July 18, 2012

NOTE FOR MOMS: Watch Where Do We Go Now?

If you are lucky enough to live in an area with a theater showing Where Do We Go Now? -- the new movie from Lebanese director Nadine Labaki -- go now.

Yes, there are subtitles. But these mothers, their bickering and admonishing, what they go through to keep their village together, will be so hilariously, heartbreakingly familiar, language is hardly a barrier.

The story is centered on the women (most not professional actors) of a Middle Eastern village -- half Muslim, half Christian -- who start the movie with little sabotages to keep the men from finding out that the two religious factions are fighting in neighboring villages. The sabotage grows in scale, and for good reason. As a visitor to the village says on a trip through the cemetery, "There are more dead here than alive."

Labaki wrote the movie after the birth of her son, and stars as the Christian widowed mother of a young son, who -- with much teasing from the older woman in the village -- is in love with a Muslim man. Though there are very funny moments, it's obvious Labaki is trying to lighten the mood on a very bleak and scary situation. It's a situation she's very familiar with (from her director's statement): "Most of our days were spent in confinement behind sacks of sand. There were times when it was too dangerous to even leave our homes. We couldn’t go to school, we couldn’t go outside to play, and we couldn’t practice what normal childhood was."

The women's subtle sabotage becomes more hilarious and then hysterical as the story progresses, from burning newspapers, to baking hashish into appetizers, to pretending to switch religions to show their husbands how stupid they are being. The village priest and imam even join in, trusting that the bigger picture of peace will override the small deceptions to keep it.

The need for peace reaches a fevered pitch when one more son is lost on a trip outside the village, and these women do everything they can -- things we all wish we could do, especially when the fight is over religion, which is meant to unify us, but more often tears us apart in horrific, unnecessary ways. You'll laugh and cry and go home to hug your children, and be glad they don't have to live with war on their doorstep every day. And remember those mothers who do.

"WHERE DO WE GO NOW? became our cry for help. Our hope for change. My message to my son. To all our sons." -- Nadine Labaki

July 10, 2012

THINGS TO DO WITH TEENS: Take a walk (or ride or paddle)

Now that the heat wave has broken somewhat, take the kids for a walk, ride or paddle, around Gray's Lake. Gray's Lake is one of those gems that keeps Des Moines winning its "best places to live" awards. Just south of downtown, the lake is connected to bike paths, offers a new view of the Capitol, and is just across Fleur from Water Works Park.

The walking path is almost two miles around, and there are various boat and bike rentals. Parks and Rec also offers some basic sailing classes, and I can say from experience they are fun. There's a youth class offered as well. The summer highlight for many residents and visitors is free weekly yoga classes for all ages given by a different area teacher each Saturday.

If you're not in Des Moines, try an internet search with the name of your city followed by "Parks and Rec", or the name of your county and "conservation" to see what's offered in your area. If you are in Des Moines, but want something a little more off the beaten path, Polk County Conservation has some great programs for young adults.