Monday, March 09, 2015

Before marathon day 2: Before Sunset

Before Sunset came out in 2004 when I was in the thick of things, mom-wise. My daughter was 5 and my son was 2 going on 3. Life as their mom was busy and all-encompasing. I'd stopped consulting when my daughter was born, and in 2004 I was a full-fledged stay-at-home mom, which is a role that I'm incredibly suited for in lots of ways, and also very inept at, in so many others. I was writing by then, which really helped. I should try to figure out where I was with Dreaming of Deliverance in 2004. Not super far along. A year and a half, maybe?

Anyway, in 2004 my husband and I had moved to where we live now. He was stressed at being the sole provider, and I was stressed from being on-call 24/7 with kids that I loved tremendously, but who also needed my attention all the freaking time. Of course, right? But that didn't make it easier for me to cope with being available to them all the freaking time! And then feeling guilty about having trouble coping since as I mentioned, I loved them tremendously and so I didn't want to have any negative thoughts concerning them.

I can't remember how I learned that there was a sequel being made to Before Sunrise. I want to say it was after the movie came out on DVD, even. I know I didn't realize it was happening in time to see it in the theater. Not that it mattered, because I didn't go to movies in the theater in those days! But when I found out that there was a sequel I was so excited! I'd loved Before Sunrise and in 2004 I was 34 and was thrilled at the idea that there could be a second chance at young, early-20s love. Things were stressful for Scott and me back then. We'd been married for 10 years at that point. He was feeling pressure to provide for us, and wanted more from me. I was depleted from being a mom to little kids, a job a loved, as I mentioned, but also a job that exhausted me, and so I couldn't...didn't...give him as much love and support as he wanted.

So relationship-wise, things were a little tough. I find that such a strange contrast: something that people don't really talk about. That idyllic life of a married couple with small children: so iconic and something that's supposed to be such an ideal, happy time in life, often isn't really. Now that my kids are closing in on leaving the nest, I find it ironic: although I'm so happy where we are now and am not eager to go back to that point where they required so much from me, back then it felt like they'd be with us forever. It was super hard, but there was a weird comfort in how demanding and all-incompassing they were. Now they are much more self-sufficient and I don't feel nearly as depleted and it's clear that they won't be with us forever. And that sucks, even though I know it's what's supposed to happen....

But back to Before Sunset. I don't remember exactly when I saw it, but I do remember that I was super excited to see it! I had the DVD and was going to watch it finally! I put the kids to bed. Scott went to bed (he's not a fan of movies with a lot of dialogue...). And I stayed up alone to watch it. "Yay!", I thought. I get to immerse myself in a romance--escapism at it's finest! Jesse and Celine will meet up again and reconnect and love each other and move forward in life together!

And now, after watching it again, I see that's kind of what happened. But back then, when I saw it in my early 30s, I did not feel that way. It was upsetting and too close to home in a strange way... As I said in my last blog post, I wanted Celine and Jesse to stay the same. I wanted them to be sweet and optimistic and hopeful. But they weren't. Life had kicked them around some, as it had kicked me around some, and they weren't sweet and hopeful anymore. But they still had a connection. That was clear. And they still wanted to be together. That was also clear. But how could they? Jesse was married and had a son. He was also desperately unhappy, and that super frighteningly, rang true to me to a degree. I didn't want it to ring true, but it did, somewhat.

Celine, also, had quite a bit of baggage. She wasn't content. She was stressed and unhappy. There's pressure for women who don't follow the traditional path of marriage and motherhood. I'd seen it with some of my friends. And the fact that I had followed that traditional path and was struggling some, didn't keep me from appreciating the difficulties for women my age who hadn't followed that path.

After seeing Before Sunset I was depressed. What's the answer, I thought. Are we doomed to be unhappy? If we follow that ideal path of marriage and children but still struggle, what's the point? And if we don't take that path, and instead focus on career and freedom but don't have that safety net of a culturally acceptable role, the "ideal" role for a people in their early 30s, i.e. marriage, kids, how can we be happy? We can't.

There's no answer, I thought. And the ending to Before Sunset, what I thought at the time was an ambiguous ending, drove me crazy. Does he stay with her or does he go? And either way, how can this end well? Either Jesse leaves his wife and son and goes with Celine, and has to miss being with his little boy, or he goes back to them and has to be without the woman he truly loves. There's no way it can end happily. Talk about depressing!

So I didn't feel good after watching Before Sunset back in 2004. Instead it bothered me tremendously. Not because I thought it was a bad movie, but because it was too good. Too real. Too true to life.

But now it's 10 years later. I'm no longer in my 30s, I'm in my 40s. That time of life has passed and I'm stronger and more at peace with the imperfections of life. I appreciate Scott for what he gives me and am trying to relish the time I have with my amazing teenage children, since soon they'll be grown and off and living their own separate lives. So I can watch Before Sunset with compassion and appreciate the truth of it. Life isn't perfect. Our task is to do the best we can with what we have. Make the best of our situation in life. Have compassion for our loved ones and have compassion for ourselves. Nothing's perfect. No one is perfect. I can see that for Jesse and Celine in 2004. And I can see it for myself. And for Scott. If anything, now I think Before Sunset is a better movie than Before Sunrise. Because it is able to capture the messiness and difficulties of life. That is much tougher to do than to capture the sweet ideal romance that we all long for.

Tonight I will watch Before Midnight. I haven't seen it yet. I'm a little scared to see it. Because once again, I'm the same age as Jesse and Celine. What will it show me about myself and where I am right now? I trust that it will be true and although I'm older and wiser and more appreciative of the truth, I'm still reluctant to clearly see myself and where I am right now....

I'm afraid of what it will tell me about myself. And that makes me kind of ashamed. Since I should be more confident about this kind of thing, right?

More soon.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Before Sunrise: Part 1 of my "Before" viewing marathon!

In 1995 I was an environmental consultant working for an amazing consulting firm based in Half Moon Bay, California. I had graduated from the University of California at San Diego, in December 1992 (can't imagine a much better place to go to college!) with a degree in biology: specifically Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution, and after several months waiting tables at Chevy's in Newark, CA (while I lived at home in Fremont), looking for an environmental consulting position, I was lucky enough to be hired by Essex Environmental in Half Moon Bay.

Okay. This is all irrelevant, I guess, although I might write more about my time at Essex at some point, since it has definitely influenced my approach to my work now, even though my current work at first glance has nothing to do with environmental consulting... But! The reason I bring it up is that back in 1995 I was sent to Sacramento to do some preconstruction mitigation for burrowing owls and fairly shrimp before a utility line was put in along Florin Road.

Sacramento is far enough from Half Moon Bay that I stayed at a motel. And one of those evenings away from home, I went to the movies and saw Before Sunrise.

I absolutely loved it.

As much as I hate to admit it, now that I'm a cynical woman in her 40s, I'm a romantic. Romantic stories speak to me. I love the idea of two people finding comfort and strength in each other. So back in 1995, I found Before Sunrise especially appealing. I loved the dialogue. I loved the setting. I loved the sort of tragic nature of the story. Celine and Jesse couldn't expect to have a "happily ever after" kind of story. She lived in Paris. He lived in the U.S. They didn't really know each other. So for them to end up together at the end of the movie didn't make much sense to me when I first saw it at age 24. I liked that it ended with them not being together. That rang true for me, even as I cried while watching it.

Now I'm 44. And I have a lot of life experience to jade me. I've been married for over 20 years. It doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility that I might be a little annoyed at the insta-relationship Jesse and Celine fall into.

So I watched Before Sunrise again last night and you would think that I might roll my eyes at it now and think, come on! You guys (Celine and Jesse) are so naive and young and unaware of life and its realities.

But I didn't. I still loved it! The only different reaction I had now, was my perspective on what it's like to fall in love in your 20s versus having a life together through your 40s.

Jesse and Celine leave each other at the end of the movie: at that train. They've had an incredible night together and long for the connection they have found to continue.

But it can't.

They both must move on.

Watching the movie as a jaded 44-year-old, what struck me is that no matter what, that sweet, optimistic, innocent connection that they had couldn't have continued. Even if they had been able to stay together somehow. It couldn't have continued. Our sweet, optimistic selves in our early 20s can't continue. We grow and change and are bombarded with responsibilities.

We evolve. I've evolved. When I watched Before Sunrise at age 24, I was a newlywed. My husband, Scott, and I had met on an education abroad program in Costa Rica not horribly dissimilar from Celine and Jesse's meeting in the movie. Scott and I had talked and shared and excitedly gotten to know each other just as they had.

But the difference is that we ended up together. 20+ years later, we're still together.

But are we still optimistic and naive and hopeful? No. We have two children. We've changed locations and jobs and focus. We've dealt with family stresses and layoffs and a shifting in roles.

So what about Jesse and Celine. What struck me last night as I watched the movie was that it was sad regardless. Even if they'd been able to stay together, would their love have been able to remain so sweet and pure? Probably not.

Almost certainly not.

I love the movie and still get swept away by the sweetness and romance of it all. But now my tears at the end aren't only because they can't be together due to circumstance. Their love can't stay that sweet and pure because they are in their 20s and life doesn't keep you in your 20s.

You grow and change and life get's richer and you understand more about what's really important.

You can't stay young and sweet and hopeful forever.

Duh, I know. But I find it relevant because I'd thought that watching Before Sunrise at my cynical advanced age would make me reject its fundamental truth. I'd worried that I wouldn't be able to appreciate it now since I'm so far past the circumstances of the characters.

But then I watched it last night and that wasn't how I reacted. I still loved it. Even though I now have a more grown up appreciation for it.

I remember what it was like to be in one's early 20s and to meet someone who you had a connection with, and to hope that you could stay with that person and make a life with them. I remember. I've lived it.

And in your 20s while you feel like an adult and like someone who knows what you want and who hopes that what you want will pan out the way you want it, you don't really know. Life and responsibility are more than what you can imagine back then.

But that doesn't diminish the truth of wanting and hoping for it all back then.

I remember. It still feels true to me, albeit in a different way now that I have lived more and know more.

And tonight I will watch Before Sunset, which (spoiler alert) bothered me tremendously when I first saw it in my early 30s! Jesse and Celine are in their early 30s in the movie and so was I when I first saw it. But I wanted them to still be hopeful and optimistic 20-year-olds. And they weren't.

Of course they weren't. Life in your 30s is quite different than life in your early 20s.

More soon...

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Three More Years

Three more years. Less really. That's all I have with my 15-year-old daughter living at home.

We moms. We're pathetic in some people's minds. Living though our kids. But isn't that what we're supposed to be doing?

I adore my two children. I absolutely love being a big part of their lives. I feel privileged that I've been able to spend so much time with them and that I've been their primary caretaker for their whole lives.

But now they are 15 and 12. My daughter, the 15-year-old, is a sophomore in high school. If she stays on the same track she's been on, she'll be off to college in 3 years. 3 tiny, minuscule years.

My son is in 7th grade. There's some more time with him, thank goodness. But in three years he'll be almost 16. Almost driving. He won't need me to shuttle him to football and rugby practice, or to his boy scout meetings. He'll be much more self sufficient. That will change so much about my life.

In three years my daughter will probably be off to college. The girl who made me "mom" will be off on her own starting her life. Without me. Of course without me. We all know kids who are too attached to their moms. Kids who can't grow up. Kids who are weird and are living at home at 40.

I don't want that for my children. I want them to be healthy, stable, independent adults some day.

But that doesn't mean I'm not heartbroken at what's to come. That doesn't mean that I won't miss them terribly. That doesn't mean I don't want to cling to them now (even though I don't literally cling to them now) and want them to stay how they are right now. They won't. They can't. It's not natural. They are to grow and change and flourish. That's how you know your kids are thriving. That's what I want for them.

But right now I love being such a huge part of their lives. I love being their sherpa, their cook, their counselor. I love being such a presence in their lives. I love being their biggest fan. I love seeing them every day and being with them and just knowing that they're happy and healthy and home.

I'm trying to mentally prepare myself for what's to come. So it isn't so sad and difficult. So I can applaud them as they grow away from their home and forge their own paths.

But I'm starting to realize that there's no way to prepare for this. My challenge is to love them and applaud them and support them and then to let them go.

Let them go.

Right now I'm consumed by my paid job and my mom job. I wash athletic uniforms. I cook healthy meals. I make dr.s appointments. I drive kids to practices and jobs, while getting my own audiobook work done. I'm busy, busy, busy.

But in three frighteningly short years everything will be different. I won't be so needed. I'll miss my focus. My main time suck will be gone. I'll have more time. Hard to fathom now, that time is such a rare commodity, but it's coming. More time. In three super-short years.

So what will I do then?

Three years from now when I'm not as consumed by kid duties as I am now?

What will I do then?

I'll write.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Why I don't believe in Lloyd Dobler Part 1

Hi, you, who is reading this! Thanks!

It's been forever since I've written. I miss writing. I've been recording lots of audiobooks, which is so, so, so awesome, but I'm a writer too, and I need to get back to it. So I'm going to blog about whatever strikes my fancy.

Tonight it's Lloyd Dobler, John Cusak's character from the classic 80s romantic movie, Say Anything,  

There's no way a guy like that exists in real life.

Why I don't believe in Lloyd Dobler

Part 1

Say Anything came out in 1989, and when it did, I didn't like it very much. I was 19 and recovering from the toughest situation of my life, up to that point. I had grown up the good girl. The smart girl. I wasn't up to Diane Court levels, but I was the shining star who was a published writer in Jack and Jill Magazine, winning a national writing contest at age 9. The girl who could run so fast she could beat everyone, including most of the boys. A girl whose family expected she would do great things because they knew her and just assumed she would. Is that sort of assumption helpful? It's great to have a family who believes in you. But those kinds of implicit high expectations?

No one blatantly said so, but everyone knew what I could and should do. Something great. It was strongly implied. My sister, to this day, 30 years later, talks about living up to my example. But I'm someone who also had to live up to my example. And I was always sure that I would let everyone down eventually. Could I do what they all, and what I myself, expected of me? Doubtful.

The other thing that had a big influence on my worldview back then, was that I was a huge romantic. I guess that's not super surprising, considering my age and gender, but it was also that I loved to read romantic stories. I could crank through several teen romances in a day. My dad called them "pre-pubescent love stories". Now that I'm an adult, I wonder why he called them "pre" pubescent, since they were mostly about teenagers who'd already passed through adolescence. But I think he was in denial, and was trying to cope with the fact that I was growing up and had a strong interest in something that was completely biologically understandable, but also fundamentally dangerous.

I believed love conquered all. I thought that if I could only find my soul mate—someone who understood me and loved and cherished me; someone I could love and cherishthen all would be well. That was the pinnacle. Something to strive towards. However, I was also quite shy and did not know how to talk to people I didn't know, especially boys. I grew up surrounded by strong girls and women, with the exception of my dad, who I loved and felt comfortable with, but he wasn't a very social guy himself. He was content to be home with his wife and his daughters. He'd go out running, and go to work, but other than that, he was a homebody. I didn't understand boys or know how to talk to them. So I kept to myself and my female friends and read lots, including teen romances, and dreamed of someone who would one day sweep me off my feet.

That foot sweeper found me my junior year of high school. And he certainly wasn't Lloyd Dobler from Say Anything. My relationship with him was the only consciously autobiographical part of Dreaming of Deliverance. That relationship was dangerous and bad for me and it was only by good luck, really, that my life went on to college, etc. It all could have gone very differently if I hadn't been able to wrench myself away, after a year and a half of what started as my dream for romance and connection, and ended up as something that by most definitions, would be considered abusive.

More soon.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Dreaming of Deliverance 2: another video excerpt!

Hi everyone!

I posted a second excerpt from the sequel to Dreaming of Deliverance awhile back, but have been a slacker about letting you know where to find it. This one was also recorded on a camping trip up in the mountains this past summer. If you've read or listened to Dreaming of Deliverance, you'll want to check out this video! Believe me! You want to see it. :)

The excerpt for which you've been waiting!

Hope you all are well. I continue to be busy with the audiobook narration, which is awesome--I've just started recording book 1 of a new series! But I'm struggling to add writing time to my schedule. Feel free to bug me about the Dreaming of Deliverance sequel as much as you'd like. It really helps!

More eventually...

Monday, July 22, 2013

Video excerpt of Dreaming of Deliverance 2!

It's late, I'm tired, I need to hit the hay, but super quick before I turn in, I wanted to tell you about my new YouTube channel!

Every couple of weeks I will be posting a video. The videos will include footage of me reading from my works-in-progress, short stories, clips in the booth of me recording other writers' audiobooks (with their permission, of course), and anything else that I think might interest people.

The first video is me reading the beginning of the sequel to Dreaming of Deliverance. I was camping up in the Sierra Nevada mountains and thought it would be a good setting for a video. :)

Dreaming of Deliverence 2: Excerpt 1

Check it out, and let me know what you think! I will post another video there soon!

Thursday, June 06, 2013

The Great Balancing Act

My 8th-grade graduate/gymnast:
Balancing in Santa Monica

Last night my daughter graduated from 8th grade. I could go on and on about my ambivalent feelings concerning this. First of all, I'm super proud of her. She's such a smart, kind, hardworking, lovely young lady. But I also can't believe she's as old as she is. Didn't she just start kindergarten? How is it possible that she's starting high school in August?!?

Anyway, yesterday my mom gave her the book Oh the Places You'll Go by Dr. Seuss, which is one of my favorites. And at the ceremony, they read the quote about "having shoes on your feet" and being the one who "decides where you go" from the book. I love that, but my favorite Oh the Places You'll Go quote is:

So be sure when you step
Step with care and great tact.
And remember that life's 
A Great Balancing Act. 

For some reason that quote makes me well up every time I read it or hear it or even think of it.

I love the first part, because care and tact are really important but rarely discussed qualities. I might be a little too careful and too tactful sometimes, but I think too much care and tact is better than not enough.

However, it's balancing that I wanted to write about today.

I'm in a phase of life where balancing is necessary, constant, exhausting, and oh-so-worthwhile.

I came back from my trip to Baltimore and New York feeling so focused and motivated about my creative endeavors. I couldn't wait to write, and record, and edit my writing, and edit my audio, and record YouTube videos of excerpts from DoD 2, and make a YouTube video using writings and photos from my two trips to Tanzania, and set up a Google+ account, and blog more, and tweet more, etc., etc., etc.!

That fire hasn't dimmed but other pulls on me are now competing for my time and attention:

  • My daughter graduating and all the hoopla associated with that plus her busy gymnastics practice schedule. 
  • My son finishing up elementary school and the baseball season. 
  • Simply wanting to hang out with my kids, because I love being with them and the years are zooming, and soon they'll be all grown up and no longer at home. 
  • Wanting to spend some date-like time with my husband, and it's tough to squeeze that in when we're so busy with work and family stuff. 
  • Wishing to just chill and read and rest. (I swear I'm a type B personality trying to live a type A lifestyle!)

Balancing. Constantly balancing everything!

I love my writing and audiobook work. I love my family and all that's necessary to take care of them. I want to do both wholeheartedly with my best attention.

And I think I manage pretty well in both areas.

But it's a "Great Balancing Act," no doubt about it!

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Back from Balticon and APAC!

I'm home from an incredible 10-day-trip back east, first to Balticon and then to APAC. I've returned feeling focused and inspired by all of the talented, creative people I came across. And I traveled with my mom, which was so cool. And I got to meet up with my awesome friends Aileen and Carol, which was so, so great!

But right now while I'm exhausted and ready to collapse, I thought I could quickly blog about the high points and low points of the trip. Here goes!

High point: Balticon People!

  • I got to hang out with awesome, creative people like Abbie Hilton, Bryan Lincoln, Lauren Harris, Hugh O'Donnell, Tim Dodge, and Veronica Giguerre.
  • I was part of the Metamor City Live cast. So much fun! And I got to meet Chris Lester!
  • I also got to meet P.C. Haring, Alex White, Doc Coleman, Rosemary Tizeldon, Starla Huchton, Katie Bryski, and Christiana Ellis!
  • My favorite part of the weekend was tossing around ideas with other writer/podcaster/voice actor people. We are a unique breed and it was terrific to all be in one place collaborating in person!

High point: APAC People!

The sessions at APAC this year were incredibly helpful and worthwhile. I reconnected with some audiobook folks I already knew and met many new extraordinarily talented people.

  • Hillary Huber was the director I was matched up with for my "Director Diagnostic. She was awesome! I was pretty nervous and she put me right at ease and had some fantastic suggestions for things I can do to bring my narration skills up to the next level.
  • I had an audition at Audible that was so much fun and allowed me to show my stuff! Audible also hosted a group of us narrators for a day of training where we were treated so well and were able to learn so much about how Audible works.
  • I socialized at the APA mixer and the Tantor party and what could be more fun than to be in New York attending parties with other narrators and audiobook people!!!
  • The talent on the panels I attended at APAC was unbelievable. How lucky was I too get to learn tips of the trade from Katherine Kellgren, Tavia Gilbert, Barbara Rosenblat, Dion Graham, Scott Brick, and Jeffery Kafer!

I feel so energized and focused about the audiobook work and privileged to be part of such a fantastic industry and community.

Low point: Ouchy toes.

But everything can't be 100% positive, right? There was something sucky that happened. I decided to treat myself to a pedicure on my birthday, which was the Saturday I was at Balticon. The pedicurist must not have realized what a princess I am (ha!) and what delicate feet I have (ha, ha!) because she dug into my big toes like she was cutting eyes out of a potato and ouch it hurt! And ouch, 7 days later it still hurts and my big toes are red and inflamed and the opposite of attractive. Yes, I have a pedicure injury. How embarrassing. And ouch. Mostly ouch!

But it doesn't matter because the rest of the time was so much fun and so worthwhile. So I'm soaking my feet and reconnecting with my family and reminiscing about all the amazing experiences I had on this trip. Yay! (And ouch!)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

My Balticon Schedule

I'm going to my first Balticon this weekend! I plan to attend lots of sessions, but here are the ones I'm officially involved with:

5 PM: Helping Authors Find and Work Effectively with Narrators
6 PM: Using Comedy to Humanize Characters and Hook Listeners in Audio Fiction

1 PM: Live Reading!
I'm going to read excerpts from the in-progress sequel to Dreaming of Deliverance, as well as from my almost finished kids' novel: Rachel Richards Hates Rats. Alex White, author/producer of The Gearheart will be reading as well!

11 AM: Narrating Podcast Fiction:
This will be an expansion of the panel I coordinated for the New Media Expo last January, but this time, I'll be doing it solo! Using clips from your favorite fiction podcasts, I'll share what I've learned about how to be an excellent audio fiction narrator.

5 PM Metamor City Live Show! I get to participate in a live reading with other voice actors. Can't wait!
7 PM Fullcast vs. Straight Read

10 AM: The Introvert's Guide to Social Media
Noon: Multi-Creatives

Here's a link to the whole Balticon Schedule if you'd like to read more about the sessions listed above, as well as all that'll be offered this weekend. I'm looking forward to so much!

Now to get back to packing...

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Trying to tame my gremlin

I'm reading this book:

Taming Your Gremlin by Rick Carson.

My gremlin is big and clever and relentless. I'm not sure she can be tamed.

Ironically, she's not barking at me much about the audiobook narration. She's given up on that because she knows I'm feeling capable in that department.

But she's focused all her attention on my idea of myself as a writer. She's almost had me convinced that I'm not one.

However, a friend just wrote me about how much her 13-year-old loved Dreaming of Deliverance. It even inspired him to draw a scene from the novel. My first fan art.

I told my friend about Forbidden Fruit and said her son might like it, and then I read a little bit of it and remembered: I'm a good writer. I tell good stories.

That stupid gremlin: my viscous, constant, uber-critical inner voice, had me forgetting.

I will tame my gremlin. I will return to Trae. Finish the rat book.

I'm a writer.

I remember.