Isn’t It Ironic

Ooooohhhhh…this is funny. Really…I am sure it will make you laugh…I am laughing, too…really I am.

Ok, no…I am not.

stolen from the Lights Over Lapland Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/lightsoverlapland)

stolen from the Lights Over Lapland Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/lightsoverlapland)

Our holiday adventure this year was  a trip to the Arctic Circle in Swedish Lapland where we hoped to see the Northern Lights. This trip jumped to the top of our list when we learned that this winter is the height of the 11 year cycle when the strength of solar activity causes the strongest and most vibrant Auroras…AND our trip could be timed to be during the new moon so the sky would be ultra dark.

One night in particular was going to be “the night” for us to see them – the night we spent in Abisko at the Aurora Sky Station. See, the Sky Station is in a “rain shadow”. “What exactly is a ‘rain shadow’?”, you might ask. Well, apparently weather from the Gulf Stream builds up on the westerly side of the mountain range and dumps any condensation it is holding before rising over the range on its way east and doesn’t start building up again until it is hell and gone from Abisko. That puts Abisko in a dessert of sorts with very little precipitation and lots of clear skies. We stacked the cards in our favor.

For months I was worried about the cold temperatures we would endure while there so we went ultra prepared with great gear…only to be hit with a major “heat wave” of 20+ degree (F) temperatures. And regretfully, this influx of warm air brought unseasonable clouds and precipitation. So while the 20 minute chair lift ride up to the Sky Station in the dark was a lot more bearable than I was anticipating, despite there being some tremendous levels of solar activity we were unable to see anything because of the solid cloud cover. Boo, but, oh well. We had two more nights in Lapland so we kept our fingers crossed.

After leaving Abisko we headed down to the ICEHOTEL outside of Kiruna, and let me say that it was everything I expected it would be and more. Stunning, beautiful, gorgeous…a work of art. I will write more about it in another post once I get my photos in order. And while the snow was a thing of beauty because it almost liked like Martha Stewart was being heavy-handed in sprinkling her glitter around everywhere…snow meant cloud cover, which mean no Northern Lights.

Oh well…we tried to go with low expectations because the Aurora can be an elusive little bitch. But we were disappointed nonetheless.

Fast forward to a week later. We are home and warming up after the “polar vortex” attacked the US to the extent that it was much colder here than it was on the Arctic Circle, which had me thinking, “huh…that’s kind of ironic…” Last night it got worse.

My friends in Chicagoland were posting stories about how the Northern Lights might be visible in their neck of the woods last night. WHAT?!?!?!? All I had to do was go to effing Chicago? Now that’s ironic. Then I head over to the Lights Over Lapland Facebook page and there are photos of some stunning Northern Lights shows from the fricking night we left Sweden…and every night since, I might add. GRRRRR!!! But wait – perhaps there is hope! They claim that the Aurora could possibly be seen as far South as Arkansas! That puts NC in the running! So I rush to the window after sunset last night and…

Clouds.

MOTHER #*%@ER!

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Favorite Holiday Classics

Miracle on 34th StreetOne of the things I am most proud of as a mother is that my 10 year old daughter doesn’t automatically groan and run out of the room if I suggest watching an old movie – even black and white ones. I know a lot of kids who lose interest if there is even a hint of “age” to a film. Christmas is a time when I bring out a treasure trove of classic movies. Here are some of our favorites (admittedly, some are not really all that old):

  • Bachelor Mother (with Ginger Rogers and David Niven)
  • Christmas in Connecticut (the original B&W version with Barbara Stanwyck)
  • Home Alone (the DD’s newest holiday favorite)
  • Miracle on 34th Street (the original B&W Natalie Wood version)
  • Olive the Other Reindeer
  • Scrooge (the 1970 musical with Albert Finney)
  • Scrooged

And of course all the all the claymation/animated classics – Rudolf, Santa, Frosty and the Grinch

And here are some other “Holiday greats” that I haven’t watched with her yet…but will soon…

  • A Christmas Story
  • Gremlins
  • It’s a Wonderful Life
  • Pocketful of Miracles with Bette Davis and Ann Margaret
  • We’re No Angels (the original 1955 version with Humphrey Bogart and Peter Ustinov)

Genetic Mutation

I just read an article about an interesting find by scientists regarding a specific gene mutation that may be responsible for excessive drinking. I have often wondered if this was the case as far as drinking…and possibly even smoking. I have long believed that you are either a smoker…or you’re not a smoker. Despite trying really hard to be a smoker when I was in college, it just never grabbed a hold of me. I just decided at one point that it was stupid to smoke when I didn’t really enjoy it…so I stopped cold turkey.

But I also quit drinking cold turkey and have never been tempted to drink at all in the last four years. So I wonder if I have the gene mutation or not.

 

Cold Turkey for Thankgiving

Please imagine that I have opened this blog post with something terribly witty, unique and memorable about this being the time for giving thanks, blah, blah, blah…loving husband, great friends, beautiful child, etc., etc., etc. Meanwhile, I’ll just jump right in to what it is I find myself grateful for this year – my Mom. Those of you who don’t know me will think I’m being passé. (“Everyone is thankful for their Mom!”) Those of you who do know me will find this surprising.

For my entire adult life I had a hate-hate relationship with my Mother. In fact, after spending years trying to get her to quit drinking I had to follow through on my threat to cut ties with her if she didn’t stop, just as my father had done a few years before me. I didn’t speak to her for more than a decade. I was angry when she showed up to watch me graduate from college from the rafters. I didn’t invite her to my wedding and even went so far as to hire off-duty policemen to mitigate any scene that might arise if she showed up. Pretty awful stuff, I know. When I became pregnant, I took steps towards a rocky reconciliation with my Mom for selfish reasons. I didn’t want to have to explain to my child why they had never met their grandmother…or set an example that it was ok to not talk to your mother.

I sometimes question whether I would do anything differently if I had the chance to go back and have a do-over of all those years. After all, it didn’t change anything. She went on drinking whether I was talking to her or not and ultimately died of liver failure at the young age of 58. However, I know enough about alcoholism to know that nothing I could have done would have made a difference. Only she had the power to make the change. There was no way for someone to be with her 24/7/365 to keep the bottle out of her hand. After her death we found countless empty and half-empty bottles of liquor and makeshift alcoholic concoctions hidden around her house in the back of drawers and closets, which is puzzling since she lived alone. Who was she hiding it from?

I often envy my friends who have a Mom they can model their own motherhood after. I on the other hand, find myself modeling my motherhood as almost the polar opposite of my own experience for everything from the critical to the mundane. Like every child, I looked up to my Mom as the most perfect, beautiful person in the world. But as I entered middle school and high school, things began to change. To outside appearances, my Mom was still a wonderful, attractive, charming, generous woman – the perfect wife and mother. When we were out in public, even I was star struck and would believe the façade. But our home life was a different story. Her mood swings were the worst – one minute life would be a bowl-full of cherries and the next she would be yelling and screaming for seemingly no reason. A simple question about what time dinner would be ready could set her off in a tirade of seething anger. She would often forget to pick my brother and I up from school and extracurricular activities, which in the days before cell phones was a major ordeal. After years of listening to her scream at my father through my bedroom wall for hours on end, I finally told my Dad when I was 16 that if he was sticking around for my brother and I that we’d be ok – that I’d prefer to not have to listen to him take the abuse and it was setting the wrong kind of example about what married life should be like.

Letter From Teen MeI am sure some of my feelings about this time period can be chalked up to my reaching that awkward, hormonal stage of adolescence. However I found a note while going through my Mom’s house after her death, written in the hand of my teenage self, apologizing to my Mom for whatever it was that I was doing to make her so angry. (Note, I was a super easy child…got good grades, never got into trouble at school, never smoked, drank or did drugs, never snuck out of the house…pretty boring actually…so whatever act I am referencing in this letter could not have been any great offense.)

Looking at that note through the filter of my own motherhood still brings tears to my eyes four years later. I vowed right then and there that I would do everything in my power to ensure my daughter would never feel the need to write that kind of note to me. Step one was to stop drinking myself. I don’t think I had as severe a drinking problem as my Mom faced, but I definitely recognized the signs. In particular, I noticed that my patience level was pretty low. I would get easily frustrated and hear myself snap at my daughter for minor transgressions. I’d feel terrible for it even as I heard the words coming out of my mouth, and even worse as I tried to apologize and backpedal my way out what I had said as I watched the tears well up in her eyes – knowing that she had no clue what she had done to inspire my wrath and knowing myself that she had done nothing.

I’ve been sober for over 4 years now and I surprise myself at how much my level of patience has improved. I feel I am a better Mom because of the one huge change I decided to make in my own life that my Mom couldn’t or wouldn’t make…and I have my Mom to thank for it.

Lost Art of the Film Trailer

I love movies. They’re magical, those vibrant images on the screen. They have the power make you laugh, cry, sit on the edge of your seat, experience a wide range of emotions all in the short span of about 90 minutes (on average). I remember scenes and lines in movies I haven’t seen in decades better than I remember how old I am or what I had for breakfast.

But one trend that has frustrated me in the past few years is how they now give away EVERYTHING in the trailers. In most cases I feel like I have seen the entire movie already. So why bother going to see it? For instance, in the full trailer for the Hollywood version of “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” they even gave away who the killer is. Now of course, a lot of people read the book so it’s not that big a secret, but still…what was wrong with just the short teaser they put out first?

A trailer should be a teaser! A glimpse into what we can expect to see – not the entire film. The most BRILLIANT movie trailer I have ever seen is this one for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

This footage isn’t found anywhere in the movie and was filmed exclusively as the trailer. It is short, sweet, and let’s you know you are going to see a comedy with Steve Martin and Michael Cain about a couple of not-so-nice guys in some European-looking Riviera. It totally made me want to see the film (which is indeed hilarious BTW in case you have never seen it). The last time I saw this trailer was in 1988 when the film was coming out, and I am pretty sure I only saw it once, but it made a huge impression on me. When was the last time you remembered exactly what was in a trailer for goodness sakes?

And I know I am not the only one who feels this way. SNL did a parody of this issue when Gweynth Paltrow hosted back in May 2011 that I thought was pretty clever. They did “trailers”of upcoming Shakespeare plays in the Globe Theater, which didn’t go over well with the audience armed with rotten tomatoes (literally). I can’t find the video, but I did find a transcript online.

What do the big studios think they are accomplishing by showing us the entire movie? If anything, it makes me not want to bother seeing most of them because they look so bad (e.g., the latest Johnny Depp film, Dark Shadows). And in most cases when I read reviews after those “bad looking” movies come out, it turns out my judgment was correct. Whereas, if they had just given a small little teaser, I might have been duped into dropping some cash at the theater.

A Little Disgusted With the Human Race

Over the past couple weeks there has been a story cluttering up the blogosphere and mainstream media about Karen Klein, an elderly bus monitor who was bullied by some teens on a school trip.

Headlines like “Making The Bus Monitor Cry: This Is One Of The Most Disturbing Videos To Watch”

Now, I watched it and yes, the kids are little assholes, but none of what came out of their mouths surprised me. They are 13 year old boys and while that does not excuse their behavior, it is not even close to being “the most disturbing” thing I have ever seen.

I feel sorry for Ms. Klein. Being the brunt of such verbal abuse is painful and it sucks and I hate bullies. I’ve heard way too many stories lately about kids committing suicide because they found their situation so hopeless and it scares me for my daughter. However, what I actually find disgusting about this story is that that hundreds, probably thousands of people have donated to a campaign to give this single victim hundreds of thousands of dollars to help her get over the experience. The start of the campaign was a very nice gesture by some of her neighbors hoping to raise $5,000 so she could take a nice little vacation. Great, wonderful, very sweet. But holy shit! As of today she is going to get a $672,000 pay off! (and donations are still coming in)

Really people? This is the “cause” you decide is worthy of donating so much money? Thousands of children who go to bed at night without having eaten a thing all day. There are people without jobs, without a roof over their heads, without a reliable mode of transportation. People dying of diseases that we could find a cure for. People going bancrupt because they don’t have health insurance or their insurance company screwed them over. Hundreds of families have just lost their homes to forest fires in Colorado and firefighters there are risking their lives to prevent more destruction. Charities dedicated to righting these kinds of tragic societal wrongs are having an incredibly difficult time raising money in today’s economy. But an elderly woman is called a “bitch” by some brats and everyone rallies to give her almost 3/4 of a million dollars?

I am not saying I’m not happy for Ms. Klein. I am. Based on the interviews I have read it seems she and her family are overwhelmed by the outpouring of public support. I was impressed with how she took the abuse gracefully and in stride (like a grown up). “It made me feel really terrible, but I will get over it. I’ve gotten over everything else,” she said on the Today Show. So kudos and congratulations to you. It’s not like you asked for any of this.

But how is this going to change anything? It would be wonderful if someone could figure out a way to channel this kind of support towards actually making a difference.

I also hope this doesn’t lead to a bunch of copycats and hoaxes in our get-rich-quick-reality-TV-obsessed world.

The Avengers v. Disney Princesses

Earlier today I headed out to Toys R Us today to get a birthday gift for my 5 year old nephew. He’s been an avid fan of Cars for years, but recently started taking a liking to superheroes. The answer to my quandry of what to get him was answered as soon as I entered the store and saw an enormous display for The Avengers. I looked at all the various sizes, styles and prices of action figures for Thor, The Hulk, Captain America and Iron Man. Hm, which ones would he like the most? Luckily there were two little boys there about his age picking the ones they wanted so I followed their lead. Mission Accomplished – I’m outta here!

Hey…wait a minute…

I honestly can’t say what made me notice…but I suddenly had a WTF moment. There was no Black Widow action figure. Not one! What’s more…she didn’t even rank high enough to be in the main 3D graphic of the display. She’s just a 2-dimensional sidebar.

For those of you uneducated in The Avenger’s team history, Black Widow is is Scarlett Johansson’s character in the recently released film. In all the movie ads and trailers, she has been presented as a full-fledged member of the team, and Scarlett has echoed this in her interviews promoting the film.

In an interview published in the Jan/Feb 2012 issue of Australian film magazine, Filmink, she said, “Black Widow is definitely one of the team though. She’s not in the cast simply to be a romantic foil or eye candy. She’s there to fight, so I never felt like I was the only girl. We all have our various skills and it feels equal”.

Avengers

avengers2

Yeah…that looks equal…

Are girls not allowed to dream about being superheroes? Are they only allowed to be slightly rebelious, vapid princesses with nothing to dream about but being “rescued” by some pansy on a white steed?  Is there really no demand for action figures with boobs? And who is to blame for this marketing oversight? Marvel? Disney? Toys R Us? Where are the strong, powerful, self-reliant female role models? Where are the toys for this little girl to play with?

Tiara