I am a Disney Princess.

Over the weekend, my family watched more Disney princess movies than we’ve ever seen as a family before. Specifically, we watched two Disney princess movies: Frozen and Brave.

That’s two movies with three princesses between them. And for my wife and I, it was an act of true love to even be willing to borrow the movies (we got one from the library and one from some friends) to watch with the girls.

First, we are not a Disney family. The happiest place on earth for us is probably the library or a good bookstore, not a Califloridan theme park. We don’t follow Disney films, watch the Disney channel, or buy Disney princess gear for our girls. The Disney corporation has the science of loosening wallets a little too perfected for my liking.

Second, the idea of encouraging our girls to be princesses like Snow White or Cinderella is disturbing to us as parents. I am of the impression that these characters rely too heavily on outside forces (usually in the form of handsome princes) rather than their own ingenuity or skill. And I don’t want to raise girls who are always looking for Mr. Right, when they should be focusing on being Ms. Right, whether or not they are destined for marriage.

And so, it was with trepidation that we watched these more modern Disney princess films. Thus was I surprised to see Disney princesses worth watching.

you_cant_marryFrozen is essentially a tale of sisterhood that teaches kids to love their family and not shut each other out. Having a pair of girls myself, I’m all about teaching them to appreciate each other. Though the songs in the film did not add to the watching experience (again, my opinion only, don’t crucify me), I genuinely enjoyed watching it with my girls. Plus, Olaf the snowman is a hoot.

Brave had the advantage of being a Pixar film (I realize I’m probably a hypocrite for having a soft spot for Pixar when they are firmly in the Disney family), so I was not as opposed to it as I was about Frozen. Plus, having been proved wrong about Frozen, I was willing to thaw a bit toward the possibility that all princess films were tripe. The storyline in Brave centered on the mother/daughter relationship and a situation where the daughter’s hand in marriage is on the line, regardless to the fact that the daughter doesn’t wish to be married. Oh, with Scottish accents.

So, I guess I could be considered a convert. If my girls want to become princesses like Merida from Brave, or Anna or Elsa from Frozen, so be it. With regard to my general abhorrence of all things Disney princess, it is time for me to let it go.


Friday 5 | Click-worthy Links

Wireless Computer Mouse with Wheel

Here are 5 more places online worth checking out:

  1. Can libraries and bookstores put aside the blood feud? Maybe. Just maybe.
  2. April 23 is World Book Night. And now that Amy Poehler is involved, maybe people will hear about it.
  3. When I die, once science is done with my corpse, I’d like to be made into books. Because that happens sometimes.
  4. What do you do when you run out of space for more bookshelves? Get a spice rack and buy tiny books.
  5. Just watch the video below. As a former trombone enthusiast, I found it pretty impressive.


On the Origin of Recipe

Recipe is a funny word. It looks nothing like it is pronounced, but if we spelled it as “ressippee”, the redundancy of letters alone would seem wasteful.

Today, we use recipe to mean the written directions required to prepare specific foods, but this is not its first meaning. It’s original meaning had more of a relationship with medicine than with delicious morsals.

Ritalin-SR-20mg-1000x1000According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, recipe comes from the Latin word of the same spelling (recipe) which means, “take!” The word is a second person imperitive spoken as a command. It was written at the top of a doctor’s prescription note to a patient.

The figurative meaning that we know and love today didn’t come about until the mid-1700’s. It’s original meaning exists only as the Rx that you see at pharmacies.

VernorsThat said, it is pretty easy to see how the meaning of the word jumped from medicine to food. After all, how many parents swear by chicken noodle soup for colds or warm ginger ale for upset stomachs?

And who can forget the old saying, “Feed the flu, feed a cold”? Actually, I don’t think that’s how it goes, but I’m a big fan of food, so that’s how I’ll remember it.

If you are also a fan of food and you were hope for some recipes in this post, I’d hate to let you down. So here are some delicious dishes that you should try some time. Take them!


My Writing Process Blog Hop

The intrepid Bob Evenhouse asked me to participate in a blog hop discussion of my writing process. In addition to being a true hockey fanatic (with missing teeth to prove it), Bob is one of the founders of Jot and a fellow Weakling. He writes high fantasy when he isn’t busy being an amazing husband and father and employee and stuff. Thanks for asking me to do this, Bob!

Don_Quijote_and_Sancho_PanzaWhat am I working on?

I’m working on a story that started as flash fiction and ballooned into something else. It involves two primary point-of-view characters, an old folks home, a nurse, a wizard, and a dragon that can control the weather. I had trouble fitting the idea into less than 1,000 words, so it is currently in the realm of short story. The plot is something like Don Quixote meets Lord of the Rings with a splash of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest mixed in for flavor.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’m not entirely sure that you can classify flash fiction as a genre, because flash stories can represent any genre. But since the majority of my writing falls into the Young Adult Speculative Fiction genre, I’ll say that I enjoy inserting humor along with my plot twists. So many popular YA spec fiction books are deadly serious (The Hunger Games, Divergent, etc.). I find myself drawn to writers who can blend humor into their fantastic worlds (Terry Pratchett, Jasper Fforde, Kurt Vonnegut), so I try to do that on the lesser scale of flash fiction.

Why do I write what I do?

The first stories I wrote, back when I started considering myself a writer, were incredibly short. They ran along the lines of Aesop’s fables, but most lacked the characteristic moral. I really enjoyed those stories because they fit well with my sense of humor and attention span. I’ve attempted a handful of novel-length works since then, but while the ideas are there, none of those stories are finished. By writing flash fiction, I can take a story from conception to final edit in a much more reasonable time.

How does your writing process work?

Most of the time, a story’s genesis lies in a twist to the world around me. It’s like when you are half-listening to someone and you mishear some key detail. Where most people shrug off the nonsense as nonsense, my brain likes to craft a story to justify what I heard. I ask, “What situation would require this thing to be true?” and then I explore the thought.

At other times, a story will start with a character that presents himself (or herself) to me. I keep a list of character ideas handy and experiment with introducing them to each other. Occasionally, a story will arise from the inherent struggles within the character mix.

I would like to thank Bob Evenhouse for the opportunity to participate in this blog hop. It is always helpful to think through why and how I do what I do (just in case I’m doing it wrong).

The Lesson of the Prodigal’s Father


The story of the Prodigal Son is a familiar, if somewhat troubling, one.

The younger brother in the tale demands his portion of his father’s estate (prior to his father’s demise), gets it, and moves away to a foreign country to live a wild life. When the money runs out and he finds himself living in shameful squalor, he swallows his pride and returns home to beg a place among his father’s servants. Instead of refusing his younger son, the father reinstates him in the family and throws a party for his return. The older, faithful brother who never left complains that his father’s reaction is unfair and that his own faithfulness has never been rewarded.

I’ve heard the story like a billion times, and I’ve always puzzled over the lesson to be learned. I understand it from the point of the younger brother. He makes a string of bad choices, realizes his mistake, and returns to find forgiveness. The way this story is often taught, the listener is encouraged to identify with the younger son and be thankful for God’s forgiveness. Maybe the lesson we are taught is that we shouldn’t make poor choices in the first place, but when we do, we should repent.

The troubling part of the story is when we identify with the older brother instead. After all, the younger brother severely messed up and shamed the entire family. Just because he says he’s sorry, should he really be forgiven and reinstated in the family? Isn’t celebrating his return just another way of enabling his bad choices? To these thoughts, we are often taught that the older brother shouldn’t think these things, because what happens between the father and the younger son shouldn’t concern the older brother. He shouldn’t resent his faithfulness just because his younger brother’s faithlessness turned out okay.

I always thought the lessons ended with the two brothers… until recently.

What happens when we are placed, not in role of the brothers, but the father?

Yes, it is hard to admit you were wrong and plead for forgiveness like the younger son does. And yes, it is hard to not compare yourself to those around you and continue in your faithfulness despite your perceived lack of reward like the older brother must do. But the hardest part of this story to understand is the father’s.

When someone you love wrongs you deeply, acts as though you might as well be dead, and then returns to ask your forgiveness, are you so quick to rejoice at their return? What do you do with feelings of bitterness and pain? How do know that the person who wronged you won’t do it again?

There are many lessons to be learned from the story of the Prodigal Son, but I think the one that is hardest to put into practice is to forgive as the father does.

Have you ever been wronged like this? How do you put away the pain?

I am not a “manly man”.


This sums up my sportsing experience.

I met my future father-in-law on the night of my first date with DeAnne. We were home later than we said we would be due to car trouble on DeAnne’s part (she almost unintentionally stood me up), and I didn’t want my first impression with her folks to be one of carelessness or rule-breaking. So when DeAnne told me that her dad was probably still up, I asked if I could meet him.

He seemed impressed by the fact that I came in to meet him when I could have easily avoided doing so, but I’m afraid that is where my good impression ended.

“So are you into hunting?” he asked, subtly dropping the fact that he was a man with firearms in his possession.

“Not so much,” I said. “I’m a pretty good shot, but I don’t know what I’d do with a deer if I killed one.”

“How about sports?” he asked, looking for some kind of common ground.

“Um,” I said. “I’m not what you’d call a ‘manly man’. I don’t really hunt or follow sports. I’m more into books and stuff.”

“Oh,” he said. “Well, it was nice meeting you.”

“You too,” I said.

I was sure that my lack of testosterone-inducing priorities would be a stumbling block to my relationship with my future father-in-law. At the time, it may well have. But since then, I think the opposite has become true.


Because he knows that my priorities aren’t focused around hunting or sports, but around his daughter and his grandchildren. When other guys may want to go out and watch a football game at the bar with their buddies, I’m watching Finding Nemo with my kids. When the guys at work as me about my basketball playoff bracket, I don’t have a clue what teams are even playing.

And I don’t regret it one bit. Give me awkward male to male conversation any day, as long as I can go grocery shopping with my beautiful wife.

Some guys will read this post and label me as “whipped.” I know that, and I pity them. Because I feel confident that I am doing my best to be a good husband and father and that on my death-bed, you won’t hear me say, “I wish I watched more sports.” But while they lay on theirs, they may think, “I wish I had spent more time with my family.”

That said, it isn’t like I don’t have hobbies, and I don’t mean to criticize people for taking an interest in sports or hunting. I spend a portion of each day sitting at the computer and writing. But I’m pretty confident that my wife knows that she and our daughters come first.

So spend your time however you want to. Just make sure that you won’t regret how you spend that time later.

Friday 5 | Click-worthy Links

Wireless Computer Mouse with Wheel

Here are 5 more places online worth checking out:

  1. Are physical books doomed to extinction? I don’t think so, but we may see a new form of book appear. Here are some thoughts on how books might evolve with technology.
  2. I hope no one finds an old poem of mine in my high school. Of course, if I’m famous and dead, I probably won’t care. That’s precisely the case with Douglas Adams’ poetry, discovered and published here.
  3. Here are a bunch of people’s opinions on the greatest characters of all time. For the record, I believe the greatest character of all time is Yossarian from Catch-22. You should read it and find out why.
  4. “Fear is a wonderful thing… in small doses.” Neil Gaiman talks about why scary stories appeal to us.
  5. And for a bit of hometown pride, here’s a film starring a former member of Freaks & Geeks that is being filmed in Grand Rapids, MI. Yay!


Good Problems: A Reflection on Jot

jot_josh_1Last Friday, my writer’s group put on the 3rd Jot Conference, and for all the positive feedback we received, we also had some problems. But they were good problems to have.

The main complaint we heard was about parking. Jot is held at Baker Book House, my place of work, so I am able to hold the conference there free of charge. The building was just remodeled and the event space within is beautiful. jot_tracy_1Plus, what better surroundings could writers ask for than a bookstore? But while the inside of the building is quite nice, the outside doesn’t have quite enough parking to accommodate the growing crowd of Jot attendees.

You see, Jot is getting bigger. Our first event, we had about 60 people attend. Our second event, the number was around 70. This time, Andrew Rogers counted over 80 people in attendance. And amazingly, around 30% off the audience had never attended a previous Jot Conference. jot_susie_1We are a bit overwhelmed by the response of the writing community in West Michigan.

But what do we do about our growing numbers and the problems that can cause?

If we move the conference to somewhere larger, we would likely have to pay for the event space. And as Jot is a free conference, we are loath to do anything that might raise our costs.

Ijot_chad_1f we keep it at Baker, we’ll have to get creative when it comes to parking solutions. Do we rent a shuttle van for attendees? Do we ask people to carpool with other writers? Do we cap the number of people allowed to come?

When I met with my writer’s group, The Weaklings, to discuss these things, jot_thomas_1we all agreed that something will have to change before Jot 4 (tentatively scheduled for September 2014). We’re looking at options, but I’d love to hear some feedback from you. How can we continue to grow Jot so that every aspect of the conference goes better? Should we have an opportunity for people to offer donations? Should we charge? Should we do a Kickstarter campaign?

Anyway, I thought Jot 3 went really well. The content was great. The turnout was great. And I can’t wait for the next one! How about you?