Naughty AND Nice

We’ve reached that time of year when everyone starts doing their “year in review,” and I know that because Facebook is pushing it hard every time I log into my profile.  And magazines are all doing End-of-Year editions, wrapping things up, making lists, and, you know, checking them twice.  Everyone gets very reflective during the last few weeks of the year as though they’re debating what to write in the yearbook of their high school classmate they didn’t really know all THAT well but want to pretend like they did for the sake of future nostalgia.  There will be extra-long Facebook statuses (and not just from your really crazy conservative uncles) talking about how #blessed people were in 2015 or how shitty the year was but how much better 2016 is going to be because this is FINALLY the year they get their lives together.  We’ve heard it all before…just like Leo hearing he’s the front-runner for the Oscar only to have it snatched away come February.

post-59154-crying-leo-dicaprio-how-am-i-s-cwf3

Will 2016 finally be Leo’s year?

But I’m going to tell you something no one else will around this time of year and certainly not Santa: it’s okay to be naughty, you guys.  Seriously.  Sometimes, it’s better to be naughty than nice.  Naughty people get shit done.

I should probably clarify.  When I say “naughty,” I don’t mean murder or adultery or not tipping your waiters (IF YOU DON’T TIP, YOU’RE THE WORST…or possibly European?  In which case, if you’re European, don’t worry, because your waiters are fortunate enough to get salary, so good job Europe).  I don’t mean voting for Donald Trump or being racist or misogynistic or destroying the planet with pollution.  I don’t mean charging a gazillion dollars for an HIV/AIDS medication like Martin Shkreli. 

When I say it’s okay to be a little “naughty” I mean:

It’s okay to be a little selfish

I know, right?  In the season of “sharing and caring,” I’m telling you it’s okay to to do neither of those things on occasion.  And it is.  I happen to be one of those people who has often been far too accommodating of other people’s feelings and needs to the detriment of my own.  We all have that one friend or family member who just sucks us dry but never replenishes the well, and frankly, it’s not fair or okay.  Sometimes, you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of others, and that is a lesson I have learned the hard way.  It’s not selfish to focus on how YOU feel or to spend time on projects that are important to YOU.  It is perfectly okay to put yourself first sometimes, to say no to things and people, and to focus on what is best for you.  I wish I could tell you that everyone has YOUR best interests at heart, but the truth is there are a lot of assholes out there who don’t and will do anything to get ahead of you in life.  Be kind to others and to those people especially (because they probably need it to make their Grinch hearts grow three sizes).  Always be kind.  But don’t be afraid to do things for yourself. 

28682-hell-no-gif-cd0y

Wonder Woman doesn’t put up with your crap, and neither do I.

It’s hard to say no to people who always expect you to say yes, but a well-chosen “no” can change your life just as much as a “yes.”  I started saying “no” a lot more this year, and so now when I say “yes,” it’s to things I really want to do and to people I really want to help or collaborate with.  I’m a lot happier because I know what makes me happy, and now I have the emotional space to actually help others without feeling guilty about how I feel or what I’m not doing to take care of myself.

Embrace your inner-Slytherin aka be ambitious

Slytherins get a bad rap.  Yes, they were the house of Voldemort and a bunch of terrible Death Eaters, but they weren’t all bad.  I say this as a Gryffindor who should be predisposed to disliking them, but I also know that if I’m being honest, I embody some of the qualities of the House that Salazar Slytherin built: cunning and ambition.  It’s the latter that I want to talk about, and especially as a woman.  Men are allowed to be openly ambitious and no one thinks anything of it, but if a woman is openly ambitious, she is often viewed as selfish or aggressive. 

1359640625836894210

Go for what you most desire…even if it’s just a bottle of peroxide to touch up your roots.

It’s not a bad thing to know what you want and to go after it wholeheartedly.  Ambition, for whatever reason, is viewed with negative connotations, and I honestly think it’s because people are afraid to see others working hard to achieve their goals when maybe they aren’t doing the same.  Where many Slytherins went wrong is in the methods they used to achieve those lofty goals (i.e. like making Horcruxes), but they never apologized for being ambitious, and neither should you.  I am not shy about what my goals are, and I’ve come to realize that I don’t care if people don’t like that I’m ambitious…because it’s my life and goals and not theirs.  Which leads me to my next point…

Don’t try to make everyone like you

This is a battle you will never win…unless you are Paul Rudd, because, to my knowledge, everyone loves Paul Rudd.  ANYWAY, it’s pretty much impossible to get everyone to like you.  It’s stressful and takes up a lot of time you could be spending on achieving your ambitious goals instead.  And definitely don’t TRY to make people like you by attempting to ingratiate yourself on others.  Do or do not; there is no try. 

tumblr_ndb2l3lzrm1ropfsfo1_250

Yes, Paul Rudd. I care about you deeply. Like, I maybe care too much. Marry me?

People either will like you or they won’t, and there is nothing you can do to change that (other than not be a total asshat).  I have spent way too much time trying to appease other people, which has led to me being walked over once or twice or even thrice (okay, I really just wanted to use the word “thrice”).  In the end, I wound up being really hurt by those people when it was obvious to everyone else BUT me that no matter what I did, they were never going to really like me anyway.  Some people just won’t like you, even if you’re awesome and nice and work hard and make people laugh.  We can’t all be Paul Rudd.  So just do your own thing, feel good about it, and stop worrying so much about what other people think of you.  The right people will think you’re a Paul Rudd.  The rest probably prefer Pauly Shore, and who wants to prefer someone whose career peaked in 1995?  (Paul Rudd’s essentially STARTED in Clueless in ’95, so…)

Work hard, but let yourself live a little

ehnloxzawyvdldhqwfpb

So sayeth the Lord(s)…

Know when to quit.  I fully admit to being a bit of a workaholic, but sometimes I forget to enjoy myself and the fruits of my labor.  It’s okay to have a lazy day once in awhile where you watch Netflix in your pajamas all day.  It’s okay to meet up with a friend for a drink after a stressful day at work.  It’s fine if you want to take a day-trip away from where you live to recharge and explore.  And it’s also fine to do this if you’re poor (you know, within reason).  It can be really easy to let yourself fall victim to the grind of work-sleep-repeat especially when you’re poor and stressed about money (which doesn’t always end when you’re not-so-poor), but you’re entitled to give yourself a break without feeling guilty about it.  I used to feel guilty about going to the movies when I was poorer, but it was the one place that consistently brought me a sliver of joy, so I treated myself; usually, I went to a morning movie where it cost me a lot less, but I still treated myself.  It all goes back to taking care of yourself.  You need balance, which means that as great as it is to work hard and make money, you gotta know when to play a bit and spend even a teensy bit of what you’ve earned on yourself.  So if you need a day to marathon Doctor Who and eat Haagen-Dazs*, go for it.  You’ve earned it.

*I’m definitely NOT** speaking from experience.

**I’m TOTALLY speaking from experience.

Stop apologizing for being happy around others who aren’t, for your opinions if someone disagrees with them, for your successes, for liking things that other people don’t, for not doing things the same way everyone else does

Women especially have a really bad habit of apologizing all the time for everything; almost to the point of apologizing for just existing.  But all of us could use a reminder to stop apologizing for ourselves except in situations that actually warrant a legitimate apology.  First, it is not your job to make sure everyone else is happy 100% of the time, and you do not need to feel guilty if you are happy when someone else around you isn’t.  You can try to cheer them up, but never apologize if you’re a ray of sunshine, and they’d rather be a cloud.  Be happy if you feel happy.

tumblr_lijv9ovmgj1qe6e2ko1_500

She probably learned this nugget of advice from a made-for-TV movie. #marykatherinegallagher

Second, you are entitled to your own opinion.  Someone may challenge you on it, but you are entitled to having your own, differing opinion.  We live in an age where it is easier than ever to have and share opinions, but most people do not understand that it is in disagreement where solutions often arise, because constructive conflict usually breeds new ideas and compromise.  Life is about balance, and it is good for us to hear different opinions from our own, so that we can be exposed to lots of ideas and learn new things.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve felt more confident in standing my ground on things where other people disagree, and while I don’t always change other people’s minds, I have stopped feeling guilty about my opinions.

Third, it’s okay to be successful and happy about it; just be careful that you are grateful as opposed to grandiose in your celebrating.  No matter what you do, some people will always look at your successes as their failures, but that is a problem with THEIR perspective not YOUR hard work.  You don’t have to apologize for the things you have achieved on your journey through life just because someone else is a little jealous.  Now, don’t be THAT person who is always #blessed, but it’s fine to give yourself a little pat on the back every now and then when you are crushing it at being an adult.

Happy-and-excited-gif

Be as happy as Lucille Bluth when she’s surprised as Gene Parmesan if you want to

Last, you really don’t have to apologize for liking what you like or doing something different from the way everyone else does.  So you like pumpkin spice lattes and Beyonce?  Great!  You believe in conspiracy theories and watch Long Island Medium?  Cool.  Maybe you tie your shoelaces with one hand or cook breakfast food only at night.  Whatever you like, don’t let other people make you feel bad because you occasionally go against the grain.  Embrace the bizarre parts of you, because that’s what makes you interesting.  Stop apologizing for the things that make you YOU.

But be nice.

It IS important to be empathetic, compassionate, and kind to others.  There is a lot of hatred in our world right now, and we all need to pull together to be a light in the darkness.  Do things for others.  Care about the environment.  Throw someone a smile on the subway.  These little acts of kindness are just as important as the big things you’re doing or hope to do for yourself and the world.  But don’t be afraid of letting that “naughty” side out when you need to.  We all need a little kick in the tush sometimes even if it comes from ourself.

I just realized that I’ve been singing the lyrics to “Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town” wrong for years.  The lyric is supposed to go:

He’s makin’ a list

Checkin’ it twice

Gonna find out who’s naughty OR nice

I’ve always assumed it was “naughty AND nice.”  But maybe that’s because I’ve always been a little bit of both.  We’re all a little bit of both.  So tonight when you put out your cookies and milk for Old Saint Nick, don’t worry too much about naughty OR nice.  Just embrace it all.

635850530596690385604946586_santaaaaa-elf-scene

Merry Christmas you filthy animals,

Emmy

Family Christmas Traditions: English Wassail

As I mentioned in my last post, I really love traditions during the holidays; the older the better! My last name is Potter; so obviously, a good portion of my ancestry is English (though sadly, there is no known record of any ACTUAL witches or wizards in my family despite one of my relatives being accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials).

England is even old than Arthur, King of the Britains!

England is even old than Arthur, King of the Britains!

Now, as you know, England is one of the oldest countries in the world, and many of our American traditions can be traced back to our friends “over the pond.” Many of THEIR traditions stem from pagan rituals or Roman culture.  And of course, lots of blood was shed and whatnot over the centuries, but that’s all rather unpleasant so let’s just skip that, yes?    So moving on…one of my favorite Christmas traditions in the Potter household is wassail.  I don’t expect everyone to know what wassail is (despite it being totally awesome and something everyone SHOULD know about). Perhaps you’ve heard the Christmas carol, “Here We Come A-Wassailing” and wondered, “what are they talking about in this song? Is that some weird Victorian slang for doing drugs or something?”

The Victorian Era: letting children buy cocaine as a toothache remedy for 15 cents since 1885.

The Victorian Era: letting children buy cocaine as a toothache remedy for 15 cents since 1885.

No, children, it is not, even though I could see the confusion with lyrics like “here we come a-wassailing among the leaves so green, here we come a-wand’ring so fair to be seen.” Sounds like a Victorian head trip, but I assure you, wassail causes no chemical/psychological changes to your brain, though it may produce some euphoria (if you make it right). So what IS wassail, you ask? A remarkably wonderful, hot beverage!

First page of Beowulf from the Nowell Codex. I can't read it but I assume it says, "this poem is laborious and Angelina Jolie is NOT an accurate representation of Grendel's mom."

First page of Beowulf from the Nowell Codex. I can’t read it but I assume it says, “this poem is laborious and Angelina Jolie is NOT an accurate representation of Grendel’s mom.”

Wassail, or vas heil in Old Norse and wæs hæil in Anglo-Saxon, means “good health” or “be you healthy.” The word originally appeared as a salute in the epic 8th century poem, Beowulf (remember reading THAT in high school English class? Woof.). An old legend, which is described in 1135 by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his book, History of the Kings of Britain, tells the story of a maiden name Renwein who brought King Vortigern a goblet of wine at a royal banquet and toasted him saying, “Lavert King, was heil!”  Not only was this a toast, but a reference to the drink she had prepared for him. Wassail was a spiced wine, a descendant of the Roman drink hypocras, and prepared using imported, expensive spices like cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and cloves. Sometime later, the wine was replaced by fine ales, which made the drink more accessible to the lower classes in England. As a result, the recipe for wassail varies from family to family.

Vortigern and Renwein: no red solo cups at THIS party.

Vortigern and Renwein: no red solo cups at THIS party.

Wassailing is also an ancient ceremony performed in the cider-producing counties of England. It involved singing and drinking to the health of the trees to scare away evil spirits and ensure a good harvest (sounds like something out of Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings).  Eventually this practice and that of Renwein’s merged into the practice of wassailing we’re more familiar with today. Wassailing became very popular in the 1600s where people would travel door-to-door with large, decorated bowls of the drink, offering “good cheer” and sometimes expecting payment. It was temporarily banned by Parliament for a time during Puritan years (when they also banned the celebration of Christmas; HAVE YOU NO JOY, PURITANS?!), but then resurged in popularity (along with the “new” drink egg nog) in the Victorian era thanks to writers like Charles Dickens and Washington Irving. Now wassailing is a traditional part of an old English Christmas!

God bless us everyone!  Oh, and we brought liquor.

Wassailing in the 1600s.  “God bless us everyone! Oh, and we brought liquor.”

My mother and I use a family recipe to make wassail every year for Christmas. It’s a drink that warms you from your head to your toes. Ours is non-alcoholic, but you can find many a recipe online for alcoholic versions if you’re so “spirits”-ually inclined (most use some form of either wine, bourbon, or ale). We serve ours from a giant bowl, much like how it was served over 600 years ago (though in those days, they also put bread or “sops” on top…not to be confused with Beyonce putting your love on top.).

POTTER FAMILY WASSAIL RECIPE – Courtesy of the kitchen of Kathy Potter

  • 1 qt. apple juice
  • 1 qt. cranapple or cranberry juice
  • 1 qt. orange juice
  • 1/4 c. lemon juice
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 12 whole cloves
  • Allspice

Place allspice, cloves, and cinnamon sticks inside a small sack of cheesecloth, tying it off at the top.   Place all ingredients, including the cheesecloth sack of spices inside a large pot and bring to boil on the stove. Remove cheesecloth and strain before serving.

Was heil! (Singing to trees is optional.)was heil

Father Christmas or In Defense of Dads Yelling at the Christmas Lights

One of the things I love most about the holiday season is tradition (Tradition!  Tra-di-tion!  Fiddler on the Roof, anyone?  ANYONE?!).  Every family has their own, unique traditions without which it would not feel like Christmas to them (remember the episode of Friends where everybody asks Monica to make a different kind of potato for Thanksgiving because that’s how THEIR mom made it?).

Good grief that's good jazz, Charlie Brown!

Good grief that’s good jazz, Charlie Brown!

My family always has summer sausage, cheese, crackers, and apple slices on Christmas Eve while we watch Home Alone or Muppet Christmas Carol.  The first Christmas album we listen to on Thanksgiving night is Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack.  I have my traditions, you have yours.  Traditions turn into history, and I love hearing about all the different things families have been doing at Christmastime for fifty or even a hundred years.  It’s neat, right?  History, kids: get into it!     But there is ONE tradition, every family collectively shares: The Annual Yelling of the Dads at Christmas Lights.   I don’t care who you are, where you’re from, what you did, your dad also yells at your Christmas lights too.  He could be the sweetest, most genteel man in all the land, but when it comes to putting those babies on the Christmas tree or out on the roof, your dad goes from zero to Samuel L. Jackson in about 3.5 seconds:

"I have HAD it with these MOTHERF@$*ING LIGHTS ON THIS MOTHERF#$%ING TREE!!!!"

“I have HAD it with these MOTHERF#$%ING LIGHTS ON THIS MOTHERF#$%ING TREE!!!!”

People laugh at Clark Griswold’s meltdown at his outdoor Christmas lights in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, but that’s because we’ve all been there.  We’ve all seen our fathers curse and rage at the heavens over their defunct holiday light displays.

The truth is EVERY dad is a Clark Griswold.

"I dedicate this house to the Griswold Family Christmas."

“I dedicate this house to the Griswold Family Christmas.”

Every dad wants their lights to look perfect and work and be festive and when it just doesn’t happen, something inside them snaps.  There is yelling of expletives (in my father’s case, they are hybrids of nonsense and actual curse words like “PISS WISS.”) and slamming of tools and heavy sighing as he puts on his spectacles for the umpteenth time to inspect each and every bulb, which for some inexplicable reason, don’t work THIS year even though your dad purchased them brand new last year.  Then there is the inevitable leaving-in-a-huff to go get MORE new lights from the hardware store to replace the old “new ones” from last year.  It’s a never-ending cycle of misery; a Groundhog Day of tree lights working then not working then working again.

"I told you. I wake up every day...and the lights never work, and there's nothing I can do about it!"

“I told you. I wake up every day…and the lights never work, and there’s nothing I can do about it!”

My Dad has a fairly long fuse (no pun intended) when it comes to his temper, but like clockwork on Thanksgiving night, we’ll hear a din from the dining room slowly growing louder and louder as he plugs in each successive strand of lights.  My mother, brother, and I try to conceal our laughter as we pull out the rest of the Christmas decorations and assemble our artificial trees, but we can’t help it.  My Dad is a good sport about the whole thing; he knows his frustrations have actually become a part of our traditions, so whenever he catches himself, he’ll try to over-exaggerate his yelling simply to make us laugh harder.

My dad battling with our tree lights

My dad battling with our tree lights.  “PISS WISS.”

I’m convinced the annual battle of the Christmas lights is actually the way in which men assert themselves.  I think this behavior is hardwired into their consciousness when they’re born, which is why all men act this way during the holidays.  If they can prove themselves masters of their holiday light displays, they are Christmas heroes; Fathers Christmas.  Or maybe this is a learned behavior: my father learned from his father who learned from HIS father and so on and so forth.  But that brings up a whole chicken-and-the-egg scenario to which we will probably never discover the answer.

The real question is: would those lights still look as stunning if your father HADN’T had a Hunger Games throw-down with them?  No.  That struggle is part of the process, part of the magic of Christmastime.  Seeing is believing in this case.  the hunger games

Your dad is the Katniss Everdeen of holiday lighting, and he will emerge the victor.  Girl on Fire?  Pfft.  Try DAD ON FIRE!

I mean this figuratively, of course.  I hope no one’s dad has ever caught on fire as a result of Christmas lighting.

Anyway, as I stare at the instagram photo of my Christmas tree on the background of my phone (since I’m currently in New York and therefore unable to look at my Christmas trees in Missouri), I see all my Dad’s majestic, magical, yuletide handiwork, and I recognize the hard work and hoarse voice that went into producing it.  And I know when all of you look at your respective trees, you feel the same.

So thanks, Dad.

Thanks to ALL dads for making our days merry and bright.

Clark W. Griswold would be proud.

The finished Potter Family Christmas tree.  See, Dad?  Looks perfect!

The finished Potter Family Christmas tree. See, Dad? Looks perfect!

My Favorite Holiday Films: Home Alone & Home Alone 2

HOME ALONE

'sup Macaulay Culkin?

‘sup Macaulay Culkin?

Once upon a time in the 1980s and early 90s, there was an awesome guy named John Hughes who wrote and/or directed some of the greatest touchstone films of a generation. As a result one such film, Home Alone has become a modern Christmas classic for people of a certain age (ahem, children of the 80s/90s). It really doesn’t get any better, or more early 90s, than eight year-old Kevin McCallister (who lives in like, the coolest house in the world) outwitting two hilariously inept burglars named Harry & Marv (played to perfection by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) on Christmas Eve all while his mother desperately tries to get back to Chicago by riding cross-country in a U-Haul with a polka band-leading John Candy!  I should mention that I still do not own this movie on DVD, so I watch it on VHS like a true 90s kid.  Because of this, I’ve grown fond of the two awesome ads for Pepsi and American Airlines before the movie starts.

Chicago: one of the 3 great cinematic cities for Christmas!

Chicago: one of the 3 great cinematic cities for Christmas!

First of all, there are classic lines:

Second of all, it’s set in Chicago, which I am convinced is one of the top three best places in which to set a Christmas movie (the other two places are London and New York City).  While New York and London are both excellent settings for Christmas movies, I gotta say I’m biased towards Chicago.  It’s probably due to my Midwestern upbringing.

Third, JOHN CANDY.  Polka king of the Midwest.

Fourth, Catherine O’Hara is basically the greatest 90s mom (minus the whole leaving her kid behind/losing him in New York) of all time other than Betsy Randle who played Cory and Eric Matthews’ mom on Boy Meets World.

Daylight come and me wan go home

Daylight come and me wan go home…ALONE?

Remember how crazy (read: AWESOME) she was as Delia Dietz in Beetlejuice? DAY-O!

Fifth, props to Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern for being such good sports about all the silly pranks they had to endure. I can’t imagine the movie with other actors in their roles.harry and marv

And in all seriousness, let’s take a moment of silence for the great Roberts Blossom who played Kevin’s next door neighbor, Old Man Marley.  He passed away in July 2011.  His scene in the church on Christmas Eve with Macaulay Culkin is one of the most heartfelt and honest in the whole movie.

Among my other favorite moments in the movie: the scene where Kevin talks to himself in the mirror after showering then slaps his cheeks with aftershave and also the completely underrated and hilarious phone scene between Catherine O’Hara in Paris and the two lazy police officers back in Chicago.  “Larry, can you pick up?  There’s some lady on hold; sounds kinda hyper.”

Naturally, everything turns out alright in the end, and Kevin is reunited with his family on Christmas morning.

I probably smell like the airport and a polka band.

I had to ride with an annoying polka band to be here today.

The Wet Bandits are hauled off to jail, and I assume the entire McCallister family tries desperately to suck up to Kevin for the next year after treating him like crap and being negligible parents.  But hey!  It’s Christmas and Kevin was responsible and got the milk, eggs, AND fabric softener!

NOTE: As some of you may know, some dumb exec out in Hollywood thought it would be a good idea to do about three more sequels to Home Alone after Lost in New York. I prefer to pretend as though Home Alone 3, 4, and 5 do not exist at all. When Macaulay Culkin left, the series ended. PERIOD.  The ONLY acceptable sequel to Home Alone is Lost in New York.

Parents of the year, right here.

Parents of the year, right here.

HOME ALONE 2: LOST IN NEW YORK

After the success of the insta-classic Home Alone, naturally the studios were clamoring for a sequel, so instead of Kevin being left at home again, he gets on the wrong plane and winds up in…New York City!

Hey...at least you aren't flying Jet Blue.

Cheer up, Kev…at least you aren’t flying Jet Blue.

Beyond that, it’s basically the same kind of storyline as the first movie, except you now also have a hilariously inept Plaza Hotel staff played to perfection by the master of all things hammy and awesome Tim Curry, Rob Schneider, and Dana Ivey.  Now, if I were Kevin, I’d probably be scarred for life after not only being left behind by my family but also getting separated at the airport the following year. Also, given today’s security standards for airport travel, nothing like what happens in this film would ever happen today. There might be some terminal running to “Run Run Rudolph” by Chuck Berry, but no flight attendant would just let a kid on a plane because he thinks he spotted his dad.  This whole situation is a lawsuit waiting to happen. As a kid, I have to tell you, no scene brought me greater joy than when Marv gets electrocuted in the basement of the townhouse.  I laughed and laughed and laughed.  These days, I find the tool chest bit the funniest.  Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern are the greatest.  Seriously.I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how great Tim Curry is throughout this entire movie.  Tim Curry is one of the few actors who completely commits to the ridiculousness of any role he’s given and does it with great gusto and pizazz (like THIS).

The finest idiots in New York

The finest idiots in New York

As the Plaza Hotel concierge, Mr. Hector (I didn’t know that was his name until I looked it up; I always just called him Concierge Tim Curry.), our dear friend Tim is perfectly smarmy and his scene with the rest of the staff as they believe they’re being held at gunpoint (“I LOVE YOU!”) is HYSTERICAL.   Oh and I forgot to mention that I have yet to spot a homeless lady in Central Park covered in pigeon poop who is as nice and coherent as Brenda Fricker. Does. Not. Exist.  If I ever DID meet a homeless lady as nice as Brenda Fricker, I would most certainly sneak into Carnegie Hall for a concert and treat her to hot chocolate just like Kevin.

Homeless people don't take you to Carnegie Hall (sounds like a Bailey Schoolkids book)

Homeless people don’t take you to Carnegie Hall (sounds like a Bailey Schoolkids book)

I love this film because it gives children both a sense of the wonder of New York at Christmas but also how scary it can be by yourself late at night. That, children, is realism, and sometimes it is missing from our current crop of children’s entertainment.   SIDE NOTE: Rockefeller Center is NEVER that empty…even if you were there after midnight on Christmas Eve.  Catherine O’Hara is lucky she had no crowds to fight through to find Kevin.  Movie magic, kids.  This is NOT a plausible situation.  Also there would be police stationed nearby who would probably inquire why this child was out alone after midnight on Christmas Eve.  The NYPD would be all over this.

O Christmas tree O Christmas tree, please let me see my family.

O Christmas tree O Christmas tree, please let me see my family.

Watching this as a twenty-four year old adult who lives in New York City gives this movie a whole new vantage point for me.  I recognize nearly all the locations Kevin visits and tell my parents about them.  It’s weirdly enthralling to know I can share in Kevin’s adventure in real life (minus the whole Sticky Bandits thing).  I DEFINITELY wish I could share in the McCallister family’s sweet, free stay in that gorgeous Plaza Hotel penthouse suite.

Yeah, I feel that, McCallister family. The Plaza rocks.

Yeah, I feel that, McCallister family. The Plaza rocks.

But I’m just glad I’m not Kevin’s dad who gets saddled with a $967 room service bill and then YELLS at him.  Let’s get real for a sec: after leaving your son at home the year before and then losing him at the airport, is this REALLY such a big deal?  I mean, REALLY?!  How about you go sleep on the Hide-A-Bed with Fuller, Mr. McCallister since you forgot your son TWICE.

The reason for Mayor Bloomberg's outlawing of sodas greater than 16 oz.

The reason for Mayor Bloomberg’s outlawing of sodas greater than 16 oz.

Merry Christmas, you filthy animals!

My Favorite Holiday Films: It’s a Wonderful Life

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is officially December, which means Christmastime is in full swing around the world. In New York (and, okay, lots of other places too) this means putting up the most ostentatious lights and decorative displays known to man and, well, elf. Besides listening to Christmas music nonstop, my other favorite pastime during this time of year is watching all my favorite holiday movies and TV specials. It feels like reuniting with old friends and stepping into a time capsule of childhood, doesn’t it? There’s something about this season that brings out the inner five year-old in all of us.

I find it only fitting to start off this special little series of holiday posts with a classic:

It’s a Wonderful Life

Is there a more heart-warming holiday film than this? No, and this is why it’s shown on repeat throughout the holiday season to make us all weep our way through George Bailey’s life story and realization that his life is indeed wonderful.500full

For all of you who find it cheesy, you probably don’t have a heart. And while, admittedly, Frank Capra had a soft spot for all-American tales of heroism, heart, and home, is that such a bad thing? I personally find it all rather refreshing in a time when we think everything has to be “gritty”and “realistic.”

This movie just wouldn’t work without Capra’s muse, Jimmy Stewart. Got to give props where props are due. Stewart makes George into a complicated guy instead of the one-dimensional melodramatic character he could be in another actor’s hands. In fact, I think George’s tale is more relatable than ever in these current, hard economic times.

George Bailey facing down Mr. Potter (no relation to me).

What I find so lovely about It’s a Wonderful Life is the older I get, the more I connect with it. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the have-nots of our lives instead of seeing all the great things we DO have. I’ve experienced that feeling so many times already in my adult life, and I can understand how enough of it could overwhelm anybody, even somebody as good and generous as George Bailey.

Mary Bailey, wife extraordinaire

Mary Bailey, wife extraordinaire

I think it’s also important to point out how great Mary is for George. She is the perfect spouse because she quietly supports him through everything, always knows what George needs (even when HE doesn’t know), and she loves him more than anything else in the world. George would be nothing without Mary, but Mary would also be nothing without George; they’re a real team.

And just try to tell me you don’t find the whole “lasso the moon” scene after they’ve fallen backwards into the pool incredibly romantic. Also the scene where they’re on the phone with Sam “He-haw” Wainright.

Just make out already. I can't handle it anymore!

Just make out already. I can’t handle it anymore!

I mean, this is the stuff of swooning, kids. Truly. I can only hope to have a love as great as George and Mary Bailey’s in my life. And the end where they’re embracing by the tree with their kids while everyone is singing “Auld Lang Syne?”  Forget it. I’m weeping. It’s a wonderful life, kids, and this is a wonderful movie.

Merry Christmas, Bedford Falls!