Exploring the future through the present. One day at a time.
I hope I stay within budget
My website: http://www.almarquardt.com
|I don’t recall someone ever saying that. In fact, this is the first time I’ve strung those ten words in that particular order. I’ve always used someone else in place of “me,” whether it’s one of my parents, a famous person, or someone who chose to do something I consider extraordinary or worthy of respect -- perhaps even awe.
“I want to be as successful as that person someday.”
“I want to be as kind and generous as that person someday.”
“I want to write like that person someday.”
The list is endless, and we’ve all said something similar. To the point it’s cliche.
I’ll bet the people we admire, and who we believe have reached the pinnacle of what we deem as the perfect life, have likely said the same thing at some point in their lives. Mentors have their own mentors, and heroes have their own heroes.
Don’t get me wrong. We need heroes, mentors and leaders, because they more often than not inspire us to reach further toward our own dreams and desires. The downside of that, however, is inspiration can twist into envy and jealousy. We can pay so much attention to those we admire, we soon reach the realization that we can never be who they are. In that, we will fail, because we are not them, and never will be.
I am me the same way you are you. No one can be me anymore than I can be you. We can have similar dreams and aspirations, but the similarity ends there. How I reach my goal will be far different from how you reach yours. Our sucesses and failures will be as unique as our DNA.
What brought this thought about was reading an entry by an author I admire. His words seemed to flow off the page (screen), and I thought, “Why can’t I write like that? To have his wisdom, and eloquence?”
Then I remembered something I had written decades ago: "Selling Me Short" by vivacious
Adding to that:
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.
How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!
I can’t even count them;
they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
you are still with me!
God made me the way he did for many reasons, not just one. His gifts to me are for specific purposes that no one can steal, copy, or take over.
The reverse is also true. I can’t steal, copy or take over anyone else’s gifts or life goals. Or their successes. I must always be cognizant of what inspires me, and avoid the too-easy twist into envy, because doing so ignores and can possibly destroy the dreams God has made for me. In the end, I fail at being me -- the way God meant for me to be.
The same is true for you, so go out there and strive to be you when you grow up.
|I'm attending an interesting Bible study on Wednesdays at my church.
Atheism came up in the conversation last night, and someone said how an atheist friend once told him, "People use religion as a crutch."
I've heard that before, too. Then it occurred to me. Yes, religion -- faith -- is a crutch.
And that's a good thing.
Would we tell someone with a broken leg to not use crutches to get around, or a paraplegic to not use his/her wheelchair? That would not only be idiotic, but insulting. Perhaps even cruel.
Just as anyone injured or handicapped can't move around and be independent without their physical aids, people of faith can't function at their best -- be independent -- without depending on God.
It seems counter-intuitive, doesn't it? How does one live independently while depending on God?
Part of faith in God is admitting we're weak. We don't have all the answers, we can't control everything, sometimes not even ourselves. That's a tough one to admit, because especially here in the States, we are taught that we can control our destiny. We have so many choices whether it's who we marry, who we associate with, schools, colleges, and career choices to name but a few.
Yet we can't control when we get a cold, if we'll contract a fatal disease, if someone decides to commit a crime against us, runs a red light and injures us, nature's wrath, when our loved ones pass, when a friend breaks a trust, the list is near infinite.
Faith teaches us that control is an illusion. It teaches us that control is not what brings us hope, joy or courage. It's God, and the decision to depend on him and his wisdom instead of our own flawed, human understanding of the world around us and beyond.
For instance, without my faith, I wouldn't have had the courage to broach a difficult subject which resulted in the birth of our son (long story, that. I'll tell it another time).
Without depending on God, I wouldn't have the courage to write this entry, let alone seek an agent for my full-length novels.
So, yes, God is my crutch, and I shout it proudly.
He's my unfailing, beautiful crutch.
|Four down, fourteen to go.
My luck on finding a literary agent is holding.
I'd like to write more about how I must really suck as a writer when agents don't respond at all, or they respond in less than two days to inform me how my novel "isn't right for them," but I won't.
I've said it all before, and that's boring.
Instead, I will mope in relative silence for a day or so, and send out new queries, because I so enjoy torturing myself.
|"Writing is a way of talking without being interrupted." -- Jules Renard
I've already described -- for some of you, incessantly -- how much writing is an outlet that keeps me sane.
As the quote above also notes, writing gives me an opportunity to hash out my strange and almost incomprehensible thoughts to make them less strange and more comprehensible, with plenty of time to figure it out before I decide to share it.
As I started this entry, my first thought was how this would end up a repeat of other entries, and I don't like to repeat myself.
So how do I look at the quote a little differently?
Human beings, for the most part, like comfort, and the familiar. We seek them out, sometimes at great expense, whether it be spending less time with family, or risking our physical and mental health. Seems kind of silly when looking at it that way. Isn't comfort supposed to allow us to relax, to not have to worry about things? Yet we worry and fret over not being comfortable enough.
I'm not a risk-taker. Like I wrote in my previous entry, it's due to learning early on in life to weigh all potential consequences of my actions before I make them. I suppose in some ways, I've stifled myself from experiencing more.
Then a question popped in my head: Do I use my natural inability to express myself except through writing as an excuse not work harder to express myself in other ways? Am I, figuratively-speaking, hiding in a closet out of fear of making a fool out of myself, or hurting someone with my spoken words?
Aside: My husband and I decided to change our diet: Less processed foods and more meat, fruits and vegetables. Without all that refined sugar and bread, my body is screaming at me for torturing it so. So it turns around and tortures me with cravings for the very things my body doesn't need. Supper, when will you be ready?
I feel like Audrey II from the movie "Little Shop of Horrors" when it yells, "Feed me!" In song form. Except I'm not singing . . .
Okay, back on track. Where was I? Oh, yeah. Hiding in figurative closets.
I need to start exercising my voice, so I can create neural pathways between my mouth and brain. Like building any muscle, that can only be accomplished through practice. Lots of it.
If I am to see my books published, and sold successfully, I need to go out in the world to market them. That will inevitably require rubbing elbows with people face-to-face such as at book signings. It's a scary prospect, but a necessary one.
Who knows, by practicing now when it won't cost me anything I may become -- if not expert -- certainly competent with talking out loud without fear of stumbling all over myself and being misunderstood.
"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline." -- 2 Timothy 1:7
|Today’s writing devotional asks what freedom means to me.
I didn’t want to tackle this question. Still don’t really, but to write is to explore. That includes exploring the darker, scarier places, whether they be in the mind or our surroundings, and to explore what makes us uncomfortable.
I don’t want to discuss what freedom means to me, and to me alone, because then it’s a matter of opinion only. I prefer facts to opinion, unless that opinion is informed with facts. That includes my own.
Yet I don’t want to cut and paste the Webster’s definition of freedom and call it a day. Your time is worth more than that.
I look to every controversy and question today’s society asks through two specific lenses: The importance of the individual and my Christian faith.
To define freedom I look to those two perspectives.
I didn’t get into trouble (much) growing up. I did far less than what my mom expected of both my sister and me. My mom said it was due to both of us having a strong sense of self-interest. Not selfishness, but in taking care that whatever we did wouldn’t have an adverse affect on our health and safety. We made mistakes, certainly, but nothing serious or permanent.
I boiled it down to something my mom told me when I was an early teen: “You can do whatever you want, but you will accept the consequences for them.”
Because my mom gave me the freedom to choose my actions, it put the fear of God into me (to use a phrase both literally and figuratively). Her words made me stop to consider what possible consequences I could face before, and not after I acted. It also meant my parents would not protect me from those consequences. They were my sole responsibility.
That’s what freedom truly is — not only the ability to decide our actions, but the necessity of accepting the consequences and responsibility for those actions.
My faith works the same way. God will not always stop me from making both good and bad choices, but he does expect me to take responsibility for them. He saved my soul, certainly, but he won’t always save me from the workings of this world. My actions are still my own, the consequences mine to accept, and I am to blame no one for them except me.
“Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.” — Galatians 6:4-5
|This year we were in the 90% zone for the Total Eclipse, and I was quite happy with that. I've enjoyed two other partial solar eclipses and four total lunar eclipses within the last 10 years. Since I enjoy photography almost as much as writing, I was excited for the opportunity to take pictures of this one. Especially since it was closer to a total than I have yet experienced.
Until friends of ours who live in Nebraska invited us down to view it from their house. They live in Scottsbluff which was in the totality zone. You can imagine my excitement, I'm sure. And here's the result (eleven photos total):
If you've never seen a total solar eclipse, I recommend that no matter how far you have to travel to see it, do it. There's no other experience like it, and you certainly won't regret it. It's awesome and eerie at the same time. It'll make you feel small yet privileged that you could experience such an amazing cosmic event.
If you want to know when and where the next ones will be, check out http://www.timeanddate.com. And no, they didn't pay me to advertise their site.
|I received an email congratulating me for signing up at writing.com twelve years ago today.
Twelve years. It seems like a long time, but at the same time, not long enough.
I wondered at how much I have accomplished in that time, and I felt a little twinge of almost regret. When I started here, I had the singular dream of being published. Now, twelve years later, I'm still unpublished (mostly).
Have I wasted those twelve years?
Then I read the next email. Someone kindly reviewed one of my items:
Hello vivacious ,I'd like to wish you a very happy account anniversary, may you have a magical day. I chose this item to review for your anniversary because I thought the title and the item description were very curious. I think this poem is very short on words however it packs with it a powerful message in which I totally agree with.
I think this is an easy to understand and very special poem. it makes me feel like I am glad to be alive and that I am but a child being guided through life by an all powerful God. I did not see any mistakes with your writing.
thank you for sharing this item with me I appreciate your talent, you keep writing and I'll keep reading God Bless You
The item in question I remembered was a poem, but that's it. After looking at the date I added it, I knew why: 2006. Eleven years ago.
The poem in question:
"I Am Not Here"
It's short enough, so here it is:
These are not my words.
This is not my voice.
These hands are not mine.
Count this not as wisdom from me.
Only to God.
Only to God does this all belong.
Between the review and the poem, I realized two things:
These last twelve years were not a waste. Quite the opposite. I've touched many people here (figuratively speaking). I've made many friends that I keep in contact with both here and on other sites. Perhaps my words have encouraged and even blessed others.
Best of all, the review and the poem together smacked me across the face (figuratively speaking). It was God's way of not allowing me to feel sorry for myself. My words matter. I matter, because he created me.
Regardless of how many years of my life passes, God will use me in ways both seen and unseen. Whether my own lofty dreams come to pass In the time or ways I want to expect them to is not important as far as eternity is concerned. What matters is that God's will be done when it needs to be done. Not too soon, and never too late.
|I tried to find a synonym to "horizons" that started with an "e", because a little alliteration for a title is always kinda neat methinks. Alas, I found none.
Aristotle theorized that people who read fiction in particular are better able to understand and experience life, and empathize more with their peers.
Several studies have shown his theory has credence: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/opinion/sunday/the-neuroscience-of-your-brain-...
What I found most interesting in the article was how the mere mention of a word such as cinnamon or other smells lights up the part of the brain dedicated to smells as if that person actually smelled it. The same goes for how fiction describes characters, their thoughts and how they interact with other characters and their surroundings. Our brain activity when reading reacts as if we're engaging with actual people.
So if we want a more empathetic society, we need to read, and encourage others (children especially) to read more. It doesn't have to be fiction only, because some non-fiction is written in the same way as fiction such as describing the world around them, and interactions with others.
God's genius is obvious here, because he not only designed our brains to learn language at an early age, but the desire to share our lives and experiences through that language, whether written or spoken. He did so, because of our inherent need to understand the world around us, ourselves, and each other.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have some reading to do.
"We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little." ---Anne Lamott
|I set a goal of writing every day with the help of "The Writers Devotional" by Amy Peters. First week in, and I skipped Thursday and Friday. I'm not off to a good start.
However, after reading Friday's focus on biography and Saturday's focus on what books to read, they tie together well enough to combine them into a single entry.
Why do you write? Is it to entertain with a great story, to improve a person's life with a self-help book, or perhaps encourage people to improve their life through fiction?
Another question (and if you don't write for others), what's the one book that changed you the most?
Friday's biography focused on George Orwell who wrote Animal Farm and 1984.
Aside, and a bit of useless trivia: George Orwell came up with the title 1984 not necessarily because he was prescient, but merely switched the year of when he wrote it in 1948.
His books serve as cautionary tales when governments run amok that still today have a wide readership. They are nearly timeless, and show that power will always corrupt no matter how we try to guard against it -- and always will at the expense of entire populations.
Friday's focus on what book to read was "Silent Spring" by Rachel Carson. It was about the dangers of the insecticide DDT. Because of her book, the chemical was banned.
Neither author expected to see how large of an impact their words would have. Unfortunately for Orwell, he never saw how much of an impact. To quote Carson, "It would be unrealistic to believe that one book could bring about a complete change."
Yet that's what so many writers want, and need. Writing is daring to pour our heart and soul on the page. It is an act of bravery to let others read our writing, because doing so we risk people stomping our soul into slippery red goo when it's rejected.
My first novel I wrote out of discontent. Not like Orwell with his overarching fear of where society is headed, or the more immediate dangers of scientific or technological advancements like Carson. My frustration stemmed from science fiction leaving out -- or being outright hostile to -- the existence of God, and Christian fiction focused almost solely on romance with little to no fantasy and science fiction.
I'm still having problems finding an agent/publisher for that novel, because the Christian publishing market is still slow to accept science fiction of my variety, and most of the mainstream science fiction market doesn't want anything to do with religion. Because of that, I'm more focused on finding an agent for my mainstream science fiction novel.
I'm not out of options, though. I can still self-publish my first novel, but I'm not as yet willing to put in the work (and money) required for it to succeed. I'm lazy that way. Does that mean I don't believe in my story as much as Orwell or Carson? That's a good question that will require some serious thought.
More questions that need answering: How much do I want my words to impact my readers, and how important is that to me? What -- if anything -- am I willing to sacrifice to see it through?
"In a time of universal deceit---telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -- George Orwell.
"Great storms announce themselves with a single breeze, and a single random spark can ignite the fires of rebellion." - Bishop from the movie Ladyhawke
|When thinking of the natural world — science if you will — we rarely tie morality into it. They should be mutually exclusive, because science is the study of the natural world, whereas morality is considered a construct invented by man (or God depending on your beliefs) in order to create civil society.
I watched a video where a philosopher contorted herself into a mental pretzel while trying to describe how some "early fetuses" have no moral status when other "early fetuses" do, and as such abortion is not a moral issue.
Aside: This post isn't about abortion, per se, but about how biological knowledge can and should, in many circumstances, define our morality.
Nowhere in the video did the philosopher or the two men interviewing her bring up the biology of said fetuses and how one — scientifically speaking — has moral status, and therefore a right to be born, when another doesn't. You can find the video here:
This in turn reminded me of another conversation (paraphrased, because it happened a while ago) when someone argued that biology and laws have no bearing on each other, especially when it comes to human rights.
I said (again paraphrased), "Biology has everything to do with it. For instance, we don't give monkeys or dogs the same rights as humans. Why? Because they're not biologically human."
Humans have known that almost instinctively for thousands of years, even though they had no idea what a cell looked like, let alone a DNA strand that more definitively proves the differences between all species, whether animal, plant, or other.
I'll even wager most of our morals depend on our understanding of the natural world. They should be, and always remain, intrinsically linked.
A few months ago, I read portions of Leviticus. Many find it dry and boring, because it contains laws about holiness, ritual cleanliness, family life, and a slew of others.
What I found most interesting is many of the laws, especially with regard to sanitation, we use and take for granted today. The difference is, we do those things not for religious or moral reasons, but because we understand the science of how diseases spread.
If we choose to ignore biology, and try to make a "moral" stance based on how we think our biology should be instead of what it is, we do so at our own peril.
That society is trying to erase what it means to be human, man, woman, boy and girl, became abundantly clear with the reaction to the release of the so-called "Google memo." You can find the text of the memo below. I encourage you to read it, and not depend on my opinion of it (or anyone else for that matter, including the writer of the linked article):
Mr. James Damore (who wrote the memo) made a valid point — which many scientists have proven time and again — that men and women are different. Men — on average — react one way to a particular situation, and women — on average — react another way. One isn't necessarily better or worse than the other. It should show, however, that men and women complement each other. Where one is weak, the other is strong, and vice-versa. When we work together as partners with different roles to play — other than having and raising children — we can accomplish great things.
In short, trying to make women and men, and boys and girls the same, we both ignore and destroy what makes each beautiful, unique, and strong. Morally, we should acknowledge, encourage, and embrace our biological differences, because if we don't, we will, in the end, destroy each other and ourselves.