Simon Says Goodbye

Three and a half years ago, my beloved black cat Sammy passed away from kidney failure. He was only three years old himself. The day after his traumatic death, I walked into the Humane Society and said simply, “I need to hold a black cat.”

The women there were very kind and accommodating to this grief-stricken girl and her strange request. Soon after,  I began a years long friendship with them, and the rest of the furry residents of the Kitty Kottage.

A couple months after I began coming by regularly, an adult male black cat was dropped on their porch. The women arrived at work in the morning only to find him in a pet carrier with a note.

“Friendly neighborhood cat. Keep the carrier.”

Whether he was truly just a “neighborhood cat” or not, we’ll never know, but he was christened “Cruiser” by the staff, since he was allegedly found “cruising” around the neighborhood.

Shortly after his arrival, as I sat in their floor playing with some of the kittens, he sauntered in. He sized me up, climbed into my lap, flipped over on his back like a baby, and began to purr.

“It looks like you’ve been picked!” one of the staff members exclaimed. Indeed, it did.

Every visit would see the same behavior. The staff informed me that as an adult male black cat his chances of being adopted were slim to none. I slowly began to realize  that I needed to take this enchanting creature home. That while he could never replace Sammy, he might be able to help heal the hurt, and the gaping hole left by Sammy’s death.

I brought him home in July of 2013, along with a few other cats, whose story I will tell another day. I renamed him Simon, for the character Simon Birch in the movie of the same name. He was small, but mighty.

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From that day forward, our only separation was when I left the house for work. If I exercised, he walked with me. One of our favorite spots was a grove of trees out front of the house, where he would show off by sprinting up one of the trees and then posing dramatically before jumping down again. If he got tired of walking, I picked him up and carried him.

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When I worked from home, he slept on top of a brown pillow I had out for him. When I showered, he stayed in the bathroom to make sure no boogeymen were there to attack me. He slept next to me, sat in my lap when I watched tv, kept me company when I was sick (which lately, had been often), posed for numerous Instagram photos, always came running when I called him, and when he heard the garage door open, I would walk in to find him waiting for me outside the door.   And if, by some odd chance, he hadn’t heard the garage, I’d find him on my side of the bed, curled up next to my pillow.


His antics were so adorable to me (as any cat lover would say of their own furry child) that I created a hashtag called #SimonSays to more easily access all of his photos and the memories we had created.

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He never judged, never said I looked fat, never called me stupid, never minded my moods, and most important; loved me fiercely and exclusively. Despite his semi-permanent frown, he allowed me to cradle him like a baby, and would purr contentedly.

He was also one of the smartest cats I’ve ever known. His words may have been silent, but we talked all the time, and understood each other perfectly. He healed my heart in ways I couldn’t imagine, and the only thing he deprived me of was more time.

I wanted years and years with him. I wanted more cuddle time, more adventures, more companionship. More of everything. More of him.

I didn’t get it.

Simon was in my life for approximately three years and six months. This morning, Christmas Eve morning, I found him where he loved to be most in the world, just outside our grove of trees. There were no marks on him, no signs of struggle, no blood. Just my sweet, sweet friend lying in the grass.

I still have no idea what happened, but I think I know when it did. I getting ready for the day in my bathroom when I heard a noise of distress that sounded exactly like Simon’s “voice.” It sounded like he was right under my window. I was so alarmed, that I ran and looked outside to make sure he was okay. I didn’t see him.  He was hidden by the hill of grass. I found him about 20 minutes later.

Today was the day Simon says Goodbye. And my heart, while twisted with pain and inconsolable with grief, is so, so grateful that I knew him. Today and tomorrow are supposed to be days filled with family, happiness, love, and joy. Why did I lose my best friend on Christmas Eve? Why him? Why now?

It’s not fair.

But. That’s the one thing Life always promised. Never to be fair. 

And so.

Goodbye, my sweet, feisty, adventurous companion. Thank you for coming into my life at the perfect time, and bringing me such love and joy.  You knew me and chose to love me, and every day you let me know how much.

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I miss you more than I can possibly express.




NLC, THG and the Mystery of 11/11

11:11 has been haunting me for about five years now.

I do not tell you this story because I expect you to believe it. It’s unbelievable. I wouldn’t believe it if it was told to me. But it happened to me, so I have to believe it. I also have friends and family who have been witness to it and the effects.

I will tell the story as succinctly as possible.


It began in 2011, shortly after the completion of “No Lost Cause.” I am, admittedly obsessed with clocks, but what began as a simple odd coincidence morphed into a freaky occurrence, and then finally to a reassuring signal.

You see, it was around this time (no pun intended) that when the urge to check the hour of the day came over me, and I would glance at my phone, or bedside alarm, or some other digital form of telling time, that the display would read 11:11. (both am and pm).

Obviously, I would look at the clock at other times of the day, but this time began to become more and more frequent. It started happening so frequently, in fact, that I began taking screen shots. At it’s zenith, I counted 45 screen shots in a single month. I was not cheating and waiting for that time to hit to take the screen shot, nor was I actively pursuing the oddity.

On the contrary, it was beginning to freak me out.  Especially when I began getting receipts where my check out time was stamped 11:11, or the total of my order was $11.11.

Why did I keep seeing this time? This amount? This number? What did it mean?

I did some internet research, and depending on your belief system 11/11 could either be a signal from Someone supremely evil, or supremely divine. Of the two, naturally I was hoping for the latter.

Finally, one day, about three years later, when my poor, frazzled brain thought this would be the new normal of my life, I looked at the clock, and it was 11:12. Then, the  next day, it was 11:14, and so on. Whatever it was, it seemed to be over.

But what had it been?

It was a few months later that I found out that our film, “No Lost Cause” had been acquired by TBN (Trinity Broadcasting Network) and would be broadcast on their station. The day the film was approved?

11/11.

Was this a signal? Were the numbers tied to the film? It remained to be seen.

Because it began to happen again.

I saw the numbers, over and over, for several weeks, and then just as suddenly, I stopped seeing them. I did some research, and found out that “No Lost Cause” would be playing on the television station again.

This theory would be proven over and over during the coming two years. The numbers would occur, over and over, for days, sometimes, weeks or months….and then they would stop. And every time, it was connected to something positive for our film.

Meanwhile, our second film, “The Hepburn Girls” was completed quite a while ago. We have been working off and on since it’s completion seeking distribution.

I tell you all of this, not because I’m looking forward to the ridicule that will surely follow, but because it has happened again.

The past few months, I’ve been seeing my old digital friends.

On October 1st, I uploaded the film to Vimeo. A few days later, I was emailed by two filmmakers who noticed it and wanted to know if I was interested in entering their filmmaking contest, where the grand prize was a distribution contract.

After doing some research on the company (because, be smart) I liked their concept, the way they ran their website, and I thought I’d give it a shot. As I’ve been prone to say many a time before….”Why not?” (It is, after all, how I ended up with two films). Plus, I’m a sucker for a good contest.

I originally was under the impression I’d be entered into their “Winter Season” competition and that the film wouldn’t premiere until February or March, but when I was emailed my premiere date, I stared at the computer, dumbfounded.

The date of the premiere?

11/11.

Beginning tonight at 7pm (CST), and for the next 20 days, our film will be available completely for free. If you like it, you have the opportunity to “become a fan” and donate $3 to this competition. We get $1, and the rest goes to help continue to make this contest available for other independent filmmakers. At the end of the competition, the film with the most “fans” wins.  Pretty straightforward!

I hope you have an opportunity to watch it. While a distribution deal would be a wonderful answer to prayer, even more important to me is the opportunity to give as many people as possible the chance to see my story.  I hope you find some value in it, and in the message, which is based loosely on events that have happened to me in my life. It was very cathartic to write, and even more cathartic to act out.

The film focuses on the life of Katherine, a woman who is her own worst enemy, who uses humor as a defense mechanism, and who pushes away all possible paths to happiness under the misguided notion of self-punishment for an accident she never speaks of. She has locked herself in a PTSD cage of her own making, and it takes her newly discovered half-sister Audrey to help her figure out the way to mental and emotional freedom.

It is also powerful testimony of Romans 8:28, “All things work together for good to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Will this contest work together for my perceived good of a distribution contract? Or will it simply be good for someone to see my story, and know they are not alone?

I don’t know…truly, only time will tell.


Link to “The Hepburn Girls” (Free until December 2nd, 2016)

https://fandependentfilms.com/films/348/the-hepburn-girls/

To the Class of 2016: Ten Things I’ve Learned

To all my sweet, young friends who will be graduating tonight. I want you to all know how proud I am of the humans you have become.

As you embark on this thing called adulthood, let me pass on a few things I’ve learned along the way. Maybe one or two of them will help you avoid some unnecessary pain or frustration. There are many other things I have learned, but no one wants to read an infinite list. Ten will do for now.



1.
Don’t believe your own press. As you grow older, things will be said or written about you, both good and bad. You’ll even say things about yourself, both good and bad. We’ve all had to make ourselves look as good as possible for a job interview or an audition. Maybe things will even be printed about you. People will put you on a pedestal, and they will think you can do grand things. Don’t get me wrong; you can absolutely do grand things, but the minute you replace confidence with ego, that’s when your downfall begins. Stay humble. Stay grounded. Know who you are, and know who you’re not.

2. Find your people. Don’t settle for any group of friends that you can’t be yourself around. Be your quirky, weird, fun, absolute true self, and keep being that person until you find a group of people who are similarly quirky, weird, fun and true. Don’t surround yourself with ‘yes’ men and women. People who suck up to you are not your real friends. Don’t allow it. You can’t grow without positive resistance. Conversely, don’t allow yourself to be bullied by anyone. No one has the right to tell you how you should live your life. Or to make you feel small or unwanted. This isn’t high school anymore. You can walk away, and it’s a beautiful thing. Keep walking until you find your people.

3. Never stop learning. If you are pursuing higher education, take it as far as you possibly can, and past that, keep learning. Even if you’re not pursuing higher education, keep questioning, never take anything anyone says at face value, and never accept the answer, ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it.’ That’s they way it was always done before you got here. You bring value to everything you do. Keep reading, watching, listening, learning. You can never have too much knowledge. Also, travel. See things, see them in person. Meet new people, seek out opportunities to grow your mind, and expand your personal world.

4. Find your calling. You may or may not work some really crappy jobs in the next few years. Keep working, because they are the jobs that make you humble. A job is different from a calling. A calling lights a fire under you, brings you joy, challenges you, and makes you look forward to another day. Find your calling, and find a way to get paid for it.

5. Do all things in moderation. This is so important, and so very simple. Don’t drink/smoke/sex/drug/study/stress/sleep/work/play/spend too much. All of these have the power to take over your life. Some of them can ruin your life, and destroy many years, or shorten your life by many years. I’ll let you decide which those are, but they all have that power, if you give it to them. Don’t.

6. Choose a mate you like. Hormones are extremely powerful. You will have feelings for people you didn’t believe were possible. Strong, passionate, lusty feelings. Don’t listen to feelings. Do listen to that inner voice. It’s not enough to love someone, you must like them too. Do you like who they are? Do you like who you are when you are with them? Do they support you? Do they challenge you? If the only thing you have in common is physical attraction, then what will you have when that fades away? Choose someone who doesn’t push you to do things that make you uncomfortable, instead, choose someone who makes you the best possible version of yourself. Choose someone who brings you peace, not turmoil. Choose someone who makes your heart, mind, and soul say, “Ah. There you are.”

7. Be kind. Always. You are busy living your story, but you have no idea what your fellow man (or woman) is going through. Be kind whenever possible, and it’s always possible. If you find yourself becoming jealous of another person, ask yourself if you are willing to put in the amount of work they have for the result they have. If you are, then do it. If you aren’t, then be happy for them, and stop being jealous.

8. Learn to read body language. This will save you years of heartbreak and wonder. Learn to listen to what people say with their bodies, not their mouths. If the two don’t match, it is the body language you should believe. It is the purest form of truth.

9. Keep your sense of humor. Know that Life only gets harder. It will not always be kind, forgiving, or fair. Especially fair. Bad things will happen. Good things will happen. Sometimes, they will happen at the same time. Keep your sense of humor, because if you lose that, you could possibly lose your mind. Someone you love may not love you back. You might not get the job you know you were meant for. Eventually, you will lose people you love to distance, breakup, or death. This is Life. But you are in it for the long haul. Hang on, because it can also be beautiful, and full of wonder. Keep going for those moments. The big ones, and the small, simple ones. They make all the bad times worth the journey.

10. Seek God/Don’t blame God. He is the ultimate teacher, granter of wisdom, favor, and love. Seek Him in everything you do. He extends the hand of friendship to every human being. Those who accept it live an enriched life. Be careful to understand that it is not an easier life, in fact, at times it could be harder. In that vein, do not fall into the trap of blaming Him when Life beats you up. Trust Him. Trust that he will work all things together for your good. Bad things happen because this is Life, and this is a world with good people, bad people, disease, accidents, and tragedy. Know that He weeps with you in the bad, and rejoices with you in the good. Know that He loves you more than our human hearts can understand. That is, until you become a mother or a father. Then, I think possibly you will understand the depth of His love for you.


I don’t have all the answers, but these things have worked for me. In short, welcome, my friends, to all the possibilities of your Life. What an exciting adventure awaits!

 Happy Graduation Day. 🙂

Five Years Ago Today…

Five years ago today, a small gathering of people snuggled down on a plush sofa in my Mother’s living room and watched the fruits of our combined labor of love come to life. We were small in number, but we were mighty in passion. “No Lost Cause” was the film, and it was created on a budget of $7,000 (4K of which was buying the computer to edit the film on).

We watched ourselves and as we did, we laughed, we cried, and we had all the feels. When the film came to an end, we did a brief interview with the cast & crew talking about how we felt about the film and the future.

The future.

Two words, and yet so much possibility.

How could we know that that evening was just the beginning. How could we imagine that our little film, in our little town, and on our little, tiny, minuscule budget, would win awards in film festivals, leading to us meeting our distributor, leading to the film being sold internationally, leading to it being seen in over 37 countries around the world?

Here is part of a blurb I posted on the one year anniversary of that viewing:

“Today, we are nearly finished with our second film, and looking forward to the fall when NLC is released world-wide through our distributor. God has done some truly remarkable things in our lives, and I stand humbled and in awe of His constant provision and love. Thank you, dear friends, for believing in us and supporting us.”

That second film, “The Hepburn Girls,” was created with another small group of people, and it would lead me to meeting the people who would reignite my dormant passion for theatre.

In turn, those people would form a third, small but mighty group with a giant passion and a dream to create a community theatre in a rural county.

This same group would work and work and work, and then “Beauty and the Beast” would happen, and we would have a show less than a year after our theatre’s conception that would pull in over 400 people per performance.

And then we would win multiple awards for that show.

How could I possibly have known all of that sitting on a couch in a living room five years ago.

But it did.

Every bit of it happened because of that first film. Because of that first moment of saying, “Why Not?  Why can’t we do this?”

Tonight, we are screening the second film at the place where my two loves converged.

You should come. Not because you know me, or know the film. I’m no one special. I’m not more gifted or more intelligent than anyone else. I’m not extraordinary. I live with anxiety and fear just about every day of my life.

I just don’t let that fear and anxiety stop me.

You should come because when a group of people come together to support each other and their dreams, things happen. Magic happens. Perhaps seeing our dreams come to life will inspire you to pursue one of yours.

Who knows if this could be the genesis of your “Five years ago today…” story.

What a wonderful possibility!

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“The Hepburn Girls”
Henry County High School Auditorium
New Castle, KY
7:00 pm.
Tickets available at the box office.

No Room in the Inn…

“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7 (KJV)

We have an advantage over Mary and Joseph. We read about their exclusion from the Inn and gloss over it as a just another sentence in the story of the birth of Jesus. But I think about it now, and I feel for them. How in the moment, what a terrifying prospect that had to be for them both.

While I don’t have the experience of childbirth, I think how mortified we would be if our families sweet Katelyn had to be born in a parking garage because the hospital was just too full to take on another patient on the night my cousin Lauren went in to have her.

We know, with the benefit of hindsight, that His birth in a stable was the fulfillment of prophecy, that it had to happen this way, that it was always meant to happen this way. But Mary and Joseph didn’t. If they did, they never would have asked for lodging in the first place. They would have gone straight to the stable, because they would have known this was God’s plan all along.

Bearing that in mind, I think of situations I go through today. How life sometimes seems so unfair,  or ‘first world’ difficult. How much easier would it be if I could just head straight for the stable and skip asking for the lodging because I know this is part of the plan.

But I don’t know. I then realize that because I’m in the middle of living my story, I don’t know how it turns out. How the blessings, difficulties and trials were/are exactly what was/is supposed to happen, because it was/is all part of the plan. I’m not at the end of my life, but I know the One who is.

This Christmas, I’m realizing that I don’t have all the answers, that I’ll never have all the answers, and that’s okay. That this is what God meant when he said, “sufficient for the day is it’s own troubles.” (Matthew 6:34)

If there’s no room in your Inn, fear not. This could all be part of the plan. Your story is far from over. 

For the love of Art

Bad things happen. Hate, greed, violence, and pain have existed since our exit from the Garden of Eden. There is nothing new under the sun, so hate, greed, violence, and pain will go on existing until we all shuffle off this mortal coil.

What can be done about it? What do we do when things seem at their very lowest point? When we can’t imagine something more awful happening than the thing that happened yesterday? Or today? Or even tomorrow? How can we combat all the darkness?

Love. Joy. Peace. Forgiveness.

How can we achieve these feelings? These qualities? One way is through art. That sounds ridiculous. Legislation! New rules! More restrictions! Shouting! That’s what we need to create love, joy, peace, and forgiveness!

Perhaps. I’ll leave that up to those who feel called to that line of change. I wish them well. In the meantime, while they do the work they’ve been called to do, I’ll do mine.  I will combat the darkness by creating art.

What qualifies as art? The actual definition is, “the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.”

Art is painting. Art is film. Art is dance. Art is theatre. Art is whatever we need it to be that stirs our emotions, stimulates our minds, and soothes our spirits. (Or challenges them).

During the Great Depression, all businesses suffered, but the one business that still brought in crowds was the movies. People wanted to escape their circumstances, and for two hours, Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, and many others were their ticket to another world. A world where there wasn’t any hate, greed, violence, or pain.

Our theatre has a show that opens tomorrow. Come see it. Not because the volunteer actors have spent countless hours rehearsing and refining the material. Not because it’s been a joy to produce. Not because these actors are some of the kindest people ever assembled in one place. Actually, not for any reason related to the actual formation of the show.

Come because for two short, simple hours, it will take you away from the darkness that gathers outside. Inside our four walls, there is sunshine, and there is pure joy. Our actors portray real characters with real problems, so there is conflict, but it is resolved. We know everything will turn out all right for them; and knowing that, we have a bit of hope for ourselves. And we need that right now. We need that every day.

We are fortunate to have many community theatres in our area, and all are producing the best quality art they know how. Support them. Support art in all forms because it’s only when we stop filling the seats, when we give up on any hope of love, joy, peace, and forgiveness that the darkness truly begins to win.

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“Corney County Christmas Talent and Variety Show Fundraiser”

December 4 @ 7:30
December 5 @ 7:30
December 6 @ 3:00 AND 7:00

More information, including directions and tickets at:  www.TheTheatreDownstream.com

 

A Permanent Perfect View


My Aunt Barb, otherwise known as our fearless leader, has left us much sooner than anticipated, and we, her minions (as she liked to call us) are a bit at a loss. She was supposed to be here for many, many more years, and then a bad headache and several doctors appointments in July told us those years would be six months, and then Monday, those remaining months evaporated into the mist of time.


It doesn’t feel fair. I keep saying, “Wait. Hold on. This isn’t real. I’m going to call her and she’s going to talk about the premiere of “Castle” last night and how good it was, or when our next trip is going to be.” But I’m not. I can’t.

We were going to record her reading a bedtime story to her fifteen month old granddaughter (and lookalike) so she’d know the sound of her voice. I had plans to ask her what her favorite memory from our trips were, from her life. To interview her and give her the chance to leave her story behind. But I’m not. I can’t.

BJ KatelynShe loved reading mystery novels, especially Agatha Christie. She was also our family’s greatest mystery and complexity. She had Doris Day hair, but loved Britney Spears music. She adored sparkly accessories, but wore ballet flats, white pants, a button up shirt, long necklace, and a blazer (in the colder months) nearly every day of her life.

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She loved to socialize and talk, but didn’t like meeting new people. She loved walking, but only in the right temperature. Her humor was dry and her tongue razor sharp. She could be incredibly generous, or incredibly stubborn. She drank gallons of water to be healthy, but loved to smoke.


In short, she liked things the way she liked them. Her pastime of choice was shopping with her daughter, Lauren, and their Black Friday sprees were the organized thing legends are made of.

After my Uncle’s passing, I became her travel companion, and we took dozens of trips to the Jersey Shore. Last year, on this very day, actually, we were expanding our horizons and exploring Biloxi, MS. Her favorite amenity was a hotel room with an ocean view so she could sit there in the morning, drink her hot tea, and admire the scenery. Pity the hotel concierge who denied her that luxury. 😉

Her nails were always long and painted, and her favorite descriptive term was “fabulous.”

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She planned everything, and everything had it’s place. She was Poirot, she was Felix Unger, she was Monk (without the crimesolving). And she was a great big dose of Ousier with a splash of the charming Miss Clairee. She had an opinion on just about everything, and you would, and could, be treated to it at any moment.

She loved flowers, and she loved photography, especially photos of her flowers and her family. After our grandmother, she was our historian, the one who documented trips and the one most often behind the camera. She gave me tips on how to make my photos look more interesting, and she even encouraged my strange hobby of ‘stock photography,’ and bragged about it when we went out on trips.

When a tragedy like a death in the family occurred, she took charge. She was the one to arrange buying the flowers, getting the card, telling us where and what we should do.   Now we have to make the decisions, and with no one to take charge, we’re all adrift. We keep turning around, waiting for her to tell us what to do, and she’s not. She can’t.

She used to bemoan that she wasn’t really someone who had accomplished much, or was worth remembering. I wouldn’t want to be the one to disagree with her normally, but I will now. She was wrong.  We loved her. She was ours. All of her, the good and the bad. She was the kind of person that belongs in one of the novels she loved to read, not real life.
Maybe one day, she will be. She’s the kind of character that is a writer’s dream.

So tonight, I’d like to write her exit scene. Tonight, I like to think she’s in heaven, with a spotless mansion perched high above a long, sandy beach, a cup of hot tea steaming in front of her, and a permanent perfect view of the ocean.

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