Monday, February 13, 2012

Top Ten Romantic Movies to Rent on Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! My husband Troy and I, being the romantics and movie buffs that we are, have seen just about every movie out there. For Valentine's Day, I've compiled a list of our favorite movies about love. Whether you’re in love, hoping to find love,  or disappointed in love…these movies will make you believe in love again. At least they did for us.

1. Prelude to A Kiss

Alec Baldwin and Meg Ryan

Oh my…where do I begin. This is the movie that made me fall in love with Alec Baldwin forever. (It’s okay, Troy knows…) The reason I fell in love with Alec is that his character reminds me of Troy, in that he loves his wife and understands her so completely, he can’t be fooled when someone steals her soul. (Alec is also young and crazy-handsome in this film, by the way). This is a story about getting past the outer stuff and loving someone for who they are, all their faults and quirks. It is about soul-mates. My all-time favorite romantic movie.  : )

2. The Story of Us

Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer

I loved this movie because it tells the truth. Love can break down when you re enduring the harsh realities of life, work, money, kids, and stress. But we all have a choice - to let life’s stresses steal our happiness, or to fight for love. I bawled my eyes out watching this movie- but in a good way. Very touching and real.

3. It’s Complicated

Alec Baldwin, Meryl Streep, Steve Martin

The most heartwarming, heartbreaking, laugh out loud funny movie I’ve seen in a very long time. I have seen it four or five times and would sit and watch it again just for the scene where Meryl Streep and Steve Martin smoke pot. Oh, did I mention Alec Baldwin’s in it, and you get to see him kinda naked. So there’s that.

4. The Notebook

Ryan Gosling, Rachel Mc Adams, Gena Rowlands, James Garner

The ultimate, romantic tale of a true love that lives forever. Hands down, the best love story of our generation. If you haven’t seen this movie, what are you waiting for? Seriously.

5. Once

Glen Hansard, Marketa Irglova

A beautiful indie film about two street performing singer/songwriters who stumble into each other’s lives for a short time, but end up impacting each other forever. Shot in Dublin. Great, natural performances by two newcomers, who ended up falling in love while making the film (awwww). The music, which was nominated for both an Academy award and a grammy, is stunning. The critics loved this film, and so did we. Once is now debuting as a musical in New York.

6. Lost in Translation

Scarlett Johansen, Bill Murray

A young Hollywood wife and an older has-been actor meet in a hotel bar in Tokyo. Over several days, they develop a sweet, innocent love that will leave the both of them changed. Tender, funny, and true. This whole film was beautifully shot in Tokyo, and is a love letter to the city. If you’ve ever wanted to experience Japan, see this film.

7. Manhattan,
8. Annie Hall
Woody Allen, Diane Keaton

Two classic, must-see Woody Allen films. When he teams up with the fabulous Diane Keaton, get ready for a wild, neurotic, obsessive, ride through the tunnel of love. Can’t get enough of these movies!

9. Mr. Wonderful

Matt Dillon, Annabella Sciorra, Mary Louise Parker, John Hurt, Vincent Donofrio

Well, of course I can’t recommend this one enough. It’s funny, light, smart, and hopeful. And by the way, my friend and writing partner Amy Ferris wrote the script. If you’ve ever read Amy’s books or blogs, you’ll hear her in the dialogue. Great movie!

10. Truly, Madly, Deeply

Alan Rickman, Juliet Steveson (This film, and Mr. Wonderful, directed by Anthony Minghella)

The moving tale of a love that lives beyond the grave. Haunting…literally.

Whatever you end up doing this Valentine's Day, I hope you are good to yourself, and that your day is filled with the love you give, and the love that comes back to you. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The War on Drugs, The War on Us

Yesterday, Whitney Houston was found dead in her bathtub at the Beverly Hills Hotel. On Thursday it was reported that she was behaving erratically, wearing mismatched clothes, doing handstands by the pool. I don’t think anyone is going to be surprised by the toxicology report.

Last week, Aaron and Nick Carter’s 25-year old sister died by an overdose of prescription drugs. Heath Ledger. Amy Winehouse. Michael Jackson. The list goes on and on…Most of us probably know someone who has died by “misuse” of prescription drugs.

Let’s think about that word.


Prescribed. By a doctor. The same doctors who are supposed to heal us are throwing drugs at our problems. You have pain? Oxycontin. Can’t sleep? Ambien. Can’t focus? Adderal. Depressed? Unhappy marriage? Issues with your mother? Unresolved childhood trauma? War memories? We’ve got a cornucopia of happy pills for those…


I’m not against medicine. I’m against the way it’s being pushed on us by the pharma industry. I’m against my six year old growing up watching commercials for drugs every five minutes. I’m against the ease by which they are prescribed. I’m against the fact that Raegan started the JUST SAY NO campaign against illegal drugs, which gave the pharmaceutical industry a monopoly, eventually transforming us into a legal DRUG NATION.

38,000 reported deaths per year. Reported.

So yes, let’s mourn Whitney’s tragic death. Let’s have our moments of silence and prayers. And then let’s face reality, and ask ourselves what we can do to stop this epidemic.  It’s not going to stop until we, as a nation, change. We have to stop buying into it. Stop letting doctors push addictive drugs onto us. DO YOUR RESEARCH on drugs you are prescribed. If they are dangerously addictive, I have some advice for you.

Just say no.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Fraud Protection

Last week, as I was the visiting writer for a UCLA online writing class, one student told me how difficult it was for her to let others read her work, and asked me how to get over the fear of judgment. This is what I love about doing this class- writers ask such probing questions, forcing me to face my own issues, and this is certainly one of them.

So many of us live with that sneaky dragon that lurks behind the subconscious, whispering that we’re not good enough, that if we take a chance and put ourselves out there, we’ll be exposed as a fraud.

Boy oh boy, do I know that dragon. I can get on stage in sequins and sing to a crowd of hundreds, but my voice shakes with fear reading one of my personal essays in front of a few. Speaking our deepest truth is a scary prospect. But here is what I told her:

Through my experience both as a performer and a writer, I've learned a lot about this "fraud" issue. What I know for sure: I am only fearful of being exposed when I am holding in a secret. I cannot tell you what a relief it has been to tell the truth about myself, who I am, where I come from. In my performing career, I have been around a lot of celebrities and "important" people all my life. I thought I'd die if they all knew that I grew up a welfare kid, daughter of a convict. But what I've found is that most people (the right people for me) actually have embraced me and become closer to me since I began living in my truth.

I would say that most of us, on some level, feel like a fraud about to be exposed. I once saw Johnny Mathis perform a flawless show. I was starstruck. Afterward, I went backstage, so excited to meet this pop icon.
"You were wonderful," I said.
He looked at me worried, "Really? Did you really think I was okay?"
Suddenly I found myself in a completely surreal moment, pep-talking Johnny Mathis, ensuring this legend that he was good enough. That's when I knew - we all suffer from the same affliction.

For years, as a singer, I suffered terrible stagefright until one day I realized...wait a minute. No one came to this event to sit in judgment of me as a singer. They came to have a good time and forget about their troubles for a night. When I stop thinking about myself, and come from a place of giving or service, I sing with joy. 

The same goes with writing. People read stories to escape, or to feel connected, not to scrutinize. Every human being has a story. Our past societies are built on storytelling (The Bible for one). I am just a human telling my unique story like no one else can. Why should I fear anyone’s judgment?

I have learned that when I am living in truth, fear evaporates. When I own my story, the good, the bad and the ugly, my faults, my mistakes, my fallibility as a human, there is no judgment to fear.

I think ultimately what we fear is not judgment, but the truth that may come in that judgment - a truth we aren’t ready to face. My experience has been that facing it is much easier than running from it, and requires much less energy than suppressing it.

My final advice to the student: The only true fraud protection we have is to live authentically. Tell your truth, live in your truth, and watch what happens...

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Pro-Family, Pro-Choice, Pro-Life saving measures, Pro-Planned Parenthood

Pro-family, pro-choice, Pro-saving lives.
 Just a brief rant today to say that I am pro-family and pro-choice, and I stand with Planned Parenthood. It’s easy for the Susan D. Komen Foundation to cut funding to a faceless group of individuals, but I am putting my face to this cause. Many times throughout my life, when I was unable to obtain health insurance, I have relied on Planned Parenthood for my medical care.

I'll never forget the day Planned Parenthood gave me the
happy news that I was preggers with this beauty.
When I was young and newly married, my ex-husband and I had our own business. (Isn’t that the American dream, right-wing conservatives?) And while we were building our dream,  struggling financially and without healthcare, I turned to Planned Parenthood for care. Planned Parenthood was where I went for my first pregnancy test, and where I got the happy news that I was carrying my daughter Cristen.

Planned parenthood is where I had my annual exams, where I got my birth control, and where I went when I had medical problems.

In my late thirties, I would once again find myself without health insurance, due to a pre-existing condition. Every insurance company denied me, even after I appealed and wrote numerous letters. My pre-existing condition? I had seen a therapist for depression and anxiety.

So where did I turn for annual checkups and breast exams during those six long years that no one would insure me? Planned Parenthood.

And now the Susan G. Komen foundation is cutting their funding for annual breast exams, because, let’s face it, their VP of policy is a hard right-winger who had previously run a political campaign on a pro-life/anti-choice platform. Yes, Planned Parenthood does provide abortions- and unless you are a woman who has been in the excruciating situation of having to choose, you have no right to judge. Regardless of your political stance, abortions are only 3% of the care that Planned Parenthood provides, and the Komen funds do not pay for them.

If you are going to call yourself Pro-life, you’d better walk your talk. Susan G. Komen, the woman, lost her life to breast cancer, and this foundation was started in her honor. The mission was to save women’s lives so that Susan’s death would not have been in vain. How is the foundation honoring Susan, by cutting life-saving screenings for women all over this country?

In honor of Susan, and women everywhere, please sign this petition telling the Susan D. Komen Foundation to get their priorities straight and return the funding for breast exams to Planned Parenthood. (it is literally one click and takes two seconds)