It’s Springtime! Adolescent Memories Are in Full Blume…

So I only found out about the Judy Blume Project this morning, and already my heart is stirring and my mind is spinning.

You see, Judy Blume and her many early works written for fragile prepubescent girls helped me get through a really awkward and confusing time of my life.  Hair sprouting in places for no reason, boobs that appeared to show up out of nowhere and thoughts – lots of thoughts, bad thoughts, dirty thoughts, about…well… you know… boys, boy parts and why all of the really good shows on HBO were on much, much later at night.

I’m still waiting for the awkward phase to end.

When does that happen anyway?

The Judy Blume Project is the brainchild of blogger Dana the Kitchen Witch and  blogger/author Kim Jorgensen Gane of West Coast Posse. They are putting together an anthology honoring the prolific author and soliciting Blume’s legion of fans across many generations to contribute entries to capture their own memories, perspectives and thoughts on the author and the impact of her work.

If you know me well, you know that I grew up reading two series – no, not Laura Ingalls Wilder. (Do I look and sound like a prairie girl to you? Come on…)

The Hardy Boys (not Nancy Drew – she was too wimpy even for me) and Judy Blume.

JudyBlumeBooks

These are EXACTLY what my editions looked like back in the early ’80s, by the way. Someone’s selling her entire collection for $14.95 on eBay. Sigh. Heartbreaking.

I must have read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing a dozen times. Blubber and Then Again, Maybe I Won’t, a few dozen times.

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret… okay, for this one, I think I read passages daily every day throughout middle school! (Anyone else out there remember sleeping with it tucked under their pillow or that little space between the nightstand and the bed?)

Last year, when my blog was less-focused on my new adventure of writing my first novel, I instead posed questions each week to spark creativity and inspiration in others – I called them Kuhnspirations. Yeah, admittedly, the title’s a bit cornball, and I was teased by good friends about that one, but one week, I asked others who wanted to journal with me what their dream dinner party guest list would look like, and in fact, Ms. Blume was an esteemed member of my list.

I don’t know if later generations who fell in love with J. K. Rowling’s and Stephanie Meyer’s series will truly understand what Judy Blume meant to those of us who grew up with Blume’s messages of self-love, acceptance and forgiveness.  And don’t get me wrong – I adore The Twilight series myself and have enjoyed several of the Harry Potter books so far. But there was something far more personal and intimate about the Blume books that just doesn’t compare.

I do plan to take part in the project – submissions are due to the bloggers by end of April, by the way. The format guidelines are pretty flexible and they’re open to a variety of styles for responding. You can even  follow along with the project at its Facebook page, and I recommend you do.

I can’t say that Judy Blume has inspired me as a writer as much as she influenced me as a thinking, feeling young woman. She made a tremendous impression on my heart as a young girl. When I felt like the misunderstood alien from outer space or gawky, geeky pudge muffin, she reminded me that there was so much more to me than met the eye of those who ridiculed. It didn’t stop the tears or doubts, but it did help me become a little tougher, more introspective and more confident where I knew I excelled, whether those insecure teasers who badgered me realized it or not.

I don’t follow this age category in today’s young adult literature genre.  Is there a similar Judy Blume for this bully-taunted 21st century generation, aside from the Judy Blume herself? I sure hope so.  She was a real life-saver for young girls like me.

Judy Blume, you will hear from thousands of readers everywhere very soon. You will know you made a difference in your own way, if you don’t already. You will feel the gush and the mush, and we will probably embarrass you far beyond you’re comfortable experiencing. But you will feel the love.

Sniffle. Sniffle.

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Blog Double-Take 2012

Chris_FSUCanSince the year is coming to a close, I thought it might be a good time to offer a little flashback to the year here at my blog.

Simply put, I want to give followers a chance to check out some blogs that they may or may not have seen during the year.

If you just began following me, you’ll find some earlier entries you might enjoy and if your life was a whirlwind this year and you missed some along the way, well, here ya go. An opportunity to do a double-take and read what you may have missed the first time around!

So on this lovely 30th day of December 2012, I bring you… Second Chance Blogs… a second look at Kuhn Stories for 2012. Bottoms up!

Cheers for finding that daily spark in your life!
~CK

Second Chance Blogs at KUHNSTORIES
Yep, these are some of my favorite blogs from the year – most, in response to Kuhnspiration Challenge questions posed. I can only hope that maybe by sheer stroke of luck or a sudden case of reader madness, my words might amuse, enlighten or maybe even inspire. Happy reading!

One Last Hurrah

As this year prepares to wave us forward to 2013, I am winding down, too. Or at least, I’m certainly trying to. Some unexpected work at the end of the year has made it impossible to close shop for a week as I had hoped but I do see a day off in the forecast next week (Tuesday, to be exact) with much bowl-viewing and reading to be done that day.

But before I start packing up 2012, I thought it best to pose one more Kuhnspiration Challenge question and that means answering it myself, too. This week’s question (and the final one for the year) is…

Looking back on 2012, what are you most proud of and what do you look forward to improving upon in the new year?

I hope that when you saw this question you were torn on which things to write about in your journal.  I worry that it was the opposite and you had a long list of qualifiers for the second part of the question but could not come up with much for part one. I think sometimes we’re coached so much to value humility that we often don’t give ourselves the credit due when there’s a real victory to celebrate. This is your chance to pat yourself on the back for a job well done. Don’t feel badly about doing it. Relish the opportunity and celebrate your success. It’s okay. Really.

For me this year, I’m most proud of finally taking that first and all-important second and third step, too, to begin writing my first novel.  And similarly, when I seemed to hit a snag, I did something I never do… I reached out for help. And then, amazingly so, I accepted it. That never happens.

I’m also pleased that I finally pulled back a little on my calendar and my knack for making appointment after appointment to network out in the field and then leaving myself with limited time here to do the hard stuff – um, WRITE and DO THE WORK. I reined that in tremendously this year and while it may have impacted my bottom line, it allowed me the time necessary to work on the projects I did accept and again, give time to my book which is a very important commitment to me, too.

I’m also proud of myself for truly embracing this passionate return to my old hobby from many years back…READING. Sigh. It has been a real joy in my life, particularly these past 8 months or so of discovering new authors and genres. I have probably read more books in the past 3 months than in the past 3 prior years combined! I had really missed it and am so happy to find my nose in books again (or as of late, my e-reader, which has become my new favorite gadget for the year).

What could I have done better? (How long do you have?)

Backspace

I didn’t focus on my health like I hoped to. Every time I’d start, I let my schedule and work get in the way of my walking plan or my commitment to stopping the madness and taking my vitamins, drinking the proper water or getting up out of the chair (How about that one? The hardest task of all sometimes for any writer! I would imagine programmers and web designers feel similarly…we simply become one with our chairs!)

I didn’t invest time in some other hobbies I had hoped to explore to a greater degree this year – like music, photography golf.

I also didn’t visit more places in the area that I had hoped to explore. I always joke about being in the area for nearly 20 years (20 as of next May) and still feeling like a tourist sometimes.  Every time I check out a new tourist attraction or annual event that everyone else in the Tampa Bay universe already knows and understands, I feel more attached to this community. I need to do a better job at that in 2013.

How about you? What are you most proud of achieving this year and what could use a little work in 2013? I’d love to hear from you, and as always, thanks for reading my gibberish. Your support as a regular reader or subscriber means a lot to me.

Look for a fun little retrospective tomorrow and coming Monday, a sneak peek at the year ahead here at KuhnStories.com.  I hope you’ll join me for my next adventures and invite others to join us. It should be an exciting year of words, words and more words. A real page-turner (I hope!) Cannot wait!!

Cheers to finding that daily spark in your life!
~Chris

Your Weekly Kuhnspiration (December 26, 2012)

This is it.

My final Kuhnspiration challenge for you.

Ever.

Sniffle-sniffle.

Soon, I will be taking this blog into a whole new direction, precisely where it needs to be for my next chapter (and many chapters, fingers crossed!) and I really hope that you’ll stay with me along the way and maybe even suggest to any of your friends who are avid readers to follow along, too.

For now, however, there is still one more question to pose as the year 2012 prepares to close the curtain. So I ask you this appropriate year-ending question.

NewYear

Looking back on 2012, what are you most proud of and what do you look forward to improving upon in the new year?

And I don’t want to hear that nothing went right, that Murphy’s Law was taking out your good intentions at every turn, that it was a complete shitstorm… trust me, if anyone had her moments of flying head-on into a turbulent jetstream of grade A, vine-ripe, exquisitely crafted crappola, I’m happy to compare notes. But something had to go right, even if maybe it didn’t always feel that way. So let’s celebrate that victory. Take pride in your achievement or achievements (let’s assume plural and shoot for the moon!) and use this moment as a really good opportunity to learn and improve where we need that, too.

I’ll be checking in with you this weekend with my own thoughts. And stay tuned for a sneak preview on New Year’s Eve of what you can expect in 2013 here at KuhnStories.com.

As always thanks for reading. And cheers for finding that daily spark in your life!
~Chris

2012 Year of the Grooviest Dozen Awards

In honor of winding down the year, I’m celebrating some real gifts of 2012. This week’s Kuhnspiration challenge gives us the chance to look back at the year and host our own awards to celebrate the best of the best…through our eyes, anyway.

So without further ado, ahem – this week’s question asked:

Give your list of winners for the 2012 Year-Of-The-Grooviest-Dozen Awards… your take on the best of the best for the following: Film ~ Song ~TV Show ~Book ~Movie Star ~ TV Star ~Author ~ Singer ~Band ~News Story ~ Quote ~ Tweet.

Welcome to the 2012 Kuhnie’s Year of the Grooviest Dozen Awards here in lovely Tampa Bay. Isn’t the view of the Riverwalk and nearby University of Tampa and its trademark minarets spectacular? Aah. Who needs Hollywood and the red carpet? We’ll host this special occasion right here in Cigar City, high above the city, looking down on it from one of the downtown skyscrapers. We won’t need a song and dance fanfare to start it out, just a charismatic, funny and capable master of ceremonies. Hmm. For mine, I’m thinking we call in one of the Tony host phenoms Neil Patrick Harris or Hugh Jackman. Or ooh, maybe we go another route and pick late-night hosts… Conan O’Brien or Jimmy Fallon…it may be time to give David Letterman a chance to wipe out that Uma-Oprah Oscar memory. He is the best of the best after all. It would only be appropriate.

And without further delay…the awards…

Best Film of 2012
For me, I’ve got to go with my favorite movie I saw at the theaters this year and that was THE AVENGERS. I didn’t even like IRON MAN coming into it, had only been burned my past attempts at the Hulk and had not seen THOR. When it was done, I was a fan of them all. Got my attention early on, won me over and excited me about a sequel. Nice job, superheroes. Nice job.

Best Song
Someone that I Used to Know (Gotye)  – different, stark, poignant, unusual, catchy-as-hell, unforgettable. And if you aren’t as up on your contemporary music, here is the music video. (Keep in mind this song was chosen because of the track not the video, but the video could be described with many of the same adjectives…)

Best TV Show — I decided on my own to have co-winners – existing show and new show
Existing… “New Girl” – for me this show just gets funnier every season and I probably look forward to seeing this cast on a weekly basis more than any other show on TV. New Show…“Arrow” – finally, someone has whipped up people in a frenzy again about a lesser known DC comic. In breakout star, Stephen Arnell, we’ve got a fella guys admire and women swoon for, leaving everyone in anticipation of Oliver Queen’s very next move. At first, I was ticked off at the producers for not casting Justin Hartley of “Smallville” who previously played Oliver Queen on that show, but I must say, Mr. Arnell, I am a believer. And hopefully this will create some buzz about DC wonder boys and my much-anticipated  MAN OF STEEL next summer with Henry Cavell.

Arrow

Best Book
I read more books this year than ever before, but if I had to single out my favorite that I READ this year (and I highlighted quite a few of them recently in another blog), not that necessarily came out this year…it would be The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I finished the trilogy before seeing the first of the films and was happy to not have any of the images floating through my brain as I read this imaginative, captivating and thrilling ride like nothing I’ve ever read. And if I’m picking a book released this year, my favorite I’ve read released in 2012 so far was Slammed by Colleen Hoover. Someone wrote in a review that this book sneaks up on you and I wholeheartedly agree. I found myself cheering when I thought I wouldn’t and looking for answers to help the lead characters myself, I was so hell-bent on the ending I wanted. I found it funny, endearing, romantic and frustrating – just like the perfect love. It did not disappoint at all…

Best Movie Star
For me, the movie star who captured my attention this year most was Jennifer Lawrence. I am just amazed at all she can do – both from an emotional standpoint as an actor but also physically, she’s been able to transform herself. THE HUNGER GAMES proved that she can also bring in box office moula. I am so looking forward to seeing SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK and expect that I’ll be gushing about that in next year’s top film list…

Best TV Star
This is a tough one for me. I gushed earlier about Stephen Arnell and I crush more on Zooey Deschanel every year, someone who I think is absolutely funny, charming and scene-stealing. But if I had to pick someone whose performance has really captured my attention the most on TV this year, I think it would have to be David Morrissey, who plays the infamous Guvna on “Walking Dead” — he has been absolutely riveting in a role that should make us thoroughly disgusted. Yet he has completely captured our attention – we are both mesmerized and shocked that we could possibly have any empathy. His calm and stoic “Gary-Cooper” like quality makes him the most attractive villain we love to hate in a looooong time. But I must also give some honorable mentions to two other unbelievable performances in 2012 — Anson Mount and Common on AMC’s other fabulous show you’re probably not watching, “Hell on Wheels,” but had better next season – yes, it got renewed. Woo hoo. These two actors bring such an intensity and ferocity to their roles and the words they delivery. It’s quite a sight to witness.

Best Author
I have a soft spot for Sylvain Reynard and last fall’s Gabriel’s Inferno (which I was just introduced to this year) and this year’s follow-up Gabriel’s Rapture. I can’t help it. Not only am I completely enamored with the lead character he created as are women everywhere (and I’m sure some men, too) Professor Gabriel Emerson, it has also brought forth from me many longings about returning to see Italy one day, particularly Florence. It has re-ignited my passion for Botticelli, Raphael and other great artists of the area that I loved studying so much in the past but had set aside that passion to do those important things like work and help raise a family. I will be rediscovering that passion again next year as I do a little return to humanities study on the side, as a hobby again. I do love it so much. So thank you, Mr. Reynard, for that completely unexpected bonus from reading your lovely books.

Best Singer
This is really hard because there are a million and one ways I can go with this. I can pick someone whose work I enjoy regularly and still impressed me this year, like Katy Perry. Or I can pick someone like Adele, who really knocked me out with her haunting James Bond single “Skyfall” which totally took me back to the classic Bond tunes I always loved so much… You might expect me to pick someone who was really big this year like Taylor Swift, who I am a big fan of but unfortunately, I really don’t like her biggest song of the year “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” And there’s always Carly Rae Jepsen with only one of the biggest songs of the year “Call Me Maybe.” Nope, none of those. I’m going with Kelly Clarkson. She just amazes me from album to album. She keeps getting better – this year was no exception. She sounds crisper and more powerful than ever, not to mention is practically glowing from her recent engagement announcement. Yep, Kelly. You are the best in 2012 if you ask me. Keep it up, girl, and remind us all that American Idol really has delivered some relevant people along the way, despite what the haters say.

Best Band
I’ve touched on this before in a recent blog, but for me, this was a big year for discovering The Black Keys, and that process of experiencing their music has been such a joyful ride. I have been lost in their soulful lyrics, their driving guitar licks and often infectious rhythm that whips me into a frenzy. I will continue exploring their previous albums for years to come, and can’t wait for an opportunity to see them perform live someday. Sigh.

BlackKeys

Best News Story
It was a very sad year, a year of mass shootings from CO to CT, horrific devastation left behind from natural disasters, and unrest across the world. So how does one pick the best news story? How about a story that may have offered a little hope…because it was a year that didn’t offer too much of that. How about stories that reminded us that we can do almost anything if we put our minds to it… aerialist Nik Wallenda taking on Niagara Falls and crossing it successfully on a high-wire and Felix Baumgartner makes a record-setting skydive jump from space!

Best Quote
“I don’t mind if I have to sit on the floor at school. All I want is education. And I am afraid of no one.” – Malala Yousafzai (though the quote is technically from the young girl’s diary from an earlier year, it came to light for all of the world in 2012)

Best Tweet
It’s a tie from the same guy…POTUS.
“This happened because of you. Thank you.” — President Barack Obama, announcing his re-election victory that evening of Nov. 6     —- and —
“Four more years. pic.twitter.com/bAJE6Vom” from later that same evening, featuring the most tweeted photo ever. If any picture captured the essence of relief that a hard-fought campaign was over, this image did it, no matter which side you were on.

And that concludes the Kuhnie edition of the 2012 Grooviest of the Year awards…what would you highlight as the best of the best, through your eyes for this past year? Look forward to hearing from you and as always, thanks for reading.

For those who celebrate, Merry Christmas Eve and I guess Happy Boxing Day a little early for my friends just across the border. Be smart, safe and careful on the roads wherever you are.

Cheers to finding that daily spark in your life!
~Chris

Your Weekly Kuhnspiration (December 19, 2012)

With just two weeks of Kuhnspirations left this year, I feel it necessary to make these last few questions fun and memorable. So this week, I thought what better way to celebrate the year than to honor it with its own special set of completely made-up awards.

And you can offer your winners, too… without further ado, I present this week’s Kuhnspiration challenge:

Give your list of winners for the 2012 Year-Of-The-Grooviest-Dozen Awards… your take on the best of the best for the following: Film ~ Song ~TV Show ~Book ~Movie Star ~ TV Star ~Author ~ Singer ~Band ~News Story ~ Quote ~ Tweet.

Have fun dreaming up your own awards show — oh, and tell me who’s hosting yours, too! — and as always, thanks for reading!

Make it a great week and cheers to finding that daily spark in your life!
~Chris

Mapquest Your Inspiration (a/k/a Hey, Is That Your Butt on Fire Over There?)

Inspiration.

It’s what lights a fire under your ass and gets you moving forward, not living a stagnant life.

Many of us operate by inspiration and don’t even realize that we’re doing it. We think of that term as one of those frilly, flowery words that those “woo woo” New Age people throw around, but it’s a word more people should be using, contemplating and talking about EVERY day.

Why is that, I hear some of my realists and straight talkers ponder. Because when we turn on the TV, as I did yesterday afternoon when I returned from a lunch appointment, the news that sometimes comes up to greet us can be daunting. It can be enough to convince us that there is so much hatred, pain and gloom in the world, that we should simply turn around, hop back into bed and throw the covers over our heads.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this isn’t a wonderful way to spend the afternoon and have done so many times before, but sometimes what we see and hear around us can be paralyzing. It is inspiration that fuels a fire in our belly to DO, to GO, to IMAGINE that no matter what it looks like outside, there is always more. Somewhere out there.

So this week, I asked you to get over your own prejudices about the word “inspiration” (should you have it) and contemplate where your sources of inspiration lie in your own life. The question:

What are your sources of inspiration and how do they inspire you?

I hope you took a morning walk and thought about it or maybe if you write in a daily journal, considered this topic something worth a few minutes of your time.

I derive inspiration from many sources.

I am inspired by special people in my life — my husband, my sons and their family, my dog – to follow my dream and hopefully get out the messages that I hope will touch other people’s lives. If in the process, I can be successful in really reaching people, if I can also ultimately improve the quality of life for my loved ones, even better. That drives me.

I derive inspiration from human connection — that moment you and another person realize that you are on the exact same plane, all alone straddling the clouds together, talking enthusiastically on something you both feel passionate about. There’s nothing more exhilarating and exciting, and in that moment, I am fueled to take that moment of connection and channel it into something inspired by the conversation- a song, poem, character in a book, blog…something!

I find inspiration in fresh air — Okay, I know this one sounds bizarre. But I can be sitting at my keyboard, my favorite tea beside me (Good Earth, black chai vanilla decaf, if Santa or any of his elves are wondering), my awesome dog snoring away peacefully and a completely free day ahead for writing…and hit a concrete wall – THUD. Then step outside, and as soon as the many smells of winter and conservation behind our house and Christmas and all of those other wonderful smells, sights and sounds are absorbed, and the fresh air tickles my nose and fills up my lungs, I am so full of energy, peace and best of all, inspiration. The ideas come flooding through and I’m charged and ready to go. With one simple step outside and a few good inhales. Mmm. It’s amazing what a little oxygen can do. It reminds you …that’s right. You’re alive, blockhead. Now do something valuable with that bit of news.

I am inspired by Italian art and architecture— I see a picture from Florence or Rome, and I immediately transport myself back to the greatest travel adventure of my life, something I’ve yet to experience again but do hope to once more – someday.

Florence

I’m sure this was what fueled my interest and love in a book series this year (Gabriel’s Inferno and Gabriel’s Rapture by Sylvain Reynard) whose main characters embodied all things Florence – the history, the storytelling, the art, the architecture, the food, the landscape, the passion. I haven’t lost my infatuation with that place and I know that I will go back again someday and when I do, I will see it with a new set of eyes but until then, each read, each view, each contemplation really sets my heart afire just thinking about it and inspires me to make that return journey again.

I am inspired by the opportunity of good will carried forward — Yeah, that’s right the “Pay It Forward” concept. (Not as crazy about the movie, which despite my complete adoration of anything with Kevin Spacey in it except maybe Superman Returns —<shudders> — but the ending of the film PAY IT FORWARD pissed me off beyond belief!) The concept, however, is so intriguing. I am instinctively a hopeful person. Sometimes I think to others I may come across as a glass half-empty person but I’m not. Not really. In my heart, I am always half-full but through my experiences, I have been faced with some personal disappointments and heartache that has definitely left some scars and I have to make a concerted effort sometimes to have faith in others. I try really hard but it isn’t always easy, I’ll admit. I have felt let down a lot but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that you can only be let down if you set expectations in such a way that creates a no-win, and often, I’ve done just that – created an impossible scenario so there was only one thing that could happen – disappointment.

I know, that deep in my heart, I’m an idealist. I always believe people can be good, that they are inherently good and that the circumstances of their life now, their past, their surroundings and their ability to satisfy their basic needs shade this part of who they are. For some, it lightens it and for others, darkens. So in this way, as part of that outer world, I see each of us playing a part, having an influence, in some way – big or small. I have to believe that. I’ve just got to. Even when news like yesterday’s tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut might try to convince me otherwise…though I do realize that biology and body chemistry also play significant roles in someone’s words, actions and judgment.

I try to force myself every day to look for opportunities to create settings that cultivate good will, not pain, not fear, not anger. Some days, it’s easier than others. (Usually those days where I don’t have to face bumper-to-bumper traffic or go shopping at WalMart…otherwise, look out!) I don’t believe in karma, yet I do believe that the actions, words and energy you generate and deliver to the world really do have more power than we remember sometimes. We have the power to heal or hurt — educate or block — help or sideline — encourage or silence. I am inspired by that fact…that as human beings, we have the ability to make this choice every day with the words and actions we elect to wield and how we use this personal power. And when I see others using it in positive, healing and enlightening ways, I feel energized myself and can’t wait to follow their lead.

How about you? What inspires you — to do what you do? To carry forth whatever you think is the reason you’re sticking around here on Earth? To be a better person?

I’d love to hear from you. As always, thank you for reading. It really means a lot to me, and I just wanted to tell you that from the bottom of my heart.

Cheers to finding that daily spark in your life!
~ Chris