Neil Gaiman signs Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Kid Thinks Writers are Rock Stars–How Author Signings Became a Habit

Here in the South, we read…a lot. No, probably not more than most, but we talk about it an awful lot.

For instance, just after the obligatory question about your friend’s or acquaintance’s family (“asking after your family”), we Southerners ask about what you are reading. What someone is reading tells a lot about who someone is. As Southerners, we take pride in being the culture that brought about Mark Twain, Pat Conroy, Tennessee Williams, Eudora Welty, and so many others. Book Clubs are as much social events as they are discussions about books. Writers write about the South longingly and unashamedly. We are characters, here in the South, and we LOVE our books.

You see, I was read to, but also, read in front of. My grandmothers read when I was around, my mother was a voracious reader, and I would consider myself a huge book GEEK. I read all of the time, and I cannot go to sleep without reading. I’ve been this way since I could read at the age of 3. The Kid has inherited my love of books, maybe even more so.

The Kid is, what old Southern folklorists would call, charmed. I don’t just say that because I am her parent, it’s simply the truth. Others see it, maybe even more clearly than myself. Authors, well, they say her excitement for books is contagious, and author signings have become her concerts.

I took her to see Neil Gaiman in the summer of 2013 at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta. Originally, I planned to go alone, but as she accompanied me to gather my ticket, she asked if she could go. Of course, it was sold out and I explained that there was very little chance I could get another ticket. The cashier at the bookstore where I picked up my ticket explained there was a Haiku contest on Twitter that allowed the winner to get a ticket. Of course, I didn’t think anything would come of it, but of course, a few days after tweeting her Haiku on my Twitter account, we found out she had won. Not only did she win a ticket, but she won VIP passes for seating. See, it’s the charmed thing.

After finding out that she won a ticket, she went into overdrive. She wanted to give Mr. Gaiman a picture, and she asked me many questions about him, the books she had and hadn’t read of his, and what his life as an author was like. After the millionth question, we went on the Interwebz and found out all kinds of information, but she latched on to the fact that a cat and dog of Mr. Gaiman’s had recently passed away. Cheery, huh? So, she drew him a picture of himself outside with his dog and cat. I thought it was sweet, but with his popularity, I didn’t think he would take much notice of a little girl’s picture. Boy, was I wrong.

Neil Gaiman Speaking

Neil Gaiman answering questions during the promotional tour of Ocean at the End of the Lane at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, GA in 2013.

After sitting for about 5 hours in the blazing, summer sun, we were finally able to get into the auditorium to get ready to listen to the reading of Ocean at the End of the Lane. The Kid found out we could sit in the front row, and sit in the front row we did. She was enchanted by the reading, and so excited to see the hub-bub surrounding a writer of Mr. Gaiman’s caliber and popularity. Not long after the reading, Mr. Gaiman was set up to sign the thousands of books people had bought and brought with them. I gave her a copy of Coraline for an early birthday present since I was unsure she could read his new book immediately. I read most, if not all, of her books prior to letting her read them. Not to censor them, but to ensure I have answers prepared if she has questions.

As we stood in line, I tried to explain that this was going to be really quick. He would sign, say thanks for coming, and we would go on our way. She said she understood and wouldn’t be disappointed. She loves Coraline and The Graveyard Book, so she really didn’t care. She said she just wanted to thank him for his books. When we finally got to our turn, I let her go first. You see, I LOVE Neil Gaiman’s books, and I’ve read them all. BUT, this was her first author signing, and I wanted it to be memorable for her.

Neil Gaiman signs Ocean at the End of the Lane

Neil Gaiman signs his book, Ocean at the End of the Lane for The Kid.

She went up with this huge smile on her face, and introduced herself. As she started to talk to him, she told him how much she loved reading his books, and that she was so excited to be meeting him. I’m pretty confident that he’s heard all of these things a million times before, and will a million times in the future. She told him that she drew him a picture. He was very sweet, and he took a close look at it. He recognized himself in the picture. She explained that I told her about his pets’ passings, and that’s why she included them in the picture. He just sat there, and looked at her for a good few seconds. Then, he told her that he needed a hug from her. After she hugged him and said thank you, she turned around with tears in her eyes. She told me she realized that this was a special moment for her. I wish I captured that moment with my camera. I was so bewildered I think I just stood there in awe.

She rode home in silence that evening and was completely exhausted by the day. She still remembers how she made a famous author stop and give her a hug. This was a defining moment for her, and now she thinks that authors are like rock stars. There are worse things, I guess. We are going to another author signing tomorrow. It’s becoming a habit.

Veronica Mars Event Pass

A Long Time Ago We Used To Be Friends: Veronica Mars Movie Review

Yes, I admit it. I’m a Marshmellow.

I backed the Veronica Mars movie on Kickstarter. I was a loyal viewer of Veronica Mars when it was on television. When I was pregnant with the Kid, and when she was just an infant, the husband and I used Veronica Mars as at-home date nights to make sure we spent time together while trying to figure out the whole new parenthood thing.

Since I’m a backer of the movie, I was emailed a few weeks ago, along with the 91k+ other backers that there would be a chance to see the Veronica Mars movie a day early in large cities across the US. I was lucky to be able to procure 2 tickets to the backer event at the Phipps Plaza AMC theater in Atlanta. Yes, that means I actually gave the movie even more of my money, and I was happy to do it. I was also lucky enough to be able to snag a pass to the one and only Veronica Mars movie premiere here in Atlanta through Metro Atlanta Geeks (y’all know I had to be a part of a group like that, didn’t you?).

I wanted to wait to publish my review when the movie hit the theaters, On Demand, and through iTunes. Yes, as of today, you all can get the movie in the comfort of your own home through On Demand (check your local cable provider), Amazon Prime, and through iTunes. Of course, I encourage you to actually go to your local theater. It’s amazing on the big screen and with a crowd. It would also be nice to have box office numbers encourage big wigs in the entertainment industry to realize that, in the end, it’s about the fans. It’s always been about the fans.

Veronica Mars Event Pass

Check out my seriously cool event pass to the one and only Veronica Mars Movie premier here in Atlanta.

On Wednesday night, I headed down to the Parkway Pointe AMC theater to see the Veronica Mars premiere here in Atlanta. I was very sick for several days prior to the premier and was unsure if I could or should go. I really wanted to have the opportunity to see the movie with an audience that wouldn’t necessarily know much about the original television show. It was important to me to see if the movie could stand on it’s own with knowing little or no background of the characters.

It was a great experience. The theater was just below capacity, and Warner Bros. had a little trivia contest just before start time to reward the real fans that were there. Once that was over, we all settled into our seats. I met several people from Metro Atlanta Geeks at the premiere and several others in line and sitting next to me. Most of the people that I met had never seen any or only a few of the episodes.

The first two minutes of the movie are a quick overview of what happened in the TV series. It’s short, sweet, and to the point. <Vague spoilers ahead> We quickly find out Veronica has left Neptune, CA for the big city of Manhattan. Veronica is getting ready for a big interview at a high dollar law firm. We start to find out what she’s been up to for the last 7 years. She’s reconnected with Piz, her very nice, sweet, and safe college boyfriend. Veronica sees a breaking news report that a famous pop star (and old high school classmate) has been found murdered, and the main suspect is her old, brooding, bad-boy ex-boyfriend Logan Echols. Veronica quickly ends up flying home to help Logan avoid a murder wrap. Veronica’s high school reunion is happening at the same time, which give us all an excuse to see all of our beloved and love-to-hate characters from the original series <Spoilers end>.

Rob Thomas completely delivers the movie that I, as a fan and backer, wanted to see. It was a high dollar, complicated, two hour, larger-than-life episode. The soundtrack is really amazing. The original theme song by the Dandy Warhols is still there, but with a new twist. Thomas has always given us great Indy music that introduces us to amazing songwriters and new voices. His selections for the movie don’t disappoint.

Veronica, expertly played by Kristen Bell looking great mere weeks after she gave birth to her first child, still has a snappy wit and is covered in sassiness.  Dick Casablancas, played by Ryan Hansen, has some of the best lines in the movie, and he just oozes entitled snark and sarcasm. Ryan Hansen is a genius in making you want to simultaneously punch and and pal around with him. Jason Doring, who plays Logan Echols, is still incredibly handsome and brooding, and he and Bell still have some of the most palpable chemistry ever shown on screen. Enrico Colantoni is still the best dad on television or in the movies. His relationship with Veronica is one that every parent wishes they could have with their kids. Stosh Piznarski, portrayed by Chris Lowell, is still the guy, as a parent, you want Veronica to end up with. However, as a fan of the show, you are hoping that you get that one more fix of Logan and Veronica.

Veronica’s friends and enemies are still expertly written and cast. My only question with the whole movie is the small sub-plot with Eli “Weevil” Navarro’s character (played by Francis Capra). It’s a little forced, but I understand where Thomas was coming from when he wrote it. As Veronica’s voice overs remind us, the theme of the movie is questioning the ability to move past who you really are to create someone new. Veronica likens it to an addict and their fix, but I see it more like owning your true nature. Can you really go home again? Veronica does, but at what cost?

On Wednesday night, there were plenty of laughs and gasps throughout the movie. There was only one cameo that was surprising to me, and I had to explain to the person sitting next to me what that character meant in the cannon of the series. It actually didn’t impact the plot of the story if you knew who this person was or not. However, there were enough jaws hanging agape that everyone knew that this was important to the old series fans.

When the showing was over, I asked the people who were newbies to Neptune what they thought of the movie. Everyone, without exception, really enjoyed the movie. I asked them if they felt like they missed out on any of the inside jokes or references. They felt like what they initially didn’t understand was explained enough for them to take away any pertinent information needed for the rest of the story to flow smoothly.

On Thursday night, the crowd was very, very different. These were backers. The true diehards. The backer t-shirts were everywhere, and even the movie theater staff was excited to see how excited the crowd was to be there seeing the show they brought back from the dead and put up on the screen. This was OUR movie. We all had a vested interested in making sure this was a new incarnation of the show we all loved to watch.

Veronica Mars Swag from fan event

Check out the cool stuff we got at the Veronica Mars Movie fan event in Atlanta on March 13, 2014.

Of course, I was already sold, but this was the key showing. If these people didn’t like it, well, then Rob Thomas better run and hide. I took the Husband person along with me. He hadn’t seen an episode in 7 years. He was a casual watcher of the series with me back in the day, and I was interested in his take on the movie.

Of course, it almost goes without saying that THIS was the audience this movie was made for. There were cheers, gasps, laughs, and relief. The audience cheered at the end and were dancing in their seats as the original theme song played as the credits rolled. Just about everyone was going to receive an email within 24 hours giving us our link to our own backer download of the movie. We had already paid to have it made, but we all wanted the experience of seeing it where we put it…on the big screen. I didn’t hear any complaints at all coming out of the theater. Even the Husband person enjoyed it, and he commented how much he missed Thomas’s smart, dry, quick witted sense of humor. He lamented about missing smart, strong characters like Veronica and Joss Whedon’s Buffy and Capt. Mal Reynolds on television. The Husband is not a fan of most television. For him to keep repeating how characters like these were the reason he used to be entertained by television reminded me exactly how this show entranced its fans to raise millions of dollars to resurrect characters they love.

So, all in all, yes, go see Veronica Mars. Go back and watch or re-watch all of the episodes. If you get Pivot, they have been re-playing all of the episodes in order. iTunes is allowing a free download of the extended pilot episode through March 17. There is also a Veronica Mars book coming out in the next few weeks. Once you fall in love, or back in love, with all of the characters, you have many avenues of keeping Veronica in your life, and that is a good thing.

Veronica Mars Kickstarter

A Long Time Ago We Used To Be Friends: Veronica Mars Kickstarter Campaign

If you haven’t heard, there has been a phenomenon happening over the last year. Veronica Mars blew up Kickstarter. In March of 2013, the entertainment industry was turned on it’s head by a little, cancelled television show called Veronica Mars. Ok, so now you are confused. A cancelled TV show turned the industry on it’s head. How would one do that if it’s cancelled. Introducing Kickstarter.

Veronica Mars Kickstarter splash

Kickstarter and Veronica Mars–a match made to astound the movie industry.

Up until last March, Kickstarter was best known for funding Amanda Palmer’s latest CD and music tour. That in and of itself was impressive. She was able to, independently from a major record label, raise over $1 million over the course of 30 days to fund a new CD and entire tour. The money came from her fans, and in turn, she promised everything from deluxe downloads of her new music to entry into a “backer” party in the cities across the world. Ya see, this is how the whole Kickstarter thing works. You give money to the cause/event/project of your choice, and if they hit their funding goal, you get your backer reward (it varies depending on the project and amount of $$$ you pledged). The entertainment industry was floored that an artist was able to raise that kind of capital in such a short amount of time. Amanda Palmer is a brilliant business woman, huge supporter of her fans, and her Kickstarter campaign even inspired her TED talk (watch the talk, it’s worth your time). I’m sure the entertainment industry thought this was a rare occurrence never to be duplicated. They were wrong, and wrong on a major scale.

Veronica Mars was a small show on the UPN and CW networks (remember those?) that lasted three seasons from 2004 to 2007. It was a show about a female private investigator, Veronica Mars. Oh yeah, she’s a high school student in a very affluent part of southern California (zip code 90909) when we first meet her. Her father Keith Mars, former sheriff turned PI, ex-boyfriend Duncan Kane, best bud Wallace Fennel, biker Eli Navarro, and swoon worthy bad-boy Logan Echols all revolve around Veronica while she snarks and sasses her way through three seasons. It’s another story of a great show not really getting it’s due and getting cancelled too early. Due to Rob Thomas’s catchy and quirky writing, the characters became beloved and lived on as a cult classic, much like Firefly by Joss Whedon. The fans of Veronica Mars became Marshmellows.

Last March 13th, my social media feeds started blowing up about a Kickstarter campaign being launched by Kristen Bell (the titular character of Veronica Mars) and Rob Thomas, former show runner. They had struck a deal with Warner Bros. If they could raise $2.2 million then Warner Bros. would publicize, promote, and distribute the movie. They raised the $2.2 million in 24 hours. Not to be stopped, the fans upped the ante, and by the end of the campaign, they raised just north of $5.7 million and had the most backers in Kickstarter history.

Veronica Mars Kickstarter

Yes, you are reading that right. In 30 days, they raised $5.7 mil and had 91, 500+ backers.

So, then what? Well, then they made the movie. Rob Thomas apparently had several scripts outlined and drafted, but after realizing that the fans were, well rabid, for this movie, he has said (via Twitter) he went with the version that the fans would want the most. In the summer of 2013, the Veronica Mars movie went into production, and on March 14, 2014 it premiers!

Want to know what I thought of the movie? Check out my review of the Veronica Mars movie.

 

DisneySide Cheer Cards

It’s Party Time-#DisneySide Party Part 2

If you noticed in my first post about our #DisneySide party, I left a few things out. As you saw in my reveal post, Disney sent us all kinds of goodies for a Mickey themed party for a DisneySide Celebration. They also sent us runDisney cheer cards. Once I sorted out all of the surprises in our box, it took me several days to figure out exactly what I wanted to do with everything.

I definitely wanted to have a party with our close friends and family, but there had to be more. I felt the need to “pay it forward” somehow. Disney “pays it forward” in their own communities and around the world everyday. I knew that “paying it forward” was one of the best ways to really pay tribute to my DisneySide. Then it came to me! I would send party supplies, treats, and boredom busters to the High Risk Perinatal (HRP) Unit at Northside Hospital for the patients and nurses to enjoy!

You see, for 109 days (and no, that’s not a typo), I was a patient up in the HRP ward while pregnant with the twins, Bubba and Sissy. I was admitted on September 29, 2008, and laid in a bed until January 12, 2009 when I was whisked down the hallway on the way to the OR to deliver the twins. I’ll tell the whole story in another post, but as you can imagine, it was a significant event in mine and my family’s life. I’ve written recommendations, thank you’s, and cards, but it’s taken this long to gain the confidence to go back up to the hospital to say thank you in person. I was going to use my DisneySide and all of my Disney goodies to say thank you to the nurses and staff, and give a little encouragement to the patients in HRP.

Before my party even started, several of my friends and family asked if they could help with the party or bring something to assist with preparation. After thinking about it, I had an idea. Boredom Busters! When I was a patient in the hospital, the nurses always reminded me they had a bin full of Boredom Busters up at the nurses station if I needed something to pass the time. They had crafts, coloring books, movies, books, etc. I took advantage a few times, but my husband was very good about bringing me things to keep me busy. They also had a bin that had goodies for kids visiting their moms. It had crayons, coloring books, stickers, and games. I remember the Kid taking full advantage of this on a few of those days where a 3 year old just didn’t want to be confined to a hospital room visiting her mother. Honestly, I completely understood; I didn’t want to be up there any more than she did. So, I let my guests know if they wanted to contribute any small toys or games, that would be the biggest help they could give. By the end of our party, we had an entire bag of Boredom Busters to take to the hospital!

DisneySide Boredom Busters

Check out all of the amazing goodies that our friends and family contributed to our Boredom Buster bag!

If you’ve ever been to a hospital, have you ever noticed that the person laying in the bed faces a bulletin board and a clock? Seriously, a clock? I’m convinced that whomever designed those room layouts never realized the torture of laying in a bed literally watching the seconds tick by. After the first few days, my husband and I realized that we needed to put something on the bulletin board below the clock to keep my eyes occupied on something besides the clock. I remembered this feeling, and I realized exactly what we needed to do with the runDisney cheer cards. We needed to cheer up and cheer for the patients in HRP!

DisneySide Cheer Cards

Check out the amazing Cheer Cards our guests made for the ladies on the HRP ward at Northside Hospital. Many of our guests walked through that journey with our family, and it was a blessing to have them help us out with our DisneySide project.

We decided to take some crispy rice treats and the party supplies to the nurses. We also decided to treat them to dinner with a TwoSmiles gift card. This was actually one of my favorite elements of our surprise since it was so easy! I got to print out a card/gift certificate combo right from my printer with the photo paper that HP provided.

DisneySide Surprise Bag

We loaded up our gift card, treats, party supplies, Boredom Busters, and Cheer Cards and headed to the hospital!

When we arrived at the hospital, I had to steady my nerves. Spending almost 4 months in a hospital room will make you never want to voluntarily enter a hospital again. This time, it was a happy occasion. All of my children were with me, and they were excited to donate some happiness to the patients and nurses.

Kids at HRP

Here are the kids just outside the HRP ward. The little ones, Bubba and Sissy, wouldn’t be here with us if it wasn’t for the amazing nurses, doctors, and staff that flow up and down that hallway everyday. I owe them a lot!

Out of the privacy and respect of the nurses and patients, we didn’t take pictures after this point. We were able to speak with the manager of the HRP Unit and the Patient Relations Liaison. They were incredibly kind and interested in our donation. We let them know about the DisneySide campaign by Disney, and they loved the Cheer Cards and lithographs. We were able to talk about some of my old nurses, some of whom are still there. The nurse that is responsible for getting me into an OR in order to have the twins safely just retired in December. The manager of the ward speaks to her often, and assured me she would relate my gratitude to her. When they asked me how long I stayed in HRP, I let them know. They said that I probably held a record for a while, but last year a mom was up there for over 120 days. To that mom, I salute you!

Thank you to Disney, runDisney, and all of our guests at our DisneySide party for the help in “paying it forward”. Today was a good day. If you are interested in showing your DisneySide or throwing your own DisneySide Celebration, you can! Check out the DisneySide Celebration website for ideas, recipes, themes, and more.

Disney sent some of the products you see for us to throw a party, mmm-kay. The opinions and fun had with my kids are all my own.

 

DisneySide party decor

It’s Party Time! #DisneySide Party -Part 1

After showing y’all all of my goodies that Disney sent us to host our very own #DisneySide @ Home Celebration, I am super excited to show you the details of our party!

A few weeks ago, I decided we would invite several family members and friends, who are like family, over for a little Mickey get together.

DisneySide Invitations

This was our guests’ first hint at what was in store for them!

I had a bit of a hard time figuring out exactly what we were going to do for our party to really show off our DisneySide. I hadn’t thrown a big par-tay at our house in about three years, and I wanted to make sure all of our guests would have a great time. Because we had such a range in ages, I wanted to make sure Mickey was well represented, but I also wanted to ensure that our teenagers felt cool enough to enjoy the day. Needless to say, I also wanted it to be EASY!

First, I checked out Spoonful.com to see what sorts of Mickey ideas they had for me. Bubba loves the new Mickey Mouse classic type cartoons, so I definitely wanted to have that kind of feel. Then, I decided to go to the fabric store to see if there was anything that inspired me, and Voila! there it was. A red felt Mickey fabric next to rolls of cheap burlap and different black and white fabrics. I was in heaven. Did I mention I like lots of pattern? I got a few yards of fabric, and the rest took care of itself.

DisneySide party decor

A little glimpse into our party. A Mickey wreath to greet you at the door and hidden and not-so-hidden Mickeys everywhere.

Once everyone arrived, we got right down to the food! It’s my favorite part! I think my favorites were the super easy Mickey cupcakes. My DisneySide likes cute cupcakes!

DisneySide Food

Come on. You know you wanted to see the food. Right? Check out our Mickey Mix. It has Craisins (provided by Ocean Spray), Mickey popcorn, and chocolate covered Mickey pretzels. Yummy!

After everyone was sufficiently full, it was onto the games!

At our parties, we always have a large jar of candy of varying shapes and sizes. Anyone can take a guess at how many pieces of candy are in the jar. I always use different shapes and sizes of candy, and occasionally, just to be super sneaky, I tie several candy bars together and hide them in the middle. Everyone writes down their guess, and you can’t change your answer once it’s written down. We always announce the winner, the person closest to the actual number, at the very end of the party. Let’s just say it can get very mathematical around our house as our guests try to estimate close enough to be able to take home the candy. Who knew math could be so tasty?!?

DisneySide candy jar

The jar of candy requirement. Trust me. Guests of all ages LOVE this game. If they win, they keep the candy.

We also had everyone try to draw Mickey’s head. I had no idea that adults and kids would all get so competitive over sketching little ole’ Mickey. It was vicious, y’all!

DisneySide Game

Who knew that drawing Mickey would bring out such competitiveness? See those serious faces?

We also played the #DisneySide trivia that was sent in our box, and I took a few of the song questions out of our Disney Beat the Parents board game to play Disney movie song trivia. We all had so much fun, and everyone loved their prizes. All of the winners’ names were placed in a hat to win our grand prize, a Night at Home at the Movies! I got a popcorn container and filled it with candy and a box of popcorn. My amazing friend and Disney travel agent for Joyful Journeys, Lisa Lacey, provided the movie, Enchanted.

DisneySide prize baskets

I think our prize baskets might have encouraged a little too much competitiveness out of some of our guests!

All of the kids had a blast taking snaps in our #DisneySide photo booth. I think the mustaches and hats were the favorite accessories. As you can see the kids ranged in age from 19 months to 18 years old. They are all such wonderful people, and I love it when they can all see each other and hang out at our house.

DisneySide photo booth

Looks like all of the kids had a good time at our #DisneySide photo booth! Thanks to Nathan McFarland for helping out with picture taking duties!

Before everyone left, all of the kids got goodie bags, and each family got a great packet of travel information from Joyful Journeys about Walt Disney World, Adventures by Disney, and Disney Cruise Lines. Those also included one of the HP Photo Packs that HP generously provided that would let the families print out pictures from their next Disney vacation.

DisneySide Gifts

Check out the kids’ gift bags with their goodies! The Dollar Tree and the Dollar Spot at Target really helped out on this.   Lisa Lacey helped us with our family bundles. Great info, and the HP Photo Packs were a perfect add!

So, now you want to throw your own party, but don’t know where to start? Check out the DisneySide and DisneySide Celebrations websites. They show you everything you need to know about all of the ways to show your DisneySide and throw your own par-tay! Have fun, and come back here to show me what your DisneySide looks like!

Thank you to the following sponsors of the #DisneySide @ Home Celebrations and our party:

Disney Parks
CraisinsThe Chew
Ocean Spray Craisins
HP and TwoSmiles
American Tourister
Muppets: Most Wanted
runDisney
Joyful Journeys

Is there more? You betcha! Wondering what I did with the rest of the stuff that Disney provided for our party? Well, that’s the other half of our celebration. Click here to find out what we have in store for some people who really deserve a party!

Disney sent some of the products you see for us to throw a party, mmm-kay. Joyful Journeys provided the movie Enchanted for a prize basket. The opinions, obvious issues with chevron and burlap, and creativity are all my own.

Thanks Egon: Goodbye Harold Ramis

When someone asks what some of my favorite movies are, without hesitation I start to rattle off Ghostbusters, Caddy Shack, Animal House, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. There are always others thrown in there, and a lengthy discussion follows as to how I rank movies, why I love these particular movies, and the inevitable friendly debates about why a certain movie didn’t make my list or my friend’s.

Harold Ramis in Ghostbusters

Harold Ramis in Ghostbusters

Today, Harold Ramis died at age 69. Typically, I have little, if any, reaction when some random celebrity dies. Today, my reaction was more of a visceral one upon hearing the news of Ramis’s passing. The only other time this has happened was the day I found out that director John Hughes had suddenly passed away from a heart attack in New York. No, I didn’t know either one of them, but unbeknownst to them, they formed my sense of humor. Today, it felt like a small part of my childhood died.

Unlike today, when you can get any TV show or movie at the click of a few keys on your tablet or laptop, waiting for movies to come on cable, during my childhood, was a true waiting game. After a movie hit the movie theater, it would take a year or year and a half to see it on pay cable. Once there, however, it would play in a seemingly endless loop for at least a month. As a child of a single parent, we can safely assume that I watched my fair share of a television screen. Because of this, Harold Ramis and his movies became integral to a part of my entertainment education.

Ghostbusters is one of those movies I have seen somewhere in the 1000’s of times. It’s a movie that is quoted in our household at least once a week. My boss and I throw quotes around from that movie to alleviate stress or boredom. My children insist on watching it every time it’s on television, despite the fact we own it. Egon Spangler is the quintessential geek on screen. His glasses and awkwardness are obvious, but the strange answers to questions and quirky side comments make Egon my kind of geek. Bill Murray in Caddy Shack still makes me cry with laughter every time I watch that movie. Animal House lead me to believe that college was supposed to be toga parties and having an amazing time with amazing friends while smashing guitars of pseudo-musicians on the staircase in your fraternity house. Stripes was one of the first “grown up” movies that I was allowed to watch. Harold Ramis either wrote, directed, produced, or was a featured actor in all of these, and often was performing more than one of these tasks.

I understand these movies are far from Oscar winners, and I enjoy a good intellectual thriller or drama anytime. But…these movies are my humor foundation. Like John Hughes, Harold Ramis taught me key elements of entertainment to which I still respond. His humor showed that funny could be quick, dry, and witty. It didn’t have to involve pratt falls and spit takes. My husband can attest that it takes a LOT to make me laugh out loud. I rarely laugh when everyone else laughs, and I often embarrass him laughing when no one else “gets it” in a theater. Very rarely do I laugh at a movie the second time, and we won’t even get into multiple viewings. Ramis’s movies make me laugh harder and longer the more I watch them. I get more out of the subtlety the more I watch. That’s what he was; he was subtle. Whether it was his writing, acting, or directing, he had a subtle, smart, dry sense of timing and humor that still speak to me as a viewer and a fan.

In 2007, Ramis played Seth Rogan’s father in Knocked Up. I thought that it was brilliant casting by Judd Apatow. Ramis wasn’t in the movie much, but he delivered one of his better lines. When talking to his Rogan, Ramis’s character reminds his son that “Life doesn’t care about your vision. You gotta deal. You just gotta roll with it.” It was a really fast delivery and subtle, but it stuck with me. Today, I was reminded of this quote when I heard the news of Ramis’s passing.

Thank you, Harold Ramis, for showing a young girl that it’s okay to be a little geeky and humor doesn’t have to hit you on the head to make you laugh.

 

 

snowjam 2014 atlanta traffic

SnowJam 2014–Part 2

As you read in the last post–SnowJam 2014 Part 1–I was stuck in the ridiculous traffic that was SnowJam 2014 in Atlanta. Well, sort of. You see, it only took me about five hours to get home. I was one of the lucky ones. I walked in my front door right before the sun set, into my warm house, family, and food waiting on me. Others weren’t so lucky.

After sitting in traffic for 4.5 hours and only traveling about 3 miles north of our campus, one of my co-workers ended up parking her car in a parking lot on Hwy 41 in Marietta because she couldn’t get traction on the ice. She walked for 2 hours north in 20 degree weather in tennis shoes and a jacket until her brother could come and get her. Once they were reunited, they had to go and pick up another family member who was stranded. They ended up getting home 12 hours after she left campus.

Another co-worker abandoned her car in a parking lot after 5 hours, due to unsafe driving conditions, about 3 miles away from campus. Her phone died as she was texting me. Luckily, she was able to go to our local neighborhood pub and hang out. She met a kind stranger who took her through the ice and snow up about 17 miles north of campus to where she lives. She also got home 12 hours after she left campus.

There were others, so very many others, that were stuck. They were simply stuck out there in the cold on the roads. Highways, interstates, and backroads were gridlocked, and the people were many miles away from home.

snowjam 2014 traffic atlanta

From the Facebook page SnowedOutAtlanta. This was Interstate 400N at 1am on Wednesday morning. Good Samaritans were going out to find people who need medical care, to give others food, water, and gasoline.

My sister-in-law was stuck at the interchange of I285 and I75 for over 20 hours. She relied on the kindness of strangers to give her water and food. She got home 27 hours after she left work. There were children that were stuck on school buses trying to get home. My friends who walked miles and miles to get their children stranded at school and stayed at the school with their child because it was too dark and cold to make the return walk. The mother who gave birth to a baby girl named Grace on I285. The woman who was 8 months pregnant  with her 3 year old in the car and started to have contractions. There were thousands either stuck on the road or had abandoned their cars because they could go no further.

But, we are Southerners, and we are known for our hospitality. A Facebook group quickly showed the world what being Southern really means. A British woman in Marietta, Michelle Sollicito, got home early, saw a need, and quickly decided to start the Facebook group SnowedOutAtlanta. By the end of the day on Tuesday, there were 44,000 members in this Facebook group that had been created just hours before. It became the best place to disseminate information, find what stores, churches, hotels, schools, and restaurants were still open, and find people who were in need of medical attention or supplies. Strangers were listing their phone numbers and telling people to call or private message them if they needed a place to stay. Strangers were getting others off the roads and letting them into their homes. By the next morning there was a concentrated effort by people with 4×4’s to get those stranded home. Those who were still stuck on the interstates were seeing people like the “Hot Chocolate Hunks” and others coming around with food, water, medical supplies like insulin, gasoline, jumper cables, and blankets. All bought with their own money, and never asking for anything in return. That amount of generosity is humbling. It wasn’t just one town or one county that this happened in, but all over the Metro area. Southern hospitality has a whole new meaning, now.

snowjam 2014 traffic good samaritan

The Hot Chocolate Hunks on I285 on Wednesday, January 29. SnowJam 2014. Pic via SnowedOutAtlanta.

Slowly, the Metro area is getting back to normal. By the end of the day on Wednesday, many people had made it back home, and today most people were able to get out to retrieve their abandoned vehicles.  Schools have been closed for another day to get the ice to fully melt off the back roads and in the subdivisions. This weekend it is supposed to be in the mid-60’s, and Southern life will return to a more normal pace.

I have always been proud to be from the South, for all of it’s faults and oddities. Sometimes, we seem to live in our history a bit too much, and often we are thought of as backwater and ignorant. But this, what happened in Atlanta over the last few days, should be an example of what being Southern is really about. It’s not hoop skirts and football. It’s coming together and helping each other. It wasn’t about race or religion this time, and Lord knows, those are hot topics down here. This was about a city of 6 million people wanting to make sure their fellow Southerner was okay. I don’t know that I’ve ever been any prouder of my fellow Southerners. I’m humbled, overwhelmed, and amazed at what this city was able to accomplish when we came together. Who knew?

marietta snowmageddon 2013 traffic

SnowJam 2014–Part 1

It’s been three days since snow started falling in metro Atlanta, and it’s taken me that long to figure out how to write about it. Yes, Northerners, we only had about 2-3 inches of snow (it was more like 3.5″ where I live) to fall in the Metro area. I get it. I’m from Arkansas. We got that kind of weather all of the time when I was growing up in the Ozarks, and I don’t remember it paralyzing much of anything, except the liquor stores that had to provide beer to all of the college kids. But, yes, it is different here.  Let me explain.

There are close to 6 million people in the the Metro area of Atlanta. Atlanta city, itself, only has about half a million people in it’s borders. But, when people say Atlanta, they generally are talking about the area as a whole. The average commute time here in the Metro is anywhere between 30-50 minutes (depending on what study you are reading). Oh yeah, that’s just one way. Double that for the time that we Atlantans, sit in our cars on a daily basis to get to our offices. We also have more counties than any other state except Texas, and almost 30 of them comprise the Metro area. Why does any of this matter? Well…

When I went to bed on Monday night, we had been downgraded to a Winter Weather Advisory with the anticipation of no more than .05-1 inch of snow. On Tuesday morning, I woke up at 4am due to a killer headache, and I was really hoping to have a snow day. I checked my trusty phone to see what our snow chances were. I was really surprised to see that over just a few hours, we had been upgraded to warning, and the expected amounts in my area were to be 2-3 inches. So, of course, I checked all of the local closings. Not only was my university not on there, but neither were any of the surrounding counties. After living here in 1993 and in 2011, when snow shut the entire metro area down for a week each time, I figured maybe there was something I was missing.

A few hours later, I got ready for work and checked the weather again. The weather prognosticators said, very clearly, by 10:30am we would see some snow coming down, and by 2:30pm, we would have close to 1.5 inches on the ground. Before I left, I told my husband to work from home that day. He has a much longer and further commute than I do, crosses 3 bridges, and travels on really steep and winding roads to get to his office. Surprisingly, with no argument, he agreed. I should have taken that as a sign. I even asked him if I should wear my trusty Converse Chucks or my Duck Boots. He laughed and told me the boots…’cause you just never know.

I went on and traveled to work without any incident. It started flurrying around the time I walked into my office, but it was no big deal. At 10:45am, my co-worker got a call from her mother who lives 30 minutes north of the school. She let us know that the snow was falling in earnest, and begged my co-worker (and friend) to come home. We both said that we couldn’t leave since they hadn’t called off school, and she explained that she needed to stay. During the 10:30-11:30am hour, both Cobb and Cherokee counties called for a two hour early dismissal of their school children. By 11:15am, the snow had started to fall a little in Marietta, where my university is located. By 11:30am, we were told that the campus was closing at noon, and for everyone to get home. This is about the time it all fell apart.

Atlanta Traffic Progression Snowmageddon 2014 snowjam

From Matthew Sitkowsky (@MattSitkowski) via Twitter. The progression of traffic conditions in Atlanta (times Eastern).

See that above progression? This is what hell looks like due to poor planning. You see those highways? That’s the Metro part of Atlanta. This is why the media has deemed this SnowJam 2014. It took approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes for the entire city to come to a complete and total stand still. Why? All of the north Metro counties (and there are about 10 counties in that area) dismissed their schools at the same time that businesses let their employees go home. This would be bad idea on a good day, but then add the two inch sheet of ice that had formed due to the heat from the cars melting the snow, and it became a chaotic nightmare.

snowmageddon traffic atlanta snowjam 2014

The picture on the left was taken just outside the Marietta Square at 12:20pm during SnowJam 2014 on Tuesday, January 28. Little did I know that I would only be about 4 miles away (picture on the right) 3 hours later. Note: what you see that isn’t white on the ground is sheets of ice being made by the cars melting the snow, and it refreezing into ice.

I was on the road by 12:08am. I never once took an interstate (can you see why?). When I turned out of my school, the traffic looked like a normal rush hour. So, I started cutting back off of the main streets. I put my SUV in 4×4 mode, and I took back roads, side streets, and cut throughs I hadn’t used in years. I started to get stuck. Not because of the ice, but because of the traffic. More side streets and back roads. At this point, even in 4×4 mode, I was sliding everywhere. As my Uncle Randy says, 4×4 will get you started, but it won’t help you stop. During all of this, I was staying in very close contact with two of my very good friends from my office. They were both stuck due to the traffic.

All in all, it took me 5 hours, more back roads than I can think of, countless cussing tirades, and a half a tank of gas to travel 10 miles. I was starving and cranky when I got home. I thought, gosh, this sucks. I had no idea what was to come for everyone else still on the roads. My travel problems were nothing compared to the SnowJam that was happening all over the city.

Wanna know more? Check out SnowJam 2014–Part 2.

 

#DisneySide @Home Celebration–Goodies Part 2

*I received free products in order to host the Disney Side @Home Celebration. The opinions expressed here are my own.*

I am finally ready to show you all of the goodies that arrived in my special box the other day. I had an idea what to expect since others had been hinting at all of the goodies, but it was so much fun to look inside my own fabulous #DisneySide box.

Suitcase Craisins Lithos

All of my goodies came in this fab American Tourister (Mickey colors natch) suitcase. With many fun party favors!

See that amazing American Tourister suitcase? That’s what all of the amazing goodies came in. It’s a 20″ Skate Spinner in traditional, old school Mickey Mouse colors–red and black. It’s likely the nicest piece of luggage I’ve had in while, and it will come in extremely handy on trips to Arkansas and Disney later this year.

Inside of the suitcase, are there goodies? Oh, yes, there are copious amounts of #DisneySide magic for everyone. We received those amazing pink Minnie and Mickey lithographs that are in the bottom right picture. We will probably keep one for ourselves to have Minnie and Mickey autographs when we visit the parks in October, but I have big plans for the others though. There are runDisney cheer cards, Craisins, an iPhone 5 cover, and some great measuring cups and recipe cards from The Chew. Many of these will be used for little gifts and prizes during the party.

DisneySide Party Supplies

They thought of everything to throw a fabulous #DisneySide party!

More? There’s more? YES! All sorts of amazing Mickey Mouse party supplies that anyone might need to throw a #DisneySide bash. There are plates, cups, tablecloths, napkins, balloons, decorations, and cupcake liners. One of my favorite things in the goody bag are the Mickey cookie cutters. There are also Muppet calendars, games, a face painting guide, stickers, and a Disney Vacation Guide DVD. The HP Photo Card Packs are probably the favorite party supply, though. I have amazingly fun and wonderful plans for these. I can’t wait to show you what is in store!

*I received free products in order to host the Disney Side @Home Celebration. The opinions expressed here are my own.*

DisneySide Celebration

#DisneySide @Home Celebration–Goodies Part 1

DisneySide Celebration

Our #DisneySide @Home Celebration Box

*I received free products in order to host the Disney Side @Home Celebration. The opinions expressed here are my own.*

A few weeks ago, I saw a post on Freely Educate that was asking for homeschooling parents that might be interested in applying to host a #DisneySide @Home Celebration. Honestly, I can’t remember much after that because I saw Disney and started imagining all of the cool things that I could do. Needless to say, I applied, but never, in a million-trillion years, thinking that I would be selected. You see, I’m not exactly an influencer. An influencer in the social media world is someone who engages lots of people on many different social media channels. Yeah, me, not so much. Maybe in my professional life, but not as just…well, me. Not yet.

Much to my surprise, I received an email about two weeks later letting me know that I was chosen to host one of the parties. What?!?! I had a rush of adrenaline and a little panic. What’s the best way to show our #DisneySide? Would it be Star Wars, Pixar, Marvel, or Mickey? Just so many things to think of.

So, I joined the hostess Facebook group, posted and talked with many other anxious and excited hosts, and waited. None of us had any idea what was in the box we were scheduled to get. The boxes came in waves, and the other hosts were so good to not spoil the surprise for others. Finally, our box came! Isn’t it just a bundle of coolness? I’ll let you know what I found inside tomorrow!

*I received free products in order to host the Disney Side @Home Celebration. The opinions expressed here are my own.*