Saturday, December 7, 2013
Today I embrace one of my totem creatures: the snail. They remind me not about slowing down but going steadily forward, step by determined step. They remind me that I carry my fortitude with me, but even so, if I spend all my time hunkered down in my shell, I won't get anywhere. That I have to put myself out there, stretch out my eyestalks and have a good look all around me as I go. And to pave my own path.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Each December, the kids countdown the days until Christmas with a small gift that I give them. Before Liam was born, I used a tree I'd crocheted to hold the packages, with each bough numbered, but the tree doesn't hold enough for two and I don't have the wall space to hang another. Last year I just numbered all the presents and stuck them in a basket, but this year I wanted to do something to show the passage of time like the emptying boughs on the tree.
Inspiration struck in the form of an amazing countdown board I saw at a friend's house. It was elegant and festive, with a cute light-up Santa to move across the board marking the passage of each day. I knew that was what I wanted for us, so I decided to try to make one myself.
I started with a 12"x12" metal sheet, which I covered with a sheet of Christmas countdown scrapbook paper. How easy is that! I framed in with a wooden 12"x12" frame, removing the glass, and just like that I had a board.
I picked up several sticker sheets and borrowed a spool of festive ribbon from my mom. I taped the ribbon to the corners and let Kate put the stickers on the frame.
I also picked up a set of festive button decorations and let Kate and Liam choose the one they wanted to use. Kate choose Santa. Liam choose the present. I glued a magnet to the back of each.
And in less than an hour we have our countdown board! The kids love it and I'm very happy with it, too.
|The magnet buttons|
|Their countdown markers on today's date. Kate has already asked to move hers forward.|
|On the wall, ready to use.|
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
|Michael Carl Hileski, Nov. 20th, 1946-Feb. 1st, 1993|
Michael Carl Hileski, a Brief Biography
by his daughter
|Mom and Dad, late 1960s|
Dad joined in the Navy in 1965 (I believe). He served on a diesel submarine called the U.S.S. Tiru. It was decommissioned in the 1980s.
He met Mom in Chicago while he was in training at Great Lakes. She was training to be a flight attendant. Obviously, that didn't happen, as she just retired from nursing. They married and she moved around the U.S. with him through his Navy service.
I was born a few months before he was honorably discharged from the Navy. My brother was born a few years later.
|Some of Dad's Navy memorabilia.|
In the Fall of 1992, Dad was diagnosed with a form of pancreatic cancer. He died at home surrounded by family the morning of Feb. 1st, 1993, five days before my 22nd birthday. My brother was 19.
|Our last family portrait, 1988.|
|Dad gave me Humphrey, the goofy Pegasus, after a business trip. The medallion he'd gotten in the Navy and gave to me thinking it was a unicorn.|
|It isn't. It's a Greco-Roman bull. The initials vM are imprinted at the bottom. It is one of my most treasures possessions.|
My dad taught me to dive and to roller skate (he was quite good in high school). He taught me to drive a stick shift and how to use the mirrors to back out. He taught me not to be afraid to change your career mid-life or to pull up stakes and resettle somewhere completely different. He had a great laugh and his eyes twinkled when he smiled. He had a fierce temper but didn't hold a grudge. He was practical, organized, and loved Jimmy Buffett and Gordon Lightfoot, and looked awful in a western hat. He couldn't wait to be a grandfather.
He would have been an excellent one.
My dad would have been 67 today. Happy Birthday, Dad. I love you.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
I've enjoyed putting together Halloween costumes for the kids the last few years. Kate started me off gently in costume-creation. For the first three years in our new home, she went as a firefighter. She finally outgrew the jacket, which began with rolled-up sleeves and nearly dragging the ground to fitting her a little too snug (she got firefighter rain boots each year to go with it).
In 2009, she wanted to be a superhero. She picked out this cute Supergirl costume. As it was a store-bought costume, I knew the material would be too thin for the chill of October, so I made a longer cape out of fleece to go with it and then layered clothes underneath. She loved it.
In 2010, she desperately wanted to be the Cat in the Hat. This was before the PBS show became popular. She'd read Dr. Seuss in preschool and the Cat in the Hat was her favorite. This was my first costume to make. I found an official Cat in the Hat hat and cat accessories at a costume shop, but the rest I put together: Black sweats with a white felt belly sewn on the sweatshirt, a red turtleneck underneath, a big red velvet bow pinned on, and white gloves.
She loved the tail.
And she insisted upon the ears, too, so that when she took off her hat, she was truly a cat in a hat.
She was a big hit that year. She even wore it the following February to the local library's Dr. Seuss birthday celebration.
That year was also Liam's first Halloween. I let TC choose his costume. He picked Liam to be Darth Vader, mini Lord of the Sith. The lightsaber was Kate's, a plush toy she'd gotten for Christmas a few years before (it even has sound effects, but it doesn't light up).
I made costumes for TC and I, too. We were Thing 1 and Thing 2 to go with Kate's Cat in the Hat. I crocheted the hats and then used fabric puff paint on the shirts. Simple but cute.
In 2011, Kate reprised her role as the Cat in the Hat (again to big success). For Liam, I was inspired by the way he was now lumbering around in shoes as he walked. I joked how it looked as if he walked like the Frankenstein monster. So I made him a costume to go with the walk.
I was found a picture of a crocheted Frankenstein hat online and managed to replicate it. The fuzzy hair on top was so soft. I liked the way the choker of bolts turned out too. I found the green jumper at a second-hand sale and then layered him underneath with clothing.
My costume was very simple: an old lab coat of my mom's with a piece of tape over her name wear I wrote "Dr. Frankenstein." It seemed fitting, seeing as I was his creator.
Last year, Liam inspired us again. He is madly in love with the TARDIS from Doctor Who, so I made him into one. A simple version of one, at least. And Kate choose to be a Dalek, her favorite villain from the series.
Her costume took a bit of work. Sewing all the circles onto the dress and stuffing them was tedious. Crocheting the Dalek hat was a challenge, too.
I think it turned out great, though. I gave her a crocheted "plunger" weapon after not being able to find one small enough for her to carry, and then mimicked the raygun on her other hand with a crocheted mitt. She loved it and had to walk around with a serious expression because she was a Dalek.
Liam's TARDIS costume was simpler. I printed the sign and medallion to iron-on paper and ironed them into place after finding TARDIS blue clothing. Since the hat didn't have room for windows, we mimicked them with a white-collared polo under his shirt.
The hat took a little more effort, but it was worth it. I cheated and used adhesive felt for the band and lettering. Liam was in love with it at once.
I took so much time with the kids' costumes that I wasn't able to put together my own. I own a few Doctor Who shirts, so I put one on and called myself Doctor.
It was great fun and if only a handful of folks recognized who the kids were, the kids didn't mind in the least. Liam would tell them proudly he was the TARDIS. He even ran around making the noise.
Kate tried to stay stoic and speak in a raspy robotic monotone.
This year I'd hoped to be just as creative, but with work and other responsibilities I just had to give up on my dream of turning Liam into Wreck It Ralph and Kate into Queen Chrysalis (from My Little Pony). Instead, I passed on the costuming to TC. While he crafty, he's still creative, and he's put together a nice ensemble for us all to wear.
Believe me when I say I'll post pictures later.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
|Research Stack for the first quarter of the book.|
Research is a necessity when writing historical fiction. Historical details like dress, custom, architecture, and food can make a bygone era come to life on the page, just as the lack thereof can cause a story to fall flat and featureless. One of the many reasons I enjoy reading fiction written in earlier eras is for the setting and details of daily life that contemporary readers would have taken for granted.
My work-in-progress spans several historical time periods, so the necessity of research is even greater. I have a shorter span of pages to capture the flavor of the time period, plus a few historically factual characters to work in without too much disruption of what is known about them, or to add just enough of a twist to historical events to make them believable in the setting of my story.
However, research can be dangerous. I learned this early in graduate school when I was certain I'd found the perfect topic for my Masters thesis only to discover in the initial stage of research that someone had already written an entire book over the subject. My second thesis topic was less covered, but I hit a slight detour when I realized that my subject's detailed life became less detailed when his first wartime journal ended and no second journal had been discovered. (I still dream that it will one day come to light.) Thankfully, he'd written several letters during that time.
In fiction-writing, I had a harder lesson to learn. I outlined a story and was well into the first draft, doing just enough research for the next scenes before I wrote them. I had an important discovery for the characters to make in a museum and set the entire story in the city where I was certain the local museum would have such a collection, only to learn the day before I needed to write the scene that the local museum had no such collection. The collection was actually housed three states away in another major city.
I was able to get the characters through the discovery after a rather hastily patched-together trip South, but the story slowly fizzled as the scenes following the discovery no longer made sense in the new city and my knowledge of that city was not even enough to fake the details. The plot literally unraveled in my hands. As far as I recall, those characters are still stuck in a hotel in a strange city, trying to figure out what to do next.
Since that episode I've been more careful. I've checked out the major details before plotting the story so I haven't made that mistake again. However, during this newest round of book research I've uncovered another danger, which I've come to call The Shiny Detail of Doom.
Here's how it goes:
I have a character. She has [insert a skill, an object, an idea, or a companion] that is integral to the development of the story. The way the story is plotted makes perfect sense until, during research of this person's [insert era, history, location, event], I discover there is a much better possibility already in place, just ready to be tweaked into the story. It's rather like being hit by lightning, this realization that all my early plotting, done with enough overview research to make it credible, was wasted effort and this single detail that I've found in an obscure book that I checked out on a whim because it focused solely on this particular [insert person, era, event, place] has a much stronger claim to be in the story.
I could go with the original idea. It is still valid, as this detail isn't well-known enough to derail the story. It is, however, just too enticing to be ignored, set so perfectly as it is amid the [insert person, era, event, place] own history. It's too shiny and I am doomed to use it.
The Shiny Detail of Doom.
If I'm fortunate, I've not only stumbled across a Shiny Detail of Doom, but I've also a fairly non-invasive means to tweak the story to include it. If I'm not fortunate, I might have to rework large chunks of the story to make use of tit. In either case I will try to make it work because it's just so perfect.
What makes the whole episode ironic is that 99% of readers will never know how perfect the Shiny Detail of Doom is or how finding it was like a lightning bolt sent by a muse and the giddiness I felt when I discovered it. They will never know, but I will, and I will treasure that moment and that little detail and it will, hopefully, make the story stronger through its perfect placement between history and fiction. My hope is that maybe, just maybe, a hint of my giddiness will infuse the writing and the readers will have a smaller, but no less meaningful, moment of discovery themselves.