The Most Prized of Possessions

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The last day of the Writing 101 challenge could be very simple or very difficult, depending on the person and the object chosen. I think it’s an excellent way to end the challenge, myself, so let’s get down to it.

For our final assignment, tell the tale of your most prized possession. If you’re up for a twist, go long – experiment with longform and push yourself to write more than usual.


 

Christmas 2007 was like any other Christmas with J and I. We’d spent too much money on each other, as usual, even though we weren’t exactly swimming in funds at the time. We’d crammed as many decorations as humanly possible into our duplex rental because we’re strangely festive for non-religious folk. We’d done all the usual traditions, like watching Chevy Chase’s “Christmas Vacation” and “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”. And my parents had driven up the night before so they could spend the day opening presents with us.

I honestly can’t remember a great deal about the present-opening of that year. I think that J’s parents gave him an air-hockey table, but I’m not positive. There were probably a lot of video games and movies, but again, I can’t say that for sure. The only thing that I truly remember is the last present of the day.

It had been hidden in the spare bedroom upstairs until all the other presents were opened. My father helped J take it downstairs, each of them holding an end of the almost-five-foot-long box. They placed it gently down in the middle of the living room floor, and then my parents left. I remember wondering why they didn’t stick around a little while longer, but at the time they had some excuse about having to get back home in time to have dinner with the rest of the family.

So there we were, just me and J and this enormous present, and I didn’t have the slightest clue what it could be. As soon as I began opening it I knew that something was amiss because despite its size the giant box shifted as though it had barely anything in it. As I ripped the paper away I found the box from the TV we had purchased several months prior. And inside that box? Another box.

Now I knew the game, but it was far from over. The first box had been stuffed with loose cardboard to keep the second box from shifting around. The second box was stuffed with loose wrapping paper to keep a third box from shifting around. And it went on like that…and on…and on…until finally, more than a little confused, I pulled a white envelope out of the last box. From inside the envelope I pulled a plastic sheath, in which was contained a beige-and-red pamphlet that read the words “Charm Diamonds” and “Warranty Plan”.

I hadn’t noticed when I was examining the envelope, but J had gotten down on one knee, so when I looked up from the warranty papers in bewilderment it was to see him kneeling there with a ring box in his hands. Yes, that was the day my husband asked me to be his wife, and presented me with the most beautiful ring I’d ever seen; a white gold band with a single oval-shaped diamond with an X cut into the top…a “princessa” cut.

At the time, of course, my mind was pretty firmly locked on the fact that I’d just been proposed to, but the choice of ring became a lot sweeter once I’d heard about the purchase of it. It seems that when relentlessly confronted with square diamonds (which he knew I don’t like) and bands with multiple small diamonds (which he doesn’t like), he eventually wound up telling a store clerk that he wanted me to have something unique, something that not every other girl we knew had.

It just seemed like a super-sweet gesture, and knowing that he’d picked out the ring himself (with minimal input from his mother) made it somehow that much more special.

I’ve never been a huge jewelry person, usually only wearing any on special occasions, but the only times this ring has left my finger in the past seven years has been when there was a chance of losing it, or getting it disgustingly dirty, or when my job required it (you don’t wear rings when you’re dealing with electricity and moving machinery). I still think it’s the most beautiful ring I’ve ever seen, and it helps remind me (especially when I’m at work, 3000 miles from home) that I have someone who loves me and wanted to spend the rest of his life with me.

Yeah, I think that qualifies as a “most prized” possession.

Act the Age You Want to Feel

wpid-writing-101-june-2014-class-badge-2-1.png.pngI’m not entirely sure whether the Writing 101 crew genuinely believe in the importance of free writing, or if they just ran out of ideas for assignments at this point. Either way, they start the assignment off with a very true quote from author Anne Lamatt: “I don’t think you have time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won’t be good at it.”

Today is a free-writing day. Write at least four-hundred words, and once you start typing, don’t stop. No self-editing, no trash-talking, and no second-guessing: just go. Bonus points if you tackle an idea you’ve been playing with but think is too silly to post about.

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I’ve mentioned before that I think a little bit of childishness in life is a good thing. After all, you never want to grow up too much, and adulthood is stressful, so why not do fun, silly things to relieve some of that clenched-jaw-ed-ness? So today, for my free-write, I’m going to provide you with a few ideas for things to do to break out that inner, significantly-less-stressed-out, child. Side note: I have personally done every one of these things myself.

Get yourself a pack of crayons and a coloring book and have at it. Bonus points if you get the mega-pack of crayons and the book features characters you loved as a child.

I suggested this once before, a few years ago, and it still tops my list of fun, childish things to do. There’s something very cathartic about putting crayons to paper, especially if you let yourself get wacky with your color choices. Plus it’s such a mindless kind of activity that you can hardly help feeling calmer and more zen-like once you’ve created a few Crayola masterpieces.

Curl up and watch a few episodes of one of your favorite childhood cartoons.

Thanks to the internet it’s not terribly difficult to track down downloadable files of the shows you once watched as a kid, even if those shows haven’t been available on a physical media for years. So go download some Tiny Toons or Ren and Stimpy and give this suggestion a try! You might be surprised by the smiles that creep onto your face when those old friends appear on the screen. You may also find yourself groaning and cringing as you realize how lame some of your childhood favorites seem these days, but that’s actually half of the fun.

Curl up and watch a few episodes of a modern-day cartoon.

I’m gonna let you in on a secret that really isn’t very much of a secret, depending on how much attention you pay to this blog: I watch a lot of cartoons. Shocking, right? But also pretty understandable considering that I have a young kid. But what if I told you that I don’t watch cartoons with my daughter just because I don’t feel like fighting over the remote, but because I genuinely enjoy watching cartoons with her? Sure, some of them are painful (*cough*Dora*cough*), but there are lots that are genuinely fun, clever, and entertaining. Or, at least, a lot more fun, clever, and entertaining than the things adults are expected to watch, like the news and reality TV. So curl up with some Spongebob, Ninja Turtles, or a Disney flick and just enjoy the little guilty pleasure smiles that sneak up on you while you’re watching.

Go for a swing.

Go do this right now. Find yourself a swing set, whether it be the one you set up in the backyard for the kids, or the one at the local park, and start swinging. Pump your legs hard to go high and fast, and then just let yourself coast down until you slow to a gentle rock. Then try and tell me that you don’t feel at least a little better about life.

Act like a monkey.

I don’t mean literally act like a monkey, but take a cue from the way kids refuse to sit still and just climb and roll around like a fool. It helps kids expend energy, but it can actually help adults to gain energy. When I’m tired and cranky, one thing that perks me up is flipping around on the couch, hanging my head over the side, and throwing my legs up in the air. It looks goofy, but it gets the blood moving and gives me that little rush of energy. Climbing a tree would be even better, but since I don’t have any good climbing trees nearby I’ll just have to stick with my couch for now.

Think like a kid.

Some of these suggestions might require a little bit of time, planning, and working around other responsibilities, because after all, you are an adult and you have lots of things to deal with on a day-to-day basis. But there’s one thing you can do anywhere, any time of day that will immediately make you a little more carefree: think like a kid. See the world through a kid’s eyes and you can’t help but cheer up. Stuck in a boring, pointless meeting? Make up stupid songs in your head to get you through the boredom. Walking to work down a busy public street? Pretend that the cracks in the sidewalk are electrocuted and take care to avoid them. Customer in line in front of you at the fast food joint pitching a fit and holding you up? Imagine them as a big, ugly, drooling ogre and try to keep your chuckles to yourself.

Because, ultimately, what makes kids amazing is their ability to let their minds wander to happier, more amusing things, and to turn the whole world around them into an adventure. And if adults could harness that ability to just let the real world melt away every now and then…well, I think we’d all be a lot happier and a lot more stress-free.

Accountability Wednesdays: Week 42

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Man. Just, yeah….man. By the time you guys read this I hope I will have managed to have a really good night’s sleep, because at the time of writing it I am so exhausted that I literally started falling asleep while I was eating my lunch. Literally. While eating.

Unfortunately I am (once again) writing this post from the Halifax airport, as my flights were amazingly screwed up for the fourth time in the past five months. It wasn’t anyone’s fault (there was a malfunction in one of the engines on the plane I was taking out of Calgary, and the delay caused me to miss my layover to get home), but it doesn’t make the situation any less tiring and frustrating. But I’ll try not to let my fatigue affect this post. Starting now. :P

Goal #1: Lose ten pounds and become healthier overall.

Last week I told you that I’d been having stomach problems again. This week I’m going to tell you that I’ve probably lost some weight, but not for a good reason. Since my stomach problems started last week I’ve been having an awful hard time getting a decent amount of food into me. It’s like my body has decided it has an aversion to eating. I could be starving half to death, but as soon as I start trying to put food in my mouth it’s like my body flips around and says, “Wooooahh, buddy. What do you think you’re doing there?” Clearly this is not a good thing, even if I did lose a couple of pounds as a result. Luckily I’m going to see my doctor later today, so hopefully something will come of that. I’m pretty much ready to offer him an ultimatum, because going to and from work every day during my shift has become an exercise in surviving cruel and unusual punishment.

Also, I’d like to add, it is definitely some kind of inhuman torture to make people spend two hours a day sitting on a bus that doesn’t have a toilet. People in charge of the buses at work; you know who you are, and you’re evil.

Goal #2: Be more active on social media and work hard on my author platform.

Things slowed down a little this week, mostly because I’ve been tired, and partly because I didn’t want to overdo marketing the book. So there’s not much to report.

Goal #3: COMPLETE my zombie apocalypse novel, Nowhere to Hide.

Still done! I can totally screw up the other three goals, but you can’t take this one away from me! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Goal #4: Write 500,000 words.

This week was definitely better than the past two, mostly because I’ve been rushing to prepare the blog for NaNoWriMo time. Also, as of the writing of this post I’ve been sitting in the airport for six hours, so I had to pass the time somehow. Anyway, what with the planning and scheduling and so on and so forth, I managed to end up with 8519 words this week. My total for the year still isn’t even half of the total goal, and I’m definitely suspecting that I’m not going to finish this goal again this year, but I do also have high hopes for NaNo, so we shall see.

Until next time!

Tween Justice

wpid-writing-101-june-2014-class-badge-2-1.png.pngAnother truly challenging assignment for today, one that may take me some time to work out in my head. It involves writing from the perspective of a child, which is actually something I’ve never done since I was a child, so this should be interesting.

The challenge also begins with a prompt, so please keep in mind that the italicized bit at the beginning is the prompt, and what comes after is what I wrote.

Today’s prompt: Write this story in first person, told by the twelve-year-old sitting on the stoop across the street. Today’s twist: For those of you who want an extra challenge, think about more than simply writing in the first-person point of view – build this twelve-year-old as a character. Reveal at least one personality quirk, for example, either through spoken dialogue or inner monologue.

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The neighborhood has seen better days, but Mrs Pauley has lived there since before anyone can remember. She raised a family of six boys, who’ve all grown up and moved away. Since Mr Pauley died three months ago, she’d had no income. She’s fallen behind on the rent. The landlord, accompanied by the police, have come to evict Mrs Pauley from the house she’s lived in for forty years.

I always stick my tongue out when I’m concentrating. It looks dumb, I know, but I can’t help it. My dad does it too, and mom makes fun of both of us for it, but the joke’s on her; she wiggles her nose like a bunny when she’s concentrating.

I was sticking my tongue out this time because I was trying to paint my toenails with mom’s bright red polish while my baby brother pulled on my ponytail.

“Anna! Play!” he begged me.

“In a minute, Sam,” I told him for the hundredth time. Two-year-olds are cute, but annoying.

I was just finishing my last pinkie toe when two cars pulled up in front of Mrs Pauley’s hosue across the road. At first I didn’t even really notice because I was admiring my toes, but when Sam said, “Po-wease!” I looked up. Sure enough, the first car was a cop. The second car was the ugly green one that had been showing up at Mrs Pauley’s house a lot lately.

The man who drove the green car came out first. I’d seen him a couple of times in the past few weeks. He was a creepy-looking guy with more hair in his mustache than on his head, and his clothes looked like he never washed them. Whenever he showed up at Mrs Pauley’s he would bang on the door and shout a lot, and his face was always as red as my newly-painted toes. But today he was smiling. It actually made him look creepier.

The cop who stepped out of the police car looked a lot nicer, but he didn’t have a smile on his face. In fact, he didn’t look very happy at all, and that gave me a bad feeling in my stomach.

Mr Green Car smiled all the way up to Mrs Pauley’s front porch.

By this time I was curious, so I took Sam’s hand and led him across the lawn to the side of the street so I could hear better. He was looking very interested in the police car, so he didn’t complain.

Mr Green Car stood to the side with that creepy smile on his face while the police officer straightened his hat and knocked on the door three times. There was no answer, so after a few moments he cleared his throat, knocked again, and called, “Mrs Pauley, this is the police. Could you please come to the door.”

For a while I didn’t think she was going to answer, even though I was pretty sure she was home, but then all of a sudden the door opened a crack. The police man looked like he was going to say something, but before he got a chance Mr Green Car jumped in front of the door and pushed it open with a shout. I could see the white bun on the top of Mrs Pauley’s head as she stumbled back. I found myself crying out, but Sam was the only one who heard me.

“Your time is up!” Mr Green Car was shouting. “Thought you could just avoid me forever, eh? Well it’s the LAW, Janice, and the law is on MY side today!”

The police man looked very much like he wanted to punch Mr Green Car in the face, and I wished he would. Instead he nudged the shouting man out of the way and took off his hat before speaking to Mrs Pauley. “I’m sorry, ma’am,” he told her in a quiet voice, “but he is correct. All the paperwork is in order and he is fully within his rights to evict you. Do you have anywhere else to stay?”

“Who cares?” Mr Green Car shouted. “It’s not my problem where she goes, just that she goes!”

Before I knew what I’d done I had Sam up in my arms and I was across the road. I pulled back one red-toed foot and slammed it into the back of Mr Green Car’s knee as hard as I could. He almost went right down to the ground, and the next thing I knew the police man was holding him back as he tried to lunge at me. “Why you little-!” he screamed.

“Now you listen here!” I shouted back, and suddenly all eyes were on me. “You’re a rotten, disgusting, pathetic piece of crap and you should be ashamed of yourself!”

Mr Green Car’s face turned a sickly kind of purple. The police man looked like he kinda wanted to laugh. “I understand how you feel, sweetie,” he told me, “but he does technically own the house, so it’s his right to evict Mrs Pauley if she hasn’t been paying her rent.”

I set my jaw. “That doesn’t make him any less of an ass.”

Now the police man did laugh out loud, and Mr Green Car was starting to look more pink than purple.

A hand touched my shoulder. I looked up to see Mrs Pauley’s wrinkled face looking down at me. Her eyes were wet. “Thank you, sweetie,” she whispered. “Thank you for caring.”

“She’s a very caring girl,” a voice said from behind.

I hadn’t noticed my mother come walking up behind me. She was still wearing her apron and hand a dish rag in her hand. I thought at first that she might be mad, but she had a strange smile on her face and she kissed me on the head before taking Sam out of my arms.

“Is this brat yours?” Mr Green Car growled, wriggling out of the police man’s arms.

I’d never seen my mother’s face go so red so quick. “This ‘little brat’,” she hissed, “has more human compassion in her little finger than you have in your entire body, you sniveling little monkey.” She raised a hand and pointed a finger right into Mr Green Car’s face. “I’ve been watching you, harassing this poor woman every week. What, you’ve never fallen on hard times before? You’ve never lost a loved one and had a hard time recovering?” And then my mom did something that I never in a million years would have expected her to do. She spit at Mr Green Car’s feet. Mr Green Car looked like his head was going to explode. He looked at the police man like he was expecting him to arrest her or something, but he just gave Mr Green Car a raised eyebrow. I think he agreed with my mom, even if he wasn’t really allowed to say so.

“Come on, Janice,” my mom said more gently. She extracted one arm from Sam – who was starting to squirm – and put it around Mrs Pauley’s shoulder. “I’ve got a beautiful pie baking in the oven and you’re going to come over and have some tea with us.”

Mrs Pauley was crying as they began to walk away, back across the street. I started to follow them, but I had to do one more thing first. I turned around, pushed past Mr Green Car and the police man, and pulled Mrs Pauley’s door shut, making sure that it was firmly locked. And then I stuck my tongue out at Mr Green Car and ran for my house with the police man laughing behind me as Mr Green Car’s face turned red again.

It’s Coming…

It’s almost that time of the year again… No, I’m not talking about Halloween (yet), and I’m definitely not talking about Christmas (yet). No, I’m talking about the most wonderful/hateful time of the year for writers: National Novel Writing Month.

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For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo (as we like to call it) is a yearly event that occurs in November and challenges writers of every age from all over the world to write a novel (of at least 50,000 words) in 30 days. I have been participating since 2008 and I absolutely love it. It’s a huge motivation boost (who doesn’t love completing a challenge?) and the writer community on the website is absolutely amazing. I’ve met some truly awesome people through NaNo, gotten a ton of writing done, and had loads of fun in the process. And, in fact, my zombie apocalypse novel, “Nowhere to Hide“, first saw life as a NaNo novel. Amazing things happen during NaNo, which is why I will continue to participate as long as I continue to write!

This year for NaNo I’m planning to work on a project that I’ve been dying to get to for months now. I’ve mentioned before that there’s a fantasy adventure story that I’ve been working on (on and off) for pretty well a decade now. Well, it’s about time that I turn this labor of love into something worth printing. The original story (which I never managed to complete) was a single book, but not too long ago it occurred to me that the layout of the story makes way more sense as a series. So this year for NaNoWriMo I’m starting the adventure of an entire overhaul and rewrite. My novel for 2014 will be book one of a series henceforth known as “The Other World”.

But that’s not the only important thing to note about NaNoWriMo. Understandably, taking on the NaNo challenge means sacrificing a lot of time and energy, which makes it more difficult to get other things done…things like, say, blogging, for example. So while I’ve still got a bit of time on my hands, I hope to plan and schedule my posts for the month of November. This, however, requires an idea as to what to (pre)blog about for all those days. So…what shall I do?

Well, I think it’s about time to finally break out “642 Things to Write About“, don’t you? So here’s the plan: for the month of November, four days a week, you will be treated to my interpretation of some of the aforementioned 642 things (the fifth day will be Accountability Wednesday, during which I’ll give updates on how NaNo is going).

So, in conclusion, November will be a month to complete randomness, a la “642 Things to Write About“, and will hopefully conclude with a (mostly) written new manuscript. Sound good? Alright, it’s a date!

What Scares Me Most

wpid-writing-101-june-2014-class-badge-2-1.png.pngToday’s challenge may actually require a bit of thought and planning, because as I’ve mentioned before I have little trouble writing in my own voice, but today I’m going to be doing the exact opposite.

We all have anxieties, worries, and fears. What are you scared of? Address one of your worst fears. Today’s twist: Write this post in a style distinct from your own.

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Spiders, creepy-crawling on my skin. Ugly moths and millers flying ’round my head. Wild creatures with sharp teeth and long claws.

But these don’t scare me most.

House fires. Burglaries. Hearing strange noises at night when I’m home alone.

But these don’t scare me most.

Starting a new job with new people. Lots of turbulence on a flight. Having stomach trouble during a long trip.

But these don’t scare me most.

What scares me the most, the fear that I keep deep inside, is the all-encompassing fear that every parent lives with from the moment their child is born: the fear of anything bad ever happening to this precious creature who means more than anything else in the world.

That is what scares me most.

Lost and Found

wpid-writing-101-june-2014-class-badge-2-1.png.pngToday’s Writing 101 challenge is an interesting way to finish off our little three-part series on “lost and found”. Whereas the first two installments were based on real-life experiences, this one will be a fabrication based on a prompt.

Imagine you had a job in which you had to shift through forgotten or lost belongings. Describe a day in which you can upon something peculiar, or tell a story about something interesting you find in a pile. Today’s twist: if you’d like to continue our serial challenge, also reflect on the theme of “lost and found” more generally in this post.


 

You find the most random assortments of things left behind in hotel rooms. There are the usual things that lots of people forget to grab when they’re packing, like toothbrushes and half-eaten snacks; these we throw out immediately. But there are lots of other forgotten items that we put aside in case their owner returns. There are mundane things, like a pair of shoes or a piece of clothing that made its way under the bed, and there are odd ones, like dishes obviously brought from home and, in one case, several unopened boxes of Ritz crackers. Every so often we even find a sex toy…these are handled very carefully with rubber gloves and kept in double-sealed bags for no more than one week. No one has ever come back to claim one yet.

On this particular day I was looking for something specific, though I didn’t yet know what that something was.

I hoisted the tote where we kept our forgotten finds up on the table in the staff room and began rifling through it. I placed each item on the table as I examined and rejected them. A phone case without a phone…nope. A single fuzzy slipper…nope. What appeared to be the remote control to a video camera…interesting, but nope. The list of discarded items went on and on, none of them what I was looking for. A pencil case, an almost-full bag of paper plates, a necklace, a travel hairdryer, a horror novel with the bookmark still in it. Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope.

And then, there it was. I knew it the moment I saw it. I picked up the small, oval-shaped electronic toy and couldn’t help but smile at it. I hadn’t even known these things still existed. I’d been in junior high school the last time I’d seen a Tamogotchi digital pet.

I removed the folded letter from my pocket and read through the words again, words that had been written in pencil by a child.

Dear Miss Hotel Lady,

My family was at your hotel last week. I lost my pet and would you mind looking for him there? My big brother gave him to me before he left for big-people school and I miss him very much. Please look for him? Thank you so much!

From, Joey

I smiled down at the letter before snatching up a pen and some paper to write my own.

Dear Joey,

Good news! I found your pet and he is just fine! I have sent him along with this letter. I’m sure he will be very glad to see you. Please take good care of him in the future. He is a very rare breed!

Sincerely, Miss Hotel Lady