Rilla Scriptzilla

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“Bing Crosby Gary Crosby 1951″ by CBS (eBay item photo front publicity release) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In the past two years, I’ve become more acquainted with scriptwriting. This is odd because I’ve never though of myself as a scriptwriter. Scriptwriting requires me to utilize crisp segues to get to the point, which I think I have a knack for. It also challenges me to write out my vision of what is happening. I don’t get to practice this type of descriptive writing enough—oh, I write action, but not action this mapped out. So, tackling the tricks of the script is a fun exercise for me.

But there is another aspect to writing a script that I can’t get used to: the actors. These are people who don’t want to do things the way the script is written. Ever. I go from scriptwriter to patcher-upper, working to bring the actor-revised script back around to its point, the punchline of the joke or the principle message.

I’d prefer to write the script, turn it in, and watch the result without having any part in the massacre that takes place in the middle. I’d rather view the aftermath, saying, “Wow, nothing I wrote was used except that joke in Scene Two. And it wasn’t funny because it was set up all wrong.” Then I might cringe while my name rolled through the credits and be done with it.

“Stumme Coronation of Mary jpg” by Creator:Absolon Stumme (imgc.artprintimages.com) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

You see, scripts are a temptation to the control-prone writer, which I happen to be. When a writer works out the specifics of every movement and word of an actor, it can have one waxing a tad dictatorial. I want complete control. There, I said it! I want everything to go exactly as I see it in my mind. Well, sometimes I let things go when I see it played out and realize it doesn’t work as smoothly as it did in my head. I’m okay with changing that. You know me, I’m generous that way.

When I was young, my cousins and I would put on skits at family gatherings. I was in charge of these skits. Every year my cousins would revolt against my direction. Oh, all right, my tyranny. I shouted. I threatened. I hovered. It’s true.

Every year I became more and more convinced that I was not going to do another skit the next year. I tried letting a cousin direct it one year, saying, “You do the skit. No, do it this way.”

Obviously, that didn’t work.

I tried, “Oh, you guys should definitely do a skit! I think I’ll watch this year.”

That came off like I was sulking or something. I wasn’t. I just knew I’d take over and be hated for the rest of that visit. I could never seem to help myself.

Then came the skit-less years. No one understood why I didn’t head up those fun skits anymore. One cousin in particular, who’d been captain of the skit mutiny every year, came to me and asked, “Why don’t you put together our skits anymore? I miss it.”

I laughed good-naturedly and said, “Because you were always mad at me for being so bossy.”

She crinkled her nose and smiled.

“And I am bossy,” I admitted. “I wish I weren’t, but it just comes over me.”

I don’t mean to be bossy. I really don’t. To be honest, becoming a mother confused me a great deal because, suddenly, I was completely within my rights to take charge. It was necessary. Someone needed to direct and instruct those crazy kids. Could that somebody actually be me? Yes! I was perfect for the part! And I have gotten, far and away, my fill of being in charge as a mom.

So, all that to say, I need to learn to loosen my choleric grip as a scriptwriter. And I can do it. I can let go. Just don’t overhaul the whole script on me, okay?

What I Knead

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I beg you not to hate me for what I’m about to tell you: I make my own bread.

I know, I know! I’m one of those people. I probably have my own wheat fields and store my scythe next to the 200-year-old quilting loom, which I’ve used to make intricate quilt patterns since I was three.

Okay, it’s not that bad. I just make bread. After breaking three bread machines, I went back to basics. Yes, it takes a big chunk out of my day, so I make about eight loaves at a time. This lasts us almost three weeks…if I don’t give any away. But I like to give it away.

Yum!

I’m soy intolerant. It’s tough to find store-bought bread that isn’t made with soy products—the flour, the oil, the lecithin. Mainly, the soybean oil. That one really messes with me.

I could buy some specialty breads, but they cost at least twice as much. Homemade bread is equivalent to the price of the regular, store-bought varieties. That cost includes using butter, milk, honey, wheat germ, and sea salt. So, it’s healthier, heartier, and it tastes incredible.

It’s also a perk that my children think store-bought bread is a treat. Whoo hoo! We get Nature’s Own and Skippy today? Suddenly, I’m the greatest mom ever.

Punch that dough into shape!

Punch that dough into shape!

My sister came over to learn how to make bread. When it came time to knead it, I asked, “Wanna try?”

She worked the dough for a while. “Is this good?” she asked, showing me her progress.

“It needs to be more elastic. Punch and roll it.” I showed her what I meant. “Remember the Tae-Bo fast punch? That’s a good one.” I demonstrated.

She started laughing. “So this is why you like making bread,” she said as I socked the dough with a right uppercut.

“Totally.”

Here’s my bread recipe presently. It changes. (Currently, I’m experimenting with yeast substitutes, since that’s the most expensive ingredient.) Feel free to substitute bread flour, since the bromate makes the bread less likely to fall apart. Using all-purpose flour means having to work the dough more to get a firmer loaf.

Homemade Honey Wheat Bread

(Makes 4 loaves)

2 cups scalded milk
½ cup honey
5 1/3 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 Tbsp. salt
2 pkg. (1 ½ Tbsp.) active dry yeast
2 cups cold water
1 cup wheat germ
2 cups whole wheat flour
6 cups all-purpose flour

Mix melted butter, honey, and salt, pouring in scalded milk. Add the cold water. Sprinkle yeast over the top and stir until dissolved. Add wheat germ, whole wheat flour, and 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Beat well with electric mixer. Add enough remaining flour to make a soft dough, stirring with a wooden spoon or dough hooks.

Turn dough onto floured board and knead for 10 minutes. Place in a greased bowl; let rise until doubled in bulk (1 ½ hours). Punch down; let rise again until doubled (1 hour). Shape into 4 loaves, and place in greased loaf pans. Let rise until doubled (1 ¼ – 1 ½ hours).

Bake at 375, keeping low in oven for 25-30 minutes for freezing or 35 minutes, or until golden brown, for serving.

One of these days I hope to get my own grain mill. Electric. No, I don’t intend to grind wheat by hand. Really.

Home. Drive.

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I grew up on the First Coast. My family still lives there. I don’t. Yes, I miss it. I even miss the sweltering summers, though the heat we meet with every summer should have cured me by now. We came down in tropical storm Debby two years ago; and while we were there, the water stopped running at my parents’ house. Ironic that. The roads were flooding, and we couldn’t flush a toilet. But that got fixed, and then my sister’s boyfriend had the nerve to show up. (I guess I should add that his plans to visit had been made before we jumped in the car and sped down there, but I really don’t think that’s important—we were there first.) Nobody kicked us out of the house or anything, but my sister was there, and my 91-year-old grandmother was there, and my mom and dad were there (being their house and all). Then the boyfriend arrived.

By ABC Television (eBay item photo front photo back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Stuffing our Cunningham family of five into the house was a bit much, we thought. So we asked folks in the congregation there if we could bunk at someone’s house for a couple of days. Seriously, there is nothing like having church family! You get all up in each other’s business and aggravate one another to no end, and, somehow, you can’t get enough of ‘em.

The couple who took us in must feel the same way about us because they didn’t mind telling us, “You guys can stay here or not, we just wanted to keep the kids.” My husband and I felt we could accommodate them and promptly made plans to spend a night in St. Augustine, which happens to be my absolute favorite place to wander around. Realm picked the place we stayed. While it wasn’t solely based on what we were having for breakfast, he admitted that was a big factor in the decision-making process. The style of our room was ‘vintage,’ quaint and lovely, and I had a delightful assortment of hot teas to choose from in the morning. The breakfast was hearty. Our host shared his recipes and experiences, which had me wishing I ran a bed and breakfast—a wish that is rekindled every time I stay in one. I was very pleased.

Then we went all around the city, wherever I wanted to go. I almost killed Realm because I had him trekking in direct sunlight halfway up the boulevard and back. He came close to having sunstroke, I think. He became increasingly nauseated while I was paying for my raspberry sorbetto, handed me the keys, and got out two words: “Home. Drive.”

Advice to St. Augustine tourists: The Old City should be taken in doses and not in the midday heat. The locals know a siesta is more than just about a nap. You’d think that, as many times as I’ve been there, I’d heed my own advice, but I become too giddy with the adventure of scouring the city again for more tidbits of history.

It ended up being a refreshing visit to Florida after Realm recovered. And when it was time to leave, I toted out my suitcase to find a go-kart strapped to the top of our minivan. (We stored a go-kart in my dad’s shed when we moved from Florida.)

Yes, that's me on the go-kart before we moved. As you can see by the lack of glaring sun and my bulky sweater, it's a typical Florida winter.

Yes, that’s me on the go-kart before we moved. As you can see by the lack of glaring sun and my bulky sweater, it’s a typical Florida winter.

Now, I love go-karting. It releases some crazy, competitive monster in me when I race around a track breathing in oil fumes and tire particles. But it’s just not the same feeling, the wind whipping the bungee cords and ratcheted straps of the go-kart tied to the roof of the van. As though it wasn’t enough that Realm drives like a maniac, we were perfect targets for any annoyed driver who wished to pinpoint our location by satellite throughout our trip.

About two hours into the drive, Realm began to regret his great idea:

“We are getting terrible gas mileage.”

“Oh, really? You should see the stares we’re getting from the drivers we’re passing.”

“We aren’t getting any stares.”

“No? Try slowing down and driving in the right-hand lane for a while.”

My backseat driver sarcasm didn’t faze him. Early on in our marriage, he dubbed me “The Naggravator.” Besides, he was too busy scouting out a semi to draft behind.

And you know what? I’m missing Florida again. I guess it’s time to “Home. Drive.”

Of Bugs, Birds, and Beauty

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It’s firefly season. My girls go out at night to collect as many as they can. The glass jar with holes in the lid swarms with them. They flicker in the jar, their vibrant, yellow-green glow like fire in the glass. Then it’s time to let them go.

But they don’t want to let them go.

Photo courtesy of hortongrou

Photo courtesy of hortongrou

Another little girl tries pick up a firefly lying on the grass. She pinches it between her fingers. “I do this all the time,” she says. “I know how.” The poor little bug can’t fly anymore because she’s handled it so many times.

At the zoo there is an exhibit for the parakeets, those gorgeous, little tropical birds. Their feathers are bright and shimmer in the sunlight: yellow, orange, red, blue, and green. My girls and I feed them with seeds stuck to Popsicle sticks. The birds land right on the stick, or, if you hold really still, they’ll perch on your hand!

I watch as the little kids squirm to stay still, waiting patiently for the parakeets to land on their Popsicle sticks. The brilliantly-feathered birds flock to the seeds, flapping around our heads and shoulders. My daughter beams when they land on her hand. She doesn’t say a word, just basks in the novelty of the flighty little creatures settling on her like she’s a familiar friend.

She loves them. She can’t get enough of them. I mean, she really can’t get enough of them! She reaches out and seizes one of the birds in her fist. I gasp, horrified! She’s squeezing it in her palm to hold it down so it won’t escape! Is my daughter Elmyra?

I’m sure the bird will be scared and squawk. It isn’t; it doesn’t. It slips out of her grip, flies away, and swoops back down for more seeds. Next to me, another kid is trying the same tactic—the pounce and pin, I call it.

I just want to cry out, “Stop it! You’ll hurt it! Isn’t it enough that it comes into your hand? Why do you have to trap it? Contain it? Possess it?”

I feel this way about anything beautiful. All the creatures and scenes that God made fill me with awe. The idea of beauty itself—describing exactly why something is beautiful—isn’t really capturable. Nor can you remove the instinct of acknowledging beauty. There are some beauties that will always be; there are some beauties that we are conditioned by society to consider beautiful. Take the latest look in eye makeup, for example. I would never have imagined the exaggerated eye art of cinema’s Cleopatra and Cat Woman as something to imitate and go out in public wearing in 2014. But there you have it.

Here’s the thing, and we women know this: Beauty isn’t something you can trap, contain, or possess by force. It’s fleeting. It slips from our grasp again and again. No matter how some may try to redefine it, market it, and sell it, their promises are empty. We do not have it. Not essentially. Not here in this life.

Beauty is God’s. He is the Giver of every good thing. He created beauty. He created our love for it. He created our desire to have it, to want it so badly that we want to pounce, pin, and possess it forever. He knows what is truly, essentially beautiful, and He gives us all the guidelines to embrace this perfect beauty. Not a pounce and pin-type of possession but a thrilling gift we find in Him when He resides in us. It’s a glimpse of what eternity will be like. I believe it is there that we will get our fill of beauty and be satisfied.

Disclaimer: No parakeets or fireflies were interested in the writing of this post.

Wooed by Smoke and Flame

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I’m married to the grill master of my dreams. We’re having beautiful weather here, and Realm has been grilling out once a week. He’s a charcoal grill connoisseur. We tried gas once. The flavor’s not the same.

By Brian Chu (Own work) [CC-BY-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

My favorite cologne for Realm is eau de Grill. I can smell it in his hair when he walks in from the porch. Some people sniff markers and glue; I tiptoe up to my husband and breathe in smoky bliss. He thinks it’s funny. I think it’s delicious.

He cooks steak to perfection…and herbed salmon, honey Italian marinated chicken, shish kabob—Oh! Shish kabob with garlic and onions, mushrooms, zucchini, and tomatoes is my favorite! I eat up all the cloves of garlic and onions before they reach the table. (My scent is eau de Halitosis.)

Of course, there’s the occasional burnt fare. Realm hates when this happens. I lurve it! The only thing better than grilled meat is charred grilled meat! I’m not saying I want ash here, but a burger that’s blackened is so yummy.

Realm and I just celebrated our 18th anniversary. Our marriage is an adult now. I’m very much in love with him. I think one secret to a happy 18 years is having a husband who knows how to woo his wife long after the “I do.” I like flowers. I like chocolate. But there is nothing like, “Honey, I cooked dinner.”

“Fat.” There, I Said It.

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I have two copies of the first book in The Bobbsey Twins series. One is a 1961 edition, and the other is from 1989. My kids and I found, while reading along with these two versions, that an adjective from the nicknames of the youngest set of Bobbsey twins had been removed. Flossie is nicknamed “my fat little fairy” by her father, and Fred has the loving epitaph, “fat little fireman.” “Fat” was completely missing in the 1989 version.

“The Bobbsey twins were very busy that morning. They were all seated around the dining-room table, making houses and furnishing them…” By Carla Pettigrew Hufstedler [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

After the kids and I discovered this, we had a good laugh. The connotation of “fat” in the U.S. is much different from its harmless meaning fifty years ago. How about centuries ago? Wasn’t fatness a desired quality during the Renaissance? One risked being considered impoverished and easily susceptible to disease without a healthy display of bulk.

My kids are slender. They are all good eaters, but I have a child who tends to lose weight easily when she’s sick. I’m always trying to plump her up with cheese and spoonfuls of peanut butter. She often requests to melt the peanut butter with chocolate chips. That works for me.

Sometimes she will ask me if a food she enjoys will help her get fat.

“Mom, are these Kippers good for making me fat?”

“Mom, can we get those Little Debbie domino brownies at the store?”

I can’t stand those.

She knows it, so she adds, “I think they will help me get fat.”

In our fat-phobic society, a nickname like “my fat little fairy” or “my fat little fireman” is tottering on abusive language. If you use a similar phrase as a term of endearment, you might be blamed for your child’s years of therapy. So, don’t do that. Just stick to something noncommittal, like “nice” or “sweet.”

What about using “fat” as a writer? Do you find you avoid certain words and phrases merely because they could be offensive to that reader whose pet pug is going to need a dog whisperer because you didn’t think anything of naming your main character’s dog Pudgy Purple Pug? Or have you ever wondered what harmless adjectives, names, or even ideals might be offensive in later years?

No, never.

I don’t either. Not at all.

When Realm Calls

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I am not a phone person. If I’m on the phone, I want to be relaying information. Realm, on the other hand, used to call like this:

from stock exchange member Otjep. www.freeimages.com/profile/otjep

from Stock Exchange member Otjep

“Heeeeeyyyy, it’s me……… What’s going on?”

It took about three minutes, give or take a few seconds, for him to say it. It was approximately three minutes of my life put on hold. It drove me crazy. I couldn’t understand why anyone would call just to ask what’s going on…and talk soooo sloooowly. I mean, doesn’t everyone call because there’s something going on, and that something needs to be told to the other person? You know, things like,

“I’ve lost my wallet.”
“I’m stuck in traffic, and I’ll be late getting home.”
“You haven’t forgotten about the people coming over for dinner tonight, have you?”
Etc.

But who is this—this “what’s going on” person?

I answered him in that vein. “What’s going on? What’s going on?! I’m being driven crazy by your children; that’s what’s going on! I’ve been trying to give the same spelling test to your daughter for 30 minutes, and there are only fifteen words! Your son made ten careless math mistakes because he won’t show his work! I just refereed a fight in the kitchen about whose turn it is to load the dishwasher because everyone is positive it’s not theirs—and we can’t remember who unloaded last. I need a chart. I’d like one that says: ‘Your mother is on strike. Pretend you are an adult for ten minutes and get your own lunch!’ I have clumps of bread dough sitting all over the kitchen because I’m trying to find a warm spot; I think the yeast is a dud. And there is yet another oil stain on the front of your polo that refuses to come out. No joke, it vaguely resembles the Mickey Mouse logo. Oh, and don’t get me started on what to do about supper tonight!”

Later, we sat down and talked about the frustration I felt when he called like that. That’s when I realized what “what’s going on” really means. It means, “I miss you. I miss the kids. I’m not there with you, and I know I’m missing out on everything. I want to be home. I want to be part of what’s going on there. So tell me. Tell me what I’m missing while I trade my time and my skills for a paycheck that keeps our family fed, clothed, and warmly protected.”

That’s when I got it. That’s when I realized I don’t need to be a phone person to say, “Let me tell you about the discussion we had after our Bible reading this morning,” or “Your daughter is hilarious! You should have heard what she said at lunch…” or just, “Sweetheart, this day is out of control, and this is why…”

It doesn’t mean I’ve figured out what to make for supper, or that Realm won’t be sporting Mickey Mouse ears across his abdomen. It means he’s part of the fiasco.

The Fairy Pearl

The Fairy Pearl had lost her step;
The path was overgrown.
The land she’d called her own for years
Had changed, was now unknown.
And hearts so dear had flown from here
And left her all alone.

Her body beat the dance of earth,
Her mind held tight to thought.
She dressed and combed her whitened hair,
From habit not forgot.
Her pale, fair skin grew loose and thin,
Her wit and ways did not.

In dreams she saw the morning dawn
And grew impatient then.
She could not charm the time away,
So long here had she been.
And so did she, so carefully,
Recount her past again.

She waited for the day to set,
The dusk to close her eyes,
The moon to bear her tattered threads
To unseen, distant skies.
For night brings day that souls await
With ageless, longing eyes.

With wings unfurled like birds of flight,
She took her last adieu.
Her eyes of blue, so quick and bright,
They lost their mortal hue.
With eyes she sees—not eyes like these—
Her God and friends anew.

For my grandmother, Margaret. (Her name means “Pearl.”)

Forever Appeal

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My grandma has gone on, and I keep thanking God that I had a short time to be with her before she died. I went to stay with her in December. I walked into her room and a potent smell practically choked me. It wasn’t a nice smell. It was laced with a strong disinfectant scent. People talk about the smell that they associate with the elderly in their last years, and how uncomfortable and unappealing it is. There were a good many things that were unappealing about my grandmother’s slow release from this life. The things that didn’t appeal to her were the hardest for me to watch her struggle through.

She was 93. So many of her friends had died already. She felt she did not connect with the younger generations who remained. She was restless to join her generation beyond this life. She spoke of death often, always with apologies and assurances to me. She knew it made me uncomfortable, but, for her, it was a subject she needed to talk to me about. She thought of death continually. She welcomed it because she had hope of what was to come. She didn’t know why God had allowed her to live to such a great age when the others of her childhood were either dead or not cognizant anymore. There were times she became despondent, wrapped up in her loneliness. There were times when she lashed out in anger, frustrated she wasn’t capable of changing her situation. There were times when she made subtle jabs, irritated with everyone and everything because she felt powerless. Why could no one do something to help her? Why had God chosen for her to stay when the people she loved were in a better place…without her?

My grandmother was a tiny, tiny woman. Not even five feet tall. The spirit in that tiny body was Amazonian. She had so much will and determination. She used to tell me stories of how she’d decide to do something, and if her husband gave the okay, she’d do it herself. She painted half of their house one day, getting a friendly neighbor to help her, while my grandpa was at work. He came home, shook his head, and grinned at her. He adored her. She adored him. I never knew my grandpa. He died when my mom was ten. My grandma never remarried. She told me many times that she’d never had the desire to remarry.

Your grandpa and I had a grand marriage. We understood each other. I thought about remarrying, but I was satisfied. That’s all.

She said it many times because I asked her many times. I wanted to hear it. For her to feel so satisfied with that one love, that one beautiful union, showed me how much a woman could be in love. She had more than one proposal, more than one opportunity to embark on a second marriage, but that had not appealed to her.

Last year, she lay in a hospital bed, day in and day out. For a woman who liked to be with people, this was the most unappealing of all. She was tortured by quietness. An entire wall and a portion of another were lined with shelves overhead, where all her books were stored. She read and she read and she read. She read until she was sick of books, sick of television, sick of that room, sick of the food and the sleep and the peace and quiet. But she could not get up and leave. It took her great effort just to shift her body to one side or to the other in the bed.

I would come into her room and talk to her. I wanted to talk to her, but it required me to speak in a strained, raised voice because she could not hear me otherwise. She ached to do something, to be involved. She hunted for anything that might be bothering me, and then she would try to fix it. It would become a matter she couldn’t let go of, regardless of my attempts to tell her it was okay. But I realized it wasn’t okay to her because she needed to be needed, and she needed me to let her help me.

When I first walked into that room, I was overwhelmed with the smell, with the things I needed to do to clean and care for my grandmother. But I’ve had children. I know that love does not spring from doing the pleasing things; it springs from doing the unappealing things borne of frailty and dependence. I began to crave the touch of her soft, wrinkled skin. I rubbed her motionless feet, so tiny and curled. And when I asked, “Do you want me to keep rubbing your feet?” her weak, muffled voice would come from the pillow, “All day long.” For a short moment, I brought her something that appealed. And now, she is in a place where she knows nothing but all that appeals to her. For that is Who God is. He is the Goodness Source. Nothing appeals without Him.

Cross-Eyed in Editing

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Let me talk about my writing. I haven’t done that in a while. I’ve noticed when writers blog about their writing in any detail my eyes glaze over. I like knowing what they are currently working on. I love knowing what their latest MSes are about, but I don’t want to read the details. You know, like what the main character is evolving into in the writer’s head or how the plot has taken an interesting detour. Hey, I’ve blogged about it, too. I know their pain, but I have my own details to slog through. So how do I tell you my struggles without boring you with something I know would bore me? Hm… I’ll give you one paragraph and let that be all.

burnt paper sxc (gerbra...)My manuscript Dragonfly Prince—the one I thought was the one? Yeah, that one. I’m ready to take it out of its binder and stomp on it. Or burn it. I’m not picky. It’s not a bad story, it just hates me. I think my decision to be rebellious and write my YA in third person was all wrong. It’s a whole lot of work to change it from third person to first person because perspective changes everything.

What if I go through all this trouble and it’s not right? Again.

Have you ever worked so long on something you can’t even distinguish what it really looks like anymore? I don’t want to give up, but this is the bazillionth edit. I still haven’t queried the manuscript! I want to do the best I can so I can say, “It’s done. Whether it’s accepted or not, it’s done.” It’s killer being a perfectionist…and an amateur.

Was that more than one paragraph? Oops. My frustration refuses to be contained in one paragraph today.

Photo from gerbrak at http://www.sxc.hu/profile/gerbrak.

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