Top Ten Things To Accomplish This Year

Well my title is a little delayed… since it is already almost May. However, I still think it’s important to set goals for ourselves – no matter what time of the year. So here are 10 of mine that my readers can help me with!

1) Finish my Flash Fiction Friday story. Maybe even self publish it on Amazon! It you don’t know what I’m referring to – start here and get reading! Also, I’d love your feedback.

2) Write another Chicken Soup for the Soul story and have it published. Actually write THREE and have at least TWO published. I achieved a long time dream of being published last year in CCFTS and I want to do it again. The Chicken Soup family of contributors is so amazing and I want to continue being part of that group. You can buy the book I’m published in here.

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3) Finish the church basement remodeling project. Okay… nothing to do with writing, but it’s important for us all to have other interests. It makes us grow as writers! I’ve volunteered to remodel our church’s basement area to make it a safe, warm and inviting place for our children to learn. It’s a big space, but I’ve had a lot of help and encouragement. Our church truly is a giving kind of church so it’s been a blessing to work with these people. BUT it’s still a lot of work and I’m worried about not completing it or not doing it in a way that is glorifying to God. I call on Him everyday to help – and He has. My goal = to be finished with it by August.

4) Increase my followers on my blog and on Twitter. If you don’t follow me yet on Twitter – what are you waiting for! I just received my 100th follower recently and I’d love to expand. I love connecting with writers, readers and photographers so I follow a lot of those people back. I also love connecting with people of faith – all different kinds really, not just Christian. I think it’s important to have uplifting messages enter into our lives – Twitter is a great place for that. And I love that I can connect with people I’ve never met about common interests. It’s also easy for my “followers” (weird to say) to keep up on my latest posts there and all that’s going on in my joy filled world! Check me out here.

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5) Win the “Outstanding CSR (Customer Service Rep) of the Year Award” – okay this is my day job thing, but I still want it. It’s related to the insurance biz, but I have to write an essay as part of the submission process so I think I might have a slight advantage. It’s good exposure if I win and is a pretty nice payout too. Stay tuned on this one.

6) Help make my writer’s group conference a success. I’m co-director (or directing assistant… whatever you want to title it) and in charge of publicity for this years conference. As I stated in Why Writing Conferences Are Awesome, it’s a great way to expand your base and your skills, meet new people and learn new things. I want to make our conference bigger and better every year. I want people to come and learn and be blessed by it. If you want to know more about our conference drop me a line and I’ll keep you in the loop!

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7) Spend more time with our god daughters. They grow up too fast and I don’t want to miss out. It seems like every time I see them they have grown by large measures. The oldest will start school this year and I am anxious to watch her learn and hear what interests her most. I’ve already been trying hard to get to more soccer practices and gymnastic nights so I think I’m doing well on this goal. The smile on her face makes it worthwhile even if it means staying up later to get other things in my life done. And even though my husband and I don’t want kids of our own – it’s so joyful to have these two in our lives. They enrich it in ways we’d never imagined.

8) Come to a place of relaxed confidence. Okay – I’m pretty sure this one will not happen this year. It’s been 40 years of this hyper tense personality and I don’t think it’s going to go away so easily, but it’s a goal. I seriously don’t relax. Hardly ever. It’s very exhausting and, yet, I can’t let things go. If someone can teach me how to relax – I’m all ears.

9) Watch Jimmie Johnson win another Championship. Go Jimmie! #se7en

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Why, yes, this is me with Jimmie Johnson. Thanks for asking.

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10) Take my hubby to see a race at Dover, DE – as part of my goal above. This one IS already happening – we’re going in September. :)

So there you have it. Not too lofty… totally achievable. It’s important to set achievable goals so we don’t get weighed down with depression when one or two don’t happen. I know several of these are less obtainable than others, but I also know that if I do achieve them – it’ll be that much sweeter. Have you forgotten or failed at your New Year’s goals? Make some news ones – start over – no one is going to judge. We’re all taking it day by day. I, for one, am working towards several of these and I plan on making at least half come to fruition! How about you?

 

Living A Positive Life

I’ve been working very diligently within the last year to get to a “happiness point” in my life. I’ve lived a mainly negative perspective for 40 years and I decided that I wanted to start doing it differently. To that end, I’ve delved deeper into a lot of subjects, scrutinized every aspect of every detail of my life and pondered over things people say (maybe way too much.) One of the results of this “research” and self-reflection has been that I’m starting to see and hear things in a whole new light.

One particular aspect I’ve been dwelling on is the love that I’m told God has for me. I’ve been a Christian most of my life, but the path has had its ups and downs. There have been years (decades?) where I have not gone to church and basically “done my own thing.” There have also been moments where I have felt close to God, felt some kind of “love” from Him and wanted to please Him. However, I can’t say that I’ve ever been able to say that I know without the shadow of a doubt that God loves me in the unconditional way we’re told He does. Yes, we’re told that He loves us. We’re told that “For God so loved the world that He gave His only son,” but do we ever stop and really consider what that means?

 

I can say that I never really have. It might sound dumb that a Christian hasn’t given it much thought, but… well it’s true for this Christian. I knew it, I knew what it meant… but did I ever really think about it? Nope. As Christians we’re just kind of… immune (is that the right word?) to that saying. It’s like saying “I”m good” when some asks “How are you?” Even if you aren’t good – you still say “I’m good” because it’s the rote response. When someone asks about being a Christian and we say “Well God so loved the world that He gave His only son”… what are we really saying? Are we being clear about how powerful that statement is?

I don’t think so. It has lost part of its impact because it’s been overused to an extent.

I mean, c’mon, John 3:16 is seen at almost every sporting event… ever.

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Someone always has a sign. That’s great… it really is… but do people really read that and go “Oh! NOW I get it!” I don’t think so.

My pastor said something this past Sunday that made more of an impact on me than the overused passage. (This is paraphrased) Why did God send His only son to die a horrible, unholy, completely undeserving death on the cross?

The reason is YOU.

The reason is you. And me. And every. other. person.

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Palm Sunday was last Sunday. It commemorates the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the lowly donkey to a mob scene of people cheering his name and routing him on, laying palm fronds at his feet. In that moment he had power. He had the people on his side. Do you realize what he could have done with that power? He could have overthrown the elders who despised him, overthrown any ruler really, and avoided the cross because the people would have backed him up. But he doesn’t. Instead, he lets it play out, he listens as the elders accuse him, watches as friends betray him,and lets evil people beat him and treat him in the most inhumane way possible… all for us. For you. For me.

To rise again on that third day to prove God’s love for us.

It’s not just “He gave His only son,” it’s “He gave His only son for YOU.” Here’s the part of that passage we forget… or at least leave out: that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 

That’s you and me friend. We have life - forever – because He gave His son. All of us. ALL of us. A man DIED so I could LIVE. That’s powerful. That says to me: I matter. I should live everyday in grateful praise. Not negative depression. Positive love. Every day.

Starting today – I”m making it my goal because a man died so that I could live. And I’m going to live it to the best of my ability.

Good Friday

Hi all. I know you’re looking for my Flash Fiction Friday installment, but I’ve decided to take this Friday off in respect of the Good Friday holiday. Toni, Maude and Lou will be back next week – be sure and stayed tuned because it’s soon coming to the exciting conclusion!

If you’re still craving a bit of my writing today be sure and check out my guest blog about why it’s called Good Friday on the St. Davids Christian Writer’s Blog here.

Summer, where art thou?

Here in Pennsylvania it’s been a long, cold, depressing winter. I’ve lived here my whole life (4o years now – sheesh) and it doesn’t get any easier. I try very hard not to complain as the winter months drag on for I know spring and summer will soon be upon us. My friends complain and gripe, but I pull my coat collar closer, dress in three to four layers at a time, and make the best of it. As the wind whips my hair and stings my eyes, I dream of warmer months, pushed forward by the hope that they will arrive in time.

This year, however, I reached my limit around mid March. The multiple layers and eye stinging had worn their welcomes. I longed for short-sleeved shirts, sandals, and skirts. I had just had enough. Being cold every day is not my idea of fun and it didn’t help that every day that I got out of my car (in my nice, covered garage – something to be extremely thankful for during winter) I was mocked and accosted by my summer toys:

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Our lawn chairs. Stuffed into their bags – awaiting another sunny day. “Hey! What gives? We been hangin’ on dees nails for months now! Dees straps are startin’ to strain, you get me?” Apparently, my chairs hail from Staten Island… at least in my head. “Soon chairs. Soon. Forgutaboutit.”

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Our bikes, reflectors gleaming brightly in their dark abode, as if to garner my attention. Mine waits patiently for my, now slightly more padded, derriere to grace it’s seat.

“Mon chere! We are ready for zee bike ride my love. Pleeze come and take us for zee spin, yes?”

French bikes. Who knew?

“If you only knew bike how much I ate this winter… perhaps you would not be so eager.”

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Our kayaks. Oh, how I miss them the most. In dry dock on the cold cement instead of in the warm, pristine waters of a nearby lake. This seems the most cruel really. Like a wrongly accused surfer prisoner forced to sit in a cold concrete cell instead of languishing in the warm, blue-green waters they are used to.

“Dude! Let’s go hang! What’s the hold up? Righteous.”

“I agree kayak. I’d love to go hang with you in the placid warm waters, but alas, it is still too nippy. And I’m sure the waters are even more icy yet. But you will be the first that is freed from this confinement. I promise.”

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Here the prisoners huddle for warmth – nationalities be damned. It’s been a long winter for them too. Not used to being confined for so long in the harsh, non-heated garage.

“Where is summer?” they seem to scream at me.

“I know, little ones, I know. I’m anxious for the sun too. Soon… and very soon.”

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One lone prisoner sits quietly in the corner. He is not missed. No one cares about him and he feels the loneliness. The other summer items mock him and ignore him – no one misses this one. But soon my husband will take him out too in the sun, wipe off his joints, fill him with fluids and start up the once cold engine. He is quiet now, waiting his turn. Soon he will roar to life and fight back the grassy encroachments around our home. My husband will smile and the mower will fulfill his destiny too. Even though the mower is lonely now – his time will soon come.

 

O Summer, Summer, wherefore art thou Summer?

Deny thy cold and refuse it’s name;

Or if thou will not, be but sworn my love

Or I will move to a warmer state!

 

 

If I Could Turn Back Time… I Wouldn’t

I follow a Wordpress blog called The Daily Post. They give daily prompt’s like this one here. The purpose, I guess, is to stir up conversation and get bloggers… blogging when they’ve exhausted their own brain’s ideas. That’s me today and I saw this one:

If you could return to the past to relive a part of your life, either to experience the wonderful bits again, or to do something over, which part of you life would you return to? Why?

I’ve always said I wouldn’t want to go back in time. A lot of my past has been not so good bits and I don’t think I’d want to relive most of them now that I’ve gotten past them (many through lots of therapy.) I truly believe that the events in our lives spur us forward – good or bad. Every decision we make and every bad turn we take, puts us where we are now. If we didn’t go through those times, or experience those hurts, pains or even joys, we wouldn’t be in the now.

Lots of folks dwell too much in their past. They relive every tedious moment in their memory. Day by day it’s haunting them, causing them pain, and preventing them from taking steps forward. Or, their life now isn’t so great, and they relive better times. “Oh, the good old days!” Not many of us live in the now.

I did that for many years. After my fiance dumped me, I spent almost five years rehashing it to anyone who would listen. My relationships suffered. I lost friends. I sabotaged potential relationships. Because I couldn’t stop reliving it. Thank God, my now husband, was a patient sort. He listened. Over. And Over. And Over again. Until finally he asked me one day “Why does it matter? You have me now.”

Right. NOW. Living in the now means not turning back time. Remembering good and bad times are always useful – we can remember happy moments to give us joy and bad ones so we don’t do those things again. But actually turning back time and doing it all over… no thanks. I’d rather enjoy each and every minute I have right now.

For instance – I never used to be someone who would do something on the spur of the moment. I missed out a lot on wonderful opportunities. Living in the here and now pushes me to be more spontaneous. So when my god daughter’s mom called me the other day and told me she was having soccer practice that night it didn’t take me long to decide I was going. I don’t want to miss any opportunity in that little girl’s life if I can help it. She is already 5 (going on 15) and I feel like I miss too much already. I’m thankful that her mom and dad want my husband and I to be included. And later her mom told me that Miss Megan was very happy that “Sue came to see me.” *heart tripling in size*

Why would I pass that up?

But if I spent my time dwelling on past hurts and missed opportunities – I would miss other opportunities!

Let’s not do that. Let’s live in the now. Experience the joy you can have each and everyday of your life by just NOT turning back time. (Sorry Cher – now get OUT of my head!)

Flash Fiction Friday – “The Past Again”

“Hey I’m getting a little light-headed from doing this,” Toni says to Maude.

“Yeah, but you’ll get used to it.”

Toni really didn’t like how nonchalant Maude is about all this. What is all this time…is this time traveling?… doing to her body. Toni shook her head, she probably didn’t want to know.

“What now?” she said instead, “This looks vaguely familiar.”

Toni looks around at a small, dingy apartment—she doesn’t want to touch anything even though she is aware that she probably won’t feel the grime anyway. The T.V. stand has a thick layer of dust on it and a Himalayan cat is languishing across the nearby window sill. The cat she recognizes, but not the room. Although bits and pieces of the room seem to stir memories from deep in her subconscious, she is unsure of the exact location. She takes a step towards the cat and he glances up at her, as if aware of her presence. His back arches, he hisses and then leaps to the floor.

“Axel!” she yells, reaching out for him. It’s too late—he has scurried off to hide under the bed. Well, at least where she thinks the bedroom is.

As she is contemplating how the cat was able to see her, she glances up and sees herself walk out of an adjoining kitchen.

“Wow. That’s weird,” she says turning to Maude.

“Yep. That I never get used to,” Maude agrees.

Just then a young man bursts through the kitchen close on Toni’s heels.

“Hey! Don’t just walk away!” he yells.

“Watch me!” young Toni yells back.

“Listen to me!” he says, grabbing her elbow and swinging her around to face him.

Young Toni is obviously not happy by this. She gives him a glare that could freeze a glass of water on a hot day. He wisely lets go of her arm, putting his hands up, palms out in surrender stance. He takes a step back.

“Hey… just listen to me okay?” his tone is now softer.

He slowly lowers his hands to his sides and then shoves the hands in his jeans pockets. He glances down at the floor, mostly to avoid young Toni’s icy stare. He shuffles back and forth a bit before speaking again.

“Toni, I really love you. Don’t let this come between us—I really didn’t mean to forget, but I got so caught up at work. Please forgive me.”

He stares up at her with puppy dog eyes. Her stance also softens a bit and she heaves a sigh. She crosses her arms over her chest.

“I remember this,” Toni says to Maude, “She’s about to give him a lecture like my mother used to give me. He had forgotten to clean his house and I hated the way it looked. He was so lazy. He never did anything, except go to his job.”

“Maybe his job was hard,” Maude replies.

“Yeah… I guess it took a lot out of him, but I just couldn’t be with someone who couldn’t keep up with their house. I mean, what does it say about him in the long run?”

“You really have a high bar set don’t you?” Maude asks.

Toni turns to gape at her, surprised.

“No! Having a clean house is not a high standard!”

“But he was exhausted from his job. Look at the circles under his eyes.”

Toni turns back to gaze at him. He does, indeed, look exhausted. She had never noticed that when they were together. She remembers always being mad at him instead. That’s why she ended the relationship. Now she can see that perhaps she had been too demanding of his cleaning habits and not caring enough about the person before her. He was a kind man though and often bought her flowers and candies, but he wasn’t around much, which had also put a strain on their relationship. He worked two jobs just to make ends meet and he was always too tired to go out when they did have time together. Toni suddenly realizes that she had only cared about her own needs at the time, not his. It was obvious to her now that he just needed someone to understand and to be there for him when he did have down time.

And she hadn’t.

Instead she had reprimanded him and nagged him about his “bad” habits.

She watches as her younger self now hugs the man. His shoulders sag, relieved that the fight is over. Toni sees the exhaustion in the lines on his otherwise young face. He must have just gotten home from work when young Toni attacked.

“Why am I such a bitch?” she asks Maude.

“Oh honey,” Maude comes up behind her and grabs her hand, “You were raised this way. You’re not a bitch per se… You just didn’t know any different. You still don’t.”

Toni looks back at Maude with tears in her eyes.

“Help me,” she whispers.

“That’s what I’m doing dear.”

Why I Sometimes Hate Computers

Normally I am a big fan of computers. I grew up using them, I’m pretty savvy at using them and I even have a blog! (Who knew!?) Frequently my older co-worker uses me as his tech person and I can typically fix my own issues without calling on a tech. Plus, when a tech does fix my stuff, I watch. Then in the future, I try to employ what they did so I don’t have to call them again. Usually, it works.

So when I decided to sign up for Audible.com and download a few audio books, I thought it wouldn’t be any issue. Boy, was I wrong.

Saturday morning rolled around and my hubby was off to “work the lawn” with the promise of Spring (finally!) so I had the whole morning to myself to accomplish a whole slew of things. I was amped. One thing on my list was to select an audio book (harder than I had anticipated) and download it. I wanted to be sure I could burn it to a CD and be able to listen to it on multiple platforms. Easy peasy right?

Wrong.

Almost an hour later (after picking the actual book) I was still trying to make it work. Not only do you go through the arduous task of picking the best books (seriously, make sure you listen to a sample of each book. A book you think you might like to read is not the same as a book read to you. Depending on who is reading it makes all  the difference. Listen to the sample!), but you also need to download, like, two programs just to listen to the damn thing.

I wanted to burn a CD. So I had to download the Audible Manager. And Itunes. I… tunes. I’m a PC gal, baby. PC all the way. Do you know what it took for me to download an Apple product? Do you? I don’t think you do. That almost was the straw that broke this PC girls back. But I did it. To get my measly free audio book and one cheap one that I thought looked good.

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PC all the way, baby.

But after an hour I was beginning to wonder if I would ever listen to either of these books. I-tunes took forever to load. Audible Manager was a nightmare. It froze up on me twice – once during the download and once while trying to download the book (I went to take a shower and it was still downloading… my first clue.) And then, I seemed to only need the I-tunes in the end anyway.

The I-tunes tried to upload all the music on my computer first and I was able to stop it. I didn’t want the stupid program to play my music after all, I just wanted it for this dumb book! But I could find no button that led to burning a CD. I even did a Google search to no avail.

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There are my two books on Audible… if only I could actually listen to them.

I finally gave in and contacted the Audible tech through online chat. My last resort.

But guess what? Ernesto took about five minutes to get me to CD burning status.

Five. Minutes.

Why do we resist help? Why do we waste time, running in circles, trying to find our own way? Inevitably someone else has done it before and can offer help – why don’t we accept it. Ernesto received a boatload of praise (after he first had a boatload of attitude. Sorry Ernesto.)

In order to let happiness filter more into our lives here is the lesson: Listen to the sample! Get advice from others when you can and listen to what it sounds like. It’s worth it for your sanity in the end.