On Writing, Random Thoughts, Spiritual

Goodbye Negativity – I don’t have room for you in my world #amwriting #ampraying

I woke up this morning in Atlanta with the same awful headache that plagued me the entire DevNexus conference. Despite having looked forward to today’s Atlanta Writing Workshop for many weeks, I made the decision to just come home. Disappointed and cranky, I found a seat at breakfast as far from other humans as possible and stared at my phone, in case anyone thought to, I don’t know, make eye contact or something.

As I made the rounds on the social media sites, I found myself moving from cranky to irritated to angry, which has become a too-familiar pattern in these months since the election. I wandered around until I landed at the @realdonaldtrump Twitter account. Spiking my mood, I retweeted some snarky thing to no audience in particular – I guess so I’d feel like I have at least some kind of voice in this surreal new world – but instead of making me feel empowered, I felt even more deflated. I looked back over my Tweets for the past several weeks and realized all the emotion, all of the anger and fear and disappointment and confusion, had made its way onto my page.

My husband likes to say that anything that does not provide value and add something to your day should be cut out of your life. He’s much better than I am about cutting things (subjects, people, whatever)  completely from his world. Not that he isn’t interested or engaged in all this Trump-craziness – we both have to be, as so much of what has transpired so far has impacted our professional lives directly in one way or another – but he doesn’t get as emotionally invested as I do. He sent his strongly-worded letter to Senator Graham; whereas, I write the letter, make the phone call, attend the town hall, Tweet about it, etc..

Today I think I reached my threshold. Between the news stories and the posts on Facebook and the Tweets, I feel like I’m drowning in Trump – suffocated by his narcissism, ignorance, bullying, and ugliness. Strangled by every word I hear about what he’s said or done today or what his minions have said or done. Making things worse are all the fights I’m witnessing on social media between my friends on the Trump Train and my friends wringing their hands in delight at the thought of derailment.

My dear friend Tess gave up on Twitter a few weeks ago. I don’t think I want to give up Twitter completely because I very much enjoy the socializing with my fellow writers and readers, but I knew before I left that breakfast table that I needed to find a way, somehow, to remove the negativity from my world. I want to do it, however, without sticking my head into the ground. I still need to be engaged serve as an advocate and defender. Surely there is a healthier option.

As I started the drive back to Columbia, I looked at the next book in queue in Audiobooks – Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan to Serious, Specific and Strategic Prayer by Pricilla Shirer. Really? When I’m wallowed down deep in pissy attitude? I literally rolled my eyes. At God. I knew I was supposed to listen to it whether I wanted to or not. As I pulled out of the parking garage, I took a reluctant swipe at play, determined to not enjoy it.

Strategy 1 – Your Passion – Getting It Back When It’s Gone. I realized my morning bible time had all but disappeared, replaced by my morning ritual of “catching up on the news” before and after work each day. When was the last time I had some Bible time? It had gone the way of my writing and running and other things I’d been passionate about. WTH?

Strategy 2 – Your Focus – Fighting the Real Enemy. Have I been putting all  my time and energy into fighting the wrong battles? Worrying about things I can’t change and ignoring the tools at my disposal that could truly make a difference?

Strategy 3 – Your Identity – Remembering Who You Are. At 45, I have reached a point in my life where most superficial things don’t really bother me much. I realized listening to this, however, that I was still really shaken by how “less than my best” my conference presentation was, especially in comparison with my colleague Doc Norton‘s presentation on a similar topic. Two thoughts. 1) Had my passion and focus here, for my work, been impacted, too? 2) Is there any person on the planet who isn’t at least a little insecure?

Strategy 4 – Your Family – Fortifying the Lives of Those You Love. Oh my family – a constant source of joy and worry. I don’t care how old your children get, you never stop worrying about them. And the grandkids, my little treasures, when was the last time I wrote each name in my prayer book and prayed for them as individuals?

Strategy 5 – Your Past – Ending the Reign of Guilt, Shame, and Regret. Every time I think I’ve accepted God’s forgiveness (and forgiven myself) for the many sins in my past, BAM!! out of the shadows comes some reminder. This is another area where my energy is often misdirected–when I should pray fervently and pity those people who would seek to hurt me rather than be irritated or angry.

Strategy 6 – Your Fears – Confronting Your Worries, Claiming Your Calling. All of the strategies struck me, but this one perhaps most. I am the Queen of procrastination and most of the time, it’s easy to point to why. I did it with my conference presentation. DevNexus is a really really technical conference. I’m an English major, not a computer engineer. Even being an application development manager and understanding (most) of every session I attended, I still worry every time I present there. I do the same thing with my writing. I’ll do anything BUT write the closer I get to the completion of a project.

I still have Strategies 7 through 10 to go, but I’m not stupid. I got the message loud and clear on why God wanted me to read this book. And why now. I have spent way too much time and focus on the things that not only add no value, they just make me angry or sad. And every time I retweet with some snarky response, it not only brings me down, it spreads the fever to all my readers. That’s not fair to them. That’s not why I keep a Twitter account in the first place.

So, my first strategy to implement is reorganizing my schedule and focus to spend my time and energy on what’s most important. Clearly I need to lay off the political posts, never look at Trump’s Twitter, and make my first activity every day my bible time. I need to be praying for the president, not trolling him.

It is also time to stop researching my books and finish writing them. I have more than enough material and continuing to read about things like neglected foster children and heroin overdoses just makes me angry at the world and the systems with holes as big as elephants in their safety nets… and they aren’t even central to the story! It’s just procrastination, like my other book, which I know I’ve been avoiding finishing because I’m absolutely sure there are a hundred Agile experts who know way more than me and should probably be writing that book themselves. What’s that? Is that Strategy 3 and Strategy 6 calling?

I do hope, through all of this, that I find the right channels to be heard and affect change in healthy, positive ways. I would guess that, after the quite direct messages I received, something to that effect is in order one way or another. I’m always amazed by where God takes me when I stop rolling my eyes and start listening to him.

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Random Thoughts, Spiritual, Travel

Family Vacation

We are finally home from our family vacation to Arizona. While I’m certain I would visit my brother and sister-in-law regularly no matter where they lived, I can admit that I appreciate that they happen to live somewhere that’s wonderful to visit. I’m sure he says the same about me when he visits and gets to hang out on the ocean. 🙂

My brother and I try to get together at least once a year, either by him coming to South Carolina, my going to Arizona, or a shared vacation meeting up somewhere. People who say they’re close to their siblings, yet go years or decades without seeing them, completely baffle me. I’m not judging, just confused. Even my employees who have to travel 9,000 miles to see their families in India manage to do so every couple of years; however, I’ve seen others who can’t be bothered with a four hour train ride. Life is too short to keep putting off that visit until next year!

This year, we took my in-laws along. We had a long-promised birthday gift vacation that my father-in-law hadn’t been able to accept due to health issues, but this year he was determined that he and my mother-in-law would cross the Grand Canyon off their bucket list, despite his recent stroke. Once again, life is too short to put that bucket list item off year after year. They were not disappointed. It is gift-from-God majestic.

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On our Grand Canyon days, we stayed at the historic El Tovar, quite literally on the canyon’s South rim. The rooms themselves, like many historic hotels, were simple, but nicely decorated. Because of the thick fog hanging in the canyon the first afternoon, we spent a lot of time chatting with other tourists as we warmed ourselves by the main lobby’s enormous fireplace. One note on the Grand Canyon? Don’t bother with the Grand Canyon Railway. It is incredibly overpriced for the experience.

breakfast-el-tovarDinner at El Tovar was great, though. My brother had warned me to make dinner reservations and I’m glad we did – the dining room fills up even in the dead of winter! I very much enjoyed the roasted half duck with cherry merlot sauce, but I don’t believe any of us cared for either of the two types of rice side dish that came with our entrees. Breakfast, on the other hand, could not have been lovelier. While not a perfect view, the dining room does provide a nice way to watch the sunrise and see the colors on the canyon walls.

We spent our Sedona days at the beautiful and scenic Junipine Resort, about eight miles from town. Sedona is to the western mountain desert as Gatlinburg is to the Smoky Mountains and Myrtle Beach is to the coast — absolutely loaded with tourist stuff and a whole lot of family fun. We did not take a pink jeep tour but we did visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross (whose gift shop is larger than its chapel – not kidding). Wonderful views.

img_7719The last part of the week we spent back in Phoenix, where, besides the Grand Canyon and visiting with family, we had the highlight of our trip in spending an afternoon on the Desert Belle on Saguaro Lake. We also enjoyed the Desert Botanical Garden, Butterfly Wonderland, and, of course one of our favorites, Old Town Scottsdale. If you’ve never been, but like art, put Scottsdale on your bucket list. While you’re there, be sure to visit The Sugar Bowl. Yum.

My brother also introduced us to some of his favorite restaurants. Although according to my brother, Claim Jumper really messed up by removing steak chili from its menu, it turned out to be my father-in-law’s favorite meal of the trip. In between all of that, my mother-in-law fit in a massage and hair styling, I got my nails did, and the boys went shopping for guns.

On the way home we detoured through Washington DC just in time for the Women’s March. I didn’t get to see anyone I knew there, despite having at least 10 friends and relatives participating. It was fun to watch my Facebook feed as my friends from around the country posted pictures from their various cities (Raleigh, Lansing, Knoxville, New York, Columbia, just to name a few).

I’ll save the political stuff for another post, but I will say that this day of togetherness and solidarity was the perfect end to a wonderful vacation enjoyed with people I love and respect. Please – don’t be so wrapped up in your own life or work or politics or anything else that keeps you from spending time with your people or with God. If you wait for a wedding or a funeral to have either around, you may miss them both.

Also? Go see this:

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Human Issues, Spiritual

Pope Francis Says It’s Not Right to Identify Islam With Violence — TIME

(ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE) — Pope Francis says he won’t describe Islam as “terrorist” since that’s “not fair and not true.” Francis was asked Sunday why he never uses the word “Islam” when denouncing extremists’ killings like that of an elderly French priest during Mass in France last week. He was speaking to reporters aboard…

via Pope Francis Says It’s Not Right to Identify Islam With Violence — TIME

On Reading, On Writing, Reviews, Spiritual

Book Review: Whispers of Hope

Whispers of Hope: 10 Weeks of Devotional PrayerWhispers of Hope: 10 Weeks of Devotional Prayer by Beth Moore

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I recommend this so highly that I just bought another copy so I can do it again. Using the P.R.A.I.S.E. method, Beth gives tools to and structure to effectively combine journaling with prayer time (Praise, Repentance, Acknowledgement, Intercession, Supplication for Self, and Equipping). I think what I’ve enjoyed the most is looking back through my prayer journal all these months later and getting perspective by seeing what was “so important” to me at that time and how, with God and prayer, I was guided through an unfortunate and ugly situation unscathed.

View all my reviews