Friday, November 15, 2013

First Trailer for "Noah"

You know, I'm always skeptical when I hear that Hollywood is going to adapt a Bible story for the big screen.  I'm not sure why because Hollywood brought us The Ten Commandments, Jesus of Nazareth and (this one might not be on some "positive" lists) Jesus Christ Superstar.  I think I'm afraid that they are going to sensationalize it beyond reverence.  Or add elements for marketability.

Case in point - the horrible, HORRIBLE "Noah's Ark" TV movie.  I remember vividly finally turning it off and not going back when Lot rode up.  Lot - of Sodom and Gomorrah.  In ABRAHAM'S time years and years after the flood.  Yes, Lot rode up on his horse while Noah was building the ark.  Click.  (Reading the synopsis, I learned that Lot and a band of PIRATES also survive in a boat and attack the ark later on.  I'm SO glad I didn't keep watching.)

So I am a bit gun shy about Hollywood and the Bible.

However . . .

I just saw the trailer to Darren Aronofsky's upcoming film Noah - release date March 28, 2014.  I have to admit, it got my blood pumping.  I've studied the story of the flood in length in a Bible study in the past, and it's a scary one!  A disaster of (excuse me) Biblical proportions.  In the Bible it says, ". . . on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened.  And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights."  Genesis 7:11-12  The springs of the great deep burst forth.  Watch the trailer.   

Oh, and another thing . . . snakes.  Why'd they have to show the snakes.  I know there were snakes on the ark.  I get it.  Can we just agree to TALK about the snakes and not show them making their way to the entrance?   *shiver*

So, now I'm excited about the movie!  Keep coming back here for more information, giveaways and sneak peeks. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Conjuring (and Why We Like the Dark)

Disclaimer - in the first part of this post, I make broad statements.  I know that not all of my readers are horror fans and I know that not all of my readers are Christian.  And many who are one, the other, both or neither may just not like scary stuff.  I'm making very large generalizations and I know that.  I'm also not trying to convince my friends/readers to partake of subjects that they truly are not interested in.  Read on . . . 

A few weeks ago I was part of a conversation between Christian writers where we talked about some of our favorite authors and books.  As we got to know each other, we relaxed a bit and admitted that we liked to read darker material - Stephen King and Ted Dekker in particular.  Even if we (I mean, THEY) didn't stick with reading "scary stories", they all at least tried a few here and there.  (I say THEY because I always stick with scary stories - unless they aren't well written.)

Go back and really read that first paragraph - we only admitted that we liked darker stuff after we got to know each other and relaxed.  It seems that in Christian circles, we can't freely talk about how we are drawn* to the dark side of literature/film/television.  I have Christian friends who apologize for watching The Walking Dead just before we have wonderful conversations about the latest episode.  Same with watching Breaking Bad.  Why do we automatically think that if we're Christian we have to instantly turn our back on things of a darker nature?  Yes, Philippians 4:8 says, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."  But isn't good triumphing over evil good and true?  Isn't watching bad choices reap bad consequences right?  

Here's the next question - WHY are we drawn to them?  We know that they are dark.  We know that they are scary.  We know, and least in the "we = Christians", that they are not of God.  So why do we entertain them?

First, there's the old stand-by - we live in a fallen world.  It's our nature as fleshly human beings to wander away from God.  God gives us a choice whether or not to follow Him.  And we look at those other choices - even when have chosen to follow Him.  For me, though, it's not a "grass is always greener thing".  It's kind of a "wow, I'm glad I have the hope of Christ" thing.  I read books and see movies where characters make choices that I once would have (and sometimes did), but now that I know Christ and have His Word, I wouldn't make those choices.  For me, it's a "Whew!  Look what could have happened to me!"  (Yes, even in the fantasy/supernatural theme - "Whew!  I'm so glad that a scary man in my dreams can't REALLY kill me!  Uh, I'll just have one more cup of coffee.") 

Second, you have to admit that scares give you a thrill like a roller coaster!  No, you won't die, you're going to be perfectly safe.  You'll just FEEL like you're in danger.  A lot of the time that is true - you aren't in danger.  How many of us will be stalked by a serial killer or captured by a vampire or torn apart by a werewolf?  We read/watch things that maybe have a hint of truth or possibility (could I sell drugs to provide for my family?), but we know that it's all fantasy.  We know we'll walk out of the theater/close the book/turn off the TV alive and in one piece.  But the thrill is there.  It gets our blood pumping.** 

There's a third reason we like to enter into the scary realm.  We want to shine the light on the darkness and make sure that it really will go away.  Darkness cannot exist in the light - it can exist around a beam of light, but it cannot exist within that light.  We want to see the figurative of that statement. We want the light to win.  And we want to SEE that.  As Christians, we have the Bible that tells us that God wins in the end.  On a day to day basis, we may not see that as much as we want to.   We want to make sure that everything is going to be okay.  (And if it's not, we just leave the theater/close the book/turn off the TV and thank God that wasn't us!)  So we willingly enter the world and go along for the ride.  When we read a book or see a movie or watch a TV show, most of the time the good guys win - a few may not make it (#cough#thewalkingdead#cough#), but they die fighting for a purpose and their purpose prevails.***  It's satisfying.  We can sleep at night.  (Or maybe the next night.)

So now, we come to the latest scary movie out in theaters today:  The Conjuring.

I was sent to see The Conjuring by Grace Hill Media.  They are a PR and marketing firm established to reach "religious America".  They have sent me to several screenings of movies that are "family friendly" or movies that had a strong theme of God and morality.  So I was very surprised to see an e-mail from them offering a screening of The Conjuring.  Thrilled, yes!  But also surprised.

The Conjuring is a film about real-life couple Ed and Lorraine Warren.  They were/are (Ed passed away in 2006) paranormal investigators and demonologists.  This film chronicles their involvement with the Perron family - mom Carolyn, dad Roger and five daughters - and the spirits that inhabited the farmhouse they moved into in 1971.  It's a formulaic plot.  The Perrons are excited to move in, but the dog won't cross the threshold (don't get attached to the dog).  They start to feel things/smell things/see things.  It escalates.  They bring in help.  There's a final battle.  Yawn, right?  Wrong!!!

Director James Wan (Saw, Insidious) has impeccable timing.  He gives you the first BOO scare within five minutes and then he never lets you totally relax.  You let your guard down, yes, but you don't ever relax.  Just when you think that you know when/where the next scare is coming, he fools you.  I cannot tell you the last time I was in a movie theater and the entire room screamed like they did during The Conjuring.  We (the audience) would scream and then laugh - not because the scare was followed by a stupid joke or because we were embarrassed that we screamed, but just because we were having so much fun!  At one point the friend that I took with me nudged me and said, "How did my knees get up here?"  She had curled herself up on her seat.  Three minutes later, my knees were up, too.

In my opinion, the women characters dominate the story.  Patrick Wilson and Ron Livingston do a great job as Ed and Roger, respectively, but when I think back on the movie, it's the women who stand out as characters and actors.  I loved Vera Farmiga as Lorraine.  Lorraine is weak from a previous supernatural encounter that drained her, and Farmiga does a wonderful job of showing the strength that is wrapped in the fatigue.  She also has a calming presence even when she is not on screen.  It's almost as if you know that there is victory because Lorraine is involved.  I'm so glad to see Lili Taylor again.  She always brings a believability to her roles - from Say Anything to Dogfight to Ransom.  She doesn't disappoint here.  She is a mom who is scared, and who is desperate, but who is committed to her family and her home.  She will protect her girls from anything and the pain on her face when she realizes who she has to protect them from is heartbreaking.

The movie is rated R (another reason I raised my eyebrows when Grace Hill contacted me), but the rating is for intense horror, not sexual situations, nudity or language.  I appreciated that.  And it certainly deserves the R.  It was scary.  Walter Hamada, one of the producers, is quoted at saying,
“When we sent it [to MPAA], they gave us the R-rating. When we asked them why, they basically said, ‘It’s just so scary. [There are] no specific scenes or tone you could take out to get it PG-13.’”

It is one of the most terrifying movies I've seen in a long time - maybe even second to The Exorcist.  Creepy-scary, boo-scary and soul-scary.  A trifecta!  

And as a side note, I really appreciated the limited use of CG effects.  Real stuff is always scarier.

***Spoiler at the bottom***

*Yes, I said we are "drawn" to darker themes.  Why do you think we actively shun them?  Because we're interested.  I don't have to actively shun chicken livers.  I'm not interested.  I don't partake.  I don't even think about partaking.  However, I am VERY interested in chocolate.  I have to turn my head when a gluten-heavy chocolate cake is presented in my presence.  I have to actively think about how I would be miserable should I partake.  I think it's the same with darker subjects - some of us are drawn to them.
**I've worked at haunted houses - The Haunted Hotel in Beaumont and then The Nightmare Factory in Austin - and they do a ton of business.  People like to be scared.  Even though we had signs everywhere that the actors couldn't touch the guests, people ran screaming from each scene like they were being chased.  They willingly bought into the fantasy.  I've thought about this a lot and I think it's almost the same reason that people go to a comedy club - they WANT someone to entice strong emotions and reactions out of them.  People WANT to scream just as much as they WANT to laugh.  And they'll dare you to make them do either.  (But that is another post entirely - my tenure in horror as well as my tenure in comedy and how they are alike.)

***There is a trend of having the bad guys win, or making the bad guys the good guys for the purpose of the film, but that - again - is another post.  I'm not going to split hairs here.)  


The spoiler is that God wins.  Okay, it might not be a spoiler.  Most of the time in these types of movies, the evil force is defeated or at least squelched for a while.  Sometimes there's the promise that it will come back.  However, in this film, God wins.  Period.  The evil spirit is sent away through Ed speaking scripture over it and the love of Carolyn and Lorraine for the daughters.  The family leaves intact and the case is closed.  Yes, there is talk of a sequel.  But it is not going to be Bathsheba (the evil spirit) coming back and getting revenge.  It will be another case from the files of the Warrens.  (I think that they are already thinking of changing the name of the movie to The Warren Files: The Conjuring so that they can start a Warren Files franchise.)  God wins and Bathsheba is no more.   

Of course, I would have gone to see the movie even if Grace Hill hadn't sent me, but when I read the press release it just made me that much more excited to see a fresh take in a horror movie.  A quote from the press release:   

THE CONJURING was intended by screenwriters Chad and Carey Hayes as a movie where “God wins.” “That was a non-negotiable for us,” Carey said. “We’re never going to glorify evil.” Added Chad: “We want people to feel great after seeing it. To be scared and entertained, of course, but to walk out of the theater with a good feeling because good, God, is victorious.” 

Indeed, Lorraine says to Ed quite a few times, "God put us together for a reason.  This is it."  It's nice to have Christians portrayed in a good light as good people who stand in the Truth and that Truth is victorious. 

So, in calling on the first part of this post, as a Christian I feel very confident in recommending this movie to friends - even Christian friends - WITHOUT and apology.  I even gave away my second set of free passes in the lobby of our church on Sunday morning.  ;-)

Movie Mama Millie says - YES!

I would love to hear what your take on why we love horror as well as your thoughts on the movie - if you go see it.  Just be warned - it's scary!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Giveaway - Tickets to The Conjuring

Good afternoon friends and fellow horror movie fans.  Last night I was able to attend a sneak peek of the movie The Conjuring.  It's a horror movie "based on real events".  ("Based on."  I can probably tell you which ones were real and which weren't.)  It was a lot of fun and one of the scariest movies I've seen in a long time - maybe the second scariest next to The Exorcist, although I'll have to think about that for a while. 

All in all, I really do recommend it. 

And you have a chance to see it for free.

The first two people who comment on the blog and tell me what the scariest movie they've ever seen will get two passes each to get in to see The Conjuring during its run (July 19-August 15).  No questions, no drawings, just the first two who comment about their scariest film.

Then come back and tell me how you liked The Conjuring.

I'll have my review up next week - closer to the opening night.

Good luck!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Man of Steel - This Is Not Your Mama's Superman

Whenever there is a reboot, there are the inevitable comparisons to the previous incarnation - Dark Knight vs. Batman, Quinto vs. Nimoy, and how many Incredible Hulks have there been?  So it's understandable that people of a certain age *cough* forties *cough* will bring their kids to see Man of Steel with a little bit of apprehension that Zack Snyder's take on our beloved Superman will not live up to the Richard Donner vision that captured our hearts as kids.

I saw Superman: The Movie when I was ten years old.  I was not (at that time) a huge comic book fan, but my brother and I had watched reruns of George Reeves' TV Superman.  We loved it - even though it was sorely dated.  The heart was there.  Superman was GOOD.  He just was.  He defended truth, justice and the American way.  My heart swells with pride just thinking about it!  And Richard Donner's 1978 version brought all of that idealism into the modern era.  Well, modern at the time.  Donner and his cast captured the flavor, the tone, the essence of what Superman was and what he needed to be in 1978.     

Zack Snyder's Superman has brought the franchise into the 21st Century with just as much style and finesse as Donner did in the 70s.


Top to bottom, Man of Steel hits.  I loved the time spent on Krypton before it falls.  The backstory of fertility/reproduction, the politics, the strange flying creatures - all fantastic additions to the mythology.  I loved the way they told the story of Clark growing up through a tapestry of flashbacks (why had I never considered how difficult it would have been for him as a child to learn to handle things like x-ray vision and super hearing?) and present-day encounters (loved the way he handled the nasty truck driver) very nicely bringing us to his first interaction with Lois Lane.

The story is just complicated enough to keep you on your toes.  Things about which I had questions early on (why were Jor-El and Lara on their own when Kal was born?) were answered when they needed to be (because it was the first natural birth on Krypton in centuries).  There were ah-ha moments that were satisfactory and fun and maybe even a little poignant.  I enjoyed the twists and revelations (the majority of which I won't reveal here.)  

What struck me was the theme of sacrifice and salvation that ran through the film.  I don't know if Snyder or if David S. Goyer (screenwriter) are Christian, but they sure drew a lot of parallels between Clark/Kal and Christ.  There is a "heavenly father" (Jor-El) who sends him to Earth and guides him while there.  There is an earthly family (Jonathan and Martha - hmmm . . . Joseph and Mary) who raise him and who know he is different.  There is a "son" who must offer himself up as a sacrifice to save humanity.  Jesus was 33 when he offered himself up for sacrifice.  Clark/Kal says a couple of times that he's 33.  It's all there.  And it's pretty cool.  I might be reading too much in, but when Clark/Kal goes to the church to ask the priest if he should surrender to Zod, and there's a stained glass window of Jesus right behind him, I think someone's hinting at something.

The themes of family and loyalty run all through the film as well.  Is Clark/Kal going to be loyal to his adopted planet?  Or is Clark/Kal going to embrace his Kryptonian origin and help repopulate his people?  There are compelling reasons for both scenarios.  Yes, of course we know what he's going to choose.  He's Superman!  He's going to fight for truth, justice and the American way!  Zod be damned! 

Amy Adams is a perfect Lois Lane for 2013.  She's smart and capable and doesn't have that glass ceiling to deal with that Noel Neill's or Margot Kidder's Lois did.  She doesn't need to prove herself in the boys' club.  She's a reporter and she (and Perry White) know that she's a good one.

Speaking of Perry White - brilliant to cast Laurence Fishburne.  And extra points for letting him keep in his earring.  Love me some Laurence.

I also love me some Diane Lane.  She's wonderful in everything.  She's gorgeous, poised, tough and sweet.  I'd buy a ticket to watch her walk across the street.   

Now let's get to Henry Cavill.  Yep.  Yep, yep.  I approve.  He's got the classic Superman look - square jaw, dark hair, blue eyes, even the dimple in the chin.  But that's only the tip of the iceberg for Clark/Kal.  Cavill does a great job of showing us his alienation and his search for answers without becoming mopey or maudlin.  His internal struggle is apparent, but we can see him working toward something - being active in his pursuit of self.  It's not lost on me that the first time we really see him smile is when he flies for the first time.  He has found himself!  Also, true to the Superman of old, he is GOOD.  He is always GOOD.  His goodness is what makes his final choice in his fight with Zod - the choice to kill - so painful.  Cavill reaction to Zod's death was heartbreaking. Cavill captured the inner conflict and the pain associated with his actions incredibly well.

I did have a few of problems with the film, but they were pretty minor.

At times, the dialogue could get kinda corny.  I noticed it mostly when Jonathan (Kevin Costner) was talking with Clark.  Jonathan seemed to be pretty full o'cheese.  But you know, I'm willing to overlook that.  I think that this incarnation of the Superman myth is not 100% comfortable yet so I'm willing to give it a little slack.  The corniness did not impede my enjoyment, but it did bring me out of the story briefly.

The other problem that I had concerned the final battle between Clark/Kal and Zod.  I don't really have a problem with the fact that Zod chose Metropolis as the destination of his huge Ship of Destruction (my name, not the real name).  The gravity pulses were really cool and done very well.  What made me extremely uncomfortable was all of the destruction of Metropolis' skyscrapers by not only the Ship of Destruction, but by Superman and Zod's fistfight.  Granted, the effects were WAY COOL!  And it was really fun to watch them chase each other through the skyline, but . . . watching planes fly into buildings?  Watching skyscrapers collapse after Zod and Superman destroy the load bearing beams?  I had flashbacks to news reports of 9/11.  I was especially uncomfortable (actually, I was tense almost to the point of pain) when one of Perry and Lois' colleagues, Jenny, was trapped under concrete and steel beams.  She is reaching out to Perry White through rebar - both of them covered in a fine layer of dust - and she's crying for him not to leave her.  I could not help but think of the hundreds of people trapped like that on 9/11.  I know, I know it sounds a little off and maybe melodramatic, but I had a hard time watching that part.  I think that people out there who suffer from PTSD brought on by the events of 9/11 should know that this film might be a trigger for them.  I'm not sure if there should be a warning posted or what.  I just know that I was nowhere near NYC when the Towers came down, and I had a hard time with that section of the film.

In relation to the final battle - one more pet peeve.  To be 100% true to the character of Superman - a hero who will do anything (even take a life) to protect innocent people from harm - I think that placing the final fist fight battle between Zod and Clark/Kal in Metropolis and leaving it in Metropolis was a mistake.  I believe that after the first bought of destruction of property and the subsequent loss of life and injuries (not shown, but c'mon - dozens of buildings fall, do they believe that the audience thinks that all the people got out of them?), Clark/Kal would have led Zod out of the city and away from people.  I think he would have either flown with Zod chasing him or grabbed Zod and flown with him to a more sparsely populated area.  Yes, I know that would have robbed us of the wonderfully cool fight sequence through and around buildings (complete with Zod lobbing a "Lexcorp" truck at Superman - hmmm), but it would have been more true to Superman's character.  And it wouldn't have left me trying to tally the damage to the city monetarily.  Holy cow!  What's it going to take to rebuild Metropolis?!?!?!  And how are the people of Earth NOT going to at least try to place some (most?) of the blame on Superman?  I think that in this case - in this sequence - the ability to do way-cool effects won over being true to the characters and the story.  Yes, it worked to an extent - it was an awesome sequence - but still . . .

Overall, I highly recommend this movie.  It's fun.  It's relevant.  It's Superman for 2013.  Welcome to the 21st Century, Supes.  We love you. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Man of Steel Tonight

Ah yes, another perk of being a blogger - movie preview passes!  Tonight Hubby and I are going to see Man of Steel.  I'm very excited for several reasons.

DATE NIGHT!  We don't get out much.

FREE DATE NIGHT!  We don't get out much.

SUPERMAN!  I don't get out much.

Seriously, though, SUPERMAN!!!!  I watched reruns of George Reeves' TV Superman.  I saw Christopher Reeve's movie Superman in the theaters several times and then any time it came on cable.  My kids know Christopher Reeve's world and characters.  They are timeless and classic.  Who could NOT love Gene Hackman?  Ned Beatty?  Margot Kidder's Lois Lane was SO awesome!

I skipped the last reboot.  I liked the idea of Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor.  I liked it a lot, but when the reviews came out so lackluster, it wasn't worth it to me to gamble the ticket money.  For some time now, ticket money and date time has been hard to come by so when we do make the time and commit the money, it's GOT to be worth it.  Or at least the promise has to be worth it.

But tonight I can relax because it's FREE!  The "fee" is writing a review on my blog by Thursday.  No problem!  Loving it!  And I'm cautiously optimistic about the film.

I like Zach Snyder.  I liked Watchmen.  I thought he did a beautiful job with that film.  I read Watchmen when it came out - devouring each story the DAY it came out and cursing the 30 days in between issues.  Snyder did what he could with a brilliantly drawn and potentially confusing story.  As a fan, I liked it very much.  I don't see how anyone who didn't know the series could have followed it.  That's where it died, in my opinion.  (Of course, I haven't seen it since I saw it in the theater.  I may have changed my opinion had I seen it more than once, or since then.)  But I like Snyder's visual style and I like that he seems to really care about the story and the characters in the story.

I have very little idea what this story is going to be.  It seems to be a bit of the origin story and then a bit of General Zod's story.  I am purposefully staying away from any spoilers so that I can go into the film as clean as possible.

In anticipation of tonight, here's the latest trailer from Nokia for Man of Steel.  Come back tomorrow (late) for the review!

Man of Steel Nokia Trailer

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Great Moments in Parenting

I was published again!  An Austin-based blog called Great Moments in Parenting published my account of "Super Moon" today!  Thank you SO much GMIP!!!  Your blog rocks! 

Great Moments in Parenting is a website where moms and dads share the agony and the ecstasy of life with kids.  Parents contribute photos, essays and short little snippets of life so that we all know that WE'RE NOT ALONE!!!!  

If you are a parent, bookmark this site so that you can be reminded that you're not the only one saying things like, "Please don't lick the grocery cart again" or "Will you be sleeping in the cereal box tonight?"

If you have chosen not to become a parent, bookmark this site so that you can be reminded why you decided not to have kids.  Mainly so that you don't have to say things like, "Please don't lick the grocery cart again" or "Will you be sleeping in the cereal box tonight?"  (Of course, maybe you have had to say those phrases.  I don't know what goes on with you non-parents after we parents crash at 9:45.  You may be licking grocery carts and sleeping in cereal boxes.  That could be perfectly acceptable behavior in your non-kid world.  In which case, I should probably know that so that I could change my parenting style a little to help prepare my kids for the new world of grocery cart licking and cereal box sleeping.  If I want my kid to live in such a world.  No.  We have to have standards.)

(Please excuse the rambling mess this post became.  Princess had her 13th birthday party sleepover last night and I'm only on my first cup of coffee.)

Friday, March 29, 2013

Four O'Clock Ay Em

I think that Four O'Clock Ay Em likes me.  Not just "likes me",  but LIKES me, likes me.  Why else would it continuously wake me up just to say hi? 

It tries so hard to impress me.  It only appears once every twenty-four hours so it MUST make a good showing for the sixty seconds that it's in my presence.  One night it brought rain.  One night, it brought an owl calling for friends in the moonlight.  Sometimes it just brings stillness and quiet. 

Lately, though, its tone has changed.  Maybe Four O'Clock Ay Em heard me talking behind its back, saying that I was tired of our meetings.  I think I hurt its feelings. 

The past two nights it has woken me with a cat barfing. 

Well played, Four O'Clock Ay Em.  Well played. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Adventures in Substitute Teaching

I have been a substitute teacher both in the public school system and at my daughter's private school.  I have substituted for pre-k all the way up to high school.  One time I had a 7th grader burn up the pencil sharpener during a test (and smirk all the way back to his desk).  One time I had a smart alec 10th grader ask snidely, "So what's YOUR favorite Jackie Chan movie" hoping that I wouldn't know who he was talking about (this was actually back in the mid-90s before Jackie Chan was more mainstream).  I was able to answer (Twin Dragons) and even educate them on a few JC movies that they hadn't seen.  I've put an entire class of kindergarteners in "time out" (and was told that when their teacher put them all in time out, she did it differently) and I've built compasses from sticks in a sandbox.  You never know what you're going to do or get when you sub.

This morning I got a dead mole on my desk.

It was pretty awesome.

Monday I subbed a my daughter's private school.  A 6th grade English teacher was out with a horrible cold so I got to teach reading and writing.  The first class of the day is an all boys class.  Be afraid.  Be very afraid.  I have a son so that's strike one to fear.  We've been at this school for eight years, that's strike two because I know most of the boys' parents.  Strike three is that at this point, I'm still bigger than they are.  Well, for the most part.  And I've been teaching this age for three years.  My blisters are becoming callouses. 

During the writing portion of the class, we studied appositive adjectives.  (Appositive adjectives are usually found in pairs and follow the noun that they modify.  Example:  The bread, crusty and warm, tasted sweet in his mouth.  Crusty and warm are the appositive adjectives.  There, you learned something today.)  I looked at the examples in the book, but when you have a room full of 10 year old boys, you need to make sure that they are engaged and that they can be interactive.  So I decided that we would build our own sentence.

"Give me an animal.  A non-human mammal."


"Okay.  Now let's describe that molerat."

Naked and pink.

"Great.  Now tell me an action that this molerat does."


Our sentence:  The molerat, naked and pink, snuggled.

They loved it.  We had other things that the molerat did, other adjectives to describe the molerat, but that was our first sentence.  They really are a fun group.

Last night I got the call that the teacher was still sick, (she's on antibiotics and getting better, but she wanted another day to rest and not have to talk) can I please sub again?  No problem.

I walked into the room and there, on the desk, was a sandwich bag with a note stuck on it.  The note said, "Happy birthday" and the bag contained a small, dead mole.

I know this school.  I know the kind of kids that are enrolled in this school.  I know most of their parents.  Had this been any other school, I would have been very suspect as to the motive and/or execution of this action.  However, as I said, I know these kids.  I looked up and all of them were smiling and excited to see my reaction.  Of course I loved it!

The boy who brought it said that he cat had killed it the night before.  Since we were talking about moles (or molerats), he wanted to bring it to share.  We spent some time looking up what kind of mole it was (Eastern mole), why it has no eye and ears (doesn't need them), why its "hands" are up around its neck (to burrow), etc.  Then we wrote more sentences about it.  (The mole, hairy and squishy, died.)  It was so much fun!

Boys will be boys and the conversation turned to who they were going to give/show the mole to next.  As a protective measure (for them), I said that I would keep the mole all day, but the boy who brought it could come get it after school.  They were a little disappointed because they wanted to show him to the science teacher.  I assured them that I would hand him over some time today.

To further the awesomeness, I e-mailed the principal and told him he needed to come to my room and burst in demanding to know if the kids had brought a dead squirrel and caused me to barf.  (We were also talking about gossip in class today so I was going to make it another lesson.)  Unfortunately he didn't get the e-mail until after the class was over.  He came to the room, I told him the story and he grinned.  He loves these kids as much as I do!  I don't put it past him to find the boys' class later and demand to know what happened just to see the looks on their faces. 

No class mascot would be complete without a name.  We decided on Pedro Phillipe von Lichtenstein III (although upon further examination and absence of certain . . . evidence, I believe we might have a female mole).  After school the boys want to have a proper burial.  I might be called upon to say a few words.  I'm going to need to look up some more adjectives.    

A photo of our dear, departed Pedro Phillipe von Lichtenstein III, may he/she rest in peace.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Marshmallow Jesus

Every year about his time - approaching Easter - a couple of hands-on lessons about Jesus' death and resurrection start to make the rounds on Pinterest and Facebook.  They are both recipes where the final product (either cookies or rolls) are puffed up, yet empty - like the tomb on the third day.

Here is the one we tried when the kids were younger - about 4 and 7. (I copied the recipe just like I received it.):

Resurrection Rolls

Refrigerated crescent rolls
Melted butter
Large marshmallows

1.  Give each child a triangle of crescent rolls.  The crescent roll represents the cloth that Jesus was wrapped in.  Read Matthew 27: 57-61
2.  Give each child a marshmallow.  This represents Jesus.
3.  Have him/her dip the marshmallow in melted butter.  This represents the oils of embalming.
4.  Dip the buttered marshmallow in the cinnamon and sugar.  This represents the spices used to anoint the body.
5.  Wrap up the coated marshmallow tightly in the crescent roll (not like a typical crescent roll up, but bring the sides up and seal the marshmallow inside).  This represents the wrapping of Jesus after death.
6.  Place in a 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes.  (The oven represents the tomb - pretend that it was three days!)
7.  Let the rolls cool slightly.  The children can open their rolls (the cloth) and discover that Jesus is no longer there.  HE IS RISEN!!!  (The marshmallow melts and the crescent roll is puffed up, but empty.) 
(After the kids eat their roll, there is a lesson included with Bible verses and questions, etc.  If anyone wants the lesson - which is a bit long - I will be more than happy to pass it on to you.  It really is a good lesson.)

I had envisioned the kids listening to the explanations, being engaged with the lesson and actually getting something out of the experience.  But . . . we really never got to the lesson.  After we prepared Jesus for the tomb, I was just too exhausted.  Here are snippets of conversation:

Princess:  Mom!  Buddy took my Jesus!
Buddy:  It wasn't your Jesus, it was MY Jesus!  You can get another Jesus!

Princess:  Mom, I rolled Jesus in the butter.  Can I eat him now?

Buddy:  I can't wrap my Jesus!  It's too hard!

Princess:  Mom, can I have another Jesus?  I ate mine.

Buddy:  Mmmmm.  Jesus tastes good!

Now, in theory, the rolls are sealed tight and no marshmallow seeps out during the baking.  That's the theory.

Looking at the cookie sheet when we took it out of the oven:
Princess:  Ewww!  Jesus leaked!  It's brown!
Buddy:  I don't want to eat THAT Jesus.  He's burned.

Princess:  I've only had two Jesuses.  How many more can I have?  They're good!

Maybe we'll try it again when I have grandkids.

And for the record, those burial cloths were quite tasty.  

Thumb's Up to Thumbs

Ah, the joys of dog ownership. On Sunday Ruby was spazzing out, as is her custom for the first five minutes of a neighbor's visit, when I tried to calm her. I went to put my hands on her shoulder to keep her from jumping just as she did said movement. Her shoulder collided with my thumb and in one painful blast I had a jammed/sprained/strained/dislocated/maimed/bloodied/amputated digit. Okay, it wasn't THAT bad. Just sprained. But, dang, it hurt!

Years and years ago I saw the movie The Pope of Greenwich Village. In the film, The Bedbug (Burt Young) removes Paulie's (Eric Roberts) thumb as a warning to Charlie (a still-gorgeous Mickey Rourke). When Paulie shows up after the incident, he has a full-on scene-chewing rant where he repeats over and over, "Dey took my thumb, Chah-lee!" Of course, that is what was going through my mind while I tried desperately not to cuss in front of our two year old neighbor. The scene where Paulie tries to make The Bedbug coffee without a thumb has been going through my mind ever since.

Have you ever tried to just live with only one thumb? It's tough! There are so many things a thumb does for which it just gets no recognition.

I can't Hook 'Em with my left hand.

Were I left-handed, I wouldn't be able to space between my words when I type.

 Try to crack and open an egg with only one thumb. Go ahead. I'll wait.
 (That pointer finger is a poor substitute, huh?)

Squeeze a tube of toothpaste onto a toothbrush while you hold both. Yup.

Eat a huge, greasy burger.  You gettin' me?

Yeah, that little stubby pollex is very important yet completely under appreciated. I want to change all of that.  So . . . Today is Thumb Appreciation Day.

Every time you grasp, gesture, use the space bar, text, even pull up your pants, take a moment to give your thumb a thumb's up. And take a moment in the comments section and let me know for what thumb action (or reaction) you are thankful for. I bet we would all be surprised.

 (Please note that this is a family-friendly blog so keep your thumbs rated G here. If you must share a humorous, yet PG-13 or higher story, Tweet and use #ThumbAppreciation.)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Wildflowers in Spring

It was a ritual down at the Lake - at least once a weekend we would find time to pick a wildflower bouquet for our moms and for Bigmama.  We had no shortage of flowers from which to choose - especially in the spring.  And we made it our business to know the favorites of the recipients.  My mom was partial to buttercups because yellow was her favorite hue.  Pam loved the fiery reds of the Indian Blanket.  Bigmama's bunch always included Black-Eyed Susans, if we could find them.  No matter what was in bloom, our moms treated the small bouquets as if they were a dozen long-stemmed roses. 

Most of the time, by the time we got the flowers back to the cabin, half of them were sadly wilting as a result of being in our hot, sticky little hands.  Sometimes they would perk up once we put them in a Dixie cup of water.  However, wildflowers do live up to their mane.  They are wild, not meant to be domesticated by a Dixie cup or an empty jam jar.  They would hold on valiantly for perhaps an afternoon, proudly displayed on the mantle of the fake fireplace - trophies presented to our moms as some sort of subconscious recognition for well timed hugs and perfect grilled cheese sandwiches.  As the day progressed, the flowers would slowly wilt until someone noticed and took them back outside to set them free. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

21st Century Parenting - The iPod

Well, add yet another thing to the list of "situations my parents didn't have to deal with". 

We got Buddy an iPod Touch for Christmas.  Princess has had one for almost a year (she bought it with her own money) and we haven't really had to put many restrictions on hers.  She has a set "bedtime" for it, she can't use it during home school studies, etc.  She has a few games/apps and some music, but she mainly uses it to take pictures and to text her friends. 

Buddy is all about the games.  ALL about the games.  We loaded a few on the iPod when we gave it to him, but he asked last week for a couple more.  I helped him get online with my Apple ID and he purchased one then he downloaded a couple of free ones.  No biggie.  He's been happily playing ever since. 

And he's been listening to some music.  And playing a few more games. 

Then I got the receipts from the iTunes/App Store. 

Seems I forgot to log out.  Buddy's been downloading songs and clicking on game apps for three days.  He honestly thought that 1) he was downloading songs from his other iPod and 2) the games he was clicking on were free.  Luckily he didn't go on a huge shopping spree.  He clicked on a few things and then enjoyed them for a while.  Then went back.  The grand total of all three receipts (shopping sprees) was less than $35, but that would have taken all of his saved allowance and then some.  He looked completely surprised and then horrified when I told him.  But he did not whine or cry.  He first said that he would just delete all of the games, but I told him that it didn't work that way.  Even if he deleted them, we'd still have to pay for them.  So he sucked it up and asked how much.  He took responsibility and was willing to pay. 

I told him that I would contact Apple and let them know what happened.  Since I caught it so early (within three days) and we haven't had an instance like this before, I thought it was worth a shot.  If not, we'd work something out.  After all, I was the one who forgot to log out. 

Let me tell you that Apple has a fantastic customer service department.  My requests were handled quickly and completely.  AND one of the customer service reps went out of her way to outline how to activate more parental controls and warnings on the iPod.  So when I do go in and buy another app or game for him, there will be several warnings that pop up both on the iPod and on my e-mail.  I love it!  (So does Buddy!)

I love that, in this case, Apple has such a personal and flexible policy.  I'm sure they get this kind of stuff all the time.  It's got to be time consuming for them, but it's SO nice as a parent to be able to have this measure of grace as we learn the ins and outs of technology with our kids.  I guess this is the 21st century version of calling an 800 number and signing up for the Columbia House Record Club while your mom was vacuuming down the hall!  (Not that I ever did that.)

Saturday, February 09, 2013

A Slippery Facebook Slope

There is a really annoying trend on Facebook right now.  Well, it's been going on for quite a while, actually.  It's this trend of " 'Like' if you support/believe/hate this cause/religion/company/disease/color/car/WHATEVER and then 'Share' ".  It's getting obnoxious.  I think that it's a given that I don't like cancer.  And I doubt that Jesus is really going to greet me in Heaven and say, "You didn't 'share' me on FB enough.  Here's the 'down' escalator."  Most of the time if I see "Like This" in a status update photo card, I'll just scroll right on over and look for a cat video, but the other day one caught my eye that I found particularly frightening.  It said "LIKE if . . . you believe Jesus can heal depression! 1 Peter 5:6-7"  For me, that is a very dangerous post.  Let's look at why, shall we?

As an aside, I'm assuming that anyone reading this knows that I am a Christian.  I believe that Jesus was God's Son who came to Earth as a man to lead a perfect life so that He could atone for our sins.  I believe that.  I believe the Bible.  I believe in prayer.  However, I do NOT believe that God is a genie waiting to grant all of my requests.  I also suffer from depression.  So I think that I'm a little qualified to write on this subject.

I think that that photo card is the top of what could be a slippery slope.  Yes, I do believe that Jesus can heal depression.  He's capable of doing anything.  WILL He heal MY depression.  Maybe.  But I have to accept the fact that He might not.  Or He might not right away.  Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12: 7b-10 "Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."  God chose NOT to heal Paul.  And He had a reason for it.  We don't know what Paul's "thorn" was, but we know it was significant enough that he wanted it gone.   

God never promised that our road would be easy.  He never promised that we wouldn't get sick or hurt or that we wouldn't go through hard times.  One of my favorite verses is John 16:33.  Jesus spends a lot of time in Chapter 16 encouraging His disciples.  Then in verse 33 He says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  See the first "promise" in there?  "In this world you will have trouble."  The second promise is that He (Jesus) has overcome the world.  He never says that we won't suffer or that we won't feel the effects of the evil in this world.  But He does tell us to take heart because He has triumphed, and we're on His team.

Now, let's look at the passage quoted on the photo card:
1 Peter 5:6-7 (NIV)  Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

In this chapter, Peter is talking to Christians who are scattered across quite a few provinces of Asia Minor.  He's trying to encourage them and remind them of their calling as followers of Christ.  Verses 1-4 talks to older men about leading willingly and humbly serving by example.  Verse 5 exhorts younger men to follow their elders with humility.  Then verses 6-7 talks about how it naturally follows that you should humble yourself before God because He wants the best for you.  Humbling yourself means being open to teaching, it means acknowledging that we don't know it all and that we need help.  When Peter goes on to say "Cast all your anxiety on Him", he's continuing that thought - the idea of submitting to His authority and His leading and His teaching - casting your cares and worries about life at the feet of God and asking for His leading and teaching to get you through them.  He is NOT saying, "Cast your anxiety disorder and clinical depression on Him and He will heal you because He loves you."  And it's very dangerous to imply that it is. God can certainly heal my depression.  I do not doubt that for a minute.  But maybe, just maybe He won't.  Maybe the only thing He will do is help me deal with it.  Maybe He will bring others into my life to help me deal with it.  Maybe He will use modern medicine to keep it at bay.  He will answer my prayers concerning my depression, but He may not answer them the way I want Him to.  He may say, "No." 

In the past, I have been very, very depressed.  I have been in a dark pit feeling alone and forgotten.  And I have been told, while in that pit, that I should "spend more time in the Bible".  I've been asked, by well-meaning friends, "Have you prayed about it?  Have you TRULY given it over to God?"  It's hard to articulate how this made me feel.  I had done all of that - prayed, read, prayed some more, lather, rinse, repeat.  But I felt nothing.  Was God turning His back on me?  Yes, someone's mother's cousin's son's girlfriend's step brother was healed instantly when he prayed 1 Peter 5:7, why wasn't I?  Did I need to DO anything else?  Did I need to turn around three times?  Click my heels together?  Did I need to write down all my anxieties on a piece of paper and burn it as a figurative gesture?  What did I need to do?  I was willing to do all of the steps, JUST MAKE IT GO AWAY!!!!   At some point, when none of the spiritual things were working, I was able to pull my way through the fog to try an "earthly" solution.  I went to my doctor.  It kind of felt like I had abandoned my faith.  But at that point, I felt that God was being silent and not helping me so I should just try to help myself.  In reality and in hindsight, I believe that it really was God leading me to the way He was going to help me.

I am blessed that I have a Christian physician and a Christian counselor.  They have both encouraged me to not only read the Bible and pray, but to GET HELP FROM QUALIFIED PROFESSIONALS.  They both reminded me that God created people who are called to help others.  God created physicians and counselors and researchers and medications.  And that's how He chooses to heal some people. 
Or, I should say, HELP some people. 

I'm not healed.  I just have it under control.  It could be that at some point in the future I can go off of my medication and be fine.  I've tried to go off of it three times and have wound up back on it.  I'm perfectly fine with taking one small pill a day to be able to function.  Were I diabetic, I would have no problem taking insulin.  There's really no difference in my mind.  Would I tell a diabetic to forgo their insulin injections and pray more or read their Bible more instead?  I don't think anyone would. 

So please, well meaning Facebook photo card creators, please think before you create and post another one of those potentially hurtful cards.  If you must post a photo card about depression, post a number for a depression hotline or a depression help website. 

Better yet, if you must post something asking for a re-post, post this (and yes, I did make it my status update for a day):

Put this as your status if you know or are related to someone killed on Alderaan when it was obliterated by the Death Star. My wish is that people will understand that the Empire is a band of murdering scum. The Rebel Alliance wants to bring peace to the galaxy, but the Galactic Empire continues to kill innocent civilians. 93% won't copy/paste this.  Will YOU make this your status for at least one hour?

Friday, January 25, 2013

How I Got Here

I guess it's natural for me to think about my birth during my birth month.  I just turned 45.  Yes, I'm now halfway through my forties.  I'm staring down the barrel of 50.  Somehow 45 has been harder than 30 and 40 combined.  (Don't do the math there because it doesn't add up.)  So yeah, I have been reflective.

Things were so much different 45 years ago.  If we knew then what we know now, my birthday would have either been on January 6 OR my college education would have been paid for through a malpractice settlement.  It is truly a miracle that my mom and I survived our birth ordeal.  I have heard the story over and over.  I even remember the first time I heard it.  We were at our lake cabin and somehow we got on the subject one night during a thunderstorm.  Dad told the whole story.  It was the first time I ever saw him cry. 

My mom's water broke on a Friday morning while she was at the grocery store.  Woo hoo.  Dream come true!  So Mom, being Mom, finished her shopping, checked out and then went home to spend the rest of the day playing Scrabble with Dad and timing her contractions.

Okay Moms - think about that.  Now they tell you if your water breaks, you need to go to the hospital.  You MUST deliver within 24 hours of your water breaking to prevent infection.  Mom, on the other hand, didn't even go to the hospital until about 1:00 a.m. on Saturday.

We were living in South Carolina at the time.  It can get cold and snowy in January in South Carolina.  As a matter of fact, there was a snowstorm underway.  (I found this really cool account of it from the North Carolina perspective.  I love the internet.)  Once Mom and Dad got to the hospital, they (now) surmise that the doctor didn't feel like making the drive in because of the weather, so his instructions were to give Mom something to slow the contractions.  So they did.  I don't know if it was this action or Mom's own body, but after that she didn't dilate any more.  However, she did continue to bleed and leak amniotic fluid.  (If there are any men reading this, I just lost a significant portion of them.)  Sometime Sunday or Monday they decided to try to kick-start the dilation process with more drugs.  They didn't work. 

It wasn't until Tuesday - you read that right TUESDAY - that they finally decided to take me by c-section.  Now think about that on so many levels.  Mom's water broke on FRIDAY.  They let her go until TUESDAY before taking the baby.  Also, this was during a time when the husband was not allowed in the labor room with the wife.  Mom was alone.  Dad was in the waiting room watching father after father be called to see their new offspring.  Chew on that for a while. 

By the time the powers that be decided on the c-section, mom was so exhausted that she couldn't sign the release papers.  She couldn't hold a pen.  The reality was that they had waited so long that both of our lives were in serious danger.  They told my dad that it was highly likely that only one of us would survive.  They asked him, in the event that a choice needed to be made, which life would he like them to save.  Of course he chose my mom.  And I have never let him forget that.  (My first car was a Camaro.)  Then, when they wheeled Mom out on the gurney to go to the OR, they brought Dad out into the hall to SAY GOOD-BYE TO HER.  (As you can imagine, it was this point in the story that Dad gets choked up.)  Then they took her away and he was left to wait.  Again.  For a long time.

Finally, the afternoon of the 9th, they came and got him and took him to see me.  I'm sure his first glimpse of me was a shock, too.  Think about it - I had been fighting to get out for four days.  Dad said that my head was like an angelfish - skinny when viewed head-on and fat when viewed from the side.  He's told me that he kept saying over and over, "She's so beautiful!  She's so ugly!"  My hospital picture does tell some of the story.  One eye is swollen almost shut and my head is . . . just . . . weird.  (Dad told me that when he sent this photo to his mother she cried for a couple of days because she thought that I had Down's Syndrome.)

I look pretty ticked off.  I probably was.  No one had done a darned thing to get me outta there for WAAAAY too long.  I'm not a patient person.  Even today.

So they showed my angelfish mug to my dad and he fell in love.  Rightly so.  I mean, even though I look very judgemental, I was still adorable.  But then Dad asked about his wife.  To a person, everyone he asked said, "The doctor will be down in a minute to talk to you."  Given the events of the day, he concluded that Mom had died and they were waiting on the doctor to give him the news.  He spent the next two hours thinking that he was a widower with a newborn.  Needless to say, all the doctor had to tell him was that Mom was fine and was resting.  But still the two hours of anguish took its toll.  One evening when I was about nine years old we were watching a made for TV movie about some sort of disease of the week.  The lead actor asked a nurse about his wife's test results and she answered, "The doctor will be in to talk to you shortly."  Dad gasped and had to leave the room.

Back then (that really makes me sound too old), if a baby was delivered by c-section, the hospital stay was one week.  Dad was not allowed to touch me while we were in the hospital.  I was a week old before he got to hold me.  Insult to injury, I say.

Mom, on the other hand, bounced back well.  She was back to her former weight in no time.  But that's only because her doctor restricted her pregnancy weight gain to TEN POUNDS!  I weighed six pounds.  The placenta weighs about a pound or so (I just lost the remaining male readers), plus there's the added blood volume, amniotic fluid, and don't get me started on maternal breast tissue!  All told, I think my mom lost weight when she was pregnant.  How I made it into this world as a healthy baby is really a miracle.

I've lived with this story for close to 40 years.  It's a tough story to be a part of.  My mom almost died bringing me into the world.  If it had taken place just 100 years earlier, we both would have died.  But we didn't.  We BOTH lived.  For me, there has to be a really good reason that we both lived.  Not only lived, but thrived.  There were no lasting (physical) effects.  I thrived and Mom healed.  Mom and Dad even went on to have another kid!  That's saying something!  (Of course, with my little brother, she just chose a due date and then made the surgery appointment.  No labor required.)  For most of my life I have lived with a sense of importance - that God spared me for some grand reason.  It's only been within the past 13 years or so that I realized that it might not be a huge, earth-shattering or humanity-saving reason.

My two children are alive because I lived.  That's reason enough for me.