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
I’m often asked if the things that happened to Jana Lanning in my recent novel, Anywhere But Here, actually happened to me. For those of you that haven’t read this novel, Jana Lanning, the protagonist, is denied admission to graduate school, finds out her boyfriend is cheating on her, helps her best friend get married and move out of town, and has to settle for a job that she’s overqualified for – and all of this happens within two weeks of getting her undergraduate degree. Then to make things worse, the office where she works starts a merger with another firm and Jana finds herself on the wrong end of office politics that are the final straw in her battle with depression. The thing people seem the most interested in are the office politics. People want to know if the happenings at Dixon Financial are reflective of my job before it was transferred to a new agency a couple of years ago.
In response to that I’d say not entirely, but I can’t deny that some things that happened to me early in my career are reflected in people and events that take place in the book. I know that’s cryptic, but bear in mind two things: The people and events are fictionalized and that was accomplished through a mixture of my personal experiences, experiences I’ve seen and heard of from other people, and instances I’ve read about in books, magazines, news and other media. It came from a vast pool and I’ll admit that I had experience with being on the wrong end of office politics – heck, how could you write about it even from a fictionalized perspective unless you lived it in some way – but it’s also a universal issue that anybody working in an office environment is going to be on one end or the other of. And sorry folks, but there are probably going to be times when you find yourself on the wrong side, at least from the perspective of the majority.
My purpose in both writing Anywhere But Here and this entry isn’t to bash my former workplace. These things happened a decade ago, and I must admit that I said and did things that weren’t wise and didn’t lead to the best resolution in the situations I faced. I certainly learned from those experiences and in retrospect, I’m glad I learned those lessons early in life or I certainlywouldn’t be where I am now. The purpose is to share lessons learned, because this is something that I believe everybody in the workforce faces at some time. It makes you feel isolated and lonely when it happens, but the truth is that you aren’t alone. Lots of people face it but few talk about it because frankly, it’s embarrassing.
I used to think that people playing office politics were selfish jerks that like to hurt people, but experience has shown me that it actually grows from a root of fear. People that play with power are insecure and doubt their own ability, so they create an elaborate game of turning people and things to their advantage. I’ve found that there are 2 good ways to identify a person that is likely to use power to their advantage:
1.They cling tightly to cliques that are made up of people that are higher on the chain of command than they are; and
2.They don’t associate with anybody on the chain of command below them unless it’s absolutely necessary - and those people better give them what they want immediately or it’s insubordination.
It’s the people in category #2 that usually find themselves on the losing end of office politics because any wrong word or deed will be met with fierce retaliation. I won’t say that I never see office politics anymore, but I have found that I find myself in these situations a lot less since I’ve been reclassified to a mid-level position. I’d like to think this is because I’ve proven that my knowledge and abilities are valuable, but it’s more likely that I learned valuable lessons on how to deal with these types from previous experience – and people know it.
So what’s the secret to dealing when you’re the victim of office politics? If you’re right, stand by that. Don’t ever cave in and take the quick and easy way out because that’s a temporary end. If they’d turn on you once, they’ll turn on you again. Caving in only shows that you can be taken advantage of, and they will milk that dry, plus the consequences of doing wrong will follow you a lot longer than standing up for what’s right. They might not like you, but they’ll respect you and at least know not to let you catch them with their hand in the cookie jar again. If you aren’t right, correct yourself immediately and stick to your guns in walking down the right road. And whichever situation you’re in, it’s imperative that you have patience. Truth will show itself in time and it will be end game then. It might take months or even years for things to come around, but they will and you’ll be better off for it. The reward will come in patient endurance, and it will be something that nobody can deny. Sure, there are people that are so stubborn that they’ll refuse to change their mind no matter what happens, but don’t worry about them. Leave them in their ignorance and move on because it’s highly probably that they’ll be gone in time themselves.
I believe Jana Lanning in Anywhere But Here is a good personification of office politics gone wrong, because she’s the one in the weakest position. She didn’t do anything wrong and in fact suffered for doing right, but recent personal losses kept her from taking a stand in the right way and the right timing. The people that create these situations are masters at turning things against you even if you didn’t do anything wrong, and it’s exhausting to constantly defend your own character. Unfortunately, she found this out too late and suffered the consequences of crossing the wrong people simply by being who she was and not deferring to people doing things wrong. She was right and had proof of it, but she didn’t know how to present that truth in a combative work environment. That happens sometimes, and it’s awful. I think the worst offence in the world is to have to suffer for other peoples’ mistakes, and office politics are the ultimate example of that.
I think this is why eople tell me that they find Jana Lanning so likeable. She’s a good person that doesn’t deserve the hard knocks that come her way from people taking advantage of her shy nature, youth, and inexperience. She makes the same mistakes that all of us made in our early adulthood and we understand her confusion at why life is kicking her around. Reality is a hard teacher, and it’s the only one that can do the job once school leaves off. Remember the movie “St. Elmo’s Fire” from the 80’s? That strange, new world opening up is the exact thing that Jana faces, and we understand exactly where she’s coming from. She, like the rest of us, has to learn to find those gems of opportunity in the rubble of defeat to rebuild a new life from shattered dreams. In some ways, we may even relate to her right where we’re at, because life is always teaching us lessons.
So no, I didn’t start out in life exactly like Jana did. I actually did marry my college sweetheart, but I never made it to graduate school because I found other things that I believed were worth more in my life than higher education. I never struggled with depression, but I knew (and still know) many who do battle that demon, and I hope Jana’s struggle helps people with depression understand that this is a battle they can win if they stay in the fight. But yes, I did go through an office merger in my early years in the workforce, and I found myself prey to the power plays, albeit in much different circumstances. All I can say is that wisdom comes from experience, and I gained plenty in those few years.
And lest you think it’s impossible for poor Jana to face so much at one time, I call your bluff. Too much smashing my life to bits was the catalyst for my next novel, Splinter – but that’s one for a future blog entry. I’ll address it closer to the release date in mid 2013. Until then, enjoy Anywhere But Here and my other books - information on them and links to buy are on the other tabs of this website. I hope you find entertainment and inspiration in them.
That’s all today.
I got my first “dud” Christmas gift when I was 16 years old. It was one of those “trolls” that were so popular in the early to mid-90’s. I don’t know if any of you remember them – they were small dolls with outfits and wild hair. They were quite the craze at the time, and one of my friends thought I’d like one.
I hated it. But I didn’t want to offend her, so I put on a smile and said “wow, it’s interesting.” Unfortunately, this friend didn’t know me well enough to know that “interesting” from me could me in a good or bad way. I meant the bad way. She thought I meant the good way. And the word spread. Then someone got the bright idea: Let’s help Sherri build up a troll collection.
I wound out with countless of these hideous, ugly figurines. The rumor even made it’s way to my family, who also bestowed me with several to add to my “collection.” I didn’t know what to do, because I understood their intentions were good and didn’t want to offend anybody. So for years, I had a corner of my room devoted to this hideous, ugly monstrosity building up in my life. By the time Rick and I started dating 3 years later, the collection took up an entire shelf on my bookshelf. They represented every holiday or possible event that had taken place in my life.
“That’s an interesting collection,” Rick commented.
“I hate them!” I said, finally cracking. “Somebody thought I liked them and told everybody!”
“Really? Then why do you have them up? That’s only going to encourage people to give you more of them.”
That made me think. I was in college by that time, and had lost touch with many of the old high school friends that gave me those horrible monsters. So I took the collection down. A few friends that visited asked about them later and I told them that I outgrew it and was no longer interested in the collection. Their popularity was waning by that time anyway (thank God), so I didn’t face too many questions over it.
Looking back, that whole three year scenario was avoidable. I could have been honest and told my friends that I appreciated the unique gift, but I didn’t want to make a collection out of them. Or I could have “regifted” it to a friend at another school the next year. I didn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings, but honesty really is better in the long run, and I resented those trolls for far longer than any feelings would have been hurt by just saying from the start that I didn’t like the things.
The point of this entry is that you’re going to get a gift that’s a dud every now and then. We celebrate the holidays every year, so it’s inevitable that something is going to be a bust from time to time. The secret is to handle these situations appropriately and as discretely as possible. If it’s a wrong size or style or if it’s something you can’t have because of allergy or health problems, be honest. Remember that people give you gifts because they want you to use them, and they’ll feel bad if you can’t. If it’s something that can be corrected, by all means talk to them and get it exchanged or refunded so the problem can be corrected. If it’s something that you can’t have because of your health, let people know because they don’t want their gifts to make you sick.
And if it’s a “troll” situation like mine, well, you have options. You can give it a try. I thought the slipper socks from my last entry were going to be another “troll,” but I tried them and they because a gem. Sometimes things do work out in unexpected ways. If you don’t want to give it a try, you can ask about exchanging it for something more appropriate, or you can regift it. I warn you, though, to note the name of the giver. Regifting to the person that gave you the present is rude, so be discrete and make sure you give it to somebody different.
Then there are those situations where the person gives you the same thing every year, and by golly they aren’t going to change no matter what. I’ve known a few people that give magazine subscriptions every year and they refuse to give anything else, even though many of their recipients have asked for something different every year. Likewise, I think we’ve all had the one relative that gives you a gift that you absolutely can’t use every year, and they won’t consider a change. These are usually situations where the giver has limited resources, and they probably can’t do much more. You have no choice but to accept these gifts. But take heart. You’ll probably appreciate those handmade towels or sweaters one day for happy memories, even if you wouldn’t dream of wearing them in public. And magazines can be shared, so take those issues to the “giveaway” table at work, or donate them to a local doctor’s or dentist’s office.
Incidentally, I ran across one of those pesky trolls when I took down the Christmas decorations a few weeks ago. I put it on the “giveaway” table at work. And surprisingly, somebody took it. Oh well, better them than me.
In this fourth entry of the From Sidekicks to Superheroes series, I’d like to talk about the devil. My point is rather fundamental – it’s that the devil does resist us when we try to be all we were meant to be. Simply stated, he lets no good deed go unpunished. The entire reason why sin and evil exist is because Satan hates humanity and wantsus to suffer. Period. He’s not going to let us have an easy life and we will have to fight the devil every day we walk this Earth.
I trust you understand all of that. I did offer more in the way of reflection on this point in Battleground Earth – Living by Faith in a Pagan World and I encourage you to check that out if you’re interested. For the sake of berevity, I am going to focus this entry on making an important distinction that I feel many people fail to make: That Satan is not the source of all the problems we face in our lives. Although he is the source of plenty of misery and suffering, the truth is that the things we come up against are sometimes the result of our own errors or (gasp!) God Himself resisting us. Let me explain:
Simply stated, we all make mistakes. We’re human and it happens. Sometimes, however, we’re so hung up on our own will that we aren’t willing to admit that we made the mistake. When that happens, God usually puts resistance in our way to give us an opportunity to stop for a moment and take stock. But if we refuse to heed these “warning shots,” then we become a victim of our own mistakes. Here’s an example from my own life:
When I graduated college, I intended to go to graduate school. I had all intentions of getting my Master’s Degree, but I was engaged and the desire to get married and start my own home was greater than further academic pursuit. Ok, I thought, I’ll take some time off, get established, and go back to school later. I did get married, we bought our home, and I found a job, which lead to a promotion a year and a half later. At the time my job had a tuition reimbursement program, so once my one year probation was over, I began looking into advanced degree program opportunities. As luck would have it, I did find one program that I was very interested in, and it qualified for the program. But that’s where the luck stopped.
As soon as I started the application process, I got a memo that the tuition reimbursement program was being cancelled due to budget problems. This was a first “sign” that something wasn’t right. I felt some doubt, but I plugged on. I submitted my application and started looking for grants, loans, and other types of financial aid. Once they received my application, another “sign” came: One of the program administrators called me and said the program didn’t have enough applicants for the following semester, so they were deferring all applicants until the following semester.
At this point, I had serious doubts. I had long dreamed of getting my Master’s degree, but the truth was that I was happy in my current job, and I was starting to wonder if it would be wise for me to take on this burden so early in our marriage. I finally, for the first time, prayed about the situation, and sensed that I was to do nothing for the time being. Allow things to unfold and see what happens.
A week later two things happened: I found out that our household income was too high to qualify for financial aid, and I got a letter from the college stating that due to low enrollment, the program had been disbanded.
Talk about a door slamming closed in your face! I heard the locks bolt and the chain slide too! But I got it – the Lord had me on the path I was meant to be on, and a higher education wasn’t part of it. That was an emotionally and heartbreaking incident for me, and I brought it upon myself. If I had taken time to pray and seek His will instead of following my own ambition, I could have saved so much time and trouble for myself.
There are times, however, when the devil does come against us. For example, that graduate program was reinstated several years later –right when Rick and I started the process of selling our old home and building a new one, in fact. We talked about it for all of 2 minutes before the graduate school option was thrown out completely, for once and for all. The timing and circumstances had finally come together for us to build, and when I took a good look at our life together, I realized that we had accomplished all we wanted by that point anyway without the advanced degree. I finally realized the graduate degree was nothing but selfish ambition for me. I traded “I” and “me” for “us”and “we” when I got married, and part of those marriage vows are to consider how what each does contributes to the whole; and an advanced degree contributed nothing to us as a couple. But I do feel like the devil threw that option at me at that point in time to see if we could be diverted from building our“dream home” and the life that the Lord wanted Rick and I to have together.
The point of this entry is that you must be aware of what’s happening in the spiritual realm if you hope to be authentic and have the victory that Christ died for you to have. It can be difficult to discern whether the things we face are satanic opposition, sowing consequences of our actions, or Holy Intervention, and I’m sorry to say there’s not an earthly litmus test for this. Your only test is that of prayer and the intervention of the Holy Spirit. If you lift up all things in prayer, the Spirit will reveal truth and show you the right way.
For the sake of berevity I’m going to close with this. Next time, we’ll talk about the 4 ways the devil attacks us and how to stand up to it.
Hi everybody, this is Jana Lanning from Sherri's upcoming novel Anywhere But Here. I got a text message from Rachel (from Blurry) saying that Sherri is letting her characters contribute to her blog every now and then. Well, since all the kids from Woodland are tied up with a football game tonight, I figured it would be nice and quiet and I could stop by tonight.
I've never had a blog myself before, so I hope I do this right. In fact, I usually don't get online much at all. I'm so busy with school and work - I'm a senior at the Coastal University in Palmetto Beach, SC and work part time at Dixion Financial, an accounting firm in town - that I don't have much free time. I spend most of it with my boyfriend, Darren, or my best friend, Amanda.
So today is my birthday! Mom and Dad came from Westwind Mountain to visit me today. They're staying the night in the beach house - they still can't believe I won't sleep in the master bedroom, but even after 4 years of living in the house while I'm in college, it still doesn't really feel like "my house." They would stay the whole weekend, but their church is contributing to a big community event tomorrow night, so they have to head back in the morning. (Whew! I don't miss that stuff! Being a Pastor's daughter meant I got plenty of that while I lived at home). It might work out for the best. Darren has to work until closing tonight, so he said we'd go out to celebrate my birthday tomorrow night. In fact, he has reservations at that resturant by the ocean that I love so much. He rarely gets a Saturday off, so I'm pretty excited.
Darren did give me my gift this morning before class - an opal necklass. It's very pretty. He said he knows it pales next to the three quarter carat diamond that Andrew gave Amanda for her birthday last month. I have to admit that it would be nice to have a diamond - after all, we have been together over three years. But we agreed not to rush things. We both are hoping to get in the MBA program at the University of South Carolina next fall, so there's probably a few more years of school ahead of us. Andrew and Amanda made it clear they're done with school once they get their degrees in May, so they're ready to move on. We aren't. But still, it would be nice. We could be engaged as long as we want. It's not like engagements expire or anything.
Oh, there I go again, rambling. I know I should be happy with what I have. It's like Darren says - we just want different things from life than Andrew and Amanda. There's nothing wrong with that.
Anyway, Mom and Dad got me an E-reader for my birthday. That will be nice. They also took me out shopping and out to lunch. We've had a pretty good day together. I hate that Darren didn't get to see them, but I understand how that is. It's hard when you work and go to school - time is pretty limited.
So that's what's happening in Palmetto Beach, SC today. So far, it's been a pretty good 22nd birthday. I hope the continued celebrations over the weekend are good as well!
Take care all. See you around.
What's in store for Jana and Darren? Watch for updates in this blog leading up to the release of Anywhere But Here in April 2012 through Whiskey Creek Press!
Hi everybody, pleasure to meet you. No, this isn't Sherri. Sherri's been a bit under the weather this week. She's been trying to find ways to simplify her life SO we FINALLY got her to agree to turn her blog over to the good folks from her writing from time to time. So who am I? This is Rachel Shull in Woodland, SC. You might know me from Blurry.
I'm an 18 year old senior at Woodland High School.
Maybe you folks can help me. My friend, Kirsten, has been acting weird since last weekend. When I see her she's fine and acts normal, but I swear it seems like she's avoiding me. We usually talk on Tuesdays because my band practice and her cheerleading practice end at the same time on those days, but she rushed outwithout speaking to me or Sasha this week. Then today she didn't have lunch with us - she claimed she had to go to the library, but Josh ran into her coming out of his shop class and she gave him the brush off too. Then today she came up to me before band practice and asked me - get this - how I feel about Danny.
How do I feel about Danny? Um, hello? He's my ex-boyfriend. How do you think I feel? That's odd. I mean, we talked about that break up all summer. And it comes back up now, after all these months? What the ...?
Sasha and Josh think she wants to hook up with Danny but I don't think so. I mean, she knows why I left him and she was never that fond of him while we were dating last year. Surly, she saw my mistakes with him. You can't change guys mixed up in rough crowds like that. The "bad boy" boyfriend was fun for a while but - yea, we've had that conversation a million times, it's not fun forever. She gets it.
Still, I wonder what this is about? Maybe I'll get to talk to her after the football game tomorrow night. I'm sure it's probably nothing.
Well, I better shove off. I have trigonometry homework (why am I taking that? I want to be a writer and a teacher, not a design professional! Oh well, stupid requirements) and a chapter of Psychology to read that didn't get done in study hall today. I hope all is well in your world.
Bye!What's going on with Rachel's best friend and her ex-boyfriend? Find out in Blurry, available at www.wingsepress.com !