Cinema Sundays: My Picks of Great Flicks: PLAYING THE GAME

Andy Griffith, Tony Award-nominated and Emmy A...

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Last night, my husband and I watched “PLAYING THE GAME”, a 2009 romantic comedy starring Andy Griffith as an 80+ year-old grandpa who has recently lost his beloved wife and is now living in an assisted-living facilityPaul Campbell plays his concerned grandson, a player of women who wants his grandfather to start enjoying life again.  When Paul meets Maria Sokoloff, his player days are numbered and when Andy meets Doris Roberts (of Everybody Loves Raymond fame), a resident of his senior home and grandmother of Maria, he finds a new reason to live again.

Some people may be offended by the sexual scenes (you never really “see” anything) and by the blatant sexual desires of some of the “older” folks (and some may be sad to see Andy Griffith, icon of morality in the Mayberry RFD series, taking Viagra and enjoying the sexual favors of one of the older women at the home for seniors)…but I think it was a realistic depiction of how life is for some elderly people…defined in their youth by sexuality, they feel if they can’t “perform”, then life is not worth living.

Andy Griffith does provide some wonderful advice to his grandson…advice we might all benefit from:

  • Defining a “real” companion, he says, “You’ll know when you meet her and you’ll know when you lose her.”
  • Asking his grandson about his relationship with his love interest, he says, “Are you a player or were you just playing.”
  • Telling his grandson to stop his step-by-step procedure that gets women to fall for him, he says, “To win the game of love, you have to stop playing games with women.”

If you are looking for a light-hearted romantic comedy and won’t be turned off by seeing some elderly people looking forward to sexual pursuits, PLAYING THE GAME is for you.

 The movie also highlighted how we need to pursue our dreams and goals and not get sidetracked by just “working for the money”.  The grandson had put aside his dream of working in the health-care field and was earning a LOT of money, selling cars in his father’s dealership…but he was very unhappy and hated what he was doing.  When he becomes involved with Maria, he realizes that he needs to quit his job and go back to helping people.   How many of us put our dreams aside because of money…either because we don’t think we have enough for our needs or we just think we need more?

This past Thursday, I met with two 4th grade students who wanted to “job shadow” an author…the advice I gave them was to follow their dream and never give up on what they believed in…hard work and persistence do translate into success!  During my years as a teacher, daycare provider and mom, I accumulated lots of ideas and experience…and I was able to use those when I finally wrote my book last year for parents and teachers of preschoolers.  If you are interested in picking up a copy of this unique resource of picture book suggestions and easy fun-filled educational activities, please visit my website at where you can take advantage of the half-price sale and enter to win a GREAT PRIZE for your preschooler.

I hope you’ll stop by tomorrow for Make-A-Meal Monday.  Based on today’s movie pick, our theme for the week is Companionship.

BALANCE: How Do I Find It?

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“Be aware of wonder.  Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.” – Robert Fulghum

We all need balance in our lives.   All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy – this old saying definitely holds true today. 

But what is balance?

The dictionary defines balance as harmony, a state in which nothing is out of proportion or unduly emphasized at the expense of the rest.

There is no standard “one size fits all” spreadsheet for balance because we are all unique individuals with different needs and different situations.  However, to optimize the quality of our lives, we can take a look at how we spend our days (and nights).  Are you working too many hours?  Do you tend to let certain activities slide due to lack of time?  How much TV is watched in your home?  Please don’t get me wrong…I enjoy watching TV…but I also realize that if we don’t put the TV on in the evening, I get so much done.  And when I look at my watch, it is only 9PM.  But I do have to admit that my time spent on the computer these days often occupies an unbalanced proportion of my day…so much so that it becomes the wee hours of the morning when I finally feel I am done.   SO NOT GOOD!  This weekend I plan to sit down to evaluate how I am utilizing that time and hopefully I can produce a more BALANCED schedule that will be better for me AND my family.

I guess we can go back to the dictionary definition of balance: a state in which nothing is out of proportion or unduly emphasized at the expense of the rest.  So, if your family enjoys watching a show on TV, that is great…but perhaps when the show is over, you can participate in other activities…maybe a read-aloud story-time.  If there are older children, perhaps they can take turns with the adults reading to the younger children, although studies show that older children really enjoy being read to.  Or maybe have a family board game night?

According to Catherine Pulsifer in “We Never Seem to Have Enough Time”,

“We need to maintain a proper balance in our life by allocating the time we have.”

So here are a few simple ways to keep track of how you are allocating your time.

1.     Use a notebook to list your long-term and short-term goals.

2.     Make a to-do list each night for the next day…you will sleep better each night and you won’t realize late in the next day that you’ve forgotten to do something important.  For me, writing down what I need to do gives me peace of mind.

3.     Set up a daily routine or schedule, especially if you have children.  Life can get really chaotic if you don’t have a plan in place.

Do you have a daily routine or schedule in place?  Stop by tomorrow for a look at the successful routine I used with my daycare group and my own family when my children were small.

The Calendar Doesn’t Lie


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I glanced at the calendar this morning and almost went into shock.  January 18, 2011.  The month of January is already half over and it feels like I just put away the Christmas decorations.  Well, actually, I did just put away the Christmas decorations.  Please tell me yours are still up so I will feel better.

So we are halfway through the first month of the new year and I think it’s time to check and see how I am doing with my goals…or New Year’s Resolutions for those of you who like that title better.  Here is my list…I’ve graded myself so I can see where I need to improve or what goals I might need to modify…I’m allowed to do that, right?

  • BLOG EVERY DAY…A.   However, I’m not sure this is something I can continue throughout the rest of the year…at least not on a daily basis.  It’s not that I don’t LOVE writing…because I do.  The problem is TIME or the lack of it.
  • EXERCISE EVERY DAY…C+.  I planned on doing my 25 minute low-impact Kathy Smith aerobic sequence 4 days a week and walking a mile the other 3 days.  I’ve done the 4 days a week…but have found it difficult to get out and walk the other three days.  Is it the weather?   It has been pretty cold and I am not a cold-weather lover…however I just got my routine blood labs back (everything normal!!!), but my doctor wants me to take a vitamin D supplement because my D is on the low end of normal…if I could just get out in the sunshine several days a week, that would probably take care of it.
  • DRINK 8 GLASSES OF WATER EVERY DAY…C.  I need to work harder on this!  Does everyone have a problem with this?
  • GREET EVERY DAY WITH A SMILE…A.  Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and stateswoman in her own right, said something that is so very true, “Today is a gift; that’s why they call it the present.”  For me it is not too difficult because I am by nature a very positive person…but I know for some, this is not an easy task.
  • DO 5 THINGS EVERY DAY TO SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT MY NEW BOOK…B.  It seems that no matter how much I accomplish, there is always something more I need to do.  And not being too savvy about social networking often makes it take two and three times as long to post something or connect with someone.  I truly welcome all feedback and insights into how I can do it better!

Giving a score of 90 for an A, 80 for a B, 75 for the C+ and 70 for the C, it looks like my report card average is an 80.  Not GREAT, but not too bad. J  Hopefully, with a little tweaking of the fluid intake and a little more effort on my part to get out and walk, I can improve my “grades”…but more importantly, I’ll be improving my overall health and that’s really my goal for 2011.

Do you review your goals at different times during the year to see if you are on track?  And if you’re not, do you beat yourself up over it and give up for the year or do you find a way to re-motivate yourself?


 Stop by tomorrow (especially if you are a parent or teacher of a preschooler) for a peek at the reading and crafting program I’m offering to local Pre-K and kindergarten classes.  It’s based on the stories and crafts that appear in my new book…educational fun-filled ideas that build self-esteem, develop pre-literacy skills and create a life-long parent-child bond!

The Big Picture: Will We Ever See It?

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 One of the most amazing things about this blogging adventure is that it puts me in touch with so many other people. 

Reading what others write is like living in a house with hundreds, thousands or even millions of windows…all equipped with a set of curtains, shutters, window shades or blinds.  Each time you click on someone’s blog post, it is like pushing aside the curtains or opening the shutters, shades or blinds on that person’s mind…because in what they write, they are revealing their thoughts, hopes, dreams, concerns and beliefs.

Sometimes the posts are funny and sometimes they are sad.  Some are informative and others are just very entertaining.  But all of them have the potential of opening our minds and helping us find some inner truth we have been searching for.

This happened to me late last night as I read a post by one of my favorite bloggers: Eof737MirthandMotivation  She began her post with a quote that is a favorite of mine about everything happening for a reason.  I do believe this is true but it got me thinking, especially in the aftermath of the Arizona tragedy, about how unfair life sometimes seems and how bad things happen to good people.

Picture you are walking down a road.   This is your life’s journey.  You can see what is in front of you and, if you turn your head, you can see a little to the sides and behind you as well.  But you can’t see around the corner, nor do you know what you will find way down the road or what will happen if you take one of the side streets or forks in the road. 

If, however, you could view the road from a plane or a point of really high elevation, you would see a lot more of what was ahead.   However, you still wouldn’t be able to see the entire journey.

And perhaps that is one of the reasons why people who have a belief in God or a High Power or a Universal Creator can be more peaceful and positive about this difficult journey of life.  They KNOW that there is a plan to all of this often bewildering, confusing and frustrating existence.  They believe that even if they can’t see the whole journey, the Planner can, and they take comfort in that knowledge.

Whatever your beliefs, there are some basic things that we can do that will help us meet each day at our best.  If you are a parent, these simple steps will help you give your children your best as well.  Each day is a precious gift and should be used with loving care.

  • Get enough sleep…if you wake up refreshed and ready to meet the day, you’ve probably had the right amount…the number of hours needed is different for each person…but it should normally be about 8 hours…more for young people.
  • Eat healthy…fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nix the processed, fatty and sugary stuff and fast-food take-out.
  • Stay hydrated…if you feel thirsty, your body is already dehydrated…eight glasses of water may seem like an impossible feat…I know it is really hard for me.
  • Meditate…find at least a few minutes every day to step back, be still, and embrace peacefulness.
  • Keep a positive attitude..and smile…did you know that when you answer the phone, the person on the other end can tell if you are smiling? 
  • Stay connected to others…whether you go out to work or you are home with a houseful of young children (maybe especially if you are home with a houseful of young children), social interaction is important for your well-being.

Maybe that’s why social networking has become so popular world-wide…we all have a need to be connected with others. 

And where does blogging fit into the scheme of things?   It allows us to share our thoughts and find out what others are saying.  What do you think?

Scarlett O’Hara: Goal-Setting Goddess

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Have you ever seen the movie, “Gone With The Wind”?  My husband always laughs at me because I’ve probably seen it a dozen times or more.  It’s an epic love story based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Margaret Mitchell that takes place during the American Civil War.  It portrays the relationships between the main characters, Scarlett O’Hara, Rhett Butler, Melanie Hamilton and Ashley Wilkes, and it explores how each act and react during the turmoil of war.

If you’ve seen the movie, I’m sure you can picture that iconic scene when Scarlett, the spoiled daughter of a wealthy plantation owner, returns to her beloved Tara after fleeing from the burning, war-torn city of Atlanta.  Starving, she searches the ravaged vegetable garden and finds only a few withered turnips (or maybe they were parsnips).  She stuffs them into her mouth, but her empty stomach is no match for dirty withered roots and she falls to the ground, vomiting.  Picking herself up, she raises her fist skyward and declares that no matter what she has to do from now on, “I will never go hungry again”.  And she doesn’t!

Many of you may feel that Scarlett is not a very nice person and you would probably be right.  Early in the movie, she marries Charles Hamilton for spite to get back at Ashley Wilkes, whom she believes she really loves but who has just announced he is marrying his cousin, Melanie Hamilton (Charles’ sister).  Widowed almost immediately (Charles gets sick and dies before he goes to battle), Scarlett goes on to marry her sister’s long-time suitor, a moderately successful store owner, in order to get $300 from him to pay the taxes on her plantation which is in danger of foreclosure.  And, after he dies, she marries Rhett Butler, the dashing Southern gentleman turned scoundrel turned privateer.  She says she married a boy and an old man and now she wants someone handsome and rich so that she can have fun and never have to worry about money again and will have everything she ever wanted (except Ashley who remains happily married to Melanie).  In the end, Rhett does leave her (just when she finally realizes that she doesn’t really want Ashley, but has loved Rhett all along) and Scarlett exhibits the second and third of her strongest and most positive qualities: she is forever hopeful and she never gives up.  As the door closes on Rhett and he exits her life, she has a moment in despair – and then looks up with her face alight again and declares, “I’ll go home to Tara.  Tomorrow is another day!”

Is there a parenting lesson here you might ask?  Yes, I think so.  As parents, we need to:

1.     Help our children learn to set goals.  And follow through with reaching them!

2.     Allow our children to fail, while always encouraging them to succeed.  This builds true self-esteem.  Try, try again is an old adage…but perseverance, especially in the face of adversity and disappointment, is very important to success in life.  Thomas Edison, the famous inventor, said that genius was 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.

3.     Provide our children with a sense of security…we will be there for them no matter what.  Scarlett’s security was her home…she knew she could always recover if she went back there.  Children will come to you with their concerns if they know they won’t be judged or criticized.

4.     Instill in our children a feeling of hopefulness…problems CAN be solved…there are often other options just waiting to be revealed.  Sometimes just talking about a situation can uncover solutions.

So if you haven’t seen the movie, you might want to watch it and observe how goal-oriented Scarlett O’Hara is…and check out her unbelievable level of hope and perseverance in the face of all kinds of disasters.  And if you’ve seen it before, perhaps I’ve reawakened a wish to see it again.  It’s definitely a classic!  The Academy Awards will be broadcast on February 27th.   I know that many people enjoy seeing movies that have won the Oscar in previous years.  In 1939, Gone With The Wind won 10 Oscars, a record that stood for over 20 years.

 Stop by tomorrow for a post about Melanie Hamilton…princess of patience and loyal friend extraordinaire.

The Pencil Maker’s Final Lesson

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The year: 1952. 

The place: Central Park, New York City. 

The event: The Annual Easter Egg Rolling Contest.

My parents had taken us to the annual festivities at Central Park.  It was a crisp spring day, the sun’s rays barely providing any warmth.  But I was excited to be old enough to take part in the annual egg rolling contest.  Clutching a spoon in one hand and a hard-boiled egg in the other, I stood patiently at the starting line with dozens of other four and five-year olds.  ON YOUR MARK!  GET SET!  GO!  And off we went, family members cheering us on, each of us bending over, pushing our own hard-boiled egg, trying to stay within the chalk-drawn lines.  It seemed like forever, but I continued, head down, eyes on the rolling egg, until I reached the finish line. 

I don’t remember who won…but I do remember looking up, turning all around to see where my parents and sister were.  And I remember not finding them (they hadn’t realized they would need to be on the finish line side when the race was over)…wandering around amidst the mass of parents and children, until a kind lady took my hand in hers and brought me over to the podium where several other lost children were waiting to be claimed.   I remember also the relief and utter happiness that filled my heart when I felt my hands being clasped in the warm security of my parents’ hands as they guided me out of the park and back to our home.

The last lesson of the pencil maker: TO BE THE BEST PENCIL, YOU MUST ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE GUIDED BY THE HAND THAT HOLDS YOU.  As with the previous four posts, this lesson relates to parenting.

Young children are usually willing to be guided by their parents…except for the “terrible twos” perhaps.  We are HEROES to our little ones and they do believe everything we say.  But, as we grow up, we often shy away from the instruction of our parents and other adults because we feel we know best…we want our independence.  And gaining independence is a very important step in a person’s development.

There is a joke about the wisdom of parents…it goes something like this: When we are 5, our parents know everything.  When we are 15, we think they know nothing.  When we are 30, we begin to realize they know a thing or two. 

Now, not every 15-year-old thinks his parents know nothing and similarly, there are many 30-year olds who still think their parents are clueless.  However, just about EVERY 5-year-old believes his parents know EVERYTHING.  So parents, take advantage of this role as HERO and WISE PERSON.  Your child trusts you…he is the pencil in your hand…and when he is young, he is willing to be guided as to what his beliefs, behavior. Interests and values will be.  The responsibility of a parent is an awesome one. 

1.     Be a good role model.  As I stated in yesterday’s post, please don’t tell your child to behave a certain way and then turn around and disregard your own rules.

2.     Be a listener as well as a talker.  Young children have a lot to say and they need to be heard with attention and respect.  When you are with your child, really be WITH him…joyful interaction is the keystone of Positive Parental Participation.

3.     Show them you value their ideas and opinions.  Perhaps your children can help plan the dinner menu or provide input into a discussion on an upcoming vacation.

4.     Be loving and understanding…and also firm and consistent.  I believe that consistency is a key factor in encouraging good behavior patterns.

5.     Help your children learn to care about others and the environment.  It can be as simple as taking a walk through the neighborhood with a big plastic bag to hold the litter you all pick up.  Or make a batch of cookies together and let your children draw some pictures and bring them to a local nursing home to cheer up some of the residents who may not have family nearby.

6.     Be patient and continue to give them praise for their efforts as they work towards mastering tasks and skills.

7.     Help your children understand that there are consequences for their actions and behaviors and make sure you follow through.  If your child knows that he will miss going to the park if he doesn’t pick up his toys and you let him go even though the toys are still all over the floor, you are teaching him that he doesn’t have to pick up his toys.  It’s really as simple as that.

If I had to simplify these suggestions…and this New Year seems to be all about simplifying things, I guess I would say – it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3:




Pencil Maker’s 4th Lesson: In Life You Will Undergo Painful Sharpenings Which Will Only Make You Better

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Have you ever watched a blacksmith working on a piece of iron?  He handles it with long tongs and repeatedly passes the metal through the flames to heat it while he works on it.  This tempers the iron and makes it stronger. 

Life is like that with us.  Some of us have to go through many painful experiences…emotional and/or physical.  But when we emerge, we are stronger.  Most of the time, we don’t purposely “walk into the fire”.  When you think about it though, every time we step out of our “comfort zone” and learn a new skill or master a new task or take a new job or begin a new relationship, we are allowing ourselves to be tested and improved.  This is lesson #4 of the pencil maker: In Life You Will Undergo Painful Sharpenings Which Will Only Make You Better.

How can we relate this to parenting?  Our children look to us for guidance and direction as each day they face new experiences, develop new relationships and have to master new skills and tasks.  If you think about it, young children are undergoing painful sharpenings on a daily basis.

1.     We need to be good role models…you need to walk the walk, as they say, not just talk the talk.  Don’t expect your children to follow one mode of behavior while you follow another.

2.     We need to be caring of others…not only those we know like our friends and family.  Help your children learn to reach out to others by sponsoring a child in a third world country or choosing to help out at a soup kitchen for Thanksgiving or Christmas.  Make a family project of going through your children’s toys, books and clothes (and your own) and donate to a local shelter.  Decide to give up going to the movies and eating out and get a free movie from your local library and have sandwiches at home instead…use the money you save to shop with your children for canned goods and bring them to a local food bank.

3.     When your child experiences a sharpening in his or her life, be there in a supportive and loving role…if a beloved hamster dies, don’t make light of it even if the hamster wasn’t important to you.  Treat your child’s feelings of grief and sadness with respect.                                                                   

4.     When you experience a sharpening in your life, such as losing a job or dealing with a serious health problem, try to be honest with your children.   Young children can be tender and compassionate if you give them the opportunity and their self-esteem soars when you give them respect and listen to their suggestions.

5.     We all want to protect our children from sadness or unhappiness…but these emotions are a part of life…sheltering a child from ever experiencing these feeling will not enable him to learn to cope with the challenges life will inevitably bring his way.

The frightening tragedy this past week has left many, both adults and children, dealing with a plethora of negative feelings: pain, disbelief, anger, sadness.  Reading a children’s picture book will not take these feelings away, but it can open a window for discussion and allow a child to be more comfortable talking about his feelings or concerns.  A few good children’s picture books for acknowledging and coping with grief and sadness are: 

AFTER CHARLOTTE’S MOM DIED written by Cornelia Spelman

NANA UPSTAIRS, NANA DOWNSTAIRS written and illustrated by Tomie dePaola

GOODBYE MOUSIE written by Robie Harris

Tune in tomorrow for the last lesson of the Pencil Maker: To Be The Best Pencil, You must Allow Yourself To Be Held And Guided By The Hand That Holds You.