Journey 151: Poltergeist 


This afternoon my sister Linda, our friend Justin, and I caught a matinee showing of Poltergeist, a remake of the 1982 classic horror film. Although I don’t watch many movies in this genre, I had seen the original and I was interested in comparing that film to this updated version.  And, this was the first time Linda, Justin and I have attended a movie together. I looked forward to a fun afternoon. 

Poltergeist stars Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Saxon Sharbino, Kyle Catlett, Kennedi Clements, Jared Harris and Jane Adams. This horror/thriller was directed by Gil Kenan. It is rated PG-13 for scary sequences, mild suggestiveness and brief language and has a run time of 1 hour and 33 minutes. 

Eric (Rockwell) and Amy (DeWitt) Bowen move into a new house in an ordinary looking subdivion with their three children: Kendra (Sharbino), Griffin (Catlett), and Madison (Clements). Amy is a stay-at-home mom and Eric is in between jobs, hoping this move will bring fresh career opportunities. The family is dealing with stress involved with the move. Kendra is angry about being uprooted from her friends, Maddie is talking to imaginary friends and Griffin is afraid of everything. 

The anxious boy gets the attic bedroom. Noises are keeping him awake, creepy clowns tumble out of the attic storage room and there’s a live squirrel on the loose. He refuses to stay in his room alone and ends up sleeping with his parents on this first night in the new house. 

Maddie isn’t afraid. But she is talking to unseen friends and Griffin finds her in the middle of the night, her hands on the large flat screen tv, carrying on a conversation with the static flickering across the screen. The house seems to have electrical issues, as lights and devices turn on and off, and stray currents flow, shocking those who touch the stair bannister or rest their hands on the closet doorknob in Maddie’s bedroom. 

Griffin is afraid of that closet, even though the doors won’t open. He watches a baseball roll across the floor on its own and come to rest against those doors. And comic books he was carrying, and had placed on the floor, stack up in an intricate pattern, blocking the bedroom door. 

No one believes Griffin as he tries to tell about his terrifying experiences. But by that night, they all believe as the house unleashes its wrath against the new occupants. The parents discover at a dinner party that the subdivion was built over an old cemetery. The kids, left home with older sister Kendra as the sitter, experience a range of terrors, from an attack of clown dolls to slime oozing up in the basement to the old tree next to the house breaking through the attic window and snatching Griffin. 

In the midst of these alarming activities, Maddie’s closet doors open at last and she is drawn away into a swirling vortex. The focus now becomes getting Madison back…from where and from what, the Bowens aren’t sure. Amy hears her daughter’s voice calling out from the TV. And then nothing more. 

The family turns to paranormal investigator Dr. Brooke Powell (Adams) and her team. They connect the activity in the house to poltergeists and experience phenomenon themselves, but they are unable to retrieve the little girl. Dr. Powell calls in celebrity ghost hunter Carrigan Burke (Harris) who is known for his work clearing houses of unwanted presences. He concludes each job with the line, “This house is clean!” 

The Bowens’ house, however, is not so easy to clear. The poltergeists are trapped and angry that the cemetery was desecrated, the headstones removed, but the bodies left. Their intention, Burke decides, is to use the innocent and pure Maddie to lead them into the light, freeing them. If she does, she will not be able to return to her family. 

Using technology that includes a camera on a drone and a simple rope, the group discovers Maddie’s whereabouts in the other dimension that she’s held in. Griffin finds his courage and goes in after her, bringing them both back to their waiting parents and sister. 

They family tries to leave the house but the poltergeists won’t allow that, dragging their car, with them inside, into the living room and pulling Maddie back toward the closet. Burke comes to the rescue, going into the vortex between dimensions, allowing the Bowens to escape the house. A great light explodes out of the house, flowing upward, as Burke leads the lost souls into the light. He survives, joining Dr. Powell in creating a new ghost hunters TV show. 

This was an okay show. The special effects and use of current technology far outshine the original, although I think the 1982 release carried the story better. Although there were a couple of tense scenes that made me jump, our little group found ourselves laughing more than crying out. 

Linda and I discussed the movie on the way home and came to the conclusion that the problem with most scary films is that they reveal too much and end up going over the top on special effects. They go more for the shock factor rather than the fright factor. It  would be much more spooky if subtle but realistically possible events were portrayed without going into the preposterous. Hearing noises, seeing things moved out of place, catching shadowy figures out of the corner of the eye, electrical devices going on and off are all more frightening, yet intriguing too. 

We decided that perhaps we need to write a screenplay for a really good ghost story, for this was not the case in this film. It was interesting to watch, having seen the original movie. However the best part of the afternoon was hanging out with Linda and Justin. Let’s do another movie guys!


Journey 150: Girls’ Afternoon


Aubrey Rilynn Moore. London Kate Miller. In reality, these two little girls, ages 6 and 5 respectively, are second cousins. Their fathers are first cousins. In their hearts and minds, these two have been best friends and sisters since they were each old enough to toddle about and talk. 

Aubrey is my granddaughter and London is my sister Linda’s granddaughter. As often as we can, working with everyone’s schedules, we get these little girls together to play. Because of school and parents’ schedules, it’s been a couple of months since the girls have had a play date. We made that happen today, declaring a girls’ afternoon. 


After lunch and time in the playground area at Chick-Fil-A, a favorite hang out for Aubrey and London, we camped out at Linda’s house. The cool rainy weather changed our original plans, keeping us indoors for a time. But that didn’t matter to these cuties. They were happy to see each other, happy to have time to chat and play. When the sprinkles stopped for a while, we went for a walk, the girls pushing baby dolls in strollers. 

Back at the house a sound that excites children everywhere caught their attention. The ice cream truck was coming, its familiar tune announcing its progress through the neighborhood. Of course, the driver was thrilled to stop for these bight eyed girls. 

The girls had a wonderful afternoon together. They played indoors and out, introduced themselves to the new children who have moved into the neighborhood, shared, laughed, acted silly, talked Yaya and Gigi into not one but two walks through the neighborhood. Linda and I are always there, at the edges of their playfulness, listening, watching, loving these sweet girls. 

As I was the observer of their joyful time together, I was struck with a sudden thought. They are growing up. Of course they are, getting taller, learning so much. What I noticed was how their conversations are shifting, their awareness of the world deepening. The little squabbles over who plays with what have disappeared. They were kind and polite, to each other and to their grandmothers, and to those who served them food or stood in line with them in the bathroom.  There was no pouting, no tears, no sassiness. High energy, yes, hilarious conversations and amusing antics, oh yeah. But they are transitioning, from little kids to thoughtful young ladies who certainly know how to have fun while interacting at a high level, socially and intellectually. 

Too soon, London and Aubrey will leave childhood behind and gracefully enter their teens. In their fresh, beautiful faces I caught glimpses of the young ladies who are emerging. I saw a flash of the future today…prom dresses and drivers licenses and first love….and Aubrey and London, poised, confident, joyful, walking arm in arm, chatting as they have always done. And while it brought a sting of tears to my eyes, it brought great joy to my heart. Cousins/sisters/friends….I’m so grateful for these girls and so grateful that they have each other. They share a deep bond, these two. Linda and I are blessed to get to hang out with them. 


Journey 149: BBC’s Sherlock

sherlock season one poster

I’ve been helping out one of my daughters, and her family, while they are on vacation, by checking in on her dogs. They are great pups, and easy to care for. I feed them in the morning and let the small dogs out a couple of times during the day for bathroom breaks.  I know they are missing their humans, so I am spending the evenings with them, keeping them company.

They are happy, I get puppy kisses and snuggles….and….I get to watch Netflix. I promised my grandson I would NOT watch Doctor Who without him. So I selected the BBC series Sherlock to watch…all three seasons. I have seen a few of the episodes, but I’ve missed some and lost continuity. After letting the dogs romp in the backyard, and petting and loving on the outside dog, the little ones and I settle on the couch to enjoy this quirky, modern day adaptation of Sherlock.

Sherlock Beatrice


Sherlock, which premiered in 2010, stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Rupert Graves, Una Stubbs, Mark Gatiss and Andrew Scott. The show was created by Mark Gatiss (who has a reoccurring role in the series) and Steven Moffat (who is also the creator of Doctor Who), based on the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The series is unrated and each episode has a run time of 1 hour and 30 minutes.

The tagline for this new series is “The world’s favorite detective has emerged from the fog…this is Sherlock for a new generation.” This modernized retelling brings the duo of eccentric Sherlock Holmes (Cumberbatch), consulting detective, and Dr. John Watson (Freeman), returning veteran of the Afghanistan war, to 21st century London. In this first season they meet and become flat mates, residing at 221B Baker Street. Their feisty landlady, Mrs. Hudson (Stubbs), keeps an eye on them and serves as occasional housekeeper and cook.

sherlock holmes and watson

The pair help solve crimes in the streets of London, assisting Inspector Lestrade (Graves) with the New Scotland Yard. The first episode. “A Study in Pink” centers around the growing friendship between Holmes and Watson as they establish how to work together. A cabbie turned serial killer gives them their first case to solve as a team. Solve it they do. This initial episode introduces an arch enemy for Holmes. He remains unseen, with only his name given: Moriarty.

Episode two, “The Blind Banker” has the pair working to uncover a Chinese smuggling ring, with ties again to Moriarty. Holmes’ brother, Mycroft (Gatiss) is introduced. And episode three, “The Great Game”, and the final episode for season one, involves Sherlock solving a series of puzzles. There is a time limit for each and should he fail to decipher the puzzle in time, an innocent person, burdened with explosives, will die. At the end of this episode, Holmes and Watson at last meet Moriarty (Scott). The season ends with a cliff hanger.

sherlock the great game

I thoroughly enjoyed this series. The freshening of the story means updated use of technology, such as computers, cell phones and apps, and current world situations. As Holmes is practicing deduction, his thought processes are shared on the screen, so we can watch his mind at work. The characters remain familiar. Holmes is trying to kick drug and smoking addictions, plays the violin when he’s moody, is brilliant yet gets bored easily, rarely eats, and most definitely dances to music only he can hear.

Watson is endearing. He comes home from the war with a psychosomatic injury that quickly disappears as he becomes involved in crime solving. His deduction skills are not nearly as developed as Holmes’ are, however, he’s attentive, kind toward people, and balances Holmes with his earthy, practical nature.

Sherlock Duke


I love these actors, and it is fun to see them paired in Sherlock. They last worked together in The Hobbit trilogy, with Freeman playing Bilbo, the Hobbit who goes on an incredible adventure, while Cumberbatch voices the fire-breathing dragon Smaug. Cumberbatch’s voice as Smaug is different enough that I don’t get too caught by hearing him as Sherlock. However, it took me well into the second episode before I could separate Bilbo from Dr. Watson. Freeman’s wonderfully expressive face and distinctive voice took me back to the Hobbit…over and over again. I appreciate how much of themselves actors bring to their roles. That smile, that pursing of the lips and tilting of the head are Martin Freeman characteristics, not just Bilbo gestures and expressions. I enjoyed him immensely, and by the end of episode two, Freeman was Dr. John Watson.

Speaking of Middle-Earth, I cracked up over a character in episode three named The Golem. There was even a scene with the silhouette of The Golem on a wall, in a crouched position that was intended, I’m sure, to bring an entirely different Gollum to mind. It was clever…and brilliant…and hugely amusing to me as a Lord of the Rings/Hobbit fan.

I am hooked now on Sherlock, and grateful for the opportunity to catch up on this excellent series. The pups seem to enjoy it too….as long as I don’t move around too much and disturb their slumbers. Tomorrow evening…season two, episodes one and two. The game is on!

Sherlock Agnes


Journey 148: Green Smoothie…Not


I am listening when my body tells me it needs something, nutrient wise. When it’s begging for sugar, that’s addiction. I don’t need sugar. However, when I’m craving kale, that’s something I pay attention to. 

I realized yesterday my body was yearning for this nutrient dense, dark green vegetable. Kale is packed with fiber and phytonutrients and it’s an excellent source of vitamins C, K and beta-carotene. It also contains calcium and magnesium making it a potent superfood. 

I purchased kale for the first time at the Webb City Farmers Market Saturday, which was very convenient since I was now craving it. I decided this morning to make my first green smoothie. 

The recipe I used called for kale, collard greens, cucumber, celey, ginger, lemon and a green apple. This is where I had to get creative. I substituted blueberries, which are phytonutrient rock stars as well, and strawberries for the collard greens, cucumber, celery and apple…none of which I had on hand this morning. 

The drink was amazing…earthy, tangy, loaded with nutrients, satisfying….and definitely NOT green. What color do you get when you mix green, blue and red? Brown. A kind of purplish brown. My smoothie did have green flecks in it though!

It was a great drink and I felt healthier for starting my day off with this powerful mix of superfoods. I also made a grocery list. Next time I make a green smoothie, it will, indeed, be green. 


Journey 147: Interlopers in the Garden

wildflowers daisy fleabane 2

After a day in Arkansas, helping with Greg’s dad, the garden beckoned to me when I returned. We were rain-free today, and the warm air and abundant sunshine lured me in. The garden is thriving, because of….or in spite of…the heavy rain we’ve experienced in the Joplin area.

wildflowers cranes

I will have to relocate the cranes soon, as the ornamental Japanese Silver Grass will soon hide them from sight. I scouted out new locations for this pair, and in doing so, was delighted by the Impatiens blooming profusely in the corner of the meditation area. Those shade loving plants are loving the rainy season we are having.

wildflowers impatiens

As I prowled about the garden, I crooned to perennials, stepping carefully over young plants that are still pushing up through the ground and watching out for toads. Beauty assailed me in every section of the backyard. The Lamb’s Ear is blooming! I didn’t even know that this wooly looking plant did that. It has put up stalks that are approximately three feet tall, with small purples flowers on the cone-like tips.

wildflowers lambs ear

I stopped at last in front of the mystery plant that I have been watching. This evening it has white daisy-like flowers blooming amid the lush green foliage. Using my LikeThat Garden app, I was able to correctly identify this plant at last…although I didn’t really need the app. The small white blooms with yellow centers gave the identity away. This is a Missouri wildflower…a Daisy Fleabane.

wildflowers daisy fleabane

I have two interlopers in the garden. I’ve allowed another Missouri wildflower, Harvey’s Buttercup, to remain in the southern border as well. Because it grows rapidly and blooms early…March to May…I have kept several of these wildflowers in my perennial bed. The tiny bright yellow flowers added a splash of color while the slower to arrive perennials were growing. Most of them are budding now and beginning to blossom.

wildflowers harveys buttercup 2

And so now I have a decision to make. Will I allow the self-starting wildflowers to remain? Or remove them to make space for the flowering plants that I intentionally tucked into the ground? The Harvey’s Buttercups are at the end of their flowering season. They return easily in the spring, popping up all over the yard. Those will go.

wildflowers harveys buttercup

The Daisy Fleabane is a large plant, taking up a considerable amount of space in the midst of my perennials. While it has plentiful green stalks and leaves, the flowers are tiny by comparison. However, the daisy- like blooms lend a charming cottage-style grace to the garden. I researched the plant, to help me make my decision. The plant was used in Medieval times as an astringent, as a herbal remedy for dysentery, and when dried and burned, the smoke was, indeed, a repellent for fleas and other insects. The herbaceous plant was also regarded as a repellent for wayward spirits and was often hung over the doorways of houses, to protect against evil. In a similar fashion, it was thought to drive away the “frenzies” that might afflict a person, if the one in such a state bound the plant to his forehead.

After curiosity guided my journey tonight, I decided in favor of keeping this intruder in the garden, at least for now. If the Daisy Fleabane crowds my other plants too much, I’ll attempt to relocate it to another area. I love the surprises that life brings across my path….or sneaks into my garden. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Earth laughs in flowers.” I get the joke now.

wildflowers earth laughs

Journey 146: American Sniper

American Sniper movie poster

When I returned The Rewrite to the DVD store yesterday, I discovered that one copy of American Sniper, the last on my list of Academy Award Best Picture nominated films, had been returned and was on the shelf. I’ve been reluctant to watch this movie, knowing it is a true story and how the story ends, and because I am not a fan of war movies. I am not a fan of war, is a more accurate statement. I’ll not debate the merits of war. Having just passed Memorial Day, and feeling gratitude for my freedoms, which have been hard earned and maintained at a price, it is not my place to say whether war is right or wrong. Unfortunately, although I would wish it otherwise, war seems inevitable. My thoughts, after watching the movie, are on Chris Kyle, and on the strength of the film.

American Sniper stars Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Jake McDorman, Luke Grimes and Sammy Sheik. It was directed by Clint Eastwood and is based on the autobiography by the same name, written by Chris Kyle. The action/biography has a R rating, for strong and disturbing war violence, language and mature themes, and has a run time of 2 hours and 12 minutes. It was nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actor for Cooper, Best Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing, for which it won its only Oscar.

Chris Kyle (Cooper) is a Texan, a wanna be cowboy and rodeo rider, a skilled and gifted marksman with a rifle, a man ready to fall in love and settle down. At the age of 30 his life shifts and he joins the Navy, becoming a Seal and training as a sniper so that he can fight terrorism. He meets Taya (Miller), the woman he wants to marry, as he is completing his training, and wed her he does. Shortly after, he ships out on his first tour of duty in Iraq.

Kyle immediately bonds with his team, taking his role as protector very seriously. His skill as a marksman makes him the best sniper in American history. Some of his targets are children and women, intent on killing those under his protection. He takes no joy in doing his job so well. But he does excel, earning the name The Legend before he completes his first tour. In the search for an al Qaeda leader named Zarqawi, and his ruthless comrade, The Butcher, Kyle learns of his counterpart, a Syrian sniper called Mustafa (Sheik), known for making nearly impossible shots.

Kyle serves four tours of duty. Between each tour, he returns home to his wife and growing family. But his heart, his mind, his determination to protect, are still in Iraq. He struggles with being a civilian, a husband, a father. He can’t find his purpose. The call of his team, his brotherhood, is stronger than the desire to remain safely at home. He returns to war, again and again. First to hunt down the man known as The Butcher, and ultimately, to take out Mustafa.

Even with a price on his head in Iraq, he perseveres in his commitment to watch over and protect his comrades. The loss in combat of his two closest friends, Biggles (McDorman) and Marc (Grimes) enforces his determination, until at last, during his fourth and last tour of duty, he succeeds in his personal goal of taking out the other sniper. That accomplished, he finally feels ready to go home.

American Sniper move Chris and Taya

Stateside again, Kyle continues to struggle with living a civilian life, until he finds a way to help his brothers as they return home. He reaches out to veterans with disabilities and those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. He enjoys taking these wounded individuals out to the shooting range and helping them with target practice, an act he feels helps them to feel like men again. Working with his comrades gives him purpose, gives him others to watch over, and with that, he moves beyond military life and begins interacting with his family, moving to a farm and teaching his son how to hunt.

On February 2, 2013, Kyle takes a troubled vet to the shooting range, with the intention of helping him, at the request of the young man’s mother. The film ends here, with a screen shot telling of Kyle’s death that day, while at the range. He was killed by the man he was attempting to help. Actual photos of Chris Kyle, his wife and his military funeral appear during the credits.

I can’t say that I enjoyed this film. During most of it, I repeated to myself, over and over, I hate war, I hate war. The scenes in Irag were difficult for me to watch. However, the film is very well done, with the focus on the main characters and their lives. I didn’t feel that there was a glorification of the acts of war.

These are my thoughts on the life of Chris Kyle. He initially wanted to serve and protect his country, and in doing so, his family. What took over his life, what seemed to feed his soul and make him come alive, was his determination to protect his brothers. I’ve heard how powerful a band of brothers becomes, how connected. And that is very evident in this film. Kyle did serve his country. He did love his family. His overwhelming, driving passion was to watch over his comrades and save as many as he could. His only regret was that he couldn’t save more.

The movie captured the deep commitment that Chris Kyle had, and the toll that the tours of duty took on his physical body and his mind. I hurt for Kyle, watching him struggle to adjust to a new way of life, post war. I hurt for his wife and children. The remaining years were short for them as a family, as Kyle found a way to protect and serve his comrades again, his wounded brothers. It appeared that just as the hero, the legend, was becoming an ordinary man again, a husband and a father, fate took him out. Both men, the decorated sniper and the young vet suffering from PTSD, were victims of a war that they fought in, and could never quite leave behind.

American Sniper Chris and Taya Kyle

Chris & Taya Kyle

Journey 145: Respite from the Rain

respite garden

We’ve had days of rain, this past week. I measured 5 inches of water in one of my garden buckets this afternoon, after emptying it Thursday. I made friends with the rain last year about this time (Day 157: Make Friends with the Rain) so we are good! However, I have missed being out in my garden, puttering around.

This afternoon, there was a respite from the rain. The sun broke through the clouds and the temps climbed into the low 80’s, which meant I donned my gardening clothes and headed outdoors, ready to walk the garden paths and inspect for damage.

The only casualty I found, due to the heavy rain, was that my Fireworks seedlings washed out of their metal bucket. They were only about half an inch tall, and the excessive water was too much for them. I cooed to these little green babies, scooping them off the damp ground and returning them to their bucket, which was a muddy mess. I suspect I’ll be ordering more seeds.

With so much water soaking the ground, I had concerns for some of the other plants. Thankfully, the perennials are well established, with deep roots, and they appeared to be fine, stretching up toward the sun, soaking up the rays as much as I was. Garden toads hopped away as I stepped onto the mulched beds. I welcome these little allies to my paradise.

I took the opportunity to study a couple of plants that have been growing in the southern border. I normally recognize weeds easily. But these two plants have given me pause. I didn’t want to pull up a returning perennial so I’ve let them grow. Today, I called it for one of the plants. Green and lush, it has reached a height of about three feet, without any signs of flowers or buds. I declared it a weed and removed it.

respite weed

The second plant is even taller, with small white flower buds on it. It might be a Missouri wildflower, or it just might be a plant I tucked into the ground last year and it’s grown so much bigger than it did last summer, that I don’t recognize it. I have a great mobile app called LikeThat Garden. When you take a picture of a flower, tree or plant it analyzes the picture and within seconds, identifies it. I’ve used the app when I see a flower or plant I like and don’t know what it is. With the buds still closed, the app couldn’t identify this leafy plant yet. But it tried. The app suggested it might be Cannabis! Uh, no, I’m sure it is not! I got a laugh out of it though. And the plant got a reprieve. I’ll let it open its buds and see what it is.

respite mysterious plant

I enjoyed sitting in the sunshine, after my stroll through the garden. I thought about removing that weed. I respect all living things. A part of me hates to pull up any green plant from the ground. However, the weed would affect the flowering plants around it, taking vital nutrients from the plants that I want in the garden.

I mused that I am much the same. I can tolerate a variety of energy around me. However, I am learning to limit contact with negative, damaging energy. Someone who sees life as out to get her and lives as a victim, or a situation that brings chaos and strife, pull vital nourishing energy from me. I want to help others who are willing to grow and “bloom”. I’ll walk alongside anyone for a time.  And, I realize there are some who don’t want help, don’t want to shift, grow or learn. It’s not my role to prune them away. It’s my role to limit my contact and live in such a way that they either want to know more….or want to go down another path, away from me. I want to grow and bloom and stretch toward the sun, my roots deep within fertile soil.

I love my times of work and reflection in the garden. Peace dwells there as surely as the Lamb’s Ear, Clematis and Coreopsis, the butterflies, lady bugs and toads. The rain moved back in this evening. I accept it. It doesn’t do any good to do otherwise! The showers will stay until they move on, no matter how many times I sing, ‘Rain, rain, go away…’. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “The best thing one can do when it’s raining….is let it rain.” I am letting it rain.

respite garden 2

Journey 144: The Rewrite

the rewrite movie poster

I hoped to bring home the DVD American Sniper for movie night, as it would have completed the list of Academy Award nominated films for the best picture category. It was not to be. It is a holiday weekend…and a rainy one at that. The movie was not available. Undeterred, I wandered the new release aisles, determined to watch something tonight. I passed over several films on my “Watch soon” list, waiting for something to grab me. I made it to the R section (that’s alphabetical, not rating) before a movie pulled me in.

The Rewrite stars Hugh Grant, Marisa Tomei, J.K. Simmons, Allison Janney, Chris Elliot, Caroline Aaron and Bella Heathcote. It was directed, and written by, Marc Lawrence. This romantic comedy is unrated (if I were giving it a rating, it would be PG-13, for mature themes) and has a run time of 1 hour and 37 minutes.

Keith Michaels (Grant) is an aging Hollywood screenwriter, best known for winning an Oscar for a screenplay he wrote 20 years ago. His subsequent screenplays have all bombed, as movies, and his life has tanked as well. His wife divorced him, he’s broke and unable to interest anyone in his latest screenplay, and he hasn’t spoken to his son in more than a year.

His agent (Aaron) finds him a job teaching a screenwriting class in the small town of Binghamton, NY at the local university. Desperate, Michaels takes the job, although he despises teaching. He firmly believes writing can’t be taught. You have the gift…or you don’t.

He gets off to a shaky start as a college professor. He breaks the Big Rule on campus by immediately entering into a relationship with one of his students, Karen (Heathcote). At his first staff meet and greet, he consumes too much wine and insults Dr. Mary Weldon (Janney), the head of his department and of the ethics committee. Rather than selecting his class by reading their 30 page screenplay submissions, Michaels looks up each hopeful student on the university website and fills his class with the most attractive female students…and two token male students. And, on his first day of class, he teaches for less than 5 minutes and dismisses the class, telling them to write their third acts and meet back in a month.

In spite of his desire to be anywhere but Binghamton, doing anything but teaching, Michaels begins to shift. His neighbor and colleague, Jim (Elliot) becomes his friend and ally. Dr. Lerner (Simmons), dean of the university, reveals his tender family side, and genuinely likes his new, untraditional professor. And Michaels begins to take an interest in his students and their writing abilities. After being called out on not reading their scripts, he takes the time to do so and discovers talent….and a reminder of why he writes as well.

He also meets single mom and student, Holly Carpenter (Tomei), whose positive outlook on life at first baffles Michaels, and then intrigues him. Holly challenges Michaels, in a good way, keeping him grounded and real, while gently questioning his beliefs, about life, about himself. She is not only writing a screenplay…she is ready to write the next chapter in her own life. Her fresh perspective, along with the rest of the students in Michaels class, helps him to stop living in a past that is 20 years old and find his own new vision and voice.

This was the perfect movie for me this evening. Amazingly, I have been thinking about the movie, Four Weddings and a Funeral, a lot lately, which is one of my favorite Hugh Grant films. I was just thinking I hadn’t seen him in a movie recently. And then there he was, on the cover of a DVD facing out at eye level. The writing theme intrigued me as well and I knew I had found my selection, even though I had not heard of this movie.

I’m a huge Hugh Grant fan. His delivery style is perfection…witty, underplayed, with afterthought type lines that give me the giggles. It was wonderful to watch him again, and see him take his character through the transformation from washed out screenplay writer to compassionate, gifted teacher. Investing in others ignited his own writing passion as well. Caring about others encouraged him to reach out again to his own college aged son.

Marisa Tomei is a favorite also. I appreciated her character’s view on life, which Tomei captured with humor and charm. She told Michaels she didn’t just wake up every morning in an inspirational video. She lived what she believed and taught her daughters to do the same. Tomei’s character was inspiring, simply because she rose above her circumstances, walked her talk, and saw through the stories Michaels had created to hide behind and get by in.

The Rewrite gets a big thumbs up from me. And I had the pleasure of satisfying my Hugh Grant craving. The last “oh yes, of course” that made me laugh during this film? There is a clip of Michael’s watching his younger self receive his Oscar and give his acceptance speech. The footage was real. It was of Grant receiving his Golden Globe and giving his speech for….Four Weddings and a Funeral. Absolutely perfect!

the rewrite on the merry go round

Journey 143: Chillin’ at Chili’s


After a pleasant and lengthy visit with Greg’s dad in Decatur, AR today, Greg and I hopped over to Rogers, AR to browse in a Barnes & Noble. We enjoy this bookstore and Joplin doesn’t have one. Today, however, we were passing time as we waited for two awesome people to join us for dinner at a nearby restaurant.  

It has been fun having Greg’s cousin Pam and her husband Jay living in NW Arkansas. In the past year, especially,  we’ve had opportunity to get together often, and it is always fun. 


This evening we sat down to share a meal at another place that Joplin doesn’t have…yet…a Chili’s Grill & Bar. Featuring Tex-Mex food, this restaurant is a casual dining franchise based out of Texas. The food and service were excellent. 

It was the company that was most excellent though.  I enjoyed catching up with Pam and Jay. We chatted about work and our families, laughed as we shared stories, debated over dinner selections. Pam stayed with her traditional favorite…chicken strips. The rest of us dined on chicken enchiladas with sour cream sauce, lime rice and black beans. Delicious and huge portions. 

It was a great evening, eating together, before Greg and I headed back to Joplin. I really appreciate Pam. I’ve known her since I was a teenager, and she’s not only a friend…I consider her family too. She’s fun with a great sense of humor and shows kindness, concern and compassion toward others.  I’ve only known Jay for a short time, but his quiet steadfastness complements Pam perfectly, and he too has a great heart, open and accepting toward others. 

For Greg, whose only sibling, Ray, passed 13 years ago, Pam is like the sister he never had. With only his father remaining, in his original familial group, it has been important for Greg to reconnect with his cousins: Pam, her sister Linda and brothers Mark and Tim, and their children and grandchildren. Family is important. Family is vital. There’s not only a shared heritage but shared stories and a shared past as well. 

It’s a bonus when you all like each other and enjoy spending time together! Here’s to many more lunches, dinners and opportunities to hang out. 


Journey 142: Remembering

st johns memorial chapel

I knew when I woke up this morning, that it wasn’t an ordinary Friday. As I moved from light slumber to full consciousness, I was immediately aware of a heaviness in the room, crowding me. It was overcast outside, not as light as it should have been, but that didn’t account for the somber stillness in the room.

And then I remembered….it was May 22. It all made sense then. Four years ago today, Joplin and its neighboring community of Duquesne were devastated by an EF-5 tornado that cut a path of destruction through the southern part of the city. In its wake lay the rubble of thousands of homes and businesses, piles of twisted cars and trucks, trees pulled from the ground or, if left standing, stripped of leaves, small branches and bark. Big box stores such as Wal-mart, Home Depot and Academy Sports were gone or severely damaged. St. John’s hospital was ravaged, as was the high school and numerous restaurants, churches, elementary schools and parks. One hundred and sixty one people lost their lives….men, women, children.

st johns memorial tornado tree

Our funny looking trees that survived the tornado

As I got ready for the day, I pondered the heaviness that I felt. I am intuitive and empathic, gifts since birth. I wasn’t just feeling sad, remembering the day. I was feeling the accumulated emotion of hundreds of people in the Joplin area, and beyond, who were feeling grief and sadness….who were remembering. I realized it must be a phenomenon created by the great disruption of energy, accompanied by intense fear and loss. And the loss was so massive, of life, of pets, of possessions.

I moved through my day, as I normally would, but with my awareness heightened, my emotions just beneath the surface, remembering as well. I took shelter during the tornado. I felt the house shudder and buck under the impact of wind and debris, windows shattering. I heard the horrific noise of my neighborhood being torn apart.  I felt intense concern for my family members, and relief as one by one, they were accounted for. I hurried into the next block, with my heart pounding, to my youngest child’s house, or what was left of it, and felt the greatest of gratitude when I saw her standing in her yard, wrapped in a blanket. I don’t believe anyone living in Joplin that day was left untouched by what happened. The upheaval of the city shifted and changed lives.

st johns memorial vacant lot

A vacant lot where a house once stood

My path this morning criss-crossed through the tornado zone. I continue to live within the area.  In the four years since the storm, I’ve grown accustomed to the sights and sounds of re-building, the vacant lots, which are decreasing in number, the funny looking tornado trees, as I call them. I was more mindful today, as I drove. On a corner a new bank is being built. Apartment buildings are going up nearby. New houses are filling in my neighborhood. Everywhere there were signs of growth, progress, rebirth. I cruised slowly through the area, really looking, carrying that collective heaviness like a weight on my shoulders and chest.

st johns memorial commercial construction

st johns memorial new construction

After a wonderful time this afternoon, spent with my grandson Dayan watching Dr. Who, I returned to Joplin and after a quick stop at home, headed out again. I was very aware of the time…5:20…the time the tornado struck. I knew where I wanted to go, to spend a few moments reflecting and releasing. I had not visited this place yet. It was calling to me.

On the old site of St. John’s hospital is a newly erected memorial. The hospital has relocated to just south of Joplin, and opened its doors in March of this year. The St. John’s Mercy Memorial Garden has a beautiful, spacious pavilion standing on the exact location of the former hospital’s chapel. High atop a grassy knoll, the serene space overlooks the newly restored Cunningham Park to the north, with its children’s play areas, memorials and the Butterfly Garden, and the new Irving Elementary School to the south. To the east are neighborhoods of newly constructed houses, testaments to the strength of Joplin in overcoming this tragedy. And to the west, where once there stood a vast medical community, there are empty spaces being reclaimed by grasses and nature. Perhaps, someday, buildings will stand there again.

st johns memorial cunningham park

Cunningham Park

I sat, alone, in this sacred place. Four years ago, the tornado would have just passed this place, leaving devastation behind. Closing my eyes, I could hear the roar of the wind and the sounds of breaking glass and screaming metal. I let that old energy rise within me and pass on through. There followed the cries of hundreds of people, in pain, in shock, in sorrow, accompanied by the persistent wail of sirens. I let those too pass through me. My emotions rose, briefly, fiercely…and they moved through. At last, there was silence. My shoulders, neck, head, jaws and chest hurt. The weight grew heavy indeed, pressing me into the bench. And yet, in that deep silent heaviness, I began to feel pools of hope. Alert, I opened to more. Eddies of life, currents of faith, pockets of healing were there, beneath the sorrow.

st johns memorial roof

Beneath the pavilion

I breathed deeply and let it all pass through….the fear, the grief, the despair….and then hope, the ability to prevail, the spirit of unity…and Life. Beneath it all….Life. When I stood, the heaviness and pain had eased, carried away with the cool breezes swirling around me. I walked to the four sides of the pavilion and looked out in each direction over Joplin, my home, my community. I sent out love and gratitude and blessing. And peace. The wind brought back silence to me, and deep, sustaining peace in return. It was time to go home.

st johns memorial irving school

Irving Elementary School