08302014 in Helena

Looking for the One Thing …

If I am honest to myself (which isn’t always the easiest choice), I will tell you that I’ve been a little lost since I left Los Angeles and my career in the movie business a little more than 6 years ago.

It’s not that I’ve been foundering or distraught … I am actually glad that I left and love and am grateful for the life I’m building … but I admit that I’ve been just a little bewildered and unfocused.

For six and a half years.

Which is a long time to feel out of sorts.

I mean … I loved my life in Los Angeles. For real, I did. It wasn’t perfect. It was a little lonely in that “surrounded by people but feeling alone” kind of thing. And it was an all-consuming 16 years. Long days (14-18 hours most days) that bled into longer nights.

But I look back and I know that I was very extremely lucky and I was doing some of my favorite things:

I travelled. A lot. I’ve been to Red Square and to Prague. To Budapest and London. To Rome and to Brussels. To Mexico and Canada … I’ve lived all across the country working on different projects. From Huntington, West Virginia, to Atlanta, Georgia, to Albuquerque, New Mexico and San Francisco. I location scouted in Detroit and Chicago. And as a studio executive at Dreamworks, I oversaw movies in Lexington, Kentucky, Vancouver, BC, Canada, and in downtown Los Angeles.

I read. A lot. So much reading … Scripts, manuscripts, novels, treatments, summaries, breakdowns, synopsis, pitches, blurbs, magazines, newspapers, blogs, newsfeeds … I cannot adequately describe or explain the amount of reading that goes into almost any job on the development side of the movie business. Good thing I love to read.

I had dinners and drinks and coffees and meetings with totally fascinating people whose lives were so different from my own … like Bob, who purported to be a Japanese-trained hitman/drug dealer residing in Austin, Texas. And Josh, a premiere researcher, mathematician and theorist who explores the mathematical possibilities of string theory … I went to a meeting with Stephen Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg and experienced the prototype of a 3-D television before it was released to the public. I’ve flown on private jets and stayed in 5-star hotels.

There were meetings with visionary directors the likes of Christopher Nolan (before Batman) and Davis Guggenheim (before An Inconvenient Truth). I’ve been shopping with Cameron Diaz and to dinner at Lucy Liu’s house.

I was on set with one of my favorite actresses Helena Bonham Carter at my side the day Christian Bale (who is generally a lovely fellow) lost his temper and blew his top over the coarse and ungainly personality of an incredibly talented but inconsiderate cinematographer.

I know actors who refuse to shower and drive the Costume Designers and Dressers crazy.

I’ve cajoled officials to let us shoot in places that make life complicated for locals.

I have been seduced by the late nights and the parties and the pretty people.

I was … for 16 years … fully committed to making it in Hollywood as a producer.

And as I said, I was lucky.  From my first job in the movie business as an assistant at Danny DeVito’s company Jersey Films to a stint as a studio executive at Dreamworks Pictures, to my last job as an Executive Producer for Wonderland Sound & Vision, I found myself aligned with talented producers and writers and directors so I had the great fortune to work on more than 22 movies that actually got made. My name is on three of them … I was the executive producer of We Are Marshall with Matthew McConnaughy and Terminator: Salvation (the one with Sam Worthington and Christian Bale) and a very low budget but great documentary called FantasyLand about the life of the people who commit much of their lives fantasy baseball.

So that’s about 600 words about a  life that doesn’t exist anymore.

Because one day …

While living and working on a movie in New Mexico, I met a Cowboy from Montana. A man who in his youth had rowed crew for Cal-Berkeley and wrestled steer on the Professional Rodeo Tour … A man who was truthful, true to himself and honest with me. He is a man I admire and a man that I came to love more deeply than I knew possible.

(I realize that sounds a little stretchy and corny … maybe you’re hearing the swell of an orchestra under the flowery pronouncement of “true love’s kiss” … I know it sounds crazy, but … come on … let a girl have her moment.)

The short answer is, he was so much more interesting than the dinners and the drinks and the meetings and the expensive handbags (I had a handbag fetish … have I mentioned that? or have I glossed over my infatuation with Fhendi and Marc Jacobs and Badgley-Mischka and Orla Keily and, and, and?)

All of the trappings of my life seemed to melt and for the next year I was mired in this goo of realizing how much I was not loving my life but being more in love than I had ever been.


Now I feel like I have to take a step backward to explain a few other things because our lives are more complicated than a single list of linear events. Of course there was more going on than just “meeting a guy while working on a film.”

Probably the most integral part of this story is that I had been told a few years earlier that my hormone levels were not ideal and that it would likely be a challenge for me to get pregnant. A doctor had recommended that I freeze a few eggs in case I ever found myself in a position where I wanted to have children.  And weirdly at about that same time, a boyfriend’s mother actually gave me quite a bit of paperwork about egg-freezing and egg-donation because, as she told me, the longer I was with her son the less likely I would be to have kids. (What does that even mean?!)

And as she do delicately pointed out, I wasn’t getting any younger. I was 33.

So whatever fantasy I might have entertained about one day having a family sort of slipped out of my consciousness. It didn’t fit into my life anyway. What did happen was a tectonic shift in my perspective. I was no longer on a quest for Mr. Right. I wasn’t even looking for Mr. Right Now.

I wasn’t saving for my future. I wasn’t nesting. I wasn’t building a life or building a home. I was hardly even thinking about myself. I wasn’t doing anything but living right here and right now. And right here and right now was all about the work … and the handbags.


Of course, there are other things …

My struggle with a desire to fit in to the LA world of the super-skinny-totally-fit-and-ultra-fashion-forward women who seem to have it all together bumped right up against my love of real food and desire to feel healthy and strong. It also bumped up against my love of jeans, tees, cardigans and my favorite Chuck Taylors. My favorite mornings started with a breakfast meeting at Hugo’s in West Hollywood for an egg-white frittata and green juice (which still makes me salivate just thinking about it.) I loved the roasted veggie sandwhich or salad at Tendergreens for lunch. And then sushi or curry take-out for dinner? Those were my favorite food days.

Like so many women in our culture, I was on and off diets, in and out of Weight-Watchers, reducing carbs, eliminating meat, cutting out alcohol, experimenting with being a vegan and drinking too much Diet Coke…

…Until an old boss of mine dropped dead on a treadmill in Canada. This is a man whose diet consisted of Chicken, rice and Diet Coke. Can you say “Wake-up Call?”


Here’s a problem I have noticed with having a job you think is cool and exciting … when you don’t have that job anymore, it’s possible to start thinking you aren’t cool or interesting anymore.

From movie producer to stay-at-home-mama/part-time yoga teacher/sometimes blogger  … I would be lying if I didn’t admit that my self-wroth took a big hit when I left Los Angeles.

I struggled.

At 40-something, it’s not an easy transition from earning a nice salary to being a stay-at-home/homeschooling mom depending on the income of my partner for everyday things like food and clothing.  But it’s also not an easy transition to go from working as a development executive and producer in the film business into a more traditional career … like I couldn’t wrap my head around how my skills make sense in the “real world.” (Assuming that Hollywood only faintly resembles the “real world.”) I mean, how does reading scripts, researching ideas, developing stories, meeting with writers and directors translate to a traditional career.

But I know that if I want to help us create our dream, I need to find a way to contribute … but that I wasn’t going to be able to contribute unless I actually believe in what I am doing.

I dipped my toe in the multi-level marketing field with Young Living, figuring I love to use the oils, maybe I could sell them. Yeah … I love them … I use them. I diffuse them. I apply them. I clean with them. I just love them. But I struggled with the selling. There’s too much controversy around essential oils. Too many negative stories about competing companies … I’m not looking for controversy or negativity. I want you to use essential oils because they are incredible Gifts, but I’m not willing to step into the middle of the fray and tell you to chose one brand over another. Use the one that works for you.

Then I tried again with a food supplement that ultimately didn’t work for me. So … I can’t really do that.

And then … I don’t know … and then I started to panic.

I didn’t feel committed to anything… except to my family and to living a cleaner, more sustainable and simpler life.

Actually, I was intentionally refusing to commit.

I tell myself it’s because I didn’t want anything that was going to take away from my primary reason for leaving Los Angeles … my relationship with the Cowboy and the care and feeding and schooling of our two littles who aren’t so little these days.

I didn’t leave Los Angeles and a career that I was passionate about to just fill my time with things that I am not passionate about.

So … now … I’m ready to work for me and my own dream, one the Cowboy and I have been talking about since we met eight years ago.

We’ve taken small steps toward it. Our dream … a sustainably run, grassfed ranch/organic orchard/Montana Getaway. We own the land (80 acres of rolling hills at the base of the Crazy Mountains). Half of it is fenced. We’ve planted some trees. We have the building plans. And we are working to restore the land using holistic practices. We’ve tested the soil and know it’s right for the apple orchard.

But getting it done is going to take everything I have … it’s going to take my heart … it’s going to take my time and my energy … and I hate to admit it, but it’s going to take my ego.

I’m ready, though, to give it my all.

It’s time now that the kids aren’t babies to figure out a way to contribute to the bottom line in our house. To continue to honor my job as a stay-at-home mom and homeschooling family… but to also figure out a way to help us financially build the life we want. (Simply put … if we want the orchard, I need to be adding to our bank account.)

It’s taken me a long time to realize that I’m not going to find my path on someone else’s road. That it’s okay if I don’t end up in an office or end up with a 401(k). In fact … the truth is … the last thing I want is to end up behind a desk “workin for the man.”

What I loved about my film career was the abstractness of it … the opportunity to explore things and worlds that I loved… the excitement of spending hours working with a writer on an epic romance story and in the next block of time figuring out who is the right cinematographer for a small-budget horror film to the next block being about trying to sell a spec script to the Studio. Different hats, different moments, different skills … but every one an integral part of who I am.  The Creative. The Practical. The Seller.

And what I notice for all the successful farmers and ranchers I’ve met since living in Montana is that they are Queens of diversifying … (NOTE: most of the farmers and ranchers I know are women):

The sheep farmer who runs a VRBO out of the sheep-wagons and old cabin on her farm, also creates art and crafts from the wool from her sheep, and shows up each week at the Farmers Markets with good to sell, and also sells vintage goods on Etsy and, to complete the picture, raises a few animals for meat.

Dairy farmers who have layers for eggs, raise chickens for meat and pigs for meat, who also lease out their services to hay others’ fields … and to supplement their income have jobs off the farm in the healthcare industry.

Cattle ranchers who are holistically managing their herds, whose kids care for layers to sell eggs, and raise pigs to sell for meat, and who are part owners of a local meat shop. They host farm to table dinners in the summer and also spend time lobbying and advocating for food freedom in Montana.

The list is long and growing. And these folks are as different as each day. But the current that runs true within each of these hardworking farmers and ranchers is that they are diversified and overly busy and incredibly committed to doing things right.

All these lessons help me realize that it’s okay that I’m feeling pulled in different directions … I’m grateful for my friend Jen who noticed that I know my way around a few different social media platforms and that I like to take photos. She hired me to take photographs of her jewelry, write copy for her feed and manage her Facebook and Instagram accounts.

That led to another friend Tonya, a fine art photographer, hiring me to manage her Social Media feeds. She takes the photos and I find the poetry that evokes some of the same imagery shared in her work.

Which then landed me another gig writing copy and posting for my favorite local hard cider purveyors.

I love the work I’m doing for each one of them.

But that’s not my dream. I don’t want to JUST do Social Media.

It’s fun in bits … and it keeps me up-to-date on what’s going on in a tech space. And the paycheck is a welcome supplement.

But I also want to continue to advocate for cleaner, simpler and more sustainable lifestyles. My passion for good and good for you food, organic and sustainable gardening practices and creating a simpler and happier life is what inspired this blog in the first place.

It’s that passion for simplicity and sustainability and that inspires the building of our dream home …

But this is going on too long …

So here’s the skinny … I need to keep up with school. I need to contribute to our bottom line so we can build our dream. I want to advocate for cleaner, simpler, healthier and more sustainable lives.

Here’s my skill set:

  • I write a little (apparently, today I write a LOT)
  • I take photographs
  • I am passionate about our food supply and about reducing the number of toxins in the world.
  • I love to be with people I love.

So now to find ways to monetize these things … I’m going to follow the example of all my favorite farms and ranchers. I’m going to keep diversifying. I’m not going to multi-task because that doesn’t work for me … but I’m going to take a lesson from my Hollywood experience and time-block and focus so we stay on our dream path.

I’ll keep blogging about food and sustainability.

I’ll keep writing for the local publications who seem to like my work and expand to see if I can’t reach a wider audience.

I’ll keep up my work with A Social Artisan (the Social Media Consultant arm of my experience).

I’ll grow my business at Beautycounter because it does a great job furthering my mission to help people clean up their lives.

And we are going to get a well drilled and put a downpayment on those 108 trees and know that when the time comes we’ll have the where-with-all to get them planted and established for a lifetime of goodness.

Because that’s the only way it’s going to get done … if we just do it.

Whew. Now to get to it …


8 thoughts on “About

  1. abby and jeanne i really want to subscribe to your blog but i don’t use RSS, any suggestions x
    Montana, ahhh in all my time living in the USA i never made it there, always really called me though!
    sending warmth from sunny australia, i sit here in my swimmers typing on my back deck as we are having a sunny autumn day!

    1. Aaaahhhh … Australia. I have some beautiful friends from your part of the world! So glad you found us!
      We are planning to email subscriptions back onto the page in the coming days. Hope that will work for you!

  2. Hi guys, I’ve been on a long and unrewarding (so far) journey for many months now. The journey will hopefully end in me finding some local raw non-cow dairy. I’m in Toronto. So you have any contacts or anything? I’m so desperate haha

  3. My family and I will be visiting Big Sky, Montana this summer. Can you help me find grocery stores, restaurants, and farmer’s markets in that area. I want local, organic food.



    1. Hi Kathy, Big Sky is close (about an hour) but not our immediate stomping grounds. But we’re happy to see what we can find out for you!

  4. Interesting journey, old friend. I knew some of it but now I know more. I wonder why yoga and Kundalini make no appearance in your post. I certainly couldn’t tell the story of my last 40 + years without acknowledging the role that zen and Iyengar have played. Enlighten me…

    1. I do actually make one mention of part-time teaching yoga … but honestly, after 3,000 words of this part of the story I felt like it was getting overwhelming and over-long. I also don’t mention my faith in God or any part of my spiritual journey in this piece. That rise of consciousness and my experience with Yoga, Prayer and Meditation are integral aspects of my growth and are the foundation for the strength it has taken to get me here. Perhaps I have a new topic now for another exploration. 🙂 Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment!

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