Friday, December 30, 2016

If you love something, set it free...

I am starting my resolutions for 2017 a touch early.

I am purging my books.

This is possibly one of the most difficult tasks I have ever taken upon myself.

I have literally thousands of books. I never, ever get rid of a book. I even have a hard time loaning a book for fear that I won't ever see it again.

And yet, here I am, surrounded by my mounds of books-that I love, mind you-and realizing that the time has come to let them go.

Some of this is fun. Some of it is life affirming. Sending a book off with someone that I know will read it and get some joy out of it is kind of like being a matchmaker. Some of my newer, nicer books are finding homes that way.

But, I am a book hoarder. This is something that I ordinarily say proudly, as though it in any way is different from any other hoarding problem. My grandmother, who died 10 years ago, saved everything. She lived through the Depression and so the idea of throwing away a milk bottle cap or a bread bag was just anathema. She lived in mounds and mounds of stuff just because she could not bear to waste anything.

This past year of my life has been a shedding of my soul. Living through my divorce, I have come to realize (with the help of a lot of therapy) was a trauma. Is a trauma. That I am still dealing with. It took me a while to realize that if I rearranged the furniture, it made life easier. Just because it made the path we walk through different-and somehow this helped us to be able to begin to move forward.

I don't understand a lot of the things that I have done that have helped me to move on, but I do know that they have worked. Changing the bedspread helped. Rearranging the cupboards helped. Purging the closets of clothes and toys and just things has helped.

And so, I have come to the books. At first, I couldn't believe that I was actually considering purging the books. I love them. I love having them around even if I have no intention of ever reading them again. My college books state out loud that I took cool sociology classes. I have read classics-surely every home needs the classics on the shelf, even if they will never be pulled down and opened again? And my children-they need to know that books are treasured and loved by their crazy mom, so having books at every turn surely signifies that?

Well, it turns out, no. My children know I love books. They value books. But if they desperately need to read a book about the impeachment process or how potatoes are grown or the history of Canada, they are going to have to go to the library like I did, or, as is quite more likely, just Google it. We have become a storehouse for books, so much so that we don't even know what all we have, and that isn't doing anyone any good.

And so, I am purging. It is a long and arduous process. It will take a long time, even just to physically move them out of all of the nooks and crannies and figure out where exactly I can take them that they will do anyone else any good.

I'm not getting rid of every book, by a long shot. But if a book has served its purpose in our home, it is time to move along and let it go.

That's what 2017 is to me, letting go. I can't begin to express how much it hurts my heart to hold something that I loved and say goodbye. But it's time. It's time.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Best Christmas Movies You Might Not Be Watching...

If you read my blog regularly, you know that I love movies. I also love Christmas, possibly because it is my birthday too, but mostly because I love ritual. Ritual, in my little world, is what makes Christmas such a special time. I love sharing the same books with my girls year after year, lighting our advent candles on Sunday nights, picking out our live tree at Morrison's Tree Farm, getting our ornaments out of the boxes and remembering a certain vacation or character that my girls used to adore...I could go on and on.

And so, obviously, I love Christmas movies. We never get to quite all of the Christmas movies (there are just too many, especially since the girls are at their dad's every other weekend), but there are particular ones that we make it a point to watch every year. Of course we always watch the classics-Charlie Brown and Miracle on 34th Street and White Christmas. I thought for this blog post I would shine a light on some of our perhaps lesser known favorites, in case you were looking for something to watch over the next weekend.

Santa Claus, The Movie

Oh, I adore this weird movie. It's really sort of two movies-the beginning tells the story of how a toymaker named Claus and his wife, Anna, are taken to the North Pole and introduced to the Vendequm, who are the elves who live there making toys. The second half of the movie (the much more fun half) involves Dudley Moore as a rogue elf who ends up working for John Lithgow's evil toymaker B.Z., who ends up nearly destroying the world with exploding candy canes. Really, what more can you ask of a Christmas movie?


Prancer is hands down the most realistic Christmas movie I have ever seen. Jessica is a young girl reeling from the death of her mother who discovers a hurt reindeer that she becomes convinced is Prancer. There are all kinds of great performances in this movie from Cloris Leachman, Abe Vigoda, Ariana Richards, and of course Rebecca Harrell Tickell as Jessica. But the primary reason that I love this movie is Sam Elliott's role as Jessica's dad. A completely ordinary man undone by the loss of his wife and completely unsure of what to do with his precocious daughter, he is the heart and soul of this script.

Babes in Toyland

Babes in Toyland is really two entirely separate movies with the same name, so we call them Babes in Toyland with Annette and the other Babes in Toyland.

Babes in Toyland with Annette is my personal most favorite Christmas movie of all time and it simply would not be Christmas if we didn't watch it. It's an absurd script that is at times over long, but I love the story of Mary Contrary and Tom Piper and the evil Barnaby (played by Ray Bolger, we always carry on about how the scarecrow is the bad guy). I love Ed Wynn and Tommy Kirk and most especially the wedding at the end with Annette's beautiful wedding dress and red cape. It is my favorite of all of Annette's movies (and I love all of Annette's movies).

Babes in Toyland, the Other One, is mostly a completely different story. There is still an evil Barnaby and a Mary Contrary but Tom is replaced by Jack and there's Georgy Porgy and most of all Lisa, who is played by Drew Barrymore, and who is the child through which we are meant to see the movie. It was depressing to me when I read Drew's biography in the 9th grade and discovered a scant few pages devoted to this movie which she seemingly forgot in a drugged out haze. But that is neither here nor there, as it is such a fantastic movie that is, like its predecessor, completely absurd, but it involves my favorite song in a movie ever of all time, "Cincinnati." And one of my most favorite lines ever, after sure disaster has been thwarted by merely singing this song, "I told you Cincinnati was a great place."

Small One

Lastly, our favorite. Small One is a short cartoon about a young boy tasked with taking his donkey, Small One, to the market to sell. Small One has grown old and slow and no one other than his boy really wants him. I won't ruin the ending, but it hits my heart every single time (in exactly the same way that I always cry buckets trying to get out the line, "The wise men will always be Leroy, and Claude, and Ollie Herdman, bearing ham," and Betsy always says," Why do you cry every time when you know that's what it says?"). Because Christmas. And love. And that's what Christmas is all about.