Sunday, September 30, 2007

Embracing the Delusion - Post 200

In years past, I missed out on many opportunities because of fear. I feared that what I thought was confidence and competence would actually be revealed as nothing more than delusion, and this fear kept me from action.

Lately, however, I have decided to embrace my delusion in much the same way popular culture has chosen to embrace the inner geek. This decision has been quite liberating, because by proudly declaring my delusion, the worst I risk is the possible discovery that I am actually confident and competent.

It is this mind set that has allowed me to admit publicly that I fancy myself an aspiring writer, and participate in a public writing challenge. This same mind set is now allowing me to start a separate blog about my writing.

And so it is that this 200th entry on Fifteen Minutes of Delusion is dedicated to introducing 90,000 Words of Delusion. The purpose of the new blog is to allow me to continue making regular reports and comments on the things I learn while writing, without cluttering up this blog about the life of me and mine.

Share and enjoy.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Scratching the Itch

One of these days, I'm going to be a pilot. I have a log book, and in it is marked the one hour flying lesson I took last year in Hawaii.

I was deluded enough to think that with this move, I would be able to skim a little of the equity from our house and use it to pay for lessons. But alas, that didn't happen.

I used to do quite a bit of flying as a passenger with Angel Flight, and while it wasn't the same as being a pilot, it was still pretty good.

But since we've moved, I haven't gotten any non-airliner airplane time.

Until today.

Alyssa and I went to Fort Worth Spinks airport today for their open house. They were holding a drawing for several 45 minute discovery flights, and I that was as good of a reason as I needed to go to the airport.

They had quite a few different planes on display. Alyssa enjoyed sitting in the Learjet. The smell of kerosene and leather made me wax nostalgic.

They also had some fun things to give away, like this little model airplane. It doesn't fly, but the control surfaces work. They were also giving away square yo-yos. I'm not sure how that was supposed to work. We passed on those.

I didn't win a discovery flight, but they were also taking people for a quick spin around the pattern. Alyssa said she wanted to go, so I obliged.

It was good to get up and fly. I miss it. But spending a couple of hours at the airport and getting a little bit of flying time helped scratch the itch.

Although, sometimes the itch gets worse after it's been scratched.....

Friday, September 28, 2007

Praying for a Stronger Back

Today's blog title is shamelessly lifted from Stephanie Humphreys' Write Bravely blog. She does a very good job with it; go and read it.
I appreciated the thought of praying for a stronger back instead of a lighter burden. I'm going to continue to pray for a resolution to our trials, though, because I think we're about due a reduction in this burden - it's been promised repeatedly in blessing after blessing.

But I also need to ask for a stronger back. Somehow, I have to have faith that the Lord can give me the strength to endure. My muscles are quivering, and feel like they're ready to give out. I suppose it's a miracle that they haven't already.

I had expected to be well on our way to recovery by now, yet lately it seems we're right back where we were last year, minus a huge chunk of resources. I keep thinking that the solution is just around the next curve or over the next hill. I've thought that for the last thirty hills and curves.

Today a nice man came and took samples of the air in our house. For the modest sum of one week's salary (gross) he will take his samples to the lab and tell us if there are any detectable chemicals or molds that are keeping Kara from healing as she should.

In the meantime, it's Friday. That means pizza and ice cream. At least, that's what it means today.

We like to get half Hawaiian, half cheese. I call it the "hapa".

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Speaking Of Delusion...

I'm reading Harry Potter to the girls at bedtime. We're on Year 2: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

I enjoy doing the voices. Hagrid's makes my throat hurt, though.

I especially like doing Gilderoy Lockhart. I've decided that from now on I'm going to talk just like him!

When one is as deluded as I, it is important to sound the part! My fans expect nothing less.

Monday, September 24, 2007

How We Almost Got Smashed Going to Church

Driving to Azle for church yesterday, we made our usual turn onto Highway 730. I looked at the clock, which read 12:55. We were going to be late to church again.

I had no idea just how late we would end up being.

Highway 730 is a two lane road with a speed limit of 60 mph. As we rounded a curve, the pickup in front of us signaled a left turn and began to slow. There were cars coming from the other direction, so I knew we would have to wait for a bit before continuing.

I noticed a van in my rear-view mirror, and toyed with the idea of passing the pickup on the shoulder to the right. But I decided to stay legal. Everyone behind me will just have to stop, I thought.

Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way.

The pickup in front of us was just beginning to turn when I heard the screech of tires behind us. I quickly stepped on the gas to try and get us out of the way, and looked in the rear-view mirror to see what was happening. The van behind us had stopped, but a large black pickup behind her had not.

The pickup attempted to avoid the van by pulling to the shoulder, but didn't quite make it. The van was hit in the back right corner, and was sent spinning towards us. I think I said a bad word, but it was one with biblical precedent. And for some reason I was more concerned about damage to our already shabby car than injury to myself or the girls; probably because I knew the van had absorbed the bulk of the impact.

I tried to get out of the way of the cloud of flying debris, and I remember bracing for an impact that never came. At one point I thought to myself that something had just hit us, but I don't remember actually feeling anything.

We pulled over to the side of the road, and I told the girls to stay in the car for a minute. I got out, and could only see the van sitting in the middle of the road. There were quite a few people who stopped to help, and nearly every one of them had a cell phone to their ear so I went to look for the truck. It had driven down in to a deep ditch, and the driver was being helped by a couple of guys, one of whom called her Mom. She had a cut on her head, and eventually ended up leaving in an ambulance.

I then turned my attention to the van, and recognized the driver as a gal from church. When she saw me, a look of relief joined the fear on her face. I gave her a hug, and we worked to get her three young children out of the van. None of them were hurt, although the oldest girl had been in the back and was covered with bits of broken glass.

Another family from the ward stopped, and my girls came back to help with the kids. The ambulance crew checked out everyone, and a fireman took initial statements. I took over traffic control from a couple of other bystanders, getting a little sun for the top of my head. It took nearly 45 minutes for the State Trooper to finally arrive. He was the Hollywood stereotype of a Texas lawman - big cowboy hat, broad square-jawed face, and dazzling smile.

We finally made it to church 90 minutes late, thankful that all we ended up with was a scratch on the bumper and an opportunity to be the ones rendering service for a change.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

When the Party's Over

The camera has been found! Photos below!

I had decided that since the cakes were no good (actually they were quite good, just not all the way baked) and we had a large quantity of chocolate frosting, we would go to the store and buy some graham crackers and spread the frosting on them for the parties.

This idea received three veto votes. I was not going to buy a cake at the store, though. One of my character points (strength or flaw, call it what you will) is that I'm a bit of a food snob, especially when it comes to cakes. You can thank my mom and the cake business she ran from our home for that.

I was willing to consider buying a pie, which the girls thought was an OK idea. Most pies at the store are pretty good, too. Except I can't stand store-bought pumpkin pie, which comes from my being an avid pumpkin gardener (although currently in remission). So, of course, both girls picked pumpkin pie.

A quick look at the label showed a shocking number of ingredients from the banned substances list. One or two I would have bent on, but I could not in good faith feed these pies to my kids.

So I forced through a veto override, and we bought a box of graham crackers.

By the time we left for the parties on Saturday I was braced for a train wreck.

Alyssa and Anna each had three friends make it, which I thought was pretty slim but understandable, considering we were only able to give eight days notice. Andrew's sister came, too, which was great fun.
They each did a craft, and Anna played a couple of games.
Alyssa played at the park next door.

Kara made it down for about 30 minutes of Alyssa's party, which was great.

We had ice cream and graham crackers with frosting, and fruit punch Kara got from the church cannery for food storage the same year Alyssa was born. And for Anna's party we had some pizza, too.

After the dust settled, Anna told me it was the best birthday party she had ever had. This surprised me, because we've had some real winners in the past.

In the end, the train failed to wreck, and they all lived happily ever after.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Great Birthday Cake Disaster of 2007

Days like this I'm tempted to swear. Honestly I am.

In preparation for the big birthday party double header tomorrow, I spent my evening making a couple of chocolate cakes. Everything was going along just great, until one of the cake pans decided that it no longer wanted to hold all of the batter, and allowed a large dollop to jump out, right onto the heating element.

The result was a large quantity of smoke, as seen in the simulated image above.

Since smoke is one of the many, many things that makes Kara sick, I tried to minimize the smoke by getting out as much of the spilled batter as I could. In the end, however, the effort was futile. The house is full of smoke, Kara is out on the patio, and the cakes -still raw in the middle - are headed for the dumpster.

It will undoubtedly be several hours before the house is clear enough that Kara can come inside for bed, which will put us well into tomorrow morning.

Maybe I can frost a couple of cardboard boxes. Kids only eat ice cream anyway, right?

Spending Time With Jenny

Last night I had the opportunity to go to bed early. Sure, there were still countless tasks to be done, but nothing so urgent that it couldn't wait another day, or two, or three.

Going to bed early would have probably been a good idea. But I didn't. Instead I stayed up late with Jenny.

No, no, no. Not the girl. Her name is Mari, I think. No, Jenny is the ukulele.

Now, I didn't stay up all that late. I'm not really very good, and I don't know that many songs. But I'm good enough that I can enjoy listening to myself play, and the music really makes me feel better.

It was an eclectic concert, covering songs by
Toto, Helen Reddy, Israel Kamakawiwao'ole, Alphaville, Hapa, Linda Ronstadt, and, of course, Elvis.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Return to Casa

Anna loved her acting class at Casa Manana this spring, so after a summer of agonizing I decided to go ahead and sign her up for a fall class, despite the cost. She's a good kid, and I think she needs this creative outlet.

I signed her up over the internet, which is the only way to register for their classes. Unfortunately, the sign-up web site is not real time, and I got a call the next day saying that all of the classes for Anna's age group were full, and would they like me to put her on the waiting list?

My heart sank. If I had just signed her up when the registration started instead of waiting and worrying! I had them put her on the list, and explained the situation to Anna. She took it well, thank goodness.

Classes started this week, so not having received a call I figured we were out of luck. Then yesterday afternoon at 3:50, I got a call from the theater school director. The classes were all still full, but the lady who taught Anna's class in the spring saw her name on the waiting list and said "We can't leave Anna without a class." So she offered to increase her class size to accommodate our Anna.

Wow - that says a lot about what this teacher thinks of Anna. I was thrilled. Then came the kicker - the class started in 40 minutes. Since the theater is 25 minutes away, that didn't give us much time to get ready.

I went out to the living room, where the girls were watching Lucy on DVD, and asked Anna to turn it off for a second. She grudgingly complied (she loves Lucy) and I explained the situation to her. She was thrilled, as you may well imagine.

Anna was a whirlwind getting things ready to go. I wrapped up my job as quickly as I could, redid Alyssa's hair, and we made it to the theater with minutes to spare.

Anna's sure she's going to like this class as much as she did the last one. I'm grateful she was able to get into it.

Having her get into the class really helped me, too. Yesterday was one of the toughest days I have had in a long time, and this joy and excitement helped pull me up just enough. It also reminded me that, for some reason, the Lord likes to wait until the very last minute before handing over those blessings.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Discovering the Dashner Dude

One of the fun things about this whole blogging/writing/internet thing is the ability to find fun and interesting people. I know that all of my hundreds of raving fans are extremely happy to have found me.

I tend to be a bit more of a lurker, reading without commenting and enjoying other's blogs without them knowing I was even there. Just like most of the people coming here.

One of the people I have discovered is James Dashner. He's a writer, and while I haven't had a chance to read any of his novels yet I have really enjoyed his blog, and I'm certainly going to check out his books now.

And not just the free one he's giving away in an admirably shameless effort to turn lurkers into commenters and drive traffic to his blog.

In fact, I like this idea so much I think I'll do the same thing with some apple butter as we head into the holiday season. So watch out for that post!

Party! Party!

In what can only be described as a fit of Masochistic Delusion, I have scheduled two birthday parties for this Saturday. We have reserved the Willow Park Community Center for four hours, and will be running Alyssa's party from 9:00-11:00, and Anna's from 11:00-1:00.

The official word is that even though Anna's birthday was two weeks ago and Alyssa's birthday was two months ago, we decided to wait and have the parties after they got back into school so they could get reacquainted with their friends.

There is absolutely no truth to the vicious rumor that it took me two months to get myself together enough to throw a birthday party. None whatsoever, I tell you.

The girls have been talking non-stop about their parties since sometime in June, and there just might be some truth in the story that I'm having the parties so they can finally give it a rest.

I've recruited one of the Young Women in our ward to come and help out. I'm sure I could do it by myself, but the tiny corner of my brain that isn't fully deluded yet is insisting otherwise.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Naming the Internal Editor

One of my biggest challenges in writing has been the subconscious belief that thoughts should always spring fully formed and polished from my brain. This has been the case for as long as I can remember, going back to term papers in college and even reports in high school.

The part of my subconscious that is responsible for this is known as my Internal Editor. Even now, as I write something as simple and innocuous as a blog entry, this voice in my head makes me go back and fix things that are perfectly valid, but just don't sound quite right.

One of the benefits from this BIAM challenge I am doing is that to make any progress at all it needs to be done without the internal editor. This has been a very helpful exercise for me. My internal editor is very insistent, and at this stage of the game he just gets in the way.

Another writer participating in this exercise has given her internal editor a name, and it was suggested that everyone think up a name for their own editor. I've recently gotten into naming things, so I figured I'd give it a try.

The name I have chosen for my internal editor is Ponopono, which means (among other things) correct, revise, work carefully and neatly.

So now when he slows me down to try and make me polish a sentence, I can say "Hamau Ponopono!"

Friday, September 14, 2007

Living in an Airliner

There's a guy in Oregon who is furnishing an old 727 to use as a house. I think this is pretty cool. Maybe I'll try it myself someday.

In the meantime, we have the next best thing: a house that sounds like an airliner.

The Boys finally finished up the ductwork today, and we turned on the A/C. Hooray! (I have a window unit in the office, but the rest of the house was getting pretty warm.)

Anyway, with nearly empty rooms, all hard floor surfaces, and now solid metal ductwork, the air conditioner puts out a whooshing roar that sounds more than a little like cruising at 35,000 feet.

Peanuts or pretzels?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Figuring Out the Thingey

OK. I'm a computer guy. Started doing computers back in the early '70s, when each byte mattered and floppy disks were cutting edge (and really truly floppy). I have a degree in computers, and have worked in the computer industry for fifteen years.

With all of this background, I was ashamed that other bloggers (people of, shall we say, less technical pedigrees) had cool widget thingies on their blogs updating their writing progress, and I didn't.

Worse was the excuse I gave myself - "I don't know how to do it."

I finally responded with my favorite answer to this classic cop-out - "Have you tried to figure it out?"

Until now, the answer was "no."

But the girls are off playing, and dinner is in the oven. There's not enough time to mow the lawn and I'm not up for cleaning the bathroom. I have five minutes, so I had better figure it out.

Look! There it is, off to the right. My four day Book In A Month Challenge summary.

Now let's see if I can figure out how to update it tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Boys Are Back In Town

BIAM Challenge - Day 3
40 minutes
1447 words
2967 words total
Lots of copy and paste from a previous version.

Way back this time last year (was it only a year ago!?!) we had two or three people helping us with the initial remodel of the house - putting in tile, painting, trying to make the cabinets work. Alyssa was always excited about the "boys" working at our house. She loved to watch them do their thing.

It's been a while, but today there are more "boys" here. A kind benefactor is paying to have our flexible plastic duct work replaced with the hard metal kind, in the hopes of improving the indoor air quality. The ducts that were there previously were sending some pretty bad insulation smells into the house, and it was determined that this is a problem.

Alyssa was excited when she got off the bus and saw the work trucks. Unfortunately, the four "boys" are all up clomping around in the attic, so she hasn't been able to watch them work.

We hear them, though. Loud and clear.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Oh, I Am So In Trouble (for writing for so long)

BIAM Challenge - Day 2
60 Minutes (I fear I'm going to pay for this later)
984 Words
1520 Words Total

There's no time to write a blog. Here's a picture of my sisters and I taken last month. It will have to do for today.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Looking for Noah

BIAM Challenge - Day 1
30 minutes
538 words
(Only 74,462 to go)

Today we got our share of the Texas rain that's been in the news lately. The rain didn't start until both girls were on the bus, and then it fell for hour after hour. While the intensity varied, the rain fell continuously right up until Alyssa's bus came. At that point it stopped.

I suppose someone did me a little favor today.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Lyme Connection

Several years ago, Kara tested positive for Lyme Disease. This was in addition to everything else that is going on with her - or so we thought.

Last night she had quite a long conversation with a woman in our ward who also has Lyme Disease. Perhaps it plays a larger role than we thought.

There is a movie called Under Our Skin about Lyme Disease. Follow the link to see a preview. It was very interesting.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

235 Miles to Nowhere

I've been listening to books on CD in the car lately. It's a very good thing.

Yesterday, Kara discovered that the antigens that she needed from the clinic did not find their way home with her on Thursday. Experience has shown that as tough as life can be under normal circumstances, without the correct antigens, it can be hell.

I told her to call the clinic and find out what time the antigens could be available for pickup, and I would go and get them. The answer came back 1:00.

I left for the clinic at 12:45 and drove the 58.8 miles to Dallas, picked up a little brown envelope with a glass vial inside, and drove the 58.8 miles back. Actually, it was probably a few more miles, because I took the opportunity to test out some potential alternate routes and stop at a store.

I got home at 3:45 and gave Kara her stuff. I had just barely sat back down to work when I heard her shout "Oh, no!"

The envelope contained the wrong antigen.

By this time it was 4:00, and the clinic closes at 5. I told Kara to call the clinic and find out what was going on, and that I was going to start driving because if I waited, there would be no way I could make it in time.

So I started on yet another 58.8 mile trip to Dallas. About 15 minutes in, Kara called and let me know that the boss lady at the clinic would be waiting for me with the correct antigen.

It turns out that the person she had talked to yesterday morning and told her the vial would be at the front desk by 1:00 had never actually taken it to the front desk.

Apparently this is not the first time that this [adjective redacted] clinic employee (who's name starts with a "J" and ends with "ennifer") has made a big mess of things. (No sour grapes here.....)

As Alyssa would say: "Stupid Guy!"

Amazingly, the 58.8 miles home went very smoothly, especially considering that it was after 5:00 on a Friday.

Friday, September 7, 2007

I've Done It Now - the Ultimate Delusion

As if I don't already have enough to do.

I've mentioned a few times a creative writing project that I've been working on - sometimes referred to as The Ultimate Delusion. It's a story that has been swirling around in my head for the last six years or so, yet my situation has prevented me from making any real progress on it.

A challenge issued by author and blogger Tristi Pinkston was brought to my attention this morning. It's called the BIAM Challenge, and the idea is to set aside time and write a book in a month, beginning next Monday. Not a complete, polished, publishable masterpiece, but a quick rough draft. My guess is writing a book in a month this way would only take five or six hours a day.

Yeah, right.

I've accepted the challenge, although on a somewhat modified scale. My goal is to come up with a SUMMARY of a book in a month. Sort of a SIAM Challenge. (Hmm. Maybe I should shave my head again... Nah.)

Anyway, I have committed to 30 minutes a day, which I will now have to steal from somewhere.

For starters, this blog will now be Ten Minutes of Delusion, and five of those minutes will probably be about me writing my summary.

Now, where to get 25 more minutes?

If only I played golf and watched TV, I could give those up for extra time.

Oh, well. I'll think of something.

The working title of this deluded little writing exercise is Sunrise at the Point, as depicted in the following picture. Which should count as a thousand words, right?

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Sleeplessness and Superheroes

OK. I'm not doing so well with my nap.

After the adrenalin rush of getting the girls off to school, I needed a minute to wind down. So I did a little bit of blog surfing (other people's blogs put me to sleep - just kidding) and I came across this little gem.

The SciFi Channel is running a series called "Who Wants to Be A Superhero," and one of the three finalists is a girl I went to High School with.

Melody Mooney is Hygena.

I'm afraid I haven't actually seen the show, being one of those cheap people who still relies on broadcast television for their TV fix. (Actually, the antenna blew down in a storm three weeks ago and I haven't put it back up because nobody really watches TV around here anymore.)

But from what I remember about Mel, this is right up her alley. If you have access to the SciFi Channel, check it out. You can read about Hygena here and here. And other places too, I'm sure.

Go, Hygena!@

A Bad Case of Upinthenightis

I stayed up much later than I should have last night, trying to make a dent in the ever-growing to-do list.

The real problem, though, is that when I was finally ready to go to sleep, Anna was still awake - nearly three hours after I put the girls in bed. She was trying to go to sleep, but the fact that she couldn't made her very upset, and being upset kept her awake, which made her more upset, which - well, you get the picture.

So more than an hour after I should have gotten into my bed, I found myself instead in Anna's bed, rubbing her back and singing lullabies.

I did snooze a bit in Anna's bed, maybe for an hour or so, but a pile of stuffed animals makes for a mighty poor pillow. In all it was nearly 01:00 when I finally got into my bed. Since reveille sounds at 05:30, that made for a very short night.

Prudence says I should climb back in bed for an hour or so, and I think I just might try it.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The Big One-Oh

Today Anna hit the big One-Oh. Happy Birthday!

This is the first of three "oh" birthdays scheduled for the next year, with the other two being a couple of Four-Ohs.

Oh, no!

Today is going to be a very busy day, what with school and a library trip (everything is DUE TODAY) and Activity Days, and Kara is usually gone on Tuesdays, so we did the presents thing yesterday.

Since there would be no presents this morning, I wanted to do something special for Anna, and I had the idea to put Happy Birthday on a CD and have it be her wake-up song. iTunes presented me with a few options, and I finally decided on the SHOCKY Happy Birthday CD. It plays the birthday song in a dozen different styles.

I had considered this Jingle Cats CD, which plays a bunch of different songs using synthesized cat meows. The girls both like cats, after all.

By the time the 30 second sample was done playing, I wanted to kick the computer and set my hair on fire

Monday, September 3, 2007

Wii are Familii

Our family was recently given a Nintendo Wii video game system. In case you haven't heard about this system, the unique thing about the Wii is that it has a wireless, motion-sensitive remote that completely changes the way video games are played.

Rather than simply pushing buttons with your thumb, you twist and swing the Wii remote, making game play much more intuitive in many ways. The systems are very popular, especially among people who don't fit the traditional video gamer demographic. They are even showing up in retirement homes.

This Wii was given to our family as a tool for informal Physical and Occupational Therapy for Alyssa. She can run the controller and play many of the games. Here she is bowling.

The system is nice, because we can all play the games together as a family. Hopefully today we'll be able to play a game of doubles tennis.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

All for a Lamp

I found a reading lamp I thought Anna would like. I had a bedside reading lamp as a kid, and I'm sure it's at least partly responsible for my overwhelming intelligence. (Nyuk nyuk nyuk).

I found the lamp while I was at Ikea in Salt Lake, and decided to get it for her birthday. However, I felt it was just a bit too bulky to fit in my already overcrowded luggage, and there were some shelves I wanted as well that would certainly not fit, so I decided to wait and get these things in the Dallas-area Ikea.

Perhaps it is because I went on a Saturday. Perhaps it is because there are four times as many people in Dallas who all have to share the one Ikea store. But whatever the reason, the place was a real zoo. Absolutely nothing like the peaceful, contemplative shopping experience of last week. And all of this was compounded by the 70 minute drive that turned into 90 minutes due to road construction.

The food line was so long that I abandoned my fantasy of Swedish meatballs for lunch, and opted for some lemon cookies and a chocolate bar. (I'll blog about my yo-yo diet later.)

I did manage to get the things I wanted, plus a few. But then, isn't that always how these things go.