Mom goes to her first Comic Convention

I live in a house full of nerds. Subjects like comic books, video gaming, anime, CosPlay, D&D, and RPG are part of the norm…for them, but not for me.

I love my nerds and all the “nerdiness” that surrounds them And I stay just on the outskirts of Nerd-dom looking in. They don’t leave me out, at least not on purpose, I’ve just never found that stuff interesting. It’s not “my thing.”

But we had a local, small venue ‘Con (Comic book convention), so I agreed to go. I had a pretty good idea what was involved, but I wanted my kids to see that I was interested in something they love…or at least participate in it. If nothing else, it meant we’d get out of the house and spend some family time together, without them groaning about it.

My daughter dressed up as Trafalgar Law from One Piece and her little brother went as Law’s sidekick, Tony Chopper.

The Con was fun entertaining. I was most impressed with the artists who had booths and were selling their prints. I can appreciate their talent. I want to give a shout out to Sam Ellis – designer and illustrator for Adventure Time, Archer and Catbug to name a few. My son is a fan of Catbug, but Sam didn’t have any Catbug prints with him to buy. So, Mr. Ellis drew a quick doodle of Catbug and signed it for my son. An original! How awesome is that for anyone, let alone an 11-year-old boy!

It was fun for the kids (and me) to get to talk to illustrators and writers of some their favorite comics, up close and personal.

And then there were the costumes. Fortunately, I had my husband with me to tell me who a lot of the costumes were, since I’m not versed in the Comic world. Again, a lot of talent, which I can appreciate, being a bit of a seamstress myself. And the creativity. Not just in the actual creation of the costumes, but in the hybrid costumes as well: Steampunk Mario & Luigi, a Victorian version of the Tardis from Dr. Who, to name a few. Their vision was fascinating.

Though my teenage daughter found it overall boring and too small (she’s been to much larger Cons), it was the perfect “Starter-Con” for me and my son.

Will I go back next year? That’s debatable. It may be sort of a one and done thing for me. But the rest of my brood will, no doubt, get dressed up and go again next year. My daughter has already started planning her costume for next time.

But at least I got to spend some much-needed time with the family. And the kids hung out with us, so long as we followed along behind. I can’t ask for more than that.

Am I Doing Enough for My Kids?

Every so often, I get this panicked feeling that I’m not doing enough for my kids to help them succeed. #raisingteens

We’ve never been an “over-achieving” family. I’ve written about raising average kids before and how I am perfectly fine with that. I don’t need them to be doctors or lawyers, or physicists or to run their own technology empire. If they do, that’s fabulous, but if they don’t, then I’m good with that too. I want them to be happy in whatever career they choose. And I want them to choose something that allows them to pay their own bills, and maybe provides them a house with an extra room for me and my husband in our golden years (A girl can dream can’t she?).

But I’m talking about MY responsibility to THEIR future.

I have a 15-year-old. And suddenly, I feel like time is running out to teach her everything I need to teach her before she takes on the world on her own, or at least partially on her own (I don’t plan on kicking her out the front door the day after high school graduation).

While a lot of our youth seem to be floundering, with their noses stuck in their computer screens or smartphones, I worry that we haven’t done enough to inspire them to want better for their lives. But I don’t want to push or nag either, because I’ve seen the results of that scenario too.

But there are things looming in the not so distant future: SATs, driver’s license, job, college applications, scholarships to find. My rational mind tells me that this isn’t going to come all at once, and that there will be waves of responsibility and opportunity that come her way, and we’ll deal with it when we get there. But what if I fail at the parenting part and miss those deadlines. Then what?! The consequences for missed opportunities are much greater at this age than they were at age 10.

To look back now, potty training was a breeze compared to the weight I feel at the moment. By the way, my condolences to anyone going through potty training – it was, until now, the one part of the whole “parenting thing” where I felt completely unprepared. There was no manual, and if there was, I swear my kids didn’t read it! LOL

When I approach my teen, I’m met with eye rolls, and push back, and a lot of silence. Maybe I’m trying too hard. Maybe this too, shall pass. But I need to find the teen manual and find it quick. We all read “What to Expect when You’re Expecting” before our kids were born. Is there a “What to Expect when You’re Expecting a Teen?” Because I’d really like to have it on hand for reference right about now.

So, to my fellow parents of teens, am I alone in this? Will this, like potty training, happen when they are ready? Or should I rip the training pants off now, and spend the next few months cleaning up the puddles?

Another Dinner Fail

As I’ve mentioned many times before, I’m not a fan of cooking dinner. I have no problem eating it…even planning it doesn’t bother me. It’s the actual execution that trips me up.

And nothing throws a wrench in my dinner plans worse than when I open the meat, and it smells rancid! That’s the worst!

I’m not good at throwing things together. That’s my husband. He can make dinner from virtually nothing! It’s amazing and awe inspiring. But he was at work, and it was my responsibility to cook.

I had planned Easy Beef Stroganoff, made with ground beef, cream of mushroom soup and sour cream, for the most part (thank you fellow bloggers for the recipe).

So, I quickly searched the internet for some sort of pasta dish made with the same ingredients, so as not to mess up my weekly meal plan. But the only one I found called for a shredded 3-cheese blend, of which I had none.

Needless to say, I basically ended up with Stroganoff Noodles, minus the beef. Yuck! Stroganoff really needs either beef or chicken to make it taste decent.

Chalk it up to another dinner fail. #dinnerfail

I wonder what my kids will say about my cooking in the years to come. Will they remember these fails fondly or will my culinary short-comings be things of legend that they tell their kids: “One time, my mom made us eat ____________. It was horrible!”

Either way, I will own the dinner fails.

Besides, it was National Fast Food Day today (didn’t know that was an actual thing until I saw it on FB – so it must be true – LOL), so it was only fitting we ended up at the drive-thru.

Hope your dinner was better than mine 😊

Writing Like a Panster

I finished my latest Manuscript and am seeking representation, which can be a long process. So, until then, I’ve started a new project.

But it’s been slow going so far, and I think I know why.

I’m OVER-THINKING.

I’m not an outliner, I’m a “Panster.” Which is weird, because being a “Panster” goes against every other part of my life. With the rest of my life, my family, my finances, etc. I am a planner. Type-A all the way.

But not when it comes to writing. Writing is the one place that I give myself permission to fly free.

I usually start with a character and go from there. The story reveals itself to me along the way. Of course, that means there is going to be a lot of tweaking and rearranging, but that’s the price I pay for being a “Panster.”

If you’re an Outliner, you plan your novel way ahead of time, from what I understand. Some people have story arcs and everything before they even start writing.

This time, I started my story with a few characters and how they interact and I immediately jumped to plotting. And I’ve been trying to make my story “fit.” But doing that for a #Panster is like putting a size 10 foot into a size 8 shoe. There’s a lot of forcing, and whining and pain involved. And it isn’t fun, and it isn’t productive. Trust me, I worked in a shoe store when I was young and watched hundreds of women insist they were a size 6 when they were clearly a size 7, and then proceed to blame it on the shoe.

I’m blaming the shoe right now instead of just finding the right fit and giving myself lots and lots of room.

So, I’m starting over…in my own Panster way. I’m going to let my characters tell me their stories. I’m merely the recorder. I need to let them tell me their hopes and dreams and fears and conflicts. If I set them free on the keyboard, they will show up. But I need to stop shoving my large characters into the small shoe.

How do you start a new story? Are you a Panster or an Outliner?

Career Advice to the SAHM

First, let me say that I would not go back and change my decision to be a SAHM. It’s been rewarding and challenging, and they’ve driven me crazy a lot of days, but I wouldn’t take it back if you paid me (although getting paid to be a #SAHM would be a great idea).

For my husband and I, it made more sense for me to stay at home, rather than what it cost for 2 kids in daycare. Aside from wanting to be a SAHM, the financial aspect was really the bottom line for us.

That being said, what I wish someone would have told me before I made the decision to stay at home is this: Keep up with your industry, whatever it may be, especially if it’s a technology driven field.

Fast forward, and my kids are now 15 and 11.

Before kids, I was a graphic designer. I loved doing that. It was fulfilling both to my creative side and my task-oriented side. But I happily set it on the back-burner when my daughter came along, some 15 years ago. I did some side jobs here and there, mostly volunteer work: the newsletter for my church, and any other flyer, ticket, program or brochure they needed, and I volunteered for a Pregnancy Center where I helped with their “Walk for Life” campaign. Again, with brochures and posters.

But technology changes in the blink of an eye, and after only a few years, the graphic design apps I used were quickly becoming obsolete. I still have the graphic design knowledge, just not the daily experience with the new applications. I didn’t have the money to invest to retrain myself or invest in the new programs, because I was investing in diapers and formula, and later in braces and glasses and music lessons for the kids.

Graphic Designers need a portfolio of their best work. My portfolio is filled with my children’s Citizenship Awards, and Soccer Pictures, and Homemade Cards for Mother’s Day.

My advice to new moms, or moms with young children who have stepped away from the workforce, is don’t let your special skills fall by the wayside. Your college education will always be there. But if you have a specialized field, keep up with it. Do whatever you can to stay with the technology. Take classes at the local college or adult school. Check in to your local library and see if they offer any refresher courses.

If you don’t, you will pay a price. Finding a job will be much harder when you want to get back into your field of interest. Most employers don’t mind so much if someone took time off to raise a family, so long as they kept up with their industry, or if they took a few years off (maybe 3 or 4).

But for those of us who took longer (up to 10 years), remember that the competition is tough out there. There are lots of women who didn’t take the time off standing in line for the same job you are.

If you can still talk the talk and walk the walk, it will go a long way to getting a foot in the door.

You can do it. I believe there are people that WANT mom’s to work for them, because those employers realize that Moms have a lot at stake, and are hard workers…they’re moms.

How about my fellow SAHM’s? What career advice would you give? Did you find it hard getting back into the workforce after taking time off to raise your kids?

Here we go again…novel finished…and waiting…

Here we go again…

Novel #3 is finished and ready to find a literary agent!

Now I know, it’s never really “finished” until you actually FIND the agent or publisher and it’s sitting on a retail shelf complete with bar code. But that could take some time, if ever.

So, in the meantime, what to do, what to do?

I don’t know about you, but I immediately start brainstorming on the next book. Since I write women’s fiction, I usually start with a character or characters and then build from there.

I had a “Character Journal” until my last laptop was stricken with the “Black Screen of Death.”

It was a sad day, or a liberating one, depending on how you look at it. Nah, who am I kidding…it was sad…tragic even. All those ideas lost. They’re still on the computer, I just have to get to them.

I already have a name for my next main character. Besides starting a new “Character Journal,” I’ve started a “Name List.” Names are just as important as character development. You know how sometimes a name can conjure an entire character? That’s the sort of name I have in mind. Now I just have to figure out her story.

Tragedy? Comedy? A little bit of both? Hmmmmm…..maybe it’s time to head to the coffee shop and soak in some color. Am I the only one who does that? Hijack someone’s conversation? Think about that the next time you’re at the coffee shop and there’s someone sitting there all alone on their computer.

Or maybe the woman in the grocery store will wander into my next novel…or the sales woman at the department store…or the clumsy waitress that served me dinner last night.

Thank goodness we don’t have to pay royalties to the strangers that inspire us. But thank you to all the strangers that let us writers into your lives, if only for a moment, or even from afar. Stories are inspired and you are our inspiration.

Where do you go to find your best inspiration? Do you keep a Character Journal or a Notebook of phrases and ideas?

I’m Not a Hostess

 

I’ve blogged about it before, but I hate to cook…absolutely hate it.

I hate the planning, the searching for recipes that EVERYONE will like, I don’t even like the actual cooking.

So I cheat…as often as I can.

This holiday weekend we had 2 Bar-B-Ques to attend…Potluck.

My usual cheat? I’ll volunteer to bring the plates, napkins and utensils or the drinks (sodas, water and juice boxes). It gets me out of cooking, and someone has to bring them, it might as well be me. That, and I’m more than happy to clean up afterwards.

The first Bar-B-Cue was easy. Hot dogs, hamburgers, and everyone just brought what they wanted to. It was so casual that the hostess (my friend) said she didn’t even care if everyone showed up with all desserts. Then we’d end up with hot dogs, hamburgers and desserts. (Considering we accidentally had ice cream for dinner the other night, that sounded good to me). I brought two giant bags of assorted potato chips. The kids sang my praises! The parents? Not so much.

For the next Bar-B-Que, I got a text saying that everyone was bringing their “specialty.”

“Specialty?!” My “Specialty” is picking something up from the grocery store!

Don’t get me wrong, I am eternally grateful for those who DO cook. Woman cannot live on plates, napkins and juice boxes alone.

I think it stems from the fact that I have absolutely NO confidence in my cooking (or my presentation), so I am completely intimidated by those who do have that talent. It really is a talent.

Unless you were brought up in a family that entertained often, hostessing isn’t something that everyone has…especially me.

If you want to come to my house, you’re more than welcome. I LOVE being social. But my idea of entertaining is to invite my guests to kick off your shoes, relax (as if you were in your own home) and help yourself to whatever is in my cupboard or refrigerator. I am more than happy to hostess that way. But entertaining any other way completely stresses me out, and sets me up to fail EVERY TIME.

The next Bar-B-Que is later today. I will be stopping by the local grocery store to pick up my “specialty.” It’s a surprise, depending on what veggie platter, or sponge cake, or macaroni salad they have for purchase. Of course, I will put it into my own serving dish. I mean, I’m not a monster! LOL

And to all my friends cooking and hosting today, God bless you…some of us depend on you to do what you do best.

To my American friends, have a safe and Happy Fourth!