Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Things Not Worth Dwelling On

A few final thoughts on “It’s a Wonderful Life” and then I promise to be done with it…
You might be sick and tired of my going on about “It’s a Wonderful Life” for the third week in a row, but it’s my blog and I’ll brag if I want to. The fact is, I had not actually seen the production when I wrote the last two columns. (Such is the nature of deadlines.) I confess, I passed judgment on something I hadn’t seen and I was mistaken. It wasn’t just a great play. It was absolutely fantastic! The Prairie Players nailed it, and it proved far more entertaining than I imagined and much funnier than the movie.

Although everybody did a brilliant job and looked marvelous doing it, I thought Jonathan Britton  played an outstanding George Bailey. And I must express special appreciation for the two on-stage Foley artists, the father and son team of Keith and Lindsay Burch (soon to be introducing a third generation to the Prairie Players!) You guys rock. Thank you, congratulations, and bravo to all of you!

If you didn’t see the play, I feel sorry for you. But not too much. Listen to me next time.

I worked “front of house” all four nights and learned something about myself in the process—something I’m not too proud of. I discovered the whole donning of the 1940s outfit, trying to keep those seams down the back of the hosiery straight, and the hour spent curling my hair into victory rolls got old by the third night. Yet, had I been on stage, four nights would have felt like not nearly enough.

I don’t like to consider what this might say about me. Not a team player? Not happy unless she’s in the spotlight? Probably some truth in that. But then, there’s probably some truth in that for most of us. Anyway, I fulfilled my commitment. My hair held up, even if my enthusiasm waned. Some things are not worth dwelling on.
Now it’s time to turn to Christmas preparations in real life…
At least I didn't do THIS.
Before the cold and snow arrived, I strung Christmas lights across the front of our house. Correction: almost across. I kind of ran out of lights before I ran out of house. But hey, I never claimed to be Martha Stewart and my home was not on the Homes for the Holidays tour. While this type of imperfection would have driven me crazy in younger years, I’m just glad to see lights on the house. Some things are not worth dwelling on.

Our family is foregoing gifts this year in favor of spending our money on travel expenses so we can all be together. I did, however, pack a Shoebox for Operation Christmas Child. Since God saw fit to bless us with three grandsons, it’s a treat to choose items for a little girl. It’s amazing how, once you dispose of all the packaging, you can fit twice as much stuff in your shoebox. Don’t make the mistake I did: shopping before reading the list of what NOT to pack. Guess I get to keep the grape flavored, Disney Princess, melts-too-easily lip balm.

I wish I could witness the little girl’s face when she opens her box. Truthfully? What I’d really like to see is a video of her opening it, watched from the comfort of my own home. I’m not keen on travelling to jungle climates with bugs and no air conditioning and poor sanitation. Pathetic, I know. More revelations about myself I’d rather not dwell on.

And in other Christmas preparations…
I will also forego our family Christmas newsletter—again. What was once a fun annual tradition seems to have gone the way of the dodo bird with the launch of my blog a few years ago. If anybody really wants to know what’s going on with the Todds, it’s not hard to find out.

But I am happy to report that newsletters are being written at my desk nonetheless…from the most unlikely of Christmas characters. It will be my joy to share these with you throughout December, so I hope you stay tuned and I hope you’ll find them to be columns worth dwelling on.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Is it REALLY a Wonderful Life?

Is your life wonderful every moment of every day? Dumb question, right? It’s no secret that pain and grief invade even the most wonderful of days. Who among us hasn’t experienced times when we’ve imagined what life would be like without us, or been convinced others would be better off if we’d never been born?

Such is the plight of George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life. Threatened with bankruptcy, scandal and prison, compounded by the words of his nemesis, “you’re worth more dead than alive,” George begins to believe it. In George’s case, he actually gets a chance to find out what his hometown would be like without him, thanks to a rooky angel named Clarence who hopes to finally earn his wings. 

The story contains some wonderful truths. The prayers we immortals pray really do reach Heaven, and angels really do come to our aid. However, the idea of us becoming angels after we die is fabricated. The Bible draws a clear distinction between the two. Humans are humans and angels are angels, with no need to earn their wings. The premise does make for some thought-provoking and entertaining stories, though.

Does your life always feel like the incredible gift that it is? It’s challenging to find the wonderful in life when it’s marred with broken relationships, loss, unstable health, financial woes, the nightly news, or even lousy weather. Isn’t it?

But what if the word “wonderful” literally means “full of wonder?” If so, then it’s our own choice to discover wonder in any given moment, if we open our eyes to it. Photographers are masters at this. My friends GayleLoewen and Stan Wiebe amaze me with their ability to find majesty in the minute objects of nature or everyday life. A cloud formation which goes so easily unseen is a masterpiece, if we but notice. A fall leaf, to the observant, is a dazzling display of intricate design. And a ninety-year-old woman’s hands are objects of great beauty when seen through the eyes of a thoughtful beholder.

Have you stopped to consider the workings of your own eyes? Or how your heart beats nonstop for decades without your command or awareness? Have you sliced into a fresh orange and marveled at its aroma, its intricacies, its life-giving sustenance? What about the wonder of language or reading? How can we look at black squiggles on a white page and from them become informed, inspired, or so engrossed in a story we’re unaware of the passing of time? 

Life is beautiful. Life is hard. Both statements are true. I believe the wonder-filled moments we enjoy in this life are a tiny taste of what awaits us in the life beyond this—where the truly wonderful is yet to come. 

You might think you wouldn’t be missed had you not been born. After all, someone can’t miss what they never had. But Psalm 139 tells us your Creator spread all the stages of your life before him, the days of your life all prepared before you’d even lived one day. The God of the universe would miss you! And I think that’s pretty wonderful.

The Friday and Saturday dinner theatre tickets are no longer available, but if you’re reading this on Thursday, November 13, you still have a chance to see the Prairie Prairies’ performance of It’s a Wonderful Life tonight at 8:00 at the William Glesby Centre. $15 will buy you a ticket, rush seating. 

 Enjoy the story. Be inspired. And embrace your wonderful life.

A scene from the Prairie Players production of It's a Wonderful Life: A Radio Play

Thursday, November 6, 2014

It’s a Doggone, Holy Mackerel, Wonderful Life

Next week, the Prairie Players will stage It’s a Wonderful Life at the William GlesbyCentre for their fall production. Under the direction of Lisa Marie Tessier, a diverse and talented cast will play multiple roles. You don’t want to miss Terry Tully, Stephanie Kauffman, Autumn Thornton, Jeffery Arndt, Jon Britton, Kevin Hamm, Rob Froese, Rob Smith, Laurel Giesbrecht, and Christopher Kitchen as they bring this classic story to life. (On a side note, we’re all proud of our president Christopher Kitchen for winning the well-deserved 2014 Arts/Cultural Person of the Year award!)

I didn’t manage to land a role on stage this time, but am working on my best 1940s outfit to wear while I take your ticket and hand out programs. And I can hardly wait to see the production! If you’re a fan of the 1947 movie starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, test yourself on the following trivia. Did you know…

It’s a Wonderful Life was the first movie Jimmy Stewart made after serving in World War II and his personal favourite. He admitted he felt nervous about the phone scene kiss, but Stewart filmed the scene in only one unrehearsed take. It worked so well, they cut part of the embrace because it was too passionate to pass the censors. Oh, how times have changed.

And speaking of changed times, Stewart’s character, George Bailey, says “Holy mackerel” and “Doggone it” each three times in the movie. Shocking, I know.

For the scene that required Donna Reed to throw a rock into the window of the Granville House, director Frank Capra hired a marksman to shoot it out for her on cue. To everyone’s amazement, Reed broke the window with true aim without assistance. She had played baseball in high school.

As a drunken Uncle Billy is leaving George’s house, it sounds as if he stumbles over some trash cans on the sidewalk. In fact, a crew member dropped some equipment right after Uncle Billy left the screen. Both actors continued with the scene, with Uncle Billy ad-libbing, “I’m all right, I’m all right!” Capra decided to use it in the final cut, and gave the clumsy stagehand a ten dollar bonus for improving the sound.

The gym floor that opens to reveal a swimming pool was real and located at Beverly Hills High School in Los Angeles. The actor who pressed the button, in an uncredited role as Freddie Othello, was Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer of Little Rascal fame.

Despite being set around Christmas, the movie was filmed during a heat wave near Encino, California. That’s why George Bailey is sweating profusely in the bridge scene. It turned so hot, Capra gave everyone a day off to recuperate. The special effects people utilized a newly developed method for creating the fake snow used in the film and earned a Class III Scientific or Technical Award from the Motion Picture Academy.

The screenplay originally called for the movie to end with Ode to Joy, not Auld Lang Syne.

In 2006, the movie was voted the #1 inspirational film of all time in the American Film Industry’s “100 Years, 100 Cheers.”

Whether It’s a Wonderful Life is your all-time favorite movie or whether you’ve never seen it, you don’t want to miss this play. On Wednesday and Thursday, November 12 and 13 at 8:00 p.m., you can see the play for $15, rush seating. If you’d rather attend the dinner theatre on Friday and Saturday, November 14 and 15, $45 will buy you a ticket. Get yours at the William Glesby Centre. There is still time—but not much. Hope to greet you there!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Why Littering Just Makes Sense

Now and then, a girl just has to rant. Since I’m certain none of my readers are litterbugs, my goal today is to help you see the error of your ways and begin to convert. It may seem unnatural, at first, to throw trash on the ground, but you can grow used to anything with practice. 

Five days a week, weather permitting, I walk to work and back. Within that six-block stretch (which includes the Tupper Street overpass) sit two trash bins, provided by our fine City. I try to make a game of moving at least one piece of trash from the ground to the inside of each bin per trip. That’s four pieces per day times five days, equals 20 pieces of trash per week. I can usually accomplish this without leaving the sidewalk. From this little exercise, I gain tremendous feelings of self-righteousness and superiority. 

Here’s my dilemma. By Friday, finding litter becomes more challenging. Sometimes I abstain from my game and sometimes I must take steps off my beaten path, which becomes really irritating. Over the weekend, I can usually count on litterbugs coming to my rescue, dropping more offerings and thereby affirming again my conviction that I am better than most run-of-the-mill citizens.

Littering just makes sense, although you may not see it at first. Most vices provide an obvious payback factor. People overeat because it tastes so darn good, or get drunk because it helps them escape for a while. Lying might protect one from recrimination; cheating on a spouse may make one feel attractive and desirable. But you probably think there is no reward in throwing garbage on our streets and sidewalks. That’s where you’re wrong. 

It’s a matter of convenience, and convenience is highly valued in today’s world. It really is far more expedient to drop your trash where you are than it is to carry it ten feet further and put it in a smelly garbage bin, or—Heaven forbid—unashamedly hoard it in your car until you’re home. If folks don’t catch on to this, I could find myself stuck in a much cleaner community. 

Thank goodness I no longer live in Texas. If you’ve ever visited, you’ve seen their famous “Don’t Mess with Texas” signs along the highways. In Texas, you can be fined up to $500 for trash up to five pounds—and yes, that includes even apple cores. Repeat the offense and you could face a fine of up to $2,000 and 180 days in jail. I don’t know what people like me have to do to feel superior in Texas. Volunteer at soup kitchens, maybe? Teach Sunday School? Sucks to be them. 

Wherever you live, you can do your part to ensure do-gooders like myself never need to suffer the indignity of feeling average. Tomorrow is Halloween, a perfect opportunity to supply us with candy wrappers, empty chip bags, and pop cans with which to maintain our general holier-than-thou-ness. Please drop it liberally, and teach your children to do the same.

Because now and then, a girl just has to play devil’s advocate.