Viva la Resolución

The times, they are a’changin’ and in just a few hours, the New Year—2009—will drop in via the giant, Waterford Crystal ball on Times Square. This event signals the watchers around the world that it is now time to kiss and make up a list of resolutions—things they will do in the coming year to better themselves or change their lives.

It has been dog’s years since I have gone anywhere on New Year’s Eve besides my living room, or to bed early, but every year I do make my own resolutions.

Therefore, I, the over-signed, in the year 2009, do hereby resolve:

· To quit smoking. I started smoking in mid-1999, at age 40. Stupid? Yes, I concede your point. I won’t go into the why’s or wherefore’s of my decision to do so. It is a long-winded story and I am short of breath. It has been almost 10 years now since I took up the nasty habit—and I am determined not to make it to 11 years. I would rather quit than die before that 11th year arrives.

· To say “I love you” every day—to my parents, to my children, to my brothers and sisters, to my darling man. I want there to be no doubt in the minds and hearts of these people that they are absolutely loved by me. I may say it lightly at times or at the close of a conversation, but, on my honor, it is felt deeply.

· To write. I spend 85 percent of my time editing or proofreading other writer’s work, which is my vocation—what pays the bills. I have written news articles, magazine articles, chapters in books, blogs, suicide notes (that’s a hormonal thing), and ad copy. I am published everywhere. I have been paid to write since I was 17—however, ever since I was 16, I have wanted to write a novel. I am now 50. I think it’s about time.

· To stop sweating the small stuff. I have got small stuff enough for ten people. I am a collector of small stuff to sweat. This is a hard resolution for me. I am not a big picture sort of person—I am detail oriented. It has been said that God is in the details. Eh, not so much, I think. I am paid to be a detail person, and for what I do, it is a marvelous trait. But in the larger scheme of things—well, I can’t see the larger scheme of things as I am too busy picking apart the details of every single thing that occurs every single day of my life. I have Dewey Decimal-ed all the details and the card library in my head is overflowing. It is time to choose what is important, what is vital, what I absolutely need to be detailed about, and let the rest just, well, be.

· To be me. I am going to be whom God intended me to be, the person He created in His image. God does not make mistakes—He is God, after all. Omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent—and He chose to create me as I am. Just as I am. I will make Him proud of His handiwork.

I think that is enough resolving for one year. I am going to rest up now, then I’ll probably have to carb load and stretch in preparation for the year ahead.

One more thing:

Have a blessed New Year.

Published in: on December 31, 2008 at 3:54 am  Leave a Comment  

The Perfect Blog Post

Today I have spent a great deal of time discussing perfection—the quest for it and its possible attainment.

I will stand up right now (figuratively as I can’t type on my laptop while standing because my lap disappears) and say, “Hi. My name is Hollee, and I am a perfectionist.”

That being said, I will also now admit that I am far from perfect in any way, shape, or form, ergo most of my life, I have been my biggest disappointment.

During a long conversation with a loved one who, in some ways, knows me better than I know myself, I realized what a hard row to hoe this has been—this standard of perfection I have set for myself. Not that I was feeling sorry for myself at the difficulties I’ve encountered since my perfection quest was initiated in my teen years—no, I have no patience with woe is me conversations when I am the woe-er—I merely acknowledged to myself that those difficulties were of my own making and not the fault of any external force.

Nor have I set the same standard for others that I have set for myself, which, when you really get down to the nitty-gritty, means that I have set myself above others since perfection was obviously not possible for them . . . Wow! That thought just occurred to me. That is not good.

But I digress.

This need for perfection has, at times in my life, hindered my ability to start a task because I was afraid I would not be able to do it completely right. It has skewed my vision of myself to such a degree that I mentally pick myself apart whenever I look in the mirror—I literally do not see what I am told others see when they look at me. It has made me choose friends and companions that I felt were not perceptive enough to see my flaws, my defects, my “idiot”syncracies. Yes, that is a harsh statement, but there it is. But in my mind this was logical—if I chose someone who was as smart as me, or as driven as me, or who had my same talents, then they would be able to see when I made a mistake. (Now please take that last sentence in the spirit it is intended, those of you who don’t know me. I do not dumb myself down—I know I am intelligent, ambitious, and have certain talents—I inherited all of those things and I won’t deny a single one. To do so is false modesty.)

My greatest fears in life are being wrong and being made to feel stupid. I don’t fear dying—I am a Christian, I don’t fear being alone—I don’t want to be alone, but I don’t fear it. Admittedly, I do fear clowns, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post. To the depths of my soul, I fear I may make an error in judgment, in my work, in my life, and I fear that someone may find out some day that, for the most part, I have no clue what I am doing.

That last is entirely illogical, because I have spent my life learning everything I possibly can about what I do for a living, and yet, I have had no formal “schooling” in my craft. I have worked my way up or sideways through the ranks of the writing community for the past 30-plus years—I have picked the brains of everyone that I admire as a writer and gleaned what I could from the fields of work I am pursuing or want to pursue.

So in some ways my need for perfection has forced me to put myself out there—to forgo my fear of having “Stupid” written on my forehead—and asked those who do know how they do that voodoo they do so well. I would have much preferred to just stand next to them and osmosisized the knowledge from them (no, osmosisized is not a real word), but since that is not yet possible, I had to actually ask questions. Asking questions was me admitting to myself and those I questioned that I did not know something. That is and was very hard.

My need for perfection has also driven me to always do the very best I can at anything I undertake—although it has hindered me from being an undertake-er in some instances—that qualifies it as a catch-22.

The question is: “What do I do? How do I accept less than perfection in myself?”

And these thoughts occurred to me as my loved one and I were talking: Is a sunset any less beautiful when you discover that the reason for the multi-colors is pollution? And which is more beautiful—the perfectly unblemished piece of pseudo-wood, or the knotty, nicked, and weathered wood that has a story to tell?

My mother continuously reminds me that a diamond—the most perfect of gemstones—is made from coal which is decomposed vegetable matter. A pearl—my particular favorite—is not, as commonly told—made from a grain of sand. A pearl is formed when something organic, most often a parasite, penetrates the shell of a mollusk and lodges within the soft inner body of the animal. The parasite encounters cells within the mollusk’s mantle tissue known as epithelial cells which grow into a sac, envelopes the intruder, and excretes a chemical substance of aragonite and calcite. This is known as nacre or the composite of a pearl.

I don’t know how not to be hard on myself. I have no clue. But I have been told that there comes a time when good enough needs to be accepted. I am not to settle for only achieving good enough—that is a bar set too low for my personality and I am done with settling—however, as long as I can truthfully say that I have given my absolute best effort, then that is good enough. I cannot be all things to all people, I cannot fill everyone’s needs, I cannot do everything myself—I have to ask for assistance, let go and allow someone else to help me (not ask for help then do it all myself anyway), learn from my mistakes, learn from others who have already successfully done what I want or need to do, and accept that there may be times when I can’t do something. I need to learn when “No” is the perfect answer.

I need to look at my flaws and defects—the decomposed vegetable matter and parasites—as, perhaps, that which makes me unique. It is those very things that keep me from being a cookie-cutter human, a Stepford, which gives me depth and contrast, just as clouds enhance the perfection of a blue sky.

I will think on these things—remind myself of them when my perfection bug gets the best of me. That is the best I can do in this instance.



However, I was told today that I am loved for who I am, flaws and all, without reservation, without modification, without an “except for . . .”



How perfect is that?


Published in: on December 26, 2008 at 11:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

The More I Learn, the Less I Know . . .

Those of you who know me on a personal basis will look at the title of this blog post and say, “Whoa! Hollee is being over-analytical again” or you may phrase it this way, “Oh, for the love of Pete, shut up!”

William Cowper[1] said, “Knowledge is proud that he has learn’d so much;Wisdom is humble that he knows no more.”

For the past couple of weeks, I have been working on a couple of projects that have taught me just how little I actually know about some things.

The first of these projects, or at least the one I started first, is a new book by Rita Bennett that will be released by Bridge-Logos Publishers in early 2009, called “Heaven Tours – Astonishing Journeys.”

In her latest book, Bennett, who along with her late-husband Dennis Bennett, authored the bestselling books “The Holy Spirit and You,” and “Nine O’clock in the Morning” takes the reader on a guided tour of Heaven—through the memories of people who have had “Near Death Experiences”—and through the scriptural references to Heaven’s design.

As a minister’s daughter and as a born-again Christian these past 38 years, I thought I knew all there was to know about Heaven—after all, I’ve read the Bible cover-to-cover a couple of times (although I did skip the begats, for the most part).

However, the more I read as I edited this new book, the more I learned that I did not really know anything about Heaven.

I won’t go into further detail here as it will spoil the read for you, and it is not my book nor my lesson to teach—you will have to buy the book and read for yourself, and marvel at what “. . . eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9, AKJ).

The second project that taught me how little I know is the one I am working on currently. Due to copyright constraints I also won’t go into the exact details of it, except to say that I am putting together a 3,000 word manuscript for a cardiothoracic surgeon for the Hunterian Lecture to be published in the Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons.

Whoa Nelly is right!

I have come across a slew of words and phrases I have never heard in my entire life— nucleotidase, xenotransplantation, abstract acute humoral rejection, cell mediated lysis, etc.

Oy gevalt! (Not quite the Yiddish equivalent of Whoa Nelly.)

Since I consider myself a collector of words, and as a freakishly attentive-to-detail editor, I have taken the time to look up most of the words in this manuscript. The more medical terms I learn, the more I realize just how little I really know—about the human body, about disease, about the upkeep and repair of the human heart from a physiological standpoint. I am absolutely amazed and in awe of the amount of knowledge that is in the research documents that have been provided me for this project. I am dumbfounded (yeah, a pun) that anyone actually knows this stuff! What a marvelous piece of work is the human brain.

Now—and don’t laugh at this—I loved school. I cried bitter tears when I graduated because that was the very best part of my life, up to that time. I love to read, research, investigate, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go . . . hold on, that’s Star Trek—insert back-pedaling here—I love to learn. So I am not disappointed in myself for not having this knowledge previous to these two writing/editing contracts—that would be ludicrous.

Although I may not actually know many things, I do know where I can find the answers to most of my questions. As Samuel Johnson said, “Knowledge is of two kinds: we know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it.”[2] And somewhere down the line, at some unforeseen moment, this little bit of knowledge that I have accumulated over the past couple of weeks will make its way through the cluttered and dusty recesses of my mind, and come out my mouth at the appropriate time:

Alex Trebek: It is a part of the metabolic process that converts sugar, fat, and protein into cellular energy.

Hollee: What is Adenosine monophosphate deaminase 1 (isoform M), also known as AMPD1?

[1] The Task. Book vi. Winter Walk at Noon. Line 96.
[2] Life of Johnson (Boswell). 2 Vol. v. Chap. ix. 1775.

On the Occasion of My 50th Birthday, I Offer This . . .

I will be turning 50 in less than two weeks.

Now, normally, this is when I would run my annual
“Aging Gracefully . . . or Gratefully” post—a perennial favorite among the well-read (in my own mind.)

But this year, I’ve decided it is time to share some of the things I know to be true and other things I’ve found to be just plain
hooey.

I love
adages. I love words, grand, lofty thoughts, pithy comments from famous and infamous people. I collect quotes; own numerous books of quotes and who said what tomes—I am fascinated by the clever turn of a phrase.

Some “clevernalities”—as I call them—are true—some are patent falsehoods. This is what I have learned after half a century of living:

a) Silence is golden. No, silence is yellow. Silence is cowardly. Silence betrays a shallow heart, devoid of feeling—a fear a retribution. Speak up! Raise your voice in praise to God. Shout from the rooftops when you’re in love. Loudly decry the injustice in prejudice and bigotry. Shout your protest when an animal is mistreated, a child is abused or neglected, another human is bullied, betrayed, battered, or beaten into subservience.

b) The best things in life are free. No, freedom demands hard work, constant diligence, and sacrifice.

c) People are basically good. I wish this was true. I have lived five decades believing in the innate goodness of “man.” I have been proven wrong time and time again. As much as I hate to “pen” this, I must—the majority of people I have known in my life will lie, cheat, and steal to get what they want. Some of them will brag about it—wear their ability to dupe the general public like a badge of honor. There is a possibility of goodness within all of us—we are made in the image of God, the Author of all that is good. But, people are basically lazy, and it is far easier to lie, cheat, and steal then it is to be good. The world tells us good is boring—bad is sexy, bad is cool, bad is better. Mae West voiced the opinion of the world best: “When I’m good, I’m very, very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better.” Sorry, Mae darling, it is a funny line, but it is certainly not a life lesson.

d) Beauty is only skin deep. Oh my no. Although I have seen and experienced a lifetime of ugliness, there are some absolutely and divinely beautiful men and women who are lovely to the depths of their souls. Here’s the short list: my father, Harold; my mother, Beverlee; Ken; my brothers, Steve and Thomas; my sisters, Kim and Barb; my daughters, Sarah, Amanda, and Samantha; my grandmother, “Nana”; my friends, past and present—Daniel Silver, Mary Alice O’Connor, Elise Shelton, Rita Lester, Helen Spicer, Rick and Amy Hassebrock, Brad and Tara Bolsinger, Rita Bennett, Elizabeth Nason, Peggy Hildebrand, Molly Pelon, Kitty Morrell—I love you all.

e) Love is blind. Oh no. “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails . . .” (I Corinthians 13: 4-8, NIV). Love has its eyes wide open and will rush into action, blind only to the consequences to itself—the lover—thinking only of the beloved.

f) Honesty is the best policy. Unequivocally, yes. Certainly it is easier to lie than to tell the truth. It is easier to waffle, to hem and haw, to conceal—oh vastly! But herein lies the rub: dishonesty reveals one’s contempt for the person from whom one is withholding the truth—“They won’t understand”; “It will hurt their feelings”; “I am being kind”; “I am protecting them”; “You can’t handle the truth!” But tell me, which is better: to tell the truth, to face the consequences, to help that person handle that truth, or, to be found out in a lie, to be branded a liar? When, then, should you be believed?

g) Laughter is the best medicine.
Yeah, that one is definitely true. Laughter increases blood flow to your skin, lending you that healthy glow. Laughter raises your serotonin level—that hormone that gives you a sense of well-being. Laughter brings people closer and draws people toward you. A baby’s laugh is priceless and puts a smile on the face of even the most hard-hearted. A child’s laughter is a delight and a treasure and should be cultivated and preserved.

h) No man is an island. Granted, some “men” ought to be restrained on an island, alone, sans contact with anyone living. But what we do or do not do in our own life has an effect on everyone around us. It is the basis of the
“butterfly effect” and the “one-hundredth monkey effect” theories. Look it up, people. Which brings me to this last truth . . .

i) Knowledge is power. Yes! Gone are the days when the dimwitted girl is considered the desirable and most feminine woman. Thank heaven for that. Knowledge increases your ability to function physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally. The more you know, the better equipped you are to cope, to grow, to be an asset to someone else. Do not dumb yourself down. Do not dumb-down your writing, your speech, your thoughts, or your actions. Force those around you to think, to investigate, to probe, to question, to analyze, to debate. Make them powerful.

Fifty years of wisdom condensed into less than a thousand words. I am looking forward, not to growing older—ick—but to growing smarter, to laughing loudly, to loving longer and stronger, to not going gentle into that good night . . .

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas

Published in: on December 11, 2008 at 1:58 pm  Comments (2)  

Womanly Wisdom from my Aunt Pam

  • Women over 50 don’t have babies because they would put them down and forget where they left them.
  • A friend of mine confused her Valium with her birth control pills. She has 14 kids but doesn’t really care.
  • One of life’s mysteries is how a two-pound box of chocolates can make a woman gain five pounds.
  • My mind not only wanders, it sometimes leaves completely.
  • The best way to forget your troubles is to wear tight shoes.
  • The nice part about living in a small town is that when you don’t know what you are doing, someone else does.
  • The older you get, the tougher it is to lose weight because by then your body and your fat are really good friends.
  • Just when I was getting used to yesterday, along came today.
  • Sometimes I think I understand everything, and then I regain consciousness.
  • I gave up jogging for my health when my thighs kept rubbing together and setting fire to my knicker’s.
  • Amazing! You hang something in your closet for a while and it shrinks two sizes!
  • Skinny people irritate me! Especially when they say things like, “You know sometimes I forget to eat!” Now I’ve forgotten my address, my mother’s maiden name and my keys, but I have never forgotten to eat. You have to be a special kind of stupid to forget to eat!
  • I read this article that said the typical symptoms of stress are eating too much, impulse buying, and driving too fast. Are they kidding? That’s my idea of a perfect day!
Published in: on December 10, 2008 at 3:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

In Light of the Gannett Layoffs – Carpe Diem

Yesterday, Gannett, the nation’s #2 newspaper company, announced massive layoffs, including their #1 daily USA Today division.

Just in time for the holidays.

While I empathize with those who have lost their jobs, I see this as a positive for those of us in the freelance writing arena.

As a former newspaper editor who daily had to face budget constraints due to reduced print advertising (the more advertising space purchased, the more pages for actual news—less advertising, less news space), I frequently hired freelance journalists—stringers—to cover stories. It cost me far less money to pay the stringer than it did for me to send a staff writer to an event that may have meant overtime pay, as well as mileage reimbursement.

A stringer—typically—does not receive mileage reimbursement, and, of course, is not granted health benefits, overtime pay, or any of the other so-called perks of staff positions.

Trust me on this one thing—Gannett will still publish newspapers and will still need a warm body to cover a breaking or ongoing news event. Your local paper still has sports events, school board meetings, city and village council meetings, etc., to report on and will be hard-pressed with their reduced staff to be “all things to all people.”

Polish your resume, compile your news clip portfolio, make sure you have a great digital camera and know how to use it, and do as I did before I became a newspaper editor—make a personal visit to the news or sports editor’s office, and offer your services.

Carpe diem.

Published in: on December 5, 2008 at 1:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

My Thanks for Giving

On this weekend when everyone gathers to thank God for their blessings, I would like to take the opportunity to say thank you to the Super Heroes in my life – in our lives.

There are men and women who, out of a wholly unselfish place that resides in so few, risk their lives to keep us safe – to guard us from harm – to fight for the oppressed whose lives have been cruelly used, whose families have been destroyed, whose lives have threatened.

One young man in particular, whom I have had the honor of knowing for many years, who has my utmost respect for his dedication, his commitment, his honorable heart, and who does not seek glory for himself in what he does so will herein remain almost nameless, is Mike. Those of you who know me will know by that alone who he is, and that is enough for my purposes here.

I can not in words given me to use, express to you, Mike, how much I hold dear to my heart your life and your strength. I thank you for your service in Iraq, your continued service at your present station, and your friendship to me and mine.

God bless you, young man. You are ever in my thoughts and prayers.

You Raise Me Up
http://mediaservices.myspace.com/services/media/embed.aspx/m=5902090,t=1,mt=video

Published in: on December 1, 2008 at 3:06 am  Comments (1)  
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