Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas Eve

I'm trying to keep alive a tradition that I did last year, where I take a picture of something around my church that I grew up in.  Last year was a bunny rabbit and Jesus. And this, year, it's not QUITE Christmas, (but then again, neither was the bunny rabbit last year).

So behold!  A picture in one of the nursery school classrooms, showing us Adam, Eve, and a very curious and perhaps slightly sinister snake:

Merry Christmas, everybody!


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Do you need a dog metaphor for your sermon?

I’ve been dogsitting since December 5th, sometimes for two sets of dogs at once.  Every morning, at 6:30am, no matter what house I wake up in, I have to go run Pablo and Pepe.  Even this morning, when it didn’t LOOK like it was going to rain when we started, and then it totally did.

So my life has been dogs dogs dogs 24/7, right up until I leave to go home for the holidays.

And if you’ve spent any time at all in any church of larger-ish size, you will invariably run across a pastor who uses a dog story as a metaphor.

Why?  Well, because most people are dog people, and therefore most everyone can relate to dog stories, and starting a sermon off with on is a way to keep people’s attention for at least five minutes.

They are such obvious metaphors (dog is you, owner is God) that I bet I can rattle a bunch of them off the top of my head.  Let’s see….

(and it’s best if you say the following in your best Old Time Folksy Pastor Voice)

“So you know you can let your dog go running off if you want.  Sure you can!  Let your dog go off leash through the woods, let him explore, let him do his own thing.  But don’t be surprised if he comes back all muddy and his coat full of burrs, and maybe he’s even sprayed by a skunk.  Because that’s what happens when you go roaming off the path that God has set out in front of ya – you come back a dag-gum mess is what happens!”

“That’s the thing about dogs and leashes.  Dogs don’t understand why they gotta be on a leash.  But it’s because they don’t know everything like you know everything.  Like GOD knows everything.  Alls you seein’ is the ground in front of you, and you’re all hell bent to scamper down that road just as fast as you can and then God yanks your leash back and you’re all HEY!  WHAT’D I DO!?  You don’t get it.  And if you’d simply relax and let GOD take control, life would go a lot easier without you choking yourself all the time.” (I know that picture of Bella isn't really about her on a leash, but it was too cute not to include.)

“Dogs gotta eat.  But they can’t get to the dog food sack themselves.  Who do they depend on?  YOU.  YOU’re the one who’s gotta feed them, who’s gotta give them water, who’s gotta take them out on walks.  YOU’re the one who’s gotta give ‘em a bath when they get stinky.  They can’t do none of this without you.  That’s why they TRUST you.  Because you’re their MASTER.  So why can’t we as people trust our heavenly father the same way?  He’s gonna take care of us!  He’s gonna feed us, gonna take us out for some exercise.  Because WE ARE HIS, we are.”

And on and on and on. :)

I'm sure I could keep going, but you guys get the point, right?  We're all dogs, God is dog spelled backwards, he's our master, we need to obey him more.

You don't hear a lot of cat metaphors in sermons, do you?  know why?  Because cats are EVIL!  Minions of the enemy!!  Yarrrrrrrrrrrr!

Kidding kidding.  But seriously, pay attention to the next time a pastor busts out a cat metaphor.  And then come tell me about it. :)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Suspended Calendar

I’m dogsitting Albert and Abbot’s new puppy, and here’s where I should name him something old school and delightful, but because he’s a puppy (they got him from a shelter and they think he’s about 8 to 10 months), and because he’s got puppy energy out the wazoo, and we’re not just talking cute puppy I’m Adorable As I Gently Bumble My Way Over To You On Adorable Puppy Paws, but more of I’m A Hellion And I’m Way Smarter Than Anyone Gives Me Credit For, and I’m Gonna Tear Around The House At One Million Miles An Hour!!!, I’m going to name him Scampers.  Or Butthead. 

My first gig with Scampers Butthead was over Thanksgiving.  Just a few weeks ago, but already feels like a million miles away.  A whole month has passed since Dad died, and sometimes it feels like everything since that day has happened on a suspended calendar in an alternate universe, where time has taken on the consistency of taffy, pulling and stretching and expanding and drooping and pulling some more.

People send me emails and texts and phone calls and they always want to know how I’m doing.  And when they ask the question, I feel like I need to break down in tears in order to justify their concern in asking me.  They’re searching for signs of distress, because people would know how to deal with that – here’s a person who’s grieving the loss of her father.  Poor dear. 

People don’t know how to deal with someone who’s grieving a loss without any familiar signs of grief.  I’m not even sure if what I’m doing could be considered grieving.  It feels and smells like regular living to me.

But I’ve certainly got enough on my plate, what with dealing with Scampers Butthead, and also juggling a second gig with Pepe and Pablo at the Shabby Shack five minutes away.  So wake up, feed and get Scampers Butthead situated for the day, then drive back to the Shabby Shack to run Pepe and Pablo, feed them breakfast and get them set up for the day.  Go to work, come home, feed Scampers Butthead, go play with Pepe and Pablo, go back to Scampers Butthead house and go to bed.  Lather, Rinse Repeat.  It’s not easy to do these dueling gigs, but I couldn’t really say no to either of him, though I could’ve played the grief card.  But it seems wrong when I don’t feel sad, bad or morose.

It’s life.  Life happened.  A parent dying is not unique to the history of the world, everyone deals with it eventually.

And the more time I log on this suspended calendar, the more I realize just how merciful God was working behind the scenes.  We had a year to get used to the idea of Dad’s dying.  We got to go home and see him before he went under.  Yes, it was quicker than we were originally led to believe, but ultimately, it was for the best, and God knows I’ve heard plenty of horror stories of other peoples’ parents dying where they didn’t have such gentle outcomes.

But Scampers Butthead consistently jockeying for attention is forcing me to cut this blog entry a little bit shorter.  It’s okay.  I’m not sure we were getting anywhere near profound anyway, ha ha h.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Paisley Bunny's National Debut

The weeks have been okay.  I remember when Tricia was going through the loss of her husband while jugging being a parent to their toddler, and how she told me once, over lunch, “Grief waits.”

And so I was going through these days with that image of Grief, sitting at a table with a big knife and fork waiting for me to sit down and dine, except I would be the main course.

But that hasn't happened yet.

Then there was a person at Thanksgiving, who told me just because I haven't been prostrate with grief doesn't mean I won't be.  This person, who lost their parent two months ago, shook their head knowingly in a way I found distasteful.   People are different, and their grief is different.  I'm probably not going to grieve in the same way you do, or how my sister does, or my Mom, because my parent's death wasn't the same as yours, I'm not the same as you, and it's kinda arrogant for you to act like you think you know how my journey from here will be.  If I want to know your opinion on your journey, I'll ask.  But don't condescendingly shake your head at me and say I've got some bumps in the road ahead of me.  We are all different.

Dad’s death wasn’t unexpected, it wasn’t a gut punch, the scenario of We Can Maybe Save Him! was never an option, so maybe that helps buffer the impact.  I don’t have children and don't have plans or urges to have children, so the lingering sadness of They Won’t Know Their Grandfather isn’t there. 

I’m still able to get out of bed.  I’m still able to go to work.  I’m still able to dogsit, and that’s good, because I’ve got dueling gigs next week, blargh.  I’m eyeing Christmas coming up, and I know that’ll be weird, if not hard.  But I’m also getting the sense that I’m not going to know exactly what it’s like until I get there, so I’m able to compartmentalize it and put it away in the metaphor dresser, ‘cause there’s certainly plenty of things to do in the meantime, like Christmas shopping, like rewriting a pilot, like la la la.

Dad was a Christian, so I know he’s in heaven, able to see all of this happening.  And maybe somebody else would be desperately looking for a sign that he’s up there, seeing all of this.  And maybe that sign would come in the form of a flower, a tree, sun breaking through the clouds, or something else equally Hallmarky.

But I’m not looking for those signs.  I’m taking comfort in the knowledge that he’s up there, watching all of this, and he’s okay.  Not in pain anymore, not weak or scary thin anymore.  He's healthy and happy and he’s okay up there, I’m okay down here.  And the days continue on, filled with Facebook messages, condolence cards, flowers, and one giant Godiva basket from my monthly prayer group (they know me so well)!

Paisley Bunny aired on TV this week.  I didn’t get the news about an airdate until after Dad passed, so there wasn’t a chance to tell him his daughter was making her national screenwriting debut.  But he knew it was in the works and again, he can see everything now, so he still knows, so there are no tears of He Didn’t Live Long Enough To See His Daughter’s Work!  If anything, he'll probably be able to watch the whole thing without falling asleep, as I imagine that nobody falls asleep during movies in heaven, because nobody's tired in heaven, they're not bound to earthly bodily mechanics or things like exhaustion or Ate Too Much At Lunch or Too Much Alcohol.  In my idea of heaven, you eat what you want, you drink what you want, you're happy and you sleep when you want to.  And perhaps most importantly, you're never bored.  For the right reasons, not because you're stressed.  There is no stress in heaven.  Says me.

If you read the original Paisley Bunny post, you know the most important thing to me about that script was the monologue that Bucky Bunny says toward the final third of the movie.  Because I wasn’t allowed to say “Jesus,” “God,” or “Bible.”  I wasn’t even allowed to show my rabbits hopping by a church in the background. 

(I also wasn’t allowed to say “poop” because on this particular channel that the movie was airing on, you can show syndicated episodes of crime shows where they kill people at the drop of a hat, but the word “poop” is too scatological.  WhatEVER.)

So Bucky Bunny says this monologue, and I knew they had at least shot it, it was still in the script supervisor’s book:

BUCKY - Universe!  Okay, I was harsh about your book, and the opening doors and the closing doors, and I’ve been mocking you this entire time even though my friends believe in your book!  There’s no reason you should help me!  But I’m asking anyway!  Because I love Dew Drop Bunny.  I love Dew Drop Bunny!  And love... that’s what you need, right, Universe?  Love?  Isn’t love worth it?  If you were ever going to help someone like me, it’d be for love, wouldn’t it?  Please?  PLEASE?!

The question was, was the monologue going to remain intact?  Or was it going to end on the very real cutting room floor?  Because plenty of other things DID land on the cutting room floor.  Ralphie Rabbit, (Bucky 's rival for Dew Drop Bunny)’s whole backstory about how he had gotten to Happy Dell, that was in the script, but didn't make it into the movie.  Plucky Duck's goal of decorating an underwater Christmas tree, did he actually do it?  Did he actually make it?  Does the Christmas Tree stay anchored underwater?  Well, yes, in the script, it did, but in the movie, just a loose end that's mentioned once and then never again.

So, future writers, when you're sitting in your seat at the movie theater and you think to yourself "HEY!  They never resolved that dangling plot element! (like, say, the discarded crown on a rock in Brave)"  What you don't know is that they DID probably resolve that element in the script, but it got cut from the final movie.

So cut out whatever you want to, did Bucky Bunny's monologue that's actually code for talking to God, did it make it in?  Or did somebody finally figure it out and cut it?

So I watched the movie live when it aired, texting back and forth with sister Agatha on the East Coast.  And we cheered when we saw my name WRITTEN BY AMY THE WRITER in the opening credits.

And what they did do in the movie which wasn't how I wrote it, was fashion a bookend.  You know what a bookend is, it's when the movie starts with a scene where the characters are already in crisis, and then the rest of the movie spools out in a kind of flashback, until you get to that same scene in the pivotal third act, and then finish up the movie from there.  Executives and Producers often do this when they feel the movie isn't starting in exciting enough of a manner to capture audience's interests.  It's a bit of a cliché at this point, which is why I didn't write it like that.

But I'm not going to get upset about it, because the bookend they use as Bucky Bunny and Peepers Rabbit are hopping through Happy Dell, frantically looking for Dew Drop Bunny, and then there's this overhead shot from a crane, and Bucky Bunny stares at the camera suspended above him and says:

Universe!  Okay, I was harsh about your book, and the opening doors and the closing doors, and I’ve been mocking you this entire time even though my friends believe in your book!  

Not only did my secret God encoding monologue make it in, it's almost the very first thing you see in the movie.  YAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYY!!!!!!

And the rest of the movie unfolds, and the actor voicing Plucky Duck rewrote all of my lines because he thinks he’s a writer, except his jokes aren't better than mine, but it's okay, the actress voicing Dew Drop Bunny said all of my lines exactly the way they were written, and I’d say about 75 – 80% percent of what I wrote made it into the final cut, which isn’t so bad at all, and then we get to the final third of the movie, we’re caught up with the scene that kicked off the movie, the rest of Bucky’s monologue.

There’s no reason you should help me!  But I’m asking anyway!  Because I love Dew Drop Bunny.  I love Dew Drop Bunny!   If you were ever going to help anyone, help me please?  PLEASE?!

Hilarious, huh?  The things they cut out of this coded monologue are not about the Universe (God), are not about the Universe’s book (The Bible).  They’re about love.  They didn’t say this line:

And love... that’s what you need, right, Universe?  Love?  Isn’t love worth it? 

And as much as I am cynical about Hollywood and the way things have gone lately, I don’t think The Powers That Be Over This Movie cut out those lines because they’re about love.  They most likely cut them out because they’re redundant.  Ducky already says he loves Dew Drop Bunny.  The rest is implied.

I now have my first national screenwriting credit.  And my Dad and my Father in heaven, are really quite pleased.