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Viewing Blog: At A Hen's Pace, dated 11/2012
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What does a hen do all day? Nothing but walk about in endless circles, pecking at this or that--yet she is one of the most creative and productive of God's creatures.
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1. Movie Review: The Prizewinner of Defiance, Ohio

How did I miss it, that one of my favorite books was made into a movie? And not even recently; it was back in 2005! It took a rare visit to the DVD section of the library for me to stumble upon it, and I couldn't wait to watch it!

(Digression:  Have your visits to the library movie shelves become rare? When the kids were younger, I was a frequent customer, but with teenagers in the house--so opinionated!--our crazy schedule, and the ubiquitous nature of movies these days, it's rare that we all sit down to watch a movie together. If we manage that, there are usually new releases that we must see. I rarely watch movies alone; with Papa Rooster gone frequently on business trips, I'm more likely to spend the evening reading to the kids or writing a blog post than watching a movie.

But there it was on the library shelf a week ago! I thought we might have time over Thanksgiving break for a family movie, so I brought home a few hopefuls. But we didn't get to them, and now they were coming due, so Chicklet10 and I snuggled up tonight with my laptop. Other people still had schoolwork to do--their loss!)

And it was better than I hoped--better, maybe, than the book! The story is a biographical account of a Catholic family in Defiance, Ohio, written by one of the daughters. Dad was an alcoholic who drank up all his pay, yet their mother, by "contesting"--entering contests to write jingles, poetry and limericks advertising products in the 1950's and 60's--managed to win a constant stream of prizes that kept the ten children fed and housed, with occasional extras like bicycles and toasters thrown in. (The subtitle of the book is "How My Mother Raised Ten Children on Twenty-Five Words or Less." Best. Subtitle. Ever.)

I can see why the movie was a sleeper, though. Some of the scenes with Dad as a drunk were uncomfortable to watch, though very well done, I thought--not overdone, but still you'd think twice about explaining to younger children. I bet it struggled at the box office because there isn't really a big audience for this kind of heartwarming drama that touches on so many uncomfortable marital and parental issues!

And yet, as a psychological study and example of health in the midst of dysfunction, and choosing joy in the midst of difficulty, this one's a winner. It is remarkable how this woman (played brilliantly by Julianne Moore)--without being a doormat--could continually model cheerfulness in hard times, love and kindness for her difficult husband, and some measure of faith mixed with a good dollop of "God helps those who help themselves." Mom firmly believed in God and regular church attendance, and the timing of the largest prizes certainly was beyond coincidence. She was obstinately happy in her circumstances, choosing laughter instead of tears and smiles instead of anger. Who doesn't need examples like that? I'll be watching this one regularly, I think!

One reason I liked the movie better than the book is that the movie humanized the father, played by Woody Harrellson. The screenplay did a brilliant job of showing the somewhat loveable man underneath the alcoholism, a man you could almost understand that she could remain committed to, something which didn't come across as clearly in the book, I thought. Also, the movie's storyline was more focused. The book had delightful excursions into the world of couponing, contesting and other facts about the era, and it included great detail about specific contests the mother won, all the various jingles she wrote as entries, and all the prizes she won. But the movie was able to weave this flavor throughout, visually and in Mom's narrations, without the longish interruptions to the story's flow. For these reasons, I give the movie the edge over the book. (Has anyone else enjoyed both, who could weigh in?)

Chicklet10 loved the story, and she enjoyed watching the child actors, who kept getting replaced by older children, and then young men and women, as the characters aged and left home. (Also, there was a scene at the end, which showed the actual ten children, now adults in their 60's and older, playing themselves going through their mother's belongings after her death; all grew up to be successful, stable individuals.) I felt that the content was not inappropriate for Chicklet's age, as it did not totally villainize the father, and though it showed the children's fear of him, he did not show violence toward anything but inanimate objects. And his few swear words were actually sort of hard to understand, because he shouted them out the door or in the other room, or the soundtrack had the TV volume louder than him yelling in the other room. (How thoughtful and refreshing, huh?)

Two thumbs up!

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2. Happy Thanksgiving Birthday!!

It has been 20 years since that first little bundle of pink entered our world...

..and it feels like we've been living in a Legally Blonde movie ever since! Heh, heh, ha.

So thankful for this young woman! What a blessing she is. Fun and funny, there's never a dull moment when she's around. She has courageously faced trials in the past few years, and keeps clinging to Jesus and growing stronger in her faith and in who she is in Him. It's a joy to watch God working in her life and see her respond!

She recommends this book. ("Seriously the best thing that ever happened to me.")

So do I.  I bought it for her, and the book in the background, Words, too. (I know, I need to post some book reviews.) I am so glad it is speaking to her.

So thankful that she can be home, with her family, on her birthday, on Thanksgiving!

At her pointed and specific request, we shall celebrate her Thanksgiving birthday with a very special ice cream cake.

Not so appetizing, is it? But its innards are chocolate chip, and those drumsticks are sugar cones, y'all. It'll taste better than it looks, I am certain.

So thankful to God today--for family, for friends old and new, near and far, for the blessings of life, health, abundance, comfort and joy!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

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3. Worry and Trust

Oh Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know all that lies beneath the surface, all the worries, the fears, the anxieties. It comes out as frustration and impatience, but really, it is all about fear and worry--that I am not doing enough or doing the right things, or raising my kids right or teaching them the things that really matter. I worry about our money and how we spend it. I worry about our kids and their problems and choices, and what I can do to help and teach them better. I worry about my health and my stress level. I worry when Papa Rooster and I aren't on the same page. I feel lonely sometimes, even in the midst of a large and noisy family, even in a church filled with good friends. Sometimes I just want someone to hold me and let me cry on their shoulder. It's hard always being the grown-up. 

But you have called me your child and told me to call you Father. You have instructed me to give all my cares and anxieties to you. You want me to find strength in you, not in myself. You have said not to worry about tomorrow, for each day has enough trouble of its own. 

Yet you also have given us a whole book of instructions teaching us to be wise and not foolish, the Proverbs, which strongly recommend thought for the future, responsibility and hard work...so I know it is not wrong to have these concerns.  It is my attitude of worry, rather than trust, that is wrong. 

I have to do my part:  mothering, housekeeping, budgeting, taking care of myself, teaching my kids and communicating with my husband. But I don't have to bear the whole weight of responsibility for how well or how badly it all turns out. In fact, I have no control over outcomes.  I act as though I do, quick to blame myself for anything that goes wrong, thinking I should have managed things better, and quick to self-congratulate when things go well. But I don't have to live as if it all depends on me--Heaven forbid! In my weakness, you are strong. Apart from you, I can do nothing. In repentance and rest is my salvation, in quietness and trust is my strength.

I was catching up with a friend last week, sharing some current worries, and she said comfortingly that those are really hard things to walk through. I laughed and told her that actually, these things feel relatively inconsequential compared to the stress I've carried for the past few years, which is finally lifting a bit in several areas, and I'm actually feeling emotionally lighter than I have in a long time. Suddenly, the tears began to flow, and my friend pulled me in and hugged me tight as I sobbed. I wasn't sure why I was crying, but it felt like such a relief just to say out loud that things had been really hard.

I do tell God, daily, how weak and helpless I feel. I do pray fervently for his intervention in my life and circumstances. I do have friends to share my struggles with. I think I mostly put my trust in God, and I often experience His joy and peace even in the midst of difficulty and struggle. I can be my bubbly, cheerful self and it's not an act. But it is also true that it takes energy to hold myself together when I just want to fall apart. It is stressful when I can't be completely open about struggles with one of our teens or in my marriage. It takes energy to be the anchor of the family when I feel like running away. I get tired of being strong. It can even be an effort to trust God, when I am so tempted to give in to anxiety and fear.

These have been stressful years, and they have taken a toll. They have been harder than they needed to be; I know I have trusted too much in my own strength to get through them. But as I write, I can give thanks to God for his strength and help, his mercy and care--and his grace. I am amazed at His answers to my prayers. In each of the areas that have been so difficult, I can rejoice in the ways He is working. He is managing outcomes that I could not have engineered, couldn't have dreamed of or hoped for. All are still works in progress, not free of concern or stress yet. But God's work, not mine, is so evident. It is proof that I can trust, that I can lean, that I don't have to be anxious or worried.

Still, it's a hard habit to break. Oh Lord, forgive my unbelief.

In your weakness, I am strong. Apart from Me, you can do nothing. In repentance and rest is your salvation; in quietness and trust is your strength.

Lord, have mercy, daily, upon me.

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4. Narnia Makeup--Behind the Scenes

I'm BAAACK!  What? No time passed for the rest of you?

I've been in Narnia, a land not normally inhabited by humans. A visit from Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve is a big deal.  So who lives there? Narnians!

These are woodland Narnians. A couple of my teen helpers did leaf-and-vine designs on all of them.

Here is a Pixie. My very own pixie, in fact. :) Another teen helper painted all 8 pixies every show.

There are fairies in Narnia. The Fairies were all teenage girls able to do this elaborate design on themselves and outline it with gold Aqua Glitter. (No, they did not wear old shirts for costumes--that is a cover-up, required when cast members are eating or applying makeup.)

There is a Witch in Narnia! A White Witch who makes it always winter and never Christmas. Here she is with her henchman, Scratch, the Dwarf. One of the other moms, who had never done stage makeup before but who had been an art major in college, took on the White Witch as her project. From hair design to finishing touches of silverleaf, it took 45 minutes or more to get her ready, but the results were worth it. She looked fabulous onstage!

The White Witch is accompanied in her dance numbers by Cruelies, who are evil spirit-types. The directors wanted them to be nearly faceless, so we covered their lips with makeup and added this creepy-looking design around their eyes. It was simple enough for them to do themselves, and it looked great!

There were other Evils who joined the White Witch's army. I encouraged them to go crazy with wrinkles, bags, shadows, wild-and-wooly eyebrows, and super-teased and messy hair. This girl gave herself a unibrow!

Mr. Tumnus, a Faun, plays a leading role in the story. Fauns are half man, half goat:  bare-chested, with facial hair. With prosthetic ears, he was nearly there, but for the finishing touch, I handcrafted horns out of Model Magic and mounted them on a headband. He looked distinctive from all the other characters on stage, especially when frozen into a statue!

Finally, Narnia is full of Talking Animals.

Here is me applying finishing touches to the Bull, Aslan's military commander. He may be hard to recognize, but that is my 13-year-old son.

The costume and a little bit of distance make him look more Bull-ish. All of these designs look different on stage than they do in these close-ups. We have found that subtle does not play well in our extra-large theater with not-great lighting, so bolder and bigger is better!

All of us on the makeup team found that we were our own worst critics. (I think this time I made the white area around his mouth too wide; his face looked longer and narrower when the white did not extend beyond the edges of his mouth or as far up onto his nose.)

The Beavers proved to be quite a challenge, but we finally got them right, I think. I did Mrs. Beaver's face and Mr. Beaver's hair "ears" every time. Here you can see how a slight change in a design can make a big difference. I blended out the white around Mrs. B's eyes a bit too much this time, and I didn't darken her nose as much as his is. He looks better because there is more contrast of light and dark on his face. Also his eyebrows really complete his design. I made hers more feminine and "plucked" on purpose, but imagine her arch thickened just a bit--see what that would add? Also, I had trouble with the brush I used to do her whisker dots too, and that area got smudgy when I tried to fix them. The crispness of his looks really good by comparison. Just little stuff...but it's making notes like this that helped us get better each time!

Okay, that was for anyone googling "bull makeup" or "beaver makeup." All done critiquing.

Here is a creative use of hair to make ears, on our Deer...

...and Raccoon!

We had a Rabbit and a Hare. We gave them both the same makeup design. She had to flip a little girl over her head in one dance, so we made her a French lop, with her ears on the sides.

A Squirrel...

...a Fox (with hair fastened to make a "beard" or "ruff")...

...and an Antelope are all good Narnians.

But in the Green Room, a Talking Leopard can be friends with a Hag...

..and a Squirrel can play cards with an Ogre (who creatively gave himself a black eye, you can see!). It's like the Peaceable Kingdom! (Don't you love his hair?)

Finally, we have the magical White Stag. If you catch him, he'll give you three wishes! Our Stag had a Doe for a dance partner, and their ballet interludes during scene changes was one of my favorite parts of the show. She remained a Doe for the whole show, so her makeup is more elaborate (lots of glitter which showed up well under the lights) while his was as minimal as possible. Why? Because he had a quick change into the Professor, who appears in the very next scene! So less white, less black on him--which had to be wiped off in a flash, and a few wrinkles reapplied. Off came the antlers, and on went a pair of horn-rimmed glasses--and some folks didn't realize it was the same young man! I was pleased at how his hair looked white in this costume, and gray in his Professor sweater.

(As a makeup tip for anyone googling--because it can be hard to get dark hair to look white--I painted his hair with a Graftobian Disguise Stix in white to start out, especially on sideburns and bangs, then sprayed with Streaks'n'Tips white hairspray. The Party City brand was very wet and only turned the hair gray; Beyond the Zone Color Bomb hair spray is not as good either. The Graftobian Glitter Gel was cheaper, more glittery and less sticky than Ben Nye's Glitz. We used Ben Nye Magicake Aqua Paints for most of our designs. For the White Witch, we used a color called Blue Spirit as the base, and went with a creme base for more comfort and blendability.)

I have some makeup experience, but can you believe that the other five moms on my committee had never done makeup before?? Didn't they do a fabulous job? And though you always lose some control over the designs when you have the kids doing themselves--cough, Evils, cough, cough--there is no way we could have got 80-some cast members ready any other way! And they learn so much from doing it. I was SO PROUD of the kids, my team, my teen helpers and the RESULTS. The makeup was a huge addition to the whole illusion of sets, costumes and props creating the wonderland of Narnia!

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