Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul

Writing, or: Laughable Dreams

It’s no secret that I wish I could write more. I have a blog FFS (read that as “for Pete’s sake”)! I’ve always wanted to write. It’s something I was always good at (compared to anything else I did) and even received compliments about.

So then why did I get a degree in biology? Good question. Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple answer to that.

Being able to make a living as a writer was something that I didn’t really have any understanding of or experience with in my life. Also, as stupid as it is, a good part of it was sheer pride. I knew that lots of people started as biology majors and couldn’t handle the academic rigor. They dropped biology and went to something like business or communications. I saw that as fluff. College-aged me knew that the world had a legitimate need for the professions those departments’ graduates went onto. But I felt that was the easy way out.

Adult me sees something in the following quote, which is often misattributed to Einstein:

“If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Most people have a profession which is suited to them. Be it the way they learn, the way they work, their learned skills, whatever. Of course, some people have real, innate skill that is merely honed over their life.

I had moderate success in school, but that success was less and less as years went on. I finished in the top 10% of my class when I graduated from high school, but I went to school with almost a thousand kids in my class. Of those, less 800 graduated. So to say I was top 10% means there was like 70 kids in my high school that did better than I did. I don’t find anything impressive about that number.

In college, I had to retake statistics, organic chemistry, and botany (twice!). I didn’t leave with a 3.0.

My reading comprehension is crap; I took the SAT 3 times and got a 540 on the verbal section all 3 times. My study skills are nonexistent. These two things alone are pretty convincing evidence that I can never be a writer.

That said, I took a poetry course and a short story (fiction, not writing) course in college and got an A in both, as well as in my freshman communications 1 and 2 courses. If you looked at my major requirements’ GPA versus my liberal arts requirements’ GPA, you’d wonder why I got my degree in biology. And like I said, that’s not an easy answer.

So here I am, convinced that I should be able to climb a tree. Most of my friends can climb trees. My father and my wife can climb trees. But just because I like trees and just because I like people who can climb trees doesn’t mean I can climb trees. Whether climbing trees is being a scientist or being a writer, I have to try something else.

I’d like to think I can be a writer. But since I can’t be a scientist and I literally can’t climb trees or even swim all that well, maybe it’s time to try being a writer. For Christmas, my mother in law got me a book on writing. I’m going to start here. Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication by Ann Whitford Paul was purchased from my Amazon wishlist and I’m excited to read it. I never even put it away because I didn’t want it to get forgotten about. It’s been sitting on my desk for months. Sometimes it laughs at me and tells me I’ll never be a writer. Sometimes it tells me I’ll never know if I don’t try. Usually it tells me that my dreams are empty visions. I really need to just take some time for myself and read the damn thing.

Hey, right now, worst case scenario is I read the book and have to wait until AmoebaJr is in preschool before I can do anything. I’ve never built characters or a story. It’s going to take a lot of work. But AmoebaJr starts preschool next fall, so I’ve got some time between now and then to read Writing Picture Books. Even with poor reading comprehension, 12 months should be enough time, right?

Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul

Through The Lens Thursday: Green

This is a little project from Greta, a blogger I follow, and her friend Alison. You can find Greta’s post for this week over at her blog.

The theme Green is quite fitting since it’s farm season here in the Midwest. Last weekend we went to our friend’s farm. My wife was in charge of the corn, I was I charge of the kid. But we went out to visit. And this is one of the things I saw.

Sunflower

 

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About That Other Post from Last Fall, or: I was Dizzy for 9 Months

Back in October of last year, I was having a rough time. I wrote a post that some people were nice enough to read and support me on. One of the things I mentioned in that post was I started getting dizzy with no warning and for only brief moments at a time. In other words, it hit and was gone in an instant.

By Thanksgiving weekend, it hadn’t improved. Up until then it had been happening while I was standing. On the night before Thanksgiving, I was hit with dizziness three times in under an hour while sitting at the table. I made the decision to call my doctor and the on call doctor said that while my symptoms didn’t warrant a trip to the emergency room, I might not want to wait until Monday to be seen in the office. It was advised that I go to a walk-in clinic.

Being 9pm the night before Thanksgiving, no place nearby was open. I went in the morning and saw a doctor. He didn’t really have an answer but suggested I try motion sickness medicine. I followed up with my doctor at the beginning of the following week and he also performed a small battery of tests on me. He also came up with nothing.

In and out of the doctor’s office a few times through mid-January, the idea seemed to be it was a virus and should clear up on its own in 3-6 months. Gee, great! Well it had already been more than 3 months so I wasn’t overly optimistic. After a particularly cold and harsh winter here in Indianapolis, I went back into my doctor in the Spring. At that point, I was over 6 months in. I was referred to an ENT.

I met the ENT in May and was given a hearing test. I was told my hearing was “normal” and that they wanted further testing. I needed to go to a facility that specialized in balance issues. So in mid-June, I go through two hours of testing. Sit in a chair that spins inside a dark tube and focus my eyes on a laser dot. Fall backwards, from seated, into the technicians hands. And my favorite, sleep for a half hour. The weirdest, though, was they shot warm water into my ear canal and then repeated the test with room temperature water.

I finally got my results back a couple weeks ago. I was told my right ear is weaker than my left and that might be the cause of my balance problems. They wanted an MRI to rule out anything on my brain or auditory nerve, but I canceled it. Turns out, since my balance test 2 months ago, I don’t remember being dizzy at all.

Maybe it was just a virus all along.

For the Longest Time, or: This Crazy Life Since Last November

Yes, Billy Joel should have come to mind when you read the first part of that title. Because I was singing it to myself while I wrote it.

Last Fall when I went on unannounced hiatus, I was pretty depressed. I decided to take some time off and that’s when life started up. We got our foster care license and we had a Wendy’s Wonderful Kid recruiter match us to a teenage girl. For months and months we slowly learned more about her until we finally got to meet her. Last winter’s particularly cold temperatures and large amount of snowfall made us reschedule meeting with her or her team 3 times.

We finally met in March.

She was in a residential treatment facility, so we were given more and more access over a 6 week period that ended when we brought her home in mid-April. To back up, just a little bit, here’s what you should know about her. Let’s call her Hallie.

Hallie was 16 and had been in foster care since she was 8. She was removed for neglect but was also sexually assaulted by a family member on multiple occasions starting at age 3. She bounced around a bit and eventually got to where she would sabotage her placements. When she was roughly 12, Hallie was with a couple she loved very much. But they had an inappropriate relationship with her. Hallie and the mom clashed because Hallie was jealous of the parents’ relationship. Hallie had many inappropriate sexual encounters with much older men and while she and her foster father didn’t have sex, they were too close. She was removed and placed in a group home. In the group home, Hallie was raped regularly. Because of this, she didn’t shower whenever possible. I’m sure that was part trauma and part “If I don’t shower, guys will be less likely to hurt me.” While at the group home, she was part of a group of girls that stole a vehicle. She was sent to juvenile detention and when she was released, sent to the residential treatment facility where we met her.

Alright, back to April when we brought Hallie home. We knew going in about some of her struggles. We also learned some along the way. Hallie was required to wake up at 9 am and treat her chronic medical condition. In under the first month, she started staying in bed all day and we had to take her to the ER for 2 days because she wasn’t managing her condition. She would have RAD outbursts regularly.

(RAD is reactive attachment disorder, which is a disorder people get when they don’t form bonds with loved ones as a baby. Lots of kids in the system have RAD, diagnosed as such or not. The biggest manifestation of RAD is not being able to connect, or properly connect, with people.)

Just a few days shy of her 100th day with us, it all fell apart. My poor wife, Hermoine, was so stressed and defeated. Hallie continued to be defiant (we suspected oppositional defiance disorder as well as bipolar and were working in getting her a full eval) and not take care of herself. They were having a strongly worded conversation when I stepped between them. Hallie was saying, “Hit me!” (which helped get her removed from a previous placement because the lady did) and I pushed Hermoine out of the way while stepping in between the two of them. Somehow, I ended up getting slugged in the chest. After a whole bunch of tears and F bombs, I went to check on Hermoine and AmoebaJr. Hermoine was still shaken up. AmoebaJr was doing much better than when I first heard her crying because I suspect she saw Hallie punch me.

When I came back to check on Hallie, she had self harmed. She didn’t hurt herself badly, but she needed to chill out somewhere and give us a break. So I took her to the ER and spent the night in the psych ward waiting to be seen. Well, she wasn’t admitted, but behind the scenes a temporary place for her was arranged.

For as miserable as she was making us, we didn’t want to give up on her. But the line in the sand was that if she hit us, she was gone. We have AmoebaJr to think about. Add to that the fact that I called the police on her twice for running away and had to take her to the ER three times and she wasn’t taking care of her health condition and she self harmed, we were left with no choice. We couldn’t keep her safe. She had to live somewhere else.

That was about a month ago. For at least a week, we mourned. We accomplished nothing, didn’t cook, and felt like crap. I don’t know how to do this again.

In the newsletter that came just two days after the final incident, we were called out by our agency for being such great foster parents. And yet, even doing everything we could, we couldn’t save Hallie from herself.

New Words

Hey guys! The adoption is still stuck stuck stuck. We are basically 2 months past when we expected to be ready as recently as 3 months ago.

So therefore no news = no posts. But AmoebaJr has been having some life events that I thought I’d share.

AmoebaJr, just within the past week, has been using all kinds of words! Water (wah-er) and bubbles (BUB-el). She’s now saying “mama” and “dada” at everything, usually at pictures of us. She’s saying no as well now. Previously she said “yeah” and then added in “okay”. There are other things where she makes a consistent sound for the item so we understand, but she doesn’t say the word. She’s doing a few others very intermittently, but those are the words we hear regularly.

Also as a bonus, she’s got spots. I’ll have to tell you about that next time.

Books Not Tuberculosis

In celebration of an upcoming literacy day, the local McDonald’s hosted some bloggers from around town at the Ronald McDonald house to promote their program to give one of four books in each kids’ Happy Meal.

I mentioned this the other day and was planning on going. However I have a horrible dry cough that has been sitting in my lungs for like two weeks now. I decided if there’s any place you don’t want to be spread germs it’s in a place where lots of people are meeting each other (handshakes et cetera) and where people with hospitalized children are staying.

So I bowed out and missed the event. I was planning on doing this as a favor to a friend, not because I was going to be compensated. Well, along with attending I was also going to promote the event on social media. During the event I was not spreading my germs at I went to twitter to follow and post to hashtag McIndyMoms. I got a few interactions (retweets and replies) so it wasn’t a bust. I did miss out on missing some local bloggers I’ve wanted to meet for a while though. :-/

But the last thing I need to be putting into Happy Meals is SARS or some unidentified alpaca flu.

Halloween in November

Well Halloween as come and gone. Because of storms through a good portion of our state with tropical storm force winds, Halloween was moved to the following day. Which means Friday (yay!) but November (boo!).

I really enjoy Halloween but it was a bit lackluster this year. In addition to the day getting messed up, costumes didn’t happen. We were trying to do a family muppet theme, but it didn’t work out. AmoebaJr ended up a T-rex and Hermoine was going to do a cave woman. I was going to be an asteroid. I never got with the program and got it taken care of and Hermoine’s cave woman sucked, so it was just AmoebaJr.

I stayed home to pass out the candy instead of leaving it on the porch like last time. And even that was lackluster. We live in a somewhat secluded neighborhood that is on the small side. I probably got a dozen kids total in about 5 groups.

So here we are approaching mid-November and I’m starting to free base Whoopers since we still have so many left. The good news though is that there is lots of good quality candy to slowly eat over the next 12 months.

Happy Meals Just Got Happier

McDonald’s is hosting local bloggers at the Indianapolis Ronald McDonald house this week. Coming this month to McDonald’s locations nationwide, books are now going to be inserted into Happy Meals for the first 2 weeks of November in celebration of National Family Literacy Day.

In addition to 1 of 4 children’s books in each Happy Meal, McDonald’s of Central Indiana starting a “Give a Book, Get a Book” campaign.

• Book donation sites will be set up around the area at the Ronald McDonald House, local libraries and Indy Reads from Nov. 1- 14.
• In exchange for the donation of a new or gently used children’s book, customers will receive a Be Our Guest card for a free Happy Meal.
• In addition, participating libraries will host a “Happy Meal Day” with activities for kids and McDonald’s Happy Meal books.

To participate, drop of books at any of the following locations:

• Hussey-Mayfield Public Library (Zionsville, Ind.)
• Attica Public Library
• Elwood Public Library
• Barton Rees Pogue Memorial Library (Upland, Ind.)
• Brownstown Public Library
• Indy Reads (2450 N. Meridian St.)
• Ronald McDonald House (435 Limestone St.)

Unless I find out otherwise, the only compensation I’m receiving for support the campaign through social media is refreshments at the blogger’s event.

*edit* no compensation, I missed the event.

More Than 7 Billion Results

Did you know you can use Facebook’s new(er) search for all kinds of crazy things? For examples, if I was trying to find a girlfriend and I lived in Milwaukee I could search for that.

Search for gender: girl, status: single, current city: Milwaukee, likes: OKCupid. I can even put in religion or age. That’s mildly creepy. And now all I have to do is look for her profile on OKCupid. (Actually, I have no idea how dating sites work. If you can believe it, I met my wife before that was really a thing.)

Ok, so maybe we flirted at the pharmacy while I was buying toenail fungus remover but I didn’t pick up on it so I need this to hunt her down after I realize it. Or maybe, you know, I’m just that creepy.

The interesting thing I found the other day was you can search for people you aren’t friends with. This could come in handy, if I liked some obscure bluegrass rapper and wanted to find girls that are single in Milwaukee that like this obscure Facebook page and are not already my friends.

Apparently, though, you can just search for people that aren’t your friend. (Of course you should be able to do this, but as the only operator, it’s a bit weird.) There are currently 7.12 billion people on this planet. The only thing I’ll find in doing a search for people I’m not already friends with is the number of those 7-plus billion who are on Facebook.  (One and a quarter billion people currently have active Facebook accounts.)

They do seem to display them in a way that isn’t totally random. Taking a look at the first 3 presented to me, all 3 are white freelance writers who live in the US. I’ve actually met two of them in person; twice, even!

Not Friends

That Week I Almost Met Jim Beam

It has been an emotionally draining week for me. I stand by that I think parenting isn’t hard. But it is damn exhausting sometimes. With AmoebaJr not being able to communicate but be old enough to have not only needs but now also wants and opinions, it’s becoming increasingly frustrating. Have you heard of the website that posts pictures of kids crying with an explanation of what made the kid cry? It would be something like a kid crying in front of a birthday cake because they wanted purple frosting instead of yellow; or something equally benign.

Let’s talk about AmoebaJr. Walks to the fridge, holds her arms up indicating she wants to get in. I say “do you want some water?” and she replies “yeah.” Because that’s essentially the only word she says. I grab the water and attempt to hand it to her. She vigorously shakes her head back and forth and creates a noise at a pitch which I’m not entirely sure doesn’t permanently damage my hearing more and more each time.

Well, fuck me! I’m such a bad parent. I deserve to be removed from my limbs.

This happens probably a dozen times a day with various things. And I’m ready to dig out my ear drums with a milkshake spoon.

Our adoption thing is going nowhere. And it’s going there so slow, I could run past it. It was supposed to be like a 2 week thing. And a supervisor was going to be out, so really it should have been pushed back no more than end of September. It’s mid-October and I’ve gotten more answers from a Magic 8 Ball. We’ve even been spoken to regarding a possible placement already, but we can’t get enough info to make a decision until we have our license.

Then there’s all this bullshit sexual crap going on in my “other” circle. So I try to hang out with moms, but I’m not really accepted. (No dad has reached out, but that’s another story.) Even among local bloggers (you’d be surprised how many people blog from Indy), I can’t get noticed.

I try to hang out with other mental health bloggers, but they have real problems. Not this bullshit that’s decently controlled by my meds. And nothing I can really help them with.

I also align with the science communicators online. These are scientists, journalists, or enthusiasts that blog, tweet, or otherwise post science-y things online. I don’t have a graduate degree, I’m not published anywhere, and I haven’t been able to fit in there either.

I have, though, met some genuine people in all 3 circles. I see a lot of people that have connected on social media in a way I never will, so I don’t know that they’d call me friends, but I have met some wonderful people.

Well, it’s that science circle where the shit has hit the fan over the past week. Someone came forward with a detailed account (not merely an accusation) of sexual harassment from a person that is extremely well-known, loved, and respected in this community of science communicators. And then another. And then another. So we now have 3 women on record with their name detailing the inappropriate behaviors. How do we respect the victims but not let someone that has made great impact into so many lives feel like he has no shot at redemption? It was much harder when their was only one. Now the pattern is emerging. As my friend said, “no one does this to just one person.”

I privately contacted two of the women, because they are in my circle (the original one, I do not know). I just told them that what happened was horrible and that sharing their story was the right thing to do. I thanked them for sticking their neck out so this wouldn’t happen to more women. I received a response from one of the two thanking me for the support. There’s just too many feels. I realize I have a big heart, but I’m amazed at some of the callousness some men in the circle have shown.

About a month ago, a local mother who blogs (virtually the only one that interacts with me) unexpectedly lost her infant. I can’t imagine that hurt. But she has 2 other kids she has to hold it together for. I haven’t met this person, but I’ve never seen anything to suggest that she’s anything but an A-1 class act person. We discussed a play date before this tragedy. Needless to say, that’s on hold. So yeah, I haven’t met her, but she’s about as close to a friend as I’ve made online in my 4 years on Twitter and off and on of blogging. I just want to reach out to her. But I can’t help her. What the hell can any of us do? A few weeks after she lost her daughter I sent her a Facebook message and told her I saw the outpouring of support and didn’t want to get in the way of her connection with friends. I offered to help, but I like I said, “whoopity doo.” Unless I can invent a freaking time machine, there’s nothing I can do. On top of that, she was at an outdoor activity with her kids when some father of the year reject made a passive-aggressive judgement, publicly, on her parenting skills. Obviously she was crushed. I just reached out and told her she’s a good mom. Hopefully affirmation helps. If there’s nothing else I can do, I can always have nice words for people that need them.

And while this was unfolding, I started on a new medicine. I’ve recently been experiencing high blood pressure and despite the fact that I am on a blood pressure medication which was working, it seems it’s back up. Not as high as it was, but still more high than it should be. So I start this new medicine on Wednesday morning. I feel a little weird on Wednesday, but almost all of the medications I take have dizziness listed as a possible side effect. So I experience some dizziness fairly regularly. I didn’t think much about it. On Thursday, it was worse. I take AmoebaJr to music class and I was having a hell of a time staying vertical.

By dinnertime, I’m convinced this isn’t my normal amount of dizziness. Because I’m still getting dizzy sitting still, head forward and not moving. Remember the blood pressure thing, I told Hermoine we needed to check it after dinner (it has to be 30 minutes after a meal). I said that it felt like high blood pressure but that if it was the new medicine, I don’t think I could take it again. In addition to being dizzy, it presents as what I can only describe as a jolt of electricity. My ears basically go deaf, save for a weird zapping sound. And a flash goes over my eyes. This happens in milliseconds. And then I go back to just being dizzy.

Eventually get to my blood pressure and it’s high, but basically where it has been the past few readings. Not nearly as high as pre-BP medicine recordings. When heading to bed, I feel ready to fall at any moment and just sit there with the dizzy head and the jolting. We decide I should skip the next dose of the new medicine and see what happens. Thankfully, I’m feeling better today. At least physically. We’ll see how the doctor responds to that news.

It was a hell of a week. And I don’t drink, but the thought of a light sedative was quite tempting. In all honesty, I probably needed weed. Which I’ve never done and wouldn’t have the first clue as to where to get some, anyway. I should just stick to the Pepsi.