Okay folks, I want to open this by saying that this is not a “shame on you” entry. I know I’m going up against things that have existed since the dawn of time, and I don’t pretend that this entry will open eyes and magically change the world. I’m merely trying to raise awareness of unrecognized perils to something that we all do, and hope it will lead to some wisdom in actions. Likely not, but you can’t plead ignorance after reading this entry.
I’ll cut to the chase. We all play favorites. It’s not a “thing” limited to certain places or relationships. We do it all the time and we do it everywhere. It happens in families (you know it does). It happens at work. It happens at church. It happens in clubs, societies, sororities, classrooms, emergency rooms, waiting rooms – hell, I’ve even seen it happen at the county dump when the cute blonde in the sporty car was waved ahead of me to empty trash. Call it “favoritism.” Call it “the good old boy system.” Call it “cliques” or “popularity contests.” Call it whatever you want. It happens.
I know everybody reading this is shouting and saying “oh hell no.” Oh hell yes. Let’s drop the pretense and b.s. for just a few minutes. I promise not to go on too long and you can resume the “formalities” momentarily. Besides, I’m trying to help you here. At least in my own, strip-off-the-nonsense-and-call-it-like-it-is way. And remember, I said we’re all guilty. Me too. You too. Everybody too. Even my birds have their “favorite humans.” This could well precede not only time and space, but all of creation. Partiality happens. There’s no stopping it.
It’s a simple fact that yes, we are predisposed to react more favorably to some people and situations than others. It’s personality – some just go together better than others. It’s also life experience – we relate better to those that have faced similar experiences or have a similar lifestyle. There are complex nature/nurture forces at play that make us more receptive and gracious toward some people than others. Likewise, there are some types we throw up our guard against. I mentioned in the last entry that it miffs me that charisma wins over character so much – that’s because I’ve been the victim of people using charisma to hide serious character flaws several times. Their “God bless us every one” demeanor was hiding a nasty temper bent on utter annihilation. So naturally, I don’t trust “popular” people because I see the red lightsaber just waiting to stab me.
That being said, it happens. Despite modern science, I doubt we ever unlock the secrets of the human personality. It’s too complex and this is one of those things that you can’t account for. We naturally like some people better than others. And conversely, we naturally dislike those that strike us unfavorably. There’s no cure for it. You can’t fix it and people are going to play favorites. It’s going to happen. Now here’s where we run into the problem:
Nobody likes being a “not favorite.” Anytime you complement somebody, anytime you recognize somebody, anytime you put someone on a pedestal or offer public praise or thanks, then other people will feel left out and perceive it as a slight. Because no man is an island and no matter how wonderful Mr. or Miss Wonderful is, it’s unlikely they did it on their own. And, sad to say, some people are very good at getting other people to do everything and having the credit funneled directly to their feet. But that’s another entry for another day. Recognition – and especially public recognition – can open a nasty can of worms that you don’t even know until they’re crawling up your leg. At best, the people you failed to recognize will quit on you, and you’re setting your favorite to the test of picking up the load. At worst, they’ll turn on you. And God help you if it’s a former favorite that you’ve changed your mind about and they know stuff. Ouch.
So does that mean public recognition of good service should be banned? Not at all. I’m just saying that if you want the dog to stay in the yard, then you need to throw them a bone. And not just the head of the pack – everyone in the yard needs a bone. So if you’re going to thank people, be sure that you take off what I call the “swell guy” blinders and open your eyes to everybody. Don’t hold one person up unless you have darn strong justification to do it. And going the extra mile to find out what speaks to a person can also help. Some people don’t want public recognition. My colleagues are smart enough to know an occasional “thank you,” showing interest in my writing, and a bar-b-que luncheon once or twice a year will keep me from squawking like a pissed off parakeet. Which is hilarious, because it didn’t take them long to figure that out and my former colleagues never did get it. Some things are a mystery because you choose not to put forth the two seconds to notice, eh?
My point is this – we all play favorites, but it helps to check yourself every now and then. Showing favoritism is generally considered impolite,; and I know we don’t care for etiquette in the 21st century, but this is a formality that perhaps needs to be reinstated. Did you notice in the paragraph above that I was open to what types I’m not partial to, but I didn’t mention what types I am partial to? No way I’m telling that. But at least you know what raises my defenses, so there’s my attempt at leveling the playing field. Now you know a trigger to avoid with me.
That being said, it might behoove you to quietly put your favorites in your inner circle and exercise discretion in your dealings. Don’t let it show. Throw the non-favorites something every now and then. And for goodness sake, if you do a public acknowledgement and get wind that somebody feels slighted, please take Dale Carnige’s advice to humbly apologize and rectify the situation. Digging in your heels and fighting to justify yourself won’t win friends or influence people. Just say “sorry, I am grateful for you and will be glad to acknowledge it with an apology for leaving you out,” do it, and let it go. That’s character and will close out the situation much faster that “well I did it because they did la de dah de dah and where were you then?”
And as for the rest of us, give us a bar-b-que luncheon. Yea, that’ll shut us up. For a minute.
That’s all today. You may now resume the formalities of pretending like we modern folks don’t do this crap.
It’s been one of those weeks where it seems like every question is a hard one, and unfortunately I’ve been designated as the “go to” person for those thorny questions that just don’t have a clear answer. I’m not sure how I got this honor. People say I’m smart, but I think it might have more to do with the fact that I’m not afraid to make up an answer if “I don’t know” won’t do. And of course, it often won’t. Hence, my inventive instincts kick in and alas, the unanswerable continues to come to me for an answer. I don’t know why others aren’t comfortable taking what they know and extrapolating an answer. Maybe it’s my personality. Or maybe it’s because I’m not afraid to do it.
Still, despite my creative instincts, there are still some things that I just don’t get. Don’t call me a “know it all” yet people, because I don’t understand:
1. Why charisma wins popularity but integrity isolates. I know people swarming with friends that don’t do anything for anybody but the almighty “I” and others that give and give, and people tell them it’s never good enough. Real story: I can tell you of instances when I took off work to go to funerals or to visit people when they were sick. “Thanks!” they said, but once they recovered I was relegated back to my place on the Christmas card list while they ran right back to their buddies that were too busy and couldn’t be bothered with “using their leave like that” or dropping a card in the mail. Why was my time out not good enough but their casual “oh, sorry for your loss” when you went back to work okay?
2. Why is it fine for some people to “be like that” but others need to get their act together. This harkens to my last entry about how it seems people like some people and their problems more than other people and their problems. An undependable person that you can’t trust to show up when they say they will is thought of as a “swell guy” because he has that charisma and can light up a room with cheerful banter. “Yea he’s not dependable, but that’s just him!” People say. But his shy neighbor that always shows up when he’s needed is “shady” because “I just don’t know if I can trust him. He really needs to be more open and honest with people.” I tell you; it seems that character doesn’t matter anymore. Why doesn't "swell guy" need to clean up his act and keep his word? And better yet, why do people get angry and defensive if you even hint at such a thing? It seems to me like people pick their friends arbitrarily and they won’t get facts get in the way of what they want to believe.
3. What's up with cliques? Why, people? They’re useless. You don’t have to be in one to have friends. I know because I’m not a group or clique person and I get along with people just fine. In fact, if I ask people questions then they usually tell me things because they know I’m not going to gossip or use it to create drama. Which brings me to my next item …
4. Gossip and drama. OMG. Why even bother? I have enough to deal with without having drama stirred up by people being sensitive and/no nosy. As the saying goes, nobody’s got time for that. At least I don’t.
5. Why are we quick to assume the worst of those we know and the best of strangers? Some people do. Here’s a recent conversation I had:
Them: “There was a bag in my yard this morning! Why would my neighbor throw their trash in my yard?”
Me: “You saw them do it? Why didn’t you ask them about it?”
Them: “No! I mean, it was between our houses. Do you think they pushed it on my side?”
Me: “So you’ve counted out that a stranger driving by might have thrown it out of their car and it blew into your yard?”
Them: “Oh. I didn’t think about that.” Pause. “Could that happen?”
Me: “I’ve seen bags blow in my yard a lot and its windy out today. But hey, you know your neighbor. If you think they did it …”
Them: “No! They probably wouldn't ... I mean, it probably blew in my yard.”
Why were they quick to blame the neighbor and count out a stranger being an igit? I don’t know. And yet, this is a small example of what I see often. People are harsh with those they claim to love and will grant eternity’s grace to strangers. It seems to me it should be the other way around: suspect the stranger, assume the best of the inner circles. But who am I to say? It seems human nature is drifting toward assuming the worst in a lot of cases. We see nefarious intentions everywhere.
6. The weatherman can be wrong 50% of the time (or more) and keep a job. Could you keep your job with a record like that?
7. Why does everybody want Friday off? Friday is my easy, catch up day because of staff shortages and slower calls/emails/mail. I want Monday off. That’s the day everybody comes back and it hits the fan.
8. Yield signs. I saw somebody stop at one a week ago for the first time in I can’t remember when. People ignore them. We need to replace them with Stop signs.
9. Wearing a watch on an airplane when you’re crossing time zones. I learned the futility of this when I went to Arizona. I think I was the only one on the plane wearing one. And yet, I was pestered to death. “What time is it in Charlotte? How long have we been in the air? How much longer till we land?” Why ask me these questions? The watch doesn’t control time and its ability to tell it was compromised. Next time, I don’t wear it or hide it in my carry on. Geeze.
10. Why do thermostats even have settings below 70 degrees or over 75 degrees? You know people get uncomfortable at temperatures outside that range. Choices, schmoices. Build HVAC systems for reality, folks!
11. Why is everybody wearing yellow today? I’ll wear my new yellow shirt, I thought this morning. Then I got here and saw about 10 people coming in wearing yellow. What’s up with that?
I don’t know. These are some of life’s questions that I can’t even hazard a guess. So I suppose my inventive instincts aren’t that sharp after all. But maybe they do still work to a degree, because the beauty of being a writer is that I can pass the questions I can’t answer on to you, the reader, and let you be the judge. Heh heh heh.
That’s all today. Happy Friday to you. Have a great weekend.
Is change. Life is always in motion, and if there's one thing we can bet on, it's that nothing stays the same forever.
This is the season where this truth seems to really hit us. It's when the families are gathering around the table and the decorations come out of the attic. All those memory triggers of holidays past reminds us of how things aren't what they used to be - and makes us wonder how much longer they will stay as they are. Memories of times gone by can make this season happier by discovering the richness of what we've developed in life, or sad when we consider what's lost. A lot is a matter of perspective. We all face growth and loss. It can be a tough emotional rollar coaster to deal with the satisfaction of great accomplishments mixed with the grief of those not here to celebrate with you.
All of this makes the holidays a complex time. Some people are better with dealing with change than others. There are those that adapt, adjust, and roll along, just happy to be where they are. And there are others that have a very hard time dealing with change and fight tooth and nail to keep things the same, even though it's apparant that the "old ways" won't work anymore. Invariably, it seems those types will be mixed within the same friend and/or family group. Oh, the cell phone conversations I overhear this time of the year!
I did a blog series last year on surviving the holidays and I believe the one key thing I kept coming back to was that if you're doing your best, then be satisfied with it. Other people have two choices: Take it or leave it. People may gripe (naturally), but in the end they usually settle down and decide the holidays will be merrier if they choose the path of acceptance over the path of resistance. In most cases, anyway (that's not to say there aren't some that thrive on conflict, but that is an issue I addressed in my blog series earlier this year on villians - I believe it was around Easter).
I'll add one more lesson I've discovered of late. You can't let other people or situations bother you. They're going to do what they're going to do, and it's a waste of emotional energy to let it fly all over you and go into a tizzy over. Likewise with situations - there are so many things you can't control, and to worry about it is a merry-go-round of defeat. Deal with situations the best way you can and move on. I recently realized that I wasted a great deal of time and emotional energy complaining and fretting over what other people do, and it's a 100% waste. They're gonna do what they're gonna do, and they aren't changing for anybody. So deal with them and the situations that come up in life the best you can, and move on. Worry, fussing, and fretting get you nowhere - it's action that counts. So spend your time thinking, reflecting and acting on what is, plan wisely, and trust that things will work out, or that you will know how to deal if a wrench flies into your plans.
Sometimes making the best of the holidays requires changing the way we think about things, and that can be hard. In fact, I believe that changing the way you think is the hardest thing you can do.But it can be done. I can tell you that from experience. I can also tell you that while it's hard, it's well worth it. Changing your life starts with changing how you think, and this holiday season might be the perfect time to make an early resolution that you aren't going to be consumed with stress, anxiety, grief, anguish, or fear over making it the perfect holiday. In fact, let's make Change #1 right now: Don't try to make it perfect. We live in an imperfect world, and an expectation like that will fail. Make it the best you can and decide you'll be happy with it.
I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and that those of you on the road home today have safe travels. Here's hoping you have a good week, and welcome to the 2012 Holiday Season!
I think what I really need is to cut my life back to basics and take stock of what I have and how to best nurture the things most important to me.
Fall is naturally the busiest time of year for me, and coiencidentally it's when people want to "get together" the most too. Football season is usually the excuse for this - "let's get together to watch the game!" And I've been a social butterfly these past couple of months and participated in all sorts of gatherings, visits and get togethers.
But folks, this butterfly needs to retreat to her cocoon. No offence, but the Carolina's bye week didn't come soon enough for me this year. I need to sit out a few. The season is going on, but my "to do" list and my schedule don't get it. There are things I need to tend to around the house and with the technology committee at church. I know I said I was going to take a hiatus from my in-progress writing projects, but I really do want to get back to them with as few distractions as possible, and that means I need to put my nose to the grindstone and get things done now. And if you want me at my best during the busy holiday season, well, I need a break.
I mean no offence, of course. I just need some time to myself every now and then to catch up, rest up, take stock, and move on. I need to recharge my batteries and right now I'm running low. I've come to the conclusion that I must be an anomoly, because this seems to be a need that not many other people have. Other than my family, only Rick and one other person has admitted to needing time to themselves. It seems others actually clamor to fill those empty spaces in their lives to the point where there's no quiet, no hiatus, no opportunities to simply "be" and exist in communion with the Lord and the world. Doing, doing, doing. Well, I admire their energy and their tireless dedication to their social schedule, but I'm not afraid I can't operate like that. My life is very full right now and all the "blessings" keep me quite busy. It can be a challenge to find those moments and days with an empty spot on the calender. And they aren't usually give, so it looks like I'm going to have to take them.
I'm burned out. I need to clear off my plate to I can be true to my priorities and focus on what really matters - not on what the world says should matter.
So I'm starting today. I'm sitting out the USC-Florida game. I know, it's a big one and how could I. It's simple, really. The need for quiet in my soul outweighs "the big game." As I said, I need some time to catch up on some stuff around the house and with church so I'll be free to resume work on Move next month when I end my writing hiatus, and what better time than by focusing on that while the rest of the world (around here) is tuned into the big game. Plus, I still have Feathered Frenzy to finish, and I already have an idea for my next writing project which is a novella I hope to start in 2013. And promotion work on my already published works never ends. So there's lots to do there and I really need to get focused and get back to work on my writing soon, and taking care of the other things on my plate will really help with that.
I know life won't always be like this. I'm quitting volunteer activities in 2013, so I won't have to make decisions based on things like this soon. That was another decision I made this week. I need fewer meetings in my life and the truth is that I need to focus my time away from work on home, family and writing and that doesn't leave time for much else. I wanted to be more involved at church, and I will certainly continue to be a greeter and help with activities as I can, but I can't be bound to a committee anymore. It just doesn't work in my busy life.
As for the rest - well, eventually I'll retire from work, so that won't always be eating up most of my weekdays, but that's far away as I'm not even at the halfway point of my career. Frankly, I do have concerns about being bored if I didn't work, but those aren't concerns I need to ponder now or any time soon. Until then, it's the immovable object in my life and I have to work around it. Those aggrivations and annoyances aren't going to stop and I have to march on and do what must be done because it's my responsibilty and financial support, now and in the future. That's a reality for most people and it's something that should be easy to understand and respect.
Yes, life is busy, and sometimes it won't give you what you need so you have to take it. That's what I'm going to to today. Because if I don't take care of myself and my needs, then I'm not much good to anybody else, now am I?
That's all today. I hope you have a great weekend.
I had a mixed bag weekend – some good, some bad, some ups, and some stuff that outright pissed me off. But hey, no need to rehash, right? Instead I’ll offer some random musings from the weekend, and beyond (specifically, today).
To my friends in real life and online, I say thanks for your kindness and patience. You know that Rick and I have been adjusting to changes in our jobs and that’s always challenging. We’ve needed an extra measure of grace and patience and you have been a blessing to us with your grace and kindness. God bless you for sticking it out. May I show the same grace, kindness and mercy to you in your hour of need. If by chance I don’t, kick me in the rear and remind me. Really, sometimes I can get so absorbed into home/family/work/life that I miss things that are happening right next to me, so jab me with an elbow every now and then if I wander off for too long.
To those that have been getting in touch with their inner jerk and have shown us no such patience or understanding and have kept right on demanding and being their bad selves, thank for feeding my muse.
I was stuck on amping up “show don’t tell” spirits in Move and thanks be to God, now I know exactly how to fix this up right. So thanks. Oh come on, I’m a writer! Please, don’t act surprised. Fiction comes from reality folks – if you didn’t know that then welcome to an uncomfortable truth. All writers do it. And be glad, because revenge turns nasty. You should be glad writers will channel it to their muse instead of taking it into reality. Because reality beats you bad enough. No need to help it out.
Actions have consequences, you know, and I’m out of the business of trying to protect people from them. I try to help and support others, but if you say “praise the Lord! God bless you!” and then you lie, or you’re rude, you
try to manipulate people through guilt or favors, or you belittle or try to shame people, then nobody can hear the praise coming out of your mouth because they’re too busy gawking at the devil riding you like Harry Potter rides a broom during a Quiddish match. I shared a musing on Twitter yesterday about how somebody talked about giving, then criticized others that were trying to help them for not doing good enough. Here’s the response I got:
Six day sinners; one day saints.
Ouch. But you know what? My agnostic friend is right. I can’t defend that. I had to say yep, you’re right. Just play-acting and no real fruit of the spirit there.
By the way, folks, that’s an easy litmus test to see if somebody is acting in true faith or if it’s nothing but “eternity’s fire insurance.” Look for the fruits of the Spirit in their life as described in Galatians 5:22 which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Obviously nobody
has all of these in abundance in their life and there are areas where we all struggle, but you should see more there than missing in these qualities if they have a true, Spirit based life.
Personally, it’s gentleness that I struggle with. I just want to kick everything in the rear until it gets in order. I have a low tolerance for crap and shenanagins and don’t want to waste my time playing games and messing
around when it’s more efficient to just do things right the first time. But that’s just me.
But back to my point – if a person is singing praises all day but they’re always frantic and struggling with
problems and are in turmoil and conflict, well, there’s your sign. Likewise if nothing’s ever good enough. We all have problems and sometimes it’s easier to deal with them than others. We all need grace from time to time. It’s when it becomes a constant cycle of drama that it might behoove you to tread carefully. Or run like hell. It depends on the person and the situation.
Well, now I know. Once again, those that are true are confirmed and the rotten fruit started to stink. It happens from time to time. Such is the nature of life. What can you do? Take the lesson, make wise decisions, and move on.
I'll admit that I'm frustrated. I'm tired, I'm aggrivated, and my patience is pretty much shot - and Rick's in the same place I am because we've faced the same things here and he shares my sentiments. Right now, the less people ask of us, the better.The ones that don't add to our load right now with invitations, "hey, how about we schedulethis or that" and "please help!" will win our respect and our good graces the fastest because we're up to our eyeballs and trying to keep our heads above water right now, and we really don't need an anchor thrown at us. The good friends I described above are being respectful of that, and I so appreciate them. You know who you are because I've given you mentions and shout outs on social media. If others wonder how people wound out on that list, well, this is how. Again, not rocket science.
As for the rest, the damage is done and now there's nothing for it but to clean it up and move on. I’m grateful for what’s true and have corrected what slipped out of line. And I got a heck of a boost to my muse too. Heh heh heh.
That’s all for today. More later. Enjoy this video by my favorite band.
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.
Two years ago, I opened my Open Salon blog with an entry on why most New Year's Resolutions fail. In retrospect, I believe I took the wrong angle on the subject. I should have taken a more positive and helpful approach by addressing what makes them work, instead of how they fail. In this final entry in the "Surviving the Holidays With Your Sanity Intact" series, I'd like to discuss this issue. Don't worry - it won't be a lengthy dissertation. In fact, in two years of retrospect and reflection on that entry, I see that there's really one secret to making those resolutions stick.
In order for a New Year's Resolution to work, it has to be something that you believe in. Simple as that.
Ok, maybe it's not so simple. We live in a world full of voices that tell us what we should do, what we ought to be. You should diet and exercise, they say. You should get organized, they say. You should break a bad habit, they say. Good advice, except for one thing: Who are "they?" And what do "they" know about what's truly in your heart?
Perhaps this is harsh. Maybe "they" are concerned friends or family members. Maybe "they" are colleagues or neighbors or acquaintances. Maybe "they" mean nothing but the very best and "they" really and truly believe that these suggestions are for your own good. The problem is that "they" don't live your life every minute of every day. You do, and if you aren't happy with it then you'll only be able to force yourself to do something to make others happy for so long before you crack.
Don't get me wrong. It is helpful to be held accountable, but the fact of the matter is that people aren't going to be there every minute of every day to hold you up. Nobody is going to follow you around to make sure you get on the treadmill, or avoid the vending machine, or tidy up before you leave today. There's no substitute for self discipline and you're only going to have it if your resolution is something that is meaningful to you on a deep, personal level.
That's not to say that the common resolutions are wrong - just that you need to make sure you have a reason that is meaningful to you. Start the diet and/or exercise program to get in better health. Clean up to feed a personal need to get more organized and efficient in your life. Take that class in something that your passionate about. Write that novel because it's a story that you feel passionate about sharing with the world. Volunteer with that committee or group because it's a cause you believe in. You alone are the only one that knows what speaks to you, and I urge you to search within to find out what you truly long for in your life when making those New Year's Resolutions.
Thanks for joining me for another blog series! I hope this has been inspirational and helpful. 2012 promises to be another exciting year with my next novel, Anywhere But Here, scheduled for publication in 2012. I plan to take you through the journey to publication when it goes into pre-production in the coming weeks. I will also continue to work on publicity for my novels and will tackle another type of writing that I have long needed to improve in: Short stories. Stay tuned!
Happy New Year everybody!
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s almost here: Christmas, the most magical time of the year. Weeks of planning, coordination, and frantic planning are about to come to their purpose as that blessed date finally arrives.
As we come upon Christmas, I’d like to urge all of you to remember the reason for the season. It’s so easy to get caught up in full schedules, gift buying, parties, family, friends, food and fun that we forget WHY we’re celebrating. It isn’t about gifts, decorations, meals, or Santa. It’s about the most wonderful gift that humanity has been given: Christ, our King who brings our salvation.
We talk about family, friends and church. These are wonderful gifts, but remember that the core of why we celebrate is the personal victory that Christ gave us when he died on the cross and defeated Satan for once and for all. It’s our responsibility to claim that victory and the free Grace of God that is offered with it. Nobody can do it for us. This is a free gift offered to each and every one of us and we alone must claim it. This is a time to give thanks for it. Remember that we join together to give thanks to Christ for coming into this world. We give gifts to one another as symbols of the wonderful gift of Salvation that Christ has given to us. We celebrate because we know that we’re free from the devastating consequences of sin on our soul and know we have eternal life.
I know the days ahead are full, but please take some quiet time to reflect on the reason for all of the activity in the coming days. Otherwise, it becomes another item on the “to do” list. Christ deserves better than that.
It isn’t about putting on the “perfect holiday.” It’s about celebrating the “perfect gift” that we have, now and always, throughout all of eternity. Thanks be to God.
As we enter the frenzy of holiday shopping, I feel it’s necessary to address the ultimate gift giving debate that we face in trying to finish up that shopping list:
Gift cards – great gift idea or the ultimate cop out?
Opinions are widely divided on this issue. Personally, I love gift cards. I’m at the point in life where I have what I need, and my list of “wants” isn’t very long. Most of my needs are in the areas of replacing things that wear out or break (like clothes), and gift cards make this much easier. In fact, one of our favorite post-holiday traditions is taking a day after the family get togethers are over is taking advantage of great post-holiday sales with those gift cards.
My family agrees, and buying gift cards does make holiday shopping much easier. Ah, but herein lies the debate. The opposite end of this argument is that buying gift cards is too easy – that it’s not personal and shows no consideration for the recipient. I had a friend once that thought gift cards were not only a cop out, but insulting and rude as well, because “if you know someone well enough to buy them a gift, then you should know what they like and take time to select an appropriate present for them.”
I can see both ends of this debate. On the one hand, gift buying is tough when you buy gifts for the same people, year after year. After some time, you’ve given them everything you know to give, and finding unique gift ideas becomes impossible. I know that the last thing I need are more trinkets or nick-nacks to clutter up my home or work space and collect dust. Gift cards are a great way of acknowledging that you know what kinds of places they like, and giving them the gift of choosing a present that they want or need. Plus, it’s great if you have to ship gifts to people, because there are greeting cards with gift card slots, so you can send it to them with little (or no) additional postage.
On the other hand, there are some situations where giving gift cards is inappropriate. I’d never suggest giving it to a child that’s under about 10 years old, because they want to open presents and the concept of waiting even longer to get their gift is torture. Likewise, it’s also inappropriate for a person you’ve been in a romantic relationship with for less than two years. There are plenty of special, personal gifts you can give for these occasions. It’s also not practical for elderly people that have health issues that limit their mental function or mobility, as they simply can’t use them unless a caregiver takes them out or uses it on their behalf. The point of a gift is to give the recipient something they can use personally, and this point is moot if the person isn’t able to go out or use the Internet to cash in the card.
Then there are the people that just don’t like them. I guess they do have a point – gift giving is about considering the recipient. Perhaps they just don’t like going out much, or buying online. If that’s the case and you’re completely stumped on what to get them, well, these are the people they make the nick knacks for. Every store I’ve been so far has had gift racks of miscellaneous items and kits for use around the home. Charging stations and desk organizers seem to be very popular this year, as do flashlights, handkerchiefs, mini game sets, whistle key rings, make up sets, nail polish sets, lotions, holiday jewelry, and small cleaning kits. Some people appreciate these fun, whimsical items. I don’t. But somebody must because they’re on sale every year and seem to keep moving every holiday season.
In the end, I believe the safest course of action is to ask. It’s not insulting or rude, and I think it’s much easier to be honest than to guess and risk giving them a dud gift (which is something I’ll address in a future entry). After all, our time and energy are limited, and we are at a point where we simply don’t have time to play games or guess anymore.
And if all else fails and they really hate gift cards, suggest skipping the gift and going out for a meal or a movie together after the holidays are over. Because it really is the thought that counts – and in the end people care more about the thought behind the gift than the gift itself.
No actually, we can't. But that's a common sentiment this time of year, so now is the perfect time for a lesson in reality. There are three reasons why we can't "just get along," at the holidays or any time.
Reason #1 is personality conflicts. Each and every one of us is a unique creation with a personality that's a complex mix of genetics, environmental influences, and collective experience. Modern science still doesn't have a clue as to how these factors mix to make us who we are, and it doesn't look like they will any time soon. What we do know, though, is that certain personality types just don't play well together, and there's not much you can do about it. We naturally clash with our polar opposites, and there's no way to you can see eye to eye with somebody who thinks and sees the world from a viewpoint that's so drastically different from our own that we can't fathom it. So if your spouse is the emotional polar opposite of one of your parents or siblings, expect frayed nerves. People can't see eye to eye on what they don't understand, and the best you can hope for is an agreement to disagree. Demanding harmony is like lighting a stick of dynamite and being surprised when it blows up.
Reason #2 is unrealistic expectations. Sometimes we expect people to do things they simply can't do - we want them to rise to levels they can't reach yet. Feelers won't become thinkers, fighters won't become diplomats, sci-fi fans won't turn to romantic comedies, and some people won't clean their house no matter what day it is. Can people change? Absolutely. Will they change? That's a personal choice. Should they change? That's an issue best left between them and the Lord, and it's wise to stay out of that territory.We could do ourselves a great favor to accept people for what they are right now - not what we want them to be, or hope they'll become "someday."
Reason #3 is that relationships aee copmlicated and sometimes things happen that create conflict that simply can't be repaired by the magic of the holiday season, It takes a long time to rebuild breeched trust, and that process isn't going to speed up because there's a date in red on the calendar this month. You must accept that we're all human beings and, by nature, are flawed. It's literally impossible for everybody to get along. Sometimes you have to decide which relationships matter the most and focus your attention on nurturing them, even if you must neglect others you'd like to make happy and even if you aren't asked to make the choice. It's not taking sides - it's good, old fashioned, common sense. Everybody in the world isn't going to love you. In fact, I can guarantee that at least 50% of the world will have a problem with you - more, if you insist on trying to make everybody happy. But at least if you're honest people will know exactly where they stand with you, and 100% of people appreciate honesty like that, even if they don't like you.
I know this is tough because we all want our holiday to look like a Norman Rockwell painging, but it would behoove us to remember that our expectation for a perfect holiday is art, and we live in reality. That doesn't change, no matter what time of year it is. You can accept people as they are and be happy with their best, or you can cling to unrealistic expectations and deal with inevitable frustration. Because when you fight reality, you never win. This world has been here far longer than any of us have, and trying to bend it to your will is an exercise in futility. You fare better if you accept reality and do your best with it.
The choice is yours.