La vita non è giusta (Life is not fair)

My father told me a story many years ago about his father and I channel it every time I feel dejected.

Only my father can tell this story appropriately, but I will try to do it justice in honor of my grandfather, may he rest in peace.

One afternoon, my eighteen-year old father found himself spilling out all the ways the world had wronged him to his own father, a Sicilian hard-working immigrant. He told his tales of woe as my grandfather smoked his cigarette and listened. After my father was done expressing his suffering, my grandfather looked at him, inhaled a long drag from his cigarette and said to his son,

“La vita non è giusta.”

Life is not fair.

Those seemingly simple words have stayed with me from the moment my father told me this story.

Life is not fair.

My latest film has been rejected from fourteen film festivals so far. I’m 0-14. It’s out to dozens of others but no filmmaker likes to read the oh-so-generic “rejection” letters. They start to get me down. I start to question things – Do I think this film should be screened? Did I do the best job I could? Is it as honest as possible? Should people see it? Does it have something to say that is worth hearing? ………

But then, amid that noise, I hear my grandfather’s voice…

La vita non è giusta.

He’s right. It isn’t.

But so be it. What am I gonna do – cry about it or try to fight for what I want?

Today, as I was thinking about how hard it is to get screening time at festivals, I saw a little slice of nature that reminded me growth was possible despite the odds.

And so, to my friend in the picture above, my father and my grandfather, I thank you. You keep me going…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I care.

I completely surprised myself.

As someone who has never cared for the gender roles society tries to assign and in fact has more than often gone out of their way to disprove them, it struck me odd when I found myself tending to my husband’s every need the past two days and not minding it.

Let me explain.

It’s very easy to go along with the flow when your significant other is healthy and things are going smoothly, both rocking the world in your regular vibe, being on your own little cloud nine…

But then, there are days when things don’t go smoothly and the flow I mentioned starts to ebb.

Like when one of you get sick.

A few days ago, my husband got hit with whatever flu is going around and the poor guy’s throat has been so sore he hasn’t been able to talk, all the while his body has ached for days. I can still see it in his eyes. He’s not himself. This bug has taken over him.

And so, for the past two days, I’ve found myself taking care of him – asking him what he wanted and going to get it right then, doing all the laundry, preparing his favorite tuscan white bean soup and making sure he got fluids and plenty of rest.

And I didn’t mind it at all.

If someone asked me five years ago if I would one day take care of someone like I have the past two days, I might have either laughed thinking they didn’t know me at all or if they did, wonder what they’d been smoking.

My priorities were so much different then.

And as I was driving home from work tonight, I realized I no longer equated taking care of someone as being weak but instead saw it as one of the strongest things you can do.

And I smiled because I’ve come a long way from the girl who lived alone in a studio and loved it.

I care.

And it feels good.

What we talk about when we talk about love

The other day, a friend asked me if I had been to Sicily, the place where my parents were born and the root of my culture. I said “no, not yet” and it made me think of something…

First, a little background.

My husband is not from the state we live in. While I have my immediate family here and have had a life in Los Angeles for the past thirty years, my husband has not. His family and friends are on the east coast but his passion for music and the Pacific Ocean led him out west. (Thankfully!)

A little over a year into our relationship, we decided to step things up a notch. We moved in together. And we wanted me to meet his parents. At that time, roundtrip flights to Orlando were going to cost us nearly a thousand dollars. Having just moved in together and needing to pay for a few surprise expenses like car work and dental bills, we did not have an extra thousand to spend.

A little more background.

I am Sicilian, as most my readers know, and going to Sicily has been on my goal list for as long as I can remember. I have a ton of family there and when I was single, I was planning to go visit there for a month. I had been saving up my frequent flier miles for a round trip ticket for almost a decade.

Then, I met my husband and though I was able to take the trip for the first time in my life, I had postponed it because I wanted to get to know him and felt like something magical was happening.

It was indeed and flash forward back to where we were… moved in and wanting to go to Florida so I could meet his parents but lacking in the funds department.

I went online and looked up how many miles I would need for two round trip tickets to Orlando. It was the exact amount for my Sicilian trip.

Though this even surprised myself, I immediately offered them to be used to fly to Florida. My husband insisted I not give up my trip but I was steadfast on the idea and ultimately, he accepted the gift.

We went to Florida and had the most wonderful of trips. His parents were an absolute pleasure and welcomed me in with open arms, thrilled to see their son and I in love.

I had zero regrets on using those miles. And that’s when I realized I was deeply in love with him and my priorities had shifted. Though Sicily is extremely high on my list, he’s higher.

Six months later, my husband’s father fell ill and passed away.

And that was when I realized those miles were never meant for Sicily.

The Other Night

WARNING – GRAPHIC CONTENT IN THIS BLOG POST

I try to keep my posts all-ages friendly but sometimes, that’s simply not possible.

The other night, I was inside a convenience store buying some sparkling water when I witnessed the most interesting interaction between what appeared to be two homeless males. If I had to judge, I would say one was nearly old enough to drink and new to the streets while the other was not so new to the streets and likely in his later thirties. They were in line before me, buying some beer.

The pudgy older one was purchasing the beer with cash while the skinny younger one grabbed a lighter called “The Torch” and flicked it on. His eyes lit up in awe as he exclaimed with a goofy smile, “I’ve got to have this.”

The older one stared at his friend and said, “No you don’t. You said you were gonna quit that shit. Smoke pot or something but don’t smoke crack.”

The younger one, who seemed to be on some drug already, grabbed the older one’s face and smiled into his eyes. “I love you,” he said and gave him a bear hug.

The older one hugged him back but didn’t give in. “Put it down. You don’t need it.”

Despite the pleading, the younger one took out a few crumpled dollar bills from his short jeans pocket and paid the cashier the three dollars it cost.

As they exited, I heard the older one still saying the younger one didn’t need any torch lighter. He said, “Come on, let’s just go drink our beer and forget about that shit.”

It was my turn at the register. I paid for my water and left.

The homeless guys were outside the store, doing something with their bicycles. I could hear them talk as I walked to the corner to cross the street.

The older one was more serious now. “Do you want to sell you ass? That’s what’s gonna happen if you keep smoking that crack shit.”

The younger one said nothing but had an odd smile on his face.

The older one continued, “I love ya, man, but I don’t want AIDS squirted up your ass. I’m serious. Stop! Smoking! Crack!” He was practically yelling at this point.

The light changed and I continued on, no longer able to make out their conversation.

I’ve been thinking about these two for about a week now.

While it was disturbing to see a young adult on the streets suffering from what appeared to be a crack addiction, it was quite beautiful watching his friend, a fellow homeless man, trying to talk him out of it and get him off it. I hope he succeeds.

#beautyiseverywhere

 

The Facts And Nothing But

As I was leaving work tonight, a co-worker/friend and I were talking about some things I write and for the first time someone called me an “investigative reporter.”

To be clear, she used it in a descriptive manner when talking about my inquisitive nature.

I thought about it as I drove home. I’ve always been inquisitive and not afraid to ask any question (hey, no one’s forcing an answer!) but investigative… that word. It stuck with me and my brain started thinking….

Now, unless you’ve been under a rock lately, chances are you’ve noticed the tension in the air about the new President of the United States. Everyone and their mother has an opinion on the topic and most are not afraid to tell you it.

The wrath though. That’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. But that’s a topic for another post.

Trying to wade through the abundance of opinion, pontification, falsehood, agenda-driven “alternative facts” and just down right nasty lies has made the job of someone who wants the-facts-and-nothing-but insanely difficult.

The amount of time I spend researching something has escalated, as the truth-tellers have narrowed.

And that’s when it hit me.

have to some degree become an investigative reporter, out of sheer necessity to find the truth.

Well, you do what you gotta do.

“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”
– Winston Churchill

Find Your Flow

I have a story to tell you. A personal one.

When I came upon something that opened my mind, relaxed and yet strengthened my body and brought me closer to nature, I was floored.

Yoga.

It has since become a part of my spirituality.

My very first experience with yoga wasn’t amazing though. The instructor gave me a dirty yoga mat that I didn’t know was dirty until the guy who cleaned them told me right after class and then she kept calling out my name every ten minutes because she knew me, but still, it was my first time!

I did go back though and eventually, I learned about it and found my flow.

But life struck last year and I got married, moved and changed jobs all within 9 months, causing me to ignore the flow and jump right into the chaos without my precious life preserver.

Big Mistake.

I kid you not when I tell you that my muscles have tightened, my mind has been cloudier, my waist has expanded and my inner peace has struggled with the daily grind.

At first, I didn’t know what had happened. Here I was, happily married, with a job that pays my bills and then some and living in a beautiful new townhouse I got to call home. And yet, something inside didn’t feel at ease. My shoulders were always scrunched, my sleep was erratic and my bad habits came out of the woods ready to rage.

Then one day, I was looking through Groupon and a yoga studio caught my eye. It was close to home and offered a view of the ocean during practice. The price was amazing and I thought, “Damn, it’s been almost a year since I’ve taken out my mat!”

The moment I went, I was hooked right back on the yoga sauce.

That was two months ago. I do power yoga (a yin/yang/yin 75 min class) twice a week and I feel on top of the world.

When someone says, what difference can a little stretching make? I tell them:

All the difference.

Find your flow.

Namaste.

 

 

11 Books That Rocked My World

Starting on clay tablets and rock walls, stories in “book form” have evolved through the years into the e-books we have before us in the 21st century. How far we’ve come and yet, at its basic core, storytelling has been a part of humanity for a very, very long time.

I’m a book junkie. I go through them like water and will pretty much read anything in front of me. And I love recommendations because if a book affected someone, I’m down to give it a try.

The written word is intoxicating to me. I know it’s not for everyone but for me, books open the limitations of my mind, introduce me to other people, places and thoughts, and allow me an opportunity to explore someone else’s experiences. It’s a thrill.

And perhaps because of my enthusiasm toward books, or the fact that I’ve been a paid reader for the past ten years, I’m often asked for recommendations. I’ll pretty much always tell people the top three books that not only stayed with me from the moment I read them, but have gone on to deeply affect me, but I rarely delve deeper because I don’t want to overload.

The other day though, when a very smart young man asked me for some book recommendations, I quickly told him my favorite Tolstoy (one of the above-mentioned top three) and then found myself wanting to rattle off many more based on our conversation. So…

11 Books That Rocked My World
(listed in order of impact on me.)

1. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
After I read this immensely dense book, I had to ground myself. It is a fictitious novel that exemplifies Ayn Rand’s Objectivism philosophy. The prophetic nature blew my mind but more importantly, Rand put into words what I had been feeling about government and my life and she set me on a journey of philosophical exploration ever since I read this over fifteen years ago. I credit this book to the beginning of my philosophical studies.

2. The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy
A grad student recommended this to me when I was an undergrad at San Diego State and minoring in Literature. I wonder if he knows that he changed my life by recommending this book to me. Not only has Russian lit become my all time favorite reading, but this story in particular made me understand the importance of living honestly and how the truth will always be revealed. Here, Ivan doesn’t find it until his deathbed and the amount of sadness I felt that he couldn’t appreciate in life what he learned as he died made me resolve to live life as honestly as I could and I have ever since.

3. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
I was assisting a producer on the Paramount lot when I was introduced to this book. It was being developed into a feature and copies were all over the office. I took one home to read and probably read it in two days. I couldn’t put it down. Franzen managed to capture the realities of family life in suburbia with such precise awareness and thoughtfulness that I nearly cried when I was finished because I didn’t want the story to end. His observations on life are as keen as they come and I often think of his writing when I am dealing with the realities of my life.

4. Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky
This book is considered to be one of the first Existentialist novels and it was my study of Existentialism that led me to it. Having already been a big fan of Dostoevsky (Crime and Punishment nearly made this list…), it was only a matter of time till I came to this but little did I know the Underground Man would rock my world. His story, his angst, reached into my core.

5. The Trial (Der Process) by Franz Kafka
This book fascinated me from the moment I opened it, even though I was a bit confused at first. But thats’s how Kafka works and I love it. You aren’t entirely sure what you are reading until you are and then, it’s like an eye-opening experience, one I have not had with many other books. I couldn’t put this down.

6. The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoffman
While I was working as an assistant editor for television, one of the editors I worked closely with saw that I loved to read philosophy. He asked me if I had ever read this book and when I said no, he brought me a copy the next day. I read it and lo and behold, my interest in Taoism emerged. Living in harmony with nature has stuck with me to this day and I often buy this book for others who are interested in Eastern Philosophy.

7. Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
I can’t remember how I was introduced to this hysterical writer (I think I read something of his in The New Yorker) but after I read this too-short book, I knew I was going to be a fan of Sedaris for life.  (When I went to one of his readings, he made the audience laugh almost as much as a stand-up comedian.) The way he blends keen observations with wit and humor is superior and an absolute pleasure to read. He holds nothing back and I love it!

8. The Plague by Albert Camus
I know, it’s becoming obvious that I am very drawn to existentialism as Albert Camus is widely known as being an existentialist writer/philosopher. I have read practically everything this man has written but this book in particular really got to me because of the way he writes chaos in a realistic setting that explores the human condition. Powerful writing here folks.

9. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X
When I read this book by Malcolm X, who collaborated with journalist Alex Haley, I was floored. It is powerful and impactful and thoughtful and telling. It helped me understand racism more. This book made me aware of many sides to a story and it set my search for truth in journalism in motion.

10. How To Be Alone (a collection of essays) by Jonathan Franzen
Yes, Mr. Franzen is on this list twice. The first was for fiction and this is for his non-fiction collection of essays that made my mind think and my heart feel. His observations are what reach into the core of my being and his witty comments on them help me understand that we are not alone.

11. A Hard Day’s Write: The Stories Behind Every Beatles Song by Steve Turner
I am a huge Beatle’s fan, having grown up with my father playing old school songs like “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and “Rock and Roll Music” and my brother and I dancing around his home office. And though I’ve read many books on this legendary band, this book is special because it details the stories behind each song on every album. I still consult this to this day and keep it right beside me in my office.

What are some of your favorite books? Please share!

And happy reading!