Adrianne Stone

Wordsmith

August 6, 2015
by adri
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Inspirational Woman: Vivian Connell

Vivian Connell

An Inspiration to All

I was having a relaxing sushi dinner at Chapel Hill restaurant Oishii with my dear friend, Vivian Connell. She is an educator who went on to get her law degree so that she can be in a better position to create change in a decidedly ameliorated public education system.  Her classes, both at the high school and college level, are steeped in social justice perspectives and she was – and continues to be – quite strident in her views about creating an equitable education for all. One of her pet projects is Writing Wrongs, in which she teaches children about the Holocaust.  She was hoping to be able to bring marginalized kids on a trip to DC to visit the Holocaust Museum to learn about how system disparities affect people and to have the students write about their experience there.

As the sake flowed, we chatted about that, as well as the usual things:  the Duke TIP program for our seventh grade daughters; our work/life balance; politics; films.  And then she dropped the bomb:  She had begun to experience a strange feeling in her leg and had just been to a doctor to determine the cause.  “It’s either one of three things,” she said.  “Either it’s MS, some sort of neuropathy…or it’s Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” she said, matter-of-factly, adding,  “I’m hoping it’s not ALS,” in reference to the latter.  “Yes,” I agreed, “that would definitely not be good.”

Our dark humor allowed for a titter as we noted the possibilities.  Unfortunately, just a few months later, the worst was confirmed and our hopes were for naught.  In the spring of 2014, she was told she’d have roughly three years remaining in her brief lifespan.  While many of us would wallow in self-pity and depression, she used her anger at having had such a remarkably awful twist of fate interfere with the life she’d so carefully carved by pursuing the Writing Wrongs project.  Driven, she raised funding and support that not only brought the many students on the Holocaust Museum, but also arranged for private viewings in sequestered areas of our capital for the students to see a copy of the Magna Carta and other historical documents.  Sensitive to their personal needs, she was overjoyed that she was able to house them at an upscale hotel and allow them to order – many for the first time – from the menu at a posh restaurant.  This was the school trip to end all school trips…and Vivian delighted in it.

And yet…the clock was ticking.  I was standing at the sidelines while my friend was accomplishing greatness as she faced the loss of her mobility, ability to speak, ability to breathe on her own…it was just devastating.  How could I help, beyond the occasional cooked dinners for her family of four?  And then I realized the best way to honor this remarkable woman would be to share her legacy with others.  I pitched Chapel Hill magazine and VP of Content Andrea Griffith Cash was delighted to include Vivian in a special Woman’s issue that they were planning.  I am so terribly proud of Vivian and humbled by her accomplishments.

November 23, 2012
by adri
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Everything’s Coming Up Roses

 

When Chapel Hill Magazine asked me to do a story on Strowd’s Roses, I thought it may have something to do with a local florist.  After all, I was still fairly new in town and didn’t know much about the local movers and shakers.  But after lengthy interviews with local big wigs and the legal team that arranged this organization, I discovered that Strowd’s Roses is a hugely successful entity begun by a green-thumbed philanthropist and his wife that provides funding for worthy local non-profits.  In just a decade, it had provided nearly $4 million to schools, research, shelters, food banks and more.  I was impressed…and you will be, too, as you read about how one big-hearted couple beautified their town inside and out.

April 21, 2012
by adri
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Warming Up With Divine Dining Design

When people ask why I left New York for North Carolina, I like to respond in a grave tone, “It was illness.”  This is usually met with a look of solemn concern.  Then I add, “I was SICK of New York” and watch their faces light up in gleeful relief.

In spite of living in close proximity to the “city that never sleeps,” I rarely had a chance to partake of its bounty of cultural offerings.  In Westchester, where I lived, property taxes were the highest in the country (my bill was an exorbitant $21,000 a year and climbing) and every potential outing to the city was measured against the cost differential of such an undertaking.  An evening out?  $75 for the babysitter, $10 for tolls, $20 for parking, $100 for dinner…that’s over $200 for a couple of hours of sushi sans sake.  It became less time-consuming and more economically prudent to prepare a meal at home and dig in for the night.

Another Frigid NYC Winter

True, museums were relatively inexpensive, but theater was crazy expensive.  And the financial squeeze wasn’t the only issue.  It was so brutally cold during the blizzard-filled winter of 2010/2011, we actually built a full-size igloo in our front yard.  And the plummeting temperatures were such that we were able to sustain our domed ice house for nearly two months.  The thought of facing another blisteringly frigid season was enough to send me over the edge, so when we visited Chapel Hill over spring break, I was ripe to fall in love with the place.  It is a community of educated and warm people, abundant restaurants, rich culture (rife with museums and performing arts houses), manageable cost of living and thrillingly mild climate.

Dining Al Fresco

Once I made the move, the folks at Chapel Hill magazine learned of my work at Westchester magazine – a similarly high-end publication focused on an upscale readership – and asked me to contribute to their pages.  One of the earliest pieces I did for them was a spread about an outdoor kitchen designed for a family that enjoyed entertaining al fresco.  The owners were two married doctors with great, upbeat senses of humor and an eagerness to share their excitement about their home improvement.  When I commented on how much I loved the neighborhood, they urged me to talk to some neighbors who were about to put their home on the market.  This is just the sort of friendliness I enjoyed in my new community.  Chapel Hill, where the soil is rich and ideal for transplanting Yanks in need of sun.

February 15, 2012
by adri
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Achieving Aquatic Zen

A Mermaid's Life

The website spacious.me celebrates the breathing room that we allow ourselves in our interactions with others, in our time spent alone, and in the creation of concepts that can make the world a richer place.  Its sense of interconnectivity draws followers from well beyond its home base of Washington, DC, where the site’s creators Joey Katona and Cary Umhau set up shop for their forward thinking blog space and the events they hold to support it.

An avid athlete (P90X, anyone?), ardent hiker, biker and swimmer, I was eager to embrace my new environs when I moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina from Westchester, New York (it was due to illness…I was SICK of New York!).  It wasn’t long before I discovered the Homestead Aquatics Center, where I had been achieving a glorious zen state every time I set my varnished toes into the sparkling lap lanes for my mile-long swims (68 fabulous laps).  It was time to share my discovery with the world, so spacious.me was kind enough to allow me a guest post on my personal spacious experience.

Perhaps, upon reading the piece, you’ll find yourself inspired to don your goggles and immerse yourself in the vast glory of a good swim…

September 23, 2011
by adri
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Sage Wisdom…or Jedi Mind Trick?

Free Advice

Free Advice

I often find that I am the “go to” person for advice amongst my friends and colleagues.  It is a fairly common occurrence for me to provide an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on and some semblance of logic-based input.  Whether this is a reflection of sage wisdom on my part (doubtful!) or some sort of Jedi mind trick that has my comrades believing I actually know better than they do about something is debatable.

However, fellow writer/editor Kim Taylor had worked with me at several outlets – a Los Angeles-based website for which I was a cultural editor, and an advertising agency for which I wrote copy for Nesquik (choco-lity goodness!), car insurance companies and the like.  Our work styles were very much in sync, so we were an effective team.  So when she moved on to the California Psychics website and approached me to provide counseling there touching on such behavioral topics as knowing when to break off a toxic friendship, becoming at ease with public speaking or improving one’s status at work, I figured she’d fallen under the same misconception – that I somehow knew better than others how to react in any given situation.  Well, to be honest, I do come up with logical and practical advice…so this time, I heeded my own advice and took the gig so that I could start pointing people in the right direction.

The site name, however, concerned me a bit — Psychics?  Really?  I imagined turban-ed swamis divining the future over crystal balls.  This, I thought, would not be a good forum for my work.  But upon closer inspection, I realized that nestled beyond the horoscopes and psychic predictions, some very sound counseling was provided.  Educated, realistic, grounded-in-good-sense and logical approaches to everyday dilemmas were the real “meat” of this site…and it would be that part of the site that I would be contributing to on a regular basis.

Stories with ambiguous titles like Your Toxic Assets gave insight into changing what would normally be perceived as life’s “negatives” to find a “positive” — psychological lemonade out of lemons, if you will.  Feedback was great, with responses coming from readers who’ve applied my so-called wisdom and actually improved their lives.

Relationship Therapy

Relationship Therapy

I was surprised to have had this affect on people and began in earnest writing more philosophical prose.  Many other inspirational stories followed, such as Ego Wrangling about dealing with self-centered types both socially and at the workplace; Refresh Your Sexual Energy, which dealt with harnessing lust and love; and, The Other Woman, which explored the respect for relationship territory.

The experience was as much a banquet for the soul and mind of others as it was for myself.  After all, the self-examination involved in sharing my experience and views was cathartic and fulfilling…and it allowed me to forgo the option of seeking advice from Ouija boards or tarot cards.

Proud, Master Yoda would be!

June 20, 2011
by adri
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Reeling ‘Em In

Demo Reel, a Visual Resumé

My interest in film began after I wrote my first screenplay, HARLEY, which won a Diane Thomas Award (presented by UCLA Extension and Amblin Entertainment).  A producer at Twentieth Century Fox was interested in the project and it was well on its way to being greenlighted until the then-head of the studio, Joe Roth, left.  At that point, all bets were off and the script wound up shelved.

Still, I was intrigued by the machinations behind filmmaking.  It helped that my husband is a camera assistant because I often swiped his copies of ICG (International Camera Guild magazine) to read up on different moviemaking techniques.  I was fascinated by the choices of lights and gels and film types to create the right imagery for a film.   Although this was — and still is — very much my husband’s domain, when I learned that the Camera Guild’s own publication was seeking a contributing writer, I jumped at the chance.

What followed was several years of extremely rewarding work, interviewing Directors of Photography, Grips, and Camera Assistants about such then-novel ideas as 3D and digital filmmaking, the virtues of Kodak film, how best to light a music video that takes place inside a cave (Velvet Revolver) and the perils of shooting a commercial in the jungle at night.

For the piece Demo Reels, I explored the very necessary creation of the visual samples of work that Directors of Photography use as their resumés.  Such a calling card serves the purpose of capturing one’s imagination while simultaneously entertaining the viewer and delivering the best possible sample of the filmmaker’s work.

Of course, there’s a whole science – and industry – behind the making of Demo Reels and this is what I investigated for the piece as I interviewed the guild members as well as their agents and others who are quite literally behind the scenes.  I suppose one could call this website, Adriannestone.com, my own demo reel…but I couldn’t claim to be a filmmaker (or even a particularly good photographer!).

June 19, 2011
by adri
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Sexchester – Sex Lives in Westchester

Sexuality in the Suburbs of New York

One of the most ribald pieces I’ve ever written was for a special issue of Westchester magazine entitled, “Sexchester.”  The special feature was comprised of five stories – one exploratory piece written by Dave Donelson followed by four other stories that I’d written (scroll down the page on the link above and you’ll see them).

These forays into the sexuality of Westchester residents included a segment on a gay couple from Peekskill, a single woman from Harrison, a divorced mother from Ardsley and my hands down favorite, the cheater from White Plains.  I didn’t actually LIKE the cheater, but I really loved writing about him.  As you can tell from the piece, his was the snarkiest.

The gay couple actually had some fantastically amusing things to say, but the publication thought that some of their comments were a little too risque for their pages.  Well, they’re not too bawdy for me!  I’ll repeat just one of the jokes they made about their sex life here on the pages of my very own site:  ”We used to have sex all the time, but now we only have hallway sex.”  Hallway sex?  What’s that?  ”We pass each other in the hallway and say, ‘F–K you!’ ‘Oh, yeah?  F–k you, too!’”

As for the other stories, although the women were respectable, intelligent, hardworking people, they both suffered a bit of a backlash after the piece was published. The single woman’s story was bastardized and reprinted in a sensationalistic style on the internet in a way that inferred that she was performing illicit acts.  She wound up having to take legal action against those outlets.  The divorced mother was hounded by her ex-husband, who was angry that their daughters were included in her picture.  I was so offended that he would attack her for this — the girls were depicted in a loving and affectionate manner — that I took it upon myself to write a letter attesting to her excellent mothering skills.  She was able to present this letter to the judge when she was under scrutiny by the court as part of their ongoing divorce case.

Ultimately, it was a much talked about piece.  People stopped me in the grocery store or the post office or out on the street just to tell me how much they’d howled over the cheater’s story or to say how much they could relate to the other featured profiles.  I hope you’ll enjoy reading these pieces as much as they did…and as much as I enjoyed writing them.

June 17, 2011
by adri
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Adoption Gone Awry

Sometimes Love Isn't Enough

Some assignments are uplifting, while others are heartbreaking.  The piece I did for Westchester magazine (a publication that skews towards high income females) called Adoption Gone Awry illuminated the world of adoption in a truly dramatic and honest fashion.

It exposed the downside of taking in a child as your own – navigating through a system that raises hopes but promises nothing.  Even the lucky ones find themselves facing issues of separation and anger from the children upon whom they’ve showered their love.

I wanted to present this story as more of a service piece – garnering as much help from authorities on the subject (psychologists, adoption agencies, doctors) as possible.  But the publication weighed heavier in favor of sensationalism.  Sadly, it wasn’t difficult to deliver on that, as there are countless stories of adoptions that tore families apart like a tornado devastating not only parents but siblings in its lethal path.

Tread carefully and wisely, do your homework…and hope for the best.  After all my exhaustive research, that was ultimately the best advice.

June 16, 2011
by adri
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Eco-Friendly Countertops

Recycled glass countertops

When Mother Nature News (MNN.com) asked me to research Eco-Friendly Countertops for a feature story, I was delighted to explore the options.  After all, I’d just redone my kitchen and had a little bit of experience with granite.  But how sustainable was it?  I was about to find out.  And my choice of a built-in bamboo chopping board for slicing and dicing my vegetables?  A sound…but not yet perfected choice.  The variety of recycled materials was astounding – and very cost effective.  If only I could turn the clock back and do my renovation in a more economically and ecologically robust manner…

June 13, 2011
by adri
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Sustainable Investing

Invest "Green!"

I’ve penned numerous stories that had to do with the environment. Sustainability, eco-friendly products…these are all of great interest to me as we attempt to provide our children with a clean planet that’s socially, economically, and environmentally sound.

For Mother Nature News (MNN.com), I wrote quite a few of these pieces. One particularly intriguing feature had to do with how to place your funds with “green” investment companies. For someone who is slow to embrace the world of finance, this was a big eye opener…and helped me decide how best to invest my own hard-earned dollars.  I began to consider more keenly that my financial planning included investments in companies whose interests lie in preservation and responsible choices.

The story, “Put Your Money Where the Earth Is,” helped raise awareness for many forward-thinking people who want to plan wisely not only for their future but for the future of everyone on the planet.  With the economy currently in a definitive downturn, there is no better time to focus on educated choices.  This particular feature is an excellent place to start.