Thursday, December 29, 2011

I even have my old hoop skirt slip somewhere...

I am a mom to boys--no girls.  I long ago gave up the notion that anyone would ever be interested in wearing any of my old prom dresses (I still have them all) or my wedding dress.  That is a shame, because the wedding dress in particular was so pretty.  I remember the day and the store where my mom and I found that dress.  It wasn't quite what I had thought I would pick out, but when I slipped it on, I knew it was the perfect dress for me.  That was almost 20 years ago, and that dress is stored somewhere in one of the closets at my mom's house.  It may not be worn or even seen again, but it's there.

I thought about that dress and the whole process of planning a wedding as I was reading The Magic Room, a new book by Jeffrey Zaslow that I was sent to review for BlogHer.  It was one of the most interesting concepts I have read in years.  Zaslow centered his story around Becker's Bridal shop in Fowler, Michigan--a multi-generational family owned business that has sold dresses (and dreams) for over 70 years.  The 'Magic Room' is a special part of that shop that is surrounded by wall-to-wall mirrors and track lighting, with a pedestal in the center for brides-to-be to check out their selections from every angle.  But it was much more than a story of that shop.  The Magic Room was filled with individual stories, and statistics and trends.  In many ways it was like a sociological treatise of love and marriage in American culture, and I just love that kind of stuff.

The subtitle is "A Story About The Love We Wish For Our Daughters", and it kept bringing me back to the idea that I need to be praying for those girls that will grow up to be my sons' wives.  This wasn't a 'always a happy ending' type of book, which I enjoyed reading, because life doesn't always bring happy endings.

But this book, like life in general, IS about hope.  And who couldn't use a little more of that?

The Magic Room is one of the featured books being discussed right now at BlogHer, and there are already some pretty neat discussions taking place there.  You ought to check it out and add you two cents worth.

Disclaimer:  I received a complementary copy of The Magic Room for review purposes, and will be compensated for this review by BlogHer as well.  Isn't that nice of them?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

From Potter to Pooh - My Year in Movies

For What It's Worth -- here are the movies I saw (and a few I didn't) in 2011 ---

Courageous - great message that made me cry more than any other movie has in a long time.  Very well made.

Footloose - I wasn't sure how well I would like this remake, but they did a good job with it.

Winnie the Pooh - such a fun movie.  There were quite a few laugh out loud moments thrown in for the adults, but none of them were double entendres.  What a nice change.

Tintin - We went to see this yesterday--the boys because they are full of testosterone; me out of curiosity to see what Spielberg and Jackson came up with.  The boys loved it.  I thought it was the best animation I have ever seen.  Appparently, children all over the world are familiar with the story of Tintin (a young reporter in England), but not children in the US.  I wonder why not?

The Help - amazing, must see movie.  Must see for me, anyway.  It was so well done.  This book caused a lot of debate, both in and out of the Deep South, and many refused to consider watching it because they thought it glorified slavery/maids.  Wrong.  I thought it empowered them and told a different side of the story. But, since my skin isn't dark, I could be mistaken about this.

Toy Story 3 - Another tear jerker (as a mom), but freaky and scary for young kids.

Harry Potter finale - midnight showing.  Enough said.

Breaking Dawn - not the midnight showing.  Was disappointed by the obvious attempt to milk this series for all the money it can by breaking it up into two installments.  Fail. Not to mention the movies are pure puff pieces anyway.

The Deer Hunter - I saw this on HBO, and watched more out of curiosity than anything else, since it is considered by many to be a classic.  I'm not sure why--the plot and the characters seem contrived and shallow.  I was taken by surprise by the Russian Roulette scene.  Apparently, this is what brought that phenomenon into American pop culture.

Gnomeo and Juliet - very good, under-rated movie.

These are the movies I had to google (2011 movies) because I had forgotten about them, which probably says a lot about the impression they made on me:

Puss in Boots - better than I thought, especially since I don't like the Shrek movies

Mars Needs Moms - totally under-rated, which is unfortunate but not surprising

Mr. Popper's Penguins - I went in with less than favorable expectations, since I don't like Jim Carrey movies, and this one really deviated from the book.  If those two things were taken out of the equation, then this movie was OK.

Cars 2 - OK for a remake of a very popular movie that changed almost all of the characters and story line components.

Dolphin Tale - loved it.  I didn't think I would.  It make homeschooling seem normal and fun, not deviant and strange.

The Muppet Movie - cheesy, campy fun.  I liked it, and wasn't sure if I would.

Pirates of the Caribbean 4 - I went to see this with someone else who got to choose the movie (She wanted to see The Hangover 2.  Umm, no).  I remember the girl had long black hair.  That about sums it up for me.

And then, there were the movies I didn't see, but 'reviewed' anyway -Soul Surfer, The Green Hornet, and Super 8. (Just because I am opinionated like that.)

My google search revealed some of the upcoming movies--some good, most not so good.  Brave New World (love the book)?  The Hobbit?  And Titanic in 3D?  What a way to capitalize on the highly over-rated movie with such a blatantly gratuitous nude scene.

Of course, I'm sure everyone will bursting down the theater doors to see Terminator 5.  It is so reassuring to see creative excellence won't be stifled in 2012.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Money tree is planted right next to the Juicy Fruit tree

Two really cool things happened yesterday that were attitude changers.

First off, I tried to go by the post office to buy some stamps to pay some bills.  There were no parking spaces, but I could see the line outside the main lobby doors.  I quickly decided to drive on over to Kroger, where I could pick up a few things and get stamps at the check out lane there.  I ended up getting things I didn't need immediately (and forgot the toilet paper and aluminum foil, which necessitated another quick store run later), and when I went to check out, the lady told me that they had just sold out of their stock of stamps.  For the entire store.  What?!?

Anyway, as I was leaving, I told the check out lady that I hoped people were extra nice to her today--which has become my standard parting line this month.  She then told me that one of her customers had just come by and handed her a gift card and told her to have a Merry Christmas.  It was obvious that the cashier was still in a happy semi-shock, and had been very blessed by this simple act of kindness.  I was blessed by it, too.  I had never even considered doing something like that--there is never any extra money left over at the end of the day--but I love the thought.  I will keep it on the back burner in case my money tree ever starts growing.

So, I ended up having to go to the post office anyway.  I parked a mile away and made my way to the back of the line (I was number 18 at that point).  I was somewhat encouraged by the fact that all 3 check-out lanes were open, which rarely ever happens.

The lines moved fairly quickly, considering most of the customers had multiple packages that needed to be tracked and insured. (Tell me again why the post office decided to remove those self serve stamp machines from the lobby?)  I was about half way through the line (and in the actual check-out room) when a little boy and his mom walked in and kind of stood to the side.  I didn't particularly notice them, other than thinking the boy looked cute in his fuzzy animal hat.  Then, after the next customer was finished, they unobtrusively walked up to the counter with a cardboard carrier of cups of hot chocolate from the coffee shop across the parking lot, as well as individual bags of muffins that the boy had decorated.  The mom announced to the workers that  this was just a small token of appreciation for all of their hard work and patience this time of year.  

Well, let me just tell you--it was like that scene from the Grinch, when his heart grew.  Ooh and ahhs were spoken all over that room, and the attitudes were immediately changed.  Thanks were spoken, and that mom and her cute little boy left.  It was quickly back to business as usual, with all the packages and stamps and all, but for a small group of us who just happened to be lucky enough to be in the lobby at that time, perspectives and attitudes were changed.

At least they were for me, anyway.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cancun for Christmas

Leave it to Facebook to make moms everywhere feel like underachievers and slackers.  What better time than December to fill us in on how the other folks celebrate, and by extension, just how seasonally inadequate we really are.  Case(s) in point:

Elf on the Shelf – This is a stuffed elf (and book) that magically shows up sometime around Thanksgiving every year.  Apparently, the point is to have him move and do mischievous things each night while the kids are in bed.  I think he was originally just supposed to move from one place to another each night, but of course, now there are ‘expectations’ that he do something funny or destructive, like unwrap presents, or bake cookies and leave the mess until the next morning, or UNDECORATE the Christmas tree.  Are you kidding me?  Undecorate the tree?  And what about those cookies?  At our house, they would be carried away by the ants and roaches before dawn if any food-like crumbs were left out after the lights are turned off for the night.  I have talked to many kids (and moms) that are all into this phenomenon, and they seem so happy, and I am sure this will be a loving, fun memory they carry into adulthood.  I’m afraid my kids would need therapy (nightmares of the Chuckie doll variety), so this trend will just have to miss us.

Pretty pictures in coordinated outfits – I love looking at these photos.  I really do.  I never cease to be amazed at how everyone looks happy and loving and glad to be there.  This in no way represents my family reality.  Forget color coordination.  We are doing good to be adequately clothed for the weather in clothes that for the most part fit.  If my pants aren’t elastic, then they are probably unbuttoned, just sayin’.  Plus, I have tall boys—too-short pants are always a possibility.  And, being nice to each other, even for the four seconds it takes to snap that picture?  Yeah, right.

Santa pictures – a specialized photo taking opportunity, that tends to also involve pets and/or small farm animals.  Have you seen the lines?  Are you kidding me?  We did try to make it to the free photo shoot at Bass Pro a couple of weeks ago, but that line reached almost to the front of the store, so we turned right around and left.  The boys were dressed in T-shirts and unmatching shorts.

Vacations – extravagent and otherwise—Yeah, right.  Why should this year be any different from years past?

Santa/No Santa debate** – People have very strong opinions on this issue, and a lot of them are more than happy to share them online.  And by share, I mean some of them argue, debate, name call, and otherwise embarrass others who for the most part think the same way they do.  I am becoming more and more convinced that the most ignorant people in any given group are usually the most vocal.  I’m guessing Jesus would have very well reasoned opinions on this issue as well, but I’m not so sure He would use the Facebook status comments section to make them known.  I don’t know; I guess could be wrong about that.  I just think that a person can be totally right about something and still lack discernment about sharing it with everyone else.

Christmas time is stressful enough with the added pressure of comparing ourselves to everyone else.  It may be a good idea to unplug for awhile, and reflect on the real reason for the season.

**For What It’s Worth—our boys have never thought that Santa is the one that brings them toys.  They wake up on Christmas morning with a toy stash, and stockings, and all the other goodies, but they know who bought them and put them there.  I can guarantee you that they don’t feel deprived, and the magic continues into the teen years, as opposed to being cruelly burst by some mean kid at school who ‘tells them the truth’ about Santa.  It also takes away the frustrating myth of naughty/nice kids.  Everyone knows that some of the meanest, most rotten kids get the really good stuff every year.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Night of the Living Dead Christian

About a year ago, I read an amazing book called Imaginary Jesus, by Matt Mikalatos.  I was so intrigued and excited about it that I told just about every Christian reader I know about it.  It was such an interesting concept, and very original.  (You can read that review here). 

So, I was very excited to see that he had written a new book, called Night of the Living Dead Christian, with the subtitle ‘one man’s ferociously funny quest to discover what it means to be truly transformed’.  Again, it was such an interesting idea. This is how the back cover describes it:

Night of the Living Dead Christian is the story of Luther, a werewolf on the run, whose inner beast has driven him dangerously close to losing everything that matters.  Desperate to conquer his dark side, Luther joins forces with Matt to find someone who can help.  Yet their time is running out.  A powerful and mysterious man is on their trail, determined to kill the wolf at all costs…

This doesn’t sound like standard Christian fare.  In fact, that is why I think I like it so much.  I chose to review the book based solely on the fact that Mikalatos wrote it, and was curious to see what he would do with the whole monster thing.  I wasn’t sure I would like it as much as I did Imaginary Jesus, because it could come across as kind of silly or hokey.  But, like before, this book was brilliant. 

The general idea of the story is that a man (Matt) befriends his neighbor, who happens to be a werewolf that has driven his family away and is desperate to be released from his torture.  Thrown in are a mad scientist, his robot android, a vampire, a monster hunter and an ego-maniacal preacher, among others, who interact and deal with the monsters in various ways.  Beyond the very funny dialogue that combines pop culture humor with some pretty deep theological discussions, there is a story of how to deal with evil desires and impulses, and how to people spend so much energy keeping these impulses from becoming known or taking over.  In essence, it is a story of hope.

It is hard to explain just how Mikalatos does this so effectively, but a blurb by Publishers Weekly on the back cover sums it up very well:

“Startling, contemporary, meaningful…Mixing questions of suffering and free will with a nexus of weirdness, Mikalatos throws Christian fiction into the world of Comic-Con and Star Wars.”

The older I get, the more I embrace weirdness and Comic-con-ness.  For an author to be able to produce a work that not only incorporates these types of quirks, but celebrates them, while at the same time not diluting the message of Jesus, is someone I want to continue to read and support.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Probably Not What Queen Had In Mind (but I like it)

I have always loved puppet shows.  It seems like most of the churches I have been a part of have incorporated them in some way.  The itty-bitty church I grew up in even had them.  I can still see the exact movements of the blue headed and the bald headed puppets as they sang "Excuses, Excuses, you hear them everyday...".  My church now doesn't have them in 'big church', but they were definitely the highlight with my boys when they were in preschool.

I have noticed this particular puppet presentation on Facebook for a couple of weeks now, but just watched it for the first time this morning.  Wow--puppet shows sure have changed.  I can't even imagine Mrs. Nance, the 80-something year old puppet director at one of my churches, even for one minute considering allowing 'her puppets' to perform something like this.  But, it sure did make me smile this morning.

Bethlehemian Rhapsody
Bethlehemian Rhapsody
Now, I'm thinking about the power of music to encourage and change funky attitudes.  So, in my continuing effort to clear out my CD collection, I am giving away a couple of CDs today.  Today's giveaways are A Christmas Reunion and Christmas Dance Hits (like a techno-remix of Christmas classics).  If you would like either of them (and live in the continental US), just leave a comment telling which CD you would like, as well as your favorite happy song--that song that always makes you smile.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The 70s in 6 minutes (well, really 9 minutes)

I have been up for several hours now, but this is the first thing that has made me have a prolonged smile today.  This may explain a lot about why I turned out the way I have.  Thanks for the smiles, Tim Hawkins!