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Archive for the ‘life’ Category

Audeo has moved!

Not that my moving means much to you all, but it does mean I have a domain name again for the first time in eons. ;) There’s no design yet, but as always, it will be a continual work in progress as I experiment with things.

You can find me at Serendipitous Design. (Yeah, isn’t spelling a bitch?!) So update your bookmarks! Yes, I mean all three of you. ;)

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A Place in My Mind

www.flickr.com/photos/58778424@N00/Ahhh… Sunday morning in Houston, Texas. Supposedly the temperature outside is 71°F, but inside it’s a nippy 65°F. Yes, nippy, damnit! I didn’t move south to feel chilly.

The thing I like most about living in Texas (over Florida) is that there’s more of a change in seasons here. Leaves actually do fall from trees, and there’s a real possibility (though not probability) of snow once in awhile. This is a good thing in that it allows me to edge my way into feeling… let’s call it homey.

This is the time of year when instead of clicking through the holiday tunes that are always on my iPod, I let them play out. It’s also the time of year I think more and more about my island home in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Sugar Island is where Mum grew up, and where I spent every single summer of my own childhood.

So why do lower tempuratures in Texas remind me of a summer place in Michigan? Ha! You jest. I said it was in the 70s and chilly here. 70° a perfect summer day Up North. The chilly feeling reminds me, not of the summers we spent almost entirely in the water, but the winters when we would visit my grandma on the Island.

Gram heated her house with a kitchen wood stove. The chimney ran up through the middle of the house, and on chilly mornings I can remember running to press my body against that upstairs brick wall before making the mad dash down to the warmth of the kitchen.

In the living room there was a second wood burning stove that was only fired up during really cold weather. It would blow hot air out from the bottom, and after breakfast you could almost always find me sitting in front, toes tucked under the edge. Someone was always telling me to get back before I burned myself.

We have nothing like that here, unless I count the puny gas fireplace that does nothing but draw what heat we do have right up the chimney. I can almost see the dollar signs as they float up and away. No, instead of snuggling around a smoky smelling wood stove, here I huddle next to my electric stove for the few minutes it takes to make my morning coffee.

As the water heats enough to boil up and collect in the reservoir, I cup my hands over the burner as if it were a tiny bonfire. If I close my eyes and focus on the warmth permeating my hands, I can almost remember the feeling of cold mornings at Grandma’s Roy’s. It’s one of my favorite memory places.

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Mum & Dad go boating

Life with my parents has never been dull, and apparently some things don’t change with age. I grew up thinking vacations were spent on a 27″ cabin cruiser tied to some cliff in Ontario. Staying in a hotel was something entirely foreign to me until at least my teens, and even then it only happened once every few years and was always tied in with some meeting Dad had to attend for school.

When Dad retired, ten or thirteen years ago now (I’m bad with dates), they sold the old wooden boat (the “Nicole”. Gotta love that!) and bought a fiberglass Searay monstrosity. Thankfully I had already moved away, so I’ve never had to deckhand on the narrow, badly designed beast. Alas, that left Mum as sole deckhand having to navigate the narrow sides of this monste… but I digress.

A couple weeks ago, Mum and Dad (M&D) took off on a little jaunt to Richard’s Landing, Ontario (a frequent weekend destination for them). About two hours into the three hour tour (yes, I just said that), Dad noticed he was having to throttle up more and more to keep the same speed. This, of course, happened in Lake George just about the same place our old boat sank when I was seven.

By the time they made it through the rapids not far from their destination, they were at full throttle and barely making headway, but they somehow managed to avoid the rocks. The engine finally died all together just yards from the marina, and they coasted the last several feet. Apparently Dad, all 5’6″ and 70 years of him, lept the last few.

Apparently something had broken, and water was being pumped into the bilge rather than out of it, slowly sinking the boat. So they called the local boat fix-it guy who came down to the dock with his little toolbox and fixed the problem after several trips back and forth the 30+ miles to get parts. Dad, of course, made fast friends, and the man (and his dog) ended up hanging with M&D on the docks, drinking into the late evening. That’s my Dad… making friends with everyone.

Now a lot of people would be wary of taking off in a boat that had all but landed at the bottom of the river three days before. Not M&D. They waved goodbye and started their merry way back upriver. Now the trip back takes them through the shipping channel. This means they’re in hundreds of feet of water with 1,000 foot freighters sharing the waterway. It can be quite dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing, or are incapacitated somehow. You see where this is going?

An hour or so from home, the engine died. Kaput. Nada. The current in the channel is fierce, but luckily no freighters in sight to drag them into their wake. Finally Dad finally resorted to calling in a Mayday to the local Coast Guard (ah the memories). They tell M&D that they’ll be along as soon as they can get there, and to sit tight. So my parents drift until they’re outside the boundaries of the shipping channel, and throw out an anchor to await rescue. An hour and a half later said rescue appears to tow them to the nearest marina.

Now I’m just guessing here, but knowing my parents as I do, they likely passed the time having an afternon drink and some snacks.

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What Comes Around

2005 by ishrona at Flickr.com

Christian is taking an online networking class, so, for all intents and purposes, I am taking an online networking class. That’s how it works around here. One jumps in, the other follows to make sure all the bases are covered. The fact that it’s Cisco networking and I’ve been certified before is neither here nor there. That was eight years ago, ancient history in Computer Land.

We bought the book, which is the same book I studied from for my exam with an updated cover and several new pages. Flipping through I quickly relived those painful weeks of what I lovingly refer to as Acronym Hell. It was a time I have often hoped to never have to face again, and yet here I am willingly taking it on, albeit at a much slower pace. They actually break the book into two classes over two eight week sessions. I crammed the entire thing into a month of self-induced learning mania.

I do love to learn, and things are much clearer this time around, but if I had the choice I’d have never cracked open a Cisco book again in my life. Yet somehow, in the depths of my mind, I knew I wasn’t done with it all after I was laid off in 2001. Despite the fact that the tech crunch left me jobless, it felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I was free!

So what does Nicole do when she’s free to do anything in the world that she wants to do? She moves south, of course. And so the story went. I moved to Florida, bounced in and out of both the travel and website design businesses and somehow ended up in Houston with Christian where we have a cozy little business. He’s a Field Engineer for Samsung, and I take care of the paperwork side of things from home. He goes to school in the evenings studying electronics, and I take care of the Cisco networking side of things.

It seems I have come full circle.

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What would you do?

I have this chunk of metal sitting on my desk with only the words “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” engraved on it (much like the one pictured here). It’s a quote by Robert H. Schuller from the mid 1900s. The piece is solid, and its weight feels good in my hand. I sort of commandeered it during the chaos when the travel agency I worked for was sold and the work was shipped off to India. A lot of things were scavenged during that time of clean up and goodbyes. We just recently ran out of a case of packing tape and box of trash can liners, and the business has been closed down now for about four years… but I digress, as usual.

After my last post which asked, “What do you do when you’re alone?”, I started thinking about my hobbies. Reading, music, movies and now writing. Aren’t those the same hobbies as nearly everyone else in the world? I mean, who doesn’t like music and movies? Those aren’t hobbies, those are interests. I’m not quite sure what my hobbies are, so I made a short list of things I’d like to do or learn to do.

I’d like to:

  • Learn to draw beautifully. (Six years of Industrial Design did nothing for my non-drafting skills.)
  • Take a Photoshop class.
  • Learn SCUBA diving.
  • Participate in a creative writing seminar.
  • Build a house. (I’ll always be an architect at heart.)
  • Live in a Barnes & Noble with a coffee shop in back. ;)

Before even finishing the list, I realized learning is actually my hobby. Vague, maybe. Broad, yes. But it’s what I do when I have spare time. I read textbooks, I take classes, I search the web for answers. Even when I’m watching movies and listening to music I’m soaking in knowledge of time periods, character types and personalities, sound combinations, accents, hairstyles and clothes.

There is a constant stream of information that bombards us all the time, and there are several ways to deal with that onslaught. You can let it beat against you and stress you out, or you can welcome it and learn from it. Sure there are days when it’s too much, and we just can’t deal with it all. Hell, I recently had an entire week of that, but more often than not I not only welcome it, but I find myself looking for more. One piece of information prompts questions that need answers, and I search them out. That is my hobby.

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Copyright 2006 FEGA (Photo taken by Norbert Puechl via stcok.xchng)

Copyright 2006 FEGA (Photo taken by Norbert Puechl via stock.xchng)

I found myself at loose ends several weekends back. In between the huge dents I made in the mountains of work, I’d set aside some free time to write. I had been hoping to get into a fun bit of shared fiction. Alas, the rest of the world appeared to be spending that particular weekend away from their computers, and I’d written Lizzy into a spot where she was dependant on other characters’ actions. Hrm.

I looked around my desk at all the work I could be doing to get a leap on Monday morning. (Understand, we’d just spent the preceding two days working, which in the real world would be considered overtime, but when you own a business is just “clean-up”.) The last thing I wanted to do on a lazy Sunday morning was more work.

 Everyone else was still asleep, and I was sitting in front of my laptop with a cup of hot chai. At a loss, I started thinking, “What do I do when I’m alone?” (I can’t hear, think, say or even see that sentence without humming and singsonging to myself, “Well sometimes I sing a little song.“) It made me smile, and I ended up putting on the childhood records I still have here in my office. Yes, I still listen to them now and again, and I probably always will. Story records were a huge part of my growing up.

Living in the north and not being allowed to watch TV except for weekends or special occasions, I had to get creative with my entertainment options. Winters in particular were full of free time, because I could only handle so much time outside in the cold. Instead I spent most of my time in my bedroom reading and listening to records.

It started out with story records, the kind that narrated all the classic fairy tales and Disney stories. I’d spend hours listening to the tales of Pandora, Ali Baba and Sinbad. Later I moved on to Mum’s original cast Broadway musical albums, stories of a different kind, but still stories. I literally wore out Camelot and My Fair Lady, and now I don’t remember the words that should be there in the places where my records skip.

So I spent the morning listening to musical stories and relaxing. Apparently I relive my childhood when I’m alone. What do you do when you find yourself alone with nothing more pressing to do than sing yourself a little song? ;)

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve collected books on writing. Books about Building Believable Characters and Character Traits. Books claiming to be The Pocket Muse or telling me what should be included in The First Five Pages. Even books that simply asked What If?

More recently I turned to online resources, and the best I found were actually sites about blogging and writing copy. I subscribed to several and started reading regularly. A handful survived the first month, and I still read them every day because they are truly inspiring… but reading them has done nothing for my writing. Or lack thereof.

Book by book and Bird by Bird I read and I read, but I seldom wrote. Oh, I wanted to write, but I thought I wasn’t good enough, didn’t know enough, wasn’t ready. When I did try my hand at writing, it was clunky and awkward, and I quickly got frustrated and went out and bought another book. No Plot? No Problem! Even Stephen King was lecturing me On Writing, and while it was all very inspiring, it didn’t help me write. I was frustrated. Writing, real writing, became just a joke between Mum and I. I was going to write, she would edit, and… then we’d both laugh because we knew it was never going to happen.

Then one Saturday morning I read a blog post. The post itself was good, but even better were the comments. Suddenly I found myself in the middle of a story, and I was refreshing the page every few minutes to see what happened next, and who would come up with what. Oh how I envied these people their witty dialog and creative descriptions. I wanted to play! Not long after that day I was told that I could play. All I had to do was write.

What?! Just sit down and… and what? Start typing? Are you kidding me? You can’t just write. There was no way that was going to work. No way! And who else will be writing along side me? Oh, just the very same bloggers I’d been voraciously reading on a daily basis. Oohing and ahhing over their creativity, style and choice of words. No no no, that would never work. I couldn’t possibly hold my own in such a crowd. Oh but I wanted to.

So for the first time in my life, I made a commitment to write. I created a character profile, and sent in my request to join Escaping Reality. The site launched, and it was daunting and terrifying and so very exciting. For awhile I watched and read, observing the interactions and the writing. I noted the differing styles coming together and met some new online friends. Some were writers, some gamers and some just there to watch.

Finally I wrote my first post… and no one laughed (which is a good thing as it wasn’t meant to be a funny post). So I wrote another, and when my turn came around again I wrote yet another. They started to build up little by little until suddenly I realized my character, Lizzy, was developing a personality. It was actually happening like I’d read about in all those books on writing. Lizzy started to take on a life of her own, and I was just writing it down, and with some specific feedback from my co-writers, I was getting a little bit better at it. Each post better than the last.

I was writing! Not reading about writing. Not thinking about it. I was writing as if it was the most natural thing in the world to simply sit down at a keyboard and start typing dialog and descriptions and thoughts and fears. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but somehow (and by somehow I mean with a lot of encouragement from everyone in the community) I was OK with that. I’d spent my whole life thinking about writing instead of writing.

No more. Thank you again James and Harry. If I ever publish anything at all, you can be sure it will be dedicated to the two people who taught me that the best way to learn how to write is to just write.

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