Discombobulation

  
This has been one of those weeks when everything happens at once. Let’s try to put things in order.

  1. My hubby has to work the weekend.
  2. Friday night, a maintenance guy comes to the door. Water was leaking under the wall of the apartment next door, and he wanted to check our living room for moisture.
  3. Saturday morning. Water is coming under our living room wall.
  4. Sunday. Hubby is tired from not getting a break. The maintenance guys of course don’t show up. The wetness is creeping across the living room.
  5. Monday. Fully half of the living room is now squishy and wet. I attempt to do school.
  6. This attempt is thwarted by the arrival of maintenance and carpet cleaning. The pipe in the wall had a pinhole in it that was spurting water. We haul all the furniture to the far side of the room. They pull back the carpet, tear out padding, and bring in a fan and a dehumidifier.  
  7. Dehumidifiers are scary.
  8. They suck every last particle of moisture out of the air, your eyeballs, your mouth, and your nose. You feel like you have a cold, even though you don’t.
  9. Tuesday, we’re a dessicated, thirsty family. The carpet is nearly dry, though.  
  10. Wednesday, one of the kids “accidentally” bumps the dehumidifier and shuts it off. Instant relief. The carpet is dry. Furniture is moved to its old place. Order is restored. A missing gameboy cartridge is discovered under the high chair’s base. There is rejoicing.
  11. Thursday: painters put plastic over our windows as they begin painting our building.

As you can see, it’s been a crazy week. I’m looking forward to the weekend, when maybe we can have a break.

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    Learning humility with Bob Ross


    Painting with Bob

    Back in the 90s, there was this guy named Bob Ross who taught painting on PBS. He was pretty popular, but like all TV, quietly faded from the public consciousness once his show ended.

    Well, Bob Ross has been rediscovered by the latest generation, and his popularity has exploded–mostly because of Twitch.

      
    Twitch is a live streaming service, like YouTube–only live. Mostly it’s gamers streaming their latest top-level ownage in Call of Duty, or multiplayer shenanigans in Minecraft. It’s common for a streamer to take a break, and leave a video playing to entertain viewers until they return. Well, somebody started putting up Bob Ross videos.

    Suddenly viewers were coming to watch Bob Ross more than the original stream. It got so popular that Twitch now has an annual Bob Ross marathon.

    I thought it might be fun if the kids painted along with his videos for an art project. My kids had such fun that I decided to give it a try.

    The trouble with knowledge is that it puffs up–the less you have, the more inflated you are. I started my painting with an attitude of snobbish know-it-all. “He’s not that great,” I huffed. “But maybe I can learn something.”

    Humility

    That painting kicked my butt left, right, and center. Gone was my snobbish attitude. I would let the video play for ten seconds, pause it, and frantically try to replicate what Bob had just done.

    See, painting with a brush on canvas is a lot different from painting in Photoshop. You can put multiple colors on a brush, whereas Photoshop looks at you blankly and says, “Wut.”

    What Bob did in one stroke took me ten minutes to replicate with multiple strokes and colors.

    By the time I finished, I was forced to admit that Bob was pretty darn good (a whole painting in 22 minutes!), and that I am intolerably rusty.

      
    Learning

    In order to learn, you have to drop the attitude. I think that if I had been more open to instruction when I started my painting, it would have been a lot easier.

    This applies anywhere in life where we want to learn something. A know-it-all will never learn, because they know it all. Whereas the more you learn, the more you realize you have to learn. Humility comes only after that pride-balloon has been popped.

    Go forth, and paint with Bob Ross! You may even learn something.

    Minecraft as history – the Pilgrims

    The kids and I have been studying American history. To make sure they understood the events of Jamestown and Plymouth, I couched it in Minecraft terms.

    So, you log in to a new map with some guy. He’s never played before.

    “Okay, you start out by punching trees to get wood blocks,” you say.

    “Nope,” he replies. “I’m a gentleman. Work is beneath me.”

    “But,” you say, “when it gets dark, the zombies come out.”

    “You do it,” he says.

    “I’ll gather my own resources,” you say, starting to feel miffed.

    So you punch trees, get wood, make tools, and start gathering stone and coal. The Gentleman wanders around, looking at the scenery and picking flowers.

    By night, you have a shelter built. He has nothing. The zombies come out.

      
    “You have to let me in!” he yells from outside.

    “No!” you reply. “You should have gathered your own resources!”

    Everything goes quiet. The sun comes up, and the Gentleman has vanished.

    But as the sun is going down, he appears with a sword and a bow and arrow, kills you, and takes your stuff.

    That’s what the gentlemen in Jamestown did to the Indians. 

    The Pilgrims at Plymouth, on the other hand …

    You log into a new map with your Pilgrim friend. They immediately begin punching trees. They chat pleasantly as they gather stone, mine coal and iron, build furnaces and shelters.

    Within a few days, your map looks like this.

      
    And there you are. When it comes to being a pioneer, you want to be a Pilgrim, not a Gentleman.

    Why do we love dragons so much?

    girl_and_dragon_by_sandara-d99iog8
    Girl and Dragon by Sandara
    “There are certain things in life that are glorious, and they are glorious for everyone. There are more that are hard, and they are hard for everyone. We like to see these things retold, but with dragons.”

    — Erin Bow

    I’m halfway through H. L. Burke’s Cora and the Nurse Dragon book right now, and enjoying it immensely. Then I wondered, “Would I enjoy this book as much if it was about cats or dogs?”

    The swift answer, “No.”

    The rejoinder, “Why?”

    J. J. Abrams gave a TED talk about mystery boxes. In magic shows, the part that the audience enjoys is the buildup–the slow revelation of the mystery–the suspense–before the big reveal. We love mysteries, especially mysteries leading to more mysteries.

    What’s inside the box? What if once we open it, we find another box, equally mysterious? That’s what kept people watching LOST–that slow trickle of reveals that led to more questions.

    Dragons are like that. Since they’re mythical, writers aren’t held to any hard and fast science, the way cats and dog are. Do they breathe fire, ice, or poison? How does that work, exactly? Do they fly? How do an extra pair of limbs attach to a quadruped? Can they speak, or are they telepathic?

    apis_by_windfalcon-d90dgli
    Apis, by windfalcon
    Every author’s answer to these questions is different. The only things we know for sure is that dragons are huge, awesome lizards, and figuring out what they can do is one of the mystery boxes of the fantasy genre. We’re always happily looking forward to a new twist on dragons, the way a magician’s audience expects to see people disappear, transform, or be sawed in half.

    dragon_valley_by_kerembeyit-d92q218
    Dragon Valley by kerembeyit
    Any mythical creature can be a mystery box. For instance, the wicked unicorn in Stengl’s Moonblood is full of surprises, to the extent that his storyline overshadows that of the heroes.

    The gryfons in Kara’s Song of the Summer King series are a fount of questions that are slowly being answered–after all, we know they stole their gold from dragons, but how did they come by their vivid plumage colors? Where did the Wyrms come from, and can the hero gryfon ever communicate with them?

    skyfire_full_web_by_nambroth-d6ex0jo
    Skyfire by Nambroth
    But again, we come back to dragons being the biggest, most delicious mystery box of all. From Pern to Earthsea to Nice Dragons Finish Last to Game of Thrones, dragons are not only fantasy standard, their mystique continue to delight audiences to this day.

    And by the way, Cora and the Nurse Dragon is yet another fantastic dragon story, taking the Dungeons and Dragons hierarchy of metallic vs chromatic and using it in a whole new way. One more mystery box to add to the playground that is the fantasy genre.

    Encouragement for the discouraged creative

    I was talking to a friend about writing. Or, rather, juggling our desire to write along with raising kids and running a household. Basically, we each work 60+ hours a week.

    Finding time to write isn’t so much the problem–it’s dealing with the tug between the desire to create, and the demands of duty.

    milkywayb_by_framedbynature-d6h3zkt

    Sentinels of the Stars

    There’s an old song by Carman that I listen to when I start feeling discouraged–it helps me remember that my desire is the confirmation–the destination is there. I thought that I’d share it today for other young mothers who feel the same way.

    You’ve felt in your spirit
    God’s shown you something new
    Something that has strengthened you
    And only you can do
    But as your desire grew
    You got a little depressed
    ‘Cause you found no destination
    For your dreams to manifest

    Your desire is the confirmation
    the destination is there
    God wouldn’t put it in your spirit if it wasn’t going nowhere
    So set your sights on the promises and don’t you be scared
    For your desire is the confirmation the destination is there

    His vision’s for a certain hour
    I know it won’t be late
    His promises will strengthen you
    If only you will wait
    Don’t follow someone else’s dreams
    Keep your own in sight
    For the vision that God gives
    Will keep you all your life

    Let’s go, 2016!

    It’s that time of year–time to make loads of unattainable goals. Lose weight! Read more books! Get into shape! Cut back on social media!

    Yeah, I make those and blow them every year. I might as well do Flynn from Tangled:

     

    On an island that I own, tanned and rested and alone, surrounded by enormous piles of money!

    I could probably get a lot of writing done on my own island. Hee hee.

    Anyway, I don’t seem to have written down last year’s resolutions, aside from promising to release three books. Well, I got two of them out! The third one (the next Spacetime book) had to be rewritten from scratch. The old draft was missing this little thing called a plot. So that’s been pushed back to 2016.
    For this year, I have three books drafted and in various stages of revisions: 

    • Malcontent, the sequel to Malevolent
    • Oufoxing the Wolf (I think of this one as “werefox”, another historical shifter romance novella).
    • Magic Weaver, the fourth Spacetime book (Xironi the catgirl and Revi the ex-assassin become friends and get mixed up with a chronomancer whose timeline has been hacked).

    I’m staring into the possibility of ending two series with two seperate apocalypses (apocaly?) like gazing down the barrel of a cannon. The third Malevolent book (Malicious) will have one, as will the fifth Spacetime (Inferna’s Fury). I get to end the world twice. In the case of Spacetime, I get to end several worlds. 

    :rubs hands together:

    But seriously, let’s be realistic. Baby #5 arrived at the end of November. It’s also likely that I’ll be babysitting over the summer. We homeschool. This school year was light (for obvious reasons), but next year will involve a bigger workload. My hubby is looking into starting a home business on top of his ludicrously stressful day job.

    So, three books this year may happen. Or not. They’re more like suggestions than actual goals.