Mean Girls’ Jonathan Bennett to star in Hallmark’s first gay Christmas film

Mean Girls star Jonathan Bennett is set to star in Hallmark’s first ever gay Christmas movie, and we are already waiting patiently under the mistletoe in anticipation.

Bennett, who played Cady Heron’s dreamy love interest Aaron Samuels in Mean Girls, will star in The Christmas House, which will debut on the Hallmark channel on Sunday, 22 November.

The actor, who is openly gay, will play Brandon Mitchell, while his husband Jake will be played by Brad Harder.

The Christmas House will follow Mitchell family matriarch Phylis (played by Sharon Lawrence) and father Bill (played by Treat Williams) as they summon their grown-up sons home for the festive season to help recreate the magic of Christmas past.

Bennett plays one of the adult sons, who returns to his family home with his husband for the Christmas season.

Jonathan Bennett said he is ‘so proud’ to be a part of Hallmark’s first gay Christmas film.

The film will follow the couple as they anxiously await a phone call about their plans to become first-time dads by adopting a child together.

Sharing the news on Instagram stories, Jonathan Bennett said he was “so proud” to be part of the “amazing project”.

The Hallmark Channel has a stellar reputation among Christmas lovers for its enormous line-up of original festive films each year.

The films are so widely loved that they have spawned countless memes, as each year, people across the world tune in to watch the predictable but addictive line-up.

However, LGBT+ fans have long been crying out for a queer festive film – and this year, they have finally been granted their grown-up Christmas wish.

Hallmark confirmed details of the film on Wednesday (23 September) following months of speculation that the channel would introduce its first queer Christmas film in 2020.

“For more than a decade, Hallmark holiday movies have represented the gold standard that many aspire to replicate,” said Wonya Lucas, CEO of Hallmark’s parent company Crown Media.

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“What we bring to the table and what truly sets us apart is an immersive holiday experience that has become a pop culture phenomenon for millions of fans.”

The company previously said they would release an LGBT+ themed film this year.

Michelle Vicary of Crown Media added: “Our holiday table is bigger and more welcoming than ever. This year’s movies reflect our most diverse representation of talent, narratives, and families, including The Christmas House, featuring a storyline about a gay couple looking to adopt their first child.

“Our movies are rooted in warmth and positivity, meaningful connections, family gatherings, and seasonal traditions – a winning formula we hope will bring our millions of viewers much needed levity and holiday cheer at the end of a tough year.”

In July, queer Hallmark Christmas fans were sent into a frenzy when the company confirmed that LGBT+ Christmas films were on the way.

The company had initially faced backlash when it announced details of 18 new Christmas films – all of which focused on straight characters.

However, Crown Media spokesperson George Zaralidis later said: “I can confirm that we will include LGBT+ storylines, characters and actors. We are in active negotiations and look forward to announcing more details when we can.”

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Learning from Death: How We Change When Losing a Loved One

There is no easy way to write about death that doesn’t risk trivializing it or being overwhelmed by it. Fortunately, I have never suffered a tragedy, such as the loss of a child or spouse or family member before their natural time.

You don’t have to lose someone or face your own death to learn from it.

I have spent a lot of time personally and professionally with people who have had to grapple with the questions that none of us have answers:   

Why did this happen? 

What did I do wrong? 

How can I make this pain go away? 

If I could only have… 

With all the pain of loss and grief, I do like one aspect of what death does to those left behind: it pushes out all the extraneous noise of our lives and forces us to deal with only that which really matters. Most often, someone who has been shattered by a loss is very, very real. It’s almost like you’re speaking to someone on a drug when what comes out is pure, true, and undefended. 

I find such experience deeply grounding, and I enjoy being in an atmosphere of such truth. It is at such times that I understand what might draw someone to work in hospice care. The opportunity to work in an environment where everything is on the line, where there is no point in pretense, where life is stripped down to the bare essentials: it seems to me it’s like a spiritual backpack trip. You have only what you really need to survive; everything else is extra baggage you don’t want to carry. You are reminded of how little you really need, and how simple and pure life can be.

 Sometimes when I’m working with a couple, and they’re sniping at each other over the “he said/she said” of married life, I cut through the static with the following intervention:   

I have them sit across from each other and fill in the blank to the sentence – “If I knew I was going to die tomorrow, what I would want you to know today is…” 

That gets their attention. They immediately drop out of the argument and say things like “I love you” or “I’m sorry I wasn’t a better husband/wife.” 

Why does this happen? 

I think most of the time, most of the day, our ego is running the show. We are concerned first and foremost with the survival of the “I” of the ego. This can take countless forms, but just a few examples to help you know what I mean would include:  

Worrying about what I get out of this situation

How I look to others or wanting to hurt someone who hurt me

Wanting to fend off possible criticism

Needing to be right  

All of the above actions are about the importance of Ego.  

We don’t know what happens when we die. 

Although most of us have beliefs about it. Here’s one of the things I feel relatively sure about: the ego dies with the body.

If any part of us survives our physical death, I cannot believe it is that aspect of us which worries how we look, if only because I see how that drops away in those who have just lost someone. 

Letting death be our teacher, through making us aware of what truly matters, is one of the best ways I know to be truly alive.  

If you knew you were dying tomorrow, what would you do differently today?

If you’re struggling with loss, grief, and death, we’re here to help with Imago  and . We also have Online Couples Therapy and Online Couples Workshops right now!  

 Josh GresselThis blog post was written by Josh Gressel, a clinical psychologist and certified Imago therapist in practice in the San Francisco Bay Area.

He is the author of  (University of America Press, 2014) and “Disposable Diapers, Envy, and the Kibbutz: What Happens to an Emotion Based on Difference in a Society Based on Equality?” in Envy at Work and in Organizations (Oxford University Press, 2017).  He has just completed a book on masculinity.  

Check out Josh’s website: joshgressel.com

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Official Novena for the Birth of Mary, Blessed Virgin with Plenary Indulgence – Powerful Prayers to Share!

All Saints' Day

To all faithful Christians who, in private or public, in church or in their own houses, shall keep any of the following Novenas, in preparation for the principal feasts of most holy Mary, Pope Pius VII., at the prayer of several holy persons, granted, by Rescripts issued through his Eminence the Cardinal-Vicar, Aug. 4 and Nov. 24, 1808, and Jan. 11, 1800 (all of which are kept in the Segretaria of the Vicariate) –

i. An indulgence of 300 days, daily.

ii. A plenary indulgence to all who shall assist at these Novenas every day, and who shall afterwards, either on the Feast-day itself, to which each Novena respectively has reference, or on some one day in its Octave, after Confession and Communion, pray to our Lord and to the Blessed Virgin ac cording to the pious intention of the Sovereign Pontiff.

 FOR THE FEAST OF OUR LADY’S NATIVITY.



Veni Sancte Spiritus, reple tuorum corda fidelium, et tui amoris in eis ignem accende.
V. Emitte Spiritum tuum, et creabuntur.
R. Et renovabis faciem terrae.

Oremus.
Deus, qui corda fidelium Sancti Spiritus illustratione docuisti: da nobis in eodem Spiritu recta sapere, et de ejus semper consolatione gaudere. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. R. Amen.

TRANSLATION.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Thy faithful, and kindle in them the fire of Thy love.

V. Send forth Thy Spirit, and they shall be created.
R. And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.

Let us pray.
O God, who hast taught the hearts of Thy faithful people by the light of the Holy Spirit; grant us in the same Spirit to relish what is right, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort. Through Christ our Lord. R. Amen.

Most holy Mary, Elect One, predestined from all eternity by the Most Holy Trinity to be Mother of the only-begotten Son of the Eternal Father, foretold by the Prophets, expected by the Patriarchs, desired by all nations, Sanctuary and living Temple of the Holy Ghost, Sun without stain, conceived free from original sin, Mistress of Heaven and of Earth, Queen of angels:- humbly prostrate at thy feet we give thee our homage, rejoicing that the year has brought round again the memory of thy most happy Nativity; and we pray thee with all our hearts to vouchsafe in thy goodness now to come down again and be reborn spiritually in our souls, that, led captive by thy loveliness and sweetness, they may ever live united to thy most sweet and loving heart.

i. So now whilst we say nine angelic salutations, we will direct our thoughts to the nine months which thou didst pass enclosed in thy mother’s womb; celebrating at the same time thy descent from the royal house of David, and how thou didst come forth to the light of heaven with high honour from the womb of holy Anna, thy most happy mother.
Ave Maria.

Day 2 prayer – ii. We hail thee, heavenly Babe, white Dove of purity; who in spite of the serpent wast conceived free from original sin.
Ave Maria.

Day 3 prayer – iii. We hail thee, bright Morn; who, forerunner of the Heavenly Sun of Justice, didst bring the first light to earth.
Ave Maria.

Day 4 prayer – iv. We hail thee, Elect; who, like the untarnished Sun, didst burst forth in the dark night of sin.
Ave Maria.

Day 5 prayer – v. We hail thee, beauteous Moon; who didst shed light upon a world wrapt in the darkness of idolatry.
Ave Maria.

Day 6 prayer – vi. We hail thee, dread Warrior-Queen; who, in thyself a host, didst put to flight all hell.
Ave Maria.

Day 7 prayer – vii. We hail thee, fair Soul of Mary; who from eternity wast possessed by God and God alone.
Ave Maria.

Day 8 prayer – viii. We hail thee, dear Child, and we humbly venerate thy most holy infant body, the sacred swaddling-clothes wherewith they bound thee, the sacred crib wherein they laid thee, and we bless the hour and the day when thou wast born.
Ave Maria.

Day 9 prayer – ix. We hail thee, much-loved Infant, adorned with every virtue immeasurably above all saints, and therefore worthy Mother of the Saviour of the world; who, having been made fruitful by the Holy Spirit, didst bring forth the Word Incarnate.
Ave Maria.

PRAYER

O most lovely Infant, who by thy holy birth hast comforted the world, made glad the heavens, struck terror into hell, brought help to the fallen, consolation to the sad, salvation to the weak, joy to all men living; we entreat thee, with the most fervent love and gratitude, to be spiritually reborn in our souls by means of thy most holy love; renew our spirits to thy service, rekindle in our hearts the fire of charity, bid all the virtues blossom there, that so we may find more and more favour in thy gracious eyes. Mary! be thou our Mary, and may we feel the saving power of thy sweetest name; may it ever be our comfort to call on that name in all our troubles; may it be our hope in dangers, our shield in temptation, and our last utterance in death. Sit nomen Mariae mel in ore, melos in aure, et jubilus in corde. Amen. Let the name of Mary be honey in the mouth, melody in the ear, joy in the heart. Amen.

V. Nativitas tua, Dei Genitrix Virgo.
R. Gaudium annuntiavit universo mundo.

Oremus.
Famulis tuis, quaesumus Domine, coelestis gratiae munus impertire: ut quibus Beata Virginis partus extitit salutis exordium, nativitatis ejus votiva solemnitas pacis tribuat incrementum.

Oremus.
Deus, qui corda fidelium Sancti Spiritus illustratione docuisti: da nobis in eodem Spiritu recta sapere, et de ejus semper consolatione gaudere. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. R. Amen.

TRANSLATION.

V. Thy Nativity, O Virgin Mother of God.
R. Hath brought joy to the whole world.

Let us pray.
Grant to us Thy servants, we beseech Thee, O Lord, the gift of heavenly grace; that to all those for whom the delivery of the Blessed Virgin was the beginning of salvation, this her votive festival may give increase of peace. Through, &c.

Let us pray.


O God, who hast taught the hearts of Thy faithful people by the light of the Holy Spirit; grant us in the same Spirit to relish what is right, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort. Through Christ our Lord. R. Amen.
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How To Improve Girl Child Education In Nigeria

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BBNaija Kiddwaya’s Dad: Children Of Rich People In Nigeria Hardly Become Rich On Their Own

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One of #BBNaija’s housemate, Kiddwaya’s dad, Terry Waya has said that children of successful/rich people in Nigeria hardly become rich on their own. According to him, it is easier for a poor man’s child to rise to the top than the child of a rich man. Your thoughts?

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Perspective | It’s time we stopped with the phrase “gifted and talented”

By Stephanie Sprenger
@mommyforreal

Last week, I saw two toddlers wearing “Genius” T-shirts. When I saw the first one, I smiled, as I undeniably have a soft spot for ironic baby clothing. But when just hours later the second “genius” came waddling along, it gave me pause. I know these clever shirts proclaiming that our children are “brave like Daddy” or “sassy like Mommy” are just supposed to be funny and cute. Yet I feel slightly troubled by what lies under the surface of our attempts to label our children with myriad superlatives.

The “Genius” one left a distinctly bad taste in my mouth, and after a few days of pondering, I realized why. It was a tiny incarnation of the “gifted and talented” program, which is a concept I’ve been struggling with as a parent.

When I was in 5th grade, I was selected to participate in TAG (yes, talented and gifted), a program that took place during two hours of every Friday afternoon. I recall playing challenging brain games that required teamwork and higher-level questioning, completing independent study projects, on one occasion making a collage about photography (hmmm), and then trotting merrily back to class with my other above-average classmates.

I moved the following year, and was placed in a similar program with a different name: Alpha. Was it, shudder, because we were “alpha students?” It was my first and last meeting. Although I carried straight A’s—aside from my B in P.E.—after a snide comment from one of my fellow Alpha students, I chose never again to participate in a gifted and talented program.

Over the years, I’ve heard it referred to as ULE—Unique Learning Experience—and Exceptional Learners, but where I live now it’s straight up “GT—gifted and talented.” My experience with GT as a parent of non-GT students has been eye-opening.

When my oldest daughter, now 13, was in Montessori preschool, the staff provided a parent meeting where we could ask questions about kindergarten and elementary school options. Hands shot up all around the room: “Tell us more about the GT programs in the district.” “When can we test for GT?” Aside from the occasional inquiry about bilingual education programs, it was pretty much the same: How do we get into the GT program?

My husband and I raised our eyebrows at each other. Who knew that all this time our precocious little darling had been surrounded by entirely gifted students? Over the next few years, acquaintances would ask me when I was getting my daughter tested for GT. “I’m not,” I usually replied simply. The high-pressure program was not something I wanted for my child, who now is a 4.0 honor roll student in middle school. To be honest, I wasn’t really sure she qualified for GT; her grades have much more to do with her personality and determination. But the entire operation left a bad taste in my mouth.

Semantics matter to me, perhaps more than most people. Don’t even get me started on my hang-ups about the word “blessed.” To me, being “gifted and talented” sounds a whole lot like being bestowed with a well, gift, that others were not granted. It’s pretentious, and slightly obnoxious.

However, the value of these programs is undeniable. There are students whose needs are not being met in a one-size-fits-all curriculum: a multitude, and not just the above average variety. It is difficult to comprehend the challenge of teachers who must constantly adapt their learning experience to the diverse group of students they teach. These programs are absolutely essential and provide a much-needed, enriching, stimulating education for the kids who are becoming bored in their classrooms, who are potentially even causing problems because they aren’t being challenged.

The future of New York City’s public gifted and talented programming is now in the spotlight, thanks to the mayor-appointed School Diversity Advisory Group’s recommendation that the existing GT programs be replaced by magnet schools. A group of gifted education teachers have instead called for an overhaul and reform of the system instead of elimination, which they hope may affect other GT programs around the country. But perhaps there is more fundamental reform required than altering the selection process and addressing the issues of economic privilege and racial segregation.

Perhaps what we really need to address is what we call these programs and the way parents conceive of them. The pressure behind TAG, including the language we use to describe it, needs to change. So too the frenetic rush to test our kids, not necessarily because we want to accommodate their learning style, but because of the proclamation that they are gifted and talented and therefore destined for a higher purpose, will lead to a breeding ground of stress, anxiety, and self-esteem issues. And what does it do to the kids who are excluded from this elite group?

I often cringe when I hear someone counter the name of these kind of programs with the sentiment that “All kids are gifted and talented in their own way.” Because it sounds so trite—the equivalent of a participation award. And yet. At the risk of revealing myself as a special snowflake kind of person, I do believe all children are gifted and talented. Whether they are athletic, artistic, deeply empathetic, or bold leaders, or simply themselves. Platitudes be damned, they are all gifted and talented in their own way.

It’s time to change the labels of these advanced or specialized learning classrooms to reflect that. Our children are paying attention, and they can absolutely read between the lines. What kind of message do we want to send them?

Stephanie is a writer, mother of two girls, early childhood educator and music therapist, and Executive Producer of Listen To Your Mother Denver and Boulder.

Image: an actual shirt that was given to one of our editor’s children.

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Mariska Hargitay Learns Elizabeth Taylor Was One of Her Biggest Fans

Law & Order: SVU star Mariska Hargitay comes from a Hollywood family. Her parents were movie stars Jayne Mansfield and Mickey Hargitay so, she certainly grew up meeting a famous celebrity or two. But she was still floored recently to find out that a Hollywood legend admired her acting.

Mariska Hargitay Gets A Shock

Model and businesswoman Kathy Ireland recently posted on Twitter something that she was too shy to tell Hargitay when she saw her at an airport. She took the opportunity when Hargitay posted her own tweet to promote the new SVU episode and responded with a fun fact.

“Twitter, did you know @Mariska was Elizabeth Taylor’s favorite actress?” Ireland tweeted. “True. They met when ET was filming ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ when Mariska was a child. Elizabeth loved you Mariska & never missed an episode of yours Wanted to tell you at the airport–was too shy! xo.”

Hargitay responded by simply saying she’s “floored” to learn that the violet-eyed legendary Oscar winner was an admirer of hers.

Hargitay was born on January 23, 1964, and the film version of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf was released on June 22, 1966, so, it’s likely that Taylor met Hargitay when she was still sleeping in a crib each night!

A Past Connection

Taylor shared with Us Weekly in 2011 her admiration for Hargitay and revealed that she knew Taylor’s children. “I’m mad for Law & Order and have seen every single episode,” Taylor told Us. “My children and Mariska Hargitay, a dazzling actress, played together as kids.”

While Taylor never appeared on Law & Order or any of the brand’s spinoff series, she did appear on television later in her career on such series as General Hospital, The Simpsons, The Nanny, Murphy Brown, and the TV mini-series North and South: Book 1 and the TV-movie Malice in Wonderland.

Taylor passed away on March 23, 2011, at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. She was 79 and died of congestive heart failure, surrounded by her children Michael Wilding, Christopher Wilding, Liza Todd, and Maria Burton. Taylor also had 10 grandchildren. Law & Order: SVU airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.

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