Pep Talks

Who doesn’t love a good pep talk? Especially a memorable one. A couple from favorite movies come to mind. Aragorn’s rallying speech at the Black Gate in Return of the King. Or what about the final scene from Dances with Wolves. Wind in his Hair shouts his message of lasting friendship to John Dunbar from a nearby ridge. Both are examples of acknowledgment and encouragement during difficult times.

I have recently found myself on the receiving end of some pep talks. One of them came from me but most were from my husband, Gart.

My chat with myself was relatively simple. I was taking a quick bathroom break between classes, preparing to rehearse for our upcoming Veterans Day assembly. As I caught a glimpse of my frazzled reflection in the mirror, I muttered something like, “Just breathe. You can do this. You can do this.” It helped a little.

Gart’s pep talks were much more beneficial. His words reassured me of my skills as a teacher. He took the time to acknowledge my state of exhaustion. And he described strength in me that I don’t always recognize.

The funny thing is, I’m not sure I realized how much those pep talks were needed until after they occurred. And even though I reacted with tears, a weight was immediately lifted. I suppose that’s what happens when a pep talk comes from someone who knows me so well. Someone who challenges me and loves me no matter what.

Our pep talks may not qualify as blockbuster movie moments. But in my reel of life’s moments, they are more than simple highlights. They are crucial moments etched in my memory. Moments that keep me going long after the sounds of the words have faded.

Steel Magnolias

When I first saw this movie about thirty years ago, it became an instant favorite. Many times, I’ve watched it simply because I needed a good, cleansing cry.

The story has so many beautiful elements. It follows a group of women friends through the love and heartache of life. And it does so with a backdrop of the changing of the seasons.

I didn’t initially appreciate the powerful imagery suggested by the title. Magnolia flowers are large, beautiful blossoms which grow on a magnificent tall tree. Steel is a hard, strong material used in construction. These two words seem to contradict one another. Yet together, they create a picture of beauty and strength. Exactly what the women in the story portrayed.

My mom has six sisters and two sister-n-laws. That meant eight aunts for me growing up in the Mahar family. Along with my grandma, these women are the definition of “steel magnolias.” Beautiful, strong women who have each faced their share of challenges.

After a recent visit with some of them, I began to think about their list of accomplishments. I first created a list of their names and wrote a brief description next to each one. Although they might not recognize it themselves, their qualities and achievements are quite impressive. The following is a comprehensive list describing all of them collectively.

Daughters and sisters
Wives and mothers
Aunts and grandmothers
A single mom, a grieving mom
Breast cancer survivors
Adult college graduates
Artist, nurses, a pianist
Three widowed, one remarried, two deceased
Women of faith
Hard-working
Opinionated
Dependable
Teachers
Faithful
Friends
Patient
Loving
Strong
Kind

Muriel, Pearl, Mary, Elizabeth, Geneva, Sharon, Linda, Martha, Jeanie, Linda

I’m thankful for my mom, grandma, and aunts. Each embodies this picture of strength and beauty in their own way. And together, they create a strong family tree. A tree with strong roots and beautiful blooms. “Steel Magnolias” able to face any challenge this life brings.

Yesterday and Today

Think about your favorite song. I bet you can hear it playing in your head right now. (You are welcome.) 😉 Maybe you even remember a person or place associated with said song. Certain melodies/lyrics work their way into our memories and pop up when least expected.

Now imagine you wake up tomorrow and are the only person who remembers this song? It has been inexplicably wiped from the memory banks of everyone in the world…except you. This is the plight of singer Jack Malik, in the movie “Yesterday.”

As we watch Jack reintroduce the world to the music of The Beatles, he quickly finds himself in a difficult position. Even though no one else seems to know the songs are not his, he begins to experience a guilty conscience. And he alone has the power to make things right.

I know it may not be an award-winning blockbuster, but what a fun and entertaining 1h 56m! Though the music was a big focus, the movie was about so much more. The songs were beautifully intertwined with stories of family, friendship, life, love, and integrity.

It reminded me how chasing something just out of reach may cause me to miss the amazing things right in front of my face.

This funny, sweet story introduces us to the wonderful songs of The Beatles, as if for the first time. Songs from yesterday which continue to influence us today. You just might be tempted to sing along!

🎶Help me if you can, I’m feeling down
And I do appreciate you being round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won’t you please, please help me
🎶

~John Lennon & Paul McCartney

So Much More Than Toys

Last evening I watched Toy Story 4 with my husband, daughter, and youngest son. My emotional reaction to the ending, though not surprising, made me question. Why am I crying over a movie about a bunch of toys?

The very first Toy Story movie was released a month before our oldest son, Robert, turned one. He is twenty-four. Toy Story 2 premiered when Rachel was two, now twenty-one. And Toy Story 3? Ryan was ten, now eighteen. You can do the math for Toy Story 4.

All four movies were sprinkled throughout the lives of our children. Our family watched while Andy grew up and Buzz and Woody became the best of friends. In a way, we grew up with them.

Many sets of Buzz and Woody toys graced our home over the years. I’m pretty sure there was even an Emperor Zurg living here at one time. And there may be a build-a-bear-frog wearing a Buzz Lightyear costume hiding somewhere in the garage. 😉

These stories are about so much more than toys. They provide a window into childhood. Viewers witness family dynamics such as single parenting and sibling rivalry. We feel the emotions of a mom letting go of her little boy. We watch a little boy recognize how much he has grown.

But what about the toys? Their adventures teach us about friendship and loyalty. All we need to do is consider Buzz and Woody, a cowboy and space ranger. Two unlikely friends who stick together through thick and thin. And the strength of their friendship provides security and support for their other toy friends and their kids.

These friendships also teach us about perseverance. In each of the four films, there are points in the story which seem to spell disaster. Yet, no matter what obstacle crosses their path they never give up. Together they stand up to Sid, the mean kid next door. A misguided bear, a toy seller in a chicken suit, and creepy ventriloquist dolls also prove no match for this determined group.

Toy Story shows us the importance of being loved, wanted, and needed. Lessons which begin in childhood but continue throughout our adult lives. They transport us to the place of hearing, “Job well done. Everything will be ok.”

It’s no surprise this series of animated movies have the power to bring a fifty-one-year-old woman to tears. Honestly, I cried during at least one scene in each story. I also laughed out loud and smiled until my face hurt.

Watching Toy Story 4 took me on a journey down memory lane. Not just the memories of the other movies, but also the memories of my children growing up. It also reminded me of lessons learned from a bunch of toys.

And looking back, I realize they are so much more than toys. ❤

Endgame: The Mom Perspective

My husband and I saw the much-anticipated Avengers: Endgame last night. He saw it the night before with the kids, but I was not able to go. No discussions were allowed until I also saw it, so that meant a 10:00 P.M. showing for us! I think we were the youngest people in the theater. 😉

Wow! It was amazing!

Today has been peppered with many discussions concerning the movie.

“Did you notice _____ ?” “Yes! What do you think happened to ____?”

Of course, many of the discussions went right over my head. There are some Marvel movies I have yet to see. And although I am able to appreciate the insight and knowledge of the Marvel world experts in my life, I don’t know all of the character origins and intricate details.

My take away from the movie was a bit different. As my daughter and I discussed our favorite scenes this morning, one thing stood out; the emphasis on family. There were multiple, meaningful parent/child moments woven beautifully throughout the film.

The perfect placement of these scenes created a powerful common thread through this tale of superheroes battling evil…the love of family. Some scenes showed previously established relationships.

• Scott Lang (Ant-Man) and his daughter
• Clint Barton (Hawkeye) and his daughter
• Thor and his mom, Frigga
• Thanos and his daughters, Nebula and Gamora

Other relationships were new and pleasantly surprising. Don’t worry. No spoilers here!

Looking at the above list, all but one represents a positive, loving relationship. Relationships where the parent is the provider, protector, or comforter. In number, the positive outweighs the negative. Again, no spoilers.

I hope to watch the movie again soon. New things will certainly catch my attention the second time. Maybe I will even gain a little more understanding of this Marvel universe.

One thing is for certain, I will pay even closer attention to those parent/child scenes. I don’t want to miss even one.

And yes, I am aware that this is an epic sci-fi superhero action movie. What can I say? I’m a mom. 🙂

Being Content

“It’s a Wonderful Life” is one of my favorite movies. I enjoy watching it at least once each year in December. Friday evening was my first viewing for this year. The perfect way to end a busy week at school and begin a much needed relaxing weekend. Snuggled up on the couch with a cozy blanket and the Christmas tree lights glowing.

                                        My favorite ornament.

The older I get, the more I understand my love for this movie. It’s about family and the importance of appreciating the little things in life. The main character, George Bailey, a would-be explorer always dreamt of leaving his small town. As we often do in life, he thought surely there must be a better, more exciting life, somewhere else.

This is an understandable occurrence, considering our common emphasis on the material. Pressure to acquire the “next best” in everything from our clothes and cars to our homes and jobs, is a constant presence in our society. A difficult idea to ignore, for certain.

Two particular scenes in the movie caught my eye this time. The first is when George is talking to his hard-working, exhausted father about his need to leave town. At the same time, he recognizes the greatness in his dad. What George doesn’t know, is that it will be his last conversation with his dad.

The second scene occurs near the end of the movie when George realizes that his life truly is a gift. He utters, “I want to live again. Please, Clarence, help me to live again.” The little things in his life suddenly moved to their deserved place of prominence.

I have several favorite moments in the movie, but these particular two are not typically the ones which stand out. As I started thinking about why these specific scenes caught my attention this time, a thought came.

I needed a reminder concerning the importance of being content.

Contentment in my job and current stage of life have been a bit of a challenge lately. Honestly, I’ve spent too much time thinking about “what’s next.” This has made me a little restless. And if I’m honest, also a little grumpy.

So, in these last days and weeks leading up to Christmas here is my goal:

Be content. Look for the positive in each day. Let people know how much they mean to me. Take time to enjoy the simple things.

Easier said than done? Possibly. But hopefully putting it in writing will help. And maybe someday I will be able to say with confidence…

“…I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”  Philippians 4:12-13

Merry Christmas! Take time to watch your favorite holiday movie. If you don’t have one, give “It’s a Wonderful Life” a try!  It definitely helped me focus on what’s important in my life, and inch a little closer to being content.