Non-Writing Update: Week Ending March 30, 2013

Yes, I did no writing last week.  Again.  So, starting this week, and continuing until I’m actually writing with something that I consider regularity again… I’m going to forego my weekly writing updates.  I’m taking the stance suggested by T.S. Bazelli in response to my last weekly update: I’m a writer on sabbatical

But I don’t want you to think I’ve dropped off the internet, or whatever.  I’m on sabbatical from my fiction writing, but I’m still going to try to keep up the blogging – if I drop it now, I’ll lose the few readers I do have (all five of you).  Hey, it took me like 3 years of regular blogging to build up a readership of 5-ish folks.  I’d rather not go back to square-one and start from scratch, nor throw another shrimp on the barbie, or pack another cliche into this sentence.  So I’ll be back each week if nothing else at least with a short note letting you all know what’s up in life.  (Longer and more interesting posts will still be infrequent, based on when I can find the time to write them.)

Last week?  Mostly, more of the same.  But thanks to the magic of Dear Wife, we did have a family movie night on Friday.  We – all 4.5 of us – snuggled up together (the dog curled up at our feet), ate our dinner on the couch, and watched Finding Nemo.  Well, three of us watched Finding Nemo.  V.R.’s eyesight doesn’t extend the distance from the couch to the TV, yet.  And Shasta doesn’t really get TV. 

I am happy to report that Finding Nemo still holds up as a fun movie-watching experience all these years later.  We had a great time, and felt like a normal family with actual free time to do actual fun things.

Everything else continues busy unabated.  But I look forward to a few more occasions of tentative relaxation in the near future.

A Good Use of Time

I haven’t written much so far this year. Obviously there’s a good reason for that, and I’ve said as much in my weekly writing updates, but I haven’t exactly been forthcoming about what that reason might be. There’s a good reason for that, too. If you follow the blog very closely, you may have figured out the reason for yourself. Or maybe not. If you know me in real life, you almost certainly already know the reason.

Regardless, enough time has passed to leave sufficient ambiguity regarding exact dates, thereby protecting the privacy of all involved, that I feel comfortable revealing the truth at last, here on a public forum.

I’ve made only two prior mentions of V.R. here before. I explained what I meant by “V.R.” one of those times, but it was a small, passing remark.  Here’s where the very close reading comes into play. Longtime readers of this blog will know I refer to my dear son by the identity-concealing epithet “B.T.” So it will not be shocking when I point out again that “V.R.” is the code-name I’ll be using here to refer to his little brother.

That’s right. I’m a daddy. Again. I’m the father of two little boys, now.

So maybe you can start to see why I haven’t had much time for writing. (Incidentally, this is why I gave myself fourteen whole weeks off from writing, when I set my goals for the year, which was the second time I mentioned V.R. In retrospect, I may have been overly optimistic in how much free time I’d have for writing with a new baby in the house.)

It’s not just the baby, mind you. It’s the rest of real-life, too. Like many – probably most – authors and aspiring authors, I have a day-job. A day-job I happen to like. I work on a rather small team in a much larger company. At the beginning of the year, however, that team shrank one person smaller, as a coworker left for a new position at another company.

This has turned out to be quite good for me in professional terms, on balance. I’ve had to step up to the plate, and take on increased responsibilities. I’ve now been involved in more high-profile projects, and I’m playing a bigger role on the team. In time, I believe this increased exposure will lead to professional development opportunities.

But in the short term, it means a significant investment of time at work. Where I used to have relatively free lunch hours, I now regularly work. It has become not uncommon at all for me to work late – one, two, even three or more hours late. All of this eats into time that used to be somewhat available for writing, reading, blogging, and following the blogs of other authors and writers.  Inasmuch as I’m working more, I’m doing those things less.  For all we mortals (and especially the sort into heavy-duty self-help) like to talk of time management, ultimately time management is a zero-sum game.

So this is how my days go: I wake up early… Earlier than I used to because there’s more to be done each morning before I get out the door.  At this point in the day I’m already groggy and tired, because I didn’t get a great night’s sleep the night before.  (Nor the night before that, nor the night before that…)  Because there are now two children, getting ready is somewhat more complicated.  I get out the door a little earlier than I used to.  For now, I’ve taken over primary responsibility for B.T.’s daycare drop-off.  That means I have to build in a little extra commute time each morning.  (Dropping B.T. off at daycare frequently involves reading  a book.)  I still arrive at work about ten to twenty minutes later, on average, than I used to, when I did only a couple drop offs per week.

Most days I get to work already knowing at least one or two things I have to start work on – usually things I didn’t quite wrap up from the day before, sometimes a chance to work on longer term but lower priority projects that get pushed to the side in the hustle and bustle of a normal day. It isn’t long before the rest of my coworkers and my supervisor are in, and then it’s really off to the races. I try to catch breakfast before everyone gets there. But once things really get moving on the day’s work, it’s pretty close to non-stop. I usually work through lunch, eating at my desk. By the time I leave work, on a regular day, it’s a little north of nine hours later. But it’s increasingly common these days that it’s a lot further north of nine hours.

Excepting the extra morning commute time taken to drop B.T. off at daycare, the evening commute is invariably worse than the morning. By the time I get home, my family is sitting down to dinner.  Or sometimes they’ve wrapped dinner up already.  Either way, my evenings often begin by going straight from my car to my kitchen table to eat, and from there to play time.  At this point, I haven’t seen Dear Wife all day save for a hug-and-kiss goodbye in the morning.  The time I’ve spent with B.T. consisted largely of trying to herd him out the door followed by car-driving time (which is not typically the most interactive of times with a few exceptions).  And I pretty much haven’t seen V.R. at all.  So I want to spend time with my whole family, being a good husband and father to them all.  Most days, there isn’t much time for that before it’s time for B.T. to head to bed. 

Bedtime is it’s own lengthy ordeal.  Dear Wife and I mostly take turns, though not evenly, and if I’m not putting B.T. to bed, I’ve got V.R. to care for.  Like his brother before him, V.R. likes being held.  A lot.  If I can manage to put V.R. down, there are dishes to be done and lunches to be made for the next day.  Most of the time, none of that gets done until after B.T. is firmly ensconced in his bed.

By the time all of that is done – and we’ve largely abandonned any pretense of getting any additional house-work done – Dear Wife and I both are thoroughly exhausted.  We’ve both had busy days, and for my part if there was time I missed there that I could’ve been writing, I’m too sleep-deprived to see it.  We take maybe ten or fifteen minutes of downtime to decompress (frequently with chocolate-based assistance)… and then it’s off to bed.

Yet, despite our mutual exhaustion, a truly restful sleep remains elusive, as V.R. makes it known frequently throughout the night that we are terrible parents for starving him.  I mean, it’s been like two hours since he last ate.  We should’ve been on top of that like twenty minutes ago!  The delay is simply unconscionable.  Or at least, that’s what it sounds like he’s saying when you translate his hunger screams into something more polite. 

The morning comes too quickly, and the cycle begins anew.

The Continuing Adventures of B.T. Esq., Precocious Toddler

It’s been a while since I’ve updated you all on the neverending adventures of one B.T. Esq., Professional Precocious Toddler.  And so, once again, on the off-chance that the trials and triumphs of a toddler are of actual interest to you… well… you shall now be satisfied once again.

(Note: precociosity not necessarily included…)

I now give you to B.T., who shall recount his further adventures himself, in the first person.  From time to time, I shall step in to offer my own thoughts and insights in order that you, dear reader, may have the most rounded presentation of the facts as possible.

Let it not be said that the life of B.T. Esq. is not fraught with difficulties, challenges, and danger.  A young gentleman explorer’s life is not filled alone with fun and adventure.  Nay, but in his ongoing quest to encounter strange and exotic sites never before seen by the likes of man (leastwise, not seen by the likes of man-who-is-a-proper-height-of-just-less-than-three-feet; unlike those ungainly five- and six-footish giants said man may encounter in his travels through exotic lands), there are many pitfalls.  These strange lands are filled with many traps and snares: such devilish and conniving things as your own feet getting in front of you, or floorboards that are millimeters different in height, or immense, giantish tables whose tops come down to just the middle of your forehead so that you have to watch yourself lest you risk injuring yourself or, worse, getting a dreaded boo-boo.  Let me say, my good people: I have faced all these troubles, and more, exploring these strange lands. Continue reading

Language Wordsplosion

Language acquisition.  It is truly beautiful and inspiring to watch it unfold.

Dear Son, B.T., has now entered this stage of his life when his acquisition of language is accelerating into a literal wordsplosion.  (Yes, wordsplosion is a word.  You know it’s a word because I just used it, and you knew what it meant.  But you probably won’t find it in a dictionary.)

Dear Wife and I  have actually lost count, now of the number of words B.T. knows.  He knows a good number of his body parts.  He knows tons of animal sounds.  He knows the words for things like “house” and “car” and “tree” and “apple” and many others.  He can identify those things both when he sees them in the real world and when he sees them pictographically represented in a book (i.e. drawings, of varying degrees of quality and fidelity, of houses, cars, trees, apples, and so on.)  He knows the names of some of his classmates at daycare (the ones he plays with most often, anyway).

Just this week, in fact, he demonstrated that he knows his own name.  This was a huge revelation, for me as the dad.  B.T. can be a pretty willful little guy at times – he doesn’t consistently respond to his name being used so Dear Wife and I weren’t sure if he actually knew his name.  (I had theorized that the reason he doesn’t consistently respond was that sometimes he was willfully ignoring us.  His revelation that he does, in fact, know his own name lends credence to this theory.)  But this week he started pointing to himself and announcing his own name (or a somewhat consonant-confused version of his name).

Just last week Dear Wife and I attempted to catalog all the words that B.T. has demonstrated his knowledge of.  By this week we’d already abandoned the effort because he’d added so many new words since then that we’d lost track.  It’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 words, which will probably be behind by the time you read this.  If he keeps this pace up, he’ll know hundreds of words within a few more months – enough, at last, to communicate meaningfully with his Dear Mom and Pop.

It’s been a thing to behold, and it makes me so proud.

Now, to be sure, he has a long way to go.  The aforementioned “consonant confusion” issue, for instance, being one.  And dropped consonants and truncated syllable.  The word for “book”, for instance, he renders as “mooh” (with the same “oo” vowel-sound but slightly different consonants).  Likewise, “ball” is “mah”.  A house is a “hau”.  And cats, rather than saying “meow”, appear to say “mau”.  All of these, however, I am assured (by several articles) are normal at this stage of language development.

Interestingly, all of these seem to be examples of linguistic lenition.  And I have outed myself once again as a language-nerd for even recognizing that fact.

From the Top, From the Heart

Blogging is hard sometimes.  You invest a lot of  yourself into the words you put up on the screen.  You release those words into the wild, hoping they’ll come back to you with the new friends they’ve made – comments from other readers.  Sometimes they do.  Sometimes they don’t.  Some words seem to make more friends than others.

It’s a lot like being a parent, I guess.

Except, you invest more of yourself into some of those words than into others.  As a parent, it’s kind of not cool to favor one child over another – at least that’s my philosophy; though I don’t have experience to back it up since B.T. is as-yet an only child.  But as an author, you can totally afford to play favorites among your wordlings.  Some of those wordlings come straight from the head.  Some come straight from the heart.  You want them all to be wonderfully successful.  But you want the ones from the heart, most especially, to be the most successful of all.

Of course, you try to stay realistic about which words are most likely to succeed.  But that doesn’t mean you still don’t have a lot of hope for the little blog post that could.

Man.  I’m really digging a hole with this extended metaphor thing.  Maybe beating around the bush a little, too.

The thing is, I don’t always know when what I blog is going to be a popular post.  I don’t know who’s going to comment on what.  I hope every blog post is great.  But at the end of the day, it’s like throwing darts at a board and hoping something sticks.  (I mean that literally.  Half the time when I throw darts at a board the darts bounce off.) Continue reading

Pulling the Wool Over Our Eyes

My son, B.T., has known how to walk for several months now.  I know this because I’d seen him do it.  More tha once, and completely unaided.

And yet, for months, B.T. has refused to walk without the assistance of either Daddy’s or Mommy’s hand to stabilize him.  And we assisted, when we could.  But there were times we couldn’t.  And so, quite often, B.T. reverted to using his other locomotive technique: scooting across the floor on his bum.  The latter is a sight to behold – it’s very amusing.  But Dear Wife and I couldn’t understand: why did he refuse to walk unaided, when we knew he had the skill to do so?  Alas, all of our coaxing and cajoling, and trying to set him for success by encouraging him to walk from Daddy to Mommy or from Mommy to Daddy across short distances seemed for naught. Continue reading

Guest Post: Writing & Parenthood

Today I’m guest-posting it up over at Ollin Morales’ {Courage 2 Create} blog, where I’m talking about the challenges of being a parent and a writer (when you’ve already got so much else going on), strategies I try to use to succeed at both, and commisseration for the hard times – when being a parent means there’s just no time to write.

Ollin’s blog is a great place for writers to go when they need an inspirational pick-me-up.  If you’re a writer who also has one of those things called a life, you’ll find plenty to appreciate on {Courage 2 Create}.

If you’re a writer who’s also a parent, know a writer who’s a parent, or are a writer who might someday become a parent, hopefully you’ll find something of interest on my guest post there today.  So head on over and share your experiences!

Toddlers, Children and the Love of Books

B.T. has been doing the cutest thing, lately, with books.  The first time I thought maybe it was a fluke.  But he’s done it several times, now – so I know this is for real.  It warms my heart to know that he is developing a love of literature.  But I digress.  Let me tell you the story…

It started one evening when I was reading a story to him.  Dear Wife and I have read to B.T. almost every night before bed for most of  his life.  Some of his books are of the “Touch & Feel” variety, which include swatches of furry or fuzzy or rough or other textured things for the baby or toddler to feel.  Consequently, B.T. has grown to like touching books.  So often, after I read a story to him, I will hand him the book to handle and play with as he wants.  Usually I will then pick up another book and start reading that one to him.  On this particular night, I didn’t have a second book immediately at hand. Continue reading

Mission Accomplished… Or Is It?

I tweeted this yesterday… but I thought I’d post a few more thoughts today.

I am now – officially – an MBA.  My master’s degree is done.  Like, really for real done.  Sure, class ended a few weeks ago, and I’ve been enjoying the generous expansion of my freer time in the evenings.  But now I have the paper that says it.  Now I have the stamp of approval.  Now I can truly say I’m done.

Well.  Not done, really, am I?  Because every milestone is just that: a measure of progress towards some greater destination.  They don’t call it “commencement” because it’s the end of something, now do they?  That would be more like a “concludement” or something. 

 That means, ideally, this is a time not merely of reflection but a time of anticipation, a time of looking forward, a time of planning.

For me, that will mean a lot of things. Continue reading

Patrick Rothfuss on Story

This lastest blog post by Patrick Rothfuss, bestselling author of Name of the Wind, really touched my heart – as a father and as a storyteller.

My little B.T. is only a little ways behind Rothfuss’ Oot.  He’s got some catching-up to do in the vocabulary department, yet.  But we still read to him as often as we can.  Go take a look at Rothfuss’ story about telling stories.