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.
I recently accepted that I don't have to know everything that's going on - and that's fine. In fact, that's preferable. Frankly, I wish I had come to this realization a decade ago, but I guess the multiple responsibilities of approaching mid-life finally opened my eyes to the fact that I can't handle it all, and the truth is that I don't want to.
That might not seem like much of a revelation. In fact, you might be saying it's the better part of maturity to come to this realization. I agree, but I also say it's another facet of appreciating the lost virtue of discernment in life. Sure, we know that it's vital to reign in our tongues in work situation, but usually that's where the fine line of discretion ends. We seem to live in a society that believes that if it flies through our brains, it needs to fly out of our mouths, and those closest to us should toughen up to handle "the real us." Frankly, I don't know how that filthy lie survived into the twenty-first century. It was extolled in a very small portion of the mental health sector for a very short while, but most mental health professionals agreed that this was crap even when I was in college in the early to mid 90's. I think social media has a lot to do with it. When anger fueled blogs get thousands of hits and ignite online debates and tirade posts get hundreds of "likes," it gives an impression that anger and frustration is popular, when in fact those very same things can cost you down the line if it falls in the wrong hands - which is easy, considering that the World Wide Web is, well, worldwide.
Discernment isn't popular, but it's a vital virtue if you want a peaceful life. I know that it's a given that we all have an "inner circle" of family and friends that we share most of ourselves with and our lives with, and that's completely right and natural. We all need that inner circle, but it's also natural that this circle will be small. Rick and I were watching the finale of Star Trek - Enterprise the other night, and something that Tripp said really struck me. He said "I can count on one hand the number of people that I trust. Not just trust as in 'I know you, and believe you,' but trust as in 'I know for certain they would never do anything to hurt me.'" It was a powerful statement, but really not much of a revelation unless you take the time to think about it. Folks, one thing that people don't seem to understand is that trust isn't a right; it's a privilege that's earned. You simply don't have the time or energy to invest the kind of work that building an "inner circle" relationship requires with everybody in your life. That's okay, because everybody you know doesn't need to know everything about your life. And frankly, they don't need to.
I'd say that most of the people we know can be trusted only to a certain extent, but a line needs to be drawn and we need to know when to talk and when to shut up. A good litmus test of this: when they stop listening, stop talking. You've hit the limit and there's no need to say more. Now you know how much they're willing to handle. Give them no more. To do so might actually be dangerous. Because there are people out there that will use what they know about you to stab you in the back. Take it from one who knows. I have a lovely knife collection that I've pulled out of my back over the years. I've never been hurt by holding back or, as the saying goes, what I didn't say. You learn to gauge people and situations and when to keep it shut. And knowing when to shut up - and even when to not talk at all - can be tremendously beneficial.
How, you might ask? Well, there are benefits to discernment. The first and most obvious is that you learn more from watching and listening than from talking. It's amazing what you stumble across when you quietly tune in to what's going on around you. People have a tendency to forget that sound carries and you can learn a lot, even from a one sided conversation (just look at what happened to Jana Lanning in Anywhere But Here - half a phone conversation broke things wide open!). But there's another benefit, too. Think about this: how many people trust a gossip? I mean, really trust them? Sure, they talk to a lot of people and seem popular, but activate those listening skills and you'll notice that people are very selective about what they share with these "friends." It's truly a situation of "keep your friends close and your enemies closer," because they see the knife collection hiding behind the smile and know they're one slip-up from adding to their own knife collection. But how much more willing are they to talk to somebody that rarely converses with too many people? A lot more. It's simple human nature. People tend to fill silences with words.
If you keep to yourself and your business, you'll be amazed at what people will tell you if you simply ask. And why shouldn't they? You aren't a threat to them. and the information, they assume, probably isn't any good and you're merely curious and trying to "fit in" or "stay in the know." Let them think it. It's a great benefit, but one word of caution - use it sparingly. Asking too many questions will mark you as "odd" or "nosy" and people will shut you down. They'll figure you're up to something and will shut you out. So keep it simple, keep quiet, listen, watch, and only ask in the most vital or important of situations. Or if it would be natural for you to ask, because it obviously affects you personally.
And then there's my realization that I don't need to know everything that's going on. People aren't going to tell you everything, and that's okay. It isn't always nefarious motives or a blatant effort to "leave you out." Sometimes they forget, or they don't want to worry you. Trust their good intentions and let it go. And for those instances when people do like having their secrets and hanging it over you, just let it go. You aren't responsible for what you don't know and frankly, who needs more responsibilities in life? My life is full. I don't need any more. Heck, somedays I'm so busy that my "give a crap" capacity is gone by noon. It's just crank it out and keep it going. So yes, please, keep some things to yourself and let me take care of my own madness over here. Letting go of having to know what's going on with everybody all the time took a tremendous burden off my shoulders. And who doesn't need that?
Yes, it was a wonderful realization, and I truly don't know why more people don't extoll the virtue of discernment. Discretion is tough, of course, especially when you're angry, frustrated or upset, but it's well worth it to hold back and ponder your responses and reactions. A minute of thought can prevent years of regret from lack of sel
People often ask me why I decided to publish my writing through ebooks rather than in the more traditional format of paperback. The reason I give is that there’s no demand for my books in paperback, but the true reason is that a little thing called the printing press helped along The Protestant Revolution, and I believe the Internet is bringing about a similar revolution in our society. No, I don’t think you’ll see new religious practices rise out of the rise of the Internet, but it’s certainly impacting our entertainment options. More books are bought online than in bookstores and ebook sales are steadily rising. Frankly, I believe a new day is coming not only to the world of reading, but to the entire entertainment world, and I want to be on the front end of it.
It’s an undeniable truth that the traditional publishing industry is floundering, even if they don’t realize it, and the reason is the power of e-publishing and self-publishing. Agents and traditional publishers have long been plagued by the problem of trying to guess what people want to read, and making their selection on what to accept based on that. They rely on their “tried and true” authors to keep cranking out work that will appeal to audiences and almost never take a chance on a new author, even if their work is interesting. It’s just too risky to take a chance on making an investment that might not pay off, even though they do it with their regular list all the time and still lose. At least epublishing and self publishing allow new authors a chance to get their work in front of a niche audience and gauge their interest in the work so they can adapt, adjust, and improve their skills. You can’t do that if you’re being rejected by big or mid-list publishers every day. It leaves you in the same situation they’re in – guessing what a moving target wants. And yes, it’s a moving target because trends change all the time, and what’s popular today might be the thing they’re spoofing and making fun of tomorrow while they embrace “the next new thing” which, unfortunately, we only see in retrospect.
I read a blog article Thursday named 5 Reasons to Admire Self-Publishing, by Alison Baverstock
, and it turns out that most of those things are what all authors should be doing anyway. The only difference is that self-published authors direct all of their hard work and effort into a productive effort of putting their work out there instead of constantly knocking on doors that may never open for them. They take a chance and put it in front of the readers instead of begging “the experts” for a chance. Because whether you’re self published or traditionally published, the burden of producing work, capturing the interest of readers, and promoting your published work falls on you, the author. Even big publishers will only do a limited amount of publicity around your release date. Keeping interest up in the responsibility of the author.
I often hear people say that we still need the traditional publishing industry because self publishing allows anybody and everybody to publish a book, and there’s a lot of crap out there because there’s no quality control. I can’t deny that yes, you see a wide gamut of talent through self publishing, but I don’t think there’s a complete lack of quality control. The quality control is where it’s supposed to be – between the readers and the writers. Writers are tasked with putting their best work out there for the public to enjoy, and readers can help improve the quality by rating and reviewing the work they read. Believe it or not, writers rely heavily on good, constructive reviews so they know what the reader wants and how to adjust to deliver it, either through edits to their current work or to developing new work. Even if you don’t like it, you can help the author by articulating exactly what it was that kept you from entering the “suspension of belief” phase with their work so they know how to fix it. “I hated it” isn’t helpful, but a “the characters were good but I didn’t believe they would react to such and such situation the way they did given their personality quirks” is constructive advice that the writer can use to improve. And if the reader likes it, then such reviews are also helpful. We all like “I loved it!” but what’s helpful is “I liked it because I could relate to how the character reacted to such and such situation and appreciated how it affected his/her perspective on their life situation.” Reviews help tremendously, and if readers will engage more by posting them, then I believe the quality of self-published work that you see on the market will improve drastically over time.
That’s not to say that the traditional publishing industry is broken, or that it’s demise is imminent. Certainly it isn’t, and I don’t forsee a day when it won’t exist, but a new day is upon us. I believe that the Internet has opened up the world to allow people to enjoy entertainment by independent artists that would otherwise be denied by the traditional industry. Traditional publishers and institutions would be wise to keep an eye on trends in the indie world to see what people really want, and to adjust accordingly. After all, the niche markets shouldn’t be underestimated. That’s where the trends are born, and that’s where the “next big thing” is taking shape, perhaps this very minute.
That’s all today. I hope you have a great weekend.
As I prepare to do rewrites/revisions on Incursion, I find myself pondering the choices we make and how they change our life. One element in this novella harkens to a concept I started in Splinter (coming out in November) that every choice we make creates a parallel universe where we made the other decision. It's deep stuff, and theories abound on this. I don't know if parallel universes exist, but if they do then I can't help but think that, instead of being a program assistant and independent author, I'm probably:
1. An electrical engineer. It's hard to believe it's a coicidence that I work in professional licensing for design professionals when my father is an electrical designer and he wanted me to be an engineer. I was good enough at the math and blew trigonometry out of the water, but I didn't go that route because my spatial skills suck and I knew I'd fail at drafting and design. The technical skills were there but alas, the necessary artistic element bent more toward writing than designing and so, I gave up on that path. And believe me, Dad finds it hilarious that I decided to forsake a career in engineering to have a career in licensing them. Irony? Definitely. Coiencidence? I'm not so sure, but I'm pretty sure it means that I'm an electrical engineer in a parallel universe somewhere out there where the technical and artistic elements did merge to make me into a person like the ones I license every day.
2. A therapist or psychologist. This was my original life plan, before an independent study my senior year in college revealed a talent for administrative work and marriage closely followed. I did lose interest in this when I realized that my degree in psychology was helping me in every area of my life, and that helping people didn't necessairly mean that I had to get them on a couch complaining about problems they might or might not really want to solve every week. Plus, I did see a therapist for a while during my major life transition a few years back, and it made me realize that I probably took the wiser choice by going administrative instead of taking her place in the chair, because every person you deal with is angry and bitter over something and they resent having to be there to fix it. At least in administrative work the "dodge the red tape" types are more rare and most of the people you deal with are on the straight and narrow path and WANT to do the right thing the first time. In fact, I quit going to the therapist because I felt we were beating a dead horse, it was time to move on, and I wasn't doing it from that darn couch. But I'm sure there's a universe out there where I stayed the course and made mental health my career. I just wonder if I really like it, or if I'm pondering if there's a universe where I went administrative and wonder if I'm happy here. Hmm. Now that IS an interesting paradox to ponder!
3. A geologist. This would probably surprise a lot of people, but I love geology. I only took one course in it in college, but I wish I took more beause the study of the earth fascinates me. Somewhere, out there in a parallel universe, I'm boring holes and digging through the dirt, fascinated by what it's revealing to me about the planet. Yes, a whacky scientist does somewhat fit me, even if it's not in this world.
There are a lot of people that think I should have been a bird breeder, and in fact would be one if I hit the jackpot someday, but actually I wouldn't consider it. I love birds and Zack, Chloe and Ollie are great, but having them as pets is where my skill ends. I have no medical talent or expertises AT ALL, and the concept of breeding and raising young birds is too much and frankly, not something I'd be cut out for. I love them, but I have enough sense to know what I'm not good at - which, in fact, might be a good topic for another blog entry on another day.
So, what are you in a parallel universe? Is it very different from what you are now, or somewhat the same? Did you stay the planned path or not - or did you even have one? This, my friends, is the stuff that great fiction is created from.
That's all today. Enjoy your weekend.
There are some phrases in widespread, common use that seem to be universal hot buttons to piss people off. Really, I don’t understand how it became commonplace for people to say things that erode the very respect that relationships are built on, and yet I hear people say it – and complain about having these things said to them – frequently.
Certainly, we should always be honest and authentic in our dealings with people, but discernment is an absolute necessity in our dealings with ALL people. Just because it flies through your brain doesn’t mean it needs to fly out of your mouth, and in fact there are many times when it’s best to keep that thought in your head and fake it till you make it with your words (or silence, depending on the situation). For example, here are some phrases you should eliminate (or at least, drastically reduce) in your vocabulary that will garner more respect, motivate people to cooperate and work well with you, and make you appear more intelligent and savvy:
1. “Whatever.” Nothing coveys the ignorant-inconsiderate-jerk trifecta like this one word phrase. You have the entire English language at your disposal and that’s all you’ve got? If it is, then it’s time to recognize the uncomfortable fact that sometimes, the best course of action is to gracefully back away and let silence be golden. And if you refuse to exercise the right to remain silent, then a simple “I hope that works out for you and wish you luck” is much more dignified than throwing out something that makes you look like a cross between an immature tween and a person that’s learning English as a second language - and isn’t quite getting it.
2. “Do what you’ve got to do.” I don’t hear this one as much as I used to, but it’s still out there, and it’s a sin for the same reasons as “whatever.” More accurately, that’s redneck for “I don’t like what you’re doing and would move Heaven and Earth to stop you, but that would reveal me as a selfish jerk to the rest of the world and I don’t want to do that, so go on and get this over with so you can get back to doing things that make me happy.” It isn’t your job to like or even understand everything that other people do, so let go and accept that people have a right to lead their lives, do things, and make decisions that work best for them regardless of what you say, think, or need. Instead, say “I understand this is important to you.” Even if you don’t and you hope it blows up in their face, just fake it and at least acknowledge their right to live as they see fit. Because I guarantee you’ve done things that made them go “Hmmm” in the past . Plus, if you want people to stay interested in your life, then you have to at least act like you give a crap about them and their life, even if you don’t care about them any more than you care about the extra 40 minutes in a Martian day.
3. “That’s not my problem.” I stand back when people say this because it’s an open invitation for the universe to hit you with its best shot, and that’s a challenge it ALWAYS accepts. Sure, you aren’t responsible for every single thing that happens in the world, and there are some things that aren’t your business, but have some dignity in declining to accept responsibility that you feel isn’t yours. “I’m sorry I can’t help you with that” is much more gracious and doesn’t invite fate, the universe, the world, or whatever you wish to call it to deliver an entirely new batch of problems into your life. Fake sympathy for the other persons’ plight even if you don’t really feel it because you WILL be at the receiving end of this one day, and the measure you get will be the measure you’ve given. It happens to us all.
4. “You don’t really want that,” or “Stop wasting your time on that and do this instead.” Excuse me, when did God appoint you to His position, because that’s what it looks like you’re playing at with either variation of this. You have no way of knowing what’s in other peoples’ hearts or what plans are in store for them, and they aren’t required to get your approval for it, either. People have a right to make their own decisions. You never know what might happen and statements like this may very well make a fool of you one day. Don’t take a chance.
5. “I told you so.” Even if you preface it with the I-hate-to-say-it-but clause, it’s still ridiculous because they already know. Demonstrate some maturity and don’t gloat over somebody’s failings, even if they asked for it and everybody knew it was foolishness from the start. As I said in the last statement, people have a right to make their own decisions and that means having the grace to let them make their own mistakes. Pray they’ve learned from the experience, and don’t gloat lest you wander into folly someday. Because none of us are as smart as we think we are.
6. “ I did that too, and let me tell you how I did it better.” Nobody likes a know-it-all or a show off, and a constant need to one-up people blinks “I’m insecure!” brighter than a digital billboard. You don’t have to be in the spotlight every minute of every day. Back down and let others have their day in the sun every now and then. Because we all know that nobody’s done everything under the sun, and there will always be people out there that have done it bigger, better and more recently than you have. Let go of the competition to always be #1 and learn to be happy with the life the Lord gave you.
7. “If I were you, I’d …” Turn off anybody that prefaces a statement with this immediately, because it’s a clear sign that they don’t know what they’re talking about. Wisdom gives options. Experience shares insight. Ignorance says that if they were you, they’d go out and kick the world in the you-know-where, and that’s most often foolishness that would make a bigger mess of things if anybody were dumb enough to take this advice. Plus, they wouldn’t have the guts to actually do it, because some people are good at telling people to do things they wouldn’t dare do themselves.
8. “You should make them do it.” Guess what? Scientists have found the center of the universe and it’s not you. That’s the fastest way to run a person out of your life. You don’t make anybody do anything they don’t want to do, and if you try to then trust me – you’re ego can’t handle what they really think about you. If you have to control someone every minute to “keep them in line,” then you’re trying to force them into a place or relationship where they don’t belong. Don’t beg people to be your friend or try to force them to your will. Pray for what Joyce Meyer refers to as “divine connections.” Those are friends and acquaintances that you get along with so well that you don’t want to change them because you appreciate how their uniqueness enriches your life.
9. “I would NEVER do that/accept that/put up with that.” Never say never or the Lord will make you do it to show you who the boss really is. One never in your life that’s absolute: you never know what life has in store for you. Someday you could well be dining on crow while dealing with something that you thought you were too smart/special/good for. Life has a way of humbling us, and the “I would never” statements are a GPS on how to get that done.
10. Anything other than “I’m sorry for your loss” and “I’m praying for you and your family” at a visitation or funeral. Anything else sounds stupid and believe me, there’s nothing clever or inspirational you can say that will get through people in the depths of grief. The dumbest things I’ve ever heard have all been said at visitations and/or funerals because people try to justify death and offer comfort in religious platitudes. Folks, I’m Christian too, but this isn’t seminary or time to play preacher. I remember what C.S. Lewis wrote about death not being natural because human beings weren’t created to die and it’s the most painful consequence that we pay for sin. He’s absolutely right. There’s nothing right about death and there’s no way to wrap it up in pretty phrases or platitudes that makes it suck less. So give it up. Don’t engage in conversations with the bereaved if they try to start one, either. This isn’t the time or place to engage in theological discussions, discuss anything beyond condolences for the loss (no gossip or “what’s up with me” statements), and it certainly isn’t appropriate to leverage your personality or make a big impression. It’s a subdued occasion so dial it down, make an appearance, and for goodness sake, shut up.
Maybe you relate to some of this and are nodding, saying thank you for revealing it! Or maybe you see it as a calling out. I certainly don’t mean it that way, and I admit that I’m guilty of uttering some of these phrases. In fact, I had to work at cutting the “whatever” and “I told you so” out of my vocabulary, and I get along with people so much better now that it’s gone. My point is not to say “shame on you.” It’s to shed light on small things that chip away at trust and give guidance that I’ve learned in building bridges to cooperative relationships that last. It takes time and effort, but if modifying my vocabulary slightly will help with that, then it’s an effort worth making. I believe if you’ve read this far then you believe it’s a worthy effort, too.
That’s all today. Take care. I hope you have a Happy Friday tomorrow and a great weekend.
First, I'd like to open this entry by thanking all of those who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. A lot of people are celebrating this weekend as the "unofficial start of summer," but we wouldn't have this freedom to celebrate if it weren't for those who serve to defend it. So for all who have served and all who do serve, thanks!
Second, in honor of kicking off the summer season, I'm offering Move for free through Wednesday. You can get it in any ebook format through Smashwords at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/286425
and entering Coupon Code HH37X. So go get yourself a free summer read now, and feel free to pick up any of my other titles featured on this website.
And third, summer is indeed a great season for reading. Whether it's by the poolside, on the beach, at the lake, at the summer getaway place, or just on your lunch hour, there's something about having a great book on hand to take your mind away. I know it's usually a season for ligher, fun reading, but for some reason, I find myself gravitating toward fantasy during the winter and sci-fi during the summer. (I read mysteries and some non-fiction all the time.) I'm not sure why this is. I've done a few other blogs on my favorite reads and I'd like to expand on that today by giving you a list of my favorite sci-fi and fantasy reads, since I'm currently making the transition from fantasy to sci-fi. Each title contains a link to it on Amazon, but, of course, you can find them at a number of other online or retail outlets. And without further ado, may I suggest:Guardian of Time (The Shardwell Series): By Amanda Gerry and C. Hall. By I thought about making a completely separate list for independent authors, but decided against it. They work just as hard at their craft (perhaps harder, since indies don't have agents to do promotion for them) and deserve the same respect as mainstream novels. This book is an amazing fantasy title that I was asked to do a review for, and I was so enthralled that I flew through it in a few days - no small feat, given my busy schedule and the fact that I was working on a sci-fi novella of my own at the time! It's about a young woman that runs away from her royal home to escape an arranged marriage, only to find that the arrangement was different - and much more complicated - than she imagined. This is actually a young adult novel, but I think even adult readers would enjoy it because it has a little bit of everything for you: intrigue, mystery, romance, betrayal and, best of all, a surprise ending. In fact, there's one other book in this series that I plan to add to my reading list once I get another gift card, and work through a bit more of my TBR list this summer!
Age of the Sigil, The Complete First Season and Age of the Sigil, The Complete Second Season. By: Melvin Ryley and Rich Dalglish. Another great young adult/fantasy novel about four teens that find they have been chosen to bear special powers that, once unlocked, will save their world that is under attack of ruin by a ruthless leader that's channeling magic to his will with disasterous results. One thing that intrigued me about these two novels are that they're written as "episodes" in a fashion similar to a reality TV series. I was skeptical about how this would work in a novel setting, but it actually kept a great pace and had action moving at an even clip without those dreaded "drag scenes" that you sometimes find in novels where attempts at character development occur. The four bearers of the sigils show a remarkable strength of character and growth through their trials, but it isn't rushed or contrived - in fact, their development is completely realistic and, I believe, reflective of how life's trials shape us all. A good read that goes by almost too fast, and leaves you wishing for more.
Mars Trilogy: Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars. By Kim Stanley Robinson. I eyed this trilogy about the terraforming and settlement of Mars for years before I finally settled down and read it last summer. Wow! It was amazing! You can tell that Robinson did a tremendous amount of research and really immersed himself in the development of this series. What impressed me the most was the great balance of science and humanity. It's well balanced and you can see how the development of Mars as a habitable world changes humanity - not only the people that immigrate there, but the people on Earth as well. You see a tremendous development not only of Mars as a planet, but in the people and characters as well. Green Mars was my favorite book of the series (which is rare for the second book to be the strongest in a trilogy, but it was in this case). This is definitely a work that sucks you in and captivates you. My only gripe was that I felt Blue Mars somewhat rushed to a conclusion, but in retrospect I wonder if that's true or if it was my own perspective of wanting more and for the tale to continue. An amazing trilogy. In fact, this trilogy made me a fan of Robinson's work and his most recent release, 2312, is next on my TBR list.
Mars, Return to Mars, and Saturn, By Ben Bova. In case you didn't know, I love sci-fi works that revolve around interstellar development - something that will no doubt be confirmed when my own sci-fi novel is released in November. And actually, I was hard pressed to find a favorite book by Ben Bova because he's written novels on Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Saturn and I love them all. I picked his novels about Mars and Saturn because they're the ones that stand out in my mind the most. But really, you can't go wrong with any of Bova's works. He's an outstanding sci-fi writer. I'm excited to see he has another release due out in July titled New Earth, and it looks quite interesting. It's on my Amazon wish list, and will definitely make it to my ereader apps in a few short months!
The Left Behind Series. By Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. I didn't include links to this because this series has 12 books and frankly, you'd do better to go to Amazon or Barnes & Noble and do a search for the series. Rick and I embarked on reading this series a few years ago, and although it's not strictly sci-fi or fantasy, it definitely has an "otherworldly element" to it. This series is based on the Book of Revelation in the Bible, but as a warning: don't expect fluff and stuff. It does get gritty - and a bit graphic in some places, so there are some parts that aren't for the faint of heart, but I fully believe that if you're a fan of sci-fi or fantasy then you'll have no problem with it (I didn't flinch, but others I know that aren't accustomed to sci-fi and fantasy that were shocked by some parts). If you're a Christian then I do recommend that you read this series, as it can help you to understand this mysterious last book of The Bible better. And one more thing: read the books, don't watch the series. The TV movies do differ from the books, and in fact they cut off with the third one, which was made before the third book was written and actually isn't anything like the novel at all.
So there you have it: A few sci-fi and fantasy suggestions to take your mind away this summer. I hope you'll check some of these titles out, and please - if you read a book and enjoy it, leave a review. Authors really like reviews because it lets us know how well our work is connecting to readers and helps us to write better in the future.
If you'd like to know more about books I've read and enjoyed, please feel free to visit my Goodreads profile, and send me a friend request if you're a member of that great online community!
That's all today. Have a safe weekend.
What a week it’s been! I’ve talked to a lot of people, and it seems that a lot of them are struggling with issues of a lack of cooperation, direction, and kindness. Nerves are frayed and peoples’ patience is coming to the very last nerve.
I know, I share some of these frustrations. It’s certainly been a tough week. One thing you must realize; however, is that sometimes, the best way to deal with wrong is to do what’s right. And so, since it’s been a tough one for so many of us this
week, I’d like to use this entry to share some of the best advice I’ve received. It’s from a number of sources – family, friends, doctors, professors, and even online postings that I like to call “Twitterisms.” So read on for hope on how to weather the storm and come out better on the other end. But let me warn you ahead of time: Some people aren’t going to appreciate that you’ve been told this. Let’s just say that this advice doesn’t sit well with those that have, shall we say, less than pure motives. That being said, this advice will lead to better endings, but it might not make you the most popular person around – so the decision between what’s right and what’s popular comes into play.
And so, without further ado, here we go:
1. When I got married and moved out of my parents home (I married shortly after graduating college), Mom asked Dad to give me some advice for going “out there in the world.” His advice: Don’t do stupid things, and don’t listen to people that are doing stupid things. Mom thought that was woefully inadequate to send me out into the world with, but I’ve found that covers a lot of ground over the past 15 years. I daresay, that’s better advice than Winston Churchill’s commencement speech about never giving up. Just use your noodle, folks. It’s that simple. And as an ancillary to this advice, I’d add: If somebody prefaces a statement with “If I were you,” turn them off immediately. That’s the #1 indicator that they don’t know what they’re talking about and are about to suggest that you do something that they’d never do themselves. People with experience share what they learned with you. Troublemakers tell you to do what they wish they were bold enough to do but know darn well is extreme and would cause more trouble. And wise people listen.
2. My granddaddy passed away over 20 years ago, but he used to regularly give me advice that is the only thing I’ve found come to pass with a 100% accuracy rate. What goes around always comes around, so be very careful to do what’s right and treat people in a way you can live with later. The problem is that some people aren’t attentive to reality, and they fail to realize the “why do bad things happen to good people” whining they experience is directly tied to an earlier indiscression. Folks, I’ve said it many times over but it’s worth repeating: This is absolutely true. If you aren’t a person of faith, then consider this: The universe only has so much energy, and you can only get back what you send out. If you do bad things (reap the wind), then only bad things can come back to you (sow the whirlwind). I recently read where somebody in the ministry wrote that your duty is to do right even if everybody around you is doing wrong because in time all things are accounted for. So forget about revenge. The natural balance of life will work it out in time as long as you’re attentive to your own words, deeds and actions.
3. Many of you know I went through some major life transitions three years ago, and during that time someone gave me this invaluable advice: When people stop listening, stop talking and start doing what you can to improve the situation. A failure to listen is a failure to cooperate, and you have a right to make your life the best it can be. And God help, if they give you the “that’s not my problem” or “do what you’ve gotta do” lines, then they just annihilated their gripe rights. Strike out on your own and
get to work making the changes that are necessary for you to thrive. And as an ancillary to this: everybody doesn’t need to know everything going on in your life. Use discernment, especially on a life improvement journey. Because sadly, not all people have your best interest at heart, and they’ll fight very hard to keep you in the handy box you’re in because it serves their interests.
4. The same person that gave me that advice gave me another piece of advice that a lot of people wish I didn’t know, because it got them in trouble. That advice: Don’t listen to what people say. Watch what they do, because they lie with their mouth and live truth through actions. For all the “I’m so busy!” and “I meant to …” excuses, the truth is that people make time for the things that are really important to them. Open your eyes and I guarantee that you’ll be implementing some of the changes in #3 in many areas of your life. I did and let me tell you: It pissed a lot of people off, but the “housekeeping” from that period helped me to set my life right in order of my priorities, not on junk based on lies people were trying to sell me that were 100% to their benefit and 0% to mine.
5. A doctor once told me that a great way to beat anxiety is to mind your own business. Stop getting involved in everybody’s
affairs and trying to solve their problems and run their life. God gave you a life and attending to that is your purpose. Let other people attend to their purpose. Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t help people – if you can, then you certainly should. But if it doesn’t directly involve you or have any impact on you, your home, or your life, then back off.
6. I recently read something that said “a rut is a grave without end.” I know that life goes through slow seasons and there are times when it seems you can’t get anything going, but you can’t stop pursuing change that improves your life. This quote really hit me because I went through a season of life when I did fear change, and when I was forced out of it I was surprised by
how weak I had become spiritually. It really was a slow death happening to me, and it shocked me so much that I’ve made it a point to do two things on a daily basis: Open my eyes to my reality, and boldly take advantage of every opportunity, no matter how small. Because small things lead up to big things, but it is a progression. Don’t make the mistake I did and get yourself in a place where other peoples’ decisions force you to make a change and they’re steering your ship into waters you don’t want to be in. Make sure you’re steering the ship with a destination in mind, and make appropriate course corrections along the way.
7. And in closing, a Twitterism that I read recently: Life is heavy because of all you hang on to. Life becomes lighter with the more you let go. You simply can’t hang on to every bad thing and indiscression that happens or you’ll be a bitter, miserable person. Sometimes you have to realize that some people simply don’t know how to be decent human beings. “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself (Proverbs 26:4). Don’t let people drag you down. Limit your contact with them, let it go as ignorance, and go on your way.
I know these tips aren’t a cure for all situations or ills, but with patience they can work to lead you to better days. So take heart in this knowledge and hang in there, knowing that this too shall pass – and it will pass much faster and easier if you walk in wisdom.
That’s all today. And now, enjoy this video. It's catchy! It's creepy! It sticks to your head and inspired Incursion.
Happy Friday to you tomorrow and have a safe and Happy Memorial Day weekend!
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.
Well folks, the sci-fi novella is coming along great. It has a title - Incursion - and it just grew by 2 chapters. Yep, it's now going to be a 12 chapter novella. But that's alright. It's all about what it takes to make it the best story it can be. And I've written 10 chapters so far, so I'm very close to having the rough draft done. Yay!
I've done a lot of work on it this weekend. In fact, on Friday night I woke up around midnight unable to sleep because I had so many ideas, so I got up and I wrote 3 chapters in an hour and a half. Not bad, but thank goodness it was a weekend night because that wouldn't work on a work night like tonight!
Today I'd like to share another excerpt with you. This is from Chapter 6. Enjoy!
The viewscreen switched to a man with deep colored skin, curly brown hair and deep brown eyes. “Greetings ship. My name is Esau Norali. I’m a cleric with the Gnostic Order. With whom am I speaking?”
Paige jerked. That voice sounded so familiar, like the one from her visions. She composed herself quickly and pulled her jumpsuit straight. “My name is Paige Lybrand, Captain of the Callisto 2. We’re here to investigate the dark matter mass over your sector.”
Esau smiled nervously. “Thank you for taking my transmission. We’ve been trying to hail the other Earth sectors since the dark matter mass ppeared two weeks ago, but nobody will respond to our hails.”
“They might not be getting them. The dark matter is interfering with communications,” Molly said. “Do you have data on this dark matter mass?”
“It’s an incursion, and we desperately need your help.” Esau looked around nervously. Several hooded clerics behind him nodded in unison. “Captain, we’re aware that the Terran and Jovan Councils are considering action on us regarding the attack on the Middle Eastern sector, but there’s information you need to know. We didn’t launch those missiles. Those strikes were the result of the dark matter incursion and we need to stop it before they destroy more of Earth.”
“Wait, what do you mean?” Paige asked. “Who are ‘they?’”
“Captain, we’re getting another hail,” Janelle said. She stared at the console. “I’m not sure of the source. It has the same frequency as the transmissions I read from the dark matter, but it appears to be routing through the lunar communications satellite.”
“Split screen view,” Paige said. The screen split in half to show Esau on the left and the image of a tall man standing in a shadow in a cowl, covering his head. Paige stood and walked to the center of the bridge. “This is Captain Paige Lybrand of the Callisto 2.”
“Captain Lybrand, you’ve been warned.”
Paige raised an eyebrow and looked around at the bridge crew. Everybody nodded.
This was the man from their visions.
“With whom am I speaking. Show yourself!”
The man stepped out of the shadows and threw back his cowl. “I’m Esau Norali, head of the Gnostic Order. You’ve been warned. Retreat from the dark matter mass within thirty seconds or we’ll fire on your ship.”
Paige turned to face her crew, who were staring at the split screen images of Esau with dropped jaws. “Can anybody tell me what the hell’s going on?”