Tag Archives: children

Two Buddies, a Russian Spy, and an Intern Walk Into a Bar In Transylvania by Valerie J. Patterson

Two buddies, a Russian spy, and an intern walk into a bar in Transylvania.  Sounds like the start to a good joke, right?  It could have been if I was a comedian and wrote my own material.  Instead, I offer you a couple movie reviews.

A Walk In The Woods stars Robert Redford and Nick Nolte, and was a very entertaining movie.  It was good to see these two men on the big screen again, too.  Barely recognized Nick Nolte, but without him the movie wouldn’t have been as good as it was.  His and Redford’s characters are as opposite as any two humans could be.  One is refined, the other not so much.  But, opposites often make the best pairs.  Redford plays a character who has spent his whole life in the career/family lane of the road of life.  He’s been successful in writing and in love, and everything about his life speaks fulfillment…until his friends begin dying and there’s one funeral too many, causing him to take stock in his life and what became of his dreams.  One night he makes the life-changing decision to hike the Appalachian Trail–the entire trail.  He goes through his phone book of friends and colleagues and invites each of them to accompany him.  One by one, they all turn him down, and he’s beginning to think he’ll have to do it alone.  One last call comes in.  Nolte’s character–whom Redford never called–asks if he can go on the trip.  This pleases Redford’s character’s wife and the two set of on an unforgettable adventure that resonates with any person at any stage of their life.  If you missed this one in the theaters, it’s worth the rental price.

The Intern stars Anne Hathaway and Robert DeNiro, and the two have exceptional chemistry and comedic timing.  Hathaway plays an over-stressed work-aholic who started her own Internet company that exploded into a huge success that leaves her reeling between work life and home life.  Enter DeNiro’s character as an intern in the company’s new initiative “Senior Interns”.  DeNiro’s character is living life after retirement and the death of his wife.  After traveling everywhere he’s ever wanted to go, he finds himself with wide open days and tons of time on his hands.  Boss and intern need one another–even if they don’t see it, don’t want it, and don’t accept it, which leads to laughs and lessons learned.  Again, if this is not still playing–as it is here in one or two theaters–it’s worth the rental price.

Bridge of Spies stars Tom Hanks as James Donovan, an American insurance attorney who’s chosen to represent a Russian spy arrested on American soil.  Donovan takes the case, and Hanks shines!  Donovan takes his job seriously and Russian spy or not, his client deserves a fair trial.  Too bad the judge and the jury don’t share the same thought process.  This true story shows humanity at its best and its worst.  When Joseph B. Wirthlin said, “The true greatness of a person…is evident in the way he or she treats those with whom courtesy and kindness are not required.” he was not speaking of James Donovan, but it certainly applies to him.  Catch this one in the theater or via rental, but catch it nonetheless!

And finally, Hotel Transylvania 2, the second installment written by and starring Adam Sandler.  The first movie was adorable and appealed to adults and children alike.  This offering–in my humble opinion–was just disappointing.  Steve and I actually apologized to the couple we had with us!  Dracula is waiting to see if his grandson is a vampire or–gasp–a mere mortal like the baby’s father.  The first movie was all about acceptance of those different from ourselves.  This offering seemed less so, though Dracula does become more accepting in the end, but only after…well, I won’t post a spoiler here on the off chance you have a burning desire to see Hotel Transylvania 2.

So, two buddies, a Russian spy, and an intern walk into a bar in Transylvania…

Until next time, may the movies you chose to see entertain you, warm your heart, and tickle your funny bone.

Spring Has Sprung…Babies are in Bloom!! by Valerie J. Patterson

I guess a long winter can be good for many things.  When the weather is harsh, the wind is stinging, and roads are icy there are so many activities you can get caught up on.

There’s knitting or crocheting a blanket.  Making your way through your To Be Read pile.  Shampooing your carpets.  Sorting through your closets.  And, of course, shoveling all that fluffy snow!

Oh, and there’s building snowmen or snowwomen or snowbears!

You can settle in for some serious movie watching–the classics or new releases.  Your pick.  How about making those fabulous recipes you’ve clipped from magazines or newspapers and stored in your recipe file just knowing you’d eventually make them and wow the family with your gourmet finesse?

Of course, there’s also cuddle time on the sofa with the love of your life.  There’re lazy naps on winter-gray weekend afternoons.  And there’s making a pot of your favorite soup and enjoying it with a freshly baked loaf of bread.  A kettle of tea.  A mug of hot cocoa.

Or, you could be like two of my nieces and participate in an activity that will bless our family with two beautiful wee ones just in time for Thanksgiving!!  Two of my little sister’s girls will give her grandbabies this November!  Who said nothing good comes from 14 inches of snow?

From now until Thanksgiving, I expect that I will be busy shopping!

Until next time, may the flowers that bloom in your garden color your life with joy!

At long last, below is a picture of my Paint & Praise painting.  It’s called The Spirit Tree, and I so enjoyed painting it!

At long last, here is a picture of my Paint & Praise Painting!!  It's called the "Spirit Tree", and I so enjoyed painting it!!

Not Cool to Bully On the Ice by Valerie J. Patterson

If you’ve been listening to the news or any sports talk show, then you know that Milan Lucic–the Boston Bruins left winger–said, “I’m going to [insert expletive] kill you next year”, a threat he delivered to the Montreal Canadiens, Dale Weise while making his way down the hand shake line after the final game of a Stanley Cup playoff series in which the Bruins lost to the Canadiens.

Why is this an issue?  Isn’t hockey known for its violence?  Its brawls?  Its “let’s get even” on the ice attitude?  Yes, all that’s true.  However, this is an issue for many reasons.  For one, hockey is probably one of the few professional sports out there where there even is a hand shake line, a last ditch effort to lose graciously, leave the grudges on the ice, and congratulate the winners.

Secondly–and perhaps more importantly–Milan Lucic and his wife as recently as March of this year released a children’s book that teaches children NOT to bully others.  Lucic has been quoted as saying:  “I always feel like — and still to this day — that you should treat people the way you want to be treated.  That’s why I feel strongly about this issue. It’s unfortunate it’s still an ongoing issue.”

And he’s also been quoted as saying:  ““Teach [kids] to respect everyone, respect themselves and respect your peers. I know that’s what I was brought up to believe in growing up. My parents did such a good job with myself.”

Such excellent advice coming from a man who, in essence, bullied Weise when he threatened to kill him in the upcoming season.  Apparently, Lucic doesn’t exactly practice what he preaches…or publishes.  And, he’s a poor loser to boot.

In interviews with Lucic regarding the threat he’s said everything EXCEPT that he’s sorry.  According to Lucic, what’s said on the ice stays on the ice and he’s not sorry for what he’s said.   “I’m a guy that plays on emotion, and this is a game of emotions. Sometimes you make decisions out of emotion that might not be the best ones. That’s what it is.”

And how is this any different from being a bully?  Different “playground” perhaps, but same concept.

Additionally, Lucic said, “It’s unfortunate, because what’s said on the ice stays on the ice, and unfortunately that code is broken and it’s unfortunate that it blows up to what it is now,” Lucic said. “I’m not the first guy to do it, I’m not the last guy to do it.”

Neither of these statements make him credible as a player to look up to or as a writer of a book against bullying.  The excuse that he’s not the first nor will he be the last guy to do it simply shows he can’t or won’t accept responsibility that his actions and words were not appropriate.  Can’t a bully claim that what happens on the playground stays on the playground?  Yep.  But it still doesn’t make it right.

Bullying is a real problem.  This man–in my opinion–blew up his credibility as someone trying to teach children that bullying is wrong.  If children are to look up to professional athletes as role models then they need to clean up their own acts and live by what they attempt to teach children.


So sorry this blog was late today.  Had no Internet service this morning and then took a much needed nap after work.

Hope all enjoy a lovely and bully-free weekend.  Until next time…

Slop’s On! by Valerie J. Patterson

My mom is an excellent cook.  Just ask anyone she’s ever fed, and they’ll tell you the same.  No matter what she fixes—unless it’s liver and onions—it’s bound to be fabulous, and you’ll be determined to make room for seconds.

Growing up, if we had a favorite teacher, Mom would occasionally make a couple jars of her homemade spaghetti sauce and send it to school with us to give to the teacher.

My fourth grade teacher comes to mind.  That was the year I was mauled by a big dog and was out of school for a while recovering.  When I finally came back to school, I came sporting a giant bandage that covered nearly the entire right side of my head.  When I got on the bus, the kids were great, but when I got to school, my teacher made a joke and I cried.  I was homeward bound before lunch.  He told my mom I wasn’t feeling well and maybe came back to school too soon.  I told my mom what he said, and my best friend Debbie from across the street told her mother the same story.  That night just happened to be parent/teacher conference night, and my mom was like a lion about to rip into the beast that hurt her cub.  Let’s just shorten this story by saying my teacher didn’t receive any of Mom’s homemade spaghetti sauce, and is in fact fortunate he wasn’t wearing a jar of it home that night.

But the real subject of my story is one my dad was fond of telling.  It’s about the little boy who lived across the street from us.  One evening he had dinner with us because his parents had to visit someone in the hospital and they didn’t want to drag him along with them.  My mom fixed a pasta dish that really was a combination of spaghetti and chili complete with the red kidney beans and all.  It might not sound delicious, but she served it over a heaping pile of mashed potatoes and with a side of bread buttered to perfection and there was rarely any left over.  It was also a meal that stretched when there were extra mouths to feed like that evening.

So we all sat down, and the neighbor kid exclaimed what a delight dinner was, which always tickled my mom when someone complimented her cooking.  When his parents called to say they were home, my mom was going to walk him across the street—deliver him safely.  When they got outside, his mom was waiting on their porch.  She called over to him, “What did you have for dinner?”

He beamed with pleasure as he yelled back, “Slop, Ma.  She fixes the best darned slop I ever ate.”

My mom’s face was about as red as one of those kidney beans and so was his mother’s face!

She met my mom at the edge of the yard, face still as red as could be, and asked, “Did you serve chili?”

Mom nodded.  “Sort of.  I make a spicy tomato sauce, add kidney beans and ground beef and elbow macaroni.”

“That’s what we call slop because there doesn’t really seem to be a real name for it.  It’s not the best name for it—and I certainly didn’t expect it to ever be called that at someone else’s house—but that’s what my older son called it when he was little.  It sort of stuck.”

Mom smiled, glad her neighbor didn’t think she served her son something unfit to eat like he was a barnyard animal.  From then on anytime she made that meal, she’d call us all to the table by yelling, “Slop’s on!”

I don’t know what made me think of this incident today, but it made me smile, and I thought you might smile as well.

Hope you’re all well and enjoying the fresh start of summer!

Until next time…


My twin sisters enjoyed the sea this summer.

September has seen many birthdays in my family this month, including that of my two sisters, Ursula and Lydia. Twins are very common in my family in that I have twin sisters, twin cousins, twin uncles, my grandfather was one of a twin and I, sadly, lost twins shortly before they were born. And, of course, contrary to popular belief, twins don’t always skip a generation. It has always been the youngest and oldest who have produced them – my father was the oldest son of my grandfather, the youngest son produced twins – my cousins. My grandfather  had twin sons (my uncles Mick and Mike) and himself  the oldest of his siblings. I was the youngest child of my father (produced twins) and if my brother had have children, we are certain he would have produced twins too.

My sisters break the family mould in that they are identical twins. My father always had difficulty in telling them apart, especially as he got older, often having to wait to see which their respective husbands or children arrived with them before he could be certain who was who. As they’ve grown older, they have changed slightly in size, hair styles and life’s ups and downs taking their toll but for two dears now in their sixties, they haven’t done so bad and whilst they may look less identical now, when they are asleep, it is awfully hard telling them apart.

As a child, being their younger sister was always difficult as they had little time for me, their sickly baby sister because they had each other for company. Cries of “Oh Mum, do we have to take her/look after her?” still reverberate in my head. The three of us had to share the same bedroom too as our house wasn’t large enough to each have our own room. I had their outgrown clothes – two of everything (which I hated), their discarded toys and whilst they had new bicycles one Christmas, I had to make do with a secondhand one. It was no wonder I was a jealous and that we always fought.  But those days are long gone.  Now we are adults we are very close indeed. The best of friends.

So, you might wonder, is it really true that identical twins think and feel the same as each other. Well, over the years there have been examples to qualify this and also to disprove. Ursula has two sons and two grandsons, Lydia two daughters and two granddaughters.   Character-wise, my sisters are very different; Ursula is a tough cookie, very much the leader who doesn’t take fools gladly, has strong opinions and certainly isn’t shy to voice them. Lydia, conversely, is easy going and soft, a bit like me, and they often have very differing opinions on things.

It’s difficult with twins when buying cards and gifts as one doesn’t want to buy them the same thing, but many is the time I can find a card to suit one but then cannot find something equally suitable for the other. The same with gifts. And there’s another thing… It has happened on numerous occasions that I or others in my family have received identical birthday or Christmas cards from them despite their buying and choosing totally independently of the other. They have even been known to buy each other the same present. Likewise with clothes. I’ve known them go out shopping separately, to different towns, and then come home having each bought the same dress. And it’s happened on many occasions that at family gatherings, they’ve arrived wearing almost identical outfits.

I also know that if one telephones me for whatever reason, the other will be calling me within the next half-hour. It’s spooky sometimes, has caused a lot of mirth and fun (yes, they did used to swap places etc at school to trick the teachers) and I wouldn’t swop them for the all the world.

Children – We Love Them No Matter What

This blog post is dedicated to anyone who has raised or had a hand in raising children. Especially the youngsters. You know the age…somewhere between 2 and 4, when they get curious.

I had a conversation with my daughter last week, after which she sent me a picture of 3-year-old Katelynn…painted up all pretty. It’s kind of hard to see, but that’s not lipstick on her cheek, her arms, her leg.

Are you ready for this? It’s nail polish! It took several days of baths and a touch of non-acetone nail polish remover to get it all off. Thankfully, she managed to get none of it on the furniture, walls, or floors.

After I stopped laughing, my daughter and I had a conversation about HER childhood. She managed to color in crayon all along the wall of her bedroom (in our rental) as low and as tall as her little arms would allow her to go.

Her sister got mascara and cold cream all over a friend’s satin sheets. Oh, and she pulled a humidifier full of water over onto the floor.

None of these events were laughable at the time, but I’ve gotten a lot of chuckles out of them since my daughters became adults. It’s funny how the years take away the sting and make events humorous, isn’t it? You know, I love my kids more than anything. But I’m so glad I’m a Grandma now. It gives me a completely different perspective.

So…do you have any tales to tell of your children? I promise, we’ll never tell. What happens on Over The Backyard Fence STAYS on Over The Backyard Fence.

Really.  🙂

The Santa Experience by Valerie J. Patterson

I’d only been married four months when I had my first Santa experience.  This may seem odd, you know, since I was a child once.  However, this Santa experience was of a different making.

Being a newlywed, I really wanted our first Christmas to be special and memorable so I decorated our apartment with loving care, made certain all the packages for my new husband were wrapped and under the tree in plenty of time for Steve to study them and try to guess what was in each package.  I even took a candy-making class so I could make some yummy treats just for him.  This was also the year I bought my deluxe Santa Claus suit.

I’m not kidding!  Full suit: beard, wig, boots, belt, and fur-edged red velvet suit.

We began a new tradition that first Christmas.  We spent Christmas Eve with my parents and intended to spend Christmas Day with his parents.  That meant midnight Christmas Eve was all ours.  Steve bought a bottle of champagne and we exchanged presents.  Once all the wrappings were cleared away, I stood up, kissed him on the mouth, and told him to get comfortable because I was going to slip into something more comfortable.  Then I excused myself and went into our bedroom where I changed in my new Santa Claus suit.

When I came back into the living room carrying a red sack with a few presents I’d hidden in the bedroom, I found Steve stretched out on the sofa sans shirt and socks.  When he noticed me in the doorway, our eyes met and I knew instantly he was NOT prepared for how I was dressed.

That story gets told at least once a year and I can still see the exchange of looks between Steve and my Dad when the story was first told at my parent’s home.  But that Santa suit has brought a lot of memorable moments since that very first year.  I can remember dressing up to surprise my nephews on Christmas Eve for many years until my oldest nephew, Scott sat on my lap and–in answer to my question of what he would like–he said, “Well, Aunt Valerie, I’d like …”

My jaw dropped and my eyes watered as I laughed myself hoarse.

I can recall people–complete strangers–waving to me on the road as I drove to work dressed as Santa.  It’s funny how someone–anyone–dressed as Santa can bring a smile to even the crabbiest person.

The Santa suit’s been retired a couple of years now.  Its elbows and knees are worn and the beard has seen better days, but the memories woven into the fabric of that old suit will live on forever.  Have you ever had a Santa Experience?  I’d love to hear it.

Christmas–the birth of Christ–is about incredible love.  I hope all who read this got a smile, and I hope you all have a very blessed Christmastime.

Memory Building by Valerie J. Patterson

My earliest memories are of being a toddler.  I was barely four years old when my grandfather—my mom’s dad—passed away.  I can easily remember my mom mourning his loss in her life.  I can recall seeing my grandfather in a casket at the funeral home my mother’s side of the family always used whenever there was a death in the family.  I have several memories of my grandfather himself.  My fondest of which was spending the night at his house and getting up early with Grandma to get Grandpap off to work.  She’d fix his breakfast and then prepare and pack his lunch and then bundle me up and put me in the car to drop him off at work.  Oddly, I can remember his laughter, too.  It’s building memories such as these that shape the person we become as we grow and mature.

My parents were such that they made certain they built memories with their children that would last a lifetime.  Every summer—whether there was money in the budget for it or not—we took a family vacation.  Without fail, the week of my father’s birthday in August, we loaded up the car and we had an excellent adventure.  I’ve been all over the United States and various parts of Canada.  My mother used to ask me all the time if I remembered my very first trip to Washington, DC to which my father would gently remind her, I was still in the womb!  Sorry, but my recollections do not go back quite that far!

The way my parents raised my siblings and me has ingrained a strong sense of memory building.  I had hoped to be the same type of parent to my own children.  Unfortunately, I’ve not been blessed with children…yet.  But I have made certain that my husband, Steve, and I build as many memories as we can together.  Every August—the week of my father’s birthday, which happens to be our anniversary—we load up the car and we have an excellent adventure.

It’s not just memories of family vacations or only happy memories that help to shape the person we become.  It takes memories of every variety and they all mesh together to form the fabric by which we live and deal with other human beings.  I can remember my mom spending every spare moment she had to give to her best friend who was diagnosed with cancer.  This taught me compassion and extraordinary love.  I can remember my father stopping on a highway and giving away our coats to keep a young woman warm who’d been seriously injured in an automobile accident until the paramedics arrived.  I remember there always being room at our table for anyone who stopped by and was hungry.  And I remember my parents taking in a young man who’d been turned out of his own home simply because he’d turned eighteen and his father wanted him to become a man.  These all taught me to be giving, caring, and to reach out to those in need.

I can easily recall how hard my father worked, but always had time for his wife and children at the end of the day.  These memories taught me that family comes first and that at the end of the day, that’s who gives us shelter from the storms of life that we face.  I remember being woken up in the middle of the night to watch raccoons twist off the lids to our peanut butter and jelly jars because they were hungry.  This taught me to be prepared for the unexpected and to see the humor in it.  I remember my mom snapping pictures of everything we did.  I know that my dad never missed a single softball game even though I wasn’t the best player on the field.  And I can still see the pride in his eyes and hear it in his voice when he told his friends I was going away to college.  From these memories I learned to be all that I can be regardless of being the best.  To always strive for my goals and to make my dreams come true.

Just as easily, I can remember my father passing away in November of 2001.  That is a memory that helped shape how I dealt with unspeakable grief.  Not to mention an incredible void in my life where once there was boisterous laughter, huge, warm hugs, and a friend who taught me how to be a good person…the kind of person I could be proud of being.

All the memories I have stored up inside my mind and my heart form a tapestry that—if spread out for all the world to see—would be woven together with tears of heartache, the laughter of tremendous joy, the sweat of hard work, and a thread of love that’s unbreakable even in the darkest, toughest times.

As you conclude reading this post, I hope my recollections have brought forth your own cherished memories…the ones you’ve been building throughout your lifetime that shape the person you are.  Gather them about you like a warm blanket and smile at the secrets they hold for you.

Until next time…stay well and happy, and build some new memories that will be with you always.



Hi Everyone!  I’m new to the “Over the Backyard Fence” blog and I’m looking forward to getting to know all who come here to read and share.  I hope you’ve enjoyed my first offering to the blog!  Have a great day and a fantastic weekend!    ~Valerie