Exploring the future through the present. One day at a time.
I hope I stay within budget
My website: http://www.almarquardt.com
|Several weeks ago, I had to take my car in to get repaired (a friend’s son hit my car). Because my car would be in the shop for three days, I had to rent a car (covered by my friend’s insurance).
My car is a 2013 Toyota FJ Cruiser. Manual transmission. Keep that in mind.
The rental car we picked was a 2020 Ford Edge. Automatic transmission. After we looked the car over and the customer service rep handed me the dongle (button start, no key needed) and walked away.
I sat in the driver’s seat and pressed the start button. The electronics turned on and the seat moved forward. But the engine didn’t start.
Huh. I pressed the start button and the seat moved back.
So I tried again. The seat moved forward again, but still no engine start. I tried this several times before asking my husband what I was doing wrong. He couldn’t figure it out for a few seconds until he asked, “Is your foot on the brake?”
Oh, yeah. That’s a thing with automatic transmissions. Having driven a manual transmission for the last nine years, I had forgotten that little bit of know-how.
Sure enough, once I engaged the brake, the car started right up.
I wish I could say my confusion ended there.
Instead of a gearshift, the car had a knob. I had to study it for a bit to figure out how many times I needed to turn it to get to “drive.”
The drive back to work went well. Mostly.
Until I realized the steering wheel was a little too high for me. On my car the adjuster was a little stick that I pulled forward or back to adjust. I see this little thing with a “+” sign. So I pushed it.
Not a steering wheel adjuster. It was a gear shifter, and by pressing it, the car went from gear 4 to gear 3. I pressed it again thinking it would raise the gear. Nope. I went down to first gear and the poor engine is now screaming at me.
So I went the next several blocks with the engine sounding like a moped until it switched gears on its own.
I finally saw the other little button with a “-“ on the other side of the steering wheel after I arrived at work.
I wish I could say my confusion ended there.
The morning I went to a local coffee shop before work. As I left the parking lot I noticed the rear windshield wiper was on. No idea how I turned it on, let alone figure out how to turn the darn thing off. I’m sure the car behind me thought I was an idiot (and he/she wouldn’t have been wrong) as I flipped switches and turned knobs making the wipers go faster, slower, sprayed windshield wiper fluid—more than once—faster again, slower again. I finally gave up and drove the rest of the way to work with that wiper going during a perfectly lovely and sunny day.
When I got to work, I went to YouTube and searched for a how-to video on how to work windshield wipers on a 2020 Ford Edge. Turns out it was a tiny switch on the tip of the windshield wiper lever.
I’ve always thought of myself as rather tech-savvy, but a two-year old car showed this fifty-plus-year-old woman a far different reality.
|A few months ago I submitted a flash fiction story published in Havok’s “Sensational” anthology (https://www.amazon.com/Sensational-Havok-Season-Flash-Fiction/dp/B0942L8FV3/) to the annual Realm Makers Awards.
Because why not?
Imagine my surprise when on June 4th, my story made the semi-finals with nine others (https://www.realmmakers.com/2022/06/04/the-2022-realm-awards-finalists/). Yet in perusing the list, I figured that’s as far as my story will get. As one of the editors of a few of those stories (they were all published by Havok), and knowing the writing well of all the authors, it’s quite an august group. I’m honored to be counted among them.
Just this evening I received an email asking for a headshot, whether I’ll be able to attend the awards ceremony, and an acceptance speech if I can’t attend.
I have a headshot, but it’s ten years old. Should I use that, or get another one done (for which I have until July 2nd to provide)?
And an acceptance speech? Oof.
Especially considering I’ve been in a writing desert lately. Do I even have the capability to pen something remotely interesting? Perhaps even humorous?
Even more importantly, do I dare hope my story has a chance to win?
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|The definition of quid pro quo is: Something that is given in return for something else or accepted as a reciprocal part of an exchange.
This last week took me through the wringer. It all started on Saturday when I did something to my left knee. Sunday through Wednesday it kept getting progressively worse until I could barely walk. I had to work from home on Thursday, because there was no way I could even drive (I have a manual transmission).
I managed to get a surprising amount of work done, but it still wasn’t enough.
Springtime is one of the busiest times of the year, because that’s when people want to start gearing up for construction (I work for an engineering firm). So of course, developers are champing at the bit to get their site plans submitted to the governing city/county and approved as soon as possible.
I was able to go to work on Friday and managed to get all of it done.
I had difficulty trying to submit two of them through the city’s online submission form, though. I was already a bit stressed, and then to be stopped through no fault of my own made it even worse. To add to it all, the city had approved a set of street plans on Thursday, yet at 3:30 pm said we needed to make a change (which wasn’t our fault) by the end of the day or they would cancel the project. A project that’s been in the works for over three years. Still, I made the required changes and submitted it in time, and we also managed to get the online form issue resolved, so there’s that.
To top it all off, though, I received a letter from my state’s board of registration that someone had filed a complaint against me.
Which leads me to the point of this entry: Bargaining.
I didn’t ask God for strength or patience to complete the many projects on time (and I probably should have. It would at the very least have kept my blood pressure in check, and at my age, it’s an important consideration).
I did take the time ask God to give me the right words to respond to the complaint, yet I added that, in exchange for his help, I would do better to maintain and grow my relationship with him.
Except that’s not how it works. Yes, I should absolutely focus on him throughout every circumstance and challenge. And yes, blessings will always result in following God’s path.
What’s also true is that he won’t necessarily hold back a particular blessing or help because I didn’t talk or pray to him or do a devotion that morning.
I actually hate the idea of attempting to quid pro quo with God, so it’s even more… icky when I find myself doing it. Instead of being God’s partner, I’m treating God like some kind of vending machine.
So I will remove that part of my prayer and instead work with him, focus on him, and trust that no matter if my response is perfect or even adequate, his will is done.
|After eight months being away from social media, it’s time to take some stock.
The first few weeks was a bit difficult (as I’ve described in previous entries). Now the thought of returning makes me cringe. Mostly.
I miss my friend’s and family’s posts. To know what they’re up to and the interactions we used to share. In some ways I even miss the arguments and debates on the issue or outrage of the day.
I miss the discussions on the groups I belong to.
The only thing I don’t miss is the time-suck and the anger and frustration I used to feel when my words seem to make no difference (even though my brain kept reminding me that no mind was ever changed by social media debates or arguments).
People keep saying we need alternative social media platforms due to Facebook and Twitter (to name the most obvious) canceling accounts and deleting posts that don’t adhere to current narratives. Oddly enough, many of those complaining are the ones who refuse to leave themselves (and I count myself among them). The main reason being because all their friends and family are still there.
The addiction factor cannot be discounted either, but how many are willing to admit it?
Being away for so long, I can now see that as a rather weak reason to stay on a platform that has no use for me and my opinions other than to make money off of me via ads and data-mining analytics.
As if there are no other ways to keep in touch...
So when my year is up, will I be brave enough to delete my accounts? As of now, it’s about 50-50.
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|Many people talk about a muse, and how finicky she can be. She either brings inspiration or holds it back. Others use “writers block” when they can’t seem to put even a single word to a page. Or if you’re more technically inclined, that cursor blinks, patiently, yet damning at the same time.
I have stared at that blank page and lulled into a guilty stupor with that incessant cursor for the last several months.
It started after I contracted what I think was the thing-that-shall-not-be-named. I don’t know for certain since I never went in to get tested. Three reasons for this: I’m not inclined to be counted as another statistic, I was too fatigued to take a shower let alone get in a car to go to the doctor, and why spread more germs when I don’t have to?
While I recovered after about ten days, my motivation to write has all but disappeared. Sure I want to, but I could never find something to write about. Even now I’m struggling. It’s possible I’m suffering from a bit of burnout, or there’s another more spiritual reason.
Whenever I find myself lacking the will and even ability to write, it’s usually due to me not clinging to God as much as I should. Even attending a weekly bible study hasn’t helped.
As with other things in my life, all has become less joyful and more obligatory. Including bible study. Sure I enjoy it and learn a lot while I’m there, but the daily reading and study has become a grind.
How pathetic is that?
Thankfully the solution is out there, and it is a simple one. Not easy, perhaps, but simple. I need to go back to God and sit at his feet. To listen instead of complain. To not be swayed by my negative feelings and push past them instead.
And one way to tell if it’s working or not is whether or not I write a new entry more often than once every two months.
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|I really intended to continue to participate in "Blogville " these last two weeks. Some great prompts to encourage and inspire, and plenty of time to dig in and explore.
However, as an acquisition editor for an online magazine, I had to set time aside to pick next month's stories, edit them, and send off acceptance emails. It doesn't take a lot of time, per se, but it does take focus. Plus I needed to finish writing a chapter of my latest WIP to present to my writers group.
Although this entry is not a part of the popup, I do have thoughts.
This one pertains to my son who will turn fourteen in less than a week.
An hour ago, I dropped him off at our church where he along with nearly 30 other middle-schoolers will be taking a trip to Terry Peaks, a ski resort in South Dakota. It's the first trip he's taking without at least one of his parents going with.
I'm a bit saddened by it, although I'm also excited for him. I know he'll have a great time. But as a mom, sometimes my first instinct is to protect that little boy I gave birth to. How can I continue to do that if he's two hundred miles away?
Yet that's not my job, at least not anymore. Sure when he was little, I needed to make sure he didn't come to harm. But that's not my only job. It's also to teach him to be self-reliant, independent. To teach him how to protect and provide for himself when he becomes an adult in only four short years (!). To show him through mine and his father's actions how to protect and provide for his own family when he gets married and has children (hopefully).
Anything less I see as abuse. Strong words, I know, but that's how I see it. The main reason is because his parents have far fewer years left on this planet than he does (again, hopefully). Once we're gone, he's literally on his own. If we don't prepare him, he'll never be successful, and he can never protect and provide for himself or his future family.
I've seen too many adults whose parents didn't let them take wing and fly, fearing so much they'd instead crash on the ground. Helicopter parenting is one phrase people use. It's a real struggle for them to deal with even the simplest things life throws at them.
So while I already miss my son, and am trying not to think of the days when I'll see him less and less, first after he gets his drivers license and starts building his own life once he graduates high school, I am also proud of him. Proud that he's willing to leave his parents to take a trip two hundred miles away.
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Per the prompt from "Round 2 Blogvillian Pop Up! January 3-4 POST HERE " I had three choices. Write about my day/week/holiday, a genre short story, or taboos.
I already wrote two taboo-ish entries recently, and it usually takes me more than a few days to write a story--short or otherwise.
So we're left with a day in the life of me. I'll keep it short so as not to bore you stupid.
I could write about my holidays, but even those were pretty much non-happenings. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years were spent at home with just the three of us (my husband, son, and me). Oh, and our yellow lab, Ruckus.
Because my son has way too much "stuff" as it is, for the second year in a row, I purchased him a bunch of Lindt chocolate for Christmas. He loves the stuff. Plus I don't have to worry about him getting bored with it, and it ends up collecting dust in the corner of his room somewhere. He also shares, so of course I chose the kind of chocolates I prefer...
I just finished reading "The Last Wish: Introducing the Witcher" by by Andrzej Sapkowski. It (along with "Sword of Destiny" apparently) are the introductory novels for the rest of the Witcher series (which the Netflix series is based on). I enjoyed it a lot. It's a quick read, but what I found most interesting is each chapter has a complete story arc inside the main arc, some of which are twists on common fairy tales such as Beauty and the Beast. Of course that means I now have to read the rest of the series...
Instead of buying another book, however, I need to read the hundred (not much of an exaggeration there) others I already own. I decided to read next the first book in yet another series called "His Majesty's Dragon" by Naomi Novik. This one is an alternate history of WWII where the British use dragons to help them fight the war. Interesting premise, don't you think?
It certainly beats trying to make my rather dull life sound interesting!
|I’m sure plenty have been posting about so-called New Years Resolutions. I never did like the idea of making them, and for several reasons:
People too often don’t follow through, or quit after only a few months (such as resolving to exercise more), and if a change is necessary, why wait until the first of the year to do it? Why not start the minute you think about it?
That said, I get it. With a new year comes reflections of the past year and a feeling of renewal. And renewal often means making certain changes to one’s life.
And since I love words, I decided to look up the etymology of “resolution.” The phrase “New Years Resolution” apparently first appeared in the 1780s and was “… in reference to a specific intention to better oneself … they generally were of a pious nature.” (See: https://www.etymonline.com/word/resolution)
The last part surprised me some. I kind of doubt most New Years resolutions today are of a pious nature… Not to say they’re bad, per se. I’m sure most are ma a desire to better oneself, but less religious and more secular. At least in general. I’m sure plenty of people’s resolutions are to study and live more intentionally according to scripture.
Another derivative of “resolution” is “resolute.” From the same page above, resolute means a “steadfastness of purpose.”
Resolute is not a word I would generally use to describe myself. I’m a bit flighty at times, my attention constantly shifting toward that new, shiny thing. I have more unfinished stories and blog entries than I dare to count.
To be resolute requires discipline, a trait I’ve always sorely lacked.
So perhaps the main reason I don’t like New Years (or any other time of year) resolutions is because I know I will fail at every one I try. No sense in disappointing myself on purpose. This new year (just like every other year) will yield enough disappointments without adding one more.
Huh. I really didn’t intend to write such a sour entry. Still, if the past two years are any indication of what’s to come, I’m a bit leery of what 2022 will hold and am purposefully holding back any positive inclinations. I fully expect society to get more insane and the powers that be will get even more power-hungry and unhinged with mind-boggling mandates and laws.
All that said, I do believe “resolute” should be the word of the year. If we value what we still have and want to gain back what we lost over the last two years, we need to stand firm and refuse to bow before the powerful. Why? Because we are millions strong whereas those in power are not. If enough people refuse to comply to the things they find morally repugnant, politicians will have no choice but to back down.
That’s my one hope (if not expectation) for the new year. What’s yours?
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|How’s that for a provocative title, especially for Christmas Eve?
It comes off the heels of my previous entry and a short conversation I had with someone who graciously answered some questions after she responded to my original question: Is atheism dead?
She answered simply: “No.” I then asked a few questions including why atheists seem to be antagonistic more toward Christianity than any other religion. Her answer—based on her experiences, including with a group of atheists she once attended—confirmed what I already suspected. From a purely grammatical perspective, it’s a well-written response. I could tell each word she chose was intentional, something the writer in me can appreciate (used with permission):
“I think the focus on ‘not Jesus’ is because Christianity is the most virulent in the United States, at least where I live. All of the people I met had some run in with Christian cults, not with Islam or any other. Take for instance Greek gods. Most people dismiss those as ancient fiction, so the atheists discuss them like science or history. They don’t feel threatened by ancient Greek or Roman gods because there is nobody here that presses them to fire sacrifice their dinner in a temple. On the other hand, there was a Christian who came to the meetings to try and convert the atheists to his religion. These are the only examples that I know and that came out during the conversation. We didn’t discuss other religions.”
Her answer makes perfect sense. How can anyone honestly criticize a religion they’ve never been exposed to? Nor do I think her perspective is unique.
Back in March of this year, Gallup did a study ( https://news.gallup.com/poll/341963/church-membership-falls-below-majority-first... ) that revealed for the first time ever, less than 50% of the US population claim to be members of a house of worship. According to the study, it’s largely due to an increase of people who have no religious preference (more on that in a bit). Yet those who do have a religious preference are also dropping out of attending a church. Some of it appears to be generational. The older a person, the more likely they are to be a regular member/attendee. Even so, older generations are still attending less or claiming no affiliation.
Interesting tidbit: Southern/Republicans have a lower drop in attendance rates than Eastern/Democrats.
The fact so many churches closed over the last two years due to the thing-that-shall-not-be-named have likely caused the more precipitous drop, but the drop has been trending for decades.
So what’s causing the trend?
Gallop did another study in 2017( https://news.gallup.com/poll/341963/church-membership-falls-below-majority-first... ) that might help explain it. It boils down to what the churches themselves are doing—or not doing. According to this study, the main reasons people stay or leave a specific church are sermon content (76%), real-life applications (75%), child/teenager programs (64%), and community outreach/volunteer opportunities (59%). Lowest in importance are social activities (49%) and choir/band/music (38%).
Taking those two surveys into consideration, church attendance may be falling because their sermons, life applications, and programs for children are lacking.
Now for the anecdotal.
The church I attended for over fifteen years did all of the above necessary for a healthy church: great sermons, plenty of bible studies for all sexes and ages geared toward real-world applications, amazing community outreach, and programs for children/teens.
Until the-thing-that-shall-be-not-named hit.
I eventually left the church permanently due to fundamental disagreements with how the church responded to it. The details are irrelevant at this point. Suffice to say, I became one of the statistics where I claimed no church affiliation for about a year. Another member once confided in me that he was getting frustrated with an increasing lack of preaching on the harder parts of scripture–mainly the dangers of sin.
Feeling a bit lost after that year, I searched for and found another church. Three things kept me coming back:
1. Pastors who don’t shy from or make apologies for preaching on the hard stuff. They also revere scripture; they ask the audience to stand whenever they read a passage. I’d never seen that before.
2. Bible studies on a slew of subjects and for all ages and sexes.
3. Youth programs. My son loves the programs so much, he looks forward to meeting every Sunday (at 8:30 am!) and Wednesday evenings to the point he won’t let me make any excuses to not take him.
This church is also one that’s growing while too many others are dying, making it an exception. I also live in a mid-western state where church attendance is still relatively high (it’s still dropping overall, just at a much slower rate).
Another reason—which ties into the lack of a good message, I think—is increasing church arguments over fundamental doctrines, and even the Bible itself. Who wants to be a member of a church that can’t agree over the most basic tenants of their faith, argue over what scripture does and doesn’t say, and eventually split?
Does all this mean I agree with the idea that Christianity is dying?
As emphatic as the lady above was with atheism not being dead, I give an emphatic “no” that Christianity is not dying. At least not world-wide.
What’s dying is the American church—generally speaking. Some might say that’s a good thing, and for many reasons which I won’t get into. This entry is already quite long, so thank you for sticking with me this far.
From my admittedly biased perspective, I see it as God pulling his support from the churches who’ve set aside their love of Jesus in favor of embracing secular/societal beliefs that directly contradict scripture, or for potential monetary gain (Prosperity Gospel anyone?). Or to put it more directly, he’s separating the wheat from the chaff. All we can hope to remain is a remnant that holds true, and will perhaps attract others who are searching for the concrete instead of the mercurial.
I alway say God is a fan of paradox. I’m not alone in thinking this according to an article by Christianity Today titled, “Proof That Political Privilege is Harmful for Christianity.” (https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2021/may-web-only/christian-persecution-pol... ) Subtitle: “Analysis of 166 nations suggests the biggest threat to Christian vitality is not persecution, affluence, education, or pluralism. It’s state support.”
One quote: “… some scholars have suggested the cause is rather the accumulation of wealth. Increasing prosperity, it is believed, frees people from having to look to a higher power to provide for their daily needs. In other words, there is a direct link from affluence to atheism.”
We therefore shouldn’t be surprised that Christianity is “dying” in western, affluent societies, yet growing by leaps in countries where it’s effectively outlawed such as in China and India.
Does that mean we should hope for the United States government to officially outlaw Christianity and start persecuting Christians in order to see growth instead of decline? Not at all. What I hope to convey is that we need to shift our focus back to our “first love,” (See Revelation 2:4-5) and worship only Jesus instead pushing him aside in favor of the loves of this world.
If we don’t, then we will see Christianity die. At least in the United States.
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|I first heard of this book about a month ago from an exclusive excerpt on The Daily Wire. It was about how an archeologist turned to the Bible in search of Sodom and Gomorrah and found it. After it had disappeared for many thousands of years.
I’ve always been a fan of science. While not a scientist by any stretch, I’m still fascinated by the natural world, it’s beauty and intricacies. I want to show people what I see. Because we’re often so busy with the busyness of life, we forget to stop and look at God’s creation, even something as simple as hoar frost collected on a tiny leaf.
While the two above paragraphs seem completely unrelated, hang with me a bit. It’ll all make sense shortly.
Because I found the excerpt of the book so intriguing, I purchased it for my Nook the next day. But I didn’t stop there. I also purchased one for a friend who loves biblical history, and one for my son who was equally intrigued (he prefers paper books over electronic). Yep, I bought three copies in a span of about five days.
The author, Eric Metaxas, tackles not only archeological findings that invariably prove the accuracy of scripture, he outlines in great detail (but simply enough for a layperson like myself can understand) how recent scientific discoveries also invariably point toward a creator. And if not for Christians, we wouldn’t have the science and its benefits that we enjoy—and often take for granted—today.
Thereby killing the atheistic idea that our universe and everything in it was a thoughtless, yet happy accident.
I’ve always believed nature points to God, not away from him (See Romans 1:20), so I was excited to read the chapters on the Big Bang, the fine-tuning of our solar system, and the impossibility for water to do what it does. All of which makes life possible, and if even one of those things was off by a number too small to fathom, life would not exist. At all, not even in a different form.
I found myself many times mentally (if not literally) giggling madly. So much so I had to stop reading more than once just to give my brain a moment to absorb it all.
One might say I’m guilty of “confirmation bias” (reading something that confirms what I already believe while ignoring any evidence to the contrary). Perhaps, but Eric also provides enough evidence that’s difficult to argue with.
Fair warning, though. While Eric writes for the layperson, it’s a heady book. Four hundred pages, three parts, and thirty chapters of detailed scientific discoveries. He also pulls no punches toward those scientists and philosophers (past and present) who refuse(d) to acknowledge even the possibility that our universe was indeed carefully and willfully created by something beyond our comprehension.
Or as I like to occasionally, lovingly—and a bit tongue-in-cheek—call said something: The Flying Spaghetti Monster (https://almarquardt.com/2017/09/17/sky-wizards-and-flying-spaghetti-monsters/).
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