Coming soon to a phone in your pocket

ImageImageThis time of year I untangle the Christmas lights and reflect on Christmases past. Two years ago in a snowy December, I got swept away with the rush and energy of the most intense, dramatic, mind blowing project.  My amazing friend, Barry Varga, aka Mr. Dry Wit, wanted to make a funny movie about three guys in wheelchairs robbing a bank. You heard that right. Barry has ALS – Lou Gehrig’s disease, and was confined to a wheelchair himself. He wanted to shine some light on a grim situation, raise funds towards the fight against this disease – but mostly he wanted to give people a laugh. Barry asked my son, Levi, to co-write the script with him and my other son, Kyle, to direct the movie.  Some very generous and kind friends helped my husband cover the costs of our speedy production.  Kyle and his Vancouver crew only had a small window in-between classes to head to Calgary and do the four day crazy shoot.  I remember that getting off the plane one of Kyle’s wise friend’s said, Kyle we should never work more than a twelve hour day – and we all said, that would be insane – who would do that? But guess what? To cram it all in, we pulled a fourteen hour stint.  It makes my spine tingle  thinking about all the family and friends, and friends of friends, and kids of neighbors, and relatives of Barry’s and mine, that showed up everyday – following us  across the city -from the university to the high school, to a slushy street scene – taking part in everything from feeding the folks, applying fake tatoos, driving electric wheel chairs without a licence, babysitting the little toddler of an actor, or waiting (and waiting and waiting) to be a court room extra only to be left on the cutting room floor.   After that exhilarating Christmas shoot they took the footage back to Vancouver and created Disabled and Dangerous. Our movie is only eight and a half  minutes long, but a funny eight and a half minutes. 

We screened it in Calgary in June 2012 to a packed house and then sent it to film festivals – making it into three in New York City, and (drum roll) winning the audience choice award at the Iron Mule Comedy Festival in October.  It’s been a wild ride and now Barry and the guys want to share it far and wide with the assitance of some amazing dedicated women at the ALS Society of Alberta. I am absolutlely thrilled to let you know that Disabled and Dangerous will launch on YouTube on Dec. 19th, two years from the day we wrapped up the shoot.  It’s time to share Barry’s funny story idea.  The more views, the more people we make happy.  The official trailer is now available at or on the facebook page! It has 19,000 views and counting on Youtube – and that is just the trailer.  Check it out but please share the movie when it debuts on YouTube on December 19 and help make this “the heartfelt heist heard round the world.”  Remember this is just an ordinary stick-up.

Santa – please come take back ‘walking doll’

doll lights

When I was a little girl, four or five, I asked Santa for a ‘walking doll’. I don’t remember sitting on the old guy’s lap – maybe my mom had written a letter for me, but clearly a request had been made. I woke with a start on Christmas Eve, and thinking it was already morning, I ran down the hall in my pajamas, stopping short at the entrance to the living room and peeking around the corner. Nothing can erase that moment, even now all these years since, for what I saw was my dad arranging presents under the tree and there front and center – was the unwrapped wonderful ‘walking doll’. I slid back into bed unnoticed, but absolutely delighted – not at all traumatized that Santa had blown his cover. Surely it was the jolly old elf who left the doll for my parents to display, and now I would be able to play with her in the morning, and all the mornings after that.
My mom wanted us kids to use our imaginations so she didn’t want us to have any of those crazy high-tech battery operated toys. The beauty of the tall hard plastic ‘walking doll’ was that her arm bones were connected to her leg bones by some mysterious inner wires, and so when you lifted an arm and moved it, her lovely flat footed leg took a step – no batteries involved.
‘Walking doll’ hasn’t fared too well over the years – at the hands of my two brothers and umpteenth male cousins she’s somehow suffered damage my sisters and girl cousins wouldn’t have inflicted. A blinking eye has been pushed into its socket ,and some horrible boy shot her right foot with a BB gun (back in the day when boys shot BB guns).
Since my own kids left home I’ve kept a few cuddly baby dolls for visiting little ones to play with and even a soft plastic one that never loses its sweet soft- plastic smell. And of course, I’ve kept ‘walking doll’ on a shelf in the basement  – beside my own grown daughter’s fancy porcelain faced Anne of Green Gables doll.
Recently, seeking order before the house fills with family for Christmas, I did another  overhaul of great magnitude of the junk stored in the basement and vowed ‘walking doll’ needed to go. It was rule #1 in the decluttering handbook – if you are not going to use it or display it, let it go.  Those anti-clutter gurus dictate that I’m supposed to accept that even special gifts have played their role and to be content to hang onto the memories, but not the item taking up space and gathering dust.   So I was determined to give ‘walking doll’ up, to tuck her into a bag of used kid’s clothing and take it all to a local charity. (Now I don’t actually believe a charity will want to pass along low tech walking doll with her matted hair and busted eye and foot, but I could never pitch her into the garbage myself.) Somehow the bag of clothes went and walking doll is still here.

doll treeDusted off, with her hair fluffed up, she sits bleary- eyed on a bench in the front hall. I have a fuzzy plan to let her sit under the Christmas tree one more time amongst the glitter and lights.  It must be the magic of the holiday season, that makes me hope that maybe Santa will hop out of the chimney (if we had one), pop her into his sack and take her back to where they take the broken toys, and I won’t have to play a guilty hand in letting dear  ‘walking doll’ go.


Stop Virginia – This Christmas is What We Longed For

On these short, dark days before Christmas I never seem able to sleep and get frustrated with myself lying in bed doing a tally of gifts bought and gifts to buy, instead of counting sheep.  I feel that as a mom of four young adults, wife of the husband, daughter of the parents, sister of the siblings, too much shopping has fallen on my shoulders and the emphasis at this time of year, by my own doing, has gone terribly wrong.

This morning on the fourth shortest day, when I leave the Christmas lights on all night to brighten the weary dark, I was laying in my warm bed and decided, most consciously, to think hard about what it is I am anticipating for the next week  – a week that will come and go a hundred times faster than the slow build up since Halloween.

What are the moments I want to be in?  Not in a distracted, on to the next bit way, but in a truly aware and mindful – this is what we all waited for – way?

The first son home this year went with his dad and together they picked out a glorious tree.  A few years back their dad and I had decorated the tree for our kids arrival home – only to find they all wanted to be part of the ‘boys act like they don’t care’ while supervising from the couch watching something like, Saving Private Ryan, while the girls hung even the sloppiest kindergarten macaroni decoration because they “remembered making it”.  We have learned to save the tree decorating and I promise I will be in those moments.

In the past I probably helped too much with gift buying, the older they got the less money they had to spend with rent and groceries and parties to attend to.  I was resenting becoming the mother-of-all shoppers.  But in the last few years, maturing as they are supposed to, these young adults of ours have managed to think ahead and somehow put aside funds for gifts they have been excited about bestowing on each other and us – small, inexpensive, partially homemade sometimes – but all tokens of love and affection.  I will be in those moments of anticipation – watching the dance around the wrapping, the shouting out for tape, or for no one to come in whatever room, and then the sneaking the package under our sparkling tree.

It will take until Dec. 23 this year but finally we will all be under one roof again, something that hasn’t happened since Easter.  When I lay in bed that night I will toss aside thoughts of organizing, turkey stuffing, having to run out for whipping cream as always, and where did I put the stockings about 350 days ago?  Instead I will be completely, entirely immersed in the feeling of having them all so close, though they may be up into the wee hours listening to hip hop or watching DVD’s of The Office and laughing together –  eating the butter tarts a day early and sharing Christmas-y secrets.  I think I will wrap myself in a blanket and sneak down to be with them, saving sleep for another time, knowing in my heart that these are the moments of the season that I have truly longed for.