Category Archives: Senseless Ranting

Is Rewarding Mediocrity Ruining Our Youth?

I will always remember a line from the movie THE INCREDIBLES. They keep creating new ways to celebrate mediocrity!” My husband and I always laughed at this, because as the parents of three grade-school boys, we knew this to be very true.

I’m not only talking about all those graduation ceremonies for moving from the three-year-old room to the four-year-old room in daycare. I’m talking about things like getting a trophy just for participating in sports, even if you come in last place. I’m talking about that school somewhere (I can’t remember where) who decided to stop naming someone valedictorian because it makes the other kids feel bad they didn’t “win”.

Huh

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but many kids these days grow up believing they are “entitled” to what they want. I think this is the result of all the coddling they get in the early years of their lives.

Seriously… Why work your butt off, sweating in your sports game if at the end the winner is going to get exactly the same trophy as the team that ends up in last place?

This reared its ugly head for me personally this morning.  My husband called me to let me know that the middle school had called. Middle Dude had to be taken out of homeroom because he did not make the soccer team. He was devastated.

My heart broke.

The more I thought about it, the more angry I became— not at the school or the coaches, but at all the previous schools and coaches Middle Dude has encountered.

They dropped the ball in preparing my kid for the real world.

The truth is, the real world is not all rosy. When he graduates college, chances are he will not get the “dream job” he’s been fantasizing about. If he does get a job, he will be expected to over-preform, not under preform… and if he doesn’t do his job, no one is going to pat him on the back and say: “that’s okay, we’re going to give you a raise anyway. Don’t feel bad.”

This was a big wake-up call to me. Middle Dude had no conception of the possibility of not making the team. Up until now, everything had been handed him on a silver platter.  Probably the only people who have said “no” to him were his parents, and no matter how many times we tell our kids what “the real world” is like, they always just grin and shake their heads at us…

Because the real world gives them everything they want, and celebrates their achievement of nothing.

In their minds, we, as parents, know nothing.

It makes me sad. Really sad. It is fine for Middle Dude to be upset about not making the team. I remember in high school how I felt when I didn’t get the part in the play that I wanted. BUT I ALWAYS UNDERSTOOD THERE WAS A POSSIBILITY OF THE PART GOING TO SOMEONE ELSE.

It is a different day. I applaud many of the things that government and schools have come up with to protect our kids physically and emotionally. But there is such thing as over-protecting them.

The world has not changed. In fact, it is probably a much worse place than it was when I grew up. But my kids don’t believe that.

They are the generation of entitlement. And I am so afraid for them.

The real world entitles no one.

JenniFer_Eaton Sparkle__F

Sometimes life just gets in the way.

I admit I am mildly psychotic. I give myself goals, and once I see them on paper, they might as well be chiseled in stone.

I hit them.

Always.

No matter what.

It’s something that was driven into me since I was very young. I thank my father for this most of the time. Being driven has helped me get to where I am today.

But I have trouble dealing sometimes when I realize what I challenge myself with is sometimes too much.

PKO_0008514 SICK GUYLike this week, when I was thrown a little curve ball.

I got sick.

Really dern sick.

Flat out in bed, can’t move, stricken-with-a-chill sick. Then sweating-to-death can’t- turn-down-the-temperature sick. Horrible… zig zagging back and forth.

Yep, I even looked like a guy.

It’s terrible to have to take off from work, waste vacation time, and get NOTHING DONE.

Arghhh! Picture

It drove me crazy, laying there under piles of blankets, sometimes with a fifty-pound poodle on top of me for extra warmth… doing nothing when there is piles of work to be done in real life, as well as my writing world.

I couldn’t even THINK of my scenes. I couldn’t formulate a plan for when I could get out of bed. My mind was dead. Caput.

My poodle all fifty pounds of her. Isn't she cute?

My poodle – all fifty pounds of her. Isn’t she cute?

What a terrible couple of days.

I’m better now, thank goodness. But now I have to take stock.

First things first.

I just completed my immediate need: The interviews/blog posts requested by wonderful people who signed up with my marketing company to help promote FIRE IN THE WOODS.

Whew… That was a lot of work.

Today, I do something I have not done in a VERY long time.

I set the writing aside.

No aliens. No space ships. No conflicts (except a few real life kids)

The book will be there tomorrow, and I know the first thing I am going to do is look at my goal sheet (yes, I have one, with word counts for each day.)

I will see that I am now a month behind, with a deadline looming.

I will not panic. (You hear that? I WILL NOT PANIC)

Life happens. Vacations are needed. Current books need to be marketed. And hey, there’s not much you can do about getting sick.

Tomorrow I re-align my goals, and I suppose I should start lining up beta readers, because if I do manage to hit my publisher’s deadline, it is going to be close.

Deep breath. This can be done.

How do you dig out of a hole when you realize you’ve fallen far behind?

Jennifer___Eaton

Why Teal? Take a moment to think about Ovarian Cancer

This weekend Littlest Dude and I drove down the road and saw a group of girls tying teal ribbons on trees. About an hour later when we returned, the entire street was lined with teal.

“What does that mean, Mommy?” Littlest asked.

Well, I remember yellow ribbons–and pink ribbons pop up every year. But teal? That was a new one for me.

A few miles down the road we found another group tying ribbons to a fence near a nice safe place to pull over, so I safely parked the car, and I asked what the teal was for.  A very nice gentleman explained that September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and they were trying to blanket the town in teal in memory of his Mom.

Ovarian Cancer Awareness 2Well, that’s certainly something I could get behind, so Littlest Dude and I drove away with our own little packet of ribbons and information.

Ovarian Cancer Awareness 1This group was from the Susan Marie Rupp Foundation, SMRFteal.org and they were full of smiles in their teal shirts with long ribbons flapping like capes around their necks… yeah, maybe super heroes in their own rights.

Did you know that 1 in 71 women will develop ovarian cancer in their lifetime?

Each year, 20,000 women are diagnosed,

and about 15,000 women die from ovarian cancer.

Say What?

That sure made me want to be more wary of the signs, because the survival rate is better if the cancer is found early.

The following information is from the http://smrfteal.org/ website

The symptoms include:
◾Bloating
◾Pelvic or abdominal pain
◾Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
◾Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)

The ribbon to support Ovarian Cancer Awareness on my front porch

The ribbon to support Ovarian Cancer Awareness on my front porch

Women with Ovarian Cancer report that symptoms are persistent and represent a change from normal for their bodies. The frequency and/or number of such symptoms are key factors in the diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer. Several studies show that even early stage Ovarian Cancer can produce these symptoms.

Women who have these symptoms almost daily for more than a few weeks should see their doctor, preferably a gynecologist. Prompt medical evaluation may lead to detection at the earliest possible stage of the disease. Early stage diagnosis is associated with an improved prognosis.

This is kinda scary stuff.  I mean, I hear about breast cancer all the time, but not ovarian cancer.  This is news that everyone should know — if not for themselves, how about to help someone they love?

The ribbon to support Ovarian Cancer Awareness on my Neighbor's tree.

The ribbon to support Ovarian Cancer Awareness on my Neighbor’s tree.

So here is my humble support for their mission. Please spread the word about Teal. Facebook, Twitter, Blog.  Talk. Letters. Choose your rallying cry. If you can find yourselves some teal ribbons. Tie them around.

And if you don’t have time to create a post, feel free to reblog this one.

Even one life saved would make it worth your while.

If you’d like to donate to the cause, or find out more about please visit http://smrfteal.org/get-involved/donate/

JenniFer_EatonF

An Impromptu, One in a Million Chance to Live a Scene from Your Novel

I love hiking. It’s one of my favorite wind-down hobbies.  That’s probably why “the woods” are usually a staple in my writing. This past weekend, while hiking with my husband and my pepped up poodle, I had an unexpected surprise.

There is a scene in FIRE IN THE WOODS where my MC, Jess, is walking along the side of the street and sees a deer grazing near the woods. Jess takes off into the woods after the deer, and ends up with more than she bargained for.

Back to “real life.” — While crossing the road from one part of the woods to the other Saturday, imagine my surprise when, about twenty feet from me, a deer crossed as well… heading for the same woods we were.

Luckily for me, the doe was quiet, and my poodle didn’t see her, or I would have been at the mercy of fifty pounds of barking, solid muscle tearing after a wild animal.

As the doe trotted beneath the canopy, I instantly made the connection with the scene in my novel, and I wondered… just how hard would it be to chase a deer in the woods? 

Research time!

I handed the leash off to my husband.

“You’re kidding, right?” he said.

“Nope!”

And off I went.  It would have been wonderful it this had been a buck, like in my novel, but the female deer was just as exciting for me, because in all the years I have been hiking, I have never actually seen one. It was a very cool experience. And, yes, I found out, you CAN chase a deer into the woods with some success. But like my character, Jess, I lost my fluffy-tailed friend about a quarter of a mile in.

After re-joining Hubbs and my pup, we finished our five-mile trek, and we saw the deer three more times. (or “a deer” I have no idea if it was the same one)  Pup even got to chase our woodland friend once. (That was the last time we saw the deer.  Smart deer.)

So… unexpectedly I discovered that you CAN chase a deer in the woods, and you can also see the same (or another) deer multiple times on the same day.  This sequence of scenes is now totally validated for me. Very cool – and it gave me a warm and fuzzy inside.

Have you ever had an unexpected chance to relive a scene in a book you have read?

JenniFer_EatonF

What do you look for in the second novel of a series?

Last night, after being poked and prodded by my son who wants to “talk books” with me, I stared reading Divergent. I mentioned this to an author friend of mine and she said “Loved Divergent. Insurgent [Second book] not so much. You know how second books go.”

“You know how second books go.”

This phase has been haunting me since she said it.  As most of you know, I am currently writing a “book two” in a series. I am already feeling the stress and strain of trying to make ASHES IN THE SKY just as good, if not BETTER than FIRE IN THE WOODS.

Sometimes, I fear I’m falling short.

Read-hold up PKO_0016876Are their chase scenes? Yes

Are there near misses? Yes

Are their explosions? Yes

Are the stakes higher? Yes

Are strong relationships built, ripped apart, and rekindled? Yes.

So what am I worried about?

“You know how second books go.”

I don’t want people finishing book two and saying that I missed the mark. I don’t want people saying they wish there was more of this, or why did there have to be so much of that.

The scarier thing is that book two is due before book one even comes out. So I can’t even wait for reviews or reader commentary of what they hope for in book two.

So….. I’m asking. If you are reading a book two in any series, what do you look for?

What “book two” blew you away, and WHY WAS IT SO GOOD?

What “book two” came up short, and WHY DID IT SEEM LACKING?

JenniFer_EatonF

Everyone can benefit from a critique, but not everyone should get one

I find myself shaking my head sometimes at the way people act when their work is critiqued or reviewed.

Recently I was in attendance at an event where an author spoke. She started by laughing about receiving a harsh review that day. Then she asked the audience if anyone read her book.  When one girl raised her hand, the author said (I’m making this up) “Do you think there was too much tomato soup in that pot?” The girl in the audience said: “Well, I do see how someone could think there was too much tomato soup in the pot”.

What went immediately through my mind was that maybe there WAS too much soup in the pot, and the author didn’t realize it.

The funny thing was, the author then started to argue why she didn’t think there was too much soup in the pot.

Think GirlIt made me think:

If two people thought the same thing, the issue is probably there.

As an author, we need to understand that what we type onto the page may not be perceived as we expect from  a reader’s point of view. We need to accept this, and move on.

Thankfully, the speaker caught that she was defending herself, laughed, and continued her talk.

This brings me to critiques.

If you cannot handle a critique, what are you going to do when you get out into the “real world” and people slam you on the internet because your main character’s name is Fred and they hate the name Fred? Think about that.

Some people react oddly when they get a critique.  For me, personally, If I get a crit that says “Wow, this was wonderful. I really enjoyed it in every way shape and form. You are brilliant!” I’m not really all that happy – Now, if you want to say that in a review, I’d love you for it :-)

But in a critique?

GAH!

Nope.

This is a person who will never crit my stuff again.

Because I am smart enough to know I’m not perfect. Nope. Far from it.

But some people out there want to be coddled. They want their egos stroked. People like this SHOULD NOT be asking for critiques. A critique is not a forum for your self-esteem, although it can be a place where you can BUILD your esteem.

If you are not ready for feedback that you may not like, then you need to find a way to GET READY.

PKO_0013466 sadBecause learning that the pivotal scene you wrote— the one that makes you cry and changes your life every time you read it… (yeah, you know that scene. Everyone has one)

Anyway… learning that your scene DIDN’T provoke the emotional response you wanted is going to hurt. But what you need to train yourself to do is let that pain sink in for all of five seconds, get over it, and then re-read the comments and look for useful information to better your writing.

PKO_0004816Believe me, guys – for those of you who are not published yet – it is FAR BETTER for a critique partner to tell you that something does not work, and give you ideas on how to make it work, then to get slammed in an amazon review later.

So where are you on this? If you have not been critiqued or reviewed, are you preparing yourself, or are you looking for a testimony to your brilliance?

If you’ve been receiving critiques for some time, how do you react when one, two, or three people say something you disagree with?

_JenniFer____EatoN

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Meeting a man who survived the Holocaust as a boy– 72 years later.

Sunday, April 27 – Holocaust Remembrance Day

(My apologies if I get any facts wrong. I decided to write about this as an afterthought. I did not take notes, although I wish I had.)

Several months ago I signed up for what I hoped would be a unique experience for my son and I– an opportunity to listen to a firsthand account of what happened in France during the Holocaust. We were not disappointed.

Mr. Middleberg is now 87 years old, and boy do I wish I look that good when I hit 87.

During the war between Germany and France, Mr. Middleberg lived with his family in Paris. When France surrendered, they were at peace. No problems, right?

Well, not if you were a Jew. They were now ruled by Germany.

The problems started slowly. First you needed to register. No biggie. Then you needed to wear a star, then you lost your right to travel, then you could not go to school. Then you were not allowed to own your own business. It happened in small steps (and maybe not in that order) but the new laws, mostly concerning Jews, continued to get worse.

Rail leading to the concentration camp Auschwi...

Rail leading to the concentration camp Auschwitz II (Birkenau) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mr. Middleberg was only 9 when his father got a card that said he had been recruited to work for the German army. He and about 9,000 other men were placed on busses and taken away. His family was able to see him once a month for a short while, and then all correspondence was lost.

Not soon after, homes started getting invaded.

Rumors started that the Germans were going to take a huge number of people, probably during the night. A kind janitor in their building showed Mrs. Middleberg and her two sons a place where they could hide in the ceiling in a supply closet should the rumors prove true, and unfortunately, they did.

The janitor, a WWI vet, used his wooden leg to pound on the steps and warn the Middleburg family that they were in danger.

Hundreds of their neighbors were pulled from their homes while they hid for almost a full day. When they got hungry, Mr. Middleberg was given money from his mother and he snuck out– past the soldier waiting in their apartment for them to come home. He walked through the streets where people were screaming and crying and being dragged from buildings and placed on busses.

Mr. Middleberg, a lone child walking through the street, although terrified, remained unnoticed, and was able to bring bread back to his family, where they continued to hide for many more hours.

When it was all over, they could not go back home, because they had registered. The Germans knew where they lived and would be back for them.

All of their Jewish neighbors were gone.

They hid on the streets until their mother got news of a woman who would smuggle children out of the city. They kissed their mother goodbye, and lived on a farm for two weeks until they received word that their mother had been captured.

Mr. Middleberg, (who I think was 11 at this point) hoped his mother would escape, and took his little brother back to Paris to live with his aunt hoping that their mother would find them there. They were baptized as Catholics, and hidden as orphans.

In an odd strike of luck (or otherworldly interventions, depending on how you look at it) Mr. Middleberg just happened to see his uncle walk by a shop he was working in. The man said he was hiding himself, and couldn’t help the two children.

"Selection" of Jews from Hungary at ...

“Selection” of Jews from Hungary at Auschwitz-Birkenau in May/June 1944. To be sent to the left meant slave labor; to the right, the gas chamber. “The Auschwitz Album”, Yad Vashem. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few days later, his uncle was captured and ended up in Auschwitz, where by another strike of luck, he ran into Mr. Middleberg’s father, and told him where his children were.

Mr. Middleberg’s father was one of the few miracle survivors of Auschwitz. He was a watchmaker, a skill the Germans needed at the time, and it saved his life. He was liberated at the end of the war, and he made it back to his children.

Their mother never came home.

They found out years later from public records that she was placed on a bus that went directly to an extermination facility, where she exited the bus and walked straight into the gas chambers.

Out of a huge extended family of maybe a hundred that lived in Paris, only Mr. Middleburg, his little brother, his father, and one other relative survived. Four left.

Eleven million people dead.

You can read a lot about history in books, but nothing compares to listening to someone recount what happened from a first person perspective.

I’m very glad we went, and if you ever have a chance to listen to a first hand account of the Holocaust, I urge you to take advantage. Mr. Middleberg’s talk was a lovely testimony to the courage of his mother, and especially the courage of the Janitor, the woman who smuggled them out of Paris, the farmers who took them in, the aunt who hid them in their home, and the priest who baptized them and hid them within the congregation as orphans.

What you don’t really think about is that all these people who helped could have been arrested and executed for helping these children. So many people turned informant, or turned a blind eye because they were scared.

He ended his talk by pointing out that hate comes in many forms, and it is everyone’s responsibility to stop it…

A wonderful message that I hope continues to sink in for generations to come.

JenniFer_EatonF

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Hollywood has destroyed the world how many times?

Hollywood Sign

Hollywood Sign (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hollywood has destroyed the world how many times?

Here is a nod from Time magazine to one of my favorite genres, with some of my favorite movies mentioned.   I just loved this article.  There is nothing more fun that a good, exciting, “the world is going to end, but I’m gonna do something about it” movie.  Heck, I got some story ideas just breezing over some of these comments!  Where’s the popcorn!

http://entertainment.time.com/2013/04/23/apocalypse-wow-10-ways-hollywood-has-ended-the-world/

 JenniFer_EatonF

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Dealing with a child with Behavioral Issues. Update. One Year Later

Parenting is an ongoing struggle, isn’t it? I have to say though, that things are much better than they used to be. I think the issues that we deal with now are “normal”.

But something happened over the weekend that I just have to share.

Easter eggs

Easter eggs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday there was an Easter egg hunt at our church. Littlest Dude was in the oldest age bracket, and this is probably the first, and last year he would be able to participate. His gaze traveled across the gardens, and a smile touched his lips, seeing the multitude of eggs scattered in the grass (4,000 eggs, I was later informed)

They made an announcement for the older kids not to get the eggs in the middle of the field (Since participants ranged from 2 years to 8 years.) I reiterated the request to Littlest Dude. And then they were off!

There is nothing cuter than several hundred kids running through a field trying to find eggs.

I lost sight of Littlest Dude for a few minutes until his red shirt gave him away back in the trees.

Whew!

At least it seemed that he’s left the easy ones for the other kids. The eggs disappeared quickly, and late-comers ran toward the field, hoping to get there share.

Littlest Dude ran by a few times, bag overflowing but determined to find all the well-hidden eggs. Yep. He’s tenacious. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree on that one.

I grimaced as first-time parents strolled lazily toward the event area, obviously clueless that there may not be anything left for their children. Boy, were they about to be in for a bad morning!

People started to leave, and Littlest Dude is still out there running around, having a grand old time.

Then it happened.

He comes strolling back to us, a huge smile coating his adorable little face, WITH ONLY A FEW EGGS IN THE BOTTOM OF HIS BAG.

“Littlest Dude,” I say. “What happened to all your eggs?”

He shrugs. “A lot of kids didn’t find any, and they were sad, so I gave them my eggs.”

Need a tissue? I did.

I hope this warmed you heart as much as it warmed mine.

JenniFer_Eaton__F

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Are you a member of the SCA Society for creative Anachronism? Have you ever been to Pennsic War?

Are you a member of the SCA Society for creative Anachronism? Have you ever been to Pennsic War?

 

English: Society for Creative Anachronism part...

English: Society for Creative Anachronism participants (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’ve never heard of the Society for Creative Anachronism, it’s…. well, hard to explain. Lots of people come together for a medieval-fest and turn a building, or a huge area, back in time. Think Renaissance Faire on steroids. But in these events they won’t even let you in without proper garb.

And you don’t just get to watch. With training, you become part of the world.

I went to an event once over twenty years ago, and it was quite a treat. It had a big enough impact on me that I still think about it, and I’ve decided to feature a SCA event, the Pennsic War, in one of my novels.

 

Kingdom of Northshield court in the Society fo...

Kingdom of Northshield court in the Society for Creative Anachronism (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s my problem. I’ve never been to Pennsic War. I am trying to imagine what Cooper’s Lake park in PA looks like when 10,000 (yes, that’s ten-thousand) people from around the world converge on that one campground, to watch and take part as the East Kingdom and the Middle Kingdom meet for a week of tournament and good times. Think Olympics, Medieval style.

Heavy combat, fencing, crossbows. Oh! I get tingles just thinking about it!

English: Melee fighting in the Society for Cre...

English: Melee fighting in the Society for Creative Anachronism (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thing is, I can imagine what a campground of people in Medieval garb looks like, but anything I can come up with would just be a really good guess.

 

So I’m wondering. Have you been to Pennsic War? Or maybe another smaller war-like event?

Here are my questions.

  1. Does combat start on Friday, or is that just revelry like the opening ceremonies and the good stuff starts on Saturday?
  2. Do most people stay at the campground?
  3. Are there ever any non-SCA campers there? Are they freaked out?
  4. What is it like back at the campground? Do people stay garbed and “in character” for the whole week or two weeks?
  5. Do combatants get hurt?
  6. Fencing competition: Do girls fight girls and guys fight guys, or can a championship match be a guy and a girl? (Sorry that was a spoiler)
  7. From the event I went to, I imagine the rivalry feigned and in good fun. But is that still true? Any side-duels that might not exactly “follow the safety rules”?
  8. Anything you can give me would be helpful. I want this to be authentic, and do the event justice as the catalyst to send my heroine on her journey.

Oh! Do you have pictures? More pictures will be helpful.

And, as a side note, if any SCA member would like to read the SCA excerpt when I’m done to make sure I “got it” I would be eternally grateful.

Huzzah!

(Yeah, that was probably lame. I’m sure I spelled that wrong.)

Find out more about this cool organization here: http://www.sca.org/

JenniFer_EatonF

 

 

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