My Short Play Making it to the Stage (Video Included!) & My Short Story Making it in the Finalist Category in a Writing Contest — All in One Week!

Book. Opened book with special light. Education

This week has been an amazing blessing from God.  I am so thankful for the gift of writing He has bestowed in me since childhood, that has been able to grow more than thirty years later.  As I have mentioned in past blog posts, I wrote a play for my creative writing class in 2015 when I was in my first year of online college at Southern New Hampshire University.  I had never written a play before.  It was really a screenplay at first.  I had to write something and had absolutely zero ideas of what to write.  I didn’t want to write something overdone, regurgitated too often, and for me, that meant a love relationship or some dire storyline.  But I couldn’t pull anything from my gray matter.  It sat there, lounging, out to lunch, not wanting to be present for this assignment.  So, I decided there was nothing else to do but to just start writing whatever came to my mind, no matter how stupid or incoherent.  Hey, it’s best to just get a gaggle of words down on the paper and worry about order and lucidity later.  In this process, I wrote ten pages of a play about nothing.  I named it “Falling Up Stairs” — the topic of the discussion in the play.  Ninety-eight percent of this play was written from a stream of consciousness, which tells you a lot about my brain’s functioning power to come up with ten pages of nothing.  The other two percent was making sure it made sense.  And lo and behold, it did.  What a relief!

I turned it in the week it was due, and shared it on the discussion forum the week after and got positive feedback from both my fellow students and professor.  They found my story funny and enjoyable.  This was good to know, not only grade wise, but that I was able to pull off a play that made some people laugh.  What a joy that is!

Fast forward to this past December when the director of artistic programming after several emails with me, set up a night for actors from the local theater in which she worked to read my two plays, “Falling Up Stairs” and “The Tricker’s Treat.”  Both plays came to life through these readings, and were enhanced by these actors’ brilliant jobs of reading with such animation and emotion.  I do hope that “The Tricker’s Treat” will come to the stage next fall.  God willing…!

And from that point, I signed up for the theater’s Open Mic night that was scheduled for January 20, 2018.  If you’ve ever seen the movie Noises Off with Michael Caine, Carol Burnett, John Ritter, and Christopher Reeve, you’ll understand me when I say I felt like Michael Caine’s character, Lloyd, the director of the play.  Yes, my nerves were just about as bad as his, worrying how the play would go down in front of the live audience, and wondering if the actors had their lines completely down.  I’m an anxious sort of person, so this wasn’t unusual or surprising.

Noises Off pic of Caine taking valium

Well, I fretted over nothing (which is usually the case).  My play was performed by these three fantastic actors to a receptive audience last night (January 20, 2018).  I couldn’t have been more proud of them and their great work, or more pleased.  I am so grateful to them for having agreed to act out my play, and I thanked them both verbally and with a small gift for their effort.  You can watch the performance on the video below.

On Thursday, January 18, I received an email from a publishing company who had ran a writing contest online back in November 2017.  I was informed that my short story, “Summer Memories” had been chosen as one of the twelve finalist pieces that they will include in their anthology of short stories for this year.  I can’t tell you how incredibly thrilled, but at the same time stunned, I was that my story had been chosen.  This past November had been the first time I’d entered any of my stories in writing contests. I entered three of my short stories in three different contests, and one of them was selected.  It’s nearly impossible to express the elation I have felt from this.  My work has been recognized by editors at a publishing company.  My work that I’d edited myself and submitted thinking I may have a chance, but if my work wasn’t chosen as a finalist or didn’t win, that was all right, too.  It was a great learning experience and helped me to overcome my fear of putting my work out there for people to read and examine.  The catalyst was turning my plays over to the director at the theater.  This was the first time I’d let those in a professional field (in this case, play related) read over my work.  It broke the huge wall of fear I’d constructed for the past two years.  This fear paralyzed my ability to make headway in my writing until last October when I sent my plays to this director who was so supportive and encouraging.  Things changed rather drastically after that.  It was as if God had opened the doors and windows ahead of me as I walked this path of mine, the writing path, the path I’d been given the gift to trek.

I now wait to work with this publishing company through further correspondence on what comes next for my short story in their anthology.  I look forward to it.

The video is under eight minutes.  Please share your thoughts after watching my play on what you liked about it, and if it made you laugh.

 

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From Arcade Antics to Estes Escapades

sports balls

If you read my previous blog post, “Two And a Half Years of Foosball Mania,” you’ll know that I grew up a tomboy, and I loved to play soccer, arm wrestle, and at times, get into tussles with boys.  Therefore, from our first blind date until we reached our early forties, my husband, Troy and I have contended with each other in the realm of sports.

On this first date, we met at a mall and after strolling around there and discussing foosball and pool, Troy drove us to a nearby arcade/pool hall to show each other what we were made of.  We both showed our competitive natures in battling on the foosball table, with which I had had previous experience, and Troy had little.  I won.  Then, we moved to the pool table and shot the cue ball around, knocking it off of striped and solid balls.  This time, he had more experience than I did, and he won.

pool table with balls.jpg

In between visiting each other’s churches at the time, we found another opportunity to wrangle with each other at my church’s pool party.  There was a badminton net in the patch of grass by the pool, and the rackets and birdies were there waiting for us.  Mind you, we were twenty-six years old, and puberty in my early teens had feminized me to where I had to shower every day, doll myself up everywhere I went, and attending the pool party was no exception.  But as soon as I picked up the racket and birdie and eyed Troy through the red net, the excitement of playing the game and beating him coursed through my veins.  It was as if the girly in me took a hike, and I was now the powerful, unstoppable badminton freak.  Never mind the diving to the ground for the shuttlecock, sweat pouring out of my head and body, I had to hit that blasted bird over the net!  While I was scurrying around my side of the grassy field, Troy was doing the same, scooping the birdie here, swatting it over there.  At times, though, he missed, and I giggled with glee.  But then I’d actually missed a few, and he snickered from his side.

badmitton rackets and birdie

I’m not sure who won that because we both mirrored our misses and hits, but we came away from that short-winded with grins on our glistening faces…well, one of us was glistening.  Troy always had the genes or advantage (whatever you want to call it) to not perspire in huge, salty drops down his face like I, unfortunately, do.  Let me tell you, I didn’t feel fresh or dry after that game, and it was in the middle of summer in northern Louisiana.  Yuck!

Flip the calendar to the summer of 1998 in Dayton, Ohio, in which we’d been married over a year.  Troy’s son, Stephen, came for a visitation, and we decided to head out to the nearby ball park to play some baseball.  It started out well enough, with each of us taking turns batting and catching and pitching.  By the way, Troy knew I could hit the ball because we’d played baseball in one of our rare non-competitive games while dating.  Stephen was in the infield waiting for the ball to come his way.  Troy threw me a nice underhanded pitch, and I swung the bat, making contact with the ball.  It blazed straight back at him–a line drive.  It slammed him in his chest.  He huffed, the wind knocked out of him, and I froze for a moment, wondering if he was going to keel over and die!  I walked over to him, afraid of what I’d done.  I asked if he was all right, and he nodded while rubbing his sore chest, and managed to say that he was okay.  Well, that ended the game for the day!

Baseball Equipment Laying on Grass

Later on, Troy showed me the round, black, blue, and green spot on his chest where the ball had hit him.  It missed his heart by inches!  Lord, have mercy!  That moment always freaked me out, but any time he would tell that story, he’d relay it with a smile and with pride on how well his wife could hit the baseball!

Another incident of competitive tussling in the same year was around Thanksgiving time when Troy’s mom, sister, and his mom’s boyfriend were visiting.  We were renting a house in a nice neighborhood in Fairborn, Ohio, when Troy was stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.  The house had a basketball pole and net cemented into the end of the driveway to the left of the one-car garage.  Somehow, while we were out there talking with his mother, et. al., the basketball surfaced, and there was immediately the pulling on shirt sleeves and collars and stumbling around the driveway, half dribbling, half committing holding fouls, as we tried to score two-pointers.  I think my mother-in-law thought we were nuts by the look on her face.  After some wrestling with the ball and running out of steam, Troy put the ball away, and we limped inside the house.

basketball and hoop

Between 1998 and 2008, there were skirmishes fought at the local skee ball and basketball hoop machines at fun centers.

Lastly, it was the summer of 2008 in Estes Park, Colorado.  We’d lived in Colorado Springs at that time.  We’d taken a four-day weekend to spend it in the majestic Rocky Mountains.    Our sons, Nicholas, was nine, and Christopher was six at the time.  On one of the afternoons, we all decided to go play miniature golf, ride the go karts, and then take several swings at the batting cages.  When we’d finished the uneventful miniature golf, we climbed into our go karts–Troy and Christopher were in one, Nicholas was in his own, and I was in my own.  This was one sport that we didn’t feel the need to contend, so we drove around the race track with ease, enjoying the experience.

Nicholas rode around the loop like a Sunday driver, relaxed, both hands on the wheel, pleased as punch.  Troy and Christopher rode around with a bit more zip and exhuberance.  I followed this pattern, although I was more concerned with keeping my kart from hitting anybody else’s.  But apparently, I’d accidentally hit the side of the track and someone bumped into my kart’s rear, and the next thing I heard was the PA speaker crackle on, and a male voice tell my kart number to not run into other karts, and if it happened again, I’d have to leave the track!  Well, you can imagine my irritation considering I’d not tried to hit anyone, so I carefully finished the last couple of laps when the male voice droned into the loud speaker that the ride was over.  Good!

mario kart

Troy and the boys climbed out of their karts when I did, and we walked toward the batting cages, in which the boys had zero interest.  Only Troy and I saw it as an opportunity to beat each other’s batting averages.

The boys wandered outside the batting cage, partly watching us gear up and enter ones next to each other, and partly pawing and studying the bats by the fence.  Before we’d put the quarters in to start the pitching machines, we did notice the huge gray storm clouds that had gathered and were looming over us, but that didn’t phase us.  Not even when the lightning, thunder, and rain began to gently come down.  Nicholas walked over to our cages as Troy and I continued to swing, telling each other how many balls we’d hit thus far.  He’d said something like, “Mom, Dad, it’s raining, and look at the lightning!”  We mumbled something back at him like, “Yeah, it’s fine.  We’ve got to finish up our balls the machine is pitching us.”  Nicholas and Christopher took cover under an awning near the batting cages, watching us with frowns.  As we held the “lightning rods,” as Troy likes to say with a laugh in the years that followed, we kept on swinging, twisting, and huffing, our aluminum bats hitting the balls with a loud PING! … until…

…The lightning got closer, the rain fell heavily, and the thunder let out a BOOM next to our cages.  Well, then, we decided we’d better hang it up, call it a day in the hall of fame of batting averages.

lightning 2

If it weren’t for back problems and carpal tunnel issues, we’d still be jostling today.  Cheers to those many years of marital vying in the sports arena!

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Claudia’s Corporate Calling

typist on old typewriter 1

 

In 2015, I wrote a short story called “Claudia’s Corporate Calling,” in which I challenged myself to write a character that is nearly the complete opposite of me.  It is a piece that is meant to be Silly, Humorous, and Fun.

~*~*~*~

I coasted through high school with confidence, unaffected by the self-conscious beast or the frenetic of fashion. You can imagine how much freedom I enjoyed in my secondary academic years. No suffering from bellyaches or trembling hands when presenting my history report to a class half asleep and half strangled with boredom. Really, did students give a fig about fleas infected with bubonic plague, flinging themselves upon unsuspecting, scruffy alley cats? I think not. So, I strolled with ease through the school’s huge halls. I possessed a plethora of friends who wished to adopt my indifference.

Boys were inconsequential. Their pathetic courting methods were comical. Who had time to get tangled up in dating when you strived to beat the stuffing out of your field hockey and volleyball opponents? When you had a superb classic novel to dive into in your literature class? Dream world yielded no authentic competition.

But, now in 1987, I had graduated and proceeded to prepare my life for a lucrative career.   I figured my two typing classes in tenth and eleventh grades would propel me to the top of the business world. I only had to attend the neighboring business college for two years to perfect it. My parents were avid supporters of my business education path. They saw me as the next president of the prestigious company, BEST.

In the fall, I started my first semester at the local business college. It had a name that oozed success—Bark Business College. Its double “B” title gave it a level of class.

The school required a dress code. No jeans, t-shirts, sneakers, tank tops, or mini skirts. I had no problem skipping the mini skirts and tank tops, but I struggled with the omission of jeans and sneakers.   I lived in those things. This meant that I had to purchase new clothes, such as dress slacks, dress shoes, or boat shoes, blazers, and skirts.   And not just any skirts or slacks. They needed to have the business look and be the correct colors: navy blue or black. Fortunately, for me, I didn’t have to wrestle with ties, but if I did, the school recommended power red, executive blue, or assertive yellow.

I ambled into the Typing I classroom and took a seat toward the front so I didn’t miss anything. Too easily, one could get discombobulated back there, swallowed up in the recesses of the darkened, cobwebbed corners and one’s own wandering mind.

Other students trickled in, claiming desks left and right. The desks all looked the same, but the typewriters varied in color. They were periwinkle gray, basic black, and classic white. The one on my desk was basic black, and that worked for me.

typewriter

The teacher glided into the room, her features resembling Glenda the Good Witch of the North from The Wizard of Oz. I sighed in relief. How fortuitous I was to have a good witch for my teacher instead of a bad one.

She stood next to her desk as a smile spread across her pink face. “Hello, everyone. This is Typing I, and I’m Ms. Beasley.” She scanned the room, making sure each of us locked eyes with her big blue ones. “We will be doing some timed typing tests to warm up. You should have gotten this book when you registered for the class. Please open it to page five.”

We all fumbled for our books. I set mine on my desk and flipped it open to the correct page. It sat up vertically, in the shape of a triangle, the spiral on top. I skimmed the one-minute timing test showing simple words in a simple paragraph. I already saw myself blazing through this test, leaving smoke rising from the keys.

“Ready? Go!” Ms. Beasley squeaked.

Everyone feverishly pounded on their typewriters—the whole room erupting in a symphony of clicks and clacks with intermittent dings. The constant humming of the machines enhanced my focus on the elementary school-level language in front of me. My fingers went off on their own, letting loose, bouncing over the keys with delight.

A bell rang, and we all immediately stopped. I began calculating my time as instructed. Hot salsa! The results were seventy-five words per minute, with the errors subtracted. That had to be a record. I was a killer typist already. I could only go up from here.

My second class was Shorthand I, and I wanted my writing to soar across the page just as nimbly as my fingers tapped on the keys of the typewriter.

I sat down in one of the desks toward the front. People filtered in, sitting down in various spots, some even daring to set themselves down in the shadowy abyss of the back of the classroom. They had both courage and super sonic hearing.

The teacher walked into the classroom, resembling nobody but herself. She gave us a friendly, buck-toothed grin. “Hello, class. I’m Ms. Betz. This is Shorthand I, and we will be working on learning the short cut method of writing so that you can take dictation quickly from your future bosses,” she explained, bobbing her head like that famous sipping bird from decades ago.

bobbing drinking bird

We jumped right in, studying the strange cryptic marks in our books. No worries, though. I could still see familiar letters in there. By next week, I’d have this all memorized. My memory was phenomenal.

My last class was English. A few folks were already in their chairs when I swept into the room. It was all good because they graciously left me the desk in the front row all the way to the left. My view of the large chalkboard was unobstructed. Written on it in pretty curly letters was the teacher’s name: Ms. Farnsworth. The “F” in her name flowed on the board with such elegance and ornamentation that you could barely take your eyes off of it. It must have been a regulation that all English teachers were required to have exquisite handwriting.   I would never be an English teacher. But what did that matter? I was going to be the fastest typist ever.

Ms. Farnsworth appeared at the door to the room and grinned, wearing large owl glasses an inch thick. She sashayed to the board and pointed to her name. “Hello, class. I’m Ms. Farnsworth, and this is English I. We will be learning all of the basic and not so basic grammar rules to eventually write excellent business letters. Let’s get started by opening our language arts book to page ten.”

We all did as she said, and my eyes glazed over staring at the information on the page. Nothing bored me more than learning for the fifth time, subjects and predicates.

This class passed by about as fast as a turtle crawling across glue. This was all review, and I was happy when it was time to pack up and exit the room.

My first day went exceptionally well. In two years, I’d graduate and be on the rapid path to working as President at BEST.

* * *

The semester sailed by, and I glided on the waves with superior skill. The subsequent semester flew by, and I streamed through the clouds with style and grace. Soon, the final year sped by, and I, too, rode that track with excellence.

Then came graduation day where I paraded to the podium for my fantastic degree, turning toward the enthusiastic crowd, an ocean of smiles. And all those smiles were for me. They knew I was to be the next President of BEST.   I had so much potential.

When it was time for my interview with BEST, the interviewer was awed by my typing prowess, but said she needed something more than what I possessed. There wasn’t anything I lacked for the position, so I traveled to the President’s office and conversed with him. He was surprised to see me, but when I dazzled him with my pristine academic achievements and businesslike acumen, he hired me on the spot.

corporate office building

Three years later, I’d taken the President’s job and fulfilled my destiny.  I had become the perfect President of BEST.

 

~*~*~*~

 

Do you remember the days of typing on an electric typewriter? 

 

 

 

Sunny, Balmy Florida: Home to Beautiful Beaches, Retirees, and Many Bugs

Florida beach

Florida is the beach person and retiree’s paradise. You can roll out of your lounge chair by the Gulf shore and stroll right into the tepid, azure water without turning blue or purple, or having your teeth chatter so much, you wonder if they’ll shatter into a million pieces and come cascading out of your mouth. You remember scolding yourself for not putting in your biteguard when participating in previous ocean adventures up North.  But with Florida’s warm waves, who needs the teeth protector?

In Florida, you get to wear shorts year round, even on Christmas Day. This is the one time during the year where you really feel in sync with your Aussie friends, who are surfing the rolling waters Down Under on Christ’s birthday.

surfer in australia

While your Northern buddies are scraping ice off their cars’ windows and shoveling two feet of snow, you’ve thrown away your shovel. No more back breaking snow removal labor for you!

You get to enjoy hot, sticky weather for approximately nine months out of the year, and mild weather the other three. You watch with interest, the pine needles trickle down and litter the grass in your back yard, and nod in relief and pride that your palm tree doesn’t shed thousands of colored leaves.

As for those nasty bugs, and there are oodles of them – many of which you probably will never see in the other forty-nine states – the bug terminator comes once a month to every three months to spray copious amounts of toxic chemicals to make sure all those creeping critters are deader than a tree stump. Once and a while during the summer months, truck-sized cockroaches manage to dodge the toxic fumes and enter your home looking for refuge. But you take care of the uninvited visitors with a can of Raid from your kitchen cabinet under the sink, or the one just outside the kitchen door that leads to your garage. The grotesque, hard-shelled vermin may have escaped death outside your house, but they met it inside.

On occasion, a large, hairy wolf spider will find its way into your abode, and sometimes she is carrying millions of babies on her fuzzy back. Of course, you don’t realize this when you go to squirt it with your trusty hair spray to stop it in its tracks since she is wandering about your toddler’s bedroom. Before you can set the can of aerosol down, her mini wolfies jump ship and spread across your child’s carpeted floor like angry ants on a mound. You begin to stomp around the room doing a type of flamenco dance. If only the proper music accompanied it. Surely, it would have aided in your crushing all the wolfies.

flamenco dancer

After you’ve finished your performance, you collect the vacuum and let it do the rest of the work in disposing of hairy, brown mama and her wolfies. Once this task is done, remorse shakes your insides and a tinge of guilt bites you right in your stomach, just below your beating heart, realizing the genocide you’ve committed on a whole family of wolf spiders. Ah, but this state of being is short lived, and you move on to the rest of your day of cleaning the house.

Every evening, you make sure to wash all the dishes in the sink and put away all food remnants from dinner because you remember the first couple of post dinner evenings when you moved into your home.  You had placed the scooped out casserole dish in the sink and filled it with a bit of water and realized the next morning that this was a playground for the cockroaches at 2 a.m.

Each year, you brace yourself for the summer months with its stifling heat and horrific humidity, as well as being greeted by different groups of insects every few weeks, that would surface in your backyard, front porch, garage, and occasionally, your humble home. As summer roles by, you’ve enjoyed your trips to the nearby seashore, and then hunker down inside your air-conditioned house for the onslaught of August in all its sweltering brilliance. You make short trips to the local grocery store, dodging the no-see-ums nipping at your skin.

When the end of August and early September arrive, you grunt at the love bugs congregating on your car’s windshield, grill, and hood. But these amorous critters are of little concern to you. A turn of the key in the car’s ignition and the swish of the windshield wipers send the pairs off to other more suitable areas to copulate, such as your front porch.

love bugs

Ah, but what great fun those toad-stranglers — also called thunderstorms – are in Florida. Why, the lightening is spectacular, and the curtain of rain you see falling in what was your backyard only lasts an hour or so. Once the excitement ends, you are able to see your lawn again, puddles and all.

In between the rainy days, you can golf year round!  Never mind the alligators sunning themselves near the water hazards and holes on the golf course.  Just be careful not to slug the gator with your ball.  Hit around him and go on you way.

alligator on golf course

Since you’ve retired in Florida, someone comes to mow your lawn, which is another perk in living in this state. This advantage saves you from venturing out to retrieve your mower from the shoddy shed where you find a queen termite and her termite pack dining on its dilapidated wood.  Most importantly, the mowing service saves you hours of sweat, dehydration, searing stings from angry fire ants strategically nestled in your backyard’s sandy ground, and the no-see-ums’ numerous bites.  This is what retirement is about!

Every place has some type of natural disaster, so you pick what you can live with. The year-long mild and hot climate, the beautiful Gulf water and Atlantic Ocean, the tropical vegetation, and no state income tax for retirees keep you in the Sunshine State to live out the rest of your existence on earth in moderate contentment. Cheers.