Vicky Christina Barcelona

Originally turned off from this movie because I thought the title was dumb, we got the movie from the library and watched it Sunday night. I was immediately drawn into the movie because of the premise - 2 women (best friends) going to Barcelona for 2 months. One woman is a free spirit and the other is engaged and very sure of what her life is and will be. As soon as I saw the shots of Barcelona, I looked at Mau and said ' Let's move to Spain'. But that's another story.

Turns out that these women meet a painter, played by Javier Bardem, who is very passionate and lives in the moment. He takes them for a weekend away, and after a series of events, ends up sleeping with the engaged woman, Vicky (or Christina - whatever). When they come back from the weekend, he pursues the other woman, because, well, she is not getting married and is more of a free spirit like him. The 2 of them end up living together and then his ex-wife comes back into the picture, and lives with them. They all end up having sex together and seperately and are all fine with the arrangement. In the meantime, the engaged woman is left with her conflicted feelings of marrying a guy who she loves but doesn't feel that kind of passion for.

Writing all this out makes the movie sound kind of silly, but it's really not. I think the point of the movie is ' What do we want out of life?' and should we settle for good enough - the safe way - or pursue passion even thought the outcome cannot be known? In the end, the engaged friend does not pursue passion - she ends up going back to the States with her fiance (who becomes her husband during the movie when he comes over to Barcelona), and the free spirited woman decides that she doesn't want to live in a situation with one man and 2 women who make love freely.

I think the best part of the movie is that it doesn't end all happily ever after. The free spirit still doesn't know what she wants out of life and the practical woman ends up marrying the 'safe' guy who she loves but doesn't feel an incredible passion for. It's real life. It's choices we make. And it makes you think.


Writing Assignment - Ghana

Where: Ghana
What: At the Market
When: Daytime on Friday
Why: To purchase wares & to socialize
Who: The Ghana people
How: Come to the town center on Friday and enjoy the market

I love Friday because it's Market day - tables and make-shift walls are set up all over to display each sellers' objects.
I can socialize with friends and strangers, and maybe have a serendipitous moment.
The sea of people at the market flows down and around the street as far as you can see.
There is a building under construction – men stand under the structure with no walls to escape the heat and enjoy the shade.
Oh, the colors of the clothes people wear – bright and vibrant, echoing their personalities.
The ladies with strong necks can carry wares stacked on their heads.
The old bus rolls into town carrying eager locals to the market. Maybe some brave tourists too.
The buildings are time worn, but are flourishing with businesses and apartments.
If you need a suitcase or some fabric, or you just want to socialize, come to the market on Friday.

Selling My Car

I am trying to sell my Jetta and my husband's Subaru, so I listed them on Craigslist. I know from having a business and running a rental that people are flaky, inconsiderate, and just plain rude. But the most interesting situation yet happened to me tonight. A girl named megan emailed that she wanted to see the Jetta. I emailed back my phone number. she emailed back that she would figure a time to drive it tonight and call me. She calls me and she sets the time of 6pm to come drive the car. She calls just before 6pm to tell me that she is in front of my house and can see the Jetta.

At this point Megan seems like a good person. She has emailed and called a few times each. She is looking at the Jetta and telling me she's there. Seems normal or maybe I would say better than normal.

It takes me a few minutes to find the key and get outside because we have remodeling going on in the house. I go outside and walk to the end of the driveway. As I come into view of Megan's Toyota Camry -which is parked right in front of my Jetta - her car starts and Megan (and the other person in the car) drive away.


I call and get megan's voicemail because I'm trying to get an explanation. Nothing. No call back.

I am no longer shocked by people's rudeness, but I just have to laugh, because that was unbelievable!

How about just getting out of the car and saying - 'Hey, I see the car and I'm not really interested?'



I Want Dreds

I feel the need to get dredlocks, but noone seems to think this is a great idea for me. There's nothing like having regrets, and when I'm 90, I don't want to look back and wish that I had done it. Will it happen?? What do you think?


A Writing Course

I am currently in a travel writing class, so I will be posting my articles here for the next 8 weeks. I'm also going to make an effort to blog about something, anything at least every few days.

Here is my first work - we were not allowed to use generic descriptive words, so I was relying heavily on the thesaurus......

I wake up in the morning wondering if the fog will rise. It always begins this way. There is cloud cover all the way to the base, and you wouldn’t even know there was a volcano there.

As I’m eating breakfast, I watch the fog recede upward, and the lush green trees show themselves. Please keep going, I think. Show yourself today.

What I’m hoping to see is the Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica. Forty years ago, this volcano buried its town and caused massive destruction. Now, hotel resorts, restaurants, and gift shops safely surround the area, and visitors come to revel in its grandeur.

Sometimes the fog never rises, and the volcano remains hidden for days or even weeks. I am hoping it isn’t one of those days.

I am lucky, and the fog continues to move upward, unveiling varied colors of grey. Then the rumbling comes. I look through the binoculars to see the car sized rocks running hurriedly down the side into the vast green where they will rest. As the day continues, the fog lifts all the way, revealing the craggy top of the volcano. The unceasing smoke streams out to meet the wind. Later, when it is dark, the rocks that are spewing out will create an orange trail streaming down the side. I could sit all day and night staring at this splendid site. What a humbling experience it is to view this majestic, active, untamed volcano.


Liz & Andreas

I want to do some posts dedicated to the amazing photos that come from my great photographers. This particular post is an engagement session done in the Rocky River area at Lake Erie. The photographer is Andrew, who is unique and photojournalistic, and who has the personality to make all his subjects comfortable and authentic. He was one of the photographers at my wedding in Costa Rica, and he took some shots that I wouldn't have dreamed of having. The best part was that for most of those amazing shots, I didn't even know he was taking them. So, here are my favorite 5 for Liz & Andreas, who are getting married next June....... Enjoy!



Other people's children -

This past weekend was Taylor's 1st birthday. She's the daughter of my friend Christy, and the photos here were taken by her. We received an invitation to Taylor's birthday a couple weeks ago, but I had it in my head that the party was on Sunday. It wasn't - it was on Saturday. We went to the Canfield Fair on Saturday, and when I looked at the invitation that night to confirm the party time the next day, I realized I should have looked sooner.

Taylor is a very adorable baby, and we got to see her on Sunday anyway, and had her all to ourselves.
Here's her other adorable daughter, Tomi, who is 4 and will be starting ballet this fall. The other shot is her at the Canfield Fair in some jumping contraption.


The Rental Property

Oh, how cozy and charming!!

If you are thinking about buying real estate as a rental property, I would suggest that you don't. Ok -to be fair this is a very lucrative business for a lot of people, so it's not wrong for everyone. I guess I'm just not the type of person who can deal with it. According to the real estate books that we had read, we would just buy some property, get a team of people to keep it running, and then we would just sit back with our lemonade and big smiles on our faces while the money comes pouring in. That was a nice fantasy, and I suppose I believed it.

We bought our property in the Tremont area of Cleveland 3 years ago, and we immediately learned some hard lessons. As soon as we purchased our 4 unit property, the lady in the back moved out. I guess she was a friend of the previous owner, so she was probably living there free and was not excited that we would be making her pay rent. Then there was the guy who sometimes payed his rent, but we didn't know what to do because he seemed to be half blind and somewhat mentally challenged. We basically just accepted the rent from him about every other month because at least it was something. The tenants in the front house, which is the nice house, were both section 8. Oh, section 8, how you make me feel hate. In theory, it seems like it would be great that you are getting guaranteed rent from this organization instead of having to collect it from the tenants, but it's not. First of all, they rarely pay the full amount that the tenant has to pay, so you have to collect a portion anyway. Plus, you get to experience the yearly Section 8 inspection, in which they come in and tell you about all the things that you have to fix in order to keep up the great quality of life your Section 8 tenants have come to know and expect. If you are not familiar with Section 8, it is for poor working people who can't pay their rent, so it is partially paid for with goverment funds http://www.cmha.net/index.aspx.

Mau managed the property for a while when we first bought it, but then we got a 'professional' to manage it so that we wouldn't have to take tenant calls, repairs, worry about rent collection, etc. Well, we hired the wrong person. She didn't get anyone in the vacant apartment and after about a year of her bad attitude, one of our section 8 residents moved out, leaving 2 vacant units and a 3rd with the blind guy. But then he ran away in the middle of the night, so we only had 1 of the 4 rented. (We later found out that he had no water because the pipes had burst and a couple of his windows had big holes in them, so who could blame him?)

At this point we decided we would be a little more pro-active because our property was turning to shit. Yes, it was our fault that we didn't exercise more oversight over the property. And we found out the hard way that you can't trust people to do their jobs. (I will save the post about contractors for another day). Nobody will ever care like you do.

I took over the property early this year, and I'm happy to say that we now have 3 out of 4 units rented at good prices. The 4th should be ready and rented soon, and I'll get back to that in my future post about contractors. We spent so much fixing things, that it will be a couple years before we start making money from it. I suppose it is a long term investment.

So, I just wanted to share with you some of the ad that we posted on craigslist for the back apartment and in parenthesis I wrote what we really meant with those words:

Cozy and Charming Tremont Apartment (Small and Old)

We have Two 2- Bedroom Apartments Available
(not really because one isn't renovated despite the contractor promising it would be for the past 2 months)

A front and a back unit - both are downstairs units

We provide the stove and refrigerator in the kitchen and a shared washer/dryer in the basement.
(Because we know you will not live in this shit hole unless we provide these things)

Water is included in the price (because we are not allowed to charge you). New windows throughout to help with that heating bill (but with the heating unit being original from 1870, I'm sure most of your heat is left in the basement anyway - Also, I hope that you don't die of carbon monoxide poisoning because the flame is buring orange and yellow instead of blue and purple. Our contractor was going to fix that - and I'm sure he will - as soon as he gets out of jail), new laminate flooring in bedrooms and living area, new paint throughout (just don't lean on some of the walls, because they are made of paper, and you will make a hole in it).

The bathtubs have been redone (because they had cracks and someone had painted them).

Each is 527 square feet, so they are cozy apartments (your cat may be comfortable in one of the bedrooms, but you won't).

Because of the size, the apartments would work best for a single person or a couple, so that one bedroom could be the computer room/office (and because kids throw stuff down the registers and othewise wreak havoc on the place).

Very Quiet Location (because it's behind another house - great for those freezing, snowy days when you have just been grocery shopping and you have to make 5 trips back and forth to your car which is out on the street - 50 yards away.)

Private fenced yard (except where it looks like a car ran over it)

Cats and Dogs OK with certain limitations (limitations meaning your brand new puppy who is sure to piss and shit all over our place while you are potty training him).

A little info about Tremont......... Welcome to historic Tremont, a dynamic neighborhood with a fascinating past and an exciting future.(This neighborhood used to be the ghetto a few years ago, but now it's trendy!)


Mind Over Bladder

I pee a lot. I mean all the time. If I have a can of soda or any large quantity of fluid, I'll be in the bathroom several times that day. I've gotten used to it to the point that I don't really notice anymore. It's just a part of my life. The worst part is at night. Usually I will eat dinner or a snack that has a lot of salt, so I will get really thirsty and drink a lot before bed. It's a vicious cycle, which causes me to get out of bed about 5-10 times. On a good night, I might only get up 1 or 2 times. Seriously.
I think I've developed a sixth sense about finding a bathroom in a new place. And if I've been there before, I know where the bathroom is and I remember what it was like. I find bathrooms to be pretty interesting sometimes. For the most part, businesses try to have really nice, clean bathrooms these days. I was in a Starbucks bathroom today and it appears that someone really put some time into the layout and style of it. It was very spacious and comfortable. There are even some port-a-johns out there in which you do not have to hold your breath the whole time you are inside. I used the one by the golf course near our house the other day (we were on a walk and I couldn't wait), and I have to tell you I would consider it a luxury john. They used so much deoderizer in the bowl that you actually couldn't smell the excrement right below you. It was giant, handicapped accessible, and even had a purell dispenser inside. It still makes you feel a little icky, but with that smell of cinnamon wafting through, you can almost forget where you are. Almost.
But there are also some bathrooms that are not pleasant to be in. I think that Wal-Mart bathrooms across the board are horrible. In fact, I have been in a lot of different Wal-Marts and they all have problems. The door locks are broken, they smell like poop, one stall I went in even had poop smeared on the walls. Paper towels are thrown around, the garbages are overflowing, or they are out of soap. And then there's Marc's. I love Marc's but the bathrooms there make you feel like you need a shower after you leave. I don't know if I've ever been in a stall with a lock, let alone a purse holder. The paint in there is always a horrible color like baby puke. And the general level of dirtiness makes you wonder if it is ever cleaned. I'm sure the 15-year olds that work there aren't real concerned about bathroom cleanliness.
So, on that note, I'll sign off................. because I have to pee.


The Fear of Driving

I've been having panic attacks for about 3 years now. It all started on a hot summer day when I was driving back from a physical that I had in Beechwood. They had drawn some blood which freaks me out anyway, and this time was especially bad because I could hear my blood filling up the vile. I was driving on 480, which is now my nemesis, and I started feeling weird. I thought that it was just low blood sugar because I hadn't eaten that morning. I felt a wave go through me and then I thought for sure I was going to black out. I had to pull over on the side of the highway. I was sweating, my heart was pounding and I was scared to death. I was close to an exit, so I pulled off searching for a convenience store. One was close, so I got a candy bar and a pop in an attempt to feel better. That day, I had to be picked up and driven to my destination because I could not calm down.

After a few months, things calmed down and I was able to talk myself down when I felt the panic coming upon me. It was fine for a couple years with just a slight feeling of weirdness sometimes.

Now they are back with a vengeance and for the past 6-9 months I have had moments of real panic. For a while, I thought it was caffeine affecting me, but I cut it out and was still having the effects. While I'm driving on the highway, I get over sensitized to my surroundings, then feel weird, which turns into a feeling that I'm going to black out and wreck. I have to stay in the right lane most of the time so that I feel like I have an exit.

I went to a doctor recently and she prescribed me Buspirone, which is supposed to help with the anxiety. It's been 3 weeks now and unfortunately, I don't feel any more calm. Plus when I take the pill in the morning, I feel like electric shocks are going through my body and I get light headed for about 15-25 minutes.

I always knew I was a little crazy, but now it's confirmed. My brain is going haywire! I would like to end this post with a photo of me from Costa Rica last year - enjoy!


A Walk to the Rocky River

This past weekend, Mau, Lucy and I went for a long walk down the hill to the river. Lucy is used to getting a walk every day, and this is her 'I'm ready to go' look. She was running around the house wiggling her butt and barking.

It's a long walk compared to what we usually do, but it's pretty and we pass the golf course and the riding stables.

We don't golf or ride horses, but we do enjoy walking! This is the view at the bottom of the hill.

I think that for Ohio, it's pretty nice. Especially in the Fall when the leaves turn colors.

We took a trail by the river and walked on the rocky parts, finding a brick from Youngstown!

Once we got to the park we played a little frisbee until Lucy's whining got too loud to deal with. It was a busy day at the park. There were a lot of picnics going on and a birthday party that had a Sponge Bob pinata. It always feels good to take a walk in the park.


I'm starting to feel generic

I recently changed my email address from Yahoo to Gmail. I feel like doing some new things, and this was small part of it. Imagine my surprise when I kept getting denied for the email addresses that I wanted. The following email addresses are already taken: stephaniemora, stephmora, stefmora, stephanie.mora, steph.mora, stef.mora. That was the last one I checked before I bubbled over with joy when I saw that steff.mora was available.

According to Mau, Mora is as popular a name in the Spanish speaking community as Smith is in the English speaking world. But I can't get over it. I've been a Stonemetz all my life and I've never met anyone randomly that had the same last name. Although in high school there was a girl named Stephanie Steinmetz and I suppose that's close (and strange) enough. Mau has dealt with other people having the same name as him all his life because both Mauricio and Mora are common names. He was even in a college class with another Mauricio Mora and they were put in the same small group to do a project. Weird.

I am officially a Mora Stonemetz, so the Stonemetz name lives on, despite it's dwindling numbers. I guess the Stonemetz men ended up having all girls, and it's kind of sad to see the name dying. I don't have anyone to pass the name on to at this point except Lucy - but she will most likely not outlive me, and alas, she is also a female, so she would end up taking on a different name anyway (ha).


The Dark Knight ............. & the Olympics

We finally went to see The Dark Knight yesterday. Expectations were high because of the ratings I've seen on imdb for this movie. I was eager to see the gorgeous & talented Christian Bale as Batman and he did not disappoint. Ever since I saw Equilibrium, I've wanted to watch any movie that he's in. A couple things I thought were kind of funny - batman's voice - so deep and weird, and the makeup that they used for 2 face. I didn't realize that you could speak so well even if half of your mouth is missing. Not to mention the big eyeball with no eyelid. That thing would be all dry and crusty - it would not look anything like that in real life. I loved the Joker and kind of felt like he was a bad guy you get behind. Even though he was killing people, he did it in a clever and funny way, which made it seem not so bad. All in all, I don't think that the movie was as great as everyone says, but it was a great movie nonetheless. The story flowed pretty well for me, I felt entertained for all 2 & 1/2 hours, and the acting was believable. And again, Christian Bale in a suit is always a treat for me. I would rate the movie an 8.5/10

Olympics......... again
I just have to comment on the 4x100 meter race that the men's swimming team won last night. It's moments like that that make you want to jump up and scream for our country. The commentators kept talking about how the Americans had no chance of winning, so I wasn't expecting the race that I saw. When the 4th U.S. racer dove in, he didn't seem to have any chance of catching the Frenchie. But then, as if by some miracle in the last 5 feet, he was suddenly ahead of the guy and they announced that the US had won! I felt a rush of excitement and a national sense of pride that I didn't know I had.

I tried to explain to Mau that when you live in the States, you just expect that the U.S. will win the gold medal. I know that when I was younger and watching the Olympics, that's what I thought. Since he's from Costa Rica, he sees things from a totally different point of view. Costa Rica had two swimmers that won a total of 4 medals in the Olympics, but they were the exception. Noone else from Costa Rica has ever won and Olympic medal. But....the benefit of living in a country where noone wins medals is that you don't have to be that good to go to the Olympics. If you're a citizen and you can participate in a sport fairly well, AND you can pay your way, then you can go to the Olympics to represent Costa Rica. If it's always been your dream to be in the Olympic games, consider immigrating to Costa Rica. Opportunity awaits.


The Olympics

Wow - watching the opening ceremonies of the olympics last night was a beautiful visual experience. Not only was their technology amazing, but the way the people were syncronized in those performances was truly impressive. When an artist has an unlimited budget, sensational things happen.

The Olympics always makes me feel good, like the whole world gets along. It makes you realize how similar we all are, despite what part of the world we are from. When you see those athletes from Iraq, you realize that it's not just a country of crazy people running around with guns. They are just regular people, just like you and me. At least I hope people realize that.

I'm really excited to watch the Olympics for the next couple weeks. It will probably interfere terribly with the work that I'm supposed to be doing, but hey - it's excusable, right? I love when they show all the different spots in China, and I'm interested to get more of a glance into Chinese life. I'm sure they will be showing it in the most positive light, but I'm sure that there will be some videos on youtube from tourists of the not-so-nice China. I'm also a big fan of those little segments where they show the life of a certain athlete. It's all dramatic with music and all the sacrifices they've made to get to this point and I hope that some of them make me cry. These people are maniacs for thier chosen sport and spend their whole lives training for them. Maybe when couch sitting becomes an Olympic sport, I'll be there too!