Erin

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Thursday, August 6, 2020

ANNOUNCEMENT: ALABAMA SNAKE, coming to HBO later this year... and I'm in it!

A brief pause on writing about Henry to let you all know that....

I am so excited that I can finally announce this!

Last summer I had a major role in the HBO film, ALABAMA SNAKE, coming soon! 

Somehow, I'm not in this picture. Eek! But when you see the movie, you won't miss me!

Hint: I played a role that may or may not have been the antagonist. Or was I a protagonist? As Hamlet said, "nothing is either good or bad, only thinking makes it so." But this story, in which I played a real person, will make you wonder: just who was the real snake in this story?


Coming to screens near you a little later this year.

https://deadline.com/…/mark-jay-duplas-the-lady-and-the-da…/

ALABAMA SNAKE, directed by Theo Love and produced by Bryan Storkel, explores the story of Oct. 4, 1991, when a violent crime was reported in the town of Scottsboro, Alabama.

Glenn Summerford, a Pentecostal minister, was accused of attempting to murder his wife with a rattlesnake. The details of the investigation and the trial that followed has “haunted Southern Appalachia for decades.”

We filmed last year on location and I just loved Alabama. It was beautiful: at night, full of fireflies and magic. Everyone I talked with- and I talked with everyone, basically- was so very nice. I learned a lot about Pentecostal Christians, a world I hadn't known much about before, but could see parallels with some of the more ecstatic kundalini yoga groups I've stayed with in ashrams in India. 


I also spent some time at the Scottsboro Boys Museum, delving into something I studied in high school but which I was soberly reminded of in person. It's a shameful piece of our US history that should be preserved and understood... and it saddens me that we are only a few steps beyond that. Black Lives Matter!

But back to the film. It was a great set. My fellow cast & crew were beyond excellent. I'd love to shout out to everyone individually... but then I'd basically just have to give a list of cast and crew as if it were a ship manifest or something. Still, you’re going to LOVE the makeup on this, and I truly miss a few of my wardrobe pieces that I grew oddly fond of. PUFFED SLEEVES! 


Also, my inner adrenaline junkie got a HELLA lotta fixes. I can’t give away too many details yet, but let’s just say that not only did I do some stunts… and learned I can survive certain “enhanced interrogation tactics”… (OH, I LOVED IT, SO DON’T WORRY IF YOU’RE READING THIS, HBO.) But I also got to work with ANIMAL actors… You all know I love animals. Some of which are named in the title. Only after wrapping on my fellow serpentine talent did one of the snake handlers approach me to tell me I was “a very brave woman.” It was at that moment that I wondered to myself, “Am I brave? Or stupid?” Since I survived, I’ll pick brave!


Truly, I had 100% faith in the project! As you can tell, I’m very proud of this film and my part in it. I cannot wait for you all to see this beautiful, creepy, Southern Gothic exploration of religion and crime.

I'll share some more pics when I can. And certainly I'll share more details when the time is right.

XOXO

Erin

Friday, July 31, 2020

June 2019: the mast cell

Toward the end of May, Henry started growing a weird thing on his foot. At first I thought it was some kind of wound, but it grew so fast that I brought him in to the vet at Banfield pretty quickly. They asked if we could do a biopsy on it to be sure of what it was. 

It just so happens that at that time, I booked an acting job on a film out of town. I would be gone for about three weeks... 

And literally as I was checking into the airport to get on a Delta flight to Atlanta and then to Huntsville, Alabama, the doctor called.

Henry had a benign mast cell tumor on his foot, but we definitely needed to remove it surgically. 

This was not the news I wanted as I was getting on my flight! 

I messaged Carlo (my partner) right away. Carlo was a good sport about Henry. Originally not a dog guy, he had grown to love Henry in the four years we lived with him, since June 2015. But even before that, whenever I would get an out of town job and Carlo would be staying in Los Angeles, Carlo would watch my little boy for me. During that time, they would bond. I would come home to find Henry extra obedient, standing at attention like a little soldier. I can't help but laugh at that, since, after all, Carlo was a Captain of the Carabinieri in Italy before becoming a novelist, actor and screenwriter. I guess he was still a good leader after all, and truth be told, getting a willful, 15-lb rescue dog with a food-obsession-problem to walk to his position, sit and wait patiently before eating was extremely impressive. But Carlo had taught Henry to do that!

Carlo agreed he would bring Henry to the vet, take care of him in my absence. I was so grateful because I really did not want to wait until I got back from my job to bring Henry in for surgery, and I didn't want anything to happen to my little guy. I suppose I could have flown myself home on a weekend to take care of it but why, when Carlo was available to take him to the vet? 

The problem was not so much the surgery but aftercare. You see, Henry had these long long ballerina legs. I used to sometimes call him Baryshnikov because of those legs! So even though we got a cone, so he couldn't lick or chew on the foot and therefore take out the stitches.... the first cone was appropriate for a dog his size. And so he could reach that long ballerino leg of his around the cone and into his mouth. He tore those stitches out a few times before finally Carlo asked for the biggest cone they had! It was meant for a German Shepard! Carlo had to tie the ribbon around his collar and add a little neckerchief because Henry could actually reach his foot between the inside of the cone and his head if he worked at it a little bit. 

Oh, poor Henry hated that cone. With a passion.

When I finally came home from that shoot, Henry was so happy to see me. He tried to jump, as he always would do when I came home, but the cone kept him from getting anywhere. We started taking it off if we could watch him closely and in early August, when he could finally be FREE of the cone for good, he was the happiest dog in the universe.

This is the picture of him smiling from that day:



Soon he would need his yearly shots, rabies etc. I was supposed to be going on a road trip with my mom and her sisters for her birthday in September (well, her birthday was in October, but for her birthday that year she had requested I go on a Sisters trip with her, and I was excited about it.) I had a short job in Colorado right after the film shoot, so I set the appointment for his shots and annual exam for the third week in August. 

Little did I know that everything would change during that yearly exam.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Encapsulating a Life

What I really hope to do with these blog posts is share the story of Henry's lymphoma and chemo and treatments... to help people trying to decide what to do. I want to share with you all what I spent, what I tried, what worked in our instance, what didn't work. But I feel that if I don't share with you all a bit more about Henry's life it feels unfair.

Any of you who are dog lovers will surely know that dogs are members of the family. And for some of us, they truly are our babies.

I guess I'll give a smattering of highlights, although it will be difficult to choose since there were oh, so very many. 

When I got Henry, one of the things I loved most was how my life had to be reorganized to create time for walks. Those walks slowed me down, and for the most part, I tried to leave my phone at home on those walks. Partially this was because I figured, if I was just going to be on my phone for the entire walk, why bother having a dog or being outside at all? I wanted the quality time with my munchkin. But partially it was also because I enjoyed the social aspect of running into other dogs and their people. And, as I swiftly discovered, because my eagle eye for four leaf clovers was in tact. 

See, I have a weird habit. I am good at spotting four and five leaf clovers. Seriously, in my life, all over the world more or less, I have found hundreds and possibly thousands of four and five leaf clovers. But once I got Henry, I was outside three or four times a day, and my ability grew into a habit. 

It solidified for me not only that Henry was an important part of my rest/ relaxation/ exercise/ being outside/ connecting with nature time, but that he was a part of the magic that I experience in life.

Of course, I had been finding the four leafies, as I call them, since I was a young girl. My grandmother also collected four leaf clovers as well. But I found an incredible number of them once Henry came into my life.





Henry was an incredibly sweet boy, especially with women. I began to wonder if I should have named him Romeo after all as he loved charming them. But I noticed that he also loved to be macho with bro energy. He didn't love men when I first got him, but soon began to relate to them like a luchador wrestler.

We were apart from time to time. I spent a month in NYC without him (worst choice I ever made!). I would spend weeks away from him on sets or on odd jobs out of state or visiting Carlo's family in Italy. Always he stayed either with my partner Carlo, for whom, over time, despite the fact that he was not a "dog person," Henry became a child as well... or with one of two incredible dog walkers/ sitters that he truly adored. I was lucky to have people I trusted to watch over him.

Henry had very few health issues in his life. I didn't have insurance or anything until the incident of the orange seed pod pit.

First of all, one of Henry's worst habits was eating everything and anything off the street, even if it wasn't food. He would eat things that remotely resembled food. (This was also another reason it was better if I didn't bring a phone on our walks. If I was not present for so much as a nanosecond, or as my friend Hank and acting coach Jimmy like to say, a femtosecond!, Henry would snatch up some elusive bite of something.) 

Also, in Los Angeles, there are these little orange seed pods that fall from the palm trees. They have little pits in them perhaps the size of an apricot. They are not supposed to be eaten by dogs!

Well, when Henry was about six years old, he ate one of these suckers. Okay, I'm sure he ate a lot of those f***ing things before but never did it get lodged in his digestive tract for so long that it created all kinds of problems with not being able to poop.... stomach pain.... vomiting up foamy water. Poor guy. We went to the vet, and they did an x-ray where they saw it in there. But because they weren't "sure" it was the seed pod, they suggested it could be some kind of tumor as well. Off we went to the hospital. After a few thousand dollars that I didn't have but was grateful to have room on a credit card to accommodate, Henry was given enough chemicals and stool softeners and such that he finally excreted the pod and was well. 

It did not stop him from trying to eat those damn things.

I could not bring myself to get a muzzle, either.

So I instead watched him like a hawk.... and....

I finally broke down and bought pet insurance for him. I decided that, while I had been lucky so far, I didn't want $2000 or my lack of it to be the determiner of whether Henry lived or died a painful death because of something dumb like a seed pod. 

I went with Healthy Paws after doing a moderate amount of research. I think it was partially because of the combination of price and benefits- at first, $47/ month, a $500 deductible, 90% return after paying upfront except for pre-existing conditions (none, since he had never had to go to the vet before) and less certain doctor visits. A year later it went up to $55, and I think there were no to minimal increases until the last few months. When his policy was renewed in May, after he had gone through eight months of chemo, the price jumped to $89, which I totally understood, but the deductible was $250 at that point and it was 90% return less any doctor fee. 

The other reason I went with Healthy Paws, frankly, was because I loved the name. It was so cute. And they had an app that was easy to use. I bet other companies also have apps but I was really into Healthy Paws.

I later bought a "Wellness Plan" through Banfield Hospital as well. This was because the nearest vet to our house was Banfield, and once when I cut Henry's nails and they started bleeding, we ran there and they treated him free of charge. I realized that I could not cut his nails on my own- previously I had been blessed by free grooming for life from the women who adopted him but they had closed down their business- and that I could get his nails cut during grooming sessions at the Pet Smart by my house where the Banfield was located on the second floor. 

Suddenly, I was a very responsible dog owner!

Those of you who knew me in my 20s probably realize what a big deal this was.

And I admit, I'm so happy to have invested that money and time, not because I love spending money, but because I taught myself I can be responsible and resourceful and expand my ability to earn money on behalf of a vulnerable creature that I take care of.

And I am so grateful to that stupid orange seed pod pit because years later, that insurance would make the difference to whether or not I would pursue chemo with Henry, and therefore it would give me eight extra months of time with my boy.

Next, I'll start talking about the first clue we got that something was up, when he got a mast cell on his foot last June (2019).




Thursday, July 9, 2020

When I Met Henry

Back in 2011, I really wanted a dog.

Okay, I really wanted a baby, but I was in an unrequited love situation thing, and only beginning to deconstruct my relationship life (and luckily about one year from meeting my future husband.) 

But back then, I knew I wanted a family to root me and ground me and get me out of the day job I had (which was really at night.) And one thing I have always known about myself is that I do best the I create the situation I'm dreaming of having first and then worry about the how later.

For example, most people learn how to mix drinks before they apply for bartender jobs. Me, I was offered the bartending job based on the testimony of someone who said I'd be good at it- and I didn't even know how to pour a beer from the tap! I learned fast.

I moved to Los Angeles without knowing a soul or having any savings. But I jumped into the deep end of the pool and within 6 weeks I had my SAG eligibility. 

So while I wasn't about to just get pregnant... I knew that I wanted something to love and cuddle and pour all my oxytocin into. 

One day in spring 2011, I was be trained by my dear friend, fellow actor, personal trainer (and now standup comedian) Dale. I had seen pics on his Facebook of some puppies and asked about them. He said that he and (his then girlfriend) Star just loved one of them, Iggy, but they were worried about separating Iggy from his brother. At that exact moment, I got the KICK IN THE STOMACH.

Now, the KICK IN THE STOMACH has come at me a few times in life:
-in kindergarten, the first time I laid eyes on Sarah, my childhood best friend. I knew she was my best friend, and despite the fact that I was so shy that my preschool teacher had suggested I was disabled to my mother (which would have been fine if it were true, but no, just painfully shy), I walked right up to her and asked her if she was my best friend. She nodded yes, and we were all the way until college.
-when I heard my friend Josh's voice on the phone, I knew he was one of my soul mates. Not romantically, but just as brother and sister, friends, twins... soul mates!
-later, meaning post-Henry, when I first met my voice teacher Gary.
-when I saw my future husband Carlo's name as the Italian teacher I was being paired with.

So, the Kick in the Stomach is something that has happened to me a number of times, and always is about connecting me to something or someone very deep and important in my life. I think it has something to do with destiny, and something to do with love, although obviously not always of a romantic variety.

And when Dale told me about this little puppy dog just waiting at the Rescue, I knew he was mine.

I made an appointment to go in and meet him, and the women who ran the Rescue also introduced me to a number of other dogs. But Henry, then called Elvis, was my favorite. He was a real rough and tumble boy who wanted to play, and he came right up to me and we started playing pull with a toy. Then he took off for a while and played with some other dogs while I cuddled a few other puppies- nice, but needy. And yet, Henry wasn't making a move toward me beyond letting me know he was down to play. Until I decided it was time to go... I didn't get up to leave just yet, I just checked the time and figured I was ready to go, and at that exact moment, Henry walked over to where I was sitting, plopped into my lap, curled up and fell asleep.

And then I knew I was his mother.

He was the perfect blend, for me, of fun and rowdy, independent, but still cuddly. 

A week later, I welcomed him home.



This was after he and I had been together a while.

When I first got him, he was named Elvis, like I mentioned. He had a little red cherry eye, and we had it removed and then he had to wear a cone to keep from scratching at the wound. The cone they gave him was a wee bit small for him and he grew fast! So it soon looked like an Edwardian collar. I didn't feel like he was totally an Elvis, although that was sort of a good name because of his swagger. My sister and I brainstormed other names: Romeo, Rocky, Rocko, Harmon Killebrew, Kirby Puckett. (We're Twins fans, can you tell?) And then my friend Debbie, looking at his little kingly Edwardian collar, said, "Henry!" And Henry was perfect. He had eyes like Henry Fonda. Henry Aaron was one of our favorite baseball players. And so he became Henry Harmon Muir.

Also he was sometimes known as:

Henry Monster the Muppet
Hank
Henri
Enrique
Baby Henry
Monkey
Monkey Boy
Smiler Boy
Buddy
Enery the Eighth
Boy Boy



He had a nipping problem for the first little while. He especially did not like men in sweatshirts or hats. It took me a while to stop that.

And while he could be so bold and boisterous, when he first came to my house, he was sometimes so fearful he was afraid of crossing through doorways. We meditated together and he became able to be chill on command. He stopped barking unless it was to alert me to danger, and he became house trained pretty fast, in my memory. He would NOT roll over, he hated being on his back, and he was very willful. So I had to be much stronger than him! But he was all love, and, well, wrestling, pretty much all the time after that.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Where do I begin this story?

Henry was the sweetest little dog, and in 2019 he got cancer. I want to write a blog about the experience to help those of you going through a similar situation so that you can hear from someone who's been there... find out what might happen, what you can expect... get support, share with me... but I don't know where to even begin the story. 

Does the story begin with his first appointment with oncology at MASH in Hollywood in early September 2019? At that point, I knew he had some kind of lymphoma. I had found that out in the end of August, and at the urging of a fellow dog mom, K.M., I called about a dozen places, making appointments everywhere I could, until eventually I had to give up. The earliest anyone could get Henry in was one week and a day from when we were calling, and most places couldn't get him in for a month. But I knew it was a desperate situation because in the time it had taken for him to go in for his yearly vaccinations, have the regular vet notice his lymph nodes were a little big, and then get the test results back.... ten days.... his lymph nodes had gone from slightly swollen to the size of tennis balls. His breathing was labored and he was on the edge of miserable. I honestly didn't even know if he could make it the week we had to wait. 

But then, maybe the story goes back to that regular veterinarian, the doctor at the Banfield hospital around the corner where I had purchased a wellness plan the year before. Frankly, I bought the wellness plan because I couldn't cut Henry's nails myself without hurting him, and I wanted to bring him to the nearest pet groomer, and in a building that was once a Borders Bookstore and Blockbuster Video Store when I first moved to Los Angeles there was now a PetSmart with a grooming station on the first floor and a Banfield Hospital on the second floor. I figured it was time to start doing things for Henry like his yearly shots and then he would be safe to go get his nails cut by someone other than me.

I was upset the vet said we needed to do an autopsy for Henry's lymph nodes, because literally two weeks before his yearly exam (where she suggested the need for said autopsy) I had FINALLY been able to take his cone off, which he had been wearing because of a surgery on a mast cell tumor on his foot. I couldn't believe that they wouldn't have noticed something weird in the blood work, in the many many tests we did between the appearance of the mast cell tumor in May, the surgery in June, and the long recovery period. Henry had to wear a cone intended for a German Shepard because despite the fact that he was a 15 lb Jack Russell/ chihuahua mix, he had these long ballet dancer legs, my own little Baryshnikov, and he could easily reach that leg around almost every cone so as to chew on his stitched up foot, thereby undoing the stitches every few days. Enter the cone taller than he was long, meant for big dogs, like German Shepards or maybe even mastiffs. Maybe not that big. But it was huge! In reality he could slip the wounded foot between the cone and his head, so we had to fortify it with extra ribbon. Oh, he hated that cone! So I just couldn't understand how the blood work and many exams could have shown NOTHING about what the doctor was telling me, that she suspected a lymphoma of some kind. Wouldn't something have shown up?

"Not if it's an aggressive lymphoma like I suspect it is," she said. "I really think you need to do a biopsy." 

She was talking to me on the phone and I was not pleasant. I sighed. I relented. It was, after all, Henry. He couldn't help it if I was cash poor and the $250 for the bloodwork was a burden, even with dog insurance and a wellness plan. He was probably the only kid I would ever had. And he was my baby. So I said okay.

But then, maybe the story does start earlier. What about that mast cell tumor on his foot? It was mid-June, 2019, and I was standing in line to check in at the airport, on my way out of town for a three week film shoot when they called with the results from THAT biopsy. The doctor told me it was a benign mast cell tumor but we needed to have it surgically removed. I wasn't going to be around for almost a month and I had to rely on my partner, Carlo. While Carlo loved Henry, and did sometimes watch him when I would go out of town, truth be told, we both felt more comfortable with me taking care of all the medical stuff. Henry and I found each other a few years before Carlo and I met, and I was so much more capable with this sort of thing. But Carlo was a real saint, and Henry a trooper, and together they figured it out without me there...

Or do we go all the way back to when Henry and I met and become loving fur baby and dog mom, way back in May 2011? From the beginning, he had had a cherry eye, a little red tumor in his eye that was surgically removed at 6 months, right when I adopted him. I knew his exact birthday, November 7th, 2010, because the women who had rescued him actually rescued his pregnant mother... a teacup chihuahua... out of a dumpster. Sigh. Someone threw away a pregnant dog. People can be awful. But then Tee and Tanya found her and at their house, Henry was born. He was the biggest of four tiny babies, and the last one to get adopted to a loving home... to me. 

I think there are probably parts to the story that deserve going back in time a bit, back to Syttende Mai*, the day he came home to me.... back to before that, even, the first time I met him, the first time I even heard about him.... and I will try to tell the story as well as I can. For you, the reader... but also, for Henry. 

                                               Henry, the day he could finally be free of that huge cone 
                                                        intended for a German Shepard! He was so happy. August, 2019.





*I grew up attending an ELCA Lutheran Church in Saint Cloud and then Sauk Rapids, MN, communities with a large Norwegian-American population. We celebrated Syttende Mai, AKA Norway's Constitution Day, May 17th. Any excuse to eat lefse with butter, I guess! It's merely coincidental that he came home to live with me permanently on May 17th, 2011.





To be continued.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Henry...

On Monday, June 22nd, Henry passed from this Earth to the next.

Henry was not just a dog, as so many of you know. He was a magical little dog, my child and friend, curious and hilarious. He was a part of so many people's lives. Sometimes people would stop us on the street and say, "Henry!" This happened in every neighborhood we've lived in, three altogether. 



There were so many Henrys, all wrapped up in one loving, affectionate, often macho, tough boy street kid Romeo package. He loved the ladies, wearing neckerchiefs and bowties, and wrestling. He also loved cuddling and playing and was totally my baby. He would never back down from a fight but I never saw him start one. 

He loved eating. He would eat anything and everything. Except lettuce. He hated lettuce. It was thanks to him eating one of those orange seed pods that fall from palm trees and ending up in the hospital that I finally bought dog insurance for him. I am now so grateful for that stupid seed pod getting lodged in his digestive tract. 

Henry fought cancer for a long time. They gave us 4-6 weeks, he went on for ten months. I was able to do chemo for him thanks to insurance and frankly, the help of a couple of really loving friends who gave us money when we had none. Henry never whined or cried about chemo. Even when his body was overcome with tumors that made it hard to walk, he would try to meet me at the door and wag his tail. He would still shake for a treat.

I would be remiss if I didn't add that his oncologist was incredible. Dr. Piero and all the staff at MASH helped beyond words. And in typical Henry magic, the Metropolitan Animal Specialty Hospital was located in what was formerly a theater- the very place Carlo and I had our first date.

Carlo posted yesterday that his favorite thing about Henry was that, when we would kiss and hug, Henry would come kiss our legs and want to be a part of the love. And he was. He made us a family.



There are a million favorite things about Henry for me. If he wanted your attention he would poke you with his nose. He would sit on my lap while playing the piano but would bark at my guitar. He would run crazy eights in the yard up until he was too sick to do it. He was always down for an adventure. And he was with me during a few weird moments in life, alerting me to danger. Keeping me safe even if he was only 15 pounds.

When I first met Henry, it was because my friends Dale and Star had adopted his brother. Dale told me about Henry and I just had a feeling. I just knew. Henry was my boy. He brought me so much joy over the years. 





Even in his final moments in my arms Henry kissed us and smiled at me- one of his nicknames was Smiler Boy because he smiled a lot!- what a buddy. The best buddy ever.

So, I think I'm going to end my tribute here for now. Over the next few weeks I will write a series of blogs about his cancer treatment because I know some friends who went through it before me really gave me so much good advice and help. Maybe I can help share my experience, too. For now this is all I can do.

My heart is broken, but in honor of Henry, it has broken open. I have so much love for the world and for all of you and for all who suffer and all who laugh and all who love treats. May you all experience the unconditional love that maybe none of us deserve but that our beautiful fur babies can give. 

Love, Erin. 

RIP Henry, fka Elvis, fka Bowie, aka Henry Muppet the Monster, aka Henry Harmon Muir, aka Henri, aka Enrique, aka Hank, aka Baby Henry, aka Monkey Boy, aka Smiler Boy, aka My Buddy.



Saturday, June 13, 2020

I'm excited to share an episode of the CoVid 19 inspired/ filmable sci-fi YouTube series, MEM39, in which Carlo and I appeared recently.

Written by Andrea Careri, MEM 39 is about a global pandemic in the near future (2039, to be precise) in which a virus is causing most everyone who catches it to lose all their memories.

You can watch our episode here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56O7HFELSL0&feature=youtu.be




Hope you like it.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

interlude

I suppose it happened about the time he made an off-color comment followed by a sly look

That was when I noticed golden strands in his dark hair

And although there was just this quick exhale, not more than two seconds of recognition,

The old phrase came to heart first and then to mind:

"Uh oh."