Reflections In Hindsight

Grace in the Rearview Mirror…it's closer than it appears

  • Ephesians 4:29

    Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (NIV)

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    Thank you for your encouragement and support for the past three years. We've had fun connecting with you and hope you've found useful material here on Reflections. And here's the but... Reflections In Hindsight is closing on December 21, 2012. Elaine and Sophie and I can be found over at http://authorculture.blogspot.com; April can be found at Clash of the Titles, http://www.clashofthetitles, http://www.aprilgardner.com and watch for news for more novels from her!; Janet is ever-present on the Internet with her very special words of wisdom and grace at http://www.janetperezeckles.com, and Luther--who knows where he'll show up next, but I'd watch my back if I were you... Book Reviews are always important, so I, Lisa, will continue to offer them through my blog, as well as those promotions for your new books or book launches, or your news.
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Archive for the ‘Hospitality’ Category

What to do when troubles pile up.

Posted by janeteckles on July 21, 2012

By Janet Perez Eckles

Hubby lied to me. And I love him for it. Crazy, I know, but I think you’ll agree with me.

We decided to host three foreign students for a month. Fun experience. But that required me to clean closets; a task that for the last decade, I avoided like the plague. Each was jammed with clothes, old items and junk belonging to each of the seven members of our family—from football jerseys to my wedding dress. We’re talking stuff stored from probably the Middle Ages.

“Here’s the plan,” I said to hubby. “You bring all hanging clothes downstairs and my Mom and I will segregate them for donation.

Dumb idea.

The more we separated, the more clothes and junk hubby brought down. Ugh! Will this ever end? He made umpteenth trips downstairs with armfuls and armfuls of clothes. But fueled with resolve, my mom and I worked non-stop. We separated, chose and packed.

Hours later, tongue hanging out, sweat pouring, fingers and hands sore, I placed the last item in the bag and asked hubby, “How much more is left in each closet?”

“Oh, all this was only one closet. We have two more to go.”

I froze. What? I wanted to scream. What was I thinking to take on this project? I plopped on the couch, leaned my sweaty head back, hands limp to my sides. “No way!”

After a moment of silence, he gave a sardonic laugh. “Only kidding. All three closets are empty. There’s no more.”

I gave him a loving look. “There’s no more” were sweet words for this chica.

Amigos, you might identify. You might be in the middle of a mountain of troubles, wondering if they’ll ever end. And with no energy left, you see how they keep on coming. Your heart aches and you ask God, “How much more, Lord? I’m exhausted with the pile of troubles. I see more and more of the same; will you let me see the end? When will I have relief?”

But the end does come. It does because God, almighty and just, knows the quantity we can endure. He’s aware of the strength He will give. And He’s already planned the moment we’ll see the light at the end of the dark closet of stress.

That’s because God has His own closet of answers. And although hubby told a white lie to surprise me, God tells us the absolute truth to satisfy our soul because “…he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help” (Psalm 72:12).

So, make your way to the couch of His promise. Take a deep breath while your heart repeats “…I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble” (Psalm 59:16).

Father, how foolish I’ve been to think I can face those mountains of troubles on my own. At times, I’ve been drained; I lose my focus. But your Word lifts me up and makes the task possible. You will be my stronghold. You will be my fortress and my strength to sustain me during exhausted moments and difficult days. In Jesus’ name I thank you. Amen.

• What is overwhelming you today”?
• Is there a closet in your life that needs cleaning?
• What results did you have when you tried to resolve those piles of trouble on your own?

Janet

Posted in Encouragment, Hospitality | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Colonial American Motels

Posted by elainemcooper on April 13, 2012

Posted by Elaine Marie Cooper

Some kinds of research can be just plain fun.

For instance, who knew that in place of a chain of motels in the 1700’s, travelers stayed in taverns? Of course, there were no restaurant chains; folks stopped in designated homes called “ordinaries” for quick sustenance while on the road. These accommodations were usually strewn across the countryside every few miles—at least in the more settled areas. If it was frontier, well, better get out the musket to shoot some dinner. :-)

While taverns provided alcoholic beverages, they were also licensed by law to serve not just suitable beds for travelers, but also feed for their horses or oxen.

Food such as roast beef, leg of mutton, ham and cabbage, or perhaps a “fat fowl” were some of the dinners available to guests. Drinks were ale, wine and cider, but drunkenness was frowned upon and cause for a fine.

Most colonials never drank water as it was usually not clean and was known to cause illness. Boiling would have cured that problem but knowledge of bacteria and other microscopic troublemakers was unknown. Folks just knew the water made them sick.

Tavern keepers were usually citizens of good character with a good reputation in their community. Many were magistrates, politicians, or officers in the militia.

Colonial taverns were typically two story buildings with one large main room on the first floor and several smaller rooms for lodgers on the second. Besides offering hospitality to travelers however, these establishments were the main social center of a town. Business meetings were conducted here as well as militia meetings to muster men for the army just in case (let us suppose) they wanted to fight for freedom from England. Just supposing, of course.

One such tavern (still in existence as a historical landmark) is the Keeler Tavern in Ridgefield, Connecticut. Owned by a well-known patriot in the 1770’s named Timothy Keeler, there was suspicion that musket balls for the Continental Army were being manufactured in the tavern basement. In 1777, the British decided to assault the building by firing a few cannon balls, one of which put a large hole in the north wall. Another shot barely missed a patron ascending the tavern stairs. It frightened the poor man so much that it is said he screamed, “I’m a dead man, I’m a dead man!” until his friends convinced him otherwise. The landlord’s son, Jeremiah Keeler joined the Continental Army at age 17, and the story goes that the young sergeant was the first to scale the British redoubt at Yorktown in that decided victory against England.

Colonial American history is so fascinating!

What is truly fun about researching for fiction, is then translating these historical facts into a story. Here is an excerpt from The Promise of Deer Run that developed from the information I gleaned about traveling in the 1700’s:

The afternoon sleigh ride seemed endless. Mile after mile, forests of chestnuts, oaks, and maples lined the roadway. Occasionally an open field widened the landscape and a few deer in the meadows would scurry away at the sound of their sleigh. Dusk was nearing, and Nathaniel prodded Babe to drive a little faster. They had already traveled a total of thirty miles or more and were trying tor each a town called Brookfield before dark. At last Nathaniel caught sight of a two-story house with a sign in front.
“There! There’s the tavern, Sarah.”
The exhausted young woman peeked out from beneath the quilts.
“It could not have come any too soon.” Sarah sat up, her face twisting in pain. “I feel so stiff and sore.”
They both read the wooden sign out front:

Drink for the thirsty
Food for the hungry
Lodging for the weary
And good keeping for horses

Nathaniel grinned at Sarah.
“I’m certain Babe will be relieved at the ‘keeping for horses.’” He jumped out of the sleigh, the prospect of warmth and rest invigorating his limbs. “Let us get you inside first.” He carefully helped her out of the sleigh and hurried her inside out of the cold. A blast of warmth and pulsating light from the large hearth inside greeted the travelers.
The tavern keeper was pouring ale for a customer. When he looked up and saw the couple a look of concern swept across his face.
“Needin’ a midwife, are ye?”
“No sir…not yet. But we do need lodging for the night.”
“That I can provide. But birthin’? Not part of my hospitality, sir.”

Photo above: Keeler Tavern, Ridgefield, CT

In celebration of The Promise of Deer Run winning Best Romance at the 2012 Los Angeles Book Festival, I will be offering a free book giveaway to one of today’s commenters! Leave a comment with your E-mail address and I will enter you in a drawing!

Posted in Book Giveaway, History - American Revolution, Hospitality | Tagged: , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

End of the Line

Posted by Ben Erlichman on March 1, 2012

As I sit here in the hallway just outside my condo (I locked myself out—my house and car keys are inside so I’m stranded), I can’t help but reflect on how far I’ve come since I first started blogging for Reflections in Hindsight. I began awhile ago upon seeing an admonition from our very own Lisa Lickel via the ACFW Midwest loop for anyone interested in contributing to this blog. I answered her call and offered to contribute, and soon I was posting once every other week.

Not long after that, I began posting every week when the gentleman I was co-posting with had to step back from the blog, so Thursdays became “my day” at Reflections. It worked well for a long time. I could probably go back and tell you exactly how long it’s been, but I haven’t any desire to try to figure out how to do that on my iPad via the WordPress App and risk losing an entire post (it’s happened before) in the process.

I’ve shared on a great many subjects during my time here, some of which still attract readers even though the posts have been live for months. Some of my top posts include my thoughts on witchcraft in YA books (above and beyond the level of Harry Potter, which I think is mostly harmless), a fun post entitled “WWJBD? What Would James Bond Do?“, and my personal favorite, An Obituary for Harold, a squirrel to whom I paid tribute a few days after I ran him over with my car.

All in all, it’s been a great run, but as I said in a previous post about how much I hate blogging, I just don’t have the time, energy, or the drive to continue to write anymore. Part of it stems from the fact that I don’t enjoy reading blogs very much, and I hate the idea that I have to blog in order to be a “successful” author as far as my books go. If I hate blogging, why am I doing it?

I apologize for my negative outlook on this subject. As this is my last post at Reflections, I want to leave on a positive note, something I have done for basically everything I’ve posted. I’m that type of person: the optimist who sees the glass as half full—usually.

So here’s my positive spin on all of this: in not blogging at Reflections, I will have more time to write books, work on Splickety Magazine (which you can buy here), and be a good father to my son (or possibly daughter), who we’re expecting to be born within the next few weeks. Posting at Reflections has been an obligation that I worried about fulfilling every week, and now I won’t have to worry anymore.

Thank you all for reading my posts throughout the last year or so. You’ve walked along with me on this journey, through the good times and the bad, through the well-planned posts and the not so well-planned posts. I am forever indebted to you for your support.

As I sign off for the last time as a regular contributor (that’s right, you may see me again at some point, it’s just that I won’t be the one driving the carriage) I have to make three final requests of you.

1. Please continue to read Reflections authors’ posts. As you well know, I’m not the only one here at this site. Never was. Please continue to support this site, and tell your friends about it. I owe so much to Lisa and the other contributors for what they’ve taught me, so please check them out often, if not every day.

2. Keep reading on Thursdays. My replacement is the very able, intelligent, creative Luther D. Powell, a young man with a bright future ahead of him. You can check him out on our author page soon. He will continue to bring the heat through his posts, a heat that has cooled in my recent posts. Give him more than a fair shot—I think you’ll be impressed.

3. Finally, keep your eyes open. I’ll be around. I’m at conferences, I’m not leaving Splickety Magazine any time soon (just started it—duh), and I’ll eventually have a book or 19 published that you all can and should read, and then buy more copies for your friends and family. When that day comes, I’ll appear on Reflections again, probably for an interview. Until then, support Splickety, and if you see me wandering the halls at some conference you happen to be attending, come up and say hello. I’m okay with faces but horrible with names, so please pardon me if you have to remind me who you are.

With that, thank-you again, and God bless you all.

-Ben

This is me preparing for my undoubtedly bright future.

Posted in Anxiety, Author Marketing, Author Spotlight, Authors, Encouragment, Friendship, Happiness, Heart and Home, Homemaking, Hospitality, Inspiration, Life Experiences, Living Our Faith Out Loud, Music, Parenting, Publishing, Till death do we part, Uncategorized, Working from home, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Observations on the Aftermath of Whitney Houston’s Death

Posted by Ben Erlichman on February 16, 2012

Whenever a celebrity dies, especially one of the caliber of Whitney Houston, or Michael Jackson, or Larry King–wait…he’s not dead yet? Oh, he just kind of looks like he’s dead. My bad.

Whitney Houston

Anyway, there’s a predictable pattern of reaction from the media, from social networks, and from other celebrities. It’s horrible, but true, and most of it infuriates me. Here are two of my observations regarding Whitney Houston’s recent passing:

1. The media was well-prepared–too well-prepared. I think we all know by now that major media outlets have obituary files and footage already picked out for most of the world’s major celebrities, so all they have to do is pull out that file, mash together that footage and have the anchors/reporters practice going through some of said celeb’s lifetime highlights, low periods, and everything in-between before going on live and presenting the obituary.

That means that these news outlets not only have those files and footage, but that they update them regularly, and they also probably prioritize them based on who they think is going to croak first. In a way, this is a totally heartless and cold approach to the death of an important person, but if you stop and consider it, isn’t that kind of news exactly what everyone is supposed to get? Even-tempered, unbiased reporting of the facts?

I still don’t think I like it, though.

2. Idiots used Whitney’s death as a chance to advance their own agendas. This is the reason why I felt I should write on this topic today. I’m flummoxed at some peoples’ stupid behavior in response to Whitney’s death. If you thought the media outlets were bad for being well-prepared for Whitney’s death, you’ll be disgusted at some of the things coming out of celebrities’ mouths and from social networking sites like Facebook.

Two examples in particular really made me fume. Tony Bennett, who, for our younger readers, is a very famous singer/performer from yesteryear, made one of the dumbest comments I’ve ever heard after a celebrity’s death: he said, “I’d like to have every gentleman and lady in this room commit themselves to get our government to legalize drugs. So they have to get it through a doctor, not just some gangsters that sell it under the table.”

Tony Bennett

Look, I’m not going to comment on the validity of his argument. Maybe he’s right, maybe not. But that’s not the point. The point is that he stood up in public and used Whitney Houston’s death to advance his own agenda. Wow…what a way to pay tribute to a friend–use their death to tell the government that drugs should be legalized. How do you think the population would have responded if reputable pastor like Rick Warren (not that he would) came out in public and said that everyone should accept Jesus and live fulfilled lives so they don’t end up like Whitney Houston? The universe, including a lot of Christians, would throw a conniption fit. To sum up, Tony’s comment was poorly-timed, and inappropriate.

Here’s another dumb thing I saw, this one on Facebook:

Yes, I know this is Steve Jobs and not Whitney.

I used Steve because I saw this meme used after his death first–and also because the one I found with Whitney had a picture of her with her chest halfway hanging out. You get the idea, though, right? Millions “cry” when a celebrity dies, but no one cries for the millions dying from AIDS in Africa, or from ethnic cleansing/genocide, or from hunger.

::Sigh::

I won’t argue with the premise. Yes, the world is a place of a profound injustice, and this does a good job of showing that discrepancy. That said, this is just as opportunistic and inappropriate as Tony’s comment above for exactly the same reason: the author is using a tragedy to advance their own agenda at the expense of the departed person immortalized in their meme, as if subtly implying that somehow, it’s partly Whitney’s or Steve’s fault that millions are dying. Or, at the very least, such memes are made to make us feel guilty about how we react to celeb deaths.

I’m probably not the best example of how to react to a celebrity’s death because I generally don’t spend much time following their lives in the first place. That said, you’re getting my opinion anyway.

When Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson died, and even more so when Steve Irwin (the Crocodile Hunter) was skewered by a stingray a few years back and died, I felt very sad. I didn’t go out and place flowers or notes or teddy bears on their graves (or in front of their chain of Apple stores like folks did with Steve Jobs), but their deaths impacted me (less with Steve Jobs, as I’m only a recent convert to the cult of Apple).

The meme above makes the assumption that we stupid, spoiled Americans care more about a person (who has actually affected our lives in some way) than we do about those suffering and dying around the world. Honestly, I’m sure that is the case with a lot of people, but to use a celeb death as an opportunity to guilt-trip the rest of us, including people close to Whitney or Steve or Steve or Michael, is wrong.

Sorry, but you’re just being a jerk. You haven’t considered how many people those celebs actually did touch in a profound way, who are already hurting at the loss of a friend, family member, or loved one (celebrity), upon seeing your meme, feel guilty and used as a part of a scheme to raise awareness for an issue that most people would already agree with anyway. In other words, your timing sucks because you don’t have the balls to try to promote your ideas in a time of normalcy and instead do it at the expense of someone’s death and others’ grief.

Alright. I’m done ranting. I’d love to get your thoughts on this. Next week, stay tuned for a much anticipated post, probably the second-to-last one you’ll get out of me here at Reflections: Things that Weigh a Thousand Pounds (aka things that I can leg press).

-Ben

Posted in Anxiety, Authors, Encouragment, Friendship, Happiness, Hospitality, Inspiration, Life Experiences, Living Our Faith Out Loud, Music, Publishing, Uncategorized, Working from home, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

A Biblical Feast Cookbook

Posted by Lisa Lickel on February 15, 2012

I love to bake, and I enjoy cooking. I first got turned on to cooking Biblical times recipes when I bought a cook book called The Good Book Cook Book back when I was newly married. We’re not too much into lamb, but found the onions delicious. When My mother-in-law recently visited Morrocco, we were excited about all the different foods she ate, and when Kitty contacted me back before Thanksgiving about promoting her book, I was happy to share….so, here you go, friends: Flavors From Foreign Lands!

A Biblical Feast:

Ancient Mediterranean Flavors for Today’s Table

(Fifteen thousand copies originally published by Ten Speed Press as

A Biblical Feast: Foods from the Holy Land for Today )

www.abiblicalfeast.com

 

6” x 8”. 108 pages. Index. Menus.

ISBN 13: 978-0-615-27635-9. Perfect binding

NEW: 22 full color food photographs plus illustrations. Entirely re-edited.

$15.95 paper with flaps

A land of wheat, and barley, and vines,

and fig trees, and pomegranates;

a land of oil olive and honey.

DEUTERONOMY 8:8

Herb-coated goat cheese, pungent garlic and leeks, succulent lamb, fresh sardines, fresh fava beans, honey sweet dates, crunchy pistachios and almonds … Although we usually think of the ancient Hebrews and early Christians eating only “manna from heaven” and the oft quoted “loaves and fishes,” the Bible tells us that a cornucopia of delicious foods sustained the inhabitants of the Jordan River Valley. Many ingredients like lentils, leeks, garlic, almonds, figs, olives, wine, barley, and honey remain staples of the contemporary Mediterranean kitchen, yet we know little about their rich legacy.

As much a cookbook as a reference book, A Biblical Feast: Ancient Mediterranean Flavors for Today’s Table is inspired by the 84 primary foods mentioned in Scripture. The appropriate biblical verse heads each of the almost fifty kitchen-tested recipes, as does the explanation of the ingredients’ culinary, historical and spiritual links. Twenty-two full color photographs and specially commissioned illustrations make it easy to reproduce the dishes.

Mainly, A Biblical Feast: Ancient Mediterranean Flavors for Today’s Table demonstrates that the people of the Holy Land were simple folk who ate uncomplicated yet wholesome food that up to now has never gone out of style. Ideal for schools, libraries, churches and synagogues, and Bible study groups. Menus provide new ways to celebrate every occasion, whether secular or religious.

Sample recipes

Salads and Dips

Cumin-Laced Garbanzo Bean Spread

Sesame-Almond-Nigella Sprinkle

Lentil Salad with Watercress and Goat Cheese

Main meals

Jacob’s Pottage of Lentils

Barley, Mustard Greens, and Mint

Saffroned Millet with Raisins and Walnuts

Breads and Desserts

Ezekiel’s Bread made with AUTHENTIC biblical ingredients such as pulse flour, natural yeast, and “fitches” (small seeds)

Dried Fruit and Red Wine Compote (Harosset)

Abigail’s Fig Cakes

Herb-Coated Yogurt Cheese (make your own cheese!)

Beverages

Wine

Reviews: http://www.kittymorse.com/a-biblical-feast

Catholic Digest

San Diego Jewish Journal Online

Heritage radio March 2011

San Diego TV Channel CW

Montreal Gazette, Vancouver Sun (May 2011)

ABOUT KITTY MORSE

www.kittymorse.com

Kitty Morse was born in Casablanca of a French mother and British father. She is the author of nine cookbooks, including The California Farm Cookbook (Pelican Publishing), and Cooking at the Kasbah: Recipes from my Moroccan Kitchen, a finalist for Michelin Australia’s Best Food Book, and a Chronicle Books best seller now in its ninth printing. Bon Appétit magazine selected one of her menus as Moroccan Cuisine: Cuisine of the Year. She has taught cooking nationwide for close to three decades, including a class hosted by Julia Child to benefit the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Kitty has been a guest on radio and television here and abroad, and has led 23 annual gastronomic tours to her native Morocco. Her books have been translated into German, Polish and Czech. She is an adjunct professor of French at Palomar College, San Marcos (CA). She resides in Vista, CA.

Posted in Author Marketing, Book Reviews, Homemaking, Hospitality, Life Experiences | Tagged: , , | Comments Off

Road Trip Fury

Posted by Ben Erlichman on January 26, 2012

I am not a fan of road trips. Sorry to start this post with such a negative statement, but I really just don’t enjoy them at all. Of course, I’ve taken more road trips in the last few months than I have in a couple of years before that, and I’m due to go on a few more in the next several months.

The problem with road trips, as I see it, is twofold: there is a significant physical distance between me and the destination of the road trip; and I have to be in a small space for a long period of time, which is uncomfortable.

I prefer flying. It takes less time, the quarters aren’t quite as cramped (though they’re close) and it’s usually reasonable in cost if you plan far enough in advance or find a good deal through one of the airlines. Sure, there are hassles like going through security and not being able to bring fireworks with you, but those are things I’m willing to go along with if it means a shorter trip.

“But flights don’t fly everywhere,” you say.

True. I concede that. In some situations, I just have to bite the bullet and deal with the road trip. For example: we just went down to Beloit, WI to visit a client for an inventory on Monday and Tuesday this week. You can’t fly the hour and a half distance (driving) from Milwaukee unless you have a helicopter and/or a chartered plane, both of which would be waaaay more expensive. So, I had to suck it up and endure the road trip.

“That’s not a road trip!” you yell with fury. “It’s too short.”

Not as far as I’m concerned. Anything longer than an hour is a road trip in my book. At least it wasn’t an overnight thing.

Well, as I said, I’ve got more road trips coming up (more details on what those are in future posts) that are either writing-related, business-related, or both. I’m planning on driving at least one of them (a 2-hour trip to Illinois), but I might fly to another location in Indiana if it ends up being too far south (both writing-related). I have multiple business trips coming up as well, all of which I will be driving (or riding along as a passenger). All in all, I’m going to have to deal with them.

What’s your take on road trips? Does the destination or the reason for the trip matter as far as your attitude toward the trip is concerned?

-Ben

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Here’s a Friend’s Blog Post

Posted by Ben Erlichman on December 22, 2011

I thought this was a great post and pretty accurately describes how I felt about the whole “Happy Holidays” vs. “Merry Christmas” debate, so I’m posting the link here. Check it out, will you?

http://charisseeley.blogspot.com/

Posted in Authors, Encouragment, Friendship, Happiness, Heart and Home, Hospitality, Inspiration, Life Experiences, Living Our Faith Out Loud, Music, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

My NaNoWriteMare

Posted by Ben Erlichman on December 1, 2011

Clever title, isn’t it? That’s about the only thing I accomplished this November as far as writing is concerned. Alright, I’m being too hard on myself–it’s not quite as bad as the title suggests. I actually logged 22,200 words on the nose in november, but that’s 28k shorter than the standard NaNo goal of 50k, and about 40-50k shorter than my personal goal of 60-75k. Ah well, life goes on, right?

The best thing I can do is try to figure out where I “went wrong” in my endeavor. If you caught my last post two weeks ago (sorry about the blank Liam Neeson post that showed up Thanksgiving Day–that’s courtesy of WordPress being devilish and deleting all of my content) where I sort of did a mid-course analysis and tried to make corrections, then you know some of my flaws already. I played too many video games, I focused more at work at my day job (that’s a good thing, though) and I didn’t do enough pre-research on my initial NaNo project, which I eventually abandoned in favor of returning to my previous work-in-progress (WIP) which is about a chapter away from hitting the book’s final act.

Yeah, I thought I’d be able to amp up my writing by switching to my old project, but my word counts actually didn’t improve–they decreased, then began to increase in the past few days. I wrote like a tyrant my first week, which was actually only five days, and in that time I put out 9,050 words. The next week (a full seven days) I put out 6,433, then a miserable 1,998 the week of that blog post. That was my rock bottom. I climbed up to 2,270, then reached 2,453 during the last four days of November. In short, I’m on an upswing, and that’s going to have to be good enough for now since I failed to complete NaNo.

In other words, my word count from October through November very closely resembles the stock market crash in 2008.

Here’s my new goal, and I think it’s manageable: finish my current WIP by the end of December. By my count I should have about 20-25k left to write. I have done over 50k words in a month before, so cranking out the end of the story (with the momentum of the entire cast of characters and the plot fueling my writing) should be a fun challenge. I’d like to have it done by mid-December so I can have an edited draft ready for my wife to read by January 1st, as I promised a few months ago.

Here are the things that will probably distract me: writing/preaching a sermon in mid-December for the main service in my church; running my church’s youth group; trying to acquire the biggest client for my dad’s company in its history (sooooo awesome, by the way); trying to acquire other clients at work; an old friend visiting my wife and me for a month or two; video games; getting the first issue of Splickety out and selling it to local stores; marketing Splickety nationwide; making time to spend with my pregnant wife; chaplain site visits to our client location three times a month; critique group stuff; potentially attending two funerals; meeting with a young couple about officiating their wedding; volleyball on Monday nights; workouts on Tuesday nights; Mayhem on Friday nights; and probably a bunch of other things I can’t remember right now.

In other words, it’s exactly how I like it: stressful, packed, and short on time.

I guess we’ll see how it turns out.

-Ben

Posted in Anxiety, Author Marketing, Authors, Encouragment, Friendship, Happiness, Hospitality, Life Experiences, Living Our Faith Out Loud, Music, Parenting, Till death do we part, Uncategorized, Working from home, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Badgers Game Nightmare

Posted by Ben Erlichman on November 10, 2011

A lot’s been going on with the Joe Paterno/Penn State scandal over the last few days, but I’m not here to write about that as I have no desire to comment on a very messy situation from just about every angle. I’d rather take some time to focus on a football team that’s closer to home: the Wisconsin Badgers.

Okay, so this post isn’t really even about the Badgers themselves, nor is it about their two ridiculous last-minute losses to inferior teams (neither of which I saw, by the way). In fact, for having been born and raised in Wisconsin, I really only have slightly better than neutral feelings towards the Badgers. In general, I really don’t care much about college sports, as I went to a tiny little school called North Central University in Minneapolis. In a school of around 1200 students, there’s not much to get excited about unless you’re on one of the teams, which I never had time for because I was always working or playing video games.

Anyway, I’m mostly indifferent to college sports, and I like the Badgers, but as far as sports go I’m really a Green Bay Packers more than anything else. That said, when my parents invited my wife and me to attend the Badgers game against Purdue this past Saturday, I said “Sure, why not?”

Maybe I should have stayed home instead. I’ve posted a video on my Facebook page that may give you some perspective on why the game was no pleasant for me.

In short, if you can’t see the video, I had the distinct privilege (opportunity? curse?) to sit next to a special needs guy at the game. For those of you who don’t know me very well, let me just start out by saying that I grew up with one of my best friends being special needs, so I am well-acquainted to being sensitive to special needs people. However, this time it really got on my nerves. You will see, though, that this wasn’t just because of the guy in the video, but because of the situation as a whole.

We made it to the game about a few minutes after kickoff. If you’ve been to Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, you know how abysmal it can be trying to get to your seat in the middle of the row after the game is in progress. You also probably know that the space allotted for each seat on the bench is enough for very tiny adults or medium-sized high-school kids, not for tall people with big muscles and even bigger egos. (You people just don’t understand…) As soon as we sat down in our four seats, you guessed it–I ended up next to the guy in the video.

Here’s the thing–everything was working against me that day. This guy was just the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back, so to speak.

He had a big globule of snot dripping from his nose (I kept wondering if it would somehow end up on me or my coat–thankfully it didn’t). He kept yelling “Yeeeeeeeeaaaaahhhh” whenever the Badgers did something good (you can hear this in the video), which wouldn’t have been so bad had he not basically yelled at the top of his lungs (I had to cover my ear to keep from it getting hurt—seriously). He wasn’t healthy–he kept coughing and I’m certain my sore throat today has something to do with him. Those were the things that bothered me the most, but he also made goofy hand gestures and said goofy things that agitated me.

Despite all of that, he had more of a right to be there than I did. Hear me out: I got the impression from the other fans around us that he shows up to most–if not all–of the games. Me? I came once and got stuck sitting next to him. Too bad for me. Yes, it soured my experience (and I’m not planning on going back to any Badgers games any time soon) but I didn’t let it cause me to detract from his experience. For all I know, that could be the one thing that really brings him joy in his life, so I kept my mouth shut. I didn’t rain on his parade, so to speak.

Sometimes I think life is a lot like that. We as Christians often make sacrifices so that others can benefit. I really didn’t enjoy my time at the game, but I know he did, and for me, that’s worth a bit of suffering and temporary partial deafness in one ear.

-Ben

Posted in Anxiety, Authors, Encouragment, Friendship, Happiness, Hospitality, Life Experiences, Living Our Faith Out Loud, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Distraction in Action

Posted by Ben Erlichman on October 27, 2011

You’re sitting in that ideal setting that we mentioned last week. You’ve got your elixir, your nepenthe, your ambrosia in a steaming mug next to you (or in a chilled glass). The sounds of nature, or silence, or rock and roll surround you as your fingers tap the keyboard or write longhand. The computer screen is alive with color, but mostly just white and black text. You type word after glorious word, and the story unfolds before your very eyes like a flower blossoming in the springtime (or, if you write action/adventure, like a swelling explosion from a rocket-propelled grenade).

Everything is perfect, just the way you like it.

Then the phone rings. The dog next door starts barking. Your kids charge into the room and shout at the top of their lungs. The over beeps because your frozen pizza is cooked. Your next-door neighbor shoots his dog because it was barking too much. A meteor strikes the Earth in Africa and knocks your juice/coffee/soda/water all over your keyboard.

All is lost.

What happened? You got distracted.

“But–that’s not what happened! It wasn’t my fault!” you cry, furious that I would hazard to suggest that the African meteor was somehow your fault. “I couldn’t help being distracted.”

Sometimes, that’s exactly how it is. You don’t really have much of a choice–stuff will happen and it will distract you.

Sorry for the pause. I had to go get a frozen pizza out of the oven. Seriously, I actually got up and did that while I was typing this post. But it’s 11:47 at night and I’ve only eaten once today, so I have to take care of that. For me, that was an example of a necessary distraction.

As I was saying, there are some things you just can’t help. The neighbor’s dog barking, for example. Unless that neighbor really does find some way to shut Fido up (or if you’re cavalier enough to do it for him), you’re stuck with it. That doesn’t mean, of course, that you have to let it distract you. Put on some headphones, or put in some earplugs, or both, and get back to writing.

It’s not always so simple. You have kids. They neeeeeeed you every second of every day. Can’t get rid of them, can you? Sure, if they’re older, you can ship them off to school for eight hours, but if they’re babies (like the one I’m expecting in March), what do you do then? Since I don’t have kids that age (yet), I really don’t have a good answer except to say what I would TRY to do.

James Scott Bell has a dandy book called The Art of War for Writers (which I highly recommend). In it, he explains that he often “snatches time” when he writes. He explains that he makes sure he is still productive in spite of distractions by snatching time to write whenever he can. He mentions that he writes in some weird places at some weird times, primarily on a portable typing thingy–not hi-tech like an iPad, but something simpler called an AlphaSmart Neo, which he says runs on two AA batteries. He stresses that no matter how you do it, make sure that you ARE doing it.

So, when the kids are screaming, attend to them, and then sneak back to snatch a few words here and there until you find time to dedicate to writing. That’s my theory, anyway.

It will also help if you rid yourself of the distractions you can control. How much time, would you say, you spend online? On Facebook? Checking emails? Playing games? Playing video games? Watching TV? The list could go on forever, I’m sure, but my point is simple: make writing a priority, and you’ll find that many of those other things won’t matter quite as much in relation to your writing. Find a way to box them out, to isolate your writing time as your writing time.

This is all easier said than done, but you can do it. It takes time, practice, and discipline, all dirty words in our modern age of instantaneous gratification.

I’m going to leave you with a few different action steps today. Use the ones you can, ignore the others.

1. Identify things that distract you on a regular basis. This could be anything from jumping on Facebook every seven seconds, reading articles online, that incessant beeping from your cell phone because you haven’t opened your last text message yet–anything that you know will distract you.

2. Rid yourself of these things if you can. Turn off/unplug your internet connection, and switch off your cell phone’s sound. Put those earplugs in and block out Fido’s incessant barking, etc.

3. Create a plan of action for dealing with unforeseen distraction (like public rhyming). This should include dealing with said distraction, but more importantly carving a path to getting back into your writing groove.

4. Snatch that time. Get an AlphaSmart Neo, or a notebook and paper, and write. Or, get an iPad, and write on that thing. How you do it isn’t so important–actually doing it is what’s important.

5. Celebrate your victories. Before you know it, you’ll have a thousand more words on the page than you had ever dared hope for. That calls for a bit of celebration, right? Treat yourself to a movie, a TV show, or a snack/beverage that you wouldn’t normally enjoy, and enjoy a period of rest.

I hope this helps.

-Ben

Posted in Anxiety, Authors, Encouragment, Friendship, Happiness, Homemaking, Hospitality, Life Experiences, Living Our Faith Out Loud, Music, Parenting, Till death do we part, Uncategorized, Working from home, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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