Always on my mind

Howdy everyone, Tina here!

So as another day has passed, I am now ever closer to that fateful day when my dear sweet little boy, goes to school.

Now I know what you all are thinking, “Congrats! You have made it 5 years without mortally wounding your child. Now you get to send him off for half the day and experience your own time.” Well my friends, you are so wrong!

The last few years that I have spent at home with Nik have been amazing. He is so inquisitive and full of life. I worry about how I will do without him. I know he is going to do amazing in school. He has been practicing his whole life.

 

 

 

Making friends. Check. He will say hi to nearly everyone he sees. He seems to have a knack for honing in on those people with extremely sour dispositions and doing everything he can to get them to acknowledge him or just say Hi if they are really stubborn. Many a rideshare driver has met and talked with Nik, which is great for me because I get to just sit back and let him do all the talking. Even with our mildly grumpy roommate Watson, Nik knows that he doesn’t really like kids but will tell him jokes or do silly things to his dad to get Watson to laugh or smile. He tries sneaky ways to try and get him to talk to him too. He is getting better at it and even Watson admits that he keeps forgetting his own rule to ignore anything that can’t spell in a video game.

Schooling. Check. As far as general education goes, he is so ready. He has been working on his vocabulary since he found out he could talk. Kris and my hard fast rule to never baby talk him made sure he understood everyone around him and that he was well understood. He loves watching shows with me and his dad, so we worked on showing him all the coolest shows we loved from our childhood. Magic School Bus, Bill Nye, Zoobumafu, among others. That had us finding ones he really liked like Octonauts, Finding Stuff Out, and Wild Kratts. He loves learning about animals, nature, and space. He told Kris and me that his goal is to become a Firefighter, policeman, and astronaut in that order. I have no fears that when it comes to learning that he will shun away from it. I think he will be the one gathering others to it, hopefully not to explode or anything.

Challenges. Check. This kid has the iron will of a rusted shut bear trap. When it comes down to getting Nik to do something he doesn’t want to do, I have learned. You don’t demand, you challenge. Which to some might sound silly. He’s my kid and should do what I say when I say it right? No, he is his own person with his own set of ideas about what he does. You want him to do something different, please explain. So I could yell and scream and hold my breath and stomp my feet and we both end up feeling bad, or I can explain it to him for hours on end until I feel like my head is going to explode, or I can make it a race, make it a game, make it a spoonful of sugar if you will. I can let his willfulness get the best of me or I can work with it and help him to find the challenges and fun in life. I would much rather he make every day things seem like a game than watch him ho-hum though life.

So, will I cry on Tuesday of next week? YOU CAN COUNT ON IT. Not because I am scared for him or it means he is growing up. He reminds me everyday that he is getting older and bigger. No, I will be crying because my brightest beam of joy and love will be missing for most of my day and being faced with his own new challenges and learning. I will stand there however, with a brave face and a warm smile and hug to see him off. I will wave to him as he goes off to class each day, ready to learn and enjoy the things he finds. I will smile each day he goes to school, because for him, this is his newest adventure, and for me as well.

Niko chill

in which Kris spends a lot of time talking about races. Fantasy races.

Kris here,

I’ve been doing some thinking-about-but-not-actually-doing writing lately (52 stories in 52 weeks HOW?!) and I’ve been lightly re-designing that world of mine Tina made her story in previously. Which is fine, except she’s already written a story – so I’m stepping through my own minefield of consistency demanding my own creation to change, but stay consistent with what’s already been written. Phew. And don’t pretend a single one of you isn’t thinking “haha you definitely screwed something up.” Yeah I know it, that’s fine though. Designing the world and the history is my forte, it’s the sitting down to plot that I’m not really fabulous at.

Let’s stay on track here. I do some light outlining or thinking oftentimes while either listening to a podcast (which is highly distracting), or just listening to music without words to bog me down. While thinking about races to use in the world a lot, and I mean A LOT, of people have some strong opinions on what kind of beings you use to populate a world you’re crafting up for yourself. I don’t know if any of you have strolled down that path, but let me tell you: it’s a rivalry. Not mine, I mean. But one nonetheless. When making flora and fauna to throw around – probably in attempt at murdering your main character somehow – I don’t actually see any pushback as far as I can tell. Throughout all my podcasts and researching the answers to different kinds of problems though, I’ve definitely seen some clear lines drawn in the sand.

“Hey guys, I’m building a story around a guy who has superpowers and there’s a flower grown at the castle that actually shoots laser beams like cyclops from x-men and if it detects superpowers like in the protagonist, it’ll CALL DOWN LIGHTNING AND SET THE CASTLE ON FIRE TO PREVENT ESCAPE” and everyone around is like “oh yeah man that sounds pretty good, I like the bit about fire you added in there.”

The problem seems to revolve specifically around just the sentient things, and more specifically, anything they have to put themselves into the minds of. Protagonist, supporting characters, antagonist, kings, street sweepers – whatever, doesn’t matter.

“Hey guys look at my protagonist is a human but I made his best friend a dwarf see and they grew up because the dwarf’s dad is a master blacksmith and adopted the MC when he was a street urchin so they’re like brothers!” and you’re going to run into one of three people.

*disclaimer: listen, I know there are billions of people in the world and it’s likely there are mixed opinions or even more varied contrasting types that I’m not including in my three. You’re very special to me and I don’t mean to slight you, but these three are blankets I’m casting over the fantasy community because nobody is going to read my segment on how you’ll meet one of sixteen thousand people. Not even me!

-continuing-
So one of three people. You’ve got the humans camp – “oohhh maaaan I’m so sick of all these fantasy races, they’re so bland and boring – bunch of tropes and idiot ideas to deuce ex machina your way into not having to think about relationships and junk. Just use humans! Jeez you’re one of them, what are you, ASHAMED!” I don’t want to take any sides here since I don’t really have a horse in this race, but I think this is my least favorite position. This is actually a position I’ve heard several of my favorite authors make too – why complicate the story with extra details for your readers to memorize when you can simplify the world as much as possible and focus more on the individual characters themselves. The towns, kingdoms, relationships, a sufficiently complex world shouldn’t really need fairies and elves to attract interest.

The second group you’ll run in to is the crowd who’s actually super excited about classical fantasy races. A lot of arguments I’ve seen in this realm are actually happy to include all the classics in a story, but really aren’t interested in non-human protagonists. It’s probably something to do with empathy and trying to fit your head into something you aren’t. I get that, it can be tricky to suspend your disbelief when there isn’t enough familiar material to ground yourself with. There’s actually a second “net” I’m going to cast over this group too – there are a lot of people who are just so freaking bored of humans that they refuse to include them, or they do so in the most minimalistic way. Honestly, I was this type in my early teens – I played all kinds of those tabletop games, but I can’t think of a single time I wanted to play a human. They were so boring and mundane, can’t even see in the dark. Useless! I think the draw in classical fantasy is primarily that a lot of the tedious groundwork is already fleshed out, so you can spend less time balancing your people and more time finding ways they can just rampage around accidentally murdering things off. Most writers seem to want to splice their own flavor to make the races unique, but it’s always only to an extent where the reader can identify quickly and easily.

The third set is of course those people who prefer fantasy, but you have to make it up yourself. No cheating using pre-fabricated races and worlds and the like. The first group (humans only) actually have a section hiding in it of people who will demand humans only, but if you have to do fantasy, then at least make up your own stuff. There are some pretty good reasons to do this too – more creative license to do what you want without people calling you out for breaking the standards. You can also have a bit of fun as a writer doing this too: you need to name an ugly, evil race of stupid jerk monsters and you have a terrible co-worker who think is a stupid jerk? Well it looks like you got yourself a name and a description! This can be a challenging sort of adventure to set out on though, since nobody is familiar with anything in your story in this case – this means you’ll need to concisely elaborate on descriptions and cultures in sneaky ways (lengthy descriptions are demanding on our attention spans) as well as somehow force the reader into taking your protagonists side in order to really feel what you want them to. If writing weren’t challenging in some ways though, I have a feeling a lot fewer of us would decide to bother.

I think there are definite merits and detriments to whatever you choose, otherwise there would be a lot more uniformity in the writing community. That would make everything a lot more boring though. There’s no way I could motivate myself to read the 80th book in a row in the same genre with the same races and the same timeline. I would probably… well I don’t know, but it would be bad! I don’t really want to list out the pros and cons since this is getting really long anyway, but maybe I’ll throw it together in the future. I just have to decide if I want to make it about an elf, a human, or a race of super intelligent rats with wolverine claws and a penchant for vengeance.

In which Kris supports supporting characters

 

Kris here,

Tina’s been pressuring me to write some stuff recently because she thinks I’m “lazy” even though playing Minecraft is technically writing I’m just saying. We’ve also had Zack down for a few weeks to visit, and between hanging out with the kids, working and keeping the house tidy, I’ve done basically zero writing in the last six weeks. So she’s probably right. Tina also recently said “hey Kris there’s this thing where a bunch of people want to write 52 short stories in 52 weeks let’s go!” and I spit my coffee all over myself. A short story a week?!

So I’ve been setting the backbones for a bunch of short stories recently and in doing so, I notice my protagonists generally seem to be non-heroic or not the main character if you will. It’s a bit interesting so I actually got sidetracked for a while just looking at other stories to see if it’s just because that’s what I’ve read or if I’m subconsciously modeling my writing after someone, but I don’t think so. I’ve got the world I started out of boredom about a year ago that’s stuck with me because I love it (and my wife wrote a 60,000 word novel in it that she almost finished because she doesn’t care about my mental well-being) so naturally my stories are based there – but even when I’m thinking of other ideas, the only type of story that I write the main character as the important person is in horror stories. Nobody is going to be scared if you write:

“and then she received a phone call. It was the police! They said her *related person* was in a car accident and there were ghostly scrapes on the car door!”

That’s..not spooky.

Well maybe those types of stories aren’t interesting and that’s why nobody writes them, but I know I can’t be the only one! I’m thinking of famous big sellers like The Hunger Games (face of a revolution) or Harry Potter (he killed the bad guy as a baby AND an adult); but also the lesser known books too, like one I’ve mentioned previously the Enchanted Forest series (smart princess who’s amazing.) I know a lot of protagonists start as the underdog and then are the hero by the end, but that counts too. I added a story a month or two ago about an innkeeper who was assailed by a bad wizard dude – he’s just a dude trying to get by, then the two magic dudes come fight it out in his inn and burn it to the ground. By the end of the story, he’s still just an innkeeper.

I probably won’t ever make a full-length project out of a supporting character – it would be incredibly frustrating. Even in the story I just mentioned, I was thinking “maybe I should write about this wizard he seems awesome” – I think this sort of thing would be good only as supporting stories or something to tease an audience about how super great the main character for your actual novel is going to be. Each time I set up a short story, it’s a side-person: a kid who needs help with a curse seeking out a witch doctor, an innkeeper getting dragged into an evil wizard plot. This probably stems from the fact that writers are usually notorious for only worldbuilding as much as they actually have to, so I’m always finishing up books like “No! Go back to the swamp why were the snakes on fire! Teell meee!” I’m pretty drawn into side details and background information and I think side-characters are a good way to explore these without detracting from some grand quest to save the world.

Oh man, I got distracted again, there’s no way I’m going to be able to fit 52 short stories in 52 weeks DO THESE PEOPLE NOT HAVE CHILDREN!

Flavoring your life

Tina Here.

 

When you are sick or broken as often as me. You start to loose hope in things quickly. Goals that once seemed doable are now far out of reach. You loose the motivation to push on for the things you care about. You loose a large part of what you feel makes you. I push and push when it comes to dealing with just everyday life. I am so sick of my personal daily grind of just convincing myself that getting out of bed is worth the effort.

When you have to push to get every little bit you can, finding the drive to do the things you want to do becomes nearly impossible. However, When you find people to support you and understand you, you can make a sucky outlook seem like the past.

I just got done working at RTX for my 3rd year. I love working at conventions because they show you how much a group of strangers can come togeather like a family to support a cause they love. I enjoyed every second of my time at RTX this year and even with my limitations I knew that I could rely on my RTX family to have my back.

Izzy was a huge help and loved by everyone. She alerted not only to my anxiety and things but also when someone else would come in and they were battling things too. She just looked at each person and seemed to give more attention to those who later told me they had been having a really hard time until they saw Izzy. That warmed my heart more than anything. My service dog was not just a service to me, but to my extended family as well. She never barked at another dog or person. She waited for me to tell her to say hello before she walked over to people. She was the most amazing 5-month-old Great Dane puppy that I could have ever asked for. She set a standard that I was proud to see was so much more than I could have hoped. We educated, we loved, and we took care of everyone. Those are the things I love doing the most. So because of Izzy, I had the best RTX ever and I can’t wait for next year.

Things like RTX and PAXSouth are events I look forward to every year. I push myself to go to them despite how my body is feeling or how many things I think will go wrong. I use it to push myself past my limits and show myself that I am capable of working with my environment.

Now to start working on my book… Oh man. I just opened a can on myself there. Well, time to get writing on that.

Self Instruction

bite-size todo lists!

Kris here,

Recently I’ve been struggling with giving Nikolai instructions around the house. On one hand, he’s a bright guy and can usually pick up things like “hey Nik  go upstairs and grab the heating pad next to mom’s side of the bed” without any problems. On the other hand…he struggles a bit when the instructions start getting modular. “Hey Nik, go ahead and clean out your room by putting all the toys in their crates and then pick up your garbage, and then once you’re done you should be good to put the laundry in the hamper and feed Sting.” He tries hard, but I’m relatively sure I’d forget that even faster than him.

I’ve also found myself trying to follow these vague mental outlines I set up for my own schedule and it usually flops onto my face like an old, angry Durian fruit. I’ve been investigating myself and my methods and I’ve found that just writing up a quick instructional is a huge focusing tool and it’s like a 20 second project. Want to get the downstairs clean? Numbered list:

  1. Trash
  2. Toys
  3. Dog Toys
  4. The toys that were dragged downstairs while I was picking up dog toys
  5. The dog toys that were dragged out while I was picking up human toys

You get the idea – just structure your next hour or something and things seem to get done a lot faster than they normally would. While writing up a brief checklist recently I thought of that hilarious writing exercise we all do as kids where someone says ‘write out instructions for an alien who’s never been to earth but who has a translator to explain the English words’ – anybody remember that? The skits were hilarious,

“put your shoes on and then cross the strings, fold one side over the other and make a loop” *person places shoe on top of his foot, winds up the laces like a madhouse*

I’ve noticed this helping my communication skills with some of my peers as well – I work in a technical environment and sometimes I get questions from people who might go outside or something during their off-time. Sometimes I accidentally jump into rocket science explanations and let them stare at me for a while until they just pull up google and say “okay thanks, one more time but real slow.” Getting your brain to break tasks into micro-transactions  is like my goal post from a while back but in a micro-scale – apparently I’m really bad at translating my advice from different scales until months later.

Anyone who finds themselves running out of time should give it a shot – next time you look a project in the eye, spend 60 seconds on a rough-but-concise outline and follow it. No really follow it, you don’t get to stray from instructions just because they’re yours! You might just find that investing 45 seconds before starting saves you a bunch of time later, and you can whip up that chocolate cake you’ve been craving.

When sickness comes

Tina Here,

Feeling pretty under the weather today. So much so that the first sentence sat alone on this page for no less than 15 mins. The biggest obstacle in becoming sick is that I just don’t have the time for it. With a 5-month-old puppy, a 5-year-old boy and my 11-year-old visiting for the summer, I am expected to entertain and be present for the day. No lounging in the bed all day to recover for me.

However, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Sick as I feel it stinks that I can’t be more energetic for them and let them run around like the crazy people they are, but I am just in the dumps. I can’t take anything that would help me feel better because I can’t point to one thing and say, “Yes, that is what is wrong with me.” I have to just get up, get dressed and put it all in my brain.

The slow feeling that has invaded me seems to be infesting other parts of my life as well. My once tidy little kitchen has dishes piled high. My living room is a picture of chaos. The poor puppy is also running out of places to poo because I haven’t had a chance to clean up!

My amazing husband does the best he can to take care of me.  Unfortunately, he is at work for 11 hours of the day. However, I am holding out hope that tomorrow I can sleep in a bit. Maybe go to bed early tonight.

Izzy – Week 4

Izzy is gaining traction this week with her learning. We need to start practicing outside but for now, we are impressing our SD trainers with how well she handles new people and situations. She also has several of the more advanced things happening, which means that now that she has gotten her booster she should be good to start working in the public! A very exciting step for both of us as it means she is getting closer to being able to work with me everywhere. She is still only 3 months old but she is making some amazing progress. She is also progressing in her height and weight.

 

Digging and chewing on things we don’t want her to have, like my lawn butterfly. I got a chance to have my cousin and son work with her and see what training her is like. So here are some more fun pictures from that.

Also, she has figured out she is now tall enough to put her paws up on the counter and peek what might be up there for her. Which means we need to control that now or risk never being able to hide anything from her again!

HOMEWORK:

  1. Continue to work on being able to open the front door without her trying to get out or say hello to whoever is there.
  2. Continue practice on heel and keeping her next to my side when training.
  3. Keep up the invisible barriers
  4. Recall!!!!!!!!!
  5. Recall!!!!!!
  6. and RECALL!

If you can’t tell, recall is going to be one we need quite a lot and she needs to know it without any issues. I hope to start taking her to what my trainers keep calling, “The depot” which, I don’t know what that means but apparently it is a place where lots of service dog teams meet up for socializing and working with their pups and getting tips from old pros who might offer some help.

Either way, Izzy and I are stoked to get out there and start meeting other people and teams and get our training some practice.