Tag Archives: Writing

Toast! to Art That Heals- Blessed the film

This is my desk on some mornings. Many mornings. Most mornings.

I discovered a long time ago that what I write is good for me, for my heart, for taking on the emotions that sometimes seep into the morning from the nightmare that wrecked havoc with my soul.

I appreciate that about writing. I am so grateful I discovered this for myself. I know that when I create a story about a woman who’s fighting for her family, I’m dealing with what it means to be a mom and what I’d fight for. How I’d fight. I also know that when I create a story about loss and grief, that I’m trying to heal my own wounds.

Right now, I’m in pre-production for a short film called Blessed. It’s a story about a cop who is trying to make herself believe she doesn’t want a baby and what happens when her wall she creates to hide behind comes tumbling down… in the most incredible way. She is forced to deal with her pain, her loss…her understanding of her faith and who she is.

It’s a tall order for a short film. It’s powerful and deeply connected to me.

See- my character, Kiona, has suffered her third miscarriage. She’s asking all those questions about why and what has she done to deserve this. Her mother, however, straight up believes that Kiona will be blessed when she’s ready.

Of the many beautiful characteristics of these women, the main one for me is that they’re Native American. So to have Mary Beth state so matter-of-factly that she believes the Great Spirit will bless Kiona when she deserves only deepens Kiona’s exasperation of dealing with her loss. Why doesn’t she deserve?

Grief is grief- that’s what my shrink said when I told her about making this film and how exposed I am. See- I suffer…struggle with secondary infertility. I just found that term and a bunch of amazing women, mothers, who suffer this, too. It may not be the same miscarriage as others but none of us are the same, except grieving the loss of a child who will never be.

I know the incredible joy of creating a child, and carrying her inside me only to give her life…I know how I felt when it dawned on me that God must see that I’m worthy of something grand in this world to give me a child.

Now- I truly believe that is true for any parent, no matter how that child comes into their life. When you are chosen to be a parent, through whatever means, that’s what God is doing. Blessing you. And I know Peter and I will blessed with more children.

For me, right now, though, the wound lies deep inside me. In that place of creation that is no longer capable of creating any life. I went through an early menopause at 43. And have never felt so alone. Because so many women my age are just cool with not having more children. Or at least that’s what they say. Their lives are filled with college-bound teenagers and elementary school-agers…and they don’t seem to ache as much I do.

I had my daughter, Bird, by myself. I was a single parent from pretty much minutes after conception. Seriously. And it was hard at times…and it was lovely. And warm. And I love her in ways I can’t even find the words for. I love her with all that I am, with all my essence. Becoming her mom gave me purpose. Gave me direction. Bird saved my life. She did. (that’s another film – to tell the story of the life I was living before her)

But now, I have a husband who is the most incredible dad. His love for Bird is unmeasurable and I wanted to create a baby with him. When we first met and became friends, he told me that what struck him the most was the kind of mom I am. On one of our first dates a couple years later, he told me this and that he wanted me to be the mother of his children. But I can’t have babies. His babies. I can’t.

The pain is so deep. I’ve lost friends who couldn’t stick around to help me. I’ve lost friends who weren’t capable of showing up. I’ve suffered through newborn happenings and baby showers and birth stories and struggled with balancing my pure love and joy for all these incredible mamas in my life while tending to my wounds. My grief. It was private and personal. Intimate aches.

So last year when I pushed to finish a draft of Blessed I didn’t recognize what I was doing, actually. I didn’t see the healing I was committing. I found a brilliant director who not only dug the story of Kiona, she also appreciates the beauty of Kiona being a cop who believes in laws, justice and strength. My director also is committed to the action and suspense in this story, which apparently doesn’t happen that often – female leads in action films about a more feminine theme. She’s bringing me extremely talented people who are joining us to make this film and they get it, too. And I’m so grateful.

I’m meeting actors who take my breath away. Fierce and strong, and yet so wounded, they are giving this story life so that I can heal. I get to keep healing.

Along with my therapy, my daily writings, my Brene Brown work, my watercolors, my collages, tea, toast and dark chocolate, Blessed, the film, is healing me.

So today’s Toast! is to Art That Heals.

And here’s wishing you all some healing love and magic today.

PEACE

Toast! to BIG Knee-slapping Laughter

I have some girlfriends with the most amazing laughs. Loud, robust, their laughter rumbles up from deep within their beautiful souls and bursts from them, filling the air we share with love and light and…O I love laughing with my girlfriends. 

I have so many memories of laughing so hard with my daughter that I’ve practically peed my pants. Some of the most joyful memories I have of watching the relationship of Bird with Peter has been the way he makes her laugh.  We spit up food and hoot and holler. We laugh so hard, we cheer!  It’s so wonderful to feel so good! My father-in-law has this distinct laughter, a….squeak…or I can’t even describe it but let me tell ya, taking him to a funny movie is the best!  Jon thrills everyone with his full participation in the comedy. And often, at the dinner table, he and Peter will get on a roll and the house will shake like thunder from so much laughter.  Love.

The people who are not in my life now- the friends I’ve lost, the times I miss them the most is when I remember laughing with them, back when we were real and connected by love.  

And this laughter, I want to be clear, is not being mean about others. It’s not gossiping or laughing at some else’s expense. It’s truly silliness, just good old fashioned funny stuff.  

I think we don’t do that enough. I think that snark has become equated with wit. I think that a person’s feelings is easily tramped one for the possibility of a laugh. I think cruelity is too common, offensiveness is okay.  And that saddens me. Deeply. 

As an artist. I don’t write funny. I can be funny, sometimes. But it’s rare for me to “get the laugh” and when it does happen (here’s a confession) I walk away thinking of the encounter, dinner, party or whatever it was and I remember the line that got the laugh and I actually tell myself “good job”.  I know…dorky but I’m just happy I made someone happy for a second. Or two. 

The stories I write though, are dramatic. Tense. Deep. I can make you cry before I make you giggle. I’m often raw and I work hard to show the humanity in my characters, which means I dig up their vulnerability and put it out there for the world to see.  Eee….that’s not funny shit.  

So maybe that’s why I have such a huge appreciation for what makes me laugh. For the people who make me laugh. That must be the balance.  It’s a cleansing of my soul…a cleansing in tickling bubbly water.  Nice. 

So today’s Toast! is to BIG knee-slapping Laughter and the people who tickle you!  

PEACE

#Toast! #healing #peace #creativewriting #filmmaking

Toast! to...Kicking Fear's Ass with Roses in A Walk Thru the N'hood

When I lived in Minneapolis some of my best mornings began with me rising early, riding my bike 15 minutes along the Mississippi River to the Minnehaha Falls. I’d pass people walking dogs, some on their front steps getting their paper, greeting the day. At the Falls, though, I’d park my bike and stare into the water crashing over the waterfall. I’d say good morning to nature, good morning to Great Spirit.

I felt connected. I feel tiny pebbles of peace that I’d gather and shove in my pockets to hold for later in the day.

When I moved here to Los Angeles, I first blown away by the nature, by plants and trees so exotic for this Minnesota chick to see…on my own street! Beautiful. Living here in Silver Lake I also the joy of the amazing hills. Winding roads lead to breathtaking views that I often feel are peeks into my future. Out there, over the landscape of Los Angeles, my films will come together, my stories will be made. Yes, I am one of the worker bees in this vast city but here I am, looking out over the edge, knowing that I will make it there.

Then there are days when I can’t see the horizon, when I wake with my fears so close I feel their darkness bearing down on my shoulders, whispering ‘nothings..you are nothing….’ with their rancid breath. Yes, I have a really vivid visualization of what my fears look like. I also know that they’re tricky, smart and conniving. They have many creative ways to layer their insults, to shut me down. And those are the mornings when I have to take my husband’s hand and go for A Walk Thru the N’hood…to stop and smell the roses. Literally.

This morning- I didn’t smell them, though. He did, but I realize now I was in full rant mode at that moment. I was purging some negativity and fighting the pain of being kicked aside by an old friend, the sadness of losing another friend and the anxiety around dealing with this grief. Frantically searching for the lesson I’m to learn. Even the time I spend with the most loving friends, I still ache to understand what went wrong with others.

This morning, I didn’t stop to smell the roses. So, I’ve found this photo taken awhile ago, invoking the memory of those roses with me now. They are: love. Love from my partner, my handsome hus-b, Peter. Our INCREDIBLE DAUGHTER, BIRD!, our family in Minnesota, DC, Alaska. “Friend-family” here in Los Angeles and back home. Good health. Our gift of time and support to write and create. And the gift of our ancestors, spirit storytellers who are here with me, always.

My roses are kicking fear’s ass this morning. And I’m taking deep breaths to let them do that.

So- here’s the Toast! to Kicking Fear’s Ass with Roses…in A Walk Thru the N’hood.

Peace

Toast! to Marriage...according to the photo booth

Yesterday Peter and I attended the wedding of two of the most beautiful people we know. It was gorgeous! Malibu mountains in the background, flowing wine and love and laughter. Beautiful.

This photo was taken mid-dancing that evening. A copy of this went in a book for the lovely newly wedded couple. We wrote next to it this: 1. What marriage really is. 2. What you think marriage really is. 3. What marriage REALLY is…

It was funny! The first one we were discussing what how we were gonna pose, what should we look like, what message we were going to leave and when do the pictures actually get taken. I was talking a lot and Peter was listening. lol!

The second photo we did what always comes naturally…when all else fails, kiss. I love that.

And then we posed for the third. For fun sake. We didn’t think about the caption until we saw the photos.

Thinking about them now, my first urge is to take our caption back; say this isn’t true and apologize for giving Mireya and Sean the wrong message. But I think we were right..for 1 and 3.. Number 2 has the incorrect caption. Eyes closed, all-heart, full-on love kisses are marriage, too. It’s a blessing, the deepest of blessings (second only to children).

So, this photo is going on our fridge alongside pictures of Bird, family photos. pictures of the babies and children that we’re blessed to have our lives. It will always be there to show us all what marriage is.

Today’s Toast! is the Marriage according to the photo booth!

Peace and love.

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 a Creative Community. Yay! Writers Group!

Deadlines can be a real bitch. Anxiety-inducing, difficult..soul crushing, even, depending on where you’re at with the ebb and flow of our draft.  But deadlines are also markers.  Goal posts on the road.  So, even though I could still feel my skinned knees from crawling the rugged terrain of my writing path (this part rugged, others parts are deep waters and I have to swim, or multiple feet of snow and I struggle to get warm enough to melt the ice that’s blocking me, or open air against turquoise blue skies that I float on…yes, that last one does happen. Sometimes) This most recent deadline was hard.  But…it was for my writers group.  And I am grateful. 

My husband and I raced around yesterday morning to get my tiny house ready for guests. Clean towels in the bathroom, sweeping the floors, dusting and scrubbing and… baked oatmeal.  That’s the coolest part of  hosting writers group for me-  I make my now signature dish of baked oatmeal. Oats, maple syrup, roasted walnuts, berries and bananas, cinnamon…deliciousness that I get to share with my smart creative friends. 

Once the setting is done- furniture moved in a circle, tea brewing, table set, some 80’s music in the background (again, another signature of coming to my house)- my girlfriends arrive. Hugs. Food. Laughter. My house is filled with the beautiful energy of these storytellers.  

When we finally get to the work submitted we all put on our smart caps- using the tools and skill we learned at USC SCA and have applied to our work since then. We share books and movies as inspiration. We laugh more. We support and share.  

For me- we reviewed the half draft of High Card Trumps. A deeply dramatic film that breaks my heart to write. And out of all the notes- what’s working, what’s tender, what are the questions, I discovered that I’m so sorry for breaking my character’s heart over and over that I’m pulling her out of the toughest moments. I literally cut away and show the results. The fallout. The aftermath.  It just hurts so much to make this mother go through what she’s experiencing. She already lost one son in the war and now with Sam… she’s losing it all. Her faith. Her family. Her place in her community. She’s not just floating alone in some vast emptiness, she’s being hurled through her world without direction, without guidance. She’s being torn apart by the forces of life.

I cried.  But these amazing storytellers, my writers group, held me in this space. They teared up, too. They understood the difficulty and supported me as I told them of the emotional angst I feel every time I go to the page, that it’s so hard to keep hurting Dahab over and over. No mother should have to suffer living after her child is gone. That’s a hole nothing can ever repair. And although I don’t know this exactly, I’m blessed that my child is alive and well, I did stand witness as my sister died. My family has endured the pain of death multiple times. I’ve watched my mother suffer a grief that nearly destroyed her. I want to protect Dahab from this so the real pain happens in the cut away.  

My peers, my literary colleagues while sipping tea  with their bellies full of baked oatmeal, curled up comfy on my old furniture in the bosom of my home, they listened with love and told me that they need to see these scenes. They need to see these moments in Dahab’s life. And then they told me that because I’m a mom and I can envision my deepest fears as a mother I’m exactly the person to be telling this story. 

I’m exactly the person to be telling this story. Me. This story. Whew!! 

Today’s Toast! goes out to these women. My creative community. I wish for you all to have a community that holds you and understands you, who loves you just as you are, and for the love and gratitude you give them. 

PEACE