Unless you've been living under a rock or walking around with a blindfold on, you've probably heard of Bird Box. The movie stars Sandra Bullock, has already spawned its own social media challenge, and, according to Netflix, was viewed by 45 million subscribers in seven days.
If you know me well, you know it takes me about six years to catch on to cultural trends. I watched the final season of The Sopranos on an old DVD that I checked out from the library years after that famous diner scene aired. I made everyone talk about Sons of Anarchy with me well past the point where anyone else was interested (like, two weeks ago).
So I'm kind of surprised that I'm one of the 45 million Netflix subscribers who's seen Bird Box - especially considering my general avoidance of horror movies. (They're like donuts: easy to consume but they haunt me for days.)
I guess I wanted to find out what all the hullabaloo was about. And what, exactly, a bird box is. So please enjoy my almost-spoiler-free and completely unsolicited review of Bird Box. Side note: Why do movie reviews always start with a lengthy synopsis of the plot? I just want to know if the movie's worth my time. If you want a lengthy synopsis of the plot go read The New Yorker's review. (Spoiler alert: they hate everything.)
As for me, I really liked it! Maybe I had low expectations and was kind of doing my "if everyone likes it, I bet it's dumb" snobbery. But I thoroughly enjoyed it, and not just because I'm a Sandra Bullock fan from back in the Miss Congeniality days.
It's more thriller than horror, so if you prefer suspense over gore, you'll do well with Bird Box. However, there is plenty of violence, which I dealt with by taking a cue from the movie and covering my eyes.
I found the acting to be A-OK, which Tom disagrees with. So there's your balanced assessment. We had fun playing "WHERE THE HELL IS THAT GUY FROM," with IMBD coming in very handy. (Dr. Henry Wu from Jurassic Park! Zoe from Parenthood! John Malkovich from that movie about being John Malkovich!) And then there's Sandra Bullock, who could make a turd like 28 Days totally watchable. (OK, not totally watchable. Watchable if it's on cable and you're folding laundry.)
Prior to watching Bird Box, I had done some googling and found all these Youtube videos where they explain the ending. So I was paranoid that the ending was going to confound me. I really hate confounding or ambiguous endings. Life is confounding enough - I don't need my entertainment to add to it.
I am happy to report that the ending of Bird Box is completely clear, understandable, and unambiguous. I have no idea why anyone would need the ending explained. So fear not, fellow haters of ambiguity. This Bird Box gets tied up with a nice pretty bow at the end.
However, if you are a person who needs to know the Five W's about the evil forces in this movie, you will be frustrated. If you're OK just sort of generally knowing what happens to each of the characters, you will be satisfied. I'm fascinated by humans and pretty hands-off about spirits and monsters so I was fine with those unanswered questions.
And now for my life lesson takeaway, because everything has to have a life lesson takeaway or else why waste your time? My takeaway comes from this line from Tom (Trevante Rhodes) telling Malorie (Sandra Bullock) how to be a good mom while surviving in a tenuous dystopia: "You need to love them knowing you could lose them at any moment." (I'm paraphrasing, because Google has finally failed me and I can't find the exact quote.)
We may not be living in Bird Box times, but the concept still hits home. I would love to know what you thought of the movie, what your life lesson takeaway was, and whether you think life lesson takeaways are dumb. (My children loooooove it when I make them come up with life lesson takeaways from whatever they're watching, whether it's Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse or Trolls: The Beat Goes On!)
I knew I had a problem when I took my kids to see The Grinch and it was like looking in a mirror. I recognized myself in his anti-Christmas antics. I related to his desire to just be left alone in his (awesome, in my opinion) cave lair. I sunk down in my movie seat when he freaked out about having to go to the grocery store the week before Christmas because it would be too crowded. I've done that. A lot.
I don't tolerate the retail experience well under the best circumstances. I'm such a grumpy bugger that I don't even go to Target or Walmart...like, ever. So when December rolls around, and all the fair-weather Trader Joe's shoppers turn my happy place into amateur hour, and all the parking spots vanish, I get crabby and kind of stay that way for the rest of the year.
Couple this with the other rituals of December, and my patience bucket empties out right quick. The Sign Up Genius emails bombard my inbox with their baked good demands, the germ parade starts marching around the neighborhood school, the days get shorter while my list of obligations gets longer, and I turn from Grinchy to Grinchier.
For me, December represents too much of everything. I long for the clean slate of January, when there's nothing to do except make goals and schedules and all that nerdy stuff that I like. Everyone goes back into their own lane, puts their heads down, and carries on.
So...yeah. I'm super fun to be around in December. Just ask my family.
Which brings up the number one (and only) reason I try, every year, to figure out a way to find the joy in the chaos: my family. Every year, I approach the holiday season determined to mitigate the struggle just a little more than last year. I make an honest effort to find a way to be a smidge more pleasant for the people who have to put up with me.
In 2016 I actually typed up and printed out a list called Things I Learned in December and pinned it to the December page of my 2017 calendar. The first item on that list? Don't be Class Mom. I'm in my kids' classrooms at least once a week. I put my name on every Sign Up Genius that comes my way. I try to help wherever I can. I have been Class Mom at least three times, and my oldest is only in second grade. But I know myself well enough to admit that being Class Mom during the holidays makes me less enjoyable to be around, and that's not fair to my People. So it's a Christmas Don't.
Want to know what else is on my list? I doubt any of you are as Grinchy as me, but I hope some of these things are helpful. I know I'm not the only one who struggles during this time of year.
1. Practice Saying No
This year marked the first time I ever put my name on a Sign Up Genius and then...didn't bring the thing I signed up for. It was a batch of baked goods for the service club my kids belong to. They were singing at the local police department. I love our local police. I love the fact that my kids got to sing Christmas carols for them. And I love all the other moms for bringing their homemade treats, because it made my lack of participation inconspicuous. You have to pick and choose what you bow out of, but I highly recommend you practice bowing out when it's harmless.
Homework: Look at these five research-based ways to say no during the holidays. They're practical and doable, even for all of us people pleasers. Pick one and use it before December 31.
2. Choose a Motto
Did I mention how much I hate winter weather? And I live in North Carolina. I have no right to complain. But here I am complaining. I won't run outside if it's colder than 45 degrees. But I also have to run or else I will get so irritable that my family will make me find a new house to live in. So, I've been using the treadmill, and listening to podcasts to counteract the crushing monotony.
On a recent episode of the Happier podcast, Gretchen Rubin and her co-host (and sister) Elizabeth Craft talked about choosing a holiday motto. The motto serves as a mantra to keep you focused on what you love about the holidays. It's also a way to decide which parts of the holidays matter to you, and which ones you can let go of.
My motto this Christmas is Comfort and Joy. I am such a task-driven person that I have to consciously remind myself that comfort and joy matter. Having the motto helps.
Homework: Choose a motto and use it to stay focused on what matters to you. You can also use your motto as a theme around your holiday activities and gift giving. Here are some examples from the podcast: Let it snow, let your heart be light, 'tis the season to be jolly.
3. Plan and Prevent
Every year we get up early on December 26 and drive ten hours to New Jersey to spend time with our family. It is SO worth making the trip to see with the people we had to say goodbye to when we moved to North Carolina.
We do a post-Christmas get together, catch up with each other, annoy the teenagers by talking about how much they've grown, and reconnect with the place we called home for eight years.
This will be our third year making the trek, and by now I've learned how important it is to plan and prevent, so we can focus on enjoying our visit.
Ain't no packing list as detailed as my December Road Trip packing list. Don't forget the Yankee Swap gifts. Make sure we bring the gift cards for the cousins. Pack some plastic bags for our road trip garbage. Do the final Highway 78 pit stop before we get past Harrisburg unless we want to use public bathrooms that require HAZMAT suits.
One aspect of being a grumpy bugger is not sleeping well when you're away from home. So I prevent sleep deprivation by bringing my "special" pillow (because I'm a five year old), my melatonin, my chamomile tea, and all my other fussy sleeping supplies.
No one wants to be sick on a road trip, so I try to prevent germ infestation by stocking up on Zicam for noses, antibacterial wipes, and my Aunt La's famous Elderberry Elixir.
Homework: This is actually homework for me but you're welcome to join. My goal is to plan for a simplified holiday season next year by getting all my shopping done by December 1, 2019. I hope this will prevent me from going full Grinch by the time Christmas rolls around.
Christmas is four days away, all the shopping is done, everyone has agreed to go with the easy option of Spaghetti Bolognese for Christmas dinner, and I got my annual meltdown out of the way yesterday, so things are looking up for the rest of 2018.
Therefore, I am currently being sincere when I say: Merry Christmas. May your holiday be filled with comfort and joy.
This was written in 2016 and originally posted to my Medium.com page. I am reposting here on the one-year anniversary of the day we lost Tom Petty.
Welcome to the eye doctor! Hard to believe it’s been a whole year. My, how you’ve grown slightly bigger, and aged! I know you enjoy going through life using your corrective lenses and pretending to be just like everyone else, but here at the eye doctor we feel it’s important to remind you at least once a year that you are, as the kids say, “nearsighted af.”
Now that you are staring blankly ahead and awkwardly not seeing anything, I will leave you alone with your thoughts while you wait for the doctor. We have a fantastic selection of magazines for you to not read while you wait!