FALLING SKIES (s3e7): The Pickett Line (On The Road Again)

lourdes2

“The Road Not Taken” is a popular theme in film, TV, and literature. Even in real life, we wonder what would have happened if we had turned left instead of right. We look at an accident that just occurred and wonder if that would have been us had we arrived a minute sooner. We allow someone ahead of us in a lottery line and then wonder if that gave away the winning ticket.

Even deeper, we may wonder what our life would be like if we had made a different life choices in love, school, or employment. These “what ifs” of alternate scenarios can never truly be proven but by imagining what could have been, we actually help ourselves recognize who we have actually become and possibly work out that which is troubling us.

22727_007_0094_r

Such was the case with last weeks’ FALLING SKIES. For the first time in a while, the Masons were able to be the Masons, not the 2nd Mass version but a family unit. No, they didn’t go back to school or play in the yard or go to the mall, but they did have to act as one unit again. And with this return to a focus on family, you can also see them return to the roles each had earlier in the series: Tom, protecting his brood, Ben feeling a bit like an outcast, nervous with the responsibility his “power” brings him, Hal becoming the older brother again to Matt and Matt seeming to bring revert to little bro status and follow the family.

However, the last three seasons have made that past family relationship go through some changes. Tom is now filled with self-doubt about the path he chose for himself and his family when the aliens attacked. Ben still has the alien traces on his back and is fighting the inner struggle between trading enhanced strength for a normalcy of asthma, weakness, but a life beyond 20. And Matt is growing up and there is no way to reverse that. The same desire to help, to participate exists in Matt, but with the knowledge and determination he has had to develop over the last couple of years.

redeye

With Anne and Alexis still missing and held by Skitters, Tom and his family left Charleston to try to rescue them. On the way, Ben and Tom happen upon an injured rebel skitter who warns them about an alien squad that is tracking them. The mission turns into more than a search and rescue when they are ambushed by another family that has been surviving in the woods of Georgia seemingly off the radar of the aliens.

The Picketts set up a central theme for this episode, an alternate universe version of what might have been if the Masons chose to run, not fight. This theme is a staple of film and TV, in films such as IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE and SLIDING DOORS. What if you had made one different choice that led to an entirely different life? You tend to think first of how it would affect you, but then you have to look at how it may have exponentially affected everyone you have ever come in contact with. Much of the time, these “what if” thoughts have come from moments of great stress.

wonderful297228-1020-a In IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, George Bailey starts to crack under the pressure of being essentially a nice guy that is pushed to the limit as responsibilities to family, friends, and the town of Bedford Falls start to squeeze all humanity out of him. He gets the chance to see just what life would have been like had he never been born. How that absence drives everyone’s life going forward is obviously conjecture but it does show that things would change outward, not just for you.


There is more to read. Just click here.

Advertisements

Christmas My Way (Day Five: Melancholy Santa)

I hope you made it through your Thanksgiving weekend well. If you ventured out to shop, i hope you found what you wanted without having to go to war over it. If you watched some football, I hope that your team won (My Eagles did not), and if you had Turkey on Thursday, I hope the turkey haze has dissipated by now.

Yesterday, we got a bit silly about Christmas, but today, we get a bit more melancholy. I’m going to present to you a few of my favorite holiday things and tell you why they are not all filled with comfort and joy.


First up is the holiday classic HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS, introduced by Judy Garland in the 1944 film MEET ME IN ST LOUIS. While thought of as a holiday film, ST LOUIS is actually a year in the life of a family facing the prospect of moving to a bigger city just as the rest of the world is about to come to St. Louis for the World’s Fair.

HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS , written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blaine, was originally a quite depressing rumination on enjoying that Christmas because the following year might bring changes that will never allow the same dynamic again. Don’t forget, the family in the film were faced with being uprooted from their home and moving to New York City. The setting of the song, with Tootie (Margaret O’Brien) sad about leaving, and eventually destroying the “family” of snowmen she has built.

Garland and the director , Vincente Minelli, criticized the lyrics as too depressing and new lyrics were written. Below are those original lyrics as well as the scene from MEET ME IN ST LOUIS.


Have yourself a merry little Christmas, it may be your last,
Next year we may all be living in the past
Have yourself a merry little Christmas, pop that champagne cork,
Next year we will all be living in New York.

No good times like the olden days, happy golden days of yore,
Faithful friends who were dear to us, will be near to us no more.

But at least we all will be together, if the Fates allow,
From now on we’ll have to muddle through somehow.
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.


A similar vibe exists in the song WHITE CHRISTMAS, written by Irving Berlin. Originally introduced in the film HOLIDAY INN, the song is nostalgic about Christmases past, filled with snow and the accompanying sights and sounds of winter. In the film WHITE CHRISTMAS, it seems more literal to be about the plot point that the Inn in Vermont is about to suffer a green Christmas because of the warm temperatures.

WHITE CHRISTMAS has a preamble, an opening verse that is not usually performed. This verse puts the context of living in Southern California at the holidays when you have come from a snowy climb, and waxing nostalgic for those days. These lyrics have been performed by CARPENTERS on their version.

The sun is shining, the grass is green,
The orange and palm trees sway.

There’s never been such a day
in Beverly Hills, L.A.
But it’s December the twenty-fourth,—
And I am longing to be up North—


I’LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS has the same melancholy feel, but is more wistful, filled with good memories and longing. Written in 1943, it was rumored to be about Buck Ram (the lyricist) longing as a homesick college student. Because of World War Two, it became a touching song for soldiers far from home. My favorite version is by VINCE GILL.

Finally, a note about THE Christmas movie, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Directed by Frank Capra, this is a tale of “what if”. George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) is an upstanding citizen and beloved neighbor in the town of Bedford Falls. He runs the local building and loan, started by his father. He is known to kind and caring, and always bends for those who need.

His nemesis is Henry Potter, a notorious slumlord (Potter’s Fields) and a majority shareholder in the bank. George has always but his own dreams on hold in order for others to succeed, such as passing up his own desire for a trip in order to pay for his brothers college. As the film goes along, the depression that has affected other banks has come to Bedford Falls. The Building and Loan is brought close to insolvency, but George is able to stave Potter off in his attempt to close the bank on George’s father.

George takes over, and is face again with disaster when his Uncle Billy loses a large deposit. Potter, who has found the money, instead threatens to close the bank. George starts to crack under the decades long pressure of being the “nice guy” and contemplates suicide.

At this point, he is saved by Clarence, an angel in training who was sent to try to save George. He shows George a nightmarish life that would have been had George never existed. In the end, George returns home and finds that the townspeople have come to his monetary rescue.

Capra was a hugely populist director and made many films about the triumph of the human spirit. But, if you look at most of his films, they are populated by a darkness that borders on depressing. Most people remember the final reel of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE but the film has over 90 minutes of store leading up to that final redemption that shows George beat down and driven to suicide. In the end, Potter still has the money, there is still a threat of bank examiners and troubles still exist. The happy resolution is that an angel finally gets his wings.

Pulmonary Rehab 9/1/11: Earthquakes, Hurricanes, And Steps To Climb

Note: At the end of this post are links to previous posts about my lung disease. I’ll keep these links at the end of each subsequent post or figure out how to add a Table Of Contents.

What a week, what a week.

Maybe you’ve heard? My first earthquake, and you knew it was one. We get to joke about it, sounding like a huge truck coming up the street and a flower pot ringing out but let’s face it, we are glad it wasn’t worse (though the speed of the local stations to develop over-the-top graphics and music for it was amazing).

Then came Hurricane Irene and another chance to Twitter and joke about it, but only because the worst we had around my neighborhood was a 14 hour power outage. Irene caused the most damage just when you started to think that the whole storm was a big overreaction. If you don’t believe me, just look north to Vermont.

Of course, all the blowing and shaking coincides with some updates on my pulmonary rehab and my lung disease. While nothing out of the ordinary occurred during it, much good stuff actually happened.

As of now, I am completing my 4th week of pulmonary rehab. It is starting to approach what I hoped it would accomplish. The odd thing might be that while a physical goal was part of the plan, the more abstract goal was what I really wanted the most: to be able to get some real life feel for what my limitations and abilities would be going forward.

I wanted my confidence back.

One of my biggest fears and concerns revolved around how this would affect what I used to do and experience. While I was not a world traveler by any means, I was an active participant in my professional life and a good fun friend in my personal life. I knew my stuff, I am not bashful to say. I shared that knowledge and wanted more. I shared my experiences and wanted new ones. I shared my friendship and wanted even stronger ones.

Once I was laid off and then diagnosed with NSIP, those all seemed to move far away from me, on that very uppermost shelf that you never think you can reach. The chance to experience these again seemed to no longer be an option. Confidence, focus, desire, ambition, and ability all hazed over out of the lack of understanding of exactly where I am and where I go next.

The rehab was in my sights because , while I did not think I would get every answer every written, I did hope that it would point me in the right direction. The rehab is starting to do that.

Take the treadmill. When I started, I did 3 minutes at 1 mile per hour, with my oxygen level at 4 BPS. My blood oxygen level would dip low to 87-88. Three and a half weeks later. I am at 15 minutes at 1.6 miles an hour, oxygen level at 6 BPS. My blood oxygen is 91-92 % . One big difference: my therapist has turned the monitors away from my sight. I therefore have to depend on how I feel instead of how the monitors tell me I feel. That knowledge will help me immensely.

Also helping me is that the gym has Good Morning America on for the 8 AM hour, so I get all the annoying faux-celebrity news and make up tips that even a clown would laugh at, instead of the newsworthy 7 AM sgement. So maybe I am trying to walk away from the TV.

Next up the what I’ve called the “fantasy ice cream making machine”, which I’ve learned is a UBE (Upper Body Ergometer ). This is very similar to when I was a wee lad and would turn my tricycle upside down and spin the big wheel with my hands. There is much more resistance now, except for when I would turn my brothers tricycle upside down. Then all hell would break loose.

I’ve increased from 5 to 9 minutes with increased resistance as well. In this room, there are only the walls and some inspirational posters that are definitely less annoying than HANG IN THERE KITTY posters. There are no monitors, all my breathing and body effort are measured on a self-scoring numbered scale. This causes the least feeling of tiredness and shortness of breath and the most instances of daydreaming since I’ve memorized those posters and every inch of the wall.

The exercise bike is back in the main room and therefore back in view of Good Morning America. Josh Elliot is riding a camel, some woman has 15,000 pairs of shoes and a reporter tells me that dollar stores are cheap. News you can use.

I’ve gone from 5 minutes to 9 minutes on the bike and increased wattage resistance. There is much more visual stimuli in main room but I still manage to stay away from looking at monitors.

The hand weights have gone from 3-4lbs per arm and will be increased to 5 lbs Friday. We have gone from 5 to 8 minutes and I’ve gotten better at not looking like a cartoon drawing while following the cartoon instructions.

Wednesday, we attacked a flight of stairs. Yes, that is a fear, a barrier, and a goal. While I went up one flight and back down again, I was able to do four steps at a time with normal strides before feeling a bit winded. Since this was the first time, my old friend apprehension came back to visit, the fear of what I could not do before I tried to do it.

I did learn that the pursed lips breathing is much more effective than the habitual panting that I have done when out of breath. Pursed lips bring the blood oxygen level up more quickly. Again, nothing earthquaking, or shaking, but a hoop that needed to be stepped through.

One of the great fears and sadness for me has been the thought that I am not only stagnant on what I can do physically, but that I am also stagnant on what I can earn and monetarily help with. I have no desire to be a burden but I do have a desire to contribute on my own when needed. Having the disability check means that there is income every month. Having the ability to cover the expenses can be tough.

I will be meeting with a local foundation tomorrow to see about some help with the medical expenses. I can use the help and support and hope that this is also the step that allows me to find a way to contribute and organize my finances more effectively.

I have a few really great angels in my life right now and right now I can use one more.

My ultimate goal is to be an angel in return when needed. Clarence, I can use some wings.

More to come…

PREVIOUS PULMONARY POSTS:

Pulmonary Rehab 8/19/11: When We Last Left Our Hero…

Pulmonary Rehab 8/17/11: Adrian Is Doing Well. Give Him A Sticker.

Birthday Wishes And Pulmonary Dreams 8/11/11

Pulmonary Rehab Tales 8/10/11

Pulmonary Rehab 101: 1 Of the Future

Tomorrow Starts The Next Phase: Pulmonary Rehab And Education

Expecting Expectation, Getting Ramblings

Those Three Words