August 29, 2012

Interesting bits from my first night in class

Summer is officially finished. While that sounds sad at face value, it’s really not that bad for the following reasons:

1.       Unlike my first 20 years of life, this is not a farewell to good weather. It will stay hot for awhile, get really warm through October, then cool down nicely for the holidays. And by “cool down”, I mean a respectable sixties-ish.

And, no, I’m not gloating or bragging. I’m making the point that, as a person who has never enjoyed cold weather, I no longer have to mourn the end of summer sun.

2.       It’s high time I finished school. This will hopefully be my last year at school before finding a job/paid internship/fellowship/something in the film/tv industry. God willing.
Finishing school, finding a job, it's all a little overwhelming... see the analogy with this picture from our hike in Big Bear?

3.       This summer has been quite the… something. Moving twice, crazy land-lady, not finishing a script-writing goal but unexpectedly accomplishing another, creating and completing an extended summer program at workchurch… It wasn’t all what I envisioned, but a lot happened. I’m ready for a break-
Go ahead. Make your own analogy with this one.

Yeah….. about that. This is what “fall” means in Maltopia right now:

1.       School- two classes, but both pretty much lecture (instead of the usual lab classes that focus on exercises and projects all semester).

2.       Workchurch increase. September officially starts holiday season in ministry. In order to stay on top of the three back-to-back-to-back events- Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas- one has to start kicking butt in September. Plus, we have a September event as well, in addition to an increase of administrative responsibilities for me that are not kid-related.

3.       “The Root of Jesse” is our Christmas show at the theatre. I am so honored to have the opportunity to create the script, and so excited to be in production. Stay tuned for more on the progress, and mark your calendar for December 7th-9th so you can come see it.
There's artwork! It's official!

4.       Writing…. As mentioned above, I did NOT complete my summer writing goals. I will be applying for a few things that require spec scripts (unsolicited scripts, either original or based on an existing series) and essays, as well as another stageplay for the theater. The forces of discipline will need to overcome the power of procrastination for this to all happen before January.

Oh, yeah, so as I was saying, summer is officially finished because I had my first class of the semester last night. I am taking a screenwriting course, and it began with the usual syllabus coverage and class exercise. Our professor mentioned an interesting fact about writing and computer use. Apparently, she’s studied a lot about the psychology of the creative process. She reminded us that a computer screen is actually flickering at a high rate that we don’t consciously notice (this is why, when you take a video of a computer screen, it looks all funny). However, our eyes are still working as they register and process the motion. Though initially minor, the stress on our eyes and brain builds up. This is why we are tired after being in front of the monitor for long periods of time (can I get an “amen”, cubicle-dwellers?). Additionally, this steady mental distraction is detrimental to the writing process as well. This brings me to the conclusion that caught my attention.

Using a pen(cil) and paper is often more fruitful than computer work. Though logic tells me that typing quicker than I write should produce more results, experience tells me that I can think clearer when I sit down with a notebook. I always thought that it was because it made me slow a bit to completely finish a thought (despite my frustration of not being able to scribble at the rate my ideas race). But, according to my professor, studies show that we think more deeply when working by hand- and the inconsiderate computer flickering is largely to blame.

Ok, just one more Big Bear picture before I go.

On that note, I suppose I should take a break from the keyboard. There’s a cabinet in the kindergarten classroom that needs to be cleaned, an informational brochure to update, a fun day event to plan, and a whole bunch of other stuff I dutifully wrote in my notebook. By hand.

August 23, 2012

I Live With A Brony

Many childhood Saturday mornings began with this:

Though sometimes, they included this:

Today, my lunch often is contained by this:

Behold, I am a girl raised by the 80’s.

Twenty years later, My Little Pony has been rebooted- just like many others. I have a theory that they wait just enough time so that the characters we most love are resurrected right about the time we have our own kids. “Oh my gosh! I loved Thundercats! My kid will, too!”, they (the nameless, powerful, cartoon-resurrectors) think we’ll say.

Of course, rarely do the new versions stick around. Why? Because they are lame. Though, I suspect an audience exists for a He-Man/She-Ra revival, but they are probably not watching Cartoon Network. But, I’m wandering away from my original thought.

Back to My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. It barely registered my attention, as I assumed that it was another short-lived remake. The big-eyed characters (what is WITH that trend?) pushed them further aside, though it did earn a short blip on my radar when I heard the chick who did Powerpuff Girls was behind it. But then, I caught wind of the “Bronies”.

Typically refers to 13-30 year old male fans of the 2010 reboot of the show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, but may also include females.
Brony = Bro + Pony
While generally associated with a negative stereotype by outsiders, due to it's former 80's frilly girly-girl twinkle-toed tea-parties and all-female main casting, bronies are attracted to the new show by it's good animation, acting, writing, and humor.
Thanks, Urban Dictionary

Now that I live with my friend and her family, I have the opportunity to observe the Brony up-close in his natural habitat. My roommate’s 17-year-old son digs MLP: Friendship is Magic. He watches the episodes, he has a brony t-shirt… so you know it’s hardcore. It’s genuine- this is not an act of irony or sarcasm (I’m looking at you, guys who wore pink shirts when we were in high school to make some kind of statement on manliness). There are even talks of a Brony birthday bash in the near future.

So what’s the deal? I watched the first half of the pilot episode the other day. It’s cute, not too lame (and admit it, if you go back and watch most of our 80’s cartoons, you will cringe through most of it). I will probably watch a few more when I have a spare moment or I’ve seen all of “How I Met Your Mother” that Netflix has to offer.

This is what gets me, and why I am even writing about it in the first place. Bronies rock. For real. Think about it, how many of us had the guts to defy stereotypes and really get into something that was not popular?  What interested you, but was outweighed by the reaction you’d get in the school hallways? I can only equate it with my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle shoes in second or third grade. I loved the Turtles- watched the cartoon, sang along with the movie soundtrack cassette tape (“..walk straight… don’t need to mutate…”), collected the trading cards and chewed that rock-hard stick of tasteless gum included in that foil pack. Heroes in a half-shell, baby.

So when I saw these shoes, I HAD to have them. I didn’t want to believe my mom when she pointed out that they were for boys, and it only took a moment to realize I didn’t care. These sneakers were destined for my TMNT-loving feet. I can still picture the moment I stepped off the bus at South Elementary, looking down at my new shoes as if Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michelangelo would give me the dignity to withstand the inevitable criticism.

The truth was, I was ridiculed for so many other things as a child, what was one more? At least I had happy feet. “Yes,” I answered, “They’re boy shoes. And I don’t care.” No amount of mockery could extinguish my Turtle fangirl light.

Is that how it goes for you, too, Bronies? Stick with what you love. Demonstrate that no person fits in a nice, neat little box. Increase your defense against misguided criticism and continue to know what you love and why you love it. Make decisions based on what you know to be true, rather than what is popular with those around you. Choose the pony life of color and adventure over the sheep life of black, white, and gray.
And maybe, in twenty years, the nameless, powerful, cartoon-resurrectors  won’t have to reboot MLP: Friendship is Magic. Like the Flintsones and Jetsons, it may live unchanged through generations. Or, at least, in your heart.

August 11, 2012

The Binder

I’ve moved twice this year. TWICE. That’s packing up every single thing I own, organizing it, carrying it to the car, carrying it from the car, finding a place for it…. TWICE.

Packing to move generally inspires cleaning, organization, and simplifying. Doing it again in less than three months inspires a person to live with fewer things. I found myself asking with every object, “Do I truly need this?” and “Do I really want to carry this back and forth when I move again?” I’ve cut down my possessions by quite a lot… and I’m pretty sure that I will just sell everything if I have to move again anytime soon!

My sentimentality really worked against me in this experience. See, I save EVERYthing that has emotional meaning. Cards, letters, gifts, special mementos- anything to preserve moments I held dear. While this is sweet, charming, and even a little bit comforting, it is a hassle pack and move. This relocation turmoil was slowly chipping away at my sentimental little heart.
I had been using the “get rid of 1/3 of what you have” strategy. This worked well for clothes I never wore, books I probably won’t re-read, school and work resources I always think I’ll reference…  I think I even went beyond 1/3- bonus points and a gold star! But how to reduce memories?

short cards.... long letters......

I’ll spare you the details of things that will probably make you laugh (pom-pom from a KWC basketball game, anyone? Or wait… was it football? Go Panthers!). But, one project became such a success, you must know about it- and try it yourself!

I have boxes and Ziploc bags FULL of letters and cards from 2001 until now. That’s 11 years! I should’ve taken a “before” picture, but it didn’t really dawn on me to blog it until this morning…. But picture 11 years of birthdays, Christmas’s, two graduations, and moving across the country. When I began packing for move #2, I started to thin out the collection. I was immediately hit with a problem- how can I choose one card over another? Is that like saying I love my cousin who sent this letter more than my grandma who sent the other? Oh, the guilt! I needed objective criteria: throw away anything that’s simply signed, keep anything with a paragraph or more of heartfelt sentiment.

Mamaw doesn't write cards anymore, so this is treasured.

When a kid draws a picture JUST for you, c'mon- that's precious.
 Victory! At the suggestion of my new roommate, Jen, I compiled the collection into a binder (ok, I admit… two binders) to conserve space. It sits neatly on my bookshelf and will pack easily when it’s time to move again.
But wait… there’s more…..

People I miss! Things I forgot!

Signed playbills from past productions...

KWC's President Poling shared a poem
before I moved to California.
 In the process, I discovered an additional benefit. This was more than a storage solution; I just created a book of support and encouragement.
We all have challenges and tough times in life. Throw in the fun that comes with bipolar disorder, and you’ll find some pretty low moments. 

What better way to remember the people surrounding me with love just when I start to forget? Start feeling like dreams are foolish and hopeless? Look who believes those goals are possible! Wonder if you are really blessing the people in your life? Check out those thank you cards. 

Letters from far-away friends trump facebook any day.

This is not an exercise in self-congratulations. It’s a perspective readjustment.

I sincerely think every person needs a binder like this! This is my hint that you need to gather your reminders of love and make them conveniently easy to read when you need it most!

A paper plate greeting!

I suppose I should tackle the boxes and envelopes of photographs next…. Or at least the next time I move.

How I Wrecked My Journal

You can get one on Amazon.

Though I abandoned my blog for seven months, you didn’t think I wasn’t writing, did you? Please. The amount of notebooks I use is ridiculous.

However, I discovered the amazing phenomena of “Wreck This Journal”.

The concept is to be artistically destructive with a journal- something most of us take somewhat seriously and protectively. By following the prompts, you allow for mistakes, imagination, and loosening your grip on the words you hold so dear. The instructions vary from simple (“Leave this page blank on purpose”) to involved (“Sew this page”), creative (“Draw an ugly picture”) to abusive (“Tie a string around the book and drag behind you on a walk”), and beyond.

Unsurprisingly, the out-of-the-box aspect appeals to me. Spicing up my journal life seemed a good idea, and any way to improve self-expression is always a good thing. Sure, I love words and do pretty well with them, but pictures… textures… smells? Including all the senses communicates beyond the capabilities of words. And so began the process of wrecking my journal…

Behold- a rare look at (select pages of) my personal journal. Of course, there is plenty of space to actually write, and I have.

Fabric scraps from past projects, 
and the top of a jar of jam from Kelly’s wedding.

“Collect fruit stickers”….
The scribbling was done by a 3-year-old from church who found
 the journal when it slipped out of my bag.

“Cover this page using only office supplies”…. 
You know all my office supplies are colorful!

I dropped it from the second story of our church building.

Sure, these aren’t all impressive (if you Google image search “Wreck This Journal”, other people will astound and amaze you). Most of what I created is not meant to be shared. But this is a vague way to describe the past seven months in writing terms. Life was all over the place, and my writing was, too. I’ve nearly finished filling and wrecking my journal, and will return to plain ol’ linear writing between the lines…. for now. I still have two more books in the series: “Mess” and “This is Not a Book”. Oh, the possibilities…..


Seven months ago, I walked away from my online journal. It wasn’t initially deliberate; otherwise I would’ve written some kind of final “good-bye” post. Life was just turned every which way, and writing slipped lower on the priority list. Many of the things on the forefront of my mind were not really shareable with the masses. I also began questioning the purpose and relevancy of posting a blog. Do I really have anything interesting to say? Do my words matter to anyone outside my social circle? Should I focus on a specific topic or theme? Is there a point to this that’s not narcissistic?

I’ve been blogging nearly consistently since I was 15, in the years of Open Diary (which, apparently, still exists here). When I began, it was the novelty of writing and sharing semi-anonymously, while reading what my friends were thinking. Basically, it was like a glorified group email. I’ve definitely outgrown that, but why do I blog now?

The answer is still developing.  I definitely feel we need to share our life experiences with each other, both to learn and to support. While I don’t have any deep pearls of wisdom to impart, I do occasionally stumble upon something interesting and useful. Keeping it to myself would be selfish, wouldn’t it? And as far as relevancy… if what I write isn’t valuable, no one will read it. So that leaves the assessment in the hands (eyes?) of the rest of you. I’m not here for an ego boost.

Why am I here? I am a writer. I think, process, analyze, reflect, imagine, and constantly revise first, second, and third drafts of my thoughts. Getting out of my head and onto paper creates a sort of clarity, like laying all the crayons out in a row to see what colors you have. The topic and direction will emerge- like it always has.

Thanks for sticking around- I like your company. J