Tuesday, August 30, 2016

T-minus 425.834 Days and Counting


I wish I had a dollar for every time the sentiment that fear is the greatest obstacle to change or to living the life you want has popped up in a book I'm reading or in a meme on Facebook or has been uttered in a conference workshop or keynote address.

I'm fairly certain I read one variation or another at least 100 times as I devoured just one book -- Chicken Soup for the Soul's Reboot Your Life!

As I've read and listened, I've been . . .

encouraged by "I did this and so can you"

cautioned by "time is fleeting, life is short, regrets are ugly things"

and even bullied by "if you really trust God, you'll take the leap and trust                Him to catch you."

Through it all, I've vacillated on the continuum of uncertainty.

Sometimes, I'm somewhat certain I can make the monumental vocational leap I dream of. Equally often, I'm pretty certain that doing so would be a huge misstep . . . or mis-leap.

Never, though, have I felt confident I can do it, that I can walk away from the thing I once loved but that has changed so drastically I hardly recognize it to do what I've dreamed almost my entire life of doing.

I know what's holding me back, what fears keep me continuing down the path I'm already on.

I simply haven't been able to overcome those fears.

For years, I've read or heard countless testimonies of people who finally pushed through their fear by burning bridges. There was the unhappy ad executive who walked into his boss' office one day and gave his 6-month notice and the couple that put everything they needed and used in one room of their house, invited homeless people into their home to take whatever they wanted for free, and then downsized to a tiny house they built with their own  two hands.

I chuckled at the story of the woman with 6 sizes of full sets of clothing to fall back on when her latest diet failed. She boxed up all but the smallest size and drove 4 hours to drop off the boxes of at a resale shop that raises money for a battered-women and children's shelter. She said she considered a town only 2 hours away but was fairly certain a 2-hour drive wasn't enough to make her overcome the urge to go back and re-buy all her clothes. She was pretty confident that a 4-hour drive each way would do the trick.

Two weeks ago, I decided to burn a bridge.

I did it the very next day.

Only two people -- my son and my daughter -- are aware that there was a bridge burning the afternoon of August 19.

Truth be told, the bridge is burned, but there's a rowboat on the shore I can use in a pinch. But I'm trying really hard to forget that rowboat exists, to remember that there's a way to circumvent that burned-out bridge.

And so, the bridge has been burned, and I'm ignoring the row boat. How much time do I have to prepare for the actual leap?

14 months.

425.834 days.

Here we go!



Thursday, August 25, 2016

Civility be Darned, Shower-Style

When I got married just over 30 years ago, two individuals offered to throw a shower. I appreciated their thoughtfulness, provided the asked-for guest list for one of them, and only asked that the hostess not go to too much trouble or expense. The same thing happened again when I was expecting my son and later my daughter.

I wasn't doing anything special; that's how things were done then. Brides and mothers-to-be were thankful to have a shower and behaved accordingly. We gathered in the church fellowship hall or someone's living room, enjoyed cake and punch, played a few silly games, and opened gifts.

I witnessed similar situations as friends married and had children over the years, but somewhere along the lines, something has gone horribly wrong.

In the past couple of weeks, in fact, I've heard story after story of what can only be termed "total brat" brides, expectant mothers, and couples.

Types of women and details here are true, but they are mixed around to protect the privacy of the women who shared the information.

One bride-to-be informed her future sister-in-law (to whom she barely speaks and occasionally ridicules to her face) by text that future sister-in-law "must" throw a shower at a specific day and time. She dictated the menu (a keg and Buffalo Wild Wings were on the list), the source and style of invitations, the venue, and the guest list of 37 couples (yes, that's a potential of 74 guests). The future sister-in-law, a college student with little money, responded that she would love to do this but simply did not have the resources. The respondent text read, "Find it".

One young couple wants the wedding of their dreams at the expense of others. Those who received an invitation to the wedding also received their "assignment" -- what food or beverage they are expect to bring to the reception. The invitee I spoke to was instructed to bring "two bottles of dry wine" from a specific winery.  Another friend invited to the same wedding was instructed to bring "a crock-pot with pulled pork".

This young couple didn't want to leave anything to chance; the invitation insert stated that the food or beverage assignment was "in addition to our wedding gift".

Mothers-to-be are getting in on the game as well. One young mother, expectant with her 3rd child, told her best friend that she needed to host not one, but two, showers -- one for her "first tier" friends, the other for the "second tier". Of course, she had specific requirements for each shower. Heads up to those in the second tier -- your refreshments and the venue are not nearly as nice as those for the first tier friends.

These are just a few of the stories I've been told -- and invitations I've actually seen -- since the topic first came up several weeks ago when a future sister-in-law shared her story.

The problem is clear. Self-entitled, selfish young men and women have been taught from birth on to behave in this manner.

The solutions are also clear. If you're the proposed hostess, decline as gracefully as you can. If family peace dictate you hostess the event, hold your ground as best you can and ask anyone who says you must give in to every demand to co-hostess with you. If none of those work, develop some sort of temporary illness or move away . . . far away.

If you receive such an invitation, decline.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Happy Birthday to You! (a review)

What a joy it is to review Happy Birthday to You! -- written by Michelle Medlock Adams and illustrated by Sandra Rodriquez -- on this particular date. You see, today is my son's 30th birthday!


"Happy Birthday to You" is a delightful book and the perfect birthday gift for the little ones in your life.

Several things are, to me, especially impressive. First, author Michelle Medlock Adams provides text that is upbeat and cheerful, and the rhyme scheme is carried throughout the book in a way that creates a very smooth flow and that keeps the listener's attention. I especially loved the final page, in which the focus shifts from the party with guests, cake, and all the normal trimmings to the mention of a "prayer of thanks" for the birthday boy/girl and the line "I'm so proud of who you are". What a great closing!

The artwork is also outstanding. Bright, cheerful colors abound, and they are used in a way that (like the text) creates a smooth flow from page to page. The human characters and animals are adorable, and the facial expressions are well done. Each scene is interesting and complex enough to keep a child's attention time after time; at the same time, the scenes are not so complex as to be too "busy". Very nicely done by Sandra Rodriguez!

However, because "the proof is in the pudding", I read this book to 5 toddlers (one at a time). Each one asked me to read it again . . . and again . . . and again. Each smiled, giggled, and laughed as I read, and each one pointed at various things on the page as I turned them.

They also loved pressing the button -- 2 laughed at the song; the other 3 smiled and sang along (as best they could :)).

I also asked the mom of each of the 5 to loan me a photo of their toddler, and I inserted that in the sleeve on the last page. When I turned to the last page, each child was so surprised to see their own picture right there in the book, and they were obviously delighted to be a part of the book.

Then I handed the book to each child. It was a good fit for their small hands, and the pages are thick enough that they were able to turn them without difficulty.

It is interesting to note that none of the 5 children I shared "Happy Birthday to You!" was actually celebrating a birthday. That didn't make a bit of difference to them, so I'm sure any child that receives this book will enjoy it far after their birthday is past.

I will definitely be ordering multiple copies of this book -- one for each of my 5 reviewer-helpers and several more to have on hand for gifts!

(I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review, which I have provided above)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Hope Prevails by Dr. Michelle Bengtson (a review)

Quite simply, Hope Prevails: Insights from a Doctor's Personal Journey through Depression is a God-send for anyone who struggles with depression and for the loved ones of those battling the illness.

A quick topical search here on Amazon shows that almost 49,000 books on the subject of depression are currently available. While I certainly haven't read them all, I have read a countless number of them in the past 10 or so years, so I was somewhat skeptical that this book would provide any new insight or be any different. I was wrong.

First, author Dr. Michelle Bengston knows what of she speaks. Her extensive experience as a psychologist who works with patients struggling with depression would more than qualify her to author this book. However, her own personal experience with depression is what sets this book apart from others on the subject. It is refreshing to read a book from a qualified physician who has been in the trenches, who has faced her own dark times, and who has come out on the other side.

Because of her own experience, Bengston knows first-hand that the typical treatment regimen of medication, counseling, journaling, exercise, etc. in and of itself is not enough. Unlike many clinicians, she recognizes that a person is far more than just a physical and emotional being, and she explains and stresses the importance of a person's spiritual health as they battle the often-debilitating disease of depression.

Dr. Bengston's own personal testimony is relevant and recognizable to those facing their own battles with depression; that testimony provides invaluable hope to her readers. They quickly see that they are not alone, that someone knows what they are going through, and that that someone can provide hope and help.

Bengston avoids the two traps that most books on depression fall into; it is neither too technical or too "touchy-feely". Rather, Bengston's writing is warm and engaging while at the same time clear, concise, and informative. When I first saw that at the end of each chapter she had provided a playlist of songs to download, I was tempted to skip right past them, but I decided to give the first set a try and found that listening to these songs as I went about the business of my day reinforced what I had been reading. I know have a wonderful "Hope Prevails" playlist that I find uplifting and encouraging!

The title of this book is an apt one. The tools Dr. Bengston provides give hope, and they provide a way *through* depression to a better, healthier life on the other side.

All Good Things . . .

Has a snippet of a song ever run through your head off and on all day, leaving you totally unable to remember the rest of the song or the title?

That's been the case with me for the past 13 hours. I knew what I wanted to write about this evening, and I thought I might use some part of the song as a jumping-off point for my title or post. Of course, I couldn't remember more than the one phrase -- and it's garbled at that: "All good things must come to an end and {such it is?} with the {wildwood ?} flower".

If you know the name of that song (I'm 99% sure it's a country song, but then again . . .), and share it in a comment, I'll be really grateful. :)

Anyway, a good -- no, a wonderful thing is coming to an end for me tomorrow morning when I return to the office after being off-site for a few months. I've worked part of the summer, but I've worked from home.

It's been a busy summer. A quick trip to Fort Worth for my son's graduation from medical residency, countless hours trying to line out things with my former contractor, and eventually starting all over with various jobs being completed piecemeal.

Gutting a kitchen all by myself (I'm pretty darned proud of that one!) and taking far too long (and buying at least 12 little samples -- yes, 12!) to pick out the color for present living room.

Traveling to visit my daughter with my son and his fiance; visiting several area wineries and doing a eco-ziplining tour while there.

Enduring more days of rain than I can remember ever having over the Summer. Reading books and participating in a couple of book launches and writing quite a few reviews.

Getting a book club started and enjoying a couple of lunches out with friends. Hours spent in physical therapy for shoulder issues that include a torn rotator cuff, bursitis, and osteophytes.

Now it's time to get back into my regular routine, complete with a 2-hour-each-way commute (which I choose to make, but that's another story) several days a week, 15-hour days, and quite a bit of stress.

I'm not complaining, though. Many in my field -- and in other fields as well -- are without jobs or are unhappily working outside their field. I am blessed to have a job, the job I have. The job I will go back to tomorrow.

All good things must come to an end . . . to make room for other good things, I hope.



Friday, August 12, 2016

I Could Really Use a Lift (Five Minute Friday)

I'm very excited to again this week to join a talented group of women bloggers in an online, unedited flash mob free write. Week after week, these women produce insightful and inspiring posts based on a word-prompt given to us by our fearless leader Kate Motaung (whose wonderful blog can be found at katemotaung.com).

What you are about to read is almost-surely quite different from those posts. My brain, when presented with an on-demand timed writing situation, goes in all sorts of directions at once, and there's simply no telling what will pop up on the screen.  My timer is set for 5 minutes; let's see where the word "lift" takes me.

"Hey, can you use a lift?" I looked over to see a woman who had pulled over and was slowly driving along beside me as I walked down the street earlier this week. She was leaned over a bit, peering out at me through the passenger window of her minivan.

She looked completely harmless -- you know, the type of woman who has a family, complete with cat and dog, of stick figures on the back of her minivan -- but I smiled and said, "No, but thank you. I'm just walking to the library." She smiled and waved before driving away, and I walked the remaining 100 or so yards to my destination.

I didn't need the physical, car-ride type of lift she was referring to, but there are other lifts I would certainly appreciate. I wonder how she would have reacted if I'd jumped into her car and said,

"Yes, I'd love a lift. Actually, I'd appreciate a couple of lifts. Do you have pen and paper to jot these down? You do? Great!

First, I'd be so thankful if you could take away the incessant political posturing and debating and rehashing that surrounds us. It's not productive and only serves to distract and divide us from what's really important.

Of course, it would be great if you could lift from my life all the unnecessary tasks and stuff I've managed to collect. You know, so I'm left only with the true essentials, the things of real value.

Oh, no! We're almost to the library, and there are some other things I want to add to the list. You say I only have time for one or two more?

Hmmmm . . .

Well, I'd love for you to lift the cloud of doubt and uncertainty that keeps me from pursuing a career as a writer. 

One last thing. I know it's vain of me, but could you lift the jiggly stuff on my thighs and upper arms and the bags under my eyes? Oh, and don't forget the wrinkles! Don't worry about the ones that don't show -- just get the ones on my face.

Yes, I could use a lift!









Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Trailer Park Princess series (a review)

Salem Grimes is a dog groomer, recovering alcoholic, and new Christian who, of course, lives in a trailer park. She is also the most refreshing protagonist in cozy mysteries!

In The Trailer Park Princess and the Middle Finger of Fate, the first of the (so far) three-book Trailer Park Princess series, Salem finds a murder victim on her way to an AA meeting. Assisted by her sidekick Vivian and accompanied by her separation-anxiety ridden dog Stump, she tries to clear her not-so-ex-husband of the crime.

At the same time, Salem deals with issues of her own, taking the reader along for the often-hilarious, yet at the same time thought-provoking ride.

In both this book and its two successors, Unsightly Bulges (The Trailer Park Princess Cozy Mystery #2) and Caught in the Crotchfire (The Trailer Park Princess Cozy Mystery #3), Kim Hunt Harris has created interesting plots with just the right number of twists and turns.

Harris' characters are funny, the dialogue is sharp and witty, and the laugh-aloud moments are plentiful.

But the books in this series contain more than just intriguing mysteries and the funniest & freshest protagonist and most hilarious dialogue & situations found in the cozy mystery genre.

Harris deftly weaves those elements with Salem's journey as a recovering alcoholic and new Christian. Readers will see aspects of themselves and their own struggles and questions in Salem's honest, practical, sometimes-poignant and often-commical approach to God and having a relationship with Him.

Do yourself a huge favor.

Order or download a copy of The Trailer Park Princess and the Middle Finger of Fate, gather your favorite snack, and sit back and relax with Salem and Stump, Vivian, and the rest of the group. You are in for a wonderful treat!


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

TV-Free and Doing Fine

Nine weeks. It has been nine weeks since I moved into my (to me) new home and decided not to subscribe to a cable- or dish-provided television service.

I'd had subscription service through the same company for over 18 years and, other than having to pay for a larger package with tons of channels I never watched in order to get the sports channels I wanted, I was very satisfied.

A couple of years ago I began playing around with the idea of dumping the satellite. I joined Netflix, but most of the time I forgot I even was a member. As long as I had my subscription service and had the NFL and college football, professional baseball, college basketball, and hockey, along with HGTV, I really didn't need anything else.

I gave more serious thought to dumping the dish as my most-recent move neared, and I finally decided to, as Nike always urges me, just do it. Besides, I reasoned, I could always resubscribe if I changed my mind.

I reasoned, too, that I could listen to the radio or watch programs on Netflix, but I haven't done either one. In fact, I've only listened to the radio when in my car and have watched a grand total of two hours of programming via Netflix in the past 70 days.

There have been some interesting outcomes of my television-less lifestyle.

As expected, I have more time to accomplish other things. I've read even more books than usual, written more letters, and, yes, even whiled away more time surfing the internet and pinning images on my pinterest page. But I've also gutted a kitchen -- tearing out the cabinets all by myself (my son did help me carry the long countertop outside) -- and then prepped and painted the new cabinets, rehung the doors, and put all the knobs and pulls back on.

There have been a couple of unexpected benefits as well.

First, despite having no stove or microwave for much of the past nine weeks, I've eaten out far less than I had become accustomed to. Not only do I have more time to prepare meals now that I'm not watching TV, I also am not tempted by the images of a juicy steak and baked potato at a popular steak house or my favorite sandwich at a national deli chain.

I'm also sleeping much better than I normally do. Instead of lying awake for at least an hour, waiting for my mind to stop racing 90 miles per hour, I fall asleep almost as soon as I lay down. Perhaps my body is more tired, given the projects I've been working on. However, I think the main reason is that, without the stimulus of evening television, my brain more easily "lets go", allowing me to slip easily into the deep rest of sleep.

I'm feeling far less stressed as well. Considering that we're less than 4 months from a national election and I'm a highly-political person, that is quite an accomplishment! Instead of feeling "worked up" about this or that much of the day, itching to share my opinion with friends or family via a text or Facebook, I feel calm and unruffled.

I've also discovered I don't miss sports programming nearly as much as I thought I would. In fact, the only thing I've missed is watching the Olympics -- this is the first Olympics, winter or summer, that I haven't set aside much of the 2+ weeks to watch as much of the Games as I can. Even so, I've only had a few little pangs of not-even-regret, and those little twinges aren't enough to send me to my nearest sports bar/restaurant to watch the competition and enjoy a nice meal.

I'm enjoying this break from television and subscription programming. It may not be permanent. I may at some point decide to put a dish atop my little house and watch "Law & Order" marathons again.

Until then, I'll just relax and enjoy the peace and quiet of my television-free home.

What about you? Have you ever thought of going TV-less? If you have, what's holding you back?    Share your thoughts/experiences via a comment -- thanks!

Congratulations, CurtissAnn -- you are the winner of the free copy of Breaking Up With Perfect! I'll be in touch with you to get your address. :)