A Very Haunted Jurassic Mom: MOMMIES OF THE CORN

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There was a time in my life when I was afraid of the dark… I was a complete baby about everything, always needing to sleep with a light on.  After an overly scary episode of Scooby Doo, I would practially wet my pants running to my parents bedroom, in need of a cuddle…

I would like to say this fear of the dark went away as I aged, but it didn’t.  When I got married, my husband (Erin)  said to me one morning… “Sometimes you wake up in the middle of the night, and you sit up in bed and cry out for your mother in complete terror.  I try to wake you, but it’s like you’re in a trance.  It’s kind of discombobulating.  Do you realize you’re doing that?”

It’s a good thing we didn’t live together before we were married, I doubt the marriage would’ve taken place if we had.  Would you have agreed to marry a person who had never been to war, but suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder because they watched POLTERGEIST when they were too young for it?

Me neither.

I’m glad to say, though… That after having a baby, nothing scares me.

Here is the cold hard truth:  You can watch every scary movie on earth… Go to every haunted house in the world… And you will know nothing of fear until you’ve stood awake at two AM staring into the contents of a sick baby’s diaper,  frantically googling the different colors and consistensies of poop, to determine if a trip to the Emergency Room is in order.  Is it White?  Yellow?  Green?  The dreaded Coffee Ground consistency????

Oh… I KNOW FEAR…  My Baby 411 book is worn out from midnight panic searches.  Zombies and monsters are no match for a good dose of Mommy Fear…

Which brings me to this Halloween Tale of Terror that I like to call, MOMMIES OF THE CORN.

It happened last Tuesday evening as the sun descended into the mountains surrounding the San Fernando Valley.

For those who don’t know… The San Fernando Valley is located in Los Angeles.  It is a labrynth of strip malls and fruit stands, of Latin markets and the occasional gentleman’s club.  In the middle of the San Fernando Valley, in an area known as Woodland Hills, which is a stones throw from the famous Spahn Ranch, the land occupied by Charles Manson and his bald murder-groupies the summer they all went on a killing spree…  Nestled within Woodland Hills, is a local community school known as Pierce College, where, every Halloween, there is a giant cornfield.  It is a famous staple of the west valley.  Unspeakable horrors come to life within this haunt known as CREATURES OF THE CORN.

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Cornfields are a symbol of horror….  Take any number of movies… The aliens that rise up from the cornfields in the movie SIGNS…  The evil moster children from the CHILDREN OF THE CORN movies…Corn is a plant that grows in abundance throughout America and shouldn’t be frightening in-and-of-itself…

Some of the products derived from the corn are scary… Corn syrup… That’s a scary product.  Go on a tour of Monsanto, and be terrified.  Take a walk through the McDonalds factory, and see the loads of corn syrup and their impact on childhood obesity and watch your skin crawl…

But oddly… No one is all that scared of corn syrup.  We are really only scared of the cornfield.

So… In true Halloween style,  Erin and I took Harper to the pumpkin patch at Pierce College and Erin dared me to go into the corn maze alone.

“Sure, I’ll go,” I said, completely unfazed by it.

“No, you won’t,” he said, remembering the many nights he’d heard me shout “MOMMY” from our marriage bed…  “You walked out of the Blair Witch Project… That’s the least frightening horror movie ever made.”

“That’s before I had a baby,” I told him.  “I’m not scared of that stuff anymore.  I’ll go in by myself.”

In truth, I had no other choice  but to go in by myself.  I certainly wouldn’t drag Harper into CREATURES OF THE CORN. And Erin and I couldn’t leave Harp to roam the night with the Carnies… So I marched up to the ticket booth, bought one for myself and headed into the dark.

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As I entered the cornfield, the darkness enfolding me… What should’ve been a terrifying and lonely feeling just felt like a nice walk to me.

As the light grew dim, and I was surrounded by cornstalks… I remembered the first advice the pediatrician gave me because it sounded like the instructions a person might be given when taught to survive a Zombie Apocolypse…   “Your baby is small,” the doctor said.  “It’s important she not get sick these first three months… So please, don’t go to malls or churches.  Anywhere there are large groups of people.  Try to go to the grocery store without her… But if you must take her with you, only go to the store at night.”

No malls or churches? Only go out under cover of night?  Am I new mother or is this a scene from The Walking Dead?

I walked deeper into the corn.  I’d encountered nothing so far.  I looked to the side and observed a scarecrow, hunched over in the midst of some corn.  When slowly, the scarecrow made eye contact with me, took off a black cloth to reveal terrible Zombie eyes.  The scrarecrow was alive….

Just like in a scene from 28 Days Later, this movement signaled other movement, and within a matter of seconds I was surrounded by Zombies from all sides… Their skin was the color of grayed and rotten flesh… Some with only half-faces… Making the moans and chortles of hungry creatures in agony… All of them death rattling around me… Getting close… Right in my face.

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There was a time when this would’ve terrified me.  That was before my five-month old baby started projectile vomiting for no reason… And it wasn’t like any vomiting I’d ever seen… She would make a kind of choking noise and move her head back and forth like a cat releasing a fur ball.

“DID SHE PICK UP A COIN OFF THE FLOOR?” I remember my husband and I frantically asking each other. She kept making this gagging sound… So at 1 AM… Because, like a haunted house… These things ALWAYS happen in he middle of the night… I shouted in complete hysterics.. “I THINK MY BABY IS CHOKING!!!!!” I was wearing cat pajama pants and a sweat shirt.  I grabbed the closest shoes I could find… A pair of 6 inch stilletos.. And with no makeup and my hair completely unbrushed, I ran for my Toyota like a person escaping a disaster movie.

The diagnosis in the ER after a three hour wait? Basic flu. No prescription. Just pick up Pedialyte and feed it to her constantly (not an easy task, ask anyone).

I hurried on past the initial zombie attack completley unfazed, then made my way toward an old shack in the center of the corn. As I entered the shack, I observed, hanging from the ceiling, twenty-or-so pig carcasses just swinging there in the wind.

BORING!!!

There was a time when this would’ve really gotten to me, I thought, as a large pig creature emmerged from among the dead swine and lunged toward me with a rake…. But that was before  I was alone one afternoon, and  my baby fell hard into the edge of a coffee table.  She began to scream, and I could see a large bump developing on her head… This, I would learn, was a good sign… But at the time… I thought it signaled brain swelling and I called 9-1-1.  After three vehicles from the fire department showed up at my house, I had an informative conversation in my living room with a Fire Chief who told me, it’s usually an emergency when a baby loses consciousness.  Otherwise, I could drive the baby to the doctor myself… Still, we boarded the ambulance and found out everything was normal after seven hours in the ER and a skull x-ray.

“You don’t scare me, Piggy Pie!” I said to him smiling before exiting the Swine Shack.

There were a few more uneventful zombie attacks before a masked man with a chainsaw emerged.

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I could tell that during another time, this would be the part where I would run screaming from the field and laugh with my teen friends before we all made-out in cars and ate funnel cakes.

But that would not be happening that night.

Instead… I slowed down and stood next to him.  The loud sound, which is, by-the-way, not nearly as loud as a colicy  baby wailing into the night, didn’t really bother me.

“RUN!”  The man shouted, holding his chainsaw in the air, as he ushered me along.  “Get out!”

I walked slowly from the corn, only coming in contact with one final creature.  A sweet soul of a zombie… A woman with long hair and a filthy dress.  She had skin the color of mud and her eyes were dark…   She fell to the ground as I walked out and she begged, “HELP ME…  HELP ME…”

Been there.  Done that.

“You remind me of myself when I was a new mom,” I told her before I walked out.  “I never slept and I think I had that same dress.”

I stepped comfortably from the corn, listening only to the gentle sounds of the chainsaw and the screaming of teenagers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Playground Politics

My earliest memory of politics came during the presidential election between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. There was a girl named Misty in my first-grade class in Texas who was a master of the playground. To this day, I still have a clear vision of Misty pumping her legs back and forth on the swing set, chanting… “Reagan! Reagan! He’s our man! Carter belongs in the garbage can!”

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I remember Misty getting riled up during milk break, once. “Man, I wish I could vote,” she said. “If Jimmy Carter keeps being President, our cars won’t have any gas.” I remember being troubled by her statement. we lived in a small town then, and the closest Pizza Hut was a good 40 minute car ride away. I had never cared about politics until that moment when I realized my own enjoyment of supreme pizza and a good game of Ms. Pacman might be threatened.

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The day Ronald Reagan claimed his victory, Misty came into class elated and declared to all of us… “That peanut farmer finally got the kick in the nuts he deserved.”

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So, it really shouldn’t have surprised me when Harper came home from her first day of first-grade having had an intense political conversation with a playmate.

Me:  So, who do you sit next to in school?
Harp:  A boy I just met this year. He said Barack Obama is a liar. Is that true?
Me:  What? No! That…That is not a nice thing to say.
Harp: I told him George Bush is a liar.
Me: OK, well…Also not nice. What’d he say?
Harp: He says George Bush chopped down a cherry tree. Is that true?
Me: Wrong Geor…Nevermind. No, not true.
Harp: His sister says they are going to give Barack Obama a peach and then he will move out of the White House. Is that true? They aren’t going to give Barack Obama a peach, are they mommy? You know how much I love him.
Me: What?!?! OH… Impeach him… No. No one is giving Barack Obama a peach.
Harp: I told him we went to the Ronald Reagan library this summer and he didn’t even know who Ronald Reagan was.
Me: (Stunned) And this kid has the audacity to call himself a republican?

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For those who don’t know… Los Angeles might be the most liberal city in America, but just North of the San Fernando Valley lies every young republican’s mecca… The Ronald Reagan Memorial Library in Simi Valley, California.

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My friend Jolene was visiting with her kids (Marina and Spencer) from San Diego, so we all ventured deep into the heart of republica-ville, that shining city on a hill, Simi Valley!

The powers that created this wonderland took Reagan’s words literally. The library is smack dab on top of a large hill. Lights ablaze, it is a shining city on a hill, or at least a shining building. As we wound our way up Mount Reagan, Jolene (a fan of Reagan) took a moment to say… “I’m really excited about this. We should enjoy learning about the California Governor and former President… And not be too sarcastic about it as we go through.”

Clearly, that remark was meant for me, a liberal…. But in all sincerity, I had no desire to be cynical about the former President. His life is an important part of history. And in my child’s mind, he was responsible for a lot of the pizza I ate in the 80s.

Harper, Marina, and Spencer were all excited about the trip. They had never heard of Ronald Reagan and I thought of teaching them Misty’s swing set chant, so they could say it loudly as we explored… But I thought of Jolene’s words and decided to stay quiet.

Here is a picture of them in front of a Bronze statue of The Gipper:

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And here is another one of them looking distinguished in front of the Presidential Seal:

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The Reagan Library is large and takes around five hours to go through. Yowch! You heard me right. It is HUUGGGEEE!!!

It starts at his childhood and has actual essays and homework assignments completed by Ronald Reagan. There’s even an old yearbook he signed showing he was always the master of the one-liner… “Life is one grand, sweet song, so start the music,” he wrote to a friend in high school. Smooth.

As I ruffled through Reagan’s clothes, his books, his military letters and private trinkets from his young adulthood… I thought of my own death and how one day someone might be ruffling through my own historical items…What kind of things might they find?

All the boxes of uneaten Nutri-sytem stored in my garage…
All the different scented candles…
My old porcelain clown collection…

What had I written in someone’s yearbook? Nothing as good as what Ronald Reagan wrote… “Life is Grand…One sweet song… Start the music!”

I couldn’t remember anything I’d written in a yearbook. Maybe… “You are totally tubular!” Or “Wow! Can’t wait til we are all 21 and drinking Zimas together!”

The Reagan Library was making me feel uncomfortable… Like I needed to start saying more positive things, and writing it down on people’s stuff… And also cleaning out everything in my house… I really needed to get my crap together. I may not ever have my own library when I die… But someone will certainly go through my stuff, and what will they find?!?!? I do have a gratitude journal… But most of the items I’m grateful for are things like… The smell of bacon… and Coffee from a French Press. I need to start being thankful for bigger more important things!!!

LIFE IS GRAND! ONE SWEET SONG! SO LET’S START THE MUSIC!!!

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It was around this time of my anxiety attack, that we entered the area of the recreated Berlin Wall. Kids can run and play amidst a large re-creation inside the museum… There are holes in the wall so people climb back and forth exploring it… I wonder if the original planners of the museum envisioned people reenacting East and West Germany… Sneaking from one side to the next… trying to avoid gunshot or life imprisonment and/or torture…

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But the kids just chased each other and hid around it. At one point, while Harper, Marina, and Spencer were running and playing around the remains of the Berlin Wall, Harper stopped for a moment, and said… “Why would Ronald Reagan want to tear down this wall? It’s so much fun! I love this wall!!!!” Spencer also piped up and said, “I love the Berlin Wall! The Berlin Wall is my favorite wall!”

Moving on to the next section, was a large area dedicated to the threat of communism throughout history. Large pictures of Chairman Mao, Stalin, and Castro looking angry are blown up in a dark room and backlit.
“These guys are mean!” Harper said, having never been told about any of them. “They don’t like to smile,” Spencer observed. And in truth, the pictures of the despots really show them at their worst. There are no pictures of Kim Jung Il enjoying a nice plate of Korean BBQ with his family. And no photos of Moammar Gadhafi laughing as he throws back a cold brew with his buddies Saddam Hussein and the Ayatollah Khomeini.

While Spencer and Harper sat quietly in a corner watching a movie about the Arms Race, I took a moment to explore various artifacts from that era, which highlighted meetings and conversations between Ronald Reagan and Gorbachev. I was reading a hand-written thank you note to Ronald Reagan from a former Russian prisoner, when Harper walked up to me, and with a solemn face said… “If you get pregnant in Russia, they’ll put you in jail.”

“No, they won’t, Harper,” I said. “You could always get pregnant in Russia. It’s never been illegal to get pregnant.”

“Yes it was!” she told me. “I heard it on the old telephone.”

I saw then, that Harper and Spencer had been listening to “Testimonies from the Gulag.” This is a section of the museum featuring stories from people who had survived the Soviet labor camp.

When I walked over, Spencer was listening to one of the testimonies as well. “Miss Amy,” he said…. “These are just like the old-timey phones you used to use when you were a kid. It’s like we’re in the old days again.”

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As we exited the Communism Section, Spencer turned to a museum full of people and in a loud voice he raised his hands in the air and shouted, “I HATE RUSSIA! I HATE RUSSIA!” Mission accomplished, Reagan Library!

“No you don’t,” Jolene quickly corrected him. “None of us hates Russia. None of us hates anyone. It’s just a place full of people like us.”

We rushed out of that section and into an area where Nancy Reagan’s ball gowns were displayed and also the game boards featuring her JUST SAY NO (to drugs) campaign.

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I was reminded of a performance I saw in high school during a pep assembly, when a group of men too old to be Rock Stars, but too young to be parents, showed up dressed like Def Leppard and announced. “Nancy Reagan sent us here to play some rock- and- roll for you kids and tell you to JUST SAY NO!!!” The band played thirty minutes of unmemorable music, but I remember the drummer had drum sticks that looked like skeleton bones. I don’t remember much about the concert, but I do know I’ve never had a drug problem. Thank you, Nancy Reagan.

Our tour ended in a large and beautiful hangar, which houses the actual Air Force One used by Reagan and Carter (the nut-crunching peanut farmer).

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We toured the plane, which was interesting and stocked with jelly beans (Reagan’s favorite candy). At the end, we sat down and had some nice refreshing bottled beverages called LENIN-ADE another homage to the threat of communism.

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The trip to the Reagan library was more than I expected. It wasn’t just a historical tour, it was like walking back in time, and remembering some moments in life that I had forgotten.

The Reagan Library concludes with the handwritten letter Ronald Reagan wrote once he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He famously says… “I will now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life.”

I thought of all the people I remembered as I walked through the Reagan Library, people in my childhood, my teenage years… All of us moving toward the sunset of our lives. As we drove away, I told Jolene about Misty, and we laughed and all paid homage to that young republican.

To Harper on Her Seventh Birthday

Dear Harper,

This morning when you wake up, you ask me to feel your legs to see if they have changed overnight. “Do I feel longer or older?” you ask.

“I think so,” I tell you, “Do you feel older?”

“No,” you say. “I feel the same.”

I tickle you, and you start crawling around like a baby, sucking your thumb, and saying, “This is how I was seven years ago.”

“No,” I tell you, “You just cried when you were born.”

“Tell me the story of when you said my name,” you say.

It’s a story that we both love, and I tell it to you often, but always on your Birthday because the story that you’re talking about happened on the day you were born.

And so, I tell you the story of your birth, and how when you entered the world you cried and screamed as loud as you could… And the nurse took you to the corner of the room before I held you, so that a doctor could check you and the nurses could clean you. I could hear you crying, and your cry didn’t sound so much like a cry as it did the sound of a little cat.. And I was thinking about cats when they brought you over to me and held you against my chest, as I couldn’t hold you, because I was strapped down to an operating table… But they pressed your face into my face, and you yelled and screamed right into my face.

“Hi, Harper,” I said to you over the sound of your cries.

And like that…  When I said your name, your screaming stopped.

“She knows your voice,” the nurse told me.

And the nurse held you there, in the stillness for a few moments. You looked in my direction, but I knew you couldn’t see me. Your eyes weren’t developed and I was only a shadow speaking out of the darkness.

“What a pretty girl,” I said to you then.  The sound of my voice was a compass to you, a lighthouse in a world that was strange and new.  “What a pretty girl.  Your name is Harper.”

You were quiet, and I could see your chest rising quickly, your tiny heart nervous, but safe inside the sound of my voice.

When they took you away, you started to cry again, and I lay there in silence as the doctor quietly put me back together.

I knew I had been part of something deeply profound. And I thought then, under the silent hum of the lights and the sterile white of the room of all the times I had tried to pinpoint the “best” moment of my life… And how I had never been able to equate one single moment as being the “best”… But in that short moment between the two of us… There it was.

Now… If anyone asks me, what the best moment of my life is… There is no hesitation… No cataloguing of loves lost or won, of prizes gained… Of rewards monetary or otherwise… The best moment of my life has been narrowed down to a minute in the operating room on September 30th, 2007, just after 10:50 AM when the sound of my voice alone was enough to calm your fear.

“I love that story,” you tell me, as I run my fingers through your fingers.

Your hands are almost half the size of my hands now.  In seven more years, they will probably be the same size.

“Do you remember anything about that day?”  I ask you.

“No,” you tell me.

“What do you think the best moment of your life is?” I ask you.

“This one right now,” you answer.

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The Blog Tour: My Writing Process

 

Thanks to my friend, and amazing writer, Alia Yunis, I have been asked to be part of The Blog Tour, where I get to share a little bit about my own writing process as well as talk about three writers whom I love, and who each have blogs that you should check out!

In 2006, I went to the Hedgebrook Writers Colony off the coast of Washington on Whitbey Island.

Hedgebrook is the kind of writer’s Fantasy Land people dream about. It is built on about fifty acres. Each of six female writers, gets her own cottage, complete with wood burning stove, kitchenette, and loft.

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The days at Hedgebrook are private and filled with solitude. In the evenings, the writers get together in the large farmhouse. We would talk about our writing, about politics, religion, and life. All the writers come from different backgrounds, each with her own story to tell. I met a few of the smartest people I have ever known at Hedgebrook.

One of the best writers I met was Alia Yunis.

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Alia was working on a novel at Hedgebrook titled The Night Counter.

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The Night Counter is a wonderfully rich and hilarious modernization of The Arabian Nights. Alia quickly found a publisher for her book.  Currently, she resides in the United Arab Emirates where she teaches film and is working on a documentary.  You can check out her blog,  http://nightcounter.wordpress.com/

The other two writers I want to highlight are a couple of people I have known for some years.  Tanisha Wallace Porath’s blog, http://lifeinthewidowhood.com/, is a blog based on the loss of her husband.  Tanisha’s blog has a strong level of pathos and determination, with unbelievable comedy in the face of adversity.  I highly recommend this unconventional and well written blog.

My other good friend, Tracy Simmons, is a pastor in Anchorage, Alaska.  I have known Tracy and enjoyed his writing for many years.  He has a unique and original voice in the Christian community.  There is something in his blog for everyone and he comes to it with deep honesty and a great poetic voice.  Check out his blog here:   http://tracyblog.c3ak.com/

Please read more about Tanisha and Tracy’s blogs at the end of the article!

1) What are you working on?

Right now, I am managing a few different projects.  I am working on a Young Adult novel as well as a book of essays about growing up as a pastor’s daughter.  I am also refining one screenplay and working on a new one.  I am focusing attention on blog development and feeding the endless Twitter machine.

 

2) How does your work differ from others in its genre?

I’m a quirky girl.  I love funny stories and I am drawn to characters that look at life differently.  I love to laugh and I try to bring that out in my writing, though I’m not always successful.  🙂

 

3)  Why do you write what you do?

I think I write for the same reason anyone writes, which is to be heard.  I was raised in a very religious culture in Texas, and I was surrounded by some sweet and kind people, and certainly some delicious pies… But, it wasn’t necessarily always the most accepting upbringing.  Certain opinions or ideas, or lifestyles were automatically shut down.

I remember the first time I wrote something that felt honest to me.  It was a play called The Day Maggie Blew Off Her Head. It is a metaphysical play that takes place in heaven, where a young woman who is trapped on an Elliptical Trainer is facing the final judgement after she commits suicide.  I was nervous about some of the ideas in the play, but I was determined to tell the truth.  In the end, the experience was positive.  I had so many people approach me and say they identified with the play on a deep level and they were comforted by it, which was comforting to me.

 

4)  How does your writing process work?

Each project is different.  Sometimes I begin with a specific conclusion in mind, and other times, I start with a character that I find compelling and see where the writing will take me.

I am trying to outline more and have a better roadmap as to where I’m going, but honestly, I always find the best stuff comes when you least expect it, and that’s where the story is made.

 

Look for these blogs next week:

 

Tracy Simmons:  www.c3ak.com                                                      10678436_10204806223054976_6450775474650014244_n

Tracy Simmons is an ordained Baptist minister who has lived in Alaska for forty-two years. He currently pastors Christ Community Church, Alaska (www.c3ak.com) in Anchorage, and has been a pastor there for seventeen years. He loves making and writing music, and has been featured as an artist on A&E’s “Sister Wives”, and as a performer at the Alaska State Fair, the Anchorage Folk Festival, and numerous other venues around Alaska and the Lower 48. His original music had been featured in local theatrical productions, including Erin Williams and Amy Bridges, “The Unraveling of Edison P. Rupright”. Tracy is sometimes seen on the local theatre stage, with TBA Theatre (www.tbatheatre.org), most recently as Dr. Seward in TBA’s production of “Dracula”, adapted by P. Shane Mitchell. His current projects include casting vision and leading Christ Community Church, scoring original music for another P. Shane Mitchell original play called “Shadow Hour”, two book projects, a novel and a handbook for parents in the digital age, and a feature length documentary project. But, his best, and most important time, is spent with his beautiful wife of 26 years, Karen, his two sons Stephen and Kristofer, and their four pound Maltese puppy, Haleakala. You can find Tracy on various social media platforms such as FaceBook, Instagram at “Mortis_Alaska”, Twitter @CasualHeretic, and YouTube at TracySimmonAK. Finally, his personal blog is hosted at TracyBlog.c3ak.com. As wonderful as all of that makes Tracy out to be, please keep expectations at a moderate level.

 

Tanisha Wallace Porath

http://www.lifeinthewidowhood.com

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I was born a poor black girl in…well actually I had a pretty middle class existence in Anchorage, Alaska where I was born and raised.  I studied photography at an art college in Seattle, the name of which, try as I might, I can’t quite remember. Soon after I graduated I moved to Portland, Oregon, with my husband and started my career as an editorial photographer. Some of my clients have included: Willamette Week, The Oregonian and several other periodicals. I have two roommates that I happen to have given birth to, my daughter 11 and my son 14. I became a widow on April 2, 2013. I became a writer on April 3, 2013.

Baby on Bjorn or (step on a crack break your mother f-ing back)

“All major changes are like death. You can’t see to the other side until you are there.”
― Michael Crichton, Jurassic Park

 

You can’t be invisible when you have a baby.  Even if you were a person who lived in virtual anonymity and walked through life and department stores without being noticed… When you have a baby… Even when you are pregnant… It changes.  Wherever you go, someone will notice you and they have plenty to say…

I was six months pregnant with my daughter, Harper, and standing in the waiting area of a Chinese Restaurant in Reseda when the hostess came up to me, and without asking, put her hand on my stomach and said, “What are you going to have?”

“Are you taking my order?” I asked, taken back by the strange gesture, “I need to see a menu.”

“No, no…” She said… laughing… “Are you having a boy or a girl?”

“Oh, right,” I said, laughing uncomfortably.  “I’m having a girl.”

“Girl,” the woman repeated, running her hands across my belly like she was rubbing it for good luck.  “This is a good year to have a baby.  This is the Year of the Pig.”

She gestured to a large Chinese Zodiac banner above the register which read YEAR OF THE PIG.

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Quite honestly, I felt like a pig that year.

I’d gained close to thirty pounds and I wasn’t exactly svelt when I started…  And a stranger rubbing my belly in public wasn’t helping.

“Pigs make good babies,” she continued, at the keen interest of everyone in the waiting area.  “They are friendly.  But you can’t force them.  Pigs will be friends, but only if you are gentle.  Be gentle with this baby.”

“Thanks.  I will,” I told her, wanting to put a period on the interchange so it would end.

But the woman kept her hands on my stomach for a moment longer, then looked at me like she was going to impart some kind of ancient wisdom.

I braced myself…. Imagining words of prophecy that I could write down in Harper’s baby book that she would one day read, and would give clarity for the rest of her life.

The woman leaned into me, smiled and said…

“I’m giving you a free appetizer.  Free Pork Buns.  My blessing for the baby.”

And that was the end of it.

Several more times throughout my pregnancy this would happen.

A friend I hadn’t seen in awhile came up to greet me… But instead of hugging me, she put her hands on my stomach. “I’ve always wanted to do this she said.” She ran her fingers around the full circumference of my belly, feeling under it, then resting both hands right in the middle.  “Your tummy is hard like a watermelon. That’s weird.” She laughed while she groped me.  “This is so cool!  Like a giant coconut!!! Could the baby bang her head in here?  Don’t jog or run too hard.”

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An elderly woman even snuck up on me in the grocery store while I was reaching for Triscuits.  She placed her small hand on my stomach.  “Can I tell you a secret?” she asked, speaking softly.

“Sure.” I told her…  And when I turned around, she took my very pregnant belly in her hands and rubbed me like Buddha.

“If your water breaks in the store,” she whispered, “grab a jar of peaches and drop it. Then, just walk out.  My daughter-in-law did that and it worked.”

“Really?” I asked her.  “Will my water break that hard?  Will it be like a river gushing out of me?  And what if I’m not near any peaches?”

“Well,” she said, looking perplexed.  “If the peaches are close….  Find some.  I guess a jar of anything could do… Even pickles…  It will save you some embarrassment.”

That was the most bizarre information I received while pregnant and begged the question… If you drop a jar of peaches in the woods and no one sees it, are you still liable?  And how could dropping a jar of peaches on the ground save me any embarrassment?

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I would be the woman whose water broke AND she dropped peaches.  Should I also accompany dropping the peaches with a loud exclamation like… “I’m sure glad my water did not break…  But I’m sure sorry I dropped these peaches and they splashed all over me like a flood of incontinence…”  Then I run…. No one would suspect anything I’m sure… No one…

The inquisitiveness of strangers continued once I had the baby.

Take for instance… The Baby Bjorn… I had a Baby Bjorn and I was very proud of it.  Baby Bjorns are the Mercedes model of free-handed baby carriers.  It was red and black and I found it actually looked quite slimming on me despite the human being dangling from the front of it.

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I would soon learn, however, that whenever you saddle a small human to your frontside and carry her in a contraption that fastens about your back, the way the Baby Bjorn does, you will be subject to LOTS of concerned people CONSTANTLY making statements about whether or not it is good for your lower back.

“Does your back hurt?” random people who’d never given a crap about me before, would say… “I don’t see how that could be a good thing. It puts too much pressure on your back. I don’t want you to have a back problem.”

WHO ARE YOU?!?!?   This thing was tested by loads of Swedish So-and-Sos. Can a mamma take a walk?

God help me… Once I ran into an actual Chiropractor while I was walking in our residential area. Harper had fallen asleep in the Baby Bjorn and this man stopped me and talked to me for ten minutes at least about his “concern” for my lower back. By the time I had gotten away from the good DC, I of course had his card and a promise to give him a call so he could “manipulate” me later that week.  Then Harper woke up, realized she was trapped in a straight-jacket, and proceeded to scream-cry the full twenty minute walk back to the house.

But the group of “back supporters” weren’t the only people I had to look out for.

Concerned old women who thought my baby was cold seemed to magically appear from thin air.

It didn’t matter where I was, either…. I could be standing next to an oven inside a tanning booth, surrounded by  Heating Lamps in the middle of the desert… But if Harper wasn’t bundled up like a papoose, these old women would step up and make comments like,  “Do you have a jacket for that baby?  I think that baby is very cold.”

“No,” I would say,  “She’s not.”

“Do you always take your baby out on such cold evenings?” an old woman sitting in a car actually asked me as I passed her on foot.  “It’s too cold out here for a baby.  You’re baby is going to catch a cold.”

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“First of all,” I told Driving Miss Daisy, “She’s not cold.  But anyway… Even if she was… You can’t catch a cold simply from being cold.  A cold is a virus.”

“You can catch hypothermia, though,” she called after me… “And your baby might get it if you don’t get her inside.”

Right… Hypothermia… On a freezing California evening in the middle of summer…I walked away from the woman between palm trees and a man mowing his lawn in shorts.

Then… There are the people at the grocery store… These people are terrific.  They love to talk to your baby.  Feel your baby’s feet and give unsolicited parenting advice that can range from what type of diapers to buy…. To what to feed the baby and the kind of formula to use…

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All this… while you clumsily try to get in-and-out before another major meltdown.  And when your baby does melt down, or is driving you crazy… And you think the line might stretch on for eternity…

Someone will always say… “Remember this time.  It passes so quickly.  It feels like my kids were that age just moments ago.”

One of my favorite poems by Kahlil Gibran says:

Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life longing for itself. They come through you but not from you. And though they are with you, they belong not to you.

Though it’s hard sometimes in a fast world with places to go and things to do… To appreciate those people driving me crazy with tips and anecdotes… I try to remind myself that from that first moment when a woman placed her hands on my stomach and gave me free Pork Buns, it was clear that Harper’s life didn’t belong only to me…  There was a world of people excited about her entrance into the world… Excited about her life, and the care of it.  Concerned about mine too…

Behind the Yellow Wallpaper: New Tales of Madness

This week is an exciting week because an essay that I wrote entitled  An Obedient Girl, is being published as part of a feminist anthology by New Lit Salon Press.  The anthology is titled, Behind the Yellow Wallpaper:  New Tales of Madness.  The publication is available as an ebook in June, and will receive a print addition in July.

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I encourage you to pick up a copy.  For more information, look here:

http://newlitsalonpress.com/behind-the-yellow-wallpaper-new-tales-of-madness/

I read the complete anthology and it contains some compelling essays and short stories written by women from across the globe.

In addition to my piece, An Obedient Girl, which deals with a lunch date I had many years ago in Texas with a woman who survived a lobotomy…

There is a short story by Tracie Orsi, entitled Waiting for Jordan, which is a haunting piece about a military wife that is reminiscent of Kate Chopin or Virginia Woolf.

One of my favorite essays in the anthology is Laura Hartenberger’s, The Ideal Customer, which details her decision to tattoo her face.  The essay is both intriguing and disturbing.  It captures well the elements of this anthology and its inspiration.

 

Visual artist, Loreal Prystaj has also contributed multiple pieces to the anthology.  Her work is inspired and beautiful, and is reason alone to pick up a copy.

Check out more of Loreal’s work here:  http://www.lorealprystaj.com/

 

Draw Me Like One of Your French Girls… A Mother’s Day Aboard the Titanic

For Mother’s Day this year, we took a trip to Buena Park to visit TITANIC – THE EXPERIENCE because nothing says Mother’s Day like reliving the greatest and most memorable maritime disaster of the twentieth century.

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My six-year-old daughter, Harper, has become OBSESSED with the TITANIC thanks to one evening she spent with her father.

While I was hanging out with friends, Erin and Harper stayed home.

As I headed out the door for my night out, Erin and I had this conversation:

Erin:  I’m gonna make mac and cheese and I think Harp and I will watch a movie.

Me (rushing to get out of the house):  Great.  Do whatever.

Erin:  I’m sick of watching kids movies.  I think she’s ready for something else. What could we watch?

Me: I’m in a hurry and I don’t want to make that decision. Turn on Netflix.  She likes Jumanji.

Erin:  I’m sick of watching Jumanji…

Me (trying to apply makup without having a conversation):  I don’t want to be part of this decision.  You guys figure it out.  

Erin:  I kinda want to watch JAWS.

Me:  What?!?!?  Are you kidding me?  No.  She’s way to young for that.  There are shark attacks in it.  She’ll be afraid to go to the beach.

Erin:  She can watch something that’s PG, right?  I’m here… I’m a parent, I can guide her through the movie…

Me:  I don’t want to hear a lecture about what PG is…. You’re giving me too much information right now.  Don’t destroy her mind while I’m out…

When I got in from one of the best evenings I’d had in awhile with my lady-friends… Erin was playing GTAV on the couch and Harper was in bed.

Me:  What’d you guys end up watching?

Erin:  I found a classic.  We watched TITANIC.

Me:  YOU WATCHED WHAT?!?!?!

Erin:  Don’t worry… I fast forwarded through all the naked parts.

Me:  Did you fast forward through all the parts of death and drowning?

Erin:  It didn’t scare her… She seemed interested.  It’s historical.

Me:  Historical?  Schindler’s List is historical… I don’t want to wake up with a million questions from her about death by drowning…. If she wakes up in the middle of the night, you have to deal with it.    

The next morning… Harper was up bright and early talking my ear off about the TITANIC.  “There weren’t enough life boats,” she told me.  “Those guys in First Class just kept playing their violins until the ship cracked in half and everyone slid off and died… It’s the best movie I’ve ever seen…”

This is how we ended up at the TITANIC EXHIBIT for Mother’s Day… A semi-permanent museum, built where the Movieland Wax Museum used to be… A titanic event in it’s own right…

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After a delightful brunch that included a strawberry martini for me…

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And also… The coolest gift ever of a STAR WARS Mother’s Day shirt….

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We went to the exhibit.

 

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When you first  enter… TITANIC:  THE EXPERIENCE… You get the opportunity to have your picture taken in front of a green screen…

 

AMY HARP TITANIC LIFEBOAT

Looks pretty scary… Doesn’t it?  I get cold just looking at this thing.   Over a thousand people drowned and/or froze to death in the icy waters of the Atlantic that horrible night of April 15th.

This is how we remember them.

Clearly, we as a society, are totally over it.

When we began our experience, we were greeted by a woman dressed as a chamber maid…

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She spoke with a soft Irish accent and introduced herself as “Molly,” which is, I think, the name of all Irish chamber maids.

She then, handed us each a boarding pass that had a name on it.

“This is yer ticket to board the Titanic, ya see?” she whispered.  “Each of ya has the name of a passenger… At the end, you’ll learn the fate of yer passenger.”

Harper was a young nun in third class.

I was to play the role of a 45-year-old woman with three kids (Jurassic Mom)  who was also in Third Class.

Meanwhile… Erin drew a National Dog Show Judge riding in First Class.

I think we all know who will be the survivor on this ship…

With that… We boarded the ghost ship.

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The exhibit is quite interesting and it contains lots of dishes, sinks, china cabinets, even an uncorked champagne bottle that has been carefully brought to the surface from the wreckage.

A first-class ticket on the Titanic cost the equivalent of a hundred grand in that era…  Nowadays, for about two-thousand bucks, you can get an all-you-can-eat Midnight Nacho Buffet, a trashy magic act, and half-priced rum punches on the Lido Deck… All thanks to the Titanic…

Back then, though, the high price promised First Class passengers private bathrooms, fine cigars, and the assurance that not even “GOD himself could sink that vessel.”

Welp… Two out of three aint bad.

The passengers would all laugh maniacally, as they toasted their Brandy snifters and said things like… “HA HA HA!!!  Nothing will sink us!”

“Die here?  Dressed like this???  Puh-leez!” they would shout while they ate oxen tail soup off china later found at the bottom of the Atlantic.

When the captain got word that they would be traveling through icy waters, they all gleefully shouted!!!

“YAHOO!!!!  Let’s see how fast this thing will go!” 

Then… They hit the iceberg and died.

Ha. Ha.  Joke’s on you, Richie Rich.

In an effort to prove how cold the water actually was that fateful night… There is a large block of ice in the shape of an iceberg… When I touched it, I thought as they must’ve thought that very night… “Wow.  It’s really cold.”

 

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And then I thought… Ugh… Think of all the people that have touched this thing… It’s one thing to die in the middle of the Atlantic, it’s another thing to catch the flu from some snotty nosed brat from Pomona.

I walked away somberly hoping they sold Titanic hand sanitizer in the gift shop.

At one point, a man dressed as The Captain walked through and said to me and Harper… “Good day, Ladies.  I hope you are enjoying the Titanic.”

I leaned into Harper after he left and said… “That was a ghost.”

“No it wasn’t,” she said, unaffected and annoyed.

Then, a voice came over the speaker…”BOARD THE LIFEBOATS,” the monotone and ghostly voice instructed us.

Erin, Harper, and I all three got in a lone wooden boat in a large black room with a screen in front and a picture of a sinking TITANIC.

Molly, the  Irish chamber maid from the beginning, reappeared.

“Imagine if ya will… sitting alone in a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean…” she whispered in the low but serious tenor of the Lucky Charms Leprechaun…  

“To yer right is darkness… To yer left, nothing… Ya huddle together helpless, but fer the strangers around ya… None of ya knows yer fate… In three hours the Titanic will sink.”

Molly got worked up talking about it… And I nodded my head and kept a somber expression, to show my support of her dramatic reliving of the downed ship.

At the end of her monologue, she just looked at us silently as we heard the sound of the dark ocean….

Whoosh…. Whoosh… Whoosh…

We stared at one another in the dark.

Whoosh… Whoosh… Whoosh…

“Wow,” I said, finally breaking the silence because it felt weird staring at Molly like that.  “It was a really terrible tragedy, wasn’t it?”

Molly didn’t answer my question.

Instead, she looked toward the door.

“Ya can go now,” she told us.  “Find out the fate of yer passengers.”

As we entered the next room, I could faintly hear the voice on the speaker… “BOARD THE LIFEBOATS,” it said… Then Molly’s Lucky Charms accent… “Imagine if ya will… sitting alone in a lifeboat…”

In the final room was a wall, with the names of our passengers listed.

Erin… The First Class Dog Show Judge… lived, of course… Shoving his way past throngs of women and children to get his old butt on a lifeboat…

Harper and I… weren’t quite so lucky.

“We’re both dead in the water,” I said to Harper.

Though Harper had appeared emotionless throughout the exhibit, when she heard the fate of her passenger, she looked disturbed and like she might cry…

I looked over at Erin and said… “Um… Maybe I read it wrong.”

“Yes,” Erin lied… And then looked up and down closely as if scanning the wall…”Right, Harper…  Mom didn’t read it right.  No… No… The nun didn’t die.  You lived.  Just like me, the Dog Show Judge… We both survived!”

Harper jumped up-and-down and shouted at the news, the two of them high-fiving.  “Yay!” she said.  “Me and Dad both lived!  Only you died, Mom!  I lived!!! The nun and the Dog Show Judge lived!!!”

And with that… she wished me a Happy Mother’s Day and we headed back to LA.

Look… You can listen to me ramble all day long about the power of the Titanic Experience… But nothing I could say would mean as much as this short film about our time there and the impact it had on our mortal souls:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Children’s Books and the Art of the Emotional Drive-By

I took Harper to the bookstore yesterday.  

The bookstore is quite a drive for us.  All the bookstores in our area have shut down.  Costco and Target are the only places around here that sell real books anymore.  Call me old fashioned, but sometimes I don’t feel like sampling pretzel dogs while I browse a warehouse and look through endless stacks of remaindered Jackie Collins novels.  

It’s a bummer that I have to drive twenty miles to spend the afternoon browsing through bookshelves and drinking cappuccinos, which was one of my favorite things to do before we started living in this Ray Bradbury nightmare called the digital book age.  I won’t rant about this long, as I know most of you reading probably own one of these devices and swear by how great they are… But I am old fashioned, and I love real live books with pages.  

I grew up in small towns in Texas, none of which had bookstores.  So… my mom and I would climb in the car once a month, and do something called “goin’ to town,” where we would visit small independent bookstores.  I remember having a feeling not unlike that of the LITLLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE girls when their  fabric showed up at the Oleson’s country store.    

I want to take Harper to bookstores and let her browse and read, as I did when I was young. I would get excited just driving to a bookstore.  I still do. 

So, now the cycle continues… Once a week, Harper and I hitch our wagon, and drive to a suburb called Westlake Village, where there still exists a Barnes and Noble and head to the Children’s Section.  

Harper is reading pretty well now.  We will sit together for awhile, and she will read to me.   Then… she will pull some books and I will read to her…

And yesterday, she pulled a book called LOVE YOU FOREVER by Robert Munsch….

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“Read this one!” she said to me.  “My teacher read it to us at school and it’s really funny because the kid loses his mom’s watch in the toilet.”  

So… I started reading this book, which tells the story of a young mother rocking her baby… And she says… “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.”

And so it goes… That whatever age this boy is… First three, then nine, then a teenager, she will sneak into his room as he’s sleeping, wrap the child in her arms and sweetly chant this poem while she rocks him.

And as I’m reading, I’m becoming choked up saying the “love you forever” poem… when the son moves away from home, and gets his own house… When, get this… The fifty-something mother sneaks into his house at night while this adult man is sleeping, climbs into his bed, and rocks him back forth while chanting the poem.

I stopped reading.

“Wow,” I said to Harper then.  “I was really becoming emotional until this… And now, I don’t really know about this guy and his mom.  They seem a little weird.”  

When suddenly… Nosy Nellie… The woman working in the children’s section pipes up really sweetly with… “Oh now… Don’t be so cynical… Mothers never get tired of rocking their babies”  

Well, THANK YOU VERY MUCH MARY POPPINS for the moral lesson… I get what the author is trying to do here, but come on…. 

I leaned into Harper then and whispered… “It is TRUE that mothers never get tired of rocking their babies… But if you EVER meet a man in his thirties that is still sleeping with his mother and being rocked to sleep by her, RUN AWAY AS FAST AS YOU CAN FROM THAT GUY.”

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I got Harper to pinky-swear that she would stay away from adult men that sleep with their mothers.

And then I finished the book for her… Which ends with the elderly mom calling her son on the phone, and saying essentially “I can’t come over and rock you tonight,” so HE goes over to HER house and rocks HER to sleep… And then he stands at the top of the staircase with a forlorn look on his face, leaving the reader to assume his mother just died.  

Then he goes home to his infant daughter and rocks her, letting you know that the terrible cycle of rocking and dying will start once again… Or the beautiful cycle of rocking and dying… Depending how you look at it… As Oprah or Wayne Dwyer would say.  

This is a theme in some children’s books… They start off sweetly, then end with death, and the titles never let you know what you’re in for.  This is why I refuse to get pulled in by a book like LOVE YOU FOREVER.  

The title sounds so nice… I think there should be a law against such sweet titles for sad children’s books.  We are already so tired and worried as parents… Do we also have to endure all these unexpected emotional drive-bys?  

When I saw the movie TITANIC, the trailers were all full of beautiful sweeping shots of a large ship with Leo DeCaprio standing on the boat shouting I’M KING OF THE WORLD like he owned the place… But because the author, James Cameron, aptly titled his movie TITANIC… I knew the boat would sink and there would be loads of death and I could prepare myself.  

I was actually happy at the end of the movie TITANIC because there were a few people that didn’t die.  It was a pleasant surprise, and I was able to enjoy the boat splitting then sinking because I knew it was coming and I was emotionally prepared for the worst.  

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Consider a book like THE GIVING TREE. It sounds like a nice book about giving… But really, it’s a book about slowly killing a tree and that’s what it should be called… It should be called SLOWLY KILLING A TREE or THE BOY WHO SOLD ALL THE APPLES… Or simply just THE TAKER.

Here are some horribly tragic children’s books with sweet titles that I have renamed so you won’t sit shocked in the Children’s Section like I sometimes do:

1)  Puff the Magic Dragon… LITTLE JOHHNY PAPER GROWS UP;

2) Charlotte’s Web… SPIDERS DON’T REGENERATE.

3) The Velveteen Rabbit… FIRE KILLS GERMS.

Subtlety isn’t something I admire anymore.  I am tired… And everywhere I go now, I have a small person that wants to eat off the floor and explore public restrooms.  I have plenty of surprises in my life.  

Will I ever get tired of rocking Harper?  No.  I’ll love her forever and I’ll like her for always… And I will gladly move through the sad (or super fun) cycle of rocking and dying alongside her.  

But… As we rock and die… Let’s enjoy the bookstore and sip some cappucinos.   

I Am An Expert On Everything

“I’ll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you’re using here, it didn’t require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don’t take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox…”  Jurassic Park (Dr. Ian Malcolm)

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When I first started this holy and sacred blog some weeks ago, I began with a simple thesis to apply motherhood and mothers to the book, Jurassic Park.  And, as I’ve explored various topics ranging from the care-taking of a child to human connection with other mothers…My sphere has grown substantially from not only the application of this true and worthy text, to also bragging about random celebrities I encounter… to telling quirky stories about myself, my daughter, and my dog.

I am a blogger now.  And that means I need to give advice, which is what I will do today.  In some professions you need to have academics or certificates, or some type of credentials to do that.  Not so of blogging.  Your life experience is enough.

I mean it’s not like I’m a big NOBODY…  I mean, sure…  I could brag and say I’ve written the menus for an out-of-business theme restaurant.  I could tell you that I helped name the caskets in my Dad’s casket store…. There is a blue casket that I named ETERNAL SKY.  Not only is it the highest selling casket among men ages eighty- and- over… Users love it, and he has received no complaints or returns on it yet.

What started me on this lesson to give you some pointed advice began yesterday when I left my food journal at Starbucks.  I was in a hurry to get Harper to school so I could get to my office, which is actually a table at Starbucks. This is the office of every writer in Los Angeles, and good luck ever finding a seat at any Starbucks in this city because of all the writers working there.

Anyway, when I left, I walked out without my food journal, and quite obviously… I will NEVER EVER go back for it.

Keeping journals is a thing I have always done, and being on a diet is also something I have always done… So inevitably, I buy a new journal that I determine with be a food journal… And I write things like…

1/2 cup Raisin Bran.

1/2 Cup Milk.

Apple.

String Cheese.

Then eventually, I quit keeping my food journal… And I start writing other things in it like goals, or thoughts, or ideas for projects… I like to write down goals I have for Harper as well… And also little snippets of inspirational books. I also record dreams I’ve had.  And if there is a particular song that I connect with, which I call my Personal Life Theme Song, I will write it down, so that when future generations review my journal they will have a soundtrack to play while they are doing it.

That’s also something I would advise you to do as well.  Find a good Personal Life Theme Song.

Right now, my Personal  Life Theme Song is:  This Is The Best Day Of My Life by American Authors.  This is a GREAT Life Theme Song because, as the title explains… It’s a song that declares whatever day it’s played on, the best day of a persons life.

I like to play it in the morning, every day as I start my day…

Lately, though, the title of the song reminds me of that saying… This could be the LAST day of your life… So whenever I start singing about how this could be the BEST day of my life… I quietly think, it could also be the LAST day of my life…

I find that thought depressing, so I don’t know how much longer I can use it as my theme song.  I may have to go back to my old standby,  We Will Rock You.

My mother is a highly accomplished person who speaks four languages, has written a book, has a doctorate degree, teaches piano lessons, plays in a harp ensemble, and also does a lot of volunteer work.  She was the daughter of a West Texas cotton farmer, and I remember her rising early every morning when I was a child and saying, “Whenever I wake up, I say a prayer, drink my coffee, and greet each day knowing it could be the last one I’m given.  Then, I make a decision to do my best.”

This is why she has done so much… And it’s a great motivator, looking at the big picture like that.

I would like to think that way, but in all honestly, if I were to wake up and deeply believe this was my last day on earth, I would end up eating bananna splits all day…Or  I would  be nervous like a person on Death Row, sick to my stomach and running back and forth to the restroom and crying a lot. Nothing would get done.

I prefer denial.

Here’s my process… Every morning, I like to get up late, rush around like crazy, barely make it out the door.  I find this helps me avoid thoughts of death and the exestential uncertainty of the unknown.

Also, I choose a Personal Life Theme Song, and I suggest that for you as well.

If you have never chosen  a Personal Life Theme Song for yourself, here are some ideas for you to choose from (Note:  I’ve used all of these at some point myself):

1)  We are the Champions (Queen)

2) I will Survive (Gloria Gaynor)

3) The Distance (Cake)

4) Eye of the Tiger (Some Guy in the 80s)

These are songs that will really motivate you and get you on a fast track to success.

And success is something I know a thing-or-two about, having just been declared the winner of a Forrest Gump Trivia Contest at the famous Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. last week.

But… Be warned… Choosing an effective Personal Theme Song is a slippery slope.  You can’t just choose anything.  It’s not about picking your favorite song….  Just because you had the hit song Always by Atlantic Starr sung at your wedding and you really like it….  So what?  Thats a song about a bunch of people just saying they love each other over- and- over.  It means nothing and will get you nowhere.  Use it to put yourself to sleep, not succeed, move, and shake the way I do each day taking my dog for walks, and journaling my food intake.

Look, I don’t want to make you feel bad… It’s okay to admire some songs because they are good, and it’s even okay to listen to them…  But don’t ever make them your theme songs.  For example…  The song Imagine by John Lennon is great song, and considered by some the best one written in the 20th Century… But if you make it your theme song, you might end up starting a cult or shooting yourself.

Here is a list of good songs that I would NOT recommend using for Motivational Life Theme Songs:

1)  I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (U2)… – Too Confusing

2) Smoking in the Boys Room (Motley Crue) – Too Sneaky

3) Stairway to Heaven (Led Zepplin) – The Devil.

Having a Personal Life Theme Song is a good thing to teach your children as well.  I encourage this of Harper and you should consider doing the same with your little ones.

Let them choose their own song at first, even though you know in your heart it might not be the best.  You don’t want to discourage success or motivational thought in your child.

Harper chose Baby Beluga.  This wasn’t my favorite song for her… I would’ve preferred something like I’m a Little Teapot (more goal oriented) or Itsy Bitsy Spider (encourages persistence in the face of adversity), but Baby Beluga will work for now.

Also… Other bloggers and blog guides have told me I need to start asking you more questions, and this will help me succeed more at this.

So, I pose this question to you:  Going forward, what will be your Personal Life Theme Song and what are your secret hopes for your child’s?

Write them here.

Or do what I did… Write them in a food journal, and then leave them at Starbucks.

 

 

A JURASSIC MOMS NIGHT OUT AND AN UNEXPECTED RENDEZVOUS WITH CELEBRITY SEAN ASTIN

A couple of days ago, my good friend, and fellow Jurassic Mom, Nasim, texted me and asked if I could meet up for a Moms Night Out.

In every group of Moms, there is always one Mom that organizes outings to get out of the house and away from the kids… And in our group, this person is Nasim.  Nasim is loads of fun to be around and she has been blessed with the ability to locate some of the best and most quaint establishments in the city that feature great wine and Tapas.

If you don’t know, Jurassic Moms love to eat Tapas.  I haven’t met one who doesn’t… And whenever we go out, we drink great wine, and enjoy portioned servings of caprese salad and macaroni balls…  Also deviled eggs, which have made a HUGE comeback in these fine establishments, but have been given cute names like “Bird in an egg,” Or “Picnic Niblet.”

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Whenever I go to a Tapas Bar in Los Angeles, I’m  constantly looking around for celebrities.  Everyone in Los Angeles is always trying to spot celebrities, and if they tell you they aren’t, they are lying liars.

Celebrities are like magical unicorns here… They are both everywhere and nowhere at the same time… And if you try to hunt them, you will never see them… They are like leprechauns that will pop out when you least expect them… You can walk Hollywood Boulevard for ten years and never see one, but one day be filling a prescription at Rite Aid, and look over and see Simon Cowell buying Dental Floss.

This is a big draw of living in Los Angeles, and it’s an especially big draw for someone like me, who spent her formative years in small Texas towns.  I only remember seeing a real bonefide-in-person celebrity one time… And that was at a Kentucky Fried Chicken in Abilene, where myself and some girls scouts lined up thirty people deep  to get an autograph from Ed “Too Tall” Jones, who played for the Dallas Cowboys.  None of us knew who Ed Jones was, but the scoutmaster insisted our Dads would appreciate the effort.

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When we finally made our way to the front of the line to get our moment of facetime with ‘Too Tall,’ throngs of people were around him, and at one point, someone shouted… “Hey, Too Tall Jones! Will you hold my football?”

He did, and his fingers were as strange and  long as E.T.’s.  He held a football with the same kind of effortlessness that I have when I hold a can of Diet Coke…. And when I finally came face-to-face with “Too Tall,” I was really nervous, and my hands were shaking…  Then, we had this conversation:

 

Too Tall Jones (friendly in a fatherly way):  What’s your name, or should I write Miss America because you’re just that pretty.

Me :  (overwhelmed by the flattery from a celebrity athlete and speaking with a dry mouth):  Thank you, sir.  This autograph isn’t for me.  Please make it out to Charles Bridges. 

Too Tall Jones:  Is he your boyfriend?

Me:   I have no boyfriend, sir.  I will be giving this one to my father.

Too Tall (handing me the sheet of paper):  Here you go!  Tell your dad I said Hi…  Enjoy this coupon for a three-piece chicken dinner.  

 

That interchange with celebrity Ed “Too Tall” Jones, was water to my thirsty soul.  There is no validation like celebrity validation, and if you disagree with me, you’re lying.

Now… If you do go to a popular tapas place in LA, you may spot a celebrity.  This is true… And you especially have a good chance of spotting a Kardashian as they L-O-V-E tapas.  At almost every tapas establishment I have been to, one of the wait staff has related a Karadashian was just there.

Kim Kardashian

This makes me think the Kardashians eat tapas for pretty much every meal, and I walk into every tapas place thinking I will see one of them, but as of this writing, I never have.

The Kardashians are a family of Tapas Bigfoots with very high pitched voices.  I’m sure one day when I least expect it, I will see a Kardashian eating a tuna tartar slider… But until that time, I’ll keep looking.

After a glass of really good Pinot, we retired to the main restaurant, for Tapas and conversation.

There were four of us.  Me, Nasim (the organizer), Monica (Gorgeous, successful and a former prom queen), and Stacey (Beautiful successful blond).

We hadn’t been seated for five minutes when I thought I had witnessed a celebrity sighting just two tables down from us… and I said.. “Look you guys, that’s Ian Ziering.”

“That is definitely not Ian Ziering,” Nasim told me, who is an expert at celebrity sighting.

And it wasn’t.  Upon closer inspection, it was a bald man over sixty.

What can I say… Through the haze of wine and a handmade mozzarella ball, everyone looks like Ian Ziering to me.  I am terrible at spotting celebrities.  They have to practically be sitting on me.

This turned the conversation to the popular 90’s television show… 90210…  Which tells the simple all-American story of two normal mid-western teenagers, moving to Beverly Hills, and fitting in perfectly with the richest kids on earth, which affords them the opportunity to attend prom at the Beverly Hilton… hang out at the Peach Pit After Dark… and eventually rally around Tori Spelling (now a Jurassic Mom herself), and chant DONNA MARTIN GRADUATES over-and-over until it was burned into the brains of everyone who watched the show.

Then, we discussed who our celebrity 90210 crush was…

We all agreed in the 90’s it was either Brandon or Dylan.  Brandon for me, as I’ve always had a thing for nice guys.

But then, I took a higher stance, and said, “You know what, you guys?  If I had to pick one of those guys now… I wouldn’t choose Brandon or Dylan… I’d choose Brandon’s Dad because he is closer to my age than those high school guys, and he really cares about his kids… And he has a great job.”

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The ladies groaned at the thought of celebrity crushing on the 90210 Dad, and it was during my monologue listing the attributes of a middle-aged gentleman with a receding hairline, a hairy chest, and a gentle but firm discipline technique, that something caught Nasim’s eye:

“Oh.  My.  God… It’s Sean Astin,” she exclaimed.

And lo… Not a mere fifty feet from our table, sat the son of television’s Patty Duke… The underdog Football Hero, Rudy… Samwise Gamgee, the faithful friend of Frodo, but most importantly Michael “Mikey” Walsh of Goonies fame.

We were watching Sean Astin feed in the wild… There he sat, munching on tiny crab cakes and overpriced brussels sprouts… We had spotted THE WHITE WHALE!

In a word, he was… “MY PRECIOUS.”

Back in the late twentieth century, there was little publication called TIGER BEAT, and Sean Astin was one of the Princes of Tiger Beat, along with fellow royalty, Ricky Schroder, Jason Bateman, and the guys from Menudo.

Nasim, immediately began collecting her things.  “We are getting a picture with Sean Astin.”

THE HUNT WAS ON!!!

What?!?!?  Right now?!?!?

Admiring a celebrity from across the room is one thing… Approaching them while they eat… That is something else entirely…  That kind of hubris can be dangerous…  For every great story about celebrity run-ins, there are a mass of horror stories.  Russel Crowe, throwing a phone… Sean Penn punching a camera guy… Sweet Reese Witherspoon shouting “DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?!?!?!” as she is hauled off to the can… They can be wild and untamed and you must approach them with caution.

We had a good fifty feet to figure out our game plan.

We sat in silence watching our prey.  He was feeding with a friend, a man with a beard.  They were conversing…This was probably the conversation between these two guys:

Sean Astin:  (Quietly eating)

Bearded Friend:  Holy crap.  I am the luckiest man alive to be sitting here with you, celebrity, Sean Astin, and eating this quail egg fritata… This Argentinean Malbec compliments well your flawless complexion that hasn’t aged a day since you were in RUDY.

And on a side note, Sean Astin looked exactly like what Sean Astin is supposed to look like.  Let me drop this on you… The final LOTR film, Return of the King, was released in 2003… That was over 10 years ago!!!!  But he looks EXACTLY THE SAME.  He hasn’t aged.

He’s a unicorn.

There’s a saying around here:  You can admire a magical unicorn.. But if you try to feed it sugar, it will melt your face and turn you into a troll.  (That’s actually not a saying… I just made that up).

I was beginning to feel confident… The 1980’s  Tiger Beat knowledge I’d amassed as a young tween was growing inside me and filling my veins like a fresh can of NEW COKE.  I was beginning to feel that same strength I’d had as a young girl scout standing in line at the KFC.

“We are doing this,” I told them. “Goonies never say die!”  

Stacy looked at me as if I’d expelled a genuine Kobe Beef Mini-Slider Stinkbomb… “Please, don’t say that in front of Sean Astin.”  

Monica gently put her hand on my shoulder… “If you say that, I swear to God, I will slap you.”

Then Nasim piped up, and said these oddly familiar words perfectly applied to our situation…

“No, ladies… Amy is right. Don’t you realize?  The next time we see sky, it will be at the beach with our kids.  The next time we take a test, it will be at the DMV… We are parents and we want the best stuff for our kids.. And out there, we do what’s best for them.. Because it’s their time… Their time out there… But in here… In here, at this high-end Tapas restaurant with half-priced wine and calamari fried in duck oil, it’s our time.  It’s our time in here!  And that’s all over the second we get the check and pay the valet.”  

Then, Monica put her hand in the center of the table above the fois gras.  

“I’m in,” she said.

Stacy put her hand in as well…”I’m in.”  

Nasim put her had on top… “I’m in as well.”  

I was last to go… “Let’s do this thing.”  

“What’s our plan?” Nasim asked.  

And then it hit me… I remembered seeing a trailer for a new movie entitled MOMS  NIGHT OUT.  It opens next week, and guess who’s in it?  If you guessed Sean Astin, you would be right…

MOMS NIGHT OUT was the treasure map that would lead us to the One-Eyed-Willy.

“Okay,” I said… “We have a way in now… We just walk up to him and say… Hello Sean Astin… We are a group of ladies on a MOMS NIGHT OUT, and you are in a movie called MOMS NIGHT OUT… Imagine the coincidence.  Please take a picture with us.”

“Great!” Nasim said.  “You’ll do it!”

And with the strength of four Texas-born girl scouts standing in line at the KFC, we marched across the restaurant and asked celebrity Sean Astin, of Goonies fame and Tiger Beat Centerfolds, for a picture…

At least… I think we did… Because I do not remember a single thing that happened… Other than this… I rushed his table and shouted… “Hi Gentleman!  We are four adult women on a moms night out!”

After that, I flew into the sun…

This is what I will say about my facetime with Sean Astin:

God chooses only very special people like Sean Astin to be teenage dream machines…

And somehow, after all these years, Sean Astin, is still as humble as dreamy as he was in any TIGER BEAT photo, reclining against a stool with a flared collar and a Rubix Cube.

Sean Astin asked about my blog and I told Sean Astin it was called Jurassic Mom and Sean Astin said that was a great name for a blog.

If you can’t tell, I am on a mission to use the words Sean Astin as much as possible.

I share with you this photograph, taken with celebrity, Sean Astin, featured in the movie MOMS NIGHT OUT, with a group of four adult women on a MOMS NIGHT OUT.

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I am feeling very confident now.  And there is no confidence like Tapas Confidence.

90210 Dad… I’m coming for you next.