Dear John Letters and Men I Have Enjoyed

8/20/18 10:50 AM

Since Friday afternoon, I’ve done nothing but lay on the couch and play video games or watch TV. While I enjoy doing both, normally it’s just for a two or three hours max at a time. Not an entire weekend.  Early last week, I started coming down with a cold. By Friday afternoon, I was miserable, with just enough energy to change the TV input from PS4 to Roku.  I tried to write, but my brain was too focused on trying to get air for me to produce anything decent.  Hence, the cold-medicine induced, slug-like existence for two and half days.

You might think that having an entire weekend to catch up on shows I’ve been wanting to watch isn’t such a bad thing. The problem was, I was finding it hard to concentrate on anything that remotely required thought. Which left me with movies that I’ve seen before and romance movies.

Don’t get me wrong, even though I’m not a big fan of romance movies now, I used to love them. A few still rank in my top movies of all time. The Way We Were, Officer and Gentlemen, Urban Cowboy, Say Anything and Moonstruck, just to name a few. You’ll notice that all of those were released at least thirty years ago. The only recent (as in the last fifteen years) romance movies I remember enjoying are Brokeback Mountain and Walk the Line. Dennis made me watch The Notebook by Nicolas Sparks when it came out. (Spoiler alert here) I think I’m the only person who saw that movie that was hoping for them to die already so the damn movie could be over.

Well, I was so sick this weekend, that I watched another Nicolas Sparks movie, Nights in Rodanthe. Voluntarily. To be fair, I only watched 3/4’s of it because I fell asleep. And I only chose it because it had Richard Gere and Viola Davis in it. (I found out it was a Nicolas Sparks story when I saw his name in the opening credits.)

I watched another romance movie on Netflix called The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. It’s a period piece, set in the English island of Guernsey, right after WWII. It had gorgeous scenery, excellent 1940’s fashion and it features Lady Rose, Lady Sybil and Mrs. Crowley from Downton Abbey. The plot is predictable, which is okay when you’re in a slug-like state. I actually enjoyed it.

Most of what I watched this weekend, however, were movies that I’ve already seen. I watched Walk the Line again, with Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix and enjoyed it. I watched Pulp Fiction with John Travolta, Uma Thurman and Bruce Willis (probably one of my all time favorite movies ever) and I still loved it. I watched Gross Point Blank with John Cusack (one of my favorite stars of all time) and Minnie Driver … and I thought it was stupid. I found John Cusack’s character, Martin, to be annoying and unsympathetic, not at all the lovable goof that he’s always been.

How can this be? I’ve seen that movie lots of times before and I always enjoyed it. I love dark humor. I love John Cusack.  I’ve always loved John Cusack ever since I saw him in Sure Thing back in my freshman year of college in 1985.  There’s a part in that movie where John Cusack and Daphne Zuniga are talking about potential names for their future children, and John says (paraphrasing here), “Nick is a kind of guy you can drink beers with and he doesn’t care if you puke in his truck…”. There was a guy in our group named Nick, and to our unsophisticated 18-year old brains, this was hilarious and we spent the next few weeks repeating the line to each other.

I’ve never been the type to get crushes on celebrities, even when I was young. John Cusack was the closest that I came to that, partly, because he comes from the Chicago area which is a few hours south from where I live. He was one of us. He came from the Midwest. My friend had friend who lived near Cusack’s childhood home, and when she visited her, my friend took a picture of his house for me. I have no idea if that’s actually his home, but I was thrilled to get it, just the same.

Cusack’s character, Gib, in Sure Thing is a quirky, awkward, big-hearted guy who fumbles his way through life and still ends up getting the girl in the end. Cusack reprises this character in many different roles (thank you IMDB): John Trager in Seredipity, Rob Gordon in High Fidelity, Martin Blank in Grosse Point Blank, and, my personal favorite, Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything. Who could resist broken-hearted John Cusack holding up a gigantic boom box outside of Ione Skye’s window at the crack of dawn, playing “their” song? Sigh. Not me, back in 1989 when the movie was released. Now, in 2018 with my new-found disdain for Grosse Point Blank, I’m not so sure.

I’m a little afraid to watch Say Anything again. What if I don’t like it either? Instead of Lloyd being adorably awkward, what if I think he’s a whiny freeloader with no future? That would be very sad. I’d feel like I lost an old friend.

I had a similar experience when I watched Urban Cowboy a few years ago. I loved John Travolta when I was young, almost as much as I loved John Cusack. Grease was the first movie of Travolta’s that I was allowed to see other than watching him on Welcome Back, Kotter. Grease was a favorite of mine for years, and I even had a comic book of the story made from screen shots of the movie.  

Then came Urban Cowboy in 1980. John Travolta was “good-guy”cowboy Bud, who was competing with “bad boy” Wes, (Scott Glenn) for the love of cowgirl, Sissy (Debra Winger).  There was lots of two-stepping, tight blue jeans and John Travolta dimples. I was fourteen when I saw it and I was smitten. I saw the movie with a group of girlfriends and I remember one of them said she liked bad-boy Wes better than John Travolta. How could this be?

I never considered that as a possibility until I watched Urban Cowboy again several years ago. I still enjoyed the movie, however, “good guy” Bud hits Sissy. So does “bad boy”, Wes. But “good guy” Bud hits Sissy less than “bad boy” Wes hits her, so I guess that made Bud the better choice in 1980.  John Travolta was still cute with his dimples, but Wes, oh my gosh. Wes was Hot (yes, that capitalization is intentional). I finally understood his appeal, if you ignore his propensity for beating women, that is. (As a side note, I was happy to see Scott Glenn reappar this weekend in Nights in Rodanthe as Robert Torrelson, the grieving widow. I’m also enjoying him in the Stephen King series, Castle Rock, on Hulu).

So, was it my drug-addled brain that caused me to dislike Martin in Grosse Point Blank or have my tastes changed to the point that old favorites aren’t favorites anymore? If I watch The Way we Were will Hubble come off as entitled and pretentious and Katie as opinionated and domineering? In Officer and a Gentleman, will Paula seem opportunistic and Zack self-absorbed? In Moonstruck, maybe Loretta and Ronny will seem selfish and kinda slutty instead of two souls destined to be together?

I’m a little afraid to find out. I don’t want to say good bye to the old favorites. What’s next? Will I start to dislike books I used to love? Will Gone With the Wind be tedious and Little Women be sappy? Perish the thought!

Both of the beloved Johns, Cusack and Travolta, went on to play other more well-developed characters in some really excellent movies. Cusack did a great job playing Richard Nixon in The Butler and Travolta’s hit-man, Vicent Vega in Pulp Fiction is my favorite character, ever, that Travolta has played.

I’m not quite ready to send Dear John letters to the famous Johns I’ve enjoyed. Nor am I ready to give up the less-noteworthy characters and stories from my youth that they portrayed. I just have to remember to view them with a younger set of eyes when I watch them.

12:10 (I gave myself extra time to write this one due to the the following: IMDB research for character names, coughing fits, and the doing and redoing of laundry –I washed my never-before-washed hot pink sweater with my white jeans. Although, I’m better, I think some slug-brain remnants still remain.

Bleach is a wonderful thing.

Emerald Green Leaves

Friday, August 10th 8:36 AM

The fabric of summer has changed for me. It used to mean flowers and birds singing,  days that lasted well into nights, and nights that still wore the glow of the sun long past the moment it dipped beneath the horizon.

It was a time for watching fireflies and enjoying the hum of cicada’s in the hot, sticky afternoons while the sun still hung high in the sky. Enjoying the late summer wildflowers blooming in a cacophony of colors. Colors that serve as a gentle reminder that summer is fleeting and fall is close at hand; golden yellow, dusky purple, deep chocolate brown, and antique white all set against a back drop of green. Rich, bold, luscious colors of green;  forest green, sage green and emerald green.  Deep, mature colors, coaxed out of the chartreuse and lime greens of spring, brought forth by living through the days of summer.

Those things are all still true, of course. Summer is still warm and sunny for the most part. Cicadas still sing and so do the birds.  Wildflowers bloom, and sun still hangs on to the last few precious weeks of soaring high this time of year.

None of the hallmarks of summer have changed. Instead, it’s me who’s changed. For most of my life, I’ve been the young chartreuse lime green leaf, enjoying all the bounties summer has to offer with very little consideration of fall. But now, I’m the forest green emerald leaf. My color has deepened, my leaves are more substantial. I’m aware of what went into the evolution of that leaf from a tender, spring shoot to a substantial leaf, capable of offering shelter from the sun and the rain. Now, fall doesn’t seem as far off as it used to.

Life colors the fabric we’re made of, whether it’s a leaf or a person. We absorb the climate we live in, and the experiences we’re given. We grow and we change and evolve. It’s not a bad thing, I don’t think. Nor is it a good thing. It simply is life; as the lime green shoots of spring evolve into the ripe emerald green of late summer, and, eventually, the vibrant reds and yellow of fall, so we grow and mature through stages in our lives.

This forest green stage of life isn’t bad. It’s a more reflective, more thoughtful stage where intentional deliberation rules the day. The careless choices of yesterday seem frivolous and immature; remnants of another time where summer seemed to last forever and fall was a time of enjoying the pretty leaves with no consideration of the decay inside that caused the vibrant display of color.

One upshot of this stage, for me, is a renewed focus on what I want to accomplish with my life. Perhaps I should say the rest of my life, because I certainly have goals that I accomplished up to this point. The focus of this summer, for me, has been to answer the question, “What comes next?”

Dennis has a job that he really enjoys and it’s given me the itch to return to work. I remember jobs I truly enjoyed and it’s a rewarding event when that happens.  I wouldn’t mind having that again, if I could find that kind of a situation. They’re not easy to come by. And, for me, I know that a job will take the majority of my energy which will leave little left for creating, which is my favorite thing in the world to do, whether it be writing, quilting or cooking. And therein, I found my answer.

The resounding truth, and the only goal I’m sure I want to accomplish, is to finish writing the book that I started back in 2001. I wasn’t quite a lime green shoot of spring when I started it, but I wasn’t the full-blown emerald green leaf I am today, either. I’ve started and stopped writing the book a dozen times, but this time is different. Even though I don’t know if it will ever be published, or read by anyone other than Dennis, I know it needs to be done.

That is what I’ve dedicated this summer to accomplishing. I packed away my quilting, which I do miss. I’m way behind on my tv shows and I haven’t played video games in two months. I hired a writing coach and I joined a critique group.  And I am creating. My goal is to be finished with the first draft by my birthday at the end of August. As of this week, I crossed the two hundred page mark, and I think I am on track to complete the first draft this month. My goal is to complete my first revision with my writing coach by the end of the year.

What happens after that? I don’t know and that’s okay. Maybe it will get published. Maybe not. But it will be done, finally, and I will once again consider, what’s next?

9:34 AM


We Found a First!

August 2, 2018 3:24 PM

A momentous event happened in our house last night. It was more than momentous, it was a first. When you’re fifty-one, it’s not easy to have a first of anything, or at least a first of anything you that haven’t already wanted to try.

What was the blessed event that moved to me write a blog post today, when I haven’t written one in the past week? (Sorry about the limited posts of late, but I’m spending all my spare time working on my novel, which is now at 56,800 words. My goal is to get the first draft done, which will be about 75,000 words, by the end of the month). Anyway, I digress. Back to the blessed, momentous, first-time event that rocked our world last night.

Here it is. Are you ready? Dennis ate this last night as part of his dinner.


Yes, it’s a bowl of coleslaw. Nothing special, just plain coleslaw with a few sunflower seeds, almonds and crunchy ramen noodles thrown in. This can’t be the momentous, first-time, earth-changing event, can it, you ask?  Well, no. I never said earth-changing. It was, however, a momentous, first-time event in our house because Dennis does not eat raw cabbage. Ever.

In fact, when I met Dennis back in 1995, he didn’t eat much of anything other than pepperoni pizza, grilled chicken breast sandwiches plain, sweet and sour chicken (but no peppers or pineapple) french fries and hamburgers with ketchup.  If he ate spaghetti, it was with a canned sauce with no hint of vegetables in it. Anything with an unidentified chunk of anything was dismissed an inedible and very likely to kill him if he tried it. Onions were, and still are, the bane of his existence.

Gradually, as the years passed, I noticed that Dennis was making an effort to expand his palate. He tried an egg roll when we were out for lunch at a Chinese restaurant, and he liked it. (I didn’t tell him there was cabbage in it for twenty years).

He began to accept chunks of tomato in his spaghetti sauce. He ate my Swedish meatballs with relish (there were tons of grated onion in them). Around the time we got married, Dennis warmed up to the idea of eating something green. We started with iceberg lettuce which is a very pale green. That went okay, so I tried Romaine. Still good. We’ve branched into all kinds of baby lettuce now, although purple lettuce and spinach are still verboten in our house. I can live with that.

Last night, as I was making the coleslaw salad for myself, Dennis saw the almonds and the sunflower seeds out on the counter. Dennis loves sunflower seeds. I tease him that he adds a little lettuce to his sunflower seed salads.

Sunflower seeds AND toasted almonds got his attention. How bad could coleslaw be, he asked, with those as the ingredients. I suggested he give the coleslaw a try. After all, I reasoned, he’s been eating cabbage in egg rolls for years. This isn’t much different. I even offered to make him his own salad sans the green onions. (I didn’t want to push my luck.)

To my utter shock, Dennis agreed. Dennis agreed to eat raw cabbage. And he liked it! The man who, twenty years ago, ate nothing but a five or six different foods, none of it green or raw or a vegetable, actually enjoyed a coleslaw salad.

Hurray! I thought. Now I have a reason to make it more often. The last time I made that recipe was around 1998, for an office party. It seems like a lot of work to make for just me. If we both enjoy it, however, it becomes much more feasible.

While it was only coleslaw, it was a momentous occasion in our house. (And it possibly illustrated the fact that Dennis and I need to get out more if his eating coleslaw is a momentous event. But that’s a whole other blog post.)

Unfortunately, the coleslaw-high was short-lived. Dennis woke up with a migraine this morning and his migraines are often triggered by food. The coleslaw was the only new thing Dennis ate yesterday, so he’s blaming the coleslaw for the migraine. I’m holding out hope that it was just a fluke.

Unfortunately, I expect it will take another twenty years before I can talk Dennis into trying coleslaw again.

3:56 PM