Monday, March 30, 2015

How Can You Support Me?

     The other day, I was asked a question I've not only never been asked before, I've never even thought about before. Apparently someone my Mom knows contacted her (via email, text, Facebook - I have no idea) and this person said they wanted to support my writing. To be more precise, this person said "I really like your daughter's blog. Is there a way I can support her writing?"

     Whoa.

     Well, first of all, to have someone say that about my writing is a pretty good feeling. It's one thing for people to like reading what I write - and that's wonderful all on it's own. But when they like it enough to want to give toward it, that's something else. Sure, there might be a little bit of "help the teen writer succeed" going on, but I'm not really bothered by that. It happens to be the truth, after all. I am a teen writer who may or may not be talented at this whole writing gig, and I'll need help from people other than just my parents at some point. People who like my writing are already helping and supporting me by reading my blogs. I always feel good when I look over my blog stats and see how many pageviews I've gotten since I started this in April last year. Over 8,900. That just blows me away.

     But once I got over the initial head-rush of "oh my gosh, someone said that about me!" I suddenly realized no one has ever asked me that question before. And its definitely not something I'd ever considered either, so I really had to think about it for a while to come up with an answer.

     The fact is, there aren't many ways I can be supported in my writing right now that aren't already happening. Writing is a solitary job - no one else can come up with the words and string them together in sentences but me. Feedback is gold, but in the end it's up to me to decide how to say what I say. And just at the moment, nothing is between me and blogging or writing my stories. I don't have monetary needs holding me down, and I'm not restrained by my writing tools. I have lots of time right now - probably more than I'll ever have at any other point in my life. I also don't think I'm a very needy person and I have a hard time asking for things, which makes this a particularly difficult question to come up with an answer for.

     One thing does come to mind though, and it might seem like it's not much, but it's what I think I really need right now.

Spread the word.

     One of the biggest challenges for writers of any kind is being noticed. There's so much out there already and so much more being written all the time that it can be hard for people to find you unless they are told where to look. Right now, Facebook is the biggest source of traffic for my blog, and that's because my Mom shares my posts on her wall and all her Facebook friends see it there. (This probably means I should join Facebook myself...) If you want to support me and my writing, share the blog. Tell your friends. Tell your family. Tell whoever. At the very least, more people will see my blog, and some of them will probably like what I write as well. That's the idea, at least.

     If telling people about this wonderful little blog you follow that's written by a homeschooled teen from a family of fifteen isn't enough for you, I have managed to come up with a list of things I use for my writing.
  • Notebooks. I write on the computer at home, but I bring a notebook with me when I go places so I can write if the urge strikes me. All my notebooks are one-subject, spiral-bound, standard school notebooks with blue covers. All writers have their little crutches.
  • Pens. I don't write in pencil. As I stated HERE, my writing pens are the cheap, retractable, Bic ballpoints. I love these because they write quickly and don't skip, so if you're going to get me pens, those are what I use.
  • Books. I review books on my second blog, Under Cover Agents, and most of the ones I review are ones that we own or that I can find at the library. But both of those sources have their limits, and I love reading and don't like buying books. Gifts of new reading material wouldn't be out of place, and I'll probably review them, too.
  • Chocolate. I'm pretty sure it's linked to my ability to deal with major writing setbacks, though that's not been scientifically proven. My personal preference is milk chocolate, but at the end of the day, chocolate is chocolate.
     And that's it. As you can see, I'm pretty low-end when it comes to extras. To me, what's most important is that people are reading my blog. Maybe a few months or a few years from now things will change and I'll have real needs to address, but at this point the best way to support me is to spread the word. Tell people about Too Hick To Be Square - or Under Cover Agents! - and share it around.

     Last of all - to whichever wonderful blog reader out there who asked how they could support me: 
Thank you!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Optimists

     Minnesotans are optimists.

     After our three months of below zero temperatures, blowing wind, blowing snow, and general wintery-ness, Minnesotans are as ready as anyone else for spring, maybe more so. But we also know what it's like to get a surprise snowstorm on the end of some sunny days, so when we started getting warm temperatures and melting snow earlier this March, we didn't immediately jump for the sandals and shorts. We held off for a week or two, just in case, but eventually there was just too much mud and wet and sun for the snow gear and long jeans to make sense. Around the time I was writing my Spring has Sprung post, Mom had started the spring clothing switch.

     It takes about a week for us to fully transition from winter clothes to summer clothes. Mom goes through everyone's old clothes and tosses anything that's stained or ripped, and then fits them out with a new set of seasonally appropriate clothes in a bigger size. Although growing is technically illegal around here, it seems to happen anyway. While Mom was doing that, I was also running the snow gear through the washing machine and boxing up snow pants, gloves, mittens, scarves and hats to get stored away until next winter. Snow boots were aired out and M and Jo got everyone fitted out with a pair of rubber boots. 
     As you can see, that turns out to be a lot of rubber boots.

     So there we were, all prepared for spring. It certainly looked like it was spring, too, and the kids pumped up their bike tires and rode their bikes everyday. And then it got cold....and a few days ago we woke up to this.
Marley and his lawn decorations (a.k.a. deer backbones)
     It looks like we've jumped back into the middle of February. Over a day and a half, we had about six inches of snow dumped on us, and if it weren't for the fact that we don't have big snow piles from Dad clearing off the driveway, I think we'd go sledding again. Turns out it was a good thing Mom decided not to put away the snow coats, because it's cold. Jumping on the trampoline is definitely out.
     And the garden, which was all thawed off and starting to dry out, is now covered in snow again. A few weeks ago Mom was talking about putting some plastic down on the ground in a few spots to start warming the ground up so she could plant some lettuce or something.
     Somehow I don't think that will be happening.

     But we're optimists. The snow gear is not coming back out, no matter how much more snow we get. And the kids still go outside to do chores wearing shorts and sleeveless shirts. We will get our spring, even if we have to have it in six inches of snow.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Spring has Sprung

     Today I'm excited to announce that spring has officially arrived, at least here in Minnesota. Over the past ten days or so, due to high's in the 50's and 60's, almost all of the snow piles in the yard are completely gone. There are still five or six small patches of snow left and plenty of wet spots, but we're well on the way to drying out completely. Which is wonderful, because I am so ready to be outside and for the other kids to be outside. Spring is a wonderful time of the year.

     There are a couple things that I always remember about our springs here at home. The first is the mud.

     We get lots of mud. I'm sure everyone does, actually, but I notice it a lot more here at home because I go barefoot most of the time. This time of year there's an unusual amount of water spurting up around my toes and the ground is always incredibly spongy. By the way, all of this muddiness happens because the water from the melting snow can't soak into the ground, which is still mostly frozen. This means that lots of water will collect in the yard, and that makes a lot of mud. There are some places where we can't walk on the grass or we'd tromp a mudhole in no time and kill the grass. This is especially true where the vehicles are concerned, because we churn up muddy tire tracks on the lawn if we park there during the spring. 

     But the really interesting thing about all the water that collects in our yard during the spring is what happens to it as it tries to drain away. Basically, we end up with some really extensive puddles and usually there's a small river of really cold water running through the backyard.

     It begins at the fence on one side of the yard, where water from the snow melting in the field on the other side collects in a big pool.
     Eventually this breaks through the packed snow there and we have a very fast-moving, narrow stream of water. This water has to go somewhere, and it ends up going past the barn and heading for the other side of the yard.
     At the windbreak on the opposite side of the yard, we get another huge puddle. This eventually gets big enough that it drains into the field beyond the pine trees in the windbreak. Eventually all that water will get to the creek past my grandma's house, less than a mile from our house. And usually the creek will then flood over the road, although this year we didn't have enough snow for that.
     All this water is just too fun to pass up, so most of the time there's a lot of puddle-stomping and wading going on. We have to break out the rubber boots, of course, since tall, waterproof boots are a necessity for the kind of wading some of the kids get up to. That 'river' can be deep in places.
This is Skinny in his rubber boots standing in the deepest spot. 
The boots Nah has on should do the trick, though.
     But wading is definitely an enjoy-it-while-it-lasts type of thing at our house. Usually within five or six days all that water is gone, and the fun is over. This year, because of the relatively little amount of snow we got, that river only stuck around for two or three days. I was lucky there was an ambitious sibling around who thought of taking pictures, because otherwise I wouldn't have had any for this post. 

     Thanks, Skinny.

     There is another activity that starts in the spring that Clan children anticipate with considerable interest. And that would be jumping on the trampoline. 
     At this house, the trampoline is off-limits unless it's 50 degrees or more outside. That means we can't jump on it during the winter, which is probably just as well. But during the early spring when we're getting daily high's between 55 and 65, the kids know they just have to wait until it warms up from 49 to 50 before they can go outside and bounce. There's definitely an increase in weather-watching around here between ten and eleven o'clock while they're waiting for it to warm up that last degree.

     By the way, I was very pleased with myself when I looked back at a post I did back in February: On the Coming of Spring. In that post I guessed that we'd be having spring in the middle of March. And now here we are in the middle of March, and spring has definitely arrived. My guesses were 100% correct, and I don't think its even worth mentioning that those guesses were originally Mom's. This is my blog, and I can tell it however I want it, right?

     Right.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Duct Tape/Racetrack

     Yesterday Becca approached me with an urgent request. She had nine rolls of duct tape set up on the table with a pair of scissors and wanted me to help her build a racetrack with them. I'll admit to being a little out of the loop, and at first I had no idea what she was even talking about. A racetrack? She explained, somewhat patiently, what her plan was.

     "I'm building a racetrack for my cars. You're going to cut the duct tape and I'll put it on the floor over here [by the fridge] and over there [at the other end of the dining room]."

     As you can see, she doesn't have any trouble telling people what to do.

     I've actually seen a few duct tape racetracks on the floor in the kitchen and dining room, so once she told me that, I knew what was going down. But for those of you who are still duct-tape-racing rookies, this is what a duct tape racetrack looks like.
     In our house, which is obviously pretty big, there's a nice stretch of wood floor in the kitchen and dining room that run straight from the edge of the carpet in the living room to the refrigerator in the kitchen. This space is perfect for a variety of running games that keep some of us from bouncing off the walls when we're forced to stay inside. It's also a good space for setting up races for toy cars.

     And we have lots of cars. Lots and lots of cars.
Told you.
     As for the fancy duct tape, that was a gift idea Mom gave my Grandma, who was trying to figure out what to give the Melonheads and some of the younger boys for Christmas.

     As I might have said before, my parents are good at coming up with gift ideas. They've had to give gifts to a lot of people for a lot of years - I'd say they've figured out a thing or two. So when my Grandma asked what the grandkids wanted for Christmas, Mom suggested duct tape. I'm sure some of the extended family were somewhat mystified when Tubby, Cob, Pete, and Fro unwrapped their duct tape at Christmas. I'm also sure that wasn't the first time they didn't quite understand the purpose of the gifts we were given. But around here we're big believers in duct tape, so none of the boys were disappointed with what they got.
     Racetracks probably weren't exactly what Mom was expecting when she suggested Grandma give the boys duct tape. But it turns out that when Nah and Becca are bored, they can come up with some creative ideas to keep themselves amused. Hence the racetrack. Their idea, not mine.

     The Clan plays games a lot. Not just board games or card games (although we do play a lot of those), but any kind of game we can come up with. Partially this is because there are so many of us who need to run off a little energy or have something entertaining to do. And believe it or not, sometimes a duct tape racetrack and a handful of cars are all it takes to keep a four- or five-year-old amused for an easy half hour.
That looks pretty fun to me. I'm sure Becca could tell me all the rules, too.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

YMA Warriors

     As I mentioned in my previous post, the Clan has participated in a lot of the extra events of YMA, besides just the regular classes. A perfect example of that would be our joining the YMA demo team, YMA Warriors, in August or September of 2014. It wasn't much of a team when we joined - just two regular members - but the ranks quickly swelled once we jumped in, along with a few other interested students. And by the time we'd finished adding new students to the team, there were about twelve of us.

     The purpose of the demo team is to allow us as students to put together our own routines, whether we're planning a sparring scene or making up some martial arts forms or anything else. And then the idea was that once we had some sort of routine put together and practiced, we'd actually perform it before some audience at some event in town. But although we started off with a lot of energy, we didn't have much structure to our team and didn't have any idea what we were getting into. At least I didn't.

     It took us weeks to figure out what time we'd meet and where, because it had to be a time when all twelve of us could be available at least some of the time. And after that, we had to come up with original ideas that hopefully blended the specific interests of twelve people. Not an easy job, which you'll know if you've ever tried to work with people. We all had different ideas about what we could do, but none of us were very sure how we'd really go about doing it.

     So after four or five months of floating around without really getting anything done, our instructor stepped up and gave us a deadline. He signed us up for a local talent show where we'd need to show up in two months time with a decent-sized routine - five minutes or so.

     I have a personal confession to make at this point. When I heard about the talent show, I was equal parts freaked out and mad, because I didn't think it was fair for him to sign us up for something like that without asking. And I was afraid that we wouldn't be able to put together what bits and pieces had come out of five months of getting together and whip it up for the talent show. All in two months. In hindsight, I know now why he gave us that deadline. With nothing to push us to get to work, we didn't do a whole lot in the time we spent doing 'demo team.' He gave us a goal to shoot for and a deadline to meet, and that really helped us get ourselves in gear and work as a team.

     In fact, getting ready for that talent show was some of the most fun I've had at TSD. It definitely gave me a healthy dose of respect for my teammates, which had been somewhat lacking before. We also really figured out how to work together, take helpful criticism, and develop the ideas we'd had. Those five weeks of preparation went by very fast, but everything went together equally quickly. Pretty soon we had gone beyond "what are we going to do?" to "who goes where, and when?" and were figuring out the little details that go into making a performance good.

     Dress rehearsal was a week before the talent show, and all the performing members of YMA Warriors went to the church where we'd be performing, all confident and excited about it. And then we got our first look at the space we'd be working in.

     It was small. Really small.

     Up until then, we'd had a much bigger space to work with at the studio, and we'd always considered that space to be tight. Now we had even less space. We were somewhat lucky that because of the day of the talent show and the time crunch to get ready, we hadn't been able to get everyone involved in the performance, and only eight of us would actually be able to perform in the end. But we were still going to have to squeeze some things together to make the space work.

     I'm really proud of how we overcame that obstacle, though. We had a few minutes of panic, and then everybody just knuckled down and figured out how to rearrange things and make it work. After a few practice runs, I think we were all satisfied with how the routine had adapted to fit the smaller space, and then we just had to wait until the talent show.

     It went great. I know I'm in the demo team and shouldn't be saying that, but it went great. There were some nerves, certainly, but everything went off without a hitch. It's funny how many times you can hear people say that when you're performing, everything goes so fast. But when you actually perform and you realize afterward that time just whizzed by, that statement takes on a whole new meaning. It's something you really have to experience for yourself to understand.

     As of right now, YMA Warriors is in the idea-gathering stage of figuring out what we'll do next. We already have ideas for new material and several things we want to do next. The talk is that there will be a sparring sequence, some staff forms, more weapons, and maybe some board breaking, so look forward to that. 

     We're pretty excited.
Clan YMA Warriors
     Since I think this will be the last of this series of Tang Soo Do posts, you can read the rest of them here. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Yennie Martial Arts

     Yennie Martial Arts is our home Tang Soo Do studio. They actually have two different studios, and both are less than a half hour from our house which is really nice. In fact, most of the reason we chose to start taking Tang Soo Do was because it was nearby. Since then we've stayed because we like what we're learning, we like the environment there, and we like the instructors! YMA is a family-run studio, and they're just a really fun bunch to work with. We like them a lot here.

     YMA and learning Tang Soo Do has had a big influence on my life in the past year and a half. I won't go through the discussion I had in my last post again, but TSD has taught me more than just how to be smart about where I am and what I'm doing. For instance, now that we take classes, I'm never home on Tuesday evenings. And since we go and get all sweaty there, some of us have to shower more frequently then we ordinarily do. I'm not pointing any fingers, just stating a fact.


     We've also had to curb our natural instincts to start quoting the Kung Fu Panda movies while we're at the studio. The kind of hilarity that leads to can be distracting to our fellow students. OK, and to us. Mostly to us.


     Walking in the kitchen has definitely become more difficult since we started TSD as well. Mom has forbidden all kicking in that room, so once you go in there you have to keep your feet down on the ground. Sometimes that can be challenging. We also see a lot more take-downs and sparring around the house now that we've learned how that really works. So don't mess with my Mom, she's got some mean moves. 

I believe the end result of this was that Skinny had banana up his nose.
     And I have noticed a lot more free t-shirts showing up on my clothing shelf since we joined YMA. Our family is starting to look like a walking advertising campaign, and I'm not entirely sure that the Yennie's didn't plan that. All these kids walking around wearing their logo has got to do something toward spreading the word.
And did I mention the holes these boys have in their jeans? HUGE holes.
     Mom and Dad both have some TSD shirts now as well, but they weren't as easy to wrangle in for a quick photoshoot. But we've definitely become some sort of walking advertising campaign.

     All joking aside, TSD has been a rewarding experience. Not only have the instructors been wonderful to work with and very helpful as we advance into the more difficult parts of martial arts, but they're just a nice bunch of people. And there's a lot of satisfaction to be had when I can look back on a year and a half, and know I'm more than halfway to black belt level. These next ranks will be challenging and demand a lot of time and practice, but it's very satisfying to know how far I've come in the time I've spent. I really feel like I've been learning there.

     Having eight members of the Clan enrolled at their studio has definitely effected YMA as well. With so may of the Clan attending there, especially since five of us are advanced students, we get called in a lot to help instruct during the kids' classes. We also participate in a lot of their outside events where it's very helpful to have extra hands. That would include two of their annual cancer fundraisers, two 4th of July parades last year, and just a few months ago, M, Jo, Skinny, and I joined the YMA demo team. More on that in the next post.