Friday, December 16, 2011

Fun Friday: You Got Me WHAT???

Happy Friday, Dear Readers!

Yes, I've resurrected Fun Friday. This week, I want to know about the worst gift you ever received. You don't have to name names, and let's face it--the person who got you that horrible thing is not reading this blog! (I'm not that popular, so your secret will be relatively safe with me.)

It's the thought that counts, of course, but what if that thought was seriously wrong? I've gotten some disappointing gifts over the years-everything from ugly hand knitted slippers that didn't fit from my well-intentioned grandmother to a coffee maker with a selection of coffees from a friend who knew I don't drink coffee. Her explanation? "Well, you might have someone come over who wants coffee." Um, thanks. The worst gift I received as a child was a lace dickey. I didn't even know what it was, until my mother explained that you wore them with plain sweaters to make them look fancier. Did I ever tell you I was a tomboy? A lace dickey I did not need.

But one guy I dated took the proverbial cake. Almost every gift he gave me was so hideous or misguided that I was afraid to open it. He seriously challenged my acting abilities. For our first Christmas, I received a rusted elephant sculpture. This lovely hunk of rusted metal (with orange flakes falling off it periodically) was supposed to stand by itself, and was the size of a small dog. It resembled a shapeless blob more than anything, and it kept falling over, scaring my cat and gouging the hardwood floors. Lovely.

The following year, it was a vase in a wire pedestal that was lovingly designed to incorporate all of the world's ugliest colors: puke yellow, booger green, and our old favorite--rust. What was with this guy's obsession with rust? Again, the finish flaked off when you touched it, and the pedestal's legs were crooked. I threw an ivy plant in it, and that actually made it look okay, until it rotted out and fell apart. Problem solved!

Deciding he'd done enough to decorate my living room, he turned his attention to my bathroom. I love baths, so for some reason he though I must need a new bathroom set. (I don't know about guys, but I'm sure most of the women who read this like to pick their own colors, and probably already have their home the way they like it. This guy didn't know that.) So, to replace my lovely teal-and-aqua bathroom accessories, he bought me a plastic jungle-themed shower curtain, a set of forest green towels, and every gadget you could possibly imagine for softening one's feet.

"I hope you don't think that I think there's anything wrong with your feet," he said. "I just thought these would be nice to have."

Translation: he went to the Bay's bathroom department and bought everything they have. And I do mean everything! I'm surprised he didn't get me one of those scary razor-type things that remove calluses.

Thankfully, The Boy is a much better gift-giver!

What's the worst present you ever received?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Fuzzy Purple Gorilla

If you're a writer, you've probably been told "show, don't tell" at least once. And probably a lot more than once. As tempting as it is to lay it out for our readers up front, it makes for a better story if we show them that a character has a certain personality trait through their actions, instead of through our words.

Isn't that how we find out who people are in the real world? Think about politicians, for example. They all claim to be upfront, honest, and "for the people", but their actions often paint a very different picture.

Our first impressions are also often deceiving. Twice this year I thought a person didn't like me, only to find out later that she was just shy and reserved. And yesterday, I received even more evidence that our first impressions of people are often wrong.

A woman got on my crowded bus, and made her way to the back. She was well-dressed and very polished, with a short, fashionable haircut. She appeared stern and very serious, and looked for all the world like a business woman who had no sense of humour. But then I saw her purse.

Hanging from her bag was a little fuzzy purple gorilla. It wasn't garish--in fact, if you weren't looking for it, you probably wouldn't know it was there. I only saw it because I was sitting while she was standing, so the fuzzy primate was at my eye-level. But a woman who has something like that hanging from her purse definitely has a sense of humour. This one little embellishment completely changed my impression of who this woman was.

And that got me thinking about the characters we create. Is there a fuzzy purple gorilla equivalent we could use to make our own characters come to life? To speak volumes with one small detail? What details have you used to make a character seem real?

I'm interested in your thoughts. All comments welcome!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Confession Time

It's December, and so it's time to admit it, once and for all.

I love Christmas. I do...all of it. The incessant carols, the busy rushing gift-buying madness, the crazy schedules, the decorating, the excitement of the big day and wondering whether your loved ones will like what you got them.

Yes, I realize Christmas is too commercial. But I don't give a (insert word of your choice here). I love to stretch my creative legs, trying to come up with the perfect gift for everyone on my list. Sometimes it's homemade, sometimes it's store-bought, and sometimes it's a combination of the two. I love seeing faces light up, and that's the best part of the holiday for me.

I also love indulging in holiday tasks. Should I be kickboxing? Probably. Do I have a novel that needs rewriting? And more novels to write? Definitely. But screw it, that's waiting until January while I bake eight different kinds of cookies to give away. Whew! (I also made peppermint ice-cream.)

I've never really gotten over the whole anticipating-Christmas-morning childlike excitement I had when I was a kid (probably because I don't have kids myself). My parents still fill a ridiculously-over sized Christmas stocking for me, and I serve as their personal shopper as I also fill the stockings for them. It's one of the only occasions where being an only child is a good thing. :) Once I come back home to the city, The Boy and I will celebrate Christmas #2, with shared stories, love and laughter, and yes, more Christmas stockings and probably too many gifts. But it's the first Christmas that we've both been out of debt in awhile, so we're splurging a little. We'll get back to the tightfisted budget in...yep, you guessed it--January. (And no, we're not going back in debt for Christmas. That would NOT be cool.)

Wrapping presents, visiting friends and family (oh, if only people made such an effort to spend time together throughout the year), watching cheesy holiday movies, and gazing at the lights on our (environmentally friendly artificial) tree for doesn't get much better than that. It almost makes winter worth it. Almost.

I never thought I would be the type of person who would own singing penguins wearing Santa hats. But there you have it--I do. (And everyone secretly loves them, even though they pretend to be above it all.)

Happy holidays, everyone! If you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa (or whatever, really--I'm not fussy), what's your favorite tradition/activity?

Friday, December 9, 2011

All The News That's Fit to Cry Over

Hello Dear Readers,

Is it just me, or are you finding Facebook really depressing these days? It used to be a pretty whimsical site, full of funny posts and amusing observations, with the added bonus of reconnecting with people you really love.

Maybe it's just the Friends I have, who tend to be very intelligent, issue-conscious people, but lately all I see are posts, links, and comments about how the government is going to hell in a hand basket; animal species that are starving, going extinct, being needlessly slaughtered or otherwise suffering; children that are missing or murdered, and that all time favorite--how we continue to kill the planet.

Enough, already!

Of course I'm aware of these issues. Of course I think it's important that everyone is aware of these issues. But do I like logging on to my newsfeed, only to see bloody photos of murdered kittens? Hell, no. (That last one is a real example that left me crying at work.)

I don't know about you, but this overload of depressing, we're-all-going-to-hell-and-there's-nothing-you-can-do-about-it posts are getting me down. I know about the problems, but what about the solutions? What can I do to save the polar bears? Or to protect our water? Or to stop idiots from poaching rhinos? Or to keep the city I live in from being the murder capital of Canada again? Please tell me, because I really do want to know.

One tip from the corporate world could really work here: if you bring up a problem, have a solution in mind. That will keep everyone focused on the positive, and stop people who already care about these issues from feeling incredibly helpless.

It almost (I said almost, people!) makes me long for the days when Facebook was all about status updates like this:

A mom thinks about her kids even if they're not with her.

♥ A mom loves her kids in a way that they will never understand (until they have their own!).
♥ A mom will be there for her kids when no one else will.
♥ A mom loves her kids even when they neglect and hurt her.
♥ A mom will catch a grenade, take a bullet, stand in front of a train, & ask God to take her instead of her child....
♥ A mom loves her kids to the moon and back and more! xoxox ♥
♥ If you are a mom and have a child or children whom you love more than anything in this world, copy and paste this to your status!!!!

In the meantime, as you shop for holiday gifts, consider putting your hard earned cash towards a worthy cause (or one that will resonate with the recipient of your gift). The World Wildlife Federation has some cute ones. This won't save the world, or resurrect any murdered kittens, unfortunately, but it's a start.