Jul 29, 2012

Lessons from the Olympics

I LOVE the Olympics. It's the only time I'm glued to the TV whenever I'm home. In fact, we temporarily increased our cable television channels from ten to 110 so we could get all the Olympic programming. (My kids think this is great.) I love the athletes' stories, the tension, the idea that this is the time they've worked towards their whole lives and so much is riding on the next ten seconds, twenty minutes, two hours, etc. It's like watching dreams come to life...and disappear...between heartbeats.  They work so hard, yet so few get medals. Sound familiar? ;)

Here's a quick list of life lessons played out in London this week.
1. You can't get good at something without a lot of work. This seems obvious but I've noticed that the idea of a work ethic for my kids, raised in the Internet age of instant knowledge and machines that accomplish almost every task for us, isn't always an easy one to grasp. We may live in an easy society compared to the past, but the hardest challenges in life are often the most rewarding.
2. The world owes you nothing. The people on the Olympic team worked hard to get there. They've dedicated their lives to getting there. You want to compete? Then plan on doing the same.

3. Someone is always better than you. No matter how hard you work, and even if you win first prize this time, chances are your name in that top stop is temporary.
4. Failure is inevitable. A lot of the time, even your best isn't good enough. The percentage of those who failed to make the team is a lot higher than the lucky few who are in London now. That adage - you can be whatever you want to be? Not always true. Just ask the athletes who didn't even get close to the podium for their sport. Or the athlete who missed third place by 100th of a second.

5. Perseverance and luck play a part in success. NBC shared the story of one of a young man on the U.S. gymnastics team - his parents' struggle to provide, his father's health issues in the middle of a qualifying meet, a torn Achilles heel. He had to block all that stress out of his mind every time he took the mat. If he'd depended on his feelings, rather than his goals, he'd never have made the team. If his Achilles heel hadn't completely healed, he'd never had made the team And if his health hadn't been perfect during the qualifying meets, he'd never have made the team...the list goes on.

6. Carpe diem. Enjoy where you are, when you are. Don't let worry or fear steal your joy in the moment.
So...what did I miss? Share yours - and your favorite Olympic sport - in the comments!

Have a great week,

Jul 27, 2012

Friday funnies, the late edition, July 27

Sorry I'm late posting, folks. It's sunny, we have visitors and the outdoors is calling us.

The goose REALLY wants you to go out this door.

I can do this without the cat. :)

If I don't post Monday, you'll know where I am.

Have a great weekend!

Jul 19, 2012

Friday funnies - July 20

HIATUS: I've got family visiting this week so won't be posting July 23. See you next Friday!!

For those who live in the midwest humidity of summer, I feel your pain...

This makes perfect sense to me.

Yeah, somebody played with their food.

                                           I admit it: I shop like a guy. Actually, I hate shopping, which is why I adore catalogues.

Have a great weekend!

Jul 15, 2012

How to write like a guy when you're a girl

To start off the week, I give you the trailer to The Silver Linings Playbook, based on the book by Matthew Quick, whom I interviewed here. Starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert DeNiro, this movie looks AWESOME. Now I have to re-read the book to see how close the screenplay is because I'm a book nerd that way. The movie opens in November.

So my topic this week is How to Write like a Guy when you're a Girl, mainly because it's dawning on me that there's a good possiblity the MC for my newest WIP is actually a guy. I'm writing her as a girl and having a hard time. She's just so...guy.  How can you tell? you ask.

A few ways. All of these are gleaned from the fact I've been married for half my life, and am currently raising two boys. Granted, men/boys are as varied as we are in their approach to life but after many discussions with  Hubs on this topic, I've uncovered a few Secrets to Being a (heterosexual) Man. (The qualification is due to the fact I've not lived with or had a long discussion on this topic with any gay guys.)
  •        Guys are direct. They don't hide who they are. If a guy finds something interesting, he'll go after it no matter what society thinks. The push to conform so many girls feel at this age generally doesn't apply. I realize there are exceptions - there are always exceptions - but this is a major difference in the teen years.  
  •        Guys fight...like guys. There's no long-term pouting or cold shoulder treatment. They may dance around the topic but when it comes up, they confront it. Head on. Boys deal in physical violence like girls trade in barbs, insults and petty put-downs - an emotional violence that studies show does more serious long term damage than a punch to the face.  
  •           They don't obsess over the opposite sex.*  Guys are just as direct with girls as they are with their friends. The problem is, that directness gets distorted because girls are hearing them through the hormone phone. Remember the movie "He's Just Not that Into You"? If he likes you, he'll call you. If not, he won't. He may not use words (because guys are chicken and seriously hate getting yelled at) but the message gets through.  
  •         Guys speak with actions a lot more than words. And if allowed, they won't talk at all. Unless you're a girl whose attention they want and then they get all goofy. Which is an action all by itself. 
  •        Guys will take what's offered without thinking they are required to give anything back. In a word: selfishness. Teenage guys have it in spades. (This is why they need to be trained. ;) There's no worrying if he hurt someone's feelings, no automatic obsession over how he came across. Guys spend way less time being embarrassed than girls. (See: guys are direct.)
  •         Guys live in the present. They go after what they want without fear of the consequences. Of course, this changes as boys turn into men but when they're young and single, they're pretty single-minded. Studies show the female brain is much better suited to considering long-term consequences, to picturing all possible scenarios in a second or two. This is why, when my toddler son went sledding down the hill heading toward a tree, I went racing down after him while my husband simply watched him go by.
  •       Guys don't notice the details/specifics. The baby was a girl, the food tasted good, you smell nice, that dress is pretty. Etc.
*mostly. John Green's male characters tend to do a lot of obsessing but there are life or death circumstances going on.
Bottom line: if a girl's emotional landscape is a mountain range full of peaks, valleys, glaciers and fast-flowing rivers of emotions, a boy's is more like a rolling plain. The peaks and troughs of a boy's inner life are (generally) much slower, gradual and less dramatic.
  Compare and contrast your favorite male/female  heroines. How are they different?
Next week, we'll discuss how these attributes translate on the page.

Jul 12, 2012

Friday funnies July 13

 I love Simon's cat. Google to see more.

So sad but true...*sigh*

We are moving wayyy too fast toward A Wrinkle in Time, people. Slow down!!

Just one reason why I am not a Twi-fan.

In contrast to the above...is this poster AWESOME or WHAT?!?! I cannot wait!!

Have a great weekend!!

Jul 8, 2012

Why It Works: Rip Tide

Rip Tide is the sequel to Dark Life, a YA scifi written by Kat Falls. I read Dark Life last year and got sucked into the author's vision of a future planet covered with water (a la Waterworld) and humans that grow gills. Falls's book didn't get a whole bunch of press - or at least if it did, I missed it - but it has a few things to recommend it. It's from a boy's POV, it's pretty clean language-wise and it doesn't focus too heavily on romance. Yeah, I know that can be a bummer for a female audience but frankly, there just isn't enough out there in YA for guys... that's a topic for another post.
Anyway, the first few graphs of Rip Tide:
Easing back on the throttle, I slowed the submarine's speed. The light-streaked ocean around us seemed vast and empty, but I knew better. We were heading into the biggest trash vortex in the Atlantic. A piece of history could broadside us at any time.
Sure enough, a shape swirled out of the darkness, glimmering in the sub's head beams. Gemma leaned onto the viewport. "A bicycle," she said with amazement. "Just like in old photos."
"That means we're almost there," I told her.
"We're hiding a wagon full of crops in the open ocean?"
"In the middle of the trash gyre," I explained. "Genius, right?"
Red: time indicator - the characters are in a submarine, which tells us this takes place in the 20th century at the earliest. Then Gemma mentions that bikes are pictured in old photos, which propels us past the present and into the future.

Green: setting - we're not only in the Atlantic, we're in a trash vortex. Since we wouldn't call our oceans a 'trash vortex' today, this solidifies the clue that we're in the future. Even if I hadn't read the first book, my mind would combine lots of water + trash = a global warming future.

Blue: occupation/reorientation - The characters are in a submarine but Gemma mentions a wagon full of crops...which the sub must be either pulling OR Gemma is calling the sub a wagon, meaning it is used as farming equipment, meaning farming is done underwater. This solidifies the setting in our mind. It also tells us that our characters are involved with growing crops.
Pink: mystery/why we keep reading factor - Why in the world are these two hiding crops in a trash gyre? (What is a trash gyre??) What kind of world allows them to not only grow crops underwater, but then forces them to hide what they've produced.

 Hooked yet?

Have a great week!

Jul 5, 2012

Friday funnies July 6

For all of you who wonder what really happens in flyover country? THIS. Feeding you.
These guys so rock. This former Iowa girl salutes "I'm farming and I grow it."


And now, for a complete change of pace - the best 50 Shades of Grey parody since Ellen! Enjoy. ;) (er...to avoid awkward explanations, do not watch with rugrats in room)

DO have a good weekend!


Jul 1, 2012

Some day

I said good bye to a friend today. We've known each other for six years, which isn't long when you're talking a lifetime but our girls have been friends half their lives. We've done cookie sales, encampments, baked Christmas cookies, carpooled, built parade floats, flown to California together. We've been room moms, organized meals, complained about our kids, about the weather. We've known each other through each of our pregnancies - my 'oops' baby who arrived at the beginning of our friendship, and her 'oops' baby who arrived two years ago (something in the water up here). And we've known since the start that they'd be moving now. Her husband is Air Force and six years is the limit of a deployment.

We knew but today has always seemed so far away. Our sons would be juniors in high school by then, we told each other in shocked tones. Because they were ten at the time, that idea was the same as saying we'd live on the moon by then. The same as saying it could never happen.

Today, she moves to Utah. When we said good bye, she gave us a family portait. I put it on the side of my refrigerator with all the other family pictures of friends who don't live near us. It's the same side of the fridge that faces the counter where I make the kids' lunches during the school year. I look at those pictures every morning and hope  they're all doing well. Sometimes I pray for them. And I wonder how long it'll be before I see them all again.

When I was a kid, I could make friends as easily as sneezing. My youngest does that now - we arrive at a park and twenty minutes later, he's best friends forever with a kid whose name he doesn't know. Nowadays, it takes me a bit longer. My life is packed with kids, house, job, writing. Nowadays, my friends tend to be the moms of my kids' friends. Our only area in common is our kids. But for now, that's enough. I simply don't have time for more.

Someday, I know that'll change. And that's why I keep those photos on my fridge. Because when it changes for me, it'll change for all my faraway buddies, too. We'll suddenly have all this free time (and money!) to go see each other. To shake our heads at each other's pictures of our enormous grown up children, to complain about our husbands, about the weather. To go on trips together, volunteer together, organize our schedules without worrying about a son/daughter's naptime/pickup time/doctor app't., etc.

When the idea of my oldest (the junior in high school!) leaving home makes me want to burst into fits of copious weeping, I try to remember this. Someday I won't have to cram writing in between ten minute breaks of eating/cleaning/shuttling kids. Someday I'll be able to catch up with everyone in those photos on my fridge. Someday I'll be published, be an established author, make money doing what I love.

I think about these 'somedays' in the same tone my friend and I used to talk about her departure six years ago. In that incredulous, slightly disbelieving voice I'd use to say we'll be living on the moon by then. The same as saying it could never happen.

But it can. It will. Ready or not, what you sow, you reap in due time - whether it's children who grow up, writing a good book or being a good friend.

At the cabin in Valdez, our last trip together