What’s Missing From Pixar’s Inside Out

After a successful opening weekend, Pixar’s new film Inside Out is getting rave reviews. It has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 98% and has already passed $100M at the box offices. Most people are applauding how Pixar conveyed the complex idea of animating the emotions inside a person’s brain in a dynamic and simple way, while adding classic humor and a tear-jerking story. *No spoilers, I promise.

Inside Out does deliver a powerful message about the role our emotions play in our daily decisions. We often understand emotions as the result of an action or event, so they are usually the effect of something. For example, it is common for us to say “I did poorly at work today, which made me sad” or “I lost my keys, which made me angry.”

But this ignores the fact that actions and events can actually be the effect of our emotions, meaning they are the root cause. That completely changes the mindset when you understand “I was sad, which made me do poorly at work today” or “I was angry, which made me lose my keys.” Inside Out demonstrates this well, because it is the emotions that power the actions of 11 year-old Riley, not the other way around.

Amy Poehler, who voices the emotion Joy in the movie, notes this neglect of our emotional intelligence when discussing her character on her website. She says, “we are really focused on the external as a society, so we are really into what happens to you, rather than how you feel about what happens to you.”

By making emotions the focus, Inside Out redefines the negative connotation emotions carry. In most Western cultures, we associate emotions with negative metaphors (perhaps a beast or a tornado) and view them as problematic annoyances. But Inside Out shows how vital our emotions are to the ability to adapt and navigate life. More specifically, the narrative suggests that even “negative” emotions, like sadness, are vital to our well being. We need to embrace every emotion in a balanced way in order to accurately understand our experiences and the resulting actions.

Even still, there is a remarkably significant part of Inside Out that people have yet to recognize–there is no villain. It isn’t obvious because the plot is engaging and follows a natural path of conflict and resolution, but the absence of a villain teaches us a very important lesson.

Our minds, and our emotions, are not the enemy.

No single emotion, whether it be anger, sadness, disgust, or fear, is bad. The fact that they are not the villains of Inside Out represents the truth that we need all of those emotions.

As an American, I frequently get frustrated by my feelings and I’m irritated that they prevent me from the ideal mode of happiness that our culture is taught to strive for. But constant happiness is a myth, and ignoring our other emotions has left this country with a lot of deep scars.

As a Christian, I have often felt like some of my emotions are wrong, or that I’m not strong enough in my faith because I feel sad and afraid at times. This is another lie we need to dispel, because our faith and our relationship with God are not determined by our feelings.

Colossians 1:21-23 says:
“And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, [Christ] has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard” (ESV).

The good news of the gospel is that even our minds and our emotions are reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. Jesus himself experienced anger and sadness and fear, all of which were godly. Our emotions can be bad if they come from a place of hostility or evil, but by centering ourselves on Christ our emotions are restored to a healthy and necessary part of our lives. 

Pixar’s new movie is worth seeing for many reasons, but it is worth remembering because of what it can teach us. Emotions are not a bad thing, your mind is not the enemy, and Amy Poehler will always be a perfect casting choice.

Have you seen the movie yet?
What did you think?

A Good Friend Gives You Animal Facts

There are people who will pick you up from the airport, bring you soup when you are sick, and sing karaoke with you without videotaping it. We often call these people friends.

But there are also people who, when you tell them you haven’t written a blog post for the day, will tell you a bunch of random animal facts so that you have something to write about. This is a good friend, one who is not only dependable but also teaches you things and provides you with help you didn’t even know you needed.

Here is what she told me:

Flamingos make mound nests where they bury their eggs in the ground then surround it with organic matter, similar to a compost pile. The heat from the decomposing matter keeps the eggs warm, and the size of the chick is actually proportional to how warm the egg was kept. It’s like an incubator, just made of trash and with larger chicks as a result.

For some species that make these mound nests, the male is the one that tends to it. They often have a heat sensory in their beak to monitor the temperature of the nest, and they can add or subtract matter to keep it at steady temperature. Sounds like my kind of sensitive man.

Giraffes are spotted to dissipate heat. They also have a valve in their neck that cuts off blood circulation, so when they bow down to drink water their head isn’t swollen with blood and they don’t get dizzy when they lift their neck back up again. They have seven neck vertebrae, and humans also have seven neck vertebrae. I wonder if Bill Nye knows about this.

Gorillas live in a harem troupe, with a male silverback who mates with all the females. When males are born, they stay in the troupe till they are 11, and then they are ostracized into a bachelor troupe. There is a rumor that this was the original pitch for a show called The Bachelors.

Macaques are primates that live in extremely cold temperatures, bath in hot springs, and even roll snow balls! They also throw food into the ocean to season it and wait for the waves to bring it back. Some say this is the reason for their salty personalities.

A male ostrich’s neck feathers turn bright blue or pink instead of the normal gray when they are mating. The mating dance involves them dropping on their knees and swaying their back end in the air. This was the original funky chicken dance.

In areas where there is a thriving population of ostriches, the male will mate with more than one female. The primary female will lay around 11 eggs, but the secondary hens will only lay around 3-6 eggs. All of those eggs, regardless of the mother, will go in a single nest indented in the ground. Only the male and primary female will tend to the nest. The rest of the hens are clucking about how they got the better deal.

Good Friends

My good friend Krista and me, demonstrating shared enthusiasm for camping. To be fair, Krista only provided the facts included here, and should not be held accountable for the corny jokes.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of random facts from Kellie’s brilliant friend! Happy Monday!

Lessons From Dad

“Don’t smoke cigarettes, don’t smoke marijuana, and don’t drink alcohol till you are 21.”
That was the phrase my dad threw at me almost every day of middle school and high school. He told the people in our carpool, my friends who came over, and eventually my boyfriends as well. My mom insisted he said those things because he did them all when he was my age. I insist that he brainwashed me brilliantly by seeming to make something serious into a joke.

Fathers come in all shapes and sizes, but I have noticed a trend among them as well—they teach you more through actions than words. Many dads I know don’t give you specific life advice unless asked, nor will they lay out their lessons in plain English. They teach you through experience and example, whether they mean to or not.

Most of my friends knew him as the funny dad. He has some go-to jokes, like telling our 30 lb. furball dog to “attack!” and “sic ‘em!” or saying “I’m leaving now, if there is an emergency call 411.”

In this way, I learned to not take life too seriously. I also learned how to make excellent puns.

My dad isn’t the type to get overly emotional or expressive about telling you his feelings, but I always knew that he loved me and was proud of me. How? Because of his wardrobe. He owns a baseball cap and t-shirt for every school my brother and I have been to, and he wears them constantly, especially when we would go out somewhere public. I would also hear from his clients or friends about how my dad would tell them stories about his children and the things they were doing that made him proud. He embarrassed me many times growing up, but it was an embarrassing form of love that I always secretly appreciated.

Dad - thanks for teaching me how to be goofy and awkward and smart and fun all at once. And thanks for always taking me to Disneyland.

Dad – thanks for teaching me how to be goofy and awkward and smart and fun all at once. And thanks for always taking me to Disneyland.

There is also a deeper side to my dad that he does not show to the world, and I noticed it only through years of observation.

He has an amazing ability to do complicated math problems in his head. Before a GPS could tell you your estimated arrival time, my dad could multiply the mileage and speed of travel to estimate time and also tell you how often the tank will need to be filled up. Sure, he is an accountant for a living, but math is more than second nature to him.

Last year while cleaning out a room in my parent’s house, I found his sash of patches from boy scouts. Turns out, my dad was an Eagle Scout! In his words: “My father told me I couldn’t get my driver’s license till I became an Eagle Scout. Most people accomplish that by age 17, I did it by 16.” He nonchalantly dismissed the achievement and said I could throw out the badge, but of course I didn’t.

My dad is also what I would call an undercover introvert. He needs large amounts of alone time and dreads large social gatherings, but if put in that situation he transforms into an affable, entertaining people-person. It isn’t false or artificial, but rather a skill of pushing beyond one’s comfort zone for the benefit of relationships. I definitely picked up this skill, which is why many people I know insist that I’m extroverted even though I’m a die-hard introvert. Like father like daughter.

Most of all, my dad has demonstrated what perseverance looks like. He might not admit it himself, but I saw it weekly growing up when he took out the recyclables and trash, maintained the pool in our backyard, and took care of the day-to-day elements no one else wants to do. (Of course, my mom deserves a lot of credit in these things too.)

There have been a lot of moments over the years where I thought the emotional stress of personal issues or family struggles would break his perseverance. I marveled at his ability to soldier on, keeping a smile on his face. I picked up that ability to smile from him too, without ever realizing it.

My dad never sat me down to teach me how to tell a good joke, how to make complicated math problems easy, how to be social even when you are an introvert, or how to smile and persevere. I learned these things simply because of the way he lived and the example he set.

It is a good reminder for us all, to consider what we teach those around us by the way we live. But for fathers especially, your silent leadership is noticed more than you realize.  

Fatherhood, and masculinity in general, does not depend on one’s ability to grill or throw a football or coach a soccer team. My dad did all of those things, but they aren’t what make him a good dad or a good man. Courage, strength, and love to provide for us in every way—those are what count.

To all the dads out there, thank you for all that you do. To the men who have been a father figure to someone else, thank you. To the men who stand up for others and provide care or support for those they love, thank you. No one is perfect, but you teach us valuable lessons in your everyday actions. Take the time to acknowledge these men in your life, not just today but every chance you get.

What did your dad teach you?

The Trick to Being Nice to Yourself

Like many of my selfie-induced, social media conscious, pressurized world-changers in the millennial generation— I am riddled with insecurity. We can point fingers at a variety of reasons, but blame never solves a problem.

I have tried working out, reading books on the subject, devotions that affirm my unique belovedness as a child of God, and other strategies to boost my self-esteem. Those are all good things, but my mischievous gremlin of insecurity still manages to find its way through the holes.

It is much easier for me to be nice to others, to see their unique qualities and affirm their gifts. But I can never do that for myself. So the best remedy I have found is to distance myself from myself. “Be nice to Kellie” I say. And a weird wormhole opens.

It seems weird, but this practice of treating yourself like a friend gives you enough distance to see yourself from outside your insecure head. Amy Poehler describes a similar concept in her book Yes Please.
“Sticking up for ourselves in the same way we would one of our friends is a hard but satisfying thing to do.” – Amy Poehler

If someone listed all the things I did in 2014 it would sound like a very adventurous and courageous person. I know because people have told me so. Watch:

I survived Chicago’s Polar Vortex, backpacked in Florida, graduated college, went to Disneyworld, spent a summer in New Mexico, visited four national parks, did three weeks of academic research in Sweden, got engaged in Norway, moved to Seattle, got three jobs, quit two, and read 30 books.

Even saying it to myself is hard to believe. Who is that person? In my mind, she is unafraid of challenges, an adventurous soul, thoughtful and ambitious. But if someone asked me to describe myself I would not use any of those words.

Brennan Manning wrote that “genuine self acceptance is not derived from the power of positive thinking, mind games, or pop psychology. It is an act of faith in the God of grace.”

Thankfully it is easier for me to believe in God’s grace than it is to believe in my worth. So I start with grace and work backwards. In the same way, it is easier for me to affirm others and have confidence in God’s love for them. So I pretend I’m a friend and again work backwards.

This post won’t be as long as I would like and I have already scolded myself for not doing it earlier. But if a friend of mine was attempting a 30 day writing challenge and posted something late, I would still tell her she was amazing for sticking with it and that she is a success no matter what.

So next time you are being overly critical of yourself, look to God or a friend first and remember that same love applies to you as well.

Do you have trouble being nice to yourself?
How do you deal with it?

Smile On

Never let your face drop. Keep it constantly alive. The audience should never see you bored.

This was the message I heard for thirteen years. Whether I was mid-piroute or leaping through the air, my smile always had to be there too.

Three years after leaving the dance world behind, I stood up in front of a public speaking class to give my first speech. After I finished, all the teacher said was “Who are you?! This can’t be the same person who sat in her seat, quiet and reserved every day until now. Your face lit up!”

Growing up as a dancer affected me in multiple ways, but one of the strongest results is the subconscious effect it took on my facial expressions. It’s possible they were part of me before I began to dance, but when you start something at the age of 3 it is hard to distinguish what came first.

I mean I guess that looks like a happy kid… :)

I’ve had everyone from a coworker to a Jamba Juice employee tell me that I am one of the happiest people they’ve ever seen. I scoff at this.

Honestly, I don’t consider myself an extremely happy person. I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression for years, so the thoughts storming through my brain are often not the happiest. I can be strongly pessimistic, angry, judgmental, and fearful. I worry more than most people. I have wounds and scars like everyone else.

But when I smile, it is rarely insincere. Even with all of those dark emotions, my ability to keep smiling is what helps me remain positive. I was trained as a dancer to never lose face, and although that led to some negative repercussions of hiding my emotions, it also taught me how to find joy despite moments of pain or fear.

There is plenty of research to back up the benefits of smiling.

In a 2011 study at the Face Research Laboratory of the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, subjects were asked to rate smiling and attractiveness. The results showed that both men and women were more attracted to images of people who made eye contact and smiled than those who did not (source: Psychology Today).

Another study released in 2012 by psychological scientists Tara Kraft and Sarah Pressman at the University of Kansas found that “smiling during brief stressors can help to reduce the intensity of the body’s stress response, regardless of whether a person actually feels happy” (source: Psychological Science).

Knowing the specifics of this research is not what makes your smiling more effective. An article in Scientific American explains, that “to reap the benefits of proactive behavioral strategies, you can’t think too much about them.” The point is, all you need to do is remember to smile.

My post yesterday was about a deep tragedy in our country right now and the grief that follows. This post is not to reduce that grief, but to remind you that a smile can go a long way. We must hope, focus on the bright spots, and find ways to face the evil around us with the powerful joy that comes from loving community.

A article called “The Science Behind the Smile” in the Harvard Business Review remarked that “we have a remarkable ability to make the best of things. Most people are more resilient than they realize.”

Do you smile a lot?
How does it effect your attitude?

In the Face of Violence

A tragedy happened in Charleston, South Carolina last night. It is easy to respond with anger and outrage, but there are other important responses we should keep in mind.

In the face of violence, we must grieve.

A state senator, a pastor, a grandmother, a wife, a cousin, a coach, a librarian, a student, and a leader were all lost last night in Charleston. They were each wonderful people, and we should mourn their loss. There was also a lost young man, who we must pray for and grieve for as well.

Grief has no time limit, no easy answers. Grief should not be sped up or moved aside. Grief is normal and necessary. We must all grieve in our own ways, which means really absorbing the reality of what happened and understanding its impact in our lives. Because it does affect each one of us, regardless of our skin color or location or age.

Light and Pine artwork; Charleston Names

“Even when we are still unsure of so much, we must honor these men and women – these victims, whose lives were taken in a brutally violent way because of the color of their skin. These are their names. They had stories and lives and families, like we all do, cut short by this heartbreaking violence, and it’s not okay. We must do better, as allies and family and coworkers and friends and fellow citizens and humans. We must.” Art and wisdom courtesy of Helen Boggess at Light and Pine http://www.lightandpine.com

In the face of violence, we must come together.

What happened in Charleston last night was not an isolated incident. It is not the first hate crime against innocent people. It is not something that can be solved or fixed. It is not something to deal with alone.

Systemic problems can only be changed by collective will power. American history has been stained and bleached many times. The tragedies and pain are part of the story, but so are the movements and efforts that created positive, monumental change.

Brene Brown, on her blog today, wrote these wise words:
“Until we find a way to own our collective stories around racism in this country, our history and the stories of pain will own us…This is not bigger than us. This is us.”

In the face of violence, we must speak out.

It is easy to read the headlines, and say this is a terrible thing, then move on. I went through work today smiling and happy, trying to pretend like I didn’t have to say anything. I thought about what to write about and avoided facing the only real option. Because what happened in Charleston is frustrating, and difficult, and heartbreaking. But it can’t be ignored.

 Charles P. Pierce, in his article on esquire.com, wrote:
“What happened in a Charleston church on Wednesday night is a lot of things, but one thing it’s not is “unspeakable.” We should speak of it often. We should speak of it loudly. We should speak of it as terrorism, which is what it was. We should speak of it as racial violence, which is what it was.”

There are too many questions we ignore. What leads a young man to decide that killing 9 people will solve his anger or hatred? How can we generate a culture of compassion rather than fear? What makes someone believe that isolated violence solves nationwide problems? Why can’t we overcome misguided stereotypes and assumptions based on skin color?

Most importantly, how can we change those ways of thinking and prevent future violence? These questions must be asked, spoken about, and kept alive. Violence in the dark only continues when we forget to keep shining the light on it.

In the face of violence, we must hope.

I cried today as I read the stories of each victim and looked at pictures of their smiling faces. My heaving chest could not bear the weight of why this happened, and my tears were thick with disillusionment. Even as the waters receded, my eyes had hardened with the weight of exhaustion.

Then I read an entry in Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost For His Highest that said:
     Human frailty is another thing gets between God’s words of assurance and our own words and thoughts. When we realize how feeble we are in facing difficulties, the difficulties become like giants, we become like grasshoppers, and God seems to be nonexistent. But remember God’s assurance to us “I will never forsake you.”

God has not forsaken our country. God has not forsaken people of color. God has not forsaken those who operate out of violent fear. God has not forsaken our broken world.

I do not have all the answers, and on days like today it feels like I don’t even have words. I am grateful for the words of others, those I’ve included here and more beyond that, speaking truth into hard places. We may be feeble, and the difficulties may seem like giants, but we can have hope in those who speak out, those who come together, and a God who is good even in the face of evil.

Something of Mindlessness

The bench was divided into two sections, I occupied the left side closest to the sun. I took out my book, Annie Dillard’s Teaching a Stone to Talk, and surrendered my to-do list to the blue sky and rippled water of Green Lake.

An older couple came and sat in the other half of the bench next to me. They never say a word. For twenty minutes they held hands, resting their heads together as they gaze at the water, or perhaps something beyond it. The man had a knit green cap, thick brown corduroy pants, and a brown flannel tucked into his shirt. He must run cold, because I was already flushed from the heat and everyone else in sight was wearing shorts. The woman wore faded jeans and a dusty purple sweater. They looked ready for a fall breeze, not the beginning of summer.

Eventually they stood up, without speaking, and began walking away with careful steps. They continued to hold hands as they walked, supporting each other with each slow movement.

I returned to my book.

I would like to learn, or remember how to live. I come to Hollins Pond not so much to learn how to live as, frankly, to forget about it. (pg 14)

A woman rushed up to me, her curly short hair fluffed by the wind, and asked if her daughter can sit next to me while she ran to the restroom. I looked behind her to see a timid girl with bright blonde hair. I smiled and said yes, that would be fine.

The girl was wearing black capris and a white shirt with rainbow gems along the collar. Her hair was pulled back in a long, buoyant ponytail. I asked her name—India. I asked her age—8. I asked if she was in school—second grade. She said she likes it, but she thinks spelling and math are kind of boring. Her mom returned and they too walked away hand in hand.

A bird pecked by, and every few steps it slowly puffed out, wings extending, making a noise that sounded like a text message alert. It flits away and I gaze back at the yellowed pages.

I don’t think I can learn from a wild animal how to live in particular…but I might learn something of mindlessness, something of the purity of living in the physical senses and the dignity of living without bias or motive. (pg 15)

A man parked his bike near mine and sat on the other side of the back-to-back benches. He rested one arm over the top of the bench and huffed in controlled spurts.

Behind us on the walking path a man strummed sporadic cords on an off-tune guitar. He spoke at random:

“I was born in an espresso stand but raised by wolves.”
“Keep it down doggies, I’m trying to talk to the community.”
“Like most people I hate TV, except when I’m on it.”
“I would love to make a dollar today.”

My biker bench companion smirked at me, eyebrows raised—“So much for peace and quiet.” He hoisted his spandex clad body onto his bike. “Good luck with your novel or whatever.” And he rode away.

I had five more minutes before I had to go home and have dinner. The sun was slowly sinking to dance with the water in a mirage of metallic ripples. The bustle behind me continued, the bird resumed it’s notifications, and I finished the chapter.

We can live any way we want…The thing is to stalk your calling in a certain skilled and supple way, to locate the most tender and live spot and plug into that pulse. This is yielding, not fighting. A weasel doesn’t “attack” anything; a weasel lives as he’s meant to, yielding at every moment to the perfect freedom of single necessity. (pg 16)

Green Lake sunset