We Bought A Zoo



, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

We Bought A Zoo

image borrowed from IMDB.com

Duncan Mee: I like the animals. I love the humans.

Benjamin Mee: You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.

We Bought A Zoo is a great family flick.  Benjamin Mee, played by Matt Damon is a recent widower trying to raise his two kids on his own.  He decides a change is in order due to a series of events: His son Dylan, whether due to his mom’s death or just teenage melancholy, has a very dark style and has exceeded the three strike policy at his school;  Add that to feeling like a piece of meat thanks to all the single moms at his kids’ school;  Then throw in quitting his job because he’s been given the impression that the only reason he still has it is due to sympathy for his wife’s death.  So, after a horrible day house hunting, they find the perfect house, however, they find it’s part of a defunct zoo.  How hard can it really be???

So with all its heartwarming charm, cast of crazy characters and a few temperamental animals, what lessons can we glean from We Bought A Zoo.

Don’t use people’s sympathies against them:  Dylan is going through a rough time.  No one would doubt that for a minute.  However, he uses it, and plays on it.  He wallows in it, expects everyone else to navigate the minefield he has thrown down.  He even says that no one would expel a kid who just lost their mom.  Now, I’m not saying that Dylan doesn’t have good cause to grieve.  And everyone handles grief differently, but the expectation that everyone will cut him slack indefinitely is a little hard to defend.  And, as Dylan finds out, over time, patience wanes and he won’t always have his grief as a “get out of jail free card.”  So what do you do?

You just need twenty seconds of insane courage:  This is one of the main lines you hear in the trailer, as well as a few times through the movie.  But, its true, isn’t it?  Twenty seconds are actually a long time  – especially when the blood is pumping and that “fight or flight” response kicks in.  In the case of the Mees, they are referring to matters of the heart.  But, that twenty seconds can also be used to speak up in the face of injustice, leap into action in an emergency, volunteer your gifts, etc.  Now, that twenty seconds doesn’t include the thinking time, so don’t use it as an excuse to do something you really shouldn’t.  But when push comes to shove, it only takes twenty seconds to say “yes,” to act in whatever way you’re being called to.  Then, if you take twenty seconds, it might give someone else twenty seconds and so on.  Sometimes just knowing you’re not alone, is the small push that others need, too.

Think about this too in the case of evangelization and missionary work.  I was recently talking to one of my former students who has signed up to be a college missionary.  In their training, they were dropped on a beach and told to go spread the Gospel.  Going to talk to complete strangers is hard enough and then you throw in trying to talk to them about God and His good news!  Admit it – would you do it?

I like the animals.  I love the humans:  When I think about this one, the old bumper sticker “The more people I meet, the more I like my dog” springs to mind…and you expect the zoo staff to have that same philosophy.  The Zoo is full of lots of exotics – both animals and people.  They all make for some pretty interesting events. But, with the exception of the aged lion, the animals are really just a backdrop.  It’s the interaction between the human species that really makes things work.  The support they give each other in spite of their vast differences and idiosyncrasies is really amazing, and they are all pushed by a common goal.  They have a camaraderie that makes them more like a family. They genuinely love each other.  They spend off time together, the whole bit.  A couple of times we see the question posed, “If you had to choose animals or people, which would you choose?” And, despite the love and care shown to the animals, the people win.  So, what do you think you’d choose? 

Next, I’ve noticed that there seems to be a lot of people who show more care and concern for animals than they do for humans.  Ironically, most animal rights people I know are avidly pro-choice.  So, an animal gets better treatment than a human?  How does that work? Now, don’t get me wrong…  I’m pro-life and love animals.  I’ve always had at least one dog, several horses, and have even been around quite a few cows, pigs and chickens and definitely don’t like to see them scared, or in pain.  Loosing our “first-born” chocolate lab mix a few months ago has been really hard, but my love for a being that’s not even the same species helps me know that the power of love is much stronger than we give it credit for.  But, the horrors of what happens during an abortion takes precedent.  There are so many people paying huge amounts of money for babies – and yet so many women feel like they have no other option.  Sadly, I think more than anything, those women are afraid that if they carry a baby to term, they’ll develop that love and they are trying to spare themselves the potential hurt of giving up someone they love or upsetting their current way of life.

When you do something for the right reasons, nothing can stop you:  So, more than once Benjamin is accused of being out of his mind for buying and thinking he could handle running the zoo.  But, its out of love for his children that he is driven to make it work.  He wants them to have the adventure.  He probably (although it’s not stated) is hoping to give them something else to focus on than their grief.  And since they have moved to an area that is relatively distant from the conveniences of town, it might even be something for the kids to do.  But ultimately it’s love – the pure, unconditional love of a father for his children. 

Tree in the road:  (Spoiler alert!!)  So, at the end, they are all ready to open, the rain has lifted, but no one is coming…  their worst fear.  But its Dylan’s faith that says that there’s something wrong.  A tree has fallen blocking the drive to the park, so no one can get to the entrance.  So, you’ve got the right reasons, you’ve accomplished the impossible, but what trees are still in your road?  Do you accept them as a roadblock, or to you charge out to get over?

So, We Bought A Zoo is rated PG, features the talents of Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, and Thomas Hayden Church among many others and with the exception is of the zoo inspector being called or referred to as d— and a little bit of kissing is very clean and a lot of fun.  Benjamin’s assertion that “he had the real thing” when his brother tries to encourage him to get permiscuous is encouraging and is a good example of what love really is.  It might be a little deep for really young viewers, but for those old enough, it is one full of lessons that I’d like my kids to know.

Want to see more about We Bought A Zoo?  Check out http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1389137/

Pride & Prejudice



, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Pride & Prejudice image borrowed from IMDB.com

Pride & Prejudice image borrowed from IMDB.com

Elizabeth Bennet: So which of the painted peacocks is our Mr. Bingley?
Charlotte Lucas: Well he’s on the right and on the left is his sister.
Elizabeth Bennet: And the person with the quizzical brow?
Charlotte Lucas:That is his good friend, Mr. Darcy.
Elizabeth Bennet: The miserable poor soul!
Charlotte Lucas: Miserable, he may be, but poor he most certainly is not.
Elizabeth Bennet: Tell me.
Charlotte Lucas: Ten thousand a year and he owns half of Derbyshire.
Elizabeth Bennet: The miserable half? 

Pride & Prejudice originally was a book written by Jane Austen. It has been adapted for just about every possible performance type and made more than once for the silver screen.  I’ll admit that I’ve never read the book…  but I do hope to.  With so many versions out there, I’m going to limit myself, for the purposes of this entry to the 2005 version where Keira Knightly portrays Elizabeth (aka Lizzie) Bennet.

A quick synopsis for those who don’t know the story:  Pride & Prejudice is the story of the Bennett family and all the drama that surrounds the need for the five daughters to marry well since being female prohibits them from inheriting the estate on which they live.  The eldest daughter, Jane, is quite known for her beauty   and Elizabeth is pretty, but not considered nearly as beautiful as Jane.  The middle daughter is very quiet and homely but plays the piano quite well.  The other two girls, Lydia & Kitty, are quite silly and get quite a reputation as such.  The majority of the film centers around Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy.  Mr. Darcy is very shy, not easy to talk to, and seems like he has a cloud of negativity surrounding him.  He and Elizabeth seem like polar opposites although despite the appearance of being upbeat, Elizabeth seems very negative when it comes to matters of the heart.  So, through a series of overheard conversations, assumptions, misunderstandings and confessions the viewer is drawn in to one of the great love stories of all time.

So what can we gain from what most people see as just a beautiful love story?

Not everyone wears their emotions on their sleeve.  One thing that’s obvious from Pride & Prejudice, as in life, is that not everyone shows their emotions the same way.  An attempt not to seem to eager can come off as indifferent or hateful.  Just because someone does not react the way you think they should, doesn’t make it wrong.  In many cases, there is much more to the story. Surely you’ve seen this in how people handle issues of the day.  Some of the sweetest, most thoughtful people I know are perceived to be “cold fish” when they first meet someone…  and we could go all day on how different people handle grief.  So we do have to be conscious of these differences in our everyday lives, especially when we do not know others particularly well, if at all.

There’s always another side to the story. Maybe it’s naïve, maybe it already happens, but I think that when people are running for a major office, they should, once they’ve gotten pretty close to the end of the campaign, be taken into a room and brought up to speed on all the important stuff going on from the inside track.  I truly believe this is the reason for at least 50% of the broken campaign promises.  Once they really see the full picture, it’s not as simple as it looked on the campaign trail.  We see something similar in Pride & Prejudice.  Mr. Wickham tells a story of how he and Mr. Darcy are acquainted and Elizabeth takes it as gospel because of how little she thinks of Mr. Darcy.   Also, Elizabeth doesn’t discuss the various exchanges she has with Mr. Darcy after their first terse encounters.  So when she has a change of heart about Mr. Darcy, everyone believes the worst of him and can’t understand why she has made such a complete turn around.  There’s always more to the story.  The trick is realizing it and seeking the truth.  Do you notice it in your workplace, or with your family?  When both sides come out, things usually make much more sense.  Think about this in terms of Church history.  When you hear that “Catholics used to chain up the bibles” it’s usually to make Catholics feel like the Church was withholding the Bible from the people.  But, when you consider that this accusation was pre-printing press and that bibles were hand copied and there weren’t really that many copies – and they definitely weren’t cheap, it makes much more sense.  Look at how we interpret Sacred Scripture.  There are so many stories where one small historical or cultural detail brings worlds of clarity.  Make sure you seek the big picture.

Assumptions get you into trouble.  I won’t repeat the old saying, but in some ways its killing me not to.  Nearly every character in Pride & Prejudice makes assumptions.  Either assuming to know another characters feelings, assuming the accuracy of a story that may be some form of half truth or that they can predict the actions of others.  Assumptions lead to lots of problems.  Now, that doesn’t mean that you can’t look ahead, or try to read between the lines, but don’t take it for certain until the proof is there.  These characters assume that they’ve got all the information, when in reality missing pieces make a huge difference.  Think about some times in your life where you made assumptions or had assumptions made about you?  How did they make you feel?

We wouldn’t tease you if we didn’t love you.  Elizabeth is constantly teasing, even when propriety would suggest she should not do so.  We see that her Father has a similar sense of humor. Obviously, not everyone finds this sort of behavior acceptable, especially Lady Catherine, but for Elizabeth, that’s just the way she is.  I have to admit, this is probably the trait I most admire in Elizabeth, but then, I come from a family whose motto is “We wouldn’t tease you if we didn’t love you.”  But, it is something we need to be aware of, both in others and ourselves.  One senior gentleman I deal with regularly teases so close to my insecurities, it took me a long time to realize that he really was kidding.  But after watching him with others, and having a few more exchanges with him myself, I realized that he really was teasing me, that he didn’t mean things the way I was taking them and that he didn’t waste time with those he didn’t care for.  I almost missed getting to know a great guy.  What teasing have you gotten lately?  Was it helpful and relaxed or hurtful?

What is “pride”?  So, we’ve hit on many of the prejudice parts of the movie, but how about pride?  There is a lot of “pride” going around.  Pride in status and breeding, pride in accomplishment, family pride, and pride in self.  We need a certain amount of pride in our lives and not all pride is bad.  But we see the negative side of pride in this flick.  So many of the characters are so full of pride, they don’t seem to see their faults and are very quick to point out the shortcomings of others.  What ways do you think that pride is helpful?  In what ways is it hurtful?

Pride & Prejudice is classic, beautiful and romantic.  It’s got a PG rating and is very clean, apart from a little light kissing at the end.  However, I have a feeling that only artsy teens and adults will enjoy this film.  And hey, if it inspires anyone to read any of Austen’s work, isn’t that a good thing?!

The Descendants



, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Image Courtesty IMDB.com

Image courtesy IMDB.com

The Descendants begins with the revelation that Matt King’s wife, Elizabeth, has been in a boating accident and is in a coma in the hospital.  There’s also a big land sale that has to take place in Matt’s family and Matt is trying to balance both, plus the needs of his two daughters who are definitely having issues.

We then learn that Elizabeth will not come out of the coma and her Living Will declares that they must pull the plug.  After picking up his oldest daughter, Alex, from boarding school, he tells her the news.  Her angry reaction catches him off guard and she reveals that she’d discovered that Elizabeth was having an affair.

So, with all that loveliness, what can we learn from the Descendants?

“Give your children enough money to do something, but not enough to do nothing.”  Matt’s philosophy is sound, but it does seem to have blown up in his face somewhat.  Everyone accusing him of being stingy, but his kids attended very expensive schools, they had a pool and a very nice house, what do they really need beyond that?  But really, shouldn’t that be the philosophy of most parents?  So many parents seem to feel like they have to make sure their kids have more than they had – and in today’s society, that’s a lot of stuff.  Anymore, one device is so many things that you can’t even give in just a little. So I pose this question to parents – how do you give your children enough to do something, but not enough to do nothing?  Do you make deals with your kids?  Do you give, but put lots of limits on the gifts?  Do you give so that you have something to take away (this one was the strategy my parents usually employed)?  Thoughts, please!

“Like an archipelago… all part of the same whole, but still separate and alone, and always drifting slowly apart.” In some ways, this probably describes any group of people.  We can think of it as our families, which is want Matt is referring to, but it can also refer to our Church family, friends, support groups, etc. We start off as a unit, but slowly, over time conflicting interests and schedules take over and individuals sometimes drift apart.  However, unlike an archipelago, we can change that – or at least try to.  We can take the initiative to get back in contact with those who’ve fallen away from our group.  We can only do so much as the others have to do their part as well.  But, we have to take action and not just sit there as our own private island!

“Watch your language” In The Descendants, language is a big issue.  There is a lot of cussing, foul and hateful speech, and a real emphasis on last words spoken.  So yeah, if you’ve got sensitive ears, the language will be quite repulsive.  However, it makes a point for us here.  The first time language is referenced the younger daughter unleashes a hateful sentence toward her sister.  When her Father asks her who taught her to talk like that, she points to her older sister.  We do have to be careful who we are setting examples for!  Most of what’s spoken is spoken in anger and frustration.  Not that it excuses it.  Some might say it’s the teens wanting to prove their adulthood.  I have to say that I’m proud of Matt for calling them out on it.  Matt has also been very careful to make sure that last words are spoken carefully.  When the older daughter unleashes a string of “I’m sorry we weren’t enough” statements toward her comatose mother, Matt makes her stop even though he knows about the affair and probably would like to tear into her himself. Not only is he teaching them to watch themselves, he’s leading them by example. Are you conscious of your last words?  You never know which ones they might be with anyone.  Make them count!

Advanced Life Directives:  This is a touchy subject.  I’m going to tell you that you should have something in place.  But maybe a Living Will isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  It’s too hard to plan for every situation.  There are too many nuances in healthcare, to many degrees of severity and too many types of complicating factors.  Therefore, Living Wills are difficult for those of us who want to try to follow God’s will and not “give up” prematurely, but also don’t wish to be a burden on our families.  A better way to do it would be to name a health care proxy who knows your ultimate wishes, but in the event that you are incapacitated, can help interpret your wishes to the medical professionals treating you.  It may not be in your best interest for this to be a family member, but then again, it might.  It just depends. You just have to try to figure out who can make the hard calls when they’re needed.

When may medical therapies, procedures, equipment and the like be withheld or withdrawn from a patient.  From EWTN.com
A. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states,
2278. Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of “over-zealous” treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted. The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able or, if not, by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose reasonable will and legitimate interests must always be respected.
The key principle in this statement is that one does not will to cause death. When a person has an underlying terminal disease, or their heart, or some other organ, cannot work without mechanical assistance, or a therapy being proposed is dangerous, or has little chance of success, then not using that machine or that therapy results in the person dying from the disease or organ failure they already have. The omission allows nature to takes its course. It does not directly kill the person, even though it may contribute to the person dying earlier than if aggressive treatment had been done.
You can read more about the Catholic Church’s stance on End of Life issues here.

Forgiveness:  Toward the end, the wife of the man Elizabeth had the affair with comes to visit her.  She says she forgives her.  Now, we never know who started it, how long it had been going on, or what was said between Elizabeth and her affair partner.  So, some of what she said, probably was uncalled for.  But, she felt like she had to forgive her.  And in doing so, gave Elizabeth a gift bigger than the flowers she came with.  Can we all be that forgiving when faced with such betrayal?

So, all that said.  The Descendants is overall a good movie.  It’s NOT a sit down with the kids movie, and is rated “R” for a reason.  The language is part. The affair and all that are not depicted.  But there are references to porn and masturbation that round out the rationale for the rating.  Hopefully this post will have you consider two things:  First, being careful with your speech as any words might be the last you have to those you love and second, consider some sort of arrangements should you become incapacitated and pray that you never have to use it!





, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Dr. Calvin:       A Robot can no more harm a human than man can walk on water.
Det. Spooner: Well, there was this one guy a long time ago…
Image borrowed from IMDB.com

Image borrowed from IMDB.com

I,Robot begins with Detective Del Spooner flashing back to an accident he had some time before.  This incident leads him to a severe distrust of robots and focuses him on their shortcomings.  However, robots are something that the culture of the time has come to rely on and since they understand them to be limited by the Three Laws of Robotics, feels completely unthreatened by.

The Three Laws of Robotics:
  1. A robot can not harm a human being.
  2. A robot has to obey any order that is given by a human being (assuming it does not conflict with the first law).
  3. A robot can defend itself (as long as it does not conflict with the first or second laws).

When Detective Spooner is called to USR Robotics for the apparent suicide of its top scientist, Dr. Alfred J. Lanning, he is less than amicable to those who continually suggest that the deceased doctor’s death was definitely suicide. They think Det. Spooner’s theory that Lanning’s death could have been at the hands of a robot is just part of his prejudice towards them.  However, discovery of a robot named “Sonny,” that has been trained in human emotions and refers to Dr. Lanning as “my father” starts to lend credence to Spooner’s distrust – so much that USR leadership plans to deactivate him as they don’t want news of him to keep anyone from purchasing their newest release robot, the NS-5.

So, what can we gain from i,Robot? 

We are created for a purpose:  First, Sonny believes he was made for a purpose.  It’s kind of funny (to me) when he says “My father made me for a purpose.”  I find myself wondering if he was “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 149). Sorry, that was supposed to be a joke…  but in all seriousness, do we remember that we were made for a purpose?  Then the next question is if you are made for a purpose, are you fulfilling it?  Later on Sonny tells Spooner that he’s completed his purpose and doesn’t know what to do next.  Spooner tells him that he’ll have to find his way, just like the rest of us.  Do you think the purpose God planned for us can ever really be completed?  Are you still trying to find your purpose in life?

Don’t take the term “father” for granted:  Sonny refers to Dr. Lanning as “my father” and Det. Spooner corrects him to say “your designer.”  There is a distinct difference.  As a robot, Sonny shouldn’t care, but he does.  “Father” is a much more intimate term than “designer.”  So now think about that in terms of God.  Do you think of God as a father or a designer?  Most (if not all) Christian religious pray the “Our Father” and most that believe in God see him as a father figure of sorts.  But do we really take the term “father” to heart?  Or do we say “Father,” but really mean “designer.”  If so, do we even give Him designer credit?

Personal note:  I didn’t really think about this one for Father’s day – but you know how I’ve said  in my FAQ page that the Spirit seems to decide what movies I review and when. This one seems to be another example.  I have three other flicks I’ve got posts in progress for in various forms – but this one somehow got all the way to posted status without being relegated to the back.  It isn’t because I liked this one more or because it was easier to write about (it wasn’t), but it just felt like it needed to be done.  I hadn’t even really thought about the father aspect until I re-watched this movie as I started the post.

Protection is worth loss of some freedoms:  V.I.K.I cites that the robots must save us from ourselves because of our propensity of self-destruction by war and pollution and that in doing so, loss of some freedoms is a small sacrifice.  In some sense, we do this in our own government.  Think about all the laws that get enacted to protect (we’ll not argue whether or not they really do), but don’t they usually involve giving up some freedom?  It may not be a freedom we ever intended to use, but it’s a freedom nonetheless.

One could also argue that following the rules of a particular religion means loss of freedom.  However, isn’t it also freedom to choose that religion or those religious acts that is also freedom? 

Find your way like the rest of us, that’s what it means to be free:  This line from Det. Spooner to Sonny still plaques me.  Is finding our way what it means to be free?  Or is it that freedom gives us the ability to find our way?  I mean, I guess if we were in all the same, or programmed like robots, we wouldn’t have to worry about finding our place – we’d just know and there wouldn’t be any question to it. 

Maybe this is a trivial question, but I keep finding myself wondering what all the humans do since they have robots to handle so much of the work.  There are robots to do all your basic chores, demolish houses, clean up highway debris, work in the robot factory and help out in so many areas.  Even the cars have autopilot and only are driven by a human when requested.  It appears that humans are police and design robots and that’s about all. 

On the whole, i,Robot is an interesting trail of breadcrumbs with lots of action.  It’s rated PG-13.  There’s some very strong language (including at least one G-damn), a fully nude side side shot of Det. Spooner in the shower and lots of action violence against the robots (remember, they can’t harm humans, although they do rough them up a little) so the rating is well deserved.

I will say that I enjoy I,Robot.  It’s got just enough suspense, action and comedy for my poor pea brain to be entertained.  Hopefuly I’ve helped you go a little deeper if you decide to give I,Robot a try and I hope you do.


The Way



, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Image borrowed from IMDB.com

Image borrowed from IMDB.com

For a while now I’ve wanted to talk about this movie, but haven’t been able to bring myself to do it.  Don’t ask why…I don’t know.

The Way refers to a trek known as el Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James).  The 800 kilometer Way of St. James really exists, running from St. Jean Pied de Port, France to Santiago de Compostella.  In the movie The Way, Tom, played by Martin Sheen, is called to France to claim the body of his son, Daniel, who started the Way, but was killed in a sudden storm in the mountains.

It isn’t long when Tom decides to trek the Way that Daniel began.  Tom is angry and not a man of prayer, so setting out on a pilgrimage is a little odd, but armed with a box of Daniel’s ashes, he heads out.  He leaves small piles of ash at various points on the journey.  His intention may be to do the Way for his son, but Tom learns a lot about himself along the way.

Despite his constant requests for privacy and keeping to himself as much as possible, Tom is joined along the way by four individuals all as different as night and day.  Every time I see The Way I notice something different, so I’m sure if I review this post next year, I’ll have some completely different insights, but I finally feel like I have seen it enough times to do it some justice, so here we go.

You don’t choose a life, you live one:  Daniel travels and feels that he must see and experience all that life has to offer.  He and Tom disagree about the direction their lives are going.  Tom says, “It is the life I chose.”  Daniel responds with “You don’t choose a life, you live one.” 

How often do we find ourselves wrapped up in the daily grind, forgetting why we’re doing it in the first place?  I would suggest to you, that there is a happy medium.  You don’t have to travel the world to live life – Lord know that many do it, but it’s all work, or they feel like they have to check things off a list, but don’t bother to take in the true beauty of it all.  We’ve got to take in the true beauty of everyday life.  Make opportunities for memories but don’t forget to get lost in them from time to time.

When I was young, I was too busy.  Now that I am old, I am too tired:  This line hit me pretty hard.  I’m always begging people to let me get through the next big event before I have to worry about the issue looming.  Unfortunately, there’s always another big event and there’s always more issues.  But, deadlines have been a way to prioritize – and for a procrastinator, that’s been my method of operation for years.  I am trying to get better, but I still find myself longing for retirement, where I can do what I want, not having to worry about work deadlines and can move around more freely.  However, I have to remind myself that I run the risk of being “too tired” if I push everything off.  So, I encourage everyone to remember this phrase and live for today.  Maybe we can all hold each other accountable.  😉

Which guidebook are you using?  There is this competition between Tom and Joost over the “American Guidebook” or the “Dutch Guidebook.”  One is supposedly full of shortcuts and paths to the nearest party.  The other is supposed to be the preferred and most clear routes.  Neither is perfect and neither is the point of what I’m asking.  Think more globally – what guidebook(s) are you using for your life?    The Bible, the Catechism, the story or writings of your favorite saint, the latest self-help title, the Bhagavad Gita, the Koran?  The book is less of a concern, but how you live your life that matters.  Do you find yourself just going from party to party with no substance, or are you all substance with no party?  There is a happy medium between the two…  and that is the balance we’ve got to find before it’s too late.

Sometimes a dog fight near a cheese farm is just a dog fight near a cheese farm:  This is going to sound contradictory to 95% of what I say on this blog – but haven’t you known people who are so busy looking for meaning in everything that they miss what’s really going on. Our daily examination should help us find insight into what was important, and learn to downplay the things that really don’t mean anything.  We also have to realize that the meaning may not be obvious until some time later.

Why would you do The Way? They say you can’t do the Way for someone else, it is only for yourself.  What would make you take on a nearly 500 mile journey?  At 3 miles an hour, walking 12 hours a day – it would take two weeks. Would it be a prayer pilgrimage – saying continual rosaries, chanting novenas and such?  Would it be for health?  Would it be to clear you mind with hopes to hear the voice of God?  Would it be to meet people? 

Trekking the Way one of those things I’m putting on my bucket list, but I think God still has to tell me why.  It seems that way to many times I’ve been led into something for one reason, but it really works for others.  So, I don’t think it matters what I would think my reason for the trek would be, God will help me find what he wants me to find along the Way.The Way - Seashell

Make your own Way:  It’s obviously not in everyone’s life plan or abilities to make the pilgrimage of St. James.  However, you can make your own Way.  Pick small pilgrimages close to home.  Make mini pilgrimages in the back yard.  Join up with a group that you might not join and meet new people.  It’s all part of the Way.

For more information about the movie The Way, check out:  http://www.theway-themovie.com/

For more information about The Way of St. James, check out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Way_of_St._James

Buen Camino!!!

October Baby



, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Image borrowed from IMDB.com

Image borrowed from IMDB.com

Psalm 139:13You formed my inmost being;you knit me in my mother’s womb.

I wasn’t going to do this one so soon – since it’s sooooo obvious what this one means, but it’s light of the Kermit Gosnell trial it seems like it is necessary.  In a way, the feelings Hannah displays are contrary to what we want to display.  But I think when you reflect on the film, you’ll see it might have been resolved if she’d been told her story from the beginning.

Our main character, Hannah collapses on stage.  In an attempt to determine what caused it, many tests are run – which point to one cause of her issues – her birth.  She was adopted after a failed abortion attempt.  She then sets out on a journey with her friend and what they learn along the way helps her realize what life is really all about.

Have you ever felt unwanted?  Hannah writes in her journal (which comes to light after this episode) that she feels “unwanted.”  She was not told she was adopted until that moment, and certainly was never told that she was the product of a failed abortion or that she had a twin.  There’s a couple of thoughts I have here…  first, that even at such a young age, she may have felt the impact of what her biological mother tried to do.  She may not have been conscious of it, but somehow she knew.  Could this have been curtailed if her adoptive parents had been honest with her?  Could that knowledge of being chosen, being wanted, help her get past what her biological mother did?  There are also many people who never endured the tragedies Hannah survived, but still feel unwanted.  Is there any way to help these lost souls?

What other ways do we feel unwanted?  Obviously, there are many.  When your teenage child says that he or she hates you, when you’re turned down by someone you have feelings for, or when you’re excluded from a gathering.  How do you deal with those feelings of being unwanted?  What insights can you offer to someone dealing with feelings of being unwanted?

“To be human is to be beautifully flawed”  Wow…  that it the nicest way of saying that we all mess up I think I’ve ever heard.  Its true, as are the statements that follow it in the movie.  We are “beautifully flawed.”  A few years ago, I was at a family reunion.  A couple of my teenage distant cousins were there obviously showing that they were expecting.  I happened to be talking to some other relatives who commented about how those girls could let that happen, and how it was going to wreck their lives.  My comment to them, was that if they’d aborted their babies, no one would have known about their little buns – but that by owning up and continuing – they were stronger and more courageous than they were being given credit for.  And now, they have beautiful babies – the families have pitched in to help.  Beauty has come out of a difficult – maybe even ugly situation.  Sometimes really wonderful things come out of those flaws… 

“When you hear something enough times, you start to believe it”  In this case it’s referring to the “tissue” that the doctor kept telling the nurse that babies being aborted were.  I wonder if many pro-choicers would really still be pro-choice if they actually saw the product of the abortions.  When I look at today’s ultrasounds, where you really see a three-dimensional image of the baby – I wonder if people will start realizing it now. I wonder why someone would kill a baby that is born alive, despite the attempt to kill it, when babies are in such demand amongst those looking to adopt.  I know there are abortion survivors out there.  They aren’t “just tissue” any more than the rest of us are.

This same concept can be applied to our news sources and what we surround ourselves with.  When all we see is trash, or surround ourselves with is trash, that is all we will believe.  We have got to surround ourselves with good – and look for good in others.  Remember the old adage, “I think, therefore I am.”  We’ve got to think positive, and be aware of what’s going on around us.

Another point to be made here is about how we treat each other.  “When you hear something enough times, you start to believe it.”  If people area always telling you that you’re no good, you start to believe it after a while.  Thus seems to be the point of trying to build a child’s self-esteem by telling them “you can do it” or otherwise reinforcing their talents and skills.  We’ve got to build people up, not tear them down.  We do, however, have to be careful.  “Building up” does not mean spoil the child.  I’m afraid too many mistake the two concepts.

“Only in forgiveness can we be free.”  Matthew 16:19 tells us, “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”  That makes it sound as thought we have power over others – which in some ways we do, but it’s that last part we should concentrate on.  Staying intent on binding others to their sins isn’t good for us.  Sort of like taking poison and expecting others to die from it.  We have to forgive and leave the rest to God.  It will be healthier for us mentally and spiritually.  I’ll admit, I have problems with this one, especially when I’ve been wronged more than once by the same person or group…  But, in the end, it’s up to God and I’ve got to let Him do what He feels is best.

Ultimately, although rare, babies born as early as twenty weeks gestation can survive.  In looking at this film in light of the Gosnell case, it seems to me that too many people underestimate the sheer will to survive in babies.  So when one hears the horrors of snipping spinal cords and drownings in the toilet, it is especially discouraging.  Why, when people are paying thousands of dollars to adopt babies, so women feel like aborting is the only option?  While we have to help young people understand the difference between right and wrong…  we also have to help them understand that we will help them when they find themselves in such a position.  If we want them to make the right choice, they have to know they can count on us, despite whatever disappointment we might feel that they didn’t make the right decision at the time the child was conceived.

Truth be known, this film probably needs another post to fully discuss all that it offers, but for now, know that it is a good clean film.  It is however, very serious, and some of the discussions about the “procedure” may be too graphic for young ears.

God Bless!

Monsters, Inc.



, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Monsters, Inc.

Borrowed from imdb.com

Henry J. Waternoose: Our city is counting on you to collect those screams. Without scream, we have no power. Yes, it’s dangerous work, and that’s why I need you to be at your best. I need scarers who are confident, tenacious, tough, intimidating. I need scarers like… like… James P. Sullivan.

Since it’s being re-released in 3-D, this seemed like a good time to talk about this great Pixar flick.  It may be animated, but there’s really a lot you can get out of it.

Remember when you were a kid and you were afraid of the monsters in the closet (or under the bed).  What if those monsters weren’t really mean…  but they needed the energy from your screams to power their world.  Well, that’s the story with two of our main characters, Mike (voice talents of Billy Crystal) and Sully (voice talents of John Goodman).  The funny thing, is that these monsters are as afraid of us as we are of them!!!  So when a little girl they lovingly call “Boo” gets into the monster world, it is not only unusual, but something that can get Mike and Sully in BIG trouble and bring all of Monstropolis to its knees.

So, what dare we learn from this monstrous hit…

We scare because we care:  This catchphrase for Monsters, Inc. actually is referring to the fact that they need to scare kids for energy.  However, isn’t this also something that seems to be required to help people understand safety rules?.  We tell them to be careful crossing the street because they might be hit by a car.  We know if we touch fire we can get burned.  In some cases we need to be scared to understand the importance of some safety rules.  Sadly, if people don’t feel threatened, they don’t pay attention.

Laughter works better than scream:  Now, this is going to sound like I’m doing a 180 degree turn from what I said in the previous paragraph, but, when we’re not talking about safety, being happy really does work better than beating people down.  They say that we “catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”  And that’s probably true (I’ve never really tried it to prove or disprove it)… but too often we seem to feel like “nice guys finish last” and use that to justify our actions.   But it’s true, admit it, laughter works better than scream.  We see that the “new” thing in companies like Pixar and Google is to create fun workplaces where you can bring your dog, hang out in comfy clothes and have toys around all day.  They find it increases productivity and makes it a place employees want to work.  What I find funny is how this seems to be a new thing.  Granted, this does mean that people do have to be motivated, need to set goals and actually get work done…  But why does it seem like it has to be in such a high pressure environment when companies are proving that a more “fun” atmosphere works well?Now, let’s take this outside the work world.  Can we employ this method in our families?  Remember Mary Poppins?  She encouraged that “in every job that must be done, there is an element of fun.”  Granted, she was making things fly around the room and such, but does it have to be that way?  I know in my extended family we’d all gather at Grandma’s where, after dinner, there were usually so many dishes and the house was so hot, that we went ahead and hand washed dishes rather than use the dishwasher.  It was usually “girl time” and we got to talk about things we didn’t care to share with the WHOLE dinner table.  It almost wasn’t something anyone minded because we enjoyed that time together.  It wasn’t unusual to break into song or something goofy like that.  We teased each other, laughed and learned.  We can apply this to learning and how we interact with those around us, try to be nice – and laugh when you can (it can be contagious!).

Loss of innocence:  One thing that is mentioned a couple of times during the movie is that children are losing their innocence at younger and younger ages.  Sadly, this one hits so close to home it’s not funny.  I know so many little ones who are watching R rated films that they don’t have to imagine much anymore.  I’ve known of several who felt like it was justified because they didn’t think their kids understood what they were seeing – until something happened one day to make them realize that their kids were understanding things more than they’d thought.  It seems that we’ve gotten to a point now that it will be hard to dial it back.  I just hope it’s not too late.  I’ll admit, we have to let them in on certain things to help keep them safe, but do they really need to see sex scenes, actual violence, vulgar language and various other improprieties for a young audience.  Any ideas on how to help get that innocence back?

Sometimes you’ve gotta growl:  Sometimes, you’ve done everything you can do not to, but sometimes, you’ve just got to growl.  And, it may scare those around us, but it is usually because we love them and we have to get something very important across to them.  Do try to make sure it’s not your first method of getting your point across though.  Be prepared – like I said, it may scare or upset, but when you consider what you’re trying to get across, sometimes it’s got to happen.

Don’t forget to file your paperwork:  Sorry, couldn’t resist!  So…  paperwork…  whether its taxes or children’s artwork, it’s still one we ought to keep in mind, both literally and metaphorically.  What other things might we need to file away – to keep properly stored for a later date?  To you, this could be anything…  finally putting together that scrapbook from your last family vacation, writing down your list of “to do’s” or making new memories with your kids…  This is the sort of thing that may seem silly or mundane, but needs to be done.

So, I hope you’ve gotten a few helpful points out of Monsters, Inc.  This is one of my (and my hubby’s fav’s).  I keep thinking if I have kids, a Monsters, Inc. theme would be awesome – and gender neutral.  😉  Maybe one day.  I promise this little flick has fun in it for kids and adults alike – Pixar really does some wonderful animation work!

God Bless you all!


What do The Golden Compass, The DaVinci Code and The Exorcist have in common?



, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Since I’m having such a hard time finding time to talk about a movie at the moment, I wanted to take a minute to talk about the issue of controversial movies, especially those aimed at the Catholic Church. Every so often, one of these movies will come out – and some are clamoring to go see it, and others are immediately digging their feet in and trying to convince everyone not to. What’s sad is, all the controversy almost always gives more credit than is due to these type of debates. Now, I’m not talking about pornographic or those that are just downright morally offensive. I’m talking about those that are fiction, but appear to take jabs at the Church.

So, here’s my typical strategy… use these sort of films to open a discussion! If you haven’t seen what all the hype is about, it’s hard to counteract it. Most of these movies are at least moderately entertaining, or no one would watch them. I usually wait until they come to TV or some other inexpensive or free venue, and I watch them. I remind myself (and you) to keep in mind the background of the film. If it’s fiction, remember that! Next, what issues did you have with the film, or what issues have you heard were problematic? Do some research on those things if you can’t answer them outright and proceed from there. Now, when people try to tell you things like “If you wanna know about the history of the Catholic Church, watch The DaVinci Code!” You can answer, with some understanding, what points were true and what points were not. I mean, when even the History Channel debunked The DaVinci Code, there are lots of points to be made. But do it calmly. Try not to let things get heated or flustered. That detracts from your point. Now when you hear about the bad guys, known as the Magisterium in the Golden Compass, you’ll understand why many in the Church saw it as a slam. What about a movie like the original “The Exorcist?” Why did the Church take issue with it? Go through the list.

Offer alternatives when you can. The perfect example is The Exorcism of Emily Rose – which was highly regarded as the best portrayal of an Exorcism that Hollywood has produced versus The Exorcist which deals with a doubting priest. If they see a film that paints a pope, saint or other figure in a negative light, surely if they’re worth arguing over, there is another one out there that is in line with what we understand to be true.

The key is to use them to help educate. They’ve already seen the film, in most cases, so which would you rather, help them understand the right way to see the Church, let them keep thinking that what they saw was true, or worse yet, add fuel to the fire by being hateful and demanding?

So, here’s the next question I get… what about letting your kids see these movies? For example, the Golden Compass was marketed toward kids. I got numerous e-mails about why not to let your kids see them, and many wanting me to send out something to our whole church. I suggested instead that they sit down with their kids, explain why they didn’t want them to see the movie, and if possible – eventually see it together (I do suggest parents screen films first, if possible) and discuss it with their child(ren). Help them to understand that there is a difference between the movie and what we believe – and explain those differences as best you can. That way, you won’t just be Mean Mommy… but you’ve helped them understand another aspect of our faith that they might not have gotten otherwise. And then, you never know… they might not be so fascinated with seeing a sequel! 😉

I hope that helps. God Bless!


In Her Shoes



, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Borrowed from IMDB.com

Borrowed from IMDB.com

Maggie Feller: I carry your heart with me. I carry it in my heart. I am never without it. Anywhere I go, you go, my dear. And whatever is done by only me… is your doing, my darling. I fear no fate… for you are my fate, my sweet. I want no world, for, beautiful… you are my world, my true. Here is the deepest secret no one knows. Here is the root of the root… and the bud of the bud… and the sky of the sky of a tree called life… which grows higher than the soul can hope… or mind can hide. It is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart. I carry your heart. I carry it in my heart.

Okay, so now its time to get in touch with the feminine…  Sorry guys, but this one is a chick flick.  Not to say you can’t get something out of it, but I’m just saying that the ladies in your life will probably identify with this one more than you will.

In Her Shoes is a story of sisters, their differences and the bond they share with their family.  Toni Collette plays Rose, the straight-laced and responsible sister.  Then there’s the flighty, flirtatious and frustrating Maggie, played by Cameron Diaz.  As different as these two sisters are, they need each other.  Their mother died when they were young.  Their father re-married a woman they don’t like and have been sheltered from a grandmother who had just a bit of a tendency to try to tell everyone what to do.  But, the girls are divided when Maggie breaks the oldest of the girl codes, by sleeping with Rose’s boyfriend.  Maggie has managed to burn her last bridge with everyone close to her.  But as luck would have it, in the process of pilfering around for cash, finds out about a Grandmother she thought was dead.  So, she takes off for a retirement home in Florida to sponge of her Grandmother.  In the meantime, Rose quits her job, gets a new boyfriend and tries to act like Maggie didn’t exist.

While in Florida, Maggie bonds with the Grandma she barely remembers and takes a job in the nursing center. There, she befriends a blind man who helps her build confidence in something other than her looks.  Rose does some growing of her own, but all the questions about Maggie’s whereabouts plaque her.  Then, Rose learns that there’s a Grandmother she didn’t know about, and she heads off to Florida and she finds herself face to face with Maggie.  During the visit, the girls start sharing and learn a little family history.  I’ll leave the rest to you to see for yourself.

Okay, so I promised that there was something to learn from this…  grab those Jimmy Choo’s and let’s go!

1.  Family is….  well, complicated.  Okay, so this one is a “no-brainer.”  As much as we need family, we really can hurt the ones we love the most.  Add to that, the fact that sometimes the ones we love need us to step back and let them make mistakes.  It’s hard to know when to hold them close and when to step back and it is such a fine line that it’s almost invisible.  However if we really listen to them, we should be able to find it before it’s gets too much either way.  They say we’re given one mouth and two ears for a reason.  So maybe our loved ones don’t need to hear every way they’re wrong.  I’ve got to get better at this one myself.

2.  There is a bond between sisters.     Between a combination of God’s grace, circumstance and parents who apparently liked each other, I have three sisters.  We are all very different, but each of us shares a different bond with each other.  There are fourteen years difference between the ages of oldest and the youngest.  We’ve set rules between us – we may not have written them down, but over time they’ve been established by years of being together as a family.  The topics we talk about, those we don’t…  and those we just shake our head at.  We see that with Rose and Maggie.  They share everything.  You can tell that when Rose and Maggie are reunited, Maggie is upset that she’s missed out on some major changes in Rose’s life.  And, as much as she wants to, Rose can’t stay angry with Maggie.  What I find fascinating is that Simon picks up on the how Maggie’s absence affects Rose.  As much as he loves her, he can tell that something is wrong…  he can’t seem to put his finger on it, but when he meets up with Rose in Florida, he can tell she’s back to herself.  He could see that Rose was not whole without Maggie.

3.  Perspective makes a difference.  It’s always amazing to me how two people can witness the same events and have completely different conclusions about them.  In the case of Rose and Maggie, the fact that Maggie was very little and was isolated from a lot of the craziness surrounding their early childhood and the death of their mother may have spared her a lot of the seriousness that Rose embodies.  Somehow, Rose always knew that her mother committed suicide but that was a new revelation to Maggie, who had always seen her Mother’s irregular behavior as just being really fun.  She recounts a story of her mother putting a tiara in her lunchbox one day.  The thought it was awesome that she got a tiara, however, she didn’t get lunch. Perspective. 

4.  Find what you love and stick with it.  I’ve said it over and over again, but it bears repeating.  Maggie discovers she has a talent for shopping for the ladies in the retirement village.  She loves to shop, and she manages to put it to use helping ladies these ladies to dress for weddings and other special events without having to fight shopping with their walkers, limited energy and various ailments.  She loves it and is good at it.  At the same time, Rose, quits working as a lawyer.  Simon tells her he thought it was because she loved it.  She admits, however, that it was not that she loved it, but that she was afraid of who she would be without it.  How often do we find ourselves doing something because it’s all we know (and not in a good way)?  It’s risky, and very scary, but something to think about.

5.  Don’t use people.  Help users find their niche.  I know, it’s obvious, but Maggie uses the people in her life until they can’t stand it anymore.  Her Grandmother allows it for a little while, but then manages to find a compromise where Maggie feels like she’s gaining and is able to build up some confidence.  I really don’t think she felt confident enough in herself to do any better before the deal.  Maybe that’s because she was babied her whole life, or maybe she just figured out that it worked and stuck with it.  Either way, it appears that once she really has a direction, the using stops.  One of the best methods of discipline is redirection.  How can we channel negative behaviors into positive ones?

In Her Shoes is rated PG-13 for good reason.  We start off with both Rose and Maggie having intercourse with their respective partners, and there is more as the movie progresses.  But for the most part, that’s over once the big fight erupts.  There’s also some innuendo and senior men gawking at Maggie strutting around in a string bikini and various low-cut or revealing outfits.

Whether you have a sister, or not, I hope you have someone you feel like you can share things with and I pray you won’t ever have to be tested in the manner that the relationship between Rose and Maggie is tested.  God Bless!




, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

image borrowed from Wikipedia

image borrowed from Wikipedia

Mike McDermott: You can’t lose what you don’t put in the middle. [pause] But you can’t win much either.   (Source:  IMDB.com)I don’t know what it is about Rounders – maybe it is the fact that I first saw it while I was spending a semester abroad in Rome, maybe I’m just a Matt Damon fan…  or maybe I’m just a sucker for a good movie where the underdog comes out ahead, I don’t know…  I really can’t tell you why I like Rounders…  I just do.

We see Matt Damon’s character, Mike McDermott seems like he has a pretty good life; he’s a law student who’s apparently doing well, got a girlfriend who is also in law school, and things just appear to be going in the right direction.  However, when his childhood friend, Lester “Worm” Murphey, played by Ed Norton, gets released from prison, his whole world get turned upside down.  We learn that Mike is a former gambler and apparently used to get into a lot of trouble with Worm and that Worm took the fall, refusing to rat out Mike, a debt Mike still feels like he owes and Worm is all-too-willing to remind him of.

So, with all the gambling, language and nudity we see in Rounders, what can we learn?  I know you’re expecting me to say “know when to hold them, and know when to fold ’em,” admit it!!  =)

1.  Loyalty is wonderful, but sometimes you do have to let the past be the past.  So Mike feels like he owes Worm.  It’s honorable that he respects that life he has could have been very different if Worm hadn’t covered for him.  However, when you see how poorly Worm treats him and how manipulative Worm is, you’ll understand.  We also have to consider that people change.  We don’t get to see what the relationship was like when Mike and Worm were kids.  The relationship may not always have been that bad, we may have to realize that part of Worm’s problem is the time he spent in the system and how he learned to cope.  But no matter what, I’m not saying to turn on Worm immediately, but Mike probably should have set some limits much earlier in the game.

2.  Listen to those with experience.  Mike definitely has people who both serve as consultors and guardian angels.  Joey Knish keeps alerting Mike to issues, so does Petra, plus Professor Petrovsky is like the wise old sage.  Some of them Mike does a better job of listening to than others…  But he finally wised up and realized that they weren’t trying to hold him back, only help.  It’s hard to see that sometimes.  We all want to think we’re in control – but, that certainly isn’t always the case.  Sadly, even Jo has been down this road with Mike before, but he doesn’t listen to her and she finally gets fed up and leaves him.  If Mike had listened to any of them, he could have been spared a lot of pain.

3.  You can’t lose what you don’t put in the middle. But you can’t win much either.  I like to apply this one to just about anything you really want to do in life – and maybe even the things you don’t.  You don’t like math, you don’t invest yourself in it, you’re not going to get much out of it.  No matter what you want, you have to put in the effort.  The same goes for our faith.  We have to put a little work in to get anything out of it.  I get really frustrated with the “pew potatoes” that want to gripe about church, about not understanding the Mass, the Bible or the Catechism but won’t bother to try to remedy it and through self-study or learning opportunities at church.  Put in the effort – you may not be rewarded in the way you think, but you will be rewarded.

4. Know your limits.  Now, don’t take this to think I’m rescinding the previous paragraph or that there’s no point in dreaming, or working toward a goal.  But, you do have to know when you really need to change the game plan. You do have to consider how your decisions will affect not just you, but your family and others who depend on you.  You have to consider if the risk is worth the price.

5.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  When Mike finally realizes the depth of his trouble he does get help.  It’s humbling, but sometimes we really have to do it.  Asking for help takes many forms, it can be financial, educational, social, spiritual, etc.  We all have to do it at some point – we aren’t perfect, as much as we may strive to be.

Gambling addiction…  now, I didn’t mention anything about gambling addiction because I don’t think that’s what this movie is about.  There may be some addiction, but I think the point of the movie is the bond between Worm and Mike, and showing how two boys raised in similar straits are set apart by one event that affects them the rest of their lives, and how they deal with that based on their experiences.

So, Rounders is rated R for good reason.  I was serious about the gambling (duh), nudity (some scenes are set in a strip club, plus others that are just a way to show how bad things are), and the language is at times very vulgar.  But I don’t think we’d get a true sense of the seriousness of the setting if the filmmaker had toned things down for a PG-13 rating.  So don’t plan on watching it with youngsters around.  But, it’s still an enjoyable movie and one with a few good lessons if you’re willing to give it a chance.