Friday, July 31, 2009

"555"

Exercise #11: "555"
This is an exercise to help flesh out a fictional character. This might be a character in a story or novel you are already working on, or it might be a new one who emerges here. Whatever suits... Feel free to change the gender.
  • List 5 poeple he secretly resents and why.
  • List 5 things he would like to do before he dies, but won't.
  • List 5 things that could happen so that he would, in fact, do one of the above.
My character, I've decided, is a guy that is a few years out of college. He played football all through high school and college, but in his last season he tore his ACL, putting him out of the game for a long while. Needless to say, he probably won't be playing football professionally, and he's a tad bitter.

5 People I Don't Like:
  1. Bill Gates - He's a dork, and he makes more money than me simply because he's a dork and likes to play with computers...
  2. Justin Timberlake - Because he's Justin frigging Timberlake and can do anything he wants and do any chick he wants.
  3. Every single serious football player out there - Because they're lucky.
  4. Peewee Herman - Because he's creepy.
  5. Jerry Seinfeld - Because he's not as funny as he thinks he is.
5 Things That Are Awesome, but I Won't Do Them:
  1. Play football professionally.
  2. Play in the super bowl.
  3. Win the super bowl.
  4. Make as much money as Bill Gates.
  5. Do as many chicks as Justin Timberlake.
5 Things That Would Make It Possible For Me to Do the 5 Awesome Things That, As of Right Now, I Can't:
  1. My ACL miraculously heals with no detriment to my playing ability.
  2. I come up with something huge like Windows that no one's ever thought of before.
  3. I meet a ton of record execs and glad hand until someone thinks I have enough talent to market.
  4. Have musical and / or performance talent.
  5. Have stylists follow me around all the time to make me look awesome and attractive to all of the chicks who idolize me.
END

Now, I don't know too many football guys these days (Belmont doesn't have a football team... Yeah, imagine all of the scene kids at Belmont playing football... HAH), but, while some of them are stand up guys, I've met a few that are simply... irritating. I tried to make him somewhat like them.

DISCLAIMER: I am not saying that all jocks are dumb and sex obsessed. I'm not saying that they can't do anything but football. I'm just saying that this character, this specific guy, wants to "do all the chicks," make money, and play football. So don't get all touchy.

And without further ado, here are some of the pictures from the new Alice in Wonderland...


Creeeeeeepy... Especially Johnny Depp. I see him doing wonderfully, though. I mean, he's Johnny Depp. When is he ever not amazing?

Peace.
Stef.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

"Characters' Dreams"

Exercise #10: "Characters' Dreams"
Oftentimes a character's dream can be very telling. Sketch a dream for one of the following characters:
  • a man about to get a bitter divorce and facing financial ruin
  • a woman 3 weeks away from giving birth to triplets
  • an elderly janitorial worker about to win the $100 million lottery
  • Divorce Paired with Financial Ruin:
    .....I'm sitting in my leather easy chair, enjoying a relaxing snooze in front of a cozy fire. All of the sudden, I wake up, and the fire has grown in size almost enough to be alarming. I start looking around for some sand or water to throw on the logs to quench it, but there's nothing around. In fact, the only thing in the room is my chair and the fireplace. Where is all my stuff? I bet she took it. All of it. Her and that jerk of a boyfriend. I wish I had seen it coming, but I was... otherwise engaged with work and... things. Sure, part of it is my fault, but still... She could have talked to me, asked me to pay more attention to her. But I'm getting off topic. The fire is growing exponentially, and soon the entire wall is engulfed in flames. I close my eyes and huddle in a nearby corner in the fetal position. This is a dream. Make it stop. When I open my eyes, I'm standing in an field with sunflowers growing at least 7 feet tall in front of me. I can't see through them, but I walk in anyway.


    5 minutes up. You know, when I look back at what I've written, I feel sort of stupid, because it looks so... minuscule. I mean, it's a paragraph. That's it. Oi. I think I may start extending the exercise to 10 minutes, because I feel like I'm not getting enough brain stretching in. :)

    So I was reading the news today, and I found an article that was interesting (to say the least). It's on msnbc.msn.com (direct link to follow below this paragraph), and it's entitled "Energy Dept. could save energy." Enjoy.I know I did even though I finished the article a bit perturbed.
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32126707/ns/us_news-environment/>

    Peace, and see you tomorrow!
    ~Stef

    I Actually Remembered a Dream! Well... Sort Of.


    I never remember my dreams. Ever. I may have an inkling that I had a dream somewhere in that place between wakefulness and REM cycle, but once I actually open my eyes and acknowledge that I need to get up, poof! It's gone, never to be thought of again.

    So naturally, in the rare occasion that I do remember a dream, I get very excited. It makes me feel "normal," because so many of the people I know talk about "this dream I had last night" and how bizarre it was. I am never able to respond, "Man, I know! I had a dream the other night that was kind of similar..." or "Dude, you think that's strange? Listen to this dream I had!" I felt so left out when I was little that I started to make up really bizarre dreams so that I wasn't so out of the loop. haha I know, I know. I'm weird.

    Anyways, the dream. I remember a ton of running. It started at my high school, and I was just meandering the halls, but it was like a normal school day. I think we were in the midst of lunch of some other break, because there were a lot of people in the hallways and outside... only... I don't recognize any of these people. Complete strangers. I don't remember what happened next, but I ended up humming or singing something while I was minding my business in an alcove or something hidden away somewhere. I was singing because I thought I was alone. All of the sudden, a guy pops out of nowhere acting all earnest and excited. He comes up to me and says, "Hey, I have some music that I think you'd like to hear."

    It's at this point that I either woke up for a minute or simply cannot remember what happened, because... nothing. Nothing until this next segment.

    I'm still at my high school. It's dreary outside, and I'm wearing sweat pants and an anorak (Remember those??? Refer to the picture on the right). I assume I'm wearing sneakers of some sort, but I never thought to check in my dream. I'm roaming the halls again, the school still filled with students. The guy that was talking to me about the songs comes up to me again, and for some reason he gives me the creeps. I don't know. It's something about the earnestness of his face. I think maybe I don't trust it, I think it's just an act because he wants something from me.

    Anyways, I make my way outside and start running toward the track. One of my classmates (I think this is where people I actually went to high school with start showing up.) is running, too, and smiles at me. She tries to carry on a conversation, and I'm cordial but don't say much. I honestly just want to be left alone. So I run around the track once and make my way back to the high school building. Instead of going inside, I start to circle the building. Of course, being that there are a lot of students, I keep running into people who want to talk to me, but I just keep going. I even flat out ignore some of them. I run for around 5 minutes then -- this part is a little blurry -- I find a place to relax and sit by myself. I don't know where, and I don't know for how long, but I would that it was a pretty long time judging by some later reactions.

    After chilling for a while, I get back up and start running again. I run into the classmate that was trying to talk to me earlier while on the track, and she stares at me incredulously.

    "You're still running??"

    I don't say anything, just keep running.

    And then I woke up.

    You know, if it didn't cost money, I'd so take this dream to get it analyzed. hehe

    Peace.
    ~Stef

    Wednesday, July 29, 2009

    "Letter of Complaint"

    Exercise #9: "Letter of Complaint"
    Your character, who is odd (either somewhat or extremely), writes a letter of protest to the manager of his or her local grocery store. Write the letter.

    To Whom It May Concern:

    I am appalled. Simply appalled. I walked into your store today (July 28th, 2009) and was completely shocked by the lack of order in your spices aisle. Now, I consider myself to be a merely a spice hobbyist who is a fastidious, somewhat well-versed spice connoisseur, and I can only imagine how someone with extensive knowledge on the subject might react to your utter disregard for spice storage. I will list my grievances below:
    • The spices are in alphabetical order (seen in the picture on the right). Now, to the layman this might be acceptable, but when you get down to it, not all of the spices serve similar purposes. For example, if I'm making tomato bisque I would most definitely not put cinnamon in it, but what happens when the cinnamon is placed next to the cardamom?? Someone could accidentally grab the wrong container and go home with a completely different spice than they intended.
    • And about the containers... Not only do the spices come in both rectangle and cylindrical forms, but you absolutely cannot stack your spices from different brands. This is ridiculous and makes storage much more difficult.
    5 minutes up. teehee I love writing angry letters, but I sadly never come off angry. I'm always very polite and perfunctory. hehe Oh well. I may try this one again on a later date and try to be as mean as I possibly can with another character who is... more prone to outbursts.

    In other news, I was recently able to spend an entire day with a friend of mine watching the Band of Brothers series (Yes, we watched the entire series in 1 day, starting at about 11am and finishing around 11pm with a few breaks in between to help us keep our sanity.), and I was quickly reminded of how amazing this series was. I mean, not only was all of the acting completely brilliant, but the story is so captivating. I can't imagine the men that actually held a position in Easy Company, and I'm grateful that I never had to. The war over there was terrible, but we accomplished so much. Those men deserve more than our unshakable respect and gratitude, because they could have simply thrown in the towel and played dead. I know that's what my cowardly self would have done. Of course, that would have probably resulted in death anyway, but who's counting? So think about your grandfather or great grandfather today. If he's still alive, thank him for his service (If he was in the war, of course... But even if he wasn't, give him a call anyway. I'm sure he'd love to hear from you.), because he can never be thanked enough.

    Peace and see you tomorrow!
    ~Stef

    Oh, the travesties that the silver screen presents to us...

    This website (http://www.denofgeek.com/movies/15211/38_planned_movie_remakes_you_didnt_know_about.html) is depressing. They're remaking Footloose? Not only that, but The Birds???????? What is wrong with these people?! I'm so upset. Complete and utter travesty.

    Tuesday, July 28, 2009

    "Textures"

    Exercise #8: "Textures"
    This exercise is to heighten your awareness of fine detail. Take each and every item of clothing you are wearing right now and describe its texture. What is it like? How is it different from the others? What does it remind you of?

    brown camisole -- I remember when this shirt used to be soft. I mean, it's still soft, but it has those little bumps on the fabric that are mysteriously formed in the washing / drying machine that make it feel rough in certain places. It's a slinky synthetic material - not nearly as substantial as cotton but not as flimsy as silk - but I feel covered in it, modest. The fabric is stretchy and pliant, fitting snugly against my body but loosely enough so that I don't feel self conscious.

    turquoise sweater vest -- This is one of my favorite items of clothing. Not only is it one of my favorite colors (turquoise), but it is just so comfortable!! It's a knit fabric with ribbing on the neckline. If I knew any knitting terms, I'm sure I'd say something like "The rest of the vest is a knit 2 / purl 2 pattern, etc, etc, etc." But I don't know anything about knitting. The only thing I can really say is that it's a pretty pattern that kind of makes obtuse v's gong up and down my sides and back. Either way, it's a thick fabric so it keeps me warm in cold weather or in a chilly room, but it breathes enough to be wearable during the summer. I've always thought it matched really well with the brown camisole, so this outfit is a frequent ensemble for me.

    grey jeans -- These are your average pair of jeans, but they're not those silly "skinny" jeans. They have room at the ankle, and barely touch the floor as I walk. That's why the backs of the ankle are frayed, but that's how I like it. They fit snugly, like my camisole, but they're loose enough to where I feel comfortable. There's no "muffin top" nonsense going on here! The back pockets have really pretty embroidery on them, but... I can't really see it at the moment and haven't committed the embroidery to memory so I can't describe that part to you. Just take my word for it that it's pretty. It's probably something like little swirls of lighter colored string or something.

    Um... I'm not really up for sharing the info about my undergarments, so I'll leave those your imagination... or... to not think about at all. Because that would be creepy. Ew.

    Well, that's it for today!
    See you tomorrow,
    ~Stef

    Monday, July 27, 2009

    "Nag, Nag, Nag"

    Exercise #7: "Nag, Nag, Nag"
    Another dialogue exercise. In the airport, standing in line for check-in, she nags him - or he nags her; whichever you prefer. Write the scene using both description and dialogue. What happens when they get to the head of the line?

    ....."Did you turn off the coffee pot this morning?" Melanie asked, her brow furrowed.
    ....."Yes," her husband, Eric, said with a roll of his eyes.
    ....."What? I'm just making sure that we tied all of our loose ends," she said. "I mean, if we left the coffee pot on, we could be short one house and a whole lot of other things in a matter of hours."
    ....."Right..." he said. The person 2 people in front of them was called up to the desk. Why are these people so damned slow? They had been standing in the line for over an hour, and they seemed to be moving at a glacial pace. So much for arriving early.
    ....."What about the alarm?" she asked. "Did you set it on our way out?"
    .....Eric stared at her incredulously. "I thought you got it."
    .....Melanie's eyes widen in disbelief. "No!" she practically screamed. "I didn't! I told you --"
    .....Eric couldn't hold a straight face anymore. A loud guffaw escaped from his lips, and he was suddenly enveloped in the throes of laughter, unable to control himself.
    .....Melanie looked around the airport in embarrassment, mouthing "I'm sorry" to anyone who seemed to take notice of Eric's obviously raucous and inappropriate behavior.

    5 minutes up.

    In other news, I'm beginning to realize that the school year is creeping up on me again. No, no, no, no, no. I hate school. I'm tired of it. I'm glad I had this little respite to recharge, but I'm so afraid that I'm going to show up on the first day and immediately get bogged down with homework and responsibilities that all of the work I've done in unwinding myself this summer is going to be positively moot. Oi gewald (pronounced ge-VALT... It's yiddish. Thanks, Mo.). Let's hope it turns out to be even in the slightest way helpful.

    Also, I kind of had a snapping point today. I like to tell people that I'm thick-skinned, that I don't hurt easily, but the truth is that I'm terribly sensitive (Ask my boyfriend; he'll back me up 100% on this one.). I try not to take things so seriously, but I have a really hard time keeping that wall up. I had one for so long (and it was pretty amazingly thick), but it wasn't healthy. I mean, in the end, I turned up depressed and, all in all, a shell of a person.

    So what did all of this work this past year accomplish? The wall was destroyed, brick by brick (even though I still have some habits of self preservation... but who doesn't have a few of those up his or her sleeve?), but I feel so much more... vulnerable, so unprotected.

    My voice teacher brought up a good point this past semester. When I approach a situation, I throw my whole self into it. There's no middle ground for me; either all in or none at all. That got me hurt more times than I can count, but I couldn't stop myself from diving in when I got excited. So what's the next course of action that will help protect me from being hurt? Yep. A big fat wall. Goodie. Anyways, I spent the last year removing that, so now I'm just overly sensitive to everything. Every sarcastic remark, every time someone says they're going to be somewhere and then they don't show up, etc. I didn't used to be like that. I used to roll with the punches, return the sarcastic comment with a witty retort. I liked that about myself. So now... I guess I'm just trying to find that middle ground, that happy medium.

    Well, I have a life to live.
    See you tomorrow,
    ~Stef

    The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffeneger

    I've still not finished with the book, but I am so annoyed right now that I felt the strong need to post my thoughts thus far.

    If you haven't read the book as of yet, stop reading this post right now; there are going to be spoilers running rampant through the paragraphs below.

    You've been warned...

    Ms. Niffeneger has lost me... completely. It was an intriguing story up until, oh, I guess 3/4 of the way through. I was interested, and it was a quick, easy read. Unfortunately, however, Niffeneger makes one of her main characters, Claire (the actual time traveler's wife) baby crazy. And when I say baby crazy, I mean that she has the baby madness. She is desperate to have a kid, and I simply cannot connect with that. Maybe I will experience this phenomenon later in life (I'm not planning on it, but being that I don't know my future I can't say that I won't.), but right now I'm almost disgusted by her overwhelming desire to have a baby. It's irrational, and it's tearing her marriage apart. Call me nuts, but I thought a baby was supposed to strengthen the bonds of matrimony.

    If it was just the baby madness, I think I'd be ok with it. But that's not all. Claire "perseveres" through 6 - count them... 6... not 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5, but SIX - miscarriages. ... ... ... WHAT? I'm sorry, I know miscarriages are horrible, but to put yourself knowingly through 6 miscarriages is STUPID. There's emotional trauma, physical trauma, etc... Stupid, stupid, stupid. You'd think after the 2nd baby she'd realize, Oh, hey... I guess we can't / shouldn't conceive. Well, crap. Let's save a kid from the really sucky foster system and adopt. Wahoo!!! But no... She pushes on, demanding sex from her husband so that she can selfishly have a baby with "a piece of him" so that, when he disappears she won't be so alone. I understand the loneliness factor, but... I simply cannot understand this baby craziness. Once again, maybe I will later on in life, but... not now. Most definitely not now.

    To top it off, Henry (the time traveler and - obviously - her husband) surreptitiously goes to a doctor to get a vasectomy. What a great relationship we have here. Oh, how I want that kind of trust in my own marriage... Wait...

    Either way, I'm not sure I'll be seeing the movie. This baby crap has annoyed the hell out of me, and I can't imagine sitting through 2 hours of it. What I'll probably do is ask people who've seen it if it focuses so much on the nutter Claire and her unhealthy infatuation with baby-making. Oi.

    Ok, I feel much better now. I'm going to finish the book, but I don't like it. The last few books / series I've read I haven't finished for not liking them (Harry Potter & Twilight) so I'm going to try to soldier on through this one. Maybe it will get better at the end, and I'll end up liking it. I very highly doubt that, but I like to give a book a chance before I completely dismiss it.

    Lord, keep me sane.

    Come back at noon for today's writing exercise!

    Peace.
    ~Stef

    Sunday, July 26, 2009

    "Pjugsarkjan Breakfast"

    Exercise #6: "Pjugsarkjan Breakfast"
    Pjugsarkian is an imaginary language; feel free to make up whatever words and phrases serve your purposes.
    The exercise is this: a tourist, who speaks only a very few words of Pjugsarkian (and my also mispronounce them) orders breakfast in his (or her) hotel from a waiter (or waitress) who understands and speaks only a tiny bit of English. Write the scene with both description and dialogue.

    Oh, Lord help me with this one. I beg all of you for mercy, for this will probably be horrendous in the truest sense of the word... I have always believed that, once a person has learned more than 2 languages, it's extremely difficult for them to create a new language spur-of-the-moment like (unless you're Tolkien, that is...), and being that I speak English and French, am conversational with Italian and am in the process of learning German, Russian, etc... Well, not easy.

    When I was in theatre class in high school, there was an exercise that we would do where we would play people who were natives of an imaginary country who spoke a nonsensical language. I sucked at it. Big time. So once again... Bear with me. Please.

    PRECURSOR: My character is not in a hotel. She's hopelessly lost. So blah... And my language is based off of the romantic languages, because I understand them best of all and... it just makes sense.

    .....Louise held up her map, desperately trying to figure out where she is. The paper crinkled in her hands as she attempted to pinpoint her location, but the words swam across the map, scurrying up and down the alleyways and confusing the hell out of her.
    .....Ok, she thought. Maybe there's someone around here who could tell me where I am.
    .....To her immediate left was what looked to be a cafe, La Crateea Damoseic (The Turtledove Cafe), so she went inside hoping for a bit of guidance.
    .....She sat down at the nearest table and peered at their menu. Once again, the words warped and flew around the page. She was making a very perplexed face when the waiter came up to her.
    ....."Meladmi, Horosi," he said. Welcome, Miss. "Idmo quiesti mi dramact?" What can I get for you?
    ....."Actually... uh..." she stammered. "Mi perdani - uh - perdana." Me lose - uh - lost.
    .....The waiter looks nonplussed.
    .....Ok, she thought. I'll try again. "Mi no trova ma vilosi." Me no find my ways.
    .....Still, the waiter looked at her incredulously. "No mi comperedi." I don't understand.
    ....."Mi, uh, mi viu vane cititsh." Me, uh, me want find here, she said as she pointed to a circled point on the map - her hotel. "Ti voca a mi quoed elest?" You tell to me where is?

    5 minutes up... Uh... That was... interesting? I mean, it was a mind-stretcher, that's for sure. But successful? I don't quite know. I spent WAY too much time thinking about the grammatical rules of the language which I guess I shouldn't have done, but oh well. I'm ok with it.

    Um... Ok. Done.

    Peace.
    ~Stef

    Saturday, July 25, 2009

    "Smells of Things That Don't Smell (Much)"

    Exercise #5: "Smells of Things That Don't Smell (Much)"
    What is the smell of the following:
    • the moon -- dirt ... and cheese (thank you, childhood ideals); so... dirty cheese?
    • sadness -- flowers, particularly ones that are used in funeral arrangements; salt and cedar
    • a child's joy in watching a soap bubble -- soapy, of course, with a hint of strawberries
    • grief -- very similar to sadness, except the aroma is much more pungent... maybe with the bite of iron smell
    • cowardice -- tart and onion-y
    • snow -- cotton candy!
    • velcro -- plastic-y
    • a nasty letter -- spicy, but not the good kind of spice that flavors food well... This is the stuff that makes your eyes water and clears out every single sinus passageway when you take a whiff.
    • silver -- clean and pure, like a metallic version of that "clean linen" smell that they make into candles
    • mystery -- musty, like you've just stepped into an attic that hasn't had a single human visitor in several years; an old, leather trunk full of clues
    • sand -- shrimp, crab, seafood; dead fish; you know that sea smell...
    • a sidewalk in summer -- freshly cut grass, dirt, lemonade (and the little plastic dixie cups)
    • the middle of the Earth -- tar, smoke, rank
    • purple -- fruity but super sweet, no tartness
    • a contented dog napping -- puppy farts (Cocoa always pooted when she napped... hehe)
    • a cloudless spring sky -- clean wind, a vast field of sunflowers, yum
    • gold -- You know, I can't really think of anything for this one...
    • a dollar bill -- paper, dirt, salt, my wallet (depending on whether it's been in there or not), leather (depending on what kind of wallet it's been in)
    Once you've finished, notate the three you like the best.

    I'll pick the ones that, while thinking of them, I found most evocative:
    • a sidewalk in summer
    • a contented dog napping
    • mystery
    Tomorrow's exercise is going to be... weird. hehe I'll give you an idea: I'm supposed to create a dialogue using a made up language... Good gracious.

    Peace.
    ~Stef

    Friday, July 24, 2009

    "The Presence of the Past"

    Exercise #4: "The Presence of the Past"
    Within a one-mile radius of where you are right now, what would have been present 100 years ago (1909)?

    Wow... That's an interesting thought, one of which I feel I don't have any sort of knowledge. For example, I don't know when Nashville was founded (I know, I know... What a sad sack I am.). Sounds like I need to do a bit of research...

    Nashville was founded as Fort Nashboro in 1779 by James Robertson, John Donelson, and a party of Wataugan Native Americans in honor of the American Revolutionary War hero, Francis Nash. In 1806, Nashville was incorporated into the state as a city, becoming the capital in 1843.

    Now, I'm pretty sure that most of the houses in my area (near the Fairgrounds) are from the 1920's, so I'm assuming before then, this area wasn't quite developed. Possibly farm lands? I do know that the Parthenon was up by 1909. I'm not sure, to be honest, about anything else. Maybe I'm thinking about this too logically, too stubborn about being historically accurate. It's one of my pet peeves. If you're going to write about something historical (even if it is fiction) then you had better do your best to get your facts straight. Otherwise, I'll rub you out (not in the mafia sort of way) in my list of credible authors. Our history is important, and to make a mockery of it by simply writing all whilly-nilly... well, it's just ludicrous.

    So going off of that information (and by looking at a few maps online), I'm going to say that my current location would have been on the outskirts of town. My house most definitely did not exist. There might have been more spread out housing units, but there would have been bigger yards and more space in general. Roads would have been gravel or dirt.

    I'm not really sure what else I could write for this one... Hmm...

    Before I head out, I must recommend the movie "Management" with Steve Zahn and Jennifer Anniston. Very good movie. It's an indie flick, so you may not have it in your area, but when it comes out on dvd, I very highly suggest that you either Netflix it, rent it, or, even better, buy it. It's very quirky, but it's great. Wonderful acting from the entire cast.

    Go see it.

    Ok. Done.
    ~Stef

    Thursday, July 23, 2009

    "Clutter"

    Exercise #3: "Clutter"
    Clutter can yell you a lot about character. What exactly is it? And where is it? What is it blocking / obscuring? Describe the clutter of one of the following characters:
    • a bereaved widow who, 20 years after her husband's death, cannot bring herself to go on a date
    • a doctoral student unable to complete his thesis
    • a yoga instructor who is addicted to e-mail
    • a chef who suffers from adult onset diabetes
    I'm choosing the bereaved widow character. 1, 2, 3, GO!

    Ethel Johnson was a 70-something widow, but she never let her age stop her. Skydiving, rappelling, mountain climbing, and many other activities dominated her everyday life. She was a thrill-seeker, someone who seems as if she feared nothing, not even death. When asked about her fears, she responded with a simple "nothing," but deep in the recesses of her heart, she knew it wasn't the truth.

    Her house was generally well-kept, save one space. In the corner of her living room there was an over-sized, leather armchair and a small, cherry-colored end table, covered in dust, magazines, and various other items that looked like they had been sitting in the same place for upwards of 20 years. The truth is, they had been there for about that long. Ethel's husband, James, died 19 years, 2 months, and 8 days ago of a heart attack on his way to work. He was an accountant.

    When he left for work that day, Ethel prodded him to clean up the area around his easy chair. One time out of many.

    "James," she said, "Please pick up all of that junk on the chair. You know I can't touch it."

    With a low grunt, James walked over to his chair and picked up one of the magazines on the floor nearby, placing it on the end table where an overwhelming stack of magazines were already sitting. He looked around the chair and, pleased with his progress, nodded his head.

    "Look, honey," he said. "I have to go to work. I'll clean it up when I get home."

    Rolling her eyes, Ethel smiled and said, "That's what you always say."

    Ethel was never able to clean up for him.

    END

    Peace.
    ~Stef

    Wednesday, July 22, 2009

    "The Last Piece of Pie"

    Exercise #2: "The Last Piece of Pie"
    Write the first paragraph(s) of a story that begins as follows:
    She would not give him the last piece of pie.

    .....She would not give him the last piece of pie, and she didn't care how he felt about it. It was her birthday, and she deserved the last piece.
    ....."Man," he said, eyeing the solitary wedge of pastry, it's fruit-filled goodness spilling out onto the plate. "That was good pie. I could eat about 10,000 pounds of the stuff."
    ....."I know," she said as sweetly as she could muster. "Grandma makes some amazing food. I guess it's all those years of cooking for her family."
    ....."It's like she's always said, practice makes perfect. Right?"
    ....."Yeah."
    .....She reached for the piece of pie, daring him to cross her. Her eyes quickly darted over to him, and the tension in the room became palpable. She wasn't going to give it up. Who cares if it had 300 calories in one piece? It was her birthday! She was allowed some leeway, surely.

    5 minutes up.
    This one was quite a bit harder than I thought it would be. I very much recommend doing it.

    Peace.
    ~Stef

    P.S. I'm reading Kate Furnivall's latest book, The Red Scarf, and it's wonderful. I'm a huge fan of Furnivall's, not only because her magnificently descriptive writing but also for her amazing ability to craft a story so engrossing that you simply cannot put down her books. She's a new author and only has one other book published (The Russian Concubine -- also VERY good), but she's definitely someone on which to keep an eye.

    Tuesday, July 21, 2009

    A Tip From My Sister and Passive Aggressive Grocery Shopping

    As you know, I have spent the last few blog entries answering some questions from a zen magazine. Well, those are done, so now I'm forced to find a new topic. But then I thought, well... What interests me? What do I want to write about? And at first, I had no clue. I could go off on a tangent about opera or musical theatre. Maybe I could do another series of blogs focusing on a different set of questions. No. Ick. Boring. So then I talked to my sister, and she had some pretty good advice. She steered me in the direction of writing exercises, of which there are a plethora.

    After a little bit of researching, I found a website: http://www.cmmayo.com.

    C. M. Mayo is an author who, I must admit, I've never read (After finding this site, however, she's next on my list, once I finish reading The Red Scarf by Kate Furnivall). She has posted a year's worth of writing exercises -- you know, the ones that take around 5 minutes a day -- and I've decided to venture into the world of writing exercises. I have currently hit a dead end with the story I'm writing, so it will be nice to have someone tell me what to write for a change. This way, my creative juices will be flowing, and my brain will be more prone to non-crappy writing.

    Well, without further ado, take out your champagne bottles! It's time we set this ship out on her maiden voyage!

    Exercise #1: "Passive Aggressive Grocery Shopping"
    Fred has high blood pressure, but Linda brings home some items from the grocery store that are not so good for him. Write the scene with dialogue.

    .....Fred sat quietly in his easy chair, flipping through his wife's copy of Cosmopolitan. Apparently, in order to be a good girlfriend, a woman must send short text messages or else she's going to scare the guy away with her verbosity. He never understood why Linda read this crap anyway. But that was neither here nor there. All he wanted was food, and Linda was running late.
    .....Just as he was about to flip the page, the sound of tires rumbled over the asphalt driveway; Linda was home. Finally. Throwing the magazine on the coffee table, Fred stood up and walked to the kitchen, waiting for his wife to come in through the garage door.
    .....A few minutes later, Linda comes in carrying more grocery bags than she should have.
    ....."Hi," she said breathlessly, placing the plastic bags on the countertop next to the refrigerator.
    ....."Hi," he said, eyeing the bags' contents. "What all did you get?"
    ....."Oh, the same as always. Veggies, fruit and so on."
    .....Fred began to rifle through one of the bags, searching for a quick snack to stave off his hunger until dinner was prepared. But what was this? Potato chips? Fried chicken? What was she thinking?
    ....."What's the deal with all of this crap?" he said, gesturing to the offensive bag.
    ....."What crap?" she asked incredulously. "They're groceries."
    ....."But what about this bag? Chips? Chicken?" he demanded. "Are you trying to kill me?"
    ....."Oh, that," she said. "That's just snack food. You don't have to eat it. I got it because I like it."
    ....."So that's a yes, then. You know I can't keep myself from eating this stuff."
    ....."What are you telling me?" she asked, putting down the jar of peanut butter that she was holding. "I'm being punished because you don't have willpower? It's not my fault that you have high blood pressure."
    .....He couldn't believe it. Crossing his arms in front of him, Fred said, "You're getting all of this stuff just to shove it in my face that I can't eat it."
    .....Linda rolled her eyes. "You're being oversensitive. Look at the rest of the bags. They're all filled with food that you can eat."
    .....When Fred didn't respond, Linda continued. "I'll tell you what," she said. "I'll hide this bag somewhere where you won't find it, ok? That way you won't be tempted."
    ....."You shouldn't have bought it in the first place," Fred said, making his way out of the kitchen. There was no reasoning with her.
    .....Fred resumed his position on the couch and turned on the tv, watching the sports channel.

    And, 5 minutes are up. :) If any of you want to take part in this along with me, please feel free to post a comment on here with your personal exercise. I'd love to see other people's responses.

    See you tomorrow.
    ~Stef

    P.S. Does anyone know how to get an indent to work on this site (blogspot.com)??? I mean, I used 5 periods which seems to be fine for the time being, but... blech... Not very pretty in the end. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Monday, July 20, 2009

    Today's Post: Questions 5, & 6!

    I decided to nip the rest (i.e. the last 2) of the questions in the bud so that I can move on to another topic. I'm not going to lie; I'm a bit tired of all of these questions that make me feel like I suck as a person.

    Question #5: Am I as good a person as I want to be?

    Well, crap, I don't know! I mean, I could be more active at church. I could be nicer to my family. I could visit my family more. I could get angry less. I could... well, you get the point. I'm a flawed individual, but on a real note, show me a person who's not, and I'll show you Jesus H. Christ. So, being that I am of the mindset that requires I try to emulate the life of Jesus, I will never be as good a person as I want to be simply because I am human, and I am utterly and totally sinful. As depressing as that sounds, however, it's actually not. The great thing is that I CAN sin. I don't have to feel completely condemned simply because I lost my temper at my boyfriend the other day and said some things that I shouldn't have. You know why? 'Cause I was forgiven for all of that crap a very long time ago. Awesome.

    Ok. Too much preachy talk. Moving onward...

    Question #6: What am I doing to live life with passion, health, and energy?

    Uhhhhhhhhhh... I don't know what kind of answer they're looking for here. As far as the passion thing goes, I'm living my life in the moment. If I like something, I'm going to explore that. I pursue the things I am passionate about (i.e. music and animals), and I do so with fervor.

    On the health lines, I'm working on that. It's hard, but... we'll see how it turns out.

    On the energy lines... huh? I'm sure, being that these questions are coming from a zen magazine, that they're talking about the kind of energy that does not come from a good night's sleep, and honestly, I don't really think too much about the Earth's energy or the plants and things that are on it. Sure, I can sense when energy feels a little off, but... meh. That's a whole other ball of wax that I just don't want to delve into at 12:07 in the morning... or... evening? Whichever.

    I'm not sure what I'm going to do for the next segment of my blog, but I'm definitely pleased to be done with this. It took WAY too long, and that was all my fault. Oh well.

    Peace.
    ~Stef

    Friday, July 17, 2009

    Question No. 4: What Am I Doing to Help Others?

    You know, this answer could go one of 2 ways: I'm this awesome person who constantly thinks of others, or I suck the big one and only think about myself. So I'm not entirely sure how to go about tackling this... My parents brought me up to be very conscientious of the people around me. My boyfriend would disagree with me (He's a little rough around the edges, but that's one of the reasons I love him so much. heh), but I don't see the point of ruffling feathers for no reason. Sure, if there's a reason to stand up and make a point, go for it. But if it, in the end, has no purpose then... why?

    Back to the topic, though. As I said, I was brought up to be aware of other people and their feelings. That being said, I'd like to think that I do a good job of keeping people happy (I hate to admit it, but I really am a people pleaser, despite the remarks I make about being a ball-buster.). I don't know; it's just not one of those things that I actively think about all throughout my day.

    This is a really hard question to answer, and I think I've answered it as best as I can... Even though that was a really shoddy answer. Oi.

    Hugs and smooches! (teehee)
    ~Stef

    Up tomorrow: Am I as good a person as I want to be?

    Thursday, July 16, 2009

    Question No. 3: Am I Doing Something That Matters?

    Sorry for the delay. Life got a little distracting. hehe I will try my best to complete these questions in the next 4 days.

    So am I? Am I doing something that matters?

    I don't know how to answer this question. I've always been of the belief that what matters can only be viewed in hindsight. I mean, we have no control over how our actions affect others. For example, I'm walking down the street. This guy is walking the opposite way, approaching me. I don't know this, but he's on his way home to commit suicide (Sure, that's a morbid approach, but bear with me.). As he's passing me, I smile at him. For some reason, that smile affects him, and he chooses not to kill himself. Now, I know that example is a bit... I can't think of the word. Glib, maybe? Either way, I know. But a simple action can change something huge. So right now, I don't know. I don't know if I'm doing something that matters. It's possible. I'm doing my best to be active, to try and be a person of change, but I don't think I'll know until much later in life (if I even end up knowing at all) if I actually did something that mattered.

    In other news, I saw Harry Potter on opening night... kind of. Well, here's what happened. My boyfriend's birthday was on the 15th of this month, the date of the US theater release for Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince. Well, my boyfriend is a fan of these movies, and I begrudgingly told him that I would go with him to see it when it came out, being that it was around his birthday and all. I was hoping to take him to the midnight showing at the theater closest to us (and the theater at which he works), but all of the tickets sold out. According to their numbers, that means they sold 2,000+ tickets. I mean, the movie was playing on every single theater except one. That's 15 theaters. Sold out. People are Harry Potter crazy. I don't get it, personally, but whatever. Either way, we decided to go see it later this week, but then the theater opened up a 3am showing because they were unable to accommodate the original midnight-ers due to the pre-sale magnitude of the midnight showing tickets. Well, we were awake, so... why not? haha

    I will say that I did not like the movie. Of course, I'm not really a HP fan to begin with, but it was very... meh. I read the books (all but the last one), and they left out a GREAT deal of the actual book, which surprised me mainly because they left out an important battle scene involving pretty much every character. It wasn't just that, though. The direction was... not good. In fact, I would suffice to say that it was bad. There's too much to go in to, but... take my word for it. Not good at all. In the end, it was an entertaining little flick, but it wasn't very good.

    Enough said. I'm out.

    Peace.
    ~Stef

    Sunday, July 12, 2009

    Question #2: Am I pursuing my DREAM, or is FEAR stopping me?

    Now, this is a good question... One which I am actually kind of afraid not only to ponder but to answer. But I said I was going to do these questions, and, as I am a lady of my word, I will get through them all.

    At one point in time, my dream was to perform on the hallowed stages of Broadway, to dance my way across the television screen via the Tonys... And to be completely honest, I'm not entirely sure that's not still my dream. Over the past few months the thought of "Well, Kristin Chenoweth did it..." has entered my mind more times than I feel it should have. I believed that part of my life to be over. Well, not over, but... I don't know. in remission? I have long since realized that my part in the world of musical theatre is slim to none, and it's not the road I need to be taking. Opera is MUCH more fitting for me. My personality, my performance style, etc... All of those things point me straight down the opera road. But am I throwing in the towel too soon? I know that, if I were to keep going down the opera route, I would always think to myself, "What if?" But simply having that little "if" in my head every once in a while doesn't seem to me enough to warrant a complete 180. I feel like I've progressed. I've grown as a person, and I've gotten better. My parents provided money for me to go traipsing around New York City for nearly 2 years, and what did I get out of that? Some extra dance skills and a worthless certificate of completion. Wahooooo...

    So... yes. Fear is stopping me. I'm afraid of New York City take 2 with the same results as the last time: pure and utter failure. Of course, nice little platitudes could be inserted here. "Everyone is afraid of failure, Stef!" "Without failure, we wouldn't appreciate the successes in life!" I guess what I'm more concerned about isn't the failure; it's my uncertainty. There is a part of me that loves musical theatre so much, and I can't imagine living the rest of my life not taking part in it. I am, by nature, a comedienne, and there is nothing that I love more than making people laugh. That is one thing that, based on type casting, I will never be able to do in opera. I'm a full lyric / dramatic soprano as far as opera standards go, and that means that I get to do a lot of dying (i.e. Mimi in La Boheme, Norma, Desdemona in Verdi's Othello, etc, etc, etc, ad infinitem) which, in its own right, is really fun. But it will never have a place in my heart as dear as comedy has.

    So it seems that I shall soon happen upon a crossroads, if I'm not there already. Oh, the past is always clear in hindsight.

    Tomorrow's Question: Am I doing something that matters?

    Peace out.
    ~Stef

    Saturday, July 11, 2009

    6 Questions to Ask Yourself : Question 1

    So I was doing a little web browsing and came upon this website: http://zenhabits.net/2008/09/6-questions-to-ask-yourself-to-get-the-most-out-of-life/ The article, as can be inferred, is called "6 Questions to Ask Yourself to Get the Most Out of Life." Now, I'm not really much for zen thought, but I figured I'd give this a go. The plan is to write 6 entries, each one focusing on a question. On to business... Question 1: Who do I love, and what am I doing about it?

    Let's tackle the 1st part... Who do I love?
    This seems to be rather vague, but I guess that's the point: to make you really think. Who do I love...? Well, my family, of course. We all have our problems, our faults, but, in the end, it's our family that is always there for us, no matter what, no questions asked. I also love my boyfriend. :) I love my Kitty Kitty, Lily, and Charlamagne (cats) and Moo Moo / Maggie and Zola (dogs). I love my friends as well, but there are too many of them to list
    on this blog (and it saves me from hurting a person that I leave out were I to actually put a list to paper... or... internet. Whatever.).

    I'm sure there are other "whos" that I love, but I think that suffices for now. If I feel like adding, I'll come back later.

    Moving onward...

    What am I doing about it?

    My family: Not enough, that's for sure. You know, it seems to me that, because I know I can always rely on my family, I take them for granted and let those relationships slack a little more than I would other relationships. I need to work on that.

    My boyfriend: I put up with him. haha No, that's not true (If we were actually to get down to it, he puts up with me!). I'm there for him. If he needs me, all he has to do is ask or even hint that he needs me. I tell him the truth, painful or not. I joke with him. I have fun with him. I am serious with him. Ok, ok, ok... Enough of the lovey-dovey crap.

    Kitty Kitty & Lily: I give them hugs and kisses whenever I possibly can. I take care of them when they have the sniffles, like Lily did this past week. I express
    Kitty Kitty's anal glands (I know, gross, but it has to be done!) when she starts scooting across the carpet. I feed them and make sure they have water (My roommate and I just bought them a new water fountain!!! So exciting. They love it.). I leave them alone when they're being antisocial jerks but accept them quickly when they want me to rub their cute little faces. Oh, my goodness. I'm officially a cat lady. Unfortunate.

    Oh well! I guess I'm an abnormal cat lady, because I love dogs so much. They call me... The Animal Lady! Man alive, I'm a dork...

    Moo Moo / Maggie & Zola: See above, except with out the vet stuff, because I'm not their often enough to take care of their veterinary needs.

    My friends: I try to listen. I know I'm not perfect at it, but I do my best. I crack jokes when they need a laugh. I cry when they need someone with which to commiserate. I compliment them whenever I see something that I admire. I encourage them as best as I can and support them in whatever choices they make, but if they ask for my opinion I will share it (and sometimes I'll even share it if they don't ask....... Which I should probably work on...).

    I think that's it for now. That's all I can think of, at any rate. I am quickly realizing that I'm a big, fat dork. For real. This, in general, was a really weird blog.

    The questions to follow are much more... biting, I guess, dealing with the kind of person I have come to be, what I'm doing with my life, helping others, etc... I think this will be a good little series.

    See you tomorrow with the next installment: Am I pursuing my dream, or is fear stopping me?

    ~Stef

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