Tag Archives: hobbies

The Good Suspects

I talked about good being the enemy of the goal in this post. Sometimes we’ve got more tasks than time–more portions than space on the plate.

I picture all these competing interests and demands like a police line-up, and I’m behind the one-way mirror trying to figure out who to blame when I fail to achieve a particular goal.

This isn’t just the cover picture of my old site. It’s a jumble of all those competing interests clamoring for my attention. No wonder my life is a shambles!

I’ve finished two novels, and brought two other manuscripts to the ~75% mark. One got put on hold due to close associations with the classified nature of my military job. The other is a collaboration with a friend in the States and is awaiting some of his hacks on the first draft (plus it still needs the ending). I have another five fantasy novels and two fantasy-westerns loosely outlined, along with seeds of two more modern day dramas… plus a possible light-hearted fantasy project brewing as a break from “serious” books. I want to get those done. I committed to digging in and cranking out words.

That’s when my anti-social life blossomed into a dozen opportunities and conflicting interests.

I took some time for personal reflection to think about my current host of demands. Here’s the wall of “good” formed up like a defensive line to stop my forward advance toward completing my novels:

A guest saw my Dungeons & Dragons books and asked, “You play D&D?” I haven’t played in years… but it’s an itch in the back of my mind. “My friend and I were looking for someone to run a group…”

That expanded into two groups. Then I heard about a potential opportunity for a recurring “learn D&D” tabletop gaming session at the Base Library. My inner nerd wants me to think of all the ways tabletop RPGs encourage social interaction, math skills, group problem-solving, while fostering creativity and relieving stress. Why wouldn’t I jump at that prospect?

The local writers group is about to be sponsored by the Base Library, leading to increased advertisements and marketing. That may mean an influx of writers (one can only hope). But that means that the three or four of us regulars will want to step up our game to ensure we’re providing a welcoming and worthwhile investment of time. This means critiques or feedbacks as well as preparing topics or activities for meetings. The writer in me jumps up and down at the possibilities.

I got to do my first book signing a week ago, which was a surreal experience. We didn’t sell a ton of books (I fear Chicken Soup for the Soul has lost a lot of its original popularity), but I still got to meet some people and shake some hands. On top of that, all the books at the Exchange have one of my bookmarks, pointing people to my site.

I also got word that another Chicken Soup submission is in the running for an upcoming book. So I’m excited to think that I’m garnering some professional recognition for all this effort toward writing.

On that front, NaNoWriMo is coming up – and I want to win again this year. I also serve as the Municipal Liaison for the event, which means organizing and facilitating events for all of Okinawa. That’s a commitment, for sure—one I love and won’t give up.

As a NaNo ML, I got randomly selected to help mentor a five part Creative Writing NaNo Prep course from Wesleyan University on Coursera. It’s an incredible opportunity to not only learn new tools and practice my craft but to provide encouragement to others on the same journey. I’m honored and ecstatic to be a part of it, so I want to give it my best.

But I have a PT test coming up and fitness is always a concern for me. As a military member I have to adhere to standards, and I’m one of those people where if I’m not giving it my constant attention, I slip back into bad habits and a bulging waistline. I’ve got a month and a half before my next test, so I have to be on top of this priority if I want to keep my job.

My faith is a big part of who I am and how my family approaches the obstacles and trials of life. We don’t want to toss all that aside in the jumble of events and obligations, so we’ve been talking with some friends about a Bible study… which sounds awesome. Informal get-togethers for fellowship, praise, and study are one of my favorite spiritual activities. Like a fitness routine, a regular spiritual discipline keeps me focused on what I claim is important to me, while keeping me grounded in what I consider good moral and ethical values. So I don’t want to ignore that.

I had the privilege of filling in on the piano at the Base Chapel for six weeks while one of the musicians was in the States. I love playing music for worship services; it’s something I can say without arrogance that I do quite well. Still, that means a commitment to rehearsals and practice when I don’t know the songs the leader has selected. That’s more time and effort pulled in yet another really good direction.

The other day, I got a text from the guy I assisted asking if I want to play with the service on the regular. That’ll free up the usual pianist to employ some of his other manifold talents, like playing the saxophone. It would be amazing to hear some good sax riffs in the middle of the music; there’s such a rich sound when we can incorporate more than the standard keys / electric guitar / bass. I want to play, of course I do. But that’s another long-term commitment.

My musical skill got me an offer to play for social hour at the upcoming Air Force Ball. I can literally sit an hour at the piano playing nice chit-chat music with my eyes closed, so I thought “sure, why not.” But since agreeing to what I thought would be mindless, easy fun, this turned into an ensemble of violin, flute, and piano, playing a lot of songs I’m only barely familiar with. I have a month to learn 15-20 new songs well enough to play professionally.

Meanwhile I still have a wife and kids, and an office job, not to mention the chaotic demands of the squadron’s flight schedule, where I’m usually one of the top three flyers out of several dozen for hours and sorties on the jet.

I’m not sharing all this to say “Yay, look at my busy life.” It may not come through in the text, but there’s a panicked desperation in my mind as of the man overboard flailing for a life preserver.

Clearly good is becoming the enemy of some goals. I imagine it’s the same for many of us, because modern life and society are relentless in their demands.

But there I am, behind that mirror, looking at all the good suspects arranged before me. The truth is, I don’t need a one-way mirror and a line-up to figure out what’s to blame.

A plain mirror will do just fine.


My four year old has a new favorite topic of conversation… one shared with my nine year old and my teenage son: Terraria. (Or Tahwaria, as the four year old says it so very often.)

For the uninitiated, it’s a game available on PC, on consoles like XBox 360 and PS4, and on mobile devices like Kindle and iPad… and probably some others. 

So, discussions with our little Dude now center around important Terraria facts: 

Do you know about Wepis? (Lepus)
He is BIG. And he is a BOSS. And to fight him you need a subishis wooking egg. (suspicious looking egg)
His face looks funny. But he can’t kill me though. WAIT. WHAT? I DIED.

Armed with a wooden sword, ax, and pickaxe, your tiny character lands in a sprawling world full of dangerous beasties. You build a home for the character that serves as your guide, and then explore and expand from there. Finding and defeating powerful boss monsters unlocks new aspects to the game along with more assistance from the folks who want to “settle down” in your growing complex of houses. There’s a definite RPG side to the game as you find or craft better armor and more powerful melee, ranged, and magical weapons.

Like a two-dimensional Minecraft, this game usually encourages creativity and constructive cooperation among my kids and their friends. My four year old can play around and build things or dig for shiny metals. My nine year old can fight enemies and explore the dangers of the world. And my fourteen year old coordinates with his friends to take down the massive world boss monsters in order to unlock new types of materials. There’s also the option to turn on player-vs-player and fight it out with your frenemies.

The game isn’t perfect. A recent update or perhaps an inherent glitch caused the loss of my character and a few weeks’ worth of progress. Cloud saving might have prevented that, but some reviews on the iTunes Store implied that even cloud saved characters can sometimes encounter similar problems. Device issues can also cause trouble. The Kindle my nine year old uses somehow purged itself of all data, and he lost everything he’d done. 

That said, the game is addicting and interesting enough that both he and I find ourselves starting over, lamenting what was lost but enjoying building a new world nonetheless.

The kids also play with me sometimes, mocking my lack of progress and my general noob status. “Oh, you’re making items and armor out of iron? That’s cute. I barely remember ever needing that. Did I show you my rocket launcher, my space armor, and my machine gun?”

One day soon, I’ll catch up to them. I just need to find some more tungsten ore for that sword I want to make…

Unpacking a Backpack

My Facebook news feed and WordPress reader today are surprisingly full of things related to My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

All because of a 9 year old boy’s “girly” backpack. Or perhaps because of the reactions to it, from the bullies in his school to the administrators dealing with the situation.

The backstory is a kid wore his My Little Pony backpack to school and got picked on. His mom complained to the school staff, and in addition to whatever else they did, the principal said the kid should leave the backpack at home.

I’ve read comments and blogs raging against bullies, saying this response is the same as “She deserved it because she wore that dress.” (Full disclosure, that was my initial take and I even posted that comment online.)

And I’ve read blogs declaring “I wouldn’t let my kid wear that, because boys should be boys.” One poster made what I think is a valid point – are we really comparing a kid picked on for wearing a MLP backpack to rape?

I’m sitting comfy in my house in Nebraska, far removed from Grayson’s life and surroundings. I only get the side of the story presented in the angry blurbs on FB, saying “The school sided with the bullies!” I don’t know what all the school said to the family, or whether the bullies have been disciplined, and how severely, if so.

So naturally my limited information qualifies me to speak in absolute terms about what’s going on in that kid’s life.

I am however a fan of the show, along with my four kids (14 yr old daughter, and boys ages 13, 8 and 3). My wife is decidedly opposed to all things Pony.

Here are some general observations:

1. Violence against others is unacceptable. Assaulting someone (physically, verbally, socially) has no place in a civilized society. Such actions deserve swift and stern discipline – knowing that the point of discipline is not merely to punish but to educate and rehabilitate toward a more desirable behavior. Consider this a teachable moment.

2. The sad fact is that your hobbies, your lifestyle, your chosen associations, your style of dress, your interests, and pretty much anything you do are subject to ridicule from people around you. The more you deviate from whatever is the societal norm, the more you can expect to get some negative attention. Should it be so? Nah. But is it so? Yes. There needs to be some recognition of this.
Even so, let me refer you back to item #1, which trumps this.

3. We need to get past the idea that some hobbies are only for boys, and some are only for girls. Most hobbies are gender-neutral until society weighs judgment. You like cars? Great. Work on cars. You play the violin? Awesome. Be the best at it that you can be. You love musicals? Fantastic. There are some powerful stories and songs worth anyone’s attention. Baseball’s your thing? Lovely. Go to town telling me about the ’86 World Series. You pwn noobs in video games online? Rock on. Be 1337 (‘leet’ as in ‘elite’ as in ‘highly skilled’). You find a cartoon both funny and meaningful? I’m glad you like it. Enjoy.
Which of the above are for boys and which are for girls? And who says so? And why should I care?
I care because see item #2, which we’re all going to have to deal with on some level when we discover how our interests line up with what society expects.

4. MLP is actually a great show on many levels. It’s got an edgy humor that admittedly is not for everyone, but each episode also has a moral story that never gets preached at the audience. Think Veggie Tales without the Bible references. The show IS marketed for young girls, but obviously can appeal to others because it’s done well. See item #3.

I know this is the “Viral Outrage of the Day” or whatever. Next week or next month, we’ll be talking about something else and this won’t matter.

I think those life lessons listed above do matter (except maybe #4). And I hope those are the sort of calm and reasonable approaches we can take when we all freak out and choose sides on the next debate.