Tag Archives: family

Why “The Croods” made me appreciate my dad even more…


First off, let me admit that I usually cry at animated movies. I have the distinct honor of probably being the only person to cry at the previews to Return of Neverland and Finding Nemo, but I digress, Yesterday, I went to see the Croods and my crying streak continued. If you’ve seen only seen the previews to the film you may wonder about my sanity. It looks freaking hilarious and it absolutely is. I laughed quite often. What I didn’t expect was to be so taken in by the story of a daughter and her father.

The character of Eep, voiced by the wonderful Emma Stone, struggles to come into her own in a family where her overprotective dad won’t let them out of the cave. The father, Grug (Nicholas Cage), tells stories where anyone that tries something new dies. His is a message of fear, born out of inexperience and love. Grug doesn’t want to keep his daughter from goodness, he just wants to protect her from everything!

It’s hard not to watch as a grown woman and see both sides. I can absolutely relate to the desire to follow the light, which Eep does both physically and metaphorically, but having loved children with my whole heart, I can also see the desire to protect them from hurt at any cost. Watching the journey (and it’s an actual journey) of Eep and Grug from the cave of darkness into a new world of understanding took me back to my journey with my father.

While we didn’t have as much conflict as Eep and Grug, we had our share of moments. It’s hard when you watch a movie, hear the words for which you judged your dad, and realize they just came out of your own mouth not an hour before. The empathy and compassion I felt for Rudy Ray Davis at how hard it must have been to love me and give me freedom brought tears to my eyes.

But those tears were nothing compared to the onslaught at the end of the movie (STOP READING NOW IF YOU DON’T WANT SPOILERS).

As the family runs from the land that is crumbling behind them, they suddenly encounter a chasm that it too great for them all to cross. Grug, being a caveman and immensely strong, selflessly throws each member of the family across the divide, saving Eep (of course!) for last. She knows that once he throws her he won’t be able to come with them and the moment where she tells him she’s not ready to go, that she has too much to tell him, to fix…was where I first lost it. He responds in the way only a good father can. He tells her he knows, that he loves her, and he gives her a hug.

I am lucky enough to have a father who knows me, loves me, hugs me and forgives me.

At this point in the movie, I don’t think it can get worse, but oh, am I ever wrong. Grug tells her to blow her shell if she’s in trouble and throws her to the other side where they catch one last glimpse of each other before the cliff he is standing upon collapses. Of course, the family all believes he has perished and eventually they start blowing their shells as a way to honor him more than anything else. But Grug is alive and he hears the call.

His response is to immediately find a way to come to their rescue because he believes they are in danger. He concocts a crazy scheme that should never have worked and ends up by their side.

This is where I became absolutely verklempt. The selfless love, the willingness to face any danger, the ability to do what must be done because the people you love need you and are in trouble…I’ve only known one man in my life that could actually do what Grug did and I’m lucky enough to call him Dad.

So, thank you Rudy Davis for loving me despite my flaws, for protecting me even when I didn’t want you to, for forgiving me when I was an egotistical know it all brat, and for being the most loving, sacrificing, generous man in the world.

Voices of Thanksgiving

Thanks to a nasty cold, I’ve spent the last few days without my voice.  At first it was novel and somewhat entertaining, and while it hasn’t crossed into annoying or truly frustrating yet, it has given me pause to consider its worth in my life. It’s Thanksgiving morning and as I sit at my laptop contemplating what to give thanks for today, voices, not just my own fill my mind.

When we come into the world our voices are instruments we instinctively use as a means to have our needs filled. We give thanks for the strong wails of babies that keep us up at night and tear our hearts open in order to fill them with the insatiable need to care for the tiny body from which emanates the voice of a new soul. As they grow and change their voices produce giggles and squeals that delight and plant in us the seeds to stay with them on their journey.

The stumbles and mispronunciations of toddlerhood give way to the attempts at grown up conversations and connections as the purpose of our voice changes from meeting our own needs to connecting with others.  Voices produce “I wuv yous” and start to ask questions like the ever present “why”? Listening to a three year-old list off every person he knows when you ask him who he loves, or hearing a kindergartener’s attempts to be a little adult when she explains things to us about how things work or what her little brother wants forges a connection between generations.

As we enter our teen and young adult years our voice takes on an attitude and a confidence.  We begin to understand that this gift of a voice isn’t only there for our needs and connection but that it can change the world around us.  The leash of authority that perhaps quieted our voices is suddenly loosed and we say what we mean and what we want to become.  Our voices make mistakes and sometimes speak to soon during these years.  They can spray harsh words and then struggle to find apologies. But this is a transformational time for our voices.  We own them in these years.

As our voices age, they start to reflect our purpose.  They may take on the gentleness or fierce protectiveness of the voices that nurture us and welcome other voices into the world. Parental voices saturated with love and concern help us to feel a part of a family, they soothe us and give us the courage to get up each day. They discipline and encourage with thoughtfulness and care.  They fill hearts with unconditional love that envelops you whole with acceptance, making you feel like the most important person in the world.

We start to appreciate the voices in our lives that inspire us and help us be more than we thought we could be.  The voices that offer confidence, encouragement and solace and those that show patience and never give in to the mean side become the voices we seek out. There are voices that always believe in dreams and ask to help and some that show vulnerability and strength as they teach us to keep going, keep trying, keep reaching, and never give up.

Later in life our voices begin to tell stories. Stories that help us make sense of our lives and stories that connect us to our past and our future.  We become voices that connect generations to memories and people of the past. We create links to the voices that are no longer with us and help others feel like they knew people they never met.  Eventually we all become voices that are only heard in the hearts of those we loved, but for those of us with faith, we believe our voices will all be united again someday.

Today I am thankful for the voices that surround me and for my own voice, quiet as it may be at the moment. I choose to raise it in Thanksgiving for my home, enough food, the country I am blessed to live in and those who serve and protect it.  I hope that those who go without will have their lives filled with voices of hope and that we may all find the strength to let our voices reflect true good.

A Reflection on Faith, Trust, Pixie Dust and Mom

“You think you’re very adult, but you have a lot to learn.”  – Wendy to her daughter Jane in Return to Neverland 

While overnight babysitting, the 5th grade boy I watch decided to leave the channel on Return to Neverland, the follow-up to one of my favorite movies ever, Peter Pan.  I didn’t say anything because I was afraid he’d turn it off and it seemed such a better option than Spongebob. At the beginning of the movie, Jane, Wendy’s daughter, tells her little brother that all of their mother’s stories about Peter Pan and Captain Hook aren’t real.  The tears on the small boy’s cheeks elicit a slight feeling of guilt, but you can tell Jane feels her rationality and knowledge are something the young child needs to grow up.

Wendy’s response to her daughter is to tell her, “You think you’re very adult, but you have a lot to learn.” She then follows her young son and holds him as they look off together towards the second star to the right, obviously affirming his burgeoning beliefs about faith, trust and pixie dust.  As Mother’s Day approaches I can’t help but think of the times in my life when my mom used that same message, whether spoken or not, to teach me the heart trumps the brain when it comes to growing up.

Most of us remember moments we’re ashamed of – moments when we pushed an argument to far, made a cutting remark we knew would hurt, or tried to make someone feel inferior in order to boost our own self-worth. I know in my everyday life I like to pride myself on the fact that I think I am smart.  I have hurt my sisters, cousins, and especially my mom in order to make myself feel better or right.  I guess that’s why watching Jane squash her tiny brother’s beliefs constricted my chest and moistened my eyes. I related to Jane.  I felt her regret in the moment she heard Wendy and knew she’d messed up.  Return to Neverland closes, of course, with Jane’s transformation and understanding, a transformation that wouldn’t have been possible without Wendy’s firm faith and trust in all things magic.

I believe my transformation – the reason I can even begin to right some of my wrongs –  comes from the admonishment that so often showed up in “a look” rather than words from Cathy, my Wendy.  While Wendy told Jane straight out, my mom used her beautifully expressive face to say, “How could you?” And when my heart heard it, I always felt the deserved guilt that came from not living up to what she believed I could be.  Because of her, as I have “grown up”, especially these past few years, instances of my “know it all” behavior are more easily identifiable to me and I try to swallow that icky pride and apologize in order to set things right.

The ability to say you’re sorry and mean it or to admit you’re not infallible takes a lot of faith and trust, faith in the growth process of the human spirit and trust in your relationship with the person you’ve hurt.  But it’s truly impossible without pixie dust. When Wendy looks at Jane and delivers the words to help her learn from her mistake, the pixie dust is love.  The only way the rebuke doesn’t harm the child is if the child feels and knows that she is loved.

My mom sprinkled my whole world with pixie dust and continues to do so today for me and many other children – related or not.  Her love, faith, and trust envelop me in a cocoon that I continuously emerge from at each new stage of my life journey. Sure, I’ve worked hard to develop my intellect and my brain and I’m not going to stop, but she’s taught me that true maturity comes from being able to turn off the brain and lead with the heart.  Some people see growing up as a negative, but if growing up means becoming more like her, then there’s nothing more positive I could do.

I love you, Mom!