Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Now it's time for (drumroll) Siskel and....Earlgirl?

That's right folks, I have some new movie reviews for you. I don't know exactly how new these movies really are, but they're new to me. Both of these babies can be found under the "watch instantly" section of my beloved Netflix. (you can see my other recommendations here)

I love movies that let you inside the skin of someone from a different culture. I'm so curious about other people. It drives me crazy when I'm grocery shopping. I'll pass someone from Africa, or hear a family speaking Russian and I'll be just dying to sit down with them and hear their life stories. These movies are like being able to do just that, peek inside their worlds and walk around in their shoes.

I present to you: Arranged. An Orthodox Jewish gal works in the public school system, and ends up working in the same classroom as a devout Muslim gal. During a social studies lesson on tolerance, one of the kids spouts out, "What about this Jewish lady here, you hate her, right? Don't Muslims hate the Jews?" A really interesting friendship develops from this. Both girls are preparing for their arranged marriages, and the similarities in their lives become so much more important than their differences. The result is hilarious, fascinating, and very satisfying to my hunger for other cultures.

Don't be put off by the title of this one. It means 'guests' in Aramaic. In fact, the entire movie is in Hebrew, with English subtitles. Still, don't let that intimidate you. This story takes place during a Jewish festival that only sounds vaguely familiar to me from early morning seminary- Succoth. Moshe, a Rabbi in Old Jerusalem, is flat broke. He desperately wants to be able to provide a enough for his wife to be able to celebrate the holy festival. His wife aches to be able to have children. They decide to pray for a miracle. They're doing their best to live righteous lives, and they combine their faith in some of the most heart-rending prayers I have ever seen. What happens next is a miracle, and a test that takes on Abrahamic proportions.

I have to honest with you: religious movies sometimes have a schlock factor that repels me. When I feel like my emotions are being played, I get really cynical. The whole Work and the Glory series left me wanting to scream "Die Steeds, Die!" Isn't that terrible?
What I mean is, this movie wasn't like that. It was simple, profound and very moving. I dare you to keep from crying at the end.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas 2008: the good, the bad and the ugly.

"So, are you having a good Christmas?"

I was asked this over and over by well-meaning relatives at our annual Christmas eve feast. They couldn't see that my smile was plastic and my eyes looked more manic than merry. They were just making conversation.

As they would ask that simple, innocent question, my mind would flash back through the last few days:

The stress, the huge projects dumped in my lap, the kids cooped up inside going mad with boredom, the mess, the roads too icy to drive on and too much shopping left to be done. I thought about the hour before the party when I'd had enough and cast my oldest out of the house into the snow and told him not to come back inside. I was nice and threw his coat out after him- that's a mother's love for ya!

"No, this is more like Christmas hell than anything." I wanted to say. I might have actually said it too, I don't remember.

All I know is, Christmas day made it all worthwhile.
We all slept in until 9.
The boys drew names for each other and some had saved for months to be able to give something really special.
I had all my sibs in town, so there was a lot of goofing off, singing while my brother played the guitar, Rock band, and karaoke.
I'd put in the time and slaved the day before on the mother of all feasts, so all the work I had to do was enjoy it.
I live for putting on feasts. I'm not fancy, I never have table decorations or anything like that.
I just love making lots of good food, for lots of wonderful people. When I've brined a turkey, mashed the potatoes, whisked the gravy, raised the rolls, baked the pies, and I lay all that in front of a crowd, it's nirvana, man. I'm in the happy zone. I can live on it for days.
Here are some pictures of the more memorable moments:

Playing a game at my Christmas day feast.

We've had crazy weather here. Usually we have snow for a day, then a warm wind will come the next day and melt it all. It was so cold for so long, the snow was too dry for building anything. Our beloved wind came yesterday, making the snow just right for making these babies.

Speaking of babies, this is my brother's first child. He's been frantic for the chance to show her off to all of us far away siblings. We got to just slurp her up for days, it was lovely.

Speaking of lovely, is there a more beautiful sight than a man in a frilly apron.

There's nothing frilly about the presents my sister's boys made for mine. Nothing says love between boys than hand-hewn weaponry. It seriously made me want to cry.

And how sweet is this? My bro doing the chords while my little guy strums.

I have to set the stage for this one. Ammon saved up and spent over $50 on this present for his brother. Can you tell how excited he is to see him open it? When I asked him what his favorite part of Christmas was, he told me it was the look on his brother's face as he opened the gift he'd sacrificed so much for.

There was a lot more that I didn't have my camera for: me freaking out and shoving my kid outside, me at 2 in the afternoonon Christmas eve in my pajamas with mascara under my eyes, frantically chopping veggies and trying not to cry, sledding, the family talent show, swimming, the video my sister took of me dancing through the house and singing "I will Survive" as my bro rocked out on the guitar, but you get the general idea. Christmas 2008- there was the good, the bad, the ugly, and the amazingly sweet.