A Day at Neverland

The first few years of my career in Hollywood were filled with experiences my teenage self would never have believed could happen to me. I don’t really talk about those experiences since moving back to the Midwest. There are so many more interesting things to talk about. But lately, one memory has been popping back up — my trips to Neverland Ranch to work with Michael Jackson. So I think today, I will share.

Like most girls in the late 70s, I had a huge crush on Michael Jackson. I played Off the Wall  until I knew every song, and had a dance routine worked out. I hopped around and sang into my curling iron for hours.

When I got a call from my boss in either late 1992 or early 1993, and heard I was being sent to Neverland Ranch, I remember jumping up and down and screaming with my roommate. 1992 was just before the accusations, so there was no dark cloud. Michael was close to being at his peak in fame. It was an unreal thought that this South Dakota farm girl was going to work with the Michael Jackson.

The crew met up and we drove in a caravan along hilly roads several hours north of LA. I found it amusing that going onto the Ranch, we had to cross cattle guards. I grew up in a place where cattle guards were the norm on entering a rural ranch, but it seemed strange that Michael Jackson’s ranch had the same feature. Once we drove onto the property, it became clear by the roving cattle, that those guards were actually practical.

Before being allowed onto the ranch, we had to sign all sorts of non-disclosure agreements. I have no idea if I’m violating them right now, but I would assume that since Michael is dead, the ranch is no more, and I have nothing negative to say, I’m not going to be sued.

We drove on a tree-lined, winding road past the house, and parked at the movie theater/dance studio. Just across the road was the amusement park. After unloading my gear and setting up the teleprompter, the crew guys who had been here before, showed us around. The theater was attached to the dance studio. We were told to help ourselves to any of the candy behind the counter. And I did. There were three types of chocolate bars and I took one of each, ate two, and still have one. I’m sure the chocolate is inedible by now, but I felt the need to keep one intact. I also kept a few of the napkins. In the picture on the left, there are some acorns from his tree resting on the napkin.

The theater had traditional seats, but in the back were hospital beds for kids who were too sick to sit up. Everything was designed with children in mind.

Michael wasn’t there, so the crew guys passed the time by telling stories about the tours they had gone on with him. Everyone who knew Michael spoke about him with such love. They also told me that once you worked with Michael, and he came to trust you, he would only work with you… thus, there would be a good chance I might go on his next tour with him if this worked out. My head was spinning.

When Michael still hadn’t shown up by noon, his personal chef prepared lunch for us. I seem to remember it was chicken in some sort of delicious sauce, veggies and rice pilaf. As the afternoon wore on, we began to venture further out. I wandered into the amusement park, looking at the merry-go-round and the ferris wheel. Out of nowhere a security guard approached me, and I was sure I was about to get thrown off the ranch. I tried to come up with a good explanation to my boss of how I’d gotten fired from this job. Instead the guard smiled and said, “Want me to start any of the rides up for you?” I mumbled, “No, that’s okay,” and rushed back to the theater.

Behind the dance studio was a ravine with a small zip line over it. Several of the crew had a blast going back and forth, but I was convinced I would fall and break something, so instead I crossed the suspension bridge and went to the massive oak tree nearby. It had a tire swing hanging from one limb, and a winding staircase around the trunk leading to a platform. On the platform was a pirate’s chest full of blunderbusses and swords.

It was winter, and by late afternoon it was starting to get dark. That’s when the real magic of Neverland Ranch appeared. The trees were wrapped with lights, turning the whole place into an enchanted fairyland. I sat on that tire swing, surrounded by light, marveling at the beauty, and the fact his electric bill was probably more than I made in a month.

At some point not long after, Michael finally showed up full of apologies for being delayed. Trust me, I don’t think one of us minded. It had been an amazing day.

In the early 90s, Michael still looked like Michael. He had started down the plastic surgery road, but hadn’t gone far. Even so, I found it uncomfortable to look at him… until he smiled. He had an amazing smile. I also found it strange how normal he was. He chatted with old friends on the crew, talking about the Lakers game the night before. He was just a guy, hanging with friends, talking about sports. Weird… yet not.

We did our work. He said goodnight, and we packed up our gear to make the long drive back to LA. I had to have been floating as I drove out through those light-covered trees. It was a job I will never forget.

I worked out there again, because true to the crew’s prediction, once Michael had let someone into his circle, he would rather limit his exposure. I remember very little from that job, other than it involved a satellite link with Jimmy Carter.

Then the abuse accusations were made, the Ranch was raided, and Michael had pictures of his privates taken. He wanted to make a public statement about this series of events, and once again I got the call to go to the ranch for this taped statement. However, not long after, I got another call. My boss explained that Michael would be uncomfortable with a woman running his teleprompter while discussing such delicate matters, and he asked that I be replaced. It was completely understandable.

Once things had been settled, he left the country to live abroad, and my opportunity to work with him was over. I have my thoughts on the accusations that ended his career for almost a decade, and if you ask me in person, I may even give them to you.

It was a most remarkable experience, and one that would have seemed wholly impossible to the kid shoveling manure in oversized overshoes while wearing hand-me-down clothes.

And yet it happened.

Isn’t life strange?

 

 

 

Please like & share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

The Grind

Right now it feels as if I’m just grinding along. In an attempt to prolong what’s left of my savings, thus giving me time to sell my book, I am working more hours. I’m getting up to an alarm 5 days of the week now. Gone is the midweek “weekend.” No more time for daydreaming on the sun porch while ideas float about my brain. There is little time left for my other job – writing. Survival is pretty much the focus now.

For the first few years, when I could balance work, writing, and social time, I didn’t feel the need to take time off and go on a vacation. Now that the work leg of my stool is getting longer and longer, I feel the need to balance things out, except I can’t really afford a vacation. I was very generously given a raise after almost 3 years on the job, but immediately watched my rent go up significantly, and thanks to ACA sabotage, my health insurance quadrupled. I have a dental appointment this week and probably need a crown. I owe what feels like a hefty amount in taxes. One step forward, five steps back. I’ll just have to tighten things up even more, and keep dreaming of a week of relaxation with sand between my toes and bathtub warm water so clear I can see those grains of sand. Hopefully someday before I die.

More work, more stress, less fun, less daydreaming… none of it makes for productive writing time. I was told I needed to focus on two things this year: patience and discipline. So far that is proving true. I need the patience to see the agent/publisher search to its conclusion. I need discipline to keep writing… to grind it out. Not how I work best, but what else can I do? The safety net is being dismantled, leaving me with few options if this all blows up in my face. I must grind.

The grind of querying is also back on. I had one rejection within 24 hours. However, I’ve received none since, and while I may be grasping at straws, I actually see a glimmer of hope with one. I’m using a website called querytracker.net. I originally thought a spreadsheet would work just fine for tracking my queries and didn’t see the benefit of online tracking. I was wrong. My spreadsheet only contained my query information. Query Tracker contains the query information of every author who uses the site, which seems to be a whole lot of them. I can see the queries an agent has received — genre, word count, and date submitted. When the author receives a response, that is also displayed. One particular agent I queried, who seems ideally suited for my story, has rejected submissions made before I submitted, as well as some after I submitted. Mine and a couple of others have not received a response. While this could mean any number of things, such as: my manuscript is making the rounds of the agency so they can make fun of how bad it is; or like my original birth certificate, my submission fell behind a filing cabinet never to be found again; or the rejection got lost in cyberspace. It could mean any one of those things, but I’m choosing to believe that it means I made it past the junior agent and my submission is now sitting in a pile, waiting to be read. Even a nibble fills me with hope.

Now limited to a 2-day weekend, I spent one precious day yesterday cleaning, catching up on my finances, and doing my taxes. That leaves today for really focusing on writing. I finally found the scene/direction I’ve been missing in order to move forward with book two, and despite feeling the grind, I’m looking forward to spending a day lost in adventure. And in the breaks, I’ll daydream about having more days like today during the week, and warm, sandy beaches, and hopefully that will get me through the grind. Hopefully someday it will all be worth it.

Please like & share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Greasy Spoon Adventure

This post is for Nicole, who really wanted me to memorialize a visit we took to a little greasy spoon diner here in the Ozarks.

It was her birthday, or it had been a few weeks ago, but we were just now finally getting around to celebrating with a night out. She choose the diner because it had a fried chicken meal, and a repuation as a quirky little place with good food.

So, we piled into a couple of cars and headed off on a culinary adventure. As we walked up to the front door, the smell took me back to the greasy spoon in the little town where I grew up. We walked in, and the handful of regulars in the restaurant all turned to look at the invaders. The moment had a bit of a Deliverance feel. There was no waitress, diner employee, or maitre d’ in sight. The dining area was three or 4 small booths and a couple of tables. It appeared our party of 7 would have to split up.

Then, like an angel from above, a waitress appeared and whisked us away from the suspicious locals and into the back room where she put a couple of tables together for us. I sat by the window and tried to pretend I couldn’t smell the wet, musty odor all around me.

Once seated, we realized that we had perhaps discovered a greasy spoon time machine. The wood paneled room we were in contained two shoot’em up video games. The little girl hanging out while her mom worked, entertained herself with the Smurfs, and right outside my window was a phone booth. An actual, bona fide phone booth where you put a coin in and call somebody. Not long after a woman walked by with a flip phone. We were not in 2016 anymore.

We got water in those plastic cafeteria glasses, that after being run through a dishwasher a thousand times, become milky, making you wonder about the purity of the water inside, but you just hope and gulp.

The menu was pretty extensive for such a little place. They served breakfast all day, had a page full of burgers and chicken sandwiches, and another page of entrees. When it came time to order, our birthday girl knew exactly what she wanted, “I’ll have the fried chickend dinner.” Then heard in response, “Oh, I’m sorry, we don’t serve that anymore, because nobody ever orders it. You’re the first person in years.”

If you’ve ever seen a 5-year-old after dropping an ice cream cone, you get an idea of the look on Nicole’s face. The waitress explained that they had just about every other kind of chicken, just not fried chicken. Then several of us ordered those other varieties of chicken, probably rubbing salt in the wound. Sorry Nicole.

She settled for chicken strips instead.

The food was plentiful, the price cheap, and it was your standard American diner fare – completely unhealthy, but absolutely delicious. I just tried not to think too much about what an inspector might find in the kitchen.

As we walked back through the diner to leave, the fact that we had traveled through time was reinforced by the RGB TV projector showing a pale picture on the wall, and the gigantic copy machine in the corner. The dancing Senator Hillary Clinton doll by the register was the cherry on top.

We attempted to lift Nicole’s spirtis by taking her to her favorite donut place, but then proceeded to completely ruin her year by telling her about the Yellowstone Supervolcano and the fact that life could end for everyone at any moment. Again, sorry Nicole.

Hope your birthday next year is better and full of fried chicken. But, you have to admit, the company was pretty good.

Happy birthday.

Please like & share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

1st Anniversary

February 20th was my 1 year anniversary of my last day of working for CBS. For many of my coworkers it was a sad day. Had it ended 10 years earlier, I would have joined them in their sadness. As it was, I had stayed too long and there was nothing but joy and elation knowing I would never drive onto that over-crowded, parking-spots-barely-wider-than-a-Prius, cars-parked-just-inches-from-each-other-so-you-have-to-wedge-yourself-into-whatever-door-opens-wide-enough-to-get-into-and-climb-over-the-seat parking lot. That was if you actually found a spot on the lot. Always fun walking past all the empty executive spots and parts of the parking area filled with trailers and set storage as you hiked in from the public lot nearby. That way you were sure to arrive at your job, having been reminded that you had absolutely no value to the company. Even the sets got better parking.

But of course the parking wasn’t the real issue. That was just more irritation that made an already unpleasant situation even more unpleasant. Lack of opportunity was the real issue. My naivity of the business led me to think a network job would provide more opportunity for upward mobility than freelance. Oh, foolish me. It would have been hard to turn down the steady work, but if I knew then what I know now, I would have. I had made those hard decisions before. When I was just starting out and desparately needed a job, I turned down steady work in a bookkeeping firm, and an exciting job as a green room attendant at the Columbia Records recording studio. It was hard, but in both cases I knew it would not lead where I wanted to go. If I had known the truth about where the network job was leading (nowhere), I have no doubt I would have turned that down as well.

I definitely would have turned it down had I known they could use me as a daily hire, with no rights or job security, for 20 years. If I had a problem I would go to the network and they would say, “You aren’t an employee. We only hire you for this production. Go talk to them.” And if I went to the production company I was told, “You don’t work for us, you are hired by the network, go talk to them.” I existed for 20 years in no-man’s land. At any time they could have called me, without severence or notice and said, “Your services are no longer needed” and that would have been that. Instant unemployment. Nothing I could have done. This could happen if the host, a producer, or even director decided they didn’t like me, or something I had done. I’d seen it happen to others. One wrong Facebook post, one wrong comment made to the wrong person, one bad mistake, and we would hear, “It was best for the show if Mergatroid pursued other opportunities.” Then we quietly went back to work hoping it wasn’t us next time.

Late night television was also the absolutely wrong field for a dramatic writer. There were no connections to be made that could move me forward. If I wanted to be a comedian, or a sitcom writer… perfect. There was also very little creativity, and what little opportunity there was for that was guarded more carefully than Golem guarded his Precious. So for me it was a mind-numbing monotony of monologue jokes, comedy bit, guest intro, guest intro, music or comedian, close. Night after night after night after night after night for 20 years.

The culture on the show was also difficult for me. Rather than pulling together so that we could get farther together, from day one, lines were drawn and groups were set against each other. Resentments and jealousy ate away at the fabric that should have bound us together. Others have talked of such different experiences in the business, and I often wonder how my career would have turned out if I had been part of a tight-knit, supportive team.

But knowing none of that, I jumped into a Late Night Network job with all the optimism of the country girl I was. It took me 20 years to extricate myself, and that was 10 years too long. By then my career was pretty much over. There just aren’t too many women over 50 who break into television writing, if any.

Despite the joy of that last day on February 20, 2015, I was crying when I drove off the lot. It was also our Executive Producer’s last day in the business. He was being lauded and honored… and rightly so. He had an amazing career. However, it wasn’t lost on me that my last day was met with deafening indifference. 25 years in the business and nobody cared. It hurt a little. Oh, who am I kidding, it hurt a lot. It was a sucky way to leave.

Regardless, it was the right thing to do. The year since then has been magnificent. I am free! I am no longer working in a job whose main goal is to make a few people at the top rich. I am now working in a job whose main goal is to, yes, make enough profit to stay open, but equally important, our goal is to help people be physically and mentally well. The job doesn’t follow me home. It doesn’t stress me out so much that I can’t write when I have the time. and that has allowed me to get 45,000 words deep into the best work I’ve ever done. On my job I am given credit for my work. At least so far my boss hasn’t denied I exist and claimed that she does it all herself. Sometimes she even spontaneously thanks me for things, not just waiting until I make a mistake to acknowledge my existence. Imagine! Oh wait, I don’t have to anymore. There are opportunities to be creative with marketing and writing articles. There are also silly ways to be creative in decorating the studio and dressing up the anatomy skeleton. I just can’t seem to get away from working with skeletons. In every way, despite the huge downgrade in pay, I have gotten a huge promotion.

While there’s clearly a lot of bitterness in this post, I know it is beginning to fade. One of the things I found delightful about my fellow Missourians – few ever ask me what I did in LA. Because of that, I rarely told anyone about my life in Hollywood. I didn’t want to talk about it, or even think about it. I just wanted to bury it. However, a year later, the stories are starting to leak out. It gives me hope that eventually I will remember more of the good than the bad. Because honestly, it was quite an adventure for this South Dakota farm girl, even if it didn’t turn out exactly as I’d hoped.

Happy freedom anniversary to me.

Please like & share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Happy Birthday to Me

Birthdays are only unpleasant if you are aren’t doing in life what you want to be doing. Even though yesterday was my first step into the second half of a century, which could be depressing, this was a very happy birthday. The increasing number means little right now.

The first half century of my life was pretty remarkable. I often think about myself as someone kind of boring. I’m just a middle-aged woman living alone with my cats. Then I think back on all my adventures and realize I have not lived an ordinary life. Running off to Hawaii at 20. A summer in Yellowstone. A winter at the Grand Canyon. Teaching city kids about nature. Showing up in LA with no experience and still managing to have a 25 year career in television – working with the biggest celebrities, sports figures, and government officials on the planet. I’ve gone caving, had the Phantom of the Opera sing to me backstage, seen Renoirs and Van Goghs in person, attended several Super Bowls, gone ghost hunting overnight on an old ship, made John Candy laugh, ridden the London Eye, chatted backstage with the VP of the United States, gone whale watching, and so much more. I’ve done things I never could have imagined I would do when I was young. It has been a remarkable ride, and I’ve said that if I die today, I wouldn’t be eligible for a refund. I’ve gotten my money’s worth.

However, most of those events happened years ago. For the past few years there has been very little adventure in my life. I went to work. I recovered from work. I went back to work. That was life. Daydreams, which were the power behind most of my adventures, stopped completely. Being a square peg in round Hollywood left me more and more insecure. I built higher and thicker walls, sure I would be rejected anyway. I collapsed in on myself, not sure who I was anymore. For the first time in my life, I understood the term, “soul sick.” No dreams, no joy, no me.

Thankfully, the soul is a resilient thing. Since leaving LA and finding myself in a strong community of friends and coworkers, my soul has returned to life. I find myself more comfortable in my skin. Confidence is growing, laughter comes easily, but most importantly, I can dream about my future again. I can imagine all sorts of exciting adventures happening… even falling in love. Anyone who knows me well is probably picking themselves up off the floor after that comment.

I feel like I’ve received so many wonderful gifts this year. My house in LA was beautiful inside, but had no view other than my neighbor’s houses and a sliver of busy street. Right now I look out across an expanse of field bordered by trees that are just starting to change into a beautiful mix of reds, golds, and greens. I’m have the time and mental clarity to be working on a novel. My commute went from an hour and a half battling LA traffic to 10 minutes on side streets of a small city. My dead-end job is dead, and I’m now doing work that matters, is appreciated, and provides new challenges every day. I went from working in a toxic soup, to one of mutual support and encouragment. What might I have accomplished in Hollywood with this support system? I went from worrying I had no future, to being able to dream of fantastic futures. A completely 180. I am so blessed.

Through a bit of planning, hard work, and a great deal of real estate luck, I have recieved the best birthday present I may have ever been given. I’ve gotten myself and my dreams back. Happy birthday to me.

Please like & share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Twinges

Here we are again. Another week has gone by. It’s been 3 1/2 months since I arrived here in Missouri. In some ways it feels like I’ve been here for years. In other ways I’m still settling in. There is still a hefty list of things that need to be done before I’m fully “settled.” As I type, my sunporch is finally being screened. I’m excited to get that off the list, and to be able to enjoy the outdoors without the mosquitos. They can go snack on someone else, thank you very much.

Heading towards my fourth month here, things are definitely starting to normalize. Every commute is not another opportunity to marvel at the lack of traffic and abundance of courteous drivers. Now it’s just a commute… a 10-minute, lovely commute, but still just a commute. I still obsessively check WeatherBug to see if there might be a thunderstorm that day, but thunder is no longer the novelty it was when I first arrived. Even my cats can now deal with all but the loudest cracks of thunder.

With this expected loss of novelty and excitement, I am starting to have twinges of… not sure if I would call it homesickness, but I am starting to miss people from California. It’s starting to sink in that despite Facebook, I’m really not around old friends anymore. Yes, I can see their lives play out, but we can’t get together for dinner, a hike, or a laugh. I don’t regret the move, it’s just a fact that old relationships are missed, despite having developed new ones here. When I first arrived, people would ask me if I wanted to go back to visit, and my answer was always a resounding ‘no!’ Now I’m starting to feel like it would be fun to visit. Time does make the unpleasant fade, and soon I will only remember the good aspects of life in California. Several clients at our fitness studio have taken trips to CA and their thoughts when they come back are that they can see LA would be a miserable place to live, but it’s a lovely place to visit. They may just be right.

Work has provided some wonderful access to some amazing physical treatment and care, so I’m no longer living in so much pain. This has given me twinges of restlessness for physical activity. Today I took my first cardio class and it was just as awful as I expected. Ha! I should have gotten up early to eat early, but instead ate just an hour before class. Combine that with my desire to push myself hard and see what I’m capable of, and about 2/3 of the way through class, I was losing my breakfast. Lesson learned. I was disappointed I couldn’t keep up with class, but on the other hand, it’s pretty much the first cardio I’ve done in a year. What did I expect from a 50-year-old, out-of-shape body? I’m tired, I know I’ll ache tomorrow, but it feels good.

And finally, there have been twinges of frustration as I have struggled with the prologue for my novel. I just couldn’t find the right voice. As soon as this post is finished, though, I will be writing, because I think I’ve finally found it. It’s going to be a very short prologue – no in depth information, which was making it feel like reading a history book. Just a quick, simple, and light couple of paragraphs to help people understand where they are. Then I will get back to writing the story. I’m truly beginning to believe that some day this book will be published, even if only friends and family read it. And as I’ve learned with weight loss, or finishing a novel that could take years, without faith you will not continue. You have to believe that your goal is possible.

I believe!

 

 

 

Please like & share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Torn Between Two Memes

Yes, I’m a couple days late with this. I’ve had a topic in mind for a while, but could never quite make sense of it. Finally, things got sorted out the other night.

In the run up to my leap, I had a great deal of self doubt. Actually, self doubt is a pretty deep seated trait for me, regardless of leaping or sitting safely on my living room couch. So, the memes people post on Facebook often having me re-examining myself to see if I measure up. It can get pretty tough when the memes start contradicting themselves.

For instance, there I was, happily contemplating perhaps the biggest change in my life – a whole new part of the country I’d never lived in before, a new job, and new friends – when what meme comes along? This one:

Destination-addiction

I was imagining so much happiness in my new life. I saw myself taking long walks in my suburban neighborhood. There was a job without stress and worry. Being part of a team.  I saw slow days writing in front of a fire. There were good friends to share laughter with who were minutes away. There would be thunder storms and fall leaves. It all seemed so wonderful until I read that quote. After all, I knew my flaws and bad habits weren’t going to get left behind in California. I would still be me. So, was I falling into destination addiction?

Not long after that, somebody posted this:

il_570xN.717512541_41sc

So which wise internet meme was I to follow? I had remarked to a friend that perhaps I needed to stay so I could learn to be happy even when I was in miserable conditions. She pointed out I’d been there a long time and tried many methods. It was time to move on.

Ultimately I agreed and chose to leap my chasm, however the doubt has never left me. It should have faded when I arrived at my new destination and found life was as good, or better, than I had been imagining all those months. My walks don’t exactly take me through a suburban neighborhood, but they do take me through a more beautiful greenways trail. The open field I saw in my imagination was to the south of my south-facing house, and instead it’s to the east of my east-facing house. My job has a little more responsibility than I had envisioned, but I enjoy it so much that I actually sort of wish I was going in on my days off. Sort of. It is an environment that is providing physical and emotional healing. The friendships are lovely. And the thunderstorms… just wonderful. I’ll give you a report on the fall leaves in a few months. It truly is everything my soul was looking for that I couldn’t seem to find in LA.

Still, I worried I had become a destination addict. Would these feelings of joy and contentment wear off once the newness of the place wore off.

But the other night, the right analogy hit me. LA and Hollywood were like shoes. At some point in my life I saw these gorgeous shoes and just knew they were for me. I wanted those shoes more than anything I’d ever wanted. I risked everything I knew, left family and friends behind, in order to get those shoes. Once I had them, they were even more amazing and I loved how I looked in them. I was never taking those shoes off!

Then I started to walk in those shoes. Sure, they pinched here and there. Sure they caused blisters. But they were gorgeous and I could take it. It was worth it to be wearing those shoes, because I believed there would be a payoff for the pain.

However, the longer I lived in those shoes, and realized there was no payoff, the harder it became to ignore the pain they were causing. There were more and more raw spots. There were blisters on blisters. Every step became excruciating and made me angry. Finally i wanted to take the shoes off but didn’t, because I was worried I had nothing else to wear. Now not only was I in terrible pain, but I began to resent those shoes I had once loved.

What to do in that situation? Stay and learn to love the shoes causing so much pain or take them off and find another pair that fit better. It seems quite obvious, and thankfully I chose option two. And oh, the blessed relief of taking off shoes that don’t fit after wearing them all day. (imagine 20 years of wear!) That freeing-of-the-tootsies relief is exactly how my move to Missouri has felt. Ahhhhhhhhhhh.

So I’ve found my peace with the memes, because sometimes if you are in an over-crowded, loud, hyper-competitive, stress-inducing environment, in a job that limits your future and your potential, and with equally stressed-out friends so scattered across a large city that you have to use a day planner to schedule “play dates,” maybe then it really is a new destination, a new job, and new relationships that will make you happy. Maybe all you really need is change.

Maybe you just need to find a pair of shoes that fit and not worry about internet memes.

Please like & share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Wonder and Gratitude

The writer’s group was really fun. There were two manuscripts to discuss. Each of us had around 7 minutes per manuscript to discuss our thoughts on what we’d read. The authors politely sat through it all. I can’t imagine how difficult that is, but I’m about to find out. They asked if I had anything I want to submit, and I foolishly said I could. It’s amazing how I am suddenly very motivated to write. I’ve stumbled upon a routine for my writing. The 4 days of the week that I don’t work, I will focus on writing new material. On the 3 days that I do work, I will focus on editing what I’ve written. I’m figuring it out, I really am.

This week I’ve had a dawning realization that things are shifting in my brain. When I first got here I was a bit frenetic. That was partly due to life in the city, and partly the stress of accomplishing every task needed to move my entire life across the country. Only now am I beginning to appreciate the effort it took to get all the gears to slide into place in the right sequence.

Then there were stresses that crept in naturally even once here.

Work – I was worried I was so used to the TV world that I wouldn’t know how to deal with the real world. I didn’t want to let my friend down who had recommended me for the job, and felt I had to prove myself, probably more to myself than anyone else.

Socially – There were also a whole lot of faces and names coming at me that I had to put together and remember. I worried about fitting in and being a part of things.

Diet – I fell into comfort eating during this transition and was feeling the pounds pile on. I felt pressure to get my eating back under control.

Writing – I even felt pressured to get writing and make some real progress…

Untll…

While talking with my best friend about my weight and finding an eating plan I could live with, she made the comment that she was impressed I was even addressing the issue this soon. It made me sit back and think about all I had just gone through. I completely uprooted my life of 25 years, and transplanted it to a place I’ve never lived before. I made the decisions, and it mostly worked out as I’d planned. Perhaps I needed to cut myself some slack, and just take it all in.

Not long after that, I must have processed that information, becase there was a definite and unconscious shift.

Work – I no longer felt so driven at work. I’m still doing my job, but I’m doing it with an ease that was not there before.

Socially – I’m relaxing into myself. I no longer worry so much that I’m going to do or say the wrong thing. I’m content with what is. There’s a story told about me as a child of 4 or 5 that illustrates my true nature. My sister was trying to take a picture of me while I was swinging. When she missed the shot and only got my feet I responded, “That’s okay, feet are just as good as heads.” For long periods of my life, I have been just fine with whatever life delivers. Sadly, the pressures of life in LA buried that, but I’m thrilled the inner core is still there, just waiting to come out and shine again.

Writing – I have remembered that a novel is a marathon, not a sprint. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and don’t worry about time limits quite so much.

This shift has led to my emotions beginning to balance out. I no longer feel giddy joy, which I knew was not sustainable. Now I’m settling into a deeply grateful contentment. Last night I sat on my sun porch, which has yet to be screened in, on a dining room chair, because I can’t really afford patio furniture yet, and watched the cats chasing crickets. I enjoyed the fireflies dancing to the percussion of the insects and tree frogs as the sky faded to black. There was a dreamlike quality to the moment, and I was filled with wonder and gratitude. I pray my writing is good enough that I never have to wake up.

Please like & share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Life on a Budget

Small confession. I’m not terribly inspired to write a post today. I’ve had several topics rolling around in my head, but none are fully formed. I’ll do my best to put a few words together.

I’m adjusting to life on a budget. When I was poor, I simply didn’t spend more than I had in my account. Because I have simple wants, once I was making more money, I didn’t have to worry about what I spent. There was always enough.

Now I am making less than I spend and relying on my savings account to fill in the gap. While there is a good chunk of money left from my house sale, it won’t last forever. It won’t even last that many years unless I am careful. Thus, I must learn to live on a budget. I’ve just completed my first month in my house and am learning what my monthly bills will be.

So far my biggest struggle is groceries. If I’m going to eat meat, I want to eat grass-fed, or free-range, hormone-free meat. That adds a huge chunk to my grocery bill. I love avocados and in the past have found the organic avocados are a better quality. However, in the Midwest, it’s harder to find good avocados and they are more expensive. I’ve had to downgrade to the standard version.

There are lots of other little things I used to buy without thinking. I want to put up some solar-powered yard lights. Maybe get a hammock. And a daybed for my guest room. But now those things must be saved for. Whatever I don’t spend from my montly allowance will be tallied and used to buy those things when I’ve saved enough.

It’s a new way of living and one that’s not really terrible Things are just things. I love this new life so much, and am willing to do what is necessary to keep it going, even if that involves living without things I want. I work a few more hours a week than I used to work, but now only make in a month what I used to make in a week. Still, at the end of each work day I go home far more satisfied. I’m doing an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. I’m no longer being paid a ridiculous wage for something I could do in my sleep, and benefited no one but those above me to become even more wealthy. I’m more than fine with the pay cut.

However, in an attempt to supplement my part-time job, I intend to look for freelance writing work. One site that I signed up for 2 years ago, when I had no time to take any freelance work, was E-lance. It was touted by other writers as a great place to earn some money. I know the market has changed in recent years, and I’m guessing that’s what I’m seeing now that I’m back on the E-lance site. Most jobs pay next to nothing for a great deal of words. Writing, never a good paying gig, has gotten even worse. One job offer was to write 2, 10,000 word e-books a week for $50. Uh… yeah… why? If I wanted to do that, I’d just write them for myself and take the money earned from their online sales. Many other jobs are simply writing articles to help companies sell products. I’m done letting corporate America take advantage of my skills.

I subscribe to Writer’s Digets and Poets & Writers. I will start searching them a bit more diligently to find paying contests and freelance work. Again, I will do what it takes to make this life last as long as possible, if not forever.

Tonight I will go to my first writer’s group meeting. We’re discussing two manuscripts written by members. I went in with some skepticism, based on my previous two years at an online university. So many marginal writers would introduce themselves in class by talking of their dreams of becoming novelists. However, these writers seem to be truly talented. One book is something I would never pick up in a store, and I was starting on chapter 12. Despite this, by the end of that portion, I was fully invested. Would the protagonist rescue the love of his life? I was frustrated when I ran out of story. Now I will have to wait until the author gets more written.

Nothing has gotten me writing more than the idea that I’m going to be submitting pages to these talented people for feedback. It’s intimidating. I want to give them a good read, too.

So that is all for today. No insights or wisdom, just me figuring out this new life – learning to live in a budget, finding paying writing work, and getting inspired by other writers. That’s really a pretty good week.

 

Please like & share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Road Trip

One of the joys of living in the midwest is its central location. Just a few hours away are numerous large cities. Also, just a day’s drive away is my old college town and my best friend, as well as numerous other friends and relatives. Last weekend I decided I was finally settled in enough to take the new car on a roadtrip and visit some people from home.

The trip didn’t start out or end particularly well. Thanks to an iPhone update, my GPS was screwy and left me not knowing how to even start. It’s a little frightening how reliant we’ve all become on technology. Sitting in my car, wondering what to do, I had to ask myself, “What did I do before GPS?” Not sure I had any maps left, I remembered Google maps, went inside, fired up the computer, and printed out my route. That got me on the road, though I was thoroughly annoyed with having to check the map instead of listening to a pleasant voice tell me a turn was coming up. We’re reliant for a reason… because technology, when it’s working, is better than no technology.

The drive was beautiful and I enjoyed the rolling hills, limestone rocks, and tree covered landscape. It stayed this way pretty much until I hit South Dakota. Now, having grown up there, I do appreciate the unique beauty it offers, but after passing through the rolling hills of Missouri and Iowa, it suddenly seemed barren and bleak. Whatever trees I saw had been neatly planted in rows after the dust bowl to help preserve land.

It was so good to see friends and family. I visited with my newly engaged niece and another one heading off for a major backpacking trip. I saw an old friend from high school, and probably annoyed our waitress by monopolizing a booth during the breakfast rush hour as we happily chatted away. Of course, any time with my best friend is amazing and wonderful. As I’ve said, Missouri would be almost perfect, if only she were here.

Despite all that, my gut feeling that Missouri was where I should move was confirmed. The whole time I was in SD I could not picture myself living there. It just felt wrong. Missouri felt right. Much of my life has been run by listening to this intuition. I’ve lost it from time to time, and generally lose myself when that happens, but it’s nice to know it’s still there. I just have to be open and listen.

The trip home was a little traumatic. The night before I left, a huge storm came through the area. There I was with a brand new car that didn’t even have it’s permanent plates yet, and no garage. My best friend selflessly gave me her garage, which was humbling. She at least was willing to accept my help with the deductible if her car was damaged. Thankfully, it was not. However, the next day I had to drive home through parts of that same storm. I delayed leaving a little and thought the worst was safely past me. I was wrong. Suddenly I was in pouring rain that was so hard I could barely see the car that was 3-4 car-lengths in front of me. I told myself if I just kept driving, I’d be clear of it in a few miles. Instead it got worse. The only way I could see that car was when it put on its brake lights. I could also see a car 3-4 car lengths behind me. I wanted desperately to pull over, but know that is how pile-ups start. As I counted the passing miles I became more and more terrified. The clouds became heavier and darker until it was almost night out. I had to keep reminding myself it was the middle of the day. I finally saw an old road that had been fenced off, but allowed me to pull my car off the road. Unfortunately, once I looked at the radar, another one of those technoligies that is valuable and I have come to rely on, I could see that if I stayed there, it would only get worse. I was on the leading edge of it, which meant the entire cell would pass over me and then I’d have to drive through it again. My best bet was to get back on the road and drive out of it. Lightning was flashing everywhere. There was probably thunder as well, but the pounding rain was so loud on the car that I couldn’t tell. And I had to pee!

The radar didn’t lie. Within about 5 miles the rain returned to normal spattering. I pulled off to use the restroom, but by the time I got out of the gas station the storm had caught back up with me. Just a few more miles of low-visibility driving and once again I was free of it. It seemed to chase me the whole way home and finally caught up about midnight that night when I was safely in bed.

I missed weather in California, and I guess mother nature is having a good laugh at me now. I had forgotten that weather could also be frightening and deadly. Then again, that’s part of what makes life exciting. Adventures are adventures because there is danger, otherwise it’s just a walk in the park.

I’ve had enough adventure for the moment. This trip seemed to mark the end of “moving” in my head – like the last box I had to check before I could say I was here. For the next few weeks I hope to settle in, write, and find my groove here. Normal life sure feels good when you survive the adventures!

Please like & share:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
1 2