My Favorite Halloween Costume Ever

I was a sophomore in college, living at His House campus ministry at Western Michigan University.

The previous year, I had dressed up like my philosophy professor and attended his class dressed as him. This year, I needed something better.

Something Bigger.

Something Equally Cheap.

And so I went to the Dollar Store with absolutely no idea of what my costume should be. And then I saw them. inflatable dinosaur toys. I knew right then and there what I was going to be for Halloween. I would be “Jurassic Park”.

The whole park.

My roommate had some caution tape somewhere in our room, and between that and my dinosaurs, I would be all set. Well, almost all set.

After attaching the dinosaurs to my sweatshirt and sweatpants with clear tape and adding a healthy dose of caution tape, I knew that I was still lacking something essential. So I quickly crafted a paper that hung suspended between two pencils atop my winter hat that read “Welcome to Jurassic Park.”

In retrospect, the awesomeness of the costume was a bit wasted on the fact that college students are too old to trick-or-treat and Christian college students don’t get invited to the typical Halloween costume parties that happen on and off of campus. Oh well.

At least I still have my inflatable dinosaurs and memories to keep me warm on this cold October day.

What’s your favorite costume?

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Eating the Not-So-Fine Print

charlies_bar_and_grilleA while back, I wrote about how I mistakenly bought a Groupon deal from Charlie’s Bar and Grille (not Charley’s Pub & Grill like I intended). I know that you have been on tenterhooks ever since to find out how we fared. And so, I shall tell you.

My wife and I took the day off recently to run some errands and figured that we would finally use our Groupon so as not to waste $15 of our precious entertainment fund. We showed up at Charlie’s just after noon to eat some lunch. Here’s the breakdown:

Pros

  • Delightful Wait Staff – The crowd was pretty sparse, and it seemed like everyone knew everyone else except for us. But that didn’t stop our waitress from welcoming us in and making us feel comfortable right away.
  • Delicious Appetizers, Main Courses, and Dessert – We started our meal with some super cheesy fried potato skins (probably not safe on dieter’s menu), picked a couple of the house specials (the Chicken Wrapper and the Wet Burrito), and finished by splitting a slice of pumpkin cheesecake. The portions of the main courses were so big, we’re going to have it for lunch again tomorrow, and both of us would order them again. And that cheesecake, well, it’s probably a good thing that it wasn’t too big, lest we be reduced to rolling out of the restaurant.

Cons

  • Distance – This place is all the way on the other end of town, making it difficult to visit when my wife and I are bound by our normal schedule.
  • Deceptive Marketing Practices – How dare they have almost the same name as another restaurant and advertise a similar deal on a similar advertising channel! Don’t they know that I don’t read things closely?!

But in all seriousness, my wife and I had a good time. We were forced to try something new, which for two people who have their favorite places and are pretty set in their ways as far as food goes, it is a good thing. Now we know that if we are ever on the other side of town and need a place to eat, we can go to Charlie’s and have some good grub.

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Pastor Appreciation 2013

October is Pastor Appreciation Month, a celebration that might have been invented by pastors in order to get gift cards to middle-of-the-road restaurants, but probably not. Most pastors that I know aren’t in the ministry to be recognized. Sure, there are a few wolves among the shepherds, but that exists in every profession. Certainly, I am not writing this post in honor of them. I am writing it about Nelson Koon, my pastor.

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Pastor Nelson, as we call him, is the pastor at Wyoming Community Church in Wyoming, Michigan. Our congregation is small but needy, and has had our share of scandals and heartache. And despite the fact that Pastor Nelson is young enough to still be carded at the local theater, he has proven to be wise beyond his years in his approach to ministry and helping others.

pastor_appreciation_2013_02Wyoming Community Church is Nelson’s first church (and it is probably selfish of me to hope that it will be his last), having come to us shortly after graduation from Frontier School of the Bible. My wife and I started attending WCC a few months after Nelson took the helm. In fact, our first Sunday was Mother’s Day, just days after discovering that my wife and I were pregnant with our first daughter. And Nelson was there for us not many months later when we lost our first daughter. We were his first funeral.

pastor_appreciation_2013_03In the years between then and now, Nelson got married to a woman that he doesn’t deserve. My wife and I were supposed to be the master and mistress of ceremonies at his wedding, but we were stuck in the hospital due to the birth of our second daughter. He understood. We are thankful for the friends that he and his wife have become.

pastor_appreciation_2013_04And so Pastor Nelson, I appreciate you, you handsome devil of a pastor…

I am an O90-C8-E59-A74-N3.

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So I took this personality test for kicks and giggles. And after five to ten minutes of answering questions, I got to see where I rated on five basic areas: Openness to Experience/Intellect; Conscientiousness; Extraversion; Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.

Everything lined up pretty much how I figured it would, except for in one area. Here’s how my score broke down.

Openness to Experience/Intellect
High scorers tend to be original, creative, curious, complex; Low scorers tend to be conventional, down to earth, narrow interests, uncreative.
You enjoy having novel experiences and seeing things in new ways.     My score: 90
Conscientiousness
High scorers tend to be reliable, well-organized, self-disciplined, careful; Low scorers tend to be disorganized, undependable, negligent.
You probably have a messy desk!     My score: 8
Extraversion
High scorers tend to be sociable, friendly, fun loving, talkative; Low scorers tend to be introverted, reserved, inhibited, quiet.
You are neither particularly social or reserved.     My score: 59
Agreeableness
High scorers tend to be good natured, sympathetic, forgiving, courteous; Low scorers tend to be critical, rude, harsh, callous.
You tend to consider the feelings of others.     My score: 74
Neuroticism
High scorers tend to be nervous, high-strung, insecure, worrying; Low scorers tend to be calm, relaxed, secure, hardy.
You probably remain calm, even in tense situations.     My score: 3

Like I said, everything lined up with my expectations except for one area.

For all the times that I’ve taken tests like these, I am always quite extroverted. This is the first time where I’ve been close to the middle of the road.

In high school, I relished in any situation where the attention was on me. I was in plays and musicals as lead characters (or scene-stealing support characters). I arrived at college with people already wearing “I love Josh Mosey” t-shirts (full story here). I took my campus ministry by storm and left an impression (I can’t always say a good one) on everyone I met. I was extroverted to the point of being obnoxious.

I am no longer that guy. Buy why?

I think I owe part of becoming more tame to my wife, though I would not say that she changed me. I married a woman who is all the way on the other end of the extraversion spectrum. And early in our dating life, I learned quickly that if I did something potentially embarrassing, she would be embarrassed for me (even if I wasn’t). I think I have a better handle on what things will embarrass her and what things won’t now, and if I don’t have a good reason to do something embarrassing (I still consider getting a good laugh a good reason, by the way) I won’t do it.

I think another part of my shift toward the shy side is my writing. In writing, I am forced to spend more time alone, observing humanity so as to write believable characters and a good first step toward being able to do that is by stepping out of the limelight. I can see things more clearly when I don’t have a spotlight in my eyes.

And the last part is that life has a way of moderating us over time. Some people call this “maturing.” In my life thus far, I’ve had to deal with things that I never thought possible. My folks got divorced. My wife and I lost a child. And on and on. The rough edges are being worn down and teaching me that I shouldn’t be the focus of every situation.

It was an insightful personality test. If you want to take it, go here: http://www.outofservice.com/bigfive/

The Squirrel Experiment Continues – Days 21-28

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Experiment Day 21 – The squirrels have proven their worth. Two of my corn cobs are gone. My scientific study is paying off.

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Placing the two additional corn cobs on the branch seemed to do the trick. Given that the squirrels still haven’t touched the original test cob, a few scenarios are possible.

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The original cob may have been inherently undesirable (which I doubt, because they have never before turned their little squirrel noses up at free food. That makes me think that the problem was having the cobs at an accessible distance to the tree.

I’m going to leave that last cob up anyway and see if they try for it or not.

* * * * * * * * * *

This post was supposed to go live last Friday, but it didn’t. In the time between when it should have gone live and now, the squirrels have captured my final cob.

As a congratulations, I have decided to stock their original feeder with 4 large corn cobs. Hopefully, this will also smoothe over any ill will on their part for forcing them to take part in my study.

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The conclusion of my experiment is this: I am disappointed that I did not get to see any squirrels fall off of my tree. And I can’t be sure that it wasn’t actually my neighbors (or wife) who took the cobs down one at a time to make me think that it was the squirrels. Oh well.

What should I do for my next experiment?

A Quick Breather | Finding Your Writing Rhythm

While at the Breathe Conference, I attended Erin Bartels’ workshop entitled “Finding Your Writing Rhythm”. Here’s how the official schedule described it:

This workshop will show you how to be a good steward of your time, space, and creative energies so you can stop making excuses and start writing!

I chose this workshop over the others because I know how valuable time is to both me and my family. I’d love to get more use out of the time that I have without eating into the time I have dedicated to my wife and kids. I never want my family to question whether my writing is more important than they are.

The session opened with a Calvin & Hobbes comic to which I unfortunately relate.

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After going through the comic, Erin asked us to close our eyes and imagine the perfect writing scenario. There would be a never-ending pot of coffee, a complete lack of noisy children, plenty of natural light, and a chair that was impossibly comfortable. Of course, stuff like that just doesn’t happen in the real life.

Instead, we went over the various things in our lives than can make writing difficult. We listed the things that steal time, create space problems, and starve our creative energies. After we had a pretty impressive (sad) list on the board, we started going over ways to take back time, create a space for creativity, and feed our muse. Here are some of the ideas that were mentioned.

Make More Time

  • Quit your job
  • Get up early, stay up late
  • Take writing vacations
  • Learn to say no to hobbies; prioritize the important ones
  • Let yourself/your housework go a bit
  • Take your novel on a date (build writing time into couple time)
  • Down time redemption (waiting = time for research/note taking)

Make a Better Space

  • Take back a room’s use for writing
  • Convert a closet
  • Take advantage of mobility. Find a space that you don’t need to change: Coffee shops, library, bars, nature
  • Create invisible boundaries in your home (Ex. “Mom won’t be disturbed for one hour…”)
  • Change a current space to make it more fun to be in
  • Indoor Date Night – Let the kids have free rein until they require intervention, then all the fun ends

Make More Creative Fuel

  • Stay away from things that drain you
  • Ask yourself if a hobby or other interest is siphoning off your creativity
  • Stop squandering your brains on mobile devices/the internet
  • Start conversations with people who are very different from you
  • Take a moment to notice the world around you
  • Read
  • Turn down the volume of your inner critic
  • Think about your project throughout the day so you are ready to write it down when you get the chance
  • Bring a notebook everywhere
  • Start or join a writers group
  • Agree to disagree with naysayers

I am thankful for the amount of time that I have to write. I am also thankful that I don’t need extravagant spaces at home or in public to write. For me, the biggest takeaway from the session was in refueling my creative tank. In truth, I am a sucker for mindless activity. I could spend hours playing silly games online instead of writing. But the thing that rang true to me was to think about the project throughout the day in preparation for writing time.

When I was preparing for my first 3-day-novel competition, I spent many mental hours in imagining a world where sound was illegal. How would people communicate? How would they get from place to place? How do you deal with crying babies? It is a concept that still fascinates me. I filled a little notebook with idea after idea of how this society would work and those ideas helped me form a plot and my characters. It’s been a while since I have given that much mental energy to one of my projects and I’m kind of excited to get back into the world of one of my other unfinished novels.

But enough about me. What tips ring true to you? Which ones seem too extreme or unfeasible?

One Week Left…

With a dire title like that, you may be reading this to find out if I have only one week left to live. Well, no one really knows when they are going to die, but my title was referring to the Andrew Peterson Wingfeather Saga Kickstarter, not my mortality. Sorry to disappoint.

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If you’ve been paying attention to the Kickstarter campaign for the final book in the Wingfeather Saga, you’ve already seen the tremendous outpouring of support. I mean, the original goal was $14,000 in order to get the book published, and now the campaign has over $80,000 going for it. So why am I talking about it? Am I really going to suggest that you participate in a campaign that has already met its goal many times over?

Yes. I am going to talk about it. I am going to suggest that you participate. Because it’s possible that you missed the posts where I mentioned the campaign. And because you may not have heard about the latest incentive for participation. Along the way, donors have hit every stretch goal for the Kickstarter campaign, making it possible for Andrew Peterson to add illustrations to the final book in the series, to make that book a hardcover, to reproduce book three as a hardcover, to record books three and four as audio books, and to create a “creaturepedia” for the wild beasts mentioned throughout the series. And that’s all pretty cool, but Peterson just added a new stretch goal: a poster-sized, professionally illustrated fantasy map of Aerwiar. But it’ll only be produced if we meet the latest stretch goal of $85,000.

aerwiar_map

Probably the coolest part about all of this is that donors only need to sign up at the $35 “Cave Blat” level in order to get all of the things mentioned above. So for $35, you could get two hardcover books, two digital audiobooks, the “creaturepedia,” and the map (if it happens to be made).

But that isn’t all. Peterson also created a new reward for a special level of backers. If you donate at the “Skonk” level, you are able to “work with Andrew to include a name of your choosing in the world of Aerwiar.” You can be part of the landscape or story! That’s pretty cool.

skonk

I realize that I sound like a TV pitch man, and that isn’t my goal. Really, it isn’t. I’m just excited about the prospect of the final book in this wonderful series and I think that if you knew how good the series was, you’d be excited too. I’d be a jerk not to tell you about it.

So, anyway, you have one week to join up before it’s too late. But if you are thinking about doing it, do it soon. Because no one knows when they are going to die. Oh wait. Too morbid. Forget I said that and click this link to join the campaign.

Related Links:

What I got out of the Breathe Conference.

Last week, I did a post on what I hoped to get out of the Breathe Writers Conference. Here’s where I share what actually happened.

In addition to hoping the session I was to lead would go well, I hoped for new knowledge and to enjoy time with fellow wordsmiths. I am happy to report that all quests were successful. A few people who sat in on my session on Flash Fiction said they found it helpful (for those of you who asked, here is the flash handout from that session) . I got to take in some great workshops led by Erin Bartels of Baker Publishing Group (with whom I am a distant coworker) and Dave Beach of Soul Seasons (a counselor in whose basement my family took residence for a time), not to mention the inspirational keynote session with Latayne Scott.

I plan on sharing some of the educational nuggets from these sessions here on my blog over the next few days/weeks, but I don’t want you to think that just because I do so, you are free to skip next year’s Breathe Conference. For one thing, having not been there, you have no idea if I am lying about what the presenter said or not. And two, even if we sat in the same session, you might have gotten something completely different but equally valid from the presentation, so to hear only my thoughts would be robbing yourself of the opportunity to learn cool stuff first hand.

The Writers Guild

The Writers Guild

Plus, by not going you are truly missing out on that constructive interaction with a community of writers. Conferences like these are where the connections are made that lead to achieving your writing career goals. No where else do you find potential publishers, editors, agents, ghost writers, and writers group members just milling around and waiting for you to talk to them. And Breathe is a conference like no other. One can truly feel the mission of support that was started by The Guild, a Christian ladies writers group filled with credentialed writers based in Grand Rapids, only seven years ago.

I don’t mean to gush, but I will. If you were there, you would too. If you weren’t, plan on attending next year’s event.

I am ready for my fallout shelter.

Fallout_shelter_photo

Over the weekend, my wife and I joined an elite group of consumers. We are now members at Costco.

We began our membership around lunchtime on Saturday, bringing our daughters along so we would know what to expect for future trips.

Our first impressions were very good. Every cart there can accommodate two children sitting side by side. When we shop at the regular grocery store, it is always a battle to find the special limo-carts with the extra seat for additional kids. We didn’t have time after naps to have lunch at home before leaving either, but we knew that Costco was supposed to have an inexpensive cafe. So after completing our forms and taking some pixelated pictures for our membership cards, we gave the cafe a try. We were quite impressed that our family of four was able to eat a decent meal together for less than five dollars (total, not individually).

And then the shopping began. We had been holding off on large restocks of some family staples (toilet paper, paper towels, and diapers) in recent, normal shopping trips because we knew we were going to become Costco members soon. Our large cart quickly filled up with unimaginably large quantities of household goods, and I started wondering how we were going to fit our purchases into our vehicle. I needn’t have worried too much, however, because my oldest daughter was willing to sit with a box of frozen waffles on her lap, which was the last thing that didn’t fit.

In the end, it was a two and half hour learning experience. Now that we are somewhat familiar with the store layout, the next trip should take less time. That should help because we also learned that there is no good way to get to the bathroom (which was problematic because our oldest insisted on using the bathroom four times while we were there) and the less time we are there, the less times we will have to make bathroom breaks. We also learned that there are some things that would be fun to buy in bulk, but that we probably shouldn’t because it would make it too easy to consume too much of things that we don’t need (namely ginger beer and frappuccinos).

So now that we have all these bulk quantities of things, the only thing I am missing is the underground fallout shelter in which to store them. Although, maybe Costco sells those too.

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