When My Husband Leaves Town

When my husband leaves town.

My husband has been out of town for the past five nights. He is coming home today, and I am looking forward to his return. He will arrive in a couple of hours, and we will catch up on his trip. He will empty his suitcases (yes, plural…he’s a little high maintenance, but that’s a story for another day), and I will start more laundry. He will play with the dogs for a little while, because they will be thrilled that he is home. And then, I’m guessing he will turn on the television to catch up on what’s going on with the stockmarket today.

Yes, he will turn on the TV, because it’s not on. I turned on the TV in the livingroom two times while he was gone, because the dogs were confused at how quiet the house was. The first day I turned it on, I had it on Nickelodeon…yep, Henry Danger reruns all day long! Yesterday, I turned it on to an 80s music station, and I turned it up a little loud, because I was tired of hearing our Doberman whine. She whines, and it drives me insane. She was definitely missing her daddy. When my husband is home, the TVs in the bedroom and livingroom are on for background noise all day. It drives me insane, but it’s what he enjoys. He is definitely a creature of habit, and for a man who claims to like it “quiet” around him, he sure doesn’t mind listening to talking heads on TV all day.

But that’s just one thing that’s different when he’s not home. Another biggie? I leave the curtains closed in our bedroom 24/7, something that would drive him insane. Like I said, he is a creature of habit, and first thing every morning, he gets out of bed and opens all the curtains and shutters throughout the house…starting in our bedroom. In fact, on my side of the bed, there is a small window that faces east, and I have asked him a million times not to open those curtains, because that morning sun heats up the room. It’s like he’s deaf. He simply can’t leave them closed. Or maybe it’s just part of his Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and his brain just won’t let him leave them closed. Many mornings, I follow behind him and close the curtains on that window. He even goes upstairs and opens the shutters in the rooms up there…and into the garage to open the shutters there. Whenever he is out of town, in fact, all the drapes and shutters, except the ones in the kitchen and keeping room, remain closed the entire time. It probably confuses the dogs too, now that I think about it, but at least I don’t have to deal with them standing in the bedroom window barking at everything they see outdoors. Plus, when the pool guy comes, I don’t feel like he’s looking in at me. He’s definitely not looking in at me, but I’d prefer to have the world not looking into my bedroom.

Another difference? I stay up as late as I want. My night owl tendencies drive him absolutely insane. I’ve told him many times, “I do my best work after 10pm!” I can clean a closet after 10pm like nobody’s business, but don’t ask me to do it during the day. I’m part vampire, I guess. But when he’s not home? I get to stay up as late as I want…and I do! Every night he was on this trip, I was up well past 1:00am, and several times, I was up past 3:00am. I still got up around 8:00am to feed the dogs and get the day started (with the curtains closed), but I enjoyed staying up late, and I enjoyed watching the movies I wanted to watch! I’m a weirdo (in lots of ways, I’m sure), because I like to watch certain movies on my laptop. I think I pay attention better, because there is nothing between me and the screen to distract my squirrel-chasing brain. He would never watch the movies I watched while he was gone: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Mansfield Park. (All these movies are based on Jane Austen novels and can be watched free with commercials on Amazon Prime or rented without commercials.) It’s a battle that’s simply not worth having. I wouldn’t even enjoy the movies if he were here…in my ear…telling me how boring they were. So I save those movies for when he’s not here.

Also, when he’s not home, I catch up on my phone calls. I was able to sit and talk with my friend, Kristi, in Florida, for hours Saturday. It was awesome! She and I have been friends since college. We have been through a lot together, so it’s always fun to catch up with her, but I can’t stay on the phone for hours when my husband is home! You and I both know husbands are like kids…if we get on the phone, they immediately need our attention!

So now he’s on his way home. He will be here in about an hour. I just finished the laundry, and as soon as he empties his suitcase, I will do his laundry from the trip. He will open all the curtains and shutters. We will sit down and talk. He will play with the dogs and turn on the TV. Life will be “normal” again. And tonight, we will start a fire in the firepit on the back patio and have cocktails while we look for satellites, planets, and constellations in the night sky like the nerds we are. As my friend, Richard, likes to say, “Nerd alert! Nerd alert!”

We will go to bed at a “reasonable” hour, and tomorrow, he will bring me coffee in bed. I’ve missed him.

Movies for My Senior

Movies for my senior.

We are not a movie family. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because two of us have Attention Deficit Disorder, but we just don’t sit down and watch movies very often. Sure, during COVID shutdowns, I forced our daughter to watch a few movies with me (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Clueless and Sliding Doors, all of which received two thumbs up from her), but generally speaking, we don’t watch movies.

However, we are nearing her high school graduation, and I feel like we are under the gun. I feel like there are movies she needs to see. This occurred to me tonight as I was making our daughter one of my famous grilled cheese sandwiches (yes, they are famous among the teenage set in Charlotte)…and singing the theme song from the 70s movie, Car Wash…because that’s what I do…I sing while I work. But while I worked and sang tonight, I realized I’ve been remiss! I should have shared more of my favorite movies with her! She leaves for college in four months, and I need to squeeze in some classics from my youth (and a few others) before she goes! We talked about it tonight, and she agreed to watch some of them with me over the next few months.

So I sat down and made a list, but as I made the list, one movie would lead to another! The list is now at more than 35 must-see movies. There is no way we will watch 35 movies in the next few months, so I will start with some of my personal favorites.

  • Sense and Sensibility. I know this one is unexpected, but this is one of my all-time favorites…the one starring Emma Thompson. I am a firm believer that every woman on earth should read Jane Austen’s novels, and the best way to get started is by watching this film adaptation. The scenery is beautiful. The people are gorgeous (Mr. Darcy!), and the story is one of the best ever. If you think I’m crazy for having this one at the top of the list, you haven’t seen it. Watch it. And after you watch it, read the book. You’ll understand the language and characters better after seeing the movie. And when you finish reading Sense and Sensibility, move on to her other novels… Pride and Prejudice while the rhythm of the language is fresh in your brain…then Mansfield Park, Emma (also a movie starring Gwyneth Paltrow, and the modern-day Clueless is loosely based on it), Persuasion, and Northanger Abbey.
  • Risky Business. Anyone who was a teenager in the 80s knows this is an essential film. Tom Cruise became really famous after making this bit of cinematic history. Other great teenage movies from the 80s were, of course, the John Hughes films: Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, and The Breakfast Club. Come on…Mr Hughes directed the stories of our lives! He introduced us to relatable characters! We knew those people! Another great? Fast Times at Ridgemont High, for sure…didn’t we all know some version of Spicoli?

I dug a little deeper and came up with lots of other favorites. Some have cultural significance, and some don’t. Anyone who was a teen in the 80s knows St Elmo’s Fire, with its Brat Pack cast, had a huge influence on our lives. Throw in About Last Night for more Brat Pack action.

But there are other favorite movies that are not based on the 80s. Muriel’s Wedding, starring Toni Collette, is a less-known film that I think offers a great story and some wisdom to go with it. And every time I see my friend, Kristi, we have to watch Brooke Shields in Endless Love…what a teenage love story that is!

I’m sure everyone has their own favorites. Please feel free to share! Here is my list of essentials. I’m sure I have forgotten some…

  • Airplane!-slapstick comedy circa 1980. It’s stupid. It’s funny. It’s iconic.
  • American Graffiti-a coming-of-age film set in the early 1960s in California. It’s all about cruising in Modesto in one night. Released in 1973, the cast is stellar. It was produced by Francis Ford Coppola and directed by George Lucas. It’s a must-see film for every American.
  • Animal House-An American classic. No one should go to college without seeing this film. John Belushi and great music…need I say more?
  • Back to the Future-released when I was a teenager, this film is a classic. The sci-fi concept takes the lead character (played by Michael J Fox) back in time, via a Delorean car turned time machine, to the 1950s, where he meets his parents as teenagers. It’s funny and thought-provoking.
  • The Bad News Bears-I think this movie gives kids a glimpse into life in the 1970s, when people smoked everywhere and a drunk might just be your little league coach. Not one kid on that team had a helicopter parent!
  • Breakfast Club-John Hughes…no need to say more. Teenagers today are very familiar with the film, and Nickelodeon’s Victorious even did a parody of it a few years ago.
  • Caddyshack-How many times did I watch Caddyshack as a teenager? It was on HBO all the time, and if nothing else was on, I could always settle in and watch Rodney Dangerfield and Bill Murray. And everyone remembers the poop in the pool scene. It’s a funny movie, and people make references to it all the time, so everyone needs to be familiar with it.
  • Dirty Dancing-I had friends in college who saw this film on the big screen multiple times. The music is great. The setting…a resort in the Catskills…is fun. And the characters are well-defined. I think this movie wasn’t supposed to be a hit, but it was a sleeper! Women fell in love with Patrick Swayze, and the music from the 60s will keep you dancing in your seat. Again…lots of references come from this movie. “I carried a watermelon.” “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.” You knew it before I said it.
  • Endless Love-I will be the first to admit it’s not the greatest movie. But the story is intriguing, and don’t all teenage girls love a good love story? This one has lots of twists and turns. Must-see. ***For another Brooke Shields movie, I would say Blue Lagoon, but I’m not sure I can sit through it again.
  • Fast Times at Ridgemont High-Another coming-of-age film, this one is set in California. The screenplay was written by Cameron Crowe, who went undercover at a high school in San Diego. Anyone who grew up in the 80s knew someone like each of the characters. Some sheltered teenagers of 2022 will be shocked by some of the storylines and candor, but others will likely shrug. And didn’t all boys fall in love with Phoebe Cates when they saw this movie?
  • Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner-This film is an American classic. I took my daughter to see it on the big screen several years ago, but she fell asleep. She needs to see it again, as it addresses racism and the struggle for equality.
  • The Goonies-I’m almost embarrassed to say this: I have never seen The Goonies. I’m not sure how this one got past me, since it was released right after I graduated from high school. I have friends who think this is one of the greatest movies of all time. This one might be one of the first ones we need to watch.
  • Groundhog Day-So this movie is not from my teen years or even college years, but it is one of those movies everyone needs to see once, in my opinion. Bill Murray (again!) stars as a weatherman who is reporting on Groundhog Day from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, but he keeps living the same day over and over. He hates the town and the people who live there, but wakes up there repeatedly. After reliving the day many times, he finds a way to make it work for him as he seeks a relationship with Andie McDowell’s character and ends up falling in love with the town in the process.
  • Imitation of Life-Based on a novel by Fannie Hurst (one of my favorite books, by the way) that was a bestseller in 1933. Mrs. Hurst was a celebrity in the first half of the 20th century as a bestselling female author and activist. The film was released in 1959 and stars Lana Turner. It doesn’t cover all the intricacies of the book, but the story is good, nonetheless. It’s a story of the difficulties of motherhood, living a lie, the harsh realities of life, and friendship.
  • Jaws-I saw this film shortly after my 8th birthday. My parents dropped off me and my 6-yr-old brother at the theatre (Eastern Shore Cinema in Daphne, Alabama) on a Saturday for our weekly double feature…which meant four hours of free date time for them. So yes, we saw Jaws unaccompanied, because back in the 1970s, parents didn’t hover over every move their kids made. And my mother hovered more than a lot of moms, but the movie theater was our babysitter. I’m sure my daughter will think the special effects of this one are funny, but this movie is a classic. She has to see it. Lots of life references come from this move, like, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
  • Karate Kid-Wax on, wax off. Another classic, she simply needs to see this David and Goliath film. There are so many great things about it: love, mentorship, discipline…
  • Mean Girls-Another one I’m embarrassed to admit I have not seen. My daughter has seen it and simply cannot believe this one got past me. She has proposed we watch it together. Deal!
  • Moonstruck-This is one of my favorite films of all time. So many great lines came out of this film. The characters are well-defined, and the plot has twists and turns everywhere. Cher, Olympia Dukakis, Danny Aiello, and Nic Cage are all great in this movie. “Do you love him, Loretta?” “Yes, Ma, I love him awful.” “Oh God, that’s too bad.”
  • Porky’s-Not exactly a classic, but every teenager in the 1980s saw the original Porky’s movie and the sequels. We can all name the characters: Meat, Peewee, Mrs Ballbricker, Honeywell, Cherry Forever…the list goes on and on. It’s raunchy. It’s stupid. But teenagers found it hilarious in the 1980s. The original was the fifth highest-grossing film of 1982 behind ET, Tootsie, An Officer and a Gentleman, Rocky III…and ahead of Star Trek II, 48 Hrs, Poltergeist, and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas! All those movies were great, but Porky’s hung in there! (And even though I’m not mentioning any of those movies in my list, they could all be added at any time!)\
  • Pretty in Pink– iconic 80s teen film. My daughter has seen it, but we might need to see it one more time before she goes to college.
  • Private Benjamin-Goldie Hawn stars as a spoiled widow who joins the US Army. Eileen Brennan is her wicked drill sergeant who fully expects her to fail, but of course, she beats the odds. It’s a movie about female empowerment. Near the top of the list.
  • Rear Window-Obviously, not a 1980s teenage movie, but a Hitchcock film that’s thought-provoking. Also, The Birds, another Hitchcock. Oooh…and Vertigo! Maybe we should just do a Hitchcock home film festival.
  • Risky Business-I mentioned this one already, but it’s just so good!
  • Say Anything and Some Kind of Wonderful-two great 80s movies about teenage love. Must see.
  • Sixteen Candles-a personal fave, even though this film could never be made today.
  • Smokey and the Bandit-It’s silly. It’s politically incorrect. But it’s a young Burt Reynolds looking like a mustachioed porn star in his black Pontiac Trans Am. Sally Field is adorable. Jerry Reed is funny. And who can forget the late, great Jackie Gleason?! “let me have a Diablo Sandwich, a Dr Pepper, and make it fast! I’m in a xxxxxxx hurry!” Must see. (This one will be on the big screen at my local theater in May!)
  • St Elmo’s Fire-New college graduates who are friends face the world. The Brat Pack.
  • Top Gun-80s, Tom Cruise, fighter jets, motorcycle, love, bar scene, volleyball scene. If you know, you know.
  • The Way We Were-This one was released in 1973. Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand. This film follows Streisand’s character, Katie, as she changes from activist to conventional wife back to activist…through her relationship with Hubble Gardner, a man for whom life is easy. One of my all-time faves.
  • There’s Something About Mary-a fun cast and hilariously immature plot line make this movie one of my favorites. It’s just stupid humor that you can’t unsee. And for the rest of my life, every time I hear Build Me Up, Buttercup, I will think of this movie.

I’m sure I have forgotten some of my favorites. Please feel free to submit your own recommendations. Of course, there is no way we will be able to watch all these before she leaves for college, but we can watch some of them!

Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day.

Something about Groundhog Day makes me a little introspective every year. I know…weird. Most people don’t even notice Groundhog Day, and they haven’t even thought about it since they were kids. Well, I’m not “most people.”For a variety of reasons, Groundhog Day has meaning to me.

My godmother was born on Groundhog Day. She passed away in April 2020, during the first round of pandemic shutdowns. On the day she died, a bluebird “harassed” me as I walked through our neighborhood. OK, “harassed” is a strong word. Maybe I should just say a bluebird followed me. It flew around me, and it landed on a mailbox in front of me, as if it were waiting for me to approach. As I got closer, it dropped down to the ground and just watched me…from really close. I thought it was odd at the time, but a couple of days later, I learned that my godmother had passed that day. She loved “bluebirds of happiness.” She had given my mother some glass bluebirds of happiness that I sent back to her after Mother died. Was the bluebird’s visit really a visit from her? I’ll never know, but Happy Heavenly Birthday to Cynthia!

Also on Groundhog Day, I started my blog in 2018, a little over a month after my mother passed away. I was nervous about putting myself out there, but I shouldn’t have been. Everyone I know has always been so supportive and gracious. And I’d like to think some of my own experiences have helped others. Plus, I have quite the record of crazy stories from my life for my daughter to read later…long after I’m gone.

When I was a little girl, I fell in love with the whole idea of Groundhog Day when my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Peavy, told us about it. I was five, and I was absolutely fascinated by the idea of a groundhog (which I had never seen in south Alabama) coming out to look for its shadow! And the idea that it would predict how much winter was left was incredible to me! I took it at face value. I truly believed that groundhog knew something the rest of us didn’t. Oh, to be five years old again! My five-year-old self was full of wonder and soaking it all in! And Groundhog Day gives me a day to remember what it felt like to be five years old. For the record, I did check on ol’ Punxsutawney Phil today. He saw his shadow, which means he predicts six more weeks of winter for us. I’m OK with that. Winter is short in the Carolinas. I need opportunities to wear my winter clothes and shoes!

And then, there’s the movie, Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. It’s a silly movie, of course. The whole idea of reliving the same day over and over and over is preposterous! But there are days I would love to live over and over…especially if I could alter the course they take on each subsequent day till I got it perfect. Remember how Murray’s character starts each day with his alarm clock playing Sonny and Cher’s I Got You, Babe? That song is, of course, a favorite from my childhood, when I would spend one night a week watching The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour in front of our big, Zenith console TV in the family den. The duo ended every episode with that song, and sometimes, they would bring out their cute little girl, Chastity, to sing with them. But it’s not the song that makes the movie special. It’s just a way of letting the viewer know the same day is being replayed. It’s the whole concept that I love…keep doing it over and over till you get it right. I would have a hard time picking what day I would want to live over and over, if I could pick.

But for all the joy and good memories Groundhog Day brings me, I know there are people who have lost loved ones on this day…one family, in particular, who lost their 16-year-old daughter/sister eight years ago. I know it’s a heartbreaking day for them and many others out there. So every Groundhog Day, I say a little prayer for them. As much as these types of anniversaries can be difficult, sometimes they bring us peace, as they force us to remember the loved one.

Whatever Groundhog Day means to you, I hope you see some bluebirds of happiness instead of your shadow.

Being the Ricardos

Being the Ricardos.

It’s rare that I sit down and actually watch a movie or series. I’m that person who, more often than not, watches the first episode of a series on Amazon or Netflix and never goes back for the second episode. If a show doesn’t hook me early, I’m out. I’ve written before about The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime, Modern Love on Amazon Prime, The Undoing on HBO, and Mad Men (I watched this on Amazon Prime long after it was broadcast)…all series that I completed. Oh, Succession on HBO is another one. But there aren’t many recent shows or movies that fall into that category of shows I’d spent time watching.

Enter Being the Ricardos, a movie on Amazon Prime. It stars Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball and Javier Bardem as Desi Arnaz. Before watching, I wondered if I would believe Kidman and Javier as these two icons, but I need not have wondered.

Wow.

I Love Lucy. Yes, just like the rest of America, I love Lucy. I even loved every incarnation of television shows starring Lucille Ball. Being the Ricardos is a biopic about Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, and I love it. After hearing about and reading outstanding reviews of it repeatedly, I finally sat down last night to watch it. I had read that Lucie Arnaz, their daughter, had given it two thumbs up as a pretty accurate portrayal of her parents, so that piqued my interest. I didn’t get to watch it one sitting, because of household distractions, because I have a husband, a teenage daughter, and three dogs… but wow…what a film.

Most people in my generation and my parents’ generation feel like we knew Lucy and Desi. I wasn’t alive when I Love Lucy originally ran, but I feel pretty sure I’ve seen almost every episode in syndication…a concept that was invented by Desilu Productions, the production company founded and co-owned by Lucy and Desi, in fact. But I feel like I knew Lucy and Desi. I knew he was a womanizer. I’ve toured Paramount Studios in Los Angeles and seen a brick wall Lucy allegedly had constructed over the door to Desi’s office to keep women from “visiting” him in his office. But did any of us really know Lucy and Desi? No. This movie, though, gives us a glimpse into their lives behind the scenes, and it’s heartwarming and heartbreaking all at the same time.

I got so swept up in it, in fact, that I suddenly had a crush on the late Desi Arnaz! Or maybe I have a crush on Javier Bardem playing Desi Arnaz? That Cuban accent! Wow! The charm! The humor! The intelligence! Whether it’s Desi or Javier I’m admiring from afar, I can go back and listen to that Cuban accent over and over…and I never grow tired of hearing it.

I also learned a lot about Desi and Lucy as people. I had no idea Desi had fled the Cuban revolution in the 1930s. I knew he came to the US from Cuba, but in all these year, I thought he came here to pursue a career in music. No. He came to the US to flee the revolution in 1933, when he was just 16. He attended Catholic High School in Miami. No, I didn’t learn all that from the movie. I did a little research after watching, because I needed to have a good timeline of his life. He was a fascinating man, and clearly, lots of women thought so at the time, because in 1960, Lucy filed for divorce from him.

Lucy’s life was just as fascinating, but in a different way. I’m not sure I ever knew she had to testify before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee in 1960, because she had registered as a Communist in her youth. According to the movie, by registering as a Communist, she simply was honoring the man who had raised her. If things truly played out the way they played in the movie, Desi Arnaz was a genius in getting the American public to look past that and continue to love Lucy. He had fled Communism to come to the USA, a country he loved. He was also a genius in developing a special three-camera system for TV and for convincing CBS and Phillip Morris (the sponsor of I Love Lucy) to allow Lucy’s pregnancy and Little Ricky’s birth to be portrayed on the show.

I’m grateful to Mr. Arnaz for clearing Lucy in the court of public opinion, because I love Lucy. And I’m grateful for the contributions they both made to American entertainment.

If you haven’t seen it, watch Being the Ricardos on Amazon Prime. It’s worth your time, if you’ve ever been a fan of Lucy or Desi in anything they ever did.

I Love Lucy.

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Truly Scrumptious

Truly Scrumptious.

Anyone who has ever seen Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the film based on the Ian Fleming novel, knows who Truly Scrumptious is. Played by the late Sally Ann Howes, the character becomes the love interest of Caractacus Potts, played by Dick Van Dyke. When I was a little girl, I thought Truly Scrumptious was beautiful…and she was.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is, quite possibly, my favorite film of all time. Well, that and Mary Poppins, which also happened to star Mr. Van Dyke. I loved both films then, and I love both films now…and the soundtracks! I feel sure I wore out both LPs on my record player as a child. In fact, I have both soundtracks on But the first time I went to the movie theater to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, I didn’t see the whole movie. I was a little girl, and we were visiting our cousins in Florida. I’m not sure how old I was…three or four? My mother took a bunch of us to the theater in downtown Marianna, Florida, but I think she spent half the movie outside on the sidewalk with me. The child catcher in the movie terrified me, and being a particularly strong-willed child (imagine!), I refused to sit through the movie. Later, when I was eight or nine, I grew to love the movie, but even then, the child catcher scared me…not enough to make me leave the room when he appeared, but he scared me…much like the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz and the Sleestaks in Land of the Lost. If you know, you know.

I have a favorite scene in CCBB…the doll scene near the end of the movie in which Caractacus Potts and Truly Scrumptious, disguised as dolls, begin their rescue of the children. Oh, I still find the scene glorious! You can see it here.

Fast forward more than 35 years, and I had a daughter of my own. When she was two or three, I introduced her to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang via DVD, and she fell in love with the movie. This was a child who had no interest in animated movies like Cinderella, Bambi, or The Fox and The Hound…but she loved Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. In fact, she wanted to watch it all the time. Specifically, she had a scene she loved. The doll scene? Nope. The flying car scene? Nope. My child loved the child catcher scene…the very scene that terrified me as a child…she found it hilarious! Who knew any child could find that hilarious?!?! But she did. And she wanted to see that scene over and over and over.

Since you know that, you won’t be surprised at all to know she found the Sleestaks in Land of the Lost hilarious. And the flying monkeys and wicked witch in The Wizard of Oz? Also hilarious. Wow…I had a brave child. Even as a little girl, she would laugh at the special effects in Land of the Lost and The Wizard of Oz. The charm of one of the greatest films ever made was completely lost on her, because the wicked witch and the flying monkeys were funny…not just funny, but hilarious. Nonetheless, she still enjoyed watching both, but Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was her favorite…we still talk about it.

So today, when I learned Ms. Howe, the actress who played Truly Scrumptious had passed away at 91, I was a little sad. Frankly, I hadn’t even investigated whether she were still alive or not. I guess I just assumed, incorrectly, that she had died, but I shouldn’t have. Apparently, she lived a long, full life. And even though I cannot name one other film she was in, she has a special place in my heart as Truly Scrumptious.

I haven’t had the chance to tell my daughter yet, but I will tell her soon, and hopefully, she will sit down and watch Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with me while we eat cake batter popcorn…just like old times. And I’ll drink a toast to Truly Scrumptious.

I Love Christmas Specials!

I love Christmas shows! I always have. When I was a little girl, I could hardly wait for “Christmas specials” to come on, and when they were over, I was sad. Back then, we couldn’t just record them and watch them whenever we wanted. If they came on at 7:30 one night and we didn’t get home in time, it was just tough luck till the next year. But times have changed! We can set our DVRs to watch what we want when we want…and we can even watch some things On Demand! I’m ready to watch!

Here are some of my favorites:

  • Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I love both versions, the old cartoon, and the 2000 live-action movie. I love everything about both movies, including the music, but I really love the liv-action movie. The sets and costumes are glorious. The characters are well-defined. And the story is golden, as it is based on the Dr. Seuss book. I could watch it several times a year. Jim Carrey is amazing as The Grinch. It comes on Thursday, December 2, on Freeform at 8:20pm. Set your DVR or tune in!
  • Frosty the Snowman. This animated Christmas special was made in 1969 by Rankin/Bass, the producers of lots of holiday specials back then. It was one of my favorites as a child, and it’s still one of my favorites. Anyone who has seen it wants a snowman to come to life in their neighborhood! See it Saturday, December 4, on Freeform, at 7:10pm, followed by my very favorite…
  • Ruldolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Produced in 1964, this stop-motion Christmas special has always been my personal favorite. I’ve written before about how watching this show transports me back in time, even at the ripe old age of 54. When I watch it, I feel the same way I felt as a little girl, lying in my pajamas on the floor of the family den, in front of our giant Zenith console TV. It comes on Saturday, December 4, on Freeform, at 7:45pm, right after Frosty the Snowman.
  • Love, Actually. Apparently, there is some debate about whether this movie is a holiday movie or not, but it counts in my book. This romantic drama follows nine intertwined stories of love. I love it; I had not seen it till a year or two ago, but it sucked me right in. Watch it or record it at 12:30pm on Tuesday, December 14, on Freeform.
  • Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town. Another of my childhood favorites, this one was produced in 1970 as a stop-motion TV special…another by Rankin/Bass. Narrated by Fred Astaire, this one follows the life of Kris Kringle, the man who becomes Santa Claus. It has lots of fun characters, including the frightening Burgermeister and Winter Warlock, but the story is lovely. Anyone who has seen it can still sing Put One Foot in Front of the Other, one of the songs sung by Kris Kringle and Winter Warlock. I loved it and looked forward to it as a kid every year. My mother used it as motivation for us to get ready for bed extra early. See it or record it Tuesday, December 21, at 1:00pm.
  • The Year Without a Santa Claus. This oft-forgotten stop-motion television special from 1974 is one of my favorites. In fact, my whole fifth grade class loved it so much that we produced a performance for the whole school. It features iconic characters like Heat Miser, Snow Miser, and of course, Santa Claus. It’s narrated by Shirley Booth, an actress who won the triple crown of acting: an Academy Award, two Emmy awards, and three Tony Awards, but I remember her as the title character in the sitcom, Hazel, which I watched in re-runs as a child. I can only find one airing of this special, on December 3, at 12:15am on AMC. With that time slot, you know it’s not the most popular Christmas special…but I promise it’s worth watching. You can also rent it on Amazon Prime.
  • A Christmas Story. This movie about Ralphie wanting a Red Rider BB Gun for Christmas was produced in 1983 and has lots of memorable scenes. It has become one of my personal favorites, and I have the leg lamp to prove it! With so many memorable scenes, it’s hard to pick just one part I love…the Bumpus dogs, the leg lamp (Fra-gi-le!), the flat tire, the soap in the mouth, the tongue on the flagpole, the mean Santa, the bunny suit, the BB gun…it has become a classic. See it for 24 hours on Christmas Day on TBS, or you can watch it on Amazon Prime!
  • Elf. This movie, starring Will Ferrell, quickly became a favorite in households across the country. It’s cute. It’s quirky. It’s fun. See it on December 9 on Starz at 9:00pm. Or for a more fun experience, see it in local theaters on December 11 as a Sing and Cheer Along experience on the big screen! Check local Regal theaters. I’ll be seeing it at Regal Stonecrest in Charlotte at 1:00pm.
  • Miracle on 34th Street. I mean the original, which was released in 1947 and stars Natalie Wood and Maureen O’Hara. It won three Academy Awards and has become a classic…and a movie I never want to miss. You can see it on HBO Max or Hulu, or you can rent it on Amazon Prime. If you’ve never seen it, you need to sit down and watch it to get into the real spirit of the holiday.
  • It’s a Wonderful Life. When I was a teenager, I forced my whole family to sit down and watch this classic. My dad was not happy that it was on during a basketball game, but he humored me, and it became his very favorite Christmas movie. My mother and I always watched Christmas classics together, and this one was at the top of her list too. Watch it on Amazon Prime anytime for free with your Prime membership.
  • National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. This one is a little more bawdy…it is National Lampoon, after all, but it’s hilarious! No one loves the Griswold family and their crazy lives more than I do! Come on, Chevy Chase is brilliant in this movie! See it on AMC or record it Thursday, December 2, at 8:00pm.
  • Holiday Inn. My mother and I discovered this one late one night in the 1980s. Made in 1942, this musical stars Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, so you know there’s good singing and dancing. In fact, there’s a song in the movie about how each will win a woman’s heart with his singing or dancing. The plot? An inn in Connecticut becomes a nightclub for 15 holiday nights out of the year. The song, White Christmas, was first introduced in this film and won and Oscar. See it on Amazon Prime.
  • The Polar Express. This one is a favorite for lots of people, and that’s why I’m listing it. It’s not one of my favorites. I think it’s a little creepy…don’t give me flack for that. It’s dark, and the story is weird to me. But hey…to each his own. If you want to see it, check it out or record it on TNT on December 2, at 1:30pm.

The holidays are a fun time for television! You can get as nostalgic as you want…and I plan to be pretty darn nostalgic this year. In fact, I’m going to try to get my daughter to watch some of these movies with me this year, since she goes off to college in the fall.

***And I promise the Stocking Stuffers post will be published December 2!***

While He Was Gone

While he was gone…

A few times a year, my husband and I go on our own vacations. Yes, we vacation together too, but we don’t always enjoy the same places, so instead of arguing about it, we do our own thing.

Last week, my husband visited the beach where he grew up. He got to hang out with his friends there, and I didn’t have to go! Seriously, I didn’t have to go…thank you, Lord. It’s a lovely beach, but it’s just not somewhere I want to spend my vacation time…so he goes when he wants. I go several places each year without him. We take vacations together too…no big deal.

But this time was different. He left Wednesday. He had a routine departure early that morning, and honestly, I was looking forward to having a few days to myself…to enjoy the peace and quiet, catch up on some reading, watch some rom-com movies I’ve seen advertised, and just do whatever I wanted to do. But my plans were foiled as early as the first night.

About ten minutes after I got into bed that night, I heard chimes in the hallway outside our bedroom. The chimes were followed by a loud female voice saying, “The battery is low on your smoke detector. Please change the battery now. The battery power is very low.” Yes, we have a weird talking smoke detector. I felt sure it couldn’t be too low, and I thought it probably wouldn’t talk to me again before the next morning. I was wrong. The “lady inside the smoke detector” repeated her message ten minutes later. I promptly grabbed my pillows and went upstairs to sleep in the guest room.

The problem? I’m short, and we have ten foot ceilings in the hall. I could reach the smoke detector with a ladder (which we have), but I have vertigo. Ladders are not my friend. And any time I lean my head back to look up, the vertigo kicks in…I’d likely fall backward off the ladder. I know my limits.

The next day, I got a neighbor to come change the battery. Problem solved, right? I will be able to resume my peaceful weekend, right? Wrong.

That very afternoon, as I climbed the stairs to retrieve my pillows from the guest room, I noticed that as I got closer to the top of the stairs, it got warmer. Not good. I walked over to the upstairs thermostat, and it was blank. It’s electronic, so I tapped it, hoping it was just in sleep mode. It wasn’t. My husband always deals with the HVAC company, so I called him and asked him to call his contact there. A couple of hours later, the technician arrived, and after an hour or so, he told me we needed a new upstairs HVAC system. I wasn’t surprised, because I knew it was about time for that, but I didn’t expect it to happen when the husband was out of town.

The next day, I sat down with the representative from our service provider, and the day after that, we had a new system installed. It was pretty quick, but it meant I had to sit home half the day while they worked. Not exactly what I had in mind for my peaceful weekend at home.

As soon as the new HVAC was installed, I sat down in the kitchen and thought, “Well, at least I get two more nights to myself.” Not…so…fast! Less than ten minutes later, my husband called and said, “I’m coming home today. Hurricane Ida is coming in, and even though it won’t be a direct hit here, the traffic is going to be impossible if I don’t leave now.”

OK. OK. The peaceful weekend of rom-com movies simply wasn’t meant to be. My husband arrived home safely last night, and we are back to watching the shows he wants to watch. Don’t get me wrong…I’m happy he’s home. I just feel like I missed an opportunity. At least he was grateful that I had handled all the issues in his absence.

It’s OK, I’m driving our daughter to Asheville next weekend for her to meet some friends, and I will stay in a hotel by myself…eating room service and watching rom-coms!

Staying Sane (In a Time of Insanity)

Staying sane.

It’s May 6. We are deep into the stay-at-home orders all over the country. It appears our state, North Carolina, will move into the first phase of “opening the economy” this Friday, May 8, if all goes as planned.

Finally!

I’m sure there are some who would say I’m not particularly sane during “normal” times, but wow…if they could see me now! For the past however-many-weeks, I’ve been doing everything I can just to keep from falling into the abyss. And so far, my silly strategies have worked, but you might think the “strategies” themselves are crazy.

When we were first “locked in,” it never occurred to me it would last this long. If someone had told you even one year ago that our country would basically shut down for this long, would you have believed them? I would have told them they’d lost their minds. But here we are. I have been doing a lot of reading in the sunshine (we’ve been lucky with the weather) since this whole thing started. If you need some light reading, I highly recommend Mike Rowe’s The Way I Heard It. You know Mike Rowe…from the TV show, Dirty Jobs…also a good way to spend your time. He’s funny and entertaining (and easy on the eyes!).IMG_5897

When the isolation first started, I binge watched some shows and movies on Netflix and Amazon Prime. I’m not one to sit around watching TV all day, but I needed to kill some time. Just like half the country, I reluctantly watched every episode of Tiger King on Netflix. When people say “truth is stranger than fiction,” they mean it. I am a “live and let live” kind of person, but wow…Joe Exotic is another level of strange to me. And Carole Baskin? Maybe she did and maybe she didn’t feed her first husband to the tigers.

Upon recommendations from friends, I started watching Ozark on Netflix. It’s good, but it stressed me out. I’ll return to it, I’m sure, simply because I love Jason Bateman. I’ve loved him since Silver Spoons. Cue the theme song: Here we are, face to face, a couple of Silver Spoons. Hopin’ to find we’re two of a kind… Yeah, I’ll return to Ozark, for sure. I’ve also rewatched some old favorite movies…Clueless, Troop Beverly Hills, Sliding Doors…nothing too deep. There are a few more series I’ve never seen that I’d still like to watch; Downton Abbey is at the top of the list.

But I’ve done way more than just stare at screens. My garden is in place way earlier than ever before! I got my seeds started back in April (or maybe late March!), and for a while, I had way too many seedlings in my dining room. I had started them in the little poolhouse we have out back, but when my husband kept stepping on them, I moved them to the dining room. Then, he  wished he had been more careful in the poolhouse, because I had planted some of them in Cow Pots. If you’re not familiar with Cow Pots, they are seeding pots made of dehydrated cow manure. (They’re great…you can order them here.) I had seen Mike Rowe visit the manufacturing facility on Dirty Jobs (there it is again!). They are actually good for plants, and when your seedlings are ready, you just drop the whole thing in the ground. Surprisingly, dehydrated cow manure has no smell! What Mike Rowe didn’t tell me on the show is that, after it’s rehydrated by watering the plants, cow manure in the form of Cow Pots…well, it smells a little. It’s not overwhelming, but let’s just say my husband was happy to see me get those out of the dining room and into the garden. I should probably mention it’s the largest garden I’ve ever had…various types of sunflowers, lots of zinnias, sweet corn, lots of tomato plants, brussel sprouts, various types of cucumbers, and even watermelons! So far, everything’s looking great, but we have a late frost coming up this week. Fingers crossed.

I even watched what I think was a mole burrowing through the soil in my backyard. At least I hope it was a mole. I was walking past the garden one day and noticed cracks in the soil, and it looked like the ground was “breathing.” At first, I thought it might have been some sort of alien that was going burst of the ground, but then I decided it had to be a mole burrowing blindly through the soil. I’ve spent even more time banging a trowel against the fence to scare away a woodpecker from my neighbor’s house, and I’ve been frightened by owls who flew way too closely past me on the patio at night. All this wildlife!

But that’s not all. Here’s where my insanity really starts to show. I’ve been walking every day. I can’t just be in this house. I’m not one to stay home all the time, so I’ve had to adjust. But here’s the thing…I’m walking miles a day…on my patio. No, the patio is not particularly large. OK, well, it’s not a small patio. But yes, I’m walking miles every day around the pool. When I need a break or if I get a phone call, I just walk outside and walk in circles around the pool…anywhere from four to six miles a day. I had been walking through the neighborhood with my husband, but there were a lot of people out! And social distancing is difficult. Also, there’s one couple that will not cross the street for anyone. I got tired of always crossing instead of them. Doesn’t it seem we should take turns crossing? Yep…my crazy is showing.

I’m also working on a project for our daughter’s school, even though school is not in session. Our school has a fabulous sports awards show every year, and this year, I’m working on it. It’s going to be virtual, so it’s tricky, but things are coming together. But when I need to take a break from that, I either do my walking around the patio, or I go to Instagram and find Twitch…you know, from Ellen…he’s the DJ. We’ll, he’s a dancer, and he’s married to a dancer, Allison Holker, and they have teamed up with the American Heart Association. They’re doing workouts on Instagram to keep people moving, and they’re fun! You can do any variation of them…low impact or high impact…and it is quite the mood booster! I highly recommend! Find Twitch on Instagram at Sir_Twitch_alot.

At night, my husband and I often sit outside on the patio, having a cocktail and looking at the stars. I’ve mentioned the Sky Guide app before. It helps locate and identify planets, constellations, and satellites passing by! We also enjoy the color-changing light balls we ordered to float in the pool and hang from the eave of the poolhouse. They really make it feel happier out there!IMG_5894

We have celebrated friends’ birthdays with drive by parades…nobody loves making a birthday sign more than I do! And for me, it’s totally relaxing! A couple of times, I’ve sat down with my teenage daughter to make lots of signs to display in friends’ yards…relaxes me and surprises them!IMG_5898

And when I have a little quiet time, I drop a letter or postcard in the mail to a friend or family member far away. It boosts my mood, and I can only hope it brings them a little sunshine when they receive it.

For now, I’m on my way out to the patio for a few trips around the pool. Stay sane!

 

 

Sliding Doors

Sliding Doors.

It’s a strange time in our lives…in history, even…right now. So many of us are stuck at home, and we’re having to do life differently. Sure, it’s not easy being stuck at home all the time, but there are some good things about it. One big one is that I’m getting to spend more time with my teenage daughter, who will be off to college in two short years. Secretly, I think she is enjoying the togetherness a little bit too.

We have been cooking together, walking together, and talking a lot. We have watched some of her favorite shows on Netflix. I hardly ever ask her to watch any of my favorites, because she tends to lose interest pretty quickly. A few years ago, I forced her to go see Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner on the big screen with me, and she fell asleep halfway through the movie. I had hoped she would watch it and enjoy it while learning a little bit about the civil rights struggle of the 1960s. I loved that movie when I was a teenager in the 1980s. My mother and I would watch it together every time it came on TV. If you’re not familiar with it, the movie was made in 1967 and stars Sidney Poitier, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, and Isabel Sanford. It’s a lovely movie about a couple living in California and the weekend their grown daughter brings home her new fiancé, played by Poitier. The family is white, and the new fiancé is black…and he is perfect. It leaves me crying every time. You can rent it on Amazon Prime.

So last night, when my daughter asked me if I wanted to watch a movie with her, I played it safe. I asked her what movie she had in mind, and she said, “I don’t know. Is there something you’d like to watch?” What?!?! She was trusting me to pick a movie for us to watch together?!? I responded, “I really think you would like Sliding Doors. It stars Gwyneth Paltrow.” Apparently, Paltrow is too old for the teen set, because she asked, “Who is that?” I laughed and explained who Paltrow is and then explained the premise of the movie, “It’s about a woman who gets fired from her public relations job and is on her way home to her live-in boyfriend. It takes two paths…in one scenario, she catches the subway and gets home to find her live-in boyfriend in bed with someone else. In the other scenario, she misses the subway, because a little girl steps in front of her on the stairs, and she doesn’t catch her boyfriend cheating.”

I explained that the movie follows both paths and shows how one small moment in time can change the path of our lives.

To my surprise, she thought it sounded great! We sat down on the living room sofa together, and I rented the movie through my Amazon Prime account, and we watched it on the TV. She has watched so many movies on her laptop lately; I think she enjoyed watching on the television for a change. Lots of times, I will go upstairs to her room and watch some of her favorite shows with her, but we rarely watch movies. But last night, we snuggled up under blankets and watched the movie. She put her head on my shoulder, and we talked about the movie as it played. It was a great night, and I plan to let her pick a movie tonight or tomorrow night for us to watch together.

Who knows? Maybe this will become a habit, and we will share some of our favorite movies with each other. My hope is also that we will carry it on through after life becomes “normal” again, and if it doesn’t, that’s OK too, because we will have some memories. I hope this slower pace will teach us some valuable lessons that will carry on. Maybe we are learning that we don’t need to be rushing to the next thing all the time. Maybe we are learning to stop and smell the roses…both literally and figuratively. Maybe we are learning what’s important in life.

I know that once “normal” life resumes, we will fall back into some of our rushing around, but maybe we will pick up some new, good habits. And maybe my daughter will trust my taste in movies after seeing Sliding Doors! Next time, though, I will be prepared with her favorite cake batter popcorn to snack on while we watch. If you haven’t seen the movie, and you’re looking for a good one, this is one I loved when I was in my early 30s, and I still love it now! It will make you think. Rent it on Amazon Prime.

And if you’d like to make cake batter popcorn, you can see the recipe here.

Posts of 2019 (Joe Namath is a Winner)

Now that 2019 is over, I’ve taken a few minutes to go back and look at some old pieces I wrote during 2019. I can see how many people viewed each one, and the numbers are interesting.

All the “favorite gifts” pieces were read by lots of people…just as they were in 2018. I wasn’t surprised by that at all. Even the most-read piece didn’t surprise me. It was a piece I wrote about teens and much-needed life skills. I wrote it back in the summer, and it got lots of clicks immediately. What I loved most about it was the feedback! So many people had more suggestions to add after they read it! And I’d like to add one more thing to the list: make sure your teen driver knows not to put diesel fuel in his/her car unless it actually has a diesel engine. Trust me…they need to know this information.

But what surprised me most was the second most-read piece of 2019. For one, it wasn’t even written in 2019. It was written in May of 2018, but it gets lots of new readers every week! I use WordPress to write my blog, and through my account, I can see how many people read posts, how many like them, comments, and feedback; and I can see when someone has used a search engine to get to the page instead of clicking through Facebook or Instagram. Don’t worry…I can’t tell who does it…I can simply see that someone does. And frequently, I’ve noticed one Google search that leads people to my website more than any other search. If you guessed “Joe Namath,” you are correct.

Back in May of 2018, I wrote a piece about how my friend, Mary Ann, and I did a little detour during one of our road trips, so we could visit Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, the town where Joe Namath grew up. And because of that, some Google searches will take readers to that piece on my page. You can see the piece here. That little piece from 2018 had the second highest number of readers in 2019. Apparently, I’m not the only person in America who loves Joe Namath. Much like Bobby Brady on The Brady Bunch, I would love to know Joe personally…like in the photo above. I wrote another piece titled Happy Birthday, Joe Willie about his book, All the Way: My Life in Four Quarters, in May of this year, and it didn’t get even a fraction of the “hits” as the old piece. The search terms tend to be “Joe Namath, home” or “Joe Namath, Pennsylvania,” so I guess folks don’t care too much about his birthday. They just want to know about his childhood. I hope his book had a lot more readers than the piece I wrote about his book!

Other pieces that were at the top of the “clicks” list were about misery. One about all the trials and tribulations my 19-year marriage has survived. Another one, called Poking the Bear, was about grief, something we will all experience, if we live long enough. And falling right in with those was a piece about summer reading for our school-aged children, titled I Bought the Summer Reading Book Today. That one is just one big gripe-fest about how I hate that my teenager has required summer reading for school. You can see it here. Apparently, it’s true that “misery loves company,” because lots of folks read those pieces, and a lot of them read them more than once. I don’t think we like knowing other folks are miserable…we just like knowing we’re not alone in misery. I truly believe we like to know other people have experienced some of the things we experience, and we like to know they got through it.

At the other end of the spectrum, there were pieces that hardly anyone read. They were mostly happy pieces, reflecting on something I enjoyed. But I refuse to believe people don’t like reading about happiness. I think it’s just that trials and tribulations bring us together. When the weather is great in your neighborhood, the neighbors are friendly enough, but when a big storm comes through, everyone works together to help each other. I guess it’s the same with writing. When things are going well, it’s not noticed, but write about a life altering event that lots of people can relate to, and you get their attention.

Recently I watched a movie I had never seen, and I watched it because a friend recommended it. Or maybe I should say she insisted I had to see it. So I sat down and watched Love, Actually. Since I cried during the opening, I knew I would like it. The basic premise is that love isn’t dead. The world isn’t just full of hatred…it’s full of love too, but you have to look around to see it. The narrator (Hugh Grant, I believe) said he enjoys going to the airport arrivals area, where he sees lots of love as people greet their loved ones. And yes, being the sap that I am, I loved the movie.

It reminded me that there’s a lot of love out there, and it reminded me that while disaster and misery bring people together, people really do like to hear about positive things too.

I’ve said before that I don’t write this blog to see how popular it will become. I write it for me. I write it, because it calms me. And frankly, I like saving my memories right here. When I’m long gone, hopefully, my daughter will sit down and read all of them…maybe printing them off…before the subscription for the website expires and everything is lost! Maybe I should print them off myself and bind them. It might be that she doesn’t even care, but lots of times, I wish I could ask my parents about things that happened to them. Just today, in fact, I texted my aunt (my daddy’s sister) to find out the story behind a Facebook post.

So in 2020, if I’m feeling like I need to share some misery, I will do just that. And if I want to share happy story, I’ll do that too. And if I ever get to meet Joe Namath, well…you’ll know it. I’ve met lots of celebrities…had lots of “brushes with fame.” But Joe Namath is one I haven’t met…yet. If you know anything about me, you should know I fully believe in the “power of yet.” That means I truly believe I haven’t met him YET.