Friday, August 28, 2009

The Light at the End

Now that the last episode of Guiding Light on CBS is drawing near I see a rising chorus of "they should not have bothered" to even tell the story of Otalia because they didn't see all they wanted to see. So much anger before knowing who it is that limited the story and who they were trying to please. Claims that this couple was never seen as sexual in any way.

Yet so far we've heard Frank, Rafe, Blake & Josh all assuming that Olivia and Natalia have been sexually active all along. We've seen Olivia's desire, and although some would say we never saw it from Natalia we certainly saw it this week. Oh, and there was that time they talked about the fact that they both want it to happen.

I can't even begin to understand the "shouldn't have bothered" point of view though all that matters is the end of the story.

Over the past few months I saw scenes that were brilliantly written and beautifully played by two of the most talented actresses I've ever had the privilege to watch. Everything from silly humor to life-changing heartbreak and angst and the promise of hope for something better yet to come.

Story-wise, I saw a woman who was once the town pariah finding that she had friends who reached out to her in her time of grief. A woman who thought she'd never find love was transformed by it. A woman of faith was not depicted as a complete idiot or a judgemental fool but as someone who sincerely sought to know God and His truth and live accordingly. I saw that love transforms people and those who have lost hope can find it again.

That was worth tuning in for. I'm glad they told this story. Glad that I saw the people of Springfield encouraging this relationship of two women in love. Okay, maybe not all of the people of Springfield, but even one would have been more than most other shows on daytime have given us.

It would have been wonderful to have seen this show stay on the air at least for another year or two so we could see their story unfold more completely. (Not just their story, but all the others, too) Just because that didn't happen, I'm not going to claim that nothing good came from this story. I truly believe that one reason this story was put on air was to try to reach the minds and hearts of the general audience, those who do not support same sex relationships. And I know it has worked for some. Who knows how many votes may have been changed, how many families reunited, how many people find their own personal peace in part because of the way this story played out on screen, just the way it was.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

It's Just a Soap Opera

My history with soaps began back in the days when they were a half hour in black and white. There were only three channels on my TV and there was a pretty good chance that whatever you were watching was the same thing almost everybody else was watching. Some TV shows became a part of our collective consciousness, like watching the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show.

My earliest memory of watching soap operas was during my preschool years when my mother turned on As the World Turns during lunch every day. We were watching that day in November when Nancy Hughes was interrupted by Walter Cronkite telling us that the president has been shot in Dallas. I lived in Dallas. I could climb up on the swingset in my backyard and see the skyscrapers downtown where it had just happened. I watched my mother cry and wonder why anyone would want to do that to that nice man I’d seen on TV. For the next three days the only thing that we saw on TV - all three channels – was news of the assassination.

It was something we faced together as we all watched it unfold.

Years later I only watched soaps during the summer or those few special days I’d stay home from school with a cold or stomach ache. And it was like coming home again. Lisa was still there, Nancy was still serving tea or washing dishes, and there was Dr. Bob, at the hospital. All was right with the world. Then one summer I started watching All My Children with my sister (who I suspect had a crush on Phil Brent). After that I tuned in to see that Erica was still getting herself in trouble and Grandma Kate was still baking cookies and Dr. Joe was still running Pine Valley Hospital. Now and then I’d take a peek at the Young and the Restless or Days of Our Lives or the Doctors for a few weeks but the one I stuck with was All My Children. One Life to Live came later.

Fast forward a decade or two. I’d been stuck at home with a bad sinus infection for weeks, feeling very isolated from the rest of the world. I got on the internet and looked up some information about my soap, the current storylines, and my two favorite actors. I found a message board for Bianca & Maggie, the characters played by Eden Riegel and Elizabeth Hendrickson. I discovered that many of the members of this online community were lesbians, hoping that the show would make the two best friends a couple. As the wife of a Baptist minister I was an odd fit for a group like that. I was sure many of these women had been hurt and judged by church people before and I wasn’t sure how I would be received. What I found was a wonderfully diverse and accepting group and many have become great friends of mine in “real life” as I’ve attended special events with them and some have stopped by my town for visits when on vacation. We’ve been there for each other during the ups and downs of our favorite storylines and through very real job losses and tragedies. When my mother died these friends helped me cope, popping up online to ask me how I was doing or to give me a laugh or a virtual hug when I needed it most.

When some of my BAM friends told me that I should be watching Guiding Light, I listened and I’m glad I did. They told me about an old fashioned love story, the slow-building kind soaps had forgotten how to tell. They told me the acting was wonderfully subtle, not over-the-top the way too many soaps had become. And they told me one of the actresses involved was Crystal Chappell who had been a favorite of mine when she played Maggie Carpenter on One Life To Live.

So I watched Guiding Light one day back in February. Did I mention the romance that was slowly building involved two women? That didn’t matter to me. Love is love and these two were magic together on screen. The style of the show was very different from other soaps I’d watched. They used handheld cameras and small sets, making me feel like I was right in the room with the characters. The actors were so compelling I forgot they were acting and I wanted to tune in tomorrow to see what happened to them next.
And isn’t that what a soap opera is supposed to do?

I joined the Big Purple Dreams message board for "Otalia" and plunged headlong into another online community along with many of my BAM friends and few thousand others from all over the world. I even wrote postcards and letters and made t-shirts and buttons to try to save Guiding Light from cancellation or find it a new home on another network. I thought it ironic when I found out that my grandmother, also the wife of a Baptist minister, used to listen to Guiding Light on the radio.

Today no actors will be going to work at Guiding Light because the last scenes were taped yesterday. Some of them have been on Twitter staying in touch with the fans, letting us share in their experiences as this American institution comes to a close. It has been a difficult, emotional journey for all who are associated with the show, many of whom have given it their all for decades. I am grateful to them, more than I can say, for opening their hearts to us and letting us share in that journey with them.

There are those who say the soap genre is dying and they may be right. The world is changing and there may not be a place for soap operas anymore. All My Children is headed for LA but when I tune in next year, will Erica still be there? Will anybody?

So many things have changed during the 45+ years that I’ve been watching soap operas. But as I’ve watched the many ups and downs of my favorite characters I see that some things never change.

We can still learn from our mistakes and try to do better.

We can forgive and find healing when hearts are broken. And we must learn to do this because…

We still need each other…

…to laugh together
…to cry together
…to hope together
…to make a better future for all our children.

Maybe it’s not just a soap opera after all.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Happy Birthday, Debbie!

Today is my big sister's birthday.

Just a little older than I am, she stepped out first and gave me a good example to follow. She has a way of doing things with a little something extra, adding a touch of spice, a giggle, a little flair to just about eveything she does.

I remember once when I was a teenager, getting ready for one of my (rare) dates in high school, and nothing was going right. My clothes didn't look right, my hair wasn't cooperating and I was close to a meltdown.

But my sister was home from college that weekend and she came to my rescue. She looked at me and said, "Oh here, wear this with that!", pulling out something of hers that was just what the outift needed. I don't even remember what it was now, but it made everything work. Then she took a brush and with a couple of swipes at my hair I was a new person.

How did she do that?

I never knew, but I was glad she did.

She's still doing that, whether it's a simple potluck dinner, or sifting through the memories of our childhood as we cleaned out our parents' house so it could be sold.

She makes everything better.

And I love her for it.

Happy Birthday, Debbie!

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Easy Ecommerce Solution

I've been doing business online for a couple of years now and when I'm looking for new ideas, I listen to what this guy says. He's been at it for a lot longer than I have and he knows what he's talking about. When he says Google is up to something that could be very useful to smaller vendors and make selling online easier...well, that got my attention. Here's his blog entry about Google Checkout and how it could help you. I'm certainly looking into it: