Category Archives: Blog Posts

Dynamics of a “Super” Family

It’s hard to turn around right now without seeing another ad for the next ultimate battle between bands of costumed superheroes and their legions of foes.  With several “ultimate battle” superhero movies playing currently or coming to theatres in the near future, it makes me wonder how such a group would actually function.  Would they fall into stereotypes for an actual family?  I decided to examine one such group in terms of family dynamics.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Cast: Three Things to Know About Karen Gillan’s Nebula

http://www.newsweek.com/review-guardians-galaxy-vol-2-sequel-chris-pratt-zoe-saldana-marvel-589660

The team known as The Guardians of the Galaxy has appeared in two separate movies detailing their origins and exploits, and is slotted to be a part of the upcoming Avengers: Infinity Wars.  If these heroes were an actual family, we would have to call them dysfunctional.  They are drawn together out of necessity and mutual goals, but spend a great deal of time, especially in the first feature, arguing amongst themselves.  Only towards the end of the first film do they begin to resemble a team in function, much less a family.  Only as the first movie ends and the second begins, do we begin to see their clearly defined roles in the unit.

The Patriarch

This role is that of leader, not necessarily but sometimes the father-figure, and is certainly not someone who is infallible.  For all the humanity and flaws this character possesses, it is someone that the rest of the team/family can look up to for guidance and moral support.  For this family the role of patriarch is taken on by Peter Quill.

Peter is, by the end of the first Guardians movie, the undisputed leader who is tasked with deciding the direction the entire team will take going forward.  Like a wise leader, he relies on input and support from the rest of his family, but accepts ultimate responsibility for their safety and happiness.

The Matriarch

The female leader of the family may or may not be the mother of a group, but she takes on a role of protection and support, especially for younger family members.  In this family, the only candidate for matriarch is Gamora, who may or may not develop a relationship with the patriarch in her ongoing role.

Gamora from the beginning encourages the others to make the moral choice in destroying the Infinity Stone, and though she has an adversarial relationship with most of the others in the beginning, is drawn to care for each of the others.  She calls Peter on his stubbornness, Rocket on his bad manners, and Drax on his impulsiveness.  She provides the glue that slowly draws the group together.

Rival Siblings

Never in a family will every member always get along with each other.  There will always be one or more, especially siblings, who sometimes make bad decisions and cause conflict amid the group.  In the first movie, Drax impulsively tries to take on an army by himself, nearly resulting in the death of his family.  The issue is resolved though, after a lot of yelling and pointed orders to “not do that again.”

In the second movie, Rocket, in a move rooted in his inner turmoil over his existence (i.e. teen angst), manages to anger the entire rest of the group with his behavior.  In the end though, he realizes he does have a family and joins them in a bid to save themselves as well as the entire universe from the insane Ego.

Crazy Uncle

Every family needs an elder who, though not part of the core family, is integral to the wellbeing of the group.  Yondu is antagonistic towards the Guardians on principal, but despite the fact that he kidnapped the young Peter actually became a father figure to him.  While Peter stands between him and profit, Yondu cannot help but aid the younger main and his fledgling family when they are in danger. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 casthttp://www.digitalspy.com/movies/guardians-of-the-galaxy/news/a829430/guardians-of-the-galaxy-vol-3-plot-depends-avengers-infinity-war-ending/

In the second movie, Yondu turns his back on his associates and organization of the Ravagers to more fully accept his role in the team dynamic of the Guardians.  He allies with them, partially out of selfish interests, but more so to save Peter’s life.

The Baby

The youngest member of the family is inevitably protected, if not outright spoiled, by the rest of the family.  This person is sometimes overlooked by the group when matters turn serious, and may have to fight to make their value known.  The “baby” of this family of course, is Groot.  His limited vocabulary notwithstanding, he is sometimes underestimated by the others for his simple nature.  However, he proves himself multiple times when it matters most, such as when he becomes a shield to save the others in the first movie.Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - Baby Groothttp://www.newsweek.com/review-guardians-galaxy-vol-2-sequel-chris-pratt-zoe-saldana-marvel-589660

 

In the second movie, he is still growing out of the effects of that incident, but despite his much smaller stature, is hardly incapable.  Despite his small stature and childlike behavior, he proves to be invaluable in getting into places beyond the reach of the rest of his family.

The main role of the family is to care about each other, to protect each other when possible, and to spend time together.  So The Guardians of the Galaxy, while they may not be the ideal family, do prove themselves to be one.

Hope you and yours enjoy the next feature film, and I’ll see you soon.

Amy

 

 

 

 

Take Time to Celebrate!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

All across the United States today, people are pausing to remember, and think about, loved ones who are serving or have served in our armed forces.  Very few of us have not been touched in some way by those in service of the country; either by veterans past or present, or perhaps tales of loved ones only known from photos and a flower-bedecked marker in a cemetery.

While it can be hard to remember or miss, there are still causes for celebration today.  Another year of freedom.  Another year of living in a country where many things are possible.  A time to spend with family and friends, a time to overeat, a time to reminisce.

A time to enjoy fireworks.  Perhaps where you live you’ve already seen some this year.  After all, some parts of the country held their shows early to allow for the fact this holiday fell on a Tuesday this year.  But for all of us, fireworks are an excuse to indulge in childlike wonder, a feeling that can be hard to capture when our thoughts turn to turbulent times and painful reminders.  While we honor those who have done their duty, take time to take pleasure in those things around us; after all, the joy we find in life is what makes it worth living and fighting for.

Happy Independence Day to all!

Amy

How to Plan a (Successful) Staycation

As warm weather and impending summer holidays are upon us, many of us are looking for a break.  Whether you have one night or an entire week or more at your disposal, it feels good to plan an escape.  That’s when the questions start: do we go away, do we stay home, how do we get there, and how do we pay for it?  If your answer to any of these is to spend your “days off” in the comfort of your own home, then I have some tips for you to make sure that the time is truly the “vacation” you’re looking for.

 

Family ties
Photo credit: Paladin27 via Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Plan your holiday.

Whether your plan to “staycation” is made to avoid the stress of travel-traffic, long lines at the airport, hours spent in the car or in airline terminals, and not-always-conducive sleeping arrangements-or to simply to save money, you need to plan this holiday just as carefully as you would any other.  Decide on your goal(s) for vacation-do you want to relax, have fun, spend quality time with the family, etc., and plan activities to meet those needs. Bear in mind each person “accompanying” you on this vacation, and include something everyone will enjoy.  Budget should be a consideration, though it doesn’t have to be extravagant, since you won’t need to include airfare, hotels, or mass mileage in your estimate.

Avoid working on your vacation.

One problem with taking a holiday at home is that you do not leave it behind.  Try to catch up on laundry and go grocery shopping before your vacation begins, unless you enjoy doing these things when you’re on holiday.  If you have unfinished home repair projects or chores that have been put on the back burner, it can be tempting to tackle them since you’re there anyway with free time on your hands.  Wrong!  You’re on vacation.  Evidence of any projects that can’t be finished before the vacation starts should be set aside or hidden away till after your “return,” otherwise you’ll find you won’t truly be taking time off.

Relax, relax, relax.

The beauty of having a vacation at home is you don’t have to go anywhere if you don’t want to.  You can spend the day in your pajamas, stay inside, veg out in front of the TV, or simply do nothing important.  While you’re on vacation, take the opportunity to sleep in, youngsters permitting, or take an afternoon nap in the shade.  Read a book, clear out your DVR, or take a long bath.   Unwind and simply relax, in whatever form appeals to you.  It’s your vacation, so make the most of it.

More family time, this time in the morning at the @weatherford5 household.  Family is key in that house.  #SteveWeatherford #Armagedon #FroKnowsPhoto #IShootRAW #PhotoStory #Nikon #D5 #Canid #Family #face #light #litbyphone @weatherford5 @nikonusa @adobec
Photo credit: jaredpolin via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Plan to spend the day away.

A staycation doesn’t have to mean you spend the entire time at home.  Play tourist in your home town and visit all the places you’ve always wanted to see but have never managed.  Drive to a local amusement park, go to a ballgame, walk around downtown and read the historic markers.  Part of a vacation should be taking the time to do the things you never have time for otherwise.  Of course, you can always just try a new restaurant or take time to catch that movie you’ve been dying to see.

Family time out
Photo credit: man’s pic via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Whatever you do for your staycation, make it as memorable and as pleasant as any other vacation you’ve ever taken; because after all, that is exactly what it is meant to be.

Enjoy!

Amy

Keep Yourself (and Dad) Cool This Father’s Day

For many parts of the county June signifies the arrival of consistently warm weather and that annual weekend event honoring fathers.  Summer is just weeks away, but already in the Midwest we are seeing temperatures rise into the nineties, so it’s just as important to prepare for warmer weather as it is when we are expecting ice and snow.  How can we make the best of the of the day (and the season) without risking heatstroke or sunburn?

Involve everyone.

Plan Father’s Day activities to include the kids; let them have quality time with dad.  Let kids help prepare a special breakfast in bed, or simple handmade cards to celebrate.  Give Dad a break from weekend chores and let him indulge in a shared favorite activity with the kids, while you prepare a meal (Bonus: you may get a little peace and quiet for yourself!)

Father's Day 2010...

Photo credit: Јerry via Foter.com / CC BY

Food.

Food is a vital part of any celebration.  Remember it’s Dad’s day, so plan to include his favorites, whether that means firing up the grill or preparing his favorite breakfast or dessert.  My husband has his eye on upgrading our grill this year.  Does anyone know where to get a good deal on a professional quality model?

 

365/319 Father's Day

Photo credit: California Cow via Foter.com / CC BY

Take time out to chill in the shade.

If possible avoid spending time outside during the hottest part of the day. If you’re planning to be outside for the entire day or if you’ll be working in the heat, make sure you take a break in the shade to cool off, and drink plenty of fluids.

Keep hydrated.

If your idea of the perfect Father’s Day is a beer by the pool, make sure you limit the amount of alcohol you (or Dad) actually consumes.  Alcohol actually causes dehydration, which can increase the risk for heat exhaustion or heatstroke.  Make sure to keep plenty of cool, nonalcoholic beverages available for yourself and your guests.

 

Father's Day Bliss

Photo credit: Olaf via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

 

Don’t forget the sunscreen.

Don’t let sunburn spoil the fun.  Whatever type of sunscreen you choose, be it waterproof, spray-on, wipe-on, sports activity or sensitive; make sure you follow the directions.  Also, remember that scalps burn too.  My husband found that out the hard way last year after a long motorcycle ride, so either work sunscreen into hair, especially if it’s thin or fine, or wear a hat.

Seek relief with indoor activities.

If you have small children and/or elderly parents to entertain, they may not be equipped to deal with high temperatures, especially in areas where humidity is common.  It may be best to plan some activities that involve air conditioning.  Movies can be fun for all ages, but this year has been rather hit and miss for quality, so take time to look at reviews and pick something everyone can enjoy.

Above all else, have fun and a Happy Father’s Day to all of you out there.

Amy

 

Who Would You Shield?

What comes to mind when you hear the word “shield?”  A shield can be a company logo, a symbol of authority, a weapon used by medieval warriors and the occasional costumed superhero, or the acronym for their organization.  However, a shield can also be a verb; to shield means to protect, to shelter, to defend against words or weapons, sometimes at personal sacrifice.

4368 Shield

Photo credit: steeljam via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

In today’s world we are often surrounded by dangers and troubles.  Accidents, disease, and crime are not something we can always guard against.  We try to shield our children from the harsh realities of violence; we would shield those we love from any who seek to harm them; we use a shield, often metaphorically, as a defense against painful words or concepts.

When my children were small, I wanted to shield them from the world, keep them safe and innocent of all the evils that existed.  I never wanted them to be subjected to bullies, or peer pressure, or rejection from potential love interests.  Of course, to keep them from all emotional turmoil would have been not only impossible but a real disservice to them in the long run.  Better that I teach and guide them as they began to step out from behind my shield, than to keep them ignorant and unprepared.

shielded

Photo credit: Djuliet via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

As a mother with two now-grown children I had to learn to allow my children to experience life.  Yes, I guarded them from all harm, but I allowed my shield to be transparent while doing so.  In other words, I explained to them why I protected them and from what or who, so they could see and hopefully understand the dangers they could face when they stepped into the world on their own.  Eventually, I knew, the time would come when I could no longer protect them, but must trust that they were well prepared to protect themselves.

That doesn’t mean my shield isn’t still there, ready to grab at a moment’s notice.  I’ve learned the instinct to protect doesn’t go away when the children move out and start their own lives.  However, that’s not necessary as often now, as they have shields of their own, ready to protect themselves and their loved ones whenever necessary.

Here’s to acknowledging those we will always want to protect,

Amy

Dare We Pin Our Hopes on Girl Power?

image courtesy of dccomics.com

My love affair with superheroes began when I was about eight, seeking out the comic book section of the grocery store while my parents stood in line.  I eagerly perused the new issues each week, searching for a good story to accompany the colorful illustrations, and quickly found a number of favorites.  I was disappointed; however, that almost all of the “heroes” were men.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed reading about Batman and Superman, but it seemed most of the women who wore costumes were sidekicks, cousins, or nieces of the male heroes, who were considered the main attraction.

Where was the role model for young girls?  Only one female “superheroine” stood out to me as being a character in her own right, with her own storylines not dependent on a relationship with a male character.  Who was this independent woman-Wonder Woman of course!  She could fight the bad guys as well as any costumed superhero, with strength, speed, and grace that defied the laws of physics, as well as the limits of ordinary men.  She was beautiful, brilliant, and had her own gadgets, not to mention an invisible plane.  What made her really stand out though, was her kindness, and her resolve to end conflicts without violence whenever possible.

 

Wonder Woman Poster
image courtesy of imbd.com

“Wonder Woman” began her career as a comic book character in 1941.  She has graced numerous issues since then, both as a solo character and as a member of the Justice League.  She appeared in numerous cartoons and a live-action television series in the 1970s.  Over the years, her image has graced every sort of merchandise imaginable, including lunch boxes, Barbie dolls, and costumes to fit fans of every age. She has been held up as an icon for feminism, for female independence, for patriotism thanks to her early years fighting Nazis and her colorful costume, and as a role model for impressionable young girls.

Last year, she made her big screen debut in the somewhat disappointing Marvel D.C. epic Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  Despite the problems with the last few Marvel D.C. features, including the most recent, Suicide Squad, I’m still holding out hope that the movie version of Wonder Woman, coming to theatres on June 2nd, is worthy of the legacy of the character.  I’m crossing my fingers that Warner Bros. have learned from the issues with their other features: namely, that big budget special effects don’t make up for poorly developed plots and badly underdeveloped characters.

image courtesy of rottentomatoes.com

I’m hoping that the newest incarnation of my favorite childhood superheroine actually lives up to the hype her character deserves.  In an age where superheroes are no longer considered just for kids, don’t we deserve an epic blockbuster about the number one costumed female hero of all time?

Here’s to seeing you in the ticket line.

Amy

Whoops!  Sorry, everyone.   Of course, Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman are products of D.C., not Marvel.  I obviously did not drink my tea before I wrote that.  My apologies for the confusion.

 

 

“Spring” as a Metaphor

As we begin the first week of April the Midwest is finally seeing the promise made by the groundhog’s shadow and the advent of the vernal equinox fulfilled.   The trees are budding and flowers begin to bloom in sunny beds, but this “spring” can mean more to our lives than a call for lighter clothing. The warmer weather beckons us to get outside, and live-walk, play, plant a garden, or simply to enjoy the fresh scents and sights of the season as the cold retreats and the snow and ice disappear.

People walking under trees in pink blossom

Photo credit: Foter.com

The season we call “spring” heralds mild weather and new plant and animal life, but the concept of spring is also symbolic of renewal, rebirth, and a fresh take on our lives and surroundings.   We can be filled with a sense of restored energy, the motivation and inspiration to make changes, to learn a new skill or try a new direction.

Spring can be just the excuse we need to finish, or start, the project we’ve been putting off.  What better time, than when everything around us is green and new, to create, to complete, to reinvent our own selves?

Children in tulip field

Photo credit: Foter.com

So let’s take up the challenge most of us abandoned along with our new year’s resolutions.  Let’s finish those home improvement projects, let’s dig into the fertile soil and write a new chapter in our lives.   Let’s strive, once again, to be the individuals whom we’ve always dreamed we’d be, if only we had another chance.  Today, and this season, is the time to reassess our goals, and look forward optimistically for a better future.  After all, the earth itself renews with the new season, so why can’t we?

Happy Spring,

Amy

 

Everyday Superheroines

Not every heroine wears a cape or tights.  Not every woman who deserves our respect or our accolades dresses in a colorful costume.  The women in our every day, real lives have more of an impact on our world than any who has ever graced the screen or decorated a book cover.  In honor of International Women’s Day, which is Wednesday, March 8th, I wanted to point out some of the attributes of these ordinary female heroes.

Past present and future

Photo credit: Sarah Ross photography via Foter.com / CC BY-NC

You probably know at least one of these superstars.  You may have one in your own home, or school, or workplace.   You most certainly see them at the grocery store, in the carpool lane, or at your favorite restaurant.  These women may not stand out as the heroines they are.   They may be hiding behind a façade as impervious as a secret identity, unlikely to be detected except by the few who truly understand and acknowledge their value.

A woman that gives her all for the betterment of others is a hero to those who depend on her.  Whatever her title or position, it is in her nature to help, to nurture, to guide those in her care to the best of her ability.  She is all the more remarkable for the fact that she may be unappreciated, taken for granted, or underestimated for exactly how much she accomplishes on a daily basis.

In a society that places unrealistic expectations on what a young girl should look like, dress like, and achieve, it’s more important than ever that we teach our future superheroines to be strong, to be competent, and to be compassionate.  Media images and bias make it difficult for these future leaders to develop healthy self-esteem and self-confidence, so crucial to them taking their place in the world.

So take a moment tomorrow and check out the women standing in line around you, sitting at the next desk, or waiting at the pump.  She may be cooking your breakfast, or prepping your flu shot.  She may have information you need, or questions to ask.  She may be a superheroine in disguise.  Whoever she is, take time to smile, and acknowledge her importance to your world today.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Amy

 

Why We Appreciate Doomed Relationships

Some of you will remember my last post was on the importance of expressing your feelings for those who give meaning to our lives.  Today, I decided to write about the other side of the coin-those relationships that do not work out the way we hope.  Most of us are not lucky enough to find “the one” on the first try, or have lived happily ever after without effort on our parts.

For every great successful love story, there is “the one that got away” or the “star-crossed lovers” that we all hope to avoid in our own lives, but are more than ready to cry over when it happens to our favorite fictional characters.

Broken Heart Grunge

Photo credit: Free Grunge Textures – www.freestock.ca via Foter.com / CC BY

The concept of the “star-crossed” lovers is hardly a new notion.  Early myths detail stories of relationships that never had a chance thanks to outside forces like jealous gods (such as the Greek story of Artemis and Orion) or terrible monsters (the Norse Beowulf).  Classic literature details heroes and heroines who could not make love last (think Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and their feuding families; or Hamlet and Ophelia, separated by revenge and madness).

Romeo-Juliet5

Photo credit: Vancouver Island University via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Our ancestors hardly have a monopoly on stories where the hero did not get the girl, either.  Modern media portrays a constant stream of relationships that face impossible odds of success.  From the agonizing love triangle of Casablanca, to Jack and Rose whose relationship failed thanks to the Titanic colliding with an iceberg, to Buffy and Angel who could not be together because Angel would lose his soul, to Thor who was separated from Jane by his godhood and a broken trans-world portal.

 

Tragic Lovers

Photo credit: NMCIL via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

So why are we attracted to tragedy?  All of these characters have qualities we hope to see in ourselves.  We share in their optimism, their passion, and their aspirations.  They seemingly have a chance at love, but face insurmountable obstacles that ultimately result in tragedy.  We root for them when they are happy, we cry with them when they are sad, and feel their losses when they are torn apart.  We feel a connection to them in a way we could not if they did not experience grief and strife, because that is what makes them more human.

It is these very human qualities that we can identify with; because the characters of a tragedy do not end with happily ever after, they are all the more realistic and important to us.

So pull out a box of tissues and watch your favorite sob story.  Reminisce with someone about the hardships you’ve faced in your own life, which hopefully have made you stronger and better prepared for the next challenge.  Take heart in the impossible odds others have faced, and know you are not alone.

Until next time,

Amy

 

“Love is…” a Celebration

I sat down to write a post about the most obvious topic of all for today-love.  That is something we all consider on Valentine’s Day, whether we choose to acknowledge it as a legitimate holiday or not.  It’s all too easy to take a cynical approach and call it a “holiday made up by the greeting card companies” because of its hype based around heart-shaped and chocolate wares, but the holiday has been around far longer the commercialism of the twentieth century.

Tree of Love

Photo credit: maf04 via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

In the past what we now call Valentine’s Day held other meanings, from pagan beginnings that involved blood sacrifices and fertility rituals, to martyred saints. Interestingly paper cards to celebrate the day have actually been around since the Middle Ages.[i]

The main purpose of the holiday as we know it, however, is love; to be celebrated, contemplated, longed for.  It is a day to cherish those who share our lives, whether they are spouses, lovers, family, or friends.  How exactly we choose to express our feelings about them holds as many options as there are relations out there.

Happy Valentines Day!

Photo credit: micadew via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

So how do you pick from the multitude of merchandise, from the plethora of songs, from the abundance of flowers, to the profusion of restaurants offering packages just for this one day?  How do you choose to show the one(s) you care about the most how you feel?  Do you even need to spend money to convey your feelings, or can you find a better way to express your love?

The most important thing to consider is the object of your affections.  What will they appreciate the most?  Are they certified chocoholics, or have some other weakness you can use to your advantage?  Do they prefer to go out, or spend a quiet evening at home?  The best gift is one tailored especially to your love, whatever that may be.

And while you are choosing something special your valentine will appreciate, don’t forget to insert a little of your own unique personality as well.  Those who return our affections will be most impressed with a gift that celebrates what the two of you have in common, or that that show an investment of thought and time from the giver.

Don’t despair if you’ve put off marking this day to the very last minute-there’s still time to text or to go old school and make a handwritten card with a special message, or plan a special meal, even if that is just a heart-shaped pizza and a favorite dessert.  Put on the radio, light some candles, and dance with your special people.  Face time if you can’t be together.  Watch a movie you love.  Above all, put into words just exactly what these individuals mean to you, how much you appreciate them today, and always.

However you choose to celebrate it, Happy Valentine’s Day to you all.

Amy


[i] For more information on the history of Valentine’s Day see this link: http://www.npr.org/2011/02/14/133693152/the-dark-origins-of-valentines-day