Hi all, I hope you've had a good week. It's been quite a week for me - but a good one! So far this week, I've celebrated an anniversary, finished a draft of a writing project, and had my brain blown three times. Here's a rundown of the week:
1. Rick and I celebrated our 15th anniversary yesterday! Yep, that's a picture of us on the big day. It's hard to believe it's been that long, or that we're old enough to have been married that long! But we have, and we've come a long way even if we don't have kids. We've built a home, built careers, are building our personal endeavors (his website design and my writing), have our 3 birds, and are lucky that both of our families are still alive and nearby. It's been a great journey and we look forward to many more years. And as part of celebrating our anniversary ...
2. We saw Star Trek Into Darkness
today. Wow. Completely unbelievable and definitely outdid the last movie. A must see. At the risk of being lambasted, I'll be bold enough to say it's better than Iron Man 3. I completely trust J.J. Abrams with Star Wars now. Mine = blow. I don't want to give anything away, but I'll give you this advice if you haven't seen it yet: see Star Trek II - The Wrath of Kahn if you haven't recently. Yea, there are "references." It's amazing how they can change the history of that franchise the way they did and things are the same, and yet not. It was beyond phenomenal. Go see it. On the big screen. Now.
3. I ask for your prayers. An opportunity has opened up to me, and I ask that you pray for the Lord to give me favor in achieving it. It would be a tremendous blessing for me and Rick. I can't say too much about it now, but if it works out then you'll hear all about it. It may be a while before we know, but hey, we can use all the prayer power we can get!
4. Time for my season finale roundup! The season finales of Arrow
ran Wednesday night and again, mind = blow. They were amazing. Here's a short recap of my impression of each season:Arrow
- If you aren't watching this show, you should be. They hit the ground running and never let up. No dull character development episodes in this season - it's all action, and the combat scenes are amazing. Then again, Oliver Queen better be able to throw it down, because it takes a lot of guts to go against people with guns (especially one with the nickname "Deadshot") with a bow and arrow - yet he does, and holds his own impressively. For all of you that thought The Green Arrow was a "minor" DC Character, I can assure you that he can hold his own and proves it well through this series. The finale was no exception, and in fact had it's share of surprises that shouldn't have been surprises, but they signs that these "red herrings" were planted were very subtle. Kudos to the writers, producers, cast, crew, and everybody involved for making this a "must see" show in my home and many others every week. I'll even go so far as to say that I like Arrow
better than I liked Smallville
. Yea, it's that good. Supernatural
- I was glad to see the Winchesters get back to angels and demons this season. That whole thing with the leviathans and monsters just - wasn't as good. They're okay in bits and pieces throughout the season, but I didn't care for it as a central focus. Thankfully, they got back to basics this season and it was good to see. They definitely upped the ante with the demon tablet and the whole "closing the gates of hell" theme. Then an angel tablet pops up and that adds a dimension that has this show back to what it's meant to be. I did miss Bobby this season, but I think they forged on in his absence quite well, all things considered (and I thought Garth taking Bobby's place was weirdly appropriate. I wish we had seen more of that. He's goofy, but I think his character is a good balance to Sam and Dean's kicking a** and taking names approach - I mean, somebody needs to take the brainiac approach to the whole demon hunting thing, right? Anyway, well done and glad to see them getting back to basics, although that cliffhanger - wow! OMG. What a mess. Can't wait to see how they get out of THIS one.
So now it's all about summer reruns. Good for folks that need to for catching up. And I guess I have plenty to keep me busy because ...
5. I finished the rough draft of Incursion
, my sci-fi novella-in-progress, Monday night. No joke, folks, I wrote 12 chapters plus a prologue and epilogue in 13 days. I accomplished this feat because I kept waking up in the middle of the night with ideas for it, and this progressed into insomnia. Yea, the fun of being a writer, especially one with a full time job. I wrote on lunch hours. I wrote at night. I wrote on weekends. And I got the draft done in record time because I do need to sleep occasionally. So this summer's project will be getting that novella shaped up and ready to self publish, hopefully this fall. I'll keep you updated on the progress.
6. We managed to get our satellite bill down and upgraded our Internet speed. Because we realized that we're online much more than we are behind the boob tube, so to speak, and how we spend our $$$ needs to reflect that.
7. I don't know now many of you are familiar with Disco the Parakeet, but he was on the Take Two segment on The Today Show this morning at 9 a.m. Go Disco! Bird to your mother! What an awesome keet. He's the same age as Ollie and we love him here. Look up Miss Jumpin Jude on You Tube
for his videos. You'll love it. He's one great avian talent!
8. And finally, we're gearing up for a birthday here. Chloe's birthday will be Monday, May 20th! Actually, we celebrate it then because that's the date we "adopted" her (or as our bird friends like to say on Twitter, it's her "Gotcha Day"). She's 10, but it'll be three years since we adopted her. What a sweet little hen! We love you, Chloe! Hen power!
So it's been a busy week, but all in a good way. I'll take it. I hope you've had a great week as well. Happy Friday to you, and I hope you have a great weekend.
I'm off work today for Confederate Memorial Day. Believe me, we got plenty of flack when they started giving us that day off as a holiday. It was actually part of the compromise for removing the Confederate Flag from the State House dome. As part of the deal, the flag was moved, and Martin Luther King, Jr., day and Confederate Memorial Day were added as official State Holidays (but I think State Employees are the only ones that actually close their offices on this day).
I know it's obscure, but before you start squawking tell me: Would you refuse a day off? I won't. Not even on principle. Plus, honestly, I think they're required to give us so many holidays a year and I think we just ran out of the major ones, so we had to move on to secondary ones to get the extra day in.
Well, a day off's a day off, and I plan to enjoy it. It gives me a chance to get some little things done that usually sit until they pile up to the point where I have to make time for them. That's good. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that efficient time management is a must for a busy lifestyle.
That's a good point to ponder on this extra day off. Somebody asked me recently how on earth I find time to write with a full time job. The short answer is efficient time management. I'm lucky that I was taught that in college, and it's one of the skills I've found most useful in my life. It isn't always easy, but the truth is that we make time for things that are important to us, whether we realize it or not. Writing nights and weekends is the obvious answer, but I have to admit that I make a fair amount of progress by taking my laptop to work and writing on lunch breaks too. It's only an hour, but if I do that two times a week then it's the equivalent to another weeknight of work. And another secret is that I don't watch much TV. I watch 3 shows during the fall season (Arrow, Supernatural, and The Americans - all come on the same night, so I can "block out" Wednesday nights for that), and 1 show during the summer (Breaking Bad). I look up news and weather online so I don't have to watch it on TV. And yes, occasionally I do forego recreation to get writing done. I've passed on watching football games, lunches out, and shopping or "hanging out" on days off like today to write. And I have to humbly admit that I even write on sick days, if possible. One reason I made good progress on my novella this week was because I was sick with a virus Monday, but I drug myself out of bed and wrote a chapter anyway. It isn't always easy, but with some planning you can make time for things.
I tell you, a busy life is a blessing. It's a life of abundance, but you have to manage it wisely to experience and enjoy it to the fullest.
Speaking of the novella, it has a name now - Incursion. It looks like it going to be 10 chapters with a prologue and epilogue. I know the pros recommend against prologues and epilogues, but I like it and that's my style. If people like the piece then they'll read it. Plus, I endeavor to keep them short. To me, they're the bookends of the story and I'm not going to abandon them just because it isn't popular. Platform shoes went out of style after the 70's, but darn if I don't see women wearing those atrocities again all the time. So there. Style is a poor reason to change something that works for you. Or to do something that doesn't work.
Anyway, I've written 5 chapters so far, which is excellent progress. More than I expected at this point, really. But alas, I did push myself to make this progress and my wrists are achey, so once I complete this entry then I do plan to take a break from the keyboard for the rest of today and tomorrow. You have to balance the planning and time management with common sense, and I won't make any progress at all if I push it too far with my wrist. So given my good progress this week, I'm using today to spend time with other people and things that I wish to nurture in my life. Like hanging out with the birds, tending my roses, and having lunch with Mom. A day off is a rare gift, and I want to enjoy it to the fullest.
That's all today. I hope you have a Happy Friday and that the mom's out there have a good Mother's Day.
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.
The recent news that our church is losing our head pastor and may lose our associate pastor to new jobs/opportunities has many people sad and confused. They are, after all, great pastors and leaders, and have been wonderful to and for our congregation. It's scary to lose them and to wonder what the future holds. No doubt, we as a congregation are in for a long process of finding the right person/people to serve as our leadership into the future.
I too am sad to see them go, but on the other hand I'm relieved that they are leaving on good terms. I honestly can't begrudge a person taking advantage of oppotunity. Any person would be a fool not to - after all, it's just stupid to stay in a rut because it's comfortable if the Lord is opening an opportunity for growth and advancement to you. While I will miss them and the stable support they have provided our congregation, I have to say that I'm happy to see them advancing in their careers and their lives, and I believe it's wise for them to seize these opportunities.
There's another side to this, though, that I don't think people are considering, and that's what I call the "graceful parting" scenario. Honestly, if people are questioning where they are in life and want to pursue a new or different course, I believe it's best for them to seek and take advantage of those opportunities and to leave gracefully and on good terms. These pastors are doing that. There is no controversy. There are no allegations of wrongdoing or shady morals. They aren't being run off. They are simply progressing along the path of life and that path has come to a fork in the road where they have chosen a divergent path. There's no wrong in that and if they want to go a different way, I admire them for acting on what's in their heart and going with the best of intentions for all.
I can speak to this from experience. Two years ago when legislation was in the State House to move the programs I work with (and, as a result, me) to a new department, things got, for lack of a better word, awkward. The department I was out was transferring the programs/me due to an internal transition they were going through in an effort to streamline and to operate in a more efficient and cost effective way. They were under strain and as a result put pressure on the powers that be to make things move - NOW, by the way, because they had to get these changes through before the end of the fiscal year in June. The problem was that, although they started the process well ahead of time for me, things don't move through the legislature in a great hurry. And so we waited, and panic set in around April when they realized that their deadlines weren't other peoples' deadlines, who had cares, concerns, and timelines of their own to worry about. Impatience took over and it got ugly and strained. At one point it got so nasty that I offered to work from home, which made them madder because they thought I was being a smart alec (but I was sincere, as the office space was becoming a problem at that point). I wanted nothing more than to part from the place on cordial terms - after all, I had been there 11 years, and it had been a rollar coaster but I didn't want to walk away with a chip on my shoulder - but they just wouldn't allow it. They couldn't control their impatience and frustration, my work ethic lagged to a point where it was so bad that I'm ashamed to say how little real work I did for the last 3 months in that office, and I finally walked out for the last time on July 1, 2010 with my computer and the attitude that I wasn't going away mad; I was just going away. While I left on good terms with some people and a couple of friends, some of them try so hard to avoid me when they see me in public that I hope they don't sprain anything doing it. That would be a shame.
Too bad, really and a little embarassing to admit, but I took great lessons from this season in my life. One is that it's always best to part on good terms if it's possible, and I'm glad the pastors are doing that. I want them to move on through life with good memories and relationships at Mt. Tabor and I hope the experiences they've had with our congregation have been strong, positive ones that have prepared and built them up for what comes next. I don't want them wondering if they took anything from this experience but building up some job skills for the next step and nothing that fed them emotionally or spiritually, as I wonder about the last place where I worked. I hope we were more than a stepping stone and that we have enriched their soul and their lives in a significant way. But most of all, I don't want them walking away saying "Whew! Thank God THAT'S over!" I want them happy - with what they've had here, what they've accomplished, and what's ahead.
So to Pastor Paul and Pastor Ryan, I say Godspeed. I'm honored that you were a member of our congregation and our families for these years and I'm happy that the Lord has opened new challenges and opportunities to you. I wish you success, happiness, prosperity and joy on the journey. Perhaps our paths will cross again. Life is funny that way. You never know.
Oh by the way, I learned something else about myself two years ago. I have a good work ethic, but if you piss me off I can not only get nasty back, but I can get darn lazy too. It's amazing how you can find better things to do with your time when you just don't care anymore.
That's all for today. Take care and have a good week.
I recently got a quote through Twitter that said “it’s not the hand you’re dealt; it’s how you play it.” I believe this is true. After all, we can’t control life. Many things happen that are beyond our control. The secret is; how do you deal with it?
This is a topic that hits close to home for me, because I went through two major life changes last year that were the direct result of other peoples’ decisions. I had no say so in them, and the changes were literally rammed down my throat. Yes, I felt victimized. It definitely wasn’t fair, and I resented that other people were making decisions that were affecting my life. But I have come through, and I can honestly say that I feel my life is much better today than it was before the changes. How did I do this? Well, there are a few secrets to playing the hand your dealt and turning a hodgepodge of crap into a winning hand:
1. Take advantage of every opportunity, no matter how small. It’s the small things that lead up to the big things, and often it happens in incremental steps. My 2 E-book contracts are the result of an article I read on E-publishing last summer. I’d say that idea went a long way!
2. Realize that you have a right to work things for the very best in your life. No, you can’t choose what happens to you, but you can choose whether to remain a victim. When life gets derailed, take some time to analyze the new situation and look for ways you can work things out for good. You often can’t control what people come into your life, but you can determine what kind of relationship you have with them by letting them know what’s good, what’s acceptable, and what’s absolutely intolerable in your life.
3. Accept what you can’t change and change what you can. There are some things you can’t change, but in every situation there are details you can control. I had no control over my job move, but I decided to demonstrate my skills and abilities to my new colleagues right away. As a result, my duties were assigned based on my strengths instead of putting me wherever they needed another body pushing through work – and I’m happier with my job than I’ve ever been.
4. Don’t let other people run your life. Yes, there are times when decisions that other people make will affect you, but these times should be the exception and not the rule. That’s a poor way to set your sails and usually leads to ports you never intended to visit, much less live at. Stand up for yourself and make it clear to other people that they will respect you as an individual or they will no longer have a place in your life.
5. Reaping and sowing is a real way to turn a losing hand to a winning one. It’s a real concept, folks, and I’ve seen it play out over and over again. What goes around really does come around. If you aren’t a person of faith, consider this: The universe only has a limited amount of energy, and you can only get back what you give. So please, be mindful of your words and actions. Honesty, integrity and hard work will yield fruit. Deceit, deception, and laziness, well, sowing those if fun but reaping them’s a witch.
6. Be thankful for what you have, and take care of it. Because why should God give you more if you gripe and complain about what you have? Do you know when I saw a breakthrough on building our dream home? It was after I finally accepted the home we had and dedicated myself to taking the best possible care of it.
7. Realize the Law of Undulation. I absolutely love this concept of the ebb and flow of life that C.S. Lewis presented in The Screwtape Letters. Life really is a series of peaks and valleys, and you’re always at some point in that curve. So if you’re down, don’t fret because you will go back up. If you’re up, stay humble because things will level out. And if you’re in the middle, then praise God because at least you’re moving. The nature of the universe is change, which means that ruts are an illusion. Eventually, something will move.
8. Honesty and integrity always win the day. Do the best at all you do, and be honest. Truth has a way of showing itself, and integrity demonstrates character. You may suffer for it periodically, but in the end what’s right always stands while lies and deception dissolve into nothing. In my 13 years in the work force I can say for a fact that people that played politics and stepped on others to move ahead never lasted. They shone for a while, but eventually the favor ran out and the truth showed itself. It all goes back that that annoying “reaping and sowing” thing.
9. Don’t let fear be a factor. If the Lord brings you to it, He’ll bring you through it. I don’t care if you’re scared. Find your courage and bring the fire. We have a Savior that defeated the devil, freed the souls from Hades, defeated sin and death, and sits at the right hand of the Father. I think He can handle whatever we face – especially if it’s His will for our lives!
10. Don’t be afraid of who you are. Be real. Be authentic. Embrace yourself, rough edges and all. Because when we stand before God, He won’t ask why you weren’t more like other people. He’ll ask why you weren’t yourself and why you didn’t appreciate the blessings He gave you.
Life may deal you a bad hand every now and then, but that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to live in defeat. In fact, you should fight defeat. Don’t settle for life trapped in a box or accept bad things for yourself. Stand up, be yourself, and do all you can to make the hand you have a winning one!
That's my soapbox speech for today. More later. I hope the rest of the week is great.
I was offered another book contract this week.
Yes, that's right. Another publisher, Wings e-Press, offered me a contract for Blurry, my young adult novel. After checking to make sure it didn't conflict with my other ones, I signed it yesterday. So ladies and gentlemen, I'm publishing 2 books.
I can't believe this. I've had a 4 year dry spell of nothing but rejection after rejection and absolutely NOTHING in print, I get an offer to publish 2 of my books in a matter of less than 3 months.
It's absolutely unbelievable, and it's going to happen fast, as Wings wants to publish Blurry in August 2011.
I'm still haven't got work from Whiskey Creek Press on a publication date for Anywhere But Here, but I'll probably hear from them soon. I know publishing 2 books will be a lot of work but heck, I just uprooted and moved 2 professional licensure programs last year and dealt with my in-laws moving at the same time. In other words, I spent a year going to hell and back. I think I can do this.
I'm really excited. In fact, the only thing that's keeping me from bouncing off the walls is that I'm getting over a cold. It hit me last weekend and thankfully it seems to be passing, but the high ozone today hasn't helped.
So that's life in my corner of the world. I pray this is a turn for the better in my life. I've been working for this for 10 years and now that it's happening it's kind of shocking! But it's a good shock. Finally, it's change and progress in my life that I've worked for, and not something that other peoples' decisions are shoving down my throat. Finally, I'm steering this ship. Finally, my life is in a heading of my choosing.