“Facing Redemption” – a book review

During my early days of blogging, as I spent every spare moment discovering and reading new blogs, I began to make connections with other writers. I came across so many different personalities back then, learning from others about how they kept their writing momentum going. In the blog world, I found humor and bitterness, personal blogs and fiction. There were so many words out there, some filled with struggle, others always seeming to find something of value and hope in life’s realities. All of the writers I found taught me something about finding my own voice, but one in particular had a positive and lasting influence.

me-and-kim2I don’t remember now exactly how Kimberly McKay and I found each other, but we struck up a friendship that grew strong enough for us to eventually begin communicating outside of our blogs. We messaged one another, talked on the phone, and eventually we even got to meet in person. Kim taught me about seeing my glass as half-full rather than half-empty. She always “blogged her blessings” and encouraged her readers to do the same. Some of us took her up on the challenge. In previous years, Friday posts on my blog came to share a common theme when the Life is Good series was born. (Really should get back to doing those!)  My pal, Abby‘s Silver Liningness Sundays were also a result of Kim’s challenge and Kim might even claim some credit for Bud‘s Monday Smiles, which came about in part through a sort of domino effect from the Life is Good series.

Kim took her positive outlook to an even bigger audience a few years ago when she published Finding Kyliethe story of a young woman who has lived her entire life believing her father was dead. Only after losing her mother to cancer, does Chastity discover two life-changing secrets. Her father is very much alive and there is a very big reason that her mother kept him such a secret all these years.

Chastity’s story now continues in Kim’s newest book, Facing RedemptionKim’s habit of tackling life’s problems with her faith is a solid backdrop to her stories. As Chastity balances the success and joys that come her way along with the inevitable challenges and heartache, she turns to her faith in God to get through them. Facing Redemption lets the reader watch Chastity help a friend stay afloat through a very difficult time in her life while Chastity is in the midst of one of the happiest times in hers. Chastity has met the man of her dreams and her wedding day is fast approaching. While she plans the direction of one of the biggest days in her life so far, she finds herself struggling to do so without her beloved mother by her side. And as if that isn’t enough weight for one person to carry, at the same time, she is trying to decide what – and who – family is to her.

Kim sent me a copy of Facing Redemption a few months ago. I got a slow start in reading it, thanks in part to the holidays. But once the holidays were behind us and life had slowed down some, I could really immerse myself in the book. Pretty soon, I couldn’t put it down. I love anything that lifts the spirits, and Facing Redemption does that well. I found my heart aching at times, only to cheer for the characters as they pushed themselves to overcome the things that fought to hold them back. Also, I’m a sucker for a good love story!

“We” thoroughly enjoyed Kim’s latest accomplishment at our house!

Interested in reading Kimberly McKay’s books? You can pick up your own copies (or Kindle version) on Amazon. And if you’d like to show Kim your support, you can “like” her page on Facebook.

Positively

Ever notice how negative people can be?

My company has just undergone some big changes. We were recently acquired by a large, successful and reputable corporation. And as a result, we’ve moved to a new location not far from where our old offices were located. Our first day in the new place was the day after Christmas and since then, I’ve noticed a lot of discontent. I’m hearing a lot of complaints. The cubicles are too close together. There’s no longer an office manager which means  that when there are visitors or deliveries, everyone is expected to lend a hand with receiving them. The water filter/ice machines haven’t been installed. It’s too loud. It’s too cold. There aren’t a hundred restaurants within walking distance like there were when we were downtown. We’re not all sure where to find all of our office “stuff” just yet. So much of what was familiar for so many years has changed.

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People are frustrated. And I get it. I do. There have been some hitches as we try to get settled in the new office and figure out new policies, systems and websites. Change isn’t easy for everyone. Some who had nice, big offices in the old place have had to downsize to smaller offices. Some who had offices before have been downgraded to cubicles. Even for those of us who are accustomed to the cubicle environment, there are adjustments to make. There’s no longer a white-noise system to help minimize distractions. We can hear everything going on around us. Everything is new and different.

But I am a bit taken aback because what this change means for all of us is job security, which has been in short supply for the past few years. It means resources to grow our business and the chance to make something big of our products and services. So we have to make a few concessions. I just don’t think that all this negativity is helping anyone to acclimate, so I’d rather we all just make the best of it. A negative attitude just makes the workday drag on. It seems to me that finding the positives in all this change will make a better working environment and brighter days for everyone.

I much prefer positive people who can look for the silver lining in any situation, not just at work but in life in general. A positive attitude goes such a long way in making others happy and helping them to want to pay it forward. And this is probably what attracted me to the blog of Steve Harper, aka Mr. Ripple. Steve has made a career out of his ability to connect with others and make a positive impact.

And also, he’s promoting a post that I wrote about a piece of my work life, so that alone moves him right to the top of my favorites list! :-) I have to say, it’s quite an ego boost to have someone come along and say, “I like what you wrote. Do you mind if I use it?” NO, I don’t mind! What are you, crazy?

Steve has written a book called The Ripple Effect, about “how one simple action can dramatically affect the lives of friends, family, colleagues, customers… even people you’ve never met.” And if you like, you can hire him to come speak about his beliefs in “the power of positive connection.”

Seems like I should figure out a way to convince the powers that be to have Mr. Ripple come pay us a visit! And, you know… if you have similar needs, or just want to read something that will help you improve your relationships, go check out Steve’s website yourself!

The First (possibly)-Annual Reader-Appreciation Awards

I didn’t write as much, or as well as I wanted to in 2011. I fell out of routine at times and there were a lot of gaps in between postings.  Even so, I somehow managed to maintain a somewhat regular schedule of blogging, even if that meant I sometimes only wrote once in a week.

One of my goals for this year is to write more and write with more quality. One thing I’ve never lost sight of is how much I enjoy writing, so I’m looking forward to a less chaotic year than last and giving it a better effort.

Even though I felt as if my writing lost a step in the past year, I still managed to write a total of 199 posts, and that’s not bad. WordPress was kind enough to provide a year-end summary, and they tell me that my blog was viewed about 25,000 times in 2011. Also not bad! The year-end summary told me who commented most often on the stuff I wrote. And since half the fun of blogging is meeting and interacting with the friends you make online, I thought it only appropriate to express my gratitude to those who came back to visit time and again.

MJ at Emjayandthem’s Blog honored me with a fun award. I’m going to follow her lead and share it with my top commenters of 2011. So, without further adieu, I present to you, the First (possibly)-Annual These Are Days Reader-Appreciation Awards!

TA-DAAAAAA!

Thank You!

Here are the rules for this award:

  1. Award your top 6 bloggers who have commented the most.
  2. Be thankful. (I am!)
  3. You cannot award someone who has already been awarded (I’m not sure how I would know if you have been awarded before, so we might be breaking some rules here !) and also cannot give the award back to me.
  4. Don’t forget to tell the bloggers you’ve awarded.
  5. If you don’t want to pass on this award, that’s okay too.
The most active commenters on this blog last year were:
  • Agg79 – a world traveler, runner, Boy Scout-supporter and Golden Lab-lover who writes My Two Cents
  • Kathy McCullough – a memoirist, an artist and woman of compassion who writes Reinventing the Event Horizon
  • Rock Chef – a cyclist, guitarist, wonder-husband and dad; a war-gamer and author of a blog with the ever-changing name who writes  Snap-Happy Rock Chef
  • de-I - a man of extraordinary culinary skills, an avid hiker, a lovable goofball and my kidney-donor buddy who writes de-Intimidator
  • Jeni Hill Ertmer - a  woman with amazing embroidery skills, a love of her Swedish heritage, a passion for genealogy and a wonderful mother and grandmother who writes Down River Drivel
  • Jules - a tough chick who recently married her best friend, is a do-it-herselfer,  a baker of  the most beautiful cupcakes and hater of spiders who writes Shenanigans of Jules

If you’ve got some spare time, please go check out the blogs of these wonderful writers. These are the people who had the most to say, but there are many others who join in the conversations here on a regular basis., Just check my newly created blogroll to see all of the blogs I try to keep up with! And there are some who don’t write but stop by to comment now and then too. (Shelly, Rosie!) Thank you to all of you who come here to read, comment, make me smile and offer support. Writing here wouldn’t be nearly as fun without you!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, concludes our ceremony. See you again next year. Maybe. :-)

Four Months and Seven Links

Once upon a time … long, long ago … way back in …

August

I was invited to participate in the Seven Links Challenge. I was invited by Bud who writes Older Eyes. Bud did his best to assuage any fears that this challenge qualifies as a meme. Apparently some people are opposed to/intimidated by the thought of participating in a meme. Snort! Can’t imagine who that might be!

Oh… I guess that would be me.

Bud went so far as to say, “Let me reassure those of you in the incipient stages of an anxiety attack that this is not … repeat IS NOT … a meme.  Put away the Xanax and keep reading.”

Xanax? Seriously, Bud? I don’t need Xanax to complete a meme. Now where’d I put my beer?

So, yes. I was invited to participate over four months ago and I promised Bud that I would do it even if it takes me some time. Clearly, getting started has taken me quite some time. Better late than never, I always say!

Okay, I can’t even take credit as if I’d been whole-heartedly planning to follow through all of this time. I forgot. But I was reminded again recently thanks to another nomination from Marion Driessen of Figments of a Dutchess. And no, Dutchess is not spelled wrong. Marion is from the south of Holland, lucky girl! See? Get it? Holland? Dutch? Dutchess? Pretty clever play on words if you ask me.

Anyway, I suppose at this point, unless you are Bud or Marion, you’re wondering what this Seven Links thing is all about. The goal of this challenge is “to share lessons learned and create a bank of long but not forgotten blog posts that deserve to see the light of day again.” The rules?

  1. The blogger who is nominated publishes his or her seven links, one for each category.
  2. The blogger nominates up to five other bloggers to take part.

A few months ago, I imported all of the posts from my old blog to this blog. So I think I’m finally ready tackle this Seven Links challenge. Here goes!

Your most beautiful post: Magicin which a typical winter snowfall makes me feel things that are anything but typical.

Your most popular post: Braggy McBraggart - in which I brag about my healthy lifestyle only to realize it’s really not so healthy. This post was featured on WordPress’ Freshly Pressed page for a day or so and according to my site stats, that post received over 1,000 views!

Your most controversial post: Churchin which I describe my ongoing struggles with my faith and a surprisingly positive experience in a church that was so different from the one in which I was raised. Technically, this wasn’t very controversial. As a rule, I avoid writing anything that invites controversy. But it stirred up a lot of feelings and discussion in the comments!

Your most helpful post: Understanding Female Crabbiness – a survival guide for men. ‘Nuff said.

A post whose success surprised you: Happeningsin which I just ramble about the everyday happenings of our lives at that time. I tossed in a few photos I’d taken. One of them was a picture of a bug with a very long tail. According to my site stats, that post has had nearly 600 views. I think it was the bug that did it!

A post you feel didn’t get the attention it deserved: What if we all had beards - in which I help everyone contemplate what it would be like if we all had beards.

The post that you are most proud of: Our Transplant Storyin which I describe the experience of giving one of my kidneys to my dad. Biggest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I wanted and needed to write it down and preserve those memories.

THERE! I did it! And just so you can appreciate that this was no easy task, let me just say that I had to sort through 935 posts to find these! And now… to invite others to participate. Who do I think might be willing to give this one a go? How about…

  1. Abby of AbbyNormal
  2. Rock Chef of Snap-Happy Rock Chef
  3. Jeni of Down River Drivel
  4. Judson of Footprints in the Sand
  5. Kathy of Reinventing the Event Horizon

And I just have to say, as much as I dreaded putting this post together, it was a wonderful exercise. As I sorted through my posts, I found things I was surprised had even come from me. I hadn’t realized how much my voice changes with my moods, with the times. And I found old friends in the comments, long removed from the blog world. I’d almost forgotten how many connections I’ve made through blogging. I miss those friends, but I’m grateful for the time we had together.

Marion, Bud … thank you.

What next?

I don’t typically make New Year’s resolutions. It’s not that I’m indifferent to the prospect of self-improvement. It’s just that the beginning of a new year doesn’t tend to serve as a big motivator for me.

Not surprisingly, I don’t typically do spring cleaning in the spring either.

Regardless, I occasionally feel the pull to change something for the better. And when I do, I act on it, no matter what the time of year.  Remember that time when it wasn’t the beginning of the year and I decided to be a runner? Ha! Well, I had good intentions anyway. Someone once remarked to me that I have a classic runner’s body. My body apparently doesn’t know that.

So what about New Year’s resolutions?

Well…? Why not? I spent the better part of last year wondering what my new direction should be once my youngest child left for college. There was a slight mourning period that makes a reappearance now and then, especially after the kids come home to visit and then leave again. But more often these days, I’m remembering there is possibility in the days ahead. There’s time for me now. Why not make the most of it?

There are things I could do. I’m probably more likely to do them if I actually admit I’d like to do them.  Maybe there’s something to this whole resolution thing.

Yeah. There are things I could do. Like cooking. I feel kind of bad that I’ve always considered it such a chore and that I didn’t have more fun with it for the kids’ sake when they were around every day to enjoy it.  Now that I have more time on my hands and less pressure to be other places, I’ve discovered I sort of enjoy cooking. And I do a pretty decent job of it too. Granted, I’ll never come close to doing what de-I does, but I’ll bet I can do some pretty cool things in the kitchen. Besides, I have some new cookware and cookbooks. Best put them to use!

And there is some work-related stuff I could stand to work on as well. For most of the almost seven years that I’ve been with my employer, I haven’t really had to fight to advance. I just did my thing and it all came very easily. Someone noticed my work and said, “Hey, we’d like to move you up!” Then some changes occurred in the last year. I’ve come to realize that no one is going to just notice my work and pat me on the back for it. I’ve realized that I need to find a little bit of fight within myself. I could definitely stand to work on that.

And there’s something else I’ve contemplated a lot over the last few months. Writing. I love to write. I didn’t really realize that until I started blogging almost five years ago now. Over the last half-year or so, it just hasn’t seemed as easy to write as it once did. And when it doesn’t come easy, it’s all too easy to just not write. More often than ever, several days would pass between writings; sometimes almost a week. The less I wrote, the harder it was to just sit and write. Then Abby clued me in to this NaBloPoMo thing where bloggers commit to posting every day in a given month. I had heard of NaBloPoMo, but thought it only happened in November. Turns out it happens every month. So I took the leap and signed up in December. (So far, so good! Only two more days to go to meet the challenge!)

Writing daily has been challenging at times, but it has really helped me find my find my muse again. I wrote some pretty good posts in December and it felt good! So I think I’ll do it again in January.

So not wanting to set myself up for failure, I think I’ll just stick with the three resolutions.

  1. Find my inner culinary artist
  2. Workplace assertiveness
  3. WRITE!

That’s definitely a do-able list. And trust me. If sometime mid-year I decide to work on my sense of adventure and take up skydiving or some such thing, I’ll feel free to add that to the list of resolutions. I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

There’ll be parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting and … blog posts for posting!

December is upon us. It’s such a busy month, but in such a good way.

I love the way December feels. I love the sense of anticipation and preparation. I love the way people seem transformed by a spirit of generosity and good will. I think that I actually enjoy the days leading up to Christmas much more than Christmas itself. I am happy in December.

But there is a lot to get done in December. There are gifts to buy and wrap, cookies to bake, cards to sign and mail. There are favorite Christmas movies to be watched and the tree needs to be brought into the living room and decorated. And on top of all the things that need doing at home, I’m helping to coordinate twelve days of politically correct, non-denominational holiday activities at the office.

It would be tough to squeeze in one more thing. But I’m going to try.

I began this year by attempting to write every single day. I didn’t last long; a month. Maybe two. But I did manage to write something every single day while I was committed to it, at least until I decided it was too hard to keep it up while working full-time, while preparing a child for high school graduation, while preparing that same child for college and amid a million other things that have to be done every day. Writing fell a little bit to the wayside.

I told myself I would still write often. I just wasn’t going to hold myself to the every day thing. But sometimes over the past few months, I didn’t even write often. Sometimes it was all I could do to write one post in a week. I lost my motivation. I fell into the habit of telling myself I had nothing interesting to share. Strange behavior for someone who actually finds writing to be fun. I can see how easy it might be to fall out of the writing habit. But as easy a choice as that sometimes seems, it’s not one I want to make.

I like to write. I mean, I really like to write. So why does it sometimes feel so difficult? When I first started blogging, I couldn’t wait to write something new each day, and it was easy. Somewhere over the last few years, things changed. So many days I sit down to write, but begin to think there has to have been something extraordinary in my day in order to write something. And so then I write nothing.

So, inspired by Bud of the blog Older Eyes who has written every single day this year and also by Abby of the blog AbbyNormal who jumped on the NaBloPoMo bandwagon last month, I’m making a commitment to write every day, just for the month of December. I signed up yesterday before I could change my mind.

There’s a picture over in the sidebar just like this one.

It’s there to remind me that I took the leap and I’m going to try this as a gift to myself this month, which is appropriate since the theme for the month is gift. Call me crazy, but I think this is going to be fun!

And maybe a little bit difficult.

But FUN!

(You can do it too. Just click on the picture and it will take you right to the place where you can sign up.)

Wish me luck!

“Import Successful”

I’m not sure why it didn’t occur to me to do this sooner, but I’ve finally merged (most of) my old blog posts into this blog. So if you receive blog updates from me through a reader, don’t panic if you’re seeing several hundred new updates! :-)

Happy Monday!