“Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!”

I love movies.  I remember my parents taking me to see Annie in the theater, and I remember falling asleep, just like Annie did.  The day I turned 16, I got my driver’s licence; the next day, I got a job at our local movie theater (what was then called the Capri III), working at the concession stand.  In college and the early days right out of college, our weekend free time was spent at the movie theater or at Blockbuster Video (Remember those?  We actually saw one still open when we were in Oregon.).

I think I might have once said that Netflix changed my life.  I have over 350 movies in my queue.  So, yeah, I dig movies.  A lot.

In homage to one of my favorite pastimes, I’d like to share with you my top ten favorite movies.  Here we go…

The all-time faves

The Last Unicorn

This movie has it all – fantasy, magic, action, adventure, romance, comedy, a beautiful soundtrack by America, an all-star cast and one scary-ass red bull.  Oh, did I mention it’s animated?  Not Disney animated (don’t get me wrong, not one thing against Disney), but this is different.  It’s not candy sweet.  The animation is more raw, as are the characters and the story.

It tops my list…seriously.  If you haven’t seen it, put it on your queue.

Pulp Fiction

I know, I know.  How can you go from an animated movie to Pulp Fiction?  Well, here’s why.  It’s Quentin Tarantino.  The comeback of John Travolta.  Samuel L. Jackson (“say ‘what’ again, mother f____r!”).  Eric Stoltz gets to stab Uma Thurman in the chest with a giant syringe. Bruce Willis, Amanda Plummer, Tim Roth, Ving Rhames, Christopher Walken.  Does casting get much better?

The writing is superb.  The music, too.  I love how the stories are mixed in this crazy non-chronological way – what seems crazy, isn’t so much when you get to the end.  It’s violent, but also hilarious (“sewer rat might taste like pumpkin pie”).  To quote Jack Black’s character in The Holiday, “Totally brill.”

The  horror!

Jaws

“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”  This movie is the reason I don’t go in the ocean.

Psycho

The cinematography is haunting and Anthony Perkins will blow your mind.

Speaking of Hitchcock, if you haven’t seen Rope, put it on your queue right now.  It’ll mess with your mind.

The musicals

The Sound of Music

I used to sit by the record player, just listening to the music, reading the album cover and trying to memorize the lyrics.  “I’d like to stay… and taste my first champagne!”

The Wizard of Oz

This is my dad’s favorite.  I remember the days before cable, before VCRs and VHS tapes, when The Wizard of Oz would come on network TV.  They showed it once a year, usually in the spring.  We watched it every time.

The hopefuls

The Shawshank Redemption

First off, it’s based on a Stephen King novella (that reminds me…note to self: write a post on Stephen King).  When Andy Dufresne lifts up his hands towards the sky and laughs in the pouring rain, you know there’s hope.

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

Speaking of hope… “No…I am your father.”  My mom took me to see this movie when it came out (at our local theater, the Capri III).  You just know the good guys will triumph in the end.

The rom-coms (the closest thing to comedy that will be on my list)

Love Actually

One minute you’re laughing out loud.  The next, you’re cheering.  The next, you want to punch Alan Rickman in the face (well, not him…his character).  Then, you’re cheering again.  Plus, it’s English.

A little bonus movie trivia here.  Did you know that Rodrigo Santoro, who plays Carl, the enigmatic chief designer in Love Actually, also plays Xerxes in 300?  Seriously, it’s the same guy.

Sliding Doors

Well, it’s English.  And it’s a fun “what would my life be like if _______ hadn’t happened” kind of story.

 

That’s it and that’s all, folks!  If you’re into watching movies with the family during the holidays, then I hope you might include some of these.  I, meanwhile, will be trying to pare down my Netflix queue.

The End.

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Why Oregon?

This was the question most folks asked me when I told them I was going there on vacation.  I admit…it’s not the first place you’d think of when you’re out here on the east coast.

My friend Ashby said she always wanted to go, and asked me if I wanted to go with her.  I said, “Oregon?  I’ve never been there.  Never really thought about going there.  Sure!  Why not?”  We spent months planning, marking our route from Portland down the coast and over to Crater Lake National Park.

And that’s exactly what we did.  Along with a lot of eating some really, really good food along the way.  On our last day, while driving from Crater Lake to Portland, Ashby and I rated our fave dining experiences.

Best eggs ever

Seriously.  THE best poached eggs I’ve ever eaten, found at Multnomah Falls Lodge.  Beautifully cooked yolk, not runny, just set.  I had the Eggs Florentine; Ashby had the Eggs Benedict.  With a side of Bloody Mary.

Fried gorgonzola

I’m from the south, and the clChiantiiche holds true.  I love fried food.  I could also eat an entire slab of gorgonzola.  We had one night in Portland, and tried this little Italian place called Mama Mia Trattoria.  As soon as I saw “fried gorgonzola” as an ingredient in their Insalata di Rucola, I was hooked.  It was exquisite – the perfect combination of crispy coating with melted cheese and a salty note that balanced the sweet apple and arugula salad.  I danced in my seat.

The service was also fantastic, as was a smooth Chianti.

Doooooooonuuuuuuts (drool)

Homer Simpson would be in hVoodoo Doughnutog heaven at Voodoo Doughnut.  We got a dozen.  And ate every one.  My favorite…Raspberry Romeo’s doughnut (the filling was freshly made, tart and delicious).  Most unexpected…the Mexican Hot Chocolate doughnut (sweet at first, then it got hot!).

Best (and biggest) steamed oysters

Steamed oysters at Mo'sThis jolly fellow we met when we were shipping our newly purchased wine back to NC recommended Mo’s Seafood – their claim to fame is their clam chowder.  The standout for us, though, were the giant steamed oysters.  Served with lemon and melted butter, these oysters went down so smooth.  Did I mention they were HUGE?  So huge, they were served in a 9×13 baking dish.

Extraordinary view

We were pleasantly surprised at HOW GOOD our meal was at the Best Western Pier Point Inn in Florence, Oregon.  The Bay View Bistro is appropriately named and serves a wonderfully spicy and chock-full cioppino.  And the view…whoa.  Go just for the view.  And the cioppino.

Clam chowder at high altitude

Ashby’s vote for the best clam chowder on our trip… at Crater Lake Lodge.  Our last night of the trip, we decided to splurge.  Fresh halibut, buttery and creamy mashed potatoes.  Oh, and I had a blueberry bread pudding for dessert.  What an ending!

Thoughts from a Prayer Retreat

Prayer retreat.  I wasn’t exactly sure what that was when I was invited to one, but I said, “Sure, I’ll go.”  On this day, a small group from my church spent several dedicted hours, mostly outdoors, in quiet meditation with God.  I tend to churn thoughts around in my head a lot, so I brought my journal along just in case I needed to get those thoughts out on paper.  I’d like to share with you what I wrote that day…

An ever gentle breeze
barely moving the trees
like a quiet night

The leaves fell like a red waterfall
into the river
and the sun shone
for just a moment

An acorn fell
and then another

The chatter of birds behind and above me
The rush of the river in my eyes and in my ears
The breeze
The sun peeps out again

The leaves under my feet twirl down the pathway, going with the wind
They are discipiles of the wind

Remnants of humanity decorate God’s masterpiece. His creation dotted like stars in the sky.

A fallen tree lays helpless.
Shards of itself rising up out of the ground, pointed towards Heaven.
A wayward shard seems to cradle another fallen branch as if to say, “I’ve got you. Don’t worry.”

The water here is still.  Unmoving.  Uncovering the life below it.

A creature nestles in the dry, crackly underbrush.  He is heard but unseen.

I see a burst of yellow, leaves shooting up like a geyser from the earth.
In a midst of green and brown.

Flashes of silver and gray
interrupt the brown, black and green of fall.

The twist of a branch
I can smell broken wood.

I am lost, but He is found.
They will soar on wings like eagles.
The Lord is in this place.  And in my heart.

A damp cold wind envelopes me
I move on
Towards warmth awaiting me on the other end.

I’m following the history of a deer that walked this trail in front of me.

The scent of a campfire beckons
Willing me there.

What am I in this place?
So small in the world.

The sun shines like a beacon on me
Like a quiet reminder
I am God’s child.
I am humbled.

A fork in the path
A decision to make

Standing on a hill
Through the trees
The river expands all around me.
The quiet breeze.
Crickets in song.
Birds in conversation.
And the campfire calls.

The Reluctant Runner

Never have I considered myself to be an athlete.  I was always more of a bookworm (which, happily, I still am).  Even with 14 years of dance in my younger days, “graceful” is not a word that describes me.  Clumsiness finds me, especially when stairs are involved.  I once sprained my ankle tripping DOWN the stairs.  And once ended up with stitches in my knee tripping UP the stairs.  Handrails were invented for people like me.

I took up running a little over a year ago.  At the time, I had reached a weight-loss plateau and needed something to move past it.  I’d tried running in the past, but always hated it (for reasons I’m sure you can imagine).  But I was determined.  My friend Wendy, an amazingly fast and talented runner, suggested I sign up for a 5k, you know, to have a goal.  The Charleston Marathon’s 5k was my first ever race, January 2011.

My goal was to be able to run the whole race.  I didn’t care about time…I just wanted to finish.  Finish I did, in a flood of tears.  As I came around the last turn and saw the actual finish line, my heart jumped to my throat.  I started to cry the happiest tears, thinking “I can’t believe I actually did it!”  At the time, training for that 5k was probably the hardest athletic thing I’ve ever done.

Fast forward to May 2011.  Two more 5k races under my belt.  Heartily I announced to my girlfriends that I want to run the Charleston Marathon’s half marathon in January 2012.  Signed up in July.  Started training in October.

Training early on was a breeze.  About halfway through, around Thanksgiving, I hit a point of “ugh, WHY am I DOING this???”  Perhaps it was the turkey and dressing.  But, again, I was determined.

On December 18, I had an epiphany.  I ran 8 miles, my longest run ever.  It took me 90 minutes, but I didn’t care.  That is when I finally said, “Oh my gosh, I AM a runner!”  Now people, this is after 4 races and over a year of regular running.  If that’s not reluctant, I don’t know what is.

Then the fateful New Year’s Eve of 2011.  Clumsiness strikes again.  I’m about halfway through a 9-mile run (yes, ladies and gentlemen, 9 miles) when I roll my ankle on a rogue sidewalk.  The pain in my ankle was immediate.  Luckily my friend Alvin was home and able to come get me.  The prospect of limping another 3.5 miles home was not appealing.

A week later, I finally gave in and went to the doctor.  And ended up in a boot (aka “Das Boot”).  Diagnosis: a strained, possibly torn, posterior tibial tendon (uh, ok??).  Two weeks away from my goal of running my first half marathon, and I’m in Das Boot.  My first sports injury.  While I wanted to wear it like a badge of honor, I couldn’t help but be depressed that I got so far only to have my goal just out of reach.

Fortunately I was able to cheer on my friends Lita and Hillary as they ran the half marathon.  I had that same lump in my throat, holding back conflicted tears.  Proud and happy for my friends.  Sad that I wasn’t crossing the finish line with them.

Several friends have said to me, “This happened for a reason, you just don’t know what yet.”  And that is true.  Was it for a spiritual renewal?  Was it to learn what true athletes go through?  Was it to make the attainment of my goal even sweeter when I do finish a race?  God still has to reveal the answer to me.  One thing I do know.  I miss running now.  After weeks of not running, I actually miss it.  Reluctant?  Not anymore.

Why God Made Little Girls

The marina at IOP

The Bible I carry to church each Sunday is not fancy.  The cover is white and is signed to me by my childhood church for my high school graduation.  Since I received that Bible, I’ve also had the same bookmark – it’s peach colored, has a drawing of a doll on it, and is inscribed with the poem, “Why God Made Little Girls.”

I think God made little girls because they grow up to be beautiful, strong, loving, genuine women who take care of each other.

It’s not over yet (thank goodness), but this weekend opened my eyes to the most amazing group of women.  All who I will proudly call role models for the life I want to live.

Early yesterday morning, I was standing on the beach with my feet in the sand, the water rushing over my feet and the sand pulling away through my toes.  I stretched out my arms and raised my face to the sky, having a long conversation with God.  I prayed something I often pray – “Lord, please guide me in living the life you want me to live. Help guide me each day.”

When I got back to the house, my friend Traci was sitting on the porch and I told her about the moment I’d had on the beach.  She listened patiently, understanding what I was trying to say even though I couldn’t really articulate it.  I don’t think she knows it, but Traci touches my heart every day, talking about faith as if it’s a no-brainer.  I truly believe that this is why He put Traci back in my life – to answer that daily prayer.

I often struggle with two things in my life: faith and forgiveness.  I don’t think I’m alone in this, but I do know that these things eat away at me sometimes.  I have a hard time handing my life completely over to God, and I beat myself up over bad decisions I’ve made.

But this weekend – this amazing, spiritual weekend – was completely unexpected.  I knew we were coming here to recharge, relax, laugh and have fun.  I didn’t expect to renew my faith.  My eyes are open, and while I know that I am guaranteed to falter from time to time, I have this to remember.

I’m sending up this prayer right now to thank God for guiding these little girls to become beautiful women: Courtney, Cristina, Jennifer, Jill, Lita, Rachel, Stephanie and Traci.

“Why God Made Little Girls”
God made the world with towering trees,
Majestic mountains and restless seas.
Then paused and said , “It needs one more thing…
Someone to laugh and dance and sing.
To walk in the wood and gather flowers…
To commune with nature in quiet hours.”

So God made little girls
With laughing eyes and bouncing curls,
With joyful hearts and infectious smiles,
Enchanting ways and feminine wiles.
And when He’d completed the task He’d begun.
He was pleased and proud of the job He’d done.
For the world, when seen through little girl’s eyes
Greatly resembled Paradise.

-Anonymous