxygen mask on before I help them, just like those sweet flight attendants remind us every time we fly), and to disregard anyone’s idea of how I should behave if I know it isn’t healthy for my well-being. <–that’s my nice way of saying, Thank u, next, just like Ariana. That is okay.

I can be mature and not nice at the same time.

Lately I’ve done some leadership development at work with different groups of management and one thing I always stress is that we can say anything to our colleagues that we want, as long as we say it respectfully and with tact. I use this same advice in how I communicate with the boys’ father. I will use tact. I will be respectful. But I do not have to be nice. And if setting boundaries is a new concept to you, sometimes it can feel like you’re being mean. I don’t think so. I think it feels like you’re being clear and as my soon-to-be-bestie, Brene Brown likes to point out, “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.” Boom. If that goddess believes it, then this goddess believes it. We are a society very used to sugarcoating words then calling people names if they say something straightforward and to-the-point to us. Say it anyway, if it needs to be. That is okay.

I get to decide who I trust.

Kulia often calls me a Mama Bear. I do my best to make INCREDULOUS face when she says it but she’s pretty accurate in calling me that. For a whole lot of reasons, I have  majority custody of my children. I think back to the letter from the mom to step-mom and how she says she trusts her wholeheartedly. That’s fantastic for them but unrealistic for so many of us. I cannot trust my counterparts and since I cannot trust them, every time we communicate or interact together, it is forced, strained, and awkward. That is okay.

Oil and water.

I spent the majority of my decade-long marriage hating the company (I don’t mean job-wise) I was with. His parents didn’t mesh with mine, his siblings didn’t jive with me, we didn’t share friendships. Every.single.aspect. of who we were together didn’t mix. It should be no surprise that apart we continue to be the same. Once Abraham asked if for his birthday he could have a dinner where we all joined together and without hesitation I let him know I couldn’t do that because I wouldn’t feel safe. When we share things with the boys, perhaps not with as many words or deep detail, I continue to tell them that I have to keep my safety at the forefront of anything I agree to. For a long time that meant I couldn’t be a part of pick-up and drop-off or even the communication to make that happen.  I have to say no sometimes but I am always honest. That is okay.

Parallel Parenting is not for the weak of heart.

Washington state (and I’m sure many others) have this bananas rule that when you file for divorce, if children are involved, both parents must attend a parenting class before the custody plan will be approved. I remember walking in to it thinking there wasn’t anything they would teach me in that class that I didn’t already know. I was pleasantly surprised. In that class I learned about co-parenting and parallel parenting, what ex-couples fight the most about, and the most important things your child(ren) need to hear right now. Co-parenting means parenting together, as implied in the name. Parallel parenting means each parent decides and does what they think is best while they have the child(ren). There isn’t any collaboration. To each his own. And the minute I heard it, I wrote it down and knew that is what I would be doing from here until eternity. That is okay.

**Side note, most parents fight over clothes. And children need to hear you give them verbal permission to love the other parent.**

I suppose that mother wrote that letter because ugly breakups are expected but not the only option. Just remember, if you find yourself reading something that gets you fired up, that it doesn’t mean you aren’t a good person because you can’t emulate that same feeling or behavior. It isn’t apples to apples, no matter what some people would have you believe. Set your boundaries, live your life, and be safe, always, friends. That is okay.

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I couldn’t stop gushing over how handsome Sam was for Prom

 

The Mountain I’m Scaling

Arriba!

Everybody loves a chubby little but that love goes away at some point

I couldn’t sleep last night so my mind started writing. I’ve gotten into this habit where I can just begin, like I’m at my computer typing and it’s fantastic. There’s zero writer’s block and things are flowing and I try to repeat key sentences to myself so I can re-type them in the morning because they are that good. And then I’ll wake up in the morning, refreshed and bright-eyed but with no recollection. It’s okay. I’ll find them again, I’m sure.

Except, this morning I woke up and they were still there. So, here you are.

I have been scaling this mountain for as long as I can remember. Bright and bubbly and round-with-baby-fat seven year old me, at least. Seven year Vee was a mega-fan of rice and beans. I would greet the customers because it’s nice to be nice and they would smile at my chubby face. Most people are really well versed in saying the things that cut you to your core in a sweet voice with a smile that drips honey because they only ever would mean well, right? I figured this out early on.

Ten year old Vee is in the gym for recess and tries to play foursquare with some “friends.” Well, I wanted to be a friend of the Regina and Gretchen of my school who bounced the ball really aggressively at me in a way I could never catch because I wasn’t a runner then, and yelled “fat girls stink,” at me. Some of them weren’t trying to catch flies all that hard.

Thirteen and I was back from living in Mexico for a couple years. They are more forthcoming with their insults down south. Like Regina and Gretchen. It was hot there so I dropped some ellbees but either way I was plump still. I decided I would try Slimfast because don’t all teenage girls resort to a powder drink at some point? Start early so you are ahead of the game, I guess. We see our moms and our aunts and all other female influences around us focusing on their bodies or we see the complete opposite and you think, “Not me. I’m turning this around.” No matter how you slice this, we aren’t winning this battle.

Someone really instrumental to my upbringing and childhood and life in general told fifteen year old Vee in a very spiteful tone one day, which meant extra passion if you ask me, “nobody wants to love a fat girl.” And I believed it because it made sense to. And up until recently I had only picked crummy people to be with because they said they loved me. Because I’m fat. For so long the word fat has had a power over me and if I’m not careful, that would be the boggart coming out of the cupboard, hurling itself to demolish everything that is inside my thick soul.

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Sixteen year old Vee wearing a pair of jeans, size 16.

You see, my mountain has yet to show it’s peak to me. I’ve been continuing up this incline for at least twenty-eight years and it has minimal plateaus or flat parts. I have somehow become Sisyphus pushing a mound of fat up a rocky terrain and it hasn’t mattered what size I was or how many rolls I could count. There hasn’t been a number on the scale that has made me feel like I’ve conquered my mountain. And if I never do, will I be able to accept that? If I’m always a size 16 will I feel alright with that?

I’m encouraged by recent articles and hashtag movements of women sticking their middle fingers up at so-called “beauty standards.” In a technological age where even nine year old kiddos have a world of information at their fingertips, I am optimistic that they will see these lady warriors and listen to their messages so that they can choose partners who really love them even if they jiggle. Or that will be their biggest cheerleaders yelling positive things at them from the sidelines when they decide they want to work to jiggle less, because that is okay, too. Because, for me, that’s the thing. It has to be okay to want to work towards something and not feel bad about it or like you’re letting females down globally, just like it’ll be okay if you are okay with thick thighs and a midsection. You can be strong and thick and you can be skinny and sick. And I firmly believe that some people weren’t meant to be thin.

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Even at my most active, still a size 16

What I’m saying, friends, is that if you are working out and want to post about it all over your social media, I will be a fan. And if you want to wear a romper or a bikini and feel saucy AF in it, I’ll send love your way. I’m a firm believer that daughters (and sons) are always listening, because I always was. And I’m even more convinced that we can be beautiful regardless of size. <– that is what I’m going to keep repeating to myself, as I scale my mountain from here to eternity.

And if your mountain doesn’t have a peak either, I’m walking with you.loveyourbody

Vee 2.0

Have you ever looked at yourself, fresh out of bed, with sideways hair and sheet creases on your face and thought, “Where the eff did I take a wrong turn?”

This was me. Almost two years ago I sat down with myself and I said, “Self. Let’s do this. Let’s go all the eff out, balls to the walls, and buckle down and get it done.” I was talking about my choices in life, that albeit were fun and all, but they weren’t always healthy. I knew I needed to get moving. I can’t change my ass by sitting on it, right?

The thing is, a friend had asked me to join her and start making an effort to lose some ellllllbeeees and after I gasped (HOW DARE SHE?! Where’s the GIRL CODE?) and got over my damn self, I realized she was right. I was the queen of hiding behind the camera, smacking a kid right in front of most of me, of the perfect angles, or just taking it chest up. You were either getting close ups or inauthentic Vee. That’s just the damn truth.

Sometime in these past two years, I got busy. Like, way busy. Busier than usual. A lot of it was my own fault, and Ku often jokes that I get restless when my plate isn’t overflowing (well, duh, I AM LATINA). While I admit that is partially true, the reality is that last year I handled it pretty well, considering. I was really kicking ass (my own) at keeping with my commitment to change my lifestyle and share it with my friends. I was posting progress photos and just feeling so damn empowered and strong. Strong as all get out. Ubes strong.

And then something changed inside of me. I started to let my overflowing plate create a shadow in my mind. Slowly and then all of a sudden, working out wasn’t my priority. Clean eating went out the window. A cheat every now and then became every damn day. EVERY.DAMN.DAY. I recognized it happening and kept telling myself it was ok. I deserved it. I could take a break and it would be fine because who is anyone to judge me?

Except, I was judging myself. All of my shame gremlins that I had worked so hard at shutting up started to grow and get louder. I mean, visually that is how I see it. These little nasty creatures that chase me and bog me down with self-loathing. I mean, Grinch, get out da way! I am giving him a run for his money! I constantly tell Ku how upset I was with myself, how ugly I felt, how I was just ballooning (I mean, quite literally) back to the old Vee. I stopped posting about my self-care because it would have been a lie. I wasn’t working out, I was eating whatever I damn well wanted to and I was sure as hell not trying to post progression photos. Who would even want to see that? Wouldn’t I just be proving everyone right? I mean, especially myself. I was already in a funk. Can you imagine what posting a reverse transformation would have felt like to me?

The thing is, motivation is a sword. It’s either a tool or taking your life.

So, where am I today? I’m in student mode. Learning. I learned, so far, that it takes waaaaaaay more work to lose inches and pounds than it does to pack it back on. No matter how you do it, no matter how you did it, it’s coming back if you stop. I think I told myself I just had to put the time in now, because I’ve given enough of my life to being unhealthy and overweight, and I could rest. I told myself if I spent 14 months eating healthier and being conscious of what I ate that I could just have a good ole time with food for three. Now I’m learning that fun is a sometimes thing, not every minute of your day. I’m learning that self-love is always a work in progress, just like the rest of me. I’m learning that I have to start over because I clearly stopped at some point. And I’m learning that nobody will ever judge me as harshly as I judge myself. I think, anyways.

So, why put this out there again? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe because I don’t fit in my clothes anymore and you might start noticing me wearing the same things in all my pics, or maybe because you’ve wondered and I feel like I owe you all some super, SUPER awkward authenticity…

Or maybe it’s because you might feel a lot of what I’ve been thinking and you’re thinking mean things about yourself and trust me, you are not alone. Over the past two-ish years I’ve had the honor of having some pretty damn phenomenal ladies in my workout groups and you know what?

I’m joining hands, linking arms and taking the plunge with my fellow boss babe, Erin, to get you back on track. Because we are getting back on track and we freaking need you. We need fellow friends on our side who also want to be uplifted and cheered on. Do you need a little nudge, some love pats and a program that will help you get that ball moving again? Or moving for the first time?

Reach out to us. Send a message. You can even start it with some BS like “Hi!” We will get there. We will get you on board and more importantly, we will show you some love. Being unhappy with yourself is hard. We get it. Mostly because we are there, too.

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Oct 2014                                         Aug 2017                       Sept 2017