Friday, May 28, 2010


Apparently I've got Andy Griffith on the brain these days, because I've recently been thinking about ANOTHER of my favorite episodes! It involves the simple, sweet gas station attendant, Gomer Pyle.  In this episode, Andy and Barney set up Gomer on a blind date with Thelma Lou's cousin, Mary Grace. Mary Grace isn't nearly as attractive as her pretty cousin, and since Gomer hasn't yet met her, he repeatedly asks Andy and Barney to describe her.  They simply reply, "She's nice!  She's real nice!"

The day of the dance arrives and the men show up at Thelma Lou's to pick up their dates.  Gomer and Mary Grace are introduced and everyone sits down to make uncomfortable small talk.  After only a few minutes, though, Gomer suddenly pops up, asks to be excused, and leaves.  Everyone is appalled!  Mary Grace fakes a headache and pleads with the others to go ahead to the dance without her.  They reluctantly comply.

A short while later, Gomer appears at Mary Grace's front door, holding a small box which he presents to her.  In it is a corsage.  Gomer explains that he noticed the other two girls were wearing them, but Mary Grace was not. He left to try and find an open florist's shop so he could purchase one for her.  "It wouldn't be right, Mary Grace," Gomer says, "for you to go to the dance unadorned."  It makes me cry EVERY time!!

Remember corsages? In my high school, there were three formal dances held each year: Homecoming Dance, Winter Formal, and Senior Prom.  I attended my share of them, and Alan was often my date.  My sisters and I had a fantastic time shopping for our gowns, picking out our jewelry, and choosing our hairstyle.  But the corsages were chosen and presented by our dates. We would tell the boys the color of our dresses, drop subtle hints about what kinds of flowers we liked, and they did the rest.  We were in charge of providing the boutonnieres for their suits.

I think the corsage may have been one of my favorite parts of the entire evening!  Alan had exquisite taste and provided me with just beautiful "adornments" for the dances, usually with roses, carnations, and baby's breath.

At homecoming, a group made and sold beautiful large white mum corsages.  In the center,  a green pipe cleaner bent into the shape of an "N" (for Nordonia High!) was inserted, and a delicate net cover held it all in place. We thought they were gorgeous.  We girls wore them to school that Friday, then to the football game that evening.  To this day, whenever I pass an arrangement of mums at the supermarket or garden center, I stick my nose deep into the center, inhaling the sweet scent that immediately takes me back to those glorious Fall days!

A few years back when Alan was the General Manager at a Bennigan's Restaurant, he employed a wonderful 40-something bartender.   Barb was as skilled at pouring drinks as she was at engaging with anyone who pulled up a barstool and wanted to chat. EVERYONE loved her!  On her birthday, Alan was going to have flowers delivered to the bar, but decided instead to have a corsage made for her. Barb LOVED it!  She joyfully pinned those colorful flowers to her polo shirt and fluffed and sniffed them all day.  When customers would ask about it, she'd happily reply, "It's my birthday!"

I miss corsages.  Who would have guessed that those simple little clusters of ribbons, carnations, roses and net could provoke such wonderful, fairy tale memories?  Memories of frilly gowns, high heels, heavily-sprayed Farrah hair, decorated gymnasiums, and slow dancing to songs by Styx and Journey.  Sigh!

Alan has generously presented me with several gorgeous flower arrangements over the years, from roses to lilies, tulips and daisies. They've all been breathtaking and I've sincerely treasured each one. But I don't think any flowers will ever be as lovely as those he attached to my wrist back in that decorated gym at Nordonia High School.  Actually, I think I'd give just about anything to be "adorned" once more!

Thanks for reading!!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Poor Horatio!

Well, the writing ideas are waning.  So while I sit and patienly wait for inspiration to strike, I thought I'd post another of my favorite clips from one of the best TV classics of all time, The Andy Griffith Show.

This is a scene from one of the earlier seasons, when Ronnie Howard, playing Andy's son, Opie, couldn't have been much older than five or six. Andy has just learned that when the school collected money for the Underprivelaged Children's Fund, Opie's donation was a mere three cents!  Andy wants to have a talk with him!

Not only is this scene brilliantly written, check out the comic timing of this talented boy!  Andy is merely Ronnie's straight man, feeding him lines so he can "knock them out of the park!"  No wonder little "Ronnie" would grow up to become one of our generation's most gifted directors!

Anyway, this scene always makes me giggle, even though I've seen it hundreds of times.  Hope it does the same for you today!  Enjoy!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Poundstone of Paula

I've chosen a video clip for today that features one of my favorite stand-up comedians, Paula Poundstone.  Paula actually came to my hometown recently, and Alan and I excitedly planned on attending her one-night performance. Then, at the last minute, Alan was called out of town on business.  I went to see Paula anyway, BY MYSELF! THAT'S how much I love this woman!

I wasn't disappointed.  I think my favorite quality of Ms. Poundstone's may be how unpretentious she appears. There's no grand "Ladies and Gentlemen..." announcement, no warm-up act to get the crowd energized.  Before the lights even illuminated the stage, Paula was entering, giving a small wave.  Once the audience figured out it was her, we broke into wild applause, and she waved it all away in order to begin her act.  She performed brilliantly for hours.  No warm-up act was necessary!

Immediately after the show she sat at a table in the lobby for a very long time, shaking hands and signing autographs.  She also signed and sold copies of her autobiography, all the proceeds going to our city's local library.  Chick's got CLASS!!!

Paula's specialty involves randomly picking someone from the audience to chat with, asking what they do for a living, them proceeding to make tasteful, non-offensive fun of  them.  It's completely improvised, completely brilliant, and completely HILARIOUS!

Here's a press clip written about Paula.  I just couldn't agree more:  "Armed with nothing but a stool, a microphone and a can of Diet Pepsi, Paula's ability to create humor on the spot has become the stuff of legend.  Little wonder people leave Paula's shows complaining that their cheeks hurt from laughter, and debating whether the random people she talked to are 'plants'-- which, of course, they never are."

This is a clip of Paula's stand-up act from back in the eighties, and it's actually the first performance I ever saw of her.  I think you'll see why I became an immediate fan.  It's obviously very long, but my favorite part is right at the beginning.  She has just been talking about how she owns three cats, and how she disciplines them with a squirt gun filled with water.

I actually tried to transpose this section and use it as a monologue for an audition once.  I quickly learned that NO ONE can do this bit but PAULA!!

I hope you like it!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mama's Day

My love of birds is no secret to anyone who's ever known me, even for a short time. I've even written several posts about them:  here, here, and here.

I think it all started about twenty years ago when I brought home my first pet cockatiel, Gracie.  Gracie LOVED people, had so much spunk and curiosity, and taught me that birds most DEFINITELY possess distinct, hilarious personalities.  We've owned a handful of birds since Gracie, all with varying quirky character traits.  I've loved them all.

Caring for my avian pets has also opened my eyes to the amazing wild bird population just outside my back door.  I can watch my feeder for hours, observing all the quirks and silliness of a male sparrow courting a female, or the downy-headed woodpecker who arrives each day, always landing on the same deck rail.  He looks around, makes sure the coast is clear, then slowly, hopping, ascends the rail and digs into the hanging suet feeder.  I just love it!

So imagine my supreme glee last April when we began to notice a nest beginning to form atop the hanging wreath on our front door.  We soon learned it belonged to a beautiful robin, and I banished everyone in the house from using the door until she had successfully finished the nest, hatched her babies, and sent them on their way, however long that took.  Trixie was not pleased!

But it soon became clear that our little Robin mama was perhaps a bit young and inexperienced.  Her nest wasn't very solidly built, and it eventually tipped forward, dropping and breaking one of the two eggs inside.  She gave up on the other, and we didn't see her again.  I was terribly disappointed.

Then, this past April, I again noticed the familiar sticks, straw and mud appearing on our front door wreath.  I was estatic!!  I searched online and learned that robins often return to the same spot to nest each year.  Our mommy had come back to give it another shot!!  She had definitely matured, too.  The nest she constructed this time was strong and secure, and soon we saw her perched on her new home, producing bright blue eggs.

But a few days later, she was gone from the nest. We'd see her in the small tree in the yard, LOOKING at it, but never ON it.  I wanted to tell her, "I don't think you're doing it right!"

When a few more days went by with this same bizarre behavior, Alan removed the wreath and looked in the nest.  Where there had once been three eggs, now only one remained.  Something had gotten to them.  Mommy was afraid, that's why she hadn't been back.  She had pushed the last remaining egg deep down in the straw at the bottom of the nest, clearly hiding it from the predator that had taken the others.  My heart ached for her.  Still, she wouldn't leave her post in that tree, guarding her nest from afar.

We left for the weekend for Alan's family reunion.  While there, I approached Alan's Uncle Paul, a farmer by trade, and a wealth of knowledge when discussing wildlife.  I explained our "bird mama dilemma."  Uncle Paul agreed that there must have been an attack of some kind and that the mama bird was probably traumatized.  He said that there was nothing we could do, and suggested we clean the nest off our door when we got home, "before it starts to stink."  I felt a little like crying.

Except that when we arrived home, there she sat, cool as a cucumber, atop her nest once more!  I danced a celebratory jig!  Alan gently warned me against getting too excited.  "She was gone a long time, those eggs might not even hatch," he said.  I tried not to think about it.

An online search once again revealed that robins usually lay four eggs.  That meant there was a possibility that two still lay beneath our little mama.  Also, the site said, the mother sits on the eggs for ten to fourteen days before they hatch. HOW was I going to stand the wait?

It was a long two weeks, let me tell you.  We suffered through an unseasonably cold snap where the nighttime temperatures bordered on freezing.  Then the winds picked up with a fierce vengeance, rattling the windows and bending the large trees outside.  I'd lay in bed and think about that tiny nest, praying everything inside it would survive.

Mama hardly ever left.  I'd walk to the end of the driveway to retrieve the mail, or water the plants near the front porch and gently talk to her, wishing I had Dr. Doolittle's gifts. She'd eye me warily, then get back to sitting.

Two weeks came and went, and there she sat, no change.  By the end of the third week, I was beginning to think Alan may have been right.  But why was that mama still sitting there?

I couldn't stop thinking about her.  There she was, stubbornly perched on two perfect, beautiful blue eggs that were never going to hatch.  So, so sad.  As I watered my plants a few mornings ago, I looked up at her exhausted, worn-out face and gently said, "It's ok.  You did your best.  You can go."  She blinked her eyes slowly at me and hunkered down.

I already knew I was going to write a post about her.  I had actually composed several sentences in my head, sentences about knowing when to give up.  I was going to write about how being stubborn and refusing to accept change can be a very tragic thing, indeed.

Then this afternoon, I arrived home to see THIS:
Two bald, frail, ugly, GORGEOUS babies!  She did it!  She withstood freezing temps, gusty winds, winged predators, and a bunch of experts who all predicted she would fail, and she DID it!!

So my dear readers and fellow bloggers, thanks to this little six-ounce, orange and black soldier, my post today is not at all about giving up.  It's about persistence. It's about following your instincts and doing what you know is right, even when everyone else tells you you're wrong. Or crazy.

Maybe there's some job you're trying to complete, some impossible task that everyone says is hopeless.  Maybe nice, well-intentioned friends and family are urging you to just give up.  Maybe they're right.  But if you asked a very busy mama feeding her babies on my front door what to do, guess what SHE'D say?

Thanks for Reading!!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Everything's Coming Up Rosie!!

Today's video treat features my favorite female singer of all time, Rosemary Clooney.  You'll recognize this clip from the movie White Christmas, in which she starred with Danny Kaye, Vera Ellen, and the man who would become a great friend, mentor and duet partner over the next several years, Bing Crosby.

Rosemary, originally from Mayesville, Kentucky and aunt to dreamy George Clooney, got her start singing with her sister in a big band back in the 40's. She recorded many albums over the years and starred in several movies, but my favorite will always be this performance in White Christmas.

My husband bought me the collector's version of White Christmas a few years back, and I was so tickled to find that you could actually click an option that offered Rosemary doing commentary throughout the entire movie!  She talked about how much she loved making this film and what a thrill it was to work with Bing.

This is my favorite song of Rosie's.  I think she just SMOKES it!  Once again, like in the Get Happy Judy Garland number, the male dancer choreography is a bit bizarre, but you've got to give them credit for trying something different!! Rosemary talked in the DVD commentary about the gloves they made her wear in this number. She said they were rhinestone and caught on EVERYTHING!  She had to be very careful not to GRAB anything during the scenes, or she'd be stuck!

Also, notice at 2:00 minutes in, that's a young George Chakiris as one of her dancers.  George would later go on to star as Bernardo in West Side Story.  Rosemary said they got PILES of fan mail from that single shot of him, all from young girls wanting to know who that young hot dancer was!

So, here she is!  The actual number starts at 1:00 in, so skip to that if you want to avoid the opening scene.  Hope you enjoy it, and that you have a very Rosie weekend!

Monday, May 10, 2010

My Teaching Garden

I have multiple scratches all over my arms and legs from a lost battle with a stubborn rose bush.  My manicure is now dirt-stained.  There's a blister the size of a quarter on my left palm, the result of some over zealous soil-tilling.  When I try to bend over to step into my jeans or tie my shoes, my lower back screams in agony, reminding me of all those bags of soil and mulch I lugged from the car to our backyard.

But, my flower garden is finished!! And this morning, as I sip coffee on the back deck and gaze out at my roses, impatiens, crepe myrtles and dahlias, I know it was worth every single ache and pain.

I love gardening!  I wrote this post a while back about how I first discovered this wonderful botanical hobby, and I'd love for you to read it if you get the chance.  Gardening actually makes me feel closer to God. I imagine He and I have this partnership going when it comes to my flowers.  I aerate and fertilize the soil, plant and water everything, and He makes it bloom and grow!  Although I DO wish He'd help out with the weeding every once in a while, I have to admit, I think we make a pretty good team!

But as I tilled and fertilized and planted over the last several days, some other thoughts occurred to me, and I'd love to share them with you today:

I think working in a garden is a wonderful metaphor for life. Think about it, in order to get good results, you're going to have to dig in and put your back into it.  It's not always going to be pretty -- you'll definitely encounter your share of manure.  But in the end you'll realize it was a necessary element, and definitely helped to promote growth.

You'll also run into a lot of pests, but you'll eventually learn the most effective methods to control them, and they won't bother you any more.  Sometimes the work will appear overwhelming, but you'll figure out that if you take it one section at a time, deal only with what's right in front of you, then move on to the next, you will get through it all.

At the end of it, you'll be able to stand back and take a good look at all that you've accomplished.  And even though your muscles ache and you bear the bumps and bruises of some tough times, you'll gaze out at the lovely product of your labor and say emphatically, "It was SO worth it!!"

Thanks for reading!!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Beyond Telethons

Some people only recognize Jerry Lewis for his tireless work for Muscular Dystrophy, and his infamous Labor Day telethons.   They have no idea of the tremendous, genius body of work that he has written, directed and performed on film.  I'd like to remedy that today and present one of my favorite Lewis "bits."

This is a clip from the movie, "The Bellboy" from 1960.  Although he portrays the title character, Lewis doesn't speak one word throughout the entire film.  ALL of his humor is displayed physically.  I think it's just brilliant.

This clip is Lewis "conducting" an empty orchestra.  Notice there are no other actors present, and that he has absolutely NOTHING to work off, except a bunch of chairs, a baton, and his own amazing wit.  Jerry Lewis' style has often been referred to as silly and elementary, but I can assure you that bits like this take a tremendous amount of concentration, rehearsal, and supreme talent.  I think it's fantastic, hope you agree!