Friday, April 21, 2017

The Perfect Daughter

Courtney stood in the doorway.  Her heart pounded with the frenetic energy of a trapped Hummingbird fighting for life.  She tried to concentrate on her breathing.

“Mama?” she whispered in the darkness. “Mama? Are you awake?”

She peered into her mother’s bedroom hoping today would be a good day. As she stepped into the disheveled room, with the smell of illness permeating the air, she approached her mother’s bed. She held her breath. She could see her mother’s pale face upon the pillow and her chest rising and falling. She leaned down and gently laid her hand lightly on her mother’s frail, thin shoulder.

“Mama?” she repeated softly.

Her mother slowly opened her eyes and focused on Courtney.

“And cut!” cried the director. “Damnit Courtney!  What is with you today?  You moved off your mark again! Now let’s try it one more time and please do it like we rehearsed okay?"

Courtney cringed and felt her anger rise. She knew she hadn't blown it. But, she didn't argue and moved quickly back to her starting mark for another take. This job was a nightmare. Had she not been so desperate for the work, she would have quit. The director, Al, was sadistic in demanding needless takes and lighting changes. He was deliberately malicious to crew and talent alike. He had created an atmosphere of almost unbearable tension on the set. Word had it he was a frustrated actor himself and on a steady diet of coke, and God knew what else. At first, she thought he had bad allergies or a cold. But on her second day of shooting she’d found out from a second-line-prop man it was drugs.

“Just try and stay under the radar kid, and you’ll do fine,” said one of the production assistants.
“Yeah, like that’s gonna happen,” she murmured. She was in three more scenes today.
But, she made it through her second day, and then, her third and fourth. Today should be her last day and she’d make enough to pay her rent and buy some food. The utilities would have to wait a little longer. God, how she hated living like this. She was in a constant state of anxiety and there were times she had to concentrate just on breathing. To make matters worse, she wasn’t feeling well, probably due to lack of enough sleep. She moved to her first mark and concentrated on the scene. Prop men and gofers swirled around her. A makeup lady touched up Courtney’s face.

“You’re doing fine, honey,” she whispered to Courtney. “Just hang in there one more hour and we’ll break for lunch.” Courtney nodded. At least she’d get fed today, that was some comfort. She had no food at home other than a can of tuna, a couple pieces of bread and two tomatoes.

“Okay people!” hollared Al. “Let’s get moving! Time is money!” Courtney wiped her sweaty hands on her skirt and concentrated on her character. Al’s grating voice echoed through the soundstage. “Lights! Speed! And…ACTION!” Courtney moved forward into the room.

“Mama?” she whispered in the darkness. “Mama? Are you awake?”

And, as Courtney whispered her lines she was suddenly transported back to her own childhood in Illinois. She was seven years old and walking into her mother’s dark, depressing, cave-like bedroom. Her mother had been drinking again. Courtney could smell the liquor.  The depressing aroma was forever hanging in the air. How she dreaded those mornings. She never knew what to expect.  Her memories of always trying to be the perfect daughter came flooding back.

Monday, April 3, 2017

We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym - A Special Place for All Kids

By Kimberly Mack

Dina Kimmel, a successful entrepreneur, is giving to the community, and word is spreading. She is giving strength, love, patience, and acceptance. Kimmel, president and owner of We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym in Tarzana, has designed and built her kid’s gym with a specific clientele in mind. Thirty percent of the children that come through the door are children who have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD. It all started with a little boy named Gabriel.

It was in 2009 that Kimmel learned that her youngest child, Gabriel, was Autistic. He was two years old. Kimmel and her devoted husband Tim, feeling overwhelmed at this news, set out to learn all they could about Autism.

The Kimmels discovered that no two children’s symptoms are alike. There is a wide spectrum of symptoms. There are approximately 46,000 children born every year in the U.S. that will be afflicted. But, when detected early enough and treated, many children go on to lead more fulfilling and independent lives. There is hope.

Motivated by her love and drive to help her son, Kimmel then took over the space of her son’s previous gym, and designed the only Open Play occupational sensory gym in Los Angeles. All of the equipment and games are colorful and beckoning. Great care was taken to avoid any possible sensory overload. Everything was designed to enhance and improve sensory skills, strengthen coordination, and teach crucial communication skills and social interaction. There is an arts and crafts room, and an abundance of sensory-fun toys. Everything is designed to provide a fun and safe learning experience. It is a happy place and a gym children love. Kimmel’s seven-year-old daughter, Sophia, is a regular visitor, and Kimmel is thrilled she has been able to discover games and activities that her two children can do together.

This sense of togetherness seems to be at the root of the gym’s mission.

“My gym is a place where all kids – despite their differences — can have an equally fun time,” Kimmel says. “The gym has the best top notch occupational equipment in it that is essential for kids on the spectrum and just good old fashion fun for typical kids.”

This month marks the gym’s one year anniversary. “I love it,” Kimmel beams, looking around. “So many people need to be given a safe place where they feel comfortable. It’s my home, and we’re all family.”

Kimmel has also built a dedicated team of licensed therapists, each highly accomplished in their own field of expertise. Her support staff consists of licensed occupational and behavioral therapists, social workers, and language and fitness specialists. They are all compassionate professionals. They work tirelessly with parents to reach their child’s goals in both group and private sessions.

Regularly scheduled Youth Fitness classes held by Coach Kee, a certified children’s fitness specialist, are popular and contagious. Her classes are designed to build self confidence and improve self esteem, as well as help the children to develop agility, balance, cardio, courage, and leadership. Her women’s fitness classes are equally popular.

“I have an amazing staff,” Kimmel states. “I’m very blessed. I’ve gotten such a welcome in the area, and I’m very proud of what this has done for the community.”

And We Rock the Spectrum is a bona fide deal. “To use a gym with the equipment I have in it usually costs $150 an hour, and we simply charge $10,” Kimmel says.

In addition to their regularly scheduled classes, they also have special events, private play dates, and birthday parties. They offer their own online store of toys and gluten-free snacks.

“With Autism on the rise and not everyone able to afford to pay the expensive prices for private therapy, We Rock makes it easy for just $10. It’s a place where special needs kids and their family and friends can play too!”

Reprinted from the Tolucan Times
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