Thursday, December 30, 2010

Holiday Update and New Year Wishes

I hope everyone enjoyed a wonderful holiday season shared with family and/or friends. I apologize for yet another blogging absence, but the month of December was pretty hectic between Christmas shopping, volunteering, holiday visits and parties.

The month started off great, thanks to a hugely successful holiday cookie exchange. As you might recall, I signed up to participate despite my lack of culinary skills, but thanks to the help of my kind sister-in-law, I made my two cookie recipes (lemon lavender cookies and pumpkin cheesecake bars). It proved a great opportunity to share a few laughs with friends, as well as try some delish cookies. A new annual tradition was born.

The food pantry where I volunteer with food distribution every Thursday was crazy busy the first three weeks of the month due to the fact that the last two weeks, between the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, we’d be closed. On that last Thursday, in addition to the regular bags of food, we also distributed gift certificates to the local supermarket which families could use to purchase items for their holiday meal, and we had toys for the children that were contributed by a local church that had organized a toy drive in their parish. It was a horribly cold night, but the families were lined up outside our doors well before distribution time, and as soon as the doors opened, the little kids rushed inside and made a beeline for the toys table. The plan was to have families collect their food and certificates first and then stop by the toys table, so we ended up having to shoo the little ones away until they had their parents with them. Sadly, there were more kids then there were toys, so by the end of the evening, some children didn’t have a toy to take home with them. There was one moment which stays with me still. A little boy stood by the toys table for a while. Initially we told him he had to wait for mom and dad, so he stepped back and said he was just looking. As we saw the toys start to dwindle and still no parents, we asked him if he wanted to pick something out and we’d hold it for him, to which he solemnly responded “someone already took it.” As if that wasn’t bad enough, by the time he did come up, all the toys were gone and only books and gifts for teenagers were left. Ugh, I thought of him for days after that, and prayed mom and dad and/or Santa had been able to get him some of the toys he wanted for Christmas.

In between my office holiday dinner and shopping for gifts, I also made time to go visit Carmen at the nursing home. If you’ve read my '100 things', you know Carmen is an elderly friend which I made in the last few months of mom’s life while she was at a nursing home. Carmen is from Puerto Rico and doesn’t have any family here in the States. In fact, the only company she gets at the nursing home is a couple of parishioners from a local church which come to pray with her and me. I brought her my gifts, as well as one that my cousin had been kind enough to get for her. She was thrilled with her gifts, but more than the gifts she was just happy to see me. Her joy was a reminder of what the holidays are all about… not shopping or gifts or parties…it’s about having loved ones to spend it with.

So after much stress gift picking, shopping, and wrapping, the holidays went off without a hitch. My knuckleheads loved their gifts, as did most of my loved ones (I hope). Santa was very generous with me. I received a beautiful ring from my knuckleheads, a couple outfits and a coat, as well as gift cards. Another standout gift for 2010, that I have my friend to thank for, is a Kindle. It’s one of those things that I would ooh and ahh over, but would never dream of spoiling myself with. Well, I’m lucky enough to get to enjoy it thanks to a bunch of great friends and the darling little elf that made it possible. Above all the gifts, I am most grateful for all of my family and friends. I feel truly blessed to have so many wonderful people to love in my life.

Let me take this opportunity to wish all my family, friends and loved ones - and anyone else who happens to have stumbled across this page - a great 2011. May you each be blessed with health, happiness, peace, prosperity and love. Happy New Year!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Volunteering at Members Project School Day

On Saturday I participated in the American Express Members Project School Day, organized in affiliation with New York Cares, at PS 290Q in Maspeth, Queens. The goal was to spend a few hours of the day (9 am to 2 pm) trying to make a positive difference in a local school. As the event sponsor, AMEX provided all of the supplies for the project, as well as generously providing a light breakfast and lunch for all volunteers, and a gift bag containing a disposable digital camera, to help us chronicle the day's events, and a t-shirt to wear while volunteering. At sign-in we were asked to choose between doing straight painting, painting murals (that's what we did), or furniture assembly. After my initial enthusiasm at sign-up, the possibility that I would forever mar these young children's school hallway and give them nightmares with my horrible drawing skills, if the mural had to be painted free-hand, sent me into near panic. My heart rate went back to normal once I was informed that the mural had already been stenciled and that we were basically doing color by numbers.

Before splitting us up into our respective groups, the principal of the school thanked us for our time and offered an open invitation to visit the school when the little people benefiting from our work were around. My group trotted up to the second floor, and after getting a run down on safety instructions, each of us parked ourselves in front of a blank stenciled wall and got to painting. Here are some before and after pictures.

Pretty cool, huh? My contributions were the bushes, leaves and flower above. My friend painted the rockin' bird and tree. It was a great day and it felt good to know there would be some smiling little faces come Monday morning when students got a look at the hallway we'd worked on.

Room: A Novel

I finished reading "Room: A Novel" by Emma Donoghue this weekend. The novel's disturbing subject is made a little less so by the writer's intriguing decision to write the book from the perspective of the 5-year old main character. "Room" tells the story of Jack, a just-turned 5-year old who has lived his entire life with his mom in one 11x11 room. To Jack, Room holds everything he needs and loves, his mom, his books, his TV, Wardrobe, and his beloved Rug, where he was born. To his mother, Room is the prison she's been held in for the seven years since the time of her kidnapping by Old Nick. Thanks to Jack's bravery and his mom's ingenuity they undertake a daring plan for escape, which finally breaks them free of their prison and exposes Jack to a world he didn't know existed.

While the book covers a dark subject matter, it is not depressing or gloomy. Jack's voice of innocence and wonder brings light and hope to what could otherwise be a depressing read. The relationship between mother and son is also beautifully detailed throughout the book. From mom's ingenuity in making toys for her son out of regular household items, like a snake from threaded together egg shells, or protecting her son from their limitations and her own sense of entrapment by helping Jack believe that Room was their safe world and everything beyond the door was outer space or what he saw on TV make-believe. The novel lovingly details the remarkable lengths to which a mother's love will go in an effort to protect her child. A worthwhile and at times moving read.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Last night I watched the Swedish film (subtitled), "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," and all I can say I haven't enjoyed a movie this much in a long while. A classic whodunit which was disturbing, yet riveting. I hadn't read the novel by Stieg Larsson, but given that as a general rule books are better than the movie, I will be rushing out to buy the novel ASAP.

The story centers around a disgraced journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, who takes on an assignment from a wealthy CEO to look into the forty-year old disappearance and potential murder of his beloved niece, Harriet Vanger. As Blomkvist starts to delve into Harriet's last days with her family he teams up with expert researcher and goth computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander. The search for Harriet's killer leads them to uncover a series of decades old murders and a veritable Pandora's box of Vanger family secrets.

As I said, the film is very disturbing. There are a couple of brutal and explicit scenes which are not for the faint of heart. Nonetheless, if you can stomach it, then watch it, because the actress playing Lisbeth, Noomi Rapace, gives a tour-de-force performance unlike none I've seen before.

Theodore & Miguel

I wanted to introduce the latest additions to the family, my knucklehead's new pets. Pets don't last very long in that household; fish, rabbits, and birds have quickly fallen by the wayside as the boys lost their initial devotion and interest, but I'm hoping Theo and Miguel can benefit from the fact that the boys are older and wiser. Personally, I'm totally loving these two. The knuckleheads are lucky I have Jasmin (my kitty) at home, because if not, I'd be quick to confiscate them during one of my weekend visits. Without further ado, here are Theo and Miguel.

Theo is a little pudgy ball of fur. While Theo might not be as photogenic as Miguel, due to his piercing red eyes, he in fact is the sweeter of the two. He enjoys eating while sitting in his food bowl and long walks down the driveway in his see-through hamster ball.

Miguel is a sassy little thing. He loves to be held, but picking him up requires some initial fortitude because he's quick to nibble on your finger. He's a bit of a loner, sometimes opting to sleep alone in their tube lookout instead of snuggling with Theo.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Stop and Smell the Flowers

Slow Dance
© David L. Weatherford

Have you ever watched kids on a merry-go-round?
Or listened to the rain slapping on the ground?
Ever followed a butterfly’s erratic flight?
Or gazed at the sun into the fading night?
You’d better slow down.
Don’t dance so fast.
Time is short,
The music won’t last.

Do you run through each day on the fly?
When you ask "How are you?"
Do you hear the reply?
When the day is done do you lie in your bed
With the next hundred chores running through your head?
You’d better slow down.
Don’t dance so fast.
Time is short.
The music won’t last.

Ever told your child, "We’ll do it tomorrow?"
And in your haste, not see his sorrow?
Ever lost touch, let a good friendship die
Cause you never had time to call and say "Hi?"
You’d better slow down.
Don’t dance so fast.
Time is short.
The music won’t last.

When you run so fast to get somewhere
You miss half the fun of getting there.
When you worry and hurry through your day,
It is like an unopened gift…
Thrown away.

Life is not a race.
Do take it slower
Hear the music
Before your song is over.

Stand By Me | Playing For Change

Stand By Me | Playing For Change | Song Around The World from Concord Music Group on Vimeo.

I found this on and absolutely loved Grandpa Elliott's portion of the song. From “Playing for Change: Peace Through Music,” a documentary about how music has the power to bring us together, comes this video of one of the 'songs around the world.’ The documentary brought a traveling recording studio to streets in the US and around the world, capturing unknown street musicians, each singing pieces of the same song and editing them together to form soulful musical mosaics. As a result of the success of the project, the Playing for Change Foundation was created. Its mission is “to ensure that anyone with the desire to receive a music education would have the opportunity to do so.” Now, musicians from all over the world come together to perform benefit concerts that, along with donations, help build music and art schools in areas of the world that need a little hope.

You can help out too, by visiting the foundation website (link provided above) and spreading the word or by buying the “Songs Around the World” CD/DVD at Amazon or at the Playing for Change shop. Great music for a great cause.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day

This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave. - Elmer Davis

Thank you to all those soldiers - young and old, men and women, of all races, creeds and sexual orientation who have risked life and limb for our safety and freedom. Thank you for your quiet heroism, both on and off the battlefield. May God Bless You and keep you always.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Due Date

I went to see “Due Date” this past Friday. Unlike most of my other recent movie outings, this time I did not go with my knuckleheads, instead I went with my friend which made it a special treat all of its own. “Due Date” is a road trip comedy starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Zach Galifianakis. Peter Highman (Downey) is a businessman on his way home to his expectant wife, eagerly anticipating his first child’s arrival only 5 days away via a planned C-section. While at the airport to catch his flight, a chance encounter with Ethan Tremblay/Chase (Galifianakis), a wannabe actor making his way to Hollywood, quickly throws all of Peter’s plans into chaos. A comedy of errors quickly ensues and Peter finds himself without his luggage, wallet, or ID and on a no-fly list, forced to share a rental car with Ethan and his pet pooch, Sonny, as they embark on a mad-dash from Atlanta to LA to make the birth of his child. The typical high jinks you’ve come to expect from Galifianakis’ movies of course follows, including pot smoking, car crashes, illegal border crossings, and much, much more.

While the humor was infantile at times, I can’t deny that I laughed throughout the movie. My only complaint is that the movie didn’t have a lot of heart. There were only one or two scenes where Galifianakis showed his acting chops and performed with real emotion. Downey was reduced to playing straight man to Galifianakis’ wacky character. I won’t say skip it, because I did enjoy myself, but I’ll add that if you want to see a great comedy road trip movie with tons of laughs and emotional resonance, rent “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” with John Candy and Steve Martin. That movie can make you cry laughing, and then just plain cry.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Twilight...Just Say No

This is for my cousin and friend, both of whom made valiant yet vain attempts to recruit me into their Twilight book cult. Love the "vam...pires...dying of shame." I do remember 'cuz saying something to that affect at some time, but I think it was early on (maybe after Twilight), before she was fully indoctrinated into the fold. (Click on the comic to access a larger, more legible copy.)

The brilliant artist responsible for this witty masterpiece is Lucy Knisley. I stumbled across her site by pure chance, and ended up spending a couple hours pouring over her site and ArtJournal. Even the simple journal sketches which she had in her recent Halloween post were great.

An equally hilarious and awesome book summary for Stephanie Meyer's Twilight saga can be found on Lucy's ArtJournal page.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Make A Difference With Just A Click

Today I received an email from The Humane Society which asked for my vote in the Pepsi Refresh Project. I was completely in the dark about the project, but I clicked on the link to vote, and after visiting the site and reading more about their efforts, I felt I had to share it with you guys.

Basically, Pepsi is giving away grants to fund great ideas which will have a positive impact in our communities. Anyone can submit an idea, individuals, businesses and non-profits. Pepsi is accepting 1,000 ideas every month. Each month applications are accepted from the 1st to the 15th or until such time that they receive 1,000 ideas. They have $5K, $25K, $50K, and $250K grants. The $5K, $25K, and $50K grants will each have up to 10 awardees per month. The $250K will have up to 2 awardees. Submitted ideas have been broken down by categories, including Health, The Planet, Education and many more. You can check out the current leaders in each category, shuffle the list and view random entries, or view those that are near you.

Visit the site and either submit an idea of your own or vote for a worthy candidate. If you love animals vote for The Humane Society submission, or select one of the other worthy candidates. I loved Comfort4canines which was submitted by a 13-year old girl looking to provide a little TLC to shelter dogs ($5K category), and also loved Butterfly Kisses Playgroup, a submission from the mother of a special needs child looking to build a facility with playground equipment especially designed for handicapped children ($50K category). You can vote for up to 10 of your favorite ideas every day, so spread the wealth.

Register and vote! One click of your mouse can bring a worthy idea that much closer to reality.

Update: Yipee! Each one of the three candidates for which I was voting (listed above) won their grant! Thanks to all those friends who took the time to vote for my favorites.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Great Cookie Challenge

Ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta! Ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta! (Think Rocky theme music)

“Trying hard now
it's so hard now
trying hard now

Getting strong now
won't be long now
getting strong now

Gonna fly now
flying high now
gonna fly, fly, fly...”

This song popped into my head, as soon as I started thinking about the challenge before me. A la Rocky, I will start training as of this weekend. Unlike Rocky, my training regime will not involve jump ropes or trying to catch a chicken, but instead cooking...baking to be exact. You see, my friend came up with the great idea of planning a holiday cookie swap at work. I have signed up for said cookie swap, in spite of the fact that I cannot cook...or bake...or broil...or steam. You get the idea. Cooking, in whatever form, is a foreign concept to me. Since participation requires homemade goodies, I could skip the cookie swap altogether, but the list of cookies sounds too darn good to pass up. The current list includes Fudge Ecstasies (a chocolate lover’s dream), Pecan Tassies, Red Velvet Whoopie Pies with Peppermint Filling (yum), Bittersweet Chocolate Biscotti, and Pepper Jelly-Cornmeal Cups.

In short, in an effort to master the heretofore foreign art of baking, my training will entail baking my selected cookie recipe every weekend from now ‘til December. Said training will not culminate with a triumphant run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, instead it will culminate in my kitchen, when I bake a perfect (or at least darn good) batch of cookies. If all is a success, I might have to take a victory lap after all...I’ll go around my block, my arms raised in victory (oven mitts in hand, of course) while the cookies are cooling.

P.S. Check back in early December. If I K.O. the cookie challenge, I'll post my cookie recipe and a picture of the finished product.

Election 2010

Monday, November 1, 2010

Memories, Fears and ABC World News

I recently tuned in to an ABC World News segment that Diane Sawyer was doing with Maria Shriver on Alzheimer's. Maria Shriver, the First Lady of California, is a long-time advocate for families touched by Alzheimer's and is passionately involved in trying to raise both awareness and funding to help fight this dreaded disease.

I was compelled to watch the segment by memories of my mother. Compelled by a sense of camraderie with the daily struggles and heartache of the caregivers which they were covering, as well as a curiosity rooted in fear. It is a fear borne of the memories of what my mom had to endure during the last six months of her life. My mom did not have Alzheimer's, she suffered a cranial hemmorhage which caused her memory loss, as well as the onset of advanced vascular dementia. Whether Alzheimer's or dementia, seeing someone you adore, scared, lost, confused - and in moments of lucidity - heartbroken, is enough to break your own heart and make you fearful all at once. As always, it's the unknown which is the scariest. Will you grow old gracefully? Will you have creaky bones and bad eyes, but still be all there? Or will history repeat itself, and your greatest fears become reality?

The news segment included a moving video piece entitled "The Life of a Caregiver." The piece included an elderly man whose wife is living in a nursing home and suffering with Alzheimer's. Due to the disease, the wife had begun to forget him, so he began laying by her side in bed whenever he'd visit. To her doctor's amazement, she began to remember him. Watching this lovely old gentleman lying by his wife, singing her a love song, was touching beyond words. "I love you" he told her as he caressed her face, and she responded in kind. Seeing how his love still managed to reach her, even across the distance of the lagoon created by the disease, made me cry. They say 'love conquers all'. In this case, it's more than a cliche.

The report went on to state that Alzheimer's affects more than five million people in the US, disproportionately more women, and if things remain the same, as many as 16 million families will be affected by the disease by 2050. A fact that ensures that we will be touched by Alzheimer's, whether directly or indirectly, in our lifetime.

What can you or I do? We can support, through donations or advocacy, organizations like the Alzheimer's Association; or as Maria Shriver stressed "support a larger, more centralized effort in Alzheimer's research." Maria cited comparisons to research funding for other leading diseases: $6 billion for cancer, $5 billion for heart disease and only $500 million for Alzheimer's. Lastly, prevention is the ideal. A goal we can contribute towards in the way we lead our daily lives, through a healthy diet and exercise.

Monday, October 25, 2010

On This Day in 1986...Magic

On October 25, 1986, my New York Mets played and won (the game was actually won in the wee hours of the 26th) Game 6 of the World Series to force a Game 7.

The Boston Red Sox had taken an early lead in the game, but the Mets managed to tie it up to bring it to extra innings. It was the bottom of the 10th, down by 2 runs and down to their final out, when the Mets staged a comeback for the record books, as one hitter after the next rallied to get on base. First it was Gary Carter, then Kevin Mitchell, followed by Ray Knight. Mookie Wilson was at bat with a 2-2 count, when a wild pitch slipped past the catcher and allowed the runner on third base (Mitchell) to score the tying run. With the crowd going wild, Wilson hits a slow ground ball up the first base line that appeared to be a sure out. As Mookie sprinted towards first base, the ball goes through the first baseman’s legs and trickles into right field, as Ray Knight runs in to score the winning run. Two days later, the Mets won game 7 to become World Series Champs.

Ahh, those were the good old days, when the team truly deserved their moniker “the Amazins,” now, not so much.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Our Next Governor?

In the last televised debate in the New York Governor's race, Jimmy McMillan, running in the Rent is 2 Damn High party, made his case to New York voters. This is priceless.

"As a karate expert, I will not talk about anyone up here..." What? I'm still scratching my head about that one.

The Story of Nicole

*In my recent '100 things' post, I mentioned the fact that when I go to the cemetery for my dad, I also bring flowers to Nicole, someone that I in fact have never met. As promised, here's the story as to why.

All I've ever known about her is her name, and the year she was born and died. After my dad passed away, mom and I would visit his grave regularly. We'd go to bring flowers, clean up so everything looked nice and of course, say a few prayers. One day we happened to walk down a different aisle near my dad's graveside, and noticed that one grave only had the simple metal marker provided by the funeral home, yet it obviously wasn't a recently dug grave. I knelt to read what it said and that's how I found Nicole. Nicole was born in 1983 and died in 1984. Only the years of her birth and death are listed on the marker, so I don't know her actual birthday and whether she'd actually reached the age of 1, but I've always imagined that she had. After finding Nicole, whenever mom and I brought flowers to the cemetery for Dad we'd bring something for Nicole as well. I still do to this day, even now that mom's no longer with me.

As I said, Nicole's grave doesn't have a stone or fancy marker, I assume its because of her family's economic situation. Despite the fact that her grave doesn't have a stone, she's not forgotten. She always has some pretty little knick-knack or plant to show that someone still thinks of her. Last winter someone left a pretty little angel, but unfortunately exposure to the elements broke both of the angel's arms, so I bought her a new stone angel. The little broken angel is still there. I wouldn't dare touch it, since it was obviously brought there with love. I left my gift, as I've left others over the years, with the hope that her family isn't upset by my gifts and that instead they take heart in the knowledge that someone else in this world was touched by their little girl.

I wonder sometimes what she looked like, or what happened to take her from her family, but I never wonder if she was loved for that answer is obvious. I brought that new angel to Nicole shortly after mom passed away, and as I knelt to leave Nicole her stone angel, I wondered and hoped that mom and Nicole had gotten a chance to meet and that among all the people there to welcome mom to her eternal rest there was also a little girl with a beautiful smile.

Easy A

Last night I went to see "Easy A", directed by Will Gluck and starring Emma Stone. Emma portrays the main character, Olive, a clean cut student who as such is anonymous, invisible, a non-entity at her high school. That is until she's overheard telling her best friend a little white lie about losing her virginity and the school's rumor mill starts churning with word of her promiscuity. It all could've ended there, but Emma makes the decision to embrace her bad girl reputation in order to help out a friend who has been the object of ridicule and bullying due to the fact that he's gay. Things quickly spiral out of control for Emma, as one bad decision leads to another, and she becomes a social pariah to her classmates a la Hester Prynne in "The Scarlet Letter."

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. This has got to be one of the better teen comedies to come out in a while. Emma Stone was charming, witty and thoroughly likable in her role, and the supporting cast was phenomenal. Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson nearly stole the movie with their warm and hilarious portrayals as Olive's parents. I especially loved the little homage to two classic '80s teen movies which comes at the end of the film.

Friday, October 22, 2010

If I Stay

Thanks to a glowing review on NPR's site, I recently read "If I Stay" by Gayle Forman, eventhough it's a young adult book. The story centers around Mia, a talented 17-year old cellist, whose life changes in the blink of an eye. During an unexpected school snow day, Mia is enjoying time with her loving family when tragedy strikes in the form of a horrific car crash. The next thing she knows Mia is standing beside what's left of the family car and the bodies of her dead parents, watching as parademics work on her little brother and her own seemingly lifeless body. It is at the hospital, where her body lies in a coma, that she realizes that she can choose whether to fight for her life or to let go and be with the loved ones that she just lost. The story interweaves past and present, as Mia stays with her body in ICU all the while recollecting some of the recent events of her life, including being accepted to Julliard. It is through those recollections that the reader gains a better understanding of the scope of her loss but also how much she has to live for.

The book wasn't bad, but I never really felt any of the suspense which the author probably intended given the title. The ending seemed never in doubt and that's what makes it a bit of a letdown.

People of the Fall

I got a particular kick out of this picture, because seemingly everyone I know, both family and friends, have been apple and pumpkin picking as of late. At work, I've been reaping some of the benefits of that bounty because my friend brought in what seems like a bushel of apples to share with us. If the saying is true that 'an apple a day, keeps the doctor away', then I should be good until next year's annual physical. I've gotten my daily dose of fiber plus some.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The King's Speech

I can't wait to see this movie. If the preview or the rave reviews the film has garnered are any indication, Mr. Firth (he'll always be Mr. Darcy to me) may well be on his way to winning his first Oscar for the role. With a release date of November 26th, the movie is sure to be fresh in the mind of Academy voters once Oscar ballots reach their mailboxes.

100 things

I've read 100 things on various blogs, and thought it was such a cool way to share more of myself with the friends and family that read my blog. So, here goes.

1. My name is Maria.
2. Maria Magdalena (Mary Magdalene) to be exact, like the fallen woman in the Bible
3. Not sure what mom was thinking with that one
4. I was born in Uruguay South America
5. I was 8 when I arrived in the US
6. I didn’t know a word of English
7. It was very lonely and scary
8. I’ve lived in the same town for 34 years
9. My family means the world to me
10. I took care of my mom the better part of my life
11. It gave my life purpose
12. I lost my mom over a year ago
13. I still miss her
14. She was my best friend
15. I have two brothers that I love very much
16. My younger brother was my best friend growing up, and still is today
17. I wish I was more like my younger brother. He’s brave and funny.
18. My brothers have blessed me with 3 nephews and 2 nieces between the two of them
19. The youngest two are my knuckleheads
20. They’re my babies
21. My sister-in-law is kind enough to share them with me
22. I love them to the moon and back
23. I’ve had 3 jobs in my life, 2 were when I was a teenager
24. I’ve been at my current job for almost 23 years
25. My co-workers are more than friends, they’re like family
26. I want to visit Scotland one day
27. I think it’s all the romance novels I’ve read over the years
28. Or the possibility of being swept off my feet by the laird of a powerful clan
29. I love cartoons
30. And Sunday morning news shows
31. I love the crisp cool air of Fall
32. I love snowstorms and the mad frenzy of people in supermarkets before the storm, like this is the storm that ends it all
33. I hate shoveling snow
34. I hate hot weather (anything over 85° is too hot)
35. I watch too much TV
36. I love to read
37. I’m shy and socially-awkward
38. I do better one-on-one (I think)
39. I wish I were braver
40. I blush over anything, I hate it
41. I’ve never been in love
42. I’d like to be one day
43. I believe in love at first sight
44. I’m Catholic
45. My faith gives me strength
46. I always feel close to God
47. I know he cares about me and that gives me peace
48. I believe in heaven
49. I believe in hell
50. I believe in the power of prayer
51. I love my cat, Jasmin
52. She used to belong to my mom
53. I wonder if Jasmin remembers her
54. I like Dunkin Donuts caramel swirl iced coffee
55. I became friends with a patient at the nursing home where mom was before she passed away, and I visit her still. She begged that I not forget her. She has no one else.
56. I like my house to be tidy
57. But I rarely make my bed
58. I don’t have many friends
59. Never have
60. I’ve always been nerdy
61. I hate feeling left out
62. I felt like that a lot when I was a teenager
63. I hate flannel sheets
64. I love the cool side of the pillow
65. I love falling asleep to the sound of rain
66. I hate going to the dentist
67. I get hives when I go
68. I volunteer
69. I’m grateful for everything God has blessed me with
70. I’ve saved two lives in my lifetime, a squirrel and a bird
71. When I go to the cemetery to visit my dad, I also bring flowers for Nicole
72. I never met Nicole (a story for another day)
73. I love rooting for the underdog
74. I love happy endings
75. I’m a fan of the Jets and Mets, but root for all NY teams
76. I’m not athletic
77. I wish I were
78. I would love to learn how to swim, ride a bike, play the guitar and speak a new language
79. I taught my younger brother how to ride a bike
80. I’m afraid of heights and public speaking
81. I’ve never done anything wild and crazy
82. I’d like to one day
83. I have a wall plaque that says “once in a while, right in the middle of an ordinary life, love gives you a fairy tale”
84. I wish one day that would apply to me
85. I love to feel needed
86. I love a comfortable pair of jeans and a big sweatshirt
87. I hate long flowing nightgowns and pajama pants (my legs feel like they’re in a straight jacket)
88. When I was younger my dream was to write a book or a screenplay
89. And win an Oscar
90. I’d thank God in my acceptance speech
91. I used to practice my speech in front of my bedroom mirror
92. I’ve considered getting a little tattoo on my ankle
93. It would be of a little butterfly
94. I used to call my mom “mi querida mariposa”
95. I’ve never been drunk
96. I think it’s important to be kind
97. I love bread and chocolate, the two together is paradise
98. I look forward to growing old
99. I can’t wait to see my knuckleheads grow into wonderful men
100. I pray that they’ll always be happy

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Jane Austen's "Emma"

If you love historical romances, and who doesn’t, then you must watch Emma from PBS Masterpiece Classics. This latest production is by far the best I’ve seen. It stars Romola Garai as Emma Woodhouse, and Jonny Lee Miller as Mr. Knightley.

From the perfect cast, to the lovely costumes, to the incredible scenery – whether the English countryside, the Woodhouse mansion or the village square – each scene is a page from Jane Austen’s novel brought miraculously to life.

The production originally aired at the beginning of the year, but I just happened to come across repeats this past weekend. I’m so happy that I did. If you’re interested, visit to get the schedule for the local PBS channel in your area.

Calling All NY Jets Fans

My Jets are 5-1. I say that with hesitant optimism. As a Jets fan, you always live with the expectation that the bottom will fall out and the season will go down the drain in the blink of an eye. This is a sad fact that any Jets fan can attest to. You don’t boast or get raucous in your glee. You step lightly through the season, because just like a delicate soufflĂ© our hopes can be quickly deflated.

Now that I’ve shared some insights into the inner workings of a Jets fan, let me get to the real reason for this post. I wanted to give any other Jets fan reading this post a heads up to the fact that the Jets are running weekly ticket giveaway contests on their website. Visit and you’ll be prompted to either enter the contest or jump directly to their homepage. This week’s contest prize is 4 Touchdown Club tickets, 4 pregame sideline passes (would love this! Mark Sanchez here I come!), 1 VIP parking pass and a Jets Halloween merchandise package. The contests are for home and away games. From what I can tell, home game giveaways are usually for 4 tickets, whereas away games are only 2 tickets because they provide airfare and hotel.

Anyway, I figured I’d share the news, one - because I’m thoughtful like that, and two - because it increases my chances of going to a game. After all, if a friend were to win, don’t you think the considerate thing would be for said friend to take 'me' to the game, the person that made it all possible? No? It was worth a shot.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest

Lately I've been keeping my eye on The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest. I've regularly visited the contest webpage, voted in ongoing contests, and longingly hoped I'd get the nerve to actually submit an entry. I've flipped through the pages of the magazine while hosting fanciful dreams of seeing my caption and name underneath one of the magazine's cartoons. Well, today, I finally through my hat in the ring. I submitted my first caption.

For those of you in the dark, The New Yorker magazine has a Cartoon Caption Contest in which a cartoon is posted online and on the last editorial page of each print issue and readers are given the opportunity to submit a possible caption for said cartoon. After all entries (according to an article in Slate, approximately 6,000 entries per week) are tallied, the powers that be select three finalists and readers once again work their magic, and vote for the winning entry. The winning caption appears both online and in the print magazine (two issues after submissions were received). Plus, the winner of each Cartoon Caption Contest receives a print of the cartoon, with the caption, signed by the artist who drew the cartoon.

Let me forewarn each of you, that if, in the very unlikely chance that I were to be insanely lucky enough to be one of those three finalists, I will be sending out a mass email to anyone and everyone whom I've ever been remotely in contact with to request, beg, that you each log in and vote for me. This will be your chance to make a homely, chubby and socially awkward young girl's dream come true. OK, OK...I know "girl" is a stretch and "young" is just downright ludicrous, but you get the would make me very happy.

Where am I going? Where have I been?

Hello, hello, hello…Is anybody there, there, there? This place is like an old West ghost town. All it needs is a couple tumbleweeds rolling by.

Life has been good in the past eight months since I last posted. Nothing momentous, neither great nor horrible, just a solid good. Healthy, happy, and working (thank God!). Earlier in the year my younger brother, Joseph and I drove down to Virginia to visit my older brother, Eric, who had to have open-heart surgery (quadruple bypass). This is only two years after Joseph also had open-heart surgery. I know what you’re thinking. I probably should’ve asked for a group discount, because you can see the freight train coming down the tracks. We do have a family history of heart disease, but they were both smokers (key word in that phrase is “were”, they quickly became reformed smokers after surgery) and I’ve never smoked a day in my life (of course, that’s not counting the two packs a day I used to inhale as second-hand smoke from my mom), so I'm hoping that makes a difference (wishful thinking on my part, I'm sure). After that little scare, things settled back to normal, and thank God, Eric is fully recuperated and back to his old self.

The month of May brought the date of mom’s first anniversary in heaven, and July was her first birthday without us. I choose to think that she still celebrated it in heaven, but instead of us she was surrounded by all the loved ones that hadn’t been lucky enough to spend the last few decades with her…like her mom, her abuelita (grandmother) – whom I never realized how much she loved, until she was sick and would lovingly call me by her name, my older aunt Marina – whom she loved deeply, and of course, my dad. I hope she got some cool presents, after all the sky’s the limit in heaven, because mom LOVED presents. Any holiday, even St. Patrick’s Day, was a good occasion for a gift, and believe me, with a last name like Rodriguez, we’re nowhere near Irish.

The summer saw me on a soccer and/or football field every weekend, as I played cheerleader to my two nephews (aka “the knuckleheads”). I shared some other fun moments with my boys, including attending a live MMA (mixed martial arts) event (exhilarating and bloody), a Mets game (a win, surprisingly), a visit to an amusement park, and many a movie. I tell you that when I visit those two, I come home exhausted, but in all honesty, I miss them dreadfully when I don’t see them. I love them both so much. I dread the day, which I’m sure is soon coming, when they’re fully immersed and initiated into “teendom” and they tell this old lady to get lost. For now, I’ll just bask in the splendor of their love and attention.

It goes without saying that summer wouldn’t be summer, without a healthy dose of reality TV, including good ‘ole reliable Big Brother, and a new fave – Bachelor Pad, as well as some fun, light summer reading. Lastly, I ended the summer and started the Fall with a wonderful Labor Day weekend in Oneonta with all my cousins and friends.

Now you’re all caught up with my goings on. I'll try to not let another 8 months go by 'til my next post.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Story Sisters

"The Story Sisters" by Alice Hoffman introduces us to three beautiful sisters - Elv, Meg and Claire Story - who at the novel's onset are bound together by love and the magic of the fairy tale world (Arnelle) created by Elv. Arnelle is a fantastical world filled with fairies and demons, which is born in Elv's mind as an escape from the horror she lived, when at the age of 11 she saves her younger sister Claire from a child molester, only to be taken in her stead. In that moment in time, the course of each of their lives and who they are as individuals is forever changed.

While the book is titled "The Story Sisters", honestly it mainly focuses on Elv, the wild child trying to drown her demons with drugs and alcohol, with her sisters and mother (Annie) playing bit roles in the story of her life. The book is relentless in its dark and somber tone. It piles one tragedy after another on the family, and tries to redeem itself with a sweet but ultimately unsatisfying ending.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

My Life List (A Work in Progress)

After reading John Goddard's life list, drafted when he was 15 and comprised of 127 tasks, anyone...namely me...would feel like an utter slacker or failure by comparison. Among Mr. Goddard's many accomplishments is climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, exploring the Nile River, swimming in Lake Titicaca in S. America, writing a book, and visiting almost every country in the world (he's only got 30 to go).

Inspired by Mr. Goddard's example, I decided to draft my own life list. The plan is to make the list a work in progress. An ever-evolving compilation of my short-term and long-term dreams and goals. As you'll note, my list is much more condensed and significantly less ambitious than John's. Here it is, in no particular order:

1. learn to swim
2. learn to ride a bike
3. learn to speak Italian
4. do Habitat for Humanity
5. get a tattoo
6. find Carmen's family* (a story for another day)
7. visit Best Friend's Animal Sanctuary
8. write a book
9. do the NYC marathon
10. lose 20 pounds so I can do the NYC marathon
11. go on a long road trip
12. visit my brother in Virginia
13. attend Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
14. spend New Year's Eve in Times Square
15. visit Scotland (I blame the countless romance novels I've read for this one)
16. fall in love
17. marry George Clooney

#17 is definitely my most ambitious goal, but I'm nothing if not optimistic.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

What Would Your Answer Be?

Thanks to the marvel that is StumbleUpon, I found the wonderful site, Fifty People, One Question. Fifty People, One Question is "an ongoing social experiment and film series exploring human connections through people and place."

The project has created five films which are posted on the site. This video is Fifty Londoners, one question. The question asked of each was "Where would you wish to wake up tomorrow?" The answers were at times practical, funny and touching.

Each video was beautifully done with just the right music to set the atmosphere, but just as beautiful and moving were the comments/answers posted on the website by people from all over the world. Some answers made me cry because they spoke right to my heart (“to my mother's voice from the room next door. i wish she was still alive”), yet others made me smile (“I'd like to wake up the day when Emma will be born”), but each -- funny, sad or otherwise -- touched me in some small way.

I'm still not sure what my answer would be to the question. I'll let you know later. What would your answer be?

A Night of Great Music

Despite the fact, that as I stated previously, I'm going into award season overload, I will definitely be tuning in to CBS this Sunday, January 31st (8 pm ET) to watch the GRAMMY Awards. For me, the GRAMMYs are pure enjoyment. I'm not a big music buff or aficionado, I rarely purchase CDs, download music from iTunes or even listen to the radio, so the show becomes simply a wonderful free music concert. A chance to see great performances by great artists.

This year's show has a wonderful lineup of performances to look forward to, including Beyoncé, the Black Eyed Peas, Bon Jovi, the Dave Matthews Band, Green Day, Lady Antebellum, Lady Gaga, Maxwell, Pink, Taylor Swift, and the Zac Brown Band, as well as a special 3-D GRAMMY tribute to Michael Jackson featuring Celine Dion, Jennifer Hudson, Smokey Robinson, Carrie Underwood, and Usher.

As if that weren't enough, the GRAMMY website has also announced a special performance of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Mary J. Blige and Andrea Bocelli, with the performance being made available on iTunes and the proceeds going to Haiti relief. Viewers will be able to purchase what will undoubtedly be a memorable performance, and feel good about it too.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Poem Within

A few months ago I found a wonderful website called Soul Pancake, which was co-created by Rainn Wilson (Dwight from "The Office"). As the site says, it's a place where you can "chew on life's big questions." Subjects vary from God, to philosophy, to art and so much more. In addition to sharing your insights and feelings, the site also has "creative challenges" where you get to express your creativity. One such creative challenge was called "the poem is waiting for you." Posters were asked to act like a sculptor to a page and chip away the excess. The objective is to take a page from a newspaper, magazine or book and then black-out everything but the poem within a la Austin Kleon's newspaper blackout poems.

So, without further ado, here's the poem I was able to chip away from a New York magazine article.

The love I feel
is not going anywhere
It is truth

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Thanks NPR!

Corinne Bailey Rae, the talented singer-songwriter who made it big with such hits as "Put Your Records On" is finally releasing her second album, "The Sea." The album is a blend of soul, jazz, and pop, and thanks to NPR Music you can preview the entire album prior to its release. This album comes two years after the death of her husband due to an accidental overdose. The opening track "Are You Here," which is a tribute to her husband, and the album's namesake "The Sea" are my favorite tracks so far. Her voice is as beautiful and soulful as ever.

So run, dont' walk and visit NPR Music to check out the album for yourself before it disappears.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Be the Difference

I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.
- Edward Everett Hale

We can all make a difference. Be the difference.

Coming to a Theater Near You

I have been not so patiently waiting for this movie since last October, when it was originally due to be released. "Shutter Island" brings Martin Scorcese and Leo DiCaprio together again in a film adaptation of Dennis Lehane's brilliant novel. The current release date is February 19th.

American Idol: My Favorite Audition, So Far

I'm not a gambling woman, but if I was, I'd put all my money behind my current favorite "American Idol" auditioner, Tyler Grady, to take it all the way. Alright, maybe I wouldn't bet the house on it, especially since we haven't seen all the auditions yet, but I will say, Tyler's audition stood out for me in all the right ways, and I can't wait to see him again in the Hollywood round.

Tyler appeared in the Boston auditions dressed in bell-bottom jeans, a purple polyester shirt, and matching braces on both of his broken wrists. How did he break his wrists you might ask? The answer, the good old-fashioned way, tree-climbing. Add to that questionable style-sense some spastic dance moves in front of the camera prior to his audition and you were left expecting yet another loser wannabe just trying to get on TV, but instead Tyler belted out a sexy version of "Let's Get It On" and totally won the judges and me over. (Check out his audition here).

Here's hoping Tyler wows us yet again in Hollywood and America gets to see a whole lot more of him.

Right Now

...I'm 20 pounds overweight, but not doing much about it.
...I'm reading "The Story Sisters" by Alice Hoffman.
...I'm loving "Modern Family". My new favorite show on television.
...I'm beating my cuz in Scrabble on Facebook.
...I'm keeping all of Haiti in my prayers.
...I'm dying for the release of "Shutter Island". Can't wait!
...I'm dreading Valentine's Day.
...I'm looking forward to "Valentine's Day", the movie.
...I'm drafting my Life List (will post about this later).
...I'm eagerly awaiting "Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains." Go Russell!
...I'm disappointed my Jets lost. :o(
...I'm going into award season overload. Oscars will push me over the edge.
...I'm loving it's the last season of "Lost" and we'll soon have all the answers.
...I'm hating it's the last season of "Lost" and there'll be no more questions.
...I'm hoping my "American Idol" favorite (Tyler Grady) makes it to Top 24.
...I'm happy to be posting again.