Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving List

Thanksgiving wishes for a very happy holiday!

While I am still adjusting to unemployment, there is yet so much for which to be thankful. Here are ten things I'm thankful for, in no particular order.

  1. My wonderful husband and family
  2. Friends and neighbors
  3. Acquaintances, both in-person and on-line
  4. My discovery draft of a novel nearing completion
  5. Books to read; movies to watch
  6. Jesus Christ
  7. Mashed potatoes and noodles
  8. Watching a sunrise
  9. Health
  10. Spending time with loved ones

Guess what? Most of my list comes free! What does that say about what is important?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

It's Lemonade Time

I was let go on a job once in 1986, and then again twenty-two years later... in fact, 2008 - just this week. It's not that I haven't changed jobs in that span of twenty-two years, but it was always a decision on my part and not something in which I had no control. Being let go brings about an odd mix of feelings.

There were certainly differences in the two scenario's. Twenty-two years ago I worked for a company that gave me ample notice that it was coming, sufficient notice to start making plans and to get ready. They also offered a decent severance package. This week I went into the office on Tuesday and was home at noon. No notice. Certainly no package.

While I've been adjusting to the various emotions that come with being let go, and trying to put panic aside, I remembered a college paper I wrote following that layoff twenty-two years ago, and I dug it out. I'll share it here.

Here's the full text (3 hand-written pages), retyped so as to be readable...

Turning a Lemon into Lemonade

Most people look at a layoff as a terrible, drastic, and uprooting experience in their lives. I, on the other hand, have squeezed the lemon to make lemonade. I have turned my layoff into a new beginning, a new opportunity.

In January of 1984, I began working for a large, independent oil company here in Houston. I was a secretary for the Property Acquisition and Planning Departments. Faced with an upcoming divorce, this job turned out to be my only security in this unstable world. It provided a steady income, friends, and the belief that I could make it on my own. It gave me the courage to go on with my life and seemed, at that time, to be the only thing I truly could count on. My job was my rock, my life.

One day in July 1985 with no forewarning whatsoever, a bulletin was posted announcing the unanticipated and petrifying fact that the oil company was for sale. Suddenly my security was being threatened. Who’s going to buy us and what will they do?

Bulletins were posted regularly, each one spawning new rumors. Who’s evaluating us now? Where are they from? Will they keep us as employees? Some of the employees hoped the French company would buy us, others hoped for the Australian company, but all employees hoped for the company that would keep us most intact.

Days turned to weeks. Weeks turned to months. There was a feeling of panic and uncertainty in the air, but finally, an agreement was reached. Monsanto Oil Company would be sold to BHP Petroleum (Americas) effective December 20, 1985.

Relief swept over the office. The question of who would buy us was answered. It was the Australian company, a favorite of many of the employees. For the first time in months we were able to smile at each other. Soon we would all know the fate of our jobs.

Unfortunately, soon was not nearly soon enough. Again, days turned to weeks and weeks turned to months. The rumor wagon began rolling again, only this time it appeared more frequently. The atmosphere was one of dreaded anticipation. I was on the verge of losing my security. What would I do? What could I do?

Bulletins, again, appeared regularly. To my disappointment, they rarely answered my questions or eased my fears. One bulletin claimed that over three hundred would be laid off.

I was overwhelmed with panic. I knew that I did not want to be a secretary for the rest of my life, but what did I want to be?

Several days passed as I began searching for an answer. I realized then that there were many directions I could take at this point in my life, but as long as I let panic dominate my thoughts it would be hard, maybe impossible, to concentrate on only one direction. What I had to do was take charge of the situation. I had to make some real decisions and set some goals. What I had to do was squeeze the lemon.

On May 8, 1986, the inevitable layoff came. I was in the group of people laid off, but I had a smile on my face. I smiled because I was no longer feeling despondent. Instead, my life was moving forward.

Time again to squeeze the lemon. What do you do to turn negative situations to positive? Any tips you care to share?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Book Review – Waiting by Ha Jin

Waiting: A Novel Waiting: A Novel by Ha Jin

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a quirky story set in China, spanning the 1960’s and into the 80’s, rich in tradition and custom. Lin Kong is a medical doctor with the army who lives in Muji City. He is in a loveless and arranged marriage to Shuyu, who lives in the countryside and raises their daughter. Each summer during his 12-day leave, Lin returns to the village to divorce his wife, only to have the divorce declined year after year. In the meantime, Lin and his girlfriend, Manna, continue waiting until such time they can marry. Over time, the sociopolitical pressures influence and change each of these characters.

An engaging and easy read, I felt the pace a little slow at times and the dialog flat, though it may be appropriate for the culture depicted in the story. And while I didn’t get lost with the point of view shifts, they seemed contrived and did little to advance the story.

I enjoyed getting to know each of the characters, although I was never certain where my alliance should lie. Should I root for Manna as she becomes an old woman waiting for the man whom she loves, or for Shuyu, who remains content despite her circumstances?

The ending is strong, and puts the whole story in perspective. Waiting is a unique novel that won’t easily be forgotten.

View all my reviews.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Stoning

In August, On The Premises magazine ran mini-contest #6 where writers were challenged to tell a complete story in just 25 to 75 words and use dialog only. No dialog tags and no narration allowed. It's much harder than it sounds. Here's one I wrote. Guess what novel I had just finished reading?

The Stoning

"I miss you Mammy."

"I miss you too, Farhad."

"I'm sorry I told them about that man that came over."

"It's OK, the truth is always best."

"Is that why they brought you here, Mammy?"

"Yes, son."

"When will you be home?"

"Soon, my love."

"Baba talks about a stoning. What's that, Mammy? I hope you can be there."

"I will be there, my son. I will be there."

Saturday, November 8, 2008

NaNoWriMo Week One Recap

Whew. Week one is officially behind us for WriMo's around the globe, and so begins week two. Here's a recount of what I've learned so far.

While I didn't end week one with the expected and hoped for count of 11,669 words, I did end the week with 7,447. So, I'm behind. But I think a better way to look at this is that it is way more words than I've ever written in one week on a novel before! In that sense, it's a success!

My story is also evolving from what I had originally imagined. The protagonist marries early on in the story, and my intent has been to keep her married. But the schmuck she's married to has turned out not so nice. I don't know if she can stay married to him now or not. Perhaps he will redeem himself later on in the story; time will tell. It is as though the story has taken on a life of its own, and I am simply the typist.

Of course, it is also terrible! I would be horrified to have anyone read the dribble on these pages I call a novel, so I know the real work is ahead when it is time to go back and edit.

Anyway, thus far, NaNoWriMo has been an exciting and fun adventure. I am so glad that I signed up for the event.

Now I must cut short this post to get back to my novel. Week two needs to be even more productive than week one, so I must keep pushing myself to get this done. Write-on!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Great Marketing Idea

You may recall that I recently received The Faith of Barack Obama by Stephen Mansfield free by agreeing to post a 200 word minimum review on my blog. My review is here.

This is a great marketing idea and provides good word of mouth (WOM). Now Thomas Nelson Publishers has launched a book review site for bloggers. If you like free books, enjoy writing book reviews, and have a blog, this may be for you. In a nutshell, the program provides for free copies of certain titles published by Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for a 200-word minimum review on the readers blog, as well as on Amazon. Details are posted at A New Book Review Program for Bloggers - Michael Hyatt.

Happy reading!

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Monday, November 3, 2008

NaNoWriMo Progress Report

I wanted to post a very brief progress report here of NaNoWriMo. With day 2 completed, I am still in the game at 3990 words. You can see my progress on the word counter at the top of the left hand column here.

While I think my Chapter One is OK, my Chapter Two is absolutely horrible. I don't know if there is a salvageable word there when I go back at a later date for editing.

Anyway, it's started and with 27 and 1/2 days left to go! Happy writing fellow Wrimo's!