Monday, November 30, 2009

Table Topic - Christmas Movies

Christmas Time is Here...Happiness and Cheer...Fun for all that children call...Their favorite time of year!

One of my favorite parts of Christmas (aside from the Reason for the Season...Jesus) is all the Christmas movies and specials. You have your Christmas movies...and your Christmas television specials. Although I own all the Rankin Bass Christmas specials that I can watch in the heat of July, there is something about watching Rudolph on CBS in prime time with all the commercials that takes me back to childhood. Picking just one favorite of all the annual replays of Christmas classics is tough. So I'll just summarize a few of my favorites...

A Charlie Brown Christmas - I have my very own Charlie Brown Christmas tree that I put up each year at my house in honor of this great production that debuted the year I was born. Some of the scenes from this special are simply priceless. The children at the end singing Hark the Herald Angels Sing ....Lucy's quizzing Schroeder "Can you play Jingle Bells? You know deck them halls and all that stuff? You know Santa Clause and ho-ho-ho, and mistletoe..and presents to pretty girls?" (A woman after my own heart) And the greatest scene of all as Linus says "Lights please..." and recites the Christmas story from Luke 2 ending with "That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown." I still get a tear.

Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer - Rankin Bass knows how to produce good Christmas specials and it's hard to pick just one. But Frosty made me cry way too much when he melted and I still get choked up during that scene, so Rudolph wins the prize. I think the main reason this is my favorite is the ultimate story of the misfit and underdog saving the day. When I was a little girl, I had this dream of wanting to go to the Island of Misfit Toys so I could play with them all. They seemed lonely and I figured I was just the gal to make them happy. I still have a much softer place in my heart for the uniques of the world, like myself.

Holiday Inn - I get a lot of grief from friends about my love of this movie. This black and white film released in 1942 was where the song White Christmas made its debut. It stars Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, and in my opinion ranks way above the movie White Christmas. Between Fred's dancing and Bing's heart swoons. And, the movie focuses on every holiday during the year (hence, the name Holiday wasn't named after that hotel chain). Aside from Christmas, my favorite holiday in the movie is Valentine's Day. Jim Hardy (Bing Crosby) writes a song for the woman he is falling in love with (but he hasn't expressed that verbally to her yet) entitled "Be Careful it's My Heart." For the hopeful romantic in me, I melt everytime that song is played. If you haven't seen it, skip the 65th viewing of It's a Wonderful Life and watch this classic.

And now for today's table topic....

What is your favorite Christmas movie and/or special?

Roast those chestnuts and fill you mug with hot chocolate...discuss.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Four Scoops of Ice Cream, Three Meals at Qdoba, Two Redheads and a Brunette with Very Curly Hair

I'll never forget where I was three years ago in August when I got the call from Regina. She was in Los Angeles, about to board a plane to East Asia to serve on the mission field. I was sitting in a Burger King in Manchester, TN, with Christie, on our way to visit Chad and Tracy for the first time in Adel, GA. I remember getting off the phone and telling Christie "That was Regina. She's on her way." It was bittersweet. During the time Regina spent in Louisville at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, we became great friends. This redhead from Eastern Kentucky had accepted a call to the mission field and was pursuing her masters. I knew the day would come she would leave, but I dreaded the arrival of that day.

During her time in East Asia, I was blessed to keep constant communication with her through the glories of technology - email, Facebook, Skype - and in June 2007, we began a prayer partner commitment that we have kept ever since. So many of my dear friends are far from me in proximity, but thankfully, like Regina, we work to keep our friendship seem as though we are next-door neighbors. After learning how to code my e-mails with "Daddy", "pr" and "the club" to represent God, prayer, and church, communication was a breeze. We both looked forward to the day she would be able to come home and enjoy a visit in Louisville.

Last week, our day had come. After flying in from Virginia, and having severe PVD (post-vacation depression), it was refreshing to know Regina would be checking in to the Red Rose Inn the next day. Her schedule was packed with people to see, so I was grateful for our late night talks and recaps over the past three years. We didn't have a lot to catch up on, but we were able to talk without the confines of code language or limits of the written word. Saturday was our day...the day we would make a memory with Christie and the pressure was on. Christie and I had discussed a lot of options....something interactive, but something unique....something possibly seasonal, but definitely something to make a memory. Then it hit ..."Lights Under Louisville." Regina had made a couple requests to do some things she missed over the past three years, but this part of the evening was going to be a surprise. And off I went with the two redheads....

Our first stop was Qdoba. Regina had not been able to savor that delectable restaurant since she left three years ago. That almost seems sinful as I'm a believer that there will be Qdoba in Heaven...with fountains of queso and lime-flavored tortilla chip trees. She knew the next leg of the journey was a surprise and she was as giddy as a kid on Christmas Eve.

The next stop was "Lights Under Louisville." This is the first year for this event, and Saturday just happened to be opening night. The Louisville MegaCavern is a large underground cavernous tunnel that runs under the Louisville Zoo and the Watterson Expressway. It currently houses the largest recycling center in the state. During the year, historic tours are given as you ride a tram through the darkness and hear about all the details of how this anomaly came about. Someone had the brilliant idea to illuminate the place with Christmas lights, pipe Christmas music throughout, and charge per car load for the holidays. And, I, for one found it quite enjoyable. At $20 per car load, some would find it a bit pricey, but it's an adventure, people, and where else can you drive through a cavern and look at Christmas lights and Nessy the Christmas Monster? Yes, they even had the Loch Ness Monster with a Santa hat, complete with her own pond. And, thankfully, there was a Nativity Scene...something often excluded from public "holiday" displays. I definitely want to go back...again and again.

The final stop was Graeter's...a regional ice cream shop. Regina had longed for the Chocolate Coconut Almond Fudge and got her wish...along with a second scoop of Buckeye Blitz. I'd love to ship her some to East Asia when she returns, but I think it would take too much dry ice to keep it frozen. She savored every bite knowing her next bite of that ice cream may not happen for another three years.

Regina pulled out on Monday morning to head back to Eastern Kentucky (not Asia) to celebrate Thanksgiving with her family. Another bittersweet good-bye as we hugged and hugged...and I wondered when I might see this precious redhead again. Many times God moves us away from our friends for a time, but oh how sweet each reunion is. I'm already looking forward to the next one...but in the meantime, we'll continue to grow our friendship through the virtual means of technology and our prayers for each other.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Five People, Five Memories

I recently returned from my latest jaunt...this time to visit the Roederers in Hampton, VA. As always, during my trip, I try and formulate in my mind how I will recap the trip in a blog post. This one was hard because there were so many things I could talk about (and so many things that I can't talk about). So I decided to boil it down in "fives"...the five people I visited, and five of the ka-zillion memories made.

Five People

Rod - The rock of the family. If I had to give him a superhero name, it would be the Silent Giant. That is fitting in so many ways. When the boys get out of hand and drive Julie up a wall, Dad steps in. For you young parents out there, discipline works, because no matter the punishment, those boys always got excited when Dad arrived from work or they hadn't seen him in a while. And, they were proud to show me the chores list from the fridge that Dad put together of all that they do to earn their allowance. Rod also knew, without a word spoken, that his mission during my visit was to be Dad and occupy the boys so Julie could have time with me since she's had limited girl time at Fort Monroe. One of my favorite moments was when Rod proclaimed "All boys report to me" and they marched to the back room, aligned their game plan for the day, and off they went. That is a man who adores his wife and loves his kids. Husbands and Dads...take note.

Julie - It's hard to believe the same girl that was voted most school spirited and was one of my newspaper staff pals...and went to kindergarten with me is now spending her days as an Army wife and Momma. A far cry from her dream of being a local news anchor. But she wears her titles well. I don't believe she could love her husband more or her children...or even her "bonus" son (as she calls Daniel). She cooks like a dream, adores her husband like she just saw his face for the first time and could eat her children up (or "sop them up with a biscuit" as she puts it). She models much of the Proverbs 31 passage, although she'd roll her eyes and say I was smokin' something funny for saying that, but I'll just have to personally show her one day.

Daniel - The hottie 17-year old that looks like a taller version of his Dad when he was in high school, which is freaky to see. Daniel has come a long way and will be following in his Dad's footsteps by heading off to the Army after he graduates high school in June. I'd love to be a fly on the high school hallway walls to watch how the girls react to him. I'm a girl and I'm certain he is the talk of the school. The one thing that truly impressed me was the way he was with the little boys. I overheard him one day telling them to quit being so smart aleck...followed with "Remember what we've talked about guys" indicative of his past discussions on this topic with them. I told him I wanted to approve all girls he dates, to which he responded "I'm not getting married until I'm 30." We'll see how that goes.

Jackson - I can sum him up in one statement - "He wears his 13-year old very well." He's caught between being a kid and being a teenager. And he is just oozing with aspirations of being just like Dad. He spots every Army man he sees out and notes their rank. He is obsessed with discussing all the military acronyms. He "drops and does 10" just to show you he can. In less than five years, he'll be walking in Dad and Daniel's footsteps, I believe...which will make Mom and Dad very proud.

Clayton - If there ever was a boy that could make you feel like the most beautiful woman in the world, it's Clayton. I love that kid. He never went a day without telling me he loved me...telling me how great of a hugger I am...and how he didn't want me to leave. I'll always cherish the night we said prayers melted my heart. He is an artist and is never far from paper and pen to sketch out his ideas. When we went to the Virginia Living Museum, Clayton took his notebook and pencil and stopped at every display to draw the animals there. No one understands us creative types, but I do. One of the hardest parts of leaving was physically letting go of Clayton...he was attached to me like glue my last day there. He sure knows how to woo a woman...look out world.

Five Memories

Nor'easter meets Ida - I flew into Newport News in the midst of the Nor'easter last week. Thankfully my flights were on time and no problems. That was a God thing for sure. I failed to tell Julie that bad weather seems to follow me on trips. I've been to Alabama three times...two of which resulted in ice storms.

Bonding with the Boys - Not being a mother, yet having that strong maternal instinct, I loved being able to be the cool "aunt" but also be motherly. I had conversations saving them from impending wrath to discussing why the story of Esther was important that Clay learned about in Sunday School. We played Army Monopoly and Daniel and I dominated by occupying "death row" as we called it. We owned all the hot properties and filled them with battalions and divisions. Jackson was not happy I owned the US Army and the Pentagon -the Boardwalk and Park Place equivalent. Daniel and I declared ourselves winners. I also was a bit of a bad example...showing them how to do a snake with a straw wrapper...their Mom will kill me for that one.

Girl time with Julie - As I mentioned earlier, Rod was gracious enough to take the bullet and occupy the boys so Julie and I could have time together. From shopping to Starbucks, we had a glorious time. Although I've shopped along with her via phone in the past, it was fun to actually be present. And, we could dance in the store aisles and not make any of the kids embarrassed. And, I could make her laugh so hard she started wheezing. Sometimes you just got to be a girl.

Church on Sunday - I listen to the sermons weekly from their church, Liberty Baptist, and love the pastor, Grant Ethridge. It was awesome to be there live and in person to experience the worship and the sermon. An added bonus for me was to hear Rod teach their Sunday School class. A last minute need for him to fill in made my visit to church a double blessing. A bonus memory...on Saturday night Rod tried to have an inspirational dinner by asking the boys about favoritism. The lesson was on James 2 and how we shouldn't show favoritism to those less fortunate than us. It was like a scene straight from The Cosby Show as the discussion took place...until finally Rod said, "I give up." Never fear, I think something did sink in.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving - Prior to my visit, Clayton decided we were going to watch the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special together and have the meal they had while viewing. If you recall, the meal consisted of pretzels, popcorn, toast and jelly beans. Julie and I went shopping for Jellie Bellies and she made all of us (yes, even Daniel and Rod) plates so we all could watch and eat our "meal" together. When the scene appeared with the characters around the Thanksgiving table, Daniel astutely noticed they each had ice cream sundaes and made sure Julie knew we weren't completely authentic unless she served ice cream. She ignored him. Sometimes you have to have junk food for dinner to make a memory.

I could list a thousand more moments of memories from the trip, but I'll save my readers from the world's longest blog post. It was definitely a memorable trip, one that I'll not soon forget and one that can't be encapsulated in a blog post or even in pictures. But the memory of my time with sweet friends will linger on for many days to come.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Musings for the Week - Trips, Trade-Ins and Twilight

1. I have a month off from book club due to a huge book signing event in December, so this may be the month to dive into Twilight. My sweet girl, Elise, has lent me her copy, complete with dog-eared pages of her favorite parts. I'm always late to the party with phenomenons like this, but given my lack of a focused read this month, it's time. Maybe it's my resistance that, as a hopeless romantic, I don't need to be swooning over a vampire named Edward that apparently knocks the socks off the young ladies. Now, if it was Tony Stark as played by Robert Downey, Jr, I'd swoon all over the place. I'll let you know if I'm captivated by a vampire.

2. Our church has set a goal to pack 300 boxes for Operation Christmas Child. If you haven't heard of this organization, check out the web site. They provide shoe boxes filled with toys, school supplies, candy and toiletries to children around the world that otherwise wouldn't receive anything for Christmas. My Sunday School class hosted a "Build-a-Box" party where we all bought multiples of the same items and packed many more boxes than we would have done individually. Couple that with good food and great conversations and we had a wonderful time. Our class is a quirky bunch and most of the humor that exudes is mostly funny in the moment and far from understood if you aren't present...making us that much more quirky. Thankfully birds of a feather enjoy flocking together.

3. I planned on blogging about the demise of my cell phone, Violet, but life just got too crazy. As many of you techno geeks may have heard, T-Mobile's Sidekick phone suffered a huge hit the first of October when Microsoft servers came crashing down and we were left without data service and all of our information....for three weeks. Long story short, T-Mobile was very good to this 10-year customer and gave me a new phone, a G1 Android, for virtually free (net $5) with no impact to my contract. I almost went with this phone back in June when I purchased Violet, but the purple color captured me. Moral of that story: Never buy a phone based on its color. I absolutely love my G1. It is far superior to the Sidekick...I have touch and a qwerty keypad...and, best of all, Pandora radio streaming! As my normal modus operandi, I named my phone Pepper....for it's color (black) and in honor of Pepper Potts, faithful assistant to Tony Stark aka Ironman. Oh how I'd love to be Pepper. This post is slowly becoming "Musings about RDJ"...

4. Saturday afternoon I was blessed to celebrate my Aunt Goldie's 90th birthday. My Dad had seven siblings, and of those, only three are still of them, his older sister, Goldie. Booth women are stunning. I wish I'd gotten a little more of those genes because even at 90 she looks fabulous. All of my Dad's sisters were strong-willed, beautiful women who dripped with intelligence. Every one of them outlived their husbands...and even husbands two and three in some cases. Aunt Goldie is no exception. I'm thankful I got a slice of those genes. The funniest line of the day was from my Dad's normal dry wit. He leaned over at one point and said "You know, being around all these old people is depressing." Priceless coming from a handsome 84-year old who looks about 65.

5. Thursday I step on a plane and fly east to visit the Roederer family. Yes, my life of living trip to trip continues. I haven't had time to really let the trip sink in just yet with all the busyness of my life, but I know once I get there, the time will pass all too quickly. I can't wait to have uninterrupted face time with is so busy we haven't had time to really talk in ages. I can't wait to see the boys...Clayton, Jackson and Daniel (who hopes I'm cool). And, of course, Rod, the rock of the house. Julie asked me what I wanted to do, and I told her I just wanted to spend quality me, that trumps any activity. Yes, Virginia, I am low maintenance.