Twenty Facts About Me

Day two of the June blogging challenge sounded easy. Just needed to make a list of twenty facts about myself. Hmmm… this took a little longer to put together than I expected.

1. One of my favorite things to do is teach Bible class to little kids. I especially like teaching the stories that are a little gross or scary. The expressions on the kids’ faces are priceless.

2. I have lived my whole life in Texas, with the exception of a couple of summers spent in Idaho, when my dad staked mining claims in the early 1970’s.texas

3. I have seen every episode of Gilligan’s Island. Even the TV specials where they got rescued and re-stranded.

4. My favorite aisle at the grocery store is the one with the coffee, chocolate syrup, and peanut butter. The combination of those smells delights me.

5. I read Little Women a dozen times in the third grade. That’s when I decided I wanted to be a writer.

6. I have the original script to Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope memorized. I’m a complete geek.

7. I enjoy travel. I have a long list of places I’d like to see before I die.

8. I like to study history and geography. I am also a nerd.

9. I adore pirates, spies, Vikings, detectives, and space cowboys– real and fictional.pirates

10. I hate killing off characters in the stories I write. I will agonize and mourn for them for days. I know; it’s a problem.

11. I like birds, but only in pictures. They always poop on me. And no, I don’t believe that’s good luck.

12. I enjoy watching old movies, especially ones with Cary Grant or Audrey Hepburn, or both.

13. I dream in color. Always. Once I even had a dream in cartoon. Really.

14. My favorite authors are Ian Fleming, Rex Stout, and Agatha Christie.

15. I love holding babies.

16. I have an irrational fear of clowns, sharks, and alligators, and a rational fear of spiders, snakes, and scorpions. (I have been stung by scorpions twice.)

17. I am allergic to strawberries. Not the throat-closing-can’t-breathe kind of allergy, but the hives-from-my-nose-to-my-knees kind.


18. I was 38 years old when I finally got my ears pierced.

19. When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would always respond with “Carol Burnett.” I still do.

20. I can carry entire conversations with movie quotes and song lyrics.

Anything else you’d like to know? Just ask.

When I Grow Up

When I was five years old, I remember someone asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I told them “Carol Burnett.” It was true then and it’s still true for me.

As I grew a little older, though, I learned to read, and it broadened my outlook a bit. In the third grade I read every Nancy Drew book I could find, along with Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland and Little Women.

Click to see and purchase! Click to see and purchase! Click to see and purchase! Click to see and purchase! Click to see and purchase!

Little Women was it, too. I think between the third and sixth grades, I probably read Little Women a dozen times. I was going to be Jo March. I was going to tell stories. I was going to be a writer. Period.

In Junior High I joined the school publication staff and worked on the newspaper and the yearbook. In High School I was the Entertainment Editor for the newspaper. I was a writer. Done.

Now in the “real world” I write. I tell stories. I write blogs about story-tellers. I teach children through stories. I have my first novel waiting for publication at the publisher. I have a few more “in development” as they say in the business.

Now do I consider myself Jo March? Well, I don’t have to wear corsets and hoop skirts—so maybe I have a little advantage over the fictional character. But I do consider myself blessed to take adventures in words through reading and story-telling, just as she did.

Whether I’m acting out a silly skit (like Carol Burnett) for a group of kids, or reading a story book, or writing an adventure set in far off lands, story-telling is an essential part of my life. My childhood dreams have come true, and for that I am truly grateful.

As far as the movie versions of my favorite books, I must say that I love them all. Liberties were taken, but in every case I found that the players all stayed true to the spirit of the characters.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.

Joy Comes in the Morning

“…weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Psalm 30:5b KJV

“Comedy is tragedy plus time.” –Carol Burnett

My son and I were talking yesterday about how much more difficult it was to pull off comedy than drama. It’s easy to make people cry, because everyone has suffered to some degree at some time in their lives.

As far as books and movies go, a Nicholas Sparks story can bring anyone to tears. He tells tales about love that suffers through unthinkable tragedy and endures somehow—even through the loss of a partner.

The thing is, even if we haven’t gone through the same tribulation, we all can certainly imagine losing a loved one, and just thinking about that can make us misty.

The more difficult task is seeing that same devastation and finding humor in it. I think Carol Burnett is correct in her method—time. Time heals. Time provides wisdom and hindsight. Time provides perspective.

Somewhere in all of that, we tend to find humor. We, as humans, crave joy and laughter. We need it to survive. We need it to make sense of all the bad stuff we deal with every day. Let’s face it, there’s so much terror in this world that we don’t have to look very far to find something to make us cry. Finding something that makes us smile and laugh is a treasure.

That’s why truly beautiful comedies are rare. They require a great story and perfect timing. The best comedies incorporate lots of other emotions, too. They satisfy.

One of my favorite comedies is Mr.Blandings Builds His Dream House, (1948) starring Cary Grant and Myrna Loy. This film follows a couple who fall in love with the American dream of owning a home, and the nightmare that accompanies it.

As a home designer, I recommend this film to my clients as a way to see what they are about to undertake. It’s slightly exaggerated, but not too much.

Myrna Loy in Best Years of Our Lives trailer closeupWe laugh as the characters go through one ordeal after another, because we’ve all been in similar situations.

Of course, it wasn’t funny when we were going through it, but to see Cary Grant and Myrna Loy crammed into a teeny-tiny bathroom—with her primping and him trying desperately to shave in the same minuscule mirror—we can’t help but laugh.

Perspective. Time. Joy.

Cary Grant

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.


Spoiled and I Know It

The Lord has blessed me far beyond what I deserve. I know this full well. Beyond a loving family and dear friends, I live in a beautiful house and drive a fun little car. I have three flexible full-time jobs that I love, and a few really fun extra-curricular activities that I get to enjoy often. But next month is special for me. November brings my birthday.

This year, as I turn 45 years old, I have much to celebrate.

A few days ago, a collector’s DVD set of The Carol Burnett Show—my all-time favorite—was released. At five, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said, “Carol Burnett!” and I meant it. Still true today.

The Friday after my birthday, Skyfall premiers. If you’ve read much of my blog before today, you know that I am a devoted Bond fan. I keep hearing critics say that this may be the best James Bond movie yet. Every time I think of it, I do a little happy dance.

Besides the fact that these are some of my favorite things, November is also National Novel Writing Month. I’ve been working on my outline for the sequel novel to the story I wrote last November. It’s really starting to take shape, and I can’t wait to revisit my characters again.

By the time the month ends, the holidays will be in full swing. Shopping, baking, and parties will fill my calendar for the rest of 2012. I know there are those who hate the season. I understand—there are plenty of things about it that I dread. But when I think of all the things for which I have to be grateful, I’m ready to do that little happy dance again.

I enjoy my movies, yes. For me, they represent a few hours of rest with my husband or kids or besties. I love my family and friends. Without the special times with my loved ones, the films I watch would lose their meaning.

I hope that you’ll take a break from the business of November and spend a few hours with someone you love. Make some caramel popcorn. Snuggle under a blanket. Giggle through a movie. Wander through a memory and make a new one to carry with you. Count your blessings and enjoy being spoiled.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.

The Usual Suspects

I love acting troupes—the small bands of “regulars” that perform skits and movies together and make the world smile. From my early childhood, I wanted to be a part of that family.

I watched The Carol Burnett Show every week. If I want a quick laugh, all I have to do is think about Tim Conway interrogating Lyle Waggoner with an Adolf Hitler hand puppet singing “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” I imagine Carol Burnett dressed up in curtains with the rods still attached and a tassel hanging in her face. “I saw it hanging in the window and just…  had to have it.” I loved when she spoofed the classic movies! I adored the Momma’s Family skits, and still crack up when I think about the Siamese Elephant improvisation that had multiple cast members in stitches.

I enjoy watching Monty Python’s Flying Circus episodes, too. Most of the skits they strung together had no definitive end, but instead just changed direction and carried on with silliness. “And now for something completely different.” Seeing John Cleese as a cowboy in “Rogue Cheddar” or Terry Jones competing in the World Hide-and-Seek finals gives me the giggles. My whole family tosses Flying Circus quotes around on a daily basis. It’s funny how other people react.

Another favorite growing up was SCTV. Rick Moranis, John Candy, Andrea Martin, Harold Ramis, Gene Levy, Catherine O’Hara and others kept me completely tickled. I recall one late night when I had a friend over, and we were preparing for an End-of-School luau, making paper leis and watching SCTV. The premise of this particular episode was “Preteen Telethon for Preteen World.” All of the actors dressed as eleven and twelve year-olds complete with bad complexions and retainers/ head gear. Their “preteen” band played Chilliwack’s hit “My Girl (Gone, Gone, Gone).” We laughed so hard that couldn’t string our leis. How many people can say that?

Saturday Night Live has had some amazing talent in their casts as well. Chevy Chase’s President Ford, Steve Martin’s King Tut, Gilda Radner’s Roseanne Roseannadanna, Eddie Murphy’s Mr. Robinson, and Dennis Miller’s anchorman make frequent appearances in my home. “That’s the news, and I am outta here.” My boys’ favorites are the “More Cowbell” skit and “I Wish it was Christmas Today.” They watch for Jimmy Fallon’s giggles in every skit he’s in.

Another acting troupe that thrilled me was the constant cast of A&E’s A Nero Wolfe Mystery series. Rex Stout is one of my favorite authors, and Timothy Hutton, Maury Chaykin, Colin Fox, Bill Smitrovich and Kari Matchett did a wonderful job of staying true to Stout’s characters. They charmed me with every novel they adapted.

If you love sketch comedies and seeing the same great actors playing a variety of characters, skip over to and search for Tales from the Pub videos. Larry Blamire has assembled a fantastic troupe of players that spoof  Twilight Zone-type stories hilariously. Blamire leads Jennifer Blaire, Andrew Parks, Alison Martin, Brian Howe, Fay Masterson, Dan Conroy, Trish Geiger, and Kevin Quinn to create a world of silly spookiness that will bring a smile to your face. Since laughter is the best medicine, just think of it as a prescription for a joyful, healthy week!

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading!