Z is for Zoink!

You know about how I like to find the fun in everything I do?* Well, we have a rule in our house that if you are taking something off a table that someone else is sitting at – say if you are eating french fries in the living room and you need the ketchup off the kitchen table where your parents are sitting – you must say zoink when you snatch the ketchup from the table. It is also advisable to do the snatching quite quickly for added comedic effect.

Now this isn’t a situation where politeness would be required. It’s not like when we are all at the table and the kids are asking one of us to pass the ketchup. This is when no one is using the bottle and it doesn’t need to be passed and they don’t need permission to retrieve it. It’s just a fun and funny way to acknowledge that they are taking it.

I’m using the kids as an example in this case, but we all do it (and several of our friends do too) and we are likely to remind anyone who forgets their zoink. In fact, I have made a jokingly big production to at least one of the kids’ friends:

‘Excuse me, T, but did you just take the Pepsi off the table?’

‘Oh, yes, sorry. Is it okay?’

‘Well, it’s okay, you can have all the Pepsi you like, it’s just that you forgot to zoink.’

‘Oh!’ T places Pepsi back on the table, then removes it again while saying ‘Zoink!’

‘Carry on!’ I say and return to my book.**


There’s a lot of fun to be had when both parties are pretending to be deadly serious about something that you are goofing around about. And I do love it when people play along with my goofiness or indulge my nonsense. Luckily, I have surrounded myself with people like that and I keep finding more.

Turns out that silly people are everywhere, as long as you keep your eyes open for them. I have a lot of luck with little kids that way, they love to be silly with a grown-up*** especially if they then get to turn around and be the sensible one and tell you that marshmallow cars won’t actually work because they would be too sticky (to pick some a recent example of intelligence I have gathered).

So, my question for you at Zero hour, at the Zenith of the A-Z challenge, when you have no more Zest for writing about the alphabet: Do you zoink your ketchup off the table like a proper goofball or do you just carry it off like a regular person?

Zut,alors! I certainly hope you are answering with ZOINK!

*Fun is one of the ruling principles of my life. I highly recommend it. Check out my F post for more details.
** Yes, my kids’ friends indulge my nonsense. I don’t know if they enjoy it or if they have just given up. I like to pretend it is enjoyment. 🙂
***For the record, I always make sure to meet the eyes of the parent so they know that I am just being goofy. I don’t want them to think that I am trying to befriend their kid for nefarious purposes.

Y is for YouTube and Yammering

One of the places that I see the biggest generational divide between me and my kids is when they load something up on YouTube. Now this isn’t going to be one of those ‘back in my day’ posts, nor is it going to be a ‘kids today!’ posts, but there’s an intriguing difference in what they consider interesting to watch and what I consider interesting to watch.

For starters, I don’t generally like taking information in via video, I prefer to read, or if necessary, to just listen, to any information I want to take in. My sons, however, love to watch videos of things. Left to their own devices, they would consume a steady diet of people playing videogames and commenting on the gameplay.

This makes no sense to me. I already find videogames to be a strange way to spend your time* but to remove yourself even further and watch people play games – and to have them yap and yammer at you while they do it? That’s enough to drive me right to the edge.

Sometimes when I am trying to work at the kitchen table, the kids will want to sit in the living room and watch some of these videos and I find it nearly impossible to concentrate. I find the commentator-style chatter works itself deeply into my brain and shakes up my thought patterns.** I don’t find the same thing if they are watching a TV show or a movie because that isn’t constant chatter, that’s a conversation (and one that has nothing to do with me) and I can tune that out. Also the conversation includes breaks and music and all kinds of other breaks in the sound but the monologue of the video commentators? Not so much.***

I feel lucky that I am not one of those people who is uncomfortable with their kids enjoying something that they themselves don’t enjoy. I’m fine with the fact that my kids are different than me and I’m happy to give them room for their own tastes, even if those tastes drive me batty.

What I can’t deal with, though, is the fact that the commentator style of speaking is leaking out into the real world. The boys have several friends who commentate the world around them instead of having conversations. They riff on what their friends say, they comment on everyone around them, and they talk about their own lives in a kind of presentation-style rather than in a sharing-with-friends-style. It is not a dialogue, it’s a monologue and it is really bizarre to witness. It feels alienating, in a way.

Again, this isn’t me complaining about ‘kids today’, it isn’t age-related per se, it’s just something that I find odd and I wonder where the whole thing came from. I wonder if perhaps a certain critical mass of us have gotten out of the habit of conversation and this is what has stepped into the space that’s remaining. Of course, there’s the chance that this style has always existed and I just didn’t encounter it until now or that the YouTube yammering has made me more sensitive to something that wouldn’t have bothered me before.

I don’t have any kind of solution and I’m not even sure that one is needed. It could be that the issue is me or that I’m just not into this style of speaking.  And, mostly, I’m just observing this odd quirk in the space between my sons’ view of the world and mine.****

Do you find the same thing with YouTube videos? What about with Talk Radio? Is there a style of presenter that drives you batty?

*I’m not anti-game, I’m just not drawn to them in any way. My husband and sons, and most of my friends, are big gamers but aside from Rock Band, I have never been pulled in. I have tried to play Minecraft a couple of times because the boys like it so much but there is way too much going on at once and the controller confounds me, so I didn’t get very far. The boys gave me points for trying though. 🙂
**For the record, I usually dig out my headphones to counter this. I don’t want to deny the boys the chance to watch something they love so much.
***I also find talk radio to be a bit like this as well. That, however, is easier to avoid.
****Note: When we pointed out to our oldest son that one of his friends has this style of speaking, it was like a light had come on. ‘Oh, THAT’S why he gets on my nerves after a while.’

X is for Xanthippe (!)

What’s an xanthippe?
I didn’t know either but I found this fabulous word when searching for words starting with X* and I came across Phrontistery.

Apparently, an xanthippe is an ill-tempered woman.

My youngest son was recently protesting that he was being forced to smile during his school concert. I told him to bare his teeth and no one would know the difference. ;)

My youngest son was recently protesting that he was being forced to smile during his school concert. I told him to bare his teeth and no one would know the difference. 😉

That definition immediately intrigued and annoyed me. On the one hand, I love that the English language has such bizarrely specific words and I love that it is so cool-looking. I will be using it in the future, for sure – to refer to myself. (But I’ll be using it in a celebratory fashion because I kind of like to OWN things that are supposed to be insults. Sidenote: Now, I kind of want to rename my blog.)

On the other hand, how annoying is it that there is a specific word for an ill-tempered woman? The word ill-tempered is not sufficient? Or does that only cover men? Or is it that men’s ill-temperedness makes sense but we need a specific word to describe how ridiculous an ill-tempered woman is?

And once you have a word for that specific case, it becomes a bit of a label doesn’t it? It’s not that she is ill-tempered for a reason, it’s that she is an xanthippe! It’s all on her. That way, you don’t have to worry about anything you did, you don’t need to concern yourself with being reasonable or acting like an adult, she’s the problem.

This opens a big can of worms in my brain. We have this cultural stereotype that women are more emotional than men, and while that is true on the surface, there’s more to it than that. It comes down to the emotional range that various genders are allowed and the emotional skills that we are taught, and the tools we are given for navigating social situations. If women are put in charge of keeping social situations running smoothly (and we often are) then we need a full emotional range to handle that task.

Of course, then some people will turn around and blame women for being ‘too emotional’ as if that is all on the women themselves, as if that happens outside of a social context. We all have times when our emotions don’t match the situation we are in, but that’s not a X-linked characteristic** it happens to everyone. Men are limited in the emotions that that are socially acceptable for them to express but they can still be inappropriate for the situation(anger is usually okay though, that’s ‘manly’)***

Now, I’m not saying that there is no such thing as an ill-tempered woman, there obviously is. I’m ill-tempered myself sometimes, occasionally for no real reason. What I’m interested in, though, is unpacking words that we throw at each other. What’s the context? Are there any mitigating factors? Are we reacting to the individual or some stereotype about them?

I think it is way too easy to decide someone is an xanthippe (or that they are unreasonable, or angry or whatever) and put the blame solely on them. When we scope back a bit and get the bigger picture (the situation at hand, their background, or if we consider a cultural context), we get the kind of information that helps us treat a cause instead of a symptom.

Of course, sometimes when we get all that information, we discover that the person is just a xanthippe. So keep that word in your back pocket and use it wisely.

*Spoiler, a lot of longer words that start with X seem to have to do with either the colour yellow or with strangers. Makes for interesting reading.
**Interesting, the X-link is another connection to the letter X.
***Doesn’t that make you think that men are missing out? How terrible is that our society has developed in a way to deny huge chunks of the range of human existence to each gender.

W is for Writing

When I started thinking about W, writing was the obvious choice but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say. So, I did what I always do when I have a topic but I can’t think of an approach – I started with the question ‘What do I want people to know about writing?’ Hence the extra-conversational tone here.

This is the 'permission' slip I give all of my writing students.

This is the ‘permission’ slip I give all of my writing students.

Well, first off , you get to write what you want to write. I can’t guarantee that you will sell what you write – there are a lot of forces at work there and a lot of them are beyond your control so you shouldn’t worry about them at first. Instead you need to only worry about what you want to say. In some ways this is the best stage of writing because it is all about you, you, you.

You can outline if you want. Some people like to make things up as they go and others like to have everything carefully planned out. I kind of like to go between the two. Sometimes the work of planning everything out is a bit too much for me. When that happens, I just need to get down to the actual work of putting the words on the screen and it doesn’t matter too much about what they actually are. When I’m in that mode then I just go with the words that come and I don’t worry what purpose they will serve.*

That being said, it is a lot easier for me to write (and write fast) when I have an outline written. I am still working on becoming a regular outliner.

When you get to the actual writing you have to remember to separate your writer self from the editor self. Your writer self needs all the freedom you can muster so you need to learn to shut down the editing voice while you start to write.

The ideas need room to spill out and room to grow, locking them into being perfect at the beginning is a good way to stop them from flowing at all.

If you were learning a new dance, you wouldn’t expect yourself to master it right away, you wouldn’t be hard on yourself for not getting it right the first time and you definitely wouldn’t tell yourself that you shouldn’t bother at all, would you? I didn’t think so.

When you tell yourself harsh things about a first draft of a new project you are essentially doing just that. You are saying that your very first try is not good enough. Maybe you talk to yourself like that but I try as hard as hell not to talk to myself that way. I want to still like me (and I am mostly successful).

So you need to remember that even though you have done other dances, and learned other steps, this is your first time with this particular choreography. So you need to have some patience and you need to get the mean old dance teacher to let you off the hook so you can do the steps in the way you need to without worrying about critique.

So turn off that editor, tell her that you value her opinion** but that it needs to come at the right time so you can make the best use of it and then park her ideas until you get to the seoncd draft. There is no point in being a jerk to yourself as you go along and ending up not writing anything at all because you couldn’t make it perfect.

The world would rather have your imperfect work than not have it at all. At least I would, and I am part of the world. I know you are probably discounting that statement right now but bear with me.

If I were telling you that your writing was terrible and that you should stop writing (which I definitely am NOT), you would more than likely believe it. Why would that be easier to accept than the idea that your work has value? Why not believe that you have something important to contribute? [SPOILER: You do.]

It’s silly how we do that though, isn’t it? We’ll believe the one negative voice. I think we need to consciously choose the positive and see where that takes us. And I am definitely a positive voice for you. I want you to try, I want you to get the most out of your writing as you can, I want you to be able to share your work with the world. There is someone out there that needs your words. I can’t promise you that writing and sharing it will happen without fear, but I can promise you that it will give you a lot of satisfaction.

So, please, choose the tools that you like and the words that you like and write the ideas that you like and share them in a way that makes you happy. Someone else may need the exact thing you are saying.
*When I am coaching, I take much more of a ‘feel okay with writing/get some ideas out there’ kind of approach rather than a ‘let’s get this project finished’ kind of approach. I worry a lot about people who feel too intimidated to write at all. I hate to think of people out there who won’t even get started because they are too scared or they think they can’t write or they don’t want to be criticized for their writing. That’s a major part of the audience that I try to reach with my coaching and my classes.
**Sometimes I keep a piece of paper near my computer and when an editorial comment pops into my brain I write it down and say ‘Thanks! Noted!’ so my inner editor feels appreciated. Yes, I am odd. 🙂

U is for Up by Myself

(For your amusement: I wrote this the other day right after I wrote my Q post. I was excited to be ahead of the game for a couple of days. I actually posted this for a couple of hours before I thought ‘Wait a second! I missed R, S & T!’ Apparently, I was not fully awake for the first couple of days of this week. :))

Sometimes I wish I were one of those people who awake peaceful and pleasant early in the morning. Instead, left to my own devices, I’m one of those people who wakes up kind of cranky at the latest possible moment I can let myself away with. I am working on this, tweaking my systems to figure out how I can make mornings more pleasant for myself, but I can’t help wishing it just came naturally to bound out of bed with a smiley enthusiasm

One of the reasons that I wish I were a naturally early riser is that I love being awake by myself in the morning. I am often up late by myself, but that is not the same. It’s being up, in the light, with the day ahead of me, that gives me the feeling I’m seeking. Part of it is that it feels like secret, stolen time and I have always loved unexpected pockets of time*, and another part is that I like knowing that all my people are settled and comfy but I’m not needed by them at the moment.

This is the mug (well, cup) in question, delightful, no?

This is the mug (well, cup) in question, delightful, no?

I was up by myself this past Sunday morning and I sank fully into the experience. I made a giant cup of tea, wrote my morning pages  and did a little pre-work for the week (I had decided that I wanted to do a lot of planning this week so I did some extra work on the weekend to take care of the day-to-day so I could focus on the long-term. This was not the success I had hoped it would be.) and I just enjoyed feeling productive and peaceful and letting the words flow out of my brain.
It’s not that I can’t get that feeling at other times but I too often get caught up in what is coming next, in the anticipation of being interrupted by having to pick someone up or make lunch or whatever, and I can’t get right into what I’m doing in the same way.

But it is really terrific when I can be up early, sitting at my table with the light just so and I can feel at peace with my work and with the world and with myself as I just move at my own pace from thing to thing.**
Of course, the key thing I see from creating this post is that I need to figure out how to find that same feeling at other times of the day. Funny how that need to transfer an idea or a skill set keeps coming up, huh? It’s like I said in one of my earlier posts for this series (quoting Fabeku, of course), how you do one thing is how you do everything. That concept has upsides and downsides, but mostly it gives useful information.
*I used to love to get to my university classes a bit early and read or make some notes before everyone else got there. It didn’t happen often but I liked it when it did. And if someone is late for a meeting with me, I love it because everyone else THINKS I’m in a meeting and they won’t interrupt, but I have a few minutes to do WHATEVER I WANT until the other person gets there. It’s exciting.

**That was one of my biggest struggles when my kids were small, I had to do things in the order that made sense for working around them instead of in the order that made the most sense to me. I felt all jittery and interrupted in my work and that is hard on the brain!