Vanity, Prince and Jesus

So I saw the news last night about her death and watched a video of Vanity 6 singing “Nasty girl…dance, dance, dance…” on Youtube before I fell asleep. This morning, I read this beautiful homage Prince made to his dear friend, to one of his first loves, to Vanity… to Denise.
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I remember hearing about Vanity being born again. Of a scary health incident. I don’t remember what she had but I  knew it was related to her years of partying hard. I knew that the toll was taken on her body and at some point, when it was dying I thought I read that she saw herself floating above it.  Her soul was leaving but Jesus appeared to her. And she was given a choice. And she chose life.
 
For all my partying years I didn’t “do” drugs. I tried them (someday I’ll write about those experiences. They’re kinda funny if I tell them from the perspective to support that point of view. Notsomuch if I’m being honest) but for sure I was always so afraid I would like them and I knew there would be no turning back for me. Even in my boozy haze I knew that much.
 
But I remember giving Vanity, Denise’s, rebirth a lot of thought. I wondered how she could turn her back on what had to have been a really amazing life, right? She was a Prince chick. One that he loved. And she was dancing and singing and everybody wanted her, right? Doesn’t that make for a fabulous life?
And then I wondered about what it really meant to see Jesus.  What does He say? Is it scary? I used to have a tenuous relationship with God. And therefore with his Son so I was curious about what happened to Vanity back then. 
And then I wondered if I was going to have a “come to Jesus”. I wondered if I was worthy of one or if I needed to hit my rock bottom and o my, was I scared of what that bottom would look like. There would be wreckage. Irreversible, I was afraid.
I was lucky, though, that my “come to Jesus, it’s time to change your ways” moment came wrapped up as a child. And Lanee Bird changed my life.
 
And now, years later, when we say Rest In Peace to another singer, another celebrity, …people I don’t know in real life but I grew up with, I’m thinking of how they laid the soundscape of my trying years, of my angsty years, how they soothed me or moved me during the time I told the lies to claim  I knew myself so I didn’t have to admit I didn’t have a clue.
 
Prince. Vanity. So much funk. 

A Toast to PSH Collective, First Girl I Loved and SUNDANCE!

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Before this all goes into a suitcase. Before we load up the car with bags, boots, and Kind Bars for the road trip, I have to take a moment and not just pinch myself but give a huge SHOUT OUT to some incredible filmmakers we now have the privilege of working with.

PSH Collective, writer director Kerem Sanga, producers Ross Putnam, Dave Hunter and Seth Caplan  have made this beautiful film, First Girl I Loved.

And we, Through The Wilderness, had the business savvy (If I dare say so, myself) to invest in the film. And now, as Executive Producers, we’re on our way to Sundance for its world premiere. I can’t wait for the audiences to fall in love with this film!

I have dreamt of attending Sundance for years. Long before I even had an idea of how I could write scripts, let alone, make a movie.  It can be something terrible when what we don’t know manifests into an obstacle so large you never hunt down your dreams.

But I did…against huge odds. I did.

I moved to Los Angeles in 2008 to pursue film. I wasn’t sure how that would look. I was determined to get into film school, though. I ached to learn how to write a script.  How to envision a story for the screen and then bring it to life. I WORKED hard to learn what I could and got into USC School of Cinematic Arts MFA in Screenwriting program fall of 2008 (days after my wedding– there were a ton of firsts happening that year!)

In my very class at USC, I met a young guy who was really smart and funny. And he had a ‘voice’.  He had what I knew we each could have. What we would work towards developing. He had what plenty more other writers did in the program, except his was defined. It was unique. Stood out. And he was a hard worker. He gave everything to learning more.  I admired that. Kerem and I became friends for more than his approach to screenwriting but because I found him silly and refreshing.

I think it was that first week or so I met Ross, too. I remember taking the bus from USC north to Echo Park and thinking…”how can a dude so young be so smart?”  And Dave Hunter…he just makes me smile. His storytelling is incredible and entertaining.

By the end of two years I had been in classes with Kerem, Ross and Dave. We were friends. Beers had been shared. They knew and dug my husband. And I was a supporter of their endeavors.  I became a fan, though, when the scenes from the last class I took with them made its premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival years later. The Young Kiewslowski moved me. I was touched by frank and tender characters. By unique story. It was fresh and authentic.

When the fundraising campaign came for First Girl I Loved, it didn’t take us long to get on board.

PSH Collective is a small but powerful group of filmmakers. I now call Seth, a smart and powerful producer, a friend, too. It’s truly an honor to be a part of this film. And to bring them all into the Through The Wilderness tribe.

So, here’s a Toast to PSH Collective, First Girl I Loved and Sundance.  Let the party begin!

 

 

 

 

Shifts for this blog Toast…

 

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Good morning.

It’s finally coming together. My new  office.  This photo was taken from the doorway. Yes, I have a door.   A DOOR!

This new office, this creative space comes at a time when I feel a shift happening in my own work, the business part of it, how I make my presence known and how I use social media including this blog.

Through The Wilderness, LLC is coming up on its second year anniversary in March.  In two years we’ve produced two unique short films and hope to find festival screenings for them. But the bigger goal is to garner financial support for the feature-length, hence the shift in how I use social media.

Also, related to a recent birthday, a new year, and some life crap that knocked the wind out  of me, I am more contemplative about what I actually give a fuck about. Who. What things. How often.

And this has me thinking about when I feel the need to make that known. If I have a topic that I feel the urge to say something about, how do I do that? And…how do I do that with a blog that was originally designed as at “Toast” where I felt compelled to raise my glass to whatever topic I chose to write about. That has shifted.  Yes, there is still plenty to “Toast”. In fact have an idea for later I’ll post.  But “Toast” is also my addiction.  LOL. It’s comfort. It’s nourishment. It’s go-to when I’m hungry. It’s satisfactory when moments in life isn’t.  So, the shift for this blog will now include the topics that light me up, that may hound me in the middle of night, that make me wanna holler, that make me run for cover.   I’ll write more political pieces. Social and cultural commentary.  Basically, I’m going to take my rants from FB to this blog and see what blossoms.

The shift is an expansion but a good one. A needed one for this writer.

And I hope to bring you with me. I would LOVE more dialogue. More support of what is important of us, like peace and health and kindness and equality.  I’ll write more about the creative life, the world of cinema as a filmmaker of color, a storyteller.  I’ll write about being a wife, a partner, a mom, grandma, daughter, aunt and sister.  I’ll write about being a woman over 40 (ahem….).

I hope you’re with me.

Wishing you peace. Always.

 

 

Not a Toast…on MLK Day…

I struggle this morning to find the music I need to write to…because I am attempting to avoid some pain. That deep pain of racial upset, discord…from the hate that runs rampant in our country today. As the numbers of followers of evil men grow, the ones that openly carry weapons with their racism to shoot to kill because it is their right… as white… The ones who wish to close the borders, cage Muslims, hunt Black youth, rape Native women, strip away dignities, deny care and health, stamp out the futures for children and women because of the color of their skin, because of how little they have… as the followers of evil men grow, I feel my anger drain to sadness.
 
I know at some point I will listen to the words of the great Martin Luther King, Jr. today and I’ll cry. I always do. I know that I carry within me the stories of my ancestors before me. I know these stories. Of Black slaves. Of persecuted Native women. Of poverty-stricken souls. I know these people. And today, when we honor the man who had such vision to dream of a better tomorrow, a time of equality, peace and love, I will want to do that, too. For me and for you. And for all these ancestors in my heart. In my DNA. I will want to keep dreaming and wishing.
I don’t want to fall victim to my own discouragement. I don’t want the larger forces that wish for those of us who believe in peace, to win. I don’t want to fall defeated, to take on exhaustion as a failure and go away silent except for the sound of our muffled tears.
 
I’m at the page trying to write, trying to lose myself in fiction because real life is really hard. And breathing is a task.
 
I’ve been rereading Toni Morrison’s “Playing in the Dark” fascinated by her wisdom and pondering my own lens to the stories I tell. I am wishing that I find strength to keep going because I don’t know how to do anything else but this, to tell a story in any other way than I do now. Tough. Gritty. Truthful (according to my own truth… and not anyone else’s).  I am tired.
 
I’m thinking of this next year and what it could bring. If I show up. But today, I’m feeling the struggle. And am sitting in my office with only the sounds of my finger tips on the keyboard.
I am avoiding music. Of civil rights. Diverse voices that sing the blues. That make me wanna holler. I can’t force myself to deny struggle or betray by listening to something poppy and joyful because I struggle. I struggle. 
So this isn’t a Toast to anything…
 

Toast to What I’ve Learned in 50 Years

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What I’ve learned in 50 years could either be a long list, perhaps written in a roll of toilet paper because that’s it worth, or it just might be a short tweet on my struggling Twitter account. Or smaller still, a slogan. A bumper sticker. A tattoo. One word:

Shit. Nothing. Breathe. Dream.  Run. Defend. Attack. Dance. Chocolate.  

Toast.

Or many words. Pages and pages.  That’s the internal conflict.  So many questions. Why at 50 do I still have so many questions?

Why do I ramble? Meander?  Is it because life feels that way at times? Random yet moving…forward? Should I charge ahead? Have I done that? Did it work?  And why am I just so fuckin tired? Why can’t I marathon watch Frazier and just let life slide on through the room? “I’m cool. I got a blanket. Some tea and toast, I can chill here.”

As I figure out the answers to these questions, I’ll start with the top 10 things that come to mind when I ask myself what I’ve learned in 50 years.  And just so you understand this list,(which could be totally different tomorrow) this is where I am today. It’s an early dark and cold January morning in Minnesota. I’m in my in-laws’ kitchen. It’s been weeks since I’ve been home to Los Angeles and I feel that. Last of my sticky oatmeal is drying in a bowl.  There’s hot tea with smooth and creamy flax milk in a mug. I’m on my way to babysit my god daughter this morning before spending the day at the movies.  And yes, I have strep throat. (On antibiotics so I’m not a health risk to anyone but myself…but I feel shitty nonetheless). Happy Birthday to me. 

So here are the 10 today:

  1. Family is everything.  If you got some in your life and they’re good to you, cherish them. If they’re not so good, know that you can create family with folks who are. If they hurt you, know that it’s not okay that they did. And also know it’s good for you to forgive them even if they don’t change, even if you don’t/can’t have them in your life. Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. 
  2. Being a good friend goes a long way because when you have good friends who give you love, support and acceptance back, your life is lit up in ways you never dreamt. Besides…
  3. Laughter really is good for your soul!  Laughter with a friend is priceless so try and do that often. And loudly.
  4. Tending to your needs is okay.  Give yourself permission to do that. And if you can’t do that, then find someone who will.  In fact, if you’re reading this, then I give you permission, if that helps.
  5. Dreams can come true but I guarantee you they won’t show up like you dreamt it. That’s the thrilling joyful part of life. Don’t let being afraid of the dream being anything different than how you see it or write it in your head be the reason they don’t manifest. Be open.
  6. Make sure your partner/spouse is your best friend because when things get shitty, and they will, treating them as a friend, with basic kindness, compassion and understanding could help you through the shitstorm as it hits.
  7. Shitstorms can be damaging but also can be fertilizers for the new to grow.  (and yes, sometimes this one is  a hard stretch for me to believe while I’m running for cover but it’s true)
  8. You won’t die of a broken heart.  You may hurt for a long time. Even forever. But it can’t kill you.  How you handle it could.  
  9. Figure out “how many f*3ks you have to give”. And if it’s none, then right on.  If you have a few for family and close friends who include you on their list, then alright, too.  Remember though, everyone makes mistakes. All the freakin time. Allow for this. Understand this. Forgiving humans for being human means forgiving yourself, too, because you should be on your own “give a f*#k list”.
  10. And the 80’s still rule.  And 70’s classic rock is the best. And it’s totally okay to embrace that. I have with full force. I sing along to the Bangles and dance to Sheila E and still swoon over Prince.  I don’t wear the shoulder pads or rat-comb the hair any more but I am a child of the 80’s and for all that’s holy and neon, it’s a decade that still rules. And some days working out is just air-jamming to Heart or Foghat in my car.  It counts.  

Toast to My Sister on her Daughter’s Wedding Day

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Hey Dee.

I’m Toasting you today because so much of who you are…who you were…is alive and well in your beautiful daughter and I want you to know that’s doing okay.

She was nine. Hugging her Molly doll, a blanket wrapped around her, that morning in the ER. She ran to us when we got there. And held on. Then she grabbed a hold of her cousin and they sat together while I joined Annie in your ER bay.

You said two things to us.  “Call Mom.” and “Take care of Shey.” And we agreed. Of course. Of course. Your swollen body was wrecked from infection, your lungs ready to burst, filled with fluid. But all you wanted to know, needed to know was that Shey was going to be okay.

And she is.  Cuz of Annie, her “mom” who stepped in and continued raising her with a fierce devotion and commitment. And hopefully, a wee bit, cuz of me. I gave her shelter. I understood anxiety and grief.

She’s okay.

What runs the deepest in her, though, I think, is what makes her like you. What  you gave her. She always believed in love. She searched for it and gave it generously to  her friends and family. She struggled with the pain and confusion of losing you but she never stopped believing in love. So when Kevin came into her life she was able to see clearly the future she wanted for her and Taelyn, for him and his boys, and now…for their next little Parshall girl on her way.  So much love, Dee Dee.

Today, Sheyenne is getting married and I’m weeping over my morning tea. Mom is here. She’s sore and tired but she made it. And know what else? She’s giving Sheyenne the wedding of her dreams, what she couldn’t do for us, she’s doing for her grandchildren and that’s all from love.

Shey’s doing okay, Dee. She’s more than okay. And so I toast you, my dear funny sweet sister, so missed in the flesh but with us in spirit. All the old rock tunes and pop songs of the 70’s are gonna be played for you.  I know you’ll be there standing at the altar with Grandma and Michael, I know your heart is filled with joy.

Here’s to you, Dee Dee. A Toast! to you.

Love you

Stace