Monday, June 29, 2015

"Cranford" (2007) and "Return to Cranford" (2009)

Cross this off my summer to-do list!  I've finally watched these.  Took me three weeks, because I got one disc at a time from the library, so I'm not going to do a really in-depth review here.  Just more of a "here's a bunch of stuff I liked" post.

I really liked the general feel of the miniseries -- how we got immersed in this eccentric little village.  I got to feeling like I was kind of a resident myself, which was fun.  The idea of a town where the women run everything and the men just kind of go along for the ride was quite amusing, and I like how it was not turned into feminist propaganda for the most part, but was simply allowed to be a quirky entity unto itself.

Basically, it's about the daily lives of people in a small English village and how their lives change as progress (and the railroad) encroaches on them.  Some embrace the change, some resist it, but none can ignore it.

The characters, of course, were my favorite part.  Get me to want to be friends with the characters and I will be a fan.  You want to know my favorites?  Good, cuz I'm gonna talk about those next.

Miss Mary (Lisa Dillon) was overall my favorite.  She was kind and cheerful and sensible and helpful -- everything I like in a character.  And then!  She became a writer!  I was very pleased by that, though I wish it hadn't meant she left.  I would have been much happier if she'd stayed with Miss Matty.

Speaking of whom, Miss Matty (Judi Dench) was a close second in my affections.  She'd believed all her life that she wasn't very bright, or very sensible, when in fact she was plenty of both.  Seeing her come into her own more in the later episodes was a joy.  The only time I cried during either series was at the very end of the final episode, when she opened that black box.  So happy for Miss Matty!!!

Then there's Miss Pole (Imelda Staunton).  If, before I watched this, you had told me that one of my favorite characters would be played by the person who played Delores Umbridge in the Harry Potter movies, I would have made some very unladylike snorting noises.  But Miss Pole made me laugh.  Often.  And heartily.  She was so convinced of her own rightness, all the time!  Especially when she was completely not right at all!  Loved her.

And William Buxton (Tom Hiddleston) was sweetness and light personified.  I will freely admit that the two reasons I wanted to see this were Tom Hiddleston and Judi Dench, and that I was mighty pleased by the characters both played.  I think one of the things I liked best about him was that he was so smiley and sincere.  He's pretty smiley as Loki too, but he's not sincere.  Or kind, or nice, or good and kind.  William is all of those, so hooray!

I also really liked Martha (Claudie Blakley), Jem (Andrew Buchan), Miss Galindo (Emma Fielding), and Sir Charles (Greg Wise).  And I was endlessly amused by Tim Curry's surprise (to me) appearance :-D  He did a marvelous job of playing Tim Curry, as usual.

And I find that I don't really have much else to say.  Actually, I have a zillion other things to say, but they're just scattered thoughts and I'm too tired to sort through them at this point.

Are these family friendly?  Mostly, but not for young children.  I think there were a couple mildly objectionable words, a few faintly suggestive moments, and there were some unsettling scenes involving various injuries with blood shown.  People died (including one in childbirth), children died... like I said, not for young children.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

Look what Emma and Ashley both tagged me with!  Thankee, Emma and Ashley :-)  I'm sorry it's taken me a couple weeks to complete this.


1. Thank the blogger who nominated you, linking back to their site.
2. Put the Award logo on your blog.
3. Answer the ten questions sent to you.
4. Make up ten new questions for your nominees to answer.
5. Nominate ten blogs

Emma's questions:

#1 Do you like county fairs?

Yes, I do.

#2 Were you ever in some sort of club as a kid?

I was in a couple different 4-H clubs, both of them full of other homeschoolers.  That's where I met two of my current best friends, when I was 12, though we didn't become close friends for a few years.
#3 What's one of the first movies you remember seeing?

I remember watching The Sound of Music with my parents when I was pretty little.

#4 Which would you rather do: hop in your old pickup truck and go for an unexpected adventure, or sit on the back porch with a good novel on a warm summer evening?

I definitely choose the back porch with the novel.

#5 Do you enjoy live concerts?

I do!  When I was a kid, my parents belonged to the local "Community Concert Association" and we went to see lots of live concerts, mostly classical music, though I saw the Glenn Miller Orchestra that way.  When I went to college, I went to quite a few concerts, mostly small, not-well-known groups.  Cowboy took me to a Beach Boy concert when we were dating :-D  I also went to two Creed concerts in 2002, the only major rock concerts I ever went to.  And we saw Yo-Yo Ma perform with the Boston Pops when my brother and his wife lived in Boston.  Live performances have such a great energy to them, and I totally recommend them.

#6 Which do you read more of: historical fiction or contemporary fiction?

It's a toss-up.  Does stuff written in the 20th century count as historical or contemporary?

#7 Do you like country music? 

Not much, but I do enjoy some of it.

#8 If you could play any role in a musical, who would you chose?

Sister Sarah in Guys and Dolls.

(Sister Sarah is the one in red here.)

#9 Do you ever put your feet up on the dashboard when riding in a car?

Not anymore.  I tried a few times as a teen, but I was always worried we'd get in a wreck and I'd break both legs.

#10 Can you tell us a funny story of something that happened to you in the last week/month/ever?

Well, Tootie (my 3-year-old) asked me, in all seriousness, what tornadoes taste like.  I thought that was pretty funny.

(Margaret O'Brien as Tootie in Meet Me in St. Louis.
Our Tootie behaves a great deal like her, hence the nickname)

Ashley's questions:

1. Do you have any nicknames? What are they?

Well... my name isn't actually Hamlette, so that's definitely a nickname.  In the Combat! fandom, I'm known as White Queen or WQ.  And Cowboy calls me Cutie -- he's the only one who is allowed to, though ;-)

2. What is your current favorite song?

As opposed to my favorite song of all time?  I have been whistling the main theme from The Quick and the Dead a lot these days because I just bought the soundtrack and am listening to it while writing.

(Russell Crowe in TQATD)

3. Have you ever traveled out of your country?

Yes, I have.  I've been to Canada lots of times, and also to Mexico, Poland, and Ukraine.

4. What is your dream job?

Earning enough money with my writing to hire someone to clean my house once in a while.

5. Pen or pencil?

Pen, particularly with blue or purple ink.

6. What is your dream college?

Small, Christian, and arts-oriented.  Which describes my alma mater, actually.

7. Do you like burritos?

Yes!  I like most Mexican-style food.

8. What is your opinion of Taco Bell?

I have many happy memories of eating at Taco Bell with my friends when we were in high school.

9. Do you have a swimming pool?

We do not own one.  However, part of our HOA fees pay for the upkeep of a very nice pool only a block from our house, so we go there a lot in the summer.

10. What is your favorite Little House book (Laura)?

Little House in the Big Woods.

(This is the edition I grew up with and still own.)

Now it's my turn!  Here are my questions:

1.  Do you like westerns?
2.  What was your favorite TV show as a child?
3.  Are there any salad dressings you dislike?
4.  Do you call carbonated beverages "soda" or "pop" or something else?
5.  What's the farthest from home you've ever been?
6.  Have you ever eaten a peanut-butter-and-onion sandwich?
7.  Do you like roller coasters?
8.  Do you subscribe to any magazines?
9.  Do you wear a wristwatch?
10.  When do you generally get up in the morning?

I hereby tag:

Elizabeth Anne D.
Sarah Margaret

Play if you want to!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

In Memory of James Horner

In memory of James Horner, who died on Monday, I wrote a post about one of my favorite scores, The Mask of Zorro (1998) for James the Movie Reviewer.  It's up here.

AMA Answers #3

Here we are!  The last answer to the questions you asked me :-)

Natalie asked:  I'm curious as to how you balance being a wife, mother, blogger, AND writer? I'm only in high school and yet sometimes I have a really hard time managing my time wisely enough to get what I NEED to get done and what I WANT to get done.

I don't sleep.

Just kidding!  I actually sleep 7-9 hours a night.  Unless I've got something going on the next day, like a birthday party, that makes me stay up late prepping.  But lack of sleep makes me horrifyingly cranky, so I don't go there unless it's absolutely necessary.  I never pulled a single all-nighter in college.

First and foremost, what I do is pray a lot.  For guidance, for patience, for the strength to not throttle my children when they're having their third spat in five minutes.

What I don't do is nothing.   I am never doing nothing -- I am always doing something.  Often, I'm doing more than one thing at once.

That's right, I multi-task.

(I'm not this skinny, and I don't like martinis, but otherwise, this is accurate)

I know multi-tasking has gotten a bad rap lately -- studies showing that when you do two things at once, you do neither of them well, etc.  However, the kind of multitasking I do is all about completing a mundane task my brain isn't needed for while using my brain for something else.  I read while I'm flossing and brushing my teeth, while I brush and braid my hair before bed, while I wait at the doctor or dentist.  I crochet and knit while my kids dawdle over their meals.  I work on fiction in my head while I fold laundry and shower and empty the dishwasher.  I crochet or work on prepping Sunday school craft projects while watching a TV show or movie I've seen before.

I keep lists.  Lots of lists.  Lists of things that need doing today, or this week, or by the end of the month.  Lists of things I need for a project, shopping lists, lists of blog posts I want to write.  Lists are one of my greatest allies.

I take at least three nights a week to spend time with my husband.  On Friday nights, we watch a movie or TV show together after the kids are in bed.  The other two nights we... do married people things ;-)  Time spent together doing things we both enjoy -- that's the secret to a strong and happy marriage.  Lots of time.  Essential.

The other four nights of the week, after the kids are in bed, are my time to write and watch movies that Cowboy isn't interested in.  I tend to plan out what I'm going to do in the evening, so that I don't sit around wondering, "What shall I do now?"  I already know -- tonight is Cowboy time; tonight I'm going to work on this specific writing project; tonight I'm going to watch such-and-such movie or TV show; tonight I'm going to chat with DKoren online.  I am a planner, and I enjoy anticipating doing something, so I look forward all day to what I'm going to do that evening.

I also take most Saturday mornings "off."  That's my weekend, my time to get away from my "job" of being mommy and go just be myself for a bit.  That's when I go see movies in the theater (or sometimes late at night, when they're in bed) or go to Starbucks to write for a couple hours.  That's my recharging time, and it's essential to my mental and emotional well-being.  I have a great need for solitude, which I can achieve in a coffee shop or a movie theater because I don't have to talk to people in those places.  And it's talking to people that really drains my emotional energy.

But you'll notice that my "time off" is actually productive -- I'm either seeing a movie or writing.  Not doing nothing.

Blogging, I do in stolen time.  I write blog posts in tiny chunks whenever I have the chance -- I started this one yesterday morning before the kids were up, wrote more of it while my coffee pot made coffee and the toaster toasted waffles for breakfast.  Wrote more while the kids were playing nicely together in the basement in the afternoon.  And now I'm finishing it up this morning quick before breakfast time.

The rest of my time is spent braiding little girl hair, putting clothes on princess dolls, building things with Legos, reading picture books aloud, going to and from the swimming pool, and the other necessary activities for life with 3 kids.  Most of the year, I'm also teaching school stuff to all three of them in the morning and early afternoon.

My general rule of thumb is "do the stuff that needs to be done first, then do everything else in the time that remains."

Now, will this approach to life work for everyone?  Nope!  Some people require "doing nothing" now and then to be happy.  **Please note!**  I do not consider daydreaming to be doing nothing.  Daydreaming is how stories come to be, for me.  It's also how I problem-solve.  However, I freely admit that I generally daydream while also putting breakfast on the table, folding laundry, taking my kids to the playground, etc.  Also, I don't do housework as much as I ought to.  I tend not to clean until things are dirty enough to bother me.  Some people can't live in cluttered chaos with a layer of dust on the book shelves.

So... that's how I do it.  And right now, time to help Tootie button a princess dress, then go start making coffee.

Monday, June 22, 2015

AMA Answers #2

More answers to the AMA questions y'all asked me!

DKoren asked:  If you could cast Rudy in any modern movie, what would you like to see him in? 

(Rudy = Rudolph Valentino, for those who don't know.)  I would have him play Roux in Chocolat.  Yes, Johnny Depp was creamy-dreamy in the role, but I can totally see Rudy as Roux.  With his Italian accent he'd have that perfect flavor of slightly-other.  Plus of course he'd have the handsomeness and the charm and the devil-may-care flair down pat.  Kind of lost in imagining him in this now -- thanks :-9

Valentino vs. Depp

Or, looked at another way, what role would you like to have seen him play?

If I could have him had make any story into a movie, back when he was actually making movies?  Oh, why not have him as John Thornton in a silent version of North and South?  Rudy could do haughty and offended so sweetly, and also wounded and tender and sad and hopeful and... yeah, that would have been amazing.

Particularly Thornton-ish shots of Rudy

Which character in The Great Escape do you most relate to? 

Sedgwick (James Coburn), I think.  He's always making things and solving problems in creative ways.

Which is your favorite?

Hilts (Steve McQueen) and Danny (Charles Bronson) tie for my favorite.  Hilts for his swagger, and Danny for his sadness.  (Always with the sad characters, Hamlette!  Yeesh!)

Jessica Prescott asked:  Which is your favorite Star Wars character, and why?

Han Solo (Harrison Ford).  Again with the swagger -- I like a guy with braggadocio, but only if he's 100% earned the right to it.  Which Han has -- he's every bit as bad and cool and wonderful as he wants you to believe he is.  (Also, I'm fascinated by smugglers.)  (Also, Harrison Ford!  Hubba hubba.)

Do you have a favorite song/singer/band?

Yes I do.  His name is Bobby Darin, and I have loved his music since I was 16.  I bought a cassette tape of his music because I wanted to hear his rendition of "Mack the Knife" (my favorite song ever since).  I listened to it on my cassette player with my headphones in that night, lying in bed, and knew I was never going to be the same.  I listened to both sides of the tape before I went to sleep, and listened to it right away again in the morning.  His music has been with me ever since.

I do post about him fairly often -- you can read all my posts about him here if you want to know more about why I love him.  He recorded music in every genre that existed in the '50s, '60s, and early '70s, and his versatility is pretty well unrivaled.

Besides being a consummate singer, songwriter, and live performer, Bobby was also a talented actor.  He appeared in many popular TV shows, made quite a few movies, and was even nominated for an Oscar for his supporting role in Captain Newman, MD (1963).

Did you read the Chronicles of Narnia as a kid? If so, which book was your favorite?

I read them as a teen.  My favorite is The Horse and his Boy, which I've read probably 4 times, while the rest I've only read once.  I used to go around saying, "The bolt of Tash falls from above!" at random moments.

Zoe asked:  Have you ever participated in English Country Dancing, attended a masquerade ball, or danced The Laendler? If so, might you paint a word picture of your experience? 

No to English Country Dancing (but I'd love to try it), and no to The Laendler.  Sort of yes to the masquerade ball, in that my college had a Halloween dance every year, and my friends and I always went in costume.  One year we all went as vampires dressed in costumes (so I was a vampire soldier, Cowboy was a vampire Ringo Starr, etc.).  Another year, we all went Goth Glam.  One year I was Rogue and Cowboy was Wolverine.  So while we all knew who everyone was because we saw these people every day (very small college -- about 400 students at that time), it was still kind of a masquerade ball.

Wearing a costume to a dance, for me, was a way of shedding my inhibitions about "am I dancing weird?" and "do I look like a dork?" because with a costume on, of course I looked goofy!  And that gave me freedom to bust out some moves I might not ordinarily try.  Though to be honest, my friends and I have never been awesome dancers, but we have been joyful dancers, and we do things like The Monkey and The Twist that were popular long ago.

I also took ballroom dancing my freshman year of college.  But there were more than twice as many girls as boys, so I ended up learning the boy steps to all the dances so I could dance with the only person I knew in the class and she could learn the girl steps.

So... none of those were quite what you were asking about, I'm afraid.  I really want to try English Country Dancing one day!  When I have time, lol.

(There's no good reason for this extra photo of Bobby Darin.)

Thanks for the great questions, friends!  I'll be answering Natalie's question next -- I have a feeling I'll be spending a whole post on it!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

AMA Answers #1

Here's my first set of answers to the questions from my AMA invitation :-)  Thanks for the questions, everyone!  If anyone still wants to ask some, I'm not done answering yet, so the microphone is still open, so to speak.

Tom asked: When you were growing up did your parents let you watch television?  If so, what were some of your favorite programs? 

I grew up in the '80s, and we were allowed to watch a few select shows on PBS.  I loved Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, Square One, Reading Rainbow, and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, though different ones in different stages of my childhood.  Every Saturday night, my brother and I would watch reruns of The Lawrence Welk Show to keep us out of Dad's earshot while he memorized his sermon.  And we watched every episode of Five Mile Creek over and over and over and over as a family.

Later on, when I was a teen, we watched a little more TV.  We started watching Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman in its third or fourth season.  We were allowed to watch all kinds of classic TV shows, though, especially The Andy Griffith Show and Star Trek and Combat! and I Love Lucy and Little House on the Prairie, and just about any western we could find.  This was the '90s, before DVDs, and we didn't have cable, so most of our watching was limited to things we recorded on VHS at my grandparents' house in the summer (they had cable!), whatever we could rent from the video store or library, and eventually the things show on a little start-up broadcast station, which is where we discovered Combat! when I was 14.

We couldn't watch TV any old time, though.  We watched things together as a family on Friday nights, and we watched DQMW on Saturday night with Mom.  Otherwise, the only TV or movie-watching we got to do was if we were too sick to do schoolwork.

Also what is the first movie you ever remember seeing? 

I have definite, early memories of watching The Sound of Music (1965), The Adventures of the Wilderness Family (1975), and Rocky II (1979).  I'm not at all sure which of those I saw first.  Those were all on video -- I know I saw a couple of movies in the theater earlier than that, but I don't have actual memories of watching them, I just know that I did.

Sarah asked: What is your favorite movie that you think most people underrate?

The Lone Ranger (2013).

(This is how I feel when people denigrate it.)

And least favorite that most people overrate?

The remake version of 3:10 to Yuma (2007).  The 1957 original is magnificent -- so tense and dramatic.  The remake is splashy and over-violent, and the ending didn't work for me at all.  (However!  Russell Crowe was thoroughly enjoyable, even if what his character did in the ending was nonsensical.)

(This is how I feel when people talk about how awesome the remake is,
especially when they say, "Oh, was there an old version too?")

Naomi Bennet asked: What's your current desktop background? 

What a fun question!  On our desktop computer it's a picture of my three kids on Easter Sunday :-)  On my laptop, which I use for the majority of my fiction writing, it's this:

What's the last movie you watched?

Robin Hood (2010).  The last anything at all that I watched, though, was the 2-part season finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which we finally watched last night.

What made you decide to blog in the first place?

The hubris of a recent college graduate who thought she had things to say that were worth sharing with the world :-)

More answers coming later!

Friday, June 19, 2015

"Robin Hood" (2010) -- Initial Thoughts

Sometimes when a movie bombs, I watch it and wonder, "What is wrong with people?  Why didn't anyone like this?"  Sometimes, I watch it and think, "Yeah, no wonder this wasn't popular."  Sadly, this movie falls into the latter category.

And I do mean "sadly," because this movie has so much potential!  I mean, you've got Russell Crowe looking fit and fearsome as Robin Hood.

You've got Cate Blanchett as a determined, weary Marion (not a maid though -- she's a widow).

You've got Matthew Macfadyen having waaay too much fun playing the sinister Sheriff of Nottingham.

And you've got this ultra-scowly Sheriff's Thug to spice things up!

Oh yes, my friends, that is a young and lunchable Luke Evans right there, making a one-line appearance and scowling so fiercely he makes MY face hurt.  That screencap above is way too dark to be properly appreciated, so here's a closer, lightened up version for you to enjoy.

Okay, so you've got all that amazing talent, you've got wonderful costumes, you've got Ridley Scott directing, and Brian Helgeland writing the screenplay -- how did this go so wrong?!  Actually, I think I know.  This is how:

This is the final words-panel, which pops up before the end credits.  This movie was meant to be the beginning of a series.  And instead of writing a super-actiony Robin Hood retelling, they wrote an origins story that spent 45 minutes getting to Nottingham.  Instead of giving us all the fun stuff we expected, with Robin teasing the Sheriff of Nottingham, the archery tournament, robbing the rich to feed the poor and so on... we got a convoluted origin story.  Which, you know, wouldn't be so bad if this was a TV mini-series and we had more episodes to expound the story with.  Or if this was a prequel to a movie about all the usual fun Robin Hood stuff.  Or even if this movie was called The Origins of Robin Hood or something like that instead.

There's a lot of fun there, even so.  You've got Robin Hood shooting his bow and arrow once in a great while.

You've got Robin Hood riding a horse.  He rides quite well, and I rather wish there had just been 45 minutes of him riding a horse at the beginning instead of all that nonsense about the Crusades and politics.

You've got Robin Hood shirtless.  No explanation necessary.

And you've got this awesomely shot invasion of England that makes this look like the D-DAY landing during WWII, only the attack is coming from the opposite side of the channel.

But what you don't have is a solid Robin Hood story.  It ends right when all the fun should begin, with Robin gathering a following, hiding out in Sherwood Forest, and making a stand against the Sheriff of Nottingham.  If only the rest of the movie had lasted maybe half an hour, and then they'd gone on from there, maybe it wouldn't have flopped.  At the very least, maybe I would have liked it better.

Is this movie family friendly?  NO.  I'm rather shocked it's only got a PG-13 rating.  There's lots of spattery violence, innuendo all over, an attempted rape, and buckets of sexual tension between Robin and Marian, though I was super surprised and excited that they never actually slept together.  Just a lot of desirous glances and so on.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Post 900!!! Ask Me Anything!

This is my 900th published post, y'all.  Woo!  Cue the fireworks!

I've been blogging for nearly 13 years, but it wasn't until 2013 that I really started to get involved in the blogging community.  That year, I participated in Miss Laurie's Period Drama Challenge on this blog and Kellie Falconer's Literary Heroine Blog Party over on The Edge of the Precipice, and I met so many amazing bloggers through them -- many that I'm still hanging out with online today!

Anyway!  The AMA I did over on The Precipice was so much fun, I thought I'd do one here too.  Ask me anything!  (Anything that's not unsavory or indecent, of course.)  I'll start posting answers once I've been asked enough questions.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

And Ten Years Ago...

...I met my best friend.  On the internet.

(This is us analyzing some minute detail of a movie.)

And, actually, I owe my friendship with her to Combat! too.  Remember how I started taking German class, where I fell for Cowboy, because of C!?  I first found DKoren's blog because of it.  On the night of June 14, running into the wee hours of June 15, 2005, I was off work, but Cowboy was working.  (We worked third shift back then, and I had Tuesday and Wednesday off every week, and he had either one or the other, so I always had one night off with Cowboy, and one night off by myself.)  We had no kids yet, and I seem to have run out of things to do, but wasn't ready to start my weekly movie marathon.  I remember I was bopping around LiveJournal, searching for bloggers who listed things I'm interested in as their interests too.  I searched for Combat! and found a few vaguely interesting blogs.  Then I searched for Vic Morrow.  And I found a blog by a person who loved not just C! and Vic, but so so so so many of the same movies and actors and TV shows as I did.  I left a comment on one post, then another and another and another... and she started replying to them.  And over the course of two hours, we exchanged comments, first on her blog and then on mine, and then on both simultaneously as we went back through each others' archives and found more and more posts about things we were both interested in.

That continued for probably a week, until one night one of us suggested that instead of conversing by trading blog comments, maybe we should exchange email addresses.  We did.  We've been exchanging email messages ever since -- generally at least one a day, though sometimes we get busy or tired or whatever.  If I don't get at least one message from her sometime during the day, the day feels wrong.  Some days it's just a tiny message of a couple sentences.  Sometimes it's page after page.

(This is us whenever we meet up at the airport for a visit.)
(Except we're not actually muscly, handsome guys.  But aside
from that tiny detail, it's us.)

At some point, we started instant messaging too.  Until Sam was born, we IMed just about every evening, from 8 to 9pm, when I had to get ready for work.  On my nights off, we'd watch movies or old TV shows together -- start them simultaneously on our individual TV sets, thousands of miles apart, and then IM during it and share thoughts and reactions, etc.  We still do this, and in fact, we watched the Russell Crowe version of Robin Hood together last night.

As we started to go from blogging buddies to email pals to internet friends, I developed "mentionitis."  I couldn't stop throwing her into conversations.  "My blog friend Deborah says this.  My blog friend Deborah likes that.  My blog friend Deborah got a story published."  I'm an ISFJ, and we make friends very, very slowly.  Achingly slowly.  It can take me years to go from saying "I hang out with that person sometimes" to "that person is my friend."  Generally, I pop a qualifying adjective onto the word "friend" for a very long time -- these girls are my 4-H friends.  That guy is my work friend.  This is my blogging friend.  For about a year, I referred to DKoren as either my blog friend or my writing mentor -- and she's still both!  But eventually, I dropped the adjective, and called her my friend.  And then one of my best friends.  And now, my absolute best friend.  (Okay, yes, I've just been switching out the adjectives, I guess.)

But about a year after we met online, we did something audacious.  We met in person.

(This is us, having each others' backs as usual.)

In fact, DKoren flew out to Wisconsin and spent three or four days with us.  We'd both participated in NaNoWriMo the previous November -- my first time through, her... I dunno, fourth?  I mentioned that I called her my writing mentor -- I still do.  I've learned more about writing from her than any class or book I've ever taken or read.  She encouraged me to finish off my first novel and then use Nano to start my next, and so I did.  When she came to visit, we exchanged our Nano novels and read them over the course of one long night.  And we watched a bunch of movies together too -- I remember The Sheik, but I know we watched others too.  And likely some Combat!  And we realized that... we needed more.  So we met up again a few months later, at a C! fan get-together.  And the next year, I flew out to visit her, 7 1/2 months pregnant and all.  All told, we've gotten together 7 times, and will continue to do so whenever we're able.

So happy friendaversary a few days late, my absolute best friend!  Here's to the next ten years of sharing silly adventures, movies, writing discussions, revelations, flashes of insight, story collaborations, and tiny details of our lives that we can't get through the day without sharing.  You're the Tonto to my John Reid, the Doc to my Wyatt.  I don't know where I'd be without you.  I love you!

(This is what happens when we get together in person,
which is why we have to limit ourselves to once a year or so.
The world can't handle that much awesome us on a regular basis.
Also, replacing chandeliers you shoot down gets expensive.)

Monday, June 15, 2015

Thirteen Years -- Don't They Go By in a Blink?

Thirteen years ago today, Cowboy and I got married.

(Yes, these are our hands, my bridal bouquet, and my veil.)

At the time we got married, it was kind of a "thing" to have your invitations say, "Today I marry my friend."  I found that ridiculously cliche and sappy, and refused to get invites that said that.  Instead I got invites with a fairy tale castle and a carriage and horses.  It said something about "Dreams do come true."

But the truth is, I did marry my best friend that day.  A God-given best friend, guide, shield, provider.  A person who understands that he will never truly understand me, and I will never truly understand him, but that's okay.  A man who takes care of me, but knows I need to stand on my own two feet sometimes.  Who supports my creative endeavors, even when they make no sense to him.  Who watches movies with me just because I enjoy them.  Who still finds me attractive even though I've gained 5 pounds per kid over what I weighed when we got married.  Who does not feel in the least bit challenged by the fact that I am so fond of so many fictional men, because he knows none of them mean anything true and real to me.  Not like he does.

(We got married at my home church in North Carolina.)

A while ago, I posted a little about how we met, and so many of my lovely blogging friends wanted to know more that I thought I would elaborate a little.

My sophomore year of college I took a full year of German to fulfill my foreign language requirement to get my BA.  I chose German mostly because I wanted to understand the Krauts on Combat! a little better, because all they ever speak is German with no subtitles (except one episode).  And Cowboy, a lowly freshman, also took that class.  He sat at a different table, and he was, in a word, insufferable.  You see, he'd previously learned a foreign language, and once you've figured out how to learn one, you pick the other up pretty quickly. Also, he's very intelligent.  Now, I'm intelligent myself, and a good student, but I'd only learned a smattering of French before.  To learn German, I had to study my vocabulary and grammar assignments for hours every night.  I worked harder for that class than any other I took in all of college.  I regularly took my brain out of my head to let it air out a little, then coated it in melted German and crammed it back in, hoping something would stick.  At least, that's how it felt.

Cowboy?  Cowboy looked over the vocab list as he walked to class in the morning.  And he got 'A's on his quizzes the same as I did.  And he was not reticent about this fact.  In fact, I found him conceited, arrogant, opinionated, and utterly annoying.

If you think that sounds an awful lot like how Anne Shirley felt about Gilbert Blythe, or how Elizabeth Bennet felt about Mr. Darcy, or how Margaret Hale felt about Mr. Thornton, etc. (or, as they write in German, usw.), you're not wrong.  In fact, as a teen, I harbored a secret dread that I would one day fall in love with a man I originally found completely horrible.  I used to look at the guys I knew and think, "I can't stand this one or that one -- what if I end up married to one of them?  How could I ever change my mind about such an irritating person?"

Turns out, minds can change.  Cowboy was friends with some of my friends, so we ended up eating at the same table in the cafeteria sometimes.  The spring semester, we wound up in the same Christian Doctrine class together, in addition to German.  I couldn't help noticing that he had wonderful broad shoulders.  And dimples when he grinned.  I'm perilously fond of broad shoulders and dimples.

I went to the dorm room of some mutual friends one winter evening and asked, as casually as I could, if any of them knew if Cowboy had a girlfriend back home or anything.  One of them said yes, she thought he did.  (I later found out that she was herself angling for his affections.  Cowboy, being even more clueless than most boys, had no idea at all either of us were remotely interested in him.)  I decided that was the end of that, and decided to forget about him.  Plenty of other eligible guys in our... okay, actually, there were only two other guys at our tiny 450-student college that year that I was remotely interested in, and they most definitely had girlfriends right there at college.

Whatever.  He probably had a girlfriend back home.  And after all, he was annoying.  Sure, he kept sitting by me in chapel a day or two a week.  Sure, he teased me endlessly by singing "The Bunny Song" from Veggie Tales because he knew it got stuck in my head and annoyed me.  (WHAT is wrong with boys?!?!?!?!?!)  Whatever.

This is where the divine intervention comes in.  God must have seen that I was about to turn my back on a guy who would make me happy for the rest of my life, if I could just get over my mixture of shyness and annoyance.  Cowboy was on the debate team, and he had to go away to a debate tournament and miss several days of classes.  He asked if he could borrow my lecture notes for our Christian Doctrine class.  He sat near me, he knew I took good notes.

So I let him borrow them when he got back.  And, in an impulsive gesture that is utterly unlike my usual cautious, plan-prone, reticent self, I wrote in the margins, "If you like me, why don't you ask me out already?"

And after I handed the notes to him, I wanted to go throw up in the bathroom.  Or ask for them back quick, saying I'd given him the wrong ones.  Or something.  Dreadful impulse!  Why did I do that?  (Insert other self-recriminations of stupidity here.)

The next day in class, he handed the notes back to me and said, "So, there was something really interesting written in the margins of one of these."

I crawled under a desk and put my back pack over my head and sang, "Zippedy-Doo-Dah" very softly until they came and locked me up in an insane asylum.

Okay, no, that's just what I wanted to do.  Actually, I said something very cool and calm like, "Oh, really?"

And he said, "Yeah.  Are you going to Spring Formal with anyone?" (That's a formal dance our college had at the end of every year because who doesn't like dressing up and dancing?)

I said, "No, I'm not."

He said, "Now you are."  And walked off.

In hindsight, wow, really?  That's how he asked me out?  I think some of my initial impressions were not all that off-base.  However!  At the time, I walked in a sort of daze to my next class.  And went to Spring Formal with him a couple months later, and we exchanged long emails all summer long, and dated all fall and winter, and the next spring, he proposed.  A year after that, we got married.

(We were somewhat infamous at college for our unabashed displays of affection.)

So!  Happy anniversary, dear Cowboy.  I love you!  (Merry Christmas!)  (Nuts!)

"The Great Escape" Soundtrack and My Book Giveaway

This week, I wrote about Elmer Bernstein's delicious soundtrack for The Great Escape (1963) over on James' blog.  One of my favorites!  In fact, I bought the 2-disc version a while ago because I just needed more of that mix of rousing and heart-rending that Elmer Bernstein created so well.

Also, don't forget that my big book giveaway started today over here on my book blog :-)  It's part of the Great Book Giveaway Bonanza -- please go here to find links to seven other blogs that are also hosting giveaways starting today!

That is all.  (And that's enough.)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Not-Your-Average Disney Tag

Look what Olivia tagged me with!  You know my love of a) movies and b) tags, so you know there's no way I'd turn this down :-D  Thanks, Olivia!

I'm going to do two answers for most questions, one for animated and one for live-action, because I can because I love too many Disney movies not to.

#1: Favorite Disney movie of all time? 

Animated:  Robin Hood (1973) It's been my favorite animated movie since I was younger than Skippy.

Live-Action:  The Lone Ranger (2013)  I've gone on and on about how much I love this movie.  I won't go into details here.

#2: Favorite Disney character?

Animated:  Robin Hood

Live-Action:  John Reid/The Lone Ranger

(You see, I love stories because I love the characters, so it's just about a given that my favorite movies are going to involve my favorite characters.)

 #3: First Disney movie seen in cinemas?

Animated:  Toy Story 2 (1999), which I saw with my best friend during our college's Thanksgiving break, which I spent at her house.  We went and saw this together at a little theater, and it was such fun.

Live-Action:  Return to Snowy River (1988), which was a devastating disappointment.  It's a sequel to my favorite movie of all time, The Man from Snowy River, but I felt like they kind of removed all the things I liked and added silly things like... jousting?  And a fencing match?  In Australia?  How does that make sense?  Also Brian Dennehy replaced Kirk Douglas as Mr. Harrison, and he's too sinister.  And they gave Jim Craig (Tom Burlinson) curly hair and a different hat.  It was altogether displeasing.  Bad Disney!  Why did you buy the rights to the sequel to my movie and ruin it?  :-(

#4: What Disney item do you collect the most?

Other than DVDs?  I have a ton of Lone Ranger merch.  Mugs, journal, pens, Lego sets, the junior novelization, the soundtrack, an enormous and magnificent book all about making it...

#5: What is your favorite Disney song?

Animated:  "When Will My Life Begin?" from Tangled (2010)

Live-Action:  "Let's Get Together" from The Parent Trap (1961)

#6: Which Disney voice actor would you most like to meet?

Zachary Levi, who voiced Eugene/Flynn Rider in Tangled (2010).  First of all, Zachary Levi played Fandral in Thor:  The Dark World (2013), so if I met him, he might be somewhere near, say, the set for Thor:  Ragnarok, which means... Chris Hemsworth might be around.

Also, I really love Eugene, so hey, that on its own would make it fun.  But then, while searching for a photo to include with this post, I discovered this:

Whoa.  Now I'm an actual fan of him and not just characters he's played.  That's supremely awesome.

#7: Favorite Disney movie that is not a classic?

Animated:  Tangled (2010)

Live-Action:  The Three Musketeers (1993), just to not say The Lone Ranger again.  It's completely delicious and so funny.  Just a good romp, really!  Plus... Chris O'Donnell.  Mmm mmm mmm.

 #8: Flounder, Sebastian, or Scuttle?

Truth is, The Little Mermaid is one of my least favorite Disney movies.  So... I don't really have a favorite?  Is Sebastian the crabby lobster?  He was funny.

#9: Saddest moment in a Disney movie?

Animated:  The song "When Somebody Loved Me" in Toy Story 2.  It's so sad, I tend to fast-forward through that part.  Growing up is my least favorite thing ever.  I hate it more than spiders and potatoes.

Live-Action:  Ella learning of her father's death in Cinderella (2015).  She was at least a little prepared for her mother's death, but her father's was a total shock, and wow, I cried a lot there.  Can't find any photos of it online, though, so here's one of her and her father when they're happy.

 #10: Which Disney princess has the best sidekicks?

Animated:  Jasmine in Aladdin (1992).  I've always wanted a pet tiger like Rajah!

Live-Action:  Ella in Cinderella -- love those mice!  Have I ever mentioned that my three kids insist they are mice?

Bonus question: Of the lesser known Disney movies, what one would you recommend?

Animated:  The Aristocats (1970) is a sweet movie, kind of the cat-person answer to 101 Dalmations (1961), I suppose.  I prefer the latter, but the former is not as scary, and the scat-cats are super fun.

Live-Action:  The Light in the Forest (1958) is a really cool look at frontier life, and the struggles of a white boy who was raised by Indians, then reclaimed by his white family.  Lovely performance from James MacArthur in particular.

I tag... DKoren.  And anyone else who loves Disney and wants to play!