Thursday, January 29, 2009

Love stings – 308

One of my Facebook friends is in love. By Facebook friend, I mean someone whom I already knew, but am really only in touch with due to Facebook. This mainly covers people from high school, a few from church who are no longer in my ward, and a handful from work and college. I like them, I care about them, but we would not be in touch on a regular basis without social networking.

In the past, I would only see these people if we happened to run into each other, and then we would exchange pleasantries and catch up, but it would only be general. Now, because we can all update each other quickly and simultaneously, I know what lots of them are doing for jobs and relationships and children, and have viewed current pictures. This is interesting, and a lot of fun.

There is also some heartache with it. Two of my old classmates have children with really fragile health, and there have been divorces and deaths of parents, and unemployment. We offer each other support, which tends to feel inadequate, but it is something real. Actually, I had a dream the other night where I was discouraged with my efforts to make it as a screenwriter. I was with Becky, one friend whom I had not been in touch with until recently. She handed me a card, and it was signed by at least thirty people. The names that I could see (reading in dreams is really hard) were also Facebook friends. It reflects real life. People have been very supportive about my job and my writing and pretty much everything I put out there. It does give us some community.

So, the point of that is, without Facebook, I would never know that he was in love. It was interesting, because I have been observing him for a while, and I could tell he was lonely. It was usually hidden in self-deprecating humor, but it was still there. I could also see by other things that he wrote, about himself and to others, that he was a very good guy (we weren’t close in high school, and there was some awkwardness, so I hadn’t seen this side of him).

What was a revelation then, as he started to share the relationship, was how much of a romantic he is. It is kind of fun to see, and touching, but it also left me with one fervent wish: Please don’t hurt him.

Now that both parties have come out of the closet, and admitted they are dating each other, I feel much better about it, but it was an interesting reaction, and probably also influenced by other Facebook activity.

Remember E, from July? At that time I wrote that it was probably just as well he did not seem to be interested in me, because along with other complications, he had just gotten out of a long-term, stifling relationship, and could probably use some time on his own. Well, he had some time, and then recently he started dating someone again, and it became evident through posts and pictures. It seemed good, they looked happy, and then suddenly, it was over (by her instigation if I understood correctly). He’s a nice guy—
cute and funny and talented—I don’t want him hurt.
Then, another two friends are getting divorced (not from each other—I don’t know the spouses), and it hurts. So, for them, and for the lonely romantic who just find someone, I just keep wishing, don’t hurt them.

I am not being completely realistic. If a relationship is not working, that doesn’t always mean there is a villain there, and at least in E’s case, probably better now than ten years later, but still, it makes me sad.

This may involve some over-functioning on my part. Realistically, any single one of them has more relationship experience than I do, and should be able to successfully navigate the latest setbacks. They don’t need me to care. At the same time, it is nice that other people care that I am unemployed, and struggling (and that now I have muscle aches that I think are from stress, and a cyst growing out of my back that I guess could be stress, but it’s a little less typical). I do mentally think that all of us caring for each other is a good idea, but it’s a moot point anyway because it’s not really voluntary. If I decided it was stupid, and to stop, I probably couldn’t.

So we go on, writing cheerful notes and wishing each other well. I will pray for various people. I’m not sure how widespread that is, but a lot of people seem more religious now than they were then.

Ultimately, there is not a single one of them that I don’t think will survive the temporary heartbreak, and move on. Of the new couple, both of them had previous relationships that ended, and yet here they are starting a new one, fairly blissfully. Hope springs eternal.

Other than that, I did not win the first round of the Co-write contest (and frankly, I don’t think the winner is that great), I have eliminated about ten more agencies from the list I need to call, and I think my February screenplay will be the one where a first date that seemed promising quickly goes bad as the pair runs afoul of the powerful corn lobby.

For taxes, I should be getting a more regular schedule next week, and now I just need lots of customers. Anyone want your taxes done?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Updated – 309.5

I know I have let some time lapse. I had mentioned previously that I wanted to screenplay number four (Dark Secrets) to go quickly, because it was hard material and it was kind of brining me down. So, I concentrated really hard on writing that, and had some really long writing sessions, back-to-back, and in the process neglected journal writing, blogging, and things like that, and pretty much broke all of my new year’s resolutions except for the one about writing one screenplay a month.

It’s not as horrible as it sounds. I finished on the 21st, and have been catching other things up since then. I am planning on doing one rewrite on the 28th, and then a follow-up on the 31st, and then I should be fairly well done, with at least one aspect of my life on schedule. Ideally the next project will be lighter, and I can pace myself better.

Still, I love writing so much. It is so satisfying for me, and I feel myself getting better at it, in terms of being able to solve problems faster, and find the right words, and just give the time to it. I am really hitting my stride with it. Now all I need is a sale.

In other news, I have finished two levels of tax preparer certification. There is one test left, and it is a bear. I decided to try a quick run-through, and let myself fail if needed just to kind of scope it out, and I did not pass. Still, that is for higher-level returns, and I can do basic ones now and have actually completed my first one. Therefore, I have actually earned some money, for the first time since September. I’ll get that in February. I have no idea how much will be added to it. There is no guarantee of hours or returns, so there are a lot of factors, and I’m not sure how it’s going to go. Still, no one else is calling me, and most of the other people in the class have not done any returns yet, so I am lucky to have it.

In weight news, it looks like I have lost seven pounds over about two weeks after a plateau at 316. That is not how it went down at all. I had reached 311, and started going back up before the last time I posted, actually going all the way back up to 330. This was fluid retention related to me running out of my medicine. My blood sugar scores have been doing well, I was hoping I could manage without it, but I was wrong, and my scores were the least of the problem. Medco will not let you order without being part of a plan, but I learned that I could transfer the prescriptions to another pharmacy. I looked at Target and Costco, but Costco requires an application, and Target could turn things around in a day, so that is the way I went. Their pill prices are pretty good. The injectables are still too expensive, but they would be at Costco too.

I am grateful to be on them again, and to be back on track, but it is still pretty scary. Even if this tax thing does work out for income, it is seasonal and part-time, and there is no insurance. With my pre-existing conditions, purchasing a plan on my own would be horrendously expensive, even if I had money. So, that area is a real concern for me. If I sell a screenplay, I can join the Writers Guild of America, which functions like a union and there are health plans available, but it feels like such a long shot. To be fair, that still seems more probable than finding a regular job that I can live on.
Honestly, it’s just a tough time. The only reason the mortgage is not late and that I could get the medicine is because the church is helping me. I should be grateful for that. On one level I’m sure I am, but it is also killing my Sundays. I hate taking the bills in. I hate having to come back and get the checks. I hate feeling weird around Jeremy, and it is not his fault, but it is still there. I hate being a taker when I am used to being a giver. And I hate that the situation just keeps going on. To be fair, I know that a lot of my problem there is pride, which is exactly why I am even writing this. Doing so won’t necessarily turn me humble, but I can at least be actively working against the pride.

In other news, my birthday came and went. It was fairly disappointing. The only computer time I could get at the office was 9-12 on that day, so I was already getting up early and going into the office, which is not how I like either a Saturday or my birthday to start. Mom brought me a sausage mcmuffin, and those are normally delicious, but the egg on this one was all slippery, and the muffin had singed areas, which happened to include the part I ate last, so it left a charcoal flavor in my mouth for a few hours.

I got some errands done afterwards, but the part that was supposed to make everything better was that as my present, Mom had gotten me a ticket to go see the Bad Boys of Dance. I had seen the ad and not been particularly interested, but then I saw Jon Drake was with them, and he is great. When the ward talent show was announced for the same date, and I realized I would miss my yearly foray into stand-up comedy, that was kind of a bummer, but I was going to see a dance show, and it was going to be okay. Sadly, the show stunk.

I think I am going to post a full review of it, and write about dance in general. I should write about the inauguration too. I think I like writing about things better than updates like this, but maybe that is just context-dependent. I have committed to writing a Facebook note with tax tips, which I could post here, but that seems like overkill. If anyone reads the blog but is not on Facebook with me, and wants the tips, let me know. Mainly, I am trying to keep busy.

Anyway, that’s kind of where I’m at right now. It does not merely sound grim—it is grim—but I still know so many people who have been unemployed longer, or have sick kids or have lost parents, or something like that. In the collective sorrow bucket, mine is just a drop or two, but I could really use some good news.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Odds and Ends – 316.5

I don’t have a strong topic to write on because there are so many different things happening, so I thought I would take this opportunity to get caught up.

First of all, I am not writing about clown crime, so I’m not killing Uncle Earl off just yet (if he even exists, which I doubt). I really thought it would be next, but there are some limits to how much choice a writer has. At times I am ready to tell different stories, and I could try and force the issue, but it will make everything stilted.

Recent events have caused me to dwell upon certain things, and right now there is really only one story I can tell. Maybe it is a good one for my first attempt at finishing in a month, because it is kind of dark material, and so I want it to go fast. Yes, I was writing about vampires last, and there were places where it got pretty heavy, but even if personalities like those of Christine and Lucas are theoretically possible, I don’t run into anyone that bad on a regular basis, and even if I did, at least they would not be vampires. Mark is completely real, so it’s different.

Anyway, I am able to pour some recent grief and some old anger into it, so writing Dark Secrets has been somewhat therapeutic. I wrote twenty-five pages yesterday, which is a new record. I’m not sure it was wise, because my eyes were bugging out of my head by the time I was done, but it’s pretty impressive considering I have a cold.

I am experimenting with some new methods, where maybe instead of trying to write a little every day (and I have done that, because I was writing two pages a night on the days when I had class), I alternate writing days with work days. This is an issue because I hope to be working some in the upcoming weeks.

The class was tax preparation training, so I hope that can provide some income through April, and maybe the job market will have improved a bit by then. It’s kind of a departure for me, but it’s funny because in my second screenplay, the female lead was studying for her CPA, even if it was not necessarily what she wanted to do.

There has been some interesting convergence lately. I was trying to catch up on old magazines, so I was reading one old Smithsonian, and I read about Americans in Prague, and some other articles, but I stopped at the trout article because I suspect I will be sharing it with some of my friends who are fly fishing devotees. I opened another one and read about manuscript recovery and preservation in Timbuktu. I logged onto e-mail, and Henry Rollins had sent his latest dispatch from Timbuktu. I logged onto Facebook, and Kathryn was writing from Prague. Does it mean anything? Not necessarily, but it’s neat just the same.

In other news, I just got back from a Sisters in Cinema meeting, which has been going on for three years and I didn’t even know. I think more networking is going to be necessary for me to get anywhere. Also, I was thinking that when I make agency calls, perhaps instead of saying, “I’m looking for representation. Are you taking new clients?” maybe I should say, “I’m writing my fourth screenplay and I really need representation. Are you taking new clients?” The net result will probably be the same for most, but at least I am making them hear at least one reason to take me seriously.

I turn 37 on Saturday. Still single and childless, and now unemployed. In some ways it’s fairly dismal, but I do have exciting things going on, and I am getting good support from my friends, for which I am so grateful.

In political news, you may remember me objecting to the way Matt Wingard got his district seat, and something similar recently happened with the way Martha Schrader got into the State Senate. I feel I must mention it because she is a Democrat, and I deplore political chicanery across party lines. Anyway, at the time I suggested for a similar case a respected, retired person should be appointed. I was suggesting that as the ethical thing to do, but Andy Parker suggested just making it the law that whoever is appointed can’t run for the seat in the next election, and I think that’s probably the way to go. I mean, I’d like to be able to count on our elected leaders to make wise and just choices, but it’s sort of a pipe dream. At least we’re not Illinois.

I am looking forward to the national regime change, though I feel kind of bad for the mess Obama is inheriting. I take exception to Bush saying that he tried to do the right thing. He just did what he wanted done, and while I am sure that he did want things to work out well, or he was at least miffed when they did not, he never cared enough to change his strategy.

On that note, I’d like to state that I think I am okay with the choice of Rick Warren for the inaugural prayer. I know, people feel it is a slap in the face to homosexuals due to his support of Proposition 8. But remember how I pointed out that California voting for both Prop 8 and Obama was a good sign, because it signaled a disconnect between the orthodoxy that if you care about moral issues at all you have to be Republican? This could be more of the same.

Warren is firmly anti-abortion, but he still invited Obama, who is pro-choice, to speak at the AIDs conference. We need to be able to cooperate and work with people with whom we do not completely agree. There may be limits, but this should not be it.

Fighting poverty is one of the issues closest to my heart, because when you fight poverty you fight crime and promote education and you promote a strong economy and strong families and good health. There are so many social ills that are perpetuated by poverty, and then they perpetuate poverty, so there’s this cycle that is hard enough to get out of anyway, and then when the last eight years of government policy have actually been promotion poverty, yeah, I’m tempted to like someone who makes that a priority. We do share a lot of beliefs. I’m not always sure about how he communicates those beliefs, which may mean that I feel about Rick Warren the way Warren feels about James Dobson. How weird is that? (We don’t have time for how I feel about James Dobson.)

I know what would have been great. If Reverend Wright had risen to the occasion when he had the chance, and if he had acknowledged the anger, and where it was right and yet where it was wrong too. If he could have done that, and worked for sincere conciliation, he would have been a great choice and it could have been a beautiful thing. Since that didn’t happen, now Warren has the chance to rise to the occasion, and I hope he does. I hope it is a beautiful prayer that embraces everyone, even the atheists who think the tradition should be struck down. I hope that can happen. If it doesn’t, well Obama, it will still only be your first day, and honestly it will be the least of your problems.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

The year in preview – 316.5

I think I can wrap things up today, and then maybe get back to just writing once a week. That will be less pressure.

My big goal is that I want to complete one new screenplay a month. This is fairly ambitious, but my turnaround time keeps getting better, so this would be one step further towards consistency. I tend to have these little lulls between projects, so the purpose would be to make me better about starting the new one.

Is it feasible? I think so. The most I have ever written in one day has been twenty pages, which I have done three times. The most I have written on a following day after that was six, but usually less. With writing, it is not just the time you spend writing, but there is the time you spend thinking about it, plotting it out and solving problems. Twenty pages takes a lot out of me, and probably can’t happen that often. Ten pages might be the magic number. Since generally a full screenplay is going to be between 90 and 120 pages, it is not unreasonable that a month would be sufficient time for writing and editing, as long as I keep at it.

My main concern was whether I would have enough ideas to keep going, because new ones come up all the time, but what if they didn’t. As it was, I went through the stable of things that I have largely or partially plotted out, and there were nineteen, and just writing a smart aleck comment to one friend I came up with another plot idea, so this is doable.

There are a couple of things that could make me change my goal. The big one would be if I felt that it was compromising quality. I don’t anticipate that happening, but if does, it would be a strong reason to change things around.

The other possibility is if I get a chance to take a film break. I am a writer first and foremost, but I do get possessive of my stories, and that can make one a control freak. So even though I do not necessarily need to be an actress, director, or producer, I might try my hand at it, at least with some short pieces. Doing so might actually give me some opportunities to advance my writing career, so I can’t rule it out. If I need to recruit actors at some point, I will probably do that through Facebook.

I believe the project I will be starting tomorrow will be a darkly comic detective story involving criminal clowns, but I might find myself pulled in another direction. It’s funny how that works sometimes. Other possibilities include a sort of coming of age tale set in the world of ballroom dance, a first date that goes south thanks to the powerful corn lobby, two spoof/parody pieces, a Bay-sian special effects thriller, an inspiring sports movie, a screwball comedy set during the Great Depression (nothing says “funny” like depression), an update of a Moliere play, a tense political chess game, a couple of candidates for Lifetime Movies for Women, a couple of animated features, a ghost story unraveled by a spunky feminist college student just after WWII, and a remake of a Hitchcock classic.

I would love to do a Christmas special and see if a new one can be good, but without the glow of nostalgia I’m not sure a new one can make it. Also, with “Hungry”, I know what will happen to the characters for two sequels and a spin-off TV series with one of the secondary characters. (I have two other series ideas, but I am focusing on the movie side now.)

“Hungry” is kind of a problem. Of the three I have completed, it is simultaneously the easiest sell, the easiest one to turn over to independent filmmakers, and the one I want most to do myself. Well, it’s been percolating twenty-three years—it ought to be versatile.

We’ll see how things go. I will need to start calling agencies again soon. I might put it off an additional week, because next week I am taking a class on tax preparation, hoping to come up with another day job, at least temporarily.

I have other goals for the New Year. I want to continue my weight loss and become more active, of course. That is not so much a new thing as trying to keep on in the direction I have been. I also want to keep in better touch with my cousins, which means brushing up on my Italian. When I am there for a few days, I become pretty functional, but surrounded by English here it becomes hard to remember the simplest things. For regular resolutions, I am trying to quit playing with my hair (I keep messing with the tangles, and it’s like I’m verging on trichotillomania), and keep my thoughts pure. Should be a fun year.

My year on the internet – 314

My writing yesterday ended up primarily about how I have grown over the year, and it was actually pretty significant. So while these last few months, especially in the last few weeks, have been incredibly hard, I guess I can’t really call 2008 a bad year. It was a year of growth and adventure, and 2009 will probably be that way too.

It seemed like bad planning that I needed to take Mom to Italy the same year I was accompanying Julie and Maria to Australia, but I felt like we needed to go. I thought it was so she could spend time with Elda again, because they are very close, but she is going on eighty-seven and there was a real concern that they would not have another chance. I never dreamed Paolo would be the one to go. He is the youngest next to Mom, and was the heartiest, and it’s just not something that we saw coming. It took up money and vacation time, but I can’t regret going. I’m glad we had that chance.

I’ve already stated that I don’t regret Australia and New Zealand, and that’s still true. Maybe I should, but it was a great trip, and I’m glad I went.

I certainly don’t regret the personal growth, and I don’t regret the way that it happened, even if I have had some qualms.

In 2006 and 2007 I was working on my self-analysis paper, and it was good, but it wasn’t enough. I needed to break down my boundaries of privacy, secrecy really, and just stop being afraid of letting people see my weakness. I have learned a few things from this.

One is that being open helps other people. This has been something that I have observed more with my church friends, but sometimes it is a real help to see that you are not the only one who struggles. Maybe it is because of the church setting. We show up nicely dressed and talk about doing what is right, and people often end up feeling like everyone else is perfect (which rarely happens with your coworkers). If you think that everyone else is what you see there, while you, familiar with your own life, know that you are a mess, that can be kind of lonely. A little candor reveals that really, everyone is kind of a mess, but not really because we are all dealing with our messes, most of the time successfully (sooner or later).

The other thing that has been wonderful is finding that people care. I guess the problem at my core was that I believed that if people saw my weaknesses they wouldn’t like me or would use it against me. I’m not even sure why you couldn’t let it happen, but it was clearly bad, and thus my father was always right, even though he frequently was not.

It turns out that when you are down and struggling, people can be really nice. They care, and provide encouraging words, and back you up. Combining this with the fact that acknowledging your errors leaves room for correcting them, it really makes the world a better place. It’s nice to not always have to be the strong one.

Technology has blessed me a lot with this. My blog has been my platform for being open and just putting things out there, be they good, bad, or ugly. I have joked sometimes about my regular six readers, because that’s what I had originally (it has grown a bit), so on one level exposing your soft underbelly to six people is not huge, but still, once on the World Wide Web, it can never truly be retracted, so it has taken a bit of courage, and it has worked. I’m sure blogging about one’s problems is not an all-purpose answer, but it’s been good for me.

The other thing that has been really great is Facebook. I only started my profile in October, after getting back from New Zealand, so I am still relatively new to this, but I have still reconnected with lots of people, and that has been great. This is where some of the support has come from. You can reach out to people easily and have them reach back, and while it can be quick and easy that does not necessarily make it shallow.

It has been great seeing different aspects of people. I’ve been reconnecting with people from all over, but I think the most fun has been people from high school. Oddly, of the four friends I have really kept in touch with from Five Oaks and Aloha, not a single one is on Facebook, so these reconnections have all been new ones.

It is great to see the different aspects of people. Most of us have turned out okay so far. The most profound part has been seeing people as parents, I think. It is just so far from what we were back then, and it is such a natural fit now.

I don’t know that I would have liked it so much before. In the past when I have run into people, it was always unexpected, and usually I was a wreck, like I was out berry picking and was covered in juice and thorns and leaves, but needed to run into the store for pectin. Hi Adam! Or I would be in restaurants or cafes eating, and having body issues felt awkward about that. Sorry John. Getting to do this now where I am feeling more comfortable with myself helps, plus no one knows if I am physically messy. I can type in my nightgown or a ball gown, and it makes no difference whatsoever. So, I am comfortable getting in touch with anyone.

This is also where some of the qualms have come in. For one thing, I was reluctant to add Aaron and Bob as friends because of the way our relationships were when we last saw each other. I felt like if they added me it was fine, but the last thing I needed was for them to get weird ideas about, “Oh, she still wants me.” I held out, but I would keep seeing their comments and photos through mutual friends, and holding off made me feel petty.

In addition, I realized that my whole last three years has been about not worrying about what people think, only worrying about the truth. So if they were still like that, which one would hope was not the case, it still wouldn’t be my problem. So, I added them as friends, with no ill effects. Actually, now that we are apparently past all the adolescent stupidity, Bob is really fun. He posts often and is generally humorous, so it’s fun getting those updates.

That kind of leads into the other qualm. Even if I strive not to worry about other people’s opinions, feelings do matter, and we don’t live in a vacuum. Writing about my hard times often meant writing about other people, and once it becomes conceivable that they could read about their selves I started to wonder if I needed to post any retractions. I thought of some that I could write:

· Even though I said that I did not like him because of his looks, he was nonetheless very good looking.
· I’m sure he would have been able to make varsity anyway, even if there were more people who wanted to play.
· Obviously he has matured a lot now.

I haven’t posted any retractions so far. For one thing, however many people make it to my blog, I doubt they’ll be combing back over old posts. Also, I think I generally did a good job of being even-handed, and pointing out extenuating circumstances. Like I did write about one girl that if we had still been in school together, I know we would have made up, but it was just too easy to not talk. Now we are friends through Facebook, and I am glad, and I did write her possible viewpoint when I posted then, so probably okay. I never wrote anything that was untrue, it’s just that we were all a lot less mature then, me included.

If anyone wants to know if they are mentioned and where, let me know. If after that you want me to write something about how you rescued a kitten, or are a solid citizen now, it’s totally a possibility. As it is, there are probably only four people who look bad. Three of them were from the traumatic incident in junior high (February 9th post), they have very common names, and I don’t think anyone reading it would realize the specific participants unless they were there and still remembered it. Even with that, thinking about it later I think I know how it got started, and I don’t think Jason (I feel compelled to write that this is not Jason C, and I think that will be good enough) meant for anything bad to happen. He wasn’t really the biggest part of it anyway.

For the other person who might be reasonably unhappy with his portrayal, eh, I could have said worse.