Short Story: "Charlie & His Chocolate Catastrophe"

Our writing prompt this week for the Creative Writing Club I belong to was writing a story using lots of c’s.  So, without further ado, here is the story of Charlie and his chocolate catastrophe!

Charlie & His Chocolate Catastrophe

A Short Story by Luke A. Bunker

Heaven. On. Earth.  –  A Russell Stover Factory Outlet
in Montrose, Colorado.
A collection of crumbly chocolate cascaded off its cream-colored shelves and crashed cacophonously onto the clumsy Charlie Cunningham in the chocolate factory outside Cocoa Falls, California.  Charlie’s cousin Cherry came by to help him and cared for him until he recovered, offering him cocoa and cookies.  But what do you think Charlie did?  Charlie started to choke on the crunchy chunky chocolate-chip cookies!  So Cherry took him to the crumby clinic across town to be checked out.  Turns out Charlie was now allergic to chocolate – how catastrophic!
Melancholy, Cherry took Charlie to a counselor named Cassandra, who tried to coax him into consuming chocolate alternatives.  Charlie cried and cried…  No more Cadbury?  No more milk chocolate?  No more dark chocolate?  No more cocoa-roasted cashews?  No more chocolate chip cookies or cocoa from his Keurig?  Charlie was so, so sad and could be found crying in a corner in his Craftsman-style compound on Country Club Circle.

He quickly found he couldn’t even look at his town’s name anymore, so he contacted his mother – Connie in Connecticut – and asked if he could move there this coming quarter.  She said, “Of course!  Come up to Cascade and cook for your Mother [for Charlie loved to cook] and help her run the store!”

So, Charlie called the Cocoa Falls Commutation Travel Company, booked a plane ticket on Continental Airlines with a cross-country stop in Columbus, said goodbye to Cherry, and checked in his Coach luggage and used his credit card miles to board first class.

When Charlie came into view in Cascade, his cherished mother Connie came up in her coffee-colored Cadillac, helped him with his luggage, and handed him a cappuccino.  What was in this cappuccino?  You guessed it – chocolate!!

Review: "I Got This" by Jennifer Hudson

I Got This: How I Changed My Ways and Lost What Weighed Me DownI Got This: How I Changed My Ways and Lost What Weighed Me Down by Jennifer K. Hudson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love Jennifer Hudson – her voice, her confidence, her personality – almost everything I know or think I know about her. And for the most part, I liked this book. Some readers have commented that a large part of the book was just a Weight Watchers ad, but one has to understand that this has been a big part of her life now for the last several years and that this has been a huge and positive change in her life. It is understandable that she would devote a large part of a memoir to this.

One thing I found interesting is how little she spoke of her family’s tragedy. She spoke of them in abstract, and I get the impression she was trying to make this more of a positive book, and maybe she is not yet ready to share those thoughts or might still be processing them (which is totally understandable).

I did feel that “Jenny Kate” (as she describes herself in various instances throughout the book) wrote more passionately about her weight loss than the other aspects of her life, which were covered in the first half of her book. I felt that she spoke of many of those other aspects of her life (except for her family, who she obviously loves and cares for and considers a major influence in her life) rather weakly. I felt that I was being told, not shown, what she was feeling. As a matter of opinion, it felt more like a rundown or timeline than what these events truly meant to her.

All of that being said, Jennifer Hudson has an interesting story and is an inspiration to many and could be be to even more if they choose to read her story and find themselves in her message and experience. I am proud of Jennifer and her accomplishments and can’t wait to see what her future brings!

3.5/5 stars

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"A January Cliche" Revisited…

Earlier on this year, I came up with some goals and resolutions that I wanted to accomplish and achieve this year (see the post here).  I thought that now, about midway through March and just a week until the official start of Spring, that I would have a reality check with myself and see where I was in accomplishing those goals.

So, without further ado, let’s re-hash!

My goals for the upcoming year:
1. Write in my blog or write in my novel at least once a day
OK, so I already lost out on this one; perhaps the goal of making a point to write in both more often is more practical…
  • Well, I actually think I’ve written less in my blog now than ever before.  I have been fairly busy with work and school (excuses, I know!) and haven’t taken the time to post travel stories and pictures like I thought I would.  I’m hoping that the spring flowers will help me get in the creative mood as well as provide for some good material.
2. Lose 55 pounds
  • I have already lost over 20 pounds since Dec. 31, 2011…  My goal is to lose another 20 before my next journey in early June!
3. Cut down to three pops per week
  • Check!  To my knowledge, I haven’t had more than three pops per week, sometimes less – and I think this is contributing nicely to #2!
4. Cultivate a cleaner room
  • For a time, yes.  Did I think I would get some more done during Spring Break?  Of course!  But, with working 40 hours this week and having to perform and interview and write an accompanying essay, as well as revise a couple of others, I will have to get back with you on this…
5. Sleep more
  • See above.  ðŸ™‚

6. Set up a dream board

  • I indeed did!  I set up some inspirational places and things, as well as places I want to go and things I want to achieve/acquire, on Pinterest.  I think it’s helping!
7. Be on time more often!
  • I do believe I am doing much better on this; however, I still do slip up.  I’d say I’m now on time about 80-90% of the time for my first class, which is a huge improvement over last semester!!
8. Continue to travel
  • Depending on how you look at it, I have sort of failed on this front.  I haven’t really taken any trips (big or small; if it was small, it must have been really small because I’ve clearly forgotten about it) so far this year and decided to work during Spring Break.  However, working = more money for future travel!!
9. Learn more Spanish
  • Check, check, check!  I have learned some new words and phrases and reinforced what I already knew – success!  I will continue to learn throughout the semester…  I think a trip to Mexico to use it is surely in order (been watching Q’Viva)!
10. Learn how to shoot better with manual settings on my camera
  • The closest (which really, it isn’t) was shooting with my friend’s 55-200 lens that she let me borrow (thanks, Katy – you’re the best!)…  I still can’t figure out how to focus on something – either my camera doesn’t like me or I can’t figure out how to use the dang thing!
11. Be more helpful and understanding with family and friends (and spend more time with each)
  • I feel like I’m improved a bit on the first, but I have really slipped on the second.  I am going to make sure I take more time to share with friends…  What is life without good friends, and how can you have good friends if you don’t keep up those relationships?!
12. Work out with a renewed frenzy
  • See #2.
13. Get through some pictures and share them
  • See #5.  ðŸ˜‰
BIG ONE – Spending more time reading…  CHECK!

Here’s to accomplishing more goals throughout the year!

Review: "Lone Wolf" by Jodi Picoult

Lone WolfLone Wolf by Jodi Picoult
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have quite a few thoughts on this book… For starters, this book takes me back to Picoult’s earlier bestseller, “My Sister’s Keeper” – yet another teenage girl getting involved in a lawsuit in the medical world. I saw lots of parallels between “Lone Wolf” and “My Sister’s Keeper” and began to think that Picoult may be running out of ideas. (Not so fast!!) I also saw a pattern that was actually quite annoying, even though I enjoyed it in her other books – how every section (the book shifts perspective from each of the main characters, which I happen to like and which aids the flow of her books quite well) ends on such a pat statement. (And just like [insert metaphor here], [insert dramatic closing here].) It’s like, OK, we know you have a flare for the dramatic, but come on…

Despite some of these (IMHO) somewhat minor shortcomings, I did particularly like this book because of the ending (if you choose to read the book or have already read it, I think you will agree) and the stylistic changes (“dirty” pages with illustrations of nature and paw prints) when the book shifted to Luke’s perspective. Knowing Picoult, this was something she was adamant about with the publisher. Furthermore, I really liked how Picoult weaved Luke’s narration of wolves into the rest of the novel to drive the plot forward – good storytelling right there!!

More importantly, the subject matter and writing was obviously compelling enough for me to finish this book in less than a week (which is OMG for me). Because, who knows? We never know when we might be faced with the decision of “when to pull the plug.” It’s a decision I hope I never have to make, and that’s why it’s interesting that Picoult has made an interesting conflict between a man’s daughter and son to fight for the privilege of making that decision. (This is, of course, a boiled down look at it; for more info about the storyline, just google the book.)

I straddled between three and four stars for “Lone Wolf,” for some of the reasons I mentioned above and others. However, I decided to go with four because of the ending, which was not as abrupt and much more fitting to the story than that of “My Sister’s Keeper.” Perhaps it was unfair of me to compare the two as they are separate works, but the similarities were, in several instances, quite striking.

It’s not Picoult’s best work, but it is still a good, quick read that will leave you wondering and questioning… a talent Picoult is rightfully known for.

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I am now iPad-less!

The announcement invitation!!  #MineGotLostInTheMail

To those of you who know me well, you will know that I love my iPad 2 that I got last fall.  Since I’ve had it, I’ve used it almost everyday to write, surf the web, look through pictures, watch movies, do homework, and so many other things.  In anticipation of the new iPad being announced next week and needing more storage space for downloading photos while traveling, I decided to sell my iPad earlier this week.  I originally bought a 32gb iPad but soon found out that I should have gotten the 64gb, so I’m hoping I made the right call and that the new one will be great and in the same price range!

I decided to sell it the old-fashioned route rather than through eBay (my last experience selling electronics on eBay soured me on the experience; perhaps I’ll share more on this later), and I sold it to a coworker who is loving it so far.  It is so much nicer to sell it to someone you know and who knows you – plus it’s faster and easier and there aren’t any pesky fees involved!

Anywho, I’ve been going through withdrawals but am getting more productive things done.  ðŸ˜¦  Can’t wait for the iPad 3 (or iPad HD, as the rumors are now calling it) to come out so I can get my hands on one – better camera (I can see myself using this right now!), better display and better processor!

Making trip goals has many benefits

The night before my first trip to Europe last summer, I was sitting alone in my hotel room after a great dinner with friends who were going on the trip with me when I decided to get started writing in my journal.  (It should be mentioned that although I love almost all aspects of traveling, being alone in a hotel room is not one of those; you feel unsafe and totally alone!)
After summing up “Day One” of travel – which was really just getting from Dodge to Wichita and all that jazz! – I came up with a list of goals for my trip.  I plan to use this list and revisit it each time I get ready to go on a world adventure.  Perhaps I will add more specific things I want to get out of each specific trip in the future.
Without further ado, here’s the list, with explanations below:
  • Find the best in others. * This was big to me.  I knew I was going to be traveling a with a diverse group of people (around 50 people of all ages and every other qualifier), including some I didn’t think I would enjoy traveling with.  However, by opening up my mind and heart to these people, I was able to more fully enjoy the experience and become good friends with some of those very people.
  • Take advantage of as many opportunities as possible – live it up!  * I always knew that I would go to Europe more than once, but I also knew that I wanted to minimize or completely eliminate any chances of regretting something…  And what better way to make sure you don’t have regrets than by doing something if you had any inkling whatsoever and had the time to do it?!
  • Be safe and think smart. * Unlike so many travelers, I really don’t spend a lot of time overthinking being safe.  As a rule, I know that Europe is probably safer than your average large American city.  And when you’re constantly looking over your shoulder, you call more attention to yourself.  That being said, I always keep an eye on my surroundings but wasn’t going to let worry and stress take over my trip.  As long as I have my money belt/neck pouch/whatever, the rest is trivia and can be replaced (but they better not take my damn camera!).
  • Have a good time but know when it’s time to hit the bed, because sleep is an important part of any trip. * Obviously, I wanted to do as much as I could in the short amount of time we were in Europe, but if you’re not awake the next day, what good is staying up late?  This gets compounded when you have fun roommates who like to talk, but one must know when to get to bed!
  • Help others if you have the know-how, and accept it if you don’t. * I consider myself a pretty good and experienced traveler (“This ain’t my first ro-de-o!”) who knows when one should and should not do things, and I wanted to help others like people had helped me before (stay on the right side of escalators, how to navigate airports and subways, that kind of thing), but I also needed to realize that I don’t know everything.  (Sometimes this is tough!)  I didn’t want to look like I was being a total know-it-all!  ðŸ™‚
  • Keep the trip in God’s hands. * I know from previous posts it sounds like I don’t believe in God, but I believe I do (the whole organized religion thing is what convolutes it all, IMHO), and it doesn’t hurt to let someone else look on over it.  ðŸ™‚
  • Have fun! * Yes, I wanted to learn and all that on this trip, but what good is a trip or vacation if it’s not fun?!  On this same note, I wanted to learn more about myself and feel that I did.
  • Write in journal everyday, regardless! * Yeah…  Uhm-hmm!!  I got through the first day in Paris, but I’ll have to rely on pictures and memories for the rest.  I will definitely keep a better journal and paste in postcards, tickets, stamps, etc. in my journal next time.  I tend to keep receipts and all that, but they end up getting thrown in a bag or box and nothing is done with them.  Pasting them in each day on that day will help a lot and will remind me of the small things!
  • Take everything in stride – if something doesn’t happen, it wasn’t meant to happen ; if it does, then it was. * Absolutely my biggest travel “thing.”  Years of disappointment over not being able to do certain things while traveling led me to this philosophy, and I honestly haven’t looked back since (except for now as I reflect!).
  • Have a fabulous time and stay in touch via email! + Stay on Facebook and phone only a few minutes a day – you are in Europe for God’s sake! * I told my family I wouldn’t call them and would only contact them via email if I had a few free minutes during the trip, and I stuck by this.  And since I didn’t have Wi-Fi or data for a good portion of the trip, I only posted on FB a couple of times.  When I’m on the road (at least in Europe), I’m on the road and just don’t think of home very much. (This sounds cold, but it is the best way to do it…  People spend way too much time away from their destination when they are on the phone or on the computer or constantly thinking about home; a little bit is fine.)
  • HAVE NO REGRETS. * See above.
  • Try new foods. * You know me!  When in Rome, do as the Romans do!  (Unfortunately, I haven’t – yet! – experienced this in that place.)
  • Love others and love yourself. * Why the heck not?!
Having these goals in mind kept my priorities straight on this trip and was a wonderful guide when I started creeping into negativity.  I would recommend making a list of goals like this before any major trip – it helps a lot!

Creative Rut?

Photographically, I’ve been in a creative rut lately… it seems like I’m only going through old pictures (Which is still progress!!  I’ve deleted hundreds of photos and several gigabytes worth of photos, which definitely needed to be done.) and haven’t really taken any new ones or taken the time to browse through photos for hours on Flickr to get inspired like I used to do.

However, I’m in the process of trying to find a new lens for my camera (one that zooms out to at least 105, maybe 200mm), which will enable me to take a different approach to taking photos and getting more details than I normally would be able to, so I think that will help me get out of this creative rut!  Right now I’m looking at doing a huge splurge on an 18-200mm because my photographic style and the critical moments between switching lenses during travel keeps me from wanting to have to bring more than one lens or switch them out.  I was leaning towards an 18-105, but I’m thinking I might as well go big or go home!  Thinking about borrowing a lens from to try it out first; might just borrow it for trips whenever I need it rather than outright buying it!

As I get ready for Europe in a few months, I am looking back through pictures and journal entries of trips and am excited to share those here on my blog.  I’m more in the travel and writing mood now than anything, and I know the rest will follow as I get closer because travel brings that out in me!!

Review: "The Abstinence Teacher" by Tom Perrotta

The Abstinence TeacherThe Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I thought the culture war was a bit contrived and the author didn’t do as much with it as he certainly could have… Furthermore, I felt that the usage of stereotypes in this book made sense in some aspects but didn’t lend a “special” quality to this book. That being said, this book had excellent dialogue and a fast pace, and was a very quick and easy read. Did it make me think much? Not so much… As a more liberal person, I think I was already on board with the author’s agenda; as such, those who are more conservative may have a problem with this book and the way it looks at sexuality.

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