Monday, February 28, 2011

(43-216) Another One Bit The Dust

Well, I hate to say I told you so; BUT, I did.... When I posted "Diving In," I shared my concerns about James Franco and Anne Hathaway hosting the Oscars; and well; let's just say that James Franco proved that I had every reason to doubt him.   I'll gladly give credit where credit's due and say that the opening montage was entertaining; although it was mostly in part to Anne Hathaway and the guest stars in the piece.  AND, kudos to Anne for her singing.  I had no idea that she had such a nice voice and I'd be happy to see her in a musical.  I could totally see her as Ms. Anna in a revival of "The King and I."  I was amused when Mr. Franco came out in drag; but apparently so was he; because he was more interested in tweeting it to is followers; than he was in hosting the show.  It appeared that Franco just wasn't invested in the production; and he left poor Annie to carry the show; which she was clearly anxious about.  Unfortunately her beautiful wardrobe changes (accept for that Royal blue cat woman dress;) weren't enough to pull off a win.  Truth be told; I think that Ms. Hathaway could have done a much better job, had she hosted the show ALONE.

I could go on and on about what a let down James Franco was; but honestly, my expectations were so low, that he didn't let me down; he just proved that I was right to doubt him to begin with.  I dunno, I just find him creepy and disturbing.  Yes I know, he speaks so highly of me; but that's not the point.  I find him to be an enigma.  He reminds me very much of the character that he's playing on "General Hospital;" whose name just also happens to be  Franco; because I suppose there was no other name that the staff of writers could think of. He's playing a multi-media artist; who just so happens to be a serial killer, and if you know anything about the "real" James Franco, then you know that he too is somewhat of a multi-media artist.  He's written both novels and children books.  He's earned several educational degrees and is still in the process of acquiring more.  He's an award winning actor, and Oscar nominated actor; and yet he's chosen to have a recurring role on "GH,"  with his real life mom playing his mom; FREAKY!  But enough about him.  I won't go as far as to say that Ms. Hathaway won't ever be asked to host the Oscar's again; but as for Mr. Franco's chances, let's just say; another one bit the dust.

Now, if anyone happened to be keeping track of my Oscar predictions, you'd know that I had 16 out of 24 correct; BUT, that wasn't enough to win my pool.  The winner had 17 picks and got 2 points for tie breakers.  The next person had 17 picks with one tie breaker; and then Michelle M and I each had a respectable 16; while the remaining 5 people had between 15 and 9 correct.  I know, I know.  Had I listened to my own reason regarding the best director; I too would have tied with 17; but I didn't want to go with my own judgement.  Oh why, oh why, I didn't  follow that rule when it came to best song, is any one's guess; but I'll know better next year.  I hope.

As for the fashion, I only want to talk about what I liked; because there are  plenty of others out there, who have a lot to say about the not so well dressed and I don't feel like putting any negativity out there today.   With that being said; at the very top of my list is Mandy Moore.  Not the dress that she wore to sing her nominated song; but the one that she wore on the red carpet.  Glitter, Glitter, POW!  She looked like a princess.  So elegant, so perfect.  It was the pinnacle of Oscar fashion in my opinion.  I also enjoyed Mila Kunis in her lavender gown; and I liked the lace, back and color of Scarlett Johanson's gown as well; although it was absolutely NOT amethyst as one reporter stated.  It was crimson, or cranberry or dare I say SCARLETT; but it certainly wasn't amethyst.  I thought Jennifer Lawrence looked sensational.  She wore a very simple, red, Calvin Klein gown; proving that less truly is more.  Michelle M suggested that she'd like to see her as young Carrie in the "Carrie Diaries," and I concur; although we hear that Blake Lively has already been tapped for the role.  I thought that Hailee Steinfeld was ideal.  So sweet, so age appropriate; just lovely.  I'm gonna leave well enough alone in the Best dressed category and conclude with a comment about last night's Best Actress winner, Natalie Portman.  I adored the Aubergine color of Natalie Portman's gown. I would have preferred her hair in an up do; and maybe some tasteful, bling on her ears; but all and all I thought that she looked beautiful; the gracious Oscar winner that she was.

OK, so I talked about the hosts, I gave my opinion on the best dressed; so that leaves the highlights; and if you know me at all, then you know that the BEST part of the show for me was when the BEST OSCAR HOST EVER, made his appearance.  I am SO hopeful that the fact that Billy Crystal got a standing ovation just for walking out on the stage, signaled to the Academy that it's time for him to take his rightful place, back on that Oscar stage, as the host extraordinaire that he is.  I think that the standing O showed the Academy that the stars are clamoring for Billy's return; just as much as the public is.  So here's my prediction.  I expect that Billy Crystal will return to host the Academy Awards no later than 2013. You heard it here first!   I'm optimistic that the Academy will realize that there's no time like the present, and they should plan for his return sooner rather than later.  BUT, if they really feel the need to try and hit the younger demographic one more time; then perhaps the 85th Academy Awards will be enough of a milestone to warrant their reinstatement of the King of The Oscars.

You get the point.  I love me some Billy Crystal.  I also loved Colin Firth's acceptance speech.  The award presentation by future Academy Award Winner, Robert Downey jr. and Jude Law.  Sandra Bullock's presentation of the Best Actor Oscar and Kirk Douglas presentation of the Best Supporting Actress award.  It was slightly uncomfortable to watch; but that could be said for the hosts as well.  Good for you Kirk Douglas!
Till next time...

Sunday, February 27, 2011

(43-215) My 2011 Oscar Predictions

I previously told you that I was the Queen of PLANNING; but that certainly was NOT the case this weekend...  Had I thought better of it; I wouldn't have made my big, New York announcement yesterday; knowing that I was going to be occupied with all things Oscar today; but I was excited; I couldn't wait to share my VERY Big News.

I awoke happily to emails and comments about my impending trip; and as much as I would have liked to respond in greater detail, I had baked potato salad to make, brownies to bake, I had to finish my Oscar research, transpose emailed ballots to printed ballots, take call in ballots, email my picks to the pool participants, AND write my blog.

I did far less research this year than I usually do, but I'm feeling somewhat confident about my picks.  I was on the fence about Original Song; but after listening to all of the nominees, I finally went with "Coming Home" from "Country Strong;" mostly because it didn't depress me like "If I Rise" from "127 Hours" did; "I See The Light" From "Tangled" was not my favorite song from that pic; AND "We Belong Together," from "Toy Story 3"  did nothing for me.  
I had a difficult time choosing the best director because I'm going with "The King's Speech" for best picture, but David Fincher was the favorite for director.  You'd think that if something was the Best Picture, the director would have had a lot to do with why; however, I'm going to follow the pack and split my vote.
The last category that caused me to overthink, was Original Screenplay.  I know that historically, the winner of Best Original Screenplay doesn't win the Best Picture; ie: "Good Will Hunting," "Juno," "Little Miss Sunshine" and "Lost In Translation" just to name a few; so I was unsure if I should choose "The King's Speech" as Best original Screenplay when I wanted it for Best pic.  Ultimately I rationalized that if "The King's Speech" somehow didn't win Best Picture, and I didn't chose it for best screenplay, then I could lose two categories; so I'm taking a chance that it's going to win both.

With all of that being said; for better or worse, here are my 2011 Oscar predictions:

Leading Actor: Colin Firth
Supporting Actor: Christian Bale
Leading Actress: Natalie Portman
Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo
Animated Feature: "Toy Story 3"
Art Direction: "The King's Speech"
Cinematography: "True Grit"
Costume Design: "The King's Speech"
Directing: "The Social Network"
Doc. Feature: "Inside Job"
Doc. Short: "Strangers No More"
Film Editing: "The Social Network"
Foreign Language Film: "In A Better World"
Makeup: "The Wolfman"
Original Score: "The King's Speech"
Original Song: "Coming Home"
Animated Short: "Day & Night"
Live Action Short: "Na Wewe"
Sound Editing: "Inception"
Sound Mixing: "Inception"
Visual Effects: "Inception"
Adapted Screenplay: "The Social Network"
Original Screenplay: "The King's Speech"
Best Picture: "The King's Speech"

I'm playing for a $90 pot, and I'd love to win so I could put that money towards my New York trip.  I'm wishing the best of luck to anyone who's participating in an Oscar pool; and I hope that you enjoy the show if you watch.
Till next time...

Saturday, February 26, 2011

(43-214) VERY Big News!

I have news, I have news, I have VERY big news!  When I wrote "Making Plans," I told you that I was starting to think about arranging a celebration for my 44th birthday; and I mentioned the possibility of taking a trip to Las Vegas to see "Mamma Mia."  Well, the next day, I got an email from my amazing, friend Rachel S (who I wrote about in "The Care Package;") and she wrote something to the effect of "We also have shows in New York."  I responded, telling Rachel that I'd love to come to New York; but I didn't think that I would be able to, any time soon.  Shortly after that, I posted "Pizza Timeline," which prompted a conversation between my dear, friend, Dawn and I; about the fact that I hadn't been to New York since 1996; and she encouraged me to come for a visit.

With two friends now having mentioned the possibility of a New York trip, my wheels were turning.  I spoke to Luis and we agreed, that in honor of my 44th birthday, I should in fact GO TO NEW YORK.  I told Luis that I wanted to be home with him and the kids for my birthday; (and my local friends as well; of course)  but I could take a red eye to New York that night; and he agreed.  I was now in planning mode; and I could barely contain my excitement, when I asked my cousin, Jackie if she wanted to go to New York with me;and she immediatley got on board. Everything was starting to come together; but there was one final detail that I needed to address.  I'd been considering taking one of my kids with me; and I thought that Lyndzi would be the perfect choice.  I discussed my idea with Luis and without hesitation he agreed. 

I spoke with Rachel via email and confirmed that Jackie, Lyndzi and I would arrive in New York on Friday, July 29 and we accepted her most gracious invitation to stay with her.  Rachel was as generous as ever and told me that we were all welcome, as were any of my other friends that needed a place to crash for the night.  We briefly discussed the need to find a location / restaurant where we could meet with all of my friends; and our need to find out how many people were interested in going to see "Mamma Mia," so that we could try to get a great deal on tickets.

So there you have it, in a nutshell.  I'm going to be in New York from July 29 until Aug 1; and I desperately want to see as many people as possible; so anyone who's interested in getting together while I'm there, please let me know, so that we can make PLANS.  I know that it won't be possible for me to go to all of the places that I'd like to go; but at the least, I want to go to China town, eat Italian food, and see "Mamma Mia."  I want to go to New City, so that I can show Lyndzi and Jackie where I grew up; AND go to to a diner, of course.  Last but not least; Jackie and I are planning to go to the cemetery where my mom and our grandparents are buried.  We know that it won't be easy, but it's something that we know in our hearts, we need to do.

I am so overjoyed about the prospect of seeing so many of my old friends.
I can't think of a more perfect way to celebrate my 44th birthday and I look forward to hearing every one's input and suggestions.  If you you don't currently live in the New York area, but there's a will and a way for you to get there during my birthday celebration; I would be so delighted to see you.  The more the merrier!!
Till next time...

Friday, February 25, 2011

(43-213) The Elusive 43

On February 3, I wrote "A Spirit Lift," and I told you that I was looking forward to the pre-Valentine's Day date day that Luis and I had planned for the 4th.  But as you may recall, from "All Around All-Star,"  Nicky got sent home from school sick, on the 4th; so Luis and I postponed our date until today.  As it had been a while since we went on a date; we decided to go to Talking Stick Casino.  Due to a conversation that Jackie and I had just had the night before; I texted her to let her know that we were at the casino; and she responded, "Find slot machine number 43 and put the full money in to play."  I typically don't play slot machines; but I was perfectly willing to follow her instruction because I thought that 43 was her lucky number.  After thinking about it for a few seconds; I realized that Jackie was telling me to play machine 43 because she wanted 43 to be a lucky number for me.  I told Luis about Jackie's text; and he said "let's do it!"

During our lovely lunch, we talked about our lucky numbers; because Luis thought that we should play those machines as well.  Luis said his lucky number was 7, and I told him that mine was 22.  I thought that Jackie's was 13; (but coincidentally I found out later this afternoon, that it's 22, just like mine.)  We agreed that we would look for machines 43, 22, 13 and 7; but I requested that we look for 43 first.

After lunch we started looking for the number 43 series of slot machines.  We scoured the entire casino, but there was no 43.  The numbers appeared to be completely random, and as we looked high and low, I felt like I was on "The Amazing Race."  Once we were completely, convinced that there was no 43 series, we decided to look for a slot machine that ended in the number 43; which was like trying to find a needle in a haystack.  After scrutinizing several slot machines, I finally found a number 43 in the penny slots; but there was an elderly, white haired, woman playing on it and she seemed very committed to this machine.  We expanded our search to the other side of the casino, and found three more machines with the number 43; but each was occupied by a patron who was engrossed in their gambling.

Luis and I laughed non-stop, because we couldn't believe how difficult it was to fine the elusive 43, let alone one that was available.  We returned to the machine that the white haired lady had been using; but there she sat.  Her pot was dwindling down to around $4 so we were hopeful that she might be done soon.  We knew that it could go either way, but when she reached into her purse and pulled another $20 from her wallet; we knew that we didn't stand a chance.

I excused myself to go to the restroom and while there, I thought "Maybe we should play machine 44;"  but I remembered why Jackie had told me to play 43; so I was uncertain.  As luck would have it; when I got back to Luis, he was sitting next to the WHL (white haired lady) on machine 43; as he sat playing on machine 44.  I couldn't believe that he was playing 44 after what I'd just been thinking in the restroom; and he told me that he had put in 25 cents and was up $5.  He then looked at me and said "Go ahead, make your maximum bet."  And with that, I pressed the button and 1,2,3, diamond after diamond dropped into the slots.  Each one was a different color; and I must have anticipated that this meant something good, because I started screaming.  Luis and I couldn't believe our eyes.  Even though we didn't know exactly what all of these beautiful, diamonds meant; we KNEW something good was going to happen.  The machine advised us that we'd triggered a bonus, but we didn't know how to proceed; and the WHL leaned over and told us to hit SPIN.  We did, and all of a sudden a screen appeared with 9 boxes, each containing a different number, and the possibility of three prizes - the biggest being $1068. and the smallest being $21.  We still weren't sure what to do, and again the WHL told us to hit SPIN.  We did and the machine told us that we could stop the spin whenever we wanted; but the WHL told us not to.  We listened to her and the first number that came up was a three, which was one of the three numbers in the thousand dollar prize.  With great exuberance, we spun again, and again, and again.  Only, I did stop the spin a couple of times.  After 5 spins, we were one number away from the thousand dollar prize; but the WHL then told us that we only got five spins.  WHAT??  Luis and I couldn't believe it.  We were both under the impression that we'd continue spinning until we won one of the prizes; but clearly we were mistaken.  We were shocked; and felt foolish for listening to the WHL. We should have stopped the spins ourselves, each and every time.  The machine then instructed us to spin one more time; so we did, and we got the number three.  This meant that we won three times the prize that we originally earned; so when all was said and done, we won about $35.00  We took a couple more spins, but we weren't coming close to that magical moment that we'd earned so effortlessly; so we decided to go visit one last 43 machine to see if it was available.

We found a vacant 43 machine, that happened to be a 2 cent Wizard of Oz progressive.  The jackpot was over $600,000.00 and we had no idea how much the maximum bet cost.  We put a $20 bill in the machine and did a test run with the minimum bet; which turned out to be 40 cents.   We deduced that the maximum bet was $3.20; so we decided to try our luck.  I spun the wheels, and was reminded of why I never personally play slot machines.  I simply had NO IDEA what was going on, or what it took to win; and it just didn't make any kind of sense to me.  After the wheels stopped spinning; I won $5 and Luis advised me that if I'd had one more of the progressive symbols, I would have won at least $1000.00, if not more.  OMG!  I have NEVER come that close to winning $1000 dollars; and now twice in one day, opportunity had knocked and I was unable to answer. Luis put it well.  He said it was like someone dangled $1000. in front of us, but we just couldn't grab it.  We cashed out of machine 43; and laughed all the way home.  It wasn't necessarily a happy laugh.  I think I might describe it like the laugh one has when they're in shock.  I told Luis that I felt nauseous; the way that you feel after going on an amusement park ride that didn't agree with you.  We kept reviewing the events of our afternoon; and the one thing that we couldn't get over was that not only did the WHL keep me from machine 43; she also sabotaged (although not intentionally) the perfect ending to this post.

All and all, I have to say that other than my first date with Luis; this just may be the best date that we ever had.  It would have been incredible to win a thousand dollars; but we know that we are rich in the way that matters the most. 
Till next time...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

(43-212) Brave Girls Club

Sometime during this past summer, my friend Rachel K, forwarded me an email called "A Little Bird Told me...Your Daily Truth from the Brave Girls Club." Now trust me when I tell you that this club does not need my endorsement, as they are known far and wide, especially in the scrapbooking community. But; I've decided to write about Brave Girls Club today, because I really loved the "daily truth" that I received last night; AND, because I believe that receiving these emails is actually in the best interest of your (say it with me,) "Greater Good."

I am definitely of the opinion that if it ain't broke; you shouldn't fix it. So rather than try to explain what the Brave Girls Club is or "Your Daily Truth," for that matter; I'm just going to copy and paste, the founder's (Melody and Kathy) explanation:
"This is a crazy world that forces confusing lies upon us every day -- lies about what is most important, who we are, who we can become, what we can accomplish, our value, our potential, our worth, what makes our lives meaningful, how and where we can find true happiness, and on and on. So we've decided to wage our own little war against those lies by sending our brave friends a daily truth. Think of it as a little bird delivering your truth -- and imagine that this truth-teller is someone who loves you and understands you completely.
Our daily emails are a free gift that is sent most weekdays, Monday through Friday, with all our love and wishes for everything joyful and brave and true.

"With that being said; here's the daily truth that they sent out yesterday:
"Dear Creative Girl,
Did you know that being creative is simply making something that did not exist before you made it? We are ALL creative, and being creative is a very important, wonderful part of being alive.

You can be creative with your meals, with your clothes, with your parenting, and with your job. You can be creative in friendship, in gardening, in the books you choose. Anything!
Please don't EVER tell yourself that you are not creative, or that others are more creative than you are. Creativity is a tremendous gift that was born into all of us and that keeps our lives interesting. It is a gift that helps others because we can all think of new things that others would not think of themselves.
Share your creativity today. It is healing, it is exciting, and it is essential for forward progress. We believe in you and all that you do. Don't let the world miss out on your creative ideas!!! We need you!"

The "daily truth" is not always about creativity; not by a long shot. That just happened to be the focus of last night's message. So trust me when I tell you that you don't have to think of yourself as a creative individual in order to benefit from these emails.

Thus far, I haven't participated in the Brave Girls online community; but they do have one if you're interested. I can and will say, that I have found great comfort and encouragement from receiving the "daily truths" email. Sometimes I feel as though they've read my mind. They let me know that certain feelings, thoughts or behaviors, that I may have felt were uncommon are really VERY common and they inspire me to be who I am. Do I always love them? No. But there are "daily truths" that I've saved and re-read when I've needed a reminder that I am brave, I am special, and I am worth it; and I think that you're worth it too. You are all unique and wonderful; and a daily reminder of that is an excellent thing; so I encourage you to check out. "A little bird told me" - your Daily Truth from The Brave Girls Club."
Till next time...                                                             

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

(43-211) The Forward

I know that email forwards are frowned upon by many; and  truth be told, I often delete them without even reading them.  However, every once and a while I feel compelled to read a forward; and I have to admit that I have come across some that I find provocative, others that are funny,  and those that put a big ole smile on my face.  C'mon, who can resist those People of Wal-mart photos?  You know the ones.  The forward always includes the dregs of society, (decked out in outfits that sane people wouldn't be caught dead in;) as they peruse the Wal-mart aisles.  If you've never seen one of these forwards; let me know, and the next time that I receive one, I'll be happy to share it with you.

Well the other day, one of my co-workers sent me a forward and it said:

Give this heart to everyone you DON'T want to lose in '2011 including me if you care. Try to collect 4, it's not easy!   

Now I absolutely abhor those forwards that tell you that if you don't pass something on; something terrible will happen to you.  I mean talk about a contradiction in terms.  Here friend, here's this well intentioned email, full of good thoughts and good cheer; but if you don't send it to umteen people; in the next umteen minutes; you'll have bad luck for eternity OR the exact opposite of what you're wished in this email will happen.  YUCK!  Talk about hypocrisy.  So, if you ever receive one of those forwards; EVEN if it tells you that you're guaranteed to receive $5 million dollars or a lifetime of health and happiness; please don't send it my way.  But I digress... let's make this U-turn.

What appealed to me about the forward that my co-worker sent me (you knew I was going somewhere with that; right?)  Was not necessarily the "send it to people you don't want to lose" instruction; but what was in the contents of the forward.  So, since I certainly don't want to lose any of you; and I really believe that these sentiments can contribute to your (say it with me,) "Greater good;"  I'm going to share the forward with you.  Of course there were all kinds a cutesy photos included in the email; but I think that you can live without those; since it's truly just the messages that are important. Oh, OK; and maybe one cute little pic...  

'Be kinder than necessary because everyone you
meet is fighting some kind of battle.'

'A sharp tongue can cut your own throat.'

'If you want your dreams to come true, you mustn't oversleep.'

'Of all the things you wear, your expression is the most important.'

'The best vitamin for making friends..... B1.'

'The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts.'

'The heaviest thing you can carry is a grudge.'

'One thing you can give and still your word.'

'You lie the loudest when you lie to yourself.'

'If you lack the courage to start, you have already finished.'

'One thing you can't recycle is wasted time.'

'Ideas won't work unless ' You' do.'

'Your mind is like a functions only when open.'

'The 10 commandments are not a multiple choice.'

'The pursuit of happiness is the chase of a lifetime!

'It is never too late to become what you might have been.'

'Life is too short to wake up with regrets.
So love the people who treat you right. Forget about the ones who don't.
Believe everything happens for a reason.
If you get a second chance, grab it with both hands.
If it changes your life, let it.
Nobody said life would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it.'

'Friends are like balloons; once you let them go, you might not get them back.
Sometimes we get so busy with our own lives and problems that we may not even notice that we've let them fly away.
Sometimes we are so caught up in who's right and who's wrong that we forget what's right and wrong.
Sometimes we just don't realize what real friendship means until it is too late.'

Now was that chock full of conceptions or what?  I know that not all of those suppositions may suit you; so take from that what works for you; and if you'd like to forward it; ONLY good things will happen to you for you my friend are now looking out for someone else's greater good.
Till next time...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

(43-210) Pizza Timeline

Even though the kids and I have yet to rid ourselves entirely of the lingering cough that is caused by the Flu; I thought that we were all on the mend.   But at 530 this morning, Nicky came downstairs complaining of a pain in his neck.  His glands; to be more exact.  His gland underneath his right ear, was visibly swollen. I could feel a small lump when I touched it; so I gave him some Ibuprofen and told him to try and rest, until I could call the Doctor's office at 8am.

I was able to get an appointment for 10:30; and thankfully, the Dr. assessed that it appeared to be an infected gland; which was unaccompanied by other symptoms or illness.   The Dr. prescribed an antibiotic and some sour, sucking candy.  No need to read that again; I DID say SOUR, SUCKING CANDY; like Sour patch kids or lemon heads etc.  The Dr. explained that sometimes little nodules form in the gland and the sucking motion and the sourness of the candy, somehow helps to shrink it.  I looked it up (yes, I did;) and found a few references to sour, sucking candy and swollen glands, but nothing definitive; Queen of RESEARCH that I'm not.

It was just about lunchtime after Nicky and I purchased the yogurt that the Dr. recommended to counteract the anti-biotic; and the sour, sucking candy; and I suggested that we get "Real" Pizza.  Now surely I'll explain.  I put pizza into two different categories.  Category one includes:  Pizza Hut, Domino's, Hungry Howie's, Little Caesar's, Sam's, Costco etc.  Category two includes New York Style, Pizzeria Pizza; which in our area would be purchased at Number One Brother's, Ray's, NYPD etc.  The pizza in category one, tends to be a little less expensive; but it's also not nearly what I would refer to as authentic pizza.  The pizza in category two, is about as close to New York pizza as I'm going to get for quite some time; and since it's been 17 years since I've actually had Pizza in New York; it's as similar to what I can remember it to tasting like.  If you know what I mean.     

Luis didn't grow up eating pizza; and he's not the biggest fan; so we don't order it very often.  When we do, it's usually pizza from a category one place; and it's typically just the kids that eat it. But today, I was in the mood for "Real" pizza and Nicky was the perfect person to share it with; because out of the three of my kids; he is the one with a profound predilection for pizza. 

After making two trips to the Pharmacy; we were able to head home to enjoy our lunch.  Nicky and I took a bite of our respective slices and we were both in heaven.  It's amazing how great something can taste when you haven't had it in a while.  While eating my cheese slice, I travelled through my Pizza Timeline and recalled the pizza places that my family used to go to when I was a kid.  Richie Howell fancied himself a foodie (even though that wasn't even a term back in the day;) and he drove out of his way to get what he considered to be "Good" pizza.  While some that lived in the condo, were happy to get their "pie" from Mr.Pizza, just two minutes away; Richie Howell was content to drive 10 minutes away to Peppino's, for his.  I remembered the meatball pizza that I loved from The Nanuet Hotel, and the stuffed pizza from La Pizziola in Southampton; and how I stupidly ate it the night before my tonsillectomy, when I couldn't have water after midnight.  I recalled the early 90's and grabbing a slice of pizza in the Bronx after leaving a bar with my roommates; and then I was brought back to present day and the perfect piece of pizza that I was enjoying with my extraordinary, son.

It's absolutely amazing how a bite of a food; can cause you to time travel.  In the few minutes that it took me to eat my slice (OK, two slices) of pizza; I went from being a 43 year old, mom in Arizona to being a kid in New City, a teen in Piermont, a young adult in Southampton; a 20something year old in the Bronx and back to a 43 year old, pizza loving mama, in Arizona.  YUM!  What a delicious journey.
Till next time...
Queen of EVERYTHING   

Monday, February 21, 2011

(43-209) I Reckon

I'm not in a great mood today; I'll admit it.  I've tried to snap out of it, many different ways; and even managed to genuinely enjoy myself a couple of times.  But, when it comes right down to it, try as I may; I still feel like I'm in a funk.   Do I know the cause of my less than cheery disposition?  Not exactly.  I think it may be a number of things; which are just snowballing.  None of them are important in and of themselves; but when you compound them all; it's hard to climb out from under.

If I wasn't writing "The Bumpy Ride" daily; I suppose that I could just suffer in silence.  But now that I've committed to writing a daily post; it's rather difficult to come up with something upbeat to share; when I'm feeling anything but.  I find that once again I'm questioning my decision to write a daily blog; and although I hate the idea of being a quitter; I'd be a liar too, if I said that I wasn't contemplating throwing in the towel.

I suspect that since I've come this far; I should stick with it.  I should remind myself of my reasons for beginning this endeavor, and I should persevere; but sometimes, most of the times, it's easier said than done.  This daily blog was not meant to be a journal; it was meant to be a tale of discovery and growth and gratitude; and I posit that if I'm being honest with myself; for the most part, it has been.

Now I myself was not familiar with the word "posit," but I found it when  using my handy, dandy Thesaurus, to try and find synonyms for "suppose;" because I found that I was using that word a lot in this post.  Anyway, one of the other synonyms for suppose was "reckon;" but I felt that if I wrote "I reckon that if I'm being honest with myself..." it would have sounded more like Opie from "The Andy Griffith show," writing this post; than me ~ and then I made myself chuckle.  I felt myself emerging from the gloomy state that I'd been in all day.  That's all it took.  A glimmer of creativity, a drop of humor; and I was starting to feel more like myself.

So, I Reckon, that  I'll be sticking with the daily "Ride," for at least the next 157 days; God willing ~ and I sure hope that you'll be joining me.
Y'all come back now; ya hear?
Till next time...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

(43-208) LOVELY

I have the sweetest; most thoughtful, husband EVER!!  I've mentioned before that Luis is not the biggest gift giver; but let me tell you; when he chooses to give me a gift, it's always something that's inimitably ideal.

When I wrote "The Gift Of Laughter," I told you that Luis had given me the perfect Valentine's day gift... A laugh; and I meant it.  Well, a couple of weeks ago I was at Kohl's with Michelle M, and I smelled a perfume that I have not been able to get off my mind; "Lovely" by Sarah Jessica Parker.  I wasn't in the market to buy a new perfume, so I didn't splurge right then and there; but EVERY time I went into a Kohl's after that day, I would go spritz myself generously with the fabulous fragrance.  I told Luis about it, and let him smell it; and he agreed that it was, in a word; LOVELY.

If you haven't had the pleasure of smelling Sarah Jessica Parker's Lovely for yourself; I found a delightful description of it, on "Lovely perfume is inspired by her love of layering unexpected fragrances, Sarah Jessica Parker blends a scent of pure innocence with the exotic nature of a precious oil and the sophistication of a fine perfume. Lavender, orchid and amber mingle with apple martini, paper whites and musk. The result, Sarah Jessica Parker's casual glamour fashioned into a fragrance."

Does that sound heavenly or what?   Well, a few days ago, I received my FAVORITE piece of mail... my discount advisement from Kohl's.  Just in case you don't know what I mean by this; I'll explain that if you have a Kohl's credit card; at least once a month, you receive a coupon on the mail which reveals that you get an additional 10, 20 or 30% off your entire purchase; for whatever the designated period of time is.  Well, as luck would have it; I got a 30% off coupon; AND I also had  $10 in Kohl's cash; so I asked Luis if he would mind if I bought Lovely.  Luis told me that he'd actually thought about buying it for me for Valentine's day; but since there was no discount available at that time; he delayed.  Truly this was a case of it being the thought that counted;, because honestly, I'm glad that he didn't pay full price for it when by waiting just a few days we were able to get $30 off.

After Luis got home from work this afternoon; we went to Kohl's and purchased my perfume; and it was well worth the wait.  Without a doubt; I now smell LOVELY!
Till next time...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

(43-207) The Great Skate Do Over

When I wrote "Do Over..." I told you about the night that I attempted to help my kids learn how to roller skate; and how it turned out to be one of the worst nights of my life; as a parent.  A few days later, I posted "Making Things Right..." and I explained that I had discovered that Great Skate offered roller skating lessons; and I was planning to take my kids there, so that they could learn how to skate properly and enjoy themselves; the way 
that they should have during their first skating experience.

Well, this morning Michelle and her son; Jenny and her 3 kids and our friend Christa, and her 2 daughters; met me and my kids at Great Skate; so that they could take their first roller skating lesson; and it was fantastic.  I was so proud of my kids.  They all went in with the most amazing, optimistic attitudes.  No one said that they were afraid; and quite honestly, after our last experience, I would have been fearful if I was the one putting wheels back on my feet; but not my three.  Everyone went in as if nothing had ever gone wrong there before; and I was incredibly relieved.

We got their skates on and everyone managed to make it over to the rink without incident.  When it came time for the lesson, the instructors told the kids to sit down so they could stretch.  They then said that if you'd never taken a lesson before, to remain seated after stretching.  They broke up into groups and all nine of our kids were then taught about the skates, how to position their hands if they were going to fall; and how to get themselves back up after falling.  I was thoroughly impressed.  Once the kids were on their feet, they were told to try to march to the wall; and they all did.  They were then instructed to skate back to the other wall; and to continue skating back and forth so that the teachers could observe them and move them into another group if necessary.

Nicky, Wyatt and Max were all moved to a slightly more advanced group; and all of the girls remained in the introductory group.  The hour passed fairly quickly and all of the kids had definitely made progress.  I asked all three of my kids if they'd be interested in coming back for another lesson; and they all said yes.

Open skate started immediately after the lesson was over; and all of the kids participated.  All of the kids fell numerous times; but they always picked themselves up and got right back to skating.  I couldn't believe how well they were doing after just one lesson.  Kelsie was even putting a little rhythm in her step and tried bouncing her shoulders and body to the beat.   I could tell that they were all very proud of themselves; and I was DELIGHTED.  I felt like I'd been vindicated, redeemed, and maybe even a little bit forgiven (by myself) for our last, horrific experience.   I felt so fortunate to have the opportunity to give my kids The Great Skate Do Over; and I am so happy to say that a wonderful time was had by all.
Till next time...

Friday, February 18, 2011

(43-206) That's Entertainment!

Historically, there have been few TV shows that Luis and I both want to watch.  He finds it ridiculous that I still enjoy "General Hospital" after all of these years; because he "assumes" that they keep doing the same story lines over and over again; which in their defense; I must say, they do not.  And although I will gladly watch CNN or MSNBC with him for a limited amount of time; I can't watch it hours on end; like he will if given the opportunity;  nor do I have any interest in watching the Discovery channel; or anything about insects.

As our tastes in TV shows couldn't be more different; it thrills me no end that we are both addicted to the NEW "American Idol."  When I wrote "Half Way There;"  I told you that I was enjoying the chemistry between Randy, Steven and J-Lo; and they have yet to disappoint.  I also told you that barring any interference from; I thought this season of "Idol" might be the best yet; and based on what I've seen thus far; I still stand by this statement.

If you have yet to tune in to "American Idol" this season; I highly recommend that you program your DVR or Tivo or whatever recording device your using; because the NEW "Idol" has been absolutely amazing.  Next week will be the last phase of Hollywood week; so by no means is it too late for you to jump on the bandwagon; so I say, GET ON BOARD.  The singers that are left all seem to be very original; with distinct voices like we haven't heard before; and the judges have been; in a word, PHENOMENAL.  Although I was a big (yes) HUGE, Simon fan.  I have to say that this season is much more pleasant.  Even when they're delivering a criticism; it doesn't have the sting that Simon's comments had. 

Although this is the tenth season of "American Idol;" there is a freshness about it, that has Luis and I very interested; and we love the fact that there is something that we want to watch together.  OK, if truth be told; there are actually a few shows that we're watching together now, besides "American Idol."  Our favorite comedy is "Mike and Molly;" which is on Monday nights on CBS.  If you haven't seen it yet; you are missing a weekly dose of laughter; and I wouldn't let another week pass by, before tuning in; because it's HYSTERICAL.  We're also watching "Jersey Shore;" and "RuPaul's Drag Race," and we're not embarrassed to admit it.  Hmmm, well; maybe we're a little embarrassed to admit it.  But that's entertainment!   You can say what you want about the cast of "The Jersey Shore," but the utter ridiculousness of it all just makes us laugh (In a "Hangover" kinda way;) and we'll take our laughs anywhere we can get them these days.   

Now I KNOW that there are a lot of people who are appalled by the "Jersey Shore," and to those of you I say; I get it.  But don't let the fact that I enjoy it; dissuade you from taking my recommendations for this seasons "American Idol;" and "Mike and Molly;" because for however bad you think "Jersey Shore" is; "American Idol" and "Mike and Molly" are THAT GOOD! 
Till next time...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

(43-205) The Volunteers

About a month ago, when I was at Kelsie's soccer practice; I ran into my friend Patti; who used to be Lyndzi and Kelsie's Kindergarten teacher.  Patti is one of the Student Council advisers and she told me that she had asked Nicky to join a committee that she was heading.  She explained that they were going to try to collect packages of new undergarments as there were a lot of students in the community who were in need; and she thought it would be a great idea to use Captain Underpants in their campaign.  I thanked her for encouraging Nicky to get more involved; and then she asked me if I would be willing to help as well.  She paid me a high compliment, and said that she thought I was so creative; that it would be wonderful if I could work with them; as long as Nicky didn't mind.  I told her that I would check with Nicky and that if he was OK with it; I'd be happy to help.

I spoke with Nicky about the committee and he had no objection to me assisting; so that Monday we went to our first meeting. By the time we were through, we had chosen a boy to be Captain Underpants; and I volunteered Lyndzi to make him a mask.  We agreed on a speaker, a dance group, a rap, and a skit.  And  we continued meeting up until this past Monday when we had our last rehearsal.

At 730 this morning, the kids and I met everyone on the stage; and I showed them the masks that Lyndzi had made.  Nicky was prepared for his part in the presentation and all of the performers were very excited.  We had a slight glitch with the music; but other than that, I think everyone did a great job. 

I've told you before that the word "volunteer" is like my kryptonite, because   I have a very difficult time refusing someone who asks for help. I was  flattered that Patti asked me to get involved with this project and I'm so glad that my kids are learning the importance of volunteering and contributing as well.  
Till next time...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

(43-204) MAMMA MIA!

I woulda, shoulda, coulda, called this post MY BAD; since ultimately it's about me making yet ANOTHER mistake.  BUT, since my mistake revolved around seeing the show "Mamma Mia," and MAMMA MIA is an Italian interjection; I decided to go with that; because I thought it was kinda clever.

Yesterday, when I wrote "Making Plans;" I told you about how I wanted to plan to see "Mamma Mia," in Las Vegas.  Did I think to check and see if it was still  running in Las Vegas before writing my post; hell no.  Why would I do that?  That would make too much sense.   It honestly never dawned on me to research it before writing my post; because I just assumed it was still there. But this morning, my friend Bernice left a comment on my post; and she told me to check because she didn't think it was currently showing in Las Vegas; and I guess by now you've figured out; that she's right.  OK, so I'm not feeling like the brightest bulb in the box at the moment; but this too shall pass.

When checking to see if  "Mamma Mia" was still in Vegas; I was able to find out that it is coming to the Gammage auditorium in Tempe, in May after all.  So at the very least we'll have an opportunity to see it if we want to take our chances on the sound.  As for the Vegas part of my plan; if people are interested in meeting up there; I could still plan to celebrate my 44th birthday there and see another show.  Barry Manilow's still there; (at least for now.)

The good news is; I've got nothing but time baby.  162 days to be exact. This is just a minor set back.  This is simply one wrong turn on this Bumpy Ride; and I for one am very excited to see where this journey will take me.  I have every confidence that I, Queen of PLANNING and clearly not Queen of RESEARCHING; will ultimately enjoy the best 44th birthday EVER; no matter what we do. 
Till next time...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

(43-203) Making Plans

When I wrote "100 Random Things About Me," # 44 was "I love to make plans." In fact, I think it's safe to say that I'm The Queen of Making Plans. It just seems to come naturally to me.  I've always had an affinity for organizing people so whether I'm planning something as simple as getting together with another family, or something as complex as a scrapbooking weekend with whatever number of friends; and a complete schedule of activities; I am happy to plan away.

Now don't get me wrong. I don't ALWAYS have to have a plan.  I can just as easily fly by the seat of my pants; but, I think the reason that I generally plan, is because I like to keep busy. There are also times, when planning is necessary, like when going on vacation or celebrating a special occasion; which brings me to the point of this post.  

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned to Luis that I wanted to do something VERY special for my 44th birthday.  We agreed that if  ever there would be a time to rejoice; it would be after surviving my 43rd year.  We discussed the possibility of a party, or going away for the weekend; and inviting my friends to meet us at the chosen destination; and we agreed that it was something that we would discuss further as my birthday got closer.  Well, with only 163 days until my birthday; my minds a thinking.

Now when I wrote "We Are Family," I told you that my cousin, Jackie and I were discovering that we had a lot in common; and one of our greatest similarities was our love of Broadway shows. Over the weekend, Jackie and I had been telling each other about the first shows that we'd seen, and some of our favorite musicals; and just as I said "I really want to see 'Mamma Mia,' Jackie said "me too!"   We discussed the possibility of seeing it in Phoenix; but I told her that I didn't think that the sound at Gammage auditorium was very good; and I suggested that we see it in Las Vegas.  The more that we talked about the idea; the more excited we got; and then I started thinking that maybe THAT'S what I should do for my birthday.  I could fly up to Vegas with Jackie's daughter Becky; and if any of my other friends wanted to meet us there; they could.  They could join us for "Mamma Mia" if they wanted to; but they certainly wouldn't have too; and then the next day, Luis could drive up with the kids; so if anyone else wanted to travel with their family, we could all get a chance to be together.  Sounds like a win win to me.

So there you have it.  I'm in planning mode.  Now of course this birthday plan isn't written in stone.  It's just the first idea that I'm throwing out there; and I am very open to suggestions. Hint, Hint!  I know that one way or the other; Jackie, Becky and I, will plan to go to Las Vegas to see "Mamma Mia;" no matter if it's for my birthday celebration or not; and I'm anxiously anticipating it.  I think that's one of the greatest things about planning... You ALWAYS have something to look forward to.
Till next time...

Monday, February 14, 2011

(43-202) The Gift of Laughter

Luis gave me the PERFECT Valentine's day gift... A laugh.  He wrote something very funny in my card; and I laughed out loud.  What more could I want?   A laugh isn't fattening; and it doesn't need any special care. A laugh is something that you can enjoy as is; and keep with you for as long as you like.  Laughter is the gift that keeps on giving and if you share it; the gift gets stronger rather than diminishes.  You can't say that about a box of chocolates.

I truly believe that laughter is the best medicine AND in fact, I think that it's physically impossible to feel bad when your laughing.  So, in honor of this Valentine's Day, and the gift of laughter that I received; I'd like to share two things with you.  First, some wonderful quotes about laughter; and then a joke that we heard while on the tram at Disneyland.

"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." - e e cummings

"He who laughs, lasts!"  - Mary Pettibone Poole

"An optimist laughs to forget, a pessimist forgets to laugh.” - Unknown

“What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul” - Yiddish Proverb

"You don't stop laughing because you grow old. You grow old because you stop laughing." - Michael Pritchard

And now for the joke...

Why does Tigger bounce around the forest on his tail?

Because he doesn't want to step on Pooh.                     
Till next time...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

(43-201) Hard To say Goodbye...

What an incredibly bittersweet day.  After a wonderful weekend of getting to know my cousin Jackie and her family; we had to say our goodbyes and head back home to Peoria. 

Once I woke up, I got in bed with Jackie, because her husband Gene, had gone out to get doughnuts.  Jackie and I lay in bed talking and one by one, my kids climbed in bed with us as well.  I told you it was a lovefest.
Once Gene returned; we all went into the kitchen and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast.  We then packed up and took a walk.

As our time together was coming to an end; everyone grew very sad; and it was extremely difficult to say goodbye; even though it was only a "goodbye for now."  Jackie and I embraced and cried; and I was overcome with emotion.  As we drove off, I cried harder; because I was in pain - not physical; but emotional.  Sometimes it's true; ignorance IS bliss.  I knew that I felt deprived of a biological family (other than MY kids,) but since it had been so long since I'd known what having that family felt like; once I did get to feel it again; I felt very sad to have been missing those feelings and connections for all of these years.  I didn't want to upset my kids by crying; but I couldn't help myself.  Everyone, including Luis cried with me; and after a few minutes, I was able to stop.

Being with Jackie and her family this weekend was more than I could have hoped for. We had lots of time to chat, we went to Disneyland, we went to the beach, we had FANTASTIC Chinese food; we laughed, we learned and we loved; A LOT!  I shared many stories with Jackie; and although I NEVER think of myself as someone who's had a difficult life; it reminded me that truly I have had some devastating experiences that others my age have not; and yet I have survived it all and managed to become a person that I am proud of.  In addition to that; I had an epiphany of sorts.   I thought to myself; "if I can get through my parents brutal divorce, the death of my father when I was 15, and all that it entailed; the death of my mother when I was 19 and all that it entailed; then none of the petty crap that I've been dealing with lately, is anything compared to what I've already been through and it doesn't matter AT ALL."  What does matter; is that my family is now complete.  Our lives are now changed for the better and we will never be alone again. 
Till next time...

Saturday, February 12, 2011

(43-200) We Are Family

"Milestone, milestone, who's reached a milestone?"   "It's me, it's me; Uh-huh, uh-huh. Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh, 200 posts!  As if my lil introduction  wasn't already given it away; today marks another milestone for me and the labor of love that is the 43 series of "The Bumpy Ride;" as I have now been 43 for 200 days; and this is my 200th consecutive post. 

When I first began the 43 series, I told you that I was going to write every day, so that I could document what I did with the year that possibly could have been my last.  Reflecting on the past 200 days  I would have to say that of all of the lessons that I've learned thus far; and all of the experiences that I've had - my most rewarding accomplishment has been building a relationship with my cousin Jackie and her family.  With this being said; I'm sure that you can imagine how full my heart is to be able to write this 200th post from Jackie's home; after spending a wonderful weekend together.

Although Jackie and I have been in daily contact with each other over the past three months; we certainly didn't learn everything and anything there was to know about each other; and I have to say that I am blown away by all of the similarities that we share.  Not only personality traits, (and there are MANY;) but our likes and dislikes too.  From our preference for whipped cream cheese, to disliking sand; or having our feet feel dry from the sand; to our love of ribs and barbecue pork lo mein the commonalities were endless.  I could go on and on but for brevity's sake (YES, brevity) the last mutual pleasure that I'll mention is our passion for Broadway shows.  Big deal one might say.  Lots of people enjoy Broadway shows; and this is true.  But the amount of knowledge that we both have about past Broadway shows; is uncanny.  I think that we could sit and talk for hours on end, JUST about Broadway shows; and I am delighted about that.

This weekend has been AMAZING in so many ways; and I have to say that Jackie feels more like a sister to me than a cousin; and I feel so blessed to  be able to say, we are family.     
Till next time...

Friday, February 11, 2011

(43-199) Welcome To The Lovefest!

We left Peoria around 430 yesterday; destination Thousand Oaks, California; to the home of my cousin Jackie.  I would have thought that I would have been hyper or anxious about finally getting to be with Jackie; but instead, I was unusually calm; as if I was going to see somoene that I'd known all of my life.

Although I was excited beyond belief, I was having a very difficult time staying awake.  See, I told you I was calm... But,  I'll attribute that to the Flu, that chose this day to kick my butt; OK, and the fact that I ALWAYS fall asleep on a car trip.

We arrived around 1130pm, and were greeted by a sign on Jackie's garage door that said "Park here.  Welcome to the Lovefest!"   Jackie came running out shrieking with excitement, and hugged me with every ounce of her being.  Her hug felt so familiar, and so loving; as if I'd known her all of my life.  And we cried.  We were both so overjoyed to be in each others arms, that we were overcome with emotion.  I think my kids (who had only just woke up,) weren't sure what to make of our tears; but we assured them that we were just happy and so glad to be together.  Jackie kept thanking me for finding her; and I could not express, (yes me;) how much it means to me to have her in my life.   

I know that I am extraordinarily blessed to have Luis for my husband, to have my three amazing children; and the world's best friends.  But the fact that I lost both of my parents by the time that I was 19 years old, has always left a void in my life, that no other relationship could fill; until now.  There is an unspoken, unconditional love and understanding that Jackie and I have shared from the moment that we've reconnected; and it has made me feel complete.  To be in her presence; truly feels like I've come home; and I know that I will never feel alone again.
Till next time...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

(43-198) The Missing Piece

I am so EXCITED, that I don't think I'm going to be able to sit down long enough to write this post; so I'm going to keep it brief.  YES, brief.  On November 11, 2010 I posted "Just What I Needed;" and I told you about how I found my first cousin, Jackie (who I never really knew,) on Facebook.   Jackie was equally delighted that I had found her; because although her parents are still alive; she didn't grow up with a lot of extended family around either.  We've been getting to know each other through text, email, Facebook IM and phone calls, ever since; and we are constantly amazed at how similar we are.

Early on Jackie and I tried to plan a time that we could get together for a weekend; but between the holidays and soccer we had to wait until February 10 - which has finally arrived!!  I remember counting down the days from about 59 or so, and it felt like February 10 couldn't come soon enough; and now it's finally here; and coughs and congestion be damned; we're still going.  Of course that was mutually agreed upon by Jackie and her family, as I would never show up coughing and sneezing without forewarning someone; let alone bring five people in that condition, without having her total consent.  But, we're family; and Jackie is prepared for whatever germs we might share; along with our love.

I'm getting giddy just thinking about it.  Getting to know Jackie these past three months has made such a big (yes) HUGE difference, in my quality of life; and I think that one of the things that I am most happy about, is that it's not only Jackie and I who are thrilled about finding each other; but our spouses and children are all ecstatic too.  I think that we all knew in our hearts that something was missing from our lives; and now we feel like we've found it.  It's going to be a lovefest for sure!
Till next time...