Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Year's Resolutions for 2017

Tonight we put that terrible toddler of a year 2016 to bed.

Ugh, 2016... *shudder*

But I think 2017 is going to be awesome. Right? Right?!!!

I am a big believer in New Year's Resolutions. I don't complete all of them, but on average I'd say I accomplish about 80% of my goals. For example, last year I proposed that I would take more photographs -- which I did not do. (I failed that one for the second year in a row.) But I did fulfill an important one: draw more pictures. I did that, and then some.

So, here's my new list:

1) Take more photos (photographs at least twice a week)

2) Write / sell a new picture book

3) Generate idea for next big project (finish at least 25% of it)

4) Work on a creative project with my daughters (a YouTube channel and/or Podcast)

5) Show my appreciation more often / strengthen relationships and communication

6) Oh, and let's say for #6 I plan to lose six pounds... scratch that, I just weighed myself... make that ten pounds! After all, what's a New Year's Resolution list witout something about health?

What are your resolutions?

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Goodbye, Princess Leia

Carrie Fisher died yesterday morning. That news hit me hard, especially since it had been reported that she was in stable condition following her heart attack. I thought that she would pull through and survive 2016. Alas, this dreadful year has taken away yet another one of my favorite icons.

If I sound like a petulant child that has lost his toy, that's not too far off. I admit that my grief over Carrie Fisher is incredibly selfish. I'm really mourning the loss of Princess Leia, a main character in a movie series that is more than a movie series to me... It's my go-to happy place that has been evolving in my imagination since childhood.

I was so ecstatic to see the characters return in The Force Awakens. I can't wait to see wait happens in Episodes eight and nine. I don't know if the Princess, pardon me I mean, if the General has a role in the upcoming films, but I am angry that Mr. Death has thrown off the storyline. I am angry that the Grim Reaper has robbed our planet a great actress and a great woman who was still writing, performing, and creating.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

"Christmas had come. Officially."

That's a line for the classic holiday comedy, "A Christmas Story."

It's the scene near the end of the movie when Ralphie and his brother are ripping through their presents. The narrator, the incomparable Jean Sheppard, describes it as, "We plunged into the cornucopia." Did you have that kind of Christmas when you were a kid? I'm lucky to say that I did. My parents didn't have a lot of money, but they made sure our stocking were full (even if those stocking stuffers included oranges, walnuts, and the occasional toothbrush). Presents aren't the best way to show love and affection, but they do make you feel special, don't they?

Even as a 45-year-old, I still love to tear into the gift wrapping. Even before that, I love just holding the present, feeling its weight, wondering what's inside... And perhaps wondering if this is one that Santa brought on his sleigh.

I hope your day was merry and bright, and that you got everything on your Christmas list. And if not, there's always next year! (But don't forget to check in the corner, behind the couch, maybe your Red Rider B-B Gun is waiting for you.)

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Wonder of Capra's "Wonderful Life"

Hope the holidays are treating you well, dear reader.

This darn cold knocked me for a loop, and I spent at least a week feeling all clogged up and useless. Fortunately, I'm better now. But then, of course, since it's the end of the school year, I've got lots of papers to grade. Bleah!

But good stuff has been happening too. My family has been watching a lot of Christmas movies, including my personal favorite: It's a Wonderful Life.  So many awesome moments in that film. It might be the best screenplay of all time.

And how can you not love this guy's face???

Like a lot of people, I need this movie to remind me of how grateful I should be for everything and everyone in my life. Sometimes we feel stuck, just like George Bailey. We feel like we aren't supposed to be where we are, and that makes us angry. We want to blame everybody else for our problems. We want to rage and howl at the universe. Just like this guy:

If we roll around in that anger long enough, we start to hate other people, and (just as bad if not worse) we start to hate ourselves. That's when we might become this guy: 

And we don't want to end up like mean Mr. Potter, do we? Sure, in the alternate universe he does create Pottersville, a thriving artistic community with lots of dance halls and jazz musicians, but aside from that vibrant metropolis, what else does he have? Nothing. No one. He's nothing but a "scurvy little spider," and he knows it. So, it might be tempting to get mad and shake our dumb Uncle Billy like a rag doll... 

But it's not going to solve anything. So... What do we do?

We get humble and we get sad. But not just, oh I am going to throw a pity-party kind of sadness... I'm talking about end-of-your-rope, Let-go-let-God sadness. The kind of sadness that says, "Hey Universe, I apologize for all the raging and howling I did earlier. I now realize that I'm a little speck "in the whole vast configuration of things." And that's probably when we ask for help. I'm not religious in the traditional sense but I'm a spiritual, willfully foolish Romantic (with a capital R) in many ways, and sometimes I believe that when we get to our lowest point we open ourselves up to genuinely ask for help from the universe (or God or society or whatever you believe in). 

And you know what? Sometimes we are heard... By the universe...

Or perhaps by our guardian angel... 

But we don't always need divine intervention or a shift in the space-time continuum in order to be saved... Sometimes we are spiritually rescued by... our family... 

... and our friends...

...or by a good book... 

...or a loyal squirrel... 

It's a Wonderful Life has been revitalizing of our sense of humanity for over 70 years. Even the film itself is a reflection of George Bailey's struggles. When it was first released in 1946 it was a box office disappointment, and it wasn't until its annual television broadcast around Christmas time that we began to truly (and communally) cherish this American classic. And thank goodness, because every time I watch the story of George Bailey I take away a new lesson that sets the tone for the New Year. 

This year, my lesson goes against the old adage "Dance like no one is watching." Instead, I am going to take a cue from George Bailey and... 

I'm gonna dance everybody's watching me skip to the edge of a freakin' swimming pool!

Happy holidays, everybody!  Don't be afraid to jump in! 


Friday, December 2, 2016

"Twelve Angry Pigs" Goes to College

Here's a photo from a recent performance of "Twelve Angry Pigs" at South Western Oklahoma State College. It looks like they've done an excellent job of my little show (that's big on ham).

The staging looks awesome! This is a show that I have offered royalty-free for about eight years, and since that time it has been performed by schools and little theaters all over the globe.

Congrats to the students of SWOSC!