In Whoville They Say…

It’s that time of year…well, let’s be honest, for some of us it’s been that time of year since November first! Now, my house is not decorated yet, although it will be by this weekend, but that’s only because I just returned from spending Thanksgiving in Disneyworld. Normally, I am a “tree goes up the day after Thanksgiving” kind of gal and Christmas music has been on in my home since the day after Halloween. After all, the “most wonderful time of year” only comes around once a year, and I for one like to make it last as long as possible.

That said, I am well aware that the constant hustle and bustle of the holiday season is enough to make everyone’s inner Grinch, mine included emerge at least once between Black Friday and Christmas day. It’s inevitable, between the lines at the stores, the hassle of the required trips to the post office, the search for the perfect present, the feeling when you think you’ve hit every item on “Santa’s list” for your little one, only to have them add some totally new must have toy at the last minute…and then the endless query of where are you celebrating, whose making what, did we remember to get a gift for this person, did I mail a card to that person…it’s endless, it’s tiring, and it’s a lot to absorb in a five week period. Wait a minute, did I just say I wanted to make the Christmas season last as long as possible??

All stressors aside, yes I did and yes I do, each and every year. I love it all, even when I cannot find my spool of tape (and trust me, nothing makes me crazier than that!), even when there are half eaten candy canes stuck to my sofa (thank you, Abigail!) even when Christmas Vacation, Elf, and A Christmas Story are LITERALLY the only three movies on my television every single night, even when each morning starts by a duet of Baby It’s Cold Outside sung into our hairbrushes and ends with a read aloud of Peppa Pig’s Christmas Wish, I still manage to keep that inner Grinch in check, even if some days it’s more of a challenge than others. That’s because there is something new and unique and wonderful about each and every holiday season- in all of the 41 I have experienced (although to be fair, those first few I don’t truly recall), no two have been exactly alike but all have been magical. And in living through each one, there has been some memory, some intangible moment of magic and love that has…to quote that beloved Christmas tale penned by Dr. Suess: (made my) small heart grow three sizes that day.

And so today on November 26th, the Thanksgiving holiday behind us, the Christmas season in all of its full fledged, gingerbread sprinkled, gumdrop speckled, peppermint frosted, snowflake sparkling glory is upon us…and what is going to make your small heart grow? What is going to literally stop you in your tracks this season and take your breath away? What is going to bring a smile to your face, a tear to your eye, a flutter to your breath, and warmth to your heart? What specifically this season will bring the true magic of Christmas home to you between now and December 25th? It can be anything, large or small…remember…for the Grinch, all it took was the tiniest Who down in Whoville, little Cindy Lou Who.

All I know is this…it will be unique…it will be magical…and it will truly make your season bright.

Let us all have a wonderful start to the Christmas season together…and let’s watch as all of our hearts grow three times in size all December long!

In The Words of President Lincoln…

It is always interesting to me to reflect as Thanksgiving draws near that during the midst of the Civil War, President Lincoln was able to still stop, reflect, and not only give thanks, but to take time to declare that we proclaim a National Day of Thanksgiving…setting aside the 4th Thursday in November to give thanks for all the good gifts that God provides for us.

This November, no matter what circumstances, joyful or sorrowful have come our way during the preceding months, let us take a few moments to reflect on the powerful words of one of our nation’s most inspiring leaders. Let us truly reflect on the meaning of Thanksgiving and pause for a moment to give thanks for all things, great and small, that we hold dear to our hearts.

From my family to yours…Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore.

Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

The King Came Home…

This past weekend, I had the chance to see The King come home. No, not Elvis, but Kong, back home in NYC, in previews before the show opened on 11/8/18. What an opportunity; truly the 8th Wonder of the World, as he was billed way back in 1933. What a spectacle; for the effects alone, this show is not to be missed. As the build- up is touting, he does not sing or dance, and yet is he is the biggest Broadway star of the season. I heartily agree, especially since Lin Manuel Miranda is no longer performing just a few blocks south.

And as for the story itself? Well, a lot has changed since 1933. As one critic says “The new Ann Darrow is a heroine for our times.” I guess I agree with that as well. She is as far removed from legendary scream queen Fay Wray as it is possible to be. The Ann we saw is no clinging vine, no damsel in distress. The critic used the word empowered to describe her. I however, after watching for two and a half hours, would favor another…AMBITIOUS, almost to a fault. From the moment the curtain rises, she lets us know that her goal is to be “The Queen of New York” and she never once lets go of that goal. As I sat in that pitch black theater, what I felt was not sympathy for our leading lady as Kong carried her (gently) off, but rather a faint sense of disquieting déjà vu, as if I knew both Ann and Carl Denham (who is our filmmaker and Ann’s counterpart), this Queen of NY and her Director, from someplace long ago and far away. Yet, I could not quite place them, until our heroine lured Kong, who had just saved her life, straight into Carl’s waiting trap of chains and tear gas.

And then it hit me! I knew these two, hell bent on fame and fortune, on bright lights and big city, ready to take the world by storm and not really caring who they hurt. A ruthless couple, not truly in love with each other, but giddy with power and greed, and all they could attain by working together to climb to the top. Ladies and gentlemen, right in the middle of Skull Island, I found Lord and Lady Macbeth! And who was our Kong but poor, defenseless Duncan, lured to his doom by one he trusted.

To see Kong, first bound and chained and then strung up on display brought me to tears. To see the leads sing with glee over how best to exploit him made me mad. And then, to read critics praise a female portrayed in this light?! Calling her an “empowered woman of our time”?! That has me almost speechless. For would we call Lady Macbeth empowered?? I know that type of so called empowerment is NOT what we strive to teach daily.

To be empowered is not to step blindly over others. It is not to social climb by breaking others backs. IT is not to get ahead in this world by beating others down. To be truly empowered is not to gain strength from the sadness and exploitation of others. That is not even remotely the definition of a strong empowered woman, of our generation or of ANY generation. And although in the show Ann finally sees the error of her ways, it is far too late in the game to save the King she destroyed.

I offer my full praise for the show’s effects…it was like nothing I have seen in my life. I offer my empathy for a fallen “King”…he truly moved me to tears. However, to praise it as an example of a woman of our time? Oh no, that I cannot do. For I know in my heart that not one Saint Dominic Academy student or alumna would ever relate to the Ann Darrow I saw. Even my Abigail wept for Kong and called Ann mean. 140 years of women who have walked our halls know what it truly means to be an empowered woman of our time. Perhaps, this Miss Ann Darrow would benefit from a visit to Saint Dominic Academy.

Empowered Princesses

I have two Disney paintings by Thomas Kincade in my office. One, which hangs just above my computer features Tiana and Naveen standing by the bayou with a riverboat and a New Orleans mansion in the distance. She is speaking and he is holding her hand, staring at her with rapt attention. The other, which hangs next to my window features Rapunzel in a boat, reaching upward for a lantern, her face awash with joy, eyes turned toward the purple night sky. Flynn Rider is in the rear of the boat, smiling at her, a lantern extended in his hand ready to hand it to her when she finally turns to notice him.

Interesting works of art…my two favorite princesses (and Abigail’s as well) and chosen for a reason. I like the message they send, about falling in love, about happily ever after, about what life is truly all about. Now, I am not discounting our “classic” Disney princesses- Snow White, Cinderella, Ariel, Belle, Aurora; they all have a place in the minds and hearts of our childhood, but as young ladies grow up and grow older I think perhaps those childish dreams fade away and the allure of that glass slipper, true love’s first kiss, and “all that jazz” take a backseat, as they should in this day and age to more important matters in a young woman’s mind. As Rapunzel says in the “Tangled” version of her tower When will my life begin? And isn’t that what many young women begin to wonder as they enter into the young adult stage of their lives? College, career, financial security, a first apartment…maybe a pet, a car, a nice vacation…perhaps these are the dreams in the forefront of many minds of our up and coming generation of young women.

Of course, we want young women to believe in magic. However, as Tiana says…Fairytales can come true. You gotta make ’em happen It all depends on you. So I work real hard each and every dayAnd that’s an important factor; that the magic is inside each young woman all along…that with hard work and determination, all their dreams can come true. As long as each one of them is willing to put forth the effort and push themselves to the limit and reach for the sky (yes, I stole that one from Toy Story!) then their very own fairy tale dream can become a reality, any reality they choose for themselves.

But, it’s up to them, in today’s world, we women cannot, must not just sit and wait for that “someday my prince will come” moment. And frankly, why on earth would we want to do that? We have all of the magic we need inside of us to shape our own happily ever after, to create a “great big beautiful tomorrow shining at the end of every day” for ourselves and we can push ourselves to dream big, to motivate others, to inspire, to lead, and to achieve.

Oh, but what about love, you say? For in all these princess movies, even the movies featuring Rapunzel and Tiana two very strong willed, determined and empowered princesses, there is a little bit of romance and a happily ever after (I personally think “ I See The Light” is the best Disney love song ever penned). So, I am not discounting romance completely. I am not tossing it to the side or sweeping it under the rug. However, I have some rather…shall I say, empowering thoughts about romance in the world of Disney and I just love the way my favorite Disney girls approach the idea of romance.

Tiana and Rapunzel, I tip my tiara to both of you. The mindset showcased in your films is a beautiful message about love and about what it means to fall in love. From the moment Flynn and Naveen cross the screens, it’s perfectly clear to audiences; you ladies don’t need these men. You’ve been doing find on your own. Each of you has chosen to be with this man and by the end of the film’s run, you love this man. And he doesn’t need to rescue you from anything (or at least from anything major) because you can take care of yourself. He’s there because he likes you as well, and by the end of the film, he has also fallen in love with you. The message is quite clear: “I choose you and you choose me right back”.

That’s a love story. That’s a happily ever after. That’s the kind of dream come true we want for our empowered young women in this day and age.