Don’t Jump to Conclusions!

We all jump to conclusion sometimes.

This is just a quick reminder that you should try not to do so. If I have a mantra, it’s this:

Stop. Step away and focus.

It’s in the list of motivating things on my Not Over Till It’s Over page. If I can manage to remember to stop, step away, and focus when I’m starting to get worked up, I can usually calm down and act appropriately. For me, the problem is remembering to slow down in the first place!

Lately, my parents have been remodeling their bathroom. Their new (and expensive) faucet was supposed to show up in the mail today, (or so they thought), and my mom planned on staying home to make sure the carrier didn’t leave it on the front porch. She’s always worried about someone stealing things left on the porch, even though it’s probably never going to happen at their house. They do live on a busy street, but there isn’t all that much foot traffic going right up to their door, and I just don’t think it’s likely that something left unattended for a few minutes will vanish.

I’m knocking on wood right now, as I imagine something vanishing now that I’ve tempted fate.

Still, we needed to go work up a quick bid on a paint job at 11 this morning, so my mom came over to watch Gianna for a bit while we were gone. The kid was napping, and being as she fell down the stairs yesterday (she’s okay, luckily!), I didn’t want to wake her up to take her with. My mom was worried about the package showing up while she was gone, but she came anyway. She can’t resist baby cuteness and she always helps us out.

We ended up finishing the bid and came home to make lunch–I made crepes with sweetened cottage cheese and strawberries. It was excellent stuff, even if I do say so myself. My mom ended up staying longer than she planned, and after while, my dad called to say that he had checked his email at work. The faucet had arrived and was sitting on the porch.

So she hurried home to find an empty porch. No faucet, no package, nothing.

As I’m sure you might already have guessed, my mom thought someone had stolen it. She called my dad, told him the bad news, then called me to deliver the same. My immediate thought was that it was still out on the truck and that my dad had read it wrong. She was fairly upset since it was expensive, and here I had been pushing her to not worry and urged her to just hang around a while and eat some crepes.

And she had listened to me, the consummate non-worrier, and now look what happened.

My dad was also all worked up, she said, more disappointed than anything, and I’m sure he thought she hadn’t done her job in being home to intercept the thing before the thieves showed up. I just told her it probably hadn’t been delivered yet and to just check his email to make sure it was right.

A little while after we hung up, she called me back and said that my dad had read the email wrong. The faucet wasn’t due to show up until tomorrow!

Needless to say, she was pretty happy.

So was I since it gave me an idea for a blog post.

Don’t jump to conclusions!

And if you do, don’t make a big deal about it. Apologize (if you do like I do and attack someone), be happy, and go do something creative.

Do or do not. There is no try!

You Are Not Your Job!

My Dad John Barba Flying his Cessna 150

You are not your job.

I don’t care if you have a crappy job or a great one. You are not your job. You spend a lot of time doing it, and it certainly reflects parts of you, but it isn’t actually you.

We might respect other people for doing what we consider excellent jobs (doctors, lawyers, professors, etc), and that’s fine, but jobs are just jobs. They don’t make you better than other people. They don’t make you worse. We are what we do all the time. The total sum of how we spend our time.

Recognizing this keep me going.

It motivates me to create, to produce things, to be better.

My dad is a great example of someone with a normal job who does extraordinary things. He builds cars, he flies airplanes, he travels all over the world.

My Dad John Barba Flying his Cessna 150
My Dad John Barba Flying his Cessna 150

He can figure out how anything mechanical works. He is a Renaissance man, but how does he spend most of his time? He is the foreman of the paint shop at the University of Montana. Obviously, my brother and I got into house painting because of him. That’s how we make money, so it’s a huge part of how we spend our time. But being a house painter doesn’t define me, just as being a painter doesn’t define my dad. It’s a huge part of him, but it’s not him in total.

So don’t let your job define you either. You’re more than that.

When you’re off work, in your free time, what do you do? Do you create things? Do you actively spend time doing stuff? Do you waste time thinking about your story ideas but not actually writing? Do you plunk your kid down in front of the tv instead of playing a game with him/her?

Do or do not. There is no try!

You Don’t have to Worry, Bozo

I’m not a worrier.

Worrying is  not in my makeup. I’ve never really wasted the energy or the time worrying. Well, I say never, and I mean it, although just like anybody else, I have certainly worried about specific things here and there–maybe the night before giving a speech or a test, or in the minutes before some important event. But I almost never worry about anything.

Why?

Who knows? I sure don’t. I suspect it’s genetic–if you could examine my makeup, I bet you’d see that whatever gene or genes are responsible for making us worry are just not expressed in me much. It’s a chemical thing that I can’t control one way or the other. I guess my way of thinking is also just not compatible with worrying. I’m always thinking about the things I’m working on–this keeps me busy enough that I am generally constantly moving from one project to the next and don’t take the time to sit around thinking about how things aren’t going to turn out.

There’s a reason this website is called Hey! There is No Try.

So, even though I’m the way I am and don’t have to worry about worrying (pun intended), I have one idea for how you worriers might be able to forget about your problems: do something.

Be creative or productive, or do something fun. On the rare times that I do find myself feeling anxious or tense about something coming up, I just throw myself into a project 100%.

I write, or blog, or jump into the MisCon schedule, or play a video game (damn you, Skyrim! *shakes fist at sky*), take Clyde for a

On a Walk
I recently took the dogs and the kid for a walk by myself.

walk, go for a run, play with Gianna, kiss up Melissa, whatever. Exercise is probably one of the best ways to divert your attention to something positive, especially since it saps your energy and whips you into shape.

Try it.

You’ll still worry, but you’ll have accomplished something and feel better about yourself.

As a side note, I got thinking about worrying this morning after reading an excellent blog post from Dakota over at Creative Chimera. She’s talking about being present and in the moment. Plus, she’s cool since she helped put together the program book for MisCon 25. Anybody who volunteers for a great science fiction convention like MisCon has to be pretty cool, don’t they?

So, as usual, get out there and do something. Don’t just sit around worrying.

Do or Do Not. There is no Try.

Don’t Take People’s Crap

Paper Mache Monkey

That’s right. Don’t take crap from people.[singlepic id=98 w=320 h=240 float=right]

Too many people let others walk all over them. I’m here to tell you not to accept nasty attitudes, mean comments, bullying, all that sort of thing. It’s not okay for people to treat you badly. You don’t deserve it.

Be tough, lose the fear, and stand up for yourself (even if you’re facing the whole Cobra Kai dojo).

Now, this is not a mandate to get out there and be mean to everybody.

Don’t do that. Don’t be like Johnny. Don’t be a jerk.

Instead, think about how you fit into the world. How do you affect it? Is your influence positive or negative? Just like everyone else, it’s likely some of both and changes all the time.

Daniel Larusso Practicing the Crane

I think we should strive for balance. That’s my everyday goal, although I constantly fail at it (as anybody who knows me can attest). In fact, I have a reputation for being a bastard. Sometimes I am. Most of the time I’m blunt and honest and never  give people the chance to give me much crap–I attack them before that can happen. I need to tone it down and want to give people a chance (see my previous post about giving people a break). Maybe you do too, maybe you don’t.

But if you’re my opposite, and you let people pick on you, well, I have some news for you: sometimes, when you let people walk all over you, you are also affecting the world negatively.

That’s right. Taking people’s crap can be negative (and not just for you).

For instance, if you let a bully attack you, you’re not necessarily taking the higher road (though you might justify such behavior to yourself, which I think is the easy way out). The more bullies get away with, the bolder they become. Success gives them more power.Miyagi Chopsticks

After attacking you, a bully gets fired up with how tough he/she is. Maybe after so easily beating you down, said bully very likely goes home and turns it on his/her son or Basset Hound or some old lady down the street.

In this case, your reluctance to stand up for yourself helped the bully spread more negativity.

So what can you do? Analyze yourself.

Why do you let people push you around? Are you afraid? Do you hate the idea of someone being mad at you? Are you hesitant to express yourself? Why? Were you taught to always be meek? Did you get beaten down all the time as a kid? Do you feel like your opinions don’t matter? Do you think you’re somehow “winning” by letting someone bully you?

Whatever it is, analyze yourself and figure it out.

You can’t change things you don’t like about yourself unless you try to understand why you do things the way you do.

I can’t tell you how to stand up for yourself, not in a way that will truly address your issues, but I do know this–it takes baby steps. You don’t need to start acting like Arnold Swarzenegger right away–in fact, I hope you never do. We should all try to be like Mr Miyagi or Daniel Larusso (unlike Miyagi-san, he at least gets the girl in the short term).

You could start by examining a situation where you let somebody kick you around. What could you have done differently? Think about it for a while. Maybe hindsight will give you some insight. Don’t obsess about it, but try to learn from your past mistakes. I don’t know. It’s a thought, anyway. Work on standing up for yourself.Daniel Training

You could start with baby steps.

Daniel, being a character in an 80s movie, didn’t have time for baby steps–he waxed on, waxed off, painted the fence, got a cool car, took the hot chick out on a date, and learned the crane (his secret weapon). He build himself up (with a little help from his friends, of course), but when the time was right, he unleashed himself. He “finished” Johnny.

I am dead serious when I say that if pesky Daniel Larusso can do it, so can you.

So what do you think, people? Do you have any advice here? Some awesome perspective you’d like to share? Please do. I’d LOVE to hear from you (even of you disagree). Maybe especially if you disagree!

Uh Oh. Tantrums Already?

Gianna Baby

Ok, so kids become more and more independent as they get older, right?

I’m prepared for that (or at least I have been preparing for it), but now that Gianna is almost a year old–her first birthday is next Saturday)–I guess her time has come.

Throw Your Hands in the Air
Throw Your Hands in the Air Like You Just Don't Care!

It’s not that she is suddenly going through some new phase where expressing her anger or frustration is acceptable–it’s really not that. It’s just that as she becomes more independent, she is starting to assert herself more often, especially when she wants her mom (and can’t have her).

It’s not an issue at all when Melissa isn’t home, but can become a big deal when she’s close but just out of Gianna’s reach.

Yesterday morning, Melissa went on a cleaning rampage through our bathroom and didn’t want Gianna in there with her. Of course the kid fixated on being with mommy, and wanted nothing more than to hang out right next to her. In order to get things done, Melissa put Gianna in the living room with me and shut the door.

And . . . she threw a fit, complete with screaming, crying, and banging on the door like a caged chimpanzee.

I have to admit, that often throughout my 11-month stint of being a dad (wow, that still sounds so weird to me!), I haven’t really felt at a loss as to what to do. I have usually known how to handle most every baby-situation and I haven’t felt exasperated very often. The path has generally seemed clear.

But when faced with a screeching, furious baby, I had a bunch of options and I wasn’t sure which one to take. As usual, I jumped in and took charge of the situation. I got up off the couch and went over to her. When I picked her up, she got more angry and tried to push away from me. I tried a bit of nice-talk to calm her down, but that quickly went nowhere since she just screamed louder and tried to slip out of my hands.

At this point, here I was, holding her, thinking about my options and what effects they would have on her.

I knew I had some foolproof options that would silence her crying and calm her down: I could turn on Yo Gabba Gabba and numb her mind with tv, I could have dazzled her with pictures of herself (which would have really worked). I could have opened the door and stood there holding Gianna so she could watch her mom.

While I instantly knew that even though all these things would stop the current bout of crying, I also knew they would have done nothing to teach her how to calm down and deal with things she doesn’t like. If I started giving in to her tantrum now, she’d know that tantrums are the best way to get what you want–that’s the last thing I want or need. I refuse to agree that she should be indulged in throwing tantrums in any way.

That road just leads to more tantrums.

My solution thus far is to re-direct her attention to something immediate that requires us to interact. Tv is no good, since that’s

Baby Elmo Doll
Gianna's Baby Elmo Doll

just a crutch and is a convenient solution that will just help her become a mindless drone who you can’t pull away from tv (I see a lot of these tv drones these days). I also opted not to show her pictures of herself, although that would have worked very well and it would have required us to work together. It would have probably been just fine.

Instead I grabbed an Elmo doll and started playing with it. I kissed his face and tweaked his nose, loving him up. I had Elmo do the same to me, then when Gianna stopped crying and watched us, I had Elmo go over and give her a kiss too. Pretty soon, Gianna’s attention was diverted from mommy and into interacting with her buddy Elmo and with me. We played for about 15 minutes, switching to various toys. This pulled me off the laptop and away from what I was working on, but that’s good, since good parenting often requires us to give our kids attention when they need it. And once Melissa came back out of the bathroom, Gianna wanted to see her, but she wasn’t angry or frantic  to see her anymore.

My Elmo gambit worked! Luckily. It might not have, you know? It might not work next time, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Now, I could have ignored her and let her cry, hoping she would eventually just stop, although that never seems to work for other parents I see. I also could have babied her up and tried to soothe her into calmness–I sort of tried that at first, and just like whenever I do, it didn’t work. She usually just gets more mad that I’m trying to love her up when she’s angry. I think the problem with these approaches is that even if they work, they don’t deal with the problem. Especially the ignoring thing. Ignoring bad behavior from your kids (or your dog, for that matter) doesn’t teach them how to deal with situations they don’t like.

Oh Yeah!
Oh yeah! She's usually a happy kid.

So what do you all think? What would you have done? How do you handle this situation?

Give People a Break

Clyde the Great Dane at Elm Park

I don’t usually give people breaks, even if they deserve it.

No, I certainly do not. I tend to judge people very quickly and get caught up in getting things done, accomplishing goals, and making progress to the point that I hold everyone to the standards I set for myself (of course I don’t live up to my lofty standards all the time either, but that’s another topic).

I get fired up about things to the extent that I can be a bastard if I perceive that somebody isn’t holding up their end of the deal–I usually rip them a new one. I have a pretty well-deserved reputation for this, especially when it comes to MisCon (the science fiction convention I help run in Missoula).

When it comes to making the convention happen, I let myself become ruthless. If I think they’re not getting their work done, I might snap at people, hurt their feelings, etc.

I need to take some advice from myself: give people a break sometimes.

You know, sometimes, it’s good to give people a break, however small. You might be helping them out. I resolve to do so today at least once (if given the opportunity).

What about you? Do you give people breaks? Or are you the opposite? Do you let things slide too much?

Be Defined By What You Do

Well-Worn Tile Floor

You are what you do.

I’m not talking about your job, but how you spend ALL your time.

I divide this into 2 categories:

1. “Take In” activities: This is stuff we absorb, think about, passively bring inside ourselves. It’s reading a book, watching tv, cruising Facebook, reading Wikipedia, studying, etc. These things are generally passive and don’t require us to interact with the rest of the world.

2. “Give Out” activities: These are things we create, make, and do–things we give to the world. It’s going for a run, making a cake, posting on Facebook, taking your kid to the park, playing a game, making spaghetti. These are activities that require you to interact with outside forces and somehow change the world. It could be as simple as smiling at someone or a big as writing a novel.

Of course, what we give the world is a combination of both types of activities. You can’t make a cake if you don’t read a recipe book at some point. You can’t write if you can’t read. I’m not saying you shouldn’t watch tv or do passive things. You absolutely should! But I AM saying that too many people spend most of their time taking in and not enough time giving out.

It’s easy to think about writing a novel, but it takes a lot more effort to actually write one.

So what should you do? Evaluate yourself from time to time–what have you been doing? What are you creating these days? How are your actions influencing the world? Do you create things? Do you actively spend time doing stuff? Do you waste time thinking about your story ideas but not actually writing? Do you plunk your kid down in front of the tv instead of playing a game with him/her? Do you affect the world in a positive way? What is your contribution?

We all fall prey to laziness or loss of focus at some point. I know I do! But I am usually able to get myself back on track and start giving back to the world again.

Do or do not. There is no try.

Feeling Bad For Telling Baby “No.”

Gianna Sad Face

Last night I made a nice Jasmine Rice Pudding for dessert. Gianna loved it (recipe to follow).

After giving her about 15 or 20 bites, I figured she had eaten enough. I mean, this was just dessert and she’s only 11-months-old. She doesn’t need dessert at all, and she certainly doesn’t need too much. Well, she didn’t agree.  She pointed at the bowl and gave a soft grunt, which is her caveman-babyspeak for “gimme.”

When I didn’t give her any more and told her she had already eaten enough, she threw her hands in the air and screeched. Again, I told her no. Then she wrinkled up her nose, leaned down closer to the bowl, and sort of growled. Yep, Gianna growled–she lives her life among dogs, after all.

When I said “no” and didn’t move to give her any more, she snapped back up and sort of swiped both hands at my face (as if that would get her any more pudding, right?). I could see that she was on the edge of a sudden outburst, which is a new thing for her (she’s just starting to explore asserting herself).

At this point, I’d had enough, so I gave her a very firm “no,” and drew her away. She reached for the bowl with such a desperate expression that I immediately felt terrible. Still, I pulled her back, deepened my voice, and told her she had eaten enough. Her face crumpled up, turned red, and she started to cry. For a second I wondered if she would try to actually hit my face (she considered it, I think).

You know what? I felt just about as bad about it as she did. I didn’t want to deny her something that would make her feel good. And here I was being the Big Meany who for no obvious reason (to her) insisted on preventing her from getting more tasty rice and raisins (and sugar). I wanted her to have more, to feel good, to make happy sounds.

This was a first for me, really.

For a second, I considered giving her more since it would make her happy, but reason and good parenting won out and I instantly knew she was done for the night. She didn’t need more, and I wasn’t going to tolerate her micro-tantrum by giving in. She didn’t cry long (about a minute) since I diverted her attention, and pretty quickly, the world was good again.

The moral of the story: I had to tell Gianna “no” and let her feel bad so she’ll become a better kid. She needs to learn that tantrums get her nowhere. And if that requires me to feel bad for her, well, so be it. As a parent it’s my job to do what’s right for her development, whether I like it or not.

What about you? How do you handle tantrums? Did I screw up? Did I do the right thing? What do you think?

Jasmine Rice Pudding:

This is so easy you don’t even need a recipe, really.
1 cup Jasmine Rice (you could use whole grain or Minute Rice, but Jasmine becomes creamy when you cook it).
1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Skim Milk (approximately 1/2 cup)
1 tsp Vanilla
1 Tbsp Cinnamon
1/2-1 cup Raisins
Optional: add a bit of half and half to thicken it. I did tonight, but I don’t think it needs it.
It’s simple: just cook the rice until it’s tender (about 15 minutes), then add the other ingredients and cook on low heat for a few minutes (until the mixture thickens). It makes about 4 servings.
My grandma used to make “raisins and rice” all the time. It was good, but the Jasmine Rice makes this a lot better. It’s creamier and smells good, so that’s all I use for this and stir fry, which I have been making a lot lately).

 

Peeing on the Taliban: Abu Ghraib 2? I Think Not

Okay, so a group of US Marines peed on some Taliban corpses.

I see what’s wrong with it. They shouldn’t have done it. It was illegal. I strongly oppose doing things like that to living people, but corpses?

They’re making a way bigger deal about it than it deserves (they’re acting like these guys were torturing people a la Abu Ghraib). They should punish the urinaters accordingly, then move on to getting the rest of the troops the hell out of Afghanistan. THAT would ensure that things like this don’t happen again. Sticking these guys in bullshit wars is bound to bring out the worst in some of them.

Now don’t get me wrong. I very strongly oppose ignorant macho behavior that hurts people/animals (even though it happens all the time). This peeing thing is disrespectful and politically stupid, but it’s not nearly as bad as a lot of the really terrible stuff that’s happening over there:

Some (emphasis on the some) of our troops have recorded each other doing extremely disgusting things in Iraq and Afghanistan. You just have to do a quick YouTube search to see the videos. There are way too many.

For example, here are some Americans blowing up a dog  and laughing their asses off about it: US Troops Blow Up Dog Just For Fun 2011. This video is screwed up, so don’t watch it if you can’t handle it. Those guys should get the same treatment, if you ask me, and the video should be plastered all over the place (along with the zillion other videos just like it).

So peeing on some dead bodies is stupid fratboy behavior. It’s certainly not something our soldiers should be doing. And it’s not as bad as blowing up innocent dogs.

What do you think? Is it as bad as they’re playing at on the news? Should it be acceptable behavior?

Something Out of Nothing

Gianna in Her Yoda Hat

I like making something out of nothing.

Creating stuff feels good. It’s meaningful. It’s productive.

But despite all that, it’s just so easy to procrastinate. In this age of constant stimulation from tv, the internet, video games, Facebook, you name it, it’s simple to just plunk down on the couch and soak in other people’s ideas. I love wasting time just as much as the next guy–in fact, I waste way too much time playing Skyrim, checking my news feed for status updates, and watching Chopped.

In fact, I’m addicted to Foodtv and have been for years. Sometimes it’s just background noise, a backdrop to writing or working on MisCon stuff. But more often, it’s just a fun distraction that derails me from getting things done. Guy’s Big Bite is on right now, but I’m not really watching it.

My friend Amy made Gianna's fantastic Yoda hat so she could wear it to MisCon 25!

One tip that works for me: decide to spend 5 minutes doing nothing except brainstorming. Being a writer, it’s easy enough for me to take a break from my day and just start writing. You never know what might bubble to the surface in that 5 minutes. And if you’re lucky enough to hit on some good story ideas or figure out where your story should go next,  you’ll feel like you did something meaningful.

It’s like building a wall one brick at a time.

So today, I’m not going to play Skyrim, and I’m not going to have the tv on all day. Nope. I’m going to listen to Pandora while I get some business paperwork done this morning, and I’ll work on my novel this afternoon.

What about you? Do something creative today and you’ll probably feel good. You might nudge yourself into feeling so good that you get back to work on a project you’ve been putting off. You might build the motivation to make something out of nothing.

Then once you’ve done that, go kill some bandits in Skyrim!

“Do or do not. There is no try.”