Mamma Mia! This is so much better than the news!

About a year ago, I tried out for a play. I hadn’t been on stage – except for a bit part in a production of Footloose at the high school where I teach – in over forty years.

I wrote about the terror of the auditions and the weirdness of having to acquire tap shoes and actually wear them. I recall the moments of apprehension back stage waiting for my cue, forgetting lines and dance steps, learning to smoke fake cigarettes that only emitted chalk dust if I breathed out – not so easy, I learned – trying to sing after  accidentally swallowing an ice cube, and the location of the dead spot on stage where our mics would mysteriously cause ear-shattering feedback.

It was terrifying. And yet … I plan to audition again.

Why, you ask? That’s a good question. And the answer might surprise you.

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I’d be the old lady in the green dress playing Joanne in the Starlight Community Theater staging of Company which ran last summer. https://www.starlightcommunitytheater.com/

Starlight Community Theater in Phoenix, which produced Company last year, the musical in which I played Joanne – an aging New Yorker who smoked and drank and was generally disagreeable – is now staging Mamma Mia.

I had never seen the show, but the idea that Meryl Streep stared in the film was appealing. Still, six months would pass before I considered that I might give it another shot.

My epiphany happened in February, a few months before auditions were scheduled, and I blame the folks in media.

Here’s the thing. I’m a news junkie. I watch the TV news when I eat my breakfast. I listen to NPR and talk radio on the way to work. I read the newspaper at lunch time. Then I listened to NPR and talk radio on the way home.

While I don’t remember exactly which news story pushed me over the edge, one day I just couldn’t take it anymore. Something made me punch the button on the radio, leaving me with silence in the car and a bruised finger. The news was just too damn depressing. As a former journalist the confession rankles, but there you have it.

My drive to work is only about 20 minutes, still the day I swore off the in-the-car news – Hey! I wasn’t going to quit the whole thing! – I realized I needed another option.

Regular music radio was out, since Netflix, Amazon Prime, and HBONOW have destroyed my ability to digest commercials. And I couldn’t bring myself to pony up the cash for Sirius radio, since all those video-streaming services are already sucking up my salary.

Mamma Mia Banner

So, what did I do? I went old school. Which brings me back to Mamma Mia. I got the CD. For the past two months, I’ve been driving to and from work, belting out “Money, Money, Money” and “Does Your Mother Know” and, of course, “Mamma Mia,” singing along with Streep and the rest of her silly gang. And I don’t care if people stare, because it’s so much more fun than listening to the news.

Then one evening, I got a sign. On a pizza run, my youngest son and my sweetie pie – an old-time, head-bangin’ rocker – joined in on “Dancing Queen”.  Who knew the big guy could sing every word?

So, I will try out next week. I’ll let you know how it goes.

In any case … I do feel better.

Maybe I’ll give up reading the newspaper too.

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

 

 

“This is a fascinating story that took me along with the flow”

My thanks to Susan Hampson at Books From Dusk Till Dawn for reviewing my novel A Light in the Desert.

“All of the main characters in the story have major issues with their lives and find it hard to be accepted into society … One of them wanted to be forgotten for what he had done, one wanted to be remembered for what he would do and the other just wanted acceptance for who she was.”                       Susan Hampson  Books From Dusk Till Dawn

A Light in the Desert by Anne Montgomery @amontgomery8 #BookReview #ALightInTheDesert

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

 

 

 

The cassowary: Why we should care

It’s estimated that nearly 500 animal species have become extinct since the beginning of the 20th century. Among them the Passenger Pigeon, Japanese Sea Lion, Western Black Rhinoceros, Golden Toad, Caribbean Monk Seal, and Mexican Grizzly Bear, now gone forever.

And yet, for most of us, the absence of these creatures makes no difference in our daily lives. Perhaps that’s why some people roll their eyes when they hear about saving the tiny Snail Darter or the Polar Bear or the Gray Wolf.

But what if a creature existed that could change lives with its passing? And I mean change in a big way.

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Meet the cassowary.

I first became aware of the giant, Australian bird that vaguely resembles an ostrich, but which sports a fabulously-colored keratin casque, while walking in the Daintree Rainforest – a UNESCO site like the Great Barrier Reef over which it hovers – that has one of the most complex ecosystems on Earth, hosting species whose ancestors date back 110 million years.

“The cassowary is extremely important,” our guide explained. “Without the bird, the forest would not exist.”

 

 

Daintree is primordial. Giant strangler figs crawl across the forest floor. Dappled sunlight sneaks though a thick green canopy. Massive ferns sprout from leaf-littered soil. The outside world is muted and the sight of a dinosaur might not seem strange.

I learned the cassowary is a one-bird master gardener, a creature that combs the forest floor eating fallen fruits, even gobbling up plants that are toxic to other creatures. The bird consumes up to 150 different types of fruits. The existence of 70 to 100 plant species depends on the cassowary pooping out their seeds in a pile of protective, compost-like dung, the smell of which repels seed predators. The cassowary is a “keystone” species, which means a species on which others in an ecosystem largely depend, one that, if removed, would cause the ecosystem to change drastically.

downloadSo, no cassowary, no rainforest. But there’s more. Below Daintree are mangroves, a mucky area rich in bio-matter that filters down from the forest. All types of young creatures  – crabs, jellyfish, snappers, jacks, red drums, sea trout, tarpon, sea bass, and even juvenile sharks – thrive in the protection of the fertile water of the mangroves.

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Off shore, the Great Barrier Reef follows  Australia’s eastern coast. There, too, the nutrients from the forest help feed the tiny creatures that build the reefs. This fertilizer promotes the growth of phytoplankton which nourishes the zooplankton on which the coral polyps dine. Without this sustenance the coral dies, losing the ability to protect the shoreline from waves, storms, and flooding, which leads to loss of human life and property.

Also consider that roughly 25% of the world’s fish species spend part of their lives on the reefs. If the Great Barrier Reef dies – note that half of the more than 1,400-mile structure has already perished – vast fisheries could collapse leading to starvation that could ultimately affect billions of people.

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Which brings me back to the cassowary. It’s estimated that only 12,000 to 15,000 of the birds remain in the wild. Loss of habitat is decreasing their numbers, as are attacks by dogs.  Another problem is humans driving too fast.

Why should we care?

I think the cassowary is but one example of the interconnectedness of life. Perhaps that’s something we should think about.

 

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

On air with Kevin Mccabe

For those of you who missed the program, here’s a podcast of yesterday’s Arizona Preps Live radio show. My thanks to Kevin Mccabe for inviting me to join him.

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http://arizonasports.com/category/podcast_player/…

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

 

 

 

Stranger Danger: Let’s banish the phrase

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The chances of a child being abducted by a stranger are not much higher than you running into Bigfoot.

“You have to be here on time,” I say to one of my students for the thousandth time. “It’s important.”

She bobs her head. “I know, but my mom was late.”

“Why don’t you take the bus?”

“I’m not allowed.”

“You’re fifteen. Certainly, old enough to figure out how to get yourself to school on time.”

But I know better than to pursue the conversation. I understand the problem. Stranger Danger!

The term, which was popularized in the 1960s, backfired big time. Not only did it make parents believe the chances of their child being spirited away by a stranger were astronomical, it gave children the unfounded belief that all the people they knew were safe.

Simple fact checking proves that the chances of a stranger disappearing with a child are almost ridiculously rare.

According to David Finkelhor, the director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, “Children taken by strangers or slight acquaintances represent one hundredth of one percent of all missing children.” In other words: This is not your primary concern. This might not even be your secondary or tertiary concern. On your totem pole of concerns, this is buried hundreds of feet below the earth.”

As a teacher of almost two decades, I often find myself interacting with children I meet outside the classroom. That parents believe I might have nefarious intentions breaks my heart.

A perfect example happened one day when I was attending a rugby game. A friend was playing, so I leashed my sweet new puppy and went to the game. For those unfamiliar with rugby, let me say here there is no experience quite like it in sports. The players knock the snot out of each other, then do a lot of group hugging and head to the nearest bar, where they share a meal and some bubbly grown-up beverages and then settle in for a sing-along.  I mention this because rugby is a family-friendly affair.

I trailed my six-month old, black and white puppy through a maze of colorful blankets spread beside the pitch. Fans cheered from folding chairs as they nibbled on chips and fried chicken, while sipping cool drinks.

Suddenly, a little girl appeared. She was maybe three. Crouching on stubby legs, she cooed at my pup, then giggled in delight. For reasons I can’t quite recall, I handed the child the leash and she walked my dog about a dozen feet.

Out of nowhere, a woman emerged from the crowd and yanked the child by the arm.

“Does Mommy know this person?” she shrieked and pointed a finger at me.

Heads turned.

“Does she?”

The child looked at her mother, turned a bright shade of crimson, and started to wail.

“This is a stranger!”

I opened my mouth to speak but nothing came out. More people turned to watch. I wanted to say, “Ma’am, I would never hurt your child. She only wanted to pet the puppy.” But I just stood there mute.

The woman dragged the child away. I picked up my dog’s leash, feeling the stares from those who had witnessed the moment, and wished I could just disappear.

What did that mother achieve? She taught her child to fear everyone, except perhaps the family members, neighbors, and acquaintances who, statistics show, are most likely to harm her.

Clearly, the idea of stranger danger needs to go. KidsSmartz, a child safety program that educates families about preventing abduction and empowers kids in grades K-5 to practice safer behaviors, offers the following options.

Don’t say: Never talk to strangers. 

Say: You should not approach just anyone. If you need help, look for a uniformed police officer, a store clerk with a name tag, or a parent with children.

Don’t say: Stay away from people you don’t know. 

Say: It’s important for you to get my permission before going anywhere with anyone.

Don’t say: You can tell someone is bad just by looking at them. 

Say: Pay attention to what people do. Tell me right away if anyone asks you to keep a secret, makes you feel uncomfortable, or tries to get you to go with them.

Now, let’s banish the term stranger danger once and for all.

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.