Tuesday, December 21, 2010

From the Ghetto to the Golden Girls

Well, it's Christmas time...again...and that must mean I'm up here in the high altitude of salt lake city waiting for the magic of Christmas to come and go. By the way, I was in the Park City area today and the fire warning was low, so good news. Of course, there was also a blizzard today but that doesn't necessarily mean the two are related.
It's good to be home, good to be with family, good to eat more food than is necessary, and in a strange way good to have homework again. It keeps me focused on something other than some of the ambivalent feelings that can accompany the holidays. I had to just throw that out there and be honest. Christmas is a joyful time of year and the feelings of togetherness and love can be intensified, but at the same time so can feelings of loneliness and loss. Sometimes I feel like Kevin McAllister in Home Alone as he peers longingly into other people's windows as they gather to celebrate Christmas. And yet sometimes I feel the loneliest in a crowded room. Sometimes I also wish I believed in Santa Claus again. But I know that every Christmas is different. There have been times when I've been so excited for the holidays that I actually made a Christmas countdown starting in September, and I can still repeat all the lines to Muppet Christmas Carol and sing the songs with the voices. Even though in the last few years I've felt kind've relieved with the passing of Christmas, I know that I haven't always felt this way and won't always feel this way in Christmases yet to be. Things are what they are and everything has its season - even the seasons.

So, a quick Christmas update of festivities. I made it to Disneyland for the fake snow, over-priced gingerbread, and the Haunted Mansion changed to The Nightmare Before Christmas. It was much busier than I thought it'd be, but this is coming from someone who rarely waits more than 20 minutes in line for any ride (one of the joys of being a California resident). I went with some friends and my old roommate Marcella who came to visit from New Mexico. Her main purpose in coming (besides seeing me, of course,) was to attend our 5th Annual Advent Sunday - a European tradition of music and stories to ring in Christmas. This year we moved it from LA to my temporary house in Redondo Beach (what can I say, we've gone from the ghetto to the golden girls). It was fun because those people that ventured down the 405 said they felt right at home, like they were at their grandma's house. I guess they didn't mind the floral couch as much as I do. It was a nice turn-out though. Thanks to the loyal attendees who have been to every one of them.
I worked a lot of over-time before coming home to justify my long break, and managed to get my retired neighbor, who I've only talked to a couple of times and who has a dog named Gypsy that I wish I could adopt, to drive me to the airport. After a 3 hour delay I finally made it home. With the longest night of the year now behind me, I look forward to spending the rest of the week with friends and family. Happy Christmas everyone (I still wish I was British)!

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Well, it's the end of November, the end of warm weather (though compared to Utah the warm weather here never ends) and the end of my first quarter at UCLA. I can't believe 1/3 of my program is already over, but I feel like I've already gained a lot. I'm learning to assimilate the story/writing process more and I'd say that is probably the most valuable thing I've gained so far. In my Wednesday workshop class we've spent most of the time outlining our first screenplay to make sure everything's in place so I'll start really writing it over the break. A few weeks ago I was reading this article on Buddhism and the idea of Non-Attachment (enlightening in and of itself) but I realized you really can't get too attached to anything in life, not even ideas. The screenplay ideas and characters I started with at the beginning of class have vastly changed over the weeks and I'm already in a far different place than where I started. Everything does change. And the more I learn the more I realize one really has no control over anything in life except oneself (and sometimes that's even hard.)

Last weekend my sister and her family came to visit me. I tended my twin nieces all day Saturday with some action-packed plans: going to the beach, making cookies, and introducing them to one of the greatest movies of all time - Star Wars. I can't believe it took this long. They actually wanted to watch it again before bed. Abby's favorite character is Chewbacca.
Thanksgiving I spent in Orange County with my aunt Lizzy and her family. It was all about Netflix and turkey (and of course being thankful.) I was kind of disgusted with myself and how many pumpkin desserts I ate so I didn't really eat on Saturday since I was at work all day serving people more food anyway.
I have to admit it's a lot easier to feel lonely around the holidays in my little house on the hill, but lately I've noticed more and more that I'm not alone. The ants are moving in, not content to trickle in along the floor anymore but they're up on the kitchen counters, the bathroom shelves, even in the closed cupboards (that one freaked me out a little.) No matter how much I clean up stuff, they greet me every morning. Half the time I don't really do anything to get rid of them because they're the only company I have and really, when you think about it, what is the big deal anyway? This house is big enough to let the little ants get warm. I wonder if ants were included in Sleeping Beauty's chorus of singing animals, or if it was only creatures over 3 inches tall...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Calendar, Cashiering, & a Banana Nut Muffin

It dawned on me the other day that the streets in my neighborhood including the street I live on, "the Path of the Stars," have no sidewalks or street lights. I think it's perhaps indicative of the path to your own stars - your dreams and highest goals - that there isn't always a set path or consistent guideposts along the way. You have to make your own path.
All that is to say I wake up everyday feeling lost and often guide-less on this journey of my life, but I keep going even in the dark. I've become a person who likes night much better than morning and I usually have to drag myself out of bed earlier than I'd like, to run, read, write and either go to class or work. Which reminds me, I started a new part-time job last week at The Corner Bakery down the street. I wanted to make some extra money and thought it'd be a no-brainer so I can have the bulk of my time and energy for my program. Boy was I wrong. I'm starting to think it could be that I'm actually not adept at anything, including something as mundane as cashiering. I've never seen so many buttons with so many options in my life, and by the way people are very impatient. I didn't expect middle-aged moms to be yelling "tuna on rye" at me.
I also babysit twice a week for 3 hours (I feel like I'm a teenager again with these blasts from my past jobs, but it's been humbling.)I tend a boy, 9 months, and girl around 3 or 4. The best part of that is the little girl calls me "Calendar" because either she can't say my name or she forgets it. Either way, I have a pretty unique nickname. Other than school and work, I've been trying to be social as much as I can, going between LA and Orange County where I know more people and have some friends. This past Saturday night was the annual Service Auction the two singles ward in LA put on to raise money for families at Christmas. Among the items up for bid were Dancing with the Stars tickets and a week at a beach house in El Salvador. My contribution - I bought a banana nut muffin for a dollar. I stayed the night and went to a ward in LA the next day for church where Larry King's 2 boys were part of the primary program. My favorite part was when the class got up to say how they helped serve others and one of the boys said he made his own bed so the maid wouldn't have to. I had to laugh. Just another day in the life...

Monday, November 1, 2010

Red at Redondo

So, after leaving CA two years ago for a Utah sabbatical I'm back again (I figured I might as well since my license plate and driver's license still say California.) Plus an amazing house-sitting gig in Redondo Beach and a year-long screenwriting program at UCLA fell into place at the same time and were too good to pass up so here I am - a walk away from the beach, Trader Joes, and Yogurtland. Ah...
I've been here for 6 weeks now and am feeling more settled in my program and living arrangements.
The floral couch and 70s frames are even starting to grow on me, but though I'm living in an old lady house I'm still not ready to become an old lady yet. I would like a dog though. It does get lonely. Sometimes I talk to myself in the mirror. Or without a mirror.

The neighborhood's quiet, the view's amazing, and the street I live on actually means "Path of the Stars" (I know, cool right?) I'm starting to feel the magic again. I have class 2 nights a week and will be writing 2 screenplays this year. The program started at the end of September and ends in May, all taught by professionals. I've already learned a lot and am finding it very challenging (I'm also finding that I'm stupider than I thought. But Socrates would say that means I'm really learning so I often console myself with that thought.
Honestly, I'm here doing this program because I just love stories and I want to be better at writing and creating them. I believe Joseph Campbell is right. Sometimes you just have to follow your bliss, even if that means living off of hummus and crackers for awhile and using 1-ply toilet paper. I will be more valiant about keeping this updated now for anyone that wants to know or see what I'm up to here, and how the adventures of red (that's me) being in Redondo Beach are unfolding (at least writing about it lessens my talking to myself). Happy November everyone!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Oh January!

The monday of the year is finally done (usually my most hated month) but this year it wasn't too bad. Yes it was cold and I spent most of it in unemployment but I did get a new pair of boots and let's face it, life is always better in boots. I love boots. They make me feel more powerful than I am. I'm thinking of getting a knife to slip in my boots too...you know, just in case.
This year I also got to work at the Sundance Film Festival like I hoped would work out thanks to a referral from a friend. It was a lot of fun and I so enjoyed the people I worked with and the great hours which were shorter than most film sets. I was a production assistant/script supervisor for the Sundance Channel, helping with all the interviews they did of directors, writers, and actors. I learned and saw quite a bit doing it, including, but not limited to, the fact that Joan Rivers has fewer wrinkles than I do and Frodo Baggins (aka Elijah Wood) made a perfect hobbit because he's almost as short as me but he does have all his fingers and he was very nice. (He shook my hand and said it was nice to meet me, *sigh*). Besides all the hung-over actors, and posers wearing sunglasses at night it was a pretty cool scene. But I have to say at the end of the day I was just glad to go home.
The day after that 9-day assignment ended I headed to good old NYC for the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) conference. Two days of workshops, speakers, networking, trying to make us feel we got our money's worth, etc... Yes, I'm still trying to get my children's novel, The Stubbs, published and hoped the conference might help increase my chances but there weren't as many publishers and agents there as I thought there would be. Most of us were in the same boat, all with stories and hopes of selling them. Sometimes I think I just wasn't cut out for this crazy, fast-paced 21st century but what can I do? I blame Joan of Arc. I think she switched places with me at the last minute. Despite feeling a little lost in the scene, I did get some leads of new places to send my manuscript and picked up some good insights and inspiration so it was a great experience.

I also got to stay with two of the greatest brunettes on the island, Pacini and Hogan (I call them by their last names cause it's more fun, especially when you say them with Italian/Irish accents.) The two of them let me sleep in the middle of their living room at their studio apartment in Chelsea and man we did have fun and good late-night talks about all the wisdom we've gained through our twenties (at least that we think we have.) We went to Alice's Tea Cup and ended up hanging out more in warm places since it was so cold. I finally warmed up enough by Monday to take a walk in Central Park (one of my favorite places) in my new purple coat which, to be perfectly honest, kind of reminds me of a Jo March type frock. I tried to get lottery tickets to see the Broadway musical In the Heights and was one of only about 5 people who didn't get picked. I've never going to take up gambling. I have no luck. I also got an early addiction to the Cadbury chocolate eggs this year, though I haven't been able to find them in Utah proving once again that New York is more progressive. Anyway, it was a great trip and a bit hard to leave. Pacini and Hogan kept urging me to change my plane ticket to stay longer since I didn't have a job to go back to but I ended up leaving anyway. For the last week I've been asking myself why I left but it's too late now. So, back to job searching, reading, trying to start on the next book, and trying to figure out if my running shoes are the right size. Ah life...what a ride.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Let It Be

I dug up an old Beatles CD one of my students gave me because for the past few weeks the song "Let It Be" has been running through me head for some reason. I think I’m going to make that the theme song of this new year, 2010 (Happy New Year everyone by the way). I usually have a list of resolutions and goals I’m intent on achieving for the year but this year I just haven’t felt the desire to make more. That might sound counter-productive but I don’t think it is for me, I'm just taking a different approach. Sometimes I’m so intent on changing things and not accepting what is that I drive myself crazy (those who know me well know I’m a little crazy), and end up missing out on what is while trying to force what isn't. Really a lot of goals from last year I’m just carrying over to this one anyway. Maybe I’ll just see where life takes me this year (and nobody insert the Alice and Wonderland quote here – you don’t always have to know where you’re going.) My dad actually asked me last night at dinner if I was going to be like Emily Dickensen since I’m in my room a lot working on things. After an uncomfortable silence he said he was kidding but part of me is afraid of that happening – not the leaving behind a legacy of the written word to mankind part, which would be cool, but the solitary, reclusive life part. I like people too much. So I guess I've got to work on the balance thing. For now, I’m still looking for work and avenues of what to do next. I've started keeping a journal of what I do everyday so I don't feel like an unproductive loser. My daily log usually ends up with something like a few hours job search, running, looking for ways to move to England or New Zealand for awhile, emails, a little guitar practice, some reading, a Diet Cherry Coke (very important), and some freelance or creative writing. And then there's something random everyday like baking caramel brownies (yesterday) or going to a movie in the middle of the day (let's just say I've seen New Moon more than once and I'm too unemployed to feel shame about my guilty pleasure. Vampires and werewolves make me feel better, I don't care how cheesy it is.) All in all, I'm doing the best I can, trying to be patient and learn to let things be. I also have to say I'm going to a Children's Writer's conference in NYC at the end of the month (scbwi) and I'm excited about that. I'm still trying to shop my book around and look for different opportunities of meeting people and networking so I figured why not - I've got nothing to lose and am most passionate about this right now so, in the words of Mrs. March I'm going to embrace my liberty and see what wonderful things come of it!