Posts Tagged ‘movies’

These are a few of my favorite things

Monday, December 2, 2013
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my book

The girls at Taylor Books with my first title, “Kat Tales: Stories of a house…broken” (2012).

Before Thanksgiving break, my family decided that we’d stay put for the holidays.  No unnecessary trips to restaurants, no shopping and no afternoons at the theater.  Instead, we’d stay home, cook for ourselves and watch Netflix.

We introduced the girls to a lot of classics, such as Rear Window and Roman Holiday.  One night, we watched one of my favorites, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  I had to explain most of Truman Capote’s best lines to Ava, who seemed confused that Manhattan socialite, Holly Golightly, was really a country bumpkin named Lula Mae Barnes.  When Ava is older, I’ll explain the “Is she or isn’t she?” question that all the men asked each other.  Was Holly authentic, or was she putting on an act to hide something?

Yet, isn’t everyone a little phony in some way?

When Holly ran up the steps of her New York apartment, I noticed that it seemed to be connected to a building that serves as the home base for another favorite film:  You’ve Got Mail.  Meg Ryan’s character and e-mail persona, “Shopgirl” lives in a beautiful place that looks identical to the one next to Holly’s.  (Perhaps I watched way too much TV this weekend).

Whereas Breakfast at Tiffany’s questions who we are and what we’ve experienced, You’ve Got Mail asks us to question where we’re going. What are we supposed to do with this life of ours, and how are we supposed to make an indentation in the lives of others? What’s our purpose when our feet hit the floor in the morning?  How do we help make the world go ’round?

I love You’ve Got Mail for many reasons, from the banter between Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan to the fantasy of owning a children’s bookstore.  When my daughters ask me what my dreams are, I have to admit that I don’t have many.  But the one thing I always wanted was to own a store like my grandmother. She ran a ladies’ dress shop that had a coffee shop attached, named for my mother.  “Betty’s” was the place where my mother and aunt grew up, serving customers a hot cup of something and a muffin of some sort, and then wrapping up their pretties to be worn someplace else.  I’ve always wanted a place like that, but for whatever reason, I never pursued the path.  The Mommyhood’s Katy Brown and You’ve Got Mail’s Kathleen Kelly have something else in common.  Both of us, the real and the make believe, still miss our mothers so much it sometimes hurts to breathe.

When I was watching You’ve Got Mail for what had to be the 1,000th time, I also noticed how much The Little Shop Around the Corner resembles our city’s Taylor Books.  With black shelves, patterned flooring and twinkle lights in the children’s section, the store feels like the place that I coulda/shoulda had.  But since my dream store is already taken, I guess I’ll have to settle for the next best thing, and that’s seeing my books in the vintage displays.

new bookIf you missed the recent Daily Mail article written by Andrea Lammon, I published my first children’s book this year.  It’s the story of fraternal twin boys, Sellie and Sam, who suffer from identical problems.  The boys, approximately age 5, are scared of the dark and they often seek the comfort of Mom and Dad’s bed.  Separation anxiety is a central theme in this book, which was written for children with their parents’ problems in mind.  As I’ve said in a few interviews, my goal wasn’t to decide if co-sleeping or the concept of the family bed is a good or a bad idea.  My objective was to uncover the humor in the situation.  Like many ages, stages and phases of childhood (and parenthood), this too shall pass.  If a child wants to feel a little safer or a little closer by crawling under the covers, then by all means, share that pillow.   In time, our babies won’t even be in the same house with us, let alone down the hall.  Let alone on the few inches of mattress next to us.

I’m sure the book will stir some controversies of “giving in” and not practicing enough “tough love” that promotes independence.  And that’s fine.  I expect it.  But, in our house, scooting over to make room for two little girls — every now and then — hasn’t hurt anything or anyone. As the back cover states, we need to pick our battles. And this was one that Mike and I didn’t care to fight.  During the days of Sandy Hook school shooting news, there was no other place we wanted to be.  Sometimes, hanging on to our children a little tighter is more for our reassurance than it is theirs.

Watching old movies has served as a great escape from reality.  All of the silly running around and taking part in seasonal insanity hasn’t been missed.  But if I do start to suffer from a case of cabin fever,  you now know where you can find me.  I’ll be the woman wandering around a certain little shop around the corner pretending, like a bit of a phony, that the place belongs to me.

Do you want to take part in Cyber Monday? Look for “Kat Tales” and “Sellie and Sam” on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble websites. You can also order through the West Virginia Book Company’s link:

http://www.wvbookco.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=kattales

 

 

 

 

 

Reviews and Coming Attractions

Monday, June 25, 2012
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"This will be a night to remember!" – Templeton the Rat

I don’t have many photographs of my mother.  In fact, I doubt Ava and Maryn could describe her face.  I have a picture of her on the day she was married — 1954 — and I have a picture of her at my own wedding. Only one.  She despised posing for pictures, primarily because she was desperately shy but also because she disliked her smile.  In the few prints I have of her holding me as a baby, she looks absolutely miserable.  For years, I thought she hated being a mother.  But now I know that she just hated her teeth.

Having so few pictures of her means that I don’t have many memories.  Today, my iPhone holds at least 1,000 blurred, grainy images of my children.  Since I’m the family photographer, I’m rarely in those shots.  But on occasion, I’ll hop in the frame and stand behind the girls (to hide my other “frame”), and show every tooth in my mouth. Gap and all.  I love being with my kids. I want them to see that joy.  I want them to remember it.

One evening, my husband and I were sitting outside listening to John Tesh’s radio show, “Intelligence for Your Life.”  We laughed through the corny anecdotes and bits of strategy, such as deleting a Facebook account when searching for a job, and working crossword puzzles to avoid Alzheimer’s disease.  The girls were in the yard swinging and chatting away, arguing briefly over the cutest band member of One Direction.

“Do you think they’ll remember any of this one day?” I asked Mike.  He shrugged his shoulders.

I admit that I get a little more nostalgic in the summer than any other time of the year — Christmas included.  I guess it’s because I spent every hour with my mother in those months between Memorial Day and Labor Day, doing nothing I might add.  Back then, I knew how to sit still and be quiet.  I knew how to be content with a do-nothing day.  It was a three-month rest for a child who didn’t need it.  But in that sabbatical of sorts, I didn’t form many memories.  One day rolled into the next.  I remember spending time at Greenbrier Pool and never applying sunscreen other than a mixture of baby oil and iodine.  I remember watching my parents can vegetables from the garden.  I remember watching soap operas at 3:00.  I remember our blue, 1979 Mercury stationwagon with wood panels.  I remember the old Holiday Inn sign that lit up in vibrant colors, which I had to see before I went to sleep each night of our annual vacation.   I remember my 10-speed bike, which logged many miles through the flat, tree-lined streets of Kanawha City.  That’s about it.  But is that enough?

Mike has similar memories.  ”You hopped on your bike at 9 in the morning, and you were gone all day,” he said.  ”If you were home before dinner, it was because you wrecked and needed a Band-Aid.”

That’s it?

“Little league baseball games,” he added. “We had to go to church once a month to play on the team.”

Nothing else?

“Oh, and I remember that we were at Ormond Beach, Florida when Elvis died,” Mike announced.

Thank you. Thank you very much.

The Pinterest-pinning, Facebook-posting, Twitter-tweeting mother in me wants a perfect summer for my girls that will be remembered as long as the mind can store it.  To do this, though, I find myself spending a small fortune on memory-making activities and props, such as a membership to our neighborhood pool (and its costly repairs), and a hammock for the side porch (which I’ve never been in longer than 5 minutes).   We’ve built swing sets and wooden forts, a pergola,  and we’ve added a couple of dogs.  This past week, we purchased an outdoor movie theater.  Well, sort of:  I bought a projector and a paint tarp.   These things,  along with a few strands of solar lights wrapped around a few oak trees, povide a cozy ambiance for summer’s children.  And mosquitos.

On Monday evening, we decided to watch “Charlotte’s Web” in the backyard. I made popcorn and carried it outside, along with bottles of water and boxes of M&Ms.  I picked up the popcorn that spilled onto the ground and chased off dogs that snatched the plastic bowls right out of the girls’ hands.  I sprayed each family member with enough OFF to give them lung cancer, and I tore down spider webs that belonged to less famous and less attractive arachnids so everyone would sit without worry or complaint.  I lit citronella candles and fussed at the girls to stop flipping their hair so close to the flames. I caught the Beagle and dragged him into his crate, where he howled along with the whining Wilbur.  I threw the tennis ball over the hill at least 100 times for the Golden Retriever, which I am convinced could find anything in the dead of night.  I answered the phone twice.  I had to go to the bathroom once.

But while I was reclined in my patio chair, I looked over at Maryn, parked in her daddy’s lap munching on candy and smiling at the sarcastic comments made by Templeton, the rat.  I looked over at Ava, legs crossed and straight-faced, twirling her hair as she pondered the messages left by Charlotte A. Cavatica.  For a few minutes, everything was as it should have been. Will the girls recall any of this when they’re older? I don’t know.  I hope I’m around to hear about it, though, particularly the parts that drove me up the wall, but made the others laugh.

As E.B. White so elegantly stated, “Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.”

 

Change for the Better

Monday, August 22, 2011
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Beaten with the ugly stick?

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “a face only a mother could love.”  It’s a mean thought, but I admit that it has crossed my mind on occasion. Specifically, I think a few Hollywood actresses carry this card from time to time, such as Glenn Close. I’m terrified of her — from The Big Chill (an absolutely perfect title) to Fatal Attraction (which scared my husband to death), the woman’s face keeps me awake at night.

And so does Nanny McPhee.

Portrayed by Emma Thompson, 19th century-Nanny McPhee is decribed in a movie plot summary as “an unusual and hideous woman who arrives at the Brown’s home, introducing herself as a government nanny. By using magic, Nanny McPhee force-trains the children in her care to do as they’re told.  In similar form, with strict discipline and witch-like spells, she transforms the family’s lives. In the process, she herself is transformed.  However, the children foolishly attempt to play their tricks on Nanny McPhee, but gradually start to respect her and ask her for advice. They change into responsible people, helping their hapless father solve big problems, which makes Nanny McPhee less and less needed.”

The governess’ face is brutally hard to look at, but it’s what she says that holds my attention:

“When you need me, but do not want me, then I will stay. When you want me, but do not need me, then I have to go.”

Nanny McPhee haunted me on Friday morning when we took our youngest daughter by the hand and led her to kindergarten. “But I will miss you,” Maryn said in a low voice.  “I want you to stay in my school.”

But you’re a big girl now, I countered.  You can do this.  You’ve watched your older sister for three years.  It’s your turn.  You’re ready.

Even though I’ve worked as a writer and publicist since Maryn was three months old, I’ve been at home with her for 5 1/2 years.  Yes, she attended preschool, but we weren’t apart for long. By the time I dropped her off, it was nearly time to pick her up again.  But she has been homeschooled, more or less, to recognize letters, numbers, colors, shapes and sounds…as well as good and bad behavior.

Nanny McPhee makes yet another appearance, as she emphasizes proper manners and accepting the consequences of one’s actions. In her school of thought, there are five primary lessons to teach — each of which corresponds to her various unattractive physical attributes: gray hair, two large moles, a unibrow, and a snaggle-tooth protruding over her bottom lip (I only suffer from a headful of gray hair).  Nanny McPhee is as frightful as the children are hateful, but whenever a lesson is learned, one of her disfigurements disappears. (Spoiler alert: At the end of the film, she’s no longer old and ugly, but young and attractive.)

  • First lesson – To go to bed when you are told (and stop fighting)
  • Second lesson – To get up when you are told
  • Third lesson – To get dressed when you are told
  • Fourth lesson – To listen (and say please and thank you)
  • Fifth lesson – To do as you are told

Sounds familiar, does it not? These are the back-to-school rules — be in bed by 9:00 p.m. without protest, get up at 7:15 a.m. without delay, get dressed at 7:45 a.m. without argument, listen to your teachers and do as they ask.  When children are obedient, everything turns out…beautifully.

I’ve been rather hard on myself lately — analyzing mistakes, second-guessing decisions and poking fun at my own looks.  But when my older daughter, Ava, walked into her third grade classroom without shedding a tear (she’s our sentimental one), and when my baby girl sat in a classroom of unfamiliar faces without begging to be taken home, I realized that as their mother — I’ve done something right.  I’m proud of those girls.  They’re self-controlled, polite, kind and respectful. I understand there are no perfect children, and I am reminded each day that parenting is not a fairytale.  But for now, I’m simply going to enjoy knowing that the first part of my work is complete.

 

And the Oscar Goes to… Mom

Monday, March 7, 2011
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Steel Magnolias sharing Terms of Endearment: Shirley MacLaine and Sally Field

Last weekend, I watched the Academy Awards from the family room couch, swaddled in a Snuggie. I spent the evening criticizing beautiful, talented women in toddler-size dresses, but I never anticipated that Anne Hathaway’s awkward “Hi, Mom!” moment would help to create this blog.

There are only two categories specifically earmarked to honor women – Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. While women may write, produce and/or direct, they aren’t heralded for their female contributions to the entire film in any other way.  Therefore, I will do so by honoring the Best Mothers in the Movies:

10. Barbara Hershey – Beaches

“I don’t want Victoria to see me here.”

I hate to begin a top ten list with a hospital deathbed scene, but a mother’s greatest responsibility is to protect her child. Of course, it helps to have Bette Midler as the wind beneath your wings.

9. Diane Keaton – Father of the Bride

 “Will you stop acting like a lunatic father and go out and talk to her before she runs out that door, marries this kid and we never see her again?”

What’s more complicated that a mother-daughter relationship? Being daddy’s little girl. Thankfully, Nina Banks comes to her daughter’s rescue as she attempts to wiggle loose of her father’s overprotective grip.

8. Olympia Dukakis – Moonstruck

“When you love them, they drive you crazy because they know they can.”

Nothing compares to the wisdom of an old-world mother who dishes out a healthy portion of tough love with a side of manicotti.  Rose Castorini always knows when her daughter’s life is “going down the toilet.” And she tells her so.

 

7. Diane Keaton – Baby Boom

“And your sister’s name in Wiesbaden – in case of an emergency – and her prison record if any…”

Corporate workaholic J.C. Wiatt has no trouble hiring new graduates to work on entry-level marketing accounts, but she doesn’t possess the same confidence when searching for a nanny to care for 18-month-old Elizabeth.

6. Katharine Hepburn – Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

“When she fights you, I’m going to be on her side.”

In parenting, it helps if mothers and fathers are on the same page when it comes to handing down an important decision.  Yet Christina Drayton is willing to sacrifice her own marital bliss to make sure her daughter lives happily ever after.

5. Katharine Hepburn – On Golden Pond

“Don’t you think that everyone looks back on their childhood with a certain amount of bitterness and regret?”

Once again, leave it to Katharine Hepburn to be the voice of reason. Fed up with her adult daughter’s sulking, she insists that Jane Fonda’s character get on with life before it passes her by (in a motorboat).

4. Sally Field – Forrest Gump

“Remember what I told you, Forrest. You’re no different than anybody else.”

Mama always had a way of explaining things so Forrest could understand them, and she sure did care about his education! Always reassuring, Mrs. Gump challenged everyone to define “normalcy” in his or her own unique way.

 

3. Sally Field – Steel Magnolias

“I was there when that wonderful creature drifted into my life and I was there when she drifted out. It was the most precious moment of my life.”

No child has been blessed with a better mother. Devoted to Shelby’s special needs, M’Lynn Eatenton would have jogged all the way to Texas and back for her daughter. Luckily, she had the support of my next honoree to provide laughter through tears.

2. Shirley MacLaine – Terms of Endearment

“GIVE HER THE SHOT!”

If Ouiser Boudreaux doesn’t scare the daylights out of you, then Aurora Greenway will.  MacLaine proves that even the coldest mothers have the warmest souls and the loudest voices, particularly when their child is in pain.

1. Robin Williams – Mrs. Doubtfire

“I do have one rule: they’ll only eat good, nutritious food with me. And if there’s any dispute, it’s either good, wholesome food or empty tummies.”

Yes, a cross-dressing housekeeper wins the top prize for being the most outstanding parent. Bound (literally speaking) and determined to spend time with his children after a bitter divorce, Euphegenia Doubtfire kept the home fires burning.

The ‘please wrap up your blog’ music is playing, so I will conclude my tribute by saying, “Thanks, Mom. We owe it all to you.”

Let My People Go

Monday, January 31, 2011
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Between animated movies and reality television shows, separation anxieties are here to stay.

Toy Story 3 brings children and adults to tears, as college-bound Andy is forced to part with his playthings, while Hoarders: Buried Alive follows the obsessive behaviors of people who “house” excessive quantities of items to which they have unnatural connections.  If holding onto the past isn’t crippling enough, deciding what to keep and what to toss drives boys and girls (of all ages) to the edge of mental collapse, fueled by the crushing weight of guilt and Beanie Babies.

Perhaps producers from A&E and Disney should join forces to create a new show, such as “Toddler Hoarders (Part One of Three)”.  I just might have the perfect child to star in their first episode.

My four-year-old daughter is one of the most loving children you will ever meet, to the point that she treasures everything.  Stringy cheese wrapper? Better save it…there’s a smiling cow in the logo.  Half-eaten peanut butter sandwich? Better hang on to that…Woody and Buzz Lightyear are watching from the Sara Lee bread bag.  Broken Ken doll?  Better hide him under the couch so he can recuperate from a dislocated hip.

Out of fairness to Disney and Arts & Entertainment (and TLC and Nick Jr., and…), it’s important to point out that the children’s literature market is identically involved.  After reading The Velveteen Rabbit, my older daughter cried off and on for two days.

Why is the rabbit in a trash bag? The parents are going to burn all of the little boy’s toys because they’re covered in germs that could kill him!

Alexander and the Wind Up Mouse is an equally distressing tale, as a furry gray rodent wishes his mechanical counterpart real so it can scurry out of a box of toys sentenced to the trash can.  Commercials are getting into the act, too.  A pediatric cough syrup advertisement features stuffed animals and dolls sitting around a table, fretting that “she’s not coming today because she has a fever”.

While ibuprofen and acetaminophen tend to wipe out a pesky temperature, what’s the remedy for eliminating an alarming number of toys?

If you’ve tried to smuggle them out of the house lately, you’ve probably had to smuggle them back in after being turned away from thrift stores and preschools. Hard toys may have been painted with harmful chemicals or contain parts that pose choking hazards, and plush toys can’t be cleaned effectively to kill dust mites or…lice.

The short answer is to stop buying toys and dolls altogether, but that’s not what manufacturers want to see or hear.  As the adult consumer, we’re supposed to keep accumulating, keep ordering, keep collecting, and keep spending.  Children, however, are supposed to learn to let go.  Have you ever noticed that Disney usually kills a parent in the first few minutes of a movie?  Even Huey, Duey and Louie were raised by an uncle! It seems as though the creative goal is to make children face up to their fears of being left alone or left behind, and to muster the superhuman strength to overcome the odds through a 60-minute bout of courage.

Yet after the movie or book ends, we’ll feel compelled to shop for a plastic action figure or fluffy stuffed version of our child’s new hero, which will help keep the memory alive (and with us) forever.