Knowing that a fear is irrational does not make it any less powerful. For instance, I know there is no reason to be terrified of cockroaches. They are much smaller than me. They are, for all intents and purposes, harmless. (Well, if you don't consider the ramifications of spreading disease, germs, and bacteria.) It's quite possible they are more scared of me than I am of them, but I doubt it. I pretty much go bat-shit crazy when I see a roach. I'm talking screaming, dancing, levitating, all-out panic kind of crazy. Evacuating to the nearest surface capable of holding my weight. Even if that happens to be another human being. Back in my VIP Tour Guide days, I literally crawled over a client's lap...well, technically three client laps since the family members were sitting next to each other...to escape a roach that scampered across the deck of a boat ferrying us from the Magic Kingdom to the Grand Floridian dock. I scared the bejeezus out of my middle school students (and quite possibly taught them a few new words) when I pulled a book from a shelf in my classroom and had a roach run across my hand. I mean, this is Florida. Quite possibly the bug capital of the world. So roaches are an inevitable reality. My Knight and I saw something on 20/20 or Dateline or some TV show that revealed that movie theater floors are a virtual paradise for rodents and roaches. It makes sense when you think about it. A never-ending supply of sugary sodas spilled, buttery popcorn dropped, and a variety of candies scattered across the floor. Even the most diligent theater crew doesn't vacuum and mop the entire floor between each showing, so throughout the day/evening, quite a feast can be amassed. Add to that the fact that the room is shrouded in darkness the majority of the time, and it's pretty much the perfect storm for infestation. Learning this was harrowing and horrifying. After all, going to the movies is my absolute favorite hobby, and while I certainly get plenty of mileage from Netflix and Redbox at home, there is nothing like the theater experience. The smell of popcorn. The previews. The anticipation as the lights go down. The laughter and shared emotion with fellow moviegoers. So to learn that my cinematic comrades and I were not alone in the theater was disconcerting to say the least. But my love for movies was strong, and it won out over my fear of roaches. I continued to go to theaters, but told myself I'd be more cautious. I vowed to never put my purse or bag on the floor and swore I'd take antibacterial wipes for the armrests and backs of chairs (though I never did). Maybe it's the same kind of voluntary amnesia that allows women to give birth again after experiencing labor the first time, but somehow I pushed the unpleasant knowledge from my mind in my pursuit of silver screen happiness. I must have been lucky. I cannot count the number of times I've sat in a dark theater and never encountered a rat or roach. Perhaps they have different tastes in movies than I, or perhaps they were there with me all along and I just never saw them. It makes me shudder to think they were scurrying unnoticed around me as I sat riveted to the screen, but it's possible. And may I say, I was perfectly happy being oblivious. Until this weekend. When I nearly unseated an entire movie theater at the Oscar Best Picture showcase. We attend the showcase every year to see the Best Picture nominees back to back. It's an all-day event, and one I look forward to almost as much as Christmas. This year, our theater gave us white tent cards with our names on them to place on seats. During the breaks between each film, people tend to go out for fresh air, concessions, restroom breaks, etc., and it's helpful to have a card indicating which seats are reserved. Like many other patrons in the theater Saturday, the passionate fan in the seat in front of me had placed her tent card on the back of her seat so that it sat just above her head. As we sat entranced by The Revenant*--our last movie of the day Saturday and my least favorite of the eight nominees--I noticed she was not alone in her seat. A roach was clearly silhouetted on the top of her chair against the light of the screen. I nearly came unglued. It was one thing to consider the vile beasts on the floor around my feet. I had never even conceived that they would be ballsy enough to crawl up the seat and so near our heads. I immediately pulled my feet and legs as high into my seat as I could get them, gripping the armrests for dear life as I struggled not to scream and cause mass pandemonium. The roach tiptoed across the top of her chair and then across her tent card as I tried to climb into the seat next to me on top of My Knight, who had noticed my behavior and was peering into the darkness to seek the cause. I pointed at the black splotch against the stark whiteness of the card, and just as My Knight realized what was happening, the roach disappeared over the top of the card mere inches from the woman's head. As I pictured the roach making his way into her hair as she sat unaware, I almost lost my shit. I slapped at my own hair as phantom sensations of creepy crawlies rippled across my scalp. I bit my lip against the scream that rose within me, aware that I didn't want to send an entire theater into panic and be featured on the evening news as a stark raving lunatic. I wanted to muster the strength to tap the woman on the shoulder and warn her, but before I could get my courage up, the roach reappeared at the top of the card and headed down the back of her seat into the darkness. My panic multiplied, and I cursed our position in the middle of the row. I scanned the people blocking my exit on either side of us to gauge which ones would be easiest to climb over. My Knight tried to comfort me and tell me it was gone, but I knew the truth. It was still there. Lurking in the darkness. I tried to take deep breaths and tell myself it was irrational to be so terrified. That it was only a bug. And only one bug. But not knowing what was in the darkness was maddening. I pictured hordes of roaches covering the underside and back of my chair, their bodies writhing together as they prepared to attack. Leonardo DiCaprio may have fought off a bear and hypothermia to survive that film, but he wasn't the only one suffering. My calves cramped from holding my legs at such an unnatural angle to keep them in My Knight's seat. My feet had pins and needles as they went numb from the loss of circulation. My neck and shoulders ached from the tension as I held myself away from the seatback and scrunched my head down to avoid the top of my chair. I kept my arms off the armrests and cradled my purse to me, hoping it hadn't already been invaded. I have no idea where the roach ended up, but the remnants of his memory crawled all over me long after we left the theater. It's a wonder I didn't awake screaming in the night from roach nightmares. What I have seen cannot be unseen. My days in the theater may be over. Do they make pocket-size cans of Raid???? *Side note: The Revenant--kind of ironic that the word means bogeyman, visitor, demon, haunt, phantom, bump in the night. How apropros!
Okay, I have something new to obsess over when traveling. Not that I needed something new. Or was looking to fill an empty spot in my obsession closet. But thanks to Owen Wilson's new movie NO ESCAPE, I have new fears to address. I already knew that traveling to foreign lands carries with it an inherent danger. Well, let's face it, traveling anywhere--domestic or abroad--can be dangerous. But when you leave your country and travel to another, you are at the mercy of their laws, their government, and their problems. I have always weighed those risks against the benefits of meeting other people, experiencing other cultures, and expanding my life horizons and found that the benefits far outweighed the possible issues. I still feel that way, and I'll still travel. As much as possible. But thanks to NO ESCAPE, I've learned a few new things I should be concerned about.
1. A CoupUm, yeah. I never really considered this one when planning my itinerary. But as NO ESCAPE so clearly illustrates, if the country you're visiting experiences a hostile takeover while you're there, YOU ARE SCREWED! All existing laws, treaties, policies, and procedures are thrown out the window. Even the citizens of that country aren't safe in those instances, so people from other countries? Expendable. No internet. No phone. No newspapers. No regular bus service. And airport schedules? Fuhgeddaboutit.
3. The EmbassyI think this was the most eye-opening revelation from this film. I have never researched the location of the American Embassy prior to traveling. What?!? I feel like that's kind of irresponsible of me now, but I never thought about it before. There's a moment in the movie where they realize they don't know how to get to the Embassy. Under normal circumstances, you could just ask someone or walk around with a map. But under extreme circumstances such as the military coup, you may not be able to navigate that easily and it would help to have a route planned out ahead of time.
4. I May Just Have to Be ShotThis movie puts Lake Bell and Owen Wilson in a never-ending stream of situations that made me hold my breath, gasp out loud, and occasionally come up out of my seat a little. To say I was entertained by the thrill ride is an understatement, but I also had a sickening realization. I don't know that I'd survive. Granted, they were on a movie set with a camera crew around and perhaps some CGI, so they didn't really have to do those things to survive, but I don't know what I'd be able to do if it happened in real life. My Knight and I discussed this on the way home, and I do have a pretty strong survival instinct. I'm sure I would probably do whatever it took to survive. But watching her jump from one roof to another in the movie nearly stopped my heart. I don't know if I could do it. Would the fear of gunfire be worse than my fear of heights? Would the need to survive outweigh my lack of physical ability and the fear that comes from my knowledge of it? I don't think you just suddenly develop new skills because your life depends on it. Let me just say, I hope I never find out. But my hat's off to Lake Bell's character in the movie!
5. And on a good note...I loved this movie! It was a fast-paced, thrill-a-minute, action-packed adventure, and I enjoyed the ride. I felt like it was a departure from Owen Wilson's normal roles, and I was impressed to see him branch out. I didn't have any prior experience with Lake Bell, but I'm now a fan! I thought her performance was awesome. And I'm always up for a Pierce Brosnan viewing. He and I go way back to the Remington Steele days when I thought he was the most handsome, debonair dude on TV.
So anyway...Go see NO ESCAPE if you like action and adrenaline. I felt lightheaded from holding my breath by the end of it, but I definitely recommend it if that's your kind of movie. And now if you'll excuse me, I need to go map out the American Embassy for every location on my bucket list.
Believe it or not, even though I've been quite vocal about my distaste for cooking, there are a few dishes that I actually enjoy preparing and eating. I don't think there's any danger at all of this turning into a recipe blog, but today happens to be a dear friend's birthday, and one of my family's favorite recipes was given to me by her about twenty years ago. (When we were both just babies--tee hee!) I happened to prepare this meal tonight at the request of Dr. Smooth, so I thought I'd share it with you in honor of my friend's special day. Now, if you're looking for something particularly healthy or gourmet, this ain't it. But if you want something quick, easy, and delicious with very little clean-up, this is a recipe for you! My family requests this recipe more than anything else I make. (Which may actually say more about my cooking repertoire than it does this particular dish, but anyway. They like it when I make it!)
Ingredients:1 can mixed vegetables* 2 cans cream of potato soup 1 and 1/2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breast** 1/4-1/2 soup can of milk*** 2 pie crusts
Directions:Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cut chicken breast into bite-size pieces and saute in skillet. (I use PAM spray to lightly coat skillet.) Salt and pepper chicken to taste as it cooks. Mix cooked chicken pieces with potato soup and mixed veggies. Fill 1/4 of a soup can with milk and pour into mixture. Put one pie crust in the bottom of a pie dish, add chicken mixture, and add second crust on top. Pinch together around the edges to seal together. Puncture top of crust with a fork. Bake at 450 for 40 minutes or until crust is golden brown. *I have had friends modify this to use fresh veggies, which would admittedly be more healthy, but that reduces the "easy" factor. So do what works for you. **Her original recipe calls for 1-2 pounds of chicken. We seem to like it right in the middle with 1 and 1/2. If you want more meat, add more. If you want less, add less. Duh. ***The original recipe calls for 1/2 to 3/4 can of milk, but that's a bit too soupy for us, so we do only a 1/4. Adjust to suit your own tastes. The best part is....you have like three dishes to wash. A skillet, a mixing bowl, and a pie dish. Oh, and a spoon, I guess, so four. That's amazing in my book. And the pot pie is even yummier the day after! So Happy Birthday friend, and thanks for the many happy years of Chicken Pot Pie!
It's official! The book is out! It's available on Amazon in both paperback and ebook formats. It's called Diary of a Single Wedding Planner, and here's a basic summary of what it's about from the back cover of the book: "Wedding planner Tyler Warren left heartbreak behind when she ran away from her small Southern hometown and started a new life in a big city. Years later, she wants to believe in the fairy-tale endings her job promotes, but the clients she meets day after day seem to be more “Crazily Ever After” than “Happily Ever After.” Meanwhile, her own attempts at romance play out as bizarre comedies rather than love stories, and she’s starting to think Prince Charming either fell off his horse or got eaten by a dragon. When unresolved issues from Tyler’s past complicate things even further, she discovers she may yet have some things to figure out before she can find her own happy ending. This delightful first book in the Tales Behind the Veils series chronicles Tyler’s wacky misadventures, both personal and professional. Whether she’s getting insane requests from brides or outlandish requests on dates, you’re sure to be charmed and entertained by the Diary of a Single Wedding Planner." Some of y'all already heard this news on Facebook, but for those who didn't, you can purchase Diary of a Single Wedding Planner in paperback or ebook over on Amazon. (click on either of those words to go straight there. Trying to make it as easy as possible for ya!) If you read it and you like it, I would be forever grateful if you would leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads, your local book club, the grocery store or anywhere else you think people might read your review. Basically, tell everyone you know! If you didn't like it, please feel free to let me know what you think I could improve for next time, and I'm okay if you don't publish a public review saying you hated it. There's also a new author website up and running for Violet--feel free to go check that out at www.violethowe.com. The Goddess Howe blog also has an author page for Violet now, as well as a book page that tells about Diary of a Single Wedding Planner and hopefully will soon have details about the second book. I can't thank you all enough for your support. It is an incredibly exciting, nerve-wracking, scary, and humbling experience to put this out there for everyone to see. Thanks for being a part of the journey. So rush right over to Amazon and pick up a copy! Let me know what you think, and if you can get it in my hands, I'll sign it for you!