Financial Fast coincides with plans to clean, count blessings

OK. So now, Michelle Singletary is psychic.

Well, that’s not true. But it felt that way last night when I began reading Chapter 6 of the 21-Day Financial Fast, which coincides with DAY 6 of the fast the Washington Post columnist is leading people on across the country.

Screen Shot 2014-01-18 at 12.09.35 PMI had had a great DAY 5, and was up late. So I began reading Chapter 6 early.

I need to read Chapter 6 every day – even when this fast ends. Its title: You Can’t Buy Contentment. Its purpose: Reminding us to be content with and thankful for what we have.

I was already on that road. As I searched my closets for something to wear to a gala, I stopped for a minute and saw all the stuff I had. And I felt overwhelming guilt that I had not been thankful enough for what’s already in my house.

The gala went great, and as I sat having a cup of coffee, I was happy. But it didn’t last long because I began whining in my head about what I couldn’t do Saturday.

Saturdays are my favorite day.  Saturdays are the day that, no matter what, I get to choose what I’m doing. There is no activity already on the calendar, no work, no meetings, no plans.

I usually have a great lunch somewhere outside my house, alone or with friends – and I go to the movies. My daughter and I used to go to the movies on Friday nights. We’d see movies as soon as they premiered. When she grew up, I continued to do that like it would kill me to hear conversations Saturday about a  movie I hadn’t seen. And I began preferring to go alone most times  (I’m one of those people who cannot stand conversations in theaters. I think there should be fines).

hr_Jack_Ryan-_Shadow_Recruit_14I had already begun to whine in my head about not being able to see the new Jack Ryan movie. And that lemon artichoke tilapia that I love at a nearby restaurant? It was calling me!

But, I told myself, the movie will be playing for at least a month and will show up on the DVR. And the restaurant will still be open in February. (Thank you, God, for giving me a moment of clarity about why I’m doing this fast in the first place).

So I decided I’d keep myself busy Saturday by cleaning house, getting rid of stuff  I didn’t in December when I normally take bags and bags of things to the Salvation Army.

I kept reading. And there on Page 85 of Michelle’s book was a remedy for a lack of contentment and a great way to remember what you have.

“Clean every room.”

I stopped reading, told Michelle to get out of my head, and went to bed.

But today, that is what I’m doing. Between breaks for Facebook and Twitter and coffee, I’m doing an inventory of all I own and what could be blessing someone else’s life now.

Michelle suggested making an inventory, but I don’t want to waste that much paper.

But I’ll tell you this: I’m going to need bigger bags.


I’ll Be There for “Die Hard 10!”

I’ve said it before – and it doesn’t matter who agrees: Bruce Willis knows what he’s doing. Unlike actors who could care less what we fans want (Zac Efron leaving high school, Denzel Washington becoming a crooked cop, Willis knows that no matter what he does, his career began with “Die Hard.” No, not “Moonlighting” (although what he did was take David Allison out of Maddie’s arms and into a New York precinct.

Willis has range. Some of his best roles came in films with great character and unusual names – 2003’s “Tears of the Sun” (when he was a special-ops commander rescuing a doctor and 70 unexpected refugees from a Nigerian jungle) and the brilliant “16 Blocks” (when he was a veteran cop escorting witness Mos Def to from a police precinct to a courthouse while bad guys tried to kill them in every block).

But no Willis character has endeared him to the public as much as John McClane, the gun-toting, fun-loving, whining hero who saves the world once a year.

So the moment I heard the release date for “Die Hard 5,” I marked my calendar. Yes, I’m among those awaiting “Die Hard 5” the way some kids are waiting for the next “Twilight” movie. I can’t get enough of John McClane – and I, for one, am thrilled that Wills, who could eschew action films, hasn’t forgotten his roots, appreciates action and has at least four shoot-em-ups coming down the pike. His fans appreciate it. No, we really appreciate it.

So for those actors who don’t get it, don’t care and think they’re too good to do popular films, they should learn a lesson from Liam Neeson, whose 2008 “Taken” was such an unexpected blockbuster that Liam Neeson gave us action fans new lexicon “I have a very particular set of skills.”

They should learn a lesson from Robert Downey Jr., perhaps America’s greatest actor under 50. (Morgan Freeman and Robert Duvall still rule the over 50 set.)  Downey donned an “Iron Man” suit, and as I sat in the theater on opening day, I knew it would be huge, possibly the biggest film of the year, perhaps the decade.

And they can learn a thing or two from Willis, who puts his fans first and keeps doing “Die Hards” because we, his fans, want them.  Because he works for us, he’ll be running the long race – and we’ll be right there beside him.

Or in the center row in the center of the theater, where I’ll be sitting for “Die Hard 10.”

Thanks, Bruce.





New “Muppet Movie” for children of all ages; grouches need not attend

Folks – you know, those people who determine pop culture – will say that the best moment of “The Muppets” is when Academy Award-winning actor Chris Cooper breaks out into rap, sort of like that moment when Tom Cruise, playing nasty studio exec Les Grossman, begins rapping in “Tropic Thunder.”

But there were two better and more important moments for me when I saw it Saturday evening in a theatre full of parents and kids – and one grumpy couple.

One, near the movie’s end, was when Kermit sat in a sliver of moon and began singing my favorite song . . .

“Why are there so many songs about rainbows
and what’s on the other side? . . .

I couldn’t believe the lump that rose in my throat as I listened to a song that was more than three decades old.

“Rainbows are visions, but only illusions,
and rainbows have nothing to hide.”

I had gone to see the movie for the same reason that I had dragged my daughter to “Aladdin” and “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King” and “Finding Nemo” – because I love fantasy and magic and the color of rainbows – even if she just tolerated them.

“So we’ve been told and some choose to believe it.
I know they’re wrong, wait and see.”

I wanted to connect her with the beauty of escape and to feel what I did as I’ve gone to the movies for so long: Film can take you anywhere you want to be and some places you didn’t even know you wanted to do.

“Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection.
The lovers, the dreamers and me.”

The great Paul Williams and Kenny Asher co-wrote the “The Rainbow Connection” for the first “Muppet Movie.” It was nominated for an Academy Award in 1979 for Best Song. Williams later spoke with great reverence about the song, which opened and closed the film:

“It’s one of two favorite songs I’ve written in my life, and oddly, they’re both from The Muppet Movie. (The other is “I’m Going to Go Back There Someday.”) When we started working on the film, Kenny and I and Jim (Henson) and Jerry Juhl (the late Muppets head writer) all agreed that we had to establish Kermit’s soul from the very beginning. And to do that, he has to ponder some big questions. Kenny and I began to write this song — the song addresses that inner voice that tells Kermit he can try to do these big things. Then Jerry Juhl did this great thing in the script at the end, when the stage explodes and the end of the rainbow appears — the actual “rainbow connection.” That’s the proof of the whole Muppet philosophy.”

There is a Muppet philosophy, one that is endearing and has stood the test of time since Jim Henson created the puppets to delight children with the simplicity of niceness. Jason Segel, the 31-year-old “How I Met Your Mother” actor led the revival of the Muppets franchise, which lay dormant since the last film 12 years ago. He gets it.

“I wanted … this movie to bring them back where they belonged, back to the forefront of comedy,” he said in news reports. “They should have been making movies this whole time — grand, song and dance films with numbers like they had in the old MGM musicals.”

The movie’s premise is simple and won’t be revealed here. Something happens. The Muppets have to fix it. Mayhem ensues. All is well in the end.

Which brings me to that other great moment Saturday night: At movie’s end, after the songs and dancing and laughter and adult inside-jokes, in a theater filled with teary-eyed parents and happy children, the grumpy couple stood, and the guy, a tall-white haired version of Orson Bean with glasses, pronounced quite loudly: “That was the worst movie ever.”

Within seconds, a beautiful little brunette who appeared to be eight, or nine years old and who had been sitting one row in front of him, took him on. The little one, who had spent an afternoon reveling in magic and rainbows, turned around and said: That was the best movie ever!”

I was so proud of her. I wanted to give her a hug, but I didn’t want to be arrested. I wanted to give him a shake, but I didn’t want to be arrested.

It took everything in me not to ask him why he’d come to a feel-good movie for people who want to feel good and try to ruin it for everyone else.

It took everything in me not to chastise him (while walking away quickly), and say, “Shame on you for doing that!”

But then I realized that he probably wouldn’t get it. And most of the children – and their parents ignored him. They had just sung along with Kermit and a roomful of people. They had participated in a moment that has been happening for 30 years.

They had experienced joy.

That grouch will have to wait – and I hope it doesn’t come too late – to hear and feel the magic for himself. The children in the theater, all of them, of all ages, did:

“Have you been half asleep and have you heard voices?
I’ve heard them calling my name.

“Is this the sweet sound that called the young sailors.
The voice might be one and the same.

“I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it.
It’s something that I’m supposed to be.

“Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection.
The lovers, the dreamers and me.”

Thank you, Jim – and Kermit and Miss Piggy and Animal and Camilla the Chicken and Fozzie and Gonzo and Oscar and Scooter and the newest Muppet, Walter, and everyone else.