Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Creativity Calls to Creativity: Secondborn's "Carrie" Video

Creativity calls to creativity. When someone -- or some people - you know manage to pull off a lovely, glorious creative feat, you're at once filled with dramatic excitement and a tiny tinge of jealousy. You know how good it feels to create something, and, if you're a creative worth anything, you're genuinely happy for whoever pulled it off.

And you admire them, because you know how much work and time and thought and heart -- and sometimes heartbreak -- was involved.

And you're just a little jealous, too, because no creative ever saw a thing created and didn't want to create something themselves. At least, not this creative. It's not the green-eyed monster sort of jealousy. It's the wide-eyed, appreciative jealousy that says "you have done this awesome thing, and I enjoyed it so much, and it makes me want to do my own awesome thing." Not create the same thing, but something different.

For me, the highest praise I can give any creative endeavor is that it spurs me on to create something myself. I read wonderful books, and I want to write -- not write like the person I just read, but write my own words. I hear catchy tunes, and I want to write stories and poems. I watch movies, and I want to write books. I see artwork, and I want to write sentences that catch in the memory and haunt the soul.

I saw the video for Secondborn's upcoming release, "Carrie," and I wanted to write.

I got an early look at the video because my brother-in-law Lee is the band's drummer and my sister is the manager, and I cannot wait to be able to link to it here. First, because it is awesome and fun and features a timeless, catchy song. Second, because it will make you want to go out and be awesome at whatever thing you do.

The video and song officially release on June 3. In the meantime, you can wet your creative whistle with this trailer.

Updated with link to "Carrie." 
Go now, and watch it!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

All my blood is heroin. . .or cookies

I'm writing.

Really, I am.

I'm mostly writing paid words, but I'm also writing fiction words. And I'm probably going to miss the "write a novel this month deadline" by two or four weeks. But deadlines have always been my frenemy, and it's about the war, not the battle, people.

And a war is definitely waging over here. As soon as I announced my grand intentions, the universe was all over it. We had a two-day power outage. I was scheduled to take a car full of youth to a weekend retreat, and everything went wrong the day before (though the retreat itself was lovely and awesome and inspiring, and I'll write about that another time).

The monsters of finance and mortgage are stalking me ever closer, and I'm writing my fingers to the bone to help our household make ends meet after two years of job issues and health issues and life-in-general issues. We have an 11-month old in the house, and as he inches toward his first birthday, he becomes increasingly the adventuresome, belligerent toddler, taking more energy and attention. And he's awfully cute, so you really want to give him that attention. We have a 15-year old in the house, and thankfully, he's very self sufficient. But he still needs things, and he can't yet drive himself.

And really, life in general is sort of misty and questionable right now -- not just for me, I know -- and not all the lights are working properly.

And perhaps I really am going insane.

The other day, I asked Chris if he would score me some speed, because maybe on drugs I could get all the things done in less of the hours. He said "You  might need drugs, but those are the wrong ones." So, I'm guessing that's a no.

In the same day, my teenage son looked at me as I was doing or saying something in the kitchen that, apparently, was weird. He said, "It's possible all your blood is heroin."

The consensus seems to be that I'm so screwed up that I'm either in need of drugs that aren't speed or that I am, in fact, drugs incarnate.

So, I'm settling for eating popcorn or cookies and typing more words and exchanging Facebook messages with people who understand the dilemma of being creative and also the dilemma of cookies.

It is April 21, and I have 9 days and around 33,000 words to go (plus many more paid words that don't count toward the novel). And I'll be late. But it will be awesome when I arrive.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

I invite you to watch me go insane...I mean, write a novel.

If 2015 was the year that slayed with a thousands cuts, 2016 appears to be the year of the long recovery. Part of that recovery seems to be the realization that dreams don't become reality if you're too afraid or too caught up in current reality to take the first steps. And that's where I am today: caught up in current reality, treading water -- sometimes desperately -- and dreaming.

In the past two years, we've had a baby, I've dealt with a pregnancy-related heart condition, and my husband has been between jobs and starting his own business. Consequently, we've run through what savings we had, piled up the medical bills, and dealt with the overall increased expenses of adding another person to the household. I've spent most of the year just trying to find enough time between paid freelancing gigs, youth ministry work, and the requirements of family and house to take a bath or read part of a good book. And none of that has changed, but my perspective has shifted recently.

My friend Missy, who is also a freelance writer with kids and obligations and never enough time in the day for a shower, much less a dream, recently made a public announcement. I knew she'd been considering it and working a little on it for a while, but she put it out there: she's launching her own food blog on May 1. Like me, Missy has been working -- sometimes unceasingly -- for years to make ends meet by writing words for other people. She doesn't have extra time to do something that doesn't bring in money right away, but she's making the time because she knows it will make her happier and she's willing to work hard for a future where she has more freedom in what she writes. And she put a big public date on it, because it's sometimes the only way you can force yourself to start taking all those steps that bring you slowly, excitingly, sometimes painfully ever closer to your dream.

This post is my big, public stamp. The signpost that I hope will point those steps in the right direction throughout the next month. I've signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for April.

For those that don't know, NaNoWriMo is in November, but the program is run in virtual camp format in April and June. I've been assigned a virtual cabin with writing cabin mates. I have a goal: 50,000 words of fiction by the end of this month. That's 50,000 on top of the tens of thousands I write for clients and pay each month -- after all, following your dream doesn't keep the lights on or the children fed.

I receive pep talks via email from the camp counselors, and I'm sure I'll get as much sleep as everyone always got at summer camp. But I'm ready to do this. And I'd love it if you followed along with me.

I'm working on a middle grade (possibly YA) contemporary fantasy novel. It doesn't have a name yet. It barely has a plot -- it's currently a wispy piece of thought floating through the world, but by the end of the month, I hope it will be a messy, typo-ridden, glorious first draft.

Last time I made big plans known to anyone, my world exploded. I've also been burning the candle a little too hotly lately, and I recently told my friend Keith that I probably needed a sabbatical more than anything else. But instead, I'm going to write a novel. Or go insane. Either way, hopefully it will be entertaining.

I told Keith about the plan earlier today, and he said maybe this was just the push I needed to get going. Either he is right, or the universe will actually kill me this time around. To that, he replied that at least I'd get my sabbatical.

So, whether you are a writer, a reader, or my sister, I hope you join me through this mad spring month. We'll write, we'll read, we'll laugh, we'll weep. I might go insane. Write along with me, or cheer me through the process!

It's April 2, and I have 29 days and 50,000 words to go.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Two Truths for all Types of Parents

No matter your parenting situation, some truths are universal. Single parents, mixed families, foster parents, adoptive parents, grandparents acting as parents, LGBT parents, parents on assistance, parents with yachts and mansions, suburban parents, city parents, teen parents, first-timers, and plenty-of-timers. For anyone who loves and cares for a child, at least two things are true.

You are tired.

You have an infant, and she sleeps in two-hour intervals that do not correlate to your adult slumber rhythms. Or your 3-year-old developed night terrors and nothing you do convinces him the toy dinosaur isn't terrorizing the room come midnight. Or your elementary-aged child had her first friend fight, and no one is sleeping until the entire drama is analyzed, cried over, and analyzed one more time for good measure.  Or your teen is out and about, driving at night for the first time.

Or absolutely nothing is wrong at this exact moment, but the worry of all the things that could be wrong make sleep elusive. Go ahead—tip toe down the hall and hold your ear to their slumbering mouths to make sure they're breathing. You won't sleep until you do.

It's hard to get quality and consistent sleep when your heart is constantly racing, breaking, and bursting for your kids. Seven to eight hours of shut eye don't happen when your brain is constantly replaying the day, wondering if you did good or if you've ruined your children for life with some little mishap or foible. And if your parental worry wasn't enough, all the caffeine you chugged just to keep up with your kids all day isn't helping.

The only good news is that some nights are easy. Cherish the easy nights: turn off the television, put on your most comfortable sleepwear, and slide between the sheets for a few extra minutes. You'll probably need them tomorrow.

You are doing the best you can.

Parents are comparers. We look to what other people are doing in this sea of childrearing to validate what's going on in our own little lifeboat. Even if you don't think you do it, you probably do. Even if you are confident in yourself and your parenting, you can't shutter your eyes to what's going on around you and it is part of the human condition to make comparisons. And now, you can see what is going on with hundreds of parents on a daily basis via social media.

Except, we all know the stream of videos, statuses, and pictures we see doesn't tell the entire story. You aren't going to see all the toddler tantrums, teacher's notes, poor grades, and exacerbated shouting. You get Instagram pics of the one evening mom or dad was able to get it together enough to make a full-course meal. You don't get pics of the time dinner was cold cereal or ice cream—whatever the 9-year-old decided to serve her younger siblings—because mom simply just couldn't do anything else that day.

The truth is, if you love your children, you are probably doing the best you possibly can in the moment. So are all the other parents and parental figures who love their children. And every single one of them has those days. You know the ones: The day that ends in tears or aches or overeating or over drinking or just collapsing onto the nearest flat surface that doesn't have food or dirty dishes or an open marker on it. Even the parents who seem on top it have these days. In fact, for some of those parents, every day is that day.

The good news is that you almost never do as terrible a job as you think. And if you are genuinely trying and you genuinely show love to your kids, then you are doing important stuff. Sometimes, it is all you can do to make sure they have food in their bellies and clothes on their backs.

Some days, you just don't have it in you to check their homework and put all the food groups on a plate and read them an intelligent-sounding book before bed.

And that's okay.

Don't stay up fretting about what you didn't do today. Get some rest—you have a big day tomorrow trying to figure out more of this parenting thing.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Twitter: Suggesting sleep solutions for babies everywhere, but without images

I was making this post on Twitter:
When I attempted the hashtag "babies", Twitter was all, "We think you might mean #babiesinthecup." And I was like, "No, no. I really just meant #babies." Plus, "inthecup" puts me over the character limit.  Learn to count and follow your own rules, Twitter.

But, I was curious. What's going on with babies and cups that has Twitter randomly suggesting it?

I searched Twitter for #babiesinthecup, and Twitter -- oh, helpful Twitter -- was all, "how about photos of babiesinthecup?" Obviously: Yes, please. Show me all the babies in cups!

You know what Twitter shows you when you ask for babies in the cup?

Not babies in cups. Two babies in hats, though. Hats are just cups for heads, right? You might mistake hats for cups if you are in the habit of drinking brain juices . . . Which raises some pretty frightening questions about Twitter in general.

But then I realized what was really going on. Twitter was suggesting that perhaps babies who don't like cribs might enjoy sleeping in cups instead. But not just any cup: THE cup. Too bad Twitter isn't letting on which cup that is.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Becoming Do-Stuff Ninja

Early in 2014, I had plans. All the plans. "It's go big or go home this year," I wrote to a friend, and he agreed. It was the year things were going to happen. The year we would, to steal from Neil Gaiman, "make good art," and it would be glorious.

And stuff did happen in 2014. Stuff that blasted life all to pieces well into 2015--for me and I suspect for my friend as well. For me, not a thing happened according to my plan. I know my plans aren't always the right plans, and I know God has plans that are beyond my understanding...but seriously, you guys. ALL TO PIECES.

In their hearts humans plan their course,
but the Lord establishes their steps.
Proverbs 16:9 

I didn't do all the things on my list. Instead, I helped my husband search for a job three times in one year. I didn't move forward on all my creative writing goals. Instead, I kicked my legs furiously just to remain in place with paying freelance work. I didn't run a 6k. Instead, I barely waddled through pregnancy and ended up with a heart condition.  I didn't make good art. Instead, God made a baby.

And, it was glorious. It was also terrifying and hormonal and exhausting and soul-sucking and soul-giving. For a while, I wasn't even a person. I was just a thing pushing forward one step at a time. ALL TO PIECES.

But now, I'm becoming person again. I sing the just-because song. I laugh the just-because laugh.

I plan the just-because plans...but perhaps I'm wiser now. I plan both smaller and grander. I plan in secret and in public. I plan all the things and none of the things. Schrödinger's plans: They are there and they are not until God opens the box for me.

Even so, I'm nervous about planning. I wrote to the same friend tonight, "If I say 'I'm planning and I'm going to do things,' do you think the world will bitch slap me like it did last year when I said that?"

"I hope it doesn't for your sake," he responded. "I'm still reeling from my bitch slap myself, so I'm not sure if I want to do that. But you go right ahead."

I suggested perhaps I should do things and keep it hush, so that the world wouldn't notice. He agreed. Maybe the world just won't notice. Become a do-stuff ninja, I said. 

Ninjas are quiet, so they can hear. A do-stuff ninja doesn't make all the noise with his own plans, so he can hear when God is communicating the real plan.

Ninjas move quickly, but they know when to pause. A do-stuff ninja doesn't run so quickly and stubbornly one direction that he doesn't notice when the path has changed.

Ninjas are fighters, survivors. A do-stuff ninja might  break down and cry when things go wrong, but the tears don't keep him from taking action.

Ninjas are equipped--they have training and weapons. A do-stuff ninja knows that, even amidst the doing of stuff, practice and training and learning are always required.

A do-stuff ninja lives in a world all in pieces. And he picks the pieces up. And he does stuff.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Super Secret Voodoo Fetus

I don't do cute pictures with cakes or chalkboards or other appropriate props. Instead, I give you this. A blog post filled with fetuses and voodoo and questionable Google image searching.

You know those friends? The ones that have a deep, dark weird that is kin to your own? I've always found that when things get overwhelming, I can turn to those friends with my favorite coping mechanism: an abiding sense of black humor. I don't have to explain that I'm really okay -- or that I'm going to be okay -- or that none of my dark jokes are plots I plan to put into action. (Except for the ones that would clearly make genius plots -- the weird people already know which ones those are.)

A few weeks ago when I found myself suddenly and unexpectedly expecting, I was overwhelmed in all possible senses of the word. And the world at large -- at least, the small world of people we shared the early news with -- was excited and congratulatory and squeely before I was ready.

Slowly, I became ready for excitement and congratulations, and one of the small turning points was a Facebook messenger conversation I had with two friends who understand the power of absurd laughter. Two friends who don't even know each other, but who I think would recognize a deep, dark weird kinship if they ever met.

The conversation began when I shared a picture another friend had taken. The picture showed a deer, reaching forward, mouth slightly open, about to snag a bite to eat in the dark of dusk or dawning. The deer's eyes glowed meanly in the flash, and it had an eerie quality.

"I'm fairly certain this is a chupacabra," I messaged my friends, Mabel and Keith.

"A chupavenado," countered Mabel. Venado is Spanish for deer.

"It's probably drawn to our woods by the promise of fresh-born baby flesh.," I told her, "I'm going to have to tell Chris to get a sword to fend off the baby-eating things we'll attract."  By this time, both Mabel and Keith knew about the super secret fetus.

Mabel, who is possibly an expert on Hispanic lore, advised me that I should protect the fetus by wearing chupavenado repellant, such as a necklace made out of habaneros and garlic. That sounded like an awesome wardrobe addition during a vomitty first trimester, but I countered with, "Can I just eat Chipotle and call it the same thing?"

"You'll have to constantly fart in order for that to work. Which is good, 'cause I know from experience that will now be the norm," my lore-master answered, completing her mission of grossing everyone out for the day.

Keith finally chimed in, saying that at least it was an option. I countered again, not caring for any of the fetal-protection options provided, "Chris has a gun. Chupavenado can be killed with regular bullets, right? Have Sam and Dean done this one before?"  (Obligatory Supernatural reference when discussing baby-eating monsters. Or any monsters.)

Mabel said the gun would work if the bullets were laced with hot sauce and garlic. Keith unhelpfully suggested the Colt (Supernatural again), but pointed out the obvious fact that I didn't have it in my possession.

"How about a regular handgun bathed in voodoo and Tabasco?" I suggested.

Everyone agreed that a voodoo-and-Tabasco-bathed gun would kill a chupavenado. But we also agreed there was a problem with that route. What if, in voodooing the gun, I voodooed the fetus as well? The consequences of an accidental voodoo fetus ranged from "super hero" to "chupavenado-fetus hybrid." 

Obviously, the matter called for additional research, which Mabel was happy to begin. As with all good research, she started with a Google image search for "voodoo fetus." 

Is this meant to represent a voodoo fetus, or is this the kind of doll you give the voodoo fetus once it's born?

Either way, how much do I want one of these for my office? Maybe with blue or green stitching instead of pink.

Would it be creepy if I crocheted one of these when the nesting happens and gave it to the baby when it's born instead of a teddy bear?

I quickly joined the important Google image research. Because everyone knows Google image searching is as contagious as the common cold. 

I found this puzzling bit of chocolate that Mabel described as a "demented cake with a pretzel in its butt." I dissented, stating, "That's not its butt, that's its front. Is it a boy choco-fetus blob?"

Irregardless, Mabel declared that we'd found the inspiration for the baby shower cake. For the Voodoo Fetal Shower that would scare everyone away. We discussed the pros of a scary voodoo fetus cake (less hugging at the party?) for a few minutes before I realized Keith was still on the window. 

"I just realized this is the window Keith is on too. I'd apologize, but I suspect whenever he gets round to reading this, he'll be ok with it," I said.

Later, he chimed back in with, "You were correct in your assumption of my appreciation." (Remember what I said about people with weird that matches your own? You never have to apologize for your crazy to them.)

Google image search never limits itself to innocent topics such as voodoo fetuses, though. Sometime later, I messaged them and said, "You guys. Do not Google image search Fetus King. And by 'Do not,' I mean, 'Do it right now.'"   

"Is that a mummy?" Mabel asked.

No. Pretty sure that's the original voodoo fetus.

It's probably good I didn't move forward with bathing that gun in hot sauce and Tabasco. So far, we've had no chupavenado sitings in our woods. I'm careful when I go out at dawn or dusk.