Five Things About Fathers

I wasn’t close to my father.

I know this is the part where people expect me to whine about how hard my life was since Daddy didn’t love me enough.  Honestly, I didn’t really notice the absence at first, it simply was what it was.  There was a period of my life where I hated him for who he wasn’t, but I got over it, and it went back to the reality  that he simply wasn’t the person I wanted him to be, and that was okay.

It doesn’t mean that not having my father in my life did not affect me at all.  Not having a father makes me want my daughters to have a good Daddy.  I don’t want them to have a point in their life where they wonder if they are simply unlovable, I want them to always know they are awesome.  I am lucky enough to have a husband who is not always perfect, but is a fantastic father.

1) A  Good Father is a Father.

I know, this is the silly one that should be obvious.  It is easy to make a child, but it is much harder to be a part of a child’s life.  This isn’t about a genetic connection, it is about an emotional connection.   It is about caring, and wanting to be there, even when you can’t.  No one is perfect, but a good father takes the role seriously.  Maybe he sometimes buys the wrong toy, but he still knows what is important for his children and tries to make sure it happens.

2) A Good Father makes his kids laugh.

There is nothing quite as nice as a laughing child (unless they are loudly laughing in your ear while you try to work, but that is another thing).  A dad who knows his kids knows all the things that make them smile, from the stupid knock-knock joke, to the Harry Potter reference, to the ritual pulling of the finger.  Just when he thinks he knows everyway to make his child laugh, he finds something new, not because he became funnier, but because he was trying.

3) A Good Father makes his kids cry.

Now calm down, I’m not talking about anything crazy.  Sometimes kids want things that don’t need or shouldn’t have.  A good father knows that when this happens, his kids might cry, or whine, or pout, and he has to let them.  There is more to learn from disappointment than there is to learn from getting everything you want.

4) A Good Father is strong.

When those tears start flowing, whatever the reason, the good father needs to be strong.  If they are crying to get their way, you can’t give in.  If they are crying because they are hurt, you need to be there for them  before you are allowed to break down yourself.  The needs of the child come first when they are crying, and a father needs to be strong enough to know how to deal with the tears.

5) A Good Father loves, always.

Kids mess up.  Sometimes it’s a mess on the wall, sometimes it’s staying out past curfew, or bad grades.  No matter what, a child needs to know that they are loved and they have a place to come home.  Love for your child should be unconditional; even when the conditions change, the love remains.

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Plans

This week has not gone as planned.

It’s hard to pinpoint where things began to go wrong.

Maybe it was when there was a forgotten day of no school for my older daughter, causing me to rework my Monday schedule.  Maybe it was the trip to the ER on Tuesday where we learned my younger daughter has yet another broken arm.  Maybe it was the late night trying to finish end of school gifts for teachers.  Maybe it was the missed bus for a school an hour away, or the last minute doctors appointments.

There are just so many choices for where my week went crazy, I’m not sure it is possible to decide what was the final straw.  All I know for certain, is there was definitely a point where I just kind of gave up on the idea that I might have control over my life.

Well, not completely given up.  I have one more chance to salvage my normal life, even if it is just for today.  And I am taking it.  I am going to catch up on a little cleaning, get my scheduled workouts, eat my healthy meals, and hit my word count today, or I will go insane trying.

I can share the one thing I accomplished this week.  For my younger daughter, leaving Kindergarten is both a wonderful thing, and a sad experience.  She has enjoyed time with her friends and teachers, and while she will not miss homework, she will miss them.  As a small token of gratitude for all their hard work, we made tote bags for her two teachers, as well as the school nurse and principal with whom she bonded during her many moments of injured little girl time.

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It was a mostly simple project, made to look more complicated by the school specific embroidery we included; however as my machine does most of that work for me, it was actually quite simple.  I have to say, splurging for the embroidery feature when I bought a new machine was definitely a decision I will not regret.  It is such an easy way of turning something nice into something personal and special.

Well, I now need to rush out to try and play catch up with my life for the day.  Enjoy your weekend, I will be back in a couple days, hopefully with my brain in order!

Wasting Time

There are many things in life I avoid, for many different reasons.  One of these things is Youtube.

Now there are many legitimate reasons to use Youtube.  I have had school assign me videos to watch, and some of them have been deeply fascinating and educational.  More often than not my experience has been walking into my husbands office at the end of the night and standing there for thirty minutes when I would rather be in bed as he shows me yet another video I just HAVE to see.  Some of them are amusing, some are truly stupid, and none of them have ever been something that made my life better because I had seen it.  This doesn’t mean that there is no value in the entertaining videos that are posted, it simply means I have not taken the time to search for the videos that would have value to me.

I avoided these videos for many reasons.  There was of course the obvious reason of time; I have so many things I need to do, adding in something that is not necessary, just for fun, is not a great use of my time.  I also considered the trouble with my comfort, as I had no desire to sit in front of my computer for additional time.  Finally there was the problem with content.  There is a lot out there, and I didn’t know where I would start.

As you might be able to guess, I did succumb to the lure of Youtube recently.  It was an accident, nothing I meant to do.  I was simply including a link on another blog post.  As I opened the page the first video started playing automatically, and it was really good.  Then, I saw the links to related videos on the side with video titles that were intriguing, pulling me and making be desperate to know what this new video was about.

When I next looked at the time, it was three hours later and I had wasted my entire morning watching four minute videos.

I enjoyed myself, and even learned a bit.  There were many related or recommended channels that I think I might enjoy as well, if I find a few minutes to cruise over there.  Sure, the amount of ridiculously stupid videos of people doing things no human should ever do is high enough, but there is so much more out there I never knew about.  If more people watched some of these educational or thought provoking videos, maybe there would be fewer people trying the stupid stunts.

However, I also watched my life disappear four minutes at a time.

Since that fateful day I have gone back a couple times.  I even got caught up, and wasted other mornings.  For the most part, I have intentionally stayed away, afraid of the time suck to my day.  I want to see the videos, but I want to be able to have other things in my life as well.  I can’t decide how to deal with a situation like this.  I am enjoying myself, but I am also allowing someone else’s creativity to sneak in and take my creative time.  That doesn’t seem quite fair to do to myself.

I want to wax philosophical about this, and deeply delve into the reasons I use these excuses to procrastinate, but the truth is I think there is a new video up already.  I might need to sneak over and check.  Don’t worry, I’m not just wasting time, or avoiding my own issues.  I’ll think about this seriously after one more video.

Five Things About Reading

I have been on a little bit of a non-reading mode for about a week. It is not something that happens to me often, but occasionally I just cannot find a book that I am into enough to want to keep reading. It is incredibly hard when this happens, as reading has been so much a part of my life since first grade. I almost don’t know what to do when I do not have a good book to read.

1) Even in a non-reading mode, I still finished two books.

When I say I am not reading, it generally means one of two things. Either I am not reading for pleasure, typically because I am reading a lot for school, or I just don’t have a book I am really excited about. More often than not I am reading something that I do not want to put down. It doesn’t have to be a best-seller; I can get just as excited about a poorly written cookie cutter romance. As long as I want to know what happens or how it will happen, I will keep reading.

For this hiatus, I read two midgrade books from the library. It wasn’t something I chose for pleasure, but chosen for research into what makes a midgrade novel work. It is a writing age I feel has great potential for many reasons, and one I may want to spend some time writing for. Reading novels from there give me a little more insight into the possibilities. They were good enough, but it was definitely research, not pleasure reading.

2) I never cry when reading, and have never had a ‘book boyfriend.’

I’m not sure why I don’t cry over books. I cry over enough other things in life, maybe I just don’t have any tears left. My emotional involvement with books is typically limited to getting angry when the book gets it wrong. I like to think I am understanding of creative differences, and the potential for making different choices, but sometimes it’s hard not to HATE what the author chose to do.

As far as having a special fictional character be someone I claim as my own? I’m not sure why I don’t do that. I guess I fall in love with the way the characters are together, whether they are in a relationship or just working together. Inserting myself in there changes the characters and how they interact. I can’t have a book boyfriend because they wouldn’t be the same person with me as they are on their own.

3) I occasionally crave books, much like other people crave food.

Every now and again I have a deep craving for a rice krispy treat. It’s not for any one thing, such as the marshmallow, or the cereal, or the sweetness. It’s for the entire sensory experience. I want the stickiness, the crunch, the flavor, all combined together in just that one special way.

Books are the same for me. It might be a strong desire to read a specific book I have read many times in the past, it might be a desire for something new, or something from a specific genre. Whatever the craving, I want the book that fills that need. I read it obsessively until I have no more pages to turn. I look for another book that might be similar. Sometimes I just go back to page one. I do everything I can to get that book feeling, until I finally feel at peace.

4) There are stories from my childhood that I remember, but cannot remember what the book was called.

There is a book, I want to say I read it in fourth grade, about a group of girls who play baseball together. One of the girls is new, and drives a wedge in between the friends, leaving one of them out in the cold. I remember at one point she gets half of the team to tie dye their jerseys, and there was probably a few other things. I remember these little details so well, but I cannot for the life of me remember the title of the book. I want to remember; there are so many details I have forgotten that I would love to learn again.

It’s not just one book, sometimes it is details I can remember without a full context of a story. I know I once read about a girl who had really long hair. As long as she didn’t tell a lie, her parents wouldn’t make her cut it. One day, bullying got out of hand, and someone cut a large chunk from the back of her hair. She lied to her parents about knowing who did it because she already had to cut her hair now.

Some book out there had a new girl getting all of the others to listen to her because she had a four color pen and had created an exclusive club where the girls ate lunch together.

I really want to know what these books are. Maybe I am remember parts of books that went together, and I just forgot. There are so many books that influenced who I became. It wasn’t because of the special message of the book; it was because they kept me reading. I wish I could remember because I would like to see them again. Remembering is a way of thanking them.

5) I deeply miss the used bookstore I went to as a child.

The other large factor in my life with books was the used bookstore my mother used to take me to. We never had much money when I was younger. Reading for us was a combination of library books and used books. My mother used to work on weekends at the store, just for a few hours here and there, to earn our book money. Some of the time I would go with her. I would clean the books, and place stickers on for pricing. Whenever I could, I would spend my ‘working’ time in the nook of juvenile books. That section would probably be split into midgrade and young adult now, but I really didn’t care what it was called. I could browse the books for hours under the guise of organizing. It was probably the most satisfying job I have ever had in my life, including the fact that it paid in used books.

I can’t be the only person out there with a strong memory tied to my books? What is the strongest reading memory you have?

The Return of Player 2

I was happy to spend yesterday away from the computer, and instead with my husband after he returned home.  Seven weeks apart was enough.

I was also able to give him his anniversary gift, something that combined buying and making.  As I have made him a couple of blankets already, blankets he only sort of needs, I went a slightly different direction by making him pillows for the new couch I bought for him.

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The couch is nothing special, just something from ikea.  The joy of the couch, is in placing seating in his office, which gives me a place to be if we want to hang out, but he is on his computer.  I suppose that makes it more for me than for him, but as an anniversary gift, I think it fits well.  It’s not just a couch, it is the potential to spend more time together.

The pillows were a little work, as they are 18X18 of 1 inch squares with machine embroidered lettering on the back.  That is 324 squares per pillow.  It worked up pretty fast, using a technique I learned here.  I really like how they turned out; this is probably the first time I have ever had perfectly matching corners on a pieced item like this.

I’m not sure I would use this technique for a blanket.  It looked nice, but it made for a very stiff fabric.  I think it worked well for a pillow, which has a lot of cushioning, but it didn’t seem like something that would be comfortable to cuddle into, which is something I look for in a blanket.  I can’t promise I won’t try it with a blanket, since I really like the idea of a postage stamp quilt, with thousands of tiny squares.  I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how brave I get later.  Today, I am going to curl up on that new couch, and get some homework done.  Enjoy your weekend everyone!

Sing Along

I have always been influenced by music.  I clean a little faster with some fast music, feel a little more sentimental when a love song is playing, and focus a little more with classical music.

More than just the momentary influence, I can have my entire mood change if I am listening to a certain musician or style for a long period of time.  There was a brief point in high school where I found myself listening to too much depressing music and having my emotions follow it down to a dark place.  Since then I have tried to be aware of my emotional state, and the external factors that are influencing it.

I have tried to use this as a way to help my writing.  By listening to music that should fit I feel a little more in tune with the moment, or the character, or the storyline.  Sometimes the music  I select has an obvious connection to what I am working on, and other times the connection is only within my own strange mind.  The only requirement I have for my music selection is that it is not distracting from the writing of the moment; if I am too busy changing the song every couple of minutes, I know I have chosen the wrong type of music.

Lately my musical kick has had absolutely nothing to do with the type of writing I am doing.  While working on a midgrade novel, it wouldn’t seem as though classic rock is the music of choice, but for some reason it is exactly what I needed.  I turn on my current mix, and I find the time melting away as my fingers fly over the keys.  I can’t promise how long this particular mix will work, but for now, I am happy to have it.

Having a playlist that helps me focus is not the only benefit I have found from my current musical preference.  I have found there are many lessons to be learned from this music.  Most of these things I already knew about writing, but every time I hear these songs, I get another reminder.

1) You Shook Me All Night Long by AC/DC

Don’t me afraid to shake up your story.  Things should be exciting, making your reader want to come back for more.

2) Eye of the Tiger  by Survivor

Rise up to the challenge.  Your story won’t always be easy; some times it will feel like a battle you can’t win.  Hang tough, stay hungry, and you will succeed.

3) Don’t Fear the Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult

Sometimes you have to kill characters, or cut out entire sections of work.  Don’t be afraid to be the reaper of your own creation.

4) Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyrd

Set your characters free, and let them tell their own story.  You may have created them, but if you force them into roles that are not right for them you are also killing them.  You cannot change things to make your story easier, unless you want it to become something that is no longer genuine.

5) Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin

Your story has a natural progression it should go through.  Find your stairway, and let your story go where it should go to become the best it can be.

6) Carry on Wayward Son by Kansas

There should be no peace until you are done.  Too many peaceful moments in the story make for boring reading.  Carry on, and keep the action going until the end.

7) Don’t Stop Believing by Journey

Do I need to say more on this one?  Never stop believing in your characters, your story or yourself.  No one else will believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself.

My House

Someone is living in my house.

Not the house I where I live, but my other house, the dream house.

This house is on a road, two towns over.  I spotted it the first time while taking my dog to the groomer.  It’s hard to say what made me notice this particular house.  Maybe it was the large fence surrounding the property, or the rounded windows and turret.  Maybe it was the for sale sign that drew my attention.  Whatever it was, I looked and instantly fell in love.

The house itself is large, but not excessively so, with two stories, and the potential for both attic and basement.  The yard is large enough to make my dog thrilled, and the fence would allow her to be out off leash and running free.  There would even be plenty of room to include a vegetable garden without giving up that play space.  It was beautiful, and seemed to have everything I would ever want in a house.  The best part of course, was knowing it was actually available.

I’ve never stepped foot in this house, only seen it from the outside.  Maybe there are structural problems, or the only bathroom in existence is in the basement.  Maybe the size of the house is misleading.  It was impossible to tell from the outside, and I had no idea where to start to look at a Belgian house that I had no intention of actually buying.

In spite of the fact that I loved the house, I knew it wasn’t something I could ever have.  Even if we were able to buy a house in a foreign country, we aren’t going to stay here forever.  Belgium is beautiful, but it is not where we plan to retire.  The house was an impossible dream, something I was looking at but never working towards acquiring.

And then I drove by one day and saw a truck in the driveway.  The for sale sign was gone, and the people were unloading boxes.  Someone else was moving into my house. 

At first I was shocked.  No one asked my permission to buy my house.  Just because I wasn’t going to buy it didn’t mean that it was available for other people to have.  I had called dibs, and that should have counted for something.

Of course, as the shock faded, I was disappointed, but left with truth that I had to accept.  It wasn’t actually my house, it was just something I wanted and never acted on.  While I had been dreaming, someone else had taken action.

It’s not hard to make a connection to my daily life from this.  I spend so much of my time dreaming, and not enough time taking action.  I made a goal to finish three books, at least in a rough draft this year, and have not yet completed any of them.  I make notes and outlines for other manuscripts, but I haven’t made the time to finish them.  I could easily make an excuse, listing any number of legitimate activities that occupy my time.  I have a family, health, schoolwork, and a house that all require attention.  None of them deserve to be ignored simply to give me more time to write.  As true as this is, it doesn’t change the fact that I am doing nothing more than listing reasons why I am still dreaming while others move into my house.

I know why I do what I do.  I dream because it is easier than action.  Not only does taking action require me to put the work in, something that can be quite difficult, but it also requires me to conquer my fear.  If I never take action, than I am not really failing; I can’t fail if I don’t take that chance.  It may seem like a ridiculous thought, but it is also the root of my hesitation.  As long as I haven’t finished the manuscripts, than I don’t have to face the possibility that they are not as good as I think they are.  They are not poorly written, they are simply unfinished.  I know all of this about myself, and yet I have trouble facing the truth and overcoming my own fears.

It’s a process.  I’m not just over coming my fear, I am working to change who I am into who I want to be.  Some days I will be closer to my future, and others I might feel as though I have never been farther away.  But I am working on a new method of dreaming.  No more looking at the house I think I want.   Maybe that could have been my house, my future, but maybe I just need build my own, to create my own destiny.  No more wasted time looking at what I think I want when I could be working toward what is right for me.  When the house is truly mine, no one else will be moving in. 

Five Random Thoughts on a Sunday Morning

Normally when I count off a five things posting, I try to stay on a theme of some sort.  Lately my life has been random enough it seems to be becoming a theme of it’s own.  My head seems to be swimming around too many things lately, it’s hard to make sense of any of it.

 

1) My husband comes home this week.

After six weeks apart, the light at the end of the tunnel is here.  As it always does, time has flown by, and by the end of the week our family will be complete again.  As happy as my daughters and I are, I think the biggest reaction will actually end up coming from the dog.  She went through a depression the first couple of weeks he was gone, and has gone nuts looking for him every time she hears his voice on the computer.  I’m not sure anything I do will be able to compete with the excitement she will show when she sees him again.

The only bad side of my husband coming home is my lack of anniversary gift for him.  Last week we hit our 13th wedding anniversary.  Since he has been gone, I haven’t been too worried about getting anything together for him.  Now that he is coming home, it is a mad dash to get things finished.

2) Being sick sucks.

I know, this should be obvious, but sometimes it still needs to be said.  After a few weeks of misery, I was finally able to be diagnosed with a lovely stomach infection I am certain no one really wants to hear about.  Unfortunately, the medicine I need has to be shipped from the states, leaving me miserable for a few more weeks (hopefully less than that) and getting to start an exceptionally restrictive diet in order to keep things from getting worse.  I know I have been really sick before, and possible more uncomfortable, but I have to say that this time is the worst.  Why?  Because it is in the present.  This is the sick I am currently dealing with, and as always, that makes it the worst one ever.

3) I’m beginning to wonder if I will ever finish all of the stories I have going.

This is one I feel like I shouldn’t complain about.  When I started the year, I had a goal to finish the three open novels I already had.  I wasn’t necessarily planning on having them be perfect and ready to publish, though I wouldn’t mind that.  Mostly I was looking for good drafts.  Since then I have outlined 7 more stories, and written basic synopsis of 5 others.  That gives me a total of 15 unfinished stories. Even counting the fact that some of them may turn out to be horrible ideas that go no where, it’s hard to complain about having too many ideas when I know there are people out there who would love to have more story thoughts.

As I am a slow writer (something I have mentioned before) I am working to find ways to be more efficient.  I am writing more chapter outlines than I ever have before, which seems to be helping me keep track of where I am going.  I’m also working on revising my daily writing goals.  I used to write based on time; if I knew I would have three hours available, I would write for three hours.  It never seemed to matter how much I got done, and sometimes those three hours would be squandered away on other things such as checking laundry and refilling my tea.  Last week I tried making a goal of 2000 words for Friday.  During the hour I had available that afternoon I only hit 1100.  Having a word goal brought me back later, and after my children went to bed, I sat down and pounded out another 1100 words, putting me over my daily goal.  Maybe I happen to be the kind of writer who needs a numerical goal like that to succeed; it is definitely worth exploring more.

4) Gardening was much easier last year.

Last winter I was cold and miserable in the snow.  This year, I was relieved that we didn’t have as much cold weather as the year before.  Unfortunately, that also meant the garden was ripe for overgrowing with weeds.  Combining that with the difference of being in school now versus out last year and I can’t seem to find much time to get everything together.  I’ve been pushing through, mostly due to my deep love of fresh vegetables.  After four hours yesterday I was proud to have 6 zucchini and 6  yellow squash plants added to my garden  as well as weed treatments on my zucchini patch, my corn patch, and my daughters sunflower patch.  Now, I just have to wait until the yummy starts coming.  With all the trouble it has been this year, they better be amazing vegetables.

5) I’m really happy I found Tone it Up.

When someone mentioned Tone it Up to me a couple months ago, I figured it would be yet another program I started and never really finished.  However, having 10-20 minute toning exercises show up on my phone everyday has been easy to fit in.  Even being sick, most of their stuff is things I can do, though occasionally I have to modify.  I’m really enjoying the program, and I am hoping that when I am better, I can keep going even stronger.  It is amazing what finding the right health program for you can do to your motivation.

Just as a small reminder, I am not paid by Tone it Up.  I simply found a program I like, and am choosing to share the name with you.  If anyone decides to join up with them, you can put my name, Shannon Bradford, as a reference, but it won’t do anything for me that I know of.  Not everything is for everyone, this thing just happens to be what makes me happy right now.