Nov 30, 2007

I'd rather learn from one bird how to sing than to teach ten thousand stars how not to dance.

Warning: This blog entry will be more melancholy than the wild jungle circus of fun you've come to expect when going to Not that anything tragic or horrific has happened, but I'm in a serious, contemplative mood, and I haven't written while in one of those for a very long time.

I just found out my plans for school have had a big wrench thrown in them. My original plan was to take the student success course, then apply for the UV Mentor, which would get me a full ride scholarship. Well, I didn't know I had to be a full time student to get that, and, we're planning on starting a family next year. (Well, we're already a family, but we want to add a little someone to the family next year.) So Tracie will stop working full time. Which means I'll be in school part time, taking 8 years or so to get my bachelor's, meaning I'll be in my 30's. Sigh. Well, no one said it'd be easy. I honestly don't know how people do it. I asked Tracie, and she said "carefully." I love her so much. She's my strength, that's for dang sure.
"Unless you love someone, nothing else makes any sense." E.E. Cummings. Thanks, Tracie, for making my world make sense. I love you more than I can comprehend.

I walked past the owner of my company today, a really nice guy, probably no more than 10 years older than me if that, and I entertained the notion of doing what this company pitches- make tons of money in E-Commerce, Real Estate, Stock Market, and forsake an education. But then I thought, I'd rather regret not making a fortune than regret not having an education. So, I'll take the time I need to.

I'm going to meet with a counselor/advisor today to talk about Majoring in Arts & Visual Communications with an emphasis in Graphic Design, and getting a minor in Creative Writing. I'm looking forward to it. I just wish we had lots of money and more time in the day so I could get schooling done sooner. Oh well.

Maybe I'll publish some of my stories that will help pay some school. I'm just mortally afraid of debt. Tracie and I (in my humble opinion) have done pretty good in the keeping out of debt department, and I wanted that to continue.

Anyhoo, I'm going to be optimistic. This way, I'll have 6 or 8 years of school! I love to learn! I'll be a dad in a year or two! Nothing is better than that! (Besides being a husband, which I've been for a year and five months TODAY!) I'm just scared of the future, scared of giving my all and it not being good enough. You know, the same stuff Austin's been afraid of since before he could walk.

Sheesh! All this complaining is annoying me, so I'll stop now. I'll end this impromptu blog entry with a Happy Birthday to Clay Aiken, Ben Stiller, Mandy Patinkin, Elisha Cuthbert, David Mamet, Ridley Scott, Billy Idol, and... Ammon B! Happy Birthday Big Brother! Miss you and your family so much, thank you forever for always being one of the best examples I've had on being a student, a brother, a son, a husband, a father, a latter-day saint, a member of our family, and a person. You've always given me a whole lot to live up to, and I thank you so much for that. Hope you get the birthday you deserve, and I hope I'm as happy and wonderful as you are in 5 1/2 years when I'm 31!

Nov 28, 2007

Behold the New and Improved Blog!!!

Tra-la-laaaaaaaaaa! Don't go away! It's me, Austin! With a new and improved blog! Ta-da!

A special thank you to Lynette for helping me make a blog I'm not embarrassed about. And to Tracie for her help as well! So, how do you like the new look? I've been admiring it constantly. So pretty. And witty. And BRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT!

I love the header Lynette made, it's artistic and funky. Like me, right?

Ambrosius, turn around or I will never feed you again!

Anyone who can name what movie that quote is from and what character says it, gets a special prize.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I'm sure you're dying to hear how it was, unless you're McNeil related, because then you already know. It was wonderful. True, it wasn't the most relaxing trip, but it was one of the best.

First of all, I must say Heather, thank you again for opening your home and hearts to us. We really felt very welcome.

The drive there was very nice. Yes, I had to sit in the back seat of a Honda Accord for 12 hours (I thought the trip to Tucson was 7 or 8 hours) but we got to visit with Justin and HayLee, and though my squished legs were in pain, they were kept warm by Mocha, their too cute Shih-Tzu who sat on my lap for a lot of the trip. I am thankful that I didn't have to do one second of driving for the entire trip.

Once we got there, I felt like a rockstar. All of Heather's well behaved and adorable kids greeted us as if we were. Though I was tired, I think I stayed coherent enough to enjoy their company and unpack.

Thanksgiving was as I expected, fun and deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelicious. Everything was too good, and so I stuffed myself until I had to go lay down.

Our accomodations were very nice. Not private, but nice. I also learned to ask for things when I need them. We had the office as our bedroom, which isn't the best for privacy, and the light was burned out for most of our stay, and there was no door, just a curtain that people seemed to enjoy walking through when you or your wife are changing or are feeling a bit romantic, but what can you expect when a house of normally 6 people is invaded by 9 more people and a curious Shih-tzu? (Heather, I hope you don't think I'm complaining. I really loved our vacation, and am very grateful you let us stay in your beautiful and well-decorated home. I just found it funny the different circumstances and situations we had there. :)) The next day we went on a hike and picnic to Saguaro National Park, which, you guessed it, has lots of Saguaro cacti, it was very pretty and fun, especially once again, the being treated like a rockstar by Leah and Matthew, Heather's two youngest kids. Who, incidentally, probably liked me so much because I frequently carried one or the other throughout the hike. Tracie just told me it's called Sedona Canyon. Oops. Well, I was right about the cacti though. *Heather told me it's called Sabino Canyon. I'm going to compromise and call it Sbarro Canyon. That day we also enjoyed Alan's scrumptious Turkey soup, probably one of the best soups I've ever had.

Like I said, goodbye diet.

Most of the family (Tracie and I excluded) went to see Beowulf, and nobody liked it. Most of everybody hated it. That dampened my desire to see it, though I'd still like to, as Neil Gaiman co wrote the screenplay, and he happens to be
my current obsession. I loved Stardust, I just read Neverwhere, and am currently reading Anansi boys. I highly recommend any and all.
While many McNeils moved to the movie, those of us that remained had a lot of fun with Tracie's early Christmas present, the Leadsinger Karaoke. Basically, a microphone you plug into your tv that comes with over 2000 songs, and you can add up to another 1000 on the thing. Lots and lots and lots of fun, that. I also had some quality time with Tracie in the hot tub, which I would highly recommend, but first make sure that Matthew is in the house, not in the hot tub with you. :)

The next day, we went to a swap meet, most of you (if not all of you) that read my blog read Tracie's. We got 2 churros for a dollar, (each) some Shoupies and gel pens for $5 total. Not bad. It was a lot of fun, it made me remember the swap meets I used to go to with my mom when I was little, and I called them swamp meets. (This made sense to me, as the whole place was so scattered and disjointed, it was like a swamp, get it?) we then went to see "Enchanted," which I highly recommend, if you like Disney cartoons and a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor.

The next day, we drove back, again squished in the back, but Mocha chose to honor Tracie with his cute little self for most of the trip, so I got some (not a lot, but some) writing on my novel done.

All in all, it was great, mostly because I got to visit with the Powells probably the most I ever have, secondly the food. Yes, I'm a pig. I've lost 10 pounds before the thanksgiving holiday, gained 9 back after the thanksgiving holiday. But, I'm still working on it, and hoping that one pound I still don't have will soon get some friends, or lose his friends, depending on how you look at it.

Writing! NaNoWriMo! (National Novel Writing Month) Or should I say WriNoMo? (Write No More). No, I haven't given up, though the deadline IS this friday, I'm hoping to have
half my 50,000 words by then. I'll write the other 25K in December.

As tribute to those that promised to mock or support me, I'll tell a little bit what it's about (as of now, in the 18,000 word area). Two adventurers meet, stalking a creature called a manticore. the male adventurer, Aydane, wants it's pelt because it's so valuable, the female adventurer, Talia, wants the creature dead because it's ready to breed. When manticores reproduce, their offspring is in the 10,000's. Why is that bad? Well, imagine a locust, only the locust has the body of a lion, 3 rows of razor-sharp sharklike teeth, the tail of a scorpion, giant, bat-like wings , the face of a very ugly man, and an attitude like a really hungry, cranky, well, locust. Now imagine 15,000 of them. They encounter the manticore, kill it, then encounter it's mate. Only she's about the size of a house. It chases them to a deep ravine, which is only a few feet wide, so they fall down it, getting bruised, but not eaten yet. It turns out, the female is called Jovocchil, and she's one of the Seven legendary parents of all monsters and evil things, and the king's enemy is trying to awaken or free the seven to cause havoc so he can presumably take the throne.

Meanwhile, a group of thieves lost in some caverns previously occupied by orcs discover another member of the Seven, the giant wolf Luvog (all the names are subject to change. The title currently is Aydane, Talia and the Awakening of the Seven, almost certain to change). Luvog eats most of the group, when one summons fire, the monster stops. Only two are still alive. The creature is trapped by a chain that only fire can destroy. (Lame? a little, but i really liked those two characters, so i had to think of a way to keep them alive after they freed the wolf).

Also, the king and his wizard are heading to kill Jovocchil, as it's believed only the sword of the king can slay her. that's about it for now. Tell me what you think if you like it, if you don't, keep it to yourself! My muse is fickle!

That's about all the news I have for now, though I must give a shout out to Lynette. Stay tuned, cuz the best blogger I know is helping me revamp this ugly, ugly blog.

Til next time, Thanks for reading!

Nov 19, 2007

The one with all the Thanksgivings

Yes, I stole my blog title from an episode of Friends. This year, I've had 2 Thanksgiving dinners, and I plan to have a third ON Thanksgiving. Aren't I lucky? (Yes, the word is "lucky", not fat) we had a dinner last sunday with our friends Aaron, Heidi, Aaron and Adrienne, which was delicious (especially Tracie's pumpkin pie. mmmmmmmmmm boy). How good is Tracie's pumpkin pie, you ask? Well, it's her mother's recipe, and as wonderful as Tracie is, I would have married her just to get the recipe of that pie! (I am of course kidding. Her mom would have to throw in her Chocolate chip cookie recipe too).

The other was a Valantine Thanksgiving, as much of our extended family (Tracie and I included) have other plans for turkey day. So, we celebrated thanksgiving there on saturday. (which is just fine with me. It's a well known fact that Grandpa Valantine makes the BEST turkey on the planet. That's right. Planet.) We also celebrated Nana's birthday, which is another family tradition, as it's so close to thanksgiving. It was nice seeing most of my Valantine cousins, their spouses/sweethearts, nana and grandpa v. (still each other's sweethearts), and my uncles and their sweethearts/spouses (same thing, in this case :))

Like I said, we have a third Thanksgiving coming up on (aptly) thanksgiving. Bye bye, diet.

We've been invited to Arizona to spend Thanksgiving with Tracie's sister Heather and her family. Enough McNeils are going down that we didn't want to be left out, because, as most people know, when enough McNeils get together, the only thing better than the fun is the food. And, if you don't know that I LOOOOOOOOOOVE fun and food, stop reading this right now. You don't know me or ever will.

Those of you remaining, I appreciate your condolences to my waist and your congratulations to my stomach.

NaNoWriMo UpDaTe!

Well, I have 11 days left, and 37,000 words to write. That would mean I have to write over 3,000 words a day. Do I think I'm going to make it? No. Am I disappointed? A little. Am I going to keep writing after the deadline? You betcha!

My novel, though still in it's relative infancy (I have just over 13,000 words) is still exciting and surprising me enough to want to know what happens to my characters, though I just killed two that I think I'm going to go back and rewrite because I like them too much.

Once again, I'm sorry, you can't read it until I'm done, and I don't know when that will be. My editor/wife has read enough to let me know that it needs LOTS of work before it's ready for the general public. General public meaning friends and family who read my blog and are asking to see it.

I'm writing this now, as we'll be driving to AZ on Wed.

Until next time, when I'll be made up of so much turkey the blog may just be me gobbling.

Nov 13, 2007

The other 24

I've been challenged to write at least 30 fun facts about meself, ok, I've been challenged to write 30 facts about myself. But let's face it: If they're facts about Austin, they HAVE to be fun, right?

Well, I've written 6 facts you probably don't know, here are 24 that many of you probably do.

1. I hate tuna
2. I love cranberry juice
3. I am writing a novel
4. No, you can't read it yet
5. I am a cancer survivor
6. I have been to Italy
7. I have lived in 6 different states. That's lived in, not been to.
8. I am balding
9. My favorite type of food is Greek
10. I'm hopelessly, devotedly, obsessively, romantically, gramatically, practically perfectly in love with Tracie. (Remember, I said they were fun facts. Not new facts)
11. I know all the words to most Disney cartoon movies.
12. I've had to clean up excrement, puke, and dead animals out of carpet multiple times.
13. My first teddy bear's name was Scruffy, and I still have him. (though he's missing an arm, and lives in a trunk with other mementos)
14. When I grow facial hair, it's bright red
15. I am an incurable quoter, my favorites being Family Guy, Jim Gaffigan, Brian Regan, Scrubs, Seinfeld, Friends, Bill Engvall, and homestar runner.
16. I drink applesauce out of the container like milk.
17. I had a star named after me, which promptly exploded into a supernova, then became a black hole. Ok, that one's not true.
18. When I was young, my dream occupation was either a doctor, or a stand-up comedian. Or a Chinaman.
19. My favorite toppings for pizza are pepperoni, pineapple and jalapeƱos.
20. I know all the lyrics to all the songs of the following Broadway Musicals: The Music Man, My Fair Lady, Fiddler on the Roof, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.
21. I've been in all the above plays, as well as The Lottery, and I co-directed Eleemosynary.
22. I used to be in Comedy Sportz in High School, and secretly want to do it again in Provo. (there goes THAT secret...)
23. I'm a recovering Star Wars addict. (Episode II
really helped me kick the habit)
24. My favorite car game is "The Bug Game" where you call out bug ____! with the bug's color filling the blank.

There's 24 Awesome Austin Facts! If you want to do it too, feel free!


I've been tagged by Ammon!
The game is easy. There are only three rules:

1.The rules are posted at the beginning.
2.Each player lists 6 facts/habits about themselves.
3. At the end of the post, the player then tags 0 people and posts their names, then goes to their blog and leaves them a comment letting them know that they've been tagged and asking them to read your blog for the rules/details.

Here are
my 6 random facts:

1. Although I'm married to the best (and most beautiful) chef I know, at
least twice a week when she asks me what I want her to make for dinner, (with me helping, of course) I ask for Kraft macaroni & cheese. (I'd ask for it more, but I ask when I think I have a shot of getting some) Tracie hates when I ask for it, (she must think it's a waste of her talents or something) but it's just so good! It makes me feel like a little kid on a cold day and warms me up all over!

2. When I was about 4 or 5, one of Ammon's friends was being a jerk to me, picking on Ammon's little brother. Ammon, who didn't always love his little brother tagging along (I was kind of annoying back then. No, it's true) didn't stick up for me, so I bit the kid on the butt. I must have done it pretty hard, because all the kids in the neighborhood began to treat me with more respect, and had given me the nickname "Mad Dog." A name feared by neighborhood children everywhere. In fact, I remember walking to a friends house some years later (I was probably 10 or 11) and some older kids walked past me, saying "That's Ammon's little brother. Watch out, he bites butts."

3. Weird things I love to eat: Spam, (I went on a mission to Minnesota, where Spam comes from (Austin, MN to be exact) but only when it's fried); Grilled Cheese and Peanut Butter Sandwiches, (something my nana taught me, don't knock it til you tried it.); Cranberry Sauce (in fact, in most of my relatives' households, it's known colloquially as "Austin Jello" I would eat the whole can of the stuff it they let me (maybe that's one reason why I've never had a UTI)); I AM a lover of the B Biscuit, as Ammon said. (For those of you who don't know, the B Biscuit is crumpled up bread, microwaved for 15-30 seconds.) What Ammon didn't acknowledge, is that I coined the term, B Biscuit; though I hate pickles, I never order a hamburger without them, I order it and then take the pickles off, maybe it's the taste of pickles, or the dill that I enjoy, who knows, but I love the
hint of pickles; Baba Ghanoush (or however you spell it) basically greek eggplant dip; I love everything Tracie makes, (big surprise) especially P.C.S., Potato Chicken Surprise (another culinary creation whose term I coined) Tracie cuts up potatoes and chicken, then adds whatever she feels like that tastes good (sometimes cream of chicken soup, different spices, onions, etc. (hence the surprise)) and bakes it for an hour. Tracie is the best chef!

I am the inventor/discoverer of the color Peepaw. The story of Peepaw is an interesting one, though it's a bit long, so I'll try to sum it up. My parents, being good parents, wanted us children to learn to buckle our seat belts in the car, so they would have us race to see who buckled their seat belts fastest, whoever did it first got to shout out "Gold!" the next two following with "silver" and "bronze." One time, I got the gold, and shouted it out proudly, but my dear brother Ammon, not to be out medaled, announced "Platinum" and then informed me that platinum is more valuable than gold.
Not believing for a second that anything could be more valuable than gold, I assumed he had made it up. So in the next car ride/race, I shouted "Peepaw!" Which was made of all the precious metals AND precious stones, therefore, couldn't be beat. I even drew on a paper with crayolas an approximation of what Peepaw looked like. (Using every crayon in the box, it looked more black than anything)

5. I am a very good dancer. I don't know when (or how) this happened, but I've heard enough people tell me now to believe it. I think it's because I just stopped caring what people thought or how I looked. Not bad for a guy with a metal femur.

6. I love Dungeons & Dragons. The game for 13 year old nerds who can't get girls. I absolutely love it. Even though all my friends I used to play with moved away, I read about it, I even kind of play it with my best friend Justin who moved to Nebraska. I don't know if it's my love of fantasy, my love of acting, love of storytelling, or good old escapism, but my secret guilty nerdy obsession is D&D.

There are 6 things you didn't know about me. If you want to do it, go ahead, but I don't like tagging people myself. I'm too shy.

I've also been challenged to write 30 things about myself, which I will do now, though I may just put 24, as I've done 6 already.

Nov 7, 2007


What rolls downstairs, alone or in pairs, rolls over your neighbors dog? It fits on your back, it's great for a snack, it's Blog, Blog, Blog!

Hello happy people!

It's Wednesday, and you better know what that means: Bloggin time!

The big topic I want to talk about is my NaNoWriMo, (remember, National Novel Writing Month) where I've already started 3 novels, but one of them I'm going to keep writing.

My first novel was going to
be a fantasy/murder mystery, which I'm still going to write, but I didn't have a good enough grasp of the characters, and I realized I need to do a lot more research before tackling that.

Also, it was boring to write, and so I assumed it would be boring to read. So I scrapped that idea.

My second attempt at a novel is one I will also be writing someday, it's about a kid who is accidentally sent off to space and makes contact with a peaceful alien race. But again, the story needs much more research before I can write it, and the goal is to write as much as possible (50,000 words in a month).

Therefore, I went with what I'm most comfortable with: humor. The story has little plot as yet, as I've only written about half of what I need to for me to be on schedule, (I've written about 4,000 words for this story, I need to be over 8,000) but I'm enjoying writing it, which to me is more than half the point of writing in the first place. The working title is Aydane and Tlee, it's a typical adventure fantasy with a romantic aspect, and a humorous under(and sometimes over-)tone. Like I said, it may not be published, or enjoyed by the reader, but it is being enjoyed by the author, and this exercise of writing a novel in november is mostly a goal for me to see if I can do it, not to see if i can make it good.

That's for December.

I'm also planning on going to a "write in" with nearly 50 of my fellow "NoWri"s tonight, as apparently there's a big competition with the participants here vs those in Salt Lake. NaNoWriMo is actually a pretty big thing, an international thing, and Salt Lake & Utah Valley people find ways to compete and decide who is better in this way too. (Btw, the answer is Utah Valley).

Tracie and I are starting a new exercise and healthy eating regiment, I already FEEL healthier, though it may take me some time to look healthier.

That's about all for now, school is good, I really like my job, (I'm already making about 2 or 3 more per hour than my last job) the people are really friendly and helpful, I believe in what this company does much more than the last one, and they seem to keep their promises to employees and customers, which is important.

Until next week, or, in the odd chance that I feel like writing again before that, adieu.