Posted in Life

Taking My Life Back

On May 1st, I made a promise to myself. It was time to take my life back–walk away from all the drama, negativity and get my life back on track.

When my father passed away on June 3, 2015, my life stopped. I now had a new path I had to take and I just stood there. Every now and then, I would get ready to step forward and then another loss would hit, my foot would go back down and I would stand there once again. Over the course of two years, I lost some of the most important, influential people in my life–my father, my grandparents, my great-uncle and his wife, my college mentor and my fellow 10/21. I also lost friends, neighbors and distant family members but it was that initial group of losses that kept me at a standstill.

I did try to move forward. I started writing articles which brought some great new friends into my life. I discovered a new home-away-from-home, The Perky Nerd, which provided me with a new support system of friends and a creative outlet. We started a foundation in my father’s memory so we could continue his work with veterans. I also joined other veterans’ family organizations. I did what I needed to do to keep busy but it also kept me at a standstill since I wasn’t really facing my new reality–a reality where I had to figure out who I was without these important people who molded me, guided me and offered advice to help me shape my life. They never showed me how to live a life without them and I just wasn’t ready to figure that one out for myself. But a recent, rather emotional, trip to Orlando, Florida forced me to see that it was time to take that first step.

It is finally time to let go and move forward. So far, it has been painful and rough but I am set on staying positive (and finding the funny) so I can make my way out of the darkness. I know it is going to get worse before it gets better but I am finally aware of how strong I am. I know I can do this.

I am finally ready to embrace the change that is about to happen in my life. I admit I am afraid but I now have a large group of guardian angels on my side. One of those angels, my fellow 10/21 Carrie Fisher, who personally gave me advice on my career, life and glitter, has the perfect quote for what I am going through (as well as for others in the same boat): “Stay afraid but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and the confidence will follow.”

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Posted in Life, Spirituality, TV, Universe, Writing

A Year Ago Today, I Took A Chance On My Dreams

Exactly 1 year ago today I decided it was time to get back to my dreams of being a writer. I spent 15 years working as a photographer to pay the bills but deep down, I always wanted to get back to being a writer. The opportunity was there, I just had to take it.

I work for the oldest Entertainment magazine–American Cinematographer started in 1920. Yes, I am the photo editor but I do write the news portion of the magazine. After my father died, all I could think about was writing. In fact, all I could think about was writing about the paranormal investigation docu-series Ghost Adventures. All I had to do was pitch my story idea. What was the worst that could happen? If they said no, I would just go right back to the day-to-day of being the photo editor.

It seemed simple but I am an over-thinker. I had to have the perfect pitch. After all, I was basically asking the magazine permission to cover a reality series; we don’t cover reality shows. Being who I am, never doing things the easy way, I wasn’t even planning on pitching a normal reality series. I was pitching a paranormal investigation reality series.

My friends were actually shocked that I didn’t pitch something Star Wars related. But I couldn’t fully explain it without sounding like a crazy person (though my closest friends are used to my crazy ideas). Months prior, I had read Zak Bagans book, “I am Haunted: Living Life Through the Dead” but I was the one who wound up haunted; haunted with the idea of writing a story about this show. It had to be this show and it had to be at the right time. (Divine timing at its finest).

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I searched through our magazine schedule and noticed that April 2016 was set as the digital issue. The Ghost Adventures guys use digital cameras. We had Batman v. Superman planned as the main feature. They were currently filming in Detroit. Zak went to film school in Detroit. I am from Detroit. Plus this was our NAB issue. The NAB show is held in Las Vegas. Three out of four of the Ghost Adventures guys live in Las Vegas. With all these synchronicities, it was clear that this was the perfect issue for my story.

So after weeks of pep talks from my friends and trying to get ahold of the show’s publicist, I was finally ready to make my pitch. I would talk about the evolution of their camera equipment from their documentary through twelve seasons of the show. My stomach was in knots. I was so nervous. I had convinced myself of all the reasons as to why they would say no but I had to do this for myself. So I walked into my managing editor’s office, I pitched my story and he said yes!!!

Yesterday, I was back at my Alma Mater, the University of Southern California. The School of Cinematic Arts (it was cinema-television 20 years ago when I was a freshman there) was holding a ceremony for the Haskell Wexler Endowed Chair in Documentary. I had the privilege of knowing Haskell and was honored to be there supporting his wife Rita as well as representing his ASC family along with other members and AC staff. When I went to check in, they had stacks of the American Cinematographer April Issue (which later became a tribute issue to Haskell and fellow ASC member Vilmos Zsigmond) sitting on the table for attendees. I saw some of my former professors and former classmates reading a magazine that contained my Ghost Adventures article.

It was so surreal to be standing there on the campus where 20 years ago I was a freshman who dreamed of becoming a writer and I was holding in my hands my published article. 20 years ago I was writing essays about cinematography and now I have published articles about cinematography.

I have yet to fully understand exactly why I had to write about Ghost Adventures but I am so glad that I overcame my fears, quieted my mind and pitched that story to my editor a year ago.

Posted in Family, Life, Relationships

It’s OK to be Single!

Next month, my younger cousin is getting married and for my paternal side of the family, that means that my sister and I will be the only single female first cousins remaining. Many family members love to point this out to us and bring up the usual slew of questions that all singletons loathe. When are you going to find yourself a good man and settle down? Aren’t you lonely? You aren’t getting any younger. Don’t you want to have babies?

My usual response to the “Don’t you want to settle down and get married?” inquisition is often “Sure. Once I find a man who is willing to marry me in a cemetery on Halloween at sunset and honeymoon in Transylvania, then I will get married and spawn.” The best part is that they think I am joking…those who know me know I am actually telling the truth.

I am 37 years old (turning 38 in October) and I have no problem with my single status. I was raised to be independent. I can bake a cake from scratch and while it is in the oven, I can build bookshelves, install a garbage disposal, fix a toilet, snake a drain and sew an apron or two. I can take care of things myself and I cringe when someone tells me that I need to find a man to take care of me.

Many of my friends went to college for their MRS degree; I went to follow my dreams. Yes, there was a time where I thought I would meet the right guy while at college and we would get married, have kids, etc.–the Midwestern life path. But that didn’t happen for me. I met a lot of Mr. Wrongs. I was trying to figure myself out and many guys came in trying to change me or mold me into what they wanted me to be.

I know who I am and I finally like the person I have become. I won’t change that for any guy. I also won’t go back to hiding certain aspects of my life. If the right guy comes along then he will accept me for me–the light, the dark, the crazy and everything in-between.

He would have to accept that I am very independent–I am a self-rescuing Princess. If he wants a damsel in distress, then I am not the girl he is looking for.

My career is important to me so I would need him to understand the entertainment industry and not flip-out when we attend events with celebrities. Celebrities are just people who make a lot more money than the rest of us.

And I wouldn’t want to be with someone whose only interest in me is my career. I have had to deal with guys trying to use me for my work connections, hoping it will help them with their own careers. But I am now an expert at spotting those guys–and there are so many of them here in LA.

Speaking of LA, I am also a curvy girl. I am not a skinny minnie, “please feed me” supermodel looking kind of woman. I have large breasts–and they are real, not silicone. They actually move and if you ever see me run, I would be holding them so I don’t give myself two black eyes.

And right now, I am not in the best shape. My body has taken a toll from all the grief and stress over the past 15 months. I used to be thin but I have packed on 20 pounds thanks to comfort food. It would be nice to have a guy who would be interested in getting healthy again with me, maybe even encourage me. I used to hike every day and workout 5 times a week plus dancing–I am working on getting back to being that version of myself and would need someone who understands that.

Here in LA there is a pressure to look a certain way and I don’t look like that. I hate wearing make-up. I don’t like that whole “getting ready” process of hair, make-up and dressing all girly. I can do it. Sometimes I have to do it but thank God for my girlie girl friends and my gay guy friends who will help.

I also have cats. I only have two so I haven’t hit crazy cat lady status yet but my cats are my furbabies. If I had a bigger place, I would also have dogs. All my babies come from rescue shelters and I do have to be careful because I would take them all home if I could.

I am also a big GEEK. I have the same birthday as Carrie Fisher (which I have discussed with her several times) and I am a huge Star Wars fan. Not liking Star Wars is a deal breaker for me (they don’t have to love it like I do but they do have to like it enough to watch the movies) and pretending to like Star Wars will definitely not fly with me. He wouldn’t have to attend all the conventions with me but he would have to be able to understand my love for all things Han and Leia.

He would also have to understand and accept my love for Dracula. For me, Dracula links me to my late father. My Dad was a huge Bela Lugosi fan and he always dressed up as Dracula for Halloween when we were kids. He even named our dog Bela. I have also befriended the Lugosi family so my Dracula collection is priceless to me.

And of course, Halloween is my all-time favorite holiday. I was born on October 21st so Halloween is a part of me. I once had a Halloween themed bathroom just so I could keep the decorations out all year round (I also had a Bates Motel bathroom in my Reno apt). I have an entire storage space housing all of my Halloween decorations–and I like the scary decor, not the cutesy crap.

But even if a guy could handle the independence, the career, the curvy body, the anti-girly girl, the animal lover, the geekiness, and the love for Dracula, Halloween & the like, there is an aspect of my life that most men can’t get passed and some friends have trouble dealing with it as well. I descend from a long line of gypsies that left Italy and settled in West Virginia. I have inherited the familial “gifts,” along with several other family members. I have been able to see and hear spirits since I was a child. I have taken classes to hone and control these “gifts”–though my ability to know when people will die feels more like a curse than a gift. I guess you could label me as an empathic intuitive medium. Someone even called me a lightworker and a natural healer. I have also studied shamanism. The geek girl in me likes to say that I am Force sensitive–the Force is strong in my family.

So, as you can see there is a lot going on and I haven’t found a guy who can handle me–all of me. Maybe I will find him, maybe I won’t. I am good with being alone. Yes, it would be nice to have an understanding partner-in-crime that I could drag to work events, movie screenings and comic conventions but I have friends and an awesome intern/assistant that often step in as my plus one. I would rather remain single instead of settling into a life with the wrong person.

I would hope that if my family truly wants me to be happy then they will just accept that this is the life that I have chosen for myself and whatever will happen will happen. They see me as “37” but I see myself as “only 37.” I still have a lot of life ahead of me and I still have so much to do. I am trying not to focus on what I don’t have. I am grateful for what I do have. I am OK as I am so there really is no need to continue the inquisition. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Thank you and good night!

Posted in Life, Relationships

Finally Letting Go

On Instagram, there is a feature that has suggestions for people you might want to follow. The other day, a guy from my past popped up in the suggestions. I haven’t seen or spoken to him in years so I clicked on it to see how he was doing and wound up clicking the “follow” button. Crap (actually, I used a different word)!

I knew he would get a notification that I was now following his feed so I couldn’t immediately unfollow, that would be mean, or so I thought. He didn’t have a lot of followers so I decided to just leave it.

But then I started to think that what I viewed as a nostalgic “let’s just see how he is doing” kind of gesture might be taken the wrong way. My thoughts of making peace with this man from my past and the unrealistic hope that we could someday be friends again might not come across when he sees the new follower notification.

I have no idea what he thinks of me or if he is still upset over things that were said and done in the past. For me, I have let go of any negative feelings toward him. I will forever care about him and wish him the best but I now realize that he is in my past and that is where he needs to stay. I am not the same person I was and neither is he.

I don’t want to go back and relive a time where, in reaction to how he treated me, I was ashamed of the things I said and did. I didn’t like the person I turned into when I was dealing with the insecurities of being ignored and treated poorly by a man I thought I loved.

Everyone comes into your life for a reason. This man was a long, hard and often painful lesson. By having him pop-up in my Instagram suggestions, I think the Universe was trying to tell me that he is fine. I don’t have to worry about him anymore. It is OK to leave him in the past where he belongs. I can finally let go.

So I clicked the unfollow button and he returned the favor by making his account private. So there it was. A book I started when I met this man over 19 years ago was finally closed. Time to focus on a new book.

Posted in Family, Life

Another Obituary to Write

For the past few days, I have been sitting, staring at a blank Word document. I am trying to write another family obituary. On June 21st, my grandfather decided to leave his earthly body and join my grandmother whom we lost on March 13, 2015. He waited one year, three months, eight days and ninety minutes to join her.

This is the third obituary I have had to write in fifteen months and the sixth death our family has had to deal with in the same amount of time. Like my father, my “Pa” succumbed to a sudden heart attack. So here we are again, filling out all the paperwork, planning another memorial and dealing with family squabbles. It is sad how this has become our new normal.

I am sitting here and I am just numb. I have started pulling together the family photos to make the photo board Pa wanted for his memorial. But writing the obituary is the one thing that I am not ready to do once again. It is too standard. It doesn’t explain who he really was; it’s just a tiny glimpse of his 87 years and a list of people who share his DNA. You don’t see a person’s character in his obituary. You don’t see his sense of humor or playfulness. You don’t see how much he meant to the people closest to him.

I am grateful for all the memories I have of times spent with my grandfather. I could write a book filled with stories of our antics and conversations. Oh, how I will miss our conversations. I remember my last conversation with him. Since Nana passed, he would end every conversation as if it was the last one. He would express how much he appreciated those who took the time to call him or visit with him. Then he would tell you how much he loved you. He even told me he thought he would be the next one to die and we didn’t believe him; we didn’t want to believe him.

We weren’t ready to lose him but he was ready to go. He was broken-hearted when Nana died and he would talk about how much he missed her. He just wanted to be with her again. We are all trying to find comfort that they are together again but from a selfish perspective, I really miss him. I miss my conversations with him. The playful banter he had with myself and my sister. I would love to hear him tell just one more joke and give me one last tour of his home, telling me about all the new things he has added.

So now I have to try to do what needs to be done. I have to do what I can to fulfill his final wishes. And as much as it hurts, I have to keep reminding myself that I am doing this all for him.

Posted in Family, Life

Conversations with my Dad

At this time, exactly one year ago, I returned to my apartment after work and sat down to call my parents, a daily ritual since I moved to Los Angeles. With my parents in Detroit, I knew I had to catch them before they went to bed. On this particular day, my parents had been in Ann Arbor. My mother was having some medical tests done at U of M. I had talked to them on the phone earlier but I looked forward to my nightly tradition.

When I called, my Dad picked up. We had our usual “Hi Daddy,” “Hi Daughter” exchange. My mom was already in bed and he was in the living room watching television. He was watching the western Silverado. So I talked to him about the cinematographer John Bailey, ASC and stories he told me about the making of the film. Then we segued into a discussion about Clint Eastwood, Bruce Willis, a guy I dated who was a former child actor and then he started giving me advice on my love life. This was typical for us. We talked movies, my job, his job, family stuff, my cats, their cat & dog and whatever other random subjects popped into our heads. I wish I could remember every single detail of that conversation but I didn’t really pay that close attention because we talked every night and I assumed I would talk to him again the next night. I do remember telling him I was suddenly feeling so tired and I wondered if I was getting sick. He told me he was really tired too and that his leg was really hurting lately. He told me it sucks to get old. I got on his case about getting his back looked at again and the new developments made with back surgery. I had done some research for him. We talked for about an hour. This was a little longer than usual. We averaged half hour conversations unless we had some interesting stories to share or some veterans thing to talk about. And the conversation ended the same as always, “I love you,” “I love you too,” “Talk to you tomorrow,” “K, good night,” “good night.”

If I had known that was the last conversation I was ever going to have with my Dad, I would have paid attention. I would have memorized every detail. I would have recorded it if I could. I would have asked him so many questions and told him so much more. And I never would have let him hang up.

The next day, I was not feeling well at all and I kept wanting to call him. But I waited. I knew I would call him when I got home. I would continue our nightly ritual. I knew he was working and he had my nephew’s baseball game. Plus, I wasn’t feeling well and I was considering going to Urgent Care and I didn’t want to worry him.

I wish I would have called him. I wish I would have listened to my instincts and the repeating record in my head telling me to call him. When I got home that night, I sat on my couch, getting ready to call my parents but my phone was ringing instead. It was my brother. He was calling to tell me that at my nephew’s baseball game, Dad collapsed in the stands. He had sat down, told the guy next to him that it sucks to get old and then he fell backwards. He had a massive heart attack, a result of Agent Orange disease, and he was gone. Just like that. They tried everything they could–one of the coaches was a cardiologist. They got him to the hospital but he had been without oxygen for too long and there was nothing else that could be done.

So exactly one year ago, at this exact time (6:30pm) I called and talked to my Dad for the last time.

I can’t believe that it has really been a year. I still talk to my Mom every day–OK, I think we actually talk several times a day. But it is not the same as hearing his voice, his laugh, his pep talks, his advice and his jokes. I got him for 36 years–though I didn’t do all that much talking in the first year. I also know how lucky I was to have that kind of relationship with my Dad. I was blessed to have this amazing man as my father. Now as we are approaching the official one-year anniversary of his passing, I am still in shock that he is gone. I would give anything to have him back for just one more nightly conversation.

Posted in Family, Life, Relationships, Spirituality

Something Strange Happened: Signs From My Dad

I spent most of yesterday bedridden, recovering from an allergic reaction to food contaminated with black pepper (yes, I am allergic to black pepper), and I opted to binge watch shows on Netflix. At some point in the evening a close friend texted me asking for advice. During our text conversation, I opted to pull a tarot card for her. I grabbed the deck I use most often and took out the major arcana cards, leaving the minor arcana in their pouch. I proceeded with a one card reading for her then placed them face d20160407_210740.jpgown on my bed. After a few minutes, I decided I should make myself some tummy tea and headed into the kitchen. I noticed that both my cats were in the living room, fast asleep with one on the couch and the other on a cat bed (resting up for their nightly 3am crazy house run). When I returned to my bedroom with my cup of tea in hand, I noticed that the minor arcana cards had slipped out of their pouch, perhaps when I climbed out of bed, and only one card was flipped over. I set my tea on the night stand and leaned over to see that it was the Ace of Cups trying to get my attention. I sat down on the bed just in time for my youngest cat, Elvira, to spring onto the bed, landing amongst the tarot cards before jumping to the top of her cat tree. Another tarot card flipped over, this time it was the Three of Pentacles. From previous tarot classes, I know that the Ace of Cups represents a new relationship and that the Three of Pentacles represents two lovers coming together to design/plan their future (often a marriage card). Considering I am single, the obvious conclusion is that someone is trying to tell me it is time to stop focusing on my career and start focusing on my love life. That someone would be my father.

Back in September, I went to my clairvoyance teacher, mentor and friend Adela Lavine for a medium reading with my Dad. Usually my Dad wants to talk about my brother, sister and my Mom. For the first time, he focused on his plans for me. “I raised you to be independent but not that independent.” He said that he was gifting me a man. He wanted me to have a family. He said that I had the career, now I needed the love.

My reaction to the reading…I pitched my first article to the magazine. I decided to continue working on my career. But my article just hit news stands this month so I guess my Dad is finding ways of reminding me of his plans for me. So my reaction to these strange new signs…I am heading to a production studio for a set visit for a possible story idea to pitch for my second article.