The Teresa Jusino Experience

Create Like An Activist

Tag: life (Page 1 of 3)

Two Years Later: The Road to Failure, in Itself an Art

Dad and Me

Losing my dad two years ago today was both harder and easier than losing my mom.

It was harder, because I wasn’t there. I’d already moved to Los Angeles at that point, and I found out that he’d passed away on a phone call. Whereas with my mother, I got to be there when they pulled the plug on her life support and say goodbye (she wasn’t conscious, but still), I couldn’t be there for my dad, and that hurt. It still does.

It hurts especially, because of my parents my dad was the one I felt really understood me. We were the same in so many ways. My mother was amazing, of course, and I loved her so much. But my dad and I shared so many things, and they weren’t always good, but they were ours. We were both writers who were (and are) always late to things. We were both social creatures who were extremely stubborn and loved to debate a topic into the ground. We both loved travel, and music, and art of all kinds. We valued our dreams, and thought them as real as anything in “real life.” When I say “I’m my father’s daughter,” I mean it. There’s no one else’s I could be.

But in many ways, it’s because of all this that losing my dad was easier than losing my mom. Whereas my mother died with her mind in tact, and her passing felt more like a sharp tearing away, my father started petering out long before he died. As his mind started to go, shortly after my mother passed away (and apparently, she’d been covering for him in various situations, so we couldn’t tell it had already started happening), he was less and less the person I knew. My dad had entirely defined himself by his mind – talking about the value of education, reading The New York Times and doing the crossword puzzle every day, taking me to all sorts of educational places when I was a kid, and being the happiest for me when I did things like go away on Model UN trips, or go away to Dublin to study for a semester. Whereas my mom always cried, or worried out loud, if my dad worried at all he held it in. He always wanted me to know that it was okay to leave, because leaving meant learning and growing. Leaving meant change, and he never wanted me to feel guilty about that.

And that person started leaving us in 2006/2007, so that by the time he passed away in 2014, we’d already said goodbye a thousand times.

And even though I couldn’t be there, and even though I was so deeply sad that one of the people who understood me best in this world was gone, a part of me felt relief. Because knowing him so well, I knew that he would never ever want to be seen that way. My dad definitely had a lot of pride, and when he was in his right mind would never want to ask for help. So often, I wished he would. But in any case, to go from that person to the person who needs to be bathed and dressed and fed like a child…if he were himself, I know he would’ve hated it.

So, maybe it was for the best that I, of all people, wasn’t there at the very end, to see him on a hospital bed taking his last breath, looking more weak and frail than he’d ever been. He probably would’ve hated that, too. I got to see him looking more dignified. Made up, and in a suit. I got to say goodbye to him when he was more presentable. I think he might have preferred that.

Pretty much everything I do creatively, I do for my dad. (Yes, even Incredible Girl! Did you know that my father wrote a play in the early 1990s that involved a husband who wanted to engage in BDSM with his wife? Yup, he did! The apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree, I guess) Everything I achieve professionally, or pursue artistically, I do it with him in mind. Because for a million reasons he never could.

If you’d like to help me honor my dad today, plan a trip to somewhere you’ve never been or an experience you’ve never had! You can also read the eulogy I read at his wake, or give a donation to your local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

And lastly, enjoy this poem from his short collection of poetry called Pillars of My Strength. He wrote these when he was only 23 and in the Air Force stationed at George Air Force Base here in California (which closed in the 1990s), and a lot of these poems are trying way too hard. 🙂 But this one, called “Tomorrow,” totally captures my dad’s personality – his drive, determination, and yes, stubbornness – in a way that remained true for him the rest of his life. It also shows that he knew what his failings were, but could never bring himself to stop fighting:

Failed have I, and well I understand, 
That in my undertakings, pride has played the greatest part. 
The road to failure, in itself an art, 
Was further enhanced by my stubborn stand.
However, even as a sun retreats unto the night
And a baby bird will try until he flies, 
So will I on prophecy rely
When a tomorrow with success will prove me right. 

I miss you, Daddy. And I hope I can be your Tomorrow.

Ramon Jusino Jr.
September 7, 1935 – April 19, 2014

Ten Years Later: Things I Remember, Things She’ll Miss

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My mom died ten years ago today. Ten years. Sometimes it feels like only yesterday. Other times it feels like a million years ago. I’ve come so far and my life has changed so much in the subsequent ten years that it’s often difficult to remember what life with a mother was like.

I can’t just think of her face anymore without help from a photo. What I find myself remembering most are her hands. Watching them as they worked on something, or the way they felt when she’d hug me or hold me.

I remember her laugh. It was big, and raucous, and contagious. I remember that she had a great sense of humor, and that she talked about flirting with the male nurses in the hospital when she was sick. 🙂

I remember how she cried when I moved into the dorms at NYU, and how I thought it was so silly, because I was only 40 minutes away from the house. Now, I know those tears meant that she loved me so much. I knew that then too, I think, but I was too busy being an independent college student to focus on that.

I remember sitting with her in a hospital room toward the end, and asking her “Don’t worry about hurting my feelings or anything – I know you love me, and Kenny and Janette, and Dad – but if you could’ve done anything else with your life, anything at all, what would you have done?” And she stayed quiet for a long minute and then said “No one’s ever asked me that before.” And she couldn’t come up with an answer, because she’d never really thought about it. But I think she was glad to have been asked and made to think about it.

I remember my mom most when I find myself doing things she taught me – like neatly tying up plastic grocery bags so they’re easier to store, or beating out “Shave and a Haircut” on the side of the pot with a spoon while I’m cooking something.

I also remember her most as I live through things that she never got to see. She never knew that I moved to California, and that I’ve started to build a life and a home in the state where my parents spent the beginning of their marriage. She never met The Fiancee. She won’t be at my wedding. She won’t be around to see any kids I might have. When I go home to New York, while she remains a stop on my People I Need to Visit tour, it involves getting driven out to the cemetery.

She only ever knew me aspiring. She’ll never see me finally get where I’m going, and that makes me sad. I’m always nagged by the feeling that she died worried about me and my well-being. Not just in the way that all mothers will always worry about their kids, but because I’d chosen a less-than-stable career, and I was broke, and I was single, and I didn’t seem to be able to get anything together. I hope that, wherever she is, if she’s able to check in on what’s going on in between Heavenly massages and endless chocolate cake and ice cream that I’m okay. That I’m the best I’ve ever been. That despite the hardships, it’s all working out pretty well. It’s not perfect, but it’s good. It’s evolving in a way I like.

It always hurts a little when I hang out with The Fiancee’s awesome family and I remember that mine’s incomplete. Or when any of my friends talk about their parents coming to town to visit, or going to visit them back home. I’ll never have that, and I always try to remind them to treasure their parents while they’re still around. Even when they’re annoying. 🙂 I’m so glad that I went to go visit my mom in the nursing home, or the hospital, even when I “didn’t feel like it.” My only regret is that I didn’t do it even more.

It’s been ten years, and I miss her. There’s a hole in my life that was supposed to be filled by her that now isn’t. But I’m grateful that she was my mother. She was the best one I could’ve asked for. She wasn’t perfect, but she was perfect for me, and as often as she made me mad, or inadvertently hurt my feelings, or said something less-than-progressive and made me cringe, I also never doubted that she loved me.

She always let me know, sometimes through her words, but more often through her actions, that she loved me and was always there for me no matter what. She encouraged me even when she wasn’t sure what I was doing – like that whole “acting thing” or “being a writer” or whatever. Sure, she’d encourage me to get a “real job,” but she also never said I should give up the other stuff I wanted to do. She just wanted me to be practical and careful. And she would often surprise me. Despite those less-than-progressive things she’d sometimes say, she was equally likely to surprise me with a completely progressive opinion on something when I least expected it.

It’s how I know that she’d be surprised, but ultimately supportive of my upcoming marriage to The Fiancee. She’d love her, because I do. I just wish they would’ve gotten to know each other.
Anyway, I think my rambling’s at an end. I love my mom. I miss her. I celebrate her and the wonderful (and wonderfully complex) person she was. And I’m grateful for her.

If you’d like to help me remember my mom, feel free to go to your nearest Puerto Rican restaurant and eat a pastel in her honor. 🙂 You can read the eulogy I read at her funeral. Otherwise, a donation to your local chapter of the American Diabetes Association is always a great choice.

Mariana Hernandez Jusino
September 21, 1935 – April 5, 2006

The Story to Tell the Grandkids

I’d been sick for days, and I was feeling like crap. So fancy-schmancy New Year’s Eve plans anywhere other than my couch were not going to happen.

So, The GF and I spent New Year’s Eve watching Masters of Sex on Hulu. Since we don’t have cable, we weren’t able to watch anything like New Year’s Rockin’ Eve to count down to the New Year, so we just set the alarms on our phones. I set mine for ten minutes before midnight so I could get the sparkling wine ready, then I set another one for one minute to midnight so that we could count down.

I got the sparkling wine and the wine glasses out and we continued watching Masters of Sex for a few minutes. Then, my alarm went off signaling a minute until the new year…

The GF and Me at Mother Dough. Dec 2015

The GF and Me at Mother Dough. Dec 2015

Now, here’s where I’ll give you a smidge of backstory…we celebrate our anniversary on December 4th – which was when we had our first official date: dinner at Mother Dough, followed by drinks at Public House (before it became a raging sports bar), and canoodling back at her place. 🙂 Every year on our anniversary (all three of them that we’ve had so far), we go to Mother Dough for dinner.

This year, as we enjoyed our alcohol and fancy pizza, The GF brought up the fact that, up until then, whenever we talked about “marriage,” it always had, well, air-quotes around it.
She said “We always talk about ‘maybe if we get married’ like it’s a hypothetical. So…do you wanna get married?” And after I choked, I said “Like, right now?” Obviously not right then. But she did mean, like imminently.

At first I was like “I wasn’t entirely sure you wanted to ever get married at all, and since I don’t particularly care either way, that’s why it was always hypothetical.” And she said “The idea’s kinda grown on me. And so, I wanted to let you know my intentions.” 🙂 Long story short, her mom came to visit later in the month, and apparently she had a family ring that she’s been saving for The GF for just such an occasion. She asked her mom to bring it with her on her visit.
So, at the time, I knew I was going to be asked, but I figured the actual, official asking was months away at least. And being the sucker for grand gestures and lover of surprises that I am, I said, “OK, so when we get engaged-engaged, I’d like it to be a surprise, and I want it to be A Moment. You know me. You know what I’d like.” And as is totally her way, she said “Copy that.”
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The Fiancee and I? January 1st 2016.

So, my alarm went off signalling a minute to midnight. As I was about to pour sparkling wine, The GF says “Come over here and sit in this chair!” I was confused. “Why?” “Just come here,” she said. “You have to sit in this chair right now.”

Please keep in mind, I was a stuffy, snotty mess who was hacking up a lung. I was in my pajamas, my hair looked like garbage, and I think I must have smelled at least a little.

I sat in the chair.
She got down on one knee, and pulled something from the pocket of her bathrobe.
I immediately gasped and started flailing my hands like an idiot as tears started to well in my eyes. It’s rare that I cry from happiness. This is one of the few times in my life that’s ever happened.
She looked at me and said “Teresa, you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me, and I want to get old with you. Will you marry me?” She held up a small diamond ring and had the sweetest, goofiest, most hopeful smile on her face.
The alarm went off, heralding 2016.
“Of course I will! Get up!” I squealed. She stood, and I threw my arms around her, clutching her tight. At that moment, I didn’t care about the stupid ring, or about how sick I was, or how I looked, or any of it. I kissed her over and over. I said “Yes!” into her neck a jillion times.
Then I shut off the alarm, telling it to shut up.
It wasn’t the proposal I expected, but it was absolutely perfect. I’d asked for a surprise, and I got it. I asked for A Moment, and she proposed on the cusp between the old year and the new. And she showed me she loved me by not caring that I was snot-ridden at the time. She did everything right.
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The ring.

We’re gonna have a long engagement – like two years or so – to get our metaphorical shit together. So, you know SAVE THE DATE FOR 2018. 🙂 The ring is very tiny – just look at it on my enormous pinky – so it will live on a chain around my neck until we get it re-sized.

And I guess I have a fiancee now. It’s weird. Good, but weird. I’m in my mid-thirties, and it still feels too grown up. But it’s right. There’s no one else I’d rather “grow up” with – or grow old with. I feel so lucky that I’m marrying someone who always manages to be perfect for me despite being nothing like any partner I ever imagined for myself. She’s confirmed for me that it’s the unexpected things – the surprises – that lead to the good stuff. She compliments me – is strong where I am weak – and vice versa. She’s the only person in the world from whom I’ve withheld nothing, and she loves me anyway. And I love her, even having seen her at her worst.

Not to brag, but even these two don’t have anything on us:

ruby and sapphire

Random Sadness

Source: Kathryn on Flickr.

Source: Kathryn on Flickr.

Today would’ve been my dad’s 80th birthday if he were still alive.

My Google calendar app is set to remind me half an hour before my appointments/important dates. So, my notification went off at 11:30PM last night saying “Dad’s Bday.” 🙁 It might have passed me by were it not for that reminder, and I don’t know what made me more sad, the fact that this is the second of his birthdays that he’s not around to see, or that I would’ve forgotten were it not for my stupid Google reminder.

However, that doesn’t really explain what happened today. I worked a couple of hours this morning at TMS, but as today is a holiday, we just set up a couple of posts for the day, then had most of the day off. Great, right? I was looking forward to having the day to devote to other writing projects. Then, sometime around noon or 1PM I got inexplicably sad. I started crying for no reason, which prompted me to think of Every Sad Thing, which prompted more crying. Now, I’ve totally experienced PMS-related sadness, but this was different. I lay down, and then couldn’t get back out of bed for a couple of hours. I felt heavy, as if the whole world had landed on my forehead.

A couple of hours later, I forced myself up, and here I am. At my laptop. Yet I still feel “off” and emotionally drained and I don’t know why. I’d say it’s just my dad’s birthday, except that to be honest, I’ve been feeling like things have been a bit off-kilter for a while now. And I didn’t feel this way on my dad’s birthday last year, and that was the first one after he died. Feeling like this is very disconcerting for me, particularly because it’s no one thing. It’s everything. And nothing at all. For very legitimate reasons and for no reason at all.

I’ve just been chatting with a friend online and talking to The GF, and I’m starting to realize that this is something that has affected me for longer than I probably want to admit. After all, that seems to be the big pattern in my life: there’s always been this part of me where things will be going really well, and then I’ll just stop. That just when things get really good, either something will happen to knock me off course and I don’t have it in me to course-correct, or I’ll sabotage my own progress. And then I’ll get sad about my lack of progress. And then I’ll pull myself out of it and make strides, just to have the same thing happen all over again. I see it in my issues with food, with my finances, with my general career trajectory, with my love life. Something’s always been off and eating away at me, and I may have been ignoring it all this time in the name of “being positive” about things.

Because I’m Terry. I’m the cheerful one. That’s what I do. I’m the cheerleader who encourages and inspires other people, but can’t always inspire/encourage herself. I make jokes. I set people at ease.

And right now, my life is better than it’s ever been. I have a long-term partner that I love who loves me, I have great family and friends, I have a full-time writing job with benefits, I’ve been making contacts in the television industry and commissioned to do writing work. I “shouldn’t” feel so consistently “off” or sad or fearful. But I do, and I have.

I don’t know if this is depression of some kind, or if there’s some emotional thing I’ve never really dealt with as self-aware as I might be…I just don’t know. But I’m going to do something about it. I’m making an appointment with a therapist/psychiatrist ASAP. Might as well make use of that fancy health insurance. 🙂

(This post is supported by Patreon)

L.Aversary 4: And the Award for Most Change In a Single Year Goes To…

This was written in the book when I went to karaoke last year to celebrate my 3rd L.Aversary. Someone really likes Amy Grant.

This was written in the book when I went to karaoke last year to celebrate my 3rd L.Aversary. Someone really likes Amy Grant.

It seems like only yesterday that I boarded a plane at LaGuardia Airport in NYC holding a stack of letters written to me by some of my best friends, having had my three best friends drive me to the airport and watch me as I made my way through the security line. But it was FOUR years ago. That’s a high school or undergraduate college career. If my time in Los Angeles were a child, it’d be slightly older than a toddler.

And much like senior year, or the point when you figure out how to walk, it seems like a bunch of change has been crammed into the past year.

    • I joined a writing group with my writing partner and we wrote three solid scripts together
    • I went from being a solo writer, to half of a writing team, to a solo writer again. Still in the writing group.
    • I informed my family and friends that I’m in a same-sex relationship with a trans woman. Confirmed that my family and friends are super-cool.
    • I’ve made more use of L.A’s vast networking opportunities, and have met more people with whom I can collaborate and/or I can receive mentorship
    • The Incredible Girl ride is still going, but has gone through many changes
    • I’ve been given the opportunity to write my first TV movie
    • I’m currently employed in my first full-time staff writer position
    • Dat Chevy commercial, though
    • Because of the above two things, for the first time, I’m not drowning financially
    • Because of the above thing, I was able to go home to visit this summer under my own steam and being able to afford my own place to stay without needing to crash on a million couches
    • I FINALLY HAVE A DRIVER’S LICENSE AGAIN

It’s been an amazing year – one during which I’ve continually moved forward with minimal setbacks. And while I haven’t yet completed my Top 50 Things to Do in L.A. list (I’ve done 7, 8, 48, tried to do 13 but it was closed down, and I’ll be doing 50 this weekend), I know that I’m invested in this city enough now that I’ll have plenty of time to do the rest in the year(s) to come.

Thanks for being a crazy enough city for me to live in L.A. 🙂 Never change.

(Actually, there are some changes I’d love to recommend if you’ve got a sec.)

My 36th Year On the Planet

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I’m 36 today. That’s weird. It’s weird, because 40 is only 4 years away, and I don’t feel remotely old enough to be 40. I’m not saying that 40’s old – I’m saying that it sure decided to speed it’s way over here, and I still feel like a college student half the time! Slow down, 40! No rush. Damn! 🙂

But 36 feels good. I have so much for which I’m grateful, and my life has really taken off in surprising ways in the past couple of years, making me, at 36, about a BILLION times cooler than I was when I was 26.

Things That I Have Now That I Didn’t Have 10 Years Ago:

  • a girlfriend
  • an apartment in Los Angeles
  • a full-time staff writing job for an awesome outlet
  • a savings account (with actual money in it!)
  • all the friends I’ve made in L.A.
  • my youngest niece
  • my girlfriend’s family, that feels like family to me
  • a podcast I host regularly
  • a body of work in the form of screenplays
  • plans and schemes beyond writing
  • the directing bug
  • an appreciation for my own body
  • a more laid-back attitiude about things
  • an assurance in who I am and the things I believe in

Silly headshot 2 - green shirt - WEB READY

Now, life isn’t a bed of roses, and there are things that I don’t have, or that are still problems for me even at 36. So…

Things That I Don’t Have or Are Still a Problem at 36:

  • still fat, and at this point I think I’m bigger than I’ve ever been
  • still have debt
  • don’t have my parents
  • don’t have a car
  • don’t have a driver’s license (though I have an appt in Aug that’ll take care of that!)
  • don’t have kids
  • don’t have my immediate family, or my oldest friends within walking/driving distance
  • don’t have a novel published
  • still get bored/distracted way too easily
  • still a procrastinator

And then there are the new, age-related problems and issues, like lower back and hip pain (due to the weight, most likely), annoyance with “going out” (unless it’s to a quiet pub with, like, 3-4 friends), being an Old Person who perks up whenever Old People Music comes on (ie: the soundtrack of my high school existence…from the 1990s, which ended SIXTEEN YEARS AGO), and a different vision for what my future should look like than I ever thought I’d have.

Oh yeah, and my 20 year high school reunion will be in two years.

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Still, life is good overall, and I feel very lucky. I’m lucky to have the people I have in my life. I’m lucky to be the recipient of so much love from so many different sources, and I’m lucky that I have so many opportunities to love in return. I’m lucky that my Dream Career actually feels possible, and that I’ve been able to consistently plug away at a career in the arts long enough to know what failure looks like, what success looks like, and that I’m doing all the right things right now. I’m lucky that whenever life’s thrown something at me to knock me down, I’ve always managed to get back up. I’m lucky that I can not only move forward or backward, but I have the ability to pivot.

36 years on this planet has taught me a lot, and I’m grateful. Thanks to all of you for coming along for the ride.

(photos by The Headshot Truck)

 

2014 Year In Review

Sure, it’s January 4th – but you know what? I was having fun on a holiday trip on the East Coast, so I didn’t have time to blog. Know what else? I REGRET NOTHING. 🙂 But for those who are paying attention, you know I do this every year, so I’d hate to leave you hanging. So, here we go…

Previous years: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013.

Another year, another year to review! This year’s been a biggie, both in my personal life and for the world, which simultaneously became a little more evolved and a lot more insane. Two steps forward, three steps back. I suppose slow progress is better than no progress at all, huh?

May 2014.

PERSONAL LIFE:

I’ll likely remember 2014 as the year I started to tackle problems head-on, rather than ignoring them, and became more of the kind of person I want to be. I’ll also remember it as a year of a lot of change in my personal life, both good and bad. However, even when bad things happened this year, for some reason I was in more of a position to deal with things in a healthy, philosophical way. Sure, there were tears when needed, and there was even some full-on freaking out, but it all came from a healthy place of acknowledging my feelings, rather than trying to stuff them down. So, I’m grateful for that. Some highlights:

** It was an interesting year for employment. I left a day job I had for a little over a year that was burning me out and stressing me out disproportionately to what it was paying me. It was one of the best decisions I made all year. I got another part-time job that I stayed at for two weeks, because I realize that the amount they were paying me (barely minimum wage) did not warrant the money I spent on commuting. However, I did gain a long-term freelance writing client (which I’ll talk about in the Writing section below), and I continued on with a company that does work with background actors – a company that I like a lot, and my bosses there are pretty cool. 🙂 So, I’m ending 2014 with two long-term/full-time jobs and plenty of room for additional writing. Bring it on, 2015!

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** In the Tackling Problems Head-On department, I put a greater focus on three areas of my life: my health/fitness, my finances, and my emotional well-being. While I’m nowhere close to “perfect” or “done” (no one ever is), I have a better handle on things than I ever have before. In the realm of fitness, I discovered Daily Burn, which allowed me to work out more than I ever have before. I tried Orangetheory, and may be inspired to go there more regularly in the new year to work out (I’m also considering Nerdstrong and the local YMCA). I did some Couch to 5K (which I eventually stopped, because I realized that running is the most boring activity ever – to me), and I started riding my bike more, both to commute to my job, and to get to other things. In health news, I got Medi-Cal! Yay! So, now that I have some sort of health insurance, I’ve been going to doctors right and left – found a general practitioner, found a dentist (which I desperately needed after a horrible toothache ruined my experience of seeing Guardians of the Galaxy!), gyno, podiatrist…there are a couple of super-minor issues to take care of, but my physical came back completely clean, which I was really glad to hear. Especially given my family history of diabetes, cancer, and heart trouble. Whew! In my financial life, I started taking a closer look at ALL of my debt (which I’d been ignoring for years), tracking my spending, and keeping better track of the money that comes in. I’m starting the new year with a bit of an increased income (thanks, freelance clients!), and a better idea of my budget. Lastly, there’s the Emotional Well-Being front, which pretty much just means that I’ve been making time for myself to really sit with my feelings and process what I’m going through, rather than just rushing through life. Time and space are key, and I’ve been loving myself enough to give myself both in 2014, which has helped tremendously.

Dad the lifeguard

** April was a difficult month. On April 19, 2014, my father, Ramon Jusino Jr., passed away at the age of 78. This was difficult for obvious reasons. The only father I’ll ever have is gone. The parent with whom I shared the most character traits and common interests is gone. Yet it was also a relief in many ways. My father suffered from dementia that seemed exacerbated by my mother’s death in 2006. His health deteriorated, and we had to put him in a nursing home. In short, he hadn’t been My Dad for a long time, and while I miss him being on this planet, I also know that, as proud as he was, he likely wouldn’t have wanted to be seen as a helpless invalid for very long.

So, thanks to the help of my friend, Heather, and her wonderful mom, Lauren, who works for an airline, my partner and I were able to fly to NYC for the funeral. I was touched by the outpouring of support from friends and family. Friends I hadn’t seen in ages, like my friend Nippa from high school, came to the wake to show solidarity. Adam organized a dinner for me to celebrate my dad and “his greatest achievement” – me. (Those are Adam’s words, not mine) Long-time friends made it a point to be there for the wake, the funeral, and the burial, which was a military burial, to honor my dad’s Air Force service. And I took two weeks in New York to surround myself with loved ones and give myself time to grieve properly. I’m grateful for everyone who showed me love during that time – particularly Joanna and Chuck, for giving me a place to crash – and I’m glad that my mom and dad (and my dog, Scarlett, who watched over them when I couldn’t) are all at peace and together now.

Me and Heather (and my birthday flowers from her and Alexis!)

** I celebrated my 35th Birthday in July and had a great, warm night with friends. Jason and Mairghread came out with my partner and me for sushi at Midori, and more friends met up with us at Sardo’s later in the evening for beer and karaoke! It was a great time – and I was bought a lot of birthday drinks, including one from a generous guy from out of town. My little crew ended up closing the place down! Not a bad way to celebrate my mid-thirties!

My favorite photo of the night. Heather took this of me and Adam when I wasn't paying attention. Lurve.

However, my birthday weekend had another, more ill-advised component. I’d always wanted to go camping in Joshua Tree, so my partner and I drove out to camp overnight. It was beautiful, to be sure, and quiet (the quiet was what really astounded me), but between the insane heat (even at night!), the mosquitoes, and the uncomfortable car sleeping situation, we were really glad to get back to civilization! Next time, I won’t make the mistake of camping in the desert during the off-season. IT’S “OFF” FOR A REASON!

** I’ve always tried to do what I could to work toward equality in all areas for LGBT folks, but this year, with transgender people making themselves increasingly visible – what with Laverne Cox all over EVERYTHING, Transparent on Amazon Prime, and the impending blockbuster Jupiter Ascending (directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski) – it sunk in for me how often the “T” in “LGBT” has historically been either ignored, thrown under the bus, or misrepresented/despised both within and outside the LGBT and feminist circles in which I so happily travel. So, I’ve been a bit more vocal on that score. This year has ended with the tragic suicide of Leelah Alcorn in Ohio (and the subsequent removal of her Tumblr, which contained her suicide note and hopes for other transgender teens), emphasizing the fact that there’s still so much more work to do on this front – and I hope to use my platform to amplify trans voices in addition to feminist, minority, and gay/lesbian voices.

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** SDCC 2014. UGH. I’m grateful that I had a press badge, and that Jason and Mairghread were willing to share their hotel room with me, but on the whole, I could’ve done without the whole experience. There were a handful of cool moments: interviewing Nicole Perlman, meeting up with my friends Tara and Daniel, finally meeting my friend Janice IRL at the Grimm panel after years of commiserating over the demise of Caprica and the career of one Sasha Roiz, and going to SDCC’s first-ever transgender comics panel, but I spent most of the con hot and tired, standing in line, and just generally crabby about how long it took me to walk everywhere in the crowds. I’m in no rush to go back. Though I did end up at a party with George RR Martin. That was pretty cool. 🙂

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** The fall was all about going to see live music, and I got to see two of my favorite acts live! My partner and I went to see Pomplamoose at the El Rey theater in October, followed by going to Amanda Palmer’s book event for The Art of Asking at the First Unitarian Church in November. Both events were amazing for entirely different reasons. I’d never seen Pomplamoose live before, and going to see them makes me appreciate them SO MUCH MORE as musicians. They put on a really fun, kick-ass show, and if you ask me, I think the money they spent on their tour was money well spent! The Amanda Palmer event was amazing, because the musical performances were so intimate, and the evening was full of insightful, revealing, and nuanced discussion between Amanda, her guests, and the audience about what it means to be an artist and ask for help.

** Oh, and by the way, my boo and I celebrated our second anniversary in December, and we flew to the East Coast and spent a wonderful two weeks with our families for the holidays. It was a great way to end the year!

Chicks Dig Gaming cover illustration by the squee-worthy Katy Shuttleworth.

Chicks Dig Gaming cover illustration by the squee-worthy Katy Shuttleworth.

 WRITING LIFE:

** I was published, like, a crap-ton. 🙂 My first national print interview came out in the May 2014 issue of Latina Magazine, I had my first piece published on Jezebel in March, and an essay of mine is included in Mad Norwegian Press’ latest pop culture anthology, Chicks Dig Gaming, which was released in November! In addition to that, I was hired to write a pop culture column on a great site called Beacon, on which readers can subscribe directly to journalists whose work they love. While I’m no longer writing on Beacon, it was a great experiment, and there are several pieces up there that I consider some of my best work. Check it out!

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** One of the biggest things in my writing life also happens to affect my personal life, too. My friend and writing partner, Adam Hunault, finally made the big move to L.A, and I’m really happy about it! Not only because it’s really awesome to have one of my favorite New York peeps in town with me, but it makes such a difference in the way we work on our scripts and are able to pursue our joint writing career. To date, we’ve written two hour-long pilots, one hour-long spec of an existing show, have entered most of the major writing fellowships (getting none of them, but whaddaryagonnado?), joined a TV writing group and the IAWTV meet-up, sat down with two professional TV writers to discuss our path, and are currently in the process of writing our third hour-long original pilot. 2015 is going to be a huge year for us as we tackle Los Angeles together, and I’m very excited to get to it!

** I started my job as Blog Editor for HotPixel Post-Production at the beginning of 2014, creating content for the blog as well as managing their monthly newsletter and throwing in my two cents re: their communications/marketing whenever I’m asked. It’s a really cool gig, as HotPixel is a steady, reliable client that allows me to write about an industry I enjoy. My boss, Art, is a really cool guy who shoots straight with me and makes sure I’m taken care of. Meanwhile, as I write about the independent film scene, I’m learning a lot that I will likely apply to projects I work on. I’m looking forward to doing even bigger and better things with HotPixel in the coming year. Check out the HotPixel blog often! (and if you ever need post-production services for a project of your own…you know where to go!)

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** Work on Incredible Girl, the 10-episode digital series I’ve written based on Aurora de Blas’ short film of the same name, has kicked into high gear this year. We’ve spent this year in hardcore planning mode, working with our director, Sabrina, to hone our voice for the show itself, as well as the marketing/branding surrounding the show, we filmed teaser footage of the first two scenes, which we hope to use to raise funds for our pilot, we held a small fundraiser, we’ve done outreach into our target audience, we’ve built relationships with sponsors, and we’re slowly and intelligently building the team and the resources we need to move forward in 2015. Check out the show’s website, then “like” us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter! Trust me, you want in on this. 😉

** In addition to the networking done with Adam, this was also a big year for personal networking for my solo writing work. I joined a rather large collective of women writers on Facebook that has continually provided resources, job leads, and opportunities to support each other’s work via live events and on the web. I’ve also formed relationships with two professional writers this year, one of whom has stepped up into a formal mentorship capacity, which I’m super grateful for. I’m looking forward to working with her in the New Year on the kind of projects I want to pursue in film and television!

2014 was a big year, full of ups and downs, but 2015 is going to be even BIGGER. I have huge plans, both personal and professional, that I’ll be telling you all about right here at The Teresa Jusino Experience! So stay tuned! And I wish all of you an amazing and fulfilling New Year jam-packed with love, fun, and good people by your side!

Sitting With Feelings

As I’ve alluded to on social media (and here!), lately I’ve been taking steps toward dealing with my food issues, among other things, and last night I dealt with one of the least pleasant aspects of that.

Sitting with my feelings. 

Too often, whenever I’ve felt upset (or, let’s be honest, happy, or bored, or pretty much any emotion), I’ve turned to food for comfort (or celebration, or activity), feeling like I “deserved it” because I was going through a shitty time (or a great time), and so why not reward myself with food. And that got me to a top weight in the mid-270s despite becoming more physically active.

For the past month, I’ve been trying the opposite. Whenever I’ve had the impulse to eat outside of my three meals, I stop, breathe, and think about whether or not I’m actually hungry, or if there’s something else going on. It hasn’t been perfect. The other night, I served myself a second big bowl of mac and cheese for dinner without batting an eyelash, just because it was a reflex and I didn’t take the time to stop and think. I was rewarded with a stomach ache. So, you know, there’s that. My body knows what’s up even if I don’t.

Yesterday was a particularly “good” day. I returned home after a tech scout for an upcoming video project related to Incredible Girl (start getting excited, people!), and the rainy, cold weather was making me restless. Every time I would sit down to do something, my brain would be like “Nope!,” and I’d get up and pace the apartment. Didn’t want to watch TV, didn’t want to read, didn’t want to write… So, as is my usual pattern, I walked to the kitchen and opened up the cabinet where the cereal is. But then I stopped. I took a breath. I listened to my body. I realized I wasn’t hungry at all. Then I walked to the living room where The Boy was sitting and just said, out loud, “I’m bored and restleeeeeeeeeeess….,” getting it out in a big, toddler-like whine. Then it occurred to me, what I really wanted to do was curl up under a blanket and take a nap. So I did. When I woke up about an hour later, I was refreshed, drank some water, and went about my day.

It was the most perfect example of taking a pause to examine my feelings before eating, and taking that moment saved me yesterday! I was thrilled.

Then, later that night, I was blindsided by a Mack truck of unadulterated emotion – and it wasn’t positive. It was as if suddenly, and without warning, every single insecurity, worry, and fear just came on and started to suffocate me. I was already in bed at this point, and just burst into tears. And as it was so late, I was already in bed, and I’d made the decision to not use food as a crutch, eating wasn’t an option. So I just cried. When The Boy came in to bed later on and realized something was wrong, I was comforted, and hugged, and held. After a while of that, I still couldn’t sleep, so I got up to see if I could tire myself out playing Candy Crush and Tetris. I moved candies and puzzle pieces and sat with how crappy I felt. And I didn’t eat. And I let it feel like shit. Eventually, I went to bed, emotionally spent and tired. But I didn’t eat. And I’m still here. And I feel better today.

Originally from the blog aquietweek.com

That’s the point. The negative feelings I’m always so afraid of – the ones I don’t want to “burden” anyone with, the ones I don’t want to allow to turn me into a “negative person” – didn’t take me down. I allowed myself to feel them, I talked them through, and they passed. And I’m still here. I didn’t need to numb them, or shove them aside, or drown them in bowls of cereal. Even that moment earlier, when I was bored and restless, the moment I named my boredom and restlessness out loud, I realized what a dumb reason that was to eat. What’s more, I realized that there were so many other things I could be doing that would benefit me and not involve food at all, and I thought it insane that I would ever think to forgo that just to eat something.

It’s not always going to be this easy. I know this is something with which I’m always going to struggle. But I do know that, as I’ve spoken to other people who’ve dealt with food issues (or other addictions), it will get easier. It’s like anything else – the more you do it, the better you get at it. I need to remember that my negative feelings aren’t something I can ignore. They’re a signal from my subconscious that there’s something that I need to address, and I need to remember that when I do face them – when I speak them aloud or otherwise share them either with another person, or with God in quiet – they’re never as scary as I think they’re going to be. I always come through on the other side, and there’s always something to be done about them. Nothing is completely hopeless – even if it feels like it might be in the moment.

The key to getting to that is to Pause. To make room for quiet. When I have the urge to put something in my mouth, to remember that I can, but only after I’ve thought about it first. It’s not about Not Eating. It’s not about deprivation. It’s about de-emphasizing food’s place in my life. If I’m genuinely hungry, if it’s been a couple of hours since I’ve last eaten something and it makes sense for me to be hungry, then of course, I should eat (and take the time to enjoy it and not rush through it). But nine times out of ten, my desire to eat is for every other reason but that, and when I take the time to stop and think, the reasons becomes apparent. And that Pause a gift I’m giving myself. It’s me taking care of myself in the most important way.

It’s me saying Teresa, your feelings are important. You deserve to be heard. You deserve to be happy, and you won’t be until you deal with this. I will help you deal with it, and you will be OK. 

Ice cream doesn’t say that. 🙂

Teeth Matter

A mouth full of gauze and an ice pack against my swollen jaw.

A mouth full of gauze and an ice pack against my swollen jaw.

Dental hygiene is important, y’all.

One of my biggest flaws is that, too often, I ignore problems with the secret hope that they’ll just go away. Whereas I tell some people that they “worry too much,” I don’t worry enough. Sometimes, this is beneficial. I don’t get myself in a tizzy over tiny things. It takes a lot to ruffle my feathers, and this has saved me in many instances. However, there are other times where my “not worrying” translated into problems becoming so huge that the results have been harmful to me.

Let’s talk about my teeth.

When I was a kid, I prided myself on No Cavities. All the way through college, it seemed that my teeth would always be perfect. After having worn braces from junior year of high school through freshman year of college, my teeth were a monument to Good Dental Care. Then, as my current dentist, Dr. Ghandi said, I “got lazy.” When I first joined the workforce in my early 20s, I was in that weird financial space of making too much to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to be able to afford insurance on my own. So I didn’t go to the dentist regularly. It was “too expensive.”

Thing is, I could’ve made it a priority and splurged $100/pop on regular cleanings and check-ups. But I didn’t. At the time, it seemed like “too much money.” What I didn’t think about was how much MORE a root canal would cost.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

In my early 20s, I got my first cavities, one a large one in my lower, rear molar. I had it filled. Then the filling popped out, and I never did anything about it. Again, it was “too much money.” It was small at the time, and I figured that eventually I would have enough to deal with it later. That tooth eventually got so bad I got a toothache. That toothache led to a root canal in that tooth. One that I still have to completely pay off. I had a post put in, but couldn’t afford a cap – that would’ve been an additional $1,500 I didn’t have. And the post and filling was holding just fine.

Several years later, the post finally gave and came out. I was making even less money at the time, and still didn’t have insurance of any kind, so the dentist was even less of an option. I figured, I already can’t feel this tooth. As long as I keep it clean, it should be fine, right? Eventually, that tooth became a shell of its former self.

Meanwhile, one of the few times I did go to the dentist in the past few years, I was told that my wisdom teeth had come in, and that they had grown in pointed toward the back of my mouth, rather than straight down. However, the dentist I saw told me that if they didn’t hurt, I didn’t need to remove them. So, I left them alone.

I really wish that that dentist had thought about the fact that a tooth growing toward the back of your mouth would be really difficult to clean, because no matter how far back my toothbrush goes, there’s always going to be an area it can’t reach. Long story short, a couple of weeks ago, I suddenly felt enamel in my mouth as I was eating. As it turns out, the wisdom tooth on the left side of my mouth had worn away to the point of having bits chip off. Shortly thereafter, I started feeling twinges of pain on and off in that side of my mouth.

Thank God my Med-Cal paperwork and card came in when they did! Finally, at long last, I was able to see a dentist, and not a moment too soon!

Last week, Dr. Ghandi pulled that wisdom tooth….and because I’m a fucking weirdo, I kept it long enough to take a photo of it:

The undamaged side of my wisdom tooth. Nothing much to see here, right?

The undamaged side of my wisdom tooth. Nothing much to see here, right?

WRONG! Check out this cavity action. Yowza. That was in my mouth.

WRONG! Check out this cavity action. Yowza. That was in my mouth.

 Yeah. Uh-huh.

He also pulled that root canal tooth with the hole in it and filled FOUR cavities in the top of my mouth. Tomorrrow, I’m going in to have additional cavities filled in the bottom of my mouth. I’ve been taking antibiotics and ibuprofen for the past week, and now enjoy the pleasure of a mouth that doesn’t constantly hurt.

I was limited to soft foods the day my wisdom tooth was pulled, so it was all Trader Joe's polenta ALL DAY.

I was limited to soft foods the day my wisdom tooth was pulled, so it was all Trader Joe’s polenta ALL DAY.

 So, what’s the lesson in all this?

Dental hygiene is important. It should be a priority, and people tend to prioritize it below other health concerns when it really shouldn’t be, as it can lead to just as many medical problems if left unattended. So, regular check-ups should be prioritized. I really wish I would’ve just saved up 100 bucks every six months and planned to go to the dentist more regularly, rather than letting my tooth problems literally fester. If I had, I wouldn’t still be paying off a root canal bill, nor would I now be down two more teeth (I’d already had two teeth pulled when I got my braces because my mouth was crowded).

Also, I need a mouth guard. Because my tooth grinding in my sleep is out of fucking control. Ugh.

Overdue Birthday Post

7-11 gives out free slurpees in honor of my birthday! How nice! ;)

7-11 gives out free slurpees in honor of my birthday! How nice! 😉

On my 35th birthday this year, the day started out feeling like all of my first choices for things to do were being crapped all over!

I wanted to go to The Waffle for breakfast, but when The Boy and I got there, it was under construction. What was worse? The sign up outside said “We will re-open on July 11!” My birthday is July 11th, and judging by the size of the hole in the ground, it didn’t look like it was opening any time soon. So, I was disappointed that my birthday was starting out so, well, disappointingly. BUT, we ended up going to Larchmont Bungalow, which I also love, and I had the best. Quesadilla. Ever. So that turned out all right.

THEN, we attempted to go to this spa place where we’d found a Groupon for a couple’s champagne/rose mani/pedi! $55 for 2 people including free champagne and a cupcake! WHAT?! So we went there, and of course the spa was all booked up. I’d been REALLY looking forward to that. We tried to go see a movie, but there was no movie that we could see that would let us out in time for my birthday dinner in the evening. Grr.

So, we ended up going home, getting my birthday slurpee (my birthday and Free Slurpee Day are the same day), putting whiskey in it, drinking and watching Before Sunset, which I’ve seen (and LOVE) but The Boy hadn’t. So…that turned out all right, too. Neither one of us has seen Before Midnight, so we’ll be seeing that soon, too.

But yeah, after a morning of running around, an afternoon watching one of the most romantic movies ever with the love of my life over honey whiskey (and slurpee) was pretty darned awesome. 🙂

Mairghread and Jason think me being an old lady in my mid-thirties is HILARIOUS.

Mairghread and Jason think me being an old lady in my mid-thirties is HILARIOUS.

Things started picking up steam at my birthday dinner at Midori Sushi. My friends Mairghread and Jason came out and I ate my body weight in sushi. We had some great conversation, and it was a good time!

Me and Heather (and my birthday flowers from her and Alexis!)

Me and Heather (and my birthday flowers from her and Alexis!)

The night got even better once we got to Sardo’s for karaoke! At first, I was worried no one was coming – I booked a table for 9:30, and my first guests arrived at around 10 – but once they started they didn’t stop, and in the end, I had a great group of some of my favorite peeps together to celebrate! Songs were sung, beers were swallowed, and a good time was had by all – despite how LOUD their sound system was! (Seriously, it was loud) One guy (who ended up knowing Heather) did an amazing mash-up to a karaoke track, calling it a “work in progress.” Another dude did a killer Bowie (Ziggy Stardust). And one guy sang the shit out of Melissa Etheridge’s Come to My Window! Seriously, I think Sardo’s is my new favorite karaoke place, because the people who sing here MEAN BIDDNESS. And I love that kind of atmosphere! Laid back and friendly – but taking karaoke fun VERY seriously. 🙂

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Ashleigh, Me, Heather, Alexis, Lindsay, Josh, Adam, and Eddie.

Ashleigh, Me, Heather, Alexis, Lindsay, Josh, Adam, and Eddie.

And of course, my friends were all about it. Ashleigh and Eddie made me squee with their version of Dammit, Janet. And Alexis was hilarious singing Somebody’s Watching Me. But, of course, the biggest Karaoke Slut of all was me!

Also, I think I had the most drinks purchased for me that night than I ever have on any birthday! The Boy and his bro got me drinks, natch, but then so did our waitress, who took a Blue Moon off our tab for me, and a random dude at the bar who was visiting L.A. and heard it was my birthday! Needless to say, by the end of the evening, my karaoke was FEARLESS. We closed the place down, and I had an amazing time!

My favorite photo of the night. Heather took this of me and Adam when I wasn't paying attention. Lurve.

My favorite photo of the night. Heather took this of The Boy and me when I wasn’t paying attention. Lurve.

The final part of my birthday celebrating was The Boy and me going to camp overnight in Joshua Tree (at the Indian Cove campground). It was a very different experience for both of us, which is precisely why I wanted to do it!

Nothing but desert surrounding the campsite.

Nothing but desert surrounding the campsite.

We camped in The Boy’s car, and there was a picnic table and a fire grate as part of the campsite. We spread blankets on the ground by the fire so we could hang out and lounge under the stars.

Campsite - blanket view

Campsite – blanket view

 

Campsite - picnic table view

Campsite – picnic table view

 

Sleeping arrangements.

Sleeping arrangements.

The thing that amazed me most about the desert? The QUIET. I’ve never been anywhere so quiet before. It was so quiet, that when we first arrived, I kept swallowing, thinking that my ears needed to be popped! But there was just nothing to hear. It was so quiet that, when we were leaving our payment for the campsite (through a slot in the wall at the ranger’s station, because there were no rangers!), the sound of the rope slapping against a nearby flagpole was SO LOUD. It was so quiet that whenever a bird flew overhead, we COULD HEAR THEIR WINGS FLAPPING. It was amazing, and several times we just sat for long chunks of time listening to the silence.

That is, when we weren’t getting drunk and silly. 🙂

The other thing that amazed me about the desert was how brightly the moon lit up everything. I was concerned that, even with the fire and the little lantern we brought that we might not have enough light. But it was a Full Moon, and it was huge in the sky, and it was so bright. It was so bright, I wasn’t even scared to take the flashlight and go across the way to the nearby outhouse in the middle of the night! (I’m not The Dark’s biggest fan. Especially out In Nature. But this was a piece of cake!) It was beautiful.

I loved being able to just talk with The Boy without other distractions. I loved the quiet. I loved the moon. I loved the beauty of the landscape.

What I didn’t love? THE FREAKING MOSQUITOES AND OTHER FLYING INSECTS THAT WOULDN’T LEAVE ME ALONE NO MATTER HOW MUCH INSECT REPELLENT I PUT ON! Between the moths swarming our lantern as we tried to play a card game at the picnic table, the mosquitoes biting the hell out of me, the big-ass ants keeping me from getting fully comfortable on the blanket I spread, because I was afraid they’d climb into my clothes…Let’s just say, next time I go into Nature, I’m gonna be Queen of the Citronella Candles. I’m surrounding my campsite with them. Oh. My. God.

However, the other lesson I learned, is that it was a DUMB idea to go camping in the DESERT in FUCKING JULY. There’s a reason why summer is the “off-season.” It’s because it’s hot as BALLS in the desert in July. So, I might have been able to cover up more and protect myself from the flying, bitey insects, but I couldn’t, because it was SWELTERING, and even having my long, loose, cotton pajama pants on made me feel like I was gonna DIE.

Yeah, we were planning on going on a hike the following morning, but after not sleeping well due to the heat, the bitey insects, and the uncomfortable car seats, the last thing we wanted to do in the morning sunshine was hike up a freaking hill. We woke up early, and skeedaddled to find some food in town, then sped out of there and back to civilization. 🙂

Still, it was worth it for the quiet and the beauty. Next time, though, I’ll be better prepared, go at a better time of year, and do it RIGHT.

A photo can't do that sunset justice, but I'll carry it around in my memory. It was gorgeous.

A photo can’t do that sunset justice, but I’ll carry it around in my memory. It was gorgeous.

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