Category Archives: writing group

My 48 Hours

Last Thursday, while I was still at work, T– took the kids to Wichita to spend some time with her family there. The plan was to stay through a big birthday party Saturday evening, then drive home late Saturday night.

I intended, as I often do on these occasions, to take advantage of the peace and quiet to get some good work done. Mainly I had some computer stuff I wanted to do — reviewing a blog for a new friend, getting caught up on my own blogging after a busy few weeks, and putting together some notes on a new project I’m working on (the Consortium). I figured I’d do a little lawn and house work, too, since our property got hit pretty hard with last week’s apocalyptic hailstorm.

Anyway, when I got home from work to an empty house Thursday afternoon, the first thing I did was make a To Do list. (I estimated roughly that each item in the “Must Do” list should represent about 90 minutes of work).

  • Must Do
    • Thursday night
      • Write Sun/Mon/Tue blog posts for next week
      • Prepare newsletter for Saturday
    • Friday morning
      • Mow the lawn
      • Clean out the gutters
    • Friday afternoon
      • Write Thu/Fri/Sat blog posts for next week
      • Set up blog review spreadsheet on GDocs
    • Friday night
      • Review Julie’s blog posts
      • Review Julie’s blog posts
    • Saturday morning
      • Chainsaw some trees
      • Paint hall and bathrooms
    • Saturday afternoon
      • Review Julie’s blog posts
      • Review Julie’s blog posts
    • Saturday night
      • Edit and link next week’s blog posts
      • Prepare next Saturday’s newsletter
    • Sunday afternoon
      • Email Julie about the Consortium
      • Complete detailed descriptions of the Consortium in Wave
    • Sunday night
      • Write Sun/Mon/Tues blog posts for next week
      • Outline blog posts for June
  • Remember to Eat!
    • Lunch with D– (discuss Consortium as non-profit)
    • Dinner with K– and N– (discuss Consortium network/software)
    • Lunch with Courtney (recruit her to the Consortium)
    • Dinner with B– (discuss Consortium business plan)
  • Extra Credit (if I have free time)
    • Recruit Carlos to the Consortium
    • Social Writing
    • Help Toby program BookMaker utility
    • Get in touch with Doolin
    • Email Julie about blog review
    • Get Courtney her photos (from a Julie V shoot)
    • Design novel template in GDocs
    • Scan many things
    • Edit/link guest posts for Doolin
    • Make chapters for Carlos’s e-Book
    • Review Carlos’s other support requests
    • Call OU Admissions department
    • Email Shawn about the Consortium
    • Finish Ivanhoe
    • Email Courtney about her blog
    • Contact Schwinn customer support
    • Lowe’s run
    • Fix exterior lights
    • Drop seed, weed killer, and fertilizer on lawn
    • Clean out garage work area
    • Put some stuff in the attic
    • Convert Becca’s and Bryce’s books to e-Book format
    • Read Becca’s and Bryce’s books
    • Check out Courtney’s new WIP on GDocs
    • Write Thursday’s Creative Copy Challenge post
    • Reply to many comments on my blog and Doolin’s

Those were my 48 items in 48 hours (I mentioned them on Facebook). And…well, technically four of those items were scheduled for Sunday, but I’d have my whole family home on Sunday so I figured I’d need to get much of that done in advance.

Of course, I ended up adding to the list before I was done.

  • Added since Thursday afternoon (all extra credit)
    • Email Courtney about new photo policy at my blog
    • Update About Page photos in color
    • Clean up storm detritus on driveway, porch, and sidewalks
    • Replace shattered plastic house numbers over garage
    • Pick up a birthday gift for K–
    • Fix fallen A/C register and attach headboard to bedframe
    • Murder weeds growing in driveway, porch, and sidewalks
    • Patch busted wood trim around bathroom door
    • Caulk floor joints both bathroom
    • Organize tool chest drawers
    • Wash and put away three loads of laundry
    • Paint over garage hail damage
    • Take out the trash
    • Do the dishes
    • Email Cindy about the Consortium as a non-profit

And I made time for my 4.5-mile jog every morning, because with all that cerebral work going on, I needed some physical exertion to balance it out.

The problem, it turned out, was that 45 minutes jogging wasn’t close to enough time to balance it out. I got started working on the lawn Friday morning, and found myself still working outside when it came time to go to dinner Friday night. Woke up Saturday, went for my jog, and figured since I was going to have to shower anyway, I should do a thing or two outside first.

By the end of the day Saturday (my forty-eight hours), I’d spent about fourteen hours sleeping, eight hours at business/social meals, and a hair over an hour (total) sitting at my computer. The other twenty-five hours I spent toiling — repairing my house, cleaning, or working in the yard. And none of that was by choice or priority — it just sort of happened. I was driven.

When everything was said and done, by the time I went to bed Sunday night, I’d completed 34 of the 62 items on my To Do list, including just half of the “Must Do” items. The finished list looked like this:

  • Must Do
    • Thursday night
      • Write Sun/Mon/Tue blog posts for next week
      • Prepare newsletter for Saturday
    • Friday morning
      • Mow the lawn
      • Clean out the gutters
    • Friday afternoon
      • Write Thu/Fri/Sat blog posts for next week
      • Set up blog review spreadsheet on GDocs
    • Friday night
      • Read Julie’s blog posts
      • Read Julie’s blog posts
    • Saturday morning
      • Chainsaw some trees
      • Paint hall and bathrooms
    • Saturday afternoon
      • Read Julie’s blog posts
      • Read Julie’s blog posts
    • Saturday night
      • Edit and link next week’s blog posts
      • Prepare next Saturday’s newsletter
    • Sunday afternoon
      • Email Julie about the Consortium
      • Complete detailed descriptions of the Consortium in Wave
    • Sunday night
      • Write Sun/Mon/Tues blog posts for next week
      • Outline blog posts for June
  • Remember to Eat!
    • Lunch with Dan (discuss Consortium as non-profit)
    • Dinner with Austins (discuss Consortium network/software)
    • Lunch with Courtney (recruit her to the Consortium)
    • Dinner with Bruce (discuss Consortium business plan)
  • Extra Credit (if I have free time)
    • Recruit Carlos to the Consortium
    • Social Writing
    • Help Toby program BookMaker utility
    • Get in touch with Doolin
    • Email Julie about blog review
    • Get Courtney her photos (from a Julie V shoot)
    • Design novel template in GDocs
    • Scan many things
    • Edit/Link guest posts for Doolin
    • Make chapters for Carlos’s e-Book
    • Review Carlos’s other support requests
    • Call OU Admissions department
    • Email Shawn about the Consortium
    • Finish Ivanhoe
    • Email Courtney about her blog
    • Contact Schwinn customer support
    • Lowe’s run
    • Fix exterior lights
    • Drop seed, weed killer, and fertilizer on lawn
    • Clean out garage work area
    • Put some stuff in the attic
    • Convert Becca’s and Bryce’s books to e-Book format
    • Read Becca’s and Bryce’s books
    • Check out Courtney’s new WIP on GDocs
    • Write Thursday’s Creative Copy Challenge post
    • Reply to many comments on my blog and Doolin’s
    • Email Courtney about new photo policy at my blog
    • Update About Page photos in color
    • Clean up storm detritus on driveway, porch, and sidewalks
    • Replace shattered plastic house numbers over garage
    • Pick up a birthday gift for Kris
    • Fix fallen A/C register and attach headboard to bedframe
    • Murder weeds growing in driveway, porch, and sidewalks
    • Patch busted wood trim around bathroom door
    • Caulk floor joints both bathroom
    • Organize tool chest drawers
    • Wash and put away three loads of laundry
    • Paint over garage hail damage
    • Take out the trash
    • Do the dishes
    • Email Cindy about the Consortium as a non-profit

Journal Entry: November 2009

I survived.

I’m tempted to make those two words my whole journal entry, but so much happened in November that I don’t want to forget. And so much happened in November that I’m going to forget it.

Even this post won’t get it all, but I want to grab the highlights.

I started the month with a NaNoWriMo kickoff party at IHOP with my writing group, and that actually is documented already. I’ve also talked a little bit about my NaNoWriMo progress, and my class sessions. I’ll do another post with a post mortem for NaNoWriMo, but here I wanted to talk about what else I did.

I finished a major manuscript for work on the 5th, and that freed up some of my attention and some of my creative energy, so I finally really got started writing on the 6th. I had a birthday lunch at P. F. Chang’s on the 8th, and then a holiday (Veteran’s Day) on the 11th that gave me a pretty easy work week, and a good opportunity to get caught up on my word count again. Then Saturday the 14th I had a great opportunity to get behind again.

Probably the big event of November (for me), T– threw a big birthday party for my 30th, inviting my mom and dad, and all my friends. D–, of course, B– and E–, K– and N–, my little sister and her family, as well as Courtney and Ed (who were a real hit). T– had everyone bring a bottle of wine, which was quite a treat, and she grilled up ribs for us as the main dish in a pretty extensive (and delicious) spread. We chatted and played Rock Band, and had a great time. Shawn and Liz showed up after most of the other guests had left, but stuck around to watch UHF with the Cantrells and me. That was fun. The whole night was incredible.

In WoW news, I got my Hunter to 80 (which marks the first time I’ve had a Hunter at the level cap). I also started a pair of Horde characters on Shawn’s server, so I can chat with him from time to time. He’s popped in on Dark Iron a time or two, too, and that’s been fun.

I had a conversation with T–, and a conversation with my writing group, and a conversation with my dad over the phone on a drive home from work, and the end result of all that is that I’m finally going to try to get some treatment for my social anxiety. That’s not really something I want to talk about in detail in this post, but it happened in November. So there you go.

Then last week was Thanksgiving week (which is always drama, and NaNoWriMo brings its own demons). T– headed up to Wichita early, on Tuesday afternoon, and I had dinner with D– at a new Mexican place downtown (Iguana Grill, and it’s awesome), then went by Bruce’s to borrow his ladder and ended up spending an hour and a half chatting with him, then went home and got started on Christmas preparations instead of going to bed.

I wanted to have the tree up (and ready for decoration) by the time T– came home from Wichita. I decided to get all the decorations down from the attic, too, and somewhere in there I decided I should hang Christmas lights outside. Wal-Mart had LED lights at a reasonable price, so I picked up 8 strings and spent Wednesday afternoon crawling around on the roof of the house, getting everything set up. It proved to be more work than I anticipated, but the end result is stunning. (I’m sure T– will have a photo up on her blog eventually.)

I’d barely gotten off the roof when D– showed up to take me down to Chicasha to pick up his grandma, and then we all headed to Wichita. With that extra trip, a two-and-a-half-hour drive became something perilously close to five, but I spent most of it sleeping in the back seat, so who’s complaining.

Then Thanksgiving was four straight days of Charboneaus. That’s an amazing family, and they really know how to have a good time when they get together. T– brought my XBox and Rock Band, and that was incredibly popular. The food was incredible. The Cowboys won convincingly, and then a disappointing Sooners team showed up on Saturday and totally shut out OSU in the Bedlam game, so that was pretty satisfying.

We got home Sunday afternoon, and as we turned the corner onto our street, AB called from the back seat, “Ooh, the house is ready for Christmas!” T–, of course, was thrilled. After watching her parents get all their Christmas decorations done Friday morning, she’d been left wondering when we could even get around to it, and here it was all ready for her.

AB couldn’t wait to get started, and she and her mom got the tree all decorated before bedtime.

Then yesterday was the 30th, the end of my wonderful, grueling November, and I capped it with a write-in at Courtney’s. We both made our official submissions to the NaNoWriMo website around 11:00, validated our winning word counts, and then stayed up far too late talking. All too often, in the midst of a conversation about this or that, one or the other of us would trail off, staring away into space, and then just say quietly, “I can’t believe it’s over.”

It’s over. And I survived.

Other than that, it’s just things and stuff.

National Novel Writing Month 2009 Kick-Off

I’m five days into NaNoWriMo, and not doing terribly well. I’m right at 1/4 of my target word count. My writing group is on fire, though, and I’m taking a little bit of (probably undeserved) paternal pride in that.

We started things off in a big way last Saturday night (Halloween), when a bunch of us met at a local IHOP for a big kick-off party. I think I’ve seen differing counts, but I’m pretty sure there were seven of us writing (and an eighth writer who left before we actually started writing), and two visitors who came by just to spectate.

We met at 11:00 PM, so that we could socialize a bit before getting down to business. I spent most of that time talking with Shawn about World of Warcraft. That was, without question, an accurate indicator of what I should expect out of the night, and out of my November. Don’t mistake that for me placing blame anywhere but on me, though.

Anyway, it was fun, and we all had a good time socializing. There was a real air of anticipation, too, as we got closer and closer to midnight. Somewhere in the midst of that, a young couple headed toward our tables — one of the seven writers, and one of the two spectators. The latter of those was also one of my students in my Tech Writing class. He’s a young man with considerable personality — more than he can reasonably keep to himself.

It was my intention to get 2,500 words written. I was willing to leave as early as 1:00 if I managed to hit my word count by then, but I was expecting it to take until about 2:00. That’s okay — I’ve closed down bars in the not-too-distant past, so I figured I could handle 2:00. We had the advantage of Sunday morning being the end of Daylight Savings Time, too, so I’d get the extra hour of sleep.

Most of our writers had laptops — no, check that, all of them did. Except me. I had a scribblebook, because that’s how I roll. We’d picked IHOP for its late hours, but one of the major selling points had been the free WIFI. Unfortunately, when midnight rolled around and everyone opened up the laptops, we found ourselves unable to locate that free WIFI. I don’t think anybody ever did. There wasn’t easy access to electrical outlets, either, but I think everyone’s batteries survived longer than their writing impetus, anyway.

Anyway. While they were wrestling with their network management utilities, I was scribbling in a cramped cursive at laughing at them all. Muah hahaha! I filled two and half pages (a hair over 500 words), and ran out of words. I spent the next thirty minutes or so forcing words one at a time to fill another page and a half, and then I gave up. Oh, what a shining example I am for my writing group!

About five minutes before I gave up, though, my oh-so-personable student Sean (no, not Shawn, that was someone else) gave up on his project to get ad hoc StarCraft going, and came to our tables to talk some more. I was able to pretend to humor him, and act all friendly as an excuse for closing my scribblebook, unclicking my Pilot G-2, and spending the rest of the night just emptying glass after glass of Coke.

That was one-ish, so I had an hour left before I was going to let myself leave. Fifteen to two, a hostess came by our table to warn us that the bars were about to let out, and the clientele would become considerably more boorish. Courtney proudly proclaimed that we were writers, and we delighted in observing vibrant characters in action.

We got more than we bargained for there, though. Just past two, a fistfight erupted in the parking lot which quickly ended up as four guys beating the hell out of a fifth guy down on the ground. Our table gave us an easy view of it, but everyone in the restaurant was quickly on their feet, watching the fight through the wall of windows. It was impossible to look away.

Courtney called the cops. A manager and some employees risked their lives to try to intervene (and quite possibly saved the fifth dude’s life in the process). Fifteen minutes passed before the ambulance and firetruck showed up, forty-five before the cops. None of us really felt like setting foot outside until that happened.

So I stumbled in the door well after three in the morning, too buzzed on secondhand adrenaline and caffeine to fall asleep, and I spent half an hour lying in bed thinking, “Oh, the hangover tomorrow is going to suck.” That was habit, because the only time I come home after two in the morning is when I’ve been out drinking (and, when I spend that long out drinking, the hangover tomorrow always sucks). I kept having to remind myself I hadn’t actually had anything to drink.

And then tomorrow came, and the hangover was awful. I’m way too old for three in the morning.

I cleared eleven hundred words on day one, and then had to go to work on day two. I taught a class on day three. I’ve been swamped with a Maintenance Handbook on a Nov. 14th deadline, and too exhausted at the end of the day to do anything but log in and zone out. I ended yesterday at 2,485 words. Got another five hundred done today, though, and the weekend is looking shiny and full of promise.

Every novel I’ve ever written has had at least one 8,000-word day in it. Maybe this year’s will come early.

Anyway, that’s most of what’s been on my mind. I’m off to a slow start, but I’m still a long way from out of the game.

Other than that, it’s just things and stuff.

The Golden Age (a poem)

“She’s got a rule. She never dates her friends.”
“I know,” he said. “I really hate that rule….”

She keeps it, though, and she is all alone.
Alone at home, at work when it gets bad.
There’s trouble in the air, has been for years,
Then something breaks one quiet afternoon
At a presidential speech.
A kid is killed, and soon it’s on the news
And riots follow, cities start to burn.
There’s soldiers in the streets, and all too soon
There’s bombs.
And she is all alone.

She goes back to a place she once called home,
To friends who all among them made her world
And quietly they watch this world burn down.
All huddled up, squeezed tight on that sad couch
In his tiny apartment, second floor,
And wonder what the future holds in store.

For days it’s dazed and frightened disbelief.
At night their only light is CNN.
Then Dave hears that his boss has got a plan
The governor needs him to craft a speech
A bold address to set the city right
And bring back hope and reason, end the fight.
They go — these four, these friends, these college buds.
They’re kids, but they’ve been called to save the world
And only one has doubts — in that, she’s all alone.

More bombs in store, more death than they could guess
But through it all, he holds them to the course.
He’s brave for her — he saves the day for her —
But in the end they all are heroes true.
Here in the quiet Heartland, they wake up.
They face a dragon, slay a villain dark,
And live storybook lives in too-real life.

But then it’s done. It’s done, and they’re all safe,
But her mother back home is so afraid.
Her dad is, too, and asks her to come back.
To leave her friends, and come back to her home.
And hero though he is, her friend, she’s got a rule.
So she goes home, to grander stories yet….

And she is all alone.

Journal Entry: October 16, 2009

Well, after all my angst yesterday over the NaNoWriMo prewriting stuff, I loaded up the rough draft of my novel-writing how-to, and discovered that it was already reformatted to work on two weeks of prep time (instead of the month I thought I’d used), and that all of the assignments were written out, and all but one of the lessons that go with them.

So, it turns out, I’ve got about one hour’s worth of work to do over the next two weeks, to take care of all that stuff I was woeing over yesterday. That doesn’t count my own prewriting, of course, but I can find time for that. It was the technical writing I was worried about. Turns out, that’s done.

So I spent about an hour (off an on) on Facebook yesterday posting that material and chatting with my writing group, and there’s some real excitement to get started. I can’t wait.

In the evening we had the last of our monthly summer picnics for Britton Road. T– was really looking forward to it (as she always does), and with them going out of town it seemed like a really good idea to go along and spend the evening with my family, away from my computer. Of course it didn’t hurt that T– was bringing two gallons of my chili recipe to compete in the chili cookoff, so I knew I’d get a great dinner out of it.

Turned out, I didn’t do so well. Before I’d finished the short walk to bring the crockpot from our car to the picnic tables, I found myself struggling to breathe. I thought, “I’m not that out of shape” before I realized what it really was. Too many people. I ended up spending an hour and a half huddled over my little bowl of chili, trying not make eye contact with anyone but K– or N–, and mostly just focusing on my breathing. It was a real waste of what could have been a fun evening.

I got through it, though, and when we got home there was a whole Thursday night’s worth of comedy to watch, and we watched it all (quite in spite of the late hour). That was fun.

Other than that, it’s just things and stuff.

Journal Entry: September 28, 2009

Wednesday
Wednesday after work we met K– and N– at Johnny’s Charcoal Broiler — carrying on a tradition started the first time T– took AB to church, and we ate there for lunch. The food was delicious, of course, and it was a fun time getting together with friends.

Afterward, everybody but K– and me walked over to church for Wednesday night classes. K– came over to my place to help me with T–‘s broken computer. He had a hard drive caddy handy, with connections for all manner of hard drive, and in no time at all he had the data from T–‘s laptop copied over to mine. That solved the biggest of T–‘s fears (lost photos and work documents), but of course the laptop was still broken.

After church the family came back home, and we spent the evening watching TV while I played WoW.

Thursday
Thursday I had to prepare a tutorial/lecture for my students, and I spent a significant chunk of time after work reviewing it and getting it posted to the website. I also spent much of the day (and evening) reviewing the students’ submissions for the first document packet, and fielding questions from them (by email, of course).

Karla made us some incredible quesadillas for dinner. D– came over for that, and to play some WoW with me, but mostly to pick up T–‘s dead computer and take it home with him. He spent the evening getting it resurrected (with the help of a spare hard drive he had sitting around, which probably saved me a hundred bucks), and getting the OS back on it.

Apart from that, Thursday night was more TV, and more WoW. We chilled, and caught our breath.

Friday
Friday I met Toby for lunch, and we discussed (among other things) a document conversion project I’ve got to get done for work. He had volunteered to help with that when they came to visit at the hospital, and this was my first opportunity to provide him with more detailed information. He sounded optimistic that he could get it done, and we made arrangements to meet at his place Sunday evening.

Then in the afternoon I got home from work a little bit early, so I was there when D– brought T–‘s laptop by, and I installed a few more programs for her, and now it’s better than new.

D– had to go back to work, but he agreed to meet us for dinner. Half an hours after he left, Mom and Dad got in from Little Rock. We introduced them to Alexander (or XP, as he’ll be known hereabouts in the future), then spent some time socializing while we waited for my sister and her family to come over. A little after five we piled into a bunch of vehicles, and headed over to Mama Roja for dinner.

As we were waiting for our table, T– turned to me and said with some surprise, “Can you believe it’s been nine days since we’ve been here?” Her Mom rocked our world by pointing out it had actually been two whole weeks. Craziness.

Anyway, it was a crowded, busy table, but we all had delicious food and enjoyed the opportunity to talk. Afterward, T–‘s parents left from the restaurant to head home, and everyone else came over to our place.

I took Mom up to Homeland to pick up the necessary supplies, then when we got back to the house I mixed up a pitcher of rum margaritas. They went over pretty well, but T– and I had a hankering for the real thing, so as soon as the pitcher was empty I filled it up again, with tequila this time, and we had a grand ol’ time.

Saturday
Saturday morning T– and Mom headed up to Edmond (with XP in tow) for pedicures with my sister, and Dad headed to Edmond for a conference at Memorial Road Church of Christ on an educational framework called Journeylands. That left me at home with AB. We played in her room, we spent half an hour or so on my laptop playing the Memory game, we read from her books, and we practiced telling each other stories.

Then T– called to tell me we were all supposed to meet Dad for lunch at Jason’s Deli, so I had AB watch some TV while I got ready, and then we rapidly got her dressed (and I made a humorous attempt at putting her hair in a ponytail), and headed north.

Lunch was awesome, and afterward T– and Mom took AB with them to go shopping for baby stuff. Dad headed back to his conference, so that left me alone. I ran home, took care of some stuff on my laptop, and then headed back out again for our monthly writer’s group at Courtney’s.

That probably deserves its own post (as it’s gotten in the past), but I’m feeling lazy now and I was sleepy and distracted then, so I couldn’t do it justice anyway. Shawn was missing, so it was just the three of us. We started out talking about dreams (and nightmares), and I told the story of my first nightmare (the killer shark in the apartment swimming pool), and my most recent (last week, when T– walked away from our marriage because I left her to fend for herself when we found ourselves caught in a swamp surrounded by killer snakes and spiders).

Then from there we talked more about our creative influences, how we come up with titles, and how we cope with the constant temptation to jump to new projects — leaving old ones unfinished. We also talked about another OKC writer’s group we might try to crash sometime, and a potential addition to our group, and traditional versus non-traditional publishers. I also dragged the conversation toward magic in the real world for a bit, and we each seized that opportunity to feel a little bit foolish.

Then it was 4:30, and time to split up. I got home just after Dad, and Mom was still there with AB (who was taking a nap). T– was already up at the church, getting ready for a crop, and she had XP with her.

So it was just me and Mom and Dad, and I took the opportunity to ask them for some advice and analysis on parenting. Specifically, I wanted to know how much change I should expect in AB in the coming years. I feel like we’ve weathered the differentiation called “the terrible twos” at this point — we’ve seen it, we’ve found ways to address it, and at this point, though her rebellion can be frustrating at times, it isn’t baffling. It’s predictable, and addressable, and I feel like we both know who she is.

So my question was, how many more major change events are there, in early childhood development? I was relieved when Mom and Dad both agreed there really aren’t any. We can reasonably expect AB to be pretty much the person she is now for most of the next nine years. I’m happy with that answer. I like the person she is.

They also had some good information about how to handle the challenges of her differentiation events in her teenage years, but I really didn’t enjoy thinking about that. Not that I’m worried about the rebellion or family drama or anything…I just don’t like thinking about her being a teenager. It feels far too close, and that’s only a handful of years before she’s gone. Miserable thought, that.

Anyway, that took up most of an hour, and then I went and woke AB up so she could go to the church with Mom. A few minutes later K– came over, having dropped his baby off there, too. We ordered a couple pizzas and loaded up Beatles: Rock Band. An hour or so later, my brother-in-law called to ask if he could come join us, and we rocked out for two hours before he and K– had to go pick up their little ones.

Right around then Mom and my older sister came home with AB, and after she went down to bed the rest of us played some more Rock Band. I mixed up a pitcher of strawberry daiquiris for us, too, and we all had a good time. By the time T– got home my sister was gone (to stay at my little sister’s place), and Mom and Dad were in bed, so it was just me still awake, playing WoW.

I didn’t stay up too late, though. I was tired, so I went to bed around 11:30 with no regrets.

Sunday
Sunday morning we had a full house getting ready for church, and all of us running a little bit late, but we managed to get ourselves together somehow and showed up no more than five minutes later for service.

The sermon was on the various social values of hymns in a congregation, and before Rob was done Dad leaned over and said, “I want you to introduce me to your preach after church.” Turned out that was a sermon Dad had been wanting to preach for years, and while he’d heard lots of sermons on the topic, he’d never heard anyone express the real benefits and perspective that Rob gave in his sermon.

So we caught Rob after church (after waiting through an impressive line), and Dad got to compliment and thanks Rob for his sermon, and Rob got invite Dad to come give a marriage and family seminar to Britton Road sometime — something he’s been wanting to talk with Dad about for a while. So that’s pretty cool.

Then afterward we all went over my sister’s place for an Italian-themed lunch of salad, chicken pasta, and cheesecake for dessert. Everyone agreed the food was incredibly good. AB and her older cousin weren’t getting along terribly well, though — probably because they were both in severe need of a nap — so we split up and went back home to put AB to bed. Mom and Dad decided to head home around the same time, too, so we got them packed up and said our goodbyes.

And then, suddenly and unexpectedly, the house was quiet. For the first time in ten days.

T– watched some Law and Order, I played some WoW, and then AB woke up from her nap and the spell was broken. We grabbed some McDonalds for dinner, and then all too soon it was time for me to head down to Norman for my meeting with Toby.

I didn’t want to go. I was tired and worn out, and it’s not a short drive, but I had made a commitment. And, after all, Toby was doing a favor for me. I showed up, and found out he had, in fact, finished it. He walked me through the code, teaching me what it did (so I could make little modifications on my own), and it’s one of those things where it’s fascinating in its simplicity. He did a really fantastic job. And after a quick test run (and double-checking how the output looked in Word), I was able to put the work stuff aside and we had some time to just talk. That was fun. He’s in the same boat I am — having to work with a new baby at home — but in spite of all the chaos, and petty problems at work, and weird happenings with rent houses in Tulsa…in spite of all that, we’re both doing pretty well. It was fun to get to hear that, and say that, and just to talk programming with my programming teacher for an hour or so.

Then I drove back home, in the weary dark, and crawled into bed and said good night to my weekend.

Other than that, it’s just things and stuff.

Journal Entry: September 11, 2009

Yesterday morning we woke up to a little scare. T– was having trouble with her stomach and pain in her lower back, and at bleary-eyed seven in the morning, it seemed a little too much like labor pains. So she curled up on the bed trying to find a comfortable position, and I called my boss and told him I’d be out for a while — a couple of hours or a couple of days, depending how things turned out.

Things turned out to be a stomach bug, but it incapacitated T– pretty bad for the day. I hung around the house long enough to see her feeling a little better, and then drove AB out to the babysitter’s so T– could take the day off. Then I went from there to work, and shortly after I got in, I got a call from T– saying she was really starting to feel better. By noon, we were sure there was nothing to worry about.

Still, a tense morning.

Then in the afternoon I got home from work and locked myself in the office to put finishing touches on my class lecture. I’m still wrestling with technical issues, since last week, but I got the podcast recorded and saved, at least, and I’ll post it to the website sometime this afternoon. I was able to get them a text tutorial on time, though, and I’ve already had a couple students finish and submit their assignment (due next Tuesday) based off the material there.

I gave up on the podcast at 6:30, because I had social writing plans for the evening, and I hadn’t eaten dinner yet. I gulped down some chicken fried rice that T– made (which was delicious), and finished it just before D– showed up to give me a ride to Full Circle.

When we got there, we found the coffee shop packed. At first we assumed it was a book signing, but several people were wearing name tags, and as we lingered in the other room we heard frequent bursts of applause. That doesn’t sound like any book signing I’ve been to. Probably some sort of…I don’t know, corporate event.

Anyway, it was a nuisance, but we found reading chairs elsewhere in the bookstore, and D– spent his time working on a project for the weekend, and I spent mine working on Ghost Targets: Restraint. In the first fifteen minutes I filled two pages of my scribblebook (or about 500 words), and I turned to D– and said, “I just doubled my word count for the week.” That was more a sad commentary on my week than a boast about my productivity.

Before the night was over, though, I had two thousand words, and was well into chapter eight. That’s a boast. It was a great night, and I’m climbing into the part of the novel that I’m really excited about, so I expect it to get a little easier from here on out.

We got back to the house at 10:00, and T– had the Steelers game on, so D– hung around to see how that turned out. It was a tense game (and just fun to be watching real NFL football again, even if it wasn’t one of my teams). Definitely a good time.

That took us past eleven o’clock, though, and then when I stopped in the office to check my email before bed, I had a message about my podcast and realized what I’d done wrong earlier in the afternoon. So I stayed up for another hour wrestling with that, fixed my earlier error (re-recording the whole lecture in the process), and then discovered I still didn’t know how to make it available to my students.

So, as I said earlier, that remains unresolved. And I was up late last night, and the RDO I should’ve had today got split so I could have time off for my Tuesday classes. So I’m at work, and tired, and ready to be home.

Other than that, it’s just things and stuff.

Journal Entry: September 9, 2009

Last week, before my first day of class, I mistook a respiratory virus for anxiety.

This week, there was no mistake. Anxiety shut me down. I didn’t sleep Monday night, and I didn’t eat anything yesterday until hours after the class. It was a miserable experience.

Also, as anxiety tends to be, it proved irrational and unfounded. My class went really well, but I’ll wait to go into real detail in a separate post. The good news is that, after exhausting my prepared comments within the first fifteen minutes of class last week (and panicking about it afterward), I managed to run out of time yesterday. And, even better, the (significant amount of) material I had to skip works perfectly in next week’s lecture, too.

Anyway, I took the afternoon off yesterday, and it proved to be a good thing. I went home for lunch and instead spent forty minutes lying on the bed in a dark room, trying to calm down. Then I packed up my laptop, hugged AB goodbye, and drove up to the school.

Class went really well, and afterward I headed to the offices to report as much to Cami, and found her speaking with Peggy Gipson — my creative writing teacher when I was at OC, and easily one of my mentors. Apart from emails, though, we hadn’t spoken since I got back from Tulsa, so we dismissed Cami and I took a seat in Peggy’s office, and we caught up. For more than an hour. It was awesome.

I got home around 3:30, and T– asked me to watch AB while she went grocery shopping. We watched part of a Sesame Street, then I suggested we got play outside and while AB played on her slide and climbed on her house, I mowed the back lawn. AB behaved really well for me while I did that, so when I finished I pushed her in her swing for a while.

We were still doing that when T– got home, so she took over for me and I went around front to finish mowing. It was almost three weeks of growth, after the Velezes’ visit two weeks ago and my sickness this last weekend, so the front yard especially was a lot of effort, but we’ve got guests coming in for a baby shower this weekend, and it needed to be done.

Once that was finished I grabbed a quick shower, and it was already six o’clock. T– told me her friend Becca was coming over, and I owed Becca a character design worksheet (that I’d discussed at one of our earlier writing groups), so I spent half an hour searching through my old high school Creative Writing notebooks, but it was nowhere to be found. I settled for copying her a Dungeons and Dragons character record sheet, and a copy of the custom ones D– and I made up for our fantasy project.

Then I emerged from the office for a much-needed dinner, which consisted of some Dominos pizza I paid for out of my allowance (because I’d had a rough day, and I deserved a treat). I just finished eating before Becca showed up with her two boys, and we talked shop for half an hour or so, going over some sticking points in her novel as she rushes toward its climax. Once she felt more comfortable with that, I left her to talk with T–, and went to play WoW.

That took the rest of my night, but it wasn’t really as much night as I’d hoped for it to have. Maybe two hours, and then I was in bed so I could make it to work on time this morning.

Other than that, it’s just things and stuff.

Journal Entry: September 8, 2009

Friday
In my blog post last Friday I went into great detail concerning a slow-build head cold I’d spent a week developing, but then never really talked about it. I talked about how I confused it with social anxiety for a couple days, but never said how I knew that was a misdiagnosis.

I knew by Thursday, though. It hit me hard on Thursday, and then kept me home from work on Friday. I went in in the morning to pick up my school laptop that I’d left behind on Thursday, and then went back in for a short teleconference in the afternoon, but apart from that I stayed home and convalesced.

Between medication and lots of rest, I felt up to going over to K– and N–‘s for dinner Friday night. We had hotdogs and watched the last preseason Cowboys game. It was entertaining, but mostly just left us wanting the regular season to start.

Saturday
Saturday morning I watched AB while T– went shopping. Just before she got home, I got a phone call from a guy selling a $2,500 camera on eBay letting me know I’d won and asking me about shipping and payment arrangements.

This entire phone call came as a complete shock to me, of course, and I got to spend the rest of the morning dealing with eBay’s fraud department and getting my account re-secured. Turns out somebody had figured out my login credentials and made purchases in excess of eleven thousand dollars. Luckily (hah!) the check card associated with the account was stolen when we were robbed last December, so it had been canceled and no money changed hands.

Then around eleven T– went out again to go shopping with my little sister, and took AB with her that time, because I headed up to Vintage coffeehouse for some social writing with Courtney before T– planned to be home. Between worry over the eBay thing and a growing fuzziness from my lingering cold, I didn’t actually get any writing done. I chatted with Courtney and ate a remarkable turkey sandwich, and then begged off early and headed home.

I deteriorated from there, so when six o’clock rolled around and we were supposed to head out for some OU football at K– and N–‘s place, I decided I just couldn’t handle it. I called and offered my apologies, and then went to my room and took a nap. T– went over to hang out at my sister’s place and scrapbook, and I eventually woke up to grab some dinner and play some WoW. From what I heard, it was probably a more pleasant experience than watching the game would have been.

Sunday
I wasn’t up terribly late Saturday night, even with the mid-evening nap, but I still managed to sleep through church Sunday for no other reason than that I forgot to set an alarm on my clock. I was up and dressed when T– got out of service, though, and we went to Taco Cabana with D– and my sister’s family for lunch. Then I took AB home for a nap and T– went over to my sister’s place for more scrapbooking and some maternity photos.

AB woke up a couple hours before T– got home, but we entertained ourselves with books and puzzles and counting poker chips. Then I spent most of the evening worrying about my class on Tuesday and playing WoW.

T– picked up some Chinese takeout for us for dinner, and after AB went to bed we spent a couple mostly-depressing hours watching Sunshine Cleaning. It’s got a happy ending, but it takes a pretty miserable path to get there. It’s like Uncorked for girls. Anyway, after that T– headed to bed, but I stayed up and watched I Love You, Man to cleanse the palate.

Monday
Monday morning we woke up early for a date! D– came over to watch AB, and T– and I grabbed some breakfast at Sonic before heading up to the mall for All About Steve at 10:05. The movie was…fascinating. It was good. It was Joe Dirt for girls. We had fun.

Then we stopped by Sears on the way to the car, and ended up buying my birthday present from T– a little bit early. She got me new shoes and a new watch (both badly needed), and I walked out of there looking dapper.

We picked up D– and AB for lunch at Chilis, then T– dropped D– and me at Best Buy to pick up some XBox games on sale while she ran to my sister’s place to drop off some stuff. Turned out there was no sale, though, so D– and I ended up wandering the aisles aimlessly until T– got back. It wasn’t too long, though.

After that D– went home, and AB went down for a nap. I settled in to play some WoW, and T– took advantage of my babysitting to go do some grocery shopping. She got back just as AB woke up, and we all watched TV for a couple hours. AB watched Nick Jr. videos on T– laptop, and T– and I watched a homemade marathon of season 4 of Newsradio.

T– heated up a frozen pizza for dinner, and other than that our evening looked exactly like our afternoon. At nine AB went to bed, and then I put away the computer and T– and I watched a Leverage. As soon as that was done I headed to bed, sick with anxiety over class tomorrow.

Which is to say, today. I’ve over the cold, but not the anxiety. It shouldn’t last much longer than five hours, though. So at least there’s that.

Other than that, it’s just things and stuff.

Journal Entry: September 4, 2009

Big week for me, so yeah I should have been posting regularly. But, then, it was a big week for me, so I had other stuff to do.

Starting with getting sick.

Sunday
(Yes, I already did Sunday, just bear with me.)

Sunday morning I woke up with the sniffles and a severe, sinus-related headache — harkening back to the Sunday only two weeks before, when I went through the same thing. That one was short-lived, though….

This one has lingered. And grown.

Monday
So, yeah, Monday morning I woke up feeling pretty out-of-it and miserable, but I just assumed (with my big first day of school looming) that it was a social anxiety thing. Every now and then I’d stop and think, “Wait, this feels more like a head cold than an anxiety attack,” but then I’d just call myself silly because, after all, I had a big terrifying Event looming. Of course it was anxiety!

I went to work Monday, and then got home to an empty house because T– had AB at the grocery store with her. D– came over, and T– brought a pizza home with her, and we all had a pleasant dinner. Then T– took AB to go shopping with my little sister, and D– drove me up to Full Circle Bookstore for social writing.

It was just the two of us this time, and we both got a lot done. We wrote about a thousand words each, in two hours at the coffee shop, then headed down to the restaurant for an hour of good conversation. I got home a little after ten, and went straight to bed.

Tuesday
Tuesday morning I went in to work, and spent most of my time there answering coworkers who started conversations with, “Today’s the big day, huh? Are you ready?” And my answer was always, “Sure I’m ready! I’ve been doing this for seven years. All I have to do is show up, and start talking. I’ll fill an hour like that!”

Noon rolled around, and I headed home. I took the afternoon off, so I wouldn’t have to rush hither and thither on my first day of classes. Had lunch with T– and AB, grabbed my laptop, and headed up to the school. I’ll tell you all about my first class session in a separate post.

In brief, though, it didn’t go well. And, on top of all that, I was sick. I still suspected at the time that it was a response to the stress of the day, but that certainly didn’t lessen after class was over. I drove home, desperately glad I wasn’t supposed to go back to work, and crashed on the couch, and did nothing else for the rest of the day. I did watch AB while T– went grocery shopping, but that consisted mostly of stretching out on the couch, one arm over my eyes, and half-heartedly saying, “Don’t make a mess” while she watched TV and played with her puzzles.

Wednesday
Wednesday morning I woke up early and went to work, then slipped out halfway through the morning to see my doctor for my annual physical. I haven’t gotten any of the lab results back yet, but for the most part everything’s good. He’s got me back on Benicar for my blood pressure, but even that is much better than it was a year ago. He said if I can get my diastolic down by ten points, I can probably go off it altogether. So that’s my six-month goal.

Anyway, after that I went right back to work. Mid-afternoon I was chatting with T– and asked her about dinner plans and she reminded me that she was going out with Becca, and I was watching AB. So that was that.

I got home, and she left, and AB and I played in the living room for an hour or so before D– showed up. Then the three of us ran up to Taco Bueno to grab some dinner. Afterward AB crawled up next to me on the couch while I was poking around on Facebook, and she jabbed a finger at the screen, at my little profile photo, and said, “That’s you, Daddy!”

And I said, “It is!” and opened the photo up larger so she could see it. Then she started looking through all the little thumbnails on the screen, trying to spot people she recognized, and we played that game for fifteen minutes or so.

When she got bored of that, I set her up on T–‘s laptop watching really, really old episodes of Sesame Street, and D– and I played WoW. That carried us through to AB’s bedtime.

Then D– left and T– and I watched some Lie to Me, and then it was tomorrow.

Thursday
My Tuesday-Thursday class is what we’re calling a “hybrid online course,” which means we’re meeting in class on Tuesdays, and then on Thursdays the students go to the school’s e-classroom website and watch a recorded lecture, get an assignment, and work on that over the weekend. Next Tuesday when we meet for class, we’ll go over the assignment before I launch into my lecture.

Anyway, that meant I didn’t have to go out to the school on Thursday, but I did have to get the online lecture put together. That…didn’t end up happening, for technical reasons. I posted the assignment, and I put together a heavily-illustrated tutorial (How to Write a Business Letter) that I made available, and I sent them an email saying, “Sorry, but I’m having technical problems so your lecture won’t be available until tomorrow. If you’re in a hurry to get started, check out the tutorial posted online.”

Not the best way to get started. In the process, though, I came up with a really great process for developing my online lectures. I was able to convert the illustrations in my tutorial directly into PowerPoint slides for the lecture, and use the text as a script for my voiceover. That lets me develop the lecture to my strengths (that is, tech writing), produce a useful lecture, and also have a well-made tutorial document left over when I’m done. That seems like a good thing all around.

Anyway, I took care of that yesterday, finishing it up in the early evening. T– made sloppy joes for dinner, I played WoW, and after AB went to bed we watched the last episode of Lie to Me. It was intense.

Other than that, it’s just things and stuff.