Stuffed Fables & Learning About Your Children

Over the last few years, I’ve become increasingly in love with the board gaming hobby. I recently shared some of my favorite games on the Geek This! blog and doing so made me want to dig into why I enjoy it so much.

If you were on the outside looking in, you might think it’s a simple obsession and, to a point, I guess you would be right. What’s not to like about a bunch over beautifully-designed and illustrated boxes that contain equally wonderful components? For some games, there are gorgeously detailed miniatures that are just begging to be painted, only to enhance their quality. For others, there are stories waiting to be unlocked or simply a good time to be had. For myself, I’ve discovered all of the above things to be true, but what stands out the most is the relationships that are created or fleshed-out while playing.

Some of my fondest memories with family and friends in recent years have revolved around playing board games together. Oddly enough, it isn’t actually the board game that makes it memorable for me, but the experience of being together, making jokes, and learning more about the people in my life.

This week my family and I pulled out Stuffed Fables after trying multiple times to get through the first chapter. For those of you unaware of what Stuffed Fables is, the goal is to help a little girl grow up as you play one of six stuffed animal characters who come to life and battle some bad stuffies set on messing things up. The first storyline is set on retrieving the girl’s blanket that has been stolen. You can learn
more about
Stuffed Fables here, as well as learn how it’s played.

As we picked up where we left off in the game, I began to see how well my daughters were cooperating with each other. Did they share a spare die with anyone at the table? Did they try to defeat the bad stuffy that knocked their sister (or mom/dad) out? I also started to look at how they solved problems. Were they just in the adventure for themselves or did they want to tackle the situation head-on?

For my oldest daughter, Grace (10) one of the first things I noticed was that she wants to run the game. For a little background, when we play games, I’m generally the person who passes out cards, resources, etc. I don’t know what other people call it, but we say that person is “running the game.” This is what Grace wants to do, and I’m OK with it, but I want to keep coaching her and help her understand that this job isn’t always easy. You have to know what you’re doing on your turn, as well as make sure everyone else gets what they need.

In addition to running a game, I see her interested in teaching newcomers how to play. While we were sitting last night, my wife’s first time playing, there were several moments where Grace would have to remind me of a rule or two or even correct me. Again, that’s fine, because there’s a sense of growing up that I see in her. Tonight may be the night we let her take over Stuffed Fables to see how she does.

With Eiley (5), I see her brain working as we play. Not in a mechanical or strategic way, but imaginatively. She’s visualizing the story we’re telling and playing through. Between the two girls, this isn’t a surprise; she’s always been the more imaginative of the two. She takes the story seriously, so when a baddie shows up, she’s genuinely frustrated or worried and she avoids confrontation at all costs. Even with that particular play style, she does want to help and will hand over an extra die or ask if someone wants a particular weapon or item she has (even if the rules don’t necessarily work that way).

The more I play with my kids, the more I see who they’re becoming and how well I’m parenting them, for better or worse. It also helps me determine a better way to reach their personalities in times of stress, conflict, and celebration.

Eiley wants affirmation that rolling the goal number on a die was helpful and that she played the game the right way. Grace wants confirmation that her successful takedown of a baddie truly makes her part of the team. Those small moments that others may not notice help me “get” my kids.

In the end, this hobby or obsession has been beneficial to who I am as a parent. Soon I’ll share my thoughts on how it helps with my social anxiety and depression.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Reflecting on my 7-year podcast

Today, literally moments ago, I published a long-overdue post on my podcast website.

The last year of producing Geek This has been hit and miss. At times I couldn’t wait to record the next episode and others, I couldn’t bring myself to put in any of the necessary time to even do a quick review of something I just watched. I found myself losing the passion and excitement.

If I’ve learned anything in the last seven years, it’s been that no one wants to listen to bad content, even if they do like you. Publishing something that I didn’t have my heart in didn’t feel right. I still comics and movies as much as I ever have, but I would start to cringe when I thought about needing to review it in a time-sensitive manner. That’s when I knew something was up.

Another moment that sticks out for me was when I asked another podcaster to review an episode on their show. It stung a lot and I knew I was better than that, but instead of propelling me forward, it pushed me down and I became gun-shy. Was that episode good enough? Will my audience be interested or am I just doing it for myself? Questions like that would run through my head and eventually paralyzed me.

Running an entertainment/review podcast by myself was also incredibly tough. There are some creators out there that can kill a solo show, but I’m not one of them. I need someone to bounce ideas off of, to get feedback instantly on whatever thoughts are coming out of my mouth. I need a foil.

I want to make it clear that I don’t point my finger at anyone but myself when it comes to this particular part of my podcasting journey. The people I’ve pulled in – David Hunt, Adam McDorman, and Mike Kostrewa – all have lives of their own and Geek This wasn’t their top priority like it was for me. I am incredibly grateful to have sat down and had some of my favorite conversations with each of these guys! Our schedules just didn’t mesh and that’s OK. It was my show and was dependent only on me pushing it forward.

In addition to my co-hosts, I’ve had the opportunity to create online relationships that I’m very thankful for. The guys over at Strangers & Aliens – Ben Avery, Steve MacDonald, and even Evan David, although we haven’t chatted too much – Ben and Matt from The Sci-Fi Christian, Mikey Fissel at Reel World Theology, JR Forasteros at Don’t Split Up (among other shows), Daniel Butcher formerly of Welcome to Level Seven, and so many other people I can’t think of right off the top of my head. And of course, without Geek This, I never would have ever come across Blubrry and joined their support team.

While I am finished with Geek This, I’m not done with podcasting in the least. My focus and interests have changed. I’m working with my wife, Wendie, on a new/old show called Because We Said, and I’ve got some other ideas up my sleeve. Stay tuned to this blog, as I have plenty more thoughts to share on most everything.

Thanks for reading.

The Stress of Moving Isn’t Moving

We’ve been tenants at our current home for four years. When we moved in, I was working on the production floor of a facility that processes animal by-products for pet food. I worked 6-7 days per week, plus sometimes working 12-hour shifts. The hours were long, but the money was good.

The fact that two people we had never met chose to give us a chance when I had only been employed at this particular job for less than three months…? Wendie and I were astounded. That takes a lot of faith, especially when you’ve been burned by previous tenants.

But here I sit 4 years later, afraid of what comes next.

See, our landlords are selling the house we live in. It’s their property and they have every right to do what they deem necessary, I don’t argue that point. They’ve been incredibly gracious to us and gave us a leg up when we were down and looking for a new home. One away from the… er… stressful situation we were in before. They gave our daughters a good home to grow up in. For our youngest, it’s all she knows, and for our oldest, it’s probably been the best experience in her childhood so far. It’s been great for Wendie and me because we’ve learned – after entering our 30s and being married for 11 years – what being an adult is all about for the most part.

I’m scared, though, because it’s happening too fast for us. We’ve known that we would have to move for the last 5 months, but due to the winter season, it didn’t make any sense for us to look for somewhere else too soon. And this isn’t just our POV, our landlords agree. Seriously, who moves in the middle of winter?

But here we are, in May, wondering where we’re going next. Why? Because people don’t seem to be renting properties anywhere near where we live. That’s not hyperbole, either. That’s a fact. Look up rentals near Logansport, IN, and you won’t find anything. Oh, and if you do, they’re way overpriced or in a bad neighborhood.

I’m sorry, I already live in a sketchy part of town and don’t want to raise my girls in an even worse part. It’s kind of my right as a father, if I’m not mistaken.

Moving isn’t the hardest part of moving; it’s finding somewhere to move. Somewhere that has at least 3 bedrooms, has a yard for our kids to play without fear of being snatched up by someone, is in a decent neighborhood, and enables me to get to work every day safely. Mainly in the winter.

And, if the rest of the family has a say, it should be pet-friendly so we can bring the cat.

(Don’t tell them, but the cat isn’t really that bad. She’s actually grown on me the last year or so. Dumb cat…)

All kidding aside, we really are scared. We’re stressed out, too. Things are moving too fast. As I write this, a realtor is coming over to look at the house and take photos of all the rooms. All the while, we’re still living here, trying to pack things up, still looking for a good place that suits our needs. Isn’t life fun?

Hello. I’m Impatient.

This week has been one that has challenged me and depleted me. No, I didn’t work hard or exert myself to achieve some long-term goal. I didn’t start exercising or change anything about my physical lifestyle (sadly).

No, my friends, I’ve spent the entire week stressing out about things showing up in the damn mailbox.

Yes, you’re ol‘ buddy Dave has become an impatient monster of a human being, and I don’t know how much I’m kidding about the “monster” part.

A couple of weeks ago I won a giveaway in which I was awarded some new podcasting equipment. Then I placed an order for a new laptop, something I’ve been waiting to get for the last couple of years, but not had the funds for until now.

The equipment took longer than I expected to get here and included multiple emails to the folks running the giveaway and the company providing the prize. Before you close the window or tab and walk away with your eyes sprained from rolling them at my “millennial, #firstworldproblems,” I do know that I should be grateful to have the opportunity to do something more with my podcast. And I am, trust me. I’ll get to my justification in just a moment.

The laptop situation still confuses me, but what should have been a simple, “click, buy, ship, be happy” process turned into a very stressful (and stupid on my part) end of the week. To keep the story short, the shipment got delayed to the point that I took my business elsewhere for this particular order. I then placed an order at another retailer and when I checked on it, it appeared that they were suddenly out of stock after my order went through. I then decided to lose my mind and cancel the order.

What I didn’t realize upon seeing this new order was that somehow my location had changed on the website, which, in turn, changed the store I was seeing. That particular store was out, but the store I had actually placed my order with… it was stocked and my order was probably very close to being ready to be picked up.

Yep. I’m an idiot and impatient.

This is the part of the story where I explain my impatience. If you know me, you’ll know that impatience isn’t really my MO, even if I’m waiting for something important to me. I can push the excitement down or channel it into something else – usually talking about it non-stop until my wife smacks me in the face.

My excuse for this week’s craziness simply boils down to one thing: I haven’t slept well for the last two weeks. I’ve had some things go on at the day job that has caused me a lot of stress and then I am excited to get the podcasting gear and laptop. (Christmas is a fun time of year. I’ve never been able to sleep well on Christmas Eve, even as an adult.)

Through it all, I’m realizing that I can be impatient. There are most likely some psychological reasons why, but I want to take responsibility for my actions. I’ve stressed more than myself out. My wife has had to deal with me spazzing out nearly every day for the last two weeks – getting worse every day until today when I exploded. I’m normally a very patient, easy-going guy, but my lack of sleep has messed me up.

I’m hoping the weekend and some time with my family, playing board games, will help quell the storm that is my over-active brain.

Wish me luck.

Digital v. Physical

I guess you could say I like comic books. I mean, I have a podcast that is heavily focused on the medium, as well as the industry. The problem is that sometimes I feel guilty for reading them. I don’t feel guilty for the act of reading them. I feel guilty for reading them primarily in the digital format.

See, I really do think that buying from your local comic shop is the best way to do things. You’re not only supporting a local business, but you’re tapping into a community of people that – if you try – you can talk ad nauseam about so much. The conversations can be deeper than which Marvel hero would beat which DC hero or which Green Lantern is the best at what they do. Talks of politics, social issues, and religion fill the inked pages as well as the walls where the books themselves are lined.

Unfortunately, I have a hard time in situations like this. I don’t do well with people I don’t know. Heck, I’ve worked on the website for a local comic convention for the last few years and when the owner of the shop – who also runs the show – greats me and asks what’s new, my typical response is, “Oh, same old same old,” followed by me orienting myself to the New Releases section, then the discounted long boxes. All the while, I’m listening to the conversations that are playing out between the owner and the other patrons.

And for this reason, I tend to read my comics digitally. It’s not that I want to take money away from my local comic shop. I just don’t fare well in the environment there. I’m afraid to give an opinion on anything, even if I might be well-versed in it. The people, by the way, are always friendly, but I’m intimidated.

Also, that “local” comic shop is about 40 miles away and the operating hours don’t give me enough time to make a trip after work. That’s not their fault, of course, but I don’t want to be one of those guys who doesn’t pick up their books for two weeks. All of that leads me back to digital. I have, however, thought of a compromise.

In the near future, I’m going to be moving. I don’t know where to, but I’ll be moving. Once that has happened, I plan on buying a bookshelf and using it only for trade paperbacks or hardcovers. Those books will be purchased at my LCS (local comic shop). It’s a way that I can give back to that community.

Yes, individual issues will continue to be digital, but for the time being, this is the way that it has to be. Also, digital books are much easier to haul back and forth to work or to read while I’m in bed and my wife’s asleep.

If you have a local comic shop, please try your hardest to support what they’re doing. Physical isn’t better than digital or vice versa. Use the form that works best for your needs and don’t let anyone pressure you any other way. Support comics!

#Spidersona

Into the Spider-Verse was amazing! These pieces, based on #Spidersona are just as amazing.

If you haven’t seen Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse yet, I can’t help but say – as cliche as it is – GO SEE IT! It’s a beautifully animated film with a ton of heart and humor. Cannot wait to own a copy of this so I can study each and every seen! OK. Now for the part of the show where I actually get to what I wanted to talk about…

Twitter may be a dumpster fire of people screaming into an internet void, but there are some fantastic creators out there. The #spidersona trend is just a sampling of the people on Twitter who need to be recognized for their talent.

Here are some of my favorite posts that are part of #spidersona. Obviously, with Twitter being a constant stream of information, I haven’t (and won’t) see every post ever. That said, these are quite a few of my favorites. If you’re an artist or illustrator and are reading this, drop a link to your work so I can take a peek at it. I love seeing other creators do their thing!



Podcast Emergencies Aren’t Real

I woke this morning stressed out about my podcast.

Reading this line over to myself makes me feel a little dumb. As a part-time podcast support contractor, there’s a kind of mantra: “There’s no such thing as a podcast emergency.” While I would never classify my situation as an emergency, I’ve seen a lot of people over the last year panic and stress about their podcasts. Usually, it’s related to an episode not being released in time or some simple mistake they made that affects their feed.

For me, this time, the stress is simply about whether I want to keep making this particular show.

I’ve been producing GEEK THIS for just shy of six years. It hasn’t been a consistent, week-after-week release schedule, but I spend a lot of mental (and sometimes emotional) energy figuring out what’s coming next. Over the course of the last few months, though, I’ve become less enthusiastic about making content for it and I haven’t quite nailed down why. Maybe the answer is simple and I’m just not willing to admit that I’m not interested in covering pop culture anymore?

There are other factors, too, like the struggle of producing a weekly show by myself.

If you’re a content creator, I’m sure the first thing you thought as you read that last sentence was, “Stop making the show weekly. No one told you it has to be that way” and you’re absolutely right. I don’t have a boss telling me that I have to put out an episode each week. In this situation, I am the boss and I can do what I want. So why do I keep doing it?

I’m afraid of letting it all go.

You have to understand that outside of being a husband and father, doing this particular podcast has been the longest commitment of my life. It’s something I built years ago that has become a part of what makes me who I am. GEEK THIS is me, as dumb as that may sound. I don’t know how to stop thinking about it and refining it and making it, despite the ever-growing lack of interest I have for it.

And it isn’t like I won’t start another podcast. I have plenty of fun ideas that – because I constantly think about one show – I haven’t actually started.

Then again, this is part of my character. I’m an “interest hopper.” Meaning I find something interesting and try it out for a little while. When I’m bored with it or find it too difficult, I move on. It’s one of those awesome character traits that my wife loves… or not.

That’s where the struggle comes in and I wrestle with myself over if I want to let my show ride into the sunset. Is that what I want, or do I want to take a break from it so I can focus on something else? Maybe the problem isn’t even so much that I don’t want to do it, as much as it is that I don’t want to do it by myself.

For years I’ve tried bringing friends onboard to help me create and round out the podcast. For me, it’s more fun to have these group conversations than it is to sit alone and talk about movies or comics. Geekdom has become a communal thing, so it has made sense to me to bring that into my show’s format. Unfortunately, it’s just not possible.

That’s not to speak ill of my friends, though. They’re an amazing group of guys who I respect the opinions of. They also have their own lives and don’t have to be as dedicated to my little show as I am. In some cases, they’re making their own content and I would never want to take away from that. Still, the desire for community is a strong one for me and affects my feelings for what I’m making.

All of these things – interest, burnout, community – have culminated in somewhat of a dark cloud that makes itself known every once in a while. I haven’t made up my mind on what I want to do.

What would you do in this situation? Are you currently dealing with this same mindset?

 

Late Night Album Design

As part of a person study, I began a project called #LateNightAlbumDesign. (Catchy hashtag, I know.) The idea was to push myself creatively as a graphic designer. One of my favorite things to design has been album covers – music artwork for you youngsters out there. Doing this particular project would pull double duty by giving me more practice and building a portfolio based on one particular format.

I launched the project on my person Facebook page and asked for band and album name suggestions from my friends. I wouldn’t say the response was overwhelming, but it did give me a good first round. Since then, I’ve done a few more designs and shared them. Now, though, I want to make it official. This post will be the dedicated home of that project (maybe I’ll create a page eventually).

Take a second, if you would, and drop a fictitious band name and/or album name in the comments of this post. As I create new covers based off of them, they’ll be added to a gallery, as well as shared on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with my awesome hashtag #LateNightAlbumDesign. If you’re on any of those social media platforms, I’ll be sure to add you and give you credit for naming the project.

Do Better – Thoughts on a Review from Dave Jackson

For me, feedback is one of the most difficult things to get from a podcast audience. In the nearly six years I’ve been making GEEK THIS, I’ve had a handful of comments or responses to any given episode. Naturally, that would be grounds for me to believe everything’s OK and the show is fine the way it is.

This week I employed Hall of Fame podcaster, Dave Jackson, to review my podcast for his, Podcast Rodeo. The results were not what I expected, but they were a learning experience and have given me some good pointers on what I need to improve on. Below is what he wrote about the Shaun of the Dead / Halloween Double Feature episode which was released on 10/24/18:

I liked the way the show started off with the introduction. You explain what the show is about, and then what you would cover in the episode. You did a good job of explaining how to subscribe and then got right to the content. Then after the introduction explained what the show is, you did again (quickly, just an FYI). Then after explaining what was coming on the show before the subscription part, you explained again what was going to be on the episode (not needed). Then when you bring in your co-host you use the “two people – one microphone” recording technique and it really makes your audio take a turn for the worse. You can easily buy two microphones and a mixer or a Focusrite interface and boost your audio quality.

Then the conversation sounds a little like you’re not sure where you are going. I would advise you both know what points you want to make and then share the bullet points so you can keep the show moving. It sounds a bit like a planning session with alot of “I don’t know,” or “I didn’t see that.” You shouldn’t be finding this out with the recorder going. While I understand you want this to be a conversation (and I admire that), I would still have a clear idea of where you were going, what points of view you wanted to share, and then start recording. The current version seemed a little lost.

As I said before, this is a learning experience for me. Dave has brought things to light and, frankly, some of it is hard to swallow, but I want to talk about what I’ve learned from not just the notes above, but from the actual audio file he sent me of the Podcast Rodeo episode.

1. Avoid Repeating Your Intro

This particular problem occured simply because I wasn’t paying attention during my editing process. Also, if I would have planned better – an issue he discusses later – I would have had no problem moving into our conversation flawlessly.

2. Use The Microphones

I’ve never wanted to go back in time more than when I heard Dave’s reaction to the change in audio quality. I went from my solo-recorded intro which has this close “in your head” feel, then it transitions into an echo chamber. OK, maybe not that bad, but there’s a lot of room noise here, simply because I didn’t want to set up the two microphones I brought with me. I just turned on my H4N Pro and recorded. I won’t be doing that again. I had two good, trusted microphones, and I left them in my gear bag out of laziness.

3. Plan Plan Plan

Typically, when I’m doing a solo episode, I have everything written out. I know where I’m going and what I want to say. Group episodes always trip me up because (a) I don’t do them that often and (b) I want it to feel natural. The sheer lack of planning for this episode was felt right off the bat. I know David (my co-host) and I felt it as we started, which hurt us in the long run. I should have written notes and shared them with David so we were sympatico.

4. Get Some Dang Energy

I record episodes – in this instance, the intro – when my wife and daughters are in bed. That means I’m not as loud or excited as I should be and I finally know that it translates the exact same way in the final audio. I can be an excited and energetic person. Unfortunately, this episode (and most likely many others) don’t show that. Maybe I need to go back to a standing desk? Maybe I need to determine a better schedule and record at some other time that midnight?!

These are all things to be considered. Instead of crawling into a hole and crying about how bad of a podcaster I am, I’m going to step it up, make changes, analyze everything again, and then get a full review from Dave Jackson again via Podcast Review Show.

Have you listened to GEEK THIS? I’d love it if you could give me some feedback on the show. The goal is to make the podcast better, so any little bit helps.

Stop the Debate

I’ve worked part-time for Blubrry since late January 2018. In the time since then, I’ve joined several podcasting groups on Facebook. I think it’s great that new people are entering the podcasting space.

One thing that I see a ton of is the constant debate over which media host is “the best” or which one is most liked. While I could easily jump into every single discussion and proclaim my love for Blubrry’s array of services and help with my own job security, I think this debate and this discussion needs to stop.

Here’s a little secret: most media hosts will give you a free trial for their services, all you have to do is ask. Some even have affiliate links for the podcasters that use their services so they get a little kickback. The point I’m trying to make is extremely simple: try everything and see what works for you.

I picked Blubrry before I ever started working for them. I started with their PowerPress plugin and free stats service. Once I got serious about running my podcast, I got a hosting account. And, no, this isn’t a sales pitch for Blubrry. I’ve tried Libsyn and Podbean and Anchor and other services. In the end, I went with the one that made the most sense and was the easiest for me to use! And never once did I ask for anyone else’s opinion.

I wish more people would get into podcasting this way, by experimenting and seeing what works for them. Am I a proponent of doing things in a way that builds your own brand? Of course, I am, but some people can’t afford to pay $12 per month to have a hobby podcast. I was there once. I get it. In the end, you really have to do what works for you and you alone.

Go. Try every single hosting company out there. Get a free trial of their services so you can snoop around and see how things work. Some systems are easier to use than others. You won’t know until you do the research. Maybe one company’s way of doing things is too technical for you, fine. After your month trial is over, cancel your service and move to the next one. Even better, talk with their support team, read through their support documents, and get an understanding of how it all works. Maybe you just didn’t understand something.

Please do your homework! I cannot emphasize that enough.

Rant over (for now).


If you want to try Blubrry out for a month, you can use my code, GEEKTHIS. It’s an affiliate link, so I’ll make a small commission if you decide to use it.