In my last entry, I made the comment that it's impossible to know what the modern workplace is like because of the tremendous power of change. I'd like to expand on this comment in this entry, and muse over how this trend has the potential to leak out of the workplace and into other areas of life now.
It started with technology. Computers revolutionized the workplace, and there's no denying that it made drastic improvements. Frankly, I can't imagine how people of previous generations ran an effective office with things as archaic as file cabinets and typewriters. They managed, but now we're moving at the speed of light, at least in offices. I remember a colleague once saying "remember when we sent out notification letters? It would take a week or more for people to reply to them now. Now it's notification emails and thanks to smartphones, our own phones blow up within seconds of hitting "send." It's true. Things move faster now, and they have more ways in than ever. Is it a good thing? All in all, probably so. Things get done faster and have the potential to get done more efficiently. But notice the adjective that's more active than the actual verb in that sentence: potential. Because efficiency depends largely on effective and (most importantly) wise implementation. And this requires having people that make sound decisions and are willing to learn and grow with the changes this improvement brings.
Yes, technology is ever changing, and it requires people in the workforce to keep changing with it. Nothing stays the same, and now we're morphing with the speed of development. You always have to be willing to grow and learn, to embrace new things and let go of old things that might be comforting, but are no longer effective. The good new is that this change, when done with pure motives and right intentions, is the path to progress. You learn, you grow, and hopefully you take those lessons into your personal life and see what you gained continue to bless your life.
Ah, but there's another side to this, and here's the catch. This is where the shapeshifter comes into play, because the constant change in the workplace started with technology, but it oozed it's hand into other aspects of the workplace as well. Changes in how things are done require changes in management, changes in staff, changes in operations. It doesn't stop with the machines. Integrating the machines changes the people, and the way people operate. It means that we must not only adapt to how the machines help us to do our work better, but we also must embrace how the machines change the human element of the workplace. And this, folks, is where we run into issues, because machines don't have a mind and will of their own, but people do, and they aren't afraid to use it. For better or for worse, and sadly, the tendency to react rather than reflect and act in faith means that this element is subject to lots of rash decisions and acts that aren't always conductive to progress.
I've come to realize that there are two kinds of change. The first kind is the progressive kind that I discussed above. An opportunity opens and it's given thoughtful deliberation and consideration. People take advantage of that opportunity and more opportunities arise from it. Yes, it's hard and it requires change, learning new things, and forging into new areas, but the hard work is worth it and beyond the growning pains come progress that lead to a "golden age" of productivity and success. This is the kind of change we should always embrace, and that we shouldn't fear. Yes, it takes hard work to do new things, but the work of laying that solid foundation pays off when you build something that's stronger and better for a new day. Often, the things you learn from these "hard seasons of growth" can be implemented into other areas of life which spurs more growth and more blessing. It can have a chain reaction. One example of this: My office move 3 years ago gave me the courage and strength to start the process of becoming an independent author. The trials I went through getting those programs moved opened my eyes to every area of life, and I realized that I had spent a lot of years submitting my writing to traditional publishers in a sinking economy that had bolted their doors closed to new authors and weren't listening. "If they stop listening, stop talking," someone advised me around that time (of a different situation, but ...) and one day I stumbled upon a CNN article about how ebooks were outselling hardbacks and the light went off. I dug in to edit and revamp my approach, submitted to epublishers and mixed in some self publishing, and now 3 years and 7 books later, I finally have the foundation laid that I was waiting for someone else to do for far too long. I lost my fear of taking chances, I found the courage to make bold moves of faith on my own, and I finally got the ball rolling on the progress I had prayed for. That success gave me the courage to stand firm, to learn what I needed to learn, and to work with others to make the move successful, and it was. Progressive change at work had a 2 for 1 special in my life: the work move was successful despite setbacks and challenges along the way, and I got established as an independent author.
Ah, but there's another kind of change, and sadly I see it in my life now. It's change born of fear, and this is almost always detrimental. Sadly, progressive change usually gives way to this. Things move along well and people are happy with how it's going, but then something happens that changes some element that everybody was comfortable with. Usually, it has to do with setbacks, challenges, changes in leadership, or an unexpected loss of some sort. People get scared and react. Instead of asking "okay, what can we do to stabilize the situation and are there any opportunities from this, no matter how small, that we can seize and use to rebuild?" they ask "how do we protect ourselves." The motives shift from purity (doing better) to selfish (save me!), and that's the road to destruction. Change is not about progress, but about re-establishing control, protecting the "status quo," and preventing more damage. This is where you run into trouble, because damage control is never productive and that's looking at the situation from the wrong end. I think we all remember Yoda's logic in Star Wars Episode 1 - "fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to the dark side." That's not fiction; it's face. People get scared and they react. Then they get mad because things aren't working out. Then the anger replaces all semblance of reason, and it becomes a battle. As Loki so eloquently put it in The Avengers, freedom leads to a mad scramble of power. Yep, he had a grain of truth there too. It's scary.
Take it from one that's seeing it unfold. There are changes afoot in an area of my life now, and I find myself surrounded by a lot of fear. It's disturbing. I find myself pondering a lot of things, but foremost amongst them is protecting the progress I've worked so hard to achieve over the past few years. An emerging culture of fear could well do that, at least in this one area, and that means that a fight is on. It might already be on, because these spiritual things are a whole different battlefield. That's one song I do not want to sing another verse of in my life. I pray over it a lot, because I don't want to become another soldier of fear. I'm determined to stand firm and to protect the progress I've made. Fear is the devil's best tool, and by the power of Christ I will stand. I pray such courage will spread to others as well. That's a good infection that we desperately need.
Change will happen, and it can be tough to discern whether you're seeing the progressive or the destructive kind. All change is scary because it usually means challenges, hard work, sacrifice, and learning. Growth is hard because it stretches us to new places, but in the end it's good. And destruction also hurts because, well, it's supposed to hurt. There's nothing good about it and being torn down is a catalyst to find some courage and fight against whatever is trying to undo the progress you've done. In the end, you have to keep your head about you and discern the motives for the change. Pray, meditate, dig deep, ask questions, ponder the situation, and find out if the motive is pure. If it is, then you're being called upon to grow and it's a challenge and an opportunity to accept. If it's born of fear, sharpen your sword and get ready to fight because it's on like Donkey Kong, and you better be ready to stand firm or you'll get smashed by barrels of defeat.
And with that dated and somewhat lame analogy, I will call the point made and the entry done. I hope you have a great weekend and that all of you dad's out there have a Happy Father's Day tomorrow.
I stopped by the Target near my dentist office yesterday, which is on the side of town near the lake where the "haves" live - you know, the upper class echelon of society. I was the only working woman in the store at the time. Every other woman there was an upper class, stay-at-home mom with at least one child in tow. It was an interesting 10 minutes: the employees nearly pestered me to death with "how are you, ma'am - can I help you - are you finding everything alright - come to my line!," and the other customers shuffled away like my job was a nasty disease they were afraid of catching.
I've experienced this at that Target before and honestly, I just shook it off. I wasn't going to inconvenience myself by driving to someplace out of my way, and I figured the upper echelon could put up with my presence for a small slice of my income. What was interesting was what happened later. I went to lunch at a place closer to my job, and there was an even mix of working women and stay-at-homes there. The reaction? Nothing. The employees treated everybody the same, served everybody the same, and we all coexisted in the restaurant, enjoying burgers and fries and shaking our heads at CNN on the televisions, in harmony. One of the customers even asked for a manager to tell her good job on her staff handing all of us so well.
I think the disparity in reaction based on just going a few miles away shows that there's still a divide between working women and stay at home women, but it's not the same as it once was. The question is no longer "is it appropriate for women to work." It's now "under what conditions is it socially acceptable and even expected for women to work." It seems to me that educated, middle class women are expected to work, while there's still a question of whether it's appropriate for upper class women to be in the workforce. Certainly, I know upper class women that work, but they're usually in high power careers like law, medicine, or another field where they hold a post graduate or even a doctoral degree. The bottom line: when a great deal has been invested in getting an education, it's somewhat expected that one got it to pursue a career. I've read many articles on whether a women that got a degree is wasting her education if she chooses to be a stay-at-home, and I've been approached by many people that have outright said "well, at least you're USING your degree. So-and-so quit to raise the kids and look at all of that time and money they invested in what's now nothing more than an expensive piece of paper." While it's true that I heard a fair share of wisecracks while in college about people saying that some women were in college more for their Mrs. than their B.S., I've found this reaction somewhat more common since the economy took a nosedive. It's surprising and shocking. Even now, having heard it a few times, I'm not 100% sure how to react to it.
On the other side are people that say it's not healthy for children to be raised in day cares or even by extended family or friends while mom's work. They feel that being a mother is a primary career and if you can't dedicate yourself to it 100%, then why do it? I think this mindset is waning, but I will agree that there's a great deal of conflict in the mothers I know that work. Many of them would love to stay at home, but they simply can't afford it. That's a situation for most people. Let's face it - the cost of living has skyrocketed, and it's virtually impossible for a middle class family to have a decent standard of living off one income. Sometimes the mother HAS to work to contribute to the household income. The expectations on women have only increased. We're still expected to tend to home and hearth, but the rising cost of living also adds the expectation that we also contribute to the household income. I recently read that people have to pay a lot for services now that used to be free, with television and telephone service being the primary examples (of course, we've gone from 3 channels to how many hundreds and party lines to smart phones too). The world has certainly created the perfect no-win situation for mothers. Kids need their parents and it's not healthy for them to have both parents working outside the home full-time, but affording the perks of a decent lifestyle requires two incomes. Part time jobs used to be the answer, but those have drastically shrunk since the economy tanked. And a woman dropping out of the workforce for 5-6 years and going back to work when the kids start school is also becoming less of an option, as the high unemployment rate usually means that there aren't as many jobs to go back to, and the ones that are open will have more issues with "outdated skills."
Personally, I think the answer lies with the individual. I don't think that an education is ever wasted, and if a woman has the means to be a stay at home and that's what they want, then they certainly should take advantage of having that time with their children. But I don't think that women that want to work or have to work to provide for their children should be made to feel bad, either, because their work is to provide the best lifestyle they can for their kids. Certainly it's a juggling act, and it forces women in a situation of being dependent on others for child-care when their kids aren't in school, but I believe that in and of itself requires excellent scheduling, time management, and people skills. And they probably have a great support network to help them along, which is always a good thing. It's good to have people in your life that you can trust and that can help you along the way. Every choice we make has costs and benefits, and we have to decide what we can live with and what we can manage on a day to day basis.
As for me, I don't believe that the women in Target were looking down on me. Rather, I think it was discomfort because they didn't know how to relate to me. I'm going to be bluntly honest in my takeaway for this entry here: I think the bottom line is that each is privy to a world that the other doesn't understand. As a working woman, I don't know what they could possibly do all day at home. I'd go batty because there's only so much cooking, cleaning, housework, chores, errands, and shopping you can do before it's done, and eventually I'd have to get out and participate in the wide world or I'd go crazy. But that's just me. And frankly, people that don't work don't understand the limitations that having the responsibility of job puts on your life. A change in your job literally changes your whole life - it's that major. And people aren't away from the workforce long before they completely forget what it's like. Sorry, retirees and work force drop outs, but it's true, and it's not just "selective memory" either. Thanks to technology, the 21st century workforce is a shapeshifter. Things are always changing and are constantly in motion, and the workforce is a shapeshifter you don't really "get" unless you're in the middle of morphing with it. But that may be evolving in itself, as this "culture of change" is starting to seep out of work life and into other facets of living in the coming years. It's a large part of the reason why people job hop so much these days. But that's a topic for my next entry - so before you blow that steam and say I'm not being fair on this one, there's more to come on the topic of change next time. Stay tuned.
That's all today. Take care. Have a Happy Friday tomorrow and a great weekend.
Hi all, sorry for dropping off the face of the earth for a while. Actually, it wasn't that I dropped off - more like I went to a different part of it. Last week was my spring conference meeting in Arizona, and Rick and I decided to make a vacation out of it. It was a great idea. Arizona is amazing! We had a fantastic trip and I know we'll cherish the memories of it forever - in fact, I hope we make it back there sometime!
The trip started out with flying out last Tuesday. We flew from Columbia to Charlotte to Phoenix without any trouble (except I did get a bit of motion sickness). Then we picked up our rental car and drove 3 hours to Williams, Arizona to The Grand Canyon Railway
. It was a long day of traveling, but the hotel there was very nice and we got a good night's sleep before taking "The Train" to the southern rim of The Grand Canyon on Wednesday. The entire day was unbelievable. The train ride was fun. We had a great hostess, and there was a Navaho guitar player and a really good banjo player to entertain us on the ride. Once at The Grand Canyon, you have a few hours to explore the area as you wish. We got the 1 day package, so we decided we'd rather hike the trail along the rim to really take in the sites. It was an easy hike and the view was spectacular. We took a lot of pictures but honestly, pictures don't do The Grand Canyon justice. It's also impossible to have enough time there. There's so much to see and do. But our time was limited, so we made the most of the hike and shopping around the village and took The Train back to Williams. The Train arrived in Williams at 5:45 and it was time to drive back to Phoenix to turn in the car. We weren't really hungry because the hotel had a huge breakfast, and we ate lunch at the village and had snacks on the train. So we drove straight back to Williams. Sunset over the mountains in Arizona is beautiful! I wish there had been places for us to pull off and take pictures but as it is, there was only 1 spot and we passed it after dark both days. Oh well.
We got to Phoenix around 9:00 and turned our car in. We thought about keeping it but frankly, the rental had unlimited miles and was so expensive that we said heck with it - we heard you could walk in Scottsdale and that they had a free trolley. We got a cab from the airport to Hotel Valley Ho and checked in there around 10. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that's the nicest place we've ever stayed in. They have a mid-20th century theme, but don't let that fool you - the place is magnificant! My meetings were on Thursday from 1-5 (but I did get out early that day, around 4), on Friday from 8-3, and on Saturday there were meetings from 10-1, but I had to leave at the 10:45 break because we had a 1:15 flight back home. It's a good thing I got the earlier flight too - more on that in a minute.
After the meetings each day, we walked around the historic district of Scottsdale. Thursday night was Art Walk night and that was great. It was amazing to see the artist displaying their work and letting us see them painting current projects! There were also street musicians and tons of great art around the city, and more resturants than you could enjoy in 10 lifetimes. That was a lot of fun and, of course, there was souviner shopping along our walk. On Friday, we walked to the 5th Avenue Shops and the mall. More great stuff (and great art) to see there, including the canal running off The Salt Lake. We came by the canal around sunset and that was beautiful.
Saturday was time to come home. It was tough, because the weather was beautiful in Scottsdale - it was in the 70's, sunny and clear the whole time we were there. But we were homesick and ready for our birds, our home, and our own bed and bathroom. We took a limo from the hotel to the airport (which, ironically, was cheaper than a cab) and the flight from Phoenix to Charlotte went like clockwork. It was when we got to Charlotte that we found there had been problems there. There were flight delays in the morning due to weather, and that threw off flights all day - every flight was running behind. Our flight was delayed for three and a half hours (and the gate was moved twice - that I know of). It was a bit frustrating because we were supposed to land in Columbia at 9:15, but as it turns out, we didn't leave Charlotte until 11:10 and we were close to midnight arriving in Columbia. My poor parents were so patient with us. They didn't complain the first time about the excessive delays, or for being put out to pick up us much later than expected. And they really enjoyed keeping Zack, Chloe and Ollie too. It sounds like they had a lot of fun.
Despite the delayed final flight, it was a great trip. Arizona is so nice! It has to be the cleanest place on earth - I don't believe we saw as much as a crumpled up napkin anywhere the entire time we were there. The people were friendly too. If you even look like you need anything there, any number of people are willing to help. All you have to do is ask and they'll do whatever it takes to help you.
And yes, I did do some work while I was there. The conference went well and it was good to see the other executives and board members from the other states there. That's a great group of people and I always enjoy being around them. We learn a lot from one another.
On a scale of 1-10, this trip is a 20. It was amazing! Best business trip ever, no doubt. If you're interested in seeing my pictures from the trip, I have them posted on Flickr. Feel free to check them out, and to share them with others.
So it was a great trip - but it's also good to be home. It's exciting to see new places and different people, but it also makes you appreciate the comforts of home. And who knows? We might make our way back there someday.
That's all today.
Well, I've done all I can. Move is published and as I wait for it to come through the various sales platforms there's not much left for me to do, except wait. I really can't do much until it's at least posted on Amazon, so ...
I need a break. And thank goodness I have the day off for President's Day today and can have it!
You know, there are a lot of stereotypes about writer's out there, none of which are true. For example, people assume we're rich. Oh, how I wish that were so. The truth is, the J.K. Rowlings and Steven Kings of the world are the exception rather than the rule. Most writers are writing their novels around home life and a full time job. Did you know that C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein never quit their day jobs as professors? Nope, they wrote their books while working full time. It makes me feel better to know that even great writers of the past had to do it the same way I am - juggling the writing with the rest of life. Others are retired from other careers and can now write full time because they've "done their time," like P.D. James. So there's not big money in writing and even if there were enough money in it, you can't get a loan with only royalty payments coming in. Creditors want to see a steady income, a guaranteed paycheck. Plus there are other nuisances like insurance and retirement that you have to consider. So no, we aren't rich. In fact, it behooves us to have a steady job because life in the 21st century isn't friendly to the freelance lifestyle.
Another stereotype is that writing is easy. Oh, don't I wish. While story ideas do come to us easily, pulling them off is a trick. You have to make things believable, at least in theory, or readers will let you know in full surround sound stereo that "this couldn't possibly happen!" And then there go your book sales. I spent 6 months researching Splinter before I wrote the first word for National Novel Writing Month in 2010, and still had to do follow up research for rewrites and edits in later drafts. Likewise with Move - I researched and planned that novel for about 3 months before I started writing, and in fact was still doing some research as I wrote it. I had to diagram out Anywhere But Here to keep the parallel storylines straight, which was a challenge that gave me plenty of headaches. And I found myself running around and doing plenty of checking and researching while working on every draft of Blurry. I thought writing fiction would be less research than writing non-fiction, but honestly I think it's 6 of one and half a dozen of the other when it comes to research. You have to do it. You also have to keep going through to make sure you're maintaining consistency, which is an issue with anything you write. Add to that the fact that you're squeezing in writing with a full life, and no, it isn't easy. I'm lucky to have 2 hours a day to devote to writing. That's my absolute maximum, and I can't even have it every day because there are still chores, errands, home care, self care, husband care, and bird care that must be attended to. Life doesn't stop because you're writing a novel. It plugs right along, and it's very persistent in reminding you that it's there and needs tending to. Honestly, I don't know how people with children can do this, but plenty do. Where there's a will, there's a way. I make the best of my 2 hours when I get it, and I suppose they must know what blocks of time they have and how to handle them.
And the last stereotype is one that greatly amuses me. People think we lounge around the house in our pajamas, sipping coffee (or tea) and typing great prose all day. Well from the truths shared above, I think you see how that's impossible. My boss wouldn't be very happy if I lived like that because I am supposed to report to the office on Monday - Friday. My birds might like that if I took frequent play and feeding breaks, but after a while they tend to get screamy and want mommy to pay attention to them. I believe my husband and family would object to a hermit lifestyle. And even on weekends, there's always something that needs doing. Homes and cars need care and maintenance. It's like the joke running around on social media about Sunday being a day of rest - rest of the chores, rest of the errands, rest of the stuff I didn't get done Monday - Saturday! True. So true.
No, it's not easy being a writer, nor is it glamerous. There have been plenty of times when I asked myself if it's worth it to invest so much into shoving this into my life, but the answer always comes back to yes. I love writing and being an author has been a lifelong dream. And while it might not live up to the nice stereotypes, it's still worth it to have my work out there for readers to enjoy. The purpose of writing is to create stories that entertain and inspire people. The Lord has gifted me with these stories and I don't want to bury my talent. I want to share it with the world.
And yes, the work is worth it.
That's all today. Take care. I hope you have a great day. Enjoy the day if you're off. I need to get out there in the world and take care of all that stuff that piled up while I was working on getting Move published. The world is out there, and it's time I got engaged in it again.
I recently posted an article on EzineArticles titled "Resistance is Futile - But We Do It Anyway."
It is, ironically, based on a blog I wrote about a year ago about massive life changes that I went through in 2010 and how I had to learn how to incorporate change in my life because, well, I had no choice. When everything changes, you adjust or you live in misery. It's as simple as that.
And yet, people still believe they can fight change. They figure that if they kick and scream enough, it will stop in it's tracks and their will shall prevail.
I did learn a lot about dealing with change during that period of time in my life and it's a good thing I did, because change has been a constant force since then. There are no ruts in my life, as things haven't been still long enough to leave much more than footprints where I've been. It's been a constant cycle of adapting, adjusting, learning, and growing. If I was afraid of change before, I can tell you that I've been desensitized to it now. I wouldn't say I've come to the point of embracing change, but I will say that I accept it and have a willing attitude to work through it to find the best ways to incorporate it into my life.
A lot of people fear change, but it's the only way toward progress. We can't move forward if we stay put, and we can't grow unless we stretch out of our comfort zone. It takes a lot of courage to stop fighting and start working it from the perspective of bettering your life and the situations you face. It's also a challenge, because it means that keeping balance in your life is a constant issue. You're always adjusting and trying to find the best way to fit things in your life. So this new thing is here - how does it fit? Does it mean that something has to go? And what if the change meant the removal of something? What do you do with the gap left? How do you fill it? Or do you fill it? Change brings about a lot of questions.
Last February, I sat in Miami International Airport thinking of all the changes I had faced and asked myself "is this where I want my life to go? Is it heading in a direction I'm happy with?" At the time, I had no answer to that question, and it scared me. I was still overwhelmed by it all, and didn't understand where it was leading. Since then, I've come to discover that the reason I didn't have the answer was because I was still trying to figure out what it all meant. And the truth is that sometimes, you may not know and never find out. You simply must play the hand you're dealt to the best of your ability. Stay in the game, even if you aren't sure what the end goal is.
I still don't have the answer to the question of the direction of my life, and the reason finally hit me just a few days ago: I don't have all of my eggs in one basket. Ecclesiastes 11:6 says "plant early in teh morning, and work until evening, because you don't know if this or that will succeed. they might both do well." I've certainly taken that advice. It's not just my job that I have in my life, but my writing as well. I've sowed widely, and I'm still waiting to see what produces a harvest in my life. The work move has worked to better my programs overall, but we're still working through some issues of new requirements and changes that have come from it. And my writing is progressing. It's slower than I'd like, but I am working to build a readership and to establish myself as a "serious" writer that's here to stay. I see growth in both areas, but it's still too early to know which will produce the abundance, or if somehow both will work for a bigger purpose that I can't see yet. So I continue to work at both, to grow and learn, and to have faith that all is working out, no matter how many times the pieces are changed or moved around.
Change is scary, and I admit that when I face something new or different then that moment of panic usually does hit me at some point. I have to remind myself all the time that things have worked out this far, and if I remain faithful and do what's right, there's no reason why there isn't hope for a better tomorrow. That helps me find the courage to stand up and face it. That helps me find the courage walk on in faith. That is the one thing that keepe me going through it all - hope.
And if you have hope, you have all you need.
That's all today. Have a great week.
I'd like to open this entry with a disclaimer: I have no objections to working outside the home. In fact, I believe I'd be bored and rather miserable as a stay-at-home. I have always felt that I need to contribute to the world at large, and I invested a great deal into getting a college degree so I could do just that. So to start, I don't mind working. The issue is balancing it with having a life. Because jobs take up an awful lot of your life, and you have to set boundaries with how much of your life you want to give to your work - much like everything else.
I never wanted my job to be the core of my life. There are a lot of people out there that are defined by their work, and I've known all along that I don't want to be one of them. To me, I have a job to serve my life. It's how I channel my knowledge, experience and skills to the world, and in return it financially supports my life. That's it. It's not who I am. It's not my sole purpose in life. It's not the whole of my existence. It's one part of my life, one part of the whole that makes me.
The challenge is keeping it one part of life because work, much like everything else, wants to be the center. The fact that it's our financial foundation is a binding factor that makes work one of the "immovable objects" in our lives, and the trick is how to keep reshaping that object into something that helps rather than hurts. Our personal lives change over time and so do our jobs - even if you work in the same place throughout your career, I can guarentee that the job itself will change as time goes on. Duties come and go, and more is always added. I can attest to this by experience. I've been working in the same job for over thirteen years, but it most certainly IS NOT the job I was hired to do. It bears absolutely no resembelance to what it was the first day I walked in. It's even been reclassified twice to accomodate for the drastic changes over the years. Likewise, my personal life has drastically changed in those years as well. And the ongoing challenge is how to keep work in balance in your life with both are constantly changing forces.
It's tough, and it's something that constantly has to be managed. I've had to make a lot of adjustments in the past three years alone, as my job duties quadrupled at the same time that my in-laws moved to town and my writing started to get published more widely. In fact, I was under a therapist for a year to help me manage all of the changes sweeping through my life. It would have been nice if all of these things could have happened, say, over the space of five years - but it was more like five months. I made it, but I'm not afraid that I'm still on that curve of balancing my changed work situation and my changed life situation. That is, in fact, part of what spurred my resolution to work on the issue of balance. It was realizing that while the major adjustments are done (and have been for a while), some tweaking to the details needs to happen. In fact, tweaking is something that probably needs to be done, well, more frequently than I have.
I think the big thing for me right now is balancing my increased work duties with my writing. I could easily stay glued behind a computer all my waking hours between the job, then coming home to work on writing promotion and working on new projects to keep my writing in motion. While I love my writing, I realized it had elevated itself to "work" in my life, and I always said that when it was more labor than enjoyment, it was time to make some adjustments. I can't and won't work 100% of the time. I want free time with Rick and the birds, with family and friends, with occasional volunteer projects at church, or with hobbies or just being lazy, and I will have it. I need time off, and I believe that getting sick with that virus before the holidays was the wake up call that made me realize I spend too much time working and not enough time taking care of myself: spiritually, mentally, physically, or emotionally. I have a full life and that's fine, but I need to get it in order and make sure there's a place for everything - and especially a space for taking care of myself, which I neglected to an almost dangerous place a few weeks ago. I really downplayed that here and in my social media posts, but the truth is that I was a bigger wreck than I let on, and it downright scared me. I was ill and distressed to the point of being almost non-functional for about 36 hours. Not long, but long enough to get through. It was time to heal more than my body. My mind and soul needed healing too.
Thankfully, I had some time off for the holidays to take stock of how to do this, and the work-life issue was primary amongst my concerns. I can't change my job, but I can look for ways to get better organized and to get things done better and more efficiently. As for my writing, I looked into some publicity options that included writing more articles and short stories, which allows me to continue producing new work that gains publicity for my published books. It's channeling into doing more of what I love, which is creating new work. It takes the "work" out of the writing and puts it back in the place of being "fun." And that's what it's all about: being entertaining and fun for me and my readers.
I think we all get knocked off kilter every now and then, and it seems that the work-life balance is usually where it's most likely to happen. We just have to stop and take stock every now and then to make sure we're keeping work in it's proper place in our life, and not letting it morph or grow into a trap. Because when we feel trapped, that's when it's gotten too far out of balance. I'm happy to report that I do feel much better and I continue to heal from my illness of a few weeks ago. There are still some struggles, but I take it a day at a time and I believe I'm finding a better way to have my life with all the joy and fullness I'm meant to have.
That's all today. Take care. I hope you have a great week.
New Year's night is a melancholy time. You're coming off the high of the holidays and trying to squeeze out those last few precious moments of escaping reality before returning to work. It's ironic - we bring in the new year with celebrations and resolutions to improve and make the coming year better, but we're forced to return to the same old routine on January 2 and face the challenges of bring in new resolve to the same old things, day after day.
Getting back into the routine will be hard tomorrow. There's no sleeping in tomorrow morning. No more slow starts to the day. No taking it slow through the morning and afternoon. No twinking lights on the porch and window to welcome me home from work. No cards in the mail with well wishes. No parties or celebrations on the calendar. All the presents have been given. The cards have been sent. The Christmas decorations are down and packed away and the house is cleaned. Celebrations have been had with family and friends. It's nothing but the alarm going off at six in the morning to launch me into another day; one that will look much like the days before the holidays were upon us. Supper to put on the table after work. Get on the treadmill. Play with the birds. Work on writing or keep house. Go to bed. Repeat the next day. Two day weekend reprieves after every five days of work to catch up on what didn't get done during the week. Nothing on the calendar but meetings and appointments to prepare for and the humdrum of the everyday again.
It can be depressing. And yet, maybe now. Maybe this dormant period, this period of dullness, is exactly what we need to start again. Perhaps what we need is not newness of our situation, but newness of how we approach the life we have, day in and day out. 99% of living is done in the mundane of the everyday. If we are to accomplish that resolve for change; if we are to improve; we must do it within the life we have. Change comes through dealing with the everyday in new and different ways. It comes from altering our perspective of that same old routine. It comes with determination to do it right, to do it better, to do it more effectively, than the way we did it before.
It's a challenge. I look ahead and see miles of the same old road I always walk, wondering how I can walk it better. That's the real purpose of resolutions, isn't it? To be better. To do better. To make small changes that lead to big, powerful results that light up that road with hope and a future.
So this new years night, I ponder how I'll make this walk a better one than it was in 2012. I look at what I have and study it to see how I can do things better through creating better balance. It's an ongoing challenge, but one I believe I'm up to.
Happy New Year, everybody. I hope your holiday season was merry and bright, and that you're starting out 2013 with good plans and hope for a bright future.
What is holiday detox, you ask? Well readers, it's that period immediately following Christmas when you're so tired and burned out that you can't motivate yourself to do anything. The house is a mess and you don't care. The "to do" list is growing, and you say to hell with it. You're worn out from celebrating with all the family, food, fun, presents, and to do of the holidays and you want to hibernate in bed for, oh, the rest of the winter to recover.
Be honest, who's there? Has anybody else had a wee bit of a problem motivating themselves to do things they don't want to do?
I know I am. I'm Christmased out. The holidays are nice, but it's time for them to move along out of here. I fully believe that the days between Christmas and New Year's Day are a time when the world needs to back off and let us be lazy, just for a little while. We need some time to ourselves before we get back to the grind. We need a break to rest and recuperate from the heavy activity of the holidays. We need to drop out for a while and tend to our own wants and needs. And that's not a bad thing. In fact, we probably need it more often than just post-holidays. We need to take time to ourselves regularly. If we work ourselves to death, we'll eventually break down and then we won't be good to anybody.
I think that's one good resolution to make for the new year - to take more time out for yourself. I know a lot of people would say that's selfish and rude, but I'd counter that those accusers aren't truly in touch with themselves and need to take this opportunity to get in balance themselves. (Or they're selfish jerks that think everybody in the world should be their handservant and their attitude needs correcting - but that's one for another entry.) If there's one truth I've seen this holiday season, it's that the world isn't going to give you a break. It will work you to death and wear you down to nothing. It's our responsibility to keep life in balance, and to work things out for the best. We have to be aware of what's going on and what we have, and to stay alert and in balance. To do that, it's necessary for us to say "no" to the demands of the world every now and then and tend to our personal needs. The best way to do that is to take regular time outs. And the world won't give them to us, so we have to take them. I say resolution #1 is to take what we need to be our best, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Block out time to yourself that's not open to anybody. Setting boundaries isn't wrong. In fact, it's the only way to achieve confidence and to have balance in your life.
So go ahead and take a break - God knows, you need it. And make that a habit in the future, while you're at it. ;)
That's all today. I hope you have a great week.
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
Hi folks, sorry I haven't been around online much this week. Truthfully, it's been a tough week. After the Veteran's Day holiday, I had 2 all day meetings and spent yesterday and today trying to play catch up as much as I can, which hasn't been easy considering that EVERYBODY was ready to follow up on stuff this week. Add to that the fact that I'm trying to get the house cleaned for the holidays after work, and I'm beat and busted. It's a good thing I finished those book edits Monday, eh?
Being busy isn't the only reason I haven't been online. Frankly, I've been stuck behind a computer all day, and I just couldn't bear to do it again when I got home. I take my notes at meetings on my laptop, and then we do everything digitally at the office, so I'm behind a desktop the rest of the time. Don't get me wrong - I love computers. I can't imagine how we survived without them and I think that smartphones and laptops are the best thing since sliced bread, decongestants, and indoor plumbing. But after 8 hours or so, those pixels start to get to you. I just have to take a break.
So no, it's nothing that anybody has done. I've just been pretty busy between work and home and need a break from the computer every now and then.
Add to that the fact that Rick had a major assignment come to his school that required a massive amount of overtime, and we've both been beat and busted here. It seems they come up with some insanely huge project every year the week before Thanksgiving that requires them to work overtime. I don't know why they do that.
That's all today. I'm going to log off and try to relax some tonight. Happy Friday to you. I hope you have a great weekend. Maybe we can get some rest and be able to recover from this insanely busy week some over the next couple of days.