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Posts Tagged ‘decisions’

images-31Lately I’ve been thinking about making it through things. It could be an event, a period in our life, an illness, a test, a divorce, a wedding, a meeting, a drive, or just whatever “it” currently is. And the interesting thing is the “it” tends to change as time progresses, but there always seems to be some form of “it” that we are always just trying to make it through. Or at least it seems like that for me.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been battling a cold-turned-acute bronchitis. Simply put: I have physically felt miserable just about non-stop for many endless days. And during this time I’ve had overlapping pet care dates scheduled and multiple doctor appointments while still maintaining my full time job and attempting to catch up on writing chores and household responsibilities whenever I could in between. You could safely say I’ve felt stretched like the cookie dough under a rolling pin.

So I’ve had a whole bunch of “it’s” to make it through. Some were fairly short, like the drive to and fro the various places I needed to be, or the doctor appointments, and those brief moments where I could knock a few to-do items off my list. Other things are longer, like waiting for the bronchitis to run its course and the gut-retching cough to go away and waiting for test results to come back.

About a month ago I started reading a book, called “You’ll Get Through This” by Max Lucado. I like his writing style, and to be frank, the title appealed to me. It is a study of the life of Joseph from the book of Genesis, and how his life was a series of making it through some unfortunate experiences. He had misfortune, one after another, and always ended up triumphant in the end. I’m not looking for triumphant. I would be satisfied with a short break in between things I need to make it through. A period of calm in which nothing is expected of me except to just breathe.

I’d love just a temporary respite to soak in the afterglow of nothingness. A time to drift, not needing to do, to be, go, have, say, or get. Anything.  My very own “Calgon, take me away!” moment.

images-2

However, this raised a bigger question in my mind. Why do we feel we have to make it through “this”? Or climb the mountain? Or clear the hurdle? Or whatever metaphor you happen to personally like. Maybe we’re watching the  clock slowly creeping toward five o’ clock (or our own individual quittin’ time), counting down days until some big event or turning the pages of the calendar wondering where it all went or any other method of getting through. It seems life has become one big never-ending series of the next big-something. Something to dread or something to enjoy, something to endure or something to revel in. It’s always the wait for it to get here, the actual time spent, and the period immediately after to breathe deep or wipe the sweat away.

Sometimes for me that’s the time to grab chocolate and coffee. Celebrate. I’m big into celebrating even minor, small happenstances. Competing projects, surviving rough patches of time, and accomplishing challenging tasks will all garner the reward of chocolate and coffee and a few moments of treasured nothingness– to soak in the glow of satisfaction.

But still, I wonder, if there is some way to live a life that isn’t constantly filled with the sense of “I will make it through this” or worse yet, “I have to make it through this.” Can we just reach a point were life is lived, hourly or daily or by the minute, without the constant looking beyond the “right now”? Where escapism isn’t required or used as a reward for surviving? Because, in all honesty, I suspect my chocolate and coffee treat is sometimes a means to escape as much as a celebration for success.

 

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Last year, about this time, I posted on the evolution of my blog. It had turned five years old and had taken a few radical turns over those years. My ponderings were on those twists.

This year–as my blog turns an incomprehensible six years old–I find those original thoughts to still hold true, with a year’s worth of experience to add to. However, first, a review of last year’s post:

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Jan 1, 2016: In a few months my blog will turn five. I can hardly believe it. Just like I can hardly believe it’s already 2016. As I was taking the calendars down last night, I considered the fact it didn’t seem that long ago I put them up. And now I’ve turned their pages twelve times. I’m sure a few of you can relate.

And that got me to thinking about this blog. It hardly seems possible I started it, albeit very reluctantly, back in May of 2011. I had very little knowledge of what a blog really was, let alone the purpose of creating one. Yet I had been told if I wanted to be a serious writer, I needed one. So voila, Summersrye was created. Had I known then what I know now, I’d have skipped the nickname thing and just used my proper name. But I like Rye, and not knowing any better, it seemed acceptable. Honestly, I don’t recall how I ended up at WordPress. It might have just been the first blog site that popped up when I plugged in a Google search.

keyboard and notebook

I went through recently to see what kind of posts I’ve written and the transformation this blog has undergone. The results sort of surprised me. My first post was May 11, 2011, called “Starting out”. That was pretty much it for 2011. In 2012 there were a whole 17 posts. The content changed directions twice. First I was going to take a non-fiction manuscript and blog it piece by piece. Feedback was nil. I even sent out a post asking “Am I doing this right?” of which I got one response back. Okay, at least someone out there in cyber world was aware I was blogging.

directions sign

Then I got the contract for my first book, “Whispers in her Heart”, the book that would forever change my life. I was going to be a published author. Time to get really serious about this blogging thing. Right? My posts changed from the random and non-fiction snippets to lots of “Whispers” stuff.Whispers cover from amazon

2013 I posted about 48 times, (give or take one) I was learning book promotion and it showed. I started putting in progress on edits and cover creation as well as teasers for “Whispers”, and a few pictures of my first book signings. I included poetry and shared life happenings. I opened up just a little, trying to remember if anyone was reading this, they were a real person on the other end of the computer screen. I shared photos of my pets, who are part of my life. I shared personal reflections and works in progress.

chasing ideas

2014 I continued sharing anecdotes and photos of my pets. I was now reading other people’s books and trying my hand at posting my reviews. I was following other blogs and re posting things I found interesting. Now I had a few books out and was regularly sharing status and updates on “Whispers”, “Shimmers of Stardust”, and “When Clouds Gather”. I posted more times than ever before.

Recipe for writing success

2015 was much the same. Book reviews. Pet anecdotes. Personal situations. Personal reflections. I was getting pretty personal this year. My family of books was growing. Now we added “Chasing the Painted Skies” and “Sizzle in the Snow” Anthology plus more works in progress and two more slated for 2016. I had people contact me asking if I would please read and review their books. I added the new feature somewhere along the way of hosting authors, interviewing them and talking about their books. In exchange, I was usually hosted on their blogs. Giveaways were another new feature in 2015.

All in all, not bad for a kid who few thought would ever make a writer. I recall hiding in my closet, pounding away on an old manual typewriter I bought at a garage sale. I baby sat so I had money for paper, notepads, and pens. Finally my mother gave me an electric typewriter for either my birthday or Christmas when I was around twelve. To have access to the electric outlet, I had to move out of the closet and into first my bedroom and then a corner of the long harvest table situated in the living room. I guess she wanted to see her daughter once in a while.

old typewriter

So while looking back, I also want to look forward. What do I want this blog to accomplish in our brand new 2016? Well, I want it to be a communication point. First, I want to be able to share news with readers about new books, giveaways and anything else share-worthy. I want to continue having others from other houses on my blog, sharing news about their exciting new releases. Bonus if they offer giveaways too. I want to grow the book reviews. In fact, I just finished a sassy little story last night and will be posting a review this weekend. And I have that author scheduled to be hosted on the blog in a few weeks.

Writing is a gift

Of course I want to share stories and pictures of my zany pets. They are the world to me, as many pet owners will testify. I’d be tickled if readers shared their wonderful pet pictures. I will also continue to share personal reflections and observations. Sometimes life gets rough or crazy and it’s nice to talk about it on a blog. It may not fix it, but it makes handling it a little easier. I follow a few blogs of people who do that very well. I’ll probably go back to posting some of the poetry from time to time and maybe some short flash fiction or sample chapters. That has been in the back of my mind for a while too.

Happily ever after

The end result, I want 2016 to be a year of growth and connection both for this blog and my writing career.

 

 

 

 

 

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Well, now it’s time to turn the calendars to 2017. I have added a pet sitting service to my life this year, which does had the unfortunate side effect of eating into my writing life. The bonus is I have met some interesting people and wonderful dogs and cats this year. I have settled comfortably into the house I bought in late 2014, but still have two rooms to paint (still!) and a few odd chores here and there I tackle when I need a break from writing.

What I would like to do with this blog in the coming months is much what I’ve done the last two years–share book reviews, host authors and their works, and continue the ‘Been Thinking About’ posts. Naturally I want to keep sharing misadventures of my pets, though my rescue collie, Ty, has his own blog I struggle to keep up with here on WordPress. Since I have two more books coming out in 2017, I want to share the steps from edits to covers to final release. I have a special giveaway planned for the first one, a Food & Love anthology coming up around May (ish).

Since I have two works in progress, and one more I hope to start soon, I want to share sample chapters. The opening chapters to one is already on my website at http://www.ryanjosummers.com. And I would like to encourage everyone to leave a comment with what they would like to see included in this blog, or more or less of any feature.

Lastly, I wish everyone a happy and healthy and wonderful new 2017.

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Ever have one of those jobs that ties your gut into knots? The kind that you have to stay at for some insane yet valid reason and all attempts to leave fall flat as a pancake? If you can relate, read on—

I Ate Cake

 

The day started out like all the others had recently. I went into work, listening to “Crash and Burn” streaming loud and wondered if today could be the day I either get fired or lose it and quit. The churning in my gut that had become so routine lately rolled around like a bowling ball. And I wondered, for perhaps the thousandth time, when my happy—or at least acceptable—job had turned into a cesspool of toxicity.

Perhaps it was my new boss. He had a personality that made Dennis the Menace seem like a choirboy and Count Dracula like Prince Charming. We clashed . . . over everything. Except for the times I was invisible to him. To be honest, I wasn’t sure which extreme I preferred. Beyond the new boss, there were plenty of other frustrating factors that created a tumultuous work day.

It was no surprise when four months ago I decided to get serious about a change of work scenery so I dusted off my resume, freshened it up with new power words and sent it out. Not much happened. A few promising leads and interviews fizzled out like stale soda and I stayed cemented in quicksand. Each day found me wondering if today was going to be ‘the day’?

It hadn’t happened yesterday. So if not today, maybe tomorrow. The whole walking on eggshells mentality wasn’t helping my nerves either. I’d stare at the bright red, glowing ‘Exit’ sign and just sigh and shake my head.

The summons to the office—or lair—seemed ambiguous enough. I’ve been requested a few times already and trepidation accompanied me with each trip. In the end, it would be for some vague reason and I left unscathed. So I headed back to the lair once again, unsure once more of the reason and ultimate outcome. Could it today? What have I possibly done?

Heart hammering, I stood, feeling much like a cadet singled out for an inspection. Today?

“Going to have to let you go.”

The words, sandwiched with a distracted frown and spoken over a computer screen, fell with the force of a nine pound hammer. I went cold. Ice Bucket Challenge had nothing on me. Questions rose and I swallowed them all back. They tasted like heartburn. Bitter. What did reasons and explanations really matter? The picture was pretty clear. Besides, Count Menace wasn’t a great conversationalist on the best of days and today wasn’t looking to be a good day.

So I silently nodded my understanding and acknowledged his desire for my quick retreat. I uttered a few non-descript words, wheeled around and exited, with my shoulders back and head held high.

Legs trembling, I gathered my few personal effects, turned a deaf ear to my co-workers startled comments and silently counted backwards. Suddenly I didn’t feel like making conversation.

Interestingly, I’d always pictured when the day came, I’d be a nervous wreck, full of fears. Instead, my mind was clear. I knew that whatever happened, this moment would end up being a pivotal blessing. I’d end up alright. I was making good my escape. Finally.

Driving home, I stopped at the bakery and impulsively bought a devil’s food chocolate layer cake and a half gallon of milk. I was going to be okay.

 

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A thought on how art, my world and writing all lately reflect reality, blending them into a therapeutic cocktail. Much like some artists paint or sculpt to find their inner self or new direction, oftentimes so do writers.

directions sign

On a personal front, I feel as though I’ve been living two lives for a while.

On one hand, I am blessed beyond imagination, surrounded by wholesome goodness, sweet success and pleasant pastimes. I can sit at my desk and listen to the happy chatter of my pet parrot, watch the songbirds merrily gathering at the feeders and know what tranquility feels like. I have my home, my pets, a growing writing career and a lovely spot in the region to plant my roots. I have people in my life; special and dear, appreciated, liked and treasured. I have coffee and chocolate. God has been so good and gracious to me.

girl at brook writing

But on the other hand, the one with different fingers, I can only describe the feeling as slowly sinking in the quagmire of a toxic pit. Wow, what a sudden change. Hence the emotion of having dual lives. And I pass as easily from one to the other as easily as a person can cross from one room to the next. However, my dual life is not the object of this post, rather my observation of it.

Recently I realized I also gave a character in a current Work In Progress a double life, though slightly different circumstances and situation. She had left one life for a new one, never fully leaving the old one behind. Ultimately, because this is fiction and we need conflict, her two lives can no longer compete and she must make a choice. While I suspect this was unintentional, I now see how much tension it creates for the story.

I see no resolution like that in my situation(s). I suspect they can continue on as thus far indefinitely. Back to that other hand with the different fingers.melting time

Interestingly, I have written this method before. I used it as a coping strategy. During a period of time when I was working through some health issues, I scribbled a short story. I took a character, the heroine, and plagued her with health concerns that resembled mine. And because it was fiction, I gave her the conflict of pending love to compete with her burden. Which would win out? The result is a ten thousand word story that I just this month signed the publication contract for. It’s called ‘Glimpse Eternity’.

In another Work in Progress, one I’ve been chipping away at for over a year now, I feature the heroine who has a sibling. The relationship they share closely mirrors the relationship between my sibling and I. Sublime message or unconscious thought? Art or life?

And I will make a guess that somewhere down the literary road, I will do this again. Something will pull that trigger and art will imitate life. I will write a story based on reality. Health challenges, family dynamics, dual lives, we can only guess at what will be next.

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Life from cut stump 7-31-14

I spotted this tiny maple tree shoot growing up from where a maple tree had been cut down. The tree was removed perhaps one or two years ago and I just discovered the fledgling shoot yesterday. It made me very happy as I stood there, thinking about it.

It tells me we have the ability to start life over when our original lives are in one way or another greatly altered. I spend a lot of time feeling like things are frequently changing in my life. Sometimes if is good change and sometimes not so much. Many times I lack the heart, strength or desire to begin again in whatever capacity I need to. I don’t want to have to pick up the remaining pieces and move on, especially if it requires learning new methods or changing comfortable old ones.

But here is this little tree. The original lovely tree had been removed, ground up for mulch. The site has been barren and void of life. Now, a brave shoot has gathered itself together to push up through the dirt and mulch and reach for the sunshine. It is trying its best to begin again.

What fate has in store I don’t know. It might get pulverized by a lawn mover or it might grow to great heights. Either way, it is trying and that is the lesson I need to take from this scene and carry with me when I feel like the remaining dead stump. There is still a spark of life left inside me that wants to reach up and grow and begin again.

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I had moved from the north to the south in 2004. For some reason, I was thinking of this move today.The van on loan from my home church resembled Noah’s Ark. Literally. Wally my plecto (big 16 inch ugly fish) and Bruce (14 inch shark) traveled in watery totes with battery-powered air supply. Their large aquarium  was nestled safely among my few belongings.

I had three cats–Sebastian, Kirbie Leigh and Pepper-who were all too advanced in age to be left behind. Sebastian and Kirbie had been with me long before my failed marriage had started. They were to be with me to the bitter end. I had a rescue rabbit–Jade–riding in his big bunny cage, munching hay. Taz, my blue and gold Macaw rode shotgun on the back of my passenger seat. Sharing hip space between the front seats were my last two remaining collies, Kip and Riley James. On the dashboard, looking like a stuffed bubble head toy was my Papillion, Scrapper. The only one missing was my horse. He was being cared for by someone and I would return for him in a few weeks.

I had managed to fit a few suitcases and boxes in for my stuff, but most the van space was indeed devoted to the pets and their stuff. It was much like traveling with a baby or toddler, nine times over. For about 850 miles. I am glad to say they all handled it very well. I do recall Taz got a little bored around southern Ohio so he and Pepper swapped places for a few a short while. And the last few miles to our new home the collies started growling and snapping at one another but they were tired and hungry and cramped so I understood.

So we all survived the journey, we settled in and blossomed where we were now planted in our new home, new region, new everything. And it occurred to me today that ten years have gone by since that time. Wally and Bruce– the fish I could not bear to part with–both died within a few years of fishy infections. I lost Sebastian and Kirbie Leigh within the first year, a scant thirteen days apart. Kip and Riley James were both passed on by 2010. Scrapper was let go just this year at the age of 17. Jade the bunny died within a couple years. Even my horse had to go on.

Of the original Noah’s Ark, only Taz and Pepper remain. Taz is 21 and Pepper is 18. The clock has started on Pepper’s countdown. Taz is expected to hopefully outlive me and everyone reading this post.  Maybe in 50 to 80 years, someone will read my journals and these blog entries and marvel at his travels.

So today I was taking a break, and I happened to realize who was chilling with me–Whymzie, Kryshnah and Muldoone. Just so happened it was these three. These are the three kitties I adopted shortly after moving to the south. Two were kittens and one was around a year old. And now all are ‘young’ seniors themselves. That was a scary revelation today. And finally there is the newest members of my group–Aspen who is about a year and her baby, Avery Faith, who is roughly 5 months old.

I see a cycle and I see time marching on. I do have new sharks, Zechariah and Malachi. They are still young, neither one not quite reaching a foot long yet. No dogs and no bunnies and no horses any more. The desire is certainly there, the time is not right. So I heed to the practicality of time over heart.

Time is such an odd and abstract creature. Unshakable, unchangeable, uncontrollable. It only marches onward, but our memories can take us backward. Today I think of my personal little Ark, full of pets who I wanted to have with me to begin a new life together. Isn’t it odd how choices and time often travel together?

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I will make no excuses for what I cannot do. I will make no apologies for what I cannot do.

If I think or suspect I can do it, I will most certainly try. If I know beyond reasonable doubts or expectations that I cannot, I shall not try. And if that decision happens to upset someone, then so be it. That is their problem, not mine. As for me, I shall only do the very best that I can for as long as I can.

Others may be irritated at my limitations, perhaps not understanding them. Or caring. I cannot help that either. I am not like more able-bodied people. Not anymore. And I make no apologies for that fact. No one is more aware of my limitations then I am, or more upset by them. No one is more inconvenienced or affected by my limitations then I am. So if there is any apology to be made, it should be made to me. But none is required.

I know what I have been reduced to. I live it each day. Others do not. I know what has been taken away from me, forever. Others might not. I still travel on. Others can only watch and form their own opinions. To each their own I say.  I know what I once was capable of, and more so, what I will never be again. I know the bitter taste of unfairness slowly melting in my mouth.

So for this I make no apologies. I am no not the person I once was. I am now less. But I am also more. Because I have had to become more in order to overcome.

I also know what I can do and do quite well. Things that so many others cannot. What most of the population cannot do actually. When I look at my list of personal accomplishments, I have to smile. How many can really do all the special and unique things that I can do? And to do so while carrying the unfair load I must carry and ‘look good’ while going it?  So few really. Just the travel weary warriors that share my same spirit of being a riser. Just those few who are like me.

When I look back at the life I have lived, at the accomplishments I have achieved, and what I am still doing, I have nothing to apologize for. The trivial things, everyday, ordinary things that I cannot do are nothing compared to the extraordinary things that I can do.

Philippians 4:13

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