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Varyk stepped over to one side, his smaller stature made it harder to find him in a crowd. He smiled as he noticed that Dagny was also at the retreat. “Hi, Wingnut. Think if we lose these packets they’ll let us skip out on the workshops?”

“I don’t think that would be a good idea, Freckles,” she said.

“You know,” Henry said as he edged over to the side where the dwarves had settled. “I just noticed that there are seven dwarves.”

“Snow White you are not, Big Guy,” Varyk said to the older man.

“I am,” Conrad said. He handed everyone in the group their packets.

“I didn’t say that,” Varyk said, his cheeks flushing as he realized that his words could have been insulting, especially given that Conrad was an albino. “I just meant… personality… Snow White is sweet and innocent and the Big Guy here is neither of those things.”

“Of course,” Conrad said, his tone slightly sarcastic.

Varyk ducked his head and chuckled. “Yeah. Seven dwarves.” His eyes went round as he realized something. “Not Dopey,” he snapped at nearly the same time as the other six dwarves. A couple pointed over at Victor, who had been just a beat behind the others.

“I’m always Dopey,” he said.

“Yes you are, but we forgive you,” Conrad said with a smile.

“As long as you aren’t Gus, he gets killed,” one of the other dwarves said. “I’m Otto Bergmann, by the way. I’m an office assistant. I don’t know why they decided I needed stress management.”

“Greta Rothstein, personnel office,” a pretty dark-haired lady said with a smile. “I suppose that’s a bit stressful.”

Going around the circle to the left, the dwarf that Varyk had already greeted said, “I’m Dagny Goebel. I’m in Forensics with Leuthar Vogel.” She nodded toward a dwarf standing beside her. “Back to the topic at hand, Gus dies nobly, protecting Snow White.”

“He was the eighth dwarf,” Varyk pointed out. He smiled. “Varyk Tiefen, technical analyst.”

“You’re the one who’s actually an agent… so cool! And again, back to the topic, that’s what happens when you get one too many. Remember, the same thing happened to the sneaky one in that television show,” Leuthar said. “I know Dagny and Greta because she works in personnel and now I know the rest of you… except,” he pointed at the last dwarf and smiled.

“Barnabas Ehrlich,” he said. He looked around, frowning.

“We have a Barnaby,” Varyk said. He glanced at the other dwarves and grinned. “Remember that one?”

“It’s the only one where the dwarves have names and not strange designations,” Dagny said. “They all begin with the letter ‘B.’ I thought it was clever.”

Barnabas frowned and looked around. “I thought Anna would be here.”

Victor frowned and shook his head. “She e-mailed me and said that something had come up with her apartment.”

Varyk frowned. Anna would have been their eighth dwarf. He shook his head. There wasn’t really a curse on an eighth dwarf. That was just silly. He focused on the conversation that was still going around him

“You know in Mister Maggoo, they have real names, starting from the letter ‘A’ and going on through ‘G.’ It’s terribly corny though,” Otto said.

“It’s Mister Maggoo, you can’t watch it expecting good theater,” Varyk said.

“Do you all know every incarnation of Snow White?” Henry said. He sounded torn between shocked and frustrated.

“Self defense,” Varyk said. “Big Guy, that and the series of books by Tolkien are the first things that spring to mind when people see dwarves. We need to know the references people are making.”

“So we can figure out if we need to be offended or amused when they’re made,” Victor agreed.

Gratitude Journal

October 3, 2015

Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgiving, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings – William Arthur Ward

I found this quote and it spoke to me.  Almost a year ago, I changed jobs from a sales associate at Sam’s Club to an office assistant for the State of New York.  I was so thankful for the opportunity to work a better job, earn better wages and have etter benefits that everything… every task i was assigned was interesting and fun.

I remember the same thing happened when I first started at Sam’s Club.  I loved my job and enjoyed it much of the time.  It was stressful but I was just so grateful to be employed… to be earning a wage and not subsisting on the government’s programs or my parents’ tab.  I was once again an independent woman and it felt great.  I had people asking me if I enjoyed my job while I was at Sam’s Club and I always said, “yes, of course.”  Did I want to be making pizza for the rest of my days?  No, of course not but it was better than not having any job at all – just like the job I have now is better still.

I look back in my life and I know how blessed I am because of each and every opportunity that I’ve had.

Gratitude Journal

October 2, 2015

TGIF

WellNYS suggested this as a topic and I rolled with it.

Five places that I went this summer: The Great Escape with my sister. It stands out because we danced and rode all the rides together and had so much fun. The Athens Street Festival with my sister. It stands out because we didn’t have to rush for the first time in four years and could take our time and enjoy the sights. The fireworks with my sister and Kim and her family. It stands out because we had so much fun spending time with the kids and I took my first really good picture of a firework exploding. Lake George with my aunt and parents and my sister. It stands out because we just had such a good time shopping and spending time together.   Lake Taconic with my parents and sister. It stands out because I had such a good time swimming with my family and just enjoying their company.

Gratitude Journal

Oct 1, 2015

In everything give thanks…. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Everything is a hard thing to give thanks for. How should we give thanks when bad things, like floods or accidents, happen? We can give thanks that things are not worse.   Things can be replaced, but lives cannot. People can live without the use of an arm or leg. Lives may change – they may change irrevocably – but if there is life, there is hope and we can be grateful… we can give thanks for that hope.

Lenten Study Week 5

The saga continues: Miranda goes into Peter’s house and they sit down for a cup of tea and a chat.  Peter asks her what is wrong ad she says that she wishes that her husband was more like him.  Peter warns her back from that slippery slope. (He’s a good guy.  He’s attracted to Miranda but he’s going to behave himself, even if she wasn’t going to.)  He was a missionary and had been married.  His wife died while they were in Brazil together.  They were thinking of baby names and he teased one of her choices and she got mad and stormed out; only to be stuck by a car and killed.

Jason has been going to church and has seemed different lately (perhaps this is why Miranda is drawing away from him?)  She asks Peter when he became a “Jesus freak,” which leads to a discussion of Miranda accepting God into her life.  Peter helps her talk to God and tell him that she wants him in her life.

Miranda asks Peter if they can pray for she and Jason.  Write the prayer that you would pray for Miranda and Jason if you were Peter.

Lord, we ask that you help these two people remember why they chose to be married. Help them draw together in the difficult times they face. Help them learn to talk to one another but more than that; help them learn to listen – for in listening we find true communication.   Bring them peace and joy in their lives together.

What do you see as the existing obstacles to healing in Miranda and Jason’s relationship?

There are a lot of obstacles in their relationship. Miranda is obviously still hurt about Jason’s mistake with the girl in the coffee shop and he’s probably completely unaware of it. She’s been trying to get revenge on him for that by seeing Peter and though Peter is an honest man and would never be more than friends, Miranda could still push Jason away in an effort to end her marriage and be with Peter.

The both of them have problems in dealing with anger, especially in holding onto past slights. If they want to move forward in their relationship, they both need to learn to communicate better, expressing their feelings and what they need from one another. If they are upset by something, they need to feel that they can talk about it.   Neither of them should be bottling their anger up until it explodes or storming out in a huff. Instead they should sit down and talk to one another about how they’re feeling about what’s going on.

It’s funny.  My sister pointed out that my own marriage had problems with communication (I’m sure it’s a common problem).  I hadn’t thought about it.  I’ve been divorced for about five and a half years now and I’ve pretty much moved on.  My ex was very sweet when we started out and we seemed to be able to talk about almost anything.  We took walks and sat together and chatted over meals.  But as we moved on the lines of communication broke down.

He started holding onto his feelings and not telling me how he felt and, I suppose when he started withdrawing from me, I sort of let him.  I wasn’t going to chase him down and force him to talk to me because I’m a non-confrontational person.  At the same time, I knew we needed to talk and I was feeling very frustrated at him for pulling away from me.

At the same time as all of that was happening, other complications arose.  My ex stopped taking his depression medicine and that probably fueled his withdrawal.  He was also very passive-aggressive and had a habit of casually saying things to hurt my feelings and then telling me not to be so sensitive. (Like Mother Gothel in Disney movie, Tangled.)

Anyway, I can really relate to these two fictional people and I’m glad that I can look back on my marriage and not get upset any more.  He was a good guy, for the most part, and I wish him all the best (just not with me).

Well, in the continuing story of Jason and Miranda, we learn that Miranda isn’t so perfect as we might have previously thought.  Jason isn’t either for that matter.  He’s been seen in a cafe with a pretty young thing (though he swears they weren’t doing anything besides chatting) and Miranda has been nursing her hurt over this for a few months now.  Her old friend Peter comes back to town and she starts chatting with him again, then going over to his house for a cup of coffee.

Don’t get me wrong, married folks can have friends, but not telling Jason she’s going to see Peter is a problem, going to see him as some misguided “revenge” because Jason might have cheated on her is even worse.  So Miranda and Jason talk for a bit and then Miranda goes out for a cool-down drive.  She contemplates going over to her parents’ house but ends up at Peter’s.  He doesn’t open the door immediately and she rethinks the wisdom of visiting with him.

“Sweetie, if you think you might be doing something questionable with regards to your relationship, you probably are,” is my thought… on to the questions:

Read Proverbs 4:23-26- Is Miranda following these scriptures with her current approach to Jason and Peter?  What might you say to Miranda to have her think differently about her actions.

 

I would say that Miranda isn’t following these scriptures with her current actions, most especially since she’s not giving careful thought to the path that her actions might be leading her towards and she’s not being steadfast in her marriage. She’s not cheating on Jason but only just.

 

I would point out the old saying: that two wrongs don’t make a right. She was upset with Jason hanging out with a girl in a coffee shop and uses this as a justification to go visit with her old friend Peter. Visiting with an old friend is fine but she should be open with her husband about it. In addition, the thought that she’s paying Jason back should not be what is prompting her visiting Peter.

 

Miranda asks you why you believe in God, what do you tell her?

 

I’ve always found comfort in my belief in God. When my father is sick, particularly when he’s been in the hospital, there is very little I can do. I can pray and be comforted that whatever happens, my father is in God’s hands and that God can help me get through it.

 

It’s easy to blame God when bad things happen to people but I’ve always believed that free will is a big source of the bad things that happen. People make choices and sometimes things happen to them and sometimes things happen to other people. I think that God rarely sends us things to test us as he did Job.   Most of the time, we or others make a choice and that choice results in consequences. (I’m not explaining this well, I’m sure).

 

I believe in God because I know that someone is in control of the world. I feel that and I see evidence of it in how God’s creation is – everything just right for us to exist and have intelligence. I see God in my life and how he’s blessed me, even in times that are difficult. I’ve lost people I cared for but I’ve always had a support system of one kind or another and I know that God has put me where I need to be so that I can get through those difficult time.

 

Miranda confides to you that she is feeling emotionally attached to Peter.  She wants to feel that way with Jason, but feels like she hasn’t been able to talk with him for a long time. She asks you if this is wrong, what do you tell her?

Miranda needs to remember why she loved Jason in the first place. Why did she marry him? What are his good features? She can use these as a stepping off point.

She also needs to talk to him and tell her how she’s feeling, without pointing fingers or accusing him. She needs to let go of his past wrongs and start fresh, not holding onto her anger with him and giving their relationship and honest try.

The sage continues for Jason and Miranda.  Jason bursts in on Miranda (thinking that he’d convince her that his view was the correct one.  he finds that she’s packing and realizes what this means so he prays out loud, stating how he loves his wife and wants this to work out an only God can open the way for him.

Miranda goes on the defensive and states that she’s hurt and feeling betrayed and lied to.  She also calls out Jason for manipulating her with that Bible stuff.  He cuts the BS and settles on the bed, asking her if they can talk things over without yelling at each other (for my part that would depend on how late it was.  I get cranky when I’m tired.)  He pours out his feelings to her – how he realizes that he’s messed up and he feels like he’s let her down and run away from his responsibilities.

We were invited to use Matthew 18:15-17 to resolve conflicts.  I’ve never tried that personally but it seems to me that it might work (Well, that was probably why it was in there.  Jesus was pretty smart.)  Conflict resolution is something i’m new at, actually.  My usual reaction to someone making me angry is to hold it all inside and then blow up when it gets too much.

We were also invited to use the Wesleyan Quadrilateral (Scripture, Tradition, Reason, Experience) to decide if maybe, just this once we should let the sun set on our anger.  Scripture… “He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly: and a man of wicked devices is hated. Proverbs 14:17 (KJV)”  So you might deal foolishly if you’re angry.  That makes sense, I know I make poor choices when I’m angry.  Traditionally, I go to bed early.  If dealing with this right here and now is going to keep me up until one in the morning, it might be better for me to get some shut-eye.  Reason: there are studies that show how bad people think and how much more inclined they are to argue about little things that really aren’t the topic at hand (does it really matter in the long run how you squeeze the toothpaste out of the tube?).  Experience: Personal experience tells me my brains down at eight o’clock at night.  Working without a net (so to speak) is not the time you want to climb the high-wire and lay it all on the line.

It seems as though Jason and Miranda are making some steps in the right direction.  How might Jason show he is sincere about the things he has said?  What can Miranda do to work through the feelings of anger she is having toward Jason?

It’s good that Jason has acknowledged both Miranda’s feelings and her right to them. He might also ask Miranda what she thinks he could do.   Since she feels that he is not listening to her and he’s being selfish, showing that he is willing to follow her advice might help with that.

Miranda should take a moment to pray about her anger. She has every right to feel hurt and betrayed. If she wants the relationship to work, she needs to take a moment and calm down – close her eyes and focus on her breathing for a moment. She’s told him how she feels and what her needs are (she’s feeling hurt and betrayed and feels like their relationship is one sided) and that’s an important step in the right direction. She also needs to hear his side of things, as he truly needs to hear hers. Only by working together and coming together can they get through this as a couple.

 Matthew 21:12 gives us an example of righteous indignation.  Would you classify the anger Jason and Miranda are experiencing as Righteous Indignation?  Explain.

In Matthew 21:12 is the part in Matthew where Jesus cleanses the temple. The moneychangers and sellers at the booths are making God’s temple into a place where people get swindled, as Jesus calls it “a robber’s den.” He’s angry with them because they are sinning and drawing others to sin as well by their very presence, which is why they are driven out.

Jason is not experiencing righteous indignation. He’s angry and feels like he’s been treated unfairly. He let his temper lead him into doing something foolish. No one has sinned or been drawn to it by the actions of his managers. Miranda, while she has every right to feel the way she does, is justifiably upset, not righteously indignant.

On a more personal note, I had a chance to practice what we’ve been learning about this week.  I drove our carpool to work on Friday and one of the ladies has been criticizing my driving (indirectly, she told another member of the carpool that she was concerned and asked if she should perhaps offer to drive my car up on days when it’s my turn).  I told her, you can sit beside me when I drive up and tell me what you think I’m doing wrong.

I’ve been driving for twenty years but I’m not too old to increase my skills.  She chattered the whole way up, giving advice and being actually rather patronizing.  I didn’t even get frustrated with her.  I just listened to the instructions, smoothed out how I took corners or changed lanes and maybe now she won’t complain so much when I drive.  Conflict resolution… don’t get mad, listen to criticism and don’t take it personally.  It was a learning experience and I’m guardedly optimistic.  My sister got some practice in too.  She counted to ten and focused on her breathing instead of getting angry.  Altogether, I think my anger issues are much improved for this Bible study experience.

We continued the story of Jason and his wife, Miranda, this week.  He’d broken a rule in their marriage: He’d made a big decision without her.  She gets home before he does (because he stopped and got her favorite flowers to “make things up to her”) and makes his favorite meal, because she knows how very stressed he’s been at work.  He feels guilty that he made the unilateral decision to quit his job and tells her what happened and she realizes that the flowers were his way of apologizing and throws them out.  He plans on going after her to “explain his side of things.”

Ephesians 4:26 New International Version (NIV)

26 “In your anger do not sin”[a]: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.

It’s funny because I was just thinking about this verse while writing a story this week. Read straight, it seems to imply that Jason should confront Miranda right then and there. After all, don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry seems pretty direct – take care of those things that anger you before you go to bed – even if it takes all night.

I don’t think it means that though. I tend to think that it means we should let go of the things that are making us angry before bed – not fight it out; but just prayerfully let it go. A lot of times if it’s late at night, and you’re tired, your mind doesn’t work as well and you just keep getting angrier and angrier.

In fact things can seem much worse if your tired and you’ll fight over things you might ordinarily not fight over if you keep going after you’re tired.

What Jason should do is go to Miranda and tell her he’s sorry. He should thank her for the consideration of making his favorite dinner and then tell her that they’ll discuss the situation with his job in the morning when they’re both rested and clear-headed. It’s important to have the conversation but right before bed is not the time to do it.

How might Jason approach a conversation with Miranda using 1 Corinthians 13

That chapter is one of my favorites because it reminds us the value of love. It’s often used at weddings for that reason – to remind the newly married couple how they should treat one another.

In verse 13 it says, “It [love] is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

In this situation both Jason and Miranda need to be reminded of this. Jason has been behaving in a very selfish manner in all of this and doesn’t even seem to be realizing it. He’s dissatisfied with how he’s been treated at work and doesn’t think that Miranda appreciates the stress he’s been under (though that was why she made him dinner). Miranda needs to keep this verse in mind if she feels tempted to bring up Jason’s “record of wrongs” in his handling of this situation.

This, in my mind ties into the next question: What are some of the potential consequences of allowing the anger and tension between Jason and Miranda to fester.

If they don’t deal with their anger both with the situation and with one another, then they’re marriage might be torn apart by it. Both of them need to talk out what’s been happening, while avoiding casting blame on one another – choices were made, what are you going to do about them now?

I’m participating in a study about anger, something I’ve struggled with in the past.  I used to be taunted and teased quite badly as a young person (from first grade until eleventh grade).  I was made to feel very badly about myself – the clothes I wore, my personal hygiene, my social skills and how very close I was with my sister.  The constant teasing resulted in a poor self-esteem and caused me to have a very short temper.  That temper followed me for many years.  It’s a habit, becoming angry and holding onto that bitterness instead of talking to people and telling them you how you actually feel.

It’s a process, moving past that anger.  I’m still working on it.  When things are going well for me, it’s easier than when things are difficult.  When I worked in human service as a cashier, I had a lot of practice letting go of my anger.  Customers would say hurtful things or treat me like I wasn’t all that bright (It seems to be really easy for some people to forget that person behind the counter has feelings too.)  Instead of lashing out (which would lose me my job) I would bite my tongue and smile at the person and try to see things from their perspective.  “Your pizza was cold?”  Sure it’s because you ate your ice cream and let it get cold but you wanted to have warm pizza and at the same time you didn’t want your ice cream to melt.  “Let me replace that pizza for you.”

To finish, I’ll post my reply to the online Bible study questions.  You don’t know the scenario we were given but I’ll give you it in brief.  Jason was working for a company for quite some time and when the manager retired he wanted the position but instead of voicing that, he figured his record would speak for itself and he would be promoted.  He was asked to serve on the selection committee to find a new manager and felt like the other members of the committee were shutting him down instead of listening to his opinions.  When a younger man is chosen as the new manager, Jason feels slighted and holds back that anger, talking to his wife but no one at the company about it.  He starts to feel like she’s not listening to him too when she tells him that he’s put himself in the position he’s in because he should have spoken up sooner.  His anger at the new manager and his job situation culminates in him quitting his job.

We’re presented with the idea that Jason is a new Christian and has called us up for advice and a Christian perspective on anger. My reply:

Proverbs 14:29 “A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.”

In this case the folly was quitting his job without talking over the decision with his wife. In letting his anger make his decisions and losing patience with his company, Jason made what may have been a poor choice for him.

Ephesians 4:31 “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”

If he’d talked to his new manager about his disappointment at missing out on the management position, he might have made something good come out of it.   He was already in a position to help the new manager (by training him). Sometimes God gives us something we need rather than something we think we want. By giving into his anger, Jason may have missed out on something even better for him in the long run than a management position.

In addition, since he’s starting to feel anger toward his wife regarding the situation, he might ultimately hurt his relationship with her as well. Instead of simply venting his anger, he should talk to someone who can do something more constructive about the situation.

  1. Are you quick to anger, or do you hold back the anger you experience until you explode and what have been some of the barriers you’ve experienced in trying to work through your anger?

I have in the past had a short temper. Many times my anger has resulted from situations like Jason’s, where my own lack of action or holding back my opinions put me in a situation that I felt wasn’t fair. Looking back on these times I can see the mistakes I made that put me in those situations but at the time, it was very easy to blame others and get angry.

I think a lot of time anger comes from not wanting to accept the results of a mistake I’ve made. It’s “easier” to get frustrated and angry at others than to accept my own guilt.   However, in the long run acknowledging our mistakes is what helps us grow as people and helps us move past our anger.

Response to Reader Pet Peeves

I was recently reading a blog which talked about reader pet peeves. The majority of them were very subjective (“Don’t drag out the plot too much” “Don’t make the names too complicated” “Don’t be too descriptive”). There are people who love descriptions and want their authors to paint a picture in words. There are times, especially in the realm of speculative fiction, when you can’t just jump into the action. This isn’t 1920’s New York you’re dealing with. It’s Ambergia at the turn of the 5th century of Tronime. The setting actually has to be set up or you’ll lose the readers immediately.

I also noticed that many of the pet peeves listed were genre specific. Characters that angst over the same thing throughout the story – how many “teen romance” books have that as the plot? Too many characters, characters with too many different names, Names that are ambiguous when it comes to pronunciation – those things are all over in epic fantasy (Strider turns into Aragorn, as an example).

A couple of the comments just made me chuckle. “Dragged out plots with useless stuff makes my mind tired,” said one poster. Another said that all the pet peeves were just examples of bad writing that is unprofessional.

As a fantasy writer, I took up this challenge – Write a short story that doesn’t have complicated names, draggy subplots, too many details and descriptions, too much angst or too many characters.

Enjoy:

Dinnertime

There was a wizard named Bob. He had a daughter named Julie. When Julie grew up, she fell in love with a knight named Sir Richard. Bob did not like Sir Richard. He turned Sir Richard into a frog. When Julie returned from picking flowers one day, she asked her father what was for dinner.

“Frogs legs,” he said with a smile.

The end

Monica Ferris

an author with many hats

A Land of Curiosity

From the files of Shynian Intelligence

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tales from the enchanted gardens and shadow hollow

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