Living Out A Dream by Dani.Love

It has been a while since I’ve contributed to this lovely space. There are 3 incomplete pieces still waiting to be completed and posted. But for now, I wanted to share with you a project I’ve been working on for the past 2-3 years.

Have you ever read a book and felt or thought it would make a great film. Like, as you read the book, the visuals are just so vidid in your head. The best books live on in our dreams and daydreams, those are the ones you read multiple times and bring up randomly in conversations. One of those books for me was Water in a Broken Glass by Odessa Rose.

I first read the novel in 2006 or 2007 while I was living in DC (my hometown) right after underground. That was a rough time for me and I remember reading a lot to escape my reality and also writing a lot, a lot of dark pieces that were actually pretty revealing and therapeutic. At any rate, I ordered the novel from Amazon after coming across it during my many sessions of searching for novels with black lesbian/gay woman. When it arrived, I dived in immediately. To say the book was good and I could relate is truly an understatement. Odessa truly captured the struggle of coming into your own as a woman and a gay woman. The fear, the self talk, the wanting to do “right” by the people you love, the confusion…. everything one goes through during a time like this, she captured it so authentically and beautifully. Up until this time, I’ve never read a character who I could relate to on that level. So, of course, I fell in love with the novel because I felt it was part of my story. A story I was currently living.

Before finishing, I knew I had to find a way to get this story on the big screen. How was uncertain, but I knew this story had to be shared on a bigger platform. I ended up reading the novel about once a year, usually during the summer. Each time, I fell in love all over again. I believe it was the 4th time I read it, back in 2011 when I decided to look up Odessa Rose and contact her about adapting her novel. I didn’t even know what adapting a novel entailed but I said, F* it, let’s see where this goes.

After finding her email on her website, I composed a heartfelt message to Odessa, praising her work, letting her know what her (first) novel represented to me, and proposing to adapt her work into a screenplay. I even admitted I knew nothing about screenwriting but I would make it my business to not only get it done but do her beautiful body of work justice. She responded immediately, informing me that someone was already working on a screenplay. I remember her email being really nice but I was still a little crushed, beating myself up even, because I thought I missed my chance and I should have acted sooner.

During the following months of our initial email, Odessa and I kept in touch. She offered me words of wisdom as a new writer, as well as a list of books that inspired her to write (and keep writing). A few months later, she emailed me to ask was I still interested in adapting the novel. Uhm, of course!!!! So she connected me to the woman who has been working on the screenplay for the past year.

Fast forward 2 years later, the screenplay is DONE, we have casted and hired crew and uhmmmm, this little birdie isn’t only living out her filmmaker dream, she is adapting one of her favorite novels of ALL TIME and one of THE novels she has always wanted to see on the big screen! Like, how cool is that???

I’m truly grateful, honored, excited, and part of me still feels like I’m dreaming. A few weeks ago, we filmed our crowdfunding campaign video (Water The Film) and I got to meet the author, the wonderful Odessa Rose. Needless to say, I was super excited and just overjoyed meeting her. She is such a kind spirit and I’m glad I finally got a change to express to her, in person, how wonderful her work is and how, despite her being a straight woman, she really did a great job telling a story of woman struggling to live her truth as a gay woman.

I’m not too certain how to end this blog post. I do want to share this film journey’s story and hope whoever reading this is engaged and will support us, even if it’s just sharing it with your networks. I ask, please, and I encourage it!!

Thanks for reading this far. And please watch, read, and share Water The Film.

Peace.

The Seeker’s Joy by Diana Combs

People are seekers.  We seek each other to make a family, a home to live in, employment to pay our bills, and hobbies to feed our soul.  In essence, we seek to survive and be happy.  As we grow, we often discover that the things that we seek change, thus “moving the cheese”, and continuing the search for what makes us feel whole.

It is easy, amidst this search, to attribute our happiness to things that are easily acquired: the newest phone or computer, a dress off the runway, or a new car.  If there is one thing we should have learned by now, though, it is that there is always the next new thing!  The cheese always moves when we make it something that can be updated for the exclusive purpose of making us give our money to someone else.  Is our soul really soothed when we acquire that new thing?  Usually not.

Happiness usually comes from something deeper and more directly connected to our individual essence.  We do love different things that can be acquired, but it is the object itself which turns us on, not always the acquisition.  For example, for the lover of new smart phones, the multi-function purpose of the phone is what’s so appealing.  Anyone with a smart phone can complete a number of functions with one device, anywhere within the server’s network!  It is amazing, and it is the function that we love.  Will the next model perform that much more?  For some, perhaps it will make a discernible difference, but not for most.  How can the smart phone collector continue to feed the soul with this fascination?  He or she could do it by, among other things, learning the upcoming technology, working for a company that produces new technology, or writing about phone technology.  For car enthusiasts there are conventions and written material to read, for fashion divas there are TV shows, magazines, and limited purchases.  These, at least, are ways of exercising the passion while knowing that the cheese won’t move.   The first step for us seekers, then, is to find a way to prevent our passion from becoming about chasing the newest thing.

Another way to seek the passion is to let it reward us.  It is so easy for us to immerse ourselves in our passions, especially when it is on our own personal screen!  Computer games, internet research, social networking, and other activities on our portable electronics are so easy to do all the time.  But if we do it all the time, what happens to connecting to people we like and love?  I have sat at meals with both friends and family when one or more person does something like immediately snapping a photo, posting onto Facebook about it, and responding to comments.  This connects the person with people who aren’t there, but is it necessary?  Is that connection, slight as it is, worth ignoring the people who are sharing the meal?  It might be easy to think that it is, until someone else is doing it.  Rather than exercising our passions to excess, we could be rewarded by our passions.  A person sharing the meal could snap a photo of the food, interact with those sharing the meal, and then, when there is a quiet and less social moment, share the photo of the meal.  As long as Facebook exists, the audience is not going to leave the site before that photo gets posted.  The food will look just as delicious later as it does when it is being eaten.  This way, life is fuller, every moment is savored in its turn.  We are rewarded for savoring another worthwhile moment.

Finally, a good way to seek the passion is to share it.  We know this one pretty well, as our spouses and friends usually share some common interest.  It comes naturally!  It is also fun to share more widely, because we never know when someone new might share the passion with us.  At the same time, we can expand our horizons, letting someone with passions different than our own, share theirs with us at least once.  Would it really be so tough to zip line with the father, swim with the ambitious child, or talk a little about new phone technology?  When we are all sharing the passion, we are also fulfilling the need to connect with others.

The secret to being happy is to feed our souls in a way that doesn’t move the cheese, rule our lives, and leave us alone.  We will always be seeking, but if we obtain a piece of what we seek throughout our lives, we will be happier.

A SNAP Card, a Coach Purse, and Being Thankful by Ren Martinez

I recently got into a debate with someone on Facebook, which is a terrible idea in itself and should never be attempted. I generally try to keep my nose clean and out of other people’s business, particularly in the mire that is social media, but when I noticed his status I found myself unable to keep out of it.

His status was a simple story regarding his visit to a grocery store. The woman in front of him had paid for her purchases (he didn’t specify what they were) with a SNAP card she procured from a Coach purse. This action had him ranting against welfare abuse and how that woman was taking advantage of his tax payer money and he’s being oppressed by people like her.

Unable to keep my fingers from typing, I added a short comment. “You don’t know this woman’s story. I would refrain from judgment until you do.”

This incited a barrage of others into the fray, rallying against this woman and her nefarious plans to bankrupt the government at a Safeway kiosk. It was amazing to see how many people scorned her, played her for a villain, dismissed my comment with sarcasm and a quote from a political commentator.

Once again, unable to keep quiet, I pointed out, “You shouldn’t judge someone based on your idea of what poverty looks like.”

While the resulting storm of comments was a sight to behold, this online mob kept glossing over one thing. Never once did I try to defend welfare abuse, or deny its existence, or try defend those who do. I’m not usually a political person, and my understanding of the ins and outs of a government service such as welfare is limited. I don’t have the answers and don’t pretend to.

All I was simply saying was don’t judge someone whose circumstances you couldn’t possibly know.

Thanksgiving is just a day away and I am eternally thankful for my circumstances. I have an apartment and a job and people I care about and who care about me. I have a car and a purse from Target and my favorite pair of boots from Aldo that took me a month to save up for. But, like anyone else, good fortune can turn on me and I could wake up to a morning where I don’t have those things. I hope that day never happens, that I’m able to scrape by and protect myself, but I’m not invincible and neither is anyone else.

And, should that day happen, and I’m standing in the grocery line with my SNAP card in hand and my Aldo boots on my feet, I hope that people will think twice about casting judgment. Because we’re all just riding on luck until that luck runs out. I’m thankful that my luck is still holding and I can have silly debates with people on Facebook who don’t realize how lucky they really are.

 

Through the Looking Glass and Into the Wardrobe by Ren Martinez

There’s something uniquely special about a used bookstore.

Plywood shelves brimming over in paperbacks, their spines lined with use. The smell of paper and ink, a slight mustiness that clings to your clothes even after you leave. The utter silence of them, except for perhaps the sounds of Ximena Sarinana or some other obscure singer-songwriter quietly humming through the space. I could be content for hours, my fingers brushing against the jam-packed shelves, my gaze caught by a short story anthology from an author I’ve never heard of but summarily fall in love with. My arms brim over with fantasy tales, history texts, comic books, and treatises on government. I discover a small, worn notebook of french poetry and, despite the fact that I can’t read a word of the language, have to blink away tears.

We’re in an age of technological advancement. I’m on the internet for hours a day, whether I’m goofing around on Facebook or checking my email for any responses to the countless job applications I’ve sent or researching a plot point for the latest chapter of my manuscript. I recognize and am mesmerized by social media and its effect on our lives, how we can connect with people so like ourselves in places we will never see, how we can all raise our fists in anger the moment an injustice is done. As a child of the millennium, I own four video game consoles, one laptop, one smartphone, and a Kindle. The Kindle is one of my favorites, actually. It’s never been easier to read whatever I want anywhere I go. I can instantly cruise Amazon and find that sequel to the book I’ve just finished or discover a literary unknown that turns out to be a veritable gem.

That being said, I am a child of paper. I have three bookcases in my apartment, stuffed with old textbooks and well-worn novels that I can read over and over again. There are also plenty that I have yet to begin, just waiting for me to open them up and discover their secrets. There is something so singular about reading a book, turning pages covered in ink until you shut the back cover, the soft sound, one of finality. It’s an experience that has defined my childhood and is a pillar of the person I am today, this fledgling adult with no sense of direction except upwards and onwards.

Today, I plan on going to my local bookstore and getting lost again. Because, every time I get lost, I end up somewhere I’ve always wanted to go.

On Relationships, Not-So-Exes, and John Hughes by Ren Martinez

It is a natural human compunction to desire connection. We are social creatures, driven by our need to develop social ties and build communities. This is biological instinct and emotional necessity all rolled into one. It’s undeniable and impossible to ignore.

Romantic relationships in particular are heralded as the top tier of human interaction. Everywhere you look, there are not-so-subtle hints that romantic love is the end-all-be-all of human interaction. From Disney movies to perfume ads, we are sold on this idea of true love being the best thing we could ever possibly attain. It is certainly true that romantic love is a wonderful thing, that intimate connection with another person that steals your breath and lights you up from inside out. It’s something so intrinsically beautiful that poets and bards and writers have been trying to craft a proper description for ages but to no avail. It’s too big, too vast, too deep for words to express.

That being said, love is hard work. So often, the film ends with the lovers reuniting at a public event (airport, office, someone else’s wedding, etc.) or in the aftermath of a battle with evil, their mouths drawn together in a kiss that seems to herald their own happily ever after. Like a John Hughes film, the shy, sweet girl finally getting to hold hands with her too-cute guy, the final scene playing to the synthesized melody of an 80’s one hit wonder. However, that’s where John Hughes rolled the credits. Very few of these document what happens after the kiss. The struggles to move in together, the trips to Ikea, sorting out the chores, parceling out what stays and what’s driven to Goodwill. Or the inevitable missteps, miscommunications, too-long car rides, criticizing with a sniper’s accuracy, heavy silences that shout. The break-ups, the make-ups, the shake-ups, the throw-my-hand-and-give-ups. Even when we try to describe these moments, they are glossed over by ink and celluloid, lines in poetry and plays.

I’ve recently reconnected with my ex-boyfriend. He and I broke up two years ago, once we came to that forked path in the yellow wood and realized that our feet were taking us on roads less-traveled. We’ve kept the silence between us comfortable and calm, allowing ourselves room to breathe/grow/learn. I moved to a new area, started graduate school, and was on my own two feet for the first time in my life. Parts of me settled into place, others disintegrated to dust, and I felt put together, a sum of all my parts rather than pieces strung together. So, when he and I met again, it wasn’t the reunion that you see at the movies. The earth didn’t move beneath my feet because I’m solidly on the ground. The air didn’t rush out of my lungs because I’m finally breathing clean. Instead, slipping my hand in his was like turning a key to your own front door. All he had to do was smile and I was home.

This isn’t the part where the credits roll. He and I are starting a conversation, not finishing it. We have compromises to make, scores to settles, and all the while relearning the people we are now rather than missing the person we left two years ago. There will be times for seriousness and for sarcasm, for laughter and logistics. We’re coming together as equals. We’re figuring this out as adults.

My life is not a John Hughes film. And thank God for that.

 

We are Wendy. Hear Us Roar. by Ren Martinez

I will keep this short and sweet. I’m a social activist that despairs of political alliances. I feel that politics is one of the worst things that can happen to a government. It’s so plainly seen in our current world, so deeply polarized in shades of black and white, like armies across a chessboard prepared to do battle. What checkmate will bring, I’m not entirely sure, but I am certain that’s not what democracy is about.

That being said, I want to celebrate Wendy Davis.

Wendy Davis, a woman that stood for nearly thirteen hours without leaning, sitting, or bathroom breaks. Outfitted in a smart suit and bright pink tennis shoes. A woman who spoke of women’s health and how the pursuit of happiness is nothing without the freedom of choice. A woman who was faced by the row of faces staring her down but did not waver in her stature nor falter in her words.

And, when she was shut down, the room stood up with her. Senator Leticia Van De Putte, after spending the day at her father’s funeral, took the podium and challenged those who would silence her. “At what point does a female senator need to raise her voice to be heard over the male colleagues in the room?” she demanded. The crowd raised their voices in unison until the clock struck past midnight.

My Facebook feed is a long sweep of celebration, people raising their glass to Wendy Davis (as well as cheering for the death of DOMA, but that’s another article for another day). I see fists in the air, smiling faces, people standing side by side (metaphorically speaking) and I have am proud and honored to stand alongside them.

This is what Wonder Woman must feel like every day.

Wanderlust Wednesday: The Staycation

With Memorial weekend fast approaching why not avoid the crowds by having a one-of-a-kind staycation. No one can treat you better than you can treat yourself…plus it’s cheaper. Avoid the crowds, the traffic, and the screaming kids this weekend and just spend a glorious weekend at home. Here are some tips for the perfect staycation.

Tips for the perfect staycation:

1) Breakout of the ordinary routine: instead of cooking the same old meal or eating at the same old restaurant try the new place that just opened around the corner or cook that dish with the ingredients you can’t pronounce. Whatever it is just change it up!

2) Umm….Groupon. If you are feeling adventurous and dare to take on the crowds, stay close to home. Use Groupon to find local attractions that are a quick drive or better yet a quick walk from home.

3) Turn off the media, that includes social media. When you are on vacation how often do you check Facebook or your cellphone? If you are checking these things while on vacation than you are doing something horribly wrong. Turn of the gadgets and enjoy the peace of some real Rest and Relaxation.

4) Sit in that bathtub till you’re a prune. You are on vacation there is no excuse to not take an excessively long and luxurious bath.

5) Always wanted to salsa? Find out if your local dance studio is hosting an introduction or beginners party.

6) While everyone’s out at the beach check out the museum. There will be less people and it’s air conditioned!

7) Read a book. No not on a kindle or a nook, a real actual book…you know with papers and page numbers.

8) Have some friends over. Keep things simple everyone brings a plate and you provide the drinks (and your awesome home).

9) Host your own wine and cheese tasting; even if it’s just you…hey no judgment here, it’s a staycation!

10) Ship the kids off to Grandma’s and turn your staycation into a sexycation.

 

Whatever you decide to do this Memorial Day weekend keep it fun, safe, and remember to plan.

 

TED Talk Tuesday: Mike Rowe: Learning from dirty jobs

So Minus The Box has gone back in time to post a TED Talk Tuesday. Today’s (or if we’re being honest, yesterday’s) talk comes from Mike Rowe of  “Dirty Jobs” fame. Funny and insightful this talk is surprisingly good.

A discussion on work, Rowe purposes that society has lost an appreciation for hard blue collar labor. Through his popular series “Dirty Jobs,” he has learned the value and necessity of such work; work on which society is founded upon.

Warning: Sheep castration is described in detail.

People with dirty jobs are happier than you think. As a group, they’re the happiest people I know. And I don’t want to start whistling “Look for the Union Label,” and all that happy worker crap. I’m just telling you that these are balanced people who do unthinkable work. Roadkill picker-uppers whistle while they work. I swear to God — I did it with them. They’ve got this amazing sort of symmetry to their life. And I see it over and over and over again.

So I started to wonder what would happen if we challenged some of these sacred cows. Follow your passion — we’ve been talking about it here for the last 36 hours. Follow your passion — what could possibly be wrong with that? Probably the worst advice I ever got.

So I started to look at passion, I started to look at efficiency versus effectiveness — as Tim talked about earlier, that’s a huge distinction. I started to look at teamwork and determination, and basically all those platitudes they call “successories” that hang with that schmaltzy art in boardrooms around the world right now. That stuff — it’s suddenly all been turned on its head.

I formed a theory, and I’m going to share it now in my remaining two minutes and 30 seconds.

It goes like this — we’ve declared war on work, as a society, all of us. It’s a civil war. It’s a cold war, really. We didn’t set out to do it and we didn’t twist our mustache in some Machiavellian way, but we’ve done it. And we’ve waged this war on at least four fronts, certainly in Hollywood. The way we portray working people on TV — it’s laughable. If there’s a plumber, he’s 300 pounds and he’s got a giant butt crack. Admit it. You see him all the time. That’s what plumbers look like, right? We turn them into heroes, or we turn them into punch lines. That’s what TV does. We try hard on “Dirty Jobs” not to do that, which is why I do the work and I don’t cheat.

But, we’ve waged this war on Madison Avenue. I mean, so many of the commercials that come out there — in the way of a message, what’s really being said? Your life would be better if you could work a little less, if you didn’t have to work so hard, if you could get home a little earlier, if you could retire a little faster, if you could punch out a little sooner — it’s all in there, over and over, again and again.

And right here guys, Silicon Valley, I mean — how many people have an iPhone on them right now? How many people have their Blackberries? We’re plugged in; we’re connected. I would never suggest for a second that something bad has come out of the tech revolution. Good grief, not to this crowd. (Laughter) But I would suggest that innovation without imitation is a complete waste of time. And nobody celebrates imitation the way “Dirty Jobs” guys know it has to be done. Your iPhone without those people making the same interface, the same circuitry, the same board, over and over? All of that? That’s what makes it equally as possible as the genius that goes inside of it.

So, we’re thinking — by we, I mean me — that the thing to do is to talk about a PR campaign for work, manual labor, skilled labor. Somebody needs to be out there talking about the forgotten benefits. I’m talking about grandfather stuff, the stuff a lot us probably grew up with but we’ve kind of — you know, kind of lost a little.

The infrastructure is a huge deal. This war on work, that I suppose exists, has casualties like any other war. The infrastructure’s the first one; declining trade-school enrollments are the second one. Every single year: fewer electricians, fewer carpenters, fewer plumbers, fewer welders, fewer pipefitters, fewer steamfitters. The infrastructure jobs that everybody is talking about creating are those guys — the ones that have been in decline, over and over. Meanwhile, we’ve got two trillion dollars — at a minimum, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers — that we need to expend to even make a dent in the infrastructure, which is currently rated at a D minus.