Gathering With Family

I love the irony of a family gathering on Independence Day.  We’ve mostly all grown up and moved on in our lives to form new families and new connections far away from “home,” yet this year, as in years past, my siblings and I have gathered at my sister’s house in Waterford, Michigan, to celebrate our country’s beginnings and our family’s continuing close connection.  Do you, too, connect with friends and family for the fourth of July?

Henry dog in front of Ocie's car

I like this car.

I think the fireworks at this time of year are also appropriate.  Yes, the rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air do still give proof that our love of country and family are still there. Thank you Francis Scott Key.  I also like the idea that people yelling and disagreeing does make a lot of noise sometimes, but eventually the noise dies away, leaving a strength of family and love. How cool is that?

During my visit to Detroit this year, Sis and I watched the movie, “Return to Me,” starring Minnie Driver and David Duchovny.  The story is a romance (hey, sister week, remember?) between a heart transplant woman and a widower who’s wife was the heart donor.  That premise itself is a wonderful thought to play with, but what really appealed to me was the love of the ‘family’ that was in evidence throughout the story. There was a grandpa (Carroll O’Connor) and an uncle (Robert Loggia) and a bunch of guys who would debate the best singers ever over games of poker.  I also liked the layer of a younger family with bunches of kids and the mom and dad (Bonnie Hunt and Jim Belushi) who constantly yelled but were obviously in a rhythm of love and fireworks throughout their lives.

Henry 2014 laying down

No, I won’t go with you!

I think it is the wrapping of love in movies and stories that make them so worthwhile.  I really enjoy it when there are no real “bad guys,” but real people who just see things differently.  Remember the movie, “Sabrina?” Either version will do.  Or if you like something a little less romantic, how ’bout “Remember the Titans?” These feel-good movies and stories touch us as humans and help us see that life is exciting even without romantic kisses or gunshot-riddled sets. They help us believe an important truth–every human being counts in this world.

Sometimes stories have to have violence and force to carry their story.  I couldn’t imagine “The Godfather” without the shooting scenes.  But there is a line between moving the story along and gratuitous violence.  I watched a couple of episodes of “Game of Thrones,” and stopped because I couldn’t buy into the violence there.  My nephews disagreed vehemently, saying that the violence made this fantasy show more “realistic.” Interesting.

For me, when I watch a movie or television show, or read a good book, I want to be entertained.  Violence doesn’t do that for me.  But I’m open to debate.  How do you feel about violence as part of the story line?  How much is necessary, and when do you think it goes over the top?

Henry 2014 being carried to other car

Sit down protests are better than hunger strikes!

And also for me, I can’t get enough of humor and affection.  Where would we be without friends on-screen like Whoopi Goldberg or Robin Williams?  No, I can’t watch all this feel-good non-stop.  That would be like eating three birthday cakes in one weekend, with a chaser of soda-pop, and pancakes for breakfast. Oops!  Did you see me last week?

And I can’t leave my memories of the weekend without a mention of Henry.  Henry is my niece’s family dog.  I first saw him two years ago when “grandma and grandpa” brought him to the family party, and he politely let another little relative use his kennel.  This year, Henry came inside for a quick hello.  He is huge now (close to eighty pounds according to my adorable great-niece), but as quiet and friendly as I remembered him.  Henry must have gone outside with the younger people because after a quick hello pat I didn’t see him the rest of the day.

However, when it was time to go home, Henry did his best.  He ran up to the car and sat waiting for the back to open up.  Unfortunately, he had the wrong car.  The one he chose was “Ocie’s car,” Ocie being another sister who was traveling in  a different direction.  Ocie’s grandson is very fond of cars, and hers is always the best.  Add to this that Ocie has a new car and, well, who could blame Henry for wanting to go in it?

No matter how the Henry family coaxed and cajoled, Henry wouldn’t move.  If this were a taste test, Ocie’s car won the day.  So how do you move a big dog who doesn’t want to move?

Henry being loaded into the "right" car

In the end, love wins the day, and Henry goes in the “right” car.

My niece and her two kids picked up Henry, and walked around the corner to the “right car.” Personally? I think Henry has good taste in cars, but has ended up with a loving family. Best of both worlds.

Wishing you love in all of your conflicts this week.


Oops! No Contest Entries–Things To Resent

Hi my reading and writing friends,

Story Engineering, by Larry Brooks

Now’s your chance–write!

I had hoped to bring you some great creative writing from our community today, but I guess people didn’t have time to write a short story that had two characters in it with the theme of “resentment.” This closes our writing contest of a story on resentment.

That’s okay.  We’ll just play with the pre-writing of such a story today.


When I get a theme for story, I love to start with–you guessed it–a brainstorm.  So, just as Story Engineering suggests, I’ll brainstorm a list of things I resent:

  • It’s not fair that I care for my pets the best I can and they still have accidents, and health issues. And then the vet can say “pay for all these tests, but there’s no guarantee of a diagnosis.” What if a vet took their kid to a doctor and got the same line?
  • It’s not fair that just as I’m starting to grow up a little, I look in the mirror and see an old woman with more wrinkles than a pile of clothes forgotten in the laundry machine.  What if you could put yourself through the wash and come out like one of the no-iron materials–all fresh and new every seven years or so?  What would that “washing machine” look like? How would it feel to be wash & dried?
  • I resent corporations that make bottom line profits more important than product safety.  What if corporations could be put on trial for such things as murder or negligence (okay, so technically, now that the Supreme Court has given corporations human status, I suppose they could). Who would be a jury of their peers?  If the federal government arrested, say, Wyeth Laboratories, would the pharmaceutical world come to a standstill as Lederle, Johnson & Johnson, and ten other corporations get called in for jury duty?  I like this idea.  Just makes me giggle.
  • It’s really not fair that artists don’t get paid well, just because they work in fields everyone dabbles in for hobbies.  Think of it.  Writers, painters, musicians, actors, comedians, dancers and more are important to the meaning of our lives.  Yet they still have to have “real” jobs to pay the bills. What if football had to be viewed live because no television crew was there to produce the game? What if all the boxes on grocery store shelves were printed with black words on a white box, because no graphic artists and ad copy people could afford to work in their chosen fields?  This sounds like a future-focused sci-fi to me.

The next step in this process would be to choose one of the ideas above, and give it a little “character.” I may personally resent the things above, but my protagonist doesn’t need to be me.  I love the idea of a jury of corporate peers, so let’s play with that:

Character One:

CEO Bradley Common (yes I let a name pop into my head for this) is mad.  Why? Because he has 5,426 unread emails in his in-box, twelve management meetings, 2 take-over bids to exercise and now, he’s been called in for jury duty.  Brad’s corporate lawyer can’t get him out of this because a new law says you must follow the spirit of the “request” for jury duty and actually show up.  Now Brad hates Sunco Corp, who’s on trial–not for the crime of accidentally giving thousands of people skin cancer with their failed sunblock, but for wasting Brad’s valuable time. Brad needs an exit strategy, like yesterday.

Character Two:

District Attorney Laura Steele is fed up  with these prima-donna executives.  She’s going to throw the book at Sunco and make them an example.  US made products must have higher standards than in recent years.  Besides, she’s been using Sunco skin care products for years, and now she’s noticing misshapen moles on her skin.  She looks over the man in front of her, making his excuses to the judge. Hmm. Bradley Common. What a jerk.  He’s head of Jargon Pharmaceuticals, one of the biggest chemical companies in the world, and it’s rumored, between the questionable cosmetic products and the seven divorces,  this guy is a real lady-killer.

Now, You Take Over

I’ve played with themes and characters with you this morning.  To be honest, this has been an off-the-cuff writing session, so I’m sure that you can find lots of problems with the writing.  But still, try playing with this.  Who will be your protagonist, Bradley or Laura?  Why?  What MUST they do in order to WHAT (achieve their goal), and how will they GROW as a result of this journey?

Decide whether this will be a thriller, a comedy, or even a romance. Maybe you’ll stay in the notion of a future-focused sci-fi.  Be creative and have fun.  No contest this time. Just our thanks to Larry Brooks for his terrific book, and maybe you’ll write a story that a fiction magazine will publish.  Good luck.