All posts by Andra M.

Jesus Come Soon… ?

The more our society collapses and evil grows ever more prevalent, the more I hear people pray the above.

Yet when their prayer continues to go unanswered (or at least a, “Not yet.”), they ask, “Why not? How much more does evil need to grow, to fester, and destroy? How many more people need to suffer and die under it? When will you, God, say ‘enough is enough’?”

For me, it’s a prayer I refuse to utter. Would I like him to? Sure! Yet, for me, saying that prayer would come from a place of fear, laziness, and selfishness. It would mean I no longer have to struggle, face uncertainty, and prepare for hard times that may or may not come to fruition during my lifetime.

There is another reason that has nothing and everything to do with me. Jesus is waiting in order to give people more opportunities to find him. I didn’t find Jesus myself until I was sixteen. If he had decided to come earlier, I would have been denied that opportunity. Who am I to say those who are still lost should remain lost, because I myself am tired of fighting and still seeing evil’s reign grow?

So, yes, I want Jesus to tarry a few more days. I want others to have more time and opportunity to find him—just like I did—and as such avoid the tribulations, the horrors, and the judgement that is to come.

“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” – 2 Peter 3:8-9 (ESV)

A Writer’s Work is Never Done

The first lesson I learned as a writer is I will never write the perfect story.

In fact, just when I think a story or book is as good as it can be, someone comes along and says, “Nope. It needs this…”

For instance, I finally received a response to one of my proposals that I had submitted a few months ago. It’s a rejection, but a positive one (yes, there is such a thing). Most of the time a rejection is either no response or a simple “Thanks, but no thanks.”

This rejection says in part: “The genre is potentially a good fit for our press, and many of your underlying concepts of worldbuilding are intriguing; however, we think that this story might benefit from a developmental edit to help balance out the various characters’ points of view and to regulate the balance of pacing between the characters’ internal processing and the action in the story. While we won’t be pursuing this manuscript any further at [this] time, we would welcome a resubmission after edits.”

So it’s a “sort of” rejection. I’m nonetheless now researching editors to see if they can help me with the issues above, and hopefully make my story even better to justify a resubmittal. There’s still no guarantee they’ll accept my manuscript, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

My not-so-secret hope is that any suggestions don’t require a complete rewrite, or I have to reimagine the entire story including the world, plot, and characters. I’m already working on a new novel, so diving into another one at the same time will be quite the challenge.

Good thing I’m still off social media…

Aside: In researching what graphic to use at the top, I typed in “work images.” Over 95% of the pictures were computer/office related. No construction, welding, farming, ranching, or other physical labors. I can think of many reasons why that is, including audience. After all, I’m on a computer, so it stands to reason looking for work images would be related to computers… Still, I hate to think the browser algorithm programmers don’t think that jobs where working on roads, buildings, etc., isn’t considered real work.

Now it’s time for me to go back to work…

A Time and Place

Every year the South Dakota Humanities Council holds a book festival where authors can purchase booths to sell their books. Along with that authors and college and university professors give workshops, readings and other presentations pertaining all things literary. It’s usually held in the Black Hills of South Dakota (this year was supposed to be in Deadwood).

Unfortunately due to the thing-that-shall-not-be-named, the council decided to cancel the festival and go all virtual. Because some of the workshops and other presentations looked interesting and informative, myself and two others decided to sign up and attend.

My favorite workshop on Friday was titled “Flash Forms Workshop” hosted by Joseph Holt (https://www.holt.ink/). It was about writing and understanding flash writing. He’s definitely a teacher in that he encouraged—and expected—lots of audience participation. His passion for writing was infectious. I managed to peek out of my virtual shell a few times (although I had issues with my microphone) and asked a few questions and added comments in the chat. He gave us some prompts and gave us ten minutes to do some free writing on those prompts.

In those ten minutes I wrote something that was rather outstanding–if I may say so myself. It’s good enough, in fact, I’m going see if I can get it published. It won’t work for the flash fiction magazine I currently edit for, but it might work for a different one.

At the end of Joe’s presentation, he gave us a few names of publications that specialize in flash form writing that look promising

The second day, however, was a bit of a frustrating disappointment.

Let me just start with this: I don’t care what a person’s politics are. If I am going to attend any class or workshop, I expect the presenter or instructor to stick to the subject at hand and not spout their political views. Even if I happen to agree with their politics, it’s still irrelevant and a waste of my time. It’s not why I’m there.

Unfortunately, during two of the events I was looking forward to, the presenters barely touched on the subject and instead focused on, shall we say, other matters. I ended up leaving both of them within ten minutes.

The nice thing about attending via Zoom, leaving the “room” was a bit easier than it would have been in person. No one to stare after me wondering why I was leaving with my jaw clenched.

There is a time and a place for politics, so unless the subject is about politics all personal political views need to stay out of the classroom–virtual or otherwise.

Gratitude

We live in an age of entitlement. Our society encourages pride and selfishness. If we can’t get what we want when we want it, we blame everyone but ourselves for our own impatience. We don’t ask ourselves if the person or company from whom we want a product or service can’t meet our wants on our timetable for legitimate reasons.

Because our society is so rife with above, I take extra care to be patient and always give a smile and thank you to whomever I’m buying something from.

Take for instance my favorite coffee shop. It’s had to close the lobby for the last two weeks due to employment shortages, yet their drive-thru is still open. It makes me sad, because I love spending time there. It’s a fabulous atmosphere. I nonetheless smiled and expressed my gratitude to the server at the window, even if I didn’t feel it as much as I would have in the lobby. Because it’s the right thing to do, and it’s not the employee’s fault there’s a shortage.

At the same time, I don’t expect a lot of gratitude from my company’s clients (I’m a land surveyor at a civil engineering firm). It’s my job, and my reward is my bi-weekly paycheck.

Aside: My boss often tells me when I complete a task, “You shall be rewarded.” I always respond with. “I will. Next Wednesday.”

So when a client expresses gratitude other than a simple “thank you,” I’m taken completely by surprise. This week a client wanted a lot survey for her new house, and we had the time to get it done in only a few days. Because she was so thankful, she sent an Edible Arrangement (they’re floral arrangements, but with fruit instead of flowers, many of them chocolate covered) with three Mylar “thank you” balloons.

Unnecessary? Absolutely. Appreciated? Of course. We’re talking chocolate covered fruit and balloons, here!

Then again, if she had sent a simple thank you card and nothing else, I would have been just as touched. Heck, her email calling me a “rock star” was over and above what I would ever expect. Nevertheless, her emails and gift made my entire week, and I hope to emulate her a little bit more with others who do things for me (whether its their job or not). Because gratitude feeds not only the recipient but the giver. And what a better place our society would be if it spread, thereby curtailing its rampant selfishness.

Remembrances?

Right now the internet is abuzz with personal remembrances of 9/11 twenty years ago.

I’m usually not one who goes with the crowds on any holidays (so-called). Maybe it’s due to my natural tendency to avoid what the majority is doing. Why add my voice to similar voices when it’ll only get lost in the multitude?

After all, my experience that day isn’t much different from most everyone else’s. The shock, the disbelief, the heart-stopping realization that our world isn’t safe and that we had enemies willing to kill themselves in order to kill us.

Yet we also tend to forget when life returns to normal—or at least adapting to incremental changes in our day-to-day lives so adeptly we still call it “normal.”

For instance, twenty years ago, we didn’t have to arrive at the airport a minimum of two hours before the flight for the privilege of figuratively (and sometimes literally) stripping down before stepping foot on a plane. Now it’s simply a part of our “normal.”

We stepped (and often willingly) into a world where everyone is assumed to want to harm others, and we must prove through metal detectors, x-ray machines, and secret courts that we have no such intention.

We’ve decided to distrust others until they prove themselves otherwise. The whole issue with the thing-that-shall-not-be named going on today has taken that distrust even further.

What other freedoms and liberties have we lost or willingly relinquished in the last twenty years and have convinced ourselves we no longer want or need? And how many others will we give up in the next twenty? I honestly shudder to think…

Delighting at Funerals

I may not do death well, but I can’t help but find delight in funerals.

I know it sounds strange if not cold or even cruel. Why would I delight over such a somber event when people are grieving and taking a final moment to say goodbye to a loved one?

As with my previous entry, it’ll all make sense by the end.

Let’s start with my Mamaw’s funeral (my grandmother on my mother’s side).

She loved animals. I didn’t know how much until we went out to eat for Thanksgiving. We passed a park with hundreds of Canada geese loitering in the grass. She nearly squealed and said, “Look at all those geese! I love geese!”

I smiled to myself at her joy, but also at my mom’s annoyance. She hated geese, because their house was in their twice-annual migration path and as such had to wade through a lot of goose poop every spring and fall.

Mamaw died less than a month later.

At her internment in a veteran’s cemetery where she was laid to rest with her first husband, there was a small park behind us with a pond. Neither my husband nor I could hear the pastor, because the geese behind us were squawking so loud. I hid my laughter in my husband’s shoulder and told him later, “I couldn’t think of a more perfect eulogy than that.” He said that he hid his own laughter thinking the same thing.

I believe Mamaw would have laughed right with us.

A few days ago was the funeral for my friend who lost her husband last week. I was pleased to see the parking lot and nearby street so full with friends and family. It gave me a clue as to how many people loved him. For me, I had only met him once, so I knew next to nothing about him other than he adored his wife, and she him.

So during the time when people could stand up and tell their favorite stories about him, I got to peek into the love and intimacy of his friend and family relationships. I found it both an honor and a privilege to witness it.

It was, in a word, delightful.

Doing Death Well

The title of my entry is a bit strange, but I think by the end of this entry it’ll make sense.

Everyone has their blind spot, something they can’t wrap their mind around no matter how many times they face it. They watch how others react to that particular circumstance seemingly without effort, and all they can do is scratch their head (figuratively or literally).

For me it’s what to do when someone dies or when a friend loses a loved one. I’ve lost both my parents within eighteen months of each other. Because I’m good at compartmentalizing my emotions, I set my grief aside and did what needed to be done and in as short of time as possible. Luckily my sister and I were on the same page throughout the entire process, so we completed almost everything for both our parents within weeks. Our dad’s girlfriend (our parents had divorced a few years earlier) was shocked at how efficiently we took care of our dad’s estate. I’m sure she thought we were a couple of gold-digging vultures when that wasn’t the case at all. It’s who we are; it’s who our parents were. They wouldn’t have wanted us to become blubbering piles of goo when there was work to be done. Our efficiency was a testament to our love and respect for our parents, because that’s how they raised us.

Even before then, though, death to me is a part of life. Sure I miss my parents, but I know I will see them again. Maybe if I wasn’t a Christian I would feel differently. Although… I kind of doubt it. If I were an atheist, believing nothing exists past this life, and I and everyone else ceases to exist the moment we take our last breath, it simply is what it is.

Nothing is ever gained by dwelling on things we can’t control.

Yet I also know my point of view is rather unusual. People grieve much more poignantly than I ever will, and for grief to no longer overwhelm can take months if not years. I don’t consider that a weakness, by the way. It’s merely a different way to process such a deep loss that I can’t embrace for myself. I’m not built that way.

If anything, I’m the weak one when it comes to dealing with death. My lack of true, emotional empathy makes me appear cold and unfeeling. It’s frustrating, because I want to be able to empathize and therefore know exactly how to respond when someone else faces a great loss.

What brought all this on? A friend of mine lost her husband a few days ago. He’d been sick for a while, but at the same time, one can never be truly prepared for losing a spouse. I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out what do do and what to say. Sending an email or card with flowers saying “I’m sorry for your loss” isn’t enough. Yet I also don’t want to drop by unannounced bearing flowers and food to express my sympathies either.

I go back to when my parents died and I was actually annoyed by all the expressions of sympathy. Sure I was sad and I appreciated their thoughtfulness, but at the same time, I thought it was unnecessary. I didn’t need it, and I was forced to hold my tongue and simply say, “Thank you.” Still, I do remember their kindnesses such as when my boss had a few pizzas delivered for us.

So what do I do for a friend who just lost her husband knowing anything I do will be inadequate, perhaps even unwanted?

I ended up sending her a text expressing my sympathies and offered a few things I could do (such as pick up groceries, help with her dogs, housekeeping, or a listening ear). Is it enough? No idea. Too much? Again, no idea. Nor has she responded, but I’m not surprised. I’m sure she has a lot more on her mind than responding to a text.

So, yeah, I don’t do death well.

At Odds

To be human often means to be at odds with oneself. What the heart wants, the head ignores, and what the head knows, the heart refuses to hear.

Such is the case with addiction. In this case, social media addiction. My head always knew social media could be addictive and that I may indeed have that problem. My heart, on the other hand refused to admit it. It simply likes it too much. Better to live in ignorance and do what it wants, consequences be damned.

Yet now, being off of it (except for one hour a week which I will describe below), my heart can’t deny it any longer.

It’s now been ten days (less one hour) since I’ve checked any social media. I’ll admit I figuratively slobber at the idea of getting back on, and my fingers figuratively itch to type in those websites.

It’s getting better though. I’ve managed to steer my attention away from each temptation by reading a book (or two) and diving into my new story (the first chapter is finally complete).

In fact, I’m nearing a point where the thought of social media makes me cringe a little. It’s nice not having to wade through all the national and international drama and taking the risk of being called the whatever the popular –ist of the day is because I deign to spout an opinion.

I do miss the more positive interactions, though, and discovering what my friends and family are doing. Luckily some of them have signed up to receive updates on this humble (yeah, right. Me, humble?) blog, so I’m not completely cut off. And thank you to all for being here!

Speaking of positive interactions, the one exception I made is participating in an hour-long #healthyfaith chat on Twitter once a week. They hold the chats four times a week and discuss either a chapter of the Bible or explore certain themes. For an hour, the host asks ten questions and the participants answer and give their thoughts. Very few serious arguments, hardly any trolls, and I get to learn more about scripture.

When my church physically closed for the thing-that-shall-not-be-named last year, the healthy faith chats became my church.

Aside: my church did hold online services, and my son and I “attended” one of them. I found it more depressing than uplifting, so we never did it again. What I discovered about myself in that year is that I’m not as introverted as I thought. I need to be around people, even if I don’t always interact with them.

While a year may seem like a long time to stay away from social media, I’m more and more confident I can make it.

For once, both my heart and my head agree.

A Single Step

So far my fears that I no longer had the wherewithal to start let alone finish a new novel may have been a bit unfounded. By simply starting to write, my brain’s creative center (if there is such a thing; I don’t know my brain anatomy all that well) has seen markedly increased activity.

I started with a new character, a teenage boy (about 14) named Ciman which means “inquisitive.” And he is indeed inquisitive! The story begins with him hearing some strange noises in the nearby woods, and whatever made the sounds smells oddly of cooked meat and rotten eggs.

His curiosity soon overwhelms his fear…

Except he doesn’t discover what the thing is, because his sister comes along to tell him he has chores to do.

What happens next? Does he ignore his sister and step into the woods, or does he obey and not risk getting the switch from his mother (he has endured said switch aplenty, so much so he even named it)?

Don’t know yet. I haven’t written it. As a “pantser” (one who doesn’t outline before writing a story), it’s as much a journey of discovery for me as it is for the reader.

All I know is he eventually discovers what lurks in the woods, but whether it’ll be friend or foe? I ain’t tellin’! Don’t want to ruin the surprise if it ever gets published…

Happy Saturday, all! I hope it’s fun and perhaps even a little productive depending on your goals for today.

Oh, and some housekeeping: Since I now have more time to write, I do plan on updating this blog more often. I’ll try not to exceed once a week, though. Your time is valuable, and I don’t want to take up so much of it you end up ignoring any updates.

It’s Official

I’ve been debating for the last six months or so whether or not to kick myself off social media for a time. I did it once for a year, and I accomplished more than I expected. So many fewer distractions.

Yesterday I made the plunge and even deleted the apps off all my devices so I won’t be tempted to click on them. Sure, I can still use a browser. Doing so, however, takes a bit more effort; the icons aren’t right there, and will therefore be less tempting.

In the last two days I’ve written two pages of the sequel to my fantasy.

Yet I’m already having issues…

I’ve been editing more than writing over the last several years, shutting up my internal editor has been, shall we say, a challenge. Most of my writing has been either my blog, social media posts or short stories. I’m not as yet confident I can still pull off an entire novel.

Funny considering when I first started writing, novels were the only kind of writing I could do; short stories were the challenge!

The question now is how long to keep myself off. A year would be the goal, but I don’t know if it’ll be possible. Not because I desire to dive back in per se, but if I manage to hook a publisher, they’ll expect me to do much of my own marketing and advertising—requiring the use of social media. Not a bad thing, really, because then I could be better focused on using social media more effectively, and not merely for personal use and entertainment (I use “entertainment” lightly).

My blog here is also the exception. I actually invited my Facebook friends to follow me here if they wanted to stay in contact. Don’t know if any will, but I hope they do.