2016 Election
History, Inspiration, Thoughts, Uncategorized

An Artist’s Call-to-Arms

Today I was humbled. All of us who took the truth to be self-evident were humbled. We’ve been reminded of those two great barriers to progress, assumption and complacency, trumped by the greatest barrier of all — fear.

It’s strange to always be awake while America sleeps. I wish I could’ve slept on this, instead of having to face the glaring reality in silence, alone with my countrymen scattered around on this side of the ocean, feeling adrift and oddly abandoned even as we commiserate with each other.

I am reminded, more deeply than I have been in many years, why I chose this path for myself. Why my second major in college flitted between political science and philosophy and journalism, but my commitment to film and storytelling never wavered. Why I keep banging on the keyboard four years after I began, trying to finish this damn book. Why I grab hold of anyone with a faintly artistic dream and squeeze every bit of confidence and encouragement into them I possibly can.

Music, film, theater, design, fiction, and art are more powerful than the most vehement rhetoric. They are stories. Stories are our greatest weapon, and our highest purpose. Stories teach empathy, that there are grey areas, that life is not simple. Stories cut through the talking points and hit on the themes we should know, but have been clouded by fear. Stories give us opportunities to face danger and controversy in a safe space, and learn from it before the consequences are too high. And most importantly: stories change everyone, regardless of where you live, what you believe, or who you voted for. Stories are our great unifier.

Fill your stories with what you believe. Touch us. Teach us.

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” – Edgar Degas

This I believe: Fear is lesser than love. Compassion is greater than strength. All men are created equal — including that Syrian refugee who can recite the Qur’an by heart, and that illegal Mexican immigrant who can hardly string an English sentence together, and that gay couple, and that loud, nasal-voiced woman. Freedom isn’t free, not (only) because we have to have the stomach to kill for it, but because we have to be willing to sacrifice our money, our lives, and our way of life for our highest ideals. Everyone is vulnerable. Everyone craves love and belonging. We must not let fear drive us.

I have always been, and continue to be, proud of my country and my countrymen. Even now, on a day I believe will someday be looked back upon by most Americans with shame. We are a stubborn, ingenious group. And our artists the most so.

Now is the time for cultural change through art. Now is the time to flood every TV, bookstore, cinema screen, gallery wall, theater, and street corner with stories that hit the heart and then the head, that teach patience, understanding, compassion, and love.

We’ve tried politics. If there’s anything this election has shown, it’s that fear is a cancer we’ve let spread too far. It’s time to take the soul of American into our own hands.

ARTISTS: GO CHANGE THE WORLD. We have work to do.

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I did not make this, but I wish I had. It was made by DKNG Studios as a poster for one of my favorite bands, Explosions in the Sky.

http://www.dkngstudios.com/2011/10/11/explosions-in-the-sky-poster-and-art-print/
Design, Inspiration, Thoughts, UX Design

What Does ‘Design’ Mean Anyway?

I came to design a true novice – so ignorant that I thought I already knew most of what there was to be known and was sure talent, confidence, and dedication would be enough to make me a graphic designer. This has turned out to be true only in the sense that because of those things I am now aware of how much I don’t know, and am now ravenously curios to learn more. My original assumption of design – specifically corporate and product design for digital mediums – was as vague and ignorant as saying, “Because I know movies are made with cameras, and I have a camera, I know how to make movies.”

First off, I’m not really a ‘graphic designer.’ That term is horribly vague. I’m more of a user interface designer and fledging user experience designer. But more on that later.

I was introduced to Photoshop at a young age, when a good friend and mentor of mine plopped a disc into my computer and said, “Have fun with this.” I did. I was homeschooled for six years, and spent most of that time doing everything I could on the computer other than schoolwork. With the progression from dial-up to DSL came a whole new world of Photoshop tutorials. I did them endlessly, making buttons and spacescapes, painting awkward faces and eyes with my mouse and the brush tool, and learning how to make text look like it was exploding out of the computer screen.

I never suspected that the obsessive hours I spent trying to make space-gas look realistic would turn out to be the foundation for what is quickly becoming my career.

Before becoming a professional designer, I lumped the term ‘design’ into a few different categories – fashion design (figuring out how to make clothes look good), car design (figuring out how to make cars look good), and graphic design (figuring out how to make stuff in Photoshop look good). All other forms of design I didn’t consider to be ‘real’ design – sort of the way some jewelry makers and florists consider themselves to be ‘storytellers.’ 

I had a brief glimpse of the true depth and awesome complexity of design during my stay in New York, when my editing teacher took me to the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art and showed me old telephones and Macintosh computers and, most peculiar of all, a Vespa on a slowly revolving pedestal. When I asked him why those things were in an art museum he looked pityingly at me and said, with a gentle tact I probably would not have managed had our places been reversed, “To some people, this is art.”

My familiarity with Photoshop, a general talent for style, and an obsessive attention to detail led to designing flyers for my mom’s business. This grew to include flyers for school events, advertisements for my mom’s business, and eventually to the design of her website. I found an internship in graphic design, and then another in web design. I never studied it outside of the requirements of the internships – rather, requests for this sort of work I saw as a necessary evil, brief dalliances with what I considered to be profitable but no real example of art.

Then I was offered my current position. I work for a wonderful company, one that is growing quickly enough to afford more specialized personal but too quickly to be ready to hire experienced specialized personal. Though nearly ten years old it still has the casual, collaborative air of a start-up, and the higher-ups are willing to gamble on curiosity and talent because they themselves had been gambled upon in similar ways not too long before.

I am currently the only designer  – and you know what they say about power and responsibility.

a-day-in-the-life-of-a-graphic-designer_50290d037d6cb

I began to dive into this world of design. I started with a book well-known as a classic among UI/UX designers, though I had never heard of it before my new boss mentioned it to me – Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug. It took me an afternoon and was full of clear, practical advice about web design that was generally self-evident. Don’t make a button that means ‘next’ and a button that means ‘delete’ look the same. Avoid clutter. Anticipate what a user will want, then give it to them in the clearest way possible.

Next I read The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman. It was considerably longer, and spoke of web design, or any of the other specialities I’d lumped under the heading of ‘graphic design’, not at all. Instead it talked about door handles, refrigerators, and office telephones. It talked about bus controls and nuclear power plants — it talked about interfaces. Here was the godfather of modern design, which has shaped a generation of designers who have in turn shaped their products, and it posed one simple question:

How can we make our products easier for our customers to use?

Apple, the hot quarterback of the design world, took that question to heart — and the world was changed.

Design should anticipate a user’s needs, then show them the easiest way to meet those needs with clarity and simplicity. My favorite example of this is a door handle. You’re coming into a building of some kind. You’re walking at a perfectly normal pace, trying to figure out if the door calls for pushing or pulling. You call upon a wealth of experiences with similar doors – the mall in Tampa had doors that always push inwards. You heard somewhere that stores are required to have doors that swing outward towards the street. You are trying to make a logical choice before you reach the door handle, whether you realize it or not — but it’s always the other way. You push when it should be pulled, pull when it should be pushed, and have to go through that awkward three seconds of wup, oh… yeah got it, okay.

Some people have tried to solve this problem by slapping a crooked sticker above the handle that says ‘push’ or ‘pull’, but this is a clumsy and often ineffectual option. Who has time to stop and read before opening a door? In German push is drücken and pull is ziehen – making those signs useless to foreigners, or blind people, or illiterate people, or me. Whenever I see German labels above a door handle I go into an immediate panic and forget every German word I’ve ever learned.  

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the designers of doors had thought this through before going out and making millions of confusing doors?

I have a solution. 

(Thankfully door designers thought of this before me and I have an example to show.)

pushpulldoor

 Push = door with something you can push on. Pull = door with something you can grab.

Beautiful.

Since then I’ve gone a little crazy with the user-focussed design, and my definition of design has broadened to include almost anything you can imagine. For example, my boyfriend and I recently moved into our new apartment, and I was determined to make everything as user-friendly as possible. Have a tendency to throw all your clothes in a big pile on the floor for no discernible reason? Don’t force yourself into doing something that sucks for you, because 1) it’ll always suck and 2) you’ll never really start doing it ‘right.’ Instead, find a way to take what you do naturally and focus that into something more constructive. Design your world so it is user-friendly. So we got two big laundry baskets with lids, one for clean clothes and one for dirty, and instead of piling everything on the floor, we pile everything in them. We still have just as much time/energy to organize clothes as before, but now we’re hiding and organizing the mess in the mean time.

There are no bad users. Just bad design.

EoD_White_2560

This field is deep and broad and vast and insanely rewarding, and I’ve only just scratched the surface. Being a designer means more than making things pretty – it means making things comfortable, inviting, effortless. It means understanding your user’s psychology and being able to play to their strengths while avoiding their weaknesses. It means starting with data and ending with beauty. It means being good at a thousand things other than Photoshop.

I’m now applying this fresh view of the world to my other, older loves – writing and filmmaking. It’s not about knowing your audience and catering to what you imagine their desires to be – it’s about being clear in as simple and elegant a way as possible. In writing, it’s about stepping away from the flourishes and compound sentences and rampant adjectives and just telling the damn story. In film, it’s about stepping away from rampant dialogue and clumsy exposition and zealous CGI. It’s about all I’ve been told by those more talented and knowledgable than I a thousand times over, but never really, deeply understood. It about communication – as is art.

I read a great article the other day in which Whitney Hess, a long-time professional user experience designer, was asked to describe UX design in two hundred words or less. She has a fantastic blog I highly recommend if anyone is interested in this sort of thing. http://whitneyhess.com/blog/ She speaks more of the role of UX design in the corporate product-creation world, which I suppose I am now a part of. As with her work, her words cut straight to the point, and I couldn’t possibly say it any better:

“User Experience is a commitment to developing products and services with purpose, compassion, and integrity. It is the never-ending process of seeing the world from the customers’ perspective and working to improve the quality of their lives. It is the never-ending process of maintaining the health of the business and finding new ways to help it grow sustainably. It is the perfect balance between making money and making meaning.

The user experience practitioner is neither sage nor saint; it is not their role to have all the answers to life’s questions or to advocate for altruism in a capitalist society. They are simply the facilitators of a more collaborative, transparent way of operating in business today — breaking down the walls between silos and bringing the customer into the boardroom.

User Experience is the responsibility of every member of the organization; it is a central philosophy, shared principles. It is not a series of activities and deliverables to perform, but an enlightened way of being.

UX is mindfulness.”

I’m also a little more open to the idea of jewelry makers and florists considering themselves storytellers – because there’s probably way more going on there than I have any idea about, and who am I to say? 

… though they probably mean more design than storytelling. Just sayin’.

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dragonflight
Inspiration, Writing

Four Tips On Writing Well

I’ve been flirting with the idea of authorship my whole life. One of the reasons I never addressed it ‘seriously’ was because I’ve always felt writing to be something you simply do, as opposed to something you study, or someone you are. It would be great to be able to say, “I am a professional writer,” but from what I can tell no one gets to that point by crawling up that corporate writing ladder, snapping up promotions and qualifications to add to their resume, making themselves more attractive in the cut-throat writing market. No one needs a resume to apply for the Writer of Stories I Make Up position. They just need to write.

Explaining that ‘just’ has turned out to be the most challenging, liberating, soul-searching adventure of my life so far.

I’ve been writing seriously for two years now. I think I’m hovering at Beginning-Intermediate actual author level – I’ve managed to write a 160,000 novel, a feature length screenplay, and a handful of short stories, but I’m still not done revising anything and I haven’t even started looking for a publisher or agent. Fledgling, basically – dedicated hobbyist. But I’m slowly getting there.

These four tips are those I have found to work in my own experience, but I wouldn’t say that they are my own. They are an amalgamation of those I’ve found from a hundred previous writers more talented than I.

be clear

I saw a Buzzfeed quiz  (http://www.buzzfeed.com/jarrylee/hemingway-or-childrens-book#3a7nsit) a few weeks ago where you had to guess whether a sentence was from Hemmingway or a children’s book. I think it was meant to be mocking, but instead it illuminated one of the great and overlooked qualities of a good storyteller; the ability to clearly communicate. Like some children books, Hemmingway took brevity and clarity to the point of elegance. He embodied (as all great authors embody to one degree or another in my opinion), one of Mark Twain’s best quotes: Brevity is the source of wit.

Stephen King – especially in On Writing but also The Stand, Pet Cemetery, and The Gunslinger, among others – has taught me a huge amount about writing the last few years. It’s almost gotten to the point where when I get to a difficult part, or I feel that awful excuse that is writer’s block creeping up, I think, What would Stephen King do?

King took prose down from its high horse and into the rut of slang and every day understanding. I grew up thinking I had to write books like The Lord of the Rings, in ‘high speech’, because that’s just the way books were written. King drilled in the fun of writing from you gut. He cussed when I was expecting poetry, and turned the most mundane moments into magic. He was always easy to understand and used high speech only when high speech was necessary.

Another author I love and admire who is also clear and direct, if in a very different way, is Cormac McCarthy. He has the ability to pull you into sensations and almost-feelings that I had been sure were indescribable before, but he is only able to do this because each sentence builds in a clear, easily-understood way. He is, simply, communicating – and sometimes his particular form of telepathy is so strong and clear it becomes poetry.

On the other end of the spectrum is J. K. Rowling. I don’t think the clarity inherent in her writing style needs to be explained, but hers were ‘children books’ that are literary masterpieces and accessible to everyone, not ‘just’ children – and it isn’t only because of their adventure and heart and theme, but because of the joy and ease with which they are read.

My writing has improved exponentially since I took this tip to heart. I cannot stress the strength and importance of clarity enough – so I’ll let some actual authors do it for me.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. LEONARDO DA VINCI

Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.” C.S. LEWIS

Don’t say, “she said mincingly,” or “he said boisterously.” Just say, “he said, she said.” JOHN P. MARQUAND

Symbolism exists to adorn and enrich, not to create an artificial sense of profundity. STEPHEN KING

I do not over-intellectualize the production process. I try to keep it simple: Tell the damned story. TOM CLANCY

work hard

Mark Medoff told me in high school that I must write every day for ten years “before anyone beside your mother will want to read your work.” He was very firm on that, and I saw that he believed it and that it had been true for him. Perhaps it has also been true for all the great authors and playwrights – I’ll have to ask them.

Medoff also told me, with a sort of ruthless detachment: “Excuses do not exist. No one cares.”

It was a modification of Yoda’s old, “do or do not – there is no try,” but it hit me hard in a way all those other platitudes had not.

No one cares if you have been sick, or tired, or stressed. No one cares if you have writers block (whatever that’s supposed to be). No one cares if you are too busy to write as much as you would like, or if your car broke down or a loved one died or whatever else happened that kept you from writing. Ultimately, those are all excuses.

And, most importantly, no one cares even if you do write. Someday, maybe, someone will. But I know I will never get to that point assuming anyone cares about what I’m doing along the way.

Stephen King, Mark Medoff, and thousands of other writers have stressed not the importance of inspiration, but the importance of diligence. They made it clear to me that it wasn’t some sort of magic thing a few people possessed, a skill with a fickle muse. It was hard work, day after day after day, trudging it out and then editing, editing, coming up for air, grabbing a few knives, plunging down and ripping it apart again.

You have to be diligent. Relentless. And persevere.

Writing is a wholetime job: No professional writer can afford only to write when he feels like it. SOMERSET MAUGHAM

A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules. ANTHONY TROLLOPE

You must find teachers and train on your own. You must create your own schedule and force yourself to stick to it. Reading becomes both an excuse and a homework assignment. Writing becomes a task, a task that requires constant practice for it to become a skill, and like piano playing or flamenco dancing or any other hardly won skill, there are days when I just want to throw my computer or journal out the window and cry. And, like any other hardly won skill, there are moments when everything comes together and I can feel the transcendence as mere task becomes art, and hours pass in a few moments of exquisite creation.

All the hours and days and weeks of struggling up that mountain is worth the vista at the summit. I just have to keep going, step by step, word by word, every day.

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86x-u-tz0MA]

have fun

The thing I love most about Stephen King’s writing is his passion. It bleeds through every sentence and paragraph. Even if I don’t end up liking the story very much at the end, the journey is what I love. I can hear, taste, smell, see the joy of true craftsmanship on the page the same as he felt while writing it.

I think the same is true of all other great authors. Writing well is hard, writing at all takes time, and if you are willing to give so much of your life to something most people won’t ever care about, you have to need it. It has to be as much of a requirement and a compulsion as stretching at the end of a long road trip.

For me, the time I spend writing is holy. It is my first priority. I recently went nearly four months without writing anything but blog posts and journal entries, and when I finally started writing a story again, it was like… being free of a heavy load I hadn’t realized I’d been carrying.

Your passion, whatever it is, is a sacred thing. Treat is with reverence and importance, cultivate it, and enjoy it.

Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you. ZADIE SMITH

There is an eloquence in true enthusiasm that is not to be doubted. WASHINGTON IRVING

Remember you love writing. It wouldn’t be worth it if you didn’t. If the love fades, do what you need to and get it back. A.L. KENNEDY

finish what you write

Starting things is easy – finishing them is hard. But if you don’t finish them, they are nothing. Simple as that.

I have yet to finish anything I’ve written. But someday soon I will be able to say that I have.

Lastly, here is a collection of the books that have taught me most about writing – and happen to have also made me who I am. I highly recommend just… reading them all.

If you can speak what you will never hear, if you can write what you will never read, you have done rare things.

HENRY DAVID THOREAU

Sometimes I know what I believe because of what I’ve written.

J.K. ROWLING

Young writers should be encouraged to write, and discouraged from thinking they are writers. 

WALLACE STEGNER

by hand in downtown . Almost exactly what I've always hoped my life would be. I am so grateful to be where I am doing what I'm doing. Today is 10 months with the boy, and I'm  for that too. I wish I could bring all those I love and miss here with me, but something restless inside is finally growing calm, and the  and clear calm I'm starting to know is worth the homesickness. I didn't realize the parts of me that were unhappy until they disappeared.

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Palma de Mallorca
Inspiration, Thoughts

The Happiness Paradox: Guilt vs Inspiration

I have so many things that I want to do that they get bottlenecked, and instead of dedicating myself to one or two in a reasonable way, I do a little of everything, get overwhelmed, and finish nothing. On the other hand, I often dedicate myself to something completely for an intense, short period of time – and then feel incredibly discouraged when I don’t make as much progress as I think I should have.

I’m struggling to learn a balance between the things I need to put a lot of effort into for a short period of time – like step-oriented projects with feasible, time-specific goals – and things I have to do only a little bit, but every single day – like yoga, or learning another language. 

Getting these two categories mixed is what fuels all my self-doubt, insecurity, discouragement, and occasionally crippling anxiety. Getting it right, though, has yielded some wonderful results. Took me 30 minutes of yoga a day, carefully holding my enthusiasm back and forcing myself to put in the time by turns, for months, to finally be able to easily walk my feet to my toes from a Downward Dog without bending my legs. Trumpets should have sounded to match my glee – instead, my confidence in myself just grew a little. When I finished my book after five months, during four of which I woke up at 5 before work and wrote 2,000 words, every single day, and during one of which I wrote nothing and struggled to pull my self out of intense writer’s block – fireworks should’ve gone off. Instead I just saved for the umpteenth time and sort of looked around and wondered, Well, now what?

Most of the time that doesn’t happen though. Most of the time I have a huge mound of ideas, and I find excuses for why it isn’t the right time, or I take something I am really inspired and passionate about, and I put something I don’t want to do in front of it. Work before play. You want to write another novel, this time a sci-fi narco psychological thriller? Well, you’re going to have to wait until after you’ve graduated, because there just isn’t that much time in a day and homework is your priority. You want to make up a dance routine to this song, right now, because it’s just so damn awesome? Clean the room first, and go buy groceries, and put in some laundry, and then you can do it.

And all those things I’m ‘supposed’ to be doing get done – but the things I really want, the things that both make me feel the most accomplished and others see as the largest accomplishments, don’t get touched.

It’s been a full year and a half since I wrote the first 10,000 words to that sci-fi narco story, and it hasn’t been touched since. I have a drum set packed away ‘until I find a better place for it,’ even though I think about playing every single day. I have a list of books I want to read and a list of photography adventures I want to go on, but I have responsibilities instead. And there’ll be time when I’m done. Except, there never is.

The thing holding me back, that always stomps on my inspiration and confidence, is guilt. Reading for pleasure makes me feel guilty, if my room isn’t clean. Making up a dance routine makes me feel guilty, if I’m not doing it to perform for something. Writing another book makes me feel guilty, because it is such a huge commitment of time and effort, and imagine how good your German would be if you spent that time and effort trying to do that instead?

And you know what ends up happening? I don’t learn that much German because I’m forcing myself to. I keep the room clean and I feel like there’s an itch somewhere deep that never gets scratched, all the time. The restlessness never abates. Now there is new guilt – guilt from not beginning all these projects I think about and talk about all the time. Somewhere deep, my confidence shrinks. And the restlessness begins to turn to listlessness and resignation, and the clock keeps ticking, ticking, ticking.

I’m about to start a 9-6 job, with an hour lunch break. I am leasing my time, which I never have enough of as it is, to someone else. In return, I get independence. Oh, the horrible irony. I have the luxury of having a job during which I get to do things I enjoy and want to do anyway, but I can understand a little now about why people have mid-life crises. Or why I’ve so often heard things like, “I didn’t think my life would turn out this way.” I always thought, If you don’t like your life, then why don’t you change it? But now I’m beginning to understand it isn’t that easy.

tumblr_mrpm8bdWh51rr6og1o1_500

The thing with working for someone, or working for yourself, is that it gives you an excuse to do whatever you’re doing. It rids you of guilt. Getting paid for what you do is enough justification, in anyone’s eyes (except in extreme cases like hit men, though they could probably use the ‘just trying to feed the family’ argument too), to alleviate all guilt. And fun things, things that you want to do, are never things that you should do, and they require either an excuse or an acknowledgement of guilt simply because you want to do them.

But what if… you give yourself permission to do what you want to do?

Creating this blog was sort of a step in that direction. A blog is one of those small, constant things, and it gives me an excuse to create. ‘Oh, I have to do this for my blog.’ ‘Yeah, it’s for my blog.’ Now my little ideas and projects have purpose, permission, and are, mostly, guilt free. Sometimes the boyfriend calls this ‘my expensive toy’ – and suddenly all of this needs an excuse, suddenly I am guilty of wasting my time.

I am the one imposing these limits on myself. I am the one making excuses not to begin. I am the one that needs to change my priorities from doing what I think I should, to doing what makes me happy, settled, content. I am the one that needs to learn to live without guilt.

I think this is especially important when there isn’t so much time in the day, because it forces me to acknowledge that there isn’t much time in life, and if I want to have what I want to have, then I need to start working for it now.

And if I want to be happy, then I need to start working towards what makes me happy now. 

And maybe this fear, this bottlenecking, this inability to get anything done, let alone the things you want to do, will start to solve itself. I’d be much happier cleaning and grocery shopping and doing laundry if I did it after I’ve fed my soul a little, indulged in my creativity a little – if I wasn’t doing it as an obligation to free me from guilt. Maybe then, nothing will feel like an obligation any more. And maybe I won’t ever feel like I’ve wasted time.

Play before work because happiness is always the priority. After happiness, all else follows. And I don’t meant play as a disguise for procrastination – the of-the-moment impulsive wants that lead to Netflix binges and hours on Buzzfeed. I mean the kind of play that means waking up at 5am and going for a run, or cleaning your room so you don’t have that cloud hanging over your head, or writing 2000 words a day, or actually going to see your friends and playing volleyball at the park.

Give yourself permission to play. We only have one life.

And maybe I’ll actually be able to retain some German. Ich habe in Deutschland für fast zwei Jahren zusammen gewohnt und ich bin immer noch verwirrt!

James McAvoy in one of the best movies ever made, 'Atonement.'

James McAvoy in one of the best movies ever made, ‘Atonement.’

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DCF 1.0
Family, Film, Inspiration, Thoughts

The Lacy Klan – The Pecos Wilderness

For those of you who haven’t read my past post (http://wp.me/p4WLbG-1u), the Lacy Klan is the term I use to describe the sprawling, varied, and extraordinarily enthusiastic mass of madness that is my extended family. My grandparents on my mom’s side had eight children – six boys and two girls. They’ve since grown and many have had children of their own, and some of their children have children now as well. The Klan grows, but despite the large cast of characters, we have made an effort to stay close and connected.

There are two main phases to Lacy Klan festivities – summer and winter. If you remember our winter traditions of blowing up zombie and/or Sasquatch effigies and sliding down the pristine dunes of White Sands National Park, and you think you understand, to some degree, our general fun-level, you might be wrong. Because for Summer we are more likely to go outside and we aren’t constrained by the more ridged and well-established rituals of Christmas and Thanksgiving. During the Summer, we just do whatever we want.

Thus, the Lacy Klan backpacking trips were born.

Nearly every Summer a great troupe of the Klan saddles themselves with heavy backpacks and charges off into the wilderness of northern New Mexico. Most years our goal is the Gila Hot Springs, a magic place of cliffs and serpentine rivers and clear pools of naturally hot water set into the bedrock. 

One of the first serious stories I ever wrote was about the first of these trips that involved the kids, who at that time only consisted of myself and my two cousins. It was called Keeping Up With Uncle Steve, and it detailed the entire adventure there and back again, including that one time we almost got caught in a flash flood, and the time my Uncle Richard told his son Zach to not move with such ferocity that Zach bolted into the woods and nearly got a fish hook stuck in him, and that one time a huge boulder cracked and fell off of the cliff we were camped below and we all ran screaming into the woods, in the middle of the night.

Needless to say it was a great time, a true Lacy Klan legend and a particularly strong memory of my childhood, and there is a long-forgotten (but hopefully not lost!) video made of that trip as well. It’s 40 minutes long, and my first real attempt at editing.

Since those days the ‘kid’ bracket of the Lacy Klan has grown considerably, and our Summer Backpacking Trip has become something of a rite of passage. There’s a lot of talk about whether the kids are ‘tough enough’ or ‘strong enough’ to handle the strenuous hike. This is done mostly in front of them, so when it comes time to prove themselves the kids all understand the grave nature of the tradition they are entering into. I’m proud to say that the kids have shown an enormous amount of maturity and determination, and most are old hands at hiking already.

In the Summer of 2012 the Klan embarked on a new journey. We couldn’t go through the Gila as we’d always done because it was literally on fire. Instead we decided to go to the Pecos Wilderness, which is much higher and colder, and hike to a secret mountain lake. No one had ever been there before but we were confident we could handle it.

It was considerably more difficult than we anticipated. It wasn’t very far, but it was way more vertical than we’d expected it to be. The youngest member of the Klan for this trip was little Hannah, who I am proud to say walked the whole way on her own, carried her own backpack for most of the hike, and was not the first to have a total emotional meltdown.

The saga of that particular trip is told with pretty music and pretty pictures in the video at the bottom of the page.

I’ve only missed one trip, and I hope to never miss one again. I was in Germany at the time and thus missed the first trip for a good handful of the kids.

It was strange for me to imagine them, a small group of almost-teens, walking the same path with the same people I had when I was their age – while I walked alone through the cobbled streets of some German town, thousands of miles away.

Today is Thanksgiving. I write this on my lunch break at my desk at work, surrounded by people who have heard of Thanksgiving but don’t really know it’s today and don’t really understand what it means. To me, it means the beginning of the best part of the year is finally here, because the Lacy Klan is coming together again. To me, it means green chile enchiladas and pecan pie. It means a whole day spent wandering from the front yard, to the back yard, to the hammock, to the trampoline. It means laughter from all sides and the well-known, friendly faces of family at every turn.

This Thanksgiving I will stay at this desk until the sun goes down, until the wind and bitter cold entrench themselves. Then I will walk to the train, ride the train for awhile, then walk over cobble-stoned streets to the front door of my apartment building. Then I will have some delicious soup the boyfriend has made for me, and I will Skype a segment of the far-away Lacy Klan. I cannot find the words to describe what this, and all of that, means to me. That I can be so far and still be so close. I have been blessed, and I am so, so grateful.

To the Lacy Klan: I can’t wait to be with you again, and I am especially excited for the next chapter of our Backpacking Trip adventures. I will do all I can to make that possible.

Also: COME VISIT ME. During the Summer the days are fifteen hours long, and you can drink the best beer in the world, in the streets, any time you want, legally. (I’m looking at you Mike.) (Well, and Steve.) (And Richard, and Doug.) (Hell, the whole lot of you. The beer here is as good as they say. Easily worth the price of a plane ticket.)

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zwmIk7kl-mM]

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Remember Why You Started FI
Inspiration, Thoughts

Almost Forgot Why I Started

I’ve been gearing up for this for a while now. First the idea, then the acknowledgement that the idea is good, then the loose plans for implementation. Work, school, the drama of family and friends strives passionately to intercede, until months have gone by and still all I have is an idea. A good idea. In theory. In theory it is a good idea. But I’ll never know if it’s actually a good idea or not if I don’t do something about it.

So what I did, entirely through happenstance and without any pre-planning, is reread the worn, thin paperback that started everything. It wasn’t the same book, but the same edition, and it smelled exactly like 50 year-old pages and all the dreams that had shaped the days of my lonely, desperately imaginative childhood and, consequently, my entire character. I saw again in my mind’s eye the dragons, their brave and valiant dragonriders, the alien world with its Holds and Weyrs, and I understood a hundred new layers to words I had always held dear but hadn’t really known.

This is what movies should be. This is the movie I want to make.

This reaffirming experience happened at just the right moment; I’ve just moved to Germany from my hometown in New Mexico after completing my Bachelor’s in Digital Film Making, a path I undertook as a child madly determined to share the awe she felt when reading Dragonflight in a way the whole world could understand. Somewhere along the way, my childhood dream of dragons began to seem, well, childish. The world was a lot larger and scarier than I had ever anticipated, the goal I had chosen continually more distant and complex than I had realized. Maybe I could just be a director. Or a screenwriter. Or an writer of novels. I had a chance to inspire awe in those more attainable, but still challenging, ways. Those options were not unworthy of my ardor – they were just more practical.

Well, you know what? No.

do want to be a director and a screenwriter and an author. I also want to be fluent in German and Russian and to be able to do yoga poses based on hand-stands. I want to win things, and go places, and be consistently inspired to create. I want to nurture this glorious love I have been given, be the best mother I can be someday, and wear pencil skirts and heels to buy groceries like a rockstar corporate queen. I want to reach some blinding plateau of being that melds self-awareness with self-expression. I want to become a Diamond level Zerg player of Starcraft II, and also a master chef. And learn to sew spandex. I hear that’s hard.

But these things are things that I want, and what I want isn’t good enough. What I want is not what I need, not what drives me and what has driven me for the past 12 years, through the fiery hells of puberty and high school, through college, and all the way across the ocean. What has driven me this far, and what I almost lost sight of, was the first time I really felt awe, deep in my bones. The desperate need to share that awe. And the only medium I have found to be worthy and capable of transporting that awe – dragons.

So I took this little Japanese man the Boyfriend gave me before we stared dating, and I colored in his right eye. Boyfriend tells me he was blessed in a temple, and he will stare at me every day missing his left eye until I succeed in my goal. Then I’ll draw in the other eye. I will sit down at the premiere of my long-awaited dragon movie, be it five or fifteen years from now, and after the credits have rolled I will pull this little Japanese man from my purse and color in his other eye. Boyfriend also tells me that the way I drew in his eye makes him look insane and a bit like an axe murderer. Good. It will take an axe murderer chasing me to keep me running up this mountain, every day, until the job is done.

And that is why I started this blog. It’s going to be a long, long journey. It already has been. But I have a Bachelor’s degree in film and Dragonflight has been stuck in development on IMDb for seven years, so things aren’t as bad as they could be. I’m 22 years old and I am rededicated and just as tenacious as I was as an 8 year-old.

The idea has been formed. The idea is good. Now: DO.

d2

See? Intimidating.

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