Sunday, December 31, 2006

It’s New Year’s Eve And?

Well, well, well, here we are. Almost officially a year of blogging. I swear I'm not making this up, but this post right here is officially the 100th post. WHOO HOO! THROW A PARTY! HEY, IT'S NEW YEAR'S EVE! THE WORLD IS THROWING A PARTY FOR ME AND MY BLOGGIE! YEE-HAWWWWWW!

I suppose I should do some wrap up ruminating What Has Amy Learned kind of entry. Except I already did that, here, six months ago. So it would seem a bit like overkill, especially since there haven’t been that many new lessons learned in the past six months.

If you had told me on New Year’s Eve in 2003 that 2004 would find me pitching Muppet ideas to the Jim Henson Company, I would’ve laughed with glee and delight.

If you had told me on New Year’s Eve in 2004 that 2005 would find me garnering the best accolades of my writing career for a play I wrote and produced, I would’ve laughed with glee and delight.

And if you had told me on New Year’s Even in 2005 that 2006 would find me gutting out houses in Katrina Country I would’ve…blinked a couple of times, thought about it, and then said, “Well, okay.”

I never say “I don’t believe it,” about anything anymore. Life is far too strange and wonderfully weird for stuff like that. And I’m always up for being thrown for a loop, even if it’s bad, like losing your job, because at least it makes life interesting. I’ve heard more than once in church that God has big big plans for you, bigger than you could ever imagine. So I’m happy to let Him do His thing, though most days, I wish He’d hurry up about it.

Awhile back (like, maybe a year and a half ago) I learned to stop worrying about the small stuff. Stuff like losing your keys, your earrings, worrying whether you’re gonna have enough time to do laundry, get through three Veronica Mars episodes, journal writing AND five pages on the script in one day. And when you stop worrying about that stuff, you find the keys on the kitchen table, the earrings were under your seat in the car, and yes, you have enough time to do all of that, provided you drink 2 vanilla Frappucinos from Starbucks. So I know not to worry about that small stuff.

So it should be no problem at all to apply that same reasoning to Stop Worrying About The Big Stuff. And when it comes to things like Where’s My Next Job Coming From, I can handle it, no problem. Everything else, like When Am I Gonna Sell Something Script Related, is still up for grabs. It’s because I’ve been doing this for so long, you see. That age old argument of “If It Hasn’t Happened Yet, Does That Mean God’s Trying To Tell Me To Move On?” When does No mean No, as opposed to Not Yet?

These are not new questions. And I know, I know, it’s all about faith, and nobody got anywhere by giving up and blah blah blah.

Perhaps my goal for 2007 is to take purposeful steps towards not worrying. Though I don’t know what that looks like. Maybe just concentrate on the writing, as opposed to the results. But time’s ticking! Time’s running out, unless you lift your head up from your computer and look around and see what’s happening around you! Meet people! Make connections! Network! Be methodical in drawing up a business plan! You can’t afford to waste anymore time! And around and around we goooooooooo.

God is the master of all time. I read that in one of Lloyd Ogilvie’s devotionals this year. Once at my small group this fall, someone threw out the whole “Remember how long it took for Abraham and Sara to have a child? Remember how long Moses and his people wandered around the desert?” To which I replied, “Yeah, but weren’t those the days when everyone lived to be like, 500 years old, so 40 years in the desert is pretty much a drop in the bucket.”

But God is the master of time, and these things happen in His time, according to His will. Bah humbug, but I’ll try. I’ll try.

Hey check it out. This is what Alabama calls a bon bon. It’s a square of chocolate cake, topped by a squirt of white frosting, and covered in chocolate icing. The French would be horrified at such crudeness. But DAMN, it was goooooooood.

Happy New Year. Thanks for reading. See ya in 2007.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Enforced Secret Joy #24 – Goodbye Oswald!

Hot damn, folks! I’m looking forward to saying goodbye to 2006 for a number of reasons, but none looms largest like finally being able to literally close the book on Oswald Chambers and his masochistic collection of devotionals My Utmost For His Highest.

Nobody can say I didn’t do my best to give Oswald a shot. I read the whole damn book, one devotional each day, like a good little Christian should. I had actually been given the book a few years ago, tried to get through it, and would usually discard it around April because life would overtake me, or I just got disgusted and/or disheartened by his continual flagellations.

But no, 2006 was going to be my Year Of Searching Spiritually, and that includes the bad as well as the good. I thought I’d be changed by something I read in there, something would click in my brain, and the creaky iron door would fling wide open, letting in a burst of pure white Godly light, and I’d UNDERSTAND! BY GOD I’D UNDERSTAND EVERYTHING! And Oswald would be my hero, not my nemesis, and everything would be peachy keen cool.

Nope. Nope, nope, double dog nope nope.

Y’know, I have to say that I’ve talked to other people about My Utmost For His Highest, and the ones who love it have been married, by an overwhelming margin. I think there may be something to that. That it doesn’t matter if you read a devotional that makes you feel like hell and death warmed over spit, because you can go to your sweetie and they would perk you right up.

But at last, at last, one more day and it’s OVER. No more reading malarkey like “When God speaks, never discuss it with anyone as if to decide what your response may be.” But what if I don’t KNOW if it’s God, Oswald? What if I don’t KNOW? It could be the Bitch In My Head, ‘cause she sounds just like YOU. Oswald never had these problems, not once he became a Christian. He ALWAYS knew it was God. How serene, how glorious, how wonderful to be him. Would that he could spread that assurance and beauty to the rest of us. Nope, he says, “The calling of a New Testament worker is to expose sin and to reveal Jesus Christ as Savior.” Silly me, I thought it was to love the Lord your God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as you love yourself.

Okay, okay, to be fair, I have found some useful things, like “it’s one thing to go through a crisis grandly, yet quite another to go through every day glorifying God when there is no witness, no limelight and no one paying even the remotest attention to us.” and “Faith by its very nature must be tested and tried.” But for every “The true test of a person’s spiritual life and character is not what he does in the extraordinary moments in life, but what during the ordinary times when there is nothing tremendous or exciting happening.” there’s been three “Notice the kind of people he brings around you, and you will be humiliated once you realize that this is actually His way of revealing to you the kind of person you have been to Him.” Yeah? My friends are cool, buddy! or “My questions arise whenever I cease to obey” All questions? Every single last one? So I’m not allowed to ask why it is that I can’t hear God? Just obey in the silence? Yes, says Oswald. No, says Amy The Writer. The silence bugs, man. It BUGS.

So it is with the UTMOST pleasure that I bid adieu to the man, the myth, the masochist, Mr. Oswald Chambers. He appears to have plenty of fans ‘round the world. One detractor will not make one whit o’ difference.

Dear God, thank you for Oswald Chambers (because we have to love the people we don’t like.) Thank you for My Utmost For His Highest, because a bunch of people like it, even if I don’t. Thank you for the devotionals that made me want to puke, thank you for the devotionals that made me think. Thank you for giving me the tenacity to finish the book this time, instead of tossing it aside as I did in previous years. And thank you that it’s finally finally over. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Amen.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

It's Christmas Eve, Where Are You?

Christmas Eve! Here I am in Alabama, and no place to go. Already been to church, which is amusing in the way that only semi-small town church services can be (lots of Christmas themed knit sweaters on men and women, lots of antsy kids who can’t sit still during the service, a choir whose members aren’t necessarily all on key, and YES! The pastor dropped the communion plate! Lucky for him, it was only the bread part.) I’ve already helped The Phone Harpy Who I Love Very Very Much decorate the Christmas tree, and I’ve chortled merrily at the local TV preacher who’s bellowing Deep South style, “Don’tcha know it take FAITH to pay yo’ TITHE!?!?!?” He’s the type you worry is going to have an embolism on the spot, he’s so worked up.

A few weeks ago at my monthly prayer meeting, we were told to turn to the person next to us and tell them what our favorite Christmas tradition is. My buddy Donald next to me said baking his super special Cherry Chocolate Chip Christmas Cookies. I said going to IHOP with Roomies Heckle and Jekyll. I’m not a standard traditional gal. Even though we all live in the same house, Roomie Heckle and Jekyll and myself rarely eat meals together, and this particular tradition started about three years ago, and we move heaven and earth to make it happen. We had exactly one day this year where everyone’s schedules meshed, and Roomie Heckle turned down a paying PA gig so we could go. It’s great fun to listen to them talk about this, that and the other, even if this year’s topic of conversation was which celebrity I should try and get pregnant by (my protests of “I’m not having kids” and “I’m pretty sure my insides are high, dry, and fried” were summarily ignored.)

No, I am not a traditional Christmas gal. I feel a little bad about it, as all my Act One classmates have had a running commentary on our message board about what their favorite Christmas carol is. Everybody’s got a list, with lengthy explanations. Because they’re all more Christian than me. STOP!

But honestly, Christmas carols don’t do it for me (I guess the one I like to sing to the best is U2’s “It’s Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)”). The story of Jesus’ birth doesn’t make my heart sing. I don’t feel joy, rapture, whatever. My family doesn’t gather round the fire and pop popcorn, swap stories, or otherwise do the Norman Rockwell thing. My dad is currently sleeping at the kitchen table while “A Christmas Story” is playing on the TV. He does that every year. The Phone Harpy is reading Margaret Atwood in front of the Christmas tree. I’m in the family room with my new buddy the TV Preacher, “Don’tcha know the DEVIL’s gonna tell ya yo’ a LOSER!” Oh yes, I do. Yes, I do.

My Christmas reading is re-reading my favorite Stephen King story ever, The Stand. Which is absolutely a Christian allegory and no, I am not making that up. It’s not Christmasy, though. But I’ll take uniquely me over tradition every time.

I was having coffee with Miss Eunice today. Miss Eunice is a lovely woman who’s been a friend of the family and a mentor to me for years and years. I tell her things I don’t tell the Phone Harpy (The Phone Harpy doesn’t need to know about my sex life. Ooops. HI MOM! I LOVE YOU BUNCHES AND BUNCHES!), and Miss Eunice never judges me, just listens and offers advice. And I was talking about my Year Of Searching Spiritually, and how I can’t wrap my head around, or be a Cheerful Enacter of things like Compassion, God’s Grace, All That Fun Funky Stuff, Miss Eunice said something along the lines that those things aren’t stuff you learn (or earn), they’re things you ALLOW.

I’m reminded of my favorite Christian author Anne Lamott (okay, she’s probably the only Christian author I know. So what.) Anne Lamott described the moment she became a Christian as a series of days where a nagging feeling kept at her, like a lost but persistent cat mewing incessantly to be let inside, until finally, Anne gave up one day and said “Well come in already.” Basically, she ALLOWED Jesus in, albeit exasperated and fed up, but it all counts in the eyes of You Know Who.

I would like to allow Compassion in. I would like to allow God’s Grace in. I would like to allow Forgiving Myself in. But none of that stuff is mewling incessantly to be let in. It’s more stuff I see shining piously on a shelf, and I know I SHOULD have it in my house, my house would be a better house if it had that stuff in it, people would admire it and think I’m a lovely person for having it, but shouldn’t it be that I want the stuff because I WANT THE STUFF, rather than I THINK I SHOULD HAVE THE STUFF.

Here’s what I’m doing now. The response to the Gabriel monologue in the Christmas show was so overwhelmingly positive, that it occurred to me that I should keep going. I should do MORE monologues, I should do a whole COLLECTION of them. Yeah! That’s it. A collection of monologues about the Christmas story, told from the point of view of people other than Mary and Joseph, but people who still played a part. People like Gabriel. The Shepherds. The Magi. The Donkey who has to carry Mary to Bethlehem. The Innkeeper who directs them to the manger. Satan’s gonna get a monologue (don’t you think he’s got something to say on the night of Jesus’s birth? I do.), so does Luke, the gospel writer. Okay, I’m taking liberties here and there, like Joseph’s poker buddy, who Joseph confides in that his fiancée is pregnant. And I’m debating whether I can get away with a monologue from John the Baptist as a baby inside Elizabeth’s womb.

But I did a second draft last night of Elizabeth’s monologue, where she’s explaining to the town gossip exactly how she became pregnant at 60 plus years old, and why exactly Zechariah can’t talk, and I’m finding all sorts of nifty parallels between Zechariah and the town gossip needing to know why you should say “How will this happen” instead of “How can this happen.” It feels like something I’m supposed to be doing. Don’t know where it’s gonna go, I don’t even know if it’s gonna work. But I feel like I have to try.

So that’s how I’m celebrating Christmas. In my own way. In my own style. I don’t know if anyone would believe me if I said, “No, no, God wants me to be working on these monologues more than He wants me to work on being compassionate towards other people.” It does sound like a cheat, I know. I go where the pull is, I guess.

Ah, and wouldn’t you know it, I’m listening to Bob Mould’s “Days Of Rain” right now on the Itunes. It’s not a Christmas song, but the very end goes like this:

I only wanted things that would make you happy
I only wish for you that you find your way
I only hope you see that you make things happen
I only wish that you could be right someday.

God? Is that you God? It’s me, Amy The Writer. Ha ha ha.

Regardless, I think it serves as a fine Christmas wish to you all. Melancholy, I know, but hey, listen to the lyrics of the original “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and tell me THAT’s a song of sweetness and light.

I only wanted things that would make you happy
I only wish for you that you find your way
I only hope you see that you make things happen
I only wish that you could be right someday.

Merry Christmas, everybody. ☺

Friday, December 22, 2006

Enforced Secret Joy #23 – The Overgrown Poinsettia Bush In My Backyard

So my gardening knowledge is limited to Plant, Pour Miracle Grow, Water, Then Take Pictures, but Roomie Jekyll’s gardening knowledge is even worse, consisting of Stick It In The Backyard Where Amy’s A Watering Fiend Because I Really Don’t Have Time To Take Care Of This, The Most Craptastic Of Christmas Gifts.

So somewhere around two years ago, she stuck her standard potted Christmas Poinsettia Plant in the backyard, and I dutifully watered it, because it was on the way to watering the yellow roses, and the other pink flower bush that I don’t know the name of. I fully expected it to die, because don’t all Poinsettias die at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve? Isn’t that how it goes? And if we don’t like the fact that the neighborhood cats use our backyard as a flophouse for naughty kitty nocturnal activities, no worries, because they’ll eat the Poinsettia leaves and die because Poinsettias are poisonous, right? Right?


Here is Roomie Jekyll’s Poinsettia bush. I include the barbecue and lawn chair as reference points to prove that the bush is now over five feet tall. Man, the flowers around my house sure are tenacious buggers, aren’t they? They care. They care a lot.

Dear God, thank you for the overgrown Poinsettia bush. Thank you for its tenacity, its stubbornness, its deep red Christmasy blooms. Thank you for the fact that, contrary to popular belief they are not poisonous at all. Which is a good thing, because it would’ve been difficult to explain to the neighbors why there might have been up to five dead cats in our backyard resembling a feline Jonestown cult. Thank you for that not happening, because as hard as it is to explain that their cats ate the poinsettia bush, it would’ve been even squirmier to explain that their cats were there in the first place because they like having yowling kitty sex in our backyard. Hey, are cats allowed to have premarital sex in Your eyes? They can just skate on by with that one, huh? Doesn’t seem quite fair.

But thank you for no dead cats, for no poisonous Poinsettia bushes, and the peculiar ways of this particular Poinsettia bush, which of course lives in my backyard. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Amen.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Guilt Factor

Okay, let’s see if I can work this out by typing it out. Bear in mind that I’m working on this halfway hung over, so I will either be quietly elegant, because there won’t be a lot of brain clutter, or I will make no sense at all. Wheeeeeeeeee!

Detractors of organized religion will always point to “the guilt factor” as why they don’t like it. Both Roomies Heckle and Jekyll grew up Catholic, went to Catholic schools, and both are lasped now, so I’ve heard “the guilt factor” mentioned a lot.

And I’ve been feeling a truckload of guilt lately. This week was another week from hell at the temp gig at the Unnamed Movie Studio, where I’m pulling 14 hour days and hating every single minute of it, but my Christian sensibilities and professional integrity prevents me from walking out on them.

So my two daily devotionals? Haven’t read them. Homeless Karaoke this past Wednesday? Didn’t go. Prayer time with God? Reduced to me talking to God on my morning drive time, and me saying the same things over and over again, “God, I’m so tired. I’m so stressed. I’m so tired of saying I’m tired and stressed.” Because I don’t have any other thoughts than that.

And God knows I’m tired and stressed. What kind of meaningful dialogue can you have when the other Deity already knows everything you’re gonna say? I’m talking to God because I know I’m supposed to, and I guess I’m hoping that there will be some sort of meaningful realization or breakthrough. This is where the lack of communication on His part really bugs. Because without His input, I’m just saying the same things over and over again, like a marathon hamster on the wheel. Does God really wanna hear that? He wants to hear about me, and what I’m doing, and I’m being honest. I really AM stressed, I really AM tired, I’m not lying about that. But I can’t help but feel that God must be tired of hearing it. Because I’m tired of saying it.

So yeah, I feel guilty. There’s this Guilt Monster inside of me that’s continually kicking my insides: You didn’t read your devotionals this morning! YOU’RE GOING TO HELL! You missed Homeless Karaoke! YOU’RE GOING TO HELL! You didn’t give thanks before wolfing down your lunch. YOU’RE GOING TO HELL! You’re thinking unChristian thoughts about how you’d like to drown your co-workers and boss in a vat of gasoline. YOU’RE GOING TO HELL!

And I don’t know where it comes from. It’s not how I was raised. I grew up going to church, but it was Presbyterian, so no thundering from the pulpit. My parents didn’t beat me if I missed Sunday school. Things were fairly laid back when it came to religion. Nobody forced anyone to do anything.

So where does this guilt come from? Why am I so hard on myself? There’s something bumping around there about grace and forgiveness, I think. I had a conversation with a guy a few months ago who recommended a book that boiled it down to a scale. One of the one end is Grace, on the other end is Truth. If you’re too far over on Grace’s side, you tend to engage in dishonest behavior, because you know you’re forgiven. If you’re too far over on Truth’s side, you don’t have a lot of compassion for yourself or other people.

And if I’m truly honest with myself, I have to say that I’m too much on Truth’s side, except it feels more like guilt than Truth. I’ve never been able to wrap my head around the concept of God’s grace. I’m not stellar at forgiving myself, and I crucify myself on a daily basis for the stupidest things. You didn’t ask how your co-worker’s weekend was. You didn’t smile at the security guard. You took a second cupcake from the Christmas basket. You mispronounced the word “banal.” I like to think that God forgives me, so I don’t have to. But dealing with this much internal bitch slapping is exhausting. And I wonder why it is that God doesn’t take some of this off me. Casting my metaphorical burdens at His feet? They’re still here. They don’t go away.

How do you teach someone to forgive themselves? You can’t. It’s some switch they have to flip on their own. And I suspect that someday, I’ll find it, though it’ll most likely be out of sheer exhaustion, where I won’t have the energy to kick myself around anymore.

But I always find that energy.

Man, what a depressing post. Okay, hang on, hang on, there’s gotta be something I can come up with. Oh, today at church, I sat in the back row with Native Chick and Giggly. T-Roller was sitting in front of us, so it was like a mini Katrina contingent. And I felt a bucketful of relief. I’m where I’m supposed to be, sitting with people I adore, in a place I want to be in. And one of the songs we were singing was “Your Grace Is Enough.”

Har de har har.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Me, God and Opus

So the Amy’s Blog Rule where everyone (except for a select precious few) goes by a pseudonym, coupled with the Common Sense Rule that says don’t namecheck your job where you’re temping at in case they find out and fire you for it because you namechecked it forces me to give everyone a special pseudonym for today’s entry. And because I’ve always been a huge Bloom County fan, everyone today is going by character names from that comic strip. So there.

It’s all fine now. My Mother The Phone Harpy Who I Love Very Very Much prefers me to start all my stories that way, as if the fact I’m not still on the phone talking to her would be evidence enough that I survived whatever horrific adventure I’m about to describe to her.

So yes, it’s all fine now. But for the past week and a half, it certainly was NOT. I always knew I didn’t want a job in Corporate PR, simply because I’ve seen Roomie Jekyll go through it, and I know what’s involved, how crazy the people are over the stupidest details, like what kind of car is picking up what kind of celebrity, and how so and so celebrity hasn’t RSVPed, which totally THROWS THE WORLD OFF ITS AXIS, PEOPLE! IT DOES AND YOU DON’T KNOW IT!

But the temp agency funneled me to this gig at the Unnamed Movie Studio, and I couldn’t really turn it down using “I think other things are more important than sending an invitation to a celeb’s PR flack rather than his agent, because when the day is done, said celeb isn’t going to this party anyway” as a viable excuse. I tried to bolster my holsters by reminding myself that I am an extremely organized person, and as long as every thing is in its place, there’s no possible way I would morph into a crazed drooling Stress Monster.

And had I not left for a week to spend Thanksgiving with the family, I would’ve been right. But the temp agency sent another temp to fill my position while I was gone, and while I think it would be unChristian to call her “worthless” since I didn’t meet the lass, the fact that she royally screwed up my meticulous Excel address databases, meaning the invitations to the Big Deal Party went to the wrong people, and made the Unnamed Movie Studio look very very stupid doesn’t make her seem very very smart.

So I came back to one unholy mess, which did indeed turn me into a crazed drooling Stress Monster, to the point where I didn’t even want to work the Big Deal Party up in the Hollywood Hills. I was convinced every guest was going to make a beeline for me and give me a good whatfor for screwing up everything from sending the invite to the wrong place (not my fault) to telling them the most inconvenient way to get to the Big Deal Party (Seriously, I was lectured for two minutes on the phone by the wife of a press columnist about how “I don’t LIKE” the directions I was giving her.)

A lot of people in Los Angeles think celebrities are a big deal. I don’t. I never have. Whether my department sensed that about me and deliberately put me at the gate with the guest list and a pen to check people in, or whether this was supposed to be a gift for straightening shit out, I haven’t a clue. But when people like Milo Bloom and Steve Dallas are walking through, I don’t care. I know who they are, I know they’re on my list, yes, please come through and watch your step. But I seriously don’t care.

My stomach is not doing flip flops because Opus , YES OPUS, PEOPLE, OPUS! ONE OF THE BIGGEST CELEBRITIES OF THIS MOMENT has pulled up in an SUV the size of a five bedroom house with his agent directly into the driveway, because he’s OPUS, and he doesn’t have to go through the gate like the rest of the peons. My stomach is tying itself into pretzel shapes because it looks like the valet people are going to have a wreck with the cars, because it’s very dangerous to do a three point turn in a cul de sac when there’s five cars in the way. My stomach is internally dropping three stories because every person coming up for me to check them in is complaining about how they were kept waiting for fifteen minutes because the valets aren’t hustling fast enough. There’s nothing I can do about it. But people EXPECT me to do something about it. And all I can do is smile and say yes, please come through and watch your step.

It is the longest three hours I’ve ever spent in one place and time. Honestly, King Kong went faster when I saw it in the theaters last year, and I fell asleep twice during that movie, woke up, and thought I was in hell because the movie WOULD. NOT. END.

And I keep muttering under my breath “God be with me, God be with me, God be with me” as I stamp my feet to keep warm. I don’t know why. God be with me WHY? God be with me and protect me from these angry people? Shouldn’t God be with Bill The Cat to make sure he doesn’t trip on the stairs, because I’m sure that’ll happen and it’ll be my fault? Shouldn’t God be with the valet people to make sure there aren’t any three point turn accidents, because check it, that big shot agent’s Supremely Bitchy girlfriend just bolted out of their car because she was tired of waiting and nearly got taken out by a Lexus? Shouldn’t God be with the Supremely Bitchy girlfriend? Shouldn't God be with Opus, because if ever anybody needed a slap upside the head with religion, it's Opus.

And the one answer that keeps coming back as I wrap and rewrap my coat around me is God’s not here. Why would God be here with you? This is not a place that God would be in. Why would he? This party doesn’t have a thing to do with God, so He’s not showing up. You’re on your own, because you had a choice to not work this party. You could’ve claimed a million different things, not outright lies, but even a simple, “I don’t feel comfortable working this party because I’m afraid somebody’s going to throttle me and I wanna go Christmas shopping for my family instead” would suffice. You had a choice, and you chose to work the party, and now you’re stressed about it, and hey, Amy, don’t forget that NONE OF THIS HAS ANYTHING TO DO WITH GOD. So is it any wonder that He’s not here in this particular moment with you?

Yes, I know that above internal monologue is wrong. I know that God doesn’t work like that, doesn’t think like that, doesn’t put conditions on His presence in order to show up like that. And the work of His hands was evident, because there were no wrecks, no Supremely Bitchy Girlfriends got run over, nobody fell down the stairs (three people tripped, but nobody fell), the time eventually moved, sluggishly, but it did move. And I managed to sneak away to find a sympathetic bartender who made me a margarita with a humongous dose of Patron tequila

I don’t know what I was expecting. Maybe a warm fuzzy feeling enveloping me, so that I could gaze upon the daredevil valets and the cranky guests, and flash a beatific infectious smile that would’ve reassured everyone in a hundred mile radius that yes, yes, cranky big moneypants one, everything is going to be just fine, because God is with us all.

But no warm fuzzy feeling. No beatific infectious smiles. As always, I still couldn’t feel Him. Theoretically, an atheist who does this kind of thing for a living would’ve been internally calmer than me. And that doesn’t seem right.

But then again, if the choice for God showing up was between something superficial like this party and something where I would REALLY need him, like me squashed in a car wreck (something I’ve long sensed will happen to me someday), I’d take the squashy car wreck. God must know that and maybe that’s why He didn’t show. No, no, He’s everywhere you are. Wherever you go, God is there. That’s what the church says, right? Right? So I’m doing something wrong, right? Oh, sure, I am. I’m doing something wrong.

I just don’t know what it is.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

No Time To Write (Maybe)

I dunno…maybe I should suspend the Enforced Secret Joy Friday posts. I can’t seem to find the time to write about them anymore. It’s hard to find the time to write about ANYTHING these days. All my big plans, my three outlines for three new scripts that I did back in August and September, they’re all just a hazy memory now. Not that I didn’t write them, and not that I couldn’t start work on them. But finding the time to write them, it’s just not there. And that means I’m like 80 percent of other writers out here. A lot of writers don’t get anywhere out here because they #1: don’t write or #2: give up. Neither one of which gets you what you want. Writers WRITE, and they don’t let anything stop them, lack of time notwithstanding.

Last year, when I was doing Writers Boot Camp and temping at the same time, I would roll out of bed at 6am in the morning, have a cup of hot chocolate and a Red Bull chaser and get two hours of writing done before going to work. So it’s not like I haven’t done it before. True, I wasn’t running a blog last year. Maybe that’s the difference. Or maybe too many Red Bull chasers warped my insides. Because those days last year seem like the optimistic behavior of a college kid. Yeah! Gimme the Red Bull and watch me knock out ten pages before work! WHOOOOO HOOOO!

Regardless, things are still pretty hectic at this temp gig, and running the Christmas show at the same time, and that’s a HUGE reason why I haven’t had time to write. Things might possibly get better by Friday, and since I’ve just publicly pondered over suspending the Friday posts, that most likely means I’ll squeeze out the minutes for an Enforced Secret Joy post somewhere, and make me look silly for considering suspending it in the first place. All I’m saying is…we might be doing Sunday posts only for awhile.

When I was walking up to the theater last Wednesday night for opening night of the Christmas monologue show, there was a knot of actors standing outside for a dinner break. When they saw me coming, they all elbowed each other until everyone was looking at me, and they all plastered shit eating grins on their faces. This normally means one of two things – there’s about to be a colossal practical joke played on me involving something like a rubber chicken or some sort of nasty rumor has been spread involving me AND a rubber chicken. So I square my shoulders in a Wary Stance as I approach, “What’s going on, guys?”

And one of them throws out his arm, beckons me in, and gives me a great big hug, looks me dead in the eye and says, “Your monologue is SO GREAT.”

Wha-huh? My monologue?

The other actors chime in about how much they love it, how my actress playing Gabriel the angel is so great, the monologue is “funny, it’s poignant, it’s wonderful.”

Oh, that’s right. I wrote a monologue, didn’t I. I’ve only seen it rehearsed once in the director’s living room because they were rehearsing during the day when I was working. And I’ve pretty much forgotten what I’ve written, since I’ve written so little these days. And all my waking moments are consumed with getting this, that, and the other project done. So my goal tonight was to produce the show. The fact that I actually had a monologue IN the show was far far behind me. Until the actors said something. It’s kinda like being so busy buying Christmas presents for others that you forget you’re gonna get stuff too.

And seeing the thing up on its feet, and seeing what my fabulous actress and what my fabulous director brought to the thing, and hearing the audience laugh at the jokes, and realizing how I managed to pull off something that has a very overt Christian bent (at one point, Gabriel says, “Trust me. Nothing is impossible with God.”) without being too obnoxious about it (‘cause if it was obnoxious, boy howdy would those actors have let me know), is just, well, pretty f’ing cool. And a huge saving grace for me, since I’ve been kicking myself for weeks for not writing anything.

But if I don’t write something new in the next two weeks, I’m really a loser. Ha ha ha.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Small Children and Me

I’ll admit it, I’m not a big fan of small children. In fact, they irritate the shit out of me. I’m proud to own and claim the fact that I have no maternal impulse in me whatsoever, and there is no ticking clock to that effect, (it’s been supplanted by a Career Ticking Clock, that continually ticks off write a script that’ll sell. Write a script that’ll sell.) I feel very secure in brushing off the well meaning but underlying simpering folk that say, “Oh, you’ll feel differently in a few years.” No, I WON’T, and you best be thanking your lucky stars that no progeny will be springing forth from me. Seriously, if I’m this warped and messed up, what in the world would any issue of mine look like? Double the blues, double the weirdness? No, I don’t think so.

It basically stems from the fact that small children require extraordinary amounts of patience, which I don’t have for GOD, let alone tiny tots, and the fact that small children think the world revolves around them, when everyone knows it revolves around ME, ha ha ha.

So when sister Agatha announced she was pregnant four years ago, I wasn’t truly thrilled (During that announcement conversation Agatha yelled to Mr. Agatha, “She’s taking this as well as we thought she would!”) Aunt Amy doesn’t sound cool. Aunt Amy makes me sound creaky and spinster-ish. I think Aunt ANYBODY sounds creaky and spinster-ish. Aunts aren’t cool. They just aren’t.

Nevertheless, I tried to do my best, Baby Bug arrived, and we discovered I had somewhat of a knack for picking out small hip children clothes for Christmas presents. I’d visit one or twice a year, and attempt to bond with this little creature that decided not to grow hair until age 2 and a half (I have SOOOOO many great blackmail pictures for later.) But small creature named Bug didn’t want to bond with me, and confirmed my belief that Small Children are great for other people, but not for me.

However, this trip has seen a marked difference in Bug. For one thing, she has conversations with words in halfway complete sentences, and everything. Instead of burying her face into the nearest vertical surface in response to any question posed to her, she will respond in somewhat of a four year old intelligent manner. As they picked me up from the airport, she rattled off every Dancing With The Stars competitor on this past season with a gravitas that one would use in, say, the reading of a family will. Naming the competitors on Dancing With The Stars is SERIOUS stuff, people.

And I get it. It’s how she proves that she knows stuff. Emmet and Cheryl, Mario and Karina, Joey and Edyta I’m Bug, I’m four, this is my world, and these are what the things in my world are called.

She also skips everywhere. From the car to any public place, like a movie theater or a restaurant. It’s quite endearing to watch. How happy and carefree life is when you are a four year old Bug.

Except when you go to see a little movie called Happy Feet . If any of you have small children in your immediate vicinity and want to take them to see this movie, I’m telling you now DON’T. RUN far far from this movie, and don’t be snookered as we were by the marketing campaign that featured the tap dancing penguins, because tap dancing only makes up about 1/3 of the movie, and the rest of it is an ecological message movie featuring scary-for-a-four-year-old chase sequences with a hungry sea lion, killer whales, sinister fish tankers, and strangely inappropriate pop songs that the penguins claim are their “heart songs” to each other. Bug burrowed herself as far as she could into Agatha’s chest, and wasn’t thrilled with ANY of the proceedings. Neither were the rest of us.

I thought it was all my fault. I should’ve checked the ratings more closely (it was PG, not G like you’d think an animated penguin movie would be), I should’ve checked the reviews more closely (though they all said it was great, and they’re all smoking crack.) I should’ve remembered that George Miller is the sadistic twit director who strung a dog upside down, hung it off a bridge with its head underwater, and made us all think the dog was going to drown in Babe, Pig In The City . But no, I didn’t do any of that. Oops.

And as we’re riding in the car to the restaurant for lunch, I’m having a conversation with God. Okay, what do I do here? Do I apologize? It was only a suggestion. I didn’t think everyone would just follow my lead that blindly. How do I handle this? I’ve inadvertently scarred my own niece. How do I handle the soon to be ensuing hate from the rest of the family? Do I welcome it, let them vent it out, and say, "Thank you sir, may I have another"?

I apologize to everyone, and surprisingly, they don’t smack me down, just say yeah, it’s odd that more people haven’t spoken up about how it’s not exactly cute and fuzzy like the previews promised. And at the restaurant, Bug is acting like nothing happened. She’s even saying “Happy Feet!” every now and then, but I think it’s because she likes the way the phrase sounds. But she’s not sad. She’s not scarred. Yet. Har de har har.

So this skipping, resilient talkative Bug is my niece, and I have to admit, she’s not so bad. Hopefully things will only get better from here. Four years old appears to be the hurdle to cross in terms of small children. But Bug is the exception. I’m not a fan of any other kids, and you can get that smirk off your face right now, ha ha ha.

Look, here’s a dress I got for her birthday. Do I know how to pick ‘em or what?

Friday, November 24, 2006

Enforced Secret Joy #22 – Agatha’s Big Fat Beagle

So here I am in Orlando visiting Agatha, her husband, and my four year old niece for Thanksgiving, and one of the things I love about coming here is her Big Fat Beagle. Her official name is Princess, though I call her Rolo, since she looks like a melted Rolo candy, and Princess is the name you give a cat, not a dog.

Princess Rolo and I didn’t used to get along. I was living and working in Orlando when Agatha first got Rolo (which was a gift, and though you don’t usually give dogs as gifts, this is the rare situation where it did work out.) Princess Rolo was a notoriously ill behaved puppy, driven stir crazy by the fact that she lived in a cramped two bedroom apartment (another reason why you don’t gift puppies) and the last straw was Princess Rolo eating one of my paychecks from Disney, resulting in a lot of Scotch tape and pleading with the bank teller to accept the mangled document.

But then I moved to Los Angeles. While I worked on my writing career, Princess Rolo worked on her waistline, resulting in the bovine shape you see here. She looks okay from certain angles, like, fifty yards away, ha ha ha.

I’ve never seen a fatter dog in my life. Agatha swears she’s not the fattest dog she knows, apparently there’s another beagle in the Orlando area who’s SO FAT that its belly drags the ground, and that’s the yardstick they use: as long as Princess Rolo’s belly doesn’t drag on the ground, she’s not that fat.

But she is. She looks like one of those cake logs from the Swiss Colony. She looks like a living breathing Ottoman. She looks like a prime candidate for a canine version of Celebrity Fit Club. She cracks me up and therefore is my Enforced Secret Joy for this week.

Dear God, thank you for the Big Fat Beagle Named Princess Rolo. Thank you that she’s still alive, thank you that she’s still happy as a Big Fat Clam. Please stave off those who would try to take me or sister Agatha to task for letting a dog get that fat, as she’s a beagle, can be very stubborn at times, and people who lecture other people on the internet without a complete understanding of the situation are silly freaks o’ nature. Yes, You made them, but they’re still freaks. But thank you for the simple joy of a Big Fat Beagle snuggling on the couch on my feet as I watch Survivor and Grey’s Anatomy. It’s better than a blanket, it is. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Amen.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Ah, the joy of missed deadlines.

I am such a loser, I really am. I have missed my Enforced Secret Joy Post Deadlines. They’re supposed to go up on Friday. Ooops. Honestly, I like to pride myself on meeting my deadlines, whether they’re self imposed or not. But we all know what God says about pride, don’t we. Oh yes, yes we do.

But it’s been a really stressful week. Not bad, like here , not rock bottom or anything, but just filled with stuff to do RIGHT NOW. The temp job, the Christmas show, other stuff I can’t talk about because my Mom and Dad read this thing, and I don’t want them to worry (especially since I’m with them right now in Orlando for a week. They’ve already gone to bed. What do you mean, it’s 11:30pm? The clock on my computer distinctly says it’s 8:30, ha ha ha.) Every single second of every single day for the past week and a half has been used in deep concentration on something, and if I’m not in constant motion whacking away at the stack of Things To Do, then I’m in a state of constant anxiety about how I’m WASTING THESE THREE SECONDS TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHAT TO DO NEXT. I’m snapping at people that I really don’t want to snap at, people I actually like, and I know they’re looking at me and thinking, “oh, so THIS is how you handle stress? My, that’s wonderfully mature and attractive. Please sign me up as your number one fan. NOT.”

Seriously, I’m messed up. I missed Homeless Karaoke this month. I missed my Home Group on Thursday. I only worked out a day and a half last week. My abs o' steel are atrophying at 89 words per minute.

And I think the one thing that’s had a bigger than expected impact is that at this particular temp job, there’s people ALWAYS around me. I’m a temp, it’s not like I have my own office, so I’m sharing cubicle space with a person within six feet of me. Sure, I can turn my back on them and continue working on this monster database of addresses, but I know they’re still there. I need my space, people. My personal, nine foot circle of space that you can’t enter without my permission, or unless we’re in an elevator, a hallway, restaurant, or other public venue, ha ha ha.

And, as what usually happens when I’m super stressed, God feels far away. Because I literally haven’t had the moments to talk to Him. Usually, I talk to Him in the car, but these days, I’m so concentrated on playing Frogger with the traffic, because there simply MUST be a way I can get to the Big Deal Movie Studio in under 25 minutes. There HAS to be. Because I got to the Other Big Deal Move Studio in 17 minutes every day, why won’t it work in the other direction?

And it just feels like ten different ways of stupid to ask God for help with the little stuff like this. I’m still not down with the various prayer groups I’m in, where we go around the circle and list what we need prayer for. I always skip my turn and say everything’s fine, because I absolutely understand needing prayer for illness, either yourself or a loved one, I totally understand needing prayer for grace to deal with co-workers, companies, industries, or various government departments that won’t stop unless they suck your soul out your eyeballs and twirl it around their spaghetti fork.

I understand needing prayer for jobs, because you’ve been unemployed for months, and you’re scared. I understand needing prayer for direction, because you’re stuck in the metaphorical desert, and you honestly don’t know which way to take the next step. I understand all of that.

But I just can’t bring myself to ask God to please send me a job in the arena that I WANT to be in. Not publicity. Not interactive media. WRITING, dammit! Development? Production? Anything like that? I can’t bring myself to ask God to clear the streets of Los Angeles so I can get to work on time. I can’t bring myself to ask God to please help me figure out how to get Mr. Academy Award Winning Actor’s address to send this stupid invitation to, because he’s not an Academy member, even though he’s won a couple, and no, I don’t know why, maybe he’s controversial, maybe nobody likes him, it doesn’t matter, because these people need this list RIGHT NOW. I can’t bring myself to ask God to please help me spot an empty refrigerator box because we need one for the set design of the Christmas show. I just can’t. Doesn’t God have bigger things to worry about, like genocide, AIDS in Africa, the American troops dying on the front lines of the war, etc. etc., ETC.?

And even if you wanna go the route of God’s big enough for that and you, then I STILL can’t do it, because it seems like I should ask God for help with the deeper stuff like I Hate Most People, Please Help Me Learn Compassion. Please Change My Heart So I’m Genuinely Concerned With People’s Welfare, Instead Of Faking the Pleasantries That Pass For Polite Conversation.

But my life seems to be taken up with the Stupid Little Things these days.

Which is why I’m very glad I’m currently in Orlando, at this time share deal my parents got. I have my own bedroom! My own bathroom! Normally, when it comes to vacation with the fam, I’m stuck on a sofa bed in what passes for a living room, and elbowing Mom for bathroom counter space. NO MORE! You know what I can do? I can shave my legs and NOT HAVE TO CLEAN THE BATHTUB! WHOO HOOOOOO!

This place has wireless! There’s a GYM a scant few yards away from the complex! I have PERSONAL SPACE! There appears to be NO PLANS for tomorrow, except to do a bunch of NOTHING!

Well, my parents will do a bunch of nothing. I will most likely write.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Are You Sure, Jesus Camp? Are You Sure?

I finally saw Jesus Camp last week, which I had been very much interested to see. I tried to get Roomie Heckle to go with me, but as a viciously lasped Catholic who delights in inventing breathtakingly creative cuss words to get any kind of reaction out of me, he flat out refused. “I’ll just get pissed off in the first ten minutes,” he said, “Do you really want to tick me off like that and have me be grouchy for the rest of the day?” (he didn’t quite use THOSE cuss words, but I can’t print what he did say.)

Roomie Heckle had a point, because I got grouchy within the first ten minutes of the film myself. Now, the footage of the kids crying and enraptured at the camp doesn’t do much for me; it’s easy to get any group of people to get fired up like that. Their reactions – trembling lips, teary eyes, shaking and quivering - were exactly the same as those hormonal girls in the front row of an Elvis Presley concert.

It was unfortunate that one of the things they were working themselves up into a frenzy over was the guy who brought with him those plastic fetuses that show how big they are at three weeks, six weeks, etc. etc, etc. Abortion, bad. BAD! Poor little Tori is wailing and praying for the abortions to stop. “No more! No more! NO MORE!” Because she, at age 10, has a complete and mature understanding of the pro choice vs. pro life debate in order to make an informed choice about why she wants that red LIFE sticker smacked on her mouth.

Levi, the twelve year old who wants to grow up to be a preacher, assuredly says that he got “saved” when he was five. Five. FIVE YEARS OLD. How can a five year old know what true sin is like? What experience can Rachael, a nine year old home schooled in an evangelical environment, have with true sin? What, were you running an underground chocolate chip cookie smuggling ring? Lied to your parents about it? Took the money to buy…buy…I don’t know what CAN you buy at nine that’s evil?

No, these kids, starting as soon as they can understand sentences more complex than “See Dick and Jane Run,” are told that they are evil sinful creatures, but thank God for Jesus! Jesus will save them! At FIVE! And cue the waterworks.

The one kid I identified with the most was the little blond haired boy (you’ll have to bear with me, there’s not a lot of information available on who these kids are apart from the three spotlighted, they’re trying to protect those poor things.) who got up in front of everyone and said he wasn’t sure if he believed or not. And while I was expecting some sort of follow up, maybe a preteen gang tag teaming him outside the chapel, arguing him into the kingdom of God, and slapping him with Bibles, there was nothing.

There also wasn’t a strong narrative thrust to this documentary. I think the documentarians were hoping for a stronger connection between this raising of a “God’s Army” and their would be someday all encompassing effect on politics. They include a not necessary shot of them being home schooled, and their mother teaching them that global warming doesn’t exist, as if to say all evangelicals think global warming is a myth, when there’s been a slew of articles this year talking about Christians wanting to HELP the green groups, because they take global warming seriously, as God has entrusted the earth to us. You can read some of them here , here , and here

But the best part was a short scene over the credits featuring Rachael, who speaks in the most real way I’ve ever heard a nine year old talk. Rachael’s cadence is complete with stutters, sighs, pauses and words tumbling over each other to get out of her mouth. Seriously, she sounds exactly like I did when I was ten and drinking three Cokes a day until My Mother the Phone Harpy Whom I Love Very Very Much was two seconds away from slitting my throat because I was running her ragged and put me on Caffeine Free Diet Coke, which I drank until I left for college and realized that it tasted like battery acid. Ah, youth.

Rachael’s so passionate and clear eyed and so NAÏVE. If you go to the website and click on her bio page, you’ll hear a soundbite of her talking with breathless authority about how God likes to go to churches that jump up and down and scream in worship instead of the non-jumpers and “Depending on how they invite Him, He’ll be there or not.” You see, in Rachael’s world, you have to invite God to your church IN THE RIGHT WAY. Oh, Rachael. Rachael, Rachael, Rachael. You have so much to learn. As Counselor Gladys would say, “It’s not an either/or. It’s a both/and.” Rachael’s world is an either/or world. Lovely.

Earlier in the movie, Rachael has gone up to a woman in a bowling alley, nervous as hell, and she haltingly says “God put it on my heart for me to tell you that He has a plan for you and He loves you” and gives her a tract. (the woman, a twentysomething Missouri small town chick complete with fried highlighted hair and raccoon eyeliner, just blinks and politely says thanks.)

So here we are at the end credits, and Rachael’s at it again, approaching a group of three African Americans sitting in lawn chairs in Washington D.C. Rachael, again nervous but on a mission from GOD, not unlike the Blues Brothers, goes up to them and says, ‘If you were to die today, where do you think you would go?” “Heaven,” one of them says without missing a note. Rachael, obviously thrown off her spiel, blurts out, “Are you sure?”

And that right there is the whole problem with the evangelical movement. Encapsulated in a thunderclap moment of three words.

Are You Sure?

It doesn’t matter why Rachael said it, whether she was thrown off her spiel, and blurted it out a first response, or if somewhere in that little tract of hers it might list that as an appropriate comeback. The fact of the matter is what she did say in response is still smack dab squarely in the middle of the Evangelical School Of Thought. And that School Of Thought Is Don’t Trust Anything They Say, Because They Haven’t Heard What YOU Have To Say. And What YOU Have To Say Is Much More Important Than Anything They Have To Say.

It’s the exact same line of thinking that the Blue Shirts used in Katrina Country. “They know God, but they don’t know Jesus.”

Are you SURE you know God? Because I’ve got my Jesus Spiel that I’m trying to spring on ya. It’s a kicker, it sure is.

Are you SURE? Are you SURE!? See, what they’re trying to say is I DON’T BELIEVE YOU! And I don’t believe you because I know I’m right and you’re wrong and I’m trying to SAVE YOU DAMMIT so I can again prove to myself and God that I’m right. So again, ARE YOU SURE you’re going to heaven? Because give me just the tiniest bit of doubt so I can bust through with my Jesus hammer and clobber you to death with the WORD O GOD!

It sickens me. Whether you’re nine, or 59. It’s a platform, it masquerades as you being concerned about the person, when in fact all you’re concerned about is your message.

Somebody needs to do a follow up with these kids, like with what Michael Apted does with his 7 Up series . Because there’s a very compelling story that’s going to happen when one of these kids has a soul crushing realization that everything they were taught was wrong. Not that God doesn’t exist, but the methods they were taught to use were in fact the wrong ones. And the world is bigger than they thought. Just wait until the ground starts to crumble under their feet. That’s where the story is. Not now.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Enforced Secret Joy #21 - Happy Bunny!

Okay, okay, I admit, my Enforced Secret Joy Posts have not been meeting their usual Friday deadlines. And I know this saddens you, because I see how many people check this thing on Fridays, so SOMEBODY'S remembering one of the Three Rules Of The Blog (the other two rules, of course, are I Don't Comment On Comments, and Everyone Goes Under An Assumed Name Unless I Say Otherwise.)

Why have I been delinquent? Well, Temping Madness has taken over. It's a different job every week, and it's catch as catch can. This week at the Unnamed Other Movie Studio finds me in the publicity department, so I REALLY can't talk about what I'm doing. (it involves parties for Oscar Nomination Screenings, and a lot of work in Excel. Yay me.)

The other madness is the Christmas Monologue show with my theater company, which I'm helping to produce, because I am a control freak dumbass. It's a LOT of work, and my hope is that I'm front loading everything, because in less than 10 days, I'm off to spend Thanksgiving in Orlando, and will be out of pocket for a week, which is exactly where you want one of your producers to be a week before you open your show. Sigh.

But Happy Bunny makes everything all right. How much do I love Happy Bunny? SOOOOOOOOOO much! My sister Agatha was the first one to introduce me to Happy Bunny, so I gotta give her props. I had no idea who Happy Bunny was until a few Christmases ago, when my brother in law gave her a sheet of office magnets, or stickers or something. The first thing she said was "These are great! I can't take them to work, though." Just, google Happy Bunny and see how other people have appropriated it like those naughty Calvin and Hobbes stickers you see on the back of trucks, and you'll understand what I'm talking about.

But these are the more milder yet anarchic ones, and thus, they occupy a place in my heart. No further explanation is necessary, I think.

Dear God, thank you for Happy Bunny. Thank you for his creator, Mr. Jim Benton. Thank you for the gentle anarchic hilarity that makes up their particular brand of amusement. Thank you that it happens to perfectly encapsulate my frame of mind these days. Thank you that my fractured frame of mind can be encapsulated by a flippin' weird cartoon. How awesome is that? There's room enough for everything these days, and nothing I come up with is beyond Your realm of "Hey, does it feel like THIS" inspiration to others. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Amen.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Uplifting vs. Meaningful

It’s a bit of a melancholy time for me. I feel like everything I’m doing, I’ve done before. I'm back to the Temping World. I’ve temped before. I know what happens. Eventually, I’ll get funneled to some kind of acceptable day job that’ll hire me full time because I can pick up most computer programs in 20 minutes and can type 89 words a minute. It’s happened before, it’ll happen again. The day job will pay my bills but it’ll have the most marginal relationship to my goal of Paid Screenwriterdom. I’ll start work on another script. I’ll put a good five months into writing and rewriting it. Nothing will come of it. It’s happened before, it’ll happen again. I saw my favorite band the Twilight Singers two weeks ago, and even that carried the whiff of “been there, done that” (but the fact that the first half of the set list was exactly the same as the gig they did a few months ago had a lot to do with it.)

I could be wrong. I hope to GOD I am. I would be so stoked about being wrong on this, and that my newest script will be the one that finally pushes me into the realm of Paid Screenwriterdom. But you know that oft quoted definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result? Yeah, that’s me right now.


I mean, I did my first ever Mission trip a month ago! Talk about trying to shake things up! But did anything new happen because of it? Do I feel re-energized, re-charged, closer to God, new perspectives, new anything? Nope. I got nothing.


So in an effort to shake things up, I started temping at a different Unnamed Movie Studio, because I figure if I can’t change the routine, maybe I can change the environment.

My first assignment was this past week. I was assigned to assist a VP in Network TV Post Production. It was ridiculously easy, and the best kind of first assignment to have, because I had plenty of time to learn the phones, the internal studio website, how to leave drive ons, where to order sympathy flower arrangements, la la la.

The VP was a ridiculously nice guy, not a screamer, not a stresser. He heard the 89 words a minute clacking on the keyboard and came out to ask me what in the world I wanted to do with those speedy fingers of mine. So I said it’s what happens when you’re an aspiring screenwriter like myself. We start talking about writing, one thing led to another, and the next thing I know, he’s handing me a TV treatment he wrote a long time ago, and wants to know what I think of it.

This makes the second boss I’ve had that’s handed me something they’ve written. Always a delicate dance. I find it highly amusing, because you, the assistant, aren’t really suppose to pester your boss to read what you’ve written unless they specifically ask for it, but it’s fair game for them to give YOU stuff.

The interesting thing about this one was that it was a faith-based TV treatment, about a youth pastor that quits his job to become a cop following the death of his cop brother. It explores a spiritual character who’s flummoxed about what God wants him to do with his life. Needless to say, I could relate. I couldn’t tell if it was the only thing he’s written, or whether he thought it was safe to give to me, since I mentioned that I had completed the Act One Christian Screenwriting Program this summer.

(And for all the talk I’ve heard through Act One and various church small groups about how hard it is to be a Christian in the film and TV industry, and how you get persecuted once people find out you are a Christian, I have to say I’ve never ever experienced that. More people I’ve worked for and alongside have been Christians than not, and if they do “persecute” me, it has less to do with my religious background, and more to do with the fact that their batshit crazy nature devours everything within a two mile radius of them.)

So I ask a couple of questions, give a couple of comments about stronger choices he could make, and you can tell that the VP thinks they’re good, as he lunges for a piece of paper and starts scribbling as I’m talking. When I ask him what inspired him to write this, he says “I wanted to write something uplifting. Because so much of what we do here (meaning shows the network produces) is just to pass the time.”

The comment has stayed with me for a few days. Write something uplifting. I suppose you could swap that with Write something meaningful and get the same thing. I’d prefer that, really. Because I dunno if I could write something that dripped of Up Up Up With PEOPLE, since most of the time, people bug the hell out of me (except you, Gentle Reader. Always, always except you.)

With my plays, I want to entertain. That’s it. If I can make someone laugh, I’ve done my job, because I’ve seen way too much L.A. theater that purports to be “meaningful” and comes across as pretentious yak puke. (Don’t even get me started on L.A. theater that purports to be “provocative.”)

If you start writing something with the intent of being Meaningful, you’re probably loading up the Heavy Handed Bat for a good whacking on the reader’s knuckles and not realizing it. But if you’re doing your job as a writer, and hitting all the right beats of storytelling, you’re more than likely going to end up with something meaningful anyway. Maybe. Or maybe not. My next script is a spoof of film noir. It’s Ace Ventura meets The Maltese Falcon. I don’t think there’s gonna be a lot that’s meaningful about it.

But hopefully it’ll make people laugh. More than “passing the time.” But not “Uplifting.” There’s gotta be a happy medium somewhere.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Enforced Secret Joy #20 – The SuperRoses Survived!

They started like this – little tiny shoots in their Amy The Writer’s Master Plant’s Eye. Common Sense told me to cut them down, but my perverse nature of “Nah, You Run With That Ball As Long As You Want To And I’ll Watch From The Sidelines Because Far Be It For Me To Tell You What You Can Or Can’t Do” prevailed.

And so, much like a parent who does nothing when their child falls off the swingset because they know the tyke’s okay, and to run out there would only encourage the tyke to burst into tears and become a huge crybaby (or perhaps that was only my folks), I let the shoots grow. Maybe they’d break. Maybe they survive. I wasn’t gonna shape their destiny for them.

And here they are now. Isn’t it awesome! It’s NOVEMBER! Do you folks on the East Coast have roses that grow like this in NOVEMBER!? I DO!

I spend every morning watering them and reading my Oswald The Guilt Tripper Devotionalist to the yellow roses in the back and Lloyd The Gentler Devotionalist Ogilive to the reddies in the front. Surprisingly, the yellow ones are pretty hardy, despite hearing things like “If God can accomplish His purposes in the world through a broken heart, then why not thank Him for breaking yours?”

The funny thing about me and my roses is that I never cut them to make a bouquet for the house. Ex Roomie Cackle once asked to cut a few to impress a chick he was dating, but I never cut them for any special occasion. There’s no reason why I couldn’t, I just never do. Maybe because I know their destiny is to be outside roses. Maybe because once you cut them, they start shedding petals almost immediately, and it’s a sad sight to see yellow and red rose petals keeping company with the dust bunnies and various electric cords on the floor. Maybe because I’m lazy. Who knows.

But man, these beauties went for the brass ring and grabbed it with both…um…stems, didn’t they.

Dear God, thank you for the SuperRoses. Thank You that they survived, thank You that they didn’t break. Thank you that they had a goal to reach full blossom and that they achieved it. Please help me not to get down on myself that I haven’t reached my current goals lately to the full conclusion like they have. They are, after all, plants. It’s a much simpler life. Can I be a red rose next time around? Oh, wait, sorry, You don’t believe in reincarnation. Well, that’s cool, because frankly, unless I could come back as a red rose, I wouldn’t wanna do the whole thing again, once is enough. Not that I’m not grateful. I’m grateful, I’m grateful! Thank you for the clothes on my back, the shoes on my feet, the gas in my car, the house that I rent, the flowers in my yard, the opportunities I’ve had for writing in the past, and the opportunities I’ll have in the future. But most of all, thank you for these roses. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Amen.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Can You Tell Amy’s Overloaded?

So this week’s entry is an audience participation one, or otherwise known as “Amy’s Got Way Too Much On Her Plate To Produce A Thoughtful Entry, Give Her Another Week And Maybe Then I Can String A Hilarious Turn Of Phrase.”

This one’s a two parter:

1. Can anyone tell me why it is that dogs bury bones, and then dig them back up again, then bury them again, then dig them back up again?
2. Can anyone tell me if there’s a suitable Bible metaphor that would say the same thing? ‘Cause the guy who had the talents just buried it once, as far as I know.

Sigh. Sorry I’m such a bloggin’ loser. But at least I meet my deadlines!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Enforced Secret Joy #19 – Simon Redux!

Once again, I have Simon, the most mellow dog in the world for the weekend. But this time, Simon is running the show. Because he kept doing laps up and down the hallway in until I finally clued in to the fact that he wanted to go on a walk. I’ve only dogsat for him once before, and never the fact that I’m desperately trying to work on an outline for a project that’s due next Wednesday, Simon has locked into the equation in his brain that Amy The Writer = Walkies! Amy The Walkies Writer! YAY!

So off we head to the Tar Pits. I have never seen a dog look happier than Simon does on a walkies. He completely throws off the mellow persona, though, and a lot of the walkies time is spent trying to get him to stop sniffing that patch of grass, stop eating that flower, and could you PLEASE stop peeing on everything we come across.

Nope, nope, Simon is a male dog, and that means peeing on every stationary object he sees.

Light pole.



The only thing he didn’t pee on was Scarlett, the other dog who lives on the street, and I’m sure the only thing stopping him was the fact she didn’t stay still long enough for him to get his pee on.

His stream ran out after the first lamp post, but that doesn’t stop him from going through the motions, and even though this Phantom Pee Routine bugged me the first time around, I find a bit of quixotic joy in it the second time. Yeah, doggie! Pee on everything! Just TRY! You got nothing! Go for it anyway! Why not! Get your happy on and PEEEEEE!

Dear God, thank you for Simon. Thank you for the opportunity to dogsit for him this weekend. Thank you for him dragging me away from the computer to go on Walkies. Thank you for his Phantom Pee Routine, because now I find it funny instead of annoying. Okay, maybe a bit annoying. But still pretty silly. Thank you for silly.

Oh, and thank you for his Pink Puppy Paw Pads, and the fact that I remembered to document them this time. Thank you, thank you thank you. Amen.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


So yesterday I finally settled down to write a monologue for the Christmas show that my theatre company is doing in December. In all honesty, I wasn’t thrilled to do it. I’m not much of a holiday sentiment gal. Thanksgiving is usually a holiday where I can write for four days straight, and Christmas with the family is, well, Christmas with the family. There were several years when there were arguments about whether we should bother to put up a tree or not, because Dad the Great Stoic Wonder thought it was too much of a hassle. I can be plenty sentimental about a lot of things – Twilight Singers songs, classic Muppet Show sketches, sunsets on the Santa Monica pier – but Christmas isn’t on the list.

Nevertheless, I had to write something, my actor is patiently waiting for material to rehearse with, and I decided to do the thing that you’re supposed to do as a Christian Living For God – which is to take every opportunity you have to utilize your gifts (i.e. writing) and give it back to God. This is awesome if you’re a lazy person disinclined to write a Christmas monologue.

So I start by praying So, um, God. I’m supposed to write, and I don’t really want to, and I don’t know what I’m going to write, so if You’d like to smack me with some sort of inspiration that I can turn into an opportunity to glorify You, feel free to commence with the smacking. And then promptly flop on the bed to nap-I-mean-brainstorming.

But lo and behold if it didn’t work in the way that all the pastors bellow from the pulpit that it would. I got the inspiration to double check the Christmas story in Matthew and Luke to see what role the Angel Of The Lord plays. And as it turns out, that Angel (who Luke names as Gabriel) does a lot of talking to the major players in the story.

Boom, I’m off and running. Sketching out a monologue for Gabriel, showing up to break the news to Mary that’s she’s pregnant with God’s kid. And then having to take a few sidebars with God, since Mary’s not reacting well to the news. And Gabriel likes to tell really bad Bible jokes. And whines and pleads for God to do the rest of the talking, since Gabriel’s botching the whole thing, especially when he lets slip that Mary’s son is going to be crucified when he’s 33. Ooops.

I realize that it’s been quite some time since I’ve written anything. Like, actual writing. I’ve been outlining plenty of ideas, but writing dialogue? Running gags? Haven’t done that since Emily and Donovan did their cancer tango back in July. It felt good. Real good. Like, yeah dumbass. You’re a writer. This is what you’re supposed to do.

And when I’m nearing the end of the monologue, I hit a small snag. Gabriel’s trying to explain to Mary how the birth, life, and death of her son and God’s kid is going to redeem the whole world. Except that’s frustratingly vague, and no audience is gonna buy it. I wouldn’t buy it if an angel was telling it to me, I’d be all pissed off and querulous and saying “What the hell does that mean! Redeem the world? Wha-huh?”

And it’s here that I realize that I actually can’t put into words why Jesus had to die for the world. I know it’s got something to do with taking the sins of the world unto himself, how someone without sin had to pay the price for us all and there goes that frustratingly vague button again. I’m not writing for a Christian audience, I’m writing for an audience, and as such, frustratingly vague Christian-ese answers aint gonna cut it.

So I hit Google, a writer’s best friend and constant companion. I type the phrase “Why did Jesus have to die?”

And this beauty of a website pops up.

If you’ve ever done a cursory tour of Christian websites on the web, a large majority of them are Coo Coo for CocoPuffs. They don’t get it, they don’t understand that spouting various Bible verses to make their point isn’t going to connect with a potential audience. Run the ropes all you want to, I’m a Christian, and sentences like “Friend, Jesus Christ shed His blood on the cross to pay the penalty for YOUR sin!” don’t connect with me.

So I’m doing a second and a half scroll down, and then I hit the bottom of the page. And they’re asking you three sentences, and you’re supposed to check the box that applies to you.

I reject Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior
I want to receive Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior
I have already received Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior.

Ooooooh boy.

Ooooh, I SO wanna check the reject box. I WANNA CHECK THE REJECT BOX! You can’t put up a reject box like that and not have people check it! You’re just BEGGING people to check it! That’s like putting on a sandwich board that blares YOU ALL ARE GOING TO HELL YOU SODOMITES and walking down Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood! People are gonna smack you, and you deserve to be smacked if you do that.

Seriously, what’s the point of checking the “I have already received Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior” box? If I’m already saved, I’m not checking yer little box, Sparky. Why would I? So we can dance in the light and delight of the already saved? WHOO HOO! I need my spiritual validation from a scary fundamentalist language web page!

Nope, nope, I’m checking the reject box. But wait! What am I doing! Doesn’t this fall under the Denying My Lord? Matthew 10 verse 32-33 (I had to Google this one too) “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before men. But whoever disowns me before men. I will disown him before my Father in heaven.”

Ruh-roh. If you check that box, you are officially denying to the Scary Fundamentalist Language Web Page and the Universe In General that you reject Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. And you’ll go straight to hell. You’re not gonna be able to stand in front of God and explain that you really DID believe, you just had to check the box to see what would happen, because there’s no point in putting a box up there and not checking it. You will take the express train to the Lake O’ Fire, you will.

No I won’t. Yes, you will. No, I won’t. Yes, you will. No, I WON’T!

Dear God, quick sidebar here. I have to check this box, okay? I have to. Who’s the idiot who puts a box up like that on their webpage? What does it accomplish? I have to find out. I HAVE TO FIND OUT. Do you know that me checking this box does not in any way shape or form mean that I deny Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior, and I will proclaim it loudly on my blog so everyone’s absolutely clear that AMY THE WRITER BELIEVES IN JESUS CHRIST BUT SHE’S CHECKING THE BOX BECAUSE SHE HAS TO FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU CHECK THE BOX! You know this, don’t you? Are we cool? I love Jesus, Jesus is cool. I’m checking the box so nobody else has to. I’ll take this one for the team, I will. Please understand. Please laugh with me about this later. Thank you, thank you, thank you, amen.

I check the box. Here, you can click this God approved link and it’ll take you to the same page without you checking a nasty little DENY JESUS box.

Big red headline I REJECT JESUS CHRIST. Yaaaaaaaaaaay!

And I do another second and a half scroll down. Oh, the reasons they’re giving for why you SHOULDN’T reject Jesus, oh they have no meaning. “The Bible says over and over how much God loves you — but you still refuse His love?” What does it mean? What does it MEAN? Give me a concrete example of what it means for God to love me?

Ah, a slew of Bible verses. And back we go to hitting the frustratingly vague button.

Hey! The bottom of the page has MORE BOXES TO CHECK!

Would you like to change your mind and receive the Lord Jesus Christ?

I reject Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior
I want to receive Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior


Now we go to this page. THE TRUTH ABOUT HELL. Yipppeeeeeeeeeeee!

Talks all about what hell is like, with a bunch of circumstantial evidence, in red and yellow text because red and yellow equals SATAN, don’tcha know.

YOU CHOOSE HELL! Boogity boogity boogity BOO! Have I scared you enough to choose Jesus yet? DON’T BE CAUGHT DEAD WITHOUT JESUS! BLAAAAAAAAAH! BLEGHITY BLEGHITY BLEGHITY!

But alas, my fun little game has come to an end, because the bottom of this page doesn’t have anymore boxes to check, it has places where you can tell your friends about this webpage. Rats. I thought for sure there’d be another box to check, and if you act now, you’d get a free set of Ginzu knives that you can stick into your heart if you continue to reject Jesus Christ!


My God, I haven’t laughed so much in weeks.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Enforced Secret Joy #18 – Disapproving Rabbits

I have no imagination today, I freely admit it.

But hell and damn if this page doesn't make me laugh every time I open it up.

(yes, Mom, it's okay to click on the link. It's fine. I PROMISE.)

Dear God, thank you for Disapproving Rabbits. Thank you for laughter, thank you for the internet, where you can find the most wonderfully weird stuff. Thank you for today, because I'm now officially taking it one minute at a time. So thank you for this minute. And the next. And the next. And rabbits. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Amen.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Katrina Country Mission Trip Day 6 – Saturday, Oct.7, 2006

Disclaimer: as if the fact that this is a personal blog doesn’t make it obvious, the opinions expressed here are solely mine, not my 11:00 church’s, not the members of my Katrina Mission team, and not the Relief Organization that ran the show. This is the last Katrina post! Yay! Yay! No pictures! My camera battery ran out on the last day!

Since we’re not working today, we don’t have to get up when they turn the lights on, so we continue to sleep through the breakfast call, and the singing, and the TESTIMONIES. T-Rock is the only one who hears today’s testimony, and he’s too tired spacey to remember the exact details, but reports it’s pretty much the same as everyone else’s, sob story followed by a breakdown, followed by a solemn “Jesus Heals!” finale.

Because we’ve got an afternoon flight back to L.A., we can’t really squeeze in another day of work, even if it’s a half day, so we go back to the Quarter (parking ON Bourbon street this time, by Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop on the east end. This is just crazy, folks. You have no idea.) We go down to Café Du Monde, and get the beignets with the powdered sugar that gets everywhere, but it’s all good.

Native Chick directs our van through the Garden District to a college restaurant called Cooter Brown’s for lunch.

Everyone eats family style, and the guy we sit next to is happy and grateful and thanks us for doing the work we’re doing in Gentilly. He tries to persuade us to come with him to Tipitina's tonight, where we’ll get the love back tenfold. But we’ve got a flight out.

And it’s just another example of the famous Southern hospitality. These people are just so NICE. Later on, when we’re driving back to the Quarter, we’re circling around a spot on Royal Street, and this woman is leaving her spot, and says she’ll wait to move until Fearless Leader brings the car back around. She’s so nice, and is even nicer when she hears we’ve been doing gutouts in Gentilly. “Thank ya’ll so much for helping us rebuild.” She says in a great Southern drawl. And that’s how these people are. They ask you about your day, they ask you where’re you from, whatcha doing. And they genuinely seem to care, as opposed to to say, Disneyworld, where you can tell they’re asking you because they probably have their boss in the corner watching them, making sure they ask in the official five minutes of polite question time. As opposed to say, where I’m from in Alabama, where they’re pleasant, but not nice. New Orleans folk are just NICE.

Compare that to our first experience off the plane in LAX, where Native Chick’s husband is giving us a ride home, and as we’re trying to load the suitcases into his car, a cop walks up, cites him for expired tags, and the fact that he’s parked in a white zone. “This whole airport is a white zone!” we grumble. But it does no good, he gets a ticket anyway, which makes me feel awful. Welcome back to Los Angeles.

So I did it. Answered the call. Gutted out some houses in New Orleans. They could’ve done it without me. But I went anyway. I still feel like I’m the exact same person before I left and when I came back. No earthshattering realizations. I didn’t get to handle a chainsaw (apparently, you only get to do that when you’re clearing out downed trees. Rats.) But I did drink a Hand Grenade, so it all evens out.

Maybe this was all seed planting, and the metaphorical fruits will sprout later. I did deepen my friendship with Native Chick (cleaning three disgusting bathrooms will do that to ya.) I made a new friend with Giggly. We’re all in the same Home Group through church, so I see us going on many adventures to come.

Dear Blue Shirt Chaplains.

My name is Amy The Writer. This is my testimony. It’s not as spectacular as yours. There are no visions of Jesus walking through jail cells, or converting alcoholic family members. There are plenty of breakdowns, places where I’ve hit rock bottom and cried out to God for help. If it had happened to you, you’d get bright lights, or overwhelming feelings of peace, or a timely phone call from a friend. I get silence. But I keep going.

I’ve always believed in God. I’ve always believed in JesusChristasmypersonalLordandSavior. Sometimes I get mighty pissed off and bitch His Almighty ears off, but I never stop believing. Without the visions. Without the bright lights. Without the overwhelming feelings of peace.

I believe. I believe without proof (other than the material needs being met factors, which are huge, don’t get me wrong.) I’m a Functional Depressive who believes in a God who, for reasons known only to Him, refuses to take away my pain. It’s a pretty hollow way to live, and it takes more strength than you think. Personally, I don’t think you could do it, because I don’t think you’d understand how your soothing faux-Eucalyptus words of “Do you know how Jesus Christ has helped ME in my life” don’t fill the hole inside me.

And maybe it just takes time. I don’t think it’s an accident that I never saw a Blue Shirt who wasn’t under 50 years old. Maybe the more you live, the more you learn, and maybe I’m in for a earthshattering vision where Jesus steps into my kitchen and does a few tequila shots with me when I'm 49 years old, which would be pretty awesome.

This is my testimony. It’s not earthshattering. No dramatic conversations. No visions. A very mean and petty part of me says I’ve got more faith than you, since I’m doing it without all that stuff.

But there’s room in God’s kingdom for us both. For your obnoxious sidewalk strolling Bible pushing ways, and for my online blogging bitchery. God can use all of us in our own unique ways for His purposes. But forgive me if I stay on the other side of the cafeteria in Heaven from you. It’s how I roll.


Amy The Writer

Coda. On Sunday, Oct.8th, and true to form for me when returning from any God approved adventure (see Alpha Retreat, church retreats, Act One Screenwriting Month) I did indeed fall into a dark night of the soul, where I’m crying, shaking on the bed, and calling out to God for help. Though I didn’t get a vision, I did get a timely phone call from a friend (so maybe it’s baby steps.) I babbled and bared the icky parts of my soul for an hour, and made him swear to silence that we would never mention this again. This is a personal shout out to him. Thank you, Xavier. But you’re still not allowed to mention it ever again.

Folks, that was a week’s worth of blogging, so what do you say we give me a small break, and pick back up on Friday the 20th? Many thanks, I love you all. God loves you too, and would probably give you a vision before He gives it to me, ha ha ha.