Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Those Darn Chick Flicks

Ok.  I have to admit it.  Sometimes nothing will do but to watch one of those darn chick flicks.  Those feelings of hope and sweetness sweep through you when you watch stuff like "Steel Magnolias" or "An Affair to Remember".  I go for months without watching one of those "feel good" movies, but a few weeks ago, I stopped by a yardsale that was selling about 100 DVDs for a buck each.  I scored 12.  Most of those acquisitions were ones I like to watch by myself and my guy would never in a million years pick, but I also bought "Good Fellas" and "The Lord of the Rings", which can make you feel good too, but for different reasons.

A few days ago I found myself all by myself in the mountains.  My family had gone off to play in the snow and I was more than content to stay behind.  I popped in one of my recent scores and watched "Ghost".  I am embarrassed to mention how many times I teared up during that cheesy movie.  It didn't help that my wedding song, "Unchained Melody" gets played about 3 times during the story about the lovers who are separated by death.  I have seen the parody of the sexy pottery wheel scene, but my brain was able to push that memory aside and enjoy the sexiness of Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze together.  They show just enough and not too much.  I like it when my imagination fills in the blanks.

Tonight I watched an even sweeter (and less sappy movie), "Serendipity".  I had seen it a long time ago and simply loved it.  When I saw it sealed and for a buck, I had snatched it up at that amazing sale.  John Cusack (whom I find an utterly adorable cupcake) plays Jonathan, who meets cute Sara (Kate Beckinsale) "accidentally" at Bloomingdale's one Christmas season when they both reach for the last pair of black cashmere gloves.  It is kismet.  Attraction at first sight.  Unfortunately, they are both in relationships, but they end up spending a few hours together anyway.  She buys him a coffee to repay him for letting her buy the gloves and he takes her skating.  She is determined to leave to fate any chance of them being right for each other, so she writes her name and phone number in a book and says she is going to sell it to a used bookstore.  She has him write his name and number on a $5 bill and then spends it to get it into circulation.  She says that if he is able to find the book or she the money, fate has spoken.  He isn't convinced.  They then go to the Waldorf-Astoria and both take separate elevators.  If they both pick the same floor, then fate has intervened even quicker.  They do indeed pick the same floor, but a dorky little kid pushes all the buttons in Jonathan's elevator and he just misses her.  Five years pass and the star-crossed lovers are both engaged to someone else.  I was just about to spoil what happens next, but love the movie too much to do so, and want you to check it out for yourself, if you're so inclined.  It's beautiful.  Maybe I'll even let you come on over and watch with me. 

One of my favorite lines in the movie is spoken by Jonathan's best friend.  He says, "You know the Greeks didn't write obituaries. They only asked one question after a man died: 'Did he have passion?'".   Amen.  This movie is all about passion.  And fate.  And taking chances.  Check it out. Thanks for listening.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Let It Snow . . .

I borrowed this picture from another blog.  I took my own pictures, but somehow am missing my memory card to transfer them.  Thanks, Google!

"Wherever you go, there you are", the saying goes.  It's one of my favorites.  Sometimes I use it to point out that a change of location won't necessarily make one's personal problems go away.  (And ain't that the truth?!?) This time however, I am just ruminating on how the things I love when I'm at home, I especially appreciate when I'm away on vacation. 

I married into a family that likes to have fun, both at home and on the road.  After joining this family, I learned the joy of the road trip.  And yes, I mean the joy.  I love that feeling of having the checklist done, the house locked up, the dog being taken care of by awesome neighbors, and that sense of adventure as we pull out of the driveway.  We tend to start our trips with a mighty "woo-hoo", which helps dispel any tension that has invariably accumulated because of that darn checklist.  Vacation is a lot of work; a lot of planning and packing and phone calls to make and arrangements to be made.  About a year ago, I created a printout entitled "Vacation" so I don't have to endlessly list the minutiae that needs to go with us when we take off.  Camera, batteries, snacks, sleeping bags, books, movies, music, oh . . . and clothes!  I have given up trying to plan for the exact amount of clothes for myself.  Inevitably I end up with not enough underwear or socks when I do that.  My checklist has a spot to mark the number of days to plan for, but I just throw in extra of everything to make sure.  This used to drive E nuts, but then a few years ago, Santa took pity on me and got us all our own duffel bags so my overpacking is less noticeable.  (I still pat myself on the back for that stroke of genius.)

Last year, before my father-in-law became terminally ill, my wonderful in-laws purchased a timeshare in Big Bear.  It's fun going back to the same place year after year, especially when it is now officially "ours".  Pulling in last night, my mother-in-law insisted that we take the master bedroom.  I was horrified.  Yes, there's three of us and only one of her now, but still.  Symbolically, he is still with us.  I went out to pull more stuff out of the car and let a few tears fall.  His loss is still right around every corner, reminding me that he is not physically around anymore.  I wonder when the hurt will lessen?

But the point of my ramblings today wasn't to get all emo about death, but to just say that all the stuff I love at home, I love up here in the mountains.  Food, books, movies, gorgeous scenery and fun with family and friends.  I packed three books, my journal, laptop, ipod and favorite beverages.  I officially retired my skiis a few years ago after getting to the bottom of a run and turning to my in-laws and stating that I ****ing hated skiing and was finished.  Sweet, optimistic mom insisted that I was just so good at it and couldn't fathom that I was really done with it all.  My father-in-law just chuckled and bought me a drink at the lodge.  Seriously folks, I have skiied since 1988 and have never loved it.  Never.  The acquisition of the ipod helped create a diversion in my head from the fear and frustration of the lifts and other people coming up behind me too closely and the cold and uncomfortable boots, but not enough.  I finally made my stand and have stuck by it.  Our son is still at the age where he wants me to join him in everything he enjoys.  He was angry with me when he found out I wasn't going on the slopes.  "You might as well have stayed home!" he stated.  What and miss out on my music, books, movies and scenery up here?  Not to mention the freedom of having the day to myself.  They are having fun up there and I am having just as much fun here.  I drove to the store to stock up on a few more supplies before the storm hit and took the "scenic" route.  (One of these days, I'm going to get a GPS!) The store was a madhouse, with everyone stocking up for the next few days. 

My heart and head constantly go back to my dear friends at home who are going through tough times right now, but there's nothing I can do about them except send them love and prayers.  In the meantime, I will crank up this awesome Seal song and start the water for the pasta.  Those hard-playing-athletic people of mine are gonna be hungry.  Thanks for listening.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Escapes to Alternate Realities

About a week ago, one of my best friends said that he was no longer interested in reading fiction, feeling that those authors merely fed our "fantasies and delusions".  I told him that I guess I could live with that.  My mind hasn't let that statement go, however, working the arguments over and over.  Fantasies and delusions.  What awakens us from our delusions?  A dose of a different reality?  Can't books do that? Wake us up to a new idea or thought process? And as for fantasies, what's wrong with those, as long as we are able to live day to day with the reality of now?  Fantasies are our brains way of escaping into the world of "what if".  Granted, if one refuses to leave that world, or refuses to accept what really is, escape can be an unhealthy thing.  TV and movies are distractions from the reality of our lives. (Ones I admit to enjoying from time to time.) Drugs and alcohol can do this as well, though I can't advocate them. Too much pain and sadness can come from these, not only in the lives of the user, but in the lives of those who love them. Filling up one's own life with the drama of others is yet another avenue away from focusing on our own challenges and blessings.  Reliving the past over and over is boulder worthy of Sisyphus, a cycle hard to escape.  Choosing to read instead of doing chores and writing bills can have unpleasant consequences.  Being a grown-up means choosing the right time and place for the things we have control over.  The rest comes as it will.

Books have long been my escape.  A sickly child, the smog often kept me indoors.  Diagnosed with asthma at age two, I spent countless hours in the car going to doctor's visits, allergy shots, and to the emergency room.  The library and I became good friends very early.  If I didn't have the books, I'd be a totally different person.  Books can put you in a different place, a different time, sometimes in a different universe!  If anything, I have become more empathetic towards the experiences and feelings of others, because I have been inside the heads of thousands of different people, going through countless experiences that I will probably never encounter in my own reality. As I have matured, non-fiction books have interested me more, but when I want to read for pure enjoyment, there's nothing like a story to transport me. 

When I was young, I threw myself wholeheartedly into the adventures of Laura Ingles Wilder and her life on the prairie.  I know these books are based on her true experiences, but they are still categorized as historical fiction.  Homesteading was a grueling and often heartbreaking way of life, and one that has always fascinated this Southern California girl.  Imagine killing a hog and using every piece of it, including the bladder as a little ball to play with (as described in Little House on the Prairie.)  My last public library audio acquisition was Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson.  Again, I picked the title because we had the book in my middle school library and I feel it is my sworn duty to know as much as I can about my collection.  (Good excuse, right?!?)

 Hattie is 16, an orphan who has been bounced from house to house, taken in by (sometimes) well-meaning relatives.  It is 1918 and her friends are enlisting to serve in WW1 to "fight the Kaiser". Hattie's overbearing Aunt has just volunteered her services as a chambermaid when Hattie receives news that an Uncle Chester she has never met has died and left his Montana claim to her. Hattie jumps at the chance to have her own place and get out from under the thumb of her ever-disapproving Aunt.   The book is written in the first person narrative and is generously sprinkled with letters Hattie writes to her friend (and secret crush) Charlie, her Uncle Holt, and to her hometown newspaper, as she recalls the trials and tribulations she encounters as a homesteader.  She has less than a year to "settle the claim" which includes fencing and planting and harvesting 40 of the 320 acres she has been given.

The book alternately made me smile and cry.  The antics of her persnickety cow and the neighboring children were interspersed with incidences of German-American citizens being unjustly accused of being enemies of the country and death by influenza.  She encounters bullies as well as the most loving people you could hope to have as neighbors.  There was more than once that I was glad that my waterproof mascara didn't let me down as I drove into work. 

So again, I will keep reading what I want to read and let others read what they want to read.  That's what makes the literary world go round, right?  As I was proofreading this piece and getting ready to post it, I turned over my "Simple Abundance" daily calendar.  Here is what it said:
 "Accepting our circumstances is a powerful tool for transformation.  Acceptance is surrendering to what is:  our feelings, our problems, the delay of our dreams.  Acceptance allows the steam of struggle to escape from life's pressure cooker." 

I love living in my reality where there are no coincidences.  Thanks for listening.