Statement

The issue at hand is the illegal violation of my privacy in that a tracking device was secretly and unlawfully placed on my vehicle.
For my safety and that of everyone around me, I naturally filed a police report, as any citizen would and should.
The media is unfortunately aggressively pursuing and publishing details, some of which should be private and confidential, such as my cell phone number, in their attempt to create salacious and divisive “news.” Our police station and town hall are being barraged with phone calls and emails, diverting them from their priorities in law enforcement and civic management, and taxpayer dollars are being wasted as well. A very fine career detective has been suspended for a moment of poor judgment for succumbing to media invasiveness.
It is my, and everyone’s, responsibility to take routine action when any law is broken. I hope the law enforcement officials can continue to do their jobs in spite of media speculation, pressure and poor conduct. Thank you.

Thank You

Over the past several months, I’ve been deeply moved by the resiliency, grace, and spirit of the many Kentuckians I’ve been honored to encounter as I’ve travelled our great state. After hearing your voices and stories – your dreams for your families and the many hurts you’ve experienced – it’s profoundly clear Kentucky needs leaders in Washington who will fight for your interests. And it’s time Kentucky had an alternative to the cynical politics and self-serving tactics of Mitch McConnell.

It would be the greatest honor of my life to be entrusted as a public servant to our beloved Kentucky. Perhaps someday I will be. However, with the help of my pastors and mentors, I have thoughtfully and prayerfully concluded that I won’t run for the United States Senate at this time.

I have never been intimidated by the prospect of serving Kentucky – and I remain unafraid of the Washington insider political machine that has controlled this Senate seat for three decades.

My chief concern in reaching this decision has only been the possibility that it disappoints folks. I’ve been blown away by the incredible encouragement, support, and confidence I’ve received, and I thank everyone who has reached out from our 120 counties and around our nation to offer their talents and time. I am humbled by the many supporters who have shown they are ready to work, organize, fight, and pray for a just economic future for Kentucky. I am especially grateful to four generations of my family for their endless understanding for my passion for service. Thanks Mom, for wanting to turn the carport into a field office – and for working on campaign slogans. And thanks, Dad, for being such a good listener at kitchen cabinet meetings, and making sure I was always clear on the “next action steps!”

While I will not be taking to the campaign trail at this time, I continue to be energized by so many unforgettable declarations from Kentuckians, which have kept me awake many nights:

I want business to come to Kentucky, not because my children are the cheapest labor they can find, but because they are the most educated work force they can find.

It’s finally Kentucky’s turn to lead the nation.

We can create a just economic transition, but not with a Senator whose tenure has seen 1% of population go from controlling 3% of the wealth to 27% of the wealth.

We have so much hope, and we need a leader whose vision for us and our children is as big as our potential.

I am more resolved than ever that this kind of politics as usual – and the egregious abuses that have become all too common in the public space – must end. It will be my pleasure to support the eventual candidate with all my energy. That’s what it will take from each of us to return this Senate seat to those to whom it rightfully belongs: the people of Kentucky.

Thank you again for your kindnesses and support. It has moved and blessed me.

On “Invisible War” and overcoming post-traumatic stress disorder

As I prepare to go to picture on my directorial debut, I’d like to share some of what I have been reading and discovering. I’ve long been familiar with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), a very common form mental illness, and gender violence. I’ve also been sadly aware of the asymmetry of gender power in the US military, and I thought I knew how commonly our servicewoman are harassed, exploited, degraded, controlled or otherwise have their sexual autonomy, bodily integrity, and rights egregiously abused by our servicemen. For example, I am familiar with the habit of many servicewoman of not taking fluids after a certain hour, as they need to avoid urinating – sexual assault is so common in the bathrooms they prefer to risk dehydration in Iraq or Afghanistan rather than go for a pee. However, in preparing for “Five More” for Lifetime, a series of five shorts about mental illness, my narrative being the fifth and about PTSD, I am shocked – a word I use neither lightly nor often – at the wholesale, rampant, extraordinary, and inexcusable epidemic of what can only be called systemic and mass rape in the US military. Below are some of my incontrovertible sources, from the servicewomen themselves and the Department of Defense. I hope that after reading, you’ll take action by joining the Service Women’s Action Network’s in supporting this petition, and by watching Invisible War in its entirety. After that, you have choices: write a letter to the editor of your local paper, share these resources and your feelings with your social networks and family, and in general, gather your outrage and make it count toward to ending impunity for rapists in the US military.

As we discuss this important topic, don’t lose sight, though, of PTSD in general. I include some facts below, and if you think you might have PTSD, or know someone who does, talk to your doctor and utilize available online mental health resources, such as National Alliance for Mental Health, and the Mayo Clinic.

Please stay tuned for more information in this space on “Five More,” including my thoughts about my fantastic actors, Jennifer Hudson and Brittany Snow!

 

 

PTSD information and resources

Getting help
Tools for resolving PTSD can include: EMDR, Brain State Technology and trauma work—such as that offered by an experiential therapist and treatment centers like Shades of HopeOn-siteThe Mellody House, etc..

Discussion and advocacy
Service Women’s Action Network Information, advocacy, and policy resources

Invisible War, an urgently important documentary with first person narratives about the mass rape culture in our military.

The leading veteran’s news source publishes the Defense Department’s sexual assault report, and Secretary Panetta’s remarks.

An outstanding investigate report about the Military Sexual Report.

PTSD facts

  • It’s natural to be afraid when in danger.
  • It’s natural to be upset when something bad happens to you or someone else.
  • If the fear and upset persists weeks or months later, it’s time to talk with your doctor.
  • It may be post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • PTSD is a real illness.
  • PTSD can be caused by living through or seeing a dangerous event, such as war, a hurricane, or bad accident.
  • PTSD causes feelings of stress and fear after the danger is over.
  • PTSD starts at different times for different people.
  • Signs of PTSD may start soon after a frightening event and then continue.
  • Other times, the signs and symptoms develop months or even years later
  • PTSD can happen to anyone at any age.
  • Children get PTSD too.
  • PTSD can be a result of vicariously, indirectly witnessing/experiencing another’s trauma
  • Millions of Americans get PTSD every year.
  • Many war veterans have had PTSD.
  • Women tend to get PTSD more often than men.

Causes:
Living through or witnessing something that’s upsetting and dangerous, outside of the normal human experience, including but not limited to:

  • Being a victim of or seeing violence
  • The death or serious illness of a loved one
  • War or combat
  • Car accidents and plane crashes
  • Hurricanes, tornadoes, and fires
  • Violent crimes, like a robbery or shooting.

Symptoms:

  • Bad dreams/Nightmares
  • Flashbacks, or feeling like a scary event is happening again
  • Uncontrollable scary thoughts
  • Staying away from places and things that are reminders of what happened
  • Feeling worried, guilty, or sad
  • Feeling alone
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Feeling on edge
  • Angry outbursts
  • Thoughts of hurting/attempting to hurt oneself or others

Children who have PTSD may show other types of problems. These can include:

  • Behaving like they did when they were younger
  • Being unable to talk
  • Complaining of stomach problems or headaches a lot
  • Refusing to go places or play with friends.

PTSD can be treated. Treatment may include “talk” therapy, EMDR, Neurofeedback, medication, or combinations of these.
Treatment might take 6 to 12 weeks. For some people, it takes longer. Treatment is not the same for everyone. What works for one might not work for another
Drinking alcohol or using other drugs will not help PTSD go away and may even make it worse.

 
PTSD facts adapted from NIMH educational materials.
The National Institute of Mental Health. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Retrieved November 16, 2012,  from The National Institute of Mental Health website: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-easy-to-read/complete-index.shtml

Equal Pay in President Obama’s White House

This President and this Administration take a back seat to no one on promoting women in workforce.

If you look at the President’s record in this area, his actions speak for themselves. The President’s two Supreme Court nominees were both extraordinary women and by all accounts have already made outstanding contributions to the Court as it deliberates and rule on issues that impact the daily lives of men and women across the country. Many of the President’s most important agenda items are implemented by women Cabinet secretaries – like Secretaries Clinton at the State Department, Napolitano at Department of Homeland Security, Sebelius at Health and Human Services, and Solis at the Department of Labor.

Equal pay legislation deems there should be equal pay for equal work. That’s what we have at the White House.

For example, we have three Deputy Chiefs of Staff – two of whom are women — and they all make the same salary.

4/30/12: Washington Times: “Jennifer Lawless, Who Runs The Women And Politics Institute At American University, Gives Mr. Obama Credit For Hiring More Senior Women And Paying Them Better Than Those In Previous Administrations…Aside From His White House Staff, Mr. Obama Has Appointed Women To A Range Of Top Positions, Including Secretary Of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor And Elena Kagan; Health Care Senior Aide Ms. Deparle; Mrs. Jarrett; And Ms. Barnes.” “Jennifer Lawless, who runs the Women and Politics Institute at American University, gives Mr. Obama credit for hiring more senior women and paying them better than those in previous administrations. She said voters care more about the national policies benefiting women that Mr. Obama promotes than the dynamics behind the scenes at the White House. ‘The fact that Valerie Jarrett or Condi Rice is at the table doesn’t necessarily translate into better policies for women as a whole,’ she said. Aside from his White House staff, Mr. Obama has appointed women to a range of top positions, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan; health care senior aide Ms. DeParle; Mrs. Jarrett; and Ms. Barnes.” [Washington Times, 4/30/12]

4/30/12: Washington Times: “President Obama’s Top Female White House Aides Earn More On Average Than Their Male Counterparts, A Reversal From The Pattern In The George W. Bush Administration, The Washington Times Found In An Analysis Of 2011 Pay Records. Top Female Employees On Average Earned Nearly 4 Percent More Than Top Male Employees Under Mr. Obama, Compared With A Deficit Of 12 Percent Under Mr. Bush.” “President Obama’s top female White House aides earn more on average than their male counterparts, a reversal from the pattern in the George W. Bush administration, The Washington Times found in an analysis of 2011 pay records. Top female employees on average earned nearly 4 percent more than top male employees under Mr. Obama, compared with a deficit of 12 percent under Mr. Bush…In a broader survey of the 121 White House employees who were paid at least $100,000, 47 are women and 74 are men. That is only slightly better than in 2003, the third year of the Bush administration, when 39 of the top 121 employees were women.” [Washington Times, 4/30/12]

4/30/12: Washington Times: “In 2011, Mr. Obama Had Seven Women Compared With 14 Men Making The Top White House Salary — $172,000 — An Increase Of Three Women In The Top Ranks From The Bush Administration’s Third Year.” “In 2011, Mr. Obama had seven women compared with 14 men making the top White House salary — $172,000 — an increase of three women in the top ranks from the Bush administration’s third year. Those women are: Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser; Melody Barnes, director of domestic policy; Stephanie Cutter, who served as deputy senior adviser before moving to the campaign; Nancy-Ann DeParle and Alyssa Mastromonaco, deputy chiefs of staff; Kathryn Ruemmler, White House counsel; and Christina Tchen, director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.” [Washington Times, 4/30/12]

Modern Family Planning: An Urgent Need

Dear Friends,

I recently enjoyed a wonderful conversation with various experts about the urgent need for modern family planning for women around the world with a need to plan and space the birth of the children, but who do not have access (or knowledge of) their options. The talk, hosted by the London School of Economics, was in conjunction with the Family Planning Summit. It was marvelous–hearing my fellow panelists was a dynamic education, and the student questions were utterly fantastic. Here is the link, as well as two Op-Ed pieces, one by the beautifully brave Melinda Gates, the other by me, to help orient you to the realities and numbers. It’s thrilling to know that we can and we will help 120 million vulnerable girls and woman prevent 100 million unintended pregnancies by 2020. This also prevents, literally, tens of thousands of abortions: and about that, there is no controversy. For a wonderful video on these powerful numbers, and the cascade of positive outcomes that benefit families and communities when family planning is in place, see this article, your jaw will drop! It’s all great news for the impatient optimist.

The Conversation

The Conversation about women’s bodies exists largely outside of us, while it is also directed at (and marketed to) us, and used to define and control us. The Conversation about women happens everywhere, publicly and privately. We are described and detailed, our faces and bodies analyzed and picked apart, our worth ascertained and ascribed based on the reduction of personhood to simple physical objectification. Our voices, our personhood, our potential, and our accomplishments are regularly minimized and muted.

As an actor and woman who, at times, avails herself of the media, I am painfully aware of both the conversation about women’s bodies, and it frequently migrates to my own body. I know this, even though my personal practice is to ignore what is written about me. I do not, for example, read interviews I do with news outlets. I hold that it is none of my business what people think of me. I arrived at this belief after first, when I began working as an actor eighteen years ago, reading everything. I evolved into selecting only the “good” pieces to read. Over time, I matured into the understanding that good and bad are equally fanciful interpretations. I do not want to give my power, my self-esteem, or my autonomy, to any person, place, or thing outside myself. I thus abstain from all media about myself. The only thing that matters is how I feel about myself, my personal integrity, and my relationship with my Creator. Of course, it’s wonderful to be held in esteem and fond regard by family, friends, and community, but a central part of my spiritual practice is letting go of otheration. And casting one’s lot with the public is dangerous and self-destructive, and I value myself too much to do that.

However, the recent speculation and accusations about the unusual fullness of my face in March, 2012, feels different., and my colleagues and friends encouraged me to know what was being said. Consequently, I choose to address it because the conversation was pointedly nasty, gendered and misogynistic and embodies what all girls and women in our culture, to a greater or lesser degree, endure every day, in ways both outrageous and subtle. The assault on our body image, the hyper-sexualization of girls and women and subsequent degradation of our sexuality as we walk through the decades, and the general incessant objectification is what this conversation allegedly about my face is really about.

A brief analysis demonstrates that the following “conclusions” were all made on the exact same day, March 20, 2012, about the exact same woman (me), looking the exact same way, based on the exact same television appearance. The following examples are real, and come from a variety of (so-called!) legitimate news outlets (such as HuffPo, MSNBC, etc), tabloid press, and social media:

One: When I am sick for a over a month and on medication (multiple rounds of steroids), the accusation is that because my face looks puffy, I have “clearly had work done,” with otherwise credible reporters with great bravo “identifying” precisely the procedures I allegedly have had done.

Two: When my skin is nearly flawless, and at age 43, I do not yet have visible wrinkles that can be seen on television, I have had “work done,” with media outlets bolstered by consulting with plastic surgeons I have never met who “conclude” what procedures I have “clearly” had. (Notice that this is a “back-handed compliment,” too – I look so good! It simply cannot possibly be real!)

Three: When my 2012 face looks different than it did when I filmed “Double Jeopardy” in 1998, I am accused of having “messed up” my face (polite language here, the “F” word is being used more often), with a passionate lament that “Ashley has lost her familiar beauty audiences loved her for.”

Four: When I have gained weight, going from my usual size two/four to a six/eight after a lazy six months of not exercising, and that weight gain shows in my face and arms, I am a “cow” and a “pig” and I “better watch out” because my husband “is looking for his second wife.” (Did you catch how this one engenders competition and fear between women? And suggests that my husband values me based only my physical appearance? Classic sexism. We won’t even address how extraordinary it is that a size eight would be heckled as “fat.”)

Five: In perhaps the coup de grace, when I am acting in a dramatic scene in “Missing, the plot stating I am emotionally distressed, have been awake and on the run for days, viewers remarks ranged from “What the f*&^ did she do to her face?” to cautionary gloating, “Ladies, look at the work!” Footage from “Missing” obviously dates prior to March 2012, and the remarks about how I look while playing a character powerfully illustrate the contagious and vicious nature of the conversation. The accusations and lies, introduced to the public, now apply to me as a woman across space and time; to me as any woman and to me as every woman.

That women are joining in the ongoing disassembling of my appearance is salient. Patriarchy is not men. Patriarchy is a system in which both women and men participate. It privileges, inter alia, the interests of boys and men over the bodily integrity, autonomy, and dignity of girls and women. It is subtle, insidious, and never more dangerous than when women passionately deny that they themselves are engaging in it. This abnormal obsession with women’s faces and bodies has become so normal that we (I include myself at times – I absolutely fall for it still) have internalized patriarchy almost seamlessly. We are unable at times to indentify ourselves as our own denigrating abusers, or as abusing other girls and women.

A case on point is that this conversation was initially promulgated largely by women; a sad and disturbing fact. (That they are professional friends of mine, and know my character and values, is an additional betrayal.)

News outlets with whom I do serious work, such as publishing Op-Eds about preventing HIV, empowering poor youth worldwide, and conflict mineral mining in Democratic Republic of Congo, all ran this “story” without checking with my office first for verification, or offering me the dignity of the opportunity to comment. It’s an indictment of them, that they would even consider the content printable, and that they, too, without using time honored journalistic standards, would perpetuate with un-edifying delight such blatantly gendered, ageists, and mean-spirited content.

I hope the sharing of my thoughts can generate a new conversation: Why was a puffy face cause for such a conversation in the first place? How, and why, did people participate? If not in the conversation about me, in parallel ones about women in your sphere? What is the gloating about? What is the condemnation about? What is the self-righteous alleged “all knowing” stance of the media about? How does this symbolize constraints on girls and women, and encroach on our right to be simply as we are, at any given moment? How can we as individuals in our private lives make adjustments that support us in shedding unconscious actions, internalized beliefs, and fears about our worthiness, that perpetuate such meanness? What can we do as families, as groups of friends? Is what girls and women can do different from what boys and men can do? What does this have to do with how women are treated in the workplace?

I ask especially how we can leverage strong female to female alliances to confront and change that there is no winning here as women. It doesn’t actually matter if we are aging naturally, or resorting to surgical assistance. We experience brutal criticism. The dialogue is constructed so that our bodies are a source of speculation, ridicule, and invalidation, as if they belong to others – and in my case, to the actual public. (I am also aware that inevitably some will comment that because I am a creative person, I have abdicated my right to a distinction between my public and private selves, an additional, albeit related, track of highly distorted thinking that will have to be addressed at another time).

If this conversation about me is going to be had, I will do my part to insist that is a feminist one, because it has been misogynist from the start. Who makes the fantastic leap from being sick, or gaining some weight over the winter, to a conclusion of plastic surgery? Our culture, that’s who. The insanity has to stop, because as focused on me as it appears to have been, it is about all girls and women. In fact, it’s about boys and men, too, who are equally objectified and ridiculed, according to hetereonormative definitions of masculinity that deny the full and dynamic range of their personhood. It affects each and every one of us, in multiple and nefarious ways: our self image, how we show up our relationships and at work, our sense of our worth, value, and potential as human beings. Join in – and help change – The Conversation.

N.B.: I would like to thank the many family members and mentors who read my essay, provided their passionate and unqualified support, and in some instances, made valuable suggestions to the text. They include my spiritual sister, Nikki Myers, who sat with me in my “office” under a red bud tree where this writing came to me; Naomi Judd and Larry Strickland; Michael Ciminella and Mollie Whitelaw; Reverend Mark Judd; Marina Franchitti, Carla Franchitti McFarlane. I thank Carol Lee Flinders, PhD, who taught me to mediate and who continually reinforces my organic understanding that pursuit of equality is fundamentally spiritual. I thank my life coach; Ted Klontz, PhD, whose unfailing presence in my life helps me become increasingly empowered and clear. I thank my colleagues Trena Keating, Michelle Bohan, Cara Trippichio, and Annett Wolf, whom I met in Hollywood yet who not only never flinch when I take a stand, stand resolutely with me. I thank Gloria Steinem for a simple yet powerful nudge toward full ownership of my reality; Dr Carol Jordan of the University of Kentucky for a lovely bit of inspired language. I am grateful for Angela McCracken, Esq., who in the age of unrestricted media frenzies supports legal rights where one still has them and helps my husband and me stand up to slander, defamation and lies. I give thanks to my extraordinary professor of “Gender Violence: Law and Social Justice” at Harvard Law, who not only teaches brilliantly but attracts to her classroom the most incredible people. My classmates, Rebecca Leventhal, Brittany Rogers, and Brittanie Hall, contributed, respectively, the reminder of the need for a clean, lucid opening paragraph, an additional infusion of steely, principled, feminist social justice values, and the insight that my body was being dissected as if it belonged to the public. Lastly, I thank BR for the soulful validation that what I had to say was beautiful and necessary. It was she who said, “you have to publish this as an Op Ed.”

Most especially, I thank my husband, Dario Franchitti, as it was his outrage that began this dialogue in our home. Over a period of days, his indignation helped me grasp the “damned if I do, damned if I don’t” double bind that inheres in The Conversation about both men and women in the public space, for which my puffy face was merely an example. Because of him, this piece became inevitable and essentially wrote itself. Dario’s thoughtful reading and astute feedback elevated its quality and breadth.

Reflections

The past four days have been a distilled, highly concentrated cross section of my life: intensive international media to celebrate the premiere of Missing, a unique 10 episode show set all across europe, about a complex, deeply sentient, and physically empowered woman who will stop at nothing to protect her vulnerable son. I spent several hours at the United Nations talking about All That Is Bitter and Sweet to a crowd of diplomats and their advisors, NGO folks, the public, and students; I shared some of my first hand experiences sitting with sexually exploited men and women and other topics from my feminist social justice work, inkling my time at Harvard. I sat with President Clinton on on the opening plenary of the Clinton Global Initiative winter meeting, talking about how Population Services International is expanding an exciting new development in global public health, health franchising, and the usefulness of applying private sector strategies to increase the capacity of community health workers to integrate health services and products in rural and isolated areas in some of the poorest parts of the world, as well as how cross-sector partnerships are transforming community based health interventions for girls and women. Narrative enriched all these conversations; it is always about relationships, interdependence, and the sacredness of our individual and collective stories.

During it all, I was still reeling from being sick for three weeks, having been on multiple rounds of steroids to try to address the sinus inflammation. But I felt deeply blessed, albeit a little lost in the transitions. I didn’t sleep much. I cried little every day. I prayed a lot. It can all be so much! How does all this happen in the life of one person? Sometimes I am pretty sure god has me mixed up with someone else, because, in my heart, I long to stay home, be a country woman, barefoot in a soft cotton gown, walking the hills, admiring the swelling of spring creeks, and keeping a close eye on the daily miracles of late winter and early spring. One morning in my hotel when it was time to wake up, one of our kitty cats, an extra special one, was in the bed with me, nuzzling, purring, and grooming me. She cared for me so tenderly, and she woke me up gently, just before the alarm. Of course, when I opened my eyes, I was in New York City. But she is a catso she is magical, by definition. She had travelled here in my time of need to minister to me, and start my day softly, as I needed it to be started. Connected.

At the book signing after my talk at the UN, a beautiful nun thanked me for being “a good Benedictine.” It made me cry, and is one of the most important compliments I have ever received. nuns are some of the most principled, fierce, uncompromising social justice activists in the world. Such faith! Such goodness! I shared with her what I have been reading every day, several times. And on the day Missing comes out, and while my usual life is laden with such ripe, heavy, delicious fruit, I want to share it with you. It was written by the great trappist monk from kentucky, father thomas merton. The passage was given to me by a dear sorority sister, years ago; I cherish her handwritten note on the reverse, in faded pencil, that invites me to pray this with her every day:
 

 

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am
going. I do not see the road ahead
of me. I cannot know for certain
where it will end. Nor do I really
know myself, and the fact that I
think that I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually
doing so. But I believe that the desire
to please you does in fact
please you. And I hope I have that
desire in all that I am doing. I hope
that I will never do anything apart
from that desire. And I know that
if I do this you will lead me by the
right road though I may know nothing
about it. Therefore will I trust
you always though I may seem to
be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever
with me, and you will never leave
me to face my perils alone.

~Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude.

 

 

Dear Creator,
Thy will be done.
Love,
Your Daughter
15 March 2012

Making “Missing”: behind the scenes reflections on the pilot episode

Ashley Judd as Becca in the ABC Series Missing

Missing premieres in exactly 8 days! The trailer is being shown in movie theaters; the commercials are playing on ABC, and friends in Los Angeles are sending me photographs of giant billboards of me as “Becca.” The anticipation and excitement is building.

Herein is an insider’s look, directly from me, about the pilot episode. Once Missing airs, I will write a little about each upcoming episode. The notes won’t be so much about plot, but rather, my personal reflections on filming and maybe even some of the adventures I was having off the set.

I traveled to Prague to begin filming Missing on the first Saturday in May. Some of you will recognize that special day as when the Kentucky Derby is run. Friends at Churchill Downs kept texting me, so hoping I could magically make the Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports. But Buttermilk, Shug, and I were already beginning the mental, emotional, and physical journey of starting the show. We did have a long layover, so I unrolled my yoga mat in a conference room at an airport to do some restorative yoga while I watched Animal Kingdom take the Garland of Roses.

Yoga is how I prepared for Missing, and the benefits went well beyond the physical fitness I knew both playing Becca and enduring a grueling four-and-a-half month shoot would require. I had begun practicing in earnest three weeks before the journey to Eastern Europe. All That Is Bitter and Sweet had been released, and with it came an exciting national press tour and speaking engagements at venerable venues such as the New York Public Library. So the three-week yoga retreat I created for myself was good for me on many levels. It was a chance to be at home in a deeply peaceful way; to continue to send my book out into the world with the intention of service and healing, and fill within me deep reservoirs of soothing calmness and rest.

My body loves yoga, and after two years of sitting down (for graduate school and then compiling the book from over eight hundred pages of diaries I have kept over six years while visiting grassroots empowerment programs in thirteen countries), it took hardly any time at all for my strength, flexibility and power to come back. Thank goodness!

One thing to which I genuinely looked forward was beginning to connect with my cast. Of course, having Cliff Curtis,(“Dax”) was a coup. I was familiar with his exquisite acting in sensitive, profound movies like “Whale Rider,” and have always been knocked out by his dexterity with different characters, in films such as playing Pablo Escobar in “Blow.” He was, as they say, a no-brainer. Casting my son, “Michael,” was tricker. The role is so good, we had the crème de la crème of young actors vying for the part. We had that wonderful experience, though, when we saw Nick Everson’s screen test; we knew he was “the one.” He was so relaxed, so not bothered with trying to impress, and critically, had in equal measure vulnerability and conviction. He played the relationship with his mother naturally, and the sense of history (a dad who died in a tragic explosion, played by Sean Bean), was palpable, even in a sterile room at ABC. Filming was beginning soon, but we were never nervous about holding out for the perfect actor. In Nick, we had our “Michael.”

When I landed in Prague, I was immediately embraced by the warmth and hospitality of the Czech people, and pitched into the beautiful look of their fine capital. I stayed at hotel that is a UNESCO World Heritage site, a former connect built in the 15h Century, while I began to look for a suitable home for the dogs, cats, Dario, and me. I instantly appreciated the Czechs’ love of animals; the dogs were cooed over wherever we went, and I knew they, too, would have a memorable experience filming Missing.

For more peeks at behinds the scenes thoughts please re-visit my web site soon. Click here to read press coverage and don’t forget, Missing airs on Thursdays, 8 pm EST, beginning 15 March on ABC.

The Voice of the Wildcats

As Kentucky Wildcats fans everywhere would agree, being “The Voice of the Wildcats” would be a dream job.

Tom Leach fills the legendary shoes of Cawood Ledford very well, and if I can’t have Tom’s job, well, I am delighted to settle for being a guest on his show, The Leach Report.  It’s become a tradition for Tom to invite me on in February to talk not only about our believed Wildcats, but the Oscars, too.

Here is the link for our 2012 chat!
Go ‘Cats!

Miss Daisy’s Peanut Butter Cake

Miss Daisy’s Peanut Butter Cake
from a classic regional cookbook,
Recipes From Miss Daisy’s, 1978, Rutledge Hill Press

This cake is a favorite of my husband and his brother, and an all-around pleaser. I’ve made it for my Dad for his birthday, and company before they come visit will boldly demand I have one ready for them!

My personal notes in addition to the recipe are:

It is easier to bake with mise-en-place, meaning, read the recipe carefully and set out everything you will need, and do your prep work, such as beating the egg whites, pouring the buttermilk and adding the baking soda. It makes the mixing process much smoother not to have to scramble around and do these things:

  • Use pre-sifted cake flour, if you can. It is a little more expensive, but has been commercially sifted and is much lighter than regular flour. If you can’t, sift your flour and baking powder as many times as you have the patience for!
  • I whip my peanut butter before adding it to the batter to help make the cake lighter (I don’t whip the peanut butter called for in the frosting).
  • Once the batter is in the cake pans, do not shake or tap! This takes necessary air out of the batter. Instead, place the batter in your pans in large dollops and use a spatula to spread the batter.
  • My oven bakes this cake in much less time than called for. Keep an eye on your cakes!
  • I remove my cakes from the pans to cool to prevent carry-over cooking.
  • I always have to refrigerate the frosting to have it set to spreadable consistency, mine is often too runny. The chill helps it set, then I beat it again to make it easy to spread and put some more air into it.

Hope you like it!

1/2 cup softened butter
11/2 cups sugar or sugar substitute
2 egg yolks, well-beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup water
2 heaping tablespoons peanut butter
1 1/2 cup sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 egg whites, stiffly beaten

Cream butter and sugar. Add egg yolks. Mix buttermilk with baking soda; add water to buttermilk mixture. Mix peanut butter with butter, sugar, and egg yolks. Sift cake flour and baking powder together. Add flour mixture and buttermilk mixture alternately to batter, beating well after each addition. Fold egg whites into batter. Bake in a greased and floured 9 x 13 or 2 round or square pans for 25-30 minutes in a 375 degree oven. Cool and frost with peanut butter frosting.

Peanut Butter Frosting:

1 pound of confectioners frosting
4 tablespoons vegetable shortening
4 heaping tablespoons peanut butter
1/2 to 3/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix all ingredients well—adding 1/2 cream in the beginning. Add more if needed until spreading consistency is reached.