Thursday, December 31, 2009

Movie Reviews- Vacation Means Movie Times for Burro-Manns!

Up In The Air - (George Clooney)- *****
George Clooney is fantastic in this role as a man who has the horrible job of flying across the country and firing people. This movie is touching, poignant, sweet and sad and worth seeing. Worth knowing before you go see it, with the exception of the actors, all the interviews with people talking about how it felt to get fired are with people who actually were fired this past year. There are a couple people's speeches that brought tears to my eyes. 2009 was certainly a bad year for lay offs and Clear Channel was not immune. I was very fortunate to keep my job, but knowing so many that were not as lucky made this movie very real. It is a must see in my book. Well done, thought provoking and besides, George is a fine looking man!

It's Complicated - (Alec Baldwin, Meryl Streep) - ***
I must admit that I originally did not want to see this movie but went to get out of the house and enjoy some girl time with Erin and Sandy. I really enjoyed it though. There are parts that are hysterical laugh out loud funny but the ending is a little on the sad side so be prepared. Alec Baldwin is incredibly smarmy and Steve Martin is quiet and hardly used in my opinion. Meryl Streep is lovely and the movie is an overall reminder that people don't die or get uninteresting over the age of 35. There is a great message about acceptance and age that I think everyone should know.

Avatar in 3D - (Sigourney Weaver, Sam Worthington) - *****
This is a liberal sermon disguised as an action movie pretending to be a love story. That being said, it was beautiful to watch, technically seamless and overall is a great film. It is worth the extra money to see it in 3D and the effects of the movie are quite perfect. It is long at two hour and forty minutes, but it doesn't quite feel that long. As of right now it is pacing to be the second highest grossing movie of all time, behind Titanic, so I think you need to see this movie just to stay relevant in today's culture. The scenery alone is worth the time sacrifice.

The Ugly Truth
- (Katherine Heigl, Gerard Butler) - *
The truth is, this movie is ugly and completely skippable as a film. It is predictable and corny and doesn't even have a good soundtrack. Maybe there are some women out there who don't think they can "get a guy" unless they completely change their personality, and if so, grow a self esteem. And for those who have a check list of items that the perfect man must have, grow up, no one is perfect. Skip this movie. You will be glad you did.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Family...Know Your Roles!

I am not a huge fan of Christmas. I could go on and on about why, but basically I feel like there is too much emphasis on "stuff". One of my favorite Story People sums it up
"What do I get for this? I said & the angel gave me a catalog filled with toasters & clock radios & a basketball signed by Michael Jordan & I said, But this is just stuff & the angel smiled at me & swallowed me in her arms. I'm so glad you said that, she whispered to me. I knew you still had a chance."

This Christmas was very low key for me. I didn't decorate, didn't send cards and only got gifts for my family. It was a very nice, stress free time. We left a few days before Christmas to spend some time with Joe's family. To say the time was relaxing is an understatement. They were gracious enough to let us sleep late and take naps. All in all it was a nice, low key time.

We left on Christmas to spend time with my family in Port St. Lucie, Florida. We stopped off at a lovely bed and breakfast in Savannah where the owners Rocky and Jane made me feel like I was home from college. The house was gorgeous, they were fabulously nice and overall Joe and I ended Christmas night with lots of laughter, snuggled up in bed. Jane cooked us a huge breakfast the next morning and we were off.

I don't see my brother often. He is a golf pro and for the past 5 years he has been spending winters in Florida and summers in the mountains of NC. My vacations are usually traveling elsewhere so I have only seen him once or twice during the summers and I have never made it to Florida before this trip. I can go three or four months without speaking to him on the phone. Yet I would still consider us close which may seem odd to some.

Mike bought a house this year. He's 30 so this shouldn't seem odd to me, but yet it seems strange that my baby brother, that little boy in the picture above, bought a house. He's all grown up. We pulled in the driveway and Mike came out to greet us. The house is gorgeous; open floor plan and really cool archways and details throughout the house. I was so happy to see him enjoying the fruit of all his hard work; the home he shares with his girlfriend MaryBeth. My mom and dad were there and the 6 of us spent the next three days shopping, eating and laughing. We haven't been together in over a year but we all fell into our natural family roles, comfortable, familiar. I am the planner and the one that makes sure everyone is having a good time. My brother is the story teller and the comedian. My mom becomes the good natured mother, telling stories of us as kids and pretending to be shocked as we tell her our sides of those stories. My dad is the protector, taking it all in, filming or photographing the laughter. Joe and MaryBeth have their roles too; they are the crazy ones: we were born into the family, they chose it!

The last night we were there we all went to dinner in downtown Stuart. We ate too much and drank too much and our dinner discussion, like always, was filled with embarrassing topics that would make other families blush. We went back to Mike's house and while Joe watched football, Mike played his guitar and he and I came up with funny lyrics about my mom. My dad filmed the whole thing and I know we look ridiculous but it is a great memory already.

I should have gone to bed feeling happy but instead I felt sad. I am very aware of how lucky I am to be so close to my family. I understand that not everyone has the relationship I do with my mom or dad or brother. I honestly LIKE my family as people and would choose to hang out with them. This awareness makes me worry about change that I know will eventually happen. My parents are getting older. Mike is growing up. Over the next decade change is inevitable.

My friend Shelia has a saying from her favorite Jimmy Buffett song. I have heard her say it, even bought her a bracelet with it inscribed, but haven't really taken it to heart. After going to bed and thinking about how I was feeling quite sad after such a happy night I realized I needed to really think about the quote.
According to my watch, the time is now
The past is dead and gone
Don't try to shake it, just nod your head
Breathe in, breathe out, move on

I spend so much time worrying about how I am going to react when things change that I think that I do myself a great injustice by limiting the amount of pleasure I get out of how things are NOW.

I spent the last morning there talking alone with my brother. It is pretty neat to see him becoming a man and to hear him talk so assertively about mortgages and car loans and issues he is having at work. He is still worried about our feelings but is at that stage where he is choosing his path and independence. Things are going to change for him soon in a very positive way and my heart is warmed knowing he is happy and truly, that is what matters. I miss him dreadfully and wish we all lived closer but enjoy the time we have, even if it is only once a year.

So in this time of resolutions and toasting to a new year, I need to remember my role, the parts I play that are really important. I am a worrier and a planner but first and foremost I am a wife, a daughter, a sister and a friend. These are the roles that matter the most and I need to focus on being my best. The time is NOW. Sure things are going to change, but until they actually do, there is a lot of good going on right this minute. I have a great family that frustrates the hell out of me, makes me laugh until I cry and loves me for every flaw and every feature I have. I in turn frustrate them, plan every minute of our time together and love them for every part of their beings. And really, when it comes down to it, that is what family is for. Our most important role in life is to love each other, and that, I know, we do.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Movie review - Invictus

Invictus - Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon - ****

I didn't really want to see Invictus, but it was free and I figured it would be one of those movies that was super hyped so I should go before the hype began. I am so glad that I did.

The movie begins in 1990 with Nelson Mandela's release from prison and quickly covers the years until he is elected President of South Africa in 1994. The basis of the movie is Mandela's use of the Springbots, the South African rugby team, to bring a very divided country together. Freeman does a brilliant job as Mandela and while the accents aren't quite right (I was told by a South African), the entire cast is believable in the roles. Matt Damon has buffed up noticeably and the movie does a good job of balancing political commentary with actual rugby play. It sounds cliche to say that the movie is inspiring, but I think it is hard not to walk out of this movie with a sense of purpose to live a better life and be a better person.

As far as the title, "Invictus" is a short poem by the English poet William Ernest Henley published in 1875. Invictus is Latin for "unconquered".

Trivia: Timothy McVeigh chose this as his final statement.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Feeling Good...Doing Good....

As I talk to more and more of my friends and acquaintances, it seems like most people spent their 20s getting to know themselves, making mistakes and building a life. The 30s come and after getting comfortable with who they are, they decide to look at the bigger picture and ask some questions which have answers other than "me, me, me".

I know this has happened to me. It started slowly, feeling jealous of a friend who had a job at a non-profit. Sure the pay sucked I told her, but you are DOING something for the good of people. I started thinking more about it and entertained finding a non profit job myself. Alas, I love where I work too much. I committed to giving blood every 56 days. That wasn't enough though and the nagging feeling became more pronounced and I realized I needed to do SOMETHING, I just didn't know what.

Recently, the "what" or more accurately, the "whats" fell into my lap. I now have three non profits that I am helping in various different ways. I feel so strongly about each of these organizations so I think it is going to be easy for me to volunteer hours or time or whatever they need. I am sure at some point over the next year I am going to hit up everyone I know to help out in some way. I am warning you now! When I do hit you up, I want you to know a little about what each of these organizations do and why I care.

Tri It For Life - When I signed up for my first triathlon I had no idea how it would change my life. I am lazy so looked for a training group and stumbled upon this south Charlotte organization. It is a group of women who have one goal: to inspire women to move. As the year and training progressed, I fell in love with the group, the ideals and many of the women who started it. There are old women, fat women, skinny women, young women and all of them are triathletes. A few nights before the actual triathlon the group hosted a celebration dinner. I sat and looked around the room at the 200 or so women that were there. I bet you a million dollars you wouldn't have ever said that some of them were in shape to be a triathlete. Hell, I bet you wouldn't have looked at ME and thought I could do it. But I did. They did. We all did. And that is the beauty of this group. So many people think you have to be skinny or in shape to try, but you don't. You just need to TRY. I would much rather be fat and fit. Every person who signed up for this group finished the triathlon. Every single one. Crossing the finish line was a feeling I never thought I would experience. Yes, training in a group is helpful, but the day of the race, it is all about you and your ability to power on when it gets hard. Crossing the finish line is a perfect blend of self empowerment and group gratitude. I want every woman I know to have that for herself, to make the time for herself, to love herself enough to invest in herself. Yes, you can do it. You just need to try.

This year the women's only Ramblin Rose will take place in Rock Hill in July and Huntersville in September. Tri IT For Life is fortunate to be the charity of choice for the July event. That means that money raised will directly go to Tri It. It also means that we need to provide a certain amount of volunteers to help defray costs. I am the Volunteer Coordinator for the event and will probably be asking you to spend a few hours on a Sunday morning helping the event. We will need people helping cheer people on, mark race numbers, hand out water and other small jobs that make a huge difference to people running the race. It only takes a few hours but I can personally tell you that I had an extra spring in my step when I heard some random person yell out my race number. So take out a pen....write down Amy - July 11- 7A-11AM!

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital - I had always heard of St. Jude growing up and since my brother had a childhood cancer, it had a special place in my heart. One of the stations I work for has done a yearly radiothon for St. Jude and I was lucky enough to be flown to Memphis for a tour of the hospital. Wow. This place is utterly amazing. I was worried in the beginning how I would react, that the place would be sad and depressing but it is far from that. There are so many little touches that make this a special haven. There aren't any wheelchairs. Kids are brought from place to place in wagons. All the reception areas are kid height so kids can check themselves in and talk directly to the nurses. The walls are brightly colored and each room has a different theme. The entire place is centered around kids. There are some things that people won't tell you about this place and those are the things that I think really make it different. You may have heard about the cafeteria. When Danny Thomas founded the hospital it was the height of race issues in the country. He wanted to make sure that everyone ate together regardless of color, creed or class. There is still one big cafeteria and all the doctors, researchers, patients and parents eat there. One researcher told me it is the greatest thing. Imagine having a bad day at work and being able to go look at EXACTLY the reason why you are there working. Talk about a sense of purpose! The cafeteria is open 24 hours a day. This may not seem like a huge deal, but imagine you are a kid going through chemo and you have no appetite. Suddenly at 3AM you wake up craving mashed potatoes, pancakes and a hot dog. At St. Jude, you will get it. They know that eating is important but is sometimes really hard, so if you are craving it, you get it. The people at St. Jude want to make sure that each child has as normal a childhood experience as possible. This means that they have proms, dances, movie nights, social, etc. There are teachers there that work individually with patients to teach them the curriculum that their school is actually using so when the child goes back to school, they haven't missed a lesson. That means that the teachers need to be certified to teach in every state since the kids come from every state. It also means that one teacher might have 5 kids of the same age, all with completely different work to be done.

So you don't have kids or your kids have grown up so you don't think you will ever have to face childhood cancer? The other amazing thing about this place is the Research Center part of the name. When you walk through the hospital you will come to this huge atrium that opens up to research labs. There are researchers from literally every nation. Obviously, when a child is fighting cancer his or her body is weak and a common cold could be deadly. So along with research on the latest cancer protocols, there is research being done on all other infectious diseases including the flu and AIDS. I had the chance to talk with a man who was studying avian flu and ways to fight that. And because of the money that St. Jude raises, the research is all free for anyone to use.

I literally could go on for hours about why you should send every cent you have to St. Jude, but instead of doing that I will ask you to trust me that this place is amazing and needs help. I am working with the St. Jude Charlotte office to create a Charlotte St. Jude Heroes program where we recruit people to run races and raise money for St. Jude. I will be running a half marathon in November as a St. Jude Hero. In the next few months I will have several opportunities for you to help. Contributions are always welcome and I will have a dedicated website where you can give directly to St. Jude, but I will also have special jewelry for sale and have a few raffle items as well. Running is one of the most daunting tasks I have ever committed myself to but I know that being a St. Jude Hero will keep me running when I want to quit.

For Your Cure - I blogged about Stephen Fogg,the friend of a friend who was battling cancer at 26. A bunch of people came up with the idea to sell those bracelets like the LiveStrong ones, except these are orange and say "FU Cancer". All proceeds went to Stephen, aka Foggy. Well to show you how awesome Foggy is, he is taking all that money and starting a charity. There are a lot of support groups for kids with cancer and older people with cancer, but there isn't a lot out there specifically for adults 18-34. Foggy is changing that. His main objective is to is to provide patients of cancer or cancer related treatments an outlet to occupy their mind and body through the gift of creative expression. We are starting this truly from the ground up. Foggy is doing the paperwork for 501C3 status and I am using my anal retentive skills to help organize. Shelia is working on a station event along with the Checkers to help raise more money and exposure.

We had our first meeting to brainstorm what we wanted to do and where we wanted to grow. I walked out feeling 100 pounds lighter. Yes...this is what it is about. It might have taken me 35 years to get here, but I think it all happened as it should have. I needed those other years of me, me, me to develop skills, contacts, ideas and focus. This is exactly where I need to be right now, helping others. I'm doing good and it feels really good.