Sunday, May 23, 2010

Don't Forget...

I'm not a fan of war as a tool of international relations. I like the saying, "If war were the answer, then there would be no questions." War makes more enemies than are killed or conquered. If someone killed one of my kids through an act of war, I would NEVER find it in my heart to forgive. In our middle eastern exploits, perhaps 500,000 civilians have died... that's a lot of hatred to face.

However... my heart is in a different place tonight. We have sent thousands of our soldiers to fight in Afghanistan. These are sons, daughters, fathers, mothers... friends and family. I can't imagine a lonlier feeling than to be in those dangerous, inhospitible locales, risking one's life daily, and living in the most uncomfortable, unforgiving environment on earth -- believing that Amercan's citizenry had forgotten me, or no longer cared why I was there!

It's our responsibility to know what our country's plan is... and if we can figure that out, then we should darn well care enough about our military to bring 'em home. Ask questions, and demand answers. The economy, health care, financial reform -- all important, but we just can't forget these people whose lives are on the line... Democrat, Republican, conservative, liberal... this is NOT a political issue. Write your representatives and senators and DEMAND some answers.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Trivial stuff

Bombers in Times Square, floods in Nashville, financial chaos in the Euro-zone... yes, these things bother me. But not NEARLY as much as this things bothered me today.

1. That one bicycle rider.

You know the one I mean... I'm stopped at the stop sign, a four-way. He's riding on the sidewalk, coming from my right. I start to pull out -- he jumps off the curb, without stopping, rides directly in front of me. I slam on the brakes. He's NOT a pedestrian -- he's on a dang vehicle and that's a stop sign!!! STOP fer cryin' out loud.

2. Probably the same guy, later in his car -- can't seem to find the turn signal.

Ok... I know it's really difficult to work the turn signal. You have to actually move your arm forward a few inches, flex your withered muscles to touch a probably disease ridden lever... and for what? You know you're going to turn so what's the difference. HEY!!! I DON'T KNOW YOU'RE GOING TO TURN! And I'm making potentially life affecting decisions based upon you turning in front of me! Jeez, dude!

3. That guy's brother, driving along in the left lane of the freeway.

It's called a P-A-S-S-I-N-G lane. You drive along in the right-most lane, and pull into the left lane to pass. When you just drive in the left lane, it screws up traffic... drivers who are doin' it right, can't pass because you're blocking the way. Those who want to drive faster, can't get around you. Traffic winds up in a snarl and YOU'RE the CAUSE. Learn to drive.

That's all... tomorrow, I'll try to get back in tune with the big picture.

How to Make up Stories for Your Kids

How to Make up Stories for Your Kids (and Grandkids)
 
I'm going to tell you how to make up stories for your kids, grandkids, etc., that they'll love and will forever etch out your place in their lives. In addition, these stories will put ‘em to sleep at bedtime, and keep them quite as a Packard straight-eight when in the car.
 
I don't have an English Degree... never wrote a novel. My skills in this department were initially garnered from my Dad who told me similar bedtime stories when I was a kid, permanently damaging my mind, no doubt. I then honed this creative cutting edge with stories for my own three kids. Now I’ve extended into grandkids, nieces and nephews… even other people’s kids, so watch out.
 
This is a recipe, or a template, not a fill in the blank. You have to make up the characters, plot, dialog, etc. It requires little or no skill, effort, imagination or intelligence… perfect for the average, worn out, nearly brain-dead working parent.
 
1. The characters
 
First and foremost, the characters are your kids. If you have two or more kids, they still need all to be in the story. It’s no harder for the most part.
 
Second, each kid has an animal friend. My own kids had Morris and Nadine D’Taquinbunee (Rabbits of French extraction), Paul and Pauly Possum, Randy The Squirrel… grandson Cooper’s best friend is Alan the Alligator. They all live in the neighborhood and go to the same schools.
 
Third, they meet others, most often elves or other animals. They are usually a little skeptical of these new acquaintances, but always make friends.
 
2. The Setting
 
It always starts in the morning at home. Main character decides to go to animal friend’s house to cook up some activity. The story may leave the home setting – in they do leave, then the more insanely removed from home, the better. One of my kids Morris and Nadine stories always started with a ride on a green Honda motorcycle to a little grassy spot where Morris and Nadine liked to hang out. Cooper and Alan the Alligator often travel on flying jet skis to underwater locales, other planets, etc. However the plots are always equally mundane. The Story ALWAYS ends with the kids saying goodbye to their animal friend, and always involve eating dinner, getting ready for bed and going to sleep. The stories don’t end (like “they lived happily ever after”), they just go to sleep and wake up the next day, in the next story.
 
3. The Plot
 
As mentioned in #2, mundane is perfectly fine. They may go to the bakery to get a donut, look for colored rocks, learn a dance, make up a song (I’ll have a future note on writing songs for your kids), build a fort… or any of the things your kids have actually done that day. In one of my recent stories for grandson, Mason, we went to Allen Field House at KU, just as we had actually done that day… but in the story, they asked him (and his animal friend, Ollie the Otter – he likes otters) to play on the team to take an injured players place. Of course, then they came home, ate dinner and went to sleep.
 
4. Don’t be bound to outcome
 
Probably, you won’t even have to make up much of the plot… your kids will continually chime in with, “…and then they…”. Just go with it… repeat what they said and add another line like “…and you know what they saw?” They’ll probably tell you. It’s not Steinbeck.
 
5. Names
 
For some reason, animal friends in my stories often have alliterative names (Alan the Alligator, Ollie the Otter) and the kids seem to like that. However, the elves and development characters usually have more forgettable (you don’t have to remember them from story to story), but ridiculous names. Elves might be “Pffflllght” (Bronx cheer), Poohpocklenut, Ba-dip-ba-dip-ba-dip-Bill, or Jeeeeeeeeeeyum (say ALL the long e’s.) It makes ‘em laugh.
 
6. No-no’s
 
Nothin’ scary -- at least not really scary. The ghosts turn out to be friendly; monsters invite them home for Chinese checkers, etc.
 
Nobody gets hurt unless it’s a scrape on the knee that your main character actually received that day… you get the picture.
 
Nobody gets lost, at least not that they can’t find their way out of easily.
 
Don’t moralize… you can work some good behavior into the plot, but these stories should be fun. They’ll spot the propaganda (besides the eating dinner and going to bed at the end of the story.)
 
7. Series
 
Kids also like continuity. The characters can remember things they did in other stories, meet some of the same characters, visit the same places, or draw on their experience from other stories. Repetition makes your job easier, and they’ll help you because they’ll remember every tiny detail!
 
8. Finally, some hints for props
 
My kids like motorcycles, bicycles that turned into jets, bicycles that turned into horses (particularly magic, talking horses), skateboards that turned into space ships. They also always like finding hidden things, no matter how mundane, although these everyday items often turn out to be magic.
 
Also, the kids like having things from their real, everyday life thrown in randomly. Like, Mason’s shirt gets wet swimming with Ollie Otter, so he puts on the new shirt his mom bought him that day.
 
The perk for you, the parent, is that telling stories to (with) your kids will make you closer… and they’ll like you a little more. Make your bedtime stories a little more boring and the kids will go right to sleep… make the car stories longer… you’ll have the quietest ride of your life. Good luck.