This invention can be yours too for just 5 easy payments

Cleaning after children quote

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The east coast of the United States has been drenched over the past several weeks. Yes, California, I hear you out there. I am not complaining. I am merely stating a fact. After a week of constant precipitation, I had given up trying to limit the mess my housebound children left in their wake, but when the sun finally did emerge, I encouraged Kiddo to go outside along with Lamont while his brother napped so that I might focus on interior damage control.

As I tidied up inside I heard the distinctive whirl of a saw blade spinning in the garage. Kiddo must have come up with another building project for he and his father to work on, I thought while tuning the sound out of mind. A building project meant I would have at least another hour to myself. Sure enough, roughly an hour later, the door burst open and in walked Kiddo. He proudly held up a piece of scrap wood cut roughly a foot long. A plastic spoon was attached by tape on one end with a plastic fork on the other.

“It’s my invention,” he bragged. “With this you don’t have to lose time putting your fork down. You just spin it around and you have your spoon!” It’s so easy! His demonstration would have made the most seasoned infomercial marketers proud. I could almost hear him say, but wait there’s more… I tried not to laugh. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that not only did someone else beat him to product launch, they’ve made it more efficient as well. Spork? Never heard of it.

Spoonandfork

LT woke and playtime (aka demolition derby) once again resumed and the invention was forgotten. Eventually though it was dinner time. As we set the table, Kiddo looked at the flatware next to his plate and then at me. “I don’t need this stuff,” he announced returning the utensils to their drawer. “I’ve got my Spoonandfork! (TM, Patent Pending)” He looked at LT. “Would you like one too?”

Yes, let’s arm the 3yo, who already spends far too much time playing with his food, with a pointy stick, what could possibly go wrong? “Honey, I really don’t think LT needs one of those…” I argued.

You could see it in Kiddo’s eyes. The confusion. How could Mom not appreciate the life-changing potential of his invention? The disappointment. She obviously just didn’t get it.

Kiddo turned to his brother for support. LT stared back. You could hear his thoughts as they formed. Yes, LT wants the pointy stick. Give LT the pointy stick. Kiddo’s smile returned as he found a nearby marker and wrote his initial on the wood. “This one is mine, but I’ll make you one, and when I do, I’ll put your name on it.”

LT stared at his brother in rapt adoration. Kiddo’s grin returned and stretched from ear to ear. At least someone in this house gets it. As Kiddo returned to his spot at the table, I could tell as far as he was concerned, my informal product review was already forgotten – my argument, silenced. Flipping the pointy stick end over end, he eagerly dug into his meal. I am sure that first bite was delicious.

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” – Mahatma Gandhi

If we are lucky, we all will one day make our own pointy sticks. They may seem ridiculous. They may seem like wasted effort. But as long as we keep looking and keep persevering, eventually we might just find the right audience.

Breathe in and breathe out

We were swimming at a local pool featuring a pair of water slides which were accessible from a single tower. After watching a series of children enjoy the ride, I asked my eldest, “What do you think? Do you want to give it a try?”

“Do you think I can?”

Funny fish meme

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Kiddo swims like a fish. By that I mean he can paddle quite effectively with his whole body underwater, but flops and flails about if he attempts to swim with his head above the surface. While delaying answering, I noticed that the pool depth at the slide area wasn’t any deeper than where we were. My eldest favors his father in personality, but even more so in appearance. No one will mistake him for one of Santa’s elves. Standing in the pool next to me, his head and shoulders were well above the water.

“Sure honey. When you get to the bottom, all you have to do is put your feet down.”

“I don’t know…” I could tell he was nervous about the slide’s height.

“I’ll go with you!” I said.

That was all the convincing it took. Splash. After struggling for a few moments to escape the water slide’s current, Kiddo took a breath, planted his feet, and smiled as he said, “let’s do it again!”

Kiddo saw his brother watching and asked, “Can LT go down the slide too?”

I try to limit my quasi-endangering of offspring to less than one child per day (most days). “LT has to learn how to swim first.” LT isn’t tall enough for the slide either, but it got the hubby and I thinking. It was probably time to enroll LT in swim class, and Kiddo could likely use a refresher as well.

The day of their first class, Kiddo went with his instructor to one end of the pool while his brother followed me to another. By coincidence, LT and his teacher share the same name, but rather than this endearing the teacher to LT, LT went the way of TV’s Highlander (“in the end, there can be only one!”) From the moment he stepped on the swim platform, it was clear he did not trust this person who dared assume his name. He began screaming as I tried to sneak away, “I scared! I scared!” and LT’s voice carries (so now you know what that sound was on Monday).

Stewie Griffin

I froze, looking at his instructor in alarm, but his teacher hadn’t flinched. I guess when you teach pre-schoolers you get used to stranger danger (now scratching off children’s swim coach from my list of career opportunities). He asked LT to put his face in the water and blow bubbles. LT could do that! Splash. Bubble. Bubble. Spit. Splash. “Okay, LT, try again. This time without getting the water in your mouth.”

LT was happy mimicking a drinking bird and forgot his fear until his instructor asked him to try something else. The screams resumed. We only made it through the class with our sanity intact by stopping and repeating the bubble/breathing exercise in between each new challenge (but where was the first place he wanted to go after class? Another pool).

This summer hasn’t just been trips to the pool or family vacations. I’ve also been querying. I enjoy being a member of the independent authors’ community, but the idea of becoming a hybrid author is appealing too. A cash advance or additional help in the form of a professional final edit and cover design would allow me a larger budget for promotion. I don’t mind reduced royalties provided it is with the right partner. I decided to test the waters by putting myself and this manuscript out there.

Pushing the send button on the first query was terrifying, but as time passed I found myself feeling rather zen about the whole process. I’ve published independently before and can do so again if that proves best for me and my work. I know I can choose not to move forward with them as easily as can with me. When the response arrived (which was very supportive, but a pass), I accepted it for what it was – a step in the process and a learning opportunity (que sera, sera). I took a breath and hit send on another query.

“A journey of one thousand miles must begin with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

“The first step is to just breathe.” – Bobby Umar

 

Consistency is more than a personal habit

SpaceCamp

Talk about getting hopes up. We weren’t allowed to even come close to a live launch pad. SpaceCamp Movie poster (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was a teenager I was lucky enough to get to go to Space Camp, a summer camp option made even more exciting after seeing the movie, SpaceCamp. While neither of my ‘missions’ accidentally launched a rag-tag group of teenagers into outer space, the camp at least introduced me to several other nerds like minded individuals from across the country.

The internet wasn’t accessible to the masses for a few more years (yes, yes, I recognized that I just aged myself for my millennial audience.) We didn’t have unlimited nationwide calls or data either (It is a wonder I managed to graduate high school with such limitations). I wanted to stay in touch with my new-found friends which meant using old-fashioned pen and paper along with a roll of stamps (oh the horror!)

Some were better correspondents than others. Eventually the count of my pen pals dropped to one, but even though several weeks would pass in between letters, we were still writing each other two years later. Until one day the letters stopped arriving.

Considering the age difference, I’d like to think that she graduated and things like trading occasional hand written notes simply fell by the wayside as she took on more adult responsibilities (stamps can get expensive) or perhaps reading about the day-to-day happenings of a kid several states over gradually lost its appeal. Maybe my last letter caused some offense, or didn’t arrive at all. But on darker days I’ve wondered if something worse happened. My friend could have taken ill or been in an accident and I would have no way of knowing. (If you are reading this Tiff, please send me a note if only to say you are okay).

I am at the beach. The sun is shining. The waves are crashing, and it is now my son’s turn to enjoy his first summer break from school. I could have (should have) written something in advance or scheduled a guest author but I didn’t. Yes, I might be forgiven for missing a week. After all, everyone deserves a little vacation now and then, but I could no longer say that I was consistent.

Creative types will often scoff at consistency. Its inflexibility is counter to the process. Invention can’t be scheduled. Art can’t be forced. But writers want readers, artists want patrons, and business innovators want customers.

“People like consistency. Whether it’s a store or a restaurant, they want to come in and see what you are famous for.” – Millard Drexler

asilomar

asilomar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Consistency then isn’t a simply a personal habit. It’s about more than just you, just like the ocean is made up of more than a few waves. I appreciate everyday that you stumbled across my writing and found it worth reading. Therefore I have no intention of damaging your trust or causing unnecessary worry over something so slight as working on my tan.

“The force of waves is in their perseverance.” – Gila Guri.

I’m still in the game

 

NCSU versus Florida State

My ear made its way onto National Television. I’m a star!

It was the fourth and final quarter. The end zone was only a few yards away, and there was still a chance to retake the lead against the number one rated team in the nation. The fans were screaming as if their will could somehow help carry the play. All the quarterback had to do was find a way through the pain a little while longer.

It this scene had played out in a sports movie, my team would have succeeded. Instead, our quarterback’s muscles cramped up, sending him to the ground. He was spent. The entire team was. Though the team tried its best, the clock ran out, giving us our first (and unfortunately not last) loss  of the season.

Sometimes wanting something isn’t enough. Sometimes the opposition prevails.

As we waited among the line of cars departing the stadium, we listened to the head coach’s post game interview. He said the things I’ve grown to expect from any coach in a similar situation. The team tried its best, but had found themselves outmatched. The game was over, and there was nothing left to do but review the tapes and start planning for the next week’s game. They might have lost the game, but they weren’t defeated.

Success is going from failure to failureAt the office, my boss will often talk about how you don’t truly know the value of a project or a person (customer or supplier) until the relationship has been tested. It is easy to retain your enthusiasm when everything is going well. It’s when things go badly that you truly realize how committed you are to a relationship, a project, a company, or a dream.

Edison discovered 10,000 ways not to make a light bulb. Steve Jobs was fired from Apple. Henry Ford had two failed automotive companies on his resume before launching the model T.

A set back, even a major one, isn’t a failure until you stop trying. Instead it may just be a way of the universe telling to try a slightly different tactic before returning to the field. As I push forward with re-writes and modifications to my marketing plan, I am reminded that it is the rare individual who gets everything right on the first try.