Sunday, December 23, 2012

5 Movies I Never Get Sick of Watching

After dinner I turn on the TV and The Sound of Music is on.  I have seen this movie a disturbing number of times.  Every time it is on TV an alarm clock goes off in my body that tells me to turn on the TV.  I have never sought out the movie.  It always finds me.  No matter what I'm doing I find time to watch some (most) of the movie every year.  I never get sick of it.  I know the songs and the dialogue better than the actors at this point but that just makes it that much more enjoyable.  Who knows what chord this movie struck in me.  I'm a band and musical theater geek so it feeds that part of me.  I love that the underdog beats out the rich socialite to get the man and live happily ever after.  I love the historical content of the movie; the danger makes the romance that much more intense.

I pulled myself away from Maria and the Von Trapp family long enough to think about what other movies have this effect on me.  I am a movie fanatic.  When I was single I went to the movies by myself almost weekly.  I also taped movies on my VCR (I know I'm old) and had a premium membership to Netflix.  I am lucky enough to marry someone who shares my passion for movies (one of the biggest decisions that we had to make as a couple was whose Netflix account we were going to get rid of).  I had never heard of Rotten Tomatoes or Entertainments Weekly before I met my husband and now they are both part of my movie review rotation.  Unfortunately, both forums have become extremely biased towards whichever studio is paying them to say how awesome their movie is or which movie would appeal to the average 12 year old.  Despite their pitfalls, I love reading about what new movies are coming out and following the buzz on new stars and filmmakers.   

According to Netflix I have rated 1,916 movies during the 12 years that I have been a member.  I have seen many more movies than this but not all of them are available through Netflix.  Independent films, foreign films and documentaries are some of my favorites to watch but I usually have to go to a local art cinema or catch them on PBS.  Out of all these movies, there are several that I have given great reviews to but that doesn't mean that I want to see the movie again.  Some of the best movies that I have ever seen, movies like Full Metal Jacket, Seven and Schindler's List are so intense that I can't imagine seeing them again.  The emotional toll of the first time is enough to last me a life time.  There are movies that I would not consider 5 star movies which resonate with me.  These may not be Academy Award Winners (though some of them are) but they are my favorite movies to watch and that's all that matters in this blog.

These are in no particular order.  I've already addressed The Sound of Music so next on my list would have to be October Sky.  This amazing movie features Jake Gyllenhal before he was a star.  He plays a young high school boy in a small coal mining town.  He has dreams of being an astronaut but his coal miner father doesn't see any sense in him wasting time on rocket science when he's just going to work at the mine.  It has everything I love: the young teacher that supports his dream who gets cancer, the temporary sidelining of his dream after an accident and of course triumph in the end.  The best part of this story is that it's the true story of Homer Hickum, an actual astronaut and Vietnam veteran.  The knowledge that this story is true makes it so much easier to cry at every failure and achievement that Homer experiences.

Next is The Wizard of Oz.  I think I have seen this movie more than any other movie.  When I was a kid we watched it on TV every year at the holidays.  If the weather was bad, we watched it at school during recess.  When they released a new color and digitally enhanced version of the movie for it's 50th anniversary in 1989 I received it as a Christmas present.  There are little people, a dog, witches, flying monkeys, magic, dancing and singing.  What's not to like?  Who hasn't been a cowardly lion at some point in their life?  Don't we all wonder what life is like somewhere far away from where we grew up?  Maybe every one's journey isn't this dramatic but it sure feels like it.  There are more pop culture references from this movie than any other movie.  How many times do we hear about Oz or the Wizard or the yellow brick road, Emerald City, etc in the media when discussing current pop culture?  This movie is the original fairy tale.

Next is Save the Last Dance.  Julia Stiles is my favorite actress of my generation.  She is beautiful but not in that traditional perky blonde next door way.  Ever since the TV miniseries The 60's I have been in love with her.  O was an amazing modern take on Shakespeare's Othello that didn't get any press.  I saw O because I loved the actors that were in it but I'm surprised it didn't turn into a big hit.  Shortly after O Julia starred in Save the Last Dance.  This movie is cliche.  It is teenage love.  We have seen this movie done with different actors and different circumstances but the same ending.  The interracial couple.  The dancing.  Girl gives up on her passion after her mother dies and moves in with her estranged father.  New school, new friends, new everything.  As she embraces hip hop culture and leaves behind her white bread former life she finds the passion that she had lost and gains a whole new support system.  No, you don't have to lose a parent to find yourself but you can recreate yourself and reassess your life after a major loss. 

The last movie on my list is Ever After.  This movie is the Cinderella story with Drew Barrymore in the lead.  The actors are cast perfectly.  The story is the same but different.  I cry every time.  I never get tired of this movie.  There is no singing or dancing or Disney mice or fairy godmothers but it still works.  It is an intelligent re-telling of a classic tale that works on every level and appeals to young and old alike.

Love Actually is a very close 6th on the list but it is more my husband's favorite movie than mine and I feel like I watch it because he watches it (but it is definitely a 5 star movie).  This list could have at least 25 more movies on it. Disney, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, dance movies like Drumline and Stomp the Yard etc. all get heavy play in this house. 

This time of the year is amazing for new movies released just in time to get their name into the Oscar nomination buzz.  It has been a long time since a new movie entered my movie Rolodex.  There are a lot of promising movies that came out this year (to be discussed in a future blog) but if the media gods don't put them in heavy syndication on cable/network TV then I won't see them again.  I don't buy movies.  I don't see movies in the theater multiple times.  The movies on my list obviously strike a chord with a lot of people or they wouldn't be in heavy syndication.  So check out your cable guide and set up your DVR.  I have seen 3 of the movies mentioned on TV in the past month.

I have to get back to my TV, it's time for the Von Trapps to put on their big performance and make their escape.  Ah the hills are alive indeed.                    

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Reality Tv and Pet Ownership

After watching a reality show for a while it always happens.  It doesn't matter what the topic is or how invested in the show I have become.  Once it happens I suddenly realize all the other faults of the show and can no longer watch it.  The bad pet owner moment. 

Last night it happened on 19 Kids and Counting.  I have been watching this family since there very first TLC special a decade or so ago.  I think there were 14 kids and one on the way at that time.  I am fascinated by the number of the children that they have and the ability for the parents to keep everyone well behaved and getting along.  They have no debt.  They make their money off real estate investments.  No one works a 9-5 job.  They spend all of their time with their family.  Whether you have 1 kid or no kids it's definitely a lesson that you can do more with less if you plan properly. 

The family lives in rural Arkansas and is extremely religious.  There have been moments over the years when they have done or said something that made me cringe.  Visiting the creationism museum.  Continuing to not use birth control despite the medical problems that the last two pregnancies caused for the mother and the death of their last baby.  But none of these things bothered me enough to get me to stop liking the show.

Last night the family adopted several kittens that were being given away for free or that they found as strays.  Any time I see children around kittens and puppies it drives me nuts because 99% of the time the parents don't teach the children how to interact with them properly.  The kids are chasing the animals, picking them up, pulling their tails, interrupting their sleeping, eating, etc.  These are all habits that can lead to bad behavior in the pets as they get older.  When the cat scratches the kid or the dog growls at him to tell him to back off the animal is dumped at the nearest shelter (or worse) because it has shown signs of aggression.  No one tells these people that they are the ones who have caused this aggression.  So a couple years later they get new kittens/puppies and the cycle starts all over again.

The Duggar's oldest son also adopted a kitten.  To their credit, they were doing a better job teaching their children how to interact with the kitten than their parents.  Unfortunately they belong tothe tribe of idiots who think cats are wild animals.  They let the cat live in the house for a while and then it becomes an outdoor cat.  Like somehow this is the normal rite of passage in a domestic cat's life.  They had a kitten a couple of years ago that disappeared shortly after they let it outside.  They assumed the cat had decided to live with a neighbor or some other improbable ending.  The reality is that the cat got killed by a feral cat or another animal or got hit by a car.  A domestic cat is in no way prepared to fend for itself in the wild.  If it is a barn cat that was born outside and is surrounded by other barn cats that teach it how to live, absolutely.  But that's not the case. 

I have a friend who lives in Philadelphia.  Her and her husband adopted a cat that they let outside.  This cat has been seriously injured several times.  Each time they take it to the emergency vet and then let it back outside once it has healed.  They say that cats belong outside. No one they knew growing up kept cats in the house.

Every week I see a dead cat on the side of the road.  There are cats roaming around my traffic-heavy suburban neighborhood.  I have seen foxes and other wild animals in the woods behind my house.  I know cats have been victim to wild animals as well.  It's depressing. 

I don't watch The Real World or any of the other over the top reality shows but if something crazy happens on one of those shows I know about it.  The mainstream news media with cover it.  Other shows will spoof it.  It will permanently become part of the pop culture history.  I wish there was the same sort of reaction when there are opportunities to educate people.  I wish someone would sit the Duggars down and have them watch a documentary about homeless pets in this country.  Because their kids are going to be just as ignorant as they are and continue to pass it along. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Octopus Coming to Syracuse Zoo

Yesterday there was an article in the Post Standard about the Rosamond Gifford Zoo getting an octopus.  There is nothing more depressing than a zoo getting a new animal.  I am always shocked by how many intelligent people think that zoos are great. That zoos are helping animals and providing a service to the public.  I'm sure that there are some facilities that do this, but my guess is that they are called wildlife preserves and not zoos.

In the article, the zoo representatives stress that they are planning on getting a large octopus, much larger than could naturally grow in captivity.  They are building the aquarium now to accommodate the octopus and then will have a trapper go hunt one down for them.  The octopus will be female because they seem to live longer in captivity than the males.  Octopi in general do not live very long so at best they are looking at getting 2-3 years out of this octopus.  But they will catch another octopus before the first one dies and keep it in a smaller "holding tank".  That way when they other one dies they can just move the other one in.  What a disgusting business.

What is the purpose of a zoo?  I don't need to you catch a lion and put it in a cage for me to believe that lions exist.  If I want to see a lion then I will to go on safari to Africa and see one in its natural habitat.  My need to see an animal up close does not trump that animal's right to live its life in peace.  What is the educational value of seeing a bunch of wild animals locked in cages that in no way compare to their natural habitat?  Why do we have penguins in upstate NY? 

Turn on the National Geographic Channel.  Buy a nature magazine.  Go to the Internet or the library.  Every year there is at least one story about an animal that died in captivity.  There is generally proof that the zoo did not properly care for the animal.  These stories are always played down in the media and immediately replaced with the story of the cute fuzzy animal that they have gotten to replace it.  I'm not talking about these animals not being fed or being beaten, although that unfortunately happens as well.  It's usually very obvious things like the habitat being too small, not mimicking the natural environment enough, the wrong type of food, no outlet for their primal instincts or the stress of having unnatural predators so close by. 

The people that enjoy the zoo are generally the same people that love going to the pet store to see all the cute puppies and kitties.  They argue that these aren't they animals from puppy mills because they are so clean and cute.  Then they go to the state fair to see the bear that lives his life in a trailer or to the circus to see the elephant that lives his life in a tent.  I don't know how humans formed this ridiculous obsession with trapping animals for the simple pleasure of watching them.  We have televisions and computers people.   

Every once in a while a wild animal gives in to its instincts and escapes from its cage and/or kills one of the handlers.  The animal is then shot to death and replaced with another fuzzy animal because clearly, that animal was in the wrong.  I know this is a losing battle.  Every time I tell people I hate the zoo/circus/fair they act like I am from another planet.  Maybe I am because none of this makes any sense to me and it seems to get worse every day.  

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Planning Ahead for Success

When I was in high school a large part of my social life came from marching and concert bands.  Marching band was almost like a full time job with practices starting in August for competitions and football games that ran from September through November.  Every week my mom would take me to the grocery store to pick up my snacks and lunches.  On weeks when we were traveling to competitions I really loaded up my cooler with tons of food and drinks.  I knew that I was going to spend hours on the bus between stops and would have little choice in which fast food restaurants we stopped at for lunch and dinner.  In college I did the same thing when traveling to karate competitions and going on football road trips.  But that all changed when I got a full time job.

When I started my first real job out of college I was poor.  I was living in my friends basement because I couldn't afford rent and selling CDs to buy groceries and put gas in my car.  I became very good at going grocery shopping on a tight budget and packing great lunches for myself.  Whenever I had to go out to the field for work I would pack my lunch because I didn't have any money to buy lunch.  My company would have reimbursed me for any money that I spent on food while I was traveling but I didn't have room on a credit card to buy the lunches or the flexibility to wait a month to get paid back.

If important people were in town or there was a meeting, someone would buy lunch for the whole office.  I loved these days.  I never met a free meal that I didn't like.  My bland peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were no match for Chinese buffet, Chick Fil A, pizza, Mexican food and all the other delicious foods that I would get for free.  Over the years as my financial situation and position in the company improved I was able to indulge even more.  I could pick my favorite restaurants and eat whatever I wanted and my company would reimburse me.  I spent at least a couple days in the field or in meetings every week and enjoyed the rich meals and happy hours that came with it.

I managed to only gain 10 lbs during my 5 years at this job because I was still very physically active.  When I started my current job I continued the same eating habits that I had developed at my previous job.  The problem was now I had a significant pay increase and a corporate credit card.  The quality of my lunches increased dramatically because I didn't have the limits of my personal credit card limit.  I now had the freedom to schedule multiple dinners and lunches every week and not only indulge myself but take all those lower level people that were in the position that I used to be in with me.  People loved it when I came around because I always bought lunch.  I became that important person that would take people away from their boring lunches. 

When I wasn't at work I still went out to eat all the time because I had more expendable cash.  My new status meant I could afford to eat out several days a week.  When I first started this job I had a lot of catching up to do so I worked long hours and traveled a lot.  I wasn't able to work out as much as I had been before and there was no karate dojo, marching band or other organization to keep me in check.  Six months into the job I had gained 10 pounds. 

At that point I met the man who would become my husband and spent the next year in a long distance relationship.  During that year I spent even more time eating out while I was traveling to see him.  When I wasn't visiting him I worked long hours to make up for all the time I was spending traveling to see him.  I was not working out consistently and put on another 15 pounds.

When my husband moved in we got our house remodeled.  I worked from home and oversaw the contractors during this time.  I continued working from home after the contractors were finished.  In the past I worked out before/after work and relaxed once I got home.  Outside of an organized group, I have never been good at leaving the house again once I got home.  When I started working from home, I didn't have to leave the house so I didn't.  I would go days without starting my car.  I own a treadmill, a heavy bag and have access to an endless supply of workout DVDs but that doesn't mean I have the motivation to use them.   A year after my wedding I was at my highest weight of 212 pounds, 12 pounds heavier than my previous highest weight. 

When I became a zumba instructor I lost 14 pounds but my eating habits have made it difficult for me to keep losing weight.  Success on Weight Watchers and Nutri System show me that if I eat better I will lose weight but sticking to those plans is difficult.  My joints are screaming for me to lose weight.  I use the excuse that I travel for work and don't have any choice in what I eat but I know that isn't true.  I can just as easily drive to the grocery store and use my corporate credit card to fill a cooler with healthier options.

Yesterday I had McDonald's for breakfast KFC for lunch and TGIFridays for dinner.  I was driving around all day so the only meals that were available to me were fast food restaurants that were near my work sites.  Once I checked into the hotel I was able to go to a nicer restaurant for dinner.  I only ate half of my pasta dinner and drank water so I had the calories left to enjoy dessert but I felt bad about having a third meal out for the day.  Too my credit, in the past I would have had several drinks and an appetizer on top of my dinner and dessert.  When properly motivated, I do have the willpower to make good decisions.  But sometimes when there are other people around me indulging I follow the peer pressure and eat crap.  Or if I've had a really long day I feel like I have earned the right to indulge. 

I didn't work out yesterday because I was so tired from driving but also because I had to prepare for today's meetings.  If I would have prepared ahead of time I would have had time to workout and would probably feel a lot better this morning.  Working from home has often become just being at home and not really working.  Even though I enjoy the freedom of working from home I don't really have the discipline to get enough done to be productive.  And when I leave my house I usually fit in a workout at the gym or a run at the park. 

So maybe I need to pretend like I'm in high school again and pack a cooler filled with enough food and snacks for 8 hours.  I need to go back to going to the office for at least half a day and scheduling my workouts around work.  I need to set boundaries when I'm at home so I don't find myself sitting on the couch for 6 hours.  And most of all I need to remind myself that good food doesn't mean comfort food and that having an expense account means that I can be more selective about my meals and pick healthier, pricier options. 

So many of my peers are overweight and unhealthy.  It seems to be the mark of success in my field.  But there are a number of them that are at the gym before and after meetings and not eating the fried platter for dinner.  I know that motivated person is inside me somewhere, I just need to find her. 

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Kids on a Plane

It seems like every couple of months there is a news story about a passenger who was kicked off an aeroplane because of an unruly child.  The parents go on a media tour discussing how airlines unfairly discriminate against children.  The airline gives the family free tickets to any where they want to go.  Mother's groups threaten to boycott the airline and 15 minutes later we all forget about it as another celebrity shaves her head or makes a sex tape.

What no one seems to be saying to these parents is the truth.  You have every right to have a child and to take that child any where that you want to go.  But if you and/or your child infringe on my rights as a human being to be in that place at the same time then you are in the wrong, not me.  If your kid is screaming at the top of his lungs, running up and down the aisles of the plane then you need to be kicked off.  You have failed as a parent.  Your only job is to raise your child to be a healthy, well adjusted person.  No one is saying that job is easy but no one forced you into it.  You decided to have a child so you need to decide to raise that child so that he/she isn't disturbing the peace every time you leave the house. 

Yes, some kids are more difficult than others but usually they are like this because of something that you did/failed to do as a parent.  If you have one of those rare cases where you child has a medical condition that cannot be controlled this doesn't apply to you.  But you don't hear stories about kids with Tourette's being thrown off a plane.  It's the bratty 4 year old whose parents never discipline at home and let throw tantrums in public.  You knew your kid was a brat when you bought the plane ticket.  When you were driving to the airport.  When you boarded the plane.  You hoped that he would have a good day and not embarrass you in public.  Or worse yet, you didn't care.  You knew that most people wouldn't have the nerve to say something to your face because then you could accuse them of hating children and they would have to shut up. 

If I run up and down the aisles of the plane screaming a TSA will tackle me.  A number of strangers will probably join in just in case I'm a terrorist.  I will be arrested.  The Today Show isn't going to interview me.  No one is going to give me a free plane ticket.  The national organization of angry liberals isn't going to threaten to boycott Jet Blue because I got kicked off.  Because that's not acceptable behavior in public.  Not a single person would come to my defense. 

If I would have done any of the things these children have done as a child my mother would have immediately yanked me back into place (both literally and figuratively).  Parents feel free to shop at Target, go out to dinner, go to the movies and fly to visit your relatives.  But if your children are bad and you can't control them get a baby sitter.  Or better yet stay home and use your money on a good therapist.  Maybe if your parents would have done the same...

Thursday, May 3, 2012

To All My Cat People

Four months ago my cat Tiger died suddenly.  He was a healthy cat and his death was unexpected but at 12 years old he had a full and happy life.  He was 2 when I rescued him and my life will be forever changed because he was a part of it. 

My husband and I didn't want to go too long without a cat because we didn't want the dogs to lose their "cat manners".  A month after Tiger died we adopted two 1-1/2 year old tabby cats that came from the same litter.  They had been living in a foster home for a year and prior to that were living wild in some farmer's barn.  They were attached to each other so it was hard to place them since people were willing to take 2 cats and the SPCA didn't want to separate them. 

Initially we kept the cats completely separate from the dogs with occasional views of each other through baby gates or leashed visits.  Maybe we were too conservative initially because the dogs become extremely excited every time they see the cats and cannot be trusted to be left alone with them.  The cats mark anywhere the dogs sleep when they are allowed in other portions of the house so we have to limit their access as well.  One of the cats did get past the barriers while I was at work this week and when I came home one of my dogs had him cornered.  No fur was up, I don't think there was any aggression from the dog but he was very excited and had scratched the cat while jumping on him.  The cat had a small cut on his lip and was fine but the experience terrified me.  What if I hadn't gotten home when I did?  Would I have a dead cat on my hands?

Now it seems like we have set up the cats as some sort of forbidden prize for the dogs and they are obsessed with them.  A month ago my uncle died, leaving behind a 10 year old tabby cat.  In my blog from last month I talked about how sad I was that we couldn't find a place for Jones.  Since we brought Jones home my stress level has increased dramatically because now my house is divided in three.

The young cats are still separate from the dogs.  The dogs have had leashed time with Jones in the same room but their reaction is as volatile as it is with the young cats.  Jones has been an only cat his whole life and isn't used to having any animals around.  The young cats have been around other cats but they both have eye infections right now and I don't want them to get Jones sick since he is older and I want to keep his him healthy since he will need to have dental surgery this month to take care of his rotten teeth.  So my husband and I live separate lives behind doggie cats and screens.  The dogs are used to sleeping with us, Jones is used to sleeping with my uncle so we swap who sleeps with which pets each night. The young cats have each other and seem to be content with our visits during the day.  But we are not making any progress towards getting our house, our sanity or our marriage back. 

I worry that we were too conservative in the beginning and now we will need professional help to get them together, if we can ever get them together at all.  Our pet sitter definitely thinks we should rip the band aid off but I have images of cats scratching dog's eyes out and dogs pouncing on cats.  Next weekend we are going to a friends wedding and will need to stay out of town for one night.  I am determined to at least get Jones with the dogs by then.  I feel like either way I'm about to hire someone to help before things are irreversibly doomed. 

My Weight Watcher's Journey Begins

I feel like I have been struggling with my weight my whole life but, in reality, it has only been for the past 10-15 years.  I thought I was fat when I was kid because I developed early and my flat-chested, hip-less peers called me fat.  I wish I could tell that size 3 girl how awesome she was now.  The fact that I remember the names and situations of every time someone has called me fat or ugly in my life tells me this is where it all started.  Most of my relatives talk about weight non-stop.  Someone is always too fat or too skinny.  No one every asks how you are or about your job or family.  The first thing out of any one's mouth is "Wow you've gotten fat" or "You're finally starting to slim down".  Granted, about half of my family is morbidly obese and suffer from the medical problems that come with that so it is probably the focus of their lives as well.  I have always been active and fit, even as an overweight person, and have prided myself on not being diabetic or suffering from the other ailments that my relatives have.

A few years ago I went on Nutri System and lost 15lbs.  The moment I went off Nutri System I gained the 15 lbs back plus and extra 10.  I know that Nutri System worked for me because I didn't have to think.  I just had to grab a box out of the pantry and eat it.  It was expensive but it was easy.  I am a lazy person and I wasn't going through drive-thrus because there was finally something that was equally convenient.  But I didn't learn the right things to eat.  I didn't learn to control any of my cravings or bad habits.  I hadn't gained weight when I gave myself 2 cheat days a week so I got cocky.  Two cheat days became three, then dinner every night, then the diet was out the window and I was 211 pounds.

Once I became a zumba instructor 2 years ago I was able to bring my weight back down to 198.  I have maintained this weight for a while but it is still too heavy for my 5'6" frame and I don't feel good about the way that I look.  People have been talking about Weight Watchers for years but I never thought it was for me.  It sounded like a lot of work and the idea of going to meetings does not appeal to me at all.  But after hearing Jennifer Hudson and Charles Barkley interviewed about their weight loss by using Weight Watchers, I'll admit I was curious.  My husband and I joined the online program and I lost 10 lbs in 5 weeks.  I have not had a 18_ weight in 6 years. 

My excitement lasted for about a week but after two weeks of traveling for work I put 3 lbs back on.  Yes, I am still down 7 lbs but I am worried that it is all going to come back on.  My job involves a lot of time in my car, going to meetings and eating out.  There aren't always healthy food options available and/or time to exercise.  During the summer I am out of town for 2-3 days at a time a couple times a month on top of my normal 2-3 hour drives for meetings 1-4 times a month.  I was complaining to my husband and he immediately, and correctly, put me in my place.

He told me that being out of town for 3 days wasn't an excuse to throw everything out the window the other 4 days.  No, there aren't always healthy menu options but that doesn't mean that I have to go for the most unhealthy options.  Not to mention all the happy hour drinking and desserts.  And even if it's only 15 minutes, I can probably find time to work out if I'm not hung over or watching some stupid movie on HBO.  He was absolutely right.

As much as I don't want to admit it, losing weight is going to be work.  I can prepare my meals at the beginning of the week so that it can be as easy as Nutri System was.  I can work on my time management better so I'm not always running behind schedule and feeling unprepared.  I can find other outlets for my stress that don't involve food or sitting in front of a screen.  Lots of people that I work with are fit and make better meal choices when we got out.  There is no reason that I can't do the same. 

Next week I will be in Pittsburgh, one of my favorite cities.  The food and nightlife are amazing but I have to have some restraint.  I don't want to feel sick after a meal.  I want to love myself all the time, not just because of the way that I look but because of the way that I carry myself.  It felt so good to wear pants that have been in the back of my closet for 5 years.  I know that I can be successful if I just put a little more effort into it.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Cat Sanctuaries and Other Myths

My uncle died from complications from diabetes last week. He was very sick for a long time so while his death was sad, it was expected.  Whenever someone dies it is always emotional going through their personal belongings but it is also very healing.  Unfortunately my families healing cannot begin because of all the stress involved in re-homing my uncle's cat Jones.

Jones is 8 years old.  He has lived his entire life with my uncle.  While he has made appearances over the years for other family members he was definitely a one-man cat. I have made calls to every rescue within an hour of my uncle's house and none of them will take the cat.  I have been told that an older cat who has only had one owner may take a long time to warm up to new people and will be difficult to place.  I knew this and that's why I called places that marketed themselves as sanctuaries and no-kill shelters. I figured they would give Jones the time that he needed to adjust could find him a nice home. 

What bothers me the most is that the public is donating money to no kill shelters and sanctuaries on the allusion that they are the last stop for animals that no one else wants.  That you should give them your money because they are taking care of those animals that would otherwise be euthanized.  In some cases that is true.  I know that there are true animal sanctuaries that take everyone and give them a happy life even if they never get adopted.  But those places do not exist in this area. 

After spending days on the phone I have discovered the following:

1. Many no-kill shelters only take animals that are highly adoptable and, therefore; would not be there for very long.  If you market yourself as no kill but just don't take in the animals that another shelter would euthanize you are still sentencing that animal to death, just shifting the responsibility to someone else to do it.

2. A lot of animal sanctuaries focus their attention on shelters with a high kill rate so they can rescue animals that still have a lot of life to live.  Because of this, those sanctuaries do not take any animals from the public.  You can take your animal to one of the high kill shelters with the hope that a sanctuary volunteer or worker will notice him and rescue him before time runs out but that is an awful risk to take.   The reality is that these places have limited space just like shelters and stop taking in animals after a certain point as well. 

I have volunteered with animal rescue for 14 years and adopted four dogs and three cats from rescue organizations during that time.  I do not want to give the impression that all rescues and sanctuaries are bad.  This is just about my personal frustrations with rescues in Maryland where my uncle lived and my shock at discovering that things were more depressing in the animal rescue world than I could have ever imagined.

I think of the stories on the news that I hear about people dying and leaving behind dozens of neglected animals.  There are always the news reports that show police and volunteers going into the hoarder's house and rescuing the animals.  They show these animals going to local rescue groups and give updates over the next several months as the animals are adopted.  But what about when it's just one cat.  Those stories don't make the news.  Those animals are often sentenced to death when their owner's die or go to jail but we don't hear about that.  If the authorities euthanized 20 cats that had no major medical problems the public outcry would be immense.  But if they euthanize these cats one at a time from 20 different homes the impact is the same. 

I will likely take the cat the 6 hours back to where I live in New York and take it to a true no-kill shelter in my area.  A place that takes healthy (and sometimes not so healthy) pets and gives them the time and love that they need to have a chance at life.  I will continue to donate my time and money to these organizations and try not to let the experiences of the past week jade me too much.  I will not accept that my uncle's best friend's life ends just because his did. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

A Prisoner in My Own Home

I hate my neighborhood.  I live off of a busy street where people speed and run the 4-way stop sign in from of my house.  You have to be careful when you go for a walk, drive or anything in this neighborhood because of all the traffic issues.  In addition to the traffic, there are a number of people who leave their dogs outside unleashed and unattended or who have invisible fences.  I've written about how awful my neighborhood is in the past but it has only gotten worse since then.

In the past few years we have had 3 new neighbors move in who have made what used to be the sanctuary of my yard, uncomfortable for me as well.  To one side I have a grandmother who watches her 6 grand kids.  She leaves the grand kids unattended in the yard and they enjoy coming up to my fence and poking their fingers through to taunt my dogs and yelling things at them.  If I didn't hate kids before this, I do now.  I am planning on planting trees on this side of the yard to block this neighbor.   

Behind us, we have a neighbor with a labradoodle that is outside and alone all of the time.  This dog is very friendly but very bored and frustrated.  The woman lives alone and is very old and often takes long naps and forgets that her dog is outside  On more than one occasion we have caught her dog after she broke her lead and had to bang on her door to wake her up.  The dogs all agitate each other when they are out at the same time.  The fence that we built to deal with our next problem, has solved this problem.  The dogs still bark at each other when they hear one another but they can't see each other so it doesn't escalate. 

The worst neighbor of all has three large dogs that get no exercise.  She opens the door and lets them run free in her yard while she stands on the porch or stays inside the house.  They run straight to my fence every time and try to jump the fence to get to my dogs.  So of course my dogs try to jump the fence to get to her dogs.  There is a hill on one side of my neighbor's yard that makes the fence only about 3 feet high where our two yards meet.  The dogs could easily get to each other when it was like this so we spent $1000 building a 6 foot wooden fence in front of the 4 foot chain link fence on 2 sides of our yard before anything awful happens.  Unfortunately, my neighbor hasn't done anything and we still have to restrain our dogs when they meet on the one side of the fence where they can still see each other.  All of the dogs immediately run to this side of the fence every time they go outside just in case the other dogs are their for them to fight with.  It is incredible stressful.  I have plans to block their access to each other on that side as well.   

I am extremely nervous that I am going to run into one of these situations when I am in my yard.  It was bad enough that I didn't feel comfortable walking my dogs in the neighborhood but now I stress out on my own property.  I leash my dogs in my 1-acre fenced-in yard or avoid taking them out when I think the neighbors might be out.  My dogs don't get nearly as much exercise as they should and, because of that, have behavioral problems which are difficult to fix.

I have started driving my dogs to a different neighborhood to go for walks in the morning because my neighborhood is so stressful but 1 walk a day for 2 active 4 year old dogs doesn't cut it.  I know that I need to work with my dogs more on their training but it is difficult to train a dog that doesn't have any way to drain his excess energy.  My old German shepherd, Chale, was so much more behaved than these dogs are because he got walked 4 times a day and played fetch until he was exhausted.  But he didn't have the challenges that these 2 have.  He wasn't as reactive as they are because when he was young I didn't live in this neighborhood.  I was able to exercise him without fear of neighbors and traffic. 

I talk about moving with my husband all the time.  Somewhere more secluded where there isn't traffic and where we have less neighbors.  Realistically that can't happen for a couple years with what we owe on the house and where we are in our lives right now.  I have had these dogs for less than 2 years.  I can turn around their behavioral problems if I work at it.  I can't let this neighborhood beat me but on days like this I feel so defeated because I know exactly what they need but I don't feel like I'm in a place where I can provide it.   

I need to come up a with a solution that doesn't involve building a fortress that blocks all neighbors from view and putting a dog park in my yard to keep them entertained. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I'm a Gleek and I'm Mad

So I love Glee. From the first episode I was hooked.  The singing and dancing.  It's like a musical and a soap opera all in one.  In the beginning it was great but it has slowly started to lose it's way.  I was excited when they had the 'Become a Glee Cast Member' contest this summer.  With a handful of the cast slated to graduate from high school and leave the show at the end of the season, they had to get on to developing new characters to keep the show going.  The show wasn't an American Idol type show with a bunch of rejects and a few talented people.  It was all talented people that were chosen to compete, a welcome change from most of the reality shows. 

My top pick from the summer actually was one of the winners which I loved.  His name is Damian and he is  this Irish guy with amazing eyes who sings old school, rat pack sort of standards.  He is charming and vulnerable and has a awesome accent.  So of course Ryan Murphy and the rest of the team can't figure out what to do with him despite talking about how much they could do with him during the contest.  He's just been in the background with no story line no character development and honestly I feel sorry for him.  It's embarrassing to watch someone who so many Gleeks grew to love over the summer just wallow in "extra-dom".  He is essentially part of the pit crew.  So we wasted the summer listening to him sing and rooting for him as struggled to learn to dance dance moves.  Why have a contest if you weren't going to do anything of substance with the winners.  Any fan could have been plucked off the street and inserted into the show with the role he's been given.  

Another complaint is the diminished role of Chris Coffer, the gay kid.  He is one of the greatest talents on the show and he rarely gets a solo any more.  Maybe they are trying to help us get used to not having him featured since he's supposed to graduate but they did this for a lot of last season too and Rachel, Finn and the other seniors seem to be getting plenty of face time.  It all started when they added Blaine to the show.  I get it, Blaine is talented and the ladies love him but he is no Kurt and really he's basically a one trick pony with his boy band moves and head tosses.  I need to see Kurt him signing and dancing every episode, as a lead, not part of the chorus.  He is the heart of the show and idol for a lot of gay kids who have no one else to look up to in Hollywood.  Not featuring him in the show any more is criminal. 

And while I'm on it, where in the hell are Rachel's adopted parents?  You've been talking non-stop about her 2 gay dads since the beginning of time.  When are we going to meet them?  How hard is it to find 2 gay man who can sing, dance and act in Hollywood? I mean seriously.  Step up to the plate. 

Glee has lost a least 1.5 stars over the past years by not living up to the standard that they set.  They need to get it together or they will lose fans.  That's all I'm saying.  It's still on my DVR but it might not be next year.    

He Said What?

I ran on my first track team when I was in 5th grade (I attended private school where intercollegiate sports started in 3rd grade).  I was a sprinter, running 50-400 meter races.  I continued running track until I graduated from high school.  I was never a star but I was always solidly in the middle of the pack.  I was a consistent runner and a hard worker which won me a lot of sportsmanship awards and lead to me being team captain of my high school track team.  I started running road races when I was 15 because a lot of my friends were on the cross country team.  Running long distances is meditative.  It gives you time to organize your thoughts and relax.  Distance running for me was a welcome change to the stressful, fast-paced sprint races.    

At my fittest I was a size 10.  Not large by general population standards but definitely plus size for a runner.  Over the years my pants size has grown but my love for running has not.  I run a road race most months and attend local running events.  At this point I have been a serious runner for almost 25 years.  I typically run in 5Ks with the occasional 10 K.  Twice a year I pick a long race (10-13 miles) and  spend 3-4 months building up my mileage for those races.  At my training peak I run 25-30 miles per week.  Setting a running goal keeps me motivated.  I rarely place in a race unless there are only a handful of people in my age group.  But realistically, I don't run for any prizes, I run for the satisfaction of finishing the race.  My finisher t-shirt is my medal.    

People who know me, know that I'm a runner and often ask for my advice about shoes, training, etc.  But people who do not know me, do not think I am a runner.  Despite attending multiple events in my area and shopping at the same stores over and over again, no one ever remembers me or cares to treat me with respect.  I am usually asked if I am there for walking shoes.  For the last half marathon that I ran, a race official assumed I was picking up someone else's number at registration and was very vocal (and condescending) about how surprised he was that I was running the race.  When I got a pedicure yesterday I was treated to a monologue from the pedicurist on how serious a runner she was and how fast she runs, etc. so that she could prove to me that whatever I did wasn't on par with what she did.  

Over the years I have come to expect this bias but it still gets to me.  I buy all of my running supplies online unless I need something urgently.  On the internet I find an endless supply of information and products available to me without bias.  The reviews are from runners of all shapes and sizes and help me better pick products that suit my body-type and running style.  In online forums I find that many other runners have been treated to the same ignorant behavior and some of them have even taken a stand and told people off.  I wish that I could do that but generally I am so upset and surprised when it happens that I don't gather my thoughts until several minutes later and then I obsess over it when there isn't anything that I can do about it. 

Anyone who has every attended a road race will tell you that participants vary greatly in age, size, race and fitness level.  I have never been the largest/oldest/youngest person to complete a race and I can't imagine I ever will.  When I look at the race results I am generally in the middle of the pack.  I average any where from 10:30-12:30 minute miles depending on the distance and the consistency of my training.  There are always people who are in the 15-20+ minute mile pace.  I would never think that I am better than those people just because I am faster.  Their goal, like mine, is to be the best them that they can be and surpass personal milestones.  I remember every time someone has called me fat, has devalued my dedication to running or judged me in some other biased way.  I wish that those ignorant people would just shut up if they don't have anything constructive to say.    

Saturday, January 28, 2012

2011 Best Movies

Admittedly, this wasn't a great year for me with new movies.  Honestly there just wasn't the draw to the box office that there has been in other years.  I'm been busy with my DVR and Netflix, catching up on great films that I'd missed over the past couple years.  I'm still averaging a couple trips to the movie theater a month but in the past it was once a week or more.  

For me the biggest problem is that I can't trust reviews.  Years ago Rotten Tomatoes was the gold standard for movie reviews.  But in the past couple years it has become horribly inaccurate.  Any movie with action and a little T & A is suddenly the best movie ever made and a must see. Entertainment Weekly is a great resource for information on what movies are coming out but their reviews are awful.  It seems like any movie that has a big budget and can afford to pay Entertainment Weekly to do a feature article on it's film is a must see.  Not to mention that some of EW's critics are directors and film makers who pimp their own films.  

It's much safer to wait until a movie has been out for a while to see if it's really worth your time.  This is my list of the top 11 films of the year.  This list is totally subjective.  I didn't see all of the Oscar nominees and I won't pretend like all of these deserve to be held up as great all time films.  But for one reason or another these movies resonated with me. 

10. Bridesmaids- It's nice to see a comedy that isn't totally predictable and has women in leading roles.  A nice departure from the sappy, romantic comedies that usually involve women and weddings.  

9. Larry Crowne and Everything Must Go- Neither deserve to win any awards but both show great actors in great roles with an enjoyable story line.  Sometimes it's nice to leave the theater with a smile on your face.

8. Super 8- This was a much better movie than I was expecting.  Nice to see young actors that aren't featured on the Disney channel.  This generation's ET.  

7. X-Men First Class- The last X-Men movie (Origins: Wolverine) was awful so I was worried that the franchise had died.  But much like the Dark Knight did for the Batman series, this movie was as good as the original and make me excited about the next one.  Great action and story lines and no unnecessary sex.  

6. Crazy, Stupid Love- Great acting all around and a not so predictable ending.  Lots of laughs without being a stupid chick flick.  

5. Moneyball- Yes, a movie about baseball that involves very little actual play is very enjoyable.  The fact that it is true and that it happened during my lifetime makes it even more entertaining.  Great acting all around. Whoever wrote the script should get an award. 

4. Hanna- This little girl kicks some serious butt.  I'm hoping they make another one just so I can see more people get beat up.  I'm surprised this movie didn't get more hype.  Great story and cinematography. 

3. Thor- The best of the comic book movies by far.  The action, the story line, the ties to the future Avengers movie.  All great.  Edge of your seat action and the lead actor isn't too hard on the eyes either.

2. Win Win- The little independent film that could.  Like any independent film, I wish they had a little more of a conclusive ending but still a great watch.  Paul Giamatti continues to be the darling of independent movies.  If he's in it, you should see it.  Should win for script.  A great story that is well acted and keeps you engaged. 

1. The Help- A fantastic book that was made into an almost equally fantastic movie.  Perfect casting.  Only a few details from the book skipped. Displays a part of history that isn't often discussed.  Nice to see historical fiction that isn't stuck on slavery.  Hope it wins every award it's nominated for.  

Best Picture Nominees that I haven't seen:
 The Artist- Haven't seen it but I'm guessing it's fabulous based on word of mouth.
 Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close- Haven't seen it.  Been told that the book is better than the movie.
 Midnight in Paris- Woody Allen is hit or miss at this point and so is Owen Wilson.  
 The Tree of Life- Mixed reviews.  Brad Pitt factor may have contributed to hype.  
 War Horse- Not every play needs to be made into a movie.  Using real animals in movies should be a thing  
  of the past.  Would be hard to watch without wondering how the animals were affected. 

Best Picture nominees that I have seen: 
The Descendants- Good by not great.  Only nominated because George Clooney is in it.  
Moneyball- Agree
The Help- Agree
Hugo- Good but not great.  Dragged at points.  Probably best family movie of the year; it deserves a nod.