Posts Tagged ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’

My Life This Year – Christmas 2018

Happy Holidays!

Christmas Tree

Here’s my tree and my presents this year.


Most of them are from my sister and her boyfriend, Gerald.  There’s also three tins of homemade sweet treats from my dear friend Connie and “Crazy Rich Asians” which I bought for myself. 🙂

It’s that time of the year again and I hope life is treating you well.  

Bedford Falls

It’s been another year of changes for me.  Luckily, for the better! As you know, 2017 was a life-altering year that I’d rather forget!

However, there were two highlights in 2017, which is where I’ll start!

In July, I got to meet my idol, President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn in Plains, Georgia.

Autograph Carters

And, in December, I saw three incredible concerts in Las Vegas.

With all of the sadness I felt last year, it was forgotten for 90 minutes at Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas” show.


To this day, the beauty and spectacle of that holiday treat still brings a smile to my face. 🙂  The sets were magical and Mariah looked and sounded flawless!

Also on that trip, I saw Tanya Tucker and Lionel Richie.



I met Lionel and he told me that he doesn’t shake hands, he’s a hugger!  Then, he hugged me! 🙂


In March 2018, my sister, Tammy, and I escaped for several days to Cancun, Mexico.


Weeks later, I accepted the Chief Meteorologist position at Fox 21 News in Duluth, Minnesota, and I moved there in June.


I spent a year in Panama City, Florida, and it’s no secret that I was very unhappy there.  However, I didn’t realize how lucky I was to leave when I did.  In October, Hurricane Michael devastated Northwest Florida, including Panama City.

Much of my apartment complex was totally destroyed and my dear friends, Cathy and Gerard


and Robbie (left) and Diane (right)

Robbie Diane AP

are still picking up the pieces of their lives! 😦

In memory of my apartment and the complex in Panama City, here’s my balcony from last Christmas!


On a happier note, after 19 months, I saw snow again in October!

I can’t wait to have a real winter, but it scares me a bit.  It’s not the 86” of snow that Duluth picks up in an average winter (more in some years), it’s that the city is built on a hill that leads down to Lake Superior!  And, I’ll have to endure months of bitterly cold temperatures in the Northland!

This is my apartment’s backyard view toward Lake Superior down the “hill”!


In October, I went to Morocco, in northwest Africa.

This was the first time I traveled internationally by myself.   I met some fun people that made the trip very enjoyable.

It was incredible learning about the African continent, the Muslim faith, and enjoying delicious Moroccan food!

1 Morocco.JPG

2 Morocco.JPG

I’m very excited for the next chapter in my life.  I’m already trying to decide what I want to do next (when I grow up)!!! 🙂

For now, I’ll just have an Olivia Pope Christmas and enjoy my beautiful tree, free flowing wine and popcorn!

Olivia Christmas

If you had a great year, I hope 2019 is even more fantastic.  If 2018 was a tough one for you, I hope things turn around in the New Year!

“May hope and faith conquer fear and hate this Christmas!”



Random Friday Thoughts — August 17, 2018

It’s hard to believe that we’re already into the middle of August.

After one of the hottest weekends of the summer last weekend in the Northland, I’m ready for a long, comfortable Duluth, Minnesota autumn!

Thank you for checking out my random thoughts.


It’s bad enough to have to look at 45 and listen to his ramblings with the traditional trite catch phrases, “witch hunt”, “crooked Hillary”, or “fake news”.

Well, last week, CNN ran a story comparing the approval rating of  “that man” vs. President Barack Obama.


But, Junior, that’s Donald Jr. posted a fake image on his Instagram page with 45’s job approval rating at 50% instead of the actual 40%!

Don Jr..JPG

After being called out numerous times, he finally deleted it last Friday.

FAKE NEWS in the 45 White House circle of hell is alive and well!


I’ve only been to the movies twice this year.

In January, I saw “Call Me By Your Name” and in March, I went to see “Love, Simon”.  I highly recommend both of them!

But, today, I’m indulging with a large popcorn, a Coke Zero, and “Crazy Rich Asians”!


I first mentioned the movie in my blog last November when I was crushing on 31-year-old British-Malaysian actor Henry Golding, the lead in the movie.

Henry Golding

A couple of months ago, I wrote, “I think ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ could be the new ‘Pretty Woman’!  Well, without Julia Roberts and turning tricks in Los Angeles!

I’m so excited to see MUCH MORE of Henry Golding and the chemistry between his character, Nick Young and Rachel (Constance Wu).

Also, I hear that Goh Peik Lin (played by Awkwafina), Rachel’s Singaporean college best friend, is hilarious.”


The world lost music legend Aretha Franklin Thursday after a lengthy battle with cancer.  She was 76.  Her family and friends were with her when she passed on.


Franklin got her start singing in her father’s Detroit church.

She scored her first hit in 1960 on the Billboard R&B chart when “When I Sing The Blues” reached #10.

That was the first of 81 hits she charted on R&B charts.  Of those, 52 reached the Top Ten, with 37 making the Top 5!

On the R&B chart, she had 20 number one hits.

Meanwhile, on the Billboard Hot 100 (which combines all music), she scored 43 hits with 17 making it to the Top 5.

She had two #1 hits on the Hot 100:  1967’s “Respect” and 1987’s “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)”, with George Michael.

My three favorite Aretha songs were “Chain of Fools” at #3, “Freeway of Love” at #2, and this one is my favorite.

Aretha’s duet with George Michael, “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” was also my favorite of all of Michael’s hits, too!

Franklin also picked up 17 Grammy Awards for her recordings and thee more Special Grammy Awards!


On this date, August 16, we lost the “King” Elvis Presley in 1977 and the “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin in 2018.

On a happier note, the “Queen of Pop” Madonna was born in 1958!

Elvis Aretha Madonna

Happy 60th Madonna!

In her honor, here are my all-time favorite Madonna songs.  I’ll be your jukebox today!


While I still haven’t seen two of the Best Actress performances from the 90th Academy Awards, I have to say that Annette Benning was robbed of an Oscar nomination in “Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool”.

Jamie Bell was equally deserving.

This romantic dramedy is about the love affair of an older woman and a younger man and is based on the true story of actress Gloria Grahame.

While Grahame won an Oscar in 1952 for “The Bad and the Beautiful”, many people probably know her best as Violet Bick from 1946’s “It’s a Wonderful Life”.  (Yes, the staple of Christmas television!)


Bening was fantastic as Grahame and it’s great to see Jamie Bell all grown up and sexy!

I loved him, when barely a teenager, in his movie debut, 2000’s incredible “Billy Elliot”.

And, it was fun seeing him reunited with Julie Walters (“Mamma Mia”), who played his dance teacher in “Billy Elliot” and his mother in “Film Stars”.



If you’re looking for a new series to binge watch on Netflix, check out the latest from Michael C. Hall, who played adorable serial killer, “Dexter” on Showtime for eight seasons.


I still have the biggest crush on Hall!  I was very fortunate to see him “off Broadway” in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” in New York City in January 2015.


In “Safe”, an eight episode series, Hall plays an English doctor who goes on the search for his teenage daughter when she and her hot boyfriend go missing.

It’s filled with many twists and turns and the conclusion is a shocker!





Back in 1990, I spent the summer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and unbeknownst then, a menacing serial killer was praying on young men in the city.

When the timeline of Jeffrey Dahmer’s killing spree, complete with cannibalism and lobotomies, came to light, I had been in Club 219 two nights before Dahmer picked up one of his victims!

Jeffrey Dahmer.jpg

Who knows, he might have been creeping around in the corner of that seedy bar that night!


There have been several movies released about Dahmer.

“Dahmer” (2002) with Jeremy Renner playing the serial killer is a little bit better than this one, but it’s not great either.

“My Friend Dahmer” focuses on the high school years of Dahmer in Ohio, with Ross Lynch of Disney Channel fame, playing a teenage Dahmer.

While Lynch is convincing, Anne Heche’s performance as his unstable mother is a bit much to take — too comical.



Watching “My Friend Dahmer”, I did learn something that I didn’t know.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that Jimmy Carter is my favorite president.

While on a high school trip to Washington D.C., Dahmer called the White House and talked his way into a tour and even got to meet Vice President Walter Mondale.


That isn’t the only strange occurrence during the Carter White House years with a serial killer.

In a turn of events that’s much more widely known, First Lady Rosalynn Carter was photographed with John Wayne Gacy in May 1978 for his part in the annual Polish Constitution Day Parade in Chicago.

Rosalynn Gacy.jpg

Around Christmas 1978, Gacy was arrested and eventually convicted of killing 33 young men and boys outside Chicago.  He buried many in his house in the crawl space.


He was also known for dressing up as a clown, thus earning the nickname “Killer Clown”.


We know the story of the Kennedy curse:  Joe was killed fighting in World War II and John and Bobby were assassinated, so it was up to Ted to get to the White House.

But, on a fateful summer night near Martha’s Vineyard, those dreams almost disappeared in an alcohol-induced accident that left Mary Jo Kopechne , who worked on Bobby’s 1968 campaign, dead.

If you liked Kennedy, this movie definitely won’t make you like him any more.  If you already disliked him, you’ll like him even less.



I’ll admit for all his faults, Ted Kennedy did a lot for us in his almost 47 years as Senator.


However, I’ll never forgive him for making a run in 1980 for the Democratic nomination for president.

While dealing with the Iranian hostage situation and the faltering economy, this definitely hurt sitting President Jimmy Carter that spring and gave Ronald Reagan the advantage he needed.


With all the craziness in the world, make it the best in your little part of it!


I’ll Let You In On A Secret!

“I’m tired of living day-to-day and hand-to-mouth/This could be the day I finally find my way out”

“I’m gonna climb that mountain high/I’m gonna see what’s on the other side/I’m gonna kiss this town good-bye/I’m gonna climb that mountain”

“How I arrived here, heaven only knows/Seems more like the kind of place the devil would’ve chose…I know somewhere down the road my dreams will come true”

“Climb That Mountain High” is from Reba McEntire’s 1990 album, “Rumor Has It”.  It was one of the first CDs I bought and my first from Reba!

That song has always been a beacon of encouragement for me.  It was there when I was looking to launch my television news career and every time I was awaiting my next move.

I’ve been listening to the song again daily for weeks now!


Almost a year ago (in “Change”), I shared details of some big changes in my life that would take me to Panama City, Florida, “So, as much as I love Midwestern snows, I’m trading it all in for the occasional hurricane and tropical storm!”


What the hell was I thinking — giving up snow and four distinct seasons?

In my “Christmas Update” blog on December 18, 2017, I pontificated, “I’m miserable… life is too short to feel this way and if things don’t change soon, I’ll make a change for myself and not just accept a “Band-Aid” to cover something that needs more attention – my happiness.”

In a talk after the holidays with my fantastic news director Tom Lewis, he agreed that life’s too short to be unhappy.  I said I’d start looking to return to Midwest and if I didn’t find a job, I’d be gone by Halloween!

In February, I contacted some stations across Illinois to try to get back closer to my sister and my friends in the Quad Cities, where I spent 11.5 years before the ill-fated move to Florida.

Sadly, there were no openings and many “we’ll keep you in mind when we have a position available”.

“CHANGE 2.0”


In television news, like most professions, talent and experience are major factors to be considered.  However, timing and luck also play huge roles.

I contacted a station about an opening that was posted just after Thanksgiving.  I wondered why, four months later, the position wasn’t filled.

It turns out they were not in any hurry to fill the position and were waiting for the right person.

And, now back to that “timing and luck”.

The news director was at the end of his search.  He and I started corresponding and eight days later, I was offered the job and I accepted it.

My friends, in June, I’ll be the Chief Meteorologist at the Fox affiliate in Duluth, Minnesota, seven hours north of the Quad Cities.

I’m getting my four distinct seasons and my snow back!

From Wikipedia: “At 85″ per year, the port city of Duluth has the highest average snowfall total of any city in Minnesota”!

Two last weather notes:  I’ll have to get used to the bitter cold again.  The record low there is -41°, but it’s never reached 100° (97° is the record high).

I honestly feel like George Bailey in Bedford Falls at Christmas in “It’s A Wonderful Life”! Pottersville (Panama City, for me) was just an alternate universe!

Bedford Falls.gif

While some love it here and many love visiting the beaches (they think Panama City and Panama City Beach are the same), I just didn’t connect with the area.

At the beginning, from a dating standpoint, I wasn’t looking for anything since I was still reeling from the big changes in my personal life.

But, not one date in a year!!!

I’m now at the point where I’m ready to find my knight on a white horse like Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman”).

“I would pretend I was a princess, trapped in the tower by a wicked queen. And then suddenly, this knight, on a white horse, with these colors flying, would come charging up and draw his sword… and I would wave, and he would climb up the tower, and rescue me.”

PW 1.gif

PW 2.gif

However, I did find two dear friends here — Cathy and Gerard Rifenburg.

Cathy founded the Panama City PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) chapter.


A month after I moved here, they graciously invited me to a function they were hosting at their house.

Since then, we’ve enjoyed dinners and parties together, including Christmas Day.

Cathy and Gerard, I’ll miss you dearly.

Another highlight of my move to Florida was an early Sunday morning road trip last July to Plains, Georgia, to meet my childhood idols, President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter!

Autograph Carters

One thing I definitely won’t miss — this mentality! (Disclaimer: I know not everyone fits into this category!)


By the way (and this had no influence in my decision, but it makes me happy), Minnesota has only voted “red” once in my life time!

In 1972, it went along with 48 other states to re-elect Richard Nixon.  Yes, Reagan and Trump lost Minnesota!

So, I’ll proudly display my faded sticker on my car. (I did so in “red” Bay County, Florida, too!)



My 12 Favorite Christmas Movies

If there are “12 Days of Christmas”, 12 apostles of Jesus, 12 signs in the zodiac, and the Beatles released 12 studio albums, why should my countdown of favorites Christmas movies be cut down to the Top Ten?  So, my friends, here are my 12 favorite Christmas (or holiday) movies.  Keep in mind that there are many that I still haven’t seen and some may be a stretch to include them as Christmas.






Batman Returns



Holiday Heart



A Diva's Christmas Carol


“HOME ALONE” (1990)






“GREMLINS” (1984)




Rare Exports



The Houseboy Cover

(Disclaimer:  *Trailer contains adult language and images –R-rated*)





“PRANCER” (1989)





I know that you probably haven’t heard of some of my picks.  I hope you checked out the trailers.  Are any of these on your favorites’ list?  If not, what is your favorite?

Merry Christmas!


It’s Not a Holly Jolly Christmas For Everyone

The shimmering snow, the sparkle of Christmas lights, the joy of family and friends gathering and laughing, and holiday classics blasting on the radio may bring delight to those that love the Christmas season.

But, this time of the year is not necessarily “The Most Wonderful Time of The Year” and some people don’t see it as a “Holly Jolly Christmas”.


No, I’m not depressed over the loss of my job or despondent over our first Christmas without Miss ABBA.  I have so many cherished memories of  her that she is still with us.  And, I’m fortunate enough to have loved ones that I’m getting to go on a fantastic Christmas cruise with next week.

However, I know that all is not “merry and bright” for many people who feel they have very little to live for or to be thankful for.  And, this is why I’m talking about it today and I hope that you’ll continue reading.

A Christmas Carol

In Charles Dickens’ holiday classic, “A Christmas Carol”, Scrooge is visited by the “Ghost of Christmas Past”.  He’s not alone.  A lot of us are also visited by the ghosts of loved ones that have gone before us.

Many people think that suicide rates skyrocket during Christmas.  There are many studies that prove that is not the case.  However, in 2010, more than 38,000 Americans committed suicide (that’s 105 a day) and another estimated one million people in the U.S. attempted to take their own life.  Men are much more likely to end their life (79%).  And, suicide is the third leading cause of death of people ages 15-24, but in the 25-34 age range, it moves up to second.

The reality, and the point I want to make, is that one suicide or one attempt is one too many!


Holiday or not, if you, or someone you suspect, might be thinking of doing something irrational, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Trevor Project

There’s also the Trevor Project, a national organization that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth. That number is:



George Bailey

In this scene from one of the most iconic,  holiday standards, “It’s A Wonderful Life”, George Bailey, a man who put his dreams on the back burner to keep the family business alive and to raise his own family, reached the point on Christmas Eve that he thought that everyone would be better off if he were dead.  He was ready to jump off a bridge and end his life.

Clarence, an angel working on getting his wings, was sent down from heaven to try to prevent that tragedy.


The movie is a true tear-jerker.  I cry each time I watch it.  It’s not George’s attempted suicide that gets to me, it’s this note from Clarence that turns on the water works for me.


There are other holiday movies that I absolutely love that are mostly sad.  “Prancer” is one of them.


This 1989 movie tells the story of a young girl, Jessica, trying to be happy at Christmas following the death of her mother.  Her father has fallen on hard times and he wants Jessica to go live with her aunt because he feels she could offer the youngster a better life.

One day, she discovers an injured deer and is convinced that it’s one of Santa’s and that she must get it well in time for Christmas.

At one point, Jessica threatens to run away from home and even wishes she were dead.  Pretty heavy stuff for an 8-year-old!

It’s a must-see movie.

The Houseboy Cover

And, since 2008, there’s also another bleak movie that I watch several times each season.  Some people may be put off just by the provocative cover of “The Houseboy”.

The movie focuses on Ricky, a young man living in New York City.  In the opening scene, we learn that he’s in a relationship as the third person in a couple’s long-term relationship and the couple wants a “new toy”.  Ricky is no longer wanted.

He’s also estranged from his family back in North Carolina after he came out to them at Thanksgiving.  In a phone conversation, his religious sister gives him the “love the sinner, just not the sin” speech and that she doesn’t know if his mother would ever accept Ricky being gay.

When the couple goes away to Los Angeles for the week, Ricky is left to house sit and take care of the cats, the hamsters, the rabbits, the fish, and water the Christmas tree.

To Ricky, who is despondent over the rejection from his family and, now, his gay “surrogate” family, the only solution is to kill himself on Christmas Eve by overdosing on a bowl of pills.

The Houseboy

As we watch Ricky’s depression build that week up to that fateful decision to end it all on Christmas Eve, we see him engage in unprotected casual sex and being used by others just for them to have a place for a drug-fueled orgy.  In one haunting scene, Ricky talks to a tweaked out kid writing his mother’s phone number on his foot with a marker in case he overdoses, they’d know who to call.

Phone Number

“The Houseboy” is very thought-provoking and I know many people will never see it because it’s a gay movie with drugs and promiscuous sex.  And, that’s a shame, because it does have a subplot like “It’s A Wonderful Life” that features hot chocolate and mistletoe that will leave you with a smile and a sigh of relief after almost 80 minutes of sadness.


We even find sadness permeating in many holiday songs.  There’s Elvis’ classic, “Blue Christmas”, Willie Nelson sings about homelessness in “Pretty Paper”, and Reba sings about divorce in “Santa Claus Is Coming Back To Town”.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Why did I include, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” here?  That’s cheery, right?

When the song was written for the 1944 musical, “Meet Me In St. Louis”, Judy Garland and others on the movie said the song’s original lyrics were depressing.  They asked writer Hugh Martin to change some of the lyrics to make it happier.

One of the changes was “It may be your last/Next year we may all be living in the past”  became “Let your heart be light/Next year all our troubles will be out of sight”.

Band Aid Cover

In November 1984, a group of mostly English musicians got together to record a song, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia, a country located in eastern Africa.  From 1983-1985, it’s estimated that 8 million people were affected by famine brought on by drought conditions and war and that about one million of them died from starvation.


The superstar recording organized by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure included Boy George, Culture Club, Duran Duran, George Michael, Spandau Ballet, Sting, Bono, U2, Paul Young, Phil Collins, Bananarama, Jody Watley, Kool & The Gang, Kiss, Marilyn, Holly Johnson of Frankie Goes To Hollywood, and many others.

The song topped the charts in many countries and the following summer, a concert, Live Aid, continued to raise money for famine relief.  Sadly, it’s estimated that more than 56,000 tons of food sent to Africa rotted because it couldn’t get to people desperately needing it.

Five years later, another recording of the song by Band Aid II was released and it hit #1 and raised more money.  And, Band Aid 20, in 2004, did the same.  But, neither of the last two re-recordings reached the success of the original.

“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” is still one of my all-time favorites.  The lines “And it’s a world of dreaded fear/Where the only water flowing is a bitter sting of tears/And the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom/Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you /And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas time/The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life” still give me chills today.

If you’re still reading this, I appreciate it.  It isn’t one of my most bubbly, fun blogs.  However, it’s a reality faced by many.

christmas lights

So, when you’re out and about and you pass someone on the streets or in the stores (it should be everyday and not just at the holidays), smile and say, “hello”.  That simple act of kindness may be that person’s lifeline.