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Be Careful What You Ask For

The other day, on my Facebook page, I bemoaned my lack of knowledge in contemporary culture, most notably film. It seems that for the past 40 years or so, I’ve missed out on a lot of movies that I should have seen, what with having a career that took me all over the world, and raising a kid, and all that. So I posted the following picture of four movies I had just taken out from the library, along with a request for titles of movies I absolutely must see.


Holy Smokes! I was not expecting the response. Friends gave me the names of their favorite movies from the past 40 years, as well as some from the Golden Age of Hollywood in the mid-1900s. I collected all the titles in a little spiral notebook. Then some friends asked for a copy of the list. Egads, all that typing!!

So, without further ado, I give you my social life for the next year. I have omitted what I’ve already seen, but if you would like to add to my list, please do! (Also, if I’ve screwed up a name, please let me know so I’m not looking for a movie that doesn’t exist. Thanks!)

8 Seconds
16 Candles
The 40-year-old Virgin
The Abyss
The African Queen
American Beauty
An Affair to Remember
As Good As It Gets
Bachelor Party
A Beautiful Life
A Beautiful Mind
Best in Show
Better Off Dead
The Big Chill
Big Fish
Big Trouble in Little China
The Birdcage
The Blind Side
The Bone Collector
The Book of Eli
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
The Breakfast Club
Bridges of Madison County
Bull Durham
The Burbs
Catch Me If You Can
The Count of Monte Cristo
The Cradle Will Rock
Crazy Stupid Love
Crybaby (Johnny Depp)
Dead Poets Society
The Devil Wears Prada
Don’t Look Now (we’re being shot at)
Driving Miss Daisy
The Duff
Edward Scissorhands
Elizabeth I (BBC)
Escape from New York
Event horizon
Ever After
Everything Is Illuminated
Fast Times at Ridgemont high
Father of the Bride
A Few Good Men
Field of Dreams
Flight Club
Finding Neverland
Flicka (Tim McGraw)
French Kiss
Friday Night Lights
Fried Green Tomatoes
G.I. Jane
The Gift
The Great Outdoors
The Green Mile
Grosse Point Blank
Harold and Maude
Heart and Soul
High Fidelity
The Holiday
Hope Floats
Howard’s End
The Hunger Games
Il Orfanado (Spain)
Into the West
It’s Complicated
Jacobs Ladder
Jerry Maguire
John Q
Kung Fury
Labor Day
Lady Jane
The Lake House
Last Ounce of Courage
The Last Samurai
A League of Their Own
Life Is Beautiful (in Italian)
Like Water for Chocolate
Lonesome Dove
Lord of the Rings
The Lost Boys
Lost in Translation
Love, Actually
Ludwig (Luchino Visconti)
Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
The Maltese Falcon
Man on Fire
A Mighty Wind
Million Dollar Baby
The Mirror Has Two Faces
Mona Lisa Smile
Moonrise Kingdom
Mr. Holland’s Opus
Mrs. Doubtfire
Must Love Dogs
My Sister’s Keeper
Mystic Pizza
The Notebook
Now Voyager
Now You See Me
O Brother, Where Art Thou
On Golden Pond
Pan’s Labyrinth
Patch Adams
Pearl Harbor
The Philadelphia Story (Hepburn, grant)
Phoebe in Wonderland
The Piano
Pirates of the Caribbean
Pitch Perfect
Places in the Heart
The Power of One
Predator 1
Predator 2
The Prince of Tides
The Proposal
The Protector
Pursuit of Happyness

Rear Window
Red Violin
Remains of the Day
Remember the Titans
The Right Stuff
Road House
Saint Elmo’s Fire
Say aAything
Schindler’s List
Scream (all of them)
Secondhand Lions
Seven Years in Tibet
Shaun of the Dead
The Shawshank Redemption
Simon Birch
Sissi (1953)
Six Pack
Sleepless in Seattle
Sleepy Hollow
Slumdog Millionaire
Smokey and the Bandit
Soft Fruit
Something’s Gotta Give
Somewhere in Time
Steel Magnolias
Sweet Home Alabama
Terms of Endearment
Thin Blue Line
The Thing
To Catch a Thief
Trip to Bountiful
The Tudors
Uncle Buck
Under the Tuscan Sun
The Usual Suspects
The Village
A Walk to Remember
The Water Diviner
Wedding Crashers
What about Bob
What Dreams May Come
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape
When Harry Met Sally
While You Were Sleeping
White Queen
The Women

You’ve Got Mail

Ashes to Ashes
Blue Blood
Breaking Bad
House of Cards
Law and Order
Life on Mars
Monarch of the Glen (Netflix)
North and South
Power Watch




“As if you were on fire from within. The moon lives in the lining of your skin.” ― Pablo Neruda

I love you. Three small words that are misunderstood and misused. I say them frequently to friends and family, but I know they are received through a filter, so I wanted to clarify what those three words mean to me.

  • I love you means I accept you for the person you are, as you are, where you are. I expect nothing from you except authenticity.
  • I love you means that I respect your hopes, dreams, and ambition, and will help you achieve what you want to achieve.
  • I love you means that, while I may disagree with your political or religious views, I will go to the mat for your right to hold and express them.
  • I love you means your secrets are safe with me. All of them.
  • I love you means I hope you know I will always be a safe place to land.
  • I love you means I will stop what I am doing to listen to you, because this may be the last opportunity I have to do so.
  • I love you means when you ache, I ache. When you weep, I weep. When you laugh, I laugh.
  • I love you means I embrace your flawed soul and am humbled to witness your goodness, as it inspires me to be better.
  • I love you means I will be your strength when you are weak, your sight when you are blind, and your voice when yours has fled.
  • I love you means that I honor you for bringing joy to my life, for opening my eyes to Life’s mysteries, for showing me how to be fully alive.
  • I love… You!

Namaste. Happy New Year 2015.


You May Be Wrong, America

NOTE: There are so many thoughts in my mind about this topic that I fear this post is somewhat scattered. Bear with me. I’ll get it all out in a series of posts. I welcome comments – please – a dialogue is good.

This morning, I asked a question on my Facebook page. “Is the number of nasty, intolerant people in this world increasing or are they just getting more airtime??”

Almost immediately, a dear friend, a beautiful witch (from the local Reclaiming community) and intuitive wrote back. “Both, and the number of people who are awakening and called to notice and affect change is also increasing…more sensitivities all around. As the energies change, the ones who hold baggage are clenching more tightly and the ones who are evolving are doing so at a more increased speed and intensity.”

This brilliant insight is frighteningly true. Consider the following:

Mitt Romney, left, and President Obama confronted each other more directly in their second presidential debate.

  • Those involved in discussions about American politics became more strident and verbally abusive to those who disagree with them. Our beautiful country has become a hotbed of violent language and twisted priorities. The people who supported Mitt Romney have not ceased their attacks on Obama. He is, according to them, still Hitler, still a Communist, still deserving of assassination or, at the very least, impeachment. He was still born in Kenya, still wants to take away everyone’s guns and still wants all our money to *gasp* make sure all Americans have health insurance. Conversely, those who supported Obama have not stopped tearing down and exposing Fox News, the Tea Party, the Republican Party, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and so on, because they truly believe they are right. Meanwhile, programs to help the American people are moving at a snail’s pace, if at all. American people are hurting and nobody in Washington seems to give a hoot about it.


  • Those who believe that women should have the right to determine when they bear children are increasingly under attack. Instead of having a rational national discussion, which should include a philosophical component, the current discourse includes one group screaming about murder, wrapping family planning in the cloak of religion, and doing everything in their power to restrict women’s access to family planning services, and the other group categorizing them as ignorant, dumb hicks who can’t put together an intelligent argument to support their irrational beliefs.


  • The gun lobby, for some unfathomable reason, decided to hold a “Gun Appreciation Day” on Martin Luther King’s birthday, saying he would have approved. This was vocally supported by millions of “patriotic” Americans. Since the gun lobby (specifically the NRA) wears the Constitution as a lapel pin, they dare anyone to challenge them, labeling those who do as “un-American”. Here is what King actually said about guns, shortly after Kennedy was assassinated. His words are eerily appropriate now – we have not evolved as a nation one bit since these words were spoken.

Our late President was assassinated by a morally inclement climate. It is a climate filled with heavy torrents of false accusation, jostling winds of hatred, and raging storms of violence.

It is a climate where men cannot disagree without being disagreeable, and where they express dissent through violence and murder. It is the same climate that murdered Medgar Evers in Mississippi and six innocent Negro children in Birmingham, Alabama.

So in a sense we are all participants in that horrible act that tarnished the image of our nation. By our silence, by our willingness to compromise principle, by our constant attempt to cure the cancer of racial injustice with the Vaseline of gradualism, by our readiness to allow arms to be purchased at will and fired at whim, by allowing our movie and television screens to teach our children that the hero is one who masters the art of shooting and the technique of killing, by allowing all these developments, we have created an atmosphere in which violence and hatred have become popular pastimes.



  • Conspiracy theories abound. 9/11 was a government conspiracy to give Bush a reason to attack Iraq. The tragic school shooting in Newtown, CT was a conspiracy to allow Obama to take away all our guns (a theory that I find particularly disgusting). Chemtrails induce stupidity; the New World Order is the Bush crime family’s attempt to control humanity; AIDS is man-made; water fluoridation is part of a conspiracy for the Illuminati to take over the world; Hurricane Sandy was man-made by the government (using the Navy’s HAARP program) to get Obama re-elected; and on and on and on. What is frightening about these theories is that people completely believe them. They claim to have irrefutable proof and exhaustive research results. They get angry, even violent, in defense of them. They are holding onto their baggage with both hands. I can give conspiracy theories a VERY minor forgiveness pass, because I understand that they are only humanity’s way of coping with horror. They are a way to wrap one’s brain around the massive scariness of Life. This is the same mindset that gave rise to the existence of God in early human cultures. How do we explain what is beyond our understanding?
Latina Muslims

Latina Muslims – double whammy on the bigot scale…

  • Americans are increasingly intolerant of Latinos and Muslims. A woman I work with said this about all the patients at a local health clinic: “They’re all Mexicans or Columbians – they’re all short and don’t speak English. I pay for my visits (insinuating that all of them don’t) and I speak English so I refuse to go there anymore.” I was stunned. Between the eyes with a hammer stunned. I was similarly stunned when I read about some “Christian” preacher in Florida who was going to burn the Koran (which incited anti-American riots around the world) and then went ahead and DID it! What exactly was Christian about that?

There are thousands of examples of intolerance that have surfaced in this country over the past few years. If you count the individual  people who are willing to sacrifice relationships with friends or family, that number exponentially increases. A relative of mine recently told me on Facebook to “grow the f*** up”. Twice. There was more verbal abuse included, but I deleted the whole mess and removed myself from that “friendship”. What led to that? A discussion of politics and his holding on tight to his rabid, conspiratorial beliefs, and me holding on to my Earth Mother ones.

Why are we as a people, as a human family defined by invisible borders, doing this? Why are we so willing to abuse others? What is it about our national mindset that makes us think we are the ‘IT’ in the world, or, thinking smaller, that we as individuals are right and everyone else is wrong? I think there is a pomposity in a large percentage of Americans that buys into the belief that we are somehow better humans because of our birthplace, or our birth religion, or our birth skin, and that those who are so unfortunate to be born elsewhere are sub-human and less deserving of our respect. This, to me, is tragic. There is no human in this world who is more or less deserving of rights or love or respect than I am.

There is a wide diversity of political and philosophical thought in the world. America, sorry to say, most assuredly does NOT have all the answers to the human condition, despite her arrogant claim to do so. Look at the widening economic and philosophical divide in this country. We are tearing apart at the seams, and the people who might be able to fix the problems are not listened to because they are not radical enough. I think we, as a people, need to shut the heck up. Religion is not the answer. Closing the borders is not the answer. Love, respect, and humility are tools we need to cultivate to get into the conversation where we can find the answers to our problems.

Let go of your baggage, America. Listen – truly listen – to people with differing opinions. Let go of your need to be right and acknowledge that there may be a better way. Drop your arrogance and listen to all ideas as equal to your own. Let’s evolve as a nation. Come on, let’s fix this thing…

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Comfort Food

Lately, life has been a little stressful. From finding out I need dental surgery as well as two new crowns, to the events leading up to my sister’s wedding, a visit from my aged parents, money worries and plain old PMS, I’ve been edgier than a cat in a Chinese market.

Today, however, I have carved out a big old chunk of “me” time. That includes making myself some comfort food. It doesn’t fit in with any diet, it’s not vegan. Honestly, there aren’t a whole lot of health benefits to this dish, other than its therapeutic ones. It’s plain old love in a bowl.

Everyone has their turn-to comfort foods. Some people go for salty foods, some for sweet. Some seek the hot sauce, some grab the nearest chocolate available. I go for the ooiest, gooiest, cheesiest thing I can find. Today I made a big steaming pan of whole grain penne with not 1, not 2, but SIX kinds of cheese. And I baked it in my earthenware baking dish so it would have crunchy bits around the edges. Love in a bowl…

Mamadeon’s Six Cheese Pasta Bake

  • 1 box (13.25 oz. – 16 oz.) small tube pasta (today I used Barilla Multi Grain Penne)
  • 2 cartons (10 oz. ea.) refrigerated Alfredo sauce OR 1.5 15-oz. jars Alfredo
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 6 oz. cream cheese, well softened
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese (any kind) or feta cheese
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 carton (15 oz.) ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, divided
  • 1/4 cup grated Romano
  • 2 cups mozzarella, divided
  • Sriracha sauce for serving
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. It should be cooked al dente. Drain and return to pot.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together Alfredo sauce, sour cream and cream cheese. Add crumbled blue cheese and mix well. Pour over pasta and toss to coat well. Spoon 1/2 of this mixture into a greased (think Pam) 3-qt. baking dish and spread into an even layer.
  3. Combine eggs, ricotta, 1/4 cup Parmesan, Romano and 1/2 cup mozzarella in a bowl. (Save yourself some  dishwashing – use the same one you mixed the Alfredo sauce in.) Spread over pasta in baking dish. Top with remaining pasta (and all the Alfredo sauce). Sprinkle with 1/4 cup reserved Parmesan and the remaining mozzarella.
  4. Cover with foil and bake at 350F for half an hour. Uncover and bake until lightly brown around the edges and bubbly. Get a bowl, scoop some in, squirt liberally with Sriracha sauce and enjoy!

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Slide, Baby, Slide!

Today I visited with an older couple, both in their late 70s. I haven’t seen them in a few years, and it occurred to me that they are aging in different ways. The husband has a grace about him – a slightly creaky but proud, upright man, still with a crease in his slacks, an ironed seersucker sport shirt and worn but well shined shoes. All of that is no doubt the remnants of his military and police work. The wife is aging in a crash-and-burn, fall-down-the-stairs kind of way – as though she is getting ready to slide into home plate and jump up, dust off her slacks and holler, “Woohoo – that was FUN!!”

It got me thinking about how I want to spend the next 40 years of my life. The other day my daughter and I went to my sister’s grave to tidy up and make sure it looked good for when my parents visit this weekend. We got to talking about death and dying and final resting places. I reminded her I wanted to be cremated and have my ashes sprinkled on a body of water somewhere; put me back into the cycle of the earth. Then we discussed funny things I want people to say at my funeral. My favorite line was, “Damn it, Mom, I told you you couldn’t outrun a cheetah!”

Death is part of life. I was going to get all metaphor-ish and explain my view on life and death in a philosophical way. But that struck me as pointless. When you start at one end of a loaf of bread, you’re eventually going to get to the last piece and that’s the end of the loaf. Everyone knows that and it should come as no surprise to anyone. It’s how we approach that last slice that matters. Do we eat crumb by crumb, miserly portioning out the last piece or do we throw the whole thing in the toaster and eat it with butter and honey, making that last slice as sweet as the first?

One of the most valuable things I ever did in my life was take a course at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY. It was led by Elizabeth Lesser, cofounder of Omega and now frequent guest on the O channel. At the conclusion of the workshop she led us on a guided meditation of our own death. Walking up a mountain, carrying the luggage of our lives, putting down the bags one by one, so when we reached the cloud line and walked through the clouds, we were free and unencumbered, ready to experience what was on the other side. It was a liberating experience, one that eradicated the fear I occasionally experienced.

Fear can be defined as “alarm or agitation caused by expectation of danger”. This certainly explains how a lot of people feel about death and the unknown. However, fear can also be defined as “awe or reverence”. That is how I choose to approach the next 40 years of my life. Living fully, cramming as much butter and honey as I can into every day, appreciating my approaching last day with reverence and awe (and excitement) for what comes next.

Albert Einstein said somewhat irreverently, “The fear of death is the most unjust of all fears, for there’s no risk of accident for someone who’s dead.” Let’s all work to lose the fear and age in that crash-and-burn way like the woman I saw this morning. So, let’s all pick up our skirts, run like hell for home plate and slide, baby, slide!

* * * * *

Expectations vs. Reality

Yesterday was a HUGE day of lessons for me. My daughter and I decided to go to NY shopping for a dress and shoes for her for an upcoming wedding, as well as a pair of earrings for me. She had an idea of what she wanted and I thought it might be fun to go to the world-famous Macy*s at Herald Square. That’s the renowned Macy*s of Thanksgiving Day parade and Fourth of July fireworks fame. The classy Macy*s from Miracle on 34th Street. What we got was something completely different.

To start with, we missed the train. Well, not quite. We were standing on the platform next to the train waiting at the door. The train pulled away. We actually made the train but the conductor wouldn’t let us on. I expected the conductor would open the door to the train and let us on. The fact that we hit the platform 30 seconds after he closed the door, and were technically late, didn’t occur to me. However, it certainly occurred to him. Expectations vs. Reality.

I hurled a few choice words at the train as it lumbered away down the tracks. Then I stomped up the stairs to the ticket machine, and, with tears in my eyes, kicked the stupid machine. I really did. I kicked a ticket machine. I was SO frustrated that our trip had just been delayed a full hour that I lashed out at the poor, defenseless unit. There’s probably a security guard somewhere reviewing yesterday’s surveillance tapes wondering what the heck my problem was. But one kick, which torqued my big toe, was all it took to realize I was overreacting. I took a deep breath and was OK. Louise and I spent the next hour throwing cherry pits at the third rail (and yes, I hit it once. I also apologized to Louise for making a scene.).

When we finally got to Macy*s, the cabbie asked if going in the 7th Avenue entrance was OK. Of course, pretending to know what I was doing, I said, “Sure! That’s fine.” Umm… I’ve never been to Macy*s in my life. I expected it to be like the big Macy*s stores I’ve been to. High ceilings, recessed lighting, adequate space and shiny display cases. The reality was nothing like that. This store, immortalized in films, is a shabby, cramped, noisy, smelly, messy store. Few of the clothing racks are actually sorted so one needs to pick and choose through the merchandise. I expected the latest designer fashions, I expected beautiful clothing, I expected well manicured salesclerks assisting customers. The reality was that the Macy*s women’s dresses department looks like Filene’s basement after a bridal sale. The dresses are dirty and torn. They look like fashion from the 90s, all frumpy polyester and ruffles. Horrible stuff. And my manicured salesclerks? Try hard working stiffs just like me. Boy was that an eye-opener.

I also expected to be able to find my way around the store. After all, a 9 floor department store MUST have directories, right? WRONG! There is one directory in the center of the store in a stairwell. There are no signs hanging from the ceilings to guide shoppers, no signs at the head of the escalators to say 2 floors down you’ll find the ladies’ room or 3 floors up is the bridal department. AUGH!

Completely disappointed, we finally gave up on Macy*s and made our way out of the store through the phenomenally boring jewelry department (I can get the same stuff in our local mall). The crowds were so dense I grasped Louise’s hand to keep from losing her on the way out. We wandered north through the sweltering heat (in the mid-90s) north from 34th to 47th Street. We stopped at a few small stores along the way, in great part because they have their doors open in summertime and the frigid air beckons from the sidewalk to all passersby. At one I actually found a pair of earrings to go with the dress I’m wearing. SCORE! We stopped in a shoe store, and Louise found a great pair of sandals, which they didn’t have in her size. She tried on a fun pair of lace stiletto boots that fit, but cost $180 and would NOT be appropriate for an entire day on her feet. We kept going, because we wanted to check Forever 21, a shop that generally has some really fun dresses. Expectation? That we would find some fun dresses. Reality? We found NONE. We didn’t even find any shoes.

Since it was now 6:30 pm, and we were hot, tired and hungry, and had only one pair of earrings to show for our effort, we decided to hike back to Grand Central and take the train home. On the way, I spied a Dress Barn on a side street. Guess what? … We found her dress there. Silver and black with a tulle ruffle at the bottom. It looks fabulous on her, it flatters her figure and it was in a place we didn’t expect.

I’ve noticed that, when we need them the most, Life gives us lessons. Yesterday I received the gift of two. One was yet another on the impermanence of time. We all have a finite amount to live our lives in. We can choose to freak out and kick the ticket machine because an hour was wasted, or we can relax and spit cherry pits at the third rail for an hour. I now choose the latter.

The other was something I’ve struggled with all my life – expectations vs. reality. When life gives you an experience to live through, don’t enter it with expectations, because the reality the Universe has in store for you may be quite different. How you handle that difference is a telling barometer of how you live your life. Be open to anything and embrace it with open arms.

Yesterday I learned that I have a lot of learning left to do.

* * * * *

The Green-Eyed Monster

Has there ever been a person in your life who you can’t stand visiting? A person who makes you roll your eyes into the back of your head when you find out you’ve been invited to their house (and you really can’t say ‘no’)? Did you ever invent excuses for not visiting someone like, “Gee I’m sorry, the garden needs weeding this weekend and I volunteered to make 25 crocheted baby hats by Monday.” Sound familiar?

There’s a person like that in my life, actually a family like that. I found out today that we are supposed to go to their house for a weekend this summer. A whole weekend! Ugh. Last year I had a valid reason for not coming – I had to go pick Louise up at Harvard. At least, I think that was the reason; I’m pretty sure I didn’t go. There’s no way out of it this year, though, so I decided to try to figure out why I can’t stand going.

When I laid down to take a nap this afternoon I was stewing about the visit, and it occurred to me what was really going on. It’s not that the people aren’t nice; they’re very nice and more than generous. It’s not that we’re not made to feel welcome – we are. The food is always lovely and the wine flows freely. Anything you ask for appears. I would try to do this for my guests, as well. It’s that I am, well, in a word – jealous. Me! The green monster lives in my heart. {sigh} The task then became figuring out why. Why am I jealous of these wonderful, giving people who are such good hosts?

I am not a well-off woman by any stretch of the imagination. I make $14,000 a year at my school job and my husband puts some of his earnings into the joint household account every month as well. I scrimp and try to stretch our dollars the best I can, understanding full well the difference between need and want. I have EVERYTHING I need. Absolutely everything. But when I go to their lavish house with its massive kitchen and monstrous flat-screen TV, in-ground pool and Mercedes Benz in the driveway, I can’t help but feeling a little poor. Not a little poor, a lot poor. I stand in their massive family room (with cathedral ceilings, full wet bar, pool table and a view out the wall of glass of the pool and hot tub), wearing my single pair of shoes and my six-year old (still serviceable) dress and feel very, very small.

It’s silly, I know, to be envious of “stuff” when there are so many more important things in life. My family, my health, my friends, my faith are all more important. The ability to sit here quietly on a cool, sun-kissed summer morning, listening to the birds sing is more important. The skill to make a meal that feeds people emotionally as well as physically is more important. Working in a place where I help children learn and grow and stretch to reach for goals they thought were unattainable is more important.

Plato said, “The greatest wealth is to live content with little.” He was absolutely right, and I suppose I am content. Most days I think Life is so very sweet and I feel privileged to be part of it. Most days I don’t want tons of stuff, I want adventure – I want to go out and live Life to the fullest – damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead. But when I come home on a hot summer afternoon, it sure would be nice to have central air…

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