Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Biggest Loser Update

To be honest, I have not been dieting the way I should. I've been keeping track of numbers in my head, having too many "treats" and I have not been weighing in every week. In fact, I've been avoiding the scale like my dog avoids squirrels, wide eyed and edging slowly away so I can't be attacked. This should technically be the Wednesday of Week 23 but my blog entries definitely don't reflect that. So, what happened? Life happened. My back has been suffering, I ended my semester of school with a lot of stress and I'm facing even more stress in the next few weeks but the fact remains that I slacked. One problem I have always faced is being able to balance healthy eating with the stress of life. When life gets rough, I reach for a chocolate bar or a bag of chips and I avoid the scale. While I haven't been completely off the wagon, I have been lazy. It turns out that stress has been high for my mother and sister the past few months as well so we have decided to extend our "Biggest Loser" bet. We will be weighing in at the beginning of July, when I visit, and declaring a winner for the first half of the year. However, we will also be weighing in when we see each other in December as well. So, while someone will "win" in July, we will still be working toward healthier lives and toward a winner for December. That said, I do have numbers to report and they aren't bad. I was terrified to step on the scale and was pleasantly surprised. I know I could have done better if I had been watching my eating better but I have accepted that and I have decided to be happy with the loss I achieved. I also realized today that I weighed in once before this without reporting it. So here are the numbers:

Weight Lost Since Last Weigh-In: 6.6 pounds
Weight Lost Since Last Blog: 8.4 pounds
Total Weigh Lost: 26.4 pounds
Total Weight Percentage Lost: 12.89%

No crying this time! :)
This puts me a little past halfway toward my goal of 50 pounds lost. My only problem is that I know I have lost weight but I don't seem to be noticing it like I feel I should. I don't feel much smaller and I don't think I look much smaller. Maybe this is because I see myself in the mirror every day. I think it also has to do with my inability to exercise because of my back problems. I guess I will know if I look any different when I see my family next Friday. This makes me want to compliment everyone I know who has lost weight because I know they have been working hard. So, if you know someone on a diet, try to take notice and compliment them on their hard work. This can really motivate a person to keep going. I hope to recognize my own loss soon. I am proud of the numbers and hope to physically see the results soon. This is the smallest I have been since before my car accident so I am going to be proud of my progress. I hope you all have a great week and I look forward to reporting the results of the first half of the Biggest Loser Family Edition at the beginning of July!

Thanks for the pictures:

Monday, May 21, 2012

Dark Shadows Movie Review

Sadly, this movie can be summed up in one sentence: Tim Burton failed! Wow, it feels bad to say it but it is true. We could also add: Johnny Depp failed! To state it simply and obviously, I was very disappointed in this film.

The previews made this look like another funny, quirky movie from Burton and Depp and it certainly starts that way. The movie begins with a voice-over narrative that introduces Depp’s character Barnabus Collins, a member of the rich Collins family that has founded his town and rules with love and power. However,  Barnabus attracts the love of the wrong person when the house maid falls in love with him and he sleeps with her but denies his love for her. He screwed over the wrong person; the maid is in fact a witch and curses Barnabus into a vampire.  He is then trapped in a coffin and buried, only to be released by accident two centuries later. When Barnabus returns to the world, it is the 1970’s and he must help his decedents reclaim their company and fortune. This is all fine and well except the plot goes downhill fast after this. 

Depp is humorous as usual and the movie mixes a nice dark atmosphere and humor as a Burton film always does…that is until about the thirty minute mark. The plot quickly unravels and I was shocked that a film with such a horrible plot managed to be made! I haven’t seen a plot fall apart like this in a long time and I never expected it to come from Burton and Depp, who I usually love. I have tried to figure out why this movie disappointed me so much. Yes, the plot stunk…I mean really stunk, as in my 13 year old nephew could write a much better one. But what else was it? The acting was good for the crappy script they were given, weird but good, and the soundtrack was fun. Yup, it must have purely been the plot. OH and the fact that this film screamed horribly of being only a paycheck maker! I thought most of these actors could afford to pass on a film like this but apparently they all just needed a quick check to pass their time until their next good film. Really, Johnny Depp? You are worth millions! Really Michelle Pfeiffer? You’re an icon! I’ll give a pass to the lesser known names because I’m sure they needed money, but really Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter? You’re like the Hollywood It Couple for weird money-making movies. You could have scrapped this project before it made it to the screens and stole my money and two hours of my life. Heck, it wasn't even two hours. You could have used an extra fifteen minutes to make it two hours and possibly explain away some of the discrepancies that were THROWN at the audience randomly at the end.  Considering this movie was based on the TV show that ran from 1966-1971, you would think they could covered the plot a little better or just thrown out what really wasn’t needed. You know it’s a bad sign when the audience is laughing, not because the movie is funny but because it was ridiculous!

I could write for hours on how disappointed I was by this film but instead I’ll leave it at that. I’m still working on redoing my rating system so I’ll just say, if I had to, I’d give this film a 2 out of 5 stars with the two stars only being earned by the first 30 minutes, some funny lines and a hilarious sex scene. I sure hope Burton’s Frankenweenie will be much better than this monstrosity. I’m hoping the much needed time he neglected to give this film was given to his next film. In the future, it would do him well to actually flesh out the plot and treat his audiences like they are just a wee bit smarter than a cantaloupe. I don’t like plot points being told to me at the end of a movie rather than being shown to me throughout the film, especially when the plot points do nothing for the plot. This was such a sad experience for me…I think I need to go watch Sleepy Hallow and Nightmare Before Christmas to recover! 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Ebook Release: "Whole Again"

After a long hiatus, my third short story, "Whole Again," is now available for purchase from Amazon. It can be read on Kindle or on the Kindle app for iPads, PCs and MACs. Thank you to Kortnee for all her hard work editing and to Neil Wells for my awesome cover! Thank you also to my wonderful support system for always pushing me forward. After a long semester, I needed to get back to my writing. Bill, mom, dad, Sarah, Kristin, Gabe, Kortnee, you are a few of these wonderful people and I can't tell you how much it means to have you behind me. (These are just a few, there are more. Sorry if your name isn't listed.) Thank you also to my followers on here, twitter and facebook for the ongoing support. 

Story Description: (Short Story) Claire quit doing drugs before she got pregnant but it would 

take strength of character and the support of her family to break out of the abusive 

relationship that got her started on drugs in the first place. A recovering addict, Claire shares 

her story of destruction, abuse and redemption.

Hope you enjoy! Comments and reviews on Amazon are always appreciated!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

"The Avengers" Movie Review

It took adjustments and pain medicine to get me to this movie but I made it: that's how much I wanted to see it! I have now been in bed for two days because of the pain from sitting that long and I don't regret it: that's how awesome it was!

Anyone who knows me, knows that I love my superheroes! It's going to be a great Spring/Summer for superhero movies and The Avengers kicked it off. What a great way to end my semester of hell and start a summer of recovery! I have so many things to say about this movie that, if I said all of them, you would probably be reading the longest blog ever. SO, I'll TRY to keep it short. 

The Avengers brings together Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye as a team of super humans who must save the world from Loki (Thor's adopted brother) and his other worldly army. I won't say much about the plot because a.) you should see it and b.) it's a lot to type out while trying not to give too much away. I will say that S.H.I.E.L.D, led by Nick Fury, must bring together the "Avengers Initiative" to battle a force that is simply too much for one superhero and the heroes are less than willing until something happens that makes them all ban together.

This movie is so full of amazing actors and superhero splendor that the movie theater is sure to be full of nerdgasms! Robert Downey Jr. is back as Iron Man; Chris Evans has been unthawed as Captain America; Chris Hemsworth has returned from Asgard as Thor and the audience is given a deeper look at Hawkeye, Jeremy Renner, and Black Widow, Scarlett Johansson, the only two heroes who are 100% human and the only two who haven't had their own movies. Oh wait, did I forget someone? No, I purposefully left out The Hulk because he deserves his own paragraph as I have voted him "Best Recast!"

Mark Ruffalo joins the team as Bruce Banner/The Hulk, a role previously done on film by Eric Bana and Edward Norton (let's put aside the television portrayals). Anyone who watched the 2003 Hulk was probably as appalled as I was...I like Eric Bana a lot but wow, that movie was horrible. So, when the movie was redone in 2008 with Edward Norton I was excited! I love me some Edward Norton and The Incredible Hulk was far superior to the 2003 film. When I heard that Edward Norton would not be in The Avengers, I was worried... that is until I heard Mark Ruffalo was the recast. I love me some Edward Norton but I have always found Mark Ruffalo to be a great actor so I was excited to see what he could do. I. Am. Impressed! I even hate calling Mark Ruffalo a recast because he did such an amazing job. So, from now on, we shall only refer to Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk, no more recast! He owned the role and made it his own. If you can't see how excited I am, I dare you to track down my best friend, ask her how much I LOVE Edward Norton and then realize that, if I'm this excited about Edward Norton being replaced then, wow, Mark Ruffalo must have been amazing. Yes, yes he was! I could probably devote a whole blog to how impressed I am with Ruffalo but, don't worry, I won't.
"We believe you!"
"You believe me?"
"YES! We promise, we know you are awesome!"
"Oh, well, then....I guess I am ok...Hulk smash!"
There are many things that impressed me with this film. I loved the humor that was weaved in throughout the film. After those years with the "bad" Batman films, (yes I know I am mixing DC and Marvel but stick with me here), I didn't know how much room would  be allowed for humor in superhero movies out of sheer fear that they would tank. I must make it clear, I am one of those weirdos who enjoys the "crappy" Batman movies even though I know how ridiculous they are,  but I also know how filmmakers fear repeating the days associated with George Clooney's nipple suit. That said, The Avengers was hilarious, but not in the quirky Batman-nipple-suit ways.  I'm talking about witty humor that sticks with you even days after the film. I've witnessed this humor throughout Iron Man and sprinkled in Thor and Captain America but I haven't laughed this often during a superhero movie since the days of the 90's Batman films and, trust me, that was usually not good laughter. The Avengers managed to be action packed and hard hitting while still being light and humorous which I attribute to the fact that this film captured the human side of the heroes and mixed it well with their hero sides. I have to say that I think it is Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo who ignite the humor as they have amazing friendship chemistry on screen. All I can say is: Awesome!

I also have to point out that the plot was extremely well done in this movie. I was never left thinking, really? I'm supposed to believe that? The script was well-crafted and thought out. There are even nods to World War II, Captain America's day, in creative ways that had this history minor going, "YES!  If they hadn't added that, I would have been pissed!" Also, the action kicked off almost right away because there wasn't exposition weighing down the beginning :::cough Green Lantern cough::: This is most likely because the exposition has been covered in the previous movies but it was nice to see a movie where the history was mixed in, instead of being thrown at the audience in long monologues or introduction scenes :::hack Green Lantern hack::: ....sorry, I must be getting a cold.

Alongside the all-star cast, hello Samuel L. Jackson, you awesome man, and the great portrayal of Loki by Tom Hiddleston, you creepy badass you, there are some great moments in this film where I got to go, "Hey it's (insert celebrity name here)." Of course, the whole room got excited when Stan Lee made his appearance, I repeat, nerdgasm, but I was equally excited when I saw Harry Dean Stanton appear. It was also great to see all of the movies come together with the supporting cast, not just the heroes, from those films. I was pleased to see Professor Selvig from Thor, Stellan Skarsgard, play a pretty big role in the film and it was great to see Pepper Potts from the Iron Man films, Gwyneth Paltrow, make her appearance. Even though Natalie Portman couldn't make an appearance as Jane Foster, she was mentioned. I appreciated this because it reminded the audience that all of these heroes have separate lives and films but come together when one superhero just simply isn't enough. AND I'm always happy to see Agent Coulson, Clark Gregg, as he brings a lighter side to some scenes and adds depth to others. Simply put, this film is layered with great acting.

I do have two complaints but neither has to do with this film directly. These are simply comments to help me vent. ONE, seriously people, have you not learned to stay put for the extra scenes at the end of the movie? These are the scenes that give you a small glimpse of the next films so SIT DOWN and enjoy them! While I'm mentioning it, one of the special scenes might be a bit confusing unless you are a super-duper-comic nerd (that's a compliment) so, after you see the movie, go look up spoiler explanations like this one. Anyhoo, please watch the scenes so you aren't confused or hurry out of the theater so I am not distracted by your stupidity. Some people will never learn. Sigh. And TWO, really cinema people, you put the Batman and Spiderman trailers in the middle of the previews and then threw Prometheus and Frankenweenie (adorable but really?) in at the end? Talk about poor management, you should end with the kick ass trailers but oh well, at least those are my only two complaints, right?


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Children's Books on Friendship

(*Spoiler Alert* Some book endings are revealed in this post)

There are many children’s books on friendship. Some are about making friends, some are about losing friends and some are about the diversity found in friendship. There are books in every genre and every form on this subject. From picture books to chapter books, from fantasy to historical fiction, there are many books on friendship that are available for children. Here are some that I love, divided into the age groups of ages 1-7 and 8 and up.

Ages 1-7

Do You Want to Be My Friend
by Eric Carle
Eric Carle is one of the best known names in children’s literature. His book Do You Want to Be My Friend? follows a mouse on his journey to find friends. He asks many animals to be his friend but each animal responds with, “No” until the mouse finally finds another mouse to be his friend. This is a book with few words but with brilliant pictures that let young children expand on the story with their own imagination. Do You Want to Be My Friend? is a great book to use to spark a child’s emotional intelligence about friendship. (Ages 1-3)

Will I Have a Friend?
by Miriam Cohen
Will I Have a Friend? by Miriam Cohen, addresses a common fear in children: the fear that they will never make friends. When Jim starts his first day of school, he asks his father if he will make friends. Though his father assures him that he will, Jim is still nervous. Jim doesn’t have much luck finding a friend until after nap time when he meets Paul and they bond over playing with the truck Paul brought to school. Soon, all the kids see them having fun and they want to play as well. This book speaks directly to the anxiety children feel on their first day of school and can be used to help calm those fears. (Ages 4-6)

Other Books on Friendship for Ages 1-7:
  • ·         Flip and Flop by Dawn Apperley (Ages 3-6)
  • ·         The Friendship Wish by Elisa Kleven (Ages 4-7)
  • ·         How to Lose All Your Friends by Nancy Carlson (Ages 4-6)
  • ·         A Rainbow of Friends by P.K. Hallinan (Ages 4-7)

Ages 8 and Up

A Friendship for Today
by Patricia McKissack
A Friendship for Today by Patricia McKissack is about Rosemary, an African American girl who is starting sixth grade in a new, integrated school. She is fine with the idea until her best friend, J.J., comes down with polio and ends up missing a year of school to recover. Rosemary is tormented by white children until she bonds with one of her tormenters, Grace, over an injured cat. Grace and Rosemary then learn to put aside their differences and learn they have more in common than they could have imagined. This is a great book for promoting diversity in friendship. (Ages 9-12)

Charlotte's Web
by E.B. White
Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White, is the ultimate friendship tale. Wilbur is born the runt in the Arable’s litter of pigs. Mr. Arable plans to kill the pig but his daughter, Fern, begs him to spare the pig.  He relents and Fern is allowed to raise the pig until he is too big for the house and must be moved to the Zuckerman’s farm. Still Fern visits Wilbur daily until she finds an interest in boys. Wilbur is heartbroken whenever Fern is not around but soon finds new friends on the farm and the best friend in Charlotte, a spider. Soon Wilbur finds out that he is going to die and become the Zuckerman’s dinner but Charlotte makes it her life’s mission to save Wilbur’s life. Charlotte spins webs with messages to convince the Zuckermans to spare Wilbur and Wilbur’s life is saved but Charlotte’s life has neared its end and Wilbur must say goodbye. This book shows children the power of friendship and also introduces them to the reality that all life ends. Their moral intelligence will be sparked as they realize that friendships can end because friends drift apart, like with Fern, or because of the death of a friend, as with Charlotte. There is hope, however, as the book ends with Wilbur befriending Charlotte’s children and this shows children that, even though they might lose friends, there will always be new opportunities for friendship. (Ages 8-12)

Other Books on Friendship for Ages 8 and Up:
  • ·         All Alone in the Universe by Lynne Rae Perkins (Ages 10+)
  • ·         Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder by Jo Nesbo (Ages 8-12)
  • ·         Ellen Tebbits by Beverly Cleary (Ages 8-10)
  • ·         The Friendship Doll by Kirby Larson (Ages 9-12)
  • ·         My Last Best Friend  by Julie Bowe (Ages 8-10)
  • ·         The Secret Language of Girls by Frances O’Roark Dowell (Ages 8-12)

There are so many wonderful books to choose from when focusing on friendship in children’s books. What are some of your favorite children’s books about friendship? 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Time Speeds Along

This year seems to be speeding along. Honestly, it's going faster than I would like. I feel like it should be February at the latest, not April. The other day I stopped and realized what month it was and then a pain slowly hit my heart as I realized it was almost the middle of April and after April comes May. Of course I've always known that May comes after April but it's like that month is sneaking up on me before I can stop it. 

I hate the month of May. It's one time of the year that I dread completely. If I could skip from April to June, I would, simply to avoid the pain that May brings. You see, two of my favorite people in the whole world died in May. For years, May seemed like a cursed month for my family. I don't really believe in curses but that's the feeling we have felt. It seems like we all hold our breath through May and hope and pray that we make it to June without any more losses. It's not just the losses, it seems that bad things happen to us in May, but it's the losses that make it the worst. We lost both my grandma and my aunt on my father's side in May. They were years apart but the anniversaries are days apart and that makes it even more difficult.

I have a strong faith so I know these two are in a better place and it's been years since I lost them but these were two people that had a large impact on my life. My grandma was a sweet woman with a heart of gold. She used to bake cookies and one of my favorite memories is her greeting us, after traveling to see her, while stirring a pot full of sloppy joe meat. Keep in mind, we arrived at her house at around 2 a.m. but she insisted that we must be hungry. This memory will bring a smile to my face for the rest of my life. My grandma wasn't terribly young when she passed but it still seemed way too soon for us. Some of my favorite memories are in her house and I still drive by her house every time I visit my relatives. I think this creeps out the current owners, since I pass the house a few times and usually stop and stare for just a moment, but I still do it. I just look at the door and for a second I see her smiling face opening it to let us all in. I can still hear her voice in my head and see her eyes. I got my eyes from my grandma and they are apparently a rare shade of blue (I say apparently because after looking at them in the mirror for 25 years they seem pretty ordinary to me but people point them out frequently). I don't love my eyes because they are out of the ordinary, I love them because they were hers and I am one of the only family members to have them. Somehow this makes me feel closer to her even though she's gone.

My aunt was taken way too soon. Because of a freak accident we lost her and her beautiful smile. I don't think I'll ever understand why she had to be taken so early but I know she is dancing with the angels. This woman meant the world to me. Due to circumstances that shouldn't be discussed here, I only had one godparent growing up...most people have two. After my uncle became the only godparent I had, she "adopted" me as her goddaughter. She never had to do this but she did and she loved it. I'm the only August birthday with two sisters in December so my aunt would send all our birthday presents at once, so I wouldn't feel left out. She also started a charm bracelet for me and when she died I refused to ever add another charm. After her death, my cousin found a graduation charm in my aunt's belongings. She had bought it a whole year early to make sure I had it. It's the only charm I've added since her death and only because my uncle insisted.  I remember crying while I added it. I cry every time I think about how she had put it aside for me. She was such a special woman with a great soul. I remember she used to call to talk to my mom but would spend hours talking to me if mom wasn't home. She always had time for me. She always made me feel special. In reality, she was probably one of the most special people I've ever had the pleasure of knowing.

I have many fond memories of these two people who have left a never-fading mark on my heart. It has been years since I lost them but it feel likes yesterday whenever May comes around. There will be moments throughout the year that I think of them and smile and know they are watching but I think of them even more as May approaches and it still brings pain to my heart and tears to my eyes. Just yesterday I was listening to a song I've heard a thousand times and it brought tears to my eyes because suddenly it made me think of them, though it never had before.

Of course, good things have happened in May. I graduated in May, was confirmed in May and I have birthdays to celebrate in May. Still, I dread the month of May. I often wish something really great would happen to take the focus off of the pain of this month. I could use something like that this year. I could use something wonderful in the month of May. So, here's hoping that May speeds along or that something wonderful happens. I love my grandma and my aunt and I carry them in my heart. If I can be just half as amazing as they were then I am in good shape. I wish all the people in my life had been able to meet them because they were beautiful souls.

I've met many people who have rough months and rough days. I hope that you all are comforted by your memories like I am. Here's to a good year and, hopefully, a good May.

This poem always comes to mind when I think of them:

If tears could build a stairway
and thoughts a memory lane
I'd walk right up to heaven
and bring you home again
No Farewell words were spoken
No time to say good-bye
You were gone before I knew it
And only God knows why.
My heart's still active in sadness
And secret tears still flow
What it meant to lose you
No one can ever know.
But now I know you want us
To mourn for you no more
To remember all the happy times
Life still has much in store.
Since you'll never be forgotten
I pledge to you today
A hallowed place within my heart
Is where you'll always stay.
God knows why, with chilling touch,
Death gathers those we love so much,
And what now seems so strange and dim,
Will all be clear, when we meet Him.
I Knew you for a Moment

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Biggest Loser: End of Week 8

Technically this should read Week 12 but if I wanted to be even more accurate then the title of this post would be "Getting Back on the Bike." I think it was my mother who used to tell me that when you fall off the bike you have to climb back on. Well, I fell off the bike big time. In fact, I fell off the bike, tumbled down a hill through brambles and landed in a ditch full of water where I then continued to lay face down in the water as I wallowed in self-pity. What does all of this mean? Eh, probably more to me than to you. It's not that I fell off the wagon with my diet as much as I fell off the face of the earth for a little while there.

I had some family problems and then a few more were added and then a few more until I felt like a million bricks were piled on already heavy shoulders and I broke. I think the final straw was being told by one of my favorite cousins that she no longer wanted to talk to me because she thought she was a toxic influence on my life. To say I broke down would be putting it mildly. I cried for hours and I rolled up into a ball and tried to disappear...I don't have the power to disappear so this couldn't last long. Thanks to a wonderful boyfriend, a great best friend and a comforting mom and a few others, I came out of my ball a little bit. After battling depression for 2 weeks, I am finally starting to feel normal again. I managed to make it through life relatively fine but anyone who knew me couldn't be fooled. They've managed to pull me out of my rut and I am very thankful for them.

But wait, that accounts for 2 missing weeks, not 4. Well, before my little breakdown I was battling mother nature as it happened on two weigh-in days so I refused to weigh-in. That should account for the rest of my time where I went missing. I've decided to forget these past 4 weeks and focus on the future. I was doing fine on my diet until depression hit. Then the bad eating started. There were days where I barely ate and then there were days where I looked at my boyfriend and said , "I want a burger and fries" with a look on my face that said if he commented on my choice in food then he was risking a breakdown. So I had my burger, I had my fries, I had some chocolate and then I had some more. I had forgotten how closely tied my emotions are to my eating habits. As an emotional eater for years, this shouldn't have surprised me but it did. I thought I had gained control but I guess when you break down you lose control over many things, eating included. I even forgot how depression affected my writing. This is the first time I've been able to write in a month and it feels great! I'm glad to be back to my old self.

So there is my sad little shpeel for the day. However, I AM BACK! Watch out world, here I come! I'm still in the competition with my mother and sister and I'm determined to make next week have even better numbers. Yes, I have numbers. It may be a month late but I have numbers. I stepped on the scale this morning, scared but knowing I needed to conquer my fears. 

Here's what I found:
Weight Lost Since Last Weigh-In: 2.2 pounds
Total Weight Lost: 17.6 pounds
Total Weight Percentage Lost: 8.6%

I was happy to find I had lost weight. I'll be honest, I was terrified and expected a large gain in weight. However, 2.2 pounds in a month is not enough for me so next week will be better! I'm determined. I have my life and my emotions under control and now it's time to get my weight under control as well. Thank you to everyone who helped me find my way back. 

To everyone else dieting right now, keep up the good work! I plan on it being a great week!

Thanks for the pictures: