The funny thing about traditions
There's a pot roast cooking in the crock pot, which makes my daughter a little peeved. There's nothing traditional about a Yankee Pot Roast--at least for our family--and somehow this college kid thinks that turkey and G's cranberry sauce is it. "THE" Thanksgiving tradition.
But for me, the tradition has been to spend hours cooking the turkey for the kids to eat in ten minutes and leave me with more hours of kitchen cleaning. So I didn't ask, I just did. We're having roast. IN a crock pot (easy clean up). Although, somehow, the "what?" exclamations led me to add the fixings: stuffing (with roast?), mashed potatoes (what about the ones cooking with the roast?), yeast rolls, Mac n cheese, green bean casserole, and pie.
Oh, snap. What do you mean no pie?
Because the kids' childhood was spent every other holiday with their father--home for Thanksgiving every other year and Christmas on opposite years--meant we didn't build much in the way of traditions. At least not the kind my mother would have made.
She did it all. Turkey that she baked in a brown paper grocery sack (something about keeping it moist) that she basted and cooked for hours. The biggest kettle filled with potatoes we were conscripted into peeling. Ten pounds maybe more, depending on who she invited. There were always invitations to those without family, and room for everyone at Mom's table. She didn't go for the green bean casserole, but there was always two or three vegetables, making sure our favorites showed up on the table. Buttered cabbage for me. Stuffing, gravy, rolls, and Mom's fresh fruit salad when we had the money. Multiple kinds of pies. And the knuckle killing mess of Mom's Orange Cranberry Relish. Sometimes, all this for our family and dozens of others who didn't have a family or table of their own. That was Mom's best tradition.
Of course, in later years, she'd beg to go out to eat rather than stay in and cook, "but what about leftovers" and the Thanksgiving prayer, and the circle of "what are you Thankful for this year?" so that she never really got to go out to eat on the holiday. Guilt will sometimes do that to moms, which is why I added the "fixings" to our pot roast.
We started our day earlier than my mom would have put in her turkey, because my college freshman daughter didn't fly into Denver until the early morning flight Thanksgiving morning (and is leaving Saturday evening). Since I had the roast in the crockpot by 5:30 am, I thought about other traditions. What would we DO other than eat?
At Mom's we would have listened to Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant." Ronnie, the oldest brother I was raised with, was nearly a generation apart as my parents had us kids all 4+ years apart, and he was the definition of the hippie generation right down to the pot-smoking and protest songs. Ronnie's the brother that ran away to join the Carnival (not a joke), and Mom had some guilt over that, so she typically acquiesced to his request. We listened to this song when Ronnie was there because he liked the song, and when Ronnie wasn't there...for much the same reason. It brought Ronnie back to us.
Which worked well for my childhood family, but what about my kids who've had a splintered holiday and rare traditions?
Well, the one thing we did as a family was go to the midnight showings of Harry Potter movies, which often came out in the month of November. In fact, my pseudo birthday for the movie theater club is in November, because one November the newest Harry Potter movie came out and I didn't have $$ for popcorn. But movie club members got free popcorn. :)
So while others were just waking up and shoving a turkey into the oven, we headed straight to the movie theater and the latest Harry Potter flick (Wizarding World, really, the newest Fantastic Beasts movie). Popcorn and movies is a tradition I could get behind, but even as we headed home, the kids were talking new "traditions." They want to go shopping (kill me now) after we digest our food (still no pie).
I vote for Scrabble, a game I always played with my mother, and card games. A true family day (although I think I'm going to lose the vote for shopping, but as long as I have to go out to shop, I'm getting my mom's wish and stopping for pie afterwards). My daughter wants to decorate...for Christmas. My son looks at her like she's lost her mind. "It's a tradition," I tell him before realizing he's only seen it...every other year, and the last time we'd been in the middle of moving, so we hadn't had a chance to decorate.
Traditions are strange, I'm thinking now. I've been deployed over Thanksgiving. Other times, post-military, I worked retail so I didn't get the "traditional" meal. I've eaten with friends when my kids were with their dad, or stayed home and binge-watched Christmas movies. Since Mom died, there hasn't really been a constant, and I see the same with my friends. I have one friend who still goes to her father's...with her adult children who are starting their own families. I have another who is finished with the home and hearth, and choosing to eat dinner with her boyfriend and his kids. Another who is grieving for a lost parent. A half brother who is older than my mother would be if she were still alive. And he's alone most days; someone who would have been welcome at my mother's table if he'd been local (and that's even if he weren't related).
My daughter is napping and my son is off to the gym. I'm worrying about traditions, and how to bring them home as they head off into college, and soon adulthood. How do I bring them home for the holidays when we haven't established definitive traditions? How do we establish them now?
After we eat and clean, we listen to "Alice's Restaurant" while playing Scrabble. We talk of Mom and Ronnie, my other brother Mike. We talk about college and future plans, the pot head who lit a joint in the gym earlier in the day, and my son stakes the claim for making a Turducken next year. A friend surprises us by bringing a pound cake for dessert.
And later, we'll head to the Black Friday sales (ugh), but afterward, we'll enjoy coffee and pie at a local cafe.
Sounds like the start of something good. God willing, even if we have to keep cooking and eating the typical Thanksgiving dinner (or a Turducken next year), we can start a new tradition. Pie at a cafe.
Anyone know if Alice's Restaurant is still around?
Top 5 Christmas movies
What's your favorite Christmas movie?
I like the idea that we’re fated to be with certain people in our lives, so here’s a list of my top 5 romance movies where the characters try to fight fate (and fail).
You can fight the good fight with many things in life, but fate isn’t one of them. Blake and Vicki in Unforgettable might just be fated, but they’re both trying hard to fight the chemistry, history, and the way their lives continue to intersect.
There’s only so long that denial works, and Vicki isn’t exactly one for denying herself the pleasure of Blake’s company, but even if they accept their fate, they still have a mob boss, a hit man, and the Department of Justice to handle.
What's your favorite Rom Com? Let me know in the comments
Top 5 suspense movies with a twist
Do you like fast-paced books with twists and turns? Me too, that’s why I write romantic suspense. The faster my heart pounds as I’m writing, the easier it is to sleep at night. When I take a break from writing, I like to watch movies with unexpected endings.
As a kid, I watched AMC with old movies like Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, a movie that started me on this twisted path. I know Hitchcock’s Psycho is considered #1, but Rear Window captivated me. I liked the unlikely voyeur.
A hazard of writing suspense is the need to pick a movie apart and figure out the end before I get there. It drives my kids crazy. When a movie surprises me, it’s a keeper. I tend to go for the less obvious choices, because no fan of suspense likes predictability.
1) Seven (1995) with Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman. My mother was a fan of the psychological thriller and often recommended serial killer movies. She liked the twisted as well. :) “The price of sin is death.” With a serial killer using the seven deadly sins as his excuse to kill, Pitt and Freeman are out to find the killer before he finishes all seven. It’s the classic detective story. With a lovely twist.
2) A Perfect Murder (1998) with Michael Douglas and Gweneth Paltrow. It’s a remake of the classic Dial M for Murder, which was one of those movies I watched on AMC, but that didn’t keep me from enjoying every moment of this exciting thriller. “That’s not happiness to see me, is it?”
3) Shutter Island (2010) with Leonardo DiCaprio. It was one of the last movies my mom recommended to me. Honestly, I had to watch the movie twice. The first time to experience (talk about a rush) and the second time to really understand. “Do you understand? They can’t let you leave.”
4) Dead Again (1991) with Emma Thompson, Kenneth Branagh, and a surprise visit from Robin Williams who acts as the odd expert in reincarnation. “You burn somebody in one life, they get a chance to burn you back in this one. It’s the karmic credit plan.” It’s a romantic suspense twisted in time.
5) The Secret Window (2004) with Johnny Depp. It doesn’t hurt that it’s Johnny Depp, but it’s the twist that blew me away. Let’s just say I didn’t ruin it for the kids because I had no idea. “The only thing that matters is the ending.”
I’m a simple girl. I like romance... with a twist. And the occasional dead body.
On Sundays I run a novel writing group at the local library. They're a diverse group of male and female writers of all ages, although there is a heavy slant toward the fantasy realm. And we're lucky enough that everyone clicks. Our novel writing goals unite us.
Yesterday we talked about character development and then we continued to create a class character named Harriet Crawford, whose name we chose from a website called Random Name Generator. Over the course of the last couple weeks, I've grown rather fond of Harriet. We created her as a group, so she has some surprising traits, like playing piano as a child and now she only plays piano when she's had too much gin. That's the kind of detail the class has given to developing her, and then we move on to group-brainstorm the protagonists for other members of the group.
It's been an engaging and stimulating process, and we all take home the knowledge and the energy.
The day before a book release
The day before a book release can be stressful. So many what-ifs and I'm a worrier, so lots of stress. It helps to keep busy. Saturday night, I stayed up half the night making a book trailer. Why? Because the use of my creativity in another arena helped divert my worry into something beneficial. Plus, I'm an insomniac. :)
And Sunday, I got to hang out with my book tribe. Each week, they thank me for my time, but they don't realize I get as much out of it as they do. Hanging out with other writers feeds my creativity and I go home revved up to write. To me, that's a win.
Some people like book release celebrations, and they have their place, but for me, I"m happy hanging out with my book tribe.
What do you enjoy when you're celebrating a milestone?
I've studied Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces and Christopher Vogler's The Writer's Journey, and if that weren't enough, I've tortured my children and made them study both books (it's never too early to learn story structure, everything from video games to teen melodramas revolve around story). PLUS (pity my children), I've had them study Greek Mythology. So going to see Hercules was a no-brainer.
And I'm not going to discuss story or heroes of anything of the sort (no, that's a lie, I just reread this, and I kinda/sorta discuss it, but not in an academic way).
The power of myth is important, and certainly relates to the idea of "romance and other fairy tales." Mythology, Greek or otherwise, is the basis of our human story structure. It's the way we're wired to tell stories and the way we're wired to hear them. God bless the Greeks, they discovered something that took us centuries to relearn and reclaim. Myth is story, from Twilight to Gone with the Wind to everything Shakespeare.
Of all the stories, I think we're especially drawn to dark heroes (Rhett Butler, anyone? So much more interesting than Ashley Wilkes). I'm currently writing a dark hero who happens to be female, and she has struck a chord so deep in me, I can barely wrest myself from the laptop. I wrote 10,000 words yesterday (not typical for me), tears streaming down my face, because she is so broken and so flawed and so human. I have a deep seated NEED to know what happens next. Broken people don't respond to stimuli in ordinary ways.
Dwayne Johnson's Hercules is no less broken. He is a product of the 12-labors, a result of his dead family, and he has sold his soul because everything he valued is gone. His crew is equally flawed, equally broken and equally fascinating. Maybe I like flawed characters. No maybe. It just is. I am intrigued by Ingrid Berdal who plays the Amazon female who is a serious kick-ass heroine (also significantly younger than the men in her crew, but that's a Hollywood thing), but I am more drawn to the English professor type, of which there is no shortage. Ian McShane plays Amphiaraus and the voice you hear in the trailer. He could read the TV guide and I'd listen. Rufus Sewell of the gravelly voice (a personal weakness) is the epitome of the handsome English Prof (also a personal weakness). Why is it men in Hollywood age so well? And there's Dwayne Johnson who flat takes your breath away. The man knows how to work his body. The statue of David has nothing on this man.
I don't know what the critics have said or will say about this movie.* I don't care. I go to movies for escape (not unlike the Romans who went to the amphitheater for blood and gore). I want a story with the power of Calgon to "take me away."
Hercules took me away.
"Are you only the legend? Or are you the truth?" When The Ian McShane character has his monologue near the end (lovely part), he asks of Hercules what we should ask of ourselves. "You don't have to be a demigod to be a hero." You just have to act heroic.
Enjoy the movie. There are enough accents, beautiful people, and one-liners to satisfy anyone, and if that's not enough, the fight scenes are pretty cool. Mythic, maybe. :)
Ok, I lied. When I went looking for a link, I glanced the following quote (I tried not to look, but it was highlighted with bold letters): "Oafish pleasure." Get a grip Mr Hollywood Critic. You're too full of yourself. Remember the line from Trix cereal. "Trix is for kids." Hercules is for real audiences. It's about pleasure. Oafs like this critic need not apply.
Sorry, short rant, couldn't be helped. I'm not a fan of critics, but my mama raised me with the adage: "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all," to which critics do not ascribe (and therefore don't earn its protection). I'm not a critic. I talk romance, myths and fairytales because I like them. I'm an easy audience. Plus, I don't talk about movies I don't like. End of story.
The Myth of the Last Honest Man
Begin Again was a movie I knew nothing about going in. I do that sometimes. It's easier to get a legit opinion when you're not bogged down in hype. I'll be honest and say I normally wait until the movie is at the cheap theater when I haven't seen a trailer, but it's hot outside, and the movie theater promises a great air conditioner plus movie theater popcorn, so I figured even if I didn't like it, it was a win.
I left the theater feeling good, but that's true of most movies, so I'll say instead that I left thinking, and that's pretty powerful stuff. If I had to find a tie-in to my theme of romance and/or fairytales, I'd say that this movie is the myth of the last honest man.
Honesty and integrity are important to the Skaggs family, it's a myth of its own, I think, and I often find myself making choices based on what is right versus what is easy, and sometimes, choosing the right thing isn't rewarded in this world. Hell, sometimes it's punished. Dishonest people (especially those you think you can trust) will use your honesty and disabuse you of your trust. But that's not what this movie is about. Which is part of the reason I liked it.
It's not a romance in the traditional sense. It's about the power of money and fame and how easy it is to be seduced by either or both. Enter Keira Knightley, the second half of a couple who gets left behind by a man (Adam Levine) whose ego bought the hype of his imminent fame. Even though he is an absolute cutie, it was easy to dislike Levine. I mean, really easy (the beard did not help). Mark Ruffalo (one of my favorite actors) is a washed-up (and drunk) music producer who wants to produce Knightley's album, one she's not even sure she wants to make. What ensues is about redemption, and choices, and family. It's about the Cee Lo Green character who stands by Ruffalo, because even though he's had a few rough years, Ruffalo was responsible for this man's success (and we all hope that our friends will stand by us, even if--God forbid--we're washed up and drunk).
As I left the theater, I thought about authenticity, something that was important to the Knightley character. Creative people for the most part seriously have to consider the power of being authentic. It's hard, because when you're real, when you are who you are, that means any artistic judgments are about you and not some character. Being honest in art is hard and imminently rewarding, but it does take courage, and not everyone has it. I certainly didn't when I was young.
There are movies and songs and albums written, bought, and sold strictly for the desire for pop culture celebrity. It's the way of the world. And if they entertain, then they have value. Hey, I like popular movies and top-forty music, so I'm not throwing stones. If the value is entertainment, it's certainly a necessary commodity in our world. But what of those artists who wanted more? Who started to write or paint or act or sing because they had something to say?
I know people who "sold out" their art, and there's something about it that leaves them a hallow shell of who they were and what they believed about themselves and the world. Fame is seductive, as the Knightley character learns through her breakup with Levine. Does she follow in his steps? Sorry, no spoilers here, although the idea of the last honest man certainly foreshadows the ending.
We'd like to believe that in a world rife with greed and power, that an honest man can still succeed in the world. For me, the jury is still out. But if you do happen to find an honest man, let me know. Just because he's a myth doesn't mean I don't believe.
Funny story. During the Mercury Retrograde Incident in September 2016, Cindy's original blog disappeared. Five years, gone in a random act of chaos. Now she gets to repopulate her blog world one post at a time. Join her if you dare. :)