When I was fresh out of college and needed a job, I took a position as junior art teacher, working for another art teacher I had studied under for years. I was nervous. Jittery. Inclined to talk too much.
“Remember,” my boss told me, “people don’t know this is your first day unless you tell them.”
This was a staggering revelation to me. How could people not tell that I was a freaking noob with no job experience who was scared out of my mind? So I smiled and I worked and I faked it. And you know, nobody knew I was faking it. They thought I knew what I was doing, and treated me like a professional.
It was a lesson I proceeded to apply to everything in life.
Don’t know anything about raising kids?
Don’t know anything about writing books?
Don’t know anything about publishing or marketing?
I heard a story one time about an AA group, where the members were told to pick a religion. One of the addicts asked what would happen if they didn’t believe in anything. The leader told them, “Fake it ’til you make it.”
I think it ties into Imposter Syndrome. Everybody has it. I think it was John Maxwell who says that every CEO has this secret fear that their second grade teacher will run into the room and yell, “He’s an imposter! He failed spelling!”
If you talk to me, you’d think I’m a calm, collected person who has her life together. You don’t see the inside of my head where I’m screaming, “Oh my gosh, what do I say? Am I coming off as a complete dork? Are my kids embarrassing? Did they read my books and did they notice that dangling participle I left in chapter 3?”
I’m really bad about this when streaming with my hubby. Get a camera pointed at me and I turn into a complete clown. I’m cracking jokes and being silly and making fun of the game we’re playing. Inside, I’m just one continuous AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH.
Eventually, I do wind up knowing what I’m doing with writing, or publishing (haha, it changes so fast, though). Jury’s still out on raising kids. But faking it is better than being paralyzed and doing nothing at all. Because that’s pretty much the alternative. Sit where you are … or pretend you know what you’re doing, and move forward.
Or less resolutions and more like my bucket list of things to do this year.
First up: how did things go last year?
Last year in January I had a 2-month-old baby. I meant to do one of these posts, but never actually did. My word for last year was “smile”. When you have a new baby, you have to smile at them a lot to teach them how to do it. I hadn’t smiled in so long, my face muscles had almost forgotten how. The kids kept asking, “Why are you smiling so much?” It made for a nicer atmosphere in our house, just me smiling even when I didn’t feel like it.
Last year kicked my butt. Between having a new baby, getting harassed by CPS (oh noes you let you kids play outside!), and having to move suddenly in October, it was a grueling, stressful year. Not to mention all the election garbage that saturated social media. Blah. Barf. I’m glad that’s over with.
I did manage to publish Werefox in March, and the fourth Spacetime book in June. I revised the next two Malevolent books, but didn’t quite manage to release book 2 in 2016. I just got the edits back this week and I’m hoping for a February release. I can even do a cover reveal in a few weeks. Yay!
So for 2017, here’s the lineup:
Publish books 2 and 3 of Malevolent
2. Edit/publish my dragon cozy mystery, Takes the Drake (think the Dresden Files, only fluffier, with ice cream).
3. Write the fifth Spacetime book, which will end Series 1. Not sure if I can write/publish it in 2017, but it’s worth a shot.
4. My hubby and I are starting to stream gaming together on our Beam channel Chronostrider Gaming. Eventually we plan to do it every weekend, and we’re planning to play every two-player co-op we can think of.
My oldest child will turn 10 this year. School is going to change gears into a heavier workload for him, I think. Right now we’ve sort of slipped into unschooling (moving right before the holidays seriously disorganized me), but we’ll be heading back into more structured school here in the new year. Gotta get these kids writing more. Their reading and math skills are great, but writing, not so much. That will go along with their science/history/book reports.
Ah, book reports. I’m making them do reports in the format of Amazon reviews. So far my two oldest kids have successfully sold each other on various books, with Twisted (a book about were-tornados) being the latest hit. We’re also reading the Saturdays aloud, with plans to read the entire Melendy series.
I’m also trying to learn how to use Daz3D to create artwork. So far it’s been fairly easy to learn posting and lighting … now I just have to learn to incorporate it into a larger artwork.
So that’s my very general agenda for the next year. As this past year has showed me, I really have no idea what sort of things might happen. What I’m most thankful for is that my relationship with my husband is thriving. After all the anguish of last year, playing games together again has bonded us in such a wonderful way. If I get nothing else done this year, our improved relationship will have been worth it.
Thanksgiving is this week, and I’m so thankful to be here, now, than last month, packing to move and cleaning like crazy.
The two youngest have their birthdays this week. Of course, cupcakes were in order, and we had them right after dinner.
So many good things have happened that I’m thankful for. We’ve moved to a beautiful city. We have more room. My hubby is getting lots of hours, and he likes his co-workers. (That’s a big one.) I’m just thankful that we can go into the holidays without worrying about where we’re going to live. God has taken such good care of us.
A few months ago, I decided that I wanted to start playing games with my husband again. Videogames, board games, card games. We met and bonded over our shared love of games, but as the babies have kept coming, I haven’t got to play them much.
We started off with Tiny Epic Galaxies, which I enjoyed very much. But he has lots more games that I don’t know anything about.
As I have been thinking how far behind I am with new releases and games, I ran across these articles about awesome adulting. Or what happens when you’ve poured so much of yourself into your family that you have no individuality left. No likes or dislikes. No favorite places or hobbies. The articles are about how reclaiming that part of yourself can enrich your family, not subtract from it.
So I started thinking. When it comes to games, I haven’t let myself play much of anything in about seven years. I get a month of World of Warcraft now and then. I played some Stardew Valley with the kids. I play Pokemon sometimes. But that’s been it. Mostly I watch other people play games. I have no likes or dislikes, no opinions. Only fading memories of games that I used to enjoy.
When I told my husband this, he was overjoyed that I want to rediscover this. In particular, he was happy that I need him to help me. I hadn’t realized how that whole aspect of our relationship had been shut down. It’s kind of sad.
I did start running a little premade Dungeons and Dragons campaign for the kids, with premade characters. Right now they’re solving a murder mystery, and loving it. But I still want to play with my husband, too.
I wrote this much of the blog at the end of September. Then we got our notice that we had to move. Here I am, six weeks later, moved, and I still want to learn to adult awesomely. I’m trying to play games, trying to write, trying to draw, trying to do the things that not only give me joy, but enrich others, too. As Donna Otto says, my first ministry is to my husband. That means games.
I think that will be my goal for 2017. As we head into the end of 2016, it’s a good time to think about these things.
What about you? Do you adult awesomely? Or are you like me, and pretty much struggling to keep your head above water?
So I didn’t blog for most of October. A few astute friends knew that we were moving under short notice. Well, here’s the story:
We’ve lived in an apartment in Phoenix, Arizona for three years. Our lease came up for renewal in September. We signed a new one and went about our business.
Then the last week in September, we found a notice on our door. It went something like this.
“Your lease has been declined because you are over occupancy.” (I’d had a baby last year.) “You have until October 30th to GTFO. Have a nice day.”
After the initial panic died down, we sighed and figured it was a good thing. We had five kids in a two-bedroom apartment. We really did need to move up to a three-bedroom.
We started hunting. And we found that the housing situation in Phoenix is a joke. So many people want to live there, and they’re willing to pay anything to do it, that most apartments are either super expensive or have years-long waiting lists.
While my hubby has a good job, he doesn’t quite make as much as the apartments want. We hit this wall over and over. A realtor finally gave us a list of low-income apartments to try.
Talk about a low point. I looked them all up. With the exception of two (which had massive waiting lists), low income housing is packed into a single giant tenement building. Very little landscaping. Just a big ugly box to cram as many people into as possible.
I have five kids, all of whom like to play outside. Living in a place like that would be a prison sentence for all of us. Not to mention the waiting lists.
We despaired. I cried a lot. We prayed desperately. And suddenly a thought popped into Ryan’s head: why not try Tucson?
We started hunting apartments in Tucson. It’s not having quite as much of a boom as Phoenix is, and the income requirement wasn’t quite as high. We found a 3-bedroom pretty quickly, and with some mathematical shenanigans, managed to make the numbers work so they would let us in.
We drove down a couple of times, and each time we liked Tuscon better. Ryan has lived there a few times, and took us around to some of his old haunts. We also took the kids to a park with a man made lake and let them throw food to the ducks. The mountains are gorgeous. It was like balm to my soul to look at mountains and water again. I’m from CA and have missed both.
We began packing and cleaning and donating stuff we never use.
Among other things, the ceiling in our bathroom fell in and had to be fixed. During intensive packing. Yeah, that was fun.
Then we rented the truck and started loading.
We had planned to load the truck in a day, drive to Tuscon, and unload in a day. In reality, it took us two days to load and two days to unload. It was just Ryan, me, and the kids. While the kids helped when they could, they’re simply not capable of hauling around boxes and furniture.
On the second day of loading the truck, we had planned to be packed and on the road by noon. The new place’s office closed at 5 PM, and we had to be there in time to get the keys.
Noon came and went. Then one. Then two. We worked harder and harder, and our stuff seemed to multiply. Why do we have so much junk, anyway?
At three, we decided that cleaning the apartment could wait until the next day or so. We hurled the last few things into the truck and high-tailed it out of there at 3:15.
It’s a two-hour drive from Phoenix to Tuscon. We screamed down there in the truck and car. Ryan had called the office and left a message to say that we were running late, and could they wait for us. So we came screeching into the parking lot at 5:30. Thank heavens, the manager was still in the office, though she was ready to leave. We got the keys. We got into our brand new apartment.
And it was too dark to unpack anything. For example, beds.
We bought a Papa John’s pizza to bake in our new oven for dinner. But we didn’t have any plates or forks to eat it with. I pulled it out of the oven with two shirts wrapped around my hands. I had a box cutter in my pocket from packing. It cut pizza all right. I also cut chunks from the cardboard plate beneath it to use as makeshift plates. We turned over a box to use as a table.
Then we (attempted) to sleep on the floor. It was a strange, uncomfortable night.
The next day, we were so tired from loading stuff the day before, as well as not sleeping, that we only managed to unload half the truck. We were assembling beds at 7 PM. That night we actually slept.
The next day Ryan went back to Phoenix to clean the old apartment, finish paperwork, and turn in the keys. I was faced with the daunting task of unloading the rest of the truck by myself.
I had been reading the Song of the Summer King books to the kids. That morning, I told them that we must become Nameless if we were going to finish the job–just like how Shard the griffin made the long flight over the sea on the advice of an albatross.
“Now this.” Windwalker looked forward again, and Shard watched him. “This long flight, my lord, comes at a price. You cannot think. You cannot think, ‘Oh, how tired I am.’”
Windwalker stretched his wings, then settled them into a glide again, and Shard imitated him. Stars rippled above and the moon bathed them and the top of the storm clouds in silver.
“You cannot think, ‘Oh, how far I have to go.’ You cannot think at all. For this long flight, you must give up yourself. To journey across the windward sea, you must let go of your name, and become part of the sky.”
“But it will come back to you. In time. Son of Tyr and Tor. You cannot truly forget, you who parted the storm, and named me. I don’t think you can forget.”
“You don’t think? But are you sure?” Shard had forgotten himself once, briefly, after almost drowning in the sea. Witless, he had climbed to safety on pure instinct, and woken to remember himself just before meeting Stigr for the first time.
“Trust you will remember. Too many thoughts will weaken you. You must be a bit of wind and sky, like me.” Windwalker stared ahead, unconcerned. Shard watched him, breathless fear crawling forward. “Remember only to follow me, brother of the sky. Remember only that.”
“You are wind,” Windwalker intoned. “You are feather and bone, and hunger, and thirst. And wind.”
Shard focused on his feathers, loosing a breath. I am wind. I am feather and bone.
I am wind. Feather and bone.
Wind. Feather. Bone.
Flight and blood and bone. Anything else is death.
Hunger, thirst and hunt.
Flight, feather and wind was life.
I had that stinking truck unloaded by noon. So it worked.
Then I had to unpack a mountain of boxes in order to make room for furniture. I’m a bit OCD–I like everything neatly in its place. The chaos of moving is torture for me.
Ryan completed everything on his end, and we unpacked for two days. I didn’t do anything else–I just unpacked for hours on end.
Once everything was done and arranged, I was so tired that all I could do was sit in a chair and stare. “It’s Nanowrimo!” the Internet exclaimed. “Also the election is nuts! Did you hear the latest?”
I sort of stared at the Internet without caring. We just came through our own personal apocalypse. I don’t have the energy to care about big scary things. I barely have the strength to cook dinner and sweep the floor.
So that’s where I vanished to for the entire month of October. Hopefully life and regular blogging will resume now.
Every so often I do a goal assessment and figure out how I’m doing on stuff. That sounds totally organized, but it’s not.
School started Monday. If anything kicks my butt into gear regarding organization, it’s school. Not only am I homeschooling my oldest four, but I’m watching another child for the first three weeks of August. He’s also doing school with us. That means that if I want to get anything accomplished, I’ve got to watch my time management. I’m talking micro-managing-Rollercoaster-Tycoon levels of management.
As always, when I’m accessing how I spend my time, I keep track of everything I do over a couple of days. The self-help books say to write things down. I just stay aware of what I’m doing in the bits and pieces of extra time I have–nursing the baby, folding laundry, waiting for people to do their math, playtime after lunch when the kids are occupied, etc.
Guess what I do in those bits of time!
I read Facebook.
Exclusively. If there’s a blog linked on Facebook, I’ll read it. If there’s news on Facebook, I’ll read it. If there’s a video on Facebook, I’ll watch it. Facebook Facebook Facebook. I’d check it when I woke up in the morning and the last thing at night.
More specifically, on Facebook, I scroll through the same statuses, videos and meme pics over and over and over. Every so often somebody would post something new, but not as often as I was looking for it. Oh, and you know this election circus that’s going on? Yeah, I’ve been all stressed out and upset about that.
My hubby had a couple of weeks where he worked some really late evenings. To keep myself awake while waiting for him, I’d listen to Donna Otto’s podcast Homemakers By Choice. One of the things that Donna suggests is to read Facebook 10 minutes a day. Set a timer. She said that it works just fine for her.
Facebook in 10 minutes a day! I thought. Imagine how much time I’d have for writing!
So I made a deal with myself. Facebook was only for the evenings. If I had time to sit and mess with the internet, then I had the time to write. Period. So any time I picked up my ipod, I was obligated to write a couple of paragraphs.
That was two weeks ago. Today I finished the first draft of my fun little dragon cozy mystery. I immediately dove in to revising the second Malevolent book, Malcontent. And we’re not talking large slabs of time, here. This is ten minutes here and there throughout the day. It helps that I just love these stories.
Only reading Facebook once a day means that everybody’s statuses and jokes are a lot more fun to read. I have time to read everything that was posted over the course of the day, including all the horrendous political news. But you know, it’s a lot easier to take when it’s only a few minutes out of the day.
My stress levels dropped. My daily word count skyrocketed. (A whopping 800 words a day! But since I was previously doing something like 800 words a week, it’s improvement.)
So that’s been my experiment in dialing back my social media consumption. I’d rather produce something of value than fill my brain with dumb meme pics that I won’t remember tomorrow.
Kids learn by comparison. They learn to walk, and talk, and use a fork by watching their parents. As a child grows older, they learn to read and dress themselves and drink soda (or kombucha) and eat steak (or chitlins) and watch football (or Doctor Who).
This is just how human beings are wired. We learn by comparing ourselves to others. We pit ourselves against other people, against animals, against the environment, against the stars, in our struggle for mastery and knowledge. This is one of our great strengths as a species.
It’s also one of our downfalls.
The Realm Makers writer’s conference is this weekend. It’s been out of the question for me for the past few years, but I still watch wistfully from the sidelines as all my friends get together for what amounts to a retreat. There’s fantastic teaching. There’s costumes. There’s a nerf battle.
It got me thinking about the way we writers compare ourselves to each other. The trouble is, being a writer is like rally racing. You don’t race the other drivers. You race your own best time. On the surface, we know that. But underneath, our nature is urging us to look at other authors’ writing, or their sales, or the size of their Twitter following, and wonder why ours isn’t so good.
Now, if we take it as an opportunity to learn, then comparison is fine. Everybody needs better tools and techniques–its how you grow. But so often we use it to feed our envy and pride.
I’ve been reading a stack of homeschooling books from the 90s in preparation for this school year. Every time I read one, I get monstrously discouraged. Finally I asked my mom about them, since this was the way her generation thought. These books trumpet the same things:
I grew up in that school of thought, and I don’t like it. Comparing myself to that, I’m the biggest underachiever on the face of the earth. I don’t want as many kids as humanly possible–five is about as many as I can manage. Homeschooling works for our family, but it’s not for everyone. Working outside the home is necessary for survival (especially if you’re a single parent).
Mom pointed out that there were women who killed themselves and their kids because they couldn’t measure up to these teachings. The Quiverfull movement is horrible and is being taken apart for the cult that it is. Too much comparison. Too much groupthink.
So I look around to see what my generation is talking about in homeschooling. The big deal for us is special needs. Autism, ADHD, Aspergers, everything that can go wrong with a child’s brain. There’s a big move toward simplicity–in learning and living. People still have lots of kids, but it’s not the virtue that it once was. Instead of magazines, there’s blogs and bloggers. Many of the modern homeschoolers were homeschooled as kids, but not all. It’s a movement that has grown beyond Christians and into mainstream. (There’s homeschoolers who … GASP … aren’t Christians!)
So I’ve been grappling with not only comparing myself to others, but the clear outcome of groupthink. I have at my fingertips the thinking of twenty years ago, and the results. All I have to do is look around at my peers. In particular, the adults at Realm Makers who as kids were denied fantasy and science fiction. As backlash, they’re walking around in costume and quoting Star Wars.
I guess what I’m seeing is that life has to be about balance. Protect your kids, but not to the extreme of never letting them glimpse real life. Let them read Narnia, but let them read Harry Potter, too. (As kids fantasy goes, Harry Potter is absolutely benign. Christians scream about it, but nobody ever dissects the weirdness in Madeline L’Engle or the So You Want To Be A Wizard series.)
So I’m going to continue with my simplistic approach to homeschooling. I’m going to read aloud Harry Potter, Little House on the Prairie, Wheel on the School, and the Magic Thief.
As John Taylor Gatto points out, every teen is taught to drive a car. It’s a hugely complex task that, if done poorly, results in DEATH. But every teen is taught to drive within a couple of weeks, and they will successfully perform it for their whole lives. Why must math or grammar be any different? They’re just tools to perform a task. In real life, if you don’t know the equation to calculate the diameter of a circle, you look it up. But knowing how to look things up, and where, is the trick.
Ever since we started taking our high-quality supplements last year, I’ve gotten used to feeling healthy. No allergies, few colds. The only thing I get now are the big nasty bugs during flu season.
The thing about good health is that you take it for granted. You get up and go about your day, you eat what you like (within reason–avoid gluten and sugar like the plague). You go to bed at night and sleep like a baby. The health part of your life works like a well-oiled machine, and you don’t think about it.
Like the doctrine of grace, life is a list of Dos. Do your chores, do the things that need to be done, do enjoy your life, do have fun, do smile a lot.
Then one day, you run out of supplements.
I ordered more, but I’m cheap and use standard shipping, which takes a week.
You know why people think vitamins and minerals don’t work? Because the stuff you get at the drugstore does NOTHING. Our medicine cabinet is stuffed with multivitamins–men’s, women’s, prenatals, weird samples the doctor gave me, and so on.
Investigation of the labels reveals tiny doses of about twelve vitamins and minerals. A good one might have twenty.
You know how many vitamins and minerals the human body needs?
Ninety. 9-0. That’s the correct ratios of vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, plus trace minerals that act as co-factors. For instance, vitamin C does nothing without calcium. Iron does nothing without copper. Plus you gotta have the Omega oils, which work in concert with the vits and minerals.
So I’m popping double doses of everything in the cabinet. Absolutely nothing happens. I suspect that they’re such low-quality pills that they go straight through.
My health begins to deteriorate. First is fatigue and brain fog. I walk around like a zombie.
Next is allergies. Then indigestion. I can’t eat a darn thing without my stomach reacting violently. Only vegetables seem to tame the beast a little. And remember, this is mostly gluten and sugar free! If I touch either of those, pick a symptom from The Wheel of Suck. Actually, pick five.
Next comes the canker sores in my mouth. Because those are always fun.
My chronic anemia returns. I can’t draw a full breath, and my legs twitch badly at night in that creepy leg moving syndrome.
Then comes my old friend, the urinary tract infection. It stays for days and weeks. I take cranberry pills. I drink lemon juice. I sit on hot water bottles. I really don’t want to go on antibiotics, but after days of suffering, it looks pretty attractive.
The list of things I can eat and do begins to shrink. This is Law–a list of don’ts. It gets longer and longer. Don’t eat sugar, honey, tea, any fruit, most meat, any grains whatsoever, slightly breaded chicken … it all causes headaches, stomach aches, and other awful things.
Then … Cue the angelic choir … My good supplements arrive.
Within two days the brain fog and fatigue are gone. Within three days the urinary tract infection is gone. Within four days the allergies, stomach problems, and canker sores are gone. The anemia and leg twitches vanish.
My hormones calm down–PMS disappears. My mood defaults to Cheerful because I feel so darn good. I go back to eating all the foods I couldn’t eat (except gluten and sugar). Grace rules once more.
I’ve talked about this supplement before and why it’s so good. I now understand why nobody believes me. Did you know that the FDA doesn’t regulate supplements? In fact, nobody regulates them. That’s why most of them suck. Having spent a week mixing and matching our inferior drugstore brands and getting zero benefit, I feel desperately sorry for everyone around me.
My cockatiel is old and sick. He had stopped chirping or moving very much. I got him a bottle of liquid supplements, and he cheered right up. Guess what! There’s more vitamins and minerals in the bird drops than in ANY of my multivitamins. Only my really good supplement has more.
Law and grace–do and don’t. Good health and bad. It’s so weird to see a spiritual doctrine so closely paralleled in the health sphere. The law can’t save, no matter how strictly we follow it. Only grace saves. And there are so many counterfeits–its hard to tell the fakes from the real thing.
This week, my third daughter turned 5. She’s my dragon lover, and asked for dragons for her birthday.
She played with friends all day, and ate cake all evening, and mostly just had a great time. Because she got that Lego Elves dragon, all the kids are now enamored of that particular series. If it was a TV show, they’d watch it religiously. They’ve already consumed the one tiny video on Youtube and wish for more. Because dragons.