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Monday, February 29, 2016

Why I'm Writing Marketable Skills

Perhaps this should have been the first post, except sometimes I do things for a while without knowing why.

1) As I creep toward the management level, I see how rare most of these skills are. Typical employees only have one or two. Good employees maybe four or five, and good attitude is usually at the top.

2) I am frustrated by how rare these skills are (and that is most definitely feeding into the increasing snark of these posts). I haven't yet touched on a single skill that should not be practiced daily by an adult human in any aspect of his life. Yet, they aren't. Being courteous, considerate of others, and calm; having a good attitude, taking initiative and communicating your needs clearly: are these really that hard to do?

I work customer service. I trained as a therapist for 6 years before going into administrative fields (that's another post about don't indenture yourself to higher education for a career you may not pursue). Even before I started thinking management, I thought service. How can I serve the customer, my co-workers and my boss today? That's what adults think.

But we don't rear adults anymore. When 26 year-olds can be claimed as dependents by their parents for health insurance, when people with children come home and play video games instead of helping their children with homework (and who can when government education is now designed to make the parent obsolete?), when no one takes out the rotting trash because it's someone else's chore and you did yours already, we have a problem.

We are a nation of thoughtless brats doing our own thing, and screw anyone who gets in the way of our fun, and that goes twice for The Big Bad Boss. Newsflash, all you would-be socialists: the State doesn't give two biological waste deposits how you feel about your job. You'll get your "free" college, but you'll spend the rest of your educated life paying back the government in the job they give you while they take increasing percentages of your wages because they've run out of "rich people" to steal from. You don't want to be responsible for your own life? You won't be. You'll be told what to do, where to go, how much you'll make and how much you'll get to keep, and when you complain, it will be about how the Tea Party made all this happen (because providing scapegoats for the unhappy populace to blame is how socialists stay in power. Until the military outnumbers the disarmed civilians, that is).

That's why I'm frustrated. That's why I'm snarky. But it doesn't matter. Your brains barely understand human speech, let alone reading comprehension, so I'm ultimately writing as stress relief for myself, not as a way to convince you.

Applaud the jellyfish.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Marketable Skills: Communication

This is a skill that can be learned in school. In fact, you will almost never see it in the real world, so I recommend taking a few classes in case you're one of the vast majority of lemmings who has never written or spoken a coherent sentence. It will be years before you truly grasp what you're doing, but you can fake it until then.

Communication requires you to 1) know what you're trying to say, 2) organize your thoughts to maximize the impact of how you say it, and 3) know your audience to maximize their retention of what you have to say. Like when Peggy Hill wants to get Hank's attention, she mentions propane.

Rule 1: Communication is your responsibility. You are the one with something to say, and no one else, frankly, gives a rat's hind end about it. If you want to be heard, you must make your presentation clear and compelling.

Rule 2: Have a plan. Think before you speak or write. I seriously do not have the time to listen to you stammer and mutter around whatever point you have.*

Rule 3: Keep it brief. No one is going to wade through four dense paragraphs of anything to get the point at the last sentence. NO ONE. You don't do, so don't do it.

As a writer, this stuff is kind of basic for me, but it is a total freaking mystery to most of the world, who seem to believe all they have to do to communicate is open their mouths and let whatever unedited nonsense passing through their white matter at the time pour out. That may work for the significant other who just wants to get to the fun stuff, but it does not work on anyone else, so stop it.

Communication is hard work. People today are generally dumb as a bag of hammers and shallow as a rain puddle in Arizona. They aren't used to thinking at all, so you have to think for them in what you communicate. The proof is how easily lemmings believe anything they hear on TV. They're like that chick who knows they can't put anything on the Internet that isn't true. A news reporter can't possibly lie. He's a reporter.

Which leads to the caveat. There is great power in communicating well. People do tend to believe something written down, no matter how ridiculous, just because someone took the time to write it down without emoticons and punctuate it. If you are one of those communicative people, you can quickly rise to a position of authority over lemmings. Use your power wisely, because to those whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48), teachers will be judged more harshly (James 3:1), and causing little ones to stumble leads to serious consequences (Matt 18:6 and Mark 9:42).

Push button. Receive bacon.

*This attitude absolutely does not fly in the work world. You must practice patience in your dealings with the everyday, whether customers, co-workers or bosses. We'll cover that later.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Marketable Skills: Situational Awareness

Yesterday's post didn't cover it.

Yesterday, I lost 8 minutes of productivity diagnosing a problem with the printer that turned out to be lack of paper in the tray I needed. Have you noticed a theme in this posts? Refill the freaking paper tray, people!

However, I'm as much to blame because I didn't use situational awareness in diagnosing. I know we have a paper problem at work. Checking the paper level should have been my first thought instead of my last. Alas, I'm an optimist. I keep hoping someone else will start doing it, too.

Unrealistic expectations are the cancer of the interpersonal relationship.

Situational awareness has two parts:

1) Notice what's going on around you at the moment. In college, I learned the phrase be here now, and it applies everywhere. Pay attention to work when you're at work. Think about what you have to do and how you're going to get it done quickly and correctly. The second is more important than the first, but that's kind of like saying love is more important than hope.

This is hard for lemmings. They're usually thinking about the next iPhone fix. Smokers are usually thinking about the next smoke break. Anal retentives are thinking about how far away the bathroom is. I get it. I was addicted to Farmville for six years. I feel your pain.

Screw your pain. Focus on your work. Yes, it's hard. So is being an adult, and adults have to work to earn money to live. Until we all become socialists, anyway. Then we will work so others can live and we can die of starvation and curable diseases that no longer have available treatment resources. Welcome to Utopia, Sunshine.

2) Think ahead about your work issues. When you know a certain problem is common, like being out of paper, think about how that may affect your current project (or the project coming up you'll need special paper for) and make sure you have paper before you start. If what you do affects other people, plan your day to make their day easier. Save yourself time and frustration and come out looking like a rock star to your boss.

Ex: you stock produce. People can't buy produce if it isn't stocked. Plan your work so that when the store opens, customers can buy produce and checkers can check them out. No produce = no checking = unhappy customers and co-workers.* If you fail to plan ahead this way, your day will be spent putting out fires you set instead of calmly acting like an expert produce stocker who, yes, just happens to have those fresh kiwis you're looking for, sir. Here you go. Have a great day.

In a perfect work environment, everyone looks for ways to do their job better, everyone plans ahead and communicates their needs, and everyone is considerate of everyone else's time. That's being professional.

I have never worked in a perfect environment. I just do what I can to make it as perfect as I can, and hope to lead by example.

Addendum: don't hack off your co-workers unnecessarily. You share space with these folks at least 40 hours a week, and they have the power to make your life hell. It's like arranged polygamy. Whenever possible, plan your day to make theirs easier, and your day will be easier as a result. No one enjoys working with a Incompetent Cranky Puss, and even lemmings appreciate thoughtfulness. Well, some of them do.

Push button. Receive bacon.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Marketable Skills: Initiative

I've had to move a number of cats off my desk chair lately. I should probably open the laptop.

I considered a post about situational awareness, but initiative may cover it.

Once you enter the work environment, you will find yourself surrounded by mouth-breathers: people who stand and stare with their mouths open and wait to be told what to do, even when they're supposed to be the expert. Such people should be ashamed to breathe at all, but, sadly, they are the majority. I have on numerous occasions (not generally in writing) referred to them as sheep, lemmings, or Sunshine.

These folks are both the bane and the backbone of the workforce. Not being one of them should make your promotion a certainty, unless your immediate supervisor also happens to be a mouth-breather. In that case, you are working to impress her boss, and replace her. I recommend practicing competent kindness with co-workers during your ascension and a benevolent dictatorship to prevent a stampede.

The main problem with those lacking initiative is their failure to act when action is required. Whether it's simple inattentiveness, fear of fill-in-the-blank, or contemptible laziness, they will not step up and do what needs doing when it needs to be done. This can be as small as refilling the paper tray or as serious as allowing a customer's issue to escalate to the point of needing a manager. Most "manager-requiring" problems can be solved with the kind but firm application of store policy, unless store policy is "find the manager." In those cases, I recommend finding another job, preferably the manager's so you can change store policy. That's a stupid policy, unless your entire workforce are sheep and completely untrainable.

TT: I've found behavioral conditioning quite effective. Of course, you can put an iguana on a piano, but that doesn't mean it can play.

Initiative first requires you to pay attention to your surroundings. Look for things that need doing, and then do them, whether or not "it's your job." Sometimes it's not your job because no one thought they had to tell you to do something so simple.

At first, it will be small things like getting extra pens out of Supply or answering a call to help check at the front when you normally stock produce, but it will escalate to writing directions for tasks that should have directions, proposing the implementation of rules to save time and/or money/ the removal of rules that hinder productivity, or creating a job for yourself out of things that have always needed doing but no one saw before (yes, I've done that repeatedly. It's wonderful). You are on the ground floor, and your attentiveness here can bring you to the attention of those above you, for good or ill.

Caveat: the reward for doing a hard job well is to receive a harder job to do, usually with no more pay. This is why is it imperative to do all you do for the Lord. Lack of reward here means bigger returns in Heaven. That's not greedy; it's Biblical (Matt 6).

Push button. Receive bacon.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Checking In

Haven't had much to say lately, although I've been thinking a lot. Not much of it healthy.

I've been reading, too. Started with Anne McCaffrey's Crystal Singer trilogy, moved to Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles, and resumed reading HP Lovecraft to recover.

Lovecraft's The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is terrifying. Even if you haven't seen the B movie version The Resurrected with Chris Sarandon (for some unfathomable reason called Shatterbrain in the US) to provide horrific images to supplement Lovecraft's indescribable horrors, it's scary. Anything that takes place underground in the dark with open pits full of... well, it's scary. Enjoy.

This is Swamp Time for the Turtle, and I've been outside in earmuffs a lot. I'll be planting peas in another week and hoping for even better results than last year since I'll be planting them in spaces previously occupied by peas. Seems peas like being where other peas have been.

I cut through a clematis by accident yesterday, and had to take some time out for self-loathing and a bit of ranting. It's a young clematis and will no doubt come back just fine, but it was already budding, so I've delayed flowers by two months at least. Even seasoned gardeners screw up massively and hate themselves for it.

I've been going over my budget obsessively as I examine and reexamine how quickly I can pay off the mortgage. My contract says no penalty for early payoff. I doubt that's a standard clause, since everything I've read says it has to be in the contract to be true. I don't know if I was smart enough to put that in, my realtor was smart enough to insist on it, or God covered me.

The busy season is gearing up at work. I have plans to keep it under control, but life keeps getting in the way of my plans. Doesn't matter. The Turtle can teach rocks stubbornness. I will not be thwarted.

That's about it. Since I downgraded cable, I'm staying off Facebook more to avoid TWD spoilers. And politics. And general mass stupidity. The groupthink is getting painful out there.

Push button. Receive bacon.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Marketable Skills: Courtesy

I'm not talking about the yes, sir and no, ma'am practiced at your custody hearings. I mean actual courtesy.

Please and thank you do top the list. How hard is it to add please, and say thank you? Olympic gold medal hard, if a visit to Walmart is any indicator. Start at home, and practice with your pets. Say please when you call them to dinner and thank you when they come inside after doing their business. The animals won't mind, and it will become habit for you. Using those words regularly and without sarcasm softens both your voice and manner. While you're at it, try to mean the words. People know genuine courtesy when they hear it.

Think of others. You're not the only person who uses paper, so make the time to refill it, or any other supply you notice may be lacking. No, you don't always have the time right then, but do it when you do. God will notice, even if no one else does. Hold the door for the person behind you, man or woman. Nothing in your silly life can't wait 2 minutes. Help the person at the grocery store reach the top shelf. That's why God made you tall.

Make requests, not demands. Rarely do you have the authority to order another human to do something, unless you're a drill sergeant. You can ask them to do something, and if you ask nicely, and it isn't a ridiculous request, they're likely to do it. You're the same way; you know you are. We all like to be asked, not ordered.

Open your mouth when you speak. Your words are important. Don't mutter them. Don't garble them. Enunciate. Mumbling is dragging your mouth the way shuffling is dragging your feet. Both are lazy and discourteous. Don't do it if you are physically capable of doing otherwise. Most of you lemmings are, if you'll put your phones down long enough to let a thought form.

Do unto others as you would have them do to you. That actually is in the Bible: Matt 7:12, unlike many of those pithy proverbs Grandma chirped at us like "God helps those who help themselves" (patently false) and "Cleanliness is next to Godliness" (you made that up). The Golden Rule is about courtesy. The world isn't here to serve you. Quite the reverse, Jesus would say, so be polite in your service.

Courtesy dovetails nicely with calm. Practicing genuine courtesy while remaining calm is a combo that will fast-track you to management.

Caveat: courtesy alone isn't worth much. The incompetent can please and thank me to death and fail to solve my problem, which leaves them in the dust as I seek satisfaction elsewhere. Competence has a higher XP, but without courtesy, competence leaves customers cold.

Applaud the jellyfish.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Marketable Skills: Calm

We live in a society of drama queens. No task is too small to bemoan, no slight too slight to take offense. When you work in the world of customer service, and let's face it, all work except politics is customer service, one of your best skills is remaining calm.

Customers show up with all manner of baggage. Their particular problem with your company at that moment is just the tip of the iceberg, and if you are not careful, you may collide with a lifetime of therapy-deserving issues with a single sentence. When this happens, remain calm.

1) Focus on the immediate problem. Ask questions, slowly and carefully, and listen to the answers. Bring all your knowledge of how your company works into the situation. How did this situation come about? This moment is not about assigning blame. Some customers will begin with it's all the company's fault; some begin with apologies for how they screwed up: neither is relevant. Your goal is to correctly identify the problem and solve it, not assign blame.

2) Slow down. Angry and anxious people speed up. Their voices rise in pitch and volume. The words pour out of them because they expect an argument, and they've geared up for the fight. You're not going to fight with them. You don't have to. You're going to calmly diagnose the problem and present them with their options. Sometimes this means letting them vent a bit, but even that works for you. Once a customer feels they have been heard, they start to calm down, too. Keep your voice level and slow. Not insultingly slow, but normal slow. If you keep your cool, the customer will join you in the Land of Calm.

3) Be genuine. When you begin practicing this skill, and you will practice it every day you live, it will feel false. You don't want to be calm when someone yells at you. You want to either yell back or slam the phone down and hide in the bathroom. You will not do either. You will breathe deeply, focus more on them than yourself, and solve the problem. You may get thanked, you may not, but you will keep your job and probably rise to manager rather quickly, because this skill is rare indeed among the Commonwealth.

One caveat. You also have baggage, and that will come into play with some customers. When your usual calm slips, it may be your own issues being triggered. Hopefully, you will be able to tag-team those cases without prejudice because of your stellar service record. However, if it happens with every phone call, I recommend real therapy and possibly a job change. You have issues.

Push button. Receive bacon.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Marketable Skills: Attitude

Imagine for a moment you're self-employed. Don't get too cocky. As the saying goes, the self-employed soon learn he works for a jackass.

However, to one extent or another, everyone is self-employed. You are your own manager. You decide how you spend your time at work. You choose to be industrious, cheerful and competent, or you choose to be slovenly, recalcitrant and vicious. If you were your boss, which employee would you choose to keep?

The Duke's Handmaid beautifully illustrates the idea of the willing slave. Is it slavery if you choose it? I'm not saying be a slave, but I am saying attitude goes a long way in making drudgery into delight. Choosing to be happy, to do your best, to treat each day as a gift from God is hard. Some days I don't feel like it at all. However, I try to keep a few things in mind.

One, God made us to work. Before the Fall and the Curse, God put Adam and Eve in the garden to tend it. That's work. Our bodies are designed to move. Our brains designed to think. Work allows us to do both. It is a privilege to be healthy and mobile. I know a lot of Friends who aren't. I don't consider work something to do until I retire. Work is what I do. It gives me a reason to get up in the morning, and wears me out so I can sleep at night. Work makes me strong, and smart. Work gives me opportunities to glorify God in other peoples' lives. Work is a gift.

Two, I chose this job. I don't live in Russia, or China. The government doesn't yet assign me a job (although all you socialists out there are trying to change that, bless your brain-damaged little selves). If I hate my job so much I'm miserable day in and day out, I need to pour my energies into finding another job. Good heavens, people, stop hanging around a place you hate. Is your life really so miserable you don't know what's like to not be miserable? *shakes head* I guarantee a change in self is the only way you'll really solve your problems, but try another job if you're not up to that challenge.

Three, I have a job. There are lots and lots of folks out there right this minute who don't. They don't know where their next paycheck is coming from, or when. I am grateful that is not one of my problems. I have plenty of others.

Check your attitude. Christians, especially, since we have so many Biblical directives on this point. Is your daily work gratifying to your Master? Do you strive to do everything for his glory and in his service? You don't have to be a pastor to serve God, and your witness in a "normal" setting can have a huge impact on the unsaved.

I serve God first, but He likes it when I do a good job for my human bosses and co-workers. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Finally, most bosses will keep a cheerful fool just because good attitudes can make all the difference in getting through a tough day. A cheerful and competent employee? That's gold.

Applaud the jellyfish.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

My Dad on... Eating From Bowls

Dad was not a teacher. Mom holds that title. What I learned from Dad was mostly caught, not taught. With a couple of exceptions.

How to Eat Pudding

1. Pudding is served in a bowl with a scoop of whipped cream on top.
2. Using the back of your spoon, frost the pudding with the whipped cream, covering all visible pudding surface. Keep it as evenly spread as possible.
3. Start at the edge and scoop pudding spoonful by spoonful from the wall of the bowl inward, creating a reverse donut. The goal is to have a tower of whipped cream-topped pudding in the middle of the bowl as the last full bite. Take your time. This is the only dessert you get.
4. Lick the bowl.
Exception: if the pudding is still warm (as in, Mom made it on the stove) eat it as fast as you can, 'cause duh-am! that stuff is good. Dad never said duh-am! but he would have agreed with me. After washing my mouth out with Lava soap.

How to Eat Original Cheerios Because Your Parents Don't Want to Feed You Commercially Sugared Cereals (or Maybe Because Dad Like Original Cheerios)

1. Fill the bowl with Cheerios and milk. DO NOT fill it so full of milk that Cheerios fall out of the bowl. This is a skill to be mastered, like pouring beer without spilling foam.
2. Using the back of your spoon, dunk the top layer of Cheerios into the milk to dampen them.
3. Sprinkle sugar on the dampened Cheerios. The sugar will now stick to the Cheerios so you get sugared bites instead of having to wait to eat the sludge at the bottom of the bowl. You may sprinkle sugar on each layer of Cheerios until you are done, 'cause the sludge at the bottom is kind of the best part.
4. Drink the milk from the bowl after the Cheerios are gone and lick the sludge from the bottom.

There was a lot of bowl-licking with Dad, except in restaurants. Learned that one the hard way.

Push button. Receive bacon.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

My Dad

I don't talk about him much, but he's on my mind a lot. Maybe every day. It's hard to quantify something like that because the moment you ask "have I thought about Dad today," you have.

Dad was 5'6", which means I am 3 inches taller than he ever was. His driver's license said his eyes were hazel green, but they were the blue hazel that ranged from bright blue to gray-green depending on his shirt. I have his eyes. I have his near-sightedness and motion sickness, too. I wish I had his nose.

Dad finished the basement in the old house, including a free-standing gas fireplace with a suspended hood, but his favorite medium was metal, and his favorite projects were "things with engines." He built boats, trailers, cars, docks and an airplane. Many hours of my life were spent riding in Tolbert's Toy, a barely street-legal dune buggy he made himself.

Dad loved to ski slalom, chase hot air balloons, and go to Dairy Queen for banana splits. He loved cats (although you had to catch him at it) and kids, and they loved him back fiercely.

Dad spoiled me rotten. On Saturdays, he would be up and working in the garage by 6, and I would climb into his side of the bed to watch cartoons on their bedroom TV. I could call, and he would come all the way to the back of the house to change the channel for me. He brought my teddy bear to the hospital before my emergency appendectomy, and he once brought me some pads in a paper sandwich bag on an overnight youth trip when my period showed up early, and Mom was unavailable. OK, those last two aren't proof of spoilage, but just fond memories.

Dad never talked about growing up. He had a scar on his arm that he told me was the result of a wasp attack. That I believed him shows how young I was. Mom later said it was a knife scar from a gang fight, and he was terribly ashamed of it. He probably wouldn't like me sharing that, but he's not here so I'll share what I want.

Dad was incredibly strong. Mom told me they once came on an over-turned semi wreck, and Dad climbed onto the hood and pulled the windshield out with his bare hands to free the driver. I know there were jars we had to throw away after he died because he had twisted them shut.

Dad used to drive me to school because I didn't want to learn to drive, and he saw no reason I should have to. We listened to Larry Burkett together.

Dad worked for the State. I often wonder if he ever walked outside on his lunch break, or if we would lunch together now, and I would tell him about my job, and he would give me advice. Dad had amazing tact, and a true talent for getting along with jerks. Not that I work with jerks.

Dad would have been happy that I published two books, but I doubt he would have read them. His tastes were more biographies and technical journals. Maybe he would.

I don't talk much about my Dad, but I miss him. I miss him more every year he's gone. I know he would love his grandchildren, and would make spaces in the garage for stray cats and baby possums, and chase hot air balloons and stop for banana splits. I'm glad I have his eyes, and his motion sickness, and his tact. I wish I had his strength.

I should stop now. I can hear him: You'd better quit that crying or I'll give you something to cry about.

You kind of did, Dad, but I love you anyway.

Applaud the jellyfish.

The Things I Don't Say

During my blog review, I was surprised at how many details I left out. Some of those posts are so vague, I'm not even sure what life events I was talking about.

The same with my paper journals from the last 20 years. Not that I've journaled a whole lot on paper, but when I did, they are fairly general topics, and very few names, unless they are prayer requests.

Pretty sure I learned this as an undergrad. In the therapy field, the written word can get subpoenaed, and becomes part of court history and what feels like the entire world reads it. If that isn't enough to make a person's palms sweaty, well, you're a lemming. Write whatever you want. You won't notice when it bites you.

Of course, it should have been Harriet the Spy and Biloxi Blues that taught me to keep my pen shut, but my adolescent journals are not nearly so close-mouthed. God forbid, should any of them be published posthumously, my deepest apologies to all slandered. I was a child ranting about childish things.

Why don't I destroy those? Shrug. They're part of my history. Perhaps the nieces will realize Aunt Robynn makes mistakes, too, and not just in her close-minded clinging to guns and religion. I come from critical stock. I've worked hard to prune that branch.

Fact is, I write when I'm upset, and that's a terrible time to commit details to paper. Bad enough I say things I shouldn't. Writing them down is as close to permanent as we come in this life. I don't need that following me around like a time bomb.

Push button. Receive bacon.

Monday, February 8, 2016


I read a book review, went to find the book, and - sure enough - the ebook price is $9.99.

I can't pay $9.99 for an ebook. I can't. I have 300 page print books in my library with $2.95 stamped on the cover. Yes, they were purchased in the 70's, but that's where my values are.

When I like a book, I will buy a print copy. The zombie apocalypse won't see me lacking in good reading material (thank you, Dale, for the heads' up). I won't know if I like a book unless I read it first, and that's what ebooks are for. They're the sample to decide if that story is worth $15-$20 more dollars and valuable space in my 823 square foot house. If it isn't, I only spent $2.99 to find out. That's $2.99 you the author wouldn't have had from me if you'd priced your book at $9.99.

You might say the library is where I should read books first, but I haven't stepped into our library since they installed metal detectors. If I can't bring my machete, I'm not going in. Zombies can appear anywhere, people. ANYWHERE. Call yourselves scholars, she mumbles.

The most I ever paid for an ebook was $8.99, and it was Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind. I resented it deeply. Yes, I bought a print copy, and I didn't bother with an ebook for the next one.

If I ever charge $9.99 for an ebook, you have my permission to call me out for a hypocrite, and any other nasty name you care to level my way. If I won't pay it, I won't ask you to pay it, either.

Applaud the jellyfish.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Stretching and Zombie Skulls

I resumed Classical Stretch this morning.

I had to quit during my extended bout of vertigo that started over Christmas. Couldn't handle most movement for over a month. The funny thing was, during that month, my back didn't hurt. At all. Which was a tremendous blessing because I don't know how I could have lain completely still to combat the motion sickness while my back screamed at me for lying completely still.

However, my back was so pain-free, I started wondering if the stretching was causing the pain. I mean, I stretched for three months and had extreme back-pain all that time.

I needn't have worried. About a week ago, the back started hurting again, enough to wake me up at night, and follow me to work during the day, despite oils and aspirin. I'm starting to wonder if I should see a doctor. I mean, what are the symptoms of bone cancer?

TT: A co-worker asked why I thought it was cancer. "I always go worst-case scenario first," I assured her. She rolled her eyes and suggested I might start with a chiropractor.

The part that hurts doesn't even seem to have a specific name. I've looked really hard. The whole muscle is called the latissimus dorsi, but only the part that sits between that dimple in the middle of the backside and the top of my hips hurts. How does that part even get stretched?

Anyway, I have to do something physical. There is no point going into The Swamp when it's frozen, and that's where I work out my stress. For the first time, I'm wishing I had a set of weights.

TT: I did go out last night and spend 10 minutes hacking at the tree stump with my new-to-me mattock, thinking about zombie skulls (and a couple of not-yet-zombie skulls) with each chop. Have I mentioned people frustrate me?

I'm sad about how much flexibility I've lost in 6 weeks, but that's OK. I'm in this for the long haul. Like life.

Push button. Receive bacon.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

An Inconvenient Life

I'm having one of those Elijah moments, when the stress has ebbed, and I'm really, really tired, irritable and depressed. I should be happy and grateful for the lag, but I'm not. I know what's coming, I know how little time I have to do things that need to be done yet keep getting pushed to the back-burner, and it annoys me.

I'm not a Type A personality, no matter what the folks at my day job think. If I were, I would have 10-15 books written at this point, and most of them published in the last three years. I try to live my work life cheerfully and efficiently, and I succeed for the most part.

Have you ever noticed how inconvenient it is to do the right thing? I use "right" here in a broad, non-religious sense. I could as easily say the "nice" thing. The paper is almost used up. The nice thing to do is refill it, but that's inconvenient, so leave it to the next guy, who has just as much work to do as you do. The nice thing is to let that car that's been signaling for a mile pull in front of you, but that could mean you miss the light and then you would miss the first 5 minutes of How I Met Your Mother, and that just can't be allowed to happen, so screw "nice." The nice thing is to pull that worm out of that puddle, but God forbid you get your hands wet and/or dirty. There are other worms. That one can drown.

People, in general, suck. Adam and Eve chose self over others, and their children have been doing it ever since. Even the first church couldn't sustain selfless giving past the first generation of believers.

I have a guiding rule about interpersonal relationships: be nice. It becomes increasingly hard to live that rule in a society of hypocrites that shoot off at the mouth about how we should all be taking care of each other yet have no problem cheating on taxes, or texting while driving, or stealing anything that isn't tied to someone's back. Don't see the problem? Then you're part of it.

However, your actions don't trump my choice. I will be nice, and you can all go to Hell in your handbaskets.

Push button. Receive bacon.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A Step Away

Somewhere in this blog I've mentioned the Gillhams, Bill and Anabel, of Lifetime Ministries. Can't find the post at the moment, but I will eventually.

Bill Gillham was a psychologist and minister, and made a career out of teaching that there is no "Old Man" after salvation, so the fight isn't between the New Man and the Old Man but between the New Man and Sin, "Sin" being an exterior personification of evil, much as Wisdom is personified in Proverbs. I'm not going to do justice to a lifetime ministry in one blurb, so I'll leave it at that.

On one of his videos, he said we always talk about Heaven being "up there" or "away yonder," but what if Heaven starts an inch above the ground? What if we walk through Heaven every single day, but we can't perceive it because we're still in our unresurrected skin suits? Would it make a difference to imagine yourself moving through Heaven as you move through your day?

Randy Alcorn makes the argument that this physical world will be resurrected, too, so we are, in effect, occupying the space Heaven will eventually occupy. I suspect Heaven is already here, but phase-shifted.

Anyway, it makes a difference to me to imagine Heaven around me all the time. I find peace in the thought that no matter what step I take, I'm stepping into Jesus, like Michael J. Fox's character in The Frighteners steps into ghosts. Only not ectoplasm-y.

I am a creature of moods, like Rosamund in The Lost Princess. Sometimes they shake me in their teeth, and all I can do is clamp my jaws shut and wait for the next mood. I've been there a few days, but I'm coming 'round. Heaven is a step away, after all. Why should I be moody?

Push button. Receive bacon.