Wednesday, December 24, 2008

In the Bleak Midwinter - there is hope

Regardless of what Martha Stewart, Rachel Ray, and Oprah say, sometimes the best gifts at Christmas are the re-gifted ones. My family found out last Thursday, after my mom had to go to the emergency room in tremendous pain, that there was a large tumor growing inside her about the size of a large grapefruit. That emotionally charged and frightening word "cancer" has hung in the air all weekend, especially scary for my dad who is also sick with Parkinsons. Yesterday as I waited with my dad in the waiting room for my mom to come out of surgery, we talked about how different Christmas would be this year - not the same as the joyous Christmases of the past with our many family traditions. I knew it would be different this year, it's already passed me by a little and hasn't been as much in my heart as in times past. The challenges and experiences of this year have definitely weighed heavily upon my heart and now this one rejuvenating, merry holiday was marked by this dark cloud, this heavy sadness with the potential to usurp the joy of the season. But somehow, and to my amazement, I didn't feel what I thought I would. I just felt a pure and simple hope - not that nothing bad or sad would happen, but a hope that all potential sadness, loss, weakness, could be overcome and by that I mean Christ can make us better inside. He can truly heal us and strengthen us. Things we never thought we could do or endure are always possible with Him. I didn't expect to write all that in my blog but it just came out and even though I often struggle to believe that I pray everyday to believe that more and more. I felt that yesterday - the true gift of Christmas, and the gift of having the good news that my mother is well. The tumor was benign and the surgery was a success. The doctor came out and told us around 6:30pm. It is a great blessing and gift to have mom back, and to be reminded of the gift she is and the gift that family relationships truly are. All seven of us kids and my dad gathered around her bed last night as she came back from recovery and we said a family prayer together. How grateful I am for my family this Christmas and for the gifts the Savior gives that we don't always realize are gifts. I am grateful for that.

Now, to transition to a few of the things that have happened since I last wrote which was a long time ago cause I've been a slacker. I went to California a couple of weeks ago to sustain my complicated Catherine-like lifestyle. I flew back to substitute for one day so I keep my health beneftis and this time I went to teach in Compton. I didn't have my own car with me so I relied on the mercy of my uncle and a great friend in Huntington Beach to drive and pick me up. They both have pretty nice cars so I was a bit concerned for them but they thought I was worth the risk so I'm very grateful to them. I love the contrast between Salt Lake and LA. It's always good to be reminded what it feels like to be in the minority (not many pasty-white redheads around Compton).

I was also so hungry that day I actually broke down and bought school lunch. I know, I shocked even myself. I didn't even eat school lunch when I was in school, especially not tater-tots, but it gave me enough energy to finish out the day reading the Crucible with the the juniors and seniors. I also made a trip to Disneyland while I was there and had two glorious runs on the beach wearing shorts and a tank-top. Such a far cry from my running in Utah - fleece pants, three shirts, and a headband, and worse I haven't been able to get up in the morning and go like I usually do. Something about the complete darkness, freezing temperatures, and slippery roads that discourages me a little. I don't know, maybe it's just me. I also took a shopping trip to my favorite store in the world Trader Joes and got some Peppermint Joe Joe's dipped in chocolate. What a good trip. Still loving my roommate, my guitar time, and have a bunch of movies and books I'm looking forward to devouring this holiday break. Thought I've also got a lot of writing to do so we'll see how much I get done. is quite an amazing journey. Happy Christmas everyone (I like the way the British say it) and God bless us everyone.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

D.I. Details

I recently completed perhaps my greatest acting feat to date in one of the most challenging roles I've ever taken on - an employee at Deseret Industries. I like to think my character Margaret is based on the crazy part of myself that only comes out when I'm talking to myself in the shower...or in the car, especially at night when I think nobody can see me. Margaret is a spazzy, distracted, tangent-centered worker who puts chocolate candy bars in her pocket until they melt and then offers them to her supervisors (I added that little detail myself). A couple of producer assistants and I were helping with job coach training for the DI supervisors and managers who came from Washington, California, Arizona, etc... It was actually a lot of fun and it was a nice change of pace to wear ripped jeans and over-sized sweatshirts to work instead of nylons and skirts. I'm considering adopting the character of Margaret permanently after a number of the employees in training asked if I (Catherine Cook) was anything like my character cause they'd love to hang out with Margaret and go with her on some of her tangents. Hmm...I'll have to consider that, though most of my tangents take place inside my own mind reminding me of the line in Brandi Carlile's song "all of my friends who think that I'm blessed, they don't know my head is a mess..." That's definitely me!
Still loving Millcreek though the fall leaves are just about gone and now my legs turn pink when I run cause it's getting cold. My brother keeps telling me to buy running tights but I like to think I'm still in California. Speaking of running, I actually came in as the 2nd place girl in a 5K at Sugarhouse Park yesterday and to be honest I wasn't really even trying to win. It made me feel kind of good, like I'd accomplished something (as if being DI Margaret wasn't enough.) I've been wondering why I never took track in highschool. How fast would I have been 10 years ago. I'm such a late bloomer. I've also been thinking about heart disease lately - a different kind than the cholesterol one. Here it is: When you get involved with people that have messed up hearts they invariably mess up yours too. I think it's contagious. So then when you start dating someone else your messed up heart then probably messes up theirs. It's a horrible cycle and incredibly unfair. Forget STDs, how about ETDs - emotionally transmitted diseases. Stop the madness. Please straighten out your own heart before you try and win someone else's, including mine. Excited for Thanksgiving and Christmas and yes I will be going to see Twilight when it opens this Friday (though not the midnight showing. I don't want to fall asleep on Edward.)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Millcreek Mecca

So I've made the foot of Millcreek canyon my mecca for the rest of 2008 with one of the best and cleanest roommates I've ever had - my brother. Yes we do get the occasional 'are you married or are you brother and sister' question to which we respond yes. We got a lot of furniture from family and friends and it's pretty dang nice too. Maybe I should have just done that in the first place instead of scavenging for free furniture in the alleyways (Naa). I still miss that big gold frame in my old yellow-walled LA apartment. I'll toast to those good memories in my new set of IKEA wine glasses, or I should say pomegranate juice glasses. The best part of where I live now is that Millcreek Canyon is a run away - granted a long run but do-able. I did it today. The fall leaves are absolutely magical and inspiring - and if you know me then you know when I say magical I mean it. I go up there with my running shoes and ipod and just let go of everything and let in the wonders of the moment and being alive. It absolutely invigorates me and in a way fills in for the ocean I left behind. Like most things I know the autumn colors won't last much longer so I'm enjoying every leaf of it while I can. I'm really enjoying work in spite of having to wear nylons, and the people we work with. We started a weekly lunch club and get together to discuss everything from Kierkegaard to Arrested Development. I'd like the lunches to be European style - 2-3 hours - but I guess I'll settle for the American way. We'll just talk faster. We went to our new singles ward this past Sunday. The RS President had us say our ages in the new member meeting (not appreciated) but I feel no shame in who I am and where I'm at - in some ways I'm better than I've ever been - so I said my real age. They "consoled" me by telling me not to worry, there are a few other members older than me. Thanks so much. I guess I can be the old lady in the ward. I do have a rocking chair in my room. My dad didn't want it to go to waste and actually I like it. So even though the average age is about 21 (can barely believe it) I'm sure I'll enjoy it and it helps that the bishopric and ward members are really friendly. I'm still looking at grad school as a possibility. My old professors at the U of U actually remember me or at least that my hair looks different. One even had an old paper of mine in his stack of "A" papers. That made me feel kind of good. I'm also still working on my book and plan to finish by the end of the year. It's one of the endeavors I feel my heart the most in right now and I need that.
I also want to take this opportunity to say how much I love the DI. We've found some great things and it's good to be able to toast bread again. Sometimes I don't know how it happens but I'm feeling very hopeful and can say life is good. Milton said each of us is a ruler of our kingdom. In the last year I've learned more and more to compare less and less and simply do my best to rule this sometimes complicated but fascinating kingdom that is me.
I will miss my favorite month of October but look forward to what lies ahead.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

October Rush

My favorite month is here and one good thing about being in Utah is I get to actually enjoy autumn and all the beautiful colors - that is if the snow doesn't ruin it all first. The makeup lady at Macy's once told me my coloring was "Autumn Harmony" so maybe my liking for the season is something genetic. I just got back from another visit to California where, in my crazy life, I had to drive to get a smog test to keep my car registered in California and I had to substitute teach two days so I can keep my great benefits for two more months (I'm keeping my options open). It's inspiring teaching kids who would rather put on three layers of makeup in class than actually learn about great American Literature. When asked about his plans for the future one 10th grade boy responded that he was just going to sell drugs. Wow, I miss subbing.
I saw a great play in Burbank on my trip too called R.R.R.E.D. - The Redhead Musical Manifesto. It was hilarious and it validated my redheaded trials and challenges including the obscene name calling in grade school. I'm still scarred. The show was based on the Oxford Study that redheads will become extinct in 2100 - perish the thought. Apparently all of us redheads have to do our part to make sure that doesn't happen (I won't say what that is here).
My redheaded brother Ben joined me for the weekend and we hung out with my old roommate Marcella and went to Griffith Observatory - something I'd never done in my 3years in LA - and also went to Canter's Jewish Deli, open 24 hours. It almost felt like I was in NY again minus the rude (yet strangely endearing) service. It was so fun to see old friends and all the people I love and miss in LA and Orange County. Of course we went to Disneyland too which was decorated for Halloween - gosh I love pumpkins! I also got to meet with Kamaria, my mentee for WriteGirl, and we did some writing together at Borders. All in all, it was a pretty productive trip and I'm missing California and the ocean again already - especially as it gets colder here.

So I guess it's back to work tomorrow in my nylons and skirt, working for the Man. There are some good things, though. I have rediscovered Ding Dongs while working at the COB - Church Office Building. My brother says I'm just another kernel on the COB. May I be the best kernel I can be.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


I guess it's about time for an update on my uncertain life. First and most important, I had my first candy corn craving a few weeks ago which means fall is in the air. Good things always happen for me in the fall even if they fall apart in the Spring (but I'm hoping that won't happen this time.) I've been working as a producer's assistant for the past month at the Church Office Building where I'm quite literally working for the Man. The adjustment to an office job again hasn't been easy and to make it even more of a challenge I have to wear nylons everyday (most people don't even know what those are anymore) and there's no caffeine on the premises which has been tough for my recent caffeine cravings. Smuggling in is an option, however. Many do it. I'm enjoying the work though, and I get to do writing and some work with media so it's going really well right now.

I've also been working on recording my first album - yeah okay so I'm a total amateur and I haven't even been playing the guitar for a year yet but it's been fun and really good for me and I'm learning a lot. The lead guitarist of the band "The Craving" (they have a great sound by the way) has generously and patiently been helping me produce my five songs. The album should be out out by Christmas. (It just sounds cool to say that.) I've also been thinking about going back to school next fall for a Master's degree. I'm looking at English programs and also went down to BYU (they also have no caffeine on the premises - unbelievable) and got some information on their program in social work. I'd have to sign up for classes now to be eligible to apply in January so that's pretty much out for now. And as much as I love English and literature I'm not sure I really want to be an academic and deconstruct for the rest of my life. I love learning and I'm a pretty driven person but I'm just not sure grad school is the way for me. I'm keeping my options open though. My twin nieces are here from California so the whole family's been able to get together and that's been great too. I'm so grateful for family. I really miss California but I've been trying to enjoy Utah. I went to the State Fair last week, went to a rodeo last night (and learned how they get the horses and bulls to buck - poor guys) and went rock climbing yesterday afternoon in Big Cottonwood Canyon. It was only my second time climbing but we did this really high 3-pitch climb and after I did it I was really amazed that I could. It built up my confidence and courage. I think there really is a tie between physical challenges and emotional or spiritual challenges. It felt really good to conquer some fears, or at least contend with them.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Brides, Batter, and Beauty

I returned to LA last week for a wedding in San Pedro overlooking the ocean. It was beautiful and quite a fun, and refreshingly intimate affair. Dinner, dancing, a program - much more interesting than a reception line. I was even given the opportunity to speak at the wedding and I have to admit I think it went pretty well. The wedding coordinator liked it, so I let her know I was available for hire to write speeches for future weddings (I'm always looking for a job). I admit I was a little nervous to go, but I listened to my elven battle ahead of time and tried to face my fears like a true warrior. It ended up going really well and I found myself in good company and well-taken care of thanks to good friends. I'm glad I went. I spent the rest of the weekend with my old roommate Marcella, who I lived with for all three of my years in the City of Angels, sometimes marked by hellish experiences that bonded us for life. We went to the fashion district on Saturday morning and to a non-English speaking Mexican restaurant for a European lunch. Any lunch where you aren't under any time constraints and you can just sit there for as long as you want and talk for as long as you want is a European lunch. That's how they do it there. I had a number of those kinds of meals on this trip and was grateful to just connect with old friends and strengthen relationships with the people I love and miss so much in California. Sunday morning, we discovered the joy of Blaster Batter for breakfast. It's basically pancake mix in a can, or you can use it for waffles too. Just spray and make a pancake in seconds (and believe it or not it's organic. I could actually pronounce all the ingredients.) Pretty amazing. Only took us 5 seconds to master the art of it. Oh the ingenuity that exists in the country to help us be that much lazier.
Sunday evening my aunt and uncle picked me up and drove me to their new beach house in Huntington Beach. What a great place. I went walking by the ocean and biking everyday I was there and got more free counseling. They're some of my favorite people to talk to. In fact I had a lot of good conversations with a number of interesting individuals on interesting topics, including why it is guys go for trophy girls (If anyone can shed any light on that feel free.) I got to hang out with another house of the coolest girls I know on 17th street. If they had room, I would move in with them. There's a number of places I could live, I'm just having a hard time deciding which one. A lot of variables and unknowns I'm trying to work out but I guess that's life. Speaking of life and European lunches, a year ago at this time I was actually in Europe - the reason I originally started this blog so people could be updated on my month long adventures there. My first country was Switzerland. So in honor of my being at the Matterhorn almost a year ago to the day, I went to the closest Matterhorn I know and spent the day at Disneyland. And yes I clicked my heels as I walked in the entrance under the bridge. After all these years, I still find Disneyland a magical place.

So the trip back to California was a good one, with some journal-worthy experiences that appealed to my good story senses (not going to post those here) and I realized how much I really miss California. Maybe I have become a California girl.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The GRE - Godless, Relegable, Enervating

I recently discovered I'm too dumb to go to graduate school. So what am I going to do now? I'm going to satiate myself with mint desserts and vampire stories (I wish I could say I'm going to Disneyland as I still have my annual pass, but soon enough. And yes I'm into the Twilight series too. It's my guilty pleasure). I took the GRE test Tuesday morning - that could have been my first mistake, my brain is slow in the morning. I thought I was doing quite well until I got to the math section and then an additional verbal section that threw me for a loop. The test nazis always throw in an unscored section just to play with your mind and you don't know which one it will be. I'm pretty sure the section I felt I nailed was the unscored one and the section I did the worst on was the scored. Isn't that the way it goes? It's like the selected vocabulary words they chose to test me on were the ones I just didn't have in the bible-thick stack of flashcards I've been studying with for the past month. And it's not like these are words you even use. Anyone know what soporific means? (Hint: sometimes going to a long meeting at church can make you feel this way.) Needless to say I didn't score as high as I'd hoped and probably below many schools cut-off requirements. After I left the student services building and shoved the rest of my granola bar in my mouth since we're not allowed to eat or drink during the four hour test, I decided I felt a little angry. I don't think a standardized test is a fair assessment of what I know and what I can do. Maybe I've just been out of school too long. I think they should have a life experience part of the test too, for example: If you order a hot dog from a street vendor in New York and ask for the works how many toppings are on your hot dog? Or, how about what kind of shoes hold up best when trekking around Europe for a month?
All I need to decide now is whether or not I should retake the test to try and get a better score, or take it as a sign that I'm not cut out for grad school and eliminate another possibility for my future (process of elimination as a means to eventually figure out what you want to do. I seem to be there now.) What's a beatnik gypsy to do?
Some good news - I got a Queen bed set and comforter for only $25. My mom and sister-in-law definitely love shopping and its' thrill of bargains more than I do but they inducted me in to their club of getting highs off amazing deals when we went to Mervyns for a 75% off sale plus bonuses. I have to admit, I felt a substantial buzz from the experience and liked it.
I've also been reminiscing about where I was at this time last year. Getting ready for my trip to Europe. I will never forget it and am so glad I could do it. Next time, I'm taking someone with me though.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


This last week I went off-roading in the mountains. What a ride - rocky, unchartered roads, bouncing up and down (good thing the seats are soft), thick clouds of dust, and speed (not the drug of course, just driving fast.) It was kind of like one long Indiana Jones ride. And then as things were winding, I got pensive again as I often do, and started to think of my own life. Similar to when I compared my life to an ipod and mine being on shuffle, I compared my life right now to off-roading. I don't quite feel like I'm on a paved road. I'm cutting through the rocky and wild terrain, a bit blinded by the clouds of dust but trying to move forward inspite of it until I find my way again. Sounds fun, but it's actually a lot of hard work.
So I'm still in the decision-making process but I am enjoying Utah and being with my family. It's fun living with guys again, having free food and toilet paper, and laughing hard and frequently. I went with two of my brothers over the 4th of July weekend to Yellowstone National Park and hiked through Hayden Valley. Perfect weather and scenery but no wolves or bears which means no attacks and therefore no cool scars.

I'll have to stick to getting wounds from things like falling down in the shower (which I actually did once) and playing with our dog Maggie. Other than that, I'm currently studying for the GRE which I plan on taking at the end of the month, doing some freelance work on some church scripts, working on my children's writing (as always), and practicing guitar on the back porch where the horses in a nearby field come listen to me. They're good listeners but they never applaud. I've also been shopping for different kinds of hummus. I really miss Trader Joes. I also believe I may have a future in business as I creamed my family in Indiana Jones monopoly, usurping half the board and not the cheap colors either. I owned all the red, yellow, green, and blue. The summer hasn't been a total loss. And speaking of summer, I can't really even tell it's that season as I have to turn my electric blanket on every night because my house is so cold. Gotta love central air, and I do.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Goodbye to the Ghetto (and LA)

I bid farewell (scoop and wave) to Los Angeles and my unforgettable ghetto apartment as I hit the road for my annual summer trip to Utah. Only this time I'm not sure where I'll be headed when summer is done. I'm sure it will be difficult to live without the helicopter searchlights every other night and the musical vendors selling everything from tamales and strangely colored pastries, to ice cream and pork rinds. I'll miss the 20 minute morning walks to my car, and gallery of graffiti art that seems to change weekly. But all good things must come to an end. Time to say goodbye to Los Angeles. I've been standing at this crossroads for a little while now, feeling the need for a change ever since I returned from Europe last fall. My wandering spirit has grown a little weary and needs a rest (I wish I knew where my Rivendell was). I guess I need to root down my imagination. It has been 3 years of diverse experiences, adventures, and growth that I'll never forget and is difficult to quantify. I'm already anticipating the questions when I get back home of what I was doing here, what I accomplished, how I furthered my career, social standing, measure of economical status in the world, blah...blah...blah. I don't think I'll have very much to show those people. But I guess it doesn't matter because it's really not about them and I have to remind myself that I don't have to prove myself to anyone else but myself. I am so grateful for the time I have been here. It has been so valuable to me and meaningful to my life. I decided to make a brief list of some of the personal things I've been able to accomplish and enjoy while here in LA (that way when people ask me I can just refer them to my blog and move on.) Here they are, in no particular order:

- Wrote 2 feature-length screenplays and continued work on a children's novel
- Completed a writing course with the Institute of Children's Literature
- Volunteered with WriteGirl, a non-profit organization that mentors teenage girls and helps them find their creative voices through writing
- Volunteered at the Los Angeles temple
- Survived as a substitute teacher for 3 years (and never had anything thrown at me)
- Traveled to Europe
- Learned to play the guitar and am writing my own songs (I'm up to four now)
- Co-wrote and directed a documentary
- Fell in love and got my heart broken
- Dated a guy with a porsche and a Swedish accent (not the same guy as the above)
- Got a $350.00 haircut for free from a guy named Ramses III (but that was a while ago, my hair doesn't look that good anymore)
- Saw the Sequoias
- Worked as a pastry chef for a day at a restaurant in Beverly Hills
- Tried out for Tinker Bell (funny story)
- Damaged my perfect driving record
- Ran a 1/2 marathon
- Met several kindred spirits
- Played the saxophone with the Italian Saxophone Quartet (or some famous group)
- Saw Hollywood for what it was and realized I didn't want it
- Made enough money to take every summer off (nothing illegal involved)
- Gained a greater understanding of, and capacity for, tolerance, empathy, and love
- Gained a greater appreciation for family and relationships with others
- Gained greater balance and perspective and formed new dreams from that

It's been a dynamic and dense chapter in my life, a lot of processing going on and I look forward to the next chapter whatever it may be.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Together Again

You have to hear Kermit the Frog singing that (the above title). It's from the Muppet movie when all the muppets have been on various life adventures and are reunited again - much like my entire family finally being all together after at least 2+ years, and re-enacting our own little muppet show. It was just as fun and so fun having my two nieces, Erin and Abby, and nephew Vinny there. I like being the slightly crazy aunt. We rented a beach house in Huntington Beach (not the most exotic place for me since I used to live there but sure was nice to save so much on gas), and as cliche as it may sound it's true - the best part was just being all together. I did double duty this weekend and went to a Christian church Saturday evening and I just have to say I was tempted to switch teams. They have donuts and a coffee bar downstairs for those who want to go to church in their pajamas, exceptional play areas for the kids (I'd probably hang out there), and it was only an hour and a half. If that isn't enough you also get to wear jeans and flip-flops. The friend that took us explained that Jesus dressed casual so they did too. Makes sense to me. Jim Caviezel was a guest and spoke about his experience playing Christ in the Passion and his insights into Christianity and what it means to him. I found it very uplifting and am glad I went. But I also didn't mind putting on my dress and going to my church the next day (even if there were no donuts).

On Monday we went to Long Beach to tour the Queen Mary, the sister ship of the Queen Elizabeth that carried my mom and her family from Switzerland in 1950. We reenacted a picture with some extended family members that were around the same ages the immigrant family would have been at the time. The smallest one, my niece Abby, is standing in as my mom.

The other days we just hung out and went to the beach to get sunburned (I foolishly thought I was immune since I've been a California girl for more than 3 years now. Apparently that does not override being a redhead.) I also brought my guitar (my current boyfriend)and played my new heartbreak song for my family. I think that was the quietest any room had been the whole trip. It was a sweet sting. The guy in the beach house next door, who happened to like redheads (it's good to know some people out there do) heard me practicing on the patio one day and came out with his guitar. We strummed and philosophized about relationships til the mailman passed by and asked if he could play a song he wrote about the post office on my guitar. Everybody's got a song of some kind. We had some family talks about my dad's Parkinson's and how we can support each other better. We even re-kindled our old family song from when we were kids: "We Are Stuck Together, a happy family..." We used to sing it as my dad held up a framed bottle of Elmer's glue. I love my dad. Obviously, he's big on themes, so this year he brought us all kites we were to paint our dreams on and then we could go out and fly them all week. I love the metaphor and am still thinking of those new dreams I will fly on my orange kite. I am so thankful for my family and firmly believe that the most important relationships in the world are the ones with family and close friends you adopt as family. It was a great trip, and though there are a lot of things that are changing and will continue to change, we'll always pull together as family and I'll always love them.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Didn't Leave My Heart in San Francisco

After spending Memorial Day weekend in San Francisco I can honestly say I didn't leave my heart there, but I did manage to laugh and have some fun there. It was a little cold and windy but that didn't stop one of the many homeless from peeing on the street (I got too close before I knew what he was doing.) Opera man was out singing in the cold brisk air too, at the bottome of Union Square and I have to say he was actually quite good. We took a boat to Sausalito on Saturday morning, passed Alcatraz (I probably had long lost cousins that spent some hard time there), and saw some cool Dr. Suess and Smirnov artwork at a gallery. Ate Sushi in Japantown, lotus cakes in Chinatown - interesting and densely sweet - and also bought a pair of red slippers in hopes that clicking them will take me home, wherever that is. (I'm still a gypsy inside but I think that's winding down. I need to take a break from traveling for awhile.) Had my first sourdough bread bowl of crab chowder at Pier 39 and it was sooo good. I'm not sure why the cream base was yellow but I ate it and was happy. I also bought a little cup of crabmeat to enjoy but the wind blew it on the ground for the birds to attack. Even for me, there are some places the 10-second rule doesn't apply. I have to say San Francisco is a pretty expensive city and I did end up spending more than I would have liked, especially the $10 I spent on seeing the new Indiana Jones movie in a theater that smelled like pot and peanut butter. Now I do love Indiana Jones and appreciate George Lucas as a creative force in the universe (mainly because of Star Wars) but all I can say is it's like George Lucas got a tacky gold bow at the dollar store to tie up the loose ends of a saga that was great the way it was. Far-fetched plot, bad dialogue, one-dimensional characters, no depth. I woke up the next day wondering if I only dreamed it was that bad. I was incredibly disappointed. (Okay I'm done being movie critic). The singles ward seemed pretty cool, though I think most of them were out of town too. Monday I went to the MOMA and tried again to appreciate modern art more. It's interesting but still not my favorite. It seems more experimental and unemotional. I really enjoyed O'Keefe's and Matisse's works there though. There's a cool bridge by Eliasson at the top of the museum too that reflects different colors and lights as you walk through. Later in the afternoon we went to Haight and Ashebury - the famous hippy place. Bought some guitar picks and watched the high people. We ate shrimp tacos too. The trip was an educational experience. I learned the sound of machine-gun fire on the corners is not angry city dissidents but the signal that it's okay to cross the street; that a lot of people wear North Face as my friend kept pointing out; that as different as we are from others we're really not that different; and that I think the city life is out of my system once and for all. I'm ready to leave the freedom of anonymity for the challenge of specifity. Good to be back "home" in LA for the time that remains.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Write Girl Write

Saturday was my last WriteGirl workshop with my mentee Kamaria: aka Special-K (I know from the picture you might be wondering who's mentoring who). Actually I've learned a lot from these sessions and wish I'd had a program like this when I was a teenager so I could be that further along as a writer, but I guess the point is I'm on the path. The genre for May was songwriting and it's one of the best. All the girls write lyrics in these writing experiments and then they bring in these professional songwriters who take the girls lyrics and set them to music right then and there. Pure creation in the moment. It's awesome! And now that I've started playing guitar and writing a few songs of my own I was that much more inspired. WriteGirl's been a great experience. I feel like I've been mentored myself, which is good because the more I learn the more I realize the less I know (does that put me closer to Socrates now or at least Barbra Streisand - Yentl?)

I also went to the Chinese Theater in Hollywood this week to see Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation. These teen boys in the 80s re-made Raiders of the Lost Ark shot-for-shot over a period of 7 or so years. It was pretty comical and amazing. They went all out too, using an airplane, lighting things on fire, and even the scene of Indy being dragged behind a car. I probably wouldn't mind spending the next 7 summers being Indy Jones, or better yet the love interest. Other than that, I haven't read all my library books yet but I'm put some good dents in them (just like my car) and I've been picking up more writing again too. This week I'm headed down to UCIrvine to be "Nicole Morris" (I'm considering bringing a wig), a medical patient for the 1st years to practice on - nothing too scandalous of course. Should be interesting. I'm going to brush up on my acting skills and pretend I'm in a lot of pain. Great times to be had. And currently the weather's been so hot here that my favorite place lately is my car, where the AC is always working and fills up the space fast. Life is good.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Books books books

My roommate thought I was a nerd when she moved in and discovered the vintage Star Wars poster on my wall, but that was nothing compared to today when I came home with a canvas bag full of library books to go with the other 2 stacks of books on my floor. I am a nerd, I realize this more fully now. But it's all good, I've designated May as my month of reading. I think the LA Times Festival of Books hit it off last weekend. It was so fun up at UCLA campus and with lots of people that are more likely to have something intelligent to say - I mean come on, they actually read. So back to my month of reading. Yes, stories make me feel better, plus I'm doing some research so it's not completely self-indulgent. Most of them are children's novels and books on Norse mythology (good mix, huh?) I have a grand total of 24 books checked out on my library card and I can't promise not to get more. We'll see how many I get through. I may have been overly ambitious. This week some guys at the gym challenged me to a basketball game 2 on 2. They were much bigger than me, with bigger hands. I jammed my right ring finger til it was fat and purple but the good news is my team won. I also had an interesting encounter at school this week with a precocious 7th grader who was mad I wouldn't let him go to the bathroom (he just came from lunch and the teacher left instructions not to let anyone go - most just want to get out and wreak havoc in the halls anyway.) So I look up from my desk about 5 minutes later and this kid, we'll call him Tyquan, is standing in the back corner unzipping his pants and getting into position. Seriously! I couldn't help myself from yelling "Are you kidding me?" across the room. Needless to say, I chewed him out and then let him go the bathroom. He was not going to get away with a good story to tell his friends at my expense. By the way, I'm loving my guitar and practice is coming along pretty well. I got a new tuner and it shows 250 chords. The guy at guitar center gave me a deal (and no, I didn't compromise my standards to get it.) Other than that, I feel a little restless. Trying to map out the next stage of my life. Is that possible? I think that's one reason I love stories so much - the plan, the purpose is right there and you can see the order and design to it. In life, you have to take it on faith and trust that the story's there and the Author's watching over it (unless he got tired of the book and tossed it in a dusty corner where it's collecting cobwebs. I hate spiders.)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Guitar Heroine

(At least that's what I'm aspiring to be now.) Yesterday I went to all the guitar centers I knew - which truthfully weren't that many. I sat in the practice room and played as many as I could to get a good feel for sound, shape, the smell of the wood...ah it was invigorating. I had to find one that fit. It's like picking your wand (I've been reading the Harry Potter books again.) You just have to find one that feels right and fits right and you know it when you play it. I was ecstatic as I carried it out of the store in it's hard black case along Santa Monica Blvd. I think my Bohemian tendencies have finally come full circle. So now I just have to get a book, learn more chords, and practice. I've already written two songs that I keep practicing, which I've discovered has been just as liberating for me as running. Yesterday was really a happy day. I've also been working on a script about Gordon B. Hinckley and have immensely enjoyed the research and insights I'm gaining from it. It's been very uplifting and I'm grateful for that. I've been playing a little frisbee with the kids in the hood too. I'm glad there's kids around here. And a final note, I have to give three cheers for freelance work. On Friday I got up early and did some writing, then I felt like going to the gym to clear my head and ended up playing basketball with a Hispanic guy named Michael who said I was like static electricity out there. I did beat him by the way. I'll admit that it probably helped that he wasn't much taller than me. And when I was done, it was such a beautiful day that I couldn't resist driving to the ocean and having a moment on the rocks by the tide. Just me and my ipod. My life is still a bit on shuffle at the moment (don't ask me what my definite plans are come June) and as disconcerting as that is at times I have to say that it's also made me live life a little more in the moment: to be more present in the present. It has made the concept of life a little richer. Yeah life is good. Who know what the tide will bring in tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Spring Break

I don't know many other people who go to a cold place for springbreak but I did (I guess I've always liked nonconformity, which is why I came to Utah - hehehe.) Last week was actually springbreak from school and since my brother comes home from his mission in Norway this Thursday I thought I'd make springbreak 2 weeks (that's the joy of freelance work. I get to be gone til the end of March.) There was snow when I first got here but the weather's better now. I even got to wear sandals yesterday. It's actually been really good for me to be home, get some free and loving therapy and re-examine the reasons I need it in the first place. I saw the first premiere of the new Emma Smith movie and personally found it a deeply moving and insightful film. She was an amazing woman. I also went snow-shoeing for the first time, have been practicing my latent basketball skills with my youngest brother (who not surprisingly is quite a bit taller than me now), and I've eaten chocolate everyday. I've also laughed more than I have in a while. Ben and I have been listening to Brandi Carlile again, trading itunes music, and practicing guitar. I'm so excited to get my own when I get back to LA. We also updated our resumes so we can get "real" jobs (as my father would say), and have started working on our next film gig. Life is a rare and complicated gift but a gift nonetheless and I'm grateful for all it is teaching me although sometimes I am an unruly and impatient student but there is hope. I am also one who is open to change.

Sunday, March 9, 2008


I've been thinking about life lately in terms of an ipod (since I've been listening to it so much lately on my sunny afternoon walks). I think sometimes your life is just on shuffle and that's okay. Sure it's good to have a playlist - a plan of what you want and where you're going with it (I come from a hyper-planning, stability-driven family) but that's not always how life works. Sometimes you just don't know what it is you want until it comes up on its own and then you say "aha" that's what I wanted and I didn't even know it. Hence the value of shuffle, even in life. Sometimes you've just got to do the shuffle. So that's my wisdom this week.
So now that I'm 29 it's not as bad as I thought (I can't let it be.) I'm still shorter than all the kids at school am sometimes mistaken for a student, especially when I bring a backpack with me, so at least I don't look that old. In the Los Angeles school district this last week one class thought I was an alien because of my freaky double-jointed arm, two kids thought I was Jodie Foster in the movie Sommersby, and another kid said his dream was to be a right bench warmer in the NBA (hmm...are kids getting more realistic or just forgetting to dream?) I also lost my temper on Friday after two long days of teaching six classes of disrespectful (and that's actually a euphemism)kids at school who wouldn't listen to a thing I said. Two kids kept laughing as I yelled cause they'd never seen me angry. That made me even angrier and then they said they wanted the old Ms. Cook back. Needless to say it was a tough day. By the end of the period one of the kids asked if I was going to cry. Yeah, but on my way home.
To end on a positive note, one of the highlights of my week was finally seeing the musical "Wicked" which I loved. I'm not a ridiculously over-the-top musical fan but this one had a great story to go along with the stimulating visual sets, music, and costumes that characterize musicals. This story had a lot of heart and depth of meaning and to me that makes all the difference. I liked it so much I even put the some of the songs on my ipod. Hmm...

Monday, February 25, 2008

Pandora's Box

A Pandora's Box of emotion has ripped open my soul and I'm just trying my best to hold on to hope. Dramatic, but there it is. I decided this blog is about my life and if you're going to read it, well, there's the truth. All the good, the bad, and the plateaus in between. An almost 5 month relationship I was involved in just ended and it's thrown me for a loop. I still don't understand why and for now I'm just trying to get through each day but I guess I can relate more to John Mayer now -I too am dreaming with a broken heart.
And I officially hate February as well as January now. These two months aren't good for me. Some girl at church tried to console me by saying at least it's leap year. How is that comforting? What the month of misery is prolonged an extra day? So that's where I'm at right now. I also turn 29 in a week and a half and am trying not to be too depressed about that. I'm at my crossroads trying to decide what to do with the next part of my life. It's wide open. That's it for now. All I can say is life is incredibly unchartable. You really never know where it's going to take you or what's going to happen even when you feel pretty sure about it. I feel like I've had the wind knocked out of me. I guess that's an opportunity for more humility and reliance on the only thing you can really hold onto in this world - the gospel.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Poor Man's Therapy

Today I wanted to physically hurt some of the students in my 5th period class and I'm not ashamed to say it. I muttered under my breath as the bell rang that they could all go to hell. Yeah, that's right - I did. For those who don't believe I have a temper, I do, (notice the red eyes in the picture - that's not a camera trick)though it's definitely more under control than it was when I was a kid. I had to come home and run for the second time today and blow up the punching bag Marcella gave me for Christmas. She knew I'd been wanting one since I moved here. It took some energy inflating it but once it was ready it did the trick. Just what I needed Now I'm squeezing out the final remainders of my anger by venting on my blog. I think I've successfully sublimated my anger. And also I've made it through January so I'm going to go celebrate with a glass of over-priced sparkling pomegranate juice.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


I'm more than half-way through January, and thankfully I'm still alive and able to click my heels from time to time. That is such a good sign, especially since January is typically the worst month of the year for me (December is such a high that January balances it out by taking the low). I'm not going to lie, the first week back in LA was hellish. I came home to pouring rain and no power, overwhelming piles of catch-up work, and a flat tire. I had really puffy red eyes a couple of times (hey, I had to get rid of all the excess water I'd built up in Arctic Utah from not running. I'm such a wimp when it comes to cold weather now.) Besides crying, I also tried to alleviate my stress and sorrows by writing my first song on the guitar. I'm almost done polishing it so I can perform it on Hollywood Blvd and make some real money like the rest of 'em. Not a bad idea, eh?
Things have gotten better though, which may hurt my songwriting career but has helped me want to get up in the morning. I'm getting more calls to substitute teach(January is typically the slowest month), I can check out library books again, I started a new journal and this past week I found out I'm a semi-finalist in the KAIROS screenwriting contest. Here's the link if you could possibly be as excited as I was to see my name in print among the other semi-finalists: They have a gala next month and the three winners will win a $50,000 prize. Send me some good juju or maybe send it to the judges. Actually, it's just nice getting a little validation for all the writing I do alone in my little ghetto room covered with pictures of Joan of Arc, Star Wars, and Castle Combe England. I'm also just enjoying being alive and experiencing great people and relationships. Life is an adventure!