Welcome to my blog! If you are a new visitor, please click here.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Peter S Beagle

I've been a fan of Peter S Beagle ever since I was a kid, but I didn't realize how amazing he was until I got older and stared to look into his biography.  He is known for only a few things, such as The Last Unicorn and a certain quote about dreams.  However, he has done so much more!

Mr. Beagle is also known for being an expert in everything Tolkien and indeed wrote the screenplay for the 1978 animation of The Lord of the Rings.  Because of this, he was invited to take part in something called Mythmoot, a sort of scholarly discussion/class of The Hobbit right after a screening of the new film.  I was, unfortunately, unable to attend this event.  My sister, however, did.

Yes, I am jealous and wish that I was able to go, but it was simply not in the cards this year.  Perhaps next year I can go for the second film.  I feel, however, one step closer to the world of writers.  When Christmas rolled around, my sister gave me a copy of Mr. Beagle's newest work, Sleight of Hand, a collection of short stories.  But the best part was the message inside it.

"To Spencer-
Send the damn stories out!
And if they get sent back,
send them out again!

-Peter S Beagle"

Now I am stoked!  One of my childhood idols has written me a personal message to get my ass in gear!  I will certainly be redoubling my efforts to complete this novel as fast as I can so that I can work on my many other story ideas!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas Songs That Should Not Be

This Christmas season, my wife and I have been listening to the radio more often than we usually do.  For some reason, we aren't using Pandora as much, and we haven't dug out all the Christmas CDs.  Because of this, I've been hearing a lot more of the "popular" songs that the radio plays.  Granted, some of them are quite lovely; I thoroughly enjoy anything with Josh Groban or Michael Buble.  But there are some Christmas songs that I simply cannot stand, for one reason or another.  And here they are.

4) Blue Christmas - The Elvis version.

Now, I am sure a lot of you love this song, and love Elvis.  He does, I admit, have a good voice, and the song has nothing bad in it lyrics-wise.  This is a personal choice.  I do not like this song because of ONE of his background singers.  She has this little climbing arpeggiated chord, but when she hits the top note she's slightly off.  Just slightly.  And it bugs the ever-living goodness out of me.  All other versions of this song do not have that singer, and so I have no problems with them.

3) Do They Know It's Christmas

This song is on the list despite its good intentions and noble background.  It was written in 1984 for "Band Aid," a group dedicated to ending the hunger in Ethopia.  How could something like this possibly be bad?  Well, for starters, it is condescending.  It is also full of errors.  "There won't be snow in Africa this Christmas time" is one of the lines.  First of all... yes, there will.  It DOES snow in Africa.  Plus, what does snow have to do with Christmas?  The singer tries to make a point that they don't know it's Christmas because they do't have snow, jingle bells, and that "nothing ever grows" there, another fallacy.  If you know anything about how third-world countries work, the first thing you learn is that it is the governments, not the planet, that is preventing people from getting food.  And this all really has nothing to do with Christmas, and more to do with some European idealistic Yuletide celebration.  Christmas is actually about the birth of Jesus Christ.  Perhaps the Africans who aren't part of our "world of plenty" understand Christmas far better than we do because they aren't distracted by all the worldly goods we are.

2) Santa Baby

Let me get this right...  you are trying to seduce St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children, so that he will give you more material possessions?  Oh yes, that's a song I want my child hearing.  Someone could make the argument that this is all in sarcasm, but when you hear different versions, all of them have some highly attractive and over-sexed woman using her most seductive tone possible with no hint of sarcasm.  And she's asking for the most stereotypical things possible, such as diamonds and money.  Not only does this song insult Christmas and Santa Clause, but it demeans women.

1) Baby It's Cold Outside

AKA: The Christmas Rape song.  Let's examine the lyrics.  It starts out with the woman saying she really has to get going and that her mom is going to worry.  She moves on to excuses to get away... such as the neighbors might see.  All the while, the male singer is calling her things like "baby" and "beautiful" (which can so easily be seen as a college kid trying to get the girl he just met into bed but doesn't remember or know her name).  At some point the girl says she thinks there's something in the drink, and it apparently puts a "spell" on her which makes her not able to say "no."  Sounds like the date rape drug to me.  It continues with her making more attempts to get away and the guy just fawning over her body and coming up with every terrible excuse in the book.  The next time you hear the song, listen to the lyrics and imagine the guy is actually a sexual predator.  Not that far fetched.

So, please, stop playing these songs, DJs.  They are terrible and should not exist.  Instead... why not focus on some of the lesser known but beautiful songs of Christmas?  Let's give Christmas back its meaning.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Kick the tires?

Oh, hey there.  I didn't see you.  Probably because I'm writing this long before you'll ever read it on a computer miles away from you, but that's just splitting hairs.  I know it is has been a while since I've updated, but don't worry; it was time well spent.  I've been acting as a stay-at-home dad and getting into it a little better, I've been writing my novel in my spare time, improving my guitar playing, brewing excellent beers, and going on dates with my wife.  Something had to give.  I decided to focus on my novel before I continued the Murphy's Law Story.  I will get back to it, for all five or so of my readers.  I'm sure I count for at least 2 of them.

I find myself getting jealous over my friends, though I really shouldn't be.  I have many friends who either have become published (and not just online or in ebooks), or are about to be published.  I SHOULD take this as an incentive to continue writing and as hope that I, too, may actually get published someday soon.  Instead, I tend to think, "Why them?  Why not me?"  Yes, I have an English degree, and most of my published friends don't.  2 of them, however, do.  Somehow, it is the other friends that make me more jealous, almost as if you aren't deserving of authorship unless you earned an English degree.  I know this is not true, but it is hard to suppress feelings like this, which circumvent logic.  And when I think of my English degree friends, I tend to find myself looking at my writing in a self-deprecating fashion.  If their amazing work is what it takes, what chance do I have?  Again, no logic involved here.  Hopefully I will get over this petty jealousy and use it to kick me into high gear.

At the moment, I am at about the 49k word mark in my novel.  I was hoping to finish it by November 1st, but that is looking less and less likely.  This Sunday, my wife and I are playing the music at a celtic service at church.  I may have been playing guitar for 6 years, but I always think I suck at that, too, so I will likely be spending every spare moment I have between now and then working on the pieces we will be playing.  Then there's Halloween to prepare for, the Nanowrimo party, etc. etc .etc.  So, since I will not be finishing the rough draft in time, I will finish it by the end of Nano, and start on the first revision!  After the first revision, I will be ready for some proof-readers.  Hopefully this will be done by the time Christmas rolls around, but we'll see.  Of course, after that, I need to look for publishers or agents, research how to make it into an ebook, start some self-promotion and networking…. you know, act like an author.  Really, an author is just a car salesman without a car.  At least, in today's age it seems like that.  "I see you've got your eye an a 2006 Urban Fantasy.  Quite a good body to this story, though when you first start it, it might be a little jumpy.  Care to test it out, spin through a chapter or two?  What format do you like?  I prefer the Kindle Fire, myself, but nothing beats a good-old vintage hard cover.  Just look at that spine, steady as a rock.  So, whadaya say.. $9.99 for the whole thing?  I'll even make you a deal and throw in a poem or two."

Sunday, July 1, 2012


This post has little to do with writing, but it does have to do with unbounded creativity.

Back in college I took a rather enjoyable sculpture class.  This was when I didn't know what I wanted to major in yet, so I was taking everything I could to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.  I could rant and rave about the idiocy of the education system that does not give a rounded education to its youngsters, but that would be for another post.  In this class of mine, we had something like 11 projects we had to do.  The first one was simple, to make an object into something it wasn't, and I did an OK job at it.  Not great, but OK.  The second, however, required us to come up with a toy that moved.  I made an airplane with a propeller that turned when the wheels did.  I did very well on it.  The third was the last project I did.  I don't even remember what it was, because I didn't do what the professor asked.  Instead, I started to make a a crank-work box.  I designed it with 5 moving elements all relating to time, built every part of it (including making the gears by hand), and tested it until it worked almost perfectly.  There was also another automaton box I made, a gift for my at-the-time girlfriend.  These two projects not only counted for the other 9 assignments, but got me an A in the course.  Here are a few examples of automata.  I recommend checking out a few more videos; they can be quite impressive.

Ever since then, I have had a love of automata and woodworking.  I even designed some complicated projects, but never got around to them.  It has been some time since I thought about any of them.  Today, I was drawing with my daughter and listening to "Rainbow Connection," from the Muppets.  Suddenly I was inspired!  I remember one of my old projects that involved Kermit sitting on top of a log with a banjo.  A tape played the song, and attached to the motor of the tape player was a dowel that moved cams which controlled Kermit's mouth and arm, so that he sang and played in time to the music.  One of the biggest flaws of this was, however, that the dowel and cams would add resistance, which would slow down the song and possibly break the tape player.  Besides, who uses cassette tapes?

Now my idea is to make it a crank-work automaton.  Attached to the main shaft are the cams, still controlling the arm and mouth, and on the other end is a disc - one part of a music box.  The chime portion would be beneath, so that as you turn the crank you both play the song and make Kermit move!  Another thought, if I can make it larger, would be to actually use banjo strings that are plucked on the inside.  I hope I can remember these ideas in case someday (yeah right) I get a woodworking studio and have the time to work on these.  Even though I likely will not get to do these things, I still love to come up with ideas like these.  They keep me thinking, keep my mind creative.  If I get stuck in part of my story, sometimes it is a good idea to switch things up and step back from it for a short while.  Tell me what you all think.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Writer's Blockade

To most writers, Writer's Block is a real problem that pops up when you really don't want it around.  It is generally accepted as a lack of Muse or inspiration, but can reveal itself in other ways (such as depression or anxiety).  It can be anything from having difficulty finding what to say for a week to being unable to produce any new work for years.  F. Scott Fitzgerald and Charles Schultz have both been victims of this dreaded condition.  Almost every author has had some form of it at some point.  Thankfully for me, Writer's Block has never posed much of a problem.

However, I have recently been experiencing what I would term Writer's Blockade.  What is the difference, you ask?  Think of it this way; if you are trying to get to your favorite writing spot, say a coffee shop, and it is closed, that is rather like writer's block.  If, however, on the way there is a traffic accident, so you take a side route but get a flat tire on the poor road conditions, then hijack a young kid's bike only to run into a protest rally, which leads you to go against the flow on foot while trying to make your way to your goal until your ex shows up and her new fiance pummels you into the ground before you ever even make it TO the shop... THAT is Writer's Blockade.  There's nothing wrong with your inspiration, your desire to write, your relationships, your emotions, or your health.  Instead, the world has conspired against you.  In short, Writer's Block is internal, Writer's Blockade is external.

An example of this would be having a baby.  Now, I'm not talking about being so overcome with elation that you simply cannot put the feeling into words.  It is the daily grind, the minutiae and incessant alertness, that stops the writing process.  For me, I spend days getting up when Addy does (usually before or just after 7), doing laundry and dishes, feeding and clothing my little girl, changing her diapers (and more if she makes a mess), playing with her, fighting with her to take a nap, taking her outside to run around, putting up with the whininess when she gets tired or upset, running to stop her when she reaches for something deadly on the table, providing comfort when she falls and hits her head, swinging/twirling/dancing/chasing her (or perhaps pushing her while she's in her little Radio Flyer), getting out and putting away a variety of toys and projects for her, keeping her from pounding or pulling at or throwing my computer, bathing her, and finally putting her to sleep around 7 or 8.  That is mommy and daddy time, and we usually spend it doing chores that didn't get completed or planning out the next day/week/month, though it is sometimes spent on small private dates (in the home, don't worry).  Sometimes, I spend the whole day driving to town to take her somewhere or run errands, getting back just in time to put her to sleep.  When we're done with our alone time, Amy heads to bed and I get time to write...  but by that point I am exhausted and unable to put coherent thoughts together.  There's none of that idealistic "you have to make time" garbage.  The choices are write or sleep.  Foregoing my stay-at-home-dad duties to indulge myself is not an option.  I usually try to write at night, but you can only hold off sleep so long before it makes the choice for you.  Don't forget, the less time you spend sleeping, the more exhausted you will be the next day.  On average, I would say I fall asleep around 11 or midnight, then wake up on the couch and crawl to bed around 1 or 2.

I've had a very hard time trying to get past a single scene in my novel, though it is an important one.  But the entire novel is planned, outlined.  I know what is going to happen next, and I still have an intense desire and inspiration to write the story.  I think that part of what made this scene so difficult to write was that I could only get through half a paragraph at a time.  Getting back into the right frame of mind after a long day takes some time as well, so that limits how much writing I could do on top of things.  I knew I wasn't really having Writer's Block, or even Writer's Ennui (a common-enough example of Writer's Block that it really deserves its own recognition).  But having difficulty with that scene made me doubt my ability to write and question how good my novel really is.  Would my readers be able to get through that scene, or have I just set up a proverbial Rivendell?  Would they be able to tell that I wrote it over the course of a hundred different sittings?  Will that scene even be in the final draft of the novel?  Should I be spending my time or more "productive" things?

In my case, it appeared that this blockade was not going to end anytime soon.  If anything, it was compiling greater obstacles to throw at me for the future, and this may still be the case.  From what my stay-at-home-mom friends tell me, you don't really get time to yourself until they start going to school, and that is a ways off for me (and further if we have another child).  Thankfully, I was able to find a hole through the blockade last weekend.  There really is a way around this debilitating condition, but it is not any easier than curing Writer's Block.  In one weekend I wrote over 2500 words (which is astounding for me) while still managing to do all the chores, go to church, go on two dates with my wife, celebrate Father's Day, and care for my daughter.  I am stoked.  So, how did I get around the blockade?  That is for another post.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


Any one know how to make a specific ad not appear on my blog? If you see the ad saying to vote no to gay marriage, please ignore it. Vote yes on it, please. I'm not a bigot.

Addy's quirks

And now a post from my rarely-updated daddy blog!


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Anti-Choice Male

Ah, Facebook. Too often you are a forum for politics and ideologies to be slung blindly at others, with no real outcome one way or the other. I am usually not one to put much emotional stake in these posts, which happen far too frequently on my facebook. You see, my friends cover the full political and ideological spectrum, from extreme conservative to extreme liberal, atheist to right-wing Christian to Muslim to Jew to liberal Christian. I am rather open-minded about such matters; I have my faith and beliefs, and you have yours. I won't impose mine, you don't impost yours, we'll get along just fine. Unfortunately, an old college friend of mine made a post that I felt I needed to comment on for some reason, and now I regret it. I've been so upset over the posts that I can't even seem to function normally. As a writer, this post is my therapy. I am not interested in getting in "the last word," and I am not going to be arguing for my standpoint. This is not a discussion, and to prevent this I have disabled comments. That being said, I do hope the friend in question reads this all the way through.

The post in question was a remark against Republicans, of which I am not. To keep a long post manageable, let me say that the discussion which followed quickly became one about pro-choice vs. pro-life. I am pro-life; I have no qualms about letting people know this. This does not mean I'm a weirdo, that I'm going to go kill some doctors or march in the streets with a mutilated doll on a crucifix. I believe that, if you look at the evidence, one has to come up with the realization that abortion is indeed murder. I understand that not everyone thinks this way, and my friend, let's call her Mary, is one of those people. This is fine; my wife is pro-choice. But, until someone actually comes to me with an argument that holds water, I will remain adamantly pro-life.

I very quickly realized that our discussion was going nowhere. And the longer it continued, the more upset I was becoming over it. For a while I wondered what it was about this debate that got to me so much more than others. I've heard all the arguments before, who hasn't? After a while, however, I realized what it was that bugged me so much. It wasn't the debate over being pro-life and pro-choice, it was actually that Mary had casually insulted me, as if it was a normal thing to do and without provocation. She called me "anti-choice," as if I'm some backwards misogynist trying to keep women in the kitchen. I'm a stay-at-home dad. I believe that we should be able to make whatever choices we like, provided those choices don't hinder someone else's basic rights (one of the reasons I'm not Republican or Democrat). I am not anti-choice, I am pro-life. I don't go around calling people pro-death, or anti-life. I still do not know why she felt the need to just fling an insult at me - I thought we were better friends than that! Besides, to someone who is truly pro-life, an abortion takes away someone else's basic rights, the right to choose, to pursue happiness, to be free, to live.

That being said, I think I could have gotten over a minor insult like that, had it not been for the next. Mary, in different words, said that I had no right to choose to be pro-life because I am a male and have not been/never will be pregnant. THAT hurts, and for many reasons. 1) if you're pro-choice, then you need to respect that I can make decisions too. 2) I'm not stupid, uneducated, uninformed, or cruel. I know I cannot be pregnant, but I was there every step of the way during my wife's pregnancy and natural birth. 3) That statement has no purpose in a debate like this. It is not about pregnancy, but about life. 4) If the fact that I am male prevents me from arguing this with you, then pretend I'm a female and continue. Trust me, there are female pro-lifers. Being a woman does not automatically make you pro-choice. 5) The things that go on during pregnancy involve a lot of hormones and emotions (I am not saying women are entirely hormonal and emotional, this is just the truth. It is how their bodies and minds work to cope with the changes that they have to undergo). Saying I can't argue with you because I've never experienced these things is hiding behind them and insulting women EVERYWHERE. 6) The statement is inherently sexist. So what if I'm a male?! I'm also your friend, I have a pretty strong imagination, understanding, and sense of logic, and I care as much for equal rights and treatment as anyone. The last thing I expected to hear from my friend Mary, a very strong, smart, caring, and concerned woman and mother (who also strongly believes in equality) was a sexist statement like that one! How do I even begin to defend the fact that I am a man?

Now, I do not ask for any kind of apology or a continuation of any sort of debate. I'm not even asking that we maintain or dissolve our friendship. As I stated earlier, the purpose of this post is therapeutic. It is simply getting my thoughts out there. I hope that I did not insult my friend either now or during the debate in an way. All I simply ask is that, even if we are debating something, we treat each other with respect. And this does not just go for me and my friend, but for everyone. We should all try to treat each other with respect, especially while we're debating things. Otherwise, the debate gets lost and friends turn on each other. Perhaps we all just need to take facebook a little less seriously and stop using it as a personal soapbox.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

How To Be A Thief

In case you are not aware, I have moved the "How To Be A Thief" story from this blog to its own! It has been edited and fixed up, made to look pretty, and given a new name! It is now "Murphy's Law" and you can find it here, at murphyslawstory.blogspot.com. I hope you all enjoy it and please, do not spread it around or steal it. I do not make money at this, but perhaps someday I will if I get enough people to read it. And then I can update it more often. So, if you like the story, visit it on its new site and click on a few of the ads while you're there! If you find any of it has been stolen, be sure to bring it to my attention. Thank you!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Cold Weather Camping

If you do not know me too well, then you should know that I am big into camping and backpacking. Even though I don't have any sons, and my daughter is only 10 months old, I am currently acting as an Assistant Scoutmaster in one of my local Boy Scout troops, because I love scouting! Now, when I was a scout myself, it just so happened that I was able to avoid most campouts where the temperature went below freezing. I had thought that I would not have that problem living in South Carolina (where the only winter we've had was a cold drizzle). So, I decided to go on my first camp out with this troop last weekend!

It just so happened that Mother Nature had a surprise up her sleeve. Winter decided that it was time to show up for a full 48 hours... the 48 hours of our campout. But as I learned, it wasn't the cold temperatures that got to us, even the fact that it was about 20 on Sunday morning. No, it was the wind. The 20-30 mph gusts were brutal and frequent. I got to stay behind in camp where there was little shelter and little sun. At night, the wind chill was probably around 10. I needed to get more clothing, as I was getting dangerously cold despite wearing 7 shirts (2 long-sleeve, 2 t-shirts, a very warm sweater, thermal underwear, and a windbreaker jacket), 3 pants, 2 thick socks, boots, ear muffs, a hat, and gloves. The ski pants and second pair of gloves were what I needed. There's being prepared, and then there's that.

Despite the cold, I did have fun. Like I said, I love to camp. I got to see the boys attempt to make catapults with nothing but ropes and logs, we did a compass game (which teaches orienteering skills), and one of the boys discovered a UXO. That's right, an unexploded ordinance. It was a hand grenade from World War 2 that had the pin pulled, but the handle was rusted shut. Apparently paratroopers used the woods for training exercises back in the '40s. Another leader took the grenade from him, put it far away from everyone, and kept everyone away from it. The bomb squad (a single guy) came out and told us that it was likely a dud, but he'd have to x-ray it to be sure. Despite the fears that parents may have, it was a good thing that it happened; it allowed us to show the kids how to handle UXOs and other weapons of that nature. If you don't know how, there are three steps to the safe handling of a UXO. The 3 Rs.

1) Recognize. If you suspect something is an unexploded ordinance, take a bit of time to recognize it as such and not something mundane like a can. However, do not touch it, move it, or disturb it in an way. If you cannot tell what it is, treat it as a UXO. Some DO look like mufflers, soda cans, small balls, etc. If you have any reason to suspect it, treat it as a UXO.

2) Retreat. Get as far away from it as you can. Tell other people to stay away from the area. If you have the means, mark the area on a map, or put up tape or red/black flags at a safe distance from the UXO to keep others away.

3) Report. Tell the proper authorities what you have found and where. This is likely the local police and/or bomb squad, though if you are on or near a military base, the base may be better equipped to handle it. Stay nearby until the authorities get there so you can give them all the information you have. Don't worry if it turns out the UXO is actually just a pipe or paint ball. It is better to be safe than sorry. Although you may not think a grenade is that dangerous, even an old one may still be potent, and the shrapnel can travel 4 times faster than a bullet.

So after the grenade was carried away, we returned to our normal campout. For the cold, the company, and the grenade, this will definitely be a trip to remember.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Exemplary writing

One of the things that I have strived to become is an exemplary writer. Not just decent, not good, not even great. Legendary. The kind of writer that, when you read his work, you are left in awe. There is something in the way a master crafts language as though it were clay. It is that kind of writing that can truly become art.

For a while I fancied myself a great writer. I was, as far as I know, at the top of my classes. Whenever I worked for someone in a writing capacity, I was generally regarded as a valuable asset. I know there are better - and younger - writers out there, particularly now. Even if my working vocabulary grew exponentially, my similes and metaphors were akin to Shakespeare's, and my depth a rival to Hemingway, I still will not be the legendary writer that I wish to be. At least, not for a while.

There is some truth to the idea that writers have troubled pasts, but mine was not wracked by hardships. Many writers have had the advantages of an education that has no equal; mine was at times sub par. Some have seen the world, changed our mother tongue in unalterable ways, and fired the imaginations of millions. However, there are still top-shelf authors who, like me, have had none of these. It is time and my own personal demons that are preventing me from being the writer I could be.

Time I can change very little. I can make a little more time for writing, set aside time every day, keep myself focused and awake and habitual. Having a 10-month older who is now starting to walk and teethe (and make a grinding noise with her teeth that sends shivers reserved for dentists alone* up my spine) does make things more difficult, but not impossible. I will not be denying my daughter time with me, or the time she needs to be raised properly. But that does not mean I have to deny myself that which defines and drives me (if only I was driven by a single force).

This, of course, leaves my own personal demons. These are, for the most part, distractions. Sure, I could blame it on ADHD. I have been ADHD my entire life and am still, at 30, learning to deal with it. I have yet to find a medicine that has acceptable side effects (but that is for another post). But to be my own devil's advocate, I HAVE lived with it for 30 years and should be able to deal with it fairly well. No, I will not blame my distractions on ADHD. I lack the discipline that I need to do the things I wish to do. I lack the habits, the routine, the self-control. Currently my distractions are games (and not just one in particular, but a variety), Netflix, and attempting to role-play online. I do get some writing done, and the role-playing I have tried to start up is writing intensive. I have learned, however, that I really am a better writer than most. The writing can at times be excellent, but it is usually poor. And I do not think it is helping me, but instead forcing me into the habit of writing poorly. And that is one habit I do not need.

I have other things on my plate. My wife and I are attempting to brew beer. I have purchased (and intend to start) a cross-stitching pattern. I have about 4 writing projects that I want to pursue. I am still in the process of transferring my rather sizable collection of CDs onto my computer. There are a variety of songs I want to learn to play on the guitar, including songs for Children's Chapel (which I will be taking up) and songs taught to me by the PS3 game Rocksmith (although a game, it uses a real guitar, and teaches you how to play songs to the point where you could play them on your own for others). I still have not been on a camp out with the boy scout troop I am helping. And on top of all this, I am attempting to find things to do with my daughter now and when she gets a little older. It has been said that a man only has time for one passion in his life. I feel I can get away with 2 or 3... but I have about 7.

So, in short, I am going to have to work on the discipline. I have come to redefine my goals and my thought of what "exemplary" writing is. I do not know if it is an achievable goal, but it is a path I wish to tread. In time, who knows?

*It is not only a sound that makes my teeth ache with empathy pangs, but also makes my wallet hurt with the thought of the dentist's bill once we see the damage she has done to her teeth.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Changing Tables

Until you become a parent, you never really notice changing tables when you're in a public restroom. But the moment that status changes, those little fold-out hunks of plastic growing like tumors on the wall become welcome sights. Without them, you may be forced to precariously balance your child on the hard, cold, narrow, and often wet marble sink while navigating a dirty diaper, a clean diaper, wipes, and a diaper bag. Cloth diapers add to the mix as well, and if the child is poopy... well let's just say almost no one actually cleans the diaper properly. If the sink is too small, the bathroom floor is usually a very bad idea, leaving you to change your child in public!

Now, I am not saying that these changing tables are perfect. Far from it! I should invent a changing table that A) has a place to put/hang your diaper bag so it is off the disgusting (and often wet) bathroom floor, B) Has a place to put dirty diapers temporarily and sanitarily (even cloth ones, so a trash will not do) while you continue the unpleasant chore, and C) has a place to put the wipes and clean diapers. The tables are also often placed in unusual locations... one was placed right next to the automatic flushing urinal, causing it to evacuate its contents ever ten seconds. Another was in the way of the door to the wheelchair stall. But despite these shortcomings, just having a table is a blessing. I can manage the clean diaper, dirty diaper, wipes, wipe bag, diaper bag, wet bag, baby, and baby's clothing.

Here is where we often have a problem. Women's rooms, from what I can tell, usually have a changing table, if not always. Men's rooms, however, rarely do. There is something inherently wrong about going to the trouble of installing a changing table in the women's and neglecting to do so in the men's. It's not THAT much more money. Not only is there a growing number of stay-at-home dads out there, but there are also plenty of dads on outings with the baby, single dads, and dads who want to do their fair share of diaper changes.

Today I was at the Greenville Zoo with my infant daughter. It was just the two of us, and the zoo was mostly filled with moms and their kids. There were plenty of them and only one other dad with his daughter, but we were still there. In order for me to change my baby, I had to have an employee wait until the women's room was empty, then go in and check it, then stand guard while I used it to do the dirty deed. It was a bit undignified, and something that could and should have been easily avoided.

Who knows how long it will be before us fathers are seen as equals on the nurturing front.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Staying at Home

No one ever said that being a stay-at-home dad was glamorous. First of all, there is intense social pressure to "provide" for the family. This usually is taken to mean, "make the majority of the money for the family", even though in some situations, "providing" may mean eliminating the cost of a babysitter while providing quality time for and with your child(ren). It was actually surprising to me just how strong this desire is. I still struggle with knowing I may never get this second degree and may never join the "working world" the same as most men. I have a degree, I have a strong work ethic, and I want to earn my way.

Some of the ways in which this simple bias manifests can be surprising. Let's say that in 2 years I am in a position to look for work again. There I am, sitting down at an interview looking confident and sharp, with a great portfolio and great people skills. The first thing the interviewer asks me is what I have been doing for the past 3 years. After I tell them that I have been a stay-at-home dad, they suddenly lose interest in me. It is as if staying at home has not only emasculated me, but also made me forget how to do my job.

The second thing that makes being a stay-at-home dad difficult is support. This is a two-fold problem. The first is that I am literally taking up the role that women have traditionally taken up; thus I am at home doing chores and taking care of the baby while my wife goes to work and class. She comes home tired and hungry, and I want to make certain I have done enough for the day to pull my weight. I usually end up doing more chores and putting the baby to sleep, since my wife has to get up early the next day to go to school/gym. Sometimes this means that I am so tired after the baby goes to bed that I can hardly get any of my own stuff done (or, as is often the case, do the chores that are hard to do while she's awake). I unfairly feel like I am not getting enough time for myself, while Amy feels that she is not getting enough time with the baby.

The flip side to this is other people. There aren't very many stay-at-home dads (SAHDs), at least not in my area. Usually I end up in groups of stay-at-home moms. This makes me feel just a bit nervous, as if I am intruding on a distinctly female thing. I know in my mind that it is alright, but it still feels wrong. It is also hard because there aren't other SAHDs to talk with and share experiences with. Thankfully, I discovered some online communities that I am joining, athomedad.org and dadstayshome.com. We will see how these two resources help.

I am still trying to figure out how to get my baby to take naps in her crib, which will free up a lot of time for me. For the longest time, she would only nap on me (in such a manner that it was difficult or impossible to do anything else, including using the computer), twice a day, for about an hour to an hour and a half per nap. Without these, she would get cranky and cry all the time. With these, however, I am limited to using the Playstation for big portions of the day. If she can get an hour or even half an hour of sleep in her crib, I'll be able to write every day! There are other difficulties, problems, and situations that arise from being a SAHD, but those will have to be for a later post.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

My how time flies...

No new posts since May, huh?

So I'm a terrible blogger. But we already knew that, didn't we? Still, I've decided to try to revive this little thing. It will at the very least force me to write something substantial once in a while.

Here is an update in my current situation:

- My daughter is now 9 months old. Her first word was "light," she has 2 bottom teeth (and more coming in, I suspect), and she just took her first step yesterday (but isn't exactly walking yet). Very exciting!

- I have found a group of friends with similar interests to me! Huzzah! We have a weekly get-together and hopefully can start a writing group.

- I am still teaching myself to play the guitar. No real change there.

- I am now an Assistant Scoutmaster at one of the local Boy Scout troops! It doesn't take too much time, so far, but I am looking forward to going on campouts and helping kids with merit badges. The new Chess merit badge looks interesting...

- My novel has been slow coming. Most of this is due to Adelaide, but there are many other factors that have been getting in the way (like not being able to sleep, traveling home for the holidays, that sort of thing). But I have started it back up and hope to get my writing back on track soon.

- My wife may be defending her PhD thesis much sooner (a year and a half) than we had anticipated. Because of this, I have decided to become the full-time stay-at-home dad. I am looking into UMD as a future alma mater, but may have to take some classes in order to get in. Who knows, we may be moving back to the DC area before I turn 32.

So, there we have it. You, world, have been updated. I will be bringing this blog back to life, but it will be combined with my daddy blog. Also, I may just start up How To Be a Thief again. Who knows?