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. 🙂

Surviving Godzilla (aka Food Poisoning)

Godzilla is attacking the city, and your body is his stomping grounds.

(Warning: This could be construed as graphic/gross by some. Proceed with caution)

Phase One: A general feeling of unease. 

When Godzilla decides he’s going to attack a city, he doesn’t usually call up the person in charge and say, “Hey…yeah…I’m gonna be there in about six hours, sooooo…..do what you gotta do.”

See you soon!!

“See you soon!! LOL”

In much the same way, when food poisoning first begins to enter and lurk around your system, it doesn’t give you any real warning other than a feeling of unease. Not impending doom, not yet. Just ‘different.’ According to my research, the gestation period can be anywhere from two hours to 90 days, so sometimes, there is no real concrete way to tell when or where it first breaks in. But once it’s in, you’re doomed for a roller coaster ride straight to the bowels of hell. Emphasis on bowels.

Wednesday after lunch, my pants (which normally fit fine) were constricting. I felt as though my skin was being stretched to capacity, as if I needed to break outside of my own body. I also had an intense desire to lay down. If only I could rest, things would be so much better. A few closely timed bathroom trips later,  I knew I needed to leave work early. My Mom was worried I wouldn’t make it home, but I assured her that home was only 18 minutes away and surely I could make that distance with no problems.

Phase Two: The initial attack

I didn’t make it.

I left a voicemail!

“But I left a voicemail!”

About halfway home (and no bathroom for miles) I felt like my body was being enveloped in light. I started to see white and I knew I was going to faint. I couldn’t drive any further without being a danger to myself or other cars. I could feel the wave rising in my body fighting to take over. Godzilla was here.

I uttered an expletive (just being honest) and jerked the car into the nearest turnabout I saw. I opened the door and unbuckled my seat belt in one motion. In the next second, I was vomiting everything I’d eaten in the past week. One leg was hanging out of the car along with one hand bracing on the gravel. As the goop drained toward it, I moved my thumb out of the way and looked at the contents. “I don’t remember eating potatoes with skin on them” I thought before I another wave hit me and I added to the collection.

After I knew I was done, I pulled my hair back, and informed my Mom of my whereabouts. I felt ten times better, and showered immediately upon arriving home. A good nap and I’d be back to normal.

Phase Three: This means WAR.

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So I have a pretty big birthday coming up at the end of next month. I’m trying to think of something I can do to commemorate it, and I’m also trying to come up with content for this blog.

If I did one of those “a post a day” things, what do you guys think I should write about? What would you like to read about? I want to share things that you want to read, so let me know what interests you, or what you’d like to see from me this coming month!

Email me at AshleyRaymerBrown@gmail.com or comment on this thread! I’d love to hear from you!

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Say It Now

Every time someone passes away, no matter what the circumstances, there are people left mourning. A celebrity brings joy to millions, and so, that loss is felt by millions. A woman from a small town may not have affected as many on a global scale, but her loss is just as deeply felt by those who loved her.

Earlier this month, Vicky Wise, a beautiful beacon of my community, passed on after a six year battle with cancer. And today, I, along with most of the world, was shocked at the loss of comedian Robin Williams.

Two very different people who faced their final days in very different ways. One was in tremendous physical pain, while the other was in tremendous emotional pain. Vicky was surrounded by loved ones in her final moments, while Robin, presumably, was alone.

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“Two Blueberry Muffins”- Novel Excerpt

This week, I am sharing on of my favorite chapters from my work in progress, the novelization of my second film, “The Hepburn Girls.” This is still very much rough draft form, but I’d love to hear your feedback, and if it is something you would enjoy reading once the novel is complete.

For a synopsis of the film, please visit my tab labeled “The Hepburn Girls.”

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Two Blueberry Muffins

Lunchtime finally rolls around and I tuck myself away in my favorite reading area. I never eat in the break room. It smells like burned popcorn tinged with the lingering aroma of stinky burritos. Instead, I like to eat the same way I work, surrounded by intelligent words. I am nose deep in a novel when I hear some rustling and the chair scrape beside me. I look up into the face of pure joy in human form.

Larry Louis is my classmate from high school. We used to ride the bus together before Alfred started driving. With Will Smith’s movie star good looks and a personality to match, Larry grew up to become our town’s mailman and favorite citizen.

A long time ago, I teased him about becoming mayor of the city since he seemed to already know everything about everyone anyway. He just smiled and shook his head.  I knew him well enough to read between the lines. While the suit of politics would fit him perfectly, his shoes of service were workman’s boots. To stuff him away in an office would kill his joy; he preferred to serve man and commune with God in nature.

I never brought it up again.
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