Commitment

I sat through a webinar last night. I’ve been getting e-mails from Jeff Goins since 2013. It’s not hard to join his Tribe Writers e-mail list. I’m actually enrolled on several lists and web sites – Writing.com, NaNoWriMo, Grammarbook, Writer’s Life, just to name a few. They are all packed full of useful information and motivation. But Goins’ just seemed a little bit different to me. More interested in the success of hopeful writers.

Over the years I, along with hundreds of other people, have gotten several invitations to attend Jeff’s Tribe Writing webinar, 3 Most Profitable Ways to Make a Living Writing Today, but I never took him up on the offer. I figured it was just another hook to talk me into subscribing to something I probably can’t afford anyway. Last night I had a bit of free time, so I figured, what the hell. It’s free. I’ve got nothing to lose.

I was wrong.

Just to be clear, he was advertising his Tribe Writer program, and he made several invitations to join during this limited time of enrollment. There were plenty of incentives and extras available only until the end of the webinar. The opportunity to sign up comes around only every 6 months, and there were no guarantees that the price wouldn’t go up, that the program wouldn’t change, or that it would even be around. I went back today to see if he was on the up-and-up. To see if I really could enroll after the webinar. No joy. Enrollment is closed for the next six months. He said it was so that he and his staff could devote the time and resources to a reasonable number of people. I was impressed with his sincerity, his huge following, and his money-back guarantee. Use it, and if it doesn’t work, he’ll refund your money.

But that’s not all there was to it.

The webinar was supposed to last about 90 minutes, but he went well over two hours answering questions posed by the 170-something people in attendance. Jeff was very detailed about the steps he recommends for going from Zero to Hero. He explained them at length and answered a lot of questions about it. There were plenty of things to download, lots of handy web sites, and there were testimonials. While I’m sure joining his Tribe Writers would be most helpful, providing a lot of classes, resources, tutoring, and a sense of community and support, he’s given enough information to at least get started and have a reasonable shot at success. I do wish that I had the disposable income to participate, but such is life.

I think that the biggest thing that I took away from Jeff is commitment. It takes time. There are no shortcuts. What I lacked wasn’t necessarily the will and dedication to go from merely writing to being a published author, but I had no real idea of how to actually go about doing it.

Writing a book and throwing it up on Amazon to be downloaded was most likely not the way to do it. That’s a sure-fire way to get lost in the smoke. Sending queries to agents and publishing houses is even more iffy. You occasionally hear about an author who really hits the big time like that, but they are few and far between. Self-publishing can be very expensive, and without a method of distribution, very challenging. But there are ways to go about doing it that are infinitely more cost-effective and have a much better chance of success.

Now that I have a plan of action, I’m going to do my very best to take it step-by-step, one at a time, in the order presented, and see where it takes me. I’m not going to outline those steps here, but if you’re paying attention, you just might notice some of the transitions. Others won’t be so obvious.

To that end, I am going to commit to writing a minimum of one post a week. You guys can help. If it’s getting towards the deadline and you don’t see anything from me, let me know. Tell me to get off my ass and get to work. I’m only on Step 4 and it’s a long way to Step 12.

If you have been looking for a path to get to your dream of going from being a writer to succeeding as an author, I strongly recommend that you try Tribe Writers. Just getting on their e-mail list will net you a great deal of helpful information.

 

Movin’ On Up!

20140620-164726-60446069.jpg

I see that it’s been nine months since my last post. No apologies, I warned you.

A lot has happened during that time. The thing that interrupted my flow was a promotion. It was almost a last-minute thing. I decided just days before the deadline to apply. There was a lot of studying to do, and a competitive interview over the course of a few days. About seventy-something people went in for the auditions, roughly two dozen made it to the list. I was number three.

I received offers for additional interviews to promote to other shoppes within the Company, but I was holding out for an in-house move up. One other person in my House interviewed. She was number two. Our scores were only a few points apart.

We were both turning down one offer after another, banking on the possibility that we hoped was more probability, that a current supervisor was going to transfer out. When that person did, all we had to do was hope nobody transferred in. When this supervisor did go, and nobody transferred in, we both accepted the invitation to interview.

I felt much better going into this one than I did the first one. Why? What made this one so much different than the last?

The first interview was virtually a regurgitation of facts. Did I know what to do if someone came in drunk, or engaged in sexual harassment, or was constantly late for work, or was injured on the job. That kind of thing isn’t really my strong suit. I never tested well.

This was going to be more personal. I’m not necessarily more comfortable talking about myself, but I’ve been in enough promotional interviews to know that I had to sell myself. I’d given a great deal of thought to the questions I’d thought they’d ask.

There was one question that I was anticipating that was never asked the first time. What is your greatest strength and your greatest weakness. That question is almost always asked, yet I find that most people haven’t given a single thought about how they will answer it. Coming up with something that sets you apart is easy. Everyone is good at something that could be applied to virtually any position.

But what does one say about a personal flaw or failing? You certainly don’t want to say that you have no flaws. That sounds arrogant, and anyone who can’t admit to having made a mistake is a liability. That kind of person can leave a team, or an entire corporation, in a real lurch.

What do you say? Do you go all out about the worse thing that comes to your mind about yourself? “My memory sucks.” How will that look when retention and recall are vital to the position? “I can’t stand fat people.” Whoops, your potential boss is 300 pounds. “Gay people give me the willies!” Um, right. “I hate the color purple. Barney terrorized me as a toddler.” Don’t forget to shiver.

What I told them was, “Quite frankly, I’m a social dork.” And I am.

I have a hard enough time keeping up with conversation in a loud, public setting, I don’t need to compete for air-time. There are enough people present who are trying to talk louder than the next guy, the last thing I’m going to do is add to the cacophony. I can’t stand it when Sean Hannity does his thing with thirty people in his studio. Everyone thinks that they have something more important to say, or they want to shout down someone who disagrees with them. I can’t hear what any of them thinks.

This gets in the way when my wife and I end up at a dinner with a table full of people we don’t know. My poor wife ends up taking up my slack.

Now, if you ask me about something I care about, or know something about, I’ll jump right I there. Not a problem. I don’t even mind a good debate, as long as everyone can be an adult about it. But I’ve learned that when it comes to religion or politics, you’re not going to change anyone’s mind, and more than likely, they aren’t going to change yours, either.

What does that have to do with my desired supervisor position? I took the chance that it would make me appear weak. What I was counting on was that they had talked to my peers and former supervisors to find out I’m not a wilting wall-flower or just shy. I was not afraid to be heard if I had something to say. The thing I had to learn was where, when, and how to interject myself into the conversation in order to be heard.

The rest of the interview was more about my experience and style of supervision. It was very conversational and went better than any previous promotional interview I’d ever had. Probably because I was older, wiser, more mature, and had three decades of experience and history to back me up.

I don’t really know how well the other person who was vying for the same job did. She said she felt pretty good about it, but wasn’t sure. She’s much more personable than I am, and I’m sure she presented herself well. I think that my extensive time in the field is what ultimately put me over the top. I do think that the other person would make a great supervisor, and had I not gotten the job, I’m glad that it would have been her.

Here I am, eight months after my official promotion. Things have gone about as well as I could have expected. I am enjoying my job. It offers a lot more freedom than I had before. When I fill in, doing what I used to do, like today, I’m reminded do some of the reasons I decided that now was the right time to advance. Perhaps I’ll write more on that later.

There is a school of thought that I should have promoted into another House, then come back after a year or three. I don’t completely disagree with that. But I am not in a place in my life where that would be possible.

God has blessed me tremendously. Everything fell into place exactly as it needed to for me to slide behind the desk I now occupy. Had things gone another way, I would have decided that God did not want me to do that job. At least not here, or not right now. I would not have blamed God, or gotten mad at Him for taking it away from me.

God doesn’t do things on our clock. He may do what we ask Him to do, but don’t look for Him to do it our way or within the time limit we establish. What is supposed to happen, will happen. When it is supposed to happen. No more, no less. Not before, nor after. We have to adapt ourselves to God’s time table and methods, not try to restrict Him to ours.

Lions, and Tigers, and Feds. Oh My!

irs

I got audited.

I saw it coming. I got a letter in the mail telling me it was going to happen. Fortunately I was able to set my own execution date. I even got a letter from the auditor reminding me what I needed to bring with me, and adding to the list I’d already received.

They invited me to watch a video on-line to give me an idea of what I should expect out of the meeting. It didn’t do a whole lot to put my mind at ease.

I’m an honest guy, mind you. Trying to hide income from the IRS is a difficult and risky proposition. Not only will you have to pay interest and penalties if they find you tried to cheat them, but it’s all retroactive to the date it was due. That could be years. I do everything I can to try and not call attention to myself. The problem comes when circumstances beyond your control run you up the flag pole. If you’ve reported a six figure income over the course of eight or ten years, then suddenly throw half the amount on the 1040, someone is going to want to know why.

Okay, fine, I can live with that. But when the ones who start asking questions are the same ones who put you in that situation, the irony can’t be denied. Especially when you tell them you’re no longer in business. Washington’s policies of the last few years drove us out of business. Fewer and fewer people were able to afford our services. Pretty soon, we couldn’t justify staying in business.

They, you know, the nebulous THEM, were very short-sighted. Not only did they cease receiving revenue from us, but they no longer got anything from the people we employed. That’s one-upped by the fact that they had to start paying unemployment to our now out of work employees. Unfortunately, entrepreneurs and the self-employed don’t get that benefit. Those who contribute the most, receive the least.

Anyway, back to my audit.

I did my own taxes for the first time in about five years in 2011. I let H&R Block do it once. You get to choose the tax professional you want to handle your returns. I picked this guy because he had 200 years worth of experience. While he was entering my data, I questioned something he was doing. He was reporting my taxable gross income in two different places. I argued with him and told him he was double-dipping and doubling my tax liability. He fought to keep it there. His boss walked up, looked at the computer screen, and told him I was right.

Another year I had a local CPA do my taxes. Paid them almost $700. When I got the package I knew something wasn’t right, but I couldn’t find the problem. I asked my brother-in-law (the gozillionare CPA) to look at it. He found the error in fifteen seconds. Turns out the CPA made a mistake that would cost me $1800+. When I brought it to her attention she argued it was right. After I talked to my bookkeeper and had my CPA talk to her, they fixed the returns and sent an amendment. A couple of weeks later I received a bill for $2100, which was $300 more than the mistake.

Um. What?

I went and talked to my friendly CPA. The bill was for the time to repair and resubmit the return and for all of the phone calls I and my brother-in-law had made, plus calls to my bookkeeper. I told her she was full of shit and left. Okay, I didn’t use those words, but she got the point.

A week later I got a letter with a bill for $800. That was the lowest they could possible reduce their fee to. Negatory Pig-Pen. I wrote a two page letter back. Not just no, but HELL no. She later wrote that she was sorry our business arrangement had met such an unfortunate demise and wished me luck in the future.

Yep, I was gonna do my own taxes again from now on.

I got all of my papers together. Got onto my bank’s web site and printed out copies of cancelled checks. Went through everything to make sure it all added up. Made myself familiar with my 2011 returns inside and out. I wanted to reach into my briefcase and pull out exactly what the auditor wanted to see. Everything was clipped and labeled with sticky notes. I asked God to soften the woman’s heart and not allow me to become the subject of a witch hunt.

Like I said, I’m not out to cheat the government. I don’t agree with the enormous tax burden the self-employed are expected to bear, and I certainly don’t like it, but trying to screw the IRS will eventually only backfire. Even though I was sure I’d done everything right, it’s possible I could have made a mistake that could cost me plenty. All they have to do is dig deep enough.

I was informed that it would take about four hours if, If, IF, it could be done in one day. If not, I might have to go back for more.

Yeah!

When my auditor began questioning receipts, and separating them into little piles, I started to get nervous. I kept my tone polite, relaxed, and confident, and even injected tasteful humor where I could. Although she started out frosty, she warmed up and even sympathized with what a horrible year we’d had. Not only did she listen, she made an effort to understand what I claimed and why. She didn’t look for reasons to exclude something, she worked with me to document my justifications. Not that it took any feat of creative writing, just some clarification.

A little over an hour later I was given a No Change declaration, along with a preliminary letter of same. All that was left was for her supervisor to give it a look-see and confirm it. She didn’t give any indication that it would be a problem, and I was looking for one.

All in all, it wasn’t a horrible experience. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t enjoy any part of the entire process, but God pulled me through without a bruise.

The Bible says that the honest sleep well, but the wicked worry when no one pursues them. Remarkably, I lost more sleep preparing for my promotional interview a couple of weeks earlier. More on that later. I would think of things I wanted to include in my package, and worked on ways to get them on short notice, but I was less nervous talking to an IRS agent for the first time than talking about a job I’ve been doing for 30 years and know absolutely everything about.

I had nothing to hide. I wasn’t afraid.

The Near Death Experience

In coming posts I’m going to discuss my views on things supernatural. These topics tend to generate a lot of disagreement, and therefore some vociferous debate. Fine, I can deal with that.

My first subject is the Near Death Experience (NDE).

If you do a search for near-death experiences on Amazon, you’ll get over 35,000 hits. Granted, some of those are going to be duplicates of one sort or another, but even if you remove those, it’s still going to be a whole lot of matches.

Raymond Moody, MD was the first to coin the phrase near-death experience in 1975 in his book Life after Life.

The International Association for Near-Death Studies describes an NDE as follows:

iands

near-death experience (NDE) is a distinct subjective experience that people sometimes report after a near-death episode. In a near-death episode, a person is either clinically dead, near death, or in a situation where death is likely or expected. These circumstances include serious illness or injury, such as from a car accident, military combat, childbirth, or suicide attempt. People in profound grief, in deep meditation, or just going about their normal lives have also described experiences that seem just like NDEs, even though these people were not near death. Many near-death experiencers (NDErs) have said the term “neardeath” is not correct; they are sure that they were in death, not just near-death.

Near-death experiencers (NDErs) have reported two types of experiences. Most NDErs have reported pleasurable NDEs. These experiences involve mostly feelings of love, joy, peace, and/or bliss. A small number of NDErs have reported distressing NDEs. These experiences involve mostly feelings of terror, horror, anger, isolation, and/or guilt. Both types of NDErs usually report that the experience was hyper-real—even more real than earthly life.

The IANDS web site is very informative and worth exploring. www.iands.org. There are many others that also deserve a look.

Opponents of NDEs say that they are just a natural part of the dying process. The neurological connections and chemicals in the brain going haywire and everything that the person experiences is an elaborate hallucination. This is an easy thing for someone who does not want to believe in a life after death to grab and hang on to. Especially for non-Christians.

proofofheavenI’ve read a lot of books on NDEs. The best one I’ve come across is by Dr. Eban Alexander, MD. Doctor Alexander is a neurosurgeon who did not believe in God. He thought that NDE’s were not real. Not that the people who experienced them were lying, but that their brain was simply enduring the dying process. He was a scientist and a surgeon. He specialized in the body’s brain and neurological systems. When you say, “It isn’t brain surgery!”, to him, it is. He knows how everything works. He knew for a fact that NDE’s were not out of body experiences of the realms of heaven and hell and encounters with angelic and demonic beings.

His own NDE changed his mind.

The name of the book is Proof of Heaven. When you search Amazon for NDEs, this book is at the top of the list. It’s well worth the read. There are a lot of video presentations and interviews of Dr. Alexander available on YouTube. His web sit is www.lifebeyonddeath.net.

Now, before you go expounding on Esquire’s article by Luke Dittrich debunking Dr. Alexander, read this rebuttal to his editorial by Robert Mays. Mr. Dittrich is less that honest and forthright in his own treatise of Dr. Alexander’s experience. He is someone who is so biased against NDE’s that he will resort to the most underhanded methods in an effort to disprove them and discredit Dr. Alexander.

Near Death Experiences aren’t all light and love. Some of them are dark, tormenting, painful, dismal, and utterly hopeless. Proof of Heaven is the story of one such hell experience. One of many. Some of these are saved from their torment and a heavenly experience follows before they return to their bodies. Others are brought out of hell and only experience the light and God’s love before their bodies are reanimated.

Some of the most interesting and convincing accounts are called veridical NDE’s. These are accounts of NDErs who see and hear what is happening on the earthly plane during the out-of-body experience, can remember what they experienced, and their stories can be verified. Some of them are outlined here at IANDS. These most dramatically prove that an NDE is not just the brain hallucinating while it is dying. Maria’s Shoe is Kimbly Clark Sharp’s story. She was a nurse in Seattle and one of her cardiac patients in CICU had died for some time and returned. She told Sharp she had experienced an NDE and told her there was a shoe on a ledge outside of the hospital on one of the upper floors on the other side of the building. Clark’s own NDE account, as well as Maria’s Shoe story, are described in her book After the Light.

On the other side, whether in heaven or in hell, time has no meaning. Some people are out of their body for only a few minutes, but reading what happened to them, you would think that it could not possibly take place during that time frame. Others are gone for an extended period of time, but their experience seems to last only moments. They arrive in heaven, are greeted, and immediately sent back. The spiritual realms exist outside of our own time and space, or dimension, if you prefer.

Although the details vary widely, the one thing that is common throughout them is that God’s ever-present, unconditional, greater-than-ever-experienced love is pervasive throughout. God knows our sin and loves us anyway. He doesn’t judge us, He lets us judge ourselves, and we are honest about our own condition. The love God has for us is expected to be practiced by us towards everyone else. Not just people we think are worthy, because we are not worthy of God’s love. To everyone. That’s consistent with what Paul tells us in I Corinthians 13:13, “The greatest of these is love.” Without that, you have nothing.

This is a very light touch on the subject; much more could be written.

I believe in them. Why? I see sufficient evidence to show that they are exactly as they are presented – Out-of-body experiences and subsequent journeys to heaven and/or hell, complete with encounters of heavenly and demonic beings. I do not have any reason to doubt the veracity of their claims.

What do you think?

Savannah in Detroit

Image

This is a picture of the mystery cat that was roaming the streets of Detroit for the last couple of days. I say was because some moron shot the animal and threw it in the trash. I’m not a tree-hugger, but I don’t appreciate the unnecessary killing of animals, especially ones like this. I really don’t buy that the person who shot the cat was justifiably afraid of it.

I recognized this cat as a Savanna Cat as soon as I saw it. It’s no great mystery, and it wouldn’t have taken a whole lot of research to find out. It isn’t a bobcat or a leopard, and it isn’t four feet tall at the shoulder if it’s down on all four feet.

Image

A1 Savannah’s Magic

These are docile, family-friendly cats and they are very expensive. An F1 female Savannah can run over $30,000, but I believe it would be worth it just to have one of these magnificent animals.

I wrote to the people at A1 Savannahs www.a1savannahs.com to see if they could capture this one before something horrible happened. Looks like I was too late.

I don’t believe that this cat was in any way threatening to anyone. It may look intimidating, but I don’t see it doing anything that could lead anyone to believe that it would hurt them.

This is worse that unfortunate and I am deeply saddened by it.

Is Christian Gamers a Contradiction in Terms?

addphb35No.

But some won’t believe it.

Ask most Christians about Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) and they will tell you that it’s a tool of the devil. That you’re opening yourself up to demon possession and untold evil will befall you. That only Satanists play D&D.

I used to think that way. But twenty years ago I made friends with a new coworker. He talked about his younger days planning D&D and the fun they would have sitting around the table solving puzzles, defeating monsters, and falling victim to some incredibly funny traps. I was rolling on the floor laughing.

Some time later we visited the local gaming store. We live in a county larger than some states, but the population is really quite small, so it was the only gaming store within a hundred miles. The people there were incredibly friendly. They were starting a new D&D campaign that would meet once a week and they were looking for players. We signed up, I bought the Wizards of the Coast Player’s Handbook 3.0. It’s actually called Advanced Dungeon’s and Dragons now. My friend helped me roll up my character.

A bit of background for those who are not familiar with AD&D. There are three basic alignments – Good, Neutral, and Evil. Within each of those there are more specific labels. I wasn’t going to play an evil character and chose good. I’ll save you the rest of the character’s attributes. For the purposes of this discussion the alignment is the only thing that is important.

A few weeks later we went to our first session. Everyone there had a Good character of some type. No Evil baddies in the group. I was glad to see that. If you’ve ever played AD&D, or seen some of the comics about groups of players, you’d recognize our party’s stereotypes. I was the noobie. I got my character in all kinds of trouble. We had our Rules Lawyer. His job was to question any ruling by the Dungeon Master (the guy running the game) that went against our party. He also maximized rules and stretched interpretations if they would help. There were people playing cross-gender characters. The quiet one who just wanted to have fun and went with the flow. One who just wanted to fight and kill monster. One who got deep into character, complete with funny voices. You name it. They were a blast. And they were very patient while I learned the game and laughed themselves silly when I got my character into trouble. They became friends.

I could see where a young skulls full of mush could become involved in the game and be influenced by the forces of darkness. However, I would have to say that there was something about that person that likely gave them that particular bent to begin with. You would create an evil character because you already had the desire to be evil and do evil things. The door is already open in your heart. I will concede that the game could then be used by the powers of darkness to strengthen their hold on the person, but the game itself is not evil.

But I also recognized where the game could be used to help teach someone how to become a better person and lead a more productive life. A Paladin is, by the rules of the game, a Lawful Good character. He does not commit any evil or questionable act, even if he could justify it by a good outcome, nor does he consort with any character that is not good. It is strictly against the rules. Paladins think about others before themselves and will make sacrifices in order to help another person. A thief is a thief and restitution is a must. Redemption is possible, but must be proven. Paladins seek out other like-minded individuals to associate with.

My argument is that the type of character selected is indicative of the kind of person the player is. The character is evil because the player is, or wants to be, evil, not the other way around. This may be a very simplistic explanation for some more complicated game mechanics, but the principle still applies.

For the most part, I believe that Christians are trying to do what’s best, and their hearts are in the right place. I’m with them on Ouija boards. They have one purpose and one purpose only – to contact the dead, evil spirits, and demons. They have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. They are capable of opening portals that just can’t be closed.

My best advice is, if you think that it’s bad, then you should stay away from it. If your parents think that it’s evil and tell you to avoid it, then do what your parents tell you to do; that is your obligation under God. The game has been around for decades and will still be then when you are an adult, if you’re still interested.

Thoughts?

My journey began with DEATH, and the road less traveled.

This is an amazing story. I pray that Johnny’s experience will serve as a reminder as to what can happen when you mix alcohol and cars. I wonder, however, what he experienced, if anything, during that time when he was clinically dead. You might think that he wasn’t “gone” long enough, but on the other side, time has no meaning. I’ve read accounts of people who were dead for many minutes, but their experience lasted only moments, and stories of those who were dead for only a few moments and their journey lasted for hours.

thesportslocker

The road to become a part of professional wrestling as been a long struggle to say the least. 9 years Before I walked in to the New Moon Rising Wrestling office to speak with Jake Bishop about hopefully becoming a manager with the company, I had already overcome my fair share of adversity and physical obstacles.

On the evening June 26, 2004 I was involved in a serious car wreck I was 23 years old. I flipped my three week old jeep wrangler three times end over end after colliding with a parked car. I was thrown 75-80 feet out of the driver side window. The roll cage on the jeep was completely collapsed. On the way out of the cab the steering wheel snapped my right femur like a twig. I also had the right side of my head ripped open by the doors frame. When I landed I…

View original post 711 more words