Bring Tissues to My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2


MV5BNTA1MjMzNDM2M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTg3NzQ1NzE@._V1_SX214_AL_Last weekend, my husband and I went to see My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. It’s the second movie about the Portokalos family, written by and starring Nia Vardalos.

It was the first time we were alone after enjoying two separate spring breaks. First, our daughter had driven from Salt Lake City to So Cal to spend a few days with us. I delighted and luxuriated in the little moments I spent with her. Whether it was getting pedicures, or lounging in the back yard, I just wanted to drink her in, sit next to her, be near her.

I was pleasantly surprised that she allowed me! She seemed to enjoy our company and wasn’t embarrassed to have us hang out with her and teammate Maryssa. Evenings, we went to the pool, sat with the current crop of swim parents and watched Piranha practice. Just like the good old days.

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My daughter and her teammate during Spring break. Honestly, I’m not that short!

The following week, my son spent most of his break with his girlfriend. Oh well. We did spend his birthday weekend with him in one of the most beautiful cities ever, Santa Barbara. He’ll be graduating from UCSB soon, and we may not have the pleasure of visiting him there more than once or twice more. Our friends live there, so we’ll be back. I’m sure I’ll feel a hollowness in my heart my first visit to Santa Barbara knowing he’s moved on.

Back to the movie. This past weekend, once again kidless, we went to see the second installment of My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

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My son’s birthday celebration with our good friends in Santa Barbara. Homemade Black Forest cake by Debbie.

We’d seen the first one as a family, bought the DVD, and it was a favorite with all of us. Michael Constantine, who plays Toula’s father Gus Portokalos reminds us of my husband’s Uncle Luciano, from Sicily. When we mentioned it to him he said, “I’m nothing like him!” I don’t think he took it as a compliment.

We laughed so hard at the first movie. The second one, not as much. It was a good movie, don’t get me wrong. It had the same quirky, awkward moments for Nia Vardalos, the writer and star. There were laugh out loud moments with all the characters in Toula’s family. I felt reunited with close friends that I’d missed for far too many years. 

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Santa Barbara Mission with my son and husband sharing a laugh.

It hit too close to home. The aging father, the teenage daughter ready to leave home. Toula, having to rediscover and find herself after years of taking care of others. Going out to dinner with her husband, swearing she wouldn’t talk about their child.

The hardest part for me, sitting through the movie, was the tears. How much I miss my kids smacked into the center of my brain. I kept dabbing at my eyes. My husband would look over at me. I wiped my eyes some more. Finally I gave into the tears. That’s all I’ll say. Go see it for yourself and let me know how you like it compared to the first movie.

Warning. If you’re new to an empty nest, bring tissue!

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Sunset at Carpinteria State Beach during a picnic dinner.

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If Ray Bradbury Were to Give You Advice About Life and Writing

images-2I was looking through my book shelves for summer reading. I picked up Ray Bradbury’s Zen and the Art of Writing: Release the Creative Genius Within You. It’s a small paperback book that has sat on my shelf, unread. I opened the cover and on page one the autograph of the author and the date May 1996 stared me in the face.

imgresThat’s the first time I heard Ray Bradbury speak — and the first time I asked him to sign a book. My daughter, who graduated high school last week, was three months old, and my son, a junior in college, was three years old. That’s a lot of years to have this book sitting on my bookshelf.

Yes, I’m now reading this collection of essays and remembering how inspiring his talk was. Earlier that same day in May 1996, I recognized Ray Bradbury at Las Casuelas the Original, a small Mexican restaurant a few blocks away from the Riviera Hotel, where he was speaking later. I introduced myself to him, as he ate alone, and I said I couldn’t wait to hear his talk.images-1

It was one of the first writer’s conferences I had attended, and I was kind of in a fog, having a newborn child and little sleep.

Ray Bradbury was amazing. He reminded me of a young child, finding wonder in the world. He had the ability to stay young at heart and observe the world as though seeing little things for the first time. I loved his story of how he wrote Fahrenheit 451 in the basement of the UCLA library at a rental typewriter for 10 cents for a half hour. He said he was literally a “dime novelist.” It gave me courage and the belief that we can do anything — if you want it badly enough.

“Garbage in, garbage out,” he said. He advised us to turn off the TV. Don’t watch the news. He said they were selling soap and there was little or no good news and it would rot our minds. Instead, “Read the Bible, a poem and an essay every day.”

How I’d wish I’d listened more carefully and followed that advice 18 years ago. How different would my life be today? The good news is, it’s not too late to start. And I’m proud to say, I started down that path yesterday.images-3

My all time favorite Ray Bradbury book is Fahrenheit 451. My son Robert loves this book, too. I took my son to meet Ray Bradbury during another local speaking engagement years later. Robert has a signed copy of Farenheit 451 that he treasures. Ray Bradbury was a very accessible and kind man, willing to share with all of us enjoying his gift and genius — and striving to be 1/100th the writer that he was. images-4

“What do you love most in the world? The big and little things, I mean. A trolley car, a pair of tennis shoes? These, at one time when we were children, were invested with magic for us.” — Zen and the Art of Writing

My 3 Favorite TV Shows from the 70s

imgres-4The horrific tragedy at UCSB this past week (where my son goes to school) has caused me to think about today’s culture versus mine growing up. Our children have been exposed to more violence than we were — and I’m afraid they are desensitized to it. This is the 911 generation. My son was in third grade when that tragedy occurred. We’ll never forget it. I’ve had discussions this week with friends reflecting on the media differences in the past 40 years. When I was a kid, we watched TV together as a family. We weren’t in our separate rooms with our own electronic devices, watching silently, alone. I’ll write more about this at another time. In the meantime, please read about my favorite sitcoms from my childhood.

Every Labor Day Weekend, Mom drove us “downtown” for back-to-school shopping at Frederick & Nelson’s — a massive department store with everything from Steuben glass to rows and rows of different colored threads and Simplicity patterns — and to shop at the Bon Marche´ and Nordstrom.  It was a 45-minute drive from our little town Snohomish to the big city of Seattle.

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One year, 1970 to be exact, there was a promotion near the Girls’ clothing department to watch the screening of a TV pilot. Mom and I took a break from trying on dresses, and we sat in a dark empty room with a large screen.imgres-2Soon, I was to watching in complete fascination about a family singing in their garage who recorded a top 40 hit! Yes, it was the Partridge Family with heart-throb David Cassidy! My mom liked the show too, because of Shirley Jones, who starred in the musicals Oklahoma and Carousel.imgres-8

Once school started, I couldn’t wait to tell my friends about the cool new show that was going to be on TV in a few weeks! But, everyone already knew about it. David Cassidy was on the cover of magazines my friends read, but my mom didn’t allow —  like Tiger Beat, and 16.images-3

 At my best friend’s house, we practiced singing along to “I Think I Love You” for hours on end. (Click on the title, to hear that phenomenal song!) We turned her fireplace hearth into our mini stage, with toy guitars and a tambourine, and we dressed in white blouses, maroon cords or velvet bell bottoms. We were the Partridge Family! Now that was a TV show. Click to listen to the original happy song —
“C’mon Get Happy!”

Two other shows that we looked forward to and watched religiously were….imgres-6

The Brady Bunch and Mary Tyler Moore Showimages-1

Great TV that fortunately with DVDs and Netflix, we can enjoy today. And yes, my kids have been subjected to all three of these. They like the humor in Mary Tyler Moore best. The writers were great and the jokes are funny four decades later.imgres-5

Besides the story lines, I was so involved with the characters of these three shows. Plus, the fashions were so groovy!images-2

I’d like to hear what TV shows you liked to watch when you were young. What show was your favorite?

5 Must See Movies for Holy Week

imgres-8When I was a kid, the major three TV networks aired Holiday Specials. My mom would make popcorn in a big pot on the stove, or if we were lucky, my brother and I’d get to shake the aluminum-foil bursting “Jiffy Pop” right on the electric burner. We’d gather on the sofa or in chairs to watch — get this — as a family – the “Holiday Special.”

Around Halloween it was Wizard of Oz  and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Christmas had a bunch of great ones. My favorite was Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, but we also watched A Charlie Brown Christmas, and my Mom and Dad’s favorite — It’s a Wonderful Life.

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This Easter, I’d love to rekindle the tradition of sitting down with family to watch holiday movies together. Unfortunately, my son’s having a riotous good time at UCSB and my daughter will be off to see Lorde, Lana Del Rey, Beck and Arcade Fire. Yes, she’s going to Coachella!

imgres-13If I can convince my husband, or maybe alone, I’m going to check out Netflix, Apple TV, or Google Movies to watch my list of must see Easter movies:

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1. The Robe. Starring Richard Burton, Jean Simmons,  and Victor Mature. 1953. Won 2 Oscars.imgres-10
2. The Ten Commandments.  Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter. 1956.  Won 1 Oscar.imgres-14
3. Ben Hur.  Charlton Heston. 1959.  Won 11 oscars.imgres-12
4. Passion of the Christ.  Mel Gibson director. 2004. Not for the faint of heart!imgres-15
and at theaters:

5. God Is not Dead.  I’m going to see this sometime this week. It’s made my list based on a friend’s recommendation.images-9

Do you have other movies to add to my top five picks? Have you seen all five of these movies?