My Life in Boxes

My life is slowly becoming a pile of boxes in the corner of my bedroom.

If you came to visit, there would be signs that I am in the process of packing everything.  Empty bookcases and empty shelves on the wall are a good sign.  So is the lack of artwork on the wall.  But there is still a lot that is not packed, and so it might appear that I am far away from having the task complete.

The reality is somewhere in between done and not done.  There are many frequently used things that are already packed.  If you asked to watch a movie or wanted me to print something, you’d be out of luck.  On the other hand, there are two areas I have refused to let myself pack until this upcoming weekend, no matter how much I’ve wanted to.  Those two areas are clothing and kitchen, because I know that I’ll underestimate my need and end up unpacking what has already been packed.  This weekend I’m making the “minimalist kitchen kit” and choosing about a week’s worth of clothing, and then everything else in my kitchen, closet, and dresser will be loaded into suitcases and boxes.

Perhaps then I’ll finally feel like the packing is well under way.  Right now, no matter how large the box stack, I feel like I have mountains left to do.

A Rush of Inspiration

Last night, as I was driving home from a friend’s party, I had a rapid influx of ideas for my next NaNo novel.

I already had the two main characters, how they meet, and a bit of each’s back story.  The big piece I was lacking was a plot.  I’d had several hints of ideas, but most of them were lame, overdone, or not fantasy.  (Having a fairy in the story does not automatically make it a fantasy, people!)

On the drive I found my plot!  It takes pieces from one of my idea-hints, but also incorporates new concepts that I hadn’t thought of prior to last night.  The really interesting thing is the setting – this is going to be fantasy in the real/modern world.  I know that it’s a well-established motif, but it will be new and different for me.  (Butterflies is set in its own world, and Dragon has gates between modern and fantasy, keeping most of the magic to the fantasy realm.)

I need to do a little bit of research and start making some notes so I’m ready to go when November rolls around, but I’m already getting excited!

A Trip Back In Time, or A Visit to the New Paleo Hall

Before we dive into my recent trip to the new Hall of Paleontology (known to Houstonians as the Paleo Hall) at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, I need to remind you that I am a major science nerd.  If you’d rather not read my review of the new hall, feel free to ignore this post and visit again tomorrow!

Let me start by saying that I loved the exhibit overall.  The layout, which follows geologic time, is fantastic.  I liked starting with stromatolites and moving through an abundance of trilobites before reaching the prehistoric reptiles (including dinosaurs) and then passing through into the age of mammals and ending with hominids and humans.  Very logical, to my mind, and well done.  I also enjoyed some of the more unusual (and surprising) fossils on exhibit, including Queztalcoatlus, which is a gigantic pterosaur, and an early marsupial mammal (Didelphodon) that I’d never heard of before.  Some things I needed to see myself in order to get a good perspective of scale, and a few things raised goosebumps on my arms because they were so very cool.  I also appreciated the two feathered dinosaur fossils on display, and went back for a second gaze after my first rotation through the exhibit.

After all of that praise, there are three things that I didn’t like.  Maybe that’s not the best phrasing, since I didn’t really dislike anything.  Perhaps we’ll just say that I would have done it differently.  First, not everything was labeled, which drove me crazy.  What is it?  Why is it here?  Second, to go along with the lack of labels, nothing was labeled as “cast” or “fossil” so I had no idea what was real and what was a cast of the real thing.  I don’t mind looking at casts – they are usually very well done and give the same information – but I want to know if I’m looking at a cast.

The third issue is less technical and more of a broad concern.  The transitional forms (formerly known as missing links, which is an inaccurate term) were not well-represented or effectively highlighted.  The exhibit didn’t shy away from discussing evolution (another thing I liked) but while Archeaopteryx was discussed and feathered dinos were on display, there wasn’t even a cast of the famous ancestral bird.  And there was a cast of Tiktaalik (one of my goosebump-raising, scale-providing moments) but it was poorly labeled, not explained, and tucked around a weird corner where many people will probably miss it.  While the lack didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the exhibit, I did notice both while touring.

I also had a great moment when I was enjoying the abundance of trilobites.  I flashed back to a childhood moment, looking at some small fossil at the Field Museum in Chicago.  This was the moment when I realized that paleontologists studied rocks, and I decided to move from dinosaurs into something still alive.  I realized that the childhood Leigh would have turned her nose up at the wall of trilobites in favor of the dinosaurs around the corner, but the grown-up Leigh found them equally fascinating.  (I may have even spent more time looking at the trilobites than at the dino skeletons when all was said and done.)  It’s very cool to me that my interests have come full circle, bringing back to life that curiosity that dinosaurs and their kin sparked so long ago.

Sending Dragon to My Mom

My mom gets digital copies of my books.  I mean, she literally gets a copy of the Word document.  Unlike my friends, who get to read the binder and return it, she gets to print her own copy (and as many others as she wants/I approve).

I promised her the second draft of Dragon shortly after it was done.  I just now emailed it to her, although I do have a few excuses as to why it took so long.

If you’re wondering why I send my mom the copy and extend her that much trust with my novel, you must have a sad relationship with your mom.  I can ask mine to read a novel, give me feedback, and only pass on copies with my approval, and I know she’ll do all of those things.  (And now I’ve finally done what I said I would do, which is send her the second draft!)

Packing Decisions

I’ve spent much of my free time in the last week starting the process of packing my apartment for a cross-country move.  It makes me glad that I’ve purged my stuff twice in the last six months, but it still leaves me with some tough decisions.

Part of me is willing to leave a great deal of stuff behind, in order to make the hauling of belongings easier.  (This part is highly encouraged by my mom, who is supporting my “no furniture” effort.)

On the other hand, part of me is looking 6 weeks in the future and seeing my new apartment barren of furniture, with a pile of boxes containing my belongings in one corner.  This is the part of me that is hard to convince to give up things.

Right now the minimalist part is winning, big time.  I’ve even had to stop myself from packing key things now.  I will need some of my kitchen utensils and clothing in the next two weeks, so I think I should wait a bit to put those things into boxes.

Yay for the adventures of moving!


Music seems to enhance or echo my mood, especially when I am feeling particularly strong emotions.  Tonight, for example, I went to my go-to song for melancholy.  (It’s Breathe Again by Sara Bareilles.)

Why am I feeling melancholy?  Well, the process of uprooting and moving to another state is one of mixed emotions.  One minute I’m excited about the adventure and ready to get underway.  The next, I’m stressed about everything that is still up in the air or incomplete.  (I don’t yet have an apartment, or a way to move my stuff.  Stress, anyone?)  Every once in a while, I get a quick wave of panic, where my brain says, “I’m not ready for this!” although those are coming less and less and leaving more rapidly every time.

Tonight, the mood is melancholy.  This is one of the evenings to reflect not on the things I am gaining, but the things I am leaving behind.  I like Houston (most of the time) and the place where I work (ibid).  I have an amazing group of coworkers and friends that I will be parting from, including a guy that I enjoyed dating.  Most strongly comes the sadness, though, when I think about leaving my best friend behind.

Now, the rational part of my brain points out that friendships tend to weather distance better than romantic relationships.  Skype and Facebook and texting and cell phones make distance a moot point, as do vacation days and airplanes.  Still, we hang out almost every day.  Somehow I fear technology won’t be quite the same.

Tomorrow, perhaps, excitement and anticipation, but for tonight, melancholy.

Artful Insults and Friendly Teasing

Every group of people has an understood method of teasing and insults.  When done within the established framework, they are meant to be a harmless yet amusing way of interacting with one another.

For example, my immediate family have a whole host of inside jokes that get brought out when we are together.  Many of these are based on humorous past situations.  For example, my mother has a distinctive way of saying the word “crap” which my sister and I tend to request when we are around.  (Mom, I don’t mean to call you out specifically, but this is an easy example.)  We know each other well enough that if someone does something that truly bothers them, we don’t turn it into a joke.  Everything else, including getting sick on the side of the road, is fair game.

My coworkers and I like to push each other’s buttons.  It’s a different kind of teasing, but it’s still done in good fun.  As part of the point is the person’s reaction, I try to play along when it’s my turn to be poked.  Recently they’ve taken up the dinosaur flag, intentionally saying things like “all flying dinosaurs are pterodactyls” to which I groan and drop my head.  I’ll spare you the reasons why this in inaccurate; just know that it bothers me, although less than I act for my friends.

My best friend is particularly gifted at a type of artful insults that is sometimes called reading.  He can read a person quickly, assess their weaknesses, and then give a well-turned insult that entertains everyone else in the room.  Often the insult is so well said that the person receiving it can’t help but laugh, too.  As the goal of this is to both amuse others and get a reaction, there are two great types of reads.  One is to pick at something the person is insecure about, and the other is to find the thing they value most about themselves and target that.  Jack is particularly adept at knowing what will get a reaction, as well as how to word the read for the most effective entertainment.  Unlike Jack, I am not good at reading.

It’s fun to use this kind of friendly teasing and even reading in your writing.  One way to help develop or establish the friendship between characters is to let them interact in this way, as it is something that everyone does to some extent with their own friends.

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