Monthly Archives: February 2015

Oscar-Themed Birthday Fun

Oscar-Themed Birthday Fun

It’s that time of year again!  Time to honor the best and brightest, the most talented, the one who’s given their all and made the most impact on us.  I’m talking about my brother’s birthday!  Last year, we decided to tie the Oscars into his celebration since they happened around the same time.  B and I had such fun planning!

We went to our favorite restaurant for dinner, John’s Family Restaurant in Rippon, West Virginia.  Yes, it’s out of state, but the drive is not that long and it’s very beautiful.  We used to live in West Virginia and go back to John’s a few times a year.  Great comfort food, ranging from burgers up to prime rib and crab cakes, and the owner will come to your table and sing Happy Birthday to you!  She has the voice of an angel and no matter how many times she’s sung that song, you feel her undivided attention and God’s love flow out of her in those words.  I’m getting all verclempt just thinking about it.  *sniff, sniff*

After dinner, we drove back to our house for dessert and presents.  Bonus of having dinner out of state is that the ride back home giving your body time to make room for dessert! (I wish I had thought to take more pictures, but I get caught up in the moment sometimes.)  We decorated with yellow and black balloons and created 3 award categories to present to my brother before cake and present time: Best Son, Best Brother and Best Uncle.  I created envelopes with black construction paper and staples.  On the front of each envelope, I listed the award category and the five nominees on card stock with a fancy font and glued that to the front of the envelopes.  Inside each envelope was the the name of the winner (my brother Neale, of course), also on card stock in a fancy font.  All of this was made up for fun and not to be serious.

Nominees for Best Son:
1. Pinnocchio
2. Son of Sam
3. George & Fred Weasley
4. Jep Robertson
5. Neale

Nominees for Best Uncle:
1. Uncle Si
2. Uncle Ben
3. Uncle Buck
4. Uncle Sam
5. Uncle Neale

Nominees for Best Brother:
1. Wally Cleaver
2. Loki
3. Greg Brady
4. Jase Robertson
5. Neale

My dad presented Best Son, B did Best Uncle and I did Best Brother.  The hubs was our “trophy girl”.  ;o)  I found a downloadable silhouette of the Oscar on Twig & Thistle, cut out 3, laminated them with my $19.99 laminator from Costco and stuck them in Dollar Tree paper cups.  The hubs wrote the award category on the front because he has the best printing in the family.

It wasn’t a big party and it didn’t take us long to do, but we all had so much fun!  B and I giggling while making the statuettes over how surprised Neale would be.  The 3 of us laughing while coming up with other nominees.  My dad taking 5 minutes to present his award because he couldn’t stop laughing.  All 3 of Neale’s acceptance speeches.  I’m so glad we did this for him.  He truly is the best brother, brother-in-law, son and uncle.  He is always there for us when we need him and we have a great time together.

Movie Wednesday

Last year, I told you about our Language Arts curriculum, Brave Writer’s The Arrow.  Today is Movie Wednesday, but we didn’t watch a movie.  We watched a show that aired on ABC last night – Countdown to the Oscars: 15 Movies That Changed American Cinema.  I saw the show on the guide several minutes after 10pm, turned on the TV and hit record.  When we watched it this morning, it only captured #14 through #1.  I’ve searched the internet and cannot find what #15 was, so if you saw the show, please let me know!  Anywho, watching this 54 minute show provided lessons in not only Language Arts, but also History (of our country and the movie industry), Civil Rights and Cinematography.  B wants to make movies when he grows up.  He really enjoys doing it now and this show gave great, historical insight.  In the future, we will watch almost all of these movies for the content and ingenuity they will lend to B’s education.

Language Arts

The Brave Writer Lifestyle teaches us the importance of word selection in stories, whether they are told in books or movies.  When you read a great line in a book, the delivery is yours, in your head.  The tone of a book B reads may come across completely differently when I read it.  With movies, you hear an actor in character saying an iconic line; see the expression and emotion on their face as it’s delivered.  How many lines from movies stick with us, do we use in our daily lives?  Lines from movies decades old, movies we’ve seen years ago, still stick with us and we want to make that impression on others when we write (or act). Every movie on last night’s show had lines like that.  This show also reminded us when it’s fitting to not use “proper” English; when the local and/or historical way of speaking should be used. See if you can tell from which movie these lines came:

  1. “Whuzzah happenin’, hot stuff?”
  2. “I think we’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
  3. “STELLA!”
  4. “Well, when I’m good, I’m very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better.”
  5. “I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ no babies!”

History

Ever movie is on this list because it made cinematic history.  The Production Codes were created in the 1930s to censor future movies after I’m No Angel was released.  The multi-plane camera was invented in order to bring the first, full-length animated movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, to the screen. Easy Rider was the 1st indy film that became a blockbuster.  2001: A Space Odyssey birthed the Sci-Fi genre.  Jaws showed us that the score of a movie can make a villain.

So many times during this show, we paused to discuss not only the what and why of a storyline, but also the filming.  The shower scene in Psycho was a great topic!

B: [Janet Leigh’s character] was ridiculous in the shower!  She just stood there and kept letting out short screams while the bad guy took forever to raise his knife.  She should have attacked him or knocked him over and run.
Me: She didn’t scream that long.  She gave one scream, and the director chose to play it over and over again, at different angles, to prepare the audience for what was about to happen.  Otherwise, the scene may have gone by before the audience could absorb it and they might have missed it.  (I hit play again and B listened to commentators on the show describe how Alfred Hitchcock reinvented fear in this movie.  Audiences had not seen anything like this before and it was so horrifying without even being gory.)
B: I get it!  No one was expecting a murderer.  No one was expecting that character.  The director had to give the audience a second to get what was about to happen so that they could get and be afraid of it as it happened.  Cool!

But these movies also taught us about our History.  In clips from The Birth of a Nation, B learned that KKK members not only dressed in white but also covered their horses.  Although Hattie McDaniel was nominated for, and won, an Oscar for Gone with the Wind, she was not allowed to sit at the same table with her cast mates.  She was segregated to her own table in the back.  We discussed the significance of a black man cast as the main character of a motion picture (Lillies of the Field) in 1962 and Sidney Poitier winning an oscar.  B watched Halle Berry’s emotional acceptance speech in 2001 with shock that a woman of color had not won best actress until the 21st century.  Easy Rider was created by, for and about the 60s generation.

Oh my goodness, I can go on and on about this show and the wonderful lessons we got from it today, but I have to stop and make dinner now.  I can’t wait to watch one of these films next Wednesday!

Winter Perspective

When I see flakes falling from the sky and I’m able to get to my phone or computer, I have to share my excitement on Facebook: “IT’S SNOWING!”  or “SNOW!”  But if I post that when there is no forecast for inches, it’s just a little snow shower rolling quickly through, I inevitable receive a comment or comments such as, “Yeah, but, it’s not *really* snowing.  If we have to have this cold I want snow on the ground to sled in/make snowmen/look pretty.”  Well, here is what I have to say to those type of comments:

I just looked out the window and it was spitting snow, just like it’s done periodically all week. And I *totally* get that some of you don’t want *just* snow showers or snow squalls. You say, “If it’s going to rain down frozen precipitation, I want accumulation!” You want the stark, gray, barrenness of Winter to look clean and pure and white – *covered* in snow – even if just enough to hide the dead, brown grass.

But here’s the thing: when flakes fall from the sky, no matter how plenty nor few they are, I don’t see the dead brown grass. I don’t see the barren, gray tree branches. I focus on the beautiful, white, sparkling flakes floating through the air! I am taken back to my childhood when my brother and I would run outside and catch falling snowflakes on our tongues! And the *only* way to catch them on our tongues was to tilt our heads back and look *upward*!

I can *absolutely* appreciate the days when the sky is blue and the sun is able to shine light and warmth into our Winter. But I can also glorify the gray, cloudy days, because *those* are the ones that offer the hope of snow. Of cleansing. Of purification. Of *promise*!

My one, and only, speeding ticket

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As I’ve shared with y’all in previous posts, I was a goody-goody.  I did not put one toe out of line, or even consider it, for fear of doing wrong.  So I don’t speed.  Well, let me qualify that: I’ll go up to 5 miles over the speed limit, especially if I’m on a highway and other cars are flying by me at much higher speeds.  I don’t want to be a safety hazard on the road.  But that’s it – 5 MPH over the limit.  However, I am also Irish and have a temper and have been known to act rash once or twice.  I know, shocking, right?!  😉

I was 20 years old and doing my last semester of college, my co-op semester, in Rhode Island.  My Nana & Papa lived in Vermont and, when I would get the urge to run (if you’ve read my post My Greatest Regret, you’ll remember why I got those urges), I would sometimes drive up to their house.  I’d drive from Rhode Island, through Massachusetts and into Vermont.  It’s really nice driving north, because the speed limit in Vermont is higher – 70 MPH.  However, driving back south sucks.  Slowing your car down from 70 MPH to 55 MPH at the Massachusetts border feels like crawling the rest of the way home.  To make matters worse, shortly after entering Massachusetts, the road went down to an undivided road of only one lane each way.  It never ceases to amaze me how many people can drive 10 miles over the speed limit on a divided highway but then slow down to 10 miles below it when it becomes undivided.  *sigh*

So, on this one particularly beautiful, sunny, Summer day, I was the first in line of many cars stuck behind a car going 35-40 MPH in a 55 MPH zone for 20+ miles.  And there were plenty of times when the double solid line in the middle of the road changed to a dotted one to allow passing.  Unfortunately, there were always cars coming in the opposite direction during those times.  I was already anxious because I was heading back to work and dealing with my own demons inside, and this white-haired head in front of me that was so short it had to look through the steering wheel not over it, turned that anxiety to anger.  So, as soon as that road opened up to a 4 lane divided highway, I swerved around that driver and punched it!  FREEDOM!  My mood instantly changed to relieve and then giddiness and I started laughing.  I had felt trapped inside of me for almost 2 years and being behind that driver made me feel trapped in my car, too.  But no more!  I was free and I was going to get the heck away from that car so I could stay in the lead.  I felt fantastic!

For all of 1.4 miles.

I saw something in the road ahead of me.  I was in the fast lane and tried to figure out what it was before deciding to move over to the right or not.  Was it a dead animal?  As I got closer, the something got bigger and it most definitely was alive.  It was a crazy man, standing in the middle of the fast lane with his hand in the air in the “HALT!” position.  I am a smart enough driver not to slam on the breaks and possible cause a skid out that would hit the crazy man or flip my car.  So I slowed down as fast and as safely as I could and got into the right lane to avoid him.  You know what that crazy man did?!  He stepped into the right lane in front of me!!  WTF?!?!

I was still slowing down quickly so I could come to a stop and pulled into the shoulder.  As I passed crazy man I got a good look at him.  He was bald, crazy mad, and wore a uniform.  Turns out it was a Massachusetts State Trooper uniform.  As I put the car in park and tried to regulate my breathing and heart rate from the scare of him in the road, he stormed up to my open car window and leaned it.  He started yelling at me!  And he spit when he yelled.  I will never forget that face.  His head was perfectly round and his baldness gleamed in the sun.  He had a small space between every single one of his teeth and he had a mole on his left cheek that was so big, no matter how hard I tried to keep my eyes locked on his, they kept wandering over to it.

He just kept a-yellin’ that I was clocked at 72 in a posted 55 and that he was going to arrest me for driving without a license, car theft and attempted murder of a government official.  OK, let’s break down all those charges:

  1. 72 in a posted 55: I guess the most common excuse this particular trooper had heard for speeding on this stretch of road was that they had no idea the speed limit had dropped from 70 to 55.  So he always referred to it being posted and always spat on me during the “puh!”.
  2. Driving without a license:  I used to look significantly younger than my age.  You have to be 18 to buy lottery tickets and clerks didn’t stop carding me until my third trimester of pregnancy at the age of 30.  To make matters worse, I didn’t wear makeup and for some strange reason, I decided to wear my hair in two, braided pigtails, one above each of my ears on that particular day.
  3. Car theft: He thought I was 14, not old enough to have a license, so I must have stolen the car for a joyride.  HA!  Me – go on a joyride?!   I couldn’t help it; I giggled at that.  It just made him madder.
  4. Attempted murder of a government official: He was referring to himself.  I tried to kill him when he stepped onto the road in front of my car going 72 in a posted 55?

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.  So I looked away and started to collect my driver’s license and registration, to prove that I was a legal driver of my father’s car.  He flipped out!  “PUT YOUR HANDS UP WHERE I CAN SEE THEM!  DO YOU HAVE ANY WEAPONS IN THE CAR?!  WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!”  Good Lord!  I was all alone, on the side of this deserted highway, with an armed crazy man and I was scared.  Then I thought, “Hey!  Why is this road deserted?!  What happened to all the other drivers in that long line of cars behind me?!”  Just then, they all drove by, nice and slow.  I guess they all drove that road enough to know that there was a speed trap where the road opened up because none of them had taken off like me and passed the short, white head.

I had to sit straight, with my back against the seat and my hands in the air.  Then slowly slide the top of my body towards the right and even more slowly open the glove box.  Then I had to get back from it so the trooper could inspect the box for weapons.  @@ (It’s easy to roll my eyes now, but back then I was really scared!) I gave him my driver’s license and registration and, before heading back to his cruiser to check my info, he told me it was in my best interest not to run.  As if I would.

He let me sweat in that car for quite some time before coming back with my speeding ticket for reckless driving, because going 72 in a posted 55 was reckless according to the state of Massachusetts.  He seemed irritated that my info turned out to be legit and let me know that although he was not arresting me for attempted murder of a government official at that time, he did have the right to press charges in the future.

I was a wreck the rest of the way back to work, traveling 5 miles below the speed limit the whole time.  And that is why I don’t speed.

Painting

20150210_174148 After 2 years of major renovations, from foundation to roof, my brother was finally able to move back into his house a couple of weeks ago. He asked B to paint a mural on this small section of wall between his back door and a window. B painted it yesterday and my brother sent me a picture of it last night. It’s B and his favorite Uncle in a NERF battle! It says “Good Times” and B even signed & dated it at the bottom (I blurred that out). B painted himself “behind” the light switches (the switch plate is off in this picture).  He came up with this idea in his head and then just painted it.  He didn’t sketch it on paper nor on the wall before painting.  He just did it. And he doesn’t critique his work; doesn’t point out flaws and say he could have done better. He’s happy with what he created, proud of it and accepts our praise and complements graciously.  Man, does this kid continually show me how be a better person, a content person, a self-loving person!

Recent Measles Cases Spark Vaccine Debates Again

I recently wrote a post about the complexities of the abortion issue in Does Roe v. Wade stand another look?   Watching the news and reading lots of chatter online regarding whether or not children should all be vaccinated, reminds me so much of the abortion debates.

Abortion

  • One side states that no one else has the right to tell a woman what she can or cannot do with her body.
  • The other side can agree that a woman can do what she wants with her own body but the child is another, separate body inside of her, who has rights.

Vaccination

  • One side states that no one else has the right to tell parents what is or is not injected into their children.
  • The other side can agree that you have the right to decide for your child, however your decisions can, and sometimes do, affect other parents’ children.

Where is the “right” or “wrong”?  These issues, just like life, are not merely black or white; they are full of grays!  No one is out to harm innocents; everyone is just trying to do what is right for their children, for their family, based on their own, very personal, situation.  I do know that, as with religion, politics and abortion, no one will will be open to dialogue and there will be no progress as long as the anger and insults continue to fly.

 

Filing Taxes

Sitting down to do my taxes. I love doing them!  Working with freshly sharpened pencils, rubbing the rectangular, pink eraser in between my thumb and forefinger as I calculate in my head, the shuffling of papers.  There is also such a feeling of accomplishment when you can navigate all the government and accountant wording. I love Math, I love puzzles and I love not having to pay anyone nor any software company to do them for me.

My dad used to do them until 1998. That year, the hubs and I bought our 1st house and I decided to try my hand at it.  I don’t know why I never tried before, when our tax life was much simpler.  Starting with the first year that we itemized, moved from one state to another and worked in one state while living in another one, would seem daunting, but I was up for the challenge.  I had the instruction manual and my dad to call when I had questions.  I was nervous when I finished and handed our forms to my dad to check my numbers.  However, I got it all right and I was hooked!

Years later, when we no longer owned a home and our credit union offered access to an online tax company, we gave it a try.  It was free, it was kind of easy and it saved all the info I inputted so I didn’t have to go searching for last years tax forms when it came time to do this year’s filing.  However, it didn’t turn out to be free, and each year the price kept going up, so I went back to the instruction manual, paper forms and a pencil.

How do your taxes get done?

  1. Do them yourself on paper.
  2. Do them yourself with software.
  3. A family member does them.
  4. An accountant does them.
  5. Go to a tax preparation company, such as H&R Block.
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