What Happens When You Can’t Leave Well Enough Alone?

I’m a fiddler.

No, not the kind that inspires the Devil to bet a shiny fiddle made of gold against my soul.

I just can’t seem to follow directions, recipes or plans without giving them a little tweak. This is almost compulsive in the kitchen. I’ve only ever met a few recipes (all of them involving baking…which apparently has some “delicate” chemistry requiring one to pretty much stick to the recipe…but I often manage to still throw in a little something different) I couldn’t fiddle with a wee bit.

It used to drive my husband nuts that I couldn’t seem to follow a recipe. He’d tell me that recipes were there for a reason and that somebody else had already worked out the kinks. Fair enough but I’ve always considered recipes more as a general guide to the territory and not a strict itinerary. He’s since come to accept that I’ll probably never be able to leave well enough alone, especially in the kitchen.

And some of our best meals have come from those experiments.

Also, some of our worst. Just ask my husband about the Thai red curry incident.

But, you know, that’s how the cookie crumbles.

So, why is it that I can’t just follow recipes as is? I’m sure part of it is that I’m stubborn (I always want to have things my way…my mom always said so). But I think the biggest part is that I love to play, I love the joy of trying something new, not knowing how it’ll turn out and having it turn out beautifully. I love getting an answer to “what if” even if that answer is a ginormous “yuck.” It makes cooking and everything else fun.

Most everything, anyway.

Of course, sometimes it’s better to stick to the recipe, at least the first time around. You have to know how something’s supposed to work before you start making variations on it. This is actually something I’ve only discovered in recent years (I did say I was stubborn, didn’t I?).

All of this compulsive fiddling is probably why, as a writer, I’ve always enjoyed going at it by the seat of my pants. And, once I discovered there is a recipe of sorts to good writing, I wanted to play with it before I ever tried actually following it to the letter. However, I’ve discovered that writing is a little more like baking than making curry; there’s some delicate chemistry at work. Oh sure, there’s room for endless variations but only if you know the how the recipe’s really supposed to work.

……

Mrmph…sorry. I was thinking about curry. And brownies. I completely forgot whatever else I was going to say.

***

What about you? Do you like to follow a plan or blaze your own trail? Are there some areas in life where we simply must stick to the recipe or is everything an opportunity for variation? If you like to do things your way, what’s the funniest mishap you’ve had with that?

 

 

Categories: Tuesday Toss-Up | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

What Do You Do When You Fall Off A Horse?

A few weeks ago, my daughter was riding horses with a friend and trying to learn how to jump. After a few misses and a couple of almost-got-its, the horse had enough and unceremoniously dumped my daughter on the ground. As I saw her falling, my heart stopped, I held my breath and ran for her. But, before I could even get halfway there, my daughter popped up, said something like, “Well, that was rude,” and got back on the horse. She didn’t even dust herself off first.

She’s totally my hero.

And she did manage to get the horse to jump with her later that day.

My daughter’s a lot like me (remember how your mother used to say, “I hope you get one just like you,” and that was supposed to be a curse?). She’s persistent (stubborn), opinionated (hard-headed), passionate (moody), quick-thinking (reactionary) and tender-hearted (sensitive). Just like me…you can imagine how that goes in our house sometimes. So, it might have gone either way with the horse. She might have been discouraged, having been dumped on the ground after struggling and failing to jump the horse, and given up. She might have gotten mad and given up. She might have taken some time to consider what had happened and waited to get back on the horse. Instead, she got right back on the horse, as all the good theys say you should (as in, “they say you should get right back up on the horse after you fall off,” or “they say you should have a little hair of the dog that bit you,” or “they say you should always cut the head off a zombie to make sure it’s dead”).

Recently, I got some feedback for my novel-in-progress that was, shall we say, less than stellar. But the giver of the feedback is truly an expert and I can’t deny, as much as I’d like to, he’s on the money. It’s so tempting to give up (that’s my reactionary side talking) but I won’t (stubborn, hard-headed side). The question is will I jump right on the horse or take a little time to dust myself off?

If I jump back in, maybe it’ll ease the pain of rejection under loads of work. Then again, maybe giving myself time to mull things over would allow me to start again with a clearer head…unless that “time to mull things over” goes on forever…which, with me, it might.

I guess I should take a page from my daughters book.

Sometimes I think our kids teach us more than we teach them.

How do you deal with set-backs? Do you get right back on the horse or do you take some time to dust yourself off first? What do you tell yourself when you’re tempted to give up?

 

Categories: Tuesday Toss-Up | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

If You Could be a Kid Again…

I found this very cute video:

And it made me wonder: If I could be a kid again for one day, what would I do?

I think I’d finger paint, watch cartoons, eat a ginormous hot fudge sundae, spin on the tire swing until I tossed my cookies and take a nap with my teddybear.

Okay, maybe not the puke part.

What would you do?

Categories: Tuesday Toss-Up | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Is Your Brain Haunted?

Do spectres haunt the halls of your mind? Rattling their ghostly chains. Footsteps echoing. The doors of your memory creaking. Moaning, wailing and generally being a pain in the posterior lobe?

Baby Bird

Lovin’ you is easy ’cause you’re beautiful. Dootin dootin doo doo…

I’m haunted by movie lines, commercials and sometimes even words (like “anesthesia”…isn’t that a weird word? Just say it a couple of times. Really draw it out. There you go. Now you know what I mean.) but mostly songs. Mostly old songs but some new. They rise, unbidden, from their graves to pester me at random moments. And believe me when I tell you that many of these spirits are malevolent, hounding me until I slip up and say whatever it is they’ve been wailing about out loud.

That’s when the real horror begins.

Sometimes it’s Ice Ice Baby. While I certainly admire the man, Robert Van Winkle has become, that song…that song really needs to be exorcised from my memory. If you were around in the days when the radio stations relentlessly played that song, you know what I mean.

And it can get so much worse. [Hit Me] Baby One More Time,  Loving You, We Are Never Ever Getting Back TogetherI’m Too Sexy, Warm it Up, Call Me Maybe and, one of the most persistent haunts, Hooked on a Feeling.

Just imagine blurting any one of these out in a crowded grocery store, walking down the street or during coffee and donuts after church. *shudder*

There are other, more benevolent, haunts of course: Beethoven’s 5th (Did I really need to link to that one? Surely that one happily haunts everyone.), Mozart’s Rondo alla Turca (yes, I’m totally dancing in my head to this one right now), Layla, The Sound of Silence,  Time After Time (What? I dig Cyndi *shrug*) and White and Nerdy.

And, if the halls of your mind are too quiet and you’ve been skull-shopping, hoping for a haunted brain pan of your own, here’s something my kiddos recently forced on shared with me:

You’re welcome.

What haunts your brain?

***

Please note, no baby birds were harmed in the making of this post. The little guy (gal?) you see above fell out of his nest on a windy day. My daughter found him and our good friend, a spectacular animal whisperer, took him in and has been taking great care of him. He should be ready for release back into the wild soon.

Baby Bird 2

Categories: Tuesday Toss-Up | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

People Say the Weirdest Things

Did someone say "Pony up?"

Did someone say “Pony up?”

Have you ever stopped to really listen to some of the idioms we use all the time? Some are weird, some funny and some downright disgusting. All of them are likely to generate mental images that give you pause.

Here are a few that I’ve heard recently:

Pay through the nose.
Pay an arm and a leg.
Raining cats and dogs.
Kick the bucket.
Spitting image.
Pony up.
It’s not rocket science/brain surgery.
Lost your marbles.

And the biggest head-scratcher for me: “S–t eating grin.” While some of the others seem fairly reasonable for how they’re used and the origins are easy enough to uncover, I just can’t wrap my mind around anyone ever, ever, ever being thrilled to eat, um, turds.

Ever.

Our family has an idiom or two of our own. Our favorite is “Normally, people order rice.” The saying originated after an embarrassing incident in a Thai restaurant when my husband (then fiancé) and I were trying to low-carb it before our wedding. Apparently, Atkins and Thai cuisine don’t really mix. *shrug* Anyway, the saying is now often used whenever someone around us is doing something weird or unusual. Which, in our family, is a lot.

Perhaps it’ll one day fall into common usage.

Probably not though. And that’s probably best.

Here are a few amusing/disturbing articles on the origins of common sayings:

What are your favorite/least-favorite sayings? Any sayings you’ve invented?

Categories: Tuesday Toss-Up | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Can You Plagiarize Yourself?

Writing Tools by Pete O'Shea on FlickrRecently, while following that white rabbit known as Research through the wonderland of the internet, I came across an article with a title that stopped me in my tracks: The Ethics of Self-Plagiarism.

Even before I read it, all sorts of questions and thoughts popped into my head. The first was: how the heck can you plagiarize yourself? After all, isn’t plagiarism stealing work from someone else?

Of course, as I read the article, I realized they were talking about academic journals, research papers, etc. rather than novels or even blog posts.

Phew, big sigh of relief.

Okay, not that big. While I’ve reposted several old blog posts, I’ve always done so with a brief explanation and a link to the original article.

Even so, I had trouble wrapping my mind around the idea that you can actually steal your own work. Now, one would hope you’re not deliberately trying to pass off an old work as an entirely new one. Barring that, why would it be an issue to recall bits and pieces of an old work in a new one? Doesn’t most academic work (and creative for that matter) build on what has been done before?

But maybe I’m missing some of the nuances of the issue.

Of course, if you’ve signed away certain rights to the publisher(which, to me, strengthens the idea that authors should be able to keep all rights to their work).

Now, does any of this apply to fiction writers and bloggers? Many of us have pet ideas or areas of expertise we touch on over and over. Perhaps we’re just re-exploring the idea and not lifting any old content directly but I’m sure at least a few of us have unconsciously used the same bits of material again and again because it’s hanging around in our brain like that last party guest who just won’t get the hint to leave.

I know I don’t double-check any of my post for any reused phrases. As I said before, if I’m republishing a whole post, I always reference the original. But maybe there’s other times where I’ve inadvertently used my work again. I’d never stopped to wonder whether this might be unethical in any way. But now I am wondering, just a little.

If you’re curious, here’s a link to the original article I read: The Ethics of Self-Plagiarism. If you want to read the whole article, you’ll have to register for the site though. Note, it’s a site that provides plagiarism checking services, so it’s possible that colors their views on the issue.

Here are a couple of other links with more info:

 

What do you think? Does self-plagiarism really exist? If so, does it apply to fiction and non-fiction alike? Is there a gray area?

Photo Credit:
Writing Tools by Pete O’Shea on Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Categories: Tuesday Toss-Up | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

How Far Would You Go For Your Kids?

It’s every parent’s nightmare to lose a child and most would agree they’d do anything to protect or save their children. And when we say anything, we usually mean we’d be willing to throw ourselves in front of a speeding bus, inflict grievous bodily harm on someone trying to hurt a child or  trade places with a sick child…or just give up sleep, clean up bodily fluids and say no when your kids just can’t understand why.

But would you give up government secrets, compromise national security, put innocent lives in danger or torture someone to save your child?

That’s just what NBC’s Crisis asks.

The show pits wealthy, powerful parents against the FBI, CIA and US government when their children are taken during a high school field trips and the kidnappers begin making unusual demands. Instead of money (although money does come into play for at least one parent), the kidnappers want to use the parents’ power and access. The parents are each given a task. None know what their bit roles in kidnappers’ mater plan will add up to. It could be about money and power, righting a wrong or helping terrorist unleash something horrific. All they know is that,  if they do what they’re told, their children will be returned.

Now, I’m a mother bear when needed. I have no doubt I’d sacrifice myself for my children. If somebody was hurting them, I’d do what I had to stop the person. In a heartbeat and probably without remorse.

But is there a line I wouldn’t cross?

I lean towards “yes.” While I can see myself attacking a killer/kidnapper/predator, I can’t imagine deliberately harming an innocent (even if that person is innocent only of the crime against my child).

But maybe that’s exactly what the Crises parents would have said before their children were taken.

What do you think? How far would you go to save your children? Is there anything you wouldn’t do?

***

NBC offers a fun quiz to find out what kind of person you’d be in a crisis. Take the Quiz. Although I don’t know how accurate it is as it says I’m a Fly on the Wall. But maybe that was because I couldn’t decide between Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games for my favorite book.

 

Categories: Tuesday Toss-Up, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

When You Text the Wrong Person

When Texting Goes Wrong

I can’t believe I just sent that to Mittens. Awkward!

Remember passing notes in high school? (If you’re about to say no because you had cell phones in high school… just stop. You’re making me feel old). Did you ever have that awkward experience of dropping the note and having the wrong person pick it up? The right note in the wrong hands could have epic embarrassing consequences.

Now that just about everyone and their great-grandma has a cell phone, we can pass notes via text message. While it might be faster and vastly more convenient, it certainly opens up a whole lot more opportunities to embarrass ourselves. This goes for email too.

It’s just soooo easy to hit “send” before we’ve double checked our messages. But the wrong name in the “to” field can lead to disaster or just monster embarrassment.

Recently, I received a text that was definitely NOT meant for me (No, I won’t share the text here as this is a PG blog…mostly). I’m a good-humored person (okay…maybe I just enjoy other people embarrassing themselves instead of me)  and I made a pleasant reply. Some joking ensued and I hope the other party went away feeling decent about the exchange but intending to be a lot more careful in the future.

It certainly made me think. Now, I’m triple checking the “to” before I hit “send.” Of course, I don’t have a very exciting text or email life, so I really can’t embarrass myself. If I have to say something potentially embarrassing, I’ll just say it in person (you know, plausible denial and all that).

But have sent the occasional “I love you” or “Pick up some milk, please” texts to friends instead of my hubby. My friends, being the awesome folk they are, have usually replied “I love you too but only as a friend,” or “Sorry, I already left the store,” or “Pick up your own d*mn milk.” (Okay, none of my friends have actually replied with that last one…yet).

Then again, maybe some texts are sent to the wrong person accidentally on purpose.

What about you? Have you ever gotten a text meant for someone else or sent one to the wrong person? What about sending a text to the wrong person accidentally on purpose?

 

 

 

Categories: Tuesday Toss-Up | Tags: , , , , | 10 Comments

Is Patience Really a Virtue?

Merlin the Patient

I AM being patient. Now can I have a bite?

“Patience is a virtue,” I often tell my kids in a sing-song voice, like Rachel Weisz in The Mummy. When they’re asking if it’s time to go to the park yet or “are we there yet” on a long trip, patience is exactly what I need them to have they need. And they happily remind me of that virtue when I’m cursing the internet for being slower than usual or  when I’m telling the driver ahead of me (as if he can hear me) “the speed limit is 55 here, not 35.”

There are so many times in life when we can’t have what we want right when we want it. We have to wait on other people or for opportunities. We have to wait on ourselves to learn what we need to learn. We have to wait till the next season of Walking Dead to find out just how badass Rick has really become or for George R. R. Martin to publish that next A Song of Ice and Fire book already.

And yet the opposite of patience is celebrated far more often in our culture. Go-getters don’t  wait for opportunities, they seize them. Winners don’t let pain slow them down, they pop a [insert brand name over the counter painkiller here] and keep running. Heroes rush in where angels fear to tread.

Of course, inaction can be mistaken for patience. We tell ourselves we’re just waiting for the right time or the perfect chance and we just wait and wait and wait and…

And sometimes we give up before we’ve even begun because the payoff seems so very far away.

So how do you tell the difference? How do you know when to wait and when to act and how to keep slogging when the finish line is still miles away?

I’ve wrestled a great deal with this last one. Everything from raising and educating my children, getting fit and writing my (hopefully) début novel. All of these are works in progress and, sometimes, the end doesn’t seem anywhere in sight. All I can do is keep on keeping on.

And, while patience may be a virtue, it doesn’t come easily for me. Mostly I wind up being impatiently patient.  I promise myself the end is out there, somewhere, but I won’t wait around for it. I’ll go after it…with a machete.

It’s like the Tortoise and the Hare. Anyone else think the moral of that fable is NOT “slow and steady wins the race?” Let’s face it, if the hare hadn’t been sleeping on the job,  he’d have blown right past that sloooooow tortoise and won the race.

Slow and steady only wins the race when there’s no one else faster than you. But maybe the real moral is that it doesn’t matter how fast you go, especially if you give up or lay down on the job. If you keep putting one foot in front of the other with the goal of the making it to the finish line, you’ll get there (unless the zombies get you first…but that’s another story).

And, when you reach the finish line, you win. No matter who else got there first. Because you’re not racing against them. You’re racing against you.

Of course, it’s much nicer when you finish faster.

Just sayin.

What do you think? How do you know when to be patient and when to seize the moment? Do you have any big projects where the end seems almost out of reach? How do you keep at it until you reach that end?

 

***

I just had to share this because it made me laugh…and it’s got some useful tips on How to Be Patient in 12 Steps (but I prefer to do it in 6 steps…it’s faster that way).

 

Categories: Tuesday Toss-Up | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

I Love the Smell of Hiatus in the Morning

Yeah…okay…that title sounds a little off to me too.

Oh well.

As the year winds down and the holidays approach, I’m scrambling to wrap up my biggest goal for this year: finish my novel. The first draft anyway. As I’ve moved the deadline for this goal more than once, I feel especially compelled to make it happen this time. I’m taking inspiration from Ze Frank’s Invocation for Beginnings and harnessing my inner John McClane.

Let’s do this thing!

With that in  mind, I’m putting this blog on hiatus until the new year.

While I’ll be hunkering down and getting the job done (yippee ki-yay), I won’t disappear entirely from the online world. I’m planning to catch up with all the fellow bloggers, peeps and tweeps I’ve had so little chance to connect with this year. I joined the blogosphere and social media for the awesome community and, as I’ve wrestled with balancing home, work-projects and getting to The End,  I’ve missed hanging out with all you super folks.

And I. Will. Finish. This. Novel.

In the mean time, here are a few of my favorite posts to entertain you while I’m (mostly) away. Kind of like hold music…only, hopefully, much more interesting.

What Really Drives Dexter Morgan?
Old Favorites: Best Classic Movies
Spam and Eggs: Gems from the Spam Filter
Do You Remember Those Saturday Morning Cartoons?
How to Build a Zombie

And here’s one from Ze Frank, because he rarely never fails to make me laugh and/or think:

 

Got a favorite post, meme or YouTube video? Yours or someone else’s. Go ahead and share the linky love.

Categories: Tuesday Toss-Up | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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