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Rated: 13+ · Book · Opinion · #1254599
Where I play with words. I can't promise it'll make sense.

I hope I stay within budget

My website: http://www.almarquardt.com
My publication journal: http://almarquardt.blog
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April 3, 2018 at 10:59pm
April 3, 2018 at 10:59pm
Of me:

Went to the dentist today for a cleaning. Both my hygienist and the dentist gave me high praise, because I am still a member of the no-cavity club (even at the ripe old age of 48), I’ve never had a cavity. Yay me!). They also complimented me on my brushing, because my hygienist didn’t have to do a lot of scraping this time. Yay me times two!

Facebook created an app called “Messenger Kids.” You can add it for your child(ren) without creating them a Facebook page, and you get to decide who the child(ren) can send messages to. Tom wanted to be able to text me and his dad, but we also think he’s too young for any kind of social media, and having his own phone. I thought this was a perfect compromise. So far it’s perfect, except for one thing.

Tom loves emojis. In the two days since I loaded the app on his iPod, he’s sent me hundreds of emojis, giggling the entire time. Yes, I created an emoji monster. He sends me funny, well-written texts, too, so I think I’m enjoying the app as much as he is.

I just perused my list of prospective agents, and the list is growing smaller, and not a whisper of interest. The list isn’t as short as one would expect, because I don’t send a query but once a month or two.

Part of it is lack of motivation, fear of rejection — and success — and a bit disillusionment. Too many agents I follow have become activists, looking more for minority, “margiinalized” writers above all others, and looking for stories with LGBTetc characters. Of which I am not nor write about. They have every right to do so, but where does that leave me and my stories?

But that’s pessimism talking. I also follow other writers and many readers, and they aren’t actively looking for minority and/or “marginalized” authors, or stories specifically written with LGBTetc characters. Those who are, well they’re not my target audience. I simply have to find an agent who will give me and my stories a chance, and who’s equally interested in my target audience.

Some of my characters are minority (I’d say easily 40% are), but only because that’s how they introduced themselves to me. I don’t write social-justice (so-called) agenda driven stories. Do some have a message? Absolutely, but I like to think the messages are more universal and timeless, and less about today’s, and thereby fleeting, issues. I also like to think those messages are so subtle that if a reader doesn’t “get” them, that’s fine, as long as they enjoy the story, the world they live in, and the characters. If they do “get the message” I still hope they enjoy the story, the world and the characters, perhaps even more than the message, because then they might read any sequels that come along. People more often than not read subsequent books because they like the story and the characters, not only because the author weaved in a message they liked.

Well, here I started out with a light entry, and then I go all serious and philosophical on you.

I realized something else today. Once in a while I lament about not having anything to write about. I wait for inspiration to strike, and nothing happens. Why wait for inspiration? Why not look for it? If nothing interesting pops into my brain, I should look for something to write about, even if it’s about a book I’m reading, a movie or television show I saw, or how my dog tore off one of her toenails and bled all over the house. Yeah, that happened. We wrapped the paw in paper towels and held it in place with one of my son’s old socks. It seemed to work.
March 31, 2018 at 8:15pm
March 31, 2018 at 8:15pm
If so, then I need a lot more practice.

I just pulled myself out of an (intentional!) Twitter debate, and I admit I’m a bit exhausted. Overall I enjoyed this one, because my opponent didn’t stoop to personal attacks. He was actually quite adept at presenting his arguments, and a few times I almost got caught by my own words.

The best (worst?) part is I could see where he was going with it, and could see his point of view quite clearly, a few times almost too late.

It started with a statement someone made, “If something is immoral, it is immoral regardless of need.”

The immorality in question pertained to government theft via taxation as far as the re-distribution of weath from the rich to the poor. The premise being that theft — the forceful taking of property without consent — is always immoral. One person (my opponent in this case), used the analogy of how murder isn’t always immoral, especially when it comes to self defense. Therefore the statement, “If something is immoral, it is immoral regardless of need” is an incorrect statement.

I maintained that murder is also always immoral, because it’s the purposeful and unlawful taking of one’s life.

If he had used a different word or act such as “killing” which is not always immoral (because killing can be justified if it’s in self-defense, if it’s an animal attacking livestock, or a weed in a garden, then it’s not always immoral. Killing can be immoral if someone killed a dog or destroyed a garden for the fun of it). Then his analogy would have worked.

So in that sense, my opponent’s point of view was spot on. The phrase, “If something is immoral, it is immoral regardless of need,” can be argued away depending on the act.

I consider myself lucky that he used “murder” as his argument and not “killing,” alcohol consumption, or a slew of others.

The discussion went back-and-forth for easily an hour with neither one of us giving ground. I finally had to bow out.

My last tweet said, “Off topic, but mostly because I have to go (my hubby is cooking pork chops!), I want to thank you for the discussion. It was informative, enlightening and challenging [boy was it challenging! Hence my exhaustion]. You kept it civil, attacking my words and not me personally which is refreshing. Thank you again.”

He responded with, “The feeling is mutual. One of the better exchanges I’ve had on here.”

High praise indeed.

All-in-all, I did okay. I could have done better by really studying the original comment as well as my opponent’s rebuttal, and looking at every possible argument for and against both before adding my first comment. I know that comes with practice, so I guess I’ll have to keep practicing.

Still, I think I will reward myself with a glass of wine.

I pray you all have a happy, stress-less and safe Easter!
March 28, 2018 at 9:45pm
March 28, 2018 at 9:45pm
Tom and I just got back from our church’s annual “Easter Experience.” It’s similar to the 12 stations of the cross Catholics are most familiar with, except there are ten stations with activities such as making a crown of thorns out of brown construction paper. It’s geared mostly for children, but many adults enjoy participating as well.

I helped welcome the participants, give them instructions and show them where to start. I felt like a broken record after ten minutes repeating the same thing several dozen times, but I still enjoyed it.

Last year we had about 100 people show up, and this year we counted about 170. Almost double, which is amazing.

Right now, I’m lazing away on my chair writing this entry while Tom is building the “paradise” part of his mansion in Minecraft. No TV, no music or radio.

No sound other than the birds chirping outside. With the thousands of geese flying overhead every day for the last two weeks, and seeing my first mourning dove and robin of the year yesterday, I’d say Spring has finally arrived. Even the sun doesn’t set until 7:45pm.

That doesn’t mean it’s short-sleeve weather, though. Today we had a high of 35(F), and projected 1-3 inches of snow on Friday, so Winter isn’t ready to give up, yet. I’m bummed, because I am really tired of wearing my winter coat.
March 22, 2018 at 8:30am
March 22, 2018 at 8:30am
I’ve hesitated giving my honest thoughts on this whole “gun control” hullabaloo for several reasons.

I don’t like confrontation. Nor do I like to label myself, and with all the hatred and vitriol against gun owners in general and NRA members in particular, the coward in me prefers to stay silent in the hopes it’ll all go away.

But even this quiet coward has her limits.

This is not a rant so much, but a recitation of facts, both the purpose of the NRA and why I’m both a member and why banning firearms and repealing the 2nd Amendment is a bad idea (now before you say, “No one is suggesting banning all firearms or the 2nd Amendment,” I can share plenty of statements all over social media advocating for exactly that).

The NRA was founded in 1871 by Col. William C. Church and Gen. George Wingate, because they were “dismayed by the lack of marksmanship shown by their troops.” The NRA then and now “promote[s] and encourage[s] rifle shooting on a scientific basis.”

In 1904, the NRA began “promoting the shooting sports among America’s youth by establishing rifle clubs at all major colleges, universities and military academies.”

In 1934, due to concerted and repeated attacks Second Amendment rights (see the National Firearms Act), the NRA formed the Legislative Affairs Division (now known as NRA-ILA [Institute of Legislative Action] which is the lobbying arm and formed in 1975).

Still today, the NRA focuses on promoting shooting sports, hunting, and education (to name a few) while NRA-ILA focuses on state, local and federal legislation pertaining to Second Amendment rights.

The Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program (established in 1988) is geared toward firearm safety for children. They are taught “that if they see a firearm in an unsupervised situation, they should ‘STOP. DON’T TOUCH. RUN AWAY. TELL A GROWNUP.’”

The Founders saw first hand what an oppressive despotic government looked like, so they wanted to take as many steps as humanly possible to prevent the fledgling USA ending up the same way.

They wanted the People (and the individual States) to have more power than the federal government. They didn’t want future Americans endure similar or worse oppression. so they took steps to protect their power.

Not only are those steps outlined in the Constitution with the separation of powers between the three branches of government, but also the Bill of Rights.

Aside: Many states refused to ratify the Constitution, because they didn’t think the Constitution as written protected their individual rights. Hence the addition of the first ten Amendments, which are designed to protect both individual and State rights that the Founders (and many of us still today) consider both God-given and inalienable.

The Founders understood that one way to make sure the new government wouldn’t grow too powerful was to guarantee both the States and the People retained certain rights. Those rights included the right to be a part of any religion they chose. They didn’t want anyone forced to be a member of a government-approved religion before they could participate in said government.

As the old saying goes, “the pen is mightier than the sword.” The Founders understood this as well, that speech, especially unpopular or critical speech against the government needed protection.

The rest of the Bill of Rights includes more protections, but my focus is on the Second which states: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

First, here are a few quotes from the Founders with regard to rights:

“[The] Supreme Being gave existence to man, together with the means of preserving and beautifying that existence. He . . . Invested him [man] with an inviolable right to personal liberty and personal safety.” ~ Alexander Hamilton.

“There can be no freedom where there is no safety to property or personal rights. Whenever legislation . . . breaks in upon personal liberty or compels surrender of personal privileges, upon any pretext, plausible or otherwise, it matters little whether it be the act of the many or the few, of the solitary despot or the assembled multitude; it is still in its essence tyranny. It matters still less what are the causes of the change; rather urged on by the spirit of innovation, or popular delusion, or State necessity (as it is falsely caused), it is still power, irresponsible power, against right.” ~ Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story

The right to bear arms:

“The . . . Right of the [citizens] that I shall at present mention, is that of having arms for their defense. . . [This is] the natural right of resistance and self-preservation when the sanctions of society and laws are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression. . . . [To] vindicate these rights when actually violated or attacked, the [citizens] are entitled, in the first place, to the regular administration and free course of justice in the courts of law; next, to the right of petitioning the [government] for redress of grievances; and lastly, to the right of having and using arms for self-preservation and defense.” ~ Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws.

“[S]elf-defense, or self-preservation, is one of the first laws of nature, which no man ever resigned upon entering into society.” ~ Zephaniah Swift.

“[T]he said Constitution [should] be never construed . . . to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms.” ~ Samuel Adams.

With regard to who the militia is:

“A militia . . . are in fact the people themselves . . . [and] are for the most part employed at home in their private concerns.” ~ Richard Henry Lee

“Who are the militia? They consist now of the whole people.” George Mason.

I could go on, but I doubt I need to, and my fingers are getting fatigued.

G.K. Chesterton once said, “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what’s behind him.”

While I can’t speak for every NRA member or firearm owner, I am willing to bet many would agree if I changed the above quote slightly to read, “We don’t own and train in the proper use of firearms because we hate those in front of us, but because we love what’s behind us, and because we love our country and the freedoms she represents.”

For more information on the NRA’s purpose and history, see https://home.nra.org/about-the-nra/

For the history of and principles behind the Second Amendment, and where I found many of the quotes above (and where they originally came from), I encourage you to buy this book: https://www.amazon.com/Second-Amendment-David-Barton/dp/0925279773/
March 18, 2018 at 2:18pm
March 18, 2018 at 2:18pm
I’m reading “Socratic Logic. A Logic Text Using Socratic Method, Platonic Questions, and Aristotelian Principles” by Peter Kreeft. I started it a few months ago, but am only about a third through it. Meaty stuff.

I bought it, because I wanted to learn how better to debate and discuss, and that includes knowing when to not engage. The book has helped, although I still fall into traps once in a while, and engage when I shouldn’t. Often those times occur when my opponent isn’t interested in listening and learning opposing views, but to scream at me.

One of my friends on Facebook tagged me with thoughts on a particular video, specifically on whether or not we’re listening enough: https://www.facebook.com/BuzzFeedVideo/videos/2484657501675117/

My response:

First off, thank you for sharing, and for tagging me!

He makes a lot of valid points, and I admit I’m constantly tempted to stay within my own echo chamber.

Part of it stems from frustration.

For example, when people malign the NRA. I so desperately want to have a real conversation with those who hate the organization, so I can show them what it means to be an NRA member, and why it’s so important to me. Instead, all I get is, “You have blood on your hands,” and “You love your guns more than your children.” I can’t engage in a conversation that way. No one can. At that point, it’s best to simply stay silent and walk away.

So yes, we need to not only step out to hear opposing views, we also have to set aside our pride just a little bit and ask, “Could my own preconceived notions be wrong? Does their point of view have validity?”

Like all conversations and debates, both sides have to be willing to set aside emotions, preconceived opinions, pride, and prejudices. We also need more logic when it comes to discussions and debates, and try not to take any disagreements personally. Until then, we’re all simply yelling at ourselves within our echo chambers. Those outside can’t hear, because they, too, are yelling at themselves in their own echo chambers.

We need to start by asking more questions without first throwing accusations. Anything less is disrespectful at least, cruel at worst. I don’t know about you, but I never once changed my mind because someone swore at me, or called me an awful person because I happen to be a member of a certain group.

Comedian Owen Benjamin has a great video titled, “If you can’t argue the other side, you can’t have an opinion.” It’s just over seven minutes long, but well worth it: https://youtu.be/RDOeI0FXfjI

Listening to opposing views is a start, but it’s not enough. I can listen all day and decide not to be swayed by anything, regardless of how logical or factual the opposing argument is. It also takes a bit of humility, and asking, “What if I’m wrong?” Or “Do I see, and can I argue for the other side?”

Still, even if we can argue the other side, in the end we can still reject it. At least then we’ll know our rejection (or acceptance) is based on quantifiable logic and facts, and we can be confident that our decision has real merit.

Once we’re better informed, we can approach an opponent with, “I know exactly where you’re coming from.” It eases any initial discomfort, and real discussion can begin.

Better informed is always better armed, which means seeing (and arguing for) as many sides as possible, both at the extremes and in the middle.

Coincidentally, at the same time my friend shared the video, I was writing a rather ranty entry on my frustration with the never-ending vilification of the NRA. I will add it in a later entry, but after I edit out some of the rantiness. Part of why I want to tone it down is because i sounded a bit whiny and pitious.

I don’t want anyone’s pity, or to argue “ad Misericordiam,” which is an argument based on a strong appeal to the emotions, or an appeal to pity or misery. Appeals to emotion rarely work, especially long-term, because emotions by definition are irrational and fleeting.

“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” ~ James 1:19
February 20, 2018 at 11:28pm
February 20, 2018 at 11:28pm
I’ve always believed writing is one of the most noble skills out there. Books, both fiction and nonfiction, when done well, will never lose their relevance hundreds, sometimes thousands of years later. They can heal, inform, and inspire. They can bring light to those drowning in darkness.

Here is one such example of how a teacher’s small act of sharing a book with a student literally (see what I did there?) saved his life. Warning. You may need to keep a few tissues on hand.

Never underestimate the power of words — even your own.

February 18, 2018 at 8:04pm
February 18, 2018 at 8:04pm
I entered a story in a contest.

I’m oddly confident about it.

That scares me a little.

Too often my confidence is a bit misplaced.

Worst case, I’m out $35, so there’s that.
February 5, 2018 at 12:44pm
February 5, 2018 at 12:44pm
As I continue my search for an agent, I can’t help but feel a little worn down and wore out.

Each time I ask myself, “Am I wasting my time? This agent’s time?”

God has told me time and again to keep on keeping on. It will happen. Eventually. And since he knows, why won’t he tell me which agents to approach, and which agents to pass on by?

After all, if God means for people to read my words, why won’t he show me the right path at the outset instead of allowing me to take so many dark and winding detours?

In Luke 24, Jesus had just risen from the dead, but none of the remaining disciples believed it.

While two of them traveled to Emmaus (verses 13-35) Jesus joined them to discuss his death, resurrection, and how scripture predicted all of it.

They didn’t recognize him until later that night.

Jesus could have revealed himself and the truth of his resurrection the moment he joined them on the road, but he chose to journey with them, to talk with, and teach them.

For him — and the disciples — the journey was of equal importance to the destination. Perhaps even more. That, and as witnesses, they were afterward better armed with scripture to help other disbelievers believe.

The same is true for for all of us. We can’t be so anxious, eager, and rushed to reach our destination that we miss walking with God, and allowing him to teach us along the way.

Sure, I want to know right this instant which agent will be the best fit, but by jumping ahead, what will I miss along the way? Lessons learned, people met, and wisdom gained?

After all, this journey isn’t only about me, but others who are, and will go through the same thing. I can only be a witness if I make the journey right along with them.
January 8, 2018 at 9:05pm
January 8, 2018 at 9:05pm
Have you ever zoomed into a digital photo so close all you see is a bunch of fuzzy, colored squares? If someone were to walk by the computer screen, they’d never guess what the photo actually shows, or that it’s even a photograph.

Only after zooming out does the picture become clear.

I think politics does the same thing, especially if we spend so much time delving into it, and from a single point of view. For instance, I mention President Donald Trump, and some people will react with a visceral loathing while others will want to cheer “MAGA!”

Polar opposite reactions over the same human being.

For the last few months, I’ve grown tired of politics. Anyone with a phone or computer uses their electronic soapbox to opine, and usually with either a progressive or conservative point of view. It’s tiresome and predictable.

As one also armed with multiple electronic devices, I am tempted to follow only those who fall in the same political spectrum as me. After all, why follow those I disagree with when all they do is cause anger and frustration?

Still, I refuse to give in to the temptation, and the answer is simple: I don’t like pixelated photographs. They look choppy, out of focus, little to no contrast to make the subject pop, too few colors, and the details are non-existent. Uninteresting. Boring.

Another word people use to describe looking at things from a single point of view is “myopic.” It means “lacking imagination, foresight, or intellectual insight.” Isn’t that a great word? And so accurate!

Since I never want to be accused of having no intellectual insight, I’ve decided to zoom out, and attempt to see the world as a whole in all its shadows, 16 million-plus colors, contrast, depth and richness.

I resolve to push my political biases behind me, and when I see a post or article I’ll likely disagree with, I still read it, gritted teeth and involuntary shakes of the head notwithstanding.

In doing so, I’ve stumbled on a few gems of wisdom. Did I agree with everything I read? Not at all. Sometimes as a little as ten percent. But still, one piece of new knowledge or wisdom out of ten is one more than I had before.

The impetus of this entry comes from comments made on a political website about commentator, Ben Shapiro. The comments were particularly viscous for the simple reason he was critical of Donald Trump during the primaries -- a so-called “Never Trumper.” I often listen to his podcast, and while he’s still critical of Trump, he also gives him credit when it’s due. The funny part is, the commenters refuse to give Shapiro credit when it’s due. Since I know their political leanings, they would find more in common with Shapiro than not. Based on their responses when I tried to defend him, however, they are suffering from their own myopathy. Or to stick with my original analogy, they prefer to stare at pixelated photographs.

It’s a shame, really, because we are so much more than our labels, and opinions. Yet too many of us aren’t willing to step back from staring at a smattering of pixels to get a larger and deeper understanding of the entire photograph.
December 23, 2017 at 6:11pm
December 23, 2017 at 6:11pm
With 2018 less than two weeks away, one can’t help but take stock of the previous year, what we accomplished, and didn’t accomplish, our pains and our joys. We also look toward our goals and hopes for the next year.

One of my goals is to avoid politics (it’s an off-year election in the States, so I expect things to get almost as heated and divisive as both 2016 and 2017, if not worse), and spend little if any time on social media.

A few times this last summer, we camped at a local lake called Lake Tschida. With the heat and drought, however, the lake bloomed with blue-green and slimy algae that few dared to swim in. I was not one of them.

That’s what social media feels like to me lately. Just perusing it with all the vitriolic politics and constant hate and nasty insults to those who simply disagree on a particular subject feels like swimming in a bathtub-warm, and algae-choked lake. I leave feeling slimed, emotionally and sometimes spiritually drained.

In 2016, I took a full year off social media except my author page on Facebook and other writing sites. Not only did the spiritual ick leave me, but I wrote many blog entries and finished three languishing novels. All told, I wrote over 200,000 words in those twelve months.

I hope to meet or exceed that number this year.

First I need to write my 2018 Lenten devotionals which are due by the end of January. I’m not stressing about those, though. Yet.

My other writing goals are to write more entries here on multiple subjects, rewrite my fantasy, and perhaps submit it to ACFW’s Genesis contest. As with the First Impressions contest, while winning is great, the real benefit is the judges’ critiques. Having outside opinions of my work can only help me improve my skill.

My other writing goals are to continue to submit queries to literary agents (four down, fourteen to go of my current list). I’d also like to write and submit more short stories, but we’ll see. I’ve started two so far, but am having trouble finishing. I think it’s due to my spiritual fatigue. I lose both motivation and confidence when I’m so drained.

But I am also an eternal optimist. Having endured spiritual angst multiple times already, I know it’s a seasonal thing, and like every time before, I’ll get through it and hopefully a little wiser in the end.

Oh. And read. A lot.

If this be my last entry for 2017, I pray you have a stress-less holiday season, and 2018 ends up the best year ever for all of us

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