Sunday, January 27, 2008

I should've gone back down the aisle

Today my church was doing an extra curricular activity where they were gonna spend an extra hour and a half after the service talking about the reasons why we worship the way we do why it’s okay to raise your hands to heaven, how we connect to God through singing and la la laaaaa. I didn’t wanna go, I wanted to go home and write, but as we all know from past experience, it’s the things I don’t wanna do that are usually the things I’m supposed to do, so I went.

They handed out a little brochure thing that listed all the places in the Bible that Scripture says it’s okay to Lift Up Your Hands, Clap, Shout, Play Music And Sing, Dance, Play Instruments. The snotty part of me wanted to point out that the Meditate And Be Silent section automatically negated all the other parts, but yes, I know, it’s not and Either/Or, it’s a Both/And, fine, whatever. I still don’t feel the need to lift up my hands. No, I will never believe that lifting up my hands will connect me to God in a way that’s better than any other way. And God still loves me, just like He loves the ones who do lift up their hands.

At one point during the service, the leader says members of the prayer team are available to pray with you, if you want to. That’s nice. They will pray for you “to be able to experience the presence of God this week in a vital way.” Aw hell. That means I have to go do it now. Shit and damn. I wanna go home and write! It’s cold in here! This place doesn’t have central heat and it’s raining outside! We’re all freezing!

But there’s been something I’ve been wrestling with that I actually would like prayer for. Well, I would like to be held accountable for it, and it seems like perhaps grabbing one of these Prayer Team Peeps and praying with them about it would maybe get the ball rolling on trying to fix it.

I see that Tulip is amongst the Prayer Team Peeps. I like Tulip, even though I get annoyed when she starts talking Platitudes. She knows I get annoyed, and she likes me anyway (She’s the type of person that you would know instantly if she didn’t like you. But she’s also a pastor in the church, so I think that means she’s forced to like everybody. But I bet she secretly doesn’t like some people. But she likes ME. I think. Ho ho ho.)

So I resolve to go down there and grab her to ask her to pray with me. Which I do. I say, “There’s something I have to pray about to be held accountable for, and then I need you to pray for me to experience the presence of God.” She says okay, she grabs my hands and we bow heads. And she prays for me, she thanks God for me, she thanks God that I’m still searching for connection for Him. She prays for a bunch of stuff, and it’s beautiful and I’m positive God’s listening to her.

And then she says, “In Jesus’ name, Amen.” And squeezes my hands. Oh. Um, okay. It looks like our prayer time is over. But I didn’t get to pray about what I needed prayer for. I didn’t get to pray publicly with Tulip about it, I didn’t get to be held publicly accountable for it.

Like a chickenshit, I scurry back up the aisle without saying anything else to Tulip other than a quick “Thanks.” Go back there and tell her you have to pray for something with her. NO! I can’t do that! I can’t monopolize Tulip’s time! It took courage just to get me to go down the aisle the first time! Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!

And then it hits me that maybe God wants me to be held publicly accountable here on the blog to the 11 or so readers I still have after my stops and starts and I’m Taking A Hiatus Now. No Wait, I’m Back! Fits.

Oh, gross. I don’t wanna do THAT. Well, you know that means you have to.

Okay, fine. FINE. Fine, fine, fine dee dee FINE.

I have trust issues. TA DA!

You know, the Bible says something to the effect of “don’t put your trust in men, men will let you down.” Lemme go look it up. Ah, here we go,

It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. 
It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes. Psalm 118:8-9

So there you go, my trust issues are vetted by the Almighty, and He says it’s a-okay not to trust a one of ya! Nyah nyah nyah!

Actually, I think everyone has trust issues, or they damn well should. Have you been living in this world (okay, Los Angeles) at all? People are flakes! They let you down! They say something, promise you this, that, the other, dangle the golden carrot in front of you, you believe them, and then POOF, they’re gone. Personally, professionally, whatever. We’ve all been bounced around like yo yos, and still we square the shoulders and soldier on, thinking we’re gonna be smarter next time.

So it gets to the point where I can’t look a potentially golden opportunity in the face without first thinking of all the ways this opportunity is gonna sock me in the gut for believing it was gonna happen in the first place. It is not one of those situations where my unbelief causes the deal to go south, because I’ve gotten very good in keeping my unbelief to myself, to test the theory that the deal would go south even if I put on a Happy Face.

But if you’re a friend of mine, I guarantee there has been a point somewhere in our friendship where I have puffed up paranoid scenarios about how you’re going to metaphorically sock me in the gut.

The Paranoid Scenario button is one I have never been able to turn off, much as I would like to. It usually goes like this:

I met a great guy! He’s gonna lose interest.

I’m getting my play produced! Nobody’s gonna go see it, and you’re gonna get trashed by reviewers.

Somebody wants to read one of my scripts! They’re gonna hate it, or they’re never gonna call you back.

I’m doing a blood drive! Nobody’s gonna sign up.

Now, in all of the above instances, everything worked out swimmingly, at least for awhile, so you would think I would stop mashing the Paranoid Scenario button based on past experiences.

And yet I can’t. I don’t know why.

All this week I’ve been wrestling with Paranoid Scenarios about how this, that, and the other person is going to fuck me over for this, that, and the other reason. That’s what I was going to pray with Tulip about. (I probably wouldn’t have dropped the f bomb though.) I would’ve thanked God for creating the potentially great scenario, for putting the people in my life that had a hand in creating the potentially great scenario. I would’ve thanked God for blessing me with the gifts He has given me that helped perpetuate the potentially great scenario. I would’ve asked for God would give me the strength to wrench my thoughts from turning the potentially great scenario into a Paranoid Scenario. I would’ve asked God to help me deliberately focus my thoughts on the positive aspects of this scenario, of these people, of my gifts. I would said a lot more P words, like prayer, praise, pshaw, etc.

So instead, I ask God here, in front of you all. Give me strength to be positive, give me strength to be positive, give me strength to be positive, give me strength, strength, strength. Amen.

Crossing fingers…

Monday, January 21, 2008

Me Love Some Crazy (Not Really)

I haven’t been talking a lot about where I’m working these days. It’s in the reality department of Unnamed TV Network. As such, there’s about a bajillion nondisclosure things I have to be careful that I don’t let slip.

But something happened on Friday that demands a sit and spin. But let’s dress it up in some fictional fancy pants.

Therefore, I now work in the reality department of The Miniature Golf Network (TMGN)! It’s huge, people, we’ve got a bunch of shows on the air, including Who You Callin’ Mini!, a nationwide search for the top miniature golf champion under the age of 10, Kitchy Kitchy Koo, a miniature golf design contest, and Putter Up, A Real World-esque docudrama about a group of seven strangers picked to run a Goofy Golf in northern Texas.

(the above paragraph is quite plainly fiction, in case anyone stumbles onto here looking for a real Miniature Golf Network on TV. No such thing exists. Move along, and have a great day!)

I’ve been at the TMGN network for a few months now, and I can say that this is not where I thought I was going to be at this stage in my life. God’s a crackup, that’s for sure. Me a writer, working in reality. But it’s ironically the safest place to be with the writer’s strike still going on. Remember how last year I was working in Event Planning at Unnamed Movie Studio and they wanted me to work the Golden Globes party, and I said no way in hell? I wouldn’t have that job this year, because of the strike. There were no Golden Globes this year. There’s a company I temped for two weeks last year that I wish would’ve hired me on, and their studio deal got force majuered because of the strike. So there’s evidence that God is protecting me, albeit using the strangest ways possible.

Because He’s a crackup, He is.

Reality programming isn’t where you think you would find God lurking about. Much easier to find Him in scripted programming. You can have your Touched By An Angel show here, a Seventh Heaven show there, a Lostaway has the audacity to invite another one to pray on the first season over here.

But Reality Programming is chock full of chuckleheads who don’t want anything more in their life than to be famous. And I’ve been bouncing away like a Plinko chip at the pegs of my reality landscape, going, “Why am I here? Why am I here? What’s the game plan? Where are you, God?”

Now there’s a series that TMGN already shot and was in the can before I ever showed up. It’s called Hole In One, and it’s a dating show, where 10 women compete in various miniature golf events to win over Ted Tallywhacker, the heir to the gigantic Pocket Balls miniature golf franchise. It hasn’t aired yet. When I first started this job, I was told three things: “We don’t accept unsolicited submissions” , “Don’t schedule more than three pitches a day if you can possibly help it” and “watch out for Moira from Massachusetts.” Moira from Massachusetts was a Hole In One contestant who had a habit of calling TMGN, wanting to know when the show would be airing. I was told never to engage her in any more than a swift “No, we don’t have that information yet.”

So I’ve been toiling away at TMGN, and discovering that wow, I do need God’s help a lot more than I think I would, because it takes the grace of ten thousands angels in order to deal with the mountain of phone calls from random people who start out the conversation with, “I have an idea for a reality show, and I want to know how I can pitch it to The Miniature Golf Network.”

Guess what? You can’t. Just like you can’t write a script, call up your favorite director, and submit it to his production company. There’s a wonderful barrier called Agents And/Or Managers that you have to go through. If you don’t have one of those (and it has to be a recognizable one, not your Uncle who’s a lawyer in Des Moines) you can’t submit it to us. There you go. Plain and simple.

I wish I had a more calloused soul, so that I could turn these people down left and right without blinking an eye. Given a few months more, I probably will. But right now, it pains me to dash the hopes of the Random Folk, “We don’t accept unsolicited submissions.” “How do I get solicited?” is the follow up question. And I want to hang up on them, they’re dumb, they’re stupid, they’re wasting my time and theirs. Who WANTS to pitch a show to TMGN anyway? People who want fame. Fame is fleeting, doesn’t anyone know that?

So I need God’s grace to pick up the phone when I look at the caller ID display and see that it’s an out of state area code, which means that it’s somebody from Middle America who wants to pitch us their unsolicited idea. Because in God’s eyes, these Random Folk aren’t dumb. They aren’t stupid. They’re just, um, well, very passionately misguided.

This is what I try to remind myself every day I’m there.

On Friday, I get a call from the assistant to The Miniature Golf Network President. “I’m transferring someone to you. She’s crazy.” Oh YAAAAAAAYYYYYYY! “She’s got a bunch of reality questions, and I can’t answer them, so can you take care of her?” Oh sure, no problem. Dear God, please give me grace. Please give me strength. Please help me help this crazy passionately misguided person as quickly as possible.

And it’s Moira from Massachusetts. Who is NOT a happy camper. Moira, who suspiciously sounds like she’s off her meds, talks one hundred miles a minute for five minutes about why isn’t she featured in more episodes of the show. The show that hasn’t aired yet. Moira, by the way, gets the boot in episode three when she refuses to participate in speed painting various fiberglass obstacles on a miniature golf course. Moira had the purple whale, and she flat out refused, saying purple clashed with her outfit. Because, you see, Moira didn’t really care about winning the heart of Ted Tallywhacker. She didn’t really care about miniature golf. She just wanted to be on TV. She wants to be FAMOUS.

And in her five minute speed rant clocking 500 miles, Moira demands a meeting with the head of TMGN, because the show won’t be number one if they don’t put her in more episodes. The show that hasn’t aired yet. The show that she got bounced on episode three.

Dear God. This is a child of You. “I’m gonna call every day until I get an answer, Amy. I’m an Ashkenazi Jew, we don’t stop.” Dear God. This is an Ashkenazi Jew who’s also a child of You. “I’ve been a cyberbunny on Playboy’s website! I’m the best thing about this show! You’re trying to keep me from becoming a star!” Dear God, I need sooooooo much grace right now. “Just tell me this much: is your boss straight?”

(Yes, she really did say all of the above. That part is not fiction.)

I try to shut her down as quick as I can. I suggest she send an email, “I’m not writing an email. I’m shaking right now.” I tell her I can pass her number and message to my boss, “I want a meeting. 15 minutes.” I tell her I can pass her number and message to my boss, “I have no problem with going to the picket line and telling reporters how you’re not featuring me in more episodes,” I tell her I can pass her number and message to my boss. The network president’s assistant IMs me in the middle of the conversation, she’s been listening the entire time, “You’re really good at this.” Just God’s grace. Getting me throooooooough.

After repeating myself 18 times how I can pass her number and message to my boss, and with a small assist from another VP who loudly calls my name so I have an excuse to put Moira on hold, then come back saying I have to go (the whole office is listening to this conversation now.) I finally finally get Moira off the phone.

Dear God, I know Moira is a child of You, in addition to being a Playboy Cyberbunny and an Ashkenazi Jew. (hey it rhymes! It must be a poem now!)

Dear God, I know Moira is a child of You
(in addition to being a Playboy Cyberbunny and an Ashkenazi Jew.)
Thank You for Your Grace In Getting Me through

And if I may be so bold to ask for more,
Please don’t let there be any more Crazy Calls in store,
I know it’s impossible, but miracles, you can pour.

Banish these hateful thoughts running round my brain
About how these people are stupid, idiotic, or otherwise lame
Because I feel bad, guilty, yes, I feel shame.

Thank You for a paycheck, thank You for a job
Thank You for a constant income in the midst of a striking mob
I trust You, I trust You, Yippee Skippy Bob.

Love, Amy The Writer.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

If You Hold A Blood Drive, They Will Bleed

Ah, I’m a day late with the posting, so that obviously means the Paranoid Bitch WON, didn’t it! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

No, it’s just that I’ve been caught up with about thirty thousands annoying details on thirty thousand other annoying things in my life. But I’m here now.

I knew the cancellations would pour in as soon as I sent the reminder emails out to everyone that they had signed up for the blood drive on Sunday. And I did have four to five people email back to say they had to work, their car broke down, they’re sick, they have to work, la la laaaaaaa.

And then I expected more people to simply not show for their appointments, as we have a pretty laid back congregation, to whom skipping a service is no big deal, as opposed to me, who thinks I’m going to hell if I drift for two seconds during the sermon, or if my gaze happens to wander to look at one of the hotties when we’re all singing. (Seriously. My congregation has a lot of hotties. They never ask anyone out, either. Annoying.)

But I got there, solved the first crisis about how to get the Bloodmobile out of the red zone, set up my table and posters and BALLOONS! (I don’t remember the last time I blew up a balloon!) greeted Native Chick, who was hung over, but still made it out to help man the table (that is a true true friend, people), and held my breath as 9:00am rolled around.

And people showed. MAN did they show. I already had 2 people slotted every twenty minutes, but I had a bunch more people as walk ups. I had people who were just walking down the street in front of the church, saw the sign, and wanted to sign up. We had to start turning people away. Usually, my heart is broken by the usual things – rejected scripts, a sad eyed puppy, trusting a guy who says all the right things that night and then disappears the next day – but today, my heart was broken by people who I couldn’t get into the Bloodmobile. Some of them looked positively WRECKED. What do you mean, you don’t have room for me? I KNOW, people! I would shoehorn you in through the vents if I could, but the Bloodmobile could only accommodate so many people at a time. I had no idea how many people wanted to do this. I was operating in my This Blood Drive Is Oatmealy Good For Ya, and I’m Force Feeding It To My Church bubble because I had no feedback whatsoever. I got the feedback now, and the feedback is They Want The Oatmeal. They WANT The Oatmeal!

I had plenty of people ask me what inspired me to do this. Um, God told me to. There’s not a linear path to it. I’ve never needed blood. I don’t have a cool story where I got into a car wreck, or I chopped off my arm, and I had a femoral artery gushing through the wreckage until the Pints O’ Goodness showed up and saved my life. I started giving blood because I wanted to be mean to myself, whoops, I wanted to Challenge My Fears. And once I realized how ridiculously easy it was, there was no good reason to stop giving. And no good reason to not get other people to do it too. If You Provide The Blood Drive, They Will Bleed. Or something like that.

I don’t know why God told me to host a blood drive. I was overjoyed that He was talking to me in the first place. He could’ve said anything, Go dye your hair pink, go be a bank teller in Montana, go jump off a cliff. And I would’ve done it. Except the bank teller in Montana part.

We got 38 pints on Sunday. Four people got bounced because of their international travels. One gal got bounced because she didn’t weigh enough. Nobody got bounced because their iron content was low, but that was probably because I didn’t give. That’s right, I couldn’t give at my own damn blood drive. There wasn’t any room. That’s AWESOME.

The Bloodmobile staff was amazed at our 38 pints. They said you never get that kind of number for a first time drive. You’re lucky if you get 22 or so. BOO YAH WITH OUR 38 PINTS. The Red Cross takes those 38 pints and separates them into three parts each, so our 38 pints helped 114 people.

I don’t know why God told me to host a blood drive. But I don’t have to. We helped 114 people today, and we will never know who they are. But we don’t have to. You don’t have to know people to help them, and you don’t have to know why you’re doing what God tells you to do. You just do it. Or, I do, anyway. With a dash of paranoid ramblings, of course.

And since I have completed my task, maybe God will say something else, maybe there’s something else on his Holy To Do List, or maybe there’s another Fortune Cookie saying I’m gonna get on the ellipticals.

Or maybe nothing else comes. If I’m really anticipating for something to happen, it usually doesn’t. If I make like I’m not anticipating anything to happen, it STILL doesn’t happen, like God knows I’m peeking behind my closed fingers.

Regardless, I helped facilitate an opportunity for 38 people to help 114 people that none of us knew. And that’s enough.

For this week, anyway.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Go Host A Blood Drive (Because I Said So)

When I first started this blog, among my hopefully witty whinings was how I didn’t hear God’s voice enough. The irony was that in 2006, I heard God’s voice a lot more, and when I say “more” I mean “maybe three times a year if I shut up with the babblings long enough to listen.”

But I was asking a lot of questions in 2006. Not to say I don’t still have questions, but I know now I’ll never get a definitive answer. You could write ‘em all off with a “Because I said so” and not be too far from the mark from what the answer would be.

But where I would catch a charmingly cryptic phrase, “The Answers Will Come.” “In My Time, Not Yours.”, “Let The Idea Speak For Itself, these days, when I think it’s God talking, it’s more of a Jump In My Head Thought that’s surprisingly more specific, which is probably why I hear it less and less.

“Go look up Gabriel, Angel of The Lord,”, was one. “Go ask that woman what you can pray for”, was another. And in August of last year, coming down from a high of Yes! I was able to give blood after three misfires! as I was drifting off to sleep, another one came, and this one said:

You should host a blood drive.

Um, okay. Sure. Why not. Let’s spread my joy and triumph of Facing Your Needle Fear to Da WORLD! I don’t really think I’m Leadership material, (people don’t seem to listen to me, which is fine, I LOVE to gloat, har de ha ha), but I can be Facilitator material, and I can certainly try to facilitate a blood drive at my church. It can’t be hard.

Certainly not hard from the Red Cross’s end of things. They were overjoyed that I wanted to facilitate said opportunity. They’re always looking for ways to connect with the twentysomething and thirtysomething populations of Los Angeles, that’s the biggest demographic of people who don’t give, most often because nobody has never asked them.

Little did I know that my church was in the middle of a restructuring, because my church thought instead of 5 people making all the decisions, it would be much better to expand it to 16+ people making the decisions. And while that does ease the burden bearing, to try and get 16+ people together to make one decision about Should Our Church Host A Blood Drive took awhile. And when I say “Awhile” I mean “4 months.”

I tried not to give up. I tried to banish all pesky thoughts of Nobody Wants This Idea Except For You, Maybe You Should Get On Board With What The Church Wants To Do, Which Is All Things International Justice N’ Stuff, ‘Cause, You Know, International Justice is COOL! Way Cooler To Go On Mission Trips To India And Report Back About Brothels Than It Is To Host A Boring Blood Drive. Way Cooler To Host a Alternative Christmas Marketplace Benefiting Free Trade And Other Stuff Than It Is To Donate Red Blood Cells. Dollars For Mostly International Issues = Cool. Your Plasma For Other People = Not Cool.

No, no, nobody ever said that, just the Paranoid Bitch in my head who’s in desperate need of medication. Yes, I was envious. They had the numbers. They had the publicity. They had tons of people helping them out. It was just me and my lonely little metaphorical Let’s Host A Blood Drive! flag dangling limply in the metaphorical breeze.

Finally, the church got back to me with a date that worked for them. Luckily, a drive had just canceled on the date the church wanted, so the Bloodmobile was free. A-HA! I TOLD you God wants this Blood Drive to happen!

Now the Paranoid Bitch in my head who lives on a steady diet of Red Bull and Pixie Stix shifted tactics: Yeah, you got your precious blood drive, but nobody’s gonna sign up for it. You won’t get your minimum 33 signatures, and you’ll look like a dumbass for wanting this in the first place. Nobody wants a blood drive! They wanna do outreach to at-risk kids on Skid Row! Get with the program already!

Nevertheless, I carted all the many promo materials that the Red Cross sent me (Posters! Sign up sheets! Balloons!) down to the church lobby for two weeks straight. I felt nervous and annoying, much like Tracy Flick and her Pick Flick cupcakes in Election . You want to do this Blood Drive and you don’t even know it!!!

But damned if I don’t get 34 signatures for my blood drive in those two weeks of sign-ups! Not even including me! I make 35! Wheeeeeeee!

My fears are not completely gone, since the Paranoid Bitch in my head who’s got a nasty crystal meth habit and trolls through people’s trash for shredded credit card offers has shifted tactics again to beat out Yeah, you got your precious blood drive, yeah, you got your precious minimum 33 signatures, but all those people are gonna FLAKE! They’ll FLAKE, I’m telling you, and you’ll still look like a dumbass.

But there’s a first time for everything, and so far, even though nobody ever told me this was something the church should do (except, well, you know, GOD), it looks like all people needed was to be asked to do it. Unless they flake. Yeah, yeah. We’ll see.

So here we go, Amy The Writer’s Top 5 Reasons For Why Everyone Should Give Blood:

1. Cookies! They give you cookies, crackers, juice, all sorts of stuff after you donate. FOR FREE! Even if your dentist frowns on Free Sugar, he will not begrudge you the Famous Amos cookies if you’re eating them to boost your blood sugar.

2. A medical excuse not to go to the gym! After you give blood, you're advised not to work out for 24 hours after you donate. So very technically, you get to eat cookies AND not work out. This is a lazy person’s wet dream, people!

3. Conquer your fear! Where else can you challenge a phobia and come out the other side helping somebody? I have a fear of snakes, but handling them doesn't help a single person, unless I’m on a Reality Show competing for a million bucks (which I’m not.) Whereas facing my fear of needles makes me feel like a badass when I make it through AND I saved a life in the process.

4. It's FREE! You don't have to write a check. You don't have to walk through Beverly Hills and snarl up traffic. You don't have to hop a bike down the Western seaboard. All you have to do is lie back
and bleed. Did you nick yourself shaving in the shower? So you bleed accidentally, right? Now you can bleed WITH A PURPOSE.

5. Say what you will about the splatterific SAW franchise, Lionsgate studio partners with the Red Cross to host blood drives for every Saw premiere. People line up on opening night to see a splatter flick AND they give blood. Since 2004, they’ve collected over 38,000 pints. That’s seriously brilliant AND twisted. If a freaky horror movie fanatic can spare a pint, so can you.

You have blood. You have blood to spare. Other people need it. Somebody needs blood every two seconds. So that's now. now.

You can sign up for any drive at

Stay tuned for next week to see who was right – me or Paranoid Bitch. Yay!