Posted by: Amy | September 12, 2013

My Top 7 Romantic Comedies

(This is a seven-day series of silly sentiments.)


Here is my list of favorite Romantic Comedies, in no particular order ….

1) “Moonstruck” ~ Dean Martin’s “That’s Amore” opens the movie. Can’t beat that. Nicholas Cage has made a career of playing anguished souls.

2) “Strictly Ballroom” ~ Strictly mind candy. Introduced me to Doris Day’s “Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps.” The final Paso Doble scene makes me want to take ballroom dancing lessons.

3) “10 Things I Hate About You” ~ I haven’t seen this since Heath Ledger passed away, but it remains one of my all-time favorite movies. file5091340639221Along with Ledger, Julia Stiles, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Gabrielle Union went on to successful careers. Favorite quote: “Remove head from sphincter, then drive!”

4) “Love Actually” ~ Loosely linked stories at Christmastime in London. Bill Nighy is hilarious as Billy Mack, the aging rocker. Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson and Keira Knightley all find love one way or another.

5) “Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement” ~ Don’t laugh. I know it’s silly and predictable. But I like Anne Hathaway. “A Love That Will Last” by Renee Olstead is a sweet song.

6) “Something’s Gotta Give” ~ Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson. Classic. Oh, and there’s that hot babe, Keanu Reeves. (More on him later.) Favorite scene? The sequence that features Diane Keaton sobbing and laughing while writing.

7) “It’s Complicated” ~ I never paid much attention to Meryl Streep until I saw this movie and “Mamma Mia.” Now I know why people love her so much. Best scene ever? When Alec Baldwin accidentally moons Steve Martin.


Let’s compare faves. Which movies are on your list?


Posted by: Amy | February 10, 2013

Unforgettable Short Stories

I hereby reclaim my love of short stories.

It dawned on me a few weeks ago that I don’t have the patience or the time nowadays to read novels, an affliction that I am sure will fade away at any moment. Meanwhile I noticed that among the “To Be Read” books that line my shelves are several anthologies of short stories. In what Oprah calls an “aha moment,” I now will attempt to read more short stories and offer my reviews here. Look for my first installment on Saturday.

My love of short stories goes back to when I was a kid, maybe 10. I had a collection of teen love stories set in the 1950s, maybe early 1960s. I read that book over and over and over again. They were sweet stories of unrequited love, of girl-meets-boy-but-doesn’t-get-boy. (Who knew my own teen life would later mirror these stories? But I digress.) 

Here’s the thing: I can’t remember the book’s title. I tried doing Google searches. “Teen love stories collection 1950s, 1960s” led me to a cool website, but alas … the book remains as elusive as my first crush.

These are the stories that I remember:

  • A girl reads an engagement announcement of her older sister’s ex-boyfriend. She tries to write a letter to congratulate him, but with each attempt more of the story unfolds and we find that she also fell in love with him.
  • A girl pines for a boy in one of her classes. She is so enamored of him that she doesn’t pay attention in class, which jeopardizes her chances to be named to the school’s literary society.
  • A girl experiences a summer romance that doesn’t last beyond September.

So if anyone remembers this book, I would be eternally grateful if you would let me know. And I hope you remember its title.


Do you love short stories? Which ones are your favorites?

Posted by: Amy | February 8, 2013

The Good Guy

Uncle Efren with one of his grandkids, Grace.

Uncle Efren with one of his grandkids, Grace.

For years, Friday night was reserved for big family dinners. It was a chance for my sisters and their families to come over and have home-cooked Filipino food. This was a time where there weren’t any Pinoy eateries nearby, where you “turo turo” or “point point” at whichever ready-made dish you wanted “to go.” Besides, nothing compared to Mom’s cooking.

Most of what I know about my family history, I learned at the dinner table. Recently, my parents recalled stories of one of my uncles.


Two brothers

As a boy, my Dad’s job was to feed his younger siblings before he can go out and play. One brother, Uncle Efren, ate too slow. So what did my Dad do? He ate Uncle Efren’s food, then ran out to play with his friends. Later at night Uncle would cry because he was hungry and my Dad would get in trouble.

At one time during WW II, a friend of my grandfather went to the house.  “I think there’s something wrong with one of your boys,” the old man said. My grandfather sent my Dad to check. So he went out and found Uncle Efren in tears. Upon seeing my Dad, he screamed, “Kuya!” (The honorific for an older brother or cousin.) Dad said the whole village heard him. A black spider bit Uncle on his butt, so Dad had to carry him home.

My grandfather’s friend cut a green papaya off a tree, sliced it half and placed it on the hot kindling used for cooking. Meanwhile, Uncle Efren was crying out loud, thinking he is going to die. The bite site swelled up to the size of a baseball. All the neighbors gathered outside the house to find out what all the commotion was about. While Dad held his brother down, the old man took the charred papaya and stuck it onto my uncle’s butt and held it down. Uncle let out a death-defying scream that scared everyone. Then passed out.

Two days later, the family had to evacuate to avoid the bombings. Once again, my Dad had to help his younger brother, who could barely walk. They were just about to cross a river when they heard the sound of machine guns firing. Every one ran back to hide among the trees along the bank. After a while, they noticed Uncle was not there. In a panic, Dad and my grandfather started looking for him. To their shock, they saw Uncle Efren … on the other side of the river.

Fitting Nickname

I think that story tells a lot about my uncle. When everyone is doing one thing, he went in the opposite direction. He was argumentative and never gave in. His nickname “Bida” means “the good guy”in Tagalog. But Dad says it’s really short for “kontrabida,” which means “villian.” (The Spanish “contra vida” means “against life.”)

My uncle had his shares of mishaps, misadventures and mistakes. Once my grandmother asked my Dad, “Why don’t you go to church like your brother?”

My Dad replied, “He has more wrongdoings to pray about.”

At one time, my uncle was a truck driver. He was driving workers to a site when one of them fell off the truck. The others tried to get my uncle to stop, but he kept going, oblivious to the fact that he lost a passenger. Luckily the man was not hurt and was able to hitch a ride.

Then there was the time my uncle asked Dad to help him buy another car.  Dad asked him why, but he wouldn’t say. Turns out that Uncle was dating someone, and the lady’s adult son found out. Uncle got scared and wanted to get rid of his car in case the son came looking for him.

Uncle Efren gained “cool” points with the kids when he wandered into the wrong movie theater and watched “Purple Rain.” He must have been the oldest person to see Prince’s film. Ever.

Through the years, my Mom and Dad would have the same conversation.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with my brother,” Dad would say.

“It’s your fault,” Mom would reply. “You ate his food when he was a kid. He didn’t get the right amount of nutrients.”

My Uncle Efren died a few years ago, after he was able to bring his entire family to California. There’s a whole big group of Lansangs up in the Sacramento area who owe everything to him. Even with his social miscues and life blunders, my Uncle was a loving person. Truly “Bida” all the way.


Did family tales unfold at your dinner table? Which stories were told over and over again? Do you share stories with family now?

Posted by: Amy | January 1, 2013

Enter 2013

A few days ago, I pulled out my 2012 Resolutions, a list that covered every aspect of my life. Boy, talk about a downer.  Straight F’s. How did I do this?

Easy. I expected to turn my life around the moment it struck midnight 2012. I expected to be perfect starting that Jan. 1. My expectations were unreasonable and unattainable. No wonder I failed.

So this year, I’m taking a different approach, thanks to an online Facebook friend who wrote:

There are no resolutions, only revolutions.

This appeals to the rebel in me. Welcome to my Revolution — a new system of thought and being. No more doubts, no more fears.

So how am I going to accomplish all the things I want to do in 2013? By taking it one day at a time. Changing what I can. Being flexible when I need to be.

Take aim … and fire.

Posted by: Amy | December 3, 2012

Elf Eyes

This is in response to a Wordsmith Studio challenge to write a short story based on this picture of an elf. Please share your thoughts.


“What a cute ornament,” I said as I approached the Christmas tree. An elf sat on a branch, grinning at me. I was hoping to steer my younger sister’s attention away from the burglary, but she would not have it.

“Those bastards took Grandma’s diamond necklace! Mom is going to kill me!”

I felt like saying, “Well, that necklace was supposed to be mine, but you claimed it for yourself.” But I bit my tongue. As usual.

Photo by Gerry Wilson

Photo by Gerry Wilson

Trish went into the kitchen, still complaining about the mess the thieves made and that was she was never going to get everything back in order before tomorrow’s Christmas gala. Her word.  I’d call it just a silly party for her silly friends. I heard the clink of a bottle meeting glass. The third serving of some Napa Valley winery she mentioned but I ignored. I continued to examine her tree.

The display was so Trish – dramatic and bold. It had to be more than six feet tall because the treetop angel’s halo nearly touched the ceiling. Glittery magenta orbs and stars hung from the branches while silver fabric garland encircled the perfectly cone-shaped tree. I touched one of the branches to see if the tree was a fake, but it wasn’t. New porcelain Lenox ornaments put the price of the tree way over my Christmas budget. Heck, maybe next year’s budget, too.

The only thing was … that elf. It looked so out-of-place. I carefully picked it up to get a closer look.

“Hey, Trish. Where’d you get this elf?”

“Elf? What are you talking about? I don’t …. ” The doorbell rang, cutting her off. She jumped up to answer it. “I hope it’s the cops!”

I sat down at the kitchen counter, looking over one of Santa’s minions. Trish came back accompanied by a police officer. We exchanged greetings and he got right to business, asking Trish questions about the burglary.

I heard the story already. Trish came back from her daily jog to find the house was ransacked. Her word. I would say rummaged.

At the officer’s request, Trish showed him the upstairs, leaving me alone. I sighed and rolled my head, feeling my bones crack. The holidays were stressful enough, now I have to help Trish. All I wanted to do was go back home, crawl under the covers with a cup of cocoa and a book.

The little elf felt heavy in my hand, especially given the fact that it was made of plastic. It was almost as big as my hand. Maybe it’s one of those toys that hold a gift. Maybe one of Trish’s suitors left it for her.

Suitors. Her word. I had other words, none of them nice.

I turned the elf over and unbuttoned his green shirt to find that there was an opening. But a tiny screw locked away his secret. I doubted Trish had a matching screwdriver handy. As I tried to loosen the screw with my thumbnail, I had a “No duh” moment. I grabbed my purse and pulled out my makeup bag to look for a nail clipper. I made a mental note to clean out my purse once I got home. Why am I keeping all these receipts and takeout menus in here?

I finally found it. Luckily this one had a handy file attachment which I used to turn the screw. It wouldn’t quite catch, so it took several fractional turns to finally get the sucker out.

The back popped open to reveal some wiring and mini components. Was this elf supposed to move or sing or what? I looked for an “on” switch, but couldn’t find one.

I looked at the face again, moving my thumb across it. Something wasn’t right. I looked even more closely.

The left eye was painted onto the plastic, blue iris encircling a black pupil. But the right eye pupil was different. Using the file again, I scraped off a little bit of the paint off the left eye. When I tried it on the right side, nothing happened. The surfaces were different. The right eye was glass.

Bells were ringing off in my head, and they weren’t holiday bells. I held the head in one hand, the body in the other and yanked hard. As the head popped off, Trish and the officer were walking back into the kitchen. He was saying that burglaries always increase during the holidays.

“Ummm … officer?” I said, interrupting.

They stopped and looked at me, faces questioning.

“I think you need to look at this.” I gestured to my friend, now sprawled on the table — head off to the side, insides exposed. “I found him in the tree.”

“What is that?” Trish asked as they both moved toward the table.

The officer leaned down for a closer look.

“Is that what I think it is?” I asked him.

He nodded. “It looks like a wireless camcorder.”

I looked at my shocked baby sister.

“What the fuck is going on?!”

My words.

Posted by: Amy | September 4, 2012

Innie or Outie?

I stumbled upon a TED Talk the other night, “Susan Cain: The Power of Introverts.”

She talks about growing up feeling like she didn’t quite fit in because she preferred the quiet of reading books. She outlines how our school systems and workplaces favor group work over individual endeavor. She calls for a better balance.

This is especially important when it comes to creativity and to productivity,because when psychologists look at the lives of the most creative people, what they find are people who are very good at exchanging ideas and advancing ideas, but who also have a serious streak of introversion in them.

While I was listening to her presentation, I began to wonder if I am an introvert or an extrovert.

I’m an ambivert, according to Ms. Cain. I’m both types.

Great. I have a split personality.

But it’s true. If introverts like being alone, internalize and feel awkward in social situations … that’s me. If extroverts are outgoing and like being with people … that’s me.

The introvert in me is happy to do crossword puzzles today. The extrovert in me laments the fact that she wasn’t invited to a Labor Day cookout. (Or maybe that’s just the part of me that’s always looking for food.)

The introvert in me is slow to act and contemplates everything. The extrovert in me goes for it.

The introvert in me struggles with having this blog and an online presence. I don’t like being “out there.” The extrovert in me is having fun blogging and meeting all these wonderful writers.

I’m a walking set of contradictions. I suppose it’s all a balancing act. My Innie and Outie halves complementing each other, one taking control when the situation calls for it. I’m like Bruce Wayne and Batman. Without the costume and cool gadgets. And the endless cash flow.


Which best describes you? Introvert, Extrovert or Ambivert? Do you wish you were something different?


Posted by: Amy | September 2, 2012

Calling Timeouts

The other night I called my best friend from high school, hoping that she’d agree to go out for dinner. I needed to get out of the house. Badly.

Turns out, so did she. We compared our laments and she won. Unbeknownst to me, another friend was dealing with issues that awarded her the gold medal.

It would be easy to blame that night’s blue moon for the lunacy in our lives, to swear the people around us turned into half-human, half-beasts.

That would make a better story, but … no. What we three needed was a simple Timeout. To be sent to the corner. To be given some space. To be able to hear our own thoughts.

Sometimes the responsibilities of being who we are is daunting and overwhelming. We are wives, daughters, sisters, aunts. My friends are working mothers. We worry about keeping the family happy, stretching that dollar and staying healthy.

We are constantly aware of the clock because it’s always time to do something for someone else, but when is it time to do something for ourselves? We shouldn’t have to wait for someone to finally blow the whistle and call a Timeout for us. By then, it’s too late.

Taking breaks away from the family is not being selfish, but I suspect that we all feel some degree of guilt when we want to be elsewhere — anywhere — but home. It’s not a sign that we hate our lives and that we’re running away. This is a need to reset and replenish ourselves when we are emotionally, mentally and spiritually depleted. And when we get back, we are stronger and more centered.

I’ll remind my friends of this. Without Timeouts, our loved ones will swear that we’ve turned into half-women, half-beasts — without a blue moon.


Timeouts take different forms. Gazing out the window, writing in a journal, wandering around the mall. What do you do when you need personal “Me” time?














Posted by: Amy | September 1, 2012

September … Do you remember?


A cake from a few birthdays ago.

Ah … September.

My birthday month. Yes, I do celebrate the full 30 days.

A narcissistic characteristic? Perhaps. Some people don’t like to celebrate their day, let alone the whole month.

Adding another year means different things to different people. I don’t mind getting older. It’s a while yet, but I’m looking forward to senior discounts.

I don’t know why, but most of my grey hair is on the right side, near my temple. And suddenly I am paying attention to which products help with wrinkles. Sometimes I look at my hands and I don’t recognize them. They belong to an older woman.

So I’m getting up in years. What is the alternative? If I have been given the gift of reaching another birthday, I need to re-evaluate how I am using this gift.

My birthday is Sept. 11. In 2001, I was on vacation. I woke up that day, feeling happy. Until we turned on the TV.

We went out to dinner and I remember sitting there with my loved ones. But I knew that thousands of others did not join their families that night. The thought pained and humbled me.

Later, I was asked how the events of 9-11 affected me. Did I stop celebrating my birthday?

No, I answered. If anything, 9-11 is a reminder that every day could be your last. Life is precious and oh-so-fragile.

So I celebrate. I give thanks. I make each day special somehow. I spend time with my family and friends because they are the best presents of all.

And on the 21st, I will go dancing. If you are an Earth, Wind & Fire fan, you know what I’m talking about.




Posted by: Amy | July 1, 2012

Self Portrait

A former work colleague and fellow hippie, Karen, shared her self-portrait as part of Photo-a-day July Challenge.

I bought a Canon Rebel Xsi a while back. I have no clue what I am doing. But what better way to experiment than with a challenge? Then I realized I have to take a picture of myself. Ugh. I’ve avoided snapshot-shooting family and friends for years. That’s part of my self-consciousness. Still working on that.

There’s a scene in the movie, “Crazy, Stupid, Love” that I love. Emma Stone asks hunky Ryan Gosling to take off his shirt. And when he does, she exclaims, “Fuck! Seriously? It’s like you’re Photoshopped!”

Here’s me, Photoshopped. Not gonna win me Ryan Gosling, but that’s OK. I’d probably break him, anyway.

Meanwhile, check out Karen’s blog, She is passionate about art, animals and saving the world.

Posted by: Amy | June 30, 2012

Liars and Free Speech

You have the right to be an asshole, according to the United States Supreme Court.

Spurred by accounts of people claiming they were heroes, in 2005 Congress made it illegal to lie about receiving military honors. In United States v. Alvarez, the Justices ruled 6-3 that the Stolen Valor Act is unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment right to free speech.

There’s nothing arguable about the intent of the Stolen Valor Act. Congress wanted to preserve the dignity of the awards and the recipients. Medals, badges, crosses and stars are not pinned to military uniforms for aesthetic reasons. They are symbols of service and sacrifice.

To go around lying about your military honors is deplorable and reprehensible to many. But it’s protected speech. In the majority opinion, Justice that restrictions on speech include “incitement, obscenity, defamation, speech integral to criminal conduct, so-called ‘fighting words,’ child pornography and speech presenting grave and imminent threat the Government has the power to prevent.” Lying about one’s military record doesn’t fall under these categories.

If you falsely claim you are the recipient of the Purple Heart, you are guilty of being tacky. Nothing more. We may not like it when someone from the Ku Klux Klan spouts racist hate, and we may get upset when a friend on Facebook writes what you consider questionable or offensive status posts. They have that right. And we have the right to engage in debate or ignore it.

One of my best friends is a decorated Marine. He doesn’t brag about his military achievements, which includes the Purple Heart and several crosses. He always said he was just doing his job. I wish I could ask him what he thinks about this case, but I’ve lost touch with him. He’s on the streets and I don’t know how to find him. I wish Congress would do something to help him and other homeless war veterans, instead of getting upset over a few idiots who feel the need to lie about themselves.

But as my friend would probably smile, shake his head and say, “Opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one.”

I miss you, Earl.

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