50 Days to 50 Years: Day 42, Captain America and Japanese Buffet with Sarah Lucy Beach

20 06 2016

“Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden).” — C.S. Lewis

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Sarah Lucy Beach is another longtime friend since the early 1990s. We met in an entertainment industry fellowship called Premise, and immediately struck up a bond over our love of writing, movies, and conversation. That bond was assisted by the fact that I did not own a car my first 10 years in Los Angeles, so Sarah was often my constant chauffeur to and from Premise meetings and other places and events. Like many of my Los Angeles’ friends, she has spent more than a few Thanksgivings and Christmases with me—we even spent one Christmas Eve at Disneyland, which was quite a treat! No lines or crowds, and a fireworks display that was the perfect entree into Christmas Day.

We also took a road trip together from Los Angeles to Colorado, with some stops in between. Unfortunately, Sarah’s car had troubles along the way, and it started out stressful, but ended up being a beautiful trip. We look back on that time now and laugh, but it wasn’t quite a laughing matter then; our friendship weathered it and we have some fond memories and pictures to look back on.

My early years in Los Angeles were chaotic, and I was often in financial and logistical straits. Sarah was always there for me, whether with assistance for a meal, an escape from a toxic living situation, or a movie. After hearing about one precarious situation with yet another bad roommate, she said, “If you are facing the street, then you are welcome to my couch.” I took her up on it, and stayed on her couch for six months.

Sarah has recently gone through some hard trials of her own the last few years. Because Lynn and I were fresh off some hardships of our own, we were not able to offer a couch, but we could give our prayers and whatever practical help was available.

I am thankful that Sarah’s life is on the upswing from those dark years, and that she was available to help me ring in my “50 Days to 50 Years”. We had a great time catching up, and as is indicative of our times together, we took in a movie: Captain America: Civil War, then had lunch at Hopkaido Japanese buffet. Thanks to the record-breaking Los Angeles heat (111 degrees where we were), we were quite content to marinate in conversation and enjoy Hopkaido’s air conditioning long after we had finished eating.

But then, as lifelong friends, we never need an excuse to do that….

 

 

 





50 Days to 50 Years: Day 44, Education and Reinvention

18 06 2016

CAAN Board 2015

“To be changed by ideas was pure pleasure. But to learn ideas that ran counter to values and beliefs learned at home was to place oneself at risk, to enter the danger zone. Home was the place where I was forced to conform to someone else’s image of who and what I should be. School was the place where I could forget that self and, through ideas, reinvent myself.” ― Bell Hooks

In 2015, I was elected as a member-at-large for my college’s national alumni board. My masters degree is from another “name” university, but my heart and loyalty will always be with Columbia College Chicago, where I received my undergraduate degree.

The bond is strong for a number of reasons; primarily because the tools and experiences I received at Columbia are ones that I use over and over again to increase my personal currency and vocational knowledge across all the industries in which I interact.

From Columbia I gained huge lessons on finding my unique voice, sharpening and honing all my skills, and pursuing my craft with authenticity. As I move forward in years, I understand more and more what a really phenomenal education it was on many levels. As part of my board role, I have had the opportunity to share this with prospective students and with other alumni, and it has been a joy.

Which is why I am looking forward to CAAN Connect, a speed pitching event for the Columbia Los Angeles alumni. Entertainment industry executives volunteer their time to hear Columbia alumni present their projects, and many have gotten help, work, and representation through this forum.

I have attended two CAAN Connects, one as an alumni pitching a project, and the other as an alumni volunteer helping others. This time will be a hybrid of both: representing the alumni board and helping the attending alumni, and also getting the opportunity to pitch As the Girl Turns to two of the executives who specialize in representing influencers and brands. Over the last eight years I have skirted the edges of both arenas, and my desire is to cement myself and take my influence and brand to the next level.

So today has been preparing my biography, projects, and pitch materials to present in a few days, and it has been satisfying seeing the big picture representation of my body of work. I hope I can translate that satisfaction effectively into my speed pitch.

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50 Days to 50 Years: Day 47, Selfies and Snuggles

15 06 2016

“There is nothing more admirable than when two people who see eye to eye keep house as man and wife, confounding their enemies and delighting their friends.”
― Homer, The Odyssey

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It’s a really good thing neither Lynn nor I are vain people. At 55 and 49, gray hair and double chins, we are quite content to take a selfie with faded clothing and bad lighting.

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are my Yoga teaching days. Between my regular five classes, classes that I sub, and writing coverage that I sometimes do in the evening, by the time I get home a hot shower and my pajamas are high on the list of priorities; then, snuggle time!

My husband is a love bug and has no problem with public displays of affection, so we got affectionate for the camera. Then our other love bug, Puppet, decided he needed to be in the midst of this kissy-face-fest, so he jumped on our laps and joined the fun!

We have been together for 11 years, and will be married for nine of those years just two days after I turn the birthday page. The bulk of those years have been a rocky road due to sickness, financial distress, and life circumstances. But I can say with confidence that we love each other more today than we did yesterday, but definitely not as much as tomorrow.

On the road to 50, I am blessed to have found love, and someone who wants to build a home with me and help me celebrate the big and little things in life.

 





50 Days to 50 Years: Day 49, Happy Hour with Corey Woods

13 06 2016

“The beauty of friendship is loyalty.”
― Debasish Mridha M.D.

So I am a late bloomer to drinking and to Happy Hours; it just never was a part of my world until my late 30s and 40s. Now I love them, not merely for the discount liquor, but for the discount food! I admit it: drinking is an excuse to eat more, and I do far more of one than of the other!

This past year I have had the fun of trolling some local haunts with my friend Corey Woods. So for our “50 Days to 50 Years” date, we hit the Atwater Village Tavern on Glendale Boulevard, in what is the main street of Atwater Village Los Angeles. Corey gets the distinction of being the first participant of this 50-day “Odyssey” (His word—love it!).

Corey and I met in 2009 through his wife Andrea. Sadly, they are now divorced, but I am thankful that I have been able to maintain a friendship with them both. This is a rare thing, as one of the casualties of marriage dissolution is often the mutual friendships. But one of the traits I love about Corey is that he is loyal—if you are his friend, then you are a friend for life. That’s the way I roll too.

Had it not been for Andrea, Corey and I probably never would have met, because on their face, our lives are pretty different: He works long hours in sound and boom work in the entertainment industry, I spend my days in a Yoga studio or in front of a computer. Corey is an atheist; I am a devout Christian, and so on. Bur one of the hallmarks of my 50 years on earth that I am most proud is that differences have never been a determining factor in my choice of friends. I like people who are different than me because they give me a fresh perspective on life.

But friendship is also based on commonalities, and we have those too: we are both writers; we both have a biting sense of humor; we are blunt and to the point—a trait that is rare and unappreciated in Los Angeles; and, we also share similar ideological viewpoints: we are both constitutional conservatives. With this 2016 election cycle, there was no lacking of conversation and opinion.

I highly recommend Atwater Village Tavern, for the drinks and the eats. Corey had his favorite IPA, and he ordered me my current favorite libation, a Moscow Mule (killer!). The Happy appetizers included chicken and brisket tacos, pork nachos, and chicken wings; so a grand time was had knoshing, debating, and lamenting over the state of the world, the Republican party, and life in general.

Thank you, Corey for being first out the gate, being a loyal friend, and a fun barfly!

 





50 Days to 50 Years: Day 50, Life’s Embrace

12 06 2016

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“I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really: Get busy living or get busy dying.” — Andy Dufresne, The Shawshank Redemption

“I call on heaven and earth as witnesses today that I have offered you life or death, blessings or curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants will live.”
— Deuteronomy 30:19

I find it fascinating that I last posted on this blog exactly a year ago today. It seems fitting that I have chosen my odyssey of “50 Days to 50 Years!” as the series to revitalize it.

As I approach my 50th revolution around the sun, I have chosen life, and will always choose life. Many times along the road I have had opportunity to choose otherwise, and it is because of the encounters, life circumstances, and deaths in the midst of my journey that I have chosen to embrace the time leading to my actual birthday with celebration, rather than somberness.

You see, I really never expected to see 50. I was a suicidal teenager, and had crafted an elaborate plan to end it all when I finished high school. Thanks to a lot of prayer and a real encounter with death when I was 16, I was fortunate enough to revise that plan.

Then in my early 20s, I was caught up with eschatology (the study of the “end of days” or “end times”), so I just knew that Jesus would return and the world would end before I was 30. Thankfully I distanced myself from those energy draining pursuits well before my 30th year, and amazingly, life went on, and so did I. I still believe Jesus is coming back, I just focus more on what he wants me to do in the here and now, rather than obsess about times and seasons that are not in my control.

Then there are those who were not as blessed as me; mainly my two sisters, Barbara and June.

Barbara died from a massive seizure in 1992; she was only 36. In 2008, June lost a long battle with cancer at 49, months before her 50th birthday.

So I have reason to live, and reason to celebrate. In the 50 days leading up to August 2 (my actual birth day), I plan to document my celebrations, with various bucket list items, things I have always wanted to do, and most notably, 50 friends and family that I will spend time with over these 50 days to acknowledge their contribution to making my life worth living.

So here’s to 50! All it entails, the highs, the lows, the challenges, and the triumphs, I fully embrace with open arms, and rejoice to see the day. Anything else is not an option.

I hope you enjoy traveling with me, as I embrace the change of season, the change of life, and the turn of a new decade.

This is 50…

 





Illustrating Absurdity: Rachel Dolezal wins the “WTF” award

12 06 2015

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This is a comedy sketch that’s writing itself. Rachel Dolezal, head of the Spokane chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. has been “passing” as black. She was born Caucasian and raised by two white parents who apparently grew tired of her deception—so they’ve outed her.

I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in.

Armed with pictures and a birth certificate, Lawrence and Ruthanne Dolezal are taking to newspapers, cable and network news shows to let the world know this Black activist who has filed police reports about nine different hate crimes perpetrated against her, who is touted as an academic expert on African-American culture, and teaches African-American studies classes at Eastern Washington University is their estranged daughter who is… white.

After the obvious jokes and the laughter subsides, you then start to think about how many people this fraudulence hurts, not in the least her Caucasian parents.

I explore the role of the feckless N.A.A.C.P. in this mess, and social media reaction over at Communities Digital News: The self-loathing Rachel Dolezal marks the irrelevant N.A.A.C.P.’s demise.

In the meantime, listen to her seemingly shell shocked parents talk about the daughter who has rejected them and her race, because #whitelivesdontmatter.





Black History Month 2015: Condoleezza Rice

10 02 2015

“Race is a constant factor in American life. Yet reacting to every incident, real or imagined, is crippling, tiring, and ultimately counterproductive.” Condoleezza Rice

Condoleezza Rice grew up in the Jim Crow South, so she knows of what she speaks when she talks about reacting to every incident of racism and marginalization. As the first female African-American National Security Adviser, and the first African-American female Secretary of State, she was constantly criticized by her own people because she chose to be a Republican and part of the administration of an unpopular president, and also because she refuses to play the victim.

The so-called civil rights protesters and #BlackLivesMatter activists could stand to take a page from her book. In my article, #BlackLivesMatter–a hashtag bandaid over the gaping wounds of Black problems, I posit:

“Protesting is an American right, whether over social media or done in an orderly fashion as is happening now in the cities of New York, Boston and Chicago over the Garner decision. Here is the problem: it is not Blacks being targeted by a white, militaristic police system or a justice system that is fatally flawed. It is Blacks’ devaluation of their own lives and the refusal to deal with systemic issues in urban communities.

“Had #BlackLivesMatter remained a consistent mantra over the last 50 years, we would not have the fatherlessness, crime, and poverty that perpetuate the vicious cycle of violence, excessive policing, and loss of life.

“Enough Black leaders have pointed to poverty, lack of fathers, and the street culture as causations. So why do we keep harping on race and an “other”, rather than truly addressing what we have pinpointed is the true problem?”

Read more here at Communities Digital News.





Black History Month 2015: Zora Neale Hurston

5 02 2015

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“It would be against all nature for all the Negroes to be either
at the bottom, top, or in between. We will go where the internal drive carries us like everybody else. It is up to the individual.”

Zora Neale Hurston

Zora is one of my favorite writers. Her language is beautiful, uplifting, elegant, and scarcely seen in modern literature. Literacy across the board is becoming a thing of the distant past, much to the detriment of of our people.

I explore this a bit more over at Communities Digital News, Black History Month 2015: Let’s promote a return to literacy:

“Sadly, the richness of literacy exhibited by her and her contemporaries—like Langston Hughes, who would have been 113 this week—is sorely lacking in today’s literature. Do our young people even know the names of these and other great writers, or the titles of their works? If the crisis in our culture is any indication, we are failing our children by starving them of the substantive words and sweeping vision of great writers while spoon-feeding them the steady pabulum of gangster rap and reality television.”

Read more here.





Black History Month 2015: Harriet Tubman

2 02 2015

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“I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand
more if only they knew they were slaves
.
-Harriet Tubman

This famous quote by the “Black Moses” could well be applied today. The chains of slavery are evident in the mind, attitudes and allegiances of our race, and are being reflected in the lack of leadership and focus in the modern civil rights movement:

“Seeing the power, presence, and passion of Dr. King artfully portrayed by actor David Oyelowo, as well as the re-enactment of the give and take between Ralph Abernathy and Andrew Young of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and John Lewis of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, merely spotlights the total lack of conviction or moral authority in the civil rights movement of today. In place of an intelligent, articulate, and anointed Dr. King, we have the mush-mouthed Al Sharpton, and the empty bumper sticker slogans of “No Justice, No Peace,” and “Black Lives Matter.”

Dr. King is flipping in his grave.”

Read the rest at my Communities Digital News column: Martin Luther King Day, Selma, and the moral scarcity in modern-day civil rights.





In My Orbit: 2014 in Review

29 12 2014

Despite my recent neglect of the blog, viewership has still grown. Imagine what would happen if I actually posted more often? Perhaps a 2015 goal.

I am still going like gangbusters at Communities Digital News discussing politics and pop culture. Read my latest, Should Maria Shriver welcome Miley Cyrus for the holidays? For those of you who say, “Who cares?!”, It goes beyond the ex-Mrs. Schwarzennegar or Twerking Miley.
Read all about it at http://www.commdiginews.com/author/jennifer-oliver-oconnell/#xLxCEmgazVbhmx4W.99

Some photo highlights from my year, and many thanks to Sarit Photography and Yoga and Body Image Coalition for helping to make my 2014 magical!

Christmas 2014 Collage Church Collage Movieguide Awards coverage NBC Universal Collage TT 2014 Collage TWT Collage YBI Collage

It’s been a very good year–Happy 2015 to you all!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 790 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 13 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.








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