Thursday, June 18, 2009

Miss Potter

I adore Netflix. I've been a member for quite a few years now. I joined up when they first got going. I really enjoy a good movie. My husband really enjoys any movie that has explosions, aliens, gun fights and car chases so it is sometimes difficult to find a movie that we both like. However, I will say my husband is a good sport and will often sit down and watch a movie of my choosing.

My last selection was Miss Potter about the life of Beatrix Potter who wrote The Tale of Peter Rabbit and many other well-loved children's stories. She also illustrated them with some of the most charming sketches and watercolors that I have ever seen. The story takes place in and around London and also in the Lake District in England where she spent her later middle years. It was acted and filmed with a restraint that was delightful. I would highly recommend it next time you want a movie that is charming, a true story and full of beautiful views of the English country side.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Red High Heels

A little over a year ago, I went out shopping with my soon to be sister-in-law. She needed a dress for my wedding and I was shopping for clothes for my honeymoon. If Jennifer had not been with me, I probably would never have tried on or even bought a pair of bright red patent peep toe pumps to go with a gorgeous filmy black and white dress I had just purchased.

But she was and I did.

I adored those shoes! I wore them every chance I got but especially with the black and white dress. I wore them to church, to work, out for dinner and sometimes just around the house because I could. I wore them one day to work when I was having some furniture picked up after hours and had to work late.

Since the red shoes were built for beauty and not for comfort, I had also wisely taken along a pair of black flats so that I could supervise the moving men without having to strut around in 4 inch heels at the end of very long day. I put the red shoes away carefully, took care of the furniture move and went home.

It was the last I saw of my red shoes for nearly one full year.

I was so unhappy with myself for losing my red shoes. I looked high and low. I asked the building lost and found in case I had left them laying somewhere by accident during the furniture move. I tore apart my car, my closet and looked in several unlikely locations for my shoes. Finally, I had to resign myself to their loss. Jennifer and my mother urged me to go out and get another pair of red shoes but I never got around to it.

Last night while searching for my husband's little binoculars, I found my red shoes. We had taken the binoculars to the opera and he claimed I had put them in my purse at the end of the opera. Now the purse I had taken to the opera had been emptied into a different purse quite some time ago but to be a good sport, I looked in the purse again along with my two tiny opera purses without finding them. So, in case I had remembered wrong about which purse I had carried, I dug out my other purses and in doing so found my red shoes in my black purse with the red cherries on it. I don't know why or how my red shoes were in that bag but there they were, smiling up at me. Needless to say, I was completely distracted and overjoyed at the discovery of my red shoes, my husband had to continue his search alone. I had found my red shoes!

He eventually found the binoculars in his camera bag.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio

I just finished reading The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio by Terry Ryan. The subtitle for the book is How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less. It was made into a movie not long ago but I haven't seen it yet.

I was attracted to this book for a number of reasons. One was the picture of the Ryan family (left) that appears on the book's cover. Another was the subtitle and description of the book on its back cover. My mother is the oldest of 10 children so that was yet another reason. Also, I am sometimes sorry that I missed the 1950's and early 1960's in America. It seems like a simpler time but I think it is because it has become idealized that way.

In fewer than 350 pages, Terry Ryan tells her family's story in a completely down-to-earth manner but without becoming sordid. The truth was that their father was an alcoholic -- sometimes violent and always difficult when he was drinking. He spent roughly $30 of his $90 a week salary on drink initially and eventually even more. But his alcoholism is merely a backdrop for the real story.

Their mother, Evelyn Ryan, was a contester. She entered every jingle, slogan and other contest she could to help make ends meet. With 10 kids, she could not work outside the home and so she spent every spare minute she had entering the Burma Shave, Dial, Dr. Pepper, Beech Nut Gum and other contest that she possibly could often entering multiple times under various versions of her name and her children's names. On average, she won at least some prize in 1 out of every 4 contests that she entered. Sometimes these wins were significant and, in one case, kept the family from foreclosure.

In the face of extreme difficultly, Evelyn triumphed over and over again. She had a buoyancy of spirit, a sense of humor and a love of her children that drove her against fantastically long odds to persevere in spite of it all. I find it hard to explain fully why I liked this book so well. I always enjoy a good true story but this one could so easily have drifted into maudlin territory and it never did. It has a "just the facts, ma'am" style but still maintains a warm family feeling to it at the same time.

Evelyn Ryan passed away in 1998 and her daughter, the author of the book, Terry Ryan, lost her life to Stage IV brain cancer in 2007. Go get the book and read it.