February 28, 2005

Wake Up!

Groggy Posted by Hello

Ever have one of those days when no matter what you do, you can't seem to wake up? I used to have days like this everyday when I worked nights at Wal-Mart and went to college. There were days I would have to pinch myself in class to stay awake. Then I would go to the library to try to get some work done before picking up the boys and I would inevitably fall asleep. Luckily, I'm a light sleeper or I would have slept right through dinner time.

One time I fell asleep waiting for my boys in the car line. The line moved, I didn't. They went around me. Finally, some kind soul walked up to my car and tapped on my window. I abruptly woke up, wiped the spittle from the corner of my mouth and started my car. I haven't been able to look that person in the face since.

It's terrible. I HATE feeling groggy and "out of it." It's like swimming underwater, my muscles are heavy, my brain is mush and I can't talk let alone respond intelligently when people need me. Worse, I get grouchy. Feeling groggy makes me feel as if I'm not in control of my body and that makes me irritable.

It got to the point I was actually used to feeling like a walking zombie when I worked and went to school. Since graduation and quitting Wally world (my affectionate name for Wal-Mart) I don't have too many of these days anymore, so the times I do feel this way are more poignant.

Working on the computer makes me tired. It's true. You wouldn't think just sitting there, staring at the monitor and typing would make a person tired, but it does. Have you ever taken a plane ride or gone for a long car ride? It's the same concept. Sitting for long periods of time makes a person tired. It's no wonder people who have a "desk" job are out of shape and tired all the time, being stationary is exhausting.

Being groggy definitely throws my schedule off. For instance, I get NOTHING done. A wasted day. Life is too short to waste days. I try to make up for it, but the work that I produce is slip-shod at best.

What's worse? Not getting the work done or doing such a lousy job that you have to go back later and redo it?

I practically lived on Vivarin when I was in college. A quick fix that usually got me through the day, but BOY did I crash when I got home. It got so bad I had to take 20 minute naps just to think straight. I don't recommend the Vivarin route. The caffeine in those pills caused my heart to race and it even threw it out of rhythm a couple of times (my heart tends to quiver when I overexert myself too quickly). The only thing that will take care of grogginess is sleep.

"But that's not possible," you say.

If people are too busy to sleep, then people are too busy. Slow down. Give your body a break. Go to bed early, or if possible, sleep late (I know, I know. WHEN do people ever have time to sleep late, but doesn't it sound divine?)

Remember this: if a person doesn't take care of their body, then how does a person hope to have the energy to GET things done?

Excuse me - I'm going to take a nap.

February 27, 2005

Movie Reviews: Cellular & Collateral

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We watched two movies this weekend (actually, we watch two movies nearly every weekend), Cellular and Collateral. They were both thrillers and they were both pertty good.

What struck me the most with Collateral was the camera shots. It was one of those "in your face" types of movies, literally. I mean we were so close to Tom Cruise's character I could see his nose hairs. Collateral was fast paced, almost too much so, but it was fun to watch the situation go from bad, to worse, to impossible. I have to admit, I had a hard time swallowing Cruise's character portrayal at first, this was such a different role for him, but after a while, he convinced me. His character was particularly hard because he had to portray a ruthless killer while still allowing the audience to glimpse his screwed up psyche. There were times I almost felt sorry for him.

Jamie Foxx was a huge surprise. I thought he did a really good job portraying the taxi driver. The writer did a good job putting enough of his personality thoughts/goals into his character that I ended up liking, and rooting for, him.

The ending was satisfying, though sad. It's one of those films you sit back and contemplate human complexities. Don't be surprised to see a spin-off of this story on my Imagination Overload blog. I wrote some notes on the underlying theme of this movie. It was thought-provoking.

Cellular was interesting in the fact that it gave a whole new spin on the kidnapping theme. Basically, this family is in the wrong place at the wrong time and will end up paying for that misfortune with their lives. I thought it was interesting that the main characters in this movie didn't even meet until the end.

This was another one of those films that was non-stop from the first "ring." I love the movies where everything is thrown at the characters, just shy of the kitchen sink, and we get to sit back and watch how they will react.

Chris Evans (Ryan) ,is an unknown to me, but he did a really good job playing an irresponsible surfer dude who is suddenly thrust into a life and death situation, and not his own. He did a good job carrying us with him on his various attempts to not lose phone contact with Jessica (Kim Basinger).

And speaking of Basinger, she's not my favorite actress, but I have to give her two thumbs up for her portrayal of a kidnapped woman, locked in an attic with only a precarious phone connection to a stranger she's relying on to save her family. She had to act literally scared to death the whole movie and I'm sure that was exhausting. The character had enough strength and took enough chances, that I ended up liking her and wanting to see her save her family.

Below are excerpts of The New York Times' Reviews.

August 6, 2004
FILM REVIEW; Killer in a Cab, Doing His Job


IN ''Collateral,'' the edgy new thriller from the director Michael Mann, the city never sleeps; it doesn't even relax. Set in Los Angeles mostly after dark, after the city's sunshine has given way to cool noir, the story centers on a taxi driver, Max (Jamie Foxx), and the assassin Vincent (Tom Cruise), who hops a ride with him deep into the night. As the pair cover the city, looping over interchanges and down wide open boulevards, they travel a landscape alive with wild animals and wilder men, noisy with unfamiliar music and chatter, and punctured by the hard pop of occasional gunfire.

Following a few preliminaries, including some flirty minutes with Jada Pinkett Smith as a harried passenger, the story gets down to its dirty business with Vincent jumping into Max's meticulously clean taxicab. Nattily turned out in a gray suit and matching salt-and-pepper hair and light beard, Vincent takes the story precisely seven minutes east of downtown.
With the meter running, Max waits for his fare, fetishistically poring over luxury-car brochures and fantasizing about the limousine company he hopes to start. Then a body lands splat on the roof of the taxi, shattering the cabbie's nerves and a large section of his front window, and Stuart Beattie's screenplay kicks into overdrive. Vincent, Max discovers to his horror, is a killer for hire, and this is only the first stop on what looks to be a very strange trip.

Wired for action, ''Collateral,'' which opens nationwide today, initially seems like a return to basics for Mr. Mann, as exemplified by ostensibly straight early films like ''Thief,'' about a safecracker in love, and a retreat from the more self-consciously serious films like ''Ali,'' his underrated movie about the legendary boxer.

The new film takes place against a backdrop that pits a drug cartel against law enforcement agencies presumably intent on shutting it down, and to that end features big, beefy men wielding big, scary guns and the jolting image of Vincent hitting his marks, specifically with two bullets to the chest and one through the head. But because Mr. Mann makes thrillers the way that John Ford made westerns, using genre as a way into meaning rather than as an escape, ''Collateral'' bears little relation to the usual Hollywood blowout.

That becomes evident as Max and Vincent drive through the emptied-out streets and the story shifts from a two-hander to a road movie, a tourist-board nightmare and a bloodied valentine to the director's adopted hometown. A portrait of radically different souls clinging to radically different paths, ''Collateral'' hinges on the moment when fate intersects with choice.
Vincent is clearly a nutcase, seething with inarticulate rage and locked-down demons, but he's also a man seemingly in charge of his destiny. For Max, who's been hanging onto his well-tended fantasy for years (''this is just part time,'' he repeatedly insists of his hack job), his passenger represents an imminent threat, but also a necessary wake-up call. For Mr. Mann, it always seems, there is nothing worse than a life on automatic pilot, not even death.

Mr. Foxx can't have had an easy time playing foil to the world's biggest movie star, but he holds his own gracefully. For his part, Mr. Cruise, whose famous self-discipline has helped turn him into a bankable personality and a less-than-believable regular guy, makes Vincent scarily convincing. Underappreciated as an actor, Mr. Cruise is most at ease when he can deliver a good portion of his performance through his body. He's an intensely physical performer, one whose jumping muscles and athleticism often express the inner workings of his characters more plausibly than any scripted line. Clad in the sort of form-fitting, slightly too-short slacks favored more by modern dancers and Gene Kelly than (I assume) contract killers, he plays Vincent from the outside in, as a citadel of physical perfection and ability.

That makes the star an ideal fit not merely for this role but for this director, whose male characters inevitably express themselves more through their deeds than their words. One of the signatures of Mr. Mann's films is that while his male characters tend to be tight-lipped (if often very loud and certainly dogged in their beliefs), the director's visual style and musical choices verge on the extreme, at times the operatic. Filled with incessant rhythms, washes of gaudy color and heartbreaking beauty, the films boldly convey the passions and deep feelings the director's men rarely voice. It's the sort of expressionistic gambit that pointedly makes the case that movies create meaning both with what's on the scripted page and with images of palm trees bobbing against a moonlit sky and the everyday Los Angeles surrealism of coyotes prowling an otherwise urban street.


September 10, 2004

FILM REVIEW; Teacher Kidnapped! Or, Can You Hear Me Now?

One of the many virtues of ''Cellular,'' an improbably enjoyable new telecommunications action thriller, is that it wastes very little time on preliminary exposition. Kim Basinger, looking glamorous in a black dress and sunglasses, is walking her young son to the school bus. Their conversation lasts just long enough to establish the crucial information that Ms. Basinger's character, Jessica Martin, is a science teacher. The extra wave goodbye that she and her son exchange is a signal that something bad is about to happen, and a minute later some bald, black-denimed kidnappers kick in the kitchen door of Jessica's elegant Brentwood home, shoot the housekeeper dead and drag Jessica away to a remote safe house in the hills above Los Angeles.
All of this happens before you have time to ask how a science teacher can afford a brand-new Porsche Cayenne and a Brentwood mansion with live-in help, or why, on a day when school is in session, this particular science teacher is not at work. (You may also wonder why none of your science teachers looked or dressed like Ms. Basinger, but never mind.) But to pose such questions -- and others that arise during the diverting, implausible 89 minutes of ''Cellular,'' which opens today nationwide -- is to miss the point and spoil the fun.

Directed by the talented David R. Ellis with the same combination of breeziness and rigor that he brought to the underrated teen-scream fright-fest ''Final Destination 2,'' ''Cellular'' is the kind of movie that has become all too rare in this age of self-important blockbuster bloat. It's an honest, unpretentious, well-made B picture with a clever, silly premise, a handful of sly, unassuming performances and enough car chases, decent jokes and swervy plot complications to make the price of the ticket seem like a decent bargain.

When the chief bad guy, whose name is, of all things, Ethan (Jason Statham), throws Jessica into her attic holding cell, he makes sure to smash the wall phone with a sledge hammer. It's a sturdy old rotary-dial machine, though, so it still works well enough for Jessica to place a random call, which reaches the cellphone of Ryan (Chris Evans), an affable, carefree surfer busy researching bikini styles on the Santa Monica Pier.

According to his ex-girlfriend, Ryan is shallow and self-centered, but he shows remarkable decency and steadfastness in agreeing to help Jessica by staying on the phone until he can find the police.

Needless to say, helping her turns out to be a much more dangerous and complicated proposition, thanks to the vagaries of cellular technology and the unreliability (to say the least) of certain members of the Los Angeles Police Department. Through a series of accidents and misjudgments, Ryan finds himself speeding all over the west side of Los Angeles, from Los Angeles International Airport to Century City and beyond, in a series of borrowed and stolen cars, on the trail of an elaborate and nefarious conspiracy. He also repeatedly collides with the officiousness, selfishness and bad manners of his fellow Angelenos, who force him to take desperate measures like holding up a cellphone store and carjacking an obnoxious lawyer whose vanity license plate is one of the movie's many pieces of whimsical, if somewhat obvious, satirical humor.


February 26, 2005

Book Review: The Hidden Heart

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From the Publisher:

Beautiful, young Lady Caroline Eddington found it devilishly difficult to be the best friend of Lord Miles Trilby. Perhaps the most handsome lord in the realm, he was also the most heartless. Cold to the notion of romance, he turned icy at the idea of marriage. Thus Caroline had to be most wary of letting her feelings toward him grow too warm.

I just checked to see if this book was available on Amazon.com and indeed it is, but with a vastly different book cover than what you see above. The cover on Amazon is your typical romance novel cover with the lusty woman swooning defensively into the macho man. This novel is anything BUT lusty, but it rather oozes a stiff romantic quality.

The language in this book is agonizingly accurate, down to everyone calling each other Lady and Lord. (Written back in the era where it was considered scandalous for women to leave the house with their gloves). I found myself getting really impatient with this type of writing, it seemed so emotionless. But after a while, I got used to the formality and I have to admit, it actually added to the authenticity of the story.

On the surface, it's a nice story. The hero, in order to get out of being "shackled" lies to his Great Aunt (who is a duchess and tough as nails) that he is already betrothed. When the Great Aunt calls his bluff, our hero is suddenly forced to find himself a fiance, fast. This is doubly awkward because in the time this story was written, it was extremely poor taste and considered a bad career move for a woman to falsify relations with a man. So the heroine is really putting herself out there.

I say it's a "nice" story because it's almost too sugary sweet. Though the language and the time period it was written in called for a more "formal" approach to the story, it truly lacked any "sparks."

However, that's necessarily a bad thing, especially in today's market where you can't pick up ANYTHING without being exposed to filth.

Gayle Buck did a good job keeping my attention, and I enjoyed the story on the surface, but I would have liked to seen a little more characterization - we really didn't get into the characters heads at all. As a result, the story came off with a lack-lustre shine.

What I learned: To stay true to the time period the story was written and keep the language, customs, and mannerisms consistent throughout the story. Doing this helps keep the reader firmly trapped in the fictional world we work so hard to create.

Moral: Romance without passion is too sweet for my tastes.

February 25, 2005

Ultimate Irony

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I couldn't have made this up if I tried!!! Don't be surprised if you see a version of this story on my Imagination Overload blog. :-D

Budding Jordan cyber love ends in divorce

AMMAN (AFP) - A budding romance between a Jordanian man and woman turned into an ugly public divorce when the couple found out that they were in fact man and wife, state media reported.

Separated for several months, boredom and chance briefly re-united Bakr Melhem and his wife Sanaa in an Internet chat room, the official Petra news agency said.

Bakr, who passed himself off as Adnan, fell head over heels for Sanaa, who signed off as Jamila (beautiful) and described herself as a cultured, unmarried woman -- a devout Muslim whose hobby was reading, Petra said.

Cyber love blossomed between the pair for three months and soon they were making wedding plans. To pledge their troth in person, they agreed to meet in the flesh near a bus depot in the town of Zarqa, northeast of Amman.

The shock of finding out their true identities was too much for the pair.

Upon seeing Sanaa-alias-Jamila, Bakr-alias-Adnan turned white and screamed at the top of his lungs: "You are divorced, divorced, divorced" -- the traditional manner of officially ending a marriage in Islam.

"You are a liar," Sanaa retorted before fainting, the agency said.

I guess the moral of this story is: The grass is not always greener in cyberspace.

February 24, 2005

Lip Sync Queen

Posted by Hello

I'm this man. No wait, that didn't come out right. I'm a female version of this man. :-)

Music gets me MOVING! If I'm feeling particularly reluctant to clean house (and it has to be REALLY bad because anyone who knows me knows that I HATE cleaning house) then I crank up the music. In no time at all, those nasty chores have been done.

I really do dance when I clean house. (Ask my family) And I look ridiculous, but heck! I'm having fun! I love the pop/techno sound the most. When I'm feeling tired or need a pick-me-up, I crank up the dance music. It really energizes me. That's the kind of music I put on my Rio, techno rhythms to get my body moving at the gym. (Word of advice - never, ever, rely on the music at the gym to help you work out. Talk about a downer!)

I usually crank it REALLY loud when I'm by myself in the car, too. (Which isn't often, I might add). My favorites at this time? Hoobastank (LOVE THOSE GUYS) and now Switchfoot.

Switchfoot reminds me a little of U2, only better. *grin* They have a few slow songs that I listen to over and over. In fact, one of their songs has inspired a story (look for that upcoming story on my
Imagination Overload blog). It's amazing how soothing music is. I can lean back, close my eyes, listen to some great tunes and ideas just pop into my head so fast I barely have time to record them all.

I can understand why Kevin loves music so much - it's life's natural high. He's so incredibly gifted, too. He amazes me with how he can listen to a song, and then just play it! He's a natural. He used to be in a rock band, back in his younger days; He misses it. He misses the adrenaline that came with the groupies, the creativity required to come up with different licks, and he misses the incredible people he knew in that time period of his life. If you're interested in his music, stop by his
site. He's working on new songs now.

When I listen to music in my car, I turn into this sexy, pulsating, energetic vixen who's been transported into a different life. I usually picture myself in the middle of a music video, striking those sexy poses. The only difference is, I'm fully clothed. (I heard that collective sigh of relief out there). For just a moment, I'm someone else and it's fun to fantasize a whole new life.

Music makes my heart beat a little faster, makes my blood flow a little quicker and a surge of pure adrenaline courses throughout my body. I have no idea why I respond to certain music this way, but it's an exhilarating experience when it does happen.

I remember one time, I was on my way to meet Kevin for lunch, and I was singing my heart out. (Note the windows were closed, this time. There have been times I've had them open and probably sounded like a cat with its tail caught in a doorway to a passerby). Not just the singing, but the chair dancing routine came with it. I was squirming and gyrating as much as I safely could while maneuvering traffic. I especially get worked up on the highway. Long stretch of road, the increased speed - it's almost like flying, only with a metal protective shell around me.

This guy pulls up next to me. You know how sometimes, on the highway, a car comes alongside you, going the same speed and you have to look over at them. It's just something instinctive. Well, I look over, still singing mind you, and he grins at me. I grin back.

And kept right on singing.

By this point, I'm really worked up and couldn't care less. My luck, he and I would have been going to the same place and I would have to face him, stone cold songless.

So if you're driving around one day and you see me in my car head banging and moving my mouth as if I'm singing, rest assured, I'll come back down to Earth sooner or later.

February 23, 2005

Economics Wins Again

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There was a time and place for unions, and it's not today. There are so many labor laws in effect today that it's really not necessary to have labor unions. Most companies that succumb to labor union demands are now out of business. Why? Because they simply can't afford to pay their employees the outrageous salaries that are demanded. It's simple economics.

When I worked at Wal-Mart, there was union talk. Now, two years after quitting, that talk has graduated into lawsuits. If a labor union had been successful muscling their way into Wal-Mart when I worked there, I would have quit. There's simply no way I would work for a company who relinquishes control over to people who think it's our "right" to make 20 dollars an hour when college graduates are lucky to make a little over minimum wage. It's crazy.

So, when I came across this article, I just had to pass it along. KUDOS TO WAL-MART. Let's see how long they are successful in dodging union fanatics.

Wal-Mart to close store over union threat
Retail giant shuttering Quebec location due to labor demands
The Associated Press

NEW YORK - In the latest salvo in a long-running battle between Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and organized labor, the company said Wednesday it will close a Canadian store where about 200 workers are near winning the first-ever union contract from the world's largest retailer.
Wal-Mart said it was shuttering the store in Jonquiere, Quebec, in response to unreasonable demands from union negotiators, that would make it impossible for the store to sustain its business. The United Food & Commercial Workers Canada last week asked Quebec labor officials to appoint a mediator, saying that negotiations had reached an impasse.

"We were hoping it wouldn't come to this," said Andrew Pelletier, a spokesman for Wal-Mart Canada. "Despite nine days of meetings over three months, we've been unable to reach an agreement with the union that in our view will allow the store to operate efficiently and profitably."

Pelletier said the store will close in May. The retailer had first discussed closing the Jonquiere store last October, saying that the store was losing money.

Union leaders promised to fight the move by the retailer, and rejected Wal-Mart's stated reasons for closing the store.

"Wal-Mart has fired these workers not because the store was losing money but because the workers exercised their right to join a union," Michael J. Fraser, national director of UFCW Canada, said in a written statement. "Once again, Wal-Mart has decided it is above the law and that the only rules that count are their rules."

Retailer's roots

Wal-Mart's decision to close the store reflects the retailer"s deeply rooted aversion to unions, and its worries that organized labor had nearly established a beachhead, said Burt Flickinger III of Strategic Resource Group, a consulting firm specializing in retailing and consumer goods.

But the move could backfire for a company that has worked hard recently to counter a wave of bad publicity and portray itself as a generous employer, he said.

"They're trying to snuff it out but it may be self-defeating," Flickinger said. "The store closing may potentially catalyze the combination of the government (officials in Canada), organized labor and consumers working together against Wal-Mart."

Some employees at the store said they believed it was closing because of their agreement to join the union and several cried as they left the store. They told Radio-Canada TV that managers made the announcement Wednesday morning and they had not been allowed to ask questions.

Claudia Tremblay, a cashier at the store, said many employees burst into tears when managers told them about the news Wednesday morning.

"Many people cried, including myself," Tremblay, a cashier at the store, said in an interview. "I'm a mother of two children and I'm separated from my husband. It's very difficult."
Tremblay said she abstained from the unionization vote, adding she was upset that her noncommittal stance won't save her job.

Large chess game

The store in Jonquiere, about 240 miles northeast of Montreal, became the first unionized Wal-Mart store in North America last September, after the bargaining unit was certified by provincial labor officials. Since then, workers at a second Quebec store have also been granted union status. Neither had reached a contract.

The union efforts at both stores are part of a larger chess game labor organizers are waging with Wal-Mart at stores across Canada. The campaign, financed by UFCW money from both Canada and the United States, is also geared to captured the attention of workers in Wal-Mart's home country.

The closest a U.S. union has ever come to winning a battle with Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart was in 2000, at a store in Jacksonville, Texas. In that store, 11 workers - all members of the store's meatpacking department - voted to join and be represented by the UFCW.

That effort failed when Wal-Mart eliminated the job of meatcutter company wide, and moved away from in-store meatcutting to stocking only pre-wrapped meat.

Recently, some workers in the tire department of a Wal-Mart store in Colorado have sought union representation, and the National Labor Relations Board has said it intends to schedule a vote.

Does this mean there won't be an automotive department soon? Hhmm..the saga continues.

February 22, 2005

Write On

Writing It Up Posted by Hello

Dear Diary... Once upon a time there lived a woman who wanted to write. She wrote several stories but they were disjointed and vague. She longed to write a captivating story that people fell in love with. She wanted to become a household name, like Stephen King, only without the macabre connotations. She built a website, yet they did not come. She started a blog and though they read it, they did not interact. A friend started a writers' group....finally a step in the right direction!

So one day, this woman started another blog in the hopes that people would come and not only read her stories but want to to add to them with their own ideas. This blog was called "Imagination Overload" because this woman was hoping that people's imaginations would explode, er, overload with fresh new ideas. It started out slow but eventually word spread and soon many people visited and helped write stories.

Then the woman came up with another brilliant idea - she started a writers' group with a good friend of hers called Scribes at Work. People pushed and shoved each other to stand in line to join. The group received oodles of submissions. The group was soon comprised of only the best and most serious of writers. The co-founders were estatic.They recruited trusted members to help expand the group and it became the most sought after writers' group in the world. They were soon able to charge a fee to join.

People were happy and danced in the streets. Women started talking nice to their husbands again, children didn't complain about homework and men ate hot, homemade meals (as opposed to nuked dinners). World leaders got wind of this extraordinary blog and became hooked on the positive messages and intriguing stories and they realized that we're all human beings and since we have to share this great Earth of ours, we might as well get along. World peace ensued and everyone lived happily ever after.

Hey, a girl can dream, can't she? :-)

February 21, 2005

Proud to Look Bad

Me..when I get back from the gym Posted by Hello

I don't perspire, I sweat. When I get back from the gym, I have to put my clothes in the dryer, before I toss them into the hamper. And that's ok, because I go to the gym to WORKOUT, not to socialize, not to catch a man, but to get some work done.

The alarm goes off, it's 5:00 a.m. I roll (literally) out of bed, get into my workout gear, and head out to my car. It's pitch black. Do you know how hard it is to get up, dressed and out the door when you know the rest of your family is happily tucked away in their beds? But I do it, because if I didn't, I'd be fat.

No, let's be honest.

I exercise because I eat. I'm not one of these people who can survive on lettuce leaves and rice cakes (though I have moments). I've accepted the fact that I'm a chocoholic and there's absolutely nothing I can do, or someone can say to me, to change that fact. I'm addicted to sweets. I go in spurts, I don't eat it everyday, but I get such strong cravings for something sweet that it's a physical reaction. I used to scoff at people that told me that, but it's true. Something in my brain simply screams, CHOCOLATE! NOW!

Now that I've accepted the fact that I will always eat candy, that I can control myself, but that it will occasionally happen, I have to combat the calories somehow. Hence, exercise.

So, I'm driving to the gym (it's a good thing I'm usually the only other car on the street because I don't remember driving there half the time). You know what's surprising? The number of joggers out that early in the morning. They're everywhere! And not just the joggers, I see this same older gentleman every morning (in fact, he seems to time it so that he walks by our house just as I'm driving out of the garage. I've almost hit him on a few occasions. THAT will wake a person up) walking his dog. I think it's great. Kudos to him, man.

I get to the gym and hope the "regulars" haven't taken all the mats. I have to stretch when I first get there, it's amazing how stiff my muscles are in the mornings.

Oh good, I beat them.

I claim a mat and start my routine. I work the heck out of my arms (I have my grandma's arms, God rest her soul). As I'm doing my routine, I'm constantly dodging the regulars and their routines. Of course I don't speak to anyone for three reasons: 1. I'm a snob (*grin*) 2. I'm on a time schedule and talking takes time and 3. I'm a GROUCH when I first get up in the morning (my family knows to leave me alone until my scowl disappears).

So, it boggles my mind to watch some of these regulars. It's quite obvious they are there for the sole purpose of gossiping. I have to admit, their stories are amusing, but there is one woman in particular that I just have to laugh at. She LITERALLY lifts the dumbbell once, then calls it a day. She gets on a treadmill, and walks (slowly, I might add) for five minutes. Then she gets one of those antiseptic towelettes and wipes down her treadmill as if she's been shooting sweat all over the room. I don't think I've EVER seen her sweat.


And then, at precisely 6:30, the whole herd of them hit the showers, together. Well, they don't take a shower together (at least I don't think so and frankly, I don't WANT to know), but they all head for the locker room and get cleaned up for work.

Why bother going to the gym at all if you're not there to workout? Perhaps the woman doesn't have anyone at home and this is her way of reconnecting to the human race. I don't know, but what a waste of money! At least, in my opinion. But then again, I'm anti-social so I wouldn't understand the need to TALK to people at any time, let alone at the gym.

I NEVER stay and take a shower. Ever. It reminds me of those nightmarish days back in high school when they MADE us take showers after gym class. That was probably one of the most humiliating experiences in my life. It's especially painful for a person who developed late in life.

And then, there are the ones who actually wear lipstick and curl their hair to workout. I simply stand there and blink at them in astonishment. They are the ones who are fun to watch. It's quite obvious why they are there and it's not to work their pecs. Now granted, you don't see this sort of "workout bunny" in the morning, we all look pretty bad - bed hair, no makeup, saggy clothes. But go in the evenings - it's a different breed. I can't totally diss the women, the guys are just as bad at that time of day. They are strutting around in their muscle shirts and flexing muscles, laughing loudly to gain attention and grunting for effect when they lift the weights. It's like a ceremonial mating dance, watching the females try to pretend they aren't aware the guys are staring at them and the guys trying to catch the females' attention. The clothes tend to get smaller and tighter as the day progresses as well. I know, I've been there at virtually every time during the day (back when I was trying to figure out a good time that worked for me). The difference is literally day and night.

So I come home looking like that monkey up there. Pale, wrinkly, hair sticking every which way (especially when I wear a hat) and I'm proud of it. It's physical proof that I'm getting the job done and not just "talking" about it.

February 20, 2005

Movie Review: Catwoman

Patience Philips Posted by Hello

New York Times Movie Review:

Ms. Berry plays Patience Philips, a frazzled would-be artist who designs advertisements for a big cosmetics company run by the reptilian George Hedare (Lambert Wilson) and his icy wife, Laurel (Sharon Stone). In the course of a frantic day, Patience tries to rescue a mysterious cat that has been stalking her, and is herself saved from falling from a high window by a kindly, studly cop named Tom Lone (Benjamin Bratt).

Later on, Patience overhears some deadly corporate secrets and is bumped off by the Hedares' goons, only to be revived by that enigmatic cat, who performs mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on Patience's waterlogged body and thus endows her with super-human feline powers. Patience soon starts behaving the way that most cats do: sleeping on high shelves, tiptoeing along the back of her sofa and eating tunafish straight out of the can.

You may wonder if she also licks herself clean or leaves dead mice on the welcome mat, but these are matters the film tactfully declines to explore. She does, however, steal a motorcycle, break into a jewelry store (where a robbery is already in progress) and cut her hair using two pairs of scissors at once. Her basketball skills improve enormously.

The explanation for all this, supplied by a zany cat lady (Frances Conroy, best known as Ruth Fisher on ''Six Feet Under''), is that Patience has become a cat woman (which is not the same thing as a cat lady). According to the cat lady, cat women, servants of the Egyptian goddess Bast, date back to ancient times and reappear throughout history. (This lesson is foreshadowed by the opening credits and confirmed by an Internet search for the terms ''cats in history.'') ''Cat women are not contained by the rules of society,'' the cat lady says. This is, wouldn't you know it, ''both a blessing and a curse.'' ''You are a cat woman,'' she tells Patience, stunning the audience. ''Accept it, child.''

And why not? Directed by a Frenchman with the single, not uncatlike name of Pitof, ''Catwoman'' is a howlingly silly, moderately diverting exercise in high, pointless style. Pitof's approach to storytelling is casual; he yawns and stretches over the script, which is a pedestrian piece of committee work in any case.

But the picture, full of moody, oversaturated colors, twisty camera moves and stroboscopic editing, does have a certain decadent visual flair and a louche, sneering sense of humor. Watching it is like paging through a fat European fashion magazine at high speed in the lobby of a sleek hotel. Through the haze of moody color, you can occasionally glimpse the flicker of an idea about female sexuality or the manufacture of beauty, but these themes are ornamental flourishes in the pretty, kinetic emptiness.

Mr. Bratt and Ms. Berry are nice to look at, though the sloppy, hyperactive computer-generated effects may cause some eyestrain. Their romantic scenes together are fairly dull, at least when Patience is being her everyday human self. When she puts on her mask and leather suit (accessorized with diamond-studded claws and a long, snaking whip), it's a whole different scene, and the two of them enact a teasing S-and-M ballet on a backstage catwalk.

The character of Catwoman, definitively embodied by Eartha Kitt in the old ''Batman'' television series and dutifully updated by Michelle Pfeiffer in Tim Burton's ''Batman Returns,'' has always been a camp dominatrix, a persona not entirely suited to Ms. Berry's soft, eager demeanor. She overacts Patience's flaky timidity and then, to compensate, overdoes catwoman's suave self-confidence, swinging her hips and pushing out her lips as if she were trying to attract the amorous attentions of Pepe le Pew.

The feline attribute she most lacks is the one the movie is most desperate to manufacture, which is elegant, graceful cool. Ms. Stone compensates somewhat for this deficit, and the climactic battle between Laurel and Patience is sure to thrill anyone who likes to see a good -- forgive me, there's no other word -- catfight.

I don't know, I disagree with this review. I really liked the movie and I thought Halle Berry did a smashing job of imitating a cat. Her jerky head movements (particularly when she is watching an aquarium full of tropical fish) were convincing and I had no trouble seeing her as a "feline fatale." These types of "gray" women (neither good nor bad) have always intrigued me. They live by their own sets of rules and use their sexuality as a sort of body armor that guards their oh-so-very human heart. They are irresistible to men - a black widow that spins a seductive web to trick unsuspecting victims. It takes a truly strong and self-assured man to control (for lack of a better word) a femme fatale type of woman.

Perhaps I'm biased in my opinion. I've always admired catwoman; what modern woman wouldn't? She embodies a strong, sexy, independent woman who occasionally kicks butt. But that's not all, she has a vulnerable, soft side that needs stroking now and then.

I thought catwoman's costume detracted from her character. Michelle Pfeiffer's costume in "Batman Returns" was more realistic (as real as one can get in a leather, skintight suit meant to imitate a cat's skin). The costume in this movie was clearly designed to exude Berry's sexuality and no one can dispute the actress simply oozes it by the bucketfuls. In some ways, I thought the costume distracted from the strong woman message, but it was all in good fun and if nothing else, it motivated me anew to work out. *smile*

I personally never get tired of these "comic book characters" and I think I know why. There's something to be said about having supernatural powers. It's seductive to think of having unique "gifts" - to never get hurt, to protect those weaker than yourself, to have POWER both physically and mentally - to be different from everyone else and stand out from the sea of humanity.

But really, deep down, everyone has some unique gift they can share with the world. The trick is to both recognize it and then voluntarily expose it in a productive way.

February 19, 2005

Book Review: Blackbird House

Posted by Hello

What an interesting way to approach a story. The setting of the book remains the same, Blackbird House, only the people and generations come and go. It's an interesting, magical story about the different personalities and events that occupy the house.

What I learned: I'll have to remember this technique, keeping the setting the same, just changing the people. It was pretty effective.

Moral: Houses have genealogies too.

New York Times Book Review:

The house of the title is one in which, from story to story, we glimpse various families over the course of two centuries. From the very beginning, even as it is being built, the structure is as richly imagined as the well-mapped interior lives of its inhabitants: ''Wood for building was hard to come by, so John had used old wrecked boats for the joists, deadwood he'd found in the shipyard, and when there was none of that to be had, he used fruitwood he'd culled from his own property. . . . There was no glass in the windows, only oiled paper, but the light that came through was dazzling and yellow; little flies buzzed in and out . . . and everything seemed slow, molasses slow, lovesick slow.''

John Hadley is a fisherman who renounces the sea in order to build this home for his family, but he hasn't long to enjoy his handiwork -- when he takes his young sons on a final fishing run, they are lost in a storm. John's wife has already sensed impending danger; the morning they left, she found four empty eggshells: ''A bad sign . . . an omen of misfortune and of lives unfinished; futures cracked open into a powdery dust.'' Yet she won't accept what has happened until her son's pet blackbird returns home in ghostly fashion: ''It was some time before she recognized it, because the bird had turned entirely white. It sat in a branch of the big oak, where it could have easily been mistaken for a wisp of a cloud.''

The grieving widow's melancholy comes to infect her lovely house, spilling into the experiences of each new owner. One finds himself unexpectedly tending a stranger's illegitimate child; another must raise her grandson after her son and his wife die in an accident; a later couple buys the house on impulse when their daughter falls ill with leukemia. All these people, whether they realize it or not, are transformed by the history that resides in the very floors and walls of their new home.

Over time, the physical appearance of the place changes as it shifts from working farm to summer cottage, but its chief features remain -- from the pink sweet peas to the beautiful bird, hovering between apparition and fact. Hoffman lets Blackbird House stand as an emblem for the transforming power of any long-established home, while reveling in the haunting quality of her own distinctive literary style.

February 18, 2005

No, You Can't Have Candy

Gluttony Posted by Hello

I'm paranoid my boys will get fat.

Well, not fat, but chunky. They don't get any exercise other than the little they get from gym class. They are couch potatoes and we're doing something about it.

Summer is not a problem. My family likes to go for bike rides and the kids and I go swimming virtually everyday. So by the time school starts back up in the fall, the boys are lean, tan and energetic.

But once school starts and worse, cold weather sets in, things are different. It's hard to do anything outside because it's so darn cold (who has fun playing basketball when your fingers are numb? Wear gloves? C'mon...to play basketball??) So any form of exercise consists of leaving the comfy chair, walking to the kitchen for meals and walking back to the comfy chair.

For the first time, I've noticed Blake's metabolism is slowing down. He's getting a belly on him and he becomes winded whenever we walk around Wal-Mart or the mall.

This is unacceptable.

This was brought to my attention the other day when we went to Office Max to get him a new binder (he totally annihilated his other one).

"Mom, can you slow down?"

"Slow down? We're not going that fast." Well, actually, maybe I was. I'm used to walking fast anyway from my episodes on the treadmill and we were in a hurry because we needed to get the binder and head out to pick up Brandon.

I turned around to address him and he's breathing hard. I was shocked. Since when did my skinny first born get so out of shape? Two words: Video Games.

Ah. Of course.

Now, after dinner, he has to walk/jog the treadmill for 20 to 30 minutes (depending on how much time we have, how tired he is, how much he did in gym, etc.) It's working. The double chin that was starting to make an appearance is beginning to recede and his steps are livelier. I'm glad I noticed.

Obese children have hard lives. Other children are CRUEL and relentless in their teasing. Though I didn't start him on the treadmill solely to avoid the teasing, I worried about his heart as well, the reaction from the other kids at school was a factor. I'm not sure Blake would have allowed himself to get to that point - he's becoming more aware of girls, but then again, he really doesn't seem to care much about his appearance. I have yet to hear a complaint about his clothes, though he did say the popular school "hoodie" that all the kids were wearing looked gay on guys and no, he didn't want one. That self-awareness is starting to emerge.

I wonder how far it would have gone if I hadn't taken things into my own hands? I hate to be the drill sergeant but Blake has my genes - he's going to have to work to keep the pounds off. Not to mention, both boys are so weak, they have no muscles to speak of. Now is a good time to start developing those muscles.

Now Brandon on the other hand is the complete opposite. (Surprise, they are complete opposites in nearly EVERY aspect). He has to eat to GAIN weight. Yeah, I know. A foreign concept for us "normal" people. *grin* He's so skinny he doesn't look healthy. Instead of the treadmill, I have to concentrate on making him eat all of his dinner (even though he still gets the smallest portions) and we have recently started working with dumbbells to strengthen his arm and chest muscles. When a person doesn't have enough strength to open a carton of milk, it's time to take matters seriously.

Though I understand how obese kids get that way, I don't understand why the parents don't step in and do something about it. Yes, they may be overweight themselves and yes, some people are more susceptible to becoming overweight, but wouldn't that make a person more conscientious about watching one's weight? I guess I honestly don't understand how people can let themselves get in such bad shape, so bad they can't stand without some assistance, so bad they can't sit in a booth but have to have a chair, so bad that their end of the car dramatically sinks when they get in. It doesn't happen overnight.

But I suppose that's not really any of my business. My business is keeping my own family healthy and by setting good examples.

After all, you can't preach if you don't practice it.

February 17, 2005

The Little Girl in Me

Posted by Hello

I have a little girl trapped in my body. She's usually quiet and sedate, but once in a while, I just have to let her out.

Getting together with the girls is the time to do that. Once a month (more or less), the "girls" and I go out to dinner. We don't usually "do" anything, we just get together and gab. Oh, and laugh.

A lot.

We all gathered at Ruby Tuesdays for dinner. There are five of us. These poor girls used to work with me at Wal-Mart. Though as a general rule I try to distance myself from people, I got pretty close with these women. We all worked in a windowless office that smelled like a girl's locker room and shuffled money around.

We had no choice but to get to know one another.

It was a hoot. That sort of job is so monotonous that after a while, just to keep your sanity, we had to cut up and do stupid things. I remember climbing up on the counters and doing a little dance for the cameras just because I couldn't take the boredom anymore. (Of course they watched us, would you trust strangers with your money?)

The powers-that-be allowed us a radio, though often times, I took my case of CDs in and we turned up the music (as loud as we could without being overheard outside the office) and let-her-rip. We all acted pretty nutty and we had a blast. Of course, being high on chocolate didn't help (you wouldn't believe how much candy we all consumed while in that office. I gained a ton of weight). We were issued warnings and we would return to being the normal hum-drum employees before someone couldn't take it anymore and started acting crazy. Then we would all join in. How could we not? It was more fun to participate than stand with our arms crossed and shake our heads in disgust. (Like a few sour-pusses in there).

I never really took that job seriously. It was a stepping stone in my life. However, I don't begrudge the ones who chose to stay and make a career of it, more power to them. It just wasn't something I wanted to devote my life to. Not to mention, I couldn't stand the politics and backstabbing that went on. I just don't respond to that crap, it's plain silly.

We built a camaraderie that bled over to "post" Wal-Mart. At least for me. The rest of the girls still work there - I was the only one who escaped. :-D

But we kept our friendship up and we get together to swap news, hear the latest gossip and reevaluate our lives. It's one of those friendships where you can't stop smiling. In fact, my mouth is usually sore at the end of the night from smiling so much.

Our group is interesting. We are all very different. I'm the oldest and often times feel as if the others look to me as a mentor (or maybe it's just because I'm OLD). I think my opinion means something to them and I'm careful in how I word things (I'm a little blunt at times though).

The youngest member of our group, in a lot of ways, is the most mature. She's a DOUBLE language major. She's planning a trip to Spain this summer with her school to learn more about the culture and of course, practice her Spanish. She's highly intelligent and probably the most "together" of all of us. She has high standards and morals and I respect the heck out of her for sticking to what she believes and never wavering. That's hard to do nowadays.

The Barbie doll of the group is a kind-hearted individual who will bend over backwards to help people. She tries to throw up a tough front, but we all know she's a marshmallow inside. She recently graduated from college with an accounting degree. I'm very proud of her for sticking it out and graduating. She works a lot of hours. The added pressures of going to school, working, and finding time to sleep and study was extremely challenging for her. She did it though and should be very proud of herself - I know we're proud of her.

Another member of our group is pregnant with her first child. We are all very excited for her and of course we can't wait to throw her a baby shower. She's opted to not find out the sex of her baby and I honestly don't know how she stands not knowing, I've spent more than a few hours studying her ultrasounds in the hopes I can guess, but no such luck *smile*. She's very close to graduating from school herself - another feat to be proud of. We all sort of talked her into going back to school and pursuing her business degree and with everything else going on her life, she's stuck to it and will soon be graduating. We're all very proud of her as well. She's the serene, calm one in the group.

Last but not least, is the department manager of our group. She's been through a lot of personal crap but I'm glad to say she has become a stronger person because of it. She has the most adorable twins, a boy and girl, that I've ever seen and no I'm not just saying that. These children are sweet-natured and just plain cute. Though she's a single mother, she works very hard to be there for her children and she's doing a wonderful job - she should be proud of herself. She graduated from college with a marketing degree and she's definitely a people person. People respond to her because she cares, and it shows.

We've been doing the "girl's night out" now for little more than a year. We go to dinner, catch up (though there's never really enough time to "talk") and often head out to the movies. I look forward to these nights because it allows me a chance to be a "woman" as opposed to being a "wife" or a "mother."

It's so important for women to reconnect with that inner girl. It's easy for women to lose their identities when they get married and have children.

Sometimes it's nice to just be "plain 'ole Karen."

February 16, 2005

Drugged Out

Posted by Hello

I used to hate the taste of coffee. Well, I guess, to a certain extent, I still do. I absolutely refuse to drink my coffee black, it's just too bitter. I have to add sugar (lots of sugar) and occasionally cream.

So why do I drink something that I dislike?

Because of the perks.

Did you know that according the to National Coffee Organization, there are more than 300,000 Americans who consume at least ten cups of coffee each day?? Were you paying attention? That's TEN CUPS A DAY! Holy cow. Can you imagine the headache they would get if they decided to cut back??

What type of person consumes that much coffee in a day? A person obsessed with their "to do" list. Why else would you need that much stimulation?

I hesitate drinking more than one cup of coffee every day. I get hooked, fast. I try to alternate the number of days I drink coffee in the afternoon and those are usually reserved for the days I'm at the library trying to get some writing done. I focus better, ideas seem to just pop into my head and the words usually flow.

Caffeine doesn't usually affect my sleep - I can fall asleep on a dime. But it severely affects Kevin's sleep. We go to lunch together every Wednesday. Afterwards, we go to Hot Shots (a drive-thru coffee shack) and get mochas. Well, I get a mocha, he gets a Granita. If he gets something with caffeine, he will NOT sleep well. Even chocolate keeps him up at night.

But we have to have it. It spurs us on to productivity. We have to be productive to avoid the guilty feeling we all get when we don't get as much done during the day than we had planned/hoped.

Why do we feel this way?

Why is it so hard to slow down and smell the roses? Kevin's favorite saying is: "I don't have time for that." My answer? "Make time." Life is too short for that excuse. Sure, it's nice to be productive, but when do you relax and ENJOY what you've worked so hard for? When does life slow down? When you're dead? That's too late.

So I say: Drink coffee - Enjoy life. Pretty simple, eh?

February 15, 2005

Right Under Your Nose

Posted by Hello

Do you know what your teenager is doing right this minute? Pay attention parents, it can happen right under your nose.

Teens' online lingo leaves parents baffled
Shorthand text messages can hide inappropriate behavior

By Bob Sullivan
Technology correspondent

She did everything right. Her 14-year-old daughter's computer was in the living room. She even peeked over her shoulder once in a while during the girl's avid instant message chats to make sure nothing unusual was going on.

But the girl fell into a steamy Internet love affair with a 35-year-old man anyway. The mother was horrified and confused: How could this happen?

The family computer contained little evidence of the affair -- until the mother brought it to a police officer who spoke the right language. Instant message shorthand was to blame, he told her. Her daughter and the 35-year-old were so proficient at that cryptic language often spoken by cell phone text message users (r u there?) that they were having the affair right under the mother's nose.

"Mom is very responsible," said Susan Shankle, a South Carolina-based therapist who counseled the family, which requested anonymity. "She just didn't know the language."

"Parents need to know what all those little alphabets mean. We've always said put the computer where you can see it, but that's not enough. You need to go over there and ask them what that stuff is. Even therapists were shocked at some of it."

"None of the parents understand what their kids are saying. Even I don't," she said. "And the smart ones are even writing around the monitoring software. Parents who are so into this that they are actually using monitoring software, it's not doing any good. There are parents who are actually seeing what their kids are typing, but if you don't understand what they are saying, what good is that?"

Parents need to be aware that their children may be using a language designed for evasion -- and learn to ask questions, even if they seem invasive.

"What you need to do is recognize that if you understand everything else they're saying, and suddenly they say something that doesn't make sense to you, they are saying something they don't want you to see. So you need to sit down and ask them what it is," she said. "And ultimately, know that all the filters in the world aren't really going to protect them. What you have to do is teach them well and trust the filter between their ears."


There's nothing wrong with chatting on the surface, but it's an addicting and alluring drug that hooks, reels, and sucks people into a strange alternate reality. Obviously, you can't see the person you're talking to online and so a "fantasy" person develops in your mind. This person is usually attractive and physically perfect. Though that may be true, let's be real. I'm betting if you met them in real life, you'd be very disappointed.

To avoid the disappointment, you simply continue chatting to this person; the fantasy continues to grow until suddenly, you've convinced yourself you're in "love" with this person. You're in "love" with smoke and mirrors.

Though I think getting to know people on the web is a good thing, after all, you are forced to get to know the personality behind the physical shell, it's dangerous. There are a lot of weirdos out there and you can never be quite sure that the person you're talking to is who they say they are.

This is especially true for children. And predators know this.

We've only just scratched the surface of that issue with our oldest son. Though he's not chatting per se, he plays a role playing game that enables the players to talk to each other. Being an Internet veteran myself, I immediately launched into my spiel about being careful how much information is disclosed about himself, i.e. never give your real name, never tell them what school you go to or what city you live in. I can warn him until I'm blue in the face but it all boils down to him taking responsibility and taking me seriously. Pre-teens and teenagers tend to think they are invincible and it's our jobs, as parents, to administer a shot of reality now and then.

So I can see how this mother, in the above article, had no clue what was going on. Kids have their own language and it's the parents' responsibility to take the time and learn it. Keeping our kids safe depends on that.

February 14, 2005

Cue the Violins

Happy Valentine's Day Posted by Hello

Do you remember your first love? Looking back, I'm not sure the feeling I had for my "first love" was really love, it was more like infatuation. I was in high school, what did I know? However, at the time, I really thought he was "it."

I've always been pretty mature for my age so the guy I fell for was of course, older. He had already graduated from high school which automatically put him in an elite group, in my opinion. He wasn't anyone from my school, I went to school with a bunch of morons (no offense to any who might be reading this and went to high school with me). I just wasn't interested. (Well, there was this one guy, but he wouldn't give me the time of day, which of course broke my heart. Not being one to sit around and mope for the impossible, I started to ignore him and shifted my focus elsewhere).

I'm ashamed to admit this, but I was really into cruising at that time period in my life. Hey, it was back in the 80's , it was considered "cool" back then. Anyway, this guy had the coolest car on the strip. A cherry red camero, souped up, the works. Plus, he was the manager at a local skating rink, where all the cool kids hung out, so I was pretty smitten. He finally noticed me. We went out and I was on top of the world. I definitely felt like my "coolness" status had skyrocketed. It had certainly peaked.

But this guy was young, we all were back then. He wasn't ready to settle down into a serious relationship (how serious is it really, in high school?) So of course, rumor got back to me that he was seeing someone else. I hated that girl. With all my heart. Quite ironically, I ended up working with her later in life and we laughed about the whole thing. We were such dorks.

I was crushed. I mean, heart-broken. At least, as much as I could be given I had never really experienced love to begin with. But that experience taught me something, to be careful with my heart. Years after that, I was cautious. If things looked they might go sour, I mean even hinted at a nosedive, I took off. I dumped them. I was never again going to be the dumped, but the dumpee.

And then along came my husband. (cue the violins) I knew immediately, he was the one. I can't explain it, it was just a feeling. The same sort of feeling I had with the first guy in my life, something just clicked. It's rather a sweet story, how me and my husband hooked up, but I'll save that for another time.

It's taken years for me to open my heart, to fully trust and love. I'm a better person because of it. I tell my husband and boys I love them all the time, though it was years before I felt I could let myself say it. Lucky for me, I have a very patient family.

When you let someone into your heart, and say those words, out loud, something happens. The relationship starts to meld together, there's a sense of security, and that leads to peace. It's a wonderful feeling.

I guess my point here is - why is Valentine's day necessary? Every day should be Valentine's Day with the people you love. It's not hard, just tell them how you feel. But don't stop there, show them. Send little notes, write something on a paper plate and leave it for your spouse when they come in for lunch after a grueling morning (thank you honey).

It makes a WORLD of difference and suddenly your bad day isn't so bad anymore.

February 13, 2005

Movie Review: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

Polly Perkins Posted by Hello

We watched Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow today. It was ok, but then again I wasn't expecting much. I actually liked the film better after watching the special features.

This project started as one man's brain child. He began over ten years ago and when he pitched the idea, they loved it. Of course, he had the added advantage of knowing the right people, but it's a good lesson to learn: When you have a dream, don't give up. Stick with it and that's precisely what this man did. That's extremely admirable and after listening to him talk about it, his eyes alight, his voice animated, his dream was infectious and his determiniation to see the project succeed is motivating.

This film is a computer geek's dream. The movie was filmed about 90% in front of a blue screen (I can't imagine how hard that was for the actors!), the rest was computer generated. It took over two years and hundreds of people to complete, but the end product is really interesting.

Overall, I give it three stars out of five.

New York Times Movie Review:

The story is pure saving-the-world pulp fantasy. Six eminent scientists have mysteriously disappeared. Polly, who is covering the story, is summoned to Radio City Music Hall by Dr. Jennings (Trevor Baxter), a scientist who tells her he knows the cause of the disappearances and fears he is next. In a magical moment of cultural transposition, she meets him in the loge during a screening of ''The Wizard of Oz,'' one of the film's touchstones. (Much later in the movie the digitally resurrected image of the young Laurence Olivier appears as an oracular wizardlike technophantom.)

Before an air raid interrupts their meeting, Polly learns that the probable mastermind behind the disappearances is Dr. Totenkopf, the enigmatic leader of a group of pre-World War I scientists, who has faded into obscurity. As the music hall empties in a panic, a fleet of giant robots approach the city and lands, tramping through Midtown Manhattan and crushing everything in their path. Polly summons her ex-boyfriend Joe, a daredevil freelance aviator who operates a squadron from a private base not far from Manhattan.

In the initial skirmish, Joe, piloting a P-40 Warhawk, captures a robot. The enemy retaliates by destroying his fortress. The next skirmish is a furious aerial battle that zigzags thrillingly through the canyons of Manhattan as Joe's plane gives chase to a fleet of sinister birdlike robots.
Polly, who was slipped an important clue, refuses to hand it over to Joe unless he makes her his partner, and he reluctantly agrees. As they zoom around Manhattan, she becomes a pushy backseat driver, snapping directions and arguing with Joe about their troubled romantic history. She accuses him of dumping her three years earlier. He says she sabotaged his plane, and their flirtatious bickering continues for much of the movie.

Having determined that the robots are being dispatched from a secret location in Nepal, they fly to Asia, stopping along the way at a British airstrip suspended above the earth where Franky (Ms. Jolie), a regal British air force commander in an eye patch, lends her forces to the cause. Once Joe and Polly reach the Himalayas, where Totenkopf's war machine is secreted inside a giant ice cave, they discover the dreadful meaning of ''the world of tomorrow.''

February 12, 2005

Book Review - Parting Shots

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Uh oh, another book review. Sorry if this is boring to some, but the reason I post reviews is mainly for the writers out there. You learn something each time you read a book and often times it's a valuable lesson that can be incorporated into our own writing. So bare with me, I promise to get back to my usual sarcastic self. :-)

Book review: Parting Shots by Freda Bright From Publisher's Weekly

Dani Sloane is a 41-year-old divorce lawyer who deals out breezy, well-meant advice to clients yet fails to see the handwriting splashed across the walls of her own beloved Manhattan apartment until the day her husband Ted--a onetime Columbia journalism student with Pulitzer dreams who has since buckled down to a miserable PR job--leaves her for a younger woman. Dani emerges from weeks of deep denial howling with genuine outrage and pain. Meantime, their chunky, virginal daughter Sam, a college freshman, lands a boyfriend old enough to be her father. Bright ( Options ) makes these not-so-wild situations fresh, poignant and funny. The juxtaposition of mother and daughter teetering furiously on the brink of independence at two very different stages of life adds a wry twist and a measure of truth that is enjoyably uncontrived.

Now I understand why all the writing books out there say it's a MUST that your characters have a weakness. Dani Sloane was a total she-devil. The author did a good job showing her emotions, especially anger, but there was no weakness in this character and I simply couldn't relate to her. I got impatient with her after a time and just wanted her to move on. She was too hell-bent on getting revenge, which I can't say I wouldn't want revenge in the same place, but the author really dragged it on for too long. I think it was a good premise for a story, but I feel the author could have cut out about 1/4 of the book. The ending was disappointing as well. She's finally successful in breaking down a "confirmed bachelor" and yet she's the one to turn him down at the end. It was a good message on the surface, women shouldn't rely on a man to form their identity, but when it comes down to it, women need men - it's just instinctive to want to have someone to grow old with. I think Bright could have gotten that message across AND gotten the man. Instead, the character came off as cold and unfeeling.

What did I learn? To give my characters weaknesses so the readers can empathize.

Moral: Don't rely on anyone to form your identity, know who you are first, then jump into a relationship.

February 11, 2005

But I NEED That

Is it pay day yet? Posted by Hello

Living from paycheck to paycheck. Boy, I remember those days. Right after graduation, I moved out of mom and dads. I was ready to be on my own! It was scary, but exhilarating at the same time. My first apartment was the attic of a house that had been divided into four sections. The ceilings were sloped and it was small, but I felt right at home. (My sister and I shared the attic in the house I grew up in). I was hot stuff. I had my own pad! I remember this creepy guy that lived downstairs...he was a big dude with a gut, looked like he had swallowed a bowling ball, one of those perfectly rounded bellys that stuck straight out from his body. I caught him staring at me several times. Really creeped me out. And it wouldn't just be the staring, it was the gradual sneaking up on me. I'd see him at a distance, staring at me, and then I would look up five minutes later and he was still staring at me, only the proximity changed. Ew. I learned not to hang out outside for long period of times.

One time, a friend of mine, Mike, came over. He was 6'1 and hefty, a big dude only in a good way. I pointed out the creepy guy to him and Mike stared the guy down. Just stood there with his arms crossed and stared at him until the guy slinked away. Funny, the creepy dude never looked at me again.

But I digress.

Money was tight. Every single penny went to something: rent, car payment, gas, food - in that order. I never had to live by candlelight because I couldn't afford the utilities (like someone in my family who shall remain nameless) but it got so bad that I had to ration my gas. I knew exactly how far it was to work and back, how many gallons that would burn and how much time I had until I could afford to put more gas in the tank. Needless to say, if I didn't bum rides from friends, I didn't go anywhere but work.

But that's the payoff of being on your own and it's a valuable lesson to learn - that you have to be responsible with your money, prioritize and budget. It's part of growing up. Young people start accumulating debt. Credit card companies feed off these baby birds leaving the nest because they are vulnerable and because they need the cash.

Adults have new eggs to crack. Marriage and children. Those two things drastically change financial needs. The challenge here is to distinguish between needs and wants. And herein lies the point of this entry.

What's wrong with this picture: A woman is in the checkout lane at Wal-Mart. She has a toddler and a crying baby. They both look malnourished, dirty and just plain miserable. The woman plops down dry cereal, powder for formula, candy bars, and beer. She then digs out the food stamps and promptly gets defensive and glares at the people around her.

Her cell phone rings.

She talks/boasts loudly to the other person on the line about how her man does this or doesn't do this and in the meantime, she's motioning for a pack of cigarettes. Do you think this woman has her needs and wants screwed up?

It infuriates me. I used to work at Wal-Mart and would see, first hand, the careless way people took advantage of us, the taxpayers. It's one thing to help a person who WANTS to be helped, it's another when they are obviously taking advantage of the system because of their own personal agenda.

It saddens me when I see children involved and obviously suffering. What's wrong with people?

I used to work with a gal who was on the verge of getting kicked out of her apartment. She had two kids and a car that worked half the time. She was so skinny, I seriously worried about her health - there wasn't enough money to feed herself after taking care of the kids.

Though she had cable TV, smoked, and owned a cell phone.

*Sigh* The difference between needs and wants. It's really as simple as that.

February 10, 2005

Men Bashing

Posted by Hello

Here's a funny commercial for you. The feminists won't like it too much, but here's what I have to say: Lighten up. It's funny!

I wouldn't consider myself a feminist, though I do believe women should be treated equally and fairly. What's the difference you might ask?

To me, being a feminist means bashing men. A feminist, in my eyes, is a Roseanne Barr personality - they never have anything at all good to say about, anything.

"Feminist" has become a dirty word because women have taken so many issues to the extreme it's just gotten ridiculous.

Here's a news flash: women are DIFFERENT than men and you know what? I prefer it that way.

February 09, 2005

Is Love Worth It?

Jen and RyanPosted by Hello

I have to admit, I'm hooked. This is a picture of
The Bachelorette and one of the three finalists. I'm rooting for this guy, but I suspect she will pick the cutest of the bunch, Jerry (though I don't know, Ryan and that dimple).

In case you have no idea what I'm talking about, it's a reality TV show on ABC. It airs Monday nights and I totally love it.

Kevin and I watch it together and I think he's as hooked as I am. It's fun to sit there and analyze who's going to make it to the next level and yet at the same time, it's sort of like watching a horror show, you can't believe the people on this show have willingly subjected themselves to this.

How is it possible to to find the "one" for you while millions of people watch? Talk about putting pressure on the relationship.

I like Jen. I tried not to, she's so cute and perky, but I do. She seems really down to earth, intelligent and articulate. I really want to see her end up with someone who is good to her. She went through the grueling process on The Bachelor, but it didn't work out (surprise). So she knows what it's like to be picked apart and left for the vultures to snack on.

I have to wonder, though, the real reason for these shows. The people who appear are all attractive, smart, financially well off (or at least have good jobs),; in a nutshell, they aren't losers. Surely, in real life, they could get any woman (or man in Jen's case). Why go through this humiliating process? Is it for publicity? (Which I suspect is Jerry's real reason for doing this). Or are they really hoping to find the woman of their dreams?

Isn't it funny what people will do to find love? A basic, elemental ingredient to happiness and yet so elusive for many.

The last Bachelor show featured one of our homegrown guys, Aaron Burgee. (forgive me if I misspelled his last name). A banker and quite cute. One of the tellers that worked there nominated him for the show. Of course, the woman he picked out was all wrong for him and it didn't last. I would be curious to hear his thoughts on the process and if he thought it was worth it.

Is love worth enduring public scrutiny and humiliating moments? Is it worth opening your heart and inviting any who are interested to stomp on it?

What do you think?