Monday, July 25, 2016

Of the Rocky Mountains and Stolen Sugar

So...hi's been a while.....

This is what happens, when Hannah gives up the internet. I told myself I was going to wake up at 6am before Josh leaves for work, and get some free wifi and a mcmuffin at McDonalds once a week to post, but it didn't happen. Mostly because I preferred clutching my pillow until the kids come and lovingly climb all over me requesting breakfast. (This is going to change. Basically every “Five Steps to Organizing Your Life and Conquering the World” advice on the internet says I should wake up before the kids. So, it must be true. I'm going to do this and conquer the world...Also, because I've missed writing up the cute things the kids did here.)

We went on a camping trip to the Rockies. 

Many adventures happened, one of which I learned is that it is not a good idea to forget your mechanic told you to change the ATF fluid 10 months ago, and drive it up mountains, to then discover that the transmission fluid is black as mascara.....
But, other than that, it was a good vacation. Lots of rocks, trees, stars, campfires, and loving grandparents, aunts, and uncles.

Also there was dirt. Lots and lots of dirt. Gloriously amazing dirt, that could be stretched out and wallowed in. 
(Isaiah found this irresistible. As soon as my back was turned, he was rubbing it into his face) And no running water (as in, we had to drive 5 miles down the mountain and fill up 5 gal containers). There was a mountain river, roaring with record snowmelt. I just couldn't stick the kids in that, so the result Josh's words, (borrowed from Trumpkin the dwarf) “Uncommonly Grubby Mancubs.” 
But they were happy grubby little mancubs. Really happy.

Jenny has been experimenting with the power of words. She had knocked over the kitchen trashcan, and came to tell me about it.
“Mom, there was a twashcan accident. The twashcan accident happened to Jenny.”
Later, I found Isaiah holding his juicebottle and crying.
“What happened?” I asked.
Isaiah just wept fresh tears, overcome with the tragedy. Jenny helpfully explained “There was an accident”
“What happened?” I asked
“The accident was, I took a sip”

She has also had a very strong interest in theology, asking me about God's love, the nature of the Trinity, the structure of the universe, and other such things that have me scrambling to explain. The other day, she asked to have some tea. As I checked the cabinet, I saw we were out of herbal tea, and explained we didn't have any. She pointed out the teabox. I tried to explain it wasn't her special (non-caffeinated) tea.
“No Jenny, thats regular old black tea for mommy. I need to get you the special tea”
With deep emotion in her voice, she explained to me, “Mommy, you are speciawl. Because Jesus makes you speciawl. Because He woves you”
Later, she observed, “Mariam Hope....that is her name from God. Hope is from God. That is where Hope comes from”
Jenny keeping a grip on Hope
Aunt Cathy has been teaching the kids on Fridays, and it's obviously sinking in, as Isaiah observed, right after we turned out the lights for bed, “But I need to be nocturnal!!”
He is learning a lot, as we watched him count on his own, up to fourteen, “eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen....TWEVEN!!!” His favorite number is still Tweven, which stubbornly exists despite grownups' explanations to the contrary, and which evidently can make its joyous entry into multiple places in the numberline.
But overall, Isaiah also has a firm idea of order, and how the world ought to be, which can result in much weeping when someone else messes with it. Jenny had jammed a doll dress onto a toy dragon.
Isaiah was distraught. He tried to pry it off, but as Jenny was playing with it first, I intervened, and said Jenny could do it. Still agitated, he blurted out “Becuz the dragon doesn't wear a dress!! He's a man!”
Isaiah fixed everyone "icecream cones"

The kids have been playing together more lately. They swing at eachother with their toy swords, with surprisingly little casualties. Even 10 month old Mariam picks up her little Anduril ruler, and bats at the big kids' swords with it.
I watched Keziah go up to the toybox, and then toddle back, wearing a helmet, wielding a sword, and holding out a sword to offer to Daddy. Josh took it, and they began to spar. 
Isaiah got excited, and started looking for another helmet, but was having trouble locating one. Kuzzles saw he was having trouble, offered him her helmet, and continued to spar, bareheaded.
When Puzzles is not throwing 6 tantrums a day (Broken crackers, too hot eggs, too cold eggs, the world was full of sorrow that day...) she is so sweet that my chest aches from the cuteness.

At one point Isaiah was assigning roles “Dese are duh good blue Israelites” he motioned to me and Mariam, “And dese are duh bad red philistines!” he motioned to himself, Jenny, and Keziah. Jenny who was sitting in a laundry basket full of stuffed animals (as she is wont to do) declared with conviction “DESE ARE NOT PHIWISTINES. DESE ARE MY FWENDS”

We had fun making cookies together. I let them all help (before I put in the eggs)
Here are the industrious children.

Later, as I and the three older kids were shaping them, we heard a thump from the kitchen. I was distracted, and didn't think much of it, until I returned into the kitchen and found this.
She had evidently managed to use the broom handle to knock the sugar tub down, and had been quietly enjoying the fruit of her labor for the last 5 minutes.
Mariam continues to be the most joyful little person I have ever met. If things are slow, she starts to laugh to liven things up a bit.
Once, all of the others were in active melt-down, sobbing over broken graham crackers, lukewarm snacks, seconds on juice, and other such tragedies. Mariam alone, among the wails, looked me in the eyes, and grinned. I can almost hear her little cheerful voice in my head, saying “Turn that frown, upside down!”

I have been trying to get the kids to help put away toys. So far, I haven't had much luck, despite the promises of great glory that are sticker charts and MacDonald's ice cream cones.
The other day, I had sat down on the couch to nurse the baby, and Jenny picked up 2 stuffed animals, and put them in the toybox. She then came up to me and said with genuine and complete moral indignation “Mommy, you need to cwean up! I cannot do aww duh work myself!”


Sunday, March 27, 2016

He is Risen! (and an update on the kids)


There are better Easter pictures, but I loved this one because everyone is being their weird self
Sorry for the long silence. We moved to a new apartment, and things have been busy. Also we don't have internet at home anymore. I've been decorating the apartment to be kind of elven & medieval, pictures pending soon.
And I've been melting down about the state of the world a lot. We've had a lot of adventures, including me dragging all 4 kids out by myself to stand in line for almost 2 hours at the polls for the primaries.
My county decided to have only a microscopic number of polling places, with 2-1.5 hour waits. I kept turning away, thinking it was lunch line, etc. Finally I realized what was going on, and at 4:45 I loaded up the kids in the car armed with cookies, apples, a double stroller, and a vow to the kids that the bad man was not going to see mommy go down without a fight, that is, standing in line with 4 kids and a double stroller in a primary that was probably decided.
We had to park 2 streets away, as all the parking was jam packed. With the help of another civic minded kind stranger, I struggled all the way to the polling station, and arrived at the line wrapped completely around a huge parking lot, right to the sidewalk, and resolutely stationed the double stroller. Isaiah announced loudly "TRUNK IS A BADGUY!" and I had to shush him before were ejected for electioneering.
At the end of that hour and a half people in the line were helping me holler out "Jenny!" and "Isaiah!" because everyone else knew their names by that point...
(I have no pictures, since I was kind of maxed out. Imagine a double stroller with toddlers running around in a line of 500 people, and you get the picture)
Isaiah did some painting. Alas, he seems to be into "performance art" as he covers the paper in more paint and water than it can hold in a frenzy, and then crinkles it up to trash. But there's still paint on him and a smile on his face....

So....this no internet thing is really good for me (more on that later) as I had become a bit of an addict (the thought of giving up internet, even on just Sundays, was too much for me), so this is helping this distracted mom focus.
Alas the blog has suffered, as I haven't yet started on my routine of checking in 2x a week at places that do have internet. I am changing that, and also, have decided to write up my posts in advance, and then just post them when I do have internet.

Jenny continues to decode the world.
“Aunt Sawah got me this from Pennsylvania. Pencils are in Pennsylvania. That's wheah pencils come fwom, thats why its called Pennsylvania.” 

I tried to sing a rendition of “Jenny had a little kraggle, everywhere tha tJenny went the kraggle was sure to go” Jenny looked very disturbed “It doesn't have legs!” watching me laugh “Mom, you are teasing me” 

I got some baskets at dollar tree with visions of my kids scurrying around helping me pick up the house. They were transformed into medieval helmets.

Isaiah lovingly arranged a basket on my head (the handle properly lined up with the chin) (wearing a basket himself), and then put a wooden sword into my hand, closing my fingers around it. I wasn't really paying attention---2 seconds later I had a resounding wallop on my head from his wooden sword.
This is an attempted selfie of Isaiah putting my helmet on (while wearing his own). He does it a lot.

 Isaiah believes in fair fight, if you aren't wearing a helmet, he won't hit you. Plus, the object of the game is to knock the helmet off....

Puzzles has a very just little soul. She is very particular about the “pantheon of stuffed animals” as Josh calls it, in their proper places. “BEEBEE” (Sweatpea) her doll, “wainbow sta” her stuffered horse, and “Panta” her panda, must all be resting around her before she can sleep. But she is equally distraught if “Foya” (Flora) and Mewudee (Melody) are not properly arranged around Jenny.

The other day, I couldn't find her purse, so I took one of Jenny's many purses for her to use. She took it, and then went and found Jenny to give it to her. She also breaks the precedent of her older siblings, by actually sharing when she's asked nicely.

Puzz is very proud of herself for helping mom out. At first it was just awful and cute, as she beamed up from sprinkling salt all over the countertops (got there by shoving a bucket thatweights as much as her for a stool) and industriously pouring water from the sink all over the floor. She looks so proudly up at me, I have to thank her. When I didn't, she just cried, it was so sad. She really wants to help. 

Late one night, I had the energy to sweep everything to the center of the room, but didn't have it in me to put the stuff away. Then puzz gleefully runs up (long story as to why she's still awake), and takes indiscriminate armfuls to dump into the toybox. Her enthusiasm and eagerness to help gave me strength for the last mile :)

Mariam is quite adept at movement without crawling. She has excellent “yaw” as Josh would say.
She is the baby diaper comercials are made of, who actually rattles a rattle for 15 minutes of amusement, instead of throwing it disinterestedly away aft 20 seconds and tearing apart sunglasses instead. She wakes up from her nap, and instead of immediate howling, bats at the baby mobile for 20 minutes. I thought her kind were a myth propagated by rattle and mobile manufacters, but it seems they do in fact exist. And then she beams at me, for just showing up.
She does like nightly feedings, or really, nightly playtimes,and goes through her cluster-feeding and don't-put-me-down phases. But she doesn't cry while making you sleep deprived, as long as you are with her, she giggles and coos and laughs appreciatively.

She is the most easygoing with all her siblings, laughing when Isaiah merely walks into her line of sight (she seems to really really like him). She smiles and puts up with all sorts of “roughly expressed love” of being carried, or moved, or hugged, or even sat on, by her sisters, all with that little friendly grin that grows more and more longsuffering, until finally, sometimes, she detects malice, and then she will cry. But as long as no offense is meant, she takes none (as I type this, Kuzzles playfully stuck her foot on Mariam's face. Mariam made eye-contact, ascertained motive, batted it off gently, made some friendly chirps, and rolled away from the foot)

Happy Easter, everyone!
Our "good" Easter Picture....

Monday, January 18, 2016

Goals for 2016

I had a bit of an early mid-life crisis as I realized I shall be 28 soon (more thoughts on that coming later) but I had some thoughts and goals for this year.

This is an area I care a whole lot about, that I haven't really shared here, mostly because its been 5 years since I undertook a big writing project.
  • Finish and illustrate my first children's book (The Woodcutter and the Wolf-King)
  • At least finish the rough draft for a few novellas that have been kicking around in my head for over 10 years (Prodigal, The Amberstone, Where the Lilies Truly Grow [btw, despite its name, not a romance novel....more of a fairy-tale about 3 kids traveling to the end of the world with the body of their father])
  • Finish the screenplay for the first 2 seasons of Sojourners, a sci-fi steampunk adventure in which I have been drafted to be the principal screenwriter. I am not, the creative genius behind it, nor the final say, so this will be interesting
  • Rework my Joan of Arc Screenplay

I thought a good and reasonable goal would be to sew/craft 3 things every month, something for myself, something for someone else, and something practical/UFO (unfinished object..I've got tubs worth). About my "Everyday Lord of the Rings Inspired Clothes", I have spent so much time planning and analyzing, its about time I just churn some of these out.

  • "Eowyn" Everyday Lord of the Rings inspired dresses (Green Gown, Shieldmaiden, Dernhelm) with stenciling/printing on the fabric. Plus belt. Nursing Friendly. Minimum 4 outfits
  • "Arwen" Everyday Lord of the Rings dresses. Plus Everyday Elven Circlets. (Bloodred Gown, Grecian-looking "Bridge Dress") Maternity Friendly. Nursing Friendly
  • Hobbit-ish bodices & chemise-shirts (18th cent-ish)
  • Medieval-esque tunics
  • Leather bags & accessories for my Dwarven Adventure Woman outfit (Vikingish)
  • Mara-Jade blaster pack
  • Princess Leia for everyday, because it will make Isaiah happy

Write about the kids every week.
  • Write one blog post every week, about the kids. 
  • Write up the projects I do every month (see above), so at least 3 more posts. 
Aiming to have 2 posts up a week.

I really want to get at the heart of home-making, that is, making my house (appartment) feel like the Last Homely House in middle earth...a place where kids remember firelight and laughter and singing around lanterns.
  • Make banners, and medieval wall hangings, lanterns, and a fake fire
  • Focusing on building traditions and rituals that makes a house a warm, happy, joyful place.

  • Restart Hebrew, to the point I can read 3 chapters of Tanakh every day
  • Possibly this is the year I convince Josh to start learning Greek with me....
  • Help my Dad with his book
Other goals...make a steampunk myself with my thesis and Rabbinic Hebrew and the Pesikta Rabbati....finish my "fanfic" rewrite of Star Wars Ep I, II, III (Not so much fanfic, as what those episodes should have been....)

Monday, January 4, 2016

Movie Review: Thoughts on the New Star Wars Film Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Spoilers ahead.

Completely glossing over the total disregard for science (absorbing a Main Sequence star in an hour), Adolph Shmitler & his Shmazis, Gollum on Sauron's throne (how did he get there? Did the Shmazis vote him in?), and Han "losing" the Falcon, I will cut to the main things that stuck with me as I walked out of the theater.

I liked the new characters. What I loved best about them were that the good guys were good. Rey and Finn both seem to be driven by doing things because "it was the right thing to do." But the emotional pacing & connectivity seemed kind of "off." That is, the timing, their crises, their lines--it felt horribly rushed, and that I wasn't given enough information to really care with the characters, but merely at them. When Rey was crying and running away from the lightsaber, instead of crying with her, I felt like an awkward person on public transportation witnessing a stranger's meltdown in the seat next to me. Pity, yes--connection, no.

Emotional pacing is basic script-writing, so I have no idea why it seems to be so lacking in recent movies in franchises (Age of Ultron, Voyage of the Dawn Treader). In short, I wanted to care about the new characters, but it felt like more of a cerebral choice.

When the Disney franchise decided to jettison one of the most compelling badguys in science fiction history (Thrawn, a highly intelligent & heroic alien, whose fatal flaw is that he believes evil must be done to achieve salvation of the galaxy), and create their own, I wasn't expecting much. Which goes to show that there is always something far, far, lower than rock bottom because GOLLUM ON SAURON'S THRONE was not even a faint image in my wildest nightmares.
I really have nothing to add to that, other than, naming him "Snoke" was the icing on the cake.

Weirdly enough, my least favorite scene of the movie was the one in which we meet Han again, caught between 2 pirate gangs he's ostensibly working for. It was the scene in which my suspension of disbelief crashed (even more than slurping up the sun in an hour)---because that scene was impossible for so many reasons. Once you leave the fringe, get all respectable, join an army, become a general, and marry a princess, there really isn't any going back. He's walking hostage-money to every gang, pirate, crime-ring, and bounty hunter out there. When he'd had Jabba's price on his head, you at least needed to get the slug to cough up the dough for a corpse, but when you've got a Han now with army intel in his head, and Princess/General Leia's heart---he is pure walking cash.

The fringe is all about who you know. When working with men who no longer fear the law, it all comes down to connections. Which rival gang will exact revenge if you torture him? What are the repercussions for not paying him for his work? How many real friends has he got who will come after you if you shoot him and take his stuff? Han has far too many connections now, even if his marriage is on the rocks and his generalship resigned, he's obviously worth something to somebody---too dangerous to operate as a free agent. The fringe is very unforgiving, respectability stains permanently.

And finally, at 70, you have neither the quick wit or physical agility that surviving in the fringe demands. Seeing them trying to make old Han act just like young Han hurt, like watching them trying to carve against the grain of the wood. Old Han is a much more interesting character than young Han, he's gone through life, suffering, fatherhood---Old Han is who we want to see. I wish they let us see him, they were stingy with the couple real glimpses they gave us of him between the one-liners. The two glimpses we got were his interaction with Leia about their son and his half-way apology for running away, and his interaction with Finn on the Death Star II, when he tells him a bit about the Force and how people are counting on them. I wanted more of that---real scenes with the Old Han. But what I desperately wanted was some actual fatherly dynamic with Rey. Instead, we are simply told that Rey feels that way about him when Kylo Ren is ripping info from her mind. (lazy scriptwriting! First law: Show, don't Tell!) Han barely interacts with her, merely on a proffessional/aquaintance level, before he's dead. All I needed was a 20 second scene, of Han teaching Rey something, or handing her tissues when she cried, or trying to encourage her to keep her chin up, and it would have been the emotional center of the movie for me...

Ok, one more thing that bugged me about Han back in the Fringe, I can see an embittered broken Han running away from Leia when things went south, but for crying out loud, he would have left Chewie to protect her. (Remember how protective he was of her he was in the Battle of Hoth?) And that is assuming Chewie would even let him run away from his wife. Chewie is a loyal sort, and also, over 7 feet tall. With claws.

When Carrie Fisher came on screen, I cried because she was so beautiful----etched in her face & eyes, the time passed, the pain, the struggle---life. I couldn't not care about all the horrible things they put her through, even though I tried not to be manipulated as they cavalierly sent her through a mother's worst nightmare. I cried in spite of my best attempts not to.

Which brings me to the biggest flaw in the movie, Ben didn't work. What would convince a kid with loving parents, his very own lightsaber & knighthood, and the reins of the rebellion to throw it all away to join the status quo empire? There had to be a compelling reason (perhaps a belief that this was the Only Way To Save The World, like Thrawn. Or a strange religion, like the Inquisitor. Or a desire for order & devotion to duty, like Agent Kallus. Or even a cynical child of idealists who thinks this is the only way to end the destructive conflict.). The scene where Kylo rips from Rey's brain, and thereby unwittingly opens his mind to her, could have been so compelling. But as I leaned forward to hear what secret drives Kylo/Ben/Jacen it fell completely flat.
"Afraid you'll never be as strong as Vader"

Sense this makes none.

Even supposing being the next Jedi of the Universe wasn't cool enough, or that everyone forgot to mention to him that Vader repented, and that Vader had repented out of love/weakness for his child in pain (bad role model for brutal strength), there has got to be an easier way of achieving awesomeness than being the pawn of a giant Gollum who makes you leave a crying Mom, ditch all your friends, execute civilian villages, and kill a loving Dad.

So what made him turn? Because I'm sure as heck it wasn't Snoke's charisma & vision.

The film completely lacked a compelling villain. Tarkin believed in what he was doing ("the fear of this battle station will keep the systems in line"), Vader believed in what he was doing ("join me...together we will end this destructive conflict and restore peace to the galaxy"), the Inquisitor believed in what he was doing ("There are things far worse than death"), Kallus believed in what he was doing (jumping on a moving train alone to fight jedis who had previously force-thrown him, to stall for time). Thrawn believed in what he was doing (unifying the galaxy under an empire to face an external horror).
So far the Force Awakens has given us a bunch of Shmatzis ruled by Gollum with an insane kid vaguely reminiscent of a school shooter.

The stormtrooper with the mask and the lightsaber-proof weapon that shouts "Traitor!" is a runaway fan favorite. Why? Because he obviously believed in what he was doing. He had conviction. It says something when a masked actor with a single word overshadows the entire cast of badguys.

Lastly, I never realized how much I loved Han until he got skewered. (Luke was my hero)
But seriously, Han is a gambler. A gambler knows exactly what he's wagering when he walks out on that bridge to an insane son with force-throwing skills waving a lightsaber.
His life: Ben's repentance.
So when he loses the gamble, he wouldn't have looked shocked, only sad.
I resented the shock, as if he were the pathetic dad blindsided by this awful turn of events. Han knew what he was doing.
But at least he touched Ben's face. There was that small crumb that kept me from turning over the theater chairs.
I would have preferred bopping his nose and saying "God'll get you yet", or whatever the force-equivalent is in this galaxy far far away. Because even then, Ben felt like such an incredibly pathetic little kid, even legally changing his name to something jazzy trying to feel cool.

Patricide is incredibly dark, to me, it is on the level of rape. If they actually want to hash out this incredibly dark thing for the benefit of truth and repentance and hope, then yes. But if they were flippantly throwing it in for shock value, then shame on them. Time will tell.

Then of course, there was all the recycled material from Episode IV. But look, if you're going to recycle Ep. IV then DO A GOOD JOB. When Han thinks Ben is too far gone that even Luke couldn't save him, and Leia says "Luke's a Jedi, you're his Father", I was deeply moved....and then he gets bumped off.
In the spirit of Ep IV, if they wanted Kylo Ren skewering someone for dramatic effect, it should have been Luke---his mentor and a great Jedi. And then Han, his lowly mechanic father, would have gotten him to repent in Ep IX. I would have cried. I would have cared so much.

And if you're going to jettison Thrawn and Mara and everything from the books, but keep creepy Jacen, you may as well keep Jaina. If Princess Leia is going to Eve crying over her dead beloved and her killer-son, then you need Seth. Rey needs to be Ben's sister, needs to be Han and Leia's lost daughter, and put a beautiful grandbaby into the empty arms of the grieving Leia. We need some new hope here.

Ultimately, what will jettison or salvage these movies for me, is if Han's final gamble pays off, and at the end of everything, Ben repents.

In the words of one of my best friends "If Kylo Ren is saved, I'll forgive a lot."
And there is a lot to forgive in Episode VII.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Brunette Eowyns and Human Heras: Thoughts on Cosplaying

Cosplaying is fun. I admit, I spent a good chunk of the last 5 years, saving pictures of really cool cosplays to my computer. I like dressing up, and I like stories. (Full disclaimer, despite spending hours of my life saving & researching cosplays, I have never actually been to a conference, or even a midnight showing, alas)

However, something I realized, sorting out the cosplays I particularly liked, is there are 2 things I value if I did cosplay--to look like the character, but also, to also be kind of like the character---if they were me. Sort of like capturing the "ethos" of the character, translated into the modern day me.

For example: An hours worth of make up on Princess Leia? Totally. Princesses have to keep up appearances. Princesses need to be careful how they dress, how they walk, how they look. So a princess would totally spend a lot of time on make up. Yes, Princess Leia is cool and independent. So that means she puts on her own makeup, and doesn't drag along a make-up assistant before battles. She's still a princess, you know.

So if I was pretending to be Princess Leia, then yes, I'd put on make up.

More than a minute's worth of makeup on Mara Jade? Think about it. Her idea of looking presentable when Luke was coming, was to wash her face in an icy creek when she hadn't had a shower in 2 weeks. (Specter of the Past). If Mara used make-up at all, she probably wouldn't put on any more than took 60 seconds....unless she was impersonating a duchess or something like in Allegiance. But most of her work seemed to be of the hijacking pirate ships and leaping over roof-struts to rescue hostages type of things.

I like this picture of her I found on the internet. Red gold hair on a blazingly idealistic 18 yr old.
So if I were pretending to be Mara, I wouldn't bother with make-up. (And whomever illustrated the cover of Choices of One should have thought about that triple-applied mascara....)

So for portraying an alien (like Hera Syndulla), a human girl wearing a realistic & weathered aviator suit feels much more "authentic" to me, than one wearing hours worth of make-up and prosthetics to look like a Twilek. (Because a Twilek wouldn't need prosthetics.)

That said, I think when I do get round to making Josh a Grand Admiral Uniform, we will go the whole 9 yards with the blue skin and red eyes and all, because Josh basically is Thrawn already. (minus the superhuman IQ. And Josh is a Christian. And a sort of imperialist libertarian. So not the totalitarian part either.) But when we do give Josh blue skin, we will do it authentically. So I will feed him colloidal silver, to turn his skin bluish-grey naturally.

That was a joke.
We will use make-up.

Ok, back to my pointless ramble....

When trying to be like Tolkien's characters, I feel like it somehow isn't really the ethos of the Elves of Middle Earth to be wearing lots of make-up or wigs.
To me, Tolkien's world is about the natural beauty of things, the grain of the wood, the rustle of leaves, the tangle of rocks and trees and stars, elven maidens clad in simple dresses, water bubbling over rocks from a mountain brook. (As much as I love the complicated velvet gowns of the movies, they don't seem to really match the people in the book). When cosplaying Lord of the Rings characters, I like it when cosplayers just showcase the beauty of their natural hair (even forgoing their "usual" modern hair products, straighteners, curling irons, etc) go light on the make-up, and leave the artificial wigs alone.
To me, a brunette Eowyn or a blonde Arwen is so much more "authentic" than one with a wig. And an Arwen or an Eowyn climbing a tree or making breakfast feels more "authentic" to me than one at a convention playing dress up (which I imagine would be very very fun, hanging out with like-minded people, and I would love to do some day. However, it's not capturing the "ethos" of the elves).

this cosplayer "Mela"dress made by "Gen", captures more of the "ethos" of the elves for me than any of the elves in the movies did with their make up artists and fake trees.

Same for medieval looks. I feel more medieval by trying to capture the ethos of it in my everyday clothing. For me, that means having Isaiah wearing a medieval tunic with his jeans as he climbs a tree, and wearing cotton tunics & belts with my modern day pants, as I play with the kids in the back yard, make dinner, and pray. Also while learning how to shoot. But we haven't got there yet....

-------A long ramble on the subject of hair, probably of interest to very few-------------------------------

I prefer dark haired Eowyns to Eowyns with yellow wigs. (Practically, because you have to drop a good bit of money into a blonde wig for it not to look fake.) But also, I don't think Middle Earthers wore wigs, at least, not the rough-and-tumble early-medieval-Saxon-esque people of Rohan, living in wattle & daub halls (maybe flax or hair extensions, but definitely not wigs. That would be Roman).

For Star Wars, their technology is obviously very advanced, so wigs definitely existed. Princess Leia would be following in a long line of royal tradition to be wearing hair extensions & hair rats/padding. (Also, hair extensions have been around for as long as women have been able to cut off and save their own braids.)

Cosplaying realistic red hair is an issue unto itself. Sadly, a good chunk of awesome women in fiction have red hair :(
Black Widow does obviously dye her hair all sorts of colors, so dyed red hair for her makes perfect sense. (But why she straightened it in Cap 2, when they were running for their lives and hiding at Falcon's house, no one knows. She probably used an actual iron though, because she's awesome like that.)
However, with Mara, I wouldn't use dye. Firstly, because for a dark brunette to pull of red-gold, it would take something far far beyond my skill (probably professional chemicals at a salon). Secondly, because Mara would never have bothered to dye her hair, even when it would have been practical for camouflage (When she gets caught flat footed by a bounty hunter in Dark Force Rising who recognizes her by her hair). She wears a hood, though (Choices of One),so I would be a brunette Mara with a hood. But if you have blonde hair, and can pull off natural-looking red-gold hair......