Christmas

The world is a place filled with magic!  It is for us to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary, find peace in tremendous turmoil and be a gift of joy whenever possible.
 
Our family has once again suffered loss and my daughter has again, lost a friend…both tragic situations…and ones that will impact us, our thinking and also our actions. These experiences, as well as observing the tremendous loss to two other families right before Christmas, somehow changed the way we viewed things as family. 
 
Family and friends hugged and hugged that much closer…kissed…shared time…just that much closer; miraculous, wondrous, beautiful!  Christmas means having my children safe and having them happy.  Christmas is a moment that perches on top of a giant bundle of moments. 
 
A tiny baby came into the world in the most humble of situations and he transformed the thinking of so many!  He intended only that we love one another, to love ourselves similarly and to love God with all of our heart, soul, strength and mind.
 
May you and your families be richly blessed and may you draw nearer to the ‘heart of matters’.

Cinderella Man

Cinderella Man was an exceptional film!  This one left me in a puddle of tears at a few different moments in the movie.  What a struggle this family went through, but with such care to remain together and make all things work!  It was a story of faith and courage and the undeniable spirit of humanity.  I recommend this one to all of you!
 
 

Philadelphia

I love the scene in Philadelphia where Tom Hanks ‘speaks’ an opera. There is so much emotion portrayed and such power! It is such a special movie!  It moves me again and again and AGAIN this past weekend, it moved me again! And..what a powerful thing to include the black and white 8 mm. home movies at the end! For someone who loves nostalgia, as I do, the short clips demonstrated the love that the family has and how we come into the world with ‘right’ spirits.  What causes us to change?
 

Casablanca

As Time Goes By
Lyrics and Music by Herman Hupfeld;
© 1931 Warner Bros. Music Corp., ASCAP
 
This day and age we’re living in
Gives cause for apprehension
With speed and new invention
And things like fourth dimension
Yet we get a trifle weary
With Mr. Einstein’s theory
So we must get down to earth at times
Relax relieve the tension
And no matter what the progress
Or what may yet be proved
The simple facts of life are such
They cannot be removed
You must remember this
A kiss is still a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh
The fundamental things apply
As time goes by
And when two lovers woo
They still say, "I love you"
On that you can rely
No matter what the future brings
As time goes by
Moonlight and love songs
Never out of date
Hearts full of passion
Jealousy and hate
Woman needs man
And man must have his mate
That no one can deny
Well, it’s still the same old story
A fight for love and glory
A case of do or die
The world will always welcome lovers
As time goes by
Oh yes, the world will always welcome lovers
As time goes by!
 
My daughter and I have been sharing movies lately…curling up in cozy blankets, with chips and dip and watching ‘flicks’.  We’ve turned off the telephone and become very intense about JUST relaxing.  It’s really what we’ve both needed.  I know!  I know!  Perhaps I could have been baking or writing my cards, but all of that will wait until Christmas break!  For now, we have one another!
 
This film was romantic.  It was beautiful in its simplicity.  We smiled at the stereotypes and the obviously staged events and reactions.  It made us giggle for a short while and then at some point, we were drawn into the story and captivated.  It’s left me humming the song this week.

"No one making ‘Casablanca’ thought they were making a great film. It was simply another Warner Bros. release.    It was made on a tight budget ($950,000) and released with small expectations. Everyone involved in the film had been, and would be, in dozens of other films made under similar circumstances, and the greatness of  ‘Casablanca’ was largely the result of happy chance.  ‘Casablanca’ was just another studio main feature produced by Hal B. Wallis and directed by Michael Curtiz.   The fact is that even if they had wanted to, they could not have set out to make ‘Casablanca’ turn out the way it did.  It was a combination of elements and circumstances which produced a work of indefinable appeal which has endured for generations even though tastes and attitudes have changed.   You don’t set out to make a classic, you set out to make a film.

The story was from an unproduced play by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison, a play of no great consequence and written for the screen by the brothers Julius J. and Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch (and the uncredited Casey Robinson). They struggled hard as studio hacks on assignment to get the script pages in on time, and did not plan for the fact that because the actors did not know how the film would end their ambiguous and edgy characterisations would be a major contribution to film folklore and debate ever after.

Humphrey Bogart was always best when he played the disappointed, wounded, resentful hero. In ‘Casablanca’ he is Rick Blaine, an American running a nightclub in Casablanca when Morocco was a crossroads for spies, traitors, Nazis and the French Resistance.  Into this world comes Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman), the woman Rick loved years earlier in Paris. (“of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine”).  Under the shadow of the German occupation, he arranged their escape, and believes she abandoned him – left him waiting in the rain at a railway station with their tickets to freedom. Now she is with Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), a legendary hero of the French Resistance.

No better cast of supporting actors could have been assembled on the Warner Bros. lot – the richness of the characters, Sidney Greenstreet as Signor Ferrari, the corrupt rival club owner, Peter Lorre as Guillermo Ugarte, the wheedling little black-marketeer, Claude Rains as Captain Louis Renault, the police chief and Conrad Veidt as Major Heinrich Strasser the Nazis ‘baddie’.

Stylistically, the film is not so much brilliant as absolutely sound, rock-solid in its use of Hollywood studio craftsmanship. Michael Curtiz, the director, and the writers Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch all won Oscars, as did the film itself gaining Best Picture 1943.

The final touches to the legend of Casablanca were equally incidental. Musical director Leo Forbstein oversaw the hiring of Max Steiner and the selection of two songs ‘Knock on Wood’ by M.K. Jerome and Jack Scholl and ‘As Time Goes By’ by Herman Hopfeld to be performed by entertainer Dooley Wilson, still in the first year of his film career (Dooley Wilson was a drummer who did not play piano).

The film was critically and commercially successful, and after its release its cast and crew went on to their next films oblivious to the fact that as far as popular memory was concerned, they would always be associated with a night –club in Casablanca.

The black-and-white cinematography has not aged and the dialogue is so spare and cynical it has not grown old-fashioned.

There have been two attempts to make a sequel to Casablanca, both times on television, both times a failure."  http://homepage.ntlworld.com/alm005/casablanca.htm

Light and Life

On Friday, one of my students lost his father to a sudden heart attack…a 47 year old Dad passed away.  It was a day for getting projects finished up at school.  It was so busy!  Book reports and paragraphs…everything done so that the family could leave early for a Christmas vacation in Italy…perhaps an audience with the Pope….the Vatican…art museums…excitement and together-time!
 
I had just finished reading his paragraph titled "Memories" some time before I received the news.  I had read it while being wrapped up in my red sofa, with my black marking pen in hand.  I had made a brew of spices and citrus on my stove top in order to fill the house with the scent of Christmas….incense really…beautiful warm and healing incense surrounding us. It was an honest paragraph about my student’s Grandfather and what he meant to him…what it meant to lose him…the love he would always feel…and the comment that, "It was the saddest time of my life."  Sigh…
 
I had planned on having a pretty busy social weekend…one filled with company and events…but all of that came to a halt.  I just needed to gain a clearer perspective.  I needed to take a breath….I needed to talk with my children when I could and sit back and watch movies and just ‘connect’.  I needed voices over the telephone…my mother…my friends…I needed to reaffirm my love for others and to be deeply grateful.  What a week for struggles and difficult news!  My prayers lift up for people suffering loss when everything should be lights and Christmas magic!  It is difficult to blend the promise of a new tomorrow with the everyday struggles that can present themselves today.  I thank God for my good health and the health of my loved ones.  I treasure, however distant physically, the people who live day-by-day in my heart!

Sons

For the past two Wednesdays, I have chaperoned for my son’s band practices at his high school.  There is such energy with these young musicians and so much hard work!  My boy plays tenor drums and marches at the same time.  Last evening the drill included a constant march for 45 minutes side to side, forward and backward, in the front foyer of the school.
 
He has been very sick with a hacking cough this past week, and to see him working so hard and putting out so much for his team, amazed me.  Today I’m keeping him home from school.  It is time for him to rest and recuperate.
 
Some years ago, I painted an art show called Pieces of Gold….a tribute to two sons, my boy and Jarrett.  There is something so special about having my boy grow up in front of me.  It is such a privilege to be his Mom!
 
My James

My James

Jarrett Alley

Jarrett Alley

Jarrett

It’s been a hard day at the office.  Every thing that COULD be topsy-turvey, was.  It’s unusual for me to bump into (and that’s what it felt like) a day where so many different sorts of things happen that pull the scales the direction of the ‘negative’.  I didn’t think there was any possible way that even my attitude, could shift things the other direction.
 
I continue to think of Jarrett, my student…the anticipation of the anniversary of his passing tomorrow…his family and their loss…I think about what he meant to so many people.  I know that somewhere at the core of me, this may have held some influence with me today.  I want to thank God tonight for my students, the teachers I work with, my many friends and family members.  I am a very lucky lady!
alley-jarrett
 

2nd Week of Advent

We lit the Advent Candle yesterday.  I was responsible for the first reading in church yesterday morning…and I loved the words that were spilling out of my mouth…spoken with conviction, because I believe them!
 


Baruch
Chapter 5

1

Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever:

2

Wrapped in the cloak of justice from God, bear on your head the mitre that displays the glory of the eternal name.

3

For God will show all the earth your splendor:

4

you will be named by God forever the peace of justice, the glory of God’s worship.

5

Up, Jerusalem! stand upon the heights; look to the east and see your children Gathered from the east and the west at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that they are remembered by God.

6

Led away on foot by their enemies they left you: but God will bring them back to you borne aloft in glory as on royal thrones.

7

For God has commanded that every lofty mountain be made low, And that the age-old depths and gorges be filled to level ground, that Israel may advance secure in the glory of God.

8

The forests and every fragrant kind of tree have overshadowed Israel at God’s command;

9

For God is leading Israel in joy by the light of his glory, with his mercy and justice for company.

Both my daughter and son are sick right now…coughing and blowing…we even forgot one of the marching band events on Saturday!  My Grampa would have said, "You knotheads!"  He just came to mind and it makes me smile.

The tree was put up and decorated and it was quite a time getting into the right mindset.  We couldn’t find our Rita Macneil CD and we know full-well, it is essential to the proper atmosphere!  At some point, my daughter stuck the film, Love Actually, into the dvd player and we seemed to stymie the sense that things just weren’t ‘normal’.  I always miss my oldest daughter at this time.  It is a hard thing to feel her so far away.

Dads

Chances are that you will receive this wee story through one of those pass-it-along messages in your e-mail box, at some point.  My cousin sent it to me.  (by the way, my apologies about those forwards that you’re always supposed to forward to the sender and to nine other people…I never do that…and I don’t take the impending doom predictions to heart) Anyway….this message was pretty special.  In fact, it made me cry.  And…I DO thank my cousin for sending it to especially to me because it touched my heart.  Please, meet a Dad who has learned something about life…by living his magic!  OH yes…and take the time to connect with the short video link as well.  It will warm your heart and teach you about LOVE.
 
 
From Sports Illustrated, By Rick Reilly]

I try to be a good father. Give my kids mulligans. Work nights to pay For their text messaging. Take them to swimsuit shoots.

But compared with Dick Hoyt, I suck.

Eighty-five times he’s pushed his disabled son, Rick, 26.2 miles in Marathons. Eight times he’s not only pushed him 26.2 miles in a Wheelchair but also towed him 2.4 miles in a dinghy while swimming and Pedaled him 112 miles in a seat on the handlebars–all in the same day.

Dick’s also pulled him cross-country skiing, taken him on his back Mountain climbing and once hauled him across the U.S. On a bike. Makes Taking your son bowling look a little lame, right?

And what has Rick done for his father? Not much–except save his life.
This love story began in Winchester , Mass. , 43 years ago, when Rick Was strangled by the umbilical cord during birth, leaving him Brain-damaged and unable to control his limbs.

"He’ll be a vegetable the rest of his life;” Dick says doctors told him And his wife, Judy, when Rick was nine months old. “Put him in an Institution.”

But the Hoyts weren’t buying it. They noticed the way Rick’s eyes Followed them around the room. When Rick was 11 they took him to the Engineering department at Tufts University and asked if there was Anything to help the boy communicate. “No way,” Dick says he was told. “There’s nothing going on in his brain.”

"Tell him a joke,” Dick countered. They did. Rick laughed. Turns out a Lot was going on in his brain. Rigged up with a computer that allowed Him to control the cursor by touching a switch with the side of his Head, Rick was finally able to communicate. First words? “Go Bruins!” And after a high school classmate was paralyzed in an accident and the School organized a charity run for him, Rick pecked out, “Dad, I want To do that.”

Yeah, right. How was Dick, a self-described “porker” who never ran More than a mile at a time, going to push his son five miles? Still, he Tried. “Then it was me who was handicapped,” Dick says. “I was sore For two weeks.”

That day changed Rick’s life. “Dad,” he typed, “when we were running, It felt like I wasn’t disabled anymore!”

And that sentence changed Dick’s life. He became obsessed with giving Rick that feeling as often as he could. He got into such hard-belly Shape that he and Rick were ready to try the 1979 Boston Marathon.

“No way,” Dick was told by a race official. The Hoyts weren’t quite a Single runner, and they weren’t quite a wheelchair competitor. For a few Years Dick and Rick just joined the massive field and ran anyway, then They found a way to get into the race Officially: In 1983 they ran another marathon so fast they made the Qualifying time for Boston the following year.

Then somebody said, “Hey, Dick, why not a triathlon?”

How’s a guy who never learned to swim and hadn’t ridden a bike since he Was six going to haul his 110-pound kid through a triathlon? Still, Dick Tried.

Now they’ve done 212 triathlons, including four grueling 15-hour Ironmans in Hawaii . It must be a buzzkill to be a 25-year-old stud Getting passed by an old guy towing a grown man in a dinghy, don’t you Think?

Hey, Dick, why not see how you’d do on your own? “No way,” he says. Dick does it purely for “the awesome feeling” he gets seeing Rick with A cantaloupe smile as they run, swim and ride together.

This year, at ages 65 and 43, Dick and Rick finished their 24th Boston Marathon, in 5,083rd place out of more than 20,000 starters. Their best Time? Two hours, 40 minutes in 1992–only 35 minutes off the world Record, which, in case you don’t keep track of these things, happens to Be held by a guy who was not pushing another man in a wheelchair at the Time.

“No question about it,” Rick types. “My dad is the Father of the Century.”

And Dick got something else out of all this too. Two years ago he had a Mild heart attack during a race. Doctors found that one of his arteries Was 95% clogged. “If you hadn’t been in such great shape,” One doctor told him, “you probably would’ve died 15 years ago.” So, in a way, Dick and Rick saved each other’s life.

Rick, who has his own apartment (he gets home care) and works in Boston, and Dick, retired from the military and living in Holland, Mass. , always find ways to be together. They give speeches around the country and compete in some backbreaking race every weekend, including this Father’s Day.

That night, Rick will buy his dad dinner, but the thing he really wants to give him is a gift he can never buy.

“The thing I’d most like,” Rick types, “is that my dad sit in the chair and I push him once.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4B-r8KJhlE