Posted in Fathers, fathers and daughters, Introspection, Parents

My Daddy’s Eyes

 

Beauty is a light in the heart.
“Good morning!” the desk clerk said cheerily.

 It was 6:00 a.m. as I padded into the Hampton Inn lobby sitting area.  Everything was softly lit and I was the only patron wandering the hallway….just the ambiance I needed to sit quietly and wake up.  I had my books and writing pad as I headed straight to the coffee: two pumps of hazelnut creamer, half robust, and half decaf.  I sat down and got situated with my coffee and book when I felt a presence or some kind of energy nearby. Suddenly chilled,  I took a long breath in, savoring the blend of hazelnut and coffee aroma.  Finally, taking a sip, my eyes glanced over the top of my coffee cup and I saw him.  Across the room, directly opposite me, was an older gentleman.  He seemed relaxed as he sat with perfect posture,  looking straight at me.

 He had my Daddy’s eyes.

It felt so strange and yet comforting.  He was dressed in worn khaki pants, a plaid shirt, and a tattered baseball cap.  He smiled at me and I smiled back, but his eyes went right through me.

For a split second, I wanted to cry “Daddy!” and go to him for a hug and a whiff of his Old Spice aftershave.  I wanted to take up where we left off and say, “How are you?”  “Where have you been?”  But, I knew the answers.  So I diverted my eyes back to my book.

I didn’t want to stare.  I just wanted one more peek into my Daddy’s eyes, and when I finally dared to look up….he was gone.  There was a voice inside me that begged to follow him,  yet I sat completely still, totally rattled and at the same time….humbled.

As if on cue, the lobby breakfast area began to come alive with sleepy guests wanting a waffle and hot coffee.  I glanced around, wondering if anyone saw what had just happened…did they too, see the gentleman in the baseball cap and plaid shirt?

I’m not at all sure what to think or how to feel about my encounter this morning.  I feel a strange peace and warmth as I remember it.  Was my Daddy wanting to see me too, just one more time?  

I don’t believe I need to figure it out.  I will just accept it as an embrace from above and carry with me the familiar smile and crinkled eyes as my secret reminder.  Maybe it really is true that the eyes are the window to the soul.

Posted in Introspection, owl omens, Owls, Sittin Ugly

And Then There Were Three

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I’ve always been an early riser; I simply must.  It is my time to “sit ugly” and spiritually and mentally prepare for the day.  As I sip coffee, I often stare out the window, enjoying the rising of the sun and watching the birds fly in for a snack.

In our backyard is a bird bath that serves as a way-station for the many birdies that frequent our neighborhood.  They nibble at our bird feeder, get a little drink and take a little bath…then fly off again to decorate the trees and sky with their beautiful colors.  Our bird feeder is guaranteed to be squirrel proof, but still…you know how crafty those squirrels can be.

A few weeks ago I glanced out the back door, checking on my plants, the bird feeder (aka squirrel feeder) and saw two small owls sitting in the bird bath!  They were sitting side by side, turning their heads, acknowledging the blue jays and pigeons who wanted their turn to bathe.  The owls would drink, splash and then sit perfectly still while their heads turned side to side.  I ran to get my camera and tried taking pictures through the glass, but that didn’t work.  So, I gently opened the back door and snapped away.  I thought this was just a fluke, but so far, every day at 6:30 a.m. my owl friends drop by for a bite, a bath, or a drink.  Maybe owls like to ‘sit ugly’, too.

After the first few times I saw them, I thought perhaps it was an omen.  Maybe it was a sign I should pay attention to, so I googled “owl visits” and “what does it mean if you see an owl?”  Lots of things popped up, as you might imagine.  Much of it was about finding your Spirit Animal and Native American folklore.  Was an owl on my totem pole?  I really didn’t know.

However, as I read, it boiled down to two main messages:  consistently seeing owls was either a sign of really good luck, wisdom and magic OR a really bad sign, like imminent death!  YIKES!

After reading for awhile, I came to my own conclusion.  Perhaps our backyard was famous in Audubon circles, and these owls wanted to check us out.  Maybe God simply wanted to bless me, a faithful early riser, with a beautiful surprise.  What if the message was, “take time to be present, notice the glorious world in your own backyard”?  

 

A few days ago, I stood waiting at the backdoor, taking my first sip of coffee and wondering if my friends were on their way, when all of a sudden...there were three.  One little owl would bathe then fly up into the tree and the other two would come down to splash.  They all three took turns and rotated branches and birdbath; then they flew away to do whatever they do during the day.  Perhaps sleep.
I’ve haven’t seen the 3rd owl since that day.  Some mornings only one will show up and some days two.  I suppose one day, my owl friends will move on and find another a.m. stop-over.  Meanwhile, I’ll continue my morning ritual and maybe keep the camera nearby just in case my owls fly in…..that sounds like a wise thing to do, don’t you think?

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Posted in Children, Introspection, jobs, School, Teaching

What Teaching Kindergarten Taught Me

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What Teaching Kindergarten Taught Me:

My teaching career spanned seventeen years.  Ten years teaching high school and seven years teaching kindergarten.  The chasm is not as deep or wide between the two as you might think because a 5-year-old and a 15-year-old have similar behaviors and thought processes.

Some of my most fun and also frightening teaching memories came from my precious kinder kiddos.  The first year I made the switch from high school to kindergarten, I was constantly wondering why.  Why do these kids not stay seated when I ask them to?  Why can’t they line up in a straight line?  The answer was easy….those were two skills I needed to teach them.  Who knew?  As I quickly learned, the first month of kindergarten is solely dedicated to learning processes, systems, and procedures.  How to line up, how to make it to the bathroom on time, and how to work together safely and without a meltdown.

Boogers:     Sniffles, picking and blowing are all things done with the nose or let’s just call it like it is…boogers.  Problems occur when you are not prepared for Booger mania!  For example,  the sneeze felt round the room; or when known nose picker runs up and hugs your legs passing who knows what onto your skirt; or how about when above said nose picker is chosen line leader for the day and gets to hold the teacher’s hand?  I’ve been known to hold the wrist instead, feigning a sore finger.  One must always be vigilant to pickers and be prepared for the unplanned grasp of the hand.  Although it’s not PC, it would be so cool if you could wear disposable gloves while teaching.  Is there any wonder why Kleenex is number one on the school supply list?
Potty talk, potty time and potty problems:    For some reason, pee, poop, and fart are the 3 funniest words any five year old knows.  Just say the word ‘fart’ and you will cause a group of kindergarteners to collapse into giggles, jokes or stories.  For example:  Once during an appraisal by my principal, a whole classroom dissolved with one fart.

On this day at story time, I had my 25 five-year-olds sitting perfectly still on the carpet in front of me.  We were reading a story which I was incorporating into a fabulous English Language Arts lesson on Sequencing:  What comes next in the story.  I was sitting smugly in my chair, 25 sets of eyes were all on me, my Principal was sitting at the back of the room taking notes when all of a sudden, in the quiet pause of the story….a precious little girl farted.  I tried to bite my lip, keep on reading and act like nothing happened, but one moment later a little one from the back of the group asked, “Did you hear that air biscuit?  One after another the group popped up with other statements:  “I did!”  “Who did it?”  “What’s an air biscuit?”  “That wasn’t a biscuit, it was a fart and it smells!”

Picture me calmly (I was really starting to sweat) asking the class to put all eyes back on me and putting my finger to my lips, tried the silent shhhhhh.

Chaos ensued when another child pointed out the culprit…I didn’t want to, but I glanced at the back of the room and saw my principal hysterically laughing and trying to hide his face while his shoulders were uncontrollably shaking.  He politely excused himself and said, “Perhaps I can come back later.”

I never really got it back together after that, so we went outside to run and play and return after a bathroom break, and try it again.  Sequencing lesson:  What happens after a child has a loud air biscuit?  Mayhem.

On most days, my classroom was calm and uneventful.  You know, those days when you wish Norman Rockwell was capturing the essence of your teaching career?  Those seven years in kindergarten were sweet, funny and oh so endearing.  I learned a lot about life.  I learned boogers and farts are funny at any age.  I learned to be more inquisitive, laugh more, see the joy in everyday events and love with all my heart!

Hey, sometimes “poop” happens… but it’s how you deal with it that matters.

 

 

Posted in Changes, Introspection, Work ethic

Beginnings and Endings

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Beginnings and Endings:

Where you begin is not always where you end.  I had a job on weekends and in the summer from the time I turned sixteen until I landed my first teaching gig.

One of my first high school jobs was at Meyers Family Fried Chicken in Amarillo, Texas.  I was the hostess with the mostess on weekends!  “How many?”  “High chair or booster?”  “Booth or table?”  “  Follow me please.”

Meyers Family Fried Chicken was, as you guessed, geared toward family.  It had a train track mounted at the top of the walls by the ceiling and a locomotive with a long train that ran continuously everyday, from open to close.  

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My time there was pretty non-descript, except when a customer would request a certain waitress or to sit by the window.  When that happened, it would cause tip inequality and sometimes overwork or not enough work for the waitresses.   This, in turn, would cause huffing and puffing and sideways glances at the Hostess.   Although the policy was to make the customer happy, I was less popular than usual when a demanding patron put us out of rotation.  I think Meyers and I parted ways after one year.

My most favorite job in high school was at Montgomery Ward in the Western Plaza.  I breezed through training with flying colors and high scores because I could run the register and count back change with speed and accuracy.  All this awarded me the prestigious title of “Floater,” meaning every time I clocked into work, I had to stop by HR to see what department needed help.

I managed to land a coveted temporary position in the Electronics Department when a full-time/part-time person went on maternity leave.  The Electronics Dept. sold T.V.’s, record players, radios and records.  You know, LP’s and 45’s.  I was in heaven, mainly because cute boys would occasionally wander in looking at records and I could approach with a big smile and ask, “May I help you?”SCAN0006 (2)

 

My other department stents were not as glamorous nor as successful.  Once, while helping out in shoes, I sent customers home with two different shoes in the same box.  (not a matched pair)  And there was one fateful Saturday in the Candy Dept….I’m not sure why, but I never got the hang of scooping, measuring correctly, and bagging.  On Saturday’s it would be flush with harried parents, crying kids, and ‘hangry’ (hungry and angry) customers.  I never “floated” back after that one time.

My employment background boasts of teaching swimming lessons and lifeguarding at the YMCA;  one summer at Glorieta Baptist Church Camp, working in the Chuck Wagon, making donuts; and two summers in college, as a secretary at an insurance company.

Isn’t it fascinating to look back and see that where you began is not always where you end?  How was I to know at sixteen that the skills and customer interactions then would serve me well later as an educator?  How could I possibly have known that weekends and summers wouldn’t hold a candle to Monday through Friday for 36 years?

Certainly, where I began was not where I ended.  But, it shaped me and molded me and taught me about life and the virtues of an honest day’s work.  So, to that I must say:  “Thank you, Meyer’s Family Fried Chicken!”,  “Gracias! Montgomery Ward!”, and “Much obliged! Chuck Wagon!”

You taught me well!

Posted in Introspection, Photography

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

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There’s something about taking pictures.  It connects you with the human race…  It gives you a mind’s eye view of the world… Shows the window to the soul…Tells a story…Frees the imagination…Captures the truth.

It is a universal language.  Everyone loves to see themselves in photographs and to see photos of people and things that they love.  When I am behind my camera, I see the greater good, the brightest color, the person behind the eyes, and the wonder of all God’s creatures.  There is nothing that rivals that feeling.

Wherever I go, when I take my camera, I am transported to another dimension!  Strangers are drawn to me and want me to take their picture, or ask me to use their camera to take their picture.  Once on a trip to Mardi Gras’, I began taking pictures during a street dance.  Soon, couples I didn’t know and would never see again,  danced by and posed, wanting me to capture their revelry.  I must have taken 300 pictures in a two-hour span.   Photography breaks down barriers and builds relationships.

When I was 10 years old, my dad let me take a camera to Girl Scout camp.  It was a Brownie.  Brownie Cameras were boxed shaped and you looked down through the top to find your subject.  The film had to be threaded through the inside maze until it clicked into place.  I thought it was fabulous.kodak-860732__340

 Through the years I have had the Brownie, Polaroid, Instamatic, Digital and of course disposable!  After I retired, I purchased a Nikon 3100 and began my true love affair with photography.  I have, of course, chronicled our family’s growth, events, and trips,  but I have also been fortunate enough to capture some glorious sights.. and here are just a few.

197Outside of Denver at Buffalo Bill’s Grave!017Kerrville, Texas

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My beloved Maine!086Peek-a-boo Kitty

071San Antonio Zoo

029Cuerro, Texas

Sunset was taken courtesy of God and Galveston!

 

Posted in Aging process, Exercise, Introspection, Old Age, Pets

Walking my Butt by Ginger Keller Gannaway

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Let me be clear.  I do not enjoy exercise!  I fear weights, treadmills, and machines with names like elliptical.  I avoid any sort of exercise class because the idea of staying in step or keeping time with a roomful of moving bodies makes me sweat more than actually exercising ever could.

However, I will go for a walk.  Mostly I walk my dog. Mostly to give her a sense of freedom and the chance to smell the roses, my neighbors’ lawns, a random piece of trash, another’s dog’s butt, or a dried-up pile of poop.  My walks are mostly for Millie, but they are also a bit for me…specifically for my oversized booty!

Walking my Butt

I’m walking my butt,
Walking my butt,
Walking my big fat butt.

Birds gossip and squeak;owl
Squirrels scamper and peek.
Is nature judging me?
Do they even see
My big fat butt?

No, no, no, no way.
‘Cause my dog just sniffs and squats.
Another short squirt on another lil sprout.
She stops, she pulls, she pauses
To give my butt a kind of rest.

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So nature really doesn’t care
about my feet, my butt, my hair.
It’s my own so critical eye
that makes me wanna cry, so…

I’m walking my butt,
Walking my butt,
Walking my big fat butt.

Posted in Introspection, Travel

Come Home to Maine

Come Home to Maine

 

Come Home to Maine:    

My fascination with Maine began some twenty years ago.  The beauty, grandeur, and peace among the rustic, sometimes unsettling landscape, intrigues me and draws me there like a long, lost love.  It beckons me to breathe its scent and feel its sturdy ground beneath my feet.  Maine lures me in with the promise of filling my soul and never disappoints….never.

Even as I write, we are traveling toward Maine.  We’ve driven from Virginia through Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.  The snow is still piled along the highway and dots the countryside in patches.  It’s cold and dank, as some would say.

We finally arrive in Prospect Harbor Maine.  The tiny village has a filling station/grocery where we make one last stop before our new home for a few days.  There are houses along this long road, some boarded up from their long winter’s nap and others have a light on and smoke curling from the chimney.

Our home for the next five days is the Prospect Harbor Lighthouse.  It is located on a naval base and we are met at the razor wire gate by a guard, who after checking ID’s, waves us in.   We are staying in the old lightkeeper’s house just a few feet away from the lighthouse itself.  The house is more than we could have hoped for; quaint, well appointed, warm and inviting.  Thanks to the naval base, it has been well maintained through the years and treated with love and respect.

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The light from the lighthouse cycles on every 10 seconds or so.  Last night, standing out in the frigid wind, we watched as the light cast its spell onto the water and into the dark unknown ocean.  The light both welcomes you and warns you of the rocky shore.  The Maine coastline is littered with dark rocks and seaweed.  The waves crash into the rocky shore like a rhythmic beat orchestrated by the pull of the moon.  The gulls and herring are searching for food and fly low dipping in for fish or excavating clams for a delicious bite.  They appear always hungry and needy and searching….constantly searching for that next meal.

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It is snowing again and the flakes are large and pillowy, floating down and dancing criss-cross through the sky.  The air smells fresh and as we step outside, we are in nature’s own walk-in freezer.  Each branch, rock, roof top and road is sprinkled with a layer of crystals and ice.DSC_0135

 

Every time I go for a walk down a silent trail or stop to admire the occasional sea village, I am in awe of the simplistic beauty.  The lobster boats and the people working the traps, both mirror a weathered look.  Their outer shells creased and colored by the sun and sea.  Their strong, classic lines forever changed by the wind.  It is a harsh life they have chosen.  At nature’s mercy, they strive each day to complete their tasks and feed their tables.

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What more can I say about my Maine?  It is my heart-home.  My descriptions only begin to touch the surface, but it’s what my soul feels when I am here, that tells the true story.  Every glorious creation is here.  Everything clean, fresh, mild, harsh, bright and dark….so lovely, yet so lonely….restless yet tranquil.
Perhaps you will see for yourself.  That is my solemn wish for you….take a chance, pack a bag and come home to Maine.

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Posted in Caring for others, Children, Friendship, Introspection, Parents

Soul Sister (a.k.a. Cousin Gina) by Ginger Keller Gannaway

“Soul” Sister (a.k.a. Cousin Gina)

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Gina and I in Panama City, 1960

 

     We were walking along a Pensacola beach around 8 a.m., after coffee and before the rest of the folks got up. We aimed to walk to the distant pier and talked nonstop the whole way.  Like evenly-matched tennis players, we served and volleyed kid woes back and forth. “He sneaks out the house so often, we have to hide our car keys now.”  “Her grades have dropped ‘cause she skips all the time.” “His room reeks of pot.”  “I hear ya’!” 

     Somehow letting go of our tales of angst gives us a kind of inner release.  We offer the worry and fear up to the sun, the waves, the breeze, and we become free to laugh out loud. Gina and I totally “get” each other, and for two hours we feel better.  On the walk back to our beach-front rental, we even rush into the surf for a quick swim and more laughter as we jump and dive into the waves. Like a couple of kids!

     Gina is my first cousin and my “soul” sister.  Even though she lived an hour away from my hometown, we saw each other often growing-up.  We shared every Keller family reunion or big holiday party at Grandma’s house for sure.  Also, we had full weeks at a time during the summer when we visited each other’s homes or went to our Indian Village camp with Grandma and Stella.

     During the 1980’s we got married and raised our kids in different states.  We didn’t spend long visits together, yet later we grabbed summer getaways when we both became public school teachers. In 1998 and 2010 we even took trips to NYC to visit my sister Gayle and sightsee and reconnect.  Gina and I snap back together easily, no matter how long we have been apart.  We share our Cajun culture, our Keller connection, and our childhood memories, and our family tragedies. Gina is  a close cousin, a trusted friend, a wise woman, a spiritual guide, and my soul sister.  She has a wit like a whip, yet it’s made of purple yarn or silly string. Her sarcasm is swift, yet stingless.  And we share a deep, honest love of movies that began in 1968 when we were both enchanted by Funny Girl.  Walking from Grandma’s to the Saturday matinees at the Liberty and then returning to sneak cigarettes while Grandma napped were big teenage moments for me.  We also worked in the theater’s concession stand and played tennis, went swimming, and obsessed over cute boys to fill the lazy summer days with good times.

     Throughout the sad, sad times and the glory days, humor has helped hold us together.  Two years ago we shared a weekend in Galveston at her sister Dana’s beach house, and while attempting to take a selfie, Gina and I laughed so hard tears ran down our cheeks as we fought to keep the other bodily liquid from running down our legs!

     Now she and I even have similar living situations. My 89-year-old dad lives with me, and Gina lives with her 87-year-old mom (my dad’s sister). So Gina and I chat and commiserate and explain and laugh over phone calls.  We still “get” each other, and as we face family challenges, we share sorrows and successes and above all we laugh.  Gina is a devoted daughter, a mighty mother, and a strong Grandma GiGi.  Time with Gina is always honest and often hysterical. It can be gut-wrenching and still stay golden.  We connect easily, strongly, and soulfully.

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Gina, Gayle, me, Andrew, Yvette in Pensecola (2009)
Posted in Introspection

Picture This

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When I grow up I’m going to go to the movies all by myself, and maybe out to eat.  I know it sounds silly and terribly unsophisticated but, I’m unrealistically weirded out by the thought of going places by myself.

Out to eat?  Never!  Drive thru’s don’t count, do they?   Movies solo?  I’ve only attempted it once.  I was going to see How Stella Got Her Groove Back, but I was so nervous that I arrived late and left early, so I never found out if she did or not.

What’s the problem, you may ask?  What am I afraid of?  There are many people who absolutely love an afternoon flick all by their lonesome.  They relish the intimacy between themselves and the big screen.  They don’t have to share the popcorn or Junior Mints as they cozy down in their reclining stadium seats.

Others take themselves out to eat after a morning of errands or shopping.  They happily say ‘table for one’ and genuinely seem to enjoy the solitude and the meal.  Sometimes even reading a book while they nibble or lunch.

What’s my problem?  Why am I so adverse to this sylloque of solitude?  Once, my husband came home after running errands and a Dr.’s appointment and I said, “I bet you’re starved, want me to fix you a sandwich?”

“Oh no”, he said, “I stopped at Red Lobster for lunch.”

“By yourself?” I gulped.

“It was fabulous”, he said, “All you can eat shrimp!”

I was so verklempt that I had to sit down.  

“I wish I could do that”, I whispered.

He did suggest that I practice.  Of course, now he kids me whenever we go to the movies.  “Why don’t you buy your own ticket and practice walking in by yourself?  You can even sit by yourself and I’ll act like I don’t know you.”

I know it sounds so absurd.  Maybe I need hypnosis?  Biofeedback therapy?  Is there a self-help book for ‘chickens’?
Well, perhaps in the spirit of being kind to myself…..I might be rushing things, trying to go too far… too fast.  After all, I’m only 63.   Baby steps, right??   My senior discount will still be good next year!

Posted in Entertainment, Introspection

Top 10 Movie Moments in my Life by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Top 10 Movie Moments of my Life

My grandma owned the movie theaters in the small town I grew up in. Since I (along with many cousins)“got in the show free,” the Liberty Theater and Queen Cinema were my babysitters, my entertainers, and my employers during my formative years. Is that why cinema means much more to me than just moving pictures and why I connect with movies on a very visceral level?

funny-girl1. Funny Girl (1968) Barbra Streisand’s mix of comedy, music, and tragic romance awakened the film fanatic in my 12-year-old soul. I saw it 11 times over a two-week period and Barbra is still “The Greatest Star” for me.
2.  Psycho (1960) I saw this groundbreaking example of mother/son obsession in 1970 for a 10th anniversary showing, and my 8th grade buddies and I literally jumped from our seats during the shocker scenes. Hitchcock became the first director I adored. (seen it 10 times: thanks TCM)
3. Cool Hand Luke (1967) Even though I did not fully appreciate all the symbolism and complex themes when I first saw this, I did fully recognize Paul Newman as the “natural born world-shaker” he was and continues to be. (Especially in 1972 when my friends and I met him during the filming of The Drowning Pool in Lafayette, LA).

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Paul Newman with Cheryl Manuel,Kelly Keller, and Colleen (I’m taking the picture).

4. The Way We Were (1973) Both Streisand and Redford cemented my passion for the tragic side of love. (I saw it over 20 times in my junior year!) I still swoon and cry over those movie moments that remind me that love does NOT conquer all.
5. Annie Hall (1977) Woody Allen so skillfully balanced neurotic humor and awkward silliness to stimulate my college brain and to reveal the laughable side of love’s impermanence. (Only twice in theaters. I don’t”get in free” outside of Eunice).
6. Casablanca (1942) In 1980 I asked my husband-of-now-33-years, Gary, to meet me at the Varsity Theater to see this ultra-cool classic whose sharp dialogue and superstar performances added moral fortitude to the lost-love theme.(8 or 9 times)
7. Brave Little Toaster (1987) So fast-forward to my life with 3 little boys who tangled me up in the wonder of talking appliances, silly songs, and travel adventures. (I lost count of times we watched it; thank you, VCR).
8. Schindler’s List (1993) The teacher part of me mixed my love of historic heroes, masterful moviemaking, and powerful education when I guided tenth graders to examine Spielberg’s genius after they read Elie Wiesel’s unforgettable Night. (Over 16 close-viewing times & the students and I always noticed new brilliant moments).
9.Boyhood (2014) – Linklater’s brave masterpiece about raising kids in Texas in the ’80’s and ’90’s mirrored my own “small moments make a life” experience with my Shane, Casey, and Evan. (Saw it twice in theaters and 6 times on DVD).boyhood
10. LaLa Land (2016) – I fell completely in love with every frame of its musical magic. Oh those gorgeous yearning looks of lost love at the end! Here’s to ALL  the“Fools Who Dream.” (Paid to see it 4 times in two weeks)

So, what are some of YOUR movie moments?  (The 2017 Oscars air  Sunday night, February 26, at 7 p.m.!!)academy_award_trophy