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Comeback

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It has been a very long time since I wrote a post for this blog. If I go back to this time last year, My life was turned upside down. Since September 2015, I nearly lost a couple of members of my family, I accepted a new job, sold our house, moved my family, bought a new house, and finished the first draft of my first novel. All in all, a pretty wild ride if I do say so myself…

The bottom line is that even though I haven’t written a post for this blog in four months, I have been writing…a lot!

Now I’m a believer. You see, you can find the time. You can devote the energy even when it seems like there’s none left in you. It is possible, if you want it bad enough, to actually finish something you have always wanted to do. Now I’m not patting myself on the back. I have no delusion that the revision process won’t be a chore. However, the first milestone has been reached.

I will try to do better about regular posts on this blog, as life seems to be leveling out somewhat. As I work through the revisions, expect to hear about it and I may be reaching out for some guidance from some of you overachievers. You know who you are. 🙂

It is now bow hunting season here in Wisconsin so there may be a post or two relating to my experiences.

For those of you who have stayed with me, Thank you! I am looking forward to sharing on a regular basis with you my friends.

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Wanderlust

“Not all who wander are lost.”

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Something that has always intrigued me, is why wanderlust only strikes a group of individuals and not everyone. Some travel the world, never staying in one place. Like a river , they may slow down for a time but never come to a full stop unless forced to. Others remain where they were are, never venturing beyond their home county or state borders. Seemingly afraid they might explode if they crossed some invisible border on a map.

I seem to fall in between. I tend to stay in one place for long periods of time, but I’ve never been afraid to drop everything and move the family across the country. Perhaps not having children makes moving easier, I ‘m not sure.

Stranger still is the fact that siblings raised in the same household can show signs from either end of the wanderlust spectrum. One can’t wait to get out of their home town and explore the world while another wants nothing more than to find a job and a spouse, buy a little house and could care less what the rest of the world is doing.

Is it DNA? Choices of the parents? What makes two siblings who, though are only a year or two apart in age, see the world so differently?

I have seen this first hand within my own family and for the life of me, I cannot figure out why it happens. One choice is no more valid or real than the other. It’s just different. When I ask them to try to explain how they feel, the response is the same, “I don’t know. it’s just the way I feel.”

I do understand the ones who go out into the world and explore for a while and then return to their roots. That makes sense to me as they have made a choice based on experience. The ones that baffle me are the ones who never leave and are not interested in ever travelling. Yes, it’s their choice but really? You never want to see other places? It’s hard for me to grasp that.

So, how about you? Are you consumed with the wanderlust? Or, are you a die-hard homebody? I really am interested to hear.

 

 

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The Gift

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I recently finished the second part of my summer vacation. A recount of the first 9 days can be viewed here. The second half consisted of various family members visiting the cabin at varying times. The first to visit was my father. The domestic CEO had taken the day off and prepped the cabin for our arrival. Furniture was moved to make it easier for dad to maneuver his walker. little did I know the gift that he would give me over the three days of his visit. Those of you with aging parents and grandparents, pay attention.

At the tender age of 91, dad took the long car ride quite well. I know this because he started talking before we got in the car Friday morning and hardly took a breath until we arrived at the cabin four hours later. This is the same man who said a total of six words to me during a thirteen hour trip we took to Arkansas when I was about twenty. Sure I heard some stories and a few jokes that I’d heard before, but I also heard stories that I have wanted to hear for most of my life.

Over the next two and a half days, dad talked more than I can ever remember him talking. At one point the Domestic CEO was watching a favorite television show. Dad and I were discussing the finer points of testing outboard marine engines. Dad went so far as to try to bring the CEO into the conversation. The CEO finally turned and gave me a look. Bless her heart she didn’t say anything, but the look said it all. “Would you two just shut up until my show is over?” I smiled warmly at her and went back to the conversation. The weather outside was cold and rainy, and the cabin is just not very big. The CEO survived and made us a great supper.

I mentioned a few special stories that I always wanted to hear about. Two dealt with dad’s experiences during World War II. The events that led to his being recommended for two Bronze Star Medals. I had done some research and read the commanding officer’s recommendations so I had some idea of what to expect. But…there is something about hearing the first-hand account that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand straight up. I also, got him to talk about his father whom I knew as a child but really didn’t know his background.

I’ve had several opportunities over the past seven years to sit down and have these type conversations with dad. They are all some of my most cherished moments. I have seen first hand how our society files the elderly away into institutions and choose to ignore them. The knowledge base and wisdom from experience that is left to fade away would fill up a super computer. It’s a shame really.

I know that I am lucky that dad is still very sharp mentally and I intend to spend as much time as I can listening to his stories. How can you not love hearing about history from someone who was there?

 

 
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Posted by on July 9, 2014 in Thoughts on Writing

 

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Sacrifice

What ever I said, I'm sorry!

What ever I said, I’m sorry!

If this image doesn’t scare the hell out of you, you are certifiable! PERIOD!!

I say that with experience as I’ve had the misfortune to be on the business end of one of these on two occasions. Through the grace of the creator and some quick talking I am still here.

For those of you chomping at the bit for some juicy anti-gun propaganda let me say one thing. This is NOT an anti-gun post. Sorry to disappoint some of you. It’s far too easy to step up on a soapbox. So, you might ask, “What is this post about?”

The ultimate sacrifice.

How many times have you heard someone say, “I would die for my children?” Perhaps you have even said it yourself. For those of you without children, you might swap a spouse or parent for the children in the statement above. In any case, the statement indicates the willingness to give up everything so that someone else can live. To step into the VOID, the unknown. To cease to exist. That’s a lot of pressure to place on oneself.

Okay, for your child, spouse, or other family member, I can buy into that. And, I buy into members of the armed forces willing to pay the ultimate price for each other. It comes with the territory. But what about someone else?

My first response is, “The list would be very short indeed.” However, history has shown me that I tend to run toward the burning building instead of away.  My gut tells me the list would be much bigger. My instincts are to protect animals, children, elderly, and women. Sorry guys, that’s just how I have rolled in the past. But since the past does not predict the future, who knows how I would react.

This is not an easy question so, before you write a comment, think about what you are saying.

Outside of your immediate family, who would you be willing to take a bullet for? Why?

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2013 in Musings and Odd Thoughts

 

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Happy Holy Days

From my family to yours!

From my family to yours!

HAPPY HOLY DAYS!!

Whatever, your belief system, this time of year is special. Everyone celebrates the season for different reasons and that’s okay. Different is good. Different is interesting. I love to read posts about how the season is celebrated by others. Whether it’s midnight mass, Chinese food and a movie, staying up at an all night bonfire, or exchanging gifts, it’s all good. Some people bake, others volunteer for a charity, still others work through the holidays so that their co-workers can be with family. Some people practice their beliefs actively and openly while others are private and seemingly don’t celebrate at all. It’s all good.

Regardless of what the celebrations are called, there are common threads that weave through each belief system. Things like gathering with family and friends, being kind and giving to the less fortunate, giving thanks for what life has brought us, remembering the previous year, looking forward with anticipation to the upcoming year.

I am 100% certain that I do not believe in or practice my beliefs the same way you do. That’s okay with me. I cherish the fact that we can believe as we please and celebrate our differences. So long as we don’t demand that others believe as we do, it’s all good.

Whatever you are celebrating and however you are celebrating it, I wish you well. Happiness, health and prosperity to you and your families in the upcoming new year.

Ho, Mitakuye Oyasin!

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2013 in Musings and Odd Thoughts

 

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What’s in Character – Natural Environment

We started with the heart of the character, that being their core personality type. Then we added the skin which is made up of physical appearance. Now we need to start adding the bones and muscle that will make our character move and breathe.

Natural environmental factors such as birth order, family issues, education, talents, love language, and self-esteem are critical aspects to consider when you are creating a character with depth. As we look at each of these new layers, remember to go back to the core personality and see how this individual would be affected by the new layer.

Let’s start with birth order. Volumes of books have been written on the subject of family dynamics and the personalities of specific birthing order. Suffice to say that there are well-documented personality characteristics based on when a character joins the family unit. The oldest child tends to mirror the parents. Some call these children the golden children. The middle children tend to be adaptable and are considered the diplomats. I call them spies and instigators. The “babies of the family” tend to be overly indulged but are usually charming and … unusually handsome. 😉 Sorry, couldn’t help myself. These are very broad statements and are not carved in stone. However, they can be used to assist in developing how a character reacts to authority or a subordinate.

What kind of family dynamic the character was brought up in can have a huge impact on their abilities to cope with outside influences. Was the character an only child of a drug addict mother and an abusive father? Or, was it fourth out of ten kids with a family that was close-knit and fully supportive of each other? Remember to consider the character’s core personality. How would each of these family situations affect the personality you chose for your character.

How would the Twilight saga have changed if Bella Swan, the protagonist, had been the youngest of three children in a family that did everything together? Would she still have felt like she was born to be a vampire? Perhaps and perhaps not. However, the story would have been quite different, don’t you think?

How much formal education does the character possess? Did they graduate from the sixth grade or do they have several PhD’s from MIT. Perhaps the character dropped out of eighth grade and has been living on the streets of a major city until the age of twenty. They probably have street smarts galore instead of being book smart. This could have its advantages. Once again, look back to the core personality. What is the effect on the character.

Does your character have any special talents? These can be story related or not. An assassin who is also a cello virtuoso. Or, a coal miner who paints portraits. Or, from real life, a homeless man with the perfect radio personality voice. Talents can be obvious or hidden. They can be a driving force in the story or a side note. However, a special talent can and usually does have some impact on character development. For example, the shy stutterer that becomes the country music superstar when he learns that doesn’t stutter when he sings. You’re a writer, use your imagination. This alone can be the genesis of a story. For our purposes though, a talent adds depth and realism to a character.

A while ago, I was reading “Plot versus Character” by Jeff Gerke. In the section on character building he talked about a layer called Love Language. This one was new to me, but after reading this section a light bulb came on for me. I saw how it would affect my characters, but also how I am affected. Mr. Gerke referenced Dr. Gary Chapman’s theory that there are five love languages. They are: “Words of affirmation”, “Quality time”, “Receiving gifts”, “Acts of service”, and “Physical touch”. Each person has preferences as to how they give love and receive love. A quick definition is in order.

Words of affirmation – These people say the words. the feeling of love is spoken.

Quality time – These people show love by providing complete and undivided attention. They set aside special times to be with those they love.

Receiving gifts – These people show their affection by giving thoughtful gifts.

Acts of service – These people show love by doing things that they feel help their loved ones. Such as, cleaning the dishes, vehicle maintenance, watching the kids.

Physical touch – These are the huggers, the touchy feeley people. You know someone who always touches your arm when they talk to you or hug you hello and good-bye versus and wave or a handshake.

People can use any and all of these to send and receive feelings. However, each of us has a preferred method to send and a preferred method to receive affection. They are not always the same. Mixing and matching these can be fun. I am thinking of the lumberjack who gives everyone he meets a bear hug, being introduced to the British Queen. That would be interesting to watch.

Each of the layers we have discussed can affect and be affected by the core personality. Each of them will have an affect of the character’s self-esteem. How the character sees themselves may be very different from how others see them. Do they like themselves? Do they feel incomplete? Do they loathe who they are but feel unable to change? Very powerful stuff here. Take your time and think this through.

If you’ve been taking notes about your character as we go, you should have a number of pages filled with ideas. Your character is beginning to take shape, move, and breath. Next time we will add layers relating to life experiences and the external environment.

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2013 in What's in Character

 

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The Boys!

Those of you who follow this blog know that back in November, I had to put down the last of the three cats who lived with me for more than 20 years. It was hard on my wife and me. We view our cats like most people view their children. I some cases, better. We had set aside the bowls and litter boxes and tried to get used to not being greeted at the door at night or have someone laying on our lap while we watched TV.

Sunday morning, two weeks ago, my wife and I set down our coffee cups and in unison, looked at each other and said, “I think I’m ready for more cats.” It was a little creepy but not unusual for us to be on the same wavelength without previous conversation. We actually waited for the animal shelter to open before we showed up on their doorstep looking for our new “children”. We must have been patient that day.

We didn’t find anything that day. However, after surfing the web a little, my wife found a pair of cats who needed to be adopted together as they are inseparable. They survived the tornado that tore through north Minneapolis last year and were placed into a foster home with the Humane Society.

They are inseparable!

They are inseparable!

One visit was enough. These big boys (20 pounds each) are typical two-year olds. Marble and Herman love to play and get into trouble. They will be indoor cats so the rabbit that these two are watching has nothing to fear from them.

""Rabbit!"

Life is good as we get to know each other. Thankfully, they have not learned to walk on my keyboard while I write…yet.

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2013 in Musings and Odd Thoughts

 

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