To the Class of 2016: Ten Things I’ve Learned

To all my sweet, young friends who will be graduating tonight. I want you to all know how proud I am of the humans you have become.

As you embark on this thing called adulthood, let me pass on a few things I’ve learned along the way. Maybe one or two of them will help you avoid some unnecessary pain or frustration. There are many other things I have learned, but no one wants to read an infinite list. Ten will do for now.



1.
Don’t believe your own press. As you grow older, things will be said or written about you, both good and bad. You’ll even say things about yourself, both good and bad. We’ve all had to make ourselves look as good as possible for a job interview or an audition. Maybe things will even be printed about you. People will put you on a pedestal, and they will think you can do grand things. Don’t get me wrong; you can absolutely do grand things, but the minute you replace confidence with ego, that’s when your downfall begins. Stay humble. Stay grounded. Know who you are, and know who you’re not.

2. Find your people. Don’t settle for any group of friends that you can’t be yourself around. Be your quirky, weird, fun, absolute true self, and keep being that person until you find a group of people who are similarly quirky, weird, fun and true. Don’t surround yourself with ‘yes’ men and women. People who suck up to you are not your real friends. Don’t allow it. You can’t grow without positive resistance. Conversely, don’t allow yourself to be bullied by anyone. No one has the right to tell you how you should live your life. Or to make you feel small or unwanted. This isn’t high school anymore. You can walk away, and it’s a beautiful thing. Keep walking until you find your people.

3. Never stop learning. If you are pursuing higher education, take it as far as you possibly can, and past that, keep learning. Even if you’re not pursuing higher education, keep questioning, never take anything anyone says at face value, and never accept the answer, ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it.’ That’s they way it was always done before you got here. You bring value to everything you do. Keep reading, watching, listening, learning. You can never have too much knowledge. Also, travel. See things, see them in person. Meet new people, seek out opportunities to grow your mind, and expand your personal world.

4. Find your calling. You may or may not work some really crappy jobs in the next few years. Keep working, because they are the jobs that make you humble. A job is different from a calling. A calling lights a fire under you, brings you joy, challenges you, and makes you look forward to another day. Find your calling, and find a way to get paid for it.

5. Do all things in moderation. This is so important, and so very simple. Don’t drink/smoke/sex/drug/study/stress/sleep/work/play/spend too much. All of these have the power to take over your life. Some of them can ruin your life, and destroy many years, or shorten your life by many years. I’ll let you decide which those are, but they all have that power, if you give it to them. Don’t.

6. Choose a mate you like. Hormones are extremely powerful. You will have feelings for people you didn’t believe were possible. Strong, passionate, lusty feelings. Don’t listen to feelings. Do listen to that inner voice. It’s not enough to love someone, you must like them too. Do you like who they are? Do you like who you are when you are with them? Do they support you? Do they challenge you? If the only thing you have in common is physical attraction, then what will you have when that fades away? Choose someone who doesn’t push you to do things that make you uncomfortable, instead, choose someone who makes you the best possible version of yourself. Choose someone who brings you peace, not turmoil. Choose someone who makes your heart, mind, and soul say, “Ah. There you are.”

7. Be kind. Always. You are busy living your story, but you have no idea what your fellow man (or woman) is going through. Be kind whenever possible, and it’s always possible. If you find yourself becoming jealous of another person, ask yourself if you are willing to put in the amount of work they have for the result they have. If you are, then do it. If you aren’t, then be happy for them, and stop being jealous.

8. Learn to read body language. This will save you years of heartbreak and wonder. Learn to listen to what people say with their bodies, not their mouths. If the two don’t match, it is the body language you should believe. It is the purest form of truth.

9. Keep your sense of humor. Know that Life only gets harder. It will not always be kind, forgiving, or fair. Especially fair. Bad things will happen. Good things will happen. Sometimes, they will happen at the same time. Keep your sense of humor, because if you lose that, you could possibly lose your mind. Someone you love may not love you back. You might not get the job you know you were meant for. Eventually, you will lose people you love to distance, breakup, or death. This is Life. But you are in it for the long haul. Hang on, because it can also be beautiful, and full of wonder. Keep going for those moments. The big ones, and the small, simple ones. They make all the bad times worth the journey.

10. Seek God/Don’t blame God. He is the ultimate teacher, granter of wisdom, favor, and love. Seek Him in everything you do. He extends the hand of friendship to every human being. Those who accept it live an enriched life. Be careful to understand that it is not an easier life, in fact, at times it could be harder. In that vein, do not fall into the trap of blaming Him when Life beats you up. Trust Him. Trust that he will work all things together for your good. Bad things happen because this is Life, and this is a world with good people, bad people, disease, accidents, and tragedy. Know that He weeps with you in the bad, and rejoices with you in the good. Know that He loves you more than our human hearts can understand. That is, until you become a mother or a father. Then, I think possibly you will understand the depth of His love for you.


I don’t have all the answers, but these things have worked for me. In short, welcome, my friends, to all the possibilities of your Life. What an exciting adventure awaits!

 Happy Graduation Day. 🙂

For the love of Art

Bad things happen. Hate, greed, violence, and pain have existed since our exit from the Garden of Eden. There is nothing new under the sun, so hate, greed, violence, and pain will go on existing until we all shuffle off this mortal coil.

What can be done about it? What do we do when things seem at their very lowest point? When we can’t imagine something more awful happening than the thing that happened yesterday? Or today? Or even tomorrow? How can we combat all the darkness?

Love. Joy. Peace. Forgiveness.

How can we achieve these feelings? These qualities? One way is through art. That sounds ridiculous. Legislation! New rules! More restrictions! Shouting! That’s what we need to create love, joy, peace, and forgiveness!

Perhaps. I’ll leave that up to those who feel called to that line of change. I wish them well. In the meantime, while they do the work they’ve been called to do, I’ll do mine.  I will combat the darkness by creating art.

What qualifies as art? The actual definition is, “the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.”

Art is painting. Art is film. Art is dance. Art is theatre. Art is whatever we need it to be that stirs our emotions, stimulates our minds, and soothes our spirits. (Or challenges them).

During the Great Depression, all businesses suffered, but the one business that still brought in crowds was the movies. People wanted to escape their circumstances, and for two hours, Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, and many others were their ticket to another world. A world where there wasn’t any hate, greed, violence, or pain.

Our theatre has a show that opens tomorrow. Come see it. Not because the volunteer actors have spent countless hours rehearsing and refining the material. Not because it’s been a joy to produce. Not because these actors are some of the kindest people ever assembled in one place. Actually, not for any reason related to the actual formation of the show.

Come because for two short, simple hours, it will take you away from the darkness that gathers outside. Inside our four walls, there is sunshine, and there is pure joy. Our actors portray real characters with real problems, so there is conflict, but it is resolved. We know everything will turn out all right for them; and knowing that, we have a bit of hope for ourselves. And we need that right now. We need that every day.

We are fortunate to have many community theatres in our area, and all are producing the best quality art they know how. Support them. Support art in all forms because it’s only when we stop filling the seats, when we give up on any hope of love, joy, peace, and forgiveness that the darkness truly begins to win.

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“Corney County Christmas Talent and Variety Show Fundraiser”

December 4 @ 7:30
December 5 @ 7:30
December 6 @ 3:00 AND 7:00

More information, including directions and tickets at:  www.TheTheatreDownstream.com

 

MY MOVIE IS ON TELEVISION!!

I interrupt this ongoing blog about the book to say:

MY MOVIE IS ON TELEVISION RIGHT NOW.

I’ve heard it’s been on the Parables Network before, but tonight it’s on Directv on the upliftv channel. (379 for those who have it) My cousin was kind enough to let me know it came on at nine. She also took some screen shots for me.

Thank you, Stacie, for absolutely MAKING my night.

Guys, this never, ever gets old, or less exciting than before. It’s incredible. What a gift of encouragement (straight from God) while working on this book.

Never give up, friends!! I’m going to go squeal some more now. 😀

Photo by Stacie Stivers

Photos by Stacie Stivers

Allergic to Love: A Simon Story

If you’ve ever wondered about the power of positive words, allow me to reintroduce Simon. For those of you who haven’t yet met him, look no further than the article entitled, “Simon Sees A Murder.” It’s two below this one. I’ll wait while you catch up.

………..

Great. Now that you know how he feels about bath time, let me tell you a little bit more about his origin story. When I would visit him at the Humane Society before adopting him, he would run to me, leap into my lap, flip over on his back and purr. I was assured that he had ‘chosen’ me for his owner, and it seemed that was true.

Same

Love means exposing your belly and hanging upside down.

However, when I took him home, something strange happened. He got tiny bumps all over his little body, and whenever I would try to pet him, he would purr furiously and LOUDLY, but immediately begin to choke and run away. I took him to the vet, got some medicine, and his bumps cleared up, but not the purr/choke issue.

I finally figured out that when I tried to pet him, he became so overwhelmed with happiness, that his purr motor was ‘overheating’ and choking him, thus causing him to run away.

He was literally becoming allergic to love.
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Climbing the Mountain

As someone who seemingly has unceasing dreams and aspirations, I can honestly say I understand the drive, the passion and the insanity that a big dream, or even a calling, can inflict upon the poor soul who dared to have it in the first place.

In 2012, my mother, Rebekah, was inflicted by such a calling. She called me and told me she had an idea for a story, maybe even a novel. She outlined the whole thing for me and then laughed as she told me I should write it for her. To her shock and dismay, I turned her down. “That’s the thing about a dream, Mom. It has to be lived out by the person who has it. Nobody else can do it for you.”

“But I don’t know how!” she replied. I reminded her that my first film was made with little more knowledge than that. But I learned along the way, and there was one thing I was certain of. If I could do it, she could do it. While I knew it would be scary for her, I also knew that there was no replacement for the euphoria she would feel when she finished. Even if, as she said she feared, no one ever read it, it would be her own personal scaled mountain.

And the view would be glorious.

Once she realized I was serious when I said I wasn’t going to write it for her, she decided she would tackle that mountain. On December 27th, 2012, she began her story.

Now, December 27, 2014, exactly two years, and hundreds of hours of writing, researching, and rewriting later, not only does she have a completed book, but she has a SECOND book fully drafted. On November 1st of this year, she entered NaNoWriMo, which is short for “National Novel Writing Month.” The goal is to draft a 50k word novel in 30 days or less.

She finished in 21.

Back in July, I asked her to sit down and answer a few questions about the book. I told her I would publish them when the book became available. This is that interview.
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A cat named Cat Ballou

This was written shortly after I found Cat. It had been years since I had a feline as a pet. Happily living with two dogs, I didn’t know what I was missing until that day in December. Cat stayed with me for several months, and was the best mouser I ever had the privilege to know.

She took walks with me, slept with me, and just generally improved my life. After I moved, she ran away after some fireworks and a run in with another family member’s dog. She had started living in the wild, and she went back to the wild. One of her ears was grown together at the tip and was her only identifying mark. I searched for weeks, months, and then a year. I still miss her.

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For those of you who don’t yet know the story, “Cat Ballou” is one of my very favorite movies. It is one that I watched over and over again as a kid, and actually never gets old. It’s a comedy western and stars Jane Fonda, Lee Marvin, Dwayne Hickman and Michael Callan. Lee Marvin won the best supporting Oscar that year as the drunken “Kid Shaleen.” He famously said that half of his Oscar belonged to “a horse somewhere in the valley.” Watch the movie. You’ll see what he means.

Anyway, on December 12th, I was coming home from running some errands when I saw a cat dart across the road. Since I live on a road that is a popular “drop off zone” (a place where cats and dogs are dumped by owners who know the schmucks on this street will more than likely take them in) I stopped the car. I got out and did the ‘test.’
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The Coldest Day

“If ever we are going to be made into wine, we will have to be crushed; you cannot drink grapes. Grapes become wine only when they have been squeezed.”– Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest.

Today’s weather has been a gift.

Four years ago, on October 2 and 3 of 2010, I was part of the production team shooting two scenes for my very first independent feature film, No Lost Cause. The weather was abysmal. Overcast skies tinted everything a pale blue-grey, and the air had moved beyond crisp and autumnal into the slicing cold of deepest winter.

The scene called for our actors to play basketball, while wearing shorts and sleeveless tops. The crew was in heavy overcoats and wrapped in layers and these two men were left with the acting job of their young lives: warm.

There were many shooting days, but these two stand out because they were the absolute worst weather we experienced, and October 3 is my Grandfather’s birthday. Which is why I notice the weather today and why I am particularly reveling in it’s balmy breeze. I’ve left the window open nearly all day, and I’ve made the time to sit on my front porch and read…soaking in the last possible heat before another rumored long and difficult winter begins.
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