Habits – July 2020 Update

My word for 2020 is habits, so each month I select one habit that I want to stop and one I want to start.

So far in 2020 I’ve given up:

January – Watching shows for entertainment
February – Soda
March – Chocolate
April – Chocolate
May – No hitting the snooze
June – No hitting the snooze
July – Avoiding the national news

I have to give myself a C+ or B- on giving up national news. I avoided my usual news sources for big chunks of the month, but did listen to a little talk radio on a couple of longer drives, and checked out a few clips online. Overall, cutting down significantly I think helped in my mood, attitude, and peace.

It seems like the stopping category each month is harder to succeed at than the starting. I think for the third time in a row I will duplicate my stopping. This time I’m not doing it to help solidify a habit as much as I don’t want to go back to a big dose of national news, so keeping the goal in place should help me to at least keep my intake moderate. Ultimately, I would like to find the right balance for me to intake news and keep my sanity.

My starting habits for 2020 include:

January – A daily devotion using the YouVersion Bible app and a ten-minute writing timer (TMT)
February – Read a list of truth declarations (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing)
March – Twelve minutes in prayer (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing)
April – Twelve minutes in prayer (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing)
May – Two minutes of prayer after devotions (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing)
June – Two minutes of prayer after devotions; Two minutes of core after running; (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing)
July – Three minutes of prayer after devotions; Two minutes of core after running; (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing)

Starting my day with devotions and prayer now feels normal. I’m doing it consistently and naturally. I no longer think about doing it so the excuses like I don’t have time, I can do it later, I’m tired, etc., never enter my mind. As soon as I get dressed I sit down. The habit is there! For August I will increase it to four minutes, and if I’m having a good prayer time I won’t make myself stop.

The core work is still hard. I missed a handful of times, but in the middle of the month remembered a quote from James Clear. It’s probably in his book but I remember it from one of his interviews. He said never miss twice in a row. Simply doing that will guarantee you do something at least half the time.

So, In August I will continue the two-minute core workout after running for and see if another month will help it start to feel normal. I shouldn’t be surprised that it’s still hard as this is the first month I succeeded most of the time. But at least it was an improvement over June.

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I have successfully continued my year-long goals of daily devotions and daily writing for at least one ten minute timer (TMT). My hard drive crashed on my computer, so I don’t know how many TMT’s I had in July and in total for 2020, but I did write every day and have done so for 213 straight days as of July 31.

Looking back on my original goal for the year, maybe one habit a month (for both starting and stopping) wasn’t enough time. I’ve often repeated my monthly goals. At first that discouraged me, but now I realize that 30 days just isn’t enough, usually to even establish a routine, let alone get it to the point of feeling like habit.

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July 2020 Storytime Blog Hop

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Once again it’s time for a fun adventure. Enjoy my story below, then follow the links to other stories of participating authors in the blog hop.  Leave us comments.  We love hearing from you!

Near Success

I turned my head as the car reached the young boy. It was over in seconds. I calmed my queasy stomach and ran to toward the lifeless body.

“Damn!” The boy’s soul was gone. I had lost another one.

Then I saw something disappear behind the sky scraper in the next block.

“Wait!”

I soared over the building, in time to see the soul fly under a bridge and vanish into the ground. I dove hard. My chances of catching it were slimming.

Before I reached the ground it popped up and whizzed by me. I screamed and changed direction. I didn’t have time to chase souls around town. I had another death scheduled soon.

Around a corner; across an empty lot; into the woods. He will be hard to keep up with in there.

Before I reached the tree line I heard a sound that made me stop.

“Hi, G.R.”

“Shiela!”

Dale’s sister. The beast. And I don’t mean that in the good way.

“I don’t have time.”

I tried to dart around her but she quickly blocked my path.

“Ah!” I shouted into the air. The soul was gone. I would be in so much trouble.

“Did you lose one?”

“I, I had it until you came along,” I said through gritted teeth.

She stood with her hands on her hips. “I came along because you still owe me a date.”

“I had almost caught up to him.”

“You made a deal with my brother. You promised.”

“I’m busy.” And you’re scary. I didn’t have time for this…for her. “I’m in my probation period and I need to focus on my job.”

“You’re so important, aren’t you?”

I puffed my chest. “I finished top of my class.”

“You are so awesome you had to bribe my brother for the easiest job on the first day?”

“I made that trade as a favor to him and you,” I shouted. “That was not an easy collection.”

“It was rated the easiest and you let the old geezer get away.”

“What? But how…” She couldn’t possibly know that. “You’re following me!”

“Everybody knows your first got away!”

I sank against a tree. The records were supposed to be private, but of course someone leaked when the top student failed.

But maybe I could use it to my advantage. Sheila wouldn’t want to go out with a loser!

I spit out the truth. “Already a week into my solo probation period and I haven’t caught a single soul.”

Sheila giggled. I glared.

A single soul…Soon we both were laughing uncontrollably. More reaper school humor!

Once we settled down Sheila offered, “I can help.”

“You’re not old enough for Reaper School for another year,” I sulked.

“I don’t need Reaper school. I have eight older siblings,” She countered. “When’s your next death?”

“This evening.”

“We better hurry, then.”

Soon we were in the back seat watching Julie, my next collection, drive.

“I don’t understand. How will watching her before her death help?”

“It gives you time to prepare,” Sheila explained. “You know, so you don’t miss it.”

“You have been following me!”

“No, look, you scored nearly perfect in school but can’t catch the real thing. It could only mean one thing—death bothers you.”

“But—”

“It’s normal,” she said understandingly. “But you need to adapt. Just picture the death over and over in your mind. Then the real event will seem like a thought.”

So I did. I must have seen Julie crash into the telephone poll a hundred times.

Then the moment came. She pulled out her cell phone and stared down. Up and down her head bobbed. She squealed excitedly, took one final look up, then tried to steer with her knee while typing.

I visualized the crash one final time, then Bam! She wrapped the Civic around the pole, dying instantly.

I didn’t flinch. I thought I might get sick at the sight, but I watched. I watched the whole thing.

“I did it!” Thrilled, I gave Sheila a tight hug before my cheeks burned with embarrassment and I quickly let go. We both laughed.

“Best date ever!” she screamed.

She had saved my career, my pride. “I can’t count this as a date. I owe you one proper.”

“Really?” she squealed.

“Yes.” I held out my arm for her to take. “Shall we?”

She giggled. “Aren’t you forgetting something?”

I followed her gaze.

Fading in the distance was Julie’s soul.

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Thank you for reading! Now enjoy some more great stories from my friends…

1. Alexa by Barbara Lund
2. What They Wanted by Karen Lynn
3. Night at the Museum by Vanessa Wells
4. TRIBULATION Culled, eclipsed by COVID19 (A Poem) by Juneta Key
5. The Right Tracks by VS Stark
6. The Guardian of the Sandsnake’s Temple by Katharina Gerlach
7. The Last One by Jemma Weir
8.The Pooka Plays Pool by Nic Steven
9.The Longest Night by Sabrina Rosen

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Habits – June 2020 Update

My word for 2020 is habits, so each month I select one habit that I want to stop and one I want to start.

So far in 2020 I’ve given up:

January – Watching shows for entertainment. February – Soda March – Chocolate April – Chocolate May – No hitting the snooze June – No hitting the snooze

My goal is to stop the habit for a month. At this point I haven’t tried to permanently quit any of these. I simply test them for a month and gauge the likelihood of any sticking. Plus, I think it’s a good discipline to deny ourselves desire on occasion. I repeated chocolate because I failed in March. I repeated the snooze because I wanted to build on my success.

JUNE: I had another successful month of not hitting the snooze. I only used the snooze button three or four times, and those were days when I had the luxury to do so. I’m not going to make it one of my goals this month, but I want to continue the practice of not hitting the snooze very often. I think I’m at a point I can find a balance with this one.

JULY: For this month I am going to give up national news. I’m tired of the negatives, the lies, and the manipulation of my emotions by reading/watching the craziness. I will not listen to talk radio and will not watch any videos or podcasts that pertain to current events.

I will limit my time on Facebook, but since I use it for work some at this point I’m not giving it completely up. We’ll see how the month goes; Facebook could be an August goal.

My starting habits for 2020 include:

January – A daily devotion using the YouVersion Bible app and a ten-minute writing timer (TMT) February – Read a list of truth declarations (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing) March – Twelve minutes in prayer (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing) April – Twelve minutes in prayer (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing) May – Two minutes of prayer after devotions (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing) June – Two minutes of prayer after devotions; Two minutes of core after running; (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing)

JUNE: About a week into June I upped my prayer time from two minutes to three, which felt like the right amount of time, though I can’t explain why. I only missed doing my devotions and prayer first thing in the morning three or four times, and only once did I not do them in the morning, waiting until just before bed.

I did well with the core training goal for the first half of the month, but then I went on vacation and it went by the wayside.

JULY: I want to repeat both goals. The morning routine is starting to feel normal and I want to build a good, long base for it before I consider expanding the time. I want to give another shot at doing the core work for two minutes. Hopefully I can get a streak going that I can take into next month.

Halfway checkpoint: The year is half over, which makes this a time to evaluate whether this adventure should continue for the full year like I had planned.

I’ve had mixed results on the stopping goals. I gained myself more time by giving up watching entertainment and seem to have found a morning routine by not hitting the snooze. My food denials haven’t gone as well. At this point I don’t know what I should give up going forward. That tells me that I need to spend some time considering and praying about this. I think I’ll start by rewatching the habit sermons that started me on this journey.

I’ve had great success with the two goals I started at the beginning of the year. I’ve only missed one day of not doing my YouVersion devotional on my phone. I have completed 37 reading plans and am currently (as of June 30) on a streak of 79 days in a row.

The ten minute time challenge (TMT) is where I set a timer for ten minutes and write, usually new fiction. I have not missed a day in 2020, logging 182 straight days of new writing. During that time I’ve completed 753 TMTs, which is 7,530 minutes of new writing (probably 80% of which is fiction), or 125.5 hours or writing. That doesn’t count rewriting, revising, plotting, planning, marketing, reading, research, etc.

Even though I’ve had many failures, I’ve had some successes, which means I’ve made progress. The failures simply mean nothing changed. No harm, no foul. The successes mean that something, no matter how small it may be, changed. And like Craig Groeschel said in his first sermon on Habits, “Successful people do consistently what others do occasionally.”

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Duh! Read more than the headline!

I came across a headline on Facebook announcing that Chuck Norris had died from COVID-19 at the age of 80. I read the short online story. Several sentences spelled out his storied career in martial arts, movies and television.

Then, I reached the final two sentences.

“However, after his minor inconvenience of death, Chuck has made a full recovery, and is reported to be doing quite well. It has also been reported that the Corona virus is in self isolation for 14 days due to being exposed to Chuck Norris.”

I laughed and thought it was a well-done Chuck Norris joke, so I shared it on my Facebook wall. I got a few laughing emojis and likes and then an old high school classmate slapped me with a Snopes fact checker, insinuating I had posted a false story.

Curious, I went to Snopes, and yes, it gave the story a false rating.

Um, duh!

Hello! It’s a joke, not a story! But then, you have to be intelligent enough to read past the headline.

I’m not sure which is worse—that Snopes fact-checked a joke, or that people rely on others to tell them what to think about jokes.

I asked my friend if he had read the whole thing. He still hasn’t responded. Obviously, I know the answer and he may be too embarrassed to admit he hadn’t. He should be.

Several months ago, I posted an opinion piece on my church’s website and my pastor shared the link on Facebook. The story had to do with infanticide. Someone complained to Facebook and they blocked the site from their platform. Now, no matter what I write on the church website, even inspirational devotions, Facebook won’t allow my articles to be referenced on their site.

My opinion piece was similar to one I wrote in the newspaper around that time. When it appeared in the paper, someone wrote me a scathing note accusing me of abandoning my journalistic integrity to express my opinion.

Of course, she hadn’t read the stories I referenced or watched the video I commented about. I guess she didn’t need the details in order to make up her mind.

After she read the stories I had criticized and listened to my explanation, she apologized and recognized how I came to my conclusion. Maybe she shouldn’t have abandoned her journalistic integrity to criticize my column.

One of the great faults of our current society is that we make judgments outside of context.

From time to time, I hear people complain that Facebook has blocked something they wrote or shared. I know that Twitter and YouTube have done the same.

They are private companies, so they are welcome to put/allow whatever they want on their websites. That being said, it’s dishonest and deceptive not to have clear rules about what they will and will not allow. It’s also rude not to respond and provide an explanation to honest requests by those being blocked.

There are legal distinctions between a platform and a news outlet. I’m not a legal expert, so I may have my terms incorrect, but if a business is a platform, then they can’t sensor what’s posted. If they sensor, then they become liable for the content posted on their website. I’m guessing we’ll see legal battles arise as websites like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook continue to block, and fact check material posted to their sites.

Do we want an organization that fact checks jokes to be the arbitrator of truth?

Yes, technically the headline on my post about Chuck Norris was a complete fabrication known by me to be so when I shared it. But, that was the whole point.

Enjoy the Chuck Norris jokes for now; they may soon be gone.

PSA: In case Snopes hasn’t yet investigated, all memes posted in this article are factually untrue. Read at your own risk.

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Habits – May 2020 Update

My word for 2020 is habits, so each month I select one habit that I want to stop and one I want to start.

So far in 2020 I’ve given up:

January – Watching shows for entertainment

February – Soda

March – Chocolate

April – Chocolate

May – No hitting the snooze

My goal is to stop the habit for a month. At this point I haven’t tried to permanently quit any of these. I simply test them for a month and gauge the likelihood of any sticking. Plus I think it’s a good discipline to deny ourselves desire on occasion. You’ll notice I had to do chocolate twice. That’s because I crashed and burned in March.

My starting habits for 2020 include:

January – A daily devotion using the YouVersion Bible app and a ten-minute writing timer

February – Read a list of truth declarations

March – Twelve minutes in prayer

April – Twelve minutes in prayer

May – Two minutes of prayer after devotions

For the habits I have started, my hope is to continue and build on them throughout the year. I haven’t had complete success, but overall I have made progress.

In May I decided to give up hitting the snooze button for the month. To put this into some context, I honestly cannot remember a time when I haven’t used the snooze button most days of the week.

I love hitting snooze once or twice; to slowly wake and allow myself to mentally prepare for the day. Most of the time I go right back to sleep until my five, nine, or ten minutes (it’s been different snooze times with the different clocks/phones I’ve had over the years) expires.

Yet, I successfully gave up the snooze in May. Only twice during the month did I succumbed to the call of the snooze. Once was on a Saturday when I literally had nothing scheduled so could have slept all day but didn’t want to. The other time happened on one of those dark, rainy, cold mornings. Yeah, both failures were worth it.

My goal for June is to repeat the no-snooze goal. This time I’m repeating my goal because I had success and want to give it more time to see if I can turn it into a habit.

My starting goal for May was a carry over because I struggled with it in April. Each day I spend time doing a devotional through the YouVersion Bible App on my phone. I added a two-minute time of prayer after the devotional.

I chose two minutes because James Clear in his book Atomic Habits suggested the best way to start a habit is to make it simple and short in order to get used to doing the activity. The pattern also creates a trigger. In other words, what I want is for the completion of the devotion to become a trigger where I naturally move into a time of prayer.

Originally in April I had tried twelve minutes of prayer, but that length of time intimidated me and I failed more often than not. Clear states in his book that we can’t improve a on habit we don’t have (I’m paraphrasing). So, I’m developing the habit and eventually I hope increase the time spent in prayer.

I want to be more consistent in doing my devotions first thing in the morning. Eliminating the snooze in May helped in my success of that.

The changes in May made a significant difference. Most days I successfully did my devotional and prayer time in the mornings. When I missed, I did them at night. I didn’t keep track of how many days, so I can’t quantify it. I think I will do that for June so I will know how well or not well I am doing with my new habit.

Also for June I want to add at least two minutes of core work after running. I run 4-6 days a week and love it, but I hate doing core work and have never succeeded in consistently working my core for any length of time. I want to use Clear’s two-minute theory and get myself used to moving from running into core and hopefully create a trigger that makes my body believe that core work is natural.

On January 1 I started using ten minute timers (TMT) to help me write new words. On May 31 I finished the month with 167 TMTs. For 2020 I have completed 631 TMTs and successfully completed at least one every day of the year (152 straight days). I’m on pace to have one of my most productive years writing ever.

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Habits – April 2020 Update

Each month I set two new goals—one to start and one to stop.

My habits journey in April ended with mixed results.

My to-start goal for the month was a repeat of my failed March goal. I wanted to spend twelve minutes in prayer after doing my morning YouVersion Bible App devotional.

As I struggled to be consistent that first week, I finished reading the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. In the book he recommends starting a new habit with the two-minute rule—do the habit for two minutes then stop. He says to make the act small at first until it becomes a habit, then you can expand it.

So, I decided to give that a try. For the rest of the month I tried to do two minutes of prayer after my devotions. I succeeded about half the time. My goal for May is to do it daily. Even though I didn’t succeed, the two-minutes seems a lot less daunting and I think with a fresh start I can succeed.

The activity I chose to give up for April was eating chocolate, which was a repeat because I totally bombed in March. Well, I did better in April, though not perfect. I failed twice. Once when I made puppy chow for my daughter, and the other time when I spent a few days at my sister’s during and after my brother-in-law’s heart surgery. All-in-all, I did well.

For May I think I will give up hitting the snooze on my phone’s alarm in the morning. This will be extremely challenging, as the snooze is a normal part of my morning routine. I like having an extra ten or twenty minutes of sleep before jumping into my day. But if I want to make my devotional time in the morning a regularity, I think I should try to avoid the snooze button and see how it goes.

I had two long streaks going into April but only one remains.

My daily streak in the YouVersion Bible App came to an end. The day my brother-in-law had emergency open heart surgery, I woke early and drove to Overland Park to my sister’s house, so I missed my morning devotion. I didn’t think about it until I had turned out the lights that night well after midnight.

I opened my phone and went through the motions of reading the devotional, but honestly I felt like a zombie, not comprehending a thing I read. Of course, since I did it after midnight, the app counted it as missing a day. I don’t mind because like I said, I wasn’t into that night anyhow.

I also relaxed in doing my devotions first thing in the morning during April. I often left them until the end of the day. Waking in the morning and starting my day immediately has been ingrained in me from years of doing just that. I think I want to continue to try to do morning devotions, but part of my challenge is that I often get into a good groove of writing (or other projects) at night and it’s hard for me to get to bed early enough to support an early morning devotional habit. I’ll work on it. Maybe with giving up the snooze button I will adjust.

The habit that I did keep going through April was writing for at least ten minutes every day. Most days I spend several hours on writing projects, but those projects, particularly in April, don’t include new writing but rather revising already written stories. Still I want to write at least something new every day. On April 30 I hit my 121st day in row, beginning on January 1. April was my least productive month as I only succeeded in 87 TMTs, but I knew that would be the case as I worked primarily on revision.

I hope to write the rough draft of the sequel to my murder mystery in May, so I expect those numbers to jump up next month.

The end of April marks the end of the first 1/3 of the year 2020. Overall, I am happy with my production so far this year, and want to continue to push efficiencies to help me accomplish my dream of writing full time. Spiritually, I’ve made progress but don’t feel as satisfied with the changes made.

Part of my lack of a sense of spiritual growth could be that I haven’t attended church for several weeks due to the coronavirus. I watch several sermons online each week, but they can’t replace gathering with other believers to worship and encourage one another.

Either way, I’m making progress and for that, I remain thankful and determined to continue on my journey.

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April 2020 Storytime Blog Hop

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Once again it’s time for a fun adventure. Enjoy my story below, then follow the links to other stories of participating authors in the blog hop.  Leave us comments.  We love hearing from you!

A Startling Revelation

“It says here that the people in Nebraska are so friendly they even wave at strangers as they pass by at high speeds in secured transporters.” Neval demonstrated the one-fingered wave.

His partner, Luxiander, gave him the humans’ non-friendly, one-fingered wave and laughed obnoxiously. “See, I’ve studied the human race too.”

They had been required to study the new planet before approval to explore, but Luxiander didn’t take the bookwork seriously. He was along for the adventure; Neval came because he loved Earth.

“We’re almost there; you better transform.” Luxiander already looked the part—blond, neatly trimmed hair, clean shaven, about six feet tall, a button-down shirt, slacks.

Average, Neval thought. He would be more creative, yet still fit in with the local crowd. Neval morphed himself into human form with shoulder-length dark hair, a goatee with a touch of gray, blue jeans and a Nebraska Cornhuskers jersey.

“Have you changed your mind yet?” Starsky’s voice drew Neval’s attention to the monitor and Starsky’s big, hairy, green body.

He didn’t have the patience for Starsky today. He had been waiting for this moment most of his life. “We’re about to land, Starsky. We need to finish preparations.”

“I know, I’m just reminding you that I leave in two days, and once I’m on my way my offer to switch is void.”

Luxiander also sounded tired of Starsky’s persistent pestering. “We’re not trading missions.”

Luxiander wanted Earth because he didn’t want to learn another planet’s history. Neval had requested Earth because his mom had read him stories of the young planet since he was little.

“You know I would make it worth your while.”

Starsky had promised all sorts of bribes to switch. It wasn’t that his destination was bad, it was just in decline. Neval wouldn’t trade because Earth was his dream destination. Luxiander wouldn’t switch because he didn’t like Starsky.

“Bye Starsky.” Neval broke the transmission.

The ship landed, and although the crew would rest for a day before leaving, once daylight broke Neval and Luxiander ventured out, excited to introduce themselves to this new world.

Neval flung a backpack over his shoulder while Luxiander carried a duffle bag because he didn’t realize how tired his arms would get on our hike into town. That’s what he gets for not studying.

Both bags were large and heavy and full of various denominations of United States currency Neval had printed, perfectly counterfeited.

They found a two-bedroom apartment for rent and asked to see it.

A thin, older woman carrying a large shoulder bag introduced herself as Margaret. She carefully wiped the front door’s deadbolt and knob with a moist wipe which she placed inside an empty plastic bag and zipped it shut. She unlocked the door and explained that the apartment had only been empty a few days, but she had shampooed the carpets and personally cleaned every inch of the apartment and had wiped down every surface. Neval nodded as if impressed.

As he walked through, Neval didn’t doubt the woman’s claim.

The apartment was too small for their original bodies, but with the new human bodies it would be enough until they got themselves established on the planet.

“You check the doors and I’ll test the faucets,” Neval instructed his partner. He wanted to make sure everything worked.

Luxiander opened and closed the closet near the front door. It worked. Immediately when he finished Margaret wiped the door knobs using a fresh wipe, which she placed in the zipped bag with the other.

She scratched her nose and then scowled at her hand. “Oh dear!” She shuffled into the kitchen, washed her hands using soap from her bag, then retrieved a paper towel, dried her hands, and deposited the paper towel with the used wipes. Zip.

Neval looked at Luxiander and they both shrugged.

The lady with the super clean hands followed Luxiander to the first bedroom while Neval checked out the bathroom.

He flushed the toilet, dreading the first time he would have to use the archaic system. Neval knew from his studies that water was important for the human body’s function, which led to the use of the toilet. An inefficient method but one that fascinated him. The human race had yet to evolve, as his planet had, to where they could self-recycle their own waste to sustain themselves. They were like Neval’s society half a million years ago.

Neval searched the restroom. No toilet paper He knew how important the item was for the human waste deposit process—not something he looked forward to. They would need to pick some up at the store.

Their potential landlord swept into the bathroom, wiped the toilet handle and then the faucet handles, which Neval hadn’t yet tested. She sure obsessed about cleanliness.

Everything proved to be in working order so Neval and Luxiander signed a contract and paid the deposit and first and last month’s rent with cash that Margaret placed in a sealed baggie to clean later.

Next the pair found a lot that sold the secured transports the humans called automobiles. A short, stocky man with a wide smile and a skip in his step approached Neval and Luxiander. Neval extended his hand to participate in the formal greeting of this culture.

The man reached out but pulled back before their hands touched. “We better not, given the current situation.”

Neval didn’t know what situation required not greeting each other properly, but moved on.

He and Luxiander selected a truck that would haul furniture in the back and the salesman rode along as Neval drove and Luxiander sat in back. Neval went around the block—not comfortable with going further as the only automobile he had driven was during simulation training.

While the trio agreed on a price and sealed the purchase of the truck, a young kid wiped down the outside door handles and the complete inside of the truck with wet cloths similarly used by Margaret.

Neval had read the histories; some people were germophobes. He had already met two of them.

Neval drove them to a grocery store to buy food to keep their human bodies functioning properly. Luxiander pushed the cart and provided little input as Neval filled the cart with items they needed for a healthy, balanced diet.

When they reached household goods they found the shelves empty of toilet paper. A sign hung from the metal shelf telling them to limit their purchase to one package.

“How can we purchase one if they don’t have any?” Luxiander asked.

Neval wondered the same thing. “We’ll ask.”

They finished their shopping and while the cashier scanned their items, Neval asked. “We didn’t find the toilet paper. Do you have any?”

The young lady laughed and shook her head. “No, we haven’t had any for a while. We have a truck coming tomorrow but it probably won’t have any toilet paper on it.”

“We’ll go to another store,” Neval suggested to Luxiander.

“Good luck,” she said calmly. “Everyone’s out.”

Neval’s heart beat rapidly. A light, wet streak slid from his eyes. Luxiander balanced himself by leaning heavily onto the checkout counter.

Neval choked, but managed, “That means they’ve run out of toilet paper.” Suddenly it made sense why Margaret wiped everything down so carefully and why the salesman didn’t want to touch hands. Neval gagged. Without toilet paper to clean they had to use…their hands must…he couldn’t finish the thought. “If they ran out of toilet paper, that means…”

“Yeah, Neval, I know what the means.”

“Let’s radio Starsky; tell him he can have Earth.”

They sprinted out of the store and toward the spaceship.

Thank you for reading! Now enjoy some more great stories from my friends…

1. A Hiding Place by Gina Fabio
2. A Family Reunion by Katharina Gerlach
3. Better Off Alone by V. S. Stark
4. A Day In The Life by James Husum
5. Nothing To Show by Elizabeth McCleary
6. Super Grammy (Radioactive Breakfast Cereal) by Vanessa Wells
7. Bone Killer by Juneta Key
8.One More Time by Karen Lynn
9. Trail Of Carnage by Jemma Weir
10. A Phoenix In Hell by Sabrina Rosen
11. Friends Of The Deep by G. Craddock
12. Collateral Damage by Nic Steven
13. A Ghost’s Life by Barbara Lund

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Habits – March 2020 Update

Well, I crashed and burned in March. I’d like to blame it on COVID-19, and that certainly didn’t help, but truth is, I was struggling before coronavirus became a household name.

My giving up goal was chocolate. I knew this would be a challenge, but I didn’t expect to struggle as much as I did. In the first ten days I had already eaten chocolate three or four time and was on the fence of whether to give up or start over when basketball everywhere shut down and COVID-19 became a serious threat to our country.

I lost focus on my battle with chocolate.

I also lost my dedication to spending twelve minutes in prayer daily, which was my “to add” goal for March.

I was batting about 50/50 when coronavirus arrived around mid-March. Unfortunately, I’ve done ever worse since then. And yes, I realize prayer is a goal I should have doubled down on in these trying times, although it isn’t that I haven’t prayed, I just haven’t done it for twelve minutes continuous each day.

The good news is that I didn’t revert to pre-2020 habits, so the month wasn’t a total bust.

I maintained my daily devotional time using the YouVersion Bible App on my phone. At the time of this writing I’ve managed 91 days in a row.

The other daily habit I continued was writing using ten minute timers (TMTs). Every day I spend at least ten minutes writing something new. This doesn’t include other writing projects like revising, planning, editing, etc. It only includes new writing (almost exclusively fiction) and writing in my journal.

For March I wrote for 114 TMTs, which is 1,140 minutes (19 hours) of new writing. For 2019 I’ve written using at least one TMT for 91 straight days.

So what’s in store for April? I think I will reset and try March’s goals again. They’re worthy goals and I would like to be able to say I accomplished them. Giving up the chocolate is a temporary thing. You would think I could do it for 30 days! That isn’t that long, so we’ll see.

The twelve minutes of prayer I will keep trying until I succeed. I want that to become a strong habit in my life because it is a tool to help me become the person I want to be. I’ve had many instances in my life where I did pray regularly every day, so this goal is getting me back to where I’ve been before.

Even if I don’t succeed in April to pray the allotted time every day, if I can make progress in coming closer to success than I did in March, then I will have built a good foundation for getting where I ultimately want to be.

And ultimately, spending time with God is about becoming whom He wants me to be and not about meeting a goal to scratch off of a checklist.

One other note. Evaluation of oneself is critically important. Going into the last week of March I looked back at the month and considered where I was at. I had higher than normal anxiety, struggled with my habits, energy, and enthusiasm, and felt depressed.

I think one of the reasons I felt that way is because I had been consuming a lot of news both about the coronavirus and about politics in general. It shouldn’t be so, but you can hardly research one without getting inundated with the other.

I have severely cut back on my talk radio/podcast/news intake and am starting to get my groove back.

With nothing much else to do, April should be a fantastic month for me to make serious progress on my writing projects and to spend quality time with God.

I’ll report the results in thirty days.

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Habits – February 2020 Update

I had mixed results in February.

I continued my morning devotional time and ran my streak to 61 days. I may have missed a morning or two and done my devotions in the evening, I honestly can’t remember if that happened in January or February. But I’m not worried about being legalistic with it. As long as I spend time with God daily and most of those are in the morning, I consider it a success.

This month I spent time reading a devotion from the YouVersion Bible App and read a list of declarations I created using Biblical truths. For March, I want to add spending twelve minutes in prayer. Why twelve? I’m glad you asked!

In the fourth sermon of his Mastermind series, Pastor Craig Groeschel quoted from Dr. Caroline Leaf, author of Switch on your brain. She stated: “It has been found that 12 minutes of daily focused prayer over an 8-week period can change the brain to such an extent that it can be measure on a brain scan.”

I need to develop a strong prayer life, and I need to change the way I think about many things, so I figure this is a good place to start. I can’t say what she means by focused prayer, but I’ll do my best. Hopefully by May my brain will look different.

What? Oh, it doesn’t work that way! I’ll try anyway.

My failure came in what I gave up, though failure is a strong word. I gave up soda for the month of February. I had it once, a mere six days from the end of the month.

March will be a big test. I am giving up chocolate. I’m not sure why I picked a month with 31 days. That doesn’t seem like it was thought out too well. Surely I can do this, right?

Writing. I continued to crush it with the ten minute timers (TMT) and my fiction writing. I had 139 TMTs in February. That’s over 23 hours of new writing!

I finished Sevitan, the fourth book in my Vetrix series, and sent it to my beta reader. I’ve made good progress on another book, The Most Important Thing, which I hope to have completed and to a beta reader by the end of March.

I also wrote a series of flash fiction stories about the grim reaper and submitted them for consideration in an anthology.

My goal is simply to continue producing. I won’t always be as productive because I have taken advantage of a lot of free weekends recently. But, I hope to continue to write and be productive when I’m able, to continue with these positive new habits I’m developing.

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Habits – January, 2020 Update

Each month I plan to share monthly updates on how my progress is going – wins and losses – as well as my thoughts and reactions to my journey.

How are you doing with your New Year’s Resolutions?

164 million Americans set them in 2020, so I know most of you have at least one.

Online statistics are hard to verify on this subject, but I found anywhere between 60-80% of resolutions don’t make it six months. One website said most of them fail by mid-February. Another said that January 17 was the most likely day for people to quit.I’d like to know how they settled on January 17, but didn’t have time to research.So whether you quit on January 17, are about to give up, or are plowing full steam ahead, you can celebrate that you made a resolution because one website said people who make resolutions are 10 times more likely to change than those who don’t. Now doesn’t that make you feel better?

No, me either. Making resolutions can be exciting and empowering. Following through is a lot of work.

I’ve had some successful years and many more that have failed. Yet, I keep making resolutions. But I’ve also done it long enough I’ve learned from my mistakes and now I’m much more successful when I set goals, whether they’re at the beginning of the new year or at any another time.

So far in 2020 I have been successful. In no small part to the fact that I’ve failed often in the past.

I wanted to have a quiet time in the mornings before I did anything else. To accomplish this I’ve been getting up ten minutes earlier than I had been. I have only missed two mornings, and both times I had my quiet time in the evening.

For February I’ve adding reading a list of declarations, truths about myself. I wrote these last fall while studying a sermon series called MasterMind by Craig Groeschel. I read them periodically, but faltered for much of the last couple of months of 2019. I want to read them until I believe them. I have days or moments I believe, but I certainly do not most of the time.

I had decided in 2020 I would give up one thing each month. In January I didn’t watch any Netflix and any other form of entertainment while by myself. I wanted to put those distractions far away so I could focus on writing, reading, and studying. I successfully made that challenge and honestly it was easy. I had one of my most productive writings months ever. Plus I read 7 books in January.

In February I am giving up soda. This won’t be too difficult for me as I only drink one or two a week. Still, I don’t need it and I need a food challenge where I can succeed because next month I want to up the stakes and give up chocolate. Maybe I’ll even do sweets altogether. This is something I need for both my health and for my daily energy. I think sometimes it’s hard for me to write because I haven’t fueled my body properly.

I want to write a lot of new words in 2020 so I decided to try a ten minute timer (TMT), where I set my phone’s timer for ten minutes and write with no distractions. I had never tried this method and didn’t know what to expect.

The results have been amazing! The TMT helped my focus and my productivity. And somehow it even helps my creativity as I spend much less time staring at my computer, wondering what I should write. I can’t explain it, but knowing I have a timer helps my brain come up with what I need to write next.

I managed to do at least one TMT every day, and had a total of 124 in January. I haven’t been counting my new words, but that’s 27.5 hours of focused writing. And the time I spend working on revision, editing, and plotting stories is much more than that, but I haven’t tracked it.

For my fiction writing, what I had planned to write in January will take me 1-2 weeks longer than anticipated. It isn’t because I didn’t work hard, because I did, and I accomplished a lot. I’m short because I miscalculated how quickly I could get it done and underestimated how much work I faced. That’s okay because I will continue to work hard, be productive, and with a little help from God maybe I’ll get myself back on schedule.

I don’t know if I can keep up this pace (I really want to), but even if I don’t, I hope that I am developing some good habits that I can carry forward in the months and years to come.

If you’ve failed at making a needed or wanted change in your life, try again. Maybe next time what you learned from your failures will spur you on to success.

Parents don’t count how many times a baby falls down before he/she learns to walk, and they don’t get discouraged when the baby falls. Parents cheer because they know each tumble brings the child closer to that successful first step.

Maybe it’s time to get off your butt, stand up, and try another first step.

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