Our Ellen adventure

On our super awesome mom/daughter 30th birthday extravaganza, we got the amazing, once in a lifetime, finally achieved a 10 year dream, opportunity to attend a taping of The Ellen DeGeneres Show. But before I go on, there is some back history you need to know to fully grasp and appreciate the magnitude of how special this day was.

I’ve been an Ellen fan….forever! I used to watch the sitcom as a young teen religiously. To this day I remember loving the fact that they often referenced The Commish in their jokes, which was another of my favorite TV shows. I remember being so disappointed when it was abruptly cancelled. It was the first time in my young sheltered Utah life that I wondered why anyone would care that much about someone’s else sexual orientation was. Ellen’s coming out patterned the way I would view and support the LGBT community throughout my young years and still today. The Ellen DeGeneres Show started during a trying time in my life. I was a young newlywed, trying to figure out who I was and what I wanted in life while trying to support my husband and the married lifestyle. We were both in college and I just couldn’t find my place in school….or in the world. I had trouble relating to other young married students and my old single friends. And my beloved Rosie O’Donnell Show had just been cancelled. So Ellen came just when I needed her the most!

10 years ago I decided I needed to go to a taping of her show in LA. I thought it would be simple enough to get tickets, so when I only got stand by tickets the first time I flew to LA anyway. I was 6 months pregnant with my oldest son. I did not get in. But that began years of submitting for tickets, sometimes flying out for standbys and never even getting in the riff raff room. And as many of you know, 6 years ago getting tickets to a taping took on a whole new meaning when she actually saved my life. And I’m not speaking figuratively here! Back in 2010 Ellen did an interview with Maura Tierney about her battle with Breast Cancer. She was younger than the typical age and didn’t have a family history and I was taken back by that. 2 years later, in 2012, I remembered that interview when I found a lump in my left breast. I had initially been told not to worry about it, but I couldn’t shake the memory of that interview and insisted on a mammogram. I was soon diagnosed with a rare, very rapidly growing tumor. I had just turned 31 years old. It was a battle that took 3 surgeries, including a mastectomy and complete reconstruction, but I’m healthy today still. And even more importantly little Micah Andrew, who was born after this whole ordeal, is a healthy vibrant 3 1/2 year old. So not only do I have Ellen and Maura Tierney to thank for my life, but for Micah’s too.

So obviously getting to an Ellen taping was very important to me after that. It was discouraging to never get there, especially when I would fly all the way to LA just for a chance. And it wasn’t cheap either. I have sold my blood plasma and saved the earnings all year every time just for the chance. But I was bound and determined that someday it would happen. And with this year being that my mom and sisters were coming along, I wanted it more than ever. I prayed every night for months just begging for the opportunity. But with our trip rapidly approaching, I knew I didn’t get them again. And I was crushed.

But that’s when a small miracle happened. Just days before we were scheduled to leave, I got those tickets. How was a combination of inspiration, great timing, and pure dumb luck. I found someone to help me, and I will not disclose their name or how they did it. I promised to protect their identity and I intend to always do that. But not only did they secure us tickets, but they were VIP!!

We showed up at the studio a little earlier than the time we were given because the day before we had gotten a little bit of a late start to Universal Studios and we didn’t want to risk that happening again. And I’m so glad we did, because they were actually ahead of schedule. The studio was across the street from where we lined up, so we all crossed together with security guards. I felt very important, even though they were doing it for everyone! We waited in a long hall with pictures of Ellen and all her guests hanging on the walls. I was able to point out every picture and not only say what season it was but add an extra little tidbit of what happened during the interview. Then they led us into the riff raff room and Ellen Shop. Which is where I got my official Ellen pop figure! Side note: my sons fell in love with the pop figures when we went to comic con last month. They asked if we could collect them, which I agreed on IF the first one I ever bought was the Ellen one. So now they are very excited to start our collection! Anyway, we waited downstairs from the actual studio for what felt like forever. But in true Amy fashion I chatted with anyone who would listen to me and that passed the time!

Then it was the time! We headed into the studio and we were very excited to be placed right in the front row center! It was SO cool!! Once everyone was seated the warm up guy came out and got everyone dancing. I joked to Kirsten that I was glad there was a bar in front of us so I could show off my twerking moves! That was hilarious until Ellen came out and I was so excited I almost fell over the bar onto all the unsuspecting producers! When she came out we could tell there was something wrong right away. She then proceeded to talk about how she had hurt her back again and we could tell she was in a lot of pain. I felt so bad for her. especially when the musical group Old Dominion came out to perform. They had a stool for Ellen to sit on by the producers, and she tried to sit comfortably on it during the entire performance. She finally gave up. But she shrugged it off as best as she could, even when she nearly got run down by a game contestant. I admired her endurance so much. The guests that day were Keira Knightly and Katherine Hahn. I LOVE Katherine Hahn so I was excited! Especially after it was revealed she was promoting a movie she did about infertility. Having gone through 8 years of infertility before having Ben, I felt instantly even more in love with her! The prize for the day was a $350 voucher to a country music festival in LA next spring and a copy of the CD. But the staff asked us not to accept the voucher if we didn’t think we’d come back for it so they could give it to somebody who could use it. So we just took the CD. But the person who helped us get the tickets gave us free mugs, so I was happy! And afterward I told my whole story to the warm up guy, who patiently listened and then gave me a free tshirt!

It was such a great day and such a dream come true to finally be there seeing the person who saved my life….. in person! I will eternally be grateful to the person who made this happen for us. They have no idea what a gift and a blessing they gave us that day, they helped my dream come true. And thanks to Ellen and her wonderful staff for making it a day to remember!

I Heart LA!

This past week my sisters, my mom, and I embarked on a once in a lifetime 4 day journey to Los Angeles. My sister Kirsten is turning 30, so we decided to go to LA to make a dream of hers come true. She is a HUGE Tim Allen fan, so we went to LA to see a taping of Last Man Standing. We were so disappointed when Last Man Standing got abruptly cancelled last year, but thanks to fan persistence and another network willing to take a chance on it, the show was revamped. And we knew that this was THE time to go! Kirsten lives in Vancouver, WA, so we decided the rest of us would make the 14 hour each way journey to LA and meet Kirsten there. I had this bright idea that if I drank as much water as I could on the journey down I wouldn’t gain weight from having to eat out. It didn’t work! But what does work is a bladder that’s got a gallon of water in it. And unfortunately it decided to work in the heart of the desert where apparently the state of California has decided to close down every single rest stop for cleaning at the exact same time. Finally, in the middle of nowhere, we found a gas station. And I’m not proud to say I nearly plowed over two old women in short shorts and sunhats to get to that bathroom first!

We made it into LA just as Kirsten’s plane landed in Burbank. We booked an Airbnb in North Hollywood that advertised easy access, plenty of street parking, and free WiFi. When we arrived we discovered that plenty of street parking only applied to early mornings, and we had to park and hike with all our bags to the actual apartment. There was NO Wifi, which wouldn’t have been so bad if the building wasn’t in a complete dead spot. And the whole building smelled like weed. BUT…it was cheap and we didn’t expect to spend a lot of time there. My favorite part of the place was the neighbor and her Corgi named Carl. I will never forget her telling Carl to “make good choices” on the elevator!

Our first full day was spent at Universal Studios. As a parent I have to say, theme parks are SO much more fun without kids! We got there early without any whining and spent the whole day running from ride to ride and store to store without having to worry about where our kids were! It was awesome! I went on the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride until I was sick! And I drank $36 worth of butterbeer! They had a Hello Kitty store to die for and Krusty World made me feel like I was actually in The Simpsons! It was so much fun!

Our 2nd full day was spent mailing at a taping of The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Yes people, we made it to Ellen!! BUT….you’ll have to wait for a few more days for that report. Sorry! That’s a full blog post of its own! But after Ellen we met one of my dearest friends Ashley for dinner (check out her husband Stephen on The Conners on ABC!!) and then went to see The Brady Bunch house!

Our 3rd day was dedicated to the reason we all joined up, the reason for the epic mother/ daughter weekend. It was Last Man Standing day!! We were so excited we showed up to the studio 3 hours early! And of course they turned us away. We bought lunch and ate it at a park watching the nannies play with their kids. Then we staked out a certain “The Office” character’s house and circled back to try and get into the studio again, and were turned away for the 2nd time. So we went to buy bottled water and discovered water in a carton instead. Which we thought was cool because it was LA, but most people just asked why wee were carrying our own milk! Then we showed up at the studio again, were turned away by a now annoyed security guard, and waited again. Unfortunately we waited about 30 seconds too long and then got caught in a long line of cars! Kirsten was so worried we wouldn’t get into the taping that I jumped out of our moving car while she was trying to park to get through security faster. I think our excitement for the even overwhelmed everyone in line, but we didn’t care! We were just so thrilled to be there! The set was so beautiful! It was so cool to see all the little details I love from the show in person. Like the chair by the window in the front room or the clock on the kitchen wall. Oh and the camping picture in Mike’s office I always thought looked a little familiar! Kirsten was practically crying by the time we got into the studio, so when the cast came out she was beside herself. The poor old man in front of us kept looking back at us, it was hilarious! Now as much as we were all excited to see Tim Allen, I was especially excited to see Nancy Travis. Nancy Travis plays Vanessa on the show, but I’ve loved her since I first saw So I Married An Axe Murderer as a kid. And Vanessa is my spirit animal, the mother and woman I want to be. She’s intelligent, determined, and laughs at her own jokes. One time I was attending a religious ceremony, and during the quietest and most somber time Vanessa’s “That’s what She Shed” joke from the show popped in my head! I started laughing so hard I was crying! So seeing her in person was a dream come true! And she is even more beautiful and lovely in person! Her personality and beautiful smile radiated through the whole studio and immediately made my whole trip! And it was fun to see Amanda Fuller too. I’ve always liked her as Kristin on the show, but after seeing her role as Badison on OITNB, my respect for her has grown emensly. The taping itself was so funny! Not only was the episode funny but the actors goofing off in between takes was even better. The cast meshes so well together, even the newer members. At one point Tim Allen did that signature laugh at one of his own jokes, I was dying! Kirsten says it was definitely the highlight of the trip!

Since we were there celebrating Kirsten’s birthday, I convinced the warm up guy that he needed to give her something. And boy did he deliver! He gave her an autographed picture of Tim Allen! We protected that picture with our lives the rest of the night! The warm up guy and his antics in between takes was just as funny as the taping. He pretty much made fun of anything on anybody he could fine! At one point he asked this cute older lady to put on a Yoda mask to do a star wars scene with. But clearly she isn’t a fan of the movie because she put the mask on upside down and then couldn’t see out of it! He passed out playing cards during the show to do a drawing for prizes at the end. He forgot his extra deck of cards to draw from so he asked this poor clueless girl to call out random cards. Her first answer was 17! Then he tried to explain what she was supposed to do again and she called out 11! But she finally figured out what she was doing and she called out my card! So I got a free t-shirt and sticker! It was such a fun night that we’ll never forget!

The next day we packed up our little pot filled apartment and got ready to leave LA. But since we had a little time before Kirsten had to be to the airport, so we played tourists! We went down to the Chinese Theater and looked at the stars on the walk of fame. I screamed when I saw Ryan Seacrest’s and Melissa McCarthy’s! Then I stomped on Donald Trump’s for a minute! Then we drove up to the Conservatory and took pictures of the Hollywood sign. Then we dropped Kirsten off and headed on our long journey home!

It was such a fun trip full of the greatest memories! I’m so glad I got to experience it with my favorite family members!

How to break a girl’s heart in 10 seconds

It’s October again! For me October means wearing baggy sweatshirts so I don’t have to wear a bra, sweeping falling leaves remnants off my wooden floors, taking the kids to pick out the perfect costume while complaining about the price of an outfit they wear one day, guilting my husband into actually taking the kids trick or treating while I stay home to pass out candy, and then raiding their stashes after they go to sleep. Its all around fun for everyone! October is also the month I take my annual trip to LA. Almost every year (there were a few broke years) for 10 years I’ve made my way to LA for a little designated mom time to enjoy trading in the hustle and bustle of my everyday life for being a tourist for 3 days. It all started when I was pregnant with Ben, and I waddled my big belly out there to get away. And its been a tradition ever since. I visit friends, catch a real LA spin or yoga class, check out a few trendy eateries, and see a taping of a show or two. And every single time I have tried to get tickets to The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Every. Single. Time. I submit months in advance and pray every night that it’s finally the year I get chosen. And every single year I’ve been rejected and not given the tickets.

Getting to go to a taping of Ellen took on more meaning 6 years ago. That’s when an old but not forgotten episode popped back up when I needed it the most. Anyone who knows me knows the story. In 2010 I watched an episode where Ellen interviewed actress Maura Tierney about her battle with Breast Cancer. In 2012, when I found a lump in my own breast, I remembered that interview. And because of that interview I insisted on a mammogram, which led to an early diagnosis of a rare type of tumor that was growing rapidly. I underwent 3 surgeries and countless other hours of medications, appointments, and long nights, but its because of that interview that I’m healthy today. And because of that interview my 3 year old son, who was born after this whole ordeal, is here today too. So getting to attend a taping and see Ellen in person has become incredibly important to me.

So jump back to this year when I again submitted for tickets months ago. Her website says that tickets are given out in the order they are submitted for, so I watched the website every day all summer hoping to be one of the first to submit. Once I submitted the waiting game begun. This year is especially exciting, as my little sister is turning 30 and we’re all taking a mother/daughter trip to LA together. I can’t imagine other people who I would rather be with when I finally accomplished this goal, so I knew it was my year. I kept telling myself that “10 years is the charm”! The website says that if you haven’t received word that you got the tickets by 2 weeks before the selected date, you can try and submit for another date. Today was the exact 2 week mark. I checked my email every 1/2 hour, hoping and praying that the email would come. Then at the very end of the day, feeling defeated once again, I checked my email one more time. And immediately my eyes were drawn to the words Ellen DeGeneres in my inbox!

When I saw her name I immediately started crying. I was SO happy! And perhaps a little delirious…..because I didn’t notice the word Walmart with her name. But through my happy tears I finally noticed, and the unfortunate truth finally came out. I wasn’t reading an email from The Ellen DeGeneres Show, I was reading an ad from Walmart on Ellen’s new clothing line. Talk about a punch in the gut! Now don’t get me wrong, I love the Ellen line from Walmart! Cute tops and jeans that actually fit…they’re every middle aged mother’s dream. But at that moment it felt more like a nightmare. And then the realization set in….I didn’t get the tickets.

In the moments that followed a song I grew up with slowly filled my mind. It was a song from the popular 70s group Bread called Diary. In it he finds a girl he loves diary under a tree and thinks he’s reading about her undying love for him. He’s so happy…until he realizes the person she’s writing about is someone else, not him. And now he must move on. The song has always been sad, but it took on a much deeper meaning at that moment. I’d like to think that God, who I had been begging for months to make this happen, had to get a little laugh out of that one. I mean, it couldn’t have been more perfect. But my heart was broken, so I couldn’t share the laugh.

I don’t know what will happen in the future. Maybe 11 years is the charm. Or maybe this was the sign I needed to tell me this will never happen. And its time to give up and move on. I think only time will tell on that one. But for now I may need to find a new grocery store….and favorite pair of jeans!

I will always believe

I haven’t posted in a long time. But the truth is, I have 16 drafts of blog posts waiting to be finished. I try to work on them a little bit at a time, time permitting. But my drafts of blog posts are very much like my mind, and jump around from subject to subject in record time. But today I had an experience that pushed all those drafts aside for yet another day. It happened in church today, but contrary to the title, this is not a spiritual or religious post. This is an ethical power war I had with a 7 year old child.

In church I play the piano in primary, or children’s classes. I love it! Its the perfect combination of working with children, but not really having to work with them! It saves me from having to attend as many adult classes, but also provides me with a sense of accomplishment. Its perfect for me! No matter what level my belief in the church is at the time, I love showing up to play for these kids each week. But today was 5th Sunday, which is exactly how it sounds. On the rare occasion that we have 5 Sundays in a month, roles get a little scattered around. And instead of playing the piano, I found myself sitting in on a class taught to 6 and 7 year olds. All was fine and well, the lesson was being beautifully taught, until one innocent little boy mentioned the existence of Santa Clause. And another seemingly know it all child proudly announced that Santa Clause was a myth and didn’t really exist. The disappointment or may I even say crushed looks of despair quickly settled on the faces of the other children, and I immediately jumped into Mama Bear mode.

Now I want to get a few things out in the open. I don’t by any means have a problem with the parents who choose to have an honest and open dialect about the jolly man’s exhistance. So far our country is still free and has yet to be turned into a true Gilead (in reference to Handmaid’s Tale), so parent’s have the right to parent the way they want. I totally understand the fear of lying to our children and the possibility of distrust that can come from that. I understand the lack of common sense that surrounds a man that not only visit every mall in the world during the holiday season, but can visit every single home in the entire world in one night. That kind of activity couldn’t be done by a physically fit man, let alone an overweight one with a cookie obsession. And more than anything I understand trying to protect a child’s visions of getting anything his heart desires when they live in a home where that isn’t possible. I grew up in a home where getting just our basic needs met was a blessing, so I get not living under the novelty that we somehow should get more. And I’ve answered the questions my kids have asked when we participate in Sub for Santa events in the simplest way I can to protect them and make them understand that not everyone is as fortunate as they might be. BUT…. It’s when the kid feels its his right, or responsibility, to share his knowledge with children who’s parents still feel like letting them enjoy their childhood that I start to have a problem. The Christmas of 1988 was truly the most magical Christmas I will ever remember. My brother and I got pound puppies and bubble gum machines. I remember my father questioning how the pound puppies got out from their bedroom closest and me exclaiming “It was Santa!” And I remember him smiling and agreeing that had to be how. We didn’t have a lot, but that day I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. I still have that pound puppy. Every time I see it I still remember how magical that day was. The next year I learned the true identity of Santa Clause. It was the same year I said goodbye to my father (who died that year), and my innocence (I was sexually abused by a trusted friend that year), and I truly mourned the loss of the one person who I thought made everything better. He made everything fair, he made everyone smile, he made everything ok if just for one day. And I still needed him in my life. But my cousins knew the truth and felt free to share, officially shattering every last shred of childhood I had left. It was 8 years old then, and I vowed right then and there that I would let my children enjoy every last precious second of childhood they could hold on to. And almost 30 years later I truly still want just that for them. A carefree childhood full of happiness and belief.

Now I know in this day and age hoping for a carefree wonderful childhood is stretching the laws of nature. I’m raising 3 independent, smart, charismatic boys in a very uncertain world. They are completely bombarded from all sides with images of sex, violence, drugs, more sex. My 9 year old is asking questions that I was barely asking at age 11.  In fact, he’s asked so many questions that I’ve questioned whether or not its time to give him “The Talk”. But much like the Santa conversation, I don’t want him going to school and being “that kid”. The kid who ruins the innocence of all his classmates and forces their parents to talk to them about things they aren’t ready to share. They repeat phrases they hear from other children that would have made me lost the ability to sit for a week, and even worse they have no idea what they are even saying. It an uncertain world we live in now. Being a parent is a constant tug of war between protecting them and preparing them. I pray every morning and every night I can find the fine line between those two things and provide them with the safest environment I can give them. So if that environment involves a tiny sense of wonder disguised as a fat jolly white bearded man dressed in a red suit, I feel its my right to be able to do that.

So lets get back to this afternoon. I don’t know if I was more annoyed over the fact that this child didn’t mind ruining the rest of Christmas’ for all the other class members, or that his parents didn’t think about mentioning to him when they broke his heart that it might not be appropriate to do the same thing to other children. Although I guess I can’t say for certain that this child’s parents didn’t warn him that we shouldn’t destroy a childhood fantasy for all other kids, but I have to guess on this situation that they didn’t. But I immediately stopped the class to outwardly express my irritation with this child’s comment. And what kills me the most is actually smirked at me when I stopped him. Afterward I mentioned to him that it wasn’t appropriate to say things like that to other children. He said to me “What? You don’t actually believe in Santa do you?” To which I told him I absolutely did. He gave me a confused look and I told him that I believe in everything magical. Unicorns, treasure hunts, all your wildest dreams coming true, and most importantly Santa Clause. Because when you don’t believe in him he can’t believe in you. I also proceeded to tell him that Santa still brings me a present every single year. I did leave out who actually writes “From Santa” on the gift. And yes, I do that! Because I want my kids to believe, and how can they if I don’t?

Again, I’m not telling any parent how to do your job. Because in this dog eat dog world of motherhood we live in we spend way too much time feeling bad about ourselves because someone has mentioned how we can do our jobs better. And no matter what we allow our children to believe, I do believe that we are all doing the very best we can. But with another holiday season quickly bearing down on us again, PLEASE talk to you children about not spoiling the wonder and amazement of Christmas for the believing children. We don’t always have to be right, we don’t always have to know everything. But we should always try to be kind. And as the great Mormonad states: It’s nice to be Important, but its Important to be Nice. After all, isn’t that the real meaning of Christmas?