Wednesday, December 28, 2005

King Kong - the movie

Well, I believe it is official that I have seen more movies this year than I have in the last 12 years (at the theater, that is). My parents took the kids for a couple days, so Hubby suggests we catch an afternoon flick. He really wanted to see King Kong. I wasn't too keen on it - it's about a big ape, for goodness sake!

Everyone knows the storyline. A filmmaker (Carl) wants to shoot a film at a previously uncharted and unknown island, Skull Island. In this version, he finds an unsuspecting actress for this role (Ann); travels with her, the screenwriter (Jack), the production crew and the sailing crew to this mysterious, primeval island. The woman is sacrificed by the natives to the giant ape, ape falls in love, is captured and brought back to NYC as a circus act. Yet, he escapes and dies on the Empire State Building, to the tears and heartbreak of Ann.

I went expecting an action movie. However, 15 minutes into the movie (being devoted to character development and background storylines), I thought - this might be more than just an adventure movie. Con artist Carl even lays it out clearly - the movie he is making is not an action movie - it is a movie about traveling to the primeval beginnings. This statement juxtaposed with the young cabin boy who is reading The Heart of Darkness tells the theme clearly. This is a movie about making that journey to the heart of who we are, about the dichotomies within each one of us. Carl is the sleezy film-maker who cannot help but destroy what he loves. He sees the good and the beauty around him, but cannot keep his greed from destroying it. Ann is a Vaudeville comedian, but her heart is filled with sadness and a fear of hope. Jack is the classic hero who only wants to write, but is compelled to be a man of action. Kong is alone, the last of his kind; but is reaching out for another, for community.

Director and producer Peter Jackson shows that the Lord of the Rings trilogy was no fluke. He is a gifted filmaker. His use of CGI technology creates some spectacular action scenes. Yet, it is his gift for story, for creating interesting and engaging characters, for revealing the details - that is what makes a really good movie. I am glad that he has gone beyond the step of LOTR evil/good split. King Kong is a movie where evil and good, laughter and sadness, action and contemplation, isolation and relationship - all reside within each one of our hearts. The actors were solid, the story was good, and the movie remains with you and with your thoughts after leaving the theater.

The movie wasn't perfect - it could have been more subtle at times, fleshed out the relationships a touch more, and deleted 5-7 minutes of the big animal fight scenes. Yet, the journey to the heart of darkness revealed what we should learn - we can rise beyond the most primitive part of ourselves and move to a higher plane. We can be more than we realize we are. Thank goodness it was not just a movie about a big ape. A-

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Gaoming Welfare Agency Annual Fund

Our wonderful daughter was adopted at age nine months from China, more specifically Gaoming Welfare Agency. Gaoming is in Southern China (a climate like southern Florida), and the Welfare Agency was a welcoming and warm place. The staff with whom we interacted obviously loved our daughter and were excited for her to have a new home. In this picture, you can see the baby room - a room our daughter knew well before she came to her new home with us.

The families who have adopted from Gaoming (over 200 of us in the States) are connected together through the internet. We have a great Gaoming Family website. Each year before the Chinese New Year (usually end of January, early February), we have a fundraiser to purchase needed items for the Welfare Agency. This is always done in conjunction with the director, Mr. Li, so we make sure we get what they need most. In the past, we have purchased industrial sized sterilizers, dishwashers, air conditioning units. This year, they need baby formula the most. We are hoping to raise over $2000 to purchase formula for the entire year. Our money is channeled through Love Without Boundaries. Please click here to make a donation for this wonderful cause, and make sure to in the comments section to type Gaoming Nutrition.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Top 2005 Picks

At the request of my friend Margaret, I am going to pretend I am Stephen King, paid by Entertainment Weekly to give my top picks at the end of each year. So here is my top 10 multimedia list! (will contain books, movies, songs, etc.)

1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling. I still haven't made up my mind, but this may end up being my favorite of the series thus far (supplanting book 3). I just can't get enough of HP and JK.

2. Pride and Prejudice - the movie. I was so skeptical when I heard they were doing another version of my favorite book ever. It is an incredible adaption - the most sensual interpretation of the book ever. True to the book in its essence, but in a new and wonderful way.

3. Skinny Dip by Carl Hiassan - a truly fun read - lots of humor, mystery, romance, stupidity by guys, and memorable characters.

4. Memories of Us by Keith Urban - a beautiful song that helps one appreciate being in the moment with our life partner (especially if it's during a day when he keeps finding new ways to embarrass me!)

5. American Idiot by Green Day - simply the best CD I have heard in a long, long time. A CD that is about issues important to our lives, our country and to the world. The music is rockin', the lyrics couldn't be any better, and I don't have to be ashamed to like the same songs my 11 year old likes.

6. Since U Been Gone by Kelly Clarkson - I have watched American Idol once - when I was at the beach with Walker and she made me suffer through an episode (but hey, I got to stay at her place for free that week, so it was worth the cost!). Yet, this first American Idol has had some rockin' songs this year - with this one being her best by far. Makes a girl feel she is better off by far without a boy who will drag her down instead of building her up.

7. Gilmore Girls - on the WB Channel. A show that has been on for a few years, and one of the very few shows I make a point to watch. This has been its best season yet. If you haven't watched, get on the website, catch up on past episodes (or watch reruns on Family Channel), and come along for a great ride!

8. Chef at Home - Discovery Home channel - a sexy Canadian guy that cooks up great meals for his family right from his home. Wouldn't every woman want to be this lucky?

9. French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano - mistaken as a diet book, but truly a lifestyle book. Those pages that have such wonderful ideas for being more healthy also have great insight into the American as consumer.

10. Real Sex by Lauren Winner - The author of Girl Meets God attempts to deal with sex from her faith perspective. It's not a perfect book by any means, and it is spotty in its theological understanding - but I appreciate the attempt to deal in a serious way with a topic that pervades our society, and often in an unhealthy manner. Very thought-provoking.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

B4B entry - when loving food pays off...

This is a blogging for books entry. Check out Joshilyn Jackson's site for more info!

I readily admit it - I was an egg-head. My childhood and teen years were filled with books, church, Girl Scouts, my family, and a few select friends who didn't care that I was really a prototype for Hermoine Granger. I loved school.

Mrs. Wagner, my 8th grade teacher, was one of my favorites. At the end of class one day, she called me to her desk and showed me a brochure about a summer camp. I had only been to church camp. This new camp lasted three weeks at Mars Hill College and was a "gifted and talented camp" - or nerd camp, as many of us affectionately came to call it.

Nerd camp changed my life. I went for three straight summers. I realized I wasn't really that weird or unusual. There were many other smart girls who liked to sit around and giggle; tall, good-looking boys who liked smart girls; and professors who encouraged us to dream in big ways.

I was an old pro by my third year there. I remember the Sunday afternoon registration. I was chatting with my buddy, Anne, and checking out the new arrivals. One girl arrived with her sister and mom in tow. They were all wearing their church dresses - cute, dropped waisted items I bet her mom had sewn. They carried her clothes and bedding into her room, and then returned to the car to bring in lots of food items - many of them looking homemade. I turned to Anne and said, "We need to get to know this girl!"

LM and I became quick friends - and not just because she shared her food and clothes with me! It turned out she lived about 30 minutes away from me and attended a rival high school (unlike most of the other campers who lived all over the state and Southeast). At camp that summer, she documented with pictures my first big love (a very smart, handsome and tall tennis player). She was my main shoulder on which to cry when camp was over and my love was 7 hours downstate. We met at the mall to shop on the weekends. We met at the Thomas Wolfe Memorial to drool over our favorite author and bemoan how we couldn't wait to leave this town behind. (Yes, I have missed that town so much in recent months, and LM still lives there!) We even talked our English teachers into planning a joint field trip 3 hours downstate! LM's mom and sister made my senior prom dress (a gorgeous dropped waisted, stylish tea-length gown). LM had the same gown that year - just in a different color and fabric.

Our lives have gone in many different directions. I married soon after college (with LM as my honor attendant), had children, and a life that centers around the home and church. LM flies all over the country, doing pr and production work, and dating quite a selection of various men. She is our daughter's godmother. LM treats my children like her own, and they are substitute grandchildren for her parents. When my Mom recently turned 60, LM organized the party and had everything planned (thank heavens - I couldn't have pulled it off without her after my foot surgery!).

The lives we lead vary in many ways. We might even go a couple months without a phone call or email. Yet, just like a sister, when we do talk or see each other - it's like family. Time disappears, and we are just who we are - Rio and LM, two nerdy girls.

LM's mom still makes homemade goodies for me. My eye for good food has certainly paid off these 22 years!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Courageous Spirit

1955 was a momentous year. My mom was 10 years old, growing up with her preacher father and stay-at-home mother. The era was marked by women fulfilling household duties like cleaning, cooking and childrearing - all while wearing a beautiful dress with a full skirt. (At least that's what tv portrayed.) Whereas 10 years earlier, many women had been in the workplace to help with the war effort, now women were expected to care for the family and disregard any other callings in life.

Yet, in this same year, the Methodist Church (which was then the largest Protestant denomination in the US) voted to give women full clergy rights. Women had been preaching since the time of Jesus (and before). A number were very important evangelists and spiritual leaders in the Methodist church since its conception. However, they were not allowed to be ordained. It still amazes me (knowing the opposition I have faced 40-50 years later) that the majority of delegates (most of whom were men) at our General Conference actually voted to give women full clergy rights. The Spirit of God does move in mysterious, and wonderful, ways.

A book has just been published celebrating this event and the last 50 years - Courageous Spirit: Voices from Women in Ministry. It is a collection of essays, prayers, reflections and stories by women who have lived in ministry in the United Methodist Church. I am honored to say that they chose to include an essay I wrote, "I always wanted to be Julia Sugarbaker." You'll have to pick up the book to read it!

I am looking forward to the next 50 years!