Movie Review: God Bless the Broken Road

Inspired by the Rascal Flatts song, “God Bless the Broken Road,” this film follows Amber (Lindsay Pulsipher), a young war widow struggling with her husband’s untimely death in Afghanistan. A second storyline focuses on Cody (Andrew W. Walker), a headstrong NASCAR driver who has been forced into coaching and community service with a local racer (Gary Grubbs).

Two years after her husband’s death, Amber reaches the end of her rope. Her job at the diner barely covers the essentials, her house is on the verge of foreclosure, and her overbearing mother-in-law (Kim Delaney) doesn’t hesitate to criticize Amber’s parenting of her daughter, Bree (Makenzie Moss). Amber becomes increasingly angry at God and refuses to attend church. Frustrated and desperate, she pawns her engagement ring and takes out a 38-percent loan to make house payments.

Cody winds up helping Bree and the other children in the church community build their own go-karts. Eventually, Amber and Cody meet and start dating.

Unfortunately, their respective situations worsen.

Unwilling to curb his recklessness on the track, Cody crashes but manages to emerge unscathed. Shocked by his near-fatal accident, Amber takes distance and forbids Bree to participate in the upcoming go-kart races.

As Amber loses her home to foreclosure, she faces more criticism from her mother-in-law and growing rebellion from Bree, who is determined to race her go-kart and live with her grandmother.

Bree’s disappearance brings all the characters together in an emotional finale, culminating with the singing of the title song. Remember to bring tissues!


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Inspired by Jann Arden

Yesterday afternoon, I joined over 600 people at War Memorial Hall in Guelph for “In Conversation with Jann Arden,” one of several special events taking place as part of the 30th edition of the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival.

A beloved Canadian icon, Jann has distinguished herself in the music industry, releasing 13 albums, 19 Top 10 singles, and receiving numerous awards, among them 8 Juno Awards and 3 Prairie Music Awards. She is also the accomplished author of four books.

After a short introduction from University of Guelph president, Dr. Franco Vaccarino, and Guelph Public Library CEO, Steven Kraft, Jann read from her best-selling memoir, Feed My Mother, an entertaining and inspirational account of her experiences as primary “parent” to her mother, who is in the grip of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Jann then shared her life experiences in a talk, aptly titled: “How Good Things Come Out of Bad Things.”

While I have listened to many of her songs, I was not familiar with her extraordinary journey. Here are some highlights:

Growing up in Springback, Alberta with an alcoholic father and a mother who “gave up” was difficult. Jan’s older brother turned to alcohol and was later convicted of first-degree murder. He is currently serving a life sentence. The younger brother emerged, for the most part, unscathed. As for Jann, she retreated to the basement, determined to avoid her father at all costs.

While in the basement, Jann discovered an old guitar that had belonged to her mother. She started playing and got the bug. To his day, she still plays by ear, never having learned to read music. At age 11, she started writing songs. By age 18, she had written 300 “terrible” songs that she kept a secret from her parents. She did, however, find the courage to sing at her high school graduation.

For ten years after graduation, she joined bands and sang in bars throughout northern Alberta, Saskatchewan, and the B.C. interior. While she did accumulate over 600 songs on cassette, she also developed a drinking problem. She has many regrets from that dark period.

When she partnered with Dave Hart, a keyboard player who was twenty years her senior, she learned much about music and life. Dave encouraged Jann to include her original songs in the show. She also started searching for representation. Unfortunately, she met with rejection after rejection; recruiters claimed her music was too personal and too depressing.

Jann’s big break came unexpectedly.

Allan Reid, a young recruiter at A & M, initially rejected her cassette. A week later, his fiancée decided to call off the wedding. Heartbroken, Allan went for a drive and turned on the cassette player. Jann’s song, “I Just Don’t Love You Anymore,” started playing. He finally “got” her music and agreed to represent her. She’s been with A & M for over twenty years and continues to play to sold-out venues.

Jann’s personal life took a dramatic turn when her mother started losing her memory. After the diagnosis, Jan became her mother’s primary caregiver. Determined to keep her mother at home, Jann hired four full-time and four part-time workers to help provide around-the-clock care. While she was fortunate to have the financial resources, it did cost $140,000 a year for the care.

Her partner of ten years issued an ultimatum: It’s either me or your parents. The relationship crumbled.

To release pent-up emotion, Jann decided to share her experiences online. The response was mind-blogging; her first post received over one million views. Those posts and a collection of recipes became the basis for Feed My Mother.

Jann will star in a sitcom loosely based on her experiences with her mother’s Alzheimer journey. It is scheduled to be released by CTV in March 2019.

Jann’s Advice for Caregivers…

Give in. Give up. Go where they go. Surrender.

Don’t correct them.

Be brave. Be easy on yourself.

Let the world do what it’s going to do.

Insights from Jann’s Mother…

You don’t need to remember things to be happy.

You forget to be afraid.

Jann’s latest song…


Honoring Grandma Moses

Born this day in 1860, Anna Mary Robertson Moses was the third of ten children. As a child, she attended a one-room schoolhouse that is now the Bennington Museum in Vermont. She took art lessons at school and was encouraged by her father at home. At a later age, she wrote, “I was quite small, my father would get me and my brothers white paper by the sheet. He liked to see us draw pictures. It was a penny a sheet and lasted longer than candy.”

As a young wife and mother, Moses applied creative touches to her home. She used house paint to decorate a fireboard, created beautiful quilted objects, and made embroidered pictures of yarn for family and friends.

At the age of 76, she developed arthritis and was forced to abandon embroidery. She turned to painting, focusing on episodes of farm life she had experienced firsthand. A prolific painter, she created over 1,500 canvasses in three decades. She was “discovered” in her eighties.

Here are ten of my favorite quotes from Grandma Moses:

A strange thing is memory and hope; one looks backward, and the other forward; one is of today, the other of tomorrow. Memory is history recorded in our brain, memory is a painter, it paints pictures of the past and of the day.

I like to paint something that leads me on and on into the unknown, something that I want to see away on beyond.

I’ll get an inspiration and start painting; then I’ll forget everything, everything except how things used to be and how to paint it so people will know how we used to live.

A primitive artist is an amateur whose work sells.

People should take time to be happy.

Life is what you make it.

If I hadn’t started painting, I would have raised chickens.

I look back on my life like a good day’s work. It was done and I am satisfied with it.

Even now I am not old. I never think of it, and yet I am a grandmother to eleven grandchildren.

I would never sit back in a rocking chair, waiting for someone to help me.

Happy National Grandma Moses Day!


Stop Wasting Time

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

Coach Hite doesn’t mince words in this motivational video. Originally intended for students, the message will resonate with listeners of all ages.


Interview with Bentley Wells

I’m happy to welcome Black Opal author Bentley Wells. Today, Bentley chats about his writing process and shares his latest release, The Question and Other Stories.

Describe your process for naming your characters.

I do not necessarily have a process for naming my characters. Generally, names come to me. Sometimes, I will change the first or last name of a character because I do not like it or because I have another character with the same first or last name.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I would say that I am a plotter, although I will change something―especially if I do not like it or if what I have written interferes with something else.

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?

I do not listen to music when I write; it distracts me.

What is your most productive time of the day?

My most productive time of the day is morning, between 8 a.m. and noon.

What motivates you to write?

I enjoy researching and writing, especially nonfiction. However, “The Question and Other Stories” is my second book of fiction that has been published. In fact, a few of the stories in the collection were published in literary magazines years ago, before these and the others were revised for the collection.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

My favorite authors include Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John O’Hara, Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain, and Erskine Caldwell. Among modern writers, I read Linwood Barclay, John Grisham, and others who write mysteries or suspense. I also read a lot of nonfiction.

Do you have any writing rituals?

I do not have any writing rituals, except researching occupations of my characters and locations.

Where is your favorite place to write?

My favorite place to write is in my office, which is in my house.

Blurb

The Question and Other Stories contain several tales that concern young people who have to deal with hard-nosed teachers, fickle girlfriends, and death of family members, among other topics. Other tales concern adults who have to confront loneliness, rejection, and mental illness.

Excerpt

Andrew Martin entered the Rogers Public Library like he had for the past five years, always courteous to those who were exiting or entering. Indeed, he would open the door for them and nod his head in greeting.

As he passed the front counter, he spoke to the employees who were behind it. He always smiled and spoke to these people. “Good evening,” he would say, and the employees always replied.

He was very well liked in the community. He gave to the Christian Church every Sunday. In addition, he gave large amounts of money to various charitable organizations. How he had become the president of the Rogers State and Federal Bank was simply through hard work on his part. The idea of him becoming president because of his marriage to the bank’s biggest stockholder never entered his mind―not for one minute―because he had worked continuously every working day, including Wednesday afternoons when it was customary for the bank to close early. He would say his “Good days” to his fellow employees as they left and remain to learn the business.

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Movie Review: Little Italy

Set in Toronto’s Little Italy neighborhood, this light-hearted comedy celebrates family, young (and not-so-young) romance, and food–more precisely pizza.

The tagline–Romeo and Juliet with pizza–is an apt descriptor.

The storyline centers on Nikki Angioli (Emma Roberts), an aspiring chef who reluctantly returns to Toronto after a five-year absence, and Leo Campo (Hayden Christensen), her boyhood pal. The chemistry sizzles as they navigate a slow, sensual courtship.

Unfortunately, their fathers, onetime friends and partners, had a falling out after a pizza contest. Now, they’re operating rival pizzerias next door to each other.

Nikki and Leo aren’t the only star-crossed lovers in this film. Nikki’s grandmother (Andrea Martin) and Leo’s grandfather (Danny Aiello) carry on a secret romance, meeting in the confessional and at Starbucks. Their scenes are delightful–I only wish more of the movie had been devoted to these seasoned actors.

While most of the film features Italian-Canadian (American) stereotypes, a few extra touches have been added: an Asian bar owner named Luigi (Andrew Phung) and two Indo-Canadian characters, Jogi and Jessie (Vas Saranga and Amrit Kauer) who work for the rival pizzerias.

Definitely light fare but an excellent choice for end-of-the-summer viewing.