10 Movies For A Rainy Day

Personal Essays

It’s been rainy here. When bad weather comes along, I turn to books, magazines and great movies. For me, there is something about staying in and enjoying a film – especialy if it brushes with tragdy, that fits moody weather. My top ten favorites will validate your sullen mood and remind you that in every life, a little rain must fall:

  1. Ordinary People – Glowing performances by all but Mary Tyler Moore’s flawless version of the rigid Beth is perfectly chilling
  2. Edward Scissorhands – Always a go to when that inevitable feeling of failing to fit in comes knocking
  3. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Francis McDormand has the ultimate touch for playing sad with such earnest, believable grit
  4. The Godfather, Part II – Considered by most the best of the trilogy, it puts every human flaw and folly, unapolgetically, right out there
  5. The Talented Mr. Ripley – Breathtakingly beautiful to watch! Deliciously morbid and one of the most cleverly crafted movies ever made
  6. Terms of Endearment – It’s impossible to chose a favorite character from the star-studded cast but Jeff Daniel’s performance as the pathetic husband/dead beat dad, Flap Horton, is quietly brilliant
  7. Kramer vs. Kramer – It’s difficult for me to enjoy this movie as much as I used to after allegations of Dustin’s Hoffman’s sexual bullying, but Meryl Streep’s frail, confused Joanna is nuanced and heartbreaking
  8. Love Story – One dimensional and legendary for some really cringe-worthy bad lines, it makes the list because it’s also desperately romantic and a legitimate weep-fest
  9. Punch-Drunk Love – A shockingly unexpected starring role for Adam Sandler but he nails it. The growing frustration and anxiety is palpable
  10. A Single Man – Visually gorgeous. Relatable for anyone who has ever experienced depression. Colin Firth’s George will decimate your heart

Empty Nest Unrest

Personal Essays

Any empty nester will tell you that a home sans offspring brings both joy and pain. Today my little house behind the blue door feels especially lifeless. It might have something to do with the grey weather outside or my husband’s late hours at work.  My dogs, Georgia and Ivy,  give me great company but still, I’m missing my kids and their friends and the constant animation they have created in our home since 1996.

We have been empty nesters since September.  Some days I remember (with confidence) my children are both at good schools that fit them well and I am buoyed through sadness.  Other days feel listless and, well….empty, indeed.

Lots has been written about Empty Nest Syndrom, which is not a clinical condition in itself. Of course, it can lead to feelings of lonliness and depression and that should not be overlooked (although someone like Tom Cruise would probalby dispute it).

When I miss my kids horribly, I tend to walk through their rooms. Some experts warn against keeping kid’s rooms as shrines but, we want our kids who are almost 19 and almost 22 to make the first move.

I made the mistake of re-decorating my youngest daughter’s room once while she was on a summer trip. It wasn’t a successful surprise. At this point, I feel like sterilizing their spaces into mere guest rooms would feel like pulling the proverbial rug out from under them. At least it would feel that way for my freshman.

One thing I did accomplish when they left last Fall was thorough closet cleanings. They both had all kinds of little bags and purses filled with trinkets and coins and little treasures they had collected on vacations. After wading through both rooms, I ended up with bags of change that rendered over $400 when dumped into the Coinstar machine at the local grocery store. I’m still not sure whether I consider the money theirs or mine.

So, feeling a bit sullen, I’m going to reflect upon the upsides of the empty nest:

  1. extra closet space for the coats that have always been unnaturally jammed into mine
  2. a really clean house. other than washing the pan my husband makes eggs in every morning, many days I have almost no clean-up work. we often order dinner so the pesky nighttime dishes ordeal is eliminated
  3. no need to nag. my kids might be dressing in wrinkled-up clothing and t-shirts that look ready for the rag bag-, but, out of sight, out of mind
  4. hopefully they are taking full advantage of their classes, questioning, probing, exploring and learning things that will lead to a fulfilling life and the ability to earn healthy paychecks. After all, my husband and I  won’t be able to retire on that $400 closet-bounty alone

Nursing Home Blues

Personal Essays

I’m having coffee and mentally gearing myself up to return to the nursing home where my mother-in-law is currently stationed. In my last post, I flat-out butchered both the overall quality of what we call skilled nursing and my personal disdain for the place she is staying.

Today I’m trying to identify some of the triggers that make it so difficult for me to visit. Here is an honest list:

First, The aforementioned general filthiness of the “5 Star” facility (see prior post for details). It’s Gross!

2. The heartbreak I feel for other patients: Of course, I’m in no way privy to other patient’s illnesses or personal situations but the sheer grief that shower’s over me when I’m there is almost unbearable. There is a man who cries out for his mother’s help  many times an hour. He screams out “Mother, I can’t breath. Help me.” Another woman simply asks for “Help” all day long.

Last weekend,  a man confined to a wheelchair asked if I would write a note for him. He had a tiny scrap of paper and asked if I would find a pen and write the following:  “Hi There. This is Harold. My phone number is…”. Love, Harold”.  I told a staff member at the front desk that he was clearly trying to communicate with a friend or family member. She shrugged and said “Ya, probably his wife who died.”

3. My own mortality: When we are  young,  its possible to visit a nursing home and feel like human rot and decay simply won’t happen to you. We don’t have enough experience with life at early ages to put those pieces together. At least, I never did. But honestly, at 49, I can glimpse my future and its terrifying.

4. Going through this all over again with my mom and dad:  I am lucky that my own parents are active and life seems mostly happy.  They have hobbies,  good friends and neighbors. Together – they attend sailing club events. Individually – they attend coffee clubs. My mom still attends garden and quilting club. They still own a small business  and they do some traveling. The deep connection they feel to their house and town they have lived in for 50 years gives them a sense of continuity and belonging. Still, I recognize they’re slowing down. They are not without health issues and there is nothing I fear more than their death.

Perhaps its not worth a debate but, as an only child, I think loosing my parents will be especially wounding. My husband comes from a family of six kids. I don’t want to diminish the loss and despair he felt when his dad died or what he’s going through now with his mom’s illness, that would be unfair. But, maybe other only children will identify with my plight. When my parents pass on, all our collective family memories go too. I don’t have siblings to reminisce with about family vacations, the time our house burned down, family pets, etc. I will still have the memories but who really wants to hear about all that?

5. Selfishness! I’m obscenely selfish:  My dear friend Gretchen best explained the phenomenon happening to many of our friends. Last year, when her youngest daughter left for college, she said “My kids flew out of the nest and my parents immediately crawled right in and replaced them.”

My husband and I became empty nesters this past fall when our youngest left to begin her freshman year of college. I will admit we had a difficult first semester. Being alone left us sad, missing our kids and their friends a lot.  But when we reflected on things at New Year’s, we realized how liberating the empty nest felt.  It was like George Michael was suddenly in our living room belting out Freedom”. And we liked it.

Six weeks ago both my mom and my husband’s mom took nasty falls on the same weekend. My mother spent the night in the trauma unit but was released with big black eyes and stitches across her forehead where she had hit her head on brick steps leading to her backdoor. My mother-in-law (also nearly ten years older than my mom) was not as lucky and has, thus, broke her leg and is residing in the nursing home.

Like I said, selfishness is the issue here and I recognize how awful I sound (and feel when I admit it.)  My husband and I were both blessed with wonderful parents who provided us loving homes in lovely neighborhoods. We went to safe, highly regarded schools, we were supported in our interests and goals. We were sent to college, etc.

My parents have been thoughtful, helpful and gracious my entire life*.  From babysitting, to volunteering in our kids schools, to hosting us on vacations, to seeing me through several hospital stays, painful surgeries, and depressive episodes, my parent’s have been an exemplary contributive team and we owe them an enormous debt of gratitude.

Having said all that, I still have a tiny flicker of resentment mixed with fear for the day  when they are ill, facing their last days and I will be in charge. It’s both the loss of freedom and the chilling reality they won’t always be here that tumbles through me.

6. Last but in no way least…

Grief: Grief for the inevitability of my mother-in-law never fully recovering and the sadness my husband will go through when the day comes to put her ashes along-side his dad’s. I know he will need extra care and support and I only hope I can do the job well enough for him to feel understood, validated, fortified and loved.

And so it goes. I’m off to the nursing home with a deep breath and an armful of flowers that I can only hope brings a little cheer to an otherwise awful, disheartening place.

*Although the kind words included above about my parents/my husband’s parents are genuinely authentic, please don’t misunderstand. They possess inadequacies too,  just like every other parent. I’m not skimming over that. The idea here is not to present them as perfect human beings but to fully expose them as deeply compassionate individuals who are/were firmly committed to excellence in parenting. Mostly, they hit the mark. (More posts on various aspects of parenting to come….)

Skilled Nursing???

Personal Essays

My mother-in-law has been in a skilled nursing facility for about 6 weeks. She broke her leg and we hope she will become strong enough to return to her apartment in an assisted living complex within a week or so. Its important to note that this center has a 5 Star rating which leads me to seriously wonder what kind of criteria is used and what kind of persons are qualified to administer ratings in this industry.

The phrase skilled nursing is one of the cruelest oxymorons perpetrated on the general public. I see people with very few skills, who are grossly under-paid for the jobs they are expected to do. I can’t criticize every employee we have worked with as there are people willing to help and problem solve and I want to extend that credit. The norm, as I see it, is that truly committed folks are sadly in the minority.

Our society needs to develop a healthier outlook on end of life care. I guess we haven’t fully demanded better care for our elderly because we all tend to focus on what we need now as opposed to what we are going to need when we are elderly and helpless. By the time we are elderly and helpless we have no voice to affect change.

More education and higher wages for people who work in skilled nursing are crucial to expectations for progress.  Staff to patient ratio needs to allow for faster response. Staff members need  more support (via more staff on duty) from fellow colleagues to do their jobs efficiently. I fully identify with the plight of staff being spread too thin which, logically, leads to patient neglect.

One of the problems I cannot understand is why the grunge-factor is tolerated in a facility supposedly  dedicated to health and re-habilitation. This place is a lot like motel-quality lodging – you can a tell a mop has been swished around the middle of the floor but the edges are layered with filth. The public restrooms are on par with a gas station’s and the air is contaminated with the odors of every icky bodily function/ the distinct aroma of institutional food. There are no open windows – anywhere. The air feels so stale and heavy, I wonder how much oxygen is even available.

A few weeks ago, my gross-out factor was so high I devised a system for keeping nursing-home germs out of my own home. When I got home, I exited my car and scrubbed my steering wheel and driver’s seat with anti-bacterial wipes. Then I stripped down to my undies outside* and took the contaminated clothing directly to the washing machine.

I was heading to the shower when I remembered that my husband would be visiting his mother after work and his clothing would be equally polluted. I grabbed a sheet of paper from the printer and, with a sharpie, wrote TAKE OFF ALL YOUR CLOTHES HERE. I taped it to the front door and was almost to the shower when I realized the message could easily be misunderstood. I grabbed the sharpie and, parenthetically, added Not for the purposes of sex underneath the instructions.

This method of minimizing the ick factor that comes home with me has somewhat soothed my germ-phobia although, the actual hours I’m there are hugely difficult.  I can almost feel the squalor enveloping me. Knowing my mother-in-law is living  (hopefully temporarily) in this condition is deeply depressing. This is a woman I have known 27 years and the first time I have ever seen her without her hair professionally coiffed, without her make-up perfectly applied and without shoes was the day of her surgery. She is an innately stoic and elegant woman who lives with high standards for her home and personal appearance. Leaving her in place so scuzzy feels criminal.

I can only hope that momentum will develop for the advancement of care for the very elderly. Their must be a public outcry for greater respect and dignity for this segment of our population. The conversation must open and stay open until we can get it right.

*I knew growing a tall hedge in front of my house would be a good idea








No-Reach Zone

Personal Essays

If I could make a single improvement in the way motor vehicles are designed, I would completely eliminate the ever-infuriating No-Reach Zone. You know, its that place in your car – that infuriating margin of space between your driver’s seat and the center console. It’s like an N52 magnet for zillions of little items like keys, pens, coins and french fries. No matter how you try, its impossible to reach what you’ve dropped.

I find my insight notable/blog-able in two capacities. First, my mind is in no way mechanically inclined but even I can think of a simple way to re-create the front seats of cars without the need for that ever-frustrating sliver of ultimate stuff-sucking void. Second, The No-Reach  Zone is on the Top 5 List of things I would share with Larry David if, by some miracle, I had him as a captive audience for a few moments. I have this fantasy that I’m in Santa Monica, bump into him in a coffee shop, share my Top 5 List and he masterfully weaves one of my ideas into an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

So, next time The No-Reach Zone inhales your last breath mint before a big meeting or your credit card whilst trying to exit a parking garage that doesn’t accept cash, remember the No-Reach Zone. If you feel inclined, please share the observation with Larry David should you ever run into him in a coffee shop.











February 14: A Night To Love Movies

Personal Essays

If you and your special someone are like me and my special someone, you will find yourself spending Valentine’s evening with dinner and a a great romantic movie at home.

I thought I might share my  personal best and worst Romantic Movie list for those who prefer your cozy sofa to a crowded restaurant for a Valentine celebration:

Ten Best Romantic Movies:

  1. Moonstruck, 1987
  2. The Sound of Music, 1965
  3. Like Water For Chocolate, 1992
  4. The Way We Were, 1973
  5. Sabrina, 1954 and 1995
  6. Out of Africa, 1985
  7. The English Patient, 1996
  8. The Thomas Crown Affair, 1968 and 1999
  9. How to Marry A Millionaire, 1953
  10. Knocked Up, 2007

Ten Most Overrated Romantic Movies:

  1. Valentine’s Day, 2010
  2. Titanic, 1997
  3. The Bodyguard, 1992
  4. Casablanca, 1942
  5. Romeo and Juliette, 1996
  6. Disney’s The Little Mermaid, 1989
  7. Ghost, 1990
  8. Say Anything, 1989
  9. Endless Love, 1981 and 1996
  10. An Affair to Remember, 1957 and 1994

I hope you enjoy love, romance and cinema.





In The Beginning…

#LarryDavid, #WomenWriters, #BRAVO, #LenaDunham, #NoraEphron

What I’m experiencing is a textbook case of performance anxiety. I want this first post to be a successful introduction to what I intend as a site dedicated to the development of essays that offer social commentary under a wide umbrella. Under this dome topics like art, design, literature, film, politics are imminent but also anticipate the poppy-ist pop culture mentions like BRAVO Television happenings and HBO/Showtime/Netflix productions. I’ll just say it now: I’m obsessed with Larry David so I am likely to jump on any LD related news. Then I’ll analyze it from every angle I can think of.

As a true introvert, I cautiously bolster myself into the throws of participating in this global, sociological phenomenon we call blogging by summoning two of my idols, Lena Dunham and Nora Ephron. Both women speak to strong, honest, brave, sometimes raw, naked (literally in Ms. Dunham’s case) issues. Both ingeniously tap their insecurities for the sake of their art (and our entertainment) so brilliantly it often seems effortless.

If Ms. Ephron were alive she would be 76 while Lena Dunham is 31. At 49, I land in the middle which makes me think about the proverbial torch passed down through generations of women writers. The torch represents voices that inform, comfort, enrage, challenge, inspire and enthrall us. So, In the beginning, I want to thank women writers who have captivated me and provoked me into becoming an active observer of life (and who are all likely to pop up in future essays). I look forward to writing in the spirit of their wisdom and courage.