Memories

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summer in paris
black and white
memories made

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I’m feeling both nostalgic and excited for things to come. Sixteen years ago I spent a couple of days in Paris and only experienced a very small portion of the city. There were parts of it I loved and parts of it I was too young and distracted to appreciate. Next summer, I’ll be returning to Paris and I fully intend on taking my time to explore and experience all it has to offer. Between meeting up with friends, attending a fandom convention, and seeing the sites, this is shaping up to be one incredible adventure!

Photo: Eiffel Tower, Paris, France, c.b.w. 2003

Words: haiku, c.b.w. 2003

At Summer’s End

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I can’t believe it’s already been two months since the school year ended! Where does the time go? While I’d give just about anything for another month of summer bliss, I’m also anxious to get back into the classroom.

At the start of this summer, I made a list of things I wanted to do with my time away from work, (see Summer Plans). I was successful on some things and a total failure on others. Still, it was a nice summer full of unexpected discoveries.

  1. Start trail running, again.

This did not happen. Record heat made this goal almost impossible. When its 110-115 degrees more often than not, the health benefits of trail running go right out the window. I’m hoping to revisit the trails after it cools down a bit. I’ll take 90 degrees at this point!

2. Start cooking, again.

When I set this goal, I thought about pulling out the crock pot or the wonderbag, but the heat once again came into play. Instead, I played around with fruit salads, crackers, and cheeses. Light, cool meals that included all the major food groups became my mission … and it was fun! Rather than rely on recipe cards, I created my own combinations of fresh foods.

3. Knit.

I finish one pair of socks, four washcloths, one dog blanket (using scrap yarn), and worked on a few nearly completed projects that are being difficult, (sometimes the finishing phase is the most tricky). Overall, the knitting needles got a great workout!

4. Write.

My haiku journal is nearly full! It seems my muse just can’t get enough of those tiny poems!

The goal to send out query packages, unfortunately, was not met due to a surprise project that dropped into my lap, (see Getting All Nostalgic and A Weird Writing Dilemma). I plan on jumping back into this process very soon. I have all the pieces in place (i.e. query, synopsis, and agent list), so I just have to construct the packages and hit send.

5. Read.

I set the goal of being five books ahead in my Goodreads 2016 Reading Challenge. In the next couple of days, I should reach that goal. I read like a lunatic this summer, happily devouring eight books in two months.

6. Learn something new.

I had no idea where this goal would lead and it ended up yielding the most surprises. When I came home from vacation with a new-to-me vintage Barbie doll, it triggered an entire summer of vintage Barbie madness, (see My Vintage Gals and Adding to the Vintage Crew).

Because my budget doesn’t allow for splurging on mint condition vintage Barbie and clothes, I instead purchased two vintage dolls and several fashions in need of repair. I had some basic knowledge of the restoration process, but not nearly enough to solve some of the problems plaguing the newest additions to my collection.

I learned how to:

  • clean deeply rooted stains on vinyl
  • reshape limbs
  • fix neck or torso splits
  • safely remove age stains and spots from vintage fabric
  • correctly identify vintage Barbie dolls (differentiating marks, face paint, and common issues that effect one doll, but not another).
  • correctly assess the value of a doll and fashions based on condition and availability

I’m still on a learning curve, but I’m loving the process as a whole. I’ve learned so much and I like knowing I’m able to do right by the dolls in my collection.

7. Binge on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.

Done! I caught up on my Top Tier shows, (i.e. Grimm, The Blacklist, Bob’s Burgers, etc) and explored a few more including, Doctor Thorne (Amazon Prime). Then, I re-watched Daredevil Seasons 1 and 2, again. It’s sooooo good!!

8. Work.

As expected, I couldn’t stay away too long. By mid-July my dining room table was planning central for AP World History. I have the first two weeks planned and ready to go. In addition, I created a website for the class because I use a modified flipped classroom model.

9. Spend time with family, furkids, and friends.

Having so much free time was truly a gift. I was able to visit my dad and hang out more often with my mother and sister. However, being able to spend so much time with my remaining dog was the most precious part of my summer. He is elderly and does not have much time left – I made every day count as much as possible.

It was also a gift to spend time with friends I normally don’t see outside of work. I’m lucky to have co-workers I’ve come to count as close, personal friends. We said we’d hang out over the summer and we did. This was a big deal because we say that every year and never actually do it. I’m truly grateful to have such wonderful friends.

10. Clean out the house.

Done! The shed, closets, and hobby room all got purged of things no longer needed. A local charity and the dump received multiple visits. It’s a good feeling to clear out the clutter.

In the process I came across forgotten items that reminded me of the person I was before I lost so much. Its been a rough few years of grief and pain. Recently, I’ve felt the dark clouds lifting and this rediscovery is yet another piece that allows me to find my new normal.

My home and work spaces have been redefined and all feels new, yet I feel the old me resurfacing. The me that is overtly optimistic and isn’t afraid to be a little funky and push the rules a bit. I’ve missed that part of me and it’s nice to have it back.

All in all, it was a great summer!

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c.b.w. 2016

 

OMG. I Wrote Fanfic!

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Every writer has a skeleton in the closet. Bad poetry, failed attempts at short stories, journal entries that should never see the light of day – you know, the stuff that seemed good at the time, but now lies forgotten in a file or a shelf somewhere.

This is the writing that makes you cringe when you see it, but don’t be too quick to chuck in the trash. This is also the writing that had to happen in order to become the writer you are today.

In my case, I have journals filled with page after page of poetry (some good, some not), spirals of horrible short stories (definitely not my thing), and journal entries from a writing group I no longer attend, (prompt based writing is a little distracting for me). I learned something from every piece of writing I’ve ever done. Even the horrible, awful, bad stuff served its purpose in that I learned what not to do!

These physical reminders of my writing past sit on a shelf next to my desk. They remind me of where I’ve been and where I want to go. For that reason, I treasure them even if I pray no one ever reads them!

I thought I had all evidence of my writing past collected neatly in one place, but I was wrong. It turns out I had a little skeleton in my closet  that I totally forgot about and its out there for everyone to see.

The process of revisiting some old writing (See Getting All Nostalgic), lead me to a fansite for The Office called More Than That. It’s a fanfic site that specializes in fanfic for the characters Jim and Pam, but also includes fan created stories for The Office as a whole. The moderator of this site reached out and asked for message board posts I did for the show years ago.

I remember visiting the site often to read fanfic when the show aired, so I already had a username and password. When I signed in and clicked on My Account, I was shocked to see that I had written several pieces of fanfic. I totally and completely forgot that I had indulged in the sappy, fan obsessed practice of writing fanfic.

OMG. *slaps hand on forehead*

I did it all – fluff, angst, and romantic sappiness. Everything an obsessed shipper could ever want for fictional characters. I was afraid to click on the stories. Who knows what I had done or what they were about!

It turns out they aren’t half bad. The writer in me today wants to fix them, but they will remain as is. Part of me can’t believe I wrote fanfic, but the rest understands my muse was trying to tell me something a long time ago. This is where writing fiction became a reality to me. This is where I learned I could do it if I really tried.

At first, I was embarrassed to discover I had been a fanfic writer, but then I realized I had no reason to be. Fanfic is an art form. Many of the writers on More Than That are incredibly talented and I love reading their work. It isn’t easy to create new stories for well-known characters. There’s a fine line between challenging characters with new scenarios, while also maintaining the established canon of the character’s personality.

I may focus my attention on non-fanfic writing these days, but I am well aware that fanfic is one of the reasons I was brave enough to write not one, but two novels. I proudly acknowledge my fanfic skeleton!

Writing is writing, no matter what the genre. Tap those keys or scribble with that pen. Your muse is waiting.

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p.s. Here they are in all their glory:

More Than That: scrantonbranch’s stories

c.b.w. 2016

Getting All Nostalgic

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Nostalgia seems to be the theme of my life this week. Between restoring vintage Barbie dolls and sewing with vintage fabric, an email popped up in my inbox from an old acquaintance. She was a reader of some writing I did a long time ago and wanted to know if she could post it on her website. It sounds simple enough, but the story behind the writing it is somewhat unconventional.

Years ago, I was part of an online fan community for the television show The Office (U.S.). Under the screen name “scrantonbranch” I played on various threads of a message board for episode discussion, trivia, and general geeking out over a show we all loved, (loved is actually not a strong enough word for how we felt about the show – it was soul consuming passion).

theoffice

Part of what made The Office so special was the relationship between Jim and Pam. After the jaw dropping events of the Season 2 finale, I became full-blown obsessed with these characters. As an outlet for this obsession, I started writing incredibly detailed analyses of every episode on threads that became known as The Pam Dichotomy and The Jim Paradox.

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Oh, this moment! The fandom collective nearly exploded from excitement.

Throughout Seasons 3 and 4, I analyzed every word, facial tic, and story development of Jim and Pam. My threads gained quite a following and incited some amazing discussion and fan camaraderie. At one point I was getting upwards of 1000 hits a day. The threads were so popular, I found myself surrounded by fans at the 2007 Office Convention, (as an introvert, I was mortified, but also completely and totally blown away).

By the time Season 5 rolled around, Jim and Pam (or JAM) were together and there wasn’t much left to analyze (until Season 9, but the community was long gone by then). I stopped writing the threads by the end of 2008. I still watched the show like rabid fan, but there was no longer a need for the PD and JP (that’s what we called my threads for short).

It was sad to let it go, but at the same time I was ready to move on to something new. I always valued the entire experience because it got me writing again after a really long dry spell. It’s why I’m here on this blog, why I wrote two novels, and why I started writing poetry again. It’s actually pretty amazing how one TV show could inspire so much and have such a lasting impact on someone.

So here we are in 2016. It’s been eight years since I wrote the PD And JP. The Office stopped airing in 2013 (I won’t get into how devastating it was to watch it all end), and the message board community was taken offline. All good things come to an end, right? Life had moved on so far, far away from the PD and JP, I’d all but forgotten about it.

Then, that email showed up. I recognized the screen name immediately as one of my old PD/JP readers. She now runs a fanfic/JAM fansite that was around when the show aired (I was a frequent visitor of the site, too!). In the email, she asked if it was possible to repost the writing I did for the PD and JP as it is no longer available online. I was shocked that anyone even cared about either of my threads after such a long time. Of course, I said yes … as soon as I find the writing.

I’m in the process of trying to find all my old files. I’ve gone through three laptops since I started writing both threads back in 2006, so they could be hidden in a number of places. There is an online archive that did a snapshot of the old message boards, so I’m hoping I can salvage some of the original posts.

I’ve managed to locate about half of my original posts, which is pretty good considering how much time has passed. I never thought to save my posts in an organized fashion because I never thought I’d need them again. Boy, was I wrong!

So why does all this matter? I’ve learned a few really important things:

  • Save your writing! All of it. Save every file and keep it organized
  • What you write is important. Regardless of what it is, it matters. Even if its something that seems stupid (like analyzing a TV show to a ridiculous degree) it pushes you forward in the writing process.
  • Readers are out there and they are loyal. Keep writing for those people and remember how important they are to you as a writer.

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c.b.w. 2016

26 Random Facts

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It’s been a while since I’ve played a blogging game, (they all start to look the same after a while, don’t they?), but 26 Facts A to Z looked like fun. I spotted it on Paula Acton’s blog and if you want to see her list you can find it here.

A- Age: I’m hurdling toward 40, but I feel like I’m still a kid in many respects. I still love Disney movies and coloring.

B- Biggest fears: Drowning, someone breaking into the house, and failure. However, snakes literally paralyze me. I have no idea why as snakes have never given me a reason to fear them.

C- Current time: 3:19 p.m. It’s a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Clouds are in the sky and it’s a warm 70 degrees.

D- Drink you last had: Tall Cafe Mocha – I’m still enjoying it, actually!

E- Every day starts with: Feeding my furkids. I’m not allowed sleep past 5:00 a.m. Ever.

F- Favourite song: At the moment, I love Life Support by Sam Smith, Coldplay’s new album A Head Full of Dreams, and the soundtrack for Cinderella (the live action version, 2015).

G- Ghosts, are they real?: Not sure. Haven’t met one, yet.

H- Hometown: That’s a tough question. I’ve lived in a lot of places, so I’ll go with my favorite: Land O’ Lakes, WI. It’s a tiny town in Northern Wisconsin (not the Minnesota town that makes the butter). My best childhood memories live in thick forests and beautiful lakes.

I- In love with: My husband, Edward Cullen (even after 8 years), Jim Halpert (it’s been longer for him!), and Charlie Cox a.k.a Matt Murdock a.k.a Daredevil, (my newest love)

J- Jealous of: Anyone with a literary agent. It’s been a long stretch of rejection! However, it’s not a bitter jealousy.

K- Killed someone?: I killed a character in my first novel. Does that count?

L- Last time you cried: Today. One of my furkids is struggling. He’s elderly and near the end of the line – it’s not easy knowing I’m going to lose him and soon.

M- Middle name: Nope. That’s my secret.

N- Number of siblings: One younger sister. I love her dearly.

O- One wish: At the moment, I just want more time to knit. Of late, it seems life is invading my precious crafting time!

P- Person you last called: My mom.

Q- Question you’re always asked: Are you ever going to have kids? No.

R- Reason to smile: Even with hardship and loss, life is beautiful. I just have to look out the window or give my furkids a hug to know how lucky and happy I am to have this life.

S- Song last sung: I don’t sing. Trust me, I’m doing the world a favor.

T- Time you woke up: 5:00 a.m. As always.

U- Underwear colour: Today, it’s blue.

V- Vacation destination: My most recent adventure was in Portland, Oregon. This year, I’m not sure I’ll be going anywhere. My husband is currently in night school, which means someone needs to be home with the furkids.

W- Worst habit: Compulsive chocolate eating. It’s wildly out of control and is likely to get worse with Valentine’s Day around the corner.

X- X-Rays you’ve had: Just my teeth. I’ve been lucky on the medical front, so far.

Y- Your favourite food: Chocolate. Much to my peril, I can’t leave it alone.

Z- Zoos visited: Out of Africa, Phoenix Zoo, Chicago Zoo, Payson Petting Zoo (this is barely a zoo, but we had fun).

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Feel free to play along and post your link in the comments! 🙂

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c.b.w. 2016