Now here’s the thing…chances are that if you haven’t already purchased this present for your loved one, it’s not going to happen before the holiday season. As I mentioned in a previous post these two devices are THE THINGS to get this year, so if didn’t either pre-order one or camp out all night for a midnight release, there’s an extremely good chance that you’re not going to get one. Good luck.
That said, I still felt I should mention them because, again, they’re going to be THE THINGS this year. Every gamer out there (except for the PC gamers, who we will not speak of here…;)) is going to want one or the other, or perhaps even both, so if your loved one is anything like my husband, the fastest way to their heart is one of these two devices.
Just makes sure you’re get the proper one. You do not want to find yourself in the middle of a console war. @_@
A Media “Box”
Do you have a loved one in your life who watches a lot of their media on their computer? Someone who has tons of movies and TV shows on their hard drive, or who prefers Netflix and Hoolu to satellite television? You may want to consider getting them a media box!
There are a variety of brands out there, but the basic idea of each of them is that they allow you to stream a variety of file types and utilize a number of internet-based services on your television. Depending on which box you decide on you can either place your files on a personal hard drive and connect directly to the box, or you can set up your internet and network sharing options so that the box can stream files over the network from your computer to your television. Additionally, many of the options out there have access to all kinds of internet services.
This one might require a bit of research to decide which box is best for your particular loved one. My husband and I personally have two WDTV boxes (one older one that doesn’t have wireless internet capabilities, and a newer one that has both wireless and it’s own internal hard drive), and while we’ve had our issues with them (WDTV support is effectively useless) we’ve definitely made great use of them. For this time of the year my husband has a collection of Christmas specials on a hard drive so that we can enjoy holiday fun on any television in the house all season long. 🙂
Depending on which one you choose, this gift will run you anywhere from about $80 to $200+.
Plan you strategy carefully…when considering a gift that will actually end up costing the recipient money (hello, monthly data plan!) you must be very careful. If your recipient is currently on a plan with an older phone, you don’t want to set up a new plan that will be costing them three times as much each month. Similarly, if your recipient doesn’t currently have a cell phone at all, you must take into consideration that they have no intention of paying a monthly bill for something they hadn’t bothered to buy for themselves.
That said, if you have someone who is looking to upgrade their phone, or you’re in a situation in which you’re going to be paying the bill anyway (such as a gift between spouses), this is a great idea. My personal experience has shown time and again that even people who think that they have no use for a smart phone almost always end up loving them in the end. Even if your recipient is not the kind of person to hang out on Facebook or feels the need to check their email a hundred times a day, smart phones are just outrageously useful in a number of ways. My husband and I might have wasted our entire shopping trip to New Brunswick being as lost as a blind puppy if it weren’t for our phones and the Google Maps app.
Of course the price-range on this gift can vary dramatically depending on what you’re looking at. Some dealers will be offering last-gen phones (which are still perfectly excellent devices) for $0 with certain packages and contracts. The newest phones will cost anywhere up to several hundred dollars, depending on what you’re buying, whether you’re buying it outright or with a contract, and whether or not you’re paying for the contract in question yourself. Again, plan carefully.
It’s also worth mentioning that you might want to suss out the recipient of this gift on what kind of phone they might be most interested in. There are lots of iPhone enthusiasts out there, just as there are many people who would want literally any other phone before an iPhone. I personally love my iPhone, but if I were going to buy a new phone now I would definitely go for one in the Samsung series. Be careful not to get the exact opposite thing that your loved one would want!
Do you have any awesome suggestions for electronic gifts? Please share!
Stay tuned for Tracey’s Gift-Giving Guide: Part 3 – TOYS!
Yesterday on Facebook an old classmate of mine posted a link to a list entitled, “31 Things No One Tells You About Becoming A Parent”. Every entry on the list made me either nod enthusiastically, laugh, or kinda cry a little (for various reasons), so I thought I’d list the entries here, along with my own personal response to each one.
1. At some point you will accidentally hurt your kid and you’ll feel like the worst parent ever.
The first time this ever happened to me was when I was clipping my daughter’s nails when she was an infant. She wasn’t even squirming, but somehow I positioned the nail clippers (infant nail clippers, even) in such a way that I clipped off a piece of skin at the tip of her finger and she immediately started crying. The crying only lasted about twenty seconds, but I felt like the worst person ever for quite a while afterward.
2. You will know a lot less about this: [insert image of a newspaper showing important world news]
I’ve never been all that up on what’s going on in the world, but I can definitely state that since becoming a mother I rarely, rarely know what the hell is going in the world. My world has gotten a hell of a lot smaller, after all. 99.9% of the important things to me begin at the top of my daughter’s head and end at the tips of her toes.
3. And a whole lot more about this: [insert an image of a bunch of special figure toys]
I’ve always been the kind of person who knows more about things like toys and video games than “adult” things, but that knowledge has increased tenfold since I became a mother. I swear I know the specs, available colors, and price tag of every toy available at stores in this province.
4. Your Netflix account will eventually only suggest kids’ shows.
My husband and I don’t actually have our own Netflix account, but my husband’s parents do, and I can let you know that, yes, their account has decided that there are nothing but children in the house. Between my daughter and her cousin, Netflix shows pretty much nothing but My Little Pony and Ninja Turtles.
5. Your pet will no longer be your top priority.
Sometimes I genuinely feel bad about this, but yeah…my cats have become less than second fiddle since my daughter was born. In fact, most of the time I want to lock them in a room somewhere just so I don’t have to deal with them.
6. You will gain 15 pounds.
Hahahahahahahaha…. This one is supposed to be based on the fact that kids eat junk, and thus you will end up eating junk as well. That’s definitely part of it, but I also submit that while you may spend a good part of your day chasing around a super-fast little lunatic, you will then ultimately spend any time when they’re asleep lounging on the couch in pajama pants and stuffing yourself with whatever food is closest to your hand.
7. The backseat of your car will be nasty.
I considered taking a photo to back this one up, but I didn’t want any of my readers to lose their lunch. The saddest part is that I clear out our back seat actually quite regularly, but it ends up back the same way within a day or two.
8. You will eat 95% of your meals either incredibly fast or with one hand. Or both.
This phenomenon has been slowing down as my daughter grows up a bit, but it’s still pretty common for me to eat with one hand (usually the wrong one) because she wants to sit on me during supper time. And don’t even talk to me about meals like breakfast. Usually I just eat them from the kitchen counter as fast as I can because otherwise she sees and wants me to “share”.
9. You’ll basically become a ninja.
The quote that goes with this one is “When you need something from the baby’s room late at night you’ll be able to slip in and out without upending a feather” and I can absolutely confirm that. My daughter goes to bed at night with one of her TV shows on and usually rolls around so much before falling asleep that she ends up without a single blanket on her. As a response to that I “ninja” into her room every night to wrap her back up in blankets and turn off the TV. To date I’ve only woken her once or twice.
10. Despite your best efforts, your kids will get their hands on your iPhone.
Yes, yes, yes. Once, my iPhone ended up locked for over an hour because my daughter failed to properly input my code a ridiculous number of times.
Also, my photos folder is full of adorable toddler ‘selfies’.
11. Parenting is harder than you think it’ll be, but you won’t really notice.
The author of the list states that parenting will continuously get harder and harder but you won’t really realize that it’s happening. The more I think about it the more I agree. Though the days of being up all hours of the day and night and being at my daughter’s beck and call every second of the day are over, things have gotten harder in other ways. But, as the list’s author states, I haven’t really acknowledged that difficulty increase. It’s just kinda the way it works, I guess.
12. You will have to sneak candy like it’s a contraband substance.
This one really made me chuckle. Every year after Halloween my husband and I go out and buy a ton of discounted candy, which we keep in a closet on the main floor of our house. And whenever one of us wants a piece of that candy, we have to sneak around like thieves in the dead of night in order to make sure that our daughter doesn’t see us, especially if she didn’t eat her supper that night.
13. You will laugh more than at any other time in your life.
Young people without kids would never believe that this one is true, especially when they’re watching people with kids running around, chasing them, yelling at them, and looking like they haven’t slept in a year. But it is true. My daughter does so much stuff on a daily basis that makes giggle like a fool or laugh like a lunatic. Kids are the world’s little jesters.
14. You’ll be awakened at 2 a.m. to fetch a glass of water only to find your kid passed out when you deliver it.
I’ll admit, this one rarely ever happens to me. Not the “awakened at 2 a.m.” part…that happens almost every night. But the part where the kid passes back out before you can complete your task? No, that’s not me. When my daughter wakes up, she’s up. That said, there was one night that she banged on her door and when I walked in the room she was drowsily rubbing her eyes and complaining that she wanted her TV show on. I tucked her into bed and set about trying to find the right show, but in the thirty or so seconds that took I turned around to find her snoring on her pillow. I then employed number 9 of this list.
15. You will see your own faults reflected back at you.
Hahahahaha…oh my, yes. A big one (which I think is common in my neck of the woods) is the swearing and/or saying mean things. My husband and I have a very bad habit of telling each other to “shut up” when we’ve lost an argument. We don’t say it in a mean way…it’s actually a bit of a playful thing…but every time the daughter hears it she repeats it, which we obviously don’t want.
Also, stubbornness, temper, impatience, and a gluttonous sweet tooth. Yeah. She’s like a damn mirror.
16. Folding kid and baby clothes is torture.
I’ve pretty much gotten a handle on this one at this point, but my husband definitely hasn’t, and I don’t either of us will be able to properly fold the daughter’s underwear until she’s grown a few dozen more sizes. Those things are ridiculously small.
17. It’s impossible to feel manly when folding said baby clothes.
Obviously I can’t judge this one personally, but I can definitely say, without hesitation, that it is impossible to look manly when folding baby clothes.
18. The power of cute is more formidable than you realize.
The power of cute could rule the universe, I’m certain. Since the day she was born my daughter has been using the overwhelming powers of cuteness to diffuse situations and get out of trouble. How can you stay mad at a kid when she looks up at you from under her eyelashes and says – with a big frown – “I sowwy, mama”?
19. You will find talking to your friends without kids more difficult.
At this point in life more of my friends have kids than don’t, but yeah, I can definitely agree with this one. You don’t realize how much your kids have become your entire world until you try to have a conversation without bringing them up. Because, let’s admit it, your friends without kids really don’t give a rat’s ass about your kids, and you don’t want to be one of those parents, but then, what do you talk about? Because honestly, you haven’t done much more than cook, clean, change diapers, and watch Treehouse TV for the past year.
20. Kids become actual people and not baby blobs way sooner than you think.
Tell me that the wording of that one didn’t give you a chuckle.
It’s amazingly true though. It feels like it was just yesterday that my daughter was sleeping fifteen hours a day and couldn’t even hold her own head up, but now she’s this little individual with likes and dislikes, attitudes and tempers, and a unique personality. She’s a person…just smaller and slightly more difficult to understand.
21. Something you love will get ruined.
I’m patiently waiting for the day this one happens to me, but I can honestly say that it hasn’t happened yet. I’ve had glasses broken (eh, they were cheap glasses anyway), drinks spilled on bedsheets (washed and dried and perfect again), and my daughter has an affinity for getting all manner of disgusting fluids and crusty things all over the screen of my tablet (that’s why we buy screen protectors!), but to date she hasn’t destroyed anything that I love. This is one thing on this list that I seriously hope to foil.
22. You will turn into your parents.
No comment. Move along. lol
23. Very little will embarrass you.
I can remember before I had my daughter, whenever I would see a kid throwing a tantrum in a store I would (after I got over the annoyance of having to listen to a kid scream) feel sorry for the parent. How embarrassing, I thought, must it be to deal with that kind of thing in public, surrounded by judging eyes.
I can tell you now that, for me at least, it’s not embarrassing at all. When my daughter is being a little brat in a public place I literally throw her over my shoulder and just keep going about what I was doing while she kicks and screams and whines, and it doesn’t bother me in the slightest if every eye in the room is on us. Kids throw tantrums sometimes, people. It ain’t a circus act.
Also, as a mother, once you’ve shown up to playgroup with bed hair and no makeup because you were too focused on getting the kid ready and totally forgot to get yourself ready, nothing can embarrass you anymore.
24. You won’t be able to watch movies where kids are killed or kidnapped.
This one started for me when I was pregnant. It’s seriously just not possible. My heart physically hurts now if I see a kid die in a movie. Before I’d feel a little sad, but hey, it’s not real, that kid’s an actor. Now I feel like someone is stabbing a hunting knife in my stomach and twisting it.
25. You won’t want to spend money on yourself because you’ll know every dollar spent on yourself is a dollar you could’ve spent on your family.
I know quite a few parents who are the exact opposite of this, but I can say that, yes, some parents definitely fall into this category. I occasionally spend money on myself, usually in the form of some small treat. But for the most part I spend 2 out of every 3 seconds spent in stores looking at kids clothes and toys, thinking about all the things I want to buy my daughter. If it weren’t for the tiny inkling of restraint that I do have, our house would be a ball pit of toys and not much else.
26. Buying your kid something will make you way more happy than buying yourself something.
Christmas is a testament to this now. I love Christmas, and I’ve always loved both giving and receiving gifts, but now that I have a daughter 200% of my attention is focused on her when it comes to presents. I get a little thrill of giddy happiness every time she opens a present, I really do.
27. When your kid is little, every trip out of the house will feel like getting ready to go to the airport.
Once, when my husband and I both lost our jobs and had to take a trip to New Brunswick for job interviews with another company, I didn’t think our Corolla was going to make it because it was so loaded down with the gear we needed for the baby.
28. You will love to watch kids’ movies.
I’ve always loved kids movies, to be honest, but these days I even love watching them if I’ve seen them eighty times already because nothing is better than snuggling under a blanket with my daughter and listening to her reactions to a great movie.
29. You will cram your entire adult life between the time your kid goes down and you go to sleep.
If you put a spy camera in our house you would see this one in action. Sure, I write during the day, sure we get chores and the like done while the little Missy is up and running around our ankles. But things like watching (non-kid) movies together or having a couple of drinks? Yeah…that stuff starts around 9 pm and ends around 11 pm.
30. For a while, only you will be able to understand them, so you’ll basically become their interpreter.
My husband is better at this one than me, but it’s true and also hysterical. My daughter’s grandparents can never figure out what she’s saying, especially my husband’s father, so it’s up to us to regularly translate every line. The other day my daughter was singing a song to my mother and I had to keep shouting out every second word so that my mother could repeat it.
31. And lastly, it’s all worth it.
Some days it won’t feel like it. Sometimes you just want to jam a pillow over your head and pretend that the world outside your personal bubble doesn’t exist. Sometimes your kid will go on and on and on and on and all you’ll want in the world is for them to shut their yappy little mouth for five minutes. And sometimes you’ll seriously consider installing dead-bolts on all your bathroom doors because JEEBUS CHRIST, CAN I PLEASE PEE IN PRIVATE?!
But the other times, the times when your kid says or does something that truly amazes you, or the times when they come to you with tears in your eyes to ask you to kiss a boo-boo better, or the times when they come up to you for absolutely no reason at all to give you a hug and a kiss and tell you that they love you…yeah, those times make it 100% worth it.
How about it, fellow parents? How much do you know about toys these days? Have you gotten your black belt in ninja stealth yet? When was the last time you saw any actual upholstery in the back seat of your car? Please share your own thoughts and stories! 🙂
Yesterday on FaceBook an old classmate of mine struck up a conversation about a trend she’s been noticing, wherein girlfriends/wives are banning their men from playing video games, in many cases either because they see video games as being childish kid stuff, or as being a stupid waste of time (despite the fact that most games published these days are aimed at adults, and that tons of studies show that video games are excellent for cognitive function, hand-eye coordination, problem-solving skills, and yes, even social interaction).
I thought I’d take this opportunity to say a few things about hobbies.
Playing video games is a hobby, just like watching TV, reading books, playing a musical instrument, writing, painting, bike-riding, or playing sports. And here’s the thing about hobbies: they’re things that we do in our spare time, things that we enjoy doing that allow us to escape from the things that stress us out in our daily lives, and the things that we choose to have as hobbies are 0% the business of anyone else as long as they’re not hurting anyone.
Here’s something you may not know about me: I think that reality TV is the scum of the Earth. I believe that it’s complete nonsense and in my personal opinion watching that drivel is the epitome of a waste of time. But you know what? I don’t go wandering into my friends’ and family’s houses and ripping their TV’s plug out of the wall when I see them watching Big Brother or American Idol. Because as much as I might not like it, what they choose to watch in their spare time is their own damn business, and all I have to do is (big revelation here) not watch.
To any women who are trying to ban their men from playing video games (or, for that matter, men who are trying to enforce similar banning on their women) I ask this of you: take a look in the mirror. Think about the things that you do in your spare time and ask yourself, honestly, if these things are the greatest use of your time. If you spend multiple hours a day on your smartphone, texting with friends about meaningless nonsense, you can’t say anything about anyone who plays video games. If you sit at your computer and browse FaceBook and Twitter all evening, you can’t say anything about anyone who plays video games. If you have any hobby at all, from reading to playing tackle football, that is something that you spend a lot of time on and makes you happy, you can’t say a damn thing about anyone who plays video games.
Ladies (and men), unless your significant others’ video game playing is chronic, to the point that he never leaves the house, is one inch away from being fired from his job, or he hasn’t so much as glanced at his kids in weeks, you have no right to try and stop him from doing what he enjoys. How would you like it if he told you that you were no longer allowed to do something you love?
That’s not how relationships work, people. Just because you don’t personally enjoy one of your significant others’ hobbies doesn’t mean you can try to take it away from them. And if you honestly believe that your attempts are logical and justified, you have a lot of growing up to do. Video games aren’t childish. People who think that they can take other peoples’ hobbies away from them are childish.
Recently I read a post on Girls Heart Books in which the author spoke about taking her teenagers on a vacation in a location where they could not (easily) access any Wi-Fi. The post got me thinking about the joys and failings of constantly being connected.
We live in a world where we can be connected to the entire rest of the planet all the time. We have smartphones small enough to keep in our back pocket, with enough power in them to handle almost anything we can do on a larger computer, and for the most part we can constantly have them connected to the internet and everything that entails.
In a lot of ways, having constant access makes life a lot easier. We can check on our work from home (or anywhere else we happen to be). We can contact friends and family members from wherever we are. If we’re lost, our phone’s can show us exactly where we are and how to get where we’re going. If we have a question we can access Google anytime, anywhere. We can talk to people on the other side of the planet. We have constant access to multiple forms of entertainment.
But as great as all of this can be, it’s also dangerous, because so many of us these days have what’s (creatively) known as “smartphone addiction”. We use our smartphones to check our email dozens of times a day, even though we know there probably isn’t anything new there. We spend more time Tweeting and updating our Facebook statuses than actually paying attention to the world and the things we’re updating about. Our brains have a hard time remember things because we subconsciously know that we can find anything out with the few clicks of the keyboard. We share fewer actual face-to-face social reactions because we can’t get our heads off of online social media. People have even been known to walk out into traffic because they refused to look up from their smartphone screens.
I’m not high-and-mighty; I know that I’m as bad as anyone. I’ve checked my email more times in one day than the number of emails I got in that day, and I’ve been known to not notice people talking to me because I had my head buried in 9GAG. But I know enough to know that all these things are bad things. Many of the habits we’ve adopted because of “smartphone addiction” are huge time vampires, actually take us away from our friends and families rather than bringing us closer to them, and regularly put us in danger (see the aforementioned walking into traffic).
So all I’m saying is to take a break every now and then. Put the Android down and look your loved one’s in the face. Watch the fireworks instead of trying to film them with your iPhone. And for the love of puppies, your text can wait until you have a chance to stand still for a moment.
Have you ever noticed how much time you waste on your smartphone? Have you ever gotten frustrated because of someone else who can’t get their eyes off the screen? Have you, or someone you love, ever gotten into an accident because of smartphone addiction? Please share!
There is no doubt that social media is a powerful tool. Complain all you like about the kind of people who upload their every passing thought to Facebook, or those who insist on documenting every bite they eat to Instagram, but when you break past the nonsense social media is an amazing way of connecting to people from all over the world, which is a huge deal for an entrepreneur (writer).
But it doesn’t help the entrepreneur in the slightest if their only followers are family members and people they already knew from school or work. The entrepreneur needs to spread their social network, create a spiderweb of connections and interconnections.
In Kristen Lamb‘s Rise of the Machines she talks about the three different types of social media friends you want to know – the three different types of people who will help your platform grow.
The Connector brings more people into the fold. The Connector seems to know everyone, and through them the entrepreneur meets many new people as well.
The Maven is a treasure trove of useful information. They always seem to know where you should go or what you should do. They help the entrepreneur become a better entrepreneur.
The Salesman is the person that everyone listens to. If the Salesmen hypes up the entrepreneur’s work (book), you can be damn sure that people will buy it.
As I was reading about these three types of people, I began thinking about whether I knew any of them yet. It took a bit of thinking but I realized that, yes, I do know a few of each, though I’m not sure I know any Salesmen that know me well enough to do what they do best for me.
Then I got to thinking…do I fall into any of these categories?
I’m definitely not a Connector. At this juncture in my life I can definitely say that I know a lot of people, but that’s not exactly the same thing. I have a large family, so I know them, and some of their friends by extension. I know the people I went through school with, though I barely connect with them anymore. I met a ton of people out West while I was working there, and I even have a ton of them added to Facebook and LinkedIN, but again, I connect with very few of them. The fact is that I am actually quite shy, even after all I’ve done and at the ripe old age of 29. I’m not a Connector because I don’t like to connect. Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite fond of most of the people I’ve come to meet over the years, but I’m also the kind of person who sits in a corner at a party until she’s drunk enough to force herself to speak to someone.
I really wouldn’t call myself a Maven either. I do retain information from time to time and have been known to help people out with some well-timed advice, but this is not the norm. I neither retain every bit of information I come across, nor do I make it my mission to share this information with others. In fact, if I come across a good piece of info that I think will help me in the future, I have to record it some manner (blog, notes on my iPhone, etc) or else I will totally forget about it. No, I’m definitely not a Maven.
Salesman? No, this one is even worse than the first two. I can’t be a Salesman. For one thing, even though I blog and Tweet and update my status on Facebook, I am actually still quite shy and have trouble with this concept of trying to convince others to buy something (this is going to become a huge issue later on when I do get a book published and need to market it). For another thing, I’m not the kind of person of whom people automatically trust the opinion. I like such a wide variety of things, that it makes people wary. Someone might not take my suggestion to watch a particular horror movie, for example, because I also recommended this god-awful b-horror-movie that I happened to love. You see what I’m getting at here?
So if I’m not a Connector, not a Maven, and not a Salesman…what am I? Am I just some weirdo hanging out on all the social media outlets, not contributing anything at all to the spiderweb?
No. I contribute, just not in the ways discussed.
I’m a writer. I write about life as a writer, life as a mother, life as a wife. I write zombie horrors and supernatural romances, fantasies and fan-fictions. I write novels and short-stories. I write blog posts.
And because I am a writer I also read. I read blogs, Twitter updates, and Facebook statuses. I read fiction novels and craft books and bits of writing that fellow writers share on the internet.
Through this identity of writer-and-reader I contribute a little bit in every way. I may not be a Connector, but I will occasionally send a writer friend along to a writing group or introduce a blogger to another blog I think they’ll like. I may not be a Maven but I’ll sometimes critique a writer’s work by using the tips and tricks I managed to glean from the last craft book I read. I may not be a Salesman, but I will absolutely promote what I feel requires promoting, especially if it’s something I absolutely loved myself.
So I guess you could say that I’m a protege. I have tiny bits of all three types of people in me, fighting to be something helpful, and that’s okay. We can’t all be precisely labeled by the exact function we serve in society, but we can still contribute in a real and meaningful way.
Hi, my name is Tracey. I’m a Social Media Writer-Reader.
Children are remarkably perceptive little creatures, and they are ever watching, ever listening, ever learning. Did you know that it is believed that children learn 90% of all the words they’re ever going to learn between the ages of 6 months and 18 months old? The theory is that they spend these months observing, often watching the mouths of others while they speak rather than focusing on their eyes. They learn the sound of the words, along with the motion the mouth makes while saying them, and gather up all this information for later. Only after gathering enough information about the way speech works do they actually attempt it themselves.
Many parents will tell you that you have to start watching what you say when you have kids, and this is definitely true. How often to you catch small children swearing, after all, because they recognize words that their parents say often? I don’t want to speak specifically about speech, however, because most people already realize that kids hear everything. What I want to point out is that kids see and feel everything as well.
I’ll give you an example. My daughter loves to do puzzles, which is awesome because it’s great for her brain, but she always wants myself or my husband to sit with her while she does her puzzles. She doesn’t necessarily want us to join in or anything, she just wants us to be there. So okay, that’s fine; I’ll usually sit with her and have my iPhone or my laptop with me and I’ll pluck away at something while she’s doing her puzzle. I’ll smile and nod and praise her at the appropriate intervals, while also multitasking on something else I have (or want) to do. This is what we were doing a few weeks ago, up in her bedroom. She was plucking away at her Tinkerbell puzzle, and I was praising her while browsing Twitter on my iPhone. What I failed to realize as this was occurring, was that I wasn’t really so much paying attention to her as I was smiling and nodding while focused intently on my phone’s screen. I didn’t notice what I was doing…but she sure did. Even though I was doing basically the same thing that I would have been doing had I not had the phone with me (smile, nod, say “Good job!”), she was fully aware that I wasn’t paying attention, and she didn’t like it. Before I knew what was happening, she stood up, took the phone right out of my hand, placed it on her bookshelf, and said, “There, that’s better!” before returning to her puzzle. I was shocked for a moment, but it didn’t take me long to burst into laughter. She really told me! She knew that I was only paying her lip service while I was glued to the Twittersphere, so she resolved the issue herself.
Kids notice these things. They are a lot more in tune to what is going on around them than adults give them credit for. They know when you’re patronizing them, they can tell when you’re flat-out lying to them, they notice when you’re genuinely upset, they see things that you don’t even realize you’re doing. Think of all the times a child has spouted off a surprising phrase that you didn’t notice you said all the time, or the times a child has followed you around, copying mannerisms you never noticed you even had. If you don’t have kids of your own, think back to when you were a kid. Couldn’t you tell if your mother was sad about something, or your dad had suffered a bad day at work? Didn’t you try to copy the way your mother applied lipstick, or the way your father shaved? And don’t even try to tell me that you can’t think of at least one instance of a parent or a loved one bursting into laughter or getting embarrassed because of something you said, and you didn’t understand what the big deal was because you were just repeating something they had said.
It’s an important thing to remember when dealing with children, although we tend to forget it more often than not. Remember that this little creature is watching you, seeing everything you do, hearing everything you say, picking up on your emotions and moods, and learning. Most of all, learning. Everything you do or say, everything you present to them in everyday life, is a lesson. What are you going to teach your children today?
Every reader has something (possible multiple things) that ruins a book for them. These are little pet peeves that are unique to each individual reader and do not necessarily have anything to do with the writing skill of the author. These are simply things that a reader does not enjoy reading. For me, my reader pet peeve, my little brain tick, is pop culture reference in fiction.
It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but pop culture references in fiction really, really bother me. If a character refers to using her cellphone, that’s okay, but if she says the word “iPhone” I get a twitch in my jaw. If a character is playing a video game, no problem, but if they’re playing a Nintendo 3DS I start grinding my teeth. A character can be watching Saturday morning cartoons, but if the specific cartoon happens to be the most recent incarnation of Pokemon, I want to tear the page out of the book.
This pet peeve has made itvery difficult for me to get through some books that I otherwise enjoyed very much. In one particular series the main character makes constant reference to her MacBook Pro… That’s a triple whammy for me because it’s not just a Mac. It’s a goddamn Mac Book Pro.
What’s really funny about this little tick of mine is that it’s present-time exclusive. Only pop culture references that are current to the times bother me. Ageless pop culture is perfectly fine. So a character is safe if they’re watching Star Wars, but not if they’re watching The Hunger Games. I don’t mind if a character is listening to ACDC, but I can’t handle it if they’re listening to Justin Bieber. By all means, have your character own a mobile phone, but if you feel the need to tell me that the phone is the latest, greatest Samsung Galaxy S4, I might just toss the book out the window.
I suspect that the problem stems from a pop culture reference’s ability to forcefully mix fantasy and reality, while additionally forcing the reader into the present. Say, for example, we’re talking about an alian invasion story. Okay, well we know that aliens have never yet invaded Earth, so we suspend disbelief and imagine that the story is taking place in a time that hasn’t happened yet. But if a character starts talking about their PSP, we get hauled back to the present and suddenly it’s hard to get back into the story because we are fully aware that an alien invasion is not currently happening.
But Tracey, you might ask, what about stories that take place in the past, but crazy things like alien invasions happen, like in the movie Cowboys and Aliens? Easy. Those stories occur in alternate timelines or parallel universes, thus the differences from reality are fine…unless you use current-time pop culture references that bring the reader back to the present and thus screw up the illusion.
Okay, okay, it’s a flawed theory at best, but it doesn’t change the way that I feel about these things. Being slapped in the face with a piece of information that proves a story is meant to be taking place in real time, right here, right now, takes me out of the story and makes it harder for me to enjoy. To me, even if a piece of fiction occurs in modern-day Earth, I like the illusion of it being some other world. I read to escape the real world, and trying to make me feel that the story world and the real world are one in the same ruins that mood for me. I’m certain that not all readers think this way, but I’m also sure that there are plenty of readers who do. Keep pop culture out of my fiction!
How do you feel about pop culture in fiction? Annoying or unnoticeable? Do you have an other reader-specific pet peeves? Please share!
Technology is a wonderful thing, you know? Here I am, on a bus on the way back to camp from a long day at work, and I’m listening to music on my iPhone while typing up an accountability post on my tablet with my bluetooth keyboard. My coworkers are getting a good laugh out of it, but to hell with them. I’m multitasking!
Okay, I may be feeling a bit looney this evening, so let’s get to the important parts so I can get this post scheduled for the morning and enjoy my evening trying to make up for several nights in a row of poor sleep.
Health and Body Image Goal
As has become a tradition, I have to admit that I’ve been a very bad girl this week. Since I arrived at camp for this shift I’ve polished off a fair number of sweets and no fewer than two (large) bags of chips (with cream soda to accompany). I haven’t even been bothering to put together half-decent lunches for myself…I’ve been snagging the pre-portioned containers of spaghetti and ham-and-cheese sandwiches. I’ve been bypassing the salad bar and healthier stir-fry meals daily because, let’s face it, I’m lazy and I have no willpower. Neither have I been getting any kind of exercise because of the aforementioned laziness and because if I want to also get a decent amount of writing in I would have to give up sleep. If you were reading the beginning of this post you know that I’m not sleeping well anyway. Why is that, I wonder? Am I stressed? I might be stressed.
Anyway, I made a decent effort today and ate better at least. I stil had the spaghetti, but I had yogurt and an orange for breakfast and somehow refrained from indulging in the nanaimo squares that I (for some goddamn reason) took to work with me today. Are you proud? You probably shouldn’t be. I don’t deserve pride, dammit! When I can report self-discipline for at least 7 days in a row, then you can be proud. Stow your pride for later.
It’s not much, but I finally have something to report. That is, I’ve been looking over my previously edited pages, refamiliarizing myself with my manuscript. It’s not editing in the strictest sense, but I’m pretty much caught up, so any day now we should see some real progress, I promise.
1,000,000 Word Goal
As mentioned in my special post on Sunday, I’ve begun participating in Camp NaNoWriMo as of this morning. I’ve set myself a word count goal of 30,000 which, while not as ambitious as I would like to be, will bring me up to 100,000 words so far this year (if I’m successful). For my first day I’ve manged to write a little more than 1000 words so far, which is right on track. Wish me luck, and if you’d like to join me at NaNo Camp (it’s never too late!), take a swing by the website. My username for all NaNo events is Toreshi.
As for my weekly wordcount, I actually had a pretty damn good week, if I do say so myself. Not my best, but much better than the last three weeks (in fact, almost as much as the last three weeks combined). I wrote a total of 7435 words, which came from a combination of scenes for Parallels, a bit of blogging, and a few writing exercises and prompts that I tried out over the last two days. As a matter of fact, one of those prompts may very well turn into a full blown work in progress because it’s been pretty fun to write so far. As much as I would like to plow on and finish Parallels, I’ve been having a major blockage as to where to go next, so I’m thinking I might use Camp NaNo as an excuse to try a few new things, get the juices flowing as it were. Maybe I’ll even share some of what I end up with on Fiction Fragment Fridays. Look forward to it! 🙂
I’m going to confess something here: when I first read the words “Finding life/writing balance” I nearly died from the gut-wrenching laughter/hysterical crying that occurred. I may have gone just a tiny bit insane from reading those words. It’s okay now. I had a peppermint-Kahlua-spiked coffee that my husband made me and all was well. But it was touch and go there for a moment.
In all seriousness, this is something that I’ve been struggling with for years, and to this day I haven’t figured out how to manage it. Additionally, over the past year of blogging I’ve come to follow quite a few very talented bloggers/authors and it doesn’t really seem as though they’ve figured it out either. I’ve even Tweeted with writers – published and otherwise – who seem to react to the topic with the same mad hysteria/life-crushing misery as myself. It just doesn’t seem to be a subject that many find they have been able to work their minds around It’s one of those things…like trying to get a moment’s peace with 20+ members of immediate and extended family having a shouting match in your home. Possible? Maybe. Likely? Not really.
Finding a balance between life and writing is one of those mysterious things that most people don’t believe is possible…like leprechauns. Or unicorns. You’d like to believe, you really would, but in your heart you know it’s a pipe dream.
Okay, so maybe I’m being over-dramatic. Perhaps it is possible to find a balance, but I personally don’t know anyone who has managed it.
The problem is that most writers have a heck of a lot of responsibilities aside from writing. Many writers will tell you that the only way to truly become a successful author is to suck it up, grit your teeth, and focus 100% on your writing, even if that means that you’ll be destitute for a while during the interim. And while part of me agrees with that, it’s not exactly as simple as being willing to make life hard on yourself in the short-term for the hope of long-term gain. After all, people have important responsibilities. They have families, children, mortgages, car payments, other assorted debts, and any other number of things that require them to have an income that stems from something more stable.
So immediately we have that disconnect. We have the day-job life, and the writing life. Now add in a couple of other aspects of life that many writers have to deal with… In addition to the day-job life and the writing life you might have the mommy/daddy life, the (ever elusive) social life, the household-chores-and-errands life, the “I desperately need to lose some weight before I die of a heart attack” life, and so on and so on.
Personally, the only way I’ve been able to “balance” life and writing is by sneakily combining the two. When I’m at my day job I write between tasks and during breaks. When I’m in mommy mode I’ll pluck out a blog post (sometimes a sentence at a time) whilst braiding ponies’ hair and making Leonardo beat up Michelangelo. Sometimes I’ll pluck out a few words whilst keeping an eye on supper, or I’ll save a couple of sentences on my iPhone while waiting in line at the supermarket. And since it’s pretty much impossible to write while exercising, I’ll use that time to mull over a scene in my mind, which doubles as a way to distract myself from the burning pain all throughout my body.
(I’m not going to comment on my social life. It’s silly to comment on things that don’t exist.)
And that’s my two cents on that. If any of you other writers out there ever find a better way to “balance”, I submit to you that it is your duty to share it with the writer community (in the form of a comment on this post). 🙂
My dear, lovely readers, I want it put on record that I have no idea what happened to my Fiction Fragment Friday post for yesterday. It wasn’t until I looked at my blog stats this morning and noticed a distinct lull in traffic for yesterday that I realized no post was made. Since I had scheduled the post over a week ago I looked into it and found no post anywhere in my records. It simply…vanished. I can’t honestly say that it was the fault of WordPress and not myself, but I am gloriously infallible, so I’ll let you make your own judgements from there.
Since I had (presumably) scheduled another section of Erased, but I don’t have a copy of that file out West with me I’m going to have to go with something quick and dirty that I can type out on my iPhone since I don’t have Internet access on my tablet right now. It’s a but of a ridiculous go-ahead really, but I want to give you something since yesterday got screwed up.
With that said, here’s a Drabble I wrote a while back:
Jake liked to hang out at fitness gyms. He wasn’t particularly into weights or cardio, and he didn’t really need the exercise; he liked to hang out and watch the women. There were the chubby ladies in jogging pants, panting and practically sweating blood in their attempts to shed the extra pounds, and there were the super skinny girls in designer exercise clothes who looked like they probably ate wheat grass and soy milk for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Both types had their own particular kind of…appeal.
Jake got kicked out of fitness gyms at least three times a week.