Archive for the ‘Guest Blogged!’ Category

Matt the Firsty here!  Emily and I didn’t have any good ideas to blog this morning, so I thought I would make a little progress report on my sinister plans for my little digital alter ego.  Not that my plans are sinister in the traditional sense of evil or foreboding, although I already know there are moments that Emily won’t enjoy at all, and I would apologize to her if I could.  Some etymological trivia for you, however.  In Latin roots, ‘dextro’ is the word for ‘right handed’.  The word ‘dexterity’, referring to adeptness and skill, comes from the greater control most people have with their right hands.  I fully intend to put Emily through a long term plot arc, something that I can hopefully then rewrite into a novel, but between the chaos of my schedule and the disjointed nature of my attention span, I fear I won’t be very dextrous as I execute my plans.  Since the opposite of dextro is sinistro, it actually does make sense to refer to my plans as sinister…

Is this look sinister, or merely cyberpunk?

Is this look sinister, or merely cyberpunk?

I picked the title of this post for two reasons.  Firstly, for Emily, I am the ‘man behind the curtain’, the unseen presence pulling puppeteer strings.  Secondly, it’s a quote from the Wizard of Oz, a classic movie that is one of my favorites.

Quick aside: To me, the Wizard of Oz is one of those movies that everyone should know, a piece of American cultural identity.  As such, I often allude to it in normal conversation, because I expect it to be a common reference point.  Semi-recently I ran drinks out to a table of six: Mother and father, preteen brother and sister, one pair of grandparents.  They were so engrossed in their conversation I couldn’t simply hand the drinks out, so I attempted to discretely place each person’s drink near them.  Sadly, the mom talked with her hands, gesturing enough I could only lurk behind her, hoping for either her words to pause so I could speak up or her movements to pause so I could place her drink.  Neither happened until I had stood behind her long enough for the moment to become awkward.  “Don’t worry, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” I joked, since I’m not a fan of awkward pauses and rush to fill them.

“What did you say?” asked the mom, obviously confused.

“Sorry,” I replied, a little surprised the line wasn’t recognized, “Just a line from an old movie.”  A set-up for someone at the table to point out that the Wizard of Oz is not just ‘some old movie’ but a classic, a universal telling of the heroic journey.  Or at least a childhood favorite.  An audience with both a male and female for each of three generations and none of them recognized the Wizard of Freakin’ Oz?  My mind was totally blown, and I’ve needed to vent about this for a while…

The Wizard of Oz?!?  Apparently, sometimes I do need to draw people a picture...

The Wizard of Oz?!? Apparently, sometimes I do need to draw people a picture…

Anyway, I should try to rein myself back on topic.  A few months ago, I was taking stock of both my life and Emily’s life, trying to figure out what the arrivals of our respective babies would mean for blogging.  As I finished taking stock, I realized I want to wade deeper into the fiction end of the pool.  My tentative plan is to try to write a novel from within the blog.  Beat out an overarching plot line (freely stealing advice from Blake Snyder and Larry Brooks).  The nature of my writing, heck, the nature of my life, is to try to pants it, but my ADD-raddled attention span requires an outline of scenes and incidents if I want to avoid either trailing off unfinished or meandering away from compelling narrative pacing.  Once I have list of ‘incidents and accidents, hints and allegations’ to string into a story, I can shape individual scenes into one or two part blog entries.  Once I’m done, I can string them all together and edit back into a single manuscript.  A brilliant idea if it works, right?

My genre of choice to write is an urban fantasy.  Think the Dresden files, Suzanne Johnson’s Sentinels of New Orleans series, Seanen McGuire’s Toby Daye series, Supernatural, etc.  I thought about a few other genres; my reading tastes range far and wide so I know the tropes and conventions of almost any genre, and I’m confident by now that I can find sets and costumes for anything somewhere in Second Life.  I also strongly considered trying a more mundane ‘cozy’ mystery, maybe something like Stephanie Bond’s Body Mover series or Janet Evanovitch’s Stephanie Plum series.  It’s another genre I like, and possibly a better fit for what I’ve written so far, over two hundred posts in nearly two years with very little indication that the supernatural has any role in Emily’s world.  Still, as I’ve confessed elsewhere, I initially envisioned Emily as an urban fantasy character.  Moreover,  as a reader, as a wannabe writer, and as an RPG-gamer I’ve had ideas and fancies about the nature of magic simmering in the back of my head for not just years but decades.  It seems like a waste not to use at least some of them.  Ultimately, though, it comes down to fact I want to write the book I would want to read, and so far, I want to read an urban fantasy.

Before I continue, I mustache myself a question….

Before I continue, I mustache myself a question….

Before I can start my experiment in mad literary science (“Yes, Igor, what if we somehow force a blog to bear the love child of an unwritten novel to fruition?”) there are two things I need to do, one onstage and one backstage if I may briefly mix metaphors.  Backstage- behind the curtain, where you should pay no attention- I need to have at my outline lined up.  I had one in progress, but it was growing too front heavy and I’ve been alternating between trying to massage it and trying to build a better outline from different plot structures.   Two important early scenes- a prologue that introduces the antagonist to the story, and a scene where Emily’s supernatural birthright first manifests, have already defined themselves in my imagination.  Probably a reflection of my own recent ascent into parenthood, but all the themes that I’m considering for the story revolve around Emily’s attempt to balance her responsibilities to herself, to the other adults in her life, and to Piper.

The onstage stuff is the fun part of getting ready for my experiment.  I’m tweaking Emily’s employment a bit, from full time server to part time server and part time ‘gallery girl’ for the Thatchtower Gallery.  Thatchtower is actually a cross between a gallery and an auction house, dealing with high end rarities and collectibles, many of which touch upon the supernatural world.  The new job has a couple of roles in the story I want to tell.  It gives Emily access to daycare, because I don’t always have someplace to park Piper and some scenes require her absence.  It provides a source of information about the supernatural, because Emily doesn’t (yet) know what she needs to know about the arcane world.  It provides an entrance vector to put more men into Emily’s life.  It also gives me a chance to honor Caoimhe Lionheart, a truly wonderful Second Life blogger, who cheerfully volunteered to watch Piper when she commented on my ‘Sober Lullabies’ post.  Given the most famous Lionheart of history was Richard the Lionhearted, 12th century English King, it is hardly surprising that Ms. Cao Richards is my loose reinterpretation of ‘Lil Cao for my fiction: An elegant lady, gifted with compassion, wisdom, and style, who will watching (and watching out for) Emily and Piper in their dealings with Thatchtower Gallery.  (And yes, sometimes babysitting Piper for an afternoon or evening.)  Even if her job title is ‘administrative assistant’, Ms. Richards is effectively the executive running Thatchtower, and will definitely be present in Emily’s story.

Posing for the moment...

Posing for the moment…

I’m also trying to insert a small stable of potential romantic interests into Emily’s life.  In my personal reading, I strongly prefer fiction with a strong romantic subplot.  I generally don’t appreciate books where the romance is the primary plot, but I have enough of a romantic streak that one of the signs of a happy ending is the presence and strengthening of a love relationship.  So obviously, I want my urban fantasy blog-novel’s B plot to deal with Emily’s love life.  I’ve got two options to choose between, both well illustrated in my reading list.  Option one is to pick Emily’s love interest, and then help love conquer all.  Option two, equally popular, is to throw multiple intriguing candidates at my heroine.  I’m having trouble deciding between options, so I want to make sure I have enough candidates available so that option two is still a viable option.  Jeremy is one candidate.  I expect Thatchtower to provide a couple more: Carlton Thatcher, the wealthy, cultured, secretive owner of the gallery and Eddie Stone, his dangerous and intensely physical head of security.  I have also imagined a few interesting men connected to the supernatural world, individuals who also relate to the A plot.

So in short, I have big ideas for Emily, but I’m still having some trouble figuring out the execution.  In that sense, little has changed.  Still, ideas are starting to gel, so continue to keep your eyes on this space…

Matt the Firsty, here once more.  While Emily is recovering in the hospital with little Piper, I thought I would finally finish my state of the blogger address.  When I started the state of the blogger address, I wanted to cover two points.  I covered the first in Part I, where I talked about what was new in my life: home-ownership and impending fatherhood.  I got distracted in Part II, and talked about the reasons to continue or discontinue blogging, concluding if I logically don’t have time to blog, I will just declare “screw logic” and do my best to carry on.  Here in Part III- and I really hope Part Final- I want to cover the second point, how Emily’s life is continuing to evolve.

In my future… fewer party looks like this one...

In my future… fewer party looks like this one…

Evolution is the best term for how Emily continues to change, and hopefully the evolution represents progress.  I’ve explained elsewhere, if you dig deep enough into the archives, that the initial seeds of Emily predate any involvement I had with Second Life, a rough proto-character I wanted to use in some ideas I had in the urban fantasy sub-genre.  A woman in her twenties who looked younger, a tomboy whose mother abandoned her when she was nine, leaving her to be raised by an emotionally shattered cop father, with a psychic/mystic talent for dousing that she inherited from her mother.  Experts advise writing from experience, so I figured Emily would draw upon my time as a server and commuter college student.  I didn’t really know what she looked like or too much about her personality.

Even from the beginning, however, Firsty knew I didn't look like this...

Even from the beginning, however, Firsty knew I didn’t look like this

For a while I was content to explore Second Life, take part in hunts, do the newbie thing and use my avatar for interactive digital porn.  Even during this shallow stage, Emily’s personality and style began to gel.  I initially planned to change Emily’s race and species and gender and name frequently, explore lots of different roles, and eventually find myself a role-playing group to settle into.  Instead I found myself making smaller and more cosmetic changes, and treating the mental picture I had begun to form of Emily the fictional-character as my baseline for Emily the avatar.  I drifted away from Second Life.  Porn, even interactive digital porn, eventually pales.  I liked hunts, but didn’t necessarily have the patience to work through an entire hunt in the available time, particularly when my particular shade of ADD is unwilling to work a hunt out of order.  My schedule was too erratic for role-playing which, even over the computer, is a social interaction requiring regular partners, or even for regularly attending club and dance events.

The idea of blogging and writing brought me back to Second Life.  Emily’s next incarnation was the birth of this blog.  Initially, I was going to play Second Life for x hours a week, and then spend another y hours a week keeping a journal of what (and sometimes who) Emily did in-world and what she wore while doing it.  I decided/discovered that Emily also liked playing computer games, and I was amused by the conceit that while I thought of Emily as my avatar in the game of Second Life, she thought of me as her avatar in the game of First Life, thereby giving birth to the nickname ‘Firsty’.  The time crunch I always whine about forced the next evolution in Emily, which was also an evolution of this blog.  I didn’t have x + y hours to put into Second Life, and the y hours I spent writing were more important to me than the x hours I spent playing so I would have something to write about.  So gradually what I journaled became less about what Emily had done and more whatever I was thinking about at the time.  Last year when researching something Emily was going to write triggered the whole, “oh, wow, I have ADD” discovery, Emily became intimately entwined with ADD, and this blog truly became primarily focused about my thoughts and philosophy and interests.  The blog was no longer about Emily… It had become about me, Matt, but using Emily as the filter.  The last few months, after I worked out a privacy policy in my own head, this has become even more pronounced.  Rather than abstractions, I’ve shared real, true anecdotes that really happened, although only after ‘filtering’ them.  Originally, I would filter by being vague, just referring to ‘the restaurant where I work’.  Now I cheerfully set and recast anecdotes from either restaurant where I, Matt, work into Giovanni’s, the totally fictional restaurant where Emily works.  I’ve enjoyed the challenge of keeping the essence of a story while changing details that could confirm or deny my identity.

Someday I may tell you the embarrassing story of my senior prom...

Someday I may tell you the embarrassing story of Firsty’s senior prom…

Which brings about the next evolution.  Although I use Emily to tell filtered versions of stories that matter to me, the differences between us continue to accumulate.  Until now, work has been my primary source of anecdotes and stories.  Hardly surprising.  Fifty-plus hour work weeks mean both that I get plenty of restaurant stories and that I have a shortage of opportunities for non-restaurant stories.  In addition, as they say, you are what you do.  A major portion of my self-identity is the fact that I’m a server, and, given that I’m kind of an over-competitive twitch, that I have a need, generally realized, to be a better server than the coworkers around me.   Not a bad thing, but something that again kept me focused on restaurants and stories about interesting customers and coworkers.

Now I have another big source of anecdotes and stories: as I mentioned at the end of Part II, Firsty Jr arrived.  I’m no longer laboring under the shadow of imminent fatherhood, I am a father.  As a husband, a sibling, an uncle, I was already a doting relative, having to monitor my own impulses to bore you to tears with stories about my family.  Now that I have a little tiny mini-me, I expect those impulses to only grow stronger.  Only there is no convenient way for Emily to tell stories about ‘Firsty, jr’ as often as I suspect I will have baby and eventually toddler and child stories that I want to tell… so Emily needed a mini-me of her own.  I won’t lie.  When I initially decided to make Emily pregnant, I had no plan for Emily to have or keep the child.  I just was so excited about the fact my wife was pregnant that the whim to make Emily pregnant seemed right.  When I posted ‘If you poke me again, I will make you BLEED’, over a month ago, it instantly became one of my favorite blogs ever.  The story never actually happened- my wife, also a waitress, did get poked once or twice during her pregnancy, but it was no big deal.  I was more upset on her behalf when she told me about it than she ever was.  However, in my blog, I blended her physical discomforts, my mental quirks (the ADD and my extended personal space), and Emily’s perspective into an account that totally made Emily’s pregnancy real for me.  I think that was also the first, or nearly first, time I gave Piper a name.  It still wasn’t quite a conscious plan, but my subconscious realized that it would be good for the blog to have baby Piper around.

Yeah, I could get used to having this little one around...

Yeah, I could get used to having this little one around…

My subconscious gave me another piece of the puzzle while I was writing the Emoji post.  I quickly created an ex-boyfriend, former coworker named Jeremy, to hold some of my real life attitudes that contradict Emily’s attitudes.  My sense of irony helped me realize why they broke up: Emily was scared off by Jeremy’s assumption they would start a family together when she hadn’t decided if she even wanted to have children.  So she let a good catch, someone who she loved and who wanted to be a father, get away, and now she has a daughter with no father.  Emily needs a love life, and it needs to be based in the needs of a good story, not in shallow cyber-flings or trying to translate my very different relationship.

Well, no more time for horsing around...

Well, no more time for horsing around…

So where do Emily and I go from here?  More pseudo-biographical posts, but with a greater mix of fiction in with the true anecdotes.  (My last post, about Emily’s panicky labor and emergency C-section, is an example of where I want to go.  For the record, little Firsty jr. was also an emergency c-section, but a very different one- there was no water breaking in a restaurant, the baby’s father was there, etc. etc.)  Possibly send Emily on some dates, exploring the difficulties a working single mom has in finding a relationship.  Possibly re-connect with Jeremy, but if so there will be real obstacles- Jeremy may have found someone else, plus I’m not sure how he would feel about Piper, both the fact that she isn’t his child, and the fact that Emily had an out-of-wedlock child after she broke up with him over children.  Less concern about putting together a different look with a different shape and skin for every post, less trying to make sure I include neko, and alien, and big-boob looks from post to post.  I’m sure I still will from time to time- both because I am fickle and enjoy putting Emily into various different looks, and because Emily’s desire to be a writer will keep her doing posts for Grumble and possibly looking for one or two other sponsors.  Still, I want to set up a side page with info and links for Emily’s fashion, so I can ease up on putting a style card in every single post.  Second Life and fashion is still going to be a factor in this blog.  My life and my whimseys are still going to be a factor as well.  But I would hope as I move forward that the biggest focus is going to be Emily’s story.

Matt the Firsty, back to hopefully finish my ‘State of the Blogger Address’.  Back in Part I, I was primarily talking about what’s going on in my life: still working two jobs, just became a home owner for the first time, about to become a father for the first time.  Time management was already the five-hundred-pound gorilla beating up on me; now I’m going to have up my game to deal with his eight-hundred-pound rabid older brother.  Lucky me.  (Brief Musical Interlude: My Luck is So Bad.)  In Part II, I want to talk about what’s going on in Emily’s life.

"Since Firsty's giving me a day off, I'm gonna shop 'til the baby drops!"

“Since Firsty’s giving me a day off, I’m gonna shop ’til the baby drops!”

I suppose first I should talk about the obligatory style card.  After all, Emily’s quirky style sense is one of her defining characteristics.  Today is a casual day:

  • Shape: Nina, month 8 from Baby Bumps;
  • Skin: Jada (april group gift) from WoW Skins;
  • Tattoos: Bad Girl from -UtopiaH-; Starship Lipstick (Blue Purple) from Pink Acid; Pregnancy Stretch Marks from Freaky Geeky;
  • Hair: Jenny, Jet-Black/Red-Tips (Designer unknown, but a freebie from Free Dove);
  • Outfit: Peace Patch Jeans from Alady Island; the shirt is actually the corset and under corset out of the ‘Miss Tick’ halloween costume from Petit Chat.
  • Boots: Red Leather Kicks from Prozak.  (The first thought was Fetish Doll ankle boots, but stiletto heels and swollen pregnancy ankles just don’t mix well…)
  • Accessories: Jackie-O Black Sunglasses, Razorwire Bangles both from Grumble, Grumble; Old Padlock Necklace from Bite & Claw; source unknown Silver Hoop Earrings;

Comfy, relaxed, and still sexy even with a due date that is less than a month away.  Plus she looks like she could still kick somebody’s ass if she needed to…

Second, I’m going to confess straight up that time management is going to continue to be Emily’s bugaboo as well as mine.  If the world ran according to my wishes- and believe me, it doesn’t- this blog would feature a post almost every day.  Instead, I suspect I’ll probably continue along at the current clip of one or two posts every week, suffer a certain amount of chronic guilt that Emily and I aren’t posting more frequently, and occasionally have a brief spasm of productivity when the stars align and I can make the daily posts I insist on thinking of as ‘normal productivity’.

" 'A nice long vacation'?  That sounds like a lovely idea…"

” ‘A nice long vacation’? That sounds like a lovely idea…

If I decide to be not just honest but brutally honest, there are actually good reasons why I should send Emily on a nice long vacation.  A.) The frantic hectic-ness (hecticity?) of my schedule means I have a to-do list that builds faster than I can check things off.  Even as I feel guilt that Emily & I aren’t posting as often as we should, I simultaneously feel guilt for all the things I should be doing instead of sitting down for fun-time.  I spent from 11:00 to 3:30 today raking leaves out of my new yard for two and half hours.  (Yes, it takes me four and half hours to rake leaves for two and a half hours.  Welcome to my ADD world; this is why time management is a gorilla beating up on me.)  I had a chore I needed to finish today- leaf pick up is early the day after tomorrow and tomorrow is a long day where I open one restaurant and close the other- and only completed three-quarters.  I have to confess blogging was the reason I didn’t finish: I was up too late last night finishing last post, so I didn’t get out to start raking as early as I wanted to, and some of that disappearing two hours was spent starting this post.  Even as I write this, I also have a list of other things I could and probably should be doing.

B.) Brutal logic also dictates that Emily isn’t just getting in the way of non-writing activities, but that she is also blocking me from more serious and/or lucrative writing projects.  I would love to break into the fiction market somewhere and try to leverage and bootstrap that break until I could cut back on one or both serving jobs and lean on writing as an income source.  It’s pretty much my fantasy-dream job, even with all I know about how unpredictable and undependable an income source writing is.  If all the busy-ness and guilt I mentioned in point A only allows me time to write 12,000 words a week (and twelve thousand is just an arbitrary number picked for the sake of example; the real number is probably less, not more) than all the words I write towards Emily and her unpaid, small-readership blog subtract from my allowance of words to use for chasing my life’s dream.  They probably subtract at more than a one to one ratio, for that matter, since I also have to invest time into picking Emily’s outfits, taking and editing her photos, and documenting the style cards which are generally tangent to my purposes even if not to Emily’s.

"Wait a minute, I thought a tangent was a man who got a lot of sun…"

“Wait a minute, I thought a tangent was a man who got a lot of sun…”

C.)  Possibly the most damning argument against Emily is that my wife doesn’t like her.  Some aspects of Emily, and of Second Life in general, just confuse my wife.  Others down right disturb her.  And sadly, open-mindedness is not one of my wife’s strong points.  If something confuses her or disturbs her, she doesn’t want to talk about it and find understanding, she just wants it to go away.  Nor does it help that I’m a little hazy myself about what Emily is to me.  Depending on my mood, what I’ve been doing, and my mental state for the day, I may variously describe Emily as a role I play, as an aspect of my personality, as a fictional alter ego, or in the third person.  Because it is simpler to humor her than to make a big deal, I try to be fairly furtive with my Second Life time, going online primarily when my wife is out of the house or asleep.  That plan has yielded mixed results, since I haven’t waved my Second Life in her face, but I think I’ve also allowed her to conclude Second Life is some sort of interactive virtual porn game.  And she has decided that Emily is some kind of trashy slut.  My wife came into the room while I was taking the pictures for Part I of this address, looked at Emily posing and said rather nastily, “She’s got a tattoo now?  What’s next, getting her pregnant?”  Awkward, since Emily has generally been as pregnant as she has for the last four months.  Also awkward because once upon a time my wife wanted a tattoo, and reminding her would not have ended well for me…

So why do I continue to post to Time Well Wasted?  The biggest reason is that this space has become part of my emotional processing.  Many people who only know me superficially dismiss me as cold or calloused.  I’m neither, but if you measure my personality type, with Meier Briggs or a similar instruments, my preference for analytical thought scores off the chart.  I very quickly process words and numbers, but in emotional matters, I’m counting on my fingers and moving my lips while I read.  In general, I push emotional stuff off to one side to deal with later when I have more time to think it out.  If the issue gets forced, or if too many emotional strands build up, my mind squirrels out and I can’t do anything but look for a way out.  I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve used this space to push and probe a troublesome thought until I had it pinned down with words and it no longer dragged at me, or used this space to rehash an event that bothered me so that I knew just how it got under my skin.

Plus, while this little ‘unpaid, small-readership blog’ may not help me reach my dream of being a for-real, money-making, genuine writer, it is a safe place.  I’m honing my skills.  I have visible progress, because I can see how many entries I’ve posted, how many words for each, etc. and each post is small enough that it is within my time constraints (albeit barely).  My dream of being a writer is still a fragile thing, too tender for me to invest a month into a short story or a longer time into a novel, and risk giving up because I get stuck, or get rejected, or get bored.  I’ve had other dreams that didn’t make it, so I’m afraid to really risk this dream by putting it to the test.

"Well, that's just un-BEAR-ably cute…"

“Well, that’s just un-BEAR-ably cute…”

Ironically, my wife’s blanket disapproval and incomprehension of how I feel about writing also helps protect Emily.  Her feelings are understandable- my wife and I have an ex-brother-in-law who dreamed of being a musician.  He earned the ‘ex’ in large part because he neglected his children and failed to be a financial provider so that he could daydream about being a musician.  He didn’t pursue gigs, practice his instruments, or make an earnest attempt to sell the songs he wrote, but he told people he was a musician, he made family gatherings awkward by bringing his guitar everywhere, and bought all the apps that he thought would help him.  Our sister saw more in him than we did, she would have made the sacrifices to help him put his dream to the test if he had followed through, but he didn’t.  I know my wife cringes at my artistic dream because she sees the specter of him, saying all the right words but hiding behind his dream instead of pursuing it.  The irony is that I’m always at my best when she believes in me, because its easier to be brave when she’s got my back.  Whether she intends it or not, the message I receive from her disinterest in my writing and her willingness to distract me from it is that she doesn’t believe in me for this particular area.  That is a confession that it really hurts to make, and I feel unfaithful complaining about someone who means so much to me in so many other ways, but this is probably the one place in my life where I need her most and she isn’t here.  If she was, there would be a lot less need to cling to a emotionally safe place in my writing.  The calculus of finite time holds true either way: I don’t have time for both other, emotionally-riskier writing and also for my small safe blog.

"Actually, Firsty, I have some ideas on how to help your dreams come true.  Talk to me before you get to part III…"

“Actually, Firsty, I have some ideas on how to help your dreams come true. Talk to me before you get to part III…”

Once again, a single aspect of what I wanted to say mushroomed into a longer passage than I intended… apparently Emily is going to get one more night off as I’m going to require a Part III…

P.S.: Spoiler Alert: Oh, and it turns out I have less time than I thought to figure out fitting my writing time around ‘Firsty, Jr’ (due to my privacy policies, that’s the nickname I’m sticking with.)  Earlier this week my wife went to the doctor for a routine “that due date is getting closer” check-up and instead got an unplanned emergency C-section.  Both mother and child are doing well, and I am ecstatically happy.  My luck is definitely not so bad, so here’s a different musical interlude

Matt the Firsty here.  I’m gave Emily the evening off because I wanted to update y’all on the crazy hectic-ness going on here in First Life.  It’s been over three months since the last time I guest-blogged for Emily, so I figure I’m due.  And I’m really giving her the night off, even letting her take the night off from being pregnant.  Instead, for the sake of the obligatory style card, I’m stepping back to what I think of as basic ‘core’ Emily: cute, flirty, and sassy:

"Mmmph, mmph" I've got too much to say to let Emily add her two cents...

“Mmmph, mmph” I’ve got too much to say to let Emily add her two cents…

  • Shape: Gigi Teen from Kids 5B
  • Skin: Kesia from WoW Skins
  • Hair: Dori from Tameless Hair
  • Dress: Muffin, in Red, from a Blue Blood gacha machine
  • Footwear: Red hearts sheer stockings; Colorado Boots in Black; Both are from Grumble, Grumble
  • Tattoo: ‘You make me happy’ from Orsini
  • Jewelry: Golden Ouroboros Torc from Adore & Abhor; Dangly beaded earrings from Grumble, Grumble;  Pearl White Bangles from *JStyle; Kiss Me Headband from le fil casse; source unknown nose ring.

So on to what’s new in my life…

My wife is still pregnant.  Now to the point where the pregnancy is visible, and random little old ladies come up and poke her belly.  I could probably do an entire post about our irritation with this.  In fact, I kind of did.  I’m rather proud of that post, by the way.  I’ve obviously never been pregnant myself, since I don’t have the right parts and pieces for that.  Most of the anecdotes Emily shares are things that happened to me, with identifying details transmogrified to better fit her life.  This time I was altering my wife’s story while stepping into a first person role within the story, and I’m just really satisfied with how it all worked out.

This pose is named 'Peace with Attitude'; Could any pose be more appropriate?

This pose is named ‘Peace with Attitude’; Could any pose be more appropriate?

There is approximately a month or so to go before I become a father, so right now is kind of like that moment when the cart is being brought to the top of the first hill in a new roller coaster.  I’m unsure, nervous, even freaking out a little bit.  I suspect, but I don’t know, what parenthood is going to be like.  The thing is, even though the ride hasn’t really started per se, it has still started enough that getting off the roller coaster is no longer an option…  Recently my wife and I went to birthing class.  Given the whole busy/hectic life thing, we opted for requesting a day off from work and doing the all-in-one-long-session version rather then try to fit a weekly or bi-weekly class.  I’m more freaked out by the impending arrival now that I’ve been forced to watch three births on a larger than life projection screen.  I’m not even carrying the baby, I have the simple job: stay calm and give my wife emotional support to help her get through a painful and trying time.  I’m now scared to death, not that anything bad is going to happen to my wife or to the baby, just that I’m going to completely fuck up my role, and be a drain rather than a bulwark to my wife’s psyche.  My father was an ‘interesting’ personality: he was incredibly smart, generally disdainful of social conventions, and had a unique blend of penetrating insight and emotional obliviousness.  All my life, my family has laughed at the story of my dad at my birth.  My mom had a very long early labor stage before progressing to active labor.  My dad was in the waiting room with some of the other family.  The doctor came in to let them know that it had finally begun, and asked my dad if he wanted to come back to the delivery room.  My dad gave the doctor a brief blank stare before replying, “I did my job nine months ago; it’s time for you to go in and do yours.”  All my life, I’ve experienced that story from the viewpoint of a witness; now, all of a sudden, I get the story from dad’s viewpoint.

I was re-reminded of the story by a contrasting story my pastor told recently.  There were complications with his wife’s first pregnancy, and the doctor came out to tell the pastor that they needed to do an emergency C-section, before telling him to scrub up.  My pastor knew C-section meant a surgery, that they were going to be cutting into his wife, and there was going to be blood and he gets rather woozy and he told the doctor it might be better if he just waited outside.  My pastor is a big man, and very fit.  His doctor was a little Korean man, just a little over five feet.  The little doctor reached up, grabbed the pastor by the collar, and replied, “Listen, mister.  You got her into this mess, the least you can do is be there when we get her out of it.”  That story has been my mantra when I start freaking out.

Don't freak out, Firsty.  Just stay calm and pray for dawn...

Don’t freak out, Firsty. Just stay calm and pray for dawn…

Now as if the impending arrival of our first child wasn’t enough of a big change, my wife and I have also become home owners for the first time.  In theory, I’m excited about owning a home.  I like the sense that I’ve accomplished one of the goals of a successful life.  In practice, I’m surrounded by shambling mounds of crates and boxes and a whole new list of things to do.  Moving is a big deal, there is a lot to do.  A lot of man-hours go into packing stuff, moving the stuff, unpacking the stuff, arranging the stuff, making the new house into a home.  Now let’s do the math: my wife is very pregnant right now; she’s physically limited, sleeps badly, and fatigues easily.  We are both introverted, somewhat melancholy personalities; that’s a plus in that we both most cherish quiet, peaceful time alone together and a minus in that we don’t have many friends or the sort of personality to ask/suggest/con our friends into putting their man-hours into our move.  We have a large extended family, but it is extended beyond our geographic region.  The relatives in the immediate region have enough limitations of age and health and schedule that we can’t really dump much of our burden upon them.  So guess who that leaves… yep, that would be me.  All those extra man-hours of moving, plus the man-hours involved actually owning and up keeping a house, when I’m a technically middle-aged man who has two jobs and therefore works an average of 50 to 55 hours a week.  It’s no wonder I feel like my list of things to do is growing faster than I can check things off…  Which is why I’m going to post this post as Part I and hopefully return to post Part II soon…

Unless it occurs in a conversation between two Army officers, that’s a rather personal question.  But I am here to get personal today, so that is all to the good.  It’s Matt, the firsty, guest-blogging for Emily to determine and discuss our privacy policy for this blog.  I never set a formal privacy policy for SL Time Well Wasted when I started; it didn’t seem necessary since Emily, as real as she is to me, is nevertheless a fictional individual by most conventional standards.

"Fictional by conventional standards? Good thing that I don't do standard or conventional…."

“Fictional by conventional standards?
Good thing that I don’t do standard or conventional….”

There’s an old saying, “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.”  Apparently the same is also true of Second Life.  Regardless of what I may have intended when I started blogging and of what I may hope for in the future, this blog has evolved into what I imagine as a pseudo-autobiographical memoir.  There is a curious mix of Emily and myself, of fiction and reality and abstraction, that all swirls together into this blog.  Enough me and enough reality flows into the mix that I finally decided I need to figure out my thoughts on privacy.  One of the benefits I’ve found to blogging is that blogging helps me clear and frame my thoughts.  As an added bonus, there is something deliciously self-referential about a blog entry about what is acceptable and not acceptable in blog entries.

The primary reason I began blogging anonymously was to insulate my Second Life and real world existences from each other.  I wouldn’t want either life to get blowback from the other.  When I began on Second Life, before I even had a blog, I was more concerned about protecting Emily from being outed as Matt than vice versa.  As a general rule of thumb, the guy with a female avatar is best-case socially awkward and worst-case a pervert.  Even though I viewed myself as an exception to to that stereotype, I felt it would be easier for my fake persona to find real social relationships (yes, I recognize the irony…) if I just ignored the issue like it wasn’t there.  As I’ve blogged longer, the pendulum of my concern has swung.  I think my close social circle accepts that I tend to follow my own path with little regard, and even less awareness, for societal convention.  I would rather not be judged for Emily, however, by those who only know the general assumption and not my specific details and nuances.  Particularly if that someone is a potential employer or a literary agent…  Then there are the usual protect-myself-from-crime concerns- just having a blog introduces some new risk and new ways of being a victim, but I want to minimize those.  Finally, my writing reveals many of my opinions, beliefs, and attitudes.  Someone who is offended by my opinions or disagrees with my beliefs or doesn’t like my attitude may feel the need to retaliate in some way, and quite frankly, I would rather they didn’t.

"This used to be my playground… oh. wait, it still is!"

“This used to be my playground… oh. wait, it still is!”

A little contemplation distilled my goals and what I generally do anyway into three rules for protecting my privacy:

  1. Don’t divulge any information that would be in a database.
  2. Change names to protect the innocent, and even more so to protect the guilty.
  3. Every so often, lie gratuitously.

I’m O.K. with people knowing that I live in southwestern Ohio, that I’m married, that I work two jobs and have ADD, facts that are general enough that they don’t help much to identify me.  Admitting my first name probably violated rule one, but Matt is such a common name that I’m still a needle in a haystack.  My middle and last name, any family member names, street address, e-mail address, etc. are all off-limits.  (As is my ATM pin, sillies!)  The anecdotes I share from my personal life are generally scrambled into a form that preserves the essence of the story but makes sense from Emily’s perspective.  (For example, my wife is the most important person in my life, so she is often present in my stories, in a cameo if not a starring role.  It doesn’t really make sense for Emily to talk about a wife, so my wife has been variously translated as a roommate, a coworker, and even an ex-boyfriend in some of Emily’s stories.)  Through transliteration of non-essential elements and the occasional blatant falsehood, I decrease the risk that people I know will recognize me or themselves within my stories if they should see my posts.

More importantly, taking a moment to think out my privacy policy gave me a better handle on what I can and can’t share about ‘Firsty, Jr.’  I will probably never fully overcome the poor impulse control that is characteristic with ADD.  Impending parenthood is the biggest challenge I’ve ever undertaken, and I am understandably excited and enthused about it- My impulse is to share everything, because this is so cool.  It is cool, and I will share… but this post was about taking the time to ensure I do so responsibly.

"Only Matt could make immaturity this much fun!"

“Only Matt could make immaturity this much fun!”

Last but not least, I need to fill out my style card for this post…

  • Unknown Sources… I actually don’t have much to report about the little girl shape, gothic skin, and green hair which were all from assorted freebie boxes.  And while I ditched Emily’s usual assortment of jewelry, piercings, and tattoos- generally not a little girl sort of thing to wear- I did let her keep one source unknown lip ring to be a gothy little girl.
  • Pinkmare Kidz… The outfit itself was ‘Widdle Gothy Me’ from the children’s line of Pinkmare’s House, the now closed goth/alternative store that probably did more than any other store to define Emily’s style.  The dark ruffled dress, striped socks, and the slippers with little ribboned skulls on them are all part of this outfit.  Darkly cute.  Is it wrong for me to admit that if my wife and I have a girl, I’ll probably be the one wanting to dress her all girly-girl and my wife will be encouraging her to be a jeans and t-shirt tomboy…

 

Hey, it’s Matt, (a.k.a. ‘the firsty’).  Once again, I’m briefly kidnapping Emily’s blog.  Sometimes, when I’ve done this in the past, it’s been a way to push my writing a bit and do something different from how Emily generally writes this blog.  Other times, and this is one of those, I have something specific I want to write about, something that I can’t or won’t filter through the literary conceit that Emily is real and I’m her imaginary alter ego rather than vice versa.  I won’t poke or prod that conceit here today.  It would only be repetitive and off-topic.  Plus, Emily makes much more sense within the context of a long time social role-player with access to an elaborate virtual world.  Without that context, almost everything I can say about Emily is crazy or creepy or both.  Think of Emily as a filter or prism inside my mental toolbox.  Emily has exactly my knowledge base, no more and no less.  However, if I look at life through the Emily filter, I see it a little differently, just as looking at a photograph through colored cellophane or through 3D glasses or through a magnifying glass may hide or reveal different aspects of the photograph.  Pushing the analogy a little further, sometimes you choose to look through a filter, and sometimes you may do so unintentionally.  When Emily was writing her last post, with the subject of secrets as ‘What’s on My Mind’, it clarified some thoughts about some secrets I have here in First Life rather than in Second Life.

Remember, Firsty, I can hear every word you say...

Remember, Firsty, I can hear every word you say…

Emily may hate secrets, but I’m actually secretive by nature.  I would generally use the words ‘private’ or ‘reserved’ rather than ‘secretive’, but that is a potato po-tot-o distinction.  (As an aside, that is a figure of speech that works much better as a figure of SPEECH than as a figure of writing.  *Sigh*)  I am mildly nosy, whether I’m looking at the world through Emily’s eyes or my own.  It’s a natural outgrowth of curiosity, self-centeredness, and low self-esteem.  Not only do I collect information like a magpie collects sparkles, but I also have a nagging fear that any conversation that excludes me might be about me and my failings.  Ironically, the same low self-esteem helps fuel my privacy and reserve.  I worry that if I reveal some fact-X about myself, I will lose the affection and regard of those who learn it.  In addition, I know I possess both the cultural tendency towards self-absorption and the geek tendency to obsess.  I generally get excited about whatever topic-Y is in the front of my mind.  I can expound equally readily about the Dr. Who episode I just watched, a explanation I read once about transfinite numbers, or what I think the Cincinnati Reds need to do to fix their season.  I tend to bottle it up, however, because high self-awareness and low self-esteem remind me that whatever audience I have may a) not give a rat’s ass about whatever topic-Y or fact-X I’m currently geeking about, or b) care about topic-Y but consider my opinions and stories about topic-Y to be irrelevant and a waste of their time.  The net result is a sponge-like approach to secrets and gossip… I do my level best to soak up any secrets and gossip around me, but don’t release any of them until I’m squeezed for the info.  (Note to self: that metaphor extended well… file it away to use in later writing…)  Emily’s complaint about not being mentally organized enough to keep track of who is ‘cleared’ for various secrets is true for both of us, although the filter effect changes how we process that.  Thinking as Emily, it is simpler to be open than to create mental complications about who knows what.  Thinking as myself, I just volunteer nothing until I feel confident and comfortable.

I’ve commented before, both in First Life and in Second Life, that Emily has a bright and cheery personality while I tend towards the melancholic. It still surprises me, however, to see that in black and white before me.  My default for sharing information is that everything is forbidden until it is permitted, a negative and pessimistic view of the world.  Looking through filter of my ‘inner Emily’, everything is permissible unless it is forbidden.  Forgive me a brief psycho-therapy moment, but I think I just realized a big portion of why I love Second Life.  I don’t talk about Second Life much within First Life, because talking about my imaginary alter ego, particularly a female imaginary alter ego that I use the third person to describe, does sound like I’m creepy or crazy or both.  I generally quietly apologize for Emily’s gender with a brief the-temporary-became-permanent and brush it under the table, saying I keep Emily around for her blog.  True but incomplete.  Since I’m melancholic and have low self-esteem, it goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that sometimes I wish I was someone else.  Not that I wish I wasn’t me, but that I wish I was a new and improved version of me, a me 2.0 so to speak.  Let me be clear on one point.  I had something else on my mind when I created Emily, so she does NOT represent me 2.0, or a feminine version of me, or some sort of subconscious shadow-me lurking in the depths of my id.  However, some of the traits that have become part of Emily are the sort of traits I wish I had.  I enjoy my chance to ‘try on’ Emily’s optimism and her brash belief in our shared dream of becoming a novelist, and hope that, if I practice being a little bolder and a little more shameless, I will develop an aptitude for that sort of thing in real life.

*AHEM*  Can we get to the secret?  Please?!

*AHEM* Can we get to the secret? Please?!

Apparently I have even less aptitude for sharing secrets then I suspected, as I managed to spiral away from my intended revelation into a bout of introspection.  I could probably spin the introspection even further… My apparent openness in trying to dissect and pin down my own thought processes would seem to contradict the statement that I prefer to keep my cards close to the chest, and I can gnaw on that sort of self-contradiction for paragraphs and paragraphs.  I’ve lived inside my own head long enough to recognize when I’m procrastinating.  It’s my nature to fret, to worry at my thoughts and endlessly re-parse them until they are just so.  As Emily would say, sometimes it’s best to rip the bandaid off quickly.

I’m going to be a daddy.

Let me just leave that statement out there briefly.  My wife and I are having a baby.  We’re right on the border between the first and second trimester, so Little Whatzit should make an appearance between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year.  It’s so early in the pregnancy that we still have another six to eight weeks before we can even learn the baby’s gender and give the poor thing a proper pronoun.  We’re just now starting to tell our families.  We were trying, so we’ve known what the test said for a couple of months, but we wanted to know everything appeared healthy and on-track before we spread the word.  Last week we got to hear Little Whatzit’s heartbeat for the first time and earlier this week we got to see the first ultrasounds, which remind me of famed pictures of the Loch Ness Monster emerging from the fog.  It looks like the baby is going to be a healthy little Whatzit, and the sound and pictures make Whatzit real in a way that a pregnancy test doesn’t, even a pregnancy test accompanied by a truly brutal case of all-day sickness.  (Like countless mothers before her, my wife is learning that morning sickness is lousy at punching a time card.)  But now it’s real.  It’s really real.  I’m going to be a daddy.

So, Firsty, how exactly am I related to Little Whatzit?

So, Firsty, how exactly am I related to Little Whatzit?

This is the big reason why my posting frequency has suffered over the last few months.  I’ve always had to juggle my time for writing and Second Life around three work schedules, two of my own and also my wife’s.  (My best writing time is when I’m off and my wife is working… It’s harder to write when we are both off, both because we like to grab what us-time we can and because my wife disapproves of Emily.  As I said above, an imaginary female alter ego sounds creepy or crazy or both.)  Add doctor’s visits and a house hunt into the mix… it would be brutally hard to find time for what is essentially a hobby/game even if my wife did approve.  And who knows what will happen once Whatzit is born… It’s hard to argue a baby will create more free time in my schedule, but there will be times when I’m at home with Whatzit while my wife is working, or when we’re at home together but each left to keep ourselves entertained so I don’t know what will happen.

I don’t know what will happen is a big theme in my life right now.  Friends and coworkers keep asking me if I’m excited.  I am excited, in my low-key, melancholic, over-intellectualized and introspective way.  Little Whatzit is no accident; my wife and I made the conscious decision to try, particularly since the biological clock was starting to tick a little louder.  I’m curious to see what sort of little person we are creating.  I’m hopeful for the future and looking forward to loving little Whatzit.  My wife and I both came from good, happy, functional families, and I’m confident that we absorbed a lot of good parenting advice from our parents.  And mixed in with all of that is a knot of solid bowel-clenching terror.  There is going to a little person who is absolutely dependent upon me, who is counting on me both to provide her immediate needs and to train her and mold her into the sort of person who can take care of herself and leave the world a better place when she’s done with it.  That is an awesome responsibility and all my doubts and insecurities are latching onto that single point.

I remember the first time I ever rode a roller coaster.  I was thirteen years old, and my eighth grade class went to Kings Island on one of the last days of school.  I got in line for the Vortex, which was still new and at the time the biggest badass of the Kings Island Coasters.  As the line slowly crept forward, my fears and nerves kept getting worse.  My mind and bladder played tricks on me, trying to convince me I needed to use the bathroom so I would leave the line.  I knew I probably wasn’t going to get flung out of the coaster and die, but my imagination kept painting terrible pictures of failure… I would throw up from airsickness… I would pee myself… I would scream and whimper like a little girl, losing all chance that any girl in my school would ever date me…I would lose my glasses or my wallet or my soul from a pocket and have to stay until after the busses left and park the closed to get them back.  Even once I was through the line and on the coaster, as the cars slowly clacked to the start of the first drop, I was chanting “Why am I doing this?” as a mantra and wondering if it was really too late to get off.  The actual ride was an adrenaline rush, of course, and I spent the rest of the day cheerfully waiting through lines to try other coasters and repeat the experience.  Now I love roller coasters.  (Although I still fear them too, and battle the same nerves on a smaller scale with the first coaster of the season every year.)  I’m sure you see the metaphor coming here.  As my wife and I expect, we are in line for the roller coaster.  I want to do this, but my imagination is still painting terrible pictures of failure.  The cars will take there sweet time clacking to the top of the first hill, and once it starts… well, there will be ups and downs, and it will be over too fast, and I will probably at some point nudge my wife on the shoulder, waggle my eyebrows, and say, “Wanna do it again?  Huh, huh?” wherein I will do the same fears anew but on a smaller scale.  Right now, I just need to breathe deep and get ready for the ride…

Dammit, Firsty!  Now I want a Whatzit too!

Dammit, Firsty! Now I want a Whatzit too!

Well, I’ve been verbose as usual, but there are still two things I should do before I sign off.

Emily would want me to include a style card.

  • Shape: AladyPreg6Milania from Alady Island
  • Skin: Ethereal from Sexy Mamas
  • Hair: Wendi from Tameless Hair
  • Outfit: Baby Cropped Hoodie from Freaky Geeky, Tartan Bellbottoms from Blue Blood, Fringed Ankle Boots from Grumble, Grumble
  • Tattoos: Pregnancy Stretch Marks from Freaky Geeky, Love Me Face Tattoo from Grumble, Grumble
  • Other Accessories: Teal Spiked Bow Headband from Grumble, Grumble, Earring and Ring from Random Calliope, Lip Ring and Belly Piercing both Source Unknown

Also, because music plays a big part in helping me breathe deeply, I always like to include a song.  Last night, while I was still fretting about not being ready to be a father, about wanting more time, my wife and I went to the ‘Love Worth Fighting For’ event at a local church.  The speaker was Kirk Cameron, who is a truly amazing speaker, but we were even more impressed by the musician Warren Barfield who both spoke and performed.  Not by his music per se- he’s talented, but doesn’t play the genre of music I generally listen to- but just by how real and authentic and sincere he and his faith were.  This is the sort of guy you just want to hang out with for a while.  But the first song he sang was like it was chosen just for me, because it was the message I needed to hear right then, the answer to my doubts about whether I’m ready to be a father yet.  This is ‘The Right Time’ by Warren Barfield.

Well, Matt the firsty here.  I once saw a quote somewhere that said one problem is a problem but two problems is an opportunity.  Although this doesn’t always work out, often the second problem provides an opportunity or benefit for dealing with the original problem.  Case in point:

I'll just go shopping while my firsty does the heavy lifting today...

I’ll just go shopping while my firsty does the heavy lifting today…

First problem: Emily wanted to tackle Strawberry’s Practical Joke Meme, but quickly stalled out with a bad case of writer’s block.  Pranks aren’t really her thing, and she had nothing to say.  And while Monday Memes are neither mandatory nor graded, they are nevertheless one of the high points of Em’s week and she didn’t want to miss one, particularly this early in the year.  Second problem: It’s been over a month since I had a chance to do a guest post (back on November 20th, “Smoking Hot”) and I’ve started to nag Emily.  Opportunity: Emily dumped the troublesome writing assignment on me, washing her hands of the entire problem.

I actually have an advantage over Emily in writing about pranks.  Although we are alter egos in the strictest definition of the term, differences between Emily and I continue to accumulate as she explores SL and blogs about it.  Some differences are large: Emily doesn’t like kids and has the maternal instincts of a badger with a toothache, I’m looking forward to the challenge of being a father.  Some differences are minor: I thought “Just One of the Guys” was a just-OK movie, and learned last post that it made a bigger impression on Emily than I knew.  For the obvious reasons, our senses of humor are mostly similar.  They are very dry, especially amused by wordplay, innuendo, and dark comedy.  We also love “hidden camera” style humor (with or without camera) where you get to watch some one react to a situation that just isn’t right.  To me, pranking is an obvious extension of that, engineering the situation to get maximum “that’s not right” effect and a more enjoyable reaction to watch.  Emily doesn’t feel that way.  She may smile at someone else’s prank, but she won’t pull a prank herself.  Mind you, you probably shouldn’t consider yourself 100% safe around her, because Emily and I do occasionally effect each other’s actions…

Maybe the difference is because my father was a prankster.  I grew up with a prankster as a role model, soaking up stories of pranks and practical jokes right along side mother’s milk.  Pranking is in my DNA.  Emily may be my alter ego, my second self, but she didn’t have my dad, and maybe that’s why she’s missing out on the prankster impulse.  Either way, since Emily doesn’t have any good pranking stories, I figured I would turn to the original prankster who gave me my love of the prank, and tell one of his stories.

Never mind the teddy bears, I know what I want for Valentine's...

Never mind the teddy bears, I know what I want for Valentine’s…

My dad was a teacher at a local high school for thirty plus years.  To set the scene, I’ll tell you it was a blue-collar suburban school, mostly factory worker’s kids, most of whom planned on being factory workers themselves, and that this was long enough ago that American factories were still growing rather than outsourcing.  Dad taught there long enough to watch principals come and go, to recognize that education administrations brought lots of ideas, many of which were faddish and foolish, and to pay the appropriate amount of lip service while focusing on preparing his students to seek their futures.  One of the new principals and foolish ideas involved tests.  As we all know from our own school days, teachers like to give tests on Friday.  Not only is the test a logical ending point to the week, but the teacher gets the weekend to grade them.  However one young principal felt that it would be better to give tests on Thursdays.  He reasoned that students get more from tests if they go over the test while it is still fresh, and therefore it made more sense to give tests on Thursday and go over them on Friday rather than letting students have the weekend to distract them from school before they saw their test results.  Rather then try to persuade teachers to see it his way, the principal put a few new rules into place to help enforce his vision.  One of the new rules was that field trips would be forbidden on Thursdays, because Thursday would now be testing day.

My dad thought the principal was off-base.  (Off-base being spelled F-U-L-L-O-F-S-H-I-T.)  So he decided to make a small protest.  He wrote up the paper work for a field trip.  He scheduled his field trip on a Thursday, and not just any Thursday but the Thursday of the home economics class’s big quarter project, the Mock Wedding.  To make it apparent that his field trip was bogus, his field trip was to the Nauga Ranch.  (Like the concept of thriving American factories, this detail helps date this story as being before my time.  To help younger readers, I will explain Naugahyde is an artificial leather, used heavily in the sixties, less common today.  Since it is an artificial leather, there are no actual animals involved in its creation.)  Although my dad was a history teacher, he nevertheless claimed the purpose for his field trip was more suitable for a biology class: for students to witness the process by which the fictional Naugas were slaughtered, skinned, and processed into Naugahyde, and also for students to witness Naugas in the act of fornication.  The field trip proposal included a list of a hundred or so students that my father was taking on the field trip.  Since the field trip was fake, dad went ahead and submitted a list of fake students, with names like Marshall Artz and Jim Shoos.  Since there were a hundred or so students, three buses would be required to transport them.  However, my father was going to be the only adult going on the field trip.  There were probably other flaws and bad ideas hidden within the proposal, but this was enough to make the point.  Arriving at the high school at seven in the morning, my dad dropped his proposal into the principal’s in-box and then went to his class room, waiting to see how long it would take for the principal to call him to his office.

All dressed up, still no place to go...

All dressed up, still no place to go…

Instead he got the proposal back by nine that same morning, signed off and approved not only by the principal but also by the superintendent and the superintendent of bussing.  Who has time to read papers before they sign?

To the man who passed me my prankster gene, this was too much fun to pass up.  Since the fake field trip had been approved, my dad ran with it, letting students know the field trip to the Nauga Ranch was upcoming.  Soon he was being approached by students and parents with myriad concerns.  Several parents wanted him to reschedule the field trip so it would no longer conflict with the Mock Wedding.  Several students wanted to know how they could get added to the list of students going.  A few over-eager nerds even brought dictionaries or encyclopedias to my dad to prove there was no such thing as naugas.  Fortunately, they were easy to deal with.  After all, my dad explained, if he had made up the Nauga Ranch, he never would have gotten the field trip approved, would he?  (I have to smile.  My dad passed away several years ago, and I miss him greatly.  Typing that last line, I can hear his voice, dripping with faux innocence.)

There are other pranks and other stories.  My dad once convinced a class full of students that another teacher, actually younger than he, was the long lost father who had put my dad up for adoption.  With a dishwasher who insisted on wearing his bluetooth at work, I organized the cooks into giving him random calls all day, asking to talk to Satan, and then I called him at the end of the day, putting as much fake growl in my voice as possible, and said, “This is Satan.  Do you have any messages for me?”  While my mom and dad were out of town, my brother and I cleaned their garage (a niceness, not a prank) but used the unusually clean garage as a place to hide their car so that as I picked them up from the airport I could nervously ‘admit’ that I had driven their car, that I had gotten into an accident, and that the car was currently at the shop.  Dad had his doubts- (It’s hard to prank a prankster!)- but I definitely had Mom, and Dad momentarily believed when we rounded the corner and the car wasn’t in the driveway where he left it…  Still, the saga of the nauga has always had a special spot in my memories, and sets the bar high for other pranks to reach.

No one to the left of me, no one to right, here I am stuck in the middle alone...

No one to the left of me, no one to right, here I am stuck in the middle alone…

(OK, Emily here.  Thanks for the assist, Firsty, I’ll post this once I add a few pictures and notes about what I’m wearing.  This super-cute red dress is from Jelly.  It’s called the ‘High Class Hooker’ and I certainly feel classy in this dress.  I don’t feel so much like a hooker, but make me an offer; I’ve always said I’ll try anything once… For my shape I’m wearing the Sara from Blink.  For my skin, I wanted something pale and sexy, so I’m wearing Meya Vampira from Button’s.  My hair is Harmony from Tameless Hair, because I wanted something elegant and classy to match the dress.  For footwear, I grabbed some stockings from Alloro and some stiletto boots from *JStyle.  I also accessorized with some simple hoop earrings, and a small black clutch and my Razor bangles picked up from Grumble, Grumble.  I really like this look: simple, classy, a big change from my usual punk-playful-slutty, and yet still beautiful and sexy.  Remind me to figure out where I found Jelly and to go back and look some more…)