New Year, New Look

Happy New Year!

As I stated in a previous post, I decided to give my blog a much-needed makeover. I’m sure you’ve noticed the change in the layout. I think it’s a little too dark, but the other free options I had were way too bright. The only way for me to get a color scheme that I like is to pay $99 per year. That’s not going to happen unless this blog gets tremendously popular.

I also stated that I want to change the format to that of a written letter. I decided on that style because I feel like I open up more and hide less when I write that way. Plus, I figure that it’s more personal and welcoming. So, here’s my first (albeit short) letter to you:


Hey There,

I hope your holidays were wonderful! Mine sure was. I worked most of it, which was bitter-sweet. On one hand, it means I’ll have a nice addition to my next paycheck. On the other hand, I didn’t get as much family time or rest as I would have liked. I did get a few days off, but it’s still not the same as being at home for almost two full weeks.

What did you do for the holidays? What was your favorite part? What was your least favorite?

I had some time to reflect and work on my list for my Resolutions (goals) for this year. I made a spreadsheet in Excel to keep track of my progress. I even made corresponding tables, so I can show you my progress from time to time. Here’s my modified list:

Primary

  • Grow closer to God (immeasurable)
  • Have a conversation with my grandma in Spanish.
  • Write a letter a month to family/friends.
  • Read at least 15 novels (70k+ words each), or 1,050,000 words total.
  • Publish at least 30 blog posts.
  • Write at least three chapters of my novel.

Optional

  • Outline my entire novel.
  • Record blog posts in audio format.

I feel really good about these goals. They aren’t so big that I can’t achieve them, yet they aren’t so small that I can slack off for weeks at a time. I hope I don’t disappoint you.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Ryan

‘Tis the Season to be Selfish

Broken ChristmasLast night, we went to the mall to finish up our Christmas shopping. My wife and I both decided that we’re going to try to buy all the presents for next year during the after-Christmas sales. That way, we aren’t rushed for time and won’t have to fight the big crowds. Sure, it’ll be crowded, but nothing compared to last night.

We also wanted to check out the lights near the mall and see the Christmas show outside in the street. We had a lot of fun at the show and looking at the lights, but I learned a few things: Continue reading ‘Tis the Season to be Selfish

I Like My Family

PaperCamera2014-12-20-13-33-45-19111501[1]The Holidays are almost here, which means we’re sending out a bunch of cards. While I was writing some of the cards, my mind wandered (surprise!). As I stared at the blank cards, I found myself wondering, “What do I say to them?”

It’s not because I had a falling out with my family. Quite the contrary. I don’t think I could have asked for a better family. I just haven’t kept in touch with them, even after telling them I would many times. I hate it, but it feels like the “out of sight, out of mind” concept has planted itself deep in my mind.

I see them on Facebook all the time, and I read their statuses and click “like” quite often. After hitting the button a few times, it dawned on me how sad it is that my only form of communication with most of my family is, at most, a comment on Facebook—not even a message. I can’t remember the last time I messaged one of my family members without it being about getting an address or some sort of information. And the worst part is…

That’s an improvement.

I remember my uncle mentioning that I talked to them more when I lived 600 miles away (growing up with my parents), than when I lived less than 100 miles away in college. Of course it struck a cord, and I said I would try harder, but then they were out of sight.

I didn’t see them because my life was more important me than theirs was. I hate to admit that, but it’s completely true. I could have driven to see them once a month, but I used excuses like not having enough money for gas (which they would have paid for) or having to work too much. In reality, I was just too focused on myself.

Now that I’ve graduated and my life has settled, has it gotten any better?

Not really.

If you count the scarce interactions on Facebook, I guess it has improved a little. And I did try writing some of my family members letters for a while, but after a couple months, things “got too busy” again. I had all the right intentions when I said that I would keep in touch. I really did. I just got distracted and forgot about the best family I could have ever asked for.

It was really hard to type those words. I even thought about deleting them a few times, but I can’t sugar coat it. Not any more.

If you were to look at my New Year’s Resolution List, you would see that writing to my family is the third one down. I wrote the items on there in order of which I though I was most likely to complete them. I figured that reading was going to be easy, as I either have my books on my phone or carry them with me. Writing a blog post is easy, too, because that’s just typing on a computer, which I do anyway.

But writing to my family is the first item on the list that’s going to take real commitment. That’s the one that I’m not only going to have to make time for and find all the materials, but I also have to open up and put real thoughts and feelings on paper. I have to constantly put my family at the front of my mind, so I don’t lose them like I did Taylor.

I bought a few things to help with the process—to make it more exciting. I know that it won’t guarantee success, but I have to try. I need to make them more than just living memories. I need to make new memories with them.

Early New Year’s Resolution

PaperCamera2014-12-16-13-40-48[1]For some reason, I’ve been thinking about my New Year’s Resolution lately. I normally don’t even make one, let alone think of them. But alas, my mind has wandered and dragged me down this path.

It seems to have started while I was finishing Head of the Dragon by Ryk Brown. As I was finishing the book, it reminded me of a blog I had previously read where the author made a list of all the books they had read that year.

I decided that I want to not only record every book I read next year, but also set a goal of reading at least fifteen novels (70k+ words) or the equivalent (1,050,000 words). I presume that I read about 10 books of that size per year, so I want to push myself a little further.

I also want to publish at least 30 blog posts, which is a little less than one per week. That will nearly double my current total over the past four years (40). It doesn’t sound like a lot, but if you’ve been following my blog, you already know how big of a challenge that’s going to be for me.

I would also like to write more–both physically and electronically. I want to write a letter a month to family and friends, and I want to write at least three chapters for my book.

I would also like to get all my posts recorded (audio) and posted on here, but that’s more of a bonus goal for me.

I know I put a lot of numbers and information up there, so here’s a summary of my NYR (not New York Rangers, fellow hockey fans) List:

Primary

  1. Read at least 15 novels (70k+ words), or 1,050,000 words total.
  2. Publish at least 30 blog posts.
  3. Write a letter a month to family/friends.
  4. Write at least three chapters of my book.

Optional

  1. Record blog posts in audio format.

I will update these goals throughout the year, or as needed. I’m going to set a limit on myself by not counting anything prior to the beginning of 2015. In other words, the book I’m currently reading and the cards I’m writing will not count, even if they carry over.

I Haven’t Forgotten You

IMG_20141205_094818-17801829[1]Hey, guess what. I failed to post every week like I said I would. I think this is the fourth week since my last post. I apologize. I would be a liar if I said I didn’t have time, because I did. I simply haven’t had the motivation to post. I’ve opened the page several times and even started a couple posts, but I lost interest or got distracted before finishing.

I believe it’s another extension of my wonderful disorder. Just like all the other projects I’ve started, I eventually get bored and find myself searching for my next “fix” of something new.

I wonder if I’ll ever find that one hobby that holds my attention, or if I’ll just have to fight through the lulls. Perhaps I’m just meant to wander through the endless halls of interests. For now, I shall continue my search!


On that note, I will update you on a couple things and reveal my newest endeavor! First, I mentioned in a previous post that I was thinking about starting Adderall again. I have decided that I’m not going to because I don’t really have much time in my schedule to focus on the exercises that accompany it.

In case you are unfamiliar with the process, Adderall (and any other ADD medications) are designed to be used with therapy/exercises. The medication helps the person focus, so they can establish new habits and re-train their brain. Then, the medication is supposed to be reduced and eventually eliminated. Unfortunately, it can be addictive and used as a pacifier. I do not want to use any sort of medication any longer than I have to, so I don’t want to risk the addiction without a plan in place.

Second, and more artistically, I have scrapped the political thriller book and moved back to my sci-fi idea. I wrote the beginning of a chapter, but haven’t done much with it since. I Hopefully, I’ll be able to find some more time and inspiration in the near future. I’ve had little pockets of inspiration and jotted them down, but that’s been the extent of my writing lately.


Now it’s time to unleash my new idea!

I know, I know. You’ve heard this before and you’re probably a little disappointed by my lack of results. I am too. I’m not even going to promise that this will be any different. But I still want to try it.

So, what is it?

I’ve decided that I want to try to add an audio recording to each of my blog posts and use my morning/afternoon commute to PodCast! I know the audio won’t be perfect because of road noise, but I still want to try.

I think I have all the audio equipment I need, so starting it won’t be too difficult to get that part set up, but my biggest issues are going to be: setting up a reliable website (hard to do without paying monthly fees) and finding the actual time to edit.

I need your help with the first obstacle. If you have any tips on how to start a PodCast for free (and how to link it to my blog), please let me know. I’ve watched YouTube videos, but most of them suggest buying a website and all that jazz. If I do well with this project and stick with it, I’ll look into setting up all that, but I don’t want to put any more money towards it until I know it’s something that I won’t abandon.

I will continue posting on here as well, so don’t think I’m leaving you behind. I just want to add another dimension to improve your experience here!

Until next time…

Canine Coincidences

Last week, I wrote about our family vacation to Great Wolf Lodge. Since then, we’ve been offered three or four dogs. I also volunteered at my daughter’s school as a WatchDOG.

Strange.

I already talked about our vacation, so I’ll skip to the second coincidence. I have no idea why people suddenly felt like we are the perfect place for their furry friends. We’ve had several animals, but none of them have worked for us. They’re either too destructive or have health issues that cost more than my kids.

I’m personally a cat person, preferring the calm, gentle demeanor that most cats bring. I don’t mind dogs, but I’m much more picky. My wife says it’s probably because cats and I have similar traits in our personalities. I can’t entirely disagree with her. I like my personal time, regular feedings, and sleep. Oh, how I love my sleep.

But I digress. We have even dabbled into the exotic pets category with our chinchilla. He ended up destroying our walls and carpet with his constant urination. He was very cute and fun to watch, but we had to give him up for sanitary reasons since we had a toddler at the time.

In total, we’ve had one chinchilla, four cats and two dogs. None of them lived with us more than a year. My wife and I agreed that we want to wait to have any more pets until far into the future, like after the kids are grown and moved out.

Speaking of kids, let’s switch over to the bright side of my week, or month, for that matter. I took off work on Monday to volunteer at my daughter’s school as a WatchDOG. It was so much fun! Due to parent/teacher conferences, though, it was only a half day. I didn’t get to have the “full” experience, but I enjoyed every minute nonetheless.

WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) is a wonderful program that invites fathers, grandfathers, uncles and father-figures to volunteer a day or two during the year at their child’s school. It’s intended to bring a male presence into the schools (every volunteer goes through a background check) because two dads noticed that the one thing missing in their kids’ school was them.

This year was my second time volunteering. Last year, my daughter went to a different school, so I got the benefit of getting to experience two different schools. I enjoyed both schools’ programs and will continue to volunteer as long as I can!

My day started with an early arrival at the school, where we went to the office, signed in, got my schedule and took a photo with my daughter. Then, we walked to my first assignment: Stand at the gate and welcome all the kids with high-fives and smiles. After about fifteen minutes of hand-slapping, I gave my daughter a hug and moved on to my next stop: Turn on the computers in the computer lab.

Once that inglorious task was complete, I went to my daughter’s class and helped out with spelling tests and reading. Unfortunately, it was quiet time, so I didn’t get to spend any time with my daughter. She didn’t seem to mind, because she knew I would see her later at lunch and recess.

After leaving her class, I got to play security guard and walk the perimeter. I didn’t know it at the time, but apparently I freaked out a couple kids when they saw me walking from the far side of the field. Their teacher knew who I was, so she let them know. She thought it was pretty funny.

Just as I was finishing my lap around the school grounds, the bell rang for recess. I spent the entire recess playing hide-and-seek with about twenty kids. It’s amazing how many kids will argue over who gets to count. I grew up with a group of kids who would do almost anything to not count.

The bell rang. The kids lined up and went to class while I took a break before I helped set up the cafeteria for lunch. I set up the tables with the custodian, who, as I discovered, was the custodian at my daughter’s previous school the year before. We talked about various subjects while the tables were rolled out and lined up.

Again, the bell rang and kids filed into the lunch room, class by class. My daughter’s class entered and I got my food while she socialized at her table. I didn’t realize how small those tables really were until I had to squeeze my legs under them like a Tetris game. The food was alright, but I could have eaten about three more.

The lunch monitor dismissed our table, and we exited the room to frolic on the playground once more. The rest of my day, actually, was nothing but recess. Needless to say, I was tired, but it was worth it.

Kids remember the days their parents go the extra mile to make their life special. That’s why I volunteer. I want my daughter to look back, over all my shortcomings, and see multiple bright moments in her childhood.

Moments that say, “I may not have been perfect, but I loved you as much as I could.”

GREAT Wolf Vacation

Talon, Atlas and me about to enjoy a breakfast buffet.
Talon, Atlas and me about to enjoy a breakfast buffet.

Last weekend, my family and I went on a vacation to Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound, WA. We had wanted to go for a few years, but weren’t financially able to until now. For anyone who doesn’t know, it costs a small fortune to stay for three nights. We ended up spending nearly $2,000 (including the room) after it was all said an done. Granted we did splurge because it was my daughter’s birthday, and we added a night to our stay, it could have been much cheaper.

BUT! It was worth every penny. I had a ton of fun and bonded with my daughter more than ever before!

I took off early on Friday and picked up our daughter from school to get ready and leave as soon as we possibly could, but, like most of our scheduled departures, we didn’t leave until a few hours after we intended. Most of that was due to our son who decided to have a fussy morning. Unfortunately, we left just in time to hit all the major rush hour hot-spots.

Talon still smiling after a long day of traveling.
Talon still smiling after a long day of traveling.

We arrived about five hours later, tired and exhausted, but relieved. My wife wanted to hang out in the room and recuperate, but my daughter and I were way too excited to stay. We immediately started exploring and checking out all the different activities.

We stopped by the kid’s store to buy my daughter a “thanks for traveling five hours with a fussy infant next to you and not complaining once” present. I talked to the clerk and ended up buying a Paw Pass (one of three kids packages), which I highly recommend. It includes a wand/topper for MagiQuest, a stuffed animal, and a few other little goodies.

We left the shop after redeeming her stuffed animal and immediately made our way to the MagiQuest shop, or what I call the “fitness supply center”. I’d heard about this live-action adventure game and was almost as excited as my daughter.

Now, before we go on, I feel like I must issue a disclaimer. The guy in the MagiQuest shop described the adventure as a ten-mile scavenger hunt. Right. Sounds like a lot of work, but I saw plenty of parents running around with their kids on this “journey”.  The few things I failed to notice were: A) the amount of children without parents far outweighed the rest, B) the parents that were present looked like zombies, and C) the shop clerk had mentioned stairs.

That’s right. Stairs. To a non-marathoner such as myself, ten miles is daunting enough; however, add on the fact that roughly 4-5 miles of it is stair-climbing, it instantly becomes an Iron Man Triathlon to me. Of course, I didn’t figure this out until we were already into our third quest. So get your running shoes on and stretch, because you won’t need a gym when you’re done.

Unless you’re one of those people.

With that said, I must say that all the exercise I was shocking my body with had very little affect on the amount of fun I was having. My daughter and I were feeding our inner nerds until we couldn’t take any more. We knew we had about three days to complete all the quests, so we took our time and enjoyed it.

Talon getting a new quest at one of the trees.
Talon getting a new quest at one of the trees.

We finished the entire list of quests and adventures by the end of day two. We couldn’t get enough, so, like two kids with change at a candy shop, we bought the second set of quests (ShadowQuest). Exhausted, but motivated, we once again found ourselves pointing our wands and lighting up quest items. Talon and I had mutually agreed to use only elevators by this point.

We did the entire MagiQuest and ShadowQuest by the time we checked out, plus a couple miles for general confusion and misdirection. Next time we go, we’re going to attempt Compass Quest, the next add-on.

A tip for any first-time Magis: if you get a wand, the toppers are an extra $14-$18. They can help you immensely on your quests, and they look pretty cool too. The “special” ones at our GWL were only a few dollars more, but digitally added 4 random toppers to the account. We got the GWL wolf, which gave us a topper that allowed us to instantly defeat the Silver Dragon (which is surprisingly difficult, considering it’s a game aimed at younger children).

We didn’t just go on quests the whole time, though.

Me holding Atlas before we took him to his first swimming pool.
Me holding Atlas before we took him to his first swimming pool.

My wife’s favorite place to hang out with our daughter was the water park. I went with them on the first day of our stay to check it out and see my son experience his first time in a swimming pool. My wife put him in the water up to his waist (it was only a foot deep). It surprised him at first, but he quickly adjusted to it. I think it was like a bath to him.

I had fun, but not nearly as much fun as they did. When I was there, my daughter and I checked out a couple of the smaller water slides. They were both essentially the same, but we still enjoyed them quite a bit.

After we tried the two slides, it was my turn to hang out with our son, so I switched with my wife and didn’t see them for about an hour. Atlas fell asleep in my arms after about fifteen minutes, so I walked around and watched people enjoy the water and get splashed with the massive bucket of water.

Maybe it was the pool water, or maybe it was Atlas asleep in my arms, but I soon found myself getting tired. I walked over to our table and took a little nap until Eva and Talon were done.

The rest of the trip involved little things like glow-in-the-dark golf, trick-or-treating, story time and arcade games. We all agreed that four days was a lot of fun, but we were ready to be home again. Now I’m going to work every weekend I can, so we can go back as soon as possible.

Compass Quest is calling.