Friday, December 21, 2012

The Next Big Thing (Writers Meme): Elena Edition

I took this meme idea from Kat at Just Another Pretty Farce. She says that you're supposed to post this on a Wednesday. Well, I'm breaking that rule (what's so special about Wednesday anyway??).

1) What is the title of your next book/work?
Right now, my novel is titled When We Are Gone, because it's about legacies — how what we live (what we say and do) leaves behind something for the people we influenced and for those we never knew. I plan to explore the legacies that are the characters in the present time (of the book) as well as what those characters themselves desire to leave behind. And not merely material legacies — more about relationships than about tangible inheritances (although that somewhat plays a part).

2) Where did the idea come from for the book/work?
I'm a bit embarrassed to admit this, but I think it was either a writing prompt I found online or a result of one of those story generators (also found online).

3) What genre does your book/work fall under?
Good question. Fiction, of course, but not literary fiction... and not strictly fantasy either.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I'm with Kat on this. I don't really see my book yet as movie-worthy. I like her idea of a mini series or a two-season special series on television. And I think getting an unknown to play the lead female would be best.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
When the librarian Gaspar Gruber, who lives a hermit's life in the cave that houses the library, must open his home to a young woman entrusted to his guardianship, he discovers that his solitary existence is not as desirable as he had thought; together they learn the difference between a legacy of absence and a legacy of presence and love and uncover the origins of the library and its cavernous home. {Yeah, the meme doesn't specify how short that sentence must be!}

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I'm not that far yet either. I have to finish the rough draft first!

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Um, still working on that.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I was inspired by the Myst books, so... maybe a wee little like those?

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
For decades now, I have found poetry much easier to write than stories (whether short or long). I challenged myself to write a novel, and also it was my 2008 attempt at NaNoWriMo.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
Good question!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

I *Heart* Coffee

My tower of creamers at a friend's 40th birthday party at Logan's Roadhouse

I love coffee. And I'm not ashamed of it.

Yeah, yeah, I know: it's addictive; it can make your heart race; it can dehydrate you. I don't care.

My first experience with the brew of the glorious bean was at a gathering of the Ladies of Philosophy at Sunset Grill, over dessert. I don't remember if it was a flavored coffee, an espresso, or a regular cup, but I do know that it had creamer and sweetener. And that's how I take my coffee now.

The "Java Junkie" fairy, by artist Karen Rossi
{Photo of my collectible, in my office}

Friday, April 13, 2012

Happy Birthday, lil' blog!

Eight years ago today, which is akin to an eon in blogosphere years, I started this blog. Because I began in the era of snarktasticness (and before niche-blogging and Twitter), because I wanted an outlet for my writing and my goofy sense of humor, and because I just could, I wrote about whatever I felt like saying... and tried to do it with a lot of humor (most of the time). But eventually I realized that the snark was taking over, and as a born-again follower of Jesus Christ, I felt that I was not serving my Savior and Lord well and not adding value to the online community. So I hit "pause" on blogging. {Plus, I'm sure that part of it was RLTB — real life trumps blogging — going on. Aaaaand maybe some writer's block too.}

I still am not sure what this blog is supposed to be about, other than my thoughts, reflections, writing exercises, humor, and faith... and now makeup! (Haha.) I do know that I am going to continue to resist posting rants about Nashville traffic; my daily commute to work usually could provide fodder for much ranting, but who wants to read all that negativity? Plus, I need to extend grace to my fellow commuters. I'm sure I drive some of them bonkers with my style of driving.

Anyway, here be this blog, and here be me. And maybe I'll start sharing more about who the gal behind the "Elena" moniker really is. Especially now that I've revealed my face to the world (urm, to all four of you blog readers [ha!]).

Thank you for reading, friends. :)

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The Big Reveal: the real-deal Elena (FotD)

Psst... a secret that you blog readers (all four of you) probably didn't know about me: I'm a makeup junkie!! I've gotten into watching YouTube tutorials, expanding my collection, and trying looks I wouldn't have tried years ago. Nothing garish (I hope), but definitely more varied than the same-makeup-look-every-day-to-work thing.

So... here's my FotD (face of the day). {And yes, I know that my photography skillz are sorely lacking. But hey, this was just a PhotoBooth session. No hatin'! ;) }

^^^ missing the glasses (I've run out of contacts and need to reorder), earrings, and lip products (this was taken at the end of the work day)...

^^^ after reapplying gloss and lipstick and putting the glasses and earrings back on

Products Used

~ Aveeno moisturizer - over entire face
~ Hard Candy Sheer Envy face primer - also over entire face
~ Revlon Age Defying DNA Advantage Cream Makeup – 15 Tender Beige – liquid foundation
~ Rimmel Stay Matte Pressed Powder – 001 Transparent
~ Too Faced Chocolate Soleil Matte Bronzing Powder with Real Cocoa – Original Chocolate – for face contouring
~ Rimmel Lasting Finish Blendable Powder Blush & Highlighter – 008 Spring Flower – cheek contouring
~ Milani Minerals Blush – Sweet Rose – apples of cheeks
~ Physician's Formula Happy Booster Glow & Mood Boosting Powder – Translucent – above brow bone, down top of nose, Cupid’s bow, cheek bones, jawline
~ Revlon PhotoReady Concealer – 002 Light – in a couple of spots

~ Palladio Herbal Eyeshadow Primer {I've not used any other eye primer yet, so I don't know if this is better or not as good as the high-end brands [Two Faced Shadow Insurance and Urban Decay's Primer Potion being two of the most popular].}
~ Rimmel Glam’eyes Trio Eyeshadow – 750 Tempting – light green shade over entire lid and up into crease
~ Sally Girl eyeshadow – Lilac – inner part of “hood” of eye
~ Sally Girl eyeshadow – Eggplant – midde part of “hood” of eye
~ Sally Girl eyeshadow – Midnight – outer part of “hood” of eye
~ Sally Girl eyeshadow – Fairy Pink – under eyebrow
~ Rimmel Soft Kohl Kajal Eye Liner Pencil – 07 Pure White – around tearduct area
~ Physician’s Formula Custom Eye Enhancing Eyeliner Trio: Smoky Eyes – Charcoal - under bottom eyelashes
~ Physician’s Formula Custom Eye Enhancing Eyeliner Trio: Brown Eyes – Purple – middle 2/3 or so above upper eyelashes
~ Physician’s Formula Custom Eye Enhancing Eyeliner Trio: Smoky Eyes – Black – outer 1/3 of area above upper eyelashes
{Note: I used only a sponge-tip applicator and my fingers for the shadows! Left my brushes at home. Oops! But hey, it turned out well. Yay!}
~ Almay One Coat Get Up & Grow - 010 Blackest Black - mascara

~ Bonnie Bell LipLites – Strawberry – lip gloss
~ Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick – 450 Gentlemen Prefer Pink – lipstick on top of gloss
{Note: I layered the lipstick over the gloss, which is the reverse of what I usually do, for two reasons: (1) the color payoff on the gloss wasn't quite what I wanted for this look, and (2) the lipstick's color was a bit muted by being on top of the gloss rather than being the first on the lips. I was pleased with the result.}

I know, I know: sounds like a lot of products. Yes, it used to take me an hour to do this much work on my face, but I'm getting the hang of it and have accomplished reducing the time to about 30 minutes or so. To me, for the results I get, the time is worth it. Problem is that I don't do this every day. But that's one of my goals. (Some gals like makeup; other gals don't. And that's okay. I happen to like it and how it makes my face look.)

So... yeah, that's me. Well, my head. I'm not promising any full-length shots right now! Hahaha!

¡Hasta luego! :D

Friday, February 10, 2012

Raising Cain

For whatever reason, I was up at about 3:00 a.m. on January 13, 2006, and since I had left the TV on PBS, an interesting program was airing at that hour: Raising Cain, about the ways boys develop into men and about the challenges and rewards of raising boys to manhood.

I think all parents, educators, and church leaders should watch this program. We have misunderstood, neglected, and ignored boys and men for too long.

The emotional "divide" between men and women does not arise from women's having emotions and men's having none. That's a myth and is erroneous. {And I just heard all the male readers yell, "Duh!!"} Men feel just as strongly as women do; but men communicate, express, and channel their emotions differently than women do. Societal pressures direct men to stifle their emotions, cover them up with bravado, or transfer them to anger. Because we have long sent the message that men are not allowed to express—let alone feel—the emotions traditionally labeled as "feminine," we taught have our young men and boys that lashing out is OK.

An interesting aspect of boys' development that is tackled by the documentary is how boys' imaginative play differs from girls'. And that difference can be startling and frustrating to parents and teachers. Michael Thompson, Ph.D., host of the documentary and co-author of the book Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Lives of Boys, speaks to the concern that adults often have about what they observe in boys—a fascination with violence. He says that it's a valid concern "because no one wants their son to grow up to be violent. But interpreting play as an early indicator of violence is a misunderstanding both of the nature of boy activity and the real journey to violence that some boys undergo." So we can relax, at least a little, when our boys are playing war games, cops & robbers, and superheroes.

The PBS Parents Guide for this program included this interesting explanation:
Fantasy play is not aggressive. A common boy fantasy about killing bad guys and saving the world is just as normal as a common girl fantasy about tucking in animals and putting them to bed. "Most boys will pick up a pretzel and pretend to shoot with it," comments teacher Jane Katch. "If a boy is playing a game about superheroes, you might see it as violent. But the way he sees it, he's making the world safe from the bad guys. This is normal and doesn't indicate that anything is wrong unless he repeatedly hurts or tries to dominate the friends he plays with. And sometimes an act that feels aggressive to one child was actually intended to be a playful action by the child who did it. When this happens in my class, we talk about it, so one child can understand that another child's experience may be different than his own. This is the way empathy develops."

Not too long before I watched the show (almost five years ago), I myself had experienced this kind of situation. At church, after concluding an activity with the 4th-through-6th-grade kids in my class, which included art materials, some of the boys continued making things with the paper and tape. One boy wanted me to help him refine his object—help him make the tube thinner and add a cone at the end. I didn't put it together that he wanted to make it a spear, until the final product took shape. I feel a little twinge in my stomach. Was I being an irresponsible Bible study teacher? Was I promoting or condoning violent behavior? Was I contributing to some coming misbehavior? What would my fellow teacher think?

The other boy had made a machete, and actually, I was impressed by the way he kept working on the details of his object, to make it look more and more authentic. He lopped off a few corners to give it more of that "machete" look.

My fellow teacher and I took the kids out in the hall, to continue waiting for parents to pick them up. The two boys commenced a play fight. I felt as if I should be offended or scandalized or something. Was my co-teacher expecting me to tell them to stop? I didn't tell the boys to stop. I monitored them, for the words they were using, for their attitudes, and for anything that might be disrespectful to the fact that we were in God's house. They were just pretending, having fun. I couldn't tell if they were enjoying being the evil guy or being the hero. I don't even remember what movie or TV show or comic strip they were mimicking.

You know, I missed an opportunity to praise those boys. Yes! Praise them! Think about it—how many kids today will take ordinary materials and make something out of them? How many kids exercise their imaginations to much of an extent? True, they didn't come up with their own characters and storyline—they borrowed from what they knew. But the point is that they were expressing themselves both physically and artistically. And there was emotional expression there too, if I had only talked with them about what they liked about pretending to be these fantasy fighters.

I also missed an opportunity to point them back to the Scriptures. Who in the Bible used a spear? David. What is the Bible called in Ephesians? A sword. See? We don't have to be squeamish about the things of fighting and war.

In his book Wild at Heart, John Eldredge points out that the big Question {Eldredge capitalizes the word—can you feel the resonance and the looming significance of a question that your entire being was made to ask?} of the male being is "Do I have what it takes?" And Eldredge explains that men are looking for a challenge to face, an enemy to conquer, and an adventure to pursue. (And there is also the damsel to rescue. *grin*) It's all related to the physical, to competition, to action and achievement.

And good thing too... Because if only women existed in the world (and we could reproduce asexually...or something), we'd have this big drum circle and sing-along, but not too much would get done. Unless you count faboo shoes and terrific jams and jellies and such. OK, just kidding. (I know, I know: gender stereotyping, Elena.)

I believe that boys and men are hard-wired to be this way—to battle, to compete, to seek to win, to vanquish—to varying degrees, of course, and with different manifestations of this. And that we teachers do our male students a disservice when we assume that every action a boy makes is meant to hurt another. We need to seek to understand the kids we teach, whether they be boys or girls.

And as teachers, we can help both boys and girls channel their thoughts and energies into constructive, helpful directions. This takes time. Not just time inculcating whatever content it is we have to impart... but also time getting to know the child, understanding what makes him tick, allowing her to ask questions, and asking the child follow-up/clarifying questions. And listening. A lot of listening.

As I am back into the swing of another semester of Bible Drill, I am challenging myself as a teacher to be more fully "present in the present" when I am teaching... especially these preteens who are in such a key transitional time of their lives.

I'll let you know how the adventure goes!