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.

Voicing Your Feelings

wpid-writing-101-june-2014-class-badge-2-1.png.pngFinding my “voice” is something that I’ve never personally had a problem with as a writer. Even when I was a little kid writing silly stories that featured myself and my friends, I always wrote the words the way they appeared in my head, the way that I would say them if I was telling the story out loud. I’ve actively fought against my own voice because sometimes it just doesn’t suit the story, but I’ve never had a problem actually utilizing my own voice.

Regardless, today’s Writing 101 challenge is a good one.

Think about an event you’ve attended and loved. Your hometown’s annual fair. That life-changing music festival. A conference that shifted your worldview. Imagine you’re told it will be cancelled forever or taken over by an evil corporate force. How does that make you feel? Today’s twist: While writing this post, focus again on your own voice. Pay attention to your word choice, tone, and rhythm. Read each sentence aloud multiple times, making edits as you read through. Before you hit “Publish”, read your entire piece out loud to ensure it sounds like you.

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This is ridiculous! I can’t believe they cancelled the summer fireworks! Forever! We’ve always had fireworks during the summer festivals for as long as I can remember! In fact, they’re the only part of the festivals that I actually look forward to!

I mean, really, of all things why would they cancel the fireworks? They’re supposed to be the big, fun finale to each of the festivals. Now what is the finale going to be? The concerts? Pssshhh… They’re nice, but they aren’t a finale by a long shot.

Is this all about money? I know that good fireworks are expensive, but geez, it’s not like they’re a weekly thing. Surely to God if we can afford to have festivals in the first place we can afford the fireworks to light off during them. How cheap can you be?

But you know what the worst part is? It’s not that I won’t get to see them; it’s that the girls won’t get to see them. The daughter and the niece love the fireworks. They love staying up late, running around in the grass, and having treats while they wait. They love to sit in their little fold-out chairs or snuggle with Poppy. It’s so friggin’ cute when they ooh and ahh over all the bangs and colors. It sucks that they won’t be able to do that anymore. It sucks a lot.

We should string up whoever made this decision and let the kids use him as a pinata. That’s what I think.

The Search for Video Game Greatness

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To see the first part of this little series, please check out this post about how a young me lost hours upon hours of video game progress. Then, come back here to continue to the tale.

On day four, you wrote a post about losing something. Today, write about finding something. Today’s twist: if you wrote day four’s post as the first in a series, use this one as the second installment – loosely defined.

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When last we left this story, I had just accidentally erased all the progress on my beloved Chrono Trigger game cartridge because the game had not been properly seated in the console. But the question was why had the game not been properly seated? I hadn’t removed the game from the console for weeks, so the only explanation was that someone else had, and since I didn’t have any siblings, it could only have been one of my parents. Since my father had no good reason to be in my room without me there, I was pretty certain I knew who the culprit was.

“Mom!” I cried, the frustration of my loss still fresh. “Did you touch my game?!”

She obviously heared the upset in my voice because she came immediately. I explained what had happened and she told me that she had removed the game when she was cleaning up, and didn’t realize that she hadn’t put it back in right. I remember being so mad, and shouting about how there was absolutely no reason for her to need to remove the game while cleaning. At the time I was just so angry and frustrated that it never occurred to me that mabe it was just an excuse…maybe my mother had another, more justifiable reason for popping my Chrono Trigger cartridge out of the console.

You see, another of my favorite games of all time (maybe THE favorite) is Final Fantasy 3, the US version. It was about a year before the Chrono Trigger incident that my best friend and I discovered Final Fantasy 3 for the first time. We found it at the local rental shop and spent more of our spare change and allowance money renting it than I would care to admit to. The problem was that, like most role-playing-games of this age, there were only three save slots, so if you ran out of money to rent it and someone else snagged it in the meantime, there was a damn good chance that your progress would be saved over by the time you got it back. Between this and the fact that FF3 required about 40 hours of gameplay to complete, well…it was damn near impossible for us to get anywhere. I badly wanted my own copy of the game, but this was a time when you were lucky to find the newly-released, super-desired games in stores in Nova Scotia, and shopping on the internet was not yet a thing. I scoured secondhand shops for the game, inquired at school to see if anyone had it and wanted to sell it, and even asked the rental shop owner if they would consider selling it. I wanted it terribly, but I could never find a copy that anyone was willing to part with.

Cue Christmas Day. I got many awesome presents that day, I’m sure, but there’s only one that still stands out in my memory to this day. It was a small, rectangular box, and the first thing I saw as I tore away the wrapping paper was a moogle: a small, white, bear-like creature that is a staple of the Final Fantasy series. I remember absolutely freaking out. I was holding in my hands a copy of Final Fantasy 3, slightly-battered box and all. My parents had contacted a local games shop (which did buy-and-sell) and asked to be notified if a copy of the game ever came in. And then it was finally revealed: the reason my mother had removed my Chrono Trigger cartridge from the console was so that she could test the used game cartridge she had just purchased to make sure it worked before giving it to me.

Needless to say, forgiveness was more than given that day. Sure, my mom had destroyed my save state in one of my favorite games ever, but she had my father had also paid enough attention to me and put in enough effort to track down a copy of a game that I wanted more than anything. I lost hours of gameplay in one game, but they found me the perfect Christmas present, and so all was right in the world for another day.

Clouds on the Horizon

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If you don’t take inspiration from the real world, you’re missing out on what can be some amazing writing material. Today’s writing challenge, therefore, encourages you to look at what’s going on around you.

Write a post inspired by a real-world conversation. Today’s twist: include an element of foreshadowing in the beginning of your post.

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“Are you worried about the landing?” the lady beside me asked her son.

The young boy turned away from the airplane window and gave a small nod.

“Don’t worry,” the woman cooed with a smile. “Taking off wasn’t so bad, was it?”

The boy gave a little shake of the head.

“Then landing shouldn’t be so bad either, right?”

The boy shruggd and turned back to the window to watch as the city slowly rose to meet us.

The first shudder was barely noticable, and the second was nothing that anyone would get too concerned about. But then the turbulance got worse, and suddenly we were all bouncing and shaking in our seats. Every motion felt as though the plane was being shoved off its course. The pilot made an announcement, but I couldn’t really make it out. I closed my eyes to ward off the wave of motion sickness that was rising in my throat.

A loud groan filled the air as the landing gear began to unfold. The plane took a large dip that felt like an elevator dropping out from beneath us too quickly. A baby a few aisles back began to wail.

The plane was approaching the ground; we were almost there. And then a cross-wind struck the side of the plane, lifting us so that only one side of the landing gear touched down. For a frightening moment we were hurtling down the runway on one wheel, and then the next moment the plane dropped and the other wheel slammed into the ground. My body flew forward as the pilot engaged the brakes, and a few seconds later we’d come to a full stop.

I opened my eyes before I realized that there was an arm pressed up against mine. The mother was gripping our shared armrest, every one of her perfectly-manicured nails dug deep into the stiff material. She was staring straight forward and her face was white as freshly driven snow.

“What’s wrong, mom?” the little boy asked with a grin. “That wasn’t so bad, was it?”

A Brief Tale

wpid-writing-101-june-2014-class-badge-2-1.png.pngToday’s assignment will be a piece of fiction, so welcome to the first ever Writing 101/Fiction Fragment Friday conglomeration!

Today the name of the game is brevity, which can mean something different depending on how you’re used to writing. I’m no stranger to the drabble (100-word story), as you all know, but in my everyday writing I tend to be a lot more talkative. This is something I’ve actually been working on because, depending on the scene in question, sometimes fewer words is better. So this assignment should be good exercise!

You stumble upon a random letter on the path. You read it. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to which it’s addressed. Write a story about this encounter. Today’s twist: approach this post in as few words as possible.


It was just laying there on the walking path: an envelope with the name “Kevin” written on the front. I couldn’t resist. I picked it up and pulled out the single sheet of paper.

The handwriting was loopy and feminine, and appeared to have been written in a rush.

My dearest Kevin,
I am so sorry. I wanted to wait for you, but I’ve run out of time. I’ve gone. I pray that our paths will cross again. Please know that I love you, and I always will.
Your Ashley

Unbidden, tears appeared at the corners of my eyes. I folded the letter back into the envelope. For a moment I thought to place it back where I’d found it, but instead I found a spot to sit under a tree and wait. I thought, perhaps, Kevin might need a friend when he came.

Down into the Dark

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Okay, time to try something that requires a bit more cognitive thought. Here comes day 2 of the Writing 101 Challenge:

Today, choose a place to which you’d like to be transported if you could – and tell us the backstory. How does this specific location affect you? Is it somewhere you’ve been, luring you with the power of nostalgia, or a place you’re aching to explore for the first time? Today’s twist: organize your post around the description of a setting.

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Outside, amongst the sea of sand and sun, it is almost unbearably hot – the kind of dry heat that makes you long for water as though it is the one and only important thing in the world. Outside it feels desolate, almost depressing. Outside, looking out into the desert, I can’t help but think about what it would be like to be stranded out here, with hundreds of miles of cruel, pitiless terrain all around in every direction.

But inside the pyramids…oh, that’s another story. Inside the air is cooler, safe from the blazing sun. The air is musty, but in the exciting way that reminds you that few people have ever breathed this air.

Inside, when you touch the sun-baked stones, you can feel a kind of energy, like the soul of the great structure is speaking to you, whispering its secrets.
It is dark, of course, the only light coming from what we bring in with us, and that is part of the charm, the mystery. As we make our way slowly down the torchlit tunnels I can’t help but feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Even for the strictly scientific mind, a person can feel ghosts here, but that thrill is half the excitement. What is around that next dark corner? What do the wonderful drawings on the wall mean? Who was buried here, and what kind of curses may ancient people have placed on the tomb? What wonderous treasures might we find at the pyramid’s heart? What precious artifacts? What amazing and terrible histories?

These questions and more do I long to find the answer to, for sometimes reality is even more astounding than imagination. That is why I long to visit the pyramids of Egypt.

Fiction Fragment Fridays: Losers

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Another drabble for you on this fine Friday, courtesy of the WTF-ness of my dreaming brain. Feel free to assume that I have deep, deep problems.

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She wondered how she’d come to find herself in such an odd situation, sharing this enormous old mansion with all of her coworkers. It didn’t seem…proper. And yet, here they all were, rearranging furniture to give everyone their own space.

The men shifted an old couch and out skittered a tiny white mouse, and suddenly all was pandemonium. The men jumped and shouted and panicked, but not her. She grabbed a poker from the fireplace and – in a single movement – skewered the rodent through the belly.

“Man up, you losers,” she growled, and stalked off to hunt for more prey.

Fiction Fragment Fri- Uh, Saturday: What Will You Write? Edition #2

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Last week for my “fiction fragment” I took part in the first edition of the What Will You Write? challenge, hosted by fellow blogger, Jay Dee Archer. My entry ended up winning the very first challenge, which I have to admit gave me the happiness. 🙂 It was a fun challenge with a fun premise, and there were lots of great entries. I had so much fun that I knew I was going to have to continue playing along. So here’s my entry for the second edition of What Will You Write?

A reminder: the bold text is Jay’s prompt, and what follows is my idea of how the scene continues.


 

Ferd opened his eyes, his head throbbing.  Scrambling up to his feet, he remembered the rock slide.  That was no accident, he thought.  Someone tried to kill us.  Us.  Where is Cassia?  He couldn’t see through the dust, but she had to be there.

“Cassia!” he shouted.

“Ferd?” The faint voice came from the direction of the cliff.  “Ferd! I can’t get up!”

Ferd edged his way to the precipice and looked down.  Through the dust, he saw Cassia.  She held onto a branch over the chasm.  He reached for her, but she was too far away.

“I can’t reach you,” he shouted miserably.

He could hear the tears in her reply. “I can’t hold on much longer!”

Ferd stood up and contemplated as quickly as he could. His eyes scanned the nearby landscape, but he couldn’t see anything that might be used to help him reach Cassia. Rocks, rocks…nothing but rocks. There was no other way…in order to save Cassia he was going to have to reveal his secret to her. His gaze landed on the ledge where they’d been walking and the mess of dirt and stone that had come barreling down it. Was that the intention of whoever had started the landslide? To force him to reveal his secret? He bit his lip. The consequences…

“Ferd!” Cassia cried. “Help!”

He heard her fingers slip from the branch, rather than saw it, and in that second his mind was made up for him. He turned, ran, and leaped over the side of the cliff. The wind beat up against his face as he began to fall, hands outstretched for Cassia’s. She stared back up at him with abject horror, a scream frozen on her face. And then Ferd began to change.

His bones cracked and his skin stretched. Normally his face would have contorted in pain, but he was too focused on the end game. Skin and shirt alike ripped open, sending a splay of blood and fibers out into the air above them. Now Cassia really did scream, although it could barely be heard against the air rushing past them. The thoughts that must have gone through her head at that moment…Ferd could only imagine.

And then Ferd’s fingers touched Cassia’s, and the whole world was filled with blackness. He pulled her close, hugging her to his body as their direction ricocheted and suddenly they were moving up, up into the sky.

For what seemed like a long time, Cassia didn’t move. She kept her face firmly pressed against Ferd’s chest. But eventually, with the soft beating of wings in her ears, she peeked up at Ferd and her eyes went wide. She took in the huge black-feathered wings with the look of a child first discovering that magic was real.

“You’re an angel,” she whispered.

And Ferd had never felt so relieved in all his life.