Tag Archives: children

Michelle Obama Is Concerned About the Racism Daughters Sasha and Malia May Experience

By | May 9, 2021

Michelle Obama says Black parents in America have fear in their hearts. After Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd, the former first lady sat down with CBS‘s Gayle King to talk about her feelings following the verdict and the worry she feels for her own daughters, Malia and Sasha, today. “We can’t sort of say, ‘Great, that happened, let’s move on,'” Michelle explained. “I know that people in the Black community don’t feel that way, because many of us still live in fear as we go to the grocery store or worry about walking our dogs or allowing our children to get a license.”

She noted that this fear extends to parenting 22-year-old Malia and 19-year-old Sasha. “They’re driving, but every time they get in a car by themselves, I worry about what assumption is being made by somebody who doesn’t know everything about them: The fact that they are good students and polite girls, but maybe they’re playing their music a little loud. Maybe somebody sees the back of their head and makes an assumption,” she continued. “The innocent act of getting a license puts fear in our hearts. So I think we have to talk about it more and we have to ask our fellow citizens to listen a bit more and to believe us and to know that we don’t want to be out there marching.”

Her sentiments are an extension of a similar message she shared last June, shortly after George Floyd’s death. “Race and racism is a reality that so many of us grow up learning to just deal with,” she wrote on Instagram. “But if we ever hope to move past it, it can’t just be on people of color to deal with it. It’s up to all of us – Black, white, everyone – no matter how well-meaning we think we might be, to do the honest, uncomfortable work of rooting it out.” Watch her full CBS This Morning interview, above.

Nine Perfect Strangers Is a Wild Ride – Here’s What to Know Before Hulu’s Adaptation

By | May 6, 2021

When Liane Moriarty writes a book, I’m the first in line to buy it. As the author of the wildly successful Big Little Liesas well as a few of my other favorites like The Hypnotist’s Love Story and What Alice Forgot – Moriarty is a master of delightfully relatable characters and page-turning suspense. That’s why I’m so excited that her latest novel, Nine Perfect Strangers, is being adapted as a Hulu miniseries by David E. Kelly and Nicole Kidman. This novel is about a very unique health resort, led by Masha (played by Kidman) and featuring nine unsuspecting guests. The movie also stars Melissa McCarthy, Michael Shannon, Luke Evans, Bobby Cannavale, Regina Hall, and Samara Weaving.

If you are as excited as I am about this gripping new release, then take some time to read (or re-read) Nine Perfect Strangers. Although the adaption may be different from the upcoming miniseries, there could still be similar plot points. Here’s a refresher of what happens in the book, below!

Meet the Characters

Nine Perfect Strangers starts from Yao’s perspective. He is a trainee paramedic, treating an overweight corporate bigwig named Masha, who went through cardiac arrest and had to be rushed to the hospital. Fast-forward ten years later, and we’re introduced to 52-year-old Frances Welty, a former bestselling romance novelist who is suffering from back pain, a terrible cold, and depression after finding out she was just conned from her fake internet boyfriend named Paul. She’s on her way to a relaxing retreat at the “boutique health and wellness resort” called Tranquillum House. Frances signed up for the Ten-Day Mind and Body Total Transformation Retreat along with eight other guests.

Lars Lee is a 40-year-old divorce attorney and health retreat junkie who regularly attends these as part of a wellness routine. Ben and Jessica Chandler are a young couple who are always fighting and decided to go to the retreat to fix their marriage. Ben is obsessed with sports cars and Jessica is obsessed with her looks, and both of them have a hard time understanding each other after winning the lottery. Napoleon Marconi, his wife, Heather, and their daughter, Zoe, are a tall, beautiful family who are at the resort together to get through the anniversary of when Zoe’s twin brother, Zach, died by suicide. Carmel Schneider is a 39-year-old divorced mother of young children with low self-esteem due to sharing her kids with her ex-husband and his new girlfriend. Tony Hogburn is a grumpy 56-year-old divorced man who doesn’t talk to his kids much and is here for weight loss.

Also at the retreat is the therapist, Jan, the wellness consultants, Yao and Delilah, and the director, Marsha Dmitrichenko, who is now fit, healthy, and believes herself to have died and been born again after her cardiac arrest. She loves running the health retreat, but hates that clients keep coming back. She is deciding to try something new with this group, to help them find the healthy path forward with a new protocol.

About the Retreat

From the very beginning, Tranquillum House seems a little weird to Frances. Her bags have been searched, with all her emergency wine and chocolate confiscated. She had blood taken as part of a comprehensive medical exam, and she is a little fearful about the upcoming five days of “noble silence” that all the guests must partake in to clear their thoughts. The guests all meet each other and Masha at their guided meditation, which is in a room with no windows or natural light that Frances describes to herself as a “dungeon on an isolated property with a group of strangers, at least one of whom was a serial killer.” Although the last bit was definitely an exaggeration (the man was gruff and offered to help her in the midst of one of her hot flashes), it is a bit creepy. Masha lets the guests know that they will be different people when they leave, with unexpected changes and surprises along the way.

At mealtimes, each guest receives a different meal tailored to them, along with smoothies delivered to them throughout the day. The first night, the guests are woken up in the middle of the night for a starlight mediation, followed by a dawn tai chi class, walking meditations, exercise, remedial massage, more guided mediations, yoga, and free time. When the staff meet to discuss the next steps, Yao is willing to do anything Masha wants because he’s secretly in love with her, whereas Delilah is a little more worried about it.

Things Get Weird(er)

When the silence ends on the fifth day, the guests finally introduce themselves. They recognize Tony as a former athlete, and Zoe reveals that her brother hanged himself. Then, Heather realizes something is not quite right and asks Masha if she’s been medicating them. Masha admits that she’s been “microdosing” her guests with a tenth of a normal dose of LSD in order to heighten their creativity, focus, and spiritual awareness and lower their inhibitions. But the last smoothie she gave the guests had both a dosage of LSD and a liquid form of psilocybin, known as “magic mushrooms,” and she gave Ben and Jessica ecstasy. The guests are about to embark on the next stage of the experience, which they’ve never done before, called psychedelic therapy.

Everyone’s thoughts are getting jumbled and confused, and the wellness consultants are directing the guests to lie down and put on headphones with classical music. The guests seem to be having a breakthrough, with Zoe and Heather admitting that they felt responsible for Zach’s death, Ben and Jessica kissing, and Carmel starting to appreciate her own body image. But nothing is as Masha planned when things start to take a turn. Jessica reveals she’s pregnant, Napoleon is full of rage with his family’s secrets, and all the guests wake up to discover they’ve been locked in the meditation studio.

After the guests had been fasting and locked in the room for 48 hours, Delilah decides to grab her stuff and leave. She feels weird about drugging the guests and knows that any “breakthroughs” are manufactured and not real, so she takes Ben’s Lamborghini and escapes. Meanwhile, Masha and Yao are getting increasingly frustrated that the guests are not having a transformative experience like they themselves did when they tested this therapy. They also haven’t solved the puzzle that will allow them to escape.

When Frances thinks about looking up, they discover a hidden package in the rafters. Inside is a Russian doll, but the last doll is missing. From Masha’s office where they are watching the guests, Yao is confused why the last doll with the code isn’t there. The guests are supposed to discover it, escape, and be treated to a feast where they can all share their experiences. But instead, Masha had an epiphany and decided that she wants the guests to surrender and accept that there is no solution to their situation. She believes that terrifying them is the only way to help them, and she creates a “dark night of the soul” that they must go through in order to be reborn.

Dark Night of the Soul

The lights are suddenly turned out, and everyone gets scared when Masha greets them on a large video screen. Yao is slumped over not moving on Masha’s desk, and she tells everyone that Delilah has left – so the nine guests are alone with Masha. She tells them that they are going to play a game called Death Sentence, where they have to pretend they are sentenced to death on Death Row and they have a chance at clemency and have to argue for their lives. She then gives each guest a lawyer who will defend them to Masha.

Back in her office, Masha is reflecting on her past, and her 11-month-old baby who died many years ago in his crib and the pain it still causes her. She is hurting and not herself, since she also took LSD. She is feeling crazy and having a hard time differentiating reality from her trip with no one to watch over her, since Yao is sedated. She takes out a cigarette lighter and is playing with it while listening to the guests fighting for their lives. Right before the video screen goes black, she asks them if they can smell the smoke.

The guests start gathering towels to wet as they prepare for a fire that will soon engulf them. They are panicking as they hear the fire above them. As they huddle in the corner together, they realize something strange: the fire-cackling sounds keep repeating. It sounds like it’s just a recording – there’s no real fire after all! Frances decides to try the door again and it opens; it’s been unlocked and they are free.

Happily Ever After

There is no fire, so all nine guests simply walk out the door and up the stairs. Yao approaches them with a huge platter of fruit and lets them know they have breakfast prepared. Everyone is confused, why is he acting so normal? Then Masha appears, and Heather starts threatening her, so she attacks her with a letter opener. Napoleon leaps in front of her and Frances drops a candelabra on Masha’s head to stop her. A policeman shows up – it is Jan the therapist’s boyfriend. She called him because she had weird suspicions about Tranquillum House after the rest of the staff had been asked to leave in the middle of the retreat. More policemen show up and discover illegal drugs on the premises. An ambulance takes Masha to the hospital. Because it’s late, the guests spend another night, where they host an impromptu party for Zoe with cake and pizza and wine.

Later, Jessica discovers she isn’t pregnant, and she and Ben get an amicable divorce. Carmel realized that she doesn’t actually miss her ex-husband and does get along with his new girlfriend, who works out a co-parenting plan with her to help with the kids, offering Carmel some relief. Lars decided to go through with having a baby with his long-time partner, Ray. Frances starts writing again and decides to try out a relationship with Tony. Zoe and Heather seem more at peace, and Napoleon has been seeing a psychiatrist to help him work through his depression. After spending 14 months in prison, Yao is now happier with his own 2-year-old daughter. Masha achieved fame after writing a book about her experience and is now running tailored programs in secret. Finally, Frances and Tony get married, and Frances’s latest book is a success, giving her the happy ending she deserves.

Who Are “The Children” in The Sons of Sam? Here’s What You Need to Know About the Cult

By | May 5, 2021

Based on the works of journalist Maury Terry, Netflix’s The Sons of Sam: A Descent Into Darkness looks beyond David Berkowitz for the shooting murders that unfolded from 1976 to 1977 in New York City. Per the title, Terry’s theory was that there wasn’t just one Son of Sam, but multiple. Ultimately, Terry believed that the so-called Sons of Sam could be traced back to a cult called The Children, which was connected to the likes of Scientology and Charles Manson’s Family. But how did that connection come about? Here’s what you need to know.

While looking into Berkowitz, Terry connected him to John and Michael Carr, brothers who were literally sons to a man named Sam. The journalist strongly believed that these brothers were involved in the Sons of Sam killings and looked further into their past connections. He found that the siblings had been linked to the Church of Scientology in their past. A deep dive into Scientology revealed an off-branch of a group called The Process Church of the Final Judgment. Studying to be auditors for Scientology, Robert and Mary Ann de Grimston met at the L. Ron Hubbard Institute For Scientology in London during the ’60s. After their experience with Scientology, the duo wanted something more extreme, so they started The Process, which initially dealt with psychotherapy technology.

The de Grimstons went to Mexico when a devastating hurricane struck in 1966. They became convinced that they were to bring good and evil together, becoming devoted to bringing on the end of the world to pave a new way of life. Setting up camp everywhere (including the United States), the Process Church started partaking in dark rituals that involved wearing black capes and sacrificing German shepherds. They even became connected with cult leader Charles Manson when they spread out to California, and some believe that Manson learned everything he knew from The Process. In The Family, author Ed Sanders initially suggested that Manson belonged to a Process chapter, though he later retracted this claim when the Church sued him.

The Process Church went underground in 1974 and started splintering into smaller groups. Just north of New York City, a cult called the Children cropped up. The Process Church has since denied any connection to the Son of Sam case. However, Terry theorized that Berkowitz possibly played a similar role for the Children as Manson did for the Family. Both groups had bizarrely familial names and also integrated occult practices into their rituals. In a letter to Terry, Berkowitz also admitted that he was part of a bigger group carrying out the Son of Sam murders. While many have leveraged skepticism against Terry over the years, his comprehensive body of evidence, despite being marked by many rabbit holes, may convince you that Berkowitz wasn’t the sole perpetrator of the terror that unleashed in the ’70s.

Can’t Wait For Bridgerton Season 3? Here’s What Happens in Benedict’s Book

By | April 15, 2021

With Bridgerton‘s renewal for seasons three and four, it’s official that we’ll be getting a season based on An Offer from a Gentleman, the third book in Julia Quinn’s series of novels and the story of Benedict, the second brother, finding his true love. Of course, it’s very likely that the TV version of the season will be a little different from the books, with more subplots for supporting characters and more depth to Benedict, since the show doesn’t focus quite as exclusively on two characters at a time. Still, if you’re curious to find out what to expect in season three, read on for some major spoilers from An Offer from a Gentleman!

Meet Sophie Beckett, The Ton’s Cinderella

The heroine of this book is another new character, Sophie Beckett, who is the illegitimate daughter of the Earl of Penwood. She’s fully aware of her parentage, and the Earl takes her in as his “ward.” Unfortunately for Sophie, the Earl marries Araminta, a “wicked stepmother” if ever there was one, who has two awful daughters too. When the Earl dies, his will includes a loophole: Araminta will receive a much larger allowance if she allows Sophie to stay until she turns 20.

We all know how this story goes. Sophie gets to stay, but as a full-fledged Cinderella, forced to become a servant to her stepmother and stepsisters. One night, though, she manages to sneak into Lady Bridgerton’s famous masquerade ball. There, with her identity hidden, she meets Benedict Bridgerton, and they’re instantly smitten with each other. Of course, things aren’t as simple as that.

Two Years Later

It’s been two years since the ball, and Benedict has sworn he will only marry when he finds his mystery woman from the ball again. Meanwhile, Sophie has been kicked out by her stepmother, who figured out that she attended the ball and gained a Bridgerton’s attention. Sophie is forced to work as a maid, and she meets Benedict again when he rescues her from the unwanted advances of her employer’s son. He helps get her a different job – working for his mother – and feels a connection with her instantly, but he doesn’t realize that she’s the woman from the ball.

As the story progresses, Benedict and Sophie find themselves drawn together more and more, as the rest of the Bridgertons grow very fond of Sophie as well. Benedict is absolutely attracted to her, but he can’t let go of his vow to only marry the masked woman from the ball. Between wanting to keep that vow and the fact that she’s a servant at the time (and thus not a suitable match), Benedict decides to ask Sophie to be his mistress instead. It goes about as well as you’d expect. Being illegitimate herself, Sophie absolutely has no interest in having children who will bear the same stigma, even though her feelings for Benedict are growing even stronger.

How Does An Offer from a Gentleman End?

Disinterested in any of the “suitable” women suggested to him as a bride, Benedict finally admits to himself that, if he could, he’d probably marry Sophie. When he hints at his dilemma to his mother (without directly mentioning Sophie), Violet promises him that she would never be angry at him if he chose to marry someone of a different social class. Still thinking about this conversation, he runs into the rest of his family playing a hide-and-seek game with Sophie. When he sees her blindfolded, he finally realizes that she’s the masked woman from the ball, and she confesses her identity and her backstory.

Benedict is angry and Sophie decides to resign and leave the household. As she leaves, though, Sophie’s stepmother accosts her, accuses her of being a thief, and has her hauled off to jail. When the Bridgertons find out via a report by Lady Whistledown, they head off to rescue her from jail, where Araminta is there taunting her. Between the Bridgertons’ arrival and a surprising moment of support from one of her stepsisters, Posy, Sophie is proven innocent – and Posy even reveals that the earl had left a dowry for Sophie that Araminta has kept for herself instead.

Violet calmly threatens Araminta with ruination unless she agrees not to stand in the way of Sophie and Benedict. She also invites Posy to stay with them as long as she’d like, in order to keep her from Araminta’s wrath. Sophie returns home with Benedict, where he has a bath drawn for her and they get a head start on their upcoming wedding night. They get married, and, in the epilogue seven years later, we learn that Sophie is pregnant with their fourth child. And, in the very last moments, Lady Whistledown – still unidentified – thinks to herself that she’s tired of being Whistledown and vows to be herself from then on.

Demi Lovato on Working at 8 Years Old: “There’s No Manual on How to Raise a Child Star”

By | April 14, 2021

On Tuesday, Demi Lovato and Drew Barrymore opened up about the difficulties of growing up as child stars during an emotional chat on The Drew Barrymore Show. Drew, who made her onscreen debut at just 5 years old, and Demi, who started working on the set of Barney & Friends at age 8, connected over their complicated roles in financially supporting their families as children.

“There’s no manual on how to raise a child star.”

“My parents, they did the best that they could,” the “Dancing With the Devil” singer said. “There’s no manual on how to raise a child star. And when the child star retorts back after the parent says, ‘You’re grounded for sneaking out at 3 in the morning,’ whatever, I retorted with, ‘Well, I pay the bills. What are you going to do? What are you doing to do to keep me grounded?’ So it was challenging.” Drew also added that they were both in adult jobs but not yet adults, with so much responsibility and access. “I always rebelled against authority ’cause deep down inside, I was always like, ‘I’m paying the rent around here,'” she said.

Demi went on to describe the “weird” experience of working with mostly adults as a child. She had always felt she “got along better with adults than kids,” but when the adults would leave work to get a drink, she was left feeling confused. “Your adult peers are, like I said, going to a bar after work or whatever, and you’re 17, thinking, ‘Well, what do I get to do to play?'” she said. “I had this mentality of, if you’re going to work me like an adult, I get to party like one. But the reality was, adults weren’t partying like I was.” She opened up about abusing alcohol and drugs at a young age in her recent docuseries, Dancing With the Devil, where she also revealed she was exploring moderation over sobriety. Watch Demi and Drew’s full conversation above.