Thursday, December 31, 2009

A year in pictures

New Year’s has become one of my favorite holidays. It’s not that I generally do anything special, but I do feel a sense of optimism and renewal, if for no other reason than that I still haven’t learned that the next year will probably be just as hard and I will stay just as single. Well, it’s a fairly benign delusion.

Anyway, being a rather traditional sort, I made four resolutions for 2009. I wavered horribly on keeping my thoughts pure, and even if I am doing pretty well now, it in no way counts as keeping it. My borderline OCD habit of playing with my hair continues unimpaired, and I am just lucky that it is not full-blown trichotillomania. And while I did complete one screenplay (Past Present, formerly Dark Secrets) in one month (January), I did not keep that pace up for the rest of the year (though there are reasons why that is not so bad, which I may get to in another post).

I did manage to keep one resolution, but it was kind of the easiest. I did take and post a different picture of me every month. I ran a little late one month, and certainly many of the pictures are lame, but I did it.

The reason I made the resolution in the first place was because I really hate having my picture taken. I hate the way I look in pictures. I am not thrilled about the way I look in 3-D, and having it flattened and then saved makes it worse. Hate.

However, there are valid reasons for allowing your image to be captured on film, and possibly this distaste for one’s image can be unhealthy, so I went for it. The goal was to just become inured to it, I guess.

It was semi-successful. I do cringe less now, so I guess I have built up some immunity. I had also entertained this hope that I would somehow become better looking (re: thinner) over the course of the year, but I am about the same (that is another topic for a different day). Maybe I need to appreciate my current incarnation more before I can reach my full potential.

The primary benefit has been in seeing other’s comments. People are nice. They use words like “cute” and “great smile”. This has been weird for me, because what I see is more along the lines of “Egad, that stomach! And those thighs, and arms, and, for crying out loud! I don’t have trouble spots—I have a trouble body! And sure, I know I brushed my hair today because I remember doing it, but there is absolutely no evidence of it happening. I’m dressed like a ragamuffin, and why am I such a dork?” So there’s a bit of a disconnect.

In some ways this is not a surprise, because when I run into people they are always telling me that I haven’t aged, and I look exactly the same. In my mind I am thinking that I cut my hair short and grew it long again two or three times, and that I have gained at least five dress sizes since high school, and I know of the existence of fine lines, but really, the things that make people look like they have aged are weight gain and hard living, and I don’t live hard and I was already fat, so there is less room for people to notice decay. (Thinning hair can add age too, but that hasn’t been an issue for me yet, and some people really rock the bald look.) So, okay, I look good for me, because I didn’t have a lot to lose. But I don’t really think people are thinking this; I just think it might be a subconscious factor.

On another level, the niceness makes sense, because it would just be completely inappropriate for people to make mean comments. Social networking would probably be a lot less popular if people used it for personal criticisms.

Also, people are probably more kindly disposed, because after all, I know that I would never think as mean thoughts about someone else as I do about myself. (Well, I do think that heavy people wearing skimpy clothing is a bad idea, and no one needs to see the jiggling. Still, even when you’re skinny, bad skin can make it look unattractive, and even if you are one of the select few who can look good uncovered, you are ultimately just contributing to your own objectification, so give modesty a chance!)

Anyway, this is where it gets tricky. Any improvements that I should make require clear eyes, and a realistic take on where improvement is needed, and yet there is a line there where seeing that negative becomes destructive, and cruel. I’ve never been really good at that balancing act. I like myself a lot better now than I have at past times, and there are ways in which I am balanced, but I still have a mental block that attractiveness can ever exist in the presence of fat.

So I guess taking the pictures is in some way a step of trying to fit the behavior to the goal instead of the reality. I’ll give an example. Once upon a time, I would try and excuse away compliments, either explaining why it wasn’t really that good, or denying, or so on. I learned that this made people try and assert the compliment more. (The same thing happens with thanks—if you say “No problem” or “It was nothing”, they keep going. A good “You’re welcome” can nip that in the bud.)

Anyway, I started thanking people for compliments. Even though I believed they were wrong about whatever they thought that they saw in me that was good, I would just accept it. Although there were other steps that were needed before I could sincerely appreciate the compliment, it was a step in the right direction.

So, since I do not want to be the frustrating person who does not cooperate with the photographer, and since I do not want to hate the way I look, I have taken multiple pictures this year, and shared them on my profile. I do not love any of them (I hate the pictures someone else posted from a friend’s baby shower—I would completely eradicate them if I could), but I am dealing with them.

I am making some progress. With this last one, I could kind of see what people mean about the smile, at least. I usually do look happy. I generally am happy, so probably there is some sincerity to it. Also, I do have good teeth. Okay, I have always known that, but it’s nice to know that it counts for something.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Happy Holidays!







I am not offended by this phrase.

First of all, I remember people saying (and singing) Happy Holidays long before they worried about political correctness. It made sense. Over a relatively short span you have three federal holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Many people had additional work holidays on the day after Thanksgiving and eves of Christmas and New Year.

I suppose there was also a vague awareness of other events in there, like Boxing Day, Epiphany, Santa Lucia, and the official start of winter, but even if you only focused on Christmas, it was more than one day. There are parties and preparations where it really becomes a holiday season that lasts for a while. It is the holidays.

When I was pretty young schools started throwing token nods to Hanukkah, where we would sing one Hanukkah song amidst the twenty Christmas songs. I don’t remember singing any overtly spiritual songs, but one friend did remember singing Happy Birthday to Jesus in choir class, and did not feel completely comfortable doing so.

(I think if you are going to be religious in a public school, there are much better song selections than that. “Happy birthday to you” is overrated anyway, and throwing our Lord and Savior into a song that you would sing to a three-year old, and where people commonly add parts about smelling like a monkey, does not seem particularly reverent.)

Now it seems like there is controversy over everything. Certainly, I think some people carry it to far, like the school where the children learned two Hanukkah songs and no Christmas songs—okay, that does seem like overkill. But I am more concerned with the other side, where “Christian” people seem to feel like any attempt to refrain from shoving our traditions down the throats of others is a war on Christmas.

Really? Is Christmas under siege? The television is running Christmas specials and movies and commercials with Santa and elves. The stores are running sales, and have aisles full of cards and wrapping paper and decorations. Yes, there are a few small shelves of Hanukkah merchandise and maybe there are some Kwanzaa cards (the Kwanzaa focus tries to stay non-commercial, so Kwanzaa-themed merchandise would be kind of a Pyrrhic victory), but really, Christmas dominates the scene. Does the cashier wishing you “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” really victimize you that much?

And let’s remember that the separation of church and state does have the potential to make government better, but that is also necessary as a protection to the public. Do you really want the schools teaching your children about Christmas? Can’t you do it better? Because even if you take away the religious aspects, different families do different things with Santa Clause too.

I am sure that many schools get carried away, but let’s remember that most of them are making decisions not based on state law, but on what they think will work for their student body. If they go too far, get involved and try to make things better, but keep in mind that consideration of others could be considered a Christian value. If there are others who don’t share your beliefs, they are still your brothers and sisters, they have the right to their own beliefs, and making others feel persecuted and isolated is not a good path to conversion. Well, okay, isolation does work for cults, but is that the message you want to send?

I keep seeing various people saying that they don’t feel the holiday spirit this year. Let’s face it, the bad economy and the turmoil in the world has taken a toll. Just as we started to recover from the police shootings and domestic shootings, a new one happens that was both. These things are hard.

At the same time, our reactions and our behavior can rise above these things, or it can send us further below. Taking offense, trying to force your beliefs on others, and looking on sensitivity to the feelings of others as a weakness does not fit in there. Saying “Merry Christmas” with a sense of spite, like “Ha! In your face!” does not fit in there. As those sentiments spread through society over politics and religion and other areas, beyond Christmas, good feelings get pushed out.

And let’s remember, the trappings of Christmas often have very little to do with Christ. You can find Christian symbolism and tradition, but there are pagan roots. Many early Protestant denominations were very anti-Christmas as a Popish pagan remnant. Some Christian religions now still eschew holidays because of how they can distract from what is really important, and other Christian groups decry the commercialism of Christmas and encourage people to cut back. Are they the enemy too?

If the Christmas spirit is the spirit of Christ, then it follows that it is the Spirit. Well, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

I am a true Christian. I don’t just believe in living Christian values, but I also believe that salvation comes through Christ, that He was literally the Son of God, and that angels and shepherds and wise men bore witness. I believe that He conquered sin by suffering and death by resurrection. I believe the words of the prophets, who foretold that He would come, and tell us that He will come again. I believe that obedience is necessary, including ordinances like baptism.

But, I also believe that God is no respecter of persons, and that there is a plan in place for those who do not believe or do not get a chance to learn in this life. I believe that we should share the Gospel, but we need to do it through love unfeigned, and not in a spirit of contention. And I believe in modern revelation, which lets me know that Jesus was born on April 6th, not December 25th. Some people will tell you that some of those beliefs prove that I am actually not a Christian, but it’s not their call, and I will try and maintain a spirit of love for them too.

You know what we added to our Christmas display this year? Monkeys. Nope, they do not have a thing to do with Christmas, but they were cute, and on sale, and cheaper than the penguin, which we also considered, and which also has nothing to do with Christmas.

If we had a giant manger scene on our front lawn, that might remind some people or teach some people about the true meaning of the season, and that could be good. If they saw me as a bad neighbor though—spiteful, judgmental, and easily offended—I would be bearing a false witness, and sending the wrong message.

If you feel it in your hearts to say Merry Christmas, great, I will say it back to you and wish you the best. If you say it to someone else, and it bothers them, apologize. Feel Christ-like love for them, so that they associate Christmas with love, and greater consideration, and with peace and good will.

If you are not particularly religious, but you do still celebrate Christmas, and you find that somehow your Christmas shopping, because it causes you to be thinking of others, softens your heart, and you like that feeling, great. Hold on to that. It does feel good to care about others, and to not be focused on your self.

If you don’t celebrate Christmas—I still wish you joy. Because whether you know it or not, I know that you are a child of God, and every year my heart becomes softer towards you.

Christmas used to be a lot of exciting buildup followed by a let-down for me. Now the holiday season feels a lot like the rest of the year, but the rest of the year feels like peace and love and celebrating small moments. I enjoy it, and it stays me with. It makes me happy.

Happy holidays to you.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Requiem for a mouse


Saturday morning my sisters said the computer wasn’t working. It seemed to be hanging on the simplest functions, and I was worried that the hard drive was going out. I tried different things, as you do, and realized that the problem was that even though the point function on the mouse was just fine, it had lost its ability to click. Thus ends the long saga of my special mouse.

My first two terms of college, I took a typewriter. Personal computers were still pretty rare. One roommate had a word processor and that was impressive. After a break for earning money, serving a mission, and earning more money, I returned to U of O for Spring ’95, and found that the situation had changed. PCs were becoming essential, and I was going to have to get one. As fall approached I went to Circuit City and purchased a Compaq 486 running Windows 3.1. This was a generation behind, but that made it cheaper.

Off I went to school, and all was going well until after a few weeks the mouse quit working. I called tech support and they said they would send out a new one, but what they ended up sending out was this remote control device that supposedly had mouse functions but was not working well—besides, I wanted a mouse. Rather than call back I walked over to the campus bookstore and checked out the offerings. I had no technical knowledge to go on. I still needed to be price conscious, but I thought getting the absolute cheapest ($5.00) one might be a bad idea, so I got the second cheapest, a Logitech. (I think it was about a $11.00, but definitely not more than $15.00.)

It worked great, but I didn’t really think about it much at the time. I finished college, took various jobs, and eventually landed at Intel, where I started to become more tech-savvy. I saw how frequently one could have problems with a track-an-ball mouse, but I never had problems with mine. Maybe this is why when Julie (who was now also an Intel employee, but I had gone from contractor to hired to laid off and then back to contractor) got a new HP through an employee program, well, it was a good computer and nice to have an upgrade, but I kept using the mouse, letting the HP one go with the old system. The Logitech kept chugging along.

Time went on and I built a PC (the clear acrylic case monstrosity), and as I was selecting all of the sleek new components I did buy a new mouse, but I couldn’t bear to switch it out, so I kept using the Logitech.

When the hard disk on the clear one started to go, and it was reinforced what a pain that case was to work with, it was time for an Antec, and I built an even fancier new computer. Sure, it could have made sense to change out the mouse, but at this point it was kind of a challenge—how long could it actually keep going? Well, that was 2007, I think, so I guess about two years.

That brings its total to fourteen years. Do you have any idea how long that is in technological time? Microsoft has released seven operating systems (assuming we count NT, which was not usually used on PCs, and 7 which is still not in large use, but still). Back then, people still used 5 inch floppies, printers connected through a parallel port, and USB didn’t even exist. People frequently had computers without even worrying about an internet connection. (The web started really becoming cool about three years later, if I recall correctly.) I can’t remember how large the hard drive on the Compaq was, but in 1998 or 1999m, I remember thinking how cool a 1 Gig hard drive would be—anyone care for a 200 Gig drive? Because that’s kind of small now. Shoot, you can put 1 Gig on your keychain and it’s nothing. The processors have changed so much, I don’t even know how to express it in a way that does it justice. Gordon Moore probably could. Also, the mouse outlasted Circuit City.

Julie’s first comment on the new mouse was to express pleasure that it had a wheel, because that makes it easier. Well, that is a fancy new invention, like optical mice with infrared wireless connections. Sure, my mouse was not fancy, but it was a trooper. It has seen me through a 20-page term paper (Historigraphy of the Buffalo Soldiers) that required an incomplete and bled over into the next term, my only ever A+ essay in French (on Moliere’s Dom Juan), and created the page layout for the History Department newsletter.

That mouse has navigated through submitting well over a hundred job applications while I was unemployed, helped me enter over 7500 names into Personal Ancestral File, and played way more games of Freecell, Minesweeper, Spider Solitaire, Diamond Mine, and various Netives applications than any productive person should.

With that mouse, I have written a novel, six screenplays, a children’s book, and the first episode and bible of a television series, as well as countless letters, blogs, and journal entries. Sure, there was always a keyboard there, but I am very much a mouse girl for navigation and commands. (Not to mention all of Maria’s chat and Facebook use, which is very mouse-intensive.)

So, it’s an impressive achievement, and there’s a part of me that feels like it deserves honorable burial, and more of me that gets—Hey, it is an inanimate object, and should be recycled. However, I do appreciate good craftsmanship and durability, so the real resolution is that Logitech has me as a customer for life (over the course of which I could purchase as many as four more mice).

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Where has Gina been?

Good question! I’ve been right here actually, and I have even been writing a lot. It just hasn’t been blogging.

At the time of my last update, I had been to the Writer’s Conference and looking for my next steps there, and I had just started a new job. Jobs take time—way more than forty hours a week—so that had an impact, but I will not complain because I needed the job, and it’s been a pretty good one.

For the conference, well, one person was supposed to get back to me, and did not, which was disappointing, but more to the point, I tried starting a new screenplay and it was not flowing at all. There were a lot of adjustments to be made to my new schedule, and I took other projects on, but also I felt kind of at loose ends. Every now and then, you need to make sure you are still on the right track.

Since the last post September 1st and today, I have written about 46 journal pages. Some of that is capturing e-mail exchanges and letters that I have written to other people, but a lot of it is me trying to figure out what I should be doing, and sometimes heading in the wrong direction, and then finally getting to where I am now, where I am not only ready to blog again but excited about it.

So, expect to be caught up on things over the next few posts, including what I am not focusing on as well as what I am. However, I think the next post will be a memorial.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

More thoughts on the Writers Conference

I was worried that I may not have been clear enough on something in my last post. With the pitches, even though pitching to someone who is not interested is not at all fun, I don’t have any resentment about it. I know they are looking at the bottom line, and they should be. If the company that puts its trust in me goes bankrupt because they are not making sound financial decisions, that doesn’t do any of us any good.

In terms of whether they are right about whether it can make money or not, that’s truly anyone’s guess. In one of the workshops, a speaker was discussing the success of Gran Torino. The way it got made was that someone who read it knew Clint Eastwood’s lawyer, or something like that, and it got to Clint and he loved it. The fact that it should have been relatively low-budget probably helped with it get the green light, as well as having Clint on board. (And I have heard that Clint can basically get what he wants made, because he is very responsible, coming in on time and within budget, and so he has a proven track record beyond ticket sales.)

Anyway, his theory on the success of the movie is that someone taking control in a bad situation is resonating with people in this economy. In good times people flock more to darker movies, and in bad times they want the feel good movies. That makes sense, other than that I am not positive that Gran Torino counts as a feel-good picture. The main point from that though, is that from starting a screenplay to the time a film hits theaters, a lot of time goes by. There’s a limit to how much can be predicted.

So to some extent, a picture taking off and being successful is a matter of luck. It can be a great movie and flounder, and horrible movies can be wildly successful, and that’s not getting into all of the different levels on which movies can be good and bad. And that realization should bring a huge dose of perspective to anyone who wants to work in the industry.

Actually, I was chatting about this with a friend who also writes, and my philosophy is that writing is a lousy way to become rich and famous. It can happen, but there are lots more reliable methods. Writers do a lot of work that they may never get paid for. To get paid, you need to bring it up to other people, many of whom don’t really want to talk to anyone new. When you can get them to look, they pass judgment on this part of you, and they have to place a potential monetary value on something that is infinitely personal. Before you even get to that point there is the frustration of times when things aren’t clicking, and they don’t sound right, or when you have writer’s block and you are getting nothing at all. You would have to be crazy to sign up for that.

I write because I have to. I am not at peace unless I have written. Sure, what I wrote leading up to that does not sound peaceful, but in the journaling and blogging I get things worked out. I have a tendency to think in circles when I am leaving it in my brain. Putting it to paper (or keyboard and screen, actually), allows me to actually move forward and get somewhere. There is satisfaction in bringing out this order, and there is great satisfaction in having a story come to life, and reaching those moments where you find the solution to the problem, and it is brilliant. Occasionally there are bits of perfection.

And so if you have to write (and I do), well, then maybe it is worth trying to get paid for it. I am trying to sell for two reasons. One is so I can write more. If I am earning money doing what I enjoy, I can do more of it. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the other jobs I’ve had. Some are better than others, but ultimately, we’re workers in my family, and if you give us something to do we will do it, and we will make a good job of it, and there is satisfaction there, even when other elements of it may be soul-killing. Still, this other job takes time that could be spent on writing and researching and planning other projects. (It’s not a total loss. I never would have written Corporate Malfeasance without having spent time in the tech sector.)

The other reason I am trying to market my work is that it feels like it needs to go somewhere. I want to share it. I want other people to be excited and thrilled and satisfied with how things are resolved. More money would be nice, especially now after eleven months without working, but I don’t need to be wealthy. I’ve been pretty happy on my tech sector wages. I would be more comfortable making as much as an engineer, and a doctor’s salary would put me over the moon, but I don’t need millions. It’s really not about that. And frankly, that’s good, because I’m looking at something very unpredictable. If all I cared about was the money, I would be facing a lot of disappointment. It’s disappointing enough when people don’t like your ideas (or don’t think they can sell them), but there is still the gratification of the writing—finding the perfect words, finding the logic that justifies what you imagine happening (and it does actually make sense), and just getting all the dots to connect into something that makes you happy. I couldn’t stop that if I wanted to.

There were a couple of hopeful signs. The one producer did not get back to me, and I sent a reminder message, and there is still nothing, so that’s probably a wash. On the bright side, one pitch recipient did seem somewhat impressed by my ability to come up with different kinds of ideas. This is important. One fun thing about the panel was that people were asking what they look for and all they could say was that they know when they see it. You can’t give out a formula for writing a good script, even if there are some general guidelines you can provide. However, one thing that was important to the agents is that the person will keep writing. Delivering one good script is great, but they want someone who will keep producing new things. I can do that.

(I was also complimented on being able to convey the material well, which I admit I had doubts about, so that was reassuring.)

The other thing that was interesting to me was reading some pitching advice. It wasn’t about the pitch specifically, but related to picking material that can sell. As an example he mentioned historical dramas. Sure, every now and then they are successful, but they are not sure-fire, and they are expensive and complicated (great award fodder though), so when the studio does one, they are going to use a proven screenwriter. But I liked what he said. He said if you have a historical piece that you are itching to write, write it. Write what is in you, and then put it away and work on other things you can actually sell. Once you have made a name for yourself, and someone asks what else you have, then it can be the right time for your period piece.

I think he addressed the issue there nicely. It is a business, and you have to write what is in you. Somehow you have to balance those two sides.

I don’t think I have a single tent pole/blockbuster in my arsenal right now. I might have some nice indie pieces, but mainly I am writing what is in me, and just trying to make it good. Honestly, after Josh died, I don’t think I could have written anything other than Past Present. It needed to come out then. It may not have an audience at all, but I don’t regret writing it. The artist needs to write good stories, the businesswoman needs to network, and make sure there is variety, and have a clear-headed view of the less artistic side of the business.

And both sides need to accept that a lot of it is luck.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Writers Conference Update

Friday was a big day for me. I had arranged to have four pitches, and I had registered months ago. In that time, two of my selections canceled, and then one of the alternates canceled. Each time, I picked new people. Thursday night as I was double-checking the biographies and deciding what to pitch to whom, I saw that one more person had canceled. That was going to have to be fixed at the conference.

I had been reading various tips for pitching, and one thing that seemed to be very important was a one-sheet. This does have information about the film, but it also has your contact information, which is very important. At least at something like this, no one buys anything there. The best possible outcome is that they will contact you and ask for the screenplay, or give you their information to contact them.

Unfortunately, I could not find any sample one-sheets. I did find some descriptions, and they were talking about graphics and colors, and that was just not something I was going to pull off. I ended up just doing the film title at the top in 16 point font, the genre in parentheses right below, then a tag line, and then a short summary of the plot, with my contact information in the lower left. Apparently, I should also have come up with log lines. Well, next time I will know.

I have been having a hard time finishing Coulrophobia, but I really wanted to pitch it, and you don’t pitch unfinished things at something like this (someone with an established reputation could pitch a concept, but those people are buying pitches).

So the first point of business was to just push through and finish the script. I did that. Then I worked on one-sheets. I did them for Coulrophobia, Jade Mask, Hungry, and Dark Secrets, but I am calling it Past Present now, which I like better.

I was going to need to be up really early. I was only an hour later than originally intended for going to bed, which was not bad at all, but being glued to my chair, and concentrating, and nervous, left my thigh muscles really tight. That has not completely let up yet. That’s not usually where I carry my tension, but it might actually be better than in the back or the stomach. I have certainly had worse headaches.

I was worried about the logistics of getting to the conference, because Tri-met trip planner said there are no stops within walking distance of the Portland Airport Sheraton. I knew they had an airport shuttle, so I thought I could go to the airport and try that. As it was, I saw their sister hotel, Aloft, from the Max line, and got off at the next stop and walked down there, figuring the Sheraton would be within walking distance, because they share parking. Well, that wasn’t quite right, but there was a shuttle between the two hotels, and that got me there, and against all odds I had time to check in, and listen to some of a panel discussion before my first pitch.

The first pitch was the best by far. First of all, she was very kind and gave me good feedback. Also, she said she will contact me and request the one screenplay, so that is excellent. Still, it revealed definite weaknesses. One is that all of my careful selection was way off base. I thought Past Present would be the best for her, and it was not really something her company would do. However, she did like Coulrophobia, which was the last thing that I would have thought to pitch her. I only mentioned it because you have a strong female character, and she was really intrigued. For the rest of the day, I was wrong on what I thought people would like. (Though perhaps my instinct for picking producers was good, because she was one of my original choices, and almost everyone else was a reschedule.)

For my second pitch, I pitched Jade Mask. He didn’t want that because it was a CIA story, and there are tons of those since the Bourne Identity. The wheelchair aspect wasn’t different enough. I threw out Hungry then, and that was no good because everyone has vampire stories after Twilight. On the one hand, I was thinking that okay, but a vampire story can mean Twilight, or 30 Days of Night, or Underworld, or Let the Right One In, and those are all completely different, and Hungry is like none of them. For him, if you weren’t either something completely new, or taking an old genre and reinventing it, it was a pass. I believe in his case the issue is that he has access to lots of good writers who are known quantities, so an unknown has to offer something really different.

The third pitch was even worse. I guess I peaked too early. In this case, I pitched Coulrophobia, and his issue was that the stakes weren’t high enough. That a cop is trying to catch thieves who killed someone was not enough. His example was that if they were stealing nuclear warheads, where the earth was in danger, that could raise the stakes, or if her discomfort with clowns was because her father was a clown and was bad, that would raise the emotional stakes. Her life ending up in danger because of the case, and just her wanting to solve the case, was not enough. Honestly, I think those examples would both make kind of stupid movies, but he was thinking off the cuff. The point seems to be that he wants really big stories.

For those two guys (why, yes, I am avoiding giving their names), I don’t think I have anything at this time that they would be interested in. I don’t think I would pitch to number three again, but if I had the right kind of story, maybe I would for two. What was really bad though, was that it became clear very early that we were not going anywhere, but then I had to stick it out. It’s like having no chemistry on a date, but you still need to stick it out. Fortunately, it was speed dating.

The fourth was a little bit different. I pitched Coulrophobia, and he just didn’t think he could market it, because clowns means kids, but it’s not for kids, and he was just not sure he could find the right audience. I talked to him about Out of Step, which he agreed would be more marketable if I had a package. For example, if I knew Julianne Hough, and could get her attached, he probably would have taken it.

The interesting thing is that I talked about Out of Step with the first one too, and she did have some interest, but it did not sound developed enough to her. I think that was an issue not of the script being developed enough, though, but of my not being ready to talk about it because I had not planned on talking about it. So I think one key lesson is that I should have worked on one-sheets for everything I have, just in case. Because, again, I don’t actually seem to know who will like what.

That is one thing that I would hope to find in an agent—some skill in targeting pitches.

With number four, I can see that if I had tailored my pitch more like a trailer, it might have gone over better. With a big studio, they want to know that it will make a lot of money. With a small company, they want to know that they can sell it to investors, or it will never get made. Well, there’s a broader spectrum than that, but it makes a difference.

Overall, I feel good about it. I did learn a lot, and since I do have a job again, well, money will still be tight, but I should be able to get by a little longer. I hope things work out with the first one, and that she does buy Coulrophobia, but I have to be realistic. There’s a good chance it won’t sell, and if it does it could take several months.

For now, I should be employed through at least January. During that time, I want to focus on getting more written. I am getting better all the time, and having multiple different offerings available is important.

I do want to start making the agency calls again. A lot of it is fruitless, but it is dues-paying.

Those will be my main areas of focus through the end of the year. After that, I need to see where I am. Submissions will start to open up for the Nicholls fellowship, and I should have some choices on what to submit, but I might have made some money by then, in which case I would be ineligible. Maybe then I will need to switch my focus to networking, or even going back to school. Could I go to film school?

Anyway, I will work hard, and I will hope for luck. It’s like this job. I had no way of predicting or knowing that the position would open up, or that my resume would come up for it. However, by sending out dozens of applications, I increased the odds of it coming up, and by being a hard, smart working once, someone I knew making the decision was an advantage. There’s what you can control, and there’s what you can’t, but that’s just life.

I’ve handled life before.

Monday, August 03, 2009

What’s happening now

First and foremost, I have a job. It is a temporary contract at Intel. (I am to Intel as Michael Corleone is to the Mafia.)

I have several concerns. It is temporary, and although it is better paying than a lot of the jobs I have applied for, I am not sure it will be enough to pay all my bills. Still, there is a lot of elation. I do have something again. I will have money coming in. Also, it is at a place where not having a business wardrobe is just about as unimportant as can be. That helps a lot. For the work, it fits in well with my skills. I will need to learn some new things, but I can do that.

Some time ago I wrote about how I was not getting any good advice about jobs, because people meant well, but the rules were different in this economy. Having found something in this economy, do I now have any great advice? Not really. Ultimately, I think what helped was that I have worked with the hiring manager before. She knows me, and my work ethic, and my abilities, and that helped. We did know that connections were important, but if you don’t have any connections, I still have no advice for how to get them.

There is one thing I can say that may be helpful. I did not hear about the job from this person, because I have not been in touch with her. That part was largely luck, but the luck was at least partly based on my sending my resume out to every place I could find. Sending out a hundred resumes and hearing nothing is pretty discouraging, but it may be necessary.

I start on Monday, August 10th, so it will be after the Willamette Writers Conference, which I am attending Friday, August 7th. I bought four pitching sessions, and have already had three of the people that I picked cancel. The substitutions should be okay, but it’s easy to start getting paranoid. Anyway, I would gladly have started work this week, but it may be just as well that I can focus on getting ready for the pitches.

A pitch is basically a ten-minute session with a producer or agent where you can “pitch” your script and see if they are interested. I only picked producers. I do need an agent, but if I can sell a screenplay, getting an agent will be much easier anyway.

It’s scary because I feel like so much depends on this, but I do need to set expectations low. This is my first time pitching, and it takes a while to break in. Friday may be nothing more than a learning experience. Even if it goes exceptionally well, the most that would happen that day is that someone would request that I send the script. Then, if they liked it after reading it, they could make an offer. This is where having the job is great. It buys me some time for something to happen.

So my activities this week will focus on getting ready for that. I need to consider which project would be best to pitch to each person. (Ideally, I would like to pitch something different to each one, but ultimately I will go with the project that will have the strongest appeal for each, whether there are duplicates or not.) I need to have a one sheet write-up for each, and figure out what my key talking points are, studying the art of pitching. I have started this a little, but I need to really focus.

I also need really need to finish Coulrophobia, because I think that one is very strong, and it is not advisable to pitch an unfinished script. I wish I had more done, but I am still making good progress, even if I have a long way to go.

I will also try and spend some time with Karen, do some prep for the setup for a wedding reception (not mine, obviously), pick blackberries, and just get other little odds and ends done, expecting that I will not have as much time around the house.

Oh, and at some point I will need to take a drug test. At least there’s one thing over which I have no anxiety.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Open mind

It’s interesting to me how some things will always stick with you. There are incidents you remember clearly, or contradictions that keep coming back to you, and sometimes maybe there’s a lesson there.

Along with writing about various struggles, I have written at times about worldview, and self-definition, and that maybe it is a mistake to even try and define yourself, because you might make it too narrow. I guess another issue is having self-definition as too fixed.

One thought that has come to me many times (though I don’t think I have ever written about it) is that I feel like I got all the easy stuff out of the way early, and then it was just this plateau. I gained a lot of spirituality early, and I learned to control my temper pretty well, but the issues that I have left that need correction are really hard ones where I fail a lot.

That is mainly weight, of course. I have often berated myself for being lazy in frustration as I continually fail to make any progress, and yet, that has not felt right either. This is that sense of contradiction I mentioned. I can work really hard, with great concentration and effort and patience. Usually those tasks are something finite, where it may take a while, but I know that it can be done. I think a big issue for me has been that I have never really believed that I could lose weight.

I wrote earlier about believing I was fat long before I was really fat, and how I did not want to think about it or examine it, which was what led to it becoming true without me realizing what was happening. I think I missed another factor, relating to how people can change things with work.

Let me back up. We moved here right before I started first grade. Kindergarten was not available in the public schools at that time, but it was still pretty standard for kids to go. I did not, and so I started grade school at a lower level than most of the kids. I was expected to be slow, but that’s not what happened.

I was put in the lowest reading group, where you just had ditto sheets assembled into little booklets, with stories about a tin man and a pig, because there were no words longer than three letters. I remember wanting to know what was in all the books, and vowing that I would get promoted to Pug (the second level), and make my way through all the different books. That’s not how it happened. After maybe two weeks or so, I was moved up to Green Feet, which was the highest reading group. So, my plans for conquering all of the books were thwarted, but now I was not regarded as slow.

That was good, and being intelligent was good, but this good thing in me did not feel like it required any effort. Everything was so easy that I developed no study habits to speak of. I would take my books home, ignore them completely while I read for pleasure or watched television, and then do my homework on the way to school and before school the next day. There was only one teacher who ever really called me on it. (That was Mr. Wright, fifth grade English. Apparently he graded me on my potential, triggering my first cycle of buckling down before bad habits and procrastination kicked in again.)

I have another example to illustrate this, but it is kind of obnoxious. At the beginning of fourth grade, the English teachers were explaining that there would be three levels of spelling tests: easy, medium, and hard. After I took the first one, I asked Mr. King when we would get to the hard ones. He just looked at me, irritated, and did not answer. Somehow, I had gotten the idea that we would all do easy ones for a while, and then medium ones, and I wanted the timeline for when it was going to get interesting. In reality, we had been divided into three groups, I was in the hard one, and he probably thought I was trying to show off. (To be fair, I am not generally obnoxious on purpose.)

Anyway, the point is that I never had to work at being smart. If I got bad grades, it was my own issues with time management, but never that I actually couldn’t do the work. And, from the way things were set up, I don’t remember anyone else progressing either. There were kids who were smart, and kids who weren’t. By the same token, there were kids who were athletic and kids who weren’t, and I don’t remember anyone making the transition. It’s stupid, really, because you hear that practicing is important and that effort is important, and yet I still felt like you just are what you are.

Perhaps I owe part of my epiphany to a King of the Hill episode (I love that show). In one, Bobby was preparing for the presidential fitness tests, and he was really working hard. He ended up able to do one pull-up, but he didn’t get the medal because the requirement was three. Still, Hank pointed out all the kids who didn’t even do one, and that he could work at it again for next year. I never believed that I could do the flexed-arm hang. I dutifully tried and failed each year, but if faith without works is dead, well, maybe works without faith are dead too.

I am trying to open my mind to the possibility that there are ways in which I actually can change. I don’t think it helps to say anything is possible. A lot of things are possible, but you know, I actually can’t become an Olympic gymnast now, and I don’t believe I could have then, even if I started when I was four. That’s okay though, because I don’t want to be an Olympic gymnast.

I would like to be at a healthy weight. I have set goals for this many, many times, but really, I never believed it would happen. I need to cast of the shackles of the mind. And, I need to think and see if there are other areas where I have limited myself. I guess it is time for some goal-setting again.

Realistically, I have been doing this self-exploration for I guess about four years now, and I do know that just because you identify a false belief, you are not automatically free from it. I also know that I have gotten better, and I believe I will continue to do so. If nothing else, I am grateful to be aware, of both my flaws and virtues, and I am grateful to be happy in spite of all the problems.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Oops!

When I do these posts, I write in a Word file that I call Blog Draft, and then I copy it into another file, Blog Log. The first is just so I have all the advantages of Word while I am writing, and do not have to stay on line (less of an issue with broadband, but I have these habits stemming from when I had dial-up), and the second is so I have a backup record. After all, the blog is kind of like a second journal for me.

The reason I mention this is that a friend commented on my last post, and it did not seem to be quite in sync with the message of the last post, so I reread it. Sometimes I do come off wrong, and it's good to know when it happens.

Well, somehow with the copy and paste, a line from the previous post got in. It just so happen that it fit in perfectly well grammatically, so no alarm bells went off, and it is a step in an internal narrative, which fit in the context. However, it did completely change the message.

So, when I said I felt grateful, and protected, that was the conclusion. Being plunged into despair was from earlier. It did happen, and it will probably happen again, but at that moment I felt good, and I carried it with me for a while. I will need other reminders, but that's just life.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Warning

I wanted to write a little bit about this experience that I had Friday. Julie and Maria had the day off, so we went to the Rose Garden and then Skateworld.

The garden part was fine, but I started to be really apprehensive about the skating. I went in and got the skates and put them on, and I even started going towards the rink with Julie, but I kept feeling like I shouldn’t do it.

Last time I went skating, it went okay to a point, and I felt like I really needed to go or Julie would be disappointed, but after going around the rink I felt prompted to take off my skates right away. I thought that was silly, since it was only a short distance to the place where you normally take them off anyway, but I immediately fell down. I landed on one arm that was sore and had limited movements for over six weeks.

Still, I had been able to navigate the rink okay, and I used to love roller-skating. I would like to be good at it again. So, I thought I would try this, and if I got any promptings I would follow them right away. Only I didn’t actually, because I felt this nervousness and was just trying to brush it aside as fear. The more I tried to ignore it, though, the louder it got, until it was like an internal scream. I thought, “What am I doing? This is the prompting.” So I took the skates off, which disappointed Julie greatly, and went back.

She and Maria went out a bit, but I think I kind of ruined it for them. Maybe it was that the rink was packed with little kids, but they didn’t go very far.

While I was waiting for them, I was sitting there, a bit disappointed, and doubting myself. After all, the problem with obeying promptings is that often you never know why—you just find out the hard way if you ignore it. But I asked, and I suddenly flashed to Sylvia and her injury. She fell and broke her elbow recently, and it has involved a lot of pain, and been very expensive, and has been worse because she is overweight.

That’s about the only thing that could make my life more depressing now. The physical pain would be hard, but that would be the least of it. Having huge medical bills with no insurance or income would devastate Mom, and especially if it was the elbow or arm, or wrist, it could affect my typing when I am trying to get a lot done here. It would be really bad. And suddenly I felt very grateful and protected.

Well, I need to remember that there is inspiration and protection, and focus on feeling grateful, and listening better. These are hard times. There is no getting past that. But they are still bearable, and that’s important.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Writing update

For those of you who don’t know, I double-majored in Romance Languages and History at U of O. One of the requirements of the history major was that you take a research seminar. You would do a lot of reading, attend weekly discussion groups on the reading, and then do a 20 page research paper. It was in no way as grueling as Information Gathering was for Journalism majors, or Organic Chemistry for various science majors, but it was still a lot of work, and I found it to be very difficult. The reading and discussion was fine, but I had no idea how to write a research paper.

My seminar was African Americans in the American West. Any seminar required professor permission, which basically required the professor believing that you would not be completely clueless. This seminar was taught by Quintard Taylor, and he had been my instructor for two terms of African American History. I had also taken History of the West and of the Pacific Northwest from Richard Brown, so I was reasonably well prepared, and I liked Dr. Taylor a lot. I had even found a document that he was going to add to the selected readings for the post Civil War era (a letter written by a former slave), so my historical knowledge going in was decent.

The first thing you need to do to write a decent paper is to pick a good topic, and something that you can write twenty pages about. This is where I wavered. The first thing that sparked my imagination was a line of poetry written by a Buffalo Soldier, so I focused on them. However, since it was the poetry, I should have focused on their writings or, since the line was about empathizing with the Native Americans that they had captured, I could have written about that relationship, and the conflicts. I wasn’t thinking like that though. Professor Taylor suggested that writing about the historiography of the Buffalo Soldiers could be interesting, so I did that. I didn’t have much to say about it.

In addition, so I started off checking out lots of different books, and trying to read them all, all the way through, and that is completely impractical in a situation like this. You need to skim and see if they have anything useful, and if they do, then dig deeper. I didn’t know that.

Anyway, I kept going along, finding lots of information (too much, actually), and not writing a word, and I eventually took an incomplete so I could have more time. I finished the paper over the next term, and it was a relief, but I didn’t feel like it was anything special, and it felt more like a regret than anything else. Of course, I had learned a lot about writing a research paper, but I was probably never going to have to do it again, so what was the point?

Well, maybe there were some other lessons about persistence, taking a break when you need it, how to do exhaustive research, and following your passion, but still, it didn’t seem like a huge gain. Maybe the real lesson is that if you are really going to use a degree in history, you will be doing post-graduate work, and then you will be doing very long papers, so get ready for that.

Anyway, I have just finished something that was very difficult, and that I may never have to do again.

A few months back, I saw that a friend’s Facebook status mentioned pitching show ideas. I asked her about it, and asked if she needed any ideas, because I had two. Well, I wrote them up for her (at her request; I’m not that aggressive), and she wanted one of them further developed. Expanding the character descriptions was not hard at all. Writing the pilot episode was a little harder, because timing it right for the time slot, including commercial breaks, was new to me, but it was still not that bad. Writing out 26 episode paragraphs nearly broke me.

I don’t remember how long ago I first thought of these characters, but I’ve visited them on and off, and I know some things that happen to them, but enough things to fill an entire season? I mean, if there were five seasons I could tell you the overall arc of each season, but still, breaking it down into 26 chunks? That’s one reason I like writing movies. You do what you want with the characters and they are done. Maybe there’s a sequel, but there doesn’t have to be. The point is, I have been working on this since May, and it was late May, and this is still relatively early in July, but it’s a long time. So, what have I learned?

Well, for one thing, I may never have to do this again, but if I do, I could, and I will probably be faster the next time, because I have learned some methods that work. That is a plus. Like the history paper, it took much longer than anticipated. That was frustrating. I did have to take some breaks, because I had other projects that I needed to get done (mainly Cowrite entries, but you know), so there were some times when I wrote a lot and some times when I wrote nothing. I am getting more consistent, but there is still room for improvement.

Speaking of Cowrite, well, I did not win a single week, but I did end up being a finalist for Week 10. This meant two things. One, my name was on the web page as a finalist (seriously, you can see it: http://cowritescript.com/read_approved_submissions.php). Also, I had the opportunity to submit one of my own scripts:

“Thank you for submitting OUT OF STEP. Although I thought it was well written, unfortunately we are going to pass at this time. Best of luck with it in the future.”

So, that’s a little discouraging, yes. On the other hand, that’s one person who has worked in the industry, including as a script reader, who says it was well written. Tara works in the industry, and thinks my series has potential. It has only been about a year since I completed my first screenplay, and I have had two professionals view my work, and basically completed four other scripts plus the television series. That’s not bad. (Of course, by now, I intended to be working on my tenth script instead of my sixth, but the contest and the television writing really threw things for a loop,) I would be ecstatic if I was employed and not worried about money.

Now I just really want to jump into finishing Coulrophobia and all of those other movies I have been putting off writing, but I do need to keep job hunting and, on the writing side, I really need to learn to pitch. I have four pitches coming up at the Willamette Writers Conference, and I can’t really afford it, but I did it anyway because it feels necessary. I need to make the most of it.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Welcome to the pit of despair

At the end of War and Peace, Tolstoy is writing about the old Countess, and that because she has physical needs at various times of the day she cries and laughs and sleeps, and they think it is because of one thing or another, like that when she cries it is because she is thinking of her dead husband, but really it is just that her body needs to do that. I have some doubts about his theories, but after yesterday it almost feels probable.

I feel like in general, I have been becoming more patient, and better about bearing this entire situation, but yesterday was a “last straw” kind of day. It all started off wrong when I went to brush my teeth and found my toothbrush in the garbage.

Now, let me be fully clear, I understand that it was an accident. There had been an extra one in there, which may be what Julie had before she switched to the electric one, but no one really knows. Maria had been getting annoyed with it, because it made things confusing (though maybe not as much as the fact that our brushes looked very similar). Anyway, she thought she was throwing out the extra, and she threw out mine.

This is not to say that she was not thoughtless and reckless. Considering that she has woken me up to have me fasten a bracelet or do something that I had offered to do the night before and she brushed me off, I just feel like she could have come and shown me the brush before tossing it in the trash. Still, she was not malicious, and I know that, but it just didn’t help. I was having crying jags about not being able to brush my teeth. It sounds idiotic, and even at the time I felt that it was ridiculous, but still, I kept coming back to the fact that my mouth felt gross, and I did not deserve to have this happen.

It didn’t necessarily make me ineffective. I still mowed the lawn and hung the laundry and wrote a grocery list, but in between I was having crying jags and trying to drink or eat things that would make my mouth feel fresh. (It was also a really bad allergy day, which probably did not help.)

When Maria got home from work she brought me a new toothbrush, and it was a relief to use it, but I was still angry and frustrated, and I had worse things to come. I had to go clothes shopping. I had mentioned it a few times, but no one remembered, or realized it was something I had to leave for, so I stomped off for the bus stop, changing to my sunglasses because I was in the middle of an extra long jag, and was dismayed to find the developmentally disabled teenager who lives across the street there as well. I could not muster being social, so I muttered a response to one thing he said and then avoided looking at him until the bus came. So, yes, I was mean to a special needs kid, just to add to my reign of terror.

Now, when I think of my worst snappish, depressed periods, many of them centered around times I needed to try and find clothing, so maybe part of my emotional state was knowing that this was coming. I am more likely to come out of a clothing store suicidal than ecstatic, and I know it. And honestly, how can an unemployed person justify clothes shopping? Well, I needed to go because of a job.

I have not had any good job leads, but there was this one for eight hours of work at ten dollars an hour. I was just at the two-hour orientation tonight, and then I will have a six-hour shift tomorrow. This is helping with this train tour that Disney is doing to promote their new A Christmas Carol movie.

Disney is very strict about the appearance of their cast members, even if only for a day, so I needed khaki pants or a khaki skirt (fortunately, I already had a pair of white shoes). I know, this is a very basic clothing item, and most people already have something, but I don’t. In terms of that whole dockers and button-down shirt or polo, office casual vibe, with my body, glasses, and curly hair, it sends me into “Pat” territory. You remember her—she was a Julia Sweeney character on Saturday Night Live, and no one could tell whether Pat was male or female—that is how I would look.

So I avoid those things. I know I am not exactly a fashion plate in my black knit pants solid-colored knit shirts, but they are inexpensive, and I feel like they don’t make me look worse than I need to. (Aiming high just isn’t realistic with my budget and body type.)

Basically, there is only one place to go, given the size that I am. Catherine’s carries large sizes, and there is another plus-size store, the Avenue, just on the other side of Marshalls, so you have a back-up (though the selection and service at the Avenue seems to be a lot worse).

There was not a lot of khaki. Shorts and capris were okay according to the guidelines, but with my gross leg, I never wear shorts. I found a few pants, and tried one pair. They were too long by quite a bit, and I could have tried hemming, but the middle section looked bad too. I tried the skirt.

The skirt did not fit quite right either, but it was better. Still, I balked at the price tag. It was $46.00. I couldn’t spend $46.00 to make $80.00! It was ludicrous. I started to feel like maybe I should just call in, and say I couldn’t do the job. I did check the Avenue, and seriously, there was nothing. I thought about calling in some more. Because there are four max trips also, all zones, meaning it is another $9.00 there, so once taxes and tithing come out, I am barely breaking even.

Also, the orientation conflicted with the memorial service for a friend’s mother, and I started having all of these other doubts, like what if I got there, and they didn’t have a t-shirt large enough for me, or they decided that I didn’t meet the criteria in some other way. I guess logic had gone out the window, but it just started feeling like nothing was right about this job.

Ultimately, those would have been good reasons not to take the job in the first place, but part of my thought was that it was getting me into the Volt database, and maybe I could get other jobs through that. Having said I would go, I had to go. So I bought the stupid skirt, and I guess it could be worse, but I also can’t really say that things are going well.

Things are just hard, and ultimately, when I was crying, it wasn’t just about the toothbrush, but also about being fat, and having a crummy wardrobe (which, maybe the best thing about Intel was that the wardrobe did not matter), and having been unemployed for nine months (with no end in sight, and being scared about that), and missing the times when I was the financially solvent one who helped others, and never having been in a real romantic relationship.

But the toothbrush did not help.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Dream Gina

No weight today. We thought it was the battery again, but we should have realized it was too soon for that. Nope, now the scale is broken. It might not be so bad, except we finally got the lawnmower replaced, only to have the dryer and vacuum break, and then Mom is going to require a lot of work on her car. Now we have been very blessed to have the dryer go out in the summer, when we can hang the laundry outside, and I know the scale is really very minor, but come on! Can we get a break here? Okay, rant over.

A friend of mine on Facebook just posted that she had a strange dream about me, where we were at the mall, and someone damaged my car so we were waiting around to confront them and the police came. The problems with this dream are that I don’t spend a lot of time at the mall, I don’t have a car, and I’m unlikely to get involved in a police incident, but she knew the dream was weird too.

This is actually less weird than some other dreams I have appeared in. Tricia once had one where I was teaching Sunday School, but I was smoking. People were a little freaked out, and I was snapping that I was trying to make a point, and they needed to give me a minute. That would be very uncharacteristic behavior.

More recently, Karen had a dream where I was naked. This one actually made perfect sense, which we both grasped right away. She is amazed by my openness, and sometimes worries about how vulnerable I am making myself, so that is a perfectly logical way for her to see me. If I dream myself naked, that means I am feeling vulnerable, but if you think about it, open and vulnerable go together so well they are practically synonyms, so it still works.

The interesting thing to me is that in the dreams of others I am doing things that I wouldn’t do, but when I dream about people they are usually being very much themselves, behaving in very typical ways. More than once I have relayed a dream to my sisters and had them ask “Are you sure that was a dream?” Not that they think I confused a dream event with a real event, but just that it all sounds so probable.

I have been pondering about dreams today because that difference is interesting to me. Now many people will tell you that in a dream, all of the other characters are really you. I’m not sure that’s really the case, though I think it holds with Karen’s dream. Yes, I truly am open, and she truly does care about me, but I think on another level she desires to be more open and is held back from it. That is why I did not bother asking her whether I looked good, even though I was a little curious.

So why doesn’t my family do anything wild and crazy? Maybe I know them too well for them to make good blank canvases. I’m not sure how much I have written about this, but about the time I was finishing up the document (you know, the one where I analyzed every aspect of my life for 200 pages) I had a dream that became the basis for my first screenplay. At the time, I thought it was just a sign that I was ready to move on, and really start my writing career because I had worked out all that stuff. That is probably true, but there may be more to it.

In the dream, I was walking down a street in Italy next to Barry, who is in a wheelchair. There was some sort of magic thing in a safe, and what would open the safe was a mask, and although he was supposed to be doing this as a job for someone else, his motivation was that the object he was after could help him to walk again. We were arguing because he wanted to just steal the mask, which I felt was wrong and impractical. (The supernatural elements did not end up being part of the screenplay, but the arguing did.)

I was concerned that I might have borrowed the thing with the mask from somewhere else, because it was such a strong image, so I asked if it sounded familiar to anyone on the IMBD message boards. One old friend there posted something interesting. He said the real question was what my mask was, and what treasure would come from uncovering it.

Well, a writing career would be a real treasure, but you could say that there has been more to it. For one thing, I thought finishing that document was it, and I was done, but then I found the need to revisit so many of the issues in the blog. I did need to be more open. I wouldn’t call myself a particularly dishonest person before, because I wasn’t in the habit of telling lies, but there was so little that I shared.

Now, it’s more like what have I not shared? And that may not be the answer for everyone, but it was necessary for me. I still don’t quite have my writing career, but I have a lot more courage and happiness, and I think I have helped some people, so there is treasure there.

Perhaps a more interesting question is “Why Barry?” We weren’t particularly close. Now, I suppose he may not have been acting like himself, because I don’t think he is a steal first, apologize later kind of guy. He was an interesting part of the process though, because later on I felt like I needed to tell him about the dream, and I did, but I realized I had not told him enough, so I needed to write him a note later. Becoming more open has been kind of a journey for me.

Maybe I should spend some more time paying attention to how others act in my dreams, to see if there are some keys there. If I know my family members too well for them to vary, maybe it will be different with non-family members. I do have a dream journal, though I am not consistent with it. Right now, I have just been having random image dreams, that fade away as soon as I wake up, so there has not been anything to write. That will change again.

I will say that if my dreams are special, and people are consistent with their true selves in them, especially if they are the same in each dream, then “Mitch”, you do love me. For crying out loud will you quit fighting it?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Lifelong fitness – 306.5

Yes, I am fluctuating again. It’s especially frustrating because I actually squeaked in under 300 (I should have posted on the day when I was 299.5), so I never wanted to go back up. Still, I have lost and kept off forty pounds this way, and I will slowly get the rest. This does make it a good time to write about exercise though, especially since I feel that is currently the most important area of focus.

For a lot of grade school I did really active things at recess, like jumping rope and playing basketball, and I played after school sports. When I was in sixth grade, we went roller-skating almost every week, and it was still something I did frequently in junior high. Also, I rode my bike everywhere. In reality, I was pretty active.

In my mind, I wasn’t. After all, I knew I could not run for long distances without feeling miserable, climb the rope, or do the flexed arm hang. Sometimes I would score, but I usually didn’t, so, I was not a star athlete. I was probably just average, but I think this is where that inferiority complex came in. I did not give myself credit on what I could do, but focused on my weak points. This is just as damaging as having an over-inflated belief in one’s abilities, and it is probably possible to do both. Anyway, I wasn’t balanced. I thought of myself as fat and clumsy, and slowly became so.

It didn’t happen all at once. A lot of the belief in my clumsiness happened in junior high. In one semester of PE, I got hit in the face with a softball, a soccer ball, and a basketball. The only unit where I didn’t get hit was weightlifting (and believe me, I know that I’m lucky that it was that unit). Plus, one field day I knocked over almost every single hurdle, and that was something I had always been able to do before. When I got back to my friends, Joel started singing “I’ll tumble for you” to me.

To some extent, the system was broken. Doing things requires training, and with field day we didn’t practice any of those events, but were just thrown into them. I don’t remember anyone explaining anything about gradually building up endurance, and pacing yourself, for running laps on Fridays—they just sent us out there. So, really, I have to feel that to a large extent, PE has been a poorly-planned torture ritual that kills the self-esteem of those who are not naturally gifted, when it should be an important step in learning the joy of physical exertion. It’s unfortunate.

One semester of PE was required in high school, which was pretty much more of the same, and that was it for me. I played on some church teams, but as I was getting more out of shape I ended up on a basketball team where no one could shoot, on any of the teams, and apparently no one could rebound for their own team, so we just kept running up and down the court after each short possession. Basketball had suddenly become less fun.

I also started riding my bike less as traffic became more dangerous and as it became less convenient. Growing up I kept my bike by the side of the house, unchained, and could always hop on at a moment’s notice. Then people started stealing bikes, and I had none, and now that I finally have one again it is hanging upside down in the back storage room, and getting it up and down is not easy. A lot of the streets have added bike lanes now, so there is less of a safety issue, but I’m out of the habit.

Back when I was thinking that maybe becoming a team manager was a mistake, I tried thinking about what other paths I could have taken. Could I have actually joined a team and been an athlete myself? Because it amazes me sometimes, when I get a chance to kick a soccer ball around, or dribble a basketball, how good it feels. I used to play those things; could I have kept it up?

Sadly, I don’t think so. First of all, I do think there would have been real issues with time and transportation and financial commitments. Also, you have to try out, and there are limited spaces, and although I may not have been as horrible as I perceived myself to be, I am still pretty confident that I was not good. Could I have started a biking team, or maybe a touring bike club? Probably not. And maybe it was best not to have joined a team. Sports movies always make me cringe because at one point the coach has to break them down, and be mean, and I would have hated that.

Maybe the best thing would have been merely to have some accurate self-awareness—to know that being able to bike ten miles was something, even if I could not clear a hurdle, and that when I found some activities to be hard I could practice them more, and build up strength and cardiovascular fitness.

So here I am. I have no upper body strength, and not much cardiovascular fitness. I have at times been in the habit of regular aerobic activity, at one time stationary bike at the gym, and more recently with aerobic dance tapes, but I am out of those habits now. I can walk for a long time on flat ground, but I am bad at hills. I am no longer graceful on roller skates (I was never graceful on ice skates). For some stretches and moves, my body gets in the way. I do not have great knees. Also, it is important to note that when I was exercising regularly, it did not budge the scale. I felt better, and that is important, but I probably need to add a strength-training component to really see any improvement.

I feel like my best bet is to start with walking. I feel good doing it and it doesn’t require any special equipment. I can start keeping a food journal again, and I really probably should. The other area where I really feel that I need to improve is the fresh fruits and vegetables thing. And that is the paradox for so many of us. There are lots of times when I enjoy exercise. Certain types, no, but there are plenty of forms of exercise that I do like. There are also plenty of fruits and vegetables that I like. Yet somehow, incorporating them feels like work and I don’t do it enough. Well, I guess I am going to have to anyway.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Drama Queen – 302

It seems ironic that I left drama behind when I have so much interest in working in the dramatic arts now. Sure, I want to be on the writing and production end of things, but given the right circumstances I could act, and it would certainly not hurt to know actors. I mean, I still like a good play now and then.

I mentioned that I had not been satisfied with drama in ninth grade, but I still took a class as an elective my sophomore year. A lot of my friends were in the same class as well, and we had some fun with it. Ms. Coburn did some really good exercises, and told some good stories, and I guess it was reasonable to give it one more shot after I had been doing it for so long.

I think the real problem was that I would not play to my strengths. I was good at comedy, and I could get good results with comedy, but every time I had a chance I would do something serious, and it would just be too serious. I helped other people write their sketches and we made them funny and they were great, and then I would play a troubled youth or do something really sappy and really something that I was not ready to relate to. I guess one issue was that I always wanted there to be romance.

Anyway, I feel like I was not really being true to myself. Sure, acting is about being someone else, but I think you need to be comfortable with yourself first, and I never really got there. Acting may be the path for some people, but it wasn’t working that way for me.

That is not to say that speech team and sports management got me in touch with my true self either. Really, that just took time, and an extended period of clinical depression, followed by a lot of in-depth writing and then blogging.

For social reasons, I am glad that I left drama behind. I still had a lot of friends in the department, and I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, that department was the most corrupt and had the worst snobs of any group in school. No, they were not all snobs, and they were not all corrupt, but there was enough. The stories I heard later were horrible, containing depravity I could not even have imagined then. With all that I did not know, even then I saw people being used sexually, and damaging mind games, and lots of underage drinking.

I’m not saying that these things never happened outside of drama—I’m sure they did, but based on their prevalence among the people I cared for, if I had been a part of that group, I would have been facing them all the time. I don’t think I would have given in to temptation and participated myself, but I just think I would have been sad all the time, and I was sad often enough without that. I’m just grateful the almost everyone emerged okay, but they had some pretty rough paths getting there.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Music in Me – 300.5

Last time I mentioned taking beginning guitar because I was the guitarist in my band, so learning to play seemed like a good idea. That should give you a pretty good idea of the band right there. Honestly, I am not sure how we even assigned parts, but it would have made no difference.

We were all very into music back then. This was the mid-eighties. Music was danceable, you could see videos on two channels, and girls just want to have fun, right?

There were three of us. Danielle was on keyboards, and did get her parents to buy her a Casio SK-1. Does that sound familiar to anyone? Lise was the drummer. I did buy her a pair of drumsticks, which was only a small start, but after all, you can drum on anything.
I was the lead singer and guitarist. Nowadays, I can’t even conceive of forming a band without a bassist, and I no longer think it’s practical to have the same lead on vocals and guitar, but we were young and na├»ve.

Yes, since I had taken piano lessons I might have been a better fit on keyboards, but I think I was the only one who felt capable of learning guitar. Also, my uncle’s old guitar was still in the house, plus at that time Lance’s electric guitar might still have been around, so I certainly had better access, and I had the free slot in my schedule. Still, I wildly overestimated my abilities.

Yes, I did slowly pick up the ability to pick out Ode to Joy on the guitar, but I was not progressing much beyond that, and in trying to figure out if I should start taping my fingers, or just power through the pain until the calluses formed, well, I’m just not sure that I had the commitment. The biggest problem, though, was my ear.

I could not tune a guitar. I could hear that it was not in tune yet, and I could fiddle with the knobs and try and get it right, but I never actually reached the point where I could get it tuned. The other students were all very nice, and so after I tried a little, eventually either Jennifer or Scooter or Max would do it for me, but clearly I was not on my way to becoming much of an axe-man.

I don’t think Danielle or Lise ever made more progress, so what, you may wonder, did No Socks ever do? (Yes, our name was No Socks. One day Danielle and I were looking at the Duran Duran poster on her ceiling, and on of the guys was wearing loafers with no socks, and that’s where it came from.) We never played any sets. I was at one early point optimistic that we could play in a school talent show, but with our skill levels the only thing we could have possibly done would have been the one rap number, London Talk.

That is what we did right there, actually, is that we did write a lot of music. Okay, I wrote most of it. Lise showed up with lyrics for two songs, but I created the tunes for them. Even after we gave up on the band, I still wrote music throughout high school, and at various other times when inspiration comes. The last song I wrote was during the winter before last.

Unfortunately, write is kind of a strong word, because that ear is still a problem. I would try picking out on a piano what I heard in my head, but it was never quite right. So, I would write down the lyrics and just need to remember the tune. In my French class one year, doing the assignments would only get you a B. For an A, you needed to do some extra project to stretch you, four hours worth of work. I wrote two French songs, but to turn them in I had to record them because I could never have represented the proper notes. (And I could still sing either one of them for you at a moment’s notice.)

Now, as a teenage girl, with immature ideas, most of what I wrote was very pop, and would probably have limited worth. However, what I had not realized at the time was that you have to spend a lot of time writing badly before you write well. I could feel the inadequacy of my music more that I could of my prose, so I stuck with the prose. I can go back now and look at old writings and just wince, but it was part of the process.

My sisters and I often have theoretical conversations about what we would do with children if we had them, and one thing we have decided is that we started piano too late, when we had too many other distractions. We decided four or five is the right age, and then your odds of success go way down. I know I could have practiced more than I did, and I was aware of it at the time, but I didn’t, my choice.

Now I wish I had stuck with it. First of all, it can be very handy to play piano, but also I know that I have more to do with music. There are ideas for songs within me that will need to come out, and if I had stayed consistent with music all along, that would be easier.

I also wish I had written more consistently all along. Ages ago I was at a presentation by Wynton Marsalis and Stanley Crouch. When they opened it up for Q and A, a young boy asked Wynton about how much to practice. He was trying very hard to get an answer about how long he should spend on his music each day, but Wynton kept dodging that to focus on playing every day. Did you practice for one hour? Two hours? Sometimes, and I played every day.

I have had days when I felt like I could not write anything, and I didn’t write anything, but there have been other days when I ignored that feeling and made myself write something, and I actually was able to do it. A lot of it really is showing up. This is why now I have to write something new every time I want to get onto Facebook. I’m not getting on as much as I did, but I am writing more. I was probably getting on too much anyway.

When I was young, probably even as young as three or four, I was always making up stories inside my head. The first time I remember writing a song I was six or seven (it was a short song about cats, but it still counts). The creativity has always been there, but it changes and improves as you harness it and get it out, so that’s a big part of my life now.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

The girl I have been – 303

I’m still trying to get around to that second round of regrets. Well, I guess I did get somewhere with the saving money thing. The way I thought it would go down is that after exploring the question of whether or not I was a nerd, I would go back to that long ago post where maybe becoming a sports manager was not such a good idea.

I did think about it after writing that, like what I should have done differently. That’s not to say that I wish I had never been a manager. It’s not the only thing that I did, and there were some good times, but when I think about different paths, and their deficiencies, then maybe it will give me clues for things I should do in the present. I explore the past because the past created the present. Maybe I could correct things in the present without looking at the past, but I like understanding things fully.

So, what was my arc? Well, when I started grade school, I was mainly doing imagination games at recess. We would play Star Wars or Buck Rogers, and other movie-based things. In third or fourth grade I created Graveyard Airlines. I know it was then, because Jennie was my co-pilot, and she did not move out here until third grade. I was the captain, of course, and Joshua and Jonathan were our crew. Actually, we were pretty liberated now that I think about it. There never seemed to be any gender conflicts. Other people would join us sometimes as passengers, but we were the basic four. We played on the tire trees, and due to the unwise choices of the wacky pilot (me), we would end up in scary situations like meteor showers or landing on lava fields. It was fun while it lasted, but after a while we had done everything, and needed to move on.

When Jennie and I were outside of school, we would play Dungeons and Dragons. There were no dice or maps—we just had characters and they did things. Jennie’s sister Sarah played too.

I know I went through a jump-roping phase, but as I got older, I started playing basketball almost every recess. We had one class (meaning year) play another. So it was sixth graders playing fifth graders, or what have you. To lessen the advantage of being older, we were wildly outnumbered. So maybe you would have four sixth-graders and ten fifth-graders. Usually it was just Billy, Jason, Sean, and I, but sometimes David or Derek would come in. I was the only girl (I had been for Star Wars and Buck Rogers too). If sometimes the extra guys made the teams too equal in number, they would send me over to the younger kids. I suppose in some ways this was a compliment, but it still felt kind of bad, and then I would get irritated and try and score a lot.

I also did after-school sports all the time, and loved it. I was not one of the better athletes, and I was usually chosen towards the end, but not usually dead last, and I don’t think it was as much anguish as some people seem to remember. Maybe we were not the meanest kids. I also rode my bike everywhere. I did not consider myself athletic, because some people were so much better, and because I could not run distance or do the flexed-arm hang. I was above average on all of the other presidential fitness tests, but I only really thought about those two. I had no perspective.

When we did a full-on musical, Fiddler on the Roof, I did that too. I tried out for Hodel, but ended up as a villager. I did have a solo line in “Anatevka”. Actually, it was the opening line. I was not impressed enough with myself. I was the one who sang “A little bit of this.”

I never joined a sports club, not only because I did not think of myself as a good athlete, but also because it would have taken money. Also, through TAG I was always getting notices about Saturday Academy classes and Olympics of the Mind and things like that, but I never did those either.

So, once I got to junior high, the natural fit was drama. It did not cost any additional money, or require any athletic ability, and for reasons that I am not sure I understand, most of the smart kids did drama. There was no longer after-school sports, or recess. There was still gym, but every Friday was running laps, and it just kept getting less and less fun. (I was still riding my bike a lot though). Anyway, I took drama class and I did drama club after school.

I did sort of have this thing going on where I wanted to try and learn and know everything. One nice thing about the electives open to seventh graders was that there were two exploration ones. The Fine Arts exploration had one quarter each of foreign language, language arts, drama, and music, I think. In Applied Arts exploration, there was one quarter each of home economics, art and drafting, plastics and leather shop, and wood and metal shop. I was really horrible with wood, plastics, metal, and leather, but I still got to try a lot of different things. Junior high was where I started getting into foreign language, and it should have consolidated my drama aspirations, but it didn’t.

Recent events have caused me to feel somewhat better about the incident, and I may write about that later. For now, I think I did not realize how much it affected me. Tracing my weight gain, I think it started there. Initially I thought that was puberty, but technically I started that two years earlier. My sense of humor changed then, where I first remember cracking mean jokes at that age. Maybe when I got fed up with drama, that was a factor.

I do know the terms of my getting fed up, and that was something along the lines of “realizing” that I was never going to get any good parts, because they were always musicals and I couldn’t sing, and I wasn’t pretty and that was going to hurt me too.

This was not completely fair. Yes, there was always one big musical, but they did smaller non-musical things too, and lots of different people got interesting roles. Also, you can do a lot with small roles, and giving the whole thing up because you can’t be the star is really obnoxious and immature. I just know that I was dissatisfied with my life and wanted change. So I quit drama class and started beginning guitar, and quit drama club and joined yearbook staff.

Yearbook staff was fun, and I did learn some new things, like how to develop film. For beginning guitar, I was the guitarist in the band, so I figured I should learn.

Anyway, this is the background for the person that I was when I started high school, and picked my path through there. I did try a drama class again, and that is worth exploring. There is also more exploration to do in terms of athletics, academics, and music, and yes we will probably get into dating again. Obviously what’s important is what I do now, but I know the seeds of what I should do can be found in then.

Monday, June 01, 2009

A new iteration of fear – 306.5

I attended a networking group Wednesday. No one knew of any job openings, so in that regard it was a wash, but some of the information was good. It has led to a new concern.

I was talking to someone else who does training and development. We were discussing working out my key selling points and one thing she suggested was that I write out my ideal job description. Working out exactly what I want most should help me to focus my job hunt better, and also apply for jobs better, because that passion comes through in tangible and intangible ways.

It’s sound advice. The problem is, I don’t truly want most of the jobs I am applying for. Really, what I want most is to concentrate on my writing, and to get paid for that. I apply for customer service jobs because I have experience there, and training and development jobs because I can do them and would like them better, and low-end jobs because I think maybe I can actually get them, but none of it is really about wanting. Is that why nothing has come through?

I do want to have money again, and be able to help my family. I don’t want to be part of the grind again, but I am willing to accept that. Can’t that be enough?

I know it sounds horrible, asking for permission to settle, but I think a lot of that is just life. My previous jobs were not ideal, but I was still able to do well at them, live off of them, and get at least some satisfaction from them. I’m willing to do that again.

There have been things that have been good about this time at home. I have been able to be helpful to Mom as her arthritis gets worse. It was especially good that I was here when Suzy was deteriorating. The seizures were happening more and more frequently, and getting worse, and I handled them well. I have become a better cook. I have lost some weight, and yes, I think being away from the cube farm was a key part of that. And I have been able to write a lot, which has been great.

However, I am not getting paid for that writing, and I don’t know if I will. That scares me. I’m tired of the collections calls (yes, they only started a little more than a week ago, but they call eleven times a day), and being afraid to plan anything, and of not having health insurance. I’m tired of having to ask others for help, and not being able to help when they ask. It would be nice if I could get a good job, but I know there aren’t that many anymore, and the demand is high. I will take a bad job and make it a good job. I don’t feel my soul dying a little when I write that at all.

Okay, so I need to be passionate. My ideal job will be in a casual environment, because I have no business clothes and will not be able to afford some for a while. It will be working with smart, competent people, who can be above stupid game playing because they are smart and competent. Hillsboro and downtown Portland are both great, as well as Beaverton.

I will be writing something, whether it is an instructional handbook or policies and procedures. If it is something that requires studying and analysis before it can be put together, great! I love that kind of mental challenge, and I ‘m good at it. My real strength in expository writing may come from my skill in storytelling. Even if it is not an actual story, with events, there is still a logical sequence, where the information is more comprehensible if you put it that way, and each section builds to the next. In other words, I take the web or network of information and make it linear. I like it.

I do have some of my usual fear of commitment, because what if I do take a job and I get trained and they are invested in me, and then something sells? I do worry about that, but I would work it out, even if it meant staying at a job for longer than I needed it because they needed me. I take responsibility really seriously.

Maybe my ideal job is temping. The one that hurt most lately was for TVF&R. It was a temporary technical writer position, helping to document this new software they are switching to. I wanted that one so badly, and I would have been great at it. They didn’t even call me in for an interview.

Well, all I can do is keep at it, meeting the problem head on. I am scared to only apply for training jobs, because I do not believe I can get them. I do not want to go back to customer service, but I am afraid they are the only ones who will take me (except when I am afraid that no one will take me at all). Actually, those are manageable fears.

I’d look for a job where courage was a requirement, but those are usually jobs with fitness requirements.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Broke as a joke – 306

I’ve reached a new low—I have collections calls coming in.

Despite not having regular income since September, between some savings, and a tax refund, and a lot of just moving money around, I was able to keep my payments up until May. (I don’t really recommend the moving funds around part, as all that does is increase the overall debt, but I didn’t see a lot of options.)

The point is, I could not make the May payments. Back in the old days it probably would have taken a full month to get calls on that, especially since I have been so regular up till now, but now it takes about two weeks.

It turns out that I am living true to my upbringing. When my father would open mail, he would say aloud, “Dear Deadbeat.” I always thought that he was joking. It never occurred to me that we could be behind. We weren’t making sacrifices or cutting back or anything. Turns out that he did not really put bills first, and that may be the story of how we were fairly early adopters of things like VHS, CDs, video games, and cable television (all of which are relatively quaint technology now, but this was the ‘80s).

I have sometimes written about things I should have done differently, and I will wrote more about things I could have done differently, and whether I should have or not, but there is one change that I definitely wish, which is that I had saved more.

Parenting guides suggest that have your children automatically save fifty percent (and give ten percent to charity), and I thought that was crazy, because the percentage is so high. The average working adult does not have the option of saving fifty percent. I realized that it makes sense because while they do not have expenses, that amount is probably high enough that when they do have regular expenses like rent and utilities, they will probably end up saving the right amount of disposable income.

I have looked at those statements from the Social Security Administration for what I made those first few years working, and I wish I had saved half. It would have made my first two years of college easier. It wouldn’t have necessarily had a huge impact afterwards, because any additional money I had would have just gone towards my mission.

Actually, I can’t say that, because in my case, I had enough credits that it only took me eight quarters to graduate, but those quarters were spread over six years. I graduated from high school in June of 1990, worked through summer and fall, attended winter and spring, and did the same thing the next year. Then, I worked through summer and fall, and left for my mission in February of 1993. I suppose it is possible that with better funding I could have gone all three quarters for the first two years, and have completed eight before going on my mission. Still, I would have missed walking with my graduating class, and various other events.

The more important lasting impact would just be the habit of saving first and spending later. It’s not that I have been completely irresponsible. I have been completely debt-free before, I have never lived really luxuriously, and even a lot of the debt incurred now (well, before the unemployment) is because of doing things for my family. However, I certainly bought things impulsively, that I did not need or even want that much, and they did add up. Having the habit of thinking twice before spending once would be invaluable, but it didn’t seem to matter. Okay, I didn’t see job loss coming, but that’s the whole point of being debt-free and having savings, right? There are things that you can’t see coming.

So, now I have to deal with this, and it’s hard. I have liked some of the rewards with the different cards, but I swear they are not worth it, and some of the interest rates and finance charges are completely immoral. If I was financially solvent than when the rates went up I could just take my business elsewhere, but I have trapped myself. As it is, as soon as it is possible Barclay’s and Chase will be gone. I will probably keep the Unitus one. (Leave it to a credit union.)

For the phone calls, I am just being honest. No matter how much they call, I cannot pay them something I don’t have. How they act now will affect how likely they are to keep my business once I am employed again. The other possibility is that I will declare bankruptcy. The Barclays one reminded me that would affect my credit for ten years, which is true, but missed and late payments will not be that good for my score either. That decision will only be made if there are absolutely no other options. Honestly, I consider it to be a form of theft—I just don’t know how low things are going to sink.

To be fair, some of them do have various things in place to avoid penalties. If I had called when I first lost the job, I might have been able to lower payments and keep going a bit longer. Still, my current contingency plan only gets me through July. Anyway, if you have recently lost your job, but are not completely broke (or are getting unemployment, which would be lovely), it might be worth calling your creditors to see what’s what.

For myself, I have been thinking about the things I have learned, and what I would like to change, and one thing is that I think as an adult I would want to save ten percent. I was feeling like I do not have a chance to try it now, or any time soon, because with no income I cannot demonstrate good income management. However, I did recently get my tax preparation bonus, and I made a little bit dog sitting. While paying my tithing, it occurred to me to go ahead and save ten percent anyway, so I moved $13.00 to my savings account. I guess it’s a leap of faith.