Archive for February, 2012

She’ll be leaving in a few months

English: J.B. Alexander High School 2009 Gradu...

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Our second child, our first daughter, will be graduating from high school in late May.  She received an acceptance letter today from a college.  She has already been accepted at another school, just waiting to see what the financial aid package will be.  If it is a workable package for her and our budget, than she should be able to attend the college who accepted her first.  We still have Senior pictures to take, and a prom dress to order, and then, before we know it, her 18th birthday will be upon us in April.  Her last birthday to celebrate at home with our family for a while.  We have already sent our firstborn, a son, out into the world and he is flying well.  However, it is still not going to be any easier saying good-bye to our daughter when she heads to college in August.

I am excited for our daughter, and proud of her, too.  She has earned two scholarships towards college costs, has earned good grades, and accepted a move to a new community her Senior year of high school with grace and wisdom.  She has made friends at the new school with ease, yet she has always had that gift.  I remember her first trip to Disney World how she made friends with 2 sisters at the hotel pool who were visiting Disney World from England.  How those three girls played at the pool like old friends, yet I knew she’d probably never see those girls again once we drove north and they jetted  across the pond.  My feeling is definitely bittersweet as I watch our daughter grow into a confident young woman.  I am glad for her career choice, elementary education, which was my college major and career before motherhood called me away.  She is a leader, something she gets from her Dad, and as much as she might protest, she is more like him in personality than me.  I remember a project she had to work on in her history class when she was a sophomore.  The class had to each take on a CEO role, make up a business, what it made, and make business decisions in order to run it successfully.  Our daughter took it to heart, as her Dad would have, that the business’s main objective would be to make a profit, expand, and make more product, etc.  In order to do so, she decided to limit how many workers she could afford to pay and still make enough product and profit.  Her teacher was surprised because in all of his years of teaching this project, our daughter was the first student to focus on the product and profit, not keeping workers happy.  Yes, sounds like a chip off the old block, I thought, when she told us about her teacher’s reaction.  She did get an A on the project.

When I became a mother, it was a new turn in my life that I was wanting to do, and I relished the new role.  I have often said that in being a full-time mom, I would have a hard time going back into the work force since I am used to calling the shots at home and setting up our day.  As I cradled a newborn in my arms, feeling ever so blessed to do so, the realization that one day this child would be all grown up and on his or her own seemed so far away, that I wouldn’t have to dwell on that  for years and years.  As my doctor who delivered our firstborn told me, “You thought those 9 months were an adventure?  Now, the real adventure starts, for the next 18 years!”  Those 18 years do fly by incredibly fast.  Too fast.  I want to reach out and stop it all for a bit, to let moments linger, but I know I can’t.  I can just try to enjoy these last few months where she’ll still be with us, with our family.  I can enjoy her moment in the sun on graduation day, and at the party we’ll host for her.  Through the tears I know I’ll be shedding when we say good-bye at her dorm room, I’ll just keep her in my prayers as I do for all of my children, and trust that she’ll fly well.


Route 66, part of my weekday morning routine…

Martin Milner (right) as Tod Stiles, with Geor...

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We have Direct TV.   We used to have cable but having moved  to a more rural area of Missouri, away from our former home in the St. Louis area, our cable carrier wasn’t available anymore.  So, we signed up  with Direct TV.   We still get most of the St. Louis tv channels we were  familiar with, including  Channel 24.  I don’t know it’s history, but Channel 24 is owned  by a minister  who has  a  ministry to the homeless and less fortunate of St. Louis.  Channel 24 must somehow provide money for his work, and being a minister, the programming is usually of a wholesome nature, and often the programs are from  yesteryear.   (Why Frasier is aired I’ll never know…nothing against Frasier, but I wonder if the minister is aware of some of it’s storylines ?)  One of the  classic tv shows that Channel 24 airs that I have grown to appreciate, and look forward to viewing, is Route 66.

Route 66 airs at different hours on Channel 24.  One episode usually airs at 4:30 p.m., Mondays-Fridays, and then again, two more episodes air at 11:00 p.m. and then again at 4:00 a.m.  Thanks to our dvr machine(God bless the inventors of this gadget that lets me skip commercials and watch tv when I want to watch it!), I record the episodes and then watch one each morning, lingering over my breakfast as husband and the three oldest kids have exited the house for work and school, and before the youngest three, whom I homeschool, are awake.

The plot of the show is fairly simple.  Two young men, in their twenties, have decided to travel the USA,  in a Chevrolet Corvette Convertible, working odd jobs when they need to in order to  refund their wallets.  Whenever they stop off in one of America’s tiny towns or large cities, they inevitably meet someone, or a group of folks, who are having a problem and our twenty-something traveling duo finds a way to solve the problem.

Originally, Route 66 aired on CBS, from 1960-64.  The show was created by Herbert B. Leonard and Stirling Siliphant; Siliphant wrote most of the shows episodes.  Nelson Riddle created the theme music for the show, which became popular, and the sales of Chevrolet’s Corvette increased due to the popularity of the show.  The two travelers were played by Martin Milner and George Maharis.  Milner played Todd Stiles, a college student(Yale or Harvard, can’t recall at the moment), who’s father owned a tugboat company in New York Harbor.  Maharis played Buz Murdock, an orphan who grew up in NYC, and as an adult, worked for the elder Stiles’s company.  The elder Stile’s died suddenly, and as the will is gone over by the lawyer, it is discovered that the deceased didn’t know, or chose to ignore the fact, that his company was almost bankrupt.  It is left to Todd (Milner) to settle up accounts, close up the business, and there isn’t much of an inheritance left, so Todd drops out of college,  buys the snazzy Corvette, comes up with his plan to travel the open road, and invites Buz to join him.

Siliphant was a gifted writer and the episodes he wrote were interesting, the dialogue was great, a bit cryptic at times whenever Todd or Buz decide to speak cool, as in late beatnik or early hippie, but the message gets across, and the acting couldn’t have been better.  Many famous stars of today were in this tv show and it is fun to watch an episode and suddenly realize that that is a young Robert Redford who accidentally caused a young woman to fall down an embankment to her death!  Other stars I’ve noticed on the show: Gene Hackman, Cloris Leachman,Leslie Nielsen,Nehemiah Persoff, Jack Warden, Julie Newmar, Barbara Eden, Martin Sheen, Lee Marvin, Robert Duvall, Alan Alda, to name a few.  I also have noticed that the show was a vehicle for once former famous actors and actresses as their time in the limelight was waning, and now in their 50s and older, they could still turn to tv for acting jobs.  Some of these stars were Chester Morris, Glenda Farrell, Nina Foch, Chill Wills, Betty Field, Sylvia Sydney, Joan Crawford, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, and Lon Chaney Jr.  The episode that starred the latter 3 gentlemen I just listed, was a fun one to watch and I imagine it was a fun one to rehearse and film.

As Route 66 grew in popularity, George Maharis became seriously ill with Hepatitis and had to be hospitalized for a number of weeks.   Since he couldn’t be on the show, Milner’s character did some episodes solo, having his character Todd call in at various stops along his travels to check in with Buz, who was convalescing from Pneumonia at a hospital in California.  Maharis did recover enough to finish out Season 3, but prior to Season 4, he decided to end his run on the show and pursue a movie career.  CBS didn’t want to cancel the show, so a search was on to select a new traveling companion for Milner’s character.  Actor Glenn Corbett was hired to do so, playing Lincoln Case, a native Texan, recently retired Army Ranger who had seen action in Vietnam.  The show followed it’s same format, but to me, the episodes just didn’t have the same snap and pizzaz to them that the earlier ones did with Maharis as co-pilot.  Corbett did a decent job, but Milner, seemed crankier to me, as if he was merely tolerating Lincoln Case;  doesn’t seem to really get to know him.   Despite my observation about Season 4, I would recommend this classic tv show highly, and I do know it is on dvd, in case there isn’t a tv channel in your area, run by a local minister, airing classic tv shows that are a lot more wholesome than what is aired on today’s Primetime line up.

For the Dogathon: Disney’s The Ugly Dachshund

Cover of "The Ugly Dachshund"
Cover of The Ugly Dachshund

I was reading one of my favorite movie blogs, Classic Film & TV Cafe,  three weeks ago and found out it was going to be hosting a blogathon  about classic films that starred a dog or dogs.  This was to be called The Dogathon, and  it asked for volunteer bloggers to write about a dog movie.  I immediately started to wrack my brain about which film would I choose to write about?  Old Yeller and Lassie Come Home immediately came to my mind, as did Asta, the lovable pet Airdale of Nick and Nora Charles, characters of  The Thin Man movies.  No, I thought, I bet those topics have already been snapped up.  It was then that I remembered an obscure but still delightful Disney  movie that I had never seen  or heard of before until one day, 14 years ago, when I rented it from our local video store for my kids to see.  Disney’s The Ugly Dachshund was that film.  I remembered it was about not one, but two dog breeds,  that it starred Dean Jones and Suzanne Pleshette, and that my kids had liked it.  That clinched it for me, and I submitted my film choice, which was  accepted for the Dogathon.

This film was based on a book, The Ugly Dachshund, written in 1938 by Gladys Bronwyn Stern.  The plot is pretty straightforward.  Marc Garrison (Jones) is an artist with a lovely home and art studio.  His wife, Fran,(Pleshette) is the happy homemaker, who is a bit obsessed about her prize winning Dachshund, Danke, who is about to have her first litter.  At Dr. Pruitt’s office( the veterinarian played by the always delightful Charlie Ruggles), Danke successfully gives birth to 3 female puppies and with that Mark and Fran return home.  A couple days go by and it’s time to bring the puppies and their mama home.  Mark volunteers for the task and while  waiting for Dr. Pruitt to get the Dachshunds ready for their ride home, Mark notices a Great Dane who has recently given birth.  Dr. Pruitt can’t help but notice Mark’s admiration for the Great Dane, what a fine, noble dog it seems to be.  Dr. Pruitt also has an ulterior motive to play up on Mark’s liking for this breed.  The Great Dane mama had a large litter, but for some reason, doesn’t have enough milk for all of her pups.  Danke, the new mama Dachshund, has too much milk.  Would Mark be willing to take home one of the Great Dane pups and let Danke be a wet nurse for it?  Just until the pup is weaned?  Mark can’t resist a puppy being turned out by it’s mama, and after all, the Great Dane puppy is a male.  Mark allows he is a bit tired of being surrounded by females at the house, and he agrees that Danke can be a wet nurse for the Great Dane puppy, whom he names Brutus.   When Mark returns home with Danke and now 4 puppies, he at first lets Fran assume that Danke had a fourth pup, and doesn’t say a word as she makes comments from time to time about that fourth puppy’s size, how he doesn’t seem to fit the Dachshund mold.  As time goes by, and the weaning is complete for all the pups, Fran has figured out that the fourth pup was not Danke’s but from another breed entirely.  Mark reveals to Fran the truth of the matter, and Fran agrees that Mark’s decision to let Danke wet nurse the mother-less Brutus was the right decision.  Fran notices that   Mark has grown very attached to the dog, and she surprises Mark by  giving him Brutus as a birthday present, when previously she had vowed that once weaned, back to Dr. Pruitt the pup would  go.

For quite a bit of the movie, we get to see the three Dachshund pups ( who Fran has named Heidi, Chloe, and Wilhemina), tear up the  house, the art studio, ruin a backyard party, and everytime, they manage to slip away and poor Brutus is left at the scene and getting the blame.  Fran has had it with the Great Dane after the backyard party is turned into a disaster and the next day tells Mark that Brutus must go.  One of the  Dachshunds, Chloe, who Fran is grooming and training for an upcoming dog show, is sniffing around a garbage can the day after the party, and manages to crawl into a box containing a trashed cake.  Brutus sees her enter the box, but the garbage man, who has just arrived to gather up the week’s trash, doesn’t know Chloe is in the box, and he throws it into the device on his truck that dumps all of the garbage into the hold of the large truck.  Brutus at this point is barking like crazy, growling at the garbage man, preventing him from getting  into his truck.  The garbage man calls out for the Garrison’s to come and help him, and they do.  Over Brutus’s din, Fran hears a small yelp, and she immediately thinks it might be Chloe, who she had been searching for prior to the garbage man’s arrival.   Mark climbs up onto the truck, goes into the hold, and finds Chloe.  As he hands her over to Fran, she has a change of heart about Brutus, and decides to fix him eggs for saving her Chloe.

The last part of the movie is about the dog show.  Fran is busy training Chloe for the show, and she is still nagging Mark how Brutus acts like he is a little Dachshund, wanting to be a lap dog and crawling around on his belly like a Dachshund with it’s very short legs appears to do.  In a cute scene, Mark decides to get out his book on dog breeds, to show Brutus what a Great Dane looks like.   Brutus studies the picture and immediately strikes the proper pose.  Dr. Pruitt happens to stop by to check on Chloe, who has developed a mild skin rash, and he convinces Mark to enter Brutus in the dog show, as a way to train Brutus, and help the dog realize he is a Great Dane.  There is a funny training montage with Dr. Pruitt and Mark, and then the dog show day arrives.  I won’t give away who does or doesn’t win, but I will share one more funny scene.   When Brutus is in the ring with the other male Great Danes,  he sees a lady holding her Dachshund and he  begins to creep around low to the ground like a Dachshund.   Dr. Pruitt and Mark  begin to despair, when suddenly, a female Great Dane appears with her owner.   As soon as Brutus sees the female Great Dane, he snaps to attention.  Later on, Dr. Pruitt has the cutest line about that moment, when he tells Mark,” …takes a female to make a male want to show off!”  After the dog show, happiness reigns supreme in the Garrison’s household, with promises to just be good dog owners, no more dog shows, and Fran adds, they might be busy with other things very soon, hinting that perhaps the pitter patter of little feet is her next project to embark on.  The rest of the cast includes Kelly Thordsen as Officer Carmody, Parley Baer as Mel Chadwick, a Dachshund expert, Robert Kino, as Mr. Toyama, the caterer, Mako, as a caterer’s assistant, and Charles Lane, as a dog show judge.

The Ugly Dachshund was directed by Norman Tokar.  He had been an actor in the 1940s but then turned his career to directing, working with television shows.  He directed many episodes of Leave it to Beaver, which caught Walt Disney’s eye, for here was a director used to working with children.  Disney hired him to direct the movie, Big Red, which was based upon the book of the same title, a story about  a boy and his Irish Setter.  The success of this collaboration led to Tokar directing many Disney movies, and in 1966, he directed The Ugly Dachshund.   To handle the dogs in this movie, and all of the numerous scenes of their antics, Disney hired William Koehler.  Koehler was one of the names to turn to in Hollywood where dogs featured prominently in a movie.  Koehler had previously trained military dogs for the Army during WWII, and then after the war, took his skills to the movie studios.  He also authored 6 different books on dog training, and worked with many animals for the Disney studios.

Researching for this blog, I also enjoyed reading about Great Danes and Dachshunds.  Two extremes in size to be sure, and also in temperament.   Great Danes are truly gentle giants.  Bred to be working dogs, used primarily for guarding wealthy landowners’ properties.  These dogs are good with all people of all ages, especially the family that owns them.  Not prone to barking too much, only to alert the family if strangers are around.  The Great Dane’s  size makes it excellent for warding off strangers in anyone’s neighborhood.  Due to the breed’s large size, they do need room to stretch out in and a yard to cavort in.  Sadly, I also discovered that due to their large size, Great Danes have also earned the nickname of Heartbreak Hound, as they have a short lifespan, 8 years on average, due to the health problems that go hand in hand with such a large breed.   Dachshunds  are a much smaller dog, long- bodied with very short legs.  The breed was created for badger hunting, and Dachshunds do have large paws which make it easier to dig into those badger holes to get at that critter!  Dachshunds are shy around strangers, and may even be stand offish, but are very loyal to their owners.  A stubborn breed, I imagine Mr. Koehler had his hands full trying to train those 4 Dachshunds in the movie!  Author E.B. White, who owned a Dachshund named Fred, wrote, “I would rather train a striped zebra to balance an Indian club on his nose than induce a dachshund to  heed my slightest command.”

If you are wanting to  enjoy a fun movie, one the entire family can view without anyone becoming embarrassed, and especially for all out there who love movies about dogs, then find The Ugly Dachshund pronto!  Be sure to also check out the rest of the films being reviewed in Classic Film and TV Cafe’s Dogathon.  Click here  for the full schedule.

“What are Y’all Gonna Do for Me?”

A typical gathering, with boys in tuxedos, and...
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We moved this past summer to a new community in Missouri,  almost 2 hours away from our past hometown where we had lived for 19 years.  Our second child, has been invited back for good friends’ birthday parties, sleepovers during Christmas break, and other sundry events.  During her last visit  a week ago, one of her friend’s was regaling their group with a  story that had happened at a recent high school assembly.  The school official was informing the student body about new rules for the upcoming Junior -Senior Prom, rules that hadn’t been used before, at this high school.  The students were informed that Seniors who had a 94% attendance rate would be allowed to attend the prom for free, that purchasing a ticket would be waived.  As this new rule sunk in to the students’ brains, one girl stood up and asked a question of the school official.  She informed the official and student body that since she had been out of school for 4 months because she had had a baby, …”What Y’All Gonna Do for Me?” was her concern and question.  The school official didn’t know how to answer this,  himhawed around and finally told her she would need to ask her guidance counselor about it.

My daughter and her friends reacted with laughter and states of shock and/or surprise at the nerve of this girl.   I have been  mulling this anecdote over in my mind and decided to put myself in the school official’s shoes and here is the answer that I would have  given  this girl.  First of all young woman, you are now a mother, not just a teen who wants to go to her Prom.  For whatever reasons, you decided to have sex with a male during the second semester of your Junior year.  The result is that now you have a child to care for, raise, love, and teach responsibility to.  Your first concern should be that of your child, not if you have to pay money to go to a school dance.  If you were my daughter, I would say that you have to stay home that night and be a mom to your child.  If you can be responsible and find a decent baby sitter, than perhaps you can go to the prom, but who will pay for the dress? You will also have to pay the baby sitter, pay for shoes, accessories, possibly pay for your meal afterwards, and then be home by 11, as most baby sitters don’t want to stay at someone’s house all night watching a child.   Paying for the ticket will also be your responsibility.  Being absent for 4 months to have your baby and then miss school due to postpartum recovery doesn’t add up to a 94% attendance rate, so no free ticket for you!

This student’s attitude really bothers me.  How many generations of Americans  have this same attitude, that if I mess up, someone still owes me something.  Who cares if I have consequences to face, chances are I’ll do my best to ignore them and demand someone give me something for the troubles that I’ve brought down upon myself.  No shame, no responsibility, this attitude  only promises a society with an ever downward spiral to moral ambiguity and anarchy.  God help this innocent child this selfish teen is raising so he or she won’t turn out like this mother!

The Dogathon is Coming!!

  Classic Film and TV Cafe will be hosting a Classic Movie Dogathon, February 19th-22nd.  I will be writing a blog to be posted on February 20th, about the Disney movie, The Ugly Dachshund.  So for a fun,  and informative look at classic films that celebrate  man’s best friend, be sure to check out the Dogathon!

A Gifted Man, can it be saved?

A Gifted ManI don’t watch too many television shows on the major networks.  I am a fan of classic movies, so most evenings I pull up my menu on the Tivo machine(God Bless the person or persons who invented this!), and watch a movie from Turner Classic Movies.  When a  new television season is about to begin, I do peruse the lists of new shows and this Fall, one did catch my eye, A Gifted Man, which airs on CBS on Friday evenings.  Starring Patrick Wilson(my oldest daughter and I were suitably impressed with his skill at portraying Raoul, the hero in Phantom of the Opera, the 2005 film version), and Jennifer Ehle(  she brilliantly portrayed Elizabeth Bennett in a 1995 BBC TV production of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and yes, it is my favorite rendition of Miss Austen’s famous book, even better than the Greer Garson/Laurence Olivier MGM version!).  With these two actors in the cast, I eagerly set my tivo machine and watched the first episode.

The premise of the show is very far-fetched.  Brilliant neurosurgeon Michael Holt,(Wilson), divorced from wife, Dr. Anna Paul,(Ehle), is a busy man with a successful practice in Manhattan, his office capably run by Rita, played by Margo Martindale.  Dr. Holt, one day, sees a child’s ball roll into a side street and goes over to pick it up, but cannot find it’s owner.  Later in the early evening, as he is about to enter a restaurant, his ex-wife walks up to him and he is very surprised to see her, as last he had known, she was practicing at a clinic she had begun in the city for the lower-income residents who live near her clinic’s doors.  After going back to Dr. Holt’s apartment and enjoying an evening of conversation about the way they were when they had a joint practice in Alaska, Anna begs off staying longer and departs.  The next day, Dr. Holt discovers that his ex-wife was actually killed some months before, while chasing after a child’s ball into a street.  Dr.  Holt is in shock over this discovery, and soon his ex-wife’s ghost begins to visit him frequently, asking for him to help her clinic survive, as it is struggling since her unexpected demise.  This ghost element added an interesting twist to what could have  been  a straightforward doctor drama and  I thought all the actors involved were doing a good job with their parts, so I programmed the tivo machine to record it every Friday night.

The program added some new cast members, namely Eriq LaSalle, for a 4 episode arc, as Dr. Evan Morris, a new partner in Dr. Holt’s practice( he had been a star on that other doctor’s show I watched in the 1990s ER), and an actress I am unfamiliar with, Rachelle Lefevre, who plays Dr. Kate Sykora.  Dr. Sykora was selected by Dr. Holt to continue running his ghost ex’s clinic.  There are also some minor characters on the show, Dr. Holt’s ditzy but nice sister, Christina(Julie Benz), a new ageish holisitic handy man, Anton Little Creek(Pablo Schreiber), and Dr. Zeke Barnes( Rhys Coiro), who helps Dr. Sykora run the clinic for the low-income patients that fill the clinic’s waiting room.  The show seemed to be humming right along, with side stories about Dr. Holt’s nephew needing some guidance, sundry patients  with weird symptoms that only a neurosurgeon could figure out, and the poorer patients with their weird symptoms, usually being sent by ambulance to Dr. Holt’s lavish Manhattan clinic for emergency procedures.  No one ever asks about insurance, I’ve noticed, on this show, but we do get to see the long, long lines to see a doctor at the clinic for the poor.

I finally caught up with the show last night and am now concerned that it won’t make it for renewal for next season.  I think that’s a shame.  What has me concerned is the way the story line looks to be going  and some plot points, or holes.  First of all, Dr. Sykora is a beautiful woman with a handsome husband.  We don’t know what her husband’s job is, although he is shown in a suit and is ultra busy with this job(Hedge Fund manager? Lawyer? I don’t know, and if it was mentioned, mea culpa!).  Dr. Sykora has shared with Dr. Holt that her husband and she agreed long ago to not have any children, as they will just be too busy with their careers to deal with children and all that that entails.  Two adults in a marriage with all consuming careers? A bad idea that is ripe for  bad choices.  I think  the writers of the show have planned for her marriage to fail, have her fall into Dr. Holt’s arms, and then ramp up the bedroom antics as a way to boost the show’s ratings.  I think the show would  be better served if Dr. Sykora was single, and for her and Dr. Holt’s characters to have a working relationship where they respect each other’s skills as doctors, and if a romantic relationship would occur, that it occur slowly, very slowly.    Secondly, I noticed two plot holes, and one I blame on mamby-pamby liberal story telling.  Dr. Sykora, who is too busy at work to have much time to be with her husband, and has twiced mentioned she is too busy to have children, is, surprise!,  a volunteer Big Sister to a high school basketball star!  The star player injures her back, causing Dr. Sykora to break her date with her husband, who had managed to get good tickets to a Broadway show, in order to be with her student to get her back x-rayed at Dr. Holt’s clinic.   After the teen has a needed surgical procedure done by Dr. Holt, it is discovered that the teen had drugs in her system, heroin.  Dr. Sykora is shocked, shocked!  She has always told  the teen girl not to do drugs.  The mamby-pamby part was when Dr. Sykora confronted the teen, who began to cry and state that it wasn’t her fault!  She needed painkillers and wanted to do well at her sport and  to get college scholarships! When the kid selling prescription painkillers ran out of his stash, he offered her heroin! I was talking back to the tv screen at all of this-“It was too your fault for taking illegal drugs and painkillers!” No mention of how this teen got the money to feed her habit and all of the adults around her were clueless.  That whole bit of how it wasn’t her fault was a bunch of baloney!!  The other minor plot hole I noticed was due to my tivo machine.  A crazy woman bursts into the poor folks clinic late at night, when the clinic is closed, as Dr. Sykora and Dr. Barnes are about to send a patient via ambulance to an area hospital for an emergency gall bladder surgery.  The crazy woman has a gun and wants to see Dr. Holt, who isn’t there.  He is tricked into coming to the clinic when crazy lady( she  has a large handgun-I thought NYC’s anti-gun laws kept things like this from happening?), gets Dr. Sykora’s cell phone and texts Dr. Holt for help.  It is revealed that the lady is a desperately grieving mom, who’s daughter was killed in a house fire, set by some troubled teen.  Dr. Holt had recently testified at a hearing that the teen arsonist was cured due to a surgery Dr. Holt had done on the teen’s brain, that removed all desires to burn things up.  In the hearing scene, we saw the upset dead girl’s father, who shouted at Dr. Holt, and then confronted him outside the courtroom.  No mom in these scenes.  I ran my tivo machine back to these “angry father” scenes, and the actress portraying crazy lady with a gun wasn’t in any of them.  Why? It couldn’t have been too expensive to have the actress stand there next to her husband as he yelled at Dr. Holt.

I have read articles that A Gifted Man is on the bubble, meaning it may not be renewed for a second season.  I think if the writers made some changes and stopped the story line from going too fast with a romance between the two main doctors, it might make it.  The first couple of episodes had Ehle’s character popping up a lot more, talking with her ex- husband, challenging him on his ideas about how to handle situations with patients and with her clinic.  That needs to be happening much more than it has of late.  It is always a bit amusing whenever Dr. Holt is having an animated conversation with his ghost ex and a total stranger walks by and sees this man talking to himself in such a dramatic fashion!  Rita, the stalwart office receptionist/manager/ scheduler had a lot more to say and do in the first couple of episodes, including one involving a former NFL star who she helped out quite a bit due to her and her husband’s love of football.  Why not show Rita’s husband once in a while, inviting Dr. Holt over for a home-cooked meal, as he lives alone, and other than his sister and her son, has no family to speak of.  Speaking of his sister, we’ve seen her son once, why not have more interactions with these two characters and the good doctor?  It is also a mistake to only have Eriq LaSalle’s character on for 4 episodes.  His character, a neuro psychologist, is an interesting one, and he could add new dimensions in dealing with difficult and puzzling patients.  As for Dr. Sykora’s character, either have she and her husband renew their marriage commitment to have more time for one another,  and bring in a new love interest for Dr. Holt, complete with ghost ex’s comments, sort of like what happened in the movie The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.  Or, have Dr. Sykora’s marriage fail, and she and Dr. Holt slowly, very slowy realize they love each other.

With an abrupt halt to what I think will be a  huge storyline mistake for this show, ending the mamby-pamby plots, and adding the other characters back into the show more,  I am hoping A Gifted Man will be saved and  won’t die a premature death!

Where has the Family Viewing hour gone?

When television began broadcasting shows in earnest, circa early 1950s, many of the programs were family friendly.  The entire family could sit down in the comfort of their living room and watch a television show that made them laugh, that made them think.  TV shows, like Father Knows Best, Leave it to Beaver, My Little Margie, I Love Lucy, are but a few examples of such television fare viewers could expect.

When I was growing up, in the 1970s, there were still family shows where we could all gather and watch a program without being embarrassed by the content.  Little House on the Prairie, The Waltons, The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family.  After the 8:00 hour was done, my brother and I knew cop shows usually reigned supreme, Hawaii 5-0  or Kojak, and then at 10:00, when we were tucked in for the night, more adult programs would be on, like Police Story.

In 2012, no such family hour exists anymore and I don’t know why or when it began to disappear.  Today’s sitcoms, I don’t let my younger children watch them, and if I were to watch them with my parents, I’d  feel very embarrassed.  The major networks have been lamenting for years the loss of viewers to cable.  Maybe  the families  have left, looking for programs worthwhile for a family to view.  I am sure some television executives would simply give out that all too often excuse, “We’re just following the culture”, but I think they aid and abet and influence the culture much more than they give themselves credit for.  If networks want viewers back, then bring back the family viewing hour, with programs that are uplifting and wholesome, and go back to showing the crass and profane at 10:00, when the children are safely tucked in for the night.

Two movies about being a father

My husband and I recently ventured to our church last Sunday evening, for a free showing of the movie, Courageous.  The movie was about a group of four men. Three were police officers, one man a construction worker.   All fathers, all examining themselves at various points in the movie, to see if they were being the best fathers they could be to their children.  Tragedies struck these four men in the course of the movie, and many people in the sanctuary, where the movie was played, were crying, myself and my husband included.  Courageous was a  tear jerker, and it showed the pain and sorrow that people go through when tragedies strike.  One man of the four made a bad decision, and his consequences to come were hinted at near the movie’s end.  It didn’t have a happily forever after ending, but it did have an ending of hope.

I’ve been seeing ads for another movie about a father,  starring George Clooney, called The Descendents.  One evening, I noticed an ad for the movie, and it showed a caring father, trying to do right by his children, as his wife lay comatose in a hospital due to a boating accident.  Near the end of the commercial, I noticed that the movie was rated R.   I wondered why did this movie, about such a sad and serious subject, need an R rating?  The commercial I saw depicted nothing to hint that an R rating was needed.  Being curious, I looked up The Descendents and from my readings, I  found out that it definitely needed the R rating due to the bad language, sexually charged topics, drug and alchohol abuse it depicted.

Hollywood, from articles I have read, hasn’t had a banner year at the box office.  I am sure Red Box, Netflix Streaming, the internet, and ye old video/dvd store have all done their part to chip away at the numbers of people who go to the theatres to see a movie.  However, I also think that if Hollywood would really pay attention to the movies that do better than most at the box office, they would realize that they are the movies that are rated  G, PG, and PG-13.  Courageous, it was recently reported, produced by Sherwood Pictures, has sold more dvds than Moneyball, The Ides of March, and Abduction.   If Hollywood would have made The Descendents without the gratuitous, offensive material, earning it a PG-13 rating, it would probably have done much better at the box office than it has done.  Hollywood, learn a lesson from Sherwood Pictures: gratuitous, offensive language and actions by one’s actors are not needed to convey the theme of a movie!  You just might see a rise in those  box office receipts!  Less R, more G, PG, PG-13, please!

When our son told us he wanted to become a United States Marine

United States Marine Corps seal

Image via Wikipedia

During the aftermath of 9/11, our  oldest  turned to me one day and  said,”You know, Mom, I might want to join the army instead of going to college.”  He said this very matter of factly, and as he was only in 5th grade at the time, I hurriedly told him something innocuous, like, “Is that so dear?”, and went on with our homeschool day.  In the back of my mind, his statement did trigger an immediate “NO!”, and I remembered cradling him in my arms when he was a newborn, thinking, “Lord, please don’t let me have given birth to this beautiful baby boy only to see him grow up and die in a war!”  I think all mothers of sons think that sentiment at least once in their son’s growing up years.  Flashing forward to 2009, my husband walked in the door at 1:30 p.m. on a weekday, and answered our questions as to why he was home so early.  He’d been layed off that day.  The next 16 months ensued, with my husband working 5 part-time jobs and searching for a new job in his engineering profession, myself dusting off my teaching certificate and subbing for area schools, cuts in activities such as eating out, going to movies, shopping at malls and well-known retailers; this led our son to decide that in order for him to pay for college, he would join the US military  and after his 4 years of service were over, he’d then go to college using  the GI Bill benefits.  When his plan was first broached, I immediately requested he look at the Coast Guard.   In my  mind, he’d be stationed nearby, at St. Louis, on the Mississippi River!  My husband correctly pointed out that today’s Coast Guard often has to deal with borders, drug dealers, illegals, and it’s not as safe as I was assuming.  Our son did mention looking into ROTC with some of the St. Louis area colleges, but he didn’t pursue it very much, and July 2009  was nearing it’s end.  Early August arrived, and he finally announced to us that he wanted to join the US Marines.  Oh no! That was my immediate reaction, but I kept it to myself.  I asked one more time about the Coast Guard and was met with a frustrated,”Mom! I don’t want to be a Coastie!!”  As soon as his Senior year of highschool began, our son met with the recruiter, who came to our house to discuss all of what becoming a Marine would mean for our son.  The recruiter was very polished, very polite, and answered all of our questions.  I have heard some parents complain that the recruiter lied to them and their son, and I can’t say that happened in our case.  The only surprise to happen to our son was his MOS being changed during the last few weeks of boot camp. (MOS stands for  the specific training one will do after graduating from boot camp.)  Our son turned 18 in early October, so once that happened, he signed his name to the dotted line and took the oath to become a member of The Few and The Proud.

Telling the grandparents, aunts, and uncles was the next challenge, as most of them assumed our son would immediately go to college after his 2010 gradutation.  All of the relatives were very surprised at our son’s decision.  All said they were proud of him, but one set of grandparents were not happy at all.  They told us, the parents, that our son shouldn’t be doing this, that he was too smart for this, that he should be going to college.  We replied that he is now 18, he had said he wanted to serve his country, and that when the 4 years were done, he’d go to college then.  We also said that due to his age, if this is what he really wanted to do, we were not going to stand in his way.  Telling friends also was a bit difficult, as they,too, were very surprised, also assuming our son would go on to college right away.  Many of our friends would pull my husband aside, to ask how I was accepting all our son’s decision.

When one’s child decides to join the US mililtary, all of the branches do the same thing:the recruiter comes to your front door and takes your child away to boot camp.  While most of our friends were getting ready to drive their kids to a college in mid-August, we knew the recruiter was going to appear at our front door on August 1, at 3:00p.m.  It was a beautiful, sunny day.  We went to church, as we always did on Sunday mornings.  Our son got to shake many of his friends and our friends’ hands, received many hugs from the ladies, as they knew he’d be leaving for boot camp in the morning.  He had requested a last family meal at a local Chinese restaurant that we all liked.  Then it was time to go home and just wait.  We went over our son’s gear, made sure he had the items he needed to take with him, which wasn’t very much, actually.  We made sure he left his cell phone with us because at Marine boot camp, the only way for a recruit to communicate with his or her family members and friends is through mail, snail mail.  3:00 p.m. arrived and the recruiter was there, at the door, very prompt.  Our family had gathered one last time minutes before and prayed for our son, and then as the recruiter watched, our son received 8 hugs, all of us trying hard to not cry outloud.  Then he was gone, into the recruiter’s vehicle, heading for downtown St. Louis for medical tests, taking an oath, and flying off to San Diego, CA for 13 weeks of boot camp.

For Marine recruits, if one lives east of the Mississippi River, or if one is a female, boot camp is held at Parris Island, off the coast of South Carolina.  If one lives west of the Mississippi River, or is in the metro east area in IL for St. Louis, than San Diego is the destination for boot camp.  The 13 weeks went by slowly, and we wrote letters to our son several times a week, as did relatives.  The recruiter had given us a book, Making The Corps, by Thomas E. Ricks, which was immensely helpful.  The book followed a platoon of new recruits through boot camp at Parris Island, detailing the training they’d be going through, as well as informing the reader about the history of the USMC.  Many comparisons were made between Marine boot camp and Army boot camp.  When my son would later complain how easy Army boot camp was compared to what he went through, I needed to only recall what I’d read in Mr. Ricks’s book, to understand the complaints our son leveled at the Army.  One of my cousins, who had a son serving in the USMC, also gave us a book, Keeping Faith: A Father-Son Story About Love and the United States Marine Corps, by Frank Schaeffer.  Mr. Schaeffer shared from the heart, what it had meant to he and his wife when their youngest child announced, much as our son did, that he was going to serve his country first, and then go to college.  Mr. Schaeffer, who lives in the Northeastern part of the United States, discussed how hard it was to tell their friends, who almost always send their children,private school graduates, to the Ivy League schools, and for one of their peers to have a child eschew all of that for the military! Well, that was unheard of!   Mr. Schaeffer also shared visiting his son’s boot camp graduation, and later visiting him at his MOS training school.  One of the main things he noticed, and we have also noticed it with our son, is that the Marines are a much more integrated bunch than the Ivy League campuses are.

As I mentioned earlier, our son’s MOS was changed during his last few weeks of boot camp.  He originally was going to be a legal clerk, but was told he was being moved to Aviations Operations.  This moved his MOS training to Naval Air Station, Meridian, MS.  We didn’t get to see him in MS, but he did get to come home for that Christmas of 2010, which was wonderful! In February of 2011, our son found out his new duty post, which he’d be at for two years, Marine Air Station, Iwakuni, Japan.  We were all so relieved that he was not being sent to Iraq or Afghanistan, we didn’t foresee, nor could we have, the day he landed in Japan; the terrible earthquake hit only an hour or so after he landed! Fortunately, his side of Japan wasn’t adversely affected by the quake, but his assigned air station did receive flights in from Okinawa, and then sent those flights on their way to the north, to help with the needed humanitarian aid.

Our son keeps in contact with us weekly, via skype, and he did get to come stateside for Christmas again in 2011.  He has had many interesting stories to tell us about Japan, mostly about the stares he receives due to his height, 6’4″, as tall people of Japanese descent are very rare.  He has one more year to serve in Japan, and then one more year, stateside, he’s been told, but he doesn’t know where that will be yet.  He did tell us at Christmas he wants to take his college classes when he is discharged, at one of the St. Louis area colleges.  I am glad for that, because prior to boot camp, he was acting all tough, and telling me he’d probably want to live far from us, in CA.  After his graduation, he told us on the parade deck that CA was a nice place to visit, but too expensive.  He’d rather live in the Midwest!

If your son or daughter comes to you one day and says that they want to serve their country, listen to them, be very proud of them and let them know that.  A child choosing military service after highschool isn’t something to be ashamed of at all.

I Voted!

Living in Missouri, we had a chance to vote in a primary yesterday, February 7th, 2012.  I did my civic duty and voted, in my new voting precinct.  It was at a quaint, older church building near the western city limits of Rolla, MO.  The election workers were all friendly, welcoming me in, one gentleman held the front door open for me as I entered.  I could tell from their eagerness to assist me that they must not have had many voters so far that morning.  I proudly handed over my voter registration card that had come in the mail in the early days of December, which is when I finally got my act in gear and got registered.  The card checked out fine, and I signed my name to the voter records book, initialing my current address.  After telling the lady handling the paper ballots which one I wanted, she began to explain how to fill it in so it would be properly read and I stopped her by asking if there were any touch screen machines to vote on?  I explained that in St. Louis County, we had touch screen machines and that is what I was used to voting on.  The election workers proudly smiled and told me to look in a far off corner, there stood the one touch screen voting machine that they had for their voting site!  I smiled and said that, yes, that was what I wanted to vote with, so I was escorted to the machine and I voted.  Afterwards, I was given a “I Voted!” sticker, which I proudly wore to the grocery store, and two of the ladies asked me how did I like Rolla, compared to St. Louis.  I did say that I like Rolla, that it is quieter, and the election workers all laughed at that.  I did say it’s taken my kids a while to adjust to a smaller community.  Every now and then I will hear one of them sigh, lamenting that a mall, or zoo, or museum, or their old friends  are now 2 hours away.  Getting acclimated to a new community can be stressful and fun all at the same time.  Voting in a new community is yet another way of getting to know the area and to feel like one belongs.