Since You’ve Been Gone

Since you’ve been gone, my dad died. He had cancer and it only took a few months for the best man I’ve ever known to waste away and go home.

And he made jokes almost every time I visited him.

Since you’ve been gone, I’ve watched Gilmore Girls constantly. I stop at the end of season 5, but that’s still 109 episodes that I’ve seen 6 times each.

Too much, I know.

Since you’ve been gone, I am not in daily pain. My sister forced me to change my health, and it changed my whole life. I am social now. I can eat now. I have bad days, but those days are just a part of my life, instead of the whole.

I might even join a rock climbing gym. Ha.

Since you’ve been gone, I started making films again.  I swear, I’m in a contest right now. I just wish PJ was still here to see my name on some credits again.

Since you’ve been gone, I still recycle. Thanks for teaching me that.

Since you’ve been gone, I have no idea what is true in politics or the environment or most various info stored in my brain. That’s the problem with lying about the important things, suddenly you saying the sky is blue is called into question.

Since you’ve been gone, I discovered some beautiful people. People who sacrificed time, money and space to love on me. You were wrong, real love does make sacrifices.

When you truly love someone, you are willing to make them laugh even as you are dying.

Since you’ve been gone, my dog ran away. Poor baby just wanted her mom back. I’m sorry PJ, she missed you too much.

Since you’ve been gone, I bought my dream car, caught it on fire, had it repaired, and am now buzzing around again like I always dreamed.

Since you’ve been gone, my bro and his wife had a baby. And his name is Zwingli. I’m not kidding.

Since you’ve been gone, a lot of friends left too. Sometimes people aren’t meant to stay.

That’s ok.

Since you’ve been gone, I lived on my own for a year and never once starved or missed a rent payment or died. Isn’t that cool? I sure think so, especially the starving part.

Since you’ve been gone, I discovered that I’m broken. That I mess up and I’m messed up. But that I am also valuable and loved.

Being messed up and messing up is ok. It’s normal.

Since you’ve been gone, I’ve spent so much more time with my family. They’re really fun people. They make me laugh. They build me up.

And even though I do most of the time, they don’t consider me a great disappointment.

In fact, my daily life has gotten exponentially better since you’ve been gone.

So you were right about one thing.

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Sometimes Pain is Not Your Fault, It’s Just Pain

Pain is not socially acceptable. Pain is a downer. Pain is a great conversation killer.

Whether it’s physical, mental, emotional or spiritual pain, American culture doesn’t like to directly chat about it. Outside of music, pain is best kept inside, as ghostly as petrichor, smelled but not seen, felt but not heard.

“This is my new song,” my little sister texted to me a few years ago.

I clicked on the link and let Imagine Dragons croon the deepest words of my soul…

First things first
I’ma say all the words inside my head
I’m fired up and tired of the way that things have been, oh ooh
The way that things have been, oh ooh
Second thing second
Don’t you tell me what you think that I can be
I’m the one at the sail, I’m the master of my sea, oh ooh
The master of my sea, oh ooh

I was broken from a young age
Taking my sulking to the masses
Write down my poems for the few
That looked at me, took to me, shook to me, feeling me
Singing from heartache from the pain
Taking my message from the veins
Speaking my lesson from the brain
Seeing the beauty through the

You made me a, you made me a believer, believer
(Pain, pain)
You break me down, you build me up, believer, believer
(Pain)
Oh let the bullets fly, oh let them rain
My life, my love, my drive, it came from
(Pain)
You made me a, you made me a believer, believer

We were both in the midst of crisis. We were both in a massive amount of physical pain due to health issues. I was in a very bad place in every way — physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually.

My pain was too much, so I said nothing. It was my own fault. I had made choices. My choices led to my pain (the non-physical pain, anyway). I felt bad, so bad.

And it was all my fault.

“How are you doing?” my cousin would ask.

“I’m alright,” I would say.

What else could I say? I cry every day? I want to jump off of a building? I feel trapped and sad all the time? I’m confused and alone and scared? The person I am supposed to trust the most is a liar and a cheater and he can’t stand me and nothing I do is ever good enough and I should’ve known better?

I should’ve known better.

No.

Stop right there, kid. Stop right there.

My dad’s voice comes to me in that moment. He is wounded and so sad when I hear him in my head.

“It is not your fault.”

He never said that, actually. But if he were reading this, as he read everything else I ever blogged, he would’ve commented as much.

Sometimes pain is not your fault, it’s just pain.

And hiding that pain from everyone around you may cost you your life. And your bestfriend will lose her bestfriend. And your dad will lose one of his baby girls. And your cousin will lose her cousin.

It’s ok to be in pain and tell people about it. It does not make you weak or pathetic. How do you think Taylor Swift makes so much money? Why is it acceptable for her to be vulnerable on stage in front of thousands, but not cool for me to cry in the grocery store? Why is Imagine Dragons epic for talking about pain, but we feel stupid talking about pain with our closest friends?

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m the only one who struggles with this. Maybe everyone else is on another page and they already know that crap happens and sometimes bystanders pay the price.

Hurt people hurt people.

It is my goal in life to leave the hurt behind me and show kindness and long suffering to everyone I meet instead of perpetuating the cycle that I was yanked into.

I will fail, but I have a Friend who took care of that.

Just My Size

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Sunlight. Shattering on the grassy gravel and stabbing me in the face. Summer shimmered around me, and my 6-year-old self was ready for a caper.

I slowly walked into the detached garage, dodging tools, junk and detritus. My dad had left the door open and happened to be occupied elsewhere. The lure of the garage called to me, since I was not typically allowed to enter the musty cave of random things.

I eyed the workbenches and spider webs. Noise. Was that Dad’s footsteps? No, just in my head. I returned my attention to the tools lying out on the shelves.

There! A pocket knife.

I took it off of the shelf slowly, as if it might leap at me. I held the knife gingerly, reverently. This was the thing that could help me whittle like Grampa.

I wove my way out of the garage, the knife still closed and clutched in my hand.

Need to find a stick. Gotta find the best stick. Where’s a good stick?

Aha!

I grabbed one off of the ground under a tree. Now to open the knife…

Still holding the stick, I grasped the blade right at that little groove that’s supposed to help you open pocket knives. I pulled, hard. Nothing. Come on, knife!

It swung back, just a medium-sized blade in my tiny hands. I grinned. I held out my stick and got to work.

“What are you doing?” Dad’s voice broke through my thoughts.

I looked up at him in excitement.

“Look!” I said, waving my newly whittled stick. “Isn’t it cool?”

Dad inspected my stick for a brief moment. He knelt in front of me.

“What’s this?” he asked, pointing at the blood running down my left pointer finger.

“Knife bit me,” I said.

“Hmmm. Maybe we need to get you a knife more your size. This one,” he took the knife out of my hand and closed it. “is too big for you. Ok?”

I nodded, drooping my head in shame. Dad slipped the knife into his pocket, took my stick and wrapped his large hand around my good hand.

“Let’s go get a band-aid.”

We walked across the lawn into the house.

“This is cool. Grampa showed you how to do this?” Dad said as we walked.

A few days later Dad presented me with a little pocket knife, one exactly fitted to my tiny hands. And for the next 20 some years he gave me a new pocket knife at least once a year, each one different and exciting in it’s own way.

The last two knives that Dad gave me are a set. They have little sheathes and are perfect for sitting on top of my bookshelf to let people know what I’m made of.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

I promise I haven’t cut myself lately.

Thanks for all the knives that are just my size. I miss you so much.

13 Hours of Wedding

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Me, filming for 13 hours

Filmed a wedding for 13 hours yesterday. I brought a jacket for what turned out to be coat weather and inevitably they shot a lot of pictures outside, which means that I filmed those pictures. In the freakishly cold wind. With the freakishly positive and Eskimo-blooded photographer who claimed to never be cold.

Well my fingers were so stiff that it hurt to press record.

But it was okay. Weddings are a great place for bitterly-optimistic people like me. Seriously. Everyone is so happy and stressed and wearing too much makeup and fake eyelashes.

Last year, when I started this side gig, I stood with my camera during the ceremony and made fun of the vows. I did, I admit it. I mocked the idiots standing up there who believed in love and easy marriages and bliss.

“Who are they kidding? Marriage is a joke. Ya’ll have no idea what real love is like. He’s just going to run off with someone else when he gets bored. Who believes in this stuff? Why did you spend so much on makeup for something that isn’t going to last?”

I get that that line of thinking is funny to some people. To other people it might sound like logical reasoning. To still other people it is offensive.

But let’s take a moment to think about these weddings with their extravagant ceremonies and 13-hour day filled with drinking and perfect hair, matching suits, pictures in the freezing cold, tiny children who stay up too late, and crazy families that can’t seem to get organized for 20 minutes of standing still and smiling.

These people planned an event probably a year in advance and invited everyone they love to be part of it. They got their closest friends and family to dress up in matching outfits and pay for their own hair and makeup so they can walk in and stand in front of a crowd. They chose a location, cake, colors, flowers, music, an officiant and an expensive photographer and videographer to record the entire shindig.

Then they stood up in front of all the people that matter in their lives and made a vow to one person in particular. A vow. To be committed in friendship and partnership with that singular person for the rest of their life.

Now you can call that crazy. You can make fun of it or be pessimistic about the outcome of the vow. You can even make fun of the likelihood of this vow remaining unbroken (the divorce rates are high in the US).

But to make fun of these people for wanting to show off their love and commitment…that’s just pathetic. Who am I to prognosticate failure or pronounce judgment? Who am I to complain about the unearthly cold just for pretty pictures? Who am I to laugh at the pomp and circumstance, the flair, the cost, the insane attachment to dress colors?

Those two people love each other, want that love to last, and invited their people to be part of that love.

May God grace them with that blessing.

And may I just hold my camera, relax and enjoy the day. There’s free food, dancing and even artistry at times. Oh, and then I get paid.

Bring on the 13 hours of wedding.

 

My Dad Loved Movies

My Dad passed away early in the morning last Monday. The following is what I read at my dad’s memorial service this past week.

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My dad loved movies. He loved movies before I ever loved movies. The main reason my siblings and I quote movies all the time is because of him.

There is a quote from the movie Inception that goes like this,

“I wish. I wish more than anything. But I can’t imagine you with all of your complexity, all your perfection, all your imperfection. Look at you. You are just a shade of my real wife. You’re the best I can do; but I’m sorry, you are just not good enough.”

I couldn’t think of anything that would fully encapsulate my dad, so I’m just going to share some highlights.

I was in an antique store a number of years ago and I found a set of tiny dolls from Mexico. They looked like a variation of Worry Dolls except they were all different. So I told my mom, “I’m going to buy these and hide them around the house and let dad find them.”

We got the dolls and went home and I proceeded to hide these things all over the house – in his medicine cabinet, in his office, by his bed, on the counter, everywhere. Then we waited for dad to get home. When he got home we said hi and let him do his normal thing. As he walked around he house he would pause.

Finally, I heard a shout from the bathroom – “there little people everywhere?!”

And we all laughed, dad included.

Around that same time dad found a Halloween hand at a garage sale. It was one of those rubber things that’s slightly hideous and creepy. So I took that hand and I stuck it in his medicine cabinet.

“What is this?” he said.

But he got his revenge. He hid it in MY bathroom later. And so the war began – me hiding the hand in his truck or his office or his drawers and him responding in kind. He was far better at coming up with hiding spots – sometimes it took weeks for me to find the hand.

He knew how to laugh.

He watched every single one of my films. He wasn’t always positive about them. He told me his likes and dislikes. He told me his true opinions. I trusted that his reactions were real, and when he said he loved a film or that it made him laugh I knew it was true.

My parents often helped with my movie making chaos. They offered their house, food, errands, feedback and even themselves when they fit the role. In 2013 I produced and directed my first 48 hour film – which is a competition that requires you to complete a new film in 48 hours. My parents both delivered several items and offered their house for editors to sleep at. At the end of the filming first day, both my parents told me, “I am so proud of you.”

It didn’t matter that the film wasn’t finished being edited, it didn’t matter that we went on to win absolutely no awards, it didn’t matter that the film was pretty nonsensical – they were proud. I looked back at some of my blog posts over the past year and you can still find my dad’s comments saying, “I am so proud of you.”

Dad, I never thought I did anything worth you saying that, but you did so many things that made me proud. You were a paramedic who was kind to people, even when they hit you. You were infinitely patient with your grand children even when they were being nuts. You went back to school twice. You stayed faithful and kind and loving toward my mom. I knew if I needed anything that you would come as soon as I called, and you often did.

Dad I’m so proud of you.

I was going to tell y’all the story about how my dad and I discovered Steve Irwin, but my brother said we only had 45 minutes up here. I will say that dad loved finding things to watch with us, and I think that we both enjoyed watching it together more than the actual show. I can’t imagine that he was a super fan of Veronica Mars, but boy did we get excited about that movie.

I don’t know how many hobbies or likes he acquired because of wanting to hang with us, but I know that I love movies because of him. All the midnight showings, repeated viewings, quote sessions – if I say something that sounds weird it’s probably a movie quote and it’s all his fault.

I haven’t seen Black Panther yet, but when I do, I’ll be thinking about how I would tell him all about it.

So here’s my last thing. Last spring was really harsh for me. I was talking to my dad about traveling, and we decided that in 2018 we were going to Vietnam. He really wanted to go there for many years. So a few weeks later he gave me a tiny package. He said, “this is for the trip.”

You know what it was? A tiny scorpion earring. Just one.

I don’t think that there are even scorpions in Vietnam.

But it was absolutely the coolest earring I’ve ever been given. Because it was from my dad.

My Year the Music Died

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Someone once said to me that “silence is the acoustic form of darkness.”

There’s been a lot of darkness lately.

There was no funeral for my husband. No one got a chance to come up to me and say nice things, to take turns giving me hugs and saying how sorry they were that he was gone forever and that I would never see him again. I didn’t get to speak about his good points to all of my friends and family. I didn’t get to post on Facebook about my loss.

Public loss is only acceptable in death.

Abuse doesn’t negate love and affection.

2017 was my year the music died. I lost a lot of people. A lot of good people. Silence is all I have from them now.

But in silence and darkness we have the opportunity to create music and light.

Many years ago I was rescued out of darkness into light. I was given a new life. Hope in Christ is not a false hope. After a year in silence, real hope is the only thing that keeps you going.

So for this year, 2018, I have made a resolution to give hope to someone else. Life is not about me.

This year I’m gonna get set up to foster in 2019. I’m going to take classes. I’m going to move into an appropriate space. I’m going to get prepared to be a mom.

My year the music died will not be the death of hope.

Filmmaking is for Warriors: Teaching

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“Do you know any famous people?” the tiny child asks me.

“Famous people?”

I don’t know what else to say. I’ve been a filmmaker for 10 years, but most of the people I know aren’t plastered on the cover of People Magazine. I do know some actors who have been plastered all over the billboards in Kansas City, which is pretty cool. Mostly just because those actors are totally awesome, and it’s nice to see them achieve new things.

Inevitably, it doesn’t matter if I have an answer to her question, because there’s a half dozen more questions flooding my way. I wave my hands at the brood of small people and do my best to change the subject back to the class I’m teaching and away from my filmmaking career.

Teaching.

I started teaching theater and acting when I was 19. I shouldn’t have, really, because I had no idea how to teach. Those first few years my head was under water and the kids drowned with me. I’m sorry, kids, I didn’t know what I was doing.

But like Dory the fish said, “Just keep swimming! Just keep swimming!”

So I kept pushing my way through teaching, class after class after class. I taught basic and advanced acting, improv, film acting, film production, costumes, musical theater (as a sub, ’cause I don’t do music), black box and radio theater. I’ve assisted in directing shows. I’ve subbed for ages that I would never have chosen to teach – 4 year-olds are not my buddies. I’ve taught subjects I knew very little about and had to research – radio.

And then I was burnt out. And I didn’t want to do it anymore.

Kids take a lot of energy. Kids need a lot of attention and help. Kids are SO MUCH FUN TO TEACH.

Plot twist.

I love teaching. I love talking to those kids. I love playing games with them and seeing them grow. I love seeing how kids learn to rely on each other in theater. I love seeing how theater changes lives for the better – confidence, friendship, coordination, memorization, basic theater skills, communication, trust, loyalty, diversity and a host of other things. I’m sure people learn this stuff in sports, too, but I was a theater kid so I can’t speak to that.

I had a screenwriting teacher who loved his job. He really did. He loved interacting with his different students. I had another film teacher who loved her job. She was the most understanding teacher I think I ever had, always open to giving students a second chance to learn.

And I think to myself, why don’t more people teach?

Because every single person who loves teaching, also hates it. At the end of the day you feel wiped out, left for dead and drained. Your job is to push other people into greatness, whether that is in theater, writing, math, science, robotics, music, computer, filmmaking or military training.

People push back.

Sometimes they do it on purpose. Sometimes they’re just too scared, as some of the 8-year-old students in my class the other night.

The better you are at being a teacher, the more you hold yourself accountable to the things you are teaching. Your students are pushing back, and you are learning more than them.

That’s a cliche. I hate that cliche. It’s obnoxious. Obviously if you’re teaching a child multiplication, you already knew how to multiply. Duh. That kid didn’t teach you that.

But while you were teaching multiplication, that kid was teaching you patience, kindness and long-suffering, because that kid’s probably an aggravating little dude with a numbers complex that needs a reality check.

I subbed for a theater class this week and last. I haven’t taught in a very long time. It was hard work corralling all those little people. I was hungry and my throat hurt and I wondered why I would put myself through all this when I was still in my month of recovery.

But when I went back last night to teach, the kids told me I was an awesome teacher. Their words, not mine.

And I thought, I love teaching. Why don’t more people do this?

On Target Management

I quit my job.  I’m on the last week of working, and I’ve had a chance to kinda say goodbye to about 100 people.  Or maybe it just feels like 100 people.

I’m not leaving because I’m upset or hated it.  I found something new that will actually use the skills I spent all those years in college to refine.

But I want to tell you what I learned about good management while working for the big Red Zero.

1.  They tell each employee right off the bat that it doesn’t matter what you look like, your tattoos or no tattoos, your beard or no beard, or whatever; you are accepted and welcome here.

2.  They reward good workers immediately by calling out their name on the radio and then offering them a free Starbucks or soda from the fridges.

3.  They meet as a team every morning and afternoon to cover basic things, go over safety and codes, and lift up team members who are doing a good job at their job.

4.  They make time to hear out each employee.

5.  They take time to train people right.

This was what I learned in my experience with multiple bosses while working at the Red Zero.  I learned a lot more, but this was the highlights.

Next time maybe I’ll commentary social crazes and viral news…

A Word on American Universities

I attended the University of Missouri-Kansas City.  I liked my school.  It was a gorgeous campus, great facilities, good teachers, mostly helpful administration, located not far from my home…I enjoyed my time there.

But it didn’t teach me how to make money.  It didn’t teach me how to get a job.  It didn’t even teach me how to make a good resume, something I learned the hard way when attending an internship brunch and a potential employer went on a rant and wrote all over my resume the things that were wrong.  There’s few things more intimidating than the representative of a TV station telling you how stupid students are getting with their resumes when you’re attempting to impress him.

Didn’t I spend over 5 years and thousands of dollars paying someone else to teach me something as basic as how to craft a good resume?

“Did they teach you about working with clients?” I asked my co-worker about an internship she did in college.

“No,” she said.  “I wish I had learned that…”

She majored in Graphic Design, focusing mostly on print and drawing by hand.  She told me she wished she had focused more on building websites and digital art.  Apparently we both graduated with ignorance, not knowledge.

Here’s the thing though, I knew that I didn’t have to go to college.  I knew that college was just a way to get to where I wanted to be.  I made a calculated decision–based on my introverted nature–that college would be the better option to prepare me to get to Hollywood.  I didn’t think I would get paid more.  I didn’t think it would be easier to get a job, per se.  In fact, I knew that it was in my future to be at working-class income (possibly lower-class, depends on your point-of-view).

Because I was pursuing art.  And really, how many people make a lot of money at art?

BUT.  I did expect that my university would provide a magic list of steps to take to get a job, equip me with a list of all the jobs (like real companies) that I could apply to, and/or automatically place me on the radar of top people in the media and film industry (like Disney, Pixar, Bad Robot, J.J. Abrams, etc).

Why did I expect this?  I have no idea.  I honestly don’t know who told me that.

Why do people keep expecting magic to happen when they just spent 4, 5, 6, 8 years working, studying, testing, writing, running to class, forgetting their parking pass, going into debt, paying a parking fee, staying up all night to fail a test, drinking too much coffee, watching boring class-required movies, eating ramen, lugging brick-like textbooks everywhere and hating their teacher who just assigned that stupid 7-page paper over the weekend?  Seriously.  Why do we expect that after all that–college–we should hop out of school and be ushered into the job force within the week?

Yeah, I paid a lot of money.  Yeah, I’m qualified to film and edit live events, commercials, web videos, training videos, short films, long films, competitive films; write papers, books, screenplays, blog posts; take orders, directions, feedback, and criticism and not DIE (honestly, I’ve not died once from too much work).  But did that entitle me to walk off the podium at my college and into a steady, paying position at a company within my expertise?

Why do we assume that getting a job shouldn’t require work?

I don’t know.  I know that all that time I spent sitting alone before class I should’ve spent chatting with the teachers, staff, anyone, about jobs in Hollywood, how to build a nice-looking resume, and how to sweet-talk a producer into letting me hold lights or equipment on set for a film.  And I should’ve been making calls, sending emails, messages, snail-mail, whatever, to companies and directors and producers BEFORE I graduated and let them know how awesome I am and that they should consider making me part of their team.

I mean, that’s kinda how I got into college.  I pursued it and they couldn’t say no.  I also paid them a lot of money, but hey, I want Hollywood so that might come with the territory.

But I didn’t know.  No one taught me that.  Or maybe they did, and I just wasn’t paying attention.

A Special Report from an Internet Reader Near You: The Inevitable Generalizations

I will post a film by the end of this month.  It just isn’t gonna be posted today.

Today I have some words, and I apologize ahead of time for the swearing in the following meme.  I didn’t write it.  But I would like to comment on it.  Bear with me?

First impression: that’s so funny that autocorrect made that happen!  Now that kid doesn’t have a computer, haha!

My impression: Wow, what a dad who assumes his son a) got a girlfriend pregnant that fast and then told him through a text message and b) jumps to the conclusion that the girl is a “slut” instead of that maybe his son is a “slut.”

1.  This guy obviously doesn’t know his son well enough to even call and see if that’s the truth–

2.  AND/OR he knew his son was sexually active, but he hoped that his son used “protection.”  If the latter, then he shouldn’t have jumped to the conclusion that the girl was the “slut.”  And who’s he calling a “slut” anyway?  Why didn’t he call his son that, since his son is equally responsible in the creation of a baby?

Now let’s talk about “slut,” a term applied to a woman when she acts like a man.  Why does the girl get it?  Because she obviously corrupted the son into doing things that led to pregnancy?  If the dad thinks that what they did needs a derogatory term, why didn’t he call them both sluts?

Because he believes his son to be a “good” boy, even though he obviously doesn’t know him well enough or care about him enough to call when he got the crazy text.

That’s sad.

Next:

Or cupcakes that are better educated than other people, which may lead to uncomfortable situations.

The generalizations about homeschoolers are stupider than the generalizations about men and women.  There are some homeschoolers that are uncomfortable around other people.  There are some public schoolers that are uncomfortable around other people.  There are some homeschoolers who only socialize with people older or younger than they are.  There are some public schoolers that only socialize with people who are older or younger.

When I was in high school I was involved in 2 homeschool co-ops, a nationwide theater organization, I worked and I attended community college.  In middle school I was involved in 4 homeschool co-ops, choir, theater, art classes and soccer.  In elementary school I was involved with at 2 homeschool co-ops, choir, and art.  Even introverted as I am now, I liked being around people in most contexts.

Generalizations are often just the result of ignorance and unmerited superiority.  A father assumes his son is “better” than a woman and so bestows a derogatory term on her.

That and the need for everyone to be the same.  American media assumes that people who don’t get crammed into a stuffy building with a ton of other people their own age every day are less socially inclined.  Cause that makes sense.

We are not superior.  And we are not the same.