Before I Fall – A Movie that Makes You Think

Before I Fall movie poster

Samantha Kingston (Zoey Deutch) seems to have it all: popularity, a loving boyfriend (Kian Lawley) and a seemingly perfect future. Everything changes in the blink of an eye when she dies in a car crash but then magically wakes up to find herself reliving the same day over and over again. As Samantha tries to untangle the mystery of a life derailed, she must also unravel the secrets of the people closest to her and discover how the power of a single day can make a difference.

I don’t see many movies, let alone a new release! Stop the presses. My daughter and I found ourselves with time to spare last night. I wasn’t so tired I had to flop in bed at 9:30. This movie was cued up and ready to go. The first twenty minutes of viewing, before the dramatic scene that sets the stage for the plot to unfold, are pure slogging. The viewer will almost wish something bad happens to the main character and her friends. They give a new meaning to the expression ‘mean girls’.

Once Samantha has died and is thrust into a purgatory of reliving her last day on earth over and over, the movie gets interesting. The blurb summarizes nicely – discoveries are made, past behaviours are examined and a variety of denial mechanisms are brought into play. But ultimately, Samantha is forced to recognize her culpability in setting a terrible chain of events in motion.

The twofold message of this movie is a great one for young and old alike. The plot aptly demonstrates how, with one tentative step after another – no choice earth shattering or worthy of pondering in and of itself – a person can end up on a path never planned for or anticipated. Even more important is the belief we all have that there will be endless time to get things right. We brush off behaviour that is petty, or mean or selfish. We know we’re better than that and we’re sure we’ll make it right in the future. But what happens if our time runs out? On any given day, are we ready to leave this life behind?

Samantha discovers that living one day fully with not a single regret is all the preparation needed to make the ultimate sacrifice and leave this world knowing she made a difference.

See Before I Fall with the young people in your life. Talk about the message. This movie will make you think.

Ode to Joy–Holding My New Book

Me and the new book - back cover

I suppose the picture says it all Smile 

The proof copy of No Compass to Right arrived and, on first blush, it seems everything I hoped for. Of course, with proof copies, the devil is in the details. I discovered that uncomfortable truth the hard way with a previous release. I’ll be pouring over this one for a couple of days before placing my bulk order.

If you read e-books, you can pre-order a copy of No Compass to Right for release on June 1st. The big day is coming, folks!

Large NCR release banner (2)

And if all of that is not enough cause for celebration, I received another wonderful surprise in the mail yesterday. Delayed Mother’s Day gift – Bear Paw oven mitts. Many thanks to Kristen, Matt, Emma and Britney. Can you imagine a greater gift for out here at the lake? Now I can lift hot pans with my bear hands while watching bears stroll by – LOL. Wow – two goofy, happy pictures of me in one post. What is this world coming to?

Me and my mother's day gift

Holiday Reflections

Saint Benidict's Anglican Church (2), High River Alberta, Jan. 04, 2017 - bruce wtizel photo

Reasons to spend holiday time staying with family in another province:

Grandkids change so fast. The opportunity to reconnect with where they are in their lives is a precious one. We took Emma and Brit on a snowy outing to the High River Cemetery. More about why in a later blog. Emma was so excited to run between the gravestones and brush off the powdery snow so she could read the inscriptions. She is at that wonderful stage when the ability to read has clicked and she can’t wait to decipher the written word anywhere she finds it. The day was quite cold and when Brit headed back to the car, Emma looked disappointed. She told me, “I don’t want to leave.” I told her we would come back in the summer and spend as much time as she liked. She said, “Can I wear a dress?” I felt that would be perfectly fine.

High River Cemetery

A couple of snow angels visited the High River Cemetery.

A couple of snow angels

Kristen - Bruce Witzel photo

 

 

 

Grown kids still need their moms. Well, they do! Especially when mom can bite her tongue now and then. Listening matters more than always heaving the proverbial two-bits into every conversation.

 

 

 

The opportunity to do things one wouldn’t do at home. For example, watch ten episodes of The Crown on Netflix – I loved it!

The Crown - Goggle Image

Experience a white Christmas. For someone who grew up on the coast of British Columbia and hasn’t strayed far from coastal waves, this was new. As was watching Emma and Brit skate on an outdoor lake and multiple sledding trips down what passes for a hill in High River.

White Christmas - High River. Albe

Emma sledding - Bruce Witzel photo     Brit sledding - Bruce Witzel photo

Brit - winter skate - Bruce Witzel photo

Winter skate - Bruce Witzel photo

Understand what -30 with wind-chill feels like. Britney told us that her school doesn’t let students play outside at recess if it is colder than -20 with a windshield. I guess announcements over the PA system are hard to decipher whether it be at a school or in an airport.

Tsunami warning - Goggle ImagesBe terrified over one’s first experience at a wave-pool. When the waves hit me, I was standing in the worst place possible – near a wall and in the outflow from one of the water slides. Add to my terror the fact that Kristen told me to stay close to Britney. I seriously felt as though I was on the beach as a tsunami rolled in with no hope of keeping my head above the water let alone staying close to anything. Suffice to say, as Brit bounced towards me with a grin and helped me get my footing, I realized I was to stay close to a five-year-old for my safety not hers.

Baking with grandkids. Making and decorating sugar cookies is my Grandma baking specialty.

Emma & Fran decorating  Christmas cookies

Playing cards and games. We discovered Phase Ten this year and enjoyed it. Pass the Ace continues to be a favourite. As usual, I stayed on the receiving end of loss after loss at crib. Good to know all is as it should be with me and the gaming universe. One day, Emma, observing yet another of my losses, patted me on the back and said, “Don’t worry Grandma. I’m on your side because you’re the thunder-dog.” And so I was.

Candy purchases at the Bulk Barn. Hot Tamales by the pound, anyone? This is the sort of good time you had to be there to enjoy!

Getting familiar with a new, family-oriented community. I am helped to put the day-to-day events of kids and grandkids in context with such information. And we did such a good job at this that we ended up in the local High River paper. Can’t complain about that.

New Year's Eve in High River Times

Reasons why it is wonderful to come home:

No matter how comfy the bed I land in, nothing can replace the tried and true of my own bed and pillows.

The opportunity to eat in tune with personal preferences – fresh baked bread, homemade soups and a spicy black bean dip made with balsamic vinegar that is to die for. Unfortunately, Bruce is not a fan of three things – balsamic vinegar, cilantro and lentils. All of which, I love. But I had read in my Bean Cookbook that balsamic vinegar is a bean’s BFF, so I had to throw caution to the wind. The consequence I am willing to live with is that I must consume all the spicy black bean dip on my own.

The off-chance that I may finally return full-time to writing the fourth book of the Crater Lake Series – yippee!

Significant blocks of quiet that allow me the time to enjoy the memories of a great family holiday. Life is good!

Kristen & Matt - Bruce Witzel photo

Eight Years Old Today

Emma's Birthday

My granddaughter. Emma, turns eight today. How the time flies. There are days when I can’t remember where I put my coffee but I remember the day she was born like it was yesterday.

November 21st, 2008 – I got the call from my daughter, Kristen, at about two in the morning. Screaming down the phone lines, at least two weeks early, she told me she was thinking of going to the hospital. “The baby is coming, Mom.” 

I was living in Victoria at the time, at the university, teaching. I had a class to teach later that afternoon. I flew out of bed and into action. Emails went out to a substitute instructor and I was in a cab on the way to the bus depot before 5:00 am with many calls back and forth in the those ensuing three hours.

I learned that they had sent Kristen home on that first trip to the hospital. I remember holding the phone away from my ear as her outraged voice rose. She was livid.

I was finished the two-hour ferry trip and back onboard my bus headed for the downtown Vancouver Bus Depot when I got another call. With gasping and groaning amidst the words, Kristen said, “We are on the way back to the hospital. Where are you?” That call ended before I could answer because she had to barf out the window of the car.

I arrived at the depot and managed to find a cab driver who was willing to drive me out to The Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster. He took one look at my face when the words – My daughter’s having a baby. I have to get to the Royal Columbine” – poured out of my mouth and he smiled. Get in, he told me. I was in the labouring room soon after Kristen got processed and sent there herself.

Okay, flashback to my own labouring experiences. With my first, labour was a three-day ordeal that ended in an operating room with me having a caesarean delivery. Not the most pleasant of memories to draw upon. My next delivery was a scheduled caesarean. Through Kristen’s entire pregnancy, I worried about a long, difficult labour ending with any number of complications.

I am happy to report that Emma’s birth was nothing like anything I imagined. My daughter is a rock star! I arrived in the room at 10:00 am – Emma was born by 2:00 pm. The last hour and a half was such intense work that the time flew by.

But there was those few terrifying moments, right at the end, that seemed an eternity. Emma’s head had crowned, I was watching her being born. The doctor suddenly asked me to move aside. A flurry of orders poured out of her mouth. The room filled with people. Newborn Emma was in the doctor’s arms and moving quickly to a table nearby surrounded by other masked doctors and nurses. The cord had been around Emma’s neck and she wasn’t breathing. I stood very still and saw this brand-new life surrounded by busy, capable hands. I saw Kristen sit up on the delivery table and I heard the anguish in her voice as she said, “Mom, Mom … what’s wrong? Tell me what’s wrong.”

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That moment stretched out forever and then Emma cried and she was in Kristen’s arms. The world tilted back to a proper axis and all was so wonderfully, wonderfully well.

The next few hours were incredibly joyous. Emma moved from the arms of her exhausted but overwhelmingly relieved parents to those of her ridiculously proud grandparents. I remember thinking that I had never in my life been present for such an amazing event. I was so completely overwhelmed with the thought that my baby was now a mother.

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I am so grateful that when that phone call came at 2:00 in the morning on November, 21st, 2008, I acted decisively. I got to see my granddaughter’s birth. And I am so thankful for the relationship I have with my adult daughter – a relationship that made being by her side as she gave birth to our beautiful Emma so right and perfect. Though, in the picture below, Emma looks less than thrilled with the entire process.

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And today, that tiny baby is eight-years-old. Little did we know that being grandparents would turn our lives and our priorities so totally upside down. I regret nothing! Every moment spent with this special little girl who is Emma has been worth it.

00471HSAS146 Emma Keeley008

Report Card Time

 

Brit - Guenette photo

I’ve been thinking a lot about report cards and the whole assessment dimension of sending our kids and grandkids off to school. I came across these great quotes.

Friendship … it’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you haven’t learning anything. (Muhammad Ali)

Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one learned in school. (Albert Einstein)

What makes a child gifted and talented may not always be good grades in school, but a different way of looking at the world and learning. (Chuck Grassley)

00773HSAS458 Britney Keeley005

Our beautiful granddaughter, Britney – just look at that Mona Lisa smile! – got her first kindergarten report card yesterday. Five-years-old and already in the assessment mill of school. Heavy sigh! All her kindergarten academics are strong but on the scale of C = consistent, O = occasionally and S = seldom, she is C for talking out in circle time and rushing through her fine motor skill work so she can get busy with the next activity.

As someone who has never taken educational assessment all that seriously, I was tempted to laugh. I remember my son’s surprised face when one year he came home from school and told me, in dramatic teen fashion, how his dad was going to kill him because of a failing grade in math. I shrugged and said, “Hardly. Your dad and I know how smart you are. It’s just a grade.”

To know Britney, is to know she is a force to contend with. Even as a baby, she was a hard child to move and I mean that literally as well as figuratively. She has a low centre of gravity. She would make a great protester. When the police drag her to the paddy wagon, she won’t make it easy. It’s who she is. She has all those second child characteristics – one of which is the constant feeling that she is missing out on something and must hurry along. No wonder she rushes through fine motor skill activities!

Brit doing math - Guenette photo

But I didn’t laugh. A child’s first kindergarten report card is a big deal – to the parents and the child. I listened to my daughter’s concern and the disappointment in her voice tugged at my heart. We all want our kids to be top of the class with all their C’s, O’s and S’s in the right spots.

The best thing a parent can do is put things in perspective and this continues between grown children and their parents. I listened, then said, “Reminds me of someone else’s report cards.” My daughter paused and then laughed. Yes, I meant her. We looked at her kindergarten report card a few years ago and one comment stood out. “Less chatter and more paying attention would certainly help her progress.”

Brit and Kristen

This parenting thing – never easy, for sure.

A Granddaughter’s First Library Card

Brit's first library card - Guenette photo

A library is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life. (Henry Ward Beecher)

When I was growing up, a trip to the library was the high point of my week. Dropped off in front of the Civic Center where the library was located, my heart would start to thump as I moved quickly up the stairs to the door. As I stepped into the quiet building, I stared around me for a moment. Taking a deep breath, I savoured the smell of books. Then I would plunge into the racks to fill my arms with anything that took my fancy.

The other day my four-year-old granddaughter took a special trip to her local library. She signed up for her first library card and checked out two books. Brit proudly showed me the card and explained how she had written her own name on the front. She held up her two books and told me in a serious voice that she had to bring them back in two weeks.

In this fast-paced world of iPads, apps and e-readers, I often wonder if the public library has outlived its usefulness. The look on Britney’s face as she waved her newly acquired library card in the air tells me we are in no danger of losing such a valuable resource.

Brit's library books - Guenette photo

Snake Cake, Anyone?

Brit's 4th birthday - Bruce Witzel photo

Every great story begins with a snake … (Nicholas Cage)

On this quiet Sunday afternoon, as the precious few hours of fall sunshine slips away, I’ve been searching through photos from the summer and smiling as I go. Back in those lazy, crazy days of August our small cabin was bursting at the seams with visitors and it was soon to be granddaughter Britney’s fourth birthday. I was prepared with cake mixes in the cupboard and loads of icing sugar, food colouring and sprinkles.

Two days before the big event, I asked her what kind of birthday cake she would like. I had bookmarked on Pinterest a fairly easy looking butterfly cupcake creation that I thought might be a possibility.

Like many conversations we have with children, I was ready to throw my suggestion on the table before Brit had even a moment to gather her thoughts. She didn’t give me the chance. She levelled her gorgeous blue eyes at me and said, “I have a snake cake, Gama.”

My own eyes widened in surprise. “A snake cake? Really,” I responded. “I was sort of thinking about a nice butterfly.”

Her blonde curls danced as she emphatically shook her head. “No, Gama. Snake cake.”

Being ever one to go with the flow, I said, “Okay, then, snake cake. What colour?”

Once again her response was immediate, as if this idea had been fully formed for some time. “Geen, Gama. I have a geen snake cake.”

Britney’s inability to say the letter ‘R’ often results in some darn cute sentences. Like the time she said, “Gampa Buce like geen, so I like geen, too.” Or when she asked me for geen gapes, Gama.

Brit's snake cake - Bruce Witzel photo

What the heck, who needs Pinterest? We made that green snake cake complete with shaped snake head, chocolate chip eyes and a bright red construction paper tongue. A unique cake for a very special four-year old who already understands the importance of going her own way.

Brit's photo booth - Bruce Witzel photo

Granddaughters Britney (age 4) and Emma (age 6).