Learning to Embrace Strangers is One of Marriage’s Best Lessons

Man drinking coffee

Sometimes the person who needs you the most is the one you haven’t met yet. (Photo by Neil Moralee, Flickr)

When you’re married for nineteen years, you tend to learn a thing or two from your spouse. Anyone who knows us will readily tell you that Heather is the demonstrative one in our relationship. She’s widely known for just grabbing people and giving them a hug, even if they’re a complete stranger. Although I know this now, I didn’t always, and the concept of doing this in public used to unsettle me. I’ll give you an example. Read more of this post

Every road leads back to you

Heather made a new little friend in Arkansas.

August 2011

Dear Friends,

I wrote an article a few years ago called “The Long Road Home” that chronicled my trip to meet family members in California who I had never met before. In that piece, I reflected on how amazing a blood connection can be and that despite time and distance, our connection was so deep and instantaneous it felt as though we had known one another all our lives.

Still, when asked about our “family,” our first thoughts are not usually about kin: the cousins, aunts, uncles, parents, siblings and others that are bound to us by blood. In fact, as we were just sharing with someone quite dear to us recently, for us our friends are the family we get to choose. This statement has never ringed more true than during the course of the past month.

Nelda Paschal

Nelda Sue Paschal died Friday, July 15, 2011 in Texarkana, Ark.

As many of you know, in July we had some vacation time and we were supposed to simply enjoy some time off around home, checking out venues and attractions that we had never visited before. We did get to do some of that, including our visit to Big Bone Lick State Park in Union, Kentucky and our trip to the Smithsonian-affiliated National Underground Railroad Freedom Center here in Cincinnati, which we’ll write more in depth about later.

The bulk of our vacation time, however, was spent back to Arkansas, where I grew up. My mom called to tell us that two of my best childhood friends had just lost their mother, Nelda Paschal. She was so beloved that the building that held her memorial service nearly burst at the seams trying to contain all her friends and relatives. There wasn’t even a question if we would go or not, we knew we had to be there to support our friends during this difficult time, so we packed up our things and made the 13-hour trek to Arkansas.

As we drove, “Every Road Leads Back to You” played on the radio, a song recorded years ago by Bette Midler as part of the For the Boys soundtrack. Since then, the lyrics to that tune have been haunting me, particularly this verse:

Old friend, here we are
After all the years and tears
And all that we’ve been through.
It feels so good to see you.

Lookin’ back in time,
There’ve been other friends and other lovers,
But no other one like you.
All my life, no one has known me better….

From the moment we arrived in Texarkana, we were warmly greeted by both friends and family, people who have known me my entire life and have known Heather for over a decade. Many of these friends no longer live in town, but have moved away to other places, bigger cities and busier lives, yet they too knew the importance of returning home to celebrate the life of this wonderful woman who died too soon.

Still, it was so good to catch up with each and every one of them, whether we were offering condolences or laughing about old times. As one of my dearest friends, Sheila, said, “This is one place we can come back to that never seems to change. We can pick up right where we left off.” Moments like these, filled with love, warmth, big hugs and good food are precious reminders of who we are, the people who helped shape us and make us into the individuals we are now. For Bette sang it best when she said, “It feels so good to see you…No one has known me better.”

So in memory of dear friends and in tribute to true Southern hospitality and home cooking, this month we’re going to share some of our stories from our own journeys. Along the way, we’ll also introduce you to some of the tasty recipes that we helped cook up with friends during our trip. Stay tuned for favorites like Pork Chop Casserole, Braised Greens with Peppers and Onions, and Wanda’s Chocolate-Strawberry Torte.

In the meantime, enjoy the remaining weeks of summer and try to beat the heat with a good book, a tall glass of your favorite iced beverage, and some silky smooth music to ease your end-of-summer blues.

With love,
Jathan & Heather

p.s. Here’s a video of Bette Midler performing “Every Road Leads Back to You.”

© 2011 Jadeworks Entertainment.

Five feel-good, fun family films

When we were children, we created some of our favorite memories on Sunday nights when the family gathered around the television with steaming cups of cocoa and big bowls of popcorn to watch movies on the Wonderful World of Disney and later on the Disney Sunday Movie series in the mid-80s. (Click here for a Wonderful World of Disney trivia quiz.)

Times have changed a bit since then, and family films have become big business with many studios besides Disney making big-budget movies like the Harry Potter and Shrek franchises. In fact, there are so many of these movies now, that many of them seem to get lost in the shuffle. So here are some of our favorites, ones that you may have missed.

Finally, we hope you’ll write and tell us about some of your family favorites too. We’ll post some of your comments in a future article.

Jathan & Heather

Jathan & Heather’s Family Film Favorites

Meet the Robinsons

Meet the Robinsons on Blu-ray disc

Rated: G

Lewis is a brilliant young inventor who sets off on a time-traveling quest to save the future and find the family he never knew. With the help of the wonderfully wacky Robinson family, Lewis learns to keep moving forward and never stop believing in himself.

Critics praised this Disney “masterpiece” (John Anderson, Newsday) as “a dazzling vision of the future” (Leah Rozen, People). We loved it because it is both hilarious and touching. But more importantly, it teaches us all a lesson about the importance of perseverance.

Kit Kittredge: An American Girl

Rated: G

Kit Kittridge: An American Girl now on DVD

When the Great Depression strikes, nine-year-old Kit Kittredge (played by Oscar nominee Abigail Breslin) has to say goodbye to her father when he leaves to find work. In order to save her family home, she and her mother must take in boarders. When one of the guests is accused of stealing her mother’s lockbox, Kit must sniff out the real story to exonerate her new friend.

Rex Reed (The New York Observer) called this movie “enchanting” and said that it “spells entertainment with a capital E.” We loved the superior cast, which includes Julia Ormond, Chris O’Donnell, Jane Krakowski, Joan Cusack and Stanley Tucci. Together, they weave a story about the importance of family, friendship and truth.


Rated: PG

Radio: Inspired By A True Story

Based on an amazing real life story, Radio shows how Robert ‘Radio’ Kennedy, the man no one understood, became the coach no one could live without. Academy Award Winner Cuba Gooding, Jr. (1997, Best Supporting Actor, Jerry Maguire) and the phenomenal Ed Harris (Pollock) play two coaches who inspire a football team to become champions and a town to open their hearts in this heartwarming, heroic film.

Critics called Radio “a triumph” (Earl Dittman, Wireless Magazine), “a treasure” (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times), and “a definite must for the entire family” (Bonnie Laufer, Tribute TV). We loved this film because it is filled with both comic and touching moments, but above all because it teaches us a powerful lesson about the potential within us all.

August Rush

Rated: PG

August Rush is now available on DVD and Blu-ray

There’s music in the wind and sky. And there’s hope. A young boy named August Rush can hear it, and you will too as you join him on a journey to New York City to find the parents he was separated from years earlier. And along the way, he will also discover the musical genius hidden within him. Starring Freddie Highmore, Keri Russell, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Terrance Howard and Robin Williams, August Rush will make you “believe in music the way some people believe in fairy tales.”

Mark S. Allen (CBS-TV) says, “Your heart will be singing and your spirit will soar!” We say that you will laugh, cry, and cheer with this young boy who never stops believing in himself and the dream within his heart.


Rated: PG

Robots is now available on DVD

With the help of his misfit mechanical friends, a small town robot named Rodney embarks on the adventure of a lifetime as he heads for the big city to pursue his dreams—and ultimately prove that anyone can shine no matter what they’re made of. Featuring the voice talents of Ewan McGregor, Halle Berry, Greg Kinnear, Mel Brooks, Amanda Bynes, Drew Carey, Jim Broadbent and Robin Williams, Robots is a dazzling, fun-filled feast for the eyes and a riveting good time for all ages!

Critics hailed the film as “Thrilling! Funny! Terrific!” (Larry King) and “fun and imaginative” (New York Daily News). We love this offbeat animated comedy because it is hilarious, irreverent and filled with great music and real Hollywood magic.