Choosing All Of Your Own Adventures … Good Choice or Bad?

25 Aug

Thinking back to when I was a child, one of the things I loved to do was read. I actually looked forward to going to the library and signing out stacks of the popular Choose Your Own Adventure books.

Choose YOur Own Adventure Books

Each book was written from a second-person point of view. The reader would then assume the exciting role of the protagonist and could make choices throughout the story that would then determine main character’s actions, and in turn, affect the overall plot and outcome of the entire story. I, of course, being a bit impatient, would often flip through the pages to see which choices would be the best for my character in the end.

Here’s how it went after an introduction to get the reader aquainted with the story…

If you decide to storm the castle (a la The Princess Bride) turn to page 10…

If you decide to wait and see what is on the other side of the golden door, turn to page 6 …

After the reader made their choice, the plot thickened and they were led on a whirlwind adventure through mystical, fantasy worlds … that is if they made it to the end of the book in one piece rather than suffering an untimely death at the hands of a deceptive wizard or a deadly dragon.

Now, in this day of multi-media where just about EVERYTHING is going digital, you can now PLAY these Choose Your Own Adventure Books on your iPod. The characters even have Twitter accounts!

Recalling the actual books, I started thinking about what life would look like today if we had the ability to flip through the pages (or scroll ahead to the future) and choose what the best path would be for each of us, what decisions are the right ones?  

* What would Michael Jackson have done if he knew his trusted doctor was going to administer a lethal dose of Propofol?

* Would Fox News have thought long and hard before giving the very vocal and outspoken Glenn Beck (who announced that he believes our current president is a “racist”) his own show and losing tons of advertisers?

* Would Lindsay Lohan think twice about turning down Heather Graham’s role in Hangover and instead taking a role on Labor Pains?

* Would John and Kate have rethought EVERYTHING (I don’t even know where to begin with them)?

* Would the octomom have pondered the fact that even with all of that plastic surgery, she would never look quitre like the real Angelina Jolie, but more like a twist between Angie and the Cat Lady?

How would you do things differently if you had all the answers?

Just some things to ponder.

I think that having the option to see into the future could definitely be helpful in some cases (like in one of my favorite shows Medium, where Patricia Arquette’s character, Allison Dubois, sees the future and past in her dreams and uses them to solve crimes and save people). That seems like it would be a very exciting  job; never a dull moment I’m sure (Although I would undoubtedly be a little uneasy if dead people kept popping up in my everyday life in unexpected places and inopportune times).

However, I also think it may be better to just live life and relish in the excitment of what each new day will bring.

I know it sounds cliche, but I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.

A PEACH OR A PLUM?

2 Jul

PLUM ISLAND. For years and years it’s been a place of controversy because of what is said to be taking place there … and a mystery riddled with speculation because of its confidential animal disease testing practices.

For those of us who are not familiar with it, Plum Island is an animal facility comprising of various labs (Author Nelson DeMille was so intrigued by the subject matter that he wrote a book called Plum Island.) Formerly the site of Fort Terry, Plum Island is situated less than two miles off the north fork shore at Orient Point, Long Island and is only accessible by Government Ferryboat. The center comprises 70 buildings on 840 acres.  The island has its own fire department, power plant, and water treatment plant. There are security guards stationed at the island, but only two are armed.

FADDL (Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab) is a diagnostic facility that is a full service diagnostic laboratory receiving samples from around the world. PIADC (Plum Island Animal Disease Center) comprises various laboratory facilities and studies exotic diseases of animals. PIADC was designated a bio-level 5 facility, now mandated by Congress which enabled Plum Island to study and research diseases and vaccines for diseases that would not be allowed in the Continental US. Congress allowed for this status simply because it is an island.

In 1954, while it was still Fort Terry, the Army handed the island over to the Department of Agriculture to establish a research center whose employees would dedicate their time to studying foot and mouth disease in cattle. By August 1954, animals occupied holding areas at Plum Island and bio-weapons research was ongoing within Building 257 on Plum Island. The USDA facility, PIADC, continued work on biological warfare research until the US program was ended by Richard Nixon in 1969. The bio-weapons research at Building 257 and Fort Terry was shrouded in mystery and secrecy. But though the U.S. government dismissed the use of biological warfare experiments on the Island, Long Island-based Newspaper Newsday brought to light some documents that revealed otherwise.

1992 was the first time that members of the media were allowed on the island and in 1995, The Dept. of Agriculture was issued a hefty fine for storing hazardous materials on the island.

Through the years, activists in Long Island have fought against Plum Islands expansion to include diseases that affect humans. In 2002, the islands disease control center was transferred from the DOA to the Dept. of Homeland Security.

Here are some of the diseases studied at Plum Island over the years:

1. Foot-and-Mouth Disease (PIADC is currently the only laboratory in the U.S. equipped with research facilities that permit the study of foot-and-mouth disease)

2. Hog Cholera

3. African Swine Fever

4. Equine West Nile Virus

5. Lyme Disease (The index case for Lyme Disease started in a young child who lived a few miles from the Plum Island ferryboat dock)

6. Polio (in 1991, the centers freezers, which contained samples of polio and other diseases that can be transferred to humans, were threatened due to a hurricane-caused power outage)

7. Anthrax (many people think that Anthrax has been and continues to be studied on Plum Island)

Plum Island Animal Research Center

Plum Island Animal Research Center

Kristin Chenoweth Packs A Powerful Punch in a Petite Frame

18 May

Kristen Chenoweth 010Standing at 4 feet 11 inches, Kristin Chenoweth sauntered towards the excited crowd waiting patiently in their seats at the Bryant Park Reading Room. Standing Tall in her five inch heels, the platinum blond with the dazzling smile embraced her eager fans with her unmistakable stamp of Southern Hospitality.

Introducing her was Andrew Lippa, who has been her music director since 1999 and is currently composing The Addams family Musical, which I am very excited for. It stars Bebe Neuwirth and Nathan Lane. Chenoweth was in Bryant Park to promote her new book A Little Bit Wicked. I’ve always wondered why so many celebrities think that just because they are famous, everyone is going to want to read about their lives and the trials and tribulations that made them the people they are today. I, along with the other fans in the audience, soon found out that Kristin had the same way of thinking. She was asked to write an article for Glamour Magazine on her experience with adoption. After her article was printed, the number of emails and letters they received was astounding. The Oklahoma native had something to say and people from all over the country could relate to her story. But when editors came to her and suggested she write a memoir, Kristin was just as surprised as anyone would be and her response? “I hope I’m not old enough to have a memoir!” After some consideration, she decided that she would go for it. “I’m not Shakespeare, but I love to write.” Chenoweth told us that her mother helped make her decision.  Growing up, she encouraged her to keep a journal and said “make sure you write something down every night before you go to bed.”

In her book, Chenoweth talks about her adoption and how she never once had the yearning to track down her birth parents. To her, mom and dad are the people who raised her and took care of her. Over and over, she gushed about her parents, calling them the best mom and dad anyone could ever have (adding though that neither one of them should ever be allowed to sing in public). She did admit to wondering at times, who she took after. Who was small like her? Who could sing? From whom did she inherit her distinctive speaking voice? She then told a story about winning a Tony award. At the end of the night, a woman approached her and with tears in her eyes, told her that she had been following her career and told her how proud she was of what she had accomplished. At the time, Kristin was extremely touched by what this women had said to her and appreciated every word, but simply brushed it off as a kind gesture. After the woman had walked away, Kristin’s manager commented on how much that woman looked ike her. It is not known whether or not the woman was her birth mother, but Kristin admits that face-to-face meeting does cause her to wonder. Chenoweth’s view on adoption is that “if you can give birth to your own child, you should. Adoption is a great option if you can’t have kids.”

Growing up, I had a friend who was adopted and I remember when her parents had “the talk” with her. We have since lost touch, but I still wonder to this day how she is doing and if she ever did try and locate her birth parents. I find the topic of adoption fascinating and do believe that people who are faced with situations like being adopted at a young age and all of the feelings that must come along with it, are that much more determined to succeed in life and make something of themselves. I mean, look at how many successful celebrities were adopted (Sarah McLachlan, Ice -T, Nelson Mandela, J.R.R. Tolkien, Faith Hill, Melissa Gilbert, Steve Jobs, Debbie Harry, just to name a few).

Chenoweth, describes herself as a “non-judgmental, liberal Christian.” Her best friend Denny is gay and she believes that “God is accepting of all people on earth,” including homosexuals. She always finds herself gravitating to people who are different and says that “those things that make you different, are the very things that make you unique and you should embrace them.”

Although her most recent show Pushing Daisies was canceled, Kristin has several other projects in the works. Look out for her upcoming film where she portrays singer Dusty Springfield. She will also make a guest appearance in Fox’s new series Glee (which I am anxiousy waiting to see).

A TRUE MOTHER WARRIOR

10 May

Today is Mother’s Day, so I wanted to start out by wishing my own mom a Happy Mother’s Day (I will be seeing her later tonight).

Over the years, my mom has been my rock many times. She is an extremely strong woman who, no matter what hand she is dealt in life, always comes up swinging. She would do anything for me and has always been nothing less than supportive, loving, caring and nurturing. Her love is unconditional and she has truly shaped who I am today by her kindness. Thank you mom and I love you very much.

I thought it was also important to share my thoughts on one celebrity mom who has made an impact on me and whose fierce determination to heal her son continues to amaze me. While I do not have children myself, I can only imagine what she has gone through and what she has had to do to demand the attention of doctor’s and of those who have been against her and tried to knock her down time and time again.

I am talking about Jenny McCarthy.

jmccarthy320

Years ago, if someone said the name Jenny McCarthy to me, I automatically thought … Playboy model and comedic actress who appeared in spoofs like Scary Movie 3. But these days, she is much, much more than that. Her most esteemed role to date is that of mother to her son Evan.  McCarthy gave birth to Evan in May of 2002. His father was her then husband, director John Mallory Asher.

In 2005, after a series of unexplained seizures, Evan was diagnosed with Autism. McCarthy “died in that moment…” but remembers her motherly instincts telling her that the doctor’s diagnosis was right.

From that moment on, McCarthy, once known for her risqué demeanor and her off-color sense-of-humor, became a voice for all parents with autistic children. Most of the mothers, like her, were silenced, made to feel like they were crazy, even by their own pediatricians. They were called ignorant and some were even accused of CAUSING their child’s Autism due to their own negligence.

The nature of McCarthy’s beliefs has been and remains to be an extremely controversial topic. She, along with thousands of others, believes that cocktail (one-size-fits-all) vaccinations have something to do with the onset of Autism in children. She also believes that a Gluten-free and Casein-free diet, plus biomedical treatments such as oxygen therapy and metals detoxification can help kids who suffer from Autism (Many of these treatments are very costly, but what shocked me the most was that insurance does not cover any of them!). Essentially, McCarthy does not say that Autism is curable, but does believe that kids with Autism can RECOVER. There are, of course, many critics, along with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) who staunchly disagree with these theories.

Here’s an excerpt from her book Mother Warriors that I found to be extremely powerful:

Imagine watching your child climb up a flight of stairs. He slips on a stair and cuts his knee open and begins gushing blood. The cuts are deep and you immediately wash away the blood, wrap up the knee and head to the hospital. Once you get there, the doctor asks what happened. You reply, “He climbed up some stairs and fell and got hurt.”

Now imagine the doctor telling you it’s not possible that your child got hurt from the stairs. “But I saw him climb stairs and fall and I saw his knee split open,” you explain. Again the doctor says “It’s not possible.”

And you repeat “But I saw it happen!”

Then the doctor tells you that climbing the stairs is safe. But you know what you saw with your own eyes and so you insist, “But obviously sometimes it’s NOT safe. Look at my child. I saw him get hurt!” The doctor just keeps shaking his head and denies that stairs could ever harm a child.

This is how black and white it is for us moms who have children with Autism. We had healthy beautiful children who climbed upstairs perfectly until one stair caused them to fall. We have witnessed the neurological downfall of our children after certain vaccinations, but when we tell the doctors what we saw, they don’t believe us. Can you imagine how frustrating this is?

Let’s take the stair scenario a step further. After the doctor rejects your claims, you decide to treat the wound yourself. You learn about natural and alternative treatments, which you try out, and your child’s knee heals to the point where you can barely see any marks. Now imagine you go to the doctor for a follow-up visit and this time you see a different doctor. The doctor looks at your child’s knee strangely and says, “This must be the wrong knee.” You explain, “No, this is the knee that split open.” The doctor says, “It can’t be, because it healed up. There is no way an injury like that could heal. The hospital must have mistaken the severity of the wound.”

You reply, “No doctor, I healed the wound myself by cleaning it out and treating my child with natural remedies.” The doctor then looks at you strangely. He begins to laugh at you and tells you your son never really had an open wound to begin with. You stand there with your mouth open. “Yes, he did, doctor. Take a look at the medical records. He was seen in YOUR hospital!” The doctor replies, “It must have been a mistake on his records. He never had a wound here.”

This is exactly how it is when a child with Autism gets better. No one believes he had anything wrong with him to begin with. People think these recovered children were misdiagnosed. The reason recovery is controversial is because we are healing these kids by treating the injuries caused by the vaccines or the environmental toxins rather than the Autism itself. When we treat these things, the symptoms of the Autism get better. The medical community is terrified to come within ten feet of detoxing metals out of these kids because it will point the finger directly at what everyone is so scared to admit. Vaccines CAN trigger Autism.

There are two controversies about Autism: first, the causes, and second, whether a child can recover. A battle is raging in the medical community, but there is a growing army of mothers who are fighting for their children and witnessing recovery firsthand. Imagine a world in which we are all fighting on the same side to help make children with Autism better. The time to unite is now.

Mother Warriors

Jenny McCarthy’s Autism organization is called GENERATION RESCUE. It is a parent-run charitable organization that supports and educates families in need and funds leading scientific research.

Defeat Autism Now! (DAN!) is another great organization

LAWS THAT WERE MEANT TO BE BROKEN

8 May

Back when I was a producer at Fox & Friends, we did a talking point on strange laws that still exist in the United States. While many of these laws are extremely amusing, you have to wonder who thinks them up and what their reasoning is. Take a gander and see for yourself.  What crazy laws exist in your state? Let me know, post a comment on this post!

• It’s against the law in Tennessee to drive a car while sleeping (um, really? Whoever thought this one up is brilliant)

• A California law created in 1925 makes it illegal to wiggle while dancing (sorry wiggles).

wiggle

• In West Virginia, only babies can ride in a baby carriage (Had this been against the law in New York, there’d be several arrests in NYC. It’s amazing how many older women I would pass on the UES who pushed their dogs, cats, or parrots around in baby carriages! That’s just wrong)

Dog in Baby Carriage

• In Kentucky, it’s the law that a person must take a bath once a year. (hmm, not really sure what to say about this one, is this really ok in Kentucky? One bath a year?)

• It is against the law to mispronounce the name of the State of Arkansas in that state. (is it Ar-ken-saw or Ak-kan-sas?)

• In San Francisco, there is an ordinance which bans the picking up and throwing of used confetti. (I guess there aren’t many surprise parties in San Francisco)

• In Virginia, a 1930 code prohibits corrupt practices or bribery by any person other than political candidates. (hmm)

• In Tennessee, a law exists which prohibits the sale of bologna on Sunday.

no-bologna

• In Florida, it is against the law to put livestock on a school bus.

• In Texas, it is still a “hanging offense” to steal cattle. (Are people still hanged? It’s 2009 people!)

• In Miami, it is forbidden to imitate an animal. (I guess Jim Carey and Rob Schneider should stay away from Miami, then huh?)

• A California law states no more than 3,000 sheep can be herded down Hollywood Boulevard at any one time. (now, I’d love to see a picture of that!

• In Ohio, it is against state law to get a fish drunk.

•In Florida, unmarried women who parachute on Sundays can be jailed.

•In Vermont, women must obtain written permission from their husbands to wear false teeth.

false teeth

Now that last pic should make you hungry, huh?

AND THE MORAL OF THE STORY IS …

7 May

Miss USA runner up, Carrie Prejean of California, has been all over the news lately for her views on gay marriage, breast implants bought for her by pageant organizers, and now a series of semi-nude photos that she posed for in a past life. In my opinion, Prejean should not be considered an authority on gay marriage, so why does anyone care what her opinions are? That being said, these issues bring forth a burning question for me about American beauty pageants. With all of the glitz and glamour, the sequined evening gowns and swimsuit competitions, are we really focusing on the right qualities when it comes to measuring “true beauty”?

I think we as a country can learn a few things from the Saudi’s on this particular topic. Saudi Arabia is a place where women virtually have no rights, and appear in public draped in black robes and headscarves and often with their faces completely covered. There is, however, something called the “Miss Beautiful Morals” contest.  The idea behind this contest is to measure the contestant’s personal commitment to Islamic morals. The judges are not concerned at all with who has the perfect figure or the most magnificent mug. It’s a quest for the woman who exhibits the most respect and devotion for her parents and those around her. These qualities are keeping in line with the strict beliefs and traditions of an Islamic country where females are not allowed to drive, among other basic rights.

Preparation for the pageant begins Saturday. At that time, the nearly 200 contestants will begin their nearly three months of classes and quizzes on topics like “Discovering your inner strength,” and “The making of leaders.” This is only the second time the contest is being held and the winner will be announced this July.

Miss CaliforniaMiss Beautiful Morals Contest

ANYTHING BUT ORDINARY: One Body, Two Minds

5 May

Getting any shut-eye seemed near impossible last night for some reason so I was forced to watch several hours of TV. Instead of opting for the mindless infomercials and reality repeats, I opted for the more educational programming on The Learning Channel. I started watching a documentary called Joined for Life: Abby and Brittany Turn 16. After seeing the video above, I am sure you would agree that their strength and bravery is incredibly inspirational. The twins, from Minnesota, were born in 1990 and are now 19 years old. Unlike many of the other conjoined twin cases we hear about, Abby and Brittany do not share a heart, but rather each have their own heart, which allows them to survive and lead lives that are pretty normal for girls their age.

In this documentary, we watch as both girls pass their driving test (they had to take separate tests). But driving is not as easy a task for Abby and Brittany as it is for most of us. Each of the twins can only feel one half of their body and therefore each one controls one leg and one arm. While driving, Abby controls the pedals, radio, heat, defogger etc. while her sister is in charge of the turn signal and lights. They control the steering wheel together. It’s a tricky game that this courageous duo has to learn with almost everything they do, including everyday tasks that most of us take for granted (yet we never hear either one of them complain). I think we can all learn something from Abigail and Brittany Hensel.

Listening to them, it’s obvious that the girls have two distinct personalities. One is better at math, while the other prefers writing. One is more of a fashionista while the other is more of a tomboy.

Because they don’t offer themselves up for medical research, there is no way of knowing what the future holds for the Hensel girls as far as their health is concerned.

Both girls hope to date, get married, and even have children.

There are undoubtedly many challenges they will face as they grow up … what classes to take in college, what career path to pursue, where to live … let alone, relationships with the opposite sex, physical intimacy and giving birth, if that is even possible).

None of us have a crystal ball, but their optimism is contagious and I wish for only the best for them.