Saturday, December 22, 2012

Review(s): Parental Guidance and The Guilt Trip

I got to see two movies this past week: The Guilt Trip, starring Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand and Parental Guidance, starring Billy Crystal and Bette Midler. I loved them both. My husband, who saw both with me, preferred Parental Guidance and said of the film, "That was a great movie. That is the way movies are supposed to be."

While Parental Guidance gets off to a bit of a slow start, it hits its stride in a decent amount of time and quickly melds into a film that is both funny and poignant-- a definite commentary on the "old way" of parenting vs the newer way. When grandparents are confronted with this new way of raising children, they ask some good questions, and make some good points. And I dare you not to tear up at least once. The best part is, THE WHOLE FAMILY CAN SEE IT. There is some potty humor and little boy-type stuff, but I didn't cringe the whole time-- and we had our 12, 10, and 7 year olds with us. If you get some Christmas money and are trying to come up with a good family activity over the long break, I would say go see this film. Load everyone up, buy tickets, splurge on popcorn and cokes and sit back and enjoy. I certainly did.

As for The Guilt Trip, I have to say I enjoyed it. It's pretty tame for a Seth Rogen film and I really bought into the dynamic created between him and Barbra Streisand. My husband felt that Seth Rogen's performance was "restrained" a bit, that he was holding back. But I think he was just trying to act the part of the scientist character he was playing. I think the movie meant more to me as a mom than to my husband, who isn't a mom (obviously). The relationship between the mother and son-- his love and concern for her balanced with the way she totally drives him crazy with her "helpful" suggestions and concern-- was right on target. I think it hit home for me because I have a 20 year old son and I could totally put myself in Barbra's shoes. What would it be like if he was all I had? How would a cross country road trip with him turn out? Add to that the funny scenes and one-liners and I found it to be a very cute film that was an enjoyable way to pass the time. Maybe you can find another mom to go with you, or take your adult son. I found myself wishing I had.

Trailers for both movies are below:

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Friday, December 21, 2012

False Bottoms

Last week I plucked out an old Elizabeth Berg title from my shelf of "faves to save." This one, Say When, is about a guy who takes a job playing Santa after his wife leaves him unexpectedly. Perfect for this time of year, it's about so much more than a man playing Santa. It's about marriage and forgiveness and independence and parenting and... a lot of stuff. This was a quiet book, based more on the wisdom and growth of the characters than the plot.

But none of that is what I had to share with you. I wanted to share this quote from the book that I loved. The guy playing Santa, Griffin, is talking to a friend of his about the children whose requests he hears and how he wishes he could fill the wish of every child:

"I wish I could buy a video game and have it fill the void."

"That doesn't fill it, not even for them," Donna said. "Come on, you know that. We're full of false bottoms from the day we're born."

False bottoms. What a great way to describe it. I know I'll recall it the next time I see it in myself.
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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Motherhood Wisdom From Gwyneth Paltrow

Loved this from Gwyneth Paltrow:

Paltrow says that due to her family, she has greatly reduced her work schedule, and it could be reduced even more with another baby. “I look for an interesting supporting part about once a year. That’s the most I can manage. Some women can do it and that’s fantastic, but I can’t. You make choices as a wife and mother, don’t you? You can’t have it all. I don’t care what it looks like,” Gwyneth says.


She echoes something I feel strongly about and live with every day. You can't have it all. Something's going to eclipse the other. For me, that something has to be my family or I know I'll regret it later. And I don't want regret to sneak up on me. Because you can't undo regret. You just have to live with it.

PS. I still say she and Robert Downey Jr have no chemistry in the Ironman movies.
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Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Things that have brought me comfort in the past few days:

My daughter's story about the high school senior who rallied multiple high schools within our district to collect money from students at lunch all this week and send it all to the families of Newtown to help with funeral costs all on his own. He had the idea and he ran with it. It's one thing to talk about doing something. This kid actually did it. A young man in CT took so much; this other young man is trying to give back. It doesn't right the scales, for sure, but it offers a tiny glimmer.

The cold opening of SNL last Saturday. I don't watch the show, but I love the way they chose to honor those kids by not going on as usual.

This post by Ann Voskamp, who has a way of putting things into perspective for me as she always has been able to do.

And some things shared in a private email I received addressing some of the things I've heard people say in the past few days: How could a loving God allow this? "Because He doesn't create angelic puppets. He gives us a choice, free will-- the choice between good and evil. Sometimes people choose evil." And also who knows better what it feels like to part with a child than God Himself, who "Gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life." Christmas is a happy time for us on earth, but sometimes I let myself think about how on that first Christmas Heaven felt empty without Jesus in it. God had to let His beloved Son go so His plan could be carried out-- a plan of love and mercy and ultimate sacrifice.

All of this only scratches the surface of feeling comforted, but it has helped a little, for a moment. To remember God's plan, to see the goodness that's still out there. Maybe it'll help someone else-- to see the good, to receive some small dose of hope in a season that's supposed to be about nothing else.
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Monday, December 17, 2012

On Letting Them Go This Monday Morning

In church yesterday they lit the joy candle for advent, and all I could think was how odd it felt to light a candle called joy in such an impossibly dark time for our nation. How one young man with guns in CT could cast a pall over an entire country, making the joy we once took for granted during this season feel so far out of reach. I heard a news commentator remark over the weekend that, from now on, Christmas will always be mixed with this event, tainting this time of year. And, sad as it is, I feared he was right.

But still the pastor lit the joy candle, and we sang songs about joy and I looked around me and tried to feel something besides sadness, that constant pricking behind my eyelids I've felt since Friday, the tears ever threatening. Joy just didn't seem possible. It seemed absurd. "My mind flits over this," I told my husband after church. "I can't dwell on it for too long or it will drag me under." I barely got through the pastor's prayer for those families without having to run weeping from the church.

This morning I made myself look at those little faces. I read the bios of each, how special they all were, their sparkle, their smiles. And then I hugged my own extra hard. And I smiled even as they fought over the same old things and dawdled and did the very same things they did on Friday morning. But on Friday morning I didn't know that such things were possible... not really. Now I do. We all do.

Last night our school sent out an email to parents assuring us they were evaluating their own security with law enforcement. And I felt like all of us probably feel. Like I just want to keep them home and safe forever. I want to wrap them in my arms and never let go, to keep them in my sights because in my sights I have some measure of control. Yet when I hugged them this morning, they wriggled away, oblivious, darting for the door, the world at large. And I know to restrain them out of fear would be no way to live at all.

And so I watch them bound away, happy about their new puppy and the coming visit from Santa Claus, dreaming of school parties this week and a long, much needed break. I watch them and I pray for the grace to let them go and the protection beyond the reach of my own arms. And I pray for those families gripped by grief in another state, a place far away, yet so frighteningly close. I pray for us all and I think about the joy candle burning, burning, burning, a light in a dark, dark time.
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Friday, December 14, 2012

The Hobbit Review

I took my ten and sixteen year old sons the other night for a sneak preview of The Hobbit. One was sick-- he sat and sniffled through the entire film. I kept thinking that if he didn't want to see this movie so badly, he'd be home in bed. But he soldiered through. And so did I. (The movie was three hours long.)

I'm not a big Tolkien-ite. (Is that a word?) But my husband is. And he's passed that onto our male children. So there was no question that some faction of our family would see this newest Tolkien installment asap. They were super happy when dear old mom got them the chance to see the movie early.

Here are some random thoughts about the film for those of you considering it as potential for your weekend entertainment. (Our weekend entertainment is getting a puppy. Don't be jealous.)

  • There is a lot of fighting. A lot. People get arms cut off, heads cut off, stabbed, etc. But, as my sons pointed out, there was nearly no blood. "It's only violent if there's blood, mom." Consider me educated. The boys thought all the fighting was "cool." Boys like fighting and are not, apparently, bothered by it like their mothers are. There is little to no language and no boy/girl stuff at all. And I loved finding all the spiritual symbolism. Good and evil are definitely portrayed as such.

  • The movie is basically a series of nail-biting scenes. Don't get too comfortable when the little rest breaks happen. They don't last long.

  • There are some really gross characters. The king of the Orcs comes to mind. The Pale Orc who rides a particularly angry wolf. And of course creepy Gollum who, as my 16yo son so aptly described "looks like a homicidal cancer patient."

  • As a storyteller, I really loved the beginning of the movie, before Bilbo sets off on his adventure. Most storytellers know that you have to show the character in their ordinary lives, then have them receive a "call to adventure," a time when life as they know it ends and they are faced with a choice. As Bilbo asks about the quest he is invited on, "Will I return?"
To which Gandalf replies, "I can't guarantee it. But I can guarantee you won't be the same if you do."

When he and Gandalf have their little chat about whether or not he should accept their invitation to join the quest, you can't help but put yourself in Bilbo's place. We all have our armchair, our books, our cozy little home that we never want to leave. But, as Gandalf tells Bilbo, "The world is not in your maps and books. The world is OUT THERE (pointing to the window)." Gandalf calls out in Bilbo that longing for adventure that he had buried, knowing that if he can ignite it he will have his burglar. And as Bilbo makes his choice, something in all of us does too.

  • The day after I saw the movie, I heard U2's song New Year's Day. The line "And gold is the reason for the wars we wage" jumped out at me as I thought about Smaug the Dragon and how his love of gold led to the destruction of the Dwarves' home. War was waged, and, from the looks of things, will continue to be waged for two more movies.

  • I have never seen a movie where people fell off-- or nearly fell off-- mountains/cliffs/high places so much.

  • The ending kind of sneaks up on you. Don't be surprised like I was.

  • And finally, I love Martin Freeman. Loved him in Love Actually. Really love him in Sherlock. And found he made this story much more entertaining. So glad he is Bilbo. He's well suited for it. I just hope that all this movie making doesn't get in the way of filming more episodes of Sherlock. My husband is dying to find out how Sherlock survived that fall!
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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Bif Of A Break

If you haven't gathered, I'm taking a bit of a break from blogging. Things are craaazy around here. With multiple looming class parties for the kids, special gift drives to buy for, shopping for family gifts, craft and baking projects and some businessey (is that a word?) stuff to take care of, there's just been no room for writing posts. And also, we had to give away our beloved dog and are getting a puppy. I promise to post the whole story sometime soon. And I will post pictures too. Because our new puppy is just plain cute. But we miss our other dog terribly and the decision was hard on all of us.

I also intend to write a post about The Hobbit because I'm taking my two sons to see it tonight. I'll let you know if it's worth seeing, and if it's okay for kids to see.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The Wreath Post



So I have this Pinterest board I created called "Wreaths Galore." I've pinned wreaths I'd like to make someday-- below are my first attempts at not waiting to make "someday" happen.
This wreath was based on this post. It is by far not perfect. It's not even totally round. There are spaces where you can see the wire peeking through. But I made it and it's pretty and it brightens up my den.

These next wreaths are for my kids' teachers this year. I got the idea from this post.
Once I cut all my fabric and ribbon the actual wreaths themselves didn't take more than an hour a piece. I watched a Christmas movie while I worked and it was a nice way to spend an evening, actually. I love when I' not just sitting idle.

I ended up liking these so much, I've decided to make them for my kitchen windows, except instead of initials I have little candy canes that will hang in the center.
Next up I'm going to tackle this wreath, or one similar. I've got my mesh and my evergreen wreath and some ribbon and other stuff to embellish with. Wish me luck!

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Monday, December 03, 2012

I Am...

Still trying to recover from a bad cold that hit me hard and fast last week. I've not been this sick in quite some time and am still lacking energy. Curt has said if I'm not better soon I have to go the doctor-- not my favorite thing to do. I had big plans of posting more last week, but that fell by the wayside as I struggled to get through every day. Curt was gone and so I was a sick single parent, and my middle schooler had two away games last week too. And by away, I mean one was an hour away. No fun. But we made it through and for that I am grateful. Last week was one of those weeks I was just glad to see end.

Planning a read-a-thon this month. Inspired by a book I read last year and still think of quite often-- Tolstoy and the Purple Chair-- I am aiming to read a book every two days. (The author of Tolstoy and the Purple Chair read a book a day for a year, but I'm not that ambitious.) I am already on track to meet my reading goal for this year and I know that reading like this will probably put me over my hoped-for number for 2012. That makes me happy. And nerdy.

Making wreaths. I will post pics this week and links in case you'd like to make wreaths too. This is one of those examples of, "if I can do it, any bozo can." My wreaths are far from perfect, but they're cute and they make me happy. I like making little projects that I can see around the house and think "Hey, I made that." I'm not the craftiest person in the world, so this has been a new venture for me, this wreath-making.

Reading Ann Hood. What a wonderful author. I got to hear her speak at the Charlotte Writers Club a few weeks ago and was so profoundly impacted by what she shared about writing. I bought all her books then and there and have been working my way through them (a la the read-a-thon), marveling over her talent. Her memoir of losing her daughter, Comfort, will stay with me for a long time. It's raw and honest and has made me treasure what I've been given that much more.

Editing my novel that comes out in May. I'm doing line edits, which are (in theory) easier than substantive edits. But this one has been more tedious than I expected. I think part of the problem has been I'm foggy-headed from this cold. I will be glad to finish that project this week and press send.

Processing the reality that we're going to have to give away our incredible jumping dog. We'd worked through the fact that he can clear most any fence in a single bound, and we'd learned to watch him at all times if he was in the yard. But a few weeks ago he discovered something we didn't know: our neighbor two doors down got chickens. He promptly went over there and killed one and-- if another neighbor hadn't stopped him-- would've killed more. He is now a prisoner in his own house because he can't be outside unless on a leash. This is no life for a big dog who stares longingly out the window and paces a lot, twitching to get back outside. We've tried a lead (he tangled himself up hopelessly in it and tried to dig the auger out) and talked to a rescue society and his vet who assured us that, even if we put in an electric fence, he would take the shock to get to those chickens. So we're trying to find a good home for him, but it's hard to make a fence-jumping, chicken-eating mixed breed dog sound appealing. If you live near Charlotte NC and have some land and would love an otherwise perfect dog, let me know. In the meantime, we've promised our kids we will get another dog. I'm thinking this time we need a small dog-- one that couldn't jump a fence if her life depended on it.

So that's all for me. Come to think of it, that's a lot.
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