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).


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 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 Exploration, Life, Personal Challenge, Photography, Southern California, Tourism, Travel, Writing

A Tale of Two Bookstores … and a Library: Personal Challenge, Day 15 (10.1.12)

Apparently Mother Nature forgot to inform California that it is the first day of October.  It should not be 105 degrees in Los Angeles in the fall.  I know I am a Midwestern transplant but I think even native Angelenos would admit that this weather is ridiculous.

So today, the only option is to beat the heat and I thought the best way to do that would be to stop at a bookstore/coffeehouse and then head off to library to do some writing.

Since I am loving the local Mom and Pop stores and restaurants all over Los Angeles, I decided that I would stop by the Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse.  When I walked in, my first impression is that this is a smaller version of Vroman’s Bookstores in Pasadena.  But Vroman’s doesn’t have an Espresso Book Machine where you can publish your own books.  I stood, in awe, watching as this machine printed and bound books created by local authors or books selected from their “On Demand” printing service.  I had never seen anything like this before and it instantly got me thinking about publishing my own book.  How cool would it be to create your own paperback novel or memoir?

With this new wave of inspiration flowing over me, I decided to grab an ice blended coffee from the Flintridge Coffeehouse and head home to grab my laptop.  Then it would be off to the Altadena Library.  I had never been there before but it was close to my house, it has air-conditioning and free wi-fi.  Also, the book “Hometown Pasadena” described it as an ideal place for writing that is “quieter and less crowded than the Pasadena Central Library” and it has a reading area with armchairs.  It sounded like the perfect place to create a novel.

When I arrived at the Altadena Public Library, located on the corner of Mariposa and Santa Rosa, I noticed the large area in the center set aside for reading and writing (via laptop).  But I also noticed the noise coming from the kids area.  I walked around, looking for a place to sit that would be as far as possible from the kids area. The library isn’t that big so there really was no escaping the kids section.  Ironically, the area furthest away from the kids section is an area reserved for teens and young adults.  Seriously?  So the “Adults” are sandwiched between chatty teenagers and obnoxious kids who were never informed by their “bad parents” that you are supposed to be quiet in a library.  I guess that explains why so many adults trying to work or read in the middle section were wearing noise-cancelling headphones.

I was grateful that I remembered to bring my ear buds but cursing myself for not thinking to bring my own noise-cancelling headphones.  It was so hard to concentrate, even with my iPod at full blast (I could still hear the children).  Kids were screaming, throwing tantrums and one little girl was even singing as loud as her voice would allow her.  It was just like the kids running around the San Gabriel Library (I only noticed one girl running around and dancing between the book stacks at the Altadena Library).  “Hometown Pasadena” said it was quieter and less crowded at this library than the Pasadena Central Library so I guess there is no need for me to ever go there.  I tried my best to tune out the noise and concentrate but I couldn’t.  I have trained teacher ears that can hear the tapping of a teenagers fingertips on an iPhone’s touch screen from across a classroom.  I just couldn’t take it so I packed up and left.

The most peaceful spot in the whole library, located on the benches outside. Too bad it was 105 degrees.

Now I don’t blame the children for being obnoxious little brats.  I blame the parents for not teaching them manners.  When I was a kid, I loved the library.  I loved all the places I could go in my imagination while turning the pages of the different books that lived there.  My Mom used to take me to so many different libraries and she always told me that I had to be quiet.  It was common courtesy and common sense to be quiet in a library.  And if you were not obeying the silence rule, there was always a scary librarian who would enforce it and make you leave if you were bothering others.  What happened?  Why are parents letting their kids behave in such a rude manner and why are the library officials allowing this to happen.  I can honestly say that I won’t be returning to the Altadena Library and I am rethinking possible visits to other libraries.  I have been to two public libraries within the past week and they didn’t feel like a peaceful learning institution; they were Chuck E Cheese bounce house playrooms from hell.

So I decided to head down to Vroman’s bookstore on Colorado in Pasadena.  It is a strange, strange world when a bookstore is a quiet, peaceful alternative to a library.

But it was a good thing that I showed up at Vroman’s when I did.  There was a poetry reading and book signing going on upstairs.  My last book signing occurred when I was in college and listened to the late great Ray Bradbury during one of his many visits to USC.  I had never been to a poetry reading so I thought I would check it out.

The author was Dana Gioia reading poems from his new book “Pity The Beautiful: Poems.”  I arrived at the upstairs meeting area just in time to hear a poem about the past.  I didn’t get a chance to hear the title of the poem but the words reminded me of my own past and seemed to describe feelings that I once felt with a man from my past, my own Mr. Big.  I listened a bit longer but left before the crowd started to line-up for the book signing.  (I noticed his website has a link to an article, written by Carol Muske-Dukes for the Huffington Post, that mentions his new book, “Pity the Beautiful.” While I was at USC, Carol Muske-Dukes was my poetry professor in the English/Creative Writing Department).

So my lessons learned today: I am very disappointed in the local public library system but I am in love with the local independent bookstores.  I don’t think I could ever go back to the chain stores like Barnes and Noble.  And I don’t think I will return to another public library (to actually work on my writing) until parents learn how to be parents–or the librarians start to stand up to these obnoxious familes and maintain a peaceful working environment for all.

Posted in Astrology, Exploration, Life, Music, Personal Challenge, Southern California, Spirituality, Tourism, Travel, Universe, Writing

The Teacher Becomes The Student: Personal Challenge, Day 10 (9.26.12)

This morning, while watching the news, I saw a commercial talking about a website called Discover Los Angeles.  I thought this would be a great place to find new ideas for my personal challenge.  And today, my allergies were still acting up so I thought it would be best if I found something indoors.

So I went to the Discover LA website and clicked on their link to “100 Free Things to Do.”  I am a broke teacher who lives paycheck to paycheck (gotta love budget cuts where you are making less money then when you started your job).  There were so many interesting ideas but I thought it would be best, in my current state, to check out the “Free Health and Beauty Things to Do.”  The last item caught my eye, “Get self-centered,” at the Sahaja Yoga Meditation Center.

Unfortunately the link what is disabled but being the tech savvy photo teacher, I just deleted the last part of the web address and was redirected to the Sahaja Yoga Meditation Center home page. 

On the home page, I read the following:

“Sahaja Meditation is a simple yet very powerful technique which brings meaning, balance and gravity into our lives. Everyone can do it! And remember… it’s always free! Your self-realization is your birthright. You should never have to pay for the touch of Divine Love… Sahaja Meditation is a unique method of meditation based on an awakening that can occur within each human being. Through this process an inner transformation takes place by which one becomes moral, united, integrated and balanced. One can actually feel the all pervading divine power as a cool breeze, as described in all religions and spiritual traditions of the world.

Perfect!  I noticed that there were several locations and I found one in San Gabriel that was meeting tonight.  I always wondered what it would be like to take an actual meditation class so this was my chance.  Plus the description mentioned something about one becoming balanced–that is every Libra’s dream, their mission to find balance.

So I drove down to the San Gabriel Library (a place where I had never been before).  The parking lot is small so I had to park on a neighborhood street.  When I walked into the library, the teacher in me almost had a heart attack.  It was loud and children were chasing each other around the book stacks, no parents in sight.  The teenagers at the information desk were busy texting that they didn’t even notice I was standing there, waiting to inquire about the location for the class.  I cleared my throat, loudly, and then just asked them about the class.  Without even looking up from their phones, in unison, they said, up the stairs.  WOW!  I was a little concerned about how a group of people would be able to meditate in this Chuck E. Cheese atmosphere.

Thankfully quite a bit of the noise was inaudible once you reached the meeting room.  But when I arrive, I was the only person there.  I thought that maybe I had the wrong place.  This wasn’t what I expected.  I had imagined a room with Tibetan prayer flags strewn about and a big Buddhist alter.  This was simply . . . a meeting room with off-white walls and industrial gray carpeting.

A few minutes later, the instructor arrived.  Again, not what I expected.  I think my mind had assumed that a meditation class would be something like the ones run at the monasteries.  I was expecting a guru in his robes.  Not a man in business attire carrying a Macbook.

A few minutes later, another person arrived.  Again, not what I expected.  I had dressed the part of what I thought a meditation student should look like.  I was in my yoga pants and tank top, wearing my sandals and all of my crystal bracelets.  I had my hair up, dangled earrings and my Buddhist necklace.  The young woman who came in looked like she had just come from work, or the mall.

As it turns out, we were the only students that evening but that was actually to my benefit.  The instructor told me the history and ideals behind Sahaja Meditation.  Then he guided us through a Chakra meditation sequence followed by meditation with music and then the conclusion of the meditation process.  It wasn’t what I expected but it turned out better than I imagined.  I basically had a personalized course with the meditation instructor, once again proving that a teacher is more effective with a smaller class size.

I left there feeling calm and relaxed.  I was drama free and happy.  I think I will be back next week.  Who knows, perhaps my meditation skills will improve, allowing me to ignore my noisy teenagers.  This was definitely a good experiment.

Posted in Astrology, Life, Spirituality, Universe

Time To Find Your Path

Tomorrow’s Full Moon is the Pathfinding Horse Moon.  With the moon in Sagittarius, it is a time to choose a new path or direction to take in our life’s journey.

How do we do this?  Well, you look at where you are and where you really want to be then you have to decide how to get there.  Simple, right?  I’m a Libra so I would have to say this is pure torture.  Trying to make a decision on which path I should take is an extremely difficult task for a Libra.  I will use my trusty Pros and Cons lists.  I will think of all the different possible outcomes for each decision.  I will ask my friends and family for advice.  I will go see a psychic or ask my own Goddess or Angel cards.  Then I will pray for a sign from the Universe, guiding me toward the right path.  Then I will finally make a decision.  But once I make that decision, I will constantly wonder if I made the right choice.  But once again, I am a Libra.

Ironically, I am in a weird place where I do feel like I have to make a lot of life choices about my future.  So today, I turned to someone I know and trust, Hot Dog.  I had just told him about my accident a few days ago so he was anxious to see me and get me whatever I needed.  He picked up dinner at my favorite Mexican restaurant and arrived at my house, ready to take care of my needs.  What I really needed was someone to talk to and he was ready to listen.  We went for a walk in my neighborhood (mainly to walk off the carnitas) and talked about what was bothering me.  Like any close, good guy friend would do, he poked fun at some of the decisions I made and actions I took.  But mostly he was in agreement with me that I needed to change things in my life.

I know where I want to be I just have no clue how to get there.  I need to let go of the past once and for all.  My past is holding me back.  So I guess whatever direction I wind up choosing, I need to make sure that it is in the opposite direction of my past with the future I want directly in front of me.

Now, if you are like me and you have a hard time making decisions, Kristen Madden from Llewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook suggests:

“To explore your path and any new directions you might take, you will need a pendulum (a ring on a string will do), and your life-adventure map.  Create your map by drawing a large circle on a piece of paper.  divide the circle into a pie graph, with one section representing your current path.  Into the other sections, place your potential paths, hopes and dreams.  Take your pendulum and ask what paths are most aligned to financial, academic, spiritual, or emotional success, then let the pendulum help find your direction.”

Now if the pendulums, tarot cards and psychic guidance methods freak you out, you can always ask the Magic 8 ball.  I have a fortune telling Yoda doll that I often ask for guidance (yeah, I’m a Star Wars geek) when my Magic 8 ball seems to be having issues (when it tells you “Future Unclear.  Ask Again Later.”)

Good Luck!