We hope this digital letter finds you safe, healthy, happy, and enjoying a wonderful holiday season. In the spirit of the annual holiday letter, I thought it would be fun to share some of the highlights of the past year with you.
I know, this is a blog. You've been keeping up. But for the sake of those that don't like to log in twice a week for my ramblings, well, here's a summary:
Rick just wrapped up a 3 year term on church council at Mt. Tabor. He was heading up the IT committee and did a great job updating the website (which was his major project for his first year on council) and with keeping up staff technology needs. It did get to be a bit of a challenge this year, though. We lost both of our pastors this year - the head pastor left for a higher position with the Synod in March, and the associate pastor left to head up a congregation in Charleston, which is where he's from. It was tough losing them - and then major changes at Rick's job drastically altared his work situation, which has required more overtime work and made serving a bit more challenging. But he stuck in there and was determined to see his term through. We're very proud of him for hanging in there despite the challenges of the past few months, and for all he's done for the church. You can check out the church website that he designed at www.mttaborlutheran.org
Unfortunately, I had to quit both of my church committees. I had always planned to step down from the IT committee when Rick's term ended, but major changes in my own work situation and my writing picking up cut significantly into my spare time for volunteer activities. There are some things and events that I do hope to continue participating in, but right now being on a standing committee isn't something that's practical for me. It's a shame, too, because I enjoyed it and hated to give it up. Maybe in another season of life.
My work has picked up with additional duties. I'm now working with 4 licensure programs, and recent staff shortages have put more of a burden on remaining staff. I do finally have a window office, which is good (although I got the workload that came with it), and I'm also required to travel twice a year for the landscape architect program. Last year I attended the spring meeting in late February in Miami, and the national meeting in September in San Francisco. That trip to Miami was the first time I've ever flown! It's not bad, either. And while I'm not a big fan of travel, well, I'm hanging in there to see how it works out. The next meeting up is the regional meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona in March. We'll see. That's all I can say for now. Overall the job is good, although it has been very stressful lately. Our workload usually peaks in December (exam deadlines, plus people in a rush to get licensed to get projects in the new year), and being down a person has been hard. Hopefully, we'll fill that open position soon and things will level out. I'm off work until January 2, so hopefully some time with family, friends, and at home with Rick and the birds will do me some good.
My writing is also making progress. I published my second fiction novel, Anywhere But Here
, through Whiskey Creek Press in April. They offered me a contract for my third fiction novel, a sci-fi apocolyptic novel titled Splinter
, last summer. I'm already working on two writing projects now that I hope to wrap up in the spring. One is another mystery novel titled Move
. It's about a young woman that unknowingly makes a deal with a djinn (genie), but unfortunately his help is rather radical and leads to more problems than solutions. The other is a non-fiction book titled Feathered Frenzy
. It's basically a "quick reference guide" to give people tips on making their home and lifestyle bird-friendly. And believe it or not, I ALREADY have an idea for my next project. That one is still in a very early brainstorming stage. I'm not even considering working on that one more until I get my two current projects finished. I'm building an audience and working on many promotional things for my published novels. It's slow work, but worth it. I enjoy writing and I think going the "independent author" route was the right choice - especially with the traditional route going into decline as e-publishing picks up. I hope I hit the e-book wave at just the right time!
The birds are doing well. They'll be doing their own Christmas letter to you on their blog over at http://conurecorner.weebly.com
soon. Santa has big plans for them and I think we're going to have three very happy birdies in a couple of days!
Our families are doing well. Mom and Dad are staying busy, as usual. Mom had surgery for carpral tunnel last summer and I tell you, that's the fastest surgery recovery I've ever seen! She was back up and running in no time! Dad is still working. Retirement talk comes up from time to time, but no definite plans or timeline yet. I tell you, those design professionals - they love their work and don't like to retire! Stephen and Nicole are doing well too. Stephen's still keeping them straight as a department head at Public Safety, and Nicole is working at home in medical transcription. She graduated from a medical management program in the spring, but unfortunately she had to have surgery for diverticulitis shortly after graduation, so that was an unexpected hiccup in her life. But she's doing fine now and moving forward again.
Rick's parents are also doing ok. You know his father has dementia, so there are good days and bad days - that's just how it goes with that. They joined the Methodist church up the road last month. Our nieces and Rick's sister and brother-in-law are also doing well. We just got back from our Christmas visit with them in Greenville this morning. They stay busy with work, school, and activities - much like all of us.
And yes, in case any of you are wondering, I did complete my New Year's resolution of reading through The Bible again this year. I actually finished it in September!
Well, that's pretty much it. We are truly blessed and thank God every day for all that He has done for us and allowed us to do for others. We hope all of you are doing well and that life is being good to you. You know that everybody is welcome to visit this website and blog. I strive to update it at least twice a week. Some people have themes for their blogs and while the theme of this website is my writing, the blog isn't limited to that. In fact, I believe all of life inspires my writing, and this blog is open to anything and everything happening in life. Feel free to read, share, and pass it along to anybody interested, whether it's family, friends, readers, other writers, or anybody that's interested in how one writer's life inspires her tales!
Merry Christmas everybody! I hope you have a safe and happy holiday season and that your new year is filled with joy, peace and prosperity.
God bless and best wishes,
Rick and Sherri
Folks, I was informed today that a committee member I've been emailing for a week - and even scheduled for a meeting - died. I felt like such an idiot! At first I thought "maybe he's on vacation" and let it go. Then late last week, I wondered briefly if I could call but, of course, all manner of other things needed my attention and that thought flew away with the wind. I should have stopped for that moment and followed up on it, but I just didn't. And today when I sent out the meeting invitation one of the other committee members sent out a broadcast message that the guy died last week with a copy of the obituary.
I felt like such an idiot. I know, Rick told me I shouldn't. How would I have known, anyway? We haven't taken the newspaper in over 5 years and even when we did, we never checked the obituaries because, well, in our 30's why would we? But I still felt silly, and that little voice that told me to call last week has been saying "see? you should have done it!" all day.
Oh well, at least I didn't email him a copy of his own obituary. I did do that once and have to say that was more embarassing. At least I remembered the note to myself from that incident today: Update the email group list BEFORE you forward the message.
I won't lie to you - I'm one of those people that was heavy on the book sense and light on the common sense growing up. I was teased endlessly about it. In fact, I know the reason I get irritated with older people being helpless and getting duped is because these were the very same people that were telling me I needed to "wise up to the ways of the world or all that education isn't gonna do you a bit of good in the real world" 15-20 years ago. I graduated in the top of my high school class and graduated college with honors, but learning to drive was hell for me - so much so that Dad sat me down and had a talk with me about how I had to learn to drive because there's no public transit in this town, and "functional adults drive." It really was awful. On top of struggling with common sense I'm also helplessly clumsy, and getting coordinated enough to drive - it took me about a year to get it. Yea, a year. My friends got their permit and were driving like pros after 2-3 months, and it took me a year. And even longer to do it well, without scaring the hell out of everybody in the car with me. Don't even ask me abou the abuse I took for it too, especially in driver's ed. The teacher made no bones about the fact that I might be a whiz in the classroom, but he thought I was a dumbass in the real world. He really was a jerk, by the way. As were my classmates. But thankfully I'm too old for teen angst. I did grow up. And I did grow some sense too.
I credit three things with this: Marriage, home ownership, and a job in a regulatory agency. Those three things will give you plenty of experiences that lend to wisdom very quickly. Relationships take work - more than you ever realize! Home ownership is a huge responsibility that requires a certain amount of organization, practicality, and saavy. And a job working with applying legislation to real life? That will stretch your brain, because you spend as much time blockading the people looking to exploit every loophole as you do applying it to the cooperative people/situations. I still have my moments - like emailing dead people - but my peers and colleagues have them too, and we aren't embarassed about it. In fact, things like this just help you get wiser.
I think this is why I'm always putting the characters in my novels in situations where they have the book smarts but not the "street smarts" to know what to do when their conflict arises. Part of the journey that every one of my protagonists have gone through is a realization that others don't share their knowledge/beliefs/morals and they have to decide what to do about it. Many of their journies have paralleled my own and I believe it's because they're issues that all of us face at one point or another. Because eventually life is going to take that unexpected turn, and we have to decide whether to fight it, accept it, or mine it for possibilities that we might not have planned for but are willing to accept as greater opportunity. Or we'll have to deal with people doing something against our morals because it's easier than doing what's right, and they're going to ridicule us as an idealist if we don't go along with the game (or worse yet, agree to take the blame if it all falls apart - yep, I've been there). Or we'll have to decide if we want to step out and take a chance on achieving a dream, or let the fear of failure keep us stuck in place. And we all have to decide - are we willing to work hard to make our dreams come true and make some sacrifices, or will we stay where we are, hoping somebody or something will come along to give us a "big break"? Because, as a colleague said last week, nothing in life is free, except God's love and the DMV manual. And some ebooks in the public domain and written by generous independent authors.
I'm not sure where the DMV manual came from - perhaps because she had a daughter getting ready to apply for her driver's permit. But anyway ...
I will agree that common sense is important, but I'm still one that believes that the "education and experience" work together. The book sense gives you the foundation you need. Because we all know that life isn't fair, and that the unexpected happens, and that sometimes people just don't like you, and that if something can go wrong then it will, and at the worst possible time. The Bible even says "I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all." (Ecclesiastes 9:11) These truths we know - but it's wisdom that tells us what to do when we actually face these situations. What do you do when you're passed over for the promotion? What do you do when somebody asks you to alter this or that financial report 'just a little?' What do you do when a friend betrays you and throws you under the bus for a mistake they made, but they lied and made it look like you did it? What do you do when you're on a date and the guy yells the cop that pulled him over for speeding, which sets off that voice in your head that says "geez, he has a temper. I'm not comfortable being around him?" And then he asks you out on another date and you don't want to go, but he's already been pissed off once tonight and you're afraid to say no? Book smarts tell you it CAN happen. Common sense tells you what to do when it DOES happen.
And in closing - yes, I did have someone send a message to a dead person in one of my novels. It happened in Splinter, which will be released through Whiskey Creek Press next year. Tune in for that and more fictionalized shenanagins in the ongoing progression of my writing.
That's all today. Have a great week.
Hi everybody; I hope you're off to a great start to the week. Remember my last entry, when I said that the truth was showing itself? Well, it happened again. Somebody that turned on me got turned on by the very person they were defending. All I can say is to pick your tirades carefully. You look like more of an igit than they do when they show themselves. It's not judging in this case. It's truth showing itself, as it always does.
I tell you, reaping and sowing is so true that it seems people would have a reverential fear of it. Granddaddy certainly respected this as a life truth, and I see why. Heck, my own experiences have taught me that lesson, and other people remind me of it all the time. If I ever forget to check myself, I only need to live for a day to be reminded.
Anyway, moving on ...
I finally started my next writing project: Improving my skills at writing short stories. It's something I've long neglected. I've known for a long time that I need to study up on writing stronger short stories, but I've always pushed it to the background to work on novels. Well, I'm ready now. I found a couple of ebooks on writing better short stories, and I did a couple of drafts of 600+ word stories that I posted to my portfolio at Writing.com for feedback. I hope this works as well as it did with the novels. I made progress with them fast - in a matter of months! We'll see.
Hopefully, my meeting schedule is letting up. In fact, Wednesday is the last meeting on my schedule until February. That doesn't mean that some won't pop up. In fact, I'm certain they will. But the degree of formality should be much less. Nothing to up the ante on the dress code at least (I hope!).
I can't believe it's almost Halloween! I know a lot of people said it was a long, hot summer, but it seemed to leave without warning. I was out watering my roses and thinking, I can't believe these will probably be my last blooms of the season. So I cut 3 of them and put them in a bud vase in the kitchen. One last taste of temperate weather. I'm sure the first freeze is probably a matter of weeks away.
You know what I believe my problem really is? It's not the season, it's displacement. Usually, Fall is a natural season of winding down, but I don't feel like winding down. I'm marketing a book, have another one on the way, and am focusing on improving in another area of writing. I usually slow down this time of year, but I just don't want to this year. Then again, the reason I did that in the past was because we went into license renewals at work around this time of year - but since they changed us to biennial license renewals, well, there are no renewals because everything is valid through 2013. Wow, that's odd! This will be my first year without license renewals since I started this job over 12 years ago. No wonder I feel like something is missing - it is! It's amazing that this one change in my job is causing so many adjustment issues. I don't need to wind down at home in preparation to gear up at work. Everything is different, but you know what? I'm not really bothered or upset by it. I see it as opportunity
Yes, life has a rhythem to it and mine's been thrown, but I'm sure I'll find a way to establish a new rhythem. I've never done much writing in the fall before last year when I participated in NaNo, so this will be carving out a new experience for me. I think I want to keep this up and see where it can go. It's refreshing, and kind of exciting!
Well, there are snippits of a little bit of everything going on in my life. I hope you're doing well. Somebody will be back later to update - and since I'm doing short stories, who knows what it will be? A character? A new draft? More in my Sidekicks to Superhereos series? Who knows? You'll have to stay tuned.
That's all tonight. Take care.
Greetings, and welcome to my new blog series titled “From Sidekick to Superhero – Claiming Your Place in the World.” This idea was actually born from suggestions from several people that I return to my first book, an inspirational self-help book titled Battleground Earth - Living by Faith in a Pagan World and update it with lessons and life experience I’ve gained over the six years since it was published. It sounded like a great idea, but in looking over that manuscript, I discovered something shocking: I’m not the same person I was six years ago. While my morals and basic ideals haven’t changed, I have undergone a radical change in my perspective on life and the world that make the approach I took with Battleground Earth seem inadequate and, frankly, too elementary for me to return to. I feel I’ve moved to a new level and as such, I need to pick up at a point beyond that particular book. (Plus, I’ve also switched to writing fiction due to changes in the publishing industry since that time). I do welcome you to purchase and read it, though, because it provides an excellent foundation for the very intent of this blog series.
So what is the point? It’s simple. My platform is finding your purpose through God and being authentic. I have always believed that if your foundation is in Christ, then the ground level should be knowing, accepting, and appreciating the person God made you to be and to build your spiritual house based on His purpose for your life. The problem is that we live in a world where things like authenticity and unique perspectives are not only devalued but mocked. I suppose it’s always been this way, so nothing has really changed, but with the spread of technology the pressure to conform is coming at people in means and ways that didn’t exist before. It’s harder to find quiet places to be alone and to disconnect with the world. It’s harder to turn off the pressure to conform. It’s harder to stand up for what you believe in and to find the courage to be yourself when you’re pounded with messages through the countless means of communication telling you to get in your place and stay there.
Personally, I believe that I’ll be in a box when I’m dead, so I refuse to be trapped in one now. I also have a very strong and independent personality. Life experience has shown me that it’s actually very difficult for many people – maybe most – to be themselves. They don’t feel like it’s safe because they fear judgment from others, many times from those closest to them. They believe in Christ, but they don’t understand the freedom Christ brings. They don’t have to be in a box, but they stay there because it makes other people happy and it’s easier to stay there than to fight their way out. Rising above where they are might make others uncomfortable or unhappy, and they don’t want their individuality to cause trouble or pain to anybody.
That might be the safe way and the easy way, but I believe there’s too much at stake to play it safe. First, life is too short to settle for the lowest common denominator. God created you for a purpose and the greatest tragedy isn’t how people reacted to you, but the fact that you will one day stand before Him and have to explain why you weren’t the person He made you to be, and why you didn’t fulfill the purpose He sent you to fill. Too many of us fear judgment from others when we should be concerned with the final judgment where we will answer for all – it’s the classic tunnel vision of only seeing what’s convenient today at the expense of the good of eternity. Second, there’s no guarantee that people will be happy or comfortable no matter what you do. People have an inherit sense of when people aren’t being genuine or honest with them, and they resent it if they feel like you’re wearing a mask. I know, I just said we live in a world that prizes conformity – but people also don’t like to be deceived. It’s a double edged sword. They want you to want to center your life around their desires/wishes/convenience, but the truth is that none of us were created to be a sidekick to anybody. God meant for all of us to be superheroes, and you’re never going to find peace, contentment or joy in your life until you mine that hero out of the muck of conformity and let it fly in the light of day.
The purpose of this blog series is to share my faith, journey, and observations with you on how I discovered myself and “grew up” into the person I am today. Experts are great, but sometimes it helps to hear from somebody that’s travelling on the road with you. Consider this blog series as a companion along the way.
As we start this journey, I’d like to spell out a few disclaimers for you:
· I’m not trained in the ministry, so this isn’t formal theology. In other words, this isn’t “meat and potatoes.” It’s more like your cup of coffee in the morning. It’s intended to wake you up and set you off in the right direction. There are many resources from those formally trained in theology and psychology. I’ll draw from some of those sources (and other media) and will hopefully offer you others to point you in the right direction for formal education on the issue of individuality. Here, I offer my experiences, observations, and personal knowledge to get you started on the journey of finding your authentic self.
· This is Christian and it’s Biblically based. I’m not going to beat you over the head with a Bible, but it’s based on scripture and I will quote scripture if and when it’s relevant. And other things as well.
· I welcome feedback. You may agree or disagree with what I present here. I’d never deny anybody their opinion. In fact, I encourage and welcome your feedback. If you agree and find some spiritual help, please let me know. If you think I’m coming from outer space, tell me. Writers need to know what their readers are thinking and how their work is being perceived and received.
Welcome to the journey! I hope there is insight, knowledge and spiritual help offered through this blog series and that we all come out of it enlightened and stronger than before.
Next time – The epiphany that changed my perspective on everything. It was more recent than you think, and it will explain why I titled this series Sidekicks to Superheroes.