Thursday, March 30, 2006

I've got Fever

Spring Fever that is. I’m in a great mood today. It’s all the sunshine. We’ve had a gorgeous week in the 60’s with sunshine and springyness in the air. I’ve realized that I definitely suffer from Winter Blues, and when the weather turns, like it has, I become a completely different person! Seeing as it is unseasonably warm, and we did NOT get our usual March Blizzard, I’m still a bit suspicious that Spring is really here…I have a feeling we’ll get a nice fat snowstorm in about a week or so…but, I’m enjoying it while I can.

I haven’t written in here for a while now, but that’s mostly because I don’t really have much to write about lately. Life is crazy busy, but nothing overly exciting is going on. Good or bad, which I guess is good overall. I was just having a conversation with a friend the other day about how “boring” our lives are, and yet, how much we enjoy them anyway. I mean, on paper, (or on a computer screen), when I try to think of something different or unique to write about, and come up empty, because there just isn’t anything of note going on, it could seem depressing, or even slightly pathetic. But, the thing is, I’m really enjoying my life right now. I live a very peaceful day to day. I get up in the morning and still have this sense of pride that my messy house is MY HOUSE, it’s strange, you’d think after 3 years of being a solo homeowner it would wear off, but it hasn’t. I love my place, and am so proud not only that I own it, but that it’s decorated just so, just the way I like it, just ME. I feed my crazy cat, who I adore, and who gives me great pleasure when she jumps up on the bathroom sink to rub up against my face as I’m trying to brush my teeth, because she makes me feel so loved, purring like a maniac. Then I head off to work, and even my drive in I look forward to, due to the magic of audio books, and my addiction to them. And now that the weather is nice, I love driving in with the windows slightly down, and the fresh air hitting me first thing in the morning. And even work, although stressful and insanely busy, is giving me a certain sense of something I can’t quite explain, but that I like. I feel useful, and appreciated, and I don’t know, even good at what I do. I love that the clients all know me by name, and trust me to do right by them. It’s different from any other job I’ve had, I’m not just “staff” member, I’m part of this really small (and getting smaller by the minute) team, and I think that if I take the right attitude and approach, I can be even more included and have more of a say in the future. My loyalty here is not going unnoticed, FINALLY.

Then, after work, I head to the gym almost daily now, and that too, for some strange reason, is giving me a great sense of pleasure. I’m damn proud that I’m working out so hard, and I feel great. I don’t think I’m actually losing any weight yet, but I’m not so worried about it now…because I feel great, I can see my stamina and my strength is increasing. Just last night I was able to do the elliptical machine for 2.5 miles in about 30 minutes, when just 2 months ago, I couldn’t stay on the damn thing for 5 minutes without feeling like I was going to die. That’s got to mean something, right?

And then I head home, and whip myself up something healthy to eat, and that too makes me happy. Just the other night I made myself an extremely healthy and completely satisfying meal, in less than 20 minutes. I felt so great when that was done.

Some nights, I have dinner out with friends, and I love those nights. I love my friends, and I really enjoy my time with them. I love just sitting around chatting about everything and nothing in general. My friends are extended family to me, and I always look forward to seeing them. Other nights, I have dinner with my family, and I also love those nights. I love that we all get together to enjoy each other’s company.

After dinner, whether in or out, I plop myself on my lovely newish couch and I watch my T.V. shows. And yes, I watch way too much television, but I enjoy it, and see nothing wrong with it. And then I go to bed, and every night, as I get in that bed I still love how comfortable it is, and if you know me, you know I love my sleep, and just the feeling of laying down for a good night’s sleep is wonderful.

On Saturdays I try to hit the gym in the morning, then I get to see Lil' K when I take her and her sister to gymnastics, and then I usually spend the afternoon with a friend, shopping, going to eat, hanging out. Sundays I’m lazy, and usually lounge around in my pj’s, vacillating between watching movies, cleaning the house, reading e-mail, doing laundry, until late morning, early afternoon. Then I run chores, sometimes I hang with Lil' K, other days I just relax on my own, enjoy my own company.

Like I said, it’s not much for excitement, but it’s the small things. It’s all in the details, you know? And I love the details of my life. My life is simple mostly, but it’s filled with love, and with a sense of peace and serenity, amidst all the crazy day to day. I can live with that, in fact, I do, and I can’t complain.

And every once in a while, I have something like a trip to Mexico, to stir things up and excite me.
Yep, Spring Fever definitely has me in a giddy, reflective and kind of mushy mood doesn’t it? I LIKE IT! ;-)

Friday, March 10, 2006

Happy Birthday to me

The thing about birthdays is this, you either love them, or you hate them. I fall into the LOVE THEM category.

I think birthdays are fantastic and everyone should celebrate them no matter how old you are. In fact, I’m a firm believer that the older you get, the more you should celebrate. After all, you made it through another year, what a gift that is. Appreciate it; be proud of it, LOVE IT.

I’ve always been a big birthday person. From the time I was a little girl, birthdays were always a big deal in my house. My mom would make these insane cakes, of little dolls in a dress made of cake, or a picturesque scene by a lake in a park, with edible swans. Every birthday was a special occasion. So I’ve grown up to think of my birthday as a very special day.

As I get older, a lot of my friends don’t want to acknowledge their birthdays, either because they don’t want to recognize the fact that they are getting older, or because of some misplaced sense of guilt, that perhaps it is inappropriate to celebrate one’s own birth?

I disagree wholeheartedly. And maybe as I’m proudly stepping officially into my “thirty-somethings”, certain people feel that I shouldn’t make a big deal out of it, but to them I say “phewy”! That’s right “phewy!” It’s my day to celebrate me, to celebrate life, to celebrate another year on this planet, and I will make a big deal out of it if I want, and if you don’t like it…well, I don’t much care.

So, yes, I am one of those people that tells everyone around me that it’s my birthday, and I dress extra nice on that day, and I treat myself to something special, and I get giddy when others remember that it is my day. I throw myself birthday parties; I buy myself gifts. I love the attention on this one day of the year.

And I don’t know why it is that society makes it seem so wrong to do so. Why should we feel guilty that we want to celebrate ourselves one measly day (or maybe the week surrounding it) out of an entire year? I work hard all year, I take care of others, and I remember their special days and make a big deal out of them as well, so why shouldn’t I be excited when it’s my turn?

I’ve attempted the so-called good manners on this issue, attempted to tell people that it wasn’t a big deal, that I didn’t need presents…like everyone I say, “oh, you didn’t have to, you shouldn’t have, I don’t need anything”, but damned if I don’t get happy like a kid in a candy store when someone gives me a present, surprises me with a cake, or just simply sends me a card.

And to every single person who has remembered me today, I just want to say THANK YOU; you really have made my day, over and over again. I feel blessed; I have some incredible friends. You guys make it worth it.

So there it is, I’m 31 today (30 freakin’ ONE), and I still act like a child on my birthday. And you know what? As long as I have birthdays, I will continue to do so, because I’m blessed each and every year with a new start, and I intent to start each and every year celebrating myself.

Who’s with me?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

America the Beautiful

So, today marks 21 years that I’ve been living in the United States of America. I still remember the day we got here very clearly, or parts of it at least. I have vague memories of saying goodbye to friends and relatives in Portugal, and don’t remember the flight AT ALL, but I have a very vivid memory of the drive to Lowell from Logan Airport. I remember we were in my brother’s soon-to-be Godparent’s car, and I remember getting the strongest occurrence of deja-vu I’ve ever had. I remember saying to my mom (probably in Portuguese) “I’ve seen this before, and I know what’s coming up next”. Weird.

I don’t remember a whole lot more of that evening, but the next day was my 10th birthday, and I remember there was a cake, and lots of relatives I’d never met.

The memories get very blurry after that. I remember we lived at my brother’s Godparents house for a few months, until we found a place of our own. I remember playing with my cousins Sue and Ruben at my grandmother’s house. We used to re-enact “Three’s Company” episodes. I remember several months later, when my other cousins, Paula and Monica also came to the U.S., and how we all used to play “Kids Incorporated”. I remember being given the finger by one of my cousins, and her mother telling me that it was just the way she “pointed”. OH my God…do you girls remember that? It’s so weird the things your brain retains.

There were Easters, and Thanksgivings, and Christmases at grandma’s house. CCD, and going to church. Going to school where I didn’t speak any English, and the teacher didn’t speak any Portuguese. Learning English well enough the following year that I didn’t need translation anymore, and better yet the following year when I no longer went to a bi-lingual school.

I made friends, I lost friends. I had crushes, I got my heart broken, I probably broke a few hearts myself. I did the all American things, played with Barbies, went trick-or-treating, crushed on New Kids on The Block and went to concerts, had pen pals from all over the world. I watched Growing Pains and Full House and it blows my mind that Michelle Tanner is now Mary Kate and Ashley Olson, all of what 19 years old??

My parents took a citizenship test while I was still young enough to become an American Citizen by proxy. I registered to vote, I voted. I always vote.

I graduated high school, went to college, fell in love some more, got my heart broken some more. Learned things, taught things. Made friends that will last a life time, made others I’ve since lost touch with. I worked at McDonald’s, I worked retail. I went dancing, I drank, I partied.

I discovered the internet, I made incredible friends once again, that I think will last a lifetime.

I traveled, learned the love of experiencing different lands, different cultures.
I graduated college, I got a job, then another job, and another…I bought cars, I bought clothes, I became a shopaholic. I saved money, I planned, I became a homeowner. I “adopted” a little sister. I adopted a cat, I had to give up the cat. I adopted another cat.

I made more friends, I lost some more.

A LOT has happened in 21 years, but the biggest of all is that I became the woman I am today. Truly an American, I am blessed, I have never taken for granted the advantages provided to me by my parent’s decision to relocate to an entirely different country (twice, by the way), to give me a better life. I’ve worked hard, but I’ve reaped the rewards. Am still reaping the rewards. I plan to continue to work hard, and I plan to continue to enjoy my spoils.

Anyone who is lucky enough to end up in this country, and can’t appreciate all it provides, is a fool. Yes, America has A LOT of problems, and yes, there are times when it doesn’t seem that great a nation. But oh the opportunities it provides, if only you know how to look hard enough. If only you MOVE and do something about it. That’s the beauty of it, here, you can complain, you can challenge, you can try to make a difference.

I for one can tell you that I will never leave this country, because it is my home. This is where my memories live, where my loved ones, and my friends reside. This is where I hope to grow old, start a family, make a difference, and leave my mark.

This is America, and I’ll be damned if I’m not living the American Dream.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

February Movie Review

Well, I’ve been meaning to post this for at least a week now, but time has gotten away from me. That said, February was a good movie month for me. I love movies, but unfortunately, don’t get to actually “go to” the movies very often. My goal is to at least make it to the theatre once a month this year. It will most likely not happen every month, but I will try.

I do, however, have TiVo, and because of that, am watching a lot more movies at home now. I’ve never been a “blockbuster” person, going out to pick out a movie, having to watch it in a certain amount of time in order to return it, that’s just too structured and constricting for me. And it requires leaving the house to go find a movie when I do have some time to actually watch one, and that is usually the time when I just want to sit back and watch something right then and there. With TiVo, I have this huge catalogue of movies that I’ve been saving, so every now and then, I can have an evening of just watching a few back to back.

It also makes it easy to find movies I might want to watch in the future, even if they are on at 3AM, and save them for a more appropriate time (when I’m awake).

That said, I watched one Theatre movie this month, one DVD, and the rest were either tivoed, or Lifetime movies, which were on when I was at home sick.

The Theatre Movie:
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon
Unless you’ve been living under a rock in Antarctica, you know this movie is the story of Johnny Cash and June Carter, and has won a gazillion awards. I personally think it deserves every award it receives, and was very excited to see Reese win at the Oscars. I thought she was excellent, and was pleasantly surprised by her singing. I have always liked her as an actress, and she didn’t disappoint once again. Joaquin Phoenix, in my opinion was just incredible. Not only did he do a wonderful job portraying the angst ridden and tortured Johnny Cash, but he really did an amazing job with the music. He was enthralling to watch, and damn it if I didn’t walk out of the theatre with a new Hollywood crush. The movie was fantastic. 5 out of 5 stars for me.

The Silly Movies:
New York Minute
Starring: Mary Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen
Yes, I love stupid little teenybopper films. They are mindless entertainment, and a nice distraction from the day to day of trying to be an adult in this world. This movie was cute. It is the tale of twin sisters who spend a day in New York City being chased by a truancy officer, trying to foil his attempts to catch them, and trying to make it to an appointment on time. It was your typical story of twin sisters who are complete opposites, and find themselves in the middle of an adventure a-la Home Alone style. Stupid pranks and silly escapes ensue, and they save the day, everything and everyone lives happily ever after. Something like that anyway. Like I said, silly, but cute. 3/5

Starring: Tia Mowry and Tamara Mowry
Not exactly sure how I wound up watching two twin movies this month. This is a silly Disney movie about twin sisters separated at birth, who are reunited on their 21st birthday, only to discover that they have magical powers and are actually from another dimension. Typical good v. evil story, where evil wants to take over the world, and they are the only ones who can save it. Cute, but predictable and corny. 3 ½ /5

The Lifetime Movies:
It Had To Be You
Starring: Michael Vartan, Natasha Henstridge
Tale of a man and a woman who meet when they are planning their weddings, to other people. They spend a weekend running into each other, and making their plans (finding a band, registering, etc.) together. As would happen in any Lifetime movie, they fall in love, but as they are both planning weddings, there is much angst and “we can’t be together, it’s not right”. Sappy, cute, again predictable, but still entertaining. 4/5

Starring: Heather Graham, Taye Diggs, Sandra Oh, David Sutcliffe
Well, Taye Diggs was in the movie, so of course I had to watch it. That said, it also starred Sandra Oh, who is fast becoming one of my favorite actresses, and the premise of the story was cute. Heather Graham plays an independent single woman, who is, as her friends call her “wedding phobic”. Her father gets sick, and she ends up running his “Wedding Bells” magazine during his illness. This leads not only to hilarious hi-jinks, but also, of course, an unexpected romance, and possibly a change of heart, maybe? Maybe not? She’s not so sure. It was really cute, funny, and I really did enjoy her philosophy on life. At one point she is wearing a t-shirt, which reads, “I think, therefore, I’m single”. I want that shirt! I was however disappointed that the movie took the typical “a single woman is not truly happy until she minds a man, she only thinks she is” road. I could have done without that, but it was a romantic comedy after all. 4 ½ /5

The rest:
Van Helsing
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Kate Beckinsale
Van Helsing is the hero who captures and kills all the mythological monsters of yesteryear: Jeckyl and Hyde, Werewolves, etc. He goes to Transylvania to find and destroy Dracula. I had no idea this movie was a comedy. If it wasn’t meant to be funny, oops, because I found it hilarious, but not necessarily in a good way. It was your typical good guy v. monsters flick, but with a bit of sarcastic and just silly humor thrown in. It really wasn’t that great a movie, but it was entertaining enough. 3 ½ /5

Rebel Without a Cause
Starring: James Dean, Natalie Wood
I love this movie. I’ve seen it more than once, but it had been at least 10 years since the last time I saw it, possibly more. I think I picked up on a lot more of the subtleties this time. It’s a classic, so reviewing it feels inappropriate. The acting may have not been the greatest, but who cares? It is a coming of age story of a troubled young teen that moves to a new town and has trouble making friends. James Dean is…well, he’s James Dean. 4/5

While You Were Sleeping
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Peter Gallagher, Bill Pullman, Peter Boyle
Cute love story of a woman who pretends to be the fiancĂ© of a man in a coma who she’s been crushing on, and falls in love with his brother. It was cute, sweet, and Sandra Bullock was her typical adorable self. She’s one of those actresses that you either love or hate, and although she may not always pick the best movies, I enjoy her. This was a typical wrong place wrong time love story. It was cute. 4/5

The I Inside
Starring: Ryan Phillippe, Piper Perabo
Story of a man who wakes up from a near death experience to find himself in a confused state where he’s traveling through time and finding all is not what it seems. I’m a huge fan of Ryan Philippe usually, so I thought I’d enjoy this movie. It was weird, freaky, and I kept expecting it to make sense. It did not. The ending left much to be desired. 2 ½ /5

Starring: Jamie Foxx, Regina King, Kerry Washington
This is, of course, the Ray Charles story, which won Jamie Foxx, all the awards a few years back. Because of all the hype the movie received then, I really thought it was meant to be a tribute to Ray Charles. If so, I would ask nicely that the writers of this movie refrain from ever writing a tribute to me or anyone I like. All this movie succeeded in doing, in my eyes, was make Ray Charles seem like a tremendous jerk. The movie itself was well done, and I loved the way they would jump back into Ray’s childhood memories, it was gripping. But, unlike in Walk the Line, where Johnny Cash, although also drug addicted, and a womanizer, manages to come through as troubled, and tortured, and therefore, somewhat of a victim, so likeable in a way, here, Ray just comes across as rude, self-entitled, and cruel. I’m not sure what exactly they were trying to convey, but respect for Mr. Charles it wasn’t. I understood the demons he struggled with, but didn’t feel it gave him a right to become one himself. And since the movie leaves off about 40 years ago, I’ll tell myself that he did straighten himself out, and become a better person for the last 40 years of his life, and just try to forget the image this movie created in my mind. That said, the movie as a movie, was excellent. 4/5

If Only
Starring: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Paul Nichols
Samantha and Ian live in London where he is a businessman about to make a major presentation, and she is a music student about to graduate from a prestigious music school. They love each other, but Ian doesn’t know how to love and appreciate Sam properly. When she is taken from him, he realizes what he had, and when he is given a second chance, he pledges to make things right before it is too late. This was a very sweet “I wish I could find a man like that” kind of love story. It is also a tearjerker on more than one occasion. It is hard to say what I really want to say without giving too much away, so I’ll stop here. 4/5

Starring: Brekin Myer, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Bill Murray
I found myself watching a lot of movies with the same actors and actresses or the same themes this month. Strange. Anyway, this is the story of the big orange lazy cat, and his owner. When his owner gets a new dog, Garfield feels snubbed. But when the dog is kidnapped, it is up to Garfield to save the day. Silly live action movie with a computer animated (or something) cartoon cat. It was silly, bordering on stupid, but still funny and entertaining. I wasn’t expecting a work of art here. 4/5

Miss Congeniality II, Armed and Fabulous
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Regina King, William Shatner
Gracie Hart is back, only this time she’s been made into the “face of the FBI” and is an overly made-up, highly styled Barbie Doll. That is, until her friend from the beauty pageant is kidnapped, and Gracie sets out to save the day. Sandra Bullock and Regina King are great together in this. It wasn’t quite as funny or sweet as the first one, but still highly entertaining. 4/5

Starring: Angelina Jolie
Note to self, do NOT watch movies about supermodels that die of aids in the 70’s when you have a cold. This results in a blocked ability to breathe. This is the true life story of Gia, a 70’s supermodel who contracts HIV, and later dies of AIDS in a time when the disease was just beginning to become rampant. It was an excellent movie, but depressing as all hell, I think I went through at least half a box of tissues watching the last 30 minutes or so. 4/5

The DVD:
Starring: Jesse L. Martin, Taye Diggs, Anthony Rapp, Rosario Dawson, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Idina Menzel, Adam Pascal, Tracie Thomas
Based on the Broadway musical by the same name, with most of the original cast members (all but Dawson and Thomas are original), this movie was fantastic. I had seen Rent on stage quite a few years ago, and it was great to see the play with “movie magic”. Beautifully shot, the music was incredible, the actors naturals. I was extremely impressed with Jesse L. Martin’s performance, and his singing ability. Taye digs and Rosario Dawson also pleasantly surprised me with their musical talents. For those who don’t know, Rent is the story of a group of young “bohemians” living in New York City during the time when AIDS is becoming widespread. It deals with the disease, homosexuality, drug addiction, love, friendship, life and death. It was funny, emotional, sad, gripping, and extremely well translated to film. 5/5
DVD Extras: I had to make sure I mentioned the extras on the two disc DVD I bought, because the second disk contains a documentary about the life of Jonathan Larson, the creator of Rent. I knew of the story of Larson’s life, but didn’t know the details. It is a story made for the movies. The documentary was excellent. It was interesting to hear from the original cast members who knew him when all the Rent action was starting, and his family and friends, who knew him before. I’m pretty sure I cried more during the documentary than the actual movie. There went the rest of my box of tissues. 5/5

So, let’s review, in February I watched:

Two silly movies about twins, two movies about famous singers with drug problems who cheat on their wives, two Sandra Bullock flicks and two with Jennifer Love Hewitt, and two movies about AIDS in the late 70’s/early 80’s. And a bunch of made for TV movies that left a lot to be desired. I MUST diversify in March.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

My February in Books

I started off the month in a futuristic Los Angeles, now known as Crimson City (by Liz Maverick). I struggled with Fleur DuMont a vampire, as she met and fell in love with Dain Reston a human, in their Romeo and Juliet style relationship. The struggles between the races, not black and white, but Vampire, Human and Werewolf, and the impending race war, set up an interesting mystery and just enough conflict to keep me on the edge of my seat.

I continued on the vampire streak, but moved on to a much more lighthearted read with Bitten & Smitten by Michelle Rowen. Here I met Sarah Dearly, a contemporary chick lit protagonist, who is set up on a blind date, but instead of meeting Mr. Right, she meets Mr. Man of the Night. Suddenly thrust into this world she never even knew existed, Sarah is forced to reconcile her ideas about Vampires, which she’s gathered from watching Buffy and Angel, with the reality in front of her. There is of course a little romance, and some mystery and good guys v. bad guys thrown in for good measure. This book was funny and entertaining.

From vampires to humans with magical powers I went. In “A fistful of sky” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Gypsum is a member of a family which comes into their magical powers around the time they hit puberty. Unlike the rest of the clan, Gypsum doesn’t go through her “transition” as expected, and is then forced to accept her life as a non-magical member of society. Just as she’s beginning to make peace with her fate, something happens, and everything changes. But is getting the one thing she always wanted more than Gypsum bargained for? I found this story extremely creative, unique, and sweet. Without the magical element, this could be any “coming of age” tale of a young woman trying to find her place in the world. Throw the magic back in, and it was a fantasy filled whirlwind of spells, strange creatures and beautiful imagery.

Although I spent the better part of the month with fantasy creatures, most of them still lived in our very familiar world. I took a trip into distant fantasy lands however, with my next read. I started the “Chronicles of Narnia”, reading first the “Magician’s Nephew” which is the tale that introduces Narnia and explains how it came into existence, and then “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe”. I had never before read these books, and am finding them very entertaining, if a bit simple, and childish. I have to keep reminding myself that they were written for children of the 1950’s, unlike the Harry Potter fans of today, which as we know, kids are very different today. Still, I am enjoying the series so far. I am now halfway through the next tale “The Horse and His Boy” and expect to be done with the complete series very much in advance of next month’s review.

Throughout all this reading in “real” book form, I have also been listening to “Wicked: The Life an Times of the Wicked Witch of the West” by Gregory Maguire on audio book. This audio book is about 19 hours long, so it’s taking me a while to get through it. I’ve also had that ear ringing/head buzzing thing going on, so haven’t been able to listen as much as I’d like. I should finish the book by next week, so I’ll save the actual review for March, but I am thoroughly enjoying it.

All in all, I’d say it was a very enjoyable reading month for me. I had not realized that all I read this month was fantasy, but it’s fitting, considering I needed an escape from my reality in which my head was zooming half the time.