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Richard’s Blog

Who is a “real” gamer?

On twitter, that domain of trolls and ne’er-do-wells, the gauntlet was thrown asking “who is a real gamer”. This didn’t sit well with me, but then, I started seeing knee-jerk responses of “everyone is a gamer”, which I say thee nay! Not everyone is a gamer, only everyone who “wants” to be a gamer.

Why Bugs aren’t Features and Features aren’t bugs!

This week, I thought I’d talk about a frustration that often occurs from a failure to communicate between project “requestors” and the project “doers”.  In my industry, this most often comes in the form of a project manager submitting work to a programmer, but it could as easily apply to marketing departments, artists, or really any other job where the worker has to be a bit more creative.

Creative work isn’t as cut and dry as other types of work, the “idea” or “planning” person has thoughts in their brain, which they’re trying to get across to the creative team.  This communication is rarely perfect, especially as the person giving the work rarely 100% knows all of the cascading effects that the person “implementing” the idea is going to experience.

Ok, so we all know there is usually going to be some back and forth between the idea person and the person building the idea, then why does it matter whether the idea person calls the product “Wrong!”, “broken!”, “buggy!”, etc, instead of simply saying that there needs to be more work done?  The reason why, as I talk about in the video, is because you can’t get better if you don’t know where the source of the issues are coming from.

If the issues are coming from a failure to implement the project properly, then the developer might need more training.

If the issues are coming from a failure to plan properly, then the developer might need to ask more questions or the project planner might need to schedule more time for the planning of the project.

If you follow AGILE methodology (or at least “try” to follow it), then you probably understand the concept of “Fail Fast”, meaning that you want to get something out there, fail, learn from your mistakes, and get better.  AGILE is totally something that in my experience gets good results, I love it!  But as part of the retrospective phase, where we ask what went wrong and why, we can’t protect people’s feelings.  Everyone, at least for the duration of the retrospective, needs to put their ego aside, ask the tough questions, and figure out if they need to make changes to improve things, or if any issues have been reasonble or perhaps the cure would be worse than the disease.  These are all good things, and they all come from an understanding of what is actually going on, not just blaming the developer and not by shifting the blame to the project manager.  Isolate issues, improve them if they can be improved.

Isolate issues, improve them if they can be improved, and the core of this strategy is honesty.

Thanks everyone!  Share with me experiences, both good and bad, or give advice to people who might read this blog!

Starting My First Cosplay – Maginos! Day 1

Hey everyone, I’m finally going to do a cosplay!

For my first cosplay, I’m going to be dressing as Maginos!  I’m not going to do a full helmet type cosplay, just a prosthetic, clothing, staff, and meeps.  It should be pretty awesome (I hope) while still looking like me.

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I decided to make the staff out of spray foam, and I’m really trying to emphasize the big funky top of the staff.  I figure I have to start somewhere, and a staff with little decorations is as good a place as any to start with.

I’m recording all of it, so unlike a lot of videos that are just showing a particular technique, I don’t have any! 😉  Seriously though, if I like out the final product, I’ll probably cut up a speed video of just me making it, but this is more of my vlog hoping some of you will join me in my first tentative steps into cosplaydom.

So I did a couple hours of research, and I wanted to put some links to them if you want to see where I’m getting most of my techniques. First, my friend Ramsey said to check out Kamui, her site is amazing, check her out!

I also found Commishenanigans to be really helpful, you can check out her channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgPl89ZHb6LbNZsxjmLpSKw

Finally, Morrigan had a great staff tutorial that I thought was really good, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yudd8aiOarg

The difficulties women have finding jobs in IT

In December of last year (2015), I had to lay off two employees.  We had expected the loss of one customer (they wanted to migrate to a single system and while my day-job’s software is awesome in many ways, we don’t support all types of insurance so they made the right decision.), but hadn’t expected the loss of another customer as they had unexpectedly merged with another company.  Layoffs are always hard, both for the managers and the employees, but part of being an executive is making those kinds of tough decisions when life throws a curveball at the company.

Of the two employees, I laid off, one of them was my wife.  A lot of people would say it’s hard to lay off your spouse or family member, or say this is why you don’t hire friends & family, or maybe think that to do otherwise would show favoritism; but honestly, you have to make the best decision for everyone involved, and I thought it was the right choice.

How I came to the decision was by calculating a lot of different variables, the two most important of which was who has the most redundant skills at work and who could most easily make it to another job.  That is how I balanced my obligation to the company (removing redundant skills would have minimal effect on what we could accomplish but would limit how much we could accomplish) with my other obligation of the well-being of my employees.

My wife is a highly skilled developer in the arena of business intelligence, project management, and even just plain relational SQL.  She has a Masters Degree in Applied Statistics, four years of developing in a very complex relational database, and extensive experience managing software applications, developing training programs, and customer expectations.   Unfortunately, we didn’t use her for most of those skills, though we often wished we were at the stage in our corporate growth that we could, we just weren’t (and aren’t) there yet.   She probably was the second most advanced SQL developer in a company where EVERYONE knows and uses SQL, but that still meant that her useful skillset was somewhat redundant.   She also, I had assumed, be able to easily walk onto another job.

Unfortunately, here I am, seven months later, watching my wife struggle to find a job.  She did, indeed, find another job nearly immediately.  It was awesome, really an upgrade from working for me in many ways.  More pay, equal benefits, a work environment that was supposed to be more caring about each other.

Unfortunately, the same week that she was hired, her boss was fired and this old-school Italian guy became her manager.  This guy couldn’t stand a woman in his department, and a month later, when “HR” training of the boss didn’t work, they gave her 30 days severence and 2 months of job placement services.  I don’t know how that works, but I guess with both employees being new, she was lucky for what she got, in a right to work state, the manager technically could have just walked her to the door.

Still, its been 5 months without work, what is going on?  A few things.  First, she gets the “you’re over-qualified” a lot.  She is willing to compromise on salary, in fact, has indeed several times applied to positions with low salaries where she would have been rewarded emotionally for being able to be in a good company.  Still, I get it from the perspective of a person who hires people, you see someone so eminently qualified, the last thing you want to do is train them up, then see them be dissatisfied with their pay, and leave.

Second, she is sometimes lacking some random skillset that they’ve decided her position should have.  For example, maybe they post that they want a SQL DBA, but they really want a C# full stack developer.  She could do C#, JavaScript, whatever, but her school, her skillset, it all leads to SQL and data analysis.  If someone would hire her for lower salary as a C# person so she could get up to speed, she’d do it, but that isn’t what they want.

The previous two things happen to anyone right? Male or female, you might lose out on a position for these reasons.  This next reason is more particular to women, and I believe, particular to IT.  What I really started this to write about, is the way people react to a potential female IT employee.

When I thought she could easily get another job, it hadn’t even occurred to me that her gender would have anything to do with how easily or difficult it would be for her to get another position.  But here it is.  I see her apply, be told that she has all the right skillsets and more, only to strike out on the 3rd interview.  The 3rd interview (or sometimes 4th) is usually a personality fit interview.  This is where a bunch of people who often don’t know what you do, decide on whether or not they’d like to work with you.

My wife is a social geek.  Unlike myself, who would prefer to be in a dark room alone, she LIKES to talk.  So these personality interviews, should be good for her. In fact, she is often complimented on her social skills by recruiters, the first couple interviews (usually by the people who are testing her for her technical abilities)..Until the ‘personality’ interviews.  She seems to fumble with two primary types (who often turn out to be the decision makers over the technical people).  Female executives and non-geek male executives  For reference (in case you haven’t seen the rest of her content on this site), her particular type of Geekness is that she likes to bake, edit videos, build Legos, and yes, she likes working on tough data problems.

Here is how the interview goes: Things go well at first.  She chats, gets people chuckling, and the interviews go for a long time, even hours.  But at some point, there is a point where she sees people’s face fall and go from laughing and chatting to serious and end the interview.

“what do you like to do in your spare time?”

Anna, “baking, sewing, playing video games.  I usually bring baked treats in anywhere I work, people say they love my cake pops!”

Male executive 1, “I love treats! he he he.  I watch football”

Male executive 2, “watch basketball and football”

Male engineer 3, “work on SQL…and watch football”

Really?  Work on SQL in your spare time? Really?  I get it that you could be writing a book about SQL, could be learning new versions of SQL, or I don’t know, maybe building an application utilizing SQL.  But SQL is about “doing”, I doubt you’re “working on SQL” in your spare time unless you’re saying you don’t have any spare time and are ‘just working’.

Anyways, so then sometimes alternatively she’ll have interviews with potential female bosses.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but women are bitches to each other.  No, I don’t often swear, but if it is appropriate, I won’t hesitate, and in this case, I can’t describe it any other way.

In my opinion, men are hyper-competitive but are team focused.  Women are hyper-competitive, but mostly snipe at direct competitors, and they seem to often view other women as competitors.  When a woman manager interviews a potential employee, there is NO reason to tell the potential employee that they’re better in SQL than that person.  Really, there is no reason to tell ANYONE that you’re better than that person, let your results speak for themselves.

Woman executive, “So, how would you perform this Y task within X deadline?”

Anna, “{Talks about SQL} This is what I would do to focus on performance and efficiency, while still completing it within by the deadline”

Woman executive, “That’s not as good a way as how I would do it, but ok”

Anna, “How would you do it so I can know?”

Woman executive, “I don’t really do that kind of work anymore since becoming a manager”

Anna, “…”  silent thought bubble then what is your point?

Or alternatively, like in the earlier example.

woman executive, “what do you like to do in your spare time?”

Anna, “baking, sewing, playing video games. I usually bring baked treats in anywhere I work, people say they love my cake pops!””

Woman executive, “Everyone likes my baking”

Anna, “…”

Wait, did someone say that Anna’s baking is better?  Or that someone didn’t like your baking?  Did it somehow threaten your femininity by suggesting that Anna brings in baked goodies?

Well… the fact of the matter is, Anna will bake and throw away 5 cheesecakes in one day just to get one perfect one, so yes, her baking probably IS better.  But why argue about it? Why are women bitches to each other?

It isn’t like this for guys, at least not in my experience.  When a guy says he likes to play video games in his spare time, the sports guys just look sadly at the “Geek”.  But actually, in many cases, the extroverts are proud of having a “Geek” in their corner, so they get hired BECAUSE of the sad geek that they are.  They’d proudly show me off like a prized pig, this strange creature that works on fixing the toughest problems and working late nights and weekends.  I was ok that a lot of them were subtly making fun of me even as they relied on me to fix their toughest problems.  The reality is, I make more than most of those people now, by being ME, not by pretending to be something else.

And to be fair, I am similarly hard to get past the culture fit when I interview people for positions.  The fact of the matter is, if someone tells me during the “personality” fit interview, that they don’t do anything technical in their spare time, then I won’t hire them.  Period.

It doesn’t matter if they seem like a good fit, unless they’re the “only” applicant, I just won’t hire them.  If I hire someone who plays sports in his spare time, then that means I probably have to pay to train that person.  I wish I had the budget for training, but I don’t, so I really need to know that everyone is a technical enthusiast that is keeping their skills sharp.

But for women, it doesn’t seem to work that way.  I’ve given her some advice, ways to “frame” the conversation as a “yes”.  My thought process is that I don’t want to do more interviews than I need to, so really, the faster I can say “yes” and hire someone, the better, I just need a reason to, or at least no reason to say “no”.

So here was my advice to her.

“You’re from Wisconsin, you love supporting the Packers, its ok to say Go Packers!, even though you really only watch a few minutes a year”

“Talk about the technical things you do.  You spend more time in Adobe Premiere than anything else, week after week.  Say that.  Don’t just say ‘I make YouTube videos’, at least not until they ask, because visualizing someone working long hours carefully editing video gives a different perception than someone staring into a camera and talking about their day”.  (Yes, ironically I’m the one who stares into the camera and randomly talks about whatever is going on in my life, where-as Anna does focused videos specifically doing something, but I’m cool with this dichotomy).

“If you feel like the crowd is open to it, talk about the props you design, building things with your hands that look like they come from movie sets can resonate with guys”

“Don’t say anything that sounds feminine around a woman, they’re usually bitches and will think its an attack on how good they are at the same things.  Instead, talk about anything they’re likely NOT to do. “

I don’t know if I gave good advice, I hope it was.  I only gave it a few weeks ago, so only time will tell.  Be cautious before applying my advice to your situation, I gave this advice because she regularly makes it to the final interview, THEN is told that everything was great, but they just decided on someone else.  Later discussions will reveal that she was the stronger technical choice, she either was “late” (she is often submitted for a position after someone else was already the favorite) or the CEO or other executive just flat-out preferred a different candidate.  If she wasn’t making it this far, I’d give her different advice related to working on her resume or framing her skillset differently.

I still feel like she is struggling more than any guy would for the same positions.   When I laid her off, I hadn’t even taken her gender into the equation.  I assumed that her being “awesome” would be enough for her to easily find a new job.  And I think she “could” succeed at getting the same job positions in other job markets, just perhaps not easily here in Vegas.   She has been told many times that she would easily find a position in Seattle, and headhunters keep wanting to submit her to jobs there.  The reality is, we may have to look at moving to a more IT-friendly city.  

As a native Las Vegan, that depresses me, because I “wanted” to believe we were growing up as an IT-friendly city, but it feels like its still old.  We’re exploring some other options, perhaps she just isn’t getting in front of the “modern” companies, but four months is a long time, and we’re definitely considering all options.

Be wary of being part owner of a company TLDR How I lost about 30k

 

In 2004, me and a friend made a lot of money selling our first real house.  In 2007 I got suckered into investing in a Hollywood movie, Dark Honeymoon.

It was on netflix, I’ve since found it isn’t anymore.  Good riddance.  You might be able to find it somewhere, its an absolutely horrible movie.

Here is the IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0783501/

I love that the writer and director changed his name for this crapfest.  Yes David O’Malley, IMDB knows it was you and I’m spreading the word!  And yes, Alpine Pictures, you screwed people and I hope this post dissuades at least one person from ever investing in anything you guys do.

Watch the video how I not only lost 25k, but then paid taxes on the money I didn’t make to the tune of about another 5k.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Success List

If you’re like me, you often berate yourself for what you didn’t get accomplished any given week.  Even what you “do” accomplish, you might second guess yourself.  I feel like I ride the edge of depression constantly, only veering upwards of that black pit of despair by constantly reiterating to myself that its mostly just brain chemicals making me feel a certain way.

I can keep going, try to smile and stay productive, by constantly repeating to myself that my feelings of failure are false messages being sent by some darker portion of my psyche that is truly afraid of failure.  But I think there is more to it than just the chemicals.  I think the constant self-criticism that I use to constantly push myself to go further while a powerful driving force, is also what can start the chemical cycle that puts me in a darker mood.

So yes, the ridiculous dark emotions are probably just chemicals, but the trigger for those chemicals aren’t themselves just more chemicals (necessarily).  I’ve decided to start celebrating my successes more, internally, if not necessarily externally.  But even externally, rather than stating what I’ve done as flat accomplishments worried that if I seem too proud I’m bragging, I should be willing to be proud of what I’ve done.

I want to transform the self-criticism that I use to make what I do better into self-evaluation which performs the same role but without the negative self-attacks.

Instead of self-doubt, I want to make lists of valid risks and if appropriate, planned countermeasures so I’m ready to deal with them.

And finally, I want to make a weekly list of items I feel like are accomplishments.  I don’t think I will be posting my list up for everyone to see every week, but to start this process off, here is my first week.

  • I brought some positive business ideas that I felt were valuable to our company weekly tactical meeting
  •  I wired the upstairs guest room and our game computer with physical ethernet instead of wireless and it looks NICE and professional
  • I made a video about wiring the house up
  • I relocated our wireless access point, hiding a bunch of wires and giving all of our devices better coverage
  • While doing stucco patch after the ethernet wiring outside,  I found a deep gouge left by the previous owners that exposed internal insulation and repaired it
  • I made a vlog video I’m very happy with (today, should be live tomorrow, enjoy the butter beer shot recipe!)
  • I rearranged our audio so that the sound recorder-mixer lives attached on top of our camcorder which reduces free floating devices during shoots.
  • I removed over 300 fragments of unused code from work which coincidentally fixed at least a few different issues we were having with iPad compatibility with our application.
  • I cleaned up the wiring underneath our gaming table while I was rerouting the ethernet substantially cleaning it up.
  • I ran a GREAT (IMO) game of tabletop Shadowrun, with a much closer to reasonable level of quality I’m looking forward to uploading for every one.
    • The Best compliment was when one of the players asked if I was running my game out of a module, which, of course, I wasn’t, because I wrote the prequel here on this site.
  • The workbench I built actually proved to be a great area for organizing all of the components for the ethernet wiring.
  • I completed  my popcorn experiment paper (once I resubmit after correcting one source I had left out) which finishes another college class!  22% or so complete for my degree.
  • I finished the design of my first T-shirt, configured it to be produced, connected this site to a shopping cart to allow the t-shirt to be purchased, then purchased it.  The shirt store will be open as soon as we verify the quality is at the level of quality we expect.
  • I got a lot of compliments for the refried beans recipe I put together for the company BBQ
  • I wrote this post!

I was actually surprised how much I had gotten done this week, especially with how much I felt like I was lagging behind what I wanted to accomplish.  I’m always going to push myself to strive for the next level, but if I go through this process regularly, maybe I can be less of a taskmaster fighting my subconscious and more of a partner.

Have you tried doing something like this weekly success list? If not, I’d love to see you post a success list below!  Post whether you were surprised by the items on your list (big or little) that maybe you hadn’t considered an accomplishment.

My comic book childhood

My father was huge into comics.  He lied about his age and became a waiter at the age of 16.  If you aren’t familiar with how tips work in tourist towns, waiters usually make good money in a city like Las Vegas, and my dad was no exception.

He workeLas_Vegas_-_Mintd at the Steakhouse at the top of the Mint.  His regular customers included all kinds of celebrities, wealthy (or lucky) gamblers, and casino bigshots (aka criminals at the time) who would go to the fancy steakhouse at the top of the Mint to eat great steak, look out upon the Las Vegas valley from the awesome view, and of course, incidentally, give my father lucrative amounts of tips.  You can still eat that that restaurant, but now its Binion’s Ranch Steakhouse and is at Binion’s Horseshoe.

With the constant flow of cash, my dad lived a pretty decent lifestyle.  He bought things like cars, a cool van (with a bed and a fridge in it!  I had no clue why his van had a bed in it when I was a kid), and of course, comics.  Tons of comics.  He would buy every #1 of every comic (because they’ll be worth something someday! They mostly weren’t…), and every issue of the 15-20 comics that he followed at any given time.

He had one of those big waterbed setups, and the shelves behind it would always have the latest issues.  If I missed some of the new ones, they’d  be moved to the box in his closet.  From his closet, once that box was full, the box would go to the garage and then he’d get a new box for his closet.

It was a cycle of comic life that I assumed everyone had.   I knew my friends didn’t have a warehouse of comics out in the garage to pick through, but didn’t really think about it much (especially due to moving so often that I never really knew many other kids).  I never had any restrictions on what I could read either.  Whether because this is Vegas, because of my advanced maturity level, or because my dad was the kind of guy who owned a van with a bed in it, I could read it all, no restrictions.

Yovampirella_24u might be thinking I was reading violent comics like Wolverine or Punisher as a kid.  Heck no, well yes, but no I’m talking about dark/creepy/scary comics like Tales From the Crypt, Creepy, Eerie, and all of the other non-superhero comics that were pretty popular in the 1960s.  As I got older, I would get more interested in the big book comics like Vampirella, Conan, or Heavy Metal.  When I was approaching puberty, those boxes were my equivalent of what the internet for kids is now… 😉

I read through all of these comics, comics from the 1960s onward, unwittingly experiencing the full timeline of comics.  My “comic maturity” advanced the way the comic industry did, but in the span of my childhood instead of decades.  I went through a serious/dark phase leading me to read stephen king at 6ish.  Later I would go through a silly phase, reading Archie comics, Richie Rich, then serious story, and finally the cynical 90s as I approached being a teenager.  Sure I would go through the older comics (and Vampirella) whenever I was in the mood to visit old delights, but I experienced generations worth of comic influence in the span of my childhood.

Between comic books and cartoons like He-man with strong moral lessons, I have strong beliefs in “how people should be”.  I also understand that there are corrupt people out there, I just don’t understand why you’d choose to be part of the losing side.  I refuse to believe that the “villains” win in real life, mostly because of many comic lessons.  Also, those old horror stories always punished the wicked, often with very poetic, very gruesome justice, so no way, I’ll live the life of the challenging (but winning in the end) hero.

With all of the comic experience with all heroes (Superman, Batman, X-men, Casper, Ironman, Justice League, whatever), it makes me a little sad when people talk to me so excited about “their” history of comics and it turns out to be the early 2000s.  I want to talk to people about the old comics.  Commiserating questions like “Do you miss comics like Tales From the Crypt?”.  “Weren’t the old Conan comic magazines the best?”  I don’t want to hear about how Venom came from a moon meteorite or whatever.  He came from Secret Wars 1 people!  Spiderman wished for a new costume out of an alien machine!

But now, nowadays the best I can do is read new(ish) comics and talk about them.  Because the reality is, my dad was pretty cool and different in a way that I haven’t met anyone else having a similar childhood.  I rarely got to talk to him about comics.  I was probably too young to geek out with, and by the time we could hang out, comics were different and he wasn’t as interested (he would read them if I left them out, however).  To be honest, I took about a 15-year sabbatical from comics, so I get it.  The closest to geeking out together would be us in the same room when I was a kid, reading comics together.  I can remember hours with the only sound being the flipping of pages.  So freaking cool!

We’ll be posting my first comic review up soon enough, Lydon and I sit and talk for about an hour or so about the He-man Volume 1 book.  It was pretty awesome.  Makes me wish I had made more of an effort when I was younger.

I wanted to find a picture of my dad in his waiter outfit.  But here is a pic of me and him.  Yes, thats Panthro.  He was the best because he fixed things (with Tyra), invented things, plus nunchucks.  Ninja weapons were awesome even before TMNT.

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Skeeball

Today I was reading a story by Wil Wheaton called “Fireworks” in his book “Just a Geek”, and this memory came to mind.  I think about it often, so I thought I’d share.    Not a very good start, starting in the middle, but more will come later and after, as things bubble and froth in the recesses of my mind.

My 9th birthday party I was going to have at Pistol Petes Pizza.  This was super exciting because I had gone to other kid’s birthdays at Chuckie Cheeses and it was amazing, with animatronics and everything.  Pistol Petes wasn’t quite the same, but I didn’t know or care about that, and thus was excited regardless.

I passed out invitations to everyone in my class.  Now we moved constantly, a few times a year, so I didn’t know these kids any more than I knew any other kids.  Despite not knowing anyone, I figured it didn’t matter because I didn’t know any of the kids whose parties I went to, so I thought that’s how it worked.  In hindsight, I now realize I was probably the stranger invited to people’s birthdays because my parents knew their parents.  Me inviting the other kids didn’t work, because their parents didn’t know my parents, and my invite went to the kids and not their parents; but I really thought I was going to have an epic party where I got to be the benefactor to all of these kids having a great time and thinking “its so awesome that Ricky invited me!”  I was known as Ricky back then.

But when it came time to meet at the house before heading to Pistol Petes, only one kid I invited showed up.  A few other toddlers were there, because I had a little sister and her affiliated 2 year olds, but just one kid from my class.  He was black, and part of me now thinks that maybe the reason he showed up was because as one of the only black kids in the school, he probably could have used some friends too.   Maybe he didn’t get invited to other parties. Now I imagine there was a possibility where we could have bonded and been best friends for the next several years like out of a show like Veronica Mars or something.  In reality, I’d be moving again fairly soon, so even if we had bonded, it wouldn’t have lasted…

So we went to my “party”.  Me and one other kid my age, a bunch of toddlers, my mom and her friends.  I get the feeling there was supposed to be more kids at the reserved pizza party, but as it was, we got to share all of the tokens, pizza, and cake.  It felt like there was unlimited everything, but I barely remember details, as I was in a fog of trying not to be sad.  I always felt like I had to put a brave face on for the adults, I’m not sure why.

I became fixated on the prize booth that day.  The idea of this booth with all kinds of cool things I could earn for myself became the only thing I thought of.  I was obsessed, in the way that I do, excluding everything else.  I didn’t care about anything or anyone, except how I could earn tickets. I earned a lot of tickets, and I kept bringing them to my mom like a cat returning a dead bird.

Success!  Tickets!  Here, meow!  Ok, I didn’t meow, but as she stuffed those tickets into her purse to hold, I was definitely as satisfied as a cat licking its paws standing over a dead animal.

Part of me was on the verge of breaking from the moment it was clear no other kids were going to show up, but as I’ve done all my life, I just tried to stay focused on the “doing”.  I became pretty good at Skeeball that day, I was already doing the math of how many tokens I had and how many tickets I could earn.  There was a radio I was definitely considering.  Of course I now know that was pretty much impossible, but at the time I was sure of it!

As I ran out of tokens, I went back to my mom to get my tickets, count them out, and get my prize from the prize booth.  My mom didn’t have any tickets.    I didn’t really understand.  Where were the tickets?

She haphazardly commented that she had gotten some prizes for the little kids.

A great sorrow welled up inside me and I immediately began weeping.  I know its ridiculous.  Even now as I write this, I feel this hurt deep inside me.  At the time, I just “felt”, now I know it was the culmination of emotion I had been trying to hold inside the entire day.  This utter feeling of aloneness surrounded by entities that I didn’t feel understood me.  This feeling of how things are supposed to be based partially off of what I had seen on TV, what I had read, and what I had just plain imagined.

Ironically, I had started this, thinking of how awesome it would be to be the benefactor providing an awesome experience to the other kids at school, but the event that pushed me over the edge was my mom making the toddlers a little happier with junk prizes from the booth.  I was physically wracked with pain, and yes I was upset about the tickets, but only because the tickets were the goal that I had used to justify to myself why I shouldn’t be so sad about not having any friends.  I don’t remember how that day ended.  I’m sure I got a lot of presents, because my family has always been good about being generous with the kids.   I mostly blocked it out of my head, being both embarrassed for how I acted and embarrassed for what the lack of attendees said about me.

Looking back now, I wish there was some lesson I could say I learned.  I wish I could say it didn’t hurt anymore because I understand that my mom gave me the best birthday she could, exactly how I had asked.  It hurts today the same way it did then, partially because I’m remembering the pain that little me was experiencing, and that can never be undone.  It also hurts today because in many ways, I’m still that little kid wanting to give the best party for the other kids, but always worried that I’ll have to eat the pizza all by myself.

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