What I Know Today

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Top Ten Christmas Movies

As the holidays approach, I feel compelled to share a list of the best Christmas movies of all time. By whose standards, you ask? Well, mine of course. I haven't done any research into which movies have gotten the best reviews or were the most widely broadcast or sold the most copies. All I can tell you is that I have watched every one of these movies oodles of times, and they are part of a great tapestry of traditions that will always make Christmas special for me. Some are popular, some are not. Some you probably didn't even know existed. All are worth watching at least once in your life. Maybe even twice.

Here they are, in no particular order:

The Christmas Gift

The Christmas Gift is a made-for-tv movie that was released during my childhood. My mom has always tried to catch as many of those tv Christmas movies as possible, and this one always stuck with me. The story revolves around a man (John Denver) and his daughter - his wife had recently died. He uproots what is left of the family and relocates them to the cutest little town. Man, how I longed to move to that town. Everyone knows everyone, there are sleigh rides down Main St., the whole town participates in the Christmas pageant. So quaint! I remember thinking that little girl (who happened to me my age) was soooo cool. I wanted to be just like her. :) You may also recognize the woman in the photo above. That's Jane Kazcmarek in one of her earliest roles. She plays Susan, the postmaster. Such a sweet movie.... and still getting aired on Lifetime as recently as last Christmas! I have easily watched this movie at least 200 times (no, that is not a typo - I had it recorded. Play, rewind, play, rewind, play rewind. Well, you get the picture. Check it out!

The Christmas Wish

Despite the fact that it has been around since 1998 or so, I just found The Christmas Wish last year. What drew me to it? Two words: Debbie Reynolds. She plays Neil Patrick Harris' grandma in a little story about finding out what's important in life. I've seen this one twice - both on tv last season. I'll definitely be looking for it again this year. You know, because it has some catching up to do with some of these other flicks.

Meet Me In St. Louis

Alright. I really don't consider this a true Christmas movie. BUT... there is snow. And there is a Christmas tree. And there is quite possibly one of the most idyllic Christmas songs of all time. You cannot watch Esther sing Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas to Tootie without getting a little nostolgic. It's just not possible. And for that, it makes my short list.

White Christmas

Folks, remember how I said that these were listed in no particular order? Well, it's true. Because if they were, this would be at the top of the list. White Christmas is my favorite Christmas movie. Perhaps even my favorite movie period. I have literally watched this hundreds of times. We could possibly be in the thousands by now. I have the entire script memorized, and I'm not even making that up. I spent hours upon hours watching this as a child. Play, rewind. Play, rewind. Play, rewind. Alllll weekend long. Every weekend. All year long. Until one day I rewound it and went to hit play and my grandpa, God love him, said, "If you put that G.D. movie in ONE MORE TIME I'm going to rip it out with my bare hands and destroy it!!!"

I cried.

Grandma laughed so hard she nearly peed.

As always, Grandpa won, and White Christmas went on hiatus for awhile, which in hindsight was ok because it gave me a chance to put some of these other ones on heavy repeat.

This photo cracks me up, because that little ballerina you see hides at the base of the Christmas tree while they sing their song, and then she stands up and starts dancing. For the longest time, I had no idea where she came from. I thought they dubbed her in. I had to rewind it and play it in slow motion to see that she was there at the bottom of the tree all along. D'oh.

Best Line: "When what's left of you gets around to what's left to be gotten what's left to be gotten won't be worth getting whatever it is you've got left!"

I actually pulled this one out today and popped it in. Jack (who, for the record is named after my aforementioned grandfather) started saying, "No! NO! NO!" as soon as it started.


Rest in peace, Grandpa. I took it out.

For now.

When I was a child, the only thing my mother watched more than Christmas movies was All My Children. I probably saw wayyy too much far before I should have, but that's kind of how it was back then. I don't think parents worried as much about what may or may not impact their child. Whatev. I turned out ok.... and have a strong appreciation for Susan Lucci. Love her! I remember the year she finally won her daytime emmy. I was in tears and woke my mother up who came running in to watch the acceptance speech. Ahh, the memories. Anyhow, as you can imagine, we grabbed any chance to see our diva on tv, and back then there really weren't many. Ebbie entered our lives and fast became a favorite. If you haven't seen it, it's really worth checking out. Kind of a modern day version of Ebenezer Scrooge. Cute, cute, cute.

Holiday Inn

If White Christmas is number one, Holiday Inn would be number two. They would be tied for first if this wasn't a black and white movie. I'm not a fan of black and white. Give me technicolor. Give me sparkles. But, hundreds of shades of gray aside, this one is a keeper. When Grandpa made me take out White Christmas, Holiday Inn promptly took its place. Play, rewind. Play, rewind. I knew it by heart. I wanted to be this Linda Carter character you see in this picture. I wanted to meet Bing Crosby. Until I found out he was mean to his kids in real life, but that's a very different, distinctly non-Christmasy post. I love the songs. I love the love triangle. I love the crazy guy in the hallway with the accent and the attitude: "How can I tell you which way is Connect-i-cut?!" I love the dress Linda wears for the Valentine's Day number. And as un-PC as it is, I love the black face number, too. So good!

Christmas Snow

Christmas Snow came out while Who's The Boss was popular. I'd lay money on the fact that I watched it simply because Mona (Kathryn Helmond) was in it. I don't have a recording of this, and havent' seen it in the December tv listings for some time, though I search for it every year. I love it though... and love it even more now that I just realized that little girl is Melissa Joan Hart. Who knew?! She (her character) was afraid of Amelia Bedelia. Hee hee. I don't remember much about the plot, but I can tell you that if you find it you won't be disappointed!

A Smoky Mountain Christmas

Oh, Dolly... How I love thee. I could seriously listen to her talk for hours. Weeks. YEARS. And Lee Majors? Hello. As Phoebe Buffet would say, "Lee Majors is hot." You know, in that scruffy old guy kind of way. Not unlike Tom Selleck, but I digress.
Anyhow, yeah.

Shake it off, Sarah.
Super sweet movie with orphans and cabins and spells and a mean witchy women on a horse. What more could you ask for?

Santa Claus: The Movie

I wonder who decided to cast the shortest actor on the planet as an elf? Genius!!
Poor Patch... he tries so hard to do what's right, but he gets caught up with a bad bunch of misers and it all turns south. Isn't that always the way though?
I credit this movie with putting the color peuce on the map. What is peuce? Watch the movie and find out!
And last, but certainly not least....
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

First of all, let me say that this is the best scene in the entire movie. Squirrel in the Christmas tree? Classic. Because that could really happen. Seriously! Probably wouldn't be quite as funny in my living room, but still...
And who doesn't love the Griswold's? Or, for that matter, Chevy Chase? I seriously wracked my brain to try to figure out if there was enough Christmas-y material in his movie Funny Farm to warrant adding it to my list (sadly, no, but still an excellent movie.... lamb fries?! Hello!).

There you have it, friends. Your holiday television/dvd to do list.
And no, A Christmas Story did not make my list. Maybe because it is the worst Christmas movie ever created. Because it really, really is. I know people love it, but I just don't get it. It's ok though - I'm sure some of you are looking at this list wondering what I've been smoking, too. And I'm ok with that, because I love my movies and my traditions, and wouldn't trade them for the world.... or a floor lamp wearing fishnet stockings.

Friday, November 12, 2010

To Write Love On Her Arms

For those who don't know, TWLOHA is a kind of grassroots movement that has been gaining ground in recent years. I've never participated before, but there is no time like the present, so I thought I'd share here as I am also trying to be a better blogger, believe it or not.

If you check out the TWLOHA website, you will learn that this non-profit movement is dedicated to people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. It exists to "encourage, inform, inspire and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery."

Thankfully, I have not yet had to struggle through these things myself, but like many (all?) of us, I have a friend or two who have been there and my heart broke for them. Today I am writing on my arms (well, one arm, because let's face it... writing with my left hand on my right arm would soooo not work out. I am many things, but ambidextrous is not one of them.) in honor of one friend in particular.

She is a beautiful person, and is like a sister to me. She is one of the few people in this world that I can absolutely and totally be myself with. She is one of the first people I call when my life is falling to crap, and one of the greatest inspirations in my life. Her life has not always been easy, but she has always found a way. There has been grief, and depression, and the tell tale raised skin on the inside of her wrist that will always represent the pain of her past and the healing process that will take her into her future. She is still here with us though - still finding a way in this big world, and still in the process of fully believing that she was fearfully and beautifully made by God and is not only an intricate part of his plan, but is loved by hundreds and has touched lives with every step of her journey. We would be lost without her, and thank GOD for placing her in our circle.

Ich Liebe Dich, Jemima Puddleduck.

P.S. If you saw this in reader, and are seeing two posts. No comment. *blush* It was late, and there was a very important typo that needed to be corrected! Oye. Let this be a lesson to me - I should not blog OR write on my arm at 12:30 am after a few glasses of wine.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

There Is No Power In Intention

A few weeks ago, a friend recommended that I read the book The Noticer, by Andy Andrews. I had never heard of the author or the book, but did a quick google search and was intrigued by the description so I put it on hold at the library. I'm now three quarters of the way through it, and have found something that spoke to me enough to have me thinking about it for three whole days, so I thought I'd blog about it, too.

The book basically centers around an old man named Jones, and the interactions he has with different people in the community. Jones is a "noticer," meaning he notices things that others don't. He helps them see things from a new perspective. In one of these interactions, he is speaking to a man about how to change his life for the better. He asks, "Five seagulls are sitting on a dock. One of them decides to fly away. How many seagulls are left?"

Go ahead, answer the question...

The man said four. I thought four as I was reading it, and chances are you did, too. Turns out we're all wrong.

"No," Jones responded. "There are still five. Deciding to fly away and actually flying away are two very different things."

Think about that for a minute. How many times in life have we commited to something, whether in our minds or verbally, but never followed through?

I intend to eat better and exercise more so I can reach my goal weight.
I intend to take the time to learn to speak German, the language of my ancestors.
I intend to focus on my faith and be a better Christian role model for my friends and family.
I intend to explore the possibility of becoming an author to tell our story in hopes of helping another family avoid the tragedy of undiagnosed disease.

These are just a few of the intentions that have crossed my mind in the past year (in no particular order). The author goes on to state that there is "no difference between the person who intends to do things differently and the one who never thinks about it in the first place."

That's a powerful statement. We all want to do good and be good. We think about the things we can do to help ourselves and our family. We think about reaching out to people in need. We intend to be the best person we can possibly be... but how often do we follow through? It's so easy for life to get in the way and when it does, so many of those intentions fall by the wayside.

I was going to, but I just ran out of time.

It makes my head hurt to think about all of the intentions I've had over the years that fell to the side to make room for other things - some of which were never intended and certainly not productive or beneficial to myself anyone around me.

And as if that's not enough to think about, the author concludes the paragraph by saying, "Have you ever considered how often we judge ourselves by our intentions while we judge others by their actions?"

Think about that for a minute.

I don't know about you, but I've been guilty of this. I'll see someone, for example, who is over weight eating something that is obviously not good for them, and sometimes will feel pity. Look at that! No wonder she looks that way! Or disgust... Why is she doing that to herself? How dumb do you have to be to choose a box of ho-ho's instead of a healthy meal?

And then I take my break at work and grab a diet soda and two donuts on my way upstairs.


No, no, no, it's ok for me to do that, because, see, I usually watch what I'm eating, and I intend on getting to my goal weight! I joined the gym, and intend to work out three times a week! I've already gone twice in the three weeks I've been a member! It's ok, really!

Umm, NOT.

This of course is a bit of an exaggerated scenario, but you get what I'm saying. Going forward, I intend to follow through more. Perhaps not try to fill my plate so full of intentions, so that more of them can actually stick and come to fruition. Focus on the things that are important, and clear away the clutter of things that truly don't matter.

Thanks for the new perspective, Jones.


Monday, November 1, 2010

November Mourning

One year ago today, my little boy was laying on the couch nursing a virus. Little did we know that in eight short hours he would, for all intents and purposes, be gone. I took him to the hospital that Sunday night, and I was there when he started to slip out of consciousness. I remember thinking he was just tired, and was having trouble staying awake. I thought the illness may have been making him delusional, so I asked him a few questions....

"Who am I?"


"What is your brothers name?"

"Zack." (he always had troubles with the J part of Jack)

"Ok baby, close your eyes and get some sleep. I love you."

And that was it. He closed his eyes, and although several doctors at two different hospitals tried for hours to bring him back, he never opened those beautiful bright blue eyes again. We finally succumbed to the truth around noon the following day, and unplugged all of the machines that were keeping him alive.

The photo above was taken post mortem by the hospital photographer at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. He did about five different shots of us holding Henry's hands and feet, kissing his forehead, and of Henry holding a few favorite toys. I had them all framed for my mom, and the frame hangs in Henry's bedroom at her house. A few weeks ago Jack pointed to the photos and said, "Baby Jesus?" I think he thought the photos were of baby Jesus, but maybe his innocent eyes could literally see Jesus in the pictures, holding us close while we tried to pick up the pieces of our life and leave that room, knowing we'd be going home with an empty car seat that would never again be filled with the same bright and beautiful spirited little boy. It has been a year, and I still have a hard time comprehending the weight of it all.

The last year has been a blur. Time moved quickly, and for that I am grateful. There are still days that I have to force myself out of bed in the morning, but I do, because there is still a little bundle of energy here on earth who needs me, and I owe it to him to be the best mama I can be. I am determined to give him a good life, despite the emptiness I feel inside. Of course my heart is full of love for Jack - how could it not be. The problem is that ever since Henry's death, I feel as if my heart is missing. I feel as if there is a hole in side of me that never closes. If you think about the old Wile E. Coyote cartoons, there was an episode where the Road Runner shot a canon at him, and the cannon ball went right through him, leaving a big open circle where his chest used to be. He didn't die, or even fall down. He tilted his head down and peered through the hole, and then just continued on with his business. That's exactly how I feel - literally as though a significant part of me was blown away a year ago and yet I don't die. I just keep walking around. It's really quite surreal.

There have been a lot of changes in the last year. Death is an interesting thing, in that it takes your world and, like a snow globe, turns it upside down and shakes the daylights out of it, so that all of the little bits around you are upturned and float down in a different order. There are hobbies that I used to define myself by that in the last year I have had absolutely no interest in. I figure they settled on the bottom of the snow pile when all of the little snow-like pieces of my life started dropping down around me again. They used to be on top - important - and now they are so far down I don't even realize they are still there. New things have settled on top. Running, patience, cooking & baking, fitness, and healthy living.

I have never been a runner. Not even as a child. When all of my friends were running in the park or in the yard, I was in the sandbox. If people were playing a game that involved running, I politely excused myself. I didn't run. Ever. For reasons that I really can not even explain to this day, I decided to start training for a 5K in May. I ran my first 5K the last weekend of July, and my second in August. I now have my sights set on a 5 mile Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day, another 5K through the snow in December, and a duathlon in 2011.

Why? Well, the best I can tell you is because Henry can't. There are so many things in life that he didn't get to experience. How could I in good conscience sit on the couch and let all of them slip by when I'm capable of enjoying them? It just doesn't make sense. How easy it would be for me to curl up into a ball and throw my hands up in surrender to all of this! You would be shocked if you could fully comprehend what a fine line I walk between sanity and surrender. But every day I crawl out of bed and pray to God for the strength I need to get through that day. One day at a time (as a very wise woman once said). When all of my emotions start crashing down around me, I close my eyes and pray to God, asking him to lift this (insert thought/feeling/guilt/etc. here) from my heart and help me to survive. Thankfully, He does. Every. Single. Time.

There are days when I have to say that same prayer a hundred times, and some when it's only needed once or twice, but without fail I can feel God's presence and power in my life, and for that I am grateful. I can actually remember one of my first thoughts when we found out that we could not save Henry. I thought, thank GOD that I was raised in faith because I don't know I how I would live through this without Jesus. I was reminded of that again a few days ago when I was reading a book about a boy who was in a terrible car accident and the mother presumed he was dead. Her first thought as she got in the car and headed for their Children's Hospital was something to the effect of... he is Yours Lord, and if You need him You can take him, but You have to give me the strength to get through it if You do.

Amen, sister.

Since Henry's death, there are some things that I can not do. I can not re-visit that weekend. I can not focus on all of the mistakes that were made by our doctors, nor the things that were overlooked through his short life. I can not look at medical records, or bills from those days, stand in the presence of a med flight team in uniform, or get too close to the local hospital that we lost him at. When I do, I feel as though the sides of that hole I described above lose their strength and my whole body starts to cave in on itself. Ironically, these are all the things (with the exception of getting too close to the hospital) that my husband's healing process has thrived on. I have always said that we walk separate grief paths, but hold hands across the middle on our journey. His process is just that - his process. I can't go there. I can't even come close. He occasionally will try to talk to me about something and all I can bring myself to do is raise my hand as if to say, "stop" and shake my head from side. The other day, I was reading some quotes and poems, looking for something to use in our local paper to for a memorial and I found this on one woman's website. I could have easily written most of this myself, and hope it will help give you a better idea of where I am and where I'm going (I deleted a few sentences that didn't apply to me):

Life is a Simple Walk in the Woods-

I was always told that the 'first year' would be the hardest. I set my sights on surviving through the first anniversary of Ross' death, telling myself that it would all be downhill from there. If I could just keep going long enough to scale that summit!

I was also told that my husband and I would not walk the same path. We started out fine, trudging through the woods, holding hands, telling ourselves that we've been through sixteen years together, we'd be just fine. His path slowly led away from me, but seemed to run parallel for a time - I'd catch a glimpse of him in the woods every once-in-a-while. All of a sudden, his path would cross mine. I'd reach the top of a steep hill and he'd be standing there in my way! More than once, I've had to shove him into the weeds so that I could continue on my journey.

Well, then came that fateful First Anniversary. I scaled that mountain! I sat on the very top of that enormous peak, congratulating myself on a job well-done. My husband was nowhere to be seen, I sat there all alone with my pile of Mickey Mouse clothes, little metal cars, well-meaning friends. I had done it! It was incredibly hard work, insurmountable at times, but here I was - still alive, without my child!

Without my child! I felt my heart grow cold as I surveyed the path ahead - the rest of my life. The terrain was just as treacherous as the past twelve months!

I sat on that peak for quite sometime. I hugged all my son's treasures that I carried with me, his precious memory warmed my cold, cold heart, and I searched for any other movement in the valley below. In the distance, I could see other peaks along my path, some maybe as tall as where I sat. I also began to see tiny clearings where the sun was shining. As my tears slowed, I became aware of other paths winding through the landscape - hundreds of them - each belonging to a different parent. I carefully packed my treasures in my heart, neatly so that none would break, and started running down the hill, headlong into the second year of forever.

Peg Rousar-Thompson
In memory of Ross...

Another thing I want to address here is for all of you who think about Henry and then wonder whether or not you should tell me. Please, please, do. It may bring back memories that come with tears, but don't let that stop you. Don't be afraid that you might hurt me. It sounds bad, but I hurt either way. It warms my heart to know that others are thinking of him or dreaming of him or writing stories about him or lighting candles for him. It may bring tears, but please know that the good far outweighs the bad in those situations and keep sharing.

The question I am asked most often (besides, "how are you doing?" of course) is whether or not we are planning on having more children. I thought I'd mention that here, too, because I'm guessing that those of you who haven't asked wonder from time to time as well. All I can tell you is that we are open to the plans God has for us. I'm not pregnant, but we're not doing anything to prevent it either (is that tmi?). We are also not entirely closed off to the idea of adopting or fostering if a situation presents itself. And, having said all of that, we are also open to the idea of living out the rest of our years as Mum and Pa to no more than the two sweet boys we've already been blessed with. There is a possibility that if we had another boy, he too would have agammaglobulenemia like Jack and Henry (or a girl could be a carrier), but we are prepared for that as well.

A few paragraphs back I noted all of the things I cannot do. I'd like to close with all of the things I CAN do and end on a positive note.

I can remember Henry with love and laughter.
I can keep the promise that I made to him at his funeral, and laugh some every single day.
I can be the best mama my boys could ever ask for.
I can go on living despite the greatest loss a parent could know.
I can use my intimate knowledge of grief to help others deal with their own bereavement process.
I can do anything I set my mind to, because I truly am surrounded by angels every step of the way, one of which has some of the most beautiful bright blue eyes you'll ever see.

Love to all who've supported us this past year. You will never fully comprehend the impact you've had on our lives, and we are eternally grateful that God has blessed us with each and every one of you.

In Him,