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.

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Posted in Entertainment, Spirituality, TV, Universe

A Ghostly Book Adventure

20150314_204204I just finished reading “I am Haunted: Living Life Through the Dead” by Zak Bagans, producer and lead investigator for the television series Ghost Adventures on the Travel Channel. I have to say that this was by far the strangest experience I have ever had reading a book.

I have been a fan of Ghost Adventures for years. When I was teaching photography to high school students, every October I would teach the students how to create their own ghostly images through long exposure and the use of tripods. I would show clips from the television series to engage the students and aid with their storytelling process (we would pretend we were investigating hauntings at the high school). My former students still mention this show and the ghost photos assignment as a fond memory from their high school experience. So when I saw that Zak Bagans had penned an autobiography I knew I had to read it (though now I know this is actually his second book).

I guess I should also mention that I am an empathic intuitive medium. I have been seeing and talking to spirits since I was a kid. In recent years, I have been working on honing my skills to help myself and my loved ones (I don’t do readings for profit). In recent weeks, with the passing of my grandmother, my abilities have become stronger. Reading Zak’s book made me wonder if my sight was beginning to change once again or if my mind was playing tricks on me (extremely vivid imagination, perhaps).

I started reading the book late in the evening before bed (perhaps a mistake on my part). I could actually hear Zak’s voice in my head as if he were reading it to me. I could also relate to some of his stories in regards to his own sensitivities. (I didn’t know that he once lived in my hometown of Detroit). I was excited, thinking this was going to be a fun read since I was already connecting to the stories.

I have always been the type of reader who gets immersed in a book but rarely does that happen when I am reading an autobiography. With this book, the visuals really started to take over and I found myself in the locations as if I was alongside Zak, Aaron, Jay and Billy. I could see the location, smell the dankness at times, hear the sounds and feel the spirits–4D reading, in a sense. As I was pulled deeper into the stories and the locations, I could hear my own guides warning me about protection and dark entities. It would get so intense that I would have to stop reading and light some palo santo in my room for cleansing. This has never happened to me before.

This was all occurring the first night. I did my best to shake off the feelings so I could go to sleep. At 3:05 am, I woke to shadow figures in my room telling me they were there because of my connection to Zak Bagans. I don’t have a connection to Zak. I watch his show and I am reading his book, that is it. They kept trying to tell me it was more and that I needed to get him to come back to Los Angeles. I needed to take him to Devil’s Gate Dam. I kept telling them no, to leave me alone. I started praying, chanting, calling in good spirits to make the shadows go away. I used my shamanic techniques to make them leave and they warned they would be back. Then the good spirits told me I had to warn Zak about protection, teach him what he needed to do and don’t let him go to Devil’s Gate. Then they sprayed Florida water on me and that is when I woke up, for real. It was all a dream, at least I hoped it was all a dream–a weird, vivid dream.

The next day, my clairvoyance/mediumship teacher posted a video in regards to psychic protection–just a weird coincidence.

I continued to read the book. I reached a section where Zak discussed going to a salt mine for a breathing treatment. I was actually in the Salt Studio in Pasadena for a therapy session in the salt room to treat my own allergies and asthma when I read this particular passage–another weird coincidence.

I continued on with the book but took a break after reading about the exorcist house in St. Louis. I was playing around on social media and Instagram when I noticed a childhood friend of mine posted an image of Linda Blair from the film The Exorcist. Again, just another weird coincidence.

But I pushed through and finished the book. It was an interesting book, as a fan of the show, but a hard read when I felt like I was spiritually put into all of these places along with the GAC. I had to consistently cleanse my room and wear protective jewelry. I slept with Holy Water near my bed. It was just a really strange experience–a book has not affected me like this since I tried to read “The Exorcist” in the sixth grade (I never finished the book because of all the nightmares it gave me and I wound up throwing it away at school).

The day after finishing “I am Haunted,” I decided to drop in on a mediumship class where my teacher spent the first half of the class going over psychic protection–a final weird coincidence.

Posted in Endometriosis, TV

Endometriosis on Beverly Hills 90210 & Silk Stalkings

Growing up, I was a huge fan of the original 90210 series and Silk Stalkings.  (I couldn’t even go to school the next day after Chris died in the 5th season of Silk Stalkings). So when I was diagnosed with Endometriosis, I freaked out.  I could only think about how the disease was explained when both Kelly Taylor and Rita Lance were diagnosed with the disease. On BH 90210, Kelly was told that she was probably infertile (which the remake of 90210 seemed to have forgotten when she showed up with a son). On Silk Stalkings, they said it was an infection of the Uterus which my doctor quickly told me was wrong. But the show did have one thing right, “it is all the pain of a pregnancy with none of the fun.”  So today I came across clips on youtube, exactly the way I remembered them.

Posted in Exploration, Life, Personal Challenge, Southern California, Tourism, Travel, TV, Universe, Writing

Comedy for Cancer: Personal Challenge, Day 18 (10.4.12)

Yesterday, while researching things to do and places to visit in Pasadena, I found my way to the Ice House Comedy Club website.  The first thing I noticed was a picture of Christopher Titus, my sister’s favorite comedian.  I clicked on the picture of Titus and discovered that he would be performing in a special event, a benefit for John Fox Memorial Comedians Cancer Screening Fund.  I had never been to the Ice House or seen Titus perform live, I couldn’t pass up this opportunity (and it was for a very good cause).

I am so glad I got there early, I managed to get a free parking spot on the street.  I was a little confused on where to go and how everything worked since this was my first visit to the Ice House.  I found my way to the back alley entrance where there was an outdoor bar.  I went up to the entrance but there was no one there.  I had arrived at 7:30 pm and the show started at 8:00pm but the website said they would start seating people at 7:00  pm.  This was not the case.  I didn’t see any employees around that I could talk to but I did since a couple standing by the door.  I asked them if they were there for the benefit, they were, and they told me that I had to check in with the cashier.  I stood outside the cashier booth but the cashier was on the phone.  She didn’t even acknowledge my presence.  A simple, “I will be with you in a minute” would be the courteous thing to do.  But she ignored me, I stood there, she kept talking on the phone and ignored me some more, then I started to get upset.  So far, I was not getting a good impression of the Ice House.  So I went back out and stood with the couple also waiting to get in.  I watched as two women in stilettos walked past us and instantly got help from the cashier, bus boys and some other guy whom I assumed worked there.  Now I was insulted.  But thankfully there was this nice woman who seemed to be running the show.  I walked up and asked her what I was supposed to do.  She told me to check in with the cashier, I mentioned how I was ignored before but she made sure I was helped this time.  The cashier took a look at my ticket, marked something on the computer (taking attendance I guess) then handed me back my ticket.  That was it?  She couldn’t do that while she was on the phone?  Again, I was irritated.

Eventually, they led us into the main show room.  We were seated in the front row and handed our menus.  There was a two drink minimum–and they were pricey drinks.  My two drink minimum cost me $25 with tax and tip.  Then factor in the cost of the ticket ($15 plus a $2 processing fee) and it is not a cheap date.  But I reminded myself that it was a good cause and I was going to see Christopher Titus.

All I have to say is that once the show started, all of my irritations disappeared.  I was laughing so hard that I was crying.  Each comedian was well worth the price for admission.  And I never knew Fritz Coleman, our local weather man, was so funny.  And of course Christopher Titus was AMAZING!!!  I was on the verge of tears, the kind that trickle down your leg.

Even though it didn’t start off the way I had hope, it was an amazing evening.  And I wound up winning the raffle prize, a $35 gift certificate for the Ice House.  I think this is the Universe’s way of telling me that I need to give this place another try.  Everyone deserves a second chance, the same should apply to places.  Overall, I had a wonderful time and hopefully next time, the entire experience will be “magical.”

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Posted in Exploration, Life, movies, Personal Challenge, Photography, Southern California, Spirituality, Tourism, Travel, TV, Writing

Spending an Eternity in Hollywood: Personal Challenge, Day 6 (9.22.12)

Main sign located on Santa Monica Blvd.

Today I decided I would journey to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.  I have always wanted to go there but never took the opportunity to do so until now.

As it turned out, there is a program called Cinespia where they screen films in the cemetery.  Tonight, Cinespia was screening the one and only horror film that actually terrifies me, The Exorcist.  I was actually considering that this might be my chance to get past my Catholic fears of being possessed and attempt to watch a film that caused me to sleep on the floor in my parents’ bedroom for months when I was in the sixth grade.  (I had a bed like Regan’s).  I haven’t seen the movie since.  Now that I am older and wiser, I could probably handle it.  But alas, the showing was completely sold out so I had to settle for just roaming around the cemetery during the daylight hours.

When I first got there, I really had no idea who was buried there or where to even start looking.  So I just wandered around until I made my way to the Garden of Legends.  Johnny Ramone, Hattie McDaniel, Jayne Mansfield and Cecille B DeMille can be found in this area (as well as many others that I am not as familiar with).  But to the south of the Garden of Legends, you will find the stunning grave of Douglas Fairbanks.  (You can also see a memorial to the Wizard of Oz’s Toto under a tree on the path to the east of the Fairbanks garden.

After I left this area, I wandered around, enjoying the peaceful, serene setting and hoping I would find other names I would recognize but I was unsuccessful.  I started to think that there were more Armenians buried here than celebrities (cemetery is located to the west of Little Armenia).  Actually, I couldn’t get over some of the elaborate Armenian grave sites.  Some of them were truly stunning.

But in the 90 degree heat, I was tired of wandering around and not finding any other celebrity resting places (though I did find a beautiful Buddhist area).  I noticed that on the west side of the entrance, there was a flowers and gift shop, and vending machine to purchase water.  I made my way over there and I went into the gift shop.  They had a few t-shirts, a map of the celebrity graves for $5, a commemorative Hollywood Forever Cemetery book for $20, and numerous books on tourist sites in Hollywood.  I should have stopped here first–and I recommend that anyone else planning on visiting Hollywood Forever, the map is a must!!!

So now I was able to go back to the different areas to find the graves I missed, like that of Vampira, Griffith J. Griffith, Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer, and countless others.

Unfortunately, I had purchased my map too late in the day.  The grave sites that I really wanted to see were located in the mausoleums that were locked up at 2pm.  So I wasn’t able to see Rudolph Valentino, Bugsy Siegel or Estelle Getty.  But now that I own a map, I am definitely returning to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery at a later date.

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Posted in Life, TV

Pops-a-Dent

OK, I think we all, at one time or another, poke fun at the late night infomercials.  When I was in college, I starred in one.  I was a Rotozip girl.  (I still use and love my Rotozip).  But like everyone else in that infomercial, I was paid to say I liked their product.  One thing I have learned about Hollywood is that everything is not what it seems.  They are always selling something and they will always do whatever they need to do to convince you to buy whatever they are selling, whether it be a celebrity, movie, TV show or infomercial product.

But a few weeks ago, I had a meeting at another high school and when I came out of the meeting, my car was dented on the passenger side.  It was so bad that I couldn’t even open the door.  (Poor Hotdog had to sit in the backseat when we went to dinner).  Since I don’t have the money to go to a body shop or the patience to deal with my insurance, I decided I would fix it on my own.

I called my Dad and asked him for ideas.  I tried it all and nothing worked.  Then I remembered the last time I went to the “As Seen On TV” store with my California sister.  We like to go in there and make fun of the products (like the pajama jeans).  I remembered seeing “Pops-A-Dent.”  My mind instantly flashed to bits and pieces of the infomercial.  Yes, it’s true.  I have clips from infomercials floating around in my brain, along with a whole bunch of other useless and random information.  I remembered it was priced at $19.95.  I figured it was worth a try so I headed up to the mall and purchased a “Pops-A-Dent” kit from the “As Seen On TV” store.

Of course, my friends made fun of me for buying the product.  But that didn’t matter to me.  If it wound up working, I was planning on enjoying my “told ya’ so, proved you wrong” dance.

So I read the directions and got everything ready to Pop My Dent.  So after a few trials and a few broken pieces, I have to say . . . IT WORKS!  It actually WORKS.  I was so amazed, so proud and so ready to gloat.  I instantly called Hotdog and my California Sister to tell them that my purchase was not made in vain.  They could no longer tease me about my “Pops-A-Dent.”

Now I do have something to share with the future “Pops-A-Dent” consumers, based on the mistakes I made.  If you have a larger dent, you have to use the smaller pieces and work your way down the dent, starting at the top.  And you might want to wear ear plugs because it makes a sound like fingernails on a chalkboard.  Oh, keep band-aids nearby and wear safety goggles, it really does “pop.”  But it is totally worth the $19.95 ($22 with tax).

By the way, I was not paid for this endorsement of the “Pops-A-Dent” product.  I am just a very happy consumer who was able to save hundreds of dollars and fix my car myself.

Posted in Life, Relationships, Spirituality, TV

Show Compassion for All

In response to last night’s GLEE episode, I feel that as a high school teacher I need to say something.  At first, I was shocked at where the storyline was going and then I was feeling a sense of Deja Vu when the “Adults” (why aren’t there more teachers in their high school?) were talking about how to react around the students and how nervous everyone is about “copycat” syndrome that often occurs after a student attempts suicide.  I sat through a very similar session just two weeks ago when a student killed himself at the high school where my best friend teaches.  Everyone in our school district is still dealing with what happened.  A young sophomore was picked on, pushed around and teased to the point where he felt the need to take his own life.  I personally never knew the boy but many of my students and friends did.  But what I do know is that he wasn’t even at the point where he could really live his life when he decided to end it.  No one should be made to feel like death is the only solution.

Bullying is a serious problem.  I have heard people from my generation talk about how they don’t remember Bullying being such an issue when we were in school.  The thing is that back then, we didn’t have the Internet.  If something happened, you didn’t usually hear about it.  Now, your cousins in Canada will know if someone at your school is gay or short or fat or a nerd or whatever, all thanks to the Information Hellway we call the Internet.  We didn’t have Facebook, Formspring, Tumblr, Twitter and the like.  We didn’t have cellphones that could text or go on the Internet instantly.  Rumors spread like wildfire these days and it is terrifying.  And the majority of the rumors are not even true.  It is the high-speed version of the Telephone game.  Information travels at light speed.  I knew about the student’s suicide before my friend, a teacher at that school, knew what was going on.  I had kids in my classroom crying 10 minutes after it happened.

And yes, as teachers we make the students put away their cellphones and stay off the social networks while they are in school but they are smarter than we are when it comes to high-tech sneakiness.  We used to try to figure out how to sneak out of our houses at night.  These kids know how to take notes and text without a teacher having any idea.  So if someone in class farts, the whole school knows about it within a matter of minutes.  We can try all we want but as a society everyone is addicted to their “Smartphones” and the kids today don’t know a world without them.  It is a battle we will never win.

I do love how realistically GLEE portrayed the instantaneous rumor spreading.  He came home and checked his Facebook to see what they were saying.  (Though if it were at my school, he would have checked his iPhone when he left the locker room).  It is sad but true.  The majority of kids see their friends teasing someone so they join in to be a part of the crowd.  So before you know it, hundreds, maybe even thousands of kids are participating in cyberbullying.  Many may not even know the person they are attacking.  So how do we make it stop?

As a teacher, I try to be someone the kids feel they can come to if they are having a problem.  Last year, I had a student come out of the closet to me and tell me about how they were being teased.  They were suicidal.  I followed procedure and instantly got them help.  I went to my administrator, the counselor and the school psychologist.  We all rallied around them to let them know that we all cared.  I found out about the Trevor Project.  They have experts that students can talk to and give the appropriate support.  We made sure that they knew they didn’t have to suffer in silence.  There are people out there that care and would be there for support.  There are people out there who would never judge them.

These kids need to know that life gets so much better after high school.  High School is full of drama and stress.  Everyone is in everyone else’s business.  They need to start thinking past themselves.  They have to learn what it is like to be in someone else’s shoes.  I always tell them, “treat others the way you would want to be treated.”  It’s sad that I have to remind them “how would you feel if someone was saying that to you” “or how would you feel if someone posted that about you.”

Teenagers are not zombies.  It is possible to get them away from the computers and away from their cellphones.  It is possible to get them to talk and to open up.  It is possible to teach them to have compassion for all.  But we, as adults, have to set an example.

We need to stop going after the gays in “the name of God.”  I don’t know what Bible they read but I remember Jesus saying he was dying for all our sins–not just the straight people.  Jesus said to love everyone and forgive everyone–right?  If Jesus, or God, was telling me to hate someone for any reason, then that isn’t someone I want to believe in.  We are all human beings and we should show compassion and respect to all other human beings.

I watched this great documentary by His Holiness, The Dalai Lama, entitled Compassion in Emptiness.  It is on NetFlix streaming and I recommend it to everyone.  In this film, His Holiness is giving a talk about Compassion.  He says that we need to stop looking at things from a complicated level.  We need to go back to basics where we are all just human beings.  When we start talking about race, religion, and sexual orientation, we are looking at the secondary level where things are too complicated.  Complications lead to strife.  So in order for us to achieve peace and happiness, we need to stick to the basic level of understanding, “we are all human beings.”  We need to show compassion to all human beings, even if we disagree with their life choices.

And we need to stop making politicians speak for us.  All politicians lie.  Trust me, I was in Public Relations.  They all have an agenda.  All they care about is winning and getting your vote.  They will say whatever you want to hear.  You can’t trust them.  Power is corrupt, ergo those with power are corrupt.  So why do we let them do what they do?  We seem to forget that they are supposed to be working for us.  And what kind of example are they setting for our youth with their campaign ads that are designed to “destroy” their competition.  The kids are taught at an early age to look up to our Senators, Governors, and Commander In Chief.  But when you turn on the TV, you see them bullying each other in ads and in debates.  What are we teaching our children?

There are many in this world who view the United States as a Bully.  If you are one of those people, I apologize.  I am an American but I am not a Bully.  I am a human being.  I am a teacher who goes to work every day because I know I have the chance to make a difference in the lives of my students.  I teach photography but my kids often say my class is “the real world” class.  I try to go above and beyond the simple practices of how to work a camera.  I don’t do it for the money–believe me, there is no money in teaching (which is why I have two other jobs on the side).  I do it for the kid who came to me for help instead of committing suicide.  It is about helping your fellow human being.

I once heard a woman give a speech about how we have two purposes in life.  One is to be a Student, learning all of life’s lessons.  The Second is to be a Teacher, teaching what we have learned.  I took it literally.

My story and the GLEE story had a happy ending–the kids survived.  But unfortunately it doesn’t always turn out that way.  It is sad that it often takes the loss of a young life to bring society to an awakening.  We need to open our eyes and see what is going on around us, see what our kids are seeing.  Start that conversation.  Stop saying “oh, it is just teenage angst.”  If you see a kid in pain, give them a hug.  Ask them what is wrong and LISTEN.  You have to become aware of the truth in order to make a difference.