Monday, March 24, 2008

Writing Exercise

This Sunday in Relief Society, the teacher asked us to write down one of our goals in life. Not like the eternal kind, but more like an ambition we've had. She then asked us what we're doing to make that goal a reality. I had written down that I would like to someday write a book and I realized I'm really not doing much to develop myself as a writer. I always have big plans for a huge novel, but I haven't done much to improve my skills. I just want to be good NOW and write a book NOW and be done with it. But that lesson helped me see I need to change some things so today I decided to start some writing exercises. The following is a response to a prompt I found on a creative writing website. The prompt was basically, What would have happened if the Ugly Stepsister got the shoe instead of dear Cinderella? The following is my take on it. Please, I would love any feedback you have, positive or negative. I'd love to hear from everyone.


He was a prince among men but, if I'm honest, not the smartest man I'd ever met. Handsome? Of course, as well as princely, dashing, and charming. But clever, he was not. That shoe plan was beyond ridiculous. That any man could think that the woman he'd "fallen in love with" was so unique that there was not a part of her even remotely similar to another woman (down to her shoe size!) was sweet but misguided. How that girl ever could have fallen in love with him makes me question her sanity. But his lack of common sense gave me my chance, so I shouldn't complain.

We hatched the plan together, my sister and I; even as Mother hatched hers. We were clever and conniving. She was only conniving. She was certain the prince would fall for one of us, but we knew which sister that would be. And we could not let that happen. I wanted to take care of my sister, and she wanted to take care of me. Our intention was never to hurt our other sister, not really—we knew she could never be with the prince. It wasn't her station in life and she'd never have been able to take advantage of it. I know she hates us for what we've done, but I think she'll forgive us in time. I hope so. She is dear to us, whatever she may think.

The night of the ball, it was really more of a game for us than anything else. Mother spent so much time getting me ready, making me eye-catchingly, dazzlingly beautiful. She barely left us to ourselves. But when she did, we giggled and teased about what would happen if our plan actually worked. We had no idea things would go so smoothly. The shoe dropped on the stairs, just as we'd planned: a little clue left behind that could easily lead to a different sister. He had called out just a moment before, "Your name please, good lady! Grace me with your name!" But when the shoe fell, the name was forgotten, and the prince triumphantly hatched his plan—our plan, so recklessly laid that we had never dreamed it would truly happen. But it did.

He came to our home the very next day. Perhaps the prince was not so guileless as we had previously presumed. I worried that whole night that he would not pursue the shoe, or if he did that he would too soon find a woman that matched its shape. Surely there were dozens whose foot it would fit. I wonder now whether he didn't follow the carriage, he found us so quickly. The knock came and the royal announcer shouted his decree. Mother was so overwhelmed, the poor woman nearly fainted and had to be led to a chair. The prince kindly bowed to her, and in that hurried moment, I looked into my sister's eyes. Could we really go through with this? I reached out and gripped her hand in mine, my uncertainty causing me to tremble. But she squeezed back firmly and sat resolutely on the stool the page proffered. She looked in my eyes as if to say, We have done what is right. Don't change your mind now.

Soon all of us were seated primly on the stools, three maidens in a row. The prince bowed before our ignorant sister, taking her ankle softly in his hand to slide the graceful slipper on. Her face was so eager, I felt terrible she did not know of our plan. The shoe would not fit her, we had made sure of that, and I could see in her face that her heart was breaking as he wrenched the shoe quickly from her foot. She had danced with him that night, had looked into his eyes and seen her future. But in this she was no different from the other naïve women at the ball. She did not see what fate she escaped.

He knelt before me then, and I bit my lip apprehensively. What if it didn't work? What if the prince was not fooled? Would he look into my face? But he did not. He was intent upon my foot. I trembled as his hands gripped my ankle; they were firmer than I had expected. There was so much foolish confidence in his grasp, a surety that his plan could not fail. He will know, I worried desperately, though there was nothing to do about it now. He will know, he will look into my face and he will see me, recognize me. Surely he will know me?

He slipped the shoe quickly from my foot when he saw the space it afforded my ankle. I was not to be his princess. I sighed, relieved, but he did not notice as he quickly moved on to the last sister.

My dear, beloved sister who though only a stepsister was closer to me than my own heart, smiled almost imperceptibly as the prince reached out to try the shoe. She was certain it would fit; it was her shoe after all. The prince's eyes lit up, thinking he had found the one for whom he had sought. I did not pity him, though we had deceived him. He didn't know how lucky he was. Instead of a bride whose heart belonged to another, he would have a bride whose heart beat singularly for him. I smiled in triumph at the way we had worked out our fates, my sister and I, despite all the forces that fought against us, not the least of which had been Mother.

From the day she married my father, my step-mother saw not my beauty but how she could use it to suit her ends. I do not know if she loved me; I doubt she loved even her own daughters. She overlooked their loveliness, belittled them and ridiculed them constantly. She called them ugly, but they were not. They were beautiful and graceful creatures with hearts so pure and kind, they could have all the happiness the world offers, but Mother could not allow it. I believe now that she saw her own failures in them: They were her daughters, and so they carried with them the taint of her broken dreams. But I was my father's daughter, as yet pure of the pollution of her many disappointments. In her eyes, I was her best chance at satisfying the wishes of her heart. She did not see that those wishes were mirrored in the heart of my sister, and it never came to her mind that I might have my own dreams to pursue, my own heart to satisfy.

At Mother's behest, I had danced with the prince. She had trained me for it nearly my whole life, had saddled me with her own ambitions. Obediently, I charmed and flattered him in the way that Mother had taught me to trap and beguile every would-be suitor. And he had fallen for me. I knew he had, for when I turned to leave the dance floor his arm around my waist tightened and his eyes begged me not to go. And when my feet defied his eyes, he used his lips—begging me aloud not to leave him. I ran, he pursued. The too-big shoe I had borrowed from my sister slipped from my foot onto the steps as I ignored his beseeching for my name. I smiled to myself as I dashed into the carriage. He would not have it, he would never have my name—nor my heart.

Our mother called me 'Ella, short for Bella, the beautiful one. But I called myself Cinderella, a girl whose dreams had been in ashes. Until my sister saved me.


Ok, now that you've read it, I want you to know that if you felt confused--that was actually intentional. Sorry I know that's disconcerting, but the idea was to make the story sound as if it were actually the two stepsisters plotting to steal the shoe from Cinderella. As the course of the narrative unfolds, especially near the end, you see that it is actually Cinderella herself talking, and that she and one of her sisters have planned a way for Cinderella to escape the fate of marrying a prince she does not love. So I played with the relationships in the typical story we all know, though the stepmother is still a bit wicked. On the other hand, Cinderella loves her sisters and even her stepmother to some extent. The next-to-last paragraph should give you more of a clue about the family relationships that breaks the stereotype a bit. Does it work? Is what I really want to know.

Edit: Ok, I've changed a few things and hopefully it is a little less confusing. At least the reveal should answer some of the questions you have all been asking.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter Fun with Beck and Ainsley

Jennifer and the kids were in town this week, as Jennifer had to be here for a Dentrix conference. We had the express pleasure on Tuesday evening of babysitting the munchkins and corrupting them in our own special West way. Beck has apparently been looking forward to playing games with Uncle James ever since we handed him the controller for the wii and let him watch the demo for Metroid. So, we pretty much repeated the experience, except this time with Mario Galaxy and Rogue Squadron. Both kids plopped on the couch, eyes immediately glassed over (sorry Jen!) as they watched the shapes and lights on the screen. It's amazing how enthralled they can get when they have no idea what's going on. So after a while, I thought it was time to end the games and have some real fun. :) We set out the eggs and started dyeing! I was actually really surprised: the kids did a great job, didn't make a mess, and seemed to enjoy the entire process. We had a lot of fun watching and supervising the activity. Here's a scrapbook I made of the event:

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Afterwards we put in Atlantis and Beck fell immediately to sleep. Ainsley, however, was interested neither in sleep nor in the movie, so we got to play and giggle all night long while James worked on programming. At one point Ainsley pretended to sleep, with big dramatic Honk Shoo's to boot! But, alas for Jennifer, we handed back one very cranky Beck and one very alert Ainsley. We had a blast though, and hope we get to play with them soon.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Weird Song Day

I love this band, but this is probably one of the weirdest songs I have ever heard.

And speaking of weird songs:

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Houston, we have a problem

So, for the longest time, James has been yelling like a maniac at the radio stations (ok, we all know James and he doesn't yell like a maniac, but he was certainly grumbling with abandon) demanding that they play Major Tom. I already knew my husband's taste in music was somewhat bizarre, but this was weird I thought even for him. You see, when he said he wanted to listen to Major Tom, this is what I was thinking: (Please listen to at least the first couple of lines to this song so you can understand the full extent of my confusion).

Turned out (as we found this weekend) what he really wanted to listen to was this:

Which to me, fit James's tastes a little better. It was pretty funny though as I had planned as a birthday surprise to buy him the first song, the one I thought of as "Major Tom" (the impostor). We had a laugh picturing just what he might have said when I gave it to him... "Uh ... thanks honey, I ... love it" >chuck< "Hey honey, how come you never listen to Major Tom? I thought you loved that song?" "I, uh, I do, of course I do, I was just listening to it... really quietly..."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Book Recommendation – Audio Style

A coworker lent me the audio book of "World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War," and I have to pass along this deliciously amazing story of absolute absurdity. It's told in a series of interviews with "survivors" of an apocalyptic zombie virus plague. Each story comes from a unique perspective on the war—international political leaders, civilian survivors, army personnel, doctors with intimate knowledge of the virus, etc. It's told absolutely seriously, with no indication that the author is being facetious or satirical, and the issues that come up really make you think about international relations, the importance of survival, and the various gray areas as far as means of survival. Ultimately it makes you think about that ever-looming question: Am I ready for the zombie apocalypse?

Warning: Several of the characters are quite polite and restrained in their commentary on the zombie crisis, others are not so poised—be warned, there are recurring instances of harsh expletives.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Babysitting at Leeann's Wedding

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We had such a great time babysitting Beck and Ainsley at temple square while everyone was in the wedding. Here is a scrapbook of these goofy kids--and a few pictures of goofy us.

Friday, March 7, 2008

A Dream Fulfilled

When I was maybe 15 years old, for whatever inexplicable reason, I got grounded. Now, this didn't happen all that often (lest you think me some sort of teenage miscreant), but it did happen and this instance of groundation was particularly painful. Warped Tour was coming to town and Matchbox 20 was one of the highlighted bands. As a semi-angsty teenager, I was drawn to their music and felt a kinship with the spirit of the songs—I often wished the real world would just stop bothering me, I had several long days, my sisters definitely wanted to push me around, and all I really wanted was to get it back to good. So, when my loving and all-wise mother absolutely refused to revoke my punishment to allow me to go to Warped Tour, I was devastated, embittered, and most likely forever scarred. But, last night, that old wound finally healed when my friends Brad and Shelly took me along to see Matchbox 20 –with Alanis Morisette. What more could I possibly have asked for? All the angsty music from my teenhood, with several of their newer songs speaking to the adult in me.

Best part of the night? Singing along at the top of my lungs to good music with good friends, and realizing that I don't feel all that angsty anymore—not even semi.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Weekend in Colorado: The Blog

*Note: Blogging is so fun.

Over Presidents' Day weekend, James and I took a car trip to Denver, Colorado to visit my brother and his family. It was such a treat for us, so I'd like to commemorate (however late) the enjoyment of the occasion by sharing just a couple of stories from the fun-filled weekend.

• After we arrived and got big hugs from three-year-old Beck and suspicious looks from nearly-two-year-old Ainsley, we all sat down to an amazingly delicious dinner made by my sister-in-law Jennifer. Beck had been chatting a mile a minute from the moment we got there and it didn't look like he was going to stop anytime soon. Christian tried to shush him so we could say a prayer, but he said "NO! I have to tell Aunt Charery something!" Christian: "Can it wait til after the prayer?" Beck: "NO!!! It's important!" Christian: "Ok, then go ahead." Beck: -Huge dramatic pause- "I got ... NEW . . . underpants! With Mickey Mouse!" Yet another pause, but this time because everyone is laughing so hard. Christian: "Is that all? Can we say the prayer now?" Beck: "Yep."

• Christian and Jennifer have been trying to beat me at Wise and Otherwise their entire married life. I have always reigned champion and squashed their dreams to a smeary pulp. Unfortunately, they made a terrible decision and chose to cheat horribly and managed to beat me three times over the weekend. There is no other explanation besides outright, dastardly cheatling.

• Poor James got sick pretty much the day we left Utah and is still feeling the effects of it. He spent quite a bit of the weekend hiding in bed trying to combat his fever. The kids often asked where Uncle James was and I had to reply that he wasn't feeling great. They quickly caught on and Beck could be heard the entire weekend to answer the question "Where's Uncle James" with "He's sicky."

Beck, for whatever reason, always chose who was going to say the prayer at dinner. He invariably pointed out his Aunt Charery. Well, one night we convinced him to actually say the prayer himself and he proceeded to say a very nice prayer, which began to ramble somewhere in the middle. So Christian whispered, "Don't forget the food." To which Beck responded without missing the beat, "and don't forget the food. Please bless this food, and this food, and this food. . . " and would have continued pointing to all the food on the table but Christian stopped him by prompting "In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen."

• Jennifer's sister Leeann had a birthday the same day as mine. Her family lives in Colorado Springs and they were having a little birthday party for Leeann that night. They were so overwhelmingly wonderful and made it a party for me too, complete with some beautiful gifts and a birthday song. I'm so grateful to them for making room for me on my special day—they are such sweet people.

• James finally felt a little better on Sunday night and we all played and read books in the living room that night. Nothing truly special or funny happened, but it was a really nice night.

All in all it was a great trip, despite James being sick, and we're looking forward to getting together again.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Weekend in Colorado

Here's a little scrapbook I made of our trip to Colorado. Blog entry to follow.

Click to play Weekend in Colorado
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