The Chaos of a Family Man

dpI’ve been on vacation with my girlfriend and her daughter the last week. A two year old woke me up every morning. She would smile with squinty eyes and giggle. The kid is adorable.

At night I stayed up late with a woman who wanted my attention. We would talk, play card games, play video games, stare longingly into each other’s eyes. Maybe make out.

The entire time I was sick. I was exhausted. Yet the end of the trip hit. I woke up Sunday morning on my own. No one was going to wake me up. While my nieces and nephew would demand my attention, they didn’t demand it in the same way as the two year old.

At night I could play video games. I could read or write. My evening was my own. There wasn’t an immensely attractive woman who wanted to stay up with me until late night.

Maybe I’m old. Maybe I got a glimpse of a life I’ve wanted since I was 18. Maybe living on my own and having to answer only to me for five years has gotten monotonous. When I woke up Sunday morning, the peace and quiet of my old life restored, I felt empty.

I woke up knowing I could be content with the life I have. I could be okay coming home alone to play video games or write. I could be okay deciding when I wanted to interact with toddlers. I could be okay with no one truly relying on me.

Despite that, I thrived in the chaos of having a family. I thrived with Dana depending on me. I thrived with her daughter. For a week I was a provider. I mostly provided emotionally, as a presence in their life, but it was good. I discovered I thrive immensely on the chaos, as having a family, even a small and borrowed one, is chaos.

I’m excited for what is to come. I’m excited for where my life is heading. I was definitely meant to be a husband and father, I just wish the path hadn’t been so painful for me to reach this point. Yet it means so much more now.

What are the blessings in your life? What were you nervous about, or what was chaotic, that you found you thrived under?

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Loving Christ First

My girlfriend, Dana, was over with her daughter this weekend. It was the first time I saw Dana since we started dating, and the second time I saw her in person since knowing her for the past three or four years. She stayed with us for the weekend.

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Saturday night we played games, especially Zombicide, with a bunch of my friends. We started late and went until it was early. I mean, 12:30am is really early morning. The following day we planned on going to church, but with it being so late we decided we would see what happened.

I customarily set my alarm for 5:30am. This time I let it die so I could sleep until I woke up. Which was 7am. I talked with a friend for a while, showered, and soon Dana was awake.

Both of us wanted nothing more than to hang out for the extra hour. We wanted to gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes. Maybe make out. Play with her daughter. However, with my new family over, I knew one thing which had paramount importance: Christ.

We got ready and spent the hour at church, and then some. We got there early, we left late. She was able to meet some of my church friends and my pastor who I was really close to. Her daughter acted very well in church. But it felt right being there with them.

I’m always told put Christ first, then your spouse, then your kids. I never fully understood what it meant to put Christ first. I didn’t get the sacrifices which showed I put Christ first. Then this moment happened, and I understood, at least at some level. I also understood why it was important.

Difficulties of being too nice

Am I too nice, or do I not like conflict? I mean, some conflict I embrace. I think I hate conflict when I’m powerless. My job requires me to often be the messenger. While the messenger has no power of the message, they’re often the first to feel the wrath of bad news. I hate that. I find it easier to step forward when at fault and say, “That was me,” then I do delivering the message of, “It’s their fault.” Because that always becomes my fault.

That was convoluted.

Anyway, I’m playing a game where war is the point. I have my favorite toys that I poke relentlessly and take their stuff. It’s the point of the game. But then we talk, they don’t call my mom a cow, everything is friendly, and by the end, we’re okay with each other. I give advice and allow them to use my targets, though it doesn’t benefit me. I’m too nice.

So am I too nice? Or do I need to grow a spine? Hard questions on Tuesday morning. When I don’t want to be editing. I should definitely be editing.

What is your why?

Read a book recently. What?! How could I?

Starting with Why.

The book is written by Simon Sinek. I found him accidentally on Facebook. For whatever reason, likely his why, I was enthralled. He spoke about leaders getting the last word. Sit there, listen to others, and when everyone has spoken, the leader is to say what happens next, with thought and consideration to what everyone else had said. This is a little novel to me as my boss (dad) almost always starts with his thoughts then asks others.

This led me to speak with a very intelligent friend, Devani, because she knows things. While I was now aware of the rabbit hole, she pointed me towards it, showing me other videos and books.

Starting with Why talks about three steps of doing our work. What is what we do, and everyone knows it. Using me as an example, I sell restaurant equipment. Then there is how, and that is how you do it. A few people know this, and they end up successful in their own right, but never truly revolutionary.

The why has a dream. They have a vision. They change the world. They make people believe, and those believers create loyalty. In a world that’s becoming increasingly mercenary, that would be an incredible feat.

I found my why. I love working with kids, I love facilitating learning, and I love showing them the different exciting and difficult things they will face when older. I only got out of teaching because parents are insane at how much they’re enabling their kids to be brats, as well as the requirements a kid needs to fulfill at school or sports to find acceptance.

This is likely what led me to want to get involved so deeply with Pokemon. I want to teach kids how to play, how to read, how to do some basic math.

Now I want to aim it at writing, getting kids interested in writing, and showing them what it is to get published. Right now, even at the college level, we teach what it is to write. We don’t teach what it is to publish, which I think is a weakness.

At work, I’m going to look into helping high school students who desire to be chefs get more experience of what that means, including cooking meals for charity events and learning with our personal chef. While that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re selling equipment, it gives us a why, and it sets us apart from everyone else who does the same thing. We would stand for something other than profit. And don’t get me wrong, we do help customers to achieve their dreams of setting up a restaurant. But so does everyone else we compete with.

Simon inspired me enough that when I finished reading, I gave it to my dad so hopefully it would inspire him. That’s Simon’s why: inspire. And I believe in his why.

The Imagination of Nintendo

I bought a Switch. It was a little impulsive. E3 was last week and they announced they are doing a core Pokemon RPG for the Switch.

If you are unaware, I’m obsessed with Pokemon. Plushies and figurines litter my room to the point a friend visiting asked where the 12 year old was. I’m the 12 year old. The moment they announced some nebulous Pokemon RPG for the Switch, I was in. I went out, hit up three Targets, and bought one.

There are about six games for the Switch. I picked up Zelda. There is a beautiful world with lots of weird things to kill you, and some neat abilities. Zelda is an amazing life lesson. Run up to a goblin thing with a branch, hit it and do no damage, proceed to have it kill you in one shot. See a lake, try to swim across it, die immediately from cold. This is the game. “I want to do this thing!” Die. Still, it’s a beautiful world.

Then I picked up Mario Kart 8. There is no sense in Mario Kart 8. Truly, there never has been, but I haven’t played since college. The lanes wobble either due to psychedelic haunted houses or Bowser punching it.

The maps are gorgeous, imaginative, expansive. They tell entire stories, while only taking three minutes to do a few laps on.

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While the fact you hang glide is cool, you’re hang gliding after driving down a waterfall. To get to the top you drove up a water fall. You drive upside down, sideways, every which way. You’re really not sure where you are in relation to the ground. Every once and a while you want to throw up a little at how the world moves because it’s not supposed to move that way.

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That’s a space station. There are three Rainbow Roads and each is more ridiculous than the other. It’s incredible. One is over a city, this is in space, and the other I can’t quite remember but it’s an acid trip.

Why do I bring this up? Between Mario’s LCD and Zelda’s attempt at becoming Skyrim, my imagination is exploding. I didn’t realize how stagnant it was. I do think NieR: Automata helped a little, but it’s also been putting me into an existential depression.

Fantasy and science fiction more and more needs to fit into a neat box. I blame our zeal for science. Everything must make sense. It must have an explanation. Mario Kart doesn’t care about your science. It doesn’t care about gravity. It doesn’t care. It inspired me not to care, and to write a few more imaginative pieces.

The Trials of Writing

Writing is a multitasking sport and I’m failing hard on it. Why, you ask? Because here is my massively neglected blog. My other blog, tied implicitly to my novels, is just as neglected. This needs to change.

I’ve been doing a great job of waking up at 5:30am and writing. The issue is it gets locked into editing the novel instead of passing over here to get working on the project. In the evening I just don’t care. I play video games. I need to care more. It would be better for my pocket book as well as my progress and the creation of a fan base. It’s just really hard work.

Travel hurts this as well. I’m currently on my parent’s computer. Their keyboard feels clunky to type on, so it frustrates me, and I quit. It’s a horrible thing.

So, starting tomorrow, I will be updating the Volden site. I will be appearing more regularly on here, and I will have a really awesome map when I can figure out how to get links up on it. All wins.

Hope you’re all doing well, hope your writing/reading is going well, and have an awesome Father’s Day!

The Power of Names

Watch Dogs was flat for me. It was in Chicago, a city I enjoy visiting and I think is beautiful, but it felt flat. I couldn’t figure out why. Is it because I’ve been there? Is it because they have such small segments of the city, interspersed with different suburbs?

Then it dawned on me. Nothing had names. If you weren’t a plot important entity, you were generic. “Eat here,” and other signs that didn’t create brand, and therefore did not create a world.

GTAV is a master of this. They have a thousand brands, most of which you will never know. There are a half dozen different banks, and you interact with maybe two of them. They have postal services. You never deal with these. The strip clubs are numerous, there are news agencies, car companies, used car dealerships, and countless other brands. You only ever deal with a very small percentage in any way beyond seeing a building with a logo.

Watch Dogs didn’t do this. It made me hesitant to pick up Watch Dogs 2. I play sandbox games for that atmosphere. Usually the plots are weaker, but the world building is through the roof.

Watch Dogs 2 has captivated me. Even if I’m not a fan of the style of DedSec, I love the world. When I started playing the world felt more alive. At first I thought maybe it was because I never visited San Francisco. However, as I kept playing I realized every building had an existence. They all had brands. Lives were behind them, lives I would likely never know.

This creates life in the world.

My world has secret organizations. There are intricate governments filled with rulers and underlings. Everything is alive if the characters are going to touch it. They never see the full scope. However, these little touches, these names, attitudes, and “brands,” all affect the way the main story plays out. It affects the motives of the support characters. It affects how the antagonist can move against the protagonist.

Even though your reader doesn’t see all of it, or they can if they follow along with your blog, you have created solid motives. You will write the setting and characters more convincing for it. Trust me.

My suggestion on this, and insight to my own process, is brand everything. Give it names, motives, purpose over all. The reader may not see it all, and they may not pay attention to all the crumbs that are put in front of them, but they will feel the world is more real.