Tag Archives: Creativity

Toast! to Inspirational Creative Places- THE LIBRARY!

I love the library. Always have. As a kid I have the fondest memories of the tiny library in Worthington. And Mrs. Beck. I still remember her name. She turned me onto the Bobbsey Twins. She steered towards Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys, and she told me “good job” when I added multiple circles to my summer reading caterpillar. She also kicked me and my siblings out when we danced too loudly to the records – “Sugar Sugar” by the Archies was a favorite of mine.

Oh…and downstairs there was a museum. Rooms like stage play sets were blocked off by rope, but if no was looking and you stretched your arm, you could touch some of the items. Again, reasons why we were kicked out. But I was fascinated and scared of the iron lung. And although the scenes of life on the prairie (did I mention Worthington is in rural Minnesota?) didn’t do much for me because there were no Indians, which was who my people were during prairie times, I found all the old iron kitchen tools and utensils very cool. The dolls though, they gave me the creeps.

But in the stacks, I could wander for hours. I remember finding solace in the library years later, when I was pregnant and back home. I remember carrying my sleeping newborn through the paperback room, looking for books.

And as Lanee Bird grew, the library became a joyous event in our lives. No matter where we lived, we always spent alot of time in libraries. Even moving here, when things were alittle difficult with my adolescent – try moving across the country at 14 to a city that you quickly discover you don’t like- we always the library. Sometimes she’d go her way, and I’d go mine and we’d meet up, arms full of books. On a few occasions I’d find her, sitting on the floor, books stacked around her and I’d be happy. I raised a daughter who loves the search for knowledge.

So, the picture is of the atrium of the Los Angeles library. You can find me there, two cloth bags filled with books, sitting on the floor in the stacks, searching and learning…and possibly tripping a bit down memory lane.

Today’s Toast! is to Inspirational Creative Places- THE LIBRARY!

What are yours?

PEACE

Toast! to Taking Time…to Detox

One of the greatest gifts I have in my life today is time. Really. I don’t say it often enough. Now, I’m well aware that many folks can’t say the same. I want to be really really clear- this is not a boast. There is no bragging or entitlement going on here. There were many years of my life when I didn’t feel like I had any time- not enough to get everything done that I needed to- screw what I wanted to get done.  Forget about it! (been binge watching Sopranos so that phrase is now part of our household vocabulary…along with more creative ways to say “fuck”)  Anyway…I was a single parent for 14 years, working full-time, in grad school for many of those years (got 2 masters…then got my 3rd when Peter came into our lives) so this concept of “time” has always been at the top of my wishlist. 

Not so long ago I was having a hard time accepting this gift of time I was given to write so one gorgeous Minnesota morning in my in-laws kitchen, my father-in-law told me that I had spent so many years of my life working really really hard for everything. I grew up really poor. Came from and survived some tough places (that’s another blog entirely) and I raised my daughter by myself for 14 years. He said that he thought maybe it was time for someone else to take care me.  And I cried. Shit, I’m crying now thinking about the love and support my family, The Jensens and the Parshalls have given me. Have given us. So in turn, I’ve now got time to take care of myself. Whoa! (again…sounding like a Soprano’s cast)

Today, I get to create my days.  Now, don’t get me wrong- most days I still feel like I didn’t have enough time to get everything done I wanted to. Projects are still not done, I still haven’t had lunch with every amazing person I said I wanted to meet with, scripts and books aren’t read, big housecleaning projects not completed, etc… But making that list of what I didn’t do isn’t my focus today. It can’t be because that would undo what time has just given me. 

I just finished a detox.  Dr. Oz’s 3-Day Detox. I didn’t tell anyone online about it because that would make me feel more accountable than I was willing to be.  Seriously!  What if I didn’t complete it? What if I ran screaming to my kitchen round bout mid-3rd day, shoved a piece of bread in my mouth, slammed some… I don’t know..Sapporo and finished it off with a full 6 ounces of dark chocolate?  That was highly possible.  Shit, that’s always possible. 

But I did it. I skipped last night’s smoothie cuz my lunch one took two hours to drink and my snack didn’t happen til 6:30 but I did it. Sure, last night, I was whining bout some food I was planning to eat today and Peter asked me if it was on that Dr. Oz list and I said, pointing at my smoothie, “Hey, fuck that shit. This detox is done tomorrow and he can’t tell me what the fuck to do.” (Sopranos..man, I love that show!) I took a huge swig of my water and tightened my blanket around me to make my point. Peter thinks I’m cute when I’m tough so he blew me a kiss. 

But seriously…through this detox, I got to sit. Each day I slowed down. I met one deadline for a revision on Blessed (now in pre-production) and I hope my director digs it. I finished a book, Defending Jacob, and started Joyland by Stephen King for my book club. I watched Season 2 of the Sopranos and multiple movies and sitcoms (but I tend to watch alot anyway…studying- that’s another cool gift of this creative life..) And I journaled and thought and sweated. 

What I discovered is one- detoxes are to jump-start, to clear and make room for health, for change, and I’ve been doing that for quite awhile now. A few years with intention. It hasn’t been easy. My ass is tired!  But I’ve already been doing what the detox is meant to do and I’m doing it well.  

Two- food wise, for all my joking about food and pastries and well…shit, the name of this blog is Toast! which is truly a deep addiction, I eat fairly well. We shop organic, Farmers Market in Silver Lake on Saturday is a ritual.  In our house, we don’t have much processed food besides my Weight Watchers Popped BBQ chips- so damn good. And I already LOVE kale. There wasn’t anything on that list of food for the smoothies that I didn’t already love to eat. 

Three- It’s always time to make a change. Start right now. You didn’t. Okay, that’s cool. You can start..now! NOW!

and four- I have time. I can race through my day feeling harried and upset cuz my to-do list is way too long, or I can accept what I can get done, making sure that I’m always including time for myself on that list. And here’s the beauty of checking that off that list…it keeps me in gratitude mode for the gift of time I have now. 

So, today’s Toast! goes Taking Time to…Detox…to taking care of yourself, to change, to clear, to good health, to a better you. 

Peace

Toast! to Movies We Watch Over and Over and Over...

Today’s Toast! goes out to the movies we watched that made us cheer, cry, talk about, reenact, stare open-mouthed at the screen! For me- my list includes Die Hard, When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, National Lampoon’s Christmas and Thelma and Louise. (yes, the list of great movies is WAY long) but this one…Thelma and Louise- before USC SCA, I would read the shooting script of this film while watching the film. I LEARNED so much from this film. Not just about elements of screenwriting, or incredible believable character arcs, but I also learned about “loving the movie watching experience”.

I watched this with my sisters when our girls were little. We laughed, we cheered and oh, how we cried. It just dawned on me- I might have fallen in love with southwest from watching this film. hmmm….that will be a different topic for a different blog.

My goal- is to make films that can stand that same test- that will make you laugh (okay…I’m not funny but ya know…for the sake of whatever literary thing I’m attempting…I had to repeat the phrase….) but… make you laugh, make you cheer, and Oh, make you cry.

What movies do this to you?

Peace

Toast! to Shopping…for creative purposes, only…I swear.

Yesterday I wrote bout five new pages, edited a few minor things and then gave myself the day to go shopping. I often do this while story brews. It’s sometimes a mindless task and not too damaging when I make sure I kick my awareness to full tilt before I actually purchase.

In this case, I was shopping for something specific. We’re going to Mexico in a couple weeks for a wedding so of course, there’s new clothes needed.  But how did this influence my creative process? How was this a part of living the creative life?

I could tell you it was wonderful and that in my head, I fixed multiple hiccups from ACT II and cleaned up blurbs of shit that currently fill my screenplay drafts.  I could spin you a tale about startling revelations of pure literary genius that struck me in the dressing room at Old Navy. I could tell you that detailed arcs of the deepest emotional journeys for my protagonist revealed themselves while trying on boots at TJMaxx. (and yes, I know, I don’t need boots for a wedding on the beach, but a girl can’t help herself sometimes) I could say that the ahhh moment of resolution appeared in a vision while I wandered like a crazed woman through The Americana on Brand.  I could say that I was so deep in thought, so enthralled with the films I’m writing in my head, that I actually walked passed IN-n-Out burger and didn’t even see it until I had crossed the street and realized I had…crossed…a  street.  Okay, this last one did happen.

The rest, though.  Eh.  Nothing major hit me. Nothing surfaced and made itself clear to me.  I still see Dahab sitting at her husband’s bedside, alone and scared. The doctors and nurses eyeing her like she’s the mother of a terrorist, wondering what’s in her bag. I see Cassidy running hard down a country road, forcing herself to look into the cornfields, unearthing the horrors of her memories that lurk there so that she can move through them to find the lost little girls. And Kiona is still holding her arms tightly in front of her, stuck, afraid to hold the infant because she’s feels like she’s barely keeping her head tethered to her grief-stained body. And Tammy…sweet sweet Tammy, I still see her with a gentle smile on her face, watching her new “friend” hum and twirl and love the life she seems to be creating for her son, not knowing what and how terrified her “friend” really is. Not knowing that her smile means love and that it could kill her.

Oh. I see. I took all women, these incredible characters of my films with me. I took them shopping. And although I struggle to make meaning of this all right now, and am distracted by the hummingbird at my window saying good morning–I bought a pair of jeans for $10. And a tiny blue dress for a hot Mexican day.  

Peace. 

Toast! to grand creative gestures…

…like proclaiming I’ll blog everyday and then not doing that on the second day!  Lol! 

Creatively, yesterday I did lunch with my friend.  Loved doing lunch with her. We talked shopped and laughed and teared up and I got closer to a resolution on one project, got inspired to keep writing another and had a moment to reflect on how our creative paths are completely different. Everyone’s is.  Comparison will stop you in your tracks, knock your ass back. 

What matters the most is to keep moving on that path. However you can. Crawl, skip, bounce, scurry, run, roll…just move your ass down that path!  Stay true to the dreams and know that the process is the gift. 

Too many times to count I said “I don’t want to do anything else.”  I want to make movies. I want to write for television. I want my stories to be told. 

So the Toast! for yesterday goes to grand creative gestures that motivate movement. Also Toast! to to amazing creative girlfriends who believe in your dreams and appreciate with love how much you believe in theirs!  

Peace!

 

Toast! to Toasting…and movement

Good morning,

I’ve been thinking about doing this for awhile now- to get this blog back up and moving. Moving. Moving. Moving. That’s what I feel I need to be doing…always moving forward. That’s been difficult this summer, there seems to be alot of obstacles for that…first the breast cancer scare which kept me stymied in a state of fear for a month. Movement was chaotic and emotional. I felt blind and lost. Abandoned and confused.  So when the verdict came back that I was okay, the lymph node is recessive and that I have til December before I need to pick at it again..I took a deep breath, gathered up the lessons I learned about myself and thought..”awhhh…yes, now to move forward!”   But then my arm and shoulder didn’t heal, the nerve pain intense. And just as I began to treat this, I got into a car accident. My fears loomed up from the back seat as my car was totaled and I got stuck. Again. Sure, we continued with our plans- vacation and traveling, precious time with family, but the pain kept me from moving forward as much as I wanted. As much as I needed.

Physical therapy, drugs, a spiritual and astrological reading, hours with friends, chocolate, forgiveness, and therapy – all doing its job has me ready to move. And that’s brought me here – back to this blog.

I am blessed more than I could have ever dreamt for. I am supported by the people who matter the most- my husband, my daughter, my family and friends. They believe in me as a storyteller, as a filmmaker. They hold me up when my critic gets loud (and she can be a total bitch at times) and I think my work is lousy when really it’s just draft.  I have days to do what I want to and need to…all to feed my creativity. And that’s a huge blessing.

There was a time in my life, a very long time when I struggled. Every day. I was very poor. And a single parent. Working and in school, always trying to move forward, always trying to heal, always trying to define and keep my dream alive…and to think that I’m on that path, now, living creatively, that it’s all happening as it should, as it was meant to be, as I dreamt… makes me stop in my tracks. That’s not an obstacle to movement, it’s a…present breath that surges me forward.  

So part of honoring this dream and moving forward is this blog,Toast!  For the month of October, I am committing myself to do an entry a day. Toast something everyday, something that honors my creative life.  I hope some days it’s poignant, other days, more literary, like the great story I’m reading. It could be more…technical exploring an element of screenwriting, like toasting character development discoveries or that dark writing pit towards the end of Act II where you discover if the story works or not. There will be blogs coming to you from Mexico- we’re there in three weeks to celebrate dear friends getting married…on the beach, baby. I foresee blogs about my people; friends who influence me, who make me laugh, who always make me smile. Friends who tell me I’m a good friend when I need to know I’m doing right by them. Friends who have space in their worlds for me, just as I do for them. Friends who hold my heart. There will be blogs about my current projects, what’s in pre-production, what’s brewing. I know there will be blogs about family and love and support. There will be blogs about being a socially-conscious writer, about being a COC (chick of color), about being over 40 and rockin it hard…there may even be a blog about how I would embarrass my gorgeous creative daughter if she heard me say “I’m rockin it hard..”  

Every day I’ll make a Toast! 

…last night the government was shut down. I’ve been grieving losses, again. I woke at 4 am with a heavy heart. But got up and wrote this blog…so, today’s Toast! is to movement.  We have to move. Go forward. Take that moment to feel the ground beneath you, breath into Mother Earth and hear your breath connect your heart to the world around you. Then no matter how tiny the step, take it. Take it with intention, with love, with purpose. We can’t afford to sit back. Move. Towards

Peace.

 

Toast! to my…lymph node…?

Toast to…my lymph node…?

Am I really toasting my lymph node? And just one? Yeah, man, I think I am.

I have this one lymph node under my arm that has become the focus of my being this past month. And it got poked and torn a bit for drawing attention to itself. But it also took this writer on a full-on, anxiety –ridden, choking down panic with pastries journey that brought on waves of tears, screaming and…o man, get this…healing.

Beginning of the month I found out that my yearly mammogram revealed a lot of breast density making the mammogram possibly inconclusive.  Okay. News to me. Thank God for a new law stating results have to state this for women so we know this.  Sucks to know, though.  And a wee bit scary because if my mammogram isn’t taking the pictures I need it to, then…what next?  I spoke with my doctor, who I dig because she’s cool and smart and diligent and wears really sweet shoes. We decided I should get an ultrasound to get a clearer picture. So I did that at this beautiful women’s center downtown LA.

While I waited for Lisa, my radiologist technician to review the results with the doctor, she came back in the room and asked if I had just gotten over being really sick, with the flu or something?  I said “no.” and she said “Are you sure?”  When she left the room, I found a tiny spot on the ceiling tile and tried to focus on it. I imagined it growing larger, a tunnel, or was it more of a rock. A pebble on a beach? Or the center of a donut. Yes, it was the dark center of a donut.

Lisa came back with the doctor who explained they had found a lymph node “of concern”.  He asked again about any illness, unexplained infections, etc… And while holding a tiny towel over my breasts, I sat there and calmly said again, “no”.  He told me “maybe, probably…most likely…his best bet…it was nothing.”  Not reassuring words.  Then he said that if it made me nervous I could get a biopsy but he thought it was nothing.

First- you don’t tell a dramatist “maybe it’s nothing” and expect me to not conjure up multiple scenarios of what the Nothing really was.  Shit, you tell any WOMAN, “maybe” and expect her not to take quick tally of her life and see herself telling family, her friends, watching her hair fall out, her breasts removed… for me…the wave of fears rushed at me and I could do nothing but sit there, choking on that shit.

Over the next few weeks I’d come up for air.  I waited four days to meet with my primary doctor to review my choices which meant me telling her I had already made up my mind–I wanted that biopsy. I needed to know what was growing in me and I wanted it out. I needed to know immediately. I needed it gone.   So, she made that call to set up the procedure but due to schedules at the women’s center, I had to wait….TWO WEEKS.  Two.

Peter had an already scheduled work trip to Alaska he had to take so he left. I had a pass to the Los Angeles Film Festival, major deadlines to complete a script about a woman having to wait to see if her son serving in the army was dead or alive, and rewrite a script in pre-production about a mother haunted by an evil slaveowner who wants her son. I had stories to tell, work to do, people to see. Life to live. And the waves came.  I’d go to a film and come home and cry. I’d meet with my director and producer and drive away crying.  I was living a life that could all be swept out from under me because of whatever was growing inside of me.

I was scared and out of control in a way I hadn’t felt since my sister died years ago. I couldn’t save her, so what if I couldn’t save myself? What if I wasn’t strong enough to fight this? I spent hours reading blogs of amazing women who fought breast cancer, who did incredible healing things in their lives, in their communities, who found activism, parenthood, intimacy and healing…healing.  They healed.  And I was so scared I couldn’t do any of that.

I cried to my shrink, my best friends, my husband, my sister, my herbalist. I started saying out loud that I was scared. Inside, the fear was that I would battle this alone, that I was already battling it all alone. It grew to a mountainous size, consuming me with it’s suffocating grip.  This fear of being abandoned, of facing the hard truth that nobody really loved me would not just bubble up  to the surface but would erupt from someplace deep and shower me and my day with darkness. I ate to stop from chewing my own damn arm off, I think.

I made heart-breaking plans. I wrote the script in my head of how to tell my daughter, Bird, I was sick. I wrote the emails I’d send to friends asking for prayers for Peter and Bird and my family but begging them to not post on Facebook. I had long and angry conversations with my insurance about covering procedures. I even asked them to make sure they recorded me as I ranted one morning about the many problems with health insurance in this country and that when women like me needed them most, the fear of not being able to pay thousands of dollars for a freakin scan or biopsy or TREATMENT was like accepting a FUCKIN DEATH SENTENCE!  I shook and screamed a lot. I ate more. I went to cycle class at the gym. I didn’t sleep. I paced. I lifted weights like a dude. I watched sitcom reruns for hours at a time. And I ate more.  And I tried like hell to be present and take on what was coming my way. And I fought feeling like I was victim to that fear.

I already knew about it, that fear, it’s been around for years. Decades.  It’s a bigass monster that shapeshifts at will, that lives under my bed, in the basement through the hot furnace grid of my childhood home, that lurks outside my door, in my showers, in the backseat of my car, down the street, and watches me while I sleep.  I also knew that only I feed it. I keep it alive with my beliefs, my emotions. Life was sometimes pretty awful when I was kid and I see now that my belief was that those I love wouldn’t love me back and they’d hurt me.  I believed that being disregarded, left to be alone, kicked aside, ignored, unheard, betrayed….hurts more than being laughted at, or…hit. Cuz when you’re fighting at least you’re being seen. When you’re hit, at least there’s contact.   I believed that I deserved all that.

BUT…to not let you stay too long in the nightmares of my mind…this is what I DISCOVERED….

The BEAUTY OF FORGIVENESS.  Forgiveness is not condoning the wrong-doing done to you. It doesn’t pacify or deny the pain. It doesn’t mean that you..I am wrong for being hurt. Hurt is my emotion. Pain is mine. And underneath that pain is fear and I am doing the work to take on that monster, to squash its power, to shut its fuckin mouth…I’m doing that.  AND…I have decided that the space that pain held in my heart is mine to fill with love and peace…through forgiveness.   And truth.

So…I finally said out loud the responsibility I have for relationships that didn’t work. I reached out and got real with them. I apologized for pain that I have caused others. I made true apologies based on my need to let them know I was sorry and not a need to know if they were sorry for hurting me.  I defined capabilities and finally saw that what I wish for myself, to be heard, understood and forgiven, are the very same things that they might want and need, too.. I said “I miss you”.  I said “I love you”.  I reached out and HELD ON LIKE MAD to the fierce women in my life! I told them I was scared and I needed them and they showed up.  I didn’t just say “I’m blessed” because I KNOW that…with family and friends, yes, I’m blessed. But I wrapped myself in that blessing.  And…I was loved. Me. Go figure.

Peter came home and as I thought I was forgiving him for leaving for the two weeks, I discovered he never left me and that I was on a journey of healing at warped speed.  I had an emotional eruption, a final push to get me through this cloud of darkness and fear.

I want to see who I am on the other side.  I want to be better than who I was when this all began…and by begin that doesn’t mean just this past month but these past three years of menopause and living in pain, that means further back to becoming a wife, to when I decided to pursue a life as a filmmaker, to when I became a writer, to when I lost my sister, to when I became Bird’s mom, to when I was stumbling through life in bars and making up shit to tell folks that I thought made me cool, to when I was a little girl scared because we were alone.  I want to know who I’ll be now.  I got ready.

Yesterday, I finally found out that the lymph node is benign.   A benign recessive lymph node. No cancer. No cancer.

As a writer, this experience has made it mark on me, on my craft, I know it. I feel it. It will continue to do so as I go on. Of course, I have to quit crying, but those tears of gratitude will taper off…or  maybe they won’t and I’ll just be a fierce, writing, tear-streaked artist mama from here on out.

So yeah, man…today’s toast…?  It’s a  Toast! to my lymph node.

Thank you.

Much peace.