Archive for the ‘COMEDY’ Category

MUSIC/MUSICAL: SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS – How Not to Treat a Woman

by Randall Allen Dunn

 

People who dream of marriage often have wonderful dreams, until they get married and have to deal with reality instead.

A lot of people enter their marriage with a personal agenda. It’s unspoken and perhaps unknown, even to themselves. But in their hearts and minds, they imagine what their married life will be like. How they’ll talk with their spouse, how they’ll share chores, how they’ll show affection for one another.

The problem is that these dreams begin and end in the mind of one person, and may have no relation to the dreams forming in the mind of their spouse.

In the musical, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”, we meet fourteen of such people. Seven men and seven women with grand imaginations of their perfect married life that will one day come true. But they learn that to make a marriage work, they each have to make a genuine commitment to walk through life with the one they love, which means sacrificing a few things. Like their unrealistic dreams.

When mountain man Adam Pontipee (Howard Keel) arrives in town and tells a local couple he’s seeking a wife to bring back with him that same day, they’re stunned. The wife is appalled and the husband scoffs at Adam’s chances.

But Adam is determined, as he demonstrates by wandering through town with his eyes peeled, singing “Bless your beautiful hide, whoever you are …” A pure demonstration of his naïve brutish innocence.

He meets a hard-working, beautiful woman named Milly (Jane Powell), and decides she’s the one for him. He explains his proposition to her and asks, “How ‘bout it?”

Milly is attracted to Adam and intrigued by his offer of marriage, but she insists he get down on one knee and ask her properly. Adam happily does so, insisting he must have her answer that day because he’s returning to his mountain home and can’t return to town for several months. Milly quickly decides she’s ready to leave her life of cooking and cleaning for a bunch of sloppy, ungrateful men. She wants a life of her own in a house of her own, with just one husband to care for.

So she agrees and leaves with Adam. Upon arriving, she discovers that Adam had wanted her not only for himself, but also to help cook and clean for his six brothers, who all share the same house with him.

They should have compared notes.

Milly is crushed, but determines to make the best of it, the way she has always done. But when Adam’s brothers come charging to the dinner table like a pack of wild animals, pushing and shoving one another on the way to grab whatever food they find, she refuses to serve them and walks out.

She also refuses to let Adam share the same room with her for their “honeymoon” night, feeling he tricked her into slaving for his family. So Adam decides to sleep on the tree limb outside their window. Although still angry, Milly doesn’t feel right letting him spend his first night of marriage sleeping in a tree, so she invites him back in.

The next morning, Milly tells the brothers to bathe and shave and surrender their filthy clothes for her to wash … if they want any breakfast. After she describes the sumptuous meal they would miss, the boys agree to do things her way.

From then on, the boys recognize that if they want to get wives of their own, they’ll have to behave like gentlemen. Milly teaches them how to court a woman by showing proper respect and manners, then teaches them how to dance for the upcoming barn-raising ceremony, where they’ll meet plenty of townswomen.

Adam doesn’t put much stock in Milly’s lessons on manners, but he’s been learning a few things from her himself, from all her reading. Unfortunately, a little knowledge becomes a dangerous thing. After his brothers’ failed attempts to court six townswomen, Adam suggests they do what Milly told him about, in the tale of “the Sobbin’ Women” (that is, Sabine women), when men raided a town and grabbed the women they wanted.

So Adam leads them back to town to grab the women they’ve fallen in love with and herd them back up the mountain, while the townspeople give chase. Adam and the boys cause an avalanche to cut them off, barring the path until the spring thaw.

When they return home, Milly is outraged. She brings the kidnapped girls inside to comfort them, while ordering the men to sleep in the barn, ashamed of them all. Stunned by her response, having thought he did the right thing, Adam leaves in a rage, deciding to spend the winter alone at the trapping cabin further up the mountain.

Not knowing that Milly is pregnant with their first child.

Throughout the winter, the girls get back at their would-be grooms by dumping icy water on their heads and hurling snowball-covered rocks at them.

But they also realize what they knew before: they actually love these mountain men, despite their appalling ignorance and brutish behavior.

Benjamin (Jeff Richards) visits Adam and puts him in his place for abandoning his wife and newborn child. Adam sulks, but considers that he might have made a mistake.

When he finally returns to Milly and sees his child, he tells her he’s been thinking about the baby. He realized that if anyone ever harmed his little girl – the way they kidnapped the townswomen – he would be enraged. He agrees they should never have taken them, and orders his brothers to take them back, now that the pass has opened up.

But the brothers don’t want to, and the women don’t want to leave them, either. So the women run off, forcing the men to chase them down, just as their worried families arrive to rescue them. Seeing the mountain men chasing them, they assume the women are being attacked. They’re ready to do away with the Pontipee brothers for good, when they hear a baby crying. When they ask whose child it is, each of the women claims it to be her own … resulting in a classic shotgun wedding.

Of course, a lot of this craziness – and violence – could have been avoided by talking things out. It would have helped for Adam to explain his home and family life to Milly, and for Milly to explain she hoped to have more time alone with her husband.

It would have helped for the brothers to express their true feelings in words, rather than a nighttime kidnapping. It also would have helped for the women to express their true feelings toward the men instead of letting the other townsmen chase them off.

It would have helped for Adam to stick it out at home when he got mad, rather than running off for the winter, holding onto his pride instead of reaching out for his wife.

It also might have helped for Milly to be more careful which stories she read Adam, or at least to include a footnote that said, “Don’t try this at home.”

At the same time, Adam and Milly save their marriage with the things they do right. It does help that Adam listens to his wife’s ideas, even if he doesn’t immediately see the wisdom in them. It does help that he respects her, even when he doesn’t agree.

It does help that Milly and the other townswomen recognize the good intentions and sincere hearts beating behind those brutish chests, to know the Pontipee brothers mean well, even if they can’t figure out how to express it.

Expecting the best of one another is the first step in showing respect.

A lot of marital problems can be solved by respect, sensitivity and honest communication – before and during your marriage.

Want to know how you should treat your spouse?

Ask them.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

Find more reviews of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” at amazon.com!

 

F A S T   R E A D !

Clockwork – a suspense short story

by Randall Allen Dunn

A disturbing shadow falls over a forgotten town, unnoticed by everyone except for an old shopkeeper …

Nothing ever changes in the vanishing town of Aaronton, Illinois. After all the years of running his little shop, Sam Wells can measure every detail of the morning routine like clockwork.

So he notices when something is out of place. Something that smells of danger. But can Sam and his aging friends realize what’s happening before it’s too late to stop it?

Friday, February 1st, 2013

MOVIE: SANTA CLAUSE 2 – The Gift of Giving

by Randall Allen Dunn

 

I was really angry a few years ago whenI heard about a Christian couple that wondered if it’s right to give gifts at Christmas. After all, they reasoned, people get so greedy about gifts at Christmastime, and the only place in the Bible that mentioned gift-giving was when malicious people gave gifts to one another to celebrate the murder of two righteous men.

I was outraged. I still am. As a Christian, I absolutely want to follow God’s commands and the Bible’s instructions. But some Christians seem intent on having a relationship with the Bible, rather than with Jesus Christ. If it’s not written down as an explicit biblical instruction, such people don’t know what to do. And they come to ludicrous conclusions, such as the idea that giving a gift is somehow evil rather than loving.

In “The Santa Clause 2”, Scott Calvin (Tim Allen), is enjoying his role as the new Santa Claus. Thanks to a magical contract called “the Santa Clause”, he became Santa after the previous Santa fell off of his roof and Scott put on his Santa suit. What no one ever told him is that in order to remain as Santa, he needs to get married by this Christmas. Bernard the elf (David Krumholtz) explains, “It’s the ‘Mrs. Clause’.”

The ‘de-Santafication’ process has already started taking effect. Soon Scott loses his white beard and most of his Claus-ian weight. Meanwhile, he needs to return home to deal with his son, Charlie (Eric Lloyd), who keeps spray-painting protests against school principal Carol Newman (Elizabeth Mitchell) and her efforts to stamp out any Christmas celebrations. Scott orders Charlie to stop the vandalism, but he agrees that something is wrong when school kids have no decorations of any kind to celebrate the happiest time of the year.

Carol feels kids should not be distracted by a lot of Christmas propaganda instead of focusing on their studies. But her real reasons for avoiding Christmas cheer are a little more personal. She later confides in Scott that she used to love Christmas, since it was the only time of the year her parents weren’t fighting. But now as an adult, it all seems to be nothing but stress and a display of human selfishness.

Scott changes her mind about that when he accompanies her to her faculty Christmas party, which turns out to be a dull, sour function that no one really wants to attend. Taking to the stage, Scott announces to everyone that it seems they’ve all forgotten what Christmas is really about. Using his Santa magic, he pulls out a large bag of presents from backstage, each addressed to one of the annoyed party guests. Opening their gifts, each person finds something surprising. Not a practical gift for an adult, such as a blender, a socket set, or even a sweater. But toys and games! The same ones they loved as children. Everyone is overjoyed at the gifts they received, and amazed that some “secret Santa” somehow discovered which game they secretly cherished. It showed them that someone, somewhere, cared enough about them to give them exactly what they wanted. And for a few moments of the year, they could lose themselves in the simple childlike joy of playing with a game or toy that meant something special to them.

Even Carol, upon receiving a Baby Doll from Scott, is deeply touched. So much so that she drops all of her defenses against love, against friendship, and even against Christmas. Soon, she’s even ready to start believing in Christmas magic again, as she reconnects with the wonder she felt as a child. With the knowledge that someone somewhere knew her inside and out, and had a special gift waiting just for her.

Do people get greedy at Christmas? Of course. Does gift-giving become materialistic for a lot of people, myself included? Absolutely. In fact, my family writes out Christmas lists each year to share with one another, so we can actually know what everyone wants for Christmas. It makes shopping a lot easier when you don’t have to make random guesses. To some people, that’s pure greed at work.

But as I see it, the money I spend on others is the same money I would have spent on myself. At some point, I would plan to buy whatever items I put on my Christmas list. However, I take great pleasure in seeking out the gifts that I think others will use and appreciate. I could easily ignore Christmas tradition and the imagined “evil” of giving gifts to others, and simply buy what I want for myself. But somehow I don’t think that would be more “biblical” or more godly, or in any way demonstrate love and kindness.

Gift-giving, by the very definition of the word, is a blessing. I realize not everyone shares this Christmas tradition. Many people celebrate Christmas without any gifts at all. For them, it is simply a time of worship and reflection, to spend time with family and be thankful for all they have. But even if you don’t give gifts at Christmas, even if you hate how Christmas has become commercialized, does that mean the act of giving a gift is somehow wrong?

It’s not. And Christmas doesn’t have to be materialistic if you don’t want it to be. Even if others view it as a time to fill their pockets with gift cards and their stockings with stuffers, you can enjoy one of the greatest aspects of this Christmas tradition: the effort that goes into finding just the right gift for someone you love.

Will they appreciate it? Will they be greedy or ungrateful? Perhaps. But that part has nothing to do with you.

Your part is to enjoy the giving, at a time that makes it the easiest and most enjoyable to do so.

Merry Christmas!

 

Find more reviews of “Santa Clause 2” at amazon.com!

You can also click here for my FAST READ e-book, “Santa’s Chair”.

Seven-year old Henry Burrows is anxious to know whether Santa Claus is real. In the face of his father’s lay-off and his mother’s fears that Christmas might not come this year, it grows harder to believe. It would take a miracle for his family to celebrate Christmas now. The kind of miracle that only the real Santa could provide. If the old man in the Sears & Roebuck store can somehow grant Henry’s wish …

Saturday, December 1st, 2012

MOVIE: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – Choices

 

by Randall Allen Dunn

 

“Now, as you know, each and every one of you was searched upon your arrival here tonight. And you have the right to know why. Once there was a young man who, like you, sat in this very hall, walked this castle’s corridors, slept under its roofs. He seemed to all the world a student like any other. His name: Tom Riddle. Today, of course, he’s known all over the world by another name. Which is why, as I stand looking out upon you all tonight, I’m reminded of a sobering fact: Every day, every hour, this very minute, perhaps, dark forces attempt to penetrate this castle’s walls. But in the end, their greatest weapon … is you.”

 

Sooner or later, each of us must make a difficult choice. Sometimes the right choices are easy ones. Especially if we have trained ourselves to maintain good habits. We know that if we follow the proper instructions, we will be successful in our projects and assignments. We know that if we show kindness to others, most people will be kind to us in return. We know that if we work hard, study hard, or train hard, we will improve our skills and strength.

But when making a choice means putting our personal interests – even our reputations or our lives – at risk, making the right moral choice becomes very difficult.

In the film, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) returns to his sixth year at Hogwart’s school, to find that it has added new security measures. The school’s headmaster, Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), warns the students that evil forces are attempting to break into the school. He knows that he and Harry have personally dealt a blow to their enemies, the Death Eaters, successfully imprisoning one of their lead members, Lucius Malfoy.

Malfoy’s son, Draco (Tom Felton), is also back at Hogwart’s, with a secret mission to kill Dumbledore. His task was assigned to him by Lord Voldemort, who rules the Death Eaters and wants to establish a reign of terror over the entire wizarding world. At sixteen years old, Draco must decide whether he believes in the Death Eaters’ cause enough to become a murderer.

Unfortunately, Draco knows that if he fails to kill Dumbledore, Voldemort will kill him. He must choose whether to kill or be killed.

That is how many of our tough decisions feel. Whether to sacrifice ourselves to do what we know is right, or save our own necks and let others suffer. Even the simplest choices we face still boil down to the same question: whether to dowhat we want and serve our own short-term interests, or do what will benefit others and ultimately benefit ourselves more.

Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) also has a difficult choice to make. Dumbledore personally asked to return to Hogwart’s as a teacher, but Slughorn knows that Dumbledore actually wants him to reveal secrets of what he told Voldemort while the evil wizard was still a young student. Dumbledore is anxious to learn their secret conversation in order to discover Voldemort’s current plans.

But Slughorn knows he provided young Voldemort with dangerous information that helped him rise to power. Information he should never have shared with any student. To reveal his horrible act could ruin his reputation as a teacher forever.

But Harry urges him to be brave and do the right thing now, in order to honor the memories of Harry’s mother and all the other students who trusted and respected Slughorn. Convicted by this, Slughorn finally reveals the truth.

Harry also has a hard choice to make. He’s discovered a used textbook in his Potions class that states it is “Property of the Half-Blood Prince”. It contains special notes and instructions that allow him to excel in class, creating potions that no other student can concoct.Seeing the wealth of secret information he possesses, he studies the book deeply, becoming obsessed with it, learning spells that he never even knew existed.

Meanwhile, having made enemies with Draco over the years, Harry is the first to suspect him of becoming a Death Eater and of being responsible for the recent attacks on students. Attacks that were meant to kill Dumbledore instead.

When one such attempt nearly kills Harry’s best friend, Ron (Rupert Grint), Harry launches a personal attack on Draco. All their years of hatred for one another explode in a violent battle of wands. Harry finally attempts to end the conflict, once and for all, by using a secret spell he learned from his old textbook. A spell that the book reserves “for enemies”.

But when he casts it, he discovers that it not only defeats Draco, but leaves him lying on the bathroom floor bleeding to death. Thankfully, Professor Snape (Alan Rickman) arrives and works to slowly heal Draco.

And preventing Harry from becoming a murderer himself.

Harry’s friends form an intervention group to meet with him and persuade him – specifically, help him – to choose to get rid of the book, once and for all. Harry has become so dependent on the book and its power that he can no longer choose wisely without some help. And his anger toward Draco has clouded his judgment too much for him to act wisely while holding such dangerous power. He agrees with his friends that the book must be destroyed, and he wisely agrees to let them help him get rid of it. Before its addictive power turns Harry into something he does not want to become.

Our choices will ultimately define us. What we choose for our lives will determine whether we become noble and courageous, or selfish and destructive. Whether we honor those we love and those who depend on us, or whether we seek our own interests instead, sending the message to others that we don’t care enough about them to change our ways.

The Bible book of Proverbs says that a man who lacks self-control is like a city with its walls broken down. In other words, if we don’t control ourselves and the choices we make, we open ourselves up to dangerous invaders. This is the very reason that Hogwart’s installed extra security to keep out its aggressive enemies. Once dangerous choices come inside our gates, they can begin to rule and destroy us from within.

We all have choices to make. And resulting destinies to fulfill.

Be careful what you choose.

 

Find more reviews of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” at amazon.com!

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

MOVIE: YOURS, MINE & OURS – Grown-Up Love

by Randall Allen Dunn

 

Sex has become a cheap commodity in our culture. It used to be prized as something intimate and unique, which people anticipated and treasured. Now it’s a way that some girls feel they should thank a boy for a fun date. Or a way to attract attention and gain respect, by wearing revealing clothes or paying for surgical enhancements. People who show sexual restraint are considered old-fashioned and naïve, while celebrity performers who promote sexual promiscuity and experimentation are viewed as strong models of maturity. After all, those people have freed themselves from the sexual inhibitions that society tried to impose on them, so we feel we should follow their example of sexual “freedom”.

Although the means of enhancing one’s appearance and broadcasting a message have changed, these ideas are not new: there just seem to be more people today who buy into them.

But real maturity and real love are marked by the other responsibilities that go with being an adult. Without them, claims of “freedom” and of multiple sexual experiences only demonstrate a lack of genuine understanding or of concern for others.

I saw one of the most powerful dissertations on genuine love and maturity when Nicki and I watched the original “Yours, Mine and Ours” movie with my mom. Frank Beardsley (Henry Fonda), a navy officer and father of ten children, marries Helen North (Lucille Ball), mother of eight. Their ensuing chaos caused more stress than most families experience. So much so that they originally decided it would never work.

But because they love one another so much, they decide to make it work. So they determine to get to know their new stepchildren and fully accept them as their own. Unfortunately, the kids are less eager to welcome the new incoming parent, least of all Frank’s eldest son Mike (Tim Matthieson), who keeps blaming Helen for all the problems experienced by their combined family.

Until he learns Helen is pregnant (yes, again!) with child No. 19, but kept it secret from Frank so he could take his annual trip without worrying about the family. Mike finally recognizes how much Helen cares for them and he begins making genuine efforts to help her around the house.

By the end of the film, Frank learns of Helen’s pregnancy and cuts his trip short. As Helen is about to deliver late one night, Frank and the kids prepare to take her to the hospital. But Frank finds Mike fighting downstairs with Larry (Ben Murphy), the boyfriend of his daughter, Colleen (Jennifer Leak). He breaks up the fight and asks what’s going on as they all continue getting Helen ready. Colleen explains that Larry has been pestering her to have sex with him, and claiming that she’s the only girl who thinks it’s a bad idea. Colleen starts to wonder if she’s being selfish and foolish for refusing him. Listen to their conversation as Frank helps Helen to the car (and click the picture link at right for the whole scene):

Colleen: “Larry says he’ll never speak to me again unless I grow up. He says that I’m being ridiculous and I don’t love him. But I do love him. Am I being ridiculous?”

Frank: “You’re not being ridiculous.”

Colleen: “Well, do all the other girls, like Larry says, and am I being old-fashioned?”

Frank: “The same idiots were passing the same rumors when I was your age. But if all the girls did it, how come I always ended up with the ones who didn’t?”

Colleen: “But it’s all different now!”

Frank: “I don’t know. They wrote Fanny Hill in 1742 and they haven’t found anything new since.”

Colleen: “I know this is a terrible time to talk about it, but Larry says –.”

Frank: “I’ve got a message for Larry. You tell him this is what it’s all about. This is the real ‘Happening’. You wanna know what love really is? Take a look around you. Take a good look at your mother.”

Helen: “Not now!”

Frank: “Yes, now. It’s giving life that counts. Until you’re ready for it, all the rest is just a big fraud. All the crazy haircuts in the world won’t keep it turning. Life isn’t a love-in; it’s the dishes, and the orthodontist, and the shoe repairman, and ground round instead of roast beef. And I’ll tell you something else: it isn’t going to bed with a man that proves you’re in love with him. It’s getting up in the morning and facing the drab, miserable, wonderful everyday world with him that counts.”

Well-said.

So consider this, ladies. If that guy is convinced that all the other girls your age are giving out sex like candy, thenwhy is he badgering you so much for it … instead of pestering all of those other willing and available girls? Is it maybe because you’re actually the best chance he has for getting someone to sleep with him?

And if sexual experimentation is such a sign of liberal freedom and maturity, why do we see so much divorce, so many abortions, such an outbreak of AIDS and other diseases? What are these sexual liberators actually freeing us from?

Love and loyalty are what holds families and societies together, not wild sexual escapades. As a Christian, I firmly believe that sex was created to be reserved for marriage, to be fully enjoyed with the person you can trust to remain by your side in the worst of circumstances. The ones who pressure you to have sex with them, or to show more skin, or to give them “freedom” to do whatever irresponsible behavior comes into their heads – these probably aren’t the kind of people you can count on in a crisis.

Grown-up love is about sacrifice, not pleasure-seeking or sexual gratification. If you want to know whether you’re truly mature or truly in love, consider what you’re willing to wait for and what you’re willing to give up.

That’s the mark of a grown-up.

 

Find more reviews of “Yours, Mine & Ours” at amazon.com!

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

MOVIE: COURAGEOUS – Father Figures

 

by Randall Allen Dunn

 

The role of fathers is far more significant than many are willing to admit. Women’s liberation emphasized the importance of women’s roles in family and society to such an extent that people ultimately forgot the value of men’s impact, including the impact of fathers on their families. But the relationship we have with our fathers often influences the way we see God as a father, and the way we see ourselves in life.

In exploring this, the film, “Courageous”, starts with heart-pounding action, when a young man hijacks a man’s jeep at a gas station. To the thief’s surprise, the man chases after him, hanging desperately onto the side door as they race down a country highway. After the boy crashes the vehicle into a tree and the man tumbles away, witnesses jump out of their cars to help. One woman tells the car’s owner not to worry about his jeep as he crawls toward it. He assures her he’s not concerned about his car, struggling to open the back door to reveal his infant son crying in the back seat.

The deputies of Albany, Georgiameet the man, Nathan Hayes (Ken Bevel), and learn he is scheduled to join their force the next day. His dangerous act later leads them to wonder whether they would have risked their own lives to save their kids that way.

As the deputies focus on stopping the flow of local drug traffic, their sheriff reports statistics that fatherless children are the most likely to get involved in gangs and crime. He therefore urges those who are fathers to spend time focusing on loving their families.

At home that night, Deputy Adam Mitchell (Alex Kendrick) rejects the persistent requests of his teenage son, Dylan (Rusty Martin), to join him in a father-son 5K race. Adam sees no need to exhaust himself just so they can spend time together. Later, he takes his daughter, Emily (Lauren Etchells), onto his lap to spend time with her. When the son walks back into the room and sees this, he knows instantly that she is the favorite child. Still, Adam chooses not to look foolish by dancing with Emily in public even when she begs him.

Meanwhile, Nathan works hard to protect his family, especially his teenage daughter, Jade (Taylor Hutcherson), who sees his no-dating policy as far too strict and old-fashioned. Having never known his biological father, Nathan is determined to be a good father to his own kids.

Adam soon meets Javier Martinez (Robert Amaya), a struggling Hispanic immigrant who can’t catch a break. He prays to God for help, but is once again disappointed when a promised job doesn’t work out.

Miraculously, he is hired on the spot by Adam to help him with some handiwork in his back yard, when Adam mistakes him for the “Javier” that a fellow deputy had promised to send to him that day. When Adam realizes a week later that the wrong man is working at his house, he decides that Javier’s work ethic and skill are so outstanding that he’s glad it happened. Javier makes fast friends with Adam and the rest of the deputies.

Later on, when a car accident claims Emily’s life, Adam is at a loss. He asks his wife, Victoria (Renee Jewell), how he can go on without his daughter, and she reminds him that he still has a child.

But when Adam tries to encourage Dylan in their shared grief, he encounters a cold stone wall. Dylan wants nothing to do with him, since Adam wanted nothing to do with Dylan before the accident. Dylan refuses to form a phony father-son bond or become a “replacement” child.

Adam soon realizes how far he has fallen short of being the father he should have been, and could still be. He sets a new standard for himself as a father, based on the requirements he finds listed in the Bible for fathers. Soon Javier, Nathan, and others decide to join him in his public commitment to uphold biblical standards for fatherhood, to love and lead their families, putting the needs of their wives and children above their own.

Their passion for this commitment provokes a rookie deputy, David Thomson (Ben Davies), to confess that he is also a father, but had abandoned his girlfriend after she refused to have an abortion. Encouraged by Nathan, he writes to his estranged girlfriend and ultimately receives her permission to become involved in his daughter’s life again, to be as much of a father to her as he can be.

Adam starts restoring his broken relationship with Dylan, by taking him out to buy two new pairs of running shoes so they can start training for the father-son race. Meanwhile, Nathan takes Jade out for a special dinner, and gives her a purity ring that she is to wear until her wedding day, promising her heart to her father to save herself for the right man. This time, Jade doesn’t find it intrusive or old-fashioned, but understands how special she is to her father, and that any man she marries should honor her the same way.

Javier starts a new job and is finally making enough money to keep his family stable. But when his new employer offers him a promotion and also asks him to falsify some warehouse records, Javier and his wife, Carmen (Angelita Nelson), fear that if he refuses, his integrity will cost him the only real income they can count on. Committed to staying honest, Javier tells his employer he cannot play along. He is then informed that the request was a test, which several other employees before him had failed. Javier’s personal integrity ends up earning him a promotion.

Like it or not, children look to their fathers to set an example in life. To show us how to live responsibly with strength, conviction and compassion. Those who fail to set such an example are simply setting an example of apathy for their kids, that such standards don’t really matter.

At the same time, upholding personal standards while refusing to show our children how much we treasure them destroys the connection we were meant to have. Not only to lead by example or instruction, but by a strong loving bond that no outside influences can break.

Commit now to being the kind of father you were meant to be. The kind of father you still can be.

The kind of father you really want to be.

Happy Father’s Day!

 

Find more reviews of “Courageous” at amazon.com!

Friday, June 1st, 2012

MOVIE: PINOCCHIO – Some Strings Attached

by Randall Allen Dunn

 

I am sometimes boggled by the rudeness and bad manners that define some of today’s youth. I keep wondering where it comes from, and why the next generation seems incapable of showing respect to the older generation.

It seems that many children and young adults suffer from a selfish self-delusion about their future, assuming that they will one day be a world-famous fashion model or become the next American Idol, after which they will never have to actually work a day in their lives. So they reason that, since their future is all sewn up due to their obvious talent, they don’t need to listen to adults. After all, who needs parents or teachers when you’re a celebrity in the making?

I’m not against stardom. After all, I hope to make a living one day as a writer. But I’m very much against people refusing to face reality because they think they’re above it. Anyone who has achieved lasting celebrity status had to make sacrifices and work hard for it – something that many of today’s “legends in their own mind” don’t grasp.

As I considered these things, and my concerns for the attitudes my own children might adopt, I wondered what made my own childhood different. And I remembered watching the movie, “Pinocchio”, when I was very young.

I remember it scaring me to death.

At the same time, as I grew up, there were certain lines I would simply never cross. I generally did not mouth off to my parents. I didn’t do drugs or smoke. I didn’t drink before I was of legal age, and I seldom drink now. I wasn’t a perfect kid, but I avoided a lot of things I could have gotten involved in, because they had “danger signs” that told me they would lead me into a trap.

I decided to watch “Pinocchio” again with my daughter, Abby, warning her that there would be some scary scenes, but that it was a good movie. I wanted her to learn some life lessons from something meaningful, not from the rude and selfish attitudes modeled on some teen television shows we’ve seen.

In the film, an elder toymaker named Geppetto, having no children of his own, wishes on a star for his latest puppet creation, Pinocchio, to transform into a real human boy. While Geppetto sleeps, a Blue Fairy appears in his toy shop and grants his wish, bringing Pinocchio to life. She tells Pinocchio he has been given a gift, but is still a mere puppet. To become a real boy, he must prove himself to be “brave, truthful and unselfish” by learning to choose wisely between right and wrong. Pinocchio promises to do so, with the help of his new friend, Jiminy Cricket, who volunteers to be Pinocchio’s “conscience”, since Pinocchio has no idea what a conscience is.

Like all of us, Pinocchio starts off with the best of intentions, determined to prove himself dependable by obeying his “father”, Geppetto, and going to school, just like a real boy.

But along the way, Pinocchio runs into two slick con artists that have “Bad Influence” written all over them: a fox named Honest John and a cat named Gideon. (For most of today’s children, meeting a talking fox and cat would be creepy enough to make them keep walking, but Pinocchio has a wooden brain.)

Seeing a wooden puppet with no strings, they seize the opportunity to make a quick buck. They tell Pinocchio that school is for losers, not talented stars like him. As a puppet without strings, Pinocchio should head straight for the theatre to start an acting career instead. Being a puppet with no conscience or experience, Pinocchio swallows their lies and lets them sell him to Stromboli, a puppeteer who makes Pinocchio the star of his show.

But when Pinocchio tells Stromboli he’s ready to head home now, Stromboli throws him in a cage, telling him it’s his new home, and his new job is to make the puppeteer a fortune.

At this point, Abby told me she didn’t like this movie. I understood that. Nobody likes consequences, or even thinking about them. We love to dream of the wonderful life we feel we deserve, but we never consider whether we’re choosing a safe path to get there.

After I promised Abby that Pinocchio would get away, and she would like the movie in the end, she finally agreed to continue.

Thankfully, the Blue Fairy appears to rescue Pinocchio, telling him that poor Geppetto is out searching the streets for him. But when she asks him how he got in a cage, Pinocchio starts telling her the biggest lies he can imagine, despite Jiminy Cricket’s advice to tell the truth. He doesn’t want to confess that he disobeyed Geppetto by skipping school to become a puppet stage star.

So his nose grows.

And grows.

And grows!

The Blue Fairy explains that a person’s lies grow bigger and bigger, until they’re out of control. When Pinocchio confesses the truth and asks for help, the fairy restores his nose to its former wooden glory and sets him free.

The next day, Pinocchio starts out for school again, once more with the best of intentions. And once again, Honest John and Gideon show up to lead him astray. (Isn’t it funny how Bad Influences keep showing up until we learn to just say “no” to them?) This time, they tell him he looks ill, and needs a vacation. They describe a wonderful place for boys to have fun all day long, where they never have to listen to parents or teachers, and never have to be polite or self-controlled. A place where they can gamble and smoke cigars and drink whiskey and cuss as much as they want. A place where little boys like Pinocchio can finally be free!

The place: Pleasure Island.

Pinocchio buys their lies again, ditching his “conscience” Jiminy for the excitement of what Honest John calls freedom. On the wagon ride to Pleasure Island, he meets his new best friend, Lampwick. (When a kid in a story is named “lamp wick”, you know he won’t last for long.) Lampwick is the poster child for Pleasure Island, ready to break windows and play all day, doing everything that grown-ups tell him not to. He wants to experience all the fun in life that he figures the adults are keeping him from.

What neither boy realizes is that the happy owner of Pleasure Island has cast a spell over the place. Every boy who comes there to waste his life away soon finds it taken from him, as he is transformed into a donkey, then shipped away as a beast of burden to various countries.

With Jiminy Cricket’s help, Pinocchio barely escapes with his life, having already acquired a donkey’s ears and tail. Lampwick, of course, doesn’t make it. The Bible states that the candle of the righteous shines brightly, but the candle of the wicked will be snuffed out. Lampwick made his selfish choices, and didn’t seek an escape until it was too late.

Pinocchio arrives home, his foolish choices evident by his long ears and dragging tail. But Geppetto is gone. A letter from the Blue Fairy informs him that Geppetto went searching for him again, but was swallowed by the fearsome whale named Monstro. Pinocchio and Jiminy head out to sea to rescue Geppetto from the whale’s belly. They are soon swallowed by Monstro, too. Reunited with Geppetto, Pinocchio builds a fire inside the whale’s mouth, forcing it to sneeze them out.

As Monstro pursues them, Pinocchio gets Geppetto to safety in an undersea cave, just before the whale smashes into the cliff face. He saves Geppetto and the others, but dies in the attempt.

The Blue Fairy then gives Pinocchio new life as a human boy, since he has finally proven himself to be trustworthy and faithful, putting others above himself.

By the end, Abby decided that she liked “Pinocchio” after all.

Let’s face it, “Pinocchio” is a frightening movie about the dangers of making bad choices. But sometimes, we need to recognize the danger of a pit so that we don’t foolishly fall into it. It’s easy to dream up a perfect life for ourselves, where we achieve stardom, win the lottery, and everybody loves us, as we kick up our feet and soak it all in.

In real life, we need to work to receive an income, even a big one. And we need an education in order to qualify for steady jobs. We need to listen to grown-ups and people with experience, so that we can learn how to live our lives wisely. And we need to treat those people with respect, or they might not be as willing to share their insights with us.

Life isn’t as easy as rock stars and supermodels might make it seem. We love to hear about the mansions they live in, the fast cars they drive, and the people clamoring for their autograph. We’re not so interested in hearing about their fourteen-hour work days on the set, the desserts they had to give up, or the lack of privacy and a genuine social life. Even the rich and famous have to work, and their privileges typically come with a price.

It’s tempting to take the easy route to fortune and freedom, while ignoring everyone who tells you to follow the tried-and-tested rules of life. But many of those “rules” that get ignored are actually laws of nature, about how to treat others and succeed in a community. Cheating or coasting your way through life can cost you friends, your reputation and even your life.

When you’re tempted to chase after the “easy life”, remember that many older and wiser people have experienced that same temptation, and learned there were some strings attached.

 

Find more reviews of “Pinocchio” at amazon.com!

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

MOVIE: HITCH – Why Not You?

by Randall Allen Dunn

Often when we look in the mirror, we aren’t very impressed. The most successful businessman and the most beautiful model can still find something wrong with themselves. Glaring flaws which seem to disqualify them from ever reaching their goals. So when faced with a new challenge that stretches us beyond our comfort zone, we get a little tense. We can’t picture ourselves achieving something we’ve never done before. After all, how could someone with our obvious limitations ever pull it off?

The film, “Hitch”, is all about finding the confidence needed to tackle the biggest and most fearsome of dreams: seeking out true love. Alex “Hitch” Hitchens (Will Smith) has made a career of helping fearful romantics find true love. Romantics like Albert Brennaman (Kevin James), a shy, clumsy, overweight accountant who is hopelessly infatuated with Allegra Cole (Amber Valletta), a beautiful celebrity who employs his company’s services. Of course, Allegra knows nothing of Albert’s affections, since she knows nothing about Albert, since he’s never tried to approach her or get her attention.

In steps Hitch – the “date doctor”. He coaches Albert on how to present himself with confidence, to focus in on Allegra and her personal concerns, and to find ways to make her notice him. When Allegra suggests to her account advisors that she wants to invest her money in a friend’s business, Albert’s supervisor shuts her down. Albert seizes the opportunity, telling Allegra she should invest her money the way she wants, no matter what any of them think. When things start to get tense with his boss, Albert abruptly quits!

Okay, so he got a little carried away.

Still, it got Allegra to seek him out, to discuss her investment ideas with him personally. Soon, Albert is spending more and more time with Allegra, and she is finding him more and more enjoyable to be with.

But wait. Isn’t this woman rich, famous and gorgeous? And isn’t Albert a fat, unattractive nerd?

Only in Albert’s mind. We’ve all seen couples that seem mismatched, making us wonder what on earth they see in one another. Or at least, what a wonderful, beautiful woman like her sees in that guy.

But what attracts others to us is not just our physical appearance or the first impression we make. People are typically more interested in how kind we are to others, how dedicated we are to a task, and how thoughtful or creative or funny we are. Someone who looks good on the outside will only attract people for so long. If there’s little substance or love beneath that gorgeous exterior, that initial attraction starts to fade … fast. So why focus on all the negative things that make us dislike ourselves, when others typically see the positive qualities that make us interesting and fun to be with?

When people are starting a new enterprise, they are often encouraged, “Fake it ‘til you make it.” In other words, pretend you already are the type of successful person you want to become, despite the nagging doubts inside you. Most people will simply believe that you are what you claim to be, as long as you deliver on your promises. Then, as you continue building new habits to improve your skills, you will gradually become the expert you were only “pretending” to be.

This doesn’t mean living a lie. On the contrary, it’s a psychological trick to help us overcome the lie that we lack the skills needed to achieve our goals. If you really want to be a graphic designer, but you haven’t sold any of your designs, don’t focus on what you have not achieved, but what you have – or can – achieve for your prospective clients. If you want to ask out that special someone, don’t focus on your flaws and all the reasons you think they’ll say “no”. Relax, recognize the admirable qualities you possess, and take a risk. And don’t imagine that your life depends on whether they say, “yes”. If you open your eyes a little wider, you might discover there are plenty of people who would love for you to ask them the same question.

Once Allegra learns that Hitch provided Albert with coaching for all of their dates, she breaks off the relationship, refusing to answer Albert’s calls. Hitch meets with Allegra to plead Albert’s case, and she unloads on him. She seethes at Hitch for telling Albert to dance like a fool, spill mustard on his shirt, and throw away his inhaler before kissing her, all so that Allegra wouldn’t feel awkward about her own personal flaws.

Hitch is stunned, and annoyed. He assures Allegra that he would never tell Albert to present himself in such an embarrassing way.

And they both realize that Allegra didn’t fall in love with a “fake” Albert, but with the man he really was, warts and all.

Don’t disqualify yourself from life’s opportunities. Give people a chance to accept you for who you are.

Maybe you’ve been faking yourself out all these years.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

Find more reviews of “Hitch” at amazon.com!

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

MOVIE: GREEN LANTERN – Becoming Fearless

by Randall Allen Dunn

New Year’s Day is a time of resolutions, when we determine to actually make changes that we’ve wanted to make for a long time. The problem is that, if we really wanted to do it all along, starting a new year won’t help us to finally get it done. It’s up to us to do it, to make whatever plans are necessary to achieve it, and to move aside any barriers that prevent us from completing it.

What stops us from achieving our goals is fear. Fear of failure, fear of embarrassment, even the fear of real loss if we don’t succeed.

In the film, “Green Lantern”, pilot Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) sees his life flash before his eyes when he cn’t recover after stalling his own plane. He finally ejects, escaping the fate of his own father, a pilot who died in an aircraft explosion. Examination of the plane wreckage shows nothing wrong with the equipment, but Hal refuses to acknowledge that he panicked. Let alone own up to his own irresponsible behavior that led to the crash in the first place.

Later on, things get worse when a glowing green energy bubble surrounds him and transports him to a pier, where he discovers a disable alien spaceship. Inside it, he finds a wounded alien, Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison), who tells Hal he has been “chosen” by “the ring”, which Hal must now insert into a green lantern and “say the oath”. But Abin Sur passes before he can clarify any of this.

But “the oath” comes to Hal in his apartment, as the lantern’s energy communicates to him. He is soon transported again, this time into deep space, to a place called Oa, where an army of aliens from different planets all wear green uniforms that resemble Hal’s new lantern. They explain that they are the Green Lantern Corps, protecting the entire universe under the leadership of the Guardians. Charged by their individual lanterns, their rings create energy, forming whatever shapes their minds can imagine. The Guardians have determined that an individual’s will is the greatest force in the universe, and this force fuels the rings. However, will power can be weakened by another great power: fear. So a Green Lantern must be fearless.

Hal quickly determines that he’s not qualified for the job.

During training, he fails miserably. Later in a battle on Earth, he fails to stop telekinetic villain Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) from killing own father, Senator Hammond (Tim Robbins). Despite all of his efforts, Hal continues to disappoint others … and himself.

His ex-girlfriend, Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), knows how unreliable Hal can be. But she also sees that he has something in him that no one else has, reminding Hal that the ring chose him for a reason. Hal insists that the ring made a mistake. “The one thing that a Green Lantern is supposed to be is fearless,” he tells her. “‘Fearless’ is the job description. That isn’t me.”

She encourages him that the cure for his fear is simple: courage. “The ring didn’t see that you were fearless. It saw that you had the ability to overcome fear.”

When Parallax, an alien mass that feeds on fear, threatens to consume all living things, the Guardians decide to sacrifice Earth while take time they prepare a defense. A defense which involves forging a ring powered by fear, rather than will, to fight fear with more fear.

Hal returns to Oa and advises against the dangerous plan, and insists on protecting his planet. “I know you’re afraid,” he tells them.

“You dare accuse the Guardians of feeling fear?” they demand.

Hal tells them he knows they’re afraid, because he’s experienced it himself, his entire life. But he tells them they can’t give in to fear, because once they cross over that line, fear will overpower them. Instead, they must continue to fight it with their will.

Unable to gain their help, Hal prepares to defend Earth himself. Sinestro (Mark Strong), a Green Lantern who has made his doubts about Hal clear, tells him he will die in his attempt. But Hal insists that he will die trying.

As he battles Parallax, the monster recognizes Hal’s strong will and attempts to break it. He warns Hal that he will fail, that his planet will be destroyed, and that everyone he loves will suffer, all because he was afraid.

But as the beast tries to frighten him, Hal recites his oath:

“In brightest day, in blackest night

No evil shall escape my sight.

Let those who worship evil’s might

Beware my power, Green Lantern’s light!”

He finds new strength and power to fight back, his ring’s green energy forcing the monster back into deep space, where he soon finds a way to destroy it.

Having disposed of the monster and saved the galaxy, Hal takes up his mantle as the new Green Lantern, with the confidence that he will succeed in each of his new challenges.

Whatever we intend to accomplish in life, we will face obstacles. They usually seem insurmountable, until we honestly search for a way to push through them. Until we choose to not give up.

We’re all afraid we’ll fail, or look foolish, or suffer harm. Courage is the choice to act in spite of fear, not because we feel no fear. Don’t give up on your goals, and don’t give in to fear. You can accomplish much more than you might think, if you trust that it’s possible.

Happy New Year!

Find more reviews of “Green Lantern” at amazon.com!

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

MOVIE: STAND BY ME – The Right Crowd

by Randall Allen Dunn

Parents often worry about the kinds of friends their kids are hanging around with. They fear that some of those friends might be a “bad influence”, who will lead them in the wrong direction in life.

Kids often shrug off their parents’ concerns, or argue hotly against them. They don’t worry so much about their ultimate destinies, and they’re usually convinced that they’ve chosen the right crowd to hang out with. Their buddies are people they can laugh and have fun with, who accept and care about them, no matter what.

Or so it seems. It’s important to be sure, before serious trouble comes, and you find out they’re not the friends you thought they were.

In the film, “Stand By Me”, a writer (Richard Dreyfuss) is recording the memoirs of his childhood. As a young boy, he had been Gordie Lachance (Wil Wheaton), who loved to invent stories, but was always overshadowed by his athletic star brother, Denny (John Cusack).

Until the day that Denny died in a car accident, leaving Gordie with his parents who never paid as much attention to him as they had to his older brother. Gordie quickly begins to feel out of place in his own home.

His friends can relate. Chris Chambers (River Phoenix) comes from a family of criminals and alcoholics, so everyone in town assumes he’ll grow up to be just like them. Teddy Duchamp (Corey Feldman) is an oddball whose father was put in a mental institution, after he pressed Teddy’s ear to a stove. Vern Tessio (Jerry O’Connell) is full of phobias and extra fat, making him an easy target for kids to pick on.

Each of them feels trapped in life. By the destinies that others have presumed them to have, and by the feeling that they don’t really belong.

When they learn that a boy was struck dead by a train, they decide to make a name for themselves by being the first ones to find the body. The four misfits set off, and together face a series of misfortunes. While crossing train tracks over a bridge, they see the train approaching, as the overweight, terrified Vern struggles to crawl across the tracks faster. Urging Vern on, Gordie and the others barely escape with their lives.

Later, they encounter a junkyard owner, who mocks Teddy for having a father locked up in the asylum. Teddy’s friends have to drag him away as he vainly attempts to defend his father’s honor.

Chris confesses to Gordie that he fears he might actually become a criminal, like everyone expects him to be, though he has no interest in becoming one.

Meanwhile, Gordie is tormented by his parents’ quiet rejection, even suffering a nightmare in which his father buries his older brother, Denny, then tells Gordie, “It should have been you, son.”

Through all of their fears, flaws and mishaps, they stick by one another, the way true friends should.

By contrast, Vern’s older brother is hanging out with a small “gang”, led by Ace Merrill (Keiffer Sutherland), who has little regard for their welfare.

Ace nearly kills them all in a road race, playing chicken with an oncoming truck instead of pulling away. When the truck veers off the road and runs into the ditch, Ace congratulates himself for his recklessness, telling his frightened buddies, “I won.”

When they discover Gordie and his friends have beaten them to the corpse they meant to find themselves, Ace is enraged. He makes it clear that he’s ready and willing to kill Chris to make him and his friends back off. He holds a knife to Chris’ throat, ignoring his buddy’s pleas not to kill his little brother.

The wrong crowd can get you and your family killed.

People like Ace are out to satisfy themselves, whatever it takes. Even if you’re the one getting in their way.

I wouldn’t feel safe having someone like Ace as a friend. I would never know when I had outlived my usefulness to him, and he would suddenly stop supporting or protecting me. He might not pull a knife on me or my family, but he would stop listening to my concerns. He would stop defending me in front of other people. He would stop supporting my interests. And suddenly, the friend I thought I had would decide, on a whim, to stop being a friend.

When we’re hanging with friends, we shouldn’t have to spend any time looking over our shoulders.

But the right crowd sticks by you even when it’s inconvenient.

When you’re too fat and too scared to cross the railroad tracks, good friends will risk their lives to save you.

When your mentally ill father is ridiculed by a junkyard owner, good friends will help you back to your feet.

Good friends will make sure you know they appreciate you, when you fear that you’re destined to become a criminal, or your parents love you less than your sports celebrity brother.

The right crowd will keep you going, in the midst of life’s difficulties and heartaches. When other people reject you, insult you, or threaten you, the right crowd will always stand by you.

The Bible says, “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” (Proverbs 13:20) The people you spend time with help make you who you are, so make sure you’re hanging with the right crowd. When trouble comes, will your friends really help you through it, or leave you in the ditch?

Find friends you can count on.

Find more reviews of “Stand By Me” at amazon.com!

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

TELEVISION/TV SERIES: CHARLIE AND LOLA – Argument Bombs

by Randall Allen Dunn

One day, while Abby was playing with a friend, both of the girls started screaming at each other over a toy. They were grabbing at it, each trying to pull it from the other one’s hands. Nicki calmed them down and talked with them about how to resolve things without getting into a big fight.

I came into the room a little later and asked the girls if they were all right, because I heard that they had gotten blown up.

Abby and her friend giggled and gave me confused looks. “We didn’t get blown up!” they said.

“It sounded like you did. It sounded like you got blown up by an argument bomb.”

They started cracking up, wondering what nonsense I was talking about now.

“Were you both grabbing this toy?” I asked.

“Yeah,” they acknowledged.

“Well, did you both start getting mad and yelling at each other when you were trying to get it?”

“Well, we were kind of yelling,” they admitted.

“That’s an argument bomb. As soon as you both started grabbing at it, it blew up and made you both have a big argument. Next time you touch something and it makes you both get really mad, you should let go of that thing right away before it makes you blow up.”

The girls were still laughing, thinking I was crazy. But Nicki loved this concept. She told the girls, “Haven’t you ever heard someone say that they ‘blew up’ at someone because they got so mad? That’s what happens when you start fighting over something.”

Nicki and I love the hilarious British children’s cartoon, “Charlie and Lola”, about seven-year old Charlie (Daniel Mayers), who often has to help his flighty four-year old sister, Lola (Clementine Cowell), understand the way things really work. Thankfully, Charlie is very longsuffering, and Lola is fairly easygoing.

However, in one episode, called, “Yes I Am, No You’re Not”, they’re having a lot of trouble getting along. They keep getting into arguments over little things, to the point that their mother threatens them. If they can’t stop their squabbling, she’ll cancel their plans to take them to the Chinese puppet show. Charlie and Lola work hard to play together without getting into a fight, but it doesn’t work. They’re soon arguing and screaming at each other, demanding their way.

So their mother puts them both in the “Simmer-Down Chair”. Contemplating their fate, Charlie and Lola decide that they need a plan to keep themselves from squabbling. They can’t agree on what television show to watch, so they decide to do something quiet … separately.

Sitting together at a table, they begin coloring pictures. But within a few minutes, their plan falls apart as they start fighting over the crayons they each need.

Back in the Simmer-Down Chairs again, Charlie suggests a new plan. Instead of saying “No” to one another, they should find ways to say “Yes”. Then they’ll be agreeing on things instead of arguing. Lola loves this idea, and giggles as she says “Yes” to the plan.

When they return to playing, they happily respond “Yes” to questions from one another, and find they’re enjoying their time together again. By focusing on working together, they find it easier to avoid getting upset with one another.

Getting along with someone takes work, especially when it’s someone close to you. It’s too easy to fall into a trap of getting on each other’s nerves and venting all of your frustration.

Some years ago, a church friend noted that when we feel slighted, it’s usually over a “slight” matter. We focus on what offends us, even when it’s relatively insignificant. By insisting on defending ourselves and our opinions, we end up hurting our relationships and building up our own frustration.

You can preserve a lot of peace in your home by avoiding arguments over small things.

Learn to let things go this week. And try not to blow up.

Find more reviews of “Charlie and Lola Volume 4” at amazon.com!

Saturday, April 30th, 2011