Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Creativity and Can't

I'm sitting around a lot lately. I've never had fibro like this before, where the palms of my hands and the soles of my feet feel bruised, so I can't really do anything (holding a knife, walking, opening cans, etc hurt). My hips and legs and arms all ache, which adds to the difficulty in accomplishing anything.

So I'm sitting around a lot, looking at Facebook and the news and my email and thinking when the brain fog isn't too intense (which it usually is).

Today, I started seeing those stupid cards on Facebook again.

For example, one card advised that one of your New Year's Resolutions should be to cut out the word "impossible."  It's a nice warm fuzzy thought, that we can do anything as long as we believe we can. But it's really one of the stupider things I've heard.  Impossible is a reality in life. It's meant to be that way. We each have different gifts and different handicaps and different circumstances, and while it's nice to say I could earn a million dollars this month if I tried hard enough, it's not really possible. I'm never going to be able to play in the NBA, even when I'm not pregnant. I'm not able to fly without help, as much as I'd like. I am never going to be able to live loop a song.

It's really unfair to tell people with handicaps, like fibro, that the reason they can't do things is because they are thinking about it all wrong--that if they just tried harder and believed harder, they could do what they want to do. Fibro stops me from being able to play the piano without pain. I tried to take pictures of Tim yesterday and discovered that I can't hold a camera up in front of my face--my arms hurt and then they just won't cooperate.

Sometimes "I can't" and "It's impossible" are the most important things we can say because they allow us to accept our limitations--and either move on in a different direction (finding other pastimes and talents, for example, instead of playing piano) or ask for help (so that Tim makes dinner on the days that I hurt too much to hold a knife). Really, accepting "can't" and "impossible" are far more empowering than abolishing those things from our vocabulary. God gave us all things we can do, and we're much more happy and productive if we work on those things--the things that are easy and enjoyable, or the things we feel driven and motivated to work hard on--instead of wasting our whole lives pursuing unrealistic goals that we really can't do. (Not to say we should never do hard things--of course we should. But chasing impossible things is stupid.)

Another one I saw today said that an essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail.  I think a businessman  must have written that. All (except maybe 1) of the creative people I know (and I know a LOT) are deeply terrified of failure. They are even more afraid of failure than the non-creative people I know. Most have so much anxiety about failure that they need counselling and medication (even if they don't get it).

And that fear is actually what motivates them to keep going and keep refining and keep polishing and keep perfecting their art. It's the thing that makes them rewrite the novel fifteen times until they're sure it's good, and then revise it again ten more times based on the feedback they got from one or two trusted people. It's the thing that makes them write a hundred songs and only release the best ten. Or one. It's the thing that makes them throw away dozens of canvasses and only try to sell the best one.

People who are not afraid to fail are not driven to succeed.

Sure you can be creative if you aren't afraid to fail--you're not afraid to look at things in new ways. But the really, truly creative people I know are the ones who can't help but think outside the box (not the ones who do because they aren't afraid to). It's not a change in thinking that makes them able to be intensely creative. They just ARE that way--and often are ashamed of it, frustrated by it, terrified of it. They are people who say, "Why can't I be normal?", not people who say, "Maybe if I work at failing on purpose, I can lose my fear of it and then I can be more creative." They are people who know it's irrational, know it's a "waste of time", know it's not financially viable, but they can't help lying awake at night thinking of new ways of doing things, new things they could create, new conversations for characters to have, new poems or lyrics to songs.

It has nothing to do with lacking a fear of failure, and everything to do with an internal compulsion that won't let them go. Creativity is not something they do on purpose. It's an essential part of their being, like breathing.

And the ones that develop it into something amazing are more often than not terrified of failing.

The American Dream

I keep seeing things like this article, claiming that the American Dream is in its death throes for those in my generation.

But when you read the article, it becomes clear that what they are defining as The American Dream is getting a good job and becoming a millionaire.

They got it wrong!

Traditionally, the American Dream was to have a family and own a house for them to live in--not a giant house, just a moderate house big enough for the family with a little yard.

And that dream is still within reach of people. What's not realistic is for a whole generation to become single millionaires with no obligations at all, or for them to work in their dream jobs for their whole lives without any break.

But that's the wrong dream anyway. It was never realistic for an entire generation to become millionaires. And living without family and without obligation is not actually going to make anyone happy. It will just make them old and lonely, selfish and egotistical, disconnected and drifting. The thing they define as The American Dream was just a set-up anyway: a setup for disappointment, for loneliness, for a long unresolvable midlife crisis as everyone discovers too late that what they should have done was spend less time working and more time building a family (which is one of the few things we really do have a biological deadline on).

Notice that God never said "Chase your dreams".  God never said, "Get a good career and work your way up the ladder."  God never said, "Earn a million dollars and live 'the life.'" And if God wants us to be happy, and He's given us a roadmap for happiness, and He left those things off, then apparently none of those things will get us there, despite how appealing they seem when we're young, and despite how much our culture has pushed the selfish way (because really all those things are about ME--my dreams, my career at all costs, my success, my money, my plans--and I guess focusing on  ME is, ironically, not the way to make me happy).

The American Dream, the way it used to be, is not dead. There are still opportunities for people to find love, build a family, have a steady career (even if it's not your dream work), buy a modest house to live out your life in. And that kind of dream is worth pursuing, and it is more in keeping with the guidelines God has given us--family, work (but reasonably, to stay alive and stable--not compulsively, to do nothing else but get money), stability and participation in a community all are included in that old American Dream. It's not a flashy dream. It's not something that will make you more special than someone else. It doesn't follow the new definition of "Success," but it encompasses the things we need to be successful at in order to be happy. (Hint: none of those includes having a lot of money).

That other American Dream? RIP and good riddance. It wasn't a good dream anyway, even if it looked like it should be.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Did I just read that?

"Mourners line the street as a hurst carrying Emilie Parker drives by following funeral services for the 6-year old Connecticut elementary shooting victim, Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012, in Ogden, Utah."

Tim's related to the Hurst family. I didn't know they were in the body-moving business, though.  

Oddly, this is the second place I've seen this particular mistake online just today.  (The word, by the way, should be "hearse"). 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wearing Pants to Church

Have you seen this? "Wear Pants to Church Day".

I have seen this in several places lately, as feminists I know encourage each other to join.

And I find it completely ludicrous.

First of all, there is no prohibition against wearing pants to church for women. So how is this a protest against the church? Might be a protest against some areas' cultural traditions, for sure, but it does not say what the women involved think they are saying.

Secondly, it announces that women feel like they can't have power and influence unless they "wear the pants," which says to me they don't value what women are and think women should be more like men. Stupid stupid stupid. Women can be incredibly powerful sources of good in the world without trying to be men. And we all--men and women--are happier if we embrace our divine nature as well as our individual talents and gifts, instead of always seeking to be someone else. Men and women are different, and there should be no shame in that. As far as I know, only the feminists are ashamed of that. Ironic, no?

Finally, it's a rather blunt statement that the women involved don't believe that Jesus is running this church and, further, don't believe that the prophet or apostles talk to God. It really lowers the church from being the true church of God, run by revelation, to being just another of those religious organizations that atheists believe exist purely to extort and control people, run by people for their own purposes and their own glory, even if with good intentions. Might as well wear a T-shirt that says, "Forget God. Put me in charge because I'm smarter than He is."

There are certainly problems that crop up in the church. I don't believe it's infallible. It's is administered by people, after all, and sometimes those leaders (especially on the local level) can get mired in all manner of sins and mistakes, even when they have good intentions. I don't deny that happens. (I do think it's silly to say only male leaders make mistakes and offend people, though. I've had as much trouble and sorrow from the actions of women in the church as men--we're all just people, male and female! It's really ridiculous to claim the church would have fewer mistakes made and fewer offended people if women were in charge).

But there are better ways to effect change than wearing pants to church--like going right to God and telling Him your issues, and then working within the system, following the Spirit, to make things better.

Even if you really DO believe that God has said women should have the priesthood and the prophets and apostles are digging in their heels and refusing to change for their own benefit, I don't think having a social protest is going to get any positive results at all. And it certainly isn't going to get you, personally, into the kind of influential position you would need to have in order to change that. Sometimes working within a broken system is more effective than working against it. (And I don't think this system is broken, but if you did, this would be a poor course of action to choose--especially since the church as a whole is going to ignore it, and it will just prejudice the local leaders against using you in any callings).

Personally, I have worn pants to church before. I was in a church building in pants the week before last, in fact, just as the meetings got out. And last week several women came to church in pants in my ward. It wasn't a political statement, and nobody cared what they were wearing.

But I would be embarrassed to wear them this Sunday! It feels too much like a statement to the ward, not that I think women should have the priesthood, but that I have no faith in God or the prophets and I don't understand what the scriptures teach about the priesthood. I'd be embarrassed to say that to everyone, even if it were true!

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Did I just read that?

From Longmont's paper, the Times Call today: "The man, identified as Pedro L. Villa, who's believed to be either 19 or 21 and is suspected of  “entering many of these homes at night, through unliked doors, while the residents are asleep,” Longmont police Cmdr. Jeff Satur said."

I guess he doesn't want to come through doors that people like.

Also, that is a perfect example of a very long sentence fragment. If you take out all the clauses, you're left with "The man," which isn't a sentence.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sleep is what I want for Christmas

I've been on a 24 hour 20 minute day since we first tried chronotherapy. (That was a big mistake, obviously--would have been better to stick with going to bed consistently at 2:00 am!). That means I can't fall asleep until 20 minutes later each night. It's not too bad until bedtime passes 5:00 am, and then I have to just jump through the day as fast as possible to get bedtime back to night again.

Unfortunately, this pregnancy has done a number on my sleep. Most nights I sleep 3 hours, lay there awake 3 hours, and then sleep 4-6 hours.

And, worse, I seem to now be on a 26-27 hour day!

This baby can't come soon enough.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Did I just read that?

From the Deseret News: "State of disunion: 500,000 residents across the country petition White House to withdraw from U.S."

Ha! I think most of the people on those petitions were asking for the states to withdraw from the union.  But I suspect most of them would be happy if the White House withdrew.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Song

I love this song so much that I am sharing it everywhere I can. It's very very cool--new song, inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's "Masque of the Red Death."

You can listen to it here:

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Did I just read that?

From the dissenting opinion in a legal case regarding burial laws and funeral homes: "Burial services are a once in a lifetime event for every person." Judge Tim Garcia

Yeah? I sure hope so....

Actually, I'm not really sure you can call it "once in a LIFEtime" since the person being buried is already dead, and the people burying him probably will face more funerals before they die. Technically, burial is something that happens after your lifetime.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Boss Looping Competition

Saturday, Oct 20, is the big day for the Boss Looping national competition.

Tim and his friend Matt Murphy are the first duo to ever compete (and might be the only live looping duo in the world--we haven't found anyone else). They are among the six finalists. The competition is, as far as I can tell, for people who use any boss looping pedal (they make a bunch--Tim uses the RC-50). All the finalists sing original music--it's not in the rules that it's required, but all the final videos are original songs, so I guess it gives you an advantage somehow? Not all the finalists do all-vocal live looping--three of the six use instruments in addition to their voices. All sing at least part of the songs.

You can see all the finalists' entry videos and read a little bio of each here: As you can see, there are some very talented people in this competition.

All six finalists flew to LA today, and tomorrow they get to perform ONE song each, up to 5 minutes long, at the competition. You can watch it here: live starting at 6:00 pm (competition itself starts at 6:30 pm, though--California time, I think, so 7:30 here at my house).

I will be watching. I have no idea what the judges are looking for. The preliminary round specified that the music had to use a loop pedal and that they were judging partially on facility with the pedal, but nobody has said anything about what the finals are judged on.

What I will be watching for:

First and foremost, is the act entertaining? I don't care how technically good an artist is if I get bored listening to the music. Looping is especially at risk of being boring because of the nature of the art--it takes a while to lay down all the loops to build a complete background for a song, and if you don't know how to do that skillfully and quickly, it gets really boring really fast. Also, looped songs are built around backgrounds that don't change throughout the songs. If an artist is really good at looping, they can usually handle things like bridges and chord changes okay, but it's not as easy as it is with a band. So the songs are always at risk of being too repetitive and of "not going anywhere." Even a good song, though, can be performed in a way that is just too boring to sit through. So the music itself AND the performance have to be entertaining. That doesn't mean gimmicky necessarily--just entertaining.

Secondly, is the act original? I don't see a lot of artistic value in cover bands. I do see cultural value in them, but I've been around the a cappella world too long to be really impressed with groups that are good mimics and not much else. That's 90% of a cappella, and I've had my fill of that. So I'm interested in seeing if the artists here are doing something that marks them as original--not just original songs, but are they doing something that makes them distinct, or am I going to watch and say, "I've seen this a thousand times before" or "Yup, that's live looping." Interestingly, groups can still do covers and feel original--like the Real Group, from Sweden, who Tim took me to see when they were in Colorado. It has a lot to do with the performance and the artists, I guess, more than the material.

Third, are they good? An act can be original and entertaining and still be musically horrible. Sometimes they're entertaining for all the wrong reasons. Sometimes they're original, but so far out there that they're not accessible or good. It's not too hard to write original crap--it's all over YouTube and filling up many an open mic night.

And finally, does the artist strike me as someone interesting personally? I'm not really into divas. An artist can be entertaining, original, and good, but if they come across as a jerk, as selfish, as egotistical, as rude, or generally as someone I would not want to meet, I  have a hard time rooting for them. No matter how great the music is, if the person behind it comes across as loathsome or self-centered, I lose interest really fast. In the music industry, being a generally nice person ends up being a really big deal.

As with every other gig Tim ever has, I hope two things: that people show up, and that Tim does a good job.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Another for the Why We Homeschool Files

Everyone knows you need enough sleep.

Not everyone knows elementary school aged kids need 10 hours or more of sleep per night.

I've noticed what this study says--missing just a little sleep makes my kids behave and think poorly.

In order to guarantee the kids get enough sleep and can think at their best, I can't conform to the school schedules, which were designed by morning people to allow parents to get to work on time. Especially with the sleep disorder!

So we homeschool.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Did I just read that?

The tagline for Bejeweled Blitz: "1 minute of endless fun!"

60 seconds can feel endless, like when you're holding your breath, or in labor, or waiting for the pot to boil. But, as they say, time flies when you're having fun.

Apparently the game is not fun?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Sunset, courtesy Elijah

Elijah, age 22 months, just ran in to where I was sitting and started hopping up and down, looking like he was doing a Maori war dance. He gestured broadly and talked excitedly, but I couldn't understand him.

Finally, he closed my laptop and said, "C'mon, Mom!"

So I followed him. Through the kitchen and out the back door he trotted, looking back to be sure I was following. When we reached the back balcony, he gestured excitedly at the sky and said, "SOOOOO Pitty!"

I looked up--all the clouds were pink and orange in a gorgeous sunset, backed by that particularly brilliant blue that comes just before dusk. "Sooo PITTY!" he said again, looking awed. "See?"

I sat out on the chair on the balcony, holding him and watching the sky as he gaped and awed and jabbered excitedly, pointing at the sky, then down in the yard ("peent!" he said, pointing in the yard--the light was, indeed, rather pink on everything). I finally said, 'Do you like that sunset?' "Uh?" he said. "The pretty orange clouds are called the sunset," I explained. "Sun.Set," he said, "Soooo pitty couds."

Then he pointed down at the neighbor's bush, which was glowing with fall leaves in just the same colors as the sky. "Pitty eaves. Ornge, pint. Sooo pitty."

We sat until it got dark, looking at the fall leaves, looking at the sky, listening to the breeze and watching the leaves rustle above us, watching the clouds change colors.

Sunsets are one of the best things in the world. Sunsets through the eyes of a toddler are even better.

Back to this debate. Again.

Actually, this is what I've been saying all along, more or less: Expanding medicaid, which no doctors take, will not help people get medical care.

And it's a serious mistake to confuse, as Obamacare does, having access to insurance with having access to medical care.

Personally, I don't think Obamacare will work for that very reason. Wish I knew enough to propose a viable alternative, though.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Did I just read that?

"Police are currently searching for the alleged shooter. He has been described as a Hispanic male in his 20s with facial tattoos and balding or bald hair. "

Nice. Bald hair.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

More for the Why We Homeschool Files: It's a better education

Consistently, the stats come in showing that homeschooled kids do significantly better than public-schooled kids on standardized tests, among other measures (including, interestingly, "proper" socialization).  Most homeschooled kids are working at least one grade level above their age-peers.

So if I really, truly want my kids to get a good education, homeschooling is a good option.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Another for the Why We Homeschool files: Gifted learners

I have a houseful of gifted learners. Gifted learners require a completely different kind of education. Not just more homework, but a whole different approach to school. I put details on my Learning Lynx Classroom site here:

Public schools are capable of doing this. Public school teachers, on the whole, seem to relish the gifted learning times. But public schools' mandate is too big, and they cannot possibly do what the law requires in giving an appropriate education to every child. The schools have opted to give their time, resources, and attention to the average and below-average children. They pretty much ignore the gifted kids because the gifted kids kinda do okay, even if they're being completely slighted and ignored. At least they're not getting Fs, right?

Some schools pay lip service to handling gifted kids, mostly in the form of extra homework (which isn't great). Some schools have gifted and talented programs, which do really really well with the moderately and even sometimes exceptionally gifted, but usually fail to help the profoundly gifted. Some schools are really good at adapting to gifted kids. Most of the teachers, administrators, and school psychologists I've interacted with want to help the gifted kids. It's not that the schools don't care. It's that they don't have the ability to help everyone, even if the law says they must.

This mom expresses the whole thing well:  As she says, in many ways, gifted kids are special needs kids, but the schools aren't equipped to deal with their particular special needs, and often reject the very idea such smart kids even CAN be special needs kids--especially the 2e kids (twice exceptional) like Caleb and Benji.

So instead of doing the constant advocating for my gifted kids (advocating for one child times six), instead of fighting with teachers to get the kids appropriate education, instead of always searching for that one teacher in each grade who understands the gifted kids, I opted to do the work of educating them at home. It was easier for me, since I dislike conflict intensely.

I also wanted to avoid teaching the kids that they're valuable because they're smart, and only because they're smart. My kids, surrounded all the time by their equally-smart but differently-talented siblings, parents, and cousins, are not being taught what I learned in school: that being smart makes you better than everyone else. Being smart is just part of life around here, and it doesn't make you any specialler than any other talent makes people special.

Also, I really wanted to avoid teaching my kids what smart kids usually learn from the school system: that being smart is usually enough to get accolades, and work is unnecessary. And further, that if something is hard or you don't succeed the first time, you should absolutely quit and never try that again.

I don't want my kids to get big heads, or think other people are "less," or to be lazy and unwilling to take risks. And that's what gifted kids too often learn in public schools.

So we homeschool.

More for the Why We Homeschool Files: Tourettes

I have two boys with Tourette Syndrome. Tourette's is really not disabling. It's really not devastating. It's really not a big deal. In fact, it can be generally ignored.

Most kids even grow out of it.

The biggest problem kids with Tourettes have is a lifetime of low self-esteem and depression brought on by the way they were treated by other children in school.

It is an easy choice to give my kids a brighter future by not forcing them to live with a future of depression and a bad self-image.

I don't shield them from the world. They do have to learn to interact with the world and the people who stare or won't let them finish their sentences or who wonder what's "wrong" with them. That's one reason I send them to school one day a week. But I sent them with other homeschooled kids, and homeschooled kids are not nearly as cruel as public schooled kids. They are more inclined to ask questions than to mock. It's the best of both worlds this way.

Another reason we homeschool.

More for the Why We Homeschool Files: Socialization

I've posted before on homeschool socialization, so I'm not going to rehash it all. You can read it here: I still think one of the main reasons we homeschool is when I look at groups of public school children and then look at groups of homeschooled children in similar settings (school playgrounds, social groups, club settings, libraries, etc), I far and away want my children to be like the homeschoolers and am consistently horrified and disgusted by how even the "good" public school children behave.

What I've been thinking about is how the socialization is taught in public schools. Yes, public schooled children are better chameleons. They are better at blending in with their peers.


Because they are mercilessly bullied and mocked if they don't.

Sure public schools teach conformity. Separate from the debate about whether that is desirable, you really have to consider whether the WAY conformity is taught in schools is appropriate.

Personally, I don't think it is EVER okay to emotionally abuse another person, even if it is "for their benefit."

I remember being a kid and learning to match my socks to my dress because pink and pink aren't the same and don't always match. How did I learn to wear matching clothes? My friends made fun of my clothing because my socks were a different shade of pink than my dress. Did it help me blend in better? Sure.  Why? Because I was terrified of facing that kind of pain again.

I hear parents tell their kids all the time, "If you pick your nose, your friends will make fun of you."  "If you wear mismatched socks, your friends will make fun of you."  "If you talk so loud, people won't like you."

What are we teaching our kids? Not to keep their hands away from their faces. Not to wear asthetically pleasing and comely clothing. Not to talk quietly. We're teaching them to fear what other people think of them.

And then we spend a lot of time trying to teach them not to give in to peer pressure, to be courageous in the face of rejection when we choose not to do drugs, to choose the right despite what our peers think. But we are sending mixed messages, telling them it is vitally important to care what people think and putting them in a situation where they find out--painfully--that it matters, and then telling them that they should always follow their hearts and ignore the naysayers and critics. Well, which is it?

I, personally, found it more compelling to teach the kids to think independently, to make choices based on something other than social acceptability, to not care so much what other people think. We DO discuss that in order to have any kind of influence or opportunity in the world, we have to behave and dress in a way that leads us to be listened to and taken seriously. It's not that I want to raise Bohemian poets who can't interact with the world at all. It's just that I don't think kids are well served by being tortured into compliance with whatever social fad is reigning supreme at the time. And I think proper socialization--the kind that produces socially skilled, socially effective adults who can interact with the world, keep jobs, communicate, be responsible citizens and good parents--is best taught intentionally, by adults, and without humiliation being the major tool to force social conformity.

Being properly socialized is NOT the same thing as being trained to blend in and fear what other people think. I want courageous, thoughtful, intelligent, polite children who can interact with friends and solve problems and hold jobs and have successful marriages. Not clones.

So thus we homeschool.

The Why We Homeschool File: Boys

There are dozens of reasons we homeschool.

One reason is detailed in this article:

Education is now set up for girls. Teaching in classrooms, social learning, expected achievements based on developmental levels, college entrance, textbooks, and so many other aspects of public education are slanted toward helping girls succeed.

I have a lot of boys and only one girl. I want them all to succeed. I don't see any reason to put  my boys at a disadvantage simply because they have a Y chromosome. I can tailor our education here for each student to succeed, so that the boys get the kind of education that helps boys learn. I can also ensure the expectations are high enough for them--that nobody just expects they'll fail/misbehave/whatever simply because they are boys.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Literary Agents? Again?

Uh...I finished my novel. Again. Same novel.

This time, I needed to be just done. DONE. No more editing it endlessly. I didn't even take it to my writer's group. Or my parents. Or my husband. Or even my kids. I was afraid one of them would make a really excellent comment that I agreed with, and I would be back on page one, fixing this or that.

But I want to move on to the next novel: Melora saves her Dad from evil art forgers who have captured him because he's about to reveal their secrets. It's an adventure story retelling of an obscure 16th-century Portuguese Arthurian legend, set in modern days. The first chapter is done and really exciting! Outline is done. Been researching art and antiquities black markets, forensics, forgery, stuff, actually. Also I've gotten to look into Caravaggio's life and the legend of the Maltese Falcon as well as the memorabilia from the movie of the same name. As you can see, I'm really excited to write this book! And that means I had to be done with "The Poison Spindle Problem."

So I finished it.

And then my kids wanted a bound copy to read. They each wanted one. I have no money to get those printed, so I started thinking of options. And one thing led to another and I'm back to querying agents. I think it's a good book. I've been reading children's lit and I feel like it's as good as what's being published. Anda, my voracious reader who is very honest with me about my work, says it's as good as her favorite novels. So why not try to get it published? The kids said they want to be able to go to the library and see my book on the shelf.

I decided, though, that I really need to be done still. I realized that at this point, I can tweak words here and there for eternity and it probably won't make a difference as to whether an agent likes it or not. I can have this minor character show up again at the end or not and it still won't make a difference as to whether an agent likes it or not. Some changes don't really improve things--they just change things. So I decided to get off that hamster wheel and start querying. And I decided to go whole hog this time: query every agent who I think might be a good fit, rather than 8 at a time and send out a new query for every rejection (which is how I've done it in the past). I decided either someone is going to like it or they aren't, and I'm not going to rewrite that book without someone asking me to (an editor or agent, for example), so it can't hurt to query every agent with this project all at once.

So I spent the last week sending out queries. I now have sent 125 queries on this project, but that's since 2006, and it's a very different book since then! VERY different. Querying has changed in the last 6 years. Most agencies only take email queries instead of grudgingly accepting them. Most agencies no longer respond if they aren't interested--which is frustrating for writers on one level (no feedback!) but great on another (no rejection!).  Most agencies still take 4-6 weeks to respond (or so say their websites). And I've only been doing this for a week.

Interestingly, most agencies ask you to put both the query letter and the partial in the email up front. It used to be you'd send a query, and if they liked it they'd ask for 10-50 pages (a "partial" or partial manuscript) to evaluate your writing, and if they liked that, they'd ask for the whole manuscript. The whole process took a long time because it was all done by snailmail and you had a 4-6 week wait between steps. Now, you send the query followed by the 10-50 page sample right in the body of the email. That way, an agent can read the query and delete it right away if they don't like it or can't sell it, but if you've piqued their interest, they can just skim the beginning of the book right there on the spot to see if you can write at all. And then if they're still interested, they can hit "reply" and ask for the whole manuscript to be emailed to them, and you can send it right away (I sent one today within 5 minutes of getting the reply) so the agent can keep reading while they are still interested, if they want. Better for everyone this way. And it means that if an agent asks to read your book, you already passed the first two tests: query and first few pages were okay.

So, like I said, 125 queries have gone out. Some were old.  About 72 so far are new. I sent them fully expecting to hear nothing back from anyone ever. To my surprise, I've had 6 rejections so far, all form rejections. Most were very nice--something along the lines of "This isn't for me. Good luck finding someone else." One was quite condescending and rude--something along the lines of "I only take books with interesting characters, plot, and setting. Nice of you to spend all this time writing and think of me, but no." The subtext, of course, being that YOUR book (my book!) didn't have interesting characters, plot, or setting (at least in the first 10 pages, which is all she asked to read up front).

And three agencies so far have asked to read it! And I've only had it out there for a week! And, to my great surprise (and delight--I admit it), all three are among the top agencies, most recommended by the watchdogs, successful agencies. So I'm very pleased. It was especially nice today when I got up and found that mean form rejection and felt a little downhearted, and then within half an hour one of these top agencies asked for the full manuscript (which I sent immediately). My kids were excited because this last agency that asked to read it represents some of their favorite authors, including Suzanne Collins (my kids can't get enough of "Gregor the Overlander"--they haven't read "Hunger Games" yet). And that with the same 10 pages that elicited the "only interesting plot, characters, and settings" rejection.

So I still fully expect them all to say, "Never mind. Not my cup of tea." (because that's all I've ever heard from agents--except that one who very helpfully said, "I'm not sure you know what story you're trying to tell. Can't you put more romance in?"--helpful because that's what drove me to realize that no, I can't, because I really want to write for children, not teens and adults. HUGE breakthrough for me.).

Anyway, it's been a fun week, when I went into this truly not caring what happened. Having people say, "Oh, your first 10 pages make me want to read more" has been kind of gratifying, especially since I sweat blood over those first 10 pages. They were the hardest to write in the whole book!

But tomorrow I'm still going to start Melora. Art forensics here I come!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Saturday, September 22, 2012

New video from Tim

Wednesday was International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Apparently even Obama participated.

Here was Tim's contribution to the celebration:

Did I just read that?

"A toddler is safe at homeafter wandering onto a busy highway in Dodge County, Wisconsin. Guadalupe Ollarzabal spotted the boy as he was driving along Highway 19 Wednesday evening."

What a toddler was doing driving is beyond me!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Another tourette boy?

Benji went to his first full day of Kindergarten today. He'd done two half days before, but this was his first full day.

He was SO excited. Benji has always been my "See ya, Mom!" kid. He's the only one who went willingly to nursery and kicked me out, for example. So he was totally okay trotting out the door this morning and handling things himself.

And he came home happy. Unfortunately, he didn't eat his lunch at all because he was afraid it might have rotted by the time he got to eat it (and I gave him fruit and chips--none of which rot in 4 hours!). I hear that right after lunch he had one meltdown (but only one) but nobody from the school called me, so I'm guessing they got it taken care of. I hope so, anyway. Caleb and Anda both happened by while it was happening and gave him love and tissues and tried to help him stop crying--I'm so glad they were there at the right time!

Anyway, he came home happy. And he came home with a tic.

It's a really obvious shoulder-abdomen tic that is undeniably ticcing and not something else. This fascinated me because he also came home able to sit in a chair and ask and answer questions calmly, without jumping around, running, or touching me excessively. And without repeating the first entire half of his sentences over and over.

And suddenly it occurred to me that he might have Tourette Syndrome, just like Caleb. I have suspected, off and on, for a couple of years that it might be in Benji, too, because he did this eye-blinking thing. But I wasn't sure if it was a tic or if he was mimicking Caleb. Benji is an incredibly talented mimic (I swear the kid is going to be a Broadway star--all the "annoying" things he does are considered talents on Broadway, just not in Sunday School). So I wasn't settled on whether he was mimicking or ticcing, but it didn't matter because there isn't a good treatment for tics anyway.

So I was telling Tim about this new tic and, in  the course of a couple of different conversations about it with Tim, I realized (because Tim pointed it out) that Benji repeating entire half sentences over and over is probably not him trying to rephrase things just right--it's probably a tic. In fact, Caleb used to do that, too. He just repeated smaller phrases than Benji does, but the behavior is the same.

Then I realized (because I read it in an article as I was doing some research) that Benji's completely annoying habit of pawing at me while he talks is probably a tic. Apparently touching other people is a common tic.

And it occurred to me that the excessive running that Benji does might not be ADHD or SPD (although I'm still absolutely convinced he has SPD). It might be a tic. He often sways or wiggles and then runs while he's trying to tell me things, and today it was striking that he didn't. He did that shoulder-abdomen thing instead. So that's when I thought--I wonder if the running is a tic? I wonder if he tics by hopping up to run and then finds himself across the room or in the front and then just does something there, like touch the blackboard, simply because he himself is trying to comprehend why he's there and why he needed to get up and run and what the heck is going on. I wonder if the trouble he gets in sometimes is because he is trying to justify his tic to himself. When Caleb was 3 and then again when he was 5 and we realized there was something going on, I asked him if he did that on purpose after a tic, and he said, 'Of course I do. I meant to do that.' He was trying to comprehend what his body was doing, and he figured he must have chosen to tic, probably because he felt the premonitory urge (a warning that you're about to tic, or that you need to, kind of like you just know when you're going to sneeze and the feeling doesn't go away until you do) and figured he must have chosen to tic to get that to go away.

Knowing that the repeated phrases, the eye blinking, the pawing at people (who would have guessed that one?!), the fact that his tic wanders or changes from place to place around his body, the sleep disorder, the ADD symptoms all go together and absolutely indicate Tourette Syndrome has caused me to step back and look at Benji with new eyes.

One of the big challenges for families with TS is identifying what in the kid is a tic and can't be helped and what are just bad habits that need to be addressed. When he picks his nose, do we mention that or ignore it? When he stutters through sentences, do we get speech therapy or just wait for the tic to drift somewhere else? Is that clearing throat sound asthma that needs medication or is it a tic that needs to be ignored? And if you open the door to running, pawing, jumping, etc...where are the lines? What is ADD distraction and what is his head turning to the side when his brain is still completely with me? What is ADD movement required to get the brain focused and what is purposeless tic movement? How much of the jumping around his his normal, exuberant personality and how much is a tic? When he throws himself to the floor in the grocery store or licks a window or takes the clocks at the store down and changes the times on all of them, is that ADHD, a tic, a tic followed by a purposeful behavior to justify the tic, SPD overstimulation, or just bad behavior? You respond to each differently. You can bet I'm going to be watching Benji a lot in the next little while, feeling this one out. 

I learned today that TS (Tourette Syndrome) is genetic, so it's no surprise that more than one of our children would have it. Tim and I are wondering which family it came from--or if it's in both families. It's actually quite a bit of a surprise with all the siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles we have that nobody else has kids diagnosed with TS. We've seen clear evidence of other kids in the family with SPD, ADD, Hypokalemic sensory overstimulation disorder, DSPS (the sleep disorder), fibro, profound giftedness...all the other genetic things we carry. Mostly we know which of our four parents those things came from. So why not this one? Is nobody identifying the tics (since eye blinking isn't always obvious), or is it just not expressing itself and we just got lucky? Or are people just trying to discipline it out of their kids? I could totally see that last one. Even knowing about Caleb's TS, I've tried many many times to get Benji to just finish his sentences already, to get him to stop pawing at me, to get him to sit still--and that after I already identified the eye blinking as a probable tic. I'm shocked that I didn't rightly identify the palilalia (repeating your own phrases) even though it was nearly identical to Caleb's!

So what I'm wondering (and Tim is wondering) is what triggered the sudden development of a new tic right after the first full day of Kindergarten? Stress? Lack of sleep? Hunger? All of those things usually exacerbate TS. But the development of a new, dramatic, completely-unrelated-to-any-of-his-other-tics tic? I am wondering if someone put their foot down and said "If you can't be still and not run, you can't come anymore" and that was so traumatic to Benji (because he wants so desperately to be in school and to succeed at it) that it caused his tic to shift from running to the shoulder-abdomen thing. The rest of today, he did the shoulder-abdomen thing a lot, but I've almost never seen him sit so still for so long when there wasn't a movie on. And I've never seen him talk to me for extended periods like that (extended like 5 minutes straight) without hopping up, squirming, running off and coming back, pawing, poking, dancing, squirming again, and eventually getting so stuck trying to finish a sentence that he walks away.

Has TS been keeping this poor kid captive all this time, slave of a body that acted without his permission and to his consternation? And then for him to get in trouble for it....yikes. Poor Benji!

For Benji more than most kids, a TS diagnosis would dramatically change things--probably in ways that will make him much happier, even if it doesn't make it easier to take him to the grocery store.

Interesting notes: Did you know that up to 90% of people with Tourette Syndrome also have ADD, but that stimulant medications make the TS worse, so it's harder to treat?  And, interestingly, it turns out that sleep disorders are common comorbid conditions with TS. So I guess we fit right in, don't we?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Did I just read that?

From home page: "Curiosity photos look curiously similar to Utah scientists"

So the Utah scientists look like dust and rock? Or there are humans on Mars.....

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Four new Videos from Tim

Hey! New Videos! After a long time of not being able to get videos filmed, Tim got the garage cleaned out, repainted the black (yes, even the floor of my garage is black), and used his new camera to make videos.

And they look and sound great. He was so right about needing that particular camera! (Cannon EOS T2i, if you care to know--takes great pro-quality photos and video. Oh, and it was a great deal!).

So videos:
First, "Hot Night."
I love the imagery in the lyrics in this song. The whole idea of going downtown and seeing a "hipster hoping on a guitar" so captures the essence of local musicians. Love the lyrics on this. Tonight I saw him perform this live and at the end he slowed the rhythm way down (looping pedal can do this) and turned it into another song entirely without changing the loop. It was AMAZING. You'll have to see it live sometime. REALLY, really cool.

And "The Sound Goes Around"
I've been waiting to share this song for five years, and there was no good recording or video of it until now. There is a longer version of this that we got some live footage of, but it's still on the camera.

And "Momma"

This is not the first video of this song Tim has posted, but this is a great, dynamic performance. Watching it, I was struck by how very "Mormon" the song is, without being Mormon.  I just love Tim's lyrics. They are art. They are poetry. They are not nonsense, and they're not shallow.

And, finally, this. This just blew me away the first time I saw it. They have looping pedals, wired together, and are doing duo vocal live looping. I think they might be the only guys on the planet who have figured out how to do this, and who can make such incredible songs. The bass/drum thing that comes in about 3:20 is so delicious to me. I could listen to that forever. Seriously. It's like food for my soul. Oh, and you should hear it live, with the subwoofer. WOW. Anyway, seeing them play the looping pedals like keyboards and drum machines is truly amazing. This is a one-of-a-kind act and I don't think there are any other people on earth who can do what Matt Murphy and Tim are doing in this video. And there are a dozen new songs for this format in development, including one we don't have a video of yet called "Sandbox" that might just be my favorite of all of Tim's songs--and is certainly one of the kids' favorites (especially after they learned it was describing a video game....).  Anyway, this one is "Jungle Jackson":

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Did I just read that?

"The microparticles can keep an object alive for up to 30 min after respiratory failure."

So apparently scientists can now bestow life on objects? Fascinating.....

Friday, August 24, 2012

SPD and Fibromyalgia

When my sister called today to say we were right and her son does have SPD, my first thought was, "What?!"--I misheard "STDs."  (The kid isn't even one yet!).

SPD is Sensory Processing Disorder. With SPD, a person (usually a child, and usually a boy) either gets too much or too little feedback from their senses, processing the sensory input "wrong" and leading to sometimes bizarre behavior to either get more or avoid sensory input.

SPD happens in all the senses, and not evenly. Where one sense might be hypersensitive, another might be undersensitive, leading a kid to run constantly or speak too loudly but refuse to eat most foods and wear most clothes.  The "broken" sensory input can come in from any of the "standard" (taught in elementary school) five senses: taste, touch, smell, sight, or hearing; or from the "other" senses, which have big names that are actually more confusing but which are, in essence, the sense of where your body is in space (movement, balance) and the sense of where your body is in relationship to itself (where your limbs are, what angle your joints are bent at, is your head tipped to one side, etc). I suspect there are other senses that aren't on the standard SPD list, like pain. Pain is a sense--it's not touch or taste or smell or sight or hearing; it's not you-in-space or your-body-connected. And yes, it interacts with the other senses, but so do smell and taste, and sight and hearing, and touch and taste.

SPD is normally diagnosed in boys and is not considered genetic. It is often associated with autism because ALL autistic children have SPD, but in reality, not all children with SPD have autism (like all bipolar people sometimes are depressed, but not all depressed people are bipolar).  SPD is also extremely common among profoundly gifted people (and some people theorize is related to their intelligence: they take in and process more information than "average" people). One theory out there is that profoundly gifted people are often diagnosed with Asperger's or HFAutism because they actually have SPD and the disorders get confused with one another often. (Aspies, for example, don't like to be touched without warning. Neither do people with SPD, but that doesn't necessarily make them Aspies.)

SPD is newly on the radar--so much so that doctors and psychologists won't touch it, and many don't believe it exists. It has to be diagnosed by an occupational or physical therapist, and those are the people who most effectively treat it.

The "newness" of SPD is one reason I think people don't think it's genetic. There's not enough data to go around. Plus, it would be hard to collect data because it would necessarily be self-reported, and adults who have "always been this way" would not necessarily realize that not everyone was processing the world the same way they are, especially if they grew up and adapted and became fully functional adults. (Like that old question, what if I see blue the same way you see red--there would be no way to tell because the label is stuck to the color as you see it, not as everyone necessarily sees it.  "Normal" is what you've always experienced and can function in--not necessarily what everyone is experiencing).

I, personally, DO think it's genetic. Why?

Because I'm pretty sure my kids have it, my sisters kids have now been diagnosed, and, as I got reacquainted with dozens of my maternal cousins this summer, I discovered that MANY of their children have it, too. Many of them, from different families.

The thing that struck me when I got home from one of these encounters where we all went, "Oh, your kid, too? How bizarre that we each have one or two kids like this...." is that this is also the family that has huge numbers of women with fibromyalgia.

Fibro runs STRONGLY in my family. Almost shockingly so.

Then I started thinking: Fibro is a disorder where your senses collect information and then process it "wrong", turning normal sensation into pain. Nobody knows what causes it, but everyone agrees that fibro is heavily influenced by hormones.

So my theory is that fibro and SPD are the same thing, but that fibro is processed through female hormones (that's why you see it primarily in women) and SPD is processed through male hormones (which is why you see it mostly in boys).  Either way, your body's senses are processing information in a "wrong" way (primarily through hypersensitivity in fibro) and you are forced to adapt or medicate to survive.

I wish I had the time, resources, and expertise to test this theory. It would be a big deal to the world of SPD and fibro, opening doors of looking at things in new ways that hopefully would add insight that could lead to treatment. It certainly would be a groundbreaking study in both the SPD and fibro worlds! We certainly have a big enough family to actually do a legit genetic study--it's my mom's family, and she was one of 7 children (each of whom had 3 or more children, and most of those children had 3 or more children) and has over a hundred first cousins. There are well over 300 people in my generation in this family--just first and second cousins--and almost all of those 300 had 3 or more children. I wish I could get them all together, explain SPD and Fibro (both of which often go undiagnosed, so I'd have to explain it all in detail), and say, "How many of us have kids like this? How many have fibro? Can we trace the genetics somehow?"


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Did I just read that?

"Knox confirmed early Tuesday morning that police released Serenity around 12:30 a.m., to her maternal mother, Howell, 20."|head

Is there any other type of mother? A paternal mother, perhaps?

Monday, August 20, 2012

What good is a dry marker?

My kids invariably leave the lids off their markers. So we end up with tons of dry markers sitting around. I used to gather them up and throw them away.

But no longer!

Lately, the favorite game is taking dry markers to the bathroom sink. They fill the sink with water and float the markers. Pretty soon, little rivulets of color are snaking through the water, making beautiful patterns.

Because our bathroom sink is white, the only color in the water comes from the markers. They've learned more about mixing to make new colors than they ever did with paint. And the mess goes down the drain when they're done.

We noticed that if you float a marker long enough, the tip turns white. But if you leave it out to "dry" for a while, the color usually returns--and the marker is no longer dry. It is once again useful for coloring on paper (provided you still have the lid somewhere).

So now I keep a container full of dry markers by the bathroom sink so the kids can play whenever they want. No more wasted markers.

Friday, August 17, 2012


Looking for jobs for Tim, applying here and there, and I'm finding a lot of stuff like this:

"Master's preferred from a regionally accredited institution.... $12.55 - $18.84 an hour." There is no way to pay off student loans for $12.55 an hour. Tim gets more than that per hour as an on-call manual labor guy breaking down sets for a theater every other week or so--and that doesn't require a Master's degree.

Or qualification include: "Moderate to deep understanding of the vocal music landscape in the US; Experience in non-profit development is a plus...This is a volunteer position." No pay? For a moderate to deep understanding of the vocal music landscape in the US? I mean, really? That takes 10 years to develop. Plus they want programming/web skills.

Another job wanted someone who was a professional accompanist on piano, professional voice teacher (all voice parts for adults), live event producer, vocal ensemble music director, and artistic visionary who could conceptualize and design performances ("from 10 minutes to full evenings"). There might be someone who can do ALL of that. Usually you'd hire 3-4 people for that job, especially since it was an arts college looking--you'd think they'd know to get experts in each of those fields.  Oh, and you don't even get to be faculty--this is merely a staff position, like some schools hire a vocal coach to help students prepare for performances. Just staff. No chance for advancement. 

Not very encouraging, is it? No wonder most of the musicians we know are either moving home or going back to school. The work opportunities available to musicians are looking pretty dismal right now, demanding lots of expertise for little to no pay--probably because even the experts are looking for whatever they can get.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Musicians in society

I've been reading "Mr. Langshaw's Square Piano: The Story of the First Pianos and How They Caused a Cultural Revolution" by Madeline Goold.

It's an interesting book, more about the life and training of musicians in the 1750s-1810s than it is about pianos.

The training of musicians back then was not too far different from now--musicians trained with teachers until they were deemed masters, and then they tried to get jobs.

And it wasn't an easy thing to do, partly because of the social status given musicians. Social status at that period in England was much more stratified than now, but it struck me that musicians still occupy the same social "space" as they did back then.

For example, Goold writes that it was "an era when professional musicians were regarded as menials; Mozart had been required to sit below the valets in the service of the Archbishop of Salzburg. In England, musicians ranked as tradesmen; Lord 1755, advised: 'Nothing degrades a man more than performing on any instrument whatsoever.'" (p 168).While it isn't considered degrading to play any instrument whatsoever nowadays, but it certainly only elevates him artistically. Nobody considers bassoon or oboe players to be socially "It".

Chesterfield also told his son, "piping and fiddling puts a gentleman in a very frivolous and contemptible light...and takes up a great deal of time that might be better employed" (p179). This is certainly an attitude that we (Tim and I) have noticed--often--in our own lives, over 250 years after it was said. I guess some things never change.

A friend of ours is writing his dissertation on band music in America in the mid-1800s, just after the period covered by the book I'm reading, and on the other side of the world. I got a sneak preview of the research (and it's really cool!), and one thing I noticed there that is parallel to England a century earlier is that communities value music as something that elevates them and brings them to a more sophisticated social plane. How interesting, then, that the very same communities did not (and still do not) value the musicians who make the music. They value the results of the labor, but not the laborers. Rather, they actually disdain the laborers, somehow isolating the fruit of their labor from the workers who create it, even while acknowledging not only the value of the fruits of the labor, but also the reality that they, themselves, could not create it.

Back in the day, it wasn't just musicians who were looked down upon. Any tradesman was considered inferior to those who did not have to work with their hands. Brain work was considered superior to manual labor. It strikes me that this is still true today--we value the hardwood floor, but not the man who cut the wood or the man who installed it; we value the fresh produce, but not the farmer who grew it; we value the smooth roads, but not the men who build them; we value large, sturdy houses, but not the men who build them. All of those things give us status socially even while associating with the people who make them does just the opposite.

Bizarre and sad. Why not value the workers, builders, and creators in society?

In our society, we do value the thinkers just like the men in the 1700s did, and we value the doctors and lawyers just like they did in the 1750s, and (oddly, when you think about it), we give social status to the wealthy even if they didn't earn their wealth. We also give status to the famous because our society craves both fame and money, imagining (wrongly) that those things give you both power and happiness.

Interestingly, some of the most famous and wealthy people in America are musicians--and because of their fame and wealth, they are held up as the pinnacle of success and social standing.  But it's not because they are musicians, and it's not because of their talent, even if people claim otherwise. It's because of their fame.

 That leaves most musicians in an odd position socially--most of them are still considered quirky frivolous time-wasters. They are treated as though they are irresponsible. When things go poorly for them, instead of getting sympathy, they get "I told you so" and "if you hadn't been so foolish as to become a musician.....". But if they happen to break through and become famous, suddenly they are the pinnacle of social success and looked to as something akin to the 1750s royalty, even if the day before they were the lowest rung of the ladder, below even construction workers because of the misperception that musicians do nothing all day and then sing at night for hundreds of dollars (at least construction workers, the thinking seems to go, have the decency to earn their wages honestly by using their hands and time to work--as if musicians don't.).

While by the mid-1800s, a few musicians (mostly composers) became superstars (Strauss, for one), most never did. Or do. Obviously, some things never change.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Dreaming of agents

The last few days my energy level has picked up and I determined to fix up some things that needed fixing, starting with the front window sun-blocking screen that came down. I spent all day yesterday puttering around doing tasks that needed to be done in and around my house.

Then last night I dreamed that I was at a party and there were no less than four literary agents there, friends of my cousins and friends, that I was interacting with socially. More than one asked me, "So what do you write?" And when I told them they said, "I want to read that." One even whipped out her laptop and asked if she could download my book and start on it right away.

And I was ashamed because it's not done. Oh, it's written all the way through. And I even know what needs to be done to fix it up (beginning is done, transition to middle needs work but it's only one chapter, middle is fantastic, ending needs less of one character and more of another--all easy, quick fixes, actually). But it's not actually done. And I haven't worked on it for months.

I woke up with the firm realization that anyone can fix up a house, but my work is raising kids and writing. Nobody else can do those things. Nobody can do it for me. Nobody can do it instead of me. This is the work I feel driven to, inspired about, made for, enlivened by.

Now how to fit it in? Inspiration is colliding with practical necessities. If something has to give, I hope I have the courage and wisdom to still do the things that nobody else can do.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Did I just read that?

This one was a winner. I don't think the doctors who paid to have their ads put up on sites meant it to come up like this.

At first glance, I missed the "ads by Google" label and saw the words and immediately this picture:

Yeah, that makes me want to go to those Loveland doctors with their friendly, convenient care!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Did I just read that?

"OMG fire burns 1300 acres near Shivwits reservation near St. George"

Is that really the name of that fire? Best fire name ever. I think that's what I would say if I saw a fire burning 1300 acres. 

I'll text it to you: OMG! Fire!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Did I just read that?

From the AP (no joke!): "3 LA-area homeless people found stabbed with notes"

That's some fancy origami that made it so they could be stabbed with notes instead of something a little sharper--like knives.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Dear President Obama,

I realize that Tim didn't build the roads. And that the sound equipment guys contributed a LOT toward his career.

But the reality is, the roads and sound equipment would exist without Tim, but his business wouldn't. He did build it. It is his. And if it succeeds or fails, it does have a great deal to do with Tim.

Perhaps you should start a business before you try to talk about them.


PS When you can do this, then we'll talk about whether or not you deserve credit (and Tim's pay) for whatever success he might have.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Did I just read that?

"Worldwide, 2011 was the coolest year on record since 2008, yet temperatures remained above the 30 year average, according to the 2011 State of the Climate report released online today by NOAA. "

Yup, you heard it from  2011 was the coolest year since 2008! Since three whole years before it. It wasn't even the coolest year in the last 5 years. Nice. 

Monday, July 09, 2012

Another cute lie on a card

Oh, boy. This one shows up all over facebook in various forms, all on cute little quote cards: "Believe that everything happens for a reason." or "Everything happens for a reason."

I don't know who wrote that, or who is trying to promote it, but it's a big, fat, emotionally dangerous LIE.

Try telling that to a little girl whose dad molested her for years.

Try telling that to Elizabeth Smart, who was held captive as a sex slave to a mad man for 9 months when she was barely a teenager.

Try telling that to the mom whose daughter was kidnapped, raped, and murdered last month in Utah.

Try telling that to the mom who was 2 days shy of her baby's due date when her car was hit by a drunk driver on a suspended license--and it killed her baby.

Then look me in the eye and tell me why you think that lie is going to help ANYONE.  The reason those things happened is another person made a very bad choice, and someone else suffered for it. That's the reason.

Sometimes things happen because there are truly wicked people in this world. Sometimes really good, innocent people suffer a lot for their whole lives because one selfish, wicked person did something bad to them. And sometimes someone else made a mistake that had really sad ripples. Sometimes good people do dumb things that end up hurting other people.

And it makes me sick to think that all those facebook posters are trying to tell them that happened for a reason (presumably that some higher power condones). The quote seems to imply that God is controlling all these things that happen, and He WANTED it to happen.

Sometimes, there are bad things that happen because someone else made a choice, and sometimes it's dumb luck, and sometimes there seems to be no reason, and wasting energy searching for the reason is a waste of time and emotion.

I wish people would stop saying that everything happens for a reason. It's not helpful.

Really, bad things happen. And it's a good thing Jesus came and can help us get through them without it destroying our whole lives.

Cute Lies on Cards

It's become a serious fad to post cute little sayings on virtual cards all over facebook.

They're driving me nuts!

Some are harmless. Some are actually nice (like quotes from the prophets that are encouraging).

Some of the most popular are downright lies.

Like this one: "At any given moment, you have the power to say: This is not how the story is going to end."

Yeah, right.

Really, the end of the story is when and how you die, right? How many of us get to choose that? Barring suicide, none.

But even if we take "the story" to mean not your entire life, but just a little section of it, it's a cruel thing to tell someone that they have control over all the outcomes in their lives. Moms don't really get to decide if their babies are born healthy and without disabilities. Cancer patients don't get to decide to be healthy. Some people work all their lives and never get a baby/spouse/job/miracle/whatever they're hoping and praying for.

Sometimes you get fired.

Sometimes you end up in a wheel chair.

Sometimes your kid does.

Sometimes people get raped or tortured.

Sometimes there's a giant wildfire and it burns your house to the ground.

Sometimes the drunk driver does hit your car, and all you saying "This is not how the story is going to end!!" won't stop that. Sometimes that IS the end, and you can't stop it. And if it's not the end, then saying that is stupid.

We can't control other people, and for all our fuzzy warm thoughts, and all of our independent spirits, and all our empowerment, other people's choices do have a major impact on our lives--and we can't change that.

And sure, you can say, "The story is not going to end here"--because if the story wasn't completely over, you do have to pick up and move on.

Really, in life, the choice is not how the story ends. The choice is how we react, what we choose, and sometimes how we're going to focus from here on out (NOT necessarily what happens to us next).

Every story, ultimately, ends in death. And that's how it's supposed to be. But we don't get to choose a great deal of the things that happen to us, and it's truly not helpful to people who are struggling when we lie to them and tell them they can.

Because the reality is, either this IS how the story is going to end and you have no choice over that, or you haven't reached the end yet and you don't know what's going to happen next, so you choose your own actions and pray for the best.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Did I just read that?

"Hot dog eating face off set for Fourth" (This was the way the article headline was summarized on's home page--the link takes you to a more accurate headline on the article itself). 

Maybe I'm just really really tired, but when I read this, I started wondering whose face the hot dog was eating off, and why they scheduled it for the fourth?

But then again, the "fixes" you could apply don't help:  "Hot dog-eating faceoff set for Fourth" isn't much better. Poor overheated canines!  

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Did I just read that?

"Missing 2-year-old boy found safe, fad arrested"

So it was a fad for 2 yo to go missing, but they stopped that fad. Good thing!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Interesting article on pedophilia

It makes sense to help people not get to the point where they are molesting children, doesn't it?

The thing that has me most intrigued about this article, though, is that there is evidence that pedophilia is a biological condition (genetic? I've wondered for years if it was genetic, since there is anecdotal evidence of it running in families). It certainly changes our approach if we find this is a handicap combined with bad choices rather than simply bad choices.

If pedophilia is genetic, and so is homosexuality.....

I find it really fascinating that we say, for the good of society and children, that pedophiles just need to spend their entire lives resisting their deviant sexual urges.  Society used to say that to homosexuals, for the same reasons. Now that's unpopular. But clearly there is a double standard here, based on a culturally-defined view of what constitutes deviancy (NOT a scientifically-based or culturally-based view on what is good for society and children, it seems).

Bottom line, though, is that underlying argument (unspoken, but the assumption does underlie the arguments in the whole debate) that we all must accept homosexuality because sexual urges are so powerful that they cannot be resisted and our lives are ruined if we don't give in to them is clearly false. The idea seems to be that we cannot be happy and still follow the commandments if our biology dictates otherwise, and that doesn't really make sense to me--especially if you understand that God is our father and His instructions are designed to help us be happy, not just ideas made up by men to control other men. Because we expect pedophiles (and other socially-labeled sexual deviants) to control themselves and not let their drives run their lives.  And we expect teenagers to--especially teenage girls, it seems, since they're the ones who end up stuck with a baby if they don't. And nobody condemns religious people for expecting unmarried women to. But not men? And especially not gay men?

That seems a little absurd, doesn't it?

Personally, I like this guy's approach: and I'm glad it's working for him.

I am not about to say that all gay people should be condemned for their choices, or that God is condemning them for their choices. I have no idea. I think all people should be treated with respect and compassion. But I do wonder how a biological information, combined with a recognition that we all make choices and are not completely slaves to our biology--how does that inform the debate? How does that change how we approach people and treat things like pedophilia?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Did I just read that?

From 9News in Denver: "Authorities search for missing disabled tee"

I wonder if they mean the letter or the shirt?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Friday, June 01, 2012

Caleb says,

"Mom, has it ever occurred to you that the sun might have already gone out?"

Because, he explains, the light takes so long to get here.....

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Did I just read that?

This whole article:

Okay, so they banned Five Wives Vodka in Idaho because it might offend the Mormons there, who make up a quarter of the population. Because, presumably, the Mormons are walking through the liquor stores all the time and might see that and be offended.

Because Mormons spend a LOT of time in liquor stores.....

Did I just read that?

This is a fantastically terrible headline. Hard to believe a real press organization let it out:

"Drunk, pregnant mother arrested in Houston after leaving baby in car to get piercing"

Okay, first: the pregnant lady left her baby in the car. That's tricky. I mean, there were lots of times when I was pregnant that I wished I could just take that baby out for a minute (like to tie my shoes), but--really?

And the baby was left in the car to get a piercing? Wow.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Did I just read that?

From's home page today: "Mountain lion shot at office building"

I wonder what kind of heat a mountain lion packs?  Must have been a building that housed a taxidermists' lab.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Big houses

Wow. I was relaxing and spacing out last night and I came across a slide show of celebrity houses. In a brain dead stupor, I scanned through 70 of them.

As I looked, though, my brain grew more and more alert as I grew more and more disgusted.

Those houses were big enough for fifteen families! And many celebrities owned more than one.

And I know the celebrities earned enough to pay for those multi-million-dollar homes.

But two people with no kids really don't need 8,000 square feet. Really. Honestly. What do you do in a house? Eat (so you need a kitchen, but only enough of one to comfortably cook and eat in), sleep (so you need a bedroom big enough for a bed), relax (so you need a space to read or watch TV or whatever your hobby is), study or work (so an office?)....what are the other seven thousand square feet for?

Even with six kids, we would be rolling in space with just 3,000 square feet. And if we had 4,000, Tim's business would be rolling in space, too.

So if I ever end up rich and try to buy one of those mansions, somebody please slap me and remind me that there are better uses for millions of dollars than higher utilities bills.

There was one house that seemed reasonable: Will Smith's house was relatively normal-sized for a family--what he invested in was land to ride horses. Now that seems reasonable to me.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Did I just read that?

From the 9News Home page:

Because a doctor with a sword is just the person you want to trust to take you to a health fair.

Maybe it's a SCA Health Fair.  Renaissance Health Faire?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Did I just read that?

"Car crashes into Denver home, dog found in back seat"

Well, a dog driving a car would probably crash it regardless, but driving from the back seat? That's just craziness.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

What I learned today:

Crushed whoppers sprinkled on ice cream is Really Yummy.


Today we went to a party in a park. When we got there, kids were flying kites.  We watched. We tried it. The kids ran with the kites after the wind died.

And the kids asked, "What would happen if the kite went really high and the string broke? Would the kite fly away?"

I remembered flying kites with my family when I was young. And I remembered that when the strings broke or you stopped tugging back against the kite's efforts to escape, the kites didn't fly away free. They plummeted to the earth and crashed hard on their top points, often breaking the kite.

Interesting that the best way to make a kite soar is not to set it free, but to pull it back, keep it anchored to the earth. Even to get a kite high into the air, you can't just let the string out as fast as the kite wants to go up. You have to pull back, pull back, and let the string play out slowly, letting the kite rise in a controlled flight, not a rush toward the sun.

Thinking about that on the way home, I realized that people are like kites. We aren't at our best when we're set free and allowed to pursue, unfettered, any whim or notion the wind puts into our minds.  It's not safe. It's not a good idea. It doesn't allow us to soar, to explore new horizons, or to be free like we think it would.  Instead, it leaves us crashing, hard and fast, in ways that leave us broken and unable to fly.

We need things that pull back against our efforts to do whatever we want. We need families that rely on us to fill obligations so we can't go wandering the planet chasing dreams. We need guidelines like the gospel that give us direction and limitations. We sometimes need adversity to tug back hard and keep us from going into a nosedive that seems impossible when we're flying high, our wings full of wind.  We need anchors.

And if we want to fly high, we have to be patient, not just rocketing off into space simply because we can see where we want to be. The string has to play out slowly, letting us rise a little at a time, or we plummet.

Some day, when my kids question why we have rules, or when their friends question why Mormons have such "restrictions" on them, I hope I remember to take them first to fly a kite.

Friday, May 04, 2012

What I learned Today

What I learned today:

If you consider tomatoes fruit, then you must also consider cucumbers, green beans, tree nuts, grains, squashes, peas, black pepper, and anything else that grows from a flower and contains seeds "fruit."  Technically, those are all the fruits of their plants.  And, by those rules, rhubarb is a vegetable. It turns out that the kindergarten definition of a "fruit" in common language is the right one: You know it when you see it. It's sweet and often juicy and you can eat it raw or cooked, but it's most often eaten raw. That other definition, the one that makes tomatoes fruit, is the botanical definition, not the common or the culinary definition. So it turns out that tomatoes are vegetables after all! It has to be true--the Supreme Court said tomatoes are vegetables way back in the 1880s. (I know--you're wondering why the US Supreme Court got involved. Well, it turns out if you pass a law that says you have to pay a tariff on vegetables but not fruits, suddenly everyone cares very much if tomatoes are vegetables or fruits). Oh, and pepper is still a fruit, no matter what definition you go by. It comes from a berry. Who knew?

What else I learned today:

If you take two rolls of paper towels, you can use over two dozen redecorating the bathroom and modifying the plumbing, and you still have enough left over to run them up and down the hall four times, down the stairs twice, down another hall twice, and across the family room six times. Just in case you ever wondered, you don't have to experiment on that. Nathanael tested it for you while I was nursing Elijah.

What else else I learned today:

Given the choice between candy (fruit snacks) and watermelon, Benji far and away prefers the watermelon.

A stick swing hung on a long rope from a tree can make a very large purple goose egg on a small boy's head when flung at the right angle by another small boy.

There are actually kids who willingly take antibiotics. I thought they didn't exist, but, mercifully, I actually have one! In my own little family! Who would have guessed. They aren't mythical after all.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Words I'm Finding are Tags of bad writing (my own)

I am revising my novel again because my kids and one of my students started asking me if they could read it.

And I noticed I have some really good segments in there. And then there are some that are... not so good.

But I also noticed that I kindly tagged them for myself. The words "Then," "Suddenly," and "were" are all tags in my writing that tell me "this part could be rewritten to be stronger."

Generally, when I use "were," I'm finding there is a stronger verb that can fill in that space.

Generally, when I use "suddenly," it's a shortcut for building tension in the previous passage. (If I've built the tension up properly, I don't need to say "Suddenly"--it's clear from the writing).

Generally, when I say, "then," I'm outlining instead of writing. I'm finding that I write a lot of "She opened the door. Then she stepped through." I am telling you what I'm visualizing, but I'm giving you nothing to help you visualize it yourself. Technically, it's a description, but not a good one. As a reader, you don't have to be engaged in writing like that. In fact, it's almost impossible to be engaged in that. You can't get lost in that. It's just a summary of the action, not an invitation to live inside the action.  Isn't "She opened the door and stepped through" better? Or, even better, "She stepped through the door into a writhing, slimy mass. Worms. Ugh." See? No need for "then" in that sentence!

In fact, I spend a lot of time saying things that ought to go unsaid. Like that she opened the door before she stepped through. We assume the door opened--it doesn't need to be the focus of it's own sentence unless it is incredibly significant that she opened the door.

So this time around, I'm trying to economize my words. I'm trying to say what needs to be said for the reader to have the experience I hope they have without getting distracted from it and without using extra words. So often, the most efficient way to say something is really good writing. It's more fluid and less likely to draw attention away from the story and onto the words. The worst thing that can happen is if a reader is going along, reading my book, and suddenly they are noticing how it's written. If anything is drawing you out of the story, it needs to be rewritten.

So I'm using the "find" function in Open Office Text to catch those tags I so kindly left for myself and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.