GRACE UNPLUGGED

Every so often, I’m invited to cool events as the result of my incessant over-sharing here  at a calibama state of mind. Some are blogger networking soireés, others are invitations to be part of the audience for a talk show, and others are opportunities to attend private screenings of great films before they are released.  That’s what happened last week, and the film sent such a positive message, I want to tell y’all about it so you won’t miss it once it opens in theaters this Friday!

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**A talented young singer and aspiring songwriter’s Christian faith and family ties are tested when she defies her worship-pastor father and pursues pop-music stardom in GRACE UNPLUGGED, a moving and inspiring new film that explores the true meaning of success.

Grace Trey has just turned 18 and aspires to do more than sing in her church’s worship band, which is led by her father, Johnny Trey, a one-time pop star who gave up his life in secular music when he became a Christian. Grace longs to escape his shadow and make a name for herself singing songs about something other than God, but Johnny warns her that fame is not as glamorous as it looks and reminds her that serving and worshipping God with the talent she’s been given is a far more worthwhile goal.

When Johnny’s former manager, Frank “Mossy” Mostin shows up 20 years after the two parted ways to offer him another shot at the big time, Johnny declines the opportunity. But Grace takes it – without telling her parents. She records a cover version of her father’s old Top 10 hit, runs away to Los Angeles and, under Mossy’s guidance, begins to taste the kind of success she’s always dreamed of, landing on the charts herself, attracting the attention of the entertainment press, even dating a popular TV star.  But with each rung of the ladder she climbs, Grace feels pressure to compromise her Christian values, and her relationship with her parents gets further strained. Even as plans move forward for her to record a follow-up album, Grace learns not everyone who says they’re on her side really is. The one exception is Quentin, an intern at her record company and a fellow Christian who urges Grace to reassess her choices and put God first again in her life. Will everything she experiences lead her to reject her faith … or …rediscover it?

 

Ironically, the screening was scheduled for last Wednesday evening, which happened to be not only the eve of Sugar Bean’s 14th birthday, but also the night she attends her beloved youth group meeting at our church. And as much as I adore attending a private screening (and even more so the party that usually follows) I must admit, when Sugar Bean opted to attend youth group instead of the movie, I smiled a bit. Okay, a lot. Because raising a teenage daughter in LA is really tough, and there is always a moment of pride when you are presented with unequivocal evidence your angel has her priorities aligned properly: God, Family, and Fun. In. That. Order.

Our very important scheduling conflict did not, however, mean all was lost. Thanks to the miracle of modern technology, and a great girl named Briana at Grace Hill Media, who hooked me up with a digital link, and provided me with log-in credentials…we were able to enjoy the film from the comfort of our own home, snuggled up together in our jammies. And it’s such an amazing, feel good family flick, that was an outstanding way to experience it. Quality mother/daughter bonding time is always sheer perfection! And the icing? The film is partly set in Birmingham, Alabama, which is not far from where I grew up, so I recognized the scenery. That’s always fun!

Anyway, the film itself is just the kind of movie I love to show The Beans. It’s packed with teenage angst, disobedience and rebellion. Wait…what?! Did I just say that? Yes. Yes I did. It’s incredibly relatable, and the rebellion is dealt with sensibly; emphasizing faith, family and the importance of remembering your roots, following your beliefs, maintaining strong morals, and trusting God to lead you along the path to where you belong. It’s packed with teachable moments. Yes, it’s a Christian film. But it’s much much more than that, so don’t shy away from seeing it, even if your spirituality and faith is rooted elsewhere. Because with all the horrifying images and behavior exhibited these days by the very pop stars whom our youth once viewed as ‘role models’, this movie is a gust of fresh, clean air our children can breathe in and be inspired by. The character of Grace Trey is just the kind of girl anyone would be overjoyed to have as a daughter, and fortunately….I’m pretty sure I’m raising three of her, with help from positive works of cinematic brilliance like GRACE UNPLUGGED. 

Starring AJ Michalka, James Denton, Kevin Pollack, Shawnee Smith, Michael Welch, and Jamie Grace, GRACE UNPLUGGED arrives in theaters October 4 from Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions. Inspired by a true story, GRACE UNPLUGGED is directed by Brad J. Silverman and produced by Russ Rice, the team behind NO GREATER LOVE.

AJ with Dad Performing In Church[1]

Grace Piano & Guitar[2]

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You can visit the official website, view the trailer and follow the journey of this film by clicking the links below:

Website: www.graceunplugged.com

Official Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0zIUGjIR1Q

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/GraceUnplugged

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/GraceMovie

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**Denotes synopsis provided by Grace Hill Media. All images provided by Grace Hill Media, with permission from Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions.

The opinions stated here are entirely mine, and mine alone, and I did not receive any monetary compensation in exchange for my review. 

On top of Forgiveness Mountain

Photo credit: HelloGiggles.com

Photo credit: HelloGiggles.com

Pretty bottles of poison, huh? Actually, I don’t know what the heck is in them, but given the nature of this post, and the quote I’m borrowing from HelloGiggles.com  I’m just gonna stick with the assumption they have poison in them. Besides, one of them has a skull on it, and another has a pentagram. That can’t be a good sign. So there.

“Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and waiting for someone else to die.”

Honestly, that’s the best advice/reason I’ve ever seen about forgiveness, because grudges are toxic…even lethal…substances we carry around. They consume our insides and warp our sense of reality. And with 3 Beans and The Man to take care of, I’m already teetering on the verge of insanity most days anyway, so I’ll pass on the help. Thanks. Admittedly, I’ve fallen victim to grudge holding. Hell, I’ve dragged my family into it, and I’m not proud of that, to say the least. Sometimes being human really is an impossibly heavy cross to bear. 

Anyway, back to forgiveness.

Mama always told me, “Look for the good in people, even if you have to use a magnifying glass once in a while.” Pretty sage advice, I believe. She also taught me to be forgiving and compassionate, with the knowledge that nobody is perfect. Especially me. Despite the handful of times I mentioned previously…when I fell into the grudge trenches, grabbing those within my reach on the way down…I’ve always been generously forgiving. Sometimes to a fault. It also takes A LOT to make me angry enough to cut someone out of my life to the point of holding a grudge. And by a lot, I mean major betrayal, heaps of heartache, or life-altering actions….over an extended period. Usually. But I do have a breaking point, and it has happened. The good news is, as I’ve gathered life experience, resulting in more gray hair than I want, I’ve also developed a keener eye for people with agendas. Thus, resulting in a tighter circle full of loyal people whom I would trust with the lives of myself and family, rather than energy vampires who suck the life out of me or threaten to wreck what I’ve got going on. Must be true….wisdom comes with age, huh?

For the past few years, our little tribe has been on a seemingly never-ending hike over some very rough terrain. Let’s see…there has been betrayal by friends and/or trusted business associates, job related shake-ups, financial destruction/rebuilding, addiction and recovery, not one but two family moves, and the deaths of two beloved family pets. Clearly, our plates have overflowed with a variety of things. And that’s just the general Cliff Notes summary. Plenty of other less devastating, yet still significant hurdles have presented themselves along the way as well. But, in the spirit of my mama, and her wish to always focus on the good, and avoid shrouding the entire span of time in darkness, I will direct you to some positive times. Like thisthis and this. And this. OH… and this, of course. But, suffice to say, we’ve learned enough life lessons in the past 8 years to keep The Beans’ (along with their children & grands) karma cards free of a balance for quite a while. Just about the only things we haven’t had to endure are divorce and the terminal illness or loss of a family member. God-forbid any of those happen!! Seriously. I know The One in Charge thinks I’m a bad-ass already, as evidenced by the weight of what I’ve carried in the past. So I’d prefer not to be reminded again just yet. All good for now, and honestly…I could use a rest.

Did you hear that? (please say yes)

Fortunately, it seems that prayer has been heard, although I’m understandably hesitant to hold my breath, or sigh in relief just yet. I mean, you never know…right? However, I am happy to report….as we waded through the muddy water, and slid down slippery slopes into deep valleys at times…we also managed to simultaneously climb a mountain called FORGIVENESS. Mostly of those who betrayed us and of each other, but especially of ourselves. Oh and the view from atop, looking down at the distance we’ve traveled is a marvelous one indeed. The words “I FORGIVE YOU” have never felt so powerful and freeing as they do in my life today. I’ve said them before, but the sound of that phrase now is the equivalent of harp strings plucked by angels’ fingers. Oh, and the bottles of poison? They have been emptied, their contents replaced with the liquid of GRATITUDE. As the saying goes…“To err is human; to forgive is divine”. So so true. I’m proud of how much The Man and I have grown–as people–and the resilience we’ve had in the face of all sorts of things. The Beans will be stronger and smarter as the result of it, I hope.

And more appreciative.

And kinder.

But most of all, more….

FORGIVING.

 

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The Spiritual Rudder

windshield-repair3

A little help, here?

Wednesday, May 8; 6:30pm.

I’m sitting in the basement of our church, just after enjoying our usual Wednesday night, PEAK (Praise Education And Kids) meal. The food is always yummy, the company friendly…and let’s face it…feeding a family of five for $12 total (all of which goes to the church) isn’t such a bad deal. Plus, I don’t have to cook on Hump Day.

All. Good. Things.

Sugar Bean is in her youth group and the other two sprouts are in their classes as well. Several lectures are being conducted in various rooms of the building, so there’s something for everyone if you choose to partake. I just happen to find the basement comfortable, inviting, peaceful and quiet…allowing my brain time to breathe. Which doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should lately. Neither the brain breathing nor the peaceful quiet. But WHO am I kidding? I have The Beans…and they are noisy. Carry On, Warrior!

Anyway, one of the lectures currently happening is titled:

 “War, Divorce, and Faith: A Military Psychologist Reflects on Being a Christian”

 

Although I don’t have the first clue what, exactly, the lecture is about, just seeing the flyer taped to the wall was enough to plant the seed for an inner dialogue…and, of course, a post. Call it FOUNDATION INSPIRATION!

Sometimes, marriage is a series of battles, which can lead to a WAR. Battles ensue over parenting, finances, intimacy, in-laws, addiction, work stress–the list goes on. Too often, those seemingly benign, civil disputes mount to such a height, it results in DIVORCE. Enter FAITH. You must have faith that everything–despite all evidence to the contrary–will be okay, and hope for the best. Or at least a peaceful ending. One way, or another. Easier said than done, I know. Trust me.

Never having been through a divorce from either perspective–my parents were married 46 years before they passed, and I’ve been married for 14 so far– I don’t have any words of comfort or pearls of wisdom to share on how difficult it is to navigate. But I can say with firm certainty that MARRIAGE is tough. Next to parenthood–which is an ongoing, flawed experiment in failure almost every waking moment in my world–marriage is the hardest job I have. Or have EVER had for that matter. I’ve modeled naked in front of an art class full of strangers…in fluorescent lighting…and that wasn’t as exhausting, soul-baring or frightening for goodness sake! I’ve slung drinks behind the bar of a celebrity laden, Hollywood hotspot and not felt so exposed or used up. Seriously. Just the basic principle of it, meaning whole-hearted commitment, takes effort, from both people involved. Hence the reciprocal, vows of matrimony. It’s a partnership, and the moment one person begins to neglect any aspect of it, the foundation begins to develop miniscule cracks. Not visible to the untrained eye at first glance, but nonetheless present, these cracks can–if ignored over time–spread farther and farther into the pillars of the marriage. Is anyone surprised? Not really?

I thought so.

Picture a windshield with a tiny crack buried deep in the far corner. You see it, but don’t give it much thought. Realistically, how much can that little thing compromise the strength of the great big windshield, right? The “I’ll get to it later” mentality sets in. Seasons change, storms happen, temperatures rise and fall. Before you realize what’s happened, that tiny crack has grown into a spider-web across the windshield, obstructing your view…making it impossible to see the road ahead with any clarity.  BAM! You are lost. Completely off the grid. And THAT is some scariness. 

Saddens me to say, but it happens in marriage too.

Sounds pretty grim, huh?

Kinda like a crash in the last lap of the Talladega 500, I’m guessing.

There IS good news though. If you have a spiritual rudder–whatever faith it’s rooted in– helping you navigate the twists and turns, you’ll avoid careening into the center divider, and instead…find a repair shop just around the bend. Hallelujah, and praise the Heavens! You can pull into the pit…rally the crew (if you’ve employed one) and get a refurbished windshield! Not entirely new…just reworked. They don’t give them away for free, mind you. It takes hard work, patience and effort, but if you love the car with your heart and soul, and would rather it spit and sputter…dying beneath the weight of your efforts to save it…rather than have to bear the heartache of trading it in…then it’s totally worth the time, effort and patience required to finish the race and see that checkered flag waving in the breeze. The kicker is, you AND your co-driver both have to be in it for the long haul. No compromises. It takes two, working together. Period. Why, you ask? Because inevitably…you will get a flat tire, blow a gasket, break a belt, overheat, lock the keys in the car, forget where you parked, leave the window down during a rainstorm, or get drunk and need a ride home. Guaranteed. You always need a partner when dealing with anything automotive…or marital. If you are single, I suggest AAA. Or a professional NASCAR pit crew, if you can wrangle one. But be warned…you don’t quite receive that “personal touch”. Especially if you happen to be negotiating with AA simultaneously. Amen.

So, regardless of the fact that I have totally compared my marriage…and perhaps yours…to the machinations of automotive car parts and NASCAR racing…

YOU GET THE POINT.  RIGHT?

 

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Meeting my Monkee Mama :-)

I met my Monkee Mama, Glennon Melton

I met my Monkee Mama, Glennon Melton

Friday, April 12, 2013. The Book Passage; Corte Madera, California.

A day I will never forget, and the journey  to get there all started over a year ago when I stumbled upon… a blog.  And not just ANY BLOG….THE blog.

Momastery.com  

Several new friendships have sprung out of this blog as well. One in particular, which likely should have happened long ago, considering our children were in school together for several years, and still remain good friends. Nonetheless, it took me moving across the city, and sharing this blog with Stacey via Facebook, a year later, which ignited a friendship I have a feeling is part of a much larger picture being revealed to us bit by bit.  As the saying goes, “everything happens for a reason” –when it happens. Or something like that, right? Anyway, it was Stacey who was my partner in crime on the pilgrimage to meet the Divine Monkee Mama, Glennon.

Thanks to Stacey’s sweet hubby, who let us pilfer points from his Southwest Rapid Rewards account, we were able to fly up there for the super special book signing, thus saving us hours in the car and insuring that we arrived 7 hours early...lol.  By now, I’m sure most of you are aware, I had already received a copy of the book, read it twice, let Spongebob throw up on it, and posted a review here.  So the anticipation-anxiety-excitement of this meet n’ greet   Monkee Love Fest, for me, may have been equal to that a devout Catholic would feel going to meet The Pope. Or perhaps like Julia Roberts felt while waiting in the hotel bar, all dressed up in that gorgeous red dress, anticipating the arrival of Richard Gere in Pretty Woman. Probably more like the Pope thing though, to be honest.

As I said, we arrived a teensy bit early, so there was plenty of time for a bit of fumbling and bumbling to ensue. First of all, we rented a Prius to make the trek from Oakland to Corte Madera. I drive one on a daily basis, so naturally, I opted to let Stacey take the wheel and enjoy the thrill while I navigated. After I showed her how to turn it on, and assured her the engine was…in fact…running, since the dang things are so quiet, off we drove…into the sunshine…following the prompts provided via iMaps, compliments of Apple. The first glitch came as we were leaving the airport in search of Hegenberger Road, which was supposed to lead us to the actual road we needed to take in order to get onto the freeway. We eventually stumbled upon it, but not because of the great directions coming from my iPhone, or the signs at the airport, which pointed in the direction of a dirt lot that appeared to be under construction. Suffice to say….We. Just. Found. It.

Off, off, and away we drove….chattering all the way! Across a bridge….

not the Golden Gate

not the Golden Gate

Yeah…this is the only photo I managed to snap from the car, because it was hard to follow directions on my phone AND take pictures at the same time. Or I may have been talking too much. It happens. Admittedly though, I mostly suck at photo documentation of things because I’m just too busy living in the moment to actually worry about capturing it on film. Unless prompted. Therefore, you can thank Stacey for this photo.

After about 40 minutes, we pulled up to the most inviting, pleasant looking shopping enclave I’ve ever seen. And lo and behold….The Book Passage was the hub of it! There was also a yoga studio, a frame shop, a quaint little restaurant, a bakery, a nail salon, and a bunch of other small stores sprinkled about. Of course, we made a beeline for the mecca of our pilgrimage, and as soon as we walked in, were greeted with this:

We.Made.It.

We.Made.It.

I may or may not have shouted ‘Hallelujah’ upon walking in and seeing this 🙂

After milling around in a bit of a trance, perhaps caused by hunger, but more likely from the sheer anticipation of what would happen in a few hours…we sat down and had some lunch. At the cafe….in the bookstore. Then, upon further examination, we figured out that our hotel was within walking distance. Unbeknownst to me…I’d booked our accommodations right next door to the very place we would meet our Monkee Mama, Glennon, 5 hours later. Sometimes, I do live a bit of a charmed life….totally by accident though.

As we checked into the hotel, I noticed the front desk attendant’s name was Tom Collins, which took me back to my bartending days, and made me giggle. In case you don’t know your booze…that is the name of a drink. Not a very good one, in my opinion, but still. We were super excited when he offered us an upgraded room at a mere $10 more than the quoted price of the room I booked, and we happily accepted. It would soon become clear WHY….it was only $10 more. While very charming, the hotel is currently undergoing a MAJOR renovation, and the center of their construction universe seemed to be directly above our room. The noise convinced me they must be building a sister hotel in China, and had decided to tunnel from that one to begin the process of connecting the two. All I can say is that Mister-Named-After-A-Sour-Drink, is lucky I had previously made up my mind that nothing was going to tarnish this overnight getaway to meet my blogging/writer/girl-crush idol. Or else my sassy Southern tongue would have pulled him into a come to Jesus meetin’ and that room would have been comped before he knew what hit him!

Now, with a few hours still left to kill, we decided to go check out Mill Valley…an adorable little town about 10 minutes or so away. Stacey was familiar with it, and The Man suggested I visit there while in the area, so it was a done deal. I pulled on some jeans and a tee, shoved my feet into my cowboy boots, topped off the look with a Bama hat and some gypsy jewels, and we set out on the adventure. And holy crap…that place is like my nirvana! Sort of a treehouse kind of community, oozing with culture, smelling like nature and emanating a hippie vibe. We wandered around a bit, and I snapped this photo (my 3rd one of the trip):

flowershopinMV

very unique

I realize it doesn’t look like much, but it’s an outdoor floral shop housed above a running stream. I’ve never seen anywhere else like it, so once I win the lottery and move to Mill Valley, I’m going to buy it. Just wait and see.

Immediately after we left here, we wandered into a wine store and perused the racks for a bottle of pinot noir we decided we would split in celebration, following the signing that evening. As we were chatting, both of us admitted to choosing wine by the aesthetics of the label, since neither has enough knowledge about the stuff to be a wine snob. If the label is pretty, and it’s affordable…that usually works. I also became mesmerized by the positively gorgeous and unique bottles of tequila on display in the store, and it dawned on me I couldn’t buy one to bring home, and the irony was not lost on me. (more on that later) We chose a bottle of pinot from the Mary Elke winery, because it had the word “Barter” on the label, and I personally think the world would be way easier if we ditched currency and returned to the barter system. Too bad the wine shop owner didn’t agree, and made us pay for it. Oh well…a girl can dream, I suppose.

The center of Mill Valley is a coffee shop and bookstore that serves wine (is this becoming a theme?), so we decided to rest our feet, take in the scenery and enjoy a glass of vino while listening to a local musician play a dulcimer in the adjacent courtyard. It turned out to be the only glass either of us had the entire trip. Yes…that’s right, we never opened the bottle we bought. We didn’t need to, as we were buzzed enough from the Monkee energy at the signing. I am happy to say that Mary Elke is waiting patiently at Stacey’s house for another GNO–and hopefully, Audra will join us! But seriously…how appropriately feminine (and Southern) is the name of that vintage? I can’t wait!

Alright, I’m gonna cut right to the chase here….fast forwarding through the threat of traffic getting back to the Monkee Mecca, and just say we made it in time to plant our fannies in a couple of chairs not so close that we could hit Glennon with spitballs, but not so far away as to require binoculars. Perfect placement, in other words 🙂 The energy in the room was infectious. Several mamas came with their precious littles, which made me miss mine. Okay. That’s a lie. They were in capable hands, and I needed a vacay. But I did THINK about them.

Glennon came onto the stage, and I swear she was glowing. It’s possible it could have been the lighting, but I sincerely doubt it. She just radiates positive light. She talked for a bit, then read an essay titled “Officer Superhero” from her book, which of course made everyone roar with laughter and shake their heads with a ‘been there, done that’ nod. Me, times 3, in fact. After that, she took questions, and then it was time to line up for AUTOGRAPHS.

And this, my friends, is where it gets interesting….

 

As I mentioned previously, I was wearing a Bama hat. It’s part of my Warrior armor. As if this surprises any of you? You are also aware that I’m a talker…so my Southern accent was on full display, like a badge of honor, as I happily chatted up the lady in front of us. At some point, and I’m not sure what the prompt was…one of the ladies in line behind us, says to me “Is that an Alabama hat?”, despite the fact that it was Crimson and CLEARLY said Alabama on it. I politely answered, “Yes”, and she asked if I was from there, and had I attended UA. Again, I uttered a pride-filled “Yes.”  Then she said, “I’m from Mobile, and I went to Auburn.”  For a moment, there was a silent exchange of looks-up and down-from both of us to the other, and of course the unspoken thought, no doubt, running through both our minds of “Well, damn. Now I can’t be your friend.” Once that moment passed, and we explained to the women we were there with, Stacey and Kris, respectively, about the bitter rivalry between the two universities, it was clear we would in fact be friends. After all, there we were, standing in line amongst about 100 other women, waiting to meet the author of a blog and book, that claims “LOVE WINS” as it’s primary mantra. A devout Bama fan and a diehard Auburn fan, randomly found each other amongst the Monkees. Again, the irony of this situation was not lost on me. I only wish she’d been wearing some blue and orange AU garb to make the perfect photo! We laughed about how hilarious it is that neither university has a battle cry that even remotely matches their mascot –an elephant named Al who screams “Roll Tide Roll”, and a Tiger named Aubie who cries “War Eagle”WHAT. THE. EFF.?? We swapped some great stories, the time passed quickly, and we of course solidified the encounter by becoming FB friends. Thanks Bre…I look forward to football season this year….lol 🙂

Alright, so we finally made it to the front of the line….hearts racing…and Stacey steps up to the table to greet Glennon. Not sure what the exchange was, but Glennon offered each of us a Twizzler as she came around to hug us, and pose for this photo:

Yes...those are Twizzlers.

Yes…those are Twizzlers.

So then it was my turn, and Glennon sat back down as I stepped up to have my books….yes, I had 2…signed. She immediately commented on the fact that I had ‘an original’ copy, and before I could even explain why (because I’d done the review) she said “NANCY!” and my day year was made. My blogging mentor knew my freaking name! Yep…stick a fork in me people, because I’m done! I could have drawn my last breath right there, and landed on the floor with a thud and a smile on my face. Obviously, that didn’t happen, but it could have. She thanked me for writing such a beautiful review, and continuing to show up for her and the Monkees. Then she came around to hug me, and a very magical thing happened. She whispered in my ear a phrase I will never forget, that let me know, beyond a shadow of doubt that not only did she know my name….she also knew my story. Because listening is one of her gifts and talents. You see, I, just like so many other people, have written emails to her, over the course of the last year….pouring out my thoughts, fears, hopes, dreams, etc….during times of struggle, just to get the heavies off my heart and out there into the universe. Never in a million years did I expect a response. But this is the cherished, whispered answer I got:

Evidence to the contrary…All is well.

 

And with that, I’m going to wrap this up. Because honestly, after that moment, I really just floated on a cloud for the remainder of the evening and the next day. Although, it wasn’t completely uneventful. We visited a restaurant featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, I spotted a landmark (The Watermelon Slice?) I was certain had to be a hunger induced mirage while on the shuttle from Prius return to  terminal, where I ran barefoot through the Oakland Airport because, of course….we almost missed our flight. Never a dull moment!

Here’s to the next Monkee pilgrimage!

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