nesting * geeking * critiquing

Posts tagged “writing

Blind Date #My5Days

As I approached the unassuming entrance to the restaurant, I couldn’t deny the overwhelming rush of anxiety that pulsed through my veins.

It’s a scary thing, meeting someone for the first time; far scarier than plunking out an email and hoping it’s well received. MA and I had exchanged a few photos over the years, but the vast majority of our interaction revolved around the written word. Never had I heard the timbre of her voice—outside of how I imagined it in my head—or seen the mannerisms that accompanied the smooth cadence of her communication.

Did I look okay? Was my eyeliner drawn on too thickly, causing me to look like a tramp? What if I chose the wrong kind of flowers and they triggered allergies or suddenly dropped their petals? What if I didn’t live up to the expectations she had accumulated over our last 3 years of correspondence?

Miraculously, my feet managed courage beyond what my nerve-wracked mind could spare and we ended up at the hostess’ station to announce our arrival for the already-seated party. “I don’t know how people go on blind dates,” I squeaked to my mom. (What, you don’t drag your mother along for an engagement some 350 miles from home?!)

And so, we followed the nice young lady around the corner to our fateful meeting…

❊❊❊

I first learned of Edmond Sun newspaper columnist Marjorie Anderson in June 2013 when one of her articles caught the attention of our corporate intranet’s “Buzz About HaIMG_0663llmark” feature. More often than not, the “Buzz” was little more than a mommy blogger’s review of a product we had sent her for free; those posts didn’t get the satisfaction of my click traffic. This particular post, though, caught my attention and held it for many hours as I read through entry after entry of Ms. Anderson’s “As I See It” column.

With tired eyes, a fresh jolt of inspiration and an overwhelming desire to express my appreciation for this dear woman’s writing, I emailed the newspaper editor. “If there’s not already a published collection of these columns,” I urged, “there needs to be one! Marjorie Anderson is a national treasure, and these entries deserve recognition and preservation!” (In truth, this is but the essence of what I penned—the actual message is long since lost to the tragedy of 60-day automatic mail purge.)

Within hours, I was reading a response from the editor with Marjorie Anderson herself copied. Armed with her personal email address, I embarked on what has become one of the most fulfilling campaigns of my life: a budding friendship and digital pen pal connection with a writer whom I greatly admire.

❊❊❊

There she sat, in the flesh, before my very eyes. Even with a handful of photos lodged in my memory, I hadn’t been entirely sure what to expect of my octogenarian friend. What I found was a saucy and sweet, bright-eyed lady with rosy pink lips and cherry red fingernails. A woman as tiny as a little bird but not the least bit frail looking, quite possibly even better coordinated physically than yours truly, who happens to be some 50 years her junior.

I set the vase of flowers on the edge of the table and reached out to join hands with MA. She looked full on my face and asked in astonishment, “Is it… is it really you?!” And I’ve never felt so honored and astounded to have someone ask me the words that were mirrored in my own mind.

We settled into the booth with my mom sitting across from Brett Barney, MA’s son, and I across from my mythical-turned-even-better-in-real-life confidant. The anxiety I’d carried quickly faded in favor of warmth and familiarity as our conversation flowed effortlessly from topic to topic. We touched on the journey from Kansas City, MO, to Edmond, OK; the similarities and vast differences between MA’s teaching and my mom’s career in school administration; and how we had all arrived at this very place. I’ll admit I found it hard to concentrate at times with the ridiculously delicious honey-pepper bacon burger on the plate in front of me. If you find yourself poking around the Sooner State, it’s worth your time to seek out an Interurban restaurant.

After lunch, we followed Brett and MA to meet with the writers’ group, and Su-the-weenie-dog(!), at MA’s house. IMG_0666While the group usually meets on Thursday afternoons, a special exception was made for my attendance. A tremendously talented author named Paul Gaines joined us and shared some of his short stories and character studies. Like our mutual friend MA, Mr. Gaines is utterly charming and endearing; I’m honored and delighted to have met him!

There can’t be many better ways to spend an afternoon than sitting around MA’s kitchen table, nibbling on cookies and hearing pieces penned by the group members read aloud. The group shares feedback and suggestions, and I wish I had prepared something to take along. Perhaps one day before too long I will repeat the trip with the express purpose of gaining some criticism on one of my works…and getting some more “kisses” from little Su.

As the sun did its best to scorch the earth in high-afternoon Oklahoma fashion, we decided it might be time to go on our way. I’ll fondly remember this beautiful experience and hope I can one day make such an impression as Ms. Marjorie Anderson. It’s wholly fitting that she signs off on her correspondence with “smiles, ma” because smiles are precisely what she brings to this world!

IMG_0664

Me, Su & MA (8.19.2016)

❊❊❊

I’m approaching my 8th anniversary working for Hallmark Cards. When I was brought on board as an on-call proofreader, I never imagined I would transition to working as a technical editor and eventually a bona fide writer (though not one who writes the card sentiments). I’ve been blessed with editorial opportunities I’m not sure I could have experienced anywhere else in this amount of time.
Hallmark is not exempt from the marketplace changes and various challenges that face corporations today, but the Creative division is committed to ensuring we stay the heart of Hallmark and find new ways to help facilitate emotional connections for our consumers. This year Creative decided to start at its core by giving each employee 5 days to use (apart from regular PTO) for finding inspiration and tapping into creative outlets that may not be leveraged in our everyday positions. A day for a trip to Oklahoma to meet MA was at the top of my wish list, and it did not disappoint. #My5Days

Save

Advertisements

Star Wars Is Like My Cat

It’s been over a week now since The Force Awakens (TFA) came into our lives. And after 4 viewings, including the 7-movie marathon on opening day, I feel like I can finally summarize my feelings about the newest addition to the Star Wars saga.

Growing up, I had the sweetest, most gentle cat in the world—his name, ironically, was Goliath. He was there for every milestone, every moment of joy, every pang of sadness, snuggling and unleashing the full power of cats’ magical calming agent: purring. He was loyal and faithful and wonderful. Just like the original trilogy of Star Wars.

Goliath became one with the Force, so to speak, when I was 16 years old in 1999. Coincidentally, that was the same year that the prequel trilogy dawned.

In 2002—the same year Attack of the Clones released—I adopted a feisty little kitten whom I named Storm (middle name Trooper). Storm was the exact opposite of Goliath; where he had been solid black with yellowish-green eyes, she was a cream and gray tabby with piercing blue eyes. His utter devotion and love was answered with her indifference and bitey-ness. Like Goliath before her, she too was a remarkably good snuggler with an even stronger aptitude for purring me to sleep.

Over the next 12 years, Storm and I had an undeniable love/hate relationship. She exhibited violent mood shifts that usually ended with a new set of bloody teeth marks on my arms or legs. In spite of the scar-inducing teeth, we grew into a codependent pair. When she was good, she was heartbreakingly good, and when she was bad…well, most people would’ve put her down. Not unlike the prequel trilogy, if you catch my meaning.

Too mean to go out any other way, Storm succumbed to colon cancer in January. A long-haired tortoiseshell fluffball named Rue joined our family a month later. You won’t be surprised by this point in the post to find that my feelings about her virtually mirror how I feel about The Force Awakens.

When I first met Rue at the shelter (her name was Zeda then…no thanks), it was a wholly bittersweet experience. I was super excited at the prospect of getting a new kitten but I was emotionally exhausted from losing Storm. Rue, to her credit, was ridiculously wonderful on her own accord and gave me no choice but to enjoy her presence…and yet, I came away perplexed. I wanted to love her, there was little reason not to, but I needed time to process.

I got time, as Rue needed her spay operation before we could bring her home. When we picked her up a couple of days later, I made a conscientious effort to look at her with fresh eyes.

Rue, like The Force Awakens, isn’t here to replace the previous “friends” who helped shape my being, but rather to supplement. Some of her behavior recalls that of my earlier loves and my heart swells with nostalgia. Her personality and quirks are uniquely hers, which brings me utter joy. And some of the things she does…well, they kind of irk me. She’s not perfect, that’s for sure. Some of the irksome behavior is just bad and some of it is largely because it falls flat compared to the grand narrative I’ve created in my head.

There’s a lot to love about TFA, and I think I can say now with certainty that I do love it. Even with last night’s 4th viewing, it coaxed tears out of me during several scenes; some happy, some sad. That’s something few films can boast. But cats, man, cats hit me in the feels every time!

Rue is not impressed with Leia buns

Rue is not impressed with Leia buns

Spoilerrific ‘Gripes & Likes’ post coming soon!

 


SW WEEK IS HERE!

It’s finally here, you guys!!!!! In just a couple of sleeps we’ll be getting our first full look at The Force Awakens, and I’m downright giddy. GIDDY!

Because we’re this close I’m steering clear of social media until after the 7pm Thursday (CST) showing. I might make some remote posts during the movie marathon on Thursday, but I’m sure as heck not reading anything that gets posted. With friends and fellow fans across the globe getting their glimpse before I get mine, I don’t want to chance anything. Here’s a little variation on what I posted to my Facebook account yesterday in advance of my quarantine…

’Twas the week of new Star Wars, and in the Amethystos house
One girl couldn’t stop stirring—You guessed it, Severus’s spouse. (that would be me)

The tickets were purchased with months left to spare,
And now the time came, it so soon would be there;
Even when nestled all snug in my bed,
Visions of TIE Fighters danced in my head.

With trailers, tv spots and internet on tap,
Avoiding the spoilers feels like IT’S A TRAP!
Driver, Ridley, Boyega, Ford, Fisher and Hamill,
Old heroes, new villains and droids, worlds and mammals,

In J.J. we trust, it won’t be too long now,
Prepare the tears, gasps and the re-sound-ing “WOW”s.
Of course, if it’s bad, you’ll hear all of that too,
As if millions of voices cried out a “screw you!”

So now hear me exclaim as I log out of sight—
“Happy Star Wars to all, I’ll be back Thursday night!”

MAY THE FORCE BE WITH US


The 101

We’ve spent a good amount of time on stretches of the Pacific Coast Highway (the 101) over the past few years, a truly scenic byway if ever there was one. It may not be the fastest route and there aren’t a lot of options insofar as national chain shops or restaurants along the way, but the vistas more than make up for it.

Where the highway hugs the coast, you’re treated to panoramic western views of the ocean, beaches and rocky outcroppings…even unbelievable sand dunes. To the east, a smorgasbord of forests, towering bluffs and rolling farmland. Breathtaking!

Saturday morning, Feb. 8, we left Lincoln City to head for Gold Beach. Snowcover gradually disappeared as we journeyed further south until we were eventually left with lush green surroundings…and plenty of rain. In spite of the intermittent downpours, we made numerous stops to do some light hiking and take in the sights.

One of the more curious things we came across was an electronic road sign about 45 minutes north of Gold Beach:Caution

Next 2 Miles
Use Caution
Wild Cows on Road

I’d heard of signs being hacked to warn of zombies and the like, so I initially assumed that might have been the case. “Wild cows” har har har. It was pretty funny until I considered it could be a legitimate advisory.

Night had fallen, and we were in an area devoid of cell phone or radio signals. Nothing but a dark hillside forest on our left, a craggly drop to the ocean on our right and my overly active imagination. Our laughter subsided to a nervous chuckle.

I worried not about running into one of the bovine hitchhikers and making ground beef. No, I worried about becoming the ground beef. I mean, I know a thing or two about “domestic” cows given that my grandpa owned some of the good-tempered variety and I pass dozens of them on my commute each day. But those were all Missouri cows; maybe Oregon “wild cows” are different? If creepy, wild cows roamed these parts, they might have an appetite…for people.

Wild Cows!Admitting this rumination invited merciless japing. Severus regaled me with tales of mangy cows equipped with spiky teeth and underbites. Cows that grazed not alongside the road but on the concrete itself. I imagine they looked something like this mixed with the ‘dog’ from Despicable Me.

We were careful to watch for the road sign on the other end; it warned of “cows loose on roadway,” which sounded considerably less nightmarish. After the longest 2 miles of our lives, we left wild cow country and stayed the night at the Gold Beach Resort.

More photos taken along the 101 at my share site.
Next stop, Crater Lake!


What About the Bad Guys?

Once upon a time, I worked a job that was soul-crushingly awful. And “soul-crushingly awful” describes only the good days. The bad days were akin to sliding face-first down a giant razor blade straight into a vat of boiling acid. It’s not a huge exaggeration to say that there were days when I left feeling like the Gestapo dude whose face melts off at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Those days sucked, and they surfaced far too frequently.

Admittedly, there were a few perks: the pay was pretty decent for my first gig out of college, and a handful of my coworkers were fantastic. One of those associates was named Amy.

Ultimately, the positives failed to outweigh the negatives, and I abandoned the company just shy of my 2-year anniversary. As it turns out, my departure helped pave the way for an infinitely better work environment—the greatest offender came face to face with a pink slip based in large part on my exit interview feedback. I was lauded as a heroine, the provocateur who sparked a revolution towards emancipation. But I digress.

Amy left said company several months prior to my departure to devote time to her photography business (she’s phenomenally good!). Thanks to the magic of technology, we kept in touch via email and, eventually, social networking. Her family relocated to the Seattle area, so we made plans to visit this time around. Some 7 years after parting ways, I finally saw Amy again!

Amy and her husband Justin have fantastic kids: Luke, Ella & Matthias.
We’re not much of kid people, but these three almost converted us. In addition to their fun little personalities, they all dig Star Wars. Luke is a fan of facts…and Luke Skywalker. Ella crushes on Qui-Gon Jinn and Yoda (hey, the heart wants what it wants haha). And Matthias, well, he loves it all—a youngling after my own heart.

‘Thias buddied up to us pretty quickly, a rarity in our childless world. He asked to ride in our car, so I gave him my iPhone to look at pictures of my SW room.
He noticed all sorts of little details that would’ve been lost on most people. One of the more obvious things he commented on was my shelf that features Darth Vader and Stormtroopers.

In his adorable first-grader voice, Matthias asked, “Why do you like the bad guys so much?”

Imagine the sound of crickets for a moment, because that’s what was happening in my head. I had nothing. I’d never given much thought to the idea that I even do like the bad guys. So the answer I gave, the answer that needed the least explanation and self-evaluation was, “I think they look cool.” And they do.

There was a little sigh from the back seat, followed by Matthias’s emphatic response, “I think they look cool, too…but I don’t want them to wiiiin!”

And that’s what reminded me that Star Wars is so much more than the collector-y thrill that it has largely become for me and many other adults. At its core, Star Wars is a character study on the dichotomy of good and evil, of flux and fealty. Fantastical creatures and places and escapades are the proverbial icing on the cake. {Side note: I ADORE cake & icing!}

I loved the SW toys when I was a kid not because they looked cool but because they were a tangible piece of the Star Wars universe. With action figures in hand, I could live out scenes from my favorite adventures. The characters literally became part of my world.

It didn’t matter that I was an only child; most of my SW toys weren’t games that required multiple players to make them fun. It didn’t matter that I was a girl; my SW toys ranged from Ewok stuffed animals (they call them “plush” in the industry today) to action figures that I could “girl-ify” if I so chose—I crafted clothing for Princess Leia using flower petals and scotch tape. My SW toys went hand in hand with my imagination, which paid no mind to the societal constraints that loom in adult consciousness.
Perhaps that’s why I’m still so drawn to toys: they take me back to a time when the world and its worries were no concern of mine.

At some point in my life, I guess I sold out a little bit. I lost sight of the whimsy and gravitated towards what was deemed cool.

For those who’ve forgotten (or weren’t alive yet), there wasn’t much about Star Wars that was still deemed cool by the early ’90s. As I recall, the franchise was all but extinct in the public’s consciousness. It wasn’t until word began spreading of production for the 20th-anniversary “Special Edition” theatrical re-release that the tendrils of SW began to poke back into the collective pop-culture mindset.

The ‘steroid series’ of Hasbro figures launched in 1995, to the mutual delight and chagrin of toy enthusiasts. The classic heroes looked ridiculous, which played into my affinity for the darker characters. The “bad guys” still managed to look cool.

Also responsible was my age and resultant awareness. After a war in the Persian Gulf and bombings at the World Trade Center and Oklahoma federal building, the world around me seemed less gentle. Even fashion and music had trended edgier, more alternative (thanks, Kurt Cobain!).
I began to accept the inevitability of growing up, acknowledging the more melancholy aspects of life as well as the tumult within myself. And yet, I held to the hope of a happy ending.

One needn’t squint too hard to see how that is reflected by Lord Vader, even all those years before we learned of Anakin’s petulant twerp tendencies.

So, that’s why I like the Star Wars bad guys. It’s not just because they look cool, but because they embody the notion that life isn’t always neat and tidy. Were it not for bad guys, there would be no reason for “good” people to rise up and defend honor or virtue. Plus, they are a steadfast reminder that any of us, even the most vile, has a chance for redemption.

On the last night of our Washington stay, we had dinner at Amy’s house. I was treated to a lightsaber battle, a thorough examination of action figures, a cross-examination about SW trivia (most questions starting with, “Do you know…” or “Guess what?!”) and episodes of The Clone Wars and The Yoda Chronicles.

The Force is strong with these friends of mine!

Luke & Matthias

Luke & Matthias, Halloween 2012