Tuesday, December 29, 2015

George Kaplan

"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react." - Charles Swindoll

I recently spent a rainy Saturday afternoon watching one of my favorite films North by Northwest.
It stars Cary Grant who gets mistaken for a man named George Kaplan, who has ties with the CIA and espionage.

Cary Grants character Mr. Thornhill is an advertising executive who gets kidnapped and then realizes they've got the wrong man. He then goes to great lengths to prove to them he is not George Kaplan.
His proving to them he wasn't George Kaplan would take him on an escape journey from New York to Mount Rushmore and subsequently all points in between, as Thornhill tries to decipher what information they so desperately want from him. Since this is a suspense thriller from the suspense master himself Alfred Hitchcock, one would expect all of the twists and turns within such a story.

But..my thinking afterward was, "Wouldn't it have been easier for Grant to prove who he said he was, rather than having to prove who he wasn't?"

After all, Thornhill was a big time advertising executive at a big company, naturally he had people to vouch for him and his school records would also acknowledge who he really was. Not to mention his medical records, family, friends. But like I said, this was a Hitchcock film so there has to be a little intrigue and suspense to want us to watch this film.

In our life we will unfortunately come across people who will mistaken us for being something or someone we are not. It will be easier for us to discredit them just by staying true to who we really are, instead of going to great lengths to prove them wrong. As Dr. Seuss would say,

"Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!"


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

"Remember, last time we under estimated that little bundle of misery." - Harry, the bandit

This is one of the few Christmas movies to have made a sequel. And fortunately it is the only one to be just as successful as the original. If it weren't for Macaulay Culkin agreeing to play Kevin again, this movie may not have been made. Five years later they ended up making a couple of more sequels without Culkin, which ended up being duds, of course.

Home Alone 2 came out in 1992 to bring us further along on a McCallister family tradition-
losing Kevin, only this time it's in New York. Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern continue their antics too, reprising their roles as the Wet Bandits, but now known as the Sticky Bandits.

So, just one Christmas after leaving Kevin home alone for the holidays, it couldn't possibly happen again could it? At least this time Kevin actually makes it to the airport with his family, who are running late to catch their flight to Miami. It is within the hustle and bustle of the busiest time of year for air travel in Chicago's O'Hare airport, where Kevin and his family get separated. Kevin lands on a plane for New York while his family is jetting off to palm trees and sunshine.
It is at the luggage carousel in Miami's airport where the McCallister's suddenly realize who's missing...
"We did it again!", Kevin's mom exclaims, before passing out.
Kevin in the meantime, realizes he is on the wrong plane, but take's quite delight in the fact he is somewhere else.
"Who wants to spend Christmas in a tropical climate anyways."
What I loved about first watching this film, and still do, is following Kevin around the big city of New York at Christmastime. All of the Christmas lights, decorated window displays, the Christmas trees all lit up, and the magical sound of Christmas bells jingling in the cold air. Kevin carries with him a Christmas spirit we even encounter in the first film; a Christmas spirit his own family doesn't acknowledge. His family would rather spend Christmas somewhere else than at home gathered around the Christmas tree.
Even when finding himself either left at home or left somewhere other than with his parents, the money God's are always with him. This time around Kevin happened to be carrying his father's bag which contained his dad's wallet with cash and credit cards. A wad of cash and credit cards to a kid in New York City? Where are you going to go? Why, to only the grandest most luxurious place in
 New York, the celebrity ding-dang-dong of hotels The Plaza.
Kevin finds a way to squirm his way through the hotel desk clerk with his father's credit card and checks into a hotel suite. But falls under the suspicion of the hotel concierge, played by Tim Curry who at one point in the film is displayed as a complete look-a-like to the Grinch. One of the humorous bits between Kevin and the hotel concierge happens in Kevin's suite. Tim Curry's character Mr. Hector sneaks into the room to see if  Kevin's story of why he is alone is true. Kevin is already aware and plants an inflatable Bozo in the shower disguised as his dad, using his Talkboy recording device to pretend his dad is singing in the shower. This humiliates Mr. Hector who gets caught by Kevin and is now at the mercy of Kevin and will do anything the kid wants. Kevin is catered to a limo and cheese pizza to see the sights of New York on Christmas Eve.
Again, this is another Christmas film I enjoy because of the relationships that are built:
Kevin bonds with a philanthropic toy store owner, Mr. Duncan, who is donating all of his Christmas Eve sales to a childrens hospital. Kevin even donates $20 of his father's money to help the kids.
Kevin would eventually save Mr. Duncan's toy store from the notorious Wet Bandits, who have broken out of prison and now call themselves The Sticky Bandits. Of course, how could there not be a Home Alone sequel without Kevin dueling it out and recharging his inventive pranks in stopping the crooks from stealing from good people.
Kevin also finds himself befriending a homeless woman in Central Park, known as the Pigeon Lady.
The two of them share hot chocolate in the attic of Carnegie Hall as they listen to the Philharmonic Orchestra. Kevin learns the Pigeon Lady had her heart broken in the past and is afraid to let anyone in. Kevin gives her some sound advice,
"If your not gonna use your heart, why worry about it getting broken?"
Of course, the end of this film unites Kevin with his mother and family. But more importantly Kevin has inspired confidence in the Pigeon Lady to not be afraid to take a step forward in befriending others. For when we open our hearts toward others we are opening up a greater gift, one of friendship.
Merry Christmas everyone!


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

It's a Wonderful Life: Conclusion

"I been savin' this money for a divorce, if ever I got a husband."

Annie, upon giving up her money toward helping George Bailey

George begins to pay dividends upon choosing to stay in Bedford Falls and run his father's company 'The Building and Loan' as he sees the business prosper. That is until Christmas Eve when Uncle Billy misplaces an $8,000 dollar deposit which falls directly into the hands of the evil Mr. Potter.

When George fails to find the money while retracing Uncle Billy's steps to the bank, fear begins to settle within him. George finds himself in such a dilemma he would land himself  at the office of Mr. Potter begging for a loan to replace the missing Building and Loan money. George suddenly realizes what he's done, crawling himself to beg at the knees of the one man he distrusted and disliked the most.

"You sit around here and you spin your little webs and you think the whole world revolves around you and your money. Well, it doesn't Mr. Potter. In the whole vast configuration of things, I'd say you were nothing but a scurvy little spider!

If you know the story here is where George begins to have second thoughts and doubts of his life and the choices he's made. It is where George begins to finally seek for help from the One person he should have in the first place.

"Dear Father in heaven, I'm not a praying man, but if you're up there and you can hear me, show me the way...show me the way."

George realizes he is worth more dead then alive with his life insurance policy, as he thinks about Mary and the kids. George Bailey is about to jump off the bridge when down from heaven comes Clarence the Angel to save George and renew his life in a dramatic way.

Clarence decides to show George how life would be like if he had never been born, a chance for him to see the world without him in it. He shows George Bailey: his brother Harry drowning as a child, his wife Mary becoming an old maid, no more Building and Loan and everyone living in the slums of Potterville.

George realizes through this trip back in time with Clarence the Angel just how much his life touched others and made an impact in the entire town of Bedford Falls.

"Help me, Clarence, help me. I want to live again!"

When Clarence the Angel brings George back to reality, George suddenly has a different view of his life as Clarence reminds him,

"You see, George, you've really had a wonderful life. Don't you see what a mistake it would be to throw it away?"

 George excitedly runs home with a renewed outlook on life while he runs through the town of Bedford Falls wishing everyone a Merry Christmas. At home is Mary and a crowd of friends gathered to support George Bailey in his time of need. As we are reminded,

"No man is a failure who has friends."

And of course, Clarence the Angel finally gets his wings for helping George Bailey.

Sometimes in life we don't acquire a thankful heart until we have been challenged like George Bailey. Whether it's with our health, our finances, our home and family, we truly don't know what we have until something comes along to challenge us. Just like George Bailey all it takes is a simple cry for help and God will answer. And if you look closely, it may even be in the form of an angel.


Monday, December 14, 2015

It's a Wonderful Life: My Movie Review

"The three most beautiful things to hear: 'Breakfast is served, lunch is served, and'...."
- Uncle Billy

Ahh yes, the classic of all classics. This is my first attempt at writing about this 1946 Christmas classic, the film most people call the number one film of all time. There is so many messages within the confines of this movie it would be hard to fit it all in one post, so I'm going to break it down into two posts.

It's a Wonderful Life stars Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed and was directed by Frank Capra, known for directing many epic films in the history of cinema. Believe it or not, Cary Grant was first offered the role of George Bailey but contract talks fell apart so Stewart would take on the role.
As for Donna Reed, this was her first of over 20 movies she starred in.
George Bailey has his heart and mind set on leaving the small town of Bedford Falls,
"I want to shake the dust off this crummy little town and explore and conquer the world.
And then I want to come back and build skyscrapers and bridges and...."
For those of us who've seen this movie a hundred times, and never get tired of watching it, know that George Bailey's destiny is not quite what he had imagined. One of the main character points throughout this film is based upon relationships.
We have George as a child saving his brother Harry from drowning in an ice pond, to which their brotherhood builds on throughout this story.
George and his relationship with his father, someone he admires and looks up to. His father ran Bedford Falls Building and Loan, helping people get out of living in the slums run by crusty old Mr. Potter to owning their own elegant house in Bailey Park.
And of course there is Mary played by Donna Reed, whom would eventually marry George, the man she had a crush on since grade school. One of the more humorous scenes between the two is when they meet at a high school dance after having not seen each other for a few years. A couple of pranksters open up the retractable floor while George and Mary have the attention of everyone on the dance floor. They go from clicking their heels and swinging to swimming. The dance floor scene with the retractable floor which opens up to a swimming pool is one of Hollywood's most magical scenes, but turns out really isn't so magical. This scene was filmed at a Beverly Hills high school where the retractable floor really exists and is known as the swim gym.
We also have the relationship between slumlord Mr. Potter and George Bailey.
"Mr. Potter, the meanest, richest man in Bedford Falls who hates everyone
 and everything he can't have." - Mary
The relationship that all of us may acquaint with most is that between George and Clarence, an angel sent down to help George in his time of trouble. Clarence the angel needs to earn his wings and will do so if he can transform George Bailey's way of thinking and living.
George Bailey wants to do something big and important in life. Little did he know that he could do that in his own little community. With his father's passing and his brother Harry off to college, George unwillingly takes over his father's business The Building and Loan. George lays aside his own dreams and desires and realizes within him fulfilling other people's dreams of owning their own home, he is accomplishing what he set out to do. He just needed help in seeing that. And of course, Clarence the angel teaches him that through showing George how things would have been if he hadn't been born.
To be continued tomorrow.


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Polar Express: My Movie Review


"Sometimes that light at the end of the tunnel is a train." - Charles Barkley

Although this quote has no significance to the film Polar Express, I like it and thought is was worthy of getting you to chuckle. Humor is great, it can add years to your life expectancy. And so can dreams and imagination especially when we were once little kids. For some reason all children like trains, everything from our first choo-choo train to having our very own model train that we could control as they railed around the tracks. I believe that is why this 2004 Christmas film has turned into a cult classic, not just for children but us adults who like trains too, specifically steam engine trains.

The Polar Express was the first film to highlight human characters animated using the live action performance capture technique, and stars Tom Hanks voicing six different characters in the film.
The dazzling visualization mixed in with a story of enchanting adventures aboard a steam engine train not to mention the music, makes this movie a delight for any age.
There is something to be said of dreaming of a steam engine train pulling up to the front door of your house, and the conductor suggesting you climb aboard to take a trip to the North Pole.
Why it's every child's dream now isn't it? And that's what the Polar Express does indeed, fulfill kids imaginations of taking a train ride to the North Pole.
It took me a while to notice, but of the three main children in this story only one name is given, that of Billy who lives on the poor side of town. Even though the three kids never ask for each others name, their relationships to each other begin to bond purely out of the actions of their hearts toward one another. That in itself is a message.
The first boy in this enlightening tale is referred to as hero boy within the credits.
One of the goals of riding to the North Pole was to get the children to believe in Santa Claus. Just as I noted in last week's film review, you need to get little children to believe in something at an early age, so when they become older they will believe in something greater. As hero boy wakes to the tooting sound of the train at his front doorsteps on Christmas Eve night, he runs out there and is warmly greeted by the conductor who reads from his notes about hero boy, "No photo with Santa. No letter to Santa. No cookies and milk for the big guy. So, you coming aboard?"
Hero boy is hesitant at first, which is another sign of his lack in believing.
"Do you know what kind of train this is? It's a magic train to the North Pole", says the conductor.
Hero boy climbs aboard. Once he sees a bunch of kids in the rail car, he becomes a tad more comfortable with his surroundings. When Billy the poor kid declines to get on board at first, the train slowly begins to pull away. That's when hero boy pulls the emergency brakes cord and the train suddenly stops. The once hesitant Billy climbs aboard.
One of my favorite scenes is when the conductor played by Tom Hanks asks the children if they are thirsty for some hot chocolate. All of a sudden in comes the singing and dancing waiters to serve the kids hot chocolate in mugs too big for their tiny fingers. What makes this train ride an enjoyable one is the music throughout the film. It will make you want to climb aboard your local Metra train and begin to sing and dance. On second thought, you may not want to try that unless your conductor is Tom Hanks.
Along the train ride to the North Pole the 3 main child characters experience various adventures along the way. This is what brings us to the edge of our seats with oooh's and ahh's, as we feel like we are riding along: the steam engine train whistling it's way round and round the bend of snowcapped mountains, the fast moving feet of wolves trampling through the woods along the tracks as we see their breath in the cold midnight air, the flight of a soaring eagle, and hundreds of caribou crossing the tracks and bringing the train to a sudden halt. These are just some of the wizardry that is experienced as you watch Polar Express.
Upon their arrival to the North Pole, and seeing the giant Christmas tree and hundreds of elves, all of the children are star struck at what awaits them, except for Billy the poor kid who exclaims,
"Christmas just doesn't work for me."
As the three children get lost in their adventure at the North Pole, they find sure delight in a surprise ride in Santa's sack of toys as they wisk their way through the skies above the North Pole. Once their visit and the wild ride comes to an end and the Polar Express is ready to take them home, all of the children including Billy can now exclaim, "I believe."
The conductor reminds them, "Sometimes seeing is believing and sometimes the most real things we can't see."
I love the advice Santa gives to Billy upon resurrecting his heart,
"You've made new friends. No greater gift than friends. The true spirit of Christmas is in your heart."
Whether you are a seven year-old child or an adult of seventy-seven you will enjoy this film, and if you should find yourself dreaming of a Polar Express stopping in front of your house to take you for a ride remember,
"One thing about trains, it doesn't matter where they are going, it's deciding to get on."


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Miracle on 34th Street: My Review

This is my seventh year of doing Christmas movie reviews and I still enjoy writing about them just as much as watching them every Christmas Season. I am amazed at how many people in various countries choose to read my Christmas reviews in the heat of summer, maybe just to cool off, don't you think?

"Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to."

Miracle on 34th Street has always been one of my favorites, and I always find it ironic that way back when this film was made in 1947 they had to deal with the commercialization of Christmas too.

The film stars some movie greats from that era: Maureen O'Hara, John Payne, a young Natalie Wood and Edmund Gwenn, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of Kris Kringle. And if you look closely you will even recognize William Frawley who played Fred in the I Love Lucy sitcom of the 60's.

Mrs.Walker, played by Maureen O'Hara, is in charge of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and needs to find a quick replacement for Santa Claus who's a bit intoxicated. And what to her wondering eyes shall appear, but a genuine look-a-like Santa who really goes by the name Kris Kringle.

Kringle does such a great job playing Santa in the parade, and why wouldn't he, Mrs. Walker hires him to play Santa Claus at Macy's department store. Kris Kringle doesn't need to play Santa, because he really is, and that's how this story unfolds.

The entire story revolves around one simple word, a word we all struggle with in various ways, the word believe. Kris Kringle has the inevitable task of convincing the judicial system that he is who he claims he is and needs to get Mrs.Walker to believe in people, but also finds himself having to transform an unimaginative little girl named Suzy (played by Natalie Wood) to believe not just in him, but to believe in anything.

This past viewing of this film made me realize how much Mrs. Walker messed up her child's head.
Mrs.Walker carries with her doubts and fears, doesn't believe in people, and she passes that off to her daughter raising her not to believe in anything. As a second grader, Suzy doesn't believe in anything or anyone because her mother has shut down what all little kids need; to be able to use their imagination. Mrs. Walker in her defense explains that if she allows her daughter to believe in fairy tales she might grow up to believe in anything and everything. It is here that you can tell Mrs. Walker needs help in her parenting skills. The first step in believing as an adult is learning to believe as a child. Whether it's believing in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy, we all need to start somewhere.

"Getting children to believe in something is just the beginning of having them believing in something greater." - Me

Upon first meeting Suzy and learning of her mother's inept ways of raising her, Kris Kringle teaches Suzy how to pretend by using her imagination for the very first time as they pretend to be monkeys. It is at this moment where we can actually see Suzy being able to be just who she really is, a child.

While portraying himself at Macy's, there..I said it, he's really Santa Claus, Santa begins to have an effect on the children who sit on his lap. When one child asks for a fire engine and Kringle says yes, the child's mom steps in and says Macy's doesn't have that toy anymore. That's when Santa gets in BIG Trouble! He suggests to the mother another store to purchase her precious son's toy.

 Wait?!! If Kringle really is Santa, why would he tell the boy's mother where to purchase the fire engine? Ha! Never thought about that one, did ya'? On with the story...

At first, Kringle is in trouble for sending customers to different stores, but Macy himself catches on when customers are thanking him and his employees for their kind Christmas gesture, and Macy decides to make it their Christmas agenda. Obviously a marketing ploy to get more business. One of the more noteworthy quotes from this film comes from Kringle during the whole fiasco of sharing Christmas Spirit and helping people get what they need, no matter what store it's from,

"Christmas isn't just a day, it's a frame of mind."

 Kringle gets sent to a department store psychologist and is given an exam because he thinks he really is Santa and his employment history is checked and verifies him as being Kris Kringle. So now Santa is in a sack of trouble and Mrs. Walker's neighbor Mr. Gailey an attorney, decides to  take on the case as Kris Kringle is sent to permanently live at Bellevue Mental Hospital.

This is where we get to really see how messed up Mrs. Walker really is with her human condition. She gets upset that Gailey has quit his prestigious law firm to defend Kris Kringle, calling Gailey's resignation an idealistic binge over some lovely intangibles. Mrs. Walker just has no faith in the common good of people and it shows.  But Gailey having spent time with Kringle is convinced that he truly is Santa Claus and tells her that one day she might discover that those lovely intangibles are the only worthwhile things.

This is why I love Mr. Gailey and everything he represents. He has a heart for people, believes in the common good of people, and is willing to stick his neck out to help people. But this is also a result of Gailey having developed a relationship with Kringle. Whereas Mrs.Walker struggled with relationships on all levels due to her own failed marriage, as she so readily admits in this story.

The courtroom trial I always found to be humorous, especially when the prosecutor's young son is called to the witness stand by the defense and is asked to identify Santa Claus in the courtroom, to which young Tommy quickly points to Kringle without hesitation. The judge asks for more physical evidence to prove Santa Claus is real. With all the newspaper headlines filling their front pages with Santa on trial, the post office figures out a way to get rid of all the sacks of letters to Santa they have collecting dust in the basement. They send the sacks of letters to the courthouse. 

So Kris Kringle gets pardoned and is declared to be the one and only Santa Clause. But more importantly he's changed Mrs. Walker's heart into believing in people. Some will say it was more important in fulfilling Suzy's desire and Christmas request for a house with a tree swing, which comes into fruition in the end. But I believe it was more important for Mrs. Walker's heart to change because she has many more years of raising her daughter Suzy.  Like Mrs. Walker, we too struggle with believing in people. But as Maya Angelou would say,

"When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time."

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Friendsgiving

"42 to 21, like a turkey Ross is done!"

"Cheater, cheater, compulsive eater!"

Ahh, what's a little Thanksgiving amongst friends? Whether it's with family or friends there is always a Thanksgiving tradition to fall on, and for some of us in the 90's we had the television show Friends to bring us closer together. While most tv sitcoms accent Christmas, Friends was one of the few who made Thanksgiving special. After stuffing ourselves with turkey and football, Friends would come on with a humorous Thanksgiving episode to put a climax to our day before we polished off dessert with a Christmas movie.

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. I love spending it with family and friends, and always have so much to be thankful for. I think that is one of the reasons why I also enjoyed the Thanksgiving episodes of Friends, such as:

  Monica always having to add an exclamation point to every special dinner she cooked, being as precise and serious as any chef could be:

"You know Rachel, you are supposed to put those marshmallows in a concentric circle?"

"No Monica, you want to. I want to do this...." (Rachel shoves a miniature marshmallow up Monica's nose)

"Every year!" Monica exclaims.

Then we had the one where they played two-hand-touch football in between Monica's basting of the turkey.

"Chandler, you sweep to the left and get open. Rachel you go long."

"How long?"

"Long enough until you see us as tiny, little ants."

Then we had the one where Chandler had to spend Thanksgiving day in a box, just to prove to Joey how sorry he was for stealing his girlfriend.

And one of everyone's favorite, Joey gets Monica's turkey stuck on his head.

"I put it on to scare Chandler. Hurry up and get this off of me, it smells in here!"

" Well, what'd ya' think? You got your head shoved up a dead animal!"

What drew us close to all of the characters of Friends was they spent more time together than they did with their own families. They were their own little family. Today millennials are following suit, getting together with friends they haven't seen in awhile. They will meet either the day before Thanksgiving or the Friday after and call it Friendsgiving.

No matter where you live and who you spend this Thanksgiving with, may you have a blessed time with family and friends. And may you find yourself thankful for at least one thing in your life.
Here's one last favorite from Friends:

"Monica said I could make dessert this year," Rachel.

"Uh, you're gonna cook something?"Joey

"Huh, yeah, I cook." Rachel

"Offering people gum is not cooking." Chandler

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Que Dieu Soit Avec Vous

I find it ironic unfortunately of writing last week of America's lack of visibility of the American flag for fear of offending someone unless tragedy struck. And here we are today displaying our flags, feeling patriotic yet with anger as we should, as we stand in solidarity with our fellow allies in Paris, France and other parts of Europe.
And there is nothing wrong with that, as we grieve with the loss of lives in Paris, Beirut, and other parts of the world where evil has taken hold these past few days.

Somehow I think this is finally it, our true patriotism for our country and for our allies is here to stay. It's unfortunate that again it took loss of lives to stir up this once great nation. But we also need to remember to not let fear control our decisions nor our lives and the way we live them.

An early 19th century clergyman once said,

" Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones."

To my faithful readers in France and all over Europe, my prayers are with you. Stay strong.
May God be with you.

Christmas Hath No Fury

"What's the deal with Ovaltine? It comes in a round jar. It's served in a round cup.
They should call it Roundtine."

"That's gold, Jerry! Gold!"   - scene from a Seinfeld episode

This past week it was all about a red cup on social media. A red cup that didn't say Merry Christmas.
Someone allegedly complained that Starbucks Christmas cups didn't have any Christmas symbols or message on it, just the famous Starbucks logo. To me it sounds like a great marketing ploy started by a Starbucks employee or a competitor, because it went viral quickly throughout the world. And that's what the technology of today can do, it can take nothing and make it into something. Not only that, but it's free advertisement.

Have you noticed no one has complained about the McDonalds Christmas cup, which says absolutely nothing about Christmas either, yet comes in a red cup?

Hence, my thinking that this was all just a marketing ploy, and it worked!

This holiday season we need to remember not to get caught up in the so called Christmas Wars,
it's most likely a marketing ploy used by all of us on social media.

This and every Christmas should be about spending time with friends, family, celebrating the real reason for the season, and spreading love to those in need.

This photo is from a recent Night Ministry where we fed hot soup to over 100 people, some homeless, in the inner city of Chicago.

And I am sure throughout our country and world, each of us can at least find one person who is in need. Take your Christmas Spirit of love to a higher level this season. It's more fulfilling than that cup of coffee in a red cup.

Reminder: Just after Thanksgiving, I will begin my 7th year of posting Christmas movie reviews. I have some new exciting one's in store for you.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Excuse Me While I Offend You

"America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand." - Harry S. Truman

After 9/11 happened back in 2001 you couldn't go half-a-block anywhere in the USA without seeing the American flag proudly displayed. It was all over America: bumper stickers, flags on cars, house porches, store fronts, flags flying high outside schools and buildings, and pretty much everyone wore at least one t-shirt displaying the stars and stripes.

And now, fourteen years later, the flag is no longer displayed proudly by many. In fact, it has been taken out of some schools along with the pledge of allegiance, universities won't display it, and in some schools students are not allowed to wear anything that symbolizes the flag, and businesses are scared of displaying it for fear of losing business, all for the sake of fearing we might offend someone.  So much for all of the we will never forget.

Our once great, proud nation has become a nation of dare I say, wusses. The American flag was created and meant for being a symbol of Americanism. Today it constitutes a symbol to only the few and proud ( sorry Marines, had to steal that one!).

Within my researching of the American flag I found that there is an extensive flag etiquette for displaying the stars and stripes. And the United States Flag Code outlines specific guidelines for the use, display, and disposal of the flag if it should be damaged. They even have listed particular days throughout the year that the flag must be displayed at full staff (15 days) and half-staff (7 days, not included funerals).

So, why do we have a United States Flag Code if we are too afraid to display it for fear of offending anyone or disallowed to display it? Your guess is as good as mine.

Harry Truman was right when he said, "America was not built on fear", but somehow over the last 14 years we've let fear take over our once proud nation, our lives, and how we live.

With all of the great men in our history who fought to bring us freedom, we have negated all of their hard work and have gone from a nation to a stagnation. Oh sure, we can hope something bad happens to our country to bring us back to being proud patriotic Americans, but none of us really want it that way. That is why it is important to fight for your freedom, for your rights, and elect leaders who want to honestly see us become that great nation that we once were.

"Fear stifles our thinking and actions. It creates indecisiveness that results in stagnation."
- Charles Stanley

Don't let fear take hold of your actions. Display the American flag proudly.

Just recently I read a story where a Seattle University is dropping the Pledge of Allegiance and the display of the American flag from a Veteran's Day service. Really? Where would our freedom be, or what's left of it, without the men and women who served and sacrificed to protect our country?

This Veterans Day I choose to proudly display my American flag and thank the veterans who have served our country well. I hope you choose to do the same as well.



Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Facing Giants

Abominable Snowman Discovered in Alaska!

Bigfoot Spotted in New York!

Batboy Found in West Virginia Cave!

The Six-Fingered, Six-Toe Giant!

Before technology, the only amusement we had while waiting in line at the grocery store were the silly headlines from the National Enquirer or The Star magazines. It was the publishers intent to use crazy headlines to intrigue us to either thumb through the magazine or actually buy it.

Of all the unbelievable headlines posted above, only one stands true. Can you guess which one?
Unless you actually have physical evidence of any of the first three existing, it is the six-fingered,
 six-toe giant.

Within the context of the Bible, when you mention the name King David you would most associate him with fighting the giant Goliath, who stood at 9 feet, 9 inches tall. Most people tend to forget that later on David would have to fight another giant with different physical attributes, the six-fingered, six-toe giant.

When David fought Goliath he was just a young lad, anointed by the Lord, and he was full of faith.

Moreover David said, " The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of the Philistine." (1 Samuel 17:37)

After David became King, he kind of took advantage of his throne, though is heart remained pure with the Lord. David gave in to sin and his life became like an episode of Scandal: lust, plots, lies, schemes, intrigue, cover ups and murder. When David had Bathsheba's husband killed so he could take her as his wife, this displeased God greatly.

Unlike when he faced Goliath fearlessly and filled with faith, David now had to confront the six-fingered, six-toe giant. David was no longer the mighty man of faith he had been as a young man. The consequences of his sin had worn him down. In 2 Samuel 21:15, it says that David grew faint, physically weak when he saw the enemy. But he would slay him anyway.

So, why was David so victorious after sinning against God?

 It was the righteousness of God.

God knew David's heart.

God's righteousness refers to the forgiveness of sins.

We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who you are. (Romans 3:22)

David knew that God saw him as holy and pure, even though his sin had caused death and destruction for many.

As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12)

Thank God we can count on the fact that God holds nothing against us if we ask for His forgiveness.


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Stood Up, But Not Shaken

"The best feeling you can ever have is to give to others." - Oprah

When a 27 year-old Sacramento woman called her mother on a Monday to say her $35,000 wedding on Saturday wasn't gonna happen (groom got cold feet), you would most likely expect an angry mom! What you got instead was a mom a little shocked, but not shaken.

 In return for her non-refundable deposit, mom did the unexpected. She kept the reception intact, but invited an entirely different set of folks. She invited the city's homeless to a free extravagant meal, champagne included. The room was filled with individuals, children and families.

I think it is very generous actually to lose out on something so important to yourself and then give it to someone else", said one homeless woman who came with her husband and five children.

The homeless population has increased so much in Sacramento, it now includes families.

The following day the stood-up bride and her mother would go on the honeymoon trip.

And as for the groom who got cold feet? He is missing out on being a part of one great family.
A family who loves, gives, and cares for others.

Somehow I have the feeling the Bride-that-wasn't-to-be is going to be blessed beyond measure.


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Now is the Time..Maybe

"The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time." - Mark Twain
When you think of longevity in sports fan basis you think of cities like Chicago, New York and Boston. Some fans aren't even given a choice, they are born into a family of Cubs fans, or Red Sox fans, or even, dare I say... Yankees fans.
In 2004, the Boston Red Sox began the season carrying with them an 86 year old curse of not winning the World Series. The only other team with a longer losing streak, the Chicago Cubs. 
The Red Sox curse began, if you believe in curses, when they traded away Babe Ruth. Yes, that Babe Ruth, who would go on to making history in baseball.
In 2004, the Red Sox would finally break that so-called curse and win the World Series. And they did it in amazing fashion. They were down 3 games to zero to the Yankees and came back to win the next four straight games against their arch rival. The Red Sox were going to the World Series. Boston Red Sox season tickets are handed down from generation to generation in families, so it is not uncommon to see thousands of elderly folks at the games with sons, daughters, and grandkids.
The Boston Red Sox beat the St. Louis Cardinals to finally win the World Series. The next few days afterward, Boston began to see an increase in deaths of the elderly in their community. Many families said their lost loved ones were long time Red Sox fans and they could finally die in peace now. It was as if they were just hanging on with hope. A hope that their favorite team could win one championship in their lifetime. And, so it happened. They could finally rest in peace.
And now it's the Chicago Cubs turn. There are so many elderly Cubs fans out there clinging to hope of one day finally seeing the lovable losers win a World Series. The way this team is playing, this could finally be the year. And if they win, it's gonna be one heckuva party, both here and in heaven.
Go Cubs!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Roadmap to Knowledge

"The only source of knowledge is experience" - Albert Einstein

Surprisingly, Einstein failed his first university entrance exam. He passed both math and science, but failed the rest. Einstein had to go to a trade school for one year before he retook the exam and was finally admitted into the Swiss Federal Polytechnical School.

Nice to know that even Einstein's roadmap to success had failure within it.

Whenever I teach you are bound to eventually hear within the weeks of study, my illustration of the roadmap to success:

"When I get to heaven I will pull out a map and ask God, 'Why did you have me go all over the map until you got me where you wanted me?' In other words, 'Why didn't you make an easier route for me to get to where I am today spiritually?"

"Why did my destination to my destiny take so long?"

I am sure God's reply would simply be, "What took you so long, Dave?"

I've heard many times that it's the adventure of getting to your destination that makes the man.
Like Einstein suggests, experience can be our greatest access to success. Through life's ups-and-downs, our many failures and mistakes, it's those experiences that shape us into who God wants us to be.

Charles Spurgeon once indulged on this in a very profound way,

"The Father has infinite patience because He knows our immaturity will prevent us from reaching and experiencing the highest places in the Spirit.
God is ok with spending 20 years on a development that could have taken two years to complete."

"God doesn't measure time, He measures growth."

Now that I am happy with His roadmap to my destiny, I need to come up with a different question to ask upon meeting The Big Guy. Hmm, maybe I'll just say, "I love you."


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Bug Off !

"Overcome all obstacles. Learn all you can."

"I've got the learning part...but what about overcoming popsicles?"

On a far away planet, they are ready to put a plan in action. The aliens want to learn from the earthlings on how to stop fighting, so they send two of their own, disguised in human form of course, to learn how to get along with one another. This is the premise behind the kids film Bug Off.

If this were a true story, I think it would be us sending our own to another planet to learn from them instead.

One of the aliens is disguised as an old woman named Mrs. Picklenickel, who gets a job on earth as a nanny for a family with two kids who are constantly at each other's throats. The annoying young boy Tyler is always playing tricks on his older sister Krista, especially scaring her with things like plastic spiders, the same one's I used to scare my sisters with.

The kids first realize the strange behavior of Mrs. Picklenickel when she serves them breakfast, corn flakes topped with broccoli. Hmm, that would make me a little suspicious,too.

One day, in the presence of Mrs. Picklenickel, Krista finds herself at her wits end and exclaims,

"I hate my brother! I wish he were a bug!"

Suddenly her wish becomes true as Tyler gets miniaturized as a bug. At first Krista finds it amusing, but then gets frantic when Tyler cannot get back to his original form.

Krista goes to great lengths to get her brother back to his usual self, which in turn leaves

Mrs. Picklenickle in a quandary, "You said you hate your brother, why do you now love him and are trying so hard to have him return as your brother?"

Krista is even surprised herself, realizing that within her effort to help her brother, she discovers she loves him.

Yes, Tyler gets transformed back to his annoying little self, and as for Mrs. Picklenickel?

She returns to her planet with the message she learned from the earthlings,

"When you help each other you start to love them."

Oh my, if only us earthlings could get this right!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Talk to Me

"Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed
 is always to try just one more time." - Thomas Edison
I think Thomas Edison knows a thing or two about failing. It is said Edison went through some ten thousand light bulbs before getting it right. Don't you think somewhere in the middle, say around the 3-5,000 range he began feeling inadequate? Maybe losing faith in himself? But...Thomas kept moving forward, probably even when he felt he didn't trust his own wisdom, he kept moving forward.
Sometimes we can get like that with God. We may approach God with our prayer or concern for a situation and maybe not feel like we fully trust in Him. But, if you are praying to Him, if you are acknowledging Him, then surely you must trust Him, otherwise why would you even turn to Him for help?
When you call somebody on the phone you must want something from them, right?
 You don't call anybody without a purpose, right?
You don't go up to any random stranger and tell them something personal and try to get an answer of help from them,right? You go to somebody you trust.

Acknowledging God in prayer is the first step in trusting Him. Then, when you begin to earnestly seek Him out, He will not only deliver you, He will also impart wisdom to you which in turn will increase your trust in Him. All you need to do is,

"Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me." - Psalm 50:15


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

How Do You Like Me Now?

"I don't focus on what I'm up against. I focus on my goals and I try to ignore the rest."
- Venus Williams

Kris Silbaugh is a Pennsylvania wide receiver who was born without a left hand; today he is setting records for his high school football team.

My guess is Kris stuck with his dream, worked his butt off and stayed committed to that dream when others said he couldn't. And that's what it takes for all of us to accomplish our dreams, commitment.
You can't get people to believe in your dream unless you do.

You can go out and buy a $500 pair of golf clubs, but that doesn't improve your swing or your game. Trust me, that slice on your drive will still be there! Want to improve your game with those new clubs? You still have to practice. You still have to stay committed to the work in order to see the results.

I am sure somewhere Kris Silbaugh is laughing, having fun, and saying,
"How do you like me now?!"

Don't give up on your dream, it takes a lot of hard work and commitment, but you'll get there.
And remember, with God all things are possible.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Numbers Game

Ray Kroc was 52 when he first began McDonalds.

Ben Franklin was in his late 40's when he invented bifocals.

Mother Teresa didn't begin her work as a missionary until she was almost 40.

Thomas Edison didn't get his two-way telegraph (telephone) patented until he was almost 60.

John Elway is the oldest quarterback to ever win a Super Bowl, age 38. After failing 3 times before, John would win 2 Super Bowls in a row before choosing to retire.

Ronald Reagan became President at the age of 69.

Noah was 480 years old when God told him to build an ark.

Moses was 80 years old when he led the Israelites out of Egypt.

Sarah bore Abraham's child when she was 90 years old. 
I love Abraham's response on this one, as God told him that his wife will bear a son:

 Then Abraham bowed down to the ground, but he laughed to himself in disbelief. “How could I become a father at the age of 100?” he thought. “And how can Sarah have a baby when she is ninety years old?” (Genesis 17)

Just more proof that no matter what age you are God can do something incredible through you,
all you need is a willing heart accessible to Him.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Lesson Learned Sharky

"Courage is knowing what not to fear." - Plato

Just recently a video taken from 2 kayakers in San Diego quickly went viral throughout the world,
 in a matter of minutes. The two men were being circled upon by a hammerhead shark. When first watching this and seeing the shark's fin hovering above the water, naturally the theme from Jaws began to jingle in my head. My second instinct of why these men were not afraid and were literally cracking jokes while taping the footage of this 11 foot monster, was correct.
My vast knowledge of sharks knew that these guys were not in any real danger because most hammerhead sharks are harmless to humans. These two cool cats were calm and collective and
most likely had the same knowledge of sharks.

Imagine if you were out there in the ocean and this creature came swimming by; would you have panicked? Most people would have, and therein lies the importance of knowledge.

The 2 guys in the kayaks were so calm with no wavering of fear because they knew the
 hammerhead shark cannot harm them. Shouldn't we be this way with the enemy?

Most Christians should know the enemy is a defeated foe, and yet we somehow resemble fear when he comes creeping up in our lives. So, just like the 2 guys in the kayak who knew their enemy was harmless and showed no fear, we too should have no fear of the enemy and his tactics.

Knowledge is a wonderous thing!

My victory and honor come from God alone.
 He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.
-Psalm 62:7


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A Weasel? Really?

"The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have."
- Vince Lombardi

With Autumn and football season creeping up ever so closely, I 've been reading a lot lately about adversity and the will to win, whether it's in a game you are playing or life in general we all face adversity.

One of the most famous, successful coaches of all-time was Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi. He used the tactics he learned from the military and appropriated it to not just football, but life. Aside from coaching, Lombardi was also a motivational speaker. No matter what he put his hands to he succeeded, his motivation excelled his players to a higher level,

"It's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get up."

I recently watched a documentary on the Honey Badger, a weasel the size of a skunk, but just as deadly a force as a lion. The honey badger is defined as: fearless and relentless, moves with a confident trot, and clever. Their attitude is: mess with me and your gonna die.

The honey badger is basicly a weasel; one who will use any tactic available to beat prey 10 times their size. In this documentary they show  honey badgers willing to attack lions, hyenas, rhinos, and anything else that will get in their way for food. These fearless critters will even dive into a bee hive for honey, even if it means getting stung 300 times, which happens in one scene.

After watching this documentary, I now know the reason behind coach Jim Harbaugh showing this film to his players before the 49er's 2013 season. Harbaugh was teaching his players to be fearless and relentless on the field, never giving up on any one play throughout the game. His tactics worked as his team would make it all the way to the Super Bowl that year.

This past week in one of the small groups I teach, we were talking about our identity in Christ.
I called their attention to the honey badger, an identity we should all carry: walking with confidence and moving forward both fearlessly and relentlessly.

Charles Spurgeon once said,

"In order for God to flow through us, we must come face to face with the fact that we have weaknesses and we must be determined not to let them bother us. Our imperfections will not stop God from working through our weaknesses unless we let them."

Probably the one verse that I remind myself daily with, and you should too, is,

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Don't let your weaknesses or fears stop you from becoming victorious, be like the honey badger and keeping pressing forward.



Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Losing Has It's Advantages

"Yes, the journey s****(stinks) Rusty, but it's a part of getting to the destination."
- Clark Griswold

In the original 1983 film Vacation, Clark Griswold and his family are on a road trip from Chicago to Wally World Amusement Park in California. Along their way they run into many roadblocks and mishaps that hinder them from reaching their destination, which has the kids Rusty and Audrey question their dad on why they are still traveling when they should just throw in the towel and return home.

Just this week, Pittsburgh Steelers all-pro football player James Harrison made headlines when he returned his kid's participation trophies. His children are involved in sports and they received trophies just for participating in their games.

For all the sports I played  as a kid growing up, it would take an 18 wheeler to hold all my trophies for participating.

It is unfortunate that organized sports today gives out trophies to all children who participate, but that is the society we live in today. What they are saying is you deserve a prize just for showing up.
That would be like a child getting a D on a test and yet getting a reward just for taking the test.

What does any of this teach our children? Yet, this is the culture we have created for our future generations. A future that says all you have to do is show up for work to get paid. A future that says forget learning, all you have to do is show up to school and you will pass.

Ronda Rousey, a UFC Fighter and champion of the world recently stated,

"Everyone thinks I have this perfect, undefeated record, but they don't see all the failures it took to get to this point."

Losing builds character.

Losing gives you that drive to get better in order to excel.

Losing gives you that drive to want to learn more in order to achieve.

Losing it what gives you that drive to win.

Losing has it's advantages.

My only disclaimer to participating awards would be Special Olympics, for obvious reasons.
Heck, we could learn a lot just from those kids!


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Woah Kids!

"Apparently there is nothing that cannot happen today." - Mark Twain

Some of life's most unexpected moments may happen when you are on a road trip. This summer I have taken a few road trips, and in each one an element of surprise awaited. That's what makes road trips so unique, you never know what will happen.

On a recent trip to Milwaukee, Wisconsin we made a stop at The Apple Holler. My friend Brian recommended we stop there, not just for lunch, but to sniff and taste all things apples. Yep, anything you can possibly make with apples as an ingredient, they had it. There is something to be said about scents and how they can transpire one's behavior and thinking. Just the aroma of fresh apple pies baking in the oven can make any frown turn to a smile.

The one thing that I found quite noticeable, aside from the smell of apples being baked in pies, cakes, bread and even donuts, was the consistent joy upon all the teens and pre-teens working there. Each of them were so happy to welcome you into their establishment that I began to feel suspicious.
I, for one, am not used to seeing happy teenagers working. Perhaps it was because I was in a different state. Or maybe it was because these kids enjoyed working in farm bib overalls. Maybe it was because they were working within the sweet aroma of baked apples. Whatever the case, it was a delight to see kids that were happy in their environment.
Former all-star basketball player Charles Barkley once said,
"I'm not a role model...Just because I dunk a basketball doesn't mean I should raise your kids."
What I think Charles was driving at was that it's the parents responsibility to teach their kids morals. Athlete's are human just like everyone else and make mistakes too. In fact, sports stars are under more pressure because everything they do is defined under a microscope.
Parents should take the responsibility in setting the standards for the children to live by. Create an enjoyable, happy, loving environment for them within your home.
I believe at the Apple Holler most of the teens working there were a part of the family. Hence their enjoyment of serving others, smiling, and being polite was apart of their upbringing. Whatever their parents are doing, they are doing it right.
Create an environment for your kids. Not just a safe one, but a home filled with love and joy; for when your kids grow older they are a reflection of you, so make it a good reflection.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Kids Lives Matter

"All kids need is a little help, a little hope and somebody who believes in them."
- Magic Johnson

Maddy was just a bubbly eight-year old girl doing what she loved to do, riding her scooter.
She would later that day become a missing child, only a few days later to be found in a dumpster.
How could such a beautiful day end so tragic?

Daniel was a five-year old boy who loved doing what probably any other five-year old boy would do, playing video games and sports. Then one night his mother locked the two of them in the car and set it on fire. How could a child's life end so tragically?

Two Oklahoma teenagers killed both of their parents and three of their siblings, ages 5,7and 12 in a night filled with rage. Who could do such a thing, especially to kids?

All of these are just a handful of news stories from one week here in America. Yep, all of this without even adding in here the Planned Parenthood humanely insane tragedy. With so much violence and hatred spilling out these last few months, America doesn't quite look like the country it once was or was intended to be. What's missing?

If there is darkness in our nation than there is a lack of light.

There's also a lack of all Christians reading God's Word. A recent study has shown 90 percent desire to please and honor God, yet don't read their Bible everyday. No matter how much social justice work you may get involved with in our society, you need to add hope to it, the one hope that matters most.

"You are my refuge and my shield; Your Word is my source of hope." - Psalm 119:114

If there's one group of people that need hope it's all the young, innocent children of the world. It doesn't matter what country you live in, like Magic Johnson said, "All kids need hope."

Light dispels darkness. And what illuminates that hope that we may provide others with is God, His presence, His Word. It is utterly impossible to do things on our own, no matter how much we want to or try to change the circumstances of others and deliver hope. We need to access that greater hope, the One who lives inside of us in order to illuminate others.

"Core values enable us to focus on God and be led by the Holy Spirit. We do not become embroiled in carnality, rather , we allow our responses to elevate us into the nature and character of God. So we must practice peacemaking, love, gentleness, self-control, and kindness." - Graham Cooke

If there is one thing America needs it's Christians of all faiths to focus on shedding it's light.

"No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light."  - Luke 11:33


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Power of an Ant and a Dump Truck

"You think you can stop the future? You're just a thief!"

"No, I'm the Ant-Man!...I know, it wasn't my idea."

The other day while driving on a busy road I noticed a dump truck full of concrete storming by.
What came to mind wasn't the reckless way these guys drive, but the power these guys must feel when driving these monstrosities on the road. Oh to have that kind of power, not just on the road but everyday and in every situation.

I recently viewed the new superhero film The Ant-Man and found it to be a lot of fun and quite moving in it's message on power. I don't believe that it was meant to bring forth a message as much as to entertain, but it was most definitely thought provoking.
I won't indulge you with much of the film, but I do suggest you see it; you and your kids will thoroughly enjoy this film.

While the main character Scott is learning how to use the Ant-Man suit and how to miniaturize himself to the size of an ant, he also learns all about the variety of ants there are and how to use them to his advantage. Here are some facts about ants you may not know:

1. Ants can survive and thrive in conditions that would challenge us individuals.

2. Ants are capable of carrying objects 50 times their own body weight.
Ever see an ant carry a french fry?

3. There are at least 1.5 million ants on the planet for every human being.

4. Ants will enslave other ants, keeping them captive and making them do work for the colony.
Ants will work together to get their mission accomplished, even if it's carrying a bread crumb for everyone to feed on.

And, in case you didn't know, ants are even mentioned in the Bible:

Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise.
- Proverbs 6:6

Ants- they aren't strong, but they store up food all summer. - Proverbs 30:25

In a biblical sense we are taught to be wise like the ant, but what about the power?

I think we can all relate to the comparison of a dump truck versus the ant. Especially us kids who were involved in sports. I may not have been the biggest or strongest of the kids on the teams I played on, but I did carry with me an inner strength; a drive to excel no matter how big the competition was.

Sometimes we get caught up in that whole power struggle whether it's in sports or in the business world, and may even second guess our abilities. But no matter what we say or think, God says differently,

"For I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." - Philippians 4:13

Whether you feel like the size of an ant at certain times you can have the power of a dump truck, you just need to believe.

"Scott, I need you to be the Ant-Man."

"One question...Is it too late to change the name?"


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Road Trippin'

"All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware."
- Martin Buber, an 1800's German Philosopher

Ahh, who doesn't like a good road trip? A time to get away and view the sights and sounds of America. What makes road trips so great is not the getting to the destination part, but what you may find along the way. I love reading on social media, in particular Face Book friends,  their road trips and the photos they take along the way. They say everyone has a story to tell, but even more so when on a road trip; stories to tell your kids, your grandkids, and memories no one can take from you.

As a kid growing up in the early 70's I carry fond memories of the road trips my parents took me and my 4 siblings on. I do admit sometimes they weren't so enjoyable, especially when your riding in the backseat of a station wagon and the only windows that actually rolled down were in the front seat of the car.. But our trips had their moments.
With technology not so advanced then, we either had a book to read, or our imagination as we viewed the scenery along the way. On the radio my father would be playing country music, old school style to kids today. At the time I couldn't stand listening to it, but once I grew older my appreciation for music expanded to where, dare I say it, I enjoy old school country music. Mostly because they stir up fond memories from my childhood.

As for the staring out the window and letting my imagination run wild, it was those road trips that brought me to my love for nature and the creativity that I can use to want to explore nature more. I think Rod Serling's Twilight Zone narration said it best,

"You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension - a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You've just crossed over into the Twilight Zone." 
Though we may not literally be traveling to the twilight zone, although it my feel like it when traveling through Iowa corn fields and cow patches when you live in the city, but every road trip can bring you closer to who you desire to be.
One of my favorite moments in the film Elizabethtown is the road trip Claire, played by Kirsten Dunst, has her love interest Drew take, upon his trip back home from his dad's funeral. Drew is bringing the remains of his father back home:
Claire tells Drew to take one final trip with his father, giving him a map and marking special stops to make along the way. Drew follows the map home, spreading his father's ashes at memorable sites until the map gives him a choice; to either follow the map home, or follow new directions. He chooses the latter, which leads him to a small town fair, where he encounters Claire waiting for him. The two kiss and Drew finally realizes what Claire has been telling him all along: life is going to be filled with fierce battles, but through the battles, redemption is found and results in a glorious life.
 What makes this such a great, memorable moment is the map Claire gives him also contains a soundtrack of a whole variety of music to listen to on the way. After viewing this film many times, I have taken up the idea of getting away from my natural day-to-day music listening, when going on road trips. Kind of like revisiting my past and the variety of music I listened to along the way.

Music is an important part of any road trip. Don't be afraid to not only explore the great nature that surrounds us, but add a little a variety to that soundtrack, a great way to set the mood for any road trip.

No matter what part of the United States you live in, there's a road trip to be had. If your looking for some real adventure, checkout www.roadtrippers.com. There you will find some off-the-beaten-trail sights
that you've never even heard of.

Summer's almost over, time to pack those bags and get road trippin'