Tuesday, August 16, 2016


"It takes a long time to become young." -- Pablo Picasso

I had a conversation earlier this evening with my oldest niece about the trials of youth. She's 16, and struggles with wanting to be older while simultaneously clinging to things seemingly "young" for her age. This isn't a new conversation for us to have - we had conversations about her desire to "be a grown up" several times over the summer while she stayed with me in California. Part of this desire to be older comes from a misguided perception that age = maturity, and maturity = money "for better clothes/style." She lives in the same small town that I went to high school in, and kids can be pretty cruel there when you don't fit in. (I'm sure this is true elsewhere, right?) She also desperately wants to get older so that she can make her own rules, seemingly ignorant about how the few rules she is expected to follow are there to help her succeed. Being a teenager is rough, yo.

I reflected on this for a while, and started reminiscing about my own journey into adulthood. I started baby-sitting very, very young, and consequently thought I was an adult before I was even 10 years old. I would often try to interject myself into adult conversations, usually ignoring conversations with my friends and siblings. Those of you who have only known me as an adult will find it interesting, then, for me to describe myself as a serious, quiet child... but I that's exactly what I was! I preferred the company of adults, but was usually too shy to actively participate. I would instead sit by adults quietly and eavesdrop on their conversations.

As I got older, I watched the adults and teenagers in my life intently... desiring so much to be like them, but always falling appropriately short. I embraced their style to an almost comedic extreme. So young and naive I was that I often confused the dress of my teenage cousins with that of my mother and her friends (see granny dress with shoulder pads above paired with rainbow sweatbands). My young and unfashionable brain was unable to decipher style trends amongst the generations, so I often combined them and pretended it was on purpose.

To top this all off, I came of age at a time when tacky fashion was all the rage. My favorite dress for a good 3-4 years was the beautiful blue number above - so 80s/90s, so "Saved by the Bell." I genuinely thought that if I dressed like this, I would make friends with the people who's attention I craved the most - the teenagers and adults! I was wrong, of course, and ended up mostly attracting the attention of bullies and jerks instead. 

As I moved on into middle school, I started to relax. I made a few good friends, and started learning to have fun. Ever the imitator, it was their style that I started to copy. I never quite knew what my sense of style was, so I copied from those that I considered to be the best dressed. It was fun, and I started to fit in... for a while. 

My desire to look cool, however, was always tarnished by the fact that I looked nothing like my peers. I was not only tall-ish for my age, but I rapidly developed into the body of a curvy 20 year old by the age of 13. My dark skin and wavy hair was nothing like the pale-skinned blondes I hung out with, yet I copied their hairstyles and makeup all the time. This led to a dark period I refer to as the Permed Era - a time of blue eyeshadow, permed hair, and pink blush. The horror! Let's never go back there, friends.

None of my attempts at "being cool" were ever well received by my peers or my friends. I was teased by classmates and friends alike throughout middle school, often resigning myself to a quiet corner in class rather than anywhere I would be the center of attention. By the time I got to high school, I stopped trying to be fashionable altogether. I felt like I looked like an "old lady" anyway, so I sort of started dressing the part. This not only helped me avoid attention from the mean girls and boys at school, but it also stopped the unwanted advances I started getting from creepy old men and a few of my friends' dads/uncles. I became sorta invisible, and I was ok with that. (Thank GOD there wasn't any social media back then!)

By the time I got to college, I finally started to feel comfortable in my skin. I discovered a more casual sense of style that worked for me, and started to care less what others thought of me. I chose to go to the biggest school in the state, and that helped me too - most of the mean girls didn't end up at my college, and the ones that did weren't in my social circles anyway. I ended up dating a guy from my high school in college that would have been way out of my league in high school, but it was a non-issue for the most part. If/when our social circles did collide, I was always pleasantly surprised that most people forgot about those awful, awkward years and pretended to remember me as the nice, friendly girl who hung out with their mutual friends. 

Now, this journey down my tragical history is not simply a comedic break from reality. I share all this to show to my niece that nearly everyone goes through their awkward phases. Middle school and high school are hard times for most of us, and that's ok. You can survive it, and come away ok! 

If your teens are the time to figure out your style, your twenties are the time you figure out the rest. I had plenty of ups and downs, but with age came the maturity to learn how to sort those feelings out better than I had when I was younger. I won't say anyone ever figures it all out all the time, but you certainly get better at trying. As I move through my thirties, I embrace my goofiness more and my sense of style reflects that. If someone is saying something bad about how I look, I'm pretty ignorant to it these days. I am who I am, and I'm ok with that. Boy, do I wish I had figured that out earlier... but at least I know this now!

Bottom line - don't be so hard on yourself, kid. Being a teenager is rough, and you're not going to figure it all out before you're 18. Stay in school. Do what makes you feel good. Embrace the goof! And keep in mind that everyone is going through the same struggle as you are in high school - even those mean bullies I keep hearing about. Be kind. Be thoughtful. And don't spend so much time thinking about what has already happened. Embrace today, and look forward to tomorrow. I know people say again and again that "it gets better," but I'm here to tell you that it does! Enjoy your youth while you still have it. Have a little fun! And, dammit, stay in school!

Love you so much, Katiekins!

Auntie Becks

Monday, August 1, 2016

Zip A Dee Ay

"Remember, you're the one who can fill the world with sunshine." -- Snow White

Hello, again! Here's part two of my adventures with Erica! As I mentioned (I think?) in my last two posts, I got to visit the Walt Disney Studio Lot a second time when Erica came to visit at the end of May. This was exciting for soooo many reasons, the biggest of which I can't talk about here. Needless to say, however, Erica was stoked to find out that we were going here! Although Erica isn't quite as much of a location stalking fan as yours truly, she loves herself some Disney fare! 

As the guest of an employee, you are asked to park in what is commonly referred to as the Zorro lot, so named because it's the site of the former Zorro television show set. My friend's office is at the other end of the studio lot, so we ended up passing a couple of the stages as we made our way to meet her. In my two visits to the lot, Stage 6 has always been the one to catch my eye the most. Stage 6 is one of the newest stages on the lot, sitting on the former backlot area of the property. During both of my visits, the gigantic stage doors were covered in advertisements for The Muppets television show. Erica thought that the ad was adorable, and just had to get a picture! Sadly, The Muppets was cancelled just before our visit, so they were actively dismantling the sets when we were there. 

My friend works in the nearby Frank G. Wells Building, which is a great building to hang out in while waiting for a meeting with a friend. While officially home to both Disney's Music Group and Marvel Entertainment, the building is also well known by cast members and visitors alike for housing the lot's Starbucks Coffee Shop and Disney Archives. The lobby is always full of some sort of fun advertisements for current new releases, and the display cases often have some amazing pieces from the archives themselves. During this visit, many of the display cases were showing off the recent Captain America movie costumes and props! Erica could hardly contain her excitement - she's a big comic book nerd like me!

After a quick visit to the Archives and a mini tour of her building, our friend joined Erica and me for a quick tour of the lot itself. The fun thing about being on a studio lot is seeing it so busy with activity! I couldn't help but spy a production truck for Once Upon a Time as we made our way to the commissary. Most of the filming for Once happens in Canada, but my mom and I actually came across them filming one scene for the show in Burbank. I'm not sure if they were actually filming on the lot that day or not, but it sure was fun to see!

Walking around on the lot is like a visit back in time - so many of the buildings and signage is reminiscent of a different time; different era. It's so authentic to Walt Disney's time there, for example, that Disney didn't have to change a whole lot when they filmed scenes for Saving Mr. Banks on the lot (note the font used for "Stage A" above). In fact, Stage A is a film location for the Saving Mr. Banks film! It was used for a scene in which Pamela meets the Sherman Brothers for the first time. Originally built a scoring stage for orchestras, Stage A has been the home to many of Disney's classic soundtracks. This includes films such as Fantasia, Babes in Toyland, Mary Poppins, Tangled, and more! The building is unique as it's actually constructed as a building within a building to help with noise control. It's now Disney's key stage for music and sound dubbing, and is still in use today!

Just around the corner from Stage A, you'll find the lot's Movie Theater. This is a screening theater Disney uses to preview new movies before their release for executives and Disney employees. It was also featured in Saving Mr. Banks due to its proximity to the Animation building directly across from it. (During filming, the marquee was covered with an advertisement for Snow White.)

Most of Saving Mr. Banks took place in and around the animation building. This is one of the larger older buildings on the lot, and was the home to Walt Disney's office. I love that we can go inside this office when visiting - the walls are lined with so many cool things! My personal favorites are the sketches and in-progress prints and cells from some of my favorite Disney classics. Erica is pictured with sketchbooks from Beauty and the Beast!

After saying goodbye to my friend, I offered Erica a quick tour/walk through the studio lot itself. These stages are so cool! They are numbered in order of age, with Stage 1 being the first we happened upon. Stage 1 is the smallest of the stages on the lot, but it's also the oldest (built in 1940). It's had a variety of roles in addition to being a soundstage, including being used to repair army vehicles during World war II! The first motion picture to ever film there was Fantasia, but was most famous for being the stage for the original Mickey Mouse Club. The MMC was so impactful that Disney decided to honor that history by re-dedicating it in honor of the most famous member of the Club, Annette Funicello. 

The next stage we went up to was Stage 2 - the second oldest and largest stage on the lot. It has a similar colorful history, but is best known by Disney fans as being the stage where Mary Poppins was filmed. It was eventually dedicated to Julie Andrews for her roles in two films shot here - both the previously mentioned Mary Poppins and, more recently, The Princess Diaries.

The last stage I just had to show Erica was my personal favorite, Stage 4. This stage is most well known for being home to Home Improvement during its eight year run on TV. Currently, it's home to one of my favorite shows, Blackish.

Alas, our quick tour had to come to an equally quick close and we had to hurry back to our car. We had tattoos to get after all, and didn't want to be late since our tattooist was coming in on his day off just to do that for us. I am so extremely grateful for being allowed to visit the studio lot again with Erica. They say that Los Angeles is the city of dreams, and that may be true, but for me... California as a whole is the state of dreams! So many of mine have been realized since moving here! You're never going to get me to leave :)

I have many, many more adventures to write about from the last few months, and I promise to get to them. But for now... I must sleep! Have a great week, y'all!

Until next time...

--- Becks