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!

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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, Universe, Writing

A Gift From My Dad

2016-03-03 14.33.17Nine months ago today, my Dad passed away. I won’t say he died. I can’t say it because it isn’t true, at least for me. His body died but his soul did not. He is still here. I feel him every day. And if I ever doubt that his energy is not present, he gives me a sign, a gift to remind me that he is still here.

I recently wrote a post about how I felt lost without him. I did not know who I was without him. Hours after I wrote that blog entry, I was given several clear signs of who I am and where I am headed. My article for our April issue was now a bullet on our cover. My managing editor told me how much he loved my article and that I should feel free to pitch additional stories in the future. So I pitched an idea in that moment (an idea that has a tie in to my father) and was told we could reach out to the studio/network in regards to making that my next story. I immediately called my Mom and we both agreed this had to be Dad guiding me. And if there were any doubts, events last night further proved to me that my Dad is guiding me back to my goals and dreams.

Last night, I decided to make a trip up to my storage space and finally put away my Christmas decorations. Normally I would just drop off my Christmas storage containers and leave but a gut feeling told me to reorganize some of the boxes I had piled in the back corner. I pulled out some boxes and noticed a file container on the second shelf way in the back corner of the storage unit. It looked like one of the containers I used for storing my tax information. I just had a feeling it was important so I made my way back there to retrieve it. To my surprise, it was filled with all my writing samples from high school, college and my years working as a publicist. I even found my acting headshots from college. I cleared a space and sat down on the floor, reminiscing about my past and a time when I considered myself a writer.

I flipped through the different files and stopped when I spotted a blue folder labeled “Grandpa.” I knew it contained a story I wrote in high school about the day my grandfather died of a sudden heart attack. I pulled out the folder and immediately started crying when I saw my father’s handwriting. For months I had been searching for the letters I received from my Dad my freshman year of college. I thought they were at my parents’ house. I had no clue that I had them with me the entire time, in my storage space and with a story about the death of my Dad’s Dad. There they were, in this folder with the story and two writing awards I received—one for the “Grandpa” story and another for all the articles I wrote for my college newspaper “The Daily Trojan.” What a coincidence to find them all together.

So I read the letters, struggling through the tears. My Dad wrote these letters during my first few months at college. I had moved to thIMG_20160302_171925e other side of the country to follow my dreams and attend USC. The funny thing is that his advice in these letters applies to what I am struggling with today. He tells me he is proud of me and he misses me (but not to get cocky about it—my Dad was Han Solo). “I truly believe you know what you want to do.” And when it comes to my dreams and goals, his advice: “You just hang in there and go for what you want.”

He wrote me these letters almost 20 years ago. And for anyone who knew my Dad, writing was not his strong suit. One letter he wrote over a course of a week—adding the date each time he started writing again. It meant a great deal to me back then that he would take the time to write to me and it was like winning the lottery to find these letters now. I am once again at a point in my life where I need his advice and guidance. He found a way to give me the exact pep talk that I needed by putting these letters back into my hands. (Thanks, Daddy!)

Posted in Family, Life, Relationships

Who Am I Now?

On June 3rd, 2015, my life forever changed. The most important man in my life left his earthly body and took a huge part of me with him. I no longer view the world the same. I am no longer the happy-go-lucky optimistic and often naive girl who only wanted to see the good in people. My rose-colored glasses are gone as I have had to face the harsh realities that my guiding light, my role model, my father was never coming back.

I know now that my relationship with my parents is not “normal.” Even though I have lived on the other side of the country for almost 20 years (with a few roaming years in other states), I remained close to my parents, talking to both of them several times a day, every day. I still expect my Dad to answer the phone when I call.

The last eight, almost nine months, have been beyond difficult and I have lost a lot of friends along the way. It is funny how I was raised to be a loyal person, always there for the people I care about when they need me. But when I hit a difficult road, the majority disappear. “Oh, I am going to take you out to lunch every day.” Haven’t seen or talked to that so-called friend since June. “Why are you still so sad?” That was said to me weeks after my father’s passing. I even found out that someone who claimed to be my best friend since college was asked to be by my side when my family called to give me the news and she told my sister that she just couldn’t do that. She couldn’t be there for me during a moment that she knew would be the worst moment of my life.

So my life has changed. I cherish the friends who have been there for me–they are my extended family. They understand that every day is a struggle. I just want to go to work and go home. I want to talk to my Mom all the time. I talk about my Dad all the time. I cry all the time. I want to be alone more. I am confused about my life goals. I am lost. I hate being asked, “How are you?” No one wants the real answer to that question. I will lie and say that I am fine when I really am not fine. I am far from fine. I am simply surviving. I am going through the motions. Everything is an effort as I try to figure out my life without my father.

I know many don’t understand my attachment to my father. I am his mini-me. He taught me how to install a garbage disposal when I was 3. He loved movies and cameras. He would project 8mm movies and cartoons on a large screen for us when we were kids. And every time he bought a new camera, I would get his old camera. I became a Star Wars fan because of my Dad. I went to film school because of my Dad. I became a photographer because of my Dad. I worked with veterans and General Motors because of my Dad. When I was in college he wrote me letters about how I was living out his dreams. Now that he is gone, I feel lost. I don’t know who I am without him.

Posted in Life, movies, Personal Challenge

Burn Movie Premiere: Personal Challenge, Day 43 (10.29.12)

Tonight was the LA Premiere of a film that is very near and dear to my heart.  The film was made by two of my friends and it is about my hometown of Detroit.  This film is called Burn: A Year on the Front Lines of the Battle to Save Detroit.

This is a documentary on the lives of the firefighters in Detroit.  It will make you laugh, it will make you cry and it will open your eyes to what is really going on in our own country in terms of budget cuts made by politicians and how those cuts affect the working class.  I cried several times throughout the film.  It also made me a little homesick–with everyone drinking Vernors and talking about going to eat at National Coney Island.

At the premiere, I had the chance to spend some time with the firefighters who are featured in the film.  They flew out to LA just to be there for the Grauman’s Egyptian Theater premiere.  We all reveled in what a small world it is.  One firefighter, “Doogie,” went to school in the same school district and graduated a year after me.  It turns out that we used to hang out at the same places and were probably there at the same time.  Another firefighter, Dave Miller, lives fairly close to my older brother.  After seeing this film, I feel like I know them, like they are family.  I received several hugs from Dave Parnell, a retired Detroit firefighter, that evening, just because I am a Detroit native and I support this film.

It opens this Friday in Los Angeles at the Laemmle Noho 7 in North Hollywood.  This film will change your lives and it may even just change the way you vote next Tuesday.  Check out the Burn website for more information, to see the movie trailer, or to find out if it is going to be playing in any theaters near you.