31 January, 2012

Four And A Half Cats

The bug has certainly upped the mobility, flipping and flopping around like a little play machine.  She is still sitting with assistance of a well placed Boppy, rather than free-styling it.

It seems that when one sits inside of a Boppy, one should stretch oneself backward, almost upside down, and reach for any toys in need a fresh coat of one's slobber. Especially when one is now able to right oneself back up into a sitting position.

Video calling keeps getting better with the bug quickly learning her way around a touch screen.  Specifically, how to hang up on daddy.

However, I think it's time to update on the current cat condition.  You see, grandma already had a cat (we'll refer to him as Angel) and now our three (Panda, Rhino, and Monkey for those who don't remember or haven't read the cat post) and the bearded dragon live at grandma's with wifey and the bug.

Angel has welcomed his cousins warmly and seems to be even relieved to have Rhino to play chase with.  Panda is still working on sharing space with any cats, but that also is working out.

That our three are so tolerated by Angel is interesting because, prior to their arrival, Angel had a neighborhood friend we call Dolores, due to sad looking markings around the eyes.  Dolores does have tags, but never gets close enough to let us look at them.

Angel has firmly put his paw down.  Dolores is no longer allowed to come inside and help his/herself to the food.  Apparently, there are enough mouths to feed.  Angel is fine with Dolores hanging outside, just not inside.  Any more.

As far as the bearded dragon goes - he has a heat lamp - in the middle of the living room.  Cats like that.

27 January, 2012

Refrigerator Art

Family on Friday!!!

One of my favorite Monty Python sketches involves Eric Idle working in the coal mines and his playwright father, Graham Chapman, blows a gasket.  After all, coal miners never get invited to galas or rub elbows with the intellectually elite in orgies of culture.

Before we any of us were old enough to go to school, we likely made such a library of works as to wear out a few magnets, and leave more than a few marks on table tops.  However, hardly any of us had the aesthetic edge to warrant display beyond third grade.

That's a good thing, too.  If all anyone did was beautify the world and distract with tales of false ones, the people that didn't starve to death would succumb to exposure to the elements.

No matter what it is that a person has a talent for and enjoys doing, the job exists.  A child is a boundless avalanche of potential, cascading upon the world with terminal velocity in hopes of finding that perfect niche they can fit into.  Still, it seems parents, more often than not, try to direct the avalanche's direction.  As you can imagine, steering an avalanche has a narrow margin of success.

We can go on and on about the reasons parents try to tell their kids who to be (legacy, failed dreams, prestige, etc.), but I'd rather keep this post about parents realizing that when it comes to avalanches, get out of the way.

And if the bug decides to go work in the coal mines when she's older, I'll buy her a canary and ask myself if she's happy making a living doing something she loves.

25 January, 2012

Bendable Ears

Writers' Wednesday!!!

There comes a time in every writer's life when his/her family and friends don't really want to hear anymore about the story.  That being understood, make the most of what time you have until that happens.

Writers need sounding boards.  Vocalizing is an important tool for organizing plot points, describing concepts, and testing where the readers/audience will want more information (and especially where they won't).

In order for these chats to be as effective as possible, listen.  Listen to yourself tell the story.  Listen to your family members and friends.  Not just for what they say, but also for the subtext behind what they say.

The first big alarm that should go off in your head occurs when you hear yourself actually get into story-telling mode after knocking around with backstory.  Don't write the backstory!  Start with where you started story telling and keep the backstory in mind, revealing the important bits as they become relevant.  (Had Tolkien done this, he could have spared us decades of waiting in the Shire, which Jackson astutely truncated.)

The first big alarm you get, whilst listening to aforementioned sounding board, happens when they switch from interjecting their oohs and aahs with casual references to your genius, and get involved with the world you're creating.  They will ask for more detail, speak of your characters as real people, and put pieces together before your very eyes.

Should your trusted listener begin offering suggestions on how to change your story, or slip into a writer mode all their own, that's a big (and valuable) hint that your story just isn't doing enough for them.  You've lost them and, if it keeps happening, spend more time developing your story.  The exception to this usually involves at least one person we all know who compulsively fixes things that aren't broken until they are.

This technique is especially helpful for people who say they have a hard time explaining their story.  That just means you need more practice.  The better you get at it, the more it will improve your writing style.

24 January, 2012

Faces From Afar

I've pretty well adjusted to life in the bungalow.  Admittedly, I haven't done much more than that in the first full week of living on the N.C. Coast.  I've reached that magic moment when I can confidently use the major roads to get where I'm going without the assistance of Google Navigation.

Video calling wifey and the bug helps me stay connected in a my-daughter-thinks-I'm-Max-Headroom way.  After a few calls, she's become more interactive with the screen.  It's very therapeutic to be able to make her (and her mom) laugh from a distance.

An interesting related development:  She actually moves her hands and fingers in a convincing imitation of typing. I tell you, kids haven't changed a bit.  The world they grow up in has changed.  It's a good thing.

The bug will be turning seven months old this week.  No teeth yet, but something is going on in those gums.

20 January, 2012

One Man's Treasure...

Family on Friday!!!

There are many versions of this week's tip.  My favorite goes something like "Never look down on another man's blessing."  Another popular way to say it is, "Don't laugh at another person's dreams.  It might be all they have."

They have different meanings, but they meet at a common point.  We should try not to feel superior when we see someone with clothes, cars, job, home, food, or the like, that we would rush to get rid of if they showed up in our garages.  It may be the best thing that ever happened to them.

We especially send a bad message when we do so in front of our families.  It validates bullying.  It can also create distance and distrust for family members to share their opinions or express their likes.

I know it's hard when you pass a car with more primer than paint, a floppy oversized spoiler, a sad sounding muffler, and twenty-two inch spinners.  Those kinds of things catch you off guard and you can't help but laugh.

That's okay.  Laugh.

What we don't need to do is follow it up with disparaging remarks or tirades regarding wastes of money.  Best thing to say in a situation like that would be along the lines of "I hope they're happy with that when it's finished," or "they really have been working hard on that."

I recently passed a Toyota Prius (Hybrid car, for any of you who just came out of a time capsule.  Half-gas, half-electric) with the license plate: GAS HOLE.  I laughed.  Hard.  But, then I became self-conscious about my fuel-efficient-but-not-as-fuel-efficient car.

My fight-back instinct wants to point out that I haven't seen a hybrid vehicle, or fully electric, that wasn't hideous.  My logical instinct wants to point out that if there were a desirable model on the market, I'm still a good two years away from having a chance to buy it.  My mediating instinct shuts everyone up by saying I have what's right for me now and so do to the Prius owners.

We can never truly know the situations in the lives of other people.  If we can remember that, more often than not, and curb our desire to kick someone we see on the ground, then our families can make a crucial step to helping others rather than judging.

18 January, 2012

Sensing Your Mind

Writers' Wednesday!!!

In many ways writing is meditation.  It helps us make sense of the swirling intangibles of our mind.  Vivid visualization feeds vivid writing feeds vivid visualization and so on.

Thoughts rattle off in rapid fire mode and (especially when they're really good) we let them flick around like a bad music video.  That type of visualizing is not helpful.  To write better, we need to hold on to one thought at a time.  Write it out thoroughly before letting it move on.

For example, if I told you that three ducks attacked a hedgehog, your mind would try to picture the action and the events surrounding it.  Break it out slowly before the ducks wind up in court.  What color are the ducks?  How effective are their attacks against the hedgehog?  What's the hedgehog's disposition?  Where are they?  Back alley?  Woodland stream?  Purple meadow?  What can you smell?  What is the weather like?  Are there any witnesses to the attack?

I've "slowed" your mind down to just the moment of the attacking.  Actually, I just added more detailed information about the attack.  It's still working just as fast.  Don't worry.

Obviously, not every moment of your writing need be as thorough, or you'll have a terribly slow pace.  (But, that's what editing is for.)

As you prepare to write, your senses become engaged in the ideas you organize.  Try to focus on them and build as complete a picture as possible before moving on.  You'll discover after utilizing this process that your mind becomes sharper in the mental images it creates.  And that makes describing it in words so much easier.

16 January, 2012

Coast To Coast

After nearly a week of driving across the country and unpacking in my temporary bungalow, the jet lag leaves a faint recognition of the absence of road hiss as it moves from behind my eyes and makes one last stand in the motivational center of my brain.  I could have sworn the reality of what I have done would sink in after I saw my belongings set up in a strange place without the bug, or wifey.

There's still the vacation-esque feel to the whole move.  I've decided that's hope telling me they will be able to move out here with me very soon.

In the meantime, frequent phone calls with the little bug voice filling in the background help me feel connected.  She has selected a new group of toys and settled into a nice daily routine with her recently "retired" mommy.  More flavored foods than not are greeted with gusto, chatter, and the rhythmic slamming of palms on the high-chair tray.  A few foods have been outright rejected.

I'm rather amused that after driving 2,800 miles and successfully navigating all over town I now have to wait at the DMV and be tested on my ability to drive.  Speaking of being amused, stay tuned and find out if I wound up failing that test.

13 January, 2012

Division Of Labor

Family on Friday!!!

We all have things we're good at and things that other people rush to do for us before they have to fix it after us.

You may take your shortcomings as a challenge to get better, or inner demons to conquer. I say let 'em go. (Unless you don't really have anything else to contribute.)

All households/families work best by capitalizing on the strengths of their individual parts. It may be that no one is particularly good at a few chores. Up to your family to decide how to tackle that. May I suggest outside help under some bartering arrangement?

The point is not to get hung up or twisted over someone failing to impress when they should be applauded for what they do do. And if one task has been designated to one person, no fair telling them how to do their job.

Furthermore, don't try to take on everything yourself. Delegating saves time, sanity, energy, and marriages. Martyring yourself in the bathroom is just plain creepy.

Finally, cross-training works best for ensuring duties can be covered by a tolerable back-up. Putting all your eggs in one basket can make an accident that much messier.

11 January, 2012

Thick, Rich Consistency

Writers' Wednesday!!!

You can probably name dozens, if not, hundreds of examples of inconsistencies you've found in your life. Books, movies, television, songs, and even commercials are full of them.

That doesn't make it okay for you to use them. The more fictional your story is, the more important the act of writing material you don't publish becomes. Don't be the writer who thinks s/he can just keep track of everything mentally. The mind has a way of contriving and conveniently changing facts when ever it realizes your hero should have been able to turn into a sconce all along. It's too late now.

And for the love of Tebow and everything that is Holy, do not be the writer who thinks everything s/he wrote to keep track of details and special rules needs to be included in the final draft. They have a name for this: exposition dump. Emphasis on the dump. If you suspect that a chunk of your writing might could be called an exposition dump, give yourself a swirly and say ten times, I am a waste of this water.

Where was I? Oh yeah ...

Don't worry about whether or not your rules are debatable if they are consistent. Some readers/audience want it spelled out, drawn in a picture, and wrapped in a bow. (Lite subtext, please.) I find that more people want to have enough information to put it together themselves. Makes them feel smart.

How do you know when there's enough information? Easy. Plenty of people will be reading your work before it gets published. Right? Right?! They will let you know when you don't have enough. But, they won't always know when you have too much.

I have five different notebooks going with separate purposes for the novel I'm writing. I refer to them and previous pages constantly. And I add to them regularly. I have no idea if any of that stuff will ever be published, but it sure is nice to have on hand.

For now, it's Wednesday in Oklahoma, but Tuesday in California? Should I wait to post? Can I feed my mogwai?

10 January, 2012

A Brand New, New Direction

Back in September of 2011, wifey and I started a new-parent routine that involved not having the same day off, taking turns caring for the bug, and generally avoiding having to pay for any childcare. Well, after a few months of that, we decided it wasn't going to last.

On a side note, allow me to point out that if you know any recent mothers returning to the workplace, I assure you they are forcing themselves to be there and finding any way to justify working instead of caring for their baby. The last thing they need to be told is "oh, it goes by so fast. If you blink, you miss it." When they hear that (several times an hour), don't be surprised when they stop showing up to work.

As I was saying, we needed to find a new routine. One that would allow wifey to be a stay-at-home mom, open the possibility of a sibling for the bug, and give me plenty of bacon to bring home. Yes. Bacon.

I scattered probe droids throughout Australia, Canada, the U.S., and France to see where such a routine might exist. Turns out the Rebel base and the mother of bacon generators is in North Carolina.

Naturally, I loaded up my Imperial Star Destroyer and am en route to make a home for us. Wifey and the bug will stay with grandma until the rebel forces have been thwarted.

I apologize for all the Hoth references, but I'm posting from Flagstaff, AZ and it's not warm.

I'm not going to be the write-at-home dad anymore and, for at least a few months, I won't be able to post any first-hand bug development updates. I can tell you she has started sleeping in a variety of extremely cute on-the-side and on-the-belly positions. I'll also need to change my banner once I get my computer hooked up again.

For now, it's time to burn up a fresh tank of gas.

06 January, 2012

The Strength Of Your Resolve

Resolutions are a popular thing this time of year. Goal setting and all that.

Do you shoot for the moon and set yourself up for failure? Are you consistently swearing to start your resolution tomorrow? Perhaps you're busy coming up with resolutions for other people.  Good luck with that.

As far as your family, especially your children, are concerned, the actions you take toward meeting your ambitions mean the most. Go ahead and resolve to compete in a triathlon this year in spite of the fact that last year walking the dog was too much exercise. You'll at least take a few pounds off of yourself and Lucky by trying.

When people see you lace up, soldier through the shin splints, and stick to a routine, you earn credibility along with respect. That credibility will pre-win a few arguments for you. Can't complain about mowing the lawn to anyone wearing ice packs under their knee braces.

Even if you never cross a starting line this year, you can still inspire those closest to you to take action. Go ahead, let them see you sweat.

03 January, 2012

New Year, And An Attitude To Match

Writer's Wednesday!!!

Here I am posting from my phone's app, again. I figure I can only get better at it by doing it.

Which brings me to my point and this year's first writing tip!

Try new and unfamiliar aspects of writing.

You may be anxious about tweeting, blogging, or other social medias and I can almost guarantee you that anxiety stems from inexperience. Get to know it and your confidence will elevate.

Perhaps you scorn specific genres of writing because you can't fathom how they could be written with any discernible degree of talent or interest. Read some of them. You may be surprised.

Then again, you might just justify your belief that such things are not for you. Even if you find you're into anti-social media and can only stomach historical fiction, there will be valuable take-aways that improve your writing style and identity.

02 January, 2012

That's How She Rolls

Over our Christmas visit, wifey's aunt asked if the bug had started rolling over yet.  I updated auntie that she had rolled over a couple times over the last month or so, but didn't seem especially interested in it.  That she just did it when she felt like it.

As I was saying that, the bug flipped onto her stomach.  Then back to her back.  Then rollie-ollie-ollied from side to side several times.  Six months old and already trying to prove me wrong.  She gets more and more like her mom everyday.

Ever since that day (for the last... what?... five?  sheesh), the bug is a flippin' fool.  Rolling around is a chief component of her floor play, and if she's not on her side in her crib, she's belly down and head up.

She's quite proud of herself for gaining a little extra mobility, too.  These movements are typically accompanied with the sort of loud whoops reserved for athletes after making a big play.

No crawling as of yet.  She can get her butt up on knees or toes, but she hasn't quite got the hang of forward motion or lifting her chest off the ground.  Stay tuned.  The race is on between teeth or crawling.