Being Single During the Holidays.

Matt Dillon’s character in the film Singles noted, “For some people, being alone is a nasty hang.” Okay Matt, try being single during the holidays, for some folks it takes the phrase “nasty hang” to a whole new level.

Unfortunately, I am but one in a sea of people who view being single during this time of year as almost excruciating. Stick with me though, I figure if we add a dash of humor laced with a sprinkle of light-hearted sarcasm to the situation, we’ll be okay.

Oh, who am I kidding? Nobody who is single during the holidays likes watching a giggling couple pass them, arm-in-arm, seemingly overwhelmingly happy to be cuddling during the cold, dark months of winter, smooching under mistletoe and wondering what their other half has specially planned just for them. I don’t know about you, but when I see something like that, I think of the words of Bill Bryson in The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, where he wrote, “The thunder-vision focused on their stomachs and melted them into a little puddle on the spot.” I’m paraphrasing of course, but as you can tell, I’m in the same camp with those folks who aren’t overwhelmingly thrilled about being single during the most cuddle-prone time of the year.

I began kvetching to my close friends on this subject about a month ago. I complained to KP that I was feeling lonely, to which (in true KP fashion) he promptly slapped my head back onto my neck and reminded me that the reason I was feeling lonely was because I’m not giving myself ample credit for being enough on my own; simply that what I am searching for has been inside of me all along, all I had to do was remember how special I am and that it would chase away the loneliness in no time flat. As usual, KP is right. He always is.

However, my daily goal of keeping a positive mental attitude gets derailed when I become inundated by sugar shock inducing schmaltz being broadcast en masse through every media channel possible during the holidays. Right after Halloween, WHAM! For a single person they might as well just put up a banner that reads, “Welcome to Holiday Hell, Satan’s Hot Tub is the first door on the right.”

Since Halloween, every time I turn around, my mother has been watching The Hallmark Channel which has been featuring (NON-STOP, mind you) every permutation of “Lonely boy/girl meets fellow lonely, heartbroken boy/girl, they fall in “like” surrounded by Christmas lights, there is some sort of confusion then boy and girl find love on Christmas Eve, complete with a kiss under mistletoe or next to a festively decorated Christmas Tree (complete with Hallmark collector’s ornaments no less).

Okay, after almost two solid months of Hallmark-induced Christmas trauma, I am CONVINCED beyond a shadow of a doubt that The Hallmark Channel is responsible for more suicides and shot out televisions during the holidays than anything else. I mean, really. Do they think that those of us single folks during the holidays need to have a loud bullhorn directly pointed at the sides of our heads to be reminded that we’re single? What genius shoved their head up their backsides and forgot that somewhere along the way us single folks have incurred emotional damage or loss that has resulted in our current singleness? Worse yet is that we’re enduring this situation during the one time of the year where our single status really shouldn’t be amplified above more than a subtle “okay, that’s gotta hurt” and help us get through the two most emotionally trying months of the calendar year. Jeez! And Hallmark is supposed to be the “we get you” company that has greeting cards for every friggin’ occasion on the planet except for “we screwed up by pouring lemon juice into the gaping wound in the middle of your chest.”

Yeah, it tends to sting a bit when single during the holidays. No matter if we’re between relationships, missing family members or close friends or similar surroundings, I think The Hallmark Channel needs to think before they broadcast a hurtful reminder of a single relationship status. That’s just being unaware of complete audience composition, not to mention that there are those of us who aren’t at liberty to change the channel and watch a slasher flick or a good sci-fi jaunt into outer space rather than be reminded of our situations! Idea thieves love to come into the pages of my blog and steal ideas, so steal this: Create a comedy about being single during the holidays, that’s something I would watch! If I have to endure one more hour of really bad romance novel plots, I’m seriously going to lose my eggnog all over someone’s shoes.

But y’all know me, I’m one that definitely doesn’t put the “B” in subtle.

On the topic of subtle, tonight I was inspired to write because of a VERY loud party the neighbors are having next door. You know you’ve been to your share of “Ugly Sweater” Parties in your day. Me? Not so much, but I have enough imagination to know that my lack of subtlety would not go unnoticed when I would look at an innocent fashion victim and ask how in the hell that train wreck found its’ way into their closets, much less onto their bodies. I try not to own ugly sweaters, I live in the land of the Moo-Moo already so I’m already tortured enough. Please don’t send me an ugly sweater to prove the point of the laughter-inducing nature of them. By some miracle of my literal nature, this is the one time I don’t have to wear one to get the joke.

Here’s where it gets funny and where my fellow single folk and I really get to breathe a sigh of relief and be genuinely happy about our situations:

Tonight, to discover the origin of the window-rattling sub-woofer that was pumping bass not only through the walls of the house but directly through my nerves, I went outside to stretch my legs and enjoy the crisp winter air. It was then that I saw a woman nearby wearing her ugly sweater, complete with battery-powered Christmas lights. I find out through a brief Q and A that it’s an ugly sweater party and that it’s a bunch of friends getting together – complete with drunken voices, loud talking, screaming, sounds of a manslaughter in progress – you know the ones I mean, a good old-fashioned, obnoxiously loud party that shows no respect whatsoever to their neighbors.

The next thing I know, another woman emerges from the party house, complete with leopard print micro-mini skirt, a flimsy leather jacket and shoes that didn’t even look remotely comfortable (I’m not really sure if that leopard thing was her ugly sweater or not, jury’s still out on that one, better yet, you decide…) attempting to walk home, her home being equal in distance to roughly 10 miles, complaining how cold she was because she yelled across the quiet neighborhood that her husband was being an… okay, let’s keep this G-rated…a seven letter word that starts with “A” and ends with “E”. Okay, note to self, never get drunk then get into fight with anyone, because along with her fashion statement and clear lack of positive mental attitude, I would not have labeled it as a “pretty moment.” Not in the least.

Now, don’t get me wrong. People are people, and I do get that as well, but I must cop to the fact that with my 131 I’m not the world’s greatest when it comes to common sense. Upon witnessing the debacle unfolding in front of me, I became increasingly and increasingly grateful I was single! In a moment of sheer amazement, I realized that I didn’t have to worry about becoming that woman, yelling at the top of her lungs that she was stranded far from home with no way to leave an uncomfortable situation, then pulling the Darwin Award Winning maneuver of trying to walk home ten miles in shoes that were clearly NOT meant for long-distance endurance sports. On top of all that I watched in sheer horror as she began asking her clearly intoxicated female friends to take her home because she didn’t want to fight with her partner in front of all of their friends, then having no issue telling the innocent bystander next door that her partner was a “starts with ‘A’ and ends with ‘E’.”

Standing there in my flannel p.j. pants, thermal top, North Face fleece jacket, fuzzy socks (same color as Grover from Sesame Street) and Sorel slippers, all warm and toasty, I became overwhelmingly grateful that being single during the holidays means that I don’t have to put up with that kind of nonsense! I was already at home, in comfy clothes and more importantly, comfortable in my own skin, grateful that it’s me and Teddy curled up together under a heating blanket with no one loudly snoring in either of our ears. It occurred to me that I have been to enough Christmas parties in my day to choke a horse, and to me, I’ve got more common sense than to wear impossible-to-walk-in shoes, combined with non-weather friendly clothing then try a 10-miler to get home, no matter how angry I was at anyone.

But that’s the bonus of being single for the holidays…if someone is or becomes a ‘starts with an ‘A’ and ends with an ‘E”…you can just say “Happy Holidays”, put your butt into your own car and drive yourself home, plug in a great sci-fi flick or log in to your favorite virtual world. I mean, what better gift to give yourself than peace of mind and a stress-free evening filled with what YOU want to do?

Finally, let’s wrap up with a bit of hope, good cheer and generosity of holiday spirit:

Yesterday, my pal JJ came into town and specifically asked me to watch over a childhood friend of his that moved from New York City to Las Vegas a few months ago. So, this year I’m doing an “Adopt-a-friend” program where JJ’s pal gets to tour the city with me to see all of the lights, colors and unique parts of celebrating Christmas in the Desert. (Yes, they wrap the cacti with twinkle lights, just don’t ask me how they do it.) It just goes to show that you can be single during the holidays, but you never have to spend them alone if you don’t want to. The best gift in the world is remembering to be grateful for what you have and sharing your positive mental attitude with everyone you meet.

Love, hope, recovery and a sense of humor starts in only one place…INSIDE YOU!

Happy Holidays!

Song of the day comes from the band that brought us my blog’s theme song, “Marching On.”

OneRepublic and “I Lived.”

 

Black Widow

As we know, I’m quite the sleuth.  We also know that I’m a movie fanatic. Today’s tale originates where those two worlds collide. The first tale I related about research yielded an actual haunted house, this time it takes us to a place that I personally view as even more sinister.

Thanks to digital public records and the Freedom of Information Act, diggers and amateur sleuths like myself can find almost anything. Give me a name, general location and an idea of what to find, and odds are I’ll find more than even I bargained for.  Case in point, if you haven’t sampled my sleuthing skills, try looking back at “What ‘Lives’ In Houses.” The “Houses” piece was a fine piece of digging (if I do say so myself) because it saved a whole lot of money, trouble and unnecessary “nightmares.” (No kidding, right? That piece still gives me chills.)

Before we get into the particulars of this round of sleuthing, I need to put a few qualifiers on what I’m going to be relating. While I was working on my minor at UNLV, I was given the opportunity to learn about something called “Strengths-Based Leadership.” The Strengths-based theory basically says that when you identify a strength you personally possess, if you work on it, you become even better at it by leaps and bounds. When it comes to weaknesses, the same doesn’t apply. A weakness you can practice at, but you’re only going to get marginal results in contrast to working on your strengths. So strengths-based theory says it’s best to hone your strengths and surround yourself with people who have strengths that compliment your own, minimizing weaknesses for all involved.

So, with the strengths-based theory in tow, when I decide to dig into a research topic, I view it as taking my brain to the gym, a workout for my input strength. For those interested, my top five strengths in order are:

  1. Strategic
  2. Ideation
  3. Connectedness
  4. Input
  5. Restorative

 

(All links open in a new tab.  Don’t worry, I’ll still be here after you get done looking at those. If you want to find your own strengths, I suggest the Strengthsfinder 2.0 by Tom Rath, it’s what we used at UNLV.)

Research is one of my passions because I view it as a personal challenge. I challenge myself to find things that no one else would put together; to find some sort of usable insight that I can file away for use later; or to help out on a project a friend might be working on. Mostly it’s the thrill of the hunt, to see what or how much I can find.

Today’s research project started as a lark, just to keep my digging skills sharp. For even more of a challenge, I chose an unorthodox research topic. What I ended up finding was eerily similar to the experience surrounding “What ‘Lives’ In Houses.” The difference is that this subject, that after I dug into it, I wish that I hadn’t because what I found was truly chilling, even more so than the details surrounding that haunted house.

Before I go further into today’s tale, let’s briefly visit a 1987 film starring Debra Winger and Theresa Russell, “Black Widow”:

With that film in mind, today’s research project is one where I guess you could say I took on Debra Winger’s role (gratefully without the green windows). As to the topic, my interest was piqued by the story of a woman who seemed to change husbands and names more often than she changed her underwear; in doing so, leaving a wake of destruction the likes of which I have heard stories of, but (thank heavens) never directly encountered.

On initial search, I found that the woman had at least five different aliases. Big deal right? Humdrum stuff, but then I discovered through public records that she has been winding her way through small midwestern towns targeting wealthy men since 1994. Out of the 20 years she has been victimizing men, she has had (count ‘em!) FIVE husbands. (As a point of trivia, she’s two away from Liz Taylor’s record of seven.)

Here’s where it gets chilling. On looking at each of her five husbands, I found that just a short time before she married each one, each of the five divorced their existing wives to marry her sometimes a few short weeks to a month or so later. In each case, the public court documents show that she immediately has a baby with each new husband, then proceeds to divorce each one always less than two years later. The court records show that she always wins child support in an amount in excess of more than most folks can afford in a month and that she goes back repeatedly to court every opportunity she can seize to fleece more money from her victim, leaving them with massive debt, in excess of tens of thousands of dollars, forcing three of the five men directly into bankruptcy.

What’s worse is that along with the string of husbands I found, I also discovered that after each husband is discarded, she begins to run into legal and financial trouble with credit card companies, even the IRS. Then, by what seems like magic, her financial woes go away and the cases close at the same time as the arrival of a newly divorced new husband.

She’s up to five victims husbands already. I feel real sorry for number six because they won’t even see her coming.

Well, at least I have to give the woman props, she doesn’t go as far as Theresa Russell’s character in the film by murdering and burying each husband, thank goodness. What really bothers me are the five families she has basically destroyed for the sake of her insecurities and vanity.

I guess she looks at families and husbands the way I look at research, a challenge to keep her skills sharp. Between you and me, I’d rather be a digital sleuth, at least that’s just harmless curiosity that doesn’t hurt a fly.

It chills me to the bone to think that there are women out there who do things like this all the time and get away with it. And just think, I found that information all within a few hours just by searching through public records. What takes it from chilling to sinister is that she seems to precisely orchestrate her exit down to the month and day, carefully executing her plan in order to exact the maximum amount of financial gain and maximum emotional damage, leaving those poor men to pick up her extravagant tab. I’m serious, every two years she goes through another one.

I think this one hits me as even more sinister than the haunted house because of one simple fact: The house is stationary, we know where it is. With the Black Widow I dug up, she could be anywhere, and I think that’s what truly scares the willies out of me the worst.

Where’s a shoe or a huge bottle of bug spray when you need it?

Please, for me, be careful out there. Don’t let someone like that happen to you.

1,825

In any job interview, there is always one question that sticks out: “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

When that question has come up for me in the past, I never really had an answer. Do any of us? We’re all so busy trying to survive, I don’t think a lot of us have the foresight to look that far down the road and think “THAT is where I want to be in five years.” It’s usually, “Am I going to be able to make rent next month?” or “I’m more worried about the next six months than I am the next five years. Who knows where I’ll be?”

1,825 days ago, a life-changing event happened to me that threatened to take me down for the count: I discovered my then-husband in bed with someone else.

I don’t care who you are, when you find the person you promised to love “until death do you part” inserting his Tab “A” into someone else’s Slot “B”, your mind will reel.  When it happened to me, I was decimated. My world as I had known it had crumbled and I was powerless to stop it or do anything about it.

When I asked him if he ever considered my feelings when I found out about his affair, all I received as an answer was a very icy, “No.” He could have cared less about how badly he had hurt me. As far as he was concerned, he didn’t want me anymore. He had found someone new and he was moving on, end of story. It became quite clear he had no ethical objections to abandoning me as he quickly left town to move across the country with his new whatever-she-is, only to impose on me to pay for storing his stuff until he was ready to come pick it up. He even left his car behind which I had to start once a week, a constant reminder of how little I meant to him, forced to care for someone’s things who could have cared less about me.

While the pain of the betrayal really rocked my world for the first couple of years after being left with almost nothing, I have given up on being bitter because it’s just a waste of time. Now, I just hope my ex-husband has found contentment with the choices he has made and now has to live with on a daily basis. Don’t get me wrong, every time I see a Basset Hound I quietly chuckle to myself along with Chihuahuas remaining  in my mind as footballs-on-feet just waiting to be punted through the uprights. I think of it this way: if I can embrace one of the darkest and most sinister betrayals I have ever encountered with that much of a sense of humor, I’m doing pretty good; it’s all that’s really left of the anger I have for my ex-husband. Oh, but that thing he ran off with? The only thing I have to say about that is that I’m really sorry no one ever told her that she came with a shelf life. Judging by his first two wives’ clocks, she’s only got a little bit of time left until she’s discarded for a newer model. I’m sorry if that disappoints anyone but just on principle there are some things I just haven’t had the ability to let go because no matter how hard anyone may try, there’s just no way to shove the manure back into the horse on that one. She asked for it, she got it.

In the aftermath, I immediately reached out to my friends for support. The very first person I reached out to was my close friend KP because he had gone through something eerily similar and I knew I could trust and rely on his wisdom.  As my voice trembled through relaying the events that had just transpired, KP did what he has always done for me, he ‘kept it real’. He told me that there was no time for a pity party, no time for blame, hatred or revenge, but that I had only one pressing task ahead of me: “to build a bridge and get over it.”

While KP and I spoke daily to help me get my bridge components together, my massive support structure, consisting of my virtual family from around the globe, immediately built a fortress of protection around me.  Their words of comfort  and encouragement became my strength as I endured the trauma that immediately occurs when you are forced to go through the process of marital demise, something I like to call “The Six Week Epic Suck”.

After that first six weeks and multiple discussions with family and friends, I realized that I was being faced with a character-defining moment: how I would handle the situation would define me and eventually tell me what kind of person I really was.  I had a choice to make: I could either ride the shame spiral forever and let what happened defeat me, or I could defiantly pick myself up by my bootstraps, keep on walking and build myself a new life while I worked with KP on the emotional blueprints of the bridge that would help me get over a marriage gone belly-up.

So, I broke out the metaphorical hammer and nails, requesting old transcripts and ACT scores. Then I did something completely nuts: deciding to build the remainder of my bridge out of education: I went back to school, gaining admission on appeal to UNLV.

With his long history in academia, I decided to speak with my ex-husband about what major I should choose. I relayed to him that I was at a crossroads between my two life long loves: advertising –  which was housed in the journalism school – or go with what I do effortlessly and naturally: teaching. He immediately suggested that I major in education, because it wouldn’t require the self-promotion that I would have to do to be successful in a career in advertising (that I had dreamed of since I was a little girl). At seeing first-hand how many times his decisions had landed him on the rocks by losing him more than a few jobs in the time I had known him, combined with his arrogant, condescending tone which had gained him more than a few political enemies and an evisceration by the local press, I thought it best not to follow his advice. I immediately majored in Journalism and Media Studies.

1,825 days later, I am surrounded by the souvenirs of a journey of self-discovery. I look on my shelves and see a collection of academic works that I have used to start my own home library; a pile of notebooks filled with hand-written class notes chronicling more credit hours than I can count; a drawer full of university t-shirts and baseball caps, and a collection of photos filled with memories. The most important thing that marks the closing of this cycle in my life is my new  academic degree, a Bachelor of Arts, in get this:

Journalism and Media Studies with a focus in Integrated Marketing Communications with a minor in Leadership and Civic Engagement.”

Could that degree title get any longer? It’s definitely a mouthful.

Allow me to translate: Journalism and Media Studies means that I’m a student of the mass media, that I’m also a critic of that same media and that simply, I can write news stories, feature stories and things you would find through any news outlet.

A focus in Integrated Marketing Communications means that simply, I know how to use social media effectively for marketing purposes. The fun part is that my AA in Graphic Design for the Web ties in nicely here. This also means I can help you choose the right social media channels and a pile of additional fancy stuff that if I kept writing about it, we’d be here all day.

A minor in Leadership and Civic Engagement means that I have learned the leadership techniques, methods and awareness that you would find in the skill-set of a really great CEO.

You know, I would have never guessed in a million years that when my ex-husband left that he would inspire an epic comeback. That five years later I’d be sitting here helping everyone figure out that even though I’ve got some fancy-schmantzy degree title, I’m still just me, only with a new skill-set in some cases, and an existing skill-set that I’ve just made even better. Not to sound prideful, but the things I was good at before have evolved into something more akin to a juggernaut.

I know lots of folks that have let the disintegration of their marriage destroy their lives. One of my friends drinks a lot and you can tell the experience left a hole where my vibrant, funny friend used to be. Another one of my friends nearly had a nervous breakdown because of their extremely messy divorce, only to have their finalized divorce papers act as Carte Blanche to immediately find a new spouse, then wondering why that marriage went down in flames too. Yet another friend is constantly terrorized by their ex, making them even afraid to leave the house or post on Facebook for fear of another round of cruel eviscerations on social media.

I see the aftermath of marital demise all around me every day. I’m no saint by a long shot because I’ve even been through a fiasco or two since my marriage fell from bliss and landed with a resounding THUD.  But what remains is one simple fact: When my ex hit the door, I went to work on myself. Kinda like the Six Million Dollar Man…”We can rebuild her…” because no one was going to do it for me, the only person that could do that rebuilding was myself – and I’m still not done.

Towards the end, there were moments where I thought I wouldn’t see graduation. There were days where people told me they seriously doubted I would succeed because of the massive setbacks I had endured on my journey. The most mortifying question came from someone extremely close who asked,

“Well, you are going to finish, aren’t you?”

When I heard that question come from the mouth of someone who is naturally expected to be supportive, I never came so close to decking someone I love in all my life. To me, that’s an insult because you can tell they really don’t know jack beans about me.

Case in point:

When I was a kid, a friend of mine found me crying after a really hard day of being viciously bullied. I had tried to hide somewhere where I thought no one would find me but he did. He looked down at me and said, “Sheri, are you okay?” He said that my response changed his life. He said my 15-year-old face just looked up at him, sniffled and said, “I’m not okay right now, but I’m going to be.”

That same friend used to watch helplessly as a pack of ignorant bullies made it their daily mission to viciously attack me, every chance they got, day in and day out for YEARS. I guess you could say they had refined their ignorance into a science, calling me all sorts of names, terrorizing my every breath, much less move, and overall making sure that they exploited every opportunity to make my life into a living hell. If you ever saw Pretty In Pink, think of the dynamic between Molly Ringwald’s character and James Spader’s, that’s basically it.

What astounded my friend the most is that those bullies, no matter how cruel they got, no matter how horrific their attempts, they never broke my spirit. Of course, the more those bullies failed in their attempts to break my spirit, the more vicious they would become; leaving my friend to remark that he had never in his life seen anyone take such vicious mental beatings over such a prolonged period and survive it.

Here’s the secret: the one thing I knew, which no one else seemed to catch on to, was the fact  that I had hope. I knew things in the future had a chance at becoming better, however unlikely it seemed at the time.  I knew, even then, that change is the one constant in the universe that descends on all of us, whether we like it or not. Like Doc Cat says: “Change isn’t always possible, it’s probable.”

Admittedly, the bullying I was forced to endure during my childhood was there for a reason. All of the pain, hurt and tragedy I have endured is all connected to this one beautiful moment. Without them I wouldn’t have the fortitude and heart that has inevitably carried me when I thought I couldn’t take another step.  When I set my mind to do something, I will never waiver, I will never quit, I will never fail.  God help the person who decides to pull the Darwin Award Winning move of telling me that they doubt my competence by stating I can’t do something, I’ll do it anyway just to prove I can.

If you push me down. I’ll get back up.

If you tear me apart, I’ll  put myself back together.

If you set me on fire and try to destroy me, I’ll just rise from the ashes.

1,825 days filled with love, hope and recovery – all mixed with a healthy dose of humor.

From Day 1, all the way to Graduation.

It’s me and Teddy, in the middle of the Mojave, dreaming of better days ahead.

I’m Sheri. I’m a wise fool. I’ve been through hell and back again, but I have persevered.

 

I’m back: The 2014 Oscars

I have to open with some humble apologies because it’s been two years since my last Oscars post.  During that time I was unfortunately with someone who doesn’t like movies. Oh, who am I kidding? That was said so gently it doesn’t really give the proper gravitas to the situation. No, I must speak the truth: I was with someone who HATES movies. 

Dear Lord, I think my friend Squee just shot her soda pop all over her screen as she went,

“WHAT!”

Sorry Squee!

But yes, that is the unfortunate truth. When you are around someone who hates movies, merely watching the Oscars, God forbid tweeting or even thinking about writing a word about them becomes impossible. Say the word “actor” around that person and all that hisses from their lips is “thesssssssspian,” like a poisonous viper, spewing and filling the atmosphere around them with their venom, purposely ruining the magic of the movies for the entire theater-going and movie-loving crowd for at least 10 miles around them.  Yeech!

Yes, I was dating Lord Voldemort…with Nagini in tow…

And while you’re laughing…

 

Cue music!

 While the music is playing…keep reading!!!

 

I can love movies all I want again!  Hooray!

That’s right ladies and gentlemen, it’s one of my favorite nights of the year, the one where I’m grateful I’m not an actor but ultimately grateful for all of the hardworking men and women that create the magic of the movies I love watching so much. Everyone but everyone who knows me knows how much I love movies.

From buttery popcorn to the concession stand napkins used to dry my eyes, movies inspire, fuel and ignite my imagination in a way nothing else in the universe can.

Think about it, without the magic of the movies, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do for a living. If it weren’t for pioneers in special effects, I would have never known what it was like to be inside the digital world of Tron. So I guess you could say that I owe a lot to Hollywood and it’s that time of year to show my gratitude to everyone that participates in the film industry, from film students to riggers to high-paid directors.

But let’s get the details covered:

Preparing for the Broadcast

This morning when I woke up, I could feel the buzz in the air as I realized it was Oscar Sunday. As I went outside for my morning ritual of news and fresh air, I realized that I was LONG overdue for an Oscar-fueled extravaganza. After all, this is the very first Oscars post on the new site, so why not bring the thunder with one heck of an adventure!?!?

After that, it was to the showers because I realized that there are a few things I have always done for Oscar Night: have incredible food, comfy surroundings and with phone in hand, report it all to my Twitter feed.

The behind-the-scenes was the fun part this year. Between whole wheat angel hair pasta in meat sauce accompanied by fresh french bread and a salad drizzled with my mother’s homemade balsamic dressing (OMG, better than any dressing you can buy at the store), we watched the majority of the Red Carpet coverage from the dinner table.  As the Red Carpet wound down, I was done baking my world-famous Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies (which I have aptly nicknamed “C4’s”) that explode with gooey chocolaty goodness over the tastebuds and are just as decadent as the fashions walking across the screen.

From this:

Ingredients all laid out
Ingredients all laid out

To this:

 

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
Onto the sheet

To these:

 

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies ready to be eaten!
Cookies ready to eat!

Like I said on my Facebook feed earlier in the day:

Chocolate and Gold just goes.

With one bite into a C4, my mom went “Oh, these are rich.” Well, they’re supposed to be! It’s only Hollywood’s most glamorous night, so you better believe I’m going to have something that’s at least rich-tasting! (And if Hollywood got one taste of my C4’s, oh man, I’d be up to my armpits in orders for next year’s show! They are THAT good! The cookie dough smells like a Hershey bar before they’re baked. Even the most ravenous of chocoholics are sated with a single bite. No kidding.)

After the C4’s were carefully placed on the cooling racks, I was already onto Phase 2 of my Oscar-fueled nom-fest: The Brie plates. Filled with apples, red seedless grapes, crackers and small tub of spreadable brie, I brought the richness of the evening up another level. Like I said, I might not have all the money in the world, but my experiences are always worth more than a dime.

So, for your drooling pleasure, I present The Brie Plate:

Tell me your stomach isn't rumbling...

LOL! I just felt like Jerry Orbach’s “Lumiere” in Beauty and the Beast.

Now, let’s get on to the reason we’re all here:

The Broadcast

This morning, as I read the news, I happened upon an article in The Telegraph about how much pressure Ellen was under to deliver as host of the Oscars. The article even relived that eye-bleach needing, ‘please-don’t-make-me-watch-it’ feeling, “Styrofoam Man” debacle of James Franco’s, who with Anne Hathaway made a shambles of the Oscar telecast with their “young and edgy” thing. That banana peel of a broadcast made room for Billy Crystal to come back and host for a record ninth time (which I must admit…however much I love Billy…um, it didn’t go so well).

I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m not the biggest Ellen fan in the world, but I will tell you in a heartbeat that she hit that “just right” mark dead on. Academy, you’ve got a winner. For chrissakes, SHE CRASHED TWITTER with a selfie from the audience!

If that doesn’t spell W-I-N-N-E-R to you, we need to talk.

That’s right everyone, I’m one of the two million plus who’s retweet-madness helped crash Twitter with Ellen’s Epic Selfie, probably one of the most unforgettable Oscar moments of all time.  I know this because why? Because my tweets wouldn’t send, my phone crashed and it was just a mess, but at least I can say it was a good mess. 

Speaking of Twitter: to catch up on all of my Tweets during the broadcast, check out my Twitter feed at…

Wait.
Wait…

Oh my sweet Lord, Twitter’s still jammed up!  I tried to log on to get you the right address for my tweets and the sucker took forever to launch…gee, thanks Ellen. I know a couple of network engineers that are really thanking you in their prayers tonight!

After taking forever to load, here’s where you want to go to check out my Twitter feed: https://twitter.com/etrnl_sophomore

But let’s get back to that epic selfie. Do you know, thus far, that photo has been retweeted over 2 million times?

Yup.

And if you’ve not seen the selfie, here it is:

ellen_epic_selfie2

 Click on the pic to go to Ellen’s feed, the photo has reached almost 2.4 million re-tweets as of this writing.

Ironically, I just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point. I think this could be the moment where Twitter really tips and goes from 22 percent of any target audience to well over 50-60 percent. (Just my trendspotter gene rearing its’ ugly head of course, but I’m guessing you will want to check those numbers in a few months… but it’s just a hunch. If you want to check the accuracy of my hunches, ask my friends Amanda and Dan…they’ll tell you. *wink wink*)

But, notice how much I’ve focused on Ellen? That’s because she made the whole thing work. Instead of uncomfortable silences, we actually sat waiting for what she was going to do next.  I don’t know about you, but to me, that’s a very good thing.

I loved how she ordered pizza and REALLY passed it around, prompting me to look at the Brie Plate I had created and subsequently tweeted:

I’m not sure, and maybe it’s just me, but among the pizza and other high jinx,  I even think she addressed the horrific reboot/remake trend sweeping Hollywood. It might just be me, but when she showed up on stage dressed as Glenda the Good Witch from the Wizard of Oz, she looked ridiculous, but it also made me remember when Whoopi Goldberg hosted the Oscars and came out dressed as Queen Elizabeth. Remember?

 

Compare the two…

 

 

See? Even if she did it unwittingly, she still poked fun at the movie industry with a sharp barb. The message is the same: Enough already. Don’t reboot something that really doesn’t need it.

Please Hollywood, I wrote about this how many years ago??? Stop trying to resuscitate a dead horse. The damn thing is friggin’ dead! Stop touching it! Let it alone!

Speaking of reboot and remake mad equine corpse-humpers…HEY!  Hey YOU! Yeah you, J.J. Abrams, I see you over there skulking in the shadows trying to sneak past without getting caught…get your G.D. hands off of Star Wars.  You already touched Star Trek,  so drop the camera, walk away and leave well enough alone. It’s bad enough George Lucas came through with a weed whacker and cut Darth Vader’s balls off in the three poorly acted prequels to the classic (read: “should have been left alone”) trilogy, but then YOU come along and give us a Mr. Spock that runs like a girl! Shame on you. I mean, did someone order the castration of our most iconic characters and not tell everyone?  (Don’t get me wrong, I adore Zachary Quinto, but that run needs some serious work; and when the bangs parted down the middle in the last Trek  outing…I went on a Melissa Leo-esque F-bomb tirade that lasted for an hour. Man up Zach, for no other reason than to preserve Leonard’s legacy. Spock is a man’s man, even on Vulcan. That is all.)

J.J., you have shaken and lens flared us enough…and casting Benedict Cumberbatch (oh I would have loved to be in the room when they came up with that poor bugger’s stage name…Zenglebert Slaptyback…) as the new Khan???  Sweet Lord, Ricardo
Montalbán is going to come back from the grave and pimp slap you both.

(And now there goes my best pal Barry shooting his soda all over the screen…sorry man, but I knew the weed whacker thing would get you…I know you are laughing right now, my brother…better yet, you gotta admit I’m RIGHT.)

SECURITY! Grab that J.J. fella by the scruff of his neck and escort him from the lot!!!  J.J. Abrams is persona non grata in my house because he’s double-dipping into (and arguably damaging) two great, time-honored franchises. I mean, it’s bad enough the actors are doing it…(Harrison Ford as Han Solo AND Indiana Jones…Chris Evans as The Human Torch (in The Fantastic Four) AND Captain America…Not to mention Ben Affleck getting into the act by being Daredevil along with gaining the distinction of being the next poor bastard who tries to be Batman…) Did anyone see Michael Keaton change franchises?  NO! .. Sweet Lord, what is wrong with you people? Ever heard of giving someone new a chance? Hell, what about the words of Edna Mode?  Will those get through?

NO CAPES!

 

How do we cure this madness!?!?

Ellen’s ‘Glenda’ costume said it all…”STOP WITH THE *BLEEP*ING REBOOTS AND REMAKES!” Not everyone deserves to double-dip in the franchise and character well and get away with it.

Meanwhile, back in the real world…

I know that tonight’s Oscar theme was “Heroes”, but did anyone else beside me get that the theme of the night really wasn’t “Heroes” but “Social Justice”? Notice what won in the really high-profile categories:

Jared Leto wins Best Supporting Actor for his work in Dallas Buyers Club.

Lupita Nyong’o wins Best Supporting Actress for her work in Twelve Years a Slave.

Cate Blanchett wins Best Actress for her work in Blue Jasmine.

Matthew McConaughey wins Best Actor for his work in Dallas Buyers Club. (#AllRightAllRightAllRight)

Notice first, not one single remake or reboot in the lot. Second, look at the topics of the films…AIDS, slavery, mental illness, gender issues…these are all very, very much social justice topics…AND THEY ARE GETTING AWARDS for bringing awareness of these extremely real people into our collective consciousness!

Okay, if you want to have all the depth of a shot glass, you can say that they were just really good performances. Those of us with a little more depth are going to realize that the ultimate privilege that those four actors have is little thing called awareness. Awareness of social justice issues that Jared Leto talked about so brilliantly in his acceptance speech. “The Unshackled Minds” that Kim Novak eluded to when she helped present the awards for Animation…

 

You get it, I know you do.

When Matthew McConaughey won for best actor, the whole living room went up in cheers. Well, he is from Uvalde (for you non-Texans, it’s pronounced “You-val-dee” – emphasis on the You), how do I know that?  Let’s check the map…

Need I say more?

Oh there is one more little photo I just loved…especially since I live to be Chasing Tron:

 

That’s a quote I can definitely agree with.

All Right.
All Right.
All Right.

And for song of the day, one that hails the Sophomore back to the days of old when one of my old pals found me crying and asked me if I was going to be okay…

I looked them dead in the face and said, “I’m not okay right now, but I’m going to be.”

I’ve once again rescued myself, and I can promise you, no man, and no one, will ever be reaching down to push me further down while they claim to be trying to rescue me. I can do it myself, thank you very much. Tonight’s post proves it.

I’m back. Permanently.

Life’s Movie Moments: Twister

Disclaimer: This one goes a little long. Make sure you go to the bathroom before you start. You may want to grab a snack and a drink on the way back.

Two weeks ago, I got a large manilla envelope in the mail from the county courthouse. Judging from the content of my last post, you can probably guess what was inside: a bundle of legal documents also known as my divorce papers.

When I first saw the envelope, I was expecting it to be the final divorce decree, so in my own way I dreaded opening it. But, I sucked it up and charged head first into the breach. In true Sophomore fashion, it wasn’t what I expected at all. Attached to the top of the pile of papers was a note informing me of something I would have never guessed would happen.

I think I may be the only woman in the world besides Helen Hunt’s character “Jo” in the film Twister to forget to sign the final page of her divorce papers.

As I read what was attached to the top of the document, I was mystically transported into the film with Jamie Gertz’s character of “Melissa” (complete with long Bassett Hound ears, surrounded by a snarling pack of rabid footballs on feet) looking at my ex and asking “Did she sign it? [pause] She didn’t!?!?”

Unlike Jo, I didn’t do it on purpose. It wasn’t some desperate attempt to keep my ex-husband in my life. I was just so stressed out by the whole process that I simply missed a page.

Upon realizing that my signature and address were missing from the most important page of the document, I filled it in. As I did though, there was a lump the size of a softball in the pit of my stomach. I was suddenly filled with a deep regret realizing that my life, as I once knew it, had come to an end.

But here I am, talking about endings again. Seems I’ve had a lot of them lately, but like the Myst Universe teaches:

The harder an end is to face, the more hope we take with us to the next beginning.

That’s really what I’ve got my mind focused toward right now, new beginnings. As I’m finding out, while the lessons of the Myst Universe are poignant and extremely worthwhile to keep in my pocket, I still feel like I’m caught in the middle of Twister.

If you remember from Twister, there is a scene where Jo’s whole gang of storm chasers is sitting around the table at Aunt Meg’s: Dusty’s going on about “imminent rueage” in regards to a rival storm chaser, Cary Elwes’ character “Jonas”, futile attempts to go head-to-head against Bill’s “The Extreme.” That line of conversation is followed quickly by talk about the Fujita Scale and the F5 tornado being called “The Finger of God.”

Remembering that movie moment reminded me of how fast and out of control my life has been since that April afternoon when it seemed my world had completely shattered.

If you don’t remember, here’s the clip:

My moment of regret is more akin to what Meg says to Jo: “He didn’t keep his part of the bargain. To spend his life pining for you and die miserable and alone.”

Every time I see the scene between Jo and Aunt Meg, I think especially of my Auntie June. I remember after my ex left, she had very similar words for me.

Meanwhile, back in the real world… After signing the last remaining page, I found myself downtown in a long line outside of the County Clerk’s office. In line with me was a man whose life’s work is serving divorce papers. He mentioned the diametric opposition of how men and women handle the news. He noted how women accept the situation with strength and composure while men crumble to pieces. I was quite surprised by the revelation, and it made the very emotionally troubling trip worth it as it made me laugh during a moment that threatened to make me cry.

It was then that a woman named Karen came out and asked me what I was there for, so I handed her the envelope and she proceeded to check it over and inform me that she would send it over to the judge’s office.

With that experience behind me, I got into my car for the trek home and the entire time driving, for the first time I didn’t find the need to dwell on it. I guess you could say that the bridge my friend KP helped me build to get over it was hard at work holding me up.

However, any way I try to slice it, I’m in what Philip Seymour Hoffman’s character “Dusty” calls “the suck zone” because I feel like a tornado has come and sucked me up into the middle of it.

As I’ve written a thousand times before, when you are handed a rough situation, you have to make choices. Whether we want to admit it or not, the choices we make when things seem at their worst is what defines us. The emotional risk we all fear becomes unavoidable and in that moment we either stand strong or we crumble.

Since I am a notorious (to the point of self-destructive) emotional base jumper, I guess it’s time for me to get a little extreme. I’ve made my choice and no matter how scared I get, I’ve got to walk up to the raging storm ahead of me, tell it to “have a drink,” chuck the bottle into the tornado and be just as amazed as everyone else when the bottle never hits the ground.

Inside the storm is my final semester at UNLV. I got all my classes lined up and during the time between now and May, I’ll apply for graduation, get fitted for my cap and gown; get my photos taken in my cap and gown (especially for Mom) then have my graduation invitations printed and mailed out. That’s all got to happen while I’m taking Photojournalism with an award-winning photographer, going through a stint as a Leadership Intern and wrapping it up with my Leadership Capstone class.

Simultaneously, the lightning and thunder will be coming from the pursuit and hopefully the public release of what has become my magnum opus, finally Chasing Tron to the most unlikely of places, going into the digital universe in an effort to help parents pull their child out of what I lovingly call “Console Quicksand.”

With everything else in my world feeling unsteady, the storm clouds over my work have seemed unceasing, that is until recently. As everyone knows, since stepping out of a movie theater in 1982, I’ve spent my life desperately searching for the Encom laser to pull me into the digital universe. The best way to illustrate it is “The Grid” monologue from Tron Legacy.

The Grid.

A digital frontier.

I tried to picture clusters of information as they moved through the computer.

What did they look like?

Ships?

Motorcycles?

Were the circuits like freeways?

I kept dreaming of a world I thought I’d never see.

And then,

one day…

I got in.

I felt like a complete idiot when I realized that my search had been fruitless because I didn’t see that it had been right in front of me all along. I had been looking for exactly what has evolved around me over the last ten years…and I’m lucky I guess because I’m the only one who can see it.

The hardest part will be taking the brunt of the storm head-on. I won’t lie, it’s going to hurt when it hits. It’s going to come from folks not ready to face hard truths I’m going to be revealing. I mean, seriously, when was the last time anyone enjoyed holding themselves accountable for the obstacles they have to admit to creating?

It’s truly hard to fathom the mere idea that my colleagues and I could possibly be the only people in the universe that will have a decisive impact in the current battle of man versus machine. I have the distinct feeling we’ll be the crew who tethers themselves to the water pipe only to have the F5 of modern technology pass over us as we watch our feet dangle over our heads as we get the rare privilege of watching the storm from the inside.

Just like the storm chasing crew in Twister, if we can get Dorothy to fly, I’ve got a distinct feeling, as a line in the film says, “We’re going to be very popular.”

It’s all down to a little more writing, long hours editing and revising, then going toe-to-toe with the most intimidating thing I’ve ever faced when I present my revolutionary idea to the world. All this with a ton of reading for my classes and homework to boot.

Outside of all that stuff, there are a few funny ironies in the film clip I posted above with even more “life imitating art” moments: First, my pals from the Hairier Legion Flight Team inside There.com will laugh their backsides off when they hear the character “Rabbit” say, “We’re going to take a little walk in the woods,” as I said that to them once while in the lead of one of our flights around the islands. And yes, I could hear them saying, “Mother of God…” just before promptly flying them into a no-fly zone on accident.

Secondly, the song “Humans Being” playing during the ‘walk in the woods’ scene by Van Hagar Halen literally has the line “like lemmings breeding” in it. You know me and my lemmings…the constant symbol of mindless following I’ve railed against now for over four years.  Yep, that’s in there too.

So ladies and gents, the only thing I can say for sure from my point of view: a storm is coming. As Dusty says,”It’s headed right for us,” only to have Bill reply,”It’s already here.”

Here’s my last dose of irony for you: If you keep track of astrological signs, I’m a Libra, one of the cardinal signs. Guess which element it rules over?

Air.

So, with that in mind, I always have to remind myself that there is always one phrase inextricably tied to air when it is in its’ excited state. You might know it best as “winds of change.”

Things are changing quickly and for the better, so for today’s song of the day, I’ve actually chosen two. From the Twister Motion Picture Soundtrack: “Humans Being” followed by what is argued by some as Eddie Van Halen’s finest instrumental, the Grammy-nominated (perfectly titled for today’s post): “Respect the Wind.”

D-I-V-O-R-C-E

This evening, walking back from the mailbox, I looked down into my hands to the large package of papers that were mailed to me by my ex.

You guessed it, after four years of waiting while he and the BHFB have been living happily ever after and buying a new house together, my divorce papers finally came.

As I was looking through them, I suddenly realized that I never really have coped full-on with the prospect of divorce itself. I mean, look at what happened…I caught him in bed with the BHFB, I tossed him out and then immediately (as in, didn’t stop, didn’t pass go, didn’t collect $200) enrolled at UNLV.  It wasn’t soon after that I got the news that he and the BHFB were packing up and moving to Kentucky of all places.

Now, to my folks and friends in Kentucky, no offense to you, but to my high-browed, educated-out-the-wazoo ex, well it might as well be ‘hillbilly hell’. Okay, do you one better: he’s Atheist in one of the most religious places in the world. You know what, I’m going to ice the cake for ya…he’s a French-Canadian, anti-gun, environmentalist, Atheist in a place where you either shoot it, stuff it or marry it; none of which is appealing to a guy with four college degrees and PhD work under his belt.

Oh, the stories that I’ve heard from him make me want to pee my pants. Just the looks he gets walking into church on Sundays is enough to get me rolling on the floor, but to hear his tales of ‘gravy that requires a chainsaw to get through that smothers everything’ from a guy who’s a marathon-running, ultra-fitness, symphony-loving, Pinot Noir snob, I cackle regularly on our bi-annual phone calls.  I mean, he’s the same guy that John L. Smith in the Review Journal took to task in his weekly column for calling Las Vegans uncultured and he ends up landing in the bluegrass, hell and gone from Louisville which is the nearest cultural center he can reasonably reach.

So with all that going on, school and me trying to get back on the horse after waiting for two years in my apartment alone, I never really did imagine what it would feel like when the papers finally came.

Looking back, I did do the Kubler-Ross model of the seven stages of grief. After all, getting abandoned, divorced or anything ground shaking like that, when you look at the empty side of the closet, when you have to teach yourself to once again sleep in the middle of the bed, and when you realize the promise you made that meant “forever” actually meant “for the time being” to your other half, you really do go through the non-linear process of going through what is logically likened to a death in the family.  When it’s all said and done, the person you loved has vanished like a puff of smoke leaving a trail of destruction behind them, leaving you standing in an empty house that used to contain your dreams.

But it’s like what KP kept insisting to me through those first two years: You’ve got to build a bridge and get over it. So, in my own way, I guess I did. Board by board, nail by nail and OOH did I smash my thumb with a hammer a few times along the way.  Well, KP never said building the bridge would be easy…

I got caught up in the fact that my life had to keep moving forward; a life filled to the brim with speed bumps along with a very large, bone-jarring pothole I had to get through to get to where I am now.

I keep thinking about the words of Atrus at the end of Myst IV: Revelation

I love that line Rand Miller speaks with such perfection: “The harder an end is to face, the more hope we take with us to the next beginning.”

Every time I’ve had to pick myself up and dust myself off (which is becoming a far, far too often occurrence), I try to concentrate on that phrase remembering a simple truth about my life that is on one part sad, but on another quite encouraging: I don’t do well in cages, no matter how gilded. Simply, I’m not the marrying type and even though I’m sure some other goofball is going to try their best to put me back into a cage (which they really say isn’t, but we all really know it is), looking at that pile of papers sitting across the room makes me realize that outside of financial benefits that come with marriage, I still believe with all my heart that it is a useless institution.

I think if you love someone that much, a piece of paper doesn’t mean anything. I mean seriously, the expense of a wedding is cost-prohibitive, from the engagement ring to the horrible cake everyone chokes down at the reception, not to mention the cost of a dress that you’re only supposed to wear once but some girls now have collections of them. That little piece of paper, that I view as the equivalent of ownership papers, only mean things to lawyers who want to be richer and vindictive people who didn’t earn a damn dime but try to take their partners for every dime they have  because they have neither the heart nor strength to put in the day-to-day work that is any serious relationship.

As far as relationships go, after my experiences and looking at that pile of papers, I’m to the point of saying “Thanks, I’m done” because in my estimation, it’s an experience I’ve had, and one I didn’t particularly like. So, I’m just going to make myself a t-shirt that reads: “Been married, learned my lesson.”

My friend Jamie once told me, “I could never imagine tying you down into a relationship.  It’s just not you. Every time you get into a relationship, the whole world watches in anguish as they see you wither and lose hope. When you’re left alone and free, you are like watching a wild horse running with all its’ grace and beauty; and things like that should never, never be caged.”

See?  That’s the beauty of NOT being a lemming…I don’t need someone else to be happy.  I’m good on my own. I’ve gone through enough experiences to know one thing about myself: I don’t do relationships because simply, they’re inconvenient. I am tired of being stressed out by other people’s drama that has nothing to do with me at all. I don’t have children and that means my life belongs to me and no one else.  So honestly, looking at that pile of papers…I’m getting that particular grin that means that I’ll finally be free. (And oooh!  That’s heady stuff!)

At the end of the day, I’m happy for my ex and the BHFB. There is someone for everyone out there. Like I always say, everyone deserves happiness, even if I still look at Chihuahua’s as footballs on feet that need to be punted or sucked up into vacuum cleaners.

I’m fortunate, I’m coming out of this as really good friends with my ex, which leaves me feeling really bad for those who are getting put through the Seven Sins wringer; having to endure the lust, gluttony, wrath, greed, envy, sloth, and pride from their exes who just won’t let up, no matter what they do. What’s sad is that you can see them out in the world every day walking around, their shoulders slumped, the light in their eyes merely a glimmer because they’re two-foot-six because of all the hammering they take from vindictive exes and their lawyers who, as KP preaches regularly, “Just need to build a bridge and get over it.”

Marriage isn’t for everyone. Certainly not for me. But for those of you who believe that the piece of paper means everything, I’ll share something my ex did with me: “It’s a formality, that’s all. Nothing changes,” which I found is the absolute truth. So really, what’s the point? Gifts? Materialistic gain? If you love someone with all your heart, reams of paper wouldn’t change that, would it?

So, I’m looking across the room at my divorce papers.  Life could be worse. At least I know I won’t ever have to go through this again. Once was plenty.

Overcoming Fear.

For the last four years, I’ve been writing about tackling some of the harder moments that life has to offer. Well, today has a bit of a twist: I’m tackling the biggest professional challenge I’ve ever had.

Yup, it’s time for me to put up or shut up because it’s time for me to take the last ten years of personal experience plus two-and-a-half years of full-time research and market analysis and pitch my company’s product for start-up funding.

To view it from my perspective, imagine five foot, six inch me looking up with my jaw gaping open in disbelief as I’m standing at the feet of an extremely large giant that could squash me like a grape without a second of hesitation.

As Bill Cosby once quipped about being in a car accident, “First you say it, then you do it.”

When I found out who I was going to be pitching to, I said it! Several times, as a matter of fact. Then I broke out into a cold sweat thinking to myself, “Oh my holy gods. Okay, they’ve got the wrong girl, this is way too big for me to handle.  Who am I?  I’m nobody!”

And there was my pothole du jour just waiting to be plowed through.

I’m talking about fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of rejection. Fear of something larger than yourself. Fear of success.  I know that last one seems odd, but just go with me, I’ll come back to it in a minute.  Along with all that, I’m tackling a healthy dose of self-doubt as well. (I’ve been self-contained and emotionally self-reliant for so long, I am having trouble tackling this one my own because it seems as everyone around me believes in me more than I do!)

However, this brings us to where I am now…absolutely petrified out of my mind. I mean, I’ve taught hundreds of students, I’ve got no problem public speaking, I’m usually really comfortable working a big room…

Here’s the catch…I am the concept designer of the product. Each piece of it was influenced by the people I work with and my uncanny ability to connect dots no one else can see. As is plainly obvious, this moment in my life is highly personal, it’s blood, sweat and tears not only from me, but from a whole lot of folks who are committed to supporting my concept to its’ realization and release to the public.

I know that most of you are curious as to how I got here, and I’d love to tell you what I’ve done and how I’ve basically made people facepalm with one of the biggest ‘duh’ moments some of them have had in a very long while.  But I can’t. Not yet.  If I let the cat out of the bag, the jig is up because someone would steal my concept in a heartbeat, it is that honestly good. To be perfectly frank, I’m shocked as all hell no one thought of it before I did, but you know what?  I’m glad they didn’t. <wink>

The best way I can explain it without giving it away is this:  Remember the movie Singles directed by Cameron Crowe? Well, in the film, the character “Steve” (played by Campbell Scott) works for the City of Seattle, and he’s basically in charge of solving Seattle’s traffic problem. The solution he comes up with is a “Supertrain.” He believes wholeheartedly that if the City of Seattle gave its’ residents great music and great coffee on a train that would ferry commuters into the city, they would “Park and Ride.”  Well, much less to say, when he first pitches the idea to his girlfriend “Linda” (played by Kyra Sedgwick), she hems and haws before telling him, “But I still love my car,” leaving Steve speechless and with no reply because he had a “one track” mind and didn’t come up with a contingency plan.

Later in the film, we watch Steve as he pitches the Mayor of Seattle (played by Tom Skerritt) his idea for the “Supertrain.” What does the mayor say? “People still love their cars.” Yep, you guessed it, after a devastating blow like that (because he didn’t listen to his girlfriend when she gave him the problem to solve and he didn’t tackle it) he quits his job because he basically realizes he’s not up for the task.

When I started with the company I work for, I got handed a similar problem as Steve’s “Supertrain,” and you guessed it, just like Steve, I got caught with my pants down with no contingency. I got saddled with that same kind of “people still love their cars” argument, and it left me sitting alone in my apartment feeling like a true bush-league hitter going up against a major league pitcher that just took my head off with a 105 mile-an-hour fast ball for the fun of it. I got sent back to the dugout, absolutely humiliated, doubting if I would ever be able step up to the plate again, much less knock one out of the park.

I was completely lost. I had the shell of something, but no filler, no direction, no clear goals. I sat on my living room sofa in my apartment with my head in my hands thinking, “Now what am I going to do? How am I going to save this project?”

This all went on directly after the Nissan debacle for the NSAC competition, so I was doubly crushed. I had worked so hard, and for what?  You should have seen the looks on faces when I found stats for the NSAC campaign that no one ever dreamed of finding.  A grown man my age told me that I was “creepy” and that I “freaked him out” by the accuracy of my insight because I could see and connect dots no one else could.  It didn’t help that I predicted the Boy Band reunion tours two whole years before anyone else did. No kidding. Ask any of my NSAC teammates or go back to the posts in May of 2011, sure enough, it’s there.

I learned through those experiences that I’m pretty lucky because I’ve been given a bizarre gift. Ever heard the expression, “Can’t see the forest for the trees” or “Can’t see the trees for the forest?” Well, I don’t know who came up with giving me the strange talents I have, but I can not only see the forest and the trees at the same time, but the log cabin beyond the forest on the other side of the road that has a yellow pick-up truck parked outside with a Chocolate Labrador Retriever running around, along with a fella in a yellow and blue flannel shirt poking his head out of the front door of the house waving “Howdy.”

Now, here we are two years later. Thanks to an obscure quote I found and unique insight that comes from eating, breathing and sleeping the genre, dots that no one else could see suddenly appeared painted in unmistakable, bright, neon paint. I couldn’t help it, an emotionless ‘oh my holy sh*t’ came out of my mouth at the sheer shock of what I had found.   It made not only a light bulb go off over my head but an entire set of stadium lights that illuminated the WHOLE playing field. When I researched my theory, I nearly about passed out, realizing what I had found no one had even thought of yet. I jumped, hollered, and sweet lordy, if someone would have walked into my apartment right then, they would have thought I had lost it for sure.  I didn’t only come up with a contingency for my own “Supertrain” issue, I re-wrote the rule book. The “Supertrain” I was dealing with is now hell and gone, a relic of 2003 as far as I’m concerned.

But here I am, product concept completely redone, research solid and water-tight, audiences defined, needs defined and met on multiple levels, illustrations, infographics, contingencies, everything wrapped up with a beautiful bow…

And now I’m on the actual brink of the big pitch and I caught myself doing something I have a tendency to do far too often: I psyche myself out.

Crying?  Oh yeah.

Nervous? Are you kidding? I could whip up 007’s favorite cocktail just by placing the shaker cup on my outstretched hand.  Thought of another way, a cat in a room full of rocking chairs would look at you while pointing to me saying, “She wins.”

Nauseous? Ya think? I was making sure the trashcan was lined and at the ready.

But then, out of nowhere as I was ready to have a long talk with the Tidy Bowl Man, a tune started playing in my head…

And half of you just went, “Oh hell, Sheri’s gone and lost it now…”

Not really.  Think about it in a Liz Gilbert-esque kind of way, those “endless waves of transformation” that we all dread.

Remember what Doc Kat says:

Change is not only possible, it’s probable.

To which I add:

It’s up to each of us to figure out how to deal with those changes when they happen. How we handle the situation is what defines us to ourselves and everyone around us.

Think about it: Whatever big change or challenge we fear facing literally becomes “the end of the world as we know it” for exactly that reason: we don’t know what’s next.  We fear facing any sort of emotional risk because we don’t know what’s going to happen afterwards! We don’t know how people will react to us, much less have any sort of awareness on how the experience will shape us in the future.

So, as I sat listening to Michael Stipe’s voice in my head singing, “It’s the end of the world as we know it,” suddenly the line “and I feel fine…” made perfect sense.  I guess I’m a bit slow because after 20 some-odd years, I finally get it. He’s just saying that no matter what, change is going to happen; you just have to find it within yourself to chill out, relax and just go with it because you never know what great things might be waiting for you in the aftermath.

I’ve used the expression “Emotional Base-Jumper” for a couple of years now. I use it to illustrate my readiness to take emotional risk when others chicken out and go running for the hills. So I guess you could say that Michael Stipe and R.E.M. get part of the credit for helping get me over my case of the jitters…

But I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you about what my ex-husband said when I told him about what I’m about to do at work and how I think of myself as a human albatross: Clumsy and horrifying on take off and landing, but once in the air, a beauty to watch fly.

And while the allegory of the albatross is a fitting one, I think that what is going on is a metamorphosis into a butterfly beyond anything anybody could imagine. I'm pretty sure that the caterpillar is not sure what the hell is going on during the process, so the transformation must be darkest and at its most terrifying just before the universe takes on a whole new meaning. The world looks like it's ending just before the creature finds its wings...
You've always been as "larger-than-life" as I was. You just needed the opportunity to prove it to yourself. I'll always be not only an ally but a fan. Just a text/email/phone call away, I've continued to follow the story, and I can't wait to see the next chapter...

I guess I fear success the most because simply, if all goes well, my world will never be the same again.  Talk about the end of my world as I know it…

A few weeks ago a childhood friend told me a story I had forgotten. My friend found me sitting alone, crying because I had been bullied and torn down again. He looked at me and asked, “Are you okay?” My reply was one that even now at 42, I can not believe that much wisdom could come from a 15-year-old me:

“Not at the moment, but I’m going to be.”

Well, if that little girl can overcome all that she did, I think I can look that giant in the eye and give them the what-for.  Don’t you?

The D’nitos Ad

I’ve been waiting a long time to publish this on my blog, and thanks to some groovy plugins and some ingenuity, I’m proud to share The D’nitos Ad with you.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

(If the audio player takes too long, you can download it here.)

The D’nitos Ad was my very first recorded advertising script as voice talent on The Cavern Today.

While the ad is cute, the story behind the ad is a lot more fun. Let’s set the way-back clock for 2007, my first time behind the mic for any type of audio gig. I was on Skype with my producers, J’nathus and Anthony (think Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick from The Producers), and we start talking about the bag of “D’nitos” near Zandi’s trailer in Uru: Ages Beyond Myst.

The bag that launched a thousand jokes.
The bag that launched a thousand jokes.

We had one heck of a brainstorm that night and it resulted in the script for the ad you just heard and me heading off for my local 7-11 for an actual bag of Cool Ranch Flavored Doritos. Much less to say, when you hear me crunch down, yes, I’m actually munching on the D’nitos namesake…

The funny part of it is: Whenever I see the blue bag of Doritos at the store, I can’t say it right, I always call them Cool Cleft Flavor D’nitos. Something inside of me just can’t quite seem to revert back to a non-cavern reference.

As far as the content of the ad goes, the fact that I supposedly “stole” the bag from Zandi’s trailer is kinda gross because that bag of Cool Cleft Flavored D’nitos had been open since around 2002.

But regardless of the age of that chip bag, from the day that ad aired in 2007, it lasted far into 2010 and D’nitos became a staple of our podcast ‘diet’.

From being a source of emergency food for Wolfgang D. after the crew found him sealed in a box he had tried to mail himself home in after the final from-cavern podcast leading to Topside Podcast 1; to J’nathus snacking on them while the rest of the crew was moving our resident composer’s piano across a very rickety wooden bridge in the game’s opening area called “The Cleft”, bags of D’nitos are never in short supply inside the offices of The Cavern Today.

D’nitos-mania never really has gone away and if you go into MystOnline.com, all you have to do is go to the cleft and there, next to Zandi, sitting and waiting for you will be a bag of Cool Cleft Flavored D’nitos.

(That is, unless J’nathus hasn’t grabbed them all and stored them in his instance of Kadish’s vault.)

“Cavern”

Doh! I forget not all of my Facebook friends know what I’m talking about when I reference “The Cavern.”

Here’s a short precis so you can get caught up:

1993. History is made when two brothers, Rand and Robyn Miller, make the game Myst in their garage in Spokane, WA.

Myst becomes a worldwide phenomenon sparking five sequels: Riven, Myst III: Exile, Uru: Ages Beyond Myst, Myst IV: Revelation and Myst V: End of Ages.

Here’s the part I get involved: Uru. It was one of the very first broadband-age massively multi-player online worlds. It was my first virtual world experience and the sole reason I have the job I do now as a world concept designer.

Uru takes place, for the most part, in a massive underground cavern.

In Uru, I met my friend Janet Burress. What I didn’t know at the time is that she was bound to a motorized wheelchair due to juvenile arthritis. The woman hadn’t walked on her own since she was 14. When I met her she was 51. Because of several members of my family, my cavern Aunt Lee and especially Janet, arthritis is one of my sworn enemies.  It is one of two philanthropies I support, the other being Parkinson’s Research for my Uncle Bill.

I won’t ever stop until arthritis is history.

Long story short is that Janet went in for a procedure on her ankle to relieve some of the pain she was in. A bone chip got loose, got into her bloodstream and went to her brain. On December 28, 2004, I lost one of my very best friends.

The thing about Uru to Janet is that she once said it was the first place she felt like she could run again. It was also the place she took a bullied girl and turned her into a functioning part of the Myst Community, first as a sports reporter for an in-game activities organization, then later on as a podcaster, finally, Janet’s dream for me to become a journalist will have reached fruition in May when I graduate as a Journalism and Media Studies major, my second degree and the one that brings me the most pride as I am a Leadership minor, something I could have never, ever done had Janet not adopted me in an in-game neighborhood in some obscure MMO started 10 years ago.

So, when you hear me say I’ll be “in-Cavern”, you can log in to Mystonline.com and find me running around in-game. It’s free, it’s a blast, and it’s all spatial problem solving with people with IQ’s off the chart.

The kicker is simply this, you don’t have to be a genius to play Myst, you just have to have a good heart, a willingness to learn and realize that perseverance, heart and lots of love will always win the day. Well that and there are a whole lot of folks, including me, that if you say “I need help”, you don’t just get help, you get an army of people who will share time with you and help you learn all about the wonderful worlds of Myst.

Here’s a secret: If you want to get in really good with me, jump head first into the Myst Universe.

Facing the Dark.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve spent a few free evenings reviewing some of the movies I’ve referenced over the last four years of writing.

One evening, I had a Meryl-fest with It’s Complicated and Julie and Julia.

The next evening was Eat Pray Love.

Then I rounded it all out with My Life In Ruins.

If you haven’t guessed yet, and I guess I did it unconsciously, but through watching all of them, I found that besides all having central characters being women, all of the movies have one outstanding quality in common: hope.

Have you ever noticed that hope is the one thing that dies hardest and last? That no matter how hard life becomes, hope always finds its’ way in to help us in our darkest hours?

I guess it’s all a matter of perspective, how we perceive it and if we open our hearts and become aware of it. I’ve found when I get to that point of awareness, hope always seems to be waiting like a friend wearing a warm and patient smile.  It then goes to work, closing doors that need closing in order to open up windows that show me a brand-new view of the world.  Ironically, I always find out later on it was important for me to see that view so I could embrace new ideas coming into my life.

I once wrote about my favorite section of Myst IV: Revelation‘s ending scene, you know,  where Atrus looks at us all and reminds us that endings are just another form of beginning? Well, remembering that, it makes one of  the Myst Universe’s taglines “The ending has not yet been written” even more poignant.

We all have to face the darkness. It can be inside of us just as well as outside of us. We all have to face endings that are filled with rude shocks which often leave us screaming about the scalding hot coffee that has just landed in our laps because of the size of the pothole we just ran through. But whether we like it or not, we can not enjoy the light without knowing how dark things can get.  Inner demons, addictions and a gamut of others, not forgetting just plain old fear. I’ve looked each one in the eye and I can honestly say that the cold, unyielding dark is nowhere I want to spend a lot of time visiting on a regular basis anymore. Believe me, I’ve spent the good majority of my life battling the dark – to the point I could publish a braille map I know it so well.

I’ve come to believe that those dark moments in our lives are scary and hard because it jars us back into reality and forces us to step into the light. They make us rise to the occasion; they inspire us to change the parts of ourselves that we don’t like and know those things must change for us to be happy in our lives.

And that’s where hope just loves to sigh with its’ patient smile and look at us as if to ask, “Hey, what took you so long?”

But that’s the lesson, isn’t it? Hope stands next to us like a trusted friend, always there, vigilantly giving us a much-needed respite from desolation. Even during the darkest of nights, hope is there.  All we have to do is remember to look up and see the stars.