Christmas Movies 

I’m starting to dislike the commercialism of the holiday season, but I love Christmas movies. And as long as I still own these DVDs and a DVD player, my family and I will watch at least five of them each year. The film has to have one of three criteria, though: (1) It has to be funny; (2) It has to be authentic; or (3) It has to be inspirational.

Funny Christmas movies are the best. My favorites are probably similar to other people’s. A Christmas Story and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation are two that I will not only watch each year, but also laugh at as if it’s the first time I’ve seen either one. Humor is subjective though. While Clark Griswold’s antics are both absurd and comical, Billy Bob Thornton’s role in Bad Santa is not. I mean I laughed, but I don’t want to see Santa cussing kids out and acting crazy. It’s just not aligned with the holiday spirit.

Authentic Christmas movies are relatable. Who doesn’t have a crazy family member who has predictable and perhaps dreaded behavior? Also, each film seems to accurately portray the stress encompassed during the holidays. Coming home to family that doesn’t really know you because they haven’t seen you all year, or hanging out with family that treat you as if you’re a perpetual 12 year-old are common and real experiences. That’s why I always kick-off my holiday season with Home for the Holidays. Okay. I know I said Christmas movies, but the Thanksgiving theme is perfect to begin the following five weeks because it’s such a real portrayal of awkward family interactions. Four Christmases is another great one because it depicts two people who have avoided going home, but eventually have to. The experiences they have are priceless.

Inspirational Christmas movies probably speak for themselves. They always make me feel warm and fuzzy at the end. These movies perpetuate an idea of hope. A Christmas Carol, the Jim Carrey version is my absolute favorite. That’s what the world wants, right? Hope. Most of us want to believe that people are capable of transitioning from old and crochety characters to free-spirited and giving human beings. The Santa concept is similar. Although I know Santa is not real, I enjoy watching Polar Express, especially the part where they all gather in the town’s center and sing “Santa Clause is Coming to Town.” The inspiring part is the act of believing in something greater than oneself, which I also tend to believe is a common human experience. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were some jolly old guy who made everyone’s wishes come true?

I’m not sure about the other 47 weeks of the year, but if you happen to stop by any weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas, then you’re bound to join me in watching one of these films. What’s your favorite Christmas movie? I’d love to ooh and aah about it with you in the comments.

All Summer ’16

My summer was fabulous.

It started with this new job and how they function. Typically ten-month employees are only paid until May, but not this one. This institution gives you no choice; they spread your salary over 12 months. Initially, I was bothered because 12-month pay meant fewer dollars in my check. And my salary was already at an all-time low.

But then something happened.

My director asked me if I wanted to teach summer classes. During past years, at former universities, my answer would’ve been a healthy, “Yes.” In fact, I was always the one begging higher-ups for summer classes to teach or busting my butt to write grants to supplement three months of income.

But not this year.

Nope. This year, I was getting paid my regular salary during the entire summer! This might sound like a small thing to some of you who work and get paid annually, but trust me. This is HUGE (in my Donald Trump voice).

So my answer was, “No.” And that’s where my summer planning began. I was going to do nothing and anything.

1470948563407Summer vacay began as it always does, with my birthday shenanigans. This time, Dwight planned a fun party on a casino boat that left from Port Canaveral. Twenty-two people came out to celebrate with me. It was pretty amazing because none of the guests lived in the area. Everyone either flew or drove in. I was surrounded by love and water.

Once that was over, my youngest daughter, Desi finished the eighth grade. Now she’s headed to her high school’s IB program.

All along, I kept taking cool photos of people, and you know what happened? Two people purchased the one called, “Chillin.’” I could’ve never imagined that someone thought my photography was good enough to buy.

1470948854382Because I was off this summer with free time, I vowed to visit a different beach every week. Sometimes I just walked on the shore. A few times, the girls and I set up chairs and hung out. I even convinced a few other people to join me. This summer, I visited Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach, Hanna Park, St. Augustine Beach, Flagler Beach, Ormond Beach, and Smathers Beach!

Around June, my best friend made her bi-annual visit from overseas. Traditionally, we tube down the Itchetucknee River when she comes. But this time was a little different. In addition to my family and I, Kesi brought a friend; my goddaughter came; and another friend and her family arrived. We tied those blue rafts together, and floated down the cool river for 45 relaxing minutes.

Because I didn’t have any teaching duties, I created a schedule to self-publish and market The Unhappy Wife, which I’ve deemed successful. When I wasn’t publishing the book, my bestie and I drove eight hours to Key West. We hung out at Margaritaville’s, the Butterfly Museum and Ernest Hemingway’s house. Visitor’s tip for you all, Key West is not the best place for beaches.

1470949099634A couple of unexpected events occurred. Around July, I learned I was finalist for a creative nonfiction piece I’d submitted. Dwight and I will be driving to Orlando in October to see if I won. Send me some positive energy please! The second thing that happened is a friend of mine nominated me for an award. I was one of 30 women named as a Leading Lady of Jacksonville. So I ended the summer the same way I began it: celebrating!

Well, that was summer 2016! To say that I lived every moment would be an understatement. Now, I’m back at work, sitting in a meeting as you read this. But I can truly say that I’m refreshed and ready to teach.

What about you? You might not have had as much time off as I did, but what did you do during these summer months? Have you been to any of the places I’ve named?