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.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Nerd alert! – 307.5

By the way, I did finally do my coping tips (or whatever you wish to call them) for the ongoing hard times. I thought that would be a multi-part series, and was not sure when I could possibly get to it, but I ended up doing one post on the preparedness blog, which seemed fitting, and I wanted to fill up one more week before we moved into the regular monthly updates:

After all, if I was the kind of person who could swiftly and efficiently move through everything I want to cover, I would still only have one blog. Right now, this one is for therapy again. Yes, I am once more turning to the past to see where I have gone wrong. Well, maybe I will find some places where I went right, but those will probably seem less significant. Anyway, the last round focused a lot on different boys, and the first round focused on shameful events, and this may be more about identity. Honestly, I’m not sure how it will work out.

I’ll start with a Facebook story though, because that’s always good. There was a note going around where there were various questions you were supposed to answer, and one of the questions was whether you were a nerd in high school. Aaron answered “Weren’t we all?” which was funny because he was the star of the basketball team, such as it was. Even if he’d had a 4.0 GPA, I don’t think he would have been considered a nerd. However, if what he was really saying was that he generally felt like a dork, well, that would be a common viewpoint, because adolescence is rife with insecurity and self-doubt, if not self-loathing, and the popular kids were not immune.

For the same question, I answered, “That was my understanding,” which was pretty noncommittal, but I had considered the question when I was back in school, and I was never clear on the answer then. I did take some flak from one or two of the guys in the group, because they thought that I thought I was better than them, but it was more complicated than that.

So, I have referenced this junior high group before, but I can go over it a bit more clearly. I’m thinking I should leave out names thought. Okay, there were six of us girls. Most of us met in what we called “block” class. That was a two-class block where you did both social studies and English. I have no idea why they put them together, but is was kind of like homeroom in some ways, I guess, because we never had official homeroom classes in junior high or high school. I really liked all of the girls, and am still friends with three of them.

There were also four boys. I did not like the boys for the most part. Actually, that’s not true. There was one that I could see was weird, but he was always nice to me, and we usually got along fine. There was another who was very nice. The other two were jerks, but ultimately, they were all part of the group, and that’s just how it was. Generally we did not have much conflict, except for the manipulative one trying in subtle ways to make you feel like dirt.

That block class that we met in was the advanced one, and we had other advanced classes together, and were generally pretty smart. We were also not particularly popular, though I am starting to realize that “popular” is kind of a floating target. You could disagree on who was popular and who wasn’t, and have completely legitimate arguments on both sides.

Anyway, when this discussion came up, I guess the issue was that I would not fully admit to being a nerd. I’m not sure that I even denied being a nerd, but I would have been uneasy with the title for a few different reasons.

First of all, I knew that I was not as studious as I could be. I slacked off on homework all the time. It was generally so I could read books that interested me, but still, on one level I was not sure if I was really academic enough to be a nerd, and that would actually be an area of feeling inferior.

What bothered me more though, was an attitude that was at least true of these two boys. It could have come across as an attitude of superiority to the rest of the world, though I believe it stemmed largely from jealousy. I think there was some hostility in it, and there was definitely contempt, and if that was what made one a nerd, then I couldn’t be one. I liked the other kids who were not in our group. I liked sports, and television, and rock music. Actually, all of us girls liked popular music for sure—David Bowie, INXS, Duran Duran, The Cure—our favorites were all different, but our tastes overlapped enough that it was not a problem. I could not tell you what music any of the boys liked.

So I guess the reason that I didn’t know if I was a nerd or not, it was them. If all it meant was being smart and not getting asked out on dates, okay, definitely. I was smart—I wouldn’t have gotten so lazy academically if I had not been able to coast so much in grade school. And, well, the social life has been covered extensively in other posts. But if it meant being studious, I wasn’t enough, and if it meant looking out at the world and thinking bad thoughts about everyone else then I didn’t want any part of it anyway.

What we really need to do is to define what makes one a nerd, and maybe in the process of that we should realize that labeling people is stupid, and it’s kind of a false viewpoint anyway. I know we all believed in social stratification, first because of SE Hinton and then John Hughes, but it’s not how it worked out here, and I’m not sure it was that accurate for Tulsa and Chicago either.

I remember talking with my friend Rachel (not in my group, but we went to the same elementary school, and due to boundary changes, that was a small group) once after she had seen The Outsiders, about how you have the Socs, and then it was Stoners and Nerds, I think. But Socs could be divided into Socs and Jocks, I think, depending on if they were athletic or not, and Stoners could be divided into Stoners and Rockers, based on whether they actually did drugs or not, and we realized some people just had to be Normals, because they didn’t fit any of those categories.

I have had people say that The Breakfast Club was just like they remember high school, and I have doubted that, because again, we just did not have these strict social layers, and when I ask follow-up questions, it sort of falls apart, and anyone could talk to anyone or date anyone, even if some pairings were more likely than others. I do know people who were tormented, but that generally seems to have been more within groups than between groups.

I think these things ring true emotionally because of the dissatisfaction with our selves that we tend to feel. We certainly wish we were cooler, and other people seem to have achieved that. Or we wish we could be close to one person, and we see other people who are, so they seem popular. What we don’t know is that most of them are feeling the same emotions, even if it is for different reasons.

The big lesson for me of the last years is that truth is the most important thing. Being open and honest, but also working to see accurately. Well, kindness is really important too, and becomes more necessary the more open we are, but still, it seems like the majority of our pain comes from what we hide and where we are blind.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Well that didn’t work – 309.5

I think I’ll stick with weighing every day. It’s not that I necessarily think that not weighing daily was the problem, but I prefer knowing what’s going on.

I think the actual problem is just that I was overloaded. I mentioned earlier that I was working on a pilot episode for the series, but I had some hard days where I just was not writing, and so before I finished Tara wrote to me and asked for me to write out one episode, expanded character descriptions, and one paragraph descriptions for 26 episodes.

It was great that she was interested, and we were thinking in parallel ways. Like, I was only going to send her thirteen episode descriptions, because usually a new show will not get a full season order, but she asked for twenty-six so she could cull the best ones. Anyway, they are reasonable requests, but time-wise it was running into a get-together I was organizing, a bridal shower to attend, and contests I intended to prepare entries for, and I really needed to apply for some jobs and I did go to this employment seminar, and every few hours I need to shove another pill down Randi’s throat, and it was just kind of a lot.

I was able to get the pilot episode written okay, and the expanded character descriptions were not a problem, but where I really fell apart was on coming up with what would happen in twenty-six different episodes. Now, the reason I have always felt more drawn to feature films than television is that coming up with the different things for the same characters to do every week seems hard, so it is no surprise that this is where I had the issue. I could get some ideas, but ultimately my brain was fried and the ticking clock did not help. So, I sent her what I had, plus what the overall story arcs would be over multiple seasons, and that I would need a brief pause. This week I intend to take another stab at the episodes.

Anyway, while I was stressing over everything and frying my brain, I did not exercise as intended, and I really only ate the one apple (plus some pickles) for my fruit and vegetable consumption, so despite having the goal I did worse than the previous week (when I exercised twice).

It would almost appear that the answer is not to set goals at all, but I doubt that’s right. I know that being regular about exercise and eating well is not easy for me. It’s not that I don’t like them, or feel good when I do them, but they are not habits and they do not come naturally to me.

One thing I have had to learn is to do things imperfectly. Sometimes this means writing even when everything that comes out sounds stupid and inadequate. Sometimes it means that when the day has been frittered away, and there is no chance of getting a good workout, that I will still do ten pushups, or something insignificant like that.

So, I guess I’ll keep setting myself up for failure, and sharing it with the public. Here is my next goal.
On June 4th, I am going to go listen to some music at a club. One thing that is sometimes an issue is that I don’t really have any going out clothes. I have church clothes, and work clothes (very casual work clothes), and a couple of things that can work for church or an office more formal than Intel, but nothing for going out on the town. I did buy this top that is a little nicer, but I have only worn it twice. I also got this skit that is kind of nice, but I have only worn it once, maybe twice. They have not been worn together.

It is not exactly that they don’t fit, but there are places where they are snug so that they don’t look as good as they could, and they remind me that I am fat. On the 4th, I want to wear these with confidence.

Yes, I am going to try and improve exercise and eating again. I guess the special focus should be on push-ups and crunches, since it is the arms and stomach that make me the most nervous.

I am adding another level of difficulty. Almost everywhere I go, I where these cheap sneakers. They are very practical, and support my feet well, but I know they are not cool. For church (or when I need to dress up), I have a pair of simple black flats. They are not particularly attractive, and certainly have no heel, but if I wear them for too long my feet hurt, because they are used to the cushion of the sneakers. Honestly, I pretty much never wear heels. However I do have a pair.

I am going to try walking around in the heels (2-inch, thick, still not that impressive) a bit and practicing, and maybe they will become a part of the outfit. I have about three weeks. Dun—dun—dunh!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Death again

Yesterday I mentioned having been at a memorial service, so I thought I should write more about that. It was the fifth death that had touched me over the course of a year, but it was also the best.

With Josh, Paolo, and Luciana, one thing that made the losses harder was a complete lack of preparation. Josh and I had not been in touch for a long time, and I didn’t even know he had asthma. If I had, I do know that an attack can turn fatal, and that there is that potential, but I still tend not to expect it. Everyone else I know with asthmas is still alive. Anyway, it struck out of the blue.

With my aunt and uncle, if I had been there, maybe I would have understood. As it was, of all of Mom’s siblings, if we were to rank them, we probably would have put those two as the healthiest in general, and Paolo was the youngest of them as well. To be fair, no one called to say that things were going downhill—Mom just found out in her regular weekly phone calls with Elda. So I did know that Paolo had a heart attack and was in the hospital, but I thought the hospital would fix him up and release him, and that wasn’t how it happened. I knew Luciana was having problems with her arm, but then it was getting better, and they decided that they did not have to amputate, and I took that as a good sign too. Maybe there were clues that I missed, but both deaths shocked me.

That covers three of the people. Amy was before any of them. She started off the year that Rachel closed out. Amy was not unexpected. We watched her fight cancer for so long before she left, and when it moved to her brain we knew it was just a matter of time. She put up a good fight, but there was plenty of time to know what was happening and to be prepared for it. That did not make accepting it any easier, because she was so young, and there was so much left for her. Her daughter Mary had not even turned three yet, and the new house they were planning was either just finished or almost finished. She just had a lot to live for. So it was gut wrenching, and we were sad.

Rachel was the complete opposite of all of that. First of all, I think her life was pretty complete. She lived in to her eighties, got to see her children happily married, and then their grandchildren, and she had several great-grandchildren. Really, they are an amazing family, and she got to see a lot of that. She served two missions, and got to travel some, and ultimately lived a long full life.

Also, there was time to prepare. She had missed Brad (her husband) since his death, but it, and her stamina, had started getting worse, and things really took a turn for the worse in December, after she had a bad fall. Towards the end she had moved in with one son and his family, instead of being in her own house on the same property, and she was needing more help, and everyone just knew. Still, there are much worse declines. Hers was fairly painless, and filled with loved ones.

I have never been so sure of someone being okay since Brad died. I know she is with him again, and thrilled to be so. There are parents and siblings there, and she did a lot of family history, so she would have found lots of friends waiting for her.

It’s not that there is no sadness involved. There is. Even though her family is happy for her, and also assured that she is fine and that they will see her again, and are still a family, the separation hurts. It first struck me listening to Sam (a son) pray. His voice cracked and I heard the grief, and I felt that pain. When your parents die, you are an orphan, no matter how old you are. Later, standing there, I realized that it was the end of an era. Together she and Brad created a very special place, and memories, and her children and grandchildren want to keep that legacy going, and they will do good things, I know, but it is still change. Yet even with that very justifiable sadness, it is still overwhelmingly okay, and there is peace.

There were many people at the memorial service, including a lot of old friends, and it caused me to think of some other things as well. I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned this, but all four of my grandparents died before I was born. However, it was a close-knit group at church back when we lived in Wilsonville. The Summers were an important part of that, but there was another couple, the Barkers, who were also close, and whom I actually called Grandma and Grandpa. Heaven knows they did not need additional grandchildren, because they had plenty, but they took us in anyway.

We always stayed in touch with the Barkers and the Summers, but there were other people there with whom we were not quite as close. We would still hear about them every now and then through the others, and sometimes run into them, but I don’t think you can maintain contact with every single person you like unless you just don’t like very many people. (Well, Facebook may be changing that now, but we are talking about an older generation.)

Anyway, we saw many of these people at the funeral, and it is over thirty years since we moved, but they still care, and we still care, and it’s just good. It is good that it was a close-knit ward then, and it is good that love lasts. I don’t talk to my friends as often as I would like, but we can pick up again, and the bond has stayed, and if we needed each other sooner, we would be there.

Oddly, I did not worry about being unemployed in that setting. I felt completely secure. (Okay, I did get awkward around A, but that was something else, maybe even merely tiredness because we were getting ready to leave then, and I maybe I had already checked out mentally.)

I was thinking there that maybe family is what you make it, and yet, it’s not quite that they have become extended family either. If I try and explain it, maybe I will cheapen it. I guess what I want to say is that I am grateful for love, and grateful for good, kind-hearted people, and I am grateful for the beauty that comes when you combine the two.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Still a dork, after all these years

Do you remember Cute Cafeteria Guy? I wrote about him in December 2007. Walking away from an encounter with him one time, I was amazed at what a dork I was. On one level I realized that to a large extent I had stopped developing romantically after that moment when I was taught that if a guy ever acts interested in me, it was a joke. This meant that in that area I had stayed fourteen for years, and was finally starting to progress again. (So this is my inner dater, not my inner child.)

It was good that I was starting to progress again, but at the same time, I realized that I could not imagine being cool. I can picture being thin, or rich, and I can probably even imagine being patient, but I can’t grasp “smooth”. So, it seemed like I would just have to accept being a dork and proceed anyway.

Also, if you remember when I posted my list of regrets and resolutions (September 2008), well, I was going to act on things and not duck away from them. I mention these things because I think I recently failed to live up to this.

It all covered the space of a weekend, with two very different circumstances and similar results. For the Friday night, I went to see a band play. Actually, this is E. I have written about him too. What I wrote was that although I was attracted to him, I did not think he was attracted to me because he greeted me with a handshake, and said goodbye with a handshake, and I just think if he were interested he would have escalated to a hug goodbye. No problem—I am used to guys not being attracted.

So, I went to see him play, still no hug, but the friend accompanying me felt that there were other signs that he was into me. She believes in me, so it would be easier for her to see evidence of this, where I am a skeptic. Still, he will not touch me.

Anyway, one of my resolutions was specifically that in situations where a guy is eyeing me, I will make eye contact instead of turning away, and I could not do it. Every time he made eye contact I felt the back of my neck turning red, and I could not maintain the connection.

The next day, I was at a memorial service, and ran into an old friend from childhood. This is A. I could not make conversation with him. Okay, it was a funeral, but I had been doing really well up until that point. Maybe part of it was that I believe he is married, and yet he did not seem to be acting married, but instead of clamming up I should have had the presence of mind to check his hand for a ring, or at least ask leading questions. Maybe I was just tired out at that point, but with the two events following so closely, I was feeling pretty hopeless. Ultimately, these events probably pushed me to the signup. (Plus, a cute guy recently referred to me as a terrific lady, and okay, I am older, and he is right, but it sucks.)

Ultimately, I keep thinking about Geno, and wishing that I had another chance to talk to him. I specifically remember not being attracted to him, and yet, maybe I should have gone for it anyway. I wouldn’t want to lead someone on hurtfully, but maybe you can just go out with people sometimes, without falling in love, and it’s not a problem. I’m normally a very practical person, but in this area, not so much. I’m still kind of working things out.

I could probably, with a little effort, find Geno, but for what? Invite him to coffee, which I do not drink and cannot pay for? I probably will not see A. again any time soon. E is the one I think about most, and the trickiest.

I was thinking, well, you’re just going for it lately. Maybe you should just tell him you like him. That it seems like a crazy plan is a reason to do it, but still, what purpose would be served? If he is holding back because he knows I am pure (which he does), or because, well, I’m not going to get into that, but there are multiple potential complications if we were to try dating, and it might be better that we don’t. But I am attracted to him. Maybe next time I see him I will just hug him.

Are boys really worth the trouble?

Monday, May 11, 2009

This could be a mistake

No weight right now. The battery on the scale went out. We got it replaced, but I was thinking how I have been hovering around this same weight range for a while, and I want to try something new, so I am not weighing until Saturday. I do intend to exercise every day, and really focus on getting more fruits and vegetables. Normally when I make an effort to take healthier steps, the numbers bounce around in frustrating manners, and I do not want to be distracted. I am afraid not weighing will take as much willpower as getting the exercise in, but it is not really for that long.

I have joined a dating site. That was abrupt, wasn’t it? It happened about as quickly. I have had many people tell me I should, and I have thought about it, but I am leery about computer dating for multiple reasons.

For one thing, I don’t really work that way. Looking at my track record, both times I have fallen in love it has been at first site, and those were relationships I could live with, whereas the ones I talked myself into ended up being really bad for me. I guess chemistry is really important to me, and I have doubts about how well that can be transmitted through a web site. Of course, I should not really rely on my track record, because, you know, I’m thirty-seven and have never been kissed, or dated anyone seriously, and I haven’t even been on a simple date for maybe two years or so.

I was on for a while, and I even ended up paying for a subscription. However, I found that I didn’t really want any of the matches. I kept up the communication anyway, but we still never went beyond questions, and even if there was a little bit of feeling down from them not wanting to go further, I still did not want them. I have doubts that I will want anyone that I find through a site.

Also, I hate putting myself on the line like that. So many people are judging you by your looks, or at least your fitness level, and who needs that? Except, that is exactly why I am doing it. I am doing something that is scary, and uncomfortable, because I don’t want to live in fear, and I want to push my boundaries, and I want to break barriers. I have believed for so long that no one could love me or want me because of my weight, and the easy thing would be to wait until I have gone lower to try this, but what if I don’t? What if I never go lower than I am now? Does that make me less of a person? Ultimately, it’s more valuable to me if I do it now.

I am also doing it for my sisters. They also feel like no one will want them. They are thinner, but not by enough. I have been bothered by their dismissive attitude when I have thought someone might be interested in me, because it feels like a slur on me, but it is really an attitude that is self-injuring for them, and if I have not specifically taught it to them, I have not contradicted the lessons. They deserve better, and I do too.

I had kind of had in mind a very honest profile. I nearly posted on, but there’s a charge for that too, so I posted on This was a concern too, as I guess slutty people do use the site for hooking up, but apparently that was just one option, so I’m trying it. This is my profile:

“First the bad. I have been unemployed since September, and it is starting to wear me down. In addition to searching for regular jobs, I am working on my sixth screenplay, and hope that will pay off someday. I am overweight. Currently losing, but it is not a short-term thing.

On the plus side, I am smart, funny, and creative. I am kind, understanding and loyal. I can handle extremely stressful situations without losing my cool. Also, I will never lie to you, or that first paragraph would not even be there.

I love to travel, though I am not currently making any plans until I have income again. I like staying informed about what is going on in the world. I have a soft spot for musicians. I love language in general--not just reading and writing but also foreign languages. I have studied French, Spanish, Italian, and Laotian, and can get the gist of things in a few more languages.

I'm skeptical of internet dating, but my life is all about trying new things right now.

I am LDS, and have tried to avoid dating outside of that, but LDS single guys in my age group tend to be single for a reason, so I am starting to bend on that. I will not bend on living the religion myself (i.e. no sex).

If despite all that you are interested, great. I am too.”

I do have a few concerns about it. Honestly, I probably should be worried about axe murderers and other psychos, but I’m not feeling like that is a real threat. Obviously I will follow the public places rule. I am more concerned that I will draw guys who view the no sex bit as a challenge (they won’t win, but I am not interested in the hassle) or that I will draw guys who are specifically interested in the weight. I know there is a subset of the population that can be referred to as chubby-chasers, but I think they are sick. In the words of the lolcats, Do not want!

Also, I am a little worried that LDS friends will look down on me for the part about being open to dating non-members, and I’m worried that it’s a mistake myself, but it also seems like a necessary step to take, if for no other reason than that a non-LDS guy is a lot more likely to give me the time of day, and I would like to be given the time of day every now and then.

What I like most of all about it though, is that I am clearly no apologetic. I apologize for myself a lot, and I do not think I am cured of that by a long shot, but I am better, and I can tell.

And honestly, I have no interest in pretending to be anyone else. I’m good as I am, flaws and all. That feels good to realize, and it should keep me out of game-playing (which again, no interest).

So, I put that up. Someone added me to his favorites list, and two guys have sent me messages. The one I wrote back to has invited me to coffee. I don’t want to go, but still, it’s nice to be asked.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Here we go again – 306

Well, Julie’s car repair cost twice as much as she was expecting, and for Maria, even though she knows she looked, and the other driver admitted that she did not look, the other driver’s insurance company has decided that the fault was fifty-fifty. Since Maria does not have the cash to cover the deductible (she is still not getting full hours at work), her bumper will not be getting fixed any time soon. Also, I have hope again, so there could be a horrible crash coming.

Still, it is not horrible to have hope. Basically, I sent a friend two very short treatments for potential series ideas. Her contact thinks that the one will probably sell (not the one I would have expected, but we’ve established that I don’t know what I’m doing). Although I have thought about both ideas a lot, I had never written anything on either of them until I did these page and a half treatments. Now she has asked if I have anything written, to which the answer is “no”. However, I feel like the right thing to do is to just write a script for the pilot episode.

I do not know what I am doing. Not really. I’ve had some practice with the feature film format now, but with television, no only are you working with shorter time periods, but the timing is more important, because it needs to fit the programming slot. You also need to put in little starting and stopping points for the insertion of commercials. There are conventions for this, but I am not familiar with them. So, in addition to working out more information on my characters, and the premise, and how to best introduce them so that viewers would want to watch additional episodes, I also need to watch a current hour-length drama and jot down the time intervals.

That should not sound like a complaint—I am just worried about it. That’s the question that comes up all the time with this: Can I really do it? I hope I can. There’s no guarantee I will make any money with this. Writing the episode is not a job; it is what I feel is the best way to show them that I could do this job, and that they should take me seriously.

I had been intending to make April television month anyway, though this is not how I pictured it. In addition to writing the screenplays, I was thinking that now that Leverage is shooting in town, I could try and get on there. I personally am more drawn to features, but it would still be professional writing, and it would probably be good experience.

Generally, the way you try and get on a show writing staff is to write to sample episodes of a similar show. You never write for the show you want, because the people reading it have their own concepts of the characters, and it is personal to them, so it is easy to step on toes, or to look like you have completely missed the point. The good thing about this is that there are fewer obstacles to getting someone to take a look than with a film. A big part of why film screenplays will only be reviewed when submitted through agents or entertainment lawyers is the fear of lawsuits—that you will have something similar already in the works, but someone will claim the idea was copied. I believe the reason that it is looser with shows is that you are sending them something that they really can’t use. It’s different characters and locale, and even if the plot contains a germ of an idea that they could adapt, the potential for outright plagiarism is much lower.

Anyway, my original plan for this month was to figure out a series in a similar vein to Leverage, watch a bit, write to episodes for it, and get them submitted. I may still do that later, but I have something else to work on right now. (Also, I can’t think of any really similar current series, though there are some departed series that would be a good match.)

So that’s where I am. Scared, which has almost become second nature to me now, but not quite down for the count.

Oh, did I mention that bandaging bleeding dogs is really hard, and we've had two separate dogs get bleeding injuries yesterday and today? And my allergies are acting up.

Re-cycling – 304.5

On thinking it over, it should not be surprising that I need to go through things and over things more than once. Just because you learned from an experience one time does not mean you have necessarily learned everything possible. In time you grow as a person, you have more experiences to relate to it, and so it’s reasonable for there to be more. I have already noticed one cycle that comes up every so often for me, but I understand it differently after the last time.

Every now and then I will start getting too much money from stores. That sounds weird, so I will explain. The first time it happened, there were three incidents. I purchased something from the self-service bakery at Fred Meyer, and accidentally got the wrong code, thus being undercharged by fifteen cents. I got two egg rolls at a grocery store deli and was only charged for one. Finally, I was buying several things for an adopted family (this was around Christmas) at K-mart. These all happened within a few days.

For the egg roll, I just went back the next day and had her ring me up, and she was very nice about it, but was also kind of making a big deal about it, and it was complimentary but I was still not entirely comfortable about it. At K-mart, they were really rude. I tried to take care of it over the phone, and couldn’t, and it was like I was just burdening them to make them take care of this shirt issue. The irony here is that the shirt cost about ten times as much as the egg roll did, so there is more value, and scanning a shirt is not even that much work, but what can you do?

Between the two, I just did not want to deal with Fred Meyer, especially for such a small amount, so I taped the coins to a note card and mailed it in with an explanation, but no return address.

Anyway, at other times I will get a bunch of similar incidents occurring in a group. Vending machines will give too much change, and then the checker will miss an item, and it adds up, and then I have to fix it, which is a nuisance and embarrassing, and that is where the new realization came in.

I always thought that my honesty was being tested, but really, the amounts were always so small that the extra money is not a temptation in itself. Of course I would rather have my integrity than an extra dollar. It’s not even a question.

The last time around, I started to see it as more of a trial of pride. Of course I don’t care about the money, but I do care about convenience and embarrassment, and I do get embarrassed about things that should not be embarrassing. The emotions I was fighting did not involve greed as much as they did irritation and (unreasonable) humiliation.

I may get other opportunities. No one seems to know how to make change in their head anymore, so it is probably really easy for them to get confused, and there is a lot of general incompetence flying around, especially in these low-wage jobs. I guess if it strikes again, I will try and remember that honesty is important to me, and I can handle it if someone compliments me and I can handle it if someone is rude to me and thinks I am an idiot for correcting the mistake. Those things don’t really matter, right?

I do have one exception to the honesty rule. If when going through the drive-through of a fast food restaurant you check your order and see that you were given extra items, there is no point in taking them back. Once they have handed the food over they can’t take it back, and it certainly wouldn’t be right for them to charge you, so at that point you are just making their lives harder without accomplishing anything. And yes, you should still go back if they short you. I’ve worked drive-through, and I am comfortable with this.