Archive for December, 2013

My Classic Movie Pick: The Bishop’s Wife, for the Christmas Movie Blogathon

I was honored when Family Friendly Reviews asked me to participate in their first blogathon, focusing on Christmas Movies.  Immediately I knew I’d write about one of my favorites, The Bishop’s Wife.   Produced by Samuel Goldwyn, directed by Henry Koster,  and made in 1947, the film resonated so much with audiences that besides doing extremely well at the box office it was a Best Picture nominee at that year’s Academy Awards.   The talented cast included  Cary Grant, Loretta Young, David Niven, Gladys Cooper, Monty Woolley, James Gleason, Elsa Lanchester, and Karolyn Grimes.  CM Blogathon

David Niven portrays Bishop Henry Brougham and Loretta Young is his wife, Julia.  They have an 8 year old daughter, Debbie(Karolyn Grimes, who also played  Zuzu in It’s a Wonderful Life) and they live in a huge house with a cook and a maid, Matilda(Elsa Lanchester),  and the Bishop also has a secretary, Miss Cassaway(Sara Haden.)    Life would appear to be simple and easy for the Bishop and his wife, but that isn’t the case at all.

It’s Christmas time as the film opens and we see a winter’s evening settling in over a large city.  The city isn’t identified but as large as it is in the opening flyover shot, I assumed it to be New York City.  We see excited and smiling children admiring the department store windows decorated with moveable characters, acting out little scenes of elves building toys in Santa’s workshop.  Watching all of this happiness is one lone man, smartly dressed, who quietly assumes a watchful eye.  He helps a blind man cross a busy street, cars suddenly braking to a stop as if an unseen force caused the braking.  We see this same man stop a runaway baby buggy and then hand the infant over to her grateful mother.  Then as this man is about to stroll away, he notices Julia, the Bishop’ s wife, looking longingly at a hat in a store window.

Julia wants that hat!

Julia wants that hat!

Julia moves on from the store window and runs into Professor Wutheridge(Monty Woolley) at the florist’s store where she is going to buy the Christmas tree for the Bishop’s house.  ( She orders a huge tree, to be delivered, for $1.85!!!!  Oh those 1947 prices!!)  The Professor admits that he misses seeing Julia and Henry since Henry’s  promotion from being the head minister at St. Timothy’s, which is now in danger of being shuttered.  Julia agrees that she misses the Professor, the old  neighborhood, and she is sad about St. Timothy’s.  The Professor knows about Henry needing to raise money for the building of a  cathedral and despite being a non-religious man, he gives Julia an old Roman coin, and asks her to give it to Henry, to put it towards the cathedral.  This offering touches Julia and she tears up in spite of herself.

When Julia arrives home, she has just missed another meeting  with Mrs. Hamilton(Gladys Cooper) and the cathedral committee.  What she missed was Mrs. Hamilton scolding  Henry about his “fuzzy-thinking” and the doubts Mrs. Hamiton has that Henry is the right man for the job.  Mrs. Hamilton’s bossy,  irritable mood has rubbed off on Henry and he chastises Julia for missing the meeting and he scoffs at the coin from the Professor.  Julia and Henry sit down to an unhappy,  tense dinner and Henry tries to make amends with the suggestion that he and Julia actually have a date for lunch the next day.  Julia’s face lights up at this plan, only to have their date shattered with a phone call from Mr. Travers, to remind Henry about a  meeting that will conflict with the date and cannot be gotten out of.  With the date cancelled, Julia goes  upstairs and  Henry goes back to his study and looks intently at the painting of a cathdral that is above the fireplace mantle.  He prays aloud to God for guidance and hears the door to his study open and close.  He turns to see who is there and no one is there.   As he looks back at the painting, it seems to be lit up and a man is suddenly in the room with him.  It is the smartly dressed man we saw in the film’s opening, the good samaritan who was helping people.  The man introduces himself as Dudley(Cary Grant), and he tells Henry that he is an angel, sent by God, to give Henry the help he’s prayed for!  Henry is at first, very skeptical that this man is an angel and he demands that Dudley perform a miracle right then and there, perhaps to build the cathedral with the wave of his hand.  Dudley chuckles at Henry’s challenge and informs Henry that he will help Henry reach his goals until Henry utters a prayer saying he doesn’t need Dudley’s help anymore and Dudley will then leave and no one will remember him having been among them.

Dudley being introduced to Julia

Dudley being introduced to Julia

Dudley, himself, has a conflict.  He is falling in love with Julia, and Henry has an inkling that this is happening.  All the ladies in the Bishop’s household: daughter Debbie, Miss Cassaway, Matilda, and Julia, are all charmed by Dudley, much to Henry’s consternation.  There are many great scenes where Dudley steps in and weaves his “angel magic”: helping Debbie get accepted into a  snowball fight, keeping the Professor’s sherry bottle filled, dictating the Bishop’s sermon to an unmanned typewriter,  helping Julia and taxi driver Sylvester(James Gleason) ice skate like Olympic athletes, playing the harp to melt Mrs. Hamilton’s icy heart, getting the boys to show up for choir practice at St. Timothy’s, keeping Henry away from the choir practice and literally stuck at Mrs. Hamilton’s home,  and my favorite: the decorating of the Bishop’s Christmas tree.

Who wouldn't want Cary Grant over to decorate their Christmas tree??

Who wouldn’t want Cary Grant over to decorate their Christmas tree??

Ice skating with Julia

Ice skating with Julia

Telling Debbie a story about David, the shepherd boy

Telling Debbie a story about David, the shepherd boy

What I enjoy about this movie is it’s depiction of faith, of a marriage in trouble, and of relationships developing and relationships healing.  The characters are very realistic, even the depiction of an angel!  Who wouldn’t want Cary Grant as their angel??  There is charm, comedy, and a wistfulness in this film.  When it was first in production, Samuel Goldwyn didn’t like the way the first director, William A.  Seiter had handled  the film, so he fired Seiter and had him replaced with Henry Koster.   He also had Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett make some uncredited rewrites of the screenplay.  Gregg Toland’s cinematography was top-notch.     Based upon Robert Nathan’s  1928 novel by the same title, I am glad Goldwyn stepped in and ordered those changes which yielded such a rich film.

Will the cathedral get built?  Will Mrs. Hamilton win and get Henry demoted?  Will St. Timothy’s be closed for good?  Will Henry and Julia’s marriage be saved?  Will Dudley resolve his feelings for Julia? Will he reveal who he really is to her?  The only way to find out the answers to these questions is to seek out The Bishop’s Wife for oneself.   It is available at Amazon and at TCM, and it will air on TCM on Christmas Eve at 12:15 am EST, so set that dvr machine!

At the film’s end, we get to hear a portion of  Bishop Henry’s Christmas Eve sermon:…”all the stockings are filled except one, the stocking for the child in the manger…Let us ask ourselves what would He wish for most?  Let each put in his share.  Lovingkindness, warm  hearts, and a stretched out hand of tolerance.  All the shining gifts that make peace on earth.”  I would add that for the next Christmas season, if you or your family are looking for an opportunity to serve others check out Operation Christmas Child, part of an outreach with The Samaritan’s Purse Ministry.  It allows one to give gifts that will be picked up and delivered to children in third world countries.  The ministry supplies a guided list of gifts to send and the costs for mailing the packages oversees.  For more information, click on this link.

For a lovely Christmas movie, one the entire family can watch and enjoy together, please seek out The Bishop’s Wife!  TBW movie poster 1

My Medical Puzzle

Medical symbolI woke up on the morning of November 11th and I could tell something wasn’t right with my left eye.  It hurt to move my eye, colors weren’t as bright, they were dimmer compared to looking at them with my right eye, and the vision in my left eye was quite blurry.  After gulping down a cup of coffee and waiting for the clock to strike 8:00 am, I called an Opthamologist.  I had to let my fingers do the walking through the Yellow Pages of the phone book; having moved to Rolla 3 years ago, our family hadn’t needed to make an Opthamological appointment.  The doctor’s office that I called said they’d see me that afternoon.  Thus,  my medical odyssey had begun!

I am a  healthy 48 year old woman.  No major health issues as a kid, appendicitis at the age of 10.  7 babies(2 twins), and a cold once in a while, hayfever in the summertime.  So this issue with my left eye was a real puzzle to me.  Was this a sign that I finally needed to face the fact that I do need to wear glasses?  The Opthamologist was kind, thorough, and ran me through a battery of vision tests.  No sign of a problem that he could detect, but he did say that if by the first week of December my left eye was still having those symptoms, to immediately come back for another round of tests.

Thanksgiving came, and we had a wonderful time in Ohio visiting  my parents, brother and his family, mother-in-law, husband’s brother and sister and their families.  Even our son in the Marines was allowed a 96 hour leave and could travel as far north into OH as we were so it was an extra special time to get to see him, too!  However, my left eye was still having the 3 symptoms: pain, dim colors, blurry vision.  On December 3rd  I was back at the Opthamologist’s office and facing the same battery of tests as before.  Finally, a diagnosis came through: Optic Neuritis, a swelling of the Optic Nerve in my left eye,  with  an added, ominous  note.  Optic Neuritis can have several causes but it is a main symptom of Multiple Sclerosis.    The Opthamologist told me as kindly as he could and made an appointment for me to see a Neurologist the next day.

Multiple Sclerosis?!  I vaguely knew what the disease was and what it would mean for my health down the road.  With my laptop, I began reading all I could on MS via the internet.   I discovered that Jack Osborne, son of Brititsh Rocker Ozzy Osbourne,  was diagnosed with MS in his mid-20s and that he has made a series of videos about MS for the MS Foundation, entitled “You Don’t Know Jack About MS”.   An autoimmune disorder, scientists and doctors don’t know why MS occurs, but they do know what it does.  The patient’s immune system  begins to attack it’s own nervous system, mainly the brain and the spinal cord.  The body’s natural antibodies begin to attack the myelin sheath which protects nerves in the body.  The sheath, sort of  like the plastic cover on an electrical cord, gets broken down by the antibodies to where nerves are exposed when they shouldn’t be.  This leads to a myriad of symptoms: extreme fatigue, some pain, weakness in muscles, tingling in hands and/or feet, Optic Neuritis, balance issues.   Other than my eye acting weirdly, I didn’t  have any of the other symptoms associated with MS.  Upon meeting with the Neurologist the next day, I also learned that at my age I was on the “old” end to be getting a diagnosis of MS.  Most people with MS get diagnosed in their 20s and 30s.  The Neurologist ordered me to report on Wednesday, 12/5th to the Infusion Center at Phelps County Regional Medical Center to begin a 5 day regimen of a steroid iv, a dose requiring me to remain hooked up to the iv for  4 hours at a time.

Off I went to the Infusion Center.  Up on the 4th floor, I walked into a small room, brightly lit.  A nurse sat in one corner at her desk, and along the walls were 6 reclining chairs with blinking, lighted machines and iv poles to the right of each chair.   I checked in with the nurse, sat down in a chair, and waited for the pharmacy to bring up the steroid for my iv.  The other patients in the other chairs all looked at me curiously, some smiled shyly at me.  I was definitely the baby in the room, as the other patients were in their 60s on up.  I learned that some were receiving chemotherapy drugs and others were receiving blood transfusions.  I am sure they were all wondering what I was doing there, as I looked to be much healthier than the rest of them.   After a bit, the medicine arrived, and I was hooked up the the iv, with the blinking, brightly lighted  machine measuring in the dose, monitoring  how much time I had to sit in the chair, and periodically taking my blood pressure and heart rate.  I marveled at the machines and the work that they do and wondered how infusion therapy was done for patients 30 or even 50 years ago?

To pass the time, I brought along a book I had been reading off and on this past year, Stephen Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage, a historic account of Meriweather Lewis and William Clark’s amazing trek across a wide swath of America in 1804, as they explored the newly purchased Lousiana Territory for President Jefferson.  To find a path from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean.  On the next to the last day of receiving an infusion, I wrote our family’s annual Christmas letter that we include in our Christmas cards, and I also got the envelopes all addressed.

Being forced to sit for 3-4 hours a day for 5 days, hooked up to an iv machine forced me to stop and dwell a lot on the what ifs of this Optic Neuritis and MS.  I didn’t really ask why me?  I spent more time thinking about What if?  Our house is a large, 2 story Colonial.  It’s great for our large family, but it won’t work if I am eventually in a wheelchair.  Raize it and rebuild a modern ranch style?  That was one weird idea that ran through my mind.  Medical bills mounting, that idea was much more scarier to me than the expectation of ending up in a wheelchair!  Interferon is used to treat MS patients and I imagine it costs a lot more than the prednisone the doctor put me on after the iv transfusions were done.  What if my left eye doesn’t regain it’s normal vision level?  In some cases, that is true.  What if Optic Neuritis strikes again, in the right eye?  I told my husband and the doctors that if it weren’t for my right eye’s normal vision at this time, I wouldn’t be able to drive at all.  If this was the start of MS, what about my kids?  Would they be genetically at a higher risk to develop MS themselves?  While not a death sentence, MS is a disease that has no cure and it’s effects grow harsher on the body as the years go by.  How would I handle that?  How would my husband and kids handle that?  For Better or Worse, in Sickness and in Health…our wedding vows kept coming to my mind, too.

I am a christian and my faith in God gave me strength throughout this medical puzzle.  I knew, and still know, that no matter what the outcome of an upcoming MRI scan, that if I was dealing with MS or just Optic Neuritis, that God would be with me and my family.  He would carry us through this next chapter in our lives and He would never let us go.    brain scan

The MRI scan happened on December 12th and the results came to the Neurologist on the 13th.  The scan showed that my brain is normal and no white lesions were in evidence anywhere, white lesions meaning MS is present.  Some future blood tests are set for early January to try and get to the bottom of the Optic Neuritis, and while MS could still show up in those tests, the doctor says it is now probably  not as much as a factor due to the normal brain scan.  Needless to say, I felt a load lift off of my shoulders as the doctor went over my brain scan with us.   My left eye has regained colors and there is no eye pain but vision is still blurry.  Another visit with the Opthamologist is forthcoming too, and eye glasses will be a new fashion accent!

When life throws a curve at you, whether it be in the form of a medical puzzle such as mine, or an unasked for and unwanted event, how do you get through it?  Not on my own, but firmly entrenched in my mind, my faith in God helped me through all of this.  According to the doctor, the prednisone would give me insomnia yet I was able to get a full night’s sleep through all of this.  My husband and I felt calm and peaceful through this tumultous week.  Even the morning of the 13th, my husband was quick to reassure me that whatever the MRI would show, that all was going to be fine because our God loves us and would be with us no matter what.

So now I sit here writing about my medical puzzle and feeling very thankful.  Thankful that my left eye has improved due to the modern miracle of steroids and prednisone.   Thankful for the prayers of our families and good friends and for a God who hears and answers those prayers.  Thankful for the peace that passes all understanding which our family experienced that week in December.  Thankful for good doctors and nurses and medical machines.  Thankful, even, for being forced to sit for 3-4 hours a day for 5 days in order to receive my medicine.

#ChristmasMovieBlogathon TV Schedule: titles on the air or online

I was pleased to have been asked to participate in this upcoming Christmas Movie Blogathon, which begins 12/20th. Family Friendly Reviews created this blogathon and has put up a list of the movies being reviewed, in case you want to view them for yourself in the month of December.

The Christkindl Markt is Coming and Where is Sondershausen??

I am from the Midwest.  I grew up in Ohio and have lived in Missouri for 20 years.  Quite a few of us midwesterners have surnames that originated in Germany.   According the the 2000 U.S. Census, almost 48 million people, or 17% of the population in the United States could trace their major ancestral country of origin as Germany.  I do know that on my mom’s side of my family tree, that two families moved from Germany in the 1850s and both families, the Hoffman’s and the Seither’s, ended up in Northwest Ohio.  My husband’s family tree, has Koch’s and of course our surname, Giesey, is German.  With all of this Germanic heritage  flowing in our family’s veins, one  would think I would know what a Christkindl Markt is.

I had never really heard of one until I happened to take my visiting parents to Hermann, Missouri last Autumn.   Hermann was settled by  intrepid German immigrants who happened to love wine and having vinyards in their front yards.   As we toured the quaint town that is quite proud of their heritage, we heard about their upcoming Christkindl Markt.  I thought about traveling back to Hermann this year to see their Christkindl Markt  but then I found out that Rolla is going to have, for the very first time,  their very own Christkindl Markt!  Rolla’s is this Saturday, December 7th.  The fun starts at 11:00 am, right after the Christmas Parade and will last until 7:00 pm.  The location will be at Public House Brewing Co.’s parking lot.  Click on the following link to read more about Rolla’s Christkindl Markt.   http://www.visitrolla.com/event-calendar/events.php

So just what is a Christkindl Markt?  What does it have to do with Germany and anyone’s German heritage?  From the bit of research that I did, Christkindl Markts began in the Middle Ages in Germany, Austria, and the Alsace region of France(even though my dad’s ancestors came from France, they came from this German-influenced region!)  Christkindl Markts were, and still are, held at the beginning of Advent, the four week time period leading up to the celebration of Christmas.  At these markets, one can purchase delicious foods to eat, buy special decorations, ornaments, nutcrackers, myriads of  items to help one celebrate the Christmas season.

Rolla has its own German Club and it has  a sister city, Sonderhausen, Germany.  This year’s Christkindl Markt is dedicated to Sonderhausen, and one activity at the Markt is that children can make ornaments that will be sent to Sonderhausen  to help in decorating their city’s Christmas Tree, or should I say, Tannenbaum?

For a fun family outing, bundle up and venture out on Saturday to watch the annual Christmas parade and then mosey on over to the Public House Brewing Co.  and visit the Christkindl Markt!