No Whining

We’re not going to Dragon*Con this year. After all the fun we had last year, with a lot of the credit going to our fantastic roomies that caused me physical pain from all the laughter, it would be very easy to spend Labor Day weekend bummed out. In light of the changes I’m making in my life, I refuse to do so. I will miss my friends, the laughter and the spectacle of Dragon*Con. But I wil not spend a minute of my weekend stewing in bitterness. Life is too damned short.

Instead, there will be laundry, cooking, errands, homework, proofreading and three delicious days with my man. We’re attending a party, but otherwise have nothing scheduled. When I realized this, the gears started turning to plan more and fill the weekend until I realized that I’m thrilled that I have so much freedom. So, instead of structure and planning, I’ll be more spontaneous. In fact, the only thing I have decided must be done every day is to experience something new each and every day of the three day weekend.

Chooch and I have already decided on what one of those things will be, and it will be something we do together. Other than that, I’ll just see where the days take me.

So, no bitching about missing D*C from me this weekend and no #dragoncant hashtag on my tweets. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to be there, it just means I plan on enjoying my weekend in spite of being at home.

Safe and swift travel vibes to all that are traveling this weekend, whether to Atlanta or other destinations.

AFI's Top 100 Movies

Goodfellas (92)

Not surprisingly, I’ve seen this movie many times, but haven’t watched it in several years. I re-watched it with Chooch and our nineteen year old son, codename Naughty Bear, who had not seen the movie before.

This is a great movie, and I’m surprised it’s so low in the ranking. I am THRILLED that it’s rated higher than French Connection, because it is easily more compelling and definitely a better film. I appreciate what French Connection was trying to do, and likely was the first to accomplish it in its time, but it doesn’t hold a candle to Goodfellas. (I almost typed “in my opinion”, but I don’t have to do that here, do I? It’s ALL my opinion, after all.)

One new bit of enjoyment that I found was in spotting actors that were unknown to me previously, that I had forgotten were in it or didn’t recognize in previous viewings. Not surprisingly, there are a lot of folks from The Sopranos and I loved seeing a baby-faced Michael Imperioli get abused as “Spider” and also (how the hell did I miss?!?) Samuel L. Jackson as “Stacks”. Naughty Bear enjoyed seeing many actors that he’s seen in other movies in this one, and he was blown away by the acting and the story. 

The body count on this film is tremendous, and it is definitely not a film for the faint hearted. While I realize they are all bad guys, there is definitely a point at which the movie tells us to feel sympathy for Henry. We are shown that he is not as heartless as the others, and we are able to feel sympathy for him and become invested in his character and survival. Beyond him being the narrator and focus of the film, I mean.

The first blatant occurrence is when Tommy (Joe Pesce) killed Batts. You saw it even more so when he shot Spider, both times. He was so clearly shaken and seemed to be at a loss. It was evident that Henry was in love with the lifestyle that was afforded by crime, and while he had no problem stealing, hustling and light brutality he definitely did not like when he witnessed extreme violence from others. We see him several times trying to smooth over ruffled feathers and splitting people apart when he saw danger coming, but when lives were at stake he was seemed to be completely caught off guard as if he were still in some sort of denial about what everything was really about.

It made it somewhat easy to make the leap with Henry from wiseguy to stool pigeon, as his friends and associates turned away from him with mounting paranoia. The fact that he was taking his wife with him on an illegal gun sale makes it clear that he had already lost a level of trust with them.

I keep coming back to baby-faced Samuel L. Jackson.  I’m going to have to start a “How many movies on the AFI list have Samuel L. Jackson in them?” list. At number 92 he has been in three: Do The Right Thing, Pulp Fiction and Goodfellas. I don’t really expect to see him in any more, as I know that earlier decades are more predominant than recent movies. Still, not a bad showing and clearly representative that he has great acting chops.

By the way, it seems that Naughty Bear’s favorite scene in the movie was when Henry, returning home in the wee hours of the morning to his in-laws’ house where he and his wife are living, is greeted at the door by his wife and mother-in-law. After about five seconds of nagging, Henry turns on his heel and silently leaves with Tommy, who just dropped him off. The refusal to be nagged by the women really cracked Naughty Bear up, and he’s mentioned the scene twice now since we watched.

Movie number 91 has already arrived, and having already seen Sophie’s Choice only once many years ago I’m looking forward to watching it again. I will keep my tissues handy, of course.

Now, please pardon me while I scamper off to hear Christiana and Mike discuss Goodfellas.

Dizzy Health

One Of The Things You Don't Want To Hear Your Neurologist Say…

… “You’re a challenge.” He was referring to the conundrum of trying to figure what to do next to try and relieve my symptoms since I’m not seeing an improvement in my symptoms.

After discussing the alternatives and my other health issues, my neurologist is not interested in switching me to either of the other two standard treatment options. He felt it was just too risky at this time with the likely side effects that could have an extremely detrimental impact on my health. So, that leaves us with increasing my current prescription again. I return in six weeks to discuss progress, and he is going to do some research to determine alternative treatment options.

I’m happy to report that he suggested a natural alternative, which I’m definitely exploring. He was also supportive when I questioned him about acupuncture. Three cheers for a modern doctor! I only say that because I have previously only encountered hesitancy from doctors on alternative solutions.

He was also very supportive of the exercise program I’ve begun, and I’m very to say that will continue. The amount of energy I have on Couch to 5K days is not something I will easily give up. In spite of how sick I usually feel afterwards, it makes me very happy to be in motion again. I regret all the skipped workouts and half-hearted attempts in the past, now that I’ve been limited for so long.

And with all the changes we’re facing, we’ve decided to register for a 5k in November. There is no way to predict if I will be dizzy or in pain, and may have to be a no-show. I have no idea if I’ll even be able to finish it. I do know that having a race on the horizon will keep me on track with my goals.

Chooch Dizzy Family Health Kids Our Kids


I wasn’t going to post this yet, but decided to after breaking down at the store today. What better way to purge but to write a blog? I did promise myself when I started this that it would be my true journal, if not specific it would at least document the “big” things going on in my life.

And no, there is no great tragedy here. My oldest son, jokingly known as Naughty Bear after a game of the same name, is getting his own place, has a job lined up, and will continue to take a full course load at his school. It’s all great stuff for him, and I could not be more proud or happy for him as he takes more steps into the world as an adult.

The only drawback? He’s moving out of state to the same area where his brother, known here as L.T., lives with his father, step-mother and the kids they’ve had since they married. This puts both of my sons approximately 1100 miles away, while my step-son remains 2600 miles away. This makes me a very sad panda.

He’s decided to move there for the same reason that L.T. moved there a little over a year ago. His younger siblings are growing up, and he’s missing out on experiencing it. This fact was brought home to him when L.T. returned for his summer break and we all marveled at his height and newly deepened voice.  I do not begrudge either of them the experience of deepening their bonds with their younger siblings and father. I’m simply pissed that it has to happen at the sacrifice of my selfish desire to spend time with them.

We’ve talked at length about it, and yes, I’m being extremely supportive positive and helping out where I can find ways to. He’s such a caring young man, and has even confessed that he thinks our relationship is better than ever. Our frank and occasionally uncomfortably honest conversations have bonded us even more closely, as we’ve all expressed. I’m thrilled to have this newly defined bond with him since he moved out after graduation to attend college.  However, it also makes his move extra painful for this selfish and wimpy mom.

After all, he’s my first child, and the first to forever change my heart and the way it loves, as only a child can. Having him nearby was the only thing that got me through the initial pain of L.T. leaving last year. Yes, my husband is an incredibly loving and supportive man, and we joke about our dog Kaylee being our ‘baby girl’, but come on, we’re talking about our babies.

So, if I seem to be struggling in recent and coming weeks, try and bear with me. He’s leaving in about three weeks, right before my birthday, and I’m wearing my Brave Face for him until then. That may crack from time to time with friends, so if I get too maudlin, know that my feelings will not be hurt if you get sick of it. Hells, I get sick of it so why shouldn’t you?

I’ve also started back to college on a very light schedule. I’m taking one online course and one course at the campus. That class was contingent on a discussion with the instructor, and her assurance that she will make allowances for classes that I have to miss due to my illness. She is a fellow migraine sufferer, fully understands my situation and will be flexible with me when I am unable to drive to the campus.

While I’m excited about this step in a new direction, I’m more terrified than anything. I’m scared that having to work around my newly acquired forgetfulness, inability to hold a thought, migraines, fatigue and inability to tolerate (physical and emotional) stressors will cause me to do poorly. The classes aren’t free, after all, and I don’t want to waste our money on failing a class. After long and encouraging discussions with my husband, I’m going for it, and will work hard to do well and maintain the very high GPA that I now hold.

So, that’s most of what’s going on with me. How *you* doin’?

AFI's Top 100 Movies

The French Connection – Number 93 on the AFI's Top 100 Movies List

French Connection (1971) – I gotta say, I can think of several other gritty/ irreverent buddy cop movies that are far more interesting. There was absolutely nothing in the way of interesting characters, and as Chooch said, they’re like cardboard cut outs. I agreed and commented that I cared more about a random kid in the background of a sniper shooting than about Gene Hackman’s character that was the target of said sniper. I had no emotional investment in any of the characters, which is a big no-no for my enjoyment of a story in any form.

One stinker was a scene with Roy Scheider and Gene Hackman showed them playing cards and laughing while listening to a surveillance tape, and it seemed like a forced and unrealistic moment of camaraderie. The movie has the sound effects (screeching tires, subway train noise, gunshots) cranked up pretty loud, possibly to make it more gritty and life-like, but in my opinion it’s gone too far and hurts the film. And at one point, I had to crank the volume way down because the music being played during an action scene was so jarring and annoying that I literally almost left the room. The attempt to amp up the suspense and tension just irked me to no end and took me out of the movie completely.

I turned to our old friend Wikipedia to try and suss out what the big deal is, and it tells me that “The French Connection was a scheme through which heroin was smuggled from Turkey to France and then to the United States, culminating in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when it provided the vast majority of the illicit heroin used in the United States.”
So okay, another “based on a true story” film, I get it. Also, “In 2005, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being ‘culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant’.” Apparently, it was ground breaking and portrayed a drug war as it was still going on. Forty years ago.

Also, it was the first R-rated film to win an Oscar since the MPAA rating system was put in place, and was nominated for 8 Oscars, winning 5:

  • Academy Award for Best Picture – Phillip D’Antoni
  • Best Director – William Friedkin
  • Best Actor – Gene Hackman
  • Best Adapted Screenplay
  • Film Editing

Other movies that were nominated for the Oscar that year were: A Clockwork Orange, Fiddler on the Roof, Nicholas and Alexandra and The Last Picture Show. I’ve never watched Fiddler… or Nicholas… but my favorite of the other three is easily A Clockwork Orange. I don’t hesitate to say that I would have preferred either it or The Last Picture Show to win. In fact, as little as I enjoyed The Last Picture Show, it definitely ranks higher on my list than French Connection.

And the car chase scene? The one everyone talks about that is supposed to be worth the time invested for that one scene? I didn’t realize it had already happened. I thought it was at the very end of the movie. And while that was a fantastic scene, especially the car racing along directly below the train in one shot, it was not worth all that time. The movie was exactly what I thought it was when i avoided it for all these years.

Meanwhile, I cannot wait to listen to Christiana and Mike discuss this film to see what I’ve missed. Their discussions on the previous seven films have, without exception, been able to reveal interesting details on the films that enriched my enjoyment of them.

But I have to say that while I’m counting on not having the full experience by not living in the times that the movie was released in, I still fully expect movies on this list to hold up to the test of time. This movie was released forty years ago, and while I love Hackman and respect his career I do not understand why this movie remains on the list. I’m grateful for the slew of amazing and ground-breaking films in recent years to hopefully correct this.

Happily, Goodfellas is up next. And I loves me some Goodfellas!

AFI's Top 100 Movies Movies

Pulp Fiction (94)

In spite of my usual aversion to splattery violence, I have loved this movie since I first saw it oh-so-many years ago. Chooch and I watched it last week with our nineteen year old son, and it was his first viewing. He was sitting at a location that allowed us to see his reactions to the many shocking scenes, and it was entertaining to behold.

There are many extremely talented actors in the film, and one or two popular actors that in my opinion don’t typically stretch their acting muscles beyond their usual character type. Somehow, Tarantino was able to pull amazing performances out of each of them as well. Makes me wonder if I would like Tom Cruise in a Tarantino film…?

Pulp Fiction is an amazing film that I’ve seen several times, however seeing my son’s reactions to the more surprising scenes, like the mess Vincent makes of the backseat of the car and the adrenaline shot given to Mrs. Wallace, made it seem like watching it for the first time again.

As an aside, I do love Tim Roth so very much, and will watch him in anything. Yes, that includes the weird veiny creature he was turned into in the latest Hulk movie. And in my dreams he calls *me* honey bunny.

This is a movie I will watch again and again, because the human story interwoven makes the gore and violence seem less graphic somehow. It is an exception to my usual low tolerance for violence, and it absolutely belongs on the AFI list. I need to peek at Christiana and Mike’s updated list to see how it compares for me in their ranking, but I plan on waiting until watching the movie in spot number 91 on the list, and every tenth movie after that.

Next up is French Connection, which has arrived from Netflix. I’ll be waiting for hubby to watch it with me, so it may not be viewed until the coming weekend. I’ve never seen it, but have of course heard of it. Other than an epic car chase, I don’t know anything else. And I’m fuzzy on whether or not there’s actually a car chase.

5k Chooch Dizzy Exercise Health Kaylee

Back in the Saddle Again, Metaphorically Speaking.

If you’ve been reading about my health issues here, then you know how disgusted I am with the recently lost weight starting to creep back. I started walking again a few months ago, but it has been hit or miss. I get so dizzy that I don’t like to go by myself, and it was too much of a time investment for Chooch in the mornings before work. Yes, it has to be in the morning since he frequently doesn’t get home until 8 or 9 p.m., too late for us.

I’ve not been able to get started on any other work out plan, because I don’t enjoy anything as much as I enjoy running. Period. So after a lot of thought, I decided to re-start the Couch to 5k program, again using Robert Ullrey’s podcast. This will be the third time, and I really enjoy it. Chooch and I both had a lot of success with the slow ramp up of running time, so I broached him about doing it with me. Partially because I know he’s frustrated, and partially because of my fear of running alone. He was hesitant because of some issues with his previously sprained ankle, but otherwise jumped at the idea.

We’re on our third week now, and I am loving it. We spend more time huffing and puffing than talking, so I miss that aspect of the change from walking to running. But I just love having the time with him regardless of what we’re doing. We take Kaylee along and she is getting conditioned along with us. She loves it, and has gotten very well-behaved on the runs. Okay, so she still goes crazy if a bird, cat or squirrel get close to us, but otherwise she’s doing great. She  hardly reacts when passing barking dogs or other runners/walkers now.

Even though it’s Week 3, we re-started Week 2 since weather and special projects prevented us from doing the 3rd day last week. We are also both dealing with sore ankles from previous sprains. We are babying them, but don’t intend to stop unless there is actual pain.

I am okay for about the first half of the run, but somewhere around the midpoint I usually get dizzy. It increases to the point of nausea almost every time, but I’m not stopping. Truth is, I’ll be dizzy either way, and this feels way better than not moving does. Plus, I take great pride in the fact that we’ve fully completed each session.

I’ve not had much weight loss, only about 5 pounds, but I don’t care. I’m converting fat to muscle, my heart is pumping, it helps with stress management and I feel like I’m less of a shut-in when I do it. Yes, I’m dizzy for hours afterward. Yes, I still get migraines. I don’t expect this to really help my migraine issues, but by improving my overall health I am giving my body a treat unlike any other. I’m also enjoying more energy during the day, which is major since I’ve had near constant fatigue along with this entire health dealie. Not as much as before, but more than I’ve had for months.

I’m so grateful to Chooch for going with me on the runs. He pushes me to speed up when I’m struggling just to maintain my speed, all the while keeping a watchful eye to make sure I don’t push too hard. If I had been solo, I would have started Week 3 even though I wasn’t ready, but he insisted we do Week 2 again. He was right, but don’t tell him I said so, m’kay?

AFI's Top 100 Movies

The Last Picture Show (95)

The Last Picture Show (1971)

This was a beautiful film, with a fantastic cast. Buuuuut… and I don’t know if it was due to my migraine or what, I had trouble with the film. Chooch did as well, so I’m thinking it’s not just me.  I feel pretty secure in my belief that the sparse and deserted town was exactly what was intended. The town perfectly matched the mood of its inhabitants, as they were clearly feeling the effects of living in the dying town.

The story was depressing and morose, and even in a scene that could have really pushed the dramatic effects and given the viewers a Big Romantic Moment, it fell flat. I believe this to be as the director intended, to bring home the point that these were truly hopeless people. It took me a long time to even be motivated to write anything about the movie, as the tone of the film definitely left its mark on me.

I think it must have been pretty shocking at the time of its release, as there are a few scenes that are pretty sexually graphic for what I remember being other movies showing.

It was filmed in black and white and featured several distant landscape shots that added to the sense of isolation. It was very successful and powerful in its ability to impart a tone on the viewer, as evidence by Chooch and myself. You know how a great action film gets your heart racing and you end up on the edge of your seat? This movie was just as powerful in getting you to feel what the actors were experiencing… which was hopeless and depressed. Understandably, it’s not an experience I want to repeat.

When I saw Brent’s comment to the DtRT (96) post, I stopped reading it when I saw mention of this film. I wanted to experience it without anyone else’s opinions coloring mine. I’m happy that I can now go read it as I’m dying to see his opinion.

Next on the list is Pulp Fiction, which we re-watched Saturday night. I’ll be posting that review shortly.

Consumer Info

Credit Info That You Hopefully Already Know

We have some credit card debt, and before you start to lecture me, YES we know better. Unplanned stuff happens when you own a home and cars and stuff breaks. Especially when you have kids living in different states and you have plane tickets to buy to spend time with them. Moving on.

I’ve had credit cards off and on over the last 20 or so years, and my preference is to NOT have them. Nothing irritates me more than looking at interest that I have to pay for spending money, whether it’s on a mortgage or a credit account. And I make a point of looking on every statement so I don’t ever forget the cost.

We try to be smart and take advantage of some of the better credit offers, and after doing a recent audit of all of our finances I had a few thoughts to share:

First of all, one of the “ace in the pocket” credit offers is from Best Buy. I don’t know if it’s always available, but we’ve made use of it a few times now –  interest free for 18 months for items over $xxx (I don’t remember the minimum). Keep in mind that the ONLY way this is a good deal is if you pay it OFF before the 18 months expire. If you don’t, then you are charged retroactively all the interest you would have paid. You are given a wonderful motivator on the statement itself, as they have to disclose the offer expiration date along with the accrued interest you will be charged with if you go beyond the expiration.

I simply take the total charged and split it into 17 payments and pay that every month instead of the minimum required. If I can spare any extra I throw that on top also, just in case there is a financial crisis later that may make it difficult. You have to be very disciplined to do this, or you could be staring down the barrel of a huge balloon payment to make to avoid getting tagged with the accrued interest.

Another thing I learned ages ago was to always pay more than the minimum payment. I strive for at least a double payment, and more than that if possible.

Being disciplined with this is much easier now, thanks to the Credit Card Act of 2009. There are some very helpful requirements placed on credit companies to help you stay on track with your credit goals. If you click on the link, you can even download the legislation. It’s dry, but I think anyone with or contemplating a credit line should be familiar with it.

The provision most likely to help you achieve or maintain a healthy credit score is the Enhanced Consumer Disclosure found in Title II. In it, credit card companies are  required to show how long it would take you to pay off your current balance AND what the interest would be over that time. Right below that, they show the calculation of how much you should submit in order to pay off the entire balance in 36 months and that amount of interest. It is shocking to see how long you’ll be paying that minimum, assuming that is all you pay and have no other charges on the account. I think one of ours was NINETEEN YEARS. This is definitely need to know information, and I’m happy that it’s on the statements now.

Another favorite is in Title III – Protection of Young Consumers. It prohibits practices such as giving away promotional items on or near college campuses for credit applications. This practice led countless kids to sign a form and get some crappy thing, not realizing they were harming their credit scores and opening a credit line that in many cases has led to devastating debt for young and informed students. It also prohibits from those under 21 unless there is a co-signer or the person actually meets requirements such as being able to pay independently. Y’know, like the rest of us?!? Also, the student now has to get authorization of joint account holder to credit limit increases. This was so long overdue, and I hope that it actually works as intended.

The Act also prohibits some of the “fees” on gift cards, those ridiculous dormancy and inactivity fees among others, that can chip away at the balance and zero it out before it can be redeemed on goods.  These will only kick in after 12 months, as long as certain provisions are met.

It also provides a lot of other protections and requirements, and while I’m sure there are things in there that suck, if nothing else the aforementioned disclosure should scare you into being aggressive with your credit payoff efforts. I didn’t read the whole thing word for word, and if you find anything that I got wrong, please correct me!

Separate from the legislation, I must insist that you get your credit report from all three credit agencies annually. You can get it for free as explained on the Federal Trade Commission website, which points you to I’ve used this for a few years, and it is easy and painless to use. You can see everything that has hit your report, down to who has requested credit reports on you. Dooooo eeeeeeet! It only takes a few minutes to make sure everything is as it should be, and you don’t want to wait until you are applying for a mortgage to find out there is inaccurate information out there.

Now, back to that Credit legislation mentioned earlier. You know how you hear that politicians are always tacking unrelated things on? Well, buried at the bottom of the Credit Card Act (among other things) is an item covering gun possession at National Parks – Visitors to U.S. National Parks can legally carry licensed firearms in to parks, subject to state laws and other provisions, effective Feb. 22, 2010.

I hope Yogi got the news, or else he may get shot for lifting his next picnic basket.

Have you ordered your free credit reports yet? No? Then get to it, Twitter can wait.

Family Mom Soulful

Never Call It A Bad Day

I’m using some of my migraine-free time to try and get us better organized, with the hopeful result being that I will be far more productive. We’ve had a lot of changes in the last year, and I’ve not kept up. While digging out from all the paper on/around/under/stuffed in/ flying around my desk, I’ve had hideous task after painful issue to clean up and deal with. Some nasty demons, and some really big disappointments in the last few days.

I had just tweeted in commiseration with my friend Jett a wish for this day to be over, as it has not been pleasant by any stretch of the imagination.  Within two hours I found a note I had written to myself sometime last year.

I was thoroughly puzzled for a moment, until I remembered a hectic day at work last year when I reached for the phone and accidentally dialed my deceased Mother’s cell phone while calling my sister’s cell. It’s happened a few times, as the numbers are identical except for the last digit being one higher. I usually curse and hang up before anyone picks up, and then lick my wounds of missing her. This time I didn’t realize I had done it until a recording played, but I grabbed a pen and wrote down the message so I wouldn’t forget it.

I’m grinning ear to ear with teary eyes, like an idiot, because this is how little it takes to make me feel like she’s still a part of my life. I’m stunned every day when I realize that my world hasn’t collapsed without her huge presence, and am never happier when the Universe brings me a smile because of her. Being reminded that, as I believe, I will feel her arms around me and hear her infectious laughter again some day is a tremendous joy on a great day, let alone a not-so-great one.

So, I’m reverting back to my old saying of “It’s Not A Bad Day Until You Proclaim It To Be One”, and never having another bad day again. Because you never know when something wonderful will happen, small as it may be, to put joy in your heart.