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I saw the new Dark Shadows movie the other day.  I really don’t know why it isn’t doing better.  But then again, I don’t always go with the crowd.  I thought it was fabulous!  And several days later, it’s still making me feel good.

The opening was a quick recap of how Barnabas Collins became a vampire, for those who don’t know. It set us up for an eerie, gothic tale.

However, I laughed out loud several times, had a couple of laughing fits and smiled quite bit.  Even days later.

It was a big picture with stunning interiors and breathtaking exteriors.

There was a love story, too.  Although the emphasis was more on Barnabas and Angelique, rather than his true love, Josette.  He and Angelique had a much funnier relationship.

I have to admit there were some liberties taken with characters and story line, from the original.  But it’s pretty difficult to contain the story developed through a 5-year soap, or even the very amusing 90’s series with 14 episodes.

As always Johnny Depp made Barnabas his own and was completely mesmerizing. (Though I am a little partial to anything he does.)  He wasn’t the engaging Jonathan Frid, nor the sensual Ben Cross.  He was elegant and strong, passionate and loyal. And he was very funny.  These previous Barnabas Collins never had a lot of trouble adjusting to life 200 years in the future.  Set in 1972, Tim Burton’s Dark Shadow of 2012 had lots of fun with the era and Barnabas’ perplexed responses.

Helena Bonham Carter did a great job with the very different Dr. Julia Hoffman.  In other versions she was an intellectual and reserved doctor who was the only one to share Barnabas’ secret.  This incarnation was a worthless drunkard.

Some of the story twists were a bit contrived or out of nowhere.  But I was having such a good time it didn’t bother me at all.

A special feature that I missed on this first viewing was the addition of several actors from the original series, appearing as guests at the Collins’ ball.  Including the recently deceased, Jonathan Frid.

Perhaps its less than stellar box office performance  is because the movie is hard to pin down.  All I know is that I enjoyed every moment of it and still feel delighted when I think of it!

One side note on the negative slant:  After this experience at a movie theater, we have decided that it’s too expensive for what you get.  With a wide screen digital TV at home and a substantial audio system, the picture and sound are better in our living room.  Plus, it’s more comfortable at home and the movie can be paused for bathroom breaks or snacks.  I won’t have to pay $4.75 for tap water in a plastic bottle! Absolutely criminal. Nor will I fork over ridiculous prices to get on.  There will be no trying to shut out anyone talking around me.  Next time, I’m going to wait for the DVD.

So I’m reading a new book.  Not sure where it came from.  A used book store, I’m guessing.  It’s called “Excuse Me, Your Life is Waiting,” by Lynn Grabhorn.  Ms. Grabhorn has a dry wit which keeps the words flowing. However, I’ve only just started the book. 

It’s clearly (and with props) based on the work of Jerry and Esther Hicks.  The Hicks, I believe, were the very first to bring attention to the masses of the Law of Attraction.

Lynn begins her book by talking about the key factor in this process: Your Feelings.  Our thoughts create our feelings, but our emotions are the mechanism for the attraction. What we put out, exude (or our vibration, as Lynn calls it) is what attracts the people and situations to our lives.

Thoughts are where it begins and ends.  Once the emotion takes hold, it’s very hard to make it stop. I’ve watched myself on a streak of “bad luck” when my feelings have taken a dive.  Awareness is good, but it may well be too late.  Thoughts are much easier to control.

Awareness of your emotions can sometimes lead you back to the thought.  I’ve been practicing, lately, working on the thoughts to keep them from exploding into emotion.  I’m using my Favorite Things. Whenever I’m feeling a little low, or more likely, when something happens that upsets me, I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so bad.

Technically, what happens is that I truly do feel better and cut off the destructive path of the out of control feelings.  I am calmer and exude less of that static.  This keeps my emotions and the situation from getting out of hand.

It only takes a moment’s awareness and perhaps 30 seconds (maybe as much as a minute if it’s really bad) of thinking over my list:  sunny days, soft breezes, a cup of tea, Roger Howarth, Johnny Depp, having all day to write, weekend mornings, a great film, a cool drink of water . . .  you need to make your own list so they can get you vibrating at a higher level!

May I tell you the story I saw unfold in the 2010 Alice in Wonderland movie? Now, if I read the book, it was too many years ago to remember.  I consider myself a bit of an expert on movies, but when it comes to anything at all that Johnny Depp is in, I tend to lean in the direction of loving it.  (Even if it’s not my kind of movie.)  I loved this movie.  It was beautiful to behold. And the technology was astounding.  Johnny was flawless as the Mad Hatter and Mia Wasikowska as Alice brought a fresh muchness to the role. Everyone was spectacular.  It was an enjoyable movie.

But let me tell you what I heard  ~

“All the best people are mad,” young Alice’s father tells her after a bad dream.  “Don’t be frightened.  No one can hurt you there.” 13 years later, she continues to have the same dream, but now she is off to a garden party and is not properly dressed.  Who says?  Alice wants to know.  Like many of us, she wonders if she’s normal. She can smile even if she doesn’t wear a corset and stockings.  And she can dance the appropriate dances. She fits in.

Her father was known as a man of vision. But that is not necessarily an admirable quality in Alice’s world. When Alice chuckles at a vision she has of the boys dancing in dresses and the girls dancing in pants, her boyfriend scoffs and says, “Keep your visions to yourself. When in doubt, remain silent.” He wonders why she would spend her time thinking about impossible things.  Alice retorts that her recently departed father believed in doing 6 impossible things before breakfast.

It’s no wonder that the easily distractable Alice follows the funny-looking rabbit with the waistcoat on.  In doing so she sees things, sees through the illusions of the people in her life. Then she falls down a hole, just like in her dream.

She does what needs to be done in the present moment.  She tries things.  She tells herself it’s only a dream, so why not?  She is brave because she knows no one can hurt her. The question in Underland (or “Wonderland” as she calls it) is “Who are you?” Isn’t that what we all must discover?

Alice is used to dreaming and being a dreamer. So she takes all this strangeness in stride. She moves forward, toward her destiny, though she doesn’t know what it is.  She just keeps doing what she has to do and making choices in the moment.

The Mad Hatter tells her she’s “lost her muchness.”  Alice doesn’t know what that is, but she’s darn sure she still has her muchness and she’s going to prove it!  But she balks that, in Underland (as it is on the surface) everyone tells her what she must do and who she must be.  “I make the path!” she shouts.  “I decide where it will go from here.”  She’s going to decide who she is. She doesn’t feel right letting anyone else tell her what she thinks or what she should do.

Alice moves along with confidence that it’s a dream, but also that she makes her own reality. She has a level of comfort because, though this all looks very odd, it is somehow familiar to her.  She has been here before. There is an ease about her that allows her to make good choices, or turn and make another if it’s not the right one.

In the final showdown with the Jabberwocky, she agrees to fight for what she thinks is right.  She makes mistakes in the battle, but she keeps on going.  She lists for herself 6 impossible things:  A caterpillar that talks, a cat that flies, etc.  Her 6th impossible thing is that she defeats the Jabberwocky.  And that’s exactly what she does. 

Now, she is ready to face the people in the “real” world.  She is ready for anything.  Her journey through Underland showed her what she’s made of and that what she thinks and feels is real and important.

I can only hope to be more like Alice in Wonderland.

In SARK’s Toy Chest, there are many shining, brightly colored toys.  Today I’d like to talk about “Invite Someone Dangerous to Tea – Who have you wanted to meet, but haven’t yet?”

One thing I love about SARK’s toys is that they are expandable and customizable.  They are easy to infuse with your own magic.

You can use this simple tool with people you’d like to meet, but also potential bosses or dates.  Perhaps a troublesome mother-in-law, a much-missed, passed-on relative, an ideal candidate.  Since it’s in your head (or on paper) it can be anyone you please.  You can add other facets to it, if you like, by setting it in some exotic location, or having it last into cocktail time, as I did.

My first experience with “Invite Someone Dangerous to Tea” was in “SARK’s Journal and Play! Book.”  I pull this delightful book out whenever I feel a need for colorful expression. (Bet I can’t go through one post about SARK and not use the word “delightful” at least once.)

One day I decided to have Johnny Depp to tea ~  I’m going to serve a good Earl Grey.  (With some Amaretto aside for a kick, if he chooses.)  I’ll set out some fresh fruit and biscotti.  Maybe a selection of Pepperidge Farm cookies.  There must be music playing.  The Beatles, I think, or George Harrison’s, “All Things Must Pass.”  We shall sit inside, in high backed, comfortable chairs, with lovely views and perhaps breezes now and then.

He is warm and gracious at our meeting.  I start by asking after his children, to put him at ease. That I have not invited him here for anything nefarious. We can talk of the beautiful mother of his children and his wonderful life.  I compliment him on his amazing career and body of work.

I want to know about his music. (He is a musician, though little is said of it.)  What does he like?  Would he play a little guitar for me?   And sing?   The discussion will easily spill into writing.  (He once said he’d like to be a writer.)  We will find some unusual things we have in common.  Like our birthdays.

Time passes quickly and I’m glad I have a bottle of my favorite Bohemian Highway, Cabernet Sauvignon nearby.  We graduate to glasses of wine and pretzels to nibble.  The talk gets more intense, sparkled by more laughter.

All too soon he sighs and says he’s had a great time, but he has to go.  He asks me for a piece of paper, so he can leave his e-mail address. He wants to stay in touch.  He wants to read my book.  He thanks me several times, kisses my forehead and then disappears into the ever-encroaching night

Wow!  I loved that.  He doesn’t feel so dangerous, anymore.

Play with this toy at your pleasure.  It can bring endless hours of fun and growth!

In “Conversations with God, Book 1,” by Neale Donald Walsch, God says, “If there was such a thing as sin, this would be it: to allow yourself to become what you are because of the experience of others.”

This is such an amazing piece of information! On the surface it says, not to take anyone else’s word for anything. Parents, teachers, preachers all try to fill our heads with notions. Even when our experience differs from what they say, we are reluctant to make them wrong.

It goes further, though, in saying that we use what others say to define who and what we are. That I’m only a “good writer” if X number of people approve of me. Or I make X number of dollars. The truth is, no one else can decide if I am being true to myself. No one else’s judgement defines how I write or what kind of writer I am. In the end it is my evaluation that counts.

I watched a Biography of Johnny Depp. The thing that‘s always struck me about Johnny is that he doesn’t let anyone define him. He has always taken the roles he wanted, not the roles that would make him the famous or wealthy. And then he just pours his heart and joy into his work. Whether it is being a musician, an actor or a father, his love of what he does shines through. When people tried to define him, he acted out or took a role that surprised everyone and shattered what they thought they knew about him.

I believe we can all more fully express who we are if we keep our own counsel. Make our own decisions about what’s important, what we believe, what our standards are.

In “Conversations with God,” God tells us that we can’t sin against a God who has everything. If He has no need for us to be or do anything in particular, how can He deem one thing wrong and one right. Commandments are like guidelines for how we can live more peacefully with each other – something we all say we want to do.

To say so clearly that the only way we can sin is to dishonor our own experience is too profound for words. Not everyone agrees with this. But surely we can see how powerful it can be to live this way.

From the book Wishcraft, by Barbara Sher.

Stylesearch is a long one. 6 exercises in all. So I’m going to break it in two.

Barbara starts us out slowly with the “Pick a Color” game. The exercise is to write about being the color. I am Lavender. I’m a little girl’s bedroom. I’m lacy and pretty. Soft and gentle. I like to surround others in a cool embrace. Draped in Lavender, I am sensitive and caring. I’m a writer, so I make stuff up and am never satisfied. So, I did another, deciding that I had initially been drawn to Orange. I am Orange. I am sunny and bright, warm and charming. I sparkle and glow. I am healthy and strong. Not quite as fun, I grant you. Her take on all this is that we choose from our style. And that it’s difficult to talk about ourselves in a positive way. This is supposed to be a description of ourselves. Otherwise, we’re labeled subjective. Or worse yet, self centered. Why is that? You’re only being objective about yourself if you criticize. Weird.

The next exercise, as we find out more about ourselves, is the “Private Eye” Game. In this, we are to take a look around our environment – our home, our office, our car – with a fresher eye. A writer in my critique group wrote a piece recently about how when you first move in somewhere, you are constantly moving things around, changing, rearranging. But eventually, you settle into a comfortable rut. In that rut it’s hard to see what is all around you. So, it’s a fun exercise to sharpen your eye and look at your surroundings in a new light.

I learned a few things about myself. There is a lot more color in my life than I realized. I tend to be loyal to a musical artist, rather than an eclectic mix of various bands. Also, I use a whole lot of paper! It’s clear I’m into spirituality with spiritual books, sacred texts and objects abounding. I see a lot of creativity in how things are arranged. There’s a deep love of family I hadn’t realized, with all the pictures. I’m also more organized than I give myself credit for. There is a fair amount of clutter, but it is well ordered. It’s a fun game that is good to do every once in a while. It also helps you to keep a cleaner house. Like how all of a sudden you notice the smudges and dust bunnies when company is coming.

Exercise 6 is “Seeing Yourself as Others See You.” I’ve had the opportunity, recently, to collect some testimonials for my new web site. So I’ve read some really nice things about me and my writing. I also have a great support team who frequently tell me what’s good about me. I can’t say, though, that I sit and listen to it, taking dictation and not discounting as Barbara suggests. I think I can arrange that, though I haven’t yet. I see this as an important piece of life that we, as a culture, discount. We should all endeavor to tell everyone what we think is so wonderful about them, all the time. Maybe we could start with one day a year – Praise Day!

Barbara offers a second version for those that are not as blessed with a team as I am, or perhaps shy about asking for such things. Instead she says, create your own cheering section. The family that you didn’t have. You may choose from anyone, living or dead, fictional or real, in your life or distant. I had a whole lot of fun with this.

I used her grid for the perfect family to create my own ~ My mother is Brenda Ueland, a marvelous writer and writing teacher who believed that there is genius in everyone. She would see the unique genius, surely, in me, her daughter and would love and respect me for it. She would encourage the writer in me and help nurture that in any way she could. She would be endlessly delighted by me and whatever I came up with next. Following me, day by day through my dreams, interests and excitements.

My father, Ian McShane, with his beautiful British accent would explain things to me. Help me explore and find out about everything from antiques, to British Parliament, to the American Goldrush, architecture or archery. He would protect me, too. And always stand up for me. A formidable man to have on your team. A King.

My brother would be Johnny Depp. He would tell me I could do anything I wanted and that I would still be loved and admired no matter what it was. A man of many talents and interests himself. Johnny always does what he’s passionate about and never lets anyone tell him he’s no good. He would teach me endless belief in myself and remind me never to listen to critics, but keep following my passion.

My sister would be Marianne Williamson, spiritual teacher extraordinaire! A beautiful woman, with a past. She knows all the heavy-hitters in this spiritual growth business and would let her little sister (I’m pretty sure I’m older than she is in real life) sit in on her meetings with these people. As long as I stay quiet and listen. As her sister, I would certainly be invited to join their circle when I was old enough. She would be there to listen to me complain, sympathize, because she’s been there, too, but never let me give up.

I needed someone to bail me out and never reproach me. That was a tricky one. I felt there needed to be an element of magic in this person, too. For he must know, intuitively, when I need him. I guess I can do whatever I want, so I chose Captain Jack Sparrow. (I am a big fan of Johnny Depp in all his forms!) Captain Jack, being rather a rogue himself, couldn’t reproach me for the innocent scrapes I get myself into. His cleverness and speed, swooping in and saving the day is just what I need.

Enjoying this so much, I got into thinking about a Nanny or babysitters. Mother Brenda is a strong, confident woman with a life of her own, so she sometimes must leave me in the care of others. Wanting to nurture my talents, I think she’d like to leave me with someone like SARK who has the biggest sense of fun I’ve ever known. What a great person to hang with as a child! There might be others, carefully chosen to provide me with fun and the proper kind of education and creative soil.

Certainly I feel surrounded by winners! These will be my cheering section to tell me what I need to hear, to go to when I’m feeling defeated or scared. I got frustrated today because I couldn’t find the e-mail address of someone I want to contact. Marianne sympathized with me that it was a drag. Who does this person think she is? A rock star? But, Marianne reminded me, even rock stars have Business Managers. Surely, I can find out how to get in touch with this person. Don’t give up! Use who you know. How cool is that?

The investigation of Stylesearch continues. Until next week.


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