The Croods – Not Just a Kids Movie

the croods

The Croods is easily one of the best animated films ever created. From the animation to the voice acting to the writing to the score, this movie has few if any equals. The opening breakfast sequence alone is pure cinematic gold. The Croods, a family of cavemen living in prehistoric times, survive by following the rules on the cave walls. Basically, anything new is bad, curiosity is bad, not being afraid is bad, etc. But when the end of the world comes, they are going to have to learn to adapt if they want to continue to survive. Forced to abandon the security of their cave and the mountainous desert that they know, they have to learn the new rules for the tropical jungle environment they now find themselves in. Here to help them, albeit unwillingly at first is “modern man” Guy.

the croods

There are so many things to love about this movie. The family dynamic is spot-on, especially during the “road trip” scene. Anyone who has ever had siblings or kids of their own will instantly relate. The blossoming romance between Eep (Emma Stone) and Guy (Ryan Reynolds) is too adorable for words. And over-protective dad Grug (Nicholas Cage) is absolutely hilarious. Grug’s interaction with his mother-in-law Gran (Cloris Leachman) also has me in stitches every single time. Mom Ugga (Catherine Keener), son Thunk (Clark Duke), and baby Sandy round out our family of cavemen and each brings their own contribution to the story.

the croods

I think what I love most about The Croods though, is the emphasis on healthy, loving family relationships. This family is vastly different from the dysfunctional type which is often portrayed in modern pop culture. Sure they don’t always get along nor are they perfect by any means, but they genuinely love each other. I am unashamed to admit that the “hug” scene makes me cry every single time. The Croods is a fun and funny, yet thoughtful and heartwarming film for the entire family.

Why I Love My Life

There are many, many reasons I love my life – too many to enumerate here. Instead, I shall limit myself to only a few.

  • My job is awesome – both fun and fulfilling. And the people I work with are great and seem to like me as well. I also just won employee of the year for 2017, which is incredible.
  • City life agrees with me – more than I ever thought it would, to be honest. I love being so close to everything, I love the things that only a big city can offer, I even love the busyness of it all. Something this country girl never expected to say.
  • Living alone totally rocks. After so many years of sharing everything and almost never having a private moment, it is incredibly refreshing and liberating. I’m enjoying decorating my own space and being able to come and go as I please.
  • I have finally started my vinyl record collection. In fact, I’m listening to one now – a vintage Fleetwood Mac album. Vinyl makes my heart happy in a way few other things can match.
  • And for the first time in a very, very long time, I am completely comfortable and content in my own skin. After too many years of thinking I was unattractive and unlikable, I now realize that neither is true. I have discovered that most people think that I am pretty and that I have a great personality. The boost this knowledge has given to my self-confidence is quite literally off the charts. There are no words to express how amazing this process has been.
love my life

In short, I love my life and I am completely and utterly and deliciously happy. I wish I could bottle this feeling – there are people out there who need a dose of Love My Life potion. But the fact of the matter is this: no two people are going to love the same life. What makes me happy is not going to be the same as what makes you happy. That is something we each must find for ourselves.

RED – Retired, Extremely Dangerous

RED. A comedy/action flick starring the legendary Bruce Willis. Retired CIA agent Frank Moses (Willis) is drowning in the monotony of his daily life. His one bright spot is talking to his pension services representative. Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) finds her excitement in the pages of trashy romance novels and in her phone calls with Frank. When a team of mercenaries is sent to eliminate Moses, he sets off to find out why. A cross-country road trip, a kidnapping, and numerous killings/near-killings later, the stage is set for all-out war. War between Frank Moses’s reassembled team (Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Brian Cox) and William Cooper (Karl Urban), backed by the entire CIA.

One of this movie’s (many) strengths is its all-star cast. Marvin Boggs (Malkovich) is absolutely stupendous as the team crazy. He is just as funny the 15th time around as the first. Posh British assassin Victoria (Mirren) is uber-cool too, as is her Russian ex-lover Ivan (Cox). Their rekindled romance is just too adorable for words. And of course Morgan Freeman is always, always a treat. Cooper is a phenomenal villain, both formidable and likeable. Rounding it out, we have a cameo by Ernest Borgnine – RED is an exceptionally well-cast film.

The action is non-stop; so too is the humor. RED also manages to maintain a certain innocence and zest for life. A clearly-defined sense of right and wrong, good guys and bad guys, sets this show apart from the rest of the pack. But I think one of the coolest things about this movie is the age of its actors. Bruce Willis and his team are all too “old” to be playing action heroes or romantic figures. But that’s not stopping them. And their experience in the film industry has made them some of the best at what they do. Added together, all these things give RED a charming old-school vibe – like the Mission Impossible TV show from the 60’s. Action, intrigues, camaraderie, glitzy galas, shoot-outs in the woods, romance, and lots and lots of automatic weapons fire. An absolutely awesome show. One that I whole-heartedly recommend for viewers of all ages.

Robert A. Heinlein

Robert A. Heinlein and wife Virginia in Tahiti, 1980

Yet another of my absolute favorite authors is Robert A. Heinlein. Perhaps the greatest science fiction writer ever to put pen to paper, he is certainly one of the most influential. I have not read all his books yet, but every single one I have read has been awesome. The first Heinlein book I ever read was Red Planet, his classic tale of the Martian colony, and how a boy and his pet save the day. I picked it up at our local public library when I was maybe 10 and I was instantly hooked. On both the works of Robert A. Heinlein and on sci-fi stories.

I think what I like best about his stories is how the hero is always someone you can root for. His heroes are flawed, and they do make mistakes, but their heart is always in the right place. It might be a touch old-fashioned, but that’s exactly how I like it. Of course, good characters are meaningless without a good plot and a brilliantly-crafted world to put them in. Mr. Heinlein delivers that in spades. His stories never fail to delight and enthrall.

I also admire Mr. Heinlein for his courage and boldness. He was not afraid to address social problems and themes in his books; in fact the opposite is true. Three themes in particular show up frequently in his work: personal liberty and self-reliance, a complete lack of racism, and the importance of freedom of thought and philosophy. (A sub-theme of personal liberty, the right to bear arms also makes several appearances in his stories.) Considering that most of his books were published in the 40’s and 50’s, this is a rather remarkable feat. Mr. Heinlein seems to me to have been an unusual paradox in his thinking – both ahead of his time and a throwback to another era. For fun, escapist reading with a sound political worldview, you can’t do much better than a Robert A. Heinlein book, especially one of his early novels targeted at young readers.

Favorite Roy Rogers Songs

Roy Rogers Songs

With the understanding that this may very well change as my CD collection grows, here is an alphabetical list of my top 25 Roy Rogers songs. Unsurpassed in tone and talent, I’ll listen to anything he recorded, but these 25 are the ones I turn to over and over. I think one of the reasons I love Roy’s music so much is its positive message, fun sound, and exquisite beauty. He is truly one of the greats.

  • Alive and Kickin’ (Roy’s way of saying thanks to his fans, this song sums up a lifetime of happiness in a few verses.)
  • Along the Navajo Trail (Similar in feel to “Blue Shadows” and every bit as beautiful, this song is definitely one of his best.)
  • Blue Shadows on the Trail (From Disney’s Melody Time, this hauntingly beautiful song is one of my very favorites. Probably in my top 3.)
  • Born to the Saddle (To me, this song is Roy Rogers.)
  • Cool Water (I’ve heard 2 versions of this song; 1 with Roy taking lead vocals, the other with Bob Nolan in the lead. Both are awesome.)
  • Don’t Fence Me In (Not many people love Roy’s music and movies the way I do; but my dad does almost as much and this is one of his favorite songs too.)
  • Dust (First recorded in the 1930’s, when the Dust Bowl was devastating the West, this plaintive melody sends shivers down my spine.)
  • Happy Trails (Roy and Dale’s most famous song; my favorite version is the one on his Tribute)
  • Headin’ for Texas and Home (An upbeat celebration of cowboy life, this song is sure to bring a smile.)
  • Here’s Hopin’ (A prayer, a wish, and good advice all rolled into one, this song is a beautiful melody with beautiful lyrics. Duet with Randy Travis.)
  • Hi Ho Silver (After Trigger, Silver is probably the most famous cowboy horse, and this fun song is all about him.)
  • Hold On Partner (I could listen to this song over and over again – the music video is loads of fun too. Duet with Clint Black.)
  • Hold That Critter Down (Another one of my dad’s favorites, this song is a toe-tapping sing-along.)
  • It’s Home Sweet Home to Me (From Roy and the Sons of the Pioneers early days, this track is both sweet and fun.)
  • King of the Cowboys (Actually a Roy “Dusty” Rogers Jr. song, this one is about who Roy was, how he became the King of the Cowboys, and a tribute to his life.)
  • Lovenworth (A fun song promoting faithfulness and the beauty of family, this song is one of my very favorites.)
  • My Chickashay Gal (This song is on the very first Roy Rogers CD I ever owned and was my first favorite.)
  • Rodeo Road (Seldom do 2 voices fit as well together as Roy’s and Willie Nelson’s do on this great song.)
  • Roll On Texas Moon (A catchy tune and fun lyrics make this one a joy to listen to.)
  • San Fernando Valley (Ditto.)
  • Tennessee Stud (Guaranteed to get both my dad and my little brother singing along, this ballad fits Roy’s heavenly voice like no other.)
  • (There’ll Never Be Another) Pecos Bill (Another Melody Time song, this one is a hit with everyone – even those who aren’t fans of his other songs.)
  • When Payday Rolls Around (It’s hard to sit still listening to this song; I like to play it when I’m exercising.)
  • When the Golden Train Comes Down (With solo parts by several of the Sons of the Pioneers, I can’t help smiling when I listen to this song – especially since you can hear them smiling as they sing.)
  • Yellow Rose of Texas (Roy’s awesome voice does ample justice to this well-known classic.)
Roy Rogers Songs

Are there any other Roy and Sons of the Pioneers fans out there? If so, what are your favorite Roy Rogers songs?

August Rush

August Rush, released in 2007 and starring the incredibly talented Freddie Highmore, has just become one of my favorite movies. It tells the heartwarming story of Evan Taylor (Highmore), an orphan growing up in a boys’ home who dreams of finding his parents. He hears music where no one else does – in the wind, in the rain, in the sounds of nature, in the sound of traffic, in the noise of the city – he hears music everywhere and in everything. It is his belief that if he could just learn to play the music he hears, that his parents would hear it and come find him.

His parents are classical cellist Lyla Novacek (Keri Russell) and rock ’n’ roll frontman Louis Connelly (Jonathan Rhys Meyers). They met on a magical night and felt an immediate connection. Come daylight and they are cruelly torn apart. Nine months later, Evan enters the picture. Due to complications, he doesn’t survive. At least that’s what Lyla’s father tells her. Between the heartbreak of leaving Louis and now the pain of losing their child, the grief is too much for her. She leaves New York and gives up on her music. Meanwhile, Louis is going through a similar struggle on the opposite end of the country. He ends up fighting with his bandmates and walking away.

Evan, convinced that his parents are out there and that they still want him, decides to take matters into his own hands. Numerous escapades ensue. Robin Williams enters the picture as ‘Wizard,’ a bizarre former street performer who takes Evan into his band of young street musicians. A police raid, an escape, finding shelter in a church,a stage name (August Rush) and a scholarship to Juilliard. These are just a few of Evan’s adventures in his quest to find his parents. How his quest ends – well, you’ll just have to watch August Rush and find out for yourself.

P.S. Watch for an appearance by Alex O’Loughlin, before his fame as Steve McGarrett of Hawaii Five-0.

Meant To Be

These past few months of living on my own have taught me so much about myself and life – more than I ever thought possible. One of the things I have come to realize with startling clarity is that what is meant to be, will be. The importance of waiting. That everything will fall into place in due time.

This truth has played out in my life in countless ways in the events of this past year. Each instance more awe-inspiring than the last. And of course what they say about hindsight being 20/20 is dead right. Things I didn’t understand at the time make so much sense now. The times things didn’t work out the way I wanted them to and also the times things went perfectly right.

I think too many times we’re in a hurry and force things to happen the way we want it and when we want it. I now know, beyond all doubt, that this is a mistake. If something is meant to be, it will be. And it will be what it will be in its own time. Making things happen on our terms only creates more problems.

Now I’m not by any means suggesting that we should just sit back and let life happen to us. Far from it! I believe in doing, not just dreaming. That life is what we make of it. But when we have to force our life to go in a certain direction, then the time is not yet right. What we want – or rather what we need – is on the other side of a closed door. We have to get up and open the door, but if we find ourselves trying to kick it in, then maybe we aren’t meant to be opening that particular door at this particular moment in our lives. The trick is learning how to tell if the door is truly locked or if it’s just stuck. And that knowledge only comes with experience.

meant to be

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

A classic golden-age musical, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is a rousing good time. Set in Oregon territory during pioneer days, it tells the story of the seven Pontipee brothers and their quest to find brides. They have to compete with the men in town for the few eligible young ladies; the remoteness of their mountain farm puts them at a disadvantage. Their rugged good looks and skill on the dance floor even the odds.

The adventure begins when oldest brother Adam (Howard Keel) goes into town on his yearly trading trip. Besides laying in a year’s worth of supplies, he intends to find a wife and take her back with him. To the horror of the married women and chagrin of the single men, he is successful. Young, strong, and beautiful to boot, Millie (Jane Powell) is just what he’s looking for. Little does she know what she’s letting herself in for.

Adam takes his bride home, her head full of sweet dreams of marital bliss. To her surprise and dismay, she discovers that the wife of Adam Pontipee is also expected to be a surrogate mother to his six scroungy siblings. Benjamin, Caleb, Daniel, Ephraim, Frank, and Gideon aren’t much to look at when she arrives and their manners are worse, but she rolls up her sleeves and goes to it with a will. Determined to clean up the place and the boys, she forces them to bathe, shave, and help her around the house. She also teaches them proper etiquette and sees to it that they attend the local social events like barn raisings.

It’s at their first barn raising that the fun really begins. The local girls evince an obvious preference for these beefy, handsome backwoodsmen. This pits the Pontipees against the young townsmen – first in a dance-off, then in an all-out brawl. This is probably the best scene in the whole movie and certainly the most fun. Battered but victorious, they return home, their loneliness matched only by the townsfolks’ dislike. In an attempt to lift his brothers’ spirits, Adam concocts a plan to reunite them with their lady loves. His harebrained scheme draws the proverbial line in the sand, pitting the townsfolk against the Pontipees, the girls against the boys, and Milly against Adam. How the final showdown plays out is both hilarious and sweetly romantic. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is a beloved classic musical for good reason.

New Year 2018

As I look back on this past year, I am reminded of how good God is and how amazing life can be. So many things have happened and so much has changed. I’ve grown as a person in more ways than I can count. I’ve learned that not everyone is as honest as I am. But also that most people are good for the most part. I’ve discovered that it is really cool to be one of the popular ones. I have found that if you work hard and keep a cheerful attitude, success is the natural result. Especially if you are working at a job that you love and that you were meant to do. I’ve made new friends and had new experiences. I have learned that I like thousand island dressing. And that I don’t need anyone else to be complete. I feel like I have found something that I was missing – I don’t know exactly what, or how to describe it, but I feel whole again. Never in my wildest dreams could I ever have imagined where I would be this New Year’s. Nor did I ever think I would be this happy, this fulfilled, this content with who I am. 2017 has truly been an awesome, incredible year for me. I look forward with much anticipation to 2018.

My New Year’s resolutions are few and simple:

  • To spend less, to save more.
  • To try to get back into the habit of working out.
  • To write with something resembling regularity.
  • And to continue enjoying every minute of this crazy, beautiful, amazing thing called life.
2018

Whether your 2017 was good or bad or somewhere in between, may your 2018 be awesome and blessed and crazy and delicious and everything you hope it will be. Happy New Year, y’all!

Loving This New Life

Wow. Hard to believe it’s November already. How time does fly. Especially when you are as busy as my new life has been here lately. I’ve been working two full-time jobs for a while now, which left little time for anything except sleeping. Precious little time even for that. But it’s been good. And one job just gave me a promotion and a raise, so the other has been downgraded to part-time. Which has given me more time for sleeping and catching up on other things as well.

I’m loving this new life that I’m building for myself. It’s been a really long time since I have been this happy. My job is fulfilling in a way I didn’t know work could be. I feel like I am where I’m meant to be. As it turns out, where I’m meant to be is a grocery store – which isn’t a career that I ever considered when thinking about my future. But I absolutely love it. What’s funny is that my dad used to work at a grocery store. Which I had forgotten until he reminded me of it. It just feels right, you know? Like everything has come full circle, as if this were meant to be. I don’t believe in coincidence or things happening by chance. I believe everything happens for a reason.

new life

Aside from work, my new life is amazing. I’m fully enjoying my new-found freedom. My take-charge, independent personality really needed it. Even I didn’t realize how much until I actually experienced it for myself. It’s like life was stifling me before and now I can breathe freely. It’s amazing and wonderful and exhilarating. I feel like I have truly found myself these past few months. Like something was missing and I didn’t even realize it. I don’t exactly know how to describe it, but, for the first time in a long time, I feel complete.