Friday, September 29, 2006

Enforced Secret Joy #17 – SuperRoses!

I’ve blogged about my babies before , but one of them has grown into SuperRose Bush, as I’ve attempted to capture here (yes, I have Photoshop. No, I don't know how to use it.) SuperRose Bush must know it belongs to me, Amy Overachiever, and has now reached a height of close to six and a half feet tall.

I doubt that it can sustain itself at that kind of height. See the new shoots below? That’s the tippy top of SuperRose Bush. If I let those things continue to grow, it’ll get to at least seven feet tall, and I’ll either have to drag out a chair or stand on Roomie Heckle’s shoulders to take care of it, but more importantly, I suspect the weight of it will drag the blooms down and break the stems on their own.

Sure, I know those Christian metaphors about God as the Ultimate Pruner. Hell yeah, I’ve sat through plenty of sermons that use gardening as an example, and how God will sometimes let you, Little Flock, grow and flourish and thrive and strive to be a seven foot rose bush, only to prune you back, because it’s What’s Best For You. And it hurts, and you whine, and you shake your ineffectual fist at God because you wanted to be seven feet tall, but had you continued to grow that way, you would have broken yourself. Yes, yes, I know it all.

But you know what? I’m so tickled at SuperRose Bush’s ambition that I just can’t chop it down. I’m dying to see how high up it can grow. I’m willing to gamble that I’m underestimating SuperRose Bush, that it has Super Secret Strength that I don’t see right now. And if it results in broken stems, then I will be sad and prune them down, but I’ll still whisper to the other stems “It was an awesome run, and I’m glad we took the chance.”

And maybe that’s the reason I’m not an Almighty Deity.

Dear God, thank you for SuperRose Bush. Thank you for its strength and ambition and how it stands as a metaphor for hope in my own front yard. Please let it continue to grow, and be strong, and flourish. Please let Roomies Heckle and Jekyll remember to water it when I’m down in Katrina Country next week. PLEASE LET ROOMIES HECKLE AND JEKYLL REMEMBER TO WATER IT WHEN I’M DOWN IN KATRINA COUNTRY NEXT WEEK. As you can see, God, I’m a little nervous about leaving SuperRose Bush in someone else’s hands. Please help me to work on my trust issues. And let me grow strong and flourish and stretch towards the sun in a metaphorical seven-foot tall kind of way. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Amen.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

She Won't Be Stopped

When I told my parents that I was going on a Katrina trip to New Orleans, and I was excited to do manual labor and sleep on a cot in a community college gym, My Mother the Phone Harpy, Who I Love Very Very Much could not stop talking about her church’s mission trip to Biloxi. In the best example I could give someone who didn’t know about the joy that is the Phone Harpy, she wouldn’t stop talking about how Biloxi was much harder hit than New Orleans, and the press hasn’t covered it as much, and how all anyone can talk about is New Orleans, and they’ve completely overlooked Biloxi. I tried to point out that there has to be something left to do in the recovery efforts in New Orleans, or else they wouldn’t be sending us there, the Loving Phone Harpy would not be silenced. Like a dog with a bone, or a willful six year old who wants everyone to admit she’s the prettiest girl in class, the past three phone conversations have been her touting how Biloxi is much worse than New Orleans. She finally let it go when I said, “Mom? Do you want me to call my church and tell them that you want us redeployed?”

She’s since moved on to the subject of tetanus shots, and how I simply must have one before I go, because they told her group to get one. My group has received no such instructions, so I’m not getting one. THERE YA GO, MA! I’M STEPPING ON A RUSTY NAIL JUST FOR YOU!

Sorry. Sometimes I have to fly in the face of the Phone Harpy. Just ‘cause I can. I still love her. Very very much.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


Okay people, I have tried. I have.

First attempt at a blog post for tonight resulted in three pages of the most mopy blog thoughts you’ve ever had the misfortune to read. I executed a beautiful swan dive into the Bog O’ Me, and did a spectacular Self Pity Swim Routine before winding up with a flourish of Whiny Self Absorption. I have done you all a great service by not posting it, and you all owe me a beer the next time you see me. So there.

Second attempt at a blog post for tonight resulted in four pages of the Most Execrable Navel Gazing Poor Me, Poor Pitiful Me, Wah Wah Wah musings. I have done you all a great service by not posting it, and you all owe me two beers the next time you see me. So there.

There are things I’m trying to say in those pages of muck. Things that I think are valuable, because I’m being too open, too honest in saying them, so I think that I need to post them in order to be held accountable or learn something about myself, or whatever. I’ll try to fish them out later.

I’m teetering on the edge of being sick. I had a particularly nasty allergy attack when I moved back from the housesitting house last week (my neighbor called out through her window the next morning to ask if I needed medication, as apparently she heard the window ratting achoos from the night before), and I don’t think my immune system has recuperated yet. Then there’s the Good News/Bad News bit where any time I get close to dipping under 120 pounds, my body decides to punish me by getting sick. I know there’s a medical explanation of sorts about a threshold that your body considers normal, and I would like to make my body understand that 115 pounds is a much better threshold (110 pounds would be an AWESOME threshold), but then again, this is the same body that says 6am is the absolute perfect time to get up in the morning, so needless to say, my body and I aren’t friends much.

And I’m on the downslide of a pretty gacked out caffeine buzz. I had stopped drinking it last week, partly to see if I could (and I can), and partly because there’s a zit the size of a baked potato on my chin, and I suspected that caffeine had put it there. But the zit has stubbornly refused to shrink, despite my best efforts to medicate it down, and to stay away from the Diet Coke. So I took the opposite tact, and gulped down huge quantities of Diet Coke and Mountain Dew in the hopes of exploding it off my chin. Will most likely leave some kind of scar on its way out, but at this point, I don’t care. (feel free to concoct your own metaphors of If you can’t make it go away by being good, delve into the bad and explode it out, and deal with the scars later. )

And now here I am, exhausted physically and mentally. I’m about to curl up on my bed, on top of my notecards for my pitch that I had entertained hopes of finishing and now wave goodbye to as it merrily sails off to the Land of Missed Deadlines. My legs are twitchy. My nerves are shot. My eyes are swollen from too many tears. And I’ve had enough for tonight.

Will try to salvage things with a midweek post. Mucho apologies.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Enforced Secret Joy #16 – My Dentist

There is no happier man in the world than my dentist, Dr. Chuckles. I’m serious. He’s the most amiable, most congenial, most happy-go-lucky guy you will ever find wielding dental instruments. He’s not the sadistic type. And it’s not because I’m one of his perfect patients with no cavities. No, no, he’s just happy with the world, and with his family, and gosh golly gee isn’t life SWELL!?

And I know all of this because he’s quite the Chatty Chuckler when he’s working on my teeth. When I first started seeing him, he would try to get me to talk, which is impossible when he’s scraping plaque from the insides of my lower incisors. Now, a few well placed questions from me before I open my mouth, and he’s off and running on a 30 minute monologue, about his wife, his in-laws, his kids, their sports. And he’s just beaming a big grin through it all, like a Hawaiian Buddha Belly.

And today, he told me how he and his wife celebrated their 25th anniversary. “Now, I’m not the most romantic guy in the world, and she knows this,” so he decided that for the anniversary, he was gonna pull out all the stops and arrange for them, the kids, and the in-laws to all go to Las Vegas so they could renew their wedding vows. So a month ahead of time, he booked not the Bellagio , not the Venetian , but specifically on purpose, the Little White Chapel , “It’s where all the celebrities get married, like Britney Spears!” Dr. Chuckles burbles.

And I’m waiting for the part of the story where his wife breaks down in tears, because she wanted Mandalay Bay , but no, she put her foot down only when Dr. Chuckles wanted to include Elvis in the ceremony. So Dr. Chuckles said okay, ixnay on the lvisEay.

Now this is a husband and wife dental practice, and she was usually working one room over on her patients, and Dr. Chuckles gets very animated with his stories, so all she heard for a month leading up to the trip was how she wouldn’t let Elvis be a part of their ceremony. So the day before the ceremony…when they’re already in Vegas and doing golf and spa days…she calls up the Little White Chapel…


Dr. Chuckles is still so giddy with joy at telling this story which has to be the ten thousandth time he’s told it (‘cause I think it was two months ago), he’s still got Laughing Tears in his eyes. And it has to be the most awesome wedding renewal story I’ve ever heard. I hope his wife in the next room thinks so too.

Dear God, thank you for Dr. Chuckles. Thank you for his wife, their family, the fact that they’ve been together for 25 years. Thank you that their renewal ceremony came off without a hitch, and thank you that he got Elvis in his renewal ceremony. Thank you for his giddy glee and joy at life, thank you for his genuine soul and pure heart, and that sounds like stupid Christian talk, but five minutes in a room with this guy and you understand that his happiness is completely genuine and it’s one in a million people that can be that happy all the time and he happens to be my dentist so thank you for that. Please help me to capture one tenth of that joy in my own life, though I’m a little lost on where to start, but I’m sure it’s out there. And thank you for no cavities. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Amen.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

It's not an epiphany, it's a deer.

On our 6am strolls/yanking Amy through the Los Feliz streets, Basil, Ginger Puppy, and I occasionally see a coyote. It’s not as big of a deal as that sentence makes it sound. For the most part, these coyotes aren’t slinky, or wily, or even Wile E. They look remarkably like kicked dogs, with their tails dragging behind them as they quickly pad towards the nearest brush for cover.

When we used to walk up to Griffith Park, we’d see our fair share of rabbits, too. Again, nothing too special, half the time you don’t see them because they’re the exact color of canyon dust.

But Griffith Park appears to be covered in canyon straw, brambles, burs, and assorted sticky stuff these days. It gets in the dogs’ fur, and we have to stop every three seconds so I can defrag them, so I’ve altered our route slightly to where we’re walking to the Greek Theater and back. It’s a low key walk most of the time, despite the occasional dog or two or three that cross our paths.

But the last time we were out, something pretty spectacular happened.

Basil and Ginger Puppy were getting on my last nerve as usual, as I was attempting to negotiate the delicate dance of walking up a street with another dog and owner walking directly across the street from us. To Ginger Puppy, this means taking three steps in front, and then a side lunge at the dog across the street. Step step step LUNGE. Step step step LUNGE. C’mon! Lemme at ‘em! Lemme at ‘em! I’m two and a half and I’ll tear his throat out!

So we walk further than the dog across the street, plenty of time to give that owner a chance to turn around and walk back, far far out of eyesight. We reach the Greek, note that She Wants Revenge is playing in a month, and turn around.

We’re nearing the park area near the front gate, and all of the sudden, this deer springs out, seemingly out of nowhere, practically on top of us.

Deer may not be the right word for it. A buck? An elk? A GIANT ASS DEER/BUCK/ELK THING WITH ENORMOUS ANTLERS leaps out of the bushes, catching some major air, veers away from us, gallops across the road, hoofs clomping on the pavement, and again majestically leaps into the air, lands on top of a car, and dashes away into the underbrush, out of sight. (that's not the actual deeron the left, it's representative of what the deer looked liked. I didn't have my camera with me, I had two dogs on leashes instead.)

This sight is immediately followed by a Yappy Dog NOT ON A LEASH (which is highly against park regulations) tearing after it. Basil and Ginger Puppy, already woofing their heads off at the sight of a notadognotacoyoteIdon’tknowwhatitwasbutithadfourpawsandfursothatmeansweBARKATIT, reorient their fury at Yappy Dog, who immediately turns tail and zooms back to his owner.

The whole thing took less than ten seconds.

And I stand there, thinking, it must MEAN something. If this was a movie, I’d be asking that deer for directions to the Narnia lamppost. Or I’d be in the midst of an existential funk, and seeing the deer somehow reminds me that we’re all connected in the circle of life, and then Simba the Lion shows up, right before Robert De Niro shows up with his gun about to shoot him.

But some things you can’t force meaning onto. Some things I think you’re supposed to see and take note of and go on your merry way. Just because it looks like an epiphany doesn’t mean it is one. Because the closest thing I could come up with was There’s your life dashing by. There’s Mr. Bright Shining Opportunity, bouncing away from you, trampling the backside of a Toyota, and off before you could seize it. And that’s not the kind of epiphany that I need right now.

So I commemorate this Not An Epiphany Sighting here for all of you.

Oh, earlier that week, we also saw a garbageman doing push-ups by the side of his garbage truck before he climbed back in his truck and rumbled away. But I don’t think that means anything either.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Enforced Secret Joy #15 – Things I See While Walking The Dogs

Because I have such an albino’s reaction to direct sunlight (screams that shatter glass two counties away), and because Basil and Ginger Puppy feel it is their God given right to bark bloody murder at any other canine that crosses their path, we do our morning walks at the ungodly hour of 6am. Usually, I’m an unfortunate morning person, but there have been days where I come to consciousness at the end of two leashes while Dasher and Dancer prance their way through the hills of Los Feliz. God Bless Benedryl, did I mention that?

There are killer steps to climb.

There are unusual mailboxes.

There are nice landscapes (somewhat marred by power lines, and I’m sure there’s a way to Photoshop them out, but I’m not that smart. Yet.)

And there are houses with patios that I dream of owning. Maybe I don’t even need the house. Just this patio would be fine.

Dear God, thank you for early morning walks. Thank you for giving us such pretty things to look at while we avoid direct sunlight. Thank you for Basil and Ginger Puppy, even though they think the ultimate goal of the walk is to yank my arms out of their sockets. I’m sure they would take it all back if you decided to grant them human consciousness. Thank you for this housesitting gig, thank you for me not working so I can write all day. Thank you for dreamy patios, and even if I never sell a script to buy one of my own, thank you for letting me see this one. And thank you for the owner of said dreamy patio not being a morning person, as they probably wouldn’t have appreciated me sticking my camera through their gate to get the shot. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Amen.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Two Topics That Have Nothing To Do With Each Other

I got my dink letter from the Austin Film Festival last week, so that officially makes me 0 – 3 on the writing fellowship front. I wasn’t pinning my hopes on winning the thing, but to place in a Semi-Finalist or Finalist capacity would’ve been awesome.

I thought I had the best chance with Austin, since it’s not Los Angeles (duh), but for some reason, it doesn’t matter to me anymore. Maybe because I’ve already been dinked by two other fellowships, and that should tell you something. Maybe because I just went through my writer’s group on Wednesday where they were discussing the script I had submitted to Austin, and pointing out the issues with it reinforced to me that it’s not a perfect script. And it feels like it has to be a perfect script to make it to the bottom levels of these fellowships. You could argue that there’s no such thing as a perfect script, and the stuff I’ve written that’s been optioned has had issues, the plays I’ve written and produced that won audience awards and LA Weekly’s Pick Of The Week have issues. So no, there is no such thing as a perfect script. But there are scripts that have less issues than my scripts. Oh, to be able to write a clear story. Oh, to dream the impossible dream. But I felt okay with anticipating the “Sorry” letter. It’s just easier to live life expecting the worst. Because you’re never disappointed, and sometimes, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. That’s probably not sanctioned by the Bible, by the way.

Regardless, I get the letter on Friday. And the letter said what I’d thought it’d say, which is that I did advance to the Second Round, but not the semifinals. “reaching the second round is a tremendous accomplishment and you should be very proud of your entry.” They also say that just below 15% made it to the Second Round, with over 4,000 writers submitting. So that basically means I’m part of 600 scripts that made the Second Round cut. Yeah, that sounds about like me. I need to write a script that’s 300 and fewer people good.

But there’s something else in the envelope with the Sorry Letter, and it’s a buckslip from the Screenplay Competition Coordinator. Handwritten, it says “Amy – Please know your script was very well received! All the best.”

Well. Part of me says then why didn’t it advance!?!? But the other part of me recognizes that she didn’t have to do that, and it’s really nice that she did. Maybe I was the poor slob that just missed the cut off. Like if 200 scripts made it to the Semi Finals, I was probably script 201, ‘cause that TOTALLY sounds like my current luck these past two months. But it’s certainly validation. Validation in a tiny tiny form.

And in a segueway that has nothing to do with anything and I can’t think of a wittier way to change subjects, I’ve decided to go on a mission trip with 11:00 church the first week of October. We’re going down to New Orleans to help with Katrina stuff.

I’ve never really been a missions kind of gal. I have no problem helping out within the city I live in, because God knows there’s plenty of places around here that need help (Homeless Karaoke on Wednesday!), but I’ve never boarded a plane, a bus, a 15 person van, with the intention of going somewhere SOLELY for the purpose of a mission trip. But I’m doing it now.

And if you wanna say it’s the Call Of God, it went somewhat like this: I’m sitting in 11:00 church, listening to the people who just got back from the two week mission trip to Kenya and thinking to myself, “It takes a certain kind of person to want to go to Kenya and work with orphans and in the slums and stuff. I am not that kind of person. Thank God there are people who aren’t selfish brats like me.” And then they announce they’re doing a trip to New Orleans. This would be New Orleans proper, as opposed to the first group they sent to Biloxi in February.

And this small nagging thought in my stomach showed up. You have to do this, because you don’t have a valid reason not to. Yep, yep, I think it came from my stomach. Wonder what’s up with that. Like if maybe I had had waffles and bacon first, I wouldn’t have thought it?

You have to do this, because you don’t have a valid reason not to. I’m not working, I’ve got severance money in the bank account. The first wave of responders for Katrina Help has subsided, but there’s still plenty of work to be done. And that’s usually when I come in. I’m never with the First Wave, I’m always part of the Clean Up Crew. I’m the one that takes the trash out at church. I’m the one that takes care of the widow’s dog when everyone’s focused on her and the baby. I’m the one that zeroes in on the things that people have either moved on from, or never thought about in the first place. Don’t know why.

There is the Neurotic Part Of Me that likes to point out that every time I embark on a God Approved Venture – an Alpha course, a church retreat, an Act One class – I come out the other side much worse off, like teetering on the edge of breakdown time. But hey! That should fulfill the Masochistic Part Of me very nicely! So I HAVE to do it.

And hell, even my mother, the Phone Harpy Who I Love Very Much, has already been down to that area on her church’s mission trip. I can’t have the Phone Harpy show ME up. No WAY!

So I’m now part of a seven person group going the first week in October. I was hoping I’d get to swing a hammer or saw some stuff, but it appears from the initial info we’ve gotten that we’re gonna most likely be doing debris removal. So I’m taking out the trash! In New Orleans! Whoo HOO! As long as I’m not serving food to other workers, I’m cool. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I wanted to be literally hands on. Hands on the trash. Maybe I’ll get to wield a sledgehammer. Maybe they’ll let me drive a bulldozer. Nah, it’s probably gonna be stinky Hefty bag time. But someone’s gotta do it. Might as well be me.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Enforced Secret Joy #14 – Things That Distract Me From Writing

How in the world am I supposed to get any script work done when I look down to my left and see this? No, I did not flop those ears. Those ears flopped that way all on their own. Ginger Puppy kinda looks like a rabbit now, doesn’t she?

How in the world am I supposed to get any script work done when I look in front of me and see this view?

How in the world am I supposed to get any script work done when I know Battlestar Galattica 2.0 is downstairs with this guy waiting for me?

My brain starts spinning from half alcohol / half allergy med induced scenarios. Where Jamie Bamber carries me upstairs and lovingly feeds me spicy tuna sushi and Benedryl tabs and rubs my feet until I fall asleep. And then I wake up to find that he’s already taken the dogs for a walk, done shit patrol, and combed out their mats, and administered their flea medication and still made it back to bed in time to smooth back my hair with soft kisses on my forehead, murmuring what a wonderful writer I am in that American accent he’s got nailed down so hard that it’s impossible to accept he’s British.

“No, no, I gotta write,” I try to sit up, “There’s the rewrite, and the outline, and the other outline, and the play. I’m a writer. Writers write. I gotta write.” And he gently pulls me back to the pillow and whispers, “You need inspiration.”

And then he walks around without a shirt and a pair of blue jeans until I tell him stop. Which I will never do.

Dear God. Thank you for… half alcohol / half allergy med induced fantasies? That’s a little screwy, huh. I wonder if that’s allowed. I mean, you made Jamie Bamber, so thank you for that. And if all I’m doing with him in my Benedryl haze is the somewhat chaste PG antics above, does that fall into the Thou Shall Not Covet category? Wait, let me go check imdb. Shit, he’s married with a kid. Hell and damn. All the good ones are taken. Or they ignore me. Thanks, God. That’s all sorts of extra special goodness that we need to talk about later.

Thank you for floppy ears, for this view, for this housesitting gig. Thank you for me not working so I can write and procrastinate and write some more. And procrastinate some more. Thank you for understanding my particular cracked brand o humor. Thank for inspiration, in whatever form. And thank you for Benedryl. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Amen.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

It’s a whiny post, people. Fair warning to all of you.

I’m housesitting again. Two and a half weeks with Basil and Ginger Puppy. I was looking forward to it because I was viewing it as a writer’s retreat, albeit one with constant barking interruptions because Basil and Ginger go batshit crazy if anything with four legs and fur come within a 100 mile radius of the house.

But now I’m here, I’m lethargic, and the last thing I wanna do is write. It could be the allergy meds I’m on. Between the prolonged exposure for almost three weeks to various dogs and the heat, my nose is basically allowing a needle’s width of air to get through.

Nothing really has been going on lately. I’ve had coffees and lunches and drinks with several lovely people. I’ve been working on the rewrite, and trying not to whack myself with the Go Faster stick too hard. I’ve been reading my Bible (favorite verse lately is Luke 12, verse 32, the tail end of the Do Not Worry speech, and Jesus says “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” Which cracks me up because the phrase “Little flock” could be viewed as gentle lovingkindness AND gentle sarcasm at the same time.) and talking to God seemingly every minute, praying for friends who have much bigger problems than I do (favorite insight lately is 11:00 church’s sermon today on Matthew 9, verse 1 – 8 and pointing out that Jesus healing the paralytic was actually honoring the paralytic’s friends’ faith. Meaning God honors third party faith. I’m praying for EVERYBODY, folks. It’s so much easier than praying for myself. You all are covered.)

But it still feels like something’s missing, and I think it’s hope. There’s nothing on the horizon that would be new and exciting. Last year at this time I had applied to a fellowship that, though I didn’t win (I was a top twelve finalist for), opened a door that eventually led to Act One. I also went through a session of Writer’s Boot Camp that opened the door to deepening my writer skills. They were new experiences. New experiences creates momentum, momentum creates productivity, which in turn creates hope. For me, at least.

But now, I can’t see a THING on the horizon. I’m writing, done it. I’ll eventually have to start the job search again, done it. I’m looking around, but I don’t have anything new to hang my Hope Hat on. I can try to get all Biblical about it, and say I’m in a Seed Planting Phase, and I have to wait for the seeds to sprout, so have patience, little flock, have patience.

Um, yeah. Anyone notice what my blog is called? I don’t HAVE patience. But it’s a lethargic kind of impatience right now, because it takes too much energy to get truly upset. If you don’t have the energy to hope about stuff, you don’t really have the energy to get mad that the hope isn’t being fulfilled.

I think it’s the allergy meds. I really do.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Enforced Secret Joy #13 – Massacring Famous Poems

(apologies, Joyce Kilmer )

I think that I shall never be
This joyous and carefree

As this pup, who dared to leap
Upon my bed, whilst I did not sleep

Camera in hand, I captured flight
Of crazed canine, in midst of night

Flattened ears! Eyes bug wide!
Jaw half open (More streamlined!)

Look not at dumbbell doorstop, nor laundry cart
Gaze upon Lewis, for whom leaping is an art

Precious moment, I treasure thee so
For after two seconds, Lewis did leaping go.

(back to the living room, such an ADD dog.)

Dear God, thank you for Lewis. Thank you for my digital camera, for the fact that I’m able to take these kind of shots even though I don’t know how to work half the bells and whistles on there.

Thank you for Roomie Jekyll, who’s just out of frame and beckoning Lewis to come barreling down the hall like a maniacal canine killer. Thank you for the phrase “Maniacal canine killer,” and the fact that I can forever wrest that description from Cujo , Man’s Best Friend , any other killer dog movie I may have forgotten, all thanks to this brilliant shot.

Thank you for laughter, the type that convulses you so thoroughly that you can’t breathe for a good five minutes afterwards. It’s a great ab workout. It’s an Enforced Secret Joy. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Amen.