Fabulous Friday: Characterization in Carmella Soprano


While re-watching an episode of The Sopranos, (because that’s what I do, apparently, when I cancel Netflix, watch something on Amazon), I was struck by how beautifully the story is told.

First of all, I love James Gandolfini. I’m not one prone to celebrity worship, but I was saddened by his death and thought that the world was just a little less bright for the loss of him. He was Tony Soprano. His rough-and-tumble accent, his imperfect teeth, and the way his face would draw lines that defined not only a Mafioso badass, but also the goofy kid in a middle-aged man’s body.

It was that combination, the badass and the jokester, that drew audiences in and drove the show. It’s been years since I’ve seen the later episodes, but on first watch, I found myself watching his downward spiral and being horrified. Acts of violence were interspersed with acts of tenderness and silliness.

Good writing is, in essence, emotional manipulation, and the writers of the Sopranos excelled at it.

But it was two scenes with Carmela Soprano that really drove home the point of power of small actions driving characterization.


Trust and Value, Part One


(Image from a post on Watts Up With That by Willis Eschenbach found here.)

About a year ago, I went to a doctor, an internist who came very highly recommended from my nurse coworkers, from people I work with and trust. She was great, they told me. One stop shopping. She even did pap smears in her office, therefore saving a specialist co-pay. “This is my condition,” I told her, “these are my symptoms, and this is why I need to have my blood levels drawn every 90 days, at most.”

This was why I went to her.

Completely ignoring the entire reason for my visit, she proceeded to lecture me on this and that. “I’m writing you a referral for bariatric surgery,” she told me.

“But my health insurance specifically excludes it. If I were in a car wreck, and the only way to save my life was emergency bariatric surgery (crazy hypothetical, I know), I would die before the doctors could get a pre-authorization. Because it’s specifically excluded.”

She talked on and on about how I needed it, blah blah blah. Again, completely ignoring the actual reason for my visit.

“But I’m not a good candidate for it,” I replied. “If I am an emotional eater (which I am) and a compulsive overeater (which I was), it’s actually contraindicated. It’s downright dangerous and life-threatening.”

She pooh-poohed my concerns and, despite my best attempts at redirecting her to the issue at hand—the fact that I have a diagnosed autoimmune disorder which affects my thyroid (and years and years of medical files to prove it), and that THIS was my chief complaint, all else fell secondary, she kept going on and on about surgery.

I knew I’d never trust her because she did not listen.

I understand addressing things and options that, as a doctor, she is both qualified and ethically obligated to present, but, in my self-righteous opinion, those things should have been a) secondary to my actual request and b) consist of an actual discussion, as in a two-way dialogue that actually included active listening.

I had to stay with her until I found a new doctor. And it was disastrous.

By the time I found a new doctor, I was in really, really bad shape.  The previous doctor had decreased my Synthroid far too much, too fast, and I was completely mentally and physically dysfunctional.  I couldn’t think; I existed in an exhausted fog, incapable of even picking up my feet, so I tripped all the time.

“This is what I need,” I told him in tired tones. I looked at him and pleaded, “Don’t give up on me.”

And we talked, an equal conversation in which I spoke and he responded to my actual words, and not my diagnoses, and I listened, responding to his input. We talked for almost an hour, a thing unheard of in this day of drive-through medicine. He attended to my immediate needs and set up a long-term plan for blood tests and treatment plans.

I trusted him immediately.

The thing is, trust is everything. Trust is the foundation for all relationships. If there is no trust, there is no hope of building a sturdy relationship that can weather bad times, whether it’s with a doctor or a spouse.


Fabulous Friday: A Milestone

Featured image This past week, I had a moment–a joyous, Oh-Mah-Gawd moment–that I’ve never experienced before. Someone actually handed me money for a writing project I had done for them.  I wanted to cry. I may have cried, just a little. A couple of years ago, I did some resume and letter work for someone. It was for a friend, and I wasn’t going to charge her. She needed a job. We worked on it a few times over several weeks because she was applying for several different jobs.  On her last visit, she presented me with this:635163484942328451_prod


Fabulous Friday — Not Here

BOOKSometimes a phrase or verse absolutely captivates me; it’s just that fabulous.  It gets me thinking, the wheels turning, and I must, must, must share.
This week, it’s Rumi.  From the Soul of Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks. For some reason, I can’t seem to format the title with the rest of the poem.
I’ve had worse days.
Not Here


There’s courage involved if you want

to become truth.  There is a broken- 

open place in a lover.  Where are

those qualities of bravery and sharp 

compassion in this group?  What’s the

use of old and frozen thought?  I want 

a howling hurt.  This is not a treasury

where gold is stored; this is for copper. 

We alchemists look for talent that

can heat up and change.  Lukewarm 

won’t do. Halfhearted holding back,

well-enough getting by?  

Not here.

This is the essence of writing, for me.  And, as I’ve recently discovered, the essence of life.


Love, Love, Love


This past weekend, somewhere between the house cleaning, the hair-twisting tooth-pulling (i.e., writing), the crawfish, and the general aches and pains, I realized that I love my life.

I mean. I REALLY love my life.

Sure, I could do with a maid that appeared when I snapped my fingers, a bit more financial security, and a bit less 9-5, but I  REALLY do love my life.

I don’t know the last time that I felt that. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt that.

It’s a Lloyd Dobler-holding-a-boom-box kind of love, and I serenaded it with family and sunshine and splurging on some really, really good crawfish.

I love it so much that I actually canceled Netflix.  It’s probably temporary, and yes, I’ve already seen this season of House of Cards (as evidenced by a higher water bill from all of the showers I had to take to rinse the slime off).  It’s not even about the $8 a month, because really, it’s one of the most affordable forms of pre-packaged entertainment available. I am watching my pennies (well, except for crawfish because, well, because crawfish), but that’s not it at all.


Nickel and Diming

Progress is so damn incremental.

I’m not sure that I actually enjoy writing so much as I love being creative.  It’s intention versus execution, something I’ve always had a bit of a struggle with.

I love ideas. I have lots of ideas. Great ideas. How to plan a novel, how to change my life, how to change the world.

An example: How about if Mississippi, one of the poorest, if not THE poorest state in the nation, were to try something a bit different when it came to enticing businesses here. Instead of giving a business a tax subsidy forever, what if the powers that be were to offer it like an introductory plan: Set up business here, we’ll give you a tax credit for, say, 10 years, with the understanding that the business will remain for say, 20 years.  If for whatever reason the business doesn’t pan out, then they would have to pay the amount they would have been taxed.

Not perfect, and I lack the legalese, but it seems possible.  If they wanted to go crazy, they could set wage levels and what not so we wouldn’t have one more business adding more minimum wage jobs that don’t do much for the economy.

But that’s crazy talk. I know.

Or you know, get rid of the tax on food BEFORE we do away with the income tax?

But I digress.

The writing is coming along. Slowly. Painfully and slowly.  It’s like pulling teeth, which is strange. I know this is the book I want to write. In a moment of madness, I discovered the overreaching arc and the crisis, something that will require heavy editing once I’m finished to ensure that it’s consistent with the arc. I have ideas out of the yin-yang (which, I’m not really sure which part of the body to which that actually refers), but sitting down and actually writing is difficult and a bit painful.


Adventures in Writing

I’m a visual person to a degree: I like things in the proverbial black and white. I like exactness, and tracking progress with precision. I like facts and figures. I like, for example, knowing that at the beginning of March, I will have increased my personal net worth by 10%, thanks to my still-in-progress budgeting and tracking system. Perhaps 10.2% or 10.3%. I do like precision.  Which is to say, I’m still in the negative thanks to a mortgage, but less so.

I’ve surpassed 9k words in the novel, perhaps a paltry number when measured against the total of a true novel, but I look to be on track to meet 10k or even 11k words this weekend, and I’m a bit proud of that. It’s progress. Not bad for someone so lacking discipline as myself, with a full-time job and attempting to contract with a possible client for web content.

With the exception of a single successful NaNoWriMo, (which was horrid in execution), the only time I’ve ever written this much on a single project was for my senior thesis.

Which reminds me, I should pull that out. I enjoyed the end result of it. I had a catchy title, I’m sure (I’ve always been fond of not-too-straight forward titles), and it focused on the power exchange information transference.  What is private versus what is secret. How they’re handled. Motivation for keeping and sharing secret and private information.

I do enjoying examining power exchanges: who benefits, who suffers.

I read once that everything is about sex, except sex. Sex is about power. I disagree: I think everything is about power.

But I digress.


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