Dreaming Of

Everyone has dreams. Be they secret and hidden away where no one can see, or exposed and constantly on display for anyone willing to look, one thing is certain, we all have them. Regardless of the dreamer’s style, it can be very hard to believe that the big dreams buried or screaming inside will ever really come true.

It’s been my experience that two things happen as we get older. We let go of certain dreams and cling to other, more reasonable ones. And we decide that, rather than take the reigns of our life and follow the thing in our heart, we should be content to wait it out, hoping that we’ll be just happy enough— safe and fed and hopefully sane— to forget that dream ever existed at all.

Often the colossal dreams of our youth crumble because we realize that certain ambitions are outside our abilities or natural talents, skills, resources or control. Things like going to outer space. Or becoming a doctor when you loath science and math. Like achieving unmanageable fame, making the Olympic gymnastics team when you never really developed balance, inventing the device that will replace the iPhone. As we grow up, we hone our dreams based on who we see ourselves becoming. It is our mind and will looking to protect our ego and heart so we don’t set ourselves up for a meandering existence wrought with sadness. Or so we avoid a stunning collapse from failure.

This kind of dream modification is healthy. A good honing is valuable as you mature. It allows the true dreams, the ones polite enough to wait until the Jedi-Princess-Snake-Charmer-Married-to-Young Harrison Ford has run it’s course, and you’ve developed the ability to reason. It allows the dreamer to live on.

The other scenario, that one is much trickier. In my experience, dreams don’t ever really die. At least, not the ones that truly matter. Because once you’ve honed your dreams — and this, too, is a continual process — if you don’t follow the path you will someday look back and wonder what if, but you will never truly forget. Dreams left to fester and rot become the ugly wrinkles in your forehead and the sour expression on your face. They make you sloppy and boring at parties. They lead to lethargy and the eventual demise of whatever made you unique and vibrant.

london

Since I was a child, I’d been infatuated with London. I’d read Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia, The Secret Garden and EVERY Jane Austen novel. I loved Princess Diana, and had been obsessed with Lady Jane Gray, Anne Boleyn, Victoria and Albert, Queen Elizabeth (1 and 2)…

And this didn’t fall away as I grew up. I’m so much like Bridget Jones it’s frightening. I do tea in china and watch The Great British Bake Off. Downton Abby was my everything. If a book is set or a movie takes place there, I love it by default. I read all picture books in a bad British accent and follow Very British Problems on Twitter. I’ve researched it. I’ve romanced it. I’ve promised to have it’s babies. I even found myself a literary agent in London and somehow managed not to ask her to marry me based solely on her accent.

Yet somehow, even more than all the ways I loved it, it felt like it was already a part of me, tucked in my spirit, hidden among the thorns and briars of my personality. Like it existed in me from the beginning. From before the beginning.

But I have never been.

A couple months ago, while ensconced in the ever so glamorous task of folding laundry with my seven year old, we put on Paddington (a delightful British movie about a marmalade-loving bear’s adventures in London) to pass the time.

In the movie, the Bears meet and befriend an Explorer in their native land. He’s traveled there from London to study them, and I assume, bring back a specimen. Eep. But he doesn’t. These bears are highly intelligent, and so he leaves behind tapes and books about London, and he encourages them to come, to look him up if they do. And for years, they plan and dream of someday visiting London. They memorize the tapes. They know all the right words to say and proper way to act. But someday never seems to come. And finally, one day, Uncle Bear’s time runs out. He never got to go.

That moment hit me hard. Suddenly, I saw how fast time runs away from us. How little we are guaranteed. I turned to my husband and said, “I will not be like those bears. I am going.”

Someday resides in the future until one day it becomes the present. Until one day you look at the dream and you say: I will wait no more. It’s been long enough.

And it takes an act, or more often, many acts stacked all on top of each other until finally you reach your dream. It takes admitting that you want it and acknowledging the batter ram from fear that it will never be. It takes pushing your dream from the safe, silent cocoon of your imagination out into the dangerous, blinding light of reality. It takes guts and faith to take anything and give it life.

Dreams live.

Dreams tingle with nerves and the electricity of promise. They can hurt you. They can disappoint and underwhelm. They can end up falling apart. They are not unalterable and never quite finished. But if you have one, you are not powerless to wake it up.

Don’t be like those bears. Don’t miss your chance to go to London. Be like Paddington, who took the long boat ride necessary and found a new dream once he arrived.

The Road to Completing a Short Film

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I thought a lot about which platform I should share this information on. But this story feels relevant to anyone with a dream, so bear with me for a moment. Those who follow me because I am a soon-to-be-published Young Adult author (Hi! And thank you!), might not know that two and a half years ago I gathered a rag-tag group of aspiring filmmakers together to fund and shoot a short film I’d written years before.

Ideas are funny creatures. The metaphor that they begin as seeds and must be cultivated, watered and nurtured, harvested at the right time, while a little flowery for my taste is also somehow perfectly suitable. Ideas take time, and more often than not, it is the abandoning of the idea before the maturity of the idea that results in failure. Failure, here, means letting the idea die. Not success in the chosen market. Not money or glory. Sometimes, you fail there too, later after you’ve planted and nurtured. But I find failure comes from abandonment first, the failure that you can control anyway. And you can only kick yourself for what you give up on, not what is given up on by others.

I gathered the team to shoot this film, Cassie’s Cause. It was bumpy, a ride we all look back on now and remember with anxiety and fondness, laughter and annoyance. We lost people along the way, and we hit walls we didn’t foresee. We were forced to stop for huge gaps of time, staring at the unfinished idea, at the not abandoned but not matured thing, and wonder if it would ever become.

Today, we submitted the “little idea that could” to Austin Film Festival. The finished movie, all grown up.

Jonathan Dickson– my co-director and lifelong friend– and I hit the submit button. We watched the screen blink, confirmation brightening, and we looked at eachother with mile wide smiles. He raised his hand.

“It is finished.”

I hit his palm in a high five.

It is finished. Three words that mean so much. They represent an end, but also a beginning. To us, no matter what happens with the submission, we completed the task. The idea has taken root, been given sunlight, grown enough to exist on its own.

And finally a blurb, for anyone interested, about our little movie:

Cassie Duncan, a scrappy animal activist grieving the loss of her older brother, Gregory, wishes she could get him back. He returns, changed. Now she is the proud owner of a gnarly faced Zombie-boy, and together they embark on a trippy adventure.

 

Hope Has (Super Mega) Power!

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Power Rangers — my son can tell you everything about them. He will dissect personality strengths and weaknesses, episodic character arcs with thoughtfulness rarely displayed in five year old boys. But ask him about the Pink Ranger and he will blush, and smile, and then maybe if your timing is right he’ll show you his Pink Ranger toy(s).

I thought his crush was cute, a passing interest to be replaced quickly, until it became this real, big thing, and earlier in the summer I knew he had fallen. Hard. It was the end of one of our epic days (when likely all I could think about was getting him to bed so I could go have an appropriately massive glass of wine and lose myself in an episode of House Hunters International). He looked up at me with his giant crystal-blue eyes and said: “I want the Pink Ranger to be my girlfriend, Mommy.”

“What does that mean?”

(Ohmygosh you’re killing me with cuteness don’t grow up this fast howwhyhow???)

“That I take her on a date, and show her all my toys and give her a kiss on the cheek.”

(Biting down on a gasp of sadness as my heart breaks and I realize I am no longer the center of his universe and really that has been happening for a long time who am I kidding?)

“That sounds great, I’m sure she would love it.”

He peers up at me, his expression drawn. “I want to meet her, Mommy.”

That night he prayed to meet the Pink Ranger, and every night after he prayed to meet the Pink Ranger, and I thought Shit is this like a Santa thing? Because I can’t exactly order up the actress who plays the Pink Ranger on Amazon and have her overnighted. And so every night I tried to let him down gently that the likelihood of meeting her was slim, negligible, (and San Diego Comic Con had passed, much to my sadness, and I wasn’t seeing anything else come up when I googled ) and he shouldn’t get his heart set.

And somewhere in there I followed the Yellow Ranger on Twitter.

And I spend a lot of time on Twitter. I mean, if I’m not saying it with a hashtag then it just may not even be really happening.

A couple weeks ago the Yellow Ranger (played fantastically by actress Ciara Hanna) Tweeted about the VIP lunch at Nick Suites Hotel in Orlando, FL and for a moment I didn’t even know if I wanted to click on the link. Because even if it was what it sounded like, it was crazy to imagine we could take him on short notice to Florida in the middle of the school year. That sort of thing, it just wasn’t realistic.

Realistic — I am at constant odds with my realistic side. The same side that organizes my days by half hour increments, looks for reasons to not believe an agent will love the book I wrote and offer representation, and downplays exciting moments because my own joy may boil over and burn me in the ass.

Realistic can’t let go of fear because fear is a blanket to hide under. It tells you not to hope, and when you hope, not to hold onto it. Realistic is well-skilled at reasoning away childlike faith.

I am no longer a child, and sometimes that can make Realistic’s voice louder (screeching, unrelenting). But I am a fangirl, a writer of fantasy for young adults, a girl crafting a screenplay about Comic Con and fandoms, and so maybe that makes me more willing to recognize magic at work in the world.

Realistic blinks away tears, but Dreamer ugly cries into a box of chocolates and snots all over Realistic’s buttoned up sweater. She’s more dramatic, and sometimes she wins out.

So I clicked the link. I said yes to a chance at unrealistic. Then I had to let myself believe that Sam’s well of prayers had finally overflowed, and within that well were the resources to get him to Florida.

His answered prayed quickly became mine.

Sitting in Studio Nick, watching Sam wait — quiet and thoughtful, the Sam Way — it hit me that his dream was coming true. That in a few minutes he would meet the Pink Ranger, and that meant prayers were really heard, and wow I didn’t realize just how badly I needed that affirmed right now. And my heart did a spasm and my eyes brimmed with water, and I let them just do it and didn’t try to pretend they weren’t.

And when Realistic jumped in with a sledgehammer to batter my new hope, I kindly redirected her toward all the fear mongering on the internet and all the trolling on Goodreads and to everyone making someone feel small and their dreams feel meaningless, and she didn’t really like keeping that company so she retired to the bar.

Instead, I met the Rangers with him, and the little girl who watched Mighty Morphin Power Rangers when she was eight years old — she was excited too. She got her poster signed and took a picture with the Yellow Ranger, and chatted like her stomach wasn’t doing somersaults, and when the Pink Ranger asked Sam to be her boyfriend that Fangirl was a Mom loving, and a Girl longing, and a Woman living, and she believed.

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And Sam? He beamed. He bloomed. He got slimed. My little boy who doesn’t like heights and can’t stand water in his eyes, stood under the slime bucket with a giant smile on his face, a testament to the power of a single dream come true.

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Independence Day Musings

From WingsofWhimsy.wordpress.com

From WingsofWhimsy.wordpress.com

Today, I feel the pressure of being closer to thirty than twenty-nine with an acute pang of melancholy and reflection. I have used my twenties to find myself, maybe in the most obvious ways — maybe in ways that are only obvious to me —and still I am not sure it is myself I have found, but this years version of myself instead. And that thought scares me more than I like to admit.

It is like I am racing with myself. Not toward a finish line, but toward the memory of who I have been and who I wish I had become, toward the apparition of who I am becoming and who I will never be. There are those who will say thirty is just a year, another birthday in a long line of birthdays. But those people have never been almost thirty as an American female.

It’s not really about aging at all. When I look in the mirror, the face I see isn’t that different than the face I saw a few years ago.

Maybe my face reflects the discovery that I could write —write well, and keep writing even when I failed, even when I wanted to stop. Behind my eyes are years spent in Brooklyn, chasing a kid around Prospect Park and questioning my own status quo. There is darkness hidden there too, questions I grapple with daily that the 25-year-old me would never have dreamed challenge.

There are also answers pressed into the tiny wrinkles that crease my eyes when I smile, now, because I do know a little something of the world and am OK with not knowing everything.

This woman is young and old. Silly and serious. Moved and unchangeable.

No, the pressure of thirty is deeper. It is the rush of time as it speeds around me, propelling me forward but trying to keep me from flying. When I was a child, I was made of dreams of the epic variety. I wish I could say I no longer harbored those aspirations to greatness, but that would be a lie. Dreams are the fabric of my person, the thread that sews me together. As thirty approaches, my seams are being stretched out and examined, re-stitched and altered.

Today is Independence Day, and I am thinking about the idea of Independence. In many ways, I am an average American: busy, a little self-centered, overcompensating for the guilt that comes with privilege and ambition. All around me I see freedom wasted on laziness, on fruitless wandering, on the inability to commit to being more than your current state.

I am not above this waste. I shit around with the best of them. But then I see people trying. People with ambitions to alter the world, whether the world for them is their backyard garden or the local food bank or their city government. I was raised to believe that I can do anything, and that is a very American concept. That is the result of a life lived in independence.

Independence is honesty. It is acknowledging what you fear, owning it, then conquering it. I fear the unknown beyond my twenties, but that is just a symptom of the probably never-ending fear of what I cannot see. What is beyond me to see.

Countries have borders and laws, but so do human beings. The person I found in my twenties may not be me in five years, but it is me now. It is me at this level of achievement, at this time in life, in this version of the world. The somethingness I strive for will never be in reach because even when I am living the dream, a new dream will be born.

I am not thrilled with feeling this way. It makes me itchy and snarky and want to sell all my belongings and hit the road with my husband and son. It tugs at me, unsettling me on the very best of days, and rattling my core on the worst. I am having to learn to accept that this is how it feels to be living, actively, and that is better than being stagnate. Where I am is the place I am, in the day I’m living. It is not about being thoughtful or calm or blissful or willing. It is just showing up today, then tomorrow, and then one day I will be thirty and I will have moved from the seat I warmed when I was twenty-nine.

 

Space

There are some moments I hope I never forget. Tonight, Samuel gave me one. We were watching Despicable Me — a truly genius animated movie about a super villain who finds love through adoption — before bed. The main character, Gru, has a flashback to watching the moon landing as a child wearing a cardboard space suit. He tells his mother that he will one day go to the moon. His mother degrades this dream.

Samuel turned to me and said, “I want to go to the moon. To be an astronaut.” I turned and smiled.

“You have to go to NASA.”

“You can come, we can go to the moon together.”

“I think the opportunity for me to be an astronaut has passed, but you still can.” He nodded and looked back at the TV.

Despite the obvious tenderhearted sweetness of wanting to take me to the moon, this moment surprised me with it’s clarity. My son could be an astronaut, this is not a fantasy but a reality because his whole world is laid in front of him unformed. I really could not. I never could have been, even if I’d wanted to (I have a recurring nightmare about floating in space above the Earth. I’m serious, one of my worst and deepest fears. That and the vastness of the ocean. And bugs in food. Not bugs as food, bugs in food.) and that is truly OK with me. That possibility will never be.

We spend a lot of time wasting away in a future we could never have had, or one we believe we could have, had we made a better turn somewhere. Right now, at 27 years old, I am finally tapping the well inside that had been waiting to give water. I could regret not realizing it sooner. Or, at the very least, doing things in an order that makes a little more sense. But, alas, that is not the route I took. I took the route where there are certain dreams that will never be, and certain ones that will be better than the dreams I lost.

When I was pregnant with Sam, I went to NASA with my family. I love NASA. My grandfather worked for them as an engineer during the Mercury and Gemini programs. But it also holds a certain darkness for me too. My grandfather died young, an alcoholic, destroyed by this weakness with much unrealized potential hanging from him like shackles. My mother talks about him, not as the man who died, but as the guy to lived a dream. She doesn’t romanticize his disease, or pretend he didn’t make the choices and walk the bad path, but she doesn’t ignore all that he was or could have been either.

We all need that I think, especially when we examine our lives and wonder what the hell we will ever have to show for it. If you are lucky, you will have more than one thing, more than one dream realized. And likely, more than one dream let go.

Later, when I went into labor with Sam, I was wearing the t-shirt I had gotten on that trip. It wasn’t consciously premeditated, but when I think back on it now, it was slightly serendipitous. Samuel will most likely do something that has nothing to do with space (though, in our family, science fiction is held in high regard as the only true form of entertainment available) and he is absolutely free to do that. But I will never forget a moment where he decided to go to the moon, or what that decision meant to me.