Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Could I Edit Myself Out of My Church?

My church is creating material for small groups to complement a message series. Members of the ministry staff, participants in our writers group, and others have been invited to submit supplemental devotionals. Another freelance editor and I were asked to edit them.

I’m in the middle of working on more than a dozen pieces written by people I barely know (it’s a big church), staff I’ve never personally met (it’s a big church), and coordinating with another freelance editor I didn’t even know was a freelance editor (it’s a big church). Unlike when I edit professionally for publishing houses, I’m not "in Kansas anymore.”

“We might have to change churches,” I said to my husband, who serves in hospital visitation.

“And why is that?” he asked.

“Because most writers don’t like to be edited. What am I doing?”

He thinks I was kidding, and he’s right. But my slight worry behind the joke is real. As a pastor’s daughter and later a pastor’s wife, I sometimes found myself in the center of or at least around the edges of church controversy, church snubs, church division…Must I go on? For years now, I’ve avoided being anywhere near the potential for church messes. They aren't pretty and they can hurt. I clearly remember sitting in a church office, crying my eyes out after someone scolded me in front of a roomful of church people. I had offended the other person without realizing it, and I was miserable,  hurt, and embarrassed.

So why did I put myself here where I could hurt someone’s feelings in this church by agreeing to edit these devotionals? It’s not that I’m not comfortable with my skill set, or that I’m not diligent about assuring authors their work is theirs, not mine. Other than for rules of grammar, spelling, and agreed-upon style, any changes I suggest are subject to their review and approval. I make this clear for every  author I edit, serving them on a professional basis. But this was serving community.

In addition to having some fear of hurt feelings, I’m one of those introverted beings who find it difficult to determine how to serve in the church without thrashing about like a fish out of water. That is, unless God paints a big green arrow, which he’s metaphorically done for me more than once. And I thank him for it. When it came to service within the church in the past, I often served in ways that filled a need, especially in the areas that affected my own children, but that didn’t put me even remotely in an area of gifting, lit in the green glow of his will. So I learned to wait for that green arrow. (That he has not seemed to prompt me to visibly serve in the church much in recent years would take another post to explore.)

When the writers group began meeting in the new year, one of God’s green arrows not only appeared, but, I think, glowed. One of the leaders specifically invited me to join, which works well with introverted people, and I mustered the courage to do it. After all, I am a writer, and I like to work with writers.

You’ll be asked to edit at some point, God said. I gulped. Uh, okay. But I didn't know it would be so soon.

I'm introverted, yes. But I’d like to get to know all these writers better. I’d like to encourage them in their gift. I might like to be in a small group with one or more of them and “do life together.” That means this service as editor is a risk; I could mess up, offend someone without meaning to. Oust myself. I’ve written about how editors must be “fair, balanced, and unafraid,” but this is working “fair, balanced, and a little afraid.” Yet I know taking a risk when following God's arrows can lead to doors of opportunity, ready to open.

I shared what I’d said to my husband with the leader who invited me to the writers group, and we both laughed. But then she said in all sincerity that she’s prayed for God to be at the center of it all. I’m so glad she has, and so have I.

In the meantime, I’m trying to see all the green arrows God has for me, especially any beginning to glow. I'll just have to not edit myself out of my church.

Is God painting green arrows for you?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Short Reflection on the Horrors of Pre-Vacation Shopping

The other day I went shopping to update my wardrobe for the next couple of seasons, a semi-annual task I detest. Yet I must undergo this torment because spring and fall are when we take vacations, and I never seem to have everything I need. Let’s just say I’m hard on clothes. Stains even Oxiclean won’t remove? Uh, yeah. The wear and tear of too many years on staple items (read T-shirts)? You see my dilemma.

One of the main reasons for this hatred, at least for me, is that the stores are too hot in the spring because they have yet to turn on air-conditioning and in the fall because they’ve turned it off too soon. And yet I suffer through this ordeal because I hate shopping for clothes online even more. Plus, I never leave enough time to order online, receive the package, reject what I ordered, return it, and still suffer in stores to get the job done. Why not skip to the inevitable?

“Are you hot, ma’am?” one checkout person asked me as one more drop of sweat fell from my forehead onto the credit card in my hand. Her question seemed an unnecessary delay to me, interrupting my anticipation of the breeze I knew awaited me outside, already an estimated four to seven minutes away. I could see the front door from my position in line, and my entire body was already in “as fast as I can walk out of here” mode.

“Yes,” I answered, not inclined to elaborate but to simply prove I was coherent. Maybe—my having already dabbed away all the makeup I’d come in with—she thought I was having a stroke. No, I was only melting. But let me just say, I left with everything I needed, because I was not about to go back lest my need for a vacation increase tenfold.

Except I still needed a new purse. Or two. And that meant I had to go back a couple of days later.

I also hate shopping for purses, but for an entirely different reason. First, some stores display their purse selections by brand, so in each section I begin by finding the purses with my requirements: medium size, an adjustable strap, the right compartments and fasteners, not too expensive (because I’m cheap with purses), and a texture that speaks to me, which isn’t patent leather or cloth. The hard part is choosing color and pattern.

Especially in the spring, a reasonable woman would want a purse that’s bright and cheery, even if it doesn’t go with everything she owns, right? I try. I really do. Once I bought a fuchsia purse and even bragged about it on Facebook, I think. But the best I can do, after a long, long and hot, hot time trying to force myself to make an interesting choice, is a sort of beige and a definite black. The melon purse is pretty, the floral bag is nice, that blue one would go with the sandals I hardly ever wear. But I am at heart a “goes with everything” woman and I don't seem to be able to change. I have to try to be interesting in other ways, I guess.

Thank goodness I don’t need to go flip-flop shopping. You see, first I'd have to…and it would be hot…

photo credits: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=203392&picture=colorful-handbags-for-sale  

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

What Happened When This Freelance Editor Had a Break (Down?)

Sometimes it happens—I have a workday or time slot with no work. Like now. It’s almost 3:00 p.m., one editing project is off with the author for her review, and a new project I’d expected by today isn’t coming now until end of day tomorrow. Unless one of my clients who sends “piece work” for me to edit suddenly pushes “send” my way, I am faced with choices. Besides flexibility, this is one of the best parts of being a freelancer, right? 
For productive, business time, my choices include:

Updating my website
Reaching out to a potential client
Deleting and organizing the zillion emails I can’t even believe I've saved

For productive, personal time, my choices include:

                Shopping (which I mostly hate)
                Trying on my spring/summer clothes (which I really hate)
                Exercising (but isn’t it too late in the day now? isn’t it still kind of rainy outside?)

For not-so-productive time, my choices include:

                Catching up on what’s on the DVR I like but my husband doesn’t
                Catching up on social media because I've only looked at it, like, twice today
                Catching up on reading (except reading is productive, but, hey, I sort of read for a living)

Please remember at this point that I do not cook, knit, garden, or partake in hardly any hobby-ish activities. Nor do I go out of the house much—say to visit someone—without planning for it, because when I work I’m usually dressed for home, not for public view. I know. Sad. Today it’s sweat pants (I still don’t really know what yoga pants are), a sweatshirt, and—wait for it—cozy, white socks. (See item regarding spring clothes above. I am never ready when seasons change.) Makeup? Not a chance.

Or I can write. That’s a good idea. After all, I will soon owe a blog post here, and blog post there…

Wait! Have I had my afternoon coffee? Oh, yeah. It’s right here. But it’s kind of cold. Aha! I’ll venture out to the kitchen and warm it up.


Okay, I’m back. Here’s an email! But it only confirms my no-work-right-now situation. Maybe it’s time to confess that I have a to-do list. It’s right here next to my coffee. Yes, it’s on paper, because somehow lists, alerts, and what have you on my computer are overlooked. Or maybe avoided.

Now it’s 3:12, 3:13, 3:14. I’m thinking. Feeling kind of guilty about that to-do list. Maybe I can do one thing on it. Ah. Decide what to buy my granddaughter for her seventh birthday, which means shopping of some kind. Her mother sent options. I like options.

Here it is. Accessories for her bearded dragon, Trixie. Maybe I can find some on Amazon. Yep, I can. Oh my, they make hammocks and chaise lounges for them? The trouble is I haven’t seen Trixie and her abode yet. Now I have to ask my daughter-in-law if Trixie already has means for relaxation. I’ll text her later. She’s probably busy, because, you know, she has kids and a job…and a dragon in her home.

What else is on my list? Go for a routine blood draw. But that has to be after an eight-hour fast. Oh, yeah. I’m going to do that tomorrow morning.

Now I’m hungry, but I WILL NOT GO FOR THE M&Ms. I won't, I won't. They'll show up on my blood test results. I just know it!

It’s 3:24. Someone please send me some work! Apparently I’ve lost all ability to manage free time on short notice.

photo credit: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=15818&picture=old-clock-in-sepia

Friday, March 10, 2017

Remodeling a Bathroom and a Lesson Therein

I’ve waited almost six years to remodel our main bathroom, and by “remodel” I mean gutting it as well as widening its freakishly narrow doorway. If my husband and I were ever required to use walkers, we’d be stuck in the hall. That’s how narrow that doorway is. An outhouse doorway would be wider.

But also, although we made some tweaks to it when we bought our condo, for the most part this bathroom has held on to the ’80s as if its existence depended on it. Hardly. The ’80s were a long time ago. I barely remember them.

Our contractor is scheduled to start a mere six weeks from now, so, on the mend from a long stretch with bronchitis, I finally ventured out the other day to shop. My husband is the “This is our budget” half of our team, and I am the “Let’s not settle because we have to live with this bathroom for a long time and I am willing to spend a little more” half. Fortunately, we’ve learned over our decades of marriage to stay friendly through these events, even if it takes some negotiating.

We happily chose a vanity and another cabinet, arranged for our mirror to be reframed to match them both, and decided on fixture finishes. We also ordered what we wanted for the walk-in shower and a commode, the latter tall enough for people over five feet tall, which we are. (Maybe in the ’80s, everyone was really short and we didn’t notice. I can’t think of any other explanation for this tiny apparatus we’ve been living with.) A wall paint color, a backsplash, and a few other materials are still on a list, but we had to choose some flooring sooner than later.

Not tile floor people, not wood or laminate for a bathroom floor people, we looked at vinyl samples. You might or might not know hundreds of designs exist, in different thicknesses. At the third store, we found the perfect choice—only to discover today that it’s been discontinued. A perfectly lovely design with colors that went well with the vanity wood sample I carried from place to place and a satisfying thickness, yet unavailable.

What a disappointment. A first-world disappointment, a minor disappointment, but still, I put on a frowny face. I don’t like “starting over,” and I don’t have that much time to shop.

Too often we make decisions as though we are in complete control of what’s available. Then we hit a bump in the road and we’re disappointed instead of being grateful we have a road. We get all frowny and the sky looks all cloudy.

But didn’t Jesus say, “Don’t sweat the small stuff”? Okay, he didn’t say that. But can you imagine him wasting time being disappointed if one of his disciples said, “Sorry, Lord. Those sandals you picked out for our next long walk? The guy doesn’t make that design anymore. You’re going to have to make another choice.” Uh, no. He would have just made another choice and stayed on mission. No frowning, no cloudy thoughts.

My husband went back to one of the stores and brought home more vinyl samples, all still available. We decided one of them works. Sold! Problem quickly solved. But even if that had not been the case, my disappointment about our first choice had to be put in its place.

That’s the little lesson I reminded myself of today from our bathroom remodel. And when you're replacing the tiny commode in one bathroom, it makes sense to replace the tiny commode in the other bathroom too. After all, this is not 1980.

photo credit: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=49339&picture=old-toilet

Friday, February 10, 2017

A Frame for the Weary

I haven’t posted here for months, not since around the presidential election in November. The truth is between surgery last fall, the holidays, our exhausting political climate, an unusually full workload in January, and a few realities in my world that invite at least minimal worry, I’ve become a bit weary.

Weary is not fatal. It’s not even depression. But it’s tiring and can suffocate a life of gratitude. If you let it, it can make you feel like an empty frame. You're holding together, yet something is missing right in the middle.

Thankfully, my surgery seems to have eradicated cancer from my body. But I've felt weary with the ongoing testing, with waiting for results…again. With thinking about my cancer at all.

I’ve been wearied by cold weather. Wearied by a common sinus/cough thing that, in the words of a healthcare professional about all of us so sickened, “just doesn’t seem to want to go completely away.” Wearied by a DVR that had to be replaced, a contractor who didn’t return calls, important mail miss-delivered, receiving a document about jury duty although I’ve served on three juries already. (Okay, that was in a different state, but three still seems like enough.)

Weary. Just plain weary. By the big and the small. Pick-me-ups—seeing a movie, visiting with family and friends, planning a spring vacation—help. But they don't provide the bigger lift I tend to look for when weariness hits. And then I become weary of me, feeling like a complainer with nothing much to complain about.

The Scripture we all think of when we’re weary is Matthew 11:28–30 (NIV): “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

An NIV Study Bible note says Jesus’s statement was “probably a reference to the ‘heavy…loads’ the Pharisees placed ‘on other people’s shoulders by insisting on a legalistic interpretation of the law.'” And we can spend a lot of time unpacking what Jesus meant by referring to his "yoke." But today, if he’s also talking to me, my reaction is, what burden? Right now, I can’t say I am “burdened.” I know of too many people suffering in this world to think of myself as burdened. The average stay-at-home parent is more burdened amid the joy of raising children than I am burdened by, well, anything. Not now.

Yet I believe the Lord offers all of us—the weary of all kinds, the weariness that can come from even the small—his rest. In these weary days, I have heard again, “Come to me, all you who are weary.”

And so I go. I don't need to be an empty frame, holding myself together without joy. Without rest. The rest he offers to fill me is so much more than anything else I could find.

Photo credit: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=193820&picture=frame-background

Thursday, January 26, 2017

An Actual Fact: 4 Ways You Can Find One (and a Fact about Mary Tyler Moore)

Mary Tyler Moore passed away yesterday, and so I thought I'd dig up this old post where I feature her talent. But it's also interesting that, in our current political and social media climate, we are all considering what is a fact and what is not. Perhaps a nugget or two here speaks to all of us facing that challenge as well as to my original audience, writers. I have changed only the years I reference and, sadly, acknowledge with past tense that Mary is no longer with us.

In the chick flick Runaway Bride, a reporter played by Richard Geer is asking someone who knows the oft-engaged character played by Julia Roberts for some information. As the woman explains a few realities to him, she says something like, “It’s a fact. An actual fact.”

Mary Tyler Moore
Maybe this scene is memorable for me because the actress makes those lines funny. Or maybe because a fact would have to be actual to be, well, actually factual, and as an editor I would question using that phrase. But it does make me think about how much writing and editing require fact checking.

Most often, when I am editing I'm checking for proper name spellings—for a person, organization, movement, brand, and so on. Or a poison in a murder mystery, which would raise some eyebrows for anyone looking at my Internet search history. Sometimes I need to check a word I never heard of, which might mean looking at an online dictionary that has words and sayings not yet (or will never be?) in mainline dictionaries. Quotes, including Scripture quotations, need to be checked as well. Authors at times quote Scripture from "memory" and don't quite get there.

And sometimes I wonder if an author’s fact is, in fact, an actual fact (sorry, I couldn’t resist) and so I look it up to make sure they're right. Usually the author is correct and I learn something new, but sometimes it is a good thing I did my job and checked.

I don't know if these are the same tips you would get in Fact Checking 101, but here are some of the tricks I suggest when using an Internet search engine like Google for your writing or editing:

  • Look for what is most likely the top reliable source. If someone or an entity has an official website, that is probably the best source for what is unique to them. For example, if you want to know the exact spelling and style for a nonprofit agency, look on their website. 
  • Use cover images when it comes to books. Authors (and their characters in novels) often quote from books. If you need to know the exact title of a book, or the exact order of the coauthors, find the cover's image on a seller's or the publisher's site and go with what you see. Even sellers and publishers sometimes get their data wrong, but cover images are rarely incorrect.
    • Take a propensity of identical answers into account. If you can find no definitive source but dozens of sources have the same information, then at least for consistency's sake consider if it’s safe to go with what appears to have become acceptable.
    •  Use the latest sources you can find. If you suspect you are dealing with an old wives' tale, look it up. Reputable sources have figured out the truth. When using news sources, compare dates for the same topic to help ensure your news is not old news. What are believed to be facts in 2016 can have been revealed as false by 2017.
    I was hoping to find a clip of that "actual fact" scene in Runaway Bride, but alas, I could find only this YouTube post with Mary Tyler Moore singing “Actual Fact.” Without looking up a thing, I can tell you for a fact that she was one talented lady!
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