Saturday, December 29, 2018

Resolution Wrap-Up -- So Long, 2018

This wild bronco named 2018 is finally going out to pasture.

It has been a bumpy ride, to say the least. Yet, I am by no means complaining. My daughter Mackenzie continues to recover. She is no longer using her walker -- and she returned to driving! (Which I am sure makes her feel very happy and much more independent than she has been in the last two months.)

Thanks to all who have sent prayers and positive vibes, and especially to all the good-deed-doers who have reached out during the last couple weeks.

I am feeling very peaceful right now. Still trying to be mindful of the here and now. Still doing my best not to fret about the future.

But it is time to take a glimpse into the past twelve months and reflect upon how I did with my New Year's Resolutions... Turns out 2017 was a much more accomplished year, in comparison. But I still got a few achievements unlocked. Here's the final Score Card:

1) Finish writing a new novel / chapter book:

SUCCESS. ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. I took the easy path and wrote a chapter book (only 72 pages), but that still counts. This is the bug themed book I had mentioned in previous posts. My agent gave me some great feedback and I have since turned in a second draft. Still waiting to find out if she'll be sending it off to publishers.

2) Sell a New Picture Book:

SUCCESS? ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. I sold a sequel to an existing book. I don't think I can officially announce it yet -- but I'm very grateful and excited to be working with this publishing house again!

3) Write / Sell a New Play

SUCCESS. ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. My latest one-act comedy, Escape Room, was picked up by Eldridge Plays! It came out this November. I hope high school drama teachers and students are captivated by it!

4) Complete 200 days of writing (30 minute sessions)

FAIL. I lost the official count of this goal, but I am pretty darn sure I reached 100 days at best. THere were times when I wrote much longer than 30 minutes -- but all in all, considering I'm supposedly a professional writer now, I didn't get nearly enough writing done. In fact, I would guess that majority of this writing was done on my blog, whining about how I don't have time to write!

5) Participate in 10 Book Events

SUCCESS. ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. (Much to my amazement.)

1) Friends of the Library
2) Bridgeport Elementary in January
3) Chantelle's School
4) Open Book, Papa Bear Launch
5) Burbank Barnes and Noble
6) SCBWI Mentorship
7) SCBWI Los Angeles Conference
8) Los Angeles Independent Book Sellers
9) Hamilton Elementary
10) Bridgeport Book Fair
11) Once Upon a Bookstore
12) Author's Luncheon
13) Orange County Book Festival

I thought that I had only accomplished about seven or eight of these... but looking back at my calendar I am pleasantly surprised that I participated in no less than 13 events. Not too shabby.

6) Complete 100 five minute work-out sessions:

SUCCESS. ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. I believe I accomplished this one by setting the bar rather low. (The push up bar, that is -- yuk yuk!) I'm not that much stronger, but the love handles have gone, and I've maintained an average weight of 162 pounds for over six months. I think at my heaviest I was 175 -- which isn't horrible, but I can really feel a difference in energy and health. So, I will be keeping up this resolution for as long as my old bones can stand it.

7) Practice Drawing / Coloring for 100 Hours

FAIL. In the last couple days I've been fooling around with the Wacom tablet -- and I really suck. It's gonna take some serious dedication if I ever want to return to Duck Town, or some of ther art based project. 100 hours should be very attainable... but I am guessing if you added up all of my art time, you'd have less than 24 hours. Out of all my failed resolutions, this one might be the most disappointing. But hey, there's always next year!

8) Develop a Stronger Marketing Platform

FAIL. Social media is really just a bunch of brand new ways for me to be popular. Millions of other people (most of them far younger than me) are a heckuva lot better at gaining and keeping a following. I think my main issue is that I'm not very consistent and I'm not all that interested in developing a brand. But I'm tryin'! Honest I am!

9) Create a portfolio of at least 12 awesome photos:

PENDING. I think I've got at least 12 calendar worthy snapshots, but I haven't curated them yet. Maybe I'll finish this one today. (One problem, though, the resolution on this old iPod touch is rather a hindrance.

10) Learn to play Ashokan Farewell on the piano:

COMPLETE FAIL. I practiced once, the whole lousy year. Guess I'm not going be a musician!

All in all, a fulfilling year. Way better than that crappy 2016 (RIP Princess Leia). I wish you and yours a healthy and prosperous 2019.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

You Are Now Leaving Bedford Falls

Last Sunday, we completed our last performance of It's a Wonderful Life at the Canyon Theatre Guild. My tenure as George Bailey has come to an end. It was a true honor playing this beloved character, and I cannot thank the universe enough for giving me this opportunity.

That universe of course includes Frank Capra, Jimmy Stewart, God, and my wife... not particularly in that order.

It's a Wonderful Life has been dear to my heart since early adulthood. When I was a kid I was much more obsessed with the Christmas cartoon specials, but when I finally watched it for the first time in my late teens, I became hooked on this movie. It's not just my favorite Christmas movie, it's one of my favorite movies period. In fact, it's probably #3 on my list right now, just below Raiders and the original Star Wars saga (which I count as one movie).

The lessons of this film have long been an important part of my psyche, and I knew that going into rehearsals that playing George Bailey would hit very close to home. However, I didn't realize until the middle of the run just how significant the similarities would resonate with me.

Let me try to explain...

I have known for a very long time now that the most important thing in my life is this trio:

Yet, despite knowing that family is the key to my happiness, I still find myself constantly worried about my career as a writer.

I have spent much of my 47 years on this planet fretting over my artistic life. Like George Bailey, I hoped to achieve big things... and most of the time I don't feel like I measure up.

And if I am being completely honest, the message of It's a Wonderful Life has always been a tonic for me whenever I've felt mediocre (which is often). Many times, I have told myself that old wisdom from Clarence...

 ...but deep down I've felt that we tell ourselves this when we are kept out of the winner's circle. It's our consolation prize. It's what we cling to so that we don't jump into that icy cold river that flows from Bedford Falls.

George Bailey wanted to travel the world. He wanted to "build bridges a hundred stories high" and "build bridges a mile long." Instead, he diligently continued running the family business, never leaving his hometown and never building anything larger than a two bedroom house.

Likewise, I wanted to write best selling novels and Oscar winning screenplays. That has not happened... and although I've never felt as desperate as George Bailey (perhaps because my Uncle never lost $8000 of my company's funds), there have been plenty of times in which I have asked God to show me the way. Plenty of times in which I have felt lost, even out of place. And there have been many times in which I have felt like lashing out at those close to me.

Having those feelings of frustration and inadequacy, all mixed together with my profound love of life, the universe, and this mixed up puzzle we call humanity -- I was confident that I would be able to experience all of those feelings that comprise the emotional nature of George Bailey. 

Now, I definitely did not fill Jimmy Stewart's shoes. But hopefully the audience didn't mind my attempt. I had so much fun playing this part. It truly was a dream role, and if I never grace the stage again I'll die fulfilled -- at least in terms of my experiences as an amateur actor. 

As one might expect, I made a lot of new friendships and strengthened old ones. Lots of us became very close during the run of this show. My daughter Emily is the one taking this group-selfie. She was the co-stage manager (along with one of my best pals Jesse) and she also filled in for Mrs. Martini one night, and for Violet on another. 

My wife, Cheri, was an amazing director to work with because she loves and respects Capra's film as much as I do. I know what you're thinking: How did Wade get the part? Nepotism? Well, it doesn't hurt to be married to the director. But for the record, spouses can't evaluate the auditions of family members. Therefore, I auditioned for the executive director, TimBen Boydston -- but I still realize that without my connections I might never have landed the role. But you know what, I'll take what I can get. If I have to go to the casting couch to play George Bailey, so be it! 

The rehearsals went smoothly. Opening night was a success. Then it was just a matter of getting through the shows. I believe there were a total of 22 performances. The main worry on my mind was whether or not I had bad breath during the George / Mary kissing scene. (And Nicole, if you are reading this, thank you for being such a good sport. You are the best Mary Hatch since Donna Reed!)

Things changed halfway through the run.

Something happened to my daughter Mackenzie. She and her boyfriend, Jeremiah, were the lighting designers on the show... and for the past eight weeks Mack had been slowly losing sensation in her toes and feet. And then she was starting to limp. She went to the E.R. and urgent care on several occasions. They misdiagnosed her with a kidney infection, and a couple other theories. 

Then, one morning, she couldn't walk. What followed was a long and frightening hospital stay. For two weeks the doctors tested her and treated her -- although we still don't know the source of the problem, and we may not find out for a while longer. 

You'll notice in these photos she is quite lively and in good spirits. She kept busy, whether it was visiting with the nurse (who coincidentally happened to be a former student of mine), building lego sets, or knitting...

Knitting, knitting, knitting! This kid was constantly knitting! She even knit herself a hat in less than two hours...

Don't let her beautiful smile fool you. Although Mackenzie has been very brave through this ordeal, there have been very scary moments. She (and her parents) have wondered whether or not she was dying. During the first days at the hospital, Mackenzie began having convulsions. That was one of the saddest and scariest things I have ever witnessed.

The good news is, she has been responding well to the treatment (steroids and physical therapy, mainly). She transitioned from the main hospital into a neighboring rehab facility. She learned to get around in her walker -- and she's got a wheel chair too.

The doctors believe that she will make a full recovery. But will this condition return? Is it Multiple Sclerosis? Some malformed pocket of nerves in her spine? Something else? We don't know yet. So, that's still rather scary.

But I've been learning to live in the moment, to truly embrace the moment, and to acknowledge that we cannot always prepare for the future. In fact, in many cases, being focused on the future is counter productive.

I have also learned that any career ambitions or artistic anxieties pale in comparison to the desire for the health and well-being of my family. I pray that it is a lesson I keep. I've told stories since I could speak, yet words seem to fail me when I want to express how deeply I love my family. Words also fail me when I try to convey how thankful I am that today is Christmas, and my daughter Mackenzie is alive and on the path to wellness. I don't know what December 26th will bring, but thank God for what we have here and now.

When George Bailey says, "Get me back, Clarence. I don't care what happens to me, only get me back to my wife and kids." Oh man, can I relate to those emotions, now more than ever.

Merry Christmas, Bedford Falls! Merry Christmas, Bradford Family! Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan. Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Universe!