What I Learned From Blogging

Ok folks, this is it—the last of the Writer’s of Kern 2016 Blog Challenge A to Z posts. Twenty-six posts over thirteen weeks. Whew! Definitely not for the faint of heart. When I joined this blog challenge I had no idea what I was getting into, or the time commitment it would take. That said, I’m happy to report it’s been a great writing experience and I learned a lot from stepping out of my comfort zone.

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Here’s what I discovered:

1) I wrote even when I didn’t feel like it. Having a goal to meet forced me to write regardless of what else was happening in my life.

2) I found what kind of posts people respond to most. Those with animals in the title. My top hit was for “Copywriting, Cows and Country Music”.

3) It provided an opportunity to experiment with different types of posts. Memoir, flash fiction, inspirational, thought provoking, informational, religious, anecdotal.

4) Involvement in a writing community is fun. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the other bloggers and their wide variety of posts for the challenge.

5) I got instant feedback on my writing. Sometimes within 5 minutes of posting. Knowing people liked what I wrote inspired confidence and encouraged me to write more.

6) Don’t post fiction you want to publish later. Blog posts count as being published.

7) Two posts a week is too much. Yes, I did it, but it was really difficult some weeks to get that second post done. There was little time left for other writing projects.

8) It helped me find my voice. Or at least experiment with different types of voices to find a style I was comfortable with.

9) I wrote about things I would never think of otherwise. “Ungulates”? Really? That and the “Offal, not Awful” posts were a couple of my favorites and they were pure spontaneous “come up with something” moments.

10) I had to let go of perfection. There’s no time for perfect in this blog challenge. It gave me a different perspective on what’s good enough to share, and I had to let go of the internal slave driver—which is awesome!

So there you have it. Ten positive outcomes from slaving over this seemingly impossible task. Kudos to the other brave souls that have completed the run. I hope you all got as much out of it as I did.

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Zoe Life

Everyone faces challenges and difficulties as we navigate life on this planet. That’s a given. How we choose to respond in the midst of these circumstances can impact our ability to move forward, and determine if we face the future with hope or despair.

Jesus said he came so we might have abundant “life”. The Greek word he used for life was “zoe“, which means: life which is full and complete, the uncreated eternal life of the spirit. He did not use “bios” life which refers to physical bone and flesh. Therefore, Jesus came so we might experience the eternal, divine life of God while we are here—not so we could have a better physical life.

Christianity is often misunderstood because its zoe (spiritual) life is judged from the viewpoint of bios (human) perspective. Christians live with a worldview that makes little sense to non-believers. They view life through a spiritual lens that enables them to partake in the comfort, wisdom, guidance and help from God that comes from being immersed in his spirit. When zoe life is infused on bios it becomes a new creation in Christ with access to tangible spiritual resources.

C.S. Lewis put it this way:

“Bios (biological) life is that life that comes to us from nature, the life that is always tending to run down and decay and needs to be nourished constantly with air, water and food. Spiritual life (Zoe), on the other hand, is the life which is in God from all eternity, which has always existed and will always exist… The difference between having bios and zoe is like the difference between a statue and a man.”

Statues are subject to all the elements of the world around them. Man has resources to protect himself and is able to move beyond unpleasant circumstances. Statues exist. Man lives.

Bios life:

without-god

Zoe life:

fruit-of-the-spirit-tree11

Which would you choose?

Video Queen

FullSizeRenderWe moved to Ambridge, Pennsylvania in 1997 for Jack to go to seminary. As we settled into the blue collar neighborhood I picked up several newspapers to get to know the area. Nearby Pittsburgh was a quick 45 minute drive and had a lot to offer.

“Listen to this!” I squealed to Jack. “There’s a film school that’s offering a beginning Super 8 class in the evenings.”

Before Jack and I met I’d looked into the Film program at the University of Oregon, but ended up moving to Santa Barbara instead. So I was thrilled to discover Pittsburgh Filmmakers offered classes to the general public. They were the technical school for film majors from University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon.

What started out as something fun to do, quickly became a passionate desire to pursue certification as a Videographer. Over the next four years while Jack earned his Masters Degree, I learned all about film, video, editing, lighting and sound. I had classes in directing, screenwriting and acting. I loved every minute, and enjoyed the young film majors even though I was old enough to be their mother. The few older students in the Certification program like me were kindred spirits. Working on projects together was exciting.

I graduated with honors, but had no plans to pursue a career as a professional. I’d achieved my dream and accomplished the goal of being certified, but knew enough about the industry to question the time, energy, and finances it would take to go into business on my own.

We moved to Bakersfield when Jack secured a position with St. Luke’s. Shortly after arriving I ended up working at the Bakersfield City Attorney’s office, first as a temp, then as a Clerk Typist. It was an easy job that paid the bills, and although I enjoyed working with all the attorneys, I was bored with office work. After two years I knew something had to change.

One day setting up the conference room for a deposition I was surprised to find a videographer with equipment. I excitedly asked him what he was doing. He said he was there to film the proceedings.

Eureka!

I had discovered the wonderful world of legal video. After researching the profession I flew to Florida for initial training offered by the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA). It was the perfect combination of videography in the legal environment. I’d finally found my niche.

Over the next year I acquired the necessary equipment, finished the training, was licensed as a Notary Public, and passed both the written and production exams. Though it took a hefty financial investment, by the fall of 2004 I was up and running as an NCRA Certified Legal Video Specialist (CLVS) with my own business.

For the last twelve years I’ve filmed all types of legal depositions, expert witnesses, site inspections, medical evaluations, and day-in-the-life videos that help insurance companies determine financial rewards. I’ve worked for famous people and worldwide corporations, as well as filmed inmate depositions in seven prisons throughout California. The flexible hours and days fit well into my busy life, and being able to schedule vacations according to Jack’s schedule has been an added bonus.

However, all good things must end one day. I’ll be 59 in six weeks, and hefting 100 lbs. of equipment around for every job is getting challenging. With retirement looming sometime in the next four years, I’ve cast my sights on another latent dream: to become a writer.

Finding Writer’s of Kern last year was just as exciting as going to film school. My critique group ladies are kindred spirits and working together on the craft of writing is both challenging and rewarding. I feel like I’m with “my kind of people” around other writers. Attending writing conferences is fun, and I thoroughly enjoy the variety of online classes I’m able to participate in from respected universities.

As my jaunt as Video Queen comes to the end of its reign, I intend to enter a much deserved retirement as a published author. I’ll trade my camera for a pen, and instead of filming others, will find satisfaction in expressing my own thoughts and imagination on the written page.

 

Plethora of Peas

Fruits and Veggies Galore!

 

P1010849My garden doesn’t just grow nicely—it bursts forth with abundance! One of the greatest perks of living in Bakersfield is the ability to grow vegetables year round. 70% of the veggies and fruits my husband and I consume come right out of our own backyard.

A green thumb I do not have, but my husband is a green giant when it comes to gardening. He considers it recreation and enjoys puttering away in the dirt after work and on weekends. I consider it a blessing. He grows it all and I process it.

By processing I mean: wash, chop, cook, freeze, dehydrate, pickle, and preserve.

Right now I’m swimming in snow peas and sugar snap peas—both of the edible pod variety. I put them in salads, soups and stir fry. We eat them with hummus, or just munch straight off the vines. The dogs beg for them like treats and pick their own when the vines grow too close to the fence.

April is kind of a transition month in the garden. As the winter crops finish producing, we pull them out and plant the first seeds and starts for spring. Last night we ate the last of the kale with white beans and pasta, and then picked the final two purple cabbages. Still growing are green onions, several varieties of lettuce, parsley, mint, and chard. There are radishes sprouting and newly planted cucumber, zucchini, tomato and pepper starts.

Over the winter we enjoyed broccoli, green cabbage, artichokes, arugula, several kinds of kale and collard greens. The pleasant surprise this year was giant snowy heads of cauliflower that came from starts we got at Home Depot.

We are blessed with a huge backyard and have turned a quarter of it into vegetable gardens. Fruit trees and blackberry bushes rim the outer fences and provide a lush green backdrop around the perimeter. Throughout the year we enjoy oranges, lemons, grapefruit, peaches, nectarines, asian pears, avocados and blackberries. The only fruit I buy on occasion is apples and bananas. With two refrigerators, a giant freezer and food dehydrator—nothing goes to waste.

Our backyard is a garden of eatin’—and we always have extra to share!

No Regrets

A deep sadness permeated my fifties as the reality of aging slowly took shape and long held dreams of “one day” had to be let go of. Only then did I realize how those dreams kept me stuck day after day, year after year, in seasons of robotic living—always hoping for a better future around the corner. But living in the future wasn’t living at all…it was merely existing. I’d become numb to the world around me.

Tears streamed down my face one day as I drove through town listening to a new song, “The Motions”, on the radio. Matthew West was singing my life:

This might hurt, it’s not safe

But I know that I’ve gotta make a change

I don’t care if I break

At least I’ll be feeling something

‘Cause just okay is not enough

Help me fight through the nothingness of life

I don’t wanna go through the motions

I don’t wanna go one more day

Without Your all consuming passion inside of me

I don’t wanna spend my whole life asking

What if I had given everything 

Instead of going through the motions?

The simple lyrics rocked my interior world. How long had I just been going through the motions?

Screw the future, I wanted to live NOW.

I looked around and realized how young I still was. There were all kinds of things I could still do and experience. Sure I had to let go of sky diving one day, but I was healthy, I had a husband that still loved me, a comfortable home, a beautiful daughter making it on her own, and a flexible job that allowed me to take time off when I wanted to.

All of a sudden life took on new meaning.

Growing older became the impetus for taking chances and exploring new forms of creativity. It’s now or never—what did I have to lose? Of course, old fears and resistance reared their ugly heads as I opened up creatively, made new friends, and expressed myself in new ways. But facing those fears made me realize they were simply unexpressed uncomfortable emotions that went away once they were acknowledged.

When I close my eyes for the last time I hope there’ll be a smile on my face. The kind of smile that says “I am content—I lived life to the fullest—I did the best I could with what I was given—fear didn’t stop me—I gave it my all.”

No Regrets.

Jenny Smile

 

Quickly

The Brown Fox Did Jump

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Everyone who learned to type in school knows the following phrase: “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” This pangram is a favorite among teachers of keyboard proficiency. Eighteen Jr. High classmates and I pounded out all twenty six letters repeatedly on old Royal manual typewriters in the spring of 1971. The noise alone was enough to intimidate the most stout hearted, but learning those pesky keys was a task only few of us would truly master.

Most of the students had never touched a typewriter before the first day of class, and were surprised at the weird order of the alphabet on the keyboard. I was lucky to have played around with my Mom’s a few times, but was still daunted. Type without looking at the keys? The teacher was crazy.

Each class consisted of ten minutes of instruction followed by thirty minutes of practice. What felt impossible at first, slowly began to make sense as I faithfully drilled out different combinations of letters that eventually became words, and finally sentences.

My best friend, Susan, was in typing class with me. We commiserated at the beginning about how hard it was to not look at our fingers. As the semester wore on the letters clicked, and we bragged to the other students about how quickly we were picking up new lessons. Both of us felt great to finally be good at something in school.

The day the teacher introduced the WPM test meant we finally had something to measure our progress with. Counting the words per minute on a timed test, minus any mistakes, set a standard by which our grades would be measured. It also gave Susan and I a way to see which one of us was fastest.

The other students moaned and groaned with each test. Susan and I relished the chance to prove our dexterity. But what began as a friendly competition, turned sour and eventually doomed our friendship. The driving need to be best in the class tore at the seams of companionship and embittered the relationship.

We became mortal enemies.

By the end of the school year Susan and I had marked out territories with new friends, and religiously avoided each other. Even our friends disliked each other. Like two rival teams vying for the championship—each of us was determined to win the Best Typist Award presented at our eighth grade Baccalaureate.

The night finally arrived and my nerves were on edge. The typing teacher had praised both Susan and I in class, but gave no indication of who the award was going to be presented to. We ruthlessly avoided each other’s eyes as we both sat on stage with other honorees.

“And the Best Typist Award goes to. . . .”

My heart leapt as I heard my name—but before I could stand and walk across the stage the teacher added, “AND Susan. . . .” The teacher had split the award between us; we each went home with identical certificates.

It was a hollow victory. Susan and I were more evenly matched than we thought. The sad part of experience was that we couldn’t share it with each other. Instead of rejoicing and being thrilled that we’d both won the prize, we walked off stage separately with downcast eyes and guilty consciences. The rivalry hadn’t been worth it.

Susan and I eventually did reconcile before the end of High School. It took several years, but we were at least on speaking terms again. Our renewed friendship never came close to what we had prior to taking that typing class though, and I am grieved that we lost touch after graduation.

I learned a huge lesson about friendship and competition through that experience. Though I’m very competitive at heart, I’ve never again placed winning above the people I’m interacting with. I can enjoy a good game and sports rivalry with the best of them, but I draw the line at denigrating the other side.

I’m a better person today because of my friendship with Susan many years ago. I can only hope if and when she thinks back on our turbulent friendship—that she might feel the same about me.